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morning glory farm

The apple station at Morning Glory Farm features a range of delicious, nutritious options. — Photo by Susan Safford

Driving home in the early December dusk, the headlights pick up fluttering winter moths. They are males (females are flightless) out and about, looking for mates. So far, it does not appear to be a huge flight. The proof will be what happens in spring 2015, when caterpillars begin to feed. Most afflicted seem to be oaks (particularly black oaks), maples, fruit trees, and blueberry bushes.

If I am working in Edgartown, I enjoy stopping at Morning Glory Farm, usually to pick up fruit from the wide selection of apples or pears available there, Island-grown as well as from Carlson’s Orchard in Harvard. Many years I have pleaded with the Athearns, in jest and seriously, to institute a buying club for apple-loving Islanders, after the stand closes.

The standard apple selection that appears in grocery stores across the country is a routine half dozen of the usual insipid suspects. (A visiting apple guru lecturing here quipped that ‘Mutsu’ — large, dual-purpose, yellow apple of Japanese origin — would be one of the most popular apples in the U.S., if not the world, if people only tasted it instead of reading its name!) For those who are considering planting orchard trees, the MGF array, in addition to providing good fruit, provides a teaching and tasting sample. Needless to say, they sell ‘Mutsu’ apples. And ‘Idared.’ And ‘Empire.’ And ‘Cameo.’

Indoor growing

Fresh produce enters a leaner, bleaker period around now, whether sourced from one’s own garden, farmers’ markets and stands, or from the grocery store; and holiday gift-buying is about to go into high gear. Along comes Indoor Kitchen Gardening, by Elizabeth Millard (Cool Springs Press, Minneapolis, 2014, 224 ppg, $22.99) making its appearance at an opportune time.

Millard is organic, practical, and likes to keep things simple. She remains steadfastly committed to showing how rewarding gardening inside your house, on your kitchen counter, can be. This attractive paperback, invitingly photographed in color (one or more chlorophyll-packed images per page), is forthright yet unpretentious, in a style that says “you can do it.”

Although seeds can be sown in standard plastic growing supplies, in the course of her book Millard encourages the reader to look around and utilize more than merely the kitchen counter, with flat-pack shelving, hanging arrangements, re-purposed containers of all sorts, and oddments resting in the basement becoming useful. Millard spends a slim third of the book indoctrinating the reader in the details of growing indoors. Even if you thought you knew all about growing alfalfa sprouts, you will benefit from this section, before proceeding to the nitty-gritty with the sections on microgreens, sprouts, shoots, and herbs.

This mid-portion constitutes about a fat third of Indoor Kitchen Gardening, which is important because research, especially into the area of K vitamins (important for bone health and proper utilization of calcium), has increasingly shown that the nutritional powerhouse of plants and vegetables is actually in the young shoots and sprouts.

Microgreens, shoots, and sprouting — learn the difference from Indoor Kitchen Gardening— is key to unlocking it. (Broccoli sprouts, for example, have been shown to be protective against chemical carcinogens.) Achieving the know-how to produce them for oneself all winter is effective knowledge.

Millard is a hound for good soil. The final third of Indoor Kitchen Gardening is concerned with the production of crops such as radishes, carrots, and tomatoes, which might end up outside, in containers. As such it was of less interest to me, as a grower with a sizeable outside garden, yet this section too contains useful techniques, advice on varieties, and trouble-shooting advice. At the back of the book, in addition to an index, there is a list of resources.

I recommend this book for two reasons: the amount of encouragement it supplies, and the nutritional security of growing something for yourself, as much as possible. Indoor Kitchen Gardening will get you motivated and spells out how to advance beyond alfalfa sprouts.

Garlic rescue

Which factors contributed are unknown, but purchased hardneck seed garlic as well as my own garlic did not keep very well this year. When I went to plant, I found one or more softened, or browning, cloves in each head of garlic.

It was a big disappointment. When you garden long enough you experience poor crops as well as good ones. Quality in vegetables (including keeping quality in storage vegetables) comes from all aspects of their production — soil-seed-harvest — start to finish; so at any point along the life cycle of these heads of garlic something less-than-ideal may have intervened.

Fortunately, David Geiger, the Island plantsman, shared his recovery technique for this unwelcome turn of (garlic) events. This is the way he rescues garlic cloves rapidly approaching the “use-by” date: “I knock all the garlic cloves out of their skins, put them into a vessel to roast them as you normally would roast garlic, covering them with olive oil and cooking the whole mass, 350F for 45 minutes or so, [and then] store it in a container in the refrigerator so you can just scoop some out whenever you want it. Lasts months.”

In the case of my own garlic, 2014’s crop was grown in the portion of my vegetable patch I consider the most challenged, due to the proximity of a beech tree’s roots that are invading this quadrant of the garden. The tree is causing some early morning shadow too. Perhaps these factors compromised the quality. In any case, having this method to save what I can of my garlic harvest is timely, and I hope others find it useful as well.

New England Wild Flower Society

New England Wild Flower Society (NEWFS) the Framingham-based non-profit, has created a new publication, Native Plant News, whose Fall/Winter 2014 edition contains an examination of the “New Conservation,” a philosophy that pursues partnerships with large corporations and sanctions natural resource extraction. It is worthwhile reading: newfs.org/membership/magazines.

For a treat, nutritionists Prudence Athearn-Levy and Josh Levy cook up a great breakfast for each other. — courtesy Josh Levy and Prudence

Prudence Athearn-Levy and Josh Levy

What do we cook for each other to celebrate?
When we want to cook up a treat, it is usually breakfast. We both love big, healthy and hearty breakfasts. This always involves eggs, most likely 2 over-easy farm eggs with lots of sauteed fresh-picked greens (either from our garden or winter greenhouse, or from Morning Glory Farm fields or winter greenhouse), beans and/or sweet potatoes, spicy peppers like poblanos (that we roast and freeze in the summer to use all winter), cilantro from our greenhouse and sometimes avocado on top. Josh gets his with salsa and/or hot sauce (our own salsa in the summer, or Mr. G’s hot sauce all year). On the side of the plate we’ll arrange fresh fruit- berries and/or melon in the summer, and Florida oranges or pears in the winter.

Any advice on running a business together?
The most important thing to us, in business and at home, is communication. We would also say always stay humble and learn from each other every day.  Be true partners, both at work and home. Support each other and determine business goals clearly and together. Have a business plan — approach your business as a business and always set work and home boundaries (i.e. bringing work home is fine, but limit the amount of time you do work together at home — unless you work from home — so that you can focus on each other and family when you are home, and work when you are at work). Finally, divide the work! Each person doesn’t need to know every little detail of your work, as long as you keep each other informed and stay equal partners in decision making. Use your strengths and specialize or focus in a few areas that complement those of your spouse. Emphasize, encourage, and highlight each of your strengths and use them to your advantage to build a better business, and in our case, to serve our clients and community better.

Prudence Athearn and Josh Levy own Vineyard Nutrition.

Pete and Jenifer Smyth

Chef Smyth with his wife, Jenifer, and daughters Jocelyn, left, and Shealyn.
Chef Smyth with his wife, Jenifer, and daughters Jocelyn, left, and Shealyn.

What do you cook for a romantic evening with your wife?
(Laughs) We have two kids – there’s no romantic evenings. But I have to say that the thing I like to make if Jen and I are at home and don’t have the kids, is paella. That was the first dish I made for her when we had our first real dinner date at my apartment.

Pete’s Paella

2 lbs. chicken thighs, skin on and cut into small pieces
1/2 lb. chicken sausage sliced thin
1/2 lb. chorizo or spicy sausage
1 lb. shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 lb. mussels cleaned
2 cups of short grain white rice
1 onion diced
1 tomato diced
1 red pepper
2 teaspoons of oregano
1 pinch of saffron
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of thyme chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
1/2 bunch parsley chopped (reserve some for later)
2 lemon zest (reserving one lemon for later)
1 qt. chicken stock
4 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Lg skillet or paella pan
Reserved for later:  1 cup of peas

1. Heat two Tablespoons of olive oil in pan.
2. Salt and pepper chicken and let rest.
3. Add sausage to pan and lightly brown and drain saving oil.
4. Add chicken and brown well making skin crispy. Remove chicken and wipe pan.
5. Add two more Tablespoons of oil and cook vegetables and garlic lightly.
6. Add dry herbs, lemon zest, saffron and rice cooking lightly.
7. Add chicken stock and season with salt and pepper.
8. Bring to a boil and skim any stuff floating on top.
9. Cook for 5 minutes and stir rice well.
10. Add chicken and sausage and cook lightly for five minutes, skimming any thing from top of pan.
11. Cook on low to medium heat for about ten minutes.
12. Add mussels and shrimp making sure to push in rice mixture.
13. Cook for another 5-10 minutes, taste and season mixture with salt and pepper and a little heat
14. Shut off if rice is done and mussels are open. Fold in peas, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
15. Squeeze fresh lemon on top and add the rest of the parsley

This is close to what I made my wife for the first time. I unfortunately have an allergy to peppers so I had to alter it for me. This recipe is the one I use at Slice the couple of times I have made it.
– Pete Smyth, owner, with his wife Jenifer, of Slice of Life Cafe in Oak Bluffs.

Jim and Debbie Athearn

What’s your idea of the Perfect Date on MV?
Jim: Dinner at Outermost Inn or Beach Plum inn and a night in a friend’s
Chilmark camp.
Debbie: Dinner on the beach and sleep out overnight in the dunes.

What do you cook for your sweetie as a treat?
Debbie: for Jim, carrot cake.

Debbie and Jim Athearn say their idea of the perfect MV date includes The Beach Plum or Outermost Inn, and sleeping in the dunes.
Debbie and Jim Athearn say their idea of the perfect MV date includes The Beach Plum or Outermost Inn, and sleeping in the dunes.

How do you stay in business when you live with your partner?
We had identical responses. Divide the business responsibilities so each
knows who is in charge of each area, then defer completely to the authority
of the person in charge. Also, enjoy your mutual interest. When we are on
vacation we love to talk about business, say, on the highway. It’s interesting and we don’t need to deny ourselves that because we are on vacation.

Jim and Debbie Athearn run Morning Glory Farm.