Grow, Cook, Drink: Who Cooks for You Farm

The owners of Who Cooks For You Farm put together a vibrant farmstand display.




Photo by Laura Petrilla
 

 

Farming is the nurturing of seed, dirt and water into food. Bugs and blight, heat waves and frosts — all are part of the day-to-day of a farmer’s life. The ideal of a bucolic farmscape, however, resonates most with shoppers. Pittsburgh farm markets often have lagged in capitalizing on visual appeal, compared to the high-stacked, dew-dripping displays at Whole Foods or the photogenic setups of California markets. Chris Brittenburg and Aeros Lillstrom, owners of Who Cooks For You Farm in Armstrong County, want to change that.

“If I just bring a bunch of stuff I killed myself to grow, and then I just plop it on a table and say, ‘OK, go buy it,’ well we don’t think that’s good enough,” says Brittenburg.

The couple says a colorful farmers market display is a quick way to grab the attention of potential customers, enticing them to touch, smell and taste a bright, diverse selection of fruits and vegetables. With an ever-increasing number of vendors, these relative newcomers — they started selling in 2009 — know the advantage of a red, yellow and green flag formed from bell peppers.

“We’re there to show that nature is beautiful, that food is beautiful. This is part of who we are, and it becomes what we are,” adds Lillstrom.

They have rules. They wash produce at the farm before shipping it to market. They stack items in an aesthetic way rather than willy-nilly on the table. And they generally don’t display two crops of the same color next to each other.

Of course, eye-catching displays are pointless if nobody is buying what you’re selling. “People want to see variety, but they don’t always buy it. They see it, but then they buy carrots and tomatoes,” says Brittenburg.

As wonderful as carrots and tomatoes are, they’re just a small part of Who Cooks For You Farm’s cornucopia of crops from the cucurbits, brassicas, nightshades and amaranthaceae families. Lillstrom says the bright display is a conversation starter. From there it’s up to the farmer and often other customers to convince someone to try a candycane-striped Chioggia beet or fringed, purple-and-green mizuna for the first time.

That’s good for business and body.

So while Estragon might reject Vladimir’s offer of a black radish in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot” because he “only likes the pink ones” and would much prefer a carrot to either, perhaps it’s time to take a cue from Brittenburg and Lillstrom and embrace a world of potential in such a rainbow of this humble vegetable.

“All of them, they’re just beautiful,” Lillstrom says.



 

Grilled Escarole

Serves 4
Courtesy of Chris Brittenburg and Aeros Lillstrom

 

  • 1 head escarole, cut into quarters
     
  • Olive oil, salt and mustard vinaigrette (or any other assertive vinaigrette you may have on hand; anchovy vinaigrette is excellent)
     
  • Garnishes: croutons, radishes, anchovies, Parmesan cheese, grilled spring onions

 

1. Soak escarole in water for several minutes.

2. Shake dry. Toss with a little olive oil and salt.  

3. Place escarole on a medium-hot grill and cook for several minutes on each side, depending on how charred you like it.

4. Toss with vinaigrette. Add garnishes and serve.

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