dawn of the tomato

CSA, week 1, otherwise know as week zero, otherwise known as…

Winter turns into summer. At least that’s what it seems like here at Eckerton Hill Farm.  The three short weeks have passed so quickly since the end of our winter CSA, and we’ve traded the nagging cold weather for something a little balmier, something resembling spring.
photo-34The farm is now in full plant production mode, the greenhouse nursery filled with basils, tomatoes, peppers, chiles, all of the plants that indicate the coming summer, that warn of the coming onslaught of tomato harvest. Our early harvest tomato plants are in the greenhouses: 200 feet of heirlooms nestled under Agribon fabric,  a white silky billowing caccoon that just goes on and on. And on. Trellesed from the ceiling, they’ll quickly make their ascent to the tippy top, pumping out their delctable fruit the entire time.
And just last week the first of outdoor tomato plants were put into the ground at our Virginville farm, transforming a lazy field into something quite different in the span of one long Sunday afternoon. In total, well over ten thousand plants have been put in the ground, by hand, but that’s really just the beginning of the vanguard of the tomato army, which is the bread and butter of  Eckerton Hill Farm.
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The change in weather has been good for foraging. We’ve seen watercress along local stream beds, fiddle head ferns and feral garlic just next to our spring-fed pond. At least three different species of the Lamiaceae family, wooly mint, chocolate mint, and cat mint can be found just outside our doorstep, as well as chives, baby lambs quarters, and some gorgeous dandelion, still tender, and not too bitter. Ramps are doing well for those lucky enough to know a spot. Mushroom houses are either slowing down or switching varieties, but in the local woods there’s talk of morels.  It seems like every day, something new pops up and something old goes out.  Some, like the fiddlehead, go so quick, that if you blink you’ll miss them entirely.
The meals that we’ve shared on the farm are reflections of the season, and they’ve hit the spot as of late. Monday dinners have beena way for us to come together as a farm and enjoy the fruits of our labor, and our affinity to the farm’s in-season crops often leads to surprising delights. Our first post-winter-CSA week was such a day. There wasn’t much produce left save for some mesclun and radishes (of course!), but the slowing production at Oley Valley Mushrooms meant for us a nice big box of royal trumpets that weren’t quite show quality, but that were just right for dinner. OK, so we have mushrooms, now what? Hmmmm… oh I know, mushroom burgers… and a nice big green salad… hey, are those fiddlehead ferns ready to pick? The ones next to the green garlic? Boil, then saute the ferns up with garlic and butter, maybe a little mint, and you have the perfect side dish to accompany a heaping pile of trumpets, pan roasted with mirin and soy on a hard roll that’s been slathered with chili garlic mayo and topped with pickled peppers. And of course a couple cold ones. And then, as you’ll discover in our latest published recipe, there’s spring vegetable risotto….
Thanks for all of you who signed up for Summer CSA, investing your money and faith in local produce. Thanks to our winter people that renewed their vows with us, and to those that didn’t, perhaps supporting another farmer through the hot summer, we hope to see you next winter. Take care, and enjoy the weather.

– Chef Mario

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