Transforming Greens

First came the apricots. From a nearby backyard–their tree had so much fruit that even after picking gallons and gallons, boxes of boxes, there were still More. So I came over, climbed up into their tree, and picked a box (even though I have apricots on my tree, but not surplus like this tree). At the same time, I started Rebecca Solnit’s new book, the Faraway Nearby. Oddly, within the first pages, Solnit talked about her huge score of apricots. She did what I did: raw packed the apricot halves, poured honey syrup over them, then sealed them tight in a water bath, preserving them for a later date. Solnit’s book is about her mother, who had Alzheimer’s. She mentioned the apricots because they came from her mother’s tree. The book is a meditation on how we remember things, and it’s lyrical and beautiful.

Apricots are easy. They make sense to preserve–their season is short and sweet, and in the winter a jar of honeyed apricot halves are a taste of that golden season. I quickly worked through my box, and like Solnit I also made jam. I dried some too. But there was another kind of surplus in the garden that I had never much tried to preserve: greens. Tons and tons of greens. Chard. Dino kale. This weird cross between dino kale and red Russian kale. I way way overplanted. When I had the goats, this was not a problem. Goats love greens–they are rich in calcium and taste delicious to the caprine palate. But the goats are gone, and my chickens aren’t that interested. I made a mistake, I realized, and needed to transform the greens before the aphids took over.

I did three things.

One. Kale salad. Massage finely cut kale with salt and lemon juice. Eat. Repeat. You’ll feel like a shiny new person. Your bowels will thank you.

Two. Kale chips.
rawkaleMy oven is old and the pilot light runs really hot. It might be 200 in there. Just as an experiment, I picked a bunch of kale, washed it, stripped out the stem, drizzled the leaves with olive oil, and stuck the pan in the oven.
The next morning, the kale was crispy and dessicated. Delicious. I added nutritional yeast (hippie dust) and sea salt. What a great snack for a road trip when I don’t have access to fresh kale.

Three. Gundruk*. This is from Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation. You pick kale or greens and let them sit out in the sun. Then you beat them. Then you cram the greens into a jar. Then you put this jar in the sun for a few weeks. gundruk

What? I thought, that sounds gross. There’s no salt added. I thought for sure it would become an aerobic stinky pile of slim. Oddly, I opened the jar a few days in and it smelled kind of sour, but not rotten. Kind of fresh and green. It needs to ferment a bit longer, will give the gundruk update.

While I crunched on my kale chips, I recognized how different this process was from the apricot processing. It wasn’t about preserving something–to recall a fond time. It wouldn’t really make sense to try to bottle kale because I can grow greens year round. The chips and the gundruk is about transformation. But then I remembered another part of the Solnit book: she takes the pits of the apricots, puts them in Everclear and lets the concoction steep for several months. When she pours off the alcohol, it’s turned the color of apricots, and tastes wonderful–just like…almonds.

*Here’s more about gundruk from the charming nepalese website we all nepal: “Gundruk is fermented green vegetable (leaves). Allow mustard, turnip, radish, cauliflower, etc leaves to wilt for one or two days and then shred (unevenly cut into small pieces). You can use Sometimes roots of the plants too, but not all the plants, raddish or turnip, etc. You can mix roots of radish with the leaves and smashed together. Don’ make it too small while smashing.

Put those smashed stuffs into a wooden, earthenware or in glassjar very compressed. Close tightly the mouth of the container. Put it in safe and sunny place. It may be placed in an open place. Don’t check it often. After few days let’s say 3 days check the acidity (sourness), you can know if it is ready from it’s strong smell.

Dry it then under the sun. After few days take it off the sun and Taste it. If it taste Gundruk, you are done. Mix it in any vegetable and eat it. Don’t try to cook it. You can’t cook Gundruk.”

Summer Calendar of Events

Hiya! So in the interest of getting organized and getting the word out, here’s a list of events at Ghost Town Farm this summer and into fall. Note that I will have a pumpkin patch this year–probably about 30 pumpkins for kids (and adults) to harvest for Halloween. I’ll also continue to have honey extraction demos. I might do a class or two in the future–let me know what you’d like to learn (chickens? cheesemaking? jam-making? canning tomatoes?)!

July 5: Farm Stand. Fresh produce for sale! Honey extraction demo. 5pm-7pm
July 6: Open farm day. Tours on the hour (10:15, 11:15, 12:15), mulberry tasting, produce for sale! 10am-1pm

August 2: Farm Stand. Fresh produce for sale! 5pm-7pm

September 28: Open farm day. Tours (10:15, 11:15, 12:15), fresh produce for sale! 10am-1pm

October 4: Pumpkin patch and farm stand. Fresh produce for sale! Honey extraction demo. 4pm-6pm
October 5: Pumpkin patch and open farm day. Tours (10:15, 11:15, 12:15). Fresh produce for sale, pick a pumpkin for Halloween. 10am-1pm

Where: All events will be held at 28th street and Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland

Sunday workday canceled

Seems like Sundays aren’t working for people. I’ll just do far stands and tours for the summer. Check back next week for the new sked.

First Friday

Ok, maybe this is a bad idea. But here we go. I’m going to have my first farmstand since the whole City of Oakland debacle. Do you remember that time? Was it really 2011? And there I was selling rabbit pot pies and chai made with…goat milk? Yes. And then the city came to me and said: you can’t grow produce or raise animals on this commercially zoned lot without a conditional use permit. And I was pregnant and so hormonal. Then you! you! dear readers came to my rescue and donated enough money for me to get a conditional use permit. The smallest donation was 50 cents. The largest $300. Thank you you good people. Then it took the city about a year to finalize everything and I had the permit in my hands but I was by then deep deep in motherhood, the kind that was all-sapping, and no-sleeping.

But now Frannie’s 18 months old, the garden is busting, and honestly, that beehive needs to have some of its honey taken away or I’m in for a swarm. And it’s Oakland First Friday art night. So join me…

When: Friday June 7, 5-7pm
Where: Martin Luther King Jr Way & 28th Street (look for the abandoned building, the street names fell off the stop sign. Well, it was knocked off by a car, I think, because the stop sign is bent and the street names landed in the garden–where they are now being used as a sort of decoration. Until the city needs it back. Let me know, guys, OK?)
What: Farmstand selling rhubarb, carrots, beets, beans, herbs, and books (signed copy of Farm City for Father’s Day gift?)
What else: Honey harvest! I’m going to pull some frames and show people how to extract honey.

See ya Friday. If you donated money for my permit, let me know, and I’ll give you a hug.

Sunday work day: Yes!

9-11am tomorrow (June 2).
663 28th street (the sign fell off, though, so just start looking once you see the abandoned building).

we will be pulling weeds!

oh–and the farmstand on friday will be at this same location. should be fun, i’ll do a full post in the next few days.

Announcing…New Work Day: Sunday

Due to popular suggestion, I’m switching Farm Work Day to Sundays, 9am-11am. Swing by if you can. Bring gloves and water bottles if you’ve got ‘em. See you this Sunday, May 26. The farm is at 663 28th street, at MLK in Oakland.

Also, a quick teaser: I’m going to have my first Farmstand on June 7. More on that later, but I’m dovetailing with Oakland First Friday art night. The stand will probably open at 6pm and go til 8pm. I’ll have zucchini, beets, carrots, herbs, rhubarb, greens, honey, t-shirts, and books for sale.