Bittersweet Greens

With both the farmers out of town this weekend, I didn’t need to spend Sunday at the Headhouse Market. Instead I took this extra time to leisurely harvest some flowers for drying and to take some end-of-season photos of the farm. With all the hustle and bustle that my typical Sunday mornings at the farm require in the hurry to get to market, I hadn’t slowed down enough lately to notice how the season is coming to an obvious halt.

I’m no stranger to the changing of the seasons, having grown up on a farm that ebbed and flowed with the shortening and lengthening of the days. But somehow this year on this farm, I’m still in disbelief that it’s almost over for 2007. Now that’s not to say that there won’t be harvesting going on for another month or more at Weavers Way, particularly if this warm streak keeps up. There’ll be plenty of turnips, radishes, greens, and beets to come along yet. It’s just that now instead of lush row-upon-row of tomato vines and shoulder-high okra stalks, there are mostly empty beds with fuzzy baby sprouts of the clover we’re using for a winter covering. I’m just not prepared for this decline…not yet. The past six months have zipped along at light speed, more so than usual. With each passing week, the farm’s fields haven’t just fed my body with amazing produce. They’ve also been feeding my heart and soul with passion and energy.

But autumn is my favorite season, and winter is a good time to work on those projects I’ve put to the side in the flurry of the growing season (hello knitting needles, my old friends!). I’m sure the work for the farm will continue too; just in a different way. I’ll have seed catalogs to pour over, picking out new flowers to suggest trying for next year’s mixed bouquets and maybe even some edible varieties. And there’s the chance to try out all the goodies in my bevy of dried and canned preserves. Not to mention the interesting facts and stories I plan to share with you about urban farming and my personal “foodie” heroes who championed eating locally and seasonally long before it was trendy. And together we’ll find out how long one can store beets and turnips on the basement floor.

So you see, the sight of brown declining tomato vines and the likes is bittersweet for me. I have no doubt that a lot of wonderful exchanges have yet to take this year…I anticipate exploring lots of new avenues and ideas myself and with you. And goodness knows the farmers need a break – they’ve been working 10+ hours a day, six days a week since March. But as I help plant hundreds of tulip and daffodil bulbs at the farm over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be dreaming of springtime blooms and a booming farm again.

I suspect contemplative thoughts like these are what moved me to put bitter mustard greens with sweet apples in a dish that’s easy to make and rich in flavor. Any greens would work here – mustard, kale, collards, chard, beet tops, or even sorrel if you like a really intense bitterness. I choose to give the farm’s new dark purple mustard greens, a variety called Osaka Purple, a try this time around. Did you know mustard greens, much like swiss chard, have ridiculously high amounts of vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium and fiber, among other things? Since this variety is purple, it also has potential cancer-fighting phytochemicals. And the addition of toasted pine nuts really rounded out the trio of taste sensations on the tongue.

I guess this switch to autumn crops isn’t so bad. After all, there’re only so many fresh tomatoes a girl can eat. Though I’m sure I’ll retract that statement by January.


A Straight from the Farm original

  • 1 large bunch of mustard greens, about 20 leaves
  • 2 baby leeks
  • 1 baby bok choy
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 small firm apples (I used Nittany)
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. raw sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts

Wash and dry apples. Cut out core and dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Melt butter in a medium skillet and add apples. Sprinkle with raw sugar and cook over medium low heat until soft and somewhat caramelized/browned. Remove from heat and set aside on your serving dish.

Toast pine nuts on a small baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes until golden.

Wash greens, leeks and bok choy thoroughly. Cut off any tough stems on the greens, roots and tough green tops of the leeks, and base of the baby bok choy. Cut everything into one inch wide strips. Using the same skillet as before, heat olive oil over medium high heat and saute garlic slices until golden. Add chopped greens, leeks and bok choy, stirring constantly until everything is noticeably wilted (about 90 seconds). Lower heat to low and stir in soy sauce. Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes until greens are tender. Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine apples and pine nuts with the greens in the skillet. Toss well and serve immediately.

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