How to Use Your Fresh Herbs: Basil

Now that our potted herbs are available in the market, it’s time to start thinking about what to do with them and how to tend to them. Each one is different and there’s actually a ton of different uses that extend beyond cooking. For this reason we’ve created this herb blog series – so you can know how to not only pick out and take care of your herbs, but how to use them in ways you may have never thought of before. First up on the herb list: Basil.

How to Harvest
When picking out your basil plant you want to look for bright green leaves, avoiding any that may have black, brown or yellow spots Once at home, putting it in a sunny kitchen window will give it the perfect amount of sunlight to produce more leaves. When you decide to use it, pinch a few leaves off at a time on a regular basis so the plant can fill out.

farm fresh basil plants

How to Use It
Now that you’ve picked out your basil plant, it’s time to use it! Here are a few different ways you can benefit by adding it into your lifestyle:
1. Pesto – This is one of the most common uses for Basil and goes great on pasta, pizza, salads, meat and fish!
2. Drinks – Adding a little basil to your cocktail could be exactly what you need this summer to cool down. You can even add it to non-alcoholic drinks as well! Check out our drink recipes for some inspiration.
3. Headache Relief – Basil is a healing herb and can be used as a natural muscle relaxant. This also means it can be used to relieve headaches and sinus pain. You just need the steam from the plant. All you have to do is boil some water, put in a few basil leaves, and place a towel over your head. Breath in deeply for 5-10 minutes and inhale the steam.
4. Calming Bath – The antiseptic properties in basil will keep your skin soft and free from infection. Just add some leaves or oil to your bath to see the effects.
5. Essential Oil – Making your own basil essential oil can have many health benefits. From nausea, indigestion, respirator problems, stress and more, basil can be used to relieve many common health issues.

How to Store it
There’s a couple different options when it comes to storing your basil plants. One would be to put the cut stems in a container of water and keep them near a window (changing the water every other day to keep the basil fresh). Another option is to wrap the basil in a damp paper towel and stick it in the refrigerator (this will keep for 4-5 days).

Now that the herb season is in full swing, there’s no better time to stop in to Bishop’s Orchards and pick up your Basil plant. They won’t last long, so grab yours before they’re gone!

Living a Green Lifestyle

Even though Earth Day has come and gone, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue to make a positive impact on the environment. We here at Bishop’s Orchards do our best to live a green lifestyle (all year long no matter what’s in season). From recycling, to clean eating, solar, eating locally grown, and selling chemical free cleaning products, we want to make the world and our community a safer and cleaner place – And you can do the same! From recycling, reducing food waste, saving water, and more, now is a better time than any to switch to a more eco-friendly lifestyle.  If you’re looking for help on how to make your lifestyle a little more green this coming spring and summer, keep on reading because we not only have the tips to help you out, but the products to help you make the transition.

Green Cleaningenvironmentally friendly cleaning

Falling into the trap of the common everyday cleaning brands is easy when you’re busy and stressed. What you may not realize is how harmful not only the chemicals inside the bottle are to the environment, but how the plastic bottle itself is as well. By purchasing brands like Better Life, Ecover, or 7th Generation (all available at Bishop’s Orchards) or even making your own, you won’t think twice about home cleaning. These cleaning products are plant-derived, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly. They’re even derived from solar energy processes and recyclable materials with formulas that are biodegradable and work just as well, if not better than the conventional cleaning products. Plant based cleaning products do an amazing job at keeping your home clean and smelling fresh!

Solarsolar power solar panels

Powering your home or business with clean energy has many environmental benefits. That’s why, if possible and within your budget, switching to solar can have a huge impact. This is a project that Bishop’s Orchards has taken on in the past year, and we’re already starting to see cost savings and environmental gains. From 2009 to 2016 our Energy Efficiency Program helped us to decrease our electrical usage. We were having an impact but needed to do more! Now, we are “growing” kilowatt hours that will displace fossil fuels to power about 80% of our farm’s annual electric usage. This will also help power our Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers that are free for public use! The installation of our solar panels was done on the Farm Market’s roof (381 panels) and across Route 1 on the ground (1108 panels). Based on projections, in 8 years the solar investment will be paid for.

Clean/Green Eatinggreen eating

Environmentally responsible eating is a great way to not only benefit the environment but also you and whomever you’re cooking for! Eating green can be done by using all of your leftover food scraps to create a soup stock, or saving energy doing one weeks worth of meal prep in a day. One trick that helps me to “eat green” is doing exactly that… eating greens. Starting your own outdoor (or indoor) green garden box is fantastic way to reduce carbon footprint from other vegetables brought in via freight. AND growing your greens helps to balance out greenhouse gases, which makes the environment better for everyone. Cultivating your own compost in tandem with a green garden box will help boost soil nutrient content to yield more bountiful growth, while reducing landfill trash. Chances are if you’re eating food that benefits the environment, it will bring the same benefits to you! Check out our abundant display of Hart seeds to start your own green box so you can eat “green” all year long!

Living an eco-friendly life doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be as easy as changing your light bulbs to fluorescent ones, or purchasing a reusable water bottle. It’s never too late to make your life a little greener and make a positive impact on the world, environment, and your community. So, get started today and go green – The Earth will thank you!

Featured Personality: Michaele Williams

Coming to us 10 years ago from a local CT Vineyard and Winery, Michaele Williams has become an essential part of the farm staff at Bishop’s Orchards. Currently the Manager of the greenhouses, small fruits and vegetables, and the seasonal and full time farm staff, Michaele has a lot on her plate not just in the spring and summer months, but throughout the entire year – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.michaele williams farm staff

A typical day for Michaele involves organizing and prioritizing tasks that need to be done and timing them with unpredictable factors like weather, ground workability and timing based on stage of growth (tree, bush, flower/vegetable transplant). Once the staff are given their assignments, she scouts and manages the care given to the vegetable, flower, small fruit and greenhouse crops.

What some people may not realize is that even though spring has officially begun, field work is an ongoing process. “Work on the farm has been ongoing to get ahead of the spring start,” Michaele explains. From rototilling, plastic laying, blueberry pruning, preparing irrigation lines for warmer days and fertilizing long term crops, these are only a few things Michaele has to do to prepare for the spring start. “Winter time definitely gives you time to breath. However, there’s still a lot to do.” For example, updating and repairing equipment, meetings and seminars to learn and prepare for next year’s crops, pruning (apple, peach and pear trees, blueberries, raspberries), seed ordering and planting calendars. All of these necessary tasks this has to be done before spring arrives.

As for what’s happening on the farm now, we just finished transplanting 329 10-year old blueberry bushes that came from a farm in Kensington, CT. “On Sunday, we just put the last one in the ground. Now we have to backfill with topsoil, add irrigation lines and mulch them.” The addition of these blueberry bushes will not only increase blueberry production and the supply in the store and our CSA program, but also provide more for customers to come out and pick themselves during our Pick-Your-Own season! Currently we are also taking the hay off the tops of strawberries that protected them from the winter cold, grafting apple trees, and getting ready to bring the herbs and Mother’s Day baskets into the store on May 1.

Not only does the local, fresh produce give Michaele something to look forward to each year, but working at Bishop’s Orchards has given her other reasons to love her job as well. “My favorite part about working at Bishop’s is the diversity in my job and the people I get to do it with. Producing quality fruit and vegetables that people are taking home and feeding to their families means a great deal to me. It really impacted me the first time I was thanked for doing what I do. It is hard work but worth it.”

The Asparagus is Coming!

Well, it’s almost May. That not only means spring, warmer weather, and less snow (hopefully), but also the start of Asparagus season here at Bishop’s Orchards! Besides our potted herbs, it’s the first crop that becomes available to purchase in the farm market, straight from our fields. Man, is it a crowd pleaser. Why so popular you might ask? Well not only is our Asparagus farm fresh and grown right here in Guilford, CT, but asparagus is low in fat and calories, making it a perfect go to if you want to make the switch to a healthier diet. It’s even high in fiber, has tons of antioxidants, and contains both Vitamin E and K.

While it’s still a little early for the Asparagus, it’s going to be popping out of the ground before we know it. Since the season doesn’t last very long (beginning of June tops), it is best to be prepared for when it finally hits the shelves. Now is the time to start figuring out what you’re going to make with it – especially for those kiddos because let’s face it, it’s a green vegetable and to them, nothing is less appealing. We are here to help you get past the hurdle and make something that’s tasty and nutritious for not only them, but for you as well! So, how do you get the kids to eat this ever so healthy green snack? Well lucky for you we have some delicious recipe ideas that are sure to please. Try them out and let us know what you think!

bacon wrapped asparagus recipe

Are you looking for that perfect after school snack for the kids? Try out these bacon wrapped Asparagus!

lemon chicken stir fry with asparagus recipe

Change up your stir fry by adding in some Asparagus! Make it with chicken or add in other veggies for a healthy lunch or dinner option!

asparagus pasta salad recipe

This asparagus pasta salad is the perfect summer picnic recipe. Make it as a side dish or eat it as a meal – it’s light and flavorful and easy to prepare!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can always search for more recipes online at our Bishop’s Cookbook. Follow us on Facebook to see when our very own Asparagus will become available in the store to purchase! For more information, visit www.bishopsorchards.com or call 203-453-2338.

Going Green in the Greenhouse

Farming at Bishop’s Orchards has truly expanded over the years.  Part of that expansion has been the greenhouses located across the street from the store, behind the barn. In 2006 the first greenhouse was built with the second one following two years later. Originally built to grow the vegetable transplants to be put in our fields, but now they’re being used for several reasons. From April through September, they are used daily to grow not only vegetable transplants, but flower transplants for the fields, and potted herbs for the store.

Now I know what you’re thinking….what is a vegetable transplant? I was wondering the same thing. But thanks to Michaele Williams, the Assistant Farm Manager, she explained the process to me. “A transplant is seeded in our greenhouse 4-6 weeks before the last chance of frost to get a head start. It is then transplanted to our field after the chance of any frost has passed,” Michaele explains. “We have a total of about 90,000 transplants. We germinate approximately 38,000 flower transplants, with the majority being Zinnias (16,000). We also do about 4,000 Sunflowers and a mix of Lisianthus, Delphiniums, Bachelors Buttons, Statice, Snapdragons, Cockcomvs, Queen Anne’slace, and an assortment of others which are for sale in the store and through a CSA share. Every seed is started in the greenhouse and are then brought outside and planted in the fields.”

Michaele added that this year we are also doing more vegetable transplants than we’ve ever done before. And you know what that means? More farm fresh produce to purchase in the store! We will have, Brussel Sprouts, Cucumbers, Cantaloupes, Fennel, Kale, Peas, Peppers, Radicchio, Summer Squash, Winter Squash, and a large quantity of Tomatoes (about 10,000 transplants). New to the crop this year are the Swiss Chard, Pedrone Peppers, and Broccolini transplants.

In addition to vegetables, every year one of our most popular greenhouse items hits the shelf – our Mother’s Day baskets! 75 baskets are made and within two weeks we’re completely sold out. The reason for such high demand is not only because they make the perfect gift, but because of what’s in them and how easy we make it to plant and grow them right at home. The main herbs you could find in them are Basil, Dill, Oregano, Thyme, Chive, Cilantro or Tarragon. They are put into a biodegradable bowl that can either then be put right into a planter, or if you want them to grow larger, you can separate them and plant them individually. We are also adding two new bowls to the shelf – a Lettuce bowl which will contain a combination of both red and green lettuce, and a mixed Kale bowl that can be eaten raw or used for sauteing.

Not only do we sell our herbs and vegetables in the store, but they are also used in our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  Local restaurants like to get in on the farm fresh goodness too!  South Lane Bistro in Guilford is one of our largest supporters and uses many of our herbs and vegetables to cook with, as well as garnish dishes, in their restaurant. While there are other restaurants that use our fresh, seasonal produce, we are hoping to partner with more restaurants in the community.  Many chefs want that local farm fresh flavor, and knowing exactly where the food they are cooking with is coming from.

If you’re interested in learning more about our herbs and vegetables or starting a partnership with us, give us a call at 203-453-2338 or visit our website at www.bishopsorchards.com. AND be sure to check back soon for our Mother’s Day baskets (available two weeks before Mother’s Day)!

Convenience Eating Made Nutritious

Convenience more than ever plays a prominent role in food choices of today’s consumers. It determines where, when, why, what, and how you eat and prepare your meals, with two perceptions of convenience being related to both time and effort. The demand for convenience foods is at an all time high, especially with home delivery for groceries, meal kits and internet shopping. Here at Bishop’s Orchards we have added convenient traits to certain products marked healthy/beneficial, to compete with this demand, while staying fresh, local and true to our name.

Convenience foods don’t always have to mean take-out and prepared foods in the form of canned soups or quick-cook pasta and rice. Here at the farm market, we limit the amount of processed foods due to the amount of added artificial ingredients. Our Prepared Meals are made with fewer ingredients, with “real foods” on the list. These meals can be heated in the microwave or oven, with side dishes to accompany. Try our Grab N’ Go Crock Pot or Grill Meals, made with fresh ingredients here with everything you need in one bag! They feed a family of 4-5, with no gluten, vegan & vegetarian options available! In the near future, you will even have the option to order online. We will be offering a Webcart option, for ordering all your Bishop’s groceries, for pick-up right at the farm market, taking Grab N’ Go to a whole new level.

Despite the time and effort required for meal prepping, there still comes a sense of gratification when you “prepare” a meal. For this purpose, “Meal Prep Mondays,” or any day of the week, have become a huge success by providing a designated & convenient time set aside. Bishop’s can be your one-stop-shop for enough vegetables, fruit, meats & healthy carbs to plan individual meals or family servings. Everything from salad mixes and marinated, diced & potatoes, to stuffed chicken breast and side dishes. Plan ahead with batch cooking – making a meal in a large quantity that you can freeze in small portions. While you are portioning off, plan healthy snacks to have on hand at all times! Include no-sugar added yogurts, whole fruit, hummus packs with pretzels or veggies, etc. Store them in the fridge or pantry, creating a strategy with minimal time but long run success.

Remember, when thinking of convenience, always be conscious of keeping “healthy” a main factor, with Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market & Winery in mind as your sole provider.

Integrated Pest Management Process (IPM)

Every year we get asked about how we manage our pest problems, and honestly it’s a difficult question to answer. Not that we have reservations about telling anyone – in fact, we are quite proud of our pest management program.

There are two types of pest (and disease) control programs: Organic, and what people call “conventional”. Organic is fairly simple in that only organic based (derived from natural sources) products are used for disease, insect, and plant nutrition. For some reason many people feel Organic means unsprayed. But, in fact Organic crops frequently are sprayed more than Farms using non organic products.

pest management at bishop's orchardsI put parentheses around “conventional” because that is what not being Organic is referred to in the media. Conventional is a term that goes back to the 60’s and 70’s, when synthetic pesticides were new and used to describe a program of Orchard sanitation (kill everything). Basically, the conventional program evolved around the calendar, “It’s the first week of June so we spray.”

That type of program lost its steam when Orchard sanitation failed and people started to realize you need to work within the ecosystem of the farm to manage pest and disease issues. This was the beginning of a program called Integrated Pest Management or IPM – the type of program we follow today.

An IPM program follows a series of guidelines to help a farmer make sound, science based decisions on the actions taken to control pest or diseases. Any given decision is based on multiple factors, creating a complicated process. Factors include weather/environmental conditions, presence or lack of predator insects, establishment of a threat, and meeting threshold numbers for target insects. If a determination is made, a control is needed. Then we evaluate our control options to target whether or not the pest (or disease) is safe, minimally invasive, but can control the target to maintain numbers below an economic threshold. However, sometimes scouting and analysis might show no need to treat. The threshold numbers for control may not have been met, and the weather may not be advantageous for disease to take hold.

For our IPM program we utilize the University extension service to “scout” the Orchard weekly, helping with on site advice and informative research Emails. In addition, we do our own scouting to stay on top of what is going on in the Orchard. We also tract “degree hours”, insect stages, and tree stages which all give us information we use to make decisions.

For every crop we grow there are different Insects and diseases, and evaluations are different for each. It’s very complicated sometimes, but we have a very experienced staff that wants to preserve the longevity and legacy of Bishops Orchards. We do our best to assure the best and safest fruit we can provide our customers.

Featured Personality: Carrie Bishop Healy

Carrie Healy, part of the Bishop family’s sixth generation, always knew she wanted to come back into the family business, it was just a matter of time. Carrie started working at Bishop’s Orchards in high school doing various jobs – from cashier to managing the concessions trailer, she got an overall understanding of the family business at a young age. However, it is a family rule that in order for a family member to come back into the business, they have to do at least two years of business somewhere else, in a related field, to gain “real world” experience.

So, off Carrie went. First stop was college in the Boston area where she studied Accounting. She then worked for seven years in corporate Accounting and Auditing for two different companies. “I always wanted to come back into the business. Even in high school I knew someday I wanted to come back. After being in Boston and working those jobs, my husband and I wanted to start our family. Once we had our first daughter we decided it was a good time to move back to Guilford and join the family business.”

All her hard work in, and outside of the company paid off. Carrie was recently promoted from Accounting Manager to Chief Financial Officer. “With this new promotion I now deal with the administrative side of the business. Everything from financial information, books, HR, IT and the other administrative work we have – I oversee the strategic growth in all these areas.”

Working at Bishop’s is definitely more unique than being anywhere else, Carrie explains. “Going from Corporate America to this is definitely different, but it’s a nice family knit organization where you know everybody. You don’t have to have Bishop in your name to be treated like family and I think that’s a very important aspect of our business. We strive to treat everyone like our own and take care of each other – it’s a big piece of that for me, and that’s why I love it.”

As for the future of the company, Carrie says the biggest thing they strive for is that the business continues in the ever changing economy and food trend industry and they meet the wants and needs of the customers. “We always have to be on top of our game when it comes to what we offer to customers. We need to make sure we’re offering what our customers and community want in addition to figuring out what the niche markets enjoy so we can add experiences that aren’t already in the area. Our biggest thing is talking to our customers and seeing what they want and providing that to them through our business. We employ a lot of people in town which is important to us, and we want to make our employees and customers happy.”

What’s Trending: Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee is quickly starting to show up everywhere. From coffee houses, food trucks, grocery stores, you name it – it’s changing the way people buy their coffee in the morning. But a lot of us are wondering why. What makes it so different and why is it the new, must try item? Well the truth is there are some pretty significant benefits to drinking cold brew coffee over hot AND regular iced coffee, and there are reasons for its high demand. Wondering what those reasons are? Read on to find out!

How It’s Different. The process of making cold brew coffee only takes a few steps. First, steep ground coffee in room temperature water using a coffee filter. Overnight, store in a room temperature or colder setting, soaking for six to 12 hours or more. Cold brew coffee doesn’t go stale as quickly as hot brew, so you can make your coffee ahead of time and in bulk! Another thing you can do with the coffee is make your own ice cubes. After soaking, instead of pouring it over ice, turn it into ice by pouring it into ice cube trays and freezing.Once it melts, it will blend into the ratio of coffee.

cold brew coffee trend

Why It’s Better. Cold brew coffee is a completely different product than hot coffee. The first thing you will notice is its taste. It has a much sweeter taste than regular coffee because the cold water it’s steeped in, eliminates the bitter taste that is normally released. Coffee brewed cold is far less acidic because when hot water is involved it brings out the acid oils in the coffee beans. As a result, this makes it easier on your digestive system (especially if you’re someone with a sensitive stomach).

Where You Can Find It. If you’re going to a coffee shop to purchase your cold brew, make sure you do your research – not everyone has cold brew coffee yet. However, if you’re more of a planner and like to save some money, you can make it at home and keep it in the refrigerator. Another option is to stop by your local farm market and see if they carry any bottled cold brew coffee – the perfect option if you’re constantly on the go and like to buy in bulk.

If you’re interested in trying a cold brew coffee, we here at Bishop’s Orchards have bottled varieties in the refrigerated section (Califia Cold Brew in Signature, Single Origin, and Black Mocha Blend, and Califia Nitro Cold Brew in Latte and Mocha) – stop by today to pick some up and tell us what you think!

Farm Field Update: Pruning

Don’t let the snow and chilly weather fool you. There’s still work to be done on the farm here at Bishop’s Orchards. In fact, one of the longest processes on the farm takes place during the winter – pruning. Because we have over 100 acres of apple trees, it takes time to prune them all, but the task itself can be rather fun. Currently apple pruning is ahead of schedule because of the lack of snow this winter and cold temperatures, but that doesn’t make it any less of a process. So let’s take a look at a simplified version of this winter task for those of you wondering how it works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When To Start
Pruning can be done in the winter, spring, or summer – it just depends on what your tree looks like and what you want the outcome to be. Naturally, winter is the best time of year to prune because the trees are dormant and have no leaves and foliage on them, so it’s easier to see what you’re doing and remove broken or diseased branches. But by pruning in the winter you will also invigorate the tree to produce and grow more during the spring and summer time. Pruning in the summer should be done when your tree looks overgrown. Then you can de-invigorate the tree, diminishing the growth. It’s important to make sure to avoid pruning in the fall, since new growth will be stimulated. If new growth begins once the cold and frost hit, it could lead to damage to the tree.

Why You Should
This annual practice allows you to direct the growth and shape the tree, which helps maintain the crop load for annual bearing and allows sunlight and airflow throughout the tree. Sunlight helps with the color and sugar development of the fruit, and airflow helps minimize moist conditions which support disease development.

What You Need
When pruning apple trees, you will need a few tools. Hand pruners, to remove small branches and twigs. Loppers, for larger branches. A Folding Saw for branches larger than three inches wide. And last but not least, you will need Pole Pruners to reach branches high on the tree that you might not have easy access to.

How it Works

  1. Decide the Tree Structure. When you first plant a tree, it’s good to prune away anything dead or injured immediately after planting. However, you should first analyze the tree and see what type of structure suits it. Decide if it’s going to have a central leader structure (when the trunk goes straight up) or an open center structure (when the branches split in the center and fan out to either side). Once this is decided you can begin to train it. But note that heavier pruning should be done minimally the first three years of growth until you achieve the tree shape you want.
  2. Clean Up the Dead, Damaged and Diseased. First, if there are little sprouts coming out of the trunk of the tree, they need to be removed. Because they originate from the root stock rather than the grafted fruit variety on the top of the tree, they can pruned off. If there are perfectly vertical or straight branches, called “water sprouts,” they are removed as well. And, when trimming these branches, it’s important to make sure they are flush to the larger limb and stubs are not left behind.
  3. Remove Competing Branches. Look for branches that might be growing towards the inside of the tree. By removing them, air circulation will be improved and it will eliminate the collection of water inside hollow branches that might lead to rot. Also, remove any branches that might be going downward – these won’t be able to bear fruit and will get in the way of branches that could be receiving the sunlight and nutrients they need.
  4. Prune Back the Outermost Branches. It’s important to make sure to never remove more than ⅓ of the wood and that the tree has one central trunk. If there’s a branch that seems to be taking over, it must be removed. By cutting back the rest of the branches, stems will thicken and get rid of extra weight on the tree. Lastly, step back and make sure the upper branches are shorter than the lower branches and looks like a pyramid.

So, here are a few basic takeaway tips for pruning. Prune from the bottom up, inside out, and make sure to make thinning cuts first, and outermost cuts last. Next on the list here on the farm, peach pruning. Which as always, depends on Mother Nature – but is currently set to begin in March. Stay tuned for more updates from the farm or visit https://bishopsorchards.com/the-farm/about/ for more information!