Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Outstanding in the Barn.

Remember last week, when I wrote about my crazy issues with expectations? Well, after attending the amazing dinner produced by Outstanding in the Field at East Fork Farm, I assumed that no local farm-to-table event could possibly compare to Chef Dissen's delicious meal.

I was wrong.

Take one noble organization: Hub City Farmers' Market. Add 14 local producers, seven prestigious chefs, a wine expert, a dozen volunteers, a lovely location with delightful hosts, and you have the recipe for a fabulous evening.

The first annual Farm Dinner organized by Hub City Farmers' Market is proof that commitment to a cause inspires excellence. Hub City Farmers' Market is a not-for-profit organization, unlike Outstanding in the Field. The proceeds from the dinner benefit the organization's community gardens and farmers' markets, as well as the Mobile Market, which takes local, healthy food to several locations in Spartanburg County. The mission of the Hub City Farmers' Market is to increase the demand and availability of healthy food in Spartanburg County.

The Market staff are terrific people. Dedicated. Creative. Eager to introduce local producers to the community and, in the case of the Farm Dinner, the community to the producers. Foodies unite with farmers, bakers with buyers. Executive Director Ana Parra leads the organization, and her talents are instrumental in the growth of the market and its programs. The amount of preparation and attention to detail required for the inaugural farm dinner is a full-time job.

Live Oak Farms in Woodruff, SC, provided the perfect venue for a farm-to-table dinner. The hosts, Allison and Chuck Shaum, are committed to sustainability. Not only do they specialize in pasture raised, heritage breed animals, but their farm is a prototype for solar generated energy. The farm store, which stocks organic products, locally produced meats, certified naturally grown produce, and South Carolina seafood, is powered entirely by solar energy. Solar panels charge the electric fences surrounding the fields. The Schaums don't just talk about the environment—they protect the resources that provide their livelihood.

Did I mention that they are genuinely nice people? Allison is the kind of person who remembers everyone's name, who takes the time to listen to the crazy ravings of a customer who fears preparing her first organic, free-range turkey for Thanksgiving. She's also the mother of four children, so she's good at managing her high-maintenance customers like me.

I wish she lived next door.

After dropping Kristen off in Duncan for a sleepover and taking Michael to Simpsonville to spend the night with my sister and niece, we actually arrived at Live Oak Farms on time. Shocking. It's amazing how Peter and I are motivated by food...

But we weren't alone. The Schaum's barn was crowded with locavores, eager to support the cause. Or, perhaps the attendees weren't as altruistic as I imagine. Maybe they just wanted to feast. And drink.

No matter what the diners' motivations, they wouldn't be disappointed.

The setting was actually more formal than the Outstanding in the Field dinner. I know you're thinking: barn = formal? Really? OK, skeptics, take a look at the lovely tables...with assigned seating.

Our tablemates were terrific—two producers (Frances Davis from Windmill Hills Farm and Daniel Parson from Parson's Produce) whose vegetables starred in several of the courses, as well as the publisher of Edible Upcountry and the new business manager of Converse Deli. I've known Daniel through Hub City Farmer's Market, and he's an incredible source of information about organic practices. Plus, he's just a really good guy who beams when he talks about his baby.

I hope he snuck some dessert home for his wife, who stayed home with baby Ben.

Samantha Wallace is the force behind the Upstate's newest publication, Edible Upcountry. If you haven't seen the magazine yet, you can find copies of the premier issue at many local retail sources, including Live Oak Farms. The Upstate needed this publication—a source that brings providers and customers together, much like farm dinners. Through the publication, though, you can find more detailed, personal information about the growers, producers, and people behind local foods. It's a terrific resource, and I'm not just saying it because of the article about my seed saving venture.


While the food is, of course, the enticement for the farm dinner, the best entertainment is to watch people coming together in an effort to support one another. For instance, Daniel and Samantha had not previously met. I'm not sure how that's possible, but the dinner provided an opportunity for them to meet and talk a bit of shop. The manager of Converse Deli was equally happy to meet Daniel. Converse Deli supports local food, to the extent that they recently invested in a 10-acre farm. Until the farm produces the amount of food they require for the restaurant, Daniel might be a source.

All of this synergy occurred just at our table. Who knows what relationships formed among the other guests?

Back to the food.

Oh. My.

Is it possible to have too much food?

I tried to pace myself, really, I did. But with five courses paired with delicious wines, plus amazing breads (my downfall), plus dessert...I think I'm still in a food coma three days later.

Honestly, when there are seven chefs involved in a dinner, each course is designed to showcase that chef's talent. It's like “Top Chef,” but in this case, it's a friendly non-competition to benefit a good cause. Still—each chef wants to make certain that his or her course is delicious. And memorable. Our talented chefs included:

Patrick Wagner, Culinary Institute of the Carolinas at Greenville Technical College
Tim Page, Daniel Morgan Technology Center
Gerhard Grommer, Gerhard's Cafe
Stephanie Tornatore, City Range
James P. McCalister, Milliken Guest House
Tray Mathis, Converse Deli
Anastasia Kaminski, R.D. Anderson Technology Center

Wine Pairings
Tony Forest, Carriage House Wine

We began with the Charcuterie tray. Taken from the term cuiseur de chair, meaning "cooker of meat," charcuterie is a French culinary art dating to the 15th century. Originally a method to preserve food prior to the advent of refrigeration, it typically refers to pork specialties such as pâtés, rillettes, galantines, and crépinettes, which are made and sold in a delicatessen-style shop. 

First Course: Charcuterie
Country Souse, Cajun Cured Pork Loins, Pork and Sweet Onion Rillets, Daube of Pork with Greens, Pastrami Cured Cottage Ham, Rustic Pate
Boiled Peanut Relish, Garlic Pickled Okra, Bread and Butter Saffron Turnips.

Rosemary Sour Dough with Black Pepper and Live Oak Farms Asiago
Bee Well Honey and Wheat Sour Dough with Pecans
made by Tim Rogers

La Marca Prosecco

Boiled peanut relish? Oh. My. 
Who would have thought?  
OK. Honestly, I could have stopped here. Between the meat and the bread, I was in heaven.

I'm so glad I didn't.

Second Course:
Smoked Carolina Sunburst Trout with a Crayfish Butter on Toasted Brioche served with a Matignon of Brunoise Garden Vegetables and a Lime Coriander Vinaigrette.
Artisan Pinot Noir

How does one make Crayfish Butter?

You know, I don't really care. The trout and butter were scrumptious.

Third Course:
Broth from Rabbit and Chicken Served with Rabbit Loins Wrapped in Pancetta
Ravioli with Rabbit Confit and Sliced Butternut and Wilted Mustard Greens.
Rockhouse Viognier

This course won the showmanship award, with the broth poured at the table. The scent alone added about two inches to each of my thighs. 

The ravioli? Mmmmm.

Fourth Course:
Crispy Okra Salad ~ Crispy Okra, Mizuna Greens, Turnips, Hericoverts, Cilantro, Carrots, Red Onion, Tossed with Honey Cumin Vinaigrette.
La Playa Cabernet Rose

Delicious greens, courtesy our tablemate, Daniel, expertly prepared by Chef Stephanie Tornatore from City Range. 

Crispy fried okra is my new favorite food.
Fifth Course:
Seared Manchester Farms Quail Breast with a Local Corn and Fresh Bacon Succotash Topped with a Fig Gastrique
Artisan Pinot Noir

Or maybe my new favorite food is corn and bacon succotash. Bacon added to anything is good, but the corn was amazingly fresh on its own. My dad, a former farm boy, was a corn connoisseur. I know good corn.

At this point, I had a hard time sitting upright in my chair—and it wasn't due to too much wine. I needed a walk. Or a nap.

And then this arrived...

Apple Franzipan Crumb Cake with Wine Poached Apples, Cinnamon Calvados Crème Anglaise and Toasted Candy Pecans.

And the cheese plate... 

Split Creek Goat Cheese and Apple Pecan Truffle, Blue Cheese with Caramelized Pear, Happy Cow Ricotta
JK Solstice Hard Cider

Oh. My.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I never leave dessert. Dessert is my favorite course.

I couldn't conquer it. I ate half, wanting to lick the plate clean of the crème...and tried to figure out how I could sneak the rest of the cake home.

I apologize to the goats and the artisans who produced the cheese plate. It was lovely, but I already looked and felt about eight months pregnant by this point in the meal.

Besides trying to figure out how I could discreetly take my dessert home, I was also trying to determine how I could get Peter to carry me to the car.

Unfortunately, Peter made me waddle to car on my own.

When we left, the party was still going strong. Chefs mingled with diners. Exhausted volunteers finally relaxed and drank wine. Shoppers visited the Shaum's farm store for more food...

More food? Who could possibly shop for food after eating five courses???

...and Peter and I went home, where I happily put on my oversized PJs...

Note to self: never wear control-top tights to a multi-course farm dinner.


Oh. My.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What's for Dinner?

It's 4 p.m. Well, actually, 4:10 p.m. I should be thinking about what to feed my family tonight. Instead, I've spent about 40 minutes playing on Facebook, 10 minutes sorting photos, two minutes thinking that I really should clean the house, and about 30 seconds justifying why I'm not cleaning the house. I mopped our (very) sticky kitchen floor earlier, though. Whew. I'm worn out.

Anyway, I decided that while the kiddos are busy playing outside with friends, I would share with you why I'm not stressing about what's for dinner.

We have sauce. Lots and lots of sauce.

With our abundance of tomatoes this summer, I've been on a midnight sauce-making frenzy. I've decided it's a great method to cure insomnia by making sauce at 11:30 p.m. (Then, sleeplessness is no longer frustrating insomnia, because I'm actively working.) The weird inner dialogues that happen in my brain...

While our overload of tomatoes was one reason for making sauce, the real reason I wanted to stock up is for days like today. Today, I don't have one creative idea of what to feed my family that will not illicit grief from the kids. I thought about risotto, which Peter and I love...but the kids despise. I thought about chicken, but right now, I'm having an anti-chicken phase. (This happens every few weeks, after I've been reading sustainable farming literature. We buy organic chicken, but still...some days, I just can't go there.) So, rather than do our fallback routine of going out, which has become too frequent, too expensive, and too questionable regarding our waistlines...I'm pulling out the sauce.

Everyone eats the sauce.

It's healthy. It's delicious. It's homemade from organically raised produce. Even the garlic is from our garden, which personally—I find very cool. 

Garlic is good. Homegrown garlic is great.

So, because I feel your pain as the dinner hour approaches, I'm sharing my super easy, incredibly scrumptious sauce recipe. Get to the Farmer's Market tomorrow morning, 8 a.m. SHARP. Buy tons of tomatoes, if you haven't grown your own. Tell the farmer that you need delicious, organic tomatoes to make a big vat of sauce, and you might get a price cut. Locally, one vendor sold 25 pounds of tomatoes for $10. Granted, they weren't heirloom, but they were organic. Make sure you select nice, ripe tomatoes.


I am not a chef. I am not even a very good cook. My recipe is one that I found on Cooks.com, and then modified to meet our personal likes. Extra garlic. Extra oregano. Extra wine.

You get the picture.

The beauty of this sauce is that it's fail-proof. It's great on it's own, but it's also fabulous with extra goodies, like mushrooms, sausage, and peppers. I make the basic sauce and then add the extra ingredients later, as we're preparing the meal.

Ready? It's time to get to work!

First, plug your iPod into the dock and line up your favorite tunes. Your hands will be covered in tomato goo for the next hour, so choose your selections wisely. If your teenage son recently downloaded new albums to your iPod, you may want to preview them before you begin. (Our college boy usually selects pretty good albums for me, but sorry—I'm too old for “Elf Power.” Did I really just admit that? Yeesh.)

One of the biggest hassles in making sauce is peeling the tomatoes. Do you know the secret for easy peeling? If not, I'm going to tell you. You will thank me.

Peel tomatoes.
Fill a large pot with water and heat on high to boil. Fill another large container with cold water and ice. Make sure it's near the stove.

After washing your tomatoes,  slice a shallow “X” in the bottom (blossom) end of the fruit. 

When you've “Xed” the tomatoes, add them to the boiling water for about one minute. 

Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes from the pot and plunge them into the bowl of ice water. The ice water stops the tomato from cooking and further loosens the skin.

Remove the cooled tomato. The skin should peel away easily. (FYI—this also works for ripe peaches.) 

Crazy-easy, huh?

De-seed tomatoes.
Really, this is optional. We just don't like a lot of seeds in our sauce. If you're pressed for time, you can skip this step...

Cut the peeled tomatoes through the center of the fruit—not through the stem end. Squeeze the seeds and juice into a bowl. 

DO NOT THROW THIS OUT—just set it aside. You won't eliminate all of the seeds, so don't stress about removing every last one.

Cut tomatoes. Chop, dice, whatever makes you happy.

Remove the stem with your knife. It's hard and nasty—you don't want it in your sauce. Chop the tomatoes. The size isn't too important—the tomatoes are going to cook down, but if you don't like large chunks in your sauce—you'll want smaller pieces. Set aside.

Strain the juice.

I'm not big on kitchen gadgets, but I have to admit—I truly love my food mill for times like this. (A year ago, I didn't know what a food mill was, so don't feel bad if you don't, either.)

The food mill is pretty fabulous. It has legs that support it over a bowl, so while you're pouring seedy juice into it, you don't have to try to balance the food mill at the same time. So—pour in the seeds, juice, pulp...crank the handle of the mill a bit until most of the liquid is in the bowl—and voila! 

Lovely juice without seeds.

If you don't have a food mill, a fine strainer will work.

(Note: you can use the food mill to process the entire tomato, and it will remove the skin, seeds, and everything...but I found it makes the sauce too thin.)

OK. Still there? The hardest part is DONE! YEA! Wash your hands, get the tomato goo out from under your nails, drink a little wine, and get ready to cook!

Onions, garlic, and olive oil, oh my.
Chop your onions and mince your garlic. We like a lot of garlic, so modify the amount to your taste.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add the onions and garlic, cooking until soft. (Just a couple of minutes.)

The herbs.
If you have fresh basil and oregano—use it, your hands will smell wonderful! Chop the fresh basil and oregano until fine. If you don't have fresh herbs, dried works fine, too.

The rest.

Add the tomatoes and seed-free juice.... 

...the wine...

...and all remaining ingredients (salt, pepper, sugar, herbs, wine) to the pot. 

Stir well, cover, and bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
Once the sauce begins to boil, remove cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about three hours.

The most important step.

Cut or tear some good bread, and dip into the sauce every hour, just to make sure it's to your taste. You can always add more spices to suit your palate.

And finally—pour a large glass of wine, go sit down, and bribe your husband/significant other/roommate to clean up the kitchen. When he/she smells the sauce, you'll have a kitchen slave. (Except mine was out of town when I made the last batch. Boo.)

Winter days.

The greatest thing about this sauce is that it freezes beautifully. Wait for it to thoroughly cool, ladle the sauce into freezer-safe containers (size dependent on your needs), pop into the freezer—and you'll have the taste of summer all winter long.

And when the witching hour hits, you'll no longer wonder what's for dinner.


 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Homemade Tomato Sauce
¼ c. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced (modify to your taste—we like a lot of garlic)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
20+ ripe tomatoes, peeled, deseeded, and chopped
½ cup dry white wine
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil on medium high. Add garlic and onions. Saute until soft.
Add all remaining ingredients to pot, mixing well. Cover, and cook until boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, remove cover, and simmer for at least three hours. Stir occasionally.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Outstanding. (In the Field.)

I admit it. I get easily excited. My expectations about an event—whether it's a birthday, Christmas, vacation, outing—often build to colossal proportions. The problem with having huge expectations is—it can set the stage for disappointment.

So, when I read about a farm dinner in North Carolina, my husband was skeptical. Knowing how my enthusiasm takes flight, he envisioned an overpriced rustic meal, swatting mosquitoes while listening to pretentious foodies debate the merits of arugula versus mizuno. Meanwhile, I fantasized about bonding with farmers and talking tomatoes into the wee hours while sipping wine under the stars.

No amount of imagination could prepare us for our blissed-out reality.

The fantasy.
Outstanding in the Field (OITF) is a “roving culinary adventure,” to quote the website. Founded in 1999 by Californian Jim Denevan as a way to connect food lovers with food origins, the elaborate field dinners showcase and honor local farmers, growers, food artisans, and chefs.

Denevan is a dreamer—a chef, land artist, surfer, cowboy-hat-wearing showman. His dinners draw locavores in droves to dine with the folks who raise the meat, grow the tomatoes, bake the bread, and process the cheese. The ingredients for the dinner are local, and diners break bread with the bakers who prepared it.

Denevan and his crew travel the country via the OITF bus, with dinners originating each season in California, cruising their way across the country, then heading back to home base. In the 2010 season, OITF will host 68 dinners, with the majority of the events sold out.

Central to the experience is the long table. It stretches throughout fields, curves within coves, and serpentines through stalks. The long table awaits, outfitted in stark white cloth, spare and minimal to showcase the surroundings. And the food. Oh my. The food.


After dropping the kids off at my sister's house, we raced two hours into Marshall, North Carolina, winding our way up mountains...and wondering how we'd survive our way down after a wine-laden meal. Passing pristine farms and those harboring an abundance of old tires in front yards, we followed the signs to East Fork Farm...waiting for the mountains to open up to farmland.

Of course, when you raise sheep, you don't really require a flat field. Instead, we parked and walked up a hilly road, where our chauffeur awaited.

There's something about a tractor ride that just makes people immediately friendly. Maybe it's the fact that you're basically sitting on a stranger's lap, or maybe it's the intertwining of arms around shoulders to brace for those rough bumps, hoping that your Secret Powder-fresh Scent holds out. Maybe it's the determination to have a great time, based of the price of the tickets. Whatever it is, we became buddies with our tractor-mates before the first sip of wine.

Surprisingly, especially for those of you who know us—we were among the first diners to arrive. Which provided ample opportunity to chat, drink, and start snacking.

Oh. My.

Our first little tasty treat originated a few feet from our gathering place. While we waited for all of the guests to arrive, we gathered in a field near a sheep-filled enclosure, which overlooked a smallish pond. Which had trout.

Which turned into smoked trout rillettes.

Oh. My.

We knew after that first bite my expectations were totally realistic.

The farm (and family).

Have you ever met someone and knew that if only you lived next door, that person would be your instant best friend? Have you ever looked at a child and thought how much she loves everything your own child adores? Did you ever just want to throw rational thinking into the pond with the trout and pick up and move?

Huh. I realize I sound a little stalker-ish.

Honestly, though, you would understand if you met the Robertson family. Stephen, Dawn, and their adorable girls welcomed us to their farm as if we were their dearest friends. Of course, there were 120 diners, so I suppose I'd have competition to be Dawn's new BFF.

East Fork Farm, the Robertson's home and livelihood, is located in the mountains of Madison County, NC, about 25 miles north of Asheville. The farm produces pasture-raised lamb, free-range poultry, rabbit (of which they are developing a prototype for a free-range environment,) and pond-raised trout.  All products are free from added hormones or antibiotics, and the farm is certified Animal Welfare Approved.

The Robertson's commitment to sustainable farming practices produces superior tasting, healthy meat products, while preserving and enhancing the ecological health of the farmland and water. For 13 years, the Robertsons have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the land—growing a family business while maintaining their commitment to treat the land with respect.

How can you not love these people?

Can't you imagine Kristen and this sweet pea being best friends?

The field.
After our farm tour (and several glasses of Alain Patriarche, Aligote, Bourgogne 2008), our hosts led us to the field.

The first sight of the long table, slightly curving through the field, sheep grazing on the hill behind, was breathtaking. Then, practicality set in, and I realized I needed to sit with my back to the lambs. Sorry, but I didn't think I could eat their brothers and/or sisters with them watching. I know, I know. Roll your eyes.

There is a lovely Tradition of the Plates at OITF dinners. Guests are asked to bring their own plates to the dinner, providing an eclectic mix of china and earthenware. The couple across the table from us stopped by an antique store and bought two plates. The woman's family had collected china by this particular American china manufacturer for three generations, and she delighted in telling me all about her collection.

Peter and I brought...nothing.

We forgot plates in our rush to grab blue blankey, Nintendo DSs, and books for the kids to take to their aunt's house.

No fear. The OITF crew provides extra plates for slackers like us. My plate reminded me of a grandmother's china...Peter's was decorated with seashells. Perfect.

Whew. I worried we might be eating off of non-sustainable Chinette.

The food.
Oh, the food. My words will never do it justice, and I fear the photographs won't, either. I wish you could smell and taste each dish and its wine pairing through your monitor...

Wild mushroom tart, mountain basil, mesclun greens, roasted beet vinaigrette, mixed organic radishes.
Jobard Chardonnay, Rully, Premier Cru 2007

Grilled leg of lamb, tomato jam, grilled corn, edamame and sweet pepper salad
Francois LeClerc, Pinot Noir
Gevrey-Chambertin Corbeaux, Premier Cru 2006

(Oops. I'm afraid I ate this dish before I could take a photo.)
Rabbit gumbo, okra, roasted fingerlings, rainbow Swiss chard, crispy Vidalia onions
Gabriel Billard, Pinot Noir, Pommard 2004

Cantaloupe cocktail, Cremant de Bourgogne, sourwood honey, fleur de sel

Bethany's blueberry, Bee's Knees pound cake, lemon crème fraiche

OITF works with a renown local chef in each dinner location, as well as local food artisans. Our brilliant chef, William Dissen from The Market Place restaurant in Asheville, is committed to local foods. As owner and Executive Chef of The Market Place, Dissen serves food produced and grown within a maximum 100-mile radius of Asheville.

Within that radius, our dinner included cheeses from Three Graces Dairy; Wake Robin Farm Breads; produce from Jake's Farm; meats from our hosts; and wines from France. Well, OK. That's a tad outside the 100 miles, but I'm not complaining.

Trust me. Pinot Noirs to die for.

The favorites.
Expectations? Check. Check. Check.

Truly, beyond the amazing food and wine, my favorite parts of the evening were all about the people. The connections. Chef Dissen brought along a fabulous staff who shared stories about each course—where it came from, how it was prepared, the special herbs used, the history of the wines. It was like dinner and storytime all wrapped into one.

The long table is actually a series of tables, and the meal is served family-style, with platters to share among eight guests. Just within our closest tables, three couples celebrated anniversaries: 29, 25, and 10. Peter's fear of foodie snobbery was (pretty much) unfounded, at least among our tablemates. The was no pretension, no attitude—just sheer pleasure of sharing a gorgeous meal and experience.

Denevan's desire to honor the local farmer through OITF is probably my favorite aspect of the evening. The OITF crew ushers the farmers and producers around the long table, introducing them to the diners and telling their stories. I talked heirlooms versus hybrids with the Missy from Jake's Farm while sipping wine under the stars.

Expectations? Check again.

The spontaneous applause for the growers, artisans, and chefs—as well as a sloppily orchestrated “wave” of cantaloupe cocktail glasses down the long table—proved that Denevan was on to something when he launched OITF. Farmers beamed. Growers glowed. Guests asked artisans for autographs. Sheep bleated, and we all erupted in applause when the wayward lamb caught up with the flock.

Outstanding in the field?

Yes. Yes, it was.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm back...


Remember me?

I feel a little like a teenager, who blew off her date--and then wanted him back.

(Not that I ever did that.)

This is awkward.

I'm sorry I abandoned you. You know it wasn't intentional, right?

See, this little thing called Life got in the way of my writing. I know you've probably imagined the worst. But no, we didn't buy an SUV, I didn't take a job at Monsanto, and we haven't lost our Greenpeace membership.

Did I mention that I'm sorry?

If I tell you a story, will you forgive me? It might help you understand why I've been absent lately.

Once upon a time, there was a girl/woman/mom who loved to garden. She loved to garden so much that she would dream of flowers. She would garden all day. She would garden at night—in the dark. On Mother's Day, while her friends visited spas, her wish was to plant the vegetable garden. In the rain.

Eventually, she realized her gardening habit had become an obsession. At about this same time, she also realized that soon her youngest child would be firmly ensconced in that lovely institution called kindergarten. Because she had no desire to return to her former life as a PR exec, she knew it was time to turn the obsession into something more. A business. A green business. A green gardening business.

Garden Delights.

The end.


Actually, there's a little more to it. Like:
  • 130 varieties of heirloom tomato plants
  • 35 varieties of heirloom pepper plants
  • Dozens of herbs and assorted heirloom veggies
  • 5,000 seedlings growing in the downstairs of our house
  • A commitment to use only organic methods and sustainable resources, including all shipping supplies and potting materials
  • Even the plant labels biodegrade in a home compost system

Oh. Did I mention that many of the plants I'm growing are in danger of extinction? And that through my business, I'm hoping to encourage a new generation of organic kitchen gardeners?

Then, of course, there's the marketing, selling, writing, tending, babying, nurturing, and general coddling that both the plants and the business required.

Oh. And the family. Yep, they had needs, too.

So, there it is. I abandoned my writing for a bit, but not my greenish ways. If anything, starting Garden Delights has been an enormous learning experience in finding fabulous renewable resources—and not settling for less. It's been crazy, hairy, frustrating, and delightful...and time-consuming.

I love it.

So, I hope you'll check in now and then, because I'd love to renew our green conversations. While I've been seeding and weeding, with my nose in fish emulsion fertilizer (nasty, good stuff)--what have you been up to? Learned any good environmental lessons lately? Have some tips to share? I'd love to hear!

Happy growing and greening!