The resilience of perennial agriculture AND "Ewe Bloom," a cheese to know and love
This year's drought has made its permant and devastating mark on grain agriculture here in the heart of the Midwest. If you live in the belly of cash grain country like we do, you hear the daily "Commodity Report" commentators on Public Radio stations lamenting the recent rains as "too little too late." You see, grains like corn and soybeans have distinct life cycle events (pollination, grain fill are two big ones) that occur at fixed times, set by the crop's internal biological clock. So, when pollination is in motion after so many days following germination, if soil moisture is lacking or air temperatures hover in the 100's, corn pollen from the tassels just has a real hard time fertilizing the ear, the female flowering part of the plant. Even if you're lucky enough to get male and female corn flowers to come together, prolonged lack of rain means those ears won't fill with nice juicy corn kernels (the fertilized part of the female corn flower). To add insult to injury, if these critical life cycle events happen during the height of a drought, and then you get some nice soaking rains like we have had over the past couple of weeks, the corn ear is done--no rain can make those kernels fill after a certain point in the corn plant's life cycle.
Contrast this scenario with a perennial crop like alfalfa. Alfalfa's roots burrow deep into the soil, able scavengers of scarce soil moisture. When moisture is lacking, the alfalfa hunkers down and goes into survival mode. When moisture is replenished, as is the case with the plentiful rains that Hurricane Isaac dropped on us last weekend (we received over 5 1/2 inches of the wet stuff), the alfalfa plants have a flexible biological clock. They are poised to take up that soil moisture and turn it into lush green growth. Notice the contrast of intense green alfalfa with the brown and withering corn in the background.
This resiliant crop is well adapted to erratic changes in our weather. This means we will get a fourth cutting of alfalfa hay that will surpass the first three cuttings in both quantity AND quality. Let's put our hands together for perennial crops--our goats will be enjoying this gorgeous hay next spring when their babies start dropping. Viva la resilience!
Farmers' Markets and Ewe Bloom Cheese
This Saturday, September 8th, we're attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Springfield and Chicago's Green City Market. As usual, we'll be bringing a wide assortment of our cheeses, but I want to give a special mention to one of our soft-ripened sheep milk cheeses, "Ewe Bloom."
Many of our customers who are new to the world of bloomy rind cheeses, might be intimidated by Ewe Bloom at first blush and first sniff. Its rind is colonized by a white mold that imparts an mushroomy and yeasty aroma. The outer edges of the cheese have a slight ooziness that many a bloomy rind cheese lover pine for.The body or paste of the cheese is slightly "sheepy"--BUT, not in a bad way. By sheepy, I mean, grassy and earthy with hints of lanolin. The mouth feel and finish of this cheese is best described as buttery. It is best to "temper" the cheese before you eat it; let it come to close to room temperature. I like to serve it on crusty bread like baguette. You can compliment the cheese's flavors with something sweet-tart like an apricot jam. If you haven't tried Ewe Bloom yet this season, I encourage you to buy some and give it a chance. It's a great cheese, once you get to know it. We will also have:
- Plenty of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and heirloom tomato (it's back after a short hiatus)
- An assortment of other bloomy rind cheeses including Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat and limited quantities of Krotovina. Krotovina is going on fall vacation, so you won't see it for awhile.
- Sheep Milk Feta
- Huckleberry Blue
- Mollisol Pecorino Romano
Our Urbana shoppers can choose from an assortment of gelato flavors this Saturday, including:
- Thai Basil
- Cardamom (new flavor!!)
- Anise Hyssop (new flavor!!)
- Pear Rosemary & Thyme Sorbetto
- Rhubarb Sorbetto
In addition to the cheeses and gelato flavors on offer, we will also have more of our light and floral farmstead honey for sale in both 8 oz. and 16 oz. glass jars. The weather should be perfect for farmers' market shopping on Saturday, so come on out and stock up on all your local foods.