Leo Keene and Blue Moon Farm: Garlic Glory, and Giving Chefs What They Want
Some people in the world of Kentucky food pop up in Savoring Kentucky so consistently they are like those trusted perennials that structure good gardens. Leo and Jean Pitches Keene and their Blue Moon Farm are in that group. I searched this site and stopped counting at 50 posts over the last 11 years. Now we've added Leo's voice to our Hot Water Cornbread podcast collection. Be not afraid! Listen here to the January 31 show. (Click the orange circle/white arrow. Technology does the rest for you, unless you happen to have muted your device.)
During our radio show, Leo tells about becoming a garlic producer with a constant additional job of educating new garlic customers, including chefs. He talks chef talk with Chefs Ouita and Chris Michel. He sketches the story of his and Jean's involvement with garlic and where that led. For one thing, garlic led to more Blue Moon crops, and then marketing Blue Moon crops led to helping other growers get their good food into local restaurants. As we learn from Leo about his work as aggregator, distributor, dispatcher and overall nudger of food from farm to restaurants and home kitchens, we sent big radio-wave appreciation to Chef John Foster, unwavering champion of local farms and their products.**
Jean and Leo moved to Kentucky as antique dealers in the 80s, and changed paths a bit after they began growing their own garlic—who knew it was possible then? Who ate garlic in Kentucky? Thanks to Blue Moon, it's a Kentucky flavor now. Blue Moon alone grows 40,000—50,000 garlic plants each year, with separate harvests of tens of thousands of mild-tasting, easy-to-use garlic scapes.*
If you are a home cook, look for Leo and Jean at the Lexington Farmers Market starting April 1. If you are a chef or bulk buyer of fine local foods, contact Leo at garlic<at>bluemoongarlic<dot>com to become part of his distribution and delivery system.
Bonus for reading this far: here are links to and excerpts from three of many Savoring Kentucky posts about Blue Moon:
Gratitude for Garlic , 2006:
This year when I count my Thanksgiving blessings, I will include the 50,000 garlic cloves Leo and Jean plant by hand in early winter, jump-starting next year's growing season before most of us have finished celebrating this year's plenty. Even more, I will be grateful for Jean and Leo themselves, knowing they may be outside planting garlic as I am buttering my homemade roll. Jean says, "There are many years when we've worked on Thanksgiving Day, trying to get planted before bad weather."
Blue Moon Farm's Jean Keene told me this, so I tried it -- tried it out on other people, too. Yes, the cleaned roots of green garlic are edible. Tasty, in fact. Delicious.
Garlic Scape Pesto, 2011
In the summer of 2011, when my excellent husband's garlic crop first yielded a pesto-worthy quantity of scapes—the flexible, musical-looking pencil-thin green flower stems of hard-neck garlic—I cheekily asked Leo Keene, aka Mr. Blue Moon, how to make pesto with my own scapes. After all, as I told him, it is his fault that my household now plants 16 square feet of Blue Moon cloves near Halloween each year, harvests tender green garlic in March and April, rejoices in an additional tender crop of the scapes in June, and finally pulls an aromatic harvest of fat garlic bulbs out of the ground the following July 4.
*A scape is a stalk hard-neck garlic produces when it forms the intention to flower and produce seed, but smart growers snip that stalk off when it is still tender, with two beneficial results. First, the garlic plant can relax and put all its energy into those cloves that will be ready for harvest in another few weeks. And second, cooks make fine garlic scape dishes like these.
**Go to The Sage Rabbit for ongoing Chef John Foster goodness. Dishes from last week:
"Roasted chicken risotto in a rosemary parsnip cream with shiitakes and spinach"
"Oven roasted Elmwood Stock Farm chicken breast with roasted garlic smashed potatoes, roasted greens and a caramelized rum onion pan sauce."
Note that garlic. Thank you, Leo, Jean, and Blue Moon.