In honor of pollinators and other farm news
This week is "pollinator week," a time of raising awareness about those precious cupids of the flowering plant world. Intentionally or not, they carry pollen from one flower to another, leaving behind the germ of future fruits. Here at Prairie Fruits Farm, we hold our pollinators in very high regard, because without them, we would have no fruit. Given the freakish warm March we had, our main pollinators, the honey bees, were out in full force visiting the proliferation of flowers adorning our peach, pear, apple and cherry trees. We witnessed their handiwork at the end of March, as almost every single flower blossom had set into tiny little fruits. When the freezing temperatures descended upon our orchard in April, we watched our potential bumper crop of peaches turn black and fall of the branches. The pears, apples and cherries never even set any fruit to witness their demise. Nevertheless, our pollinators carry on. They visit our herb garden daily. Our blackberries (the only fruit we are likely to have this summer) are flush with flowers now turning into red and soon blue-black ripe berries.
In addition to our honey bees, tended with care by our beekeeper, Emil Blobaum, I've noticed other native pollinators have settled into our farm. We have a pair of resident mason bees who have created a little nest just outside the cheeserie window. Our cheesemakers marvel at their comings and goings during the day. We like to watch them while we are washing dishes (which happens a lot in the cheeserie). We've also got lots more bumble bees this year. In fact, Wes and I discovered a fence post just outside the milking parlor that had a row of perfectly drilled holes down one side; each hole contained a single resting bumble bee. It was pretty remarkable.
Last night, Nat and Alison, our cheesemakers, hosted a tasting of honey and cheese at our farm, as part of Slow Food Champaign-Urbana's celebration of Pollinator Week. They paired three of our cheeses each with two different honeys--light dandelion and our farmstead honey with our light and tangy chevre, a beautiful Linden flower honey with our Angel Food Brie and dark wildflower honey from Seven Sisters Farm with our intensely flavored Huckleberry Blue. It was amazing to experience the differences among honeys and how each honey's character complimented (or not) the different types of cheese. I highly recommend buying several different types of honey if you can find them at the farmers' markets and pair them with a few of our cheeses this weekend. Honey is the new "wine."
Once again, we're attending FOUR farmers' markets this weekend: Urbana, Springfield and Green City Market on Saturday AND Chicago's Logan Square Farmers' Market on Sunday. We will have the following cheeses for your enjoyment:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses that will vary in quantity and availability depending on the market you attend: Angel Food --our gooey goat milk brie, Little Bloom on the Prairie (our goat milk camembert), Black Sheep (ash coated) and Ewe Bloom (delicate rinded sheep milk cheese)
Sheep Milk Feta--perfect for a salad
Roxanne--our raw sheep milk brebis (firm, just plain delicious on bread or made into a grilled cheese sandwich)
Caprino Romano-we are cutting into the last wheels of this 1-yr. old grating style cheese, so get it while it lasts.
For Urbana's market goers, you can enjoy some cool gelato or sorbetto:
Gianduja (Chocolate Hazelnut)
Margot's Fresh Mint
Honey (in honor of pollinator week)
Peach Sorbetto (first of the season-made with Mileur Orchard peaches from southern IL)
Happy Eating!! It's summer and the bounty is just beginning.