What I Learned at the Lexington Farmers Market This Week

Delfino, a finely cut cilantro

Delfino, a finely cut cilantro

The Lexington Farmers Market is my University of Food and Agriculture. Every week I do a bit more coursework, earn more hours, and learn juicy, crunchy bits. All the credits, though, go to the growers. From this week:

Cilantro can be citrus-y. Mark and Velvet Henkle of Henkle's Herbs & Heirlooms introduced me to Cilantro Delfino. It tastes like cilantro with something added. Velvet and others says this feathery herb adds a citrus flavor to cilantro.

Here come greens in winter! Velvet and Mark will have greens all winter at the indoor Lexington Farmers Market, thanks to their large high tunnel (hoop house), now nearing completion. Soon they will have a greenhouse as well, heated by a wood-fired boiler. Mark says they will start all their plants in the greenhouse. They grow all their astonishing array of tomatoes and other veggies from scratch. Eventually they plan to grow hydroponic tomatoes in their greenhouse. All this planet-friendly season extension cheers me greatly, and I cheer Mark and Velvet for their energy and fine work.

Turkeys are different from chickens. Chicken lay eggs nearly every day, and some lay eggs all year long. Turkeys, says Ambi Stone of Elmwood Stock Farm, lay eggs during a short, single four-week season in spring, and that's that. Naturally, the eggs come when Nature dictates. Elmwood raises all their heritage turkeys from eggs their own turkeys lay. In some years, the timing of the eggs and the subsequent hatching can make it difficult to get the turkeys to Thanksgiving size by the all-important fourth Thursday in November. This year, Elmwood has about 150 turkeys that will be ready for the holiday, all raised organically, and all raised on pasture. About half are heritage types, and half are a broad-breasted breed. Signups are now underway.

Not every baby is sweet.Roland MacIntosh of Paw Paw Plantation sold me a bunch of the baby turnips so cute I thought of passing out blue and pink candy cigars. I am a turnip novice; I live with a turnip connoisseur. He likes them small and sweet. Roland says turnips outgrow their baby stage so fast he has begun planting them closer together to extend the time available for harvesting small ones. He also said even small turnips are not always sweet—but this year's crop is. My turnip expert and I can affirm this. Scrubbed, peeling left on, roasted in a little olive oil with some other root vegetables, Roland's sweet turnips gave me hope I will learn to like this very Kentucky vegetable yet.

Stress can give garlic a pain in the neck. Blue Moon Farm's Jean Keene has coached me on garlic for home planting this year, just as her man Leo has done in years past. Garlic thrives in our home garden, so this year the Gardener and I want to diversify beyond the prolific hardneck Music variety we have planted and enjoyed the last several years. Jean suggested California Early, a softneck variety (no central stem, no scapes).  Both Music and California Early are good keepers. As Jean and I calculated how many heads of garlic I would need for planting 50-60 plants, Jean said, "Each California Early head will have a lot more individual cloves than the Music, and will look very different inside." I said, "Oh, right, no central stem." Jean said, "Well, usually not. Under stress, though, even a soft-neck garlic like California Early can put up a stem." Garlic registers stress by growing something it shouldn't grow? Flabbergasted. People, let's all get some rest and live within our biological means. Give health a chance.

"Brown" material for your compost, free at Third Street Stuff. Technically, this learning came a few hours post-Market, in my backyard, but it is valuable for urban composters, so I want you to know about it. Community farmer and Seedleaf jefe Ryan Cook says anyone can pick up free"brown compost material" (finely ground sawdust, in this case) at Third Street Stuff, beside the green bins. Most urban composters struggle to maintain a good supply of brown material like straw, hay, dry leaves, newspaper, and sawdust to balance our "green" food scraps. Brown material helps with smells, insects, and overall compost health. Brown is beautiful. Free brown? Brilliant. Thank you, Ryan and all the Seedleafers who lift, package, and transport the sawdust to Third Street Stuff so the rest of us can shine at composting.

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