Bold and tasty farm colors

Recently we focused on our greens at the farm
But as we look ahead to Fall Harvest, we savor 
the last bits of summer flavor and all the other colors at the farm. 
It's a whimsical mash up of reds and purples that seem 
to suggest summer, fall and winter simultaneously. 
Red cayenne peppers nestled in green leaves 
say summer with their heat taste 
but remind us that the red and green 
of Christmas decorations are not all that far away.
cayenne peppers
And there is more color on display that look like Christmas ornaments.
pomegranates in the Insectary

Black Beauty eggplants
Rose Bianca eggplants
But of course we are getting ahead of ourself with Christmas references. 
A recent unusual spate of hot weather pulls us back to summer 
as does the juicy taste of our French improved plums 
that can be eaten right from the tree. 
French improved plum

There are many varieties of plum trees. Our French plum is of the European variety 
which are self-pollinating and can grow to 25' tall. 
Sweeter and less juicy than some plums, they are luscious to eat, 
but these same qualities are why they are ideal to dry for prunes

And then right next to the plum trees, are the other late bloomers 
our pluots, which dot the Orchard with more variation of color. 
Did you know there are 22 varieties of pluots?!
Pinkish yellow Flavor Grenade Pluot
 and lavender purple Flavor King Pluot
Or, you may be saying you don't even know what a pluot is? 
Andy Rooney had some fun with that in 
one of his signature "really?" segments on 60 Minutes:

Pluots are a plum-apricot hybrid and indeed originated in California. 
They were developed near Modesto by Floyd Zaiger,
who has been called "the fruit innovator to the world."
Profiled last year in the San Francisco Chronicle, Zaiger, now 86
is described as "arguably the most famous plant breeder alive today.
He has created novel new fruit - like the pluot - that grace tables around the world.
He has also improved familiar varieties,
such as creating plums that can weather an intercontinental voyage.
These innovations have revolutionized an increasingly global fruit industry, 
earning him a reputation among farmers and fellow fruit experts 
that is hard to overstate."Big, with all capital letters," suggested Tom Gradziel, 
a geneticist and professor of plant sciences at UC Davis."
one of our 4 pluot trees
In our Orchard 4 pluot trees stand appropriately
between 3 plum trees and 4 apricot trees.
 We know that's how they were planted that way,
but it is as if the plums and the apricots did their thing right in our Orchard!
Floyd's goal was "to capture the aromatics and texture of an apricot
and the sweet juiciness of a plum, but without the bitter skin of the latter."
Now that you know what they are and how they came about,
here's a take on what to do with a pluot.

For us at the girl & the fig right now, our plums
are taking center stage with a Garden Plum Crisp
as the finale to our bistro Plats du Jour.

Now that you know a little more about them 
and before we are only able to enjoy these summer fruits dried, 
what's your favorite thing to do with plums or pluots?


Seasonal Overlap

vegetable bed in the Orchard
the Insectary in full bloom
As of September 22 Autumn begins.  
We are really feeling the change of season at the farm. 
The light is different, days are shorter and mornings are cooler.
 We are in that moment of seasonal overlap when our basil and tomatoes 
are still going crazy alongside the squash beds. 

A very busy time for all of us who work the farm, 
including the bees who make frequent visits to our crops 
from the nearby Insectary created by the Benziger family
 as part of their biodynamic concept for Imagery Estate Winery

see the bee upper left above the blossoms as he zooms in
landing on the top sunchoke blossom
moving to the one to the right of the top one
and a closer look at our Busy Bee at work! 
Sunchokes are also called Jerusalem artichokes, 
although that is a bit of a misnomer. 
They are not related to an artichoke, although their taste can remind you of one. 
And, no they are not from Jerusalemone theory 
is that "the name is probably derived from the Italian name 
for a sunflower, girasole, which means turning to the sun." 
Do you know they can grow to be 10 feet tall?

harvested sunchokes 
Executive Chef John Toulze has gotten very creative with sunchokes. 
Besides creating sunchoke chips, which we are lovin' more than potato chips,
they were center stage during the girl & the fig dinner 
at the James Beard House this spring roasted 
and served alongside pan roasted black cod.

photo by Phil Gross for the James Beard House
Dish from Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country.

Creativity and flexibility is the key for John and the other chefs 
as they harvest the fruits of summer and the early bounty of Fall. 
In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, John said: 
"Nature does not always work in accordance with a chef's schedule. 
You can't predict much," he says. "Normally, rhubarb means 
spring, strawberry is spring and summer, delicata squash is fall. 
There was point last year I was harvesting all those in the same time."

This flexibility about what seasonality really means 
is why you can still find the popular heirloom tomato & watermelon salad 
on the menu at the girl & the fig on the first day of Autumn. 

What Summer farm inspired dish will you soon miss most?
And what Fall delicacy are you looking forward to making?


Lovin' our greens

Although there are always a lot of colors at the farm, 
we think of "green" as its signature.
Green being the vibrant color as all plants are growing, 
green being the color of pretty much any "fruit" when it first appears.
Heirloom tomatoes
Celestial fig
green pardon peppers
And of course, "green" now having taken on a larger meaning

Well, at this moment before summer becomes fall 
and the green shimmer at the farm changes to a golden glow 
(tasting those persimmons yet?)
our persimmons last November
We wanted to celebrate our "greens!" 
So, a shout out to our thriving chard and kale plants 
which continue to inspire the chefs.

There always seems to be a dish on the menu at the girl & the fig
 featuring garden greens. Right now we are serving
the panisse cake with a chickpea purée,
sautéed garden chard, and marinated sheep's milk feta.

Most often, like our chefs, you will cook these leafy greens. 
But you certainly can enjoy them raw too. But, how to deal with the bitter taste
Eating Well magazine shares the secret on how to "squeeze your greens:" 
"There's an amazing tool for transforming bitter, dark leafy greens 
into a tender melts-in-your-mouth salad.
It's only an arms length away, and it costs nothing: your hands!   

Seriously, try this. It will expand your idea of a salad. 
It's a quick process and retains much of the nutritious benefits to the greens. 
There's been a lot of talk lately this new way to "love" your greens:  
"It's almost like kneading bread dough. It only takes a couple of minutes,
but you'll be amazed at the difference. 
That tough cellulose structure breaks down — wilts, actually — 
and those leaves that once seemed so coarse and fibrous turn silky. 
You can feel it happening. You can see it too — the leaves 
will darken and shrink to almost half their pre-massage volume. 
The flavor changes as well. That pronounced bitterness mellows, 
revealing some of the same depths of sweet green flavor 
you normally get only through long, slow cooking."
greens love you, so love 'em back!
Mom always said it was important to "eat your greens." Here's a new way.
Let us know how it tastes once you've tried it!


The Current Farm Stars

This is our favorite time of year for many reasons. 
The warm Sonoma weather lets us hold on to summer a bit longer 
and the tomatoes that continue to ripen
encourage us along in this summer mindset.
still more to ripen on the vines at the farm
one day they look like this and then the next time we check
we are bringing this bounty to the kitchen
And there are other summer stars at the farm that continue to inspire the chefs. 
We have beautiful eggplants in several varieties ranging from Taiwan's Ping-Tung  
that produces 12-16" long glossy purple-red fruit
Ping-Tung Long Eggplant at the farm 

To the Heirloom Black Beauties, the ones you consider a "standard eggplant," 
which has  been around since 1902 and is popular 
since it ripens earlier than most other varieties. 
Black Beauty Eggplants can grow to 1-3 pound fruits

And then the Rose Bianca, a light and pretty eggplant from Italy
The Rose Bianca is mild and sweeter than other varieties, very creamy and delicate.

But perhaps the real reason we love this time of year 
is that it is one of the two times of year for figs, which obviously is "our time." 
There are many varieties of figs and frankly we love them all.
Our fig tree at the farm is a Celestial Fig 

Did you know that "there are almost 200 cultivars of figs, thus they grow 
in a wide range of shapes, colors and textures. 
There are dozens of Green fig varieties including the Celestial Fig...
there are others including the Adriatic fig, which 
is the one commonly used to make fig bars. 
The chefs at the girl & the fig are featuring Black Mission figs 
in a Fig Clafouti with Orange Caramel Sauce 
as the finale to this week's Plats du Jour meal. 

As our namesake, it is no surprise that we hold figs in high esteem. 
But it has been this way for thousands of years. 
Did you know that "the fig tree was considered sacred in all countries 
of Southwestern Asia, Egypt, Greece and Italy?
 And figs were mentioned in a Babylonian hymnbook about 2,000 BC?" 
Here's a bit more about fig's history and nutrition.

We just know they taste good!
 our signature fig salad
photo by Steven Krause for
Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country

Do you have a favorite fig recipe?