I have been continuing my efforts to support the farmers in the area, especially the ones near the fires in Santa Rosa. I hope you are too.
This week I visited with Stokes Rucker who owns Ludwig Farms in Santa Rosa. Stokes has been farm gardening for more than 50 years. He used to farm in New York, where he grew vegetables on 50 acres of land. Now he and his son farm on 10 acres on Ludwig Avenue, which is located between Stony Point and Llano on the outskirts of Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.
Stokes specializes in eggs, and when his ducks are laying he will have duck eggs as well as chicken eggs. He also grows potatoes, cabbages, broccoli and best of all in my opinion, collard greens. He is always at the Eastside Farmers Market on Tuesdays, and sells directly at his farm on Ludwig Avenue as well as going to a market in Santa Rosa each week.
I have never met a green that I didn’t like, but it took me many years to understand how great collard greens are. Now they are one of my favorites.
One of the best ways to enjoy collards, especially if you have never tried them, is a Brazilian dish called Couve a Mineira or Garlicky Collard Greens. The keys to this dish are to use lots of finely minced garlic, and to cut the greens into very thin strips, which helps to break the fibers.
I pull the stems out, lay the greens on my cutting board, and then cut them crosswise into strips about 1/8 to ¼-inch wide. I also make a couple of cuts lengthwise so the pieces end up being about 2 inches by ¼-inch. This sounds so precise as I write this, but they don’t need that degree of precision. Just make them very narrow, and easy to get onto a fork.
Heat the garlic in enough olive oil to film the bottom of a large saucepan, add the garlic and just sizzle it a bit but don’t let it brown. Add the collards with some of the water that clings to it from washing, and some kosher salt, and give them a quick sauté until they turn bright green. Don’t overcook them.
There are a number of other ways to enjoy collards. I recently made a Mexican-inspired pork and hominy stew and finished it with some handfuls of collards.
On another day, I made collard green tacos with beans that were outstanding. The collards in this case were cooked longer, and the long cooking helped them take on a smoky taste that went great with the beans, some homemade tomatillo salsa, avocados and handmade corn tortillas. This is a super recipe to try if you are having a dinner party that includes some people who might be vegans, but really anyone will enjoy this lovely dish.
Last week I went to the Saturday Farmers Market at Walnut Park and spoke to Min-Hee and Damon Hill who own Min-Hee Hill Gardens in Sebastopol. They caught my attention because of the gigantic head of escarole that they had for sale. I adore escarole, and this was labeled Batavian Endive with a cute sign that said “sweet and slightly bitter,” but Min-Hee was holding it up saying “very sweet” with great enthusiasm.