The Farmer and The Chef: A Perfect Pair
The farm-to-table relationship between farmer Kathleen Moss and executive chef Gretchen Hanson is a model for making the most of this season’s fresh local bounty
The hardest part of a Summer Farmer’s Market is not finding something to make, it is deciding among all the options. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Fox Briar Farm in Salisbury. I have worked with owner and farmer Kathleen Moss since I first moved here nine years ago. We both have changed and evolved so much over that time, but there has been one constant: I am a chef and she is my most perfect farmer.
I have never been able to resist Kathleen. She entices me in with her iconic farmer’s market displays of hand lettered chalkboards and peach baskets filled with baby greens and every color of beet and carrot under the sun. Then she holds me fast with names like Pink Berkley Tie Dye Tomatoes. I mean how are you supposed to resist a fingerling potato called Papa Cacho? I certainly can’t.
A visit to Fox Briar Farm to pick produce makes my little plantbased heart beat extra fast as we traipse through her fields, sampling a little snip of arugula here, an heirloom cherry tomato there. On only a half-acre, Fox Briar Farm is like perfection in miniature, each plant and box wisely tended. The abundance that this tiny farm produces is a testament to the fact that each plant is truly loved and cared for. As a chef who cooks with love, I can feel it radiate in the exuberance of the produce yield everywhere around me. Wait; is that really a Zephyr Squash? My very favorite, bar none. Kathleen knows this, and picks a gorgeous baby specimen. I plant a little kiss on the end where the flower was, and tuck it in my pocket for an afternoon snack.
Kathleen’s little boy, Liam, and her border collies, Jock and Scout, gambol through the Tuscan Kale and knock over a Green Zebra tomato plant. Kathleen stakes the plant again carefully, and picks up the broken tomato leaves at the base of the plant; tucking them into the pocket of her waterproofed fox colored overalls. She is going to make a tomato leaf bug spray, she explains, it’s an organic pest control method for aphids. We arrange to oven dry the last of the Valencia tomato harvest in the Autumn at her house. Putting them by for the grey, short, winter days when you need a little bit of summer sunshine. As I said: she’s my perfect farmer.
Produce in general has changed and expanded over the last eight years to become more edgy and exotic. Kathleen is leading the pack in providing the varieties chefs are demanding and consumers are wanting more and more.
The baby Black Summer Bok Choy and Ping Tung long Japanese eggplant are inspiring something Asian fusion, starting maybe with the bite and pungency of a Cherriete Radish Kim Chi dumpling. Or I could go another direction entirely, and visit the South of France with a Balsamic, Orange and Sposato Cabernet roasted Chioggia Beet and Astro Arugula salad followed by a summer Ratatouille of Zephyr Squash, Valencia Tomatoes and Fairy Tale Eggplant. Then I could round the meal out with a perfect Parisian Market Carrot cake or maybe a Purple Haze Black Carrot candy on an Opal Basil sorbet.
The perfect chef in me must taste all the different varieties of baby greens before I am able make any decisions. And as I’m only shopping for one meal, not seventeen, today’s visit is an exercise in restraint. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Plus, I know there’s always next week.
Visit Fox Briar Farm at www.foxbriarfarm.net or at the Rehoboth Beach Farmers’ Market and the Historic Lewes Farmers Market.