Plovgh is a cooperative of farmers, growers, and ranchers that sell directly to their customers.
Fitkin Popping Corn (Fit-Pop) - Cedar Falls, Iowa
Harvesting: November 2013
Around the year 1612, early French explorers through the Great Lakes region noted that the Iroquois popped popcorn with heated sand in a pottery vessel and used it to make popcorn soup, among other things.
Popcorn has a long agricultural history. Precisely how popcorn originated is a topic of debate, though it did originate in the Americas. Some experts believe that corn was developed by centuries of breeding and crossbreeding wild grasses like teosinte. When farmers are considering seed selection, expansibility and maturity are two key factors. Maximum popping potential hinges on the corn reaching full maturity and there are many factors that can prematurely terminate plant development such as drought stress, disease, and frost. When harvesting, farmers wait until the corn has cured on the stalk as much as possible, but not so long that it is damaged by fall moisture or by corn stalks falling over. Once picked, the corn must be dried until it reaches its optimum moisture level of 13.5% to 14%.
Popcorn is delicate and starchy, and depending on what topping you choose, sweet or savory. Jim Fitkin’s popping corn is unique in that it has a subtle taste of the Iowa prairie where it was grown.
One of the more desirable traits of popcorn is expansibility; a measure of the volume ratio of popped corn to unpopped corn. Popcorn kernels can come in two shapes: “Butterfly” which are irregular in shape and have a number of protruding “wings”, or “Mushroom” flakes which are largely ball-shaped, with few wings. Jim’s popping corn is grown in northeast Iowa and is a hybrid variety with mushroom-like kernels.
We all know that when popcorn is heated it expands from the kernel and puffs up. But why? The folklore of some Native American tribes told of spirits who lived inside each kernel of popcorn, and who grew angry if their houses were heated. The real expansion happens because the kernels have a hard moisture-sealed hull and a dense starchy interior and under the right temperature, pressure builds inside the kernel, and a small explosion - or “pop!” - is the end result. Once popped you can eat popcorn with whatever toppings you choose; salt, butter, chili flakes or cream and sugar. When it comes to Jim’s popping corn, we’re staunch traditionalists and hold true to this recipe complements of the McVay family.
Bluefish go by many different names including tailor, snapper, baby blues, choppers, and elfs. Their scientific name is pomatomus saltatrix.
Bluefish are a trophy species, that are pursued by anglers because of their reputation as a champion battler and voracious predator. When a Bluefish is hooked, they are known to put up a fight more impressive than some larger species. They are native to both the American and European coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. Along the US coast, Bluefish are highly abundant. In the mid-Atlantic, Bluefish scored a 4 out of 4 in the 2013 Summer Fish Stock Sustainability Index (FSSI), which is a perfect rating and indicates that there is no overfishing. Bluefish have a a mouthful of sharp pointed teeth and tend to eat a variety of small-bodied animals such as copepods, shrimp, small lobsters and crabs, larval fish and larval mollusks. Adult Bluefish are opportunistic feeders, going after schooling species such as menhaden, squid, sand eels, herring, mackerel, and alewives, as well as scup, butterfish, and cunner.
Bluefish are rich and oily, with moist and delicate flesh. They are also high in heart-healthy “good fats.” While they have a more assertive flavor than other fish, when prepared their meat can have a mild, flaky taste.
Despite what their name might elude to, Bluefish are most commonly a sea-green color on top, fading to a silvery shade on their lower sides and belly. Bluefish rarely exceed 20 lbs. and 40 inches in length, and they generally run between 10-15 pounds. The are moderately proportioned fish, and have a broad, forked tail.
Bluefish don’t hold up well when frozen or canned, and the Bluefish coming off the boats of the fishermen that work with Village Fishmonger are the freshest available. Village Fishmonger recommends storing your fish on ice and refrigerating it for the best results. By keeping fish at the coldest temperature possible without freezing, you can help extend its usable life, keeping it firmer and fresher tasting for longer.
Though they are a respected gamefish, most people tend to overlook Bluefish as table fare due to their “fishy” reputation. These fish have strong digestive enzymes that can lead to quick spoilage, so it’s recommended to put them on ice soon after catching. As with most fish, Bluefish are best when fresh and when properly prepared they are delicious.
Olive Oil Poached Bluefish Crostini [Katie O’Donnell of Frankies 570 Spuntino]
Broiled Bluefish with Citrus Dressing [Village Fishmonger]
Bluefish Tacos [Hungry Native]
Smoked Bluefish Rillettes [Six Course Dinner]
Farms have seen up to $1,350 in a single transaction on Plovgh. As a Plovgh farm member, you can expect to plan for your season, connect with buyers, streamline customer orders, and get fast payment for your crops all in one place. Click here to register your farm!
Basic farm membership
Cooperative farm membership
$50/year when you join with at least five other producers
Independent farm membership
$250/year when you join as an individual producers
Production of our popcorn was cut by over half last year due to the drought. Northeast Iowa, where I farm, was hit the hardest last year by the drought. This year we had a record wet and cold spring which then turned into a “flash drought”. At this time Northeast Iowa, although still dry, is the wettest part of Iowa. Our yields should only be slightly below trend line.- A conversation with Jim Fitkin of Fitkin Farms in Cedar Falls, Iowa earlier this season
Samascott Orchards - Kinderhook, NY
Harvesting date: October - November 2013
There are more than 7,000 varieties of apples that come to harvest at different times over the course of a season.
Apples can be categorized by their harvest schedule which include an early-season crop (mid- to late summer), a mid-season crop (mid-summer to early autumn), and a late-season crop (early to late autumn, and sometimes running into winter). Harvest times may vary a week or more from year to year, depending on when the tree is in bloom and the climate conditions during the growing season. Cloudy, cool conditions or drought conditions also tend to delay fruit maturity.
Late season or winter apples are great for cooking and are also the best keepers. Here are some of the varieties you can find growing at Samascott Orchards this season.
A very old-fashioned American variety that is well known for its winter-hardiness. Good for baking pies, these apples are crunchy and have a thin skin. They’re juicy, crisp and mildly sweet with a rich, aromatic tart flavor.
First introduced in 2006, this variety is savory and sweet, with a slight tartness and rich overtones. When it’s cut it takes a longer than usual time to turn brown which makes them ideal for eating fresh with cheese plates or salads.
Also known as Pinova or Piñata, Sonata apples are a cross between a Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and a Duchess of Oldenburg. It has a crisp taste that is both sweet and tart.
A small, sweet variety that is similar to a McIntosh. It has bright crimson skin and white flesh. When picked right off the tree, Spartans are very crisp and juicy, but they tend to soften a bit within a week or so of picking. They are a great variety for juicing.
A cross between Northern Spy and Golden Delicious, these apples are tender and have a fine-grained, firm, crisp flesh. Similar to the Northern Spy variety, these apples hold their shape well when cooked making them a good choice for baking.
Apples are still living even after they are picked which means they are using stored nutrients as opposed to those received from the tree prior to harvesting. During storage, they gradually use up their nutrients causing the sugar, starch, and acid content of the apple to change. This is why some apples become mealy. Storage varies depending on the cultivar, but most apples store well at low temperatures (as this slows the respiration rate and preserves good quality) and at high humidity (to keep them from dehydrating & shriveling up). You can find more detailed storage tips here.
Whether you’re baking or making cider, finding the right apple cultivar for the right dish can be a science. Or you could just take the easy route, and check out this list.
When baking…(Some Kitchen Stories)
When grilling…(Serious Eats)
When poaching…(The Hungry Giant)
When sautéing…(Oh My Veggies)
It’s true: Farmers tend to get the short end of the stick when it comes to money. They have the hardest job on the planet but because they’re at the foundation (read, bottom) of the industrial food chain, they’re typically the last to get paid. Not only do they just make $0.11, on average, for every dollar of food you purchase, but they also wait weeks - sometimes, we hear, even months - to get paid for their work.
But seed needs to be planted! Land needs to be tilled! Farmers themselves need to be fed! What an abomination.
We at Plovgh have a mission to keep independent farms viable, and we accomplish it by making it possible for any farm to sell directly to its customers. Farms that sell their harvest through Plovgh set their own prices and get paid 24 hours after they deliver their crops to you.
We’re pleased to have found in Dwolla compatriots in the battle to take down all the giants that stand between a buyer and seller. Now, using Dwolla Credit on Plovgh, you can place an order from a farmer today, receive your harvest and get him paid tomorrow, and only part with your own cash at the end of the month. Check it out, for your own good and your farmer’s.
When you register on Plovgh, use the discount code GoDwolla to get $10 toward your first purchase from the farms!
Today is Food Day. Across the country people are organizing and sponsoring events that encourage Americans to eat Real Food. You can get involved simply by tweeting why you support Food Day or by hosting an event in your community.
We think one of the best ways to live out your Food Day commitment is by buying directly from farmers. Putting your food dollars towards the people that grow, raise, and produce food that is good for the land and good for you is one of the strongest statements you can make. Voting for change in policy and farm regulations is necessary, but today, the most immediate way you can make a difference in the food system is by buying directly from the farm, and supporting a shift away from industrial, non-transparent, processed food in favor of eating real.
When you register on Plovgh, use the FOODDAY discount code to get an extra $10 toward your next farmers market, CSA, or other direct-from-farm purchase.
Samascott Orchards - Kinderhook, NY
Harvesting date: September - October 2013
Architect’s rulers are made from pear wood because it doesn’t warp. Furniture, musical instruments and kitchen utensils have also been made from the wood of pear trees because it does not splinter, and in the case of kitchen utensils, can withstand multiple washings.
Native to coastal and mild regions, pear tree groves were cultivated in China almost 3000 years ago. Pear trees are grown by sowing the seeds of other cultivated or wild varieties which form pear stocks (also known as free stocks) onto which more desired varieties can be grafted to increase production. Pears are unique from other fruits like apples and strawberries in that they ripen from the inside out, even after they have been harvested. Since they continue to ripen after they are picked, some orchards harvest pears early to extend the seasons’ crop. And you know that gritty, grainy texture you might associate with some varieties? That’s because pears have stone cells (sclereids) which are isodiametric cells, with thick cell walls that can be often found in quince fruits.
There are thousands of varieties of pears, some grown primarily for eating, while others are grown specifically for ornamental purposes. Different types can come in a range of sizes, and the skin can be a pale yellow to a deep brownish gold color. Pears can be sweet or spicy in taste, and have a texture that is gritty or smooth.
Also known as the “Williams pear”, Bartlett pears are a heirloom variety that were first developed in England. They are the most aromatic type of pear. Their skin is a greenish, yellow hue and are sometimes highlighted by a red blush. They have a smooth texture and are good for canning or sliced on top of a salad. Bartlett pears account for almost 75% of pear production in the US and are commonly used in pear juice and canned pears because they can bruise easily.
The Potomac was developed by the USDA in 1993 and is related to the the D’Anjou variety. It’s small, with light green and glossy skin. Potomac pears are sweet and have a buttery, fine texture.
Unripened pears are best stored in a refrigerator at ideally 30 degrees - in colder temperatures they will become damaged and in warmer temperatures they will ripen faster. Most early fall varieties will last up to 2 months, while winter pears will last a few months longer. The longer pears have been in cold storage, the faster they’ll ripen once they’re taken out.
Typically, when we think of pears we think, compotes, tarts and salads. But, how about pears and bacon? Or pears and pizza? Or pears and eggs? We think, why not.
Bacon, Pear & Raspberry Grilled Cheese (Pinch of Yum)
Pear, Goat Cheese & Pistachio Pizza (Savour the Senses)
Roasted Pears With Balsamico & Lime (Bread & Companatico)
Vanilla Pear Milk (Pastry Affair)
Pear & Camembert Quiche (The Creative Pot)
Glebocki Farms - Goshen, NY
Harvesting date: September - late October 2013
Here are some tips from the ladies at Food52 on how to roast any type of winter squash.
A cousin of the melon, winter squash is a summer-growing annual fruit. What makes winter and summer squash different? The winter variety is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage when the seeds inside have fully matured and the skin has hardened into a tough outer layer. Originating in South America, squash are frost-tender vegetables and their seeds do not germinate in cold soil, thus they are best planted when the soil is thoroughly warm. Once the fruits have turned a deep, solid color and the skin has hardened, then the squash is ready to be harvested. Similar to potatoes, in order for winter squash to undergo storage they must first be cured.
There are over a dozen species of squash that fall under the winter squash genus, and each also have multiple cultivars. Some species are edible - Cucurbita maxima, moschata, and pepo - and some are not - the ornamental gourds you see around the holidays.
Shaped like an acorn, Acorn squash can be both green or white. The outer rind has even groves around the entire squash. Acorns have a tough outer skin and moist, sweet, tender flesh. Some have splashes of orange or yellow on the rind, and are orange on the inside.
One of the sweetest types of squash, Butternuts are a tan to pale orange color with thick, bright orange flesh. They are an elongated pear shape - thin on top, becoming more round at the base. Butternuts have very few seeds and a thin skin that is easy to peel.
These squash are thick skinned with firm, fragrant yellow flesh. When cooked the inside becomes rich, nutty and sweet. Carnival squash are pumpkin-shaped with a deeply furrowed top. They have a pale yellow skin with variegated markings of orange and green. The various colorings represent its level of maturity and the presence of post-harvest green indicates that the squash is still at its peak maturity.
Delicata squash are one of the more colorful varieties and also one of the more fragile. They are small and oblong in shape and are typically white or pale yellow with bright yellow, dark green and orange stripes. In comparison to other winter squash, the skin of this variety is on the thinner side and edible when cooked. Delicatas taste sweet and nutty and are a good substitute for sweet potatoes.
Kabocha squash are a Japanese variety that is large, round and a similar shape as pumpkins. The outer skin is dark green, mottled, and hard while the inside is dense, smooth and sweet. Kabocha squash hold their shape, making them a good variety for soups or tempura.
Spaghetti squash are round and oval-shaped, but like their namesake, when Spaghetti squash is cooked the flesh pulls apart into thick, noodle-like strands. They have a pale-yellow outer skin and a mild taste.
The beautiful thing about winter squash is that most of them are interchangeable when it comes to cooking. Whether you’re roasting or pureeing, or your recipe is savory or sweet, you can try out a new variety or mix them up. Below you’ll find a recipe for each type, but we’re big advocates of experimenting.
Roasted Winter Squash With Miso Glaze (NYTimes)
Delicata Squash with Rosemary & Feta (Kitchen Treaty)
Acorn Squash Pancakes (BevCooks)
Carnival Squash Latkes (Kitchen Tested)
Butternut Squash and Chickpea Chili (The Roasted Root)
Kabocha Squash & Bacon Frittata (Hello Home)
Spaghetti Squash Gratin (Hungry Couple)
Greener Pastures (aka “Union Square Grassman”) - Brooklyn, NY
Harvesting date: September 2013 (producing year round)
Charles F. Schnabel introduced people to wheatgrass in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until almost a decade later that it became popularized as a health food, as well as a medicinal supplement. Wheatgrass is also sometimes marketed as “cat grass”.
Wheatgrass is grown from a wheat seed, but is gluten-free, as it contains no actual wheat. Since it is a young plant, wheatgrass is unique becuase it retains a lot of the energy from the seed, but as it grows it creates the energy that is associated with green vegetables. It’s similar to a sprout, but ramped up a notch, in that it contains the carbs and enzymes from the seed, but also produces vitamins and pulls minerals out of the soil. Stewart’s wheatgrass is grown inside a converted warehouse in Gowanus, Brooklyn. It is grown in trays in a climate controlled space and he uses rotational planting to ensure that he is growing the freshest wheatgrass year round.
Stewart’s wheatgrass is some of the sweetest tasting you’ll find. While it has similar benefits to eating dark, leafy greens, it does not have the same bitter taste that can be associated with other greens.
It looks like, well, grass - but it is fresh, fragrant and refreshing grass.
There are many nutritional benefits and health claims linked to wheatgrass. Among the many health conditions wheatgrass is proposed to help treat, a few include anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, digestion problems, and liver disorders. What is definitely a fact is that wheatgrass is high in antioxidants and nutrients, and the juice contains a concentrated mixture of grain and vegetable vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and Chlorophyll. To get the full, sweet flavor of the wheatgrass we recommend grinding it up in a juicer and drinking it as a shot. Below are several juice and smoothie recipes to help get you started. (Note: Got pets? They’ll love it too.)
Watch this video to learn more about how Stewart got started farming in Brooklyn.