"Laughing, laughing, laughing, laughing,
comes the summer over the hills.
Over the hills comes the summer,
hahaha, laughing, over the hills."
The sun cometh as we enter the longest days of the year with the approach of the summer solstice. To celebrate the return of the glorious heat, our farmers and gardeners have readied their summer scenes with eggplants, tomatoes, basil, squash, corn. We got out our shovels, prepped beds, and planted our annuals – and had some perennial fun as well! In the weeks ahead, the Frey Farm and Garden Blog will chronicle the gardeners and what they're growing on the Frey ranch. Stay tuned for Frey folk interviews, delicious recipes, and beautiful shots of our spring and summer landscapes to help you get a feel for the Redwood Valley terroire, where the grapes for your organic wine and biodynamic wine are grown.
LIttle Osiris Frey learning to drive the wheelbarrow.
Here's an amazing Organic Strawberry Tart with an elegant twist.
Organic Strawberry Tart
(plan for 2-1/2 hours, which includes cooling time)
For Tart Shell - (to fill a 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom)
3/4 cup Organic Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/2 cup Organic Unbleached White Flour
3 tablespoons Organic Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
6 tablespoons Organic Unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon Organic Whole Golden Flax Seeds
1 large Organic Egg Yolk
1/2 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
3 tablespoons iced water
For Filling & Dessertage Glaze
1-1/2 lb strawberries (about 1-1/2 qt) trimmed and quartered
1/4 cup Organic Sugar
3/4 cup Frey Organic Dessertage Port Wine
2 cups Mascarpone (1 lb)
1/4 cup Organic Confectioner's Sugar
1 teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
MAKE TART SHELL by blending flours, sugar, salt, and butter in a bowl with a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) until mixture looks like coarse meal. Don't overwork -- pieces of butter should be pea-sized. Beat together yolk, vanilla, lemon juice, and water, then drizzle over flour mixture and stir with a fork (or pulse) until mixture is blended together.
Gently knead with floured hands on a lightly-floured surface until a dough forms, then gently knead a few times. Press into a 5-inch disk. Place in the center of the tart pan, and using your fingers, spread and push dough to evenly cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Prick the bottom of the tart shell all over with a fork and place in the freezer while the oven is preheating (about 10 minutes).
Preheat oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle.
Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until side is set and edge is pale golden, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and continue baking until your shell is deep golden color, about 15 minutes more. Allow tart to cool thoroughly, about 45 minutes.
PREPARE FILLING WHILE TART SHELL COOLS
Stir together prepared strawberries and sugar in a bowl and let stand about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain in a sieve set over a small saucepan, reserving berries. Add Dessertage to the liquid in the saucepan and boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup, which may take up to 30 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to cool slightly.
In the meantime, blend the mascarpone, confectioner's sugar, lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and just a pinch of salt.
TO ASSEMBLE THE TART
Spread the mascarpone mixture evenly into the cooled tart shell, then top with the strawberries. Drizzle the Dessertage glaze all over the tart.
Makes 8 Servings
Honeybees gained national attention last month when Michelle Obama installed two hives in her organic White House garden. I’m excited about the stream of children and adults who will visit and become inspired to care for bees. About one-third of our human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination.
Spring is the time of year to establish new colonies because it’s the season when the bees are expanding their populations. Wintertime colonies typically number about 10,000 individual bees, but now in springtime the queen bee in each hive is busy laying as many as 2,000 new eggs a day. By early summer a healthy hive will house 40,000-60,000 residents!
When a new bee is born it crawls out of its nest built within a tiny hexagon of pristine wax. Male bees are drones, named for the low humming noises they make, and are large and hairy with huge eyes. They are free to travel and visit other bee colonies, perhaps as ambassadors and communicators. During the warm late spring and summer days thousands of drones congregate with other neighborhood males high up in the sky just above the treetops in “drone zones.” This congregation of males from different colonies ensures genetic diversity for the queens who will soon appear. The drones wait patiently until they meet and mate with a queen bee during her virgin flight. After mating in the air, the drones die, hopefully ecstatic up to that point, and plunge to earth. The queen mates with about a dozen drones and goes home filled with a lifetime supply of sperm. The queen bee is by far the longest-lived member of the hive, living up to three years, much longer than the six weeks to three-month life span of the other bees. By the end of August, the drones’ work is done and they will die at 3 months of age and the queen will lay no more drone eggs until the next spring.
Throughout the brief but wondrous life of a female worker honeybee, thirteen different glands fire up and then recede to assist in the current task of the bee. When a female bee emerges from her shining cell of wax she quickly goes to work cleaning out used cells and readying them for new brood. She does this with juice from a specialized salivary gland. Her next task is to feed the baby bees (brood) with royal jelly, nutritious “milk” produced from yet another gland near their mouth. The brood is also fed with “bee bread,” a mix of pollen and honey. A circle of female bees constantly attends the queen, feeding her with royal jelly and assisting her with the all-important work of egg laying. In other parts of the hive, bees are busy creating new comb from tiny drops of wax secreted from their wax glands. The comb will soon be filled with pollen and nectar that slowly evaporates and ages into exquisite honey. Next, the versatile worker bees become guards, and start to use their bee sting venom glands.
After about a month of housework, the female bees graduate and go outside into the sunlight for the first time. They emerge as part of a great cloud of comrades, turn around and face their hive, and staying within a few feet of their home, fly in lazy lemniscates (figure eights.) They are orienting by memorizing the outline of the horizon behind their home. Now they can begin their foraging career. During one sunny warm day a bee will visit hundreds of individual flowers, gathering nectar and pollen to bring back to the hive and at the same time performing the invaluable work of pollination, spreading pollen dust from flower to flower. After a few weeks of foraging, a honeybee will finally fly her delicate wings to tatters and will die at about 6 weeks of age.
On a 45-minute foraging flight, a bee visits 200-300 flowers of the same plant species. Honeybees are known to be “faithful to flowers”, because they will continue to visit only the same kinds of flowers as long as they are blooming. This consistency is what makes honeybees such desirable pollinators compared to other native bees and insects that tend to flit from species to species. Honeybees fill their crops (honey pouches) with nectar equaling half of their body weight. Honeybees from a typical hive visit around 225,000 flowers per day. The bees make an average of 1,600 round trips and will travel up to three miles from the hive in order to produce one ounce of honey. To make one pound of honey, honeybees must visit some 2 million flowers and fly about 55,000 miles.
The next time you spread a delicious nutritious spoonful of honey on your toast, take a minute to marvel upon the complexity within each drop of honey.
“Honey is something so valuable that it is impossible to put a price on it.”
Now and then we'll post interesting news for you from the world of organic wine and organic agriculture. The following is from CCOF Magazine, Spring 2009 Issue:
"The Pesticide Action Network-Europe conducted a study of pesticide residues in European wine and found that on average a conventional bottle of wine contains four pesticides (one bottle in the study contained ten detected residues, while all bottles contained at least one). In comparison, the organic wines tested contained almost no residues (one residue was detected in one bottle). Grapes are one of the most contaminated crops in Europe and elsewhere, and the problem is growing in the wine industry as many farmers opt for synthetic pesticides. These pesticides are not fully removed in the winemaking process, as this study and a 14 year study conducted by the French Ministry of Agriculture have both shown. Organic wines are virtually pesticide free, as organic farming requires alternative pest control methods."
Rain or shine, the gardens of the Frey Vineyards ranch are thriving as warm Spring weather helps the starts take off. The greenhouse is filled with shoots and sprouts of veggies, flowers, greens, and herbs. As soon as the frosts end the greenhouse flats will be planted to yield homegrown organic food for the community over the Summer months. Already our gardens are holding the promise of future roots with carrot, turnip, parsnip, beet, and radish seeds. The cover crop of fava beans that we planted for the winter is flourishing; they help fix nitrogen into the soil, and we'll be able to use some for green mulch, some for delicious food stuffs, and some of the seed we'll save to make this our 5th year with this particular strain of fava bean on the ranch!
Our small herd of ranch goats are lamenting the loss of their vineyard foraging days since the grape buds opened. Now starts the season of creative goat walks as we shuffle them to different pastures while avoiding the tempting vineyards with their succulent new grape shoots. Fed on wilder fields until the grape harvest next Fall, our ladies are milking twice a day, helping us to experiment with new cheeses (a feta, a goat cheddar, and of course our signature chèvre). On the homestead, the cows are expected to calf soon, and the chickens are lavishing in the Spring sun and producing eggs with a fervor that is unparalleled to other seasons.
Katrina Frey's Leeks in Wine Sauce is appropriate this time of year when the leeks are in full allium! Begin your Spring cooking expedition by pouring for yourself and friends a glass of one of the Frey dry organic red wines, and save about 2 cups for the following recipe:
Leeks in Wine Sauce
Take 6 medium sized leeks from your Spring or Fall garden, or organic food store
Slice them all lengthwise, and clean them really well (all the folds)
Then slice them into 5 inch pieces and they're ready
Heat about 5-6 tbsp olive oil in a deep cast iron skillet
Add the leeks and stir them on medium heat until they have all wilted
Pour two cups wine (we recommend the Frey Natural Red, although any of the reds would work well) over the mixture
And add water as necessary to submerge the leeks in liquid
Mix in 2 tbsp tamari or 1 1/2 tsp salt
Cover the mixture, turn to low heat, and let stew for about 35 minutes (or until very tender), checking every 10 or so minutes to make sure they aren't sticking
Enjoy your vegan meal as an entrée or as a delectable side dish