Daniel Dayton’s love of farming started in high school.
The 30-year-old Raleigh native spent several years at a boarding school and worked on the school’s farm. That continued at Warren Wilson College outside Asheville, where he was part of the garden crew for the student-run vegetable farm. Then Dayton went to East Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer and worked in Mali as an agriculture extension agent.
Dayton returned to the United States for graduate studies at N.C. State University in agriculture. But a few years in academia made Dayton opt to return to the soil. He convinced a cousin who managed some family land near Knightdale to let him cultivate it.
Three years ago, Dayton started Old Milburnie Farm, named after the road where the farm is located. He sells vegetables, oyster mushrooms and pastured poultry at the Midtown Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning. He also sells to restaurants and operates a CSA (community-supported agriculture), a weekly subscription of produce sold to customers.
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Dayton’s favorite aspect about farming? “Harvesting is always a pleasure,” he says.
And we’re close to his favorite season. “Fall: it’s the best of summer and leafy greens.”
The Midtown Farmers’ Market is open 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays at the North Hills shopping area in Raleigh. Info: midtownraleighfarmersmarket.com
See a complete list of local farmers markets at nando.com/1ap.
Pasta alla Norman
This recipe was suggested to us by Craig LeHoullier, aka N.C. Tomatoman, an avid heirloom vegetable gardener and author of “Epic Tomatoes.” Recipe from Mark Bittman, The New York Times.
1 1/2 pounds eggplant
Olive oil as needed (at least 1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 or 4 dried chiles
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, chopped (canned are fine; about 1 can)
1 teaspoon good dried oregano, or 1 tablespoon fresh
1 pound long pasta
1/2 cup chopped parsley or basil
1/2 cup grated ricotta salata (or in a pinch, pecorino Romano)
Slice the eggplant about 1/2 inch thick. Cook in abundant olive oil, without crowding, sprinkling with salt and adding more oil as needed. You will undoubtedly have to cook in batches; take your time and cook until the eggplant is nicely browned and soft. Remove to a plate; do not drain on paper towels. Meanwhile, put a large pot of water to boil and salt it.
At the end of cooking the eggplant, the pan will ideally have a couple of tablespoons of oil left. If there’s more or less, drain some off or add a bit. Turn the heat to medium, add the garlic and chiles, and cook until the garlic colors a little bit. Add the tomatoes and oregano, along with some salt and pepper; cook until saucy but not too dry, stirring occasionally.
Cook the pasta until tender but not mushy. While it’s cooking, cut the eggplant into strips and reheat for a minute in the tomato sauce. Drain the pasta and toss it with the tomato sauce and the eggplant. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then top with the parsley or basil and grated cheese and serve.
Yield: 4-6 servings.