Thursday, August 19, 2010

Picadilly Farm- Partnerships in the Community

Jenny and Bruce Wooster had a vision: they wanted to farm in partnership with the community. But the theme of partnership runs much deeper than CSA shares at Picadilly Farm in New Hampshire.
When the Woosters were looking for a farm, they met the Hudsons, dairy farmers thinking about retiring and selling the farm. Jenny and Bruce bought the farm from the Hudsons in 2006, but the relationship continued to flourish as the Hudsons helped the Woosters change the farm from a dairy farm to vegetable production. During my visit, Mr. Hudson dropped into the farmhouse to talk with Bruce- the friendship and trust was evident in their brief exchange in the kitchen (as Bruce bounced baby Jesse on his hip).
Picadilly Farm partners with 5 other farms to make the most of each farm's resources, each growing a crop to share with the other farms to round out their repertoire. In order to connect to more communities, there are five pick-up sites for CSA shares throughout southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  They offer a sliding scale for those who may not be able to afford the fresh, organic produce they grow, and provide food to several shelters and food pantries.
The feeling of community and family is evident in the way that Picadilly does CSA pick-up at the farm. Members have a broad choice of vegetables, choosing in a mix-and-match format in their charming picking room. AND they have a 'pick-your-own' plot of land, offering extra vegetables, berries, flowers and herbs that the members can gather themselves.
Bruce and his crew were picking melons the day I visited. The yellow watermelon is not just gorgeous but juicy and sweet. While melons are delicious on their own, they are great foils for spicy ingredients such as peppers, garlic and onion. Firmer melons, such as honeydew and cantaloupe, can be grilled or sauteed, alone or with a sprinkle of chili or curry powder. Add chunks of them to kebabs, or simply serve as a side course. Here are a few of my favorite ways to serve them (other than just cutting and eating, of course!)

Shrimp and Melon Soup
This is good for leftover grilled or boiled shrimp. You can also use crab or lobster meat, or leave the shellfish out completely.
One small watermelon
1 small red onion
2-inch piece fresh ginger
1 fat clove garlic
1 hot chili, such as jalapeno
1 small lime
1 to 2 cups cooked shrimp, lobster or crabmeat
2 Tablespoons chopped mint
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
1. Cut the watermelon in half and remove from the rind. Cut into chunks, removing the seeds. Peel and cut the onion and cut into quarters. Peel the ginger and cut into several pieces. Peel the garlic. Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds. Zest the lime with a rasp, zester, or smallest hole on a box grater and set aside. Juice the lime, and place the watermelon, onion, ginger, garlic, pepper and lime juice in a food processor and process until smooth.
2. Combine the shrimp, mint and cilantro. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. To serve, place a scoop of the seafood mixture in a bowl. Ladle the soup around the seafood, garnish with a sprinkle of lime zest, and serve cold.

Melon Salsa
1/2 melon- any kind
1 – 2 hot peppers (cherry, jalapeno)
2 – 3 Tablespoons fresh basil, mint or cilantro
1 small red onion or 2 scallions
1 lime
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Remove the melon fruit from the rind and dice into small pieces. If using watermelon, remove the seeds as you dice it. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and veins (wear gloves, or scoop out with a spoon- a grapefruit spoon is great for this). Cut into strips and then mince. Chop the fresh herbs. Peel the onion, if using, and cut into very small dice. If using scallions, trim and chop.
2. Zest the lime with a rasp, zester, or the smallest holes on a box grater. Toss together the melon, pepper, herbs, onion or scallions, and lime zest. Juice the lime and sprinkle over all. Toss again and season with salt and pepper

If you are choosing your own melons, choose ones that feel heavier than you'd think they'd be, and that have a fruity fragrance at their stem end. Avoid melons that are already soft, or cantaloupe that are still green. Store honeydews, cantaloupes and like melons in the refrigerator, but watermelon can be stored at room temperature until cut- then refrigerate.

Happy eating!

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