Were you as excited as I was to see Napa cabbage at Mill City Farmer’s Market’s most recent winter market on Dec. 15?
Xai Lor and her husband Tongsee Xiong, owners of Bean Market farm, are known affectionately as the “farming wizards” at Mill City Farmers Market. Decades of farming experience in Laos and now Minnesota has given them the know-how to have the latest selection of storage crops like cabbage and sweet potatoes and earliest selection of summer crops.
A couple weeks ago, Xai, Tongsee and their daughter Aneedda showed us around their home in St. Paul. Most of their work between December and April takes place here, and it complements the five acres of farmland they rent in Rosemount.
Winter at the house is also spent babysitting their granddaughters, reading seed catalogs and coming up with new and inventive ways to improve the farm — like their idea to create cool storage in their garage.
Tongsee made their walk-in cooler from simple construction materials: particleboard, 2-by-2s for framing, foam insulation and an air conditioner for cooling and ventilation. A “CoolBot” to trick the air conditioner to go even colder may also be in the future for this cooler. While simple in construction, a cooler like this makes a big difference.
“In the summer we have to stop harvesting crops like strawberries when we run out of cold storage space. We leave them unharvested in the field and then they rot,” explains Aneedda.
Through the Mill City Farmers Market’s Next Stage Grant and other community resources, the market is hoping to improve and expand these types of DIY walk-in coolers, especially in the Hmong farming community where factors like rented land and access to electricity often make construction a challenge. Tongsee and Xai are interested in mentoring other farmers who are in need of easy, affordable cool storage space, particularly for delicate, high-value crops like flowers and fruit.
“My parents love gardening and are really proud of the Bean Market name. This year, all the Christmas presents to me and my siblings say ‘From Bean Market’ instead of Mom & Dad,” laughs Aneedda as we say our goodbyes.
You can find Xai and Tongsee of Bean Market farm and the ingredients you need for the recipe below at the Mill City Farmers Market’s next indoor Winter Market 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 1. Learn more at millcityfarmersmarket.org.
Xai’s quick-braised cabbage
This recipe comes from Mill City Farmers Market vendor Xai Lor of Bean Market farm. Serves 4-6 as a side dish. Enjoy with roasted chicken, grilled whitefish or fried tempeh strips and soy sauce to make this recipe your #WeeklyMarketMeal.
- 1 cup dried beans from Bean Market, soaked overnight (soldier beans recommended)
- 1 Tablespoon coconut, sunflower or vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated with a microplane
- 2–3 cloves peeled garlic, finely chopped
- 1 head of Napa cabbage, roughly chopped
- Salt or soy sauce, to taste
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
Boil soaked beans for 30-40 minutes until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Warm oil in a large pan on medium-low heat. Add onions and saute 2–3 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring often, 2 more minutes. Add cabbage, salt and drained beans and cook for 10 minutes, or less for crunchier cabbage. Season with more salt or soy sauce and red pepper flakes and serve warm.