in Watsonville and Hollister
Years farming: Andy has farmed for
the last 20 years in various capacities from farmworker
to owner, from large farm to small.
Total acres farmed: 25
Key people: Andy, farmer and rave king;
Julia, farm wife, CEO, mom, email elf, etc.; España,
foreman, tractor driver, all around repairman; Jose
España, head harvester; Lourdes Duarte, head
Range of crops: greens, root crops,
tubers and herbs, berries, peppers, tomatoes, garlic,
melons, artichokes, and more besides that.
Marketing methods: CSA and 1 farmers
market, with a small number of carefully selected restaurants
that pick up at the farmers market
Soil type: silty loam
Regenerative practices: cover cropping,
crop rotation, fallowing
Length of season: all year
|| May 10, 2004:
Sloth, carelessness, and poor planning can be great teachers, as my
most recent harvest of black Spanish radishes illustrates. The black
Spanish radish is an antique radish, a throwback to a time when people
counted on storing roots to survive the winter. To modern consumers
the black Spanish radish is puzzling. Unlike the ubiquitous little
red radishes that adorn green salads the black Spanish radish is a
huge root that can weigh as much as a small cantaloupe. Black radish
isn’t mild either, but can be harsh, especially right after
harvest. Many recipes for black radish call for the root to be grated
and marinated in salt water to dispel the mustardy bitterness.
I’ve read that it is traditional to slice black radish into
pieces and eat it with a pinch of salt and a swig of beer. This
recipe is ok, though I’ve usually wondered why I don’t
just swig the beer solo. But I keep planting black radish, even
though most of my customers probably don’t eat their black
The root is so magnificently ugly with its rough textured black
hide that it makes a fabulous conversation piece. Food stylists
looking to take eye catching photos of table displays love it. I’m
charmed by the black root myself and I’ve taken pleasure in
growing an heirloom vegetable that seems more suited to a museum
than a restaurant.
Over the years I’ve learned to plant black radish after midsummer
so it will not bolt to flower before forming a root. And I’ve
learned to religiously cloak my planting of black radish with a
protective row cover from the day I sow it. Even if most people
don’t care to eat black radish, cabbage maggots sure love
it and without a row cover a marketable crop can be almost impossible
This is where sloth, carelessness, and poor planning can make a
big difference. Last year poor planning meant I didn’t have
row cover on hand to protect the black radish crop when I planted
it. The fabric came but then we didn’t do a good job pinning
it to the ground. The wind blew the row cover off the seed bed leaving
the tender young radishes exposed to the flies. The result was a
crop of black radish riddled with pale white maggots. Out of two
40 inch beds planted in double rows 600 feet long, I only salvaged
a couple of bags of radish worth saving. I threw the plastic sacks
in the dark corner of my cooler, disgusted. This was a bitter harvest
in more ways than one.
Recently I uncovered the bags where they had lain forgotten. I
figured the radishes would be rotten after four months in a bag.
But no. When I looked the roots seemed to look the same as the day
I harvested them. I sliced a root open to see if it was rotten inside.
The black radish in my hand had snowy white flesh. Then, cautiously,
without even a can of beer on hand to wash away the taste, I tried
a bite. The radish was great. The harsh mustardy flavor was gone
and the taste was clean crisp, and mild!
I finally understood. Black Spanish radish needs to be stored to
reach its full potential. Back in the old days black radishes would
have been heaped in the cellar with carrots, turnips, celeriac,
etc. In the spring after sweeter roots had been eaten up the black
Spanish radish would be waiting, ready and good. Beer brewed with
the previous fall’s grain harvest would be ready to drink,
My constant companions--sloth, carelessness, and poor planning--had
come to my rescue again. Now I have a good plan. This July I will
plant black radish right on schedule and I’ll care for it
assiduously. In November we will harvest and clean the crop, then
store it. Come next spring I’ll have a crop to sell just when
my fields are empty and I’ll need money. Maybe I can even
make back the dollars I lost last year.
Ain’t I smart?
April 20, 2004
off to the many sombreros of a farmer Quack lawyer,
truck driver, fake chef, and borderline carnival barker:
all in a day’s work for a farmer like Andy Griffin
… and once in a while he gets to contemplate nature.
April 2, 2004
watermelon radish: Conspiracy from the left or the right
… or just a darned good heirloom daikon? Those
were among the suspicions raised by this ancient veggie
at a recent event in Santa Cruz designed to introduce
consumers to local food producers.
March 4, 2004
garlic Battling the influx of
cheap Chinese garlic—even in to Gilroy, the “Garlic
Capital of the World”—Mariquita Farm grows
green spring garlic, and banks its garlic dollars long
before the garlic festival in July.
February 13, 2004
riders of the purple goosefoot In Watsonville, California,
the founders of Mariquita CSA discover the value of
this antique cousin to spinach.
March 23, 2004
is the time for shameless self-promotion He can't
plant, cultivate or harvest--the fields are a swamp--but
Mariquita's Andy Griffin can sell shares and hustle