Chestnuts and the Holidays: Inseperable

IMG_5792Well it’s chestnut time again. If you want fresh chestnuts for this upcoming holiday season then you need to wake up and get out here. If you are fortunate enough to live in the area you are welcome to come out and pick your own off the ground right under the trees. It doesn’t get any fresher than that. We pick our nuts daily, so that they don’t sit around getting hot, moldy, and old. What we don’t use or sell gets thrown into the freezer, where they keep very well for a considerable time. Because of the absence of any oils in the nut, chestnuts quickly become rancid if not kept cool. If you don’t plan to use them within a few days, simply pop them in a freezer bag and freeze.

Give us a call to set up a time to pick yours. Be quick about it though; supplies are limited and they won’t last long.

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The Sad Truth About Apples

I should have titled this post “The Sad Truth About My Timely Posting of Information Concerning the Beginning of Apple Season and the Availability of Apples,” but that would have been much too long of a title. It does, however accurately describe my total dereliction of duty. Much of the growing season here at High-Fence Farm has come and gone. It sure has been a productive year, and I will try to use that as an excuse to exempt me from my charge of negligence in keeping you abreast of crop availabilities. We have had one busy whirlwind of a growing season.

So here’s the bad news: Our apple season has come and gone. I am so sorry to say that apple picking is over for 2014. Many of you familiar with apple season in the more northern climes are used to apple season just beginning to kick in, but here most apple varieties commonly grown in the south are finishing up. This year has been especially short for us, due to our quirky Oklahoma weather. We had good rainfall early, good rainfall during the early summer, but not-so-good rainfall just as our apples were finishing. That caused an unusually large number of apples falling prematurely.

Here at High-Fence Farm we have a young apple orchard which promises to improve each year. This combined with our ever increasing knowledge base should prove to increase the quality of your picking experience. A couple of our newer varieties coming along are going to be later maturing, so that should benefit some who come late in the season.

The best way to insure you get apples next year is to give us a call in early August. We will then put you on a call-back list to set up an appointment to come out and pick. We would love to hear from you.

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Replacement Tomatoes – Is It Safe Now

Replacement Tomatoes

Is it safe now to set out your tenders – especially tomatoes? Just when you think it is safe, a cold snap will wipe you out. This last Tuesday morning brought us just that throughout most of northeastern Oklahoma, with early-morning lows in the high twenties.

If you got zapped in the wee hours of last Tuesday, we still have plenty of beautiful tomato plants for sale. The old timers would always wait till after Easter to set out their tender vegetable starts. That doesn’t always work out as Easter floats on the calendar in a 30-day range, but with Easter falling about as late as it can I think it’s safe to set tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant out.

We have all of those in a wide variety, so give us a call to schedule a time to come visit. We would love to see you, and help you with your replacement tomatoes.

What to Do?

Past weather records do indicate hard frosts as late as the first of May, which would spell disaster to your tender vegetables. The lesson here is that life gives no guarantees (except that it will be dry as a bone, and as hot as blue blazes in August.) So as you set those replacement tomatoes in it is always a good idea to keep a few used one-gallon nursery pots or large coffee cans/produce cans around to cover your tender plants on those cold nights. Five-gallon buckets work great too. Just remember to uncover them the next morning.

p.s.: No pictures with this post. How exciting does a tomato plant look, anyway? What excites me is to see those red globes of juiciness all over a tomato vine. Come by and get your replacement tomatoes today! Happy gardening to all.

Replacement Tomatoes

Here’s What You Really Want to See.

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Rhubarb Shoots Up Like a Rocket in the Springtime

Rhubarb Shoots Up Like a Rocket in the Springtime
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It’s amazing what a difference just a few days make in the springtime. This pair of photos is of one of our Rhubarb plants. The first was taken about four days ago, and the second was taken today. The first shot was taken much closer, so if I had used the hoe in both shots for a reference, you would be better able to tell the change a few days make. If I hadn’t mentioned it, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the swan-neck hoe in the second shot. It is my favorite garden tool. I generally do not walk out into the garden without it.

Ba20140403-111638.jpgck to the Rhubarb: It won’t be long until it will be ready to pick. Supplies are always limited, so if you want some you had better call and reserve some for yourself today. Traditionally Rhubarb is paired with Strawberries, but I’m not sure where that happens. Certainly not here in northeastern Oklahoma. I’m sure there are plenty of recipes out there on the inter-webs that make great use of Rhubarb without Strawberries. Let us know what your favorite Rhubarb recipe is. We would love to post it for you if you like.

 

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Spring Vegetables to Plant in Oklahoma

20140325-114503.jpgThe calendar doesn’t lie, but the weather hasn’t been fully convinced yet that it’s spring. One day will produce sunshine and 70, while the next will bring 40’s and blustery wind/rain. You can rest assured that it won’t be too long before spring-time temperatures catch up to the spring-time season.

We are already experiencing enough warm days with sunshine that we need to pull some plants out of the greenhouse just about every day. Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and salad crops out tend to get soft and leggy under these conditions. When the sun pops out a greenhouse can get hot in a hurry. With the cooler outdoors and a light-to-moderate wind action exercising their little stems, these vegetable starts toughen up so that they will transition out into the garden without any trouble.

20140327-093311.jpgWell, we have arrived at planting time for those early garden vegetables. In fact, because of the way the weather has been, we have missed the first week or so of early planting. It’s time to get those green salad-type plants in the ground. As you can see by the photos we are fully stocked. Here’s our list of spring vegetables to plant in Oklahoma right now:

  • Broccoli ‘Emperor’ & ‘Premium Crop
  • Cauliflower ‘Snowball
  • Brussels Sprouts ‘Long Island Imp.
  • Collards ‘Vates
  • Spinach ‘Bloomsdale
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Green Leaf Lettuce ‘Grand Rapids
  • Red Leaf Lettuce ‘Red Sails

All of these varieties are well suited to north-eastern Oklahoma, and are recommended by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

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Come out or give us a call this week end. We would love to talk to you and get some of these beautiful plants in your hands and into your garden. Maybe we could even swap Collard recipes.

The salads and greens plants are $1.00 each, and we do charge county/state sales tax. If you want a large quantity of plants then we can haggle over bulk pricing when you get here.

 

 

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Chestnuts and the Passing of a Great Italian Cook

This morning my wife and I were researching recipes that use chestnuts and we stumbled across a great one in Marcella Hazen’s The Classic Italian Cookbook. Going to the internet to dig deeper we sadly discovered that this great Italian cook and author passed away just yesterday. I am ever amazed at the convergence of events. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Hazen family.

On pages 440-442 of The Classic Italian Cookbook Marcella Hazen lists a most interesting desert recipe using chestnuts, titled Monte Bianco, which includes instructions on how to prepare raw, unpeeled chestnuts for inclusion in the recipe. The dessert looks delicious but we’re not sure yet if we will make it–we are still working on perfecting cooking the raw chestnuts for uses in recipes.

Here’s the process we are currently experimenting with:

  1. Take about a pound of fresh chestnuts. You can find a number of sources on the internet, or you can come out for the next couple of weeks and get some fresh from our farm.
  2. Wash the nuts in cold water. It is best to place them in standing water with a teaspoon of household bleach added for each gallon of water for sanitation purposes. Any nuts that float to the top are duds and need to be discarded.
  3. Pull the nuts out of the water and set out on cloth or paper towels to drain.
  4. Place each nut on a chopping board and score the nut with a large x across the rounded side of the nut with a knife. Make sure you make it through the shell, but try not to score too deeply into the meat. This is a dangerous job and great care should be taken not to cut a finger off. This is definitely not a child-friendly activity. Special chestnut knives with a hooked blade are available that make the job much easier.
  5. Place the scored nuts into a covered pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the nuts from the boiling water with a slotted spoon–a few at a time–and peel the shell and skin from the creamy-white nut. This is a hot job but the shells and skins peel much more easily while they are still quite warm.
  7. Place the peeled nuts back int0 the boiling water for an additional 15 minutes to finish cooking.
  8. At this stage the nuts can be incorporated into many recipes such as Monte Bianco right away.  If you don’t intend to cook with them right away they need to be stored sealed in the refrigerator for up to a week or so. They can be kept for months sealed in a container in the freezer.

 

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Chestnuts Steaming in the Microwave

IMG_5792I know the above title would never make a hit Christmas carol, but for us guys anyway, the microwave is the quickest and easiest way to enjoy chestnuts. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Take a sharp knife and cut a dozen fresh chestnuts in half as shown in the photo. Don’t use any nuts with brown streaks in the nut meat, only clear and creamy, as you can see to the right.
  2. Moisten a paper towel and wring out the excess moisture.
  3. Place the nuts in the towel and fold the four corners over each other into a loose package.
  4. Pop the chestnut package into the microwave for one minute. You may have to adjust this setting with a bit of trial and error. The end result should produce a slightly mealy chew. Slightly crunchy means you need a bit more time, and slightly rubbery means you went too long.
  5. Have a small bowl of melted butter handy, in which to dip the nut meat. The best way to extract the meat from the shell is to use a fondue fork. The meat becomes more difficult to extract out of the shell as they cool down, so eat the nuts while they are hot.

There are many other–and more traditional ways–to consume chestnuts, but this is the best for me.

Oh yes, this is chestnut season here, and we have yours waiting for you. Give us a call.

 

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Fall Is the Season for Apples

IMG_5689Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. Pick-your-own apples this year was a big hit. Over the past two weeks we had quite a few families with little ones running all over the orchard. Unfortunately, all of the pick-your-own-able (low hanging) fruit is gone. Due to safety concerns we can no longer allow picking by the public, as all remaining fruit is way too high up in the tree.

We do still have apples to buy for the next week or two, so call and let us know you would like to have some of these delicious on-the-farm apples.

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Summer Means Hot and Hot Means Okra

20130630-082147.jpgThis last weekend we grilled out on the front porch. When the meat’s all done and the coals have died down a bit we always throw on the vegetables. Squash is always a favorite with us, sliced length-wise about a quarter of an inch thick. We only leave them on long enough to get good grill marks on both sides. Any longer than that and squash begins to fall apart. Brush a little olive oil on both sides and season before you place them on the grill. Take them up gently and place them in a pan. Cover to keep them hot until they are ready to be served.

20130630-082136.jpgOne vegetable you might not think about when grilling is okra, and since okra is just beginning to become available this time of year, you should give it a try. It’s almost impossible to get grill marks on okra since they roll around and refuse to rest across the metal, so the main objective is to soften the pods to the perfect point of table consumption. Like squash, okra needs to be lightly coated with olive oil to grill properly. Add a few dashes of your favorite seasoning salt, and toss the trimmed okra in a bowl with a small amount of olive oil. Lay them all out evenly on the grill top, close the lid, and don’t walk away. If you do you are sure to scorch them. After only two or three minutes covered, turn the okra and cover again for just a few minutes, or until they reach your desired texture. Take them up, rush to the table with them and let the feast begin!

We should have a good supply of okra for a good while, so give us a call for a time to come out. We would love to make your next outdoor grilling session a feast fit for a king.

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Rhubarb Is an Odd Plant and Deliciously Tart

20130611-221307.jpgWhat an odd plant! Is it a vegetable, or a fruit? Rhubarb is not everybody’s favorite, but for those who love it there is no substitute. It is very tart by itself, but mixed with strawberries or some other fruit, it makes a delicious dessert. Repeat after me: “Coffee Cake.”

If you are looking for fresh/local rhubarb, we have it, and it is available right now. As with everything we grow, supplies are limited, so get yours while they last. In another few weeks they will all be gone for another season. The price for rhubarb this year is $2.00/lb. and we will wait till you arrive to pick them.

20130611-221315.jpgRhubarb is easy to put up in the freezer. Simply cut up the stalks as if you were about to cook with them, and then store them in freezer bags. Squeeze out as much air as possible and throw them in the freezer. They should keep well that way for up to a year.

Come see us. We will be waiting for your call.

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