By Emily Ryan, The Mercury
The cold wind blew against a plastic-covered high tunnel at Two Gander Farm in Downingtown, but the sun’s heat kept Deirdre Flemming warm inside. Carrying a bin in her arms, she harvested colorful Swiss chard for pickup later that day.
“These seeds were started in July,” she said, pointing to a nearby row of kale. “It’s a very precise, timed thing with the winter growing.”
Flemming walked out of the 2,000-square-foot structure and into an adjacent 6,000-square-foot one filled with spinach, arugula, baby red Russian kale, Hakurei turnips and mâche, which boasts a sweet, nutty favor.
“It’s just such a nice feeling to open that door and have the smell hit you,” she described. “It’s very therapeutic.”
So are the greens themselves.
Creamed Kale with Bacon & Onions
1 bunch kale, ribs removed and sliced into ½-inch strips.
4 slices bacon, cooked then chopped
½ onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup cream
Sauté bacon until done, remove from pan and chop. Add onion and garlic to pan with bacon grease and cook until onions are translucent. Add kale and chopped bacon to pan. Mix ingredients together, sautéing until kale is tender, about 7 minutes. Add cream to pan and cook until warmed through. Serve as side or main dish
Recipe courtesy of Heart Food Truck
4 ounces mâche
2 clementines, peeled and sectioned
2 tablespoons mint
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Combine mâche and clementines. In a separate bowl, combine dressing ingredients and mix. Dress salad!
Recipe courtesy of Larry Tse, Longview Farm
Kale Avocado Pomegranate Salad
1 bunch of kale (any type)
1 avocado, sliced
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vinegar (any type)
½ teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon finely chopped red onion (optional)
Salt and pepper
Remove the kale leaves from the tough center rib. Wash and dry the kale. Chop very fine and put in a large bowl. Mix the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour about half of it over the kale. Then squeeze the kale with both hands, using a massage-like motion, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the kale is softened. Add the rest of the ingredients and taste for seasonings, adding more dressing if needed. Kale salad lasts for 2 to 3 days, covered, in the refrigerator.
Recipe courtesy of Greener Partners
“People in the winter are starved for greens. Everybody wants that really fresh, green flavor,” Flemming said. “There’s such high demand for winter crops that are local.”
Supporters snapped up shares to her now sold-out winter CSA, short for community supported agriculture.
“You can taste the difference,” she added. “Spinach grown in a colder climate just tastes better. It’s sweeter.”
“It forces the plant to take up more sugar rather than water,” explained Larry Tse of Longview Farm in Collegeville. “Some people will only eat collards after they’ve been touched by a frost because they’re sweeter and less bitter.”
His winter CSA members enjoy collard greens, kale, Asian greens, spinach and lesser-knowns like mâche, minutina and claytonia, also called miner’s lettuce. High in vitamin C, it helped miners avoid scurvy.
“You won’t be able to go down to your local Acme and see them on the shelves,” the farm manager said. “They’re very popular in the restaurant industry because they look good on a plate, and they have delicate flavor.”
Chefs like Michael Falcone of Heart Food Truck appreciate the availability because “there are so many delicious underutilized greens in the winter.”
His favorite: mustard greens.
“I like the pungent, radishy, mustard taste to the greens. It’s a nice complement to pork, or chicken, or even salmon,” suggested Falcone, who also makes a mean creamed kale with bacon and onions.
“You have earthy, bitter, creamy, smoky elements with the combination of all the ingredients,” he noted. “The recipe is very easy and straightforward, so any home cook can try it.”
Back at Two Gander Farm, Flemming looked at the high tunnels, smiled and said, “A lot of farmers think we’re nuts for doing this. ‘Why do you want to work all winter?’”
She admits there are challenges.
“Sometimes when it gets really, really cold, it’s stressful,” Flemming confessed. “Are these greens going to make it through?”
But on the plus side, “The weeds and the bugs kind of surrender, and it’s all ours. It’s glorious!”