Garden musings

How does your garden grow? 

During this dormant period at the farm when there 
is not as much daily work to do, the idle time leads 
to musings on the incremental changes that are harder to see. 
(does that mean we are not looking deeply enough?)
So less to do, coupled with winter weather, makes this an ideal time 
to catch up with some of the other gardening blogs we enjoy.

One blog we like a lot, that we've shared with you before, is A Sonoma Garden
which always has thoughtful posts, with good tips, and intimate reflections.
 A recent post captures beautifully how we are feeling this time of year 
when it is hard to suppress the urge to have our hands in the dirt. 

The Urban Artichoke reminds us, just when we think perhaps 
we can't grow anything delicate until Spring, that the garden is full of surprises
And SmartGardener is a reliable and all around great resource, very aptly named! 
And you can find tips on more than just gardening. 
This week they are sharing this video about how to prepare endive.

Today I stumbled upon a new one that captured my interest: Outlaw@home

Filled with ruminations that are thought provoking, there is much to contemplate here.  
Riffing on this quote from Henry David Thoreau: "Gardening is social, says Thoreau, 
and I think this can be true...The act of gardening is an activity 
well suited to companionship. From orchid societies to garden parties 
or sitting in the backyard at home; plants are the focus, the backdrop 
or the cornerstone to a huge range of social functions.  
We gather and play in shared green spaces. 
We work together in fields and greenhouses." 

For our fig farm project, gardening/farming is both solitary and social. 
Executive Chef John Toulze treasures his time in the garden as meditative, 
precious alone time where he can get "lost" in the tasks there 
that relax him even as they tire him.

Everyone who toils at our farm experiences some version of this.
Some of our sous chefs and other staff volunteer to help 
at the farm for these personal benefits. 
Interestingly then, while each of us is in our own zen place 
of focused mindful labor, what happens is a quantum 
"whole is greater than the sum of its parts" dynamic 
and the farm energetic becomes very communal

And certainly the most social aspect of our farm project 
is the food we plant, grow and cook for you.
This is always what guides us, keeps us going 
when the weather is bad or something we've tried is not successful so we plant anew. 
We "get" so much from our farm project 
but it is all about what we bring to you that matters most.
winter squash photo by Steven Krause for
Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country
Executive Chef John Toulze and his team at the James Beard House
photo by Phillip Gross
Are there any gardening blogs you particularly like?
Tell us about your thoughts on gardening, how it is your private passion 
or are you part of a Community Patch? 


Hibernating season at the farm

Winter has been called the "hibernating season" for gardening. 
We've mused on how much a metaphor for patience 
the garden is about this time of year. 
With the recent cold weather, we are reminded of this even more. 

Many of our plans are slowed as we pay attention 
to the weather–we can't plant with the ground as cold as it has been 
and spreading the compost we are developing 
must wait until we are certain it won't be washed away by rains.
our compost pile "marinating" - we will add our worm tea
to further enrich it
We put the effort into making our compost so that 
we do not need to use commercial fertilizer.
 "Using compost improves soil structure, texture, and 
aeration and increases the soil’s water-holding capacity. 
Compost is one of nature’s best mulches and soil amendments. 
Best of all, compost is cheap. You can make it without spending a cent." 
This is especially true for us since we can use all our kitchen scraps
And having the compost pile right outside the kitchen door makes this very easy. 
kitchen food scraps behind the fig
some of the plants at the farm
become our compost pile there
our compost bin right outside the kitchen door
So we continue to nurture the farm project in both locations, 
We follow "the garden's plan," keeping our focus on 
the soil to ensure a fertile environment this coming Spring and Summer. 
"To maintain the soil in the best condition for spring planting, 
cover the surface with several inches of straw or leaves 
to keep it from freezing and to maintain moisture. 
If the soil is fertile, this covering will even allow earthworms to 
be active in the soil during the winter months.
When the mulch is raked away in the spring, the rows can 
be laid off and you are ready to plant with a minimum of effort."
Chef Jeremy surveys the beds with Matt & Ray
from Local Landscapers

beds at the farm
As we labor during this slower time, we appreciate the fruits 
we are able to harvest from the farm, while we dream 
of the more abundant time to come in a few months. 
cauliflower plants
And we are encouraged by the signs of growth we see at the farm, 
even as simple as the wildflowers that pop up in the sparse orchard.

A particular favorite Winter dish at the girl & the fig 
is our Cauliflower & Romanesco Gratin. You can find the recipe in
Since this is such a perfect recipe for this "hibernating" time of year, 
we will share it with you here: This serves 6:
1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
1 large head Romanesco, cut into 1-inch florets 
(this is a variety of green cauliflower; broccoli can be substituted)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sal & pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
6 Tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
pinch of nutmeat
1 cup Herbed Bread Crumbs 
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 

Preheat the oven to 450°F.
To prepare the cauliflower: Reserve 1⁄2 cup of the white florets and the white stems and set aside.
Toss the remaining cauliflower and Romanesco with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Roast the mixture on a baking sheet for 12 to 15 minutes or until the cauliflower has browned on the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside.
To prepare the cream: Heat the cream, milk, cheese, nutmeg, and the reserved cauliflower in a large saucepan over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer over low heat until the cauliflower is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Place the mixture in a food processor or blender, purée until smooth, and adjust the seasoning as needed.
To finish: Mix the bread crumbs and parsley together. In a large bowl combine the sauce and the roasted cauliflower and stir until well-coated. Transfer the mixture to a casserole pan or six small ramekins. Distribute the bread crumbs equally over the top(s) and bake until golden brown, about 7 to 9 minutes. Serve hot. The gratin can be made 1 day ahead. Reheat  in a 350°F oven for about 12 to 15 minutes or until heated through.
Cauliflower Romanesco Gratin photo by Stephen Krause from
Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country
Do you have any favorite vegetable recipes that you create,
either from your garden or what you find at the farmers market this time of year?
Remember, even though the choices may seem slim
compared to summer time, those farmers' gardens are hibernating, 
working and preparing for more bountiful times.