farmers markets

Last farmers market ever

Posted by Lisa on April 25, 2013
farmers markets, Richmond, spring / Comments Off on Last farmers market ever

hear ye hear ye

Many of you (hopefully most of you!!) know that we’ve been at Richmond farmers markets throughout the winter season, selling our pork and eggs and occasional vegetables. We Moussallis moved up to New York about a month and a half ago, but our longtime crew member and even longer time friend Joseph has been staying at Frog Bottom and selling at market in our stead while the farm is on the market.

In good news for all, the summer market season is just around the corner. Over the next several weeks market tables everywhere will be creaking with the ever-increasing weight of turnips, cooking and salad greens, scallions, green garlic, peas, rhubarb, radishes, asparagus, maybe the first strawberries and peas and summer squash. Most chickens, done with their main winter work of staying warm, are turning again to egg laying, so you’re probably seeing more of those cartons on market tables too. And as more of you shed your winter woolens and head outdoors with a spring in your step, more vendors will be there to meet you.

But it also means it’s time for us to really and truly say farewell. This Saturday marks our very last Virginia farmers market ever. You’ll find us from 10 to noon at the South of the James Market, in the parking lot of the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, 3411 Semmes Avenue at Forest Hill Avenue. Joseph will have spinach, fresh oregano and sage, fresh eggs, and pork.

We’ve got some specials lined up: 10% off any pork purchases over $25, $1 off sausage and eggs when you buy them together, and/or 2 dozen of the finest eggs in Richmond for $8.

The farm is still on the market and so every little bit truly does help. We hope you can make it!

In related news: since we won’t be at market anymore, we’ve got a whole lot of hens looking for homes. We’re thrilled that the Richmond City Council just voted to allow backyard chickens! Chickens are quite a delight, not too much work, and they give you delicious food (almost) every day! We’ll be writing up a longer post soon about our chickens, but if you’re interested in buying some, give us a call at (434) 248-5525 or send us an email at info (at) frogbottomfarm (dot) com.

How to be cool as a cucumber

Posted by Lisa on July 02, 2012
CSA, cucumbers, farmers markets, Frog Bottom Farm recommends, recipes, the farm, Vegetables A-Z / Comments Off on How to be cool as a cucumber

The heat these days has us thinking of summers past, and of the ways we dream up to feel a little cooler. This year, as every year, we are grateful for the creeks on the farm,  for family-friendly local businesses with air conditioning, and for neighbors with pools. And thank goodness so many of the vegetables growing right now taste so good with little to no preparation! It’s nature’s remarkable gift.

To help y’all stay cool, and to celebrate the beginning of our cucumber season, we’re reposting a piece we wrote almost three years ago. Read on to learn about our four varieties and to get some recipe ideas — cucumber salad, pickles, even a cocktail!

Sometimes, the only way to beat the heat is to embrace it.

We’re talking trips to the river, dinner outside at the picnic table, burgers and squash and corn on the grill, peach juice dripping down your arms, sweet tea and margaritas, the ice cream truck, ceiling fans, sprinklers, naps. And cucumbers!

Here at Frog Bottom we grow four kinds, enough to help you stay cool for a few weeks at least. We often sample the different varieties at market. If you’re a member of our CSA, be sure to try all the varieties before the season is through. The strange bumpy ones (see below) are our favorite.

About Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes summer squash, zucchini, watermelons, muskmelons, gourds, winter squash and pumpkins. Cucumbers originated in India and have been cultivated by humans for at least three thousand years, and possibly much, much longer – carbon dating places some seeds found near the Burma/Thailand border as being from 7750 BC! It’s said that the ancient Romans soaked their cucumber seeds in honeyed wine before planting them, in an effort to combat their fabled bitterness. In the Book of Numbers, the Israelites complain during their long exodus from Egypt: “Remember how in Egypt we had fish for the asking, cucumbers and watermelons, leeks and onions and garlic. Now our appetite is gone.”

Cucumbers spread slowly to Northern Europe, where the climate was not particularly suited to growing them, but they were readily adopted by native North American Indians when seeds were first brought by the Spanish conquistadors. Throughout the 1500s European trappers, hunters, and traders bartered with North American tribes for their fresh vegetables and fruits, including cucumbers. Letters from people who visited colonial New England in the 1600s praised the cucumbers and other kitchen garden vegetables there as being bigger and better than what could be grown in England at the same time.

One thing is certain: throughout all these millennia of cultivation, the bitterness has been almost entirely bred out of cucumbers. At Frog Bottom, we’re very careful to pick them while they’re still young – crisp and sweet. Their high water content and mild taste are what make them so refreshing on these hot, sticky summer days.

We grow four varieties here at the farm.

Here’s a pickler:

It’s called a pickler because it’s the perfect length for a canning jar, but this is a great all-around pickle for salads as well. In the bins at market and at CSA pick-ups, you can distinguish the picklers by their short, plump shape and their slightly bumpy skin.

This one, just slightly longer and smoother than the pickler and with slightly tapered ends, is our American slicer:

It’s another versatile cucumber, great on salads and sandwiches or just eaten out of hand.

This is a European burpless:

It’s very long and fairly thin, with smooth skin on the outside and almost no seeds inside. Very tasty!

Our favorite is the Asian cucumber:

It’s the ugly duckling of the bunch, with its wrinkled bumpy skin and funny shape, but what it lacks in classic beauty it more than makes up for with its crisp, sweet flavor. Try one!

Storing Cucumbers

We don’t wax our cucumbers – which means you don’t need to peel them! It also means they won’t keep as long as some store-bought varieties. Stick them in the crisper drawer of your fridge as soon as possible after buying them. Leave them there for up to a week but use them as soon as you can.

Preparing Cucumbers

We’ve chosen non-bitter varieties and we pick them young. So at our house, we never salt the cucumbers and rarely peel or seed them. It seems a waste of time and flavor when there are so many good things to do with them! We love them as a snack right out in the field while we’re picking. And of course they’re wonderful sliced or diced and added to salads and sandwiches. But we like them so much – and we’ve had such a bumper crop these last two weeks – that we love to dress them up a bit too.  Here are some of our old favorites, and a couple new approaches.

Ali’s Cucumber Salad

We make some variation on this salad two or three times a week during cucumber season. Don’t be afraid to play around with ingredients and quantities. It’s wonderful with wedges of fresh tomato and corn sliced right off the cob, both available at farmers markets now!

Several cucumbers (2 Asian or European, 3 American, or 4 picklers), chopped or sliced
3-4 scallions (minced) or half an onion (coarsely diced)
Handful basil leaves, chopped or torn
Handful feta or goat cheese, crumbled
Juice of half a lemon or a few glugs of your favorite vinegar
A few glugs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Chow down!

Serves two with leftovers. Easily doubled.

Fridge Pickles

If, like me, you have been meaning to make your own pickles for what seems like a decade now, I am here to tell you: Get up from your computer this very instant and go to your kitchen! It takes about nine minutes! You make a simple brine of water, vinegar, and salt. Then you pour that over cucumbers, garlic, and herbs. Leave the jars alone for a few days, and voila! Pickles! I made them for the first time just last week, using this recipe from Donalyn Ketchum, and they are, in a word, perfect. Crunchy, garlicky, and just sour enough, I can’t stop reaching for them. These pickles aren’t canned, so they need to be stored in the fridge. They’ll keep at least a couple months there, but I doubt they’ll last that long! Also, you can use just about any herb. I meant to use dill but saw, as the brine was coming to a boil, that my dill had gone slimy. So I used fresh thyme instead. Yum!

Gordon’s Cup

If your work day has been relentless and nobody likes what you made for dinner and the A/C is broken, here’s what you need to do: make yourself a Gordon’s Cup. Cucumbers, lime, simple syrup, gin, and a pinch of salt: really, how can you go wrong? You’ll have to plan ahead just a little bit, to make and then cool the simple syrup, but that’s very easy. Make some now and it’ll last you through many of these drinks! Oh, and don’t skip the salt. Just a tiny pinch is really delicious. This recipe from Molly Wizenberg has everything you need to know.

Sautéed Cucumbers

The truth is, we haven’t tried this yet. I’m really eager to know if any of y’all have! Larousse Gastronomique includes several variations. Mark Bittman, author of the accessible, encouraging, and comprehensive How to Cook Everything, and writer of the weekly The Minimalist column in The New York Times, notes that a cucumber is “a vegetable that is rarely cooked but ought to be – at least occasionally.” He suggests a simple sauté of butter, onions, and cucumbers, finished with cream or yogurt and a handful of chopped dill. It’s next on our list; has anyone tried this?

* * *

And you? What are y’all doing with cucumbers this summer? At market and at CSA pick-ups, people have told us about cucumber soup and tzatziki. We’d love it if you’d post those recipes – and everything else you’re making with cucumbers – right here in the comments section.

Gearing up

Posted by Lisa on April 03, 2012
chickens, CSA, farmers markets, greenhouse, pigs, spring, the crew / 2 Comments

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Ribbit. Happy spring, y'all.

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That’s right! Around here it is all cool misty mornings (the fear of frost still not quite past) and warm sunny days (with plenty of spring-rain-just-when-we’re-ready-to-transplant-all-that-kale) and nights full of frogsong; a riot of redbuds and wisteria and dogwood and viburnum in the woods and a greenhouse filling just as rapidly with tomato, parsley, basil, oregano, sage, kale, broccoli, leek, scallion, eggplant, sweet pepper, beet, and chard seedlings; new building projects; and one young rooster trying to make sense of it all.

We are all in spring scramble mode, trying to get everything in place before our new piglets arrive next week, before our new laying hens arrive later in the month, and especially before our market season begins this week and our CSA season begins in late May!

Last week month in photos!

Posted by Lisa on August 17, 2010
farm get-togethers, farmers markets, goats, irrigation, last week in pictures, summer, the crew, the family, the farm, tomatoes / Comments Off on Last week month in photos!

We’ve watered, planted, picked, noshed, tended, toured, tidied, milked, mowed … and not posted a whit of it here!  Here’s a peek, and we aim to get back to these weekly photo glimpses of farm life starting now.

Transplanting

Planting peppers

Tomato pick

More tomato pick

Chicks!

Farm tour at the potluck!

Everyone's favorite job -- pulling up used black plastic mulch!

Pulling up drip tape

Winter squash, coming along

Setting up at market

Farmers Market at St. Stephen's

Our little tomatomonger

Our reasonably peaceable kingdom

Lulu says hey.

Look whos' back in town and planting beets!

Turn on your radios!

Posted by Lisa on July 27, 2010
CSA, farmers markets, food policy, Frog Bottom Farm recommends, Richmond, the farm / Comments Off on Turn on your radios!

This gal swears she’s a great radio voice.

Last Wednesday Arlo and I traded the juicy tomatoes and the excruciating heat of the farm for some blessed A/C and delightful conversation at the WRIR studios in Richmond. (Don’t get us wrong: we love the farm! But the cool of the studio was something else.)  We joined our good friend Eli of Eli’s Greens and Sunny Gardner of Lightly on the Ground for a great chat about farm life and local food systems.

Have a listen!

Lightly on the Ground radio interview, 21 July 2010

An early summer recipe roundup

Afternoon, y’all!  79° and breezy and a long lunchtime nap — we’ll take it!  We hope the eatin’ has been good where you’re at.  Here at the farm, we’ve been eating lots of salad, lots of homemade pizza, and lots of tomato sandwiches.  Those three things could keep us fed and happy for a very long time!  But sometimes we manage something new.

Down below the photos, we’ve listed a few recipes we’ve been loving lately.  Some CSA members have also been sharing recipes via email, the comments sections here on the blog, and over at our Facebook page.  We’ll try to highlight some of those soon as well.  And plans are still afoot for adding forums to this website, so you can share your recipes and cooking adventures directly; we’ll keep you posted!

Prepping some zucchini for the grill!

Chard, glorious chard!

Sun sugars on the vine

Here are some tasty ideas for working through these early summer CSA shares and farmers market finds.  Most of them would be fantastic fare for your Fourth of July BBQ!  Lots of these posts link to other great recipes too.

Ginger Scallion Sauce at Chocolate & Zucchini

Red, White & Blue Roast Potatoes and Firecracker Potato Salad (two recipes) at Babble

Fondant Fennel from Edward Schneider at Mark Bittman

Raw Beet Salad at Just Braise

Quick Sauté of Zucchini with Toasted Almonds at Smitten Kitchen

Chard, Onion, and Gruyère Panade at Orangette

101 Fast Recipes for Grilling at The Minimalist

Soon, it should be easier to search recipes we’ve posted or linked to here on the farm blog.  In the meantime, you might enjoy just browsing the posts with recipes.

Enjoy your holiday weekend!  What will you be eating?

To market, to market!

Posted by Lisa on May 03, 2010
CSA, farmers markets, Richmond, the family / 1 Comment

My word, Richmond!  You really pulled out all the stops this weekend.  That weather!  Those irises in your front yard gardens!  The heady scent of paulownias along the Powhite!

Best of all, of course, were the smiling faces and open arms at the opening weekend of our farmers market.  We could not be more delighted to be back in the swing at St. Stephen’s.  And introducing Arlo — now a hefty six months and grinning ear to ear! — to our community there was nothing short of joyful.  Thank you so very, very much!

For those of y’all who are market customers: we’re just doing the Farmers Market at St. Stephen’s this year.  This market is in its second year and is loads of fun.  It’s expanded quite a bit since last year and if you’ve never been, come see us next week!  We’ll have vegetable, herb, and flower starts for your garden.  A bit later in the month we should have some lettuce and maybe scallions.  More vegetables start coming in around the first of June.  There’s loads at market to tide you over until then, though: meats, cheeses, eggs, preserves, pastries, granola, coffee, ice cream, prepared foods, jewelry, handmade clothes, and lots more.

If you’re considering joining our CSA, St. Stephen’s is a really fun spot to pick up.  It’s our biggest CSA site so you’ll meet lots of other members, and you can make a whole morning out of a visit to the market!  (We’ve also got pick-up sites in Ginter Park, Church Hill, and Midlothian.)  We’re accepting registrations for just another few weeks; forms can be had here!

Barnyard dance (or, winter on a farm)

Posted by Lisa on February 15, 2010
chickens, CSA, farmers markets, goats, irrigation, the family, the farm, winter / Comments Off on Barnyard dance (or, winter on a farm)

There are no tomatoes hiding under that snow, and even our cold-hardy crops like kale and collards have succumbed to the fiercest of winter’s frosts and geese.  But — after a gloriously warm and lazy trip to the Gulf Coast — we’re keeping pretty busy around here nonetheless!

For us, winter means seed orders and crop plans.  It’s a really creative time in our year: what crops are our stand-bys, reliable in production and taste?  What didn’t grow well?  What have we always wanted to try?  What varieties do our farming friends recommend?  Should we grow more melons this year?  Fewer turnip greens?  A new kind of tomato?

Winter means repairs and maintenance.  Our hoop house collapsed in that first big snow in December, and we’ll need to repair it before the season begins, since that’s where we put our vegetable seedlings to harden off before transplanting them into the fields.  We started construction on a small tool and repair shed last year, but found ourselves sidetracked by our busy CSA schedule and unexpected irrigation difficulties.  We’re hoping to get that built early in the season this year, before things get too busy.  We wrote a bit about those irrigation issues last year; that’s another big job to finish before the vegetables start growing.

Winter means doing our books, making sure we understand well how the business did last year, and using those lessons to make smart decisions about what directions to go this year.

Winter means finding the new season’s work crew.  Reading applications always fills us with excitement and hope.  Who will we spend our days with this year?  How will the farm change with their energy?  And ain’t it grand, that there are folks out there who want to do what we do, grow delicious food and get to know the people who eat it?

Winter means lots of planning and preparation for market and for our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription program.  Spots are filling up; have you sent in your registration form yet?

Winter also means lots of hot chocolate, lots of snuggles with Arlo, and lots of time by the wood stove.

We hope these last months have been good to you all, and we can’t wait to see you again.

Daily Farm Photo: plans plans plans

We got started in farming by first spending several years working for other farmers.  This is definitely the path we recommend.

(You can read a bit more about our thoughts on “good, on the ground, in-the-mud-and-the-muck training” over at the profile Serious Eats did on us last month. We were honored to participate in their Meet Your Farmers series and I can’t believe we’re only remembering to share this with y’all now!  Can I blame pregnancy brain? Winter CSA preparations? Learning how to milk a goat?)

After learning from some incredible folks who had figured out how to make farming a viable and sound career choice, we started our own farm in 2006, on land we leased from Susan and Chip Planck of Wheatland Vegetable Farms.

(Since we’re sending you all over creation today, why not read this Washingtonian article, which profiles the Plancks as well as some of our other good farm friends from Northern Virginia?)

We sold at DC area farmers markets for three years before buying Frog Bottom.  I suppose we thought we’d always make our living this way, by growing for market: working those fields in all kinds of weather, rising before dawn on weekend mornings, laughing and learning with our customers, packing up the truck again at the end of market, and heading back to the farm to do it all over again.

We love doing that, and thank goodness farmers markets are still a big part of our lives!

What we didn’t know back in our Northern Virginia days was how much we’d also come to love the CSA approach to growing vegetables and getting them to folks.  We decided to add a CSA to our farm when we moved because it seemed to make good business sense.  We were leaving a major metropolitan area for a region with smaller cities, and it seemed smart to offer different ways for folks to access our vegetables.  But we’d never actually run a CSA before.

Well: we love it.  We love being able to plan well in the winter and spring.  We love the security.  We love the sense of adventure and fun our CSA members bring to eating.  We love how connected we feel to y’all.

We love it so much that we decided to offer a Winter CSA this year, and a much bigger Summer CSA next year.  And that’s what Ali is up to in today’s Daily Farm Photo.  We’re going to be renting some extra land from some wonderful neighbors (and CSA members!) next year, and we’ve just started the process of preparing that ground.  We’ve plowed it and tilled it, and we’ll probably till it once more before putting in a winter cover crop of hairy vetch and rye.  This cover crop will do all kinds of good things to protect the soil and get it ready for vegetables next year: prevent erosion, maintain moisture, suppress weeds, and turn atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen our crops can use.

Beyond the new field you can see one of our current fields, growing some of the delicious cooking greens that have already started showing up in your CSA shares.  The weather is turning, and those greens only get better after the frost — yum!

Daily Farm Photo: the cusp

Posted by Lisa on October 12, 2009
CSA, daily farm photo, farm get-togethers, farmers markets, the farm / Comments Off on Daily Farm Photo: the cusp

Another beautiful early autumn weekend, and another potluck and farm tour full of laughter, good cheer, and a pint-sized harvesting crew.  You can see from the photo that the patch where our winter squash sat growing all summer long has been cleaned up.  What you can’t see is the cover crop of barley and hairy vetch that we planted in the middle of last week.  With a little rain it should germinate soon.  It will keep our fields healthy during the winter by preventing erosion, keeping moisture in the soil, and converting atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen next year’s crops will be able to use.  In the spring we’ll turn it into the soil before planting something new there.

Yesterday it was our great pleasure to be joined at the farm by some members of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.  This community has been enormously supportive of our farm since our first days in the Richmond area.  Early this spring, we spoke at the church about our CSA program and about farmers markets — about the concrete ways that buying from local farmers keeps families like us solvent, keeps rural economies strong, and keeps urban communities vibrant and healthy.  We sell our vegetables at the Market at St. Stephen’s on Saturday mornings from 8am to noon.  St. Stephen’s is also the site of our largest CSA pick-up, on Saturday mornings during the summer and on Wednesday evenings during the winter.

It’s really quite impossible to imagine our farm without their support.  Thanks so much, y’all!