THE Way to Grow Vegetables for Your Restaurant or Home

I recently stumbled across an idea that many people have been exploring for a long time.  It’s called Straw Bale Gardening.  It’s got a huge advantage to conventional gardening.  It’s essentially a form of container gardening, but it’s very low cost and extremely  flexible in it’s set-up.  The bales sit up high on top of the ground and you don’t have to deal with turning soil, bending so far over, rocks, poor soil, or getting as dirty.  The only disadvantage that I can see so far is they initially take a lot of water to get them cooking.  After that, an easy drip system will minimize water loss.  Perfect for urban farming, even directly on concrete.  Make sure you don’t mind a little discoloration on the concrete if you do.

What’s happening is that the bales of straw (not hay), after conditioning, start to slowly decompose releasing nitrogen into your plants. Conditioning is easy.  Simply soak the bales in water twice a day for about 10 days.  Add about 3 cups of organic, nitrogen rich fertilizer to the tops of the bales at the beginning of this process so the nutrients can soak down into the bales.  Be sure the ties that are keeping the bales together are running horizontally so that no part touches the ground otherwise they could rot and your bales would fall apart. 

Sometime during this 10 days, the bale will start to get very warm in the middle.  This is the start of the chemical break down otherwise known as the conditioning.  If it does not heat up, it won’t grow your garden.  The heating up will subside after about a week.  After that, you simply lay out some compost on top of your bales and plant your seeds or transplant your starts.  Just water and fertilize as normal and get ready to enjoy some great produce.  The details can be found here.

This is am extremely simplified version of the conditioning phase.  There are many examples out there of watering/feeding schedules to follow and how to achieve the “best” results.   Check them out.   A vast majority of people using this method report much fewer weeds, pests, diseases, and fewer general problems than planting directly in the ground.  Bales will last 2 seasons.  After that, spread them out over the ground to have some great compost to start some new bales.   I will be planting potatoes, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, broccoli, and a few herbs.  I can’t wait to give it a try.  Why not you?

Join Me In July As I Cook For a Fantastic Farm to Fork Event July 23rd

I will be excitedly joining Matthew Domingo, Director of Farm to fork Events to be a guest Chef for his July 23rd event at Willow-Witt Ranch in Ashland featuring their wonderful pastured pork and goat.  Enjoy wines by Weisinger’s Winery as we celebrate local farmers and wineries and enjoy food right at the source.  It will be a fantastic opportunity to meet the ranchers and learn about what goes into a fun and fabulously prepared dinner.   Farm to Fork events have become known for their interactive dining formats and this evening will prove to be no different.  Come join us and see what’s new from The Jacksonville Inn.

New Hybrid-Hydroponic System Results for Micro Greens in Our Kitchen

Well, here are some photos of what our pea tendrils look like using the new soiless growing medium.  These photos are taken 10 days after germination with just water and organic fertilizer.


 Needless to say, we will be switching all of our indoor growing operations to this new system. 
 It’s remarkable.  Thanks to the Ladybug Store for hooking us up with the experiment.  

New Spring Dessert

Here we are playing with our new blueberry-lemon mascapone cheesecake.  Sold a lot of them on it’s debut night…

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Spring Garden Prep

We are starting to get things ready for our spring garden.  The hibiscus plants that that were planted some 20 years ago have been removed and transplanted to allow more sunshine for the new seedlings.  We will also be expanding the garden area so we can build on our success from last season…

Hibiscus plants removed

 

ALL hibiscus removed.  Will be re-planted with a larger variety of edible flowers like nasturtiums.

 

Almost all of what you see should be expanded to garden space

How Fine Dining Continues to Evolve.

Here is another article from last year that shows how fine dining is evolving and changing.   Decades ago, fine dining may have been a white table cloth with costumed servers and large portions of expensive meats and some sort of potato with a random vegetable.  Then it turned to the foie gras and caviars, lobster and exotic, expensive items from around the globe.  Things are changing again and it’s not about how expensive the ingredient is, simply how well it is prepared.   It has long been my philosophy that all ingredients have equal culinary value, regardless of cost. 

http://coirestaurant.com/carrotsarethenewcaviar/

Lemon Confit

In the works is some lemon confit.  Should be ready in 3 days for our new Alaskan True Cod Special…

Fresh From the Garden today.

This is great.  We are already planning out Fall planting.

Micro Cucumber

Awesome and fresh from the garden!  Hard to find someone who will sell these.  Gotta grow them which is fine by me.

New Summer Tomato Salad

Here’s a dish that was composed of most items grown in the area.  Tomatoes from Platon, Barking Moon Farm and our own garden.  The greens and cucumber blossoms are also from our garden.  Arugula pesto, thickened balsamic and fresh mozz complete the plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sous Vide Watermelon

We’re getting some really nice local watermelons in now…  Pickled red onions, feta, hazelnuts….

First Vegetable Harvest…

I’m officially a farmer…  🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂   French Breakfast Radish from our wonderful garden.  Delicious.

Spring Garden Risotto

Peas, radish, asparagus, spinach and fennel with beet emulsion and pea tendrils.

Small Farms, Organic Growing, Sustainable Future…

Sounds great!  What will it cost? 

As a businessman, costs must always be watched.  I have an obligation to my employees to stay open so they can continue to work and earn an income.  As a Chef, I also have an obligation to support the local community/economy and use the most wholesome ingredients for my guests.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Besides, why would I purchase tasteless tomatoes grown in Mexico in August when I have 10 small farms growing the best within 5 miles of the restaurant?  Cost a lot less fuel to get here and the flavor can’t be beat.  Recently I started having some concerns….

I have noticed that the price of produce from small farms is more than mass produced, genetically engineered crap.  Granted the cost of operations is higher for the small farmer.  Now, this is what’s scaring me.  As I go out and visit farms and talk with the farmers, I have seen a large disparity from farmer A’s pricing to farmer B.  Both farmers are growing organically and the products are fantastic.  Why then is basil from one farm $4.00/lb and $10.00/lb from the other?  I could buy for $3.00 from Mexico, but that’s crap.  It gets more scary. 

I like to garden.  It takes a little set up to get a small garden going, but once there all you have to do is plant the seeds, cultivate/water and nourish, then harvest.  It is work, but is that work worth paying $10.00/lb for basil?  Think about this.  That’s more than filet mignon.  And it takes a lot more resources to raise and slaughter cattle. 

This blog was created with the thought that farmers and cooks need to be united for a sustainable future.  I have the utmost respect for farmers.  You see it on almost every post I publish.  But, when we get “Farmers” that just got into the business last week because they can make a “fast buck” just by planting seeds and trying to sell me $10 basil, something is wrong.  We all need to make money to sustain ourselves, but when I have to charge the same price for a plate of basil as I do for a plate of filet mignon, I will be out of business next week.  Pricing is important and I feel that some of this pricing is out of line and am unable to afford it.  Just something to consider. 

It has gotten to the point that I had this toothless “farmer” coming by and asking $16.00 a pound for some “fresh picked organic” basil.  Please don’t insult me.  I have basil growing in my garden and the seeds that will ultimately grow me 20 pounds only cost $1.29.

Seeds of Change

We have been reconditioning our gardens and are just about ready to plant some seeds.  Tonight is suppose to get below freezing but we hope that the weather will soon hold.  Looking at planting heirloom tomatoes, red, purple, white, yellow and orange baby carrots, pickling cucumbers for pickles, summer squash, radish, herbs, herbs, herbs, baby broccoli, peas, kales, and whatever else I can squeeze out of this little area!

Oregon Cheesemakers Guild Dinner SOLD OUT.

Sorry, folks.  I just got the cheeses today.  Man, are they fantastic!  Thanks to Rogue Creamery, Ancient Heritage Dairy, Three Ring Farms, and the Tillamook folks for all this killer cheese…  Here is the heart and the sole of the dinner.

Farming=Hard Work=The New Cool

I see a new trend that’s starting to emerge.  Chef’s have been wanting to get closer to the food that they are preparing and many actually have their own working farms rasing everything from pigs to a plethora of produce.  But, something more is happening. 

Farming is starting to take on a new mentality.  There are younger kids that are graduating high school and actively seeking internships at working farms (typically smaller, family run farms).  Not afraid of hard work, these kids realize that the best thing we can do for the planet is plant a garden.  There’s a higher sense of purpose now associated with farming.  A sort of getting back to your roots or getting back to basics.   I have always had tremendous respect for farmers and now I see a new generation not afraid to take risks and think (or grow) outside the box.  There’s a huge emphasis on growing organic, open pollinated and heritage (heirloom) varieties of produce.  It makes me proud to see the tides turning and witness a revolt against large, corporate run farms.  I truly believe the days of farming subsidies will be over soon as farmers are keying in on how to run a smart business focused on local communities, not how to mass produce tasteless vegetables and fruits and find ways to ship them thousands of miles away.  It’s with this new sence of pride and stewardship that I say “Godspeed”.  What can I do to help?

Signs of Spring, A New Beginning.

As I go through my front door at home and start walking to my Jeep to depart for work, something catches my eye.  A small cluster of brightly colored yellow flowers. 

Although it’s the middle of February, it’s been sunny and a little warm.  Looks like the nice weather is helping coax the spring flowers from their sleepy winter slumber.  Will it be an early spring?  Will springtime culinary delights be early this year? 

Thrive.

I think it’s time we join THRIVE (THe Rogue Initiative For A Vital Economy).  This organization does many, MANY things.  But, to over simplify it, it works to promote local products and businesses keeping dollars in the valley.  This is a natural for farmers and cooks (Note-Farmers and cooks working together for a sustainable future…)  Mr. and Mrs. Smith come to visit us at the Jacksonville Inn (A local, independent Hotel).  They stay, and dine.  The pay for the goods and services and leave having a wonderful experience.  The revenue that they gave us is used to pay for produce I purchase from Farmer Joe about 5 miles down the road.  This way, the money stays in circulation here in the valley and creates a stable, THRIVING local economy.  Okay, this is way over simplified.  If you are not familiar with THRIVE, I recommend checking out the site.

www.thriveoregon.org

Great stuff.

New Garden.

So, I think everyone can improve the planet simply by planting something.  Gardening has always been a special thing for me and I do not do it nearly enough.  I am taking on a mildly ambitious task of reconditioning our “herb garden” so it can be more productive and offer a better variety.  We’ll see how it goes…  You can see the rosemary has survived the winter so far.  I’m thinking baby radishes, baby carrots, mucho herbs, and a lot of fun little things that grow well out here…  But for now, just go out and plant something!

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