Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oooh, Baby!

Succulent. Snappy. Juicy. Luscious. Bright. Juicy. Tender. Mounds of baby ginger, dug fresh and scrubbed clean, test the marketer's thesaurus. An artist might be better equipped. See for yourself:

An enumeration of features we adore about this tropical rhizome extends from its otherworldly beauty to its lush growth in the greenhouse, its sweet, powerful flavor, and its extraordinary versatility in the kitchen. Happily, members of our CSA and now a growing number of restaurant and wholesale customers share our sentiments. Really, who doesn't love a beautiful baby?

In our third year of cultivating fresh ginger—plus a test plot of turmeric and the bright purple ka chai dom (Thai ginseng)—it seems we're getting the hang of coaxing an abundant tropical harvest from our upstate New York hoop house.

Here's how it's done: We buy in organic seed from Hawaii (order early; our supplier sells out every year), and keep it cozy in crates of damp potting soil stashed in the warmest corner of the farmhouse—in the laundry room. Sometime in April, when the the soil in the hoop house has warmed to 70°F, we plant out the rhizomes, two rows in each bed with a thick layer of wood mulch to keep down weeds and hold moisture in the paths. For the next six months, we flood the ginger beds regularly with captured rainwater, feed the emerging plants with fish emulsion and compost tea infusions, and mound soil—amended with fluffy, composted horse bedding—around the sprouts to encourage robust rhizome formation. To optimize quality of this rather perishable product, we dig, wash, and deliver baby ginger on the same day.

Melissa Bahret of Old Friends Farm in Amherst, MA, developed the system we've adopted back in 2006, with funding from a SARE grant. In our area, we share the niche with Muddy Fingers, The Good Life, Shelterbelt, and Humble Hill farms. This year's big ginger innovations at Tree Gate Farm feature a bubbler (as in: jacuzzi jets). Throughout the growing season, a repurposed hot tub motor blows air into our compost tea (a project worthy of its own blog post) and during harvest season into a dedicated set of pipes and tanks in our wash station. It's noisy, but a tremendous boon in terms of labor and water conservation.

The Tree Gate Farm ginger story wouldn't be complete without a shout-out to the folks at Regional Access, a wholesale food distributor founded in 1989 by a local farmer. My uncle worked for Regional back in its early days and introduced me to an array of specialty food products unknown in my mother's kitchen. Fast-forward two decades: Our farm is an easy five-minute drive from Regional's warehouse and their catalog features our baby ginger available for shipment throughout New York State.

If you haven't yet tasted baby ginger, ask around at your local farmers' market or get in touch with us to place an order. The season is short, intense, and ooh, baby, is it delicious!