Friday, November 20, 2009

Giving Thanks

(This is Ben showing off beautiful beets.)

Thank you for making our first week using Ben's Produce online farm stand a success! We couldn't be doing any of this without your support. We have received a lot of requests to ship our produce, but sadly we are not currently prepared for such a venture (baby steps). However, we are willing to change the pick up days if that will be something that works better for folks. Fridays or Saturdays might work as well, if more people seem to be interested in this change. Please e-mail us or post comments here to let us know which pick up days would work best for you (Wednesdays, Fridays or Saturdays). That being said, this week due to Thanksgiving, pick up is scheduled for Tuesday. You can check out what's available this week at

We have a whole mess of collards and sweet potatoes - both make very yummy dishes for Thanksgiving Dinner. I'm including two savory sweet potato recipes and one Paula Dean collard green recipe below - in case anyone is interested in bringing something a little different for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Parmesan-Coated Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 4; Prep time: 15 minutes; Total time 40 minutes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 large egg whites
1 1/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
4 small sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), scrubbed and quartered lengthwise
1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and then set aside.
2. In a shallow bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and pepper. In a separate shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg whites with 2 tablespoons of water until combined. Place the Parmesan on a sheet of waxed paper or put it in another shallow bowl.
3. Dip the sweet potato first in the flour mixture, shaking off excess. Then dip each wedge into the egg white mixture until coated. Finally, dip the sweet potato in the Parmesan, pressing the exposed surface of the potato into the cheese. (Don't worry if some gets on the skin.) Transfer potato wedges onto the prepared baking sheet as you go.
4. Bake potatoes until tender and crisp, about 25 minutes. Serve sprinkled with more salt if desired.
Per serving: 309 calories; 13 g protein; 6 g fat; 52 g carb; 7 g fiber.

Sweet Potato Gratin with Smoked Chiles

4 cups heavy cream (I use a combination of whole milk and cream)
1 canned chipotle pepper [you can also use fresh diced poblano or Anaheim chiles to taste]
6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. In a blender, puree the cream and chipotle until smooth.
3. In a 10 x 10-inch casserole, arrange a fourth of the sweet potatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and pour a fourth of the cream over all. Repeat t with the remaining potatoes and cream, forming 4 layers. May be prepared up to this point one ha/f- hour ahead, covered, and refrigerated.
4. Bake for 1 hour, or until the cream has been ~absorbed and the potatoes are browned. May be pre-pared up to 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated. To serve, reheat in a 350 F. oven for 12 minutes.
Makes 8 to 10 servings

Collard Greens
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen


* 1/2 pound smoked meat (ham hocks, smoked turkey wings, or smoked neck bones)
* 1 tablespoon House seasoning, recipe follows
* 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
* 1 tablespoon hot red pepper sauce
* 1 large bunch collard greens
* 1 tablespoon butter


In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add smoked meat, house seasoning, seasoned salt and hot sauce. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 hour.

Wash the collard greens thoroughly. Remove the stems that run down the center by holding the leaf in your left hand and stripping the leaf down with your right hand. The tender young leaves in the heart of the collards don't need to be stripped. Stack 6 to 8 leaves on top of one another, roll up, and slice into 1/2 to 1-ince thick slices. Place greens in pot with meat and add butter. Cook for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. When done taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with favorite dish as a side.
House Seasoning:

* 1 cup salt
* 1/4 cup black pepper
* 1/4 cup garlic powder

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.


There's a vegetarian version of this recipe in the "It's Not Easy Being Green" post.

We have a few more pictures to share with ya'll :0)

This is Ben in the hoop house.

Ben washing turnips at home for dinner.

Ben makes a mean pie. This was our collaborative effort to make homemade pie-sized "pot pie". I made the filling (ground turkey, beets, turnips, greens, carrots and homemade sauce) and Ben made the crust. It was delicious!

That's it for now. Have a good Thanksgiving holiday and thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Online store is open and farm updates...

Hello y'all!

It's been a minute since we've posted and we have a bunch of news! The online store for Ben's Produce is now open for business! Check us out at . We have been planting lots of stuff on the farm but now more about our store.

First of all, we wish y'all a big welcome to our online store! Now that Music On the Porch is over for the year, we have a way to connect with y'all. We understand that an online store is no match for a real farm stand in terms of visceral experience when choosing your food. That said, please contact us if you have any questions about the produce and you also have the right to refuse any produce you order for any reason.

Ben's Produce is cash only. What does this mean for you? When placing your order, please complete the whole Check Out process. We need your name, phone number and email address but not your home address to fill your order. If you do not wish to include your address, please fill in the required fields with xxx. A few minutes after placing your order, you will receive an automated order confirmation email. If you do not receive this email, it will mean your order has not been placed. You should not experience any difficulties with this process. However, if you do, please contact us for help. Ben's phone # is 919-800-8898.

You can pick-up your produce at our house, located at 604 Sasser St. Raleigh, on the Wednesday following your order, between 4pm and 7pm.

We look forward to seeing y'all next Wednesday, November 18th!

Here I am, planting strawberries! I planted 600 strawberry plants for next spring for Ben's Produce customers! I also planted 4500 other plants, with farmhand Angel, for Double-T Farm! Behind me you can see the plants surrounded by black plastic. We use the plastic as a means of weed control. We are experimenting with a cornstarch based biodegradable plastic that can be turned into the soil when its lifespan is over. Since petroleum based plastic has large negative environmental and socio-economic impacts, we are excited to see the results of the corn based plastic.

Here is the hoop house I was preparing for winter lettuce with the broadfork I used to loosen the soil on Wednesday. Also called a grelinette, the broadfork is a centuries old tool used to loosen soil for growing food without turning the soil over. I step on the cross bar attached to the curves tines and rock it back to raise and loosen the soil. Loosening soil without turning it over has many beneficial effects; not bringing up weed seeds, allowing bacteria and other microorganisms to remain at their preferred soil stratus and maintenance of soil tilth (structure or crumb). It was nice to work outside during the deluge of a nor'easter without getting wet, not to mention the exercise and patter of the rain.

Thank you all for stopping by! See you next Wednesday!