Update From Brookside Farm: Spring 2012

We always love an inside look at what’s happening on the farm, and Welling Tom has always supplied us with some of the best insights into the day to day, season to season, happenings at Brookside Farm in Brentwood, CA. Here’s the update he emailed us from last week, complete with a Steely Dan quote:

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Welling Tom

Some of our fruit trees (early pluots, late peaches, cherries) had the misfortune of being in bloom when it was raining, which interfered with their pollination, and now we see a small amount of fruit developing on them, while other fruit trees (Asian pears) avoided that problem, and should yield abundantly. Luck of the draw.

Throughout the winter, we’ve been able to produce a few crops of various short-season greens, but just enough to present a shifting array at the farmers’ market. Only since the beginning of May, we’ve produced enough sugar snap peas and fava beans to constitute a steady supply of something.

After last month’s late, heavy rain storms, we now seem to be heading toward summer on a relatively even keel. Within the past 2 weeks, we’ve been able to get our definitive summer crops (tomatoes, romano beans, cucumbers, etc.) safely into the fields. Our earliest tomato plants were ready from the nursery back in March, but the rainy weather prevented us from preparing the field for them. By the time we were finally able to transplant them, they looked rather long in the tooth, but the recent warm weather has already allowed them to resume their proper growth, and they should be in good production by mid- or late-July, and should continue at least through September. That’s something that we count on every year.

So, we go back, Jack, do it again, wheel turning round and round, although it seems that this year the wheel has had quite a few wobbles.

Welling Tom

2017-09-12T15:48:07+00:00 May 21st, 2012|Brookside Farm|0 Comments

This Just In: First King Salmon of the Season

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The kitchen just received the first beautiful King Salmon of the season from Monterey Seafood and it will be on the menu tonight. Jonah will be serving the King Salmon with sauteed Brookside Farm fava beans, spring onions, Butterball potatoes, and a basil pesto. Jonah, Natalie, and Bob tasted the fava beans last night and agree that they are the sweetest fava beans they’ve had.

We also just received some bright organic rhubarb from Oregon which Pastry Chef, Jenny Raven, has oven-candied to preserve the color and structure of the rhubarb. Dessert will be a Napoleon of oven-candied rhubarb, homemade vanilla bean ice cream and puff pastry.

Please join us!

510-547-5356

or reserve online

2017-09-12T15:48:08+00:00 May 4th, 2012|Brookside Farm, This Just In|0 Comments

Winter Solstice Report from Brookside Farm

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After a particularly beautiful batch of Brookside Farm‘s Meyer lemons arrived last week, we followed up with Welling Tom to find out what else is going on at their Brentwood, CA farm. Here’s what he had to tell us:

Our Meyer lemons are some of the few things we currently have available. We also have a few Oroblanco pomelos already picked, and available as long as supplies last. Growing in the field, we have fava beans, green garlic (now available), broccoli, and Lacinato kale. Fava beans are a slow-growing crop, and will not mature until April or May. The cole crops (broccoli and kale) have been producing since October, but not quite as much as we had hoped. A major problem has been the Bagrada bug, an invasive species of beetle that was not found in the western United States until 2008. So far, Brookside Farm has not taken any measures to combat this pest. Aside from that, there all the usual pests like gophers and cabbage moths.

We were hoping to have other crops available this season. Most cold season crops should be planted by October, but we failed to get that done merely because of some breakdowns on our tractor. These have been mostly remedied, but doing so took away the time that should have been spent in actually preparing the land for planting. So that opportunity was lost. But we still have a chance to plant new crops for the late winter. Our neighbor, Peter Wolfe, whose family has farmed here for over 70 years, has kindly lent me his disc harrow, which has allowed me to till a large area more quickly and effectively than I could with our rototiller. The current weather has been fairly dry, and at least partly sunny, so we should be able to get some arugula, turnips, spinach, and sugar snap peas planted soon, and we should be able to prune our fruit trees without too many delays.

Although we have had our share of setbacks, we are grateful for what we do have, for what we are still able to do, and for the support of our community of friends (including our customers at the farmers’ markets and restaurants such as Oliveto) and neighbors. We look forward to a brighter New Year.

2017-09-12T15:48:12+00:00 December 22nd, 2011|Brookside Farm, Farmers|0 Comments

This Just In: Brookside Farm’s Flavor King pluots

We’re reposting this late summer classic from Pastry Chef Jenny Raven because it’s that time of the year again:

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Only once or twice a year does a fruit come along that I feel is featured best by serving on its own, without setting it in a composed dessert context. That time has come with the wonderful Flavor King pluots from Brookside Farm in Brentwood, CA.

Upon their arrival, these pluots perfumed the kitchen, drawing Sous Chef Brian Murphy to the three cases I ordered from farmer Welling Tom. Burying his face in the box, Brian came up for air and said, “It’s like putting your face in a bag of mixed Jelly Beans!” He and I also agreed the pluots tasted like bubblegum, vanilla, and Hello Kitty erasers. If all of those things sound bad to you, consider Brian’s analogy: marvelous tropical flowers that seem to have been copied from overblown, tacky plastic flowers. “It’s like nature copying bad art — except when nature does it, it’s wonderful.”

Juicy, sweet, their golden flesh veined with fuchsia — these pluots are so delightful, I feel compelled only to peel off the tart skin and serve them sliced in a bowl to make for a sublime eating experience. Look for them on the menu this Thursday.

Jenny Raven Pastry Chef

Illustration by Jenny Raven

Illustration by Jenny Raven

Late Winter Update from Brookside Farm

Flavor King pluot in bloom, photo by Welling Tom

Flavor King pluot in bloom, photo by Welling Tom

 

Here’s a report from Welling Tom of Brookside Farm in Brentwood, CA:

There wasn’t as much rain this year, but there was fog for most of January, so that constant wetness and lack of sunlight caused much of our broccoli to rot during that time. The soil has also remained too wet and sticky to allow for much planting of new crops. We did manage to sow some sugar snap peas during the past 3 weeks, and can only hope that it hasn’t been too cold for the seeds to germinate.

Last Saturday’s cold snap in the Bay Area affected Brookside Farm in a completely unexpected way. For the past couple of years, we’ve been ordering our tomato seedlings exclusively from Kassenhoff Growers, located in Oakland. The owner/operators have been our friends for many years, and Oakland has always had much milder winters than Brentwood or any other inland areas, so things have always worked without a hitch. But last Saturday morning, it was just as cold in Oakland as it was in Brentwood, so much of the earliest tomato plants were killed. A relatively small loss for Brookside Farm (as we will be getting more tomato plants that were started at a later time, and were thus under heavier protection), but a major loss for our friends at Kassenhoff Growers.

Tomato season will probably be getting another late start this year.

As of this week, many of our fruit trees (pluots, apricots, peaches, nectarines, and Asian pears) are beginning to bloom. Our trees always seems to bloom later than others of the same type located not too far from here. For this year, late-blooming may be advantageous. None of our trees were in full bloom last weekend, so perhaps we have avoided any frost damage there. It just remains to be seen after the petals drop whether any damage was done or whether the rain will have caused any significant interference in pollination.

Welling Tom

2017-09-12T15:48:26+00:00 March 9th, 2011|Brookside Farm|0 Comments

Tomato Season 2010 off to a slow start

While tomatoes seem to be very late this year and our farmers think most of their crops are three to five weeks behind, looking back on Tomato Watch 2009 gives us some perspective. We’ve got Chef Canales reporting from the Farmers’ Market on July 27, 2009 the “official arrival of tomatoes” so perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a pattern in these later harvests over the last few years.

This year, because the rainy season went so long, we’ve pushed the dates for the 2010 Tomato Dinners

[reserve] back to September 15 – 19 and are watching and waiting. Recently, we’ve seen the first few cherry tomatoes and Sun Golds, and just this week some delicious “ugly” Early Girls.

In the meantime, we had fun revisiting Tomato Watch 2009 so we collected the posts here and thought we’d share:

Highlights include:
Joe Schirmer of Dirty Girl Produce on Dry-Farming in post #2, and then on July 3rd with further dry-farming information. Also, Joe’s own video reports in post #5 and #10 are of special note.

Riverdog Farm explain their growing cycle and how and when tomatoes are picked in posts #18 and #20.

Brookside Farm’s Welling and Ann Tom show us lovely pictures and thoughtful reports on their season in Brendwood, culminating in the October 1st Dead Ripe video.

Reports From Our Farmers: Spring 2010

One of the wettest on record, the spring of 2010 has created some unique challenges for many of our farmers. We already know that the height of tomato season is estimated to hit later than usual and so we’ve pushed back our Annual Tomato Dinners to September. We were curious about other ways in which the rain has effected spring crops and planting schedules so we queried our farmers last week to find out. Here’s what some of them had to say:

brookside_crouch_500Welling Tom, Brookside FarmThe unusually persistent rains in February and March were the most problematic. Most of our spring and summer vegetable crops need to be planted around that time, and our soil remained too wet for decent tilth. Our spring crops (such as sugar snap peas or spinach) were planted in lumpy soil and in greatly reduced volume, and were thus compromised in yield. Only those crops which were actually planted in the fall (such as broccoli, chards, kale, fava beans and garlic–which is a spring crop as green garlic and garlic scapes), or crops like arugula (which doesn’t require fine tilth) produced much. We had to wait until the middle of April to begin planting our tomatoes in the field.

For our summer tree fruits, it’s been hit-or-miss. When the trees were in bloom, the bees didn’t fly around to pollinate them if the rain was actually falling or even if the skies were just too overcast (the reason why beekeepers use smoke to sedate the bees before opening up a hive), so those fruit varieties whose blossoms came and went during constant rain (such as the Flavor Supreme pluots and Robada apricots) have failed to produce much fruit. But if the blossoms did catch a few sunny days (as did the cherries, Blenheim apricots, Flavor King and Flavor Queen pluots, and Asian pears) then they did get pollination, and we will have some fruit, although not as much as in a normal year.

The unusually cool weather of the past couple weeks is slowing down the growth of our summer vegetable crops and the ripening of the cherries.

Brookside Farms can be found at the Montclair Farmers’ Market on Sundays.

laguna_farmScott Mathieson, Laguna Farm: It is interesting how most people think all farmers love rain. If your crops are dependent on the rain for all its needs, such as in the Midwest grain belt, these would be ideal conditions. Here on the west coast, we tend to almost count on the six month drought common for California. For this farmer in Sonoma county, the heavy rains represent delays in soil preparations contrasted by savings in irrigation costs. Luckily we have a diversity of soils; from sandy well-drained soils that allow us to farm through the winter, to rich bottom lands that have a narrow band of moisture conditions to work it into plantable seed beds.

Every year is different. The last two have been marked by very low rainfall in high contrast to the above-average rainfall of this year. The key is diversity of crops and strategies. Yes, we are effected by this weather and are behind as far as field preparation and crops coming along.

Laguna Farm can be found at the Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays, the Petaluma Farmers’ Market on on Saturdays, and the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market on Sundays.

tf_150Paul Underhill, Terra Firma Farm: This year’s cool spring has basically erased the temperature differential between the Bay Area and the Central Valley. Most gardeners in the Bay know that their tomatoes don’t ripen until August or September, and the longer it stays cool and wet here, the more likely we are to be in the same situation.

Our summer crops are running anywhere from two weeks (zucchini) to possibly two months (melons) late, with our famous tomatoes probably somewhere in between.

We are also having more problems with fungal diseases that we don’t usually experience.

On the plus side, the cool season crops we grow in the spring each year have been enjoying the weather and we expect to have an extended harvest of spring greens, peas, strawberries, etc.

Terra Firma Farm can be found at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.

2017-09-12T15:48:43+00:00 June 2nd, 2010|Brookside Farm, Farmers|0 Comments

Dead Ripe — “It actually means something”

‘Tis the season of abundance and acute ripeness, as summer crops put all their remaining energy into their final fruits and seeds in one last attempt to be sown back into the earth. The farms themselves seem at their most beautiful, and the harvest months have a certain celebratory cheer about them, the true pleasure in a job well done.

It’s also the season when farmers and chefs alike are borderline overwhelmed with an onslaught of fruits & vegetables that are ripe RIGHT NOW. It brings an immediacy and a level of creativity to the kitchen and menu that is unique to this time of year.

The term farmers use to describe some of their produce (specifically tomatoes and stone fruit) around now is “dead ripe.” Chef Canales explains to us what that means exactly and describes the sense of timeliness it brings to the act of cooking during this brief yet vibrant season.

Turning away from tomatoes and toward the persimmons

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Brookside Farm Autumn 2009 Brentwood, CA

We queried our farmers last week, just before the Autumnal Equinox on September 22nd, to get one last report as tomato season comes to a close and to find out what is planned for the cooler months of fall.

Welling Tom of Brookside Farm had this to tell us:

Most of our tomatoes are finished, except for the San Marzano, which is still going strong. It turns out that most of the tomato plants which we bought from the nursery (a rather large operation which I will not name) as Early Girl were not Early Girl. We suspected something was not right when the fruits began to ripen in late June. They were much too big and squatty shaped, and the vines never grew as tall as Early Girl vines should. Early Girl fruits should be a bit pointed at the blossom end, and the “shoulders” around the calyx should not be very broad. Those girls are not supposed to look so butch!

New fruits ceased to appear after only about one month, while Early Girl should continue to produce as long as the weather remains warm and dry (through the month of October in most years). We never sold any to Oliveto, except a few green (unripe) ones for the Tomato dinners.

Many of the Brandywine plants which we bought from that same nursery turned out wrong also. They had the broad “potato” leaves, but the fruit were a bright orange-y red rather than the pinkish red of true Brandywines. They didn’t taste right, either. Still, despite these problems, our tomato harvest turned out pretty well. We will get our tomato plants from a smaller, more reliable nursery next year. Kassenhoff Growers of Oakland has been our source for specialty varieties, like the Pineapple, San Marzano, and Momotaro. We will turn to them for Early Girl and Brandywine too.

As of today, this eve before the Equinox, we have broccoli, rainbow chards, Lacinato kale, and snow peas already growing. We will try to grow more greens and beets and turnips in the next week or so, and garlic and torpedo onions too (October-November). This autumn should yield a heavy crop of Fuyu persimmons. We are looking forward to that.

We will have Comice pears available this week. Last Sunday, when I was delivering a late-summer bounty of okra, Japanese eggplants, ‘Figaro” peppers, and San Marzano tomatoes to the Oliveto kitchen, Jenny Raven asked me if we have any autumn fruits. We will have the persimmons about a month from now, but the Comice pears are already ripening.

Welling

Many of the farms we source from have gatherings at this time of year to celebrate the harvest. Full Belly Farm’s Annual Hoes Down Festival happens this weekend, October 3rd, and is always a good time with live music, tons of activities, and lots of excellent food.

On Sunday, October 18th, Riverdog Farm will host a Pumpkin Patch Party with hayrides, pumpkin picking, and a meal served under the walnut trees. They will post more details about this event on their website in the next few weeks.

Brookside Farm held its annual Corn Harvest party September 13th. Here are some photographs from the afternoon:

More photographs of the event were taken by Eisaku Tokuyama, a friend of the Toms, and can viewed here.

2017-09-12T15:48:55+00:00 September 28th, 2009|Brookside Farm, Full Belly Farm, Riverdog Farm|0 Comments

This Just In: Vitellone and Chanetrelles

beefA month ago we took delivery of two vitellone (young beef), each around 600 lbs., from Mac Magruder. Primarily raised on mother’s milk with some grass-feeding, the meat has been aging in our meat locker. Chef Canales has been adjusting his aging times to find the right balance between the delicate veal, and the characteristic aged-meat flavors. Tonight we will be using the loin, and Friday we will be serving the rib eye. They will be on the menu as tagliata, served with braised Torpedo onions from Brookside Farm in Brentwood. These animals are fairly small, and there isn’t a huge amount of this meat. We might still have some on Saturday, but perhaps not.

If we’re out by the time you get here, we hope you’ll be consoled by ravioli tondi of fonduta Val d’Aostana with summer Chanterelles:

Ravioli tondi of fonduta Val d'Aostana with Chanterelle mushrooms

Ravioli tondi of fonduta Val d’Aostana with Chanterelle mushrooms

Most of the Chanterelles available this time of year are from Eastern Europe. We’ve been holding out for the ones we get from Northern California and Oregon, and they’ve just arrived. These Chanterelles are drier and more concentrated, with a nutty flavor. In addition to the pasta, we’ll also be serving them in a ragout with late summer vegetables and orange-scented black and white riso.

2017-09-12T15:48:55+00:00 September 10th, 2009|Brookside Farm, Magruder Ranch, This Just In|0 Comments