Sonoma home grown

photo of farm orchard by Cece Hugo
 The Huffington Post observed recently that 
"Sondra Bernstein's restaurants have focused on seasonality since 1997." 
The new book, Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig's Journey 
Through the Seasons in Wine Country is a love letter to Sonoma 
and the concept of seasonality, which has formed 
the philosophical foundation for all our restaurants for 15 years.
It may seem like a current trend, but for Sondra and her partner, 
Executive Chef John Toulze this guiding principle
has just "been the way they cook." 
John is inspired by the foods of Italy, Southern France and Spain, 
what he calls "ingredient driven Mediterranean food."
As detailed in the new book, he loves the idea of
letting the ingredients speak for themselves. 

photo by Steven Krause 

"I think of it as the minimalist approach to transporting food to a plate."
This means the farm project is an especially important component,
allowing us to get even closer to those ingredients
as we nurture the food from planting, tending, harvesting 

and cooking what we have grown.

photo by Steven Krause
We wish we could grow enough at the farn
to supply all the produce we use at the restaurants 
but we still have a long way to go to get there. 
But in a way, that is really ok as it means we continue 
to support our local farmers who been our partners for 15 years.
photo: Matthew Ruff of GSA Garden Keepers Greenhouse
This year, through one of those "partnerships," 
our relationship with Garden Keepers CSA
we have access to their greenhouse which has allowed 
us to go deeper to "seed to table." 
We are nurturing starts growing from seeds that will be transplanted to the farm.
If you are interested in saving seeds from plants,
 The Heirloom Life Gardener is a great resource.
Written by the founder of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company
(the company we use for our seeds), this book
is a comprehensive guide to cultivating heirloom vegetables
with tons of tips including how to save seeds
 as well as instructions for canning and preserving.
We will talk more about our preserving tips in an upcoming blog.
You can read an excerpt from the book here.
photo: Matthew Ruff of how the heirloom tomato starts "started"
and where they are now (Photo: Matthew Ruff) 
We planted tomatoes from seed for three varieties
from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.
We have heirloom tomato starts for
Pineapple, Cherokee Purple and Violet Jasper tomatoes.
Pineapple tomatoes, yellow with red marbling are large and can get to 2 lbs each.
Since we harvested almost 2,000 pounds of tomatoes,
we will get a workout when we
add the Pineapple heirlooms to our picking this summer!
But these are so sweet, it will be worth it.

The Cherokee Purple is back from last year's harvestjust too good not to plant again. 
This is a true heirloom, pre-1890 variety with a beautiful deep, dusky purple color.
Another new variety for us this year is the Violet Jasper
introduced from China, which we anticipate will be stunning to see.
Renowned for their violet-purple fruit and iridescent green streaks,
they are also very prolific, considered one of the
most productive tomatoes to grow in terms of what they yield.
these starts will soon be Violet Jasper tomatoes
Violet Jasper heirloom tomato
I'm a city girl and one of the things that really blew me away when
I first moved to California was tasting a tomato right off the vinejust nothing like it.
Makes you want to eat at least one tomato every day during the season. 
2,000 pounds of tomatoes is a lot of tomatoes each day!
Our other starts are eggplants: Listada de Gandia, Rosa Bianca and Aswad
The Listada de Gandia, from Spain is a 7 inch long white fruit is with purple stripes. 
This will contrast beautifully with the Rosa Bianca 
which is a pink-lavendar color with white shading. 
Most exciting is the Aswad eggplantthis is the first year this variety
is being grown in the US and we will have it at our farm.
From Iraq, Aswad is used to the climate of the Middle East
and very drought tolerant so it should do well in Sonoma.
This satiny dark purple fruit grows to 3 lbs!
John is already getting creative with ideas for Aswad dishes.
these little starts will grow to the 3 lb purple beauties!
Our heirloom peppers include Shishito, a favorite Japanese variety which
produces 3 inch long slightly wrinkled emerald green fruit that is actually pretty mild.
And our other exotic pepper is the Thai long sweet variety,
light green about 6 inches long that are especially good grilled. 

While we transition from winter to spring at the farm,
we are also gearing up for summer in the greenhouse with these starts.
Once our current harvest is done, we will transplant them to the farm
and then begin the labors of summer farming.
And you will reap the rewards and truly taste
the "fruits" of those labors at the restaurants.
tomato and mozzerella 
And simultaneous with what we are growing at the farm,
we are nurturing another "home grown" project: suite d.
We envision expanding what we do at the farm and the restaurants,
having a new place for classes and events–maybe bringing the bounty of the farm
to suite d for a group canning, preserving party.
You can help us create suite d to a place we can all enjoy.

Check out suite d and come and play with us there! 


The Winter Garden becomes a Spring Garden

While March 20 was officially the first day of Spring,
we were aware of it before then. 
These photos were taken a bit earlier in March,
and you could just feel everything at the farm about to burst!
blossoms on a peach tree (photo by Cece Hugo)
rows of garlic going crazy (photo by Cece Hugo)
Quail egg photos by Matthew Ruff
quail eggs found in one of the rows
and our steadfast egret standing guard at the farm
Our companion planting project has been successful.
Not only are we harvesting more vegetables in the space we have, 
but with the careful work done by Local Landscapers
who know what to plant with what, everything is growing more healthy and robust. 
The radish plants interspersed with onions have done especially well.

just picked radish photos by Matthew Ruff

You can decide for yourself how they taste when you enjoy 
 the heirloom radish starter at the girl & the fig
mixed seasonal radishes, anchovy butter & grey sea salt 

Another sign of spring is the raspberry bare roots beginning to bud

At this rate, it won't be too long before we are 
repeating last summer's berry picking ritual

Sometimes you just have to sit down on the job!

we have a way to go till before we have a bowl of berries
Our tomato starts growing from seeds in the Greenhouse 
mean this summer's tomatoes will truly be "seed to table." 
greenhouse photos by Matthew Ruff 

Thanks to Garden Keepers CSA for the use of the Greenhouse 
and the loving care from Local Landscapers which will take us from here

to here 

(Last season John and the farm team 
harvested almost 2,000 pounds of tomatoes). 

and finally to here!
Did you know that we can go through
70 pounds of tomatoes a day at the girl & the fig alone?

We are getting excited about all that is growing 
now at the farm and will be sharing 
more updates and photos with you soon.
The winter garden is indeed becoming the spring garden 
and the menus at the restaurants are reflecting that.
And we love sharing what we grow with you, here in the news of the blog,
but of course especially from our kitchen to our tables when you visit us.

We also encourage you to grow as much 
of your own food as you can.
And we hope we inspire you. 
Share your thoughts and successes, ask us questions.
A great resource for your home gardens is Smart Gardner Fresh
whose motto is "simply grow great food." 

We aspire to do that every day.
Simply grow great food.
Simply cook great food.