Farmer Lee Jones and His Favorite Fall Crops: Top 12 List
First, some context. It was hard—really, really hard—for Farmer Lee to pick just a handful of crops among the hundreds we grow. Think about something you love, whether it’s your coin collection, your books, or your shoes. Your racks and racks of music CDs. Your comic book collection. Your favorite culinary knives.
Now, imagine walking into a room filled with hundreds of incredible choices and being told you could only select a few as your favorites.
Not easy, right?
But, be patient with us. Farmer Lee is about to do his best! Here is his top 12 list of fall crops, in no particular order.
#1 Citrus Marigolds
These vibrant blooms offer up the citrusy, zestful flavors of bright tangerine and orange soda while adding a soft layer of added texture and a delicate aroma to your creative dishes and menus. Citrus marigold blooms add stunning pops of color to dishes, too, in bright hues of orange, yellow, and red.
#2 Citrus Coriander Blooms
Farmer Lee also loves how citrus coriander blooms provide that citrus-like flavor he appreciates, along with a nutty-spicy flavor—even a touch of salty lemon! These blooms are lacy clusters of white petals that offer up the perfume of citrus and provide beauty to the plate, with this entire herb being deliciously edible. Texture is tender.
#3 Baby Carrots
Baby carrots come in a marvelous range of colors, flavors, and shapes, being extremely versatile, delicious and nutritious. Choices of baby-sized carrots include:
Cobalt carrots: mildly delicious carrot flavor with a firm texture and nice crunch; dark purple roots have a small white core
Dragon carrots: sweet carrot flavor with an herbal finish and a crunchy texture; this farm-fresh carrot has a purple-red skin and fiery orange interior
Long carrots: super sweet flavor with a light herbal finish and crunchy texture; this traditionally shaped carrot has orange skin and interior
Round carrots: nuttier flavor than traditional carrots with herbal notes; lovely orange, inside and out, in a globe-like shape
Yellow carrots: very sweet with a nutty finish, crunchy and juicy; these fresh carrots are buttery yellow, inside and out
Mixed carrots: can’t decide? Here is our mixed carrot option, available in baby size!
To help, here is carrot sizing information.
#4 Ultra Mesclun
Picture a perfect balance of flavors, textures and more, and then it’s easy to see why ultra mesclun is one of Farmer Lee’s favorite fall crops. Think slightly salty, slightly sweet, slightly bitter and slightly sour in highly aromatic leaves in hues of green, red, chartreuse, amber, lime and magenta. There are crisp textures, buttery ones, brittle ones—and ones that bite back, too.
#5 Cuke with Bloom
Talk about a combo! Farmer Lee isn’t the only one who lists the cuke bloom-cucumber as one of their favorites. The flavor is refreshing, clean, soft, melon-like. The micro cucumbers provide a delicately crispy texture to dishes while the velvety blossoms offer a soft yet crunchy bite of deliciousness. Cukes with bloom provide beauty to plates and glasses alike, with the light green cukes topped by summery yellow blossoms.
#6 Ultra Mixed Lettuce
Talk about an amazing range of flavors! From grassy to nutty to earthy, our mixed lettuce offers up the best of the day’s harvest—with textures ranging from chewy to crunchy to crisp. FYI: ultra lettuce has leaves of 3-4”.
Chef Matt Schaefer, executive chef at Spanish Oaks Golf Club in Bee Cave, Texas, has a special place in his heart for our ultra-sized lettuces. Having said that, he doesn’t want to pick one single variety, saying, “I like to mix them up, mainly for color, to give people something different than what they’re used to.” That’s the beauty of mixed lettuce!
#7 Pea Bloom
These are some really beautiful blossoms, adding a mild pea taste to dishes, along with a soft, crunchy texture. Pea bloom colors include pink, purple, and white, adding amazing touches of color in your dishes.
These blooms pair well with baby carrots, listed above, as well as with pea tendrils and citrus lace. (And, the purists among you are probably thinking that Farmer Lee is cheating, adding a couple more favorites to his list! You may be right.)
#8 Petite Red Ribbon Sorrel
Farmer Lee is famous for his statement that petite red ribbon sorrel is, without a doubt, one of the sexiest products we grow. “I love the amazing color contrast between the green leaves and their red veins,” he says, “its distinguishable flavor and pleasant crunch—and how you can use this product in such a wide variety of dishes.”
Comments from other chefs include how it’s:
an “interesting plant with equally interesting flavors . . . creating layers of flavor that are dynamic on the palate”
“showing up everywhere now as a foil for something rich. It has such a beautiful leaf structure and I love the veined look of red ribbon sorrel. This plant can be used in foie gras, with scallops, lobsters and more.”
“playing really well in desserts. You can use it in savory applications but also in sweet desserts that need just a little sourness and brightness.”
(Because Farmer Lee wants to play fair, he decided not to note how red ribbon sorrel pairs especially well with nasturtium and basil.)
#9 Baby Root Spinach
This crop tastes deliciously mild and fresh, green and buttery, with the natural sugar content of our root spinach going off the charts, with brix readings as high as an apple. Farmer Lee loves the spinach for its taste alone—but he also appreciates how it’s a perfect example of how we can grow spinach, year-round, in tune with Mother Nature, thanks to our use of cold frames.
#10 Leaf Sampler
This sampler of deliciously edible leaves provides the best of the best of the day’s harvest—leaves that offer up marvelous punches of flavor, plus added textures and hues to your dishes. These samplers can include the following: a variety of shiso leaves, plus root beer leaves, variegated nasturtium leaves, hibiscus leaves, purple sweet potato leaves and petite kinome leaves.
Flavors range from floral to pungent, along with sweet-minty and licorice flavorings. Edible leaves provide pops of color to the plate, including in reds, pinks, yellows, greens and purples.
#11 Brussels Sprouts
“When people say they don’t like Brussels sprouts,” Farmer Lee says, “I find myself wondering if they’ve ever eaten them at the right time of year. This luscious vegetable is one that physically can be harvested early and, to the eye, all looks fine. But we don’t do that because frost is what brings the sugar levels – and therefore the flavor—up.”
Brussels sprouts from The Chef’s Garden offer up nutty, savory, cabbage-like flavor and, when harvested after a frost, they’ve been compared to grapes from a fine ice wine.
#12 Micro Cilantro
The list of Farmer Lee’s favorite fall crops ends with micro cilantro. What’s amazing is that not everyone experiences cilantro in the same way. Many people enjoy its warm, nutty and spicy flavor, noting a tang of citrus that reminds them of an orange. Others taste a salty, lemony flavor—while still others note an aggressive sage-citrus taste. This light green herb is fascinating!
Contact Your Product Specialist Today
We invite you to use this as a brainstorming list of what to order next. You can also check to see what’s currently available on the farm. If you’re new to The Chef’s Garden, welcome! You can get started here.
We look forward to being your personal farmer!