Okra and Greens Gumbo
Adapted from the Gumbo Z’herbes recipe in Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking
Makes 8 to 10 servings
½ cup oil
½ cup flour
2 medium onions, chopped
2 sweet peppers, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium turnips, chopped
1 cup plus ½ cup chopped scallions
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups of greens, coarsely chopped (mustard greens, turnip greens, kale or chard)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon file powder
2 quarts stock (chicken, vegetable, or shrimp)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Bouquet garni (made with parsley stems, bay leaf, and thyme)
2 cups okra, chopped
Salt and pepper
Cooked white rice, optional
Also optional, cooked chicken, shrimp, and/or sausage
Heat ½ cup oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Carefully whisk in the flour. Continue whisking until the roux is the color of peanut butter, or a little darker.
Add the onions, sweet peppers, celery, turnips, 1 cup of scallions, and garlic, and cook, stirring to coat vegetables with roux, for 5 minutes.
Add the greens, stir, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until they are wilted; add the thyme and file powder.
Stir in the chicken stock, 2 cups at a time, bringing the mixture to a boil after each addition. Whisk in the oyster liquor and Worcestershire sauce.
Bring the gumbo to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the okra and the bouquet garni and cook over medium-low heat for about 1 hour, adding more chicken stock or water if the mixture gets too thick.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
To serve the gumbo, ladle generous portions into bowls and garnish with remaining scallions, and hot rice, if desired.
These fresh-from-the-farm ingredients available at The Market at Pepper Place and Tuscaloosa River Market, as well as in CSA boxes!
Sweet Potato, Potato, and Turnip Gratin with Thyme and Gruyere
1 pound of potatoes
1 pound medium red-skinned sweet potatoes
1 pound of turnips
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 5 ounces)
Using a mandoline (or knife if you do not have a mandolin), cut the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and turnips in 1/8-inch rounds. Combine cream, butter, and garlic in medium saucepan; bring to simmer. Remove from heat. Place thyme leaves in a small bowl. Mix sea salt and black pepper in another small bowl.
Butter small baking dish or pie pan. Alternate slices of sweet potato, potato, and turnip, standing on their skin side, to fill the dish or pan. Sprinkle thyme and salt mixture over the slices, separating if necessary and allowing some of the salt and herbs to fall between the slices. Pour cream mixture over gratin, pressing lightly to submerge potato mixture as much as possible. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
DO AHEAD Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Remove plastic wrap before baking.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cover gratin tightly with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until top of gratin is golden and most of liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes; serve.
With a salad, it makes a meal!
It is greens season! We have plenty to choose from, but this week I have turnip greens on my mind and specifically a turnip green calzone with sweet peppers and smoked cheddar.
Turnip Green Calzones
Makes 2 calzones
1 pizza crust recipe (included below)
1 large bunch of turnip greens
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minces
As many sweet peppers as you’d like, chopped
4 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, grated (you could substitute gouda or other cheeses, but if you can find smoked cheddar, it is really the best)
1 egg, whisked
A tomato or some tomato sauce (Most have sauce on the side, but I just put a couple of spoonfuls in the filling and it was great that way!)
Heat your oven to 450 degrees.
While the crust is rising, cook the onion and peppers in some olive oil in a skillet.
When they begin to soften, add the garlic and turnip greens. Once cooked, you can add in a couple of spoonfuls of tomato sauce (or save for the side if you would rather).
Roll out one round of dough and place it on a flour or cornmeal dusted baking sheet. On one half of the circle, sprinkle one quarter of the cheese then place half of the filling, leaving one inch on every edge. Top with another quarter of the cheese and fold the empty half of dough over. Fold the edge and crimp shut. Cut decorative vents in the top. Coat with whisked egg and repeat with the other round of dough.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust has a nice golden hue.
Adapted from Bottega Favorita by Frank Stitt
1 ¼ cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup olive oil
Cornmeal for dusting (optional)
Pour the warm water into a small bowl, stir in the honey, and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Set aside to proof until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a large bowl and a sturdy hand mixer). Add the yeast mixture and olive oil and mix on low speed until the dough forms a mass on the paddle and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove the dough and divide into 2 equal portions. Put on a flour-dusted baking sheet, cover with a towel, and set aside in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes, or until almost doubled. (You can make this dough ahead and refrigerate it overnight if necessary; allow it to come to room temperature before continuing.)
The premier pod of summer, okra is in its prime right now. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of produce. Long and tender, tapered at the end with symmetrical ridges running the length of it, segments cut from it are star-shaped with an almost perfectly round seed nestled inside each of the eight chambers, or locules.
You can spend much of a day prepping and stirring a pot of gumbo, filling your home with the scent of supper, or you can toss whole pods in olive oil and salt and roast them in 30 minutes. And, don't forget, it is a superfood!
Hundreds of pounds of the vegetable are coming out of our garden each week. We, and our CSA members, often feel buried under it at this point in the year, so we solicited recipes for some mid-season inspiration.
The “Okra in Sesame Coconut Sauce” was the clear winner,
with “Tomato and Grilled Okra Panzanella Salad” coming in second.
There was not enough time to prepare all of the recipes entered, so we voted on the top 6 to try. The other four dishes were "Mock Shoe", "Okra with Cherry Tomatoes and Fresh Herbs", "Undecided Okra Stew", and "Okra with Harissa and Feta".
Many thanks to everyone that entered! And a huge thank you to Jennifer and everyone at Spirits Wine Cellar for hosting the recipe tasting!
All 6 recipes for the dishes at the tasting are included below.
Okra in sesame coconut sauce
from Jana Wheeler
2 teaspoons oil
3-4 cups okra, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
Cook until okra is slightly crisp, 8-9 minutes, add a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3/4 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or powder)
3/4 cup chopped red onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch knob ginger, minced
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or a fresh one)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 -1 teaspoon Garam Masala
3/4 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened!)
Heat oil in skillet. Add coriander and cumin seeds and cook for 30 sec. Add onion, garlic, ginger, cook about 5 minutes.
Add turmeric, cayenne, salt, garam masala, stir a few seconds. Add tomato, sesame seeds, coconut, cook 3-4 minutes, mash tomato a bit. Let slightly cool, transfer to a blender with 1/2 cup water, blend until smooth.
Add puree and okra back to skillet, cook for about 5 minutes.
Amazing over rice, with flatbread, other curries if we feel fancy, or by itself! :)
Tomato and Grilled Okra Panzanella Salad
from Elizabeth Alford
2 cups okra, grilled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups heirloom tomato, cut into 1 inch cubes/pieces (a firmer tomato is preferable, like the Cherokee Purple)
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 1/2 T. Kosher salt
Small (or 1/2 regular) french baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 gloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or smashed
2 T sherry vinegar
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/3 - 1/2 c. olive oil
1 tsp dijon
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Toss whole okra lightly in olive or canola oil. Grill 3-4 minutes each side over medium-high heat, until grill marks develop. Remove from grill, allow to cool, then chop roughly into 1-inch pieces.
2. Over high heat, melt 1/4 cup butter and blend with 1/2 cup olive oil. Add 3 cloves garlic and cook until fragrant. Toss in bread cubes so they are well coated with oil/butter. Cook until bread crumbs begin to develop golden-brown color. Remove croutons from heat and remove garlic cloves. Place croutons on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees 10-15 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
3. In large salad bowl, combine tomato, okra, croutons, kosher salt, and basil. Allow to sit while dressing is made.
4. Whisk together all dressing ingredients until well emulsified. Toss with salad and allow to sit 15-20 minutes before serving.
Serve room temperature as an appetizer or top with your favorite grilled protein for a complete meal!
from Suzanne Hoye
1 cup Conecuh Sausage, cut into small pieces
2cups okra, bite sized pieces
2cups corn cut from cob
1/2cup onion. Chopped
1/2 cup red pepper. Chopped
1/2 cup water
1 large tomatoe cut into bite sized pieces
2-3 tbsp butter, divided
Salt and pepper
Brown the sausage in a Dutch oven using a small amount of butter. Medium heat. Remove and set aside when browned
Add a little butter to the pan and melt. Add onion and pepper, cook a minute or so til onion is transparent. Remove and set aside
Add the rest of the butter, melt, add corn and okra. Cook about 5 minutes, til tender. Add the sausage, onion and pepper and water to the mix. Bring to a boil. Add tomato and turn down the heat to low. Cook 5 minutes, salt and pepper to taste, then serve. If you have any leftovers, it’s even good cold
Okra with cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs
from Stefani Mugnaini
I split the pods on the bias. With bigger pods, maybe two cuts.
Dice onion and mince garlic, throw everything in a very hot skillet, in the order of okra-onion-garlic, adding the onion after the okra gets a little charred and blistered, and the garlic after the onions start Browning.
Season with salt, pepper, cumin or Chipotle powder.
Then I toss a few cherry tomatoes in, toss everything just long enough for the tomatoes to pop, and then serve, garnished with chopped fresh herbs. Basil or savory or Italian parsley.
Undecided Okra Stew
(6 servings, vegan, probably low-fat)
from Chase Wrenn
I love okra curries. I love gumbo. This isn’t either, but it’s what I make when I can’t decide which I want. Feel free to turn up the heat with more spices.
1-2 lbs okra, trimmed and cut into ½” pieces
2 medium onions
2 ribs celery
1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeño pepper
2 tsp each of
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil (plus more if needed)
2 tsp dried thyme
1 block super-firm tofu, cubed
1 large can crushed tomatoes
3 cups vegetable broth
2 (dry) cups rice, prepared according to package instructions. (Basmati is great; I like long grain brown rice with this)
Food processor and pressure cooker (I use an Instant Pot). You could do this without them and just simmer on the stove until you’re happy with it, but I think this way is most convenient.
Okra with Harissa and Feta
from Brett Louise
Remove ends of okra and slice pods lengthwise down the middle. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet and add okra to skillet. Cook at medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, or until okra has softened and charred a bit.
Add a bit of cumin and a bit of garlic powder (alternatively, you can mince and sautee garlic with the okra). Reduce heat to medium-low. Add one to three heaping tablespoons of harissa (to taste, depending on your desired spice level and amount of okra).
Stir about two minutes more, until heated through. To serve, top with lots of crumbled feta, or if you prefer, a generous dollop of yogurt. Yum!
ROSELLE (also called gongura or Jamaican sorrel)
A couple of years ago Rao, our entomologist friend from India, gave us a small number of roselle plants. We were immediately hooked and have been enjoying it ever since, adding more plants each year. It thrives in the sweltering temperatures of late summer in Alabama and it has a unique flavor that always leaves me wanting more.
His suggested preparation is to toast mustard seeds in oil, adding garlic and a chile pepper (optional), and then briefly sautéing the roselle leaves with those ingredients. We tried it this way and it was delicious. The flavor is a bit sour, like sorrel or rhubarb, and there is some okra-ness in the texture. The tart recipe below features both of those aspects – the sourness is used as in a rhubarb tart and the texture serves to help the tart ‘set’.
Roselle is in the same family as okra and hibiscus. We are currently harvesting the leaves, but the calyces (“the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud”) can also be harvested and used in the same way as culinary hibiscus, as in a tea.
Roselle is also used in pickling and can be paired with lentils or shrimp.
Please let us know what you think!
Here is an article on roselle:
Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of oil in a pan.
Add clean and plucked roselle leaves to the hot pan.
Fry until the leaves wilt. Set them aside to cool completely.
To the same pan, add more oil and fry the chiles until crispy. Switch off and add cumin.
When they cool down, add them to a food processor with garlic and salt. Blend until smooth.
Add the leaves and pulse to get a coarse texture.
Adapted from rareseeds.com
1½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup water
4 cups roselle leaves, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon lemon extract
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 tart crust
Mix together the sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a saucepan and add whisk in the water. Place over medium-heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add in the roselle, cover, and cook until tender, anywhere between 20-40 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the lemon extract and butter. Stir in the pecan pieces and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Roll the tart crust out and bake for 10 minutes (pie weights recommended). Place the filling in the curst and return to oven and bake for another 30 minutes. Serve cool.
Burmese Roselle Leaves with Bamboo Shoots & Shrimp - Chin Baung Kyaw
“In Burmese cuisine, roselle leaves are called chin baung ywet or sour leaf. It is perhaps the most widely eaten and popular vegetable in Burma. The leaves are fried with garlic, dried or fresh prawns and green chili or cooked with fish. A light soup (hinjo) made from roselle leaves and dried shrimp is also a popular dish."
1 bundle roselle leaves, washed and chopped
1 (8 oz.) pkg. bamboo shoots, fresh or pickled and sliced
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional for vegetarians)
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
8-10 cloves of garlic, diced
1 green chili, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 tsp. shrimp paste/ngapi (optional for vegetarians)
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
1 Tbsp. fish sauce (optional for vegetarians)
Marinate shrimp in fish sauce and turmeric for 15 minutes and set aside.
Heat oil over medium-high heat and fry garlic, onions and chilies until onions turn translucent.
Add tomatoes and shrimp paste and stir-fry until tomatoes break down and oil resurfaces.
Add roselle leaves and bamboo shoots, mix thoroughly and simmer over medium heat until roselle leaves are cooked and all liquid is absorbed.
Add marinated shrimp and cook for another 5 minutes.
Serve with steamed rice.
SWEET POTATO GREENS
You know the tuber well from pies and fries, but did you know that you can also eat the leaves? They have been in staple in many countries, especially in African cuisine, for as long as sweet potatoes have been grown.
I made a simple salad by cutting the leaves very thinly (chiffonade) and marinating them with minced shallot, vinegar, olive oil, and salt. After that it sat for 15 minutes or so, I added some chopped tomatoes. We ate it with crab cakes and were impressed with how the leaves holding their texture. The flavor was mild.
Sauteed Sweet Potato Greens
From The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson
Serves 4 as a side
"They are wonderfully rich in vitamins A and K and in polyphenols, and have magical way of hitting that hot pan and wilting into a beautiful pile of silky goodness in a minute's time."
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 pound sweet potato greens, stems finely chopped and leaves torn
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon cold unsalted butter
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Place the largest saute pan you have on the stove, or use a wok. Crank up the heat to high, and when the pan is blazing hot, turn on the hood vent. Add the grapeseed oil and swirl it around in the pan. When the first wisps of smoke waft off the oil, add the greens. Cook them for 1 minute, as you would spinach, quickly stirring them around halfway through. Season with kosher salt while they are cooking, and then add the lemon juice, butter, and red pepper flakes, stirring well to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the greens to a paper-towel-lined plate. Blot off the excess moisture and serve immediately.
Vadouvan and Corn and Sweet Potato Leaves
From Heritage by Sean Brock
Serves 6 as a side
“I can never understand why more people in the South don’t eat them (sweet potato leaves). Other cultures consider them a treat and here are all these farmers in the South growing sweet potatoes who have never tasted the leaves, much less tried to sell them.”
4 ears corn in the husk, soaked in water for 1 hour
12 sweet potato leaves
1 tablespoon Vadouvan spice (recipe below)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Put the corn on a rimmed baking sheet and bake it for 15 minutes, or until the kernels are soft. Remove it from the oven.
When the corn is cool enough to handle, remove the husks and silk and cut the kernels from the cobs. Set aside. (This can be done up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate the kernels, and bring them back to room temperature when ready to proceed.)
Wash the sweet potatoes leaves, drain them, and pat them dry. Make stacks of the leaves, roll them into cylinders, and cut them into ½-inch-wide ribbons.
Combine the corn and sweet potato leaves in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Vadouvan and butter and toss to coat. (This can be kept warm on the back of the stove for no more than 8 minutes. It should be made as close to serving time as possible.)
From Heritage by Sean Brock
Makes ½ cup
“This spice mix is great on pumpkin and fall squash, as well as on lamb, lobster, and scallops. Vadouvan is a curry powder that takes its influences from both India and France.”
1 pound sweet onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces shallots, halved
6 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 ½ teaspoons thinly sliced fresh curry leaves (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Working in batches, pulse the onions in a food processor until very coarsely chopped; it’s okay if there are a few large pieces remaining. Repeat with the shallots, and then the garlic.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over high heat until it shimmers. Add the onions, shallots, and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the onions and shallots are golden and lightly browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Grind the fenugreek seeds in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Add them to the onion mixture, along with all the remaining ingredients, and stir until combined. Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheets as thinly and evenly as possible. Bake, stirring occasionally and rotating the baking sheets, for 1 to 1 ¼ hours, until the mixture is well browned and barely moist. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a container, cover, and refrigerate.
Tightly covered, the spice mix can be refrigerated for up to 10 days.
Sweet Potato Leaves Salad
1 large bunch sweet potato leaves, stems removed and cleaned
3 pieces medium tomatoes, sliced
1 thumb ginger, shredded
1 medium red onion, sliced
6 tablespoons sugar cane vinegar
½ teaspoon white sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups water
Place water in a cooking pot and let boil.
Blanch the sweet potato leaves. This is done by putting the leaves in boiling water. Let it stay for about 20 to 30 seconds. Remove the leaves and submerge in a bowl of cold water for 30 seconds, and let dry.
In a large bowl, combine sweet potato leaves, tomatoes, ginger, onion, sugar, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Gently toss until all the ingredients are distributed.
Serve as an appetizer. Share and enjoy!
3 cups rice
5 cups gongura (Roselle or Jamaican sorrel leaves)
1 medium onion
½ tsp - cumin
1 spicy cinnamon stick
3 anise stars
3-5 bay leaves
4 tbsp. - ghee
1 tbsp. - oil
1-2 tsp - coriander powder
½ tsp - chili powder
5 green chilies
5 sprigs cilantro
Soak rice for at-least 1 hour
Cut onion, carrots and potatoes into cubes. Place deep X shaped slit to eggplant.
Separate gongura leaves from stem. Discard stem.
In a pot, add 2 tbsp. oil. Then add gongura, ¼ of onion and green chilies. Close the lid and cook till soft. Let it cool and grind to paste. Add water if needed. Keep it semi solid consistency. It should be watery also like paste.
Meanwhile to another pot, add 4½ cups of water and boil. Now add bay leaf and rice. Lower flame to low, and cook rice till water drains.
Take big pot, add ghee.
Add cumin, star anise, cinnamon fry till golden brown.
Add onion, carrot, eggplant and potatoes. Close lid and cook for 10 minutes.
Add salt, stir and cook for 5 more minutes.
Now add gongura paste, chili powder and coriander powder. Cook for 5 minutes.
Now take gongura mixture into another bowl. Leave 1 layer of mixture on the bottom. Now add a layer of rice. On top of rice add another layer of gongura mixture. Add layers till all gongura and rice is placed. Place aluminum foil on the pot and close lid on top of foil. Placing aluminum foil ensures steam not to escape. We cooked rice partly, by this process we are cooking rice in gongura steam. Gongura taste penetrates rice and gives it aromatic flavor and taste.
Close lid and cook on very low flame for almost 20-30 minutes till rice is cooked.
Mix well, garnish with cilantro. Serve hot immediately.
Below are 2 job descriptions. Both are somewhat flexible, though working at a farmer's market is required.
The Part-Time Farm Crew Member may work best for someone living in Birmingham.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with a resume or completed application.
Farm Crew Member
Farm Crew Members are involved in all aspects of the farm, including crop production (planting, maintaining, harvesting, washing, and packing), CSA and restaurant deliveries, and vending at farmer’s markets. Applicants should know that we are a production farm with a strong focus on hard-work, efficiency, and getting things done.
Supervised by farm owners.
Works closely with farm owners and other farm workers.
We rely on staff members to communicate details, observations, anything and everything pertinent to their job. Good communication is a must.
In the spring, early summer, and fall months there are typically up to 60 hours available and a minimum of 40 hours required. There is a slight dip in available hours in the peak heat of summertime, but still at least 40 available. In the winter, there is typically 40 hours, but some weeks the weather can have an effect on those. However, we grow and sell year-round so there is not a significant drop.
The schedule for the majority of the year looks like this:
M-F 7am-3pm (flexible end times, depending on how many hours employees would like to work)
Saturday 5/6am – 1/3pm (depending on which farmer’s market you attend)
5-day work weeks are also an option
Farm Crew Members start at $12/hour
Access to loads of high quality, delicious produce.
Part-Time Farm Crew Member
Part-Time Farm Crew Members are involved in all aspects of the farm, including crop production (planting, maintaining, harvesting, washing, and packing), deliveries, and vending at farmer’s markets. Applicants should know that we are a production farm with a strong focus on hard-work, efficiency, and getting things done.
Supervised by farm owners.
Works closely with farm owners and other farm workers.
We rely on staff members to communicate details, observations, anything and everything pertinent to their job. Good communication is a must.
There are some hours available working from home which can be discussed during an interview.
Otherwise, the schedule for the majority of the year looks like this:
Thursday – meet at Red Cat Coffee House to accept home deliveries, then delivery around 15 boxes to homes around Birmingham
Friday – 7 am to 4 pm work on the farm
Saturday 6am – 1pm work at Pepper Place Farmer’s Market
Part-Time Farm Crew Members start at $12/hour
Access to loads of high quality, delicious produce.
Where is your ideal setting for enjoying a cold slice of watermelon? Mine is along our private sand bar on the Black Warrior River, just down the bluff from where we grow them. We swim and then take a break to munch on slices of melon, spitting the seeds out. Once satiated, we swim again. Each year, we plant a melon patch on this bank, simply by spitting out the seeds.
My second favorite spot is on the front steps of our home. As I begin to cut a melon, it is so ripe that the knife barely touches the rind and it splits open. I arrange each piece on a platter, and tell the whole family to come outside. We often eat watermelon outside because it can be a messy snack and because then we can spit the seeds and we may have the opportunity to catch up with our neighbors. By stepping out into the thick air of an Alabama summer afternoon, we are embracing that moment, that season, and elevating it with watermelon, turning a typical summer day into a celebration.
It was in that setting that I offered a slice to our 6-year-old neighbor. They struggled with it for a while before I realized that they didn’t know how to eat watermelon with seeds in it. From there I continued to see signs that this iconic symbol of summer may be fading away. The next day, I walked into a grocery store and was immediately face-to-face with a full grown woman dressed as a slice of watermelon, covered in the black, teardrop shaped seeds, yet serving samples of seedless watermelon.
enjoying a Blacktail Mountain
Seedless watermelons are more common in grocery stores, but almost all the melons being sold at a farmer's market will have seeds. We don't grow seedless watermelons for a few reasons. The seedless watermelon seeds cost 50 cents per seed, which is quite expensive as commercial seeds go. Then you have to spray the seedlings with a crocus-derived alkaline, called colchicine, commonly used to treat gout. You must then plant all of your watermelons and, for every 2 or 3 rows of those, you must also plant a row of melon plants just for pollinating. I don't want to get too deep into the science of this here, but basically, the seedless watermelons are a triploid, carry 3 chromosomes instead of 2 and as a result when they are fertilized, the seeds fail to mature.
If you want to go deeper on this subject, here is a great article:
or an easy-to-digest video here:
picture from a seed catalog, it looks like something is missing
The parts around the seeds are always my favorite. It seems to me that the melon ripens up the most right around those seeds.
close up of a Yellow Doll
If we do need to eat the melon indoors, I'll cut it into chunks by finding the areas with the least amount of seeds first. Typically, around the rind there are some large seedless areas and then again in the center. The seeds generally form a ring in the middle. When I am left with the middle parts, full of seeds, I may pick them out or I may just eat that part right away (it's the best!). Sometimes I will send the seedy parts through a sieve and create watermelon juice to enjoy on its own or turn into a margarita!
it gets a little messy sometimes
Just today, a melon split open in the packing shed. It was fresh from the walk-in and very chilled. I had a million things to be doing at that moment, but I could not resist that bright, red sweetness calling to me from where it sat on a stainless steel table and I am so glad that I listened. I ate it and had a mouth full of seeds. I shot them out like automatic ammunition. As soon as I had that first bite, I thought to myself I needed that. Not only did I need the hydrating properties (watermelons are 92%) water, but also the vitamins it is packed with, all wrapped up in a satisfying snack.
It was the sweetness of summer, concentrated and cooled.
have your own seed spitting contest, all you need is a melon and , if you have it on hand, some sidewalk chalk
Spit seeds, see whose goes the farthest, and invite neighbors over to join in. Teach a kid the joys of watermelon seed spitting, revel in the heat of summer and the delicious flavor that it brings. Eating watermelon is an event, not just a food. Take a moment to go slow, that is what summer is for.
Saturday mornings are for sleeping in, lingering at home in your pajamas, leisurely drinking a warm cup of coffee, and then making your way to the farmer's market, right? Not so for a market farmer. My Saturdays begin when the sky is black and the birds, still fast asleep, have not even considered their morning song. I groggily get dressed and gulp down a few sips of coffee before getting behind the wheel of the truck and heading to Birmingham. I choose a fast-paced playlist, loud enough to keep me focused.
If the sky is clear, I’ll enjoy a colorful sunrise just before pulling into the designated Snow’s Bend corner of the Market at Pepper Place. Many of my fellow farmers have had to wake up much earlier and drive farther than I have. A busy market is worth it for us. In late May through July, we earn the money that will keep us going through the winter. For months now, we have worked hard growing the food, we have spent days harvesting and washing it, and hours packing, driving, and setting up before the opening bell rings.
David and I were introduced to farmer’s markets while we were interns. Our Saturday mornings then were spent at the bustling Seattle area farmer’s market we attended in Redmond, Washington. We quickly realized that we loved talking about food, sharing recipes, and trading with other vendors. Daily revelations on our plates were slowly converting us to a diet of fresh, organic produce. Once we had taken our first steps down that path, we knew that there was no turning back. We ate salads with smoked tuna piled high on top, eggplant parmesan with fresh tomatoes, perfectly prepared beets with thyme and goat cheese, and we made pancakes from scratch with fresh raspberries. Our market neighbor, Les, specialized in tomato plants, garlic, and apples. The many distinct varieties of each of these amazed us. Gravenstien apples and Korean Rocambole garlic were stand outs. Les gave us our first tomato plants and we grew them in whiskey barrels outside of our intern trailer.
setting up at the Tuscaloosa market our first year
Once we were back in Alabama and had started our own farm, we were excited to take what we had grown to the market. In Tuscaloosa, at that time, the Tuscaloosa Farmer’s Market was run by the Truck Grower’s Association. The “under-the-bridge market”, as we referred to it, was indeed under an overpass. This market was a remnant of the old, sell out of the back of your truck style market of the 1970s. Typically, there was about one customer for every 5 or 6 farmers. A new customer would arrive and all of the farmers would be watching them to see who they would buy from. It was awkward. The very first day a farmer there told me that she really just came down to “talk with my kinfolk”.
our first Pepper Place market in 2004
In mid-May of our first year, after many discouraging Saturdays at the Tuscaloosa market, The Market at Pepper Place in Birmingham opened and we were ready! That first day, we sold out of everything except for a couple of bunches of radishes and a few tomato plants. It seemed like we might actually be able to pull off this farming gig! Customers were hungry for our produce and the response in the following weeks was encouraging.
In our early years, it was only David and I, working every minute, side by side. We would break up the long Friday harvest; gathering greens and roots early in the morning and return to the field for tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, basil, and zinnias in the late afternoon. During the hottest part of the day we would wash the greens and bunch root vegetables in our shaded packing area. Flowers were always the last thing we would pick. The air would begin to cool and dusk would settle on the farm. That is when we would crack open the cold beers for the home stretch.
One Friday in those early years, before a big farmer's market, we had completed the morning harvest and needed to return for those high dollar afternoon items. The hand-me-down suburban we were driving at the time decided it did not want to accelerate forward. It would, however, drive in reverse. We were at our cabin, which is on top of a hill, and the fields are down by the river. The road leading down is a steep and winding dirt road. David, determined as he is, decided he could drive down this road to the field backwards. I chose to walk. He did make it down, we got the harvest in, and a family member was able to lend us their truck for travel to market the next day.
There have been dead batteries at 5 am with a truck full of produce, flat tires on the interstate, and alarms not going off, but once we arrive at our market tent, there is a rush of excitement. Sharing the fruits of our labor with people that appreciate it makes it all worthwhile.
David loading for market in 2005
Packing the vehicles for market in the peak season is a skill that David mastered early on. It is a large-scale, 3-D game of Tetris, where everything must fit together perfectly. Buckets of flowers, especially the top-heavy sunflowers and cockscomb, must be packed last and secured so that as we make the bumpy, wide turn out of the gate they do not fall over. Unpacking at our booth Saturday morning is reminiscent of a clown car unloading. Instead of clowns though, it is coolers of lettuce, kale, chard, carrots, and beets; boxes of squash, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, and melons; buckets of basil and bouquets.
Farmer’s markets are like heaven to me. Being surrounded by real food and the people that produced it, everyone seems happy there. All morning long we talk about food, what we are cooking, what is being harvested for next week, how is the rain or lack thereof effecting things, how is your cat? Over our 16 years of attending farmer’s markets, David and I have watched children grow up one Saturday at a time, we have watched couples get married and grow families of their own, and we have made the strong friendships that began with a ‘Good morning’ shared over a pile of radishes or box of cucumbers.
When the market bell rings again at noon, signaling its close, there is a rush to pack up. When we push the four corners of the white market tent together, a feeling of contentment washes over us. We smile.
There is a strong camaraderie among farmers. It is a challenging occupation and one that leaves us spread far and wide with little time for socializing. Saturdays at noon we are gathered in one place and have the opportunity to catch up over a beer and lunch, if we are not already all talked out and completely exhausted. We discuss the market, how our crops are doing, our success and our struggles. Just as I feel we have the best customers; I also know that we have the best colleagues.
my favorite post-market meal
The moment I am packed back up and on the return trip to the farm, whatever energy I thought that I had, vanishes. All day long I have talked about cooking and eating and dreamed up lavish dishes to prepare that evening. However, by the time the truck is unloaded and everything put away, it is well into the afternoon and I have bottomed out. I opt for slices of fresh baguette spread with local goat cheese, topped with leaves of basil, slices of tomato, and sprinkled with salt. I wash this down with a cool glass of Rose and escape into a movie, falling asleep before 8 pm. This continues to be our Saturday after-market ritual, but our movie choices now are in the G-rated category and we have our children snuggled up with us.
Post-market 'American Gothic' circa 2006
Eight years ago, Tuscaloosa built a beautiful new facility to house the Tuscaloosa River Market and we have been there every Saturday since.
There is so much more to the farmer's market than the produce.
Come and see for yourself, and be sure you take home a tomato!
Tuscaloosa River Market
The Market at Pepper Place
I fell in love with beets in Morocco. A bowl of these gems would adorn the table at our evening meals. They were simply prepared, steamed and seasoned with salt, lemon juice, and cumin.
My love grew deeper during our farm internship in Washington, when David and I would roast them whole, peel them, then toss them with balsamic vinegar and fresh thyme. Often, we would eat them just like that, but sometimes we would add them to salad greens with goat cheese.
They were top of the list of crops we wanted to grow when we began farming on Snow's Bend.
David in our garden in 2005
As with many vegetables, some people declare that they do not like beets.
I counter with questions about when, where, and how they have eaten them in the past.
My dad was one of these people. One day when he was visiting us on the farm, we prepared a feast of farm food. He devoured the salad and then asked "What were the pink things in the salad?" I told him that he had just eaten a plate full of beets!
Chioggia beets are perfect for thinly slicing raw in salads or as addition to a crudite platter. Their concentric circles of pink and white are entrancing.
Gold beets have the mildest flavor and will not 'bleed', turning everything their shade, as the red beets do.
Personally, I relish the full flavor of the red beets and enjoy highlighting their bold color, as in this beet hummus.
Beet Red Velvet Cake with Fresh Chevre Frosting
(recipe included below)
I write a weekly newsletter for our CSA members which always includes a few recipes. It can be a challenge and I often find myself searching through the latest cookbooks for inspiration. As I was perusing beet recipes one day, I came upon Beets & Berries in On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox. The ingredients list included Beet Soil, with a separate recipe for that.
Intrigued, I looked it up. Juicing, dehydrating, a mortar and pestle...who has the time for that? Certainly not a farmer and mother of two young children. I closed the book and moved on to a simpler beet recipe.
Over the next couple of weeks I could not forget about beet soil. It sounded so different from the typical beet recipes I am accustomed to. Plus, I am a little obsessed with all things soil.
And so, one Sunday morning I woke up determined to make it. I planned on accomplishing nothing else and so it seemed obtainable.
I juiced the beets and then dehydrated the pulp. The dehydrated pulp was then ground with pistachios, salt, and sugar for a crumbly topping.
The beet juice was turned into savory-sweet molasses.
I used our own Snow's Bend strawberries, foraged for wild blackberries, and visited my secret mulberry spot (which is loaded this time of year) to garnish our plates of Beets & Berries.
After we devoured this bright and refreshing main course, we moved on to a richer one; vanilla ice cream drizzled with beet molasses and topped with a sprinkling of beet soil. It was incredible and unlike anything I have eaten before.
CSA members will be finding beets in their boxes with some regularity now and they will be available at farmer's markets every Saturday morning for several weeks.
To the beet, y'all!
Beet Red Velvet Cake with Fresh Chevre Frosting
From Root to Leaf by Steven Satterfield
Makes a 2-layer, 9-inch cake
3 medium beets, tops and taproots removed
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
¾ cup buttermilk
Juice of 1 large lemon
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sifted cake flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
Fresh Chevre Frosting (recipe below)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets and place on a sheet of parchment. Fold the parchment around the beets. Place the parchment on a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap the foil tightly around the parchment to make a packet. Bake until the tip of a knife slides easily into the largest beet. Cool until the beets can be handled, then peel.
Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment, and butter the parchment. Set aside.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place the beets in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Remove the beet mixture from the processor and measure out 1 cup. Reserve any remaining chopped beets for another use. Return the measured 1 cup beets to the food processor. Add the buttermilk, lemon juice, vinegar, and vanilla, and process until smooth.
Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the 12 tablespoons butter until soft. Slowly add the sugar, and beat until creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. After each addition, stop the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Alternate adding dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. After each addition, beat for 10 seconds, and then scrape the bowl. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in the pans on a wire rack.
To assemble, place a serving platter upside down on top of one of the pans. While holding the pan and the plate, invert the pan, allowing the cake to drop out onto the plate. Lift off the pan, and peel away the parchment.
Put 1 cup Fresh Chevre Frosting on the center of the cake. Using a flat spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the top. Invert the second cake onto a plate, remove the parchment, then invert again onto a flat plate. Carefully ease the second cake, flat side down, centered on top of the frosted layer. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Serve immediately or store covered at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.
Fresh Chevre Frosting
Enough for one 2-layer cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces creamy goat cheese (chevre), room temperature
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until soft. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and vanilla, and continue beating until creamy. With the motor running on low, add pieces of the cream cheese one at a time. Stop the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, add pieces of goat cheese, and beat until creamy. Store at room temperature until ready to frost the cake layers.
The following recipes are all from the cookbook On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox.
Beets & Berries
10 small beets, greens removed and reserved for another use
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2/3 cup red quinoa
3 tablespoons chopped fresh spearmint leaves
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
1 cup mixed berries
1 medium avocado
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons Beet Soil (recipe follows)
A handful of each; whole mulberries, halved strawberries, and halved blackberries, to garnish
Make the roasted beets
Follow the instructions for roasting and peeling beets on page 40. Cut the peeled beets into whatever size and shape you like and toss them with the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt to taste. Set the beets aside to cool until plating.
Make the red quinoa
Rinse the quinoa under cold running water. In a pot, combine the quinoa and 1 1/3 cups cool water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until all the water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, fluff the quinoa with a fork, and toss it with the 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, the mint, lemon zest and juice, and salt to taste. Cool the quinoa to room temperature or cooler before serving.
In a bowl, toss the berries with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, season lightly with salt, and mash them up with a fork until the oil and the juices combine. Right before serving, halve and pit the avocado, then scoop the avocado flesh into a bowl. Add the olive oil, salt to taste, and a healthy dose of black pepper. Mash it with a fork until well combined.
To serve, either portion onto 4 individual plates or bowls or onto 1 large platter and serve family-style. Lay a dollop of the avocado first, and follow with some quinoa. Arrange the beets over the avocado and quinoa, then spoon the berry mixture on top. Garnish with beet soil and finish with the fresh berries.
Makes about 1 ½ cups
“These dehydrated beet solids can be ground in a food processor, but I prefer the texture you get from a mortar and pestle. The addition of olive oil changes the color from reddish maroon to a brown, and the green bits of pulverized pistachio make it really look like soil. In addition to the Beets & Berries, beet soil is also great sprinkled over ice cream that’s been drizzled with Beet Molasses (recipe follows).”
3.5 ounces shelled pistachios, toasted
4 ounces dehydrated red beet pulp (dehydrated at 135 degrees for 12 hours or overnight)
2 ounces granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Grind the toasted pistachios in a mortar and pestle until it looks somewhat like dirt with bits of minerals mixed in. The result should not be a uniform powder, but, rather chunks of various sizes. Set aside.
Place the beet pulp in a mortar and pestle or grind in a food processor (a blender will make it much too fine) and process until it is fairly broken down. There should not be any big pieces of beet pulp. A lot of the pulp will turn into a powder, which is fine.
Transfer the pulp to a bowl and fold in the ground pistachios, sugar, and salt. Using your hands (wear gloves if you do not want it to stain your hands), mix the ingredients thoroughly. (You want to use your hands to make sure that there are no clumps, which would throw off the ratio.) Slowly, and in stages, gradually add the olive oil and work it into the mixture. Use less than you need to start, as you can always add more, but removing it is difficult. Work it into your palms and between your fingers. You want it to crumble without getting clumpy; it should be the texture of healthy soil. The color will change from purple burgundy to a dark color of dirt. Keep agitating it with your fingers, so that the oil is evenly dispersed. You need to add enough oil so that the beet soil is not powdery and tastes luxurious, sweet, and nutty. Just don’t add too much oil, which will give you a texture like wet sand. (If you do add too much oil, lay the soil between layers of paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Repeat the process until enough of the excess oil has been absorbed, but try to avoid this, as it is a long and annoying process.) Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.
Makes 1 cup
“It is a good thing to have on hand in place of things like pomegranate molasses or a reduced balsamico. It’s also great as a cassis replacement in a Kir Royale.”
1 quart red beet juice, finely strained
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup rice vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
In a wide, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the beet juice, sugar, vinegar, and salt and bring to a slow simmer over medium heat. Cook, maintaining a bare simmer, until the liquid is reduced by 75 to 80 percent of its original volume, about 4 hours. As the liquid reduces, brush down the inside of the pot with a pastry brush.
To test for doneness, drizzle a little of the molasses on a plate and let it cool. It should have the consistency of aged balsamic vinegar. Once the molasses is ready, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve and allow it to come down to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 months.
*you can halve this recipe if you like
The roots of this friendship run back to 1997 when David and Mauricio Papapietro, owner of Brick and Tin, met in college at Sewanee.
In 2004, when David and I returned to Alabama following our internship in Washington state and set out to begin our farming career in earnest, Mauricio was beginning his career as a chef. We have attended each other’s weddings and watched our families grow together.
When he opened Brick and Tin, we already had a great relationship.
Mauricio has been to the farm several times over the years. On Sunday, he was joined by his family and the crew from Brick and Tin.
As we walked the fields and shared a picnic by the river, we talked about farming and how we can continue to cultivate this already strong partnership.
It is clear that Mauricio and everyone at Brick and Tin care deeply about sourcing the best quality produce and are committed to supporting local farms.
We had a blast and hope they will come back again soon!
In the meantime, I highly recommend you visit them at one of their two locations; in downtown Birmingham and Mountain Brook.
NEWS FROM THE BEND
From planting time to the growing and harvesting seasons,