Miscellini

In this week’s share, everyone received castelfranco chicory, Asian stir fry mix, garlic, and rapini.  You were able to choose the remainder of your share from the following:  cress, kale, bekana, leeks, chives, parsnips, polenta, maceratese, braising mix, sorrel, spinach, purple sprouting broccoli, oregano, thyme, and lettuce.

The chicory heads this week are very large, so I would suggest cooking with at least part of the head, though if you love raw chicory salads, you will be well supplied this week!  The flavor of chicory is bitter, but cooking helps moderate that.  Here’s a simple recipe that combines apples and bacon with braised chicory.

Our Asian stir fry mix is composed of bok choi, komatsuna, golden frill and ruby streaks mustard greens, and ho mi z. Jim likes to always have some cooked white rice on hand, and if you are in need of a quick meal fried rice with this stir fry mix would make for an easy dinner.   Check out this recipe for ideas or inspiration.

Though I use the word rapini, what I am actually referring to is miscellini.  Rapini are technically the florets of a type of turnip bred for its flowers.  But all the brassicas (think cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi…)  produce florets in the spring.  So this week you will have a choice between kalini (the florets of kale) and brussels sproutini (I know–work with me here).  These are wonderful as a side just steamed, sauteed, or grilled with a little salt, olive oil, and lemon juice.  Brussels sproutini actually taste like brussels sprouts, so you can fry and brown them in butter as would the regular sprouts. Hope you enjoy this spring treat.

Take care and eat well.

 

 

Kids

Our does gave birth to four kids last week. Here are a few photos of the young ones.

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Everyone received garlic, bok choi, spaghetti squash, and rapini in their share this week. To complete the rest of your share, you were able to choose from spinach, miner’s lettuce, leeks, onions, kale, sorrel, chives, oca, parsnips, salad mix, chicory mix, cornmeal, popcorn, wild greens, rhubarb, nettles, bekana, and extra rapini.

The spaghetti squash can be roasted, the pulp removed with a fork, and the strands used like pasta. I could see wilting the bok choi with sesame oil and soy sauce, adding some garlic, ginger, and green onion (if you have any from last week left) and tossing with the spaghetti squash. You could add your favorite protein to make it a more substantial meal. If you are adventuresome, here’s also a recipe for Pad Thai using spaghetti squash.

This week Jim adapted a recipe from The Moosewood Cookbook using rapini. It was delicious and comforting food.

Rapini-Rice Casserole

1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds

1 tsp olive oil
2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
2 cups diced onion
2 lbs chopped rapini (remove very end of the stem)
1 tsp of salt
4 – 5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne
black pepper, to taste
1-2 beaten eggs (or boiled flax seeds – see instructions below)
1 cup lowfat milk (optional)
1/2 cup packed grated cheddar
paprika

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9 X 13 inch baking pan.

2) In a small 4 X 4 baking pan, add pumpkin or sunflower seeds, 1 tsp of oil and salt to taste, mix well and bake for 15 min or until seeds begin to brown nicely.

3) Place the rice in a medium sized saucepan with 3 cups water and 1 tsp butter, salt to taste. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower to the slowest possible simmer. Cook covered and undisturbed for 35 to 40 min. Remove from the heat, transfer to a mixing bowl and fluff with a fork. [We made rice a different way, so feel free to use your own method]
4) Heat the oil in a deep skillet on medium heat. Add onion and saute 5 to 8 min, until soft. Add spinach, 1 tsp salt and garlic and cook about 5 minutes more over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add this to the rice, along with the seasonings and 3/4 cup of the pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Mix well.
5) Beat 1-2 eggs and add to milk or add milk with flax seed mixture. Stir this into the rapini-rice mixture along with the grated cheese. Save some cheese to spread over casserole in the last step.
6) Spread into the prepared pan, sprinkle with remaining pumpkin or sunflower seeds and grated cheese, dust with paprika.
7) Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 min, until heated through and lightly browned on the top.

Since I am allergic to eggs, Jim used flax seed in place of eggs here. If you are vegan or are wanting to substitute the eggs for another reason, try this trick. In a small saucepan, add 1/3 cup flax seeds and 1/3 cup water. Bring to a boil while stirring. Turn the burner off and let this sit for 10 min. It should thicken similar to an egg white.

CSA Week 14

This week in your share everyone will receive parsnips, spinach, and chicory.  You were able to choose the remainder of your share from the following list:  garlic, leeks, scallions, lettuce, rapini, kale, mustard greens, mizuna, cress, sorrel, polenta, popcorn, nettles, foraged greens, and our braising mix.  

If you are struggling with what to do with parsnips,  here’s a nice recipe with salmon.  Earlier this week, I braised them in duck broth with garlic, olive oil, and thyme for an hour at 350F in the oven, and they were delicious.  

Chicory is a bitter green, but this can be lessened by soaking in ice water or by cooking them.  Here’s an interesting recipe for chicory salad that you might enjoy.  

1000 Words

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****

Everyone will receive spinach, erba stella, onions, and storage squash this week. You chose the remainder of your share from the following list: rapini, salad mix, mache, garlic, leeks, parsnips, radishes, cornmeal, rosemary, thyme, oca, sorrel, chives, kale, foraged greens, nettles, and burdock.

Several of you have lamented that you never get to use our flour because baking bread is too intimidating or time consuming. I have been thinking about this, and you could combine the squash from this week with the flour from last share to make pumpkin pancakes. Since they use baking soda as leaven, they are a quick and easy way to cook with our flour. When I lived in Austin, there was a restaurant called Kirby Lane Cafe, and they had the best gingerbread pancakes, but in the fall for a spell, they would also make pumpkin pancakes. They were delicious. Here’s a recipe.

Erba stella can be eaten raw or lightly cooked. I would recommend sauteeing it and finishing with olive oil, salt, and a squeeze of lemon. But you could also try this approach.

For those of you who got the radishes, they are wonderful raw, but I just had them fried in butter (cut in half prior). I was surprised at how nice they were, firm but not crunchy, sweet but with a little bit of spice remaining.

Take care and eat well.

Return

After a long time away from the farm, it’s good to return.  Jim and Julie endured a very cold winter and the signs are still present:  so much of our overwintering crops are dead stumps and the fields are muddy, bare after our cover crop was killed by the deep cold in December.   But spring is coming and the signs are rife:  the grass in our pastures is thickening, the brassicas that did survive are sending up rapini, and our beds of arugula in the greenhouse are tilting with their beautiful and delicious flowers.

It’s still cool and when there is rain, the gray and cold weighs on the soul.  But there has been sun most days since I returned, and this carries with it hope.  Enough hope.

Our farm and the little part of Oregon that we frequent now feels like our home.  It’s been almost four years since we landed in Oregon, three since we started the farm.

Finally, there is that deep ache that one feels on the return flight when one passes over the patchwork of fields and towns that is our Willamette Valley. The expectation that rises when we leave Dayton and drive the last few miles to the farm on Wallace Road.   The smile that unfolds as we turn down the gravel road, the house so small, then growing, then upon us as the drive swings between the big leaf maples and the giant fir.  And Zola, our little dog, running out to greet us and the flock of chickens swarming at the sound of humans.  We’re home.

I wonder how long it takes for a new place to become home.   Is it a matter of attachment, of whether you are focused on the future and occupying this new place or on the past and your connections to the old one?  What about friends  and the forest of memories that reminds that this place is special and yours.  And theirs.  Is it a matter of brute time, of awakening to the same images and sounds over months and years?   Maybe they wear down a part of us until they fit smooth.  

I am reminded of a poem by Kay Ryan.

THINGS SHOULDN’T BE SO HARD

A life should leave
deep tracks:
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn-out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
white pastilles;
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
almost erased.
Her things should
keep her marks.
The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small —
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.
Things shouldn’t
be so hard.

***

Everyone will receive whole wheat flour, garlic, arugula, and parsnips in their share this Saturday.  You will choose the rest of your share from the following list:  sorrel, chicory, wild greens mix (cleavers, baby thistle, bittercress, chickweed, lapsara, and dandelion), oca, sunchokes, mustard greens, baby kale, scallions, cress, spinach, nettles, cabbage, leeks, burdock, braising mix, popcorn, and erba stella.

For those of you who are curious about how to use nettles, see this site for useful information.

We have been eating a fresh chicory salad with blood oranges and a dressing made from whole milk yogurt, a pinch of salt, and some fresh arbequina olive oil that one of our friends gave us.  It’s simple and quick, but full of flavor.

If you are looking for a creative way to dress up fresh greens, try adding pickled raisins to your salads.  The combination of sweet and sour is a nice compliment to arugula, spinach, and erba stella. Here is one recipe.  We combine the raisins with the greens, a generous splash of olive oil, and soft cheese like feta or chevre.

Take care and eat well.

Paper Skin

Our week has been busy turning over beds in the greenhouse:  uprooting old plantings, applying new compost, and transplanting into these renovated beds.  Because of the rain we have also been focused on getting our storage crops out of the field and dried.  So the rest of the dry bean crop has been cut and is drying in our equipment shed, and we have shucked the first round of our parching, flour, and popcorns.   I collected the corn husks and put them in the goat manger, and the does spend hours using their prehensile lips teasing the kernels out of the pieces of cob left in the husks.  All of our onions were moved into the barn to finish their drying, and it’s a great sight to see the tables of paper-skinned roots arrayed in rows.
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In other words fall is arriving, and we are busy preparing for a winter full of food.  It’s easy to pause now and then during the work and reflect on how fortunate we have been this season.  I still marvel at how much food we are able to grow in the few acres we cultivate.
The declining light  and the return of the cool weather always hang heavily on me in the fall.  I appreciate the second spurt of growth that occurs as the rains reinvigorate our cool weather crops, but the season saddens me.  We still have weeks I hope before a hard frost, but I know what awaits us, and I begin to feel that sense of loss that defines how I view this season.  I try to remind myself that our lives are cyclical and that the riot of summer growth will return again, but it’s just an intellectual feint.
I grew up in South, and so I appreciate hot, humid weather, and even though I love the Pacific Northwest, I find that my body doesn’t as much.  It’s as if my skin knows in some uncanny way where it is from:  the feel of electricity before a summer lightning storm, the thick, soupy air of July, the combination of twilight and warm breezes.  Though our climate here in Oregon never really approximates those sensations, there is a time in August and early September when there is enough heat to warm the skin and satisfy its deep desire for home.  Just as it begins to feel this, alas fall returns.
The irony is that for many, especially the young, fall is actually a time of new beginnings.  School starts again, children see old friends and in the ever shifting alliances of the young, make new ones, and with each new school year, new opportunities and challenges emerge.  When I was teacher, I would look forward to the fall with some of the same pleasant expectancy.  As a farmer now, perhaps I need to reimagine the fall in a way that provides a similar lift.
Regardless, fall is a time to appreciate the hard work of the spring and summer and literally “take stock”  of  what the sun and soil have wrought.  Jim’s sister and husband visited us yesterday, and we went to a local restaurant for breakfast.  The restaurant had a quote on the board. It was something to the effect of:  “Fall is my favorite season because one receives so much in abundance for so little work.”
***
In your share this week, everyone will receive braising greens, leeks, and green beans.  The rest of your share you chose using our email ordering system.
The braising mix contains chard, several types of mustard and asian greens, erba stella, calaloo and amaranth leaf, arugula, and two types of chicory.  I find that steam-sauteeing works well with this mix.  Begin by heating olive oil with whatever seasoning you would like (we usually start with garlic and red pepper). Slice handfuls of the mix into thin ribbons and add this to the warm oil.  Using tongs, coat the greens with the oil and heat on medium until the greens begin to brighten in color.  At this point, I add enough liquid to just barely cover the bottom of the pan with liquid.  The idea is to boil off this liquid, which then steams the greens sitting above.  This should take two to three minutes.  The liquid can be just water, but white wine or a blend of water and soy sauce are nice alternatives.  Once the greens are cooked,  they can be added to pasta or a quiche or just enjoyed by themselves with a little salt and pepper.

CSA Week 14

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This week we finished harvesting our storage onions and shallots, and they are now drying on tables we constructed from old pallets. With all of this warm weather I hope they will be ready for storage in another week. We have a range of colors, shapes, and flavors: torpedo-shaped Rosa Lungi di Tropea, coin-shaped cipollini, an heirloom from Holland called ‘Blood Red’, and your standard white and red globe onions. Seeing all these bulbs arrayed makes me feel fortunate for this year’s weather.

Besides onions we have also begun harvesting dry beans. From the photo you can see how the plants are beginning to die back–their yellow leaves a sign that we can begin to cut the bushes for final drying off field. This is our first year growing dry beans at this scale, which is still small compared to our combining neighbors. But Jim and I love dry beans and felt that we needed to grow these at least for our own use. But on reflection we knew that some of our CSA members would also appreciate getting more of their diet beyond vegetables locally. So we planted a bit more. Enough to get members’ responses and see if we should continue next year.

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Besides this, we are in maintenance mode now. Most of our plantings are in the ground for fall and winter production, and so we are trying to keep our weeds under control and tie up loose ends. It’s funny but I enjoy crossing off all the little random projects from my work list more than I do finishing the big projects. Perhaps it’s the illusion of more productivity (“Look at all the things we did”). But I suspect it’s more about my desire to complete things, to then leave them behind, and stride ever forward towards the future. A futile destination, but one I seem to favor.

I’ll close this post with more pictures from the farm.

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Butterbeans on the vine

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The first edamame of the season

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Overwintering leeks

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Johnny weeding beets

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Some of the flowers we grew for Andy and Maria’s wedding

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CSA Week 13

It was great seeing all of you who visited the farm yesterday.  The food people brought was delicious, and I was happy to see everyone enjoying the many varieties of tomatoes out for tasting.  I loved the conversations: your observations, questions, and insights about the farm keep my farming practice fresh.  
 
As for your share this week, everyone will receive spigariello, red sweet peppers, and zucchini.  We ran short of melons, so not everyone who requested one was able to get one this week, but I have recorded the names of the unmeloned and promise that you will be the first to receive the melons that ripen next.  Last year I was carting out wheelbarrow loads of watermelons and musk melons from the garden around this time. But melons need heat to mature, and August was so mild that our vines have really struggled. Let’s hope the heat returns for the next few weeks of September.  
 
A number of you have asked about the winter CSA, and we will have the membership form ready for those of you who are interested in the next few days.  I will send an email later this week with more information, though it should work very similarly to what you have experienced thus far.  We will be moving the drop-off date to Saturday mornings, and the location will migrate from King Market to a residence in Northeast Portland.  Stay tuned.
 
Thanks again for braving the traffic and visiting Mudjoy!  

Summer CSA Week 7

Our parsnip forest is no more.  

This spring I allowed a row of parsnips that the carrot flies had ravaged to continue to grow and bloom.  It has been said that one doesn’t really know a plant until one witnesses it in flower, and parsnips are an illustration of this. Parsnips like other members of the carrot family are biennials, and they spend their first year of growth storing away energy in their root.  If not harvested, this root will sprout an impressive flower stalk the following spring.

Our parsnips grew twelve feet tall and obscured our house from the road.  The flowers attracted a wide array of insects and were quickly followed by small, oval green seeds.  I tasted one and it had a wonderful minty-parsnipy flavor.  I would have eaten more, but the one little seed also left my tongue and mouth numb.  I  figured this was the parsnip’s gentle way of warding me off from its progeny.  

We cut down the parsnips and a few other vegetables we let flower for the bees this past week to make way for our fall and overwintering plantings. Jim was happy to have the view of the road return, though I was a little sad to see these majestic plants go.  But we needed the space for the next round of vegetables.  Johnny and I spread compost and our organic fertilizer mix on the mowed ground and disced n’ mixed everything.  We’ll let things begin to decompose and transplant starting in early August.  

With luck and good husbandry, these planting will keep our winter CSA members  fed all winter and spring.  

***

This week everyone received garlic, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  We threw open the farm, and you were able to choose your remaining seven items from the following list:  new potatoes, parsley, basil, chard, kale, scallions, zucchini, beets, ficoide glaciale, broccoli, cauliflower, blackberries, salad mix, spigariello, shiso, agretti, salad turnips, braising mix, and collards.  

Below are a few recipe ideas for some of the items above. 

Shiso:  The Japanese make a refreshing iced drink from shiso, lime juice, and sugar.  Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, cut the heat, and then add chopped shiso to the water. Steep for 15 minutes, and then strain.  Add a half cup of sugar (or more depending on your taste) and mix until the sugar dissolves.  Cool the shiso tea in the refrigerator. Once cooled, add the juice of two to four limes to the sweetened tea.  Serve over ice.  

Zucchini:  I just saw a great recipe for zucchini tian (a sort of casserole) on the New York Times website.  The author, Melissa Clark uses cherry tomatoes, which many of you received in your share, but I am sure diced tomatoes would also work.  

Ficoide Glaciale:  On the recommendation of one of my farmers market customers, I made a summer salad with this vegetable and peaches. I chopped a peach into bite-size pieces and added two good handfuls of ficoide glaciale.  I then tossed the mix with olive oil and salt and topped with blue cheese.  It was amazing:  sweet, salty, crunchy, and creamy.  

Cauliflower:  Many of you requested this vegetable.  I love it roasted with lot of garlic and butter, but I recently found an interesting recipe for a cauliflower-crust pizza.  Yeah, it sounds weird, but it’s pretty tasty.  If you find yourself with a little time and a hankering for pizza pie, give it a try. 

 

 

 

 

The Vine that Will Not Climb

It’s been a busy week, weeding, sowing our next succession of green beans and sweet corn, and transplanting another round of our summer greens.  We have also begun sowing transplants of our overwintering crops, mostly brassicas.

But this week and next will afford us some time to catch our breath.  Everything is growing lustily, and we are entering a maintenance and harvest phase for most of our crops.  Keep them weeded, and where necessary side-dressed with more of our organic fertilizer, and the crops will grow along fine.

I was weeding along one of our vine crops, a yam called a Jinengo potato, and though we have a wonderful trellis set up for them to climb, these vines were lumbering along the ground.  This is striking to me because I remember a few weeks ago, laying these same vines against the trellis, so they could climb upwards.  But for some unknown reason, they have decided not to climb.

This along with the visit from a friend has had me thinking about how we humans sometimes are like these vines.  We have opportunities to grow upwards, and yet, we don’t.  I don’t know why the yam fails to do so, but it strikes me that we people are sometimes inclined to define ourselves in ways that preclude certain types of personal growth.  “I can’t do that” or “That’s not me”  become barriers, just as powerful as the bars on a prison cell, to our own development.

This issue of identity seems so crucial, especially at a time when many people are hampered by a sluggish economy.  It’s in times like this that personal redefinition can yield so much fruit.  Change fields, change careers, change habits, and adapt. Climb the trellis that stands, stands so close, like screen in a door, that one sees through it.  Obviously, this is easier said than done, but maybe the image of this vine, sadly sprawled on the ground, will motivate some to follow a different path.

After weeding, I moved the vines back onto the trellis and wound a few tendrils around the metal of the trellis.  They really are beautiful little plants, leaves shaped like green hearts.  Later in the season, small tubers will form along the vines, aerial tubers that can be collected and resemble potatoes after cooking. Below ground the root will swell into a large, yam-like growth.  A very useful plant in all.  So, I wound the tendrils again on the trellis with these images and hope in my mind.

Perhaps this time they will climb upwards.

***

Everyone received spigariello, spinach, and basil in their share this week.  You were able to choose the remaining items in your share from the following list:  salad turnips, kale, new potatoes, Capucjiner shelling peas, chard, carrots, braising mix, lettuce, cucumbers, agretti, beets, red onions, broccoli, and garlic scapes.

Below are a few recipe ideas to help you cook with your share.

Spigariello:  This Italian broccoli is bred for its leaves rather than its florets.  The dark, blue-green leaves taste similar to kale, and some speculate that this crop is actually a cross  between kale and broccoli.  Treat as you would kale:  it’s excellent sauteed, braised, or even roasted.  Here’s a recipe for roasted kale with lemon dressing.

Basil:  It feels like summer once this herb comes into season.  We like to throw it here or there:  on pizza, in stir-fry, on pasta.  It’s such a versatile herb. If you received cucumbers in your share, you might try this refreshing drink to beat the heat.

Agretti:  One of our market patrons, Amy Wong, just wrote a wonderful piece about agretti for OPB.  She has included two delicious recipes:  a pasta dish with agretti, crab, and artichoke hearts and a raw agretti salad.  Check it out here:  http://www.opb.org/artsandlife/article/seasonal-ingredients-recipes-agretti/

Carrots: Many of you chose these sweet roots.  I found a simple and light recipe from Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant that you might find useful.

Czechoslovakian Apple and Carrot Confetti

¼ c fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp fresh orange juice

4 apples (enough for 2 cups grated)

2 c grated carrots

1 tbsp grated lemon rind

2 tbsp currants

¼ tsp salt

2-3 tbsps sugar (optional)

Combine the lemon juice and orange juice. Grate the apples directly into the juice or they will brown quickly.  Toss the apples with the rest of the ingredients and serve immediately, garnished with fresh mint leaves.