Happy Friday, friends.
Some week, huh?
If you seek a brief respite from news out of Washington, DC, this morning we offer dispatches from fields in Boulder, Colorado. So far, at least, we have not encountered evidence that the kale and arugula, the carrots and chervil and mache are plotting an insurrection. However, we do need to check on the Red Russian kale.
The Black Cat farm team today canvasses the portions of our fields draped in white row cover. Beneath the sturdy blankets sit USDA Certified Organic vegetables galore poised for harvesting.
The farm stand at 4975 Jay Road is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. What spectacles of vibrant winter life will weigh down the shelves at the farm stand?
- Tat Soi
- Red Russian Kale
- White Russian Kale
- Lacinato Kale
- Beet greens
- Turnip greens
- Winter onion (scallion, which isn’t really an herb, but we’ll run with it)
- Winter radishes
- Parsley root
In addition to the vegetables, we sell cuts of meat from our pigs and sheep, which graze on organic pasture. We offer prepared foods, like lamb curry, vegetable tagine, pesto and pork rillettes. The stand carries our own breads (from organic grains we grew and milled), desserts, flour and bread crumbs, and local staples like honey, coffee, jam and beeswax candles.
Black Cat Organic Farm grows vegetables outside all year
Black Cat is a year-round farm-to-table operation, combining restaurants and our 425-acre organic farm. Our goal from the beginning (going on 15 years!) revolved around relying on the fields for our restaurant ingredients.
In our steppe-like climate and environment, this demands immense planning, hard work and ingenuity.
After the first hard frost, our fields no longer support things like tomatoes, squash, peppers and cucumber. We harvest all of the above, plus much more, prior to that frost and preserve them through fermentation, our root cellar, sun-drying in our greenhouse, cooking into sauces and freezing.
The frost and the winter weather the follows does not kill all of our greens and herbs, however. Some root vegetables, like carrots, also thrive underground even when temperatures plunge into single digits.
Among the many greens that persist through the winter is spinach.
“It’s the green that carries the restaurant on its back every winter,” says Eric. “I know that sounds odd, but it’s hard to over-value the importance of spinach. It is that important to us.”
If you haven’t tried winter spinach, now is the time. When temperatures drop, spinach roots flood leaves with sugars, which act as a kind of antifreeze. The sugars allow us to grow spinach all winter — yay! — and they also turn the spinach sweet. Cold-weather spinach is the best spinach.
Row cover keeps plants warm enough to survive winter
One of the keys to making this work is row cover. Radiant heat from the soil meets the row cover above, and helps keep the space between the two a bit warmer than the ambient temperature. It also protects the fields from cold winds.
Row cover protects plants from geese, too … that is, until they peck through the fabric and eat everything beneath. A few years ago, we lost $30,000 worth of spinach to geese. Last year the losses amounted to $15,000. In addition, they turn the row cover into something like Swiss cheese. Their beaks costs us thousands of dollars in row cover every year.
This year we are using County-approved fireworks-like tools that are explicitly designed to scare geese from fields. When one of those enormous V’s of geese alight on a patch of row cover, we send forth the fireworks, which scare them away. From what we understand, over time this trains the geese to avoid these fields.
Recipe for easy and delicious spinach salad
If you swing by the stand on Saturday or Sunday between 10 and 5 and pick up some of our sweet spinach, we have a culinary idea. Consider the spinach salad with goat cheese frites featured in our cookbook, “Farm, Fork, Food: A Year of Spectacular Recipes Inspired by Black Cat Farm.”
This warm salad is a cinch to prepare, and marvelous.
We sell the book at the farm stand as well as our online store.
Here’s the recipe.
We look forward to serving you this weekend at the farm stand at 4975 Jay Road Saturday and Sunday between 10 and 5! And don’t forget — on Monday at noon we open reservations for farm dinners for the week of January 18.