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Ratatouille Recipe. No Disney Movie Rats Involved.

Summer is slipping away. Soon we will enjoy those cool, crisp Fall days. But for now we still have eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and basil. Add some garlic, onions, tomato paste, red pepper flakes and you have the makings of a great dish. Ratatouille!

I confess I hadn’t heard of ratatouille until Disney made a movie about a rat in Paris who wanted to be a chef. I decided to try the recipe on my own a few years ago. I’ve made ratatouille a couple different ways but this is one of the best recipes I’ve used. So kudos to Jenn Segal. I will put the link to her entire recipe at the bottom.

I halved the recipe. I also like the flavor of bell pepper but I don’t like to actually eat peppers. I cut the peppers in large pieces and just pulled them out before I served it. I used red and orange tomatoes to give it more color. Chopping everything up is a bit time consuming but totally worth it in the end.

Ratatouille can be served as a side dish. If you want to serve it over whole wheat pasta add extra tomatoes so you have more sauce. Now you have a great meatless meal.



By Jennifer Segal

Servings: 8 (Makes about 7 cups)

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Cook Time: 45 Minutes

Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes


  • 1 large (1.25 lb) eggplant, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb), cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 5 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 large vine-ripened tomatoes (1.75 lb), cut into 1/3-inch cubes, with their juices
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme, plus more for serving
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  2. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan (no need to clean it). Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and transfer to a plate; set aside.
  3. Add two more tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 3 minutes more. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, thyme, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down into a sauce, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cooked eggplant to the pan; bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is soft. Add the zucchini and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until just warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Sprinkle with fresh basil and thyme, drizzle with a little olive oil if desired, and serve warm or chilled. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  4. Freezer-Friendly Instructions:Let the dish cool completely and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. (Keep in mind that the zucchini won’t stay crisp after being frozen.) This is delicious served cold, or reheated in the microwave.


Link to Jenn Segal’s full recipe

TOMATOES! At last!

Nothing signals the beginning of summer like the arrival of tomatoes at the farmers’ markets. We are happy to say that our tomatoes are ripening on the vines and each day we have more to pick.

Tomatoes from the June 9 Spotsylvania Farmers Market

Along with our red juicy tomatoes, we also have green tomatoes and even some straw tomatoes. We use the term straw tomatoes for those tomatoes that are in between green and perfectly ripe. Straw tomatoes are great to use when you don’t quite like the tart, acidic green ones.

I’ve added a link from North Carolina Cooperative Extension to answer the question, “What is a green tomato?” Scroll down after the article to find some tasty green tomato recipes.


The green tomatoes we have at the market right now are just unripe red tomatoes. We will have quite a variety of different colored heirloom tomatoes later in the season. Stay tuned.

Market Locations





These Boots Are Made For Planting


Our Flower Boots are back by popular demand. Come by and see all our containers potted up and ready to go home. We have lettuce mix containers and potted herb gardens along with flowers in hanging baskets and planters.

For those of you with a green thumb, we have many vegetable, herb and flower starters. We have too many varieties to list on this post. Pictured below are some, not all, of our plant selection.

When planting your starter plants follow the directions on any fertilizer you may use. Fertilizer will need to be worked into the soil and not simply put into the bottom of the hole. Too much fertilizer on starter plant roots will kill the plant

Produce available includes green onions, bagged lettuce, radishes and more.

Spring Produce

Our open markets are:


Farmers Market SW

Lorton and Mt Vernon open the first week of May

This year we will not be at the Eastern Orange Farmers Market. But one of our family will be there, Franco Produce.

We can’t wait to see everyone!




Purple Sweet Potatoes

Purple Sweet Potato

We grow a handful of different varieties of sweet potatoes on the farm. They may have different colored skin but most have the more traditional orange colored flesh. We also grow a variety of white sweet potato that is cream colored both inside and out. Some customers say the white sweet potatoes are a little creamier than their orange fleshed counter-parts.

The most unique sweet potato we grow and sell is our purple sweet potato. This sweet potato is purple both inside and out. According to Kansas State University, purple sweet potatoes contain “significantly higher anthocyanin content and more anti-aging and antioxidant components than other sweet potatoes.” (source)

Purple sweet potatoes have a lower water content which makes them denser and starchier. We experimented by boiling them and baking them. The boiled potatoes were less creamy and tended to be a little gummy. The baked purple sweet potatoes were a more creamy consistent texture.

Most of all, the baked method was a lot easier. Preheat your oven to 400°. Scrub the potatoes. Poke the sweet potatoes with a fork a couple times and place on a baking pan. No foil needed. Pop them in the oven. Since the ones we used were small it only took about 25 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the potato.

Do you want your sweet potato pie to stand out? How about a Purple Sweet Potato Pie?

Purple Sweet Potato Pie 

(Adapted from Taste of Home)

This recipe yields a pie with a texture similar to a cheesecake.


  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup evaporated milk
  • 2 cups (baked) mashed purple sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)


  1. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; mix well.
  2. Add milk, sweet potatoes, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; mix well.
  3. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°; bake 15-30 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
  4. Store in refrigerator.

Top with whipped cream, of course.



Here’s One of Our Favorite Couples, Cool Fall Evenings and Winter Squash


Sadly, summer squash is almost finished in the fields. Don’t despair, we are harvesting loads of our regular, and one or two new varieties of winter squash. We get lots of questions about our winter squash: how to cook them, how to cut them and how and where to store them. So before I get to the recipe of the week, here is some great information I found from Colorado State University. (Source)

Begin your squash journey by selecting a winter variety currently in season, including butternut, acorn, hubbard, spaghetti, delicata and pumpkin. These differ from summer squash (such as crookneck and zucchini) which are eaten before their rind hardens. Winter squash are harvested when the fruit inside matures and the seeds are large and plump.

Select squash that are firm, heavy for their size, dull (not glossy) and free of soft spots or cracks. Once home, squash can sit at room temperature for 10-20 days, but can be stored in a cooler, dry place for up to 6 months, then washed right before being prepared for savoring. Cutting a winter squash can be a challenge, and is the reason most often given by people who do not cook them at home. To simplify this task, poke holes in the squash with a knife and microwave it for up to 5 minutes. Then try cutting it the hard rind will be softened. Cut it in half and remove all the seeds and fibers.

Be sure to keep the seeds! Having to separate and wash the seeds adds a step, but one that is well worth it. Rinse seeds with water, pat them dry, and combine 1 cup with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread out this mixture on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 275 degrees. Once cool, both children and adults will love snacking on these.

Once seeds and pulp are removed, squash halves can be placed face down with about 1/4 inch water in a baking pan and baked, broiled or microwaved. Once cooked, cut the flesh away from the skin in bite-size pieces or scoop it out with a spoon. Then the fun begins.

-Acorn squash has a slightly sweet flavor that combines well with maple syrup and chopped walnuts.
-Butternut squash, with its slight nutty flavor, is a favorite for creamy soup. Just blend pieces with broth and onions along with spices. You can be creative and use spices ranging from curry powder to nutmeg for a variety of tastes.
-Spaghetti squash has a mild flavor and a crunchy texture, making it a perfect substitute for spaghetti topped with marinara sauce.
-Pumpkin pulp is easy to puree and add to pancakes and muffins.
-Hubbard and delicata are tasty drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Did I mention squash is nutritious? One cup of cooked winter squash has more potassium than a banana, more vitamin C than a tomato, more fiber than an apple, and as much vitamin A as a serving of carrots. Now that’s a super food!

Roasted Butternut Squash, Sweet Potatoes and Onions


  • 2 Cups Butternut Squash, cut in 1 inch cubes (about 1 medium butternut squash)
  • 2 Cups Sweet Potatoes, cut in 1 inch cubes (about 2 medium potatoes) *
  • 1 Medium to large red onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 Tsp Fresh thyme


  • Preheat oven to 400 °.
  • In a bowl, mix all the ingredients except the olive oil. Add enough olive oil to coat the squash, sweet potatoes and onions. Mix well.
  • Pour into a 9 X 13 casserole dish in a single layer.**
  • Cook for 10 – 15 minutes and stir.
  • Cook until butternut squash and potatoes are tender.
  • Toss with thyme and serve


* I used white sweet potatoes because I like the creamy texture of a white sweet potato and the color it adds to the dish.

** If you prefer more caramelization use a baking sheet to avoid any steaming that occurs when using a baking dish with higher sides.

And lastly, here’s a Cheat Sheet written by our friends at Modern Reston.

A Fall Squash Cheat Sheet

Why Do My Black-Eyed Peas Have Pink Eyes?


Purple Hull PeasThese delectable little jewels are Pinkeye Purple Hull Peas. They are categorized as cowpeas just like their cousins, Crowder peas and black-eyed peas. Most often they are simply called purple hull peas.

Actually there is some debate whether they are peas or beans. After a lot of internet surfing it appears that whether the seed, which is the thing we eat, is round or oval/kidney shaped dictates whether it is called a pea or a bean. Peas are round. Beans are oval. (Source: University of Minnesota Extension)

But this same publication from the University of Minnesota Extension says black-eyed peas are round and therefore a pea. The Library of Congress emphatically categorizes a black-eyed pea as a bean. (Source: Library of Congress) Since the Purple Hull Pea is closely related and similarly shaped to the black-eyed pea this leaves our Purple Hull Pea without a true identity.

But what you can’t argue about is just how delicious Purple Hull Peas are. We sell our freshly picked Purple Hull Peas still in their pod. Very often we also have shelled Purple Hull Peas in little clear plastic containers.

Shelled Purple Hull Peas should be refrigerated and should be good for a couple days before you cook them. If you’re not going to cook them right away it might be best to buy them whole and shell them right before you cook them. They can be stored on your counter for 4 to 5 days.

When buying unshelled Purple Hull Peas it’s good to know that as the hull turns purple the peas inside become firmer and easier to get out. The flavor of the peas in the purple hulls is a little more intense than their slightly immature green hulled companions. Both are good to eat, especially when you combine the two.

And speaking of good to eat, here’s a healthy Pinkeye Purple Hull Pea Soup recipe that’s a favorite at the farm. While we still have field tomatoes at the market you can create a tomato based soup that uses our summer tomatoes and our fall purple hull peas.

Pinkeye Purple Hull Soup



  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • ¼ onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • Fresh Pint Pinkeye Purple Hull peas, rinsed
  • 3 – 4 slices bacon, cut in 2 – 3 inch pieces
  • Cilantro for garnish


  • Blend tomatoes, onion and garlic* in food processor.
  • Put purple hull peas in a pot, add 3 – 4 cups of water, and bring to boil, turn down to medium heat and continue cooking at a rolling boil for 15 minutes.
  • Cook bacon in Dutch oven or soup pot. Remove bacon when crisp and discard bacon grease from pot.
  • Add tomato mixture to Dutch oven, cook for 10 minutes and let tomato mixture reduce.
  • Add purple hull peas and the liquid they were cooked in to Dutch oven. Crumble bacon into pot, reserving some for garnish.
  • Cook soup about 10 minutes to combine flavors.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and a few pieces of crumbled bacon.

*If you are not a fan of garlic, you can sauté the garlic in ½ Tbsp. of the bacon grease for a milder garlic flavor.

Other Pinkeye Purple Hull Pea Recipes


Seedless Watermelons…It’s all in the Genes.



We all know that plants have seeds. If you plant a seed from a fruit or vegetable you will get the same, or similar fruit or vegetable. So where do the seeds come from for a seedless watermelon?

There are seeds for seedless watermelons. However to have the vines bear fruit we plant watermelon seeds from watermelons with seeds to pollinate the seedless variety.

Here’s the best and most concise explanation I could find. If you would rather skip the science class, feel free to scroll down to our newest recipe, Agua Fresca de Sandia.

  • The first seedless watermelons were produced in 1939 by Kihara and Nishiyama, researchers at the Japanese National Institute of Genetics.
  • A normal watermelon is diploid, which means it has two sets of chromosomes (the thread-like structures that carry an organism’s genes). Normally, when one plant pollinates another, the embryo plants in the resulting seeds contain one set of chromosomes from one parent and one from the other, giving them a complete set of two.
  • But there’s a chemical called colchicine, an alkaloid extracted from the autumn crocus and some other plants that can cause the chromosomes in dividing plant cells to double. By applying colchicine to the terminal buds of watermelon plants, Kihara and Nishiyama were able to produce offspring with were tetraploid–they had four sets of chromosomes instead of just two.
  • They then mated the tetraploid plants with ordinary diploid plants. Since the offspring received two sets of chromosomes from one parent and only one from the other, they were triploid–they had three sets of chromosomes. They were also sterile: they’d produce flowers, but no seeds.
  • Of course, since fruit exists to house seeds, the triploid plants also had no reason to produce watermelons. Fortunately, they could be tricked into it: if their flowers were pollinated by a fertile plant with an even number of chromosomes, they acted as if they’d been fertilized, even though they really hadn’t, and developed fruit (which isn’t, strictly speaking, seedless, but the pale, soft seeds it does contain can be eaten instead of having to be spit out.)
  • In the field, seedless watermelon seeds are produced by sandwiching a row of tetraploid plants between two rows of diploid plants. Seedless watermelons, in turn, are produced by sandwiching a row of seedless watermelon plants between rows of regular watermelon plants, because the triploid plants have to be pollinated by diploid or tetraploid plants to produce fruit.                                



Agua Fresca de Sandia


  • 4cups diced, peeled ripe watermelon
  • 3cups water
  • 2 to 3teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


  1. Blend together the watermelon or cantaloupe with 1 1/2 cups of the water, the lime juice and the sugar at high speed until smooth.
  2. Strain through a medium strainer into a large pitcher or bowl.
  3. Stir in the remaining water.
  4. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.
  5. Fill a glass with ice, pour in the agua fresca, garnish with a mint sprig and serve.

Recipe adapted from Martha Rose Shulman




Produce with an Identity Crisis



If you’ve been to our stand at the farmers market recently then you may be confused by our October beans. Yes, we have October beans in July. How can that be? It’s all in a name. October beans are also known as borlotti beans, cranberry beans, Roman beans or romano beans. Like many other vegetables, October beans are called different names depending where you’re from.

These beans are not really having an identity crisis, they just have a few aliases.

Here’s some tips about October (borlotti) beans:

  • Look for pods that have bulging beans. Don’t pick the flat ones.
  • The beans in the fall should be cream with the same red/pink striping as the pods. However, in the summer it is not unusual for some to be mostly green. Again look for pods that look like they have nice size beans in them.
  • You really have to shell them. The pod is inedible at this stage. I would leave them in their shell until I wanted to cook them.
    Don’t shell them at the stand. As you can see they roll away pretty easily.
  • In doing research I’ve discovered that cooking time varies from website to website. The shortest cook time was 20 minutes. I suggest you take one out and see if that is the texture you want. You can always cook them a little longer.

But now is the time to take advantage of these beans in their freshest form. Of course they will be back in October.

Here’s a link to a tasty recipe using fresh borlotti beans:
Borlotti Beans with Garlic and Olive Oil

They are also tasty in soups.


Exploding Spaghetti Squash


Spahetti squash Explosion









We’ve had a few customers mention that they tried to cook their spaghetti squash in the microwave and it EXPLODED!

Here’s a great video with nutritional information about spaghetti squash and how to cook it without it exploding in your microwave.

Spoiler alert: Use a knife to poke holes in it to release the steam.