Home Posts tagged 'Oak Hill Farm'

Posts Tagged ‘Oak Hill Farm’


Stephany

Cool as a Cucurbit: Cucumbers & Melons

The cucurbits (or cucurbiticae) are a plant family that includes cucumbers, melons and gourds of many kinds. They peak in sweetness and flavor during the summertime. At Bi-Rite we’re lucky to work with a number of local farms that grow unusual heirloom varietals in this family.

A few of my favorites:

Armenian cucumbers, which are botanically considered a melon. We have been getting the ‘Painted Serpent’ varietal, which is long and snakelike, with dark and light green stripes, from Full Belly Farm, Oak Hill Farm and County Line Harvest. You can use these like the more common English cucumber. The skin is very thin and not at all bitter, and the seeds are not yet formed, so no need to peel or seed–just slice them right up. They don’t need to be rock hard; the ones that are a bit bendy will still be crisp. Armenian cucumbers will make the prettiest garnish for your summer gin and tonic.

Lemon cucumbers are small, round and yellow with large but tender seeds. They’re great for slicing into salads, and make beautiful sandwich-sized pickles. They’re lovely sliced up and dressed with a little soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar or lime juice and a pinch of sugar or honey, perhaps over some arugula or baby lettuces.

Watermelons, in mini and huge, seeded, seedless, yellow and red varietals. Orchid and Yellow Doll are two of the yellow-flesh varietals we get from Full Belly Farm. These should be picked when they are ripe and do not really keep ripening like muskmelons do. They should be firm and feel heavy for their size, although there is no surefire way to tell if they are ripe.

Muskmelons have netted skins and get very fragrant when ripe. These include cantaloupes, galia and goddess melons. These will smell very sweet and floral as they ripen, and can get a bit soft (though they shouldn’t be squishy). The more fragrant the stem end is, the sweeter the melon will be.

Recipes!

SaladGoodCucumber Melon Salad with Feta & Olives

This isn’t so much a recipe as a useful guide. Try using what you have and taste as you go. It’s a bit of a riff on a Greek salad and a wonderfully refreshing addition to a barbecue or summertime supper.

  • A mix of your favorite melons, cut into large dice. I like watermelon, galia, cantaloupe & piel de sapo or snow leopard.
  • A mix of your favorite cucumbers, diced or sliced as you like. I like Painted Serpent Armenian cukes and lemon cukes.
  • Red onion or scallions, thinly sliced. I soak the red onion after slicing in cold water for a few minutes to take the edge off, which also sets the color and prevents it from bleeding into the salad.
  • A nice feta, not too salty. Our French feta is the perfect balance of tangy and salty.
  • Kalamata or another fruity olive, pitted. I usually cut them in half, but they can be whole or cut into rings.
  • Fresh herbs. Cilantro and mint are great, but parsley, basil and chives all work. I would recommend to staying away from herbs that are too woody or heavy like thyme and rosemary. Fresh, bright herbs work better to highlight the delicate flavors in the melons. I like to chiffonade them (stack up the leaves, roll into a tight “cigar”, and slice into thin ribbons), but you could chop them or pick the leaves and toss them in whole.
  • Fresh or dried coriander seeds, toasted until fragrant and lightly crushed.
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar or lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Toss everything together in a large bowl or arrange on a platter. Dress to taste with olive oil, red wine vinegar or lime juice and salt. A sprinkle of toasted, crushed coriander seeds wakes up all of the flavors. This salad is best dressed right before serving, though you could certainly do it ahead of time.

Cucumber Raita

Really popular all over India, this is somewhere between a salad and a condiment, and I often use it as both. Awesome in the summer next to grilled meats such as lamb or chicken, or dolloped on top of a sandwich or rice bowl. Also delicious with pita or Dosa chips as a dip!

  • 1-2 cucumbers, unpeeled, shredded on a coarse grater.
  • 1 cup greek yogurt (you could use regular plain yogurt, but it will be less thick).
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds.
  • Salt, sugar, lime juice to taste.

Place the shredded cucumbers in a bowl, salt them and set aside for a few minutes. The salt will draw out the water. Squeeze as much of the water out as you can – a lot will release! Mix it up with some gin and tonic water and have yourself a cocktail, or discard. Place the drained cucumber in a bowl.

Add yogurt to drained cukes and stir. Heat up a small pan over medium to high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of neutral-flavored oil such as canola. When the oil is hot, drop in the cumin seeds. The seeds will darken in color and get really fragrant. Dump the spice oil into the yogurt mixture (this is a technique used commonly in India to quickly add lots of flavor to any dish by making a spice oil, called a tarka). Stir it around, season to taste with salt, lime juice and a pinch of sugar for balance.

Melon Agua Fresca

Again this is less of a recipe and more of guide. The proportions will vary depending on the fruit being used.

Cube up your melon and place it in a blender. Add a handful of sugar (or a squeeze of honey or agave) and cover with water. Blend until smooth. Add more sweetener to taste if necessary, or a squeeze of lime to perk it up. Super refreshing with basil or mint added!


DaveW

An Interview with Eleanor Gerber-Siff, Head Florist for Bi-Rite Market

Eleanor photo

If you’ve ever passed by the front of Bi-Rite Market and wondered who is behind all of the incredible flowers, bouquets, branches, and seasonal greenery we offer, the answer is Eleanor Gerber-Siff. I sat down with Eleanor to talk about her approach and learn about the producers behind the movement toward local, organic, and sustainable floral.

 

Eleanor, who are you and what do you do?

I work for Bi-Rite Market as the Head Florist and Floral Buyer for Bi-Rite, covering both our 18th Street and Divisadero Street Markets.

Is that what you’ve always done for Bi-Rite? What is your background in flowers?

I’ve been working in flowers for about six years and I’ve been with Bi-Rite for about a year and a half. Before Bi-Rite, I worked in different flower shops and did some freelance work, including floral arrangements for weddings and events. For about a year and a half before I started at Bi-Rite, I worked with Rebekah Northway, also known as The Petaler, an incredibly talented local floral designer.  My work with her was focused on large-scale arrangements for her restaurant accounts.

Before I started working for Bi-Rite, the flowers we sold here were coming in through the Produce Department. There was no full-time staff devoted just to flowers. The Department just wasn’t up to par, and it didn’t make sense, considering how beautifully displayed everything else in the store is. I saw that there was an opportunity for Bi-Rite to make use of a full-time florist, and I convinced our Produce Buyer Simon and Sam Mogannam to let me be that florist. I haven’t looked back since!

How do you source the flowers we sell at Bi-Rite?

flowers3

I go to the San Francisco Flower Mart every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and order directly from vendors. Going to the market is a huge part of maintaining relationships with those vendors, and it helps me trust that they know their product and that I can rely on them. Because I maintain close relationships with them, I’m often able to get good deals on great flowers.

Plus, seeing the same people three times a week is fun!  The Flower Mart is a whole micro-community that operates for the most part before most people are even awake!  The market is housed in a big cement building at 6th and Brannan Streets in San Francisco, which takes up almost a whole city block. It doesn’t look good from the outside, but once you get inside, it’s filled with the most beautiful and unusual flowers and greens.

Having a market where I can pick things out personally is important because the good product varies from day to day. I work with what’s available and looks great, rather than sticking to a set list of specific flowers I’m going to buy.

I also work with several farms that grow flowers and also sell us lots of other kinds of produce. That’s a special thing about working for Bi-Rite; I have access to these great local farms and the amazing flowers they grow. The Flower Mart doesn’t source those flowers, so I feel fortunate that I can get them for our guests. These farms are organic and use sustainable growing practices, so their flowers are better across the board – better for the people that grow them, better for me and my flower crew, and better for our guests. They’re creating a new flower economy based on principles of sustainability, and it shows in the flowers! They tend to be happier and more beautiful. An organic flower looks better than one that’s been sprayed with chemicals, and you don’t have to worry about sticking your nose right in there. I get to communicate with our flower farmer vendors several times a week, and that’s a good way to feel connected to something that’s growing – to stay close to the person who’s growing it.

There are three farms from which I get the biggest volume of flowers. Thomas Farm, in Aptos– they’re Certified Organic and grow mostly flowers.  Full Belly Farm–also Certified Organic; Bi-Rite gets lots of produce from them and they’re super awesome people. And Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma. They’re not certified organic but they use organic growing practices.

We work with some smaller farms as well – Blue House Farm and Fifth Crow Farm in Pescadero and Little City Gardens, which is actually in San Francisco – it’s a two-acre organic farm right here in the city. These farms grow some really unique fresh flowers.  Last year, Fifth Crow Farm had some Chinese Forget-Me-Nots that blew my mind.

How do you select the flowers you stock?

flowers1I’ve found I have a “Spidey Sense” about flowers. That’s part of what I bring to this job. I follow my intuition and in a room full of flowers, I pick out what I feel our guests will be most excited about.

My job is exciting because I also get to work directly with a bunch of local flower farms – our guests are cool and they respond to that. That’s something I want to educate more people about, because most of us aren’t necessarily thinking about farm-direct or organic flowers.  Many Bay Area folks think and care deeply about where their food comes from and how it’s produced.  I’d like to increase awareness about the benefits of local, organic flowers to ourselves and our community.  Organic, sustainably grown flowers promote the health and well-being of the people that are growing the flowers and of everyone who comes into contact with them.  What’s the first thing you do when someone hands you a bouquet of flowers?  You stick your nose in it and take a big whiff!  You don’t want gross chemicals in your lungs or in your home. Because they are not food, there is far less regulation on the chemicals people use on flowers than on produce, and this is especially true of flowers shipped in from countries outside the U.S.

What kinds of flowers do you personally like, and how do you prefer to arrange them?

My favorite flowers are ones that have a wild look to them.  Things that are slightly weird, too…or off, or crooked, or have a weird seed pod – I just like things that are unusual! I love that nature makes strange stuff and I like things that are a little bit ugly as much as I like things that are pretty.  Right now I’m really excited about all of the insane Ranunculus we’ve been getting in, especially the ones we get from Full Belly Farm in Guinda, California.

Every day that I work, there’s always one single flower that’s the best of the day. My Instagram is full of those “one best flowers.” I admit I’m a flower nerd…I care about them, so I think about them all the time.

My arranging style is a hodgepodge of ideas and techniques I’ve gathered from different places I’ve worked, but also from just experimenting on my own. I know what I like and let that guide me. I know it when I see it.

What floral services does Bi-Rite offer? Do you have anything special planned for Easter?

We offer custom floral work for any occasion – weddings, parties, events, and gifts. This week I’m doing

flowers6

flowers for a wedding as well as a dinner for 18 Reasons. We’re looking to do more stuff like that.  I love working with a client to create a beautiful event filled with flowers.

For Easter, we’ll have a table out in front of Bi-Rite Market 18th Street all day on Saturday, April 19th from 9am to 9pm. On Easter Sunday, we’ll be out there from 9am to 5pm. We’ll be doing custom floral arrangements in whatever way you need for your Easter celebration, so stop by and say hi to us.

We also make bouquets, pre-made and custom, and we have a wide variety of flowers for sale by the bunch and by the stem. Every single day you can see a beautiful array of flowers out in front of our 18th Street Market, and you can usually find me around there tending to the flowers and making floral arrangements.

I’m always available to work with our guests on anything related to flowers. And you can call either of our Markets to ask questions, place an order or try to track me down. Talking about flowers is what I love to do!