News and blog
If you're reading this update, a grocery store near you recently pulled California peaches off its shelves because of a recent lysteria contamination.
Should local Giants, Aldis, Trader Joes, Costco's etc. be stocking peaches, plums etc from California? Well, if people buy them, they'll continue to sell them. A better question, should these stores stock peaches while local products are in season? Well... again, California peaches will always be cheaper because they've got the economy of scale on their side. A lot of people are looking to buy cheap peaches. Georgia, South Carolina the same - they can grow peaches cheaper in these places than we can. When people want cheap fruits and vegetables, these grocery stores will sell them. However, lysteria is no laughing matter so that could start to make an impact on people's buying decisions as well.
So, there's a reason that cheap food is so inexpensive and this week's recall is a prime example of this. But what can we do to lower the cost of food? Well, as French grocer Intermarché has done in this video(embedded below), we can reduce food waste. The third largest chain of groceries in food-crazed France introduced the concept of "inglorious fruits and vegetables" - oddball and somewhat ugly produce purchased directly from local growers and offered to the public at a discount. The idea was a huge hit and produced measurable impacts on their receipts AND in reducing food waste. How cool it would be to see these super markets replace the shelf space one occupied by recalled California peaches with local, "inglorious" fruits and vegetables? That sounds like cheap(er), healthy, safe eating that we can all get behind.
It takes a lot of good people to make us successful. And certainly, Shane is a big part of our success at market! When you see Shane and Lauren at market, thank them for their hard work and see what he's "arted" from our produce this week! Also, check out his Instagram feed for updates on produce art , it was recently featured in American Fruit Grower magazine!
What Is FarmFan?
We stand on the edge very edge of exciting new products at market, folks! All in the running for weekend market table debuts include: kale, head lettuce, chard, rhubarb, and strawberries. Of the five, rhubarb is the best bet for sure-fire inclusion, but it's coming down to the wire on all of them. If your'e a regular reader of our emails and blogs, then it's important to you what's shaking around the farm here. For that we are extremely grateful - you're the reason we put such long hard hours in every week. We also can keep in touch with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for those who are social media savvy.
In addition to these steadfast "known entity" ways to keep up with your favorite fruit farm, we offer FarmFan (click to sign up) as a new way to be in the know. Whereas it's hard for me to contact you in regards to your specific market with an email, Facebook status, Tweet or instagram (save #HHmkt, #FOTSmkt), this new option allows me to but a very timely market-specific produce update right in the palm of your hand. When blueberries are few in the early season and it's going to be a massive disappointment to get ready to go to market and arrive only to find they're already sold out, FarmFan is a way you can get the "inside track" on the items that we'll have and figure out how to prioritize your time - get to market super early, or catch a coffee with a friend. It's no more than one text per market day and we would never in a million years be able to live with ourselves if we abused your phone number - after all, we've safeguarded your email all this time, haven't we? Just another option for the truly dedicated farmers market devotee to stay one step ahead of the produce-hungry masses!
As the warm sun begins to shine down on us, the familiar white canopies of our local farmers’ markets begin to pop up around our neighborhood parks. This is our indication that spring has arrived and fresh vegetables are becoming readily available. Like blossoms on the trees, asparagus shoots begin to show their stalks from below the soil.
As I look outside today, the rain has not stopped. By the end of the day tomorrow, it will be the third continuous day of rain here in Adams County, PA. Our asparagus will be reaching for the skies.
Get your grills ready, and your propane tanks filled, because our asparagus will be growing like grass on your lawn!
For those of us who love eating this rich, nutritious vegetable, we can thank the Greeks and the Romans centuries ago; they ate it fresh when in season and dried it for the winter months and later preserved it by freezing. They have long since eaten it for its unique flavors, texture, and medicinal qualities. Scientifically named as asparagus officinalis, it can also be referred to as speargrass, esparrago, asparago, and sparrow grass.
Asparagus is generally available year round in most grocery stores and markets throughout the country; however spring is the best time to buy it fresh locally. Although available commercially, it is of less quality than purchasing it from your local farmer. Shortly after being picked, asparagus begins to lose its sugar causing it to become more starchy and tough. The best time to eat your asparagus is within a day or two of being picked. Many ask the question of how it should be stored once purchased. Asparagus is related to the lilac flower, so when storing, cut about a half inch off the bottom and place into a cup or jar with water and cover the tops loosely with a plastic bag.
Many foodies these days are always trying to find the next best (or best looking) edible to dress up their culinary plate. That’s why if you’re lucky, you may be able to find the elusive white asparagus. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the white asparagus, it is a more expensive and labor intensive asparagus grown by depriving it from the sunlight. As the tips begin to break through the soil, farmers must continue covering the plant with soil to prevent the development of Chlorophyll. Using a special tool, workers can dig and cut the white asparagus from the ground; however, after harvest they must be kept in a box away from light (note: white asparagus is not a variety). Purple asparagus is another ever growing variety, mainly sought after for its coloring; it is more tender and has a slightly sweeter, fruiter flavor. After prolonged cooking, the asparagus will lose its coloring and turn green.
For most consumers in the U.S., the green-colored variety of asparagus is the most common type found in grocery stores. When selecting your bundles, look for stalks that are rounded with firm stems. At the tips, be sure the colors are a deep green to purple with closed tips. As the plant matures, they do get wider in diameter. Thinner asparagus, also referred to as sprue, don’t tend to have as much flavor and substance as thicker diameter stalks; but if you go to thick, they can tend to be a bit tougher and woodier in flavor.
So, the question remains, why should we be eating more asparagus? Well, it’s no different than any other reason why we should be eating more fresh vegetables. It’s nutritious. Asparagus is a great source of fiber and protein, which are both essential for digestion and the immune system. It contains multiple vitamins such as A, B, C, E, and K. Add a few more letters, and the asparagus is one of the healthiest vegetable to eat. The health benefits are endless; anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants, digestive support, blood sugar regulation, and anti-cancer benefits name just a few.
Well, sure it’s healthy, but some may be wondering if you should eat it because of the smell of your – you know what. You will be happy to know that being able to smell this pungent odor is very normal, well, half normal. Only 22% - 40% of the population have the sensitivity to smell it. As the asparagus digests in your stomach, the sulfuric amino acids break down in to a smelly chemical compound called asparagusic acid that can actually be detected up to 15 minutes after you eat. It’s ok, whichever way you smell or don’t smell, you should still be eating asparagus!
By now, you may be asking, what’s the best way to cook and eat my new bundle of asparagus? There are so many options where do I begin? Grilled, sautéed, roasted? I think the simplest and most delicious is to grill them over an open flame. Drizzle the asparagus with some EVOO, salt and pepper and put them on the grill; add a grilled steak or chicken and some mashers and dinner is served. Not in the mood to grill? Do the same prep and roast them in the oven for at 400 for 8-10 minutes and it’s just as good. I love to cut up asparagus and add them to my omelets in the morning for a rich flavorful breakfast.
Here are a couple of recipes that I have used that can help get you started on your own asparagus journey.
For a great start to the day check out this filling morning omelets recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/spring-omelet/
For those of you who love the cooking on the grill: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/grilled_asparagus/
If you have a lot of mouths to feed and short on time, here is an easy kitchen prep: http://natashaskitchen.com/2012/04/13/baked-asparagus-with-lemon-butter-and-parmesan/
Three Cheers for L.E.A.F!
It took a lot of work, sweat, blood, and tears to bring this family farm into its seventh generation of stewardship. In respect of that fact and the privelege I feel, as a seventh generation grower, to have a farm to inherit, we try to give back whenever we can.
And in so doing, we find the rewards come back to us threefold! A fine example of this was our participation in the first season of Project LEAF. Friend of the farm Heidi Witmer has been putting years of effort into getting this project off the ground and, in our opinion, she hit it out of the park. The kids were outstanding and asked terrific questions - they were so engaged when they came to visit us. They worked hard and learned a lot - making cases of value added products from a wide range of our "secondy" farm products. The dinner they served and prepared for the final LEAF Feast was epic and delicious.
I've always said, more than the food, more than the lifestyle, more than pride I feel - the community I work in nearly always wins out as "top perk of the job".
We were honored to host the preeminent International group of tree fruit professionals to our farm this July, 2013. Here's a slideshow of some photos documenting the tour!
Our first ever farmers markets in Philadelphia occurred way back in July of 2007. At the time, one of the few things we had for sale were tart cherries, a crop we've grown in high volume since I was about three years old. We were blown away with how excited people were to have these fruits, 28 acres or so of which comprised my "back yard" growing up.
But never in my wildest dreams did I expect these humble, yummy nuggets to receive such fanfare! Perhaps the word is out on their nutritional benefits, perhaps folks just learned to eat them fresh as snacks as I did as a child. Regardless, check out just a few of the noteworthy uses and destination for this, the 2013 crop of tart cherries.
- How about Baltimore's pioneering, phenominal, every-bit-as-good-as-advertised Woodberry Kitchen? <one of my all-time favorite, must-eat-here restaurants>
- Zagat Survey in Philadelphia touted our crop of tart cherries to be the best thing they that weekend!
- Philadelphia's Ritz Carlton "10 Arts" chose our cherries for their menu this year
- Through our partnership with Zone 7, Three Springs produce made their NYC debut at such establishments as Print in Hell's Kitchen, Angelica Kitchen in the East Village, Light Horse Tavern in Jersey City plus a slew of cool-looking joints in Brooklyn too numerous to mention (which, truthfully, might be where I'd like to taste these cherries).
- Chef Brian Ricci at Kennett (more destination dining/big friend of this farm) made a big batch of cherry mustard which must be tried the next time I brunch there after Headhouse!
- Chef Valerie Irwin at Geechee Girl Rice Cafe in Mt. Airy (Philly) will be out of her cherries quickly seeing as how they won't open until Wednesday dinner service and there were already mobbed by swarms of hungry would-be diners when I made my delivery today (Monday), thanks to the feature on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
- Talented South Philly Brewmaster Sean at Mellody Brewing Company has his cherries pitted and ready to brew in this year's vintage of the highly appetizing Sour Cherry Patersbier!
- The @3springsfruit #cherrytour in #Philly proudly made stops at the storefronts of some old friends (Weaver's Way Coop, Greensgrow Farms, Fairfood Farmstand at Reading Terminal market) and some new ones too (Swarthmore Coop, Teens 4 Good, Oyster House, Christina Maser Co., and Sweet Elizabeth Cakes).
- As always the bulk of our tart cherries were sold to Knouse Foods Cooperative here in our backyard to make Lucky Leaf and Musselman's brand cherry pie filling, using this handy method:
- The Cooperative provides us the means by which we can provide you with another year's supply of this customer favorite:
So, now that we've plumped the ego of one of our favorite fruits, we'll have a hard time living with them until next June/July when they'll bask in the glow of the superfruit spotlight once more. I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. Demille!
In 2008, Three Springs was a vendor at the inaugural year at the short-lived Harbor East farmers market. When that market was shuttered, we promised our good customers there that if we had the chance to return to the area, we would.
When that opportunity arose in 2011 to join the Fells Point Farmers Market, we jumped on board. When circumstances necessitated our exit from that market before THIS season, we vowed to return to Baltimore for the right opportunity.
The opportunity has finally come around! Starting this Thursday, 6/13/2013, Three Springs will be back in the Land of Pleasant Living for the opening of the Pratt Street Farmers Market. This market is producer only, a quality missing in many other Baltimore markets. We'll be selling our tasty, farm-grown wares on at the plaza at Pratt and Light Streets from 11am-3pm each Thursday until September 26th! We can't wait to see you there.
And LET'S GO O'S!
... said the farmer/music guy quite nerdishly:
I was at the Guster show in Lancaster and thinking to myself how I hoped our agriculturally rich Central PA area would represent well and provide some delicious local farm nourishment for these folks, a few of the most environmentally conscious touring musicians there are - speaking of Guster. In an idle moment after Jukebox the Ghost's opening set, I fired off this tweet:
To which I receive the following response from Ryan Miller himself:
Leading to many pork belly/quail egg references during the show (for the record, it's one of my favorite John J. Jefferies small plates as well). Thanks for an awesome night of music, and thanks for the kind words about our "so damn charming" area
It's hard not to be overwhelmed by health fads-every other minute some new detox or diet appears in magazines, blogs, and government PSAs. Many times, a company capitalizes on the new research and the entire health hemisphere is whipped into a frenzy-remember POM Wonderful-the pomegranate based company, or the acai berry craze? I have nothing against either fruit, they do have fantastic health benefits, but for people on the East Coast, those fruits aren't local, they can be incredibly pricey, and the carbon footprint on them is mind-boggling.
I would suggest that you substitute tart cherries for the tropical fruits. If you have escaped the tidal wave of information about tart cherries in the last 3 years, you impress me. It seems like every month a new piece of information on the nutritional qualities of tart cherries is published-so hats off to the tart cherry industry-you are doing work.
Adams County natives have always relied on tart cherries as staples for classic pies, jams, and beverages. Sadly, with the advent of processed foods, many Americans across the country lack the know-how to preserve their own fruits and vegetables thus making produce like tart cherries, hard for customers to purchase because of their sour taste. It isn't commonly eaten raw like sweet cherries, and if you are going to bake with them, you have to wash and pit them. In a generation that wants instant gratification, why would they bother to add more work into their schedules?
Well, here's why you should bother:
You can find tart cherries (TC) locally on the East Coast. Pennsylvania produces a small amount (3.3 million pounds in 2011) of TC in comparison to Michigan (157.5 mill lbs), the biggest producer of TC in the US, but that still means that your local farmers' market is very likely to have a TC grower. Expect them in early summer, generally mid to late June. As sweet cherries are more widely consumed, many growers sell most of their TC crop to processing plants like Knouse, where they become pie filling. If you know that one of your farmers' market vendors grows TC, call and ask them about ordering ahead and the growing season. If you live in an agricultural area, ask a grower if you can glean from his orchard after harvest. (Always ask first before going into someone's orchard. Would you want an unannounced stranger in your flower bed cutting roses for their person use?)
Besides PA on the East Coast, NY also grows TC, 7.8 million pounds in 2010. If you live in the Midwest, Michigan and Wisconsin are your go to TC states-again, Michigan is firmly in the lead with 135 million pounds grown in 2010. On the West Coast: Oregon, Washington, and Utah are the states to find tart cherries. Now, I am sure you remember the hullabaloo from last year's crazy warm weather and then terrible frosts during spring-it decimated the nation's cherry crop. Michigan had 157.5 million pounds in 2011, and only 5.5 million in 2012. PA went from 3.2 in 2011 to 2.5 million in 2012. The only states that escaped unscathed were the West Coast-they had the best year of their life in terms of cherry sales.
Now for the news that you've been waiting for, the nutritional benefits to consuming TC.
According to the Self.com nutrition data analyzer, TC are "very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Copper, Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin A and C." Per pitted cup of fruit, you can receive 40% of your DV of vitamin A, 26% of vitamin C, 8% of Potassium, 8% of Copper, and 9% of Selenium. You get 10% of your DV of Dietary Fiber in one cup. The analyzer then scores the fruit based on its nutritional results. The TC was given 4 out of 5 stars for weight loss, 4 out of 5 starts for optimum health, and 2.5 stars out of 5 for weight gain. You should remember that most of the calories (of any fruit) do come from sugars. If you are interested in more info, visit the site yourself!
Furthermore, TC are being touted as possessing the "highest anti-inflammatory content of any food" and has been linked to assisting people suffering from osteoarthritis to manage their pain. Researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine in San Francisco studied 20 women ages 40 to 70 with inflammatory osteoarthritis and found that "drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers – especially for women who had the highest inflammation levels at the start of the study.
"With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it's promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications," said Kerry Kuehl , M.D, Dr.PH., M.S., Oregon Health & Science University, principal study investigator. "I'm intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – especially for active adults."
The antioxidants in TC are called anthocyanins and have been compared to well known pain medications in their ability to reduce inflammation. A small study even showed that drinking the juice could "improve the antioxidant defenses of older adults." This is big news for anyone suffering from joint pain, especially athletes, who know that wear and tear on joints can be both excruciating and halt a career. Visit the report here.
If you'd like the comprehensive report on tart cherries go to this website. Click on the Red Report.
If you are leery of reports published by marketing boards-hold the phone. These organizations exist because small and large growers alike need to fund research in our defense. Instead of spending your time on contesting negative media, why not commission scientists to see if what we grow has nutritional worth? That's the thinking behind creating marketing boards, and for me, without the PA Apple Marketing Board and US Apple, the apple industry would not be where it is today. People wouldn't know about the benefits of apples-you'd only hear one side of the story-so please, consider that.
If you still want a second opinion, then you are in luck. Joe Cannon has a Masters in exercise science and a BS in chemistry and biology. He has a blog called the Supplement-Geek where he reviews hype surrounding health issues. After Dr. Oz covered tart cherries, Joe Cannon did his own research. Visit his site for the full she-bang. What I like about this website is his scientific commitment to the truth. Whereas Dr. Oz freely advises millions after small studies are published, Mr. Cannon begins researching. Mr. Cannon freely admits that there is a lot of possibility for TC, but more studies should occur for definitive results. The really interesting part of this particular post, though, is the comment section. Lots of readers wrote in about joint pain and its reduction after taking TC pills or drinking the juice. As a woman behind the stand on many occasions, I can truthfully say that many of customers who suffer from gout drink our tart cherry juice passionately. I cannot speak personally for the sleep aid suggestions, as I fall asleep regularly. But I have spoken to a couple customers who drink a little before bed. I have found that drinking cherry juice can reduce cramps ladies, and that makes it a Gift from God.
So here's what I am taking away from this information, TC are a local fruit that contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties; you get a good dose of vitamin A and C in one cup, it has a decent amount of dietary fiber, it tastes great, and current research shows that its benefits will grow as the number of studies increase.
I eat fries, which have none of the good things listed above-so I feel a lot better physically and mentally when I choose to eat local tart cherries rather than fries, or cherry flavored candy and soda. That alone makes it worthwhile for me to eat.
So if you are interested in adding tart cherries to your diet, raw and in juice form, stop by our stand at any of our farmers' markets in June and pick up a pint or two!