Back in April I helped plant potatoes at Fair Weather Farm at Fairhill along with Nancy, the farm’s owner and a couple of other guys also participating in Fair Weather’s work share program. The past several weeks, I’ve also spent several hours plucking potato beetles off the plants. It’s really hard work but I am convinced that every single person should spend at least one full day out working in organic fields tending to the soil, planting seeds, combating pests and thistle and harvesting vegetables. If every single person could experience the labor of love, the sweat and aching muscles, the patience required to wait for plants to bloom and produce vegetables then no one would ever waste or complain about the “cost” of organic food ever again. Now that I’m off my soapbox, back to the topic at hand. The potatoes are just now making their way into the CSA shares and it’s been an exciting adventure for me to learn what it really takes to produce a potato.
Aside from appreciating the source of my food, working at Fair Weather Farm at Fairhill has profoundly impacted the state of my depression. While waiting for our house to sell in Springfield, I basically lived alone in a rental near downtown Elkton surrounded by white walls and cardboard boxes unable to find employment. I slipped into the worst bout of depression I’ve had since middle school. I shut down entirely and barely felt alive. After moving into our new home last November I felt a bit more hopeful but the depression still clung to me like the snow out on our pine trees in the back yard. I gained weight because I drank too much and spent nearly every day completely stationary self loathing. I just felt miserable all the time. Then at the end of April, I began spending Wednesday mornings at Fair Weather working my ass off in the fields. Through my aching back and sweat soaked clothes I began to release my depression and changed my attitude about my self worth. Now I’m there two days a week and look forward to being out in the fields. I’m socializing again; I am starting to feel healthy and I want to feel healthy for the first time in almost two years. I suppose in a way the transformation I’m going through since working in the fields at Fair Weather is sort of like the potatoes I got in my work share this week. I was buried in the dark soil of depression, then I started to push through towards the sun but still had to struggle against the pesky weeds and bugs of my bad habits. Now I’m starting to produce real results of change and my life is starting to thrive again. I feel happy with my present and hopeful again about my future and it all started with planting the humble potato.
Everyone at the Fair Weather works hard every week for every single ounce of produce harvested. Personally I love it and highly recommend spending time with your local organic farmers. Get connected with your food and raise awareness in your community. And if you need something to believe in like I did, why not give a CSA a try or volunteer a bit of time so you might better appreciate what it takes to put food on your plate. I guarantee just one day working out in a field will forever change your perspective on the source of your food. And who knows? Joining a CSA or actually getting your hands in the dirt might also help you pull yourself up by your boot straps like it did for me. Plus the hot sun, the bugs, the weeds, the sore muscles, the sweat all made the potatoes I had last night the best damn potatoes of my life!
Check out FWFF and their CSA options at http://www.fairweatherfarmfairhill.com/
Potato Chickpea Curry
8-10 Fair Weather Farm organic potatoes, diced
1 can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 lg sweet onion, chopped
2 cups organic almond coconut milk (or milk of choice)
1 cup water
2 black cardamom pods
2-3 teaspoons turmeric powder
2-3 teaspoons Garam Masala
2 teaspoons curry powder (I’m currently using Penzeys Maharaja curry powder)
1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 dried Chile de arbol, optional
2 teaspoons Ghee (clarified butter)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Garnish: Fair Weather Farm organic parsley or chopped cilantro
Heat the Ghee in a cast iron skillet over med heat. Add the cardamom pods and chopped sweet onion. Salt and pepper the onions then saute a few minutes until onions are translucent and tender. Add the milk, water, Chile de arbol and remaining seasonings and stir to combine. Add the potatoes and simmer about 30 to 40 minutes until the broth has thickened and potatoes are tender. Remove and discard the cardamom pods. Stir in the chickpeas and turn off the heat. Adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately over Basmati rice and garnish with Tomato Chutney, if desired.
2 cups water
1 cup Basmati Rice
1/2 teaspoon of Ghee
5-6 threads of Saffron (I’m currently using Penzey’s Spain Coupe Grade), optional
Salt and pepper to taste
In medium sauce pan with a secure fitting lid, bring the two cups of water and Saffron threads to a boil. Stir in the Ghee, salt, pepper, and rice then cover with lid and reduce heat to lowest setting. Simmer the rice about 25-30 minutes without lifting the lid. Once all the water is absorbed and rice is tender turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit about 5 minutes more. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve immediately.
4 large organic tomatoes, quartered
4 Fair Weather Farm organic garlic cloves, chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 small pinch of raw organic sugar
1 tablespoon EVOO
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
about 10 cumin seeds
2 teaspoons Garam Masla
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
4 dried Chile de arbol, optional
1 teaspoon Ghee
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the tomatoes with the EVOO and salt and pepper. Add tomatoes to a foil lined baking pan and roast in the oven about 45 minutes. Once roasted remove the tomatoes from the oven and set aside. In a small dutch oven over med heat add the Ghee, mustard and cumin seeds. Have a lid ready because the mustard seeds will literally pop right out of your pan. Once the mustard seeds begin to pop, lightly cover the pot with the lid until they stop. Next add the onion and pinch of sugar. Salt and pepper the onions and saute on low heat until they start to slightly caramelize about 15 minutes. Next turn heat back up to med and add the roasted tomatoes and any juices from the pan. Mash the tomatoes with a potato masher until they are the consistency of canned crushed tomatoes. Add the dried Chile de arbol, if using. We like our tomato chutney extra spicy. You could also sub a pinch of dried chili flakes for a milder heat. Continue simmering the chutney until the tomatoes have thickened about 30 minutes. Serve as a garnish with your favorite Indian cuisine or as a spread with Garlic Naan. I pretty much could eat tomato chutney on anything.