The Scoop on Potatoes

Blue Moon's Fingerling Potatoes

Blue Moon’s Fingerling Potatoes

What is a potato?

A potato is a vegetable. It is part of the nightshade family of plants (along with tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. The potato is actually the swollen portion of the underground root, called a tuber. The tuber serves to provide food for the leafy green (above-ground) part of the plant. If allowed to turn to flower and fruit, the potato plant will bear an inedible fruit resembling a tomato.

What is the history of the potato?

The potato was first cultivated by the Inca Indians in South America, way back around 7,000 BCE. After the Spanish Conquistadors discovered Peru in 1536, they brought the tuber back to Spain. Families of Basque sailors began to grow potatoes along the coast of northern Spain by the end of that century. It was in 1589 that Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland, with the cultivation of 40,000 acres in County Cork.

The Irish potato famine was the result of a potato blight in the 1840’s; a plant disease that destroyed most of the potato crop throughout Europe. As the Irish working class subsisted mainly on potatoes, they were greatly affected by the potato blight. Almost one million people died from starvation or disease over the course of the famine, and another one million emigrated out of Ireland.

Health Facts:

Potatoes are high in carbohydrates and Vitamin C. They have more potassium than bananas, spinach, or broccoli. Only about 20% of the potato’s nutrition (mostly the fiber) is found in the skin. Most of the Vitamin C and potassium are in the flesh.

Uses of potatoes:

– Potatoes are used to brew alcoholic beverages like vodka
– Potato starch is used as a thickener and binder in soups and sauces, and as an adhesive in the textile industry
– Potatoes are commonly used in cooking (of course!). They’re often prepared mashed, roasted, fried, or in pancakes.

By |August 22nd, 2014|News|Comments Off on The Scoop on Potatoes

3 Ways to Make Use of an Abundance of Tomatoes

Hello, tomato.

tomatoes plum

So wonderful to see you again.

Such taste, such loveliness, such flavor… tis’ the season of Jersey-grown tomatoes.

As a tomato lover, I sometimes find myself thinking with my eyes, and come home with more tomatoes than I can possibly consume. What’s a girl to do?

3 Ways to Make Use of an Abundance of Tomatoes

1. Give them away.

I know it may be difficult to give away such perfections of nature, but share the tomato love and give some away. Do you have friends who say they don’t like tomatoes (gasp!)? Gift them with a local tomato in season, at its peak ripeness, and watch them change their tune.

2. Roast them.

If you have less-than-pristine tomatoes, try roasting them in the oven to coax out their flavor. Eat them after roasting, or freeze them to enjoy year-round- roasting concentrates the flavor, so they’ll taste great. David Lebovitz has an excellent recipe here.

3. Can them.

Canning tomatoes sounds intimidating. I am new to canning myself- this summer will be the first time I’m putting up foods for the fall. Canning tomatoes is a big messy endeavor, so make sure you have the help and space you need before you dive in. It’s important to note as well that improperly canned tomatoes can cause botulism, a deadly poisoning. Follow the current USDA guidelines to keep you and your family safe. Mother Earth News has a helpful article on how to can tomatoes at home safely here.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy an abundant tomato harvest?

By |August 8th, 2014|News, Uncategorized|Comments Off on 3 Ways to Make Use of an Abundance of Tomatoes

Spring Mix, from Seed to Plate

Let me first state that Spring Mix is just that- a mix of different lettuces and greens, not a certain type of seed or name of a plant. Some of us (*ahem. Myself*) not familiar with farming and growing things may not have known this.

Now that we’ve got that cleared up…
I hope you’ve had the opportunity to try our spring mix. If you haven’t, I hope you do soon. It is really fantastic. And I’m not just saying that because I have it for lunch every day during the season—our chefs and retail customers love it too. It is super-fresh, really tasty, and looks wonderful.

There’s a lot that goes into the delicious salad mix we produce, from sourcing to seeding and washing and storage.

Full beds of lettuces that go into our Spring Mix

Full beds of lettuces that go into our Spring Mix

We source only organic seed, which means, among other things, that it is completely GMO-free. We grow the spring mix—also called baby leaf lettuce, or just baby leaf—on raised beds.

To prepare and loosen up the soil, we till it. Once the soil is nice and pliable, we run the bed shaper over it and build our raised beds, which we seed directly into. We incorporate amendments approved for organic use to bring the soil fertility into balance. We also incorporate compost to help feed the biology in the soil. When the soil and the beds have been prepared, we are ready for seeding.

All of our baby leaf is seeded using a mechanical seeder in high-density beds.

Seeding beds

Seeding beds

Four-to-five days after seeding, we have germination! (The miracle of Life.) All types of lettuces and various mustard greens begin popping up out of the soil. Three to five weeks later, depending on the time of year and weather conditions, the greens are at our baby leaf size. We continue to hand-weed and water throughout the growing process.

Hand-weeding a bed of lettuce

Hand-weeding a bed of lettuce

When the lettuce is the correct size, we harvest it using a mechanical harvester. We generally harvest, wash, and pack all in the same day—the day of shipment. This ensures freshness and quality. (Think about it- the salad greens are arriving in the store/at the restaurant a day or two after they have been cut!) We cut the crop only once to maintain top quality, not taking a second cutting.

We bring the different greens in from the field and blend them together- creating the spring mix. As we do this, we visually inspect for any foreign materials (compost sticks, bugs, fun things). The mix then passes through a flume-type wash system with cold water and a peroxide-based sanitizer.

The greens are all then packed, by (gloved) hand, in our dedicated clean room. From there, it is a short step to the consumer.

The finished product

The finished product

By |May 16th, 2014|News|Comments Off on Spring Mix, from Seed to Plate

A Salad by Any Other Name…

Why is a salad called a salad? These are the questions we (ok, I) ask ourselves as we chomp into the first bites of locally-grown lettuces this season… 

“Salad” comes from “sal”, ie, salt. In ancient times (and modern, as well), salt was an ingredient in the salad dressing. As they say, clothes make the man, so it goes for salad.

From An A-Z of Food and Drink by John Ayto:

Etymologically, the key ingredient of salad, and the reason for its getting its name, is the dressing. The Romans were enthusiastic eaters of salads, many of their differing hardly at all from present-day ones–a simple selection of raw vegetables…–and they always used a dressing of some sort: oil, vinegar, and often brine. And hence the name salad, which comes from Vulgar Latin Herba salata, literally ‘salted herb’.

So our ancient ancestors enjoyed salad much the same way we do today (less the brine). And then somewhere, in the turn of the century, things went horribly awry…

From Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century by Laura Shapiro:

Salad greens, which did have to be served raw and crisp, demanded more complicated measures. The object of scientific salad making was to subdue the raw greens until they bore as little resemblance as possible to their natural state. If a plain green salad was called for, the experts tried to avoid simply letting a disorganized pile of leaves drop messily onto the plate…This arduous approach to salad making became an identifying feature of cooking-school cookery and the signature of a refined household…American salads traditionally had been a matter of fresh greens, chicken, or lobster, but during the decades at the turn of the century, when urban and suburban middle class was beginning to define itself, salads proliferated magnificently in number and variety until they incorporated nearly every kind of food except bread and pastry…Salads that were nothing but a heap of raw ingredients in dissaray plainly lacked cultivation, and the cooking experts developed a number of ingenious ways to wrap them up…The tidiest and most thorough way to package a salad was to mold in in gelatin.

Gelatin salads have not, thankfully, been in vogue for some years, though I did see a recipe for one on Pinterest last week. Most home cooks and restaurant chefs prefer a simple dressing to salad, some combination of oils, acids (vinegars), and other flavors (mustard, herbs, etc). The salad greens we grow here at the farm have enough inherent flavor to be eaten un-dressed… but would it still be considered a salad, then?

A very Blue Moon salad, topped with Edible Flowers (lightly dressed)

A very Blue Moon salad, topped with Edible Flowers (lightly dressed)

By |April 18th, 2014|News|Comments Off on A Salad by Any Other Name…

What does it mean to transplant plants?

Here at Blue Moon Acres, we get a jump on spring by starting items that will be growing outside in the greenhouses first, using a method known as transplanting.

Transplanting literally means to uproot and replant. We begin the plants in the heated, warm greenhouses in trays, and then gradually transfer them to the ground. Transplanting enables us to start the seed in optimal conditions (the greenhouse), and also allows us to extend the growing season by beginning the plants indoors before they are able to survive outside.

We transplant items at both farms- cut flowers, edible flowers, herbs and vegetables in Buckingham, and our baby heads of lettuce and some vegetables in Pennington.

Patti transplanting flower seedlings into a large seed tray, so that the roots have room to spread out

Patti transplanting flower seedlings into a large seed tray, so that the roots have room to spread out

Tray of seedlings in the greenhouse, in late February

Tray of seedlings in the greenhouse, in late February

Transplanted Johnny Jump Up's growing happily outdoors in the flower garden in early May

Transplanted Johnny Jump Up’s growing happily outdoors in the flower garden in early May

By |March 7th, 2014|News|Comments Off on What does it mean to transplant plants?