July, 2011

View from the Farmshed Kitchen Window

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry

“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses” ~ Hanna Rion

This one quote has been the foundation on which we have built Three Goat Farm-CSA.  We not only have chosen to grow “Good, Clean, Fair” food, but we are also committed to growing food that awakens your five senses: vibrant colorful food, of all shapes, sizes and textures, that tastes and smells like nothing you’ve ever had before.

We love to grow vegetables that tell a story. Vegetables that have been handed down from grandfather, to father, to son.  Vegetables from seeds that have been carefully tucked in a hanky, packed in the pocket of a trunk, coming to America with immigrant families hoping for a better life for their families.  Sharing these seeds with others and the wonderful vegetables grown from them is what we do.  Every one has a story to tell.

Slow Food-USA has established a list of many of these wonderful heirloom foods that are now endangered. This list is called “Ark of Taste.” These wonderful veggies are slowly disappearing.  We have made a commitment to grow as many of these wonderful veggies as we can procure seeds to plant.  We have grown heirloom tomatoes for over 10 years now and we were surprised to find that several varieties we were already growing were on the “Ark of Taste.”

We have now added several varieties of lettuce, more tomatoes, peppers and our newest discovery this year, the “Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry.”  This is an amazing fruit from the “nightshade family.” Related to tomatoes and tomatillos, it is found in recorded horticultural history as early as 1937.  This outstanding Polish variety is prized for its clean, pineapple vanilla -like flavor.

How to Grow:  Like tomatoes, start here in the north indoors. They will be slow to germinate, patience is needed.  Just when you think they are never going to germinate – up they come.  Plant outside, Memorial Day weekend with the rest of your tomatoes.  They make great container plants.

How to Harvest:  The green husks hanging on the plant will turn tan when they are fully ripened… then, yes, you guessed it… they drop to the ground!  We suggest placing old sheets at the base of the plant, and every couple of days collect the fallen fruit.

How to Store: Still wrapped in their brown husks they will keep in bowl on your counter for several weeks, but I bet the grazing snackers in your family will not let them stay for long.  Once you have peeled them they will last in your fridge a couple of weeks.  You can also freeze them with the husks on a cookie sheet overnight and they store in a Ziploc bag in your freezer.

They make wonderful jam, are an interesting addition to fresh salads and I also have an old Amish pie recipe to share with you.  But for the first batch from the garden I made a delicious poached ground cherry topping for vanilla ice ream.  It was rich and decadent!  It may be hard to find ground cherries this season, but keep an eye out for them at your local farmer’s market.  We will definitely be increasing the amount of ground cherry plants we grow next year not only to supply our CSA shares with all they want, but also to have with us at our farmer’s markets.

Poached Ground Cherries
1 – 1 ½ pints ground cherries
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ c water
½ c Sherry
juice of one fresh lemon
2 c sugar

Combine the sugar, water & sherry, bring to a boil, and boil 8-10 minutes. Add the lemon juice, vanilla and ground cherries and cook 5 minutes, at a rolling boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer until the ground cherries are just cooked through, about 12 minutes in all.  Cool in the syrup.  Serve as a topping over ice cream or serve warm over sponge cake or angel food cake.

Ground Cherry Pie
1 – 9’ pie crust (top & bottom crust)
3 T  quick cooking tapioca
½ c sugar
½ c brown sugar
¾ tsp almond extract
½ tsp nutmeg, grated
dash of salt
21/2 c ground cherries, husked
2T butter

Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine the tapioca, sugars, almond extract, nutmeg and salt.  Sprinkle half the mixture in the bottom of the pastry shell and top with the ground cherries.  Sprinkle the remainder of the sugar mixture over the cherries and dot with the butter.  Top with a decorative top crust.  Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until crust is a deep golden and the juices in the pie are bubbling up in the center. Cool before eating.

Denise Szarek
Three Goat Farm-CSA


Sumac Lemonade: Summer’s Best Kept Secret

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

I’ve known for about a year that you can make “lemonade” from the distinctive red fruit produced by the Staghorn Sumac tree. Staghorn Sumac grows along the edge of the property I rent in New Woodstock, and I regularly come across it on the side of the road and the edges of local cornfields. Once  I started looking for its distinctive, bright red berry clusters, which grow straight up from the leaves, I found Staghorn Sumac growing just about everywhere.

I started sampling the berries about a month ago while walking my dog on the roads and fields by my house. After last week’s hot spell the fruit tasted fully ripened, so yesterday I broke off a large, deep red cluster, broke up the berries into a Pyrex measuring cup, covered them with cold water, and let the “tea” steep overnight in the frig. This morning I poured off a cup of the liquid and took my first taste.

Sumac lemonade, it turns out, is delicious. It’s also one of summertime’s most accessible, and – since it’s free for the taking – cheapest pleasures, and I chide myself for having waited so long to try it. The “lemonade” is a beautiful, pale pinkish-orange color, similar to a Provencal rosé, and tastes almost indistinguishable from true lemonade. The flavors are bright, tart, fruity, and again, delicious. I tried it straight, without any sweetener, and found it perfectly fine as is, but I imagine a bit of local honey would make a wondrous match.

I need to read up on Staghorn Sumac, but I know that a beverage produced from its berries was enjoyed for centuries by native Americans and early American colonists, that is sometimes referred to as “Indian lemonade.” I also suspect that it is loaded with Vitamin C and other nutrients. For the moment, however, I’m left wondering how we came to forget about sumac lemonade, and what this says about our society and our food culture. How is it that this simple, readily accessible pleasure isn’t common knowledge? Why didn’t my grandmother call me in for a cool glass of sumac lemonade on a hot summer’s day? And why aren’t we all now drinking it, all summer long? The answers, I suspect, would tell us a lot about how and why we as a society abandoned folk knowledge and traditional foodways, alienated ourselves from our surroundings, and came to suspect things that are wild and free.

These are big issues, but I at least know enough now to make a nice pitcher of sumac lemonade before sitting down to ponder them. Wisdom should always be this refreshing.



Buy Local Week: There’s An App For That.

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Madison County’s Buy Local Week, which begins Sunday, July 17, 2011 with the Fresh! Gala fundraiser at Monanfran Farm in Canastota, is one of Central New York’s true agritourism success stories. An annual celebration and promotion of farms and farming, Buy Local Week attracts thousands of families from Syracuse and surrounding towns and cities, introduces city folk and suburbanites to their rural neighbors, strengthens the connection between consumers and food producers, and generates tens of thousands of dollars of revenue for local farmers and businesses. It’s pure marketing genius, and one of the noteworthy successes of Becca Jablonski’s tenure as Madison County’s Agricultural Economic Development Specialist.

Buy Local Week, unfortunately, is also the cause of a lot of lost motorists. Few folks who drive out from the city are prepared for or familiar with Madison County’s labyrinthine back roads, or realize that once you turn off of Route 5 or Route 20, you’re soon in a world of steep hills, sharp turns and dark hollows that even locals find hard to navigate. Nothing dampens the fun and adventure of petting farm animals and sampling fresh produce more quickly, it turns out, than pulling off repeatedly to the side of the road in order to peer at maps, curse the lack of 3G coverage, or argue over whether you should have turned left or right at the last intersection.

This year, however, Farmshed has been named the official travel app for Madison County Buy Local Week, which means anyone with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch can get turn-by-turn directions to, as well as learn about and contact participating farms and businesses. Farmshed was developed precisely for this purpose, to help consumers and tourists locate and get directions to local farms, so we are very, very pleased to be part of this year’s Buy Local Week festivities.

The first thing you need to do, if you have not already downloaded Farmshed to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, is go to the iTunes App Store and download the app. Farmshed is free and it takes only a minute to download.

I recommend that you initially turn the Auto Location OFF at home, and set a manual location in order to preview the information on participating farms before driving out to Madison County – in the following screen shots I set a manual location for Morrisville, NY, which is right in the center of the County. To do this, simply hit the Location icon at the bottom of the screen; turn the Auto Location feature OFF; enter Morrisville, NY (the 13408 zip code will also work), and hit return. Your iPhone screen at this point should look like this:

You can set a search radius of anywhere between 10 and 50 miles, but I recommend a setting of 20-22 miles, which will cover most of Madison County without including information on farms in neighboring counties.

Important: Remember to turn Auto Location ON once you arrive in the area. This is essential for geolocating you and providing accurate turn-by-turn directions to your destination.

After the data downloads, you should see the following home screen:

If you scroll down, you will also see Restaurants and a few other categories of local businesses, which may be helpful when looking for a place to eat. For the purposes of finding participating farms, however, you should open the Farms directory:

Hitting the Map/List button in the upper right-hand corner toggles the screen back-and-forth between an alphabetized list of local farms, which is useful for finding a specific farm, and a map view which geolocates and displays all the farms in relation to you and each other. On either screen, tapping the name of a specific farm, or the pop-up bubble that appears when you touch a pin – in this case Monanfran Farm – will take you to the listing for that specific farm.

Tapping the green right-facing chervon – the > icon to the right of the farm’s name, will display a geolocated map view showing you and that specific farm’s location. Tapping the automobile icon in the pop-up bubble (tap the green pin), will launch the Map app, and provide turn-by-turn directions to this destination:

That’s it. Using Farmshed while enjoying the Buy Local Week festivities should ensure that you reach your destination safely and directly, without wasting time on the side of the road trying to figure out where you are and how to get to where you are going.

If you use Farmshed during Buy Local Week, I hope you have a great time. Please let us know how everything goes. We’re on Facebook and Twitter and would welcome your feedback. I also want to apologize to Droid and Blackberry users. We intended to have the new Farmshed 2.0 mobile app (which will work on iPhones, Droids, Blackberries, and other smartphones) fully tested and released by Buy Local Week, but we’ve hit a couple of snags and the release date has been pushed back to mid-to-late July. We’ll keep everyone regularly updated on Farmshed 2.0 here on our blog, and on Facebook and Twitter, so please check back regularly. And again, please accept our apologies.


View from the Farmshed Kitchen Window

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Beef Shank Stew

I just love living on a farm in Central New York.  As I look out my kitchen window, you never know what you’re going to see.  This evening, and for the past few evenings, we’ve had a hen turkey and her four babies visiting our birdfeeder.  She clucks and they all run to her.  They stay for about half an hour, scratching in the lawn looking for bugs and seeds.  On another evening we may look out to find a doe and her lone fawn, nibbling on our hedges.  We also have a woodchuck that lives in an old stone wall in the field behind the house. As long as he stays in the yard and doesn’t venture into the CSA veggie fields or the greenhouses, he’s more than welcome to visit the farm.  There is always more work than hours in the day, but it’s always nice to take a moment to enjoy the view.

I try to steal moments everywhere I can around here.  On July 4th, while most of you were enjoying time with family and friends, we were busy getting our second cycle of planting in.  We could’ve started grilling, but around here the slow cooker is my “best friend.”  There is nothing better than to come in from the fields to find dinner waiting for us, hot and delicious!  We made a beef shank stew, added a green salad and biscuits.  This recipe makes the thickest, savory gravy and works well with beef shanks, stew beef, pork, veal or lamb.  It would also make a great vegetarian stew by using several varieties of mushrooms in place of the meat and substituting the beef stock with vegetable stock.

Beef Shank Stew
1 – 12 oz bottle of brown ale (I use Guinness – sorry, my Irish roots are showing again)
1 – 6 oz can tomato paste
4 c beef stock
¼ c flour (I use Wondra, I have no lumps!)
¼ t sea salt
¼ t fresh cracked black pepper
1 – Vidalia onion chopped
2 – stalks celery, diced
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 ½ lbs, baby red potatoes or fingerlings, in season
3-4 oz Fruit of the Fungi dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water
½ lb baby carrots cut in half lengthwise
2 ½ lbs Drover Hill Farms beef shanks (or other meat or mushrooms)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 Bay leaf
Sprig of fresh Thyme
Sprig of fresh Rosemary

In a mixing bowl combine the Guinness (alcohol cooks off) and the tomato paste, whisk until well mixed.  Whisk in the Wondra, salt, pepper and garlic.  Add beef stock.  Mix well. Pour into crock pot.  Set heat on low.  Place the beef shanks in the pot making sure they are well covered with the gravy.  Add onions, celery, potatoes and carrots.  Add mushrooms and liquid they were soaked in to the pot.  Next add bay leaf, thyme & rosemary.  Cover, cook on low for 9 hours, until beef is tender.  Add lemon juice to stew just before serving.  This really brightens the flavors.  We served with buttermilk biscuits, but it goes well with corn bead, too!

I thought it was a great idea to remind you to dust off that old crockpot sitting in the closet and make a great meal from scratch!

Denise A. Szarek
Three Goat Farm-CSA


Debra Whiting, In Memoriam.

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Debra Whiting, Executive Chef and co-owner with her husband, David Whiting, of Red Newt Cellars & Bistro in Hector, NY, died Thursday, June 30th, as the result of a car accident on the New York State Thruway. David, who was also injured in the accident, was taken to SUNY Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. When I tried to visit him yesterday afternoon, I was told he had been released.

Those are the all details I have. More information will undoubtedly emerge in the next few days, but for me it is beside the point. The only fact that matters is that Debra Whiting is gone, taken much too soon from her family and friends. Simply put, life in the Finger Lakes without Debra Whiting seems unthinkable, and the loss to the Finger Lakes food and wine community, of which she was a central presence, immeasurable.

Debra and David were quick to extend their friendship to me when we first met, and were among the earliest and most generous supporters of Farmshed. Their forthrightness, good humor and lack of pretense made them immediately likable, and I looked forward to every opportunity to spend time with them and to collaborate on local food projects.

One of my fondest memories of Debra is of the 2010 Taste Camp wine dinner she and David hosted for participating bloggers and winemakers. Over a long weekend in which a group of wine geeks were feted like royalty, something few if any of us were used to, the lavish dinner that Debra and David threw for us nevertheless stood out as an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime event: a long, candle-lit table stretched out across the floor of the Red Newt tasting room; top Finger Lakes winemakers like Johannes Reinhardt and Peter Becraft of Anthony Road Winery and Tricia Renshaw of Fox Run sat interspersed among the motley crew of wine writers; and good food, wine and conversation flowed for hours. To top it all off, when the dinner was over Debra and David sent each of us home with a gift box of their best wines.

The entire evening bore witness to Debra and David’s graciousness and generosity, and yet I am sure for them both that it was a simple decision made without regard to cost: here was an opportunity to share their food and wine with passionate oenophiles, to form new and lasting friendships, and most importantly, to showcase what makes life in the Finger Lakes so uniquely and extraordinarily pleasurable.

That generosity carried over to the Whiting’s support for Farmshed. They understood immediately what Farmshed was about, that it could do good work in the region by connecting producers and consumers of locally grown foods, and they became one of our earliest and most enthusiastic supporters. Last fall, when we hosted the first Farmshed harvest dinner at Creekside Meadows Farm in Tully (now in Nelson), they donated several cases of wines to pair with the menu in exchange for two seats at the table, and the evening was enlivened by their wines and their casual, affable conversation.

More recently, I met with Debra and David over lunch at Red Newt Bistro – always a pleasure in-and-of itself – to discuss hosting a farmers’ market at the winery in late August, to be followed by a benefit dinner for the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, a non-profit organization they supported. What struck me once again was how unconcerned they were with the cost of hosting this event. Most of us, I believe, recognize that there is more to life than rational calculation and self-interest, no matter what classical economists and ideologues would have us believe, or how difficult this is to put into everyday practice. Yet for Debra and David, recognition of this “something more” always seemed innate and effortless. Through their hard work, business savvy, and high standards of excellence they became two of the top restaurateurs and winemakers in the Finger Lakes, and on some level, I believe they felt that with success came attendant responsibilities. Yet deep down, I believe, their generosity originated in the fact that they were and are genuinely good people who lived by a simple moral code, and for whom doing good work in their community came as naturally as drawing a breath.

It is this simple, unaffected goodness, rather than their considerable success and achievement, I think, that leaves us all shocked over Debra’s death and David’s injury, and searching for answers. Nothing cosmic or karmic can explain this accident; no reference to god’s inscrutability and omnipotence will provide a satisfactory rationalization. Only a viciously meaningless, random universe seems capable of explaining this loss, which makes Debra and David’s contributions to the Finger Lakes community all the more precious and meaningful.

I am still somewhat in a state of denial over all this, and yet I know that the grieving process will unfold according to its own inexorable logic, and that in time I will accept the painful truth that Debra is truly and irrevocably gone. So while my prayers go out to Debra and to the entire Whiting and Red Newt families, my thoughts at this moment turn primarily to her husband and life partner, and to my friend, David Whiting.

David, I pray you know that you and Debra are deeply loved by your friends and family, and that our arms are strong enough to lift you up and comfort you. I pray that the light does not go out of your world as a result of this grievous, inexplicable, unimaginable accident, and that you find peace, solace and renewal amongst the vines when you return to work. But most of all, and regardless of how impossible it may sound, I pray that joy returns to you and your family much sooner than seems humanly possible.