Camalay Heirloom Tomato


There’s only a few of us that have the seed for a unique variety of tomato that has it’s roots right here in Calaveras County. In fact, the family that intentionally bred this fine red tomato were our neighbors and the three of them (Ernie, with half sister Josephine and her husband Sharkie) all lived to be in their 90’s and Ernie until 104!

Our personal theory goes: that by living off the land, feeding themselves, growing a large garden and feeding others they remained free of stress and enjoyed their health right up to the end.

Every year, for the past 28 years, we’ve grown these beauties and when we reach the point of harvest we heartily thank the Vogliotti family. If you’ve ever dappled in seed saving you will know that there is a science to saving seed that demands attention,
patience and dedication.

Imprinted on my memory is a time when we visited Josephine (the last one left of the three). She was often alone and we would go down to pay her a visit every now and again and hear the old stories of how and what they did making a living on the land. I remember distinctly the first time we showed up with a beautifully ripe Camalay. She took the tomato into her hands and brought it up to her nose for a long inhalation, just as any tomato connoisseur would, and declared, rightly so, that it was “one of ours wasn’t it”? The love for something so fleeting and special was the best reward we could ever have wished for in taking on the legacy year after year.

This year, 2020, they are showing up big time with that old fashioned tomato flavor. Get them while they are in!

CSA Strong

About a month ago, as the Coronovirus took effect world wide we reached out to our biggest supplier, Coke Farm and checked in with them to see if we could expect any production issues and this is what Christine Coke wrote:

How much the world has changed in the last month. Like you, we are concerned for our family and friends. That includes all of you!  Your welfare, health and continued success are extremely important to everyone at Coke Farm.  We are so grateful to be part of an industry that feeds people during these trying times. We and every person in this county are going to continue to eat every day. We will remain open and we will continue to sell produce grown by our community of organic farmers….We want to weather this storm with you and keep our businesses strong throughout this unprecedented global crisis. Thank for putting your trust in us and for supporting our family farms. Please stay healthy, Christine and Dale Coke”

Now a month later, we see clearly that our strength as a CSA business model works. It’s resiliency has responded calmly to the urgency of the moment and has been able to expand to unbelievable numbers and feed a great many more people than we had ever expected.


Two of our favorite Thursday shoppers at our Farm Stand on Penn Gulch, c 2000

As we all align ourselves to the natural rhythms of life and hone down those non-essential “things” we tap into the essential basics like healthy bodies, generous hearts and loving communities. We are all invited to reweave the grandeur to which this earth of ours entrusts us with. Our greatest longing for peace comes when our internal world has time to breathe, time to pause from so much doing and time to relax into the natural rhythms of life.

Gardening affords a close up view of the microcosm and here we rest for a moment at soil level to take in the view. Today, we planted 500 tomato plants, a far cry from our 1600 all time record at the height of our farming career. Way back in the beginning, 30 years ago, we set forth with a handful of seeds, a pitch fork and a novel business model called CSA. In the 21st century, this model is better suited than ever. Fresh local seasonal organic food is our adventure in our life and we are grateful to be on this journey.

“Eating is one of the great pauses – a splendid time to indulge with others and feel into the luxury of nourishment. Cooking comes before eating and growing comes before cooking. We start with the seed and all else follows.” Christine T

Meeting the needs of the 21st century

In these unprecedented times miraculous things can occur. Our 28 year history of Community Supported Agriculture CSA has led us along a pathway from humble beginnings to an explosion that looks like Alice Waters’ “food revolution”. Our numbers are swelling, our supply lines are expanding and our vision is exploding dynamically in all ways. As this hyper evolution is occurring we are forging relationships with future farmers and producers – every day brings a new idea and a new contact.

The Outer Aisle Food Hub model was launched 14 years ago as a response to a situation that lost us our first farm. What we faced was a growing customer base but no farm to supply them – that’s when Outer Aisle was born and we forged many relationships with many producers within a 150 mile radius of Calaveras. Farmigo (an online management system) also launched that year and we were one of their first guinea pigs. This amazing system is what brings us to this present moment: a tool that allows us to manage input and output in an efficient and accurate way. We eventually found a new farm (and it’s not so new anymore – 13 years we’ve had it). An incredible piece of agricultural land with ample water and a landowner that shares our values.

This is the moment the CSA was born for! We’ve often referred to the growing of food as a sacred act and waxed poetically of our roles as farmer/nurturer. It’s the kind of hard work that puts hair on your chest, makes a man of you and humbles you to tears at the grace and beauty that abounds from a single seed. The slow trajectory that began with a handful of seeds, a pitchfork and $1,000 was fueled by our dreams and longing to live in a world where we all honored the land, our health and the health of our community.

Now year’s later, our CSA model is a beacon of hope. A delivery system already in place, with ways to manage product in and out, accounting, vacations etc allowing flexibility. What was once “inconvenient” and difficult to comprehend by some is now convenient and meets the needs of our community of health conscious eaters.

While the future is deeply uncertain and our quest to know is so strong. Eric and I are hopeful emissaries in these times. Bringing the light of good clean healthy food to the tables of hundreds of people and growing. Join our movement and let’s revolutionize our relationship to food, bringing warmth to our hearth and families. And put the priority on health and wellness in a way that changes our bodies and prepares ourselves for the future.

We have a chance – a great opportunity to ignite and fuel this movement from the inside out. The call has gone out to young up-coming farmers like we were 28 years ago and instead of being armed with just a few humble ingredients they will be armed with the might of hundreds of committed folks just like yourself.

More to come, I’m sure….but for now

All our love and health to you,

Eric and Christine Taylor

Outer Aisle Foods, Catering and Venue



Vogliotti family heirloom onion

Sweet crisp, eat like an apple, red onions are the harbingers of spring. Day length sensitive their expanding bulbs push out to form the onion revered in this county for over hundred years. The story goes that Ernie Vogliotti’s father acquired seed in the late 1800’s and over the next one hundred years they grew this onion on their ranch, selling first to the miners and then to the town folk. We acquired the seed by luck from Josephine (Ernie’s sister) in her 90’s. She was proud of the onion as an enduring accompaniment to her life of eating the foods they grew. It was around 1996 that we stepped down into her cellar with instructions to look for the “jar on the top shelf”. Less than 30% germinated and the first year we grew a small stand of onions and instead of eating them we replanted them in the fall, nursed them all winter and harvested thousands of seeds from their pompom flower heads in the spring. Today we only grow this variety, knowing how proud Josephine would be to know that we continued the legacy of the onion.

Every four years or so we do a very special thing – we plant the onion bulbs that have sprouted. The only way to keep the tradition going is keep planting the seed. Seeds remain viable for a set number of years and unfortunately the onion seed is on the lower end of the spectrum and therefore so easy to loose!

Come mid October we set aside a plot of land to the growing of the seed. This process takes us through early spring with the seed stalks rising high into the quickening days of summer. They flower like pompoms and pollinators from all over come to harvest the pollen and pollinate. The flowers within the pompoms are made of small pistils and stamens and pollinated by insect or wind, so to ensure good seed production we take a dry paint brush and lightly brush the heads, shake the stalks and scatter the pollen. We do this to about 30 plants, the more diversity the more genetic strength. By August the black seeds are ready to harvest and the planting begins. Josephine instructed specifically to plant the seed after the “first full moon in August”, and she would add if the “full moon comes too late just plant them by the 20th!” Such great advice, we’ve stuck with that for now over 20 years.

Sometimes and almost always these days the small acts are the most reverent!

Reflections on deep time

Eric and I have been doing the final clean-up and the first of the spring tilling. Admittedly, and this is coming from a hard-working Kiwi, the work is tough on the body. Eric in the boxing ring with a 300 lb alligator, his arms and body dragged along as the rototiller bounces on the root matted winter grasses, he’s then flung into some fluffy realty to only be dragged off again hanging on for dear life. And then there’s the task of rounding up the last of the 300 tomato cages; a walking marathon, carrying 6 at a time, back and forward. Every rock and stone marked, I am zenned out to the feel and sounds surrounding the human created ecosystem. Beyond the fence, trees glowing new leaf shoots of greenery in every possible hue. A backdrop so alive that the farm with it’s formidable plastic deer fencing reflects out in a promising hope of greenery itself.

If you’ve ever grown a garden, and I hope that you do, you’ll know too well that you can’t start without finishing up. And that the curvature of the environment is no straight line but that it weaves about in a cyclical spiral. The seasonal rhythm is a timing that is governed not by our clocks or our lineal minds, but by the seasonal shifts and more closely by the weather. If ever you need to experience a different kind of realty, one that is shaped by these terrific forces, then gardening would be the task to pick. As one engages in these seasonal rhythms, then one can get in touch with deep time that goes beyond our everyday scheduled lifestyle and approaches something closer to what humans practicing agriculture 10,000 years ago experienced. The work of breaking down and building up, finishing and starting is cyclical to our intuition, and every year of working in this way we get a little better at getting the timing just right; our sense of observation is keener. The garden gives us a portal from which we can glimpse into a world that is wholly governed by nature as it strives to connect us to the process, putting seeds in our hands, giving us knowledge of plant, soil health and treating us to a reflection of ourselves glowing back at us.

To find ourselves again on this threshold of ending and beginning, coinciding with Spring and it’s greenness, is to grasp at what it means to be alive, to have hope and renewed joy in the world. The gift we are showing the world is the unfolding of the story of the garden from the hummus to the humans, from the earthworms to the hummingbirds, from the ancient seed to the table. A gift that is a co-creation of the forces of nature, the human intention and our dedication to being in deep time with our surroundings in such a way that we are harnessed to the task by our own impulse to be part of the great spiral of life.




Why Heirloom?

Because they are the tastiest always! That’s the short answer, the long answer is more complicated. Once upon a time all vegetables were heirloom – the definition is simply varieties of fruits and vegetables where the seed is viable and true to type (with some genetic diversity) and passed down through the generations human to human. Heirloom implies traditional, old, heritage and something you’d likely find everywhere if you went back in history 60 years. Today, heirlooms are making a big comeback – they are finally trendy! They tend to have a ton of flavor, come in odd shapes and not look at all like anything you typically see in a grocery store. The downside of an heirloom is it’s lack of shelf life. No big deal if you shop at a farmers market or grow your own garden, but if you shop regularly at a grocery store you are unlikely to find an heirloom anywhere.

Thank goodness heirlooms are making a comeback and becoming more of a household word! Up to 90% of diversity within food crops has been lost since the turn of the last century replaced by one variety of corn, one variety of cucumber, one variety of tomato and so forth. With the resurgence of interest and the return of a discerning palate heirlooms are out of danger for now. If you are interested in learning and growing heirlooms you’ll want to know about the amazing work of Seed Saver’s Exchange in Iowa. They have literally rescued thousands of varieties of endangered seeds and making them available to the public. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company is another entrepreneurial business venture that began for Jeri Gettle in his bedroom when he was a teenager. They sell thousands of seeds from all over the world and hosts the National Heirloom Festival in Santa Rosa every year.

We were blessed to have moved in next door to Italian market gardeners that operated at the turn of the 20th century up until the late 1970s. They were famous for their onions and tomatoes and that legacy continues today. We are very proud to continue growing these two local heirlooms – the red Camay tomato and the sweet red onion. Both of which are available now at our farm stand and through our CSA.


Harvest Meditation

I find harvesting is one of the most satisfying activities for a number of reasons. The most obvious is reaping what you sow, and the less obvious and equally rewarding is the way in which it puts one’s mind to rest.

The combination creates an experience that is uplifting and gratifying like none other. I have discovered over time that dropping into the spaciousness of “being in the moment” can be done with ease while harvesting. Getting close to a plant requires getting down to ground level and this act of kneeling and squatting is deeply cathartic. Grounding oneself literally on the earth is the first step, the second is feeling your way into the activity. This requires some mental stimulation but once you get the swing of things you can drop into auto mode and free the mind. It’s in this state of present moment awareness that time slows down and almost simultaneously surrounding sounds become louder and more acute. Awareness to one’s surroundings and the subtleties of aroma and feeling are pronounced. It’s here at the juncture of timelessness where the breath is a rhythmic exchange of energy with all elements.


Local Agri-Culture

Wendell Berry is my hero! His many essays on American agriculture are so in-depth and beautifully written that whole landscapes of understanding are born by just reading his works. His writing is grounded in the notion that “one’s work ought to be rooted in and responsive to one’s place”. He reminds me of my other hero, John Muir in the way that he captures our imagination. Living in the early 1900’s the voice of nature was yet to be recognized and described – John Muir did this perfectly and very effectively. I was reading a snippet of a story written by a fellow adventurer of John Muir and was struck by the description, as was the writer, of the way Muir related so intimately to the plants and flowers as if greeting an old family member; cooing and exclaiming all the while, picking and stashing samples until his jacket was full!

This reminds me of yet another hero and a perfect moment that describes this intimate connection. We often visited our then centenarian neighbor, Josephine Quirelo (nee Vogliotti) in the height of summer and would bring her vegetables and especially tomatoes. We were so proud of the tomatoes we grew (and still grow), the seeds of which she and her family had saved for well over 80 years, and we were so excited to bring her some to eat. She greeted us and held the tomato in her cupped hands, smelling the distinct aroma and looked at us both with wide eyes and declared “this is one of ours isn’t it?” It still brings a tear to my eyes as I remember her filling up with joy and relaxing with ease in the knowledge that her tomato would remain a legacy for many more years to come. For over 25 years (that makes them well over 100 years a Murphys’ heirloom) we have planted this same variety, and in fact today, May 2nd I planted the first succession of these babies. I am in present moment awareness, listening and hearing Josephine’s joyful exclamation.

One asks oneself “what motivates and inspires the work I do?” and my reply is love and beauty, compassion and caring in the greater context of making a difference.


Spring’s Abundance

Dear all, we have a promising season of abundance ahead of us. The spring rains have quenched the soil’s thirst for moisture and the garden is well under way with young plants eager to nourish. We harvested our first salad greens this week and they are so tender they practically melt in your mouth. Next week French breakfast radishes with their red and white exteriors will be plucked and bunched for market.

Asparagus has had it’s usual spring glory and now that is fading out and Fava beans are coming in. It’s hard to resist is the Fava bean – the Italians make a hoo-ha about this vegetable, celebrating their spring arrival with a holiday and festival. The bean is also called a horse bean by the English and in other colonial countries. Simply shuck the pod to reveal a large bright green kidney shaped bean. This activity can be done while sipping wine. In their tender early stage they can simply be steamed and served with a little butter. Later in the season they are steamed and their tougher outer skins pop off, with a pinch, to reveal a bright tender green heart that can be pureed and made into a delicious dip. May 1st is the date the Italians celebrate the fava and Eric tells me that he was there in 1976 when he was ten. It wasn’t until another ten years later that he encountered the fava bean at a roadside stand grown by an Hispanic family. We grow a small amount of this crop every year. It has the unique ability as with all legumes to fix nitrogen to root nodules and acts as a natural fertilizer for plantings that come after their harvest.

Our farmstand is open in Douglas Flat on Thursdays from 11 am to 6pm. Soon to be open more!

Citrus Aioli and the First of the season Asparagus

Easter is almost upon us and asparagus season is in full swing. Catch our Easter Brunch and celebrate with your family and friends. Reservations recommended by calling 209/728-1164 or emailing:

All ingredients need to be at room temp or the sauce just won’t set up. Classic aioli employs 100% olive oil but I prefer to mix it with grapeseed oil, especially if I don’t have a high quality olive oil on hand. The flavor is more subtle—but try it both ways and decide for yourself.  Making aioli by hand is easy, and I think faster than in a food processor. If you haven’t made it before, don’t feel daunted by the directions below. You’ll get the swing of it in no time and soon it will be a regular sauce for your fish, lamb or veggies. Make your aioli before roasting the asparagus and keep it in the refrigerator (up to 2 days) until you’re ready to use it.

1 pastured egg yolks (left at room temp for at least an hour)

1 cloves of the freshest garlic you can find, minced

1/4 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral tasting oil.

1t finely grated lemon zest

1T lemon juice

1 t salt

With a large whisk or electric food processor begin to beat the yolk until even consistency, continue beating and have someone else drizzle in the oil. The mixture will emulsify before your eyes as you fast-beat and continue to drizzle in the last of the oil. Add the zest and lemon juice and salt to taste!


We have Easter Brunch Buffet this weekend …join us and book your table now!