June 12, 2009 0 Comments



Some serious sustainable food for thought…

From Gourmet Magazine:

By Barry Estabrook

Wes Jackson’s now-grown children used to call him Dr. Doom. Kids will be kids, but that seems to be a particularly inappropriate moniker for a man with a keen mind and an impish sense of humor, who is putting the final touches on a once-far-fetched mission to radically improve the way our most important food crops are grown.

Jackson, a plant geneticist, is president of The Land Institute, a Kansas-based research organization dedicated to improving the sustainability of farming by mimicking natural models. In an address at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions Sustainable Foods Institute earlier this month he said that he was within a decade of introducing a commercially viable variety of perennial wheat(meaning that one year’s crop will spring from the previous year’s root system without being replanted) to the market.

And to prove that perennial wheat is no longer a theoretical entity, he brought several small bags of flour made from his experimental plantings.

Jackson tends to think across a broader time horizon than most environmentalists (he promised not to go all the way back to the Big Bang during his 30-minute talk but did start at a point 3.5 billion years ago; he has also espoused 50-year Federal Farm Bills, as opposed to the current five-year legislation). Jackson said that about 10,000 years ago, when the first grains were domesticated, early farmers (“the greatest revolutionaries who have ever lived”) took a wrong turn by cultivating annual crops that die after one growing season and have to be replanted from seed. They gave plenty of grain, but at a tremendous cost to the soil—a problem that continues today on the American plains, where topsoil has been depleted and crops depend on massive inputs of chemicals and irrigation water.

That’s because annual crops have tiny root systems that grow for one season and then die along with the rest of the plant. Perennials, on the other hand, invest in huge root systems that last for years and burrow deep into the ground to secure water and nutrients. They produce more living matter over a much longer growing season than their annual relatives, and perennials prevent soil erosion because the land they grow on doesn’t have to be cultivated every spring.

Jackson brought two striking visual aids to the conference to show the difference in root structure. Annual wheat had a few spindly tendrils of rootlets, not much more impressive than some of the plants I weed out of my garden. Its perennial relative had developed a massive snarl of roots that stretched for several feet across the back of the auditorium. By crossbreeding annual wheat, corn, sunflowers and sorghum with their wild, perennial counterparts, Jackson and the Land Institute have developed crops that combine the yield of annuals with the sustainability of perennials. “Conservation becomes a consequence of, not an alternative to, food production,” he said.

“In reality, we are grass seed eaters,” Jackson added, pointing out that 70 percent of our calories come from grains and legumes. Thanks to his work, over the next couple of decades we might become perennial grass eaters.

~imagine that!!!!!!!!  I’ve always been a bigger fan of perennial crops myself.  To learn more about this potential perennial revolution check out these sites:


Perennials on the Horizon, a capital campaign

Thanks to the 13 chefs who woke up before the roosters and made the trip to one of the greatest farmers markets in the country and participated in the truest of commerce, the exchange of food goods from hard-working farmers for a few Abe Lincolns:  that is, at its heart and roots, American.


Entering: White Corn from Gloria Tamai Farms, Heirloom Cherokee Tomatoes from Tutti Frutti, Zephyr Squash from McGrath Family Farms,  Summer Baby Squash Mix from Coastal Organics (awesome!!!), Meyer Lemons and Encore Oranges (taste like a tangerine!) from Garcia Organics, Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes (50/50% chance), Micro French Breakfast Radishes and Spanish Radishes from Jaime Farms, Tiny Tiny Apricots (Elgian Marbles), Yellow Nectarines, WHITE Nectarines (candy!) and Yellow Peaches from Fitzgerald Farms, Green Onion Chives and Miners Lettuce from Yasutomi Farm, Pink Variegated Lemons from J.J.’s Lone Daughter Ranch (look for some uber-unique kumquats and kaffir limes!!),  Rustic Arugula and Round Baby Carrots from Windrose Farm, and Ron Burgundy Fingerling Potatoes from Weiser Famly Farms.
Back on track: Fiesole (Baby Purple) Artichokes from Life’s A Choke

Gapping: Bloomsdale Spinach from Weiser Family Farms and most Radish varieties from Jaime Farms (two more weeks..)
Exiting: Bing Cherries :(, Murcott Tangerines, French Leeks, Green Garlic, Meiwa Kumquats, Paige Tangerines, Tom’s Terrific Tangerines and Gold Nuggets from Garcia Organics, Black Kale, Baby Turnips (Coastal Organics) and Watermelon Radishes from Mcgrath Farms
White Corn from Gloria Tamai Farms: tender pale white kernels so sweet you’ll forget another color of corn exists…

Zephyr Squash – from McGrath Family Farms, limited quantities, sold out last week before we even hit the market*

Miners Lettuce – from Yasutomi Farms.  Hydroponically grown European Heirloom seed with mild and sweet flavors.  Nobody else is growing this and it is amazing!

Baby Heirloom Eggplants – from Jaime farms:  hybrid mix of baby varieties such as Japanese, Italian, Varieagted, Thai, White, Finger – amazing presentation and flavor!

Heirloom Tomato Variety – from Tutti Frutti Farms

Baby Green Artichokes – round, meaty and mild, more heart than other varieties, as it is simply a tinier version of its larger counterparts that get more sun. 100% edible!

Baby Green Zucchini with Flower – Life’s A Choke Farms inject water into each squash blossom’s stem to ensure their freshness and livelihood. A wonderful and glamorous spring and summer menu accoutrement!!

Yellow Peaches – from Fitzgerald Farms. Sugar and acid strike the perfect balance making this the perfect peach!

Baby Summer Squash Mix– from Coastal Organics: a variety of Ronde Nice, 8-Ball, Green & Gold Zucchini, Sunburst (a.k.a gold patty pan) and Middle Eastern.

Jerry’s Berries Strawberries (Galante variety) from Rutiz Farm – sweeter than candy!!  Jerry is one of 2 growers in the US producing this amazing strawberry variety.  Get them while you still can!
Jerry's Berries Strawberries from Rutiz Farm
Persian Watercress – Rutiz Farms, a hot peppery leaf that has been an equally hot seller at the market. Very unique shape and taste!

Torpedo Onions – from Windrose farms – these really ARE torpedos!! I don’t often put succulent and onion in the same sentence…but I just did..for a reason!

Japanese Tomatoes – I am still in love with this hefty. Great pre-heirloom season variety nicknamed the “Tough Boy” for its heat-resilient texture and succulence!

Pencil California Asparagus – Skinny, tender, tasty purple-tipped and LOCAL! So thin it cooks in a flash!

Baby Celery – from Yasutomi Farm, more leaves than stalk, hydroponically grown, slender and almost herbaceously tasty stalks. The best baby celery available. Period.

Beylik Family Farms – Fillmore, CA

Persian Cucumbers – petite and crunchy! No seeds=sweet!
Japanese Tomatoes – “Tough Boy” brings hefty flavor, succulence and meatiness.
Yellow Tomatoes – sweet, tangy and heartier than your average yellow tomato!

Coastal Organics – Oxnard, CA

Baby Summer Squash Mix– a variety of Ronde Nice, 8-Ball, Green & Gold Zucchini, Sunburst (a.k.a gold patty pan) and Middle Eastern.  You can also order individual squash varieties.
Baby Sunburst Squash – patty pans that are cute, small, crunchy and ORGANIC!

Coleman Family Farm – Carpinteria, CA

Pirella Lettuce – My new favorite! Perfect for summer, mild-flavored limestone variety originally developed in Kentucky to withstand the heat!

Red Butter (Piret) Lettuce – you won’t find this anywhere else! Awesome texture and buttery flavor!
Freckles Lettuce – Freckles! Sweet leaves, crispy inside. Perfect lettuce carrier for salads!
Lollo Rossa Lettuce – great for mixed salads, beautiful deep purple-red.
Treviso – this is an amazing green!  Gorgeous, green and red and a hearty crunchy leaf.

Radicchio – note: small heads! Perfect for plate garnishes. Best Radicchio ever!
Dandelion Greens
Stinging Nettles

Fitzgerald Farms

Debutant Peaches – The first peach of the season and it is striking an impeccable balance of acidity and sweetness. Makes for a perfect bite every bite!
Yellow Nectarines – Sweet and slightly acidic. The perfect nectarine!
Apriums – Hit or miss availability as season is so limited you want to take advantage of it while you can.
Apricots – the tiniest variety with the tiniest season! A quintessential apricot!

Garcia Organic Farm – Fallbrook, CA

Murcott Tangerines taste like a Paige, easier to peel!
Meyer Lemons – softer skin, brilliant, lemon orange sun-kissed color, sweet candied lemon scent and flavor!
Pink Variegated Lemons – Variegated pink and yellow skin, , beautiful pink exterior, tart lemon flavor, great for refreshing garnish.

Harry’s Berries – Oxnard, CA

Strawberries – Seascape variety, deep ruby red with a vibrant yet sweet flavor appeal!
“Sweetheart” Baby Roma Tomatoes – pricy, sweet, delicious, addictive! and worth every penny, nickel, dime and dollar!

Jaime Farm – Ontario, CA
Mixed Baby Bunch Carrots – beautiful baby yellow, orange, red, and purple haze carrots with tops
Baby Heirloom Eggplants – hybrid mix of baby varieties such as Japanese, Italian, Varieagted, Thai, White, Finger – amazing presentation and flavor!

Spanish Radishes – large pale fuchsia colored unique radish that is both peppery and sweet

Baby White Belly Radish – gapping! sweetest radish out there with edible greens, too makes these 100% delicious.
Shunkyo Radish – gapping! Shaped like a baby pink carrot: one moment it’s hot, the next it is sweet! My personal favorite!
Easter Egg Radish – gapping! mild, snappy flavor, vibrant color bouquet of pinks, reds and white.
Icicle Radish – gapping! looks like a white carrot (except the leaves)! Rich spicy flavor can be smoothed out with a little saute and butter!
Rainbow Chard – striking colors, hearty leaves.  hit or miss availability this season.
Onion Whistles – beautiful buds, large hallow stalks, amazing! just add water!

J.J.’s Lone Daughter Ranch- Bryn Mawr, CA

Cara Cara Oranges– a grapefruit and navel orange hybrid gives it its signature salmon colored flesh with all the great sweet juicy orange taste!
Veriegated Pink Lemons!! – must try these for yourself! Remember Pink Lemonade???

Life’s A Choke – Lompoc, CA

Baby Anzio Artichokes – a cross between green and purple artichokes, and very meaty!
Baby Purple Artichokes a fruity flavor and a deep wine color that does not fade with cooking. Bred from the violetta de provence, a purple variety native to southern France.
Baby Green Zucchini with Flower – Life’s A Choke Farms inject water into each squash blossom’s stem to ensure their freshness and livelihood. A wonderful and glamorous spring and summer menu accoutrement!!
Lyon Artichoke with stem– large and in charge! This is a very jumbo, round, meaty variety from Southern France that yields a whole lot of heart!!
“California” Pencil Asparagus – Skinny, tender, tasty purple-tipped and LOCAL! So thin it cooks in a flash!
Baby Green Zucchini with Flower – Life’s A Choke Farms inject water into each squash blossom’s stem to ensure their freshness and livelihood. A wonderful and glamorous spring and summer menu accoutrement!!

McGrath Family Farm – Camarillo, CA

Zephyr Squash – this squash is snappy and small, with a mild, creamy and sweet flesh so good you can eat it fresh!
Wild Arugula – 3 Pound bag
Firecracker Lettuce – deep red, a bit frilly! Great for mixed salads!
Baby Bunch Candy BeetsRed BeetsGold Beets
If you want beets, right now they are beautiful and priced to sell!!!
Red Okami Spinach – a uniquely shaped leaf with a deep red stem and veins – great for sauteeing!

Mike and Son Egg Ranch – Ontario, CA

Brown Eggs farm fresh eggs that are unequivocally delicious with gleaming yolks! Each egg is individually candled! (5 doz case only)

Polito Family Farm – Valley Center, CA

Oro Blanco Grapefuit – golden-flesh, sweet and juicy – still going strong!
Tom’s Terrific Tangerines – juicy squared, easy to peel, and almost seedless – terrifically yummy!!

River Bottom Farms – Lakeside, CA

Heirloom Grape Tomatoes -coming soon!
Oregon Springs Tomatoes – vine-ripe in two weeks!!

Rutiz Farm – Arroyo Grande, CA

Sugar Snap Peas – sweet and snappy. ’nuff said!
Persian Watercress– a unique variety, with a wonderfully spicy-sweet kick
Jerry’s Berries Strawberries– (pre-order only) worth every penny!! A must try strawberry!
Wild Strawberries – delicate, delicious, perfect for a salad or dessert garnish

Savoy Spinach – gapping! cut in small clusters of 3-4 leaves – beautiful!!
Romanesco – Jerry grows the perfect-sized heads, nicest ones at the market!

Weiser Family Farm – Bakersfield, CA

Red Thumb Potatoes – red skinned on the outside, and pretty in pink on the inside
Russian Banana Fingerlings – baker size, but oh so creamy..
Ron’s Burgundy Fingerlings – that’s right~there back!  variations of red through and through, tender skin, great attractive potato for multiple applications!

French Heirloom Fingerlings – red-skinned, baker-sized and white-fleshed, has a very silky texture ( I love these!!)
La Ratte Fingerlings – nutty flavors, stand out fingerling, one of the best potatoes, ever!!
Mix Baby Carrots – gapping for about a month
Micro Mix Baby Carrots – gapping for about a month
Bloomsdale Spinach – gapping for about 3-4 weeks
Baby Bermuda Onions – the mother of all SWEET onions, short season, though so appreciate…Now!

Windrose Farms

Spicy Greens Mix -a perfect combination of loose leaf arugula, mizuna and chard! You’ll love it!
Rustic Arugula – loose leaf, frisee style and perfectly peppered!

Yasutomi Farm – Pico Rivera, CA

Baby Bok Choy – amazingly tender, great flavor, good for braising and hey, even the grill…
Baby Celery – more leaves than stalk, hydroponically grown, slender and tasty stalks. The best baby celery available. Period.
Green Onion Chives – mild, sometimes sweet green onion and chive hydroponic hybrid. great shelf-life too!
Miners Lettuce – It’s hydroponic!!!  It’s an heirloom European seed. It’s perfect!

Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.