About an hour from the South End, down many a treelined drive, there lies a sweet little white farm house that serves as the base for Siena Farms. A mixed JK Food Group gang of Front of House and Back of House team members from Toro, Little Donkey, Coppa and Uni gathered there with Farmer Chris last week excited for the opportunity to learn and boasting that we had come to work.
First on the agenda, a tour of the property by farm owner Chris Kurth, a.k.a. Farmer Chris. We learned all sorts of interesting farm facts about the 50 acres of land within a 3 miles radius in Sudbury, Mass. where they grow sunflowers, cucumbers, lettuces, root vegetables, tomatoes, squash, and so much more. According to Chris, fortune is on our side this summer and we are getting the traditional 5 days of heat and 2 days of rain that the farmers love and the plants soak up and flourish with. We learned cultivation techniques, and that on a small farm like Siena Farms, cultivation literally means killing weeds, and that in the Sudbury River Valley the fertile land of the Concord River bed means really nice soil that is not too rocky. Siena Farms is a self-enforced organic farm, and while they do have two small cultivation (weeding) tractors, certain crops like delicate herbs needed a pre-weeding session by hand.
So, we took a half mile walk past a few dream homes, rows and rows of sweet sungold tomatoes, and dreamy purple fairy tale eggplants to Farmer Chris’s favorite stretch of his farm land. It looked like a bunch of weeds. But this group had come to work. An hour later, dirty and sweaty, we had uncovered four tidy rows of lovage and oregano. I overheard Nelson Whittingham, a Sous Chef at Toro, say that farmers have the most difficult job there is, and that’s coming from someone who cranks out food off an 800 degree plancha day and night, week after week, with consistency. Farmers have to account for unforeseeable variables though, from weather patterns to diseases, and still try to keep their crops consistent, year after year. It’s a labor of love, and it’s their dedication to the land and the fruits of it that makes it taste so good for all of us.
Chri's’s wife Ana Sortun, chef/owner of Oleana restaurant and Sofra Bakery in Cambridge, MA, and Sarma mezze bar in Somerville, MA, joined us out in the fields to talk shop. Ana had stories of what they do in Greece with all the leaves, and as a chef always does, had us tasting things as we went. The flavor of a flower for example, purely cucumber! We didn’t even know cucumber plants had flowers, but the lessons are endless on the farm. Especially with a group eager to learn, and we are so thankful to Chris and Ana for taking the time to teach us.
Now, remember those fairy tale eggplants and sungolds that we wandered past? Imagine the eggplants roasted in Coppa’s woodfire oven until they melt in your mouth like butter, then baked on a pie with ricotta, mozzarella, sungold tomatoes, chili flakes, basil and botarga flakes. OK you don’t have to imagine it, just come to Coppa, it hit the menu this week. You’ll see other Siena Farms ingredients hitting Toro, Little Donkey and Uni in the coming weeks as well, as the heat and rain bring all the best flavors of summer out to eat!