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Indispensable Books and Resources
  • Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    by Dave Jacke, Eric Toensmeier
  • The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    by Eliot Coleman
  • The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    by Gary F. Zimmer
  • The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    by Barbara Damrosch
  • 1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    Organic Insect Control
  • Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.

    The best farming and growing magazine money can buy!

  • Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks
    Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks

    2" Soil Blocker

  • Mini Soil Blocker
    Mini Soil Blocker
  • New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    by Emily Brooks
  • What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    by Tasneem Bhatia, Editors of Prevention







Short journal entries detailing the nuts and bolts of our ventures in growing food at our micro-farm

Entries in eggplant (4)


An Afternoon with Food Legend Joan Gussow

Every growing season brings its successes and failures.  What was easy to grow last year for us was much more difficult this year but on the upside what we've struggled with last year grew beautifully this year.  When the New York Times wrote about the "bumper crop" of tomatoes this season a few days ago, I became angsty since that hasn't been our experience.  Our tomato "trees" filled with large gorgeous fruit early in the season became a big hit with seemingly all the squirrels and chipmunks in Rockland county.  Some furry creature must have spread the word.  We were all but stripped of our fruit until we took action with 1) Predator netting 2) Fox urine (Shake Away: A product Eliot Coleman uses) and 3) a solar powered owl perched on one of the raised beds.  Our eggplant were also under attack by flea beetles but on a very positive note, we somehow dropped off the radar for the squash vine borers and all of our brassica veggies grew strong, healthy and abundant.  We are always keeping an ear open to hear about how our neighbors and other farmers compete with the pests and bugs and this past weekend we had a special visit with local and global food legend Joan Gussow to hear about her experiences.

Sitting on the second floor balcony of her home overlooking her garden and the Hudson River, we began comparing notes for this growing season.  Even with decades of growing experience, gardeners like Joan are always surprised at new discoveries.  And the best gardeners are the ones that assume very little.  What Joan found was that when she planted her tomatoes in a bed that still had last season's brussels sprouts stalks intact, they grew vigorously and prolifically!  I wonder if the deep undisturbed root structures allowed beneficial microbes and mycorrhizal fungi to stay intact in the soil ready for spring's tomato seedlings...

LEFT: Eggplant with one singular flea beetle.We were thrilled to learn some tricks that have worked for Joan.  Our Japanese eggplant suffered much this summer from the flea beetles.  I'm usually on top of this with a little organic neem spray but alas Farmer Gabriel kept me inside most of the summer.  Joan plants radishes at the end of the eggplant row as a trap crop and it will be a definite trial here next year.

Other discoveries included Joan's white clover groundcover.  I knew about this from our permaculture studies as a nitrogen fixer but never knew it could be so beautiful and so steppable.  She said the trick is to make sure you pull all other weeds out early on as it starts to grow in.RIGHT: White Clover: Ground cover and nitrogen fixer

Two new varieties really caught our attention. One is a pepper called "Puerto Rican No Burn Pepper."  It looks like a habeñero, has the smoky unique taste of one but there is NO burn.  I was hesitant when Joan asked me to bite into one but it was truly a surprising taste.

The other variety that excited us was a basil that does not flower.  As I was behind with the flea beetles this year, I was also behind trimming off the flowers on my Genovese basil.  This variety not only does not flower, you can save it as a cutting over winter and then just replant the flower in the spring.  It has a more sweet cinnamon taste and grows in a columnar fashion.

Aussie Basil

And if you've read Joan's two books: This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader and Growing Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables, you will know this famous fig tree that is thriving very well.


And here is a shot of seasoned farmer Joan and our new farmer Gabriel who attentively basked in all of Joan's stories as we sat there...



Recipe: Burnt Okra with Potatoes, Garlic and Basil

Our intern Pippa requested Okra to be grown this year.  We had little experience cooking/eating okra and heard it was slimy.  The trick is to harvest when young (less than 4" long).  From a greenhouse bed measuring 4 x 6, we've been getting 1/2 lb every 2 days.  Here is a delicious way to serve them...

Peanut Oil

2 cups Okra tops discarded sliced 3/8"

2 cups small dice potato

1 Tbs minced garlic

2 Tbs minced basil

salt and pepper


Using a cast iron skillet, coat the bottom with peanut oil and heat to medium.  Add okra in one layer and cook until browned.  Stir and then add potatoes, salt and pepper.

Stir and cook until potatoes have browned adjusting heat or adding more oil if necessary.  Once they have browned, add garlic and stir.  Then add basil and stir once more.

Serve immediately!

Adapted from a recipe from Food52


Successes and Failures of Growing after Hurricane Irene

Zapotec and Kellogg's Breakfast TomatoesEach season brings certain expectations and, of course, certain challenges that never remain the same.  Farming and growing is subject to weather fluctuations occuring more often due to climate change.  This year we had historic rainfall in the area starting with heavy downpours in the spring and culminating in the arrival of Hurricane Irene last month.  We lost our peas early becuase of late frosts, then many of the vegetables we seeded or the delicate transplants we placed in the ground would get hit by pounding downpours.  The repeated downpours led to soil erosion, and lastly, when there was no place for the water to penetrate, some beds were in standing water on a few occasions.  We were lucky that we had the harvest we've had to date, albeit much less than we expected for the year.  Unfortunately,  many farms from New York to Vermont were devastated and several CSAs were no longer able supply their customers with weekly drop-offs.  The Union Square Greenmarket had significantly less vendors.  This letter from Evolutionary Organics in New Paltz summed up the impact of Irene on some of our local farmers and is a must read for those who buy locally.


For the home gardener, many of whom grow tomatoes, this was not a good season.  It sure beat 2009 when we all had blight, but what started as a promising season of luscious fruit ended with overwatered tomatoes.  A sure sign of overwatering are tomatoes with fissures and cracks near the top of the fruit.  Multiple linear cracks near the stem of the tomato is a sign that your plant got way too much water.In case this is happening to you are not alone.  Having raised beds, which we encourage, helps with excessive water except in the case where you are getting 8 inches in an hour.  Our tomatoes were in standing water for periods of time.  They eventually drained but the damage was done, and repeatedly. Typically we are harvesting tomatoes well into the end of October but we'll be done by the end of September.  Such is life of a grower.

 Looking back at this season and also looking forward, these were the crops and varieties that did really well for us.  We plan on being fully stocked with these seedlings next spring at the farmers markets:


Favorite tomato varieties: Kellogg's Breakfast - meaty with little seeds and super productive.  Ramapo - gorgeous exemplary red tomatoes, Sungold Cherries, Pink Berkely Tie-Dye, and Lime Green Salad.

Other successes this year: Angled Luffa (Chinese Okra), Japanese Eggplant, Red Russian Kale, Leeks, Italian Rampicante Squash, Hot and Sweet Bell Peppers, and beets.

Wondering what your successes and failures were for the season?


Tonight's tribute to the end of the Nightshades is an absolute favorite sauce for pasta where the eggplant and tomatoes melt in to become a substantive sauce and the brininess of the kalamata olives and anchovies create the necessary pungency to make this a dish that stands out.  Trust me, it's amazing.  Be warned, it's a bit more time consuming than it looks from first glance but so worth the effort.


Recipe: Robust End-of-the-Summer Spaghetti


2 lbs of eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/2” thick
2 Red or yellow bell peppers, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 anchovies
2-3 lbs of ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup kalamata olives pitted and chopped
3 Tbs capers (optional)
1 Tbs dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb spaghetti
1 cup grated Parmesean cheese

1. Preheat broiled.  Arrange eggplant on cookie sheet and brush both sides with olive oil.  Broil both sides until soft and slightly browned about 10 minutes per side.  Oil peppers and broil then skin side up, until blistered.  Stack on top and steam for another 15 minutes then peel and dice into small squares.

2. Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a Dutch oven.  Saute the onions, peppers, garlic, anchovies and parsley over medium high heat until softened.  Lower the heat and add eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers, oregano and 1/2 cup water or juice from tomatoes.  Season with S and P and simmer for 30 minutes to let the flavors develop.

3. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water and drain.  Place in a large bowl with vegetables spooned over the top, showered with cheese and garnished with extra parsley.  Toss before serving.

Adapted from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors

The amazing component here is the eggplant which literally melts and becomes the backbone of the sauce





Eggplant vs. Flea Beetle: Viva La Aubergine

It’s Fall.  For most people who grow, this is the last stretch for the heat-loving plants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.  At this point, I think I’ve eaten enough fresh tomatoes to last me through the winter.  One thing I haven’t grown tired of are eggplants.  I never thought too much of them until I grew them and was forced to find creative ways to cook them; now I’m an addict.  We grew a few different eggplants here but my favorites are a Japanese and Tuscan variety.  The Japanese come in early and continue to produce and the Tuscan Globe comes in later in the summer and are prolific with heavy, strikingly violaceous fruits.

The biggest issue in growing eggplants are keeping flea beetles from making swiss cheese from the leaves.  This annoying poppy seed-sized pest shows up early in the season and continues to eat away the leaves of the eggplant.  I am surprised that eggplant is not considered one of the “dirty dozen” fruits - the vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticides even after being washed and peeled.  The list, compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), lists celery, kale, and bell peppers as among the most contaminated.  Obviously, with organic growing techniques this is not an issue.  

Part of our organic practices to reduce pests and disease is to use Nutrient Density growing techniques that address the quality and health of the soil which will then translate to a healthier plant.  The same reason a strong healthy immune system is integral to a healthy human being, the same logic applies for the plant.  Last year our eggplants had flea beetles but the plants were so strong that they could still grow lush and produce a nice bounty of fruit in spite of the bugs.  This year, the flea beetles became more of a nuisance and the plants were not able to compete with them.  They did not succumb to the bugs but they were certainly not the optimum and productive plants we saw last year.  Click HERE  to see an example of plant stress and evidence of how a strong plant is your best defense against disease and pests.  Please note how the plants at the left of the bed received optimal light and are healthy and pest free and how the plants towards the right were partially shaded and have evidence of insect damage to the leaf.  The Nutrient Density growing method can take 3-4 years to really change the mineral and microbial content of the soil so we didn’t expect to see a dramatic change right away.  Every season, we re-test soil and re-amend the soil and much of the amendments take seasons to break down to be utilized by plants and soil microbes.  So what did we do besides watch the flea beetles have a hey day?


In the long term, addressing the soil health should obviate the need for “control” but in the meantime, I’m not going to sit around letting a little army of flea beetles dine on my eggplant.

1. Crop rotation.  This is essential since the adults can overwinter in the soil and in plant debris.   However, if your area is small, you are likely not able to plant them far enough from last season’s planting area. They emerge in the spring waiting for you to put your healthy seedlings in the ground.  If your seedlings are stressed they will take this opportunity to defoliate and kill your plant.  You definitely want the healthiest seedling possible and you don’t want to plant these seedlings too early since eggplants LOVE heat.  Using a row-cover in the spring until the population of flea beetles die down is also helpful.  It’s just a physical barrier between the plant and the environment.

2. Trap Crops - this is more applicable to farms, but the idea is to plant a more desirable plant for the flea beetles to feed on so they leave the eggplant alone.  This includes planting Chinese mustard greens nearby or to interplant radishes like “Chinese daikon” or “Snow Belle.”

3. Manual Removal - There are reports that physically removing beetles can be effective.  The flea beetle is so small that some people report using a small portable vacuum to literally just suck them off the plants.  We have not tried it but plan on doing it next year if continues to be a problem.  Time to find the old Dust Buster.

4. Botanical controls - the last option.  The only one that we would advise using is a very diluted spray of organic neem oil  Apply this only on a cloudy day.

Tuscan "Prosperosa" Eggplant. Note the leaves.


A few of our favorites dishes that use eggplant include a Baba Ganoush, Roasted Vietnamese Eggplant with Scallion Oil, breading and frying the slices of eggplant, grilling slices, and using them in stir-fry dishes.  When laziness creeps in, we bring our Japanese eggplant to our local sushi master, Ume, at Murasaki in Nyack, New York.  The first time we did this, Ume looked at the eggplant thoughtfully, brought them back to the kitchen to broil and minutes later presented us with a simple dish from his childhood in Japan.  How cool is that?  Here’s the recipe he used.  It’s simple and sublime.  It is so refreshing to find a chef that is so excited by the challenge of using local ingredients on the spot.  Murasaki has become one of our favorite restaurants in town and we high recommend it to anyone who enjoys traditional artisanal sushi.

RECIPE: Yaki Nasu (Ume’s Eggplant)

4 Japanese Eggplant
3 Tbs sesame paste
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs Dashi (this is a bonito and seaweed broth).  You can substitute with dashi powder which is sold in Asian markets.
garnish with 2 Tbs bonito flakes and/or thinly sliced scallions (optional)

Broil eggplant until soft (5-10 minutes).  Peel off skin and cut into sections
Blend the remaining ingredients together
Spoon sauce over eggplant and garnish with bonito flakes and scallions´╗┐


End of the Summer Nightshade Fest

It's still August in New York but today's weather forecast calls for a high of 69 degrees.  It already feels like a premature fall and thoughts of getting my cold weather crops out now feel more of a priority than basking in the glory of my few surviving tomato plants.  The garden is now filled with expectant nightshade fruits: Tuscan and Japanese eggplant, Adirondack Blue and Nicola potatoes, purple, chocolate, orange and red bell peppers, green and purple jalapenos, thai red chili peppers and green and purple tomatillos.  It's amazing how much of the summer diet is comprised of this family of vegetables also known as Solanaceae.  The ominous sounding nightshades also include many poisonous plants such as nicotine (yes, I'd classify that one as a slow poison), belladonna, and jimson weed.  The danger comes from the alkaloid content of these plants which can cause effects on the nervous system. 


When I was a first year in medical school, one of the toxidromes commonly used to remember the side  effects of the class of drugs called anti-cholinergics was "hot as a hare, dry as a bone, red as a beet, mad as a hatter, blind as a bat."  These common drugs, all from belladonna, are used in small quantities: atropine (as eye drops used to dilate the pupils), scopolamine (for motion sickness), and Donnatal (gastointestinal spasms).  The toxidrome translated to the classic overdose symptoms of this alkaloid - fever, urinary retention, flushing, delirium/hallucinations, and dilated pupils.  Interestingly, the name belladonna means "beautiful lady" because it was historically and cosmetically used to dilate the pupils in women; apparently an attractive attribute at the time.  I can imagine these women, "blind as a bat," suffering with their atropine-induced dilated pupils all in the name of beauty.  Women have been subjected to some type of physical harm for beauty throughout the ages: bound feet in China, suffocating corsets a few centuries ago, and now the contemporary issue of eating disorders.  Yes, I digress, back to food....

Edible Nightshades

Although the alkaloid content found in the food nightshades are very minimal, there are the susceptible few that can react to the compound even with just faint traces of the substance.  Though there are few studies that examine the relationship between nightshades and inflammation, there have been many anecdotal reports that the elimination of these foods can significantly improve inflammatory conditions, most notably arthritis.  In my work with patients, a large component addresses nutritional and dietary aspects and their contribution to health and illness.  I view food as the medicine that you put in your body 3-5 times per day and your symptoms may have a huge connection to what you may be feeling.  There are few people who are willing to initially do this and would rather take pharmaceuticals to address symtomatology, but most people seeking my care have either failed that approach and are desperate or they are more interested in root causes for their symptoms and are extremely proactive in their health.  One of things that I look for are an abundance of a specific type of food in the diet, or in this case, a family of foods.  Anecdotally, I can say that there have been a few people who have reacted positively to the elimination of nighshades (much to their dismay).  These specific patients had a significant and sometimes complete resolution of their arthritic symptoms and though one can argue that there is very little scientific data to support this theory connecting nightshades and inflammation, these happy patients are not complaining.  It is also of interest to note that the compound found in chili peppers, also a nightshade, called capsaicin can be used topically for symptoms of arthritis.  The mechanism seems to be related to capsaicin's affects on pain receptors and it is likely that there is very little, if any, significant absorption of this compound.

I am in no way advocating that one should eliminate the beautiful and tasty vegetables, I wholeheartedly endorse their use as they contain so many other beneficial compounds essential for good health.  I leave you with 3 extremely tasty recipes using potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant.


Recipe 1 of 3: Tomato, Eggplant and Mint Salsa 

1/2 cup olive oil plus 2 Tbs

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 cup onion, finely diced

2 tsp minced garlic

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

4 cups medium-diced eggplant (leave skin on)

4 lbs tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

2 tsp smoked paprika or aleppo pepper

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup finely chopped mint


1. Make garlic oil: combine 1/2 cup of olive oil with chopped garlic and gently warm in saute pan until the oil just starts to rupple.  Turn off heat and allow garlic to infuse the oil - aout an hour.  Remove garlic.

2. Warm 2 Tbs olive oil in saute pan add onions and cook until tender and slightly carmelized.  Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant.  Season with 1/2 tsp salt and the pepper.

Most people are unaware of the vast varieties of garlic. Homegrown Spanish Roja was used here.

3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Toss eggplant with remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil (or more) and 1 tsp salt.  Spread onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and place in the oven.  Gently and occasionally turn the eggplant with a spatula.  Roast until tender, about 20 minutes.

4. Combine onions eggplant, tomatoes, paprika/aleppo pepper, vinegar and mint in a large bowl.  Taste with salt and pepper, if desired.

5. Can be served with pita chips (brush slices of pita wedges with remaining garlic oil and bake at 350 for 10 minutes), tortilla chips or spooned over some warm rice and topped with feta cheese.

Adapted from Amy Goldman's 'The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table"

Recipe 2 of 3:  Spicy Eggplant Spread with Thai Basil

Eggplant is notorious for requiring huge amounts of oil to cook with.  This healthy version roasts japanese eggplant in the oven and combines it with the other ingredient thus eliminating the need for excess oil.

1 lb japanese eggplant

1 1/2 Tbs light brown sugar

2 Tbs rice wine vinegar

1 Tbs soy sauce

2-3 jalapeno peppers, finely minced

3 Tbs toasted peanut oil

3 galric cloves

3 Tbs chopped basil (can be a Thai, Holy and/or Cinnamon basil)


2 Tbs black sesame seeds, toasted

optional: fish sauce ( 2 tsp)


Roast eggplant by preheating oven to 425.  Poke eggplant with a fork in several places and bake until the point of collapse.  Let cool and peel off skin and coarsely chop flesh.  

Mix the sugar, vinegar, soy and chilis together (and fish sauce if desired).  Heat a wok or skillet over high heat and add oil.  When it begins to haze, add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add eggplant and stir fry for about  minutes then add sauce and fry for 1 minute more.  Remove from heat and stir in the chopped basil. 

Mound eggplant in a bowl and garnish with extra basil leaves and sesame seeds.  Or spread on croutons or crackers and garnish each individually.


Adapted from Deborah Madison "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone"



Recipe 3 of 3: Roasted Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary

2 lbs new potatoes (I used Adirondack Blues and Russian Fingerlings in this picture) - 3/4" pieces

1 Sprig Rosemary, leaves roughly chopped

Olive oil, enough to just coat potatoes (approx 2-3 Tbs)

2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped

Salt to taste

This recipe couldn't be more simple.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix all ingredients and bake for 20 minutes turning it occasionally while roasting.  Voila!