Archive for the ‘What Is It?’ Category

Speaking of Salad Mix

May 31, 2009

Many farms at Ballard Farmers Market offer salad mix, but no two mixes are the same. It is in salad mix that our diverse collection of farmers perhaps best get to express their creative sides and their personalities in greens.

Alm Hill Gardens has one of the earliest mixes of the year, and they even add flowers to it. In May, they added tulip petals. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Alm Hill Gardens has one of the earliest mixes of the year, and they even add flowers to it. In May, they added tulip petals. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Salad mixes can be mild or spicy, made entirely of various lettuces or with no lettuces at all. They are a fun and delicious way to get an incredible variety of flavors, textures, colors and nutrients while simultaneously getting a quick and easy salad that is elegant and beautiful. Sure, they cost a little more, but most at the Market are harvested by hand when the leaves are young and tender, requiring great care on the part of the farmers. The prices are more than fair, given the labor intensive nature of salad mixes, and besides, you have to do less work.

Michaele Blakely's special blend of greens make Growing Thing's spicy salad mix unique. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Michaele Blakely's special blend of greens make Growing Thing's spicy salad mix unique. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Many farms at Ballard Farmers Market now offer salad mixes. They include Alm Hill, Anselmo, Colinwood, Full Circle, Growing Things, Nash’s, and Stoney Plains. If you haven’t enjoyed a salad mix from the market before, what you get at the big box grocery store does not compare, so you should give it a try. And if you have been loyal to one salad mix, why not try a few others, just to mix it up. There ain’t a stinker in the bunch. Then, pick up some radishes, carrots, baby turnips, green onions and a little cheese, and you are ready to build the easiest and most delicious salad you have ever tasted.

Colinwood Farms' salad mix is big and bold with spicy mustards and bitter mizunas. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Colinwood Farms' salad mix is big and bold with spicy mustards and bitter mizunas. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Saffron — Yes, Local Saffron

May 17, 2009

Washington-grown saffron from Phocas Farm in Port Angeles. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Washington-grown saffron from Phocas Farm in Port Angeles. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Add saffron to the list of Washington crops about which you can say, “Wow. Even that grows here?” Yup. It does. And our buddy, Jim Robinson of Phocas Farm, brings it to us. You will find him near the 22nd Avenue end of the Market, on the sidewalk side facing Guitar Emporium.

Saffron is a spice derived from the dried stigma of the flower of the saffron crocus that is dried and used in cooking as a seasoning and coloring agent. Saffron, which has for decades been the world’s most expensive spice by weight, is native to Southwest Asia.

Saffron’s aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and somewhat bitter. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange colouring to foods.

Most saffron is grown in a belt of land ranging from the Mediterranean in the west to Kashmir in the east. Annually, around 300 tonnes of saffron are produced worldwide. Iran ranks first in the world production of saffron, with more than 94 percent of the world yield.

For more information, see Wikipedia.

Green Garlic

May 17, 2009

Alvarez Organic Farms' green garlic. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Alvarez Organic Farms' green garlic. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Green garlic is one of the great treats of spring. It looks very much like a green onion, except the green tops are flat instead of tubular. (Dude, did he just say, “tubular”?) Green garlic is simply normal garlic in its young, spring form, again, much like its cousin, the onion, and it tends to be made available in the spring by farmers as they thin their garlic fields to allow the remaining garlic the space to grow and mature in the bulbs of garlic we see in late summer and fall. Now, many farmers plant rows of garlic specifically to harvest it as green garlic, due to its growing popularity.

Green garlic at Oxbow Farm. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Green garlic at Oxbow Farm. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Green garlic can be used just like bulb garlic, though its flavor is much milder and sweeter. Use the entire stalk. Just trim the tips of the greens and thoroughly wash them, including under the greens, as dirt can collect there, kinda like with a leek. You can even eat the root hairs, though be sure they are clean, and trim off the point where the roots connect with the immature garlic bulb, as it is impossible to wash the dirt out of there.

Slice it up like you would a green onion and toss it in with sautéed greens. Add them to asparagus, green onions and morels, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them all for ten minutes in a hot oven.

Green garlic has a sweet, slightly grassy flavor that just exudes spring. If you haven’t tried it, you don’t know the joy of spring you are missing. To quote Oxbow’s Luke Woodward, “I eat it with everything this time of year.” You’ll find it in April, May and June at farms like Alm Hill, Alvarez, Oxbow, Stoney Plains, Summer Run and more.

These green onions at Alvarez look very similar to green garlic, but note how their green stalks are tubular instead of flat. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

These green onions at Alvarez look very similar to green garlic, but note how their green stalks are tubular instead of flat. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Cover Cropping for Home-Garden Success

April 22, 2009

From the good people at the Tilth Producers of Washington and Nash’s Organic Produce:

Cover cropping is a method used by organic growers to increase the biological activity and health of soil. A critical tool for soil fertility management in any size garden or farm, cover crops are fabulous nitrogen fixers and are an integral part of the natural cycling of nutrients.

Nash's cover crop seed blend returns nutrients to your garden's soil naturally, without the need for harsh chemical fertilzers. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Nash's cover crop seed blend returns nutrients to your garden's soil naturally, without the need for harsh chemical fertilzers. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

When planted in the fall, cover crops hold nutrients that are otherwise leached away in the winter, while protecting the soil surface from erosion. If used in the spring and summer, cover crops are ideal for fixing atmospheric nitrogen and building the soil’s organic matter. If your soil is particularly poor, begin cover cropping in the spring and apply two to three rounds, ending with a final planting in the fall (mid-September to early October).

  • Gardeners should use about 10 pounds of seed to cover crop 500-700 square feet.
  • Plant 1/2-1 inch deep and water as needed. If soil is not too wet, the seeds will germinate in cold soil, so cover crop seed can be planted in the cool spring.
  • When it is mid-calf height, turn the cover crop in with a space or shovel, inverting the top two inches of soil.
  • 2-4 weeks after turning it in, the cover crop should mostly be broken down, and you’re ready for a second round, or to plant your garden. Allow more time in the spring for the rye/vetch to break down. The ease with which it breaks down is directly related to its height, so don’t let it get too big before you turn it under.

Find a cover crop seed blend of rye and vetch at Nash’s Organic Produce at Ballard Farmers Market.


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