Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Laurie Zook starts urban community garden

I was excited to read in the Gazette that Laurie Zook has gone and started an urban community garden in her backyard. The image is from Tom Fedor of the Gazette, and the caption reads: "Jennifer Irmen of Frederick plants vegetables in a community garden plot made available at the Frederick home of Laurie Zook (not pictured) on Saturday."

I had a chat with Laurie one night while I was out in town and she told me that she was determined to start a community garden. I thought this sounded great; I have friends out in the country that have community gardens, but none in the city (though I do know lots of urban gardeners!)

Laurie is looking for two more gardeners, though my guess is that she may have found them by now.


Asparagus et al.: What I look forward to at the Farmer's Market

I don't remember when was the first time I had asparagus. I didn't grow up with it, but somehow I knew the vegetable. I guess my first encounter with asparagus was not as dramatic nor impressive as the one with bagels. The cooked spears tasted pretty bland. I didn't bother with them for a long time. Once my friend, who was in a graduate school then, invited some friends over for dinner. He fed us wonderful food, and his grilled asparagus was excellent. I learned that asparagus can be good, very good.

Now fast forward a couple of years. I am buying freshly picked asparagus from the farmer's market. The same day, I am cooking the asparagus, trying not to overcook and keep the bright green color. They are so sweet, fresh, and delicious! People have a myth about the thickness of asparagus and try to pick thin ones. I had great tasting asparagus that was as thick as four pencils. The point is not the thickness but the timing. Asparagus tastes best when they are just picked. You want to minimize the time between picking and eating. The best way is growing your own patch (join Shannon, Chelsea, and me in starting one) and the next best option is the farmer's market. I will be at the market extra early this Saturday morning to procure this seasonal delicacy.
So, who has asparagus? Chris and Ruth of Jubilee Organic Farm comes to my mind. Rick of Summer Creek Farm has an asparagus bed but I am not sure if he is bringing some this Saturday. Scenic View Orchard should have some. Glade-Link Farm is famous for their asparagus but sadly, they don't come to the market till the blueberry season starts.

Photo by Dan
Spring farmer's market won't be complete without lettuce, spinach and radish. Rick says he will have all of these. Nancy of Chesapeake's choice will have spinach. I expect Erland and Rieko of New Hope Farm and Jim of Tomatoes et al. will bring their specialty - gourmet green salad mix. Scenic View Orchards will probably bring the most diverse vegetables along with some apples they have kept in a cold storage. Jubilee Organic Farm will have the spring vegetables and cut herbs.

My friend Sandra and her two friends are visiting this weekend. Dan and I are very excited to have house guests staying with us. We have not decided on our brunch menu for Sunday yet, but our friends will be pretty hungry after running a half marathon and thus we plan to cook a lot of food. Most of the dishes will be made from the produce we pick up on May 2 at the market. The timing is perfect.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Baked Goodness: What I look forward to at the Farmer's Market.

Photo by Dan
Some saturdays I like to sleep in and have a slow start. No time for breakfast before the market? No problem. We have Cakes for Cause, Ed's Bakery, and BB's Bagels and Bread bringing fresh breads and sweets to the market. As you might know, I volunteered for the Cakes for Cause booth last year and it was lots of fun. Besides, Elin let volunteers have one item among the baked goods and a cup of lemonade, free. I wonder if that is why I kept volunteering. In any case Cakes for Cause brings the most delicious croissant, pain au chocolat (chocolate-filled croissant) and scones, all hand-made. Ed's Bakery brings pies, cakes, breads and cookies. Cookies are generously sized, and pies are offered at a small size, which I think is a brilliant idea. BB's Bagels are the pretty much only bagels I buy around here. What do you know about bagels, you might ask. Well, I never had bagels growing up in Korea. However, I was introduced to bagels when I visited and stayed with my best friend in New York city in 1993, and I fell in love with bagels. During the stay, I ate bagels pretty much every day for a month. So you see, my standards for bagels are pretty high. And I am thankful that BB's comes to our market.

How about starting a breakfast club at the farmer's market? Bring your kids, or meet up with your best buddy, buy assortments of baked goods, eat and shop! And, no need to stop by Starbucks beforehand to get your coffee fix. Cakes for Cause has great coffee as well as cool, refreshing lemonade.


Monday, April 27, 2009

The long, tall asparagus

Are you growing asparagus plants? You might want to check on them. After the last two hot days, one lone asparagus plant in my yard shot out of the ground. I swear it was not there yesterday. It's about two millimeters wide and a foot and a half tall. When they are this small, it's best to let them turn into an asaparagus fern. I need more asparagus plants. The lonely little asparagus is pretty funny, though.


Plants: What I look forward to at the Farmer's Market.

At the annual Master Gardener's plant sale, I bought two tomato plants to take advantage of the hot weather and have a jump start on tomatoes. I also purchased a couple of native columbine plants and a native honey suckle along with a few others. However I was very conservative in my plant purchase because I knew that there will be diverse plants offered at the farmer's market.

Herb, Tomato and Vegetable Plants
Wendy of Persimmon Pond Plants is bringing herb plants (thyme, tarragon, winter savory, lavender and rosemary) and possibly tomatoes, lettuce and arugula plants on May 2. Nancy of Chesapeake's choice will bring potted herbs, and Rick of Summer Creek Farm will offer organically grown plants . I expect Jim of Tomatoes et al. and Erland of New Hope Farm will offer young plants this year again. So Very Special offers a wide array of herb plants and I got a curry plant from them last year. Some of them will offer a pot with pre-selected herb plants so that you can start your window herb garden right away! For those who are just starting a herb garden and wondering what to grow, these are my top five recommendations:
  • Basil (warm weather annual)
  • Parsley (likes cool weather, biennial - will go to seed after the first winter)
  • Rosemary (tender perennial, will over-winter if a protection is given)
  • Thyme (perennial)
  • Sage (perennial)
I would add cilantro (cool weather annual - eventually will bolt when the weather gets hot), lemon verbena (annual, awesome in iced-tea), tarragon (tender perennial, terrific in potato salad), lavender (tender perennial, some cultivars will survive winter better than others), mint (perennial, very invasive - keep it in a pot), chives (perennial) and oregano (perennial) to the mix if there is more room. Even if you have a pretty decent selection of herb plants already, you might still find some others to add to your selection. Look for fennel and savory to make your own Herbes de Provence. Maybe there will be garlic chives, thai basil or lemon grass for those who love asian flavors. Visit every farmer and ask what they have and what they plan to bring. You will be amazed with the varieties that are offered.
On top of many varieties of tomato and pepper plants that most of the mentioned farmers will bring, we will also have eggplant and tomatillo plants if Thistle nursery is back with their usual offerings.

Flowers, Shrubs, and Trees
Thistle nursery also brings overwhelming varieties of annual flowers! The quality and price is unbeatable. If you are looking for plants to decorate your front porch, I highly recommend that you come out to the farmer's market and check out Thistle nursery. M & W nursery brings a beautiful selection of flowers, dwarf and unusual shrubs and trees.
Photo by Dan
You must stop at M & W and take a look at what they've got. Last year they even had blueberry plants. Wendy also brings flower seedlings - I got Lisianthus from her which bloomed beautifully last summer.
I have a pretty good variety of seedlings that I started indoor and outdoor this spring. Even with those seedlings, I am pretty sure my fellow farmers will bring herb, vegetable, flower and shrub/tree plants that will make me so excited that I have to adopt. Don't laugh if you find me carrying a huge basket filled with plants. I can't help it, and it feels good to succumb.

Organic potting soils and Rain Barrels
You've got plants - do you need some good soil and a better strategy to water your plants? Rick will have organic potting soils and rain barrels. Now that's a complete picture for your garden.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

A lovely Saturday morning

Saturday morning, I met up with Yeon and Jerica and Jerica's little boy at the Master Gardener's plant sale. I am sorry I did not mention this sale to you beforehand. It is once a year. I always get native landscaping plants there (this year I got pinxter and florida flame azaleas) and a few tomato plants. They also have annual and perennial plants of many types. And I always run into friends. This time I ran into my buddies Hilari and Jason Varnadore, and their little girl; my friend Gail Padgett; Master Gardener Earlene Duncan, and colleague Carl Berger from the Council of Governments. If I saw anyone else I am sorry but I forgot.

I have three places where I get tomato plants: myself, if I grow them; my friend Ilene at House in the Woods farm; and the Master Gardeners. The common thread is heirloom tomatoes. I am a sucker for heirlooms. My entry for the summer potluck is a plate full of multicolored tomato slices: red, green, yellow, purple. Sometimes with salt. Sometimes with basil and fresh mozzarella. Anyway I am getting ahead of myself, thinking about fresh tomatoes.
We had a wonderful time at the sale, and then we went back to Dan and Yeon's place where Dan had made us breakfast! Jerica and Dan are on the left, Yeon is on the right. Jerica asked her boy, "what do you say to Dan for making us such a nice breakfast?" And he pointed at something on his plate, and said, "I don't like that."

You can see Yeon's raised beds in the background. They figure more prominently in a minute.

In the second picture you can see the beautiful plates that Dan made up for us with French toast, spinach omelette, cheese omelete (Cotswold is my new favorite cheese for eggs, wow), fresh fruit, salmon and cream cheese canapes, and bacon. Jerica's son was very excited about the bacon, which, dipped in maple syrup, saved the day. By the way, Jerica is due in August!

After breakfast, Yeon took Henry over to the raised bed with all of her extra strawberry plants in it. She and Jerica's boy (I keep calling him that to avoid putting his name on the internet, you understand) dug strawberry plants together. There is a garden sorrel plant on their left. At one point, the boy wanted to dig dirt instead, so they consulted. Eventually, they finished digging up the strawberries, and that little boy carried the full bucket of plants halfway across the yard.


Interview with Executive Chef James Johns of Isabella's

I was walking by Isabella's Tavernas and Tapas Bar a couple weeks ago, and read on the door that they now serve weekday breakfasts from 6 to 10AM. More than that, they advertised that they used Dorsey's meat products and farm-fresh eggs. Well I knew that despite my inability to cope with mornings I would have to find a way to try it out and get an interview with the chef.

I organized a breakfast for the other Project Managers at my work (unrelated to this blog) on April 21, and talked to Executive Chef James Johns afterward. First I should say that the breakfast was delicious. I had the French toast with eggs, bacon and sausage. The french toast was fluffy, the eggs cooked exactly as I ordered them, and the bacon and sausage divine. The sausage in particular had a fresh taste, it was juicy and meaty, and had wonderful seasoning.

I couldn't get my tape recorder to work during the interview, so I took notes. James was kind enough to talk to me on his day off. What impressed me about him was his dedication to supporting the local economy. As he said, he was "born and raised in Frederick, and have lived here all my life."

About Isabella's: it is owned by Fountainrock Management Group, which also owns Brewer's Alley and Acacia. According to James, all three restaurants make an effort to support local and organic agriculture. He said his Operations Manager goes out and meets with the farmers, and checks the farms out. [This is important to make sure that a farm has practices that you would want to support with your buying dollar].

It's interesting to me after talking to a few local chefs just how dedicated they and the restaurateurs are to supporting local agriculture. James said that flavorwise, local is much better. He also said it was better for the environment, citing the greenhouse gases produced by the trucking of products from the west cost as an example.

Isabella's started doing the breakfasts about three months ago. James says that people are beginning to realize that this is being offered, and that the crowds are increasing. He already has regulars, people who come in every week or several times a week. All of the pork products used for the breakfast are from Dorsey's:

  • Sausage patties [you must try these if you eat sausage]
  • Scrapple
  • Pudding
  • Ham steaks
  • Smoked bacon
Dorsey's has also prepared the meats to Isabella's specifications, which struck me as a great example of the added benefits of building relationships with local producers. James said that growing up in Frederick, he would eat Dorsey's pudding every week or every couple of weeks, and that he loves it. He likes scrapple too, but scrapple has more fillers, and with pudding, you can get a gluten-free food. [As a kid, I used to love scrapple thinly sliced and fried like bacon. It was a delicacy that came when my parents would buy half of a slaughtered hog.] The eggs for the breakfast are organic and come from Tuscarora Farms in Pennsylvania. According to James, "we're using these for all of our eggs, not just the ones we serve for breakfast." He would like to find an even more local supplier for eggs; he was interested in an egg farm in Middletown and said, "I call and call, nobody answers the phone." If you're a local, organic egg producer, there's an opportunity.

The local foods used at Isabella's extend beyond breakfast. They are "starting to do some duck eggs for the tapas at night." James and I also talked about using local dairies and he said he is working on that. Isabella's gets beef from organic grower, Hedgeapple Farms, in Buckeystown. James said the beef is "grass-fed angus, no hormones, and you can taste the difference." [I agree- Hedgeapple Farms has delicious beef, and grass feeding keeps the cattle healthier and makes the meat more delicious]. James said that Dorsey's also does beef, and that their meat is very nice, with a clean flavor. He also said that "we use Cherry Glen Farms for all of our goat cheese, and what's even better, they just got voted third best goat cheese in the United States. We use about twenty pounds a week from them, give or take." [I have had the goat cheese fritters at Isabella's and they are amazing]. The seafood comes in fresh from Delaware or DC.

James says that in spring, summer, and fall, they do a lot more business with local farmers. "We'll start buying local berries, local corn as much as possible." He has tried to use local asparagus, but "we use so much asparagus here, nobody can keep up with us." I complimented him on the asparagus fries, and he said, "all fresh." They also use James Avery Clark, a local produce company, and get products from FoodPro. According to James, during spring to fall, FoodPro will get supplies from the local farmers. And farmers will show up at the back door with produce. He said, "they've always done that."

I asked about peaches. The baker at Brewer's Alley uses peaches from the local orchards. James goes to Pryor's to buy peaches for his own personal use. He started doing that as a kid, coming back from the falls.

It was wonderful to talk to this homegrown, self-taught, talented chef about local food. I hope you enjoyed reading about our interview.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Sooner Than You Think...

Yes, it's just two short weeks until the West Frederick Farmer's Market opens in all its glory (Saturdays starting May 2nd, 10:00-1:00 on Baughman's Lane). This year we're going to start something special. Each month we will choose a local non-profit and donate 5% of our total farmer's market sales to them on the first Saturday of every month. It's been a hard year so far for small agencies like ours, and Cakes for Cause would like to help support the groups who support the most vulnerable people in our community.

On May 2nd, 5% of our total sales from the farmer's market will be donated to Heartly House. Heartly House serves Frederick County residents who have been impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. They have operated in Frederick County for more than 27 years. Their services include: a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, individual and group counseling, victim advocate services and legal representation, medical advocacy services for victims of sexual assault, abuser intervention groups, transitional housing, and community outreach and professional education. An anonymous donor has stepped up and agreed to match the amount that we contribute. So come out and enjoy a (hopefully) beautiful day at the Cakes for Cause booth. Fill up on scones, croissants, artisanal breads and make a difference for Heartly House (

Just as a little preview, we're testing soft pretzels this week...yummy! And, we'll have our new baseball t-shirts the first week of the farmer's market...get them while they're hot!

Calling America's Next Top Pastry Chef...the youngest generation
Heineman Myers Art Gallery in Bethesda ( is hosting a "Cake Off" on Sunday May 3rd. They've gotten Warren Brown of CakeLove ( as one of the pastry chef judges and it's a great opportunity for your little culinarian to strut their stuff. Here's a link to the entry application. Original recipes or their own creative adaptation of recipes are appropriate and cakes will be judged on taste and appearance. Feel free to email us with any questions...we're planning to be there for a fun afternoon of frosting!

Do you remember Cake Walks?
Well, even if you don't we do and we're hosting ours on the first Saturday Mayfest Celebration. Right after the farmer's market, we'll be downtown on the Carroll Creek Promenade with our cupcakes, our picnic table, and our old-timey music. For just 50 cents (tell us what other carnie game you can play for 50 cents...we dare you!), you can do the cake walk and if you're sitting down when the music stops, you get the cupcake! How delish is that? Hope to see you there.

Cakes for Cause


Urban Homesteading

First, enjoy this video from Oprah, where a family on 1/10 of an acre in Pasadena, CA produces 3 tons of food a year. The home is its own little manifesto.

I am not trying to suggest that you should do this. But you COULD. Note all of the raised beds. I think it's gorgeous. I love to see what is possible. Yeon will appreciate the industriousness. This is what her yard will look like in a few years. Seriously, this level of organization makes me feel like a slug.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

House in the Woods Heirloom Tomato Plant Sale

SALE DATE--Saturday May 9th, 10am-4pm

This year we will have open sale dates instead of pre-orders. We have plenty of tomato seedlings in great varieties.

Our plants are certified organic and sustainably-grown. They are open-pollinated and heirloom (except for the honorable Sungold). Grown in our small-farm greenhouse in a healthy, homemade, all natural living soil (unsterilized) compost blend. These are "hand-grown" and cared for plants from seed to sale! When you plant, pour all the great soil in with the plant. All our plants are “indeterminate” which means they continually produce new fruit and vines throughout the season—this means an extended season of ripening tomatoes. It also means they continue to grow like a vine, so they can get tall. Stake them well.

What are Heirloom Tomatoes? Heirlooms are…old, pure varieties known for their unique colors and wonderful flavor. More than hundreds of these family-heirloom varieties exist, seeds passed down and treasured for generations. Hybrid tomatoes were developed by industry in the fifties for red color and thick skin for transport to grocery stores. You won't find tomatoes this good in the grocery store, and you won't find these seedlings at a megastore garden shop.

Variety list will be on our website within the week. See our website for photos of many of the tomatoes at

Sale is at House in the Woods Farm, 2104 Mt. Ephraim Rd, Adamstown, MD 21710. Please bring a box to take home your seedlings. Pay by cash or personal check.

Return the pots--We would love to reuse the pots we sell to you. Hang a plastic bag of our pots from our mailbox after you plant, and we'll use them again next year. (We don't make much use of other miscellaneous sized pots, so we don't need others).

Thank you for supporting our farm! Please send this post to friends who might be interested in plants.

~~~~~~~~Planting timing and tips~~~~~~~~

When to plant? Plan to plant your tomatoes between May 5-20. The old wisdom of planting tomatoes and flowers Mother’s Day weekend is a good one. Some people plant early (with some extra risk of frost damage) and some wait until early June. We have risk of a night frost through May, so watch the forecast if you plant early. You can even rig up a sheet or row cover over some t-posts, chairs or tomato cages for a cold night!

Transition time-- Your plants would benefit from a couple days of protection before you plant, if you can offer it. You can keep them in the pots on the sunny side of the porch for a couple days, bringing them in on colder nights. Next to your house, they will have some wind protection.

How to plant? Dig a hole deep enough to bury the lowest leaves. You can even bury a couple sets of leaves if the stem is that long. Tomatoes like it that way. They are really vines and will grow quite tall. Put the compost from your pot, and extra if you have it, into the hole too, or pour it around the plant. Pour a couple cups of water around the stem area, to melt the soil around the plant. Sometimes the leaves look sad for a couple days but then they perk up. In a week the leaves will deepen green and be happy. Put a sturdy tomato cage over each plant, right away or within a week before the plants get too big.

Return the pots--We would love to reuse the pots we sell to you. Hang a plastic bag of our pots from our mailbox after you plant, and we'll use them again next year. (We don't make much use of other miscellaneous sized pots, so we don't need others).

Ilene and Phil Freedman
2104 Mt. Ephraim Rd
Adamstown, MD 21710


Fresh meat this Saturday from Rohrer's

Greetings from the farm. I'll be returning to Frederick on Saturday, in the regular market location, from 10 AM until 12:30 PM. Beef will include strip, ribeye, sirloin, flank, and skirt steaks; boneless chuck, sirloin tip, and eye round roasts; stew cubes, and ground beef. Pork will include tenderloin, pork chops, spare ribs, country style ribs, baby back ribs, bacon, and ground pork. Fresh sausage will be hot Italian, applewurst, sage, and country. There will be limited amounts of frozen bratwurst, mild Italian, and maple. Lamb will be frozen and the cuts are loin chops, ground lamb, and lamb sausage. This will be the last week I have cheese so you might want to stock up. I will also have eggs.

It looks like a beautiful weekend is on the way. But in between your gardening and early summer drives, be sure to stop by to get some great meats. Eat fresh, be well, and I will see you at the market.

Rohrer's Meats


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stats, interviews, and fresh chives

Hey pals,

I was checking our stats on the blog today and discovered that we are up to about 45 hits per day. That's pretty exciting- what's more exciting is that over 40% of them are from repeat visitors. Our most popular post is the general one about the West Frederick Farmer's Market. Yeon's post on strawberry posts and raised beds is our second most popular. 63% of our visitors are from Maryland. I know, I like numbers. I drive my friends crazy about that all of the time.

I got the interview with Executive Chef James Johns of Isabella's Taverna and Tapas Bar, so I'll be putting that together for you this week! Yeon and I are also meeting with the Farmer's Market people tomorrow to discuss the farmer's market festival and marketing plan. And I think we may have a farm visit this Sunday. So much fun ahead, with lots coming up to share with all of you!

By the way, the chives have popped out in my garden. It's time to make a dish that my mom always made: egg noodles with butter, chives, parmesan cheese, and salt. Comfort food that reminds me of being a kid. Mom used dried chives but fresh ones are better. I'll offset the dish with some fish and veggies, but I think we used to have the noodles with pot roast. Mmm.



Meats: What I look forward to at the Farmer's Market

Photo by Dan
Most of us omnivores enjoy eating meats. Danny, our meat man brings us tasty meats and it is relieving to know he cares about his animals and that his animals had content and healthy lives. I don't feel it necessary to elaborate on how good his meats are. Shannon posted a conversation with her daddy over Danny's delicious sirloin. Dan dedicated a post on Danny's goat meat. You will find that some of the comments left by our visitors expressed how satisfied they were with Danny's meats.
I will leave you with a photo of rib roast that Dan dry-rubbed and smoked. Dan and I picked up this nice piece of meat from Danny just before the Christmas last year and it adorned a table at our friend's party on Christmas day. After tasting the smoked rib roast, our friend Barry wanted to marry Dan.

Photo by Dan


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Interview with Chef/Owner Bryan Voltaggio of Volt

We interviewed Bryan Voltaggio, Chef/Owner of Volt restaurant on April 10. After reading the transcription, we thought readers would enjoy reading the interview as is. Here we post the first half of the interview. Photos are taken by Dan.

Shannon Moore: So Yeon and I started a blog about local agriculture about a year ago, wasn't it?

Yeon Kim: Less than a year, we started in June.

Bryan Voltaggio: That's right about the same time we opened the restaurant.

Shannon: And the purpose of the blog for us was to basically connect people to the local producers. We focused on the West Frederick Farmer's Market because we went there and we volunteered there, but we also kind of wanted to talk about in general how people could connect to the local experience- and actually get really meaningful experience out of supporting local agriculture, kind of close the loop. So we write about all kinds of things. We write about our own backyard gardening, we also write about the farmer's market, what's in season. Some of the farmers send us their emails every week when they have stuff so that we post them on the blog, so people can tell what is going to be at the market that week. And we write about recipes. One of the things that was exciting for us obviously was you coming here, was that you're very focused on local food. And maybe a lot of people aren't as familiar with why restaurateurs and chefs do that. That would be fun to talk about. Some things that are obviously in your lexicon but that the average person wouldn't know about like food miles. So I wondered first if you wouldn't want to just talk about yourself and then the restaurant, and then we could ask more specific questions.

Bryan: The philosophy behind our food, I guess we'll start with that, and the reason why we decided to look locally for our products, were, for one, I was very familiar with this area, in growing up here all of my life pretty much. I knew Frederick County was a big agricultural area, and I grew up in Walkersville. And actually there was a farm adjacent to my family's home. It was cool, because at a young age, I get to go down to experience what it's like working on a farm. I mean, at seven years old, I was hanging out with a friend and she was the same age as me, and it was more fun to play on the farm than it was to play in my yard, so we'd go down there, pick corn, bale hay, and at seven years old run around and chase turkeys. I think that's where I fell in love with the farm aspect of being close to where our food comes from, because I understood that at a very young age. Our family always had a garden. My brother and I, we would constantly be in the garden, picking peas or peppers, eating them right out of the garden, so we got the firsthand experience of what fresh produce is all about. Fresh products. And I so think that resonated with me throughout my entire start of my career, I guess.

When I got to New York, I think that's kind of the starting point of me wanting to reconnect, because when I got to New York, I mean New York is a huge city and it's very difficult to see how your product is coming in when you're just in a concrete jungle for six years. I went to school in Hudson Valley, so I knew just north of us there was a lot of agriculture, and there was a lot of produce, and a lot of game was raised there, pheasants, ducks, and the partridge, so I knew it was very near us, but never got to see it on a regular basis and I missed that aspect; however, the greenmarket saved me. I'd go down to the 14th Street Greenmarket, every Wednesday, every Saturday, and I would be there during the seasons, because then we could actually pick our produce out, rather than rely on the supplier, where you'd call him up and say, "hey, you know, I want a case of baby golden beets", and whatever they'd decide to throw on the truck is what arrives. To me there is a disconnect. If we're not actually able to - well we could choose at the dock. You could say, "well this is no good, send it back" so that's the only option we have. We have the option of going through there and saying, "I want these particular sizes", and I could pick- and the greens- and okay all the greens are still attached to the beets, and it's really nice to use the greens as well, it's using all the product. Half the time, take beets to continue with the same example, they were sometimes topped with ice during the summer, and it crushes the greens or definitely ruins them. I think that was probably what I was missing when I was there.

And then when I got down to DC, that's when I knew I was back in the area where I could get to know farmers. I tried it at Charlie Palmer Steak as much as I could. It's good to know local farming. But it was difficult for meats. The volume we ran through, I couldn't find a small producer to keep up with that, there's no way, but we did some specialty stuff. I remember out in Berryville there was a gentleman who was raising Randall Lineback. It's a breed that was almost extinct, and he raised it to produce veal. It's grass-fed, it's not the particular veal processing or raising that you would think of. It was actually raised naturally on grass, then taken to about 800 pounds. Which was great for us in the restaurant, but I'd have to buy the whole cow. The steakhouse concept is difficult, because you only want the prime cuts, and all of the shoulders and the legs you usually grind or something like that. So it wasn't quite practical but it was fun. And then just continuing the path of just trying to get closer to the product, because I always wanted to get back to that point. And that's where when the opportunity for Volt came. it seemed to be based on that.

There's so many benefits of buying local, eating local. For one, we have the connection between the farmer: the grower, and the chef. And we're able to talk to them about what's coming in season, so we can menu plan. We've gone as far as now, some of the farmers are actually going to grow specifically for us. That's still a work in progress, but a lot of chefs don't have that opportunity. We do here, and that's exciting. We can talk about, okay, I want this specific chioggia beet because it's the right sweetness, the right balance I'm looking for, to use beets as an example. And that's great. Not a lot of people have that. Not only that, we're supporting our local economy, I believe. To keep money within our area, this exchange of business that's happening, it's like we're supporting our economy, rather than a foreign economy or something else. Which is okay, obviously there's some good products in Europe, but I would rather buy here, buy local. Yes, so that for me is a great thing. It's having that relationship where somebody comes to the back door and says, here's three pounds of arugula, have fun.

My brother is a chef in Healdsburg, California and I visited there several times. It's a Charlie Palmer restaurant. They had a network of farmers, because that was a huge growing area in California, and it would be the same thing. Farmers would show up at the back door. They wouldn't even get a phone call first, they would just show up. "I got five pounds of chantarelles. You want em? I was foraging on my farm this morning. And this fennel just grows around my farm." Because there it grows wild. And they would just show up with all of this great product, and I'm like, "God, If I could work in an environment like this it would be fantastic". Well I knew that Frederick could do that. And I already have a forager I am working with right now who gives me chicken-of-the-woods, hen-of-the-woods, morels, that's all he's brought to me so far. He's finding these huge growths, they're like, oh my God, everywhere! And they're perfect. Because they're coming in and they're just picked off so they're not dried out. I'm already getting some morels. What I've got now are some Oregon, some Eastern morels. But soon, here in the next two weeks, we'll get them here, which will be great.

So the base of the cuisine is local, sustainable, organic.

Shannon: One of the things that I thought was neat was that you've extended the concept of local foods to local wild foods. Not everybody would do that. It's a little bit harder to get some of the things. But they're so unique and interesting. I saw that with the mushrooms. And obviously this summer...pawpaws!

Bryan: Oh, I can't wait until that season because trust me, I only had, it was like the end of the season when you introduced me to them, and I didn't have, really, an opportunity to play with it, but now this year I'll have a whole lot of fun with that, hopefully.

Shannon: I have a contact for you.

Bryan: So bring me some. But so, that's very very interesting. And that's not something that's not cultivated.

Shannon: But it's a tropical fruit, it's like "how did that happen to grow in this region?"

Bryan: Well they must have been brought here at some point.

Shannon: It's a native, actually.

Yeon: I think it's native.

Shannon: It's a native wild food. It actually originated in this region.

Bryan: Did it really? I didn't do my research on it.

Shannon: On the banks of rivers.

Bryan: I gotta start looking a little bit more into it.

Shannon: Talk to me a little bit about food miles. Do you think about that at all when you're buying food, or?

Bryan: Yes.

Shannon: You do think about food miles. From a more practical perspective?

Bryan: The mileage of where it's-

Shannon: Where it's coming from, yeah the distance.

Bryan: Yeah absolutely. Well that's why I use one of the three criteria [
local, sustainable, organic] to- we're just trying to be responsible in our restaurant as much as we can. It is difficult to buy everything locally in a climate that doesn't support agriculture all year. Also, I'm limited to what's around me. The fishing is very, very seasonal here and it's very regulated because of the impact we've had over the past 200 years on the Chesapeake Bay of course. Which is okay but I can't buy fish all year. So when I think about what I'm doing, I think about it a couple different ways: Let's take carpacci that I serve on the menu. It's actually going to be on the Easter menu. It's farm raised. It's farm raised in Kanu, Hawaii. That's one where I say, "okay, well I know that I'm getting it from a reputable source, it's farm-raising this fish, it's not impacting the environment, except for I have to get it flown here." I look at it as, well, I can't, I haven't been able to find products where I can do everything, but I can at least do...the fun process is that we're not ripping the oceans off, we're buying something that's healthy, we're getting something that the farming practices make sense, it's actually a model for the future, what they're doing out there is a model. Then I feel like I need to support that. I have to fly it. And I'm okay with that. Now, there are a few fisheries now that are starting up in the Chesapeake Bay area. There's actually a prawn farmer, a shrimp farmer that's actually on land, they've built ponds and they're in greenhouses...

Yeon: Oh, I just read an article.

Bryan: Yeah, they started about three years ago. I think they're like in Queen Mary's County?

Shannon: Queen Anne's or Saint Mary's?

Bryan: Saint Mary's, yes, that area. And I'm just starting to get to know them, but their product is very limited right now, so it's tough to get it up here. But it's very very smart. That's something that's going to be a model for the future too. And that's something new and we want to support it.

Shannon: Well I imagine too, somebody like you, because you're committed to trying to do that, if a farmer really had an opportunity where they had an outlet they could produce more because they would know that you would buy it. And I guess that's part of the benefit too of having a relationship.

Bryan: Yeah, it's an effort that you need to get involved in. Buying like this, it's a little bit different. I just spoke to somebody yesterday about the same subject, and he's actually a writer. I said, I know you're constantly on the phone with chefs on the same topic. They have obviously talked about sources. I am willing to give away all of my sources up here because I want everybody in Frederick County to benefit from our relationship.

Shannon: So tell me about some of your relationships.

Bryan: Well I'm working with Rick Hood, who's an organic farmer in Thurmont. Glade Link farm, which is also a local one in Middletown; she has some great kale and flowers and blueberries.

Shannon: And blueberries.

Bryan: The blueberries are fantastic yes. Blackberries. Um let's see. Scenic View Orchard, which is Sabillasville, but I pick up from them at the greenmarket. Everybody at the greenmarket. Everybody that's there, that's who I've been talking to.

Shannon: They're always talking to us about you too, because they know that I like to eat here. And they're like, "I just sold a whatever to Bryan and I heard that you spent a hundred and twenty dollars on dinner there." And I'm like, "who told you about what I spent there?"

Yeon: I did! [Laughs] Danny [Rohrer, of Rohrer's Meats] was so excited when you [Bryan] stopped by and got a big load of his steak, he was very excited you wanted to try some meat. And they came to me, they're like "Yeon, you gotta meet this guy. You gotta learn what he's doing, buying all of this food at the farmer's market."

Shannon: One of the farmers even said that without this market this year, he won't be profitable. They really rely on the market because it's their opportunity to sell things at retail instead of selling them at wholesale.

Bryan: It gives them an opportunity too to grow new products, and it gets them out of the "wheat, barley, corn and soybean" and gets them growing some specialty produce.

Shannon: Right, not just commodity crops.

Bryan: Right. And that was one thing that resonated with me. The owners of Thanksgiving Farm down on 85.

Shannon: They're turkey, right? turkey farmers?

Bryan: Yes. They grow a lot of produce. They were growing a lot of interesting stuff, petite vegetables, kohlrabi, things that weren't coming off the shelves down there on a regular basis but they were doing it because they did have a few clients in Frederick that did want it but they kind of went away. Restaurants or a few people that were interested in new products. So they stopped growing all that because they didn't have an outlet. Or they'd ship them to Baltimore to the market there, it was down to Baltimore or to DC. So it wasn't staying here, and I'm looking for stuff like that. It's nice that there are still people that are trying new products.

Shannon: There's someone at the market who has the dog biscuits, who has all of the really gorgeous heirloom and unusual varieties of things, at the very end of the first row.

Yeon: That's Nancy [Weiss, of Chesapeake's Choice].

Bryan: Nancy, yeah. She's in Middletown. When I show up, with her, I buy all of her petite eggplant, I buy all of...

Shannon: Her stuff is exquisite.

Yeon : They are always looking into unusual vegetables. And she'll ask, "oh, Yeon, so what if I grow some chinese vegetable. If I grow this- bok choy sometimes- what do I do?" and I'm like "well, you can do this and this and this". So I think it's really exciting that farmers such as Nancy are willing to try some different kinds.

Shannon: I kind of put them more in the category of like artists as opposed to straight farmers, because a lot of the people who are kind of straight farmers, they're making their living from the farming, so they have this kind of thing that they're doing and it's kind of more routine.

Bryan: Well there is a love of farming there too

Shannon: Absolutely

Yeon: They love to try new varieties, new things. I think that it's really exciting that we have some chefs that are willing to take those products, who love to experiment, and show people, see, you have basil, you can do this. See, you have this small Chinese green. Just simple stuff you can do.

Shannon: Yeah the red sorrel experiment was pretty cool.

Bryan: Yeah, it's great to see. And a lot of times there's a lot of trial and error, or I talk to people, the more I understand what they go through. Because I talk to someone on a regular basis, especially when he's growing it organic, sometimes things just don't work out, and that's time, money lost on seed, any irrigation he's doing, any issues in climate, any of the other things he's doing, money out of pocket to keep the crops from being destroyed, that could all be lost. And so there's also the risk that they're taking too to produce the stuff, and that, I respect them for very much. Because it's a gamble. I understand yes they start off with small crops, or small amounts, obviously until they get it down, but still it's a lot of work.

Shannon: Talk about Cherry Glen Farms. You showcase their products quite a bit here. Is that a farm that you have a specific kind of relationship with?

Bryan: Yes, well, we got to know her, and I was so excited that they were producing cheese twenty minutes away from us. Now I've found in Clear Spring Maryland there's a cheesemaker. There's more and more as we start close to this area. And not only was I impressed with everything that she was doing there, they have enough quanity too that I'm not depleting it just on my own; they have plenty to sell, which is great. They have like 230 head.

Shannon: Does Cherry Glen make the Monocacy Ash cheese?

Bryan: They do

Shannon: Which is like a Humboldt Fog? That's a great cheese.

Bryan: Yes, it's a vegetable ash. Actually, I got them to send me a bag of the ash itself. I started cooking with it, which is pretty cool. I was roasting venison. Well first I cooked the meat, then I started rolling it in the pan a little bit. And then rolling it in the vegetable ash. Because the ash gives it a look that it's a charcoal briquet. It's like charred meat. It has the same flavor characteristics as a piece of charred meat; however, it's not all that carbon buildup.

Shannon: Interesting!

Bryan: It's done properly, it's not protein buildup, it's vegetables. It's pretty cool, because it has the same flavor and aroma you get from - some people like the meat burnt. There's some pretty cool characteristics there that are nice, but without making it harmful. So that's an interesting technique that we started doing these past few months.

Shannon: Have you had any of the cheese from Caprikorn farms?

Bryan: Yes, I have.

Shannon: They're outstanding also.

Bryan: Yeah, I got her soft goat. Every time I go to the market I pick some up. I just wasn't able to connect with her yet on a regular basis. These are all relationships I plan to really build upon this year. Last year I was so focused on establishing the restaurant, opening it, starting to establish relationships with farmers. This year, we're established, we'll have a lot more time to start working one on one with everybody. As much as they want to give, I want to invest in them.

Shannon: There's a lot of good farms too that are not necessarily connected with the farmer's market. Like if you're- you're not going up to Sabillasville to get your produce, but there's another farm up there, the Harbaughs. They have an operation up there, and they have their own little farm market there. That's a nice little place too. There's places like that all over Frederick County, which is kind of exciting, and even like Washington County, some of the nearby regions.

Bryan: I go to the Catoctin Mountain Orchard a lot, because they don't really come down to the markets, I'll just drive up there because they have peaches.

Shannon: Yeah, that's Robert Black.

Bryan: Yeah, Robert Black. And Pryor's Orchard. I grew up on those peaches. If I didn't have peaches...

Shannon: Yeah, they're transcendent.

Bryan: I drive up there. Peaches, better than any peach in Georgia.

Shannon: Really, seriously?

Bryan: I mean, I'm telling you, when they're in peak season the Redhavens are unbelievable. So I go up there every July, early August. And I'll get bushels and bushels of them. I used to use them in DC. I used to drive up there on Saturday mornings, buy like three or four bushels, take them down to DC and make them into desserts at Charlie Palmer Steak. So I was already doing this before. As much as I could.

Shannon: It must be kind of exciting to come back to a place where you grew up, obviously your vision has grown over time, and bring it back to this place. Does it feel kind of in some weird way, that it was inside you all along and then here it is again for you? It sounds like, guiding your tastes, and your love of local food.

Bryan: Yeah, I feel like it's finally coming full circle. I mean I always wanted to come back here and open a restaurant. I knew this before I left to go to culinary school I wanted to do this. It was with all of the experiences I had outside of here that I was able to come back here and do this. And do something that I think was a little bit different, something that people would respect and support, and I think we've done a great job of doing it so far.

Shannon: We think so too. [Laughs]


Eggs: What I look forward to at the Farmer's Market

We have eleven days to go for the West Frederick Farmer's Market to open. While patiently waiting and counting down days, I am making a list of what I look forward to at the market. If you have been busy and  haven't had a chance to reflect on what the farmer's market brings to us, this list will hopefully help you remember the joy of going to farmer's market and get excited. If you haven't had a chance to shop at the farmer's market, hopefully this series will entice and encourage you to come out and join the crowd at the market. While making the list, I will focus on the items that will be available on May 2. 

Photo by Nancy and Dave Weiss
The first on my list is eggs. Dan and I are egg lovers. We go through two to three dozens of eggs a month. Dan is a master of breakfast and he cooks wonderful breakfasts every weekend. However he has a weakness - without eggs, his repertoire for breakfast shrinks significantly. It is very important that we are well stocked with fresh yummy eggs all the time, and the farmer's market is the place to get the freshest and most delicious eggs.
Nancy of Chesapeake's choice, Wendy of Persimmon Pond Plants, Rick of Summer Creek Farm, Danny of Rohrer's Meats etc, and Randy of South Mountain Creamery carry beautiful, free-range eggs. Rick's eggs are not only free-range, but also certified organic. Wendy, Danny and Randy all have beautiful brown eggs that are from happy chickens that roam the fields.  Nancy brings rainbow eggs with beautiful tan and robin-blue colored eggs which I absolutely adore.  I have a confirmation from Rick, Nancy, and Wendy that they will have eggs on May 2. Add eggs on your list - you will be glad. 


Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring bits: plants, interviews, festivals, and fun!

If you haven't already planted your peas, radishes, beets, carrots, and other cold vegetables, hop to it. This reminds me that I need to pick up some chicken wire, because the bunnies are ubiquitous and they love to mow down pea shoots. Right now I am keeping the rabbits at bay with a rotten egg spray, but I don't like to use that on the plants too much because I don't want too much sulfur in the beds. I don't know if this worry is warranted or not, but my onions are in the same bed, and onions become hot because of sulfur.

I thinned my onion bed (nodding, or Egyptian onions) and was able to give away a bunch. This was exciting. I also planted some new varieties in pots. I still have a bunch of nodding onions sitting in a long planter that will be given away, or be cooked by me. Perhaps it's time to make an onion tart or preserve!

I am so excited to see the shoots coming up in the garden! My friend Jerica and her three year-old Henry helped me thin the radishes the other day by eating the tops of the ones we removed. I had never tried this before, but they were delicious. So many plants have delicious greens. I was reminded of this during our interview with chef Bryan Voltaggio of Volt on April 10, where he talked about his tribulations in New York City when trying to find beets with the greens attached. I am a huge fan of beet greens and am happy to report that the beets are about half an inch high now. Carrots are about the same. As of yesterday the radishes were ahead of everything else at about an inch high, but the peas shot up over night to about 2 and a half inches.

I transcribed the interview with Chef Bryan last night (well, 25 minutes of it, the most relevant part) and have sent it over to my co-bloggers to review and add pictures. It will be up tonight or tomorrow. I decided to use the interview pretty much word-for-word, because I think the whole thing is awesome. I was really impressed by how important it is to Bryan to support the local producers, and the many ways he has tried to make this possible. I enjoyed doing this so much, though it took about 6 hours to transcribe the tape, and am going to do more interviews in the future for sure.

I have my sights set on interviewing Chef James from Isabella's next, because of their weekday breakfasts where they feature local foods. I have organized a breakfast for my Project Manager coworkers for before work tomorrow, so I will try to talk to him while I am there.

I ran into Jeremy Hauck from the Gazette today at lunch and learned that he is going to be writing a story about morel foraging this week. If you are a forager, he is looking for people to interview. You can email him at Jeremy told me that someone in his office reads our blog and loves it. To the reader at the Gazette- thanks!

I was also excited when I heard from Hilda Staples at Volt that Yeon's post about building raised beds inspired them to build their own- in the rain!

Yeon and I are hoping to do a farm visit this week; we'd like to do these on a semiregular basis this year.

We are also hoping to organize a farmer's market festival for the end of May; more on that as we get going. So far we have a band and a cooking demonstration lined up.

I also want to call your attention to the fact that we added a list of local food and ag blogs. These are our friends and I encourage you to check them out. If you know of one, let us know and we'll post it.

If you are a producer or user of local agricultural products and would like to share posts on products and events this year, drop us a line. We love to promote the efforts of our local farmers. We are especially interested in posting emails from farmers to the blog so that our readers will know about your products as they come into season.

Happy Spring!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Strike early, strike often.

What did you do yesterday? Wasn't it so lovely, full with sunshine and warm air? I absolutely love a sunny spring day with a clear blue sky. Dan and I couldn't help ourselves but to stay in the back yard all day. The first thing that I noticed was cheerful bright yellow spots that popped all over the yard. All the rain and then sunshine made plants happy and that included our unwanted volunteer plants (aka weeds) and the dandelions were having a great time like I was. It was a perfect day for weeding - the soil was soft and loosened up from the rain, but not wet enough to stick to your shoes and tools. The sun made all the flowers open, so I didn't have to look to hard for where the dandelions were. I started with the weeder (that looks like this) but it was not grabbing much of the deep roots that dandelions are famous for. After pulling about a dozen of them with the tool, I decided to weed the old fashion way - with my hand trowel and on my knees.

As far as weeding goes, the best course of action is prevention.  Having bare soil is to invite the weed plants to come and thrive. Cover up the bare area with the plants you want or mulch, so that you keep weeds out of the way (I like organic mulch which breaks down to add nutrients to soil).  The next best action is to weed early and often when they are still young and small. However what do you do with the weeds that start growing in the cracks of your sidewalk? Dan and I tried prying them out with a tool (like an old screw driver) and then salting. It sort of worked but was not very efficient. This year we decided to try vinegar, and bought two gallons of white vinegar (5% concentration) at a retail warehouse. Again, yesterday was a perfect day for weeding - weeds don't like being sprayed with vinegar on a sunny hot day. Dan walked around with a spray bottle filled with vinegar. He sprayed the whole plants - leaves and root area. After only a few hours, the weeds were yellow and brown. Sorry thistle, but we can't have you grow in the middle of our sidewalk.

I think choosing a battle is important when you weed. Some of the volunteers are very pretty and I welcome them in my yard such as clovers and violets (they are not weeds in my yard).  
 Some of the weeds are easy to remove and thus I prefer them to fill the space where I am not actively gardening. I find indian strawberries, veronica, speedwell, and deadnettles are acceptable filler weeds (of course they need to go once I claim that space for growing flowers or veggies).  I always engage in combat with dandelions and thistles,  which have very deep root systems with amazing reproduction rates.  I have mixed feelings about lamb's quarters and wild garlics. When young, lamb's quarters are very easy to pull. I hear some people eat the plants - I shall try very soon along with dandelion leaves. Wild garlics spread quite fast and they look ugly in the middle of lawn.  Since I love onion family vegetables - onions, scallions, leeks, shallots, garlics, and even garlic scapes, their distinctive garlic smell makes me wonder if I am missing out something. Maybe I should try eating these some day.
Here is the summary of my thoughts on weeds in home gardens.
  • Prevention is the key - do not leave soil bare if possible. Grow plants  or put down mulch.
  • Strike early and strike often. Don't let the weeds grow big and strong. Don't ever let them go to seed!
  • Try vinegar solution for the weeds in the cracks of  sidewalk.
  • Choose your battles. Tackle the most annoying, persistent, invasive ones first.
Hope this helps. Enjoy another beautiful spring day.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Photos for Raised Beds

Photo taken on April 15, 2008
After posting the previous article, I thought it might be fun to show some photos of raised beds. I picked some from the photos that I shot last year. I have been using raised beds to plant spring flowering bulbs because it is so easy to plant them in the fall and dig them out in early summer. 

Let's see more photos. Below three photos show the raised beds that Dan built for me last year. 
The newly raised beds are lined with news papers and getting filled with composted horse manure on April 19, 08.

On June 24, 08, the beds are already crowded with tomatoes, beans and lots of other vegetable and flower plants.

On July 20, 08 my tomato and bean plants are grown into a  jungle. Some lovely flowers are hanging out with veggie plants.

Two more photos showing my old raised beds. They are skinnier in width compared to the new ones.
By June 24, 08, strawberries are all done making fruits and just happy to multiply filling up the bed.

A photo also taken on June 24, 08 showing a herb bed next to the strawberry bed. You can see that my second year parsley is flowering as well as purple coneflower (echinacea). Rosemary and tarragon at the front row are growing out of control.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Strawberry Plants and Raised Beds.

I had to thin out my strawberry bed (3 foot by 6 foot) because Dan and I decided to move our original raised beds. I made those raised beds about 4 years ago (the first and last time I ever used an electric drill), and we moved the beds with us every time we moved. I am surprised that they are still holding up considering my poor nailing skill. This spring we were not moving to a new place,  but wanted to adjust where they were sitting, and then ended up moving all four original beds. When you move a raised bed, you need to move the frame, pack up the plants and set them aside, move the dirt, and put all the plants back (that is, if you can fit them back). It ain't a joke. I am just glad that we didn't have to move the newer raised beds (Dan made me four raised beds last spring. These are 4 by 6). I am a huge fan of raised beds. It is the easiest way to start your organic garden with a good soil and you don't need to worry about weeding. You can start your garden right on top of a lawn too! If you are interested, here is one way to do it:

  • At a home improvement store, buy untreated, 12 by 2 inch lumber. We bough 10 feet long ones and asked the staff at the store to cut them into 6 feet and 4 feet pieces. You also need some brackets and wood screws.
  • Or you can visit one of the gardening websites (such as Gardener's) and order assembly-ready raised beds. 
  • Find a nice sunny spot in your garden if you are growing lots of vegetables and/or sun-loving flowers. Find partial shade or shade spot if you are planting partial shade or shade perennial garden. Make sure your garden hose can reach the spot in case you have to water in high summer.
  • Assemble the beds and place them at the perfect spot.
  • Here is the fun part. You would need some newspapers, compost, and top soil, preferably all organic kinds. You might need some peat moss and sand depending on what kind of compost/soil/manure you get. For example, I got a composted horse manure from Tara's family farm and it was very silty and dense. I added in lots of peat moss and sand to improve the texture. If you are building 6 by 4 by 1 beds like we did, you need 24 cubic feet of materials to fill it up. Trust me on this - you want to build the best yummy soil you can afford. Why do I describe a soil as 'yummy'? It's because your plants will need all the nutrients from the soil to grow. If you want to grow yummy vegetables, build yummy soil. And sorry - I don't think those chemically enriched soils are yummy.
  • Line inside your raised bed frame with news papers. Patricia Lanza, the author of Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces recommends that you wet the newspapers first so that they stay put. I find it as easy to use dry news papers. (Your choice, wet news papers  or dry news papers). Make sure there are plenty of overlap between the newspapers and that you completely cover inside of your raised bed frame with the news papers. The layer of news papers keep the weeds (or unwanted grass) out of the way and they gradually compost by the time all the weeds underneath are dead. 
  • Carefully fill up the bed so that you don't disturb the layer of the news papers. Depending on what you got, you can layer each kind alternatively ending with top soil on the top (sooner or later earth worms will mix them all up) or just mix the ingredients as you add them in. I find that the raised beds are very forgiving as long as the soil inside has good texture and good nutrients as a whole. 
  • Water the raised beds throughly before you transplant or sow. Watch your plants grow!

Strawberries from my garden. May 30, 2008
I wanted to talk about strawberries and then got carried away with raised beds. Ahem. Back to the strawberries. I started with a few strawberry plants about five years ago, and lost some and gave away some every time I moved, and  still had too many strawberry plants this spring!! They are taking up 3 raised beds now. I need to get rid of at least 24 plants. It's not that strawberries are not one of my favorites. I have too many favorites and they all need a space. 
Some of the strawberry plants are getting ready to bloom. I can see the flower buds forming at the center of plants. I will be very happy to give these plants away to the people who want to try out strawberries. They are super easy to grow! I hardly do anything with them other than cage them up when strawberries start to ripe, and eat them when they are saturated with flavors. Our neighbor Dr. Switzer can testify for the superb sweetness of the strawberry fruits that these plants produce. Please leave a comment if and how many you want the strawberry plants. First come, first served. 


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lamb, Ham and other treats from Rohrer's Meats

Greetings from the farm. I will be returning to Frederick this Saturday, April 11. I will be located at the regular market location behind the Potomac Physicians Building. Hours will be 10 AM until 12 noon. Please tell your friends as well since not everyone has been receiving these mailings.

Since Easter is this weekend, I took an extra lamb in case anyone needs a leg of lamb. There will be lots of other lamb cuts. Those of you who have been waiting on shanks, I will have 10 fresh ones this weekend. If you need a ham, I have country cured, several smoked portions, and can still save a fresh ham for this weekend. These will be on a first come, first served basis so get you order in right away.

Lamb cuts available this weekend include loin, arm, and sirloin chops; boneless shoulder roasts, shanks, racks(both Frenched and regular), and ground lamb. Lamb sausage is also being made but might not be ready until next week. Pork will include baby back, country style, and spare ribs; pork chops, boneless butts, and bacon. Pork loin roasts will be frozen this week. Country, applewurst, and maple sausage will be fresh while hot Italian, mild Italian, bratwurst, and sage will be frozen. Beef will include ribeye, strip, porterhouse, T-bone, sirloin, and flank steaks; eye round, boneless chuck, and sirloin tip roasts; stew cubes, and ground round. I hope to be restocked with cheeses, including the goats milk cheese from both Caprikorn and Firefly Farms. I will also have eggs.

I need your help this week. I will be doing 3 markets on Saturday. If possible, please order in advance so I know how to pack. I will have extra product for those who don't order or if you forget something. If you want leg of lamb or ham, get your order in immediately. For the standard products, please order by Thursday night.

While it doesn't feel like April or springtime today, I hoping for warmer weather on Saturday.

Eat fresh, be well, don't forget to get your order in, and I will see you at the market.

Rohrer's Meats


Interview with Bryan Voltaggio this Friday

I just talked to Bryan Voltaggio and we have an interview with him this Friday at 11. I am so excited! When Yeon and Dan read this they will be excited too. Dan is going to take pictures. Now all I need is a voice recorder. Anyone have one I can borrow?


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Chippa Chippa Bloem Bloem!

I finally had a chance to meet Chefs Christine and Caroline from the Kitchen Studio today. I read Christine's blog, Frederick Foodie, and have always enjoyed learning about her classes and other adventures through her writing.

I really enjoyed meeting another local food blogger, someone who really gets the multifacetedness of the word "local" (and who also appreciates great local restaurants, ahem). I could have talked to her all day but did not want to monopoloze her time, as she was hosting an art show, so we are going to have to chat again. She said she would post a link to our blog, and gave me some of her outstanding Chippa Chippa Bloem Bloem cookies. I finally put links up on our blog today, and hers was the first I added. Check out the local blog links; we'll be adding more as we discover more local food and farm blogs.

I would also like you to know that I have only eaten two of the cookies in the bag, though I admit they are enormous, and plan to share the rest with friends.


Ramps and morels!

Last night I went to Volt and talked to Bryan Voltaggio about setting up our interview. I am going to see if I can get Dan to do photos, because my camera is blah.

Normally I just jump into things, but I really wanted to prepare well. I am working on the interview questions now. If you have one you'd like me to ask, put it in the comments.

In the meantime, let me tell you about the little puff pastry (sorry the pic is horrible) that I ate at Volt last night. It was made with ramps and morels. The ramps were from West Virginia and the morels were from Oregon. Ramps are a wild leek, considered to be quite a delicacy (if you have read Barbara Kingsolver then you know what I am talking about). I don't think they grow wild in Frederick- correct me if I am wrong- but they do grow in Western Maryland. Here in Frederick, we get wild garlic tops, which are just as delicious in their own way (and will be getting ripe around the end of the month). As for morels (wild mushrooms), though they have not quite hit here yet this season, they grow everywhere in the woods in this region.

A great resource for morels is the Morel Progression Sighting Map, which is updated weekly every year as the morels become available so that you can see where they are in season. They are only around for about a month. Right now, they are in Southern Virginia and Southern Ohio, so we are just around the corner. Keep your eyes peeled! And of course never eat a mushroom you can't ID, blah blah blah. I got the morel pic off the Internet. It isn't mine. So don't ask about my secret spot. I don't have one. I can't find them to save my life. An old timer once pointed one out to me that was huge- about 6 or 8 inches high- and I still couldn't see it. But expect to see Morels in the next week or two- maybe a little later because of the weather. They will be here until around the middle of May.

Hooray for wild foods!


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Update from Summer Creek Farm

Hi All, We starting planting our high tunnels today. Another year has started at the farm. We have three part-time employees starting to work. In this year your CSA contribution will help seven young people get part time jobs working and learning on an organic farm.

The recent rains have helped relieve, if maybe only temporarily, our dry soil conditions. I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know we are busy getting your good food ready for the season. Soon you will be eating it instead of just reading about it!


Farmer Rick


2008 Farmer's Market Economic Impact Study

I had an opportunity to attend the annual vendor's meeting for Frederick Farmer's Markets this Monday. The vendors for West Frederick Farmer's Market and Everedy Square & Shab Farmers Market were there to review the past season and plan for the new season. It was really nice to see all the familiar faces that I haven't seen for months (well, except for our meat man, Danny and a couple of friends from Cakes for Cause)! At the meeting, there was a very thorough presentation by Colby Ferguson, a Business Development Specialist for Agriculture working for the Office of Economic Development (OED), Frederick County Government. Some of you might remember the Farmer's Market Survey that I posted about. The results of 2008 Farmer's market survey have been thoroughly analyzed by Sandy Wagerman and Colby Ferguson, and put into a nice report. Some of the fascinating facts from the his presentation (and the report) are

  • An estimated 37,420 visitors shop at Frederick County Farmers’ Markets (total of 9 markets in Frederick County) annually spending on average of $18.78 per visit. Of those shoppers, 30% spend an average of an additional $17.75 at nearby businesses.
  • An estimated 16,500 visitors shop at West Frederick Farmer's Market at Baughman's Lane annually spending on average of $37.59 per visit. Of those shoppers, 64% spend on average of an additional $43.97 at nearby business.
  • When you consider above estimates, this analysis comes as no surprise but still profound: When they calculated multi-market economic impact, the West Frederick (Baughman’s Lane) Farmers’ Market represented 74% ($2,018,710.55) of the total economic impact of all Frederick County markets ($2,729,992.37).
  • Top 5 most popular products consumers bought or were there to buy were: Vegetables (76.25%), Fruit (65.19%), Baked Goods (26.56%), Meat (12.5%), Dairy (10.56%). West Frederick Farmer's Market offers all the five products.
  • The majority of shoppers surveyed in person were female (70%) and age groups were pretty evenly spread at 55% being under 50 and 45% over 55. Survey respondents from the online survey were 77% female and 83% were under 55.
Frederick County 2008 Farmer's Market Economic Impact Study (pdf), the new 2009 Farm guide (5.2 mb pdf), and other resources are available at the Agriculture page of OED website.

And yes, as Elin put it so enthusiastically in Cakes for Cause email below, now we have a date for the first farmer's market. Please mark your calendar for May 2nd!!! It's going to be an even better farmer's market at Baughman's Lane this year with fun events! Please stay tuned!


Daffodils are in bloom, bees are buzzing, and...

THE FARMER'S MARKET IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER!!!!! Sorry, it's just that we get so excited about farmer's market season. On Saturday, May 2nd, the West Frederick Farmer's Market will kick off at 10:00 am so shake off your grocery bags and head out to join us with new products, new faces, and a new Cakes for Cause t-shirt. We'll be spending these last few weeks refining our product list to give you the best flavor and the best value for fresh, hand-crafted baked goods...with a mission. Join us on Baughman's Lane, behind the Quality Inn from 10:00-1:00 every Saturday until, who wants to volunteer?

How's the Cakes for Cause project going? Sigh, construction...we're pushed back to mid-June for a completion date for our downtown retail space but we're using the time to refine the curriculum and push everyone on our team to greatness. We have a wonderful group of staff and volunteers that has put lesson plans, activities, and creative ideas to work to make a difference for at-risk youth. It's not just about the baking for us, that's just the catalyst to things like money and time management, community service, resume and cover letter skills, and positive workplace behaviors. When we open our doors, we'll be prepared to teach work and life skills that will help youth successfully transition into adulthood. Many of you have helped us along the way and we thank you for your efforts...our grand opening is all about you!

First's all about the books!
Join us at our office this Saturday from 6:30 to 8:30 in beautiful downtown Frederick. We'll have sweet treats to give away, friendly faces, and we'll let you take a peek at the cookbooks we're reading lately for inspiration. Our offices are located at 22 South Market Street in the Federated Charities Building Courtyard. You'll see our sign and our lights so stop in and say hello.

How can you get involved?
We are a very flexible organization. We have people involved at every level and you can get involved too. Link here to a general information sheet about becoming a volunteer.