Every now and then, someone writes in to let us know they’ve discovered a bug in their delivery. I always stop myself from saying, “Oh no problem, we won’t charge you extra!” Bugs are, in fact, a pretty important part of our operation. Just before Mother’s Day, Stephanie took me out to the garden to show me what the ladybugs were up to. The dill plants were in full flower—soon we would be able to harvest dill seed to make pickles out of the sweet little gherkins that were just making their appearance on the cucumber vines. In the meantime, though, the ladybugs had set up camp there, and they were busy indeed. Baby ladybugs hatched each day, and the mothers were busy feeding and caring for their young. On just a few stems of dill, all that is healthy and abundant in the garden were brought to light.
All good organic farmers and growers understand balance and harmony. People often ask Stephanie why, since we don’t hatch eggs on the farm, she has a rooster. “Balance,” she always replies. The hens enjoy having a rooster around for protection and to keep the pecking order in balance. So much about growing food relies on balance. In the late spring, the harlequin beetles move in—notorious for their voracious love of all brassicas, I was terrified of what havoc they would wreak on the end-of-season kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts, but Stephanie seemed relaxed. She pointed to a shabby patch of spent kale and said, “We’ll leave that for them and they’ll be happy.” Sure enough they were, and left the thriving, strong plants alone. Plants weakened by pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and environmental stresses are much more appealing to all sorts of pests and maladies, so really it was balance that saved us again. Spraying for beetles would have created a disharmony that would cause greater problems down the line.
The garden is alive, and everything in it has a place and a function—it’s not possible to remove every threat to each plant and preserve the delicate ecosystem. Attack by chemicals is a self-defeating proposition. We look to the ladybugs, to the purple martins and the earthworms to tell us whether the garden is healthy or not. Years ago, my family was eating in a Chinese restaurant when my mother discovered a bug in her stir-fry. She called the waiter over, and he examined her plate with concern and distress. When he saw the bug, though, his expression lifted and cleared, and with a big smile he said, “Oh! Vegetable bug!” Another sort of bug might have been cause for refund or replacement, but a vegetable bug . . . what else would you expect in a plate of vegetables?
Shrimp Tacos with Apple Cucumber salsa and Chipotle Crema
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined & chopped
fish fry or finely ground cornmeal
salt & pepper
grapeseed oil, or other neutral-flavored oil for frying
2 apples, diced
2 cucumbers, diced
1/2 small red onion, minced
2-3 jalapenos, minced (seeds and membranes removed for less heat)
small handful cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
pinch of raw sugar
1/2 c. creme fraiche or sour cream
1-2 canned chipotle chiles, chopped to a paste (remove seeds for less heat)
Season fish fry or cornmeal with salt and pepper. Toss shrimp pieces in fish fry until coated. Heat oil in small heavy skillet. Fry shrimp quickly and remove to brown paper bags or paper towels to drain.
In a medium sized bowl, toss diced apples and cucumber with jalapenos, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, vinegar and pinch of sugar. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Place creme fraiche or sour cream in a small bowl and add chipotle paste. Thin with a little bit of cream if necessary. In another small bowl, mash avocado with a little lime juice with a fork. To assemble tacos: heat tortillas on a well-seasoned dry iron skillet until soft and beginning to puff. Fill with shrimp and avocado, then top with chipotle crema and apple cucumber salsa & serve.