Thursday, July 30, 2009

Warm summer afternoons

It's finally warming up a bit! We have had consistent temperatures of 80 during the day and 60 at night, bringing our plants out of their shells and into bloom. Summer sort of feels like it might be here, now that it is the last day of July. So, to honor the herb harvests that we have been having and to celebrate the luxury of drinking cool cocktails on warm summer afternoons, today I am sharing a few new drinks from the restaurant. Most of these delicious concoctions were created by Christopher Becerra, our fearless bar-leader extraordinaire. All of them are using ingredients grown here on our farm or are from farms near-by, and all are made with domestic liquors, making these equally as great for the environment as they are for your tastebuds!

The Famous Uncommon Bloody Mary, complete with fresh chive bouquet.

Agua Fresca, the summers best drink, so deliciously sweet and refreshing, with a nasturtium blossom cut from the garden. This one can be spiked with Thatchers Cucumber Liqueur or Thatchers Elderflower Liqueur, both delicious and organic from Temperance, MI.

The Treetini, seasonally changing but always supporting the planting of new trees (for each drink purchased a tree is planted!) This season's is a Market Berry version, made with Organic Rain Vodka and Organic Veev Liquor, garnished with a nasturtium blossom.

The Blue Moon, incredibly perfect in every way, I could drink a gallon of these. Cap Rock Vodka, with a housemade blueberry and purple basil syrup and a fresh purple basil, blueberry, and peach muddle in the bottom. So good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blessing and the Blight

A few photos and notes strickly about the farm this week!

Most of the tomato plants are looking so good, so tall and so full of flowers. However, one of them is starting to take on a few characteristics of a fungal disease called Tomato Blight. This disease affects the lower leaves, giving them a yellow color dotted with black spots. If you start to see this on your plants, try to catch it while it is just beginning. You can spray the plants with an organic fungicide if you catch it quick, and that will hopefully end the spread of it to your other tomato (or potato plants). Otherwise you need to tear out the infected plants, put them into plastic bags and throw them away. The preferred method of riding your farm from blight is to burn the plants, but farming in the city doesn't allow us to do this.

Blight can be a scary disease for farmers. It has the ability to wipe out entire fields of crops within hours, leaving the farmer without any product. Harvest Moon Farms experienced a small amount of blight this past week, but caught it with the organic fungicide spray, thankfully. Some farmers in New York haven't been so lucky. Whole farms worth of tomatoes have been wiped out by it recently, driving the price of tomatoes way up and leaving some farmers with nothing for the season. The blight that is taking out tomatoes in New York is the same type that caused the Irish Potato Famine, and this strain can transfer from tomato to potato as well. This article from the New York Times goes into more detail, it leaves me heartbroken:

On the upside, we have a surprise pumpkin patch growing along the side of our parking lot, which I am super excited about! It planted itself out of compost of last years Halloween pumpkins and Harvest Festival cornstalk decorations. We have some healthy corn surrounded by burgeoning pumpkin blossoms, all looking very healthy. It has inspired us to plant more squash there and we are hoping it trails along the parking lot, leaving us this years supply of pumpkins for our carving contest!

Lastly, I love in the morning when the cantaloupe leaves are wearing a necklace of dew drops. For those of you who don't wake up with the sun, here is a photo of one of our Charentais Cantaloupe plants doing just that. Enjoy.

Bennie and the Jets

A quick walk through the past two weeks...
On July 11th, the Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, arrived to dedicate our farm as the First Certified Organic Rooftop Farm in the country! The day was full of excitement and speeches, including one from Alderman O'Connor, Helen Cameron, Steve from MOSA, and the Mayor himself. During his speech the Mayor announced that we need more urban agriculture sites in the city and in the country and that the amount of beekeeping being done in urban areas should increase as well. He went on to say that the need for more organic farms is great and that he hopes that more and more people are able to grow their own food organically, however small the amount may be. This is a great stride for organic agriculture, bringing to light the need for all participants in growing to do so with conscious moves for the environment and thier own health. We were glad to have the Mayor with us to cut our appropriately green ribbon and officially mark us as the first certified organic rooftop farm!

Last Friday during our Farmer's Market we had the pleasure of hosting Rusted Root, who played outdoors to a large crowd of fans. They sounded fantastic and were a blast to hang out with up on the farm! As the band is touring across the country they are trying to play as many farmer's markets as possible to promote the idea of local, fresh produce and the importance in supporting your local farmers. I love that. Way to do good with your celebrity status. The adventures of an urban farm director became wilder as I drove the band back to their hotel downtown, all while giving an impromtu tour of the city and having all of us sing at the top of our lungs to Elton John and Journey. Never a dull moment...

The last two weeks have been quite the rush of time, but all with great moments tucked in between. Luckily this past Sunday I was able to calm down, sleep in past 5am and make brunch for a couple of close friends. After prepping all the ingredients I realized that every single one of them came from Harvest Moon Farms (our resident Farmer at our Friday Farmer's Market). Even the eggs involved in the Baked Huevos Rancheros that I made came from Jenny. I wanted to take a minute to say thank you to Jenny and her staff for working so hard to produce such tasty and beautiful goods. Is it strange to feel pride in eating? I think not. When the food you are eating is fresh, healthy and you know the hands that planted and cared for it, I think that there is a lot to proud of.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dear Rain God, Please stop the rain.

The rain will not stop, which means everything is water logged and tired from processing so much water. It's rough being a newly formed bean and having to weather the storms of a Chicago summer. Whew.

On the upside though we harvested our very first tomato!! It was a small and perfectly ripe Oregon Spring Tomato and tasted amazing. We will definitely be keeping that on our list for planting next year. The bush it came off of is producing flowers and fruit like crazy, despite the chilly temperatures that have been drifting through here, which means that soon you will see rooftop tomatoes gracing the menu at the restaurant. So exciting!

The arugula is loving being covered by the new row cover fabric, it's proving to be very helpful in keeping the harsh sun and beating rain from taking out the fresh little sprouts. I am also using the row covers on our new carrots, beets, and radishes, hoping it will speed along their growth. Due to the weather being in flux constantly with high and low temperatures some of our earlier planted tomatoes failed miserably, and we had to take them out of the planters and compost them. (This is where I cry.) In their place we planted some heirloom summer squash, a green Italian long neck variety and an Early Prolific variety that is yellow. We also planted some Tigger Melons, which according to the package are striped with yellow and neon red! Then we decided that we would try a few smaller varieties of pumpkins (Jack Be Little and Lil' Pump'ke'mon) and try to trellis them. I am hoping that I get a chance to make little hammocks for them to sit in as they grow, like they do in Japan. I think that is super cute and creative and I'll probably make them just to see them all relaxing in their slings. Around all the squash we planted three different varietals of bush beans: Three Color, Haricot Vert and Roc d'Or, all look delicious, but we'll see what the results are next month.

This week we are readying ourselves for the Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony that will occur on Saturday morning. The mayor is set to arrive at 11:15 and will dedicate our rooftop farm! I wish we could make this open to the public, but the response would be so great that we wouldn't be able to fit that many people on the roof! There will be pictures and video that I will post here next week, so stay tuned to see the ribbon get cut.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Vote for our Farmers Market!

From June 19th to September 17th, visit and to vote for Uncommon Ground as your favorite farmers market!

Direct link:

Big cash prizes for farmers markets and individual voters. Cast your vote today and throughout the summer and win big money for yourself and your community! When you vote - as thousands of people have since the contest launched last Friday - you may write a short review of your farmers market, which you can choose to have posted on Local Harvest.