So... we have gotten a bit of snow. Mountain peaks are sprinkled with white and skiers are happier. And despite the snow and cold, there are some green things growing. Eager gardeners have already started cold-weather crops in greenhouses and cold frames. I have been planting lettuces, spinach, chard, kale, collard greens, arugula, cabbages and more in planter boxes by my kitchen door. Little plants are poking through-- and some very hardy ones have survived outdoors in protected pots and beds, occasionally dusted with snow.
I have a little chard and kale that survived the winter, so far. I was wondering if it would be possible to find local greens for sale somewhere nearby (It seems like forever until the Downtown Growers' Market will open again). Well, guess what? I somehow missed the fact that the village of Los Ranchos has a market which goes through the winter-- they are open on the second Saturday of each month. They are on Rio Grande Blvd, at the parking lot near the tennis courts, which is really not that far away at all.
The March Grower's Market happened on the 9th-- one of those late winter New Mexico days when the weather was changing so fast you couldn't keep up. It snowed, it blew, it was dark and grey and then it was sunny. The Sandias were covered with snow in the distance-- and then they were not even visible because of a giant storm cloud. But the Market was on, no matter what-- most of the vendors snugly sheltered inside the big barn-like structure there. A three-person band played Irish music and there were greens and root vegetables everywhere-- a sight for sore eyes!
I got to meet some farmers whom I had not met before... Barbara and John from Mananica Farm in Algodones had lamb and wool yarn and also beautiful golden beets and greens including chard, lettuces and kale. Some really nice girls from Stray Dog Farms in the North Valley sold me carrots bundled up with a ribbon, and I met "Farmer Ric" from Sol Harvest Farm, who also sold me some pretty fine looking spinach. These last two farms are now offering "CSA" (community supported agriculture) harvest boxes to those who wish to become members-- check their websites for more information. This is a great way to enjoy fresh seasonal produce from local providers for much of the year, and to get it even when you can't make it to the Market.
Then on Monday, I traveled down to the far South Valley to visit Richard Moore at Moore Family Farms. I went with Gina, who runs Fresh Produce-- a company that works to connect many local growers in our area to restaurants here that want to use fresh local produce. Gina told me that she sells about 30% of what Richard grows, and he sells the rest at the Downtown Growers' Market and by word-of-mouth. Richard showed us what he has started inside his hoop house-- a simple curved greenhouse wrapped in plastic. Baby plants were everywhere, and half the space was filled with greens-- mustard, spinach, kale, chard and more. He was getting ready to start moving them out into the fields, where he will also direct-sow even more lettuces, arugula and such. Next fall, Richard plans to build more hoop houses, out in the fields, where he will grow greens year-round. This makes me happy, because I hope to be buying them from him!
The Growers' Market begins on May 18-- two months away, still. There is plenty of time for Richard to coax his baby plants into big bunches of healthy, hearty spring greens. Look for his produce and farm fresh eggs there all season. And by then, Hartford Square should be open-- and we will be featuring fresh produce from farmers like Richard in our weekly menus at the restaurant. Can't wait!
Here is a simple and quick way to use some of those delicious greens and fresh eggs in the same recipe-- just whip up a Frittata w/Hearty Greens for breakfast, brunch or a simple supper. You'll need two eggs per person, a big bunch of chopped chard or kale, olive oil, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup grated cheese per person (your choice-- experiment!), one or two finely chopped garlic cloves and about half an onion, chopped. Oh, and by the way-- did I mention how GOOD FOR YOU dark green leafy vegetables are? Probably better than almost anything else you could eat-- full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and phytonutrients and low in calories and carbs. What more could you want? I know-- stuff that tastes good-- so how about this: 1) Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 10" (adjust size depending on how many servings you are preparing) skillet (that can go in the oven) over medium heat, and add garlic-- cook until fragrant, for a couple of minutes, then add chopped onion & cook until soft, but not brown. 2) Add chopped dark green leafy vegetable of choice, and cook until liquid releases and cooks off, stirring frequently. 3) In the meantime, whisk desired number of eggs in a small bowl-- when greens have begun to dry up, pour eggs over them to cover. Cook until set on bottom. 4) Grate cheese and sprinkle it over top of eggs. 5) Turn on broiler in oven and set rack about 6" below broiler. Place skillet under broller and broil until cheese is bubbly and eggs are set on top. 6) Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes. Slice into desired number of servings and place on plates.