Early Harvests & Fine Feasts
The first of almost anything often seems worth celebrating, especially if it involves eating something delicious. Here on Bainbridge Island, the entire community seemed to be rejoicing over the first local tomatoes to find their way to market. The market in question was the island’s Farmers Market, where Brian McWharter, a local grower, was selling the first fruits of his grafted vegetable crops.
Besides selling in the market, Brian runs a CSA and also supplies our local Town & Country grocery market with a great deal of produce grown at Middlefield Farm, an historic property about a mile from the grocery store. Late in May, Brian told me that he was growing both grafted tomatoes and peppers and would be picking his first ripe tomatoes the first week of June.
Home Grown Goodies
My own grafted tomatoes are covered with blossoms, with a few small fruits already formed, but none are yet fully ripe. Even so, we have so much in the way of greens, snow peas, green onions, and strawberries that a wait of a few more weeks seems inconsequential. In fact, I can’t remember ever having tomatoes even close to ripe by this time of year before, so even green ones seem well worth a mild celebration.
Mine are growing in my sunporch, which hardly qualifies as a true greenhouse. However, it does provide more warmth than the deck where all my larger potted things are growing, especially at night, when temperature still dip into the high 40’s on occasion. The deck is south facing, offering floods of sunlight when there is any, though most mornings are muffled in marine fog. This generally burns off by mid-afternoon, which makes both the greens and the peas very productive and happy.
I’ve even got some seedling agretti returning after last year’s crop froze to death. I had not noticed any flowers, though they are most certainly inconspicuous at best. This succulent Mediterranean marine vegetable looks like muscular chives and has a crisp texture and salty, seaweedy flavor that’s lovely in salads. I also like to frizzle the young shoots in olive oil with garlic and sea salt and use them as a tasty garnish on steamed asparagus or poached fish.
In Italy, agretti is often fried or steamed and drizzled with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. The result is delicious, especially if you add some chopped shallots to the mix. Many years ago, I remember eating a totally amazing pasta dish in southern Italy involving wide fresh noodles tossed with agretti, fresh spinach, and baby peas in a very light, lemony cream sauce. Here’s my version of that memorable meal:
Fresh Pasta With Spring Vegetables
8-12 ounces fresh tagliatelle
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 organic lemon, zest grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 bunch (about half a pound) agretti, rinsed
12 ounces young spinach
1 pound new peas, shelled
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy organic cream
1/4 cup peccorino cheese, coarsely grated
While pasta water heats, combine oil, shallots, lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and pepper in a wide, shallow pan over medium high heat and cook to the fragrance point (about 1 minute). Add agretti, spinach and peas and cook stirring often, until lightly wilted (2-3 minutes). Add wine, bring to a simmer, add cream, reduce heat to low while pasta cooks. Drain pasta, toss with sauce and serve, garnished with grated cheese. Serves at least one.
My son and his wife are also celebrating the birth of their son, a strapping 10 pounder with a great deal to say for himself. After several false starts, he arrived briskly yesterday afternoon amid a loving crowd of family and friends. I was amazed and impressed by both parents, my daughter-in-love for her generosity in sharing her labor and delivery with the many people who love her dearly, and my son for his ardent, loving, calm, and compassionate support. They are truly partnered and will clearly be remarkable parents, aided and nurtured by their chosen community. How beautiful!
And the baby’s name? So far, it is Small Person Lovejoy, until his doting parents have time to suss out the most appropriate one(s). Onward!!