Summer CSA Week 8

Everyone will receive garlic, tomatoes, and fennel bulb this week.  You may choose the remainder of your share from the following:  zucchini, cabbage, beets, calaloo, orach, cilantro, Walla Walla onions, filet beans, blackberries, frying and sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, polenta, kale/collards, and agretti.

The fennel bulb is delicious roasted, but this time of year we avoid using the oven because of the heat.  Fortunately, fennel bulb can be eaten raw.  Slice very thin and combine with a simple vinaigrette.  I just recently had a roasted beet, orange, and shaved fennel salad that was incredible.  Though I don’t know the exact source, this recipe I think would be a good facsimile.  Fennel is great on the grill, though you probably want to use a grilling pan, so that the slices don’t fall through the grate.

Several of you asked how we were able to have tomatoes so early, and I thought I would share a few of our tricks.  The first variable (and which is out of my control) is early warmth–June was downright hot at times, and this has certainly allowed us to offer tomatoes over a month early.  Genetics matter, too, and I select tomato varieties that yield within 80 days. Starting your plants early also helps. All of our tomato plants were also transplanted into our unheated hoophouse in April–this allows us to get the plants in the ground a month or so before one could transplant them outside.  The hoophouse keeps the plants dry during spring showers (which helps avoid early blight) and keeps them warmer at night.  For many heat loving plants, what they really love is warm nights–not particularly hot days.
The last two strategies are the most severe and involve consciously stressing the plants.  We prune our tomatoes to a central leader.  This encourages early and large fruit set, though total fruit yield is unaffected.  Finally, we reduce the water we provide each plant.  This reduces fruit size and concentrates flavor, which helps counterbalance the fact that early tomatoes, especially if they are irrigated, rarely win taste contests.
Oh, and we have one more strategy to produce excellent tasting tomatoes.  We have a tomato tasting in August to get your feedback and let us know which varieties we should continue to grow.  This year’s tasting will be August 15th–save the date!
Take care and eat well.

Summer CSA Week 7

This week everyone will receive tomatoes, endive, onions, and bekana.  The remainder of your share may be chosen from the following:  ficoide glaciale, wild blackberries, beets, braising mix, calaloo, peppers, beans, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, kohlrabi, collards, lettuce, parsley or basil, dry beans, garlic, and whole wheat flour.
The tomatoes benefitted from the recent hot weather we had and taste surprisingly good for early tomatoes (early tomatoes rarely win taste contests). We just had friends over and served sliced tomatoes with a little sea salt as an antipasti. They were just right.
The onions are Walla Walla sweets, and true to their name they are mild onions with a lovely sweetness.  You can cook with them, but they stand out raw–maybe pair them with the tomatoes in a pico-de-gallo.
The endive is a frilly, blanched head of mildly bitter leaves.  This one can be eaten raw, though if you don’t like bitterness, you might want to steep the sliced endive in ice water to remove the bitterness. It can also be braised, grilled, or added to soups.  This time of year I really like to pair fresh fruits with goat cheese and chicories and drizzle with a vinaigrette.
Our pickling cucumbers are coming on, and I anticipate having enough to sell at bulk prices in two weeks or so.  If you are a pickler and are interested in these, let me know and I will put you on our list.  The minimum order is 5 lbs and the price per lb is $1.25.
Finally, a number of you have inquired about when we will have meat ducks again.  We would love to raise another round of these birds.  If you are interested in purchasing a duck, let me know this week, so I can go ahead and arrange for ducklings.  Delivery would probably be sometime in late August or September depending on duckling availability.  The price per lb is $8.25.
I hope your week is off to a good start, and I will see you on Thursday.
Hurray for the start of tomato season!

Summer CSA Week 6

Everyone will receive lettuce, new garlic, and zucchini in your share this week.  You can choose the remainder of your share from the following:  escarole, braising mix, bekana (a mild, lettuce-like mustard), beets, cucumbers, red scallions, beetberry, broccoli, kale, calaloo, tomatoes, romano beans, frying peppers, basil, parlsey, polenta, and kohlrabi.

Both the garlic and the lettuce are the same as last week. And the zucchini you have received in the past.  It’s still early enough in the season that lightly sauteed zucchini with a little goat cheese is enough to make me happy.  No need to break out zucchini bread recipes just yet.  However, if you are looking for another savory application for zucchini, try making zucchini lasagna (where thinly sliced zucchini function as the noodles).  I will be taking our extras and fermenting them according to this relish recipe.  If all goes well, you should see this as an option in your share in a week or so.

Take care and eat well!

Summer CSA Week 5

Everyone will receive lettuce, escarole, new garlic, and collards in your share this week.  The rest of your share can be chosen from the following: broccoli, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes!, romano beans, calaloo greens, sour pickles, red scallions, braising mix (finally, again!), beets (golden and Chioggia), turnips, ficoide glaciale, fennel, kimchi, peas, dry beans, and cornmeal.

The collards will be either a Vates-style (dark green, thick leaves) or North Carolina Yellow (my seed is the same as from this story: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104882982).
The new garlic is fresh garlic that has formed its cloves but hasn’t dried down yet.  As a result, the skins on the cloves are soft.  But you should still remove the skins…  A little milder than dried-down garlic, but used in all the same ways.
This escarole is my new favorite green for this season.  I love members of the chicory family, but most of the varieties are just too bitter during the summer months.  But this one is lovely–reminds me of walnuts.  It’s tender enough to be made into a salad, but can also be braised or lightly grilled.

Summer CSA Week 4

Everyone received spinach, lettuce, and kale this week. To complete your share, you were able to choose from the following: cucumbers, zucchini, green onions, new garlic, kohlrabi, broccoli, salad turnips, Chinese broccoli, beets, peas, favas, fennel bulb, ficoide glaciale, calaloo, and kimchi.

We have three different varieties of kale for you to choose from: emerald lacinato, frilly frisee, and a light green scotch kale. I like pairing peanuts with greens, either raw or lightly sauteed. Here is an option based on a dish found at Leon, a popular London restaurant. I am also a big fan of seaweed salads, and I had the inspiration to substitute kale for the seaweed. I base the dressing on one I found at the New York Times, but there are several variations. Finally, here is a twist on the now-classic kale salad–try charring the kale to add new flavors to a favorite dish.

At pickup, there will be several varieties of lettuce varying in natural sweetness and bitterness. The tall red lettuces are romaines, and they have been bred to have more bitterness than other types of lettuce. But I find if you use a strongly flavored dressing (a Caesar, for example) or use a creamy dressing, then you hardly notice the bitterness at all.

Finally, the spinach is the last we will have until the cool weather returns in the fall. But it is so nutty and toothsome–I like it raw but it also holds up well to wilting.  Here is an easy recipe for a wilted spinach salad with bacon vinaigrette. You might also want to try this lemon creamed spinach recipe:  for the vegetarians among us, you can leave out the bacon. What I like about this last recipe is that it can be eaten warm or later chilled. The acidity from the lemon works well in either case.

Summer CSA Week 3

Everyone received salad turnips, braising mix, zucchini, and ficoide glaciale this week. You could complete your share from the following:  cucumbers, lettuce, salad mix, magenta orach, spinach, bekana, broccoli, fava beans, mustard raab, Chinese broccoli, yukina savoy, kohlrabi, new garlic, green onions, napa cabbage, collards, and kale.

The braising mix can be lightly sauteed and finished with olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. It works well as a side or tossed with pasta. Handfuls stir-fried with garlic, soy sauce, and mushrooms make for a nice partner with steamed white rice and your favorite protein. Pesto is another option–just substitute it for  basil in many recipes. We also juice it with an apple and some ginger if we find it lingering in the fridge or lack the time to cook it.

The zucchini are standard as are the salad turnips (look to previous posts for ideas).

The ficoide glaciale is one of my favorite summer greens. It’s a succulent from the deserts of Southern Africa and has a lovely crunchy and well, succulent texture.  The flavor is mild like lettuce with a little acidity. We chop it  and always make a fresh salad with whatever fruit is in season (strawberries work great now), goat cheese, olive oil, and salt. It’s refreshing and never seems to get old. Our nephew who is picky when it comes to vegetables loves this green.  I haven’t ever cooked it, so if you try that, let me know the results.

The first cherry tomatoes have begun to ripen. I really can’t describe how excited I am. It will still be a few weeks before we can offer enough to satisfy everyone’s desire for tomatoes, but it is a small sign of the bounty to come. This year we changed our fertility program and nearly every crop, but especially, the tomatoes have responded well to the new regime. We prune and stake our tomatoes and many varieties are loaded with green fruit and nearly at the top of their stakes. I struggle to get enough water to these fast growing vines, but water-stressed tomatoes produce the best fruit, so I don’t worry too much.

Take care and eat well.

Mudjoy Summer CSA Week 2

Everyone received Napa cabbage, cilantro, salad turnips, and spinach. You were able to complete your share from the following: peas, kale or collards, kohlrabi, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, broccoli, ficoide glaciale, Walla Walla onions, garlic scapes, cauliflower, new potatoes, artichokes, and magenta orach.

The Napa or Chinese cabbage can be eaten raw, stir fried, or fermented. For a nice salad, cut the cabbage thinly and marinade in your favorite dressing. I am a big fan of sesame dressing, but I think any vinegar-based dressing would work.  At our Farm Day this Saturday, someone brought a nice salad that paired the fresh Napa cabbage with peaches and a delicious dressing, though I can’t piece together what was in it. Traditionally, Napa cabbage was stir-fried and it works really well here.  Here is a recipe for a soup that combines chicken with the cabbage and a savory broth. Finally, you can make a small batch of kimchi from the cabbage. Look here for ideas.

The salad turnips are the same as we had in May, so look at the posts for Weeks 16 and 17 from the Winter/Spring CSA.

The spinach is nutty and sweet–I prefer this time of year just before the heat overwhelms the spinach crop. We like to lightly wilt it, either by briefly sauteeing it and stirring constantly or by dressing with a warm dressing.  But spinach is so mild and versatile that you can use it anywhere. Experiment and report back.

I wanted to thank all who came to our farm day this Saturday. It was a great spending time with you and enjoying the good food you brought. We will have another farm day in August, so those of you couldn’t make it will have another chance to see the farm and meet other CSA members. I hope everyone can make it.

Mudjoy Summer CSA Week 1

Everyone received sweet Italian chard, radishes, garlic scapes, and cucumbers this week. To complete your share, you chose from the following: lettuce, salad mix, cauliflower, broccoli, artichokes, new potatoes, kale/collards, spinach, braising mix, Chinese cabbage, polenta, roasting squash, zucchini, and peas.

This variety of chard is quite tender and I cut it when the leaves are young and so the stems are also small. You can eat this raw as you would spinach, and if you weren’t paying attention, you probably wouldn’t notice much of a difference in taste. It also sautees nicely. For a farmer and a cook, this variety is exciting both in the field and on the table. I hope you enjoy it. If you are looking for a simple light dish, cut the chard into ribbons and dress with a combination of lemon juice, pulverized juniper berries and olive oil (1 lemon and a 1/2 tsp of ground berries  to a 1/2 cup of oil). Wait 30 minutes and combine this with thinly sliced apples and dried fruit (raisins or cranberries work nicely). Salt to one’s taste and serve cold.

These cucumbers are a treat, sweet and without bitterness. I enjoy these just by themselves, but with all of this hot weather, I have been using them in cucumber salads. The first I made a salad by roasting garlic scapes (they would be better grilled if you have this option) and combining the chopped scapes with cucumber and radish. I made a simple lemon vinaigrette, added some of our goat cheese to the chopped vegetables, and then folded in the vinaigrette. So good.

I have been thinking of India lately, and I remembered the pickles my host mother would make for us. So I stopped by an Indian grocer on a drive home one day and purchased a jar of mango pickles. If you have never had them, they are different from anything we have in our cuisine. The sourness and sweetness is predictable, but the heat, the mix of spices, and the funk (like preserved lemons in this way) is really memorable. I took two tablespoons of the pickle along with two or three diced cucumbers and a few radishes, a 1/2 cup of yogurt, and some salt and stirred well. Let the salad sit for 15 minutes to marinade and eat at room temperature. A sort of mangle pickle raita. We ate it with Greek potato salad, some halibut, and an assortment of grilled vegetables.  We were kings that night!

Finally, the radishes and garlic scapes. The radishes combine heat with sweetness, and I don’t mind them sliced thinly and just tossed in a little vinegar and salt. We have also been tucking them into salads for their texture. One of our members remarked on how she had had them with goat cheese and crackers. The scapes taste like mild garlic and can be used in the same places as them. However, they have such a different texture than proper garlic that I would encourage you to savor them in their own right rather than using them as seasoning. My best suggestion for these:  marinade with a little soy sauce, olive oil, and vinegar and grill them.

Take care and eat well.

Mudjoy Spring CSA Week 20

This week everyone will receive salad turnips, storage squash, and braising mix. You can choose the remainder of your share from the following: leek scapes, arugula, radishes, cornmeal, arichokes, cucumbers, bok choi, chinese cabbage, green garlic, lettuce, Japanese collards, pea shoots, and cauliflower.

The storage squash are a medley of Brazilian varieties from the moschata family. They all have deep orange, aromatic flesh with good sweetness. They are medium-sized, so they aren’t as intimidating as some of the other varieties we grow. I love to roast them whole at 375 for an hour.  I then cut the squash open and remove the seeds.  For breakfast, I cut off a wedge and eat this with nuts and dried cranberries or some goat cheese.  It’s quick and healthy and needs no additional sweeteners.  The seeds can be eaten out of hand or used to make pesto.

The braising mix is a combination of mizuna, ruby streaks mustard, tatsoi, baby chinese cabbage, arugula, pea shoots, leaf amaranth, and baby chard.  The mix is tender enough to be eaten raw, though we like to stir fry it with a stalk or two of green garlic and plenty of soy sauce and a touch of vinegar.  If you are looking for an excuse to make quiche, these greens hold up well to the cheese and eggs in that dish.

Mudjoy Spring CSA Week 19

Everyone received salad turnips, a jar of our aji limon salsa, and green garlic.  You were able to choose the rest of your share from the following:  radishes, arugula, braising mix, chinese cabbage, polenta, leek scapes, artichokes, cucumbers, rhubarb, oregano, mitsuba, sweet potatoes, pea shoots, and winter squash.

The salad turnips are the same as last week, but with the warming weather, you might want to consider grilling them instead of eating them raw or boiled/steamed.  The key with grilling them is to cut them on the thick side (1/4 to 1/3 of an inch), toss in a little oil, and cook at high heat to get a good sear.  Finish with plenty of salt and a little more olive oil.  These make a great side to grilled ribs or other meats.

The salsa was made last fall from ingredients grown on our farm (except for the vinegar and salt).  They are nice prelude to the this season’s tomatoes and peppers.  (We have small green fruit on our tomato vines, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we can begin to send these fruits your way).  We are proud of the flavor of the salsa, and our combination of tomato varieties with the aji limon pepper make for a salsa that tastes very different than your traditional red sauce.  We hope you enjoy.