In “Mad Flavor,” the author describes his occasional forays from the farm in search of exceptional culinary experiences from small artisanal producers. Mad Flavor is currently reporting from location in Austin, the author’s hometown.
The first thing to say about Austin’s Boggy Creek Farm is that its vegetables have mad flavor. Russian-red kale so bursting with flavor that you almost want to eat it raw, though it’s terrific sauteed with garlic, chile pepper, and olive oil. Peppery arugula. Impossibly sweet tomatoes, available out of season in transcendent smoke-dried form (more on these below). And so on.
The second thing to say about Boggy Creek — which runs three acres right in the middle of Austin and another 10 or so just outside — is that it provides a model for how urban areas can sustainably feed themselves.
Boggy Creek runs biweekly market stands outside of its pretty old farmhouse right in the middle of Austin’s densely populated East Side. They’re social events. Dozens of people attend. Chefs grab armfuls of some pristine veggie; enthusiastic home cooks swap recipes with the farmers. Kids of all ages gape at the dramas playing out in the henhouse, source of Austin’s most flavorful eggs and its juiciest gossip column.
At my farm, we find ourselves hauling vegetables around at least three times a week during the growing season — sometimes at unspeakable hours of the morning. Boggy Creek sells the great bulk of its produce with 20 feet of its backdoor. (It also sells some veggies to Whole Foods’ flagship Austin store). Its customers come to it. Makes my tired farmer’s heart flutter.
About those smoke-dried tomatoes. Austin’s climate is so hot, it has two major tomato harvests: early summer and early fall. (In between, it’s too damned hot even for tomatoes.)
Boggy Creek’s fresh tomatoes are revered for their full, sweet flavor, and they get snapped up at market. But Farmer Larry always pulls a bunch back and smokes them, creating an impossibly sweet dried tomato with a robust lashing of smoke. Available year-round, this delicacy combines two of humanity’s greatest inventions: sun-dried tomatoes and chipotle peppers. Italy meets Mexico.
Their flavor is so strong that I usually use them sparingly, tucking two or three into a dish as a secret ingredient, a blast of sweetness and smoke. When I’m feeling decadent, I’ll slice up a whole bag, sautÃ© them with olive oil, garlic, and crushed chile, and use it to sauce pasta.
Every city should have at least 10 Boggy Creeks.