Compost Blog

Comparing Apples to Peanuts

FOUND IN: The Farm on December 16, 2013



I'd never grown them before. In early September they went into compost- infused ground as tiny transplants. It was still plenty hot, horribly dry and not the kind of place they like to grow. Expectations were low.  Seeing them in the grocery stores perched on erect stalks made me want to try them for myself.


They grew bigger as the weather cooled. So tall, that they started to lean. The cool days brought the tiny nubs. Within a few more weeks, the promise for brown-buttered saute-able goodness was within reach.


There were enough in fact to offer them up for sale at our local farmers market. Perched on a podium-style display, the symmetry of cut stalks and plump sprouts made me pumped with pride. And then it happened.


"They seem small compared to the ones I just bought at Trader Joe's." she exclaimed to her friend. The comparison, leaving me red-faced and breathless also made me wonder?


So where do her Brussels sprouts come from?


Around 98% of all Brussels sprouts are grown commercially in California. The cool temperatures and coastal fog found south of San Francisco in Monterey County are the ideal conditions for growing them.  It happens to be one of my favorite places to visit. But one thing I remember vividly while never getting close enough to actually see them, is the smell when driving through the fields. It is quite the sulpher-like stench.

Those grown commercially are heavily fertilized with synthetic fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides to control a kaleidoscope of pest problems. After the harvest, the washing and the packing, they are ready to travel.


Traveling 2707 miles by truck, her's are unloaded at the receiving dock in Mt. Pleasant, SC. After the three day trip, crate unloaded by forklift, stacked one on top of the other in a dark place, they find their way on the shelves.


On a chilly, December morning, as the sun peeks through the horizon, I hand pick the Brussels sprouts destined to be sold the next day. Washed and left in the cooler overnight, they waited patiently for the 15 mile trip to James Island. She didn't buy any of mine.


Her's were bigger.















Other Side of Summer

FOUND IN: The Farm on July 28, 2013



The rain has affected the figs. A wet season leading to harvest means less flavor. Fruit set is also about half of last year's. And while the reality compared to more memorable seasons certainly does not live up to expectations, we pick feverishly. There is no pause. It is a race to see who gets there first. Beast of every color look upon this moment as a delicacy not to be missed.

The bouquet surrounding the tree's perimeter hints toward a sweetness  intensified by the afternoon humidity. Fruit flies stir, unable to control their urges. Over ripened fruit seem to melt in the heat, hanging by weakened stems.  Summer is beginning it's decent. The scene reminds me of this fleeting season. Like the figs, it won't be here much longer.



Summer Sun

FOUND IN: Education, Nature, The Farm on July 23, 2013



They fill the sky like no other. Their intensity is met only by the afternoon heat wave. They amaze, those stalks of pubescent green supporting hefty heads. In a breeze, there seems to be no reason they should stay upright.  But they do.


As if paying homage, they follow the sun. Each one in unison, their angles exactly alike.


Their glow brings sunrise above ground. The hum of bumblebees is the first sound to the ear.


The seeds suggest greatness, plump, strong and firm to the touch. Emerging in days, they growing exponentially.



Bought sunflowers at the farmers market and want to know what to do next. Here are some good tips for care and arranging them.



Winter Harvest

FOUND IN: Nature, The Farm on February 04, 2013


The monotone hum fills the row of bolted broccoli. Thousands light within the yellow flowers, looking for the golden yellow powder. Many fly with the weight of full pollen baskets back to the hive. Winter has not been a time of relaxation. Warmer than usual, it has spurred active flight looking for pollen and nectar.


We think it is a time to surround the queen, keep her warm, safe and happy. And it is. But this winter has been about more. The bounty comes early. They do not delay.

And today it was obvious as the landscape surrounding us was alive.



Package on Your Doorstep

FOUND IN: The Fare, The Farm on January 11, 2013

Broccoli 'Packman', a cool season veggie found in the CSA Farm Share this time of year.


It's Thursday night, you've had a long week, and you come home to find a big, beautiful, but daunting bin of veggies waiting for you. You signed up for a farm share because you wanted to eat better and have fresher, more interesting meals. But now--you're tired and overwhelmed. Don't panic. You can do this in stages. Really.

So here's what I found today and how I dealt with it. I had beets with gigantic, pretty greens, kale, and a huge savoy cabbage. I also got broccoli, 2 kinds of peppers, and winter onions. I was planning a soup for supper, so I set aside part of the kale to add to my soup, along with some of the onions. Everything else I needed to store. I cut the beets off the greens, trimmed the stems of the greens to reduce their size, put them in an open plastic bag along with the kale and onions and stored them in the vegetable drawer. The beet roots I just put in the drawer, no bag.  I stored the broccoli and peppers in the drawers, unwrapped. The cabbage is large and so fresh that I simply trimmed the bottom and set it in a bowl with an inch of water. It will be fine for a couple of days. I've left pretty cabbages in a glazed bowl as decoration on occasion, until I could find time to cook them. Tomorrow I will pull off the outer leaves, stack them in a plastic bag for some stuffed cabbage rolls and store the rest of the head for later. Tonight it was just too pretty to tear apart.

Here's my plan (always subject to change, of course).

The soup I made tonight is turkey and white bean with dill and will make great lunches for several days. I'll make stuffed cabbage rolls for one or maybe two dinners with the outer savoy leaves. The beets sliced thinly and used raw as the base of a fresh salad will probably grace 2 dinners, unless we have guests. The beet greens cooked with the rest of the kale make a side dish for a simple protein for another night. Then I'll use the rest of the savoy to make a slaw for fish tacos for a change-of-pace dinner. That just leaves the broccoli. Since I need more lunches, I'll probably put it into a frittata or a quiche as the main event. That could also work as a breakfast one day.

Ah, it's good to have a plan: and to know everything will get used. I'll post the recipes for the soup, salad, fish tacos, and frittata separately. It's looking like a pretty healthy week!

Post by Chef Susan Wigley, a regular contributor on the Compost In My Shoe farm team.


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