Saturday, August 03, 2013

Farm Bulletin: Lammas, Chesters and Garlic

This week the farm gets into full swing with the appearance of the Chesters, the pride of the Wapato Valley, and contributor Anthony Boutard and his wife, Carol, are busy with deliveries, visitors and getting ready for the market.

Thursday marked Lammas Day, the day of the loaf mass. The mass celebrates the first loaf baked from the new wheat harvest. The wheat harvest was a time consuming effort involving all members of the community, from the elderly to young children, each playing a specific role. The grain could be cut at maturity and raked into cocks like hay, but more commonly wheat and other small grains were scythed just shy of maturity, at the hard dough stage, bundled in sheathes and tied (top photo). The sheathes were carefully stacked for shocking. The structure of the shock varied by region and environmental factors. There were round shocks, capped shocks and Dutch shocks for very wet areas. Shocked grain was easier to thresh as it pulled away slightly from the hull as it dried, and had better color. In the more remote regions of the west, barley and wheat were also "hogged off" by turning pigs into the field, pork being easier to transport than grain. The combine eliminated the shock as a form of regional architecture.

For those of us with a background in tree and other woody plants, Lammas growth is the second growth of shoots that takes place in midsummer, sometimes in response to hail or some other damaging event. In our climate it not a problem, we sometimes encourage it with summer pruning, but in colder areas Lammas growth may fail to harden off properly and suffers frost damage.

Chester blackberries.

We are a bit tardy on our wheat harvest, but it is not that we have been loafing around as will be abundantly clear when we arrive at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday. Following ancient practice, the market opens with the chime of a bell at 10:00 AM, or thereabouts.

Coincident with the Lammas, Jeff Fairchild, the produce buyer for New Seasons Market, visited the farm on the first of August as Carol was making the first round of deliveries to the various New Seasons stores. Josh Alsberg, the Produce manager at Food Front, has also visited us many times. As members of the co-op, we are one his many of bosses, and when he sells lots of our berries, no only do the stores pay us, but we also get a better patronage check. Some deal. Buffy Rhoades of Pastaworks put in her order as well, and we are waiting for her to visit us someday. Fortunately, all of these stores carry the Chesters, so there is no need to get cut short midweek, stuck with a bunch of grumpy Chester lovers bemoaning your lack of foresight. We enjoy working with Jeff, Josh, Buffy and their staff. As they say in fair Gaston, "Chester, it's the blackberry people ask for by name."

We will also have a good supply of Triple Crowns on hand. The season is shorter for this variety, and they are in the top of their form this week.

Garlic pre-Carol.

In addition to the berries, we will haul in our last Imperial Epineuse prunes. Next week, the green-fleshed plums will take over for a spell. This is the likely the last week we will haul in the preserves, popcorn and dry beans for a while. Real estate in the van is getting scarce and fresh fruits and vegetables need the space. We will have frikeh. Good looking heads of lettuce and the very first Opo fruits of the Ayers Creek Pepo Project will be added to the mix. More on the ACPP later.

Oh yes, a bit of garlic and shallots as well. Carol spends a lot of time prettying up the garlic, limiting how much we can bring to the market. Yes, it looks lovely, but it will soon be stripped of its blushing raiment so another voice might ask why not let the customer decide whether they want to buy pretty garlic, or just rip off the field covering and enjoy its lusty flavor. If you are disappointed because the last pretty garlic has left the basket and your next meal will be a little less satisfying, tell us whether a dull bulb would meet your culinary needs just as well. The author is spoiling for dismissal and will leave it at that.

Photo of wheat by Curt Weinhold from The Tosefta Blog.

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