Sunday, July 24, 2011

The New Kohlrabi on the Block

Heritage Harvest Farm




Selling crops commercially might be a new venture for the Gompf Family, but owning a farm and producing sustainably grown crops has been a long time dream in the making. The story begins 60 miles north of Columbus at Heritage Harvest Farm. There I was introduced to Matt, Corinne, their adorable son Fletcher and two playful dogs Bailey and Buddy. Although this farm was started less than a year ago, in August 2010, it promises to have the roots to make it successful for many years to come.

Matt, the agriculture education teacher at Mt. Gilead High School and Corinne, a former editor, decided it was time to turn their dream into a reality. They purchased 2 acres in Galion, Ohio and haven’t looked back, turning their passion and hobby into a way of making a living. They believe in producing good, wholesome food without the use of harsh chemicals. The small amount of land that makes up the farm is surrounding by 240 acres of conventional growing fields, so although they can never be a certified organic farm they practice sustainable growing methods including using fish fertilizers and homemade, all natural insecticidal soap to coat the plants leaves when necessary.

Due to Heritage Harvest’s modest acreage and a short growing season in Ohio (especially this year given the not so farmer friendly weather), the Gompf’s prefer to grow crops that have a quick turnaround. Meaning, if you are a crop that wants to make it into the soil at this farm you must have very few days from seed to harvest. As soon as a plant is harvested, a new one is waiting to immediately be put in its place. Another stipulation is you must possess unique qualities. For example, a few not-so-ordinary crops they are growing this season include 8 ball zucchini, okra, tomatillos, dragon tongue beans and rat tail radishes from Southeast Asia, which I must point out do disturbingly look like rat tails but pack an unexpected spicy kick! Of course Matt and Corinne are growing the staple veggies, but it is these unusual varieties that set them apart from the rest.

I decided to focus this visit on the fast growing and unusual kohlrabi. This enigmatic vegetable never seems to find its way onto the grocery store shelves, and those who grow it cannot seem to figure out the reason. Heritage Harvest chose to add kohlrabi to their lineup of unique eats because it is roughly 55 days from seed to harvest, it is easy to grown, has few pests, and stores nicely for their customers. Kohlrabi is part of the brassica family and just like its relatives cabbage, brussel sprouts and broccoli, it grows above ground. Heritage Harvest plants the “early white Vienna” and similar to cabbage this plant grows one bulb or head per plant and also has a pretty purple variety.

So what’s in the works for next year? The Gompf’s plan on having a small orchard, having recently planted five fruit trees. They also hope to migrate towards offering solely CSA (Community Supported Agriculture – see The Solitary Sunchoke post) and use the three markets in which they participate as pick up points. Part of the Gompf mission is to reinvest what they make from the markets and eventually CSA’s into perennial fruit and vegetable plants along with the restoration of their 100-year old farm.

Kohlrabi




The Heritage Harvest kohlrabi (pictured left) traveled 60 miles to Columbus. I went to several local grocery stores in search of kohlrabi with no such luck. The closest thing I could find was its cousin the cabbage (pictured right) and the only clue to its origin was the “Product of the USA” stamp on the price card attached to the shelf.

Kohlrabi is more easily assessable and popular in Europe, and maybe that is because it was first discovered in Germany. In fact, the name translates to kohl (cabbage) and rabi (turnip) in German. It is low in calories, but high in dietary fiber, vitamin C and many other vitamins and minerals. Since kohlrabi tastes very similar to cabbage, you can substitute this veggie for your favorite raw or cooked cabbage recipes.

References

Nutrition and You - Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi and Apple Coleslaw

*This is a great side dish for summer cook-out and since it contains no mayo you can let it sit out longer without refrigeration.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups (about 4-5) Heritage Harvest kohlrabi, finely shredded
  • 2 cups (about 2) granny smith apples, skins left on and julienned
  • 1 cup carrot, finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine kohlrabi, apples, carrot, and cranberries and set aside
  • In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, honey, salt, dry mustard and celery seed
  • Pour liquid mixture over coleslaw and let set at least 2 hours before serving



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