A shockingly peppery day. . .

Today’s chilly temps and gray sky didn’t stop movement at the farm.

We’re “shocking” our shiitake mushroom logs with a cold water plunge to encourage them to fruit.

The logs will remain submerged until tomorrow.

After shocking the logs, we moved to the solar high tunnel to prep a bed for newly transplanted pepper plants.

Just the thought of fresh peppers and mushrooms is enough to make our mouths water!

EHCMar283

Advertisements

Dirt to Diner . . .

Spring is the season. As students make their way back to class after break, they find themselves digging through the chaos that are the last weeks of the semester. But the sun is out and the greens are making their way to students’ plates to motivate both their taste buds and their intellectual savvy.

The morning rain didn’t stop the afternoon sun from shining on us as we started our harvest. We pulled lettuce and harvested mizuna, kale and swiss chard from the solar high tunnel. These greens have thrived through the winter with the time, energy and tending from our crew.

They traveled from dirt…

image

Through a wash…

…and a spin

And straight into the hands of our Eden Hall Kitchen Chefs!

image

And more greens are on their way to the Shadyside Campus!

-Sometimes the right food takes an equal amount of effort, and today was no different.-

Greens from EHC to Vintage Senior Center

from special contributor, Food Studies M.A. candidate Nick Bender
My name is Nick Bender. I am a second year Master of Arts candidate in the Food Studies program here at Chatham. Most of my school experience has been in the classroom or off-site rather than on the farm. I haven’t spent much time in the green house, the solar high tunnel, or in the agroecology garden. So, when I was told that I would be cooking a meal for 60 people, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to bring together the work that we’re doing at Eden Hall with the work that I’m doing at Vintage.

To give a little background, I am a 2015-2016 Albert Schweitzer Environmental Fellow. I was selected to implement a project to help seniors in an urban neighborhood connect the food that they eat with the impacts on their health and the health of the natural environment. I have been bringing in foods to try and talking about challenges that they face with diet or their eating environment. How many seniors eat alone? How many like to cook? Does anyone grow their own food? I chose Vintage, a senior center in East Liberty. It is a community center that gives seniors an opportunity to gather weekdays from 9-5 for a variety of programming.

Last month I was asked if I could help plan a meal for the Valentine’s Day Blue Jean Dance. The meal was meant to be simple: spaghetti and tomato sauce. Maybe a salad and bread. Done and done. I was trying to figure out how we could keep the integrity of the spaghetti when we had no capacity to cook it to order. I decided that baked pasta would be a better option.

In planning the menu, I realized that if we could get any produce from the farm to use in the meal, I would have a great opportunity to connect the environment with the food that everyone was eating. I reached out to the EHC team, and we were able to get some greens – specifically tatsoi, chard, and 3 varieties of lettuce. Some of the tatsoi went into the baked ziti, and the rest of the greens made up the salad.

A few days before the dance, I started the bread dough. The day before, the EHC team harvested all the greens. They saved me a couple heads, so I could take pictures to accompany my talk. I made the pasta, finished the cookies and the bread the morning of the dance. When I got to the senior center, I was lucky enough to have a few volunteers to help with plating and service. I gave everyone a task, and we began service precisely at 1 o clock.

After the entire dining room was served, I went out and described the food that they were eating. The menu and talking points were as follows:

Baked Ziti, with Tatsoi
This is an update version of the baked ziti that my mother made for us growing up. It is meatless and the tatsoi lends a contrast to the flavor and the texture.

Torn Winter High Tunnel Salad
This blend of tatsoi, chard, and winter lettuces is tossed in a light balsamic vinaigrette.

Sourdough Bread
This bread is a four day recipe from start to finish. The starter culture was inoculated from a vineyard that I had worked on a few years ago.

Heart Shaped Cookie
This is a sugar cookie recipe from a fellow Food Studies student. She is my go-to on dessert recipes.

Basil Limonata
A lemon and basil infused simple syrup, mixed with sparkling water

I told the volunteers to make themselves a plate as a thank you for their work. As the volunteers ate, I addressed the dining room with these broad talking points. Then, I went around to answer any individual questions about the harvest, the preparation, or to share recipes. People seemed to enjoy it, but we may have raised the bar on lunches. So if you know anyone who wants to volunteer, we’d be happy for their help – and we’d feed them quite well in return!

Moving to new ground!

The moveable high tunnel has made its way to new ground! And after today, that new ground has been transformed into 12 “raised” beds, all ready for the quarter test!

The job required a bit more math and geometry than we had anticipated, but it was a welcome change from a class day filled with literary review and heated debate. It’s always nice to compliment a morning of words and research with an afternoon of soil and manual labor.

Stay tuned to find out what chosen crops get to start filling out the moveable high tunnel!

Sunny with a high of…85!

EHCFeb222

Spring temperatures and sunshine greeted us outside, while inside the Solar High Tunnel it was a balmy 85! The temperatures this winter have certainly kept us on our toes…but our High Tunnel greens have been anything but phased.

EHCfeb221

The spinach continues to make its way upwards… though who needs to be coaxed on sunny days like today?

Unfortunately, our carrot soldiers are past the point of coaxing. They didn’t make the cut, so their bed was turned over to create vacancy for an upcoming mystery crop… stay tuned!

Close up and personal with some maturing Kale and Swiss Chard

 

Jessica Lieb

PASA Conference

Some of the Eden Hall Farm GAs got the chance to go to the PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) Conference from February 4-5th in State College, PA. The theme of the conference this year was “Climate Change: Farming for the Future.” The most difficult part of the weekend was deciding which of the many intriguing workshops to attend. We participated in a variety of sessions including hop farming, fermenting vegetables, organic grains and cover crops, young ginger production, and biodynamic beekeeping. We’ll tell you a bit about our favorites!

Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens, who have farmed for over twenty years, and were featured in Dan Barber’s book, The Third Plate, gave a workshop on organic grains. We’ve done some experimenting with growing organic grains here at the Eden Hall Farm, including rye (for Wigle Whiskey), wheat, and corn. We took advantage of the opportunity to get advice from the experts, Mary-Howell and Klaas.

Here’s some main takeaways from the workshop:

  • Leaving grains in the fields to dry isn’t always going to work in our climate (rainy and humid weather)
  • It’s important to clean grains well before storage, because green material can increase moisture, leading to rot
  • Diatomaceous Earth can be mixed with the first load of grain at the bottom of the barrel and last at the top to prevent worms
  • Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) can be used in the top 6 inches of stored grain to prevent meal moth infestations
  • Austrian Winter Peas are an effective cover crop, producing delicious shoots. In the words of Klaas, “Have your cover crop and eat it too!”
1740194_108477286175885_1509200312_n

Harvesting dried flint corn from Elsalma

Sandor Katz (aka Sandor-kraut) led one of the very first workshops on fermenting veggies. Vegetable fermenting is an easy process that requires a few, simple steps: 

First, you need to prepare your produce. What kind you may ask? According to Katz, cabbage and carrots are good starting vegetables; however, almost all veggies can be fermented. Don’t be afraid to experiment – you can even add in sticky rice, meat, or mashed potatoes. Second, massage some salt into your veggies. Katz said salt should be to taste, so no measuring is required! After you massage/pound them for a few minutes, the veggies will start releasing liquid. Finally, it’s time to pack the veggies into a jar. Make sure the veggies are completely submerged in their juices and then cover the jar with a lid. Now, all you need to do is wait and taste! You can do a quick ferment (just a few days) or a few months. Fermenting is a great way to make sure your produce lasts longer. 

Mary-Howell and Klaas Martin also gave another workshop titled “Finding Your Crop Rotation Rhythm,” in which they talked about the best rotational practices for grains and cover crops. The highlight and sticking point of the lecture was to “never farm naked,” and they emphasized the use of harvestable cover crops year round, so as to never leave the ground completely exposed. We learned that weeds will give a hint as to what kinds of plants are lacking and will fill in any diversity gaps and that diverse plantings of cover crops (succotash as they cleverly called them) can withstand drought and stress better than a monocropped field might. The greatest emphasis of this workshop was on building a holistic farm system, rather than just a crop rotation.

-Megan, Anna, and Caroline

Winter Greens

EHCtwo1

It was a short day on the farm today, but not one without progress! As the growing greens continue to hibernate under cover, new seedlings were given a fighting chance as they were transplanted into the ground.

EHCtwo2

Two rows of Mizuna and two rows of Red Sail Lettuce round out the rows in the Solar High Tunnel. All beds are full and snug with winter greens!

At the end of the SHT, our direct seeded Spinach is starting to peek out of the earth as a few carrot soldiers can be seen sprouting just rows away!

More seedlings (peppers included!) are cozily growing in the greenhouse, waiting their turn to be transplanted- – stay tuned!

EHCtwo3

P.S. Let’s hope our Eden Hall carrot soldiers turn out better than my first attempt (above) at growing carrots in my own little urban garden two summers ago…