Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Experimental Endive Batch
I just got back from a solo camping trip to Big Bend National Park and my body hurts. A few days and 20+ miles hiking with a heavy pack is a lot. It doesn't hurt so much in my muscles per se, as it does where my muscles attach themselves to my bones. That's another story... but before I left, I got called out to the farm to help with the grand Endive experiment. It was a good warm up to the trip!

These Endives (Belgian, I believe) were started out in the garden this fall. They grew willy-nilly all winter and had become some large, almost Napa Cabbage-like plants by the time we visited them again. With a crew of five, we gently (though quickly) forked them up to reveal a huge (often 12" long) underground tuber root. We knocked off the dirt and trimmed the tops down to the above shown nubbins. Repeat times two double rows.

Once we hauled the trimmed tubers back up to the house, we set about loading pots with sand, jamming as many Endives in as possible, and loosely filling in the gaps with more sand. Moisten pot and repeat. The pots then go into a light-proof room for 6 weeks or so. I was kinda confused about this process and the whole Endive/Chicory thing, so I found more info here. In a nutshell, it seems that you let the plant build a huge energy-storing tuber out in the garden, trim off the original green bitter leaves, and place it in the dark to re-sprout. The leaves that then come up in the dark will be white(r) and therefore much less bitter. The roots can be dried, roasted, and ground to produce Chicory, which is a poor people's coffee additive... hence the New Orleans coffee tie-in. Side note: If you've never had Chicory in your coffee, you have never lived one day in your life ever. Just sayin. I think at least one of us is going to give the home Chicory production a try. We'll see how it goes! 

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Farm: Day 1

I think this about sums it up. On Thursday, I made this sugar sculpture vaguely relating to food and the natural world... today I worked with 3 others to plant ten 100 yard rows of potatoes somewhere in the hinterlands around Manor. My goal with the new blog is to document my journey from full time indoor, florescent lit pastry kitchen to outdoor, inclement weather open acreage. 

DAY 1- Yesterday I made Spanakopita for my students and graded sugar sculptures, eclairs, and orange souffles. The very next day I found myself out with the sparse early season crew of the organic farm planting All Blue, Purple Viking, Yukon Gold, and Red fingerling Potatoes. I technically started the day at 4am by waking to the sound of hard rain coming down on the roof and being blown against the bedroom windows. I knew it was either going to be a no-go day or a super sloppy one. It turned out to be the latter. 

We drove from their Manor Farm home base out to the new plot of land out east. The new plot is still in development with newly cleared fields, freshly plowed field, and a tall deer proof fence going up. Our job, drag a crate of potatoes out, plant sprout facing up, repeat 1,000 times. We followed the planting with a heaping handful of ground cotton seed meal spread through the trenches. What just took 20 seconds to type in the last two sentences took about 3 hours in real time. At this point, the normal procedure would be to drive the tractor through and cover the potatoes and be done. Thanks to the inches upon inches of mud, we covered all rows by hand with rakes. 

What did I learn today?
  • Let your potatoes sprout before planting
  • Budgie Potatoes are apparently DELICIOUS, but IMPOSSIBLE to grow here
  • Potatoes like Cottonseed Meal
  • Mud will add a solid pound of weight to each foot and two pound to the end of your rake
  • It is incredibly pleasant to be separated from your phone and any time source except the sun