Rare Bird Alert!

By Thom Almendinger, Director, Stewardship and Agroecology

Yesterday morning, I received a text from a colleague at work that a friend was looking at a Townsend’s warbler (Setophaga townsendi) moving about in the bioswales and rain gardens in the parking lot.  I abruptly ended the meeting. I was in to rush outside to see it for myself.

Why would I be so excited over a 5-inch diminutive bird?  Because it is an extremely rare visitor to the east coast.  In fact, as of 2015, the NJ Bird Records Committee stated there are only 14 accepted records of the species ever recorded in the state.

The Townsend’s warbler breeds in coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest from Alaska to Oregon and in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and usually winters along the coast of California south through montane forests in Mexico and Central America.

Our little visitor to Duke Farms, which appears to be a hatch-year female, is the first of its kind documented in Somerset County.

The real message to me wasn’t necessarily that this wayward bird found his way to Duke Farms but that when she did, the habitat value of our parking area was high value enough that she chose to utilize the area for the past few days along with a very late Northern oriole and orange-crowned warbler.  Habitat can exist in even the most unlikely areas and if done correctly can add to a properties wildlife value.


Photo courtesy of Jeff Ellerbusch. Bruce McWhorter made the initial discovery of this rare bird at Duke Farms.




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First Frost & Farewell to the Monarchs!


This week we saw our first hard frost in New Jersey and with that an official “Goodbye” & “Adios” to our beloved Danaus plexippus, aka Monarch Butterfly. These animals go through an amazing metamorphosis and take part in one of the world’s most interesting migrations, traveling over 2,000 miles to the Oyamel Fir forests of Mexico. (Read more about their journey in our previous post about Monarch Migration)

Starting off as an egg about the size of a grain of salt, each instar of caterpillar that hatches will eat the exoskeleton of the stage that it just molted out of. Once these hungry caterpillars go through five major stages of growth they enter into a pupal stage and form into a chrysalis. These bright green and gold-accented gems are what visitors see when they check out our butterfly house inside the Farm Barn Orientation Center. If you were lucky enough to get here this year you know what I mean, and if not there is always next year.

We reared, tagged, and released over 100 Monarchs this year at the orientation center, each time educating visitors on the issues that these critters face upon leaving the sanctuary that we created for them. Working meticulously on creating time-lapse footage of the lifecycles for a few months, we eventually got some really great footage that can be seen here and here.

These incredible insects are a great way for us to educate visitors on sustainable gardening/lawn care practices that they can take back home with them. Using our butterfly garden as a demonstration as well, visitors can see the beauty and benefits that these plants will offer them at home.  Our TALON guests also had a great day learning about the Monarchs and the role that our meadows play in their lifecycle. Monarchs must stop every 20-30 minutes along their migration to feed from the nectar of flowers, so they have to beat the frost on their way down to Mexico.

So we say to all of the Monarchs that passed through here, “Adios and Goodbye”.

See you later for now, and looking forward to meeting your relatives in the years to come!

– Jon Dugan, Duke Farms


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Farm Market Recipe of the Week: Kimchi

Image result for kimchi

Kimchi is an old technique from Korea for fermenting seasonal vegetables. It is commonly done for preservation, usually with a base of Napa cabbage, ginger, and hot peppers with salt and sugar. This recipe is not actually fermented, but will still maintain some probiotic qualities by using raw apple cider vinegar. This recipe will not have the fishy yeast smell that turns some noses away either. Much to the contrast, it has very fresh flavor – from the bite of the ginger to the tingle of the hot pepper. The cabbage will still be slightly crunchy and the herbs will brighten the flavor. The fresh ginger, cabbage, and hot pepper were proudly sourced from Harvest Moon Organic Farm.

 2 heads Napa cabbage, rough chop

2 ea. hot peppers, minced

1 thumb fresh ginger, minced

2 carrots, shredded

1 bu. scallion

1 bu. cilantro

2 oz. apple cider vinegar (raw)

2 oz. rice vinegar

4 oz. sweet chili sauce

1 TB fish sauce

kosher salt

cane sugar

 Season cabbage with salt and let sit for a 1/2 hour. Pour off extra liquid. Add remaining vegetables. Chop herbs and add to vegetables. Add sauces and mix. Season to taste with salt and sugar. Will maintain freshness in the refrigerator for 1 week.

REMINDER! This THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27 will be the last day our seasonal farm market is running.

Thank you so very much for your support in 2016.

See you soon.

Recipe by: Chef Josh Falzone

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Recipe of the Week – Plus Bonus Recipe!

This week are featuring both mustard greens from Harvest Moon Organic Farm as well as handpicked apples from Alstede Farms. My goal is that you enjoy the mustard greens as much as the apple crisp!

 As the weather cools, the conditions are perfect for greens to grow. Mustard greens are naturally more tender and less bitter than collards, especially during the cooler weather. In this recipe, they are cooked briefly and cooled to maintain color and bright flavor.

When apple picking, whether from the orchard or the market, remember to pick an apple that does well for baking like Braeburn, Jonagold, or Honey Crisp.

Apple Crisp

Image result for apple crisp

Mmm, the perfect fall comfort food!



6 apples, peeled and sliced

2 oz. apple cider

1 TB corn starch

1 TB ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground allspice

1 pinch cloves

Toss all ingredients together and set aside.


1 cup almond flour

1 cup old fashioned oats

½ cup maple syrup

1 TB cinnamon

4 TB salted butter, softened

Mix all ingredients together until crumbly. Preheat oven to 350F. Coat baking dish with cooking spray. Layer apples on bottom of dish. Sprinkle crumbs evenly over top. Bake for 30 mins or until apples are tender and crumbles are golden brown.

 Mustard Greens with Red Wine Onions and Crispy Bacon

Image result for mustard greens with bacon

Good and good for you!


 2 bunches mustard greens

2 sweet onions

2 oz. olive oil

16 oz. red wine

1 lb. thick cut bacon

Salt and pepper

Boil salted water. Pick out any thick stems from mustard greens and dispose of them. Briefly dip greens in boiling water for 15-20 seconds or until just cooked through. Remove and shock in ice-water; drain. Set aside.

Peel and julienne onions. Sweat down in olive oil until translucent. In separate sauce pan, reduce red wine to 2 oz. Add onions and reduce any remaining liquid. Set aside.

Small dice the bacon. Add a little olive oil and water and cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until bacon is crispy. Add all ingredients together and heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe by consultant chef Josh Falzone. 

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Farm Market Recipe of The Week: Pole Bean Cassoulet

The Farm Market will be open from 3-7 pm tonight, hope to see you there!

Harvest Moon has a beautiful variety of pole beans from yellow wax beans to royal burgundy, dragon tongue. When I see such a variety of pole beans, I want to show off how beautiful they look contrasting each other. One dish I love making is to make a play on a cassoulet, a dish that is usually heavy and meaty. This version is vegetable based and uses pole beans in addition to the legumes, and pesto instead of the meat based sauce. This dish shows off each ingredient individually, each cooked separately to perfection, and then lightly tossed in a fresh herb pesto before serving.

Pole Bean ‘Cassoulet’

1 lb cannellini beans

4 pints variety pole beans

1 red onion

4 oz pesto

Cook cannellini beans until tender. Drain and cool. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. Blanch pole bean varieties separately, starting with lighter colored/flavored beans first. Dip into boiling water 20-30 seconds or until tender. Remove and shock in ice-water. Drain once cool. Thinly slice red onion on a mandolin or with a sharp knife. Before serving, lightly toss with pesto and season as needed with salt and pepper.

Recipe by Chef Josh Falzone.

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Recipe of the Week: Winter Squash Ice Cream

Recipe by: Chef Josh Falzone


Autumn is here and I have to tell you,  I am excited! I love how the crisp morning air contrasts the warmth of my morning coffee. However, every year the real beauty of this season that inspires me is how the cool mornings give way to hot afternoons. It is how we have both summer and cool weather crops. I wanted my recipe this week to celebrate the beauty of both seasons. With that said, I am presenting an ice-cream recipe using acorn squash from Dogwood Farms and Pecan Butter from bon Sweet Treats. Personally, I like to finish mine with some candied pecans for a little crunch on top.

Winter Squash Ice Cream With Pecan Swirl: 

4 acorn squash

4 oz Butter, melted

16 egg yolks

1 lb light brown sugar

2 quarts heavy cream

2 quarts milk

1 TB vanilla extract

4 tsp salt

1 TB ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground all spice

Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Brush cavity with butter and roast squash at 350F for about 1 hour or until tender. Remove flesh from shell and place in blender with melted butter. Blend until smooth, take some milk from ice cream base if needed to thin squash puree. Cool.

Whisk sugar and yolks to ribbons. Heat cream, milk, vanilla, and hard spices on the stove. Temper milk and eggs and put back on stove and cook until 170 F. Stir in squash mixture. Strain and cool down in ice bath. After spinning ice-cream, swirl in pecan butter and freeze.

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Farm Market Recipe of the Week: Warm Potato Salad


Potatoes are starting to be harvested at Dogwood Farms. They grow a handful of varieties which makes for a flavorful and colorful potato salad. This potato salad is perfect for the fall and it can be served warm or cold, although I prefer it warm. It is vinegar and mustard based dressing which means it is both gluten and dairy free. This recipe is vegetarian (and the samples at the market will be vegetarian also), but feel free to add bacon or even just substitute bacon fat for the olive oil.

2 lbs potatoes

8 oz olive oil

4 oz apple cider vinegarImage result for potato

2 oz whole grain mustard

2 whole shallots

1 bunch chives

Salt and pepper


Put whole potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Boil on the stove over high heat and cook just until fork tender. Drain water and cool potatoes in the refrigerator while still whole. This helps keep the inside of the potato intact. Once cool, cut into small cubes. Whisk vinegar with mustard. While whisking, slowly add oil. Whisk in shallots and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

See you Thursday afternoon at the Duke Farms’ Farm Market!

Recipe from Chef Josh Falzone.


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Farm Market Recipe of The Week: Vietnamese Spring Rolls

School has started, and summer break is over. The summer crops, however, are still going strong. This week we are going to use our farm-fresh produce in Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Traditional spring rolls incorporate raw vegetables and delicately cooked seafood and served with Peanut Dipping Sauce. Harvest Moon’s pea shoots, sweet peppers, and ginger get a chance to be in the spotlight in this refreshing summer dish. For the sauce, we are using peanut butter from bon Sweet Treats. Visit the farm market at Duke Farms (1112 Dukes Parkway West, Hillsborough, NJ) on Thursdays from 3 pm to sundown for your ingredients.

Visit the farm market at Duke Farms (1112 Dukes Parkway West, Hillsborough, NJ) on Thursdays from 3 pm to sundown for your ingredients.


File:Spring rolls with peanut sauce.jpg



Circular Rice Paper

Rice Vermicelli – cooked and cooled

Cooked Shrimp – butterflied

Pea Shoots

Carrots – shredded

Sweet Peppers – thinly sliced

Scallions – thinly sliced



Soak rice paper in very warm water until soft. Lay flat on cutting board. Place the ingredients in a small rectangular area in the center of wrapper. Lay a couple herb leaves. Lay butterflied shrimp. Lay pea shoot, carrots, peppers, and scallions. Fold bottom of wrapper over ingredients. Firmly roll 3/4 of the way, fold both sides in and finish rolling to end. Cover with damp cloth, when ready to serve, slice and dip in peanut dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce:

1 TB minced ginger

1 garlic clove

4 oz creamy peanut butter

1 TB reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 oz sweet chili sauce

2 limes lime zest and juice

Add all ingredients together in blender and mix until smooth.

Oh! And one more thing – want to taste more yummy local food? Register soon for our October 5, 2016 Farm to Fork Tasting. Tickets go fast! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fall-farm-to-fork-tasting-event-tickets-27049129675 

Recipe by Chef Josh Falzone


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Farm Market Recipe of the Week: Shishito and Celery Salad


This week we are featuring organic produce from Dogwood Farms: Shishito sweet peppers, which can be occasionally spicy, and fresh picked celery. In addition, we are featuring olive oil from Patricia & Paul. I made a simple salad with them, a refreshing meal for lunch, or a starter for dinner.

Shishito Pepper and Celery Salad:

1 pint Shishito peppers
1 head celery
Canola Oil
1 white onion
1 lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 head frisee

Lightly toss Shishito peppers with canola oil and salt. Char over a charcoal grill. Slice onions, brush with oil and grill. Let cool. Finely dice peppers and onions. Slice celery. Mix together. Zest and squeeze lemon over ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cut frisee and mix in before serving.

Recipe by Chef Josh Falzone

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Duke Farms’ Community Garden donates over 2,000lbs of produce to Local Food Banks


For the second year in a row, Duke Farms’ Community Garden has collected produce from our gardeners to donate to local food banks. Last year we were able to over 1500lbs of produce by season’s end. Thus far, this year’s total is currently 2100lbs with at least six more weeks to go!

Twice weekly we hold a donation day, where gardeners give excess produce from their individual plots. In addition, Duke Farms and volunteers tend to seven “Giving Gardens” dedicated solely to this program. We work closely with the following food banks and shelters, and encourage the community at large to support these fantastic organizations:

Safe and Sound Somerset
Food Bank Network of Somerset County
Hillsborough Food Bank
Feeding Hands
Agape House

For more local, state-wide and national food pantry locations please visit: FoodPantries.org


Thanks to all of our gardeners and volunteers for making this season so successful! Special thanks to volunteer docents Susan Litner and Susan Spagnola for leading the coordination of this massive effort.

Duke Farms Community Garden Mission & Vision
Duke Farms opened a 240-plot Community Garden in Spring 2011 to provide people with the opportunity to grow healthy produce in a way that is friendly to the environment. To meet increased demands for space, the garden was expanded to 462 plots in 2014 and is now the largest allotment-style community garden in the country. Our gardeners practice organic, sustainable methods such as no-till gardening, building soil biology and the use of natural mulches for water conservation. Visit our webpage for more information.

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