May you always be blessed with plenty of nutrient rich foods to create with, eat, and share. Thank you for supporting our small family business and local farmer friends.
Picture by Victoria Curtis and Ross Grogan, from their garden.
May you always be blessed with plenty of nutrient rich foods to create with, eat, and share. Thank you for supporting our small family business and local farmer friends.
Picture by Victoria Curtis and Ross Grogan, from their garden.
I don’t have a recipe to share for my chili. I can only list the ingredients I used and a few methods. What I really want, is to share what I used, and thank the local farms and my friends. From finding fresh curry leaves at the farmers market, to my Husband asking me to put fresh strawberries in chili one night, everything came together from the inspiration that surrounds me. I got second place in the traditional category, even though it was quite untraditional.
Here are the ingredients I used and what I did.
Santa Rita Farm Heirloom Tomatoes~ In the summer when the tomato season was at it’s peak and the flavor was best, I vacuum sealed and froze bags of them.
Grass fed ground beef and grass fed bison stewing meat. The beef is from Novy’s, and the bison is from the guy at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. I’ll post the name of the farm once I go back and ask.
Fresh Curry Leaves~Coleman Family Farm ~ I infused olive oil with the leaves and crushed garlic. I let the garlic burn. Poured the oil in a bottle, straining the garlic and curry leaves out. I used the infused oil to marinate the bison over night.
Padron peppers and jalapenos~ Santa Rita Farm~ I made a chili paste after roasting padron and jalapeno peppers. Roxanne even gave me one lucky red padron.
Habanero Hot Sauce~Sage Mountain Farm~ I made my own habanero sauce with habaneros, poblano peppers, garlic, carrots, vinegar and salt.
Chantrelle Mushrooms~ Santa Monica Farmers Market
Heirloom Sweet Potatoes~Milliken Farms~Everyone loves their heirloom sweet potatoes. They are special and I had to use them.
Jerusalem Artichoke~Coleman Family Farm~I was aiming for the artichoke flavor and unique texture, but I cut these too small and it seemed like it was just all sweet potatoes.
Rind of Limes- Etheridge Farm~I added a lot of this to the chili, but I couldn’t taste it in the end.
Sweet Onions and Heirloom Garlic~Milliken Farms~Best Ever.
I topped the chili with fresh strawberries from Tamai Family Farm.
I topped that off with habanero lime whip cream I made. (no sugar in the cream)
Why whip cream? For one, I love organic pastures raw cream. I thought about sour cream, but I didn’t want something store bought. I usually put some homemade mayo on top when I make chili. Then I thought, “some people are scared of raw eggs.” So whip cream came to mind. “Can I make a savory whip cream?! That could be totally weird.” So I tried it. With a lot of Lime juice, and a few spoon fulls of homemade habanero hot sauce, it tasted awesome. And since I was already planning to add fresh strawberries, it just made since to top whip cream on it.
Tamarind chutney~The one non local ingredient, but this one idea was bugging me. It really seemed like I needed some tangy tamarind in the chili. I really liked it. I would’ve just use tamarind paste, but chutney was all I could find.
I wish I had the chance to have a bowl, every bit of it was devoured by others.
Here’s a funny story on this years cook off, and a real chili recipe, from SkinnyGirlsandMayo.
~Brown the meat first.
~Use the beer before adding in stock and stuff. Pour it in with the browned meat, onions, and garlic, and cook it until the beer is almost all evaporated. Then pour in stock.
~Let the stewing meat cook about an hour before adding the ground meat and vegetables.
~Add tomatoes in later. I put them in on the last hour, without the skins and juices.
~Kudzu powder or some kind of sauce thickener. With kudzu, you have to let it dissolve in a little water first and then add it in, or it will clump.
I met Debby a few years ago, when she was new to the LA market scene. Ever since then, “The Garden Of” has been my first choice for lettuce in our farm boxes. They’ve been harvesting their own heirloom seeds for over 30 years. They take extra effort in the health of their soil, beyond organic standards. When you taste their beautiful vegetables, you can tell they are growing from their hearts.
A few weeks ago, I was heading out to pickup produce from two farmers by myself. I began heading in the direction of Hollywood, when Debby called.
“Kali! Our truck has a flat tire and we’re stuck in Thousand Oaks! We could be here until tomorrow, we have no idea. You should come get your order here at the truck.”
A part of me thought, ” I should give them a little time and pick up from JR Organics at their Mar Vista Booth first.” Instead, I went on my way to Thousand Oaks to meet up with Debby.
I was just a mile away when Debby called again.
“Kali, how close are you? We got the tire, and we need to make a mad dash to the Hollywood Farmers Market, and your whole order is at the front of the truck, it would take us an hour to get everything out, to get to your order!”
I was happy they were going to make it to the Hollywood Market, and all the food they harvested was going to be sold. phew! Also, I was holding back that part of me that was a little concerned, that our boxes would be delivered later, and going through all the logistics in my head, getting in touch with our crew, and thinking about what to tell our customers.
“That’s ok, I should’ve listened to my intuition and gone to Mar Vista first.” I told her I loved them, and it’s all part of the comedy of life. Then turned around, and headed on my way to Mar Vista before Hollywood.
Once I got to them at the Hollywood Farmers Market, I was 5 minutes ahead of them, and an hour behind schedule. All vendors were already set up, and selling for the past hour. Shu opened the back of the truck and I came to help them unload along with several other people at the farmers market. More people started stepping in. Everyone was excited and happy to help out, and immediately customers were grabbing at their vegetables, as if they had been eagerly awaiting Debby and Shu’s arrival. Debby was busy selling, Shu handed us crates. People were adorably inspired, taking video of us, and saying things like, “It takes a community!”.
I was secretly hoping people would be impressed by my ability to carry 50 lb crates of potatoes by myself. That didn’t seem to happen, but a girl, stopped me to say how much she loved my pants.
I wanted to take a picture of this beautiful communal scene of people coming together for a very special small farm, but I had to make a mad dash to get our boxes made, once I had finished helping Debby and Shu get set up.
Today, In Topanga, a friend asked me if I ever pick up at the Hollywood Farmers Market. I said, “Yes, why?”
“I think I saw a picture of you”. He then showed me a picture on instagram. My back was turned, and I was far away.
“How did you know that was me!?”
“Because of your pants!”
So now that I have the picture, (thanks to the pink pants) I get to show and tell about that beautiful morning when so many people pulled together for Debby and Shu, who deserve loads of praises for everything they do.
If you didn’t hear the story about a random piano abandoned on the top of the hill in Topanga, the mystery was quickly solved, that it was put up there for a music video shoot. Some locals had mixed feelings, some wanted to rally together and make some music, some felt that leaving an out of tune piano on the top of the hill was irresponsible and the crew should be fined for littering. Nonetheless, I’m always up for a hike, and we took a little family adventure with our rare sub-tropical fruits, out to see a rare siting of a piano atop the hill. Yes, it was out of tune, and 6 keys were broken, it’s possible some day it’s destined to fall down the hill and create a big mess, which sounds pretty awful, but a piano on a hill is beautiful. I had never seen so much graffiti in Topanga. This is an area I haven’t explored in the 6 years of living in the canyon. The hike going up there had graffiti on the rocks leading up to the watch tower. Topanga Graffiti, “Love Yourself!” At least, there were some good messages. People were already carving initials and messages, and putting their stickers on the piano. It was a very touristy type of scene. Somehow I imagined, we would just encounter a few locals, playing music together, the way we like to gather in Topanga. Someone referenced me once as the connoisseur of fruits and veggies, when I said I must come off as a food snob. I just really love knowing the people who are so passionate about the food they grow and share with us. It moves me. I’ve come upon the very best fruits I didn’t know existed, like babaco papaya, surinam cherries, jaboticaba berries, pink guavas, and ice cream beans. I light up and experience foodie bliss! When I take a bite, I think about all the people who would fall in love with it too. I feel lucky to know a few exceptional farmers, growing rare sub-tropicals with so much love and passion. I’ve listened to their struggles with all types of issues from the drought, to the weather, to paper work. They keep going, in spite of the struggles, and it warms their heart to be appreciated. If you order a paradise box, just know that the fruit has a mind of it’s own, the weather will decide if we have passion fruit one week, and none the next, but through the year we’ve been providing sub-tropical fruits, there were only a few weeks in the winter that we had to hold the paradise orders, due to to low volume of fruit. To order a paradise box with seasonal, local, sub-tropical fruits go to our website. http://www.savraw.com
JR Organics has yellow squash for us, for this Sundays farm box. It’s unexpected this early, exciting for our bellies, and at the same time, a call to our attention about the sunny winter we just had.
During last years beautiful and sunny winter in January 2014, we visited Etheridge Farms to learn more about the effects the drought was having on his farm, and get his insights. It was sprinkling when we got there, which was nice, but he lightly joked, saying, “it’s kind of like going to a bar and getting flirted with, no big deal. It’s not going to do that much good, it really isn’t. It’s a good start, yes. It hasn’t rained since December 7th, that’s 54 days by the way. This is not really rain, this is more or less a trinkle.”
It didn’t do much to help with their water situation. Gene and his family have been working on building a deeper well since that winter, which has slowed their plans to start their organic vegetable farm, as well as causing a few challenges with some of the fruit.
Gene Etheridge has been growing organic fruit for over 30 years, his wisdom, passion, and excellent fruit has compelled us to stand by him for years, supporting his farm every week.
Before the drought, I had collaborated with Gene about some of the exciting heirloom vegetables we would like them to grow for our farm boxes. Those plans have really slowed, due to the drought. On the lighter side, it seems that more people are growing gardens at home and in their communities, like the Kiss the Ground project in Venice.
Which brings us to rain barrels. It’s the first day of Spring, and we’ve spent most of the day planting veggies in our garden, from the heirloom seeds we started. It’s not too late, or too early to get prepared and get our rain barrels from Aquatopanga, for next winters rain. We’ll need them.
As Gene said, “I don’t think it’s a water problem, I think it’s how we use the water, so we need to find a way to be very efficient.”
Aquatopanga is a new supplier of rain barrels, which was set up in frustration when faced with the difficulty of finding quality rain barrels locally.
They have a stock of recycled rain barrels that qualify for rebates and will help you claim up to 100% of the cost. Mention SavRaw when you contact them for a $10 discount on each barrel.
Also, if you share this post and refer your friends, you’ll get a $10 credit on your SavRaw account for each barrel your friend buys. Have them mention your name when they contact Aquatopanga.
or call 805-231-7420
Drought has become a fact of life here in SoCal, which makes gardening all the more of a challenge. Just last week, LA county announced that it is going to enforce watering restrictions and fine people who water more then twice a week. However, there is hope at the end of the dry tunnel – rebates are now available to help gardeners conserve water in rain barrels for next to nothing. Nearly all water companies and most cities offer rebates to enable you to install up to 4 rain barrels per household – these barrels attach directly to your downspout so your whole roof becomes a rain zone collection zone, resulting in gallons of water from the slightest drizzle.
Maybe I’m a little obsessed with food, especially new fruits and vegetables I haven’t tried before, but when it comes to healthy, vibrant, rare tropical fruits, and biodynamic greens, I can’t imagine anyone not jumping for joy over it. I get such pleasure to not only make this incredible food available to people who love it, but to express our love and appreciation towards the people growing it. For a long time, it’s been very rare for me to buy a mango, coconut, or papaya at Whole Foods. I’d rather not, but sometimes, I gotta give in to my sons’ longing for some mango slices for school.
However, just recently I found the most incredible small farms, growing sub-tropical fruits in southern California. I want everyone to know that when they’re taste buds are craving something a little exotic, they can do better then picking up fruits at the supermarket. We have growers local to us providing the most wonderful varieties of tropical fruits you won’t find at the store. Some fruits I didn’t know existed. When you find something so rare, pure, and delicious wouldn’t you want to share it?
Here’s some of what I got to see.
Jaboticaba Berry Tree
It was dark out, but here’s what it looks like. The berry’s grow on the branch, not the stems! It’s so cool!
One of my new favorite things is, Babaco Papaya! The way it looks growing on the tree, the way it tastes, awesome!
The first coffee plant I’ve ever seen in person. I had no idea coffee could grow out here. I also didn’t know that I could eat it like a berry and spit out the bean. Excitement overload. This was before I saw the banana tree! I’ll take a picture of that next time.
The last picture I want to show you is some delightful little veggie treats from Skyline Organic Farms in Topanga, Certified Biodynamic. Looks like I just harvested lunch out of my garden, but better.
We’re making this available to our members, by creating a box of tropical fruits and avocados, called the Paradise Box. The fruits come in small supply, so we’re very lucky to be able to get this. As far as the biodynamic farm, we’re making a special add on available, where you can get a cute little mix of these tasty, super high nutrient veggies. (example picture is on our website) We cater to many different needs, offer the best available, and are always looking for more wonderful people growing incredible food.
The evening ended with the first fig of the season, a moment to remember. No time for a pic, but I can tell you it was full of beauty. I look forward to that first bite of a fig every year, something I love about eating seasonally.
Every time we start getting into fall produce, people begin to notice the difference in flavor and texture of our local fruit. I reached out to Gene Etheridge, of Etheridge Farms, to help explain more details about what occurs during this time.
“Fall fruit is designed to be firm. If you leave your fruit out hoping for it to get softer (aside from hachiya persimmons) like the fruit does in the summer, it’s not going to happen. More crisp texture and less juice with more mild flavor is the norm. Example: The tangerines will have a green tinge on the outside but it will be orange on the inside and more tart than after the cold weather sets in. Cold weather causes sugar to form and make for a sweeter taste in citrus. At the same time, cold weather destroys stone fruit and makes it drop from the tree. That is why citrus or kiwi can thrive in the winter: stone fruit cannot. All stone fruit gets pollinated in Feb. – March. from that point each type of fruit has its own gestation period. The longer the gestation the “tougher” (harder) it has to be to survive. That is why Fall fruit has less juice and harder fiber, so it can survive the elements. The elements I refer to is the cool, windy, wet spring: the very hot, dry, summer, and the brisk change of going from Fall to winter. The less exposure to these conditions, the easier it is to have a good, juicy, tasty fruit.”
From: Misty Dawn Spicer, SavRaw Intern
Recently, I had a chance to sit and chat with Gene Etheridge of Etheridge Organics and I must say, it was indeed a sweet treat. Genes fruit trees fill our Savraw farm boxes each week with everything from lemons to the incoming nectarines and apricots!
Gene isn’t quite the Q&A sort of guy. With him, a conversation happens. Farming is not so much about staying on top of things, it’s about digging deeper, getting to know the root of a subject matter. After I left Gene, I felt more aware, more in rhythm with my decision to eat local organic food, and more connected to the bigger picture surrounding our choices.
We began our chat by talking about Genes rich history with watching things grow. He was an educator and high school principal for years before he and his wife decided to settle down on a farm to raise a family. Together they raised their 8 children on the farm and quite a few of them are still connected to the fruits of that labor today.
Gene’s son has even followed the Etheridge path to the farm after he and his wife had their first child recently. His brother was just upstairs while we spoke and he received phone calls from daughter and his wife while we were talking. He’d smile when the phone rang and ask me very kindly to excuse him. It was pretty clear once I asked the question “Does your family farm?” that Gene Etheridge is a family man. And he’s definitely a fruit man.
I asked him about his favorite fruits and he began to light up speaking about the many varieties of apples and apricots. “Some make a better jam. Some dry well. It depends. Some apples make a perfect pie using no sugar at all. Get to know your varietals and you’ll have a lot of fun.” He held imaginary apricots in the air, describing each shape. He taught me a lot in only a few moments about one fruit. I could only imagine what taking a class with this guy would be like.
His years in education and have paid off in farming, leading him to currently participate in many aspects of the industry including his current work with the Clinton Foundation. http://www.clintonfoundation.org/main/our-work/by-initiative/alliance-for-a-healthier-generation/programs/healthy-schools-program.html
The lively farmer was nominated to participate with Clinton’s organization due to his “extra credit” work as a principal and teacher. Gene spent years filling his trunk with fresh food for distribution to underserved kids each week. He has spent much of his life connecting youth to unprocessed foods.
According to Gene, though he himself farms organically, he is not necessarily pushing for that agenda right away for America. A true lifelong learner, Gene believes that any connection to whole foods, is good when we see how many youth don’t have access to it. As people are taking more time to learn about the effects of eating GMO’s and processed foods, he feels strongly that folks will naturally float over to the organic side. Learning, to Gene is not an overnight process, much like his choice to be organic.
For years, Etheridge Farms was conventional, until, after the birth of his first son in 1979, Gene allowed another farmer to “take care” of some spotty leaves on his trees while he was out of town. Gene returned to find his trees caution taped off, and sprayed with harsh chemicals while his newborn baby was resting in their home close by. Gene was largely affected by this juxtaposition of seeing such a healthy newborn so close to such toxic pesticides. It gave him food for thought and in that moment of realization, he determined to never again use chemicals. The farm began the process of going organic from that point on.
I asked gene about how he felt about his role in society and he said, “Maybe a superhero,” and chuckles. I’m not laughing at all. Gene is a superhero of sorts. He has dedicated his entire life to bring growth to people, whether it be through education or farming, and now his work in developing both with the Clinton Foundation, this is one multidimensional guy.
“I just like to watch things grow,” he smiled, “whether it’s kids or a tree. I like to watch something succeed.”
He certainly like watching my eyes grow big when I said “yes” to taking some fresh squeezed pomegranate juice for the ride home.
If you’re ever near Dinuba, CA, Gene invites you to pass by Etheridge Farms. Until then, keep enjoying the fruits of Ethridge Farm labor with Savraw! On our website you can even feel free to add on Ethridge figs, almonds, raisins or a great big box of oranges to juice or eat straight away. I can attest that they are amazing, he filled up my hands with a few to go with the juice. What a treat.
-Misty Dawn Spicer
A Conversation with Farmer Phil of Sage Mountain Farms
written by Misty Spicer
As the new intern working with Savraw, it was exciting to get my first assignment. What was even more thrilling, was that the assignment was to travel to one of our most beloved farms, and meet the Farmer first hand. Am I lucky or what?
Last week, I got to travel to Hemut, California and hustle around with Farmer Phil of Sage Mountain Farms, who not only has an inspiring and often humorous take on life, but who also strives within that outlook, to know what needs to be done to feed people despite any obstacle. Farmer Phil is most certainly carrying on a name that his family, and customers can be proud of.
1. When did you become a farmer? (what brought you into it?)
“7 years ago…Well, my dad had a garden when I was a kid and we tended that.”
Fun Fact about Farmer Phil: He worked in insurance before becoming a farmer!
2. Does your family farm?
“No. Well, my son used to help.”
Farmer Phil openly shared his oldest son’s goal to become a professional motocross rider and how that encouraged the family to leave the city life behind and head for the high desert. In between carrying loads of fresh picked produce from his truck to the washing area, Phil took joy in telling me about his choice to support and encourage his son’s dream.
3. You are organic. Why?
“Because it’s the right thing to do for my customers. People give the USDA a hard time, but they are really working hard. If there is something that I want people to know, it’s that the USDA is a good program.
I remember after our first farmer market, a woman came up to me and she said, “Thank you for growing this food. Will you be back next week?” That was the moment for me when I knew we were doing the right thing.”
4. How do you view access to organic food?
“It’s getting better….organic food is a lot of work. A lot. And it’s expensive to maintain.”
For more information on why you should buy organic, please visit Sage Mountains FAQs on their website; http://www.sagemountainfarm.com/faq/faq-about-organic-foods/why-should-i-buy-organic-foods.html
5. What has been your greatest challenge as a small farmer?
“Making money. You would think with all of this food (Farmer Phil point’s to a load of produce being washed by a farmworker) That’s a $65,000 lot right there. You would think it is a money maker, but it’s not. And weather. You see, it’s hard to get everything just right with the weather. I’d also love to be able to take time off. I would love to take my family camping for a weekend. That would be nice. But there’s so much work to be done!”
Farmer Phil asks if he can draw me a picture. I love picture tutorials, so I’m pretty excited! He touches his finger along the window of his dusty farm truck and draws a full diagram of the weather patterns of the region and the difficulty or opportunity in quick weather changes that can occur in Mediterranean climates. Extremely hot days and dramatically cooler nights can be an organic farmers best friend, or greatest challenge.
6. Have you had financial struggles in the industry?
“Yes. We almost shut down last year…We lost 4 crops back to back…it was brutal. I would take the responsibility to say it was in part poor planning. My wife had our baby early and was also in the hospital for a month. So we went through a lot. I would also say it was lack of skilled workers. I pay my farm workers fairly and so it is expensive. We couldn’t afford enough workers.”
Farmer Phil was heartfelt in sharing that Sage Mountain Farms had to file Bankruptcy as a result of the devastating crop loss. He offered to take me on a ride with himself and one of his many lively farm dogs, Jake, who made himself cozy in my lap through the bumpy ride. Phil showed me where the crop loss occurred. He explained that Sage Mountain is downsizing a bit to cope with the sudden financial losses. Crop loss is a difficult obstacle to spring back from for many new farmers. We as consumers can support local farmers by regularly buying their product and eating seasonally.
7. Do you think your challenges correspond with what is happening in the industry at the time? “Yes. agribusiness can do work on a large farm with a few workers and large machines. My farm doesn’t work that way. It takes a lot of work. I’m not putting agribusiness down, I’m not here to do that. I believe it takes all kinds and we need all of it to work. But they can do a lot more work for less money.”
8. Is this a business for you or a passion?
“It’s definitely a passion first. Definitely.”
9. How do you view your role in society? In your community?
“Some people call me a superhero (laughs to himself for a second and reaches down to pet one of his loyal farm dogs). Seriously, I see myself as an important part of the community. There aren’t many organic farmers around here! I see it as carrying on a legacy of American history.”
10. How many people does Sage Mountain feed roughly?
“Hmmm. Good question.”
Phil consults in Spanish with a farmworker who seems happy to answer the question. They agree on about 5,000 people per week. The average farmer, according Americas Farmers feeds 126 people. And according to the EPA, “There are over 313,000,000 people living in the United States. Of that population, less than 1% claim farming as an occupation.” That makes Farmer Phil, a pretty special guy, and the work he and his farmworkers do, an amazing feat indeed.
11. What extra steps does Sage Mountain take to ensure quality?
“We use clean water. (He waves for me to follow him over to a large tub soaking fresh picked chard) Taste that water. That is the cleanest water you can get.”
Farmer Phil was right. I felt like I was drinking right from the waterfall. This was indeed the cleanest water I had tasted in a long while outside of my own grandfathers organic farm. I was in love, yes, with water.
12. You have multiple heirloom varietals. Can you share about some of your favorites, like the amazing Hon Tsa Tai? (which I ate for dinner last week!)
“Want to drive over to the field and pick up a crop?” (*do I ever!)
We take a ten minute or so ride up the winding desert road to another plot of land, surrounded by 80,000 olive trees belonging to a farming friend of Phil’s who passed away this year. He tells me the trees are for sale if I know anyone.
The land is amazing. Every row at Sage Mountain is planted with stewardship and care. The crops look so beautiful, it’s hard to believe that pesticides are out there on the market. Farmer Phil and his pool of talented workers demonstrate through their everyday work the commitment it takes to farm. Phil continues the conversation as we drive alongside the crops of Hon Tsa Tai:
“Well, I picked the Hon Tsa Tai up because it looked like an interesting seed and I knew no one else was growing it. Lucky for us, it is delicious.”
Lucky is right! Hon Tsa Tai (aka Purple Choy Sum) may be new to many of us, but it is a rather well known flowering green with purple stems found in Asia. It is used commonly in Chinese and Cantonese cooking and is outstanding in recipes that call for bok choy. You can also simply quick steam these yummy greens with olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper for a delicious and simple side dish.
14. What is your favorite thing to eat right now?
“Hmmm, that’s a hard one. I love the Hon Tsa Tai for sure, and beets. Mmmm. And the carrots this year.”
I don’t know about Farmer Phil, but all this talk of organic fresh food is making me hungry.
15. If you could close with a final thought to the consumer, what would it be?
(thinks for a second or two) “Follow your dollar. Follow your dollar from your wallet back to where the food comes from. Make sure that your money is going to the farmer, because a lot of time, it doesn’t.”
In argibusiness, food can travel thousands of miles to get to your plate, meaning that your money does not go directly to a farmer, but often to a corporation, a distribution company and a grocer at the least. Buying local and organic not only supports efforts to grow sustainably, it allows farm workers to be paid fair wages for their hard work and allows small farms to stay in business. How awesome!
Through supporting efforts such as Savraw, you are directly supporting local farmers like Farmer Phil and Sage Mountain. Rest assured that your weekly farm box is not only fresh and delicious, your membership eliminates the need to support far traveled food.
For more information on Farmer Phil, or to schedule a tour of the farm, please visit the website: http://www.sagemountainfarm.com/