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.
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.
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.
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.
The rain and wet soils kept us inside the barn and the greenhouses at the beginning of this week, but the last several days of dry weather have allowed us to take up the backlog of weeding. Carrots, corn, beets, and potatoes were cleared of weeds. On Friday, we did our last hilling of our potatoes. If you count both sides of the hill, Johnnie and I hilled close to a half a mile of potatoes rows. Necessary work, but not my favorite task.
It’s necessary because potatoes are fleshy projections that emerge from the stem of a potato plant. If the stem is not buried, it either fails to initiate these tubers or the ones made are green from exposure to sunlight. With potatoes, green = bad, since potatoes produce toxins, solanine and chaconine, in response to light. The tubers underground lack this toxin (or at least the concentration is so low as to be harmless). As the plant grows, we repeatedly bury the above ground stem to encourage tuber set and to avoid the solanine problem.
Though we only hill thrice, backyard gardeners have developed clever systems (sometimes involving stacking old tires up around the growing stem) where they bury multiple feet of the potato vine. If the potato plant is a late variety and the weather conditions cooperate, you can apparently get tremendous yields of potatoes from a single plant. Compared to other parts of the country, we have a relatively long season for growing potatoes, and yields of 2 pounds per foot are common here. I have a farmer colleague in Alaska who is able to get nearly 3 pounds per foot. Their mild summers and 24 hour daylight allow the potato to grow continuously.
The productivity of potatoes along with their versatility in the kitchen has led to their adoption in many cuisines. Native to the Americas, potatoes were initially distrusted by European farmers, but came to dominate the diets of many countries*. To think that the potato curries of India or our own mashed potatoes are recent creations in history amuses me.
Interestingly enough, potatoes are a nearly complete food. Supplemented with milk or butter, which provide certain key vitamins, humans can survive on a diet of just potatoes. This is not something I would recommend, but if you need further justification for eating more potatoes, there you go.
Recently, developing countries have begun to focus on production of this tuber. In the past grains have been emphasized as a means for feeding the masses, probably because they have much better storage capabilities than potatoes, are more calorie dense, and require less water to yield. However, under good conditions, a field of potatoes will produce more protein per acre than a field of wheat. Potatoes require minimal processing (dig up, wash, cook) whereas grains have to be threshed, winnowed, and sometimes hulled before cooking. Because potatoes do not travel well, there isn’t much of an international market in potatoes, but this has a curious side effect. Potato commodity prices are not as liable to fluctuate like those of grains. Significant potato production can provide countries with some buffer to volatile food prices.
We are growing around 34 varieties of potatoes, thought quite a few of these are small experimental plantings. We have quite a medley of colors and textures in this set as well as varying resistance to the pests and diseases that plague the crop. In honor of the upcoming holiday, those of you who requested new potatoes will be receiving a “red-white-and-blue” mix of potatoes. I am still delighted by the unearthing of potatoes, especially those with colored skins. It’s like I am miner finding jewels.
* Much of the facts in this post are courtesy of Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire and Wikipedia.
This week in your share, everyone will receive:
Mizuna: This mild Asian green has a beautiful saw-tooth leaf. It can be added raw to salads and is great in stir-fry or added at the end to soup. The stems are nice and crunchy.
Cucumbers: We have been enjoying these green beauties on salads. If you got basil in your share this week, you might try this recipe for cucumber basil sorbet.
Red Onions: These are the same as from before. Very versatile. We had them on pizza this week with agretti, mozzarella, black olives, artichokes, and garlic scapes.
You chose the rest of your share from the following list of vegetables: beets, spinach, new potatoes, mustard greens, kohlrabi, basil, erba stella, kale, sorrel, salad mix, garlic scapes, and dried aji chiles.
The most popular choices were basil, aji chiles, and salad mix. The aji chiles can be ground and used as you would chili powder/chili flakes. You can also reconstitute them by soaking them in water for several hours. Removing the seeds will lessen the heat; aji limon is about twice as hot as a jalapeno.
Take care and eat well.
Everyone received kohlrabi, spinach, and kale in your shares this week.
Kohlrabi: This is wonderful raw. We eat this sweet crunchy member of the cabbage family on salads. Just peel the the skins off, and cut into thin slices. They also make great crudite if you cut them into match sticks and use with dips. They are nice cooked and their mild flavor means they readily absorb other flavors and spices. They are a nice component in Indian curries.
Kashmiri-Style Kohlrabi Curry adapted from Roots by Diane
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 black cardamom pods
1 tsp fennel seed, ground
1lb of kohlrabi, peeled and chopped
2/3 c water
1 tsp salt
About 4 c of greens (we used chicory)
2 tbsp whipping cream
1. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chile and ginger and saute until fragrant and soft, but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the cardamom pods and fennel and saute until just aromatic, about 20 seconds. Add the kohlrabi, water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the turnips are almost tender when pierced with a fork, about 5 minutes. Pack the greens on top, cover, and let the greens wilt, about 3 minutes longer.
2. Give the greens and kohlrabi a gentle stir and then add the cream. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately.
Kale: Our mix of five varieties will give you a range of flavors. Great sauteed, steamed, or added to soup.
Spinach: This is the same as last week. For those of you who have a hard time eating raw spinach, try wilting it briefly: add the spinach to hot olive oil for a minute, turning frequently. Then dress like you would any salad. The warm spinach works nicely with softer cheese, like blue.
The rest of your share was chosen from the following list: garlic scapes, cucumbers, salad turnips, new potatoes, red onions, snap peas, chard, agretti, broccoli, beets, collard greens, and salad mix.
The most popular choices were cucumbers, snap peas, and broccoli. I have included some recipe ideas for these awesome veggies below.
Cucumber: These are just great raw, but if you find yourself with a few extra, you could make a cold cucumber soup. Here’s a link to a recipe that you might find helpful.
Snap Peas: These are wonderful out of hand, but they can also be lightly cooked and added to pasta or grains. We have been eating more quinoa lately, and I found an easy recipe that incorporates this healthy grain with snap peas.
Broccoli: Johnnie, our intern, pulled out my old copy of the original Moosewood Cookbook and made a stir-fry with our broccoli, snow peas, garlic, shallots, kohlrabi, and some turnips. Below is a recipe for Katzen’s Orange-Ginger Sauce that is added to the stir-fry.
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 c orange juice
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 c soy sauce
1 to 2 tbsp honey
salt, pepper, and chili powder to taste
1)Place cornstarch in a small bowl. Add orange juice, and whisk until the cornstarch dissolves. Stir in all the remaining ingredients.
2) Using the sauce for a stir-fry, stir from the bottom of the bowl, and add to the wok or skillet about midway through the cooking. If you are using this for anything else, place this in a saucepan over medium heat, and gradually bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Lower heat to simmer and cook, whisking frequently, until thick and glossy (3 to 5 minutes). Serve hot or warm.
This week at market we will have radish leaf, new potatoes, cucumbers, green garlic, garlic scapes, scallions, red onions, salad and braising mix, spinach, agretti, sweet dandelion, gai laan, kale, collards, radishes, turnips, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, fava beans, and snap and snow peas.
It has been a while since my last actual post and not the short market lists I put up each week. We had a break in our CSA over April and May, and I decided to take a hiatus from writing during the same time. The late spring is a busy time on the farm, and it felt right to focus my energies on the fields.
Those fields look great. All of our corns are growing nicely. The winter squash are peeking out of their hills, and the summer squash we transplanted are growing quickly. Our spring brassicas are maturing, and the heads of cabbage and broccoli are wonderful sight when we pull back their row cover. It’s been a great year for turnips and radishes, and each week seems to bring ever more of these spring roots. Then the kale… I am not the biggest fan of summer kale, but these are persuading me to skip the collards.
Though our spinach has suffered a bit from slugs, they are the largest, tastiest specimens that I have ever grown. We are harvesting leaves the size of oven mitts!
The new greenhouse is filled with peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers along with basil and some tropical herbs. Jim and I shared the first cherry tomato of the season last week, and we hope to have them in quantity in another few weeks.
We welcomed bees to our farm this April, and they have successfully established themselves. We keep adding empty boxes to the hive to allow them to expand, and every time, I lift the older boxes, I amazed at how heavy they are. It’s remarkable how these tiny creatures collect so much nectar and pollen from flowers and bring it to their hive. When you realize that something like 75% of the water in that nectar is evaporated away to make honey, the heft of those boxes is even more amazing. What a feat.
As you can imagine, late spring is a time of grace for us. Everything is growing so quickly, everything is so green and still moist from the occasional rain. It certainly feels like something I didn’t earn, a gift. It is also such a busy time that I sometimes fail to appreciate it all. Perhaps a return to writing these posts will nudge me to do more of this.
This week in your share everyone will receive the following:
Hakurei Salad Turnips: These are the same as last week. I love these raw, but I decided to experiment with cooking them this week. The New York Times has a series of recipes encouraging cooks to take another look at turnips: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/giving-turnips-a-second-look/
We have had the mashed turnips with horseradish, which was nice, though not my favorite way to eat these. We also cooked the turnips in a gratin, and I have to say it was a pleasant surprise. The turnips were nice and meaty when combined with the cream and Parmesan. I added some nutmeg to the recipe and used green garlic instead of clove garlic.
Alas, our efforts at turnip upside down cake need some refinement.
Red Onions: These are small bulbs, but they make a great addition to salad and work well in most recipes. You could combine these with the green garlic and some black olives, basil, and feta on a pizza.
Green Garlic: During the winter some of our garlic heads sprout before we get a chance to distribute them to members. Instead of throwing these out, we plant them mid-winter. If the conditions are right, they continue to grow. Since they haven’t had the same amount of time to grow, they are smaller than our garlic that is planted in October, but they taste the same. They allow us to offer our customers garlic in some form nearly year round.
Rest of your share: You were able to choose from the following list of items to complete your share: broccoli, kohlrabi, spinach, new potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, kale, agretti, sweet dandelion, salad mix, snap peas, and shallots.
New potatoes, cucumbers, and spinach were our most popular requests, so I thought I would include a few recipe ideas for these.
Royal Potato Salad: Yotam Ottolenghi has a recipe for potato salad in his book, Plenty, that could be adapted to your share.
12 quail eggs (Dancing Chicken sells these just across our booth at King market)
1 c peas (you could chop up some of your snap peas instead)
1 lb new potatoes
1 cup basil leaves
½ c parsley leaves
⅓ c pine nuts
½ c grated Parmesan
2 garlic cloves
1 c olive oil
½ tsp white wine vinegar
a bunch of sorrel or mint leaves, finely shredded
salt and black pepper
1.Place the quail eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for between 30 seconds (soft-boiled) and 2 minutes (hard-boiled), depending on how you like them cooked. Refresh with cold water, then peel.
2. Blanch the peas in boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain and soak with cold water.
3. In a separate pan of boiling water, cook the potatoes for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are soft but not falling apart. [Our Yukon Golds set fewer but larger new potatoes, so you may need to chop these before boiling].
4. While the potatoes are cooking, place the basil, parsley, pine nuts, Parmesan and garlic in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Add the oil and pulse until you get a runny pesto. [if you froze pesto last year, now would be the time to pull those out and use them]. Pour into a large bowl.
5. Drain the potatoes, then cut in two as soon as you can handle them. Add the bowl and toss with the pesto, vinegar, sorrel/mint, and peas. Mix well, even crushing the potatoes slightly, so all the flavors mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning; be generous with the pepper.
6. Cut the eggs in half and gently fold into the salad. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Cucumbers: When I was in college, I lived for six months in India. My host mother would make a Maharashtrian dish called koshambir out of cucumbers, onions, a little bit of tomato (though you can omit this), salt, and yogurt. I was sort of like raita if you have had that before, but chunkier and with less yogurt. Almost salsa like. She would peel the cucumbers, halve them, and remove the seeds. She would dice the cucumber as well as a small onion and tomato and mix the combination with a couple tablespoons of yogurt and some salt to taste. That’s it: a simple cooling side dish to a spicy meal. Make only enough to eat all of at one sitting as it doesn’t store very well.
Spinach: Ivy Manning is a local cookbook author, and she has a recipe that I have never cooked but have wanted to for a while. It’s a spinach and shallot flan, which sounds odd, but also sounds pretty delicious.
Spinach and Roasted Shallot Flan from The Farm to Table Cookbook
4 medium shallots
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ bunch (2 cups) spinach
2 tbsp fresh marjoram or ½ tsp dried marjoram
1 ½ c heavy cream
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
1 pinch nutmeg
½ c Parmesan cheese
2 oz white cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Peel the shallots and trim off the roots while the leaving the root end intact, so the shallots don’t break apart during cooking. Halve them lengthwise. Heat the oil in a small ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat; add the shallots and saute until they begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, carefully turn them over, season with salt and pepper, and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake until they are soft and caramelized, about 30 minutes.
2. Divide the spinach leaves, shallots, and marjoram among 6 custard cups or brulee dishes and put them on a baking sheet. Whisk the eggs, cream, mustard, nutmeg, Parmesan, and ½ tsp of salt in a medium bowl. Add the mixture to within ½ inch from the top of each custard cup. Sprinkle white cheddar on top of each, leaving some space around the edges to allow the flan to puff up slightly.
3. Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven; bake until the flans are puffy and the custard is just set, about 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
For our first share of this season, everyone will receive spring cabbage, broccoli, and salad turnips. The remainder of your share you chose using our electronic email form. Your options were spinach, new potatoes, cucumbers, kale, green garlic, scallions, salad mix, baby artichokes, fava beans, snap peas, kohlrabi, and shallots. Below are some recipe ideas to help with cooking all the vegetables in you share.
Spring Cabbage: These green gems are tender and make a nice raw salad. Slice the cabbage into very thin strips. Some people will throw boiling water on these and then immediately rinse with cold water to slightly tenderize the cabbage, but I am not sure that’s necessary with these cabbages. Then you can add you favorite salad dressing. I think a lemon-tahini dressing goes well with the cabbage.
Broccoli: Steamed, sauteed, or raw you can’t go wrong with broccoli. I am big fan of steaming broccoli and dressing with an Asian dressing. I like to take a tablespoon of white miso (or 2 tablespoons of soy sauce) and whisk with a couple tablespoons of rice wine vinegar and toasted sesame oil. If you got garlic in your share, I would mince some of this with just a tiny bit of fresh ginger and add to the dressing. You may need to adjust the proportions of the ingredients to get the perfect balance for your palate.
Salad Turnips: These sweet, tender white beauties are great raw on salad, or pickled. But Jim and I just discovered how great these are grilled. We slice the turnips into 1/4 inch thick rounds, toss with olive oil, and throw on the grill, turning them once before they get tender. Add some salt when you are done. The smokiness of the grilling with the sweetness of the turnip is mighty tasty!