The food served at Hell's Backbone Grill emphasizes regional cuisine using locally produced ingredients, including organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers from the restaurant's own no-harm organic farm. We compost all of our vegetable waste in bins that are located on the lodge grounds.
As we wrote in With A Measure Of Grace:
Organic gardening is a method of agriculture that relies wholly on the earth's natural resources -- pests and weeds are managed using earth-friendly means; natural nutrients and products such as leaves, manure, and composted food are built into the soil to fertilize plants without the use of chemicals; and artificial products such as petroleum-based fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides are strictly avoided. Essentially, everything used in the garden to promote healthy plant growth comes from the earth itself and won't pollute, harm, or imbalance the environment, contaminate the water supply, or hurt beneficial organisms.
Boulder is also home to a great variety of heirloom fruit trees. In addition to the many fruit trees on the farm, we tend a number of other orchards in town, including the hstoric Annie's Orchard, which is, and always has been, completely chemical free. From these orchards we pick apricots, several varities of peaches, apples, pears, plums and beautiful grapes. We feature these fruits seasonally on our menu and make preserves, jams, butters and chutneys to use throughout the year.
Update from the Farm: November 3, 2017
As we enter November, the growing season has largely ended here in Boulder. We had our first soft frost in the end of September, and then had a number of hard frosts throughout October. Late summer and early fall turned out to be highly productive on the farm – some of our best crops were collards, summer squash, carrots, garlic, and onions. But by far the best was our winter squash crop. The farm grew over 20 different varieties, including classics like Spaghetti, Butternut, Carnival, Blue Hubbard, and Pink Banana, and more obscure varieties, such as Ute Indian Squash, Big Red Warty Thing, Australian Butter Squash, and Hopi Pale Grey. Not only did we have more squash than ever before (6,300 pounds of it!), but also they were some of the biggest squash we’ve ever grown. Every year on the farm is different – sometimes it is the year of the pepper, sometimes the year of the cabbage, but this was the year of the winter squash. Our cooks have been hard at work processing the thousands of pounds of squash. We have been serving roasted squash as a side on the dinner plate; we have made our favorite blue hubbard-apple soup and pumpkin-piñon enchiladas; we have been roasting and freezing squash so that we have farm produce when we open in the spring; we even pickled squash this year! Oh, and don’t forget about all of the pumpkins we carved for Halloween…
This year brought certain challenges along with it. After our second high tunnel was destroyed this spring in an epic wind storm, we had to adjust to growing our tomatoes and peppers without a proper hoop house. The farmers made a small hoop house with the remaining plastic, which is where we grew peppers and they did fairly well. The tomatoes, however, we grew outside. Though we had warm summer days, the nighttime temperatures in the high mountain desert are not as kind to tomatoes. We still had some beautiful tomatoes (many delicious Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, Pink Brandywine, and Oregon Spring) that we were delighted to feature on the menu, but it was not a prolific tomato year like we’ve had in the past. Maybe next year!
While the farm looks somewhat bare these days, that doesn’t mean things aren’t growing. We planted our best seed garlic about a month ago, and it is happily mulched under a think layer of leaves. We also have a few carrot beds in the ground, some of which we will harvest before Thanksgiving (the colder nights give our Scarlett Nantes carrots a wonderful sweetness) and some we will over-winter and harvest in the spring. Finally, the farmers still have beds of spinach growing, which they keep warm every night by covering with row cover. We are excited to serve delicious, nutrient-packed fresh spinach at our Thanksgiving Feast in a few weeks!
This is a special time of year on the farm – it is after the pressure of the heat and harvests, when the farmers can slow down and reflect upon the season. As they spread aged manure and leaves on the empty beds, they plan what they will plant where next year. As they collect and clean the tools, they think about what went well this year and what they will do differently next season. They mulch the asparagus and fruit trees and wonder what this winter will bring in terms of temperature and moisture. As always, another year growing produce in Boulder brings just as many questions as answers, and we excitedly begin thinking about next season. But for now, we all welcome the winter.
Update from the Farm: June 30, 2017
Summer has arrived in Boulder! After a relatively cold and windy spring, the days are now into the 90s and the farmers are hard at work harvesting, planting, weeding, and watering.
We are so happy to be serving farm-fresh produce, and lots of it. Here’s an update on what we have coming from the farm:
The lettuce on the farm is prolific, not to mention beautiful and delicious. We grow a mix of lettuce varieties, including Black Seeded Simpson, Green and Red Deer Tongue, Speckled Amish, Buttercrunch, and Red Sails, giving our mix a variety of colors and flavors.
We have also been enjoying a great pea harvest. They are crisp and sweet, and we are cherishing the time we have them. Unfortunately, peas don’t like the heat, so they likely will not keep producing as much now that we have sustaining temperatures in the 90s. But for now, they are a wonderful addition to the dinner plates.
Our farmers also brought us our favorite Easter Egg Radishes. Slightly spicy and growing in all shades of red, pink, purple and white, these radishes have become a staple in the restaurant. We serve our farm radishes as an appetizer, sliced with Beehive Promontory cheddar, butter florets, and Redmond Real Salt. In addition to their taste and color, we love Easter Egg Radishes because of how easy they are to grow. They only require 25 days of growing until they are ready to be harvested, and they grow well all summer long.
We are excited that the farmers also harvested the first 50 pounds of beets of the year! The variety is Early Wonder Tall Top, and not only is the “beet” (technically the root) sweet and delicious, but we also love the greens. We both roast and pickle the beets, and we sautee the greens. How wonderful to have plants that are beautiful and nutritious from root to leaves!
This time of year is special for one big reason: garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are the flower stalks that grow from the center of the garlic plant, and they are ready to be harvested a month or two before the garlic bulb. It’s important to harvest the scapes because it then allows the plant to put more of its energy into developing the bulb. And garlic scapes are so versatile and delicious! Here at the restaurant, we grill them, pickle them, and turn them into pesto. Garlic scapes come but once a year and we so look forward to their appearance every June.
We recently stopped harvesting asparagus, and we sure do miss it. It was a great asparagus harvest – almost twice as much as last year! We loved serving it with our home-mad lemon hollandaise sauce and even pickled a few jars. But after 8 weeks of harvesting, it’s time to stop cutting the spears and let the plants store energy for the next season. Until next year!
We are thrilled by what the farmers are harvesting, and we are also excited about everything that’s in the ground at the farm. The potato plants are over a foot tall and very full, the bean plants are happily putting on more leaves every day, and the corn seems to be growing by the minute. Beds of carrots, beets, and more radishes are on their way, and the garlic is a few weeks away from harvest time. The peppers are in the ground in their mini hoop-house, and the tomatoes are adjusting well to their life outside. Unfortunately, we recently experienced one of the worst wind storms of the past few years, which damaged the young summer squash and cucumber plants and took out many of the newly emerging winter squash plants. So, the farmers had to replant what was lost, which put the plants behind slightly. But, that’s the reality of farming; now if only we could control the weather...
Update from the Farm: April 2, 2017
Happy Spring from the farm!
Spring at 6,500 ft. is an unpredictable time – two weeks of 70 degree days, and then a foot of snow on April 1st! Nevertheless, the farmers are hard at work and are hoping to grow more food than ever this year. They have planted peas, radishes, beets, lettuce, and spinach in the ground, so weather depending, we’ll have fresh farm produce on your plates in the next few weeks! But just because it is spring doesn’t mean the restaurant is without farm produce. Thanks to the work of the farmers and kitchen staff, last year we preserved thousands of pounds of fruit and vegetables that we are proudly serving this spring. We froze green chiles, beans, kale, and roasted squash; we pickled cucumbers, carrots, and onions; we dehydrated and made jam from our apples, pears, peaches, and apricots. We are thrilled by how much of the food we serve (even in the spring!) comes from our farm, and we are excited about the produce on its way!
In addition to the seeds in the ground, the farmers have also started the tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, kale, and collards in the greenhouses. This year, in addition to our strawbale greenhouse, the farmers have refurbished an old RV-trailer with big, south-facing windows and it’s functioning as a second greenhouse. With how much the farm has expanded in the past few years, more greenhouse space was a necessity, so the farmers were happy to put the old trailer to good use!
The animals on the farm seem just as happy as we are about the warmer weather. The farmers have been moving the farm chickens from plot to plot, which helps to fertilize the soil for planting this spring and summer. And now that the days are longer, the chickens are laying dozens of delicious eggs everyday. Oh, and did we mention that we now have a baby llama-alpaca named Rocket? Happy Spring!
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