Fall is a time of bountiful harvest and interesting things at The Chef’s Garden’s Farmer Jones Farm. This year, it’s exceptional! I was happy to be hosted to experience it.
Farmer Lee Jones, proprietor of Farmer Jones Farm — the division offering to consumers — has collaborated with one of the most elegant beverages, Hendrick’s Gin. Why? Along with rose, one of the main and distinctive notes in the gin is cucumber. Clearly, I approve; their steampunk ads cover my kitchen. I’m going to have to find a spot and a frame for this new collaboration’s design!
The new Hendrick’s collection has 6 different delightfully odd cucumbers that includes shipping, but not the gin. I tried two. Cucamelons are these itty bitty things that look like a doll’s watermelon. They’re tart and tangy, with thicker skin. Cucamelons are juicy inside, with a flavor that’s a cross between cucumber and melon — I’m sure they’d be fantastic with prosciutto.
So, what else can you do with them? You can make drink snacks and snack drinks! Sometimes, keeping it simple and cheap is just as amazing as anything: I smeared a little light mayo on some saltines. Then, I cut some cucumelons, baby Farmer Jones Farm multi-colored tomatoes, micro superfood herbs/veggies, ground fresh black pepper over them. If you were a guest at someone’s home and they brought you these with your Hendrick’s cocktail, wouldn’t you be pleased as punch? (Pardon the pun.)
I also tried baby white cucumber. It has a mild, clean taste that can mix in a number of different styles.
I made up my own Hendrick’s cocktail with cucumbers: I mixed them with cran-cherry juice! Each brings out the other: the fruit is fruitier and the cucumber is more vegetal. Gin is very smooth with this sweet-tart combo.
What else could you make? Gin tzatziki! Instead of lemon juice or vinegar, use a splash of Hendrick’s gin, along with yogurt, herbs, salt, olive oil, black pepper and of course, baby white cucumber.
A cross between a drink and dessert: a Hendrick’s snowcone! First, I made a simple syrup with sugar, water, Hendrick’s gin, garden strawberry mint and pineapple mint, cucamelons and a drop of green food coloring. I let everything cool, strained it and added to shaved ice. Garnish with a rose petal and cucamelons!
Huckleberry tomatoes are teeny and very sweet: they look a little like champagne grapes. They’re very delicate and kind of have cocoa notes to them. Exotic! So, you know how there are so many chicken salads with raisins, chopped apples, peaches, etc. Well, this is even easier: no soaking or chopping!
You can use these, baby tomatoes, pineapple tomatillos, summer corn that you may have squirreled away and have a great salsa. Just remove the little husks from the tomatillos, which are sweet-tart.
The finest crudites don’t need special knife garnishing skills or really, anything more complicated than a little salt dish. I did make a ridicuously easy cheese dip: grated sharp cheddar, hot sauce, salt, a smashed garlic clove, a tiny bit of light mayo and a bit of homemade yogurt.
Farmer Jones Farm’s collection includes baby: onions, parsnips, carrots, radishes, cucumber blossoms. They have intense flavors and you can eat the greens, too: they’re peppery.
I made a twist on a familiar appetizer, because sometimes familiar can be a snooze to your palate. This is my burrata Caprese, made with my own homemade burrata. With it are the surprising flavors of garden lemon, Thai and cinnamon basil, micro superfoods, baby tomatoes and pineapple tomatillos.
Recently, I started trying my hand at making spring rolls. Truth be told, I like them best deep fried, but that’s not very figure-friendly. For this spring roll, I poached a chicken breast in herbs and water, cutting in strips. I added micro superfoods, cucamelons, baby tomatoes and pineapple tomatillos. You can make yourself a little peanut butter/scallion/crispy chili dipping sauce.
In Western Maryland, right near West Virginia and Pennsylvania lines, there used to be a beloved steak house called J.B.’s. Yogi Berra-style, everybody went there all the time until nobody went and they closed. I can’t really remember the steaks too much, but I always looked forward to their house salads, which had dark greens — spinach? — thinly sliced red onion, black olives and blue cheese in vinaigrette. That lightness was a game changer!
I didn’t have any black olives, but then I had an epiphany. What if I thinly sliced raw red okra from Farmer Jones Farm? Adding a little salt, they provide the richness of sliced olives. Rainbow colored chard from the farm became the base of the salad. Crumbled blue cheese goes on top!
A lot of veggies lose their exotic colors when cooked, but baby purple broccoli kept its color, because I sauteed them in good butter just shy of a minute. A sprinkle of truffle salt was all I added. The flavor is floral, grassy and earthy enough that the dog was chasing me around the house!