The Midwestern Gentleman and I belong to a CSA at TableTop Farm. I signed us up last January, mostly because I’m lazy and thought that having vegetables foisted upon me every week would make me research some new recipes and get us out of our kale and broccoli rut. Then, soon after signing up, I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, and suddenly it became imperative not only that I eat a great deal more fruits and vegetables, but that those fruits and vegetables be as chemical-free as possible.
Luckily, TableTop Farm is working toward certification as an organic farm, so growing chemical-free produce is one of the founding principles of its operation.
Last Saturday, the Gent and I visited TableTop Farm as part of the “Farm Cruise” tours happening at several local farms. For a couple of city kids, it was a strange luxury to be able to visit the place where our food is grown, to meet the farmers who do the growing.
The dynamic Chris Corbin took visitors on a hayride around the farm, gracefully fielding questions from curious CSA members and experienced farmers alike as he explained TableTop’s philosophy and logistical approach to organic farming. In spite of Chris’s enthusiasm for his vocation and his equanimity when explaining how they face various challenges like unpredictable weather and beetle swarms, it’s clear that organic farming is tough.
The two couples who founded the farm in 2011 — Sally and Luke Gran, Kim and Chris Corbin — have already built an impressive and polished operation. The farm has its own Facebook page for keeping its more than 700 fans informed about planting, harvesting, volunteer work days, events, CSA share weekly contents, and farmers market offerings. The Facebook page also provides a forum where CSA members can share recipes and cheer on the farm’s endeavors. For the analog folks, TableTop Farm distributes a printed newsletter. The Table Top team clearly wants to engage actively with their community, and cares deeply about the quality of their produce. I was impressed by a field of melons that the team considered a loss this year; Sally didn’t like the way they tasted, and refused to sell an inferior tasting product to their customers. It’s an amazing feeling to get to know — and trust — the people who grow your food. For me, it’s one of the most significant benefits of living in the Midwest.
At the end of the Farm Cruise day, TableTop hosted a potluck with live music (there’s that community-building spirit again!) which we, regrettably, were unable to attend. If you’d like to see more photos from the farm tour, visit my Flickr album, TableTop Farm Tour 2012.
As the tour ended, the Gent and I stopped at the farm stand to buy an extra bunch of carrots and some lacinato kale. I used to think I was over carrots. Apparently, I am only over grocery store carrots, because I cannot get enough of the complexly sweet, flavorful carrots grown at TableTop Farm. And what better way to showcase the flavor of these local, chemical-free carrots than in some homemade carrot butter?
I’m indebted to a recent post at Good Clean Food for the proportions and technique in the following carrot butter recipe, although I tweaked the ingredients to fit the contents of my cupboards and my personal tastes. If you’ve never visited Good Clean Food, be sure to check it out; it’s one of my favorite food blogs.
I can’t shake my residual concerns about the potential inflammatory effects of canola oil since reading The Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller, MD, so in this spread I used omega-3 rich avocado oil, which has a delightfully unctuous mouth-feel. Rich, dark buckwheat honey provides subdued sweetness. Since macadamia nuts are expensive to come by in Ames, IA, I opted for cashews, a similarly soft nut that purees like a dream. This creamy spread tastes equally good with or without the ginger, but including ginger will add a considerable boost of anti-inflammatory compounds.
Creamy Carrot Butter
about 7 large carrots (see photo above!), sliced into half-moons
1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid from carrots
3/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup avocado (or extra virgin olive) oil
1 Tbsp dark honey
salt, to taste
Optional: 1/2 to 1 tsp ground ginger, to taste
Steam the carrots until very soft, reserving the cooking liquid. Add the carrots, cashews, avocado oil, honey, and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid to the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Add salt and ginger and puree again. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Makes 3 cups of carrot butter.