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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 preserving food (2)


Weekly Musings: Quince for Kale

Imagine everyone on your street using their land, however big or small, to grow food, whether perennial or annual, and using the food to feed each other?  “Food miles”, a term which refers to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer, would be whittled down to “food feet.”  One of the hopes of our micro-farm was to set up a model of growing to encourage others to follow our example, no matter how small their growing space or how much growing experience they had.  Our neighbors, Bob and Enid, who we met at various functions promoting the sustainable food movement, recently gave us 5 lbs of quince fruit from their tree.  We happily gave Bob and Enid a share of our abundant kale and end of season tomatoes.

We are in the process of planning and planting various perennial trees and shrubs to provide us with fruit, berries and nuts on the section of our property we fondly refer to as our future edible forest garden.  Many of these will take years to grow and produce and we were thankful for a local supply of fruit - one we had not really cooked with before.  We had purchased and eaten quince paste, also known as Membrillo, a few years ago, which we served with a plate of pungent cheese. We found the quince paste to be an outstanding sweet accompaniment.

Cydonia Oblonga

The quince fruit is highly fragrant and smells of apples and pears with the presence of floral notes as well.  When I first took notice of it, I immediately wanted to eat it raw.  Well, it was inedible.  Quince is usually not enjoyed fresh because it is highly tart and astringent.  It needs to be cooked.  The fruit is typically harvested in the fall and a mature tree can yield 75 lbs of fruit.  Though the country of Turkey ranks highest in the  production of quince fruit, it is a pretty hardy tree and can be grown in zones 5-9 in this country.  According to Lee Reich, the Hudson Valley guru of edible landscaping, in the spring “branches are festooned with large white or pinkish blossoms, each resembling a “single” rose the late summer and autumn, the show is quite dramatic from the large yellow fruits, which can be left dangling on the stems for many weeks.” 

GROWING QUINCEQuince tree at the Bonnefont Herb garden at The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park

Quince is a relatively compact tree growing rarely more than 10 feet high and two-thirds that width.  It can have multiple trunks but if you train it to have one trunk, it can take on a gnarled, twisted and picturesque appearance.  The best example can be seen in NYC at The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park where four famous quince trees grow at the periphery of four beds that make up the Bonnefont Cloisters Herb Garden containing over 250 species of medieval medicinal herbs.

Plant quince trees in full sun and well drained soil.  Decide whether you want to have it grown as a shrub or with 1 to 3 trunks during its first growing season and prune accordingly.  If you are in the Hudson Valley, Micosta Nursery in Hudson, New York sells 6 different varieties.  You need only one tree as quince is self-fruitful.  Raintree nursery is also a good source for the west coast. 


Quince paste is a wonderful homemade gift for your foodie friends and family.  It is time consuming and should be given to those who appreciate the effort.  Since it stores well in the refrigerator for up to 3 months, it’s a great idea to make several batches to eat through the winter months and to give out as holiday gifts.  When cooking, enjoy the aromas of banana, flowers, apples and almonds that waft from the stove.  The essential tools to make this recipe are a food mill, food processor, rubber spatula, wax paper and a 9x12 roasting pan.

4-5 lbs of quince, scrubbed clean

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line pan with wax paper

Place whole quince in pan, cover with foil and bake for 2 hours.  When quince is cool enough to handle, remove as much of the flesh as possible into a large food processor taking care not to put in seeds, core or any hardened, brown areas.  This is the time consuming and messy part.

Add enough water, 1/4 cup at a time to make a puree the consistency of a thin pudding.  Use the smallest disk on your food mill and process the entire batch.

Measure out how much puree you’ve made and multiple by 2/3.  Measure out that amount of sugar.  Put puree in a heavy saucepan on med-low heat and add sugar.  For example, I made 6 cups of puree and added 4 cups of sugar.  Stir constantly for 25 minutes.  Puree will darken in color.  Be careful not to burn your puree.

Pour into your wax-lined pan, cool then cover with plastic and chill overnight.  With a knife and spatula section off slices of your paste.  It should have a jelly and gum drop consistence.  Wrap in wax paper store and plastic and store in an airtight contained in the refrigerator.

Serve with pungent cheeses like Manchego or use as a substitute for your usual jam.

Stirring quince and sugar mixture constantlyQuince paste should have the consistency between jelly and gum dropsYeah, I had a little Martha Stewart in me when I did this.


Weekly Musings: And the Winner is.... Grilled Tomato and Basil Sauce

Enough about tomatoes and blight. I’m tired about hearing and talking about it at this point. Though we had quite a disaster, roughly 15 of our 109 plants continue to stand and though most of them are stripped down and won’t be able to continue producing much more, what we did harvest early starting in mid July, has fully ripened. I remember canning and freezing my tomatoes last year at the end of September but it is the 2nd week of August and I am nearly done with all the tomato jams and variations on marinara leaving us with enough tomatoes, sauces and jams to last us well through the winter. What I found extremely useful for my winter cooking is to use whole frozen tomatoes. This can be done with currant, cherry and medium sized tomatoes and come in quite handy when you need to cook with them. Don’t count on using them raw but if they are going into a sauce, stew or soup these are the next best thing to fresh.

Follow these simple steps:

Place tomatoes in a single layer on a baking tray. Place them in the freezer for 1-3 hours (depending on their size).
Remove tomatoes when they are quite solid, place them all in a freezer bag or container and store away.
To thaw: just remove the tomatoes you need, keep them out in room temperture for 10 minutes and use accordingly. To remove the skin, just run them under some warm water and they slip right off.

Dr. Whyches Yellow, Giant Belgium, Church and Brandywine Tomatoes
For sauces, I have tried a variety of different methods with different tomatoes. Usually, most recipes call for plum tomatoes since they have less water and seeds than regular tomatoes. I’ve played around with a few. Most of them require either peeling/seeding or a run through a food mill.

Simple Heirloom Tomato Basil Marinara
First try was a simple heirloom tomato marinara with basil which was coarsely chopped and simply cooked down for about an hour, run through the food mill, then simmered on the stove for a few hours leaving me with just a quart of sauce. I played around with the addition of different herbs, onions and garlic. Very nice and simple but definitely time consuming.

Second trial used roasted plum tomatoes. We grew the famed San Marzanos which grew beautifully and showed some blight resistance. I added the sweet Walla Walla onions we grew (1 medium, sliced) and added a few sprigs of thyme and marjoram, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. I baked these gorgeous guys at 375F for 45-60 minutes. After cooling, they were blended in the food processor. This was definitely easier (no peeling, seeding or food milling) and the result was very tasty.

The winner, however, turned out the be a grilled tomato sauce with basil and garlic. This was a winner in taste and in ease. Plus, I didn’t have to generate any heat in the house as we are trying to conserve energy as much as possible without torturing ourselves. I used all the Black from Tula Russian heirlooms to make this sauce but any variety should do.  By the way, black tomatoes aren't really black, they are a beautiful light port color.

 Black from Tula Russian Heirloom tomatoes on the grill

Recipe: Grilled Tomato and Basil Sauce

Makes 2 quarts

  • 4-5 lbs of market fresh tomatoes
  • 11 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of loosely packed basil
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Salt, Pepper (and sugar if necessary)
  • Balsamic vinegar to taste
  1. Grill tomatoes gradually turning them so the entire skin blisters and chars slightly.  Pull of any pieces that have blackened but leave everything else.
  2. Roughly puree in a blender or food processor leaving some texture.
  3. Heat 3 Tbs olive oil in pot and gently cook onion until it's soft and translucent.
  4. Add tomatoes and cook over medium heat until thickened.  About 20-30 minutes.
  5. Taste and season with salt.  If tomatoes are tart, add a pinch or two of sugar to correct the acidity.
  6. Meanwhile in a food processor or blender, add 8 Tbs of olive oil (less is OK if you want to reduce the fat content) add half the basil until it is well blended and gradually add the rest along with the garlic until it is fairly smooth but still with some texture. Add this to the tomatoes.  Cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in 1 tsp of sea salt and season to taste with freshly ground pepper and vinegar.  


Adapted from The Greens Cook Book by Deborah Madison


Farmer Pam, MD