BARBARA KINGSOLVER, in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle tells the story of a year in which her family made every attempt to feed themselves animals and vegetables “whose provenance they really knew”…and of how her family “was changed by a year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air.”
Good food cultures are built on knowing and using local ingredients.
Contact with local farmers at markets builds community and allows us to value and trust the integrity of the food and who grows it. My shopping goal is to get food from so close to home that I know the person who grew it.
Many of us on the Northshore have come to know and trust Nancy and her son, John Bartlett, their signature bright bouquets of sunflowers and zinnias and organic and pesticide free seasonal vegetables. I recently visited Nancy at their five-acre family farm in Folsom to get a preview of what to anticipate for the fall market in September and October. Nancy and her husband purchased the property 37 years ago with no intention to ever farm other than planting a modest garden to feed their family of five.
After Hurricane Katrina took down a huge swath of trees ten years ago bringing sunshine to their previously wooded property, John planted a 15’ x 90’ bed with vegetables and the rest is history.
The fields have already been directly seeded and tender green shoots of okra, kale, bok choi, arugula and edamame have raised their heads to worship the sun in preparation for fall markets. Delicate seedlings of radishes, beets, mizuna and chard are gracefully growing their way towards our market bags and kitchens. The Bartletts grow all of their crops from seed. Nancy and her son John have an unspoken agreement. Nancy naturally assumes the maternal role as the nurturer, germinating seeds in the greenhouse until stable and strong enough to transfer to the fields. John, the mechanical engineer and innovative son, assumes his role on the tractor and seeds the fields directly. Mother and son work in perfect harmony with the soil and the cycles of earth’s seasons.
The Bartletts have hosted local celebrity chefs at farm to table communal dinners on the grounds of their beautiful farm. They supply many restaurants in the area, participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and sell their carefully harvested vegetables and flowers at the Covington and Crescent City Thursday Farmers Market. I asked Nancy to share a couple of her favorite recipes with our Sophisticated Woman readers. She describes her cooking as not fancy and loves combining simple fresh seasonal ingredients without recipes from the Bartlett Farm garden.
Two of her favorite meals that can turn a mundane dinner into a celebration are confetti rice and shrimp with fresh vegetables and pasta. Nancy likes to combine brown rice with fresh multi-colored peppers, squash, zucchini and whatever is in season for her colorful, tasty and healthy confetti rice. For the shrimp and pasta, Nancy likes to use seasonal greens and tomatoes and a splash of wine. No recipe needed, so use your imagination and remember: shop local and think seasonal.
For more of Jan’s foodie insight and recipes, head to SophisticatedWoman.com/foodies-friends.