Is it winter or spring at the farm?

The weather is fickle and playing tricks on our Winter Garden. 
There have been days where it is almost 70 degrees and 
buds are out on some of the trees already. 
celestial fig tree
Nectarine tree

It is unlikely we will see fruit on the trees much sooner than usual,
but the blossoms peeking out are harbingers
of spring and spur us on in our work.
What was even more encouraging was that only six weeks
after planting garlic, we harvested four rows about a week ago,
bringing green garlic to the girl & the fig's kitchen. 

John created a green garlic pistou with striped bass,
artichokes, gigante beans and crispy artichokes
Green garlic ready for picking
garlic rows after recent harvest, ready for new bulbs below
Ray and Matt from Local Landscapers were back at it on the farm, 
planting more garlic so we will likely have 
one more harvest from this section of the farm 
before we put in other plants in this area for spring and summer.


Their careful work and the rich soil at our biodynamic farm 
ensure that what we grow is as pure as possible. 
Oyster shells which are pure calcium carbonate, 
are added as a soil amendment because they increase pH levels 
by adding lime and making the soil drain better.

It's as if we have one foot and one hand in our winter garden 

and the other preparing for spring/summer planting.

With the warm weather and our access to the greenhouse, 
we are now planting seeds in addition 
to what we are growing from transplants.  
The eggplants, peppers, herbs and tomato seeds 
will be started in the greenhouse, 
while most of the other vegetables are 
to be planted at the farm.  
We are gearing up to plant 300 tomato plants–just writing about them 
makes my mouth water, how about you?
And while we plan for summer's bounty from our seed packets, 
we continue to work the farm for what we will pick before spring.
In addition to the walla wallas and cipollinis
 we also are growing torpedo and red candy onions.
red candy onions

See the radish sprouts coming up between the red candy onions?
This is part of of our companion planting program

Companion planting is based around the idea that certain plants 
can benefit others when planted close to one another.
We will talk more about companion planting in an upcoming post.

Alongside the 1200 onions John 
and his crew planted lancelot leeks
Can you tell the subtle difference between 
how the leek stalk looks–straighter with a sharp edge, 
than the torpedo onions which are rounder?
lancelot leeks
leek stalk
torpedo onions
You can certainly tell the difference when you are eating them. 
grilling onions in the girl & the fig kitchen
braised leeks w/creme fraiche & truffles photo by Steven Krause

Follow how the companion plants compliment each other.
Tell us what you have been successful planting together. 
By the time we share with you again, we may have harvested 
more from the farm. For sure, we will have planted more!


1200 onions and 1 greenhouse

We put 1200 walla walla onions in the ground by hand.

It is appropriate that we cultivate walla walla onions, 
given the Mediterranean influence on our cuisine.
The story of the Walla Walla Sweet Onion 
began over a century ago on the Island of Corsica, 
off the West Coast of Italy. It was there 
that a French soldier, Peter Pieri, found an Italian sweet onion seed 
and brought it to the Walla Walla Valley. 
Impressed by the onion’s winter hardiness, 
Pieri, and Italian immigrant farmers who comprised 
much of Walla Walla’s gardening industry, harvested the seed.   

Walla Walla Sweet Onions get their sweetness 
from a unique blending of natural ingredients. 
First, there’s the low sulphur content. 
It’s half that of an ordinary yellow onion. 
Second, Walla Walla Sweets are 90 percent water. 
Finally, combining those elements with a mild climate and rich soil 
grows an onion that’s wildly acclaimed for all its sweetness

two completed rows of onions
ash from ESTATE's pizza oven adds phosphorus to the onion beds

The newest aspect of the farm project is getting access 
to a 100 foot greenhouse. 
This is courtesy of Garden Keepers, CSA, a local company 
that provides organic, sustainable biodynamic 
gardening services to Sonoma businesses. 
Certainly a good fit for our biodynamic farm at Imagery Estate Winery.
Ray and Matt from Local Landscapers 
worked with them to set up the greenhouse 
and we will be able to start some of our plants 
from seeds now instead of having to do all transplants.
rolling out the sheets
holding the sheets down
So, now we will really be nurturing what we plant 
from the very beginning – through all the stages 
of germination, growth and harvest 
to truly bring our bounty to our tables. 
What will be growing here?
The winter garden is taking shape and 
it is encouraging to see some growth.
Not that long ago we were toiling during 
dreary days getting the soil ready.
John keeps a watchful eye on his pet project.
Recently he observed to me that 
"Chefs are completely reliant on farms, 
but most don't get out to them all that often. 
And when they do, it may be to pick something, 
but not that many actually do the farming.
"I want to get close to the ingredients I use when I cook."
And this inspires him.  
I think John is happiest when he is working 
with what we groweither at the farm or in the kitchen.

I know John is anxious for the harvest we will see from the winter garden.
Soon, you will enjoy that at the restaurants.
And then we will be back at work at the farm 
planting for spring, summer and fall.

As you follow the blog, you will know 
what to expect to see on the table.


What's growing

The weather continues to taunt us, 
with frosty mornings and nights and then spring—like afternoons. 
The farm is responding well, keeping balance 
with the colder temperatures and embracing the warm days. 

Garlic is sprouting at the farm already and 
lemons are bursting off the trees at ESTATE.

lemon tree at ESTATE
So we are not idle in this winter transition time.
There is a lot of work at the three farm locations.
At ESTATE  and in the farm's Orchard, we are pruning trees
and prepping for spring planting.
Fruit Tree "Ninjai"
Matt with the tiller in the Orchard
Behind "the fig," now that the 300 asparagus plants are in the ground, 
our plan is to continue the chard that did so well and add kale.
Soon the chefs won't have to order Dino Kale, 
they can just go out back and pick what is growing. 

we can get a lot of food growing behind the fig
Alongside these leafy greens are rhubarb 
and stinging nettles continue to grow. 
Even though the chefs have to be careful when 
picking them (they wear 3 pairs of latex gloves), 
we use stinging nettles in some recipes:
They are especially tasting in ravioli filling. 
Did you know that stinging nettleshigh in protein, iron, fiber,
 Vitamin A & Care considered one of the "super foods?"
 It needs to be blanched before using it and 
don't forget those gloves as you handle it!  
The FIGkitchen uses so many fresh herbs that
John decided to expand beyond herb growing
in the raised beds and plant some in a larger section. 
raised herb beds
this large area will give us even more herbs for the kitchen
It is important for us to be self sustainable with all that we use. 
All the restaurant kitchens compost and the kitchen scraps go out to the
compost pile at the farm, enhancing the soil and of course, ultimately 
coming back to the kitchens when we harvest what we've planted. 

We also take the ash from
the pizza oven at ESTATE
and spread it on the beds at the farm.

The ash adds nutrients like
potassium and phosphorus.
Did you know that one pound of ash treats
100 feet lightly dusted?

 The winter garden at Imagery farm now has mustard, radishes, carrots
and beets (chioggia, touchstone gold and merlin varieties)
chioggia beets are the candy striped ones
in the ground along with the garlic.
And, we just planted 1200 walla walla onions!
walla walla transplants
These onions compliment the cipollins we planted. 
The name means "little onion" in Italian and they are 
actually a bulb from the hyacinth plant.  
Check out page 166 in our new book, Plats du Jour 
for a tasty recipe for parsnip and cipollini soup.

And the newest and most exciting development for the farm 
has been putting up a green house which will allow 
us to start things from seeds rather than transplants. 
John and Ray and Matt from Local Landscapers 
have a lot of plans for the greenhouse.

Check back here to learn more about our Green House project
and see our progress with the winter garden at the farm.
And keep following the blog as well as the menus 
at the restaurants to find out what's growing.

Post a question or a comment here—let us know how we are doing.