Musings about our farm, organic farming, regional foods and markets.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Garlic Time (cue Music)

Ah, this farming lark, it’s sometimes a great challenge, but we have to stay upbeat. Otherwise we would lose the plot! We farmers are known for moaning and griping, whining and wingeing, but sometimes we really do have a lot on our plate! July’s blue skies and intense sunshine belie a fierce heat and a brutal aridity which make some plants want to give up the ghost. Only constant gushings of water keep them in survival mode, and those farmers unable to water are truly up against the wall. This weather follows on the heels of an exceptionally cool and wet May and June, whose early plantings have delivered up slim pickings. In my weariness, I have to remind myself that I would rather be doing nothing else in the world, and the rewards in overall health and wellbeing are enormous.

Now, as 2 inches of rain have teemed down outside, the heat and drought have broken, it is almost time to get back to the fields to try to start catching up on delayed planting, so that we have something to show in August and September, traditionally peak season for fresh produce here at Rolling Hills Organics. Turn around day. 

I can have no complaints about the traffic at the Riverdale Park and Evergreen Brickworks farmers markets in Toronto that we sell at. Customers are enthusiastic, appreciative, dedicated, and fresh blood is always out there. The positive feedback from customers is music to my ears and reminds me why we work so hard at this game. We do it honestly, as do many farmers, so it annoys me to see produce from the Food Terminal at market (unmarked as such and sold by farmers who should know better). This not fair to customers who think they are buying organic and do so for good reason – their health.

Early in the season, we had excellent Spring greenhouse production of salad greens, which helped us get a jump on things when some farmers were concentrating on their fields. Now, salad green production has slowed with the extreme weather conditions, but we have been boosted by Gundi’s fabulous pesto creations (garlic scape being a bestseller, and now slowly succeeded by the classic basil pesto). Lavender and garlic harvests have been superb, both plants loving the heat and tolerating the dry. Following after the garlic scapes, fresh garlic and “naked garlic” (peeled and bagged), the garlic plants are now fully harvested and drying nicely. The coming weeks will see abundant offerings of hardneck Music garlic, a slightly spicy hardneck variety, with a classic garlic bite and flavour! With 4 to 6 easy-to-peel cloves per bulb, each has a shiny-white sheath and pink-tinged clove skins. They are a good source of calcium, phosphorus and selenium, and an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese. We have been using fresh juicy garlic liberally in salads and cooking and feel our skin glowing, even shining with radiant health. One customer remarked how subtle and sweet the flavour of the roasted garlic is. Yes, indeed. Local-grown organic hardneck garlic (as opposed to the supermarket-ubiquitous unorganic softneck grown and harvested who knows when and well-travelled from the other side of the world in China) is an elaborate feast for the taste buds and dense with nutrition.

The naturally-raised, grass-fed, grass-finished Dexter beef we take to market has been finding a highly enthusiastic audience. The current schedule of one animal a month is not keeping up with demand right now, especially for the sought-after prime steak cuts (tenderloins, striploins, ribeyes, T-bones, sirloins) and the lean ground beef. We sell the ground beef also through the Northside Grill in Cobourg, where chef Johnny Devlin has had great response to his Dexter burgers, which have replaced Kobe burgers on the menu. All cuts are full-flavoured, dense and highly nutritious. This is what happens when happy cows graze on their natural diet in the open air year round with easy access to shelter. They live in prime health, unstressed and do not need any antibiotics, hormones or unnatural supplementation. When considering the definition of grass–fed beef, it is vital that they are “finished”, or fattened, on grass, rather than grain, for the 90 – 160 days before dispatch. If grain–finished during those months, the levels of important nutrients like CLA and Omega 3 decrease dramatically in the animal’s tissues. It is in the finishing process that those levels and ratios drastically decline because of the grain feeding. Taken individually to the local processor, stress is kept to a minimum and this translates in the flavour and nutrition of the meat.

Hey ho, hey ho, it’s off to work we go…