26 March 2014
The fourth graders from Topa Topa School made their rounds this week, hunting lady bugs, time traveling and munching vast quantities of organic carrots they pulled right from the ground. I saw one boy with a big carrot in his mouth and one in each hand, so enthralled was he with the orange source of sweet Vitamin A he planned on packing some home.
I asked one group of children if they had eaten our fresh carrots last week at school. Yes they had! So I asked, were they any good? Yeah! The best!
Around 130 children came with some parents and teachers. They sat on hay bales and heard stories straight from the earth told by Dave White, leading the tours, with Juna Mueller, both of whom work for Food For Thought, the Ojai organization that educates the valley about the benefits of eating local organic produce. Dave is also the Executive Director of The Center for Regenerative Agriculture, headquartered in Mira Monte. The Ojai Unified School District has been introducing local produce on their menus for a few years with help from Food For Thought. Our farmers, Wes Jones and Nitana Calfee, provided nifty anecdotes regarding wild adventures with earthworms, hawks, lacewings and coyotes, our co-workers on the farm.
Our teachers taught the students how to time-travel, going back a million years, when the dinosaurs were gone and wilderness was remarkably different from what we see today. Was it wetter? Could have been. How else did all the rocky peaks become soil? Dave and Juna said it takes millions of years for nature to make the soil we walk on now. Expansive freezing and thawing, wind and water, contrived to crumble the mighty monoliths into the fine environment that allows Potato Bugs to hide and grain to grow so the birds will have something to eat. Now the biggest oaks grow in the deepest soil. Earth evolution is a marvelously dynamic process that proceeds so very slowly we hardly can imagine what changed into what he have now, or to theorize, what will become of everything we see in another million years? Do you think one of us will be here to see it?
Will there be carrots in a million years? A million years ago there were no carrots. No carrot juice, no carrot cake and no Bugs Bunny. There might have been a weird umbellish plant with a semi-sweet root that enticed some lucky rodent back then, but there were no Persian carrots and certainly no French carrots. We get carrots selected from the Middle East’s great cradle of food that runs from the Tigris River to the Himalayas. From the Afghan imports, the French selected special varieties so sweet and tender even the King would eat them raw. And he was pretty proud, you know. The carrots you eat are the direct descendants of what was first grown in Nantes, France and that type governs fresh market production. Just ask the French when you see one about the Nantes carrots and I bet they will eye-ball roll and wave their arms over their heads. They’re excitable. None of those batty Imperator juggernaut carrots for you or the French. The Imperators are so big they look prehistoric, but of course they’re not. Only people can time travel. Carrots can’t because they are stuck in the ground.
That odiferous oniony leekish product in your share today is a green garlic. To consume, start at the floppy green leaves and chop some up on your way to the bright white shank. Chop and cook or splay it on salad, lightly. We call it a “shank” because it is long, like a leg or an implement for a tractor that goes way deep in the earth to break the clods so the carrots can slink down there and grow nice and straight. You probably remember that King Edward the First of England was known as Longshanks because he was so tall and that the Shawshank Redemption has nothing to do with carrots, although one of the most common uses of the word “shank” refers to a homemade knife fashioned by prisoners incarcerated within the walls of institutions similar to the fictitious site of the famous film.
You got yourself a red cabbage again after seven long months of waiting. We don’t plan on giving you one every week of course, but we believe cabbage is a highly underrated nutritional wallopsmacker. We have a couple more rounds of cabbage coming. We’re on a roll.