This morning, I found myself out in the garden after finishing my morning chores. There was still frost on the ground. My children could still see their breath floating in the morning air.
We gathered a pound of onions from the remnants of our raised bed garden. As I looked down, I was struck by just how beautiful they were. Without meaning to, I had formed the perfect farmer’s autumn bouquet made with something fresh from the farm.
I know that I am expected to dream of frilly bouquets filled with delicate flowers. I enjoy a flower bouquet as much as the next person, especially when the flowers are grown here on our farm. But I have to admit, a bouquet that you can eat for dinner is pretty tough to beat!
I had intended to share a photo of the chicks in their garden coop today. It seemed fitting given that they turn three months old this week. That is, until I spotted this…
Once I saw the first nearly ripe heirloom tomato, all bets were off. All I could think about was tasting this Peacevine Cherry. Every year, the Peacevine seems to be the first of our heirloom tomato varieties to ripen. It’s a beautiful sign of the delicious things to come.
Sorry chicks. You’ll have to wait your turn. Maybe I’ll share a photo of you next week. That is, unless the first slicing tomato is ready for its closeup.
In the summer, the gardens at 1840 Farm dictate what is served for dinner. If the Purple Top Turnips are ready to be harvested, then dinner is designed around them. During heirloom tomato season, no one in the family asks “What’s for dinner?” There’s no point. The answer is always “tomatoes”.
I follow Julia Child’s method for preparing the beans. It is a simple preparation and doesn’t require any special equipment. I blanch the beans and peas before sauteing them in a little butter. The end result is fresh and delicious.
To prepare the beans and peas, bring a large pot of water to a roiling boll over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add a generous Tablespoon or two of salt. Wash the beans and cut them into 2 inch lengths. Remove the peas and favas from their pods and add them to the pot of boiling water with the beans.
Immediately cover the pot to allow the water to rapidly return to boiling. Once the water has come back to a boil, remove the lid and blanch the vegetables for 2-4 minutes. Check often for doneness, removing the vegetables from the boiling water while they are still crisp.
Remove the beans and peas using a slotted spoon and place them immediately into a bowl of ice water. Shocking the peas and beans in ice water will stop the cooking process and help to set the brilliant bright green color. At this point, the completely cooled vegetables can be drained and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.
When you are ready to finish the beans and peas, warm a saute pan over medium heat and add a pat of butter. Using your thumb and index finger, slip the outer skin from the fava bean by pressing lightly on the bean. The bright green fava will emerge from its papery skin rather easily. Add the favas into the pan with the rest of the beans and peas and stir to combine.
Saute the beans and peas for a few minutes, seasoning to taste with sea salt and pepper. As soon as the vegetables are warmed through, serve them alongside your farm fresh dinner. You’ll have a side dish that is simple, beautiful, and delicious. One taste and you’ll understand why Thomas Jefferson’s favorite vegetable was the humble garden pea.
Planting Depth: shallow-1/4″ below the soil’s surface
Plant Spacing: 1 – 2 inches at sowing, thinned to 4 – 6 inches
Row Spacing: 12 – 18 inches
Days to Germinate: 7 – 10
Days to Maturity: 52-57
A ripe Purple Top Heirloom Turnip is as beautiful as it is delicious. If you think that you don’t enjoy turnips, then I beg you to try one from your garden or local farmer’s market. A fresh, homegrown turnip bears little resemblance to the giant specimens found in the grocery store. While the grocery store version can lean heavily toward the pungent, a fresh turnip is the perfect marriage of earthiness and sweetness.
Turnips can be eaten raw, roasted, mashed, or substituted for potatoes in your favorite recipe. The Purple Top’s skin is a creamy off white color with purple shoulders. The interior is a beautiful bright white with a smooth, crisp texture throughout.
The turnip has been cultivated for centuries. Thomas Jefferson grew more than a dozen varieties in his terrace garden. They graced the dinner table and also served as feedstuffs for cattle and sheep raised at Monticello. In Ireland, it was tradition to display a hollowed out turnip with a flame burning inside. This practice became the inspiration for present day pumpkin Jack O’Lanterns.
Turnips can be succession planted to be enjoyed throughout the growing season. If planted every two weeks, the resulting harvest will provide a continuous supply of turnips and greens. The greens are edible and nutritious and can be enjoyed along with the root when harvested. In fact, a few leaves can be cut from each bulb during the growing season and enjoyed before the root crop is ready for harvesting. If stored properly, turnips can be kept in a cool, dry place for up to four months.
Turnips are good garden companions for peas and cabbage. They are believed to help deter aphids in the vegetable garden. Planting turnips near crops susceptible to aphid damage can be beneficial in the organic vegetable garden.
Here at 1840 Farm, we eagerly await the turnip harvest each spring. We quarter the roots and roast them in a 425 degree oven with olive oil and sea salt until they are tender and sweet. As soon as the hot pan is removed from the oven, we add a pat of butter and some of our own maple syrup. In minutes, the turnips are lightly coated in a beautiful amber glaze. The end result is earthy and sweet and serves as a perfect reminder that getting our hands dirty means putting delicious, fresh food on our table.
Planting Depth: shallow-1/4″ below the soil’s surface
Plant Spacing: 2 inches
Row Spacing: 8-12 inches
Days to Germinate: 3 – 7
Days to Maturity: 21-27
A ripe Cherry Belle radish is a thing of beauty. It is medium in size with a round, bulbous shape. The skin is a beautiful bright garnet red with brilliant white flesh underneath. A delightful, crisp texture is accompanied by its earthy, fresh flavor. This variety resists the tendency to develop a woody texture as the season progresses. It’s no wonder that the Cherry Belle Heirloom Radish was the All-America Selection winner in 1949.
The Cherry Belle radish hails from Holland. Radishes can be succession planted to be enjoyed throughout the growing season. If planted every two weeks, the resulting harvest will provide a continuous supply of radishes throughout the growing season.
Radishes prefer the cooler conditions of spring and fall to summer’s intense heat. When sowing in the summer, consider planting radishes in the shade of larger, established plants. They can be grown as companions with dill, beets, carrots, and beans. Radishes are believed to help deter squash bugs and boring pests in the vegetable garden.
Here at 1840 Farm, we eagerly await radish season each spring. Radishes are the first vegetable crop harvested from our garden and announce the happy arrival of the growing season. They also enable us to enjoy eating a spring menu favorite: sliced radish tartine.
It’s been raining for days on end here at 1840 Farm. I know that we desperately needed the rain. I know that it is technically spring or as we like to call it in New England: mud season. None of that matters. I still don’t like it. I want to be outside, planting in the garden instead of inside staring longingly out the window at the garden.
After coming to the realization that I couldn’t do anything about the rain, I decided to do the next best thing. I went to the refrigerator to grab the ingredients to make an afternoon snack. I hoped that the act of cooking would distract me from the raindrops falling against the kitchen window. It only took a few moments for me to realize that I had the components to make a family favorite: sliced radish tartine.
Radishes are one of the first crops to be harvested here at 1840 Farm. We love to enjoy a freshly made tartine to celebrate the beginning of our garden harvest. The crisp radish pairs deliciously with toasted pumpernickel bread and velvety butter. After a long day working in the garden, this tartine made with freshly harvested radishes is a delicious reward.
Alas, the radishes I had in the refrigerator were not the beloved French Breakfast variety that is growing out in our garden. It will be a few weeks before they are large enough to harvest. However, I did have the next best thing: Cherry Belle radishes from the local farmer’s market.
While the bread toasted, I set my OXO mandoline to 1/8” and washed two large radishes. In a few short motions, I had created beautiful, thin slices of radish. I softened the butter using a fork while the toasted bread cooled to room temperature.
I spread the butter on the brown bread, seasoned them lightly with salt, pepper, and a little thyme. Then the paper-thin radishes were placed on top and the tartine was sliced into individual portions. As I bit into the tartine, my frustration with Mother Nature slipped away.
With each bite, I became more convinced that we did need the rain. I reasoned that it would help the French Breakfast radishes grow out in our garden. Harvesting those fresh radishes meant more radish tartine enjoyed with my family. How could I be upset about that?
Sliced Radish Tartine makes 4 snack size servings
4 slices pumpernickel bread
2 teaspoons butter
freshly ground black pepper
2 large radishes
Remove the crust from the bread. Lightly toast the bread and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Wash the radishes and remove the root end using a sharp knife. Using a mandoline set to 1/8″ or a sharp paring knife, slice the radishes into paper-thin slices. If using a mandoline, use the finger guard when slicing to prevent the radish from rolling into the cutting blade or injuring your fingers.
Soften the butter by smashing with the back of a fork. Divide the softened butter evenly between the bread slices. Spread it in an even layer and season to taste with salt, pepper, and thyme and top with several radish slices.
Cut each slice of bread in half and serve.
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