Friday, May 27, 2011

Notes from Nikki-Strawberry Salad with Honey Mint Vinaigrette

As luck would have it, I will have strawberries available today at the Farmstand (2-7PM) and they should also be part of next week's pre-season CSA pick up. Butterhead lettuce and mint will also be part of next week's share; everything you need for Nikki's delicious recipe.

First-of-the-Season Strawberry Salad with Honey Mint Vinaigrette

I don't know about you, but I get positively giddy when I see those first-of-the-season red gems cropping up at local farm stands and markets. On the way back to Kennett Square from Newtown Square today, I made a pitstop at Pete's Produce to purchase some of the tantalizing, blushing berries. They made a perfect accompaniment to the mild, sweet head lettuce from our Inverbrook share this week. Tossed with a bit of honey/mint vinaigrette, and sprinkled with sliced almonds and chevre, it was a match made in heaven. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!


2 small-medium heads of lettuce (something mild and sweet like butter lettuce), washed, torn into bite-sized pieces, and spun dry
Approximately 6-8 strawberries, stems and leaves removed, sliced (plus some whole strawberries with stems and leaves for garnish)
Leaves from two long stems of mint (approximately 12-18 leaves)
6 Tbsp good quality, extra virgin olive oil
2-3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2-3 Tbsp honey
Dash of sea salt
Pinch of fresh ground black pepper
Sliced almonds
Honey for drizzling
Fresh ground black pepper to top it off

1. Combine the mint, olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper in food processor and process until smooth and emulsified. Taste and adjust to your liking (most important step!).
2. Gently toss the sliced strawberries and lettuce together in a large bowl.
3. Drizzle the dressing over the lettuce and strawberries, and toss again. (I suggest starting with half of the dressing, and add more to your liking.)
4. Divide the salad among plates, add a few pieces of chevre, sprinkle with sliced almonds, drizzle with a bit of honey, and finish with fresh ground black pepper.
5. Garnish with a whole strawberry and enjoy.

Serves 6

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Peonies are Blooming at Inverbrook

If there was a “signature” flower here at Inverbrook it would be our peonies. The plants were brought to the property by my grandmother and her parents when they moved from Boxwood Farm outside of Media to Inverbrook in the late 1930s. Below is a picture of the whole Whetherill clan (my great-grandmother’s family) at Boxwood Farm. My grandmother, Ida Kerr Lofting, is seated on the ground 6th from the left with her dark hair, tan skin, and stripped stockings (her hand is on her knee). I imagine somewhere in the gardens behind the gang of relatives are the parent plants of the peonies that now grace Inverbrook. My grandmother used to talk about selling bunches of peonies as a child at Boxwood Farm—so here we are doing the very same thing some 85 years later. Today at the Friday Farmstand (for CSA members only) I will have bunches of peonies for sale. They are just beginning to open, how appropriate considering this week’s flower moon.
Peonies truly are one of my favorite flowers. The big beautiful blooms and a smell that I love almost more than any other scent (lily of the valley and magnolia are also favorites), it is hard to find a flower that rivals the peony. Unfortunately the bloom time is very short. Consequently the peonies have inspired a “soft” opening of the CSA, next week you are welcome to come get a small share of basically lettuce and peonies (if you feel the drive is worth it). CSA members will receive an email outlining this fact, feel free to email if you have any questions. The header photo is from Azia Graham and the peony bud was taken by Kelly G.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Notes from Nikki-Soup It's What's for Dinner

I am so happy to once again be able to share CSA member Nikki Graham's amazing recipes for items included in your share (or from the farmstand). It is a sign that CSA season is just around the corner. In fact, CSA members should be on the look out for an email about a "soft" opening next week and the official start of the season either June 6th or June 8th, depending on your pick up day.

Soup: It's What's for Dinner (and Dessert)

I am so excited to be writing my first recipes of the season! A visit to Inverbrook this past Friday provided all the inspiration I needed to get back into the kitchen, despite our hectic spring schedule. We loaded our market bags with asparagus, spinach, mint, rhubarb, and eggs. I hope you enjoy the following two soup recipes made with our Inverbrook bounty: one savory, and one sweet. We indulged in both on the same night. It was a soup soiree!

Asparagus Soup
3-4 Tbsp good quality, extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 small-medium shallots, sliced
Red pepper flakes to taste
Sea salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
4 bunches asparagus, woody ends snapped off and discarded, tops snapped off and reserved, stalks snapped or sliced into 1.5-2 inch pieces
4-6 C chicken or vegetable broth (more if you want a thinner soup, less for a thicker version)
3 large handfuls fresh spinach leaves, washed well
Generous splash of cream or half-and-half (optional)
Shaved parmesan for garnishing (you can also finish each bowl with a drizzle of good quality olive oil or a dollop of creme fraiche)

1. Saute the garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and pepper in olive oil until fragrant.
2. Add the asparagus stalks, and saute until the stalks brighten and the shallots have softened.
3. Add the broth, turn up the heat, and bring to a simmer.
4. Simmer until the asparagus is tender, but still has color (about 7-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks).
5. Meanwhile, saute the asparagus tops in 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil, and a dash of sea salt and fresh ground pepper until just barely tender. Set aside.
6. Turn off the heat, and add in the spinach, stirring to incorporate and wilt.
7. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup.
8. Add in the cream or half-and-half (if using), taste, and adjust the seasoning.
9. Ladle into bowls, topping each bowl with the parmesan (or other aforementioned garnishes), and some of the sauteed asparagus tops.
10. Serve with crusty french bread if desired, and enjoy!

Serves 6-8

Raspberry Rhubarb Soup
(I found this recipe on, and adjusted the amounts to my liking. The ingredients are virtually the same though. I also cooked and prepared the dish a bit differently. My version is below. Here is the link to the original version:

12 oz. fresh raspberries (plus more for garnish), rinsed
8-10 stalks fresh rhubarb, trimmed and sliced
1/2 C raw sugar
1/2 of a vanilla bean, sliced open
4 C water
Mint sprigs for garnish
Vanilla ice cream (optional)

1. Combine the rhubarb, sugar, vanilla bean, and water in a saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until the rhubarb is very tender.
3. Turn off the heat, and add the raspberries.
4. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.
5. Taste and add more sugar if you wish.
6. Chill the soup for several hours or overnight.
7. Serve in a bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream; a sprig of mint; and a few fresh, whole raspberries.

Serves 6-8

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Milk Moon of May

The first full moon after Beltane is also known as the Milk Moon. This make sense since Beltane signifies a time when cattle were traditionally moved to rich summer pastures—definitely effecting the quality of the milk. One of my favorite milk products is cheese, and, as mentioned in a previous blog posting, Inverbrook Farm CSA is happy to host a new cheese share from Hillacres Pride Farm. The good folks at Havest Market Natural Foods (which also carries Hillacres Pride cheeses) recently paid a visit to the farm—click here to see pictures and read up on their visit (the photo above is from this posting). If you are interested in signing up for the cheese share you can call or email Mandy at Hillacres Pride--email or call 717-548-9031.

There is a short but lyrical chapter on the Milk Moon in Ted Browning’s collection of Kennett Paper essays Notes from Turtle Creek. The chapter is so full of wonderful sensory references appropriate for the season, I thought I would share it will you all now (hopefully I am not breaking any copyright laws). Enjoy the descriptions of milking barn and do not forget to sign up for the cheese share.

Native American tribes called the full moon of May the milk moon. May is calving season. Udders are brimming, but the idea of the milk moon flows across the rich earth of May and through the nights of middle springtime.

Some of my earliest memories bring me back to our first barn and our small gold-brown patterned cows with large eyelashed eyes and soft faces like deer. Milking time – the most important and exciting part of the day. Sometimes at bedtime, I just couldn’t force my eyes shut – lying there on top of the quilt, hearing the sounds of the night, counting the minutes, waiting anxiously for first light when the cows would gather and snuffle in the barnyard, and when I would wolf my corn flakes and stride down to the barn with my father for milking.

I remember as if it were yesterday – the barn, the hay, the cows, the milking. The barn was half sunk into the hill, making the milking shed more a cave than a building – sounds, smells and memories condensed, amplified, heightened.

The smell of the barn – a stewpot aroma of cows, milk, meadows; of oats and corn mashed into cowfeed; the spicy tang of chopped corn in the silo, churning and fermenting and stewing down to sour mash and cow beer; the brown squishy smell of manure.

I remember the soft rustle of the cows as they settled into their stanchions – the low murmuring sounds they made, almost like the cooing of pigeons, and the sound of water gushing as if from a hundred springs deep in the earth, when the cows pushed their noses into their water bowls.

We didn’t have milking machines yet, back in those days. Streams of milk hit the sides of steel milking buckets with a pinging sound like hard rain on a window pane. The milk gathered in the pails and rose to the top in a froth of heavy yellowlike melted butter.

One time a cow kicked over a milk pail full almost to the brim. The picture remains frozen in my memory – every detail, every sound and smell. A gush of thick yellow paint gleamed in the shadows of the barn and spread over the barn floor like the flow of warm lava. The milk vanished magically into the straw bedding that cushioned each cow but which ended up kicked all over the place.

The funny thing about it was that nobody got upset. My father and the hired man went back to milking; the barn cats soon gave up trying to tease the spilled milk out of the straw and the whole incident just sort of settled out. But something was different. I could still smell the milk down in the straw. Even a few days later, I could smell it, all mixed up down deep with the other familiar smells of cows, hay, feed and new milk.

Several nights ago I went outside for a night walk up Locust Grove Road and down into the basin of Owl Creek. The sounds of night are muted this time of year. Spring peepers and singing toads have calmed down, and bullfrogs and katydids haven’t got going. But the smell of the night is as strong as the night is dark and silent. Autumn olive throws out a perfume so strong your nose tingles and you might sneeze. Low to the land it sits, enriched by the earth smells of marshy wet places.

Starlight is softened by the mists and the heavy moist air, but the Big Dipper shines out strongly, almost directly overhead, a bit to the north.

At this time of year, the Big Dipper stands up on the edge of its bowl. Whatever is held in the bowl of the Big Dipper spills out through the night and into the earth, rising back up in luminescent vapors and rich milkhouse aromas.

I think back to the time when the milk pail tipped over…
No wonder the Native Americans called the moon of May the milk moon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Today's Full Moon--The Flower Moon

The full moon today is known as the flower moon. I love flowers and try to incorporate them as much as possible into the Inverbrook Farm experience. CSA members have access to a pick-your-own cut flower garden as well as home grown sunflowers and gladiolas (see picture from Azia Graham above). The farm also hosts the Three Birds Bouquet CSA.

Along with flowers to decorate your dinner table, we offer edible flowers in your CSA share. These types of flowers include delicious and beautiful additions to your salads and dinner plates like pea flowers, nasturtiums and calendula.
I thought this little video from Johnny's Seed might inspire you to grown some edible flowers of your own. Enjoy!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Remember the Pollinators this Plant Sale Season

Tomorrow (Saturday, May 7th) both the London Grove Friends Meeting and the Brandywine River Museum plant sales are taking place. While you are out shopping for new additions to your garden, I encourage you to consider the pollinators-the insects that are so crucial to our survival. Nearly 75% of the flowering plants on Earth rely on pollinators to set seed or fruit, as well as one-third of our food crops. Most pollination is performed by honey bees, native bees and other insects. In a recent installment of the Johnny's Seed blog, the seed company highlights the importance of pollinators and provides a link to the Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, an organization dedicated to protecting this essential group of animals. The good news is that simply choosing the right types of plants for your backyard can have a major positive effect on our dwindling pollinator populations. University of Delaware professor Doug Tallamy's book Bringing Nature Home is about just this fact. Something to think about when your are making your plant sale decisions.

Saturday is also the opening of the Phoenixville Farmers Market, and they are celebrating the start of another market season with an event honoring our most culturally important pollinator-the Honey Bee. Their Honey Bee Festival includes a lecture from Biodynamic beekeeping expert Gunther Hauk and a screening of the magical documentary Queen of the Sun, all about the honey bee. Honey bees are in bad shape, the mysterious colony collapse disorder is wreaking havoc on bee populations across the earth. We need the bees for our own survival. Click here for a list of 10 simple things you can do to help save the bees.

"The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams." -- Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wine and Cheese at Inverbrook Farm CSA

If you are an Inverbrook Farm CSA member, I want to let you know about two new unique opportunities for specialty products (wine and cheese) that will be available at the farm this coming season. Paradocx Vineyard and Hillacres Farm are both offering CSA (wine and cheese) options with drop off locations at Inverbrook. So, while you are picking up your vegetables, you now have the chance to add wine and cheese to the items you can bring home with you--we are doing our best to make the farm a one stop local "shopping" experience. Like the other two CSA options availabe through Inverbrook (the sold out North Star Fruit Share and 3 Birds Bouquets ), all your transactions will be with either Paradocx or Hillacres--we simple serve as a distribution point. For more information about the two options please read the paragraphs below.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. If you would like to sample the products before signing up for the various CSA options, Paradocx has a tasting room at the Shoppes at Longwood Village and Hillacres Cheese can be found at Harvest Market, Pete's Produce, and Northbrook Market Place.

Paradocx Vineyard Farm CSA - Pickup @ Partnering CSAs
Paradocx Vineyard is proud to be a part of our local community in Southern Chester County, PA and we look forward to providing you with the "Paradocx experience" as you enroll to become a member of our Farm CSA!

As a 100-acre farm which serves as home to over 30 acres of grape vines and a state of the art wine making facility, we are committed to making farming in the Philadelphia countryside sustainable. We have made significant efforts towards creating a reputable local agricultural product and in doing so have contributed to the preservation of local agriculture heritage in Pennsylvania. In our effort to create and sustain an enduring relationship between community members and Paradocx Vineyard, we are now in our second successful year of our very own CSA initiative -- which stands for "Community Supported Agriculture."

Here's How it Works
A Farm CSA is a system in which community members purchase a farm "share" at the beginning of a growing season, when the farmer needs start-up capital for equipment, seeds, etc. In return, the member receives an annual supply (6 bottles or 3-3.5 liters cans) of estate made Paradocx wine to be picked up three times: June, July and August at Partnering CSA's. The cost for Paradocx Vineyard Farm CSA wine share $99.00 for your choice of a white share or red share.

Click here for a full description of the Paradocx Vineyard Farm CSA program and a link to the CSA application form.

Hillacres Farm Cheese CSA

Hillsacre Pride farmstead and artisan cheeses are made by hand using the farm fresh milk from our Registered Jersey cows. The cows are pastured on the lush green pastures of Lancaster County from April to October, and over the winter months they eat hay and silage that is harvested from the farm over the summer. We do not treat our animals with Bovine Growth hormone, or use therapeutic antibiotics or growth hormones.

The Cheese CSA consists of 11 deliveries of 2 cheeses each. Cheeses will include the following:

Cheddar (7 variities)
Hot Pepperjack
Fresh Mozzarella
Homestyle Ricotta
Cream Cheese
Fulton’s Clermont
They are also developing new artisan cheeses that you will be lucky enough to enjoy!

CSA Price $115.00

To sign-up email or call 717-548-9031.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Happy Beltane-Happy May

Now the bright morning-star, Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire!
Woods and groves are of thy dressing;
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.
-John Milton, Song on a May Morning, 1660

Another name for May Day is Beltane--a celebration of future harvests, fertility and a movement of livestock to summer pastures. Although my weekend did not involve dancing around a may pole or the lighting of bonfires; I did spend a fair amount of time in the garden plots on top of the hill where the wild mustard and dandelions put on a spectular show of green and gold--a fitting color burst for the honoring of a boutiful season to come.