Food to Live For

Have you heard?  The latest space station mission included testing on one of my favorite greens that Ryan grows – Mizuna, a mild Asian mustard.  When harvested young, it is tender and subtly warming, but not overly tangy or sharp. I love it with a delicious dose of fat — from that steak, olive oil or a creamy dressing — and maybe some salty, buttery mashed potatoes.

sweet, Spring Mizuna ready for harvest, 2020 (+ that sneaky blade of grass)

“She conducted research in microgravity on Mizuna mustard greens, examining the role of gravity and space on whole-plant health, cellular development and tissue growth. Perhaps [most importantly, she also looked at how growing plants affects human community. Humans bond over food, and being able to grow food in space could be important to social dynamics] during future long-duration crewed missions to the moon or Mars.”

(New York Times, Mary Robinette Kowal, 2/6/20)

This quote seems so obviously to point to the fact that food is probably one of the founding cultural lineages with which humanity has evolved (I am citing my own observations on this one).  The connections that surround the preparation and consumption of food is one of the reasons Ryan began growing produce. Food has always been a foundation in my family — this thing we can learn and teach, this labor that connects us to our traditions, and this offering we can share, even when times are lean.

I connected to horticulture back while studying architecture, and I have come to believe it is one of those holders of our history as mammals surviving in the wilderness. Passing on methods of cultivating local landscapes is vital to our survival as a widely dispersed species. Too often, the colonizing of the world has gutted traditional methods of agriculture and food sourcing, which are well attuned to the seasons, crops and cultural needs of the people. In America, the last century has seen small-scale farms struggle and many fail, while fewer people garden and food is shipped from far across the country. On our farm, we aim to feed and flower local people.

Our practices in the garden and the kitchen shape who we become as people and how we will share that with others in our lives. When we start a meal with tasty fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients, we are that many steps closer to a delicious end result. If you didn’t grow up in a household of happy cooks or experimental eaters, it can really be intimidating to look at all the options at a grocery store and wonder how to get a full meal from it. Ryan has a really simple approach to meals, while I enjoy layering flavors and technique through the cook. So if you are a beginner, try one of Ryan’s classics:

Naked Acre Farm Meal:

+ Protein (usually sausage or ground beef, or whole cuts of meat)

+ Vegetable (broccoli, big braising greens, carrots… pull it out of the fridge, you cook it!)

+ Potatoes, onions

+ additional ingredients: butter, cheese, salt + pepper, oil for pan

Heat fat in pan. If using onion, add and cook to slight transparency. Add protein and potatoes (or other hard root crops — carrots, rutabaga, kohlrabi, etc.). Brown over a medium heat until golden. Season while mixture cooks with salt and pepper (plus whatever flavor you’re feelin, aka what is in the cupboard!) If you notice sticking, add some water or broth. Place lightly chopped green veggies on top and cover. Turn off heat and steam for a few minutes until greens are super bright green (cooked, but not depleted of nutrition).

Now you get to add some grated cheese, more salt and pepper, freshly grated carrot, apple, or herbs…..whatever you think will make all the flavors mesh together to satisfy your tastebuds and your energy needs. Buon appetito!!

and, as always, Cheers!

– G

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