Monday, March 23, 2009

Sprouted Broccoli from Green Spring Farm in Petaluma, California

Recently we spent a weekend in Sonoma. Since I like to shop at farmers' markets, I was happy to learn that the valley is home to more than a 100 organic farms.

We would have liked to stop at a dozen or more but this was a short trip, so we zeroed in on Green String Farm. Although the farm is small, its produce is well-known, supplying many Bay Area restaurants, including Alice Waters' Chez Panise, Terzo, Camino, and Hog Island Oyster Company.

Ross Cannard gave us a walking tour of the farm his father, Bob, started years ago with wine maker, Fred Cline. He took us through ankle high grasses to check out the fields under cultivation, the pasture enclosures with goats and sheep, and the chicken trailer.

At times it was difficult to see exactly what was under cultivation and what wasn't. The philosophy of the farm is summed up in a simple description: maintaining an important balance between crops grown for human consumption and crops grown to improve the soil, Green String farmers always give back to the earth the same amount the earth gives to us. Unlike conventional produce which is grown in conditions specifically designed to put out the highest and fastest possible yields (and without room for anything but the food crop), Green String produce grows under more natural conditions, with the help of farmers who are listening to what their land tells them throughout the year.
"Listening to what their land tells them" means, no chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Beneficial plants (we'd call them "weeds") grow side by side with celery, broccoli, kale, onions, artichokes, and lettuces. Before planting, the chickens and livestock add to the mix, literally. By creating portable enclosures the animals are moved from one field to another. Their hooves aerate the soil, as their waste provides fertilizer.

The proof of any system is the quality of the product. All the produce looked so delicious, we had to hold back from buying too much.

With produce this fresh, it makes sense to use simple preparations, the better to savor the quality of the vegetables.

Braised Sprouted Broccoli

In an email Ross explained how Green Spring Farm perennializes its broccoli:
It's Italian green sprouting broccoli, which is a standard variety. What's different is in our method of picking it. We let it head up, then pick it, like everyone else does, but then, if you keep it in the ground, it keeps growing these nice little heads, which you have to keep picking to prevent the plant from flowering. This way, though, you don't have to replant your broccoli all the time, you just keep on picking the ones you have, and we prefer these little heads to the giant supermarket-style heads anyway.Sprouted broccoli is really worth finding. The taste is sweeter, the flavor more, well, "broccoli"-ish. It can be found in farmers' markets and some specialty supermarkets like Whole Foods and Gelson's.
Yield: serves 4
Time: 10 minutes


1 pound sprouted broccoli, washed, ends of stems trimmed, keep leaves on
4 garlic cloves, peeled, mashed, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)


Heat the olive oil in a frying or chef's pan over a medium-high flame. Season the oil with sea salt and pepper, add the broccoli and toss with tongs until the leaves wilt. Add the chopped garlic and continue tossing until the garlic and broccoli are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add water to deglaze the pan, lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top and let simmer. Turn the broccoli after 2 minutes. After a total of 5 minutes the broccoli should be tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a pat of sweet butter (optional) and toss.

Serve hot as a side dish with meat, poultry, tofu, or fish.

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