Hello, May! The Latest News from Farm & Larder and Bella Luna Farms

April’s late month showers have indeed brought May flowers, gracing Bella Luna with a lush beauty as spring has gradually arrived at the farm. The mild weather of late has really jump-started our ‘to-do’ list, keeping us busy dawn to dusk trying to get ahead of the weeds that seem to pop up overnight now that the sun has arrived.

As we continue on hunkered down here at Bella Luna, the apple, cherry, and pear trees along with the blueberry bushes are abloom in both the orchard and the garden where Woodinville’s Johnny Applebees LLC recently installed specialized orchard mason bee houses to aid pollination and good fruit production. We are harvesting asparagus and herbs galore from the main vegetable plot, and the raspberries there are about to bloom as well. We are also planting peas, carrots, lettuces, beets, leeks and onions, and then the beans, cucumbers, and summer squashes are seeded in the greenhouse to be planted out in a few weeks when the soil is warmer. (It seems it’s time to secure the gates to the vegetable gardens so we don’t have any furry guests nibbling tender new shoots!)

When it is sunny out, the ‘girls’ venture out to enjoy the lush green pasture, where they also like to stretch their heads over the fence to nibble on any brambles they can reach, and then take a break to lie down in the tall grass. We are also once again treated to the chorus of frogs at night, so loud we can hear them indoors—a most welcome symphony after such a long couple of months for all of us. Take care!

It’s Rhubarb Time!

For us, one of the hallmarks of spring is the smell of a fresh rhubarb crisp baking and bubbling away in the oven, the signature and stunning ruby-red filling peeking through a beautifully-burnished topping. And now the time has come to enjoy this seasonal favorite as we are harvesting our first crop!

Here at the farm, we often get to enjoy rhubarb a little earlier than most as we grow ours with the help of forcing jars. This technique, in which the rhubarb is grown in darkness under the warm cover of a bell-shaped pot, produces pale, smooth stalks that are less bitter than their later-season counterparts. Rhubarb’s tart-sweet flavor profile pairs naturally with other fruits and of course, berries, making it a wonderful addition to jams, jellies, cakes and more. Here are a few of our favorite ways to use this most-special spring ingredient (after baking up that first precious crisp, of course!):

Rhubarb-Thyme Jam
This sweet-and-savory spread is delicious served on toasted crostini with goat cheese; or, add it to your morning oatmeal for an unexpected touch!

Red-Wine Poached Rhubarb
This wine-poached syrup is incredibly versatile: Try it served warmed over a scoop of ice cream!

Roasted Rhubarb
This rosy-colored roasted dish makes for an excellent dessert, especially served with a dollop of crème fraîche and a shortbread cookie

Rhubarb Custards
These custards from Martha Stewart Living couldn’t be easier! (Or any more delicious!)

The all-time classic!
Rhubarb Crisp
A quick and easy dessert using spring rhubarb—simply toss with the following ingredients, then sprinkle with our signature crisp topping.

Sweet Sunshine

The old adage might be “April showers bring May flowers”, but around here at the farm we are instead basking in a stretch of glorious spring sunshine that has those aforementioned flowers already starting to bud: The apple trees are blossoming, the tulips are stretching their vibrant petals to the sky to capture the afternoon sunlight and other shoots are popping up out of the soil everywhere (asparagus, anyone?).

Yes, even with frost present in the mornings, this warm sunshine has everyone here smiling (or in the frogs’ case, croaking day and night from the pond!). Thus, work in the gardens is in full swing: This week, the potatoes are going in, as are the celery, peas, sweet peas, carrots and more. During this earlier part of the season, these plants are nestled under row cover called reemay to keep them a bit warmer during the night and safe from the ever-munching rabbits who like to steal inside the garden walls.

Along with blossoming buds, the apple orchard is now also home to a few new residents—the bees! Our friends Dave and Beth Richards of Woodinville’s Johnny Applebees LLC have installed several of their specialized orchard mason bee houses in sunny, south-facing spots here at the farm to help with crop pollination. Mason orchard bees nest in reeds and natural holes, hence the design of their handmade cedar “houses” which are filled with natural reed tubes. These busy, non-stinging bees are considered nature’s ‘super’ pollinators and as such are a very welcome addition to the farm.

Once the warm sunlight begins to wane, we’ve been heading back inside to the kitchen, where we’ve been kept busy preparing pantry essentials and entrees as part of our new F&L add-on items. We have been so grateful for all your orders, and the time spent in the kitchen is as soothing to the soul as these sunny days have been. Surely the showers will return, but for now, we find ourselves appreciative of this most-precious spring weather!

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