Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

Morels Part II + Going to Market

Hey y'uns. Been a while. My craptop decided it didn't want to connect to the internet anymore, so it got a little complicated getting photos onto a hard drive. Anyway, it's been a really busy few weeks. You might remember last time, we left off when I was about to feast on some morel mushrooms that I found in the backyard. The meal I ended up making was exquisite. I documented some of the process.

I cut the mushrooms up into these little cogwheels.

Garlic, shallot, chives.

Two organic chicken breasts.

The preparation was really simple. I sauteed the morels in european butter (slightly higher fat content) until they gave up most of their water and started to brown just a little bit, then I added some heavy cream, white wine, and a little salt and pepper to make a mushroom sauce. The organic chicken breasts were insanely expensive, but were as juicy as steaks, and this was a special meal that I just couldn't fuck up with some depressing Purdue saltine-thin chicken breast. I fried them up with a little bit of spice, but I wanted the morels and the sauce to be the main flavor in the dish, so I didn't add much. So there you go. A little linguine on the side. A little sauce over the chicken breasts, and...

Daaamn, son.

All of my lettuces, plus the arugula and bok choy are all coming in too fast for me to handle. I've been making huge salads every night. This is the one I made the night of the fungal feast.

One of the best meals I have ever eaten.

I've started going to market, working with my friend Eric, who runs Maryland's oldest organic farm out in Middletown, MD. I do some work for him, and as of last week, I help run his stand at the Dupont Circle Sunday market in Washington D.C. You can sell your stuff for a lot more to Georgetown yuppies down there than you can here in B-more. But, any DC friends, come on over and I'll hook you up. I'll be selling a few of my own plants, plus some ziplock bags of salads and stir-frys that I'll pick tomorrow. Last weekend was my first time down there. I had a blast. I'm really looking forward to going back down on Sunday. All the other vendors cut me really nice deals or just trade me for some of what I'm selling now that I work there.

So here's what's new in the garden.

Aaron got sold. Hopefully my friend Carolyn will take good care of him. I'm going to spend the money I made selling Aaron et al on a keg for a bonfire party next weekend.

It wasn't much money.

It won't be Expensive Beer.

Come & party anyway.

We have some new members to initiate into the garden tribe.

That's (from left to right) Arthur, Kandis, and Ryan. They are all catnip plants. Actually, to be more precise, they are all clones of the same catnip plant. Catnip (and a few other species, like Apples, Avocados and Cannabis) can reproduce asexually, through a process called vegetative reproduction. Basically, I found one catnip plant growing at the end of the winter, I cut it up into little chunks, making sure that each piece had a bit of leaf and a piece of root, and I just planted those in pots with seed starting organic soil mix. These three are all genetically identical.

The tomatoes are getting big big big

I have room for about 20 of these at the most. Hopefully I'll get rid of some this weekend in D.C. Buy some plants!

This is Caitlin, who was just a squirty little sprout the last time she showed up around here. She's a white habanero pepper, and she's been kicking ass and growing up fast.


These have been doing so great lately. I have two varieties. Applegreen and Edirne. These are Applegreens.

These are going to be so awesome. They kick out these long skinny eggplants that are supposed to be extra tender and delicious.

And are green.

Some of the other peppers. That's Gabriella the Corno pepper on the left in the foreground, and that's Aba the Purple Beauty in the back, second to the right. That's all for tonight. Hopefully I'll get to document some of this weekend's market fun. Hope it doesn't rain.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


It's been raining a lot lately. Not today though. When I got home from work, the sun was shining, and I went to do a little weeding in the garden. I decided it would be a good time to look for mushrooms, and I started looking around the edge of the woods. Near a fire pit that I built a few years ago, there is a spot where we roll the burned logs and throw the ashes when we empty out the pit. All around this area, about 20 sq. feet in total, I found about a POUND of MORELS growing WILD in my backyard!

Morel mushrooms are some of the most sought-after and expensive gourmet mushrooms in the world. They cost about $150-200 a pound. They are delicious, and they are one of the only mushrooms whose environment has never been created in a laboratory setting. This means you can't have a controlled commercial morel-growing operation like you can with most other mushrooms. The reason for this is that Morels are incredibly particular about where they will colonize. They only can grow in areas which have been recently burned by fire. Usually, they fruit in great abundance in the aftermath of a forest fire, which is why, after a big burn out west, you can find morel-hunters in the woods shooting each other for these things. I can't believe these are just growing wild in the backyard. The ashes and burned logs from my fire pit must have re-created the circumstances necessary for morels to do their thing. I have no idea how morel spores ended up here, but...


I am going to cook these tonight at low heat with some butter and cream and little fiddlehead ferns that I picked in the woods and almost nothing else because nothing tastes better than fresh morel mushrooms. They do not need to be fucked with. A $200 meal from the backyard. Anyone who comes over in the next 2 hours can feast with me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Barter System + Have You Been Immortalized?

Spring! Even though it snowed for a minute yesterday! Fuck it, it's Spring!

We've been getting tons of rain lately, and the one bed outside that I have planted has really begun to take off. Leeks, onions, garlic, corn salad, swiss chard and pole beans are all beginning to make some moves.

Ok. So here's the deal, my Baltimore people. This Spring/Summer there's a bunch of things I need to gather and a lot of work I need to get done with this project. The stuff I need includes: fencing and posts, anything that will work as a large outdoor planter, compost, topsoil, and a truck to drive around for a couple of days. I will so happily barter some plants, help you start a garden in your kitchen or yard, or will give you some produce later on down the line in the season, if anyone can help me out with any of that stuff.

I also need to get a greenhouse put up. I am still waiting to get one crucial piece before I can start building, but I should have it soon. I need help putting a fence in, tilling out a new shade garden, selling stuff once market time rolls along, and with a lot of day-to-day stuff in June/July when I'm going to be in class a lot. Anyone who wants to put in a little time will be richly rewarded with any of the above-mentioned things I can give you/do to your home.

OKAY so a bunch of you all made it into the garden. This is a double-edged sword, I must warn you. While it will certainly be cute to watch your proxy plant-kingdom self mature through the life cycle, there's a good chance you'll be devoured by parasites, eaten by rabbits or that I will just neglect you until you expire. And in the end, everyone dies or I just sell you to the highest bidder. But I'll save your seeds and bring you back to life in 2010, if you hold it down and grow like a champion this season. With that, here's the first round of new people-plants in the garden.

Aaron, the Flame tomato.

The "Hillbilly Flame" tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum) is an old French heirloom. If any of you know Aaron Reuben, you'd know why a tomato named for its rosy-red coloration and its high stature among hillbillies is apropos for him. This plant is about 4 weeks old. I'm going to start "hardening off" the tomatoes this week. This is just basically a process of getting the plants gradually used to the wind, varying temperature, and direct sunlight of being outdoors, by taking them outside for a few hours a day, increasing the amount of time slowly.

90 days after transplanting, the Hillbilly Flame tomato kicks out fruit (Yes, it is fruit, not a debate) that looks like this. Red and yellow marbled flesh on the inside is the trademark of this variety. I've heard they taste as great as they look. The fruit is a big, beefsteak style of tomato, often 5'' across at the widest point.

Up next, Gabriella, the Corno Di Toro Rosso Pepper.

The human Gabriella is from Brooklyn, but the CDTR pepper (Capsicum annuum) is an heirloom from Italy. It is also called the Red Bull's Horn Pepper. This sprout has just gotten its first set of true leaves. The peppers don't grow as dramatically as the tomatoes, so it might be a little while before these plants look like anything but semi-anonymous sprouts. I'm actually a little worried about how slowly some of the peppers seem to be growing, but at least everyone seems healthy for now. All the same, once this fine lady reaches maturity, she'll look something like this down here.

Them's some good eatin', I've heard. Spicy, sweet and tangy. The peppers only turn red right at the end of the cycle (about 80 days from transplanting) when they are finally ripe. About 8''-10'' long. A lot of the things I read about this pepper say that if you grill it on the BBQ and eat it hot, you will never question the validity of your existence ever again. I don't know about that, but I am really excited to try some life-changing CDTR peppers this summer.

Moving on, this is Caitlin, the White Habanero Pepper plant.

She may not look too wildly impressive now, but this is not a pepper to be underestimated. The White Habanero (Capsicum chinense) is a rather rare variety, which originates from Peru. It is a small, bushy plant that produces 2''-4'' long creamy white chilies. These peppers are unbelievably hot. They have been measured at 300,000 Scoville Units, which is about 10x hotter than a standard Jalapeno pepper. I think I am going to dry and powder a bunch of these once they come in and make an ultra-spicy white hot sauce!

Mmmm... don't those look cool? They can kick your ass too, make no mistake. Avoid jamming one of these into your eyeball without adult supervision.

And the last one for today goes to my friend Aba. Aba is a Purple Beauty pepper.

Aba just broke into her first set of true leaves this week, after a very belated start compared to her bretheren. Purple Beauty peppers are from the sweet bell variety, and when they are ripe, they actually do turn from green to a shade of deep purple-red. I have actually tried this one before, and it is a thick, meaty 4-lobed pepper that is about as sweet as an orange or yellow bell. They are very weather and disease resistant, and they look simply awesome when they are ready to harvest.


More friends in the garden next time. Here's a few pictures of the whole colony as it has progressed over the last week or two.

More soon!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

By way of introduction...

Hello! Welcome to the inaugural post of my photoblog, The Farm City Chronicles. This is going to be a blog documenting my progress as I attempt to raise a crop of organic vegetables, fruits and herbs to sell in Baltimore, Maryland. Though I am a veteran gardener and have grown my own crops in the past, this will be my first attempt at selling my produce for profit. This blog will document the successes and failures I encounter, as well as providing a forum for larger musings and news in the world of organic and local food, and some stories from the front lines.

A little bit of back story:

My name is Patrick. I am twenty-four years old and I live and work in Baltimore. I decided to start this project back in December, 2008. I converted a large chunk of lawn at one of my parent's house into a new vegetable garden, created a new compost pile, and cleared out the four existing gardens for full-scale production. In the basement, I started about 350 seedlings under grow lights.

This is one of the growing tables I have set up. The lights can be raised and lowered individually. Each earthen tray contains about 5-10 seedlings.

I have about 15 varieties of heirloom tomato plants currently growing, and about 150 tomato plants going total.

These are almost all tomato plants.

Here's a closeup of a Brandywine tomato plant about 10 days after sprouting:

The one on the left is named Michele, by special request, for my friend Michele. If you want a plant named after you, let me know, give me a good reason why, and I'll think about it. No promises, you hear?

Besides tomatoes, I have several varieties of peppers and eggplants growing.

These are Applegreen eggplant sprouts. They are an heirloom which produces long, thin zucchini-shaped eggplants which are bright green and shiny like a Granny Smith apple.

These are Corno di Toro Rosso pepper sprouts. The variety is an heirloom from Italy. They grow long, red peppers which are sweet, but also contain capsicum and are quite tangy and almost spicy. Or so I read. I've never grown them before. In addition to these, I am growing several other varieties of hot and sweet peppers.

These pictures were mostly taken in early Febuary. Since then, I have transplanted about 70% of the plants into individual pots and containers. Half of them are in sunny windowsills:

While the rest are still hanging out in the basement under lights.

These are most of the tomatoes from the earlier photograph. Very few seedlings have died on me so far, and almost everyone is thriving in their new location.

Well, that should about do it for an introduction. I'll have much more soon about how I plan to market all this into something at least semi-profitable, my search for grant money to start a new urban farming project in town, plus my adventures with deer-proofing a tomato garden. Here's one last photo of Michele the Brandywine tomato plant in her new home.

If you are interested in buying/bartering some produce or plants from me locally this Spring or Summer, let me know and we'll work something out. I am also looking for help naming this project. Come up with a good suggestion and I will name a pepper bush named in your honor. Much more soon!