Reflecting on Thanksgiving, I realize that it was much more than a single day of giving thanks but rather a time of gratitude, plenty, healing, love and community on Peace and Plenty Farm. I joined dear friend Melinda, partner Simon, daughter Sahara and 13 other family members.
This first Thanksgiving in a year of change and uncoupling, had us celebrating as two families. I lept at the invitation to shake up my tradition and join the Peace and Plenty Farm-giving. As I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, the city melted away and was like a distant memory by the time I hit Lake County, a new region for me, and let me tell you, I am hooked, my heart was stolen and compass reset.
I remember not too long ago, Melinda and I were perched on stools at Bar Tartine (miss so much) and I was enraptured by visions of her future and desire to become a farmer when her daughter left for college, returning to the roots of her family. I knew Melinda as a former model, writer, mom, friend, and a chic urbanite. Low and behold, three and a half years later, I experienced her bounty and revelled in the beauty she and Simon have created together. Proud does not express my feelings, it's more like awe-struck.
At Peace & Plenty Farm, the goal was to build a thriving organic farm that creates a place for community to gather for weddings and events; a place for school children to learn; and to help contribute to an economy of sustainable agriculture. Melinda and Simon believe by building a farm to support the local food movement, and using organic practices, they can contribute to a more resilient American food system. They promote the local community, improve the health of the land, and minimize the environmental impact of farming. The property was once known as “Gaddy Ranch,” and was the most prosperous and flourishing homestead in the area. The farmhouse and barn both date back to the mid 1800's and are a reminder of what was once the backbone of this country - small family farms.
After following this project from day one, as soon as my feet hit the earth, I felt the pulse of this living place. The farmhouse was buzzing with people and three dogs, the Farm Stand was being readied for our afternoon meal.
Usually, the farmstand is filled with all of the products produced on the farm including Walnut oil, Walnuts, Saffron (which you can order on-line) and seasonal, organic produce, all paid on an honor-system.
(images by Michelle Walker Photo)
Melinda, a friend Matthew, and I (plus dogs Gracie and Amos) paused from dinner-prep to walk out to the saffron field. Though the height of the harvest was over, the green stems still blanketed the field, and with eyes always on the prize, Melinda spotted a few left-over crocus flowers and promptly picked them.
I learned that 270,000 flowers were harvested during the season which runs the last week of October through November. The buds are plucked before opening to preserve the fragrance and potency, harvesting from 1a.m. - 4a.m. and separating the stamen from the bloom takes place the remaining hours of the day. Everything about the spice is beautiful; the green, willowy stems, the purple flower blooms, and the red stamen, and dried saffron thread which gives way to golden when cooked or diluted.
Once supper-prep was complete, the parade of dish after dish was marched to the spot and we gave thanks for the bounty, literally, the bounty of the farm, saffron water, squash, walnut oil dressing and more.
We had dessert inside the farmhouse once the sun went down. A bit of the city made its way to the farm. We had Pumpkin and Pecan Pie from Bi-Rite, offered at The Epicurean Trader in Bernal and an Apple Crumble Pie from local bakery Black Jet Baking Co. I contributed this Chocolate-Tahini Tart with Crunchy Salt made from recipe by Alison Roman from Every Day is Saturday, using Scharffenberger Chocolate and Seed + Mill Tahini. This lovely decoration of pomegranate seeds from their tree was added by Sahara to save the fact that my Border Terrier Amos found the tart in the back of the car while packing for our trip.
I can't recommend enough, a trip to the farm or a stay in their Airbnb or airstream (coming soon). If you do go, please give the farmers a huge hug for me.
Health benefits of Saffron
A Powerful Antioxidant Saffron contains an impressive variety of plant compounds that act as antioxidants — molecules that protect your cells against free radicals and oxidative stress. (include crocin, crocetin, safranal, and kaempferol
Crocin and crocetin are carotenoid pigments and responsible for saffron’s red color. Both compounds may have antidepressant properties, protect brain cells against progressive damage, improve inflammation, reduce appetite, and aid weight loss. Safranal gives saffron its distinct taste and aroma. Research shows that it may help improve your mood, memory, and learning ability, as well as protect your brain cells against oxidative stress. Lastly, kaempferol is found in saffron flower petals. This compound has been linked to health benefits, such as reduced inflammation, anticancer properties, and antidepressant activity