Dining A La King: Drought stacks odds against farmers
Posted: 06/25/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Marshall V. King
Dining A La King
Dining A La King
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Radishes are one of the many vegetables that work-share participants at Rise Up Farms on S.R. 120 in Elkhart can take home as part of the organic gardening program. (Truth Photo By Mark Shephard)
Katie Brewer (from left), Rachel Denlinger and Brewer’s daughter, Ellissa, 9, all of Elkhart, place dead leaves on brussels sprouts as part of a work-share program at Rise Up Farms on S.R. 120 in Elkhart on Friday, June 22, 2012. (Truth Photo by Mark Shephard)
Katie Brewer (from left), her daughter, Ellissa, 9, and Rachel Denlinger, all of Elkhart, place dead leaves on brussels sprouts as part of a work-share program at Rise Up Farms on S.R. 120 in Elkhart on Friday.
Truth Photo By Mark Shephard
Radishes are one of the many vegetables that work-share participants at Rise Up Farms on S.R. 120 in Elkhart can take home as part of the organic gardening program.
Truth Photo By Mark Shephard
Growing food is a lot like gambling.
You can beat the odds. You can be skilled. But sometimes something happens you can't control and it affects your take.
And when it's as dry as it is right now in Elkhart County, you're going to lose a few more hands, or hands-full of carrots, radishes and greens.
It rained a little Thursday in Elkhart County. Friday morning, I asked Nick Simons how much it helped at Rise Up Farms, where he's one of the managers. “Let me just dig in the dirt a little bit and see what it's looking like,” he said.
The ground was only moist for the top half-inch. Roots of plants producing food go a lot deeper than that.
“It helps some,” he said. “It's definitely better than scorching heat.”
Odd temperature patterns and a lack of rain have put our area in a severe drought.
Rise Up Farms is providing vegetables and herbs for about 40 households who bought shares in this year's crop. When we paid for shares, we took a risk along with Simons and others who are farming at 21600 S.R. 120, Elkhart.
So I have the frost, the groundhogs and the dry weather to thank for a smaller harvest. “I've been amazed that our very inadequate sprinkler system has been able to keep things alive as much as it has, but plants are not thriving,” Simons said.
The farm has 40 varieties of vegetables that will grow and ripen as the summer progresses. Keeping things alive when it doesn't rain is tough and what myself and others can pick up on a weekly basis varies.
Last week, I got a spicy mix of greens as well as garlic, oregano, parsley, mint, collard greens and radishes. Honestly, I was hoping for less herbs and more carrots. But I can't really take issue with the farm as much as the weather.
The week before, I got some Chinese cabbage. Simons said it's similar to bok choy and he made sauerkraut from it. It can also be used to make kimchi, the fermented and spicy condiment that's huge in Korea.
I had the cabbage two different ways. Friends Kathy Glick Miller and her mom, Helen Glick, nearly shredded the cabbage and added toasted almonds and a vinaigrette flavored with some Asian spices. The vinegar softened the cabbage enough to make a lovely raw salad.
The way I made the greens was a variation on a recipe in “The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook” by Gloria Bley Miller.
Basic Stir-Fried Greens
1 head Chinese cabbage
3 slices fresh ginger root or 1/2 tablespoon grated raw ginger
1/4 to 1/2 cup stock (water with bouillon or Essenhaus Chicken Base works.)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1. Cut cabbage by removing leaves from thick stalk. Cut each into 1- to 2-inch pieces.
2. Heat oil in wok. Add garlic and ginger and saute briefly.
3. Add stalks and saute about three minutes. Add leaves and saute until soft.
4. Add soy sauce, stock and sugar and simmer uncovered. Salt.
5. Eat over brown or white rice.
My wife couldn't quite believe I was eating greens with rice for supper. But they had a bit of peppery bite and were quite good. She agreed. And as I ate this super-fast summer meal, I remembered cupcakes and knew I was eating a lot healthier.
You can add sauteed greens to quesadillas, eggs or even sandwiches. I like adding them to a quesadilla (whole wheat or corn tortilla heated in a cast iron skillet with cheese until the tortilla is crisp and the cheese is melted).
Rise Up Farms and other local vegetable growers are working hard this summer. And as I eat their food, I'm grateful for the work they're doing. Zucchini and yellow squash will be ready soon, Simons said. The heat of this summer means that it'll likely be a good year for tomatoes.
Strawberry season is over, but raspberry season is here and blueberry season will be soon.
I'm hungry. Let's eat.
Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at 296-5805, email@example.com, on Twitter @hungrymarshall or via [URL]www.facebook.com/diningalaking;[URL].[/URL]