The farmers and the cooks: recipes from Vineyard spring gardens

Potato and kale latkes. — Photo by Alison Shaw

Catherine Walthers is a private chef and cookbook author. Her new book, with Alison Shaw, “Kale, Glorious Kale,” will be published by Countryman Press in September.

Just days ago, it was hard to believe that anything green would ever come from the earth. But spring, reliably, has arrived; the smell of dirt, and green and growing is in the air. Soon enough, Island gardens will yield spring crops — baby salad greens and arugula and chard and kale and asparagus. Lucky for us, Island farmers and cooks shared their favorite spring bounty recipes.

North Tabor Farm

At North Tabor Farm in Chilmark, planting is in full force in the greenhouse preparing for this spring. New from the farm this year will be bags of three different kinds of baby kales – great for kale salads – as well as bags of both up-Island cress and tatsoi. Farmer Rebecca Miller says tatsoi is a great alternative to spinach and they hope to educate customers to its uses. The farm’s stand on North Road – always open – also features the mixed baby salad greens and arugula North Tabor is known for, as well as the shiitake mushrooms available when temperatures climb over 50 degrees. Here’s one of their favorite recipes:

Poached Eggs over Wilted Greens and Shiitakes

Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
1 1/2 cups North Tabor shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
2 eggs
2 cups arugula or cress

1.    Heat the oil and butter together over medium heat in a skillet. Add the mushrooms and saute about 5 minutes, until cooked. Season with salt.

2.    Meanwhile, bring a saucepan or skillet with 1 ½ to 2 inches of water to a bare simmer . Crack the eggs one at a time into a small dish or ramekin and gently slide the egg into the water. Poach for 2 to 4 minutes. (?? any help here in poaching directions)

3.    Place the greens in a strainer and pour about a cup of the boiling water over the greens to quickly wilt. Drain well.

4.    To serve, place the greens on a plate, top the egg and a portion of the mushrooms. Season with salt.

Cook’s Note: If you haven’t poached eggs before check the web for general suggestions.

Green Island Farm

Turn at the greenish-blue egg on State Road across from the West Tisbury Ag Hall for Green Island Farm, open year-round 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Eggs are reliably available from their 450 chickens. Starting mid-April into May, look for tender young chard, kale, spinach, and their specialty baby lettuces. Some of the 16 to 20 lettuce varieties include Speckled Amish and Flashy Green Buttercrunch – bagged and ready to enjoy. Owners Roy Riley and Susie Middleton are doubling the size of their vegetable garden this year, and increasing the flock to between 600 and 700. Susie shares her vegetable expertise in her latest book, Fresh From the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories, helping us in the kitchen with the produce we purchase here and elsewhere. Read her regular posts and recipes at and try a Swiss chard and cheese quesadilla below:

Swiss Chard and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas with Pepper Jack Cheese

Makes 4 quesadillas, or 12 slices total

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions (12 ounces), thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
4 cups thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves (from 8 ounces of chard, stemmed)
Four 6-inch (fajita-sized) flour tortillas
2 cups (6 to 7 ounces) coarsely grated Pepper Jack cheese (or Cheddar)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Heat the oven to 200°F if you want to hold each quesadilla as you make it. In a small bowl, combine the sherry vinegar and honey.

In a medium (10-inch), heavy nonstick skillet, melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the onions are very limp and a light golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (Turn down the heat as needed if onions are browning too fast.) Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the Swiss chard and a pinch of salt to the pan and toss with tongs until wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and drizzle over the vinegar-honey mixture, tossing well. Transfer the chard-onion mixture to a plate to cool a bit and wipe out the pan.

Return the pan to medium heat and add 1 teaspoon olive oil. When the oil is hot, add one tortilla to the pan. Sprinkle a small amount (one-eighth) of the cheese over one-half of the tortilla. Cover that with a quarter of the chard-onion mixture and a sprinkling of cilantro (if using). Top with a bit more (another eighth) of the cheese. Fold the empty half of the tortilla over onto the full side and press down lightly with the back of a spatula. When the bottom of the tortilla has lightly browned, 45 seconds to 1 minute, turn the quesadilla over and cook until the other side is browned (and the cheese is melty), another 45 seconds to 1 minute.

Transfer the quesadilla to a wooden cutting board and let cool for a minute or two before cutting into wedges. (Alternatively, you can hold the quesadillas in the warm oven.) Let the pan cool for a couple minutes. Return to the heat and repeat with remaining filling and ingredients.

Recipe from Fresh from the Farm, by Susie Middleton, available now.

Morning Glory Farm

Fresh asparagus picked daily is a specialty that awaits us at the opening of Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown on May 1. The Island’s largest farm stand also plans to have salad greens, spinach, bok choy and tatsoi – grown in high tunnels. Expect new batches of pork and beef, plus eggs, new and better breads, and even an early crop of tomatoes by May’s end. Look for a new cookbook this summer, titled Morning Glory’s Farm Food: Stories from the Fields, Recipes from the Kitchen. Each chapter is devoted to a specific crop. Here’s a sample of farm chef Robert Lionette’s roasted asparagus.

Roasted Asparagus

Thick-stalk asparagus will work well with this technique, yet might require a bit more roasting time than the ‘pencil’ thin spears. Peeling the ends of the asparagus is not a necessary step for roasting.

1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped off, washed and dried
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt


4 ounces tender pea shoots
1 leek, white part only, cut lengthwise, then across 1/4-inch thick
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh chives, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse or country mustard
3 to 4 turns fresh black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper (optional). Lay the asparagus across the pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the spears begin to caramelize (brown).Remove from oven and pour off      excess oil and liquid into a sauté pan. Place over medium-high heat and add the leeks. Sauté for 5-6 minutes or until the leek soften, but do not turn color. Stir in the mustard and vinegar. Increase heat to high and add the shoots. Toss thoroughly and remove from    heat. Add the chives and pepper.Place the asparagus on a serving platter and spoon the pea shoot mixture on top.

Recipe from Morning Glory Farm, Chef Robert Lionette

Ghost Island Farm

Expect lots of kale – 13 different varieties – plus salad mixes, arugula, spinach, pea shoots, scallions and other spring offerings at Ghost Island Farm on State Road (also the site of Nip ‘n Tuck Farm). Farmer Rusty Gordon is busy putting up greenhouse number seven to increase overall production for the farm stand and the farm’s CSA co-op where members pick up produce and other items at a discount whenever they want. Opening is set for Memorial Day weekend, possibly a bit sooner. His goal this year is to double the CSA co-op from 100 to 200 members. Learn more at

Potato Kale Latkes

Makes about 18

2 pounds Idaho potatoes
3 cups kale, stalks removed, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely minced onion (about 1/2 onion)
1/4 cup flour
2 large eggs
Olive oil, peanut oil or butter for cooking

Dill Sour Cream

1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish (optional)
Salt and fresh pepper

1.    Place the chopped kale in a large bowl and add 2 teaspoons olive oil and 2 pinches of salt. Massage kale for 2 to 3 minutes. If it seems moist, use a few paper towels to absorb any excess moisture.

2.    Peel the potatoes. Either grate the potatoes with a box grater, or quarter lengthwise and use the shredder attachment on the food processor. You should have about 6 cups. Place grated potatoes in a bowl of water for 10 minutes or so.  Line a bowl with a clean kitchen towel or two layers of paper towels. Lift the potatoes out a handful at a time, squeezing out the water with your hands over the soaking bowl as you go, and place into the clean towel or paper towels. Save the bowl with the soaking water and potato starch, and let potato starch settle to the bottom (this might take a few minutes).  Squeeze the towel to soak up excess moisture from potatoes getting them as dry as possible. Add potatoes to the kale, along with the minced onion.

3.    Pour off the water in the soaking bowl, leaving white potato starch at the bottom of the bowl (there will be up to 3 or 4 tablespoons). Add the eggs and flour to the starch, and mix with a fork. Add this mix to the latkes. Season with salt.

4.    Heat one or two large skillets (non-stick work nicely) over medium high and coat the bottom with about a tablespoon of olive oil or a mix of olive oil and a little butter. Pack a 1/4 measuring cup with the potato-kale mix. Unmold into the skillet, without crowding, and gently flatten each with a spatula. Pan fry until latke is golden, then gently flip and cook the other side, about 10-14 minutes in total. Repeat with the remaining latkes. (Sometimes I make a test latke to help find the right level of salt). Place latkes on a baking sheet lined with paper towels in a 200-degree oven to keep warm, until ready to serve. Serve with sour cream mixed with the chopped dill and horseradish.

Recipe from Kale, Glorious Kale, by Catherine Walthers, coming out fall 2014.

The Greenhouse

“Learn, grow and connect” is the idea behind the Greenhouse in Oak Bluffs (behind Dick’s Bait & Tackle) featuring local, organic vegetables available for U-pick all winter and spring. Warm, inviting and filled with rainbow chard, multiple varieties of kale and collards, baby lettuces, mache, even radishes and cherry tomatoes, the 2,000-square-foot greenhouse and non-profit (formerly known as COMSOG) is a community gem where members and non-members can visit any day and fill up bags of fresh produce for dinner. Learn from master gardeners and work alongside fellow gardeners on volunteer days culminating in a free lunch of soup and greenhouse salads.  The Greenhouse also sponsors gardening workshops and festivals, including their Earth Day fest [spring fest? ] on April 12 and  heirloom tomato seedling sale on May 10, the week before Mothers’ Day. Learn more at

Green Goddess Salad and Dressing

Serves 4

Green Goddess Dressing:
1/4 cup plain yogurt (preferably whole milk)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs such as a basil, dill and/or parsley
Salt and pepper


6 cups baby salad greens, watercress or arugula, rinsed and spun dry
Spring radishes, thinly sliced
Spring red onions, thinly sliced
3 to 4 eggs, hard-boiled (optional), quartered

1.    Place all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until the dressing is creamy and herbs are incorporated.

2.    Place the salad in a wide bowl. Mix lightly with desired amount of the dressing (you’ll have some leftover). Top with radishes, red onion and eggs.