Harmony Valley Farm

Harmony Valley Farm

Culture of Cleanliness….Developing Our Food Safety Eyes

29 Jul 2020 22:50

By:  Andrea Yoder
Why do we do food safety training every year?

Why is attention to food safety an important element on our farm?

Who is responsible for following food safety practices on our farm?

These are a few of the introductory questions I ask our crew members every year when we do our annual food safety training, both for new employees and for those who have worked here for many years.  We’ve had a food safety program for our farm for well over twenty years, even before our wholesale buyers started requesting it and before the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed making it a legal requirement for farms.  Every year we make improvements to our food safety program, so obviously we have to communicate any changes to protocols, expectations, etc with our crew members, but we also still go back and review the basics…every year.  This week we wanted to give you a little insight into just what it means to have a food safety program as well as some of the protocols we practice and implement on a daily basis.

Moises cleaning a wash tank in
preparation for sanitizing harvest totes
Lets go back to those three introductory questions.  We do food safety training every year because we want to ensure the food we are producing is wholesome and safe for you, our customers!  It’s also our legal responsibility and it’s a requirement in order to do business with many of our wholesale buyers.  “Why is attention to food safety an important element on our farm?”  First and foremost, we do not want anyone to ever fall ill from eating our food.  We also want our customers to be able to trust us and we want to maintain a good reputation in our community! And lastly, “Who is responsible for following food safety practices on our farm?” EVERYONE!  This includes all crew members, regardless of work responsibilities, but also any contractors or visitors to our farm. 
This is the point in our training where we talk about a “Culture of Cleanliness.”  This is a term we learned from our food safety inspector many years ago and since then we’ve worked very hard to establish and improve upon the “Culture of Cleanliness” we’ve created on our farm.  What is a “Culture of Cleanliness” and why is it important?  Have you ever seen one of those children’s books or picture games where you have to look at the picture and identify what doesn’t fit or what is wrong?  That’s kind of the way we operate every day.  The reason we have food safety rules and best practices is to reduce and minimize the risk of our food becoming contaminated or someone getting sick.  We don’t live in a sterile world and things are going to happen.  The reason we have a food safety program, rules, procedures and talk about these things every year is because we want to be able to identify situations that may cause a problem with food safety so we can intervene proactively in an effort to prevent problems. 
Cleaning the salad cutter before it goes to the field to harvest
Salad Mix!
We learn to see our work environment and our farm with a new set of eyes—our food safety eyes.  There are a lot of details, a lot of space and a lot of moving parts to our farm.  It’s more than Richard, Rafael and I can keep our eyes on by ourselves!  We need everyone who’s working with us to develop their special set of food safety eyes so they can see potential problems or identify when something is not right with a scenario.  We also need them to develop their food safety eyes so they see the food safety practices as the “normal,” expected way things are done.  Then, when someone isn’t doing the right thing or something is askew, it stands out as that thing that is not right with the picture! 
Red bucket labeled for cleaning only

So what are some of those practices we employ?  Well, for starters, we clean…A Lot!  We don’t just wash vegetables, we also clean equipment, trucks, facilities, harvest containers and more.  Part of our annual training is reviewing the difference between cleaning and sanitizing, as they are two different steps and need to be done in the correct order to be effective!  We clean a surface using soap to remove dirt and debris, then follow that with a fresh water rinse.  Once the surface is clean, we come back and spray on a sanitizer solution to take care of any microscopic pathogen.  This concept is applied in many scenarios throughout the farm.  Whether we’re setting up an area in the packing shed to wash and pack vegetables or we are preparing to use a harvest belt to pick zucchini and cucumbers, we always clean and sanitize!  We have even devised a system and set of tools so we can take the appropriate brushes, sanitizing agent, buckets of soapy water and clean water to the field --everything the crew needs to properly clean and sanitize the belt in the field prior to every use. 
Color-coded brushes and bilingual signs in our
packing shed
We have a colorful farm, if for no other reason than our color-coded tools!  One way we prevent potential cross-contamination is by designating specific colors of tools for specific uses.  When cleaning packing shed equipment, we use red brushes.  If we need to clean a harvest container, we use a green brush.  “What if I need to scrub a wall or a floor?”  Please use the white brush hanging in the packing shed.  We also have yellow tools that we use for cleaning bathrooms.  Despite their bright, cheery color, they never leave the bathrooms for any other use.  And there’s one last brush color we see about one time a year.  We need orange brushes for washing the pumpkins and winter squash when we harvest them!

Cheery yellow cleaning supplies,
for bathroom use only!
We also have color-coded buckets, because buckets are a great tool for many different uses.  White buckets are for use in harvesting many different vegetables, except for baby greens.  When we need to hand cut baby greens we use special green buckets that are only used for these products.  Red buckets are used for cleaning projects, white buckets with red paint on them are used for non-food uses such as carrying tools to the field or carrying rocks out of the field!  Blue buckets are used to feed and water animals and orange buckets are located on the harvest wagons and in field vehicles for collecting trash.  Whew…that’s a lot to remember!  Don’t worry, we have lots of signs in both Spanish & English to help us remember what to do and we review this information every year so we don’t forget!

Many tools we use have many different potential applications.  For example, knives are good for cutting vegetables, but they are also a good tool to use if you need to clean mud off of your shoes or a cultivator shank!  “STOP!  Please tell me you weren’t thinking about using the same knife for all of these uses?”  Don’t worry, we have separate knives!  Field crew members have wooden handled knives that are stored in leather sheaths.  These knives may be used for anything they want to use them for except for two things.  They may not be used to harvest vegetables and they may not be used as a weapon.  Aside from that they can use them to cut weeds, cut row cover, clean their shoes, etc.  When it comes time for harvest, they use their yellow handled harvest knife that is stored in a black plastic sheath that has a small hole in the bottom.  This knife and sheath are much easier to clean and sanitize in between uses than the knife that gets stored in the dirty leather holder.  Where do they clean and sanitize their knife?  We’ve got that covered too!  There are two knife cleaning stations set up every morning.  Leonardo comes early to set up fresh containers for the stations which consist of three trays to facilitate a three-step process.  The first tray contains soap and water to clean the knife, the second tray contains water only for a rinse step and the third tray contains water with sanitizer to sanitize the knife.  Done!
Freshly cleaned and sanitized barrel washer
set up.  We're ready to wash vegetables!

Pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites are not the only things that may potentially contaminate food.  We’re also careful to make sure we’re removing excess grease from bearings on equipment and check all connections for implements, hydraulic hoses, etc. to make sure we catch and repair any leaks.  We’ve even implemented a system for outfitting our tractors that are used by harvest crews with “tractor diapers!”  To my knowledge this is not an industry standard, but it’s a practice Richard devised and it’s become standard protocol on our farm.  We secure a heavy duty tarp under the belly of a tractor and place absorbent pads in the tarp.  If there should be any kind of a fluid or oil leak, we can easily see it, catch it and repair it thereby removing the potential for product to be contaminated in production areas or around a field!  Of course, tractor diapers don’t replace the need for observation, so all crew members are trained to be very attentive at all times, whether they are operating a piece of machinery or just working in the area.  If they see anything that doesn’t look right, it’s their responsibility to speak up and say “Wait, we need to check this out!”  Ok, so what do we do if there is a problem?  First, STOP!  Notify those in the area that there may be a problem and contact a supervisor/owner.  Fully assess the situation and then devise a plan to prevent any further issues and clean up anything that needs to be cleaned, etc.  One important point here is that we are a team.  We all may see things differently and we all may play a slightly different role in resolving the situation and being part of the solution.  Remember, food safety is everyone’s responsibility!

Ascencion harvesting black radishes, note his
yellow handled harvest knife!
Of course there is one tool we all use every day and we consider this our most important tool.  Can you guess what it might be?  Here’s a hint—it’s likely the tool you use the most every day as well regardless of your job!  Hands!!  Our hands are the tool we use the most every single day, which is why one of the most fundamental food safety training topics is “When do you need to wash your hands” and “What is the proper procedure for effective handwashing.”  COVID-19 messaging has brought handwashing to the forefront as a public health issue this year, but we’ve been preaching and practicing proper handwashing for many, many years! 
Every year we continue to make improvements to our practices and every year we undergo at least one third party inspection.  Typically we have a voluntary third-party inspection, as we’ve elected to do for many years.  This inspection looks at our farm both Pre-Farm Gate (Field operations) and Post-Farm Gate (Packing shed operations) and evaluates us according to the Harmonized Standards.  Last year we also had our first food safety inspection by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture (DATCP), the agency enforcing FSMA requirements in Wisconsin.
Crew training session with Richard, Andrea and our Spanish
interpreter, Michelle. Andrea is modeling the proper
attire to wear when working in animal areas--the only
place on the farm where you'll find bright yellow boots!

Whew---this is a lot of information, and we’ve only just touched the surface of the practices we employ on our farm.  We haven’t even discussed clutter control, first-in/first-out procedures, wearing yellow boots when working in animal areas, or what to do if it rains so much and river water washes through crop land!  Food safety is a part of our lives every single day and we hope you can see how integral it is to our farm and how we operate.  Of course we like having a neat, clean and organized farm.  It makes our work spaces more pleasant to work in and allows us to work more efficiently.  We do a lot of record keeping related to food safety as well, but that’s ok because it also helps us be better managers of our time and resources.  Is it worth it to invest this much thought, time and energy into a food safety program?  Absolutely!  Regardless of the law or requirements imposed on us by our buyers, we go back to our top priority which is always to ensure you and your family have safe, wholesome food to eat.  Thank you for your support of our farm.

July 30, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweet Corn!

29 Jul 2020 22:22

Cooking With This Week's Box

Sierra Blanca Onions: Beer Battered Onion RingsChopped Tomato, Onion & Cucumber SaladOne-Pan Chicken with Potatoes & Tarragon

Missouri Garlic: Roasted Garlic ButterChinese “Dry-Fried” Green BeansCrispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt

Green and/or Italian Zucchini: Grilled Corn Kale Salad (see below); Crustless Quiche with Summer VegetablesSummertime Beer-Battered Fried Zucchini with Honey Mustard Ranch Dipping Sauce

Green and Silver Slicer Cucumbers (included in some boxes this week): Chopped Tomato, Onion & Cucumber SaladThai Cucumber Salad with Peanuts

Green Beans: Chinese “Dry-Fried” Green Beans

Green Curly Kale: Grilled Corn Kale Salad (see below); Vegetarian Kale Taco Salad

Red Prairie or Gold Carola Potatoes: Crispy Smashed Potatoeswith Herbed YogurtOne-Pan Chicken with Potatoes & Tarragon

Sweet Corn: Sweet Corn Pancakes (see below); Grilled Corn Kale Salad (see below); Cornbread with Fresh Sweet Corn

Sunorange, Chocolate Sprinkles or Red Grape Tomatoes: Chopped Tomato, Onion & Cucumber SaladTomato Basil Scrambled Eggs

Tomatillos: Grilled Tomatillo & Pineapple SalsaRoasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Chili

Cauliflower OR Broccoli: Chicken Broccoli QuesadillaGrilled Cauliflower Hummus SandwichRoasted Cauliflower and Carrot Pizza

Orange Carrots: Ranch Fun DipRoasted Cauliflower and Carrot Pizza

Black Eggplant (included in some boxes this week): Eggplant & Chickpea PattiesBaked Eggplant Parmesan Penne

This week’s box is full of summer!  Rays of sunshine all soaked up and transformed into deliciousness by these beautiful vegetables!  Lets dive in and get cooking…and eating!  We’re talking sweet corn in this week’s vegetable feature, and what is summer without sweet corn!  Sweet corn is one of those vegetables you just can’t rush.  Even though we want a crop to be ready by a certain harvest date, it just doesn’t work that way.  Every crop matures on its own time and there’s nothing we can do except wait for the point of perfection and pick it!  This means sometimes we have a lot and sometimes we have a little. Regardless of how much you have, there are so many ways to use sweet corn that go beyond just corn on the cob.  You know I love to start the day off with vegetables in my breakfast, so why not kick off your morning with Sweet Corn Pancakes (see below)!  Top them off with some fresh berries and a drizzle of maple syrup and I guarantee you’ll have a good day.  If you’re looking to stay in the category of savory, consider this week’s other featured recipe for Grilled Corn and Kale Salad (see below).  Summer is the time to get creative with making and enjoying non-lettuce based vegetable salads.  This Grilled Corn and Kale Salad is a substantial salad that can serve as a meal all its own.  Massaged kale with grilled zucchini, corn and slices of fresh onions piled high.  If there’s room in your bowl, feel free to add some avocado, grilled chicken or poached fish as well!
Vegetarian Kale Taco Salad
photo from thealmondeater.com
Before we move on to other topics, I have a few more summer salad options to mention.  If the Grilled Corn and Kale Salad isn’t on your list for this week, you might want to use the kale to make this Vegetarian Kale Taco Salad.  I also want to mention this Chopped Tomato, Onion & Cucumber Salad.  This is a simple salad, but if you use good ingredients you don’t need to do much to make it delicious!  Add parsley from your herb garden, dress it with a simple basic vinaigrette of honey, Dijon mustard and lemon juice or vinegar.  Eat it just as it is, or serve it spooned over grilled bread for bruschetta or with hummus and pita chips.  I also have my eye on this Thai Cucumber Salad with Peanuts.  The thing I like about salads with Thai influence is how they utilize fresh, simple and clean ingredient combinations.

Did you notice how beautiful the dark, shiny beans are this week?  If you aren’t afraid of a little spice, try these Chinese “Dry-Fried”Green Beans.  This utilizes a stir-fry method from the Szechuan region of China where the food is spicy and flavorful!  On the other end of the spectrum, did you notice the brilliant white Sierra Blanca onions!  So beautiful, mild, tasty, and perfect for Beer Battered Onion Rings!  I know, we just talked about healthy kale salads and now I’m suggesting deep fried food?  Yes, at least once a summer we need to put a pot of oil on the stove and make fresh onion rings.  While you’re at it, you might as well make some Summertime Beer-Battered Fried Zucchini with Honey Mustard Ranch Dipping Sauce as well!

One-Pan Chicken with Potatoes & Tarragon
photo from alexandracooks.com
We are so grateful for this year’s potato crop!  This really is the time to indulge in potatoes, when they are fresh and so delicious.  I still think it’s wise to keep the preparations simple, such as Andrea Bemis’ recipe for Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt.  We featured her recipe in a previous newsletter.  This recipe actually employs a combo cooking method.  First you boil the potatoes, then smash them and roast them so they get crispy.  Then you serve them with a creamy yogurt based sauce laced with fresh parsley, dill, lemon and garlic.  Of course you could just boil them and slather them with some homemade Roasted Garlic Butter!  I also found this recipe for One-Pan Chicken with Potatoes & Tarragon.  You could substitute chervil from your herb garden in place of the tarragon, or really any other fresh herb of your choosing.  In this recipe, you roast the potatoes alongside the chicken which has a marinade made of Dijon mustard and mayonnaise—so odd I have to try it!

I like quiche any time of the year, so this recipe for Crustless Quiche with Summer Vegetables caught my eye.  I also like recipes that are intended to be versatile, as this one is.  Use whatever summer vegetables are speaking to you.  Potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, or peppers are all great selections.  We’ll have many more tomatoes yet to come, but even if you only have a few you can still make Tomato Basil Scrambled Eggs for breakfast!

Roasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Chili
photo from recipewisdom.com
We weren’t sure we’d be able to harvest tomatillos again this week, but the plants pulled through for us and we have enough to send another pound your way this week!  This was our featured vegetable last week, so if you didn’t have a chance to read the feature article, check out our blog and you’ll find twelve delicious recipes using tomatillos!  This week I want to try this Grilled Tomatillo & Pineapple Salsa.  You could just eat it with chips, or serve it over grilled fish or chicken.  Of course, you could also make this tasty Roasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Chili and serve it with Cornbread with Fresh Sweet Corn!

Quesadillas are on our dinner rotation pretty frequently, mainly because they are quick and easy to make and you can put nearly anything in them.  So, lets give these Chicken Broccoli Quesadillas a try!  I also want to try this Grilled Cauliflower Hummus Sandwich.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten cauliflower on a sandwich, but why not?  While we’re trying new things, I’ll also mention this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Pizza.  That’s right, cauliflower and carrots on pizza!

Ranch Fun Dip
photo by Kristin Miglore for food52.com
So, over the weekend I watched the most recent Genius Recipe video on Food52.com.  It caught my eye because it was described as a recipe that will get you eating more vegetables.  Ok, I need to know how this recipe will do that and I have to admit, this is a pretty genius idea.  In fact, I wish I had come up with it myself!  So the original idea behind this concept was to create a healthy snack that could travel well without having to be refrigerated.  Vegetables and dip is a great snack, but most dip options need to be refrigerated.  That’s where the genius part of this recipe comes in—this dip is totally dry and shelf stable!  Remember Fun Dip candy where you dip the stick into candy powder?  That was the inspiration for this concept.  All the flavor is packed into a dry mix that you dip fresh vegetables in.  The vegetables need to have a little water on them which will make the dry seasoning mix stick to them!  The recipe on Food52.com is for Ranch Fun Dip, but feel free to get creative and make up your own flavor combinations and pair them with any vegetables you want to starting with this week’s fresh carrots!
Baked Eggplant Parmesan Penne
We’re nearly at the bottom of the box, but before we finish we need to talk about the glossy, elegant black eggplant.  I was taking a look at our recipe archives and wanted to mention a few delicious recipes from the past featuring eggplant.  The first is Eggplant & Chickpea Patties.  These are so tasty and make a great main dish item for a vegetarian dinner.  The second is for Baked Eggplant Parmesan Penne, which was a hit in previous years even amongst the crowd of individuals who are a hard sell when it comes to eggplant!

Ok, that’s a wrap for this week.  Next week we’ll likely have some delicious sun jewel melons for you and hopefully a few peppers and more tomatoes…and corn!  Enjoy the last week of July and I’ll see you back here next week for more summer recipes!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Sweet Corn

By Chef Andrea
Summer isn’t summer without sweet corn and we work really hard to grow the sweetest, best tasting corn we can!  Sweet corn is not always the easiest crop to grow.  Variety selection is a big part of the picture and there’s also the issue of pest control because, unfortunately, we are not the only creatures who like to eat sweet corn in the summer!  If you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to grow sweet corn, I’d encourage you to read the article we published on our blog last year entitled “The Journey of Sweet Corn:  From Seed to Table.”
Icing corn after harvest
Sweet corn is a crop you can’t rush, it’s ready when it’s ready and you just have to do your best to determine when it’s at its optimal maturity.  Sometimes you’ll have a lot and sometimes there will only be a small amount to pick.  Regardless of the quantity, I want to encourage you to think about ways you might enjoy and use corn that go beyond the classic Corn on the Cob.  Before we jump into preparation, I need to mention one very important thing about sweet corn that you need to remember.  Keep It Cold!!!  When you get your sweet corn home, please put it directly into the refrigerator and keep it there until you’re ready to cook it.  If refrigerator space is an issue, remove the husk and put the ears of corn in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Keeping sweet corn cold is important for maintaining the sugar content.  Time and warm temperatures will cause sugars to convert to starch which will negatively impact both flavor and texture.
Corn cut from the husk after cooking
As for using corn, you may choose to cook it in the husk or without the husk and you also have the option of cooking it on the cob or cutting it off the cob before cooking.  Often people will choose to cook corn on the cob and in its husk if they’re cooking it on a grill or open fire.  If you do this, you should soak the ears of corn in their husks for a bit before putting them on the grill, otherwise the husks will dry out and burn more quickly.  If you choose to remove the husks first, you have several options for cooking the corn if left on the cob.  You can roast it in the oven or place it directly on the grill.  You can also boil ears of corn in salted water.  Once cooked, you can either eat it directly off the cob or cut the kernels off the cob using a paring knife. Whether cooked or raw, cutting kernels off the cob can sometimes get a little messy.  I like to prop my ear of corn up on end in a shallow bowl when I cut the kernels off the cob.  This way the kernels will fall into the bowl instead of all over the cutting board.
photo by Marcus Nilson for epicurious.com
Once corn is cooked you have many options for how to use it.  You can incorporate it into pasta dishes, risotto, vegetable salads, soup, chowder, quesadillas, tacos and salsa!  You can also use fresh corn kernels in cornbread, muffins, waffles, pancakes or even to make desserts such as ice cream or a blueberry sweet corn crumble!  A little fresh corn can really brighten up any dish with its sweetness, color and tender texture.  If you need a little help finding recipes or ideas, check out this article from Epicurious that includes 79 recipes using corn!
We always focus on the kernels of corn, but if you really want to maximize each ear of corn we really should look at how to use the entire ear!  For starters, don’t discard the cobs!  Corn cobs have a lot of flavor and can be used to make a flavorful Corn Cob Broth or stock.  Corn cob broth can be used when making risotto, poaching fish or chicken, or as the base for sauces and soups.   There are many ways you can do this, but here are a couple versions to get you started.  
Corn Stock by Martha Stewart
Corn Stock by Saveur Magazine
I also learned that corn silk has health benefits and can be made into tea using either fresh or dried silks!  If you’re interested in learning more about these health benefits or how to make corn silk tea, here are a few articles to consult:  www.stylecraze.com/articles/health-benefits-of-corn-silk-tea and www.healthline.com/nutrition/corn-silk#bottom-line.
Lastly, I want to mention that sweet corn is very easy to freeze so you can savor it during the winter.  I recommend cooking it on the cob and then removing the kernels after cooking.  Simply put it in a freezer bag and pop it into the freezer.  It’s that easy!  Use the corn cobs to make corn stock and you can freeze that as well!

Grilled Corn & Kale Salad

Yield:  2-3 servings
4 cups green curly or lacinato kale, torn into bite-sized pieces (½ bunch)
1 Tbsp olive oil (for massaging the kale)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (for grilled vegetables)
1 medium zucchini
½ of a medium white or red onion, thinly sliced
2 ears fresh corn, husked
½ cup grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 avocado, diced (optional)
½ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
3 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup lime juice
2 cloves garlic 
¼ to ½ of a jalapeño, seeds removed
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cumin
Salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. First, preheat your grill or prepare a grill pan if you’re using the stovetop.
  2. While the grill is preheating, prepare the kale.  Strip the leaves off the main stem and tear them into bite-sized pieces.  Place kale in a large bowl and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.  Using your hands, massage the kale to ensure all pieces are thoroughly and lightly coated with oil.  Set aside.
  3. Make the dressing.  Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and pulse until everything is combined.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Pour about half the dressing over the kale and toss to combine.
  4. Prepare the zucchini and corn for grilling.  Slice zucchini into ¼ inch slices.  Brush each side with a little vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper.  Brush the ears of corn with vegetable oil as well, and season with salt and pepper.  Lay both vegetables on the grill and grill for 5-7 minutes on each side, or as needed to get nice grill marks and cook the vegetables until tender.  Remove from grill and set aside to cool slightly.
  5. Once the vegetables are cooled enough to handle, cut the zucchini into small diced pieces.  Using a paring knife, cut the corn kernels off the cob of corn.  Add both zucchini and corn kernels to the kale along with the onion and tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Add more dressing as needed to nicely coat all the vegetables.  You may choose not to use all the dressing.
  6. Allow the salad to rest for at least 10-15 minutes before serving.  This salad is durable enough to be made in advance and served the next day, in fact the flavors and texture are actually a bit improved!  Top each portion with toasted pumpkin seeds and avocado if desired.
This recipe was adapted slightly from an original recipe published on www.thealmondeater.com.  This is a great “make in advance” salad to take with you on a picnic or pack for a portable lunch!

Sweet Corn Pancakes

Yield:  About 9-10 4-inch pancakes
2 Tbsp butter, plus additional for the pan or griddle
1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 1-2 ears of corn)
⅛ tsp salt
1 large egg
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal (finely ground)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
  1. Melt butter in a large skillet or on a griddle pan over medium heat.  Add the corn and saute for 4-5 minutes, until it begins to brown ever-so-slightly.  Season with salt and transfer to another bowl to cool slightly.  Wipe out the skillet so you can use it to make the pancakes.
  2. Lightly beat the egg in a large mixing bowl, then whisk in buttermilk, vanilla and sugar.  In a smaller bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda.  Stir dry ingredients into the egg and buttermilk mixture, mixing just until combined but still a little lumpy in appearance.  Fold in the sweet corn.
  3. Reheat your skillet or griddle pan over medium heat.  Brush the pan with butter and ladle ¼ cup batter at a time, keeping pancakes spaced so they don’t run together.  When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, flip them over and cook them until golden brown on the other side.  If they seem to be cooking too quickly (dark on the outside, but still raw in the center), turn the heat down slightly for the next batch.  Brush the pan with butter in between each patch and continue until all the batter is gone.  If you aren’t serving and eating them right out of the pan, place the cooked pancakes on a baking rack on a sheet tray and hold them in the oven turned on to low (150-180°F) until you’re ready to serve them.
  4. Serve warm with butter, fresh fruit and warm maple syrup.
Recipe sourced from www.smittenkitchen.com, with slight adaptations made by Chef Andrea.

July 23, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Tomatillos!

22 Jul 2020 22:00

Cooking With This Week's Box

Green and/or Italian Zucchini: Zucchini-Corn FrittersPizza Bianca
Tomatillos: Mexican Eggs In Purgatory (see below); Pork & Tomatillo Stew (see below)
Small Tomatoes OR Black Eggplant OR Broccoli OR Cauliflower:   One Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry
Spicy Pork & Tomatillo Stew on the cover of
Food & Wine Magazine, October 2007
This week we’re just starting to harvest some of the mid-summer vegetables including corn, tomatoes, eggplant and tomatillos!  Tomatillos are our featured item for the week and I have quite a few recipes to share with you!  One of the nice things about tomatillos is that they have a relatively long harvest window, especially because we do two plantings.  So this week’s portion is one to get you started, but we hope to include tomatillos in more boxes throughout the summer and early fall so keep these recipes handy and refer back to them in future weeks.  First of all, if you haven’t read this week’s vegetable feature article, please do so (see below).  In that article I mention 14 more recipes and include links to all of them.  In addition to these suggestions, we’re also featuring two tasty recipes.  The first is for Mexican Eggs In Purgatory (see below).  This is a twist on a traditional Southern Italian dish, Eggs in Purgatory, that has a tomato base and uses red pepper flakes to add heat.  This version uses tomatillos as the base for the sauce and the heat comes from either jalapeno or poblano peppers.  This dish is delicious for breakfast, lunch or dinner!  The other recipe is one that is very familiar to me and I’ve been making for over ten years.  If you’ve read this article in past seasons you may remember me mentioning this Pork & Tomatillo Stew (see below), although I don’t think we’ve ever featured it in the newsletter!  This is a simple, yet tasty stew and the tomatillos add richness and thicken the broth.  I first made this for our crew when I was the summer farm chef back in 2007 and saw this recipe featured on the cover of Food & Wine magazine in October 2007.  I still have that issue of the magazine and am still making this stew!  In fact, every year I intentionally freeze some tomatillos so I can make this recipe during the winter months.
Zucchini-Corn Fritter, photo from foodnetwork.com
We just started harvesting our second crop of zucchini, so there are a couple pounds in this week’s box, and just in time to overlap with the first sweet corn of the season!  There will be more corn coming in the near future, but for this week these few ears will provide just enough corn to make these Zucchini-Corn Fritters!  The other recipe I’d like to mention utilizing zucchini this week is this simple recipe for Pizza Bianca.  This is more of a white pizza built off of slices of fresh fennel and thinly sliced zucchini.  This is the final week of fennel, so if you want to try something a bit more unusual, you could also use the fennel to make this Fennel Upside Down Cake!
Corn, Chard and Ricotta Galette, photo from finecooking.com
Lets go back to sweet corn for a moment.  I know everyone’s anxious for corn on the cob, dripping with butter.  Unless there are only two people in your household, this may not be the week for corn on the cob.  We’ll get there, but this first planting is just starting to mature so the harvest is a little light right now.  The fun thing about fresh sweet corn though is that a little bit added into a recipe can make everything so much tastier!  If you don’t go for the zucchini-corn fritters mentioned above, consider trying this Corn, Chard and Ricotta Galette.  If you receive the amaranth instead of chard this week, you could substitute the amaranth for chard in the galette recipe or you could make Amaranth and Corn Stewed in Coconut Milk.  This is a recipe from a past newsletter that also includes green beans.  Corn, amaranth and green beans are a tasty vegetable combo!
Green Bean Crisps
photo from ohsodelicioso.com
We’re happy to have another hearty harvest of beans for this week!  We’re just finishing harvesting our second planting and the third one already has little beans set on.  I’m not sure if they’ll be ready to pick next week, but we have our fingers crossed!  If you’re looking for something healthy to snack on this week, try these Green Bean Crisps!  The other recipe I want to mention with green beans in mind is this One Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry.  This has become part of my frequently referenced summer recipes because it’s very versatile and you can use any summer vegetables you have available.  I often use potatoes, green beans and eggplant, but you could also include zucchini, sweet peppers and carrots.  As long as the volume of vegetables matches what the recipe calls for, you can use pretty much anything you have.
If you missed last week’s vegetable feature article about New Potatoes, go check it out and read more about why we think new potatoes are unique and different from any other potatoes we’ll deliver this year!  You’ll also find three tasty recipes that highlight new potatoes, or you might want to try my favorite way to eat new potatoes, New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter.
Easy Grilled Onions, photo from slenderkitchen.com
We’re almost ready to start bringing in more onions.  The tops are starting to die down and we’re making space in the greenhouse so we can dry them.  We’re finished with scallions and moving on to our next fresh onion selections, the beautiful Desert Sunrise Purple Cipollini Onions and Sierra Blanca White Onions.  Both are more mild and sweet onion varieties and are good ones for grilling and roasting.  Check out this recipe for Easy Grilled Onions.Did you know you can cook cucumbers?  If you want to give this a try, consider making Roasted Cucumbers with Onions and Fresh Herbs.  If you want to stick with eating cucumbers raw, then consider making this Spicy Cucumber Salsa.  This is a nice, fresh alternative to a traditional tomato salsa and is excellent on fish tacos, grilled fish or chicken, or just eat it with tortilla chips.  It’s also very pretty made with the purple cippollini onions!
Spicy Cucumber Salsa, photo from thesmallthingsblog.com
That concludes this week’s box contents.  We’re hoping to dig the first of our green top carrots next week and we’re crossing our fingers that the next variety of sweet corn will be ready to pick!  We should also see more tomatoes ripening and hopefully we’ll see more eggplant sizing up.  Richard brought in the cutest little Lilac Bride Eggplant that was only about four inches long!  It obviously needs a little more time.  We’re also keeping our eye on the peppers and hoping we’ll be able to start harvesting green bell peppers within the next week or two.  Our second planting of cucumbers will be kicking in here pretty soon and lets not forget about melons!  The early Sun Jewel melons will likely be the first and unless they surprise us, we will likely start harvesting them in about 10-14 days.  Have fun cooking this week’s vegetables and I’ll see you back here next week!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Tomatillos

By Chef Andrea
The view looking down the row of our "Tomatillo Jungle!"
Tomatillos…what are they?!  Tomatillos are one of those confusing vegetables that are actually a fruit although most often used in more vegetable fashion.  Tomatillos are classified as a nightshade, which means they are a relative to tomatoes.  However, they are not just a green tomato.  They are a completely different fruit.  They are actually in the same family with ground cherries, both of which are characterized by their papery lantern-like husks that surround the fruit.  Tomatillos grow on plants that are similar to tomato plants, but they are usually larger and have more of a wild, jungle-like appearance.  Their main stem is thick and sometimes resembles a small tree!  The plants can grow to over seven feet tall, so we put stakes in between the plants and tie them up progressively with string to keep the plants upright and the fruit off the ground.  You know a tomatillo is ready to pick when it fills its husk completely and may even start to split the bottom of the husk.  While most tomatillos are green, we also grow two varieties that turn purple when fully ripe!  These typically take longer to mature, so we won’t be harvesting these for awhile.  Hopefully we’ll be able to send these your way later in summer or early fall.
Green tomatillos (in the bowl) and
Purple tomatillos (on the board)
So what do you do with them?  Lets talk storage first.  In the home setting, I recommend you just store your tomatillos at room temperature, either in a paper bag or just on the counter.  They’ll store like this for a week or more!   Before you use them, you do need to peel away the papery husk and you’ll find the fruit inside may be a little sticky.  Once you remove the husk and stem, the remainder of the tomatillo is completely edible, no need for further peeling and don’t even try to remove the seeds.

Tomatillos have a tangy, fruity  flavor and you’ll find purple tomatillos to be more sweet than green ones typically.  Tomatillos may be eaten either raw or cooked.  One of the most familiar ways to use tomatillos is in making salsa, salsa verde that is! Tomatillo salsa may be prepared with all raw vegetables which will give you a fresh, chunky salsa.  The alternative is to cook the tomatillos on the stovetop with a little water before blending the softened, cooked tomatillos with the other salsa ingredients.  If you cook the tomatillos, you’ll get a more smooth, thick salsa due to the natural pectin in tomatillos.  Salsa verde is a good place to start if you’ve never worked with tomatillos before.  You can eat it with chips, use it to jazz up scrambled eggs, put it on tacos, or use it as a base ingredient in other preparations.  The natural pectin in tomatillos does lend itself favorably to being used as a thickener for enchilada sauce, soups, stews, chili etc.
Purple Tomatillo Salsa! 
Cooked (bowl on left) and Fresh (bowl on right)
Tomatillos are very easy to preserve for use in the off-season.  One option is to make salsa now and either can or freeze it.  If you don’t have time to make salsa or just want to have tomatillos available in the off-season for other uses, you can freeze tomatillos whole and raw.  Simply remove the outer husk, wash and dry the fruit.  Put them in a freezer bag and pop them into the freezer.  They don’t retain their firm texture after freezing, so don’t be surprised if they are soft when you thaw them.  If you are using them to make a cooked salsa, soup, etc, the texture issue isn’t an issue.
Vegetable Enchilads with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce
Ok, so lets talk recipes!  My top two favorite things to make with tomatillos are Spicy Pork and Tomatillo Stew (see below) and Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce.  I’ve been making the Spicy Pork and Tomatillo Stew (see below) since 2007 and I know I must’ve mentioned it in past blog articles but it looks like I’ve never shared the recipe in a newsletter!  I first made this stew for our farm crew back in 2007.  In fact, it was on the cover of Food & Wine magazine in October 2007 and I still have that issue of the magazine hanging out in the magazine rack near the kitchen in the office!   The cover is faded and tattered, but it was a good issue and I still reference it periodically.  My notes for this recipe are in the margin indicating I multiplied the recipe times five to feed the crew!  This is a good stew to make in early fall when the weather starts to change and the chill sets in.  I also like to freeze tomatillos and pull them out in the middle of winter to make a pot of this stew.  My second favorite recipe for Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce was featured back in 2018.  This is a great recipe to make all summer and you can vary the vegetable ingredients depending on what you have available.  Ok, I lied.  I have a third favorite recipe. 
Roasted Tomatillo and Chickpea Curry
Back in 2017 I uncovered this recipe for Roasted Tomatillo and Chickpea Curry.  This is a bit of a non-traditional way to use tomatillos, which is exactly why I tried the recipe and it was delicious!
So, if you’re not sure where to start, I’d encourage you to consider a simple batch of salsa verde or reference the recipes in this week’s newsletter as well as the other two I mentioned that are on our website in our recipe archives.  Beyond these suggestions, I’ve compiled a list of 12 more recipes that are in my queue to make, hopefully this year!  If you try them first, be sure to post the results and your commentary on the recipe in our Facebook group…especially the Tomatillo Strawberry Pie!  Have fun and enjoy this unique vegetable/fruit selection!
Mexican Eggs in Purgatory
Yield:  4 portions (2 eggs each)
1 pound tomatillos, husked
1 poblano or jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded (if you wish)
1 ½ cups chopped cilantro leaves and stems, plus ¼-½ cup for serving
1 medium onion or 3 scallions, coarsely chopped, plus ½ cup for serving
¾ cup chicken broth
3 ounces thickly sliced bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or as needed)
1 garlic clove, minced
8 large eggs
2 Tbsp grated Cojita or crumbled feta cheese, plus more for serving
2-3 ounces shredded Monterey Jack or Mozzarella cheese
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Lime wedges, for serving
Corn Tortillas, for serving
1. Preheat the broiler and position a rack about 8 inches from the heat source.  
2. In a blender, add the husked tomatillos, poblano or jalapeño pepper, chopped cilantro, onion, ½ tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper and chicken broth.  Puree until smooth.

3. In a large, shallow ovenproof skillet, cook the bacon over high heat until brown and slightly crispy.  If the bacon is lean, you may want to add the olive oil.  Once the bacon is cooked, add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, until fragrant.  Carefully add the tomatillo puree and cook over moderate heat until the sauce is thickened and dull green, about 10-12 minutes.

4. Using the back of a spoon, make 8 depressions in the tomatillo sauce.  Remove the pan from the heat and carefully crack the eggs into the depressions.  Sprinkle the eggs and tomatillo sauce with the 2 tablespoons of Cotija cheese and the shredded Monterey Jack or Mozzarella cheese.  Broil the dish until the egg whites are set but the egg yolks are still runny, about 3-4 minutes.  
5. Remove from the oven and garnish with more Cotija cheese, chopped onion and cilantro.  Serve right away with warm corn tortillas and lime wedges. 
Chef Notes:  

The tomatillo sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 2 days.  Bring the sauce to room temperature before adding the eggs. 

If you are serving less than four people, you can use a smaller ovenproof skillet and only half the sauce to cook four eggs instead of eight.  Reserve the second half of the sauce for a second meal. 

Variation:  If you want to add more vegetables to this dish, consider adding small diced potatoes and fresh corn kernels cut from 1-2 ears of corn.  Cook the potatoes and corn in the saute pan in a bit of oil before you cook the bacon.  Remove the potatoes and corn, cook the bacon and then add the vegetables back to the pan along with the tomatillo sauce.

This recipe was adapted slightly from Grace Parisi’s recipe featured at foodandwine.com

photo from Food & Wine magazine, October 2007

Spicy Pork and Tomatillo Stew

Yield:  4 servings
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 ½ pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large celery ribs, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 Anaheim or poblano chile, seeded and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp mild chile powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
Pinch of dried oregano
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup  ½ –inch diced carrots
Two 6-ounce potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut into 1-inch dice
Hot Sauce, for serving
Chopped Cilantro, for garnish
Corn Tortilla Chips, for serving
1. In a medium casserole or Dutch oven, heat the oil.  Season the pork with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until browned on 2 sides, about 2 minutes per side.  
2. Add the celery and onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes.  Add the diced chile, garlic, chile powder, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Add the carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and tomatillos, cover and simmer over low heat until the pork is cooked through and tender, about 30-40 minutes.
3. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce.  Ladle the stew into bowls, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with a few tortilla chips.  
Recipe adapted slightly from Food & Wine magazine, October 2007

July 16, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring New Potatoes!

15 Jul 2020 22:40

Cooking With This Week's Box

Sweetheart Cabbage or White Cauliflower or Broccoli: Spicy Pickled Cauliflower; Broccoli Cauliflower Soup; Summer Farmer Skillet
New Potatoes: Smashed New Potatoes with Lemon and Lots of Olive Oil (see below); Butter-Steamed New Potatoes (see below); New Potatoes Cooked in Their Jackets with Spices (see below); Summer Farmer Skillet
Hello Everyone!
I hope you’re enjoying your summer activities and meals. We have some tasty ingredients awaiting you in this week’s box and more summer goodness yet to come! This week’s featured vegetable is new potatoes. These aren’t just any old potato—new potatoes are different. They are creamy and delicious with tender delicate skins and a fresh potato flavor that can’t be matched any other time of the year. I’ve included three simple recipes for you to consider trying this week, and all of them are centered around the concept of simplicity because in my opinion, these potatoes shine best with simple flavors and preparations. The first recipe for Smashed New Potatoes with Lemon and Lots of Olive Oil (see below) comes from Joshua McFadden’s book, Six Seasons, A New Way with Vegetables. Serve these as a side along with grilled chicken or fish or enjoy it as more of a main meal item with a vegetable salad to accompany. The second recipe for Butter-Steamed New Potatoes (see below) comes from Darra Goldstein’s book, Fire & Ice, Classic Nordic Cooking. This recipe represents some northern European influences and uses a combination cooking method of baking and steaming…in butter! The third recipe for New Potatoes Cooked in Their Jackets with Spices (see below) comes from Madhur Jaffrey’s book, An Invitation to Indian Cooking. The cooking method is simple and the flavor of the new potatoes is complemented by spices commonly used in Indian cuisine. What I like about all of these recipes is the fact that all three, regardless of the origin, acknowledge that the best way to prepare a new potato is to keep the flavors and method simple!
Beef Taco Hot Dish, photo from therealfoodrds.com
Our summer of zucchini recipes continues and I have to say there were several great recipe suggestions posted in the Facebook Group recently. This recipe for Zucchini Pizza Casserole looks like a family-friendly recipe and so easy to put together! For all you native mid-Westerners who like a good hot dish, check out this recipe for Beef Taco Hot Dish. This is a great summer recipe that can be adapted throughout the summer to include peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos or really any summer vegetable you have that needs a home! Now that I’ve mentioned two main dish suggestions, I’m going to balance it out a bit with something sweet. This sweet treat comes completely guilt free, and does not require you to heat up an oven! Try these No-Bake Zucchini Bread Granola Bites and enjoy them as a little afternoon snack!
Before I go any further, I want to mention this recipe for Summer Farmer Skillet. This recipe is not new to those of you who have been following along with this blog over the past few years. This is a recipe we eat a lot in the summer and it’s great because it’s adaptable, it only requires one pan, and you can include a lot of different vegetables in it! This week I made it with potatoes, onions, green beans and zucchini. The “green” that I used as the topping was cabbage, but you could also use amaranth or rainbow chard as well!
Basil Cucumber Salad
photo from wholeandheavenlyoven.com
The cucumbers have been so refreshing and I just can’t get enough fresh cucumber salads! This week I’m going to try this simple recipe for a Basil Cucumber Salad. I also want to make some Quick Refrigerator Pickles. You can store these in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks on average (sometimes a little longer). They are a nice little accompaniment to sandwiches, snacks, etc. While you’re pickling, you might want to make a jar of Spicy Pickled Cauliflower too! This would go well with that Beef Taco Hot Dish!
Growing up, green beans were one of my least favorite vegetables. That could be because my mom always overcooked them, or possibly because I had to pick them from the garden and snap them for winter preservation. In my adult life, I’ve come to appreciate just how delicious fresh green beans can taste. Since we have some basil in this week’s box, I thought this recipe for Crispy Green Beans with Pesto would be fitting. It’s been awhile since I have roasted green beans, but I want to make these Roasted Garlic Green Beans this week using the fresh garlic!
Cucumber Basil Aqua Fresca, photo by David A. Land for epicurious.com
Have you eaten the beets from the last two weeks? If not, you are missing out! They are so sweet and delicious! While I typically just eat them cooked with butter and salt, I think I’m going to have to try making this Beet Lemonade, a recipe mentioned in our Facebook Group. While we’re talking about drinks with vegetables, perhaps this recipe for Cucumber Basil Agua Fresca is of interest to you!
Vegan Beet Salad with Basil
photo from hellyeahitsvegan.com
Back on beets….I also have this simple recipe for Vegan Beet Salad with Basil on the list for later this week. Before I finish up with beets, I have to put in my plug to encourage you to eat the beet greens because it would be a shame to waste them and they taste so delicious! If you have more greens or vegetables than you can eat this week, consider preserving them. Here’s a link to this blog post that will show you How To Preserve Beet Greens & Chard. Chard and beets are in the same family and they both resemble each other in both appearance and texture, thus you can use them interchangeably in many recipes. Frozen greens such as this can be used throughout the winter in soups, smoothies, casseroles, hot dishes, etc. This is actually a really good blog with some useful information about preserving many other things. If you are interested in freezing some of your green beans for later use, check out the article “How To Blanch and Freeze Fresh Green Beans.”
Sesame Noodles with Swiss Chard & Chicken
photo by Alexandra Stafford for food52.com
Swiss chard is one of my favorite greens, partly because it’s beautiful but also because it’s so versatile to use. Check out this recipe for Sesame Noodles with Swiss Chard & Chicken. Chard seems to go very well in any pasta dish. I also have to mention this Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon, Parmesan & Breadcrumbs. We featured this recipe in our newsletter several years ago and I mention it every year because it is so delicious! This would be a great salad to serve with a simple bowl of Broccoli Cauliflower Soup for a light dinner or lunch.
Scallion Beef Stir Fry
photo from thewoksoflife.com
Lastly, this is our final week for scallions. We’ve had a really strong run on scallions, but next week it will be time to move on to Desert Sunrise Cipollini Onions and the delicious, mild Sierra Blanca onions. Before they’re gone, perhaps we should feature them in a stir-fry! I have several options for you. You can go with Scallion Beef Stir-Fry or Pork and Chinese Scallion Stir-Fry if you eat meat. If you’d prefer a vegetarian alternative, consider this Mushroom and Green Onion Stir-Fry.
Ok, I think we’ve covered every item in this week’s box! Looking ahead to next week, it looks like there’s a chance we might have some tomatoes to pick! We’ll be digging more new potatoes over the weekend, so you can expect to receive more of those next week. Tomatillos are on my radar….we’ll have to see if they fill out in time for next week. Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: New Potatoes

By Chef Andrea

“Everyone has eaten a potato, but not everyone has eaten a truly new potato, freshly dug from the soil just days before serving. Once you do, your life is forever changed, because a new potato is everything good about a potato but more delicate, sweeter, and refined.”—An excerpt from Chef Joshua McFadden’s, Six Seasons, A New Way with Vegetables.
Potatoes are a vegetable everyone’s familiar with, but not all are created equally and this week’s potatoes are, in our opinion, very special. There is a short period of time early in the summer when we have the opportunity to eat “New Potatoes.” New potatoes are not a variety, but rather a term used to describe potatoes that are harvested off of a plant that still has green leaves on it. Our usual practice is to mow down the potato vines about a week in advance of harvest. In the week between mowing down the vines and actually harvesting the potatoes, changes take place in the plant that help to set the skins and make them easier to handle without damaging the skin. It also gives them a more durable skin to protect the flesh and make them better for storage. These potatoes were dug last Saturday from plants with green vines. Freshly dug new potatoes have a flavor and texture unlike other potatoes throughout the season. It is a fresh, pure potato flavor and the skin is tender and delicate. Once cooked, the flesh is moist, creamy and smooth. Simply delicious!
The new potatoes in your box this week are a variety called Red Norland. They are an early red-skinned potato with creamy white flesh. They need to be handled with care so as not to disturb the skin and expose the flesh. We’ve given them the “white glove treatment” through the harvest and washing processes, but we encourage you to handle them with care as well. Wash them just before use and just give them a gentle scrub if needed.
Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place, but not in the refrigerator. We store our potatoes in a warmer cooler at about 48-50°F which is most ideal. If potatoes are stored in colder temperatures (such as your home refrigerator), the starches will convert to sugars which is not what we want in a potato (save that characteristic for sweet potatoes!) So in a home setting, it’s best to store them in a cool, dry location outside of the refrigerator where they will not be exposed to light which can cause the potatoes to turn green and bitter. If the potatoes have set their skins, in general they will store for a few weeks at room temperature in a brown paper bag (never in a plastic bag). However, this week’s new potatoes will not store as well and are best eaten within one week.
New Potatoes with Garlic and Butter
(Recipe in the HVF archives)
I encourage you to slow down and really savor the flavor of these new potatoes as this is the only time during the season you’ll be able to have this taste experience of freshly dug potatoes. You really don’t need to do much to them and, in fact, I’d encourage you to do as little as possible! I am in agreement with Chef Joshua McFadden who recommends the following when using new potatoes:
"Simple cooking methods are best for these early-season potatoes—think boiling, steaming, and pan-roasting—and delicately flavor with fresh herbs……One of the beauties of a new potato is its undeveloped skin. That means no peeling, folks."
So save your complicated potato recipes for another time and just focus on simple recipes and preparations that allow the flavor of the new potatoes to come to the forefront. All they really need is a little cooking time, a little butter or oil and light seasoning. In searching different cookbooks for references to new potatoes, this seems to be the general consensus in cultures around the world. I thought it was interesting to note a special reverence and emphasis on simplicity was given to “new potatoes” in recipes from all around the world including northern Europe, France, and India to name just a few. I’ve featured several of these recipes for you this week. Give one of them a try and pay particular attention to how delicious and creamy these potatoes are this week!
As we progress through the season, you will be receiving more varieties of potatoes. It’s important to know that some potatoes are classified as “waxy” while others are classified as “starchy,” or possibly a mix of the two classifications which we label “all-purpose.” These classifications are assigned based on the type of starch that comprises the flesh of the potato and it’s important to choose the appropriate cooking method for each type. Waxy potatoes are generally more moist and hold together better. They are best used for roasting, boiling or steaming, and are a good choice for soups and potato salad. I do not recommend mashing them because they usually become sticky and pasty. This week’s variety is a waxy potato. Starchy potatoes tend to be more dry and fluffy. This is a variety of potato appropriate for mashing as well as for making roasted potatoes, pan frying, etc. Starchy potatoes are also useful in soups, but they’ll likely fall apart which is actually good for thickening. As we progress throughout the season, make sure you read the “What’s In the Box” portion of the newsletter each week as we’ll give you information about the specific potato varieties as we deliver them so you’ll know the best ways to prepare and enjoy them. In the meantime, enjoy the fresh flavor and creamy texture of these freshly dug new potatoes!

New Potatoes Cooked in Their Jackets with Spices

Yield: 4-6 servings
1 ½ pounds new potatoes
A piece of fresh ginger, about 1 ½ inches square, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
¼ tsp whole cumin seeds
½ fresh hot green chili, finely sliced (optional), or ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 Tbsp lemon juice

  1. Wash the potatoes well, but do not peel. Quarter them lengthwise, then dice them. Set aside in a bowl of cold water.
  2. Put the ginger in the electric blender with the turmeric and 3 Tbsp water. Blend at high speed until smooth.
  3. Heat the oil in a 10-12 inch heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the whole cumin seeds, and after about 10 or 20 seconds, when they change color, add the paste from the blender and cook for about 1 minute. Put in the sliced green chili if you are using it, and cook another 30 seconds.
  4. Drain the potatoes and add them to the pot. Fry them, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir. Put in the cilantro, lower heat a bit, and fry another 5 minutes, stirring gently. Add the salt, garam masala, coriander, lemon juice, cayenne pepper if you are using it, and 3 Tbsp warm water. Stir, scrape bottom gently, and cover. Reduce flame to very low and let the potatoes cook about 25 minutes, until done. Stir very gently every 10 minutes or so.
  5. To serve: Lift out carefully and serve in warm shallow dish or platter. Try these potatoes with roast pork or lamb. They are very versatile in an Indian meal and can be served in an all-vegetarian lunch…—or they can be served with almost any meat or poultry dish.
Recipe borrowed from Madhur Jaffrey’s book, An Invitation to Indian Cooking.

Smashed Potatoes with Lemon and Lots of Olive Oil

Yield: 4 serving
Kosher salt, to taste
1 ½ pounds new potatoes, rinsed and just lightly scrubbed if they need it
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lemon, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
Put the potatoes in a pot and add cold water to cover by 2 inches. Add salt until the water tastes like the sea. Bring to a gentle boil and boil the potatoes until they are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
With a ladle or a measuring cup, scoop out about ½ cup of the cooking water and drain the potatoes well. Put them back in the pot and crush them using a potato masher or a big fork or a wooden spoon. Squeeze on the lemon juice, season with ½ tsp salt and many twists of pepper, and add ¼ cup olive oil. Sprinkle on a Tbsp or so of the cooking water and crush a few more times and then taste. Adjust with more lemon, salt, pepper, or olive oil until the flavor is irresistible. Add a bit more cooking water if you like in order to make the texture chunky but a bit creamy.
Recipe from Joshua McFadden’s book with Martha Holmberg, Six Seasons, A New Way with Vegetables.
Author’s Note: “This side dish is so perfect on its own that I hesitate to suggest any additions, but if you must, a handful of freshly picked herbs—especially chives and dill—is fantastic.”

Butter-Steamed New Potatoes

Yield: 4 servings
1 pound new potatoes, unpeeled
4 Tbsp butter
½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Gently wash the potatoes and drain them in a colander. Leave whole or cut into pieces 1-inch diameter or smaller.
Place the butter in a small gratin dish just large enough to hold the potatoes. Set the dish in the oven for the butter to melt, then add the potatoes and salt, and toss with the butter. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until the potatoes are tender, about 1 hour.
Sprinkle the potatoes with the dill and serve immediately, right from the gratin dish.
Recipe adapted slightly from Darra Goldstein’s book, Fire & Ice, Classic Nordic Cooking. In the introduction to this recipe she shares: 
“I first encountered butter-steamed potatoes as a newlywed living in Stockholm. I had carried James Beard’s Delights and Prejudices across the ocean to serve as my kitchen bible. There I discovered a recipe for pommes fondantes, tiny, peeled potatoes steamed in nothing but butter over low heat. That year in Sweden I spent a lot of time standing over the stove, shaking the pot to make sure the potatoes didn’t burn. Now, though, I make these darlings in a much more carefree manner, one I discovered in Norway. For all their ease, they are just as delectable.”

July Farm Update

15 Jul 2020 20:59

By Farmer Richard

Tomatillo fruit hanging heavy on the vines
and filling out their husks!
Despite the fact that we just did a farm and field update last month, a lot has changed and happened since then and we want to let you know what’s happening at the farm! We are at the apex of the season, halfway through the calendar year and one-third of the way through our CSA delivery season. The spring crops and weather were quite moderate and we were able to pack quite nice boxes for the early part of the season. But we know you can only eat so many radishes and lettuce and many of us look forward to all the delicious vegetables of summer! We’ve been delivering cucumbers and zucchini for several weeks and we’re in our second week of beans, but there are more summer favorites coming up very soon! If you don’t have time to read all the details of this week’s update, at least take a look at the pictures! Our hope is that we can connect you with our farm virtually so you know where your food is coming from and can have those images in your mind when you unpack your box each week!

The start of this year's garlic harvest, drying in the greenhouse.
Summer did not enter gently this year. The past two weeks have been a new challenge of very hot and humid days. We had a stretch of days reaching 88-90°F every day with high humidity that left us all with beads of sweat running down our brows early in the day. We started off the summer in a bit of a dry spell, but that has quickly changed as we’ve had frequent rains totaling about 9 inches in the past two weeks. If our more normal spring was a result of the extreme cutback in emissions related to COVID-19 changes in travel, etc, then it leaves us wondering if the sudden and recent switch to extreme weather is connected to “opening up.” Hmm….maybe we don’t want to “go back to normal!” Well, normal or not, we are looking forward to the second half of the season and we have a job to do. So here’s a glimpse of what is yet to come.

Rows of tomatoes in our 1st planting--staked,
tied and setting on fruit!
Spring days are highlighted by lots of planting and weed control. While we’re trying to get everything in the ground and keep up with flame weeding, mechanical cultivation and hand weeding spring crops, we are also planting and caring for the summer crops that will follow. Our efforts to control weeds are directly related to the hand of weather conditions we are dealt. While our crew members have done a good job keeping up with timely cultivations, rainy, wet conditions limit what we can do mechanically. Unfortunately, the weeds thrive in these hot, wet conditions which adds salt to our wound and leaves us with some big hand weeding jobs! We’re doing the best we can, but hand weeding requires a lot of crew time that we just don’t have many days. We’ve had a dedicated crew of four people who were hired specifically for focusing on hand weeding missions, but the weeds are growing faster than they can pull them! While the majority of our experienced H2A crew members arrived back in April, we did have several who received “administrative hold” and were not issued visas. Due to pandemic-related changes with the consulate’s office in Mexico, these members had to return home and wait for the call to return for further evaluation. They were also restricting visas to only those who had had a visa previously and were not considering any new applicants. Finally, the
A hillside sweet corn field....look carefully and
you'll see the deer fence surrounding the
field to help deter the critters.
first week in July we received notice letting us know the consulate’s office was ready to look at their cases. We are happy to report that four more crew members received their visas and made the long journey to Viroqua arriving last Thursday! We have only seen them from a distance as they will remain quarantined for 14 days, separate from the rest of our crew and with no contact with others in the community. They arrived healthy and well, going directly to the house we prepared for them complete with a fully stocked kitchen! They’ll reside in this location until the end of their quarantine and will stay busy during the day tackling their own weeding missions in fields we’ve assigned to them safely distanced from any other people. Thankfully, that is the beauty of being in the country where there are wide open spaces! We look forward to integrating Alvaro, Silvestre, Samuel and Joel into our crew in the near future. They all have special skills and contribute greatly to our farm. We’ve really missed them and are thankful to have them here!

An upcoming crop of green beans,
nicely cultivated and setting on blossoms!
That’s enough about weeds though, lets look at some crops! Our first two crops of beans have yielded very nicely and after this week we still have three more crops coming up. They are all looking good and we’re hopeful we’ll be able to keep the bags of beans coming your way! We also have three crops of edamame coming up. The deer population in our area is fully informed that we grow edamame, so we have to be proactive and make sure we keep these crops surrounded by a tall deer fence to keep them from eating the plants! So far, so good and we hope to deliver the sweet, tasty fresh edamame in the near future.

An early crop of sweet corn, notice the small ears of corn.
Summer isn’t summer without sweet corn! While sweet corn isn’t a big money maker for our farm, I’ve always said it’s a crop worth growing because it earns us friends! Every year we have the goal of growing “the best sweet corn ever!” We’ve had many successful years doing so and hope we can pull it off again this year! We have planted five crops and they’re looking pretty good! The first crop suffered some loss from red-winged blackbirds that dug up about 50% of the seed. The remaining crops fared much better, but we still need to be diligent about keeping the critters out of the field! If the raccoons, deer and birds get a taste of the sweet ears of corn, they can really do some damage. These fields are also fenced and we’ll be monitoring them very closely as the corn matures and reaches the point of harvest. We’re also monitoring for the corn earworm moth which migrates from the south. With the reduced bat populations we have a larger challenge to produce sweet corn without these worms. The researchers and experts say it can’t be done organically, but with careful monitoring and a high level of management we have pulled it off many times before! So, we know it can be done and we’re going to do our best. Please know this is quite challenging to achieve, so if you do find a worm, please be forgiving.

The beloved SunOrange tomatoes--so sweet they're like candy!

The cutest little watermelon!
Tomatoes are another beloved summer crop we know you are all looking forward to. We actually had our first sweet taste of SunOrange tomatoes this week! I only found enough to pick a small handful and between Andrea and Amy, they didn’t last long. We have two crops of tomatoes planted, mulched, staked and tied and looking great! The first crop has a lot of fruit set on and we’re hoping we can start picking some of the early varieties within the next few weeks. The eggplant field is also looking quite nice. The plants have blossoms and the start of some small fruit setting on. Things could happen fast at this point, so we anticipate we’ll start harvesting eggplant within the next few weeks.

Our melons and watermelons are not far from the eggplant field, so it seems fitting to report their status now as well! After a few low yielding, disappointing years, this year’s melon and watermelon fields are looking good and setting fruit.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this continues and we’ll all be eating some of those “juice dripping down my chin” melons very soon! Lastly, I want to mention the peppers. We’re finally starting to see some fruit set on. The ½-inch jalapenos are quite cute and we’re hoping some of the other varieties will be ready to pick very soon.

While we’re in the midst of summer, we’re already looking to fall crops! The sweet potato vines are spreading nicely and the winter squash fields look great! On our field tour last Sunday we even spotted a nice-sized festival squash! It will be awhile before it’s mature and ready to harvest, but seeing that fruit made us realize how quickly this year is going! We’ve also started planting our fall root crops and within the next couple of weeks we need to plant beauty heart radishes, black Spanish radishes, daikon, turnips, etc.

A view of the sweet potato (left) and winter squash (right)
fields with blue skies overhead!
We also have to look ahead to the next growing season. We are already selecting and reserving fields for a new crop of strawberries knowing we need to plant a new field in 2021. We are also in the midst of garlic harvest which means we’re selecting and saving garlic for next year’s crop. We have had an unexpected increase in CSA members this year, more than double from last year. We welcome this increase and are hope you will all join us again next year as well! CSA is our preferred market to grow for and benefits our farm in many ways. We’ll see what the next year holds. Later in the fall we will be asking you to commit to the 2021 growing season so we may better plan for next year. We hope you will end this season with an increased appreciation for local and high quality organic produce along with a desire to make a commitment for next year. But for now, enjoy the rest of the season!

July 9, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Amaranth!

8 Jul 2020 21:17

Cooking With This Week's Box

Amaranth: Chinese Amaranth & Garlic Soup (see below); Summer Amaranth & Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas (see below)
Green Scallions: Summer Amaranth & Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas (see below); Creamy Charred Scallion Dip; Skillet Chicken and Zucchini with Charred Onion Salsa
Fresh Porcelain Garlic: Chinese Amaranth & Garlic Soup (see below); Summer Amaranth & Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas (see below); Beet Green Pesto
Green and/or Silver Slicer Cucumbers: Cucumber WaterCucumber Mint & Basil Soda
Green and/or Yellow Beans: Summer Amaranth & Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas (see below); Stove Top Green Bean “Casserole”
Beautiful amaranth greens on their way to becoming dinner!
I don’t know what it is about amaranth that makes me so happy, but I have to admit—I love this vegetable!  Maybe it’s the stunning color or perhaps it’s the nutrition nerd coming out in me.  There’s just something about eating a beautiful vegetable that I know is benefiting my health.  To all the naysayers who think “healthy” food doesn’t taste good—quite the opposite.  So lets jump into this week’s box starting with amaranth.  This week I’m sharing two simple recipes with you.  The first is a Chinese Amaranth & Garlic Soup (see below).  You might be thinking, “Seriously Andrea, soup in July?”  I couldn’t help it—it’s such a simple recipe I had to see if it was good.  When I first tasted it, I actually said out load “Wow, this is really good!”  The key is making sure you have good quality vegetables (check—you do) and a good quality stock or broth.  If you have these things along with about 15 minutes you can make this simple, nourishing soup.  Serve it with steamed rice or perhaps the Soy-Pickled Eggs that were part of the recipe for Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup featured back in May.  Don’t be afraid to eat this soup for breakfast too.  I know this might seem odd to some of you, but I actually do like to eat soup for breakfast, especially nourishing ones like this.  It is a good way to get a nutrient boost to start your day without weighing you down.  The second recipe is for Summer Amaranth & Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas (see below).  The ingredient list is a little long, but don’t let that intimidate you.  There are several components to this recipe, but once you have everything prepped it comes together quickly.  The point of this recipe is to let the simple flavor of the vegetables come out.  If you want more flavor, you could add some ground cumin or coriander or serve it with a bit of hot sauce.  The quinoa and chickpeas contribute additional protein, so this can be served alone as a main dish salad or you could serve a smaller portion as a side dish.  This is also a good “prep in advance” salad that you can make on the weekend and then pull out during the week for a quick dinner.  You could also make it in advance and portion it into containers that will make a quick “grab-n-go” lunch option to take with you to work (if you’re going to work) or for a picnic!
Creamy Charred Scallion Dip
photo from kitchenstories.com
We’re nearing the end of our spring-planted scallions, maybe just one more week before we move into the next onion selection.  While scallions are often used in smaller quantities to accent a dish, you can also use them as more of a main, featured item.  Check out this recipe for Creamy Charred Scallion Dip.  This would be another good item to take on a picnic or enjoy on the patio for an evening snack with a cold beverage I also want to try this recipe for Skillet Chicken and Zucchini with Charred Onion Salsa.
Since I mentioned zucchini, we might as well check out a few more zucchini recipes such as Fudgy Zucchini Brownies or Flourless Almond Butter Zucchini Bars.  Life is too short to not indulge in dessert now and again. 
Spiralized Zucchini with Beet Balls
photo from veggiedesserts.com
What shall we do with this week’s beets?  How about Spiralized Zucchini with Beet Balls.  This is a vegan recipe utilizing zucchini as a “noodle” tossed with pesto and served with little baked beet balls on top.  The recipe just calls for pesto, so you could go with a standard basil pesto or consider using the beet greens to make this Beet Green Pesto, which is also vegan.  If you’re looking for another use for beet greens, check out this Red Lentil Soup with Beet Greens.  If you’re not into pesto and beet balls this week, refer back to Last Week’s Vegetable Feature Article about beets for more recipe suggestions!
The first cauliflower of the season is finally ready!  I have to admit, I’ve never made Cauliflower Rice, so this might be the week to give it a try!  So here’s a new use for cauliflower I never would’ve dreamed up on my own.  Cauliflower Buns!  That’s right, this recipe uses cauliflower as one of the main ingredients to make gluten free buns, or bagels if you want to shape them differently.  This is one of those “Really, does this work” kind of recipes that I just have to try.  If you beat me to it, post your results in our Facebook Group!
Cucumber Mint & Basil Soda
photo from bonappetit.com
Moving on, lets talk about cucumbers….which are coming out of our ears this week (figuratively)!  Cucumbers are nature’s hydration vegetable.  Check out this article featuring Cucumber Water.  The article talks about the health benefits of adding cucumbers to your water, especially in the heat of the summer.  There’s also a recipe at the end of the article.  You can jazz up a basic recipe by adding other ingredients such as herbs or fruit.  I also want to try this refreshing recipe for Cucumber Mint & Basil Soda.  This might just be the “cold beverage” to enjoy on the patio with a bowl of that Creamy Charred Scallion Dip!
We’re nearing the end of this week’s box, but we have a few more items to play with!  Last week in the Facebook Group there were quite a few good recipe suggestions including Fennel Orange Muffins.  This recipe comes from the Fairshare CSA coalition’s cookbook, From Asparagus to Zucchini.  If you’re looking for more fennel recipes, I’ll refer you to last year’s Fennel Vegetable Feature Article on our blog.  Go to the end of the article and you’ll find a long list of suggestions for utilizing all parts of the fennel!
Summer isn’t summer without fresh green beans!  Here’s a recipe for Stove Top Green Bean “Casserole,” a riff on a classic American recipe minus the canned onions and cream of mushroom soup.  Please note this recipe calls for 2 pounds of beans, but there is only 1 pound in your box so you’ll need to cut the recipe in half.
Ok, I think that’s a wrap for this week.  In case you’re wondering what’s coming next, I have my eyes on fresh, green top carrots and Richard’s been doing some test digs to decide when we can dig new potatoes!  I don’t know when we’ll be able to start picking, but tomatillos are almost ready and some of the tomatoes have set on fruit!  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Amaranth Greens

By Chef Andrea

This week’s featured vegetable is not only gorgeous, but it’s also packed with nutrition!  We’re talking about Amaranth Greens!  While this is a “green” type vegetable, the leaves on this beauty are actually a dark burgundy red color.  When you’re driving by the fields, the bed of bright red amaranth greens is a site to behold, and it makes it easy to find in the field!
Amaranth is thought to have originated in Central and/or South America, but has made its way around the globe.  It can be found in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, which means there are many options for finding ways to use this vegetable.  Amaranth is used in Indian cuisine, paired with a variety of lentil and curry dishes.  It’s also used in the Carribean where it’s known as callaloo and is used in soups laced with coconut and chiles.  You’ll also find amaranth in Chinese cuisine, either lightly stir-fried with garlic, etc or incorporated into a simple soup such as the one featured in this week’s newsletter!  As I mentioned, amaranth is thought to have originated in Central and/or South America, so it also pairs well with flavor combinations from the cuisine of these regions.  One of the reasons we choose to include amaranth in our line-up of “CSA Vegetables” is because it thrives in the heat of the summer when other greens and lettuce really struggle.  As such, it goes well with all those other summer vegetables including zucchini, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, onions and garlic.

Amaranth greens could be called one of our own “superfoods.”  While I’ve never sent a sample to the lab to test nutrient levels, we know “greens” in general are packed with nutrients and foods with vibrant colors are such because of antioxidants and phytochemicals in them.  Amaranth is thought to have high levels of iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin E…to name just a few of its nutrient attributes.  Do yourself a favor and eat this vegetable if for no other reason than that it’s good for you!
The variety of amaranth we grow is referred to as “Polish Amaranth.”  We purchased the seed from Wild Garden Seeds (WGS), which is kind of funny because our own Farmer Richard is the one who actually gave them the seed originally!  For those of you who haven’t heard the story, it goes like this: One day Richard was driving to LaCrosse, WI and saw this beautiful red amaranth growing in a garden along the way.  He stopped and asked the people who lived there about this plant.  They said their Aunt May brought the seed with her from Poland and they were happy to share it with Richard.  So Richard collected some seed and started growing it, mostly as a baby green to mix into his gourmet salad mix.  It didn’t do so well as a salad mix ingredient, but in later years we found success growing it as a mid-summer bunching green used for cooking.  Since we aren’t in the business of seed production, Richard passed the seed onto Frank Morton at WGS and he has been maintaining this variety of amaranth.   Thanks Frank!
Spicy Amaranth with Zucchini & Black-eyed Peas
While amaranth may be eaten raw, at this stage where it is more mature we recommend enjoying it as a cooking green for optimal flavor.  The stems are often tender enough to be eaten as well. The stems will need just a little extra cooking time so I like to separate the stems and leaves.  Cut off about one inch of the lower portion of the stem and then finely chop them.  When cooking, add the stems to the pan a few minutes ahead of the leaves.  Amaranth can be simply boiled, steamed or sautéed with garlic and onions for a super-simple preparation.  You can also wilt it into soups, grain dishes, curries, and bean dishes.  Many of the nutrients in amaranth, including the phytochemical that gives it its pink color, are water soluble.  Thus, you’ll notice when you cook amaranth the leaves will often turn green and the cooking liquid or other ingredients you’re cooking with the amaranth will turn pink!  Always try to use any cooking liquid (eg if you choose to simmer or boil amaranth) so you retain the nutrients.  I almost forgot to tell you what it tastes like!  Amaranth is similar in flavor to spinach, except it’s even better!
Store amaranth greens in the refrigerator loosely wrapped in a plastic bag or a storage container with a lid.  If you want to enjoy their beauty before you eat them, you can also put them in a vase and leave them at room temperature where you can see them!  Be sure to change the water daily.  Enjoy!

Chinese Amaranth & Garlic Soup

Yield:  4-6 servings
1 bunch amaranth greens
3 small or 1-2 large cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp peanut or sunflower oil
32 oz chicken stock
16 oz water (optional)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste (optional)
1. Separate the amaranth leaves from the stems.  Cut the amaranth leaves into thin strips.  Cut the bottom one inch off the stems and then chop finely.
2. Heat a wok or 2-3 quart saucepot over medium heat.  Add the oil and once it shimmers, add the garlic.  Stir carefully and cook until the garlic is very fragrant and even turning just a little golden brown.  Add the amaranth stems and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.  
3. Stir in the amaranth greens and continue to stir-fry just until the greens have wilted.
4. Add the chicken stock and additional water if needed (if the stock or broth you are using is concentrated, you may want to use additional water).  Season with a bit of salt, black pepper and white pepper (optional).  Bring the soup to a simmer.  
5. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, just until the broth is pink and the amaranth is tender.
6. Remove from heat and adjust the seasoning to your liking with additional salt and pepper as needed.  Serve hot.
Recipe adapted from www.thehongkongcookery.com.

Summer Amaranth & Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas

Yield:  5-6 servings
1 ½ cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
¼ cup raisins
2 cups cut fresh green beans
1 bunch amaranth, leaves and stems separated
1 Tbsp sunflower or olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas
1 cup finely sliced scallions (green tops and bottoms)
1. In a medium sized pot, combine quinoa, water, 1 tsp salt, turmeric and ¼ tsp black pepper.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the temperature to medium, enough to maintain a gentle simmer.  Cover the pan and simmer for 13-15 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the raisins and gently stir the quinoa with a fork to release some of the steam.  Place a clean dish towel over the pan and put the lid back on.  Set aside for 8-10 minutes.  The towel will absorb excess steam as the quinoa begins to cool.
2. Place the cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the green beans and amaranth.  Remove the stem end from the green beans and cut into ½-inch pieces.  Separate the stems and leaves of amaranth.  Roughly chop the amaranth leaves into bite-sized pieces.  Set aside.  Cut the lower 1 inch of stem off and discard it.  Finely chop the remaining stem.
4. In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 Tbsp sunflower or olive oil over medium to medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add the cut green beans and ½ tsp salt to the pan.  Stir to combine, then continue to sauté just until the green beans turn bright green.  Add the amaranth stems and sauté an additional 1-2 minutes, then add the leaves to the pan, cover and allow the leaves to wilt.  This will take 3-4 minutes.
5. Once the greens are wilted, remove the lid and continue to cook until all the moisture is gone and the leaves are fully wilted and tender.  Remove from heat and set aside.
6. In a small mixing bowl, combine lemon juice, honey and Dijon mustard.  Drizzle in ¼ cup olive oil while continuing to stir.  
7. Now it’s time to compile all the salad ingredients.  To the bowl containing quinoa, add the chickpeas, amaranth and green bean mixture and scallions.  Drizzle the lemon vinaigrette over everything and stir gently to combine.  Let set for 5-10 minutes and then taste it.  Adjust the seasoning with additional salt, pepper and/or lemon juice as needed.  Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled if you prefer.
Additional Notes: Don’t be afraid to add to this recipe if you are inclined to do so.  Serve it with a little hot sauce or stir in a large handful of coarsely chopped fresh herbs (mint, basil, parsley, or cilantro) if you wish.
Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder

July 2, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Green Top Beets!

1 Jul 2020 22:56

Cooking With This Week's Box

Purple & Green Scallions: Skillet ScallionsScallion Pancakes
Red Batavia Head Lettuce: Cobb Salad
Snow or Sugar Snap Peas OR Strawberries: Gingered Stir-Fry with Shrimp and Peas
Green Top Red Beets: Beet Recipe Collection from DishingUptheDirt.com; Roasted Beet Frittata (see below); Beet & Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Yogurt & Lime (see below);  Caramelized Fennel & Beet Pizza
Welcome to the month of July!  We’ve reached the halfway mark for 2020—how is this possible!  Summer vegetables are coming on fast!  The peppers and tomatoes have set on blossoms.  The tomatillo plants are already loaded with little lantern-like tomatillo husks and we may be able to start picking them within a few weeks!  But before I get ahead of myself, lets get back to this week’s box and our featured vegetable—BEETS!  This week I will again refer you to Andrea Bemis’s collection of beet recipes on DishingUptheDirt.com.  Andrea has over 60 recipes with beets and this week we’re featuring two of them.  Andrea and I share the same love of beet greens, so many of her recipes make use of the top and the bottom of the beet!  Her Roasted Beet Frittata(see below) is on the menu for Sunday brunch and her Beet & Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Yogurt & Lime (see below) will make for a light lunch of dinner.
Caramelized Fennel & Beet Pizza
Beets and fennel usually come in together in early summer and that’s a good thing because they pair nicely together in recipes!  Fennel can be an intimidating vegetable for some individuals, so to get started I am going to refer you to the Fennel Vegetable Feature Article I wrote last summer.  You’ll learn which part of the plant you can eat (there’s more than just the bulb) and I included 25 recipes for you to choose from including some tasty things like Lemony Fennel Cupcakes!  You can also find tasty recipes on our website that we’ve featured in past newsletters.  Two of the most well-received recipes have been Caramelized Fennel & Beet Pizza and Pasta with Golden Fennel.  These two recipes have even been accepted by people who didn’t care for fennel but decided to give it a try......and now they’re converts to the “I eat fennel” club.  Lastly, I came across this recipe for Shaved Fennel, Dill & Cucumber Salad and have it on the menu to serve with grilled halibut later this week.  It’s the perfect summer salad, light and refreshing!
Homemade Gingerale with Cucumber, photo from food52.com
This week the cucumbers are kicking in and I’ve already made my first batch of Creamy Cucumber Salad!  Cucumbers are nature’s thirst quencher, so don’t be afraid to use them in refreshing drinks this summer.  I came across this recipe for Homemade Gingerale with Cucumber or try this Creamy Pineapple Cucumber Smoothie!
In our world, cucumbers and zucchini go together as they are planted and harvested at the same time, so before we move on we’ll cover zucchini.  If you missed last week’s Vegetable Feature Article about zucchini, you should check it out.  I compiled a list of 20 recipes using zucchini, but what I really want to do is grow that list to 100 recipes!  So, please send your favorite zucchini recipes my way and we’ll see if we can collectively grow that list!  In the meantime, here are a few ideas for how to utilize this week’s zucchini.  Check out this Zucchini Pizza Casserole, surely the kids will like this one!  They might also like this Cheesy, Garlic Zucchini Rice.
Scallion Pancakes
Photo by Kelli Foster for thekitchn.com
Last week I watched one of Food52.com’s “Genius” recipe videos for Skillet Scallions.  This recipe caught my attention because it only has 2 ingredients!  I made these earlier this week and they are not only super-simple to make, but they taste so good and made a great accompaniment to the steak I served with it.  The scallions are cooked by a combination of sautéing in butter and steaming.  They turn out very silky, slightly sweet and tender.  You really should try them!  The other recipe I want to use while we’re in the height of scallions is Scallion Pancakes.  I’ve never made this Chinese item, but I want to learn more about Chinese food, ingredients and cooking so I might as well give them a try!
We call it Sweetheart Cabbage, but I recently learned some people refer to this pointy head cabbage as Cone Cabbage.  This cabbage shines at its best in raw salads such as this Chopped Thai Chicken Salad that was suggested by a member in our Facebook Group.  I was also reminded of my own recipe for Summer Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad that also uses this cabbage.  Both of these salads are great options for a light dinner or lunch item that you can put on the table in very little time.
This is our final week for garlic scapes and then we’ll transition to fresh garlic.  If you haven’t yet made a batch of Garlic Scape & Cilantro Pesto, I’d encourage you to do so.  I made a batch last week and we’ve been enjoying it on burgers, scrambled into eggs, on toast with a little wedge of cheese, etc.  The flavor is good the first day and even better the second!
Cobb Salad, photo by Joe Lingemen for thekitchn.com
We’re nearing the bottom of the box, but we do still have a few more items to cover!  We’ve been waiting with anticipation to harvest these beautiful heads of Red Batavia lettuce for you!  This is one of our favorite head lettuce varieties and it’s the perfect, crunchy, refreshing lettuce to layer up on burgers and sandwiches.  The leaves are also thick enough and large enough to use them a as a wrap around whatever filling you’d like to put inside!  This variety would also be a good choice for making a Cobb Salad.  While this is a recipe built on traditions, I’d encourage you to create your own version of this salad utilizing the vegetables you do have available!
I’m not sure why I saved collard greens towards the end when in fact they were on the top of your box?!  The collard field looks so nice right now that we couldn’t help but send these your way while everything looks so nice.  Use them in traditional preparations such as the traditional Collard Greens with Bacon or use them to make Collard Greens Spring Rolls.
Lastly, I’d like to say a few words about strawberries and peas.  This week marks the official end of strawberry picking for HVF.  Now that we aren’t having strawberries to tend to, we’re spending our time picking peas!  I admit, I seldom ever do more than just eat these, pod and all, but I just might try this recipe for Gingered Stir-Fry with Shrimp and Peas!
Ok, that’s it, we’ve conquered another box!  I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!
Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Green Top Beets

By Chef Andrea

Beets are a crop we have available starting in mid to late June with availability extending through December and sometimes even into January and February with storage beets.  There are some beet varieties better suited to harvest for storage and others that are intended to be harvested with the green tops still attached.  The green tops are not only a sign of freshness, they are also another vegetable that is intended to be eaten and are packed with flavor and nutrients!  This is another one of those “2-for-1” vegetables where you eat the entire plant!
Most people are familiar with the traditional red beets, but did you know there are different colors of beets?  We grow three different colors including the traditional red beet as well as chioggia beets (candy striped inside) and golden beets.  In general, all beets, regardless of color, taste like beets.  Red beets have more of that traditional earthy beet flavor whereas chioggia and golden beets are generally more mild in flavor.  Golden and Chioggia beets are typically as sweet or sweeter than the red beets.  Individuals who think they don’t care for beets generally like and will eat golden beets.  If this is you, I hope you’ll give them a try.
Shaved Fennel & Beet Greens Salad
I mentioned earlier that both the beet root as well as the green tops are edible.  Beets are actually in the same family with chard and you’ll notice beet greens resemble chard in both their appearance as well as the texture of the stems and leaves.  Beet greens may be eaten raw or cooked and are a comparable substitute in any recipe that calls for Swiss chard.  They are also a delicious and nutritious addition to smoothies and could be substituted for other greens, such as spinach, chard or kale in a smoothie or green drink.
Beet roots are usually cooked, but may be eaten raw.  Thinly sliced or grated beets are a nice addition to salads and slaws.  As for cooking, beets are generally either boiled or steamed on the stove top or roasted in the oven.  The cooking time will vary depending upon the size of the beet.  The general recommendation is to cook beets with their skins on and the root tail intact.  For red beets in particular, this minimizes the leaching of the water-soluble color compounds from the beet.  Once the beets are cooked, cool them so you can handle them and the peel should be easy to remove.  You know a beet is fully cooked when the beet easily slides off a skewer, fork or cake tester stuck into the middle of the beet.
Balsamic Glazed Beets & Greens
Red beets do contain a water-soluble nutrient called anthocyanin.  This is an antioxidant that also gives red beets their color.  It will stain your hands (temporarily) and the color will bleed onto other ingredients if you’re using them in a salad, soup, or otherwise.  Golden beets and chioggia beets don’t lose their color or bleed color onto other ingredients.  If you are looking to preserve the beautiful candy-striped interior of a chioggia beet, it is best to roast them.  
Once cooked, beets may be used in salads or just simply reheated with a pat of butter and some salt.  You can also blend beets into hummus or other dips.  Beets pair well with a lot of other ingredients including vegetables such as fennel, celery, carrots, red onions, shallots, arugula and other salad greens as well as other root vegetables.  They also go well with fruits including apples, oranges, lemons, pears, avocadoes and pomegranates.  Additionally, beets pair nicely with goat cheese, feta cheese, blue cheese, butter, nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds to name just a few ingredients.
It is best to store beets in the refrigerator.  When you get beets with the green tops still on, remove the tops and store them separately in a plastic bag.  Try to use them within 5-7 days.  Store the beets in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer.  They will last longer than the greens.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history and nutritional benefits of having beets in your diet, check out www.justbeetit.com which is entirely dedicated to beets!  I’ve also included a list below of several recipes using beets that we have featured in previous newsletters and are available in our recipe archives on our website.  Enjoy!

Beet & Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Lime & Yogurt

Yield:  2 servings
2-3 medium to large beets, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 bunch of beet greens or swiss chard (about 3-4 cups worth of greens)
Olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup goat cheese
¼ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Salt & black pepper, to taste
4 whole wheat tortillas
¼ cup Greek-style plain yogurt or sour cream
Juice from 1 lime
½ cup chopped parsley

1.  Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.  Add beets and cook until fork tender.  About 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

2.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add a little olive oil.  Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and stir in beet greens.  Turn heat to low and cook until greens are slightly wilted.  remove from the pan and set them aside.

3.  In a food processor or blender, combine the cooked beets with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Blend until smooth. 

4.  Spread the beet mixture on two of the tortillas, then divide the sauteed beet greens between the two tortillas and top each one with half the cheese.  Place second tortilla on top.

5.  Return the skillet you cooked the beet greens in to the stove over medium to medium high heat.  Cook for aabout 3-5 minutes per side or until the tortilla is lightly browned.  Flip them over and cook on the other side for another 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned.

6.  Cut each quesadilla into quarters and serve with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream, a squeeze of lemon and chopped parsley.

Recipe from Andrea Bemis's collection featured on her website/blog, www.dishingupthedirt.com.

Roasted Beet Frittata

Yield:  4-6 servings
4 medium sized beets with their greens
1 small red or yellow onion, chopped
Olive oil, as needed
1 pound ground pork sausage
1 ½ tsp dried sage
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Hefty pinch of salt
6 large eggs
½ cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 ounces goat cheese
Flaky sea salt, as needed

1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Separate the beets from their greens and wash both well to remove any dirt.  Cut the beet roots into 1/4-inch thick wedges (peeling is optional) and roughly chop the greens.  Toss the beets and onion with a little olive oil to coat and place them on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and give them a good toss.  Roast in the oven until tender, about 25 minutes, tossing the veggies halfway through cooking.  Remove them from the oven and set aside.  Turn the oven temperature up to broil and move the rack so that it's 5 inches below the heat.

2.  In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, combine the ground pork with the sage, pepper flakes, nutmeg and a hefty pinch of salt.  Use your hands to mix well.

4.  Heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a little olive oil to the pan, and then the pork.  cook, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat a bit, until the pork is no longer pink and cooked through.  Add the cooked beets and chopped beet greens to the pork and give the mixture a good stir.  Add the egg mixture and cook the frittata, lifting up the cooked eggs around the edges with a rubber spatula to let the under cooked eggs flow underneath, 2-3 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook, giving the pan a shake now and again until the eggs are mostly set, but the center is still slightly jiggly, 5-7 minutes more.

5.  Dollop the top of the frittata with the goat cheese and sprinkle with a little flaky sea salt.  Place the pan under the broiler until the frittata is set and golden brown.  About 2-3 minutes.

Recipe from Andrea Bemis’s collection featured on her website/blog, www.dishingupthedirt.com.

Reflections of a South Dakota Farm Boy….Lifting the Veil of Ignorance On Racism

1 Jul 2020 22:32

By Richard de Wilde
Richard's high school senior year photo...
before he became a hippie!
I grew up in a remote South Dakota community that was all white, immigrant family descendants.  There was no racism evident to me at the time, but then why would there be when everyone around me looked the same.  There were, however, plenty of “judgments” made by my father.  For example, “if you work hard and work smart, anyone can succeed in America.   If people are poor, it is because they are lazy.”  Also, in retrospect I wonder about the “Indians” from the Sisseton Reservation?  My father had a contact there and would make the one hour drive to the reservation on Monday to pick-up four or five guys to pick rock on our farm.  They stayed at our farm for the week and slept in the barn.  I am sure my mother fed them and Dad would return them to the “Res” on Friday or Saturday.  He would always tell us they would not be available to work again for at least a week, “until they drank up their week’s pay!”  I didn’t think much about it at the time, but in retrospect I understand my father’s attitude towards these people was such that they were a lesser group of people compared to us.  Prejudice?  Racism?  Only later, after I spent some time with a group of Native Americans in the Badlands of South Dakota during college, did I realize these “Indians” were wonderful people and I shared their love and connection with nature and “Mother Earth.”
I didn’t come face-to-face with full blown racism and discrimination until I spent the summer between my junior and senior year in college working in a coal mine in Bluefield, on the border of West Virginia and Virginia.  I was studying mining engineering and that summer I was assigned to a small electrical crew at the mine.  We traveled the underground passageways through the mines on a low electric “scooter” powered by a pole riding on an electric cable near the ceiling.  As I was the youngest and newest man on the crew, I was designated “Pole Man.”  The spring-loaded pole would frequently bounce off the wire and hit the ceiling.  As “Pole Man,” I would quickly and gracefully put the pole back on the electric wire in a matter of seconds.  One day I was in the scooter with several other guys including our crew leader and a black co-worker everyone called “Boots.”  Our scooter pole jumped off the cable and we were stalled.  Tiny flakes of shale started raining down on us.  In a matter of just a few seconds I saw Boots jump out of the scooter and run back in the direction we had come from.  I looked at the crew leader as he jammed his hand down putting the scooter on full throttle while looking at me with a look in his eyes that immediately told me I needed to get the pole back on the wire.  I did, and with the lightening speed and pride of a Midwest farm boy.  The scooter shot forward as the pole connected and just behind us a foot thick slab of shale roof fell onto the tracks we had just vacated.  Boots was on the other side of the roof fall, safe from the falling debris and thankfully, no one was hurt that day.  The next day we returned to this spot to clear the debris from the tracks.  My brother, Dennis, was also a mining engineering student and was working in the same mine that summer.  The white foreman looked at us, and with an air of contempt in his voice, said “What do you kids want?  Blood?”  This was the same time in history as the Kent State protests against the Vietnam War when protesters had just been shot by National Guard troops.  I had started to grow a beard and my hair was probably one inch over my ears.  The foreman looked at me and thought I was one of the “hippies” protesting the war.  When questioned about my appearance, I told them it was a college senior tradition.  This foreman informed me that he thought I might be OK, “but if he thought I was one of those X!#*!X damn hippies, I just might have myself an ‘accident’ and would not leave the mine alive.”  He went on to explain that there was a new young engineer on the mine staff and it was clear he despised this young, inexperienced “kid” telling him what to do.  Periodically the engineer would go down in the mine in an elevator to inspect the tunnels, etc.  During the winter ice sometimes formed at the top of the elevator shaft.  The foreman described his plan to cause a chunk of ice to fall on the elevator, which it was clear to me could be a fatal accident.  Well, this was quite a shocking revelation for this Midwest farm boy!  I had no idea a difference of opinions and points of view could cut so deep as to motivate someone to harm another person, let alone to create an “accident” that could cause fatal harm to another human.  I had never seen such hate before!
On my last day of work for that summer, I was sent to the bottom of the mine to shovel wet coal that had fallen off the conveyor belt.  My sole companion on that job was Boots.  We shoveled wet coal for a time and then Boots suggested we take a break.  We sat down and turned our headlamps off.  It was so dark that even two hours later you could not see your hand in front of your face!  Boots explained to me that this clean-up job was only done once per year and it was the worst job in the mine.  He was there because he was a black man who sometimes “spoke up.”  He told me I was there because I was suspected of being a hippie.  You know, if he hadn’t told me that I don’t think I ever would have realized that either of us were the subject of discrimination.  We spent the rest of that shift sitting and talking, becoming friends.  Boots pointed out that of all the black miners at the mine, not one held any position of leadership as a foreman.  I hadn’t thought about it, but it was true.  Boots also told me he felt very bad about the earlier “roof fall” event when he had seen the shale flakes, knew it was a sign that meant a roof fall was coming, and chose to save his own life knowing I did not know what was coming.  My quick action on the pole saved the scooter, my life and the lives of others with me that day, but it could’ve also been a fatal accident that may have killed us.  Boots felt really bad about what happened. 
In the ensuing hours sitting in total darkness, I came to feel that this was the first “older man” that I could totally respect.  The way he talked about his family, his children made me wish I could have had a warm, loving father like him.  Before I left to go back to school, Boots invited me to visit his family.  So I drove my ’55 Chevy Coup to his little town near Tazewell, Virginia.  I was greeted by a dozen barefoot children who obviously knew I was coming and they took me to Boots’ house, or maybe you would call it a shack.  It wasn’t much, but everyone was super warm and friendly and then the truth was told that I was the first “white boy” anyone could remember ever visiting their town.  Hmm, a separate town for blacks only?
While living in West Virginia that summer, my experiences in the mine were not the only life changing events that I experienced.  One night that summer my brother Dennis and I went to a disco club.  We were standing outside the entrance when three college-aged women approached.  Two of the women were white, one was black.  Dennis and I thought all three were attractive and seemed intelligent, so we couldn’t understand why they were denied entry and told it was because they didn’t have a “membership card.”  No one had asked us for a membership card when we entered.  I watched this happen and didn’t understand what was going on, so I approached the women as they were walking away and asked them what just happened.  They explained that they knew they would be denied entry because their friend was black!  What?!  Dennis and I decided to forego the disco club and hung out with these three girls instead.  We became friends over the course of the summer and never chose to return to “the private club.”  Dennis later married one of the girls, Carol Sue.  Needless to say, after that summer both of us declined good paying jobs in the underground coal industry.  I took a job with the Bureau of Mines at Fort Snelling, Minnesota and befriended the only black man on the staff there.  However, my tenure there was brief and I was soon looking for “more meaningful work.” 
I moved to a farm in Eagan, Minnesota and volunteered at the neighboring Dakota County Developmental Learning Center, a school for “special” children.  I came to learn that these children were in fact very special.  What these children lacked in intellect was more than made up for in their extreme loving nature.  The staff at that school were equally loving.  The school day was hard work, but fun and after the children left for the day, the staff stayed on to socialize and party!  This was a work environment like none I had ever known!  This was also the first time I had ever met gay people, who at that time were often considered outcasts.  As I got to know the staff members, some of which were gay, I realized they were all wonderful, accepting human beings.  Yet another stereo type to throw out the window! 
Ronnie, one of Richard's foster kids, playing in the bean field.
After working in special education for several years, including working with autistic children, I turned to farming with teenagers in foster care.  After multiple frustrations with the system returning them to abusive homes, when “my boys” turned 18 they were on their own, I left social work and turned to farming full-time. 
As a vegetable farmer in need of much manual labor, I have experienced a wide variety of people over the course of my career. High school and college kids on summer break do not work well for our longer season, so we have utilized Vernon County jail inmates on Huber program (day time work release), Laotian Hmong, workers from Mexico, both local year round residents and H2A visa seasonal workers.  This has given me a unique chance to experience several cultures, work with many individual personalities, and get to know many wonderful human beings.
An early crew picture from Richard's first farm,
Blue Gentian Farm in St. Paul, MN.
I feel blessed to have been exposed to a variety of people that have changed my narrow “Midwest farm Boy” perspective to a more worldwide view.  That is all human beings, worldwide, rich or poor, any color of skin, have certain unalienable rights such as being given basic respect as human beings, the right to healthy food, clean water, shelter, freedom from abuse, economic security, medical care and a safe environment free from chemical contaminants, corporate greed and monopolies.  The hatred, the racism, greed and militarism that has caused so much harm worldwide needs to be “reined in,” voted out.  Ok, it’s true I was and still am a “peace & love” hippie and proud of it!
We need a huge change in focus and redistribution of resources.  I still believe that if we all work together we can still save our planet, our human race and all the divine life that we depend on.  This pandemic and the events of this year have brought many long standing issues to the forefront.  Lets not just wish to get back to normal, but work to create stable, sustainable local food systems and just economies and communities.  This is a huge, but achievable, task if we all take the time to examine our own prejudices and misconceptions of others.  Change can happen when we do our best to show kindness and respect to our fellow human beings.  It is contagious and good things happen.  We change the world.

June 25, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Zucchini!

24 Jun 2020 22:48

Cooking With This Week's Box

Cilantro: Pasta with Roasted Zucchini & Cilantro Pesto (see below); Life-Changing Crispy Baked Fish Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Slaw
Green or Italian Zucchini: Pasta with Roasted Zucchini & Cilantro Pesto (see below); Zucchini Butter (see below); A Summer Screaming Zucchini Schmear and 10 Ways It Will Save Your Weeknight Meals
Baby zucchini still with the blossom attached!
It’s official, summer is here and what better way to mark the onset of this season than the arrival of zucchini!  Summer isn’t summer without zucchini which just might be one of the most versatile vegetables we grow!  Zucchini will be with us for quite awhile, we hope, so we’ll be finding creative uses over it in the upcoming weeks.  To kick off the season, I have two recipes to share this week.  The first is for Pasta with Roasted Zucchini & Cilantro Pesto (see below).  When I read this recipe, the flavor combinations and concepts confused me a little bit but also intrigued me.  Italian pasta with a pesto concept—that makes sense.  But the pesto made with cilantro and pumpkin seeds flavored with cumin and topped with cojita cheese—that didn’t seem to go with the Italian flavors theme.  You know what, this is fusion food and it works!  This turned out to be a quite tasty pasta dish.  I added some ground pork to it, but it would be good with or without.  The garnish of the cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds is a nice finishing touch and leftovers are good hot or cold!
The second recipe is for Zucchini Butter (see below).  Now, this isn’t butter in the sense of dairy butter, but rather more along the lines of “butter” as in a spread.  The beauty of this recipe is that it is a great way to utilize larger quantities of zucchini.  The other beauty of zucchini butter is that there are so many different ways to use it!  Spread it on toast or sandwiches, use it on pizza, put it on crackers with a piece of cheese…..etc.  Check out this Food52.com blog article, A Summer Screaming Zucchini Schmear and 10Ways It Will Save Your Weeknight Meals, that is all about this “genius” recipe and how you can put it to use for quick, flavorful meals!
Life-Changing Crispy Baked Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw
This week we’re finishing up the rest of the kohlrabi and starting to harvest salad cabbage!  Salad cabbage differs from storage cabbage.  It is more tender and slightly sweet which makes it fitting for use in raw salads, slaws, etc.  It is still tasty cooked as well, but I generally use it raw.  This week I have to make these Life-Changing Crispy Baked Fish Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Slaw.  We featured this recipe in a previous newsletter and if you are into fish tacos at all, it just might change your life when it comes to homemade fish tacos.
Boston Lettuce Salad with Buttermilk, Green Onion and Maple Dressing
photo from food52.com
We’re thankful to still have lettuce available, and while we have other vegetables available to use for salads, it’s still nice to enjoy a traditional lettuce salad.  This recipe for Boston Lettuce Salad with Buttermilk, Green Onion and Maple Dressing reminds me of the way my grandma used to prepare fresh lettuce from her garden.  This is a super simple method that will really let the tender, buttery lettuce leaves shine.  Ok, so the other thing we used to make a lot at home in the summer when we had fresh lettuce from the garden was cheese and lettuce sandwiches.  Back then we used processed cheese food slices—don’t judge, I didn’t know any better.  I’d encourage you to use real cheese, good bread and the spread of your choosing—I usually just use a good quality mayonnaise.  Slather it up with the spread, slap a piece or two of cheese on the bread and pile the fresh lettuce leaves as high as you can!  There’s the recipe, but if you need something a bit more formal or would like a visual, check out this YouTube video on how to make a Cheese and Lettuce Sandwich.  Even if you don’t need a tutorial or a recipe, you should check out this video.  It’s pretty funny!
Burger Lettuce Wraps with Special Sauce
photo from thegirlonbloor.com
I’ve been into grilling lately, mostly because it’s quick and easy and it’s so nice to be outside in the evening.  While we’ve been enjoying fresh lettuce on our burgers, you could also use the lettuce to make a Bunless Burger or a Cheeseburger Lettuce Wrap—whatever you want to call it.  Basically substitute the bread for layers of lettuce leaves wrapped around your burger!  There are many different versions, but I like this recipe for Burger Lettuce Wraps with Special Sauce.  My go-to summer salad to serve with burgers, ribs, etc is this recipe for The Simplest Cabbage Slaw.  It is seriously simple and turns out every time!
While you have the grill fired up, you might as well make the Garlic Scape Beef Satay with Garlic Scape Satay Sauce recipe featured in last week’s newsletter.  It’s quite tasty and would be good served with this Crunchy Bacon and Broccoli Salad with Creamy Orange Dressing.  If you’re looking for more ideas for what you can do with garlic scapes, check out this HuffPost article entitled Recipes that make the most of Garlic Scapes”.  They offer some tasty, creative suggestions!
20-Minute Teriyaki Chicken and Broccoli
photo from tablefortwoblog.com
Another option for using your broccoli is this 20-Minute Teriyaki Chicken and Broccoli.  Serve it with steamed rice for a quick, yet satisfying, easy weeknight meal.  I am still a bit obsessed with putting vegetables in macaroni and cheese ever since I made mac and cheese with ramps and nettles earlier this year.  Mac and cheese with turnips and turnip greens was last week’s creation and this week it could be Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli!
The kale this week is so beautiful and there are many options for what you can do with it.  On Sunday evenings when we do our weekly field scouting tour it’s kind of fun to take along Baked Kale Chips!  Yes, you might get some green flecks in your teeth….who cares?!  The other recipe I want to make again is this Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried Rice that I tried for the first time last year.  It’s pretty tasty as are these Lemon Kale Muffins that I made last year as well.  Yes, kale in muffins—odd, but I tried them out on our farmers’ market crew last year and they (the muffins that is) all disappeared!
Rhubarb Almond Baked Oatmeal
Ok, we’re rolling into the home stretch and just have one more item remaining in this week’s box.  It’s our last week for rhubarb.  I was searching our recipe archives looking for another recipe and I’m glad I stumbled across this recipe we featured in a previous year for Rhubarb Almond Baked Oatmeal.  This is a great recipe to make in advance and then warm up in the morning for a quick, hot breakfast.  I also noticed several members in our Facebook Group are making tasty rhubarb beverages!  If you want to join this crowd, check out this recipe for Rhubarb Syrup.  This recipe is the base for making adult beverages such as Rhubarb Daiquiris, but you can also use it to make a non-alcoholic fizzy soda type drink.
We did it!  We made our way to the bottom of another glorious box of produce.  Before I sign off for the week, I want to thank the member who posted a link in our Facebook Group to this Vegetable Orchestra!!  Check it out—they’re making music by using all kinds of different vegetables!  I know we have some musical talent in our membership.  Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a Harmony Valley Farm Vegetable Orchestra!?  You provide the talent and I’ll provide the vegetables!  I’m serious.
Ok, Chef Andrea signing off for this week.  Enjoy your week of cooking and I’ll see you next time!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Zucchini

By Chef Andrea
Zucchini may just be the most versatile and prolific vegetable we grow!  We have two plantings and typically harvest three times a week from mid-June through August and sometimes into September.  Sometimes we have a little gap in between plantings one and two, but settle in folks…we’re in it for the long haul!
We grow two main types of zucchini including the traditional green zucchini and an Italian variety that is lighter green in color and has ribs and stripes on the skin.  Both varieties may be used interchangeably in any recipe calling for zucchini or summer squash.  There is a difference in the varieties though and we encourage you to take a moment to notice the differences throughout the season.  Italian zucchini has a more pronounced flavor and the texture is more firm making it a good option for grilling and other preparations where you need the zucchini to hold its shape.  Zucchini in general is a very mild-flavored vegetable which is part of why it is so versatile.  It pairs well with so many different flavors and is easily adaptable to combinations with other vegetables throughout the entire summer.  Zucchini is most often cooked, but it can be eaten raw as well.  I’ll offer a few suggestions below for how to use raw zucchini.
Zucchini Relish
photo from cravesomethinghealthy.com
The other nice thing about zucchini is there are ways to preserve it so you can enjoy it throughout the year.  One of the easiest things to do is grate or shred raw zucchini, squeeze out the excess moisture and then put the zucchini in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer.  When I do this I try to portion it into a quantity that is appropriate for making My Special Zucchini Bread or pancake recipes.  When you thaw it, you’ll need to squeeze out the excess moisture, but then it’s ready to use in baked goods, soups, smoothies, stir-fry, etc.  You can also preserve zucchini by making Zucchini Butter (see below), one of this week’s featured recipes.  Once you make a batch you can use it fresh or portion it into containers to freeze.  Zucchini Pickles or Zucchini Relish are other good ways to preserve zucchini.
Zucchini can be sautéed, roasted, grilled and stir-fried.  It may be used to make snack foods, casseroles and gratins, incorporated into lasagna and meatballs, dips, enchiladas, tacos, egg dishes, smoothies, desserts and more.  One day I want to compile a list of 100 ways to use zucchini.  I’m going to start with 20 recipes this week and maybe you can help me uncover 80 more ways/recipes to use zucchini over the course of this season!  Before we get to the list I just want to mention a few things about storage and use.  First of all, zucchini has pretty tender skin so rarely needs to be peeled.  Sometimes larger zucchini may need to be peeled, use your own judgement.  Zucchini is a warm weather vegetable and is best stored at temperatures between 45-55°F.  We have a dedicated cooler for that temperature range, but realize you may not have the perfect storage temperature situation in your home.  So, my recommendation is to keep your zucchini at room temperature and use them within a few days of receiving them.  If you put them in the refrigerator they’ll likely suffer chill injury which will compromise their quality and shorten shelf life.
Ok, lets move on to the list of 20 Different Recipes to use Zucchini!  Have fun and be sure to share your own recipes in our Facebook Group so we can build our list of 100 recipes this year!
20 Different Recipes Using Zucchini!

Pasta with Roasted Zucchini & Cilantro Pesto

Yield:  6 servings
1 ½ pounds zucchini
1 Tbsp plus ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 oz short, twisty shaped pasta
1 pound ground pork (optional)
½ cup white wine (use if you use the pork)
2 garlic scapes
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp lime zest
⅔ cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), divided
2¼ cups tightly packed cilantro leaves and stems
3 Tbsp lime juice
¾ tsp crushed red chile flakes (or to taste)
¾ cup crumbled cojita or feta cheese, divided

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Cut zucchini into ½ inch cubes.  You should have about 4 cups of cubed zucchini.  Put zucchini in a medium mixing bowl and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil.  Season with salt and black pepper and stir to combine and evenly coat the zucchini with oil.  Add a little more oil if needed.  

  2. Roast zucchini for 25-35 minutes or until tender and lightly golden brown.  You’ll need to stir the zucchini about half way through the roasting time.  Once the zucchini is roasted, remove from the oven and hold in a warm place.

  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta;  cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes.  Reserve ½ cup pasta water, then drain.  Set the cooked pasta aside.

  4. If you are using pork, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown the ground pork until nearly cooked through.  Add the white wine and simmer until it has reduced by ¾ volume.  Remove from heat and set aside until you’re ready to finish the dish.

  5. Meanwhile, make the pesto.  Cut the garlic scapes into 1-2 inch pieces and place in a blender or food processor.  Blend briefly to coarsely chop the garlic scapes.  Add ¾ cup olive oil, cumin, lime zest, 1 tsp salt, and ½ cup pepitas.  Blend until smooth.  Add the cilantro and process just until smooth, about 15 seconds.  Pour into a bowl and stir in lime juice, chile flakes, and ½ cup of the cojita or feta cheese.

  6. Once all the components are prepared, put the pan with the pork in it back on the stove over medium heat.  If you are not using pork, just put a large saute pan on the stove over medium heat.  Add the zucchini, pasta and cilantro pesto along with a little bit of the pasta cooking liquid.  Stir to combine and fully heat the pasta.  Add additional pasta water as needed for the desired consistency.

  7. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt, pepper or lime juice as needed.

  8. To serve, portion the pasta into bowls.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds/pepita.
Recipe adapted from www.sunset.com

Zucchini Butter

photo by James Ransom for food52.com
Yield:  about 2 cups
2 pounds zucchini
¼ cup olive oil or butter
½-¾ cup minced shallots, garlic cloves, scapes or any combination of onions and garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Coarsely grate the zucchini.  Let it drain in a colander for 3 to 4 minutes or until you are ready to begin cooking.  To hasten cooking time, squeeze the water out of the zucchini by wringing it in a clean cloth towel.  

  2. In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil/butter.  Saute the onion/garlic briefly.  Add the zucchini and toss.  Cook and stir over medium to medium-high heat until the zucchini reaches a spreadable consistency, about 15 minutes.  If the bottom starts to brown, turn the flame down!  (And scrape those delicious bits into the butter for added flavor—you can splash in a little water to help deglaze the pan.)  The zucchini will slowly caramelize into a nice vegetable jam.  

  3. Enjoy on toast, or as a side dish all summer long!
Recipe adapted slightly from Jennie Cook’s recipe featured as a “Genius Recipe” on Food52.com.

June 18, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Garlic Scapes!

17 Jun 2020 21:20

Cooking With This Week's Box

Garlic Scapes: Garlic Scape Beef Satay with Garlic Scape Peanut Sauce (see below); Grilled Naan with Garlic Scape Chutney (see below); Garlic Scape Herbed Cream Cheese

Pea Vine OR Baby Rainbow Chard: Pea Vine Cream CheeseSwiss Chard and Mushroom Galette

Chef Andrea roasting A LOT of garlic in the HVF kitchen
This week I want to kick off the Cooking With the Box Article with a huge “Welcome!” to all of our Peak Season vegetable share members who are joining us for the first time this year!  If you’re totally new to HVF and are looking for ways to use all of the items in your CSA box each week, you’re in the right place!  My name is Andrea and I am both a farmer and a professionally trained chef who has worked in restaurants, but also understand what it means to balance making healthy meals at home along with all the other responsibilities life may send our way.  Each week I share ideas for ways you might use the vegetables in your box, including links to recipes.  Sometimes I link to websites and blogs, while other times I share a recipe from our archives.  The goal of this space is to inspire you to find ways to make meals you and your family enjoy while maximizing the use of the vegetables you receive each week!
Lets jump into this week’s box and take a look at the crazy, curly garlic scapes!  If you’re encountering these for the first time, take a minute to read this week’s vegetable feature information below.  I’ve included several more links to recipes and ideas for putting this unique vegetable to use.  I also have two recipes to share with you, perhaps one of these may spark your interest.  The first recipe we’re featuring this week is for Garlic Scape Beef Satay with Garlic Scape Peanut Sauce (see below).  You need to plan ahead to marinate the beef, but aside from that and preheating a grill, this recipe comes together very fast and it’s full of flavor!  In fact, Richard went back for another serving….peanut sauce is also one of his favorites.  The second recipe is for Grilled Naan with Garlic Scape Chutney (see below).  This recipe does involve making a dough, but it’s very easy and fun to make.
Kohlrabi Slaw with Cilantro, Jalapeno & Lime
Photo from feastingathome.com
Last week we featured kohlrabi, another very unique vegetable with an “out of this world” appearance.  Check out last week’s vegetable feature article to learn more about how to use this vegetable.  If you haven’t tried the Kohlrabi Custard recipe featured last week, consider trying it this week.  Several members in our Facebook Group tried it and gave it positive reviews!  In my journey through food blogs over the past week I came across this recipe for Kohlrabi Slaw with Cilantro, Jalapeno & Lime.This is a refreshing salad using lime and orange zest along with the juice to make a light, refreshing citrus dressing.
Speaking of salads, a member in our Facebook Group made a salad using Rhubarb Poppyseed Dressing which led me not only to a recipe for this dressing, but also this Strawberry and Goat Cheese Fritter Salad with Poppyseed Dressing.  Just substitute the Rhubarb Poppyseed dressing for the regular dressing in the recipe.  This is a perfect salad to make with the Red Oak lettuce in this week’s box!
Strawberry Basil Foccacia
Photo from howsweeteats.com
There’s been a lot of activity in our Facebook Group with some awesome pictures, recipes and dialogue!  Another member shared this recipe for Strawberry Basil Foccacia.  I never would have thought to use strawberries to make focaccia, but this looks delicious!  This recipe for Rhubarb Yogurt Cake was also recommended in the group and I think I’m going to have to give it a try as well!  Since it has yogurt in it maybe I can pass it off as “breakfast cake!”
This week some boxes will receive pea vine and others will receive Swiss chard.  If you get the pea vine, I invite you to join me in my obsession with Pea Vine Cream Cheese. This year’s obsession actually struck me this past Sunday and I made a double batch.  I added some fresh dill which was quite nice.  You could also add parsley, basil or cilantro if you like.  We’ve been using it on tortillas stuffed with chopped lettuce, radishes, turnips and kohlrabi.  Richard likes a little meat, so we added some cooked bacon bits as well.  My next cream cheese recipe to try is Garlic Scape Herbed Cream Cheese using the garlic scapes and Italian parsley in this week’s box.  Of course you could also use dill if you have that remaining from last week or really any other fresh herb you have access to.  Put it on your morning bagel, use it to make a wrap, or spread it on crackers for a little afternoon snack.

Swiss Chard and Mushroom Galette
Photo by Christina Holmes for bonappetit.com
If you receive the Swiss chard instead of the pea vine, check out this recipe for Swiss Chard and Mushroom Galette.  I love galettes because they are easy to make and I like the rustic feel of them.  This recipe calls for lots of fresh parsley along with the chard, mushrooms and fresh ricotta.  This is a good brunch item or would be good for dinner along with a salad such as this Arugula and Nectarine Salad with Yogurt Dressing.
This is our last week for the sweet little baby white turnips.   I highly recommend trying the recipe for Creamy Turnips Grits & Greens that was featured in last year’s newsletter.  Even if you aren’t a hot sauce person, make the hot sauce vinaigrette that you drizzle on just before serving.  It’s so delicious!  If you want to go with a raw concept, check out this recipe for Fresh Turnip Salad with Curry Vinaigrette.  This recipe was created by Chef Boni who worked at the farm one summer.   There’s one more salad recipe I wanted to share here this week.  Actually a member shared this recipe for Icebox Salad in the Facebook Group last week.  Growing up back in Indiana we had a less healthy version of this type of salad called “7-Layer Salad” that was a frequent flyer at church potlucks.  All we had in Indiana was shipped in iceberg lettuce, so I trust that this recipe will be much better than anything I’ve ever had from the past!  If you don’t have the radishes, sugar snap peas and cucumbers the recipe calls for, substitute chunks of kohlrabi and diced baby white turnips instead.  This recipe calls for romaine lettuce as the base.  You can use the red oak or any other head lettuce you have.  In fact, you could also mix in some of the baby arugula.  Basically, use the recipe as the base and make it work for what you have in your refrigerator!
Smashed White Bean and Kale Quesadillas
with Creamy BBQ Dip
Photo from runningtothekitchen.com
We’re getting close to the bottom of the box, and I just realized I almost missed the lacinato kale!  This is my favorite kind of kale, which is part of why it’s the first kale we’re sending your way this year.  Actually the entire kale and collard field looks beautiful right now.  Last year a member shared this recipe for Smashed White Bean and Kale Quesadillas with Creamy BBQ Dip.  Quesadillas are one of those versatile things to make using whatever vegetables are in season.  On this same blog there is a simple recipe for Kale Feta Egg Bake that you can make in individual ramekins.  If you prep the kale portion of the recipe in advance, you can bake the egg into the dish in only 12-15 minutes.  Perfect for a vegetable-centric breakfast with little time commitment!
Ok, I think that’s a wrap for this week.  Have a great week and remember, have fun cooking and never be intimidated by a vegetable!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Garlic Scapes

By Chef Andrea

This week we’re featuring one of the craziest, curliest vegetables we grow…Garlic Scapes!  One thing I absolutely love about vegetables is how unique they can be, and garlic scapes are definitely unique.  So lets start with the basics like “What the heck is a garlic scape?!”  There are two main types of garlic—softneck and hardneck.  We grow hardneck garlic and the way this type propagates itself in nature is by producing this scape which grows up from the center of the garlic plant.  It starts out straight, but the more it emerges it starts to form a curl.  You’ll notice a little bulb that is lighter in color at the tapered end of the scape.  This is actually called a bulbil.  If you want to do something fun, cut it open and see what it looks like on the inside.  If our garlic were growing wild in nature, these bulbils would drop down to the ground and plant themselves thereby propagating a new plant.  We’re cultivating garlic, so we plant a clove of garlic from a full sized bulb and use that as a means of growing the plant.  Since we don’t need the scape to produce another crop, we go through the field and cut them off the plant so the plant can focus its energy into producing a nice sized bulb instead of a scape.  We used to throw them on the ground, but after a market customer asked us to save some for her so she could make garlic scape pickles, we realized we were losing something valuable!  Many years ago we did an experiment and planted the bubils.  The first year they formed a single ball of garlic.  We planted that and the next year we actually got bulbs with divided cloves of garlic!
Garlic Scape Herbed Cream Cheese
Photo from farmfreshfeasts.com
Ok, so what do you do with this crazy vegetable?  Well the basic answer is “Use chopped garlic scapes anywhere you would use a clove of garlic.”  Yes, you can do that, but you can also do so many other fun things with them.  The flavor of garlic scapes is very mild in comparison to green garlic or a clove of garlic.  They are very tender, so you don’t need to peel them.  You might see a milky, white residue on the scapes which is garlic juice the plant exudes when the scape is cut.  Just give them a quick washing and they’re ready to use.  Sometimes the tapered end can get a little tough, so you might want to cut that part beyond the bulbil off.  You should keep them in the refrigerator, although if you want to put the cut end in a vase or glass of water and enjoy their beauty as a centerpiece at room temperature for a day or two until you’re ready to use them, they’ll do just fine.
There are some basic go-to ways to use garlic scapes and if you’re not sure where to start, start with one of these ideas.  Pesto—you just can’t go wrong with making garlic scape pesto.  There are many different versions you can make, so take your pick and dive in.  Check out FarmFreshFeasts.com where you’ll find 28 Recipes Using Garlic Scapes, including NINE different links to recipes for versions of garlic scape pesto!
Pickled Garlic Scapes
Pickled Garlic Scapes is another popular way to use and preserve scapes.  You’ll find a simple recipe for these in our recipe archives on our website.  You can keep a jar of these in the refrigerator for up to 8 months and use them as a condiment with tacos or anywhere you need a pungent, tangy pickle to brighten up a meal.  Using garlic scapes in dressings and dips is another easy way to capture their flavor, such as a creamy Yogurt Garlic Scape Dressing that you can drizzle over a lettuce salad or use to make a creamy kohlrabi slaw.  Garlic Scape Herbed Cream Cheese is another delicious way to use this vegetable along with any herb you have, be it dill, cilantro, parsley, basil, etc.  Put it on your morning bagel, use it to make a wrap, or spread it on crackers for a little afternoon snack.
Garlic Scape Green Gazpacho
Photo from veggieobsession.com
I pushed myself to research a little further to see what else I could find and stumbled on a couple more ideas.  Check out this article entitled “Recipes That Make the Most of Garlic Scapes” at HuffPost.com.  The author includes links to 20 interesting recipes for garlic scapes including the two recipes we’re featuring this week!  There are some other good ones highlighted in this article such as Bacon Wrapped Garlic Scapes and Garlic Scape Green Gazpacho.  I also want to mention that you can also use garlic scapes as an actual vegetable as opposed to just a seasoning.  Garlic scapes are delicious tossed or brushed with oil and grilled or roasted, then served with a little sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon.  I also like to cut them into bite sized pieces and cook them any way you would cook a green bean or asparagus.  They also make a flavorful base for a creamy pureed soup and are a nice addition to pasta sauce.
Ok, I’ve done my best to convey to you how awesome and versatile this vegetable can be!  We’ll only have them for a few weeks so have fun and if you can’t eat them all right now, make an extra batch of pesto and freeze it or make a jar of garlic scape pickles so you can enjoy this fresh, delicious garlic flavor in the deep of winter!

Garlic Scape Beef Satay with Garlic Scape Satay Sauce

Yield:  6 skewers
16-20 ounces tender cut of beef, cut into evenly sized 1-1 ½ inch cubes (eg, tenderloin, Sirloin or Sirloin Tip) 
3 garlic scapes
½ inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 lime, juiced
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems
10 mint leaves 
3 Thai basil or basil leaves (optional)
¼ cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp sesame oil
  1. Cut the scapes into smaller pieces and roughly chop the ginger.  Put both in a blender or food processor and coarsely chop.  Add the lime juice, cilantro, mint and basil leaves and the soy sauce.  Blend until a paste forms.  Scrape down the sides of the blender.  With the blender running, drizzle in the sesame oil and blend until smooth.  Pour the marinade into a zipper plastic bag or a glass container and add the beef cubes.  Mix the marinade and the beef well.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  2. When ready to cook, heat the grill or a grill pan to high heat.  Thread the beef onto skewer sticks.  Grill the skewers until the beef is cooked to desired doneness.  Serve with the Garlic Scape Satay Sauce.
Garlic Scape Satay Sauce:
2 garlic scapes
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup coconut milk or cream
1-2 Tbsp water
1 ½ Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 ½ Tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tsp Tbsp fish sauce
1-2 tsp Hot sauce or chili garlic sauce, to taste
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
  1. Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  2. Cut the scapes into small pieces and place in a blender.  Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.  Adjust the consistency of the sauce by adding more water to thin it if necessary.  Adjust seasoning with additional salt, pepper, lime juice, etc.  Serve at room temperature with garlic scape beef satay skewers.
Recipe adapted from www.Food52.com.

Grilled Naan with Garlic Scape Chutney

Yield:  10 pieces
5 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
3 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
½ cup plain yogurt
1 large egg
¼ cup olive oil and more for brushing
1 ½ cup water
Garlic Scape Chutney: 
¾ cup chopped garlic scapes
½ cup fresh mint, packed
½ cup roasted almonds
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ jalapeño pepper (optional if you want a little kick)
1 Tbsp lime juice 
⅓ cup olive oil
1 cup melty cheese, such as mozzarella or queso fresco (optional) 
Olive oil or Melted butter for brushing
  1. Make the dough: Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt, egg and 1 ½ cups of lukewarm water and the oil.  Pour the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture and mix on low speed until a soft, sticky dough starts to clump around the hook, about 5 minutes.  If the dough seems too wet, add more flour, 1 tsp at a time. (Note, if you do not have a stand mixer, just mix by hand.)
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment and dust lightly with flour.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 10 equal pieces.  Form each piece into a ball and arrange them on the baking sheet.  Lightly brush the dough with oil, cover with plastic, and let sit 1 hour before shaping.
  3. Make the chutney: Place all the chutney ingredients (garlic scapes through ⅓ cup olive oil) in a food processor and pulse until uniformly granular.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll a dough ball into a 5-inch circle.  Spread 1 Tbsp of the chutney in the center, leaving a ½-inch border.  Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of cheese over the chutney.  Gather the borders to form a pouch pinching it to seal in the filling.  Turn the pouch pinched side down and, using very light pressure, roll it into a 6-inch circle.  Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Layer rolled out naan with parchment until ready to grill.
  5. Prepare a medium charcoal or gas grill fire and wipe grates with a lightly oiled paper towel.  Grill the breads in batches pinched side down, covered, until they puff up and the undersides brown lightly in places, 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn over and cook the other side, covered, until grill marks form and the breads are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.  Just before taking them off the grill, turn the breads pinched side down and brush lightly with butter or olive oil.  Serve warm.
  6. These are best, right off the grill but leftovers can be refrigerated and saved for another time.  Just place them in a toaster or warm oven before serving.
Recipe sourced from www.feastingathome.com

June Farm Update—Welcome to Summer!

17 Jun 2020 20:51

Gorgeous Potato Field under blue skies, HVF 2020
Here we are, just past the halfway mark in the month of June.  The first day of summer is approaching at the end of this week on Saturday, June 20.  So, as we do an official transition from spring into summer we thought it fitting to do a farm update so you know what’s happening in our valley!  This Sunday, June 21, is also the day we were scheduled to host our annual Strawberry Day event.  When the pandemic infiltrated our world back in March we hoped for a quick resolution and return to “normal,” however we quickly realized we had to be realistic that this wasn’t going to end as quickly as we hoped it may.  So, as the pandemic continues to persist we are cancelling Strawberry Day for the first time in HVF history!  While we’re still doing our best to minimize contact with the outside world, continue to wear masks and practice social distancing, continue daily cleaning and sanitizing, etc, we also continue to farm and do what we know how to do best—grow vegetables.  So while we can’t invite you to join us on a wagon tour to experience our fields and valley views for yourself, we’ll do our best to take you on a virtual tour through this week’s article, complete with pictures Andrea and Richard have been taking over the past few weeks!  So, get comfy and claim your seat on our virtual wagon as we take you through the fields and update you on farm happenings!
May 2020:  HVF CSA Box # 3
As we write this article we’re preparing to pack our 7thCSA box of the 2020 season and this week we’re welcoming our Peak Season Vegetable share members.  While our early season boxes were filled with a wide variety of greens, radishes, ramps and asparagus, we’re just starting to see the transition from spring crops to summer crops.  We started picking strawberries last week and while they taste quite delicious, we have to be honest with you that we are not going to see prolific yields as we have in previous years.  When we pulled the field cover back early this spring, and loosened the straw mulch, we found that some of the plants had not survived the winter.  What exactly was the cause?  It’s hard to say, but likely a combination of a warm March followed by a cold April.  This is our first year to harvest from this planting.  While it’s a bit disappointing, we’re hopeful that the plants will shoot out runners to help fill in the gaps.  If we manage the field correctly after we’re done picking this year, we may be able to establish more plants for next year’s’ harvests.  So, while we will still have strawberries, there won’t be as many as in past years.  Now that we have that bit of news out of the way, lets move on to some other fields!
Look closely and you'll see the cutest little Green Zucchini!
By the end of this week we’re hoping to start picking the first zucchini and in just one more week we’ll add cucumbers to the harvest list!  We had a field cover on these plants after we transplanted them back in May, with hopes that a little extra heat gain would encourage their growth.  We didn’t intend to take the cover off, but Mother Nature had a different idea when she sent high winds our way a few weeks ago!  So, we let her do her thing and once the cover was off we were pleased to see nice, healthy plants!  Right next to these crops we planted our first planting of melons and watermelons.  The plants are still small, but they look very healthy.  Manuel Morales and Jose Antonio have been working hard irrigating many crops.  Crops such as zucchini and melons are planted on beds covered with plastic mulch and have drip lines running underneath the plastic to deliver not only water but also nutrients and beneficial microbes to support the plant’s growth and fruit development.  Before the melon vines grow too much and extend into the wheel tracks in between the beds, we are trying to maximize every effort to control the weeds that seize every opportunity to grow in open spaces. 
Jamie & Felix running the Kult Cultivator
through the melon field
Last Saturday Jamie and Felix used our Kult cultivator set up to clean up this field. They are doing a great job as a 2-man weed killing team!  Thanks to the efforts of all these guys, we’re hopeful we’ll have some delicious melons to send your way in July and August!
We are very thankful all of our crew members remain healthy and well.  At the end of May we greeted two more crew members who returned from Mexico after receiving their visas! Juan Pablo and Alfredo are brothers and have worked at our farm for many years.  They had to take last year off, but were ready to come back this year and we are so glad they did!  Once they arrived we greeted them from a distance at the airport where we left a vehicle for them along with keys to a house we had kept vacant and reserved for “quarantine” needs.  With a tank full of gas, a cell phone so we could communicate with them, and a fully stocked kitchen, they quarantined themselves away from the rest of the crew and the community.  
Juan Pablo & Alfredo spending time together
as brothers weeding our onions!
They did have a very productive quarantine spent going between their house and whatever weeding mission they were assigned to for the day.  Over the past two weeks they have spent a lot of quality time together bonding as brothers and as yet another 2-man weed killing team!  They have managed to hand weed horseradish, early beets and carrots, parsnips and the entire onion field!  Thankfully they reached the end of their quarantine healthy and well, still thankful to be brothers, and they by no means put themselves out of a job—the weeds continue to grow!
Saturday, June 13--Mulching and Transplanting Tomatoes!
Summer isn’t summer without tomatoes and basil!  We’re happy to report we now have two fields of tomatoes planted!  The first planting has already been staked and tied to keep the plants growing upright both to keep the fruit clean as well as to allow airflow through the foliage.  Pretty soon we’ll need to add another string to the stakes and will continue to weave the plants into place as they grow upward.  Last weekend the mulching crew had the transplanting crew right on their heels as we worked hard to achieve our goal of getting the second tomato field planted.  We had some rain the week before as well as about 2 inches earlier in the week.  The fields were too wet to work in, but the tomato plants were growing quickly in the greenhouse turning from small plants to tomato trees right before our eyes!  They really needed to get to the field before they got much bigger or we would risk breaking them when we tried to plant them.  The crew pulled it off and the field looks great! 

Basil Planting #1 looking quite beautiful
after the cover was removed!
As for the basil, we have planted two of our five plantings in the field and have a third one in the greenhouse that will be ready to take to the field in a week or so.  The early plantings of basil also get covered with a field blanket to protect the delicate leaves from chilly spring nights, but also to trap heat to accelerate growth.  We pulled the cover off at the end of last week and were pleased to see beautiful basil plants underneath!  If you look closely at the plants you can see them smiling, now fully exposed to the sun and emitting a sweet, herbal fragrance in the air all around them!  We should also mention the pepper and eggplant fields look quite nice and we’re hopeful they’ll produce well come late summer.
While we’re just beginning summer, we’re already looking ahead to fall.  After a two week delay in getting our sweet potato slips from North Carolina due to poor weather conditions, we were able to get the last shipment of plants last week and by the end of the week the sweet potato field was completed.  The winter squash field has also been planted and we’ll be transplanting and planting the first of our fall broccoli, cabbage, rutabagas, etc later this week.  We also have a gorgeous field of celeriac that the guys have done an excellent job of cultivating and hand weeding.  I have a feeling summer is going to fly by and fall will be here before we know it!
Precision cultivating of cilantro
Cilantro, dill and red radishes are pretty important crops for our farm, not only because we like to include them in CSA boxes from time to time, but also because they are important wholesale crops for us.  We’ve had some very abundant crops this spring which we’re very thankful for!  Our harvest and washing crews have been bringing in about 15,000 bunches or more of cilantro each week for the past few weeks.  In order to keep a constant supply of these crops we have to plant them every week, which means Amy stays busy keeping the seed containers filled and managing inventory.  Tomas, Manuel, Luis and Rafael have helped not only plant the crops, but also have been doing a good job with timely flame weeding and mechanical cultivation to kill weeds.   Did we mention the weeds continue to grow?
One thing we can hardly wait to eat are freshly dug new potatoes!  It won’t be long before those tender-skinned new potatoes with red skin and creamy white flesh are ready for harvest.  If you’ve never eaten a freshly dug potato, you are in for a special treat!  The potato field looks quite nice and we spotted the first potato blossom at the end of last week!  What else goes nicely with fresh potatoes?  How about some of those tender little carrots with their green tops still attached?  Or maybe the first beets of the season?  Yes, those are all coming within the next few weeks as well.
Immature Broccoli head hidden amongst the leaves
In the meantime, we have our eyes on the second half of our first crop of broccoli and there are three more very nice crops coming up behind it!  Within the next week or two we’ll be cutting one of our favorite early season cabbages, the beloved sweetheart salad cabbage.  Cauliflower will also be coming soon.  We anticipate we’ll need to tie the first planting by the end of this week.  Why would we do that?  When we “tie” cauliflower we wrap a rubberband around the leaves to hold them together.  This keeps the plant closed in order to keep the head of cauliflower from being exposed to the sunshine thereby blanching it so it’s snowy white.
Lupe planting Ginger in the cold frame greenhouse

You asked for ginger, and you will get ginger!  On last year’s survey this was one of the most frequently requested crops you asked us to grow this year.  Last weekend Jose Antonio, Simon, Tomas, Lupe and Jorge worked hard to get the ginger planted in our cold frame greenhouse.  Hopefully we’ll have some nice baby ginger to send your way in October or November!
We can’t give a field report without mentioning garlic!  Can you believe we’ll be harvesting this year’s garlic crop in less than one month!?!  Yikes!  We’re hopeful that we’ll have a bountiful harvest and so far things are looking good.
We hope you continue to enjoy this journey through the seasons with us, embracing each week and the bounty in each box.  We have so many more delicious things to share with you, so get ready to have some fun!   Thus concludes our virtual wagon tour.  We hope you enjoyed the fresh country air, the wind in your hair, blue skies and a little time in nature.  Until the next time…….Farmers Richard, Rafael and Andrea

June 11, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Kohlrabi!

10 Jun 2020 21:21

Cooking With This Week's Box

Salad Mix: Spring Salad with Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Little Gem Head Lettuce: Asian Chicken with Little Gem Lettuce
Purple or Green Kohlrabi: Kohlrabi Custard (see below); Kohlrabi Salad with Sesame Oil (see below); Noodles with Kale and Spicy Rhubarb Sauce
The Easiest Ribs You Will Ever Make
photo from alexandracooks.com
Welcome to this week’s Cooking With the Box article! We have a fun box of vegetables for you this week, complete with whimsical kohlrabi and crazy, curly garlic scapes! Lets get cooking! This week’s featured recipes are focused on kohlrabi. I know this can be an intimidating vegetable at first glance, but really it’s quite manageable. If you haven’t read this week’s vegetable feature article yet, start there. Both of this week’s recipes come from member suggestions! The first was contributed by our longtime friend of the farm and CSA member, Marilyn Chohaney. Last year she stopped by the farmers’ market looking for kohlrabi so she could make Kohlrabi Custard (see below). “What? Custard made with kohlrabi?” Marilyn assured me it was delicious and I promptly requested the recipe. Marilyn was right! This is so easy to make and it’s quite tasty. I made it in individual serving sized ramekins, but you can make it in a baking dish as well. Next time I make it I might even try putting it in a pie crust, maybe with a little crumbled bacon and a few green onions. Kohlrabi custard may be served as a side alongside a main dish such as roasted chicken, or you can turn it into a light lunch or dinner along with a salad on the side. You can even gently reheat any leftovers for breakfast or serve it for brunch!

The second recipe was recommended by Carol, a longtime Madison member. Carol and her family enjoyed this recipe for Kohlrabi Salad with Sesame Oil (see below) while visiting their daughter in New York last year. It comes from Fuchsia Dunlop’s book, Every Grain of Rice. This is such a simple salad to make and it’s an excellent accompaniment to rich dishes. I served it with Alexandra Stafford’s recipe for The Easiest Ribs You Will Ever Make. This is my go-to recipe for making pork spare ribs and the Kohlrabi Salad is an excellent accompaniment to the spicy, fatty pork. The kohlrabi recipe calls for Chinkiang vinegar which is also known as Chinese brown rice vinegar. It’s a specialty of the town of Chinkiang in eastern China and is made from fermented glutinous rice that is charred to give it a deep brown color. If you can find this type of Chinese brown rice vinegar in your area, give it a try! Unfortunately I could not find it so I simply substituted regular brown rice vinegar.
Pickled Garlic Scapes
Lets talk about garlic scapes!  This is such a fun vegetable and to think we used to cut these off and leave them in the field!  They have a mild garlic flavor and are this week’s garlic selection.  Combine them with cilantro to make Dani Lind’s recipe for Garlic Scape & Cilantro Pesto.  This is a good condiment to have on hand this week. You can mix it with pasta for a quick meal, use it as a spread on sandwiches or toast, serve it with fish, spread it on tacos or mix it into scrambled eggs!  I also recommend making a jar of Pickled Garlic Scapes.  This is a good way to preserve garlic scapes and they are tasty served as a little garnish with many different things including grilled meat, rice dishes, sandwiches, etc.
Over the past few years Swiss chard has become one of my favorite greens.  It’s packed full of nutrients which means it’s also packed with flavor!  This week’s tender little baby Swiss chard is tender enough that you could add it into a salad along with some of this week’s Little Gem head lettuce, but it may also be cooked.  I am planning to make this recipe for Swiss Chard & Black Bean Enchiladas with Chipotle Rhubarb Sauce.  This recipe serves 2 and makes good use of several vegetables in this week’s box including the Swiss chard, rhubarb, garlic scapes and onions.  The recipe doesn’t call for it, but it seems like a bit of fresh cilantro when you serve the enchiladas would be fitting.  Since we mentioned rhubarb, perhaps now would be a fitting time to talk about the fact that rhubarb may be used for more than just pie and baked goods!  Take advantage of the sourness and tartness of rhubarb to use it in savory recipes.  It functions similarly from a taste perspective to tomatillos and tamarind, so it’s a good addition to sauces, chutneys, barbecue and even stir-frys!  Every spring I go to Naturally Ella’s blog and use her collection of Rhubarb Recipes That Are Not Pies.  She has a lot of good recipe suggestions in this collection including this recipe for Curried Lentils with Rhubarb Chutney.  This is the perfect recipe for this week as it uses not only rhubarb, but also green onions, garlic (garlic scapes) and cilantro.  I also really like her recipe for Noodles with Kale and Spicy Rhubarb Sauce.  While we don’t have kale in this week’s box, this would be a great way to put those kohlrabi leaves to use!
Herby Spring Pasta Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
photo from withfoodandlove.com
If you’re looking for a light lunch option, check out this recipe for Herby Spring Pasta Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette.  This salad is packed with a variety of herbs including dill along with asparagus and peas.  This is one of those recipes where you can improvise a little bit.  If you don’t have every herb in the list, use what you have.  If you don’t have frozen peas, use chopped garlic scapes or diced radishes from last week’s box instead!
Before asparagus and pea vine slip away for another year, I need to make this recipe for Fettucine with Pea Vine Cream Sauce that I created for the newsletter back in 2015!  I often forget about past recipes because I’m always looking at new ones, but this is a delicious pasta dish and the flavor of the pea vine really comes out nicely in the cream sauce.  One of my favorite ways to use pea vine is by extracting the flavor into soup.  Here’s another simple pea vine recipe from our archives for Miso Pea Vine Soup.
Asparagus and Dill Spring Frittata
photo from food52.com
Frittatas are a great way to feature any vegetable, and here’s a combination for Asparagus and Dill Spring Frittata that I’ve never tried before!  This is going to be on the menu for Sunday brunch served with a Spring Salad with Rhubarb Vinaigrette.
Last year was the first year I got brave enough to try cooking lettuce.  I’d seen recipes before but always thought “no way that can be good.”  Well, I was wrong!  Lettuce is actually good in soups, grilled and stir-fried.  So, if you’re tired of salads and want to try something different, use this week’s lettuce to make Asian Chicken with Little Gem Lettuce!
Ok friends, that’s a wrap for this week!  I really hope you’ve been enjoying all of the spring vegetable selections we’ve been sending your way.  The official start of summer is just around the corner and we have more vegetables coming up very soon.  The cutest little zucchini have started to push out from the blossoms, beets will be coming in just a few weeks, we have some pretty little Sweetheart cabbages that are starting to form heads, and these are just a few things you have to look forward to!  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Kohlrabi

By Chef Andrea

There are many words you may hear in reference to kohlrabi.  It’s often likened to an object from space, sent to us by aliens, bearing resemblance to Sputnik. Bon Appetit magazine  referred to it as “the poster child for local, seasonally-focused means of sourcing produce,” which is not far from the truth!  The adjectives I favor myself are simply that kohlrabi is a unique, whimsical vegetable that is fantastically versatile!  It’s a member of the Brassica family, and the name is derived from “khol” meaning stem or cabbage and “rabi” meaning turnip.  But it doesn’t resemble cabbage or turnip in appearance, rather it has its own unique identity.  While many people think kohlrabi is a root vegetable, it is actually a swollen stem that develops above ground!  The stems and leaves shoot up from the bulbous lower portion.  As with other vegetables in this family, kohlrabi is rich in vitamin C, potassium, fiber and B vitamins along with antioxidants and other valuable nutrients.

So lets go back to that poster child comment.  It’s true, kohlrabi holds an important place in our local growing season.  It matures more quickly than cabbage, beets and carrots, thus giving us some variety to offer aside from more greens in late spring and early summer!  While you may find kohlrabi in your local food co-op or in a conventional grocery store from time to time, it really hasn’t become a mainstream vegetable.  So, the way most people will source kohlrabi is obtaining it directly from the farmer who grew it, thus at farmers’ market or in a CSA box!
Purple and Green Kohlrabi with Garlic Scapes
One of the characteristics I appreciate about kohlrabi is that most of the plant is edible.  The bulb is the part of the plant most commonly eaten, but the leaves are also edible and should not be overlooked.  The leaves have a thicker texture more similar to kale or collard greens.  They are best eaten cooked and can be substituted for collard greens or kale in many recipes.  I usually strip the leaves off the main stems before using.  The bulb does need to be peeled before eating as the outer skin is fairly tough.  I find it easiest to cut the bulb in half or quarters and then peel the skin away using a vegetable peeler or paring knife as if you’re peeling an apple.  Once the skin is peeled away you’ll find a solid, crispy, juicy, tender flesh inside with a sweet, mild cabbage flavor.  The Kitchn has a nice resource to show you how to easily cut kohlrabi. To store kohlrabi, separate the stems and leaves from the bulb.  Store both leaves and the bulbs in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  The leaves will keep for about 1 week, and the bulbs will last up to several weeks if stored properly.
Kohlrabi Curry
Kohlrabi is delicious eaten both raw and cooked.  The simplest way to eat it is to peel the bulb and munch on slices plain or with just a touch of salt, a little lime juice and some chili powder.  It can also be shredded and used in slaws with a variety of dressings or sliced and added to sandwiches or salads.  Don’t limit yourself to only eating this as a raw vegetable though.  It is also delicious when lightly sautéed, stir-fried, braised, roasted, grilled and baked. Over the years we’ve featured a variety of kohlrabi recipes in our newsletters, which are archived on our website.  If you ask Farmer Richard what his favorite way to eat kohlrabi is, I guarantee he’ll always say “Creamy Kohlrabi Slaw!”
Kohlrabi is quite delicious when cooked.  You can use both the leaves and bulb in stir-fry or just simply sauté them in butter.  The bulb is also excellent roasted.  Just toss it with oil, salt and pepper and roast it in the oven until the pieces start to get golden brown on the outside.  Because it is higher in moisture it will never get as dry as potatoes do when you roast them.  Rather, roasted kohlrabi is tender and succulent.  Kohlrabi may also be used in a variety of other preparations including soup, puree, “fries,” curries and so much more!

I hope you have fun using this unique vegetable and hopefully you too will find it’s beauty, flavor and uses to be “out of this world!”

Kohlrabi Custard

Serves 5-6 as a side dish

2-3 medium to large kohlrabi, trimmed, peeled and quartered
2 large eggs
4 oz Neufchatel (or cream) cheese, softened
½ cup milk
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tsp hot sauce (optional)
1 tsp salt
Freshly grated nutmeg, about ⅛ tsp
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Add the kohlrabi quarters to a large pot of boiling water and cook till slightly softened, about 5 minutes.  Drain, cool slightly, then place in a food processor.  Purée until the kohlrabi is finely chopped.  Pour into a quart measure. You should have around 3 cups of puréed vegetable.* (see note below)
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Butter a 9-inch square baking dish or 5-6 individual-sized ramekins.  You will need to put the baking dish or ramekins in a larger baking dish and fill the outer dish with enough water to come about half way up the dish or ramekins that will hold the custard.  This will create a more gentle heat distribution to bake the custard.  
  3. In the food processor, blend the eggs, milk, Neufchatel cheese, cornstarch, salt, nutmeg and pepper.  When blended, add the kohlrabi purée and a ½ cup of Parmesan cheese.  Stir well to combine.  Taste for seasoning and adjust with additional salt and pepper as needed.  Pour the custard mixture into the prepared baking dish or ramekins.  Place the dish(es) into the larger pan and fill halfway with hot water.
  4. Place into the center of the preheated oven.  Bake for about 20 minutes if you’re using ramekins or 30 minutes if you’re using a baking dish.  After 20-30 minutes, sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan cheese on top of the custard.  Return the custard to the oven and bake another 20-30 minutes, or until the custard is set firmly and lightly browned.  
Marilyn Chohaney, one of our longtime Madison CSA members, shared this recipe with me last year.  Her note that came with the recipe says that it is “Really good!”  Marilyn is right!  This custard is best served warm or slightly warmer than room temperature.  It also reheats well, so don’t be afraid to eat leftovers for breakfast!
*Note from Chef Andrea:  I used 2 medium sized kohlrabi which yielded 1 ½ cups puréed kohlrabi.  This is only about half of what Marilyn recommends using.  However, I followed the recipe without adjusting any other ingredient quantities and the custard turned out just fine even with less kohlrabi.  You’ll still get good kohlrabi flavor, the overall recipe will just yield a little less.  Use what you have!

Kohlrabi Salad with Sesame Oil

Yield:  6-8 appetizer servings

1 kohlrabi (about 14 oz or 2 medium)

1 ¼ tsp salt
2 Tbsp finely sliced spring onion greens
For the sauce:
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp finely chopped garlic (may substitute garlic scapes)
1 tsp Chinkiang vinegar (may substitute brown rice vinegar)
¼ tsp sugar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  1. Peel the kohlrabi and cut it into very thin slices.  Cut the slices into very thin slivers.  Place in a bowl, add the salt and mix well, scrunching with your hand to squeeze the salt into the kohlrabi shreds.  Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Drain off the water that will have emerged from the kohlrabi and squeeze the slivers as dry as possible.  Add all the sauce ingredients, mix well, then serve with the spring onion greens scattered on top.
For a Sour-And-Hot Variation:  Add 2 tsp more vinegar than the recipe above, as well as 1 ½ Tbsp chili oil to the sauce.
This recipe comes from Fuchsia Dunlop’s latest cookbook, Every Grain of Rice.  Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to this recipe:  “Kohlrabi is known in some parts of China, rather poetically, as a ‘jade turnip,’ on account of its luminous green flesh.  It is an underrated vegetable that sparkles in this simple Sichuanese appetizer.  I like to serve it alongside richer dishes at the start of a meal, or as a fresh, zesty complement to a bowlful of noodles if I’m rustling up to a quick lunch for one or two.  The recipe and its variations were taught to me by Chef Zhang Xia ozhong of Barshu restaurant.”

June 4, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Cilantro!

3 Jun 2020 21:43

Cooking With This Week's Box

Baby Spinach: Noodles with Miso Cilantro Sauce (see below); Moroccan Salad with Cilantro Orange DressingChicken Bacon Avocado Salad with Roasted Asparagus

Potato Onions or Green Garlic: Noodles with Miso Cilantro Sauce (see below); Creamy Cilantro Dressing (see below); Pea Vine Cream CheesePasta with Asparagus and Avocado-Pea Vine Cream SaucePea Vine Pesto Pasta Salad; Radish Top PestoSesame-Soy Hon Tsai Tai Chicken Salad
Cilantro: Noodles with Miso Cilantro Sauce (see below); Creamy Cilantro Dressing (see below); Moroccan Salad with Cilantro Orange Dressing 
Things are changing fast around here!  Crops are growing like crazy now that we’ve crossed over into June!  Richard picked the first 5 ripe strawberries of the season on Monday, the broccoli is starting to head up and it won’t be long before the zucchini starts to blossom!  Get ready, there are so many good things coming your way!
This week’s box is packed with more green goodness and our featured vegetable is cilantro, a very common and popular herb.  I love simple recipes and in the midst of a busy week I like simple recipes that are also fast and low maintenance.  So the first recipe for this week is Noodles with Miso Cilantro Sauce (see below).  I really like this recipe because it basically has two easy components.  Boil noodles and make a fresh sauce in the blender.  This comes together in about 20 minutes!  The sauce is very green, packed with not only cilantro but also greens. The original recipe calls for baby spinach, but I tried it with chopped pea vine and it was delicious!  So, take your pick or use some of each.  If you aren’t familiar with miso or don’t have it in your pantry, you could leave it out and the sauce will still be good.  If you do have access to this ingredient, I highly recommend you use it and keep a tub or jar of miso in your refrigerator.  You can usually find it at food co-ops in the refrigerated section near the fermented foods, tofu, etc.  It stores for a really long time in the refrigerator and a spoonful added to soups, sauces or vinaigrette can really offer a nice flavor boost.
The second recipe is for Creamy Cilantro Dressing (see below).  This is another quick recipe to assemble using either a food processor or a blender.  If you don’t have either of these appliances, just chop everything finely using a knife and mix it in a bowl with a whisk or spoon.  It might be more coarse, but it will still be delicious.  The thing I like about this recipe is that its uses are versatile.  Use it as a dressing on salads, or use it as a sauce on top of grilled meats, quesadillas, tacos, scrambled eggs, etc. This morning I put it on our breakfast burrito and it was delicious!

Pasta with Asparagus and Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce
This week we’re harvesting our first crop of Pea Vine. This crazy green is actually an immature pea plant that gives us a teaser taste of that fresh pea flavor we can’t wait to taste in crunchy sugar snap peas!  My top three favorite recipes for pea vine come from past newsletters.  So, if you’re new to HVF this year, I encourage you to start with one of these selections.  My all-time favorite recipe is for Pea Vine Cream Cheese.  This is so easy to make and is awesome on a toasted bagel, spread on a tortilla to make a veggie wrap, or just use it as a dip for fresh radishes.  My second favorite recipe was a recommendation from a member last year.  This Pasta with Asparagus and Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce is so delicious!  My third favorite pea vine recipe is for Pea Vine Pesto Pasta Salad.  Along with fresh green onions and crunchy radishes, this is just a simple, fresh recipe to make.

Moroccan Salad with Cilantro Orange Dressing
photo from pinchofyum.com
I have a new blog to recommend this week.  A member mentioned this blog to me earlier in the year and I finally had time to take a look at it this week.  PinchOfYum.com is a blog by a Minnesotan named Lindsey!  She has a lot of really great recipes on her blog including this one for Moroccan Salad with Cilantro Orange Dressing.  Not only does it include our featured vegetable, but also baby spinach, although you could easily sub in pea vine or other greens.  She also has a tasty recipe for Chicken Bacon Avocado Salad with Roasted Asparagus.  This is a perfect way to use this week’s salad greens, spinach and/or arugula along with asparagus!

There were more great suggestions coming through in our Facebook group this week, including a suggestion to make Quick-Pickled Radishes!  The member who made this recommendation says “Tastes great on nearly everything!”  I love having little treasures like these tucked away in the refrigerator to add to meals throughout the week.  You can use these on tacos, salads, sandwiches, toast, or anywhere else you might want a little tangy, crunchy contrast!  If you make these pickles with the roots, you still have the tops to make Radish Top Pesto.  This recipe calls for 4 cups of radish greens.  You may not have enough greens from one bunch, so I’d recommend making up the difference with some of the baby spinach or pea vine in this week’s box.  This is another one of those refrigerator treasures that can help you put a quick dinner on the table in just a few minutes.  Use it as a spread in wraps, quesadillas, pizza, on toast with cheese and/or egg, or as a condiment for grilled steak, chicken or fish.

My recipe for Sesame-Soy HonTsai Tai Chicken Salad made an appearance on several members’ tables over the past week, as evidenced by the comments and posts in our Facebook group.  I created this recipe back in 2014 and every year members come back to this simple, fresh, tasty salad when hon tsai tai is in season.  Hon Tsai Tai is the “greens” base of the salad topped with fresh baby white turnips, radishes and a flavorful sesame-soy dressing.  You may have more dressing than you need for this serving size.  If that’s the case, save it and make the salad again or use the dressing on some of your other salad greens this week!

Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy-Pickled Eggs
If you missed last week’s vegetable feature and featured recipe for Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy-Pickled Eggs, check it out this week.  You can also head over to DishingUpTheDirt.com and check out Andrea Bemis’s collection of excellent Baby White Turnip recipes!

That brings us to the bottom of another CSA box!  Have a wonderful week, enjoy eating fresh, seasonal meals, and get ready for more vegetables next week including rhubarb and possibly broccoli and strawberries (cross your fingers!)—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Cilantro

By Chef Andrea
Cilantro is an important crop on our farm.  We plant cilantro every week for about 20 plantings starting in April and going through the end of August.  Our goal is to move right from one crop into the next as we harvest cilantro starting in mid to late May through October or the first part of November.  Over the course of the season we will end up planting 16-18 acres of cilantro total!  Each crop has the potential to yield as many as 18,000 to 24,000 bunches!  Some of our experienced crew members can make more than 100 bunches of cilantro an hour when they are harvesting.  That is a lot of cilantro and obviously more than we could use for CSA boxes.  Cilantro is one of our top “bread and butter” crops that we supply to our major wholesale buyers supplying this region.  As you can see, it’s a big deal for us!
Cilantro is used extensively in a wide variety of cultures and cuisines across the globe ranging from Mexico to Asia.  While we often think of it as an herb which is used more sparingly as an accent to other foods, don’t be afraid to use cilantro in more bold ways where it is the main ingredient.  With many herbs, recipes tell you to pick the leaves off the stems and only use the leafy part.  I am an advocate for using stems as well, especially for herbs with tender stems such as cilantro.  There’s a lot of flavor in those stems, so it seems like such a waste to throw them out!
Cilantro-Garlic Scape Pesto served on fish
Cilantro is often used in salsas, fresh vegetable salads and as a condiment for tacos, curries, soups and more.  It’s also a delicious ingredient to incorporate into spreads and sauces such as chimichurri (with cilantro in place of traditional parsley), Cilantro-Garlic Scape Pesto, vinaigrettes, etc.  It is also often incorporated into smoothies and green drinks because of its contributions to health related to detoxifying the body. So, as you can see there are many different ways to use a bunch of cilantro!
Some people love cilantro, others are learning to like it and some have an aversion to it because to them, it tastes like soap.  This latter group is actually a pretty small subset of the population.  To them, a natural chemical compound in cilantro has an unpleasant soapy taste.  If you experience this, we’ll let you take a pass on eating this vegetable.  But for everyone else, eat your cilantro as it has some valuable health benefits!  It is an excellent source of zinc as well as vitamins A, C, E and K.  it also works as a chelator and detoxifier for our bodies removing toxins, heavy metals, molds, yeast and fungi.  It’s on the green cleaning team, which is why it’s a common ingredient in green smoothies and drinks!
For the longest shelf life, we recommend you remove the twist tie and wash your cilantro in a sink of clean, cold water.  If you have a salad spinner, use it to remove excess water from the cilantro before storing it in a plastic bag or container.  If you don’t have a spinner, just blot or shake off as much excess water as you can.  Before storing, remove any damaged or spotty leaves.  It may also be helpful to put a dry paper towel in the bag or container you’re storing it in.   For best results, use within 7-10 days.

Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Yield: 1 cup
1 cup packed cilantro
1 clove garlic or one stalk green garlic
4 Tbsp plain yogurt or sour cream
2 ½ Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp lime juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tsp water, as needed
  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Add the water as needed to adjust the consistency of the dressing.  
  3. Serve as a dressing for green salads or as a sauce on fish, chicken, vegetables, etc.
Recipe adapted from PinchOfYum.com

Noodles with Miso-Cilantro Sauce

Yield:  2-3 servings
1 Tbsp white miso
1 garlic clove or one stalk of green garlic, roughly chopped
½ cup sunflower oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
¼-⅓ cup water (as needed)
4 cups baby spinach or chopped pea vine
2 cups cilantro leaves and stems, rough chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
10-12 oz ramen noodles or other thin noodles
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Toasted sesame seeds, for serving
  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  
  2. While the water is heating up, make the sauce.  In a blender jar or food processor, combine miso, garlic, oils, lemon juice, vinegar and a few pinches of salt.  Blend until the mixture is smooth and very green.  You may need to add ¼ to ⅓ cup of water to the blender to adequately mix all the ingredients.  Use the water sparingly.  Season the sauce with salt and set the sauce aside.
  3. Once the water is boiling, cook the noodles according to package instructions.  Once cooked, drain the noodles and add to a medium size bowl along with the butter.  Allow the hot noodles to melt the butter, then toss until all noodles are evenly coated.  Mix in enough of the miso-cilantro sauce to generously cover all the noodles.  
  4. Divide the noodles between individual bowls for serving and top with toasted sesame seeds.  If you have any extra sauce, save it and store in the refrigerator for several days or freeze it. 
This recipe was adapted from one originally published in Bon Appetit Magazine in March 2018.


3 Jun 2020 20:58

The topic for this week’s newsletter started brewing in my mind last week when yet another CSA member took the time to send us a note of thanks.  Here are just a few excerpts from notes we’ve received:
The beautiful Diana Radishes 

“I am so excited to have the herbs, in addition to the GORGEOUS vegetables of today!!... Your produce gives me so much JOY and ESPECIALLY in such a dark time. I THANK YOU for the work you do.”
“I am so excited with our first share. Thank you so much for all the fresh vegetables.  I already had some greens with my eggs this morning.  Just letting you know you made my day.”
“We are sure thankful to be connected with HVF again this year, especially at a time when local, sustainable food practices are more important than ever.  May your crew have good health and fruitful harvests all season long,”
“I wanted to thank you for all you have done to make our CSA experience safe.  I picked up my first box on Saturday and was so happy to see the outside tent set up with clear directions on how to keep us all protected!  I left with my beautiful bag of vegetables and a huge smile on my face J
Storm Clouds in the Valley, June 2, 2020
Gratitude, it’s a powerful medicine for the souls of those who both give and receive it.  It’s a trying time for our region, our country and the world.  This year is unfolding in unexpected ways and some days it’s hard to make sense of everything happening around us.  It would be wonderful if we could hunker down in our quiet little valley and remain immune to the hurt, anger, injustice, fear and inconvenience the events of this year have placed upon us all.  But, that’s not an option when you choose to be part of a community.  As I write this newsletter, the wind is whipping violently outside the office and as Richard just communicated to Rafael over the radio “We’re going to get slammed.”  Dust is swirling, trees are whipping around, and Alejandro, Manuel, Nestor and Jose Antonio are trying to wrangle the field covers that are being ripped off the crops they are meant to protect.  We know how to deal with the weather, or rather, we know we can’t control the weather, only our ability to respond to whatever hand Mother Nature chooses to deal us.  Sometimes we get a really good hand, and when we do, you reap the benefits too!  Ramps in May because of a late, cool spring?!  Yes, we’ll take it!  A stretch of nice, sunny, warm days that spurs the asparagus to push through and allows us to complete critical cultivating, transplant crops and plant more seeds?  That’s a good hand to be dealt and we’ll take it! 
Cultivating Celeriac with "The Kult"
We’ve had our fair share of experience managing the extremes of weather.  While we can’t control it, we are very adept at working with and around the weather.  We have a grasp on the realities of this type of storm.  But this year, the weather is not the only “storm” raging around us.  Restrictions and procedural changes related to COVID-19 that leave us wondering if our crew from Mexico will be able to join us.  Inconvenient changes to how we operate that slow us down, cost money, take away our markets and break down many of the plans we had for the year.  These pieces of the pandemic storm are things we could live without, but that’s not a choice right now.
Our crew packing CSA boxes in September, 2009
So we move forward and look for the good things in life.  For us, this year, it’s CSA—our community.  Think about what it stands for, “Community Supported Agriculture.”  We’ve always believed CSA can have a powerful impact on people’s lives, and this year may just be the reminder of that truth.  Simply put, we’ve always needed each other, but I think we may all realize this a little more intimately this year.  We’ve been trying to build our CSA membership back to where we were before the recession hit in 2009, after which our CSA membership dropped to an all-time low.  What’s it going to take to build our membership to a sustainable level so we can continue to do this?  We never thought the answer would be a pandemic that caused our corporate, industrial food system to fracture under the weight of its own weaknesses.  Or the fact that the pandemic forced us to spend more time at home, planning ahead for less frequent trips to the grocery store, and cooking our own meals!  The result of an inconvenient pandemic for our farm has meant a two-fold increase in CSA memberships that has actually pushed us past our record high number of boxes packed in a week from the height of our CSA glory days back around 2009!
Stack of referrals awaiting postage to be sent out.
We've received so many referrals, we went through a whole roll
of stamps and still didn't have enough to send out the first batch!
So even though this has all been very hard and this was not the plan we had in mind, we remain grateful for you, our community of eaters who have chosen to partner with us to grow food to nourish your families and enrich your lives.  This is our privilege and we want you to know we are grateful for your support.  We sense your support in so many ways.  Of course when you take the time to send us an email or write a little note to enclose with your payment, we experience your expressions of support in your own words.  Yes, we do read those notes, hang them on the wall, share them with each other and our crew members.  Your words of gratitude and support are our fuel and reminder to keep pushing on through the hard times.  With every referral you make, every conversation about CSA that you have with people in your circles, or every time you purchase our products at your local food co-op, we feel it.  Sometimes it’s subtle, anonymous, or delayed, but we feel it, and we are grateful.
Habitat for native plants and animals near our fields
We have devoted our life’s work to feeding the most people possible with healthy, nutrient rich foods through every season of the year and every season of their lives.  But farming is not just about growing food.  We also have a responsibility to restore and care for our land, protect our native plants and animals, and do our best to be a positive force in our community.  We have a responsibility to nourish body and soul.  Can vegetables change lives?  We absolutely believe they can and we hope right now you may be experiencing the little ways they do so by infiltrating our daily, sometimes mundane and sometimes tumultuous lives with vitality, beauty, nourishment and connection.  So in all the ways you support us, we hope you too feel supported right now.

Learning about celtuce from a member's mother
visiting from China!
Our hearts break when we see what’s happening in Minneapolis as well as many other cities in our region and across the country as the storms of injustice are raging.  Injustice is hard to watch, hard to experience, and hard to understand why it keeps happening.  It just doesn’t make sense.  Human lives are precious, all human lives.  When you sign up with our farm, we don’t care what color your skin is or where you come from.  We’re grateful to have you as part of our community.  Well, let me correct that last statement a bit.  We do care where you come from, because everyone has a story and a journey to share and we celebrate the diversity within our membership!  We have opportunities to learn from people from all over the world right here within our own community!  I learned more about the vegetable celtuce from a member's mother who was visiting from China when he brought her to a farm party than I ever learned from researching on the internet!  I recently learned we have a published author in our membership who was kind enough to share his memoir which I look forward to reading so I can know the journey he’s walked in this life.  We feed community leaders, teachers, healthcare workers, scientists, artists, students, and the list goes on.  We are blessed by you and the diversity each of you adds to our community.
Our hardworking crew harvesting winter radishes
 in late October
No conversation about gratitude related to farming would be complete without mentioning our crew members.  We do our best to offer respect to the hardworking crew members that work alongside us, no matter how challenging the task or situation.  They trudge through mud, shield their necks from the hot sun, bend over to harvest vegetables growing from the ground, and that’s only those who work in the field!  Others do tedious work of sorting salad greens in the packing shed to make those pretty little bags of baby arugula and salad mix we pack in your boxes.  They trim thousands of pounds of onions, and wash probably thousands of pounds of dirt off your vegetables so they are glistening and beautiful when you receive them.  Lets not forget about the office work, which is another piece to making this all possible.  Answering phone calls, responding to emails, processing orders, and keeping this whole beast organized and running smoothly…..that’s no small task!  We are so very blessed and grateful for all the people working on this farm, and when we’re all covered in mud, our skin is all the same color!
Sometimes storms lead to rainbows,
reminding us there is beauty after the storm
I’ve almost reached the end of this article, and the storm continues to rage outside.  The sky is full of dark clouds, the rain is pouring down, and I continue to hear intermittent rumbles in the distance.  Just like this storm, the storms of life will pass through.  When we’re in the midst of the storm, it may be hard to see what’s on the other side, but we still have a choice as to what we want to be when the storm is over.  Sometimes you need a little breather, a bit of a break to catch your breath, but once you have….it’s time to get back up, push forward and keep going.  When I’m tempted to quit, I see your faces, I hear your voices, I know you’re depending on us.  And I get up. We have a responsibility to show up for each other.  Not just when it’s easy, but especially when it’s hard.  So in closing, I thank all of you for the acts and words of gratitude you’ve shared with us simply based on your experiences of choosing to be part of our CSA.  But I also want to encourage you to continue sharing gratitude with those around you.  I stumbled across this quote from Melody Beattie where she says, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
As the storms of life continue to rage around us, I certainly don’t have the answers to make them fade away.  But I can offer you encouragement to use gratitude as one of the many tools available in our toolbox of change.  Come on, just a simple “Thank you” to someone around you is all it takes to start the transformations.  I hope the week ahead of you is filled with Harmony, both on your table and in your heart.
Farmer/Chef Andrea along with Richard and Rafael

May 28, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Baby White Turnips!

27 May 2020 21:16

Cooking With This Week's Box

Baby Spinach: Spinach & Filo Feta Bundt Cake; Bright Spring Salad; Mini Ham & Cheese Spinach Breakfast Pies

Egyptian Walking Onions: Miso Butter Brothy Beans with Scallions; Korean Spicy Green Onion Salad

Green Garlic: Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy-Pickled Eggs (see below); Radiant Bok Choy Soup; Korean Spicy Green Onion Salad

Asparagus: Bright Spring Salad; Asparagus Ribbon Salad

Red Radishes and/or Diana Radishes: Bright Spring Salad; Buttered Radish Tartines

Baby Arugula: Bright Spring Salad; Asparagus Ribbon Salad; Arugula Gimlet

Hon Tsai Tai: Radiant Bok Choy Soup; Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce

Little Gem Head Lettuce OR Baby Bok Choi: Bright Spring Salad; Radiant Bok Choy Soup

Saute Mix: Bright Spring Salad; Mini Ham & Cheese Spinach Breakfast Pies

Baby White Turnips: Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy-Pickled Eggs (see below); Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza

Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza
A little rain and some heat means things are happening fast around here!  You can almost see the radishes and asparagus growing as you watch them!   This week we have another hearty box of greens to enjoy along with gorgeous little baby white turnips!  So lets get started cooking!  This week’s featured recipe comes from Andrea Bemis’ Dishing Up The Dirtblog.  If you haven’t checked out Andrea’s blog, you really should.  Her recipe collection is an awesome resource for finding seasonal recipes you can make from a CSA box.  She herself is a farmer and grows vegetables for CSA and market customers.  She gets it!  This week’s recipe for Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy-Pickled Eggs (see below) is very easy to make and full of flavor.  Soy-Pickled Eggs might seem a little odd, but I’m telling you they are delicious.  Really, it’s the combination of the soup, the egg and a little kim chi that makes this soup a keeper.  Several years ago I featured Andrea’s recipe for Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza.  That’s right, use the greens to make a pesto which is the sauce for the crust.  It’s delicious!

Arugula Gimlet, photo by Alex Lau for bonappetit.com
Once again, I’m excited to see so much great interaction in our Facebook group!  Way to find some good uses for our greens!  This Spinach & Filo Feta Bundt Cake is a masterpiece that will blow you away, both in appearance and taste.  Someone also shared this recipe for an Arugula Gimlet.  Arugula in a cocktail?  Why not?!
We’ve seen pretty hearty harvest numbers for asparagus this week, so enjoy the big bunch!  I have two asparagus salad recipes to share this week.  The first is from loveandlemons.com and is called Bright Spring Salad.  Take your pick as to what you want to use for the base of the salad.  Baby arugula, lettuce, saute mix or spinach would all work.  Top it off with asparagus, radishes, roasted chickpeas and a light vinaigrette.  The other asparagus salad I want to recommend is this Asparagus Ribbon Salad.  This is a creation by Sarah Britton from My New Roots blog.  She uses baby arugula tossed with light honey lemon vinaigrette as the base and tops it off with shavings of asparagus spears, pecorino cheese and toasted hazelnuts!

Mini Ham & Cheese Spinach Breakfast Pies
photo from runningtothekitchen.com
I like to work as many vegetables into breakfast as I can.  I also like things that are easy to eat on the go, such as these Mini Ham & Cheese Spinach Breakfast Pies.  This recipe calls for shallot and garlic cloves, but you can sub in green onions and green garlic.  You can also use saute mix or spinach as the green.
This week we are sending one of our favorite spring specialty greens, hon tsai tai.  This green is related to bok choi, so you can really substitute it for bok choi in any recipe.  I came across this recipe for Radiant Bok Choy Soup.  There is a lot of nutritious goodness in a bowl of this soup!  The broth is based on coconut milk flavored with garlic, ginger, onions and turmeric.  You can also add mushrooms and tofu if you like.  If you’re looking for a fun weekend cooking project, consider making Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce featured in last year’s newsletter!
This week we’re harvesting overwintered Egyptian Walking onions as well as Potato Onions.  Both of these are multiplier onions that we plant in the fall when we plant garlic.  You can use them as you would any other green onion, but do notice their unique flavors.  Both of these onions have a very distinct oniony flavor and are very savory.  I like this simple recipe for MisoButter Brothy Beans with Scallions which really lets the onion stand out.  I also like this recipe for Korean Spicy Green Onion Salad.  Serve this as a little condiment or side salad alongside grilled meats or other barbecued items.
Do you have any radishes hanging out in the refrigerator?  If so, you’re lucky!  Use them to make these simple, but very tasty, Buttered Radish Tartines.  There is nothing like the combination of butter, salt and fresh radishes in the spring!
That brings us to the bottom of another box!  As we take a glimpse into the next week, it looks like we’re going to start harvesting rhubarb and likely salad mix!
Have a good week—

Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Baby White Turnips

By Chef Andrea
We call them Baby White Turnips, but they are also often referred to as Hakurei or salad turnips.  Every year I gravitate back to the same adjectives to describe this vegetable.  Simply put, they are pristine with their bright white roots and contrasting green tops.  You’ll find these turnips to be mild flavored, tender & slightly sweet.  The edible greens have a mild mustard flavor and are delectable, so make sure you get your money’s worth and put them to use!  Both the greens and the turnips are tender enough to either eat raw or just lightly cook them.
Baby white turnips thrive in the cool of spring and again later in the fall.  If you think you don’t like turnips, I encourage you to give these a try.  Likely your opinion was based on improperly cooked storage turnips.  Compared to the common purple top turnip, or other storage turnips, salad turnips are much more mild and subtle in both flavor and texture.  The storage turnips we grow in the fall are meant for storage purposes and thus have a thicker skin compared to a salad turnip.  Baby white turnips also mature much faster and are ready ahead of other early season root crops such as beets and carrots. 
To prepare the turnips for use, wash both the roots and greens well to remove any dirt.  You can prolong the shelf life by storing the greens separate from the roots.  These turnips have such a thin exterior layer, there is no need to peel them.  They are delicious eaten raw in a salad, or just munch on them with dip or a little salt.  You can also cook them, but remember to keep the cooking time short and the preparation simple.  One of our favorite ways to eat them in the spring is simply sautéed or steamed in butter with the greens wilted on top.  They are also delicious stir-fried or roasted.  The greens may be added to raw salads, turned into pesto, or lightly sautéed, steamed or wilted.
Creamy Turnips, Grits & Greens
Baby white turnips have become more popular in recent years, so the likelihood of finding some interesting recipes is greater now than when I was first introduced to them over 10 years ago!  For starters, check out our recipe archives where you’ll find other recipes such as Creamy Turnips, Grits & Greens; White Turnip Salad with Miso Ginger Vinaigrette and Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza.  If you’ve been with us in past years you may know these are amongst my favorite things to make with these turnips!  Another great place to find more recipes is Andrea Bemis’s blog, Dishing Up the Dirt .  I’ve sourced recipes from Andrea’s blog for several years and keep going back because she has a lot of good ones!  She’s also a vegetable farmer who develops seasonal recipes for her own family and her CSA members.  She just might have the largest original collection of recipes using baby white turnips on the internet!  I popped over to her blog last week looking for a specific recipe only to find she recently posted a new recipe featuring baby white turnips!  I couldn’t resist, so one of this week’s featured recipes is Andrea’s Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy-Pickled Eggs.  Whatever you end up making, I hope you enjoy these pretty little beauties as much as I do!

Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy Pickled Eggs

Yield:  6 servings
1 pound ground pork
2 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
¾ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½ tsp ground cumin
Hefty pinch of salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 stalks green garlic, finely chopped (white and green parts), or garlic cloves
1 bunch baby white turnips, with greens
4 cups water
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce + additional to taste
1 tsp fish sauce
Optional (But highly Recommended) Toppings:
1-2 Tbsp kimchi
1 Tbsp fermented chili paste
Soy Pickled Eggs:
6 eggs
2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole OR 1 stalk green garlic cut into ½” pieces
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¾ cup low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  1. Gently lower eggs into a large saucepan of boiling water.  Cook 7 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water and let cool until you can easily handle them.  Peel the eggs and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, bring garlic, pepper flakes, soy sauce, rice vinegar and 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium size saucepan.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the eggs.  Let the eggs marinate in the mixture for at least one hour or in the fridge overnight.
  3. Prepare the turnips by separating the green tops from the turnips.  Wash both well, then cut the turnips into ½-inch chunks.  Roughly chop the greens into bite-sized pieces.  Set both aside.
  4. Mix the pork, ginger, red pepper flakes, cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl until combined.  Set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat.  Add the green garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring often.  Add the pork and use a wooden spoon to break up the meat a bit.  Cook until lightly browned and no longer pink.  About 5-7 minutes.  Add the water, turnips (reserving the greens for later) and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the turnips are fork tender, about 10 minutes.  
  6. Add the turnip greens, soy sauce and fish sauce and give the pot a good stir.  Simmer for about 5 minutes longer to let the flavors meld.  Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.
  7. Cut the soy pickled eggs in half.  Portion the soup into bowls and serve with the quick pickled eggs and fermented chili paste and/or kimchi.  
Recipe borrowed from DishingUpTheDirt.com, a blog by Andrea Bemis!

May 21, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Greens!

20 May 2020 22:38

Cooking With This Week's Box

Overwintered Spinach: Easy Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie (see below); Evergreen Salad in Sunflower Thyme Marinade

Chives: Easy Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie (see below); Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus (see below); Chive and Cheese Breadsticks; Radishes with Chive Butter

Green Garlic: Easy Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie (see below); Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus (see below)
Asparagus: Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus (see below); Cheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus; Canal House Shaved Asparagus & Arugula Salad
Baby Arugula: Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus (see below); Evergreen Salad in Sunflower Thyme Marinade
Saute Mix: Easy Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie (see below); Evergreen Salad in Sunflower Thyme Marinade
Welcome back for our third week of “Cooking With the Box!”  I hope you’re enjoying delicious meals and having fun with these spring vegetables.  Based on the activity in our private Facebook group, it looks like things are happening in your kitchens!  If you haven’t yet joined our Facebook group, I’d really encourage you to do so.  There has already been a lot of great interaction amongst members, including some first-year members who are tackling & conquering nettles, ramps and other unfamiliar foods they’ve never prepared before!  I also have to say I’m very proud of one of our CSA kiddos who made gluten-free parsnip, lemon & poppyseed muffins!  One of the reasons we love growing for CSA is because it gives members a chance to not only prepare their own healthy meals, but also because it gives families a chance to cook together.  I loved cooking with my mom when I was a kid and have a lot of great memories of laughing with her while we prepared meals and baked.  So, I’m challenging you this week to involve all members of the household in helping to cook through this week’s box!
This week’s box is filled with beautiful leafy greens!  This is the season for greens and they all look so fresh and beautiful!  In this week’s vegetable feature we aren’t featuring any one vegetable, but rather are talking about “greens” in general terms as they can be used interchangeably in recipes.  One of our featured recipes this week is for Easy Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie (see below).  This recipe was shared in our Facebook group several times, so I figured it must be a good one!  It uses up to a pound of greens!  While the original recipe calls for spinach, you can use a mix of spinach along with saute mix, arugula and/or radish tops if you like.  The second recipe is for Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus (see below).  This is a nutrient packed salad that may be eaten at room temperature or cold.  It features not only asparagus and arugula, but also green garlic and chives.  It’s dressed with a light citrus vinaigrette to bring it all together.
Chicken Taco Lettuce Wraps
photo from gimmedelicious.com
We also have a cute little head of Little Gem lettuce in the box this week.  You can use it as a salad item and combine it with other greens in the box such as the baby arugula and/or saute mix.  I have been looking forward to these little heads because I like to use the leaves as wrappers for chicken or egg salad, black bean “tacos” and other fillings such as this recipe for Chicken Taco Lettuce Wraps.  We’ll likely be sending more of these little head lettuces next week, so if you have extra filling leftover save it to eat next week!
I was looking back at some of our archived recipes and came across this one for Evergreen Salad in Sunflower Thyme Marinade.  This is a tasty salad that would actually be good made with this week’s Spinach, Saute Mix and/or Little Gem Lettuce.
If you’re joining us for the first time this week, I want to refer you to our blog post last week where we featured Sorrel.  We featured several recipes including a Strawberry-Orange Sorrel Smoothie that I’ve made several times over the past week!  I also made a batch of my favorite Sorrel Hummus, but this week I want to make Poached Fish in Sorrel Coconut Sauce.  There are only 4-6 ounces of sorrel in this week’s box, so I’ll halve the recipe and make it for 2 people.
Roasted Radishes with Chive Butter
photo from finecooking.com
The radishes in this week’s box are so beautiful!  We’ve included two different varieties including the standard red radishes everyone is familiar with and Diana radishes.  The Diana radishes are the purple and white ones.  Radishes grown at this time of year are generally more well-balanced in flavor.  I seldom get past dipping them in salt and butter and popping them in my mouth.  If you want to actually use them in a recipe I highly recommend this Dal with Radish Raita.  This dish makes a great vegetarian main dinner dish.  Of course I would be slacking on my job if I let you get away without eating your radish tops too!  Check out this recipe for Radish Top Pasta with Chickpeas and Parsley.  Are you one of those individuals who doesn’t care for radishes, regardless of the season?  If so, consider eating them cooked!  This is a tasty looking recipe for Roasted Radishes with Chive Butter.  When you cook radishes, the sharpness in the flavor mellows and radishes are actually very tender, mild and often slightly sweet.
Canal House Shaved Asparagus & Arugula Salad
photo from food52.com
What are you going to do with the bunch of precious asparagus!  This recipe for Cheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus looks pretty delicious!  Another good suggestion is to make this Canal House Shaved Asparagus & Arugula Salad, especially since we have both arugula and asparagus in the box this week.  This was posted on Food52.com by one of my favorite bloggers, Alexandra Stafford.  She actually took this quick and easy salad and turned it into a meal by spreading it out on a pre-baked flatbread/tortilla or other flat bread like item.

Last but not least, it’s time to make Chive and Cheese Breadsticks!  This recipe offers a shortcut of using frozen bread dough, which helps to cut back on prep time.  These would make a delicious accompaniment to a big, fresh salad!

I hope you have a great week and make sure you “Eat Your Greens!”  Next week we’re hoping to harvest sweet little baby white turnips along with some overwintered onions.  We’ll also likely harvest our first crop of spring-planted spinach and maybe even some salad mix!  Have a great week!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Look at All These Greens!

By Chef Andrea
“Food is the most intimate connection we have with our Earth, as we literally become the food that we eat…..It is not a coincidence that certain foods give us what we need during specific times of the year:  high-water-content foods in summer, such as crispy cucumbers and tomatoes cool us down;  sweetly rich, starchy, calorie-dense foods like pumpkins and beets to fuel us through the winter.  By taking our cues from nature we align ourselves with the rhythms of the Earth, and consequently our bodies’ needs, meanwhile sensually tuning in to the exquisite yet fleeting deliciousness of each cycle.”—Sarah Britton from My New Roots.
This is the time of the year when leafy greens are abundant and make up a large portion of a seasonal Midwestern diet.  As we come out of winter, you may find your body craving green vegetables.  Thankfully, nature’s design provides us with nutrient rich greens bursting with vitality to bring us out of our winter dormancy.  Some greens, such as nettles and sorrel, are perennial or wild crops that just come up in the spring on their own.  Then there’s the overwintered spinach that was planted last fall, spent the winter under a cover in the field, and now we’re harvesting the new growth this spring.  These crops help us get a jump start on the season providing fresh vegetables ahead of other crops that we have to plant and wait for in the spring.  However, some crops such as the baby arugula, saute greens and mini heads of lettuce in this week’s box grow to harvestable size in just 4-6 weeks.  These crops are also more cold hardy and thrive in cooler temperatures.  All of these greens are an important part of our spring diet both because they are available but also because they have valuable vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that benefit our bodies in many ways, especially in the spring!
Saute Mix
So this week we’re not going to talk about a specific vegetable, but rather a more generalized approach to embracing this class of vegetables we’re going to simply refer to as “greens.”  For starters, lets embrace the fact that greens are nature’s fast foods! They are tender enough to eat raw, but may also be lightly steamed or sautéed.  Either way, they can become a meal in a very short period of time..like minutes!  Toss the greens with a light vinaigrette and you have the base for a salad.  It could be just a simple salad of greens and vinaigrette or you can add anything you want to turn it into more of a substantial salad that could serve as your entire meal.  Raw or cooked vegetables such as asparagus, radishes, carrots, etc along with dried or fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, croutons, hard-boiled eggs, grilled beef, shredded chicken, fish or cooked beans.  The combinations of ways you can build a salad are limitless and the greens serve as the base upon which to build your masterpiece!
Wilting Amaranth Greens in saute pan
Cooked greens can be very simple or may be incorporated into a wide variety of other dishes and preparations.  You don’t really need a recipe to cook greens.  Basically, put them in a pan with either a little bit of oil and/or a little liquid.  The liquid could be a little bit of water, fruit juice, wine, broth, cream or milk, or even just a splash of soy sauce.  You just need to create some steam with heat and liquid.  Put a lid on the pan for a minute or two just until the greens wilt down.  Once wilted, take the lid off and you’re done.  Eat them on their own or incorporate them into a wide variety of things including quesadillas, grain dishes, pasta, eggs, casseroles, smoothies, soups—so many options.  The other thing about cooking greens is that they go from a big fluffy pile that looks like a lot, maybe even too much for you to ever eat your way through, to a pile that will fit in the palm of your hand once they are cooked.  You’ll go from saying “What am I going to do with all these greens” to “Where did all my greens go?  As I’ve said so many times before, don’t be intimated by a vegetable, especially a bountiful pile of leafy greens!

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus

Yield:  4 servings as a light meal or more as a side
2 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup green garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 cup quinoa
12 ounces asparagus, woody ends trimmed, sliced into 1-inch lengths
Finely grated zest of ½ large orange 
½ cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup finely chopped chives
1 cup roughly chopped baby arugula
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Citrus Dressing
Juice of ½ large orange  
Juice of 1 lemon 
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Begin by boiling about 2 cups of water in a kettle.  Heat remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan, add green garlic and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until translucent.  Add sesame seeds and quinoa and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring often until lightly toasted.  Add 1 ½ cups boiling water, reduce to a gentle simmer, cover pan, and cook for 10-12 minutes until all the water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender.  Remove from heat.  Leaving the lid on, set aside to steam for another 5 minutes before fluffing up with a fork.  Cool to room temperature.  
  2. Meanwhile, blanch asparagus in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 1-2 mintues or until just tender.  Drain and refresh in cold water.
  3. To make the citrus dressing, simmer orange and lemon juice in a small saucepan until reduced by half.  Remove from the heat, add honey or maple syrup, then pour in olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to form a lovely emulsified dressing.  Taste and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
  4. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and stir in orange zest, almonds, chives, asparagus, arugula, feta cheese and the dressing.  Toss well and adjust seasoning if needed. 
Recipe adapted from Emma Galloway’s book, My Darling Lemon Thyme.

Easy Crust-less Spinach and Feta Pie

Yield:  4-6 servings
photo from skinnytaste.com
1 pound fresh spinach and/or other leafy greens (10 oz frozen spinach or greens)
½ cup chopped green onions, chives or green garlic
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
½ cup crumbled feta
2 Tbsp grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
⅔ cup milk
1 tsp olive oil
2 large eggs, beaten
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Lightly grease a pie pan with oil.
  3. If using fresh spinach and/or greens, you need to cook them first.  Heat a medium size pan over medium heat.  Add a few tablespoons of water and the greens.  Cover the pan and simmer for a few minutes or until the greens are wilted.  Put the greens in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Once cooled, squeeze the excess water out of the greens and roughly chop them with a knife.
  4. Mix the spinach and/or other greens along with the green onion, dill, parsley, and feta cheese.  Spoon the mixture into the pie dish.  
  5. Bake for 28-33 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the pie stand for at least 5 minutes before serving.
This recipe was adapted from www.skinnytaste.com and was shared by a member in our private Facebook group this year as well as in previous years.  I figured a recipe that makes a return appearance in the group is worth sharing with others!  It’s also a great recipe for using a large quantity of greens.  Don’t be afraid to mix and match whatever leafy greens you have available.

The Future of Harmony Valley Farm: Introducing Rafael Morales Peralta!

20 May 2020 22:33

Interviewed by:  Andrea Yoder
Rafael Morales Peralta
This week we’d like to introduce you to Rafael Morales Peralta, the most recent addition to the Harmony Valley Farm, LLC partnership along with me and Richard.  Rafael set out to write this article himself, and while his English is quite good, we knew he had more to share with all of you than his knowledge of English words would allow.  So, Rafael and I sat down and had a long chat about who he is and what he’d like to share with you about his life’s journey.  I’ll do my best to convey his thoughts and hope that one day in the future you will have the opportunity to talk with Rafael yourself!  Before we go any further, Richard has a few introductory thoughts he’d like to share.
Rafael operating the ASA lift root crop harvestor, October 2019
“Harmony Valley Farm is my life’s work and it is my desire to see it continue indefinitely into the future.  My own biological son, Ari, was raised on the farm and understands the challenges, but is pursuing a career as an environmental lawyer and does not wish to be “stuck with having to manage the farm” when I retire.  Thus, I’ve sought out individuals to bring into the business as co-owners and partners to carry Harmony Valley Farm into the future.  Andrea has definitely proven her mastery of organization, food safety, sales, greenhouse and packing shed management, and so much more.  With help from Simon, Kelly, Gwen and Amy, they are a team that is managing the details well through very challenging times.  But then there is the additional challenge of field planning, machine maintenance, planting crops, managing irrigation, weed control, coordinating the harvests, cover crops, fertility, and so much more.  It is too much for Andrea or any one person to manage it all.  Thus, for the last 15 years, I have been looking for an individual who has the potential to fill this role.  There have been a few promising people, but for a variety of reasons it was clear that our need was not in alignment with their path in life.  

When Rafael started working here, it was clear he had an intense interest and desire to learn.  He was always there to help whenever there was a need.  He rose in the rank of possibility as he mastered every task presented to him and continued to look for more responsibilities and thrived on learning new skills.  He also started to contribute in greater ways by starting to suggest improvements to the way we do things.  So that led me to make the decision to sponsor Rafael for a permanent visa to facilitate the opportunity for him to become an owner in the business.  After a long process spanning nearly four years, Rafael finally received his permanent residency status last year and is in the process of getting visas for his family so they may join him.  We are hopeful that we’ll see them before school starts this fall.  

Despite Rafael’s limited formal education, he has demonstrated a desire to continue to learn and he is a very intelligent individual.  He has mastered the internet and uses it to research new cultivating methods on You Tube, locates parts diagrams for old and specialty equipment and orders parts that are difficult to find.  He has been well-received by our local suppliers and is earning their respect.  I continue to help out with the difficult agronomy, fertility, pest scouting, setting priorities, etc, but Rafael now handles the majority of the daily questions, problems and needs that come up.  The crew now calls Rafael and Andrea first because they don’t want to risk waking me from my mid-day nap!  I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with Rafael and feel confident he’ll carry the farm into the future.”—Richard de Wilde, Harmony Valley Farm’s Founding Farmer
August 2012, Rafael Harvesting Sweet Corn
Rafael comes to us from a small community in Mexico called San Miguel de Allende which is located in the state of Guanajato.  He was born and raised in this community, and this is where his family still lives.   He comes from a very loving, tightly-knit family.  There are 8 children, four boys and four girls.  Rafael is the youngest of the boys.  His brothers, Manuel, Alvaro and Alejandro also work at HVF and it is clear that they were raised by very good parents!  I asked Rafael if he respects his parents and he answered immediately with a very strong “Yes, absolutely.”  His parents struggled to overcome during very challenging economic times while he was growing up.  While they may not have had an abundance of financial resources to buy them “things,” they always pushed their children to do the right thing and continue to strive to be good people and have a better future.  From his humble beginnings, Rafael was taught the value of working hard from an early age.  He shared with me that his grandfather had 1 hectare (2.2 acres) of land that he grew corn, beans and squash on.  Rafael and his brothers remember helping his grandfather work the land and care for the crops.  Most of the food they grew went to their large extended family, but the squash was a cash crop.  Actually, he didn’t sell the squash but rather the seeds.  Rafael remembers having to scrape the squash seeds out of the squash.  He also remembers how sore his fingers were after doing this all day!  Once the seeds were extracted his grandfather would lay them out to dry before putting them in big bags to take to town and sell.  On the days Rafael and his brothers helped him he would send a little extra food home with them.  Even before they could bring home a paycheck, this was their way of contributing to their family’s needs. 
Rafael doing precision cultivating of 5-row cilantro crop
Rafael and his brothers went to school, but Alvaro and Alejandro were the only ones who completed high school.  Manuel, the oldest son, left school after the third grade so he could work with his father to provide for the family.  His father was a hard worker, but the problem was that things were not good in Mexico at that time and people worked hard but received very little pay in return.  With eight mouths to feed, it was hard to make ends meet.  As Rafael got older and began to understand his family’s situation more clearly, he really wanted to help his parents.  He made the decision to quit school after his second year of high school so he could work.  While Rafael doesn’t regret leaving school to help his family, he always had a desire to continue learning.  He worked for awhile on a large broccoli farm and later had the opportunity to come to the United States on a H2A visa to work with race horses in Kentucky.  He did this work for about three years and then the opportunity fell through due to some unfortunate circumstances.  While the pay was better, working with horses was not something he really enjoyed, especially after one bit him on the arm!
Spending time with guests in the sweet potato
field, Harvest Party 2019
In 2004 Rafael married his beautiful wife, Adriana.  It is very clear that Rafael and Adriana have a very strong relationship.  Rafael describes his wife as “a great woman.”  I asked him to tell me what makes her “great.”  She is a strong woman who has always stood by his side as they have created goals and dreams together for their family.  They function as a team and she has committed to working just as hard as Rafael to create a better future for their family.  They both understand this means making sacrifices sometimes.  While they would like for their family to be together, they realize the opportunities for working in the United States afford their family more resources to build their future.  So, while Rafael is working here, Adriana has done her part to manage their household, raise their children, take care of her parents and continue to help others in their community who are in need.  She also started a small business selling kitchen supplies in order to earn some extra money.  Rafael has a tremendous amount of respect for his wife and further describes her as a very caring individual who is willing to help anyone.  Together they have three children.  Jimena, is 14 years old.  She does very well in school and wants to study medicine and become a doctor.  She is a tremendous help to her mother.  His oldest son, Adrian, is 13 years old.  He’s a quiet child and is interested in becoming a mechanic.  Their baby is Mateo.  He is 4 years old and is totally different from their two older children!  He is very outgoing and isn’t afraid to talk to anyone.  He keeps everyone entertained and laughing!
Rafael is happiest on a tractor!
 October, 2010
Rafael’s brother, Manuel, came to work at HVF in 2009.  After his first year, Rafael asked him if there might be an opportunity for him to work here as well.  Manuel asked us and we said “yes!”  At that time, Rafael and Adriana were looking for an opportunity that would move them closer towards their dreams for a better life.  They were working very hard seven days a week.  Rafael was working construction Monday through Friday and on Saturday and Sunday he would work with Adriana at their own little business.  They rented a grill and sold taquitos from their own little food cart.  Rafael describes the opportunity to come and work at HVF as the first step on his journey to achieving his dreams.  He didn’t know it at the time, but the opportunities would continue to stack up over time and the fact that he was present and willing to take risks and step outside of his comfort zone put him in a good position for a better life.  Rafael remembers calling Richard on the radio on only his second day of work!  He didn’t even know how to speak English, but he heard how others were talking on the radio.  He was working with Manuel doing irrigation and they had a problem with a hose and needed Richard’s help.  He called to Richard using the limited words he had, and the end result?  “It worked!  He understood me and showed up in the field to help us!”  Little by little over time, Rafael’s confidence was built.

One time he was clearing brush with Vicente. Vicente, an experienced equipment operator, was running the skidsteer with the brush puller on it.  Rafael asked him if he could try.  Vicente wasn’t so sure it was a good idea because Richard hadn’t given him permission, but he let Rafael have a chance at it.  No more than three minutes after Rafael got in the skidsteer, Richard pulled up in his truck.  “Oh man, I’m in trouble” was the thought that rolled through Rafael’s mind.
Making guajillo salsa to serve with goat
carnitas at our crew harvest party!
He stopped the machine and started to get out.  Richard motioned for him to get back in the skidsteer and continue.  He wanted to see what Rafael could do!  There was another similar incident where Rafael, Vicente and Manuel were clearing a wooded area with the bulldozer.  Rafael did not have any experience operating the bulldozer, but he had been carefully watching Vicente, Manuel and Richard.  They had a tricky situation where they were trying to move a large stump to a pile to be burned.  Vicente, Manuel and Richard all gave it their best shot, but none of them could make it happen.  Richard left and Vicente and Manuel resigned themselves to the fact that it couldn’t be done.  Rafael on the other hand had been watching all the tactics that were not working and devised a different plan for how to move the stump.  After Richard left he asked Vicente if he could try.  While very hesitant, Vicente agreed to let him try after saying “Come on Man, you’ve watched all of us try and it can’t be done.”  Rafael tried his plan and within five minutes he was able to move the stump to the desired location.  When Richard returned and saw what had been done he asked “Who moved that stump to the pile?”  Rafael was very nervous.  He knew they had to tell him, but he also knew he might get in trouble since Richard had not given him direct permission to operate the bulldozer.  They told Richard Rafael did it and to Rafael’s surprise, Richard looked at him and gave him a big “Thumbs Up” and a smile.  Yes, this was certainly another huge boost in confidence for Rafael!
Rafael preparing to kill weeds with the Flame Weeder
Over time Rafael continued to seek out more “missions” and willingly accepted more responsibilities.  He continued to align himself with opportunities to learn more from Richard and other experienced crew members.  He reached out to Vicente who spoke very good English.  Vicente became his teacher helping him learn more English so he could better communicate with us independently.  Now, Rafael recognizes how his hard work and perseverance are paying off.  He loves his job and wants to continue to work here into the future.  He also loves his family and wants them to be together.  Going back and forth to Mexico year after year is hard.  It’s hard having to leave his family every year.  They all want to be together and hopefully, they are close to realizing that part of the dream.  As Rafael continues to build his career here, he realizes how much his work has become a big part of his life.  He knew very little about organic agriculture when he first came here, but over time he’s come to value this method of farming and the benefits it has to the people growing and eating the food as well as the environment.
Always optimistic, Strawberry Day, 2019

We continue to learn from each other.  Farming is not easy and we get a lot of curveballs thrown at us every year, but the three of us continue to push forward.  While we all come from slightly different backgrounds, Richard, Rafael and I all come from humble beginnings.  We all understand the value of working hard and have a desire and passion to carry this farm into the future.  Richard and I appreciate Rafael’s energy, enthusiasm, positive outlook and drive.  We are happy to have him as our partner and want you to know we are doing the best job we can to grow vegetables for you and your family.  We also look forward to meeting Rafael’s family.  Even though they are in Mexico, they too have greatly contributed to the future of Harmony Valley Farm with through their love and support.

May 14, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sorrel!

13 May 2020 21:56

Cooking With This Week's Box

Sorrel: Pasta with Sorrel Butter & Nettles (see below); Strawberry-Orange Sorrel Smoothie (see below); Frosty Sorrel & Banana SmoothieSpring Greens Soup
Chives: Pasta with Sorrel Butter & Nettles (see below); Spring Greens Soup
Welcome to our second week of “Cooking With the Box!”  For those of you who are joining us for the first time, I am Chef/Farmer Andrea and every week I meet you here to walk you through the box.  I offer recipe suggestions and links for every item in the box in hopes that something will strike your fancy or inspire you to make your own creation.  Lets not forget that cooking and eating can be a lot of fun, so dive in and try some new recipes!
Frosty Sorrel & Banana Smoothie
Lets start off with our featured vegetable, sorrel.  Sorrel is most commonly used in soups and sauces for fish, which are quite tasty but certainly not the only thing you can do with sorrel!  One of this week’s featured recipes is Pasta with Sorrel Butter & Nettles (see below).  This recipe starts with making sorrel butter.  If you have extra remaining, you can either use it in your morning scramble, spread it on a piece of toast, or freeze it to use another day!  This recipe includes chicken (optional) and nettles and comes together pretty quickly.  When you serve it, be sure to garnish the dish with freshly grated Parmesan and chopped chives.  The second featured recipe is for a Strawberry-Orange Sorrel Smoothie (see below).  I love putting sorrel into smoothies.  It just seems to be an invigorating way to start the day and sorrel pairs well with berries, bananas and other fruits.  This is a sister recipe to my Frosty Sorrel & Banana Smoothie from 2017.
I was recently reminded of a recipe I created several years ago for Spring Greens Soup.  This is a powerhouse soup that uses sorrel, ramps, sunchokes, nettles & chives!  This is the week to make this recipe while you have all of the vegetables.  Nettles are often used in soups such as the Spring Greens Soup, but there are a lot of other options for using this vegetable as well.  There were some great suggestions from members in our private Facebook Group over the past week.  I had forgotten about this recipe for Coconut Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles.  We published this recipe in 2018 and it features not only nettles but sunchokes as well.  Another member shared this link for a Vegan Nettle & Ramp Pesto.  It’s nice to have a jar of pesto in the refrigerator as it may be used in a wide variety of ways to create a quick meal.  I also have two suggestions for less traditional ways to use nettles.  I’ve mentioned the Lemon and Stinging Nettle Cupcakes before, but I’m telling you they are delicious!  I also came across this recipe for Nettle, Sorghum and Bourbon Cocktail.  Surely you can find something to do with your nettles!!
Absurdly Addictive Asparagus, photo by Rocky Luten for food52.com
Can we ever get our fill of asparagus this time of year?  I want to try this recipe for Absurdly Addictive Asparagus.  With a name like this, how can we not try this!?  The recipe calls for leeks and garlic.  I would suggest substituting ramps and green garlic.  You really can’t go wrong with asparagus and eggs.  I’d suggest trying Andrea Bemis’ recipe for Spring Vegetable Quiche with Cashew Herb Crust.  It’s a nice gluten free alternative to a regular pie crust.
This recipe for Parsnip Gratin with Gruyere and Thyme was another recipe from the Facebook Group.  It calls for 2 ¼-2 ½ pounds of parsnips.  Last week and this week’s boxes each have about 1.5 pounds each.  I also like this recipe for Spicy Honey-Glazed Parsnips.  It’s basically roasted parsnips kicked up a few notches!
Rustic Ramp Tart, photo from food52.com
This is our final week of ramps, so make sure you select your recipes carefully—it will be a full year before we see these again!  I’m going to make Chef Boni’s Ramp Deviled Eggs.  I also want to make this Rustic Ramp Tart.
I love the flavor of overwintered spinach when it’s cooked.  This week I want to make Sauteed Mushrooms & Spinach with Spicy Garlic Sauce, using green garlic of course!  It’s an easy dinner to make served with a side of rice.  I also have my eye on this Indian-Style Creamed Spinach made with coconut milk.
That does it for this week’s box.  We’re crossing our fingers that we see a few warm days and a touch of rain this week.  We have a few crops coming up soon, but they’re still a little small.  We’re hoping to have baby arugula and some fresh radishes next week.  We also have some cute little mini-romaine lettuce growing in our tunnel greenhouse.  I think they’re going to make it and if they do, lettuce wraps will be on the menu!  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Sorrel

By Chef Andrea
Eating with the seasons can be an exciting, yet sometimes challenging adventure in the spring.  For many people, some early spring vegetables may be less familiar and come with a bit of a learning curve.  Most of the early spring vegetables are perennial plants that are either wild harvested, such as ramps and nettles, or are crops we planted in a previous year that start poking through on their own early in the spring.  Some of these vegetables include sorrel, chives, rhubarb and asparagus.  They play an important role in nourishing our bodies and have unique nutritive properties that help us transition from winter into a new season.  If you are not familiar with these vegetables, they might be a little intimidating at first.  However, don’t let a vegetable intimidate you, just dive in and start learning how to enjoy something new!  Don’t worry, we’ll help guide you along the way!
This week we are featuring sorrel, a unique perennial plant that is amongst the first greens of the season.  Sorrel leaves have a pointy, arrow shape and are thick in texture and bright green in color.  You’ll recognize sorrel by its tart and citrus-like flavor if you nibble on a raw leaf.  It has a bright flavor that will call your taste buds to attention.  It is a very nutritious green that contains antioxidants as well as vitamin C, fiber, iron, magnesium and zinc.
Sorrel Hummus
Sorrel may be used in a wide variety of preparations and may be eaten either raw or cooked.  Raw sorrel can brighten any salad and is excellent when blended into cold sauces, vinaigrettes, dressings, dips or smoothies.  Because of its bold, tart, invigorating flavor, it is often treated more like an herb when used raw and will give the end product a bright, cheery green color.  When cooked, sorrel behaves in a very interesting way.  First, its color changes from bright green to a drab olive green almost immediately.  Don’t worry, this happens to everyone and it’s just the way it is with sorrel!  The other unusual thing about sorrel is how it “melts” when added to hot liquids.  The leaves will almost immediately change color and start to soften.  The longer it’s cooked, the more the leaves break apart and you can stir it into a coarse sauce.  This is one of the reasons it’s often used in soups and sauces.
The acidity of sorrel makes it a natural companion to rich foods such as cream, butter, sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, duck, and fatty fish (salmon & mackerel).  Additionally, it pairs well with more “earthy” foods such as lentils, rice, buckwheat, mushrooms and potatoes.  As with many other spring vegetables, it pairs well with eggs and is often used in quiche, scrambled eggs, custard etc.  Don’t be afraid to think “outside of the box” and explore some other interesting ways to use sorrel such as in desserts including sorbet, ice cream and panna cotta or beverages including smoothies and cocktails!  Sorrel also pairs well with citrus fruits and berries.
Spiced Lentils with Nettles & Sorrel Yogurt Sauce
We have featured a wide variety of sorrel recipes in past newsletters and I encourage you to take a look at the searchable recipe database on our website.  I have a few favorites that I mention every year because they are easy, delicious and have been well-received by other members over the year.  Sorrel Hummus, Sorrel-Lime Cooler and my Frosty Sorrel & Banana Smoothie rank as my top three.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian main dish, the recipe for Spiced Lentils with Nettles & Sorrel Yogurt Sauce is excellent.  There is also a recipe for Spring Greens Soup that uses not only sorrel but four other vegetables from this week’s box!

We hope your spring is off to a good start and you are enjoying these early boxes.  Don’t forget we have an awesome Facebook Group available to all CSA members.  This is another great resource to find recipe suggestions and talk to other members about vegetables!

Strawberry-Orange Sorrel Smoothie

Yield: 2 servings
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup milk (dairy or dairy-free alternative)
¾ cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups frozen strawberries
2 ounces sorrel
¼ cup maple syrup
6-10 ice cubes
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Put the lid on and blend on high speed until all ingredients are thoroughly blended and the mixture is smooth.
2. Serve immediately.
Recipe by Chef Andrea 

Pasta with Sorrel Butter & Nettles

Yield:  3-4 servings
Sorrel Butter:
2 ounces sorrel leaves, roughly chopped
1 stick butter, softened
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
9-10 oz dried pasta (bow ties, shells, fettucine or pappardelle)
1 Tbsp olive oil
12 ounces (2 each) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 cups loosely packed nettle leaves (1 bunch)
6-8 Tbsp sorrel butter
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½-⅔ cup chives, minced
Parmesan cheese, for serving
1. First, prepare the sorrel butter.  Put roughly chopped sorrel in the bowl of a food processor and blend briefly until coarsely chopped.  Add the butter, lemon juice and black pepper.  Blend until all ingredients are well combined.  Set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package instructions or about 5 minutes until al dente.  Drain the water and set the pasta aside.
3. While the pasta is cooking, heat a medium saucepan on the stove top over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and once the oil shimmers, add the chicken.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Cook until browned on one side, then flip the pieces over.
4. Add the nettle leaves to the pan along with the chicken and season with salt and pepper.  Put a lid on the pan and continue to cook the nettles and chicken for 2-3 minutes or until the nettles are wilted.  Remove the lid from the pan and cook until nearly all the moisture in the pan has evaporated.
5. Add the sorrel butter to the pan.  Once melted, add the pasta and gently toss to combine all ingredients and thoroughly coat the pasta with the butter.
6. Once the pasta is fully heated through, remove the pan from the heat.  Adjust seasoning to your liking with salt and black pepper.
7. Serve garnished with freshly grated Parmesan and chives.
Recipe by Chef Andrea

May 7, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Ramps!

7 May 2020 00:56

Cooking With This Week's Box

Wild Ramps: Ramped Up Mac & Cheese (see below); Ramp PestoRamp ButterNettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp CreamCreamed Spinach
& RampsSpring Spinach Chop Salad with Creamy Buttermilk Ramp Dressing
Overwintered Spinach: Ramped Up Mac & Cheese (see below); Nettle Soup (see below); Creamed Spinach & Ramps; Spring Spinach Chop Salad with Creamy Buttermilk Ramp Dressing; Vegan Spinach & Chive Pesto
Overwintered Parsnips: Parsnips with Brown Butter, Pecans and Maple; Parsnip, Lemon & Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle
Overwintered Sunchokes: Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa; Chili-Roasted Sunchokes
Chives: Nettle Soup (see below); Vegan Spinach & Chive Pesto; Chive & Parmesan Popcorn
Nettles: Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream; Nettle Soup (see below)
Green Garlic: Fermented Hot Green Garlic
Chef/Farmer Andrea receiving the ramp harvest!
Welcome to the 2020 CSA season!  We are so glad you’ve chosen to join us for a year of “eating out of the box.”  If you are new to our CSA this year, I’d like to introduce you to our weekly “Cooking With the Box” article.  Every week from now until the end of our deliveries in December, I will meet you here to walk through each week’s vegetable box offering suggestions, recipes and ideas for utilizing every item in your box!  The purpose of this article is to provide you with inspiration and ideas for different ways you can put your vegetables to use.  While I know every recipe selection may not resonate with every person each week, I hope you’ll use this article to spark your own creative ideas.  As we cook through the box each week, I encourage you to have fun and remember that life is research.  Don’t be intimidated by a vegetable or a recipe.  This is your place to learn, experiment and be free to try new things.
So, lets get started.  First up this week are RAMPS!  We weren’t sure the season would extend into our first delivery week, but we got lucky and they are actually in their peak this week!  I have to admit, it’s been a super busy spring and I’ve had to turn to more quick and easy cooking because I simply don’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen right now. 
Making Ramp Pesto!
One evening a week or two ago I needed to put dinner on the table quickly and I really just needed a little bit of convenience.  I reached for a box of macaroni and cheese, but aside from being convenient, I wasn’t very excited about having it for dinner until I decided to ramp it up.  So, this week one of the recipes I’m sharing with you is for Ramped Up Mac & Cheese (see below).  With just a little extra effort, you can transform a simple package of macaroni and cheese into something worth eating by adding sautéed ramps and greens.  The recipe calls for half a bunch of ramps, which is a good amount for someone trying ramps for the first time.  If you’re a seasoned ramp veteran, don’t be afraid to use an entire bunch!  Of course, there are many other things you can do with ramps.  Ramp Pesto and Ramp Butter are two of my standard “go-to” recipes each spring and serve as ways I can preserve the ramp flavor.  Both of these items can be frozen for use later in the winter.  Once you’ve made ramp pesto, you can use it in a variety of ways.  Add a spoonful into scrambled eggs, cooked rice or pasta or use it as a base for pizza, spread it on toast, or serve it with grilled steak or salmon.  Ramp butter can be used in a variety of ways as well.  Of course it’s delicious spread on toast or bagels, but you can also use it in some other less traditional ways.  Tuck it under the skin of a whole chicken before you roast it, melt a pat of ramp butter on top of a hot steak, or use it to butter cornbread, savory pancakes, etc.
Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream
Ramps pair so nicely with other spring vegetables and this recipe for Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream has received rave reviews over the past few years.  Make sure you read our blog post from several years ago before you start handling nettles.  Nettles are eaten in other parts of the world and soup is a common way to enjoy them.  The recipe for Nettle Soup(see below) in this week’s newsletter comes from Fire & Ice, a new cookbook I picked up this winter that features recipes from several Scandinavian countries.  This recipe is perfect for this box as you can utilize 4 different vegetables in one preparation!  This recipe calls for 12 ounces of nettles.  Each bunch of nettles will yield about 5-6 ounces, so you can make up the difference with spinach.  The recipe calls for green onions.  You can substitute ramps and/or green garlic if you don’t have green onions.  This is a pretty lean soup that gets its richness not only from the cream, but from the fact that it’s so packed with nutrients and flavor!
Overwintered vegetables are very important part of our early season CSA boxes.  You’ll find overwintered vegetables to be more flavorful and sweet.  When I first started working here, one of the first greens I had available to cook with was overwintered spinach.  I created this recipe for Creamed Spinach & Ramps which is still a favorite 13 years later!  Of course you can also enjoy this flavorful spinach as a fresh, raw salad.  This Spring Spinach Chop Salad with Creamy Buttermilk Ramp Dressing is a great option.
Parsnip, Lemon & Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle
Photo from veggiedesserts.com
Spring-dug, overwintered parsnips are so sweet and delicious.  One of my favorite ways to prepare these is Parsnips with Brown Butter, Pecans and Maple.  These are a nice accompaniment to ham or grilled pork chops, but you could also serve them with corn pancakes.  If you are looking for a little different use for parsnips, check out this recipe for Parsnip, Lemon & Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle.  I tried this recipe last year and it was a hit!
Overwintered sunchokes are the other spring-dug root vegetable we turn to in the early part of our season.  Sunchokes are also known as Jerusalem artichokes.  They do contain inulin which is a non-digestible fiber that can cause abdominal discomfort if you eat too much at one time.  So, I recommend you try sunchokes in small amounts.  Several years ago I developed this recipe for Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa.  You use it more as a condiment, so just a few tablespoons at a time.  It’s a great topping for tacos or served on top of a piece of fish or chicken.  I also keep coming back to a recipe I created back in my early days.  Chili-Roasted Sunchokes.  Sunchokes have a pretty high moisture content, so when you roast them they get crispy and crunchy on the outside, but the inside gets light and fluffy.
Vegan Spinach & Chive Pesto, photo from food52.com
You may have noticed by now that our early season boxes are heavy on onion/garlic selections!  So lets talk about what you’re going to do with the chives in this week’s box. Chives may be used as a vegetable, but they’re usually thought of as an herb that is used in smaller quantities.  Don’t be afraid to go all out and use chives in larger quantities so they don’t go to waste!  This recipe for Vegan Spinach & Chive Pesto can come together very quickly and can be tossed with pasta for a quick dinner.  Every year I also have to mention Richard’s favorite spring uses for chives, Chive & Parmesan Popcorn!  If you make it like Richard does, you’ll have to use a spoon to eat it!
Feremented Hot Green Garlic
photo by Ted Cavanaugh for bonappetit.com
This is the time of year when I transition from using stored bulbs of garlic to fresh green garlic.  I use green garlic anytime a recipe call for garlic.  I also came across this recipe for Fermented Hot Green Garlic and I want to try this this year.  The recipe calls for the equivalent of about 2 bunches of green garlic.  You can either save your bunch from this week and pair it with next week’s bunch of green garlic, or you can cut the recipe in half.  This is a great way to preserve something in this week’s box!
That brings us to the bottom of our first CSA box of the season!  I know some of the vegetables in this week’s box may be new to you, but hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas to get started with.  Many of the recipes I referenced this week are recipes I created and/or that I’ve been using myself for many years.  Don’t forget I am a resource for you, so if you have a question that isn’t answered in the resources available on our bog and/or website, feel free to send me an email (andrea@harmonyvalleyfarm.com).
Have a great week and get ready to start cooking with sorrel and asparagus next week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Wild Ramps!

By:  Chef Andrea Yoder

Ramps are one of the earliest spring vegetables and, for many, are a sign of hope that spring has returned and winter is over!  While they can be propagated from seed or by transplanting ramp bulbs, they grow best in the wild where they grow, spread and multiply on their own.  Ramps are only available for a few weeks in the spring.  Most years we get about 4 weeks of harvest, but we’ve also seen years where the season is only 3 weeks and then they’re gone.
Ramps have an onion-like bulb that tapers into a stem supporting delicate, lily-like rounded leaves.  While they resemble an onion, they are really more than “just another onion.”  Ramps have a distinct aroma and flavor that cannot be duplicated by any other vegetable. It’s hard to describe their flavor, other than to say they are distinctly rampy!

Ramps growing wild in the woods
We’ve been wild-harvesting ramps for over 30 years in our valley.  When we started harvesting them many years ago, very few people even knew what they were or how to use them.  In fact, Richard used to give them away at the farmers’ market because no one was buying them!  Now, they’ve developed a strong following and are more of a spring delicacy. As with many plants that grow wild, we do need to ensure we’re harvesting them sustainably and responsibly so we don’t overharvest them and damage the ramp populations in our woods.  If you’re interested in learning more about our harvest methods, please read the thorough article we posted on our blog back in 2017.
Ramps are a delicate vegetable and should be handled with care.  It’s important to store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.  We recommend wrapping them in a damp towel and storing them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  The bulb portion of the ramp will store longer than the leaves, so some people choose to separate the bulb from the leaf and store them separately.

Spaghetti with Ramps & Mushrooms
The entire ramp is edible with the exception of the roots on the very bottom of the bulb which should be trimmed off.  Ramps may be eaten either raw or cooked.  The flavor and aroma is a bit more pungent when eaten raw and mellows a bit with cooking.   Naturally, ramps pair very well with other spring vegetables.  You really can’t go wrong in pairing ramps with mushrooms, spinach, nettles, and asparagus to name a few.  They also go well with eggs and may be used in any kind of an egg preparation from scrambled eggs to quiche, frittatas, omelets, deviled eggs or even egg salad.
If you are trying ramps for the first time, start with something as simple as adding them to your scrambled eggs.  You can also find ramp recipes we’ve featured in previous newsletters in our searchable recipe database on our website.  Here are a few of my favorite ramp recipes that I look forward to every year:

We hope you too come to value and appreciate this unique spring vegetable and the place it holds in our line-up of seasonal vegetables available to us in the Midwest.  It will be here and gone quickly, so enjoy them while they are here, for it will be another full year before we see them again!

Ramped Up Mac & Cheese

Yield: 4 servings as a side dish; 2 servings as a main dish

1 box (6 oz) macaroni & cheese
6 cups water
4 Tbsp butter
½ bunch ramps
2 cups roughly chopped spinach
½ cup milk, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

1. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring 6 cups of water to a rolling boil.  Stir in the pasta and boil gently for 6-8 minutes.  It should be just slightly undercooked when you remove the pasta from the heat and drain it in a strainer.  It will finish cooking in the cheese sauce.

2. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the vegetable and cheese sauce.  Finely dice the lower bulb portion of the ramps.  Finely slice the ramp leaves and keep them separate from the bulbs.

3. In a medium skillet or saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat.  Add the ramp bulbs and saute for several minutes or until the ramps are fragrant and starting to soften.  Add the ramp leaves and spinach.  Allow the greens to wilt down.

4. Once the greens are wilted, add the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter to the pan and allow it to melt.  Add the milk and cheese packet.  Stir until butter is all melted and the cheese is thoroughly mixed into the sauce.

5. Add the cooked pasta along with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.  Return the pan to a simmer and cook for a few more minutes or until the sauce has thickened a bit and the pasta is fully cooked.  You may add milk as needed to thin the sauce further.

6. Remove the pan from the heat and taste.  Adjust seasoning with additional salt and black pepper as needed.

Recipe by Chef Andrea

Nettle Soup (Nässelsoppa)

This recipe was borrowed from Darra Goldstein’s book, Fire & Ice, Classic Nordic Cooking.  In the introduction to this recipe she says: “Scandinavians eagerly anticipate the first nettles poking up aboveground as an early harbinger of spring.  The nettles are gathered when still young and are made into a delicate soup with a brilliant green hue.  Lacking wild greens, you can make the soup with baby spinach in the spring….Sorrel and potatoes are tasty additions as well.  No matter the ingredients, this soup is packed with vitamins.
Yield:  4 servings
2 Tbsp butter
3 large green onions, coarsely chopped, including the tops*
2 Tbsp flour
3 cups chicken stock
12 to 16 ounces fresh nettles and/or spinach
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp half-and-half
¾ tsp salt
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
2 hard-boiled egg yolks, finely chopped
Snipped fresh chives
1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the green onions, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook until they release their fragrance, a few minutes.  Sprinkle with the flour and stir for a minute more, then gradually add the stock, whisking all the while.
2. Raise the heat to bring to a boil.  Add the nettles and/or spinach, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until the greens are wilted, about 5 minutes.
3. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender for a few minutes until well blended but still retaining some flecks of green.  Return the puree to the pot and stir in the half-and-half.
4. Reheat the soup gently over low heat.  Stir in the salt and season with pepper and nutmeg to taste.
5. Garnish with the egg yolks and chives.
*Note:  You may substitute ramps or green garlic for the green onions.  Use whatever you have!

Welcome to the 2020 Harmony Valley Farm CSA Season!

7 May 2020 00:42

By Andrea Yoder
Welcome to the 2020 CSA Season!  We are happy to be kicking off another year of seasonal eating and are grateful for the opportunity to grow food for you and your family this year.  We have a lot of new members joining our farm for the first time this year. We also have many members who are completely new to CSA.  So before we go any further we want to introduce ourselves to you along with some of the things you can expect, places to go for resources, etc.
Richard de Wilde, HVF Founding Farmer
I am Andrea Yoder.  I have been at Harmony Valley Farm (HVF) since 2007 and am one of the co-owners.  I am both a professional chef and a farmer and fill a variety of roles on the farm.  You can read more about me in this article published on our blog in 2019.  Richard de Wilde is our farm founder and has been growing organic vegetables since the early 70’s.  He’s considered by many to be a pioneer of organic farming in the Midwest.  You can read more about Richard in this article we published on our blog last year.  Richard’s vision is that Harmony Valley Farm will continue to be a leader in organic farming in the Midwest well into the future.  In order to fulfill that vision, Richard restructured the farm into an LLC over ten years ago to create a structure for farm succession and to provide opportunity for longtime employees to become farm owners.  Last year he invited Rafael Morales Peralta to become an owner as well.  Rafael will be sharing his story in a few weeks so you can get to know more about him and his role on our farm.
Cover photo of our 2020-21 CSA Calendar
Vegetable farming is very labor intensive and we could not do what we do without our hardworking crew members.  During the peak of our season we employ about 50 people.  While we may not meet the common definition of a family farm, we believe that in many ways we are a “Family Farm.”  When you work closely with the same individuals day after day, year after year, you really have an opportunity to get to know them quite well!  Many of our crew members have been working with us 10-15 years or more!  They are a great group of people with a wide range of skills, talents and unique personalities.  Every year we create a “CSA Calendar & Resource Guide” for our members.  The theme of this year’s calendar is “The Faces of Harmony Valley Farm.”  This week everyone will receive a calendar in your box and we’ll have them at our pickup sites in the weeks to come.  Please take a little time to review this calendar as it will help you get to know our farm a little better AND it’s packed full of useful information that will help to guide you through the season.
The Nash Family on their annual visit to the farm!
When you signed up for CSA, you may not have fully realized what you were signing up for because CSA is more than just a box of vegetables.  For those who are joining our farm for the first time this year, we want to let you know you are in for an adventure!  You may have signed up for our CSA because you were looking for a safe way to get food in the midst of the pandemic.  You will definitely get a box of food with each delivery.  What you may not have realized is that you just embarked on an experience that has the potential to change your life and positively impact your future in ways you may never have imagined.  Many of our longtime CSA members are a testament to the positive impact participating in our CSA has had on their lives.  CSA has helped them achieve health and longevity and it’s contributed to raising many healthy, intelligent, beautiful children.  CSA is connection, both with the people and the place your food is grown.  With this connection comes transparency.  We are real people and you can actually talk to us, ask us questions, have dialog so you can learn more about how your food is being grown.  Of course our primary goal is to provide you with the highest quality, most nutritious vegetables we can grow.  Our health is our greatest asset and so we take this job very seriously.  Of course in order to reap the benefits of nutrition, you have to eat the vegetables!  So, we also feel it is very important that we provide you with resources and support to help you make the most out of your purchase!  Every week we share information including recipes, storage information and farm updates with you in our weekly emails, blog posts, newsletters and on social media.  We’re here to help you have the best experience possible!
Picture of box contents from September 2019
We try to balance the contents of our boxes over the course of the season, providing a strong base of “staple” vegetables along with some more unusual vegetable to push you outside your comfort zone where you can be exposed to items you may not be familiar with.  Seasonal eating also means yielding to Mother Nature.  The season and weather patterns directly impact what is available throughout the season.  This means we have to adjust our eating, meal planning and recipes to match what’s available.  Sometimes this means we need to make substitutions in recipes or wait to make a recipe until the ingredients are in season.  We encourage you to use your resources each week to learn more about the vegetables in your box as well as how to use and prepare them.  Don’t get overwhelmed.  Yes, you may have a learning curve and a period of adjustment.  Many members tell us it takes three full years of CSA to fully make the transition to “Eating out of the box.”  Yes, from time to time something may get pushed to the back of the refrigerator and go to waste.  Compost it, return it to the earth and move on with the goal of making improvements each week so you can fully utilize your box contents.  Along the way I’ll try to give you quick and easy tips for streamlining food prep.  If you invest a little time each week washing and prepping your vegetables, meal prep can be quick and easy and eventually you’ll switch into autopilot.
HVF co-owner Rafael Morales Peralta
helping children dig carrots at our 2019 Harvest Party
At some point once this pandemic has moved on, we will once again open our farm to you as well!  We invite you to come and visit so we can show you our farm and you can spend some time in nature!  You see, this is part of the whole CSA experience.  CSA is not just food for your body, but also food for your soul.  Connections to people and places will help expand the meaning of sourcing vegetables beyond a purchasing transaction and this is where your food will take on a greater level of meaning.
We’ve always believed the CSA model has some inherent qualities that have allowed it to stand the test of time and, in a time of uncertainty in our world where other parts of the food system are struggling, CSA is something we can all turn back to.  We focus a lot on the agriculture, or food, aspect of CSA, but I think it’s important we don’t forget how important the “C” for community is as well.  So, welcome to our community.  We’re happy you’re here and we hope you enjoy your experience with us this year!

Pollinator Packs!

7 May 2020 00:25

Back in 2015 we published a series of newsletter articles we entitled “The Silent Spring Series.”  If you’re interested in reading these information-packed articles, you can find them all on our blog.  Basically the series took a look at the impact the use of agro-chemicals is having on our environment, ecosystem and our bodies.  The topic is pretty heavy and as we worked our way through the series we felt like we needed to create some light at the end of this very long tunnel.  We needed something positive to move the needle back to a point of hope.  We decided to plant pollinator packs, a garden pack with 9 different plants.  We started the seeds, transplanted them into the trays and delivered them to CSA members in the spring so everyone could use them to plant pollinator gardens in their own yard, on a patio space, in a community space or anywhere else they could think of where they would flourish, grow and serve to attract and support pollinator creatures (bees, butterflies, birds, wasps, etc).  We only intended to do it once, but it was so well-received, we get requests for them every year!
So, for those of you who already have an established pollinator garden, perhaps you’d like to add a few new plants to your space.  If you are just starting out, no worries!  We’ve included some plants in the pack that are easy to establish and will bloom in the first year!  The germination of wildflowers is sometimes inconsistent, so when we were putting the packs together we had to vary the contents a bit depending on the plants we had available to use.  So, the list below includes all of the plants you might have in your pack.  We’ve linked to Prairie Moon Nursery, the company we sourced our seeds from.  Their website had a lot of great information about native pollinator plants, etc.  Please use this resource to identify the plants in your pack and learn more about the preferred growing conditions, when they bloom, etc.  Thank you for doing your part to support our pollinators and enhance our environment!

Blue Wild Indigo
Anise Hyssop
Prairie Sage
Butterfly Weed
Lance-Leaf Coreopsis
Brown-Eyed Susan
New England Aster
Leafy Prairie Clover
Purple Coneflower
Wild Bergamot
Side Oats Gramma Grass
Little BlueStem Grass
Lead Plant

April Farm Update

30 Apr 2020 19:31

By Richard de Wilde & Andrea Yoder
Strawberry plants poking through the straw mulch.
Before the month of April slips away, we want to fill you in on what’s been happening in our quiet valley!  The past month has been a bit of a whirlwind with CSA orders coming in by the piles, more crew members joining us, the start of field work, and in the midst of it all we continue to navigate the pandemic.  So here’s a little insight into our world.
In the first few days of April we uncovered a nice field of overwintered spinach, which had been under a big field cover for the winter.  We also removed the cover on the garlic field and just recently, the strawberries as well.  After the covers came off we had to walk the garlic and strawberry fields with pitchforks to tease and loosen the straw mulch where it was compacted in some places.  This made it easier for the plants to push through.  We’re happy to report that it looks like we had a very good survival rate over the winter!  In fact, we’ll likely start harvesting green garlic as early as next week!
Transplanting onions!
Our first actual day doing field work was April 8.  With only our small winter crew, we prepared 2 acres of plastic covered raised beds to plant onions and shallots into.  We like to lay the reflective silver plastic mulch about two weeks in advance of planting so opportunistic weeds that might sprout will be smothered by the plastic before we poke holes in it for the plants.  Despite a bit of inexperience, they did a very nice job!  The field looks great with straight beds covered tightly on the sides and on the ends.  A critical detail that keeps the plastic anchored when we have high winds.
While we continued to do greenhouse plantings, accept CSA orders, and do the initial field work to prepare for the season, we also waited with uncertainty to find out if our experienced, skillful seasonal field crew would be granted visas and be allowed to travel from Mexico.  Thankfully, in the evening of April 8 we got the good news that 31 healthy individuals were en route to Wisconsin!  We all breathed a huge sigh of relief knowing they’d be joining us soon, for without them farming this season would have been an even bigger challenge.  We were so happy to see them, although we haven’t actually seen most of their faces as they arrived with face masks and have them on nearly all the time they are at work!  We have learned that you can tell a person is smiling by looking at their eyes, and we’ve also noticed the familial resemblance many of our crew members have to their uncles, nephews, etc.  If you put a mask on Antonio Cervantes he can easily be mistaken for his nephew, Jose Manuel.  They have the exact same eye features!
Planting a new field of asparagus!
While we were thrilled to greet these guys, we also knew we had to be prepared for a higher level of management in order to navigate the necessary precautions related to the pandemic.  The last few weeks have been filled with new procedures and practices on the farm along with extensive training (with a professional Spanish interpreter) in an effort to maintain a safe working environment.  We now have three groups of crew members that each have their own lunch area, designated bathrooms, and guidelines for which buildings on the farm they are permitted to enter.  We all continue to limit our movement in the community and are doing our best to do what we can remotely, electronically and with as little contact with the outside world as possible!  We actually started communications with our crew members several weeks before they ever left their homes in Mexico.  We let them know what was happening in the USA and advised them to self-isolate as much as possible, practice social distancing, and do everything they could to keep themselves in good health.  They did a great job and took preventative measures all along the way.  They all arrived totally healthy, not even a single cold!  Now our goal is to continue to be diligent about maintaining preventative practices so we can all remain in good health!
Now that our crew is back in action we’ve been making great strides in getting things done in the fields.  We did the first planting of radishes, salad mix, cilantro, arugula, etc on April 18.  Some of these plants were emerging, so we went ahead and did a second planting last Saturday.  We need to get more direct seeded crops planted, but it takes time to prepare the fields with applications of compost, minerals, trace elements, etc.  Today we're planting peas and parsnips.  Before the week is finished we hope to complete plantings of beets, carrots, burdock, chard and then, shortly after, sweet corn and green beans.
Field of freshly transplanted dandelion plants
enclosed by a deer fence.
The greenhouses, which just 2 short weeks ago were nearing capacity, are gradually looking more empty.  Onions were the first crop to go to the field and after three days of transplanting they were finally all in the ground.  The transplanting crew immediately moved on to broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and cabbage followed by dandelion which is one of our major wholesale crops.  The deer seem to enjoy a nice field of tender dandelion plants, so we immediately put up a fence to keep them out.  Our first parsley field is planted and all 30,000 celeriac are standing up like rows of soldiers in the field.  We started off this week by loading fennel plants.  Despite some breakthrough rain showers in the morning, the crew was able to continue planting and when the sun came out in the afternoon they moved on to our first planting of kale and collards!
We have already started some of our warmer weather crops in the greenhouse.  The pepper seedlings look beautiful.  The zucchini and first planting of tomatoes pushed through the soil over the weekend and we planted watermelons earlier this week!  We’ll keep these plants snug and warm in the greenhouse for a few more weeks until we make sure the threat of frost has past us.
Nettles, Sorrel, and Chives happily growing in the field.
In between field and greenhouse work, we continue to wash and pack vegetables.  Overwintered parsnips and sunchokes along with spinach, ramps and burdock root are part of our weekly line-up.  We’re in week two of ramp harvest and crossing our fingers that Mother Nature will bless us with at least two more weeks if not three!  It all depends on the weather, but we must admit the weather has been more cooperative thus far than in some recent springs.  The jet stream seems to have moved north, so cooler air with less moisture.  Maybe this is the bright side of the pandemic?  Reduced economic activity has greatly reduced pollution and carbon emissions.  Maybe nature will give us an immediate reward of nice weather.  We can hope!
Our CSA sign-ups are up about 20% over last year and we have a lot of new members joining us for this season!  We are at about 70% capacity for the season and we are still accepting orders.  Kelly, Gwen and Amy are doing their best to get orders processed and welcome packets distributed before the start of deliveries next week!  We normally spread our order processing work out over several months, but with the state of the world orders have been compressed into just a few weeks!  We’re doing our best to get them processed as quickly as possible, but appreciate your patience.  We started sending Welcome Packets out last week and will continue to send them as we process your order.  Please, Please, Please take the time to read the important information contained in these packets.  The “C” in CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is very important this year in order for everyone to have a positive, safe pick-up experience.  We’re looking forward to the start of a new CSA season and we’re grateful for every member who has committed to join us on this journey this year!

COVID-19 Pandemic & The Harmony Valley Farm 2020 CSA Season

7 Apr 2020 20:07

Spring ramps poking through the forest floor
The weeks have been passing us by at a rapid pace and we see signs of spring unfolding all around us.  The start of our CSA season is approaching in 4 short weeksand we wanted to reach out to let everyone know we are still farming!  We’re working on many things simultaneously at the farm right now, both in response to an early spring but also in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The focus of this post is to inform you about some general farm updates & information as well as provide you with our thoughts and plans for our 2020 CSA season.  Please understand this is a work in progress and we will do our best to provide further updates as we move forward.
The final check before closing the CSA box on the pack line
First of all, we believe Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been a valuable model for consumers to source food for many years, but we believe it can also be one of the safest ways to source high quality, nutritious food with the lowest risk as we continue to navigate this pandemic.  We need to recognize that we are all part of a community, that is the “C” in CSA.  We take our role as a member of this community very seriously and ask our customers and members to do the same.  We are determined to do everything we can to keep our crew members healthy so we can keep our farm running and may continue to deliver our high quality food to as many people as possible and in the safest possible way.  We know this crisis may persist for months, thus we are doing our best to prepare for both the expected and unexpected.
Before we go any further, there are a few things we want to bring to your attention.
  • CSA Capacity & Sites: The majority of our CSA Site locations are still available.  Please refer to pages 2 & 3 of our sign-up form for a full listing of CSA locations.  We are only at about 50% capacity and will continue to accept sign-ups until the trucks are full!  We encourage you to include a “1st Choice” and “2nd Choice” when selecting your delivery site.
  • Welcome Packets: We will be sending pre-season welcome packets in the mail very soon for those who have already submitted their sign-ups.  We’ll let you know when they are on the way and will continue to send them to members as you sign-up.  It is very important that you open this envelope and read the contents!  We will be including important details you need to read before you pick up your first CSA box.  Please review your invoice and the site-specific information as well.  Some individuals may have been scheduled at their 2nd Choice location.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: While we are not able to offer home delivery, we do want to have resources in place to assist a member who may not be well or is in a high-risk situation and is not able to pick up their box.  If you are willing to deliver a box to another member at your site if necessary, please let us know so we may contact you as needed.  Additionally, if we find a site needs additional monitoring or a site host needs assistance, we are accepting volunteers for this need as well.  We are not certain if these needs will arise, but we’d like to be prepared if and when they do.  Please email Kelly at csa@harmonyvalleyfarm.comif you are willing to be on our volunteers list for either or both of these duties. (Volunteers must be current CSA Members)
Pandemic Response Changes to CSA Protocols:

A view of our peaceful, beautiful valley and fields
As we think through every step of the CSA delivery/pick-up process, we are aware that social distancing is a priority and minimizing points of contact are essential in order to maintain a low risk situation.
We believe we can achieve this, however everyone involved needs to be part of the process for this to work.  As we get going, we will be monitoring our systems and are prepared to make changes and modifications as needed to ensure the safest pick-ups possible.

CSA Member Responsibilities:

  • Community Responsibility: We ask our members to please read and pay attention to all email updates from the farm!  It is also your responsibility to read signs at the CSA sites so you are fully informed of procedures and expectations.
  • Be Well: Do not go to the CSA site if you, or a member of your household, is ill or is under quarantine for COVID-19.  Please ask a friend or family member who is well and not under quarantine to do the pickup for you.  If you do not have someone to do this, please contact us.  We are compiling a list of individuals who have volunteered to help in these situations.
  • Social Distancing: Maintain a minimum of 6-foot social distancing when approaching and at the site.  We ask that only ONE member is in the pickup site at a time.
  • One Person Pick-Up: Only one member per household should go to pick up the box.  We prefer that this person is an adult and if possible, it is the same person each week.  Whomever goes to the site should be fully aware of and willing to follow the protocols for a safe pick-up.
  • Patience: Please be respectful and courteous of other members when you pick up your box.  There may be times when you need to wait for your turn to enter the site and/or to maintain appropriate social distancing.
CSA Pick-Up Changes & Procedures:
  • Newsletters: We will not be providing print copies of the newsletters at the sites until the need for pandemic-related precautions change.  Newsletters will be available online and links to both our newsletters as well as additional content on our blog will be included in the “What’s In the Box” email you receive the day before your delivery.
  • “Swap” Box: We will not be offering a “Swap” box at the start of the season.  We may choose to add this later when it is appropriate to do so.
  • “Choice” Items: Any choice items we offer will be portioned individually as much as possible.  Remember, it’s always your choice if you want to add these items to your share. 
  • Checklist: We will continue to use our checklist system, and ask each member to bring your own pen when you come to pick up your box.  It is important that you consult the checklist prior to selecting your box.  Find your name (or your share partner’s name) on the list.  Carefully put a checkmark next to your name so we know you’ve taken your box.  If you do this carefully, you should not even need to touch the paper, table or clip board.  If you do not see your name on the checklist, we have not delivered a box for you.  You need to exit the site and give us a call so we can help troubleshoot the situation.  If we’ve made an error we’d like the opportunity to correct it as quickly as possible.
  • The CSA Box: We are still in the process of determining the lowest-risk packaging solution that is also cost-effective and manageable.  We will be testing both options here at the farm to ensure they are not only low-risk at the pick-up site, but will also preserve the quality of the vegetables.  Regardless of the box we choose to use, we will be adding a plastic liner bag to the box this year.  
  • Take the Top Box: All boxes will be packed with the same contents.  Please take the top box and do your best to only touch the box you are taking. 
  • Do Not Sort or Repack Your Vegetables At the Site: We ask that you sort and repack your vegetables at your home, not at your site.  We hope to facilitate a quick and speedy pick-up and limit the surfaces both your hands and your vegetables touch.  If you follow our guidelines, your vegetables will remain in the plastic bag until you remove them in your home.  
  • Sharing Households: We ask that sharing households do not split shares or leave partial shares at the pick-up site during the pandemic.  Please make arrangements for one person to pick up the share and split the contents away from the site.
  • The Plastic Liner Bag: We encourage you to reuse this bag in your home if you feel comfortable doing so.  One way to repurpose it is to use it as a liner for a small trash can.  This bag holds a low risk as a potential source of contamination and has only been touched by a farm employee on the packing line who will be wearing gloves and you, the end user. 
  • Site Management: We are working with site hosts to eliminate as many potential surfaces members need to touch when entering and exiting sites.  We do need to also be sensitive to security issues at both our residential and business locations, so it will be up to the discretion of each site host as to what is feasible to do at their site.  For sites with a large garage door that may be left open during site hours, you may just walk right in without touching any surface.  Many sites have outer gates/fences that need to be opened and closed as well as a service door entry.  If and when possible, we are asking that these entry points be propped open during site hours to eliminate the need to touch these surfaces.  If a door is open at your site when you arrive, please leave it open when you leave.  We are still working through these details and will do our best to communicate changes and procedures to you as we refine the processes.
  • Wash & Sanitize Your Hands Before & After Pick-up: Please do your part to ensure you are washing your hands before you go to pick up your box.  If you are able to use hand sanitizer once you arrive at the site but before you enter, that is also appreciated.  While we are trying to source hand sanitizer, it is in very short supply and we are not certain we will be able to provide it at all sites.  If we are able to source hand sanitizer, we will allocate it to any site that may have doors that members need to open before entering.
  • Bring Your Own Gloves….Or a Clean Pair of Socks!  If you’d like to create a barrier between your hands and any surfaces at the pick-up site, we will not object.  You may use a CLEAN pair of cotton gloves or even winter gloves if that is all you have.  If you don’t have gloves, a clean pair of socks could also suffice!  Make sure your gloves/socks are clean and you have not used them elsewhere or for any other purpose.  Put them on just before you enter the site.  Remove them once you have exited and take them with you so you may launder them.
The CSA Delivery Team:

We will be providing additional training to our delivery team prior to the start of deliveries.  We will do our best to provide precautionary measures to protect their health and well-being while they are executing deliveries.  We will also be implementing additional measures to ensure proper handling of your CSA shares.  We are still working out all of these delivery details, however we are prepared to provide a sufficient supply of disposable gloves, a portable handwashing station on the truck, hand sanitizer and masks for our delivery crew.  Additionally, we are prepared to provide supplies needed to clean and sanitize any table surface, door knobs, etc that may be needed to facilitate CSA pick-up.  If you have additional questions about this process, we’re happy to share these details with you as we continue to develop our protocols.
How & Where You Can Source Our Vegetables in April:
We know our customers are anxious to start enjoying some of our spring offerings such as overwintered spinach and ramps.  We are doing our first spinach harvests this week and anticipate ramps will be ready to start harvesting as early as next week.  We are evaluating the possibility of offering some pre-season special offers, however we do not have the logistics in place for this at present.  In the interim, we will start supplying our vegetables through some of our regional distributors and food co-ops in the Twin Cities, MN area as well as Madison & Viroqua, WI.   If/when we are able to move forward with a pre-season special offer, we will share this information with you by email.  If you would like to receive email updates from our farm, please email csa@harmonyvalleyfarm.com.
In closing, we thank you for your support of our farm and for your patience as our plans unfold.  We will do our best to keep you nourished this season.

Harmony Valley Farm’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic—4/7/2020 Update

7 Apr 2020 17:13

If you missed our first COVID-19 update from the week of March 16, you can read it here.   We continue to prioritize the health and safety of our crew members and at present everyone is healthy and well!  Below is a summary of some of the things we do on a regular basis as well as additional measures we are taking in response to the pandemic.  We continue to evaluate our practices every day and will continue to adapt as needed.

Cleaning the salad cutting equipment before harvest
(note red brushes that are only used for cleaning equipment)
General Food Safety Practices: Food safety has always been and will continue to be a priority for our business.  While we are adapting our policies and procedures in response to COVID-19, we are also continuing to implement and improve upon the food safety practices we already have in place.  If you would like to read more about the food safety efforts on our farm, you may do so in an article we published on our blog in 2015, “HVF’s ‘Culture of Cleanliness.’”   All of the information in this article still holds true and we’ve made additional improvements over the past several years.  We are scheduled to have our annual food safety inspection on June 30, 2020 and were inspected in August 2019 by a food safety inspector from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) as part of the food safety requirements set forth by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  If you have specific questions about our practices, you’re always welcome to contact us directly.
Continuing to wash vegetables, with awareness of
our co-worker's rights to personal space.

Social Distancing & Limited Movement in the Community: We, as well as our families, are limiting our movement in the community and keeping trips to grocery stores, gas stations, etc to a minimum.   We are using online ordering and pick-up options when available.  We are also utilizing some bulk purchasing options to help supply essential resources for our crew members and decrease our need to go anywhere other than our homes and work.  We are also practicing social distancing both at work and in the community.

Additional Facilities Cleaning & Sanitizing: For over three weeks now we have been doing additional facilities cleaning to ensure frequently touched surfaces (door knobs, pallet jacks, door openers, tables, light switches, etc) are cleaned and sanitized daily.

Our COVID-19 Drop & Honk Notification for
Receiving Deliveries at the farm
“Drop & Honk” Policy & Restricted Access to Visitors: We now have signs posted in five different locations on our farm to inform any visitors or outside delivery personnel about our new policies in response to COVID-19.  We have restricted access to our farm and are not allowing anyone other than employees to enter our facilities.  Delivery services leave packages outside our door and give us a honk as they pull away so we know they’ve made a delivery. While we normally welcome visitors, at this time we feel it is in our best interests to limit our exposure.

One of our portable handwashing stations
Handwashing, Gloves, Masks, etc: Our employees are trained annually in proper handwashing techniques and this has been a point of emphasis and accountability on our farm for many years.  Any crew member handling produce does so with disposable gloves and they are also trained on how to properly use disposable gloves, eg when they need to be changed, etc.  We use N95 respirator masks on our farm regularly for non-viral purposes, however we have a limited supply and are not able to source them at this time.  One of our crafty and talented employees is making masks for our crew members so they will be available for use both on and off-farm. 

If you have any additional questions or concerns, you are welcome to reach out to us directly by phone or email.  If you have questions about pandemic-related changes to our CSA box procedures, additional CSA-specific information is available on our blog.

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds!

19 Mar 2020 21:04

By Amy Peterson

Amy, "Maven of the Seeds"
Some of you may have met me at our fall harvest party, but I’m sure many of you are wondering, “Who’s this writing in my newsletter?”  Please allow me to introduce myself: my name is Amy, and I’m the newest member of the Harmony Valley Farm crew and a first time Harmony Valley CSA member.   I started working on the farm this past June after moving from Denver, CO to Viroqua, WI.  This is my first foray into the world of commercial farming, although I’ve been a long-time gardener and supporter of all things organic.  The sheer scale of the operation here at Harmony Valley has definitely taken some getting used to—I’ve learned so much in these last 10 months, and there is still so much more to learn!   My job here on the farm is officially called “packing shed support”, and in practice this means I take care of many behind-the-scenes tasks and also step in to help wherever I am needed.  My job is filled with variety, and there are many roles that I fulfill throughout the year.  However, my hands-down favorite role is "maven of the seeds."  As spring unfolds all around us it seems very appropriate to pay homage to these tiny but mighty building blocks of the farm—seeds!

Our meticulously organized walk-in seed storage cooler
My interest in farming stems from a life-long love of gardening, and anyone with a home garden (which I suspect includes many of you) has experienced the end-of-winter thrill of opening the seed catalogs and planning for next summer’s bounty.  For me this time has always been a beacon of hope after the long cold darkness of winter, and having this experience for the first time on the farm did not disappoint!  The excitement was palpable as the seed catalogs began to arrive in the mail.  My days quickly became filled with seed orders and preparations for the influx of seed to come.  Home gardeners may have a box where seeds are stored, or perhaps a shelf in a cabinet, and you simply push back last year’s seed packets to make room for the new.  We have an entire walk-in cooler devoted entirely to seeds, and even at the end of the growing season there are pounds upon pounds of seeds stored in there.  Preparing for the new year’s seeds to arrive is much more complicated at this scale!  After a full inventory of the seeds for every crop group with all of their corresponding varieties, we temporarily remove all the containers and do our annual cleaning of the cooler.  Floor to ceiling, every surface is washed and sterilized before we return our carry over inventory and start receiving new seeds for the upcoming growing season.  By the end of this process I was finally able to navigate the seed cooler with confidence, no longer overwhelmed by the sheer volume of seed stored in this magical cooler.
Organized carrot seeds packed into one of our totes.
What kind of volume are we talking about, you may wonder. Let’s look at some of the numbers to paint a picture.  From Arugula to Watermelon, our seed cooler currently contains about 70 different crop groups.  We use large plastic tubs, 5 gallon buckets and lots of shelving to store the seed by crop groups.  Organization is key when dealing with this many options in one space!  Within each crop group there are a wide range of varieties and seed lots.  For example, we have 3 different lots for the Burdock crop group, but when it comes to sweet peppers we have 90 different lots!  Some other heavy hitters are the melons (40 lots), and winter squash (30 lots), just to name a few.  There is also a wide range in the weight and number of seeds for each crop group.  Some seed like, broccoli and cauliflower, are measured by the number of seeds per packet and are relatively light. We have about 200,000 broccoli seeds at the moment, but they weigh less than 2 pounds total.  Compare that to our stock of edamame seed which weighs in at just under 1,000 pounds!  Cilantro is a very important crop group since we plant cilantro seed weekly throughout the entire growing season, and we currently have over 11,000,000 (yes, 11 million!) cilantro seeds weighing about 240 pounds.  One last number that I’d like to use to describe the seed collection here is value.  At this point in the year our seed cooler houses around $80,000 worth of seed!  This seed is what makes all those beautiful and delicious CSA boxes possible, so I would say that it is definitely money well spent.
The tedious job of counting out and labeling
seeds for germination tests.
Knowing how valuable these seeds are gives me cause to be very careful while working with them.  It has come in very handy that I have been making beaded jewelry most of my life, because the same techniques that I use for carefully handling my bead collection can be applied to handling seeds. I pour and weigh my beads in the same way that I pour and weigh seed, so my past mistakes that resulted in spilled beads can now be avoided when handling seed! Some crops are prone to certain diseases and insects, so another way that I help protect the seed collection is through seed sterilization.  We have developed our own hot-water seed treatment which is an organic method for mitigating these diseases and pests, and this falls under my job description as well. Also, using proper storage techniques and monitoring the cooler for proper temperature and humidity are some other ways that I do my part to make sure this valuable investment remains viable.
Planting peas for germination tests (left) and
Beet seedlings ready to be counted (right)
Keeping this impressive seed collection in working order is a large part of my job year-round.  We keep a digital database of our entire seed inventory which I update as new seeds arrive, as well as when seeds go out for planting.  This database is a very important tool in determining which seeds will be planted at which times, so it’s imperative that it is maintained accurately so that Andrea and Richard can make the most well-informed decisions when it comes time for purchasing seeds and planting them.  Each seed lot has a unique lot number and seed count per pound that is essentially the fingerprint for that seed.  The seed count is also a valuable tool in determining how many seeds should be planted per foot.  Another important piece of data recorded in the seed inventory is the germination rates for each particular variety.  It would be ideal if every seed that we planted resulted in a corresponding plant, but unfortunately nature is not perfect.  Some especially vivacious varieties of seed have close to a 100% germination rate, but the majority of seed coming onto the farm have between 85% - 95% germination rate as reported by the seed manufacturers.  This number is so important to making planting decisions that we conduct our own germination tests before planting any crop for the year.  As spring has crept in I have begun the process of germ testing our seed collection.  To come up with a germination rate I plant a very specific number of seeds for a certain seed lot (anywhere from 20 to 200 seeds, depending on the variety), and then later I count how many of those seeds result in a seedling.  It’s an easy enough concept, but it takes quite a bit of time to keep the seed organized, labeled and neatly planted so that the information provided by these tests is accurate. Mixing up a label during this germ testing phase could lead to a poor performing field later in the season, so I do my best to be organized and accurate while gathering this important data.  It’s such an uplifting sign of spring to see these trays of seed sprouting and declaring their viability for all to see.
As the year progresses, more and more of my time on the farm will be spent gathering seeds for planting.  For me, this is a really fun part of the whole process.  Every time I open up the storage bin for a particular crop I am flooded with sensory information. The first thing I will notice is the unique smell of each seed type.  Since we use all organic and untreated seed the smell of these seeds is especially aromatic.  My favorite are the carrot seeds—they have a delightful sweet aroma that is very uplifting and does not smell at all like a full grown carrot.  However, cilantro seeds smell exactly like a bunch of full grown cilantro. Fennel seeds smell strongly of anise, which tickles my senses every time! The next sense to be flooded is my visual field.  Each crop variety has a unique looking seed.  Although there is diversity between the seeds of different varieties of a crop, there are always some visual characteristics that remain the same within a crop group.  There may be some color differences or slightly different textures between the varieties, but the basic seed will be recognizable for that crop group.  All lettuce seeds are lightweight, paper thin tiny little pointy-ended ovals, but some are light brown in color, some dark brown. Beet seeds are such an interestingly peculiar shape that I can only describe as a little burr, but with very little visual distinction between varieties.  An interesting side note, these little beet “burrs” are unique in that they each house a group of individual seeds, which means multiple plants can grow from each burr that is planted.  One visual cue that I hope not to find when opening a new bag of seed is an unnatural fluorescent color.  All of the seed we plant is free of chemical treatment, so if I see unnaturally bright colored seed (or a list of long chemical names on the label) I know that we were sent the wrong lot and it must be returned to the manufacturer.  Thankfully, this rarely happens.  Each crop group has its own auditory signature as well.  As I pour out the seed into the proper container for planting I can hear the specific note which that seed plays.  Some seeds create a cascade of seed   All of these observations took me quite by surprise when I first started working here, as I had never before handled seed in the quantity that allows you to notice all of these sensory delights. Now I look forward to my time spent pulling and measuring the seed for all of these reasons, and I’m always on the lookout for new observations of my tiny little friends.
French Breakfast Radishes growing in the field
Once these seeds have left my care and are planted in the soil they will expand exponentially.  It boggles the mind to think of how much growth potential is stored in each of those little seeds.  The 10 pounds of radish seed that I send out into the field will come back as thousands of bunches of beautiful red radishes. A few pounds of turnip seed will come back from the field as literal tons of delicious roots that will provide nutrition all winter long.  Each one of the millions (maybe billions?) of seeds in my care has the potential to become a nutritious and delicious organic masterpiece.  The seeds that I weigh out in pounds will return to the packing shed in tons, which will then end their journey on your tables all season long. To me this is nothing short of a miracle of nature.
I don’t think I will ever tire of handling the bountiful Harmony Valley seed collection, and I hope these insights have passed along some of my enthusiasm for these tiny powerhouses. As spring marches ever forwards, take a moment to appreciate that the bounty which is just beginning to unfold all around us started with these unique and amazing little packages we call seeds.  And the next time you find yourself opening a package of carrot seeds, take a little sniff for me—I promise you will not be disappointed!
S3442 Wire Hollow Road, Viroqua, WI, 54665, United States
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