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Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Voice

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Selvin and Edwina Harrell at work harvesting organic produce from their 3-acre garden on Crooked Cedar Farm located on Lawhorn Road in Blythewood.

Crooked Cedar Farm

Blythewood’s garden of earthy delights By Barbara Ball, editor Deep in the wilds of Blythewood, beyond Kenny Bass’s deer cooler on Claude Bundrick Rd., beyond Branham Rd, and just before Mullis Rd., there, nestled among a thick evergreen forest at the end of Lawhorn Road, is a year-round garden of earthy, edible delights. The garden is called Crooked Creek Farm, and it produces for sale an endless array of tasty, colorful organic vegetables, herbs, fruits, strawberries and blueberries. It also grows and sells perennial plants and flowers. Crooked Creek Farm attracts customers from Blythewood and beyond. While visitors to the farm would be well advised to drop bread crumbs on their first trip out just so they can more easily trace their route back out of the jungle, it’s a trip they will find rewarding, educational, fun and, most of all, filled with flavor. And it is a trip they will make again and again. The owners and creators of the farm, Selvin and Edwina Harrell, have tended a garden of some sort on this 11 acres for over 34 years--ever since they were newly weds. When their two boys were young, the garden was about 50 x 100 feet. Today, the ever expanding operation is now a commercial endeavor that covers three acres. Now the Harrells, who are both retired, are planning another expansion, this time a niche for a flock of laying hens Ed-

wina plans to tend. ally weeks old and flavorless compared to “We want to put the chickens right fresh-picked organic produce.” over there,” Edwina said motioning to a The Harrells’ garden is unusual in that shady area at the edge of the garden. they grow several varieties each of an endless “We’ll have roosts there, but they’ll be number of vegetables. And information about truly free range during the day, running all each variety is on the tip of their tongue. They over the garden eating bugs and scratching are virtual veggie encyclopedias. the soil. And I’ll sell the eggs.” The farm is always at some stage of While the Harrells’ garden is not certi- harvest and planting. fied organic and neither of the Harrells lay Just recently they planted seeds for claim to a master gardener’s title, the farm snap beans, squash and cucumbers for early is one of the most prolific, well-respected fall harvest. Soon they will be setting out organic farms in the Midlands, the collard, cabbage, broccoli and the Harrells are recognized, and Brussels sprouts to be folnear and far, for their expertise lowed with the seeding of letand dedication to the fine art of tuces and other greens and root organic farming. vegetables for late fall, winter They use only organically and spring harvesting. approved chemicals to produce Onion sets and garlic will their crops and are always experifollow for late spring harvest. menting with ways to make their “Every season we plant produce more healthful. something new,” Selvin explained. “You can eat our produce “Next year we’ll be harvesting asfresh right out of our garden,” paragus for the first time,” he said, Edwina said proudly. “That’s Selvin and Edwina showing off the tall, feathery asHarrell. also when it’s the sweetest and paragus fern-like tops. most flavorful. Sometimes visiting All this attention to detail makes for children who don’t like carrots will try one of long hours in the garden. But the Harrells say our tender freshly-pulled carrots and they eat there’s no place they’d rather be. it like candy. Then they want another one!” It is unclear whether gardening is for the “Most people don’t realize that veg- Harrells an acquired passion or an inherited etables can have so much flavor,” Edwina addiction. Both their grandparents had large explained as she picked handfuls of green farming operations, and their parents had beans, dropping them into a farm basket. large gardens. Both Harrells grew up with an “Industrially produced vegetables are usu- appreciation for good garden produce.

While the Harrell’s vegetables are all prime, the couple takes special pride in their salad greens. “We grow 25 different varieties of salad greens,” Edwina said, handing a freshplucked sprig of spicy Wild Italian arugula to a visitor, advising that it’s especially tasty on hamburgers or wilted into omelets made with fresh eggs. “The taste of our greens just fills your mouth with a sudden burst of flavor,” Edwina continued as she picked and passed out sprigs of arugula and basil. She said lemon basil is great for fish and chicken, or added to sweet basil for pesto. The spicy arugula is wonderful added to salads, sauted, in omelets and as pizza toppings. Edwina sells the salad mix in gallon bags from December through March. She attributes the wonderful flavors in their produce to “sunshine, water and clay soil.” During season, Edwina cans or dries much of the produce so they can enjoy it out of season. One of her specialties is canned homemade tomato soup that she calls Summer in a Jar. The Harrells sell their produce at the All-Local Market, 711 Whaley St, Columbia, 8 a.m.-12 p.m. on Saturdays year round. Or orders can be placed by calling 786-4841 and picked up at the farm at 1464 Lawhorn Road in Blythewood. For email alerts when produce is ready for purchase, sign up at crookedcedarfarmsc@gmail.com.

Carrots and scallions

Summertime in a Jar

Some of the 27 varieties of lettuce the Harrells grow.

Flowers grown on the farm

These rows of collards thrive in clay soil.

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