Jamm’in and pickl’n kitchen

jesse iskra with strawberry jam

Hi There,

If your reading this, it is probably because you enjoy the jams and jellies that grace our wonderful farm stand.  I do too, I’m Jesse Iskra, often seen through the bakery window, and I’m the guy that makes many of these tasty products.  A farm fresh corn muffin, split, toasted,  and smothered with fresh raspberry jam – ah the satisfaction (my personal favorite)!  Though the times, they do change.  People are much more concerned with what they eat these days, rightly so, we are what we eat.  For the past year Simon and I have been researching a more health conscious product.  Today, you get to taste the literal fruit of my labors.

Have you ever wondered why jam and jelly is so sweet?  If you look at a jar of jam, you will note that the fruit seems to float in a pretty clear jelly.  This is achieved through liquefying sugar into the fruit juice.  Jelly is the same, minus the fruit pulp.  How much sugar?  A fair bit!  Before, the fruit to sugar ratio leaned in favor of the sugar.  Now I am using Pomona’s Pectin (not Certo).  Rather than a pectin that relies on sugar to jell, Pomona’s uses the fruits calcium to gel.  This swings the ratio back towards the part of the jam or jelly you want to taste – The FRUIT!

Now the jar you hold today is sweetened a little, but only for the sweet taste you desire on a morning muffin or peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  The taste of the fruit will speak for itself.  In the future I will be testing other natural sweeteners: maple syrup, honey and agave nectar, and feel free to make requests for others – your critiques and suggestions are valued and heard.  Please comment to a baker in the store or here on the blog.

I hope you enjoy eating these delectable and wholesome products as much as I do making them for you – are valued customer.


Garlic harvest in edgartown

pround farmers with thier harvest of garlic

Graham, Justin, Anna, Eric, and Page proudly showing off the garlic harvest.

This years garlic harvest was fantastic!  We harvested thousands of garlic bulbs.  The little field at the corner of Cleavelandtown and Katama road was filled with garlic now in the barn curing.  We quickly turned the garlic soil over to grow an Labor day crop of lettuce.  And the Garlic has now cured and is for sale at the store as well as at the farmer’s markets West Tisbury (Wed&Sat) Vineyard Haven (Tuesday).  We are selling first quality German White heads in the stand as well as garlic braids, a decorative way to have and display your garlic, as well as having a second quality cheeper ‘roasting’ Garlic and we will be selling the best of the crop carefully stored till November for planting stock for your garden and ours.

Mo – Glo Bakery

Morning glory bakery crew 2009

Hi folks,

My name is Sarah and I’m the newest addition to the Morning Glory bakery. Since June I’ve been working with the bakery team to make the freshest muffins, breads, cookies, bars, quiche, jam, and pies for you and your family to enjoy seven days a week. I came to the farm from Boston, where I’ve worked for the past few years at Harvard University. I escaped my editorial job at the Ivory Tower to do something that’s closer to my heart–and stomach. A love of baking passed down to me from my grandmother and a love of small farms cultivated during my childhood in rural New Hampshire motivated me to ditch my office digs and put on my baking shoes. And I’m sure glad I did. Although I’ve only been here a month, I already feel like part of the Morning Glory farm family (or farmily, as I like to call it).

Enough about me, let’s talk about what we’re up to in the bakery…

The zucchini is rolling in (and rolling in and rolling in) thanks to our dedicated field crew, and we’re turning the green goddesses into moist and delicious zucchini bread and muffins. Every day we make close to 100 loaves of zucchini bread, which fly off the shelf! Make sure to stop in and enjoy your share of the bounty.

Strawberry season is nearing an end, but Jesse the jam master has packaged the sweetness for you to savor for months to come. Farm fresh strawberry jam is just one of the many flavors of jam now available in the stand. Stock up so you can enjoy the sweet taste of summer on a warm piece of toast in January, or as soon as you get home!

Many people ask me what a typical day looks like in the bakery, so I thought I’d share a quick overview for all of you who are curious. The day starts early, or late, depending on how you look at it. Long before dawn the kitchen is buzzing with our bread bakers, Dwight and Adnan, hard at work. As the roosters begin to wake, so does Heather our muffin baker to make sure the muffins are out of the oven and ready for you to enjoy with your morning cup of coffee when the farm stand opens at 9:00. By 7:30 the rest of the bakers, led by Jody the bakery manager, have arrived to begin making our famous monkey bars, jam bars, cobblers, coffeecakes, and cookies (the big soft gingersnaps are my favorite).

As soon as those are in the oven, we move on to quiche. Veggie, mushroom scallion, ham, farm sausage with peppers and onion, and tomato basil are just some of the kinds we make. After quiche we begin the pie production, and a production it is. Currently we’re making apple, blueberry, blueberry/strawberry, blueberry/peach, strawberry/peach, and peach. All of the pie dough is made from scratch and the fruit filling is mixed fresh every day. Pies hit the stand at 2:00pm, and there is often a line of people waiting to take one home. As soon as our production is finished we prep ingredients and make sure the kitchen is spic and span for another day of baking at the farm.

Phew! Just talking about all we do makes me tuckered out. I think I’d better go rest up and save my energy for making you a fresh pie. If you ever have any questions or just want to see us in action, you can find me and the bakery crew in the back of the farm stand, just past the freshest salad bar on the Island. I hope you’ll pop in and say hello!

Laura and yankoFresh farm quiche

Summer work at morning glory farm

The Farmily Photo

Here we are!  Almost all the staff from the Farmstand, Bakery, Kitchen, Herb Garden, Greenhouses, and Field Crew.

Sunny days in the hay field

Jim, Hillary, Serena, Stella taking a break before unloading the next truckload.

This is west tisbury cut grass hay being loaded into our approx 2000 bale barn in chilmark.  Most of our cattle reside in chilmark (and the dozen piglets seen at left) while also making use of one barn in west tisbury and two in edgartown to store a full winters worth of hay.  Not pictured are Daniel Athearn, Graham, Page, Jessie and the two other trucks, we put up 617 bales last night, with so many more to come.

Jim at work in west tisbury

Jim (Dad to me) at work on a hot and sunny July afternoon.  He is making his seventh and final 4mph trip around and around this 5 + acre field, now using our john deere baler and the international harvester hydro 84 tractor (hydrostatic drive).

meanwhile back at the ranch

Meanwhile back at the home farm…  Daniel and Julie transplant late tomatoes into the “house field’ (behind the little pond and by the peach orchard).  And no it’s not too late, we even have one more planting to go!  On the vineyard we are blessed with extremely long falls and late frosts. Daniel Athearn is in the tractor seat and is soon to join the hay effort in west tisbury.


Morning Glory Farm in the rain

The talk of the town seems to be the cloudy weather.  Many people have asked me over the last few weeks “so is it ruining all your crops?” or similar questions.  Answer: Yes and no, Many plants are stressed out, showing disease, lacking nutrients and behind; However many plants are thriving and most of even the affected crops are poised to go on a tear of vegetative growth (tomatoes, peppers, melons, corn).   The lettuce has been wonderful and the potatoes are in great shape, and what a great asparagus year, wow!

We are now picking: Strawberries, shell peas, sugar snap peas, hot house tomatoes, baby beets, baby carrots,lettuce (9 varieties), zucchini, summer squash, kale, chard, green onions, scallions, flowers, red new potatoes, Yukon gold new potatoes, baby arugula, garlic scapes, boc choi, basil, parsley, tatsoi, mustards, collards, and so many herbs.

And Whats to come: Cucumbers, Snow peas, Heirloom summer squash, Blueberries, Walla walla sweet onions, Broccoli, Cabbage, Garlic, French Fingerling Potatoes, Green Beans, Corn (best guess is July 18th right now, we need some sun) and lets not forget the delicious Massachusetts peaches from Carlson Orchards (very soon)

What are the farmer’s up to?: Harvest has taken over as the largest part of our field workers day, though planting, weeding and plant care continue.  Stella has been having regular 100lb days in the hot house tomatoes, and the cherry tomatoes she picks are peaking.  Our tomato crew has trellised the first round of the first and second generations of field tomatoes and third generation should go in this week.  Justin and Anna have split up the farmer’s market shifts to help Ethan staff the market booths at both the Wed/Sat market in West Tisbury and the Tuesday Market at Packer’s Wharf in Vineyard haven.  Hillary repaired a broken gate in the cow yard that the cows knocked down.  Justin moved another batch of chickens out into the movable pastured poultry pens, generation 1 is getting near slaughter.  Dan and Simon have been steadily breaking tractors and having to repair them, its a ongoing cycle, machine shop to field and back.  Jim has been cultivating corn the last couple of dry days.

We were able to sneak in two quick harvests of hay over the last long period of foul weather, they made it in the barn in passable shape.  Strawberries are holding out and seem to be in good shape despite the rain and have had good harvests 6 days a week, (ending say July 12th) Alex has been managing a harvest that grows every day and what seems like an endless amount of orders from restaurants and markets that Cheryl has procured and will deliver twice weekly (today 480 heads of lettuce), you should see Andrew smile when he gets a large lettuce order, he and Hillary went out and harvested it all and were back in the barn washing by 9am.  Andrew and Cheryl have begun to pack romaine hearts for sales at Cronigs market and at our store, we will learn if there is really a market for it.

Amy and Micheal are back and have made a home out of the old blueberry house, what a shot in the arm to the field crew they are; two of our hardest and most experienced field hands back for another year of dirty hands and sore backs.  The beans carefully planted 5 successive crops inside the new deer fence in Norton field are being (have been) eaten by RABBITS!! you just can win! The kitchens have been making strawberry jam daily and are a little tired of it they report.  We have been making a low sugar (near all fruit) Jam that tastes like June itself. Judy and Chloe catered an Island Grown event for IGI this week with all our own produce and meats.

Meg and Dan have had 6 calves from the herd of cattle in Chilmark and expect 6 more.  Simon found a patch of early wild ground blueberries ripe out by the new broccoli field this week, a smile and blue teeth.  The Greens continue to grow wonderfully, a new crop of baby Arugula is ripe thanks to the care of Daniel T.  Last week Emily wheel hoe’d the entire Garlic field (3/4 of an Acre) That’s a big job but good for a woman that row’s crew.  The farm stand staff have been so happy to start replacing some of the off-island produce from early season to selling our own.  They have created a new register area to add two more lines in the little greenhouse off the side of the store.  They report fantasitic sales of our new book, and alot of intrest in the garlic scapes.  The stand staff are poised but nervus to tackle another holiday weekend ahead.

Having trouble finding time to Blog with all my spring work, I will be asking a few of our crew to blog about thier jobs/experiences/thoughts over the next few weeks.  Thanks for stopping by, simon.

Look at em grow!

Our early red potatoes are leaping from the earth.  The field crew was out today removing some of the weedy patches that my cultivator missed.  This field is one of two this year, this is in Katama nearSlough Cove Road.  Potatoes always appriciate a new location, theyare a favorite food of the Colorado potato beetle that overwinters in the soil and field edge.  They look as if they only need a couple more days to reach flower.  I am crossing my fingers for some delicious red new potatoes for the last weekend in June. 

potatoes on katama soil

Stella and her tomatoes

morning glory tomato greenhouseHello everyone, my name is Stella and I’m Morning Glory’s Tomato Chief.  I’m in charge of all the various plantings of tomato plants, their care, and also the harvesting.   I am a southern transplant, from Tennessee, near the Smokey Mountains.  I found myself in the North after attending  Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.  I’m a writer and came to work for the Athearns because I get tired of being cooped up in New York City and love farming.   So come on Y’all, let me tell y’uns a little bit about the tomatoes.

Summer is here and the first tomatoes of the season are in from our greenhouses.   Ripe and ready to go! AND delicious, might I add.

Each year, Morning Glory plants successive crops of tomatoes, starting in the heated greenhouses in January which begin to ripen now.  In May we plant the high tunnels (I think there are over 500 plants in them).  These I hope to see ready by the 4th of July.  Finally, we’ve just begun our field planting of tomatoes which will take off once the heat of summer kicks in.

We put a lot of care into growing so many tomatoes.  Tomato plants must be pruned and trellised.  While there are many ways of trellising tomatoes or, more simply put,  holding the plants up as they grow.  Our favored technique of trellising the plants is called the San Diego basket weave.  The basket weave uses twine to gently cradle each plant as it grows.  The tomato crew move up and down the rows of plants weaving in and around each plant and wooden stakes through the field and under the bright June and July sun.

What’s the reward for all this work?  Hopefully, GORGEOUS tomatoes!  I have to say that seeing all the splendid varieties bloom and come to fruition is my favorite part.  Resplendent jewels.  What are some of our varieties?

Celebrity is the goodly standby and what we grow most.  Deep red, big and fleshy.  We also grow Romas, which are great with basil and mozzerella.  There are cherry tomatoes with names like Supersweet 100’s, Sun Cherry, and my favorite, Sun Gold.  Sun gold is yellow cherry tomato that is sweet but has a slight almost wine like after taste.

There are also heirlooms with alluring names like Cherokee Purple, which has a deep purple hue to their skin, Brandywine, and the exotic Moskavitch.  Before long, I’ll be harvesting them by the hundreds of pounds.

Come on in and try my tomatoes.  I’m always proud of them!

fresh tomatoes

Baby chicks

baby cornish rock cross

We just received our second load of baby chicks here at morning glory farm.  Justin Myers made them very comfortable this morning in the cow barn, old stanchens turns brooding room.  This little cheeping box comes in to the post office in edgartown and they call us when they take receipt.  We always try to get them home and into their warm brooding room asap.  We have two brooding rooms for keeping the chicks warm and dry while they grow.  Once large enough they move outside into our pastured poultry pens where they move daily around the pastures.

We get 75, 1 week old chicks every three weeks all summer and that allows us to bring in the slaughtering team every three weeks as well.  We grow the cornish rock cross breed, a fast growing bird.  So in 8-9 weeks we will have fresh pasture fed poultry to sell in our store, and for our kitchens to make delicious dinners with.  These birds grow large fast, especially when happy and healthy.  We like to grow our birds to about 5lbs for the dressed weight, much larger than your average store bought bird.  But when roasted a larger bird seems to hold it moisture better and (my favorite) offers leftovers for lunch the next day. Please post any ideas for unique recipes for fresh chicken.  The one note that many people need to hear is that fresh birds have significantly more moisture to them than frozen ones and require slightly longer cooking times and is always recommended to check the internal temperature before removing from the heat.  I look forward to hearing about some interesting new recipes, eat well.  Simon

cornish rock cross

Making straw on rocky top

for strawberries at morning glory

We farmers here at morning glory received many comments on the straw harvest on the front field (Sherman’s Field) this week.  Lot of people asked if we were making hay.  It seems nearly indistinguishable from hay at distance because all the same motions are made.  However we were making straw, the difference?  Well straw is traditionally the dried stalks of cereal (grain) crops, collected after threshing or combining.  This means that the seed or grain has been removed and the remainder is of low value and can be used for animal bedding, mulching plants, burning for biomass, thatching roofs, insulating homes, and woven into the farmer’s cheap straw hat.  It is generally considered to low in nutrients to feed to animals though many cattlemen use it as roughage in a portion of the diet.  The reason it can be safely used as vegetable mulch is because those viable seeds have been removed and will not start a huge weed crop in the field.  Whereas hay is nutritious grasses and legumes with the nutrient rich seeds still on the stalk, thus making it nutritious animal feed.

We did not harvest the grain off this crop of winter rye, instead we harvested it while the grain was still immature and not viable.  I tested a sample of the grain in the greenhouse as a germination test.  This harvest removes a lot of biomass that would have been plowed down into the soil as an important part of our crop nutrient plan.  By harvesting here on Rocky Top we know we have plowed down many successful rye crops in the past years, and we are able to spread our compost over this field as it is close to the home farm.  Over the years this field has steadily increased its strength and vigor.  Years ago Mom and Dad had little confidence in it and lost more than a few crops.  Huge amounts of organic matter have been added and the result is this tall stand of healthy rye and come August a tall stand of sweet corn.

So what do we do with all that mass?  This harvest was about 6 tons of straw.  We will use the bulk of it mulching StrawBerries in late December early January.  We stacked it under a tarp next to the strawberry field.  We always like to straw our rhubarb, and our perennial flower garden.  We like to mulch our garlic crop because of it’s long season (November to nearly August), its need for steady moisture, and its inability to thrive with weed pressure.  However this winter with the largest garlic crop of our farm’s life we ran short of straw and the market price was $8 bale, simply not feasible.  We would have to sell the whole crop just to pay the cost of the straw, and in spite of not having a mulch the garlic has thrived.

Mo glo'ers stacking straw Cheryl Harary, Daniel Athearn, Graham Glaser, Anna Adamowicz (LtoR)

Straw berries right?  Well many discussions and researchers have worked on where the name came from.   No definitive answer comes but the contenders are… The fruits were packed in straw to prevent bruising,  the plants are covered with straw all winter, the  fruits rest (free of soil/dirt) on the straw in harvest, or the way street vendors used to string the fruits onto a stem of straw to sell at market, or (from the USDA) because of the way the fruit ‘strew’ around the mother plant.  Who knows but I can’t wait till mid june for the strawberries to be ripe!  Come in on Saturday June 20th for our 30th anniversary festival for fun and games, a book signing of our new cookbook!  And fresh strawberry shortcake!!!

Beach plums in flower

plums in bloom at morning glory farm

The beach plums (prunus maritima) are in full bloom now.  Our noble little native plum is found along the dunes and beaches all over martha’s vineyard but establishes better on the northern shores.  The beach plum can be found up and down the Atlantic coast from northern maine to about maryland, and rarely grows  inland unless cultivated.  The wild crop is bountiful on cape cod and the islands and it’s fruit highly sought after for the great jellies it makes.  Severe irregularities in the plums ability to produce a crop have frustrated many lovers of beach plum jelly.

Many people and organizations have made efforts to understand and improve the plum.  One such effort was here on martha’s vineyard.  A beach plum enthusiast Ruth Eldridge White was looking for a commercial crop to help the weak agricultural economy of the area.  in 1938 she donated some land and got the agricultural experiment station to support her endeavor to work with these plants.  New varieties were created and copious notes and publications on the culture and care of the beach plum.  Soon after funds were withdrawn at the vineyard and other experiment stations because of lack of funds and the demands of the war effort.

A group of concerned purveyors and growers of the plum on cape cod started a plum association in 1948.  With the goal to standardize and protect the brand and quality of cape cod beach plum jelly.  Development of standards, a qualifying label and marketing were undertaken by the group.  But after four low yield  years the association failed.

So why the low yield?  In 1996 Richard Uva of Cornell started research on the plum with the help of a SARE grant, and soon was connected to the cape and islands where people were already actively pursuing it.  Morning Glory Farm purchased 16 plum saplings from the experiment station and planted them in our ‘Cove Patch’ on the meshacket road in edgartown.  These plants received no treatments after planting and grew poorly.  The idea was that these plants survive and even thrive in the desolate dune environment, so plant them in you poor soils or on cranberry land’s borrow pits.  After a few years of experiments, one I visited several times at Coonamesset Farm in Falmouth, the research group learned surprisingly to “treat it like a plum crop”.  This meant to lime, fertilize, prune, and maintain the plants, and to remove excessive fruit by thinning and this should even out the biennial bearing that plagued the crop.

In 2002 I collected plums and the resulting seeds from eight locations around martha’s vineyard.  I stratified the seed (cold treating to simulate winter) and planted them in the greenhouse for two years until they were large enough to plant out to the orchard.  In spring of 2005 I planted over 200 plums in our Cove Patch carefully and using the new guidelines set up by the new beach plum project.  They grew slow the first couple of years and were heavily browsed by the deer,  and some winter losses of plants.  However many have survived or been replanted and we have had a couple of successful harvests.  The plants have been pruned and trained to start growing upright and with a open center (like a wine glass).  We now have many bushes resembling trees and about four feet tall.  I have been unwilling to fungicide or insecticide treat the crop so losses have occurred because of brown rot and the plum curcillio pest.

I still have high hopes for getting a even, regular and bountiful crop and hope to employ our kitchen in making the jellies for sale in our farmstand.  As a farmer so often does, I have applied by best assurance for a good crop I know  as Jim says ” I crossed my fingers”

simon athearn picking beach plumsLets all cross our finger for a good crop!  I love beach plum jelly!