Plovgh is a cooperative of farmers, growers, and ranchers that sell directly to their customers.

Now Harvesting: Popping Corn

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.

21 11/13

Now Harvesting: Apples [Part 2, late-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.

Northern Spy
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)

31 10/13

Now Harvesting: Pears

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)

10 10/13

Now Harvesting: Winter Squash

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)

04 10/13

Now Harvesting: Eggplant

Laughing Loon Farm - Northfield, MN
Harvesting: Late August to mid October

Eggplants are botanically classified as a berry.

Eggplants are a species of nightshades - other nightshade crops include tomatoes and potatoes - that were originally domesticated in India. The plants have large, coarsely lobbed leaves with spiny stems. Their flowers are shades of white or purple. Eggplants are bulbous fruits and can be a range of shapes from oval, and egg-shapped to long and slender with shiny skin. The inside flesh is a milky color, with a meaty texture. Cultivated varieties of eggplant can be as small as 2 inch fairytale varieties up to 12 feet or longer.

Eggplant varieties vary in size (as small as your thumb to as large as your forearm), shape (oblong, round, slender), and coloring (white, bicolor, deep purple). Here are a couple types that farmer Danya at Laughing Loon Farm is harvesting this season:

Orient Express (Asian variety)
Skinny, delicate and a deep, shiny purple, Orient Express eggplants are an early variety, harvested up to 2 weeks before other plants. It has a tender flavor and cooks quickly. They have a high skin to flesh ratio which means they won’t fall apart as quickly when cut, making them ideal for stir fries, tempura or pickling.

Epic (Globe variety)
Globe eggplants, (also called American) are what typically comes to mind when you think eggplant. They are large, dark purple/black and have a wide, pear shape. Laughing Loon planted a Globe variety called Epic this season, which is thriving in the late summer heat. This variety tends to have tougher skin and more seeds than the thinner varieties making them a little more bitter. Globe eggplants are larger than Asian varieties with a meatier, spongy texture inside, which makes them good for grilling or roasting.

Because of their spongy flesh, eggplants can absorb oil more quickly than other vegetables while cooking. The folks over at Food52 recommend salting your eggplant before cooking to draw out the moisture, which also lessens their bitter flavor. You can find more helpful tips from the Food52 Hotline here. Let the roasting, grilling, sautéing and pureeing commence.
South Indian Pickled Eggplant (Green Kitchen Stories)
Stuffed Eggplant (La Tartine Gourmande)
Baba Ganoush (David Lebovitz)
Eggplant Chutney (What Katie Ate)
Sweet and Sour Stir-Fried Eggplant (Serious Eats)

13 09/13

Now Harvesting: Apples [Part 1, late summer]

Samascott Orchards - Kinderhook, NY
Harvesting date: August to late November 2013

The only apples native to North America are crab apples, which were once called “common apples”.

Apples originated in Central Asia and grow on small, deciduous trees. Grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe, apples were first brought to North America by European colonists.There are more than 7,500 known cultivated varieties of apples, all having a wide range of differing characteristics. Different varieties are bred for various tastes and uses, including cooking, eating fresh and cider production. Domestic apples are usually propagated by grafting, although wild apples can grow readily from seed. Apple trees blossom in spring and the fruit matures in autumn.

In most grocery stores the only apples you’ll be choosing from often include Red and Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Fuji. At Samascott Orchards, they grow more than 50 varieties. Here’s a taste of some they are harvesting now:
Originating from Japan, Akane apples are red with white flesh. Their skin is firm - as opposed to crisp - and juicy. Their flavor is a good balance of sweet and sharp.
Earligold apples are medium to large, round-conical apples first grown in Washington. They have a greenish, yellow skin and are a little tart.
Developed by the New York State Ag Experiment Station at Cornell, they are an easy to grow blend of McIntosh and Delicious. These apples are an intense marroon-red, overlying a light green skin. Empires are sweet with a crisp texture and bright white flesh, and are ideal because they do not bruise easily.
Gingergolds were first discovered near an orchard in Virginia. Its color, shape and long stalk are similar to that of a Golden Delicious. It keeps well and can last up to several weeks in the fridge. They have a mild sweetness that can also be a bit sharp.
Jersey Mac
Jersey Macs are a McIntosh bred variety, developed at Cornell. It is a medium sized red apple with yellow/green splashes. Flesh is crisp and juicy with a tart flavor.
A cross between a Jonathan and a McIntosh, Jonamacs are medium sized, firm, crisp and juicy. They are a dark red with undertones of green.
Mix between Gala and Akane it was developed in the 1970’s by Japanese and New Zealand researchers. It is sweet like a Gala, but has more acidity. It’s skin is russet and speckled and with a yellowish flesh.
Summer Treat
A larger fruit with glossy skin that was developed in New Jersey. The skin is shades of bright red and light green, and the flesh is cream colored and coarse, with a crisp, sweet flavor. They are best eaten fresh from the tree when the fruits are ripe as they can lose quality quickly and becomes mealy if not harvested.
Vista Bella
An early season dessert apple originally from New Jersey, the name “Vista Bella” comes from the Guatamalan highlands where it is also grown. The apples have light yellow-green skin and spots of flushed deep red where it is exposed to the sun. It has a summery, fruity, juicy flavor. They don’t keep as well as other varieties so it is recommended to keep them in the fridge rather than the counter.
Yes, the exclamation point is supposed to be there. These apples were bred at the University of Minnesota where they were developed for cold-hardiness. They have a sweet-tart taste and are round and deep red with undertones of yellow. The flesh is white and crisp and has a good texture for baking.

Baked apples (Food52) / Apple pancakes (Smitten Kitchen) / Beet, Apple & Fig Salad (Busy in Brooklyn) / Chutney (The Sweet Beet) / Salted Caramel Tart (frites & fries) / Vegan apple biscuits (Green Kitchen Stories)

Find Gala and Summer Treat varieties from Samascott Orchards at Foragers Market (both Chelsea & Dumbo) this week!

06 09/13

Now Harvesting: Butter

Cowbella Dairy - Jefferson, NY
Harvesting date: August 2013 (producing year round)

“Butter from grass-fed cows is much higher in omega-3 fatty acids than conventional butter, as well as anti-oxidants like beta carotenes, vitamin E, and selenium—and it’s an excellent source of vitamin A.” (source: 150ish The Local Dish)

The folks at Cowbella have raised Jersey cows for generations. Ideal for making butter, Jerseys have the highest butterfat content in their milk out of all other dairy breeds. To make their butter they first separate the milk into cream and skim, and use the skim milk for their yogurt. At Cowbella, milk is processed three times a week in 800 pound batches. The milk is transported from the dairy barn to the processing plant on the farm using a small bulk tanker where it is pasteurized and separated. Each batch yields approximately 40 pounds of butter and 300 quarts of yogurt. Every batch is made by hand with natural ingredients, and without the use of fillers, thickeners or preservatives.

Jersey cows’ milk is rich and creamy, as is Cowbella’s butter.

Butter you buy at the store tends to have an off-white color as opposed to butter produced from the milk of grass-fed cows which has a goldenrod color. The quality is present in the color, which is enriched by the cows’ natural grass- heavy diet. During the summer months, when the grass is plentiful, the butter is a vibrant, sunflower yellow.

Recommended recipe: Toast a piece of bread; spread butter on toast; enjoy.
Other options could include:
St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake (Smitten Kitchen)
Cucumber & Butter Tea Sandwiches (Food52)
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (Joy the Baker)

You can find Cowbella’s sweet cream and salted butter at Campbell’s Cheese & Grocery.

29 08/13

Now Harvesting: Peaches

Peaches (Prunus persica)
Varieties: Donut & Yellow Flesh
Samascott Orchards, Kinderhook NY
Harvesting date: August 2013

More than 80 chemical compounds contribute to the peach aroma.

Peaches are native to China and took many centuries to spread from Greece (300 BC) to North America (16th century). Today there are more than 300 varieties grown in North America alone.
Peach trees grow well in climates where winters are mild and summers are hot. The trees are deciduous and produce flowers in early spring before the leaves. A typical peach cultivar begins bearing fruit in its third year and has a lifespan of about 12 years.
Even though the grocery store treats them as different fruits, peaches and nectarines are the same species. Nectarines have an orange center and faint fuzz, while peaches have white centers and very fuzzy skin. Cultivated peach varieties include White Flesh, Clingstone (flesh clings to pit; softer, sweeter and juicier than Freestone; great for baking), Freestone (flesh doesn’t cling to pit; larger and good for eating out of your hand), Semi-Freestone (a hybrid of Clingstone and Freestone), and Donut (an heirloom variety; flat, white-fleshed, and low in acid).

Peaches are sweet and - depending on the variety - can have an acidy tang.

Like other stone fruits, peaches have a juicy, fleshy exterior with a hard pit inside, and a smaller seed inside the pit. Most of us are accustomed to yellow flesh peaches, which like their name have a golden yellowish skin and yellow flesh. The flesh is very delicate and can bruise easily.

As a late-summer fruit, peaches are great on the grill, in drinks, on salads or as ice cream. Also, you can preserve them to capture that sweet, summer taste for a treat in the middle of winter.

Peach & Blueberry Crostata (Liz Beals of Beth’s Farm Kitchen)
Honey-Sweetened White Peach Jam (Food52)
Peach Gnocchi (101 Cookbooks)
Bourbon Peach Hand Pies (Smitten Kitchen)
Peach Salsa (the Kitchn)
Peach Crumble (Martha Stewart)
Roasted Peach Salad (Tasting Table)
Peach & Pesto Crostini (Love & Lemons)

Love peaches too? Share your favorite recipes in the comments.

19 08/13

Now Harvesting: Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn (Zea mays)
Stoney Brook Farms, Foley MN
Harvesting date: Late July - early August 2013 (Happening now!)

Corn is a grain, not a vegetable. Sweet corn is the result of a naturally occurring recessive genetic mutation which controls conversion of sugar to starch inside the kernel.

Corn is an annual crop that requires fertile soil, consistent moisture and warm weather. Unlike field corn varieties, sweet corn is harvested early before the kernels are dry and mature. Sweet corn stores poorly and must be eaten fresh, canned, or frozen, before the kernels become tough and starchy. Growth of the plant happens in six stages: silking, kernel blister, kernel milk, kernel dough, kernel dent, and physiological maturity (photos here).

Sweet corn is rich in flavor. It can be milky and buttery. There are sweet corn hybrids that come in different levels of sweetness including, normal, sugar-enhanced, and supersweet.

Most commonly, the corn we eat has yellow and white kernels, but there are many more vibrantly colored varieties of corn.

Whether you prefer your sweet corn on the cob, raw, boiled or grilled your options are pretty endless. Also, Food52 has a good recipe for your corn ears, so don’t toss ‘em.
Ice cream, anyone?
Griddle cakes
Charred corn crepes
Coconut corn salad

02 08/13

Now Harvesting: Sour Cherries

Sour Cherries (Prunus cerasus)
Samascott Orchards, Kinderhook NY
Harvesting date: Early July 2013

Catholic and Protestant missionaries planted the first sour cherry trees along Traverse Bay in northwestern Michigan in the 1800s.

Sour cherries are fleeting and have a brief growing season - from around the end of June to the beginning of July. When harvesting, cherries should be soft to the touch as they do not continue to ripen like other fruits once they are picked. Cherries tend to grow in groups because the plant’s flowers bloom from a single focal point which then wilt and become the fruit. The plants prefer a rich, well-drained, moist soil, and require more nitrogen and water than sweet cherries.

When eaten raw they can be pretty tart, but they go well with savory dishes and help balance out sweet recipes.

Cherries are a type of stone fruit - which are fruits that have an outer fleshy part surrounding a pit, such as peaches and apricots. Sour cherries also go by the names tart, wild, and/or pie cherries. Sour cherry trees are shorter than sweet cherry trees and the fruit tends to be a darker red, crimson color to almost near black.

Cherries can be preserved as jams or in liquor, and also keep their flavor when frozen. For fresh cherries, keeping the fruit attached to their stems will keep them fresh longer. If you think pitting is the pits, (yes, we did) try these techniques out and then go make one of these:

Sour cherry-mascarpone pound cake
Sour cherry pie with almond crumble
Sour cherry frozen yogurt
Drunken sour cherries
Roasted Duck Breast with Sour Cherries

Find Samascott Orchard’s sour cherries on the menu at Rose Water Restaurant in Brooklyn.

12 07/13