Why Do Leaves Change Color?

maple leafAutumn is a magical time of year. The cooler weather, the smell of campfire, and the changing leaves. If you have the good fortune to live in the Northeast, the changing foliage can be quite dramatic indeed. But just why do leaves change color? What natural forces are at play here?

There are three main factors that determine leaf color change: pigmentation, length of night, and weather. Of these, changes in length of night are the most consequential. As daylight wanes, biochemical processes within the leaves are initiated, resulting in a shift from green pigmentation, to browns, yellows, oranges, and reds. Once the nighttime-length threshold is crossed for any particular given species of tree, the autumnal display begins.

Chlorophyll, the biomolecule that allows plants to absorb energy from sunlight, lends leaves their green color. Throughout the summer, when sunlight is plentiful, chlorophyll is the dominant pigment. As autumn approaches and chlorophyll production slows, however, other pigments—carotenoids and anthocyanins—begin to appear. Carotenoids are responsible for the yellow, orange, and brown colors in carrots, corn, and daffodils; and anthocyanins give color to things like cranberries, red apples, blueberries, cherries, and plums. But while carotenoids are present all through the growing season, anthocyanins are only produced in autumn, in response to excess sugar build-up within leaves. This sugar accrual is due to the gradual sealing off of the veins leading into the leaf; once the veins are fully sealed, the leaf breaks away and falls to the ground.

fall foliageThough peak fall foliage varies from year to year, it generally begins in late September in New England, and moves southward, reaching the Smoky Mountains by early November.

By | October 16th, 2015|News|0 Comments

Kale: So Much More than Just a Trend

kaleLove it or hate it, kale is huge. Though recent articles tote the end of the kale craze, the reality is that the beloved green remains extremely popular. From its Greek and Roman origins to its modern proliferation, kale is one of the most enduring, healthy, easy-to-grow, and delicious vegetables of all times. And, not surprisingly, it has a fascinating history.

Fourth Century Greeks cultivated curly and flat-leaved varieties, later referred to by the Romans as ‘Sabellian kale’, the ancestor of modern strains. Throughout the Middle Ages, kale was one of Europe’s most popular vegetables. Later, during World War II, kale cultivation was encouraged in the UK as part of the war effort.

Along with cabbage, kale was assumed by the Irish to possess fortune-telling power. Young people used the green to judge the nature of their future spouses: a bitter stalk meant a bitter mate, a lot of dirt clinging to the root meant a wealthy husband or wife. “Kale-Pulling” rituals were especially popular on Halloween, when it was believed the plant’s prophetic powers were more potent.

kale 2The year 2000 saw the birth of the current kale craze. It started when Vermont-based artist, Bo Muller-Moore created the now-famous “Eat More Kale” t-shirt in an effort to help a friend move a bumper harvest of the crop. The rise of CSAs also helped, as did celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Salma Hayek, and Demi Moore, who used kale in juice cleanses. Most recently, McDonald’s Canada incorporated a kale salad with their traditional menu of hamburgers and French fries.

Part of kale’s appeal is its nutritional payload: one cup of boiled kale is packed with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potentially cancer-fighting isothiocynates and anti-inflammatory flavonoids. Kale is also an excellent source of manganese, copper, Vitamin B6, calcium, and fiber.

 

By | October 2nd, 2015|News|0 Comments

No Artichoke Like the Jerusalem Artichoke!

Jersualem ArtichokesIf you’re like me, you were in your mid-thirties before you had the pleasure of eating a Jerusalem artichoke. Also known as sunchokes, sunroots, or earth apples, these tubers are often used in soups, stews, or served roasted as a side dish. Though not as widely known as that other famous tuber, the potato, they’re equally delicious.

Jerusalem artichoke cultivation traces back to the Native Americans, who used it as a trading tool. Natives also turned settlers on to the tuber, who shipped it back to Europe, where it was commercialized. Though the sunchoke would later fall into obscurity here in the states, it would see a resurgence in popularity in the eighties and nineties.

Some more fun facts about the Jerusalem artichoke:

  • It doesn’t actually come from Jerusalem! Some theorize that Puritans, who regarded America as “New Jerusalem”, were responsible for the name.
  • Because it contains fructose, it’s recommended for Type 2 diabetics.
  • They contain inulin instead of starch, and, as such, are used as a source of a dietary fiber for food manufacturing.
  • They’re so hardy and easy-to-grow, the plant can sometime ruin a garden if even a small pice of tuber is left in the ground!
  • In Germany, over 90% of Jerusalem artichokes are used to produce a liquor called Topinambur. It smells fruity and has a slight nutty-sweet flavor.

jerusalem_artichokes2So if you haven’t already experimented with this delicious vegetable yourself, now is the time! Pick some up at our Pennington, NJ market, or here at our Buckingham PA market.

 

By | September 18th, 2015|News|0 Comments

Five Deliciously Unusual Fruit & Veggie Grilling Ideas!

Labor Day weekend is here, and with it the season’s last official ‘grill-worthy’ holiday. Today we take a look at five of the more unusual grilling options for in-season fruits and vegetables!

grilled_potato_fries_sqsPotatoes

Sick of the same old boring potato salad? Liven things up with grilled potatoes! From grilled potato fries to grilled southwestern potato salad, the possibilities are endless! Getting them right requires a little skill—you’ll want to either pre-boil your potatoes, or sear then slow-cook them till they’re ready.

grilled-cabbageLettuce and Cabbage

Believe it or not, grilling these guys can be quite the treat! The grill lends a unique smoky flavor to the final product, as well as a surprise for your guests. Grilled romaine hearts with blue cheese dressing, and grilled cabbage with butter and Indian spices are just a few of the many possibilities.

 

grilled watermelonWatermelon

Didn’t think watermelon could get any better? Try grilling it! When heated, fruit sugars take on a deep, caramel-like flavor, as well as a beautiful golden color. Slice in large wedges or coins and grill two minutes per side over high heat.

 

 

grilled kaleKale

You’ve had it roasted, steamed, stir-fried, even raw, but have you tried it grilled? Blanch for a few minutes first, then grill three minutes per side. Crisp, wonderfully smoky, and easy to make—what could be better?

 

 

grilled_peaches_with_pound_cakePeaches

Whether served plain, brushed with honey, sprinkled with cinnamon, or topped with yogurt, grilled peaches are uncannily delicious! Simply slice your peaches in half, remove the pits, and grill on high for about five minutes.

By | September 4th, 2015|News|0 Comments

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

Try our Certified Organic, New Jersey grown, freshly-husked rice. Enjoy $5.00 flat rate shipping for a limited time!