Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall Fun on the Massaro Farm

It was an exceptionally beautiful day on the Massaro Farm in Woodbridge, CT. The sun was shining, lots of people were tromping over the uneven ground, building scarecrows, painting pumpkins, bidding on gift baskets, tasting and voting in the condiment contest, and taking tours of the new/old farm with cool farmer Steve. It was the second annual Massaro Farm - Family Fun Day. 

Farmer Steve is just wrapping up the first season of the farm's new CSA (community supported agriculture) season. The Farm belonged to the Massaro Family for many years, but in recent years it had fallen into disuse. A group of community members got together to re-establish the farm and created a non-profit to get it going. Check out their website to learn a bit about what they've been up to. One enormous accomplishment is that they have a mission to donate food to local charitable organizations, and this year they have thousands of pounds of food already. They also raised money to rebuild the barn and the farm house.

I was invited to the Family Fun Day on the farm as their celebrity chef (ha ha!) to judge the condiment contest. This was a bit of a challenge considering I had to pit applesauce against, hot pepper jelly against salsa. Next year hopefully there will be tons submissions and a number of different categories. I ran through the row of condiments, judging for taste and consideration of ingredients used. Condiments featuring ingredients from the farm or people's gardens won extra points.
There were a number of good submissions. I settled on 3 I liked that all had local ingredients in them. I tasted each at least 10 times, unsure of how to make the choice between 3 extremely different options. The applesauce was pretty exceptional, but it seemed so basic in comparison to the more complex options of hot pepper jelly or tomatillo salsa. I do hope there will be an applesauce category next year, and I'll bet this one will be a strong contender for 1st place (nice job Jason!). 
The hot pepper jelly was a great fresh version of the thai style sweet hot pepper sauce. It was delicious and beautiful, tangy and sweet. 

The tomatillo salsa ultimately won my vote. Most of the ingredients were from the cook's personal garden, the jalapeños were roasted and peeled and the garlic was roasted as well. The depth of that natural smokiness was wonderful but not overpowering, and the crisp tartness of the tomatillos was lovely. the salsa was well seasoned and balanced, so as a whole it stood out to me as the winner. The community vote went to the artichoke bruchetta topping. It was delicious, but since the main ingredient came from a bottle and probably flew over on an airplane, I gave it a back seat for this local farm focused competition.

Here, Farmer Steve is giving a tour of the land. He is explaining the types of cover crops he has planted which will enhance the land in specific ways to enrich the soil, prevent erosion, and provide compostable organic matter (green manure) when the crops are tilled into the soil in the spring or summer.  Rye, peas, vetch, and some other crops are planted here. One field is a variation on a three sisters garden, a complex traditional Native American agricultural technique where varieties of corn, beans and squash are planted together to grow in an extremely efficient and bio-diverse manner. Each plant gives and takes complimentary nutrients from the soil, the corn provides a pole for the beans to climb, the squash leaves shade the earth preventing weed growth and keeping soil shaded and moist.

Hardy varieties of lettuce and other greens were planted to extend the growing season.

As the fall seems to instantly be turning to winter (yes there was snow on the ground this morning), please share some fleeting moments of your fall adventures, farm based or otherwise! 
You can leave a comment below.


  1. I can't wait to go to their next festival! Thanks for this :)

  2. I wish I was a celebrity chef! Nice. I must have the jalapeño jelly.