This Week's Bounty: December 31st
Downtime is still in the distance for Sunrise Organic Farms partners Andrew Gibson, Jesus Salas, and son Jesus “Chuy” Salas. They’ve worked through the holidays and need to wait until February before reflecting on 2021 or looking forward to 2022. When I last spoke with Gibson, he was busy sorting onions with Chuy in the cool winter air.
“We’re still rocking at full speed all through December and early January just because a lot of places around the country have lost production and we’re trying to pick up the slack for them and pick as much as we can,” Gibson says. “Our crops will slow down and slow down on sizing until we’ll have less to ship. That’s kind of around February. That’s when we get to take a breath of fresh air, real fast, just a deep breath and go back to it immediately in March.”
Gibson did take a momentary break to share insights about their latest farm box contributions. He was particularly excited about passion fruit, a sweet, dynamic offering. “I mostly just scoop it out and eat it raw, but a lot of people will put it over desserts like cheesecake and ice cream,” he says. “It’s great on yogurt. Amazing in salad dressings... It’s also awesome for popsicles and you can make juices out of it.”
Passion fruit’s versatility extends to marinating meats. “This has similar properties to vinegar because it’s got acidic elements to it that helps push flavor into things, but also breaks down muscle fiber,” Gibson says. “It’s similar to how they use pineapple, like marinating chicken so it gets more tender and also takes on that tropical flavor.”
Cabbage is a popular winter crop for Sunrise Organic Farms. Napa is in full effect this week and this larger variety is one of Gibson’s favorites. “It’s like a cross between cabbage and lettuce, so it’s got a thinner leaf, but it’s got a big rib,” he says. “So you get the crunch and sweetness of cabbage, but you still have more of the properties of a kale or lettuce with it.” Napa is definitely a cabbage that’s capable of going way beyond cole slaw. Gibson likes it in salads and uses it to make kimchi, which provides a spicy kick.
Sunrise Organic Farms grows great lettuce. Red little gems are even more vibrant and beneficial than their green version. “When you get into more color, reds and deep colors, normally they’re more nutrient dense,” Gibson says. “So all those red things are better for you than green things. Dark green things better for you than light green things.”
Gibson only does two things with little gem lettuce. “Either I’ll tear each individual leaf off and make a nice salad, like a Caesar, or I like cutting them in half and dressing the whole thing because it’s a small lettuce,” he says. “Then you can eat it like a boat.” Gibson dresses his boats, which resemble mini wedge salads, with shallot vinaigrette.
Win win choi is a larger bok choy, part of three test crops from the bok choy family that Sunrise planted this year. Win win choi is well suited to sautés and noodle soups.
This week’s farm box also includes five repeat favorites: rainbow carrots, cilantro, red onion, yellow onion, and spaghetti squash.
On New Year’s Eve, like this year’s other 364 days, Gibson is working. December 31 is a double shift because Sunrise Organic Farms is participating in a fundraiser at The Tavern at Zaca Creek, a local restaurant in Buellton. They’re contributing produce and Gibson is working the event. This three-course dinner benefits Stage Four Foundation, an organization that helps people that are at the end of their cancer treatments.
“There’s nothing more they can do,” Gibson says. “They’ve spent all their money. They often lose their houses because everything is going to medical treatment. This kind of helps support them when they’ve lost everything.” Sunrise Organic Farms is part of an ecosystem that helps support each other, and this is another great example.