Oh wow, it’s May. If there’s anybody in the world who can explain to me how time has passed so quickly in the year 2013, I’d love to buy them a drink while they fill me in. Tomorrow is our first farm dinner of the season. Jim’s cooking a feast at Happy Boy Farms in Hollister, our new tour crew is making packing lists and slowly trickling into the Santa Cruz area, I’m nursing an addiction to Heritage O’s, a Cheerio-esque cereal made of spelt and kamut flour…there’s A LOT going on!
It was almost a year ago that our 2012 traveling tour crew took a field trip to Hollister with Jim for a hang gliding lesson. I remember Molly kept calling it “hand gliding”.
So amazing. You fly like two feet in the air and you feel like you own the universe.
I’ve been trying to think of ways to initiate our new tour crew. Like, quirky yet helpful lists, things I wish I knew before hitting the road for six months, ways to make the initial smushing of six people who don’t know each other into a rental house, a pickup truck and a life together less…awkward, I guess? Less daunting?
But there’s not really much I can say. They’ll be fine. We were fine! What I can give to them, to you, and as a reminder to myself, is a list of some of the more exciting and obscure ingredients we saw featured on farm dinner menus last season. It will be interesting to see what changes this year. What vegetables chefs decide are like the super special, obscure, most secret, most nuanced, best vegetables EVER. What heirloom variety of corn South Carolina is cultivating these days. What funky, oxidated wines are coming out of California.
It sounds like I’m making fun of it all, but it’s completely the opposite. This is what excites me the most. So, I’d like to share with you a condensed glossary, essentially, of fifteen of the most interesting ingredients compiled from the 90 menus from last year’s farm dinner season. Enjoy, skim, whatever. Here’s to more weird stuff in 2013!
Orange wine: Not actually as interesting as it sounds. Orange wine is made from white wine grapes that have been macerated for an amount of time with their skins. The resulting wine has an orange pigment and subtle tannins from the skins of the grapes.
Sweet cicely: An herbaceous perennial. The leaves are used as an herb, with an anise-like flavor.
Calçots: A type of green onion that looks and tastes like a leek. Calçots are traditionally eaten in the Basque region of Spain, where they are grilled and dipped in romesco sauce.
Glasswort: Sea beans! You’ve probably seen them. They thrive in saline environments like seacoasts and salt marshes. They are crunchy, green and SO salty.
Chiltepin: Tiny, chile peppers native to North and South America that are extremely hot.
Chinese long beans: A vigorous climbing annual vine. The beans are about half a yard long.
Mulefoot hogs: A heritage breed of hog, descended from Spanish hogs brought to Florida in the 1500’s. They have a high fat content, and are good for high quality ham.
Hakurei turnips: This was one of the most popular vegetables on farm dinner menus in 2012. Hakurei turnips are small and white, with a nice sweetness.
Milk thistle: A flowering plant of the daisy family, with antioxidant effects. The leaves make a good spinach substitute!
Peppadew: Sweet, piquante peppers grown in the Limpopo province of South Africa.
Tropea onions: A red onion produced around the village of Tropea in the Calabria region of Italy.
Shungiku: Chrysanthemum greens! David Chang loves these. They are real good when sauteed.
Muskmelon: A species of melon that includes honeydew, cantaloupe and some lesser known varieties such as casaba and Santa Claus melon.
Trifoliate orange: Native to China and Korea. The flesh is very bitter, and perfect for marmalade.
Bloomsdale spinach: An heirloom spinach variety that is SO GOOD. It’s heartier and more substantial than generic spinach.