There’s nothing like a sunny day with blue skies in March to make an Oregonian wonder what spring crops are coming in. This is what inspired me to head out to Gathering Together Farm today with my two-year-old in tow. After saying hello to the chickens we walked to the produce market and restaurant with muddy boots and the distinct smell of sunshine in our hair. We were met by friendly staff, happy diners, and walls of such beautiful produce it seemed to be as much of an art display as a feast to be had.
The restaurant and market at Gathering Together Farm opened on February 28th, and even this early in the season reservations are recommended. The menu included a savory kale raab/broccoli bread pudding; beet soup; duck leg with parsnip puree, braising greens and blood orange; and arugula/sunchoke/tomato/mozzarella pizza. If you think this small sampling of the menu sounds exotic, it’s a trust-the-chef, farm-to-table experience—feel free to order with abandon.
Fresh breads, pastries and sweet treats are also baked on-site daily, and the parsnip/leek/ carrot tart was an extravaganza of flavor and freshness. My daughter chose a croissant that looked as though it had been extracted from a French epicurean magazine. The fresh baguette practically spoke out loud to me—I was instantly overtaken by the need to make pesto bruchetta for dinner.
The winter root crops are still well stocked, with at least a half dozen different types of onions along with potatoes, beets, parsnips, carrots, cabbage and rutabaga, accompanied by the early spring greens: sorrel and kale raab.
Kale Raab is kale that is about to bolt, but unlike other bolting greens, when harvested at the right time it has a sweet taste that lends itself well to salads, stir-fry, soup or even steamed on its own as a side dish. Like kale, kale raab is considered by health experts to be a “super-food;” meaning a single serving provides a generous volume of essential vitamins and nutrients. Kale raab is high in magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, vitamins A, C, K, and several B vitamins.
Sorrel is another early green that is somewhat tart and a little sour, but adds a fresh springtime taste to spring meals and salads. Sorrel also cooks well with stir-fry and soup, and is known to some as a tonic herb because it is so rich in iron, and vitamins A and C.
And I would like to share a word about parsnips—especially having sampled them at Gathering Together Farm. If you have not experimented with parsnips yet, you still have some time to enjoy what I call “winter’s candy.” The parsnip is often overlooked for its sister carrot, but the flavor is a rooty-sweetness that brings an unrivaled uniqueness to dishes. Parsnips are actually more nutritious than carrots, and they are exceptionally high in potassium. This root veggie can be used to create a roasted melody with rutabaga, carrots, beets and yams, and it’s a great addition to soups such as miso, vegetable or mushroom barley.
Ultimately, the promise of spring in the Northwest reminds us of the trials of winter, but we find ourselves emerging with brighter eyes—suddenly able to see every leaf bud—and awakened noses seeking out the scent of soil and all it promises. Rumor has it ….berries are on the way!
by Maria Murphy