BY EMILY MCKENNA
There was a brief hint of the coming spring over Daylight Savings weekend back in March. The temperatures peaked into the high 40s and the sun shone for a few days straight.
Eager to leave behind the dreariness of February, Vermonters let themselves be coaxed outside by the brightness and warm weather. I took a long walk that weekend and dreamed of the months ahead when I could leave my house without a jacket and maybe even see fresh green grass. My husband and dog gleefully chased one another around outside. Unfortunately, as is the case with March in Vermont, the weather quickly turned wintry again. We got a foot of snow a few weeks later.
Of course, this blip of spring-like weather and fast return to the cold did little to disrupt Christa Alexander and Mark Fasching of Jericho Settlers Farm. By March, they were deep into preparations for the growing season ahead. Among many other tasks, they planted and potted seeds, weaned their winter-born pigs, transplanted cold-hardy crops such as scallions, lettuce and cilantro into their hoop houses and hired and trained a new summer crew. Once April and May hit, they prepped seedlings in their greenhouse, harvested early salad greens from their hoop houses and seeded and plowed cover crops in their vegetable fields. By June, most of the seedling transplanting was done and the pair, who founded the farm in 2002, began harvesting twice a week.
Christa and Mark take their primary harvest from September through November, though they harvest what they can (mainly greens and tomatoes) year round from their hoop houses. They add to their hectic spring and early summer schedule by making wholesale deliveries, attending the Burlington Farmers Market, growing grassfed beef and lamb, pasture-raised pork and chicken and eggs. They also distribute a year-round CSA share, which kept me and my husband well fed over the winter.
I asked Christa to tell me what vegetable or fruit she most looks forward to eating during this early part of the growing season. She was definitive: cherry tomatoes. Lucky for Christa (or perhaps because she loves them so much) she and Mark grow a few varieties, including Sungolds, Yellow Minis, Red Sakuras and Black Cherries. Christa enjoys the tomatoes straight off the vine—sweet, fragrant, fuzzy and warm from the sun.
Taking inspiration from Christa, I developed a recipe for a simple cherry tomato salad that celebrates these little round jewels in their natural, raw form. Instead of flavoring the salad with the usual Italianinfluenced oil and vinegar, I whisked together a quick dressing of lime juice, fish sauce and a touch of sugar then tossed the tomatoes with cucumber for crunch, sliced jalapeño for heat and fresh mint and basil leaves. The salad will make your mouth water. Add grilled steak and a side of fragrant Basmati or Jasmine rice and you have a meal.
Jericho Settlers Farm
22 Barber Farm Rd., Jericho
Farm stand open every day 8am–6pm\