The Joys of Potato Farming

fingerling loveEach year in early August, something special happens here at Blue Moon Acres. Our Pennington, NJ farmers head for the fields and start hunting for buried treasure. Not gold, silver, or jewels, but a more edible kind of treasure: potatoes. It’s a magical experience, pulling those first few tubers from the ground—the sweet, earthy smell; the feel of cool soil on your hands; the anticipation of a favorite soup or stew.

Potato farming is of a breed all its own. Although potatoes can be grown from traditional seed, they are almost always grown from ‘seed potatoes’, tubers specifically raised to be disease-free. (A seed potato is basically a potato with eyelets). These hardened seed-potatoes are planted in trenches and covered with a thin layer of soil. As soon as sprouts appear, another layer of loose soil is applied. This process is repeated again and again until a mound is formed and the plant begins to flower. It is not until the flowering process begins, however, that additional tubers (potatoes) begin to form.

After flowering has ceased, the vines are cut back and the tubers are left in the ground for one to  two weeks. During this time, the potato’s skin hardens, preventing against bruising, and facilitating in storage. To harvest, larger-scale commercial farmers may use a plow or a similar device, but gardeners use a spading fork or potato hook. A properly harvested potato can last many months in cool, dry conditions.

sales 005Here at Blue Moon, we grow fingerling and butterball potatoes. Fingerlings, resembling short stubby fingers, are perfect for roasting or served with salads. Butterballs are oblong in shape, have a lovely yellow flesh, and are perfect for mashing, frying, and baking. Both varieties are delicious roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.

But no matter how you cook ‘em, potatoes are one of the season’s most interesting and delicious offerings!

By | August 21st, 2015|News|0 Comments

Ode to Summer Savory

summer savoryOne of the perks of writing the product descriptions for Blue Moon’s weekly newsletters is getting to sample those products. This was especially true last week, when I had the pleasure to try the season’s first offering of Summer Savory. I was struck by the thymey, oreganoy flavor; the mild numbing effect it had on my tongue and lips. How had I made it 38 years without once experiencing this gem of an herb?

Summer savory (Satureja hortensis) has a long, storied history. Native to southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean regions, it was singled out by Virgil for its fragrance. One of America’s earliest settlers, John Josselyn also valued the herb, including it in a list of plants introduced in the new world, to help recent migrants remember their native gardens. Even Shakespeare, in The Winter’s Tale, writes about it:

Here’s flowers for you;

              Hot Lavender, mints, savoury,

                                   Marjoram;

                                   The marigold that goes to bed

                                    Wi’ the sun

                                   And with him rises weeping:

                                  these are flowers

                                  of middle summer, and I think

                                  they are given

                                  to men of middle age

 

Summer savory is also famous for its medicinal applications. First used by the Egyptians as an additive to their famous love potions, it has also been used to treat bee and wasp-stings, intestinal disorders, palsy, sciatica, sore throats, and dim vision. Famous seventeenth century apothecary Nicholas Culpepper touted Savory as a panacea, recommending some always be kept on hand:

…the Summer kind is the best… It expels tough phlegm form the chest and lungs, quickens the dull spirits in the lethargy… dropped into the eyes it clears them of thin cold humors proceeding from the brain….”

These days, Summer Savory is mainly used in the kitchen. It figures prominently in Bulgarian cuisine, where it is known as chubrista. Bulgarians keep savory, along with salt and paprika, on their dining room tables, the same way Americans keep salt and pepper. These three herbs are often mixed together to make something called sharena sol, or colorful salt.

In the Atlantic Canada region, summer savory is used as sage is used elsewhere—in dressing for fowl, mixed with ground pork, or eaten with turkey, goose, and duck.

And if you’ve ever wondered what makes Herb de Provence so zesty: yep, summer savory.

Summer SavoryFood writer Marie Viljoen blogs about the myriad ways to use the herb:

“I chop a whole cup of fresh savory leaves… and a cup of chopped flat-leaf parsley and a crushed clove of garlic, and cook both very gently in four tablespoons of butter. After five minutes, add a squeeze of lemon juice, cook another minute or so for it to caramelize, and pour over grilled mushroom just before eating.”

Any way you slice it (or dry it or mince it) Summer Savory is one of the most understated, unappreciated herbs under the sun. It’s high time you savored the savory.

 

By | August 11th, 2015|News|0 Comments

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