Harmony Valley Farm
Cooking With This Week's Box
New Potatoes: New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter (see below); Pesto Roasted Potatoes & Green Beans (see below)
We started off this week with an exciting afternoon harvest of the first potatoes of the season! As Alvaro said at the end of the day, “Everything was just perfect for the harvest and the potatoes look beautiful!” Alvaro is right and new potatoes are definitely something special as far as we’re concerned. So my recommendation for using the potatoes this week is to just keep it simple. I am sharing my recipe for New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter(see below), which is a simple farmer’s way of eating freshly dug potatoes. Sometimes this is the main focus of our meal along with steamed green beans, slices of salted cucumbers, and roasted beets. Despite Richard’s desire to have meat at every meal, sometimes there just isn’t room on the table for meat when there are so many fresh vegetables to cook! I also like eating these simple New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter for breakfast with scrambled or fried eggs and we sometimes have them for dinner with a grilled pork chop or steak. Really, you can eat them at any time of the day. The other recipe we’re featuring today is for Pesto Roasted Potatoes & Green Beans (see below). Nothing beats freshly dug potatoes and fresh green beans, so why not pair them together in this simple twist on roasted vegetables. This recipe calls for pesto, which you can easily make in your own kitchen using either Italian basil or Carrot Top Pesto using the carrot tops on the bunched carrots this week! You likely have enough carrot tops to actually make a double recipe of carrot top pesto, which you might as well do as long as you’re making a mess! Use the extra pesto to make Carrot Top Pesto Pasta. This is a light pasta dish featuring angel hair pasta tossed with the pesto as well as roasted carrots, sautéed onions and zucchini.
Carrot Top Pesto Pasta
photo from HealthyNibblesAndBits.com
photo from SkinnyTaste.com
Zucchini is one of those vegetables that is always abundant in summer, but it’s also such a versatile vegetable that you can use it in so many different preparations. This recipe for Fabulous Zucchini Grinders was recommended by one of our members in our Facebook Group. This is a tasty hot vegetarian sandwich featuring sautéed zucchini. Another member recommended this recipe for Zucchini “Meat”balls! This is another vegetarian recipe that actually doesn’t have any meat in it but rather uses zucchini as the main ingredient! What great ideas—thank you for sharing!
Actually, there have been a lot of great ideas and posts in our Facebook group over the past week. One member did an awesome post sharing a whole list of stir-fry sauce recipes. One of the links she referenced was to this post that features 7 Easy Stir-Fry Recipes. The author of this recipe provides 7 different stir-fry sauce recipes along with a basic recipe to guide you in making a stir-fry using 4-6 cups of vegetables and 1 pound of meat (if you choose to do so). You choose your sauce recipe, seasonal vegetables and meat of your choosing and turn it into stir-fry using her simple methods. This week’s box has several different vegetable selections that can be used to make a great stir-fry including onions, cabbage, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, cumbers, carrots, and green beans—ok, well nearly the entire box could be used to make stir-fry! The other cool thing about this recipe is the author recommends making these stir-fry sauces in advance and putting them in the freezer. When you need a quick dinner option, the sauce is made and you just have to chop whatever seasonal vegetables you have available and assemble the stir-fry. If you set aside some time to make the sauces in advance, you might as well cook a big pot of rice as well. Cooked rice freezes really well and then it will just need to be reheated on your quick stir-fry night.
This is our last week for salad cabbage. If you missed out on last week’s vegetable feature about salad cabbage, check it out. I also shared two simple cabbage slaw recipes including Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill and Cilantro Lime Slaw. The cilantro lime slaw is part of a recipe for Crispy Baked Fish Tacos that are awesome! Both slaw recipes are simple AND delicious—you can’t go wrong with either.
Did you know you can cook cucumbers? Yes, you can bake, roast, saute and stir-fry them! I’ve never tried Baked Cucumber Chips, but now that I found this recipe I’m going to have to try it! The author gives several different variations you can try for seasoning the chips. I also want to try this Korean recipe for Stir-Fried Cucumbers. This recipe calls for one pound of cucumbers that are stir-fried with garlic, onion and simply seasoned with sesame. This would be a great accompaniment to Slow-Cooker Korean BBQ Beef.
Stir Fried Cucumbers, photo from KoreanBapsang.com
Wow, we’ve talked about a lot of food already and we still have a few more items to discuss! If you don’t use your cauliflower in stir-fry this week, try this recipe for Cauliflower, Chickpea and Chard Curry. I love curry dishes like this because you assemble and simmer everything in one pot, they use a lot of vegetables, and leftovers always taste good. It seems my meals this week are all paired with rice or a similar grain in most cases (eg stir-fry, slow cooker Korean beef, etc). So, start off your week with one big batch and save yourself the trouble of cooking rice, quinoa or other grains multiple days. If you don’t use your chard to make this curry recipe, consider using it in this Warm Chard Salad with Bacon Dressing & Roasted Chicken. This is a main dish salad topped with pecans, dried cherries and roasted chicken.
Warm Chard Salad with Bacon
Dressing & Roasted Chicken,
photo from FiveAndSpice.wordpress.com
Ok friends, that brings us to the absolute bottom of another CSA box. Have a great week and enjoy this summer bounty!
Vegetable Feature: New Potatoes
By Andrea Yoder
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 Monday afternoon of this week off of 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 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. 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. Light causes 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.
Potato digger unearthing new potatoes
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. 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. 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.
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! They are excellent simply boiled or steamed with a little butter, salt and pepper. This week, simple and minimal is best. Enjoy!
Pesto Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans
Yield: 8 servings
2 pounds new potatoes, washed and quartered
photo from BelleOfTheKitchen.com
8 ounces fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
¼ cup prepared pesto*
2 tsp fresh minced garlic
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, green beans, pesto, and salt and pepper. Mix carefully making sure all of the vegetables are well coated. Spread the potatoes and green beans out onto the prepared baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring the mixture once halfway through cooking. Once the vegetables are tender, remove from the oven and enjoy!
*Chef Andrea note: You can make a traditional basil pesto using fresh basil from the choice box and/or from your own herb garden. You could also make carrot top pesto to make good use of the carrot tops in this week’s box!
Recipe borrowed from belleofthekitchen.com.
New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter
Yield: 2-4 servings
1 pound fresh new potatoes
1 Tbsp salt, plus more to taste
3-4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cut potatoes into approximate 1 ½ inch chunks. If the potatoes are small you can leave them whole. Place potatoes in a saucepot and add cold water, enough to cover the potatoes by 1-2 inches. Season the water with 1 Tbsp of salt and then bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Once the potatoes come to a boil, reduce the heat a bit to maintain a rapid simmer. Simmer for 10-12 minutes. Test a potato by piercing it with a knife to see if it is tender and cooked through.
Once the potatoes are tender, drain off the water and put the potatoes in a bowl. Cover to keep them warm and then set aside.
Next, return the pan to the stovetop over medium heat. Add butter. Once the butter is melted, add the garlic and continue to simmer over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until the garlic is softened and fragrant, but not browning.
Remove the butter from the heat. Put the potatoes on a serving platter or directly on your plate. Gently smash each potato with the back of a fork just to break into the skin. Spoon the garlic butter over the potatoes and season generously with freshly ground pepper and more salt to taste.
Recipe by Chef Andrea
By Farmers Richard & Andrea
It’s been nearly six weeks since our early June farm update and a lot has happened! The cold, wet start to our season quickly shifted to hot and humid. The heat is great for some of our warm weather crops like peppers, melons, zucchini and cucumbers, but heat with high humidity can wreak havoc on other crops such as cilantro, baby bok choi, arugula, etc making them susceptible to leaf disease. The weeds are also loving these hot days and sadly, they are growing quite nicely. Our determined crew continues to do battle against weeds, hitting them from every angle possible in an attempt to save crops. Despite these farming challenges, we have some really nice crops in the fields and a lot of exciting food coming your way very soon!
Italian garlic, bunched and ready to bring in
Starting at the end of last week, our focus shifted to garlic harvest. As we write this article on Tuesday, July 16, we only have about one third of the crop remaining to harvest….and it is a very nice crop. This is probably the nicest crop of garlic we’ve seen in the past 10-12 years. The past two years were pretty disappointing, so before we planted garlic last year we paused for a little field crew huddle and pep talk for ourselves. Two poor crops, lets not add a third to that list. So we made sure soil conditions were right, carefully planted the cloves at the right depth and then carefully covered the field with a nice layer of chopped straw mulch before the snow started to fall. We were careful to give it enough of a mulch layer to insulate it, but not too much that would prevent the garlic from pushing through. We also covered the field with row cover which also helped keep the straw mulch in place over the winter. While many of you may still be cursing the harsh, cold, snowy winter we had last year, the conditions may have actually been somewhat favorable for this year’s garlic crop! The garlic was tucked safely underground, covered by a thick layer of insulating snow which protected it from the polar vortex! The result was a very high survival rate this spring. By July 17 or 18 we plan to have the entire garlic crop tucked away safely in the greenhouse to dry and cure over the next few weeks. Then the hard work of trimming, cleaning and selecting seed for next year’s crop will begin!
A pepper plant loaded with baby bell peppers
Based on the amount of zucchini in your boxes the past few weeks, you may have noticed that our zucchini is producing very nicely right now! Zucchini is one of those crops that loves heat and production can skyrocket during a hot week. Actually, we’re harvesting from both our first and second crops now. Not quite the timing we had hoped for, but there isn’t any way to hold back the second planting so we’re just going for it! Yesterday the crew picked 1,400# of zucchini! We pick three times each week, so there’s the potential that we’ll pick over 4,000# of zucchini this week alone! We’re only picking from our first cucumber crop right now, but it won’t be long before the second planting kicks in. We’re just glad cucumbers and zucchini aren’t peaking at the same time!
Pretty soon we’ll have peppers and tomatoes to enjoy with all that zucchini. The pepper field looks quite nice this year and the plants are full of blossoms as well as small, immature peppers. It looks like we will be picking bell peppers and possibly jalapeño peppers as early as next week. The tomatoes also have fruit set on. While we haven’t seen any fruit turning color yet, this hot week ahead of us could accelerate the ripening. We may be picking tomatoes for next week’s boxes as well!
Sweet corn growing in the field.
If you were to walk through the melon and watermelon fields, you would find the cutest little melons set on the plants. It’s exciting to think that in just a few weeks we’ll be slurping juicy slices of sweet melon! What’s summer without sweet melons, watermelon and sweet corn?! While our first two plantings of sweet corn are not quite what we had hoped for, we will have sweet corn coming soon. We actually have five plantings of corn and the last three look really good right now! Of course if we’re going to talk about corn we have to mention beans and edamame as well. Our first two plantings of beans are usually the most challenging to grow, but both are looking pretty good with more plantings coming up behind them. It looks like it’s going to be a pretty good year for green beans, and we hope our purple amethyst beans will produce well again this year! The first crop of edamame has little fuzzy pods hanging from the vines. Just a few more weeks and we’ll be popping the sweet, tender, bright green soybeans into our mouths!
Don’t think we can breathe a sigh of relief and go on vacation after garlic harvest is done. Well, we can breathe a sigh of relief but then we need to get ready to harvest onions! It must be an allium favorable year because the onions are also looking pretty nice! If we can keep the tops alive for a few more weeks we should have a pretty sizeable onion harvest which will leave us with just one problem….where are we going to store everything! It’s a good problem and one we’re happy to have.
Sprinklers running after irrigation crew laid pipe.
The irrigation crew has shifted their focus from just fertigation (providing nutrients via drip irrigation lines with minimal water) to now needing to deliver more water as well.
Over the past week fields have really dried out, going from a state of excess moisture to now needing to be watered.
On Monday the crew set up irrigation pipe for sprinklers to water some crops planted last week including carrots, cilantro and radishes.
They need water to soften the soil and make sure the seed has adequate moisture to germinate and break through the surface.
You just never know when the weather will shift to a drought, so we’re working hard to stay ahead of the game.
Farmer Richard and Lt. Governor Barnes
sampling fresh strawberries.
We’ve also hosted some visitors to the farm over the past 6 weeks.
On June 16 we had a great turnout for our annual Strawberry Day party.
We had a nice, pleasant day filled with good food, strawberry ice cream, laughs, questions and just a lot of fun.
Thank you to everyone who joined us in celebrating this year’s strawberry crop.
At the end of June we also had the pleasure of hosting Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes.
We had a pleasant visit with Lt. Governor Barnes including some great, honest conversation about a variety of topics including the importance of pollinator habitat, climate change and the impact erratic weather is having on Wisconsin farms and communities.
We are also happy to have added a few more friendly faces to our crew.
Amy started the first week of June, coming to us from Colorado with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn…..everything!
Amy is our Packing Shed Support person who helps us stay organized in the packing shed by managing cooler and supply inventories as well as helping out wherever she’s needed from day to day.
She has also helped out in the greenhouses, is learning all there is to know about managing our seed inventory and in general is starting to put together the pieces of “the big picture” about what it takes to bring everything together to get vegetables to your tables!
We are also happy to welcome back Samuel and Silvestre. They weren’t able to join us earlier in the season, but made it back to the farm this past weekend and are hard at work!
Cookies from Bloom Bake Shop
In the midst of all the hustle associated with summer and a busy growing season, we took time to relax a bit last Saturday, July 13 as we hosted our Annual Crew Appreciation Party.
We ended our work day at about 2:30 pm, got cleaned up and then met up at the Legion Park near our farm.
Nearly all our crew members were able to make it as well as some family members including daughters, sons, wives and husbands who live in the area.
We had a fun evening filled with goofy soccer and volleyball games, some card games, water balloons, music, a piñata and a delicious meal.
Angel and Ascencion roasted a goat in our underground brick oven so we had goat carnitas along with grilled HVF hotdogs.
We finished up the meal with our favorite Castle Rock ice cream and special cookies from Bloom Bake Shop.
Annemarie and her crew at Bloom made the cutest vegetable and farm animal cookies for us including cookies resembling broccoli, potatoes, carrots, sweet corn, peas, goats, pigs, cows, etc.
We had a really fun evening and this party always reminds us (Richard and Andrea) how blessed we are to be able to work with such a great group of people who are happy, hardworking, funny, sincere, creative, caring, talented individuals.
HVF crew playing volleyball at the Crew Appreciation Party.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I guess we’d better get back to this week’s box! This week we’re featuring Sweetheart and Tiara salad cabbage. Now that we’re finished with head lettuce and salad mix, we need to start making more salads with other vegetables. I have two simple, delicious recipes for you this week. If you favor vinegar based slaws and dressings, you’ll like this simple Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill (see below). This slaw holds up for about a week in the fridge as it continues to marinate and just get better each day! This is a tasty slaw to eat with burgers, grilled chicken, grilled cheese, simple deli-meat sandwiches, etc. If you favor creamy slaws, you may prefer this Cilantro Lime Slaw (see below). This is a super-simple and very flavorful slaw that can stand alone or it’s also great on or with fish tacos. I found this recipe at gimmesomeoven.com. The author, Ali, featured this slaw along with her recipe for Life-Changing Crispy Baked Fish Tacos (see below). I love fish tacos, but dislike frying fish. When this recipe showed up in my inbox last week, I had to try it. Did it change my life? Well, with regard to fish tacos…Yes! The breading for the fish is simple and delicious. Once you get the fish breaded it bakes in just 10 minutes. I also like it because the fish isn’t greasy and soggy so it actually reheats well, which is a bonus for having a plan for lunch the next day if you have leftovers. Top off the tacos with the Cilantro Lime Slaw as well as other toppings of your choice and this makes for a delicious meal.
Roasted Carrots & Beets with
Carrot Top Pesto
Photo from DishingUpTheDirt.com
This week we have some fresh, new flavors in the box, including green top carrots! These early season carrots are tender, mild and sweet. You don’t really need to do much to them for them to be delicious, in fact simple is probably better. This recipe for Roasted Carrots & Beets with Carrot Top Pesto
is a good option for using both the carrots and beets in this week’s box AND it incorporates the carrot tops as well! Yes, carrot tops are edible and make a delicious pesto. If you want to make this dish go further or serve as a main dish, combine the vegetables and pesto with hot pasta or rice. This recipe doesn’t use the beet tops, but don’t throw them away! They are delicious and full of nutrients! Here’s a collection of 15 Creative Ways to Use Beet Greens
There are some really delicious recipes in this list including One-Pan Baked Brie & Beet Greens Frittata
and Red Lentil Soup with Beet Greens
Grilled Cheese with Zucchini, Basil & Gruyere
Photo from food52.com
Green Beans and Cucumbers with Miso Dressing
Photo from BonAppetit.com
I love this simple preparation of Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic
to highlight the fresh taste of the first beans of the year and fresh garlic. You can adjust the recipe to the amount of beans you have available. I also found this recipe for Green Beans and Cucumbers with Miso Dressing
. This is another simple recipe that would make for a simple meal if served with steamed rice and broiled or grilled fish.
Lastly, if you have a few cucumbers left over, enjoy them as a refreshing snack, prepared Mexican style. Check out this simple concept for Mexican Cucumber Snack of Pepinos con Chile y Limon
, or rather, Cucumbers with Chile and Lime
. This is what summer is all about—fresh vegetables, simple meals, full flavors. Slow down and take the time to taste the flavors in this week’s box. Have a great week and I’ll see you back here next week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Salad Cabbage
By Andrea Yoder
We plant most of our cabbage for harvest in the fall as cabbage thrives and tastes better when it is grown in more cool temperatures. However, we reserve a little spot in our spring planting schedule to plant this unique class of cabbage called “salad cabbage.” This year we have two varieties of salad cabbage, Tiara and Sweetheart. Tiara is a round cabbage and sweetheart cabbage forms a pointy head. Both are smaller varieties typically only weighing about 1¼ to 2 pounds on average. These varieties are intended to be grown as an early-season cabbage and are known as “salad cabbage” because the leaves are tender enough to be eaten raw in salads. Another reason we grow this variety for summer harvest is that it gives us another option for a “salad green” during early summer when lettuce is more difficult to grow.
There are a lot of different ways you can prepare salad cabbage. I recommend slicing it thinly or shredding it for use in vegetable slaws or other raw salads. You may use the leaves as a wrap in place of tortillas or bread. If you choose to cook it, I’d recommend a quick cooking method such as stir-frying or grilling and be careful not to overcook it! Two of my favorite recipes from past years include Simplest Cabbage Slaw and Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken.
Store salad cabbage loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Lightly rinse the outer leaves before using. If you don’t use the entire cabbage for one preparation, wrap the remaining portion of cabbage and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. While salad cabbage can vary in size, an average cabbage typically yields 5-7 cups when shredded.
Cilantro Lime Slaw
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream (or a 50/50 blend)
½ cup tightly-packed fresh cilantro
¼ cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
3 green onions (just the green parts)
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and cored (optional)
7 cups green salad cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrot, shredded
- Combine the Greek yogurt and/or sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, salt, black pepper, green onions, garlic and jalapeño (if using) in a blender or food processor*. Pulse briefly a few times until the mixture is combined.
- Place the shredded cabbage and carrots in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle the sauce on top of the vegetables, then toss until the mixture is evenly combined. Season to your liking with extra salt, pepper and/or lime juice if needed.
- Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
*Skip the blender: If you would like to skip the blender/food processor step, you’re also welcome to make this cole slaw dressing recipe entirely by hand. Just finely chop the cilantro, jalapeño (if using), green onions and garlic, and whisk them all together with the other dressing ingredients until combined.
Recipe sourced & adapted from gimmesomeoven.com. This recipe is delicious prepared on its own as a slaw to accompany grilled meat, summer cookouts with burgers and brats, etc. It is also very delicious when served as part of the set up for Life-Changing Crispy Baked Fish Tacos, also from gimmesomeoven.com. See the recipe to follow.
Life-Changing Crispy Baked Fish Tacos
Yield: 12 Tacos
½ cup plain Greek yogurt (or mayo)
1 tsp chipotle chile adobo sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
1 egg, whisked
1 ½ pounds firm fish, such as cod, halibut or salmon, cut into 1-inch pieces
To Assemble The Tacos:
12 corn or flour tortillas, warmed
1 batch Cilantro Lime Slaw
Optional toppings: diced fresh avocado, fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeños, crumbled queso fresco, sliced radishes, sliced red onions, etc.
To Make The Chipotle Crema: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside until ready to use.
To Make The Fish: Heat oven to 375°F. Spread the panko out in an even layer on a medium baking sheet. Bake for 5-7 minutes, giving the pan a gentle shake halfway through, until the panko is toasted and golden brown. (Keep a close eye on the panko so that it does not burn.) Transfer the panko to a medium bowl, and dust off the baking sheet for future use.
Add chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper to the bowl with the panko, then whisk the mixture until combined.
Now, set up an assembly line with the (1) fish, (2) whisked egg, (3) panko mixture and (4) parchment-covered baking sheet. Using your right hand, dip a piece of fish in the egg so that it is coated on all sides. Then, using your left hand, transfer the fish to the panko mixture and gently press it on so that the fish is coated on all sides. Using your left hand, transfer the fish to the baking sheet. Then repeat the process with the remaining fish.
Bake the fish for 10 minutes, or until it is cooked through and opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
To Assemble The Tacos: Fill a tortilla with a few spoonfuls of the slaw, followed by the fish, and any desired toppings. Drizzle with the chipotle crema and serve immediately.
Notes: If you have fish leftover from your Fish Taco night, it does reheat well in either a toaster oven or a preheated oven.
Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill
Yield: 6 servings
4 cups green salad cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
1 medium cucumber, quartered, seeded and sliced thinly (about 2 cups)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
⅓ cup white wine vinegar
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tsp sugar
¼ cup cold water
Toss the cabbage, cucumber, onion and dill together in a large bowl. Don’t be freaked out by how big the salad looks; it settles as it marinates.
Whisk the vinegar, salt, and sugar together in a small bowl until the salt and sugar dissolve. Stir in the water. Pour the liquid over the salad, and let it marinate in the refrigerator, tossing the cabbage occasionally. After 1 hour, it should be a bit wilted and crunchy; at 2 hours, the flavor is even better.
Note: This salad keeps, covered, in the fridge for a week. The best part is, the cabbage stays crispy!
Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman
Cooking With This Week's Box
Happy 4th of July Week! I say this every month, but I can hardly believe we’ve marked another month off the calendar! Lets jump right into this week’s box because we have a lot to talk about! First of all, I hope you have had a chance to read this week’s vegetable feature article about fennel. If not, I just want to mention I included 25 recipe ideas for using all parts of fennel! We’re featuring three of those recipes here as well. I never considered using fennel in a smoothie, but decided to try this Fennel Ginger Smoothie (see below). It’s packed with nutrient dense vegetables that are great for both energy as well as aiding in digestion. It’s very refreshing and is great for breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up. I’ve also never had fennel and strawberries paired together, so I was intrigued by the recipe for Strawberry, Fennel and Orange Salad (see below). This is a delicious, simple salad that is so refreshing. It will go nicely served with grilled chicken or fish, and I have to say I really like the combination of strawberries and fennel! The third recipe I’ve included below is for Candied Fennel (see below). I wanted to try this recipe because I was looking for more ways to use fennel stalks. This recipe takes some time, but it is super easy to make and you really don’t have many action steps. It just takes time to dry the fennel after it’s candied. The nice thing about this recipe is that you also get a delicious fennel simple syrup as a byproduct of the candied fennel. I was surprised when I tasted the syrup—it has a lovely, mild, floral flavor and would be a great sweetener to use in hot or iced green tea, lemonade, cocktails, etc. Kelly even suggested using it to make strawberry lemonade!
Shaved Fennel and Beet Greens Salad
We’ve been looking forward to fresh beets and they are finally ready! Beets and fennel are an early summer combo and pair very nicely together. Of course I’m going to remind you to eat the beet greens too! They are delicious and you can use them as you would use chard or other cooking greens. It would be a shame to throw them away! We have a few recipes in our archives that I like to pull out this time of year. Consider this Shaved Fennel and Beet Greens Salad
. It’s a light, refreshing salad that will keep you hydrated on a hot summer day! It’s dressed with a light lemon-honey vinaigrette and garnished with feta cheese and chopped nuts. Another popular beet-fennel combo recipe from our past is Caramelized Fennel & Beet Pizza
. Even people who don’t care for fennel and beets typically like this recipe!
It’s a salad kind of week, both because we have a lot of great salad ingredients in the box and because it’s finally hot and it’s nice to have cool, refreshing meal options. Did you notice that big, beautiful head of Red Summercrisp lettuce in this week’s box?! There are several meals in that crispy head of beautiful lettuce. In addition to the Strawberry, Fennel, and Orange Salad mentioned above, this recipe for Salt-Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese & Toasted Walnuts caught my eye. The beets are the star of this salad that is served on a bed of lettuce.
Red Lentil Soup with Amaranth Greens
We certainly have a lot of color going on in this box, including the gorgeous red amaranth greens! If you’ve never used amaranth before, don’t be intimidated by it. It’s easy to use and at this size, it’s best used as a cooking green. It’s a very nutritious green and has a mild flavor. Last year we featured this recipe for Black Beans with Amaranth
. It’s such a simple recipe, but it’s so delicious. Another recipe I like to make every year is Red Lentil Soup with Amaranth Greens
. I know it’s hot outside now, but this soup does make a nice, simple dinner along with a salad and maybe even a piece of crusty bread.
This is a big week for broccoli & zucchini. There’s a substantial amount of both items in your box this week. First off, if it’s more than you can use fresh, both of these vegetables can be frozen. Broccoli needs to be blanched first (lightly cooked and then rapidly cooled), but zucchini can be shredded and frozen raw. I put some of both in the freezer last year and I was very happy to have them when February rolled around! Earlier this week this recipe for Broccoli Salad came into my email from
Love & Lemons blog. It is simply called “broccoli salad.” It’s raw broccoli with onion, dried cranberries and smoky tamari almonds—very simple, but makes for a tasty combo and is a good option for a holiday barbecue or picnic! I also have my eye on this Macaroni & Cheese (& Broccoli) Casserole, another great
dish to take to a 4th
of July cookout or a nice side dish for a weekend meal to accompany grilled ribs or chicken.
Baked Cheesy Zucchini Bites
Photo from MelsKitchenCafe.com
As for the zucchini, one of our members shared this recipe in our Facebook Group for Vegetarian Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai
. I have to give this one a try—it looks delicious! I also have this recipe for Zucchini & Dark Chocolate Chunk Pancakes with Maple Yogurt
in the cue for Sunday morning brunch. Now that we have a main course and a breakfast covered, lets talk about appetizers. These Baked Cheesy Zucchini Bites
would make a nice appetizer to enjoy with a glass of wine or include them as a side dish with your main meal. The author of this recipe also mentions they can be frozen and are adaptable to different kinds of cheese. If you like them, shred some zucchini and freeze it—you can make these when zucchini is out of season…perhaps they’d make a tasty snack for Super Bowl 2020?!
I didn’t think we’d have sugar snap peas for this week, but they made it. Unfortunately we aren’t going to have many peas this summer, so we have to make the most of them this week! Stir-fry is always on my list of things to make in early summer and this week I’m going to try this Chicken, Broccoli & Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry
. My other go-to sugar snap pea recipe is so simple, but so delicious. Peas & Scallions
is simply sugar snap peas quickly sautéed with scallions. It takes less than five minutes to make—nature’s fast food.
Goat Cheese & Strawberry Breakfast
Tarts, photo from saveur.com
Alright, we’re rolling into the home stretch. The only item remaining is strawberries. Rain, storms and high humidity are weather conditions we hope to avoid during strawberry season, but unfortunately that’s what we’ve received the past week. It’s been really hard on the strawberry field, which makes us appreciate every berry we have even more! So as our strawberry season winds down, I hope you’ll enjoy these final sweet berries and use them to make something delicious. Check out Saveur’s Best Strawberry Recipes
which is an extensive collection of strawberry recipes including Strawberry Lemonade Ice Pops
and Goat Cheese & Strawberry Breakfast Tarts
. I also found this recipe for Strawberry Tabbouleh
that I want to try before the season is done. It looks like a really refreshing salad and includes basil and mint.
That wraps up this week’s box contents. We’re hoping to see more cucumbers coming in next week along with green top carrots and tender sweetheart cabbage! Peppers and green beans have set on blossoms, so it won’t be long before we’re munching on those vegetables as well. Have a great week and I’ll see you back here next week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Fennel: The Three In One Vegetable
By Andrea Yoder
When it comes to fennel, there are typically two groups of people. Those who love it and those who are still learning to like it. If you are in the latter group or you’ve never tried fennel before, I encourage you to approach this week’s vegetable with an open mind. I wasn’t exposed to fennel until my college years, and even then I was skeptical of it when someone told me it tasted like black licorice. My mom used to chew black licorice gum that I thought was horrid! While fennel does have an anise flavor similar to licorice, it’s not the same as black licorice candy. I have grown to really appreciate fennel and am excited to share a whole slew of recipe ideas for how to use this vegetable! I’ve tried to be very thorough with my research for this week’s article and pushed myself to “think outside the box” and go beyond traditional uses for fennel. I’d encourage you to visit our blog this week as I’ve included links to 25 recipes utilizing fennel. At the end of this article I’ve include 25 links to recipes utilizing fennel, so hopefully there is something on that list that will spark your interest!
One of the unique characteristics about fennel is that all parts of the plant above ground are usable. The white bulb is the most commonly used portion, but the stalks and feathery fronds that extend from the bulb are also edible. The stalks can be more tough and fibrous, but they have a lot of flavor. The feathery parts that resemble dill are actually called fronds. They have a mild flavor and can be used more like an herb.
Fennel may be eaten raw and cooked. It pairs well with a variety of ingredients and flavors, so when you’re looking at recipes you’ll likely see similar ingredients show up time after time. Fennel pairs well with lemons and oranges as well as herbs such as dill, parsley and basil. It also plays well with beets, tomatoes, celery, onions, carrots, pomegranate, apple, stone fruit and berries. It is often used in dishes along with Parmesan, cream and white wine which come together to make a delicious sauce. Lastly, fennel pairs very well with seafood, especially in soups and chowders, and pork products including sausage, pancetta, prosciutto, fresh pork cuts and more. While most think of fennel as a vegetable to use in savory dishes, it can also be used in sweet preparations paired with honey, citrus, berries, etc.
In addition to its culinary value, fennel has some health benefits. It can soothe the stomach and GI tract, thus it’s often used to help with digestion. It can also freshen breath and has other potential health benefits including being antibacterial and working as an antioxidant to remove free radicals in our bodies. It is high in fiber and vitamin C in particular.
Fennel Martini, photo from foodnetwork.com
The stalks and bulb typically have the strongest flavor. If you enjoy the flavor of fennel, you’ll likely enjoy it raw. I have one very important point to make about eating fennel raw. It must be sliced very thin, like paper thin! Fennel bulb is very fibrous and dense. If you slice it thinly it is more tender and enjoyable to eat, plus it mingles better with other flavors in the dish. In its raw form, fennel bulb is often used in simple raw salads and can also be used in fresh salsas, pickled, or preserved in alcohol to make your own digestif. When you cook fennel, the essential oils that give it its distinct flavor and aroma volatilize and the flavor and aroma of fennel mellow and become more mild and sweet.
The stalk can be eaten, but seldom is. Rather it is often used for flavoring. I like to save the stalks and add them to vegetable or meat broth or just stick the whole stalk directly into a pot of soup to flavor it while cooking and then pull it out before serving. It can also be used as a stirring stick for cocktails or use it to flavor water, lemonade, etc. One of our featured recipes this week is for Candied Fennel Stalk. I gave it a try and really like it! What a great way to enjoy the stalk! You can munch on candied fennel after a meal and get the benefit of settling your stomach while meeting the need for something a little sweet.
Fennel Frond Pesto
Photo from WholeFoodBellies.com
Last but not least, lets talk about the mild, feathery fronds. Chop them up and use them as a herb-like garnish on salads, stirred into soups, or as a final topping on a pizza. You can also blend them into smoothies and drinks or use them to make a cocktail, such as a Fennel Martini. I also found a recipe for making Fennel Frond Salt. It is shelf stable and can be used to season your own homemade sausage patties, use it to salt fish, roasted potatoes, cucumbers, cream sauces, etc. Of course, you can always make Fennel Frond Pesto, using only fennel fronds or you could blend in some fresh basil or parsley as well. Fennel Frond Pesto would make a lovely sauce for salmon, toss it with pasta, use it as a sandwich spread or mix it with mayonnaise and make a dipping sauce for fish or chicken strips!
Ok, that’s a lot of information and it’s time to get cooking. Be sure to wash the fennel bulb well before using. Sometimes a little dirt can get in between the layers. Cut the core out of the base of the bulb and you’re ready to go. Store fennel in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
RECIPES FOR THOSE WHO ARE STILL LEARNING TO LIKE FENNEL:
These recipes come from past newsletters and have received positive member comments including ones like “I always struggle with fennel and decided this is the last time I’m going to try it, but this is it—I finally found a dish with fennel that I like!”
RECIPES UTILIZING FENNEL FRONDS:
RECIPES UTILIZING THE STALK:
RECIPES UTILIZING THE BULB:
Lemony Fennel Cupcakes
Yield: 1 quart (1 large or 2 small servings)
1 cup almond milk
1 cup spinach, chard or beet greens, roughly chopped
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ inch piece ginger root, peeled
1 fennel bulb, chopped (approximately 1 cup)
1 cup frozen pineapple
½ cup ice
Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. You can adjust the almond milk or ice depending on your preference for thickness.
Recipe adapted from www.toopreciousforprocessed.com.
Note from Chef Andrea: While I’ve only tried this smoothie with frozen pineapple, I think it would also be good with frozen blueberries or strawberries.
Candied Fennel Stalk & Fennel Simply Syrup
Yield: ¾ cup candy and 1 ½-2 cups syrup
Photo from WashingtonPost.com
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 ½ cups fennel stalks, cut on the diagonal into thin slices
Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 3 minutes, until the fennel is crisp-tender. Remove from the heat and let the fennel steep for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain the syrup into a container.
Transfer the syrup-coated fennel slices to the lined baking sheet, spreading them in an even layer. Bake for about 30 minutes, then separate any fennel slices that are sticking together. Bake for 30 minutes more or until the fennel is dry, slightly crispy and just a bit sticky.
Cool completely on the baking sheet before serving or storing. The candy can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. The syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
You can munch on candied fennel after a meal and get the benefit of settling your stomach while meeting the need for something a little sweet. You can also add it to fruit salads or use it as a topping for baked goods & ice cream. The fennel simple syrup has a lovely mild floral-fennel flavor and can be used to sweeten beverages such as mocktails, cocktails, lemonade, tea, etc.
Recipe borrowed from www.washingtonpost.com
Strawberry, Fennel & Orange Salad
Yield: 4-5 servings
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
2 navel oranges
8 oz (1 pint or 1 ¼ cups) strawberries, hulled and quartered or halved
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 Tbsp finely chopped fennel fronds
1 green onion, thinly sliced
6 cups torn head lettuce
Parmesan or sharp cheddar cheese, for serving
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Zest two oranges and add to the lemon juice mixture. Cut the bottom and top off of each orange so the top and bottom are flat. Use a knife to cut away the peel and pith by running the knife from the top of the orange to the bottom. Once the peel is removed, hold the orange in your hand and use a paring knife to cut out the segments, letting them fall into a bowl, along with the juice.
Add strawberries, sliced fennel and fronds, and green onion to the bowl of orange segments and toss together gently.
Put 1 to 1 ½ cups lettuce on each plate and spoon about ⅔ of the fennel and fruit mixture over the lettuce. Garnish with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese.
Recipe adapted from marthastewart.com
By: Richard de Wilde
“What we call a weed is in fact merely a plant growing where we do not want it.”
—E.J. Salisbury, The Living Garden, 1935
Leeks after cultivation using "The Lilliston"
As organic farmers we do our best to understand and work with the natural world. Nature is wise and knows the value of keeping soil in place and covered with plants which maximize each day of sunshine, capturing carbon and nitrogen from the air while exhaling oxygen that we need to live. In nature, soil is never left bare to be wasted or eroded by wind and water. Weeds have a purpose, and it really is a good one! So why are we so set on killing and eradicating them from our fields? Weeds can be very aggressive and can inhibit the potential of a crop by competing for sunlight and nutrients. They impede our harvest efficiency and produce thousands of seeds which will haunt us for years. Most weeds have accompanied agriculture from its beginning. They moved around the world as early settlers brought their grain seed along with some tag along weed seeds and today they hitchhike with the global grain trade and then further spread by way of wind, animals, equipment, etc.
Potato field cultivated with "The Lilliston"
Weed plants are very adaptive. They can lie dormant in soils for 10-30 years, just waiting for their time of need to germinate. Some weed seeds only germinate at certain times of the year, such as in cool spring or fall temperatures. Others are triggered in times of excess moisture, while others only germinate in summer heat or extreme drought. Weed seeds are also triggered to geminate by exposure to light, usually caused by tillage. Tillage is any disruption of the soil, which in our case could be cultivation or other work to prepare the soil for planting. As the soil is stirred and disrupted, even just a flash of sunlight is enough to trigger some weeds to germinate! In fact, I’ve read that in Europe some farmers even started cultivating at night to avoid triggering weed seeds! Weed seeds may also be triggered by fertility needs in the soil. Some weeds have the ability to correct soil nutrient deficiencies. For example, if soil is deficient in phosphorus, a seed for a plant that has the ability to scavenge phosphorus may be triggered to germinate and grow. As we try to minimize weeds in our crop, one thing we do is to provide balanced nutritional needs for the soil to prevent the need for weeds to correct the deficiency.
Cilantro: Cultivated with "Basket Weeder" with shields & Kult Kress Duo.
There are really only two kinds of weeds, annual or bi-annual weeds and perennial weeds. Annual or bi-annual weeds grow rapidly from seed, but only under the right conditions. In order to thrive once they germinate, they need to grow and develop their green structures above ground to capture sunlight and utilize photosynthesis for energy. When these types of weeds die at the end of the season, they are dead and won’t grow again. Thus their main way to propagate themselves is to produce seeds that drop back into the soil and are available for a future season. In contrast, perennial weeds survive from year to year and their main strength and the key to their survival is their underground root storage system which holds nutrients and energy. When a new year rolls around, they don’t have to wait for the right conditions to germinate a seed and start photosynthesizing, rather they draw their energy from their roots. The key to eradicating these types of weeds is depleting their root reserves. Up until the plant is six inches tall, it is drawing its energy from its root reserves. When it is about six inches tall, it starts utilizing photosynthesis to put energy back into the roots and replete the reserve. One way we can battle this type of weed is to repeatedly mow it off when it is about six inches tall. This takes persistence, but after time the root reserves will be depleted and the plant will die.
Rafael using disc cultivator in the cilantro field.
By now you may be wondering if there is a silver bullet for weed control. Valid question and one farmers have been asking for years. In a recent article in Acres U.S.A. written by Anneliese Abbott, she commented about the onset of agricultural herbicide use. “It seemed so easy: forget about plowing…and just spray chemicals to kill the weeds. No tillage, no erosion and no weeds: what could be better? Unfortunately, herbicides caused as many problems as they solved. They polluted water, harmed non-target organisms and sometimes posed a threat to human health. Worst of all, they only worked well for a short period of time. Weeds quickly evolved resistance to every major type of herbicide, forcing farmers to spray more and more chemicals with less and less success every year.” Sadly, as organic farmers there is no easy way to deal with weeds. Rather we try to understand how weeds work, the conditions they thrive in, and then we utilize multiple methods to kill them and prevent their growth. Aside from the occasional use of 30% vinegar, chemicals are not our answer. So lets talk about the methods and tools we can use.
New weed control technique:
Low growing cover crops between rows of melons.
One of our weed control tools is planting cover crops of grains, grasses and clovers. If we can satisfy the need to cover the soil, there’s no need for dormant weed seeds to germinate. It helps that most grasses and cereal grains, such as rye, also exude chemicals to inhibit other seeds from germinating. Historically we have planted most of our cover crops in the fall, which can serve to prevent the growth of bi-annual weeds. Bi-annual weeds germinate in fall, but do their growing in the spring. If we can inhibit germination with a fall cover crop planting, we won’t have those weeds in our spring planted crop. We are also perfecting a new and exciting technique we’ve developed for controlling weeds that grow in the space between the beds where crops are planted. Immediately after preparing the beds, we plant two very fast germinating cover crop plants, creeping red fescue and white Dutch clover. Both grow fast and inhibit weeds. They are also short in stature, only 6 inches tall at most, so they do not compete with our crop for sunshine.
Using Flame Weeder to kill small weeds before crop emerges
We can also deplete the “weed seed bank” in the soil by triggering weeds to germinate, then killing them when they are small with very shallow cultivation or flaming. We typically utilize this method before we plant the crop, but it requires us to prepare the beds one week ahead of planting. Then, just before we plant, we “basket” the beds. A “Basket Weeder” is an implement mounted on a small tractor. It has horizontal wires that flip small weeds out as they roll across the surface of the bed. We can also utilize a “Flame Weeder” to kill weeds that germinate and emerge after the crop has been planted, but before it comes up. In order for this to work, the timing and conditions have to be just right. The flame weeder is a tank of propane mounted on the back of the tractor with burners that carry just over the surface of the bed. The flames burn the weeds off, thereby killing them. If you flame too soon, you won’t maximize the number of weeds you kill. If you wait too long, the crop may start to emerge and you risk burning off your crop. We utilize flame weeding for crops such as cilantro and dill that we plant every week for over twenty weeks. Typically we have to time the flaming about 4-8 days after the crop is planted, depending on temperature. We also use this technique on carrots and parsnips and the difference between a crop that has been flamed and one that has not is dramatic!! We have a significant reduction in weeds with timely flaming. When we do get weeds in our field, it is critical that “bad” weeds to go to seed in the field or areas around our fields. If they do, they’ll make a deposit into the “weed seed bank” that we’ll pay for in years to come!
Vicente using "The Lilliston" to "hill" sweet corn
We have a few more tools in our collection of things for weed control. Sometimes we use a tool called “The Lilliston” which aggressively throws dirt in one direction and can be used to smother weeds by throwing dirt on them. We use this to smother weeds within the rows of crops such as potatoes, leeks and sunchokes when the plants are big enough to get partially covered by dirt without damaging them. Another tool we use is called a “Lely Tine Weeder.” This tool has little tines that rake out very small weeds. This is a more gentle tool and can be used on small transplants and fast growing crops that are direct seeded, as long as the crop is larger than the weeds. The “Basket Weeder” is also extensively used with tunnel shields that we put on the implement to carry over the rows of crops to protect them from dirt flying into the row and smothering the crop when the crop is too small. While this method preserves the crop and kills weeds in between the rows, it doesn’t do anything to remove weeds that are in the row. Later, when the crop is bigger and can take a little more aggressive cultivation, we remove the shields.
Jaime and Felix G using "The Kult" in celeriac
In more recent years we’ve started using a steerable cultivator that we call “The Kult.” It requires a team of two people to operate it. One person drives the tractor and the other rides on the cultivator to steer the machine. This tool is more effective at killing weeds within the rows of crops and it is indispensable at killing new weeds in larger, more established crops where we have to be careful not to disturb the crop’s root system or damage the plants. It’s also adaptable and can be set up in a variety of ways to best meet our needs. We have even more cultivating tools, but I think you can see we try to utilize mechanical options as they are our most efficient and cost-effective means of killing weeds.
Ascension using a hoe and his hands to remove weeds
in the strawberry field
We can also smother weeds by covering the soil with plastic or straw mulch. Some of our crops are planted on plastic covered beds. We use the plastic mulch for a variety of reasons, one being weed control. As a last resort, when we’ve exhausted all other methods, we turn to old-fashioned hand weeding. Yes, we do still do more than our fair share of hand weeding and this too is a skill. We try to avoid weeding by hand because it is time consuming, but sometimes that’s the only option.
Will we ever kill all the weeds in our fields? No, but the sum total of all our efforts will pay off this year and in years to come as we minimize the impact weeds have on our crops.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Purple or Green Scallions: Orzo Pasta with Chickpeas & Chard (see below); Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown Butter; Simple Sauteed Celtuce with Herbs; Swiss Chard & Lentil Soup with Herbed Kohlrabi Yogurt; Kohlrabi Curry
Lets start off with our featured vegetable of the week which is the colorful rainbow chard. I have two simple recipes this week. The first is for Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon & Parmesan (see below). While chard is typically cooked, this salad features raw chard and it is delicious! It’s made with simple ingredients and doesn’t take long to put together. You want to add the dressing just before serving, so keep all the components separate until it’s time to eat. You can use this as a side salad or make it the main feature. It would also be good with grilled fish or roasted chicken added on top. The other recipe is for Orzo Pasta with Chickpeas & Chard (see below). The recipe calls for bacon, but you can omit it and use olive oil instead of the bacon and bacon fat. I’ve eaten this dish both warm and cold and I think it’s good both ways! I like it just as it is, but you can also add grated Parmesan on top if you like.
If you didn’t receive a box last week, you may be wondering what to do with celtuce and kohlrabi. We published a feature article about these two unique vegetables last week on our blog. Take a moment to read more about how to use these two vegetables and refer to last week’s “What’s In the Box” post for recipe suggestions. I recommend using the kohlrabi to make the Kohlrabi Curry from last week or pair it with this week’s chard to make Swiss Chard & Lentil Soup with Herbed Kohlrabi Yogurt. As for the celtuce, if you aren’t opposed to another soup suggestion, I’d recommend the Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown Butter or Simple Sauteed Celtuce with Herbs. If you take me up on the celtuce soup suggestion, consider serving it with an Apple,Blue Cheese & Boston Lettuce Salad. Use the outer lettuce leaves for the soup and the inner leaves to make the salad.
Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon & Parmesan
If you haven’t brushed off the grill yet to do some outdoor cooking, now is the time! Try this recipe for Grilled Garlic Cilantro Chicken Skewers and pair it with Grilled Lemon Garlic Zucchini. If you just aren’t sure what to use the cilantro for, check out this collection of 91 Bold & Savory Cilantro Recipes. Surely there’s something in this collection that appeals to you! The other suggestion I have, if you receive the salad cabbage this week, is to use it along with the cabbage to make Thai-Style Slaw (with or without chicken). This is a refreshing, yet filling salad that can be made in advance and still taste good! It’s easy to transport, delicious to eat, simple to make, and leftovers can be wrapped in rice paper wrappers to make spring rolls!
Grilled Lemon Garlic Zucchini
Photo from DamnDelicious.net
Looking for something to make with the kids? Pizza? Absolutely! You can put anything on a pizza (or nearly anything), so why not Broccoli Pizza! You could even make these on the grill!
If you are traveling, be sure to turn your zucchini into this delicious recipe for My Special Zucchini Bread Recipe. Slice it and take it with you on your travels. You could also take all those strawberries with you as well! Summer isn’t summer without a few strawberry desserts. Here’s a recipe for Mini Grain-Free Angel Food Cakes with Lemon Cream and Juicy Strawberries. I also recommend making Zabaglione with Strawberries. Zabaglione is an Italian custard that is flavored with Marsala wine. It is thin and pourable, so you can drizzle it over (or drench it in) fresh strawberries!
My final suggestion for strawberries this week takes me back to my Mennonite church carry-in days. Check out this recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Dessert. I’m not usually big on things that call for “Jell-O” but everyone loves this recipe. The combination of sweet and salty is delicious.
Ok, I think that wraps up this week’s cooking chat. I hope you’re finding some inspiration from these articles and are enjoying the experience of it all! If you’ve found some good recipes of your own, please share some of your favorites with us! Have a good 4th of July and I’ll see you next week!---Andrea
Mini Grain-Free Angel Food Cakes with Lemon
Cream and Juicy Strawberries
Photo from HeartbeetKitchen.com
Vegetable Feature: Swiss Chard
Chard is a gorgeous leafy green with crinkly green leaves and bright, vivid rib-like stems in a variety of colors including red, yellow, orange, pink and white. It is actually in the beet family and bears resemblance to beet greens, which may be used in place of chard in some applications. While chard is most often considered a cooking green, the leaves are tender enough to also eat raw. While less of a traditional use, you can use it in salads, such as in this week’s recipe for Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon, Parmesan and Breadcrumbs. Chard has a taste similar to spinach, but it is more earthy & full-flavored. Some describe it as having a “mineral flavor.” Since minerals are what help give food it’s flavor, that means chard tastes really good! It’s packed with nutrients including vitamins A, C & K, calcium, iron, magnesium and a variety of antioxidants and B vitamins. Most of the time chard is referred to as “Swiss Chard.” It really has nothing to do with Switerland, rather the origin of this term goes back to how this vegetable was identified in France many years ago. Just know that Swiss chard and chard are the same thing.
In the Midwest, chard is available from early summer to late fall. Unlike kale and collards, chard is not very frost tolerant. Because of its long season of availability, you’ll see chard used in a variety of applications with both summer and fall/winter vegetables. While there are many ways to use chard, some common ways include vegetable gratins, soups, or just simply sautéed in olive oil with garlic and a drizzle of vinegar.
Chard pairs well with bacon, lentils, white beans, chickpeas, cream, cheese, black pepper, raisins, pine nuts, vinegar, olive oil, and lemon juice. It also goes well with fresh herbs (thyme, cilantro, basil), and other vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, winter squash). You can eat both the leaves and the stems, although the stems require just a tad longer cooking time. In addition to eating chard raw, you can also steam, sautè or stir-fry it. When properly cooked, the leaves are tender and silky. Take care to not overcook it! Store chard in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready for use.
Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon, Parmesan & Breadcrumbs
Yield: 2-3 servings (as a main) or 4-5 servings (as a side)
1 bunch Swiss chard
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic or 1 garlic scape, finely minced
Crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Zest of one lemon
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Wash and dry the chard. Separate the stems from the leaves. Finely chop the stems and put into a large salad bowl. Stack a few of the leaves on top of each other, then cut lengthwise into thirds. Holding the stack together with one hand, cut horizontally across the leaves into ⅛ -inch strips. Add the leaves to the salad bowl.
- Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic/garlic scapes and red pepper flakes (if using). Sautè briefly, just until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until they are crisp and golden brown (about 5-10 minutes). Be careful not to burn them! Season with salt and a little black pepper, then remove from heat and cool.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice and Dijon mustard with a few pinches of salt. Stir to combine, then slowly whisk in ½ cup of the olive oil.
- Add lemon zest & Parmesan cheese to the bowl of chard. Drizzle with ½-⅔ of the dressing, then toss gently until all of the components are nicely coated with the dressing. Taste and add more dressing if you like. Be careful not to get too much dressing or the greens will be soggy. Toss in the toasted breadcrumbs and serve immediately.
- Note: If you are not going to be eating or serving the entire salad at one meal, store the greens, dressing, Parmesan cheese & breadcrumbs in separate containers. Assemble and toss only the amount of greens you will be needing at one time.
This recipe was adapted from alexandracooks.com.
Orzo Pasta with Chickpeas & Chard
Yield: 4-6 servings
8 oz dried orzo pasta (about 2 cups uncooked)
½ pound bacon, cut into ⅛-inch wide pieces (optional)
3-4 scallions 2-3 garlic scapes or garlic cloves, finely chopped
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2 cups zucchini, small dice
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 bunch chard, stems and leaves separated
3-4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp stoneground mustard
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2-3 Tbsp lemon juice
¼- ½ cup fresh basil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese (for serving), optional
- Cook orzo pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.
Next, prepare the garlic and scallions. Separate the bottom portion of the scallions from the green tops. Thinly slice both the bottom portion as well as the green tops, but keep the tops separate from the lower portion. Finely chop the garlic scapes and set aside.
Heat a large skillet or sautè pan, over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until crisp and golden. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Drain off any excess bacon fat. You want to leave about 4 Tbsp of bacon fat in the pan. NOTE: If you choose not to use the bacon, you can omit this step. Replace the bacon fat with 4 Tbsp olive oil and proceed with the remainder of the recipe.
Next, add the garlic scapes and scallions (lower portion only) to the pan. Sautè briefly, then add a pinch of red pepper flakes, zucchini, and chickpeas to the pan. Sautè for 5-10 minutes or until the zucchini is tender and just slightly al dente.
In a small bowl, mix together 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar with stoneground mustard. Stir to combine, then pour in the skillet with the chard, zucchini, etc. Chop the chard stems and add to the pan. Make a stack with the chard leaves and slice them in half lengthwise, then horizontally into strips about ¼ inch wide. Add chard leaves to the pan and season with salt and black pepper as well as ¼-⅓ cup pasta water. Stir to combine and allow the chard to wilt down.
Once the chard is wilted, add the orzo along with red wine vinegar and 2 Tbsp lemon juice. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add more pasta water if needed. You want the orzo to shimmer, but you don’t want it to have a lot of liquid in the pan. Remove from heat and stir in the basil and sliced scallion tops. Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt, balsamic vinegar and/or lemon juice as needed.
Serve warm topped with freshly grated Parmesan if desired.
Recipe developed by Chef Andrea Yoder
Cooking With This Week's Box
Salad Mix: Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown Butter (see below)
This week we’re cooking up two unique vegetables, celtuce and kohlrabi! If you’re not familiar with either of these vegetables, take a few minutes to read our feature article about them before you dive in. This week we have two recipes using kohlrabi. The first is a simple Kohlrabi Curry (see below) that uses both the kohlrabi bulb as well as the leaves. This recipe comes together pretty quickly and is delicious served over rice with a little squeeze of lime and some fresh cilantro. You could also use the kohlrabi bulb to make Oven Baked Kohlrabi Fries (see below). It’s best to eat these right out of the oven and would be great served with a big juicy burger! If you make the Oven Baked Kohlrabi Fries, you’ll still have the greens available for another use. Consider using them in place of kale to make the Spicy Kale and Coconut Fried Ricerecipe we featured last week!
Fried Rice with Chicken and Celtuce
Moving on to celtuce. Last year I used celtuce in two Asian inspired recipes, which you may want to consider. Fried Rice with Chicken and Celtuce and Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger & Sesame
. This year I decided to go a different direction with two simple recipes. The first is for Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown Butter
(see below). I’ve seen recipes for lettuce soup and always thought that kind of a weird use for lettuce, however the recipes always have rave reviews. Since celtuce is related to lettuce, I thought this might work, and it did! This is a simple, light soup that reheats well and you can make a light lunch or dinner with just a piece of toast and maybe a simple salad on the side. The second recipe featuring celtuce is for Simple Sauteed Celtuce with Herbs
(see below). It is exactly as the name says…simple! Serve this as a side dish alongside a piece of fish or chicken to make a complete meal.
Spicy Pork Salad, photo from BonAppetit.com
Tis the season for lettuce! This week we’re finishing up the last of our red oak and red butterhead lettuce. We still have more lettuce yet to come in the next few weeks, so it’s time to get creative! I found this article entitled 38 Ways to Use Lettuce! It includes a few interesting recipes utilizing head lettuce. I picked out two that I’d like to try. The first is a Spicy Pork Salad. This would be appropriate for either of the head lettuce varieties this week. The recipe calls for cucumber, but you could substitute celtuce!
The other recipe has a Middle Eastern Flair. The recipe is entitled Mixed Lettuces and Kohlrabi with Creamy Sumac Dressing
. Sumac is a tangy spice often used in the Middle East. I’ve been able to source it in Madison, WI at Penzeys and often can find it in the bulk spice section at many co-ops. It’s a lovely spice to use and adds just a bit of zing to salads and other dishes.
Strawberry Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
Photo from ACoupleCooks.com
It won’t be long before we say goodbye to lettuce salads for the summer, so lets make the most of this week and get our salad fill! Here’s a tasty recipe for a Strawberry Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
that could be made with a base of salad mix or head lettuce. If you’re feeling spicy, you could use this week’s baby arugula to make this Arugula & Strawberry Salad. There are a lot of flavors going on in this fruity salad!
Last, but not least, we can’t forget about breakfast. This week the baby broccoli is going to find its home in these Broccoli Egg Muffins
. I love egg dishes that can be made in advance and just reheated. They’re also easier to take with you than say, scrambled eggs. Plus, you can mix up the ingredients—use a different kind of cheese. The other reason this recipe is a keeper is because it’s easy enough for the kids to do on their own and they don’t take much time to assemble!
There you have it friends, another delicious CSA box adventure. A big thank you to those of you who were able to make it to our Strawberry Day Party last weekend. We had a great time and hope you did as well! If you weren’t able to join us for the party, mark your calendars for September 29 and we’ll see you for the Harvest Party!
Oven Baked Kohlrabi Fries
Yield: 3-4 servings
2 tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp flour
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ Tbsp milk
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Cut kohlrabi into sticks or spiralize it and put into a medium mixing bowl.
- Combine paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper and flour in a small bowl.
- Add in egg and milk and mix well.
- Pour seasoning mixture over the kohlrabi and mix well. (It’s easiest to use your hands)
- Spread fries onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. It’s best to keep them in a single layer so they are not overlapping. You may need to use a second baking sheet.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, flipping once during baking. They will still be soft on the inside, but crispy on the outside. Serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from the blog Like Mother Like Daughter.
Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown Butter
Yield: 4 servings
2 celtuce, stems and leaves
3 Tbsp butter
1 ½ tsp dried parsley
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups firmly packed fresh lettuce
½ cup heavy cream or half and half
1 cup thinly sliced green onion, to garnish
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
- First, prepare the celtuce. Trim the leaves off the stem and wash well in a sink of cold water. Shake excess water off the leaves and roughly chop them. Set aside. Next, use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to peel away the outer layer on the stem to reveal the tender, translucent flesh inside. Cut the stem in half lengthwise, then cut into ¼ inch pieces.
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, continue to heat the butter until it starts to get foamy and the color just barely starts to turn more golden to slightly light brown. At this stage it will smell like a shortbread cookie. Add the sliced celtuce stem. Sautè for 5 minutes to just soften the celtuce. Add the dried parsley, ½ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine, then add the chopped celtuce leaves.
- Continue to cook until the leaves start to wilt down, then add chicken or vegetable stock to the pan. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the leaves and celtuce are soft. Remove the pan from the stove and set aside.
- Next, you will use a blender to puree the soup. First, put the lettuce into the blender and then carefully ladle the soup into the blender. Put the lid on and carefully blend until the soup is at the desired consistency. You can blend it until it is totally smooth or leave it a little more rustic.
- Once fully blended, pour the soup back into the pan and heat it over medium heat. Stir the cream into the soup, then taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Just before serving, add a pinch of nutmeg if desired.
- Serve warm garnished with thinly sliced green onions and buttered toast.
Recipe by Chef Andrea
Simple Sautéed Celtuce with Herbs
Yield: 2 servings
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
½ cup chopped fresh dill or parsley
- Prepare the celtuce by trimming the leaves off and thinly slicing. Set aside. Peel the celtuce stem and cut in half lengthwise. Slice into ¼ inch thick pieces.
- In a medium sautè pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is sizzling, add the celtuce pieces and sautè for 5-6 minutes or until lightly browned and tender.
- Add the celtuce leaves and season with salt. Cook for another 4-5 minutes or until both the the stems and leaves are softened. Remove from heat and add vineagar and fresh herbs. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve immediately.
Recipe by Chef Andrea
3 kohlrabi bulbs, with leaves
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
½ cup thinly sliced scallions
1 cup broccoli stems/florets
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and thinly sliced, OR 1 tsp green curry paste
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 (14-15 ounce) can coconut milk
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
Juice of one small lime
Chopped fresh cilantro and lime wedges, for serving (optional)
Cooked rice, for serving
Cut the leaves away from the kohlrabi bulbs, discarding the connective stems. Wash the leaves, dry them, and chop coarsely. Set aside. Using a paring knife, cut the kohlrabi bulbs into quarters and then peel the bulbs. You must peel deeply enough to remove any fibrous parts; the inside should be crisp and moist. Once peeled, cut the kohlrabi into medium dice. Reserve the kohlrabi and leaves in separate piles.
Heat the oil in a large sautè pan (12 inches or wider) over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the ginger and sautè for 45-60 seconds, then add the scallions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3-5 minutes.
Next, add the cumin, salt, coriander, and turmeric. Stir to combine, then add the diced kohlrabi and broccoli. Stir to coat the vegetables with the spices.
Add the coconut milk and broth to the pan, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, turn down the heat to low and add the chopped kohlrabi leaves. Partially cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables and leaves are tender.
Remove the pan from heat and stir in lime juice. Taste and add additional salt if needed. Serve with rice and garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.
Recipe adapted from Brassicas, Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More by Laura Russell
By Chef Andrea
This week we have two interesting vegetables to share with you—Kohlrabi and Celtuce! While these two vegetables are not related, they actually share some similarities so it’s fitting to feature them together. Lets start with kohlrabi first.
Kohlrabi growing in the field
I had the opportunity to talk with quite a few prospective CSA members at different events last winter. While many were totally new to the concept of CSA, there were also individuals who had been with other farms and were familiar with CSA, vegetables, etc. As we talked, there seemed to be a comment that kept circulating through my conversations. More than once I heard people express exhaustion with the amount of kohlrabi they had received in their CSA shares and the fact that they really didn’t know what to do with it. They were both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by it at the same time! So I set out on a mission this year to help our members learn more about kohlrabi and the many, many ways you might enjoy it! It’s often referred to as “an alien vegetable” because of its “out of this world” appearance. Yes, it’s a little different than any other vegetable we grow, but it really bears a lot of resemblance to other vegetables. So lets set the intimidation factor aside. Whether this is the first time you’ve tried kohlrabi or not, you have no reason to worry! Stick with me and I’ll help you navigate this vegetable as you learn to appreciate it!
The name for kohlrabi is derived from “khol” meaning stem or cabbage and “rabi” meaning turnip. While it is in the brassica family and somewhat resembles a turnip, it grows differently than all other vegetables in this group. As with other vegetables in this family, kohlrabi is rich in vitamin C, potassium, fiber and B vitamins.
Kohlrabi coming in from Harvest
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 because they are often tough. 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 like 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. To store kohlrabi, cut the stems and leaves off. 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.
Photo from DishingUpTheDirt.com
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!” If you search the recipe database on our website, you’ll find several different slaw recipes including Kohlrabi Slaw with Coconut & Cilantro
and Kohlrabi with Creamy Cole Slaw Dressing
. One of my favorite raw kohlrabi recipes is Kohlrabi & Chickpea Salad
, which comes from the Dishing Up the Dirt
cookbook by Andrea Bemis. You’ll also find her recipe for BLK sandwiches (Bacon, Lettuce & Kohlrabi)
as well as other kohlrabi-centric recipes on her blog. Kohlrabi is one of her favorite vegetables so you’ll find quite a collection at dishingupthedirt.com
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. I like to use diced kohlrabi and onions as a vegetable base under roast chicken. As the chicken cooks, the vegetables absorb the juices from the chicken while roasting.
Kohlrabi is used more extensively in European countries as well as in Chinese and Indian cuisine. I found quite a few Indian recipes that included kohlrabi. I’m not very familiar with Indian cuisine, so some of the ingredients in the recipes were foreign to me. The Kohlrabi Curry
recipe we’re featuring this week touches on some of those flavors used in Indian cooking, but it’s manageable for home cooks like myself! If anyone in the CSA is familiar with using kohlrabi in Indian food, I’d love to learn more about this cuisine!
While kohlrabi is delicious just eaten simply with salt, I hope you can see that there are actually many ways you can enjoy kohlrabi and use the entire plant to get the most out of your investment!
Lets move onto Celtuce, another interesting and unusual vegetable that, like kohlrabi, is also a stem vegetable. It is thought to have originated in southern China and is also known as “Lettuce Stem.” While it is relatively well-known in China, you seldom see it in the United States, but it can be found in some Asian grocery stores. Botanically, it is a member of the lettuce family. The plant grows similarly to lettuce and the leaves resemble lettuce leaves. While you can eat the leaves, the main feature of this plant is the long, thick stem. The lower leaves are usually trimmed away as they can sometimes become bitter as the plant matures. The upper leaves are usually left intact and are tender and generally less bitter if at all. Once the leaves are trimmed away, the thick, white stem is revealed. It is not uncommon to see brown leaf scars or cracks on the bottom of the stem. These are usually peeled away when the skin is removed anyway, so don’t worry about it if you see these. Celtuce is referred to as who sun in Chinese, but the term “celtuce” is the American name given to this vegetable when it was introduced to this continent by the Burpee Seed Company. It was named such because of its stalk like resemblance to celery coupled with its lettuce-like qualities. I actually think the stem on celtuce bears more resemblance to broccoli and personally, I would’ve named this vegetable Broctuce!
Celtuce may be eaten raw or cooked. It has a unique flavor that is really unlike any other vegetable. As much as I dislike using the term “nutty” to describe a vegetable, that really is the first word that comes to mind when I think about the flavor. It also has a kind of smoky like characteristic to its flavor profile and if you smell the base of the stem, you’ll find it has a unique scent. Celtuce does sometimes have some bitter components to it, depending on the stage of growth. I’ve found that the lower, larger leaves generally have more bitterness compared to the smaller, less mature leaves on the top of the plant. When you are preparing celtuce, the first step is to trim away the leaves from the stem. Save these and use them raw in a salad (if you like bitter greens). If you find them too bitter for your liking and/or don’t care for them raw, try cooking them. You can either blanch them in boiling water or just simply saute them. If you’re familiar with escarole, you can treat celtuce greens similarly. Their flavor mellows and changes a bit with cooking making them more delectable. A little splash of vinegar at the end of cooking also helps mellow the bitterness and bring all the flavor components together.
Peeling the outer portion of the Celtuce Stem
As for the stem portion, you need to peel away the outer skin on the stem. Inside you’ll find a light green, translucent vegetable flesh that is crispy and juicy, similar to kohlrabi! Be sure to trim away all of the outer white skin as that is the portion of the plant that seems to be most bitter. I’ve also noticed that sometimes the stem has some white streaking on the lower portion of the stalk that can sometimes be more bitter. Just trim the outermost portion of this away.
Celtuce has the strongest flavor when eaten raw. Whether raw or cooked, it’s always juicy and cooks pretty quickly. If you do not care for bitter vegetables, I’d encourage you to focus on more simple, cooked preparations. If you do like bitter greens, etc, then try using celtuce in a salad or slaw for the strongest flavor effect. It may be julienned or sliced thinly and eaten in a fresh, raw salad. In China it’s often pickled. As a cooked vegetable, you can sauté it, use it in a stir-fry or use it in soups. Some cooks also like to steam it or gently braise it in a flavorful liquid. When considering how to use it, think about how you might use other vegetables with similar characteristics and texture such as cucumber, jicama and kohlrabi—although the tastes are different, in many recipes you could substitute these vegetables for another.
Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger & Sesame
Celtuce does pair well with other spring vegetables such as the baby white turnips, sugar snap peas, greens, scallions and garlic scapes. It pairs well with ingredients of Asian descent such as soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, etc. It can also play well with milk, cream, Parmesan, lemon, lime and fresh herbs such as parsley and dill. To complement the nutty flavors of celtuce, pair it with sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, almonds and other nuts of your choosing. Last year we featured recipes for Fried Rice with Chicken & Celtuce
as well as a Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger & Sesame
. Store celtuce in the refrigerator, wrapped loosely in plastic or a damp towel.
You may be thinking “Andrea, where are the recipes?!” This year we have two newsletters. Since we wanted to expand our vegetable features about these two vegetables, this article is this week’s “Main Newsletter Article.”
The recipes are included in our second newsletter which we call the “What’s In the Box Newsletter.”
Make sure you check out both newsletters either online or pick up a hard copy at your pickup site. Have fun and let us know what creative dishes you cook up!
Cooking With This Week's Box
Lacinato Kale: Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried Rice (see below); Lemon Kale Muffins (see below)
Strawberries: Just eat them!
This week we’re going to kick off our cooking discussion with an easy, quick recipe utilizing this week’s featured vegetable, Lacinato Kale. This recipe for Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried Rice (see below) is very easy to assemble. You do need to plan in advance to have cold, cooked rice which could be made on the weekend or the night before. If you have the rice, the rest of this recipe comes together very quickly which is great for a weeknight dinner. This can serve as a vegetarian main dish, or you could add fish, pork or chicken to the fried rice if you wish. The other recipe featuring kale is for Lemon Kale Muffins (see below). This comes from veggiedesserts.uk.co, an interesting site that has a lot of different ways to incorporate vegetables into both sweet and savory preparations. All of the recipes I’ve tried from this site have always been good, so be brave and try some things you may not have considered before…like putting kale in a muffin!
Garlic Scape & Mushroom Pizza with Turnips & Bacon
Photo from DishingUpTheDirt.com
This past week Andrea Bemis posted a recipe on her blog, Dishing Up the Dirt, for Garlic Scape & Mushroom Pizza with Turnips & Bacon. This is a very timely recipe since we have both garlic scapes and baby white turnips in the box this week! You’ll use the turnip greens to make a pesto to spread on the crust. Then top it off with sautéed scapes, crispy bacon, mushrooms and salad turnips. Delicious! Serve this on its own, or with a simple side salad using this week’s Salad Mix tossed with Red Wine Vinaigrette. This is one of my go-to vinaigrette recipes that is nice to keep in the refrigerator for when you want to put together a nice, simple salad. Grate a little Parmesan on top and you’re set.
It’s a salad kind of a week! We’re happy to have these pretty little red oak and red butterhead lettuces. Here’s another recipe from Andrea Bemis for Spring Salad with Garlic Scape Herbed Croutons. This recipe would be delicious made with a mix of the two types of head lettuce that are dressed with a light lemon-dijon vinaigrette that contains fresh dill. The salad is topped off with hard-boiled eggs, salad turnips and radishes as well as garlic scape herbed croutons. This one is filling enough to stand on its own for a nice lunch or dinner option or add a little grilled chicken.
Dill is the herb of choice this week and if you’re wondering what else to do with it, consider a few of these options. This recipe for Creamy Dill Chicken Salad would be a nice lunch option. You can turn it into a sandwich, but don’t forget to load it up with a handful of spinach, salad mix, arugula or several pieces of head lettuce. Dill is also a natural accompaniment to fish, so these Salmon Cakes with Yogurt & Dill Sauce seem like a good option. Serve these with a simple salad or perhaps Grilled Asparagus in Dill Butter.
Creamy Dill Chicken Salad
photo from LifesAmbrosia.com
This is our second and final week for pea vine. If you didn’t have a chance to make the featured recipe from last week, Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce, I’d encourage you to give it a try. I also like to make a simple broth with pea vine, so my other recommendation is this recipe for Spring Noodle Bowl with Pea Vine Broth.
I think we’ve reached the bottom of this week’s box. Wait, I forgot the strawberries! What should you do with them? JUST EAT THEM! This year’s strawberry season is off to a bit of a late start, but there will be more to come! I hope you’ll consider joining us for our annual Strawberry Day coming up this Sunday, June 16. We’ll have delicious strawberry ice cream to celebrate the event and we’re anxious to show you some of our vegetable fields! Have a good week!
Vegetable Feature: Kale
Kale has come a long way over the past 20-30 years. What once was a vegetable eaten by hippies or used to decorate salad bars and buffets became a well-known hipster “super-food.” I’m not sure how kale became so popular, but I’m glad more people learned how to use and enjoy it because it really is a delicious and nutrient packed vegetable and there are so many different ways to incorporate it into your diet!
There are different types of kale. This week we’re harvesting Lacinato kale as well as green curly kale. Lacinato kale is sometimes referred to as Toscano, dino kale or dinosaur kale. This type of kale is dark green in color and has more of a flat, slightly savoyed leaf. Green curly kale is just as its name says—it’s lighter green in color with ruffled leaves. We also grow a unique variety called Portuguese kale. This is a much different kale compared to lacinato and green curly kale. We’ve grown this in the past and have a small planting for this fall which we plan to harvest with all of you at our fall Harvest party! Kale is usually available from mid-June through October or early November. The flavor can change over the course of the season. Right now it is pretty mild flavored. In the heat of the summer it might have a little stronger flavor and then after it gets kissed by frost, the flavor becomes a little more sweet and mild again.
Kale is part of the family of vegetables called brassicas or crucifers. Vegetables in this family share some similar nutrient characteristics including being high in vitamins, minerals and sulfur-rich phytonutrients that aid in cancer prevention. They are also high in fiber and low in calories. In particular, kale is an excellent source of vitamins K, C, and A as well as lutein and beta carotene.
Kale has a pretty mild flavor and can be eaten both raw and cooked. The texture of a kale leaf is much different than some of the other greens we’ve had this spring such as bok choi and hon tsai tai. Kale leaves are thicker and require a little more cooking time to make them tender. If you choose to eat kale raw in salads and such, it helps to marinate the kale in a vinaigrette or dressing for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. The acidity from vinegar, lemon juice, etc in a vinaigrette helps to soften the leaves. The great thing about kale salads is that they are more durable in comparison to a lettuce salad. You can put the dressing on the night before and the salad isn’t soggy the next day! It actually is better the next day! In its cooked form, kale is often used in soups. It can also be steamed, baked, sautéed and even roasted, as in the case of kale chips. It can also be made into pesto, added to pizzas, incorporated into lasagna, casseroles and gratins. You can even add it to smoothies and use it to make baked goods! Yes, you can put kale into muffins, cakes, etc! Check out this week’s recipe for Lemon Kale Muffins! Kale pairs well with many other vegetables including mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, other greens, root vegetables and potatoes. It is also often used in recipes paired with beans and lentils as well as citrus, dairy and pork products. It is often incorporated into pasta and rice dishes as well. This week we’ve featured a recipe for Spicy Kale and Coconut Fried Rice that is pretty tasty and very easy to make!
Both lacinato and green curly kale have a thicker stem that the leaf is part of. It is best to wash the kale in a sink of cold water first, then strip the leaves off the main stem. Store kale in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a damp towel.
Green Curly and Lacinato Kale in the field
Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried Rice
Yield: 3-4 servings
2 Tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp finely chopped green garlic or garlic scapes
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
¾ cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup chopped seasonal vegetable (mushrooms, carrots, peppers, etc)
1 bunch lacinato or green curly kale
¼ tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
¾ cup large, unsweetened coconut flakes
3 cups cooked and chilled brown rice
1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce or sriracha
1 lime, halved
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot enough, add 1-2 tsp oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Pour in the beaten eggs and cook, stirring frequently, until the eggs are scrambled and lightly set. Transfer the eggs to an empty bowl. Wipe out the pan if necessary with a paper towel.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and add the garlic, ginger, green onions and additional vegetable of your choosing. Cook until vegetables are just starting to get tender, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds or longer. Add the kale and salt. Continue to cook until the kale is wilted and tender, stirring frequently, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to the bowl with the eggs.
- Add the remaining 2-3 tsp oil to the pan. Pour in the coconut flakes and cook, stirring frequently until the flakes are lightly golden, about 30 seconds. Add the rice to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is hot, about 3 minutes.
- Pour the contents of the bowl back into the pan, breaking up the scrambled egg with your spatula or spoon. Once warmed, remove the pan from the heat.
- Add the tarmari, chili garlic sauce and juice of ½ lime. Stir to combine. Taste, and if it’s not fantastic yet, add another teaspoon of tamari or a pinch of salt, as needed.
- Slice the remaining ½ lime into wedges, then divide the fried rice into individual bowls. Garnish with wedges of lime, cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.
Lemon Kale Muffins
Yield: 12 muffins
2 cups packed raw kale leaves
Photo from veggiedesserts.co.uk
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Recipe borrowed from www.veggiedesserts.co.uk.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line or grease a muffin pan.
Tear the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces and boil or steam for a few minutes until tender. Refresh in cold water, drain and puree in a food processor or blender (it will still be a bit stringy). Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then beat in the kale, vanilla, zest and lemon juice.
Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and stir to gently combine.
Fill the muffin cups ¾ full and bake for 15-20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Pea Vine: Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce (See Below); Pea Vine & Spinach Green Drink (See Below); Pea Vine Cream Cheese
Salad Mix: Cilantro Lime Dressing
Lets kick off this week’s cooking discussion with a simple, yet tasty and very green pasta dish. This week’s featured recipe is Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce (See Below). Last week a CSA member sent me a link to a recipe for Avocado Pasta with Asparagus and Peas. She had made her own version of this recipe using a lot of the vegetables in the box and based upon her recommendation (as well as her husband’s endorsement of this “really good recipe”), I decided to give it a try and adapt it to this week’s box contents. There are a couple steps to this recipe, but it comes together really easily and uses a whole bunch of pea vine, potato onions, green garlic and asparagus. It’s creamy without being too heavy. You can serve it as the main dish or as a side along with grilled chicken, fish, etc. If you're short on time, are looking for a quick way to eat your greens, or you just want something healthy and invigorating, try the recipe for Pea Vine & Spinach Green Drink (See Below). It's super simple, travels well and gives you a little burst of feel good energy.
Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens with Brown-Butter Hot
Last week we featured baby white turnips, so if you missed last week’s feature article and recipe, take a minute to check out the article as well as the recipe for Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens with Brown-Butter Hot Sauce Vinaigrette. It’s a tasty recipe that is good for breakfast, lunch or dinner and leftovers reheat easily. If you’re looking for another way to use turnips, consider making these tasty Pancetta Wrapped Baby Turnips. You may want to cut the turnips in half this week as they are a little bit larger. This recipe uses just the turnips, but don’t throw away the greens! Chop them up and saute them with a little bit of butter or add them to scrambled eggs, rice, etc.
photo from damndelicious.net
Looking for a classy summer appetizer to have with friends for a summer get together? Check out this recipe for Vanilla Butter with Radishes. Serve the radishes whole with the tops still on, or cut them in half if they’re a little bigger. This vanilla butter is easy to make and the only other thing you need is a little salt. Serve it along with crackers or some good crusty bread. You could also make a batch of Pea Vine Cream Cheese to serve with crackers and, if you haven’t already used your asparagus, roast some on a sheet pan and serve spears of Baked Asparagus Fries. Add a glass of wine and you’re set!
While we’re waiting for some of our other fresh herbs to grow big enough for harvest, we’re happy to have cilantro available to fill the herb slot. This recipe for Cilantro Lime Dressing is on the agenda for this week. The basic vinaigrette will be good tossed with this week’s salad mix. You can turn it into a full meal by adding some chickpeas, grilled steak or chicken to the salad. The author also suggests adding yogurt to make it a creamy dressing that could be used as a sauce for grilled meat or roasted vegetables or as a sauce for tacos or the like.
Another option for employing this week’s cilantro is Easy One Skillet Creamy Cilantro Lime Chicken. This is an easy recipe that will allow you to have dinner on the table in 30 minutes! Serve this with Green Pancakes and you have a complete meal. The green pancakes might add a little time to your dinner prep, but they can be made in advance and reheated in the toaster or oven. This is a savory pancake made with spinach (or any other green you have available) and lots of green garlic. You can serve them with a dollop of sour cream, but in this meal they’ll be really good with the cream sauce on the chicken.
I think we’ve made it to the bottom of the box. If you have any other greens hanging out in the refrigerator, use them to make Spinach-Mushroom Scrambled Eggs. The recipe calls for spinach, but you can substitute any greens you have (radish tops, turnip tops, hon tsai tai from the week before, etc).
That pretty much finishes off box number 5! What’s coming up for next week? Well, we’re going to be picking strawberries very soon and the garlic scapes are starting to push up from the center of the garlic stalks. We also have our eyes on a gorgeous field of head lettuce, including a deep, dark cherry red oak lettuce with soft rounded leaves. Have a great week!
Vegetable Feature: Pea Vine
Pea Vine is actually an immature pea plant that is harvested before the vine starts to develop blossoms. It has a mild, sweet pea flavor and may be eaten raw or lightly cooked. We look forward to pea vine every year because it has such a bright, gentle pea flavor and is a nutrient dense green that just seems to leave you feeling invigorated and refreshed!
While the tendrils and leaves are tender, the main stem can sometimes get tough depending on how mature the plant is at harvest. This week’s pea vine is at an in between stage. Most of the upper stem is still tender while the lower portion may be a little more coarse. In past years we’ve had members comment that the pea vine is “stringy.” Here’s how we tackle this issue. If you find this to be the case, pick the tender leaves, tendrils and thin stems off the main stem. I must admit, I don’t like to spend a lot of time sorting through a bunch of pea vine and I prefer to use as much of the bunch as I can...plus there is a lot of flavor in the stem! Thus, when the pea vine is more mature and some of the stems are more tough, I tend to use pea vine in ways that allow me to chop it finely in a blender or food processor. The other way I like to use pea vine is in sauces, soups or broth. I generally chop the pea vine into smaller pieces and add it to hot broth or a sauce base. Let the pea vine simmer briefly to extract the flavor, but don’t overcook it or you’ll lose the bright pea flavor. Once you’ve infused the flavor of the pea vine into the sauce or broth, you can strain it out to remove it. If you’d like to extract just a little more flavor, blend the mixture before straining it.
Pea vine goes well with cream, butter, cheese, pancetta, prosciutto, bacon and ham, lemon, lime, mint, parsley, chives, spring onions, green garlic, radishes, asparagus, and mushrooms. Some of my favorite past recipes using pea vine include Pea Vine Cream Cheese, Pea Vine Pesto Pasta Salad and Spring Noodle Bowl with Pea Vine Broth.
As I mentioned in the introduction, pea vine, as with many greens, is packed with nutrients. Farmer Richard always says “Eat your greens every day!” Why is this so important? Greens are rich sources of a variety of minerals, vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. When we include them in our diets on a daily basis, we’re essentially giving our bodies the daily boost they need to remove toxins from our systems, support our immune system and fuel our metabolic pathways that produce energy. Of course this is a very simplified explanation of what really happens in our amazing, intricate body systems, but the bottom line is pretty simple…eat your greens! From time to time you might even want to “drink your greens!” Some of you may be accustomed to adding greens such as kale and spinach to a fruity smoothie. You can also make more savory green drinks that are not only a great nutrient boost, but they’re convenient to take with you to work as part of your lunch or an afternoon snack. In addition to nutrients, they’re also a great way to meet your daily water intake and, if you don’t strain them, you’ll get some fiber as well! So this week I included a very simple green drink recipe that includes not only the vibrant, delicate flavor of pea vine, but it also includes spinach and cilantro. It’s simple, refreshing and if you’re simply running short on time and need something quick you can pull this off in short order.
Pea Vine Pesto Pasta Salad
I hope you enjoy and appreciate the delicate flavor of pea vine this week and remember, within the next month we’ll be enjoying peas in the pod!
Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
8 oz small pasta (e.g., orecchiette, macaroni, fusilli, etc)
1 bunch pea vine
1 stalk green garlic, chopped finely
1 medium ripe avocado
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp salt plus more to taste
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 green onions (1 cup thinly sliced)
2 cups fresh baby spinach or arugula
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.
- While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Cut the bottom one-inch off the pea vine stems. Finely chop the pea vine, leaves and stem. Place the pea vine and chopped green garlic in a food processor or blender. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop the flesh out of the skin. Add it to the food processor along with yogurt, lemon juice, ½ tsp salt and ground black pepper. Process on high for 20-30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the bowl. Continue to process until the mixture is well combined. It will be very creamy, but not completely smooth.
- Once the pasta is cooked and the sauce is made, heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the green onion and saute briefly until softened. Add the asparagus and saute for several minutes, stirring periodically, until the asparagus is bright green and cooked al dente (tender but still a little crunchy).
- Add the baby spinach along with a few tablespoons of the pasta water. Cover the pan and steam just until the spinach is wilted, 1-2 minutes. Remove the lid and add the cooked pasta and the sauce to the pan. Stir to combine. Add additional pasta water if the sauce is too thick, or simmer for a few minutes if the sauce is too thin. Once warmed through, taste and adjust the seasoning with additional lemon juice, salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan.
Pea Vine & Spinach Green Drink
Yield: 1 quart
3 cups roughly chopped pea vine
2 cups fresh spinach
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 cups water
4 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 to 1 ½ cups ice cubes
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Put all ingredients in a blender. If you can’t fit all the greens in the blender cup, just put about half in at first with the remaining ingredients. Blend briefly to create more space and then add remaining greens.
Blend on high speed until all ingredients are finely chopped and the mixture is smooth.
If you want a very smooth, velvety juice, pour it through a fine mesh strainer before serving. If you don’t mind a little thickness in your juice from the vegetable pulp, then skip the straining step. There may also be a layer of foam on top from the high speed blender action. Just take a spoon and skim it off the top.
Adjust the seasoning to your liking with more salt and lemon juice. Serve over ice for a cold drink or gently and briefly heat it to lukewarm on the stove top for a warm drink. Store any extras in the refrigerator. The juice will separate in storage, just shake it before serving.
Recipe by Chef Andrea
By Farmer/Chef Andrea
A sunny day in the valley & a view of our gorgeous garlic crop!
Here we are in the first week of June and it’s FINALLY starting to feel like early summer! Strawberries will be ripening soon and the zucchini plants have the cutest little fruit on them. We’ve had a good, yet cold and wet start to this year. Every good chat with a farmer should include some talk about the weather, so here’s our report. In April & May we had 8 inches of snow plus some hail, 11.25 inches of rain and only 12 dry days! Through it all, our crew has been fantastic! We had some days when it was too wet to do field work, so some crew took a little time off. As soon as the weather cleared and the fields dried out just a bit, they were back out working hard with focus and determination to get things planted, cultivated, etc. They’ve worked some longer days when necessary as well as some weekends to help keep us on track. In Richard’s own words, “Considering the conditions we’ve had, I think we’ve done darn good!”
Despite a few weather delays, we’ve been able to get things planted in a timely manner. Our greenhouses are pretty empty right now, which is exactly as it should be if we’re on schedule with transplanting. Last week we were biting our nails as our beautiful tomato plants grew taller and taller in the greenhouse while it rained outside. It’s easiest to transplant them when they are short or we risk breaking them. Thankfully, we were able to get them in the field by the end of last week and we didn’t lose too many to breakage! By the end of the day Saturday they were standing up tall and looking perky with a nice bed of straw mulch lining the wheel tracks.
There's a wolf in the field! Oh wait, that's a pumpkin!
Last Friday, we pulled out our second water-wheel transplanter and had a second crew to transplant our first melons and watermelons. As if we didn’t already have enough to transplant, we also knew our first shipment of sweet potato plants was on its way. When they come in, they need to be transplanted as soon as possible. UPS delivered them late Friday afternoon and within less than an hour the tomato planting crew was ready to move on to their next mission. Tomas came in to get the first few boxes of sweet potato plants and they hustled to get some planted before the end of the day. On Saturday morning, the other transplanting crew joined them and collectively they were able to plant them all with a little extra time to also plant jicama and pumpkins! We’re expecting another shipment of plants to arrive this Thursday, so hopefully we’ll have the field totally planted by the end of the week! While they don’t look like much right now, we’re crossing our fingers for an awesome sweet potato crop!
This year's potato field, freshly cultivated!
While we’re talking potatoes, I might add that our potato field looks awesome! We were able to utilize the dry fertilizer applicator on the planter this spring which allowed us to apply fertilizer in the furrow as the seed was being planted. It was worth the extra effort as the plants are growing nicely and look very healthy. The cultivating crew has stayed on top of weed control, which also makes this a lovely field to see. Look for some delicious early potatoes in your box coming up in July!
Speaking of lovely fields, I need to mention our onion field. Not only are the onions looking really healthy, but we’re already on top of hand weeding so the field is clean. When you see the field you might say, “Well it still looks like there are a lot of weeds in between the beds!” Wrong! The green in between the beds is actually white Dutch clover and creeping red fescue, short stature cover crops intentionally seeded between the beds. This is a new technique Richard is implementing with crops planted on beds covered with plastic mulch. There are several reasons for this. First, it’s always challenging to control weeds in between the beds. If it gets too wet, we can’t get in to cultivate. If the onions get too tall, we can’t pass through with a tractor or we risk damaging onion tops. So one reason is to compete against weeds. Another reason is to establish a good root system to hold the soil in place. If we get hard rains, the water drains off the fields by running down the wheel tracks between the beds. Unless we have something to hold the dirt in place, the water will wash it away. Lastly, any cover crop will add to the health of the soil.
Onion Field with Interseeded Cover Crop
What else do we have to report on? Well, the first crop of green beans are up, fenced to keep the deer out and look like a really good stand. It’s always challenging to germinate the first crop when the soil is cold and wet, but we managed to get a good stand the first time out! Our first crop of sweet corn is also up, although it’s a bit of a thin stand. Some of the seed simply didn’t germinate in the cold, wet soil. Don’t worry, we have second plantings of corn, beans and edamame already planted and up!
This week's cilantro crop....as far as the eye can see!
While we’ve been busy getting crops planted, we’ve also been harvesting early season vegetables for your boxes as well as selling what we have available to our wholesale and retail partners. We’re happy to have more to offer and are pleased our first few crops of radishes and cilantro are yielding well! These are some of our major “bread and butter” crops. In addition to harvest, it’s also haymaking time! Over the weekend we cut our first planting of hay, got it dried and baled before Tuesday morning’s rain. In addition to hay, we have some other nice fields of cover crops that are ready for their next phase. Some of the cover crops we planted last fall will be harvested for use as mulch in other vegetable fields. In other fields, we’ll chop the cover crop plants back onto the field and then incorporate the plant matter back into the soil. This is called “green manure.”
Richard standing in a field with four different cover crop plants
I walked through one field with Richard and the rye grass was nearly as tall as him! In addition to rye grass, there were also thin stalks of cereal rye as well as hairy vetch and mammoth clover. Why so many plants in the mix? Well, each plant has a purpose. Vetch and clover are nitrogen fixing which means they extract nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it to nitrogen that is bioavailable to plants. Rye serves as a scavenger crop meaning it takes nitrogen from the soil and stores it. Before the cover crop was planted last fall, we applied compost to the field. At that time, only half of the nitrogen potential was bioavailable. The rye, through its root system, scavenged and took up the remainder and stored it for us. Now, when we chop the plant and put it back in the soil, it’s there for us to use! Thankfully, even some of our late planted fields of cover crops did really well and have produced very rich crops.
Strawberry Blossoms and Tiny Strawberries on Healthy Plants
Well, this is by no means the entire report of what’s going on at HVF, rather a little glimpse of what’s happening here. If you’d like to see it for yourself, join us for our upcoming Strawberry Day event! Our annual event is on Sunday, June 16. We’ll enjoy a potluck lunch before we do field tours which will end in the strawberry field. You can pick (and eat) strawberries to your heart’s content. Of course, we’ll celebrate the day with our traditional strawberry ice cream. You can mosey around the farm, visit with the animals, and just enjoy a little time in nature. We hope to see you soon!
Cooking With This Week's Box
Potato Onions: Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens (see below); Cilantro Lime Rice; Taste of Home’s Radish Dip; Potsticker Stir-Fry
Baby White Turnips: Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens (see below)
This week’s featured vegetables is one of my favorite spring selections, baby white turnips. While these are delicious simply sautéed in butter with the greens wilted on top, I wanted to try to come up with some other ways to use them. So, with a little inspiration from Chef Vivian Howard, I came up with this recipe for Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens (see below). Turnips are a popular vegetable in the south, and grits are also a popular southern dish. So, I picked up Chef Vivian’s cookbook to see what she had to say about grits and turnips. Chef Vivian is author of Deep Run Roots. She also has several restaurants in North Carolina and was the star of PBS series, A Chef’s Life. I consider her to be an expert on food from the Carolina Coastal plain. This recipe is simple, but full of flavor. If you’ve never cooked grits, it’s pretty darn simple and is similar to cooking oatmeal or risotto. The component that kind of brings this whole dish together is the super simple and tasty Brown-Butter Hot Sauce Vinaigrette that you drizzle on top right before you eat it. If you don’t care for hot sauce, I’d still encourage you to try this in a small quantity because the flavors are so good together with the grits and turnips. If you like things hot, have at it! This dish is hearty enough to be a main dish on its own, or serve it in a smaller portion as a side dish with pork chops, grilled or fried chicken, or for breakfast with scrambled or fried eggs. It’s a good one, if I do say so myself!
Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens
Before I go any further, I just want to applaud all the members who are participating in our Facebook Group!! If you haven’t joined the group yet, I’d encourage you to do so. There has been some great dialogue this year as well as a lot of great recipes, pictures, suggestions, idea sharing, etc. I’ve really been enjoying seeing what you’re making and have picked up some new recipe ideas as well.
This recipe for Rhubarb Turnovers is a recipe that was shared in the group and was made by two different people who both verify they are delicious! If you prefer to use your rhubarb in something that is not pie or pie-like, check out this post on Naturally Ella that includes links to non-pie recipes such as Curried Lentils and Rhubarb Chutney. She recommends serving these lentils with fresh cilantro, which you happen to have in this week’s box!
Rhubarb Turnovers, photo from epicurious.com
Speaking of cilantro, this recipe for Cilantro Lime Rice popped into my inbox earlier this week, and it looks simple and delicious! The author, Jeanine, recommends serving it as a side dish with Asian or Mexican food OR turn it into a Burrito Bowl. I don’t have a specific recipe for this concept, so you’ll have to be creative and just build your own. My suggestions would be to use this rice as the base of the bowl and then add some black beans, thinly sliced radishes, some chopped romaine lettuce and top off the whole thing with a generous drizzle of this Creamy Green Garlic & Feta Dressing, a recipe we featured on our blog back in 2017.
Creamy Green Garlic & Feta Dressing
What else can we do with radishes this week? Have we exhausted all the options for how to enjoy radishes in the spring when they are abundant? NO WAY!! Consider turning this week’s radishes into Radish Dip. You can try Martha Stewart’s version which includes sour cream and feta or you can try this Taste of Home version that is based on cream cheese. Either one will make a delicious dip to serve with Romaine lettuce leaves or baby bok choi stems for dipping, or you can use it as a spread on toast, bagels, sandwiches, OR use it as a condiment to serve with hot scrambled eggs or possibly that burrito bowl concept we just talked about!
This is our second and likely final week for Hon Tsai Tai, an unique spring green with pretty little yellow flowers! If you didn’t have a chance to make the Hon Tsai Tai and Shiitake Potstickers featured in our newsletter last week, consider adding these to this week’s menu. The recipe is written as vegetarian, but you can add ground pork to the filling if you like. If you don’t have time to make the potstickers or you’re looking for a gluten free or low carb alternative to the dumpling wrappers, try this recipe for Potsticker Stir-Fry. Use the hon tsai tai in place of the napa cabbage. This was a suggestion offered by a member in our Facebook Group—thanks!
Photo from NomNomPaleo.com
This week we’re excited to include these pretty little baby bok choi. Bok choi can be used interchangeably with hon tsai tai, but it’s also delicious when simply steamed, stir-fried or eaten raw. Here’s a quick recipe for 10-Minute Lemon Garlic Sauteed Bok Choi. Serve this simple preparation alongside a grilled steak, piece of salmon or even a rotisserie chicken you pick up at the grocery store already cooked! You’ll have dinner on the table super fast!
If you’re looking for a raw bok choi salad option, I can’t help but mention this recipe for Bok Choi Salad with Sesame Almond Crunch. I’ve mentioned it before and I’m sure I’ll share it again—it’s so delicious!
Bok Choi Salad with Sesame Almond Crunch
Ok friends, we’re rolling into the home stretch with just a bunch of asparagus remaining. What will we do with this lovely vegetable this week? How about a Roasted Asparagus Grilled Cheese Sandwich! The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I think this sandwich would be pretty tasty with a piece of prosciutto added to it. Here’s another great recipe forSpring Tacos with Shrimp, Asparagus and Radish Leaf Pesto. Did you really think I’d make it through the entire box and neglect to give you a recipe to utilize those radish tops?!
I think we made it to the bottom of the box. I hope you are having fun cooking and eating through the box each week. Cooking is supposed to be fun, so don’t forget to laugh a little and enjoy the ride. Have a great week!
Vegetable Feature: Baby White Turnips
By Chef Andrea
Classy, pristine, delicate, mild, tender & sweet…these are just a few of the words we find ourselves using to describe baby white turnips, one of our favorite spring vegetables. Baby white turnips are classified as a salad turnip and are also referred to as Tokyo or Hakurei turnips which are varietal names for turnips in this class. Both the roots and the green tops are tender, mild and edible. They may be eaten raw or lightly cooked.
This turnip variety thrives in the cool of spring and again later in the fall. 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 have a thicker skin compared to the thin skin of a salad turnip. Baby white turnips also mature much faster than beets, carrots and fennel, etc which is why we value them as an important part of our spring menus until other root vegetables are ready for harvest. To prolong the shelf life, separate the greens from the roots with a knife and store separately in plastic bags in your refrigerator.
To prepare the turnips for use, wash both the roots and greens well to remove any dirt. Salad turnips have such a thin exterior layer, they do not need to be peeled. They are delicious eaten raw in a salad, or just munch on them with dip or hummus. You can also cook these turnips, but remember to keep the cooking time short and the preparation simple. You can simply saute them in butter, stir-fry or roast them. The greens may be added to raw salads, or lightly saute or wilt them in a little butter. Two of our favorite baby white turnip recipes from past newsletters include White Turnip Salad with Miso Ginger Vinaigrette and Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza. We hope you enjoy these tasty little gems!
Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens
Yield: 4 servings as a main dish or 6 servings as a side
1 bunch baby white turnips
1 Tbsp butter
¾ cup minced green garlic and/or green onions (lower portion)
¾ cup thinly sliced green garlic and/or green onion tops
1 cup grits
3-4 cups water
1 ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
¼ tsp ground black pepper, plus more to taste
¼ cup cream
½ cup grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese
5-6 oz bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces and cooked until crispy (optional)
Brown-Butter Hot Sauce Vinaigrette:
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp hot sauce
¼ tsp salt
First, cut turnips from the tops, wash thoroughly and cut into small dice. Thoroughly wash the greens. Shake off excess water and thinly slice them. Set aside
Heat 1 Tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the diced turnips. Cook, stirring periodically, until turnips are tender and lightly browned. Once browned, remove turnips from the pan with a spoon, leaving the extra butter in the pan. Set turnips aside.
Add minced green garlic and/or onions to the pan. If necessary, add a little more butter. Satue over medium heat until fragrant and softened.
Add 3 cups of water to the pan and stir in the grits along with salt and pepper. Bring the grits to a gentle simmer and try to hold this temperature steady through the cooking. Stir the grits frequently to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan and keep the heat gentle. (Alternatively, you can cook the grits in a double boiler pan so you don’t have to worry about them sticking). Gently simmer for 20-40 minutes. When you first start cooking them, they’ll look grainy and separated. As they cook they’ll start to soften and become thicker and creamy. The cooking time will vary depending on how coarse the grits are, so you’ll have to observe and taste them to determine when they are done. You’ll know they are done when they are soft, tender and do not taste starchy. If they get too thick, you may need to add more water to thin them out. You want them to be the consistency of moderately thick oatmeal.
When the grits are fully cooked, stir in ¼ cup of cream and the cheese. Once fully incorporated, stir in the turnips as well as the greens. Stir and continue to simmer for just a few more minutes to allow the greens to fully wilt down. Once fully wilted, remove from heat and taste them one more time. Add additional salt and black pepper as needed. You can also adjust the consistency at this point if they are too thick. (just stir in a little warm water)
Just before serving, make the brown-butter hot sauce vinaigrette. It’s best to have all the ingredients measured out in advance because this is a quick cooking process!
In an 8-inch saute pan, melt the 4 Tbsp of butter. Do not use a cast-iron or black bottomed skillet for this because you will not be able to see the butter browning. Once the butter melts, it will foam and fizz and eventually start to brown a little on the bottom. When you see this beginning to happen, make sure you swirl the pan around so that all the milk solids brown evenly. Do not walk away! Once the butter is nutty in color as well as aroma, carefully stir in the lemon juice, hot sauce, and salt. Let it bubble up for about 15 seconds, then pull it off the heat and get ready to spoon it over the hot grits!
Serve the grits in a bowl garnished with the thinly sliced green garlic and/or onion tops, crumbled bacon (if using), and a drizzle of the brown-butter hot sauce vinaigrette. Enjoy!
This recipe was written by Chef Andrea with inspiration and guidance from Chef Vivian Howard’s cookbook, Deep Run Roots. The recipe for Brown-Butter Hot Sauce Vinaigrette is 100% credited to Chef Vivian!
By Gwen Anderson
I’ve worked with Richard for over a year, and seen him nearly every day. I’ve always found it fascinating to talk with him; his enthusiasm and passion are contagious, he is a wealth of knowledge, and has a patience in teaching that I admire. When Andrea asked me to write this article, I was more than happy to do so. It was a chance to hear more interesting stories about the man straight from the source. Many of our long time members may know Richard already, but there may be many of you who don’t know him so well. After all, I see him all the time and I still found out a lot during our “interview” that I can share with you!
Richard grew up making hay and milking cows on a farm on the plains of South Dakota. His father had a herd of 100 Black Angus beef, and for a few years they had some pigs and sheep as well. Before his feet could reach the pedals on the one ton Chevy truck they used to haul oats, Richard was helping his father farm. He would also help his grandparents’ garden, and loved to spend time in the kitchen with his mother making banana bread.
When he went off to college at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Richard thought “I want to work with my head, not my hands.” He had an advisor who suggested he go into hard rock mining due to his love of nature. The advisor told Richard he could have a “good, professional, high paying job and still be out in nature.” After graduation, he got a job at Fort Snelling with the Corps of Mining Engineers, but not even a year had gone by before his thoughts began to wander. He would sit at his desk, his mind drawn to memories of beautiful fields of blue flax blossoms swaying in the wind. It didn’t take long for the thought “I want to farm” to form in Richard’s mind, so he left the mining engineers, rented half an acre of land south of the Twin Cities and got back to doing what he loved.
Blue Gentian Farm, where Richard farmed with in the early years.
Once the farm was rented, Richard took the time to get to know his neighbors, one of which was a school for special needs children. Richard has a soft spot for well-behaved children, so when he wasn’t farming, he would volunteer at the school. As he got to know the children better, he realized he had found a second calling. Richard began studying and earned a master’s degree in Special Education with a focus on autism from Mankato State. Upon graduation, he worked in special education in the St Paul public school system. Later, he found meaningful work in being a foster parent for teenage boys who needed extra care and attention by running a specially licensed therapeutic foster home on the farm.
Being an organic farmer was never a question for Richard. His Grandpa Nick was a dedicated organic farmer and had helped shape Richard’s opinions on the matter. When agro chemicals came out after World War II, Grandpa Nick refused to use them, and suffered being called old fashioned and unwilling to change with the times because of it. Richard always had a love for nature and all things wild, and Grandpa Nick’s success without using chemicals as well as Rachel Carlson’s book A Silent Spring cemented Richard’s desire to not use them himself. “When I read about agro chemicals, I decided I didn’t want anything to do with them.”
Richard cultivating broccoli with his horses,
King and Prince.
Richard was one of the pioneers of organic farming. He was a trail blazer for integrating cover crops, making compost, and attracting beneficial insects, birds and bats well before there were any large scale conversations happening about such things. There was no such thing as organic certification when he started his farm, he just wanted to do what was right for the soil and nature. So he experimented, learned what worked and what didn’t, and taught what he had learned to other farmers. Richard sold his vegetables to the new co-ops in the Twin Cities where people went to buy healthy, organic vegetables.
In his early days, Richard had a chance to meet the Dakota County extension agent who told him “You can have an organic garden, but if you are talking about making a living farming, you can’t do it organically.” The conversation spurred Richard to prove him wrong; he was going to do the right thing and he was going to make a living doing it. (Fast-forward 20 years, that same County extension agent had changed his tune and met up with Richard again at a MOSES conference to say “You’ve been right all along: it turns out you can make a living farming organically!”)
By the mid-1980’s, suburbia was encroaching on Richard’s farm south of the Twin Cities to the point where it was time to move on. When he left the fields he’d been farming for 12 years, he knew where he wanted to go: the Driftless Region. Richard had been there several times before, and he loved the rolling hills and valleys, the waterways, and overall natural beauty the area had to offer. The soil was rich and healthy, and the hills made a beautiful backdrop for the fields he worked. After all, seeing a well-cared for field thriving in a natural surround is one of Richard’s favorite things about being a farmer.
Adrian (left) and Ari (right), The Melon Boys
Richard spent the first few years at Harmony Valley Farm building up soil health, structures, and business relationships. He was still selling his produce in the Twin Cities and found a new market in Madison at the Dane County Farmers’ Market. In 1989, Richard’s son, Ari, was born and soon became part of the daily farming operation. Ari and his step-brother, Adrian, grew melons and sold them at the Farmers’ Market, becoming known as the “Melon Boys.” As business grew, Richard began expanding the farm by leasing more nearby land and converting it to organic status.
When Richard and then partner Linda Halley added Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to their farming model in 1993, they did so out of a desire to have a direct connection with more people than they could reach at the Farmers’ Market. CSA birthed on farm events like Strawberry Day, which allowed Richard to meet the families he was growing food for face to face. Being able to watch the children from those first CSA families grow into smart, healthy adults makes farming worthwhile for him. Many of those children are now graduating from college, starting their own families and joining CSA’s of their own!
Nowadays, Richard sees himself as a support for the great crew he has to help with the farm. He gives information and direction when needed to a crew who want to do the best job they can. Harmony Valley Farm is a mature farm, with all the systems and infrastructure in place, no longer looking to expand. With growth a thing of the past, Richard is now focused on making the farm better. “I believe if you aren’t making improvements, you are going downhill,” Richard said. “We aren’t looking for more, but better; always better.” He is also selecting and training the next generation of Harmony Valley Farm farmers
Richard helping the crew harvest winter squash
“There is a great deal of joy in seeing things work, when things go smoothly,” Richard said about his farm and crew. He gets great satisfaction out of a job well done. “How many people, for their life’s work, get to have a job where you are outside in nature, watching things grow, you grow a lot of healthy food for a huge amount of appreciative people, and everything works? Yes—I’ve worked too hard for most of my life, but I feel fortunate to be where we are today.”
So who is Richard de Wilde? He is a man of perseverance and innovation. He is a visionary who is not afraid to take on challenges to bring his dreams to fruition. In his own words, he is a hippie rebel with an “I’ll show you” attitude. In my opinion, he’s a darn good boss and a great storyteller. I encourage you not to take my word for it though; come to the farm and talk to him yourself. You’ll be richer for the experience.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Don’t be intimidated by the length of the featured recipe in this week’s newsletter. The recipe is for Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce (see below). This week’s recipe will take a little time to assemble, but potstickers are both fun to make AND eat! If you recruit a friend or two or make it a family event you’ll have them made in no time. So what’s the story on potstickers?
Potstickers are a type of Chinese dumpling. The story, as told by Andrea Nyugen on her blog, is that potstickers date back to somewhere between 960-1280 AD. A Chinese chef was steaming dumplings in a wok, got distracted and let the pan go dry. The dumplings stuck to the bottom of the wok—uh oh, what to do? Well, they must not have been burned and he must’ve been in a pinch because he served them to the guests who actually really liked them! Thus, these little dumplings became known as potstickers because they stick to the bottom of the pan. So a potsticker is different from other Asian dumplings in that they are first fried in a thin layer of oil to get a crispy bottom, then they are steamed to cook the rest of the dumpling, then fried again at the very end to ensure a crispy bottom and a soft top with the filling thoroughly cooked. They are often made with ground pork or other ground meat, but I wrote this recipe with a vegetable only filling. If you like, you can add ground meat to the vegetable mixture. Potstickers are best served warm right out of the pan. They can also be frozen, so if you aren’t going to eat all the potstickers this recipe makes, freeze some of the dumplings on a parchment lined cookie sheet before they are cooked. Once they are frozen you can take them off the cookie sheet and put them in a bag in the freezer. I haven’t tried this myself, but from what I’ve read you want to pull them right out of the freezer and put them directly into a hot pan to start cooking them. If you thaw them first the wrapper will get soggy and might tear.
Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers
If you’ve never shaped potstickers before, here are a few videos that will be helpful and show you how to do this. Try this one OR this one. I hope you’ll consider making these and even more, I hope you have some fun doing it!
Ok, moving on to the other things in the box. I always love a good pizza and thought this recipe for Shaved Asparagus and Whipped Ricotta Pizza looked pretty delicious. Serve this with a baby arugula or spinach salad dressed with this simple Balsamic Vinaigrette. The acidity of the vinaigrette will be a nice balance to the rich cheese and prosciutto on the pizza.
Shaved Asparagus and Whipped Ricotta Pizza
Photo from HowSweetEats.com
It’s a radish kind of week! If you are a radish lover this is the week for you. If you are still learning to appreciate radishes, perhaps you might like them better roasted? Roasting helps to mellow the radishy-ness of radishes and even brings out a hint of sweetness. Try this recipe for Roasted Radishes with Brown Butter & Lemon. This is a pretty simple preparation. If you prefer something a bit more rich try this recipe for Pan Roasted Radishes in Bacon Cream Sauce. This is the recipe Richard prefers. You could serve this as a side dish or turn it into a main entrée by tossing the radishes with cooked pasta. I also found this recipe for Roasted Radish and Herbed Ricotta Omelet. This recipe calls for fresh herbs in the ricotta cheese, so I’d recommend using a generous addition of the chives in this week’s box. Chives and radishes are a great combo.
Don’t forget the radish tops! They make up more than half of the vegetable and so often they just get thrown away! One thing you could use them in is this recipe for No Bacon Pasta Carbonara Loaded with Greens. This is a great recipe to make use of any greens that might be hanging out without a purpose in your refrigerator. Radish or turnip tops, spinach, saute mix, hon tsai tai, nettles….what do you have?
If you’re looking for a light lunch option, that’s also pretty quick to make, consider using the salad mix to make a Spring Salad with Green Garlic Dressing. This recipe calls for baby spinach, but salad mix will work too. The greens are dressed with a simple green garlic dressing and the salad is topped off with cooked bulger, sunflower seeds and hard-boiled eggs. You could also serve this salad alongside Sunchoke Chive Soup. The two will make a great spring dinner on a cool evening. You could also use the sunchokes to make Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa. I like to eat this on top of seared salmon or as a topper for tacos. I also like to just add a spoonful to a bowl or rice or a simple green salad.
Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa on top of seared salmon
That brings us to the end of another week’s box. We’re hoping our little romaine head lettuces are ready for next week. I have a few lettuce wrap recipes I’m looking forward to trying. We are also planning to send baby white turnips, another spring favorite. And for one more little beacon of hope to leave you with….we’ll likely be picking strawberries in just 3-4 short weeks! Enjoy this week’s box!
Vegetable Feature: Hon Tsai Tai
Hon tsai tai (pronounced hon-sigh-tie) holds an important place in our spring vegetable line-up. It matures more quickly than other spring-planted greens and is very tasty when grown in cool spring weather. It is in a group of plants referred to as “flowering brassicas.” While it is related to such vegetables as mustard greens and bok choi, what sets it apart is that it has beautiful purple stems that produce a sweet, delicate, edible yellow flower. While other vegetables in the brassica family also produce flowers, they do so towards the end of their life cycle and at that point there are often undesirable flavor changes in the edible portion of the plant. Hon tsai tai is unique in that it produces the flower early in its life when all the parts of the plant still taste good.
Hon tsai tai has a mild mustard flavor that is very well-balanced this time of the year. The entire plant is edible and may be eaten raw or cooked. The thin purple stems are more tender when the plant is young. While still flavorful, they may become more coarse as the plant matures, so should be cut very finely at this stage. Hon tsai tai is delicious in stir-fries or lightly steamed, but also makes a stunning and flavorful addition to raw salads. A common preparation in Chinese cuisine is to quickly stir-fry hon tsai tai with garlic, onions, and ginger, then add oyster sauce. This would also be a tasty green to use in spring rolls, pot stickers or fried rice. This vegetable is also a good addition to broth-based soups such as miso soup or could be a nice addition to a ramen bowl.
If you do a search for recipes using hon tsai tai, you likely won’t find much. Your best bet is to check out our recipe archive on our website for past recipes we’ve featured in previous newsletters. You can also use hon tsai tai interchangeably in recipes calling for bok choi or mustard greens. Store hon tsai tai loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready for use.
Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce
Yield: 30-40 potstickers
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
½ cup minced green garlic
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly and chopped
3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp ground coriander
1 bunch hon tsai tai, leaves and stems finely chopped
¼ cup minced fresh chives
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
Salt and black pepper, to taste
36-40 dumpling wrappers (see note below)
¼ cup finely minced chives
⅓ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp Korean chili paste or chili sauce
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 Tbsp honey
- Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the ginger and green garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until they are softened.
- Add soy sauce and coriander. Stir to combine. Add hon tsai tai and season with a small amount of salt and black pepper. Cover the pan and steam for about 1 minute or until the greens have wilted down. Reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the chives and sesame seeds. Cook until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.
- Remove from heat and taste a bit of the mixture. Season to your liking with additional salt, pepper or soy sauce. Set aside to cool while you make the dipping sauce.
- In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients except for the chives. At the very end, stir in the chives. Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.
- Now it’s time to assemble the potstickers. If you are using eggroll wrappers, make sure your potsticker wrappers are cut and ready to use. Lay the wrappers out on a work surface, 3-4 at a time. Leave the remaining wrappers covered with a towel or plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Put about 1 tablespoon of filling on each wrapper. Brush water around the edge of each wrapper with your finger. Fold the wrapper in half to create a half moon shape. Using your fingers, pinch the edges to seal them. The water will act like the glue to hold the two sides together. You want to have enough filling in the wrapper so the dumpling is full, but not too much or it will pop open. Once the edges are sealed, you can pleat the top by folding the edges over on themselves (there are videos online that demonstrate how to do this) and pinching the pleats to secure them. Place the formed dumplings on a platter and continue to form the remainder of the dumplings.
- Once the dumplings are formed, heat a large skillet (or two if you want to cook them all at the same time) over medium-high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, or enough to just lightly coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the potstickers to the pan. You want to leave a little space in between each, don’t overcrowd the pan. Once they are in the pan, let them cook for about 3 minutes or until the bottoms are light golden brown.
- Next, you need to steam the dumplings to finish cooking them. To do this you will need to add ¼ cup water to the pan, but do so carefully and immediately cover the pan with a lid. Continue to cook, covered for about 3 minutes to steam the dumplings.
- Remove the lid and reduce the heat just a bit. Continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated. This will help crisp up the bottoms of the potstickers. Be careful not to get them too crispy though! Serve hot with the dipping sauce.
Note about dumpling wrappers:
Dumpling wrappers are thin sheets of dough typically round and about 3 inches in diameter. You can make them (there are lots of recipes on the internet) or buy them premade. They are typically found in the refrigerated section near tofu, tempeh, kim chi and sometimes tortillas. If you are not able to find round dumpling wrappers, you can use egg roll wrappers which are made from a similar dough. Egg roll wrappers are rectangular, so you need to cut them into rounds using a biscuit or cookie cutter, a round glass, etc. I used egg roll wrappers when I made these and was able to use a 2½ to 3 inch cutter to get two round pieces from each egg roll sheet.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Rhubarb: Rhubarb-Almond Baked Oatmeal (see below)
For those of you who are joining us for your first week of deliveries…welcome to the weekly 2019 Cooking With the Box! The box is already packed with some fun and delicious ingredients and we’re only in the second week of the season! Meet me here each week and I’ll walk you through the contents of each box, offering recipe and serving suggestions for every item! Along the way I hope you’ll find some recipes that fit your style or perhaps a bit of inspiration to make something else. Either way, don’t forget to have fun, enjoy eating well and NEVER BE INTIMIDATED BY A VEGETABLE!
Frosty Sorrel-Banana Smoothie
I always like to start with our featured vegetables, which means we’re going to kick off this week’s cooking with Rhubarb and Sorrel. As much as possible, I try to incorporate vegetables into breakfast. One of this week’s featured recipes is for Rhubarb-Almond Baked Oatmeal (see below), which is a delicious start to any day. You can prep this recipe the night before and bake it off in the morning which will fill your house with sweet, spicy aromas that are sure to get everyone up and going for the day! We like to eat this with a drizzle of maple cream and a few slices of salty bacon. You can also incorporate sorrel into your morning with this Frosty Sorrel-Banana Smoothie. This is a recipe I developed several years ago and I just can’t get enough of these when sorrel is available in the spring.
If you don’t use your sorrel for a smoothie, you could use it to make the other featured recipe this week for Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup (see below). This is based on the traditional Greek soup called Avgolemono which is a simple chicken soup flavored with lemon and thickened with eggs which enrich the soup and make it velvety smooth. You can make this recipe in 15-20 minutes at most and it’s a great way to incorporate greens into your day. You can just make the basic soup or you can add orzo or rice as well as shredded chicken if you like. Serve this with a slice of rustic bread or a green salad and dinner is done. In fact, you could make some Ramp Butter to slather on that bread or you could make these Buttermilk Ramp Biscuits. If you have any biscuits remaining, heat them up in the morning to make some breakfast sandwiches including scrambled eggs with chopped chives.
Radish Top Aioli, photo from food52.com
If you’re making the ramp butter, don’t be afraid to double the recipe and use the entire bunch of ramps. It freezes really well and is nice to tuck away for a nice winter treat. It is also really delicious spread on the pretty little French Breakfast radishes! I typically eat the first radishes of the season with nothing more than salt and butter, ramp butter is just a bonus. Don’t forget about the radish tops—they’re part of the vegetable and may be eaten as well! I like to spread butter on the leaves and then wrap them around the radish for a quick little snack. You could also try this recipe for Radish Top Aioli. Spread the aioli on bread and add the sliced radishes for a quick open-faced sandwich or, as the French call it, a tartine.
Nettle & Wild Onion Rice Balls
Photo from GatherVictoria.com
I’m really excited to try this recipe for Nettle & Wild Onion Rice Balls. The “wild onion” called for in this recipe may be ramp leaves or chives. You do have to plan ahead to get all the components ready including blanching the nettles and preparing the rice. For this recipe you’ll need to use a short grain rice or sushi rice which is stickier than long grain rice. These can be served at room temperature with a little soy sauce. I’m going to serve them with a fresh salad made from this week’s saute mix tossed with this Toasted Sesame Asian Salad Dressing.
What are we going to do with the pound of asparagus in this week’s box? I typically don’t get past simply steaming or roasting asparagus, but I also really like asparagus with mushrooms. Thus, this recipe for Chicken, Asparagus and Wild Mushroom Stir-Fry caught my eye. This has more of a French feel to me than an Asian feel which I associate more with the term “stir-fry,” but who can go wrong with mushrooms, asparagus, cream and white wine or dry vermouth to make a light cream sauce!? Serve this over cooked egg noodles with a bit of chopped chives as a garnish.
Sausage, Egg and Cheese Casserole with Spinach
Photo from AlexandraCooks.com
Most weeks need to include some sort of quantity egg dish, at least in my world. This week I’m going to try this simple recipe for Sausage, Egg and Cheese Casserole with Spinach. You can use whatever greens you have remaining which could be spinach, saute mix, nettles or even your radish tops! Serve this breakfast casserole with Parsnip Hash Browns and you’ll have yourself one delicious meal.
We’ve reached the bottom of this week’s box. Next week we have our eye on a unique spring green, Hon Tsai Tai. Don’t worry, I’ll coach you on how to pronounce it next week! It looks like our first crop of salad mix may be ready next week as well and we have some pretty little mini romaine lettuces that may make it within the next two weeks. Have a great week of cooking and I’ll see you back here next week!
Featuring Sorrel & Rhubarb...the Unsuspected Vegetable Cousins from the Buckwheat Family
This week we have another double vegetable feature, which is very fitting since the two vegetables are in the same botanical family! We’re talking about RHUBARB & SORREL. Rhubarb? I thought rhubarb was a fruit, not a vegetable. Lets talk, starting with rhubarb first.
Yes, RHUBARB is a vegetable, although it is most often used like a fruit. Rhubarb is a perennial crop and it takes several years to build up the energy reserves in the rhizome. Thus, we don’t harvest rhubarb until, at the very earliest, the third year. We remove the leaves in the field because they should not be consumed or eaten.
Rhubarb is thought to have originated in Asia, specifically the areas of western China, Tibet, Mongolia and Siberia. Thus, it’s easy to understand it is well adapted to cold climates. Before it became a food crop, it was actually used for medicinal purposes. It was the early 1900’s before it really gained much momentum as a food crop, at least in Europe and the United States.
Rhubarb has a distinct, unique flavor that is quite good. It may be eaten raw or cooked, however it’s pretty tart and it is most often cooked first. Over the years it became known in some areas as “The Pie Plant” because it is most often used in pies. While the sweetness of baked goods helps to counter balance the tartness of rhubarb, this vegetable can also be used in savory preparations. Instead of masking the characteristic tartness of rhubarb with sugar, why not use those innate qualities to your advantage?! It can be used to create a flavorful braising liquid or sauce to serve with pork, duck, chicken thighs or other fatty meats. The flavor of rhubarb can stand up to bolder spices such as curry powder, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon and ginger, thus rhubarb chutney can make a nice accompaniment to Indian curry dishes or serve it with grilled or roasted meats. Rhubarb compote or chutney is also delicious served simply as a snack with cream cheese and crackers! Rhubarb can also be used as a stir-fry vegetable, added towards the end of cooking so it just starts to soften, but still holds its shape.
Grandma Yoder's Rhubarb Custard Pie
Whether sweet or savory, there are so many things you can do with rhubarb. If you can’t decide what to make now and need some time to think it over, you can easily preserve rhubarb by freezing it. Just wash the stalks, cut them into bite-sized pieces and put them in a freezer bag to pop in the freezer. Perhaps you’ll come up with just the right use for it sometime during the winter!
Ok, moving on to SORREL. Sorrel is a leafy green that is bright lime colored with pinkish stems. Just like rhubarb, it is characterized by its tartness. It has a bright citrusy flavor and may be eaten both raw and cooked. In its raw form, it makes a nice addition to salads or some of our other spring favorites including Sorrel Hummus, Sorrel-Lime Cooler and Frosty Sorrel-Banana Smoothies! Thinly sliced sorrel is also a nice addition to spring tacos or use it as a garnish for lentils or beans in lieu of a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
Sorrel is also commonly used in soups and sauces. It is an interesting green that literally melts when you put it in hot liquid. It gives soup a velvety texture and creates smooth sauces. You’ll also notice the color will quickly go from bright green to olive green when you cook it. Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong, that’s just what it does. Sorrel pairs well with cream, eggs, chicken, fish, mushrooms, asparagus, spinach and other spring greens. It is also a nice balance to more neutral foods such as dried beans and potatoes.
There you have it, two unique spring vegetables with a long list of possibilities of delicious outcomes!
Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup
Yield: 4 servings
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bu sorrel, roughly chopped (approx. 4 cups)
3 oz baby spinach (approx. 4 cups)
½ cup finely chopped chives (for garnish) AND 1 cup roughly chopped chives
1 tsp salt, plus to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup uncooked orzo or ¾ cup cooked rice (optional)
½- ¾ cup shredded cooked chicken (optional)
Place chicken or vegetable broth, sorrel, spinach and the 1 cup of roughly chopped chives in a blender along with 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper. If your blender pitcher is too small to contain all the greens, just add part of the greens at first, run the blender for a few seconds and then add the remainder. Blend until all the broth is smooth and all the greens are well blended.
Pour the mixture into a large saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer over medium to medium-low heat. If there is a froth on the top of the soup, use a large spoon to skim some of it off.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until they’re well blended and a pale yellow. Whisk in the lemon juice, one tablespoon at a time.
Once the greens broth is warm, add the orzo or rice. Simmer just until the orzo is al dente or the rice is heated through. Reduce the heat to low.
Next you will need to carefully temper the eggs. To do this, ladle about ½ cup of the warm broth into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Continue to do this 4 or 5 more times. The purpose of doing this is to slowly warm up the egg mixture without curdling the eggs. Be patient and don’t skip this step.
Once you’ve tempered the eggs, add the egg mixture into the warm broth and whisk well to combine. Gently simmer the soup for another 1 to 2 minutes, whisking periodically. The soup should thicken slightly and lightly coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more salt, pepper or lemon juice if needed.
Serve hot and garnish with the finely chopped chives.
This soup is based on the classic Greek soup called Avgolmemono. It is a simple chicken soup that is thickened with eggs and flavored with lemon juice. It yields a silky, slightly thickened broth and often has orzo pasta or rice added to it. This soup only takes 15-20 minutes to make from start to finish and while it’s very simple, it’s also rich enough to be filling. If you have leftovers, take care to reheat them gently over medium-low heat so you don’t curdle the egg.
Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder
Rhubarb-Almond Baked Oatmeal
Yield: 6 servings
⅔ cup chopped almonds, toasted
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp sea salt
1 ¾ cup whole milk or nut milk
½ cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
1 ½ tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups rhubarb, small dice
Maple Cream (optional):
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 ½ Tbsp maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch baking dish or individual ramekins. You may also use a 9 ½ x 11-inch baking dish, the pieces will just be thinner.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking powder and salt. Stir well to combine.
In a smaller mixing bowl, combine the milk, maple syrup, eggs, butter and vanilla. Whisk until well blended.
Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix well. Fold in the rhubarb.
Pour the batter into the baking dish or ramekins. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is nice and golden.
While the oatmeal is baking, combine sour cream or yogurt with maple syrup and set aside.
When the oatmeal is finished baking, remove from oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Serve warm topped with maple cream if you like. You could also serve it with a drizzle of melted butter or a drizzle of heavy cream or milk if you prefer.
NOTES FROM CHEF ANDREA: You can assemble this recipe a day ahead and hold it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove the baking dish from the refrigerator and let it warm up a bit while you preheat the oven. If you have any leftovers, they reheat very well in a toaster oven or oven. I have not tried reheating it in a microwave.
Recipe adapted by Chef Andrea from a recipe for Honey & Nut Baked Oatmeal
originally published at dishingupthedirt.com
Cooking With This Week's Box
Wild Ramps: Ramp Pesto (See Below); Quiche with Ramps, Mushrooms & Brie; Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream
It’s time to get into the rhythm of “cooking out of the box!” After a long winter, it feels good to have fresh greens and new vegetables coming in from the field. Lets dive in with this week’s box contents. With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, I think we should treat our Moms (or yourself if you are the Mom) to a special Mother’s Day Brunch. This Quiche with Ramps, Mushrooms & Brie served with Alice Water’s Warm Spinach Salad will make a lovely meal. For a little added bonus, make a batch of these Parsnip, Lemon & Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle.
Quiche with Ramps, Mushrooms & Brie
(photo from thegourmetgourmand.com)
We have two bunches of ramps this week, so even after making the quiche, there should still be enough to make a batch of Ramp Pesto(see below). This is great to have in the refrigerator to make a quick pasta dinner. Just boil some fettuccine and toss it with a few spoonfuls of ramp pesto. Done! Of course we could also use that second bunch to make this absolutely delicious Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream! This is one of my favorite spring recipes that was actually prompted by several members. If you don’t use your nettles to make this pizza, you could always try this week’s featured vegetable for Nettle Chips (See Below). This is a great way to eat your greens and these make a great afternoon or weekend snack when you just need something crispy and salty, but very simple. If you’re really short on time this week, the easiest thing of all to make with nettles is Easy & Tasty Nettle Tea. In the midst of a busy week this might be a good way to support your body and keep you well.
Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream
The nights are still a little chilly which makes me want to eat soup, such as this Green Garlic Soup. This recipe makes 8-10 servings and calls for more green garlic than is in this week’s box. I’d recommend cutting the recipe in half and using the entire bunch of green garlic supplemented with some chives. If you aren’t into soup this week, use the green garlic to make this Green Garlic Toast. This toast will go great with scrambled eggs (perhaps with some ramp pesto mixed in) for a light dinner or a hearty breakfast.
Green Garlic Soup
(photo from loveandoliveoil.com)
If you have some chives remaining, use them to make Almond-Chive Salmon for dinner served with Creamed Spinach & Parsnips. If you have any salmon left, mix it with mayonnaise to make a little salmon salad to take for lunch the next day.
This recipe for Carrot Tart with Ricotta & Herbs is a little bit more complicated, but it’s a lovely dish and would make a nice brunch item or eat it as a light dinner. Of course, those sweet carrots might also be great used to make these Carrot Cake Pancakes. This is a sure way to get children of all ages to eat their vegetables!
We have a great week of meals ahead of us with all these options. As we look ahead to next week, we are crossing our fingers that we’ll be able to deliver ramps again as well as more chives, nettles and green garlic. We should also have some asparagus and red radishes to add to the box! So, if you find more recipes you want to try, save them until next week! Have a great week of cooking and I’ll see you back here next week!
This Week's Featured Vegetables: Stinging Nettles & Wild Ramps--The Wild Things!
Spring has a beautiful way of nourishing us and giving us just what we need, even when we don’t know we need it! The first of our double-vegetable feature this week is Stinging Nettles. We wild harvest them on our farm, but also plant them in the field. They need to be handled carefully, especially before they are washed and cooked. They have little fibers on the stems that contain several different compounds including formic acid, which will give you a “stinging” sensation if you touch them with your bare skin. “Why are you giving me a vegetable that will sting me?! Are you trying to kill me?!” No, quite the contrary!
Nettles are very nutrient dense and we consider them to be a “Wisconsin Super Food.” They help our bodies wake up after a long, cold wet winter and help us purify our blood and cleanse our bodies. They have anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties. They are high in protein as well as carotenoids, chlorophyll, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, selenium and vitamins B, C, D and K. Wow—that’s a lot of nutritional goodness in one plant! Nettles give us that jump start we need in the spring and, they also taste great! Cooking destroys the stingers so you can then safely handle them with bare hands. We recommend cooking them before eating. They have a rich flavor similar to spinach, but even better! So no, we are not trying to harm you. Rather, our intention is to give you something delicious and nourishing.
Here are some recommendations for handling them. First, many of these stingers are removed with vigorous washing, which we’ve already done for you. Even though we’ve washed them, I would still recommend you handle them carefully and avoid touching with bare hands prior to cooking. Some people are more sensitive to their sting than others, which is why we’ve also put them in a plastic bag to make it easier to get them home without touching them. You can use the bag as your “glove” to hold the bottom of the bunch while you carefully remove the twist tie. We do recommend you wash them in a sink of water after you’ve removed the twist tie. While you are washing them, bring a big pot of water to a boil. Transfer the nettles from the sink to the boiling water using a pair of tongs. Boil them for 2-3 minutes and then transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool them. Now you can handle them with your bare hands.
Use the bag as a "glove" when handling nettles.
Nettle leaves are perishable, so it is best to cook them shortly after you receive them. It is better to store them in their cooked form for a few days until ready for use. The cooking water makes a beautiful tea, so don’t discard it. You can drink the tea either hot or cold and mixed with honey and lemon. The water can also be used to cook pasta, rice, etc. Nettles are often used to make soup, but you can also use them in pesto, or risotto and pasta dishes. Nettles may be substituted for spinach in any recipe calling for cooked spinach. They pair well with eggs, dairy, mushrooms, asparagus and other spring greens.
The second part of our feature is Wild Ramps! Ramps are are one of the first green things to pop up in the spring. They have a very short season lasting, at most, 4-5 weeks. They have a unique flavor that is kind of oniony-garlicky, but honestly the best way to describe it is simply rampy. They resemble a green onion, except they have tender, delicate lily-like leaves. Ramps grow in the woods and, while they can be replanted to establish new patches, it takes a very long time for them to multiply and spread. Many, us included, are concerned about the sustainability of ramps. Because they take so long to multiply and replenish, it’s important to be mindful when harvesting them. Ramps grow in clumps and we’re careful to only take about half the clump while leaving the other half undisturbed. If you’d like to learn more about our harvest practices, please read our blog post from April 20, 2017.
Ramps may be eaten raw or cooked. When raw they can be quite pungent, but the flavor mellows with cooking. You can eat both leaves and the lower bulb. Just trim away the roots. Some popular ways to use ramps include risotto and pasta dishes. Ramps also pair well with eggs in scrambles, frittatas and quiche. Ramp pesto is another great way to use this vegetable and it’s our featured ramp recipe this week. Ramps pair well with cream, cheese, bacon and other spring vegetables including mushrooms, asparagus, nettles and spinach.
The leaves on ramps are the most perishable part and should be used within a few days. To store ramps, wrap the bunch in a damp paper or linen towel and keep them in the refrigerator.
If you’re looking for more recipe and use ideas for these two spring treats, check out the recipe archive on our website. We hope you enjoy these spring treasures!
1 bunch nettles
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
Salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Wash the nettles in a sink of cold water. Using gloves or a bag over your hand, take the nettle stems out of the water and place them on a towel. Gently pat them dry.
- Using a scissors, trim the tender leaves and upper stem off the main stem. Put all of the trimmed leaves into a mixing bowl.
Drizzle the leaves with oil and soy sauce or coconut aminos. Using a tongs, toss the leaves to thoroughly coat them with the oil and soy sauce mixture.
- Spread the leaves on a non-stick baking sheet (or use parchment paper). If you use low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos, you’ll want to season the nettles lightly with a sprinkling of salt. If you use full sodium soy sauce, you may not need additional salt.
- Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until crisp. You will need to turn them once about halfway through baking. Try to separate the leaves as best you can so they bake more evenly.
- Remove from the oven and cool. Taste one and add additional salt if needed. They are best eaten immediately.
Note: If you have leftovers, crush the chips and use them as a topping to sprinkle on top of salads, eggs or buttered toast.
Recipe by Chef Andrea
1 bunch ramps, cleaned
½ cup toasted almonds or pine nuts
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (or other hard cheese)
3-5 tsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Cut the leaves off the ramps. Roughly chop the leaves and set them aside.
Put the ramp bulbs and nuts in the bowl of a food processor and coarsely chop them.
- Add the cheese, ¼ tsp salt, black pepper, 3 tsp lemon juice and the ramp leaves. Continue to process the contents while slowly pouring in the olive oil.
Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper and lemon juice to brighten it up.
Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. It’s best to pour a little extra olive oil over the top of the jar to preserve the color of the pesto.
Note: If you do not have a food processor, you can also make pesto in a blender. Of course people used to make pesto before the invention of electronic appliances, so you could also just use a knife and finely chop all the ingredients.
Ramp Pesto Serving Suggestions:
Toss a few spoonfuls with hot pasta
Stir into scrambled eggs
Use ramp pesto as the base for a delicious homemade pizza topped with mushrooms, bacon, prosciutto, mozzarella, etc.
Spread on toast or a bagel with fresh ricotta or cream cheese
Stir a spoonful into mayonnaise and use it as a sandwich spread or dipping sauce
Baste grilled or roasted chicken with pesto
Serve with seared salmon
Recipe by Chef Andrea
One of the things we appreciate most about growing for our CSA program is the opportunity to connect with our members. Forming a connection goes both ways, so we thought we’d start off the year by telling you a little more about ourselves. I’ll share about myself this week and you can watch for Farmer Richard’s story coming in the next newsletter!
Chef Andrea preparing for a food demo.
I came to Harmony Valley Farm back in 2007. I had signed on to be the seasonal farm chef from April through November and my primary job was to prepare lunch for the farm crew and dinner for farm residents Monday-Friday. I was also asked to write articles and recipes for the newsletter and serve as a resource for CSA members. I was a recent graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York (CIA). When I decided to go to the CIA, I was labeled as a “Career Changer Student.” I was in my mid 20’s and had been working as a registered dietitian at the University of Virginia Health System. I was a clinical dietitian and worked with nutrition support (tube feedings and IV nutrition) and saw patients in an outpatient GI (gastrointestinal) clinic. While I had a great career going and enjoyed my work, I always felt like there was something missing and really couldn’t see myself continuing on that trajectory the rest of my career. So I started looking around and stumbled across the CIA website. I had never even considered going to cooking school, but after I went for a visit I knew that was the next step on my journey.
Chef Andrea roasting garlic in the farm kitchen
I never imagined culinary school would lead me to being a farm chef, but on the other hand, I really couldn’t see myself as a restaurant chef either. Honestly, I didn’t know what being a farm chef was when I got here. I also didn’t really know what it meant to be “certified organic.” I was mostly just intrigued by all the unusual things Richard was growing here! My vegetable repertoire was pretty limited when I started, but I quickly figured out how to tackle new vegetables. Eat it raw, eat it cooked, overcook it so I know what it means to be cooked just perfectly, do a little research and then start experimenting. I learned to get creative with the vegetables we had available and how to prepare lunch for 35 crew members in a cost-effective way. At the end of my contract, I was asked to stay and help manage some other parts of the farm.
Our "kids" are pretty cute!
Fast forward to today and I can hardly believe this is the start of my thirteenth growing season! I have a lot of different responsibilities on the farm. I manage greenhouse transplant production as well as the packing shed. I schedule trucks, manage our food safety practices, do employee training, manage wholesale sales, go to the farmers’ market, troubleshoot refrigeration and electrical problems, schedule drain cleaning, take care of goat babies born in the middle of the winter, and basically anything else that may need to be done. Another important, and really fun part of my life here, is to be a culinary resource for you, our CSA members. My mission each week is to help guide you through the boxes. When I write in the newsletter or on the blog, I try to imagine that I’m talking to you as if I were talking to you face to face at the farmers’ market!
So what else? Simply put, I love food! I love experiencing flavors, smells, textures and watching food change and develop as I cook. I love the life and energy we get from food and I LOVE the beauty of vegetable fields! I like to eat soup, leftovers and salad for breakfast. I think eggs are an amazing gift from nature and eat them nearly every day. I think everyone should be able to eat good food, and I cringe at how many boxes of cereal I ate to sustain me during my college days. I’m jealous of CSA kids—I wish I were one. At least I had the opportunity to be a farm kid and have fond memories of gardening with my mom, picking and preserving vegetables for winter storage and accidentally pulling all the parsley out of my mom’s garden in an effort to “help her with the weeding” (oops—sorry mom). I love cookbooks, especially ones with beautiful photos, nice binding and interesting stories and commentaries. I most often don’t follow the recipes, but use them for inspiration and to generate ideas. I like to eat out in restaurants. However I’m often disappointed because, honestly, the food we prepare at home is always so much better!
Farmer Andrea checking on her "babies" in the greenhouse.
I’m intrigued by soil and plant health and am amazed at how nature works. I more fully understand now why eating organic food is so important for the health of our environment, but also our bodies. If we choose food that is alive and healthy itself, it can help us live our best lives and feel good. Food can be our medicine, but it can also bring us pleasure, joy and connection with people and places. Food can open our eyes, minds, and hearts and can be the common denominator in a world of differences. It allows us to travel and experience a little piece of another part of the world without even leaving home.
I believe that anyone can cook and no one should ever be intimidated by a vegetable. Life is research and if a recipe doesn’t quite turn out as you thought it might, that’s ok. It might actually be better than what it was supposed to be! In the newsletters each week I try to offer you simple, doable, yet interesting and tasty recipes. Sometimes I might include a recipe that is a little more complex or uses an ingredient that might be new to you with hopes of challenging you to do something you may have never done before.
Visiting with farmer friend, Mas Masumoto
I like to know where my food comes from. I like to know the people who make and produce it. I want to know what impact it had on the environment and I want my food choices to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. I like to use olive oil grown and pressed at Frog Hollow Farm by Farmer Al, which is the most “local” olive oil I’ve been able to find. I can’t get enough of Jamie and Diane’s shiitake mushrooms from the farmers’ market. If I’m going to eat a nut grown outside our region, it’s going to be biodynamic almonds grown by my friend Gina at Marian Farms. Her raisins are also quite spectacular. I prefer cheese from the herd at McCluskey Brothers at Shillelagh Glen Farms. I am slightly addicted to Faith Annaker’s (Fizzeology) fermented hot sauce, especially the sauce she made with OUR peppers! I like to sit down to a meal and be able to give thanks for the hands that make it possible for me to enjoy such delicious, nourishing meals and for the many friendships I’ve developed with these people over the years.
I will be the first to admit I do not know all there is to know about cooking and vegetables. I value learning from other people and appreciate it when members share their favorite recipes with me. I want to know how you make the best use of your CSA box each week. I want to know what evokes the “Happy Food Dance” in your household!
Lastly, I believe CSA is a good thing—for farmers, for the land, for our kids, our families and our future. I hope you enjoy being part of our farm this season and I look forward to getting to know you better.
“Vote with your food dollars.”
“Keep your money in the local economy.”
“Know your farmer, know your food.”
Are you familiar with any of these phrases? What about “Sign-Up Now?” Or “Join now so you don’t miss out!” Hey, those are my lines and we’ve been using them a lot as we are trying to encourage people to sign up for CSA shares before the season starts in three short weeks! “Miss out on what? It’s just vegetables, what’s the big deal about CSA anyway?" Does any of this “support your local food system” talk even matter?
Earlier this year, my friend (ok, we’ve only met once, but she’s awesome) Andrea Bemis released a film called Local Thirty. This was one of the main films featured at Fairshare CSA Coalition’s Food and Farms Film Fest this past March. While many documentaries about our food system over the past 10-12 years have been very informative and brought important truths to light, some have been pretty heavy and intense! This film was different. It was about food, forming connections, and finding a sense of “home.” It focused on exploring your local food system and the positive impact that can have on our lives and our meals. It was a welcome relief to watch a film about our food system that made me laugh, chuckle, yet still pushed me to think about my own food choices.
Andrea B. is a real live farmer who grows vegetables at the base of Mt Hood in Oregon along with her husband, Taylor. In addition to farming, Andrea B also writes a blog called Dishing Up the Dirt, which is also the title of her cookbook! If you’ve followed my CookingWith the Box articles on our blog over the past few CSA seasons, you’ll likely recognize her blog as I have shared many of her recipes along the way. It all started back in September 2018 when Andrea B, her husband Taylor, and their farm crew (Adam and Rachel) decided to challenge themselves to source all of their ingredients from within a 200 mile radius. They had 10 cheat foods each (eg coffee, lemons, black pepper, etc), but aside from those foods they only ate the things they could source within 200 miles. Why would anyone do something like this? They didn’t really have an end goal or mission they were hoping to achieve. They used this time as a framework for learning and discovering their local food system. What treasures (both food and people) were they missing? It was about finding more of a sense of “home.”
As they prepared for and lived out the month of September, they had to do their research to find some of the ingredients they didn’t produce themselves. Research for Andrea B went beyond the internet, she actually left the farm to visit people she’d never met before so she could learn more about what they were doing. She had the opportunity to stomp grapes at a vineyard, take a wild fishing trip off the coast to catch tuna, visit a dairy farm and drink milk right from the cow, forage for wild mushrooms and walk the pastures on a neighbor’s cattle ranch. And what became of all of this?
Here is Andrea B’s conclusion in her own words: “Eating locally for me is about discovering and celebrating what we have, not mourning what we don't. It's about strangers becoming friends, and learning more about our landscape and the place we call home. When we start looking around and talking to each other, it becomes evident that we just have so much……When I first set out on a month long challenge to only eat ingredients produced within 200 miles of my home I had no idea how transforming that experiment would be. Eating the foods I found and prepared rooted me deeper into my home. They were the flesh of plants I touched and animals I knew. This made me feel more alive, wild and human. I found out that eating locally is about discovering and celebrating a bounty that is all our own and letting it shape a little bit of who we are. It's about joy.”
So does it really matter if you know your farmer? Does it matter if you eat food from local sources? Does the story behind the food you eat mean anything? Does being part of a CSA or shopping at the farmers’ market impact your life in any way that‘s different than shopping at the grocery store? Well for some people, perhaps these things don’t really matter. But for me…yes, it matters and yes, it’s important. Andrea B. is right, it’s about joy and forming connections.
Food is political, food is social justice and injustice, food is linked to our environment and our economy. But food is also relational. It’s a bridge to bring our lives together. You just don’t know what treasures you might discover and what stories you will unveil when you take the time to look. Connection. Whether we know it or not, we all need connection. Every time you learn a little more about your food sources, you’re allowing a little piece of someone else’s world to become part of yours. This does bring joy, appreciation, respect and understanding. It causes you to think outside of yourself and your own experiences while at the same time, bringing some stinkin’ delicious food to your tables! Yes, I’m convinced that food tastes better when you know the story about where it came from.
So back to the original question, does any of this “support your local food system” talk even matter? I believe the answer is “Yes.” At the very least, if you like to eat good food I guarantee you’ll find some of your best ingredients when you look locally. The other part of this “Yes” is the community piece. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, but this isn’t a one-way concept. We need the community to support our farm, but the community also needs to be supported by those producing food! In the end, we all have a part in this thing we call our local food system, or in Andrea B’s words, the place we call home.
The fertile soil and beautiful fields of Harmony Valley Farm
In closing, I’ll leave you with one last message. Our deliveries start in just three short weeks, so Join Now So You Don’t Miss Out! If you’re looking to add a new dimension as well as some joy and really great food to your meals, we hope you’ll not only join us for the 2019 CSA season but encourage you to see what other treasures you can find within your local food system this year.
NOTE: Go to www.localthirty.com for more information about Andrea Bemis’s documentary and how to watch the whole thing. It’s only 46 minutes long, so make some snacks and kick back to watch it this weekend!
If you are new to the concept of CSA and/or new to our farm, this letter is for you! It was written by longtime CSA members of our farm, Carol Wilson & Bob Philbin. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it and consider their insights as you think about joining a CSA for the 2019 season! We did not ask them to write this letter, this is something they chose to do on their own as a way of sharing their perspectives of their CSA experience over the past 20 plus years.
--Richard & Andrea
Dear Prospective Harmony Valley Farm CSA member,
Pollinators planted alongside crops.
You have a bewildering number of choices about which CSA is right for you – length of season, variety of vegetables, cost, convenience of pick up location, day of the week for pick up, etc.
Another topic to consider is what the farmer(s) of the CSA are doing to address the health of our environment.
Richard de Wilde and Andrea Yoder, the farmers of Harmony Valley Farm, are conscientious stewards of the land.
They have a system of land management that both produces healthy and nutritious food for their members, and provides healthy habitats for insects and animals that are part of their comprehensive organic growing practice.
In addition their processes also address climate change by planting cover crops that sequester carbon thereby reducing the carbon in the atmosphere.
Farmer Richard has been planting cover crops for over 40 years, well before carbon sequestration was being talked about!
His farming practices are informed by science as well as by his decades of experience as an organic farmer.
As the plight of bees, monarchs, and other pollinators has become known, Harmony Valley Farm has included “pollinator packs” in the CSA share. These packs have native flowers and grasses that offer “habitat and food sources for a variety of species that provide pollination services, help control pests, and contribute to keeping our ecosystem healthy and in good balance.” Because of these packs, we now have a lovely patch of anise hyssop, silky wild rye, and other flowers and grasses to offer our neighborhood insects.
Cover crop growing in our fields.
Harmony Valley Farm (HVF) has been our source for vegetables, beef, and pork since our adult children were young.
Richard and Andrea do not rest on their laurels, though they could!
They are always learning about and trying new vegetables, new varieties of vegetables, and new ways of helping their members to make good use of their CSA share. There are so many things to appreciate about being part of HVF including the informative, educational, and practical newsletters, the variety of vegetables, the value of the share, and the length of the season.
As part of the HVF CSA, you receive all of this AND the knowledge that you are part of the environmental and climate change solution.
You can learn more about HVF by visiting their website
and by reading their blog
Check out a newsletter or two to see how Andrea shares ideas and recipes for making use of all of the veggies in the box.
Good luck with your decision and we hope to see you at HVF Strawberry Day!
Carol Wilson and Bob Philbin
By Andrea Yoder
The farm is almost in full swing as we near the end of March and look forward to the start of April! We’ve nearly filled our first two greenhouses with seedlings and will need to move into the third house early next week. Most of our snow has melted away and, thankfully, we made it through the melt without flooding or too many issues. We’ve enjoyed some beautiful sunny days and it’s been refreshing to have some warmer temperatures to go along with the sunshine!
Our crew with the willow they've tucked away in the cooler.
Earlier this week the packing shed crew spent some time in the fields trimming the pussy willow and curly willow trees which took off as soon as the weather started to warm up! We had just a little window of opportunity to get into the field and trim the pussy willow before the catkins (little fuzzy things) opened too far and leaves started growing on the branches. Our trimmings are safely tucked away in the cooler to keep them from opening further. We’re also happy to report that no one got stuck in the mud! The fields are still very wet, but some sunshine and a little spring breeze should help them dry out over the next few weeks.
Onions in the greenhouse waiting to be planted in the field.
Our first group of field crew will be traveling to Monterrey, Mexico this weekend to have their interviews at the consulate and hopefully they’ll be on their way to Wisconsin with visas in hand by the end of next week! We’re looking forward to their return and wish them safe travels! Once they’re back, the pace of the farm will kick into high gear. We’ll spend some time doing annual training and we have a lot of spring cleaning projects to do, but as soon as the fields are dry enough we’ll be anxious to get some field work done! Onions are scheduled to go to the field early in April and our first scheduled planting of salad greens, spring spinach, radishes, cilantro, etc is April 8! We’re crossing our fingers that the weather will cooperate and make that date a reality!
Longtime CSA members, Carol & Bob.
We still have plenty of CSA Shares available and are anxious to fill up our sites before the start of deliveries in just 7 weeks!
If you’ve already signed up for your 2019 shares, you will be receiving a Welcome Packet early in April.
If you are new to our farm or still contemplating whether or not you want to join CSA this year, take a moment to read this letter
from longtime CSA members, Carol & Bob.
They sent us this earlier this month and asked that we share it with Prospective CSA Members.
In their letter they make the point that the value of CSA does go beyond the dollars of vegetables in your box.
It is also an opportunity to take your food purchases beyond your plate and vote with your food dollars by supporting farms and systems that are in alignment with your own values.
Have a great spring and stay tuned for more updates as spring unfolds on our farm!
By Andrea Yoder
Happy February! It’s hard to believe another month has passed us by since our last farm update, but here we are approaching the end of February. Despite the slower pace of winter, we’ve actually had a lot going on over the past month. Here’s what we’ve been up to.
Polar Vortex Sunrise on January 31, 2019
First, we’re happy to report we survived the Polar Vortex of 2019! For those few bitter cold days, our valley was eerily quiet and still. I have to admit they were also several of the most gorgeous, sunny winter days we’ve ever experienced! The skies were bright blue and totally clear. The sunrises in the morning were gentle as the sun woke up and shined a rosy smile upon our valley. The trees were so cold we could hear them cracking and moaning in the crisp, bitter cold morning air. Before the cold set in we made sure the animals had extra bedding in their shelters and the cows got some of their “chocolate” hay to encourage them to stay inside the barn for shelter and warmth. We made sure furnaces were working, drained any water pipes not in use and were diligent about doing frequent checks of employee houses as well as the packing shed. All in all, it wasn’t so bad and we realize others in the region experienced much colder temperatures than we did.
Snow Mountain after clearing snow this Thursday.
I’ve lost track of just how much snow we’ve actually had throughout the month, 4-5 inches here, 6 inches there….the bottom line is it’s really starting to pile up! As we started this week, our snow piles looked more like snow mountains and on Wednesday we got another 5 inches. While we all enjoy a good snow day, it has made it difficult to get our winter work done. Nonetheless we’ve tried to make the most of our days and the packing shed crew and office staff have been working their way down the winter to-do lists. The packing shed crew did a thorough top to bottom cleaning of the shop and lunch area….wow what a difference! Everything looks much brighter and we love clean! Nearly all the greenhouse flats have been washed and sterilized. The potting soil arrived at the end of January and we have three big bags thawed out and ready to go. We had hoped to start planting in our first greenhouse earlier this week, so last week the crew did a thorough cleaning of the nursery and finished setting up the heat table system on Monday.
Simon checking the water temperature as he sterilizes seeds.
Our plans didn’t quite play out as we had hoped for this week.
On Monday we received a couple big wholesale orders, which we are grateful to have.
Everyone shifted gears and we worked hard to wash over 1,000 pounds of burdock, a few bins of sunchokes, along with a few cases of radishes, turnips, and shallots.
Now that the orders are filled, our focus is back on getting some seeds planted!
This morning Simon set up our super high-tech (ok, not so high tech, but it works) seed sterilizer to hot water treat our onion seeds to remove any seed borne diseases.
We are happy to report we were able to start planting this afternoon! Beatriz, Moises and Gerardo are enjoying a sunny day of greenhouse work. They filled and pre-watered flats in the morning and Gerardo started planting this afternoon! It was so refreshing to walk into the greenhouse after lunch and smell the wet potting soil! It will take awhile to get all the onions planted and then we’ll need to move on to celeriac, leeks, lettuce, kohlrabi and more!
Snow falling on our Curly Willow & Fantail Willow Hedgerow
This month’s crop report will be brief.
We’re happy to report the deer fence around the overwintered
spinach field is upright, intact and doing its job to keep the deer out. The spinach is nicely insulated with all this snow, so lets all cross our fingers and hope we have a good harvest this spring!
Last fall we were also able to lay the reflective plastic mulch and drip tape for this year’s onion field.
We put a deer fence around it as well to keep them from tromping across the field poking holes in the plastic.
Very soon we need to get out to the field to trim our willow hedgerows, but all of this snow will make it a bit of a challenge!
I have to say, the fantail & curly willow trees look pretty cool against the white backdrop and add some texture to the landscape!
Mike changing one of the tractor tires.
We’ve also taken advantage of winter down time to get some tractors repaired. One of our little IH Super C cultivating tractors was hauled to a shop last week for repair. This week the two Allis Chalmers WD 45 tractors that pull harvest wagons got new tires. Thank you to Mike & Mark from our local Cenex station for helping us with this repair project!
Andrea spent several days this week visiting some of our buyer partners in the Twin Cities and scouted out our two new CSA sites including The Power House at St. Louis Park & Roseville City Hall! Kelly & Gwen continue to process CSA orders and have been working hard on getting our promotional materials up to date, putting together this year’s CSA calendar, and a whole host of other tasks! We’re still working on finalizing our Thursday CSA route in Madison, but we’re almost finished! We’re happy to have added new sites in the DeForest/Windsor and Waunakee areas. We also have new sites on the northeast side of Madison as well as one on Sherman Avenue and another near Monroe St. We’re excited to be partnering with several business locations as well. Some locations are for employees only, however we do have several that are open to the public including one in Middleton! Thank you for your patience as we have been working to put together all the logistics for this new route. Now it’s time to fill the truck!
Promo materials we have been working on.
We still have plenty of shares available and would like to ask you for your help in spreading the word about CSA within your communities.
From past experience, we know that some of the most meaningful “advertising” happens when CSA members share their CSA experiences and encourage other people in their community to consider connecting to a farm.
We have a variety of materials we can send to you if you’re willing to help us extend our reach to your community.
We’d be happy to send pull tab posters, sign up forms, informational brochures/cards and we have New Member Coupons
These coupons entitle a new member to receive $15 to $25 off their order and the referring member will receive a $20 coupon!
Just let us know and we’ll put together a packet of information for you.
Photo from DishingUpTheDirt.com
There are a couple of events coming up as well.
On March 5, Fairshare CSA Coalition
is hosting a Food & Farms Film Festival
They have a pretty good lineup of films including the new Local Thirty
documentary featuring Andrea Bemis!!
For those of you who follow along in my Cooking with The Box articles throughout the season, you know I have an affinity for Andrea’s blog, Dishing up the Dirt
I’m really hoping to be able to meet Andrea in person so we can geek out about growing, cooking and eating vegetables!
On March 17 we’ll be attending the Fairshare CSA Open House, now called the Find Your Farm event
If you live in the Madison area, we hope you’ll stop in to say hello.
This is a great event to share with anyone who may be considering joining a CSA but hasn’t yet made the commitment.
That’s a wrap for this month. In case you’re wondering, we’re only about 10 ½ weeks away from the first CSA delivery week! Keep that in mind as we gear up for another winter storm this weekend!
Hello from Harmony Valley Farm! As I write this, the snow has blanketed our valley in bright white! While our fields are resting peacefully, we are reminded that our growing season officially starts in about 3 weeks with our first greenhouse planting AND we’re only 15 weeks from the first CSA delivery week! Yikes…we better keep moving!
We’ve been hard at work preparing for the upcoming season, but wanted to take a moment to connect with you and share a little glimpse into our winter world. We also want to tell you about some of the exciting things we’re looking forward to for the 2019 CSA season. Before we jump into 2019, lets take a brief look back at our 2018 CSA year.
First CSA box of 2018, with 2 bunches of ramps!
Last year set the record for being the latest first planting date in the history of Harmony Valley Farm! After getting a foot of snow on April 18th, we were relieved to watch it melt quickly allowing us to finally get into the fields to start planting just one week later on April 25th. It took focused determination and a lot of team work to get caught up, but we were able to pull it off and get back on track pretty quickly. One of the benefits to a late spring is that the ramp harvest season was also several weeks behind, but just in time for our first week of CSA deliveries! We were able to pack not one but TWO bunches of ramps in each of the first three boxes of the season. We also had an awesome asparagus season that started the second week of CSA deliveries. Our new fields produced very well and we were able to pack generous amounts of asparagus for 5 weeks! Despite the spring challenges, Mother Nature came through for us and we were still able to deliver very nice spring boxes with good value.
Every year of farming has its own set of challenges, most often related to the weather. That’s just something you sign up for when you choose to be a farmer! After pushing through the late spring, we reached our weather climax with two big rain events late in August/early September that proved to be our biggest weather challenge of the year. Nonetheless, we stayed in the game and were still able to pack beautiful, plentiful CSA boxes for our full 30 weeks of deliveries! Over the course of the season we delivered about 64 different types of vegetables, and that doesn’t include the multiple different varieties of some vegetables such as seven different varieties of winter squash, three colors of beets, etc.
As we look back, we are also reminded of some of our 2018 farming victories including a delicious 4-week strawberry season, 9 weeks of potatoes, and 7 weeks of sweet & beautiful sweet potatoes! We try to include some of the more staple vegetables more frequently over the course of our 30 week season. Last year we delivered some type of onion & garlic in EVERY CSA box ranging from chives, overwintered onions and green garlic in the spring to delicious white Spanish onions mid-summer and a plentiful supply of red & yellow storage onions as well as shallots and red cipollini onions to wrap up the season. Two-thirds of the boxes included carrots and about one-third of the boxes included broccoli. We also had a nice 10-week run on tomatoes starting late July and running through the end of September! All in all, I’d have to say it was a pretty amazing season!
Black Futsu Pumpkin
photo from High Mowing Organic Seeds
So what’s in store for 2019? First, we have a pretty new radish called “Diana.” Diana is a fresh radish that’s round and has purple shoulders and a white bottom. They are described to be “crunchy and sweet with just the right amount of spicy.” I’m also excited to try the “Black Futsu” winter squash (also referred to as a pumpkin) which is a Japanese vegetable with “unique black, warty skin and nutty, fresh flavor.” One source describes it to have “very smooth, fine grained flesh and a fruity flavor at harvest that lends itself to thinly sliced raw or pickled preparations…With its very edible thin skin, it doesn’t require peeling.” We have a few more new winter squash varieties to trial including two new personal-sized butternuts called “Butterbaby” and “Brulee,” thought to be as delicious as our beloved Honeynut Butternut, but with better yields and longer storage potential. We are also interested in trying “Tetsukabuto” which is described to be “the squash of choice for the Apocalypse!” The word means “steel helmet” in Japanese. With a name like that, it sparked our interest and I guess whomever is left after the Apocalypse can enjoy this “sweet and nutty” squash that is “versatile in the kitchen” and has “exceptionally long storage.”
Last June's celtuce harvest
We’re also looking forward to refining our techniques for growing some crops we’re less familiar with or would like to improve upon. Last year was our second attempt at growing celtuce. It was a lot of fun, but we learned a few things and think we can do a better this year. Even after 40 plus years of growing sweet corn, Farmer Richard continues to set his standards high for growing the most delicious sweet corn. We’ve secured our preferred varieties and Richard and the crew have refined their strategy to protect the crop from pests. Last year was a pretty good year of sweet corn, but we hope this year will be even better!
Of course we continue to consider more ways we can develop greater resilience to the erratic weather patterns we fear are our new norm. We have watched our soil and fertility end up in the creek bottom or road ditches after heavy downpours of rain that come too fast for the moisture to be absorbed. We think about this a lot—what else can we do to keep our soil in place and prevent erosion? We have tried a new approach of planting permanent short grass and clover in between beds of vegetables and pathways around and within fields where water drains off the fields. We had some success with this last year and are planning to expand this practice this year.
Farmer Richard & CSA kids at the Harvest Party 2018
While we realize CSA may not be for everyone, we believe it can be a good fit for many and is intended to be a different model that goes beyond the act of just buying food.
Rather, the whole point of CSA is to connect an eater to the source of their food and a greater community.
This can become a much deeper and more meaningful experience for both the consumer and the farmer with values and benefits that far exceed that of a simple dollar.
We are excited to have the opportunity to continue growing for our CSA members as it really is the most meaningful part of our business.
We know there are values and benefits associated with participating in CSA that are hard to measure, but include health benefits of having a wide variety of plant foods in your diet, learning more about how and where your food is grown, visiting the farm and connecting with both the place and people, participating in the act of preparing your own food and doing so as a family.
These are just a few of the additional benefits CSA members have shared with us about their experiences, but I’m sure there are more.
We are curious how our CSA boxes compare to shopping at a retail grocery store. Every year we ask a CSA member to be our “Secret Shopper.” Each week this individual compares the contents of the vegetable box we deliver to three different types of retail grocery stores which include a local food co-op, a larger natural foods grocery and a traditional grocery store. We took a look at these reports as well as our own data from last year and wanted to share some of the results with you.
CSA box #19 from 2018 included 3 items not found in
grocery stores: fresh edamame, broccoli Romanesco, and
orange Italian frying peppers
Lets talk about dollar value first.
Our weekly CSA vegetable share costs $1050 and includes all 30 weeks of deliveries.
The average cost of a box is $35, although some boxes may have a value a little less than that while others might have much greater value.
If you were to have purchased everything that was delivered over the course of the season at one of these other retail outlets, you would have paid approximately $1300 at the food co-op and traditional grocery store or about $1200 at the larger natural foods grocery store.
Additionally, if you had purchased all of the box contents at our market stand you would’ve paid $1315.
The take home message here?
CSA members receive a value of 14-25% above the actual dollars paid for the share and would have to pay the higher price if they were to make the same purchases at a retail store.
Sun Jewel Melons ready to be packed in CSA boxes
We also found that 13% of all items sourced at the large natural foods store were not organic and at the traditional grocery store 28% of the items were not available organic.
The food co-op was the only store where someone would be able to purchase all organic.
There were also items included in our CSA shares that were not available at any of the comparison stores.
This rate was lowest at the food co-op, but we still found that 22% of the items were not available.
At the other two locations about 30% of the items were not available at all.
Some of these items include some of our seasonal favorites like green garlic, sweetheart cabbage, sun jewel melons, French Orange melons, fresh edamame, purple beans, orange Italian frying peppers, broccoli Romanesco and colored cauliflower. We strive to provide a wide variety of vegetables over the course of the season to keep things interesting and fun, but also because it’s important to eat a wide variety of foods for their nutrients.
As the first month of this new year comes to a close, we thank you for being part of our community.
If you have already made the decision to sign up for a CSA share for this year, thank you!
If you are still in the contemplative stage, we want to remind you that we have an Early Bird Sign Up
offer available until February 14.
We also have two new sites in the Twin Cities area and are still working on refining our new Thursday route into Madison.
Some of our new sites for this route have been confirmed, so check out our sign-up form for these locations.
Be well and enjoy this winter season!---Farmers Richard and Andrea
Cooking With This Week's Box
Red Cipollini Onions: Balsamic Roasted Cipollini Onions (see below)
This is it, our final box of the season. This week’s box is packed full of storage vegetables that will keep well into the next month. Take a moment to read this week’s newsletter to find out how to best store each item. Lets start this week’s cooking with the Red Cipollini Onions which are this week’s featured vegetable. This is a special onion that is at its best, in my opinion, when roasted. My simple recipe for Balsamic Roasted Cipollini Onions (see below) is my favorite way to prepare these onions and is a great dish to serve alongside buttered noodles, grilled steak or roast chicken. I featured this recipe way back in 2007, but it’s still a keeper!
Celeriac and Apple Soup with Tarragon
photo by Linda Xiao, food52
On the same website, Smitten Kitchen, I found this recipe for Cabbage & Mushroom Lasagna. The recipe uses thin slices of potato as the “lasagna” noodle layer. I’m going to substitute thin slices of celeriac instead. If you don’t use all your celeriac for this recipe, consider making this simple Celeriac and Apple Soup with Tarragon.
I love finding interesting ways to eat root vegetables throughout the winter, including ideas for salads. I’m excited to try this recipe for Spiced Beet Salad with Citrus Ginger Dressing. In this recipe the beets are tossed in a citrus vinaigrette that is seasoned with coriander, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes and turmeric. Once roasted, the beets are served topped with a dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of the dressing, mint and pistachios.
Buy a few extra pistachios so you can try this recipe for Simple Kohlrabi with Pistachios and Sage
. This kohlrabi tastes so sweet and delicious when roasted and this simple recipe will be easy to pull off with little time to invest. Serve it with rice or alongside poached salmon or even just a simple fried egg.
If you’re looking for a recipe that can handle variations in ingredients and still be delicious, this recipe for Sesame Noodles with Seasonal Variations
is a good one to try. I featured this recipe in the newsletter several years ago and it’s a good one. The recipe is written to include storage turnips as well as carrots, but you could also include beauty heart radishes and/or kohlrabi if that’s what you have available.
If you didn’t have a chance to make the recipe for Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping
that we featured in our last newsletter, be sure to save it and give it a try this winter. It’s a great way to incorporate a lot of different root vegetables into a meal including turnips, celeriac, carrots, and any other root you want to include!
Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
This week some boxes will receive butternut squash and others will receive festival squash. If you receive the butternut squash, or have some remaining from a previous delivery, consider making this Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
. We featured this recipe on our blog last winter. You’ll have to scroll to the bottom of the blog post. This is a delicious creation that takes a little time to make, but is really quite easy. If you receive the festival squash, consider making this recipe for Vegan Stuffed Acorn (sub Festival) Squash
. The squash are filled with a mixture of quinoa, cranberries, apples and pecans.
We’re one vegetable away from cooking everything in this week’s box. We’re down to sweet potatoes and I have one sweet and one savory suggestion. I couldn’t resist this recipe for Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie
and for all you Midwesterners…Breakfast Hot Dish
featuring sweet potatoes!
Friends, I’m signing off for a little winter rest. I hope you have fun cooking up creative winter meals and I look forward to meeting you back here in this space again next spring as we start another season of delicious, seasonal eating! Happy Holidays! –Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Red Cipollini Onions
As you unpack the contents of this week’s box, don’t think the beautiful red onions packed in a brown paper bag are just another red onion. These are a special onion that have a more flattened shape and are known for their higher natural sugar content in comparison to other storage onions. Cipollini onions are at their best when slowly roasted to develop these natural sugars, leaving them silky, soft and so sweet they’ll melt in your mouth.
This is not an onion you want to chop up— it’s one to be featured whole in soups, side dishes, roasted alongside beef, pork or chicken, or on kebobs. Roasted cipollini onions can be served as a side dish on their own— flavored with balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, marinade, or simply tossed with olive oil or butter and salt and pepper. While I think this onion is best roasted, you can also boil or braise them. They add flavor and color when braised in the cooking liquid of pot roast or pork roast along with other root vegetables. Smaller cipollini onions can also be added to soups or stews.
As with any other onion, the papery skin needs to be removed prior to cooking. They are kind of challenging to peel by hand without peeling off an outer layer of onion flesh. There is a trick to making them easier to peel. The first step is to trim the stem and root ends with a paring knife. Next, pour boiling water over them and let them set for 5-10 minutes. This helps loosen the skin and you should be able to slip it off easily. Now the onions are ready to be used as you wish.
Balsamic Roasted Cipollini Onions
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 pound cipollini onions
¼ cup balsamic vinegar, or as needed
2 tbsp butter
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375°-400°F.
- Prepare onions by trimming both ends and removing the skin. In a baking dish, toss onions with vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and put in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until start to become tender.
- Remove cover and add butter. Allow the butter to melt, then toss it in with the onions and bake, uncovered, until onions are tender and the liquid has reduced. You may need to add more vinegar if the liquid has reduced and the onions are not yet done baking. Serve hot.
Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder
Packing CSA Vegetable shares
This week we’ll be packing and delivering the final CSA box of the 2018 season.
I (Andrea) still remember sitting at my desk on the night of April 19.
It had snowed over 10 inches that day and I was having a hard time imagining just what we were going to pack in our first CSA box that was just two weeks away.
Fast forward through ramps, asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, melons, peppers, leeks, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and here we are in December, wrapping up another bountiful season of delicious vegetables.
Richard and I would like to thank each one of you for allowing us to be your farmers and grow food for you and your families this year.
Growing vegetables for our CSA families is the most meaningful part of what we do and we consider you, our CSA members, to be a very
important part of our farm.
As we look ahead to 2019, we have some updates to share with you about next year. It’s no secret that CSA memberships, across the country, have been declining over the past 8-9 years. This has been true for our farm as well, but we do not believe that CSA is a dying model. Rather, we believe CSA is a very valuable model, for farmers, individuals, and our community. CSA is unique, it’s not for every farmer and it’s not for every eater. We’re thankful for our longtime members who have shown us just how important CSA has been in their lives. We feel privileged to be able to watch so many beautiful CSA kids grow into bigger CSA kids as they become intelligent, beautiful individuals who are having and will have a positive impact in this world. Over the past twenty-five years we’ve seen the results that come from “eating out of the box.” Children that learn how to cook and feed themselves. Adventurous eaters who are willing to try new things and enjoy eating a diverse diet. Members who visit the farm and form a connection with where their food is grown. Families who take the time to eat meals together, even in the midst of their busy lives. Individuals who regain and maintain their health simply by eating more vegetables out of the box. These are just some of the ways we know CSA can change and impact lives in a positive way. We’re not giving up on CSA, rather we’re holding on to what we believe is a good thing and we’ll do our best to continue growing for our CSA families, making whatever positive impact we can in our little corner of the world.
Andrea with grower Mas Masumoto, Rick & Kathie (Co-Op Partners)
One of the difficult decisions we have made for the 2019 season is to discontinue offering Fruit & Coffee shares. Those of you who have enjoyed these shares may be saying “WHAT!!!” We are grateful for the partnerships we’ve formed with other producers that have allowed us to offer these shares for many years, however as we look at the “big picture” of our business we feel it’s time to retire these shares and focus on what we love the most and do the best, grow vegetables. Producing fruit is not an easy job and we have a great respect for the excellent growers we’ve had the opportunity to work with. Farmer Al at Frog Hollow Farms, Mas Masumoto, Gena Nonini at Marian Farms, Rich Johansen, Reusch Century Farm, and the list goes on. Rick Christianson, our friend and buyer at Co-Op Partners’ Warehouse in Minneapolis, has been our conduit to these many excellent fruit growers. He’s sourced fruit for us that is special, unique and sometimes in limited supply. He’s connected us with these growers so we can have personal conversations with them and then pass their stories onto our members. His job has not been easy and in many ways it continues to become more and more challenging as he deals with changes in the marketplace, challenges with transportation to get the fruit to us, etc. Fruit is a delicate commodity and maintaining quality can be challenging. We face quality issues with our own vegetables, that’s the life of farming. The difference is we have more control over quality with our own products than we do with products we source elsewhere. We hope our current and past members will continue to support our awesome, talented, skillful fruit producers when you see their fruit at your local co-op or maybe even do a special purchase on line…you know, for those extra special Warren pears.
TJ & Caleb, Kickapoo Coffee owners.
We’ve also enjoyed our relationship with Kickapoo Coffee and are excited to see their business grow and flourish while they hold tight to their foundational beliefs.
They not only source some of the best quality coffee in the world, but they do it with integrity, fairness and respect for the producers.
They also happen to be pretty darn good at roasting it to perfection.
We’ll certainly continue to start our day with a delicious, rich cup of Kickapoo coffee and we hope you’ll consider doing the same (if you’re a coffee drinker).
They have an awesome subscription service too, so sign up for that and they’ll deliver it right to your door!
Now that we have that announcement behind us, lets get back to vegetables! At the end of the day, growing vegetables is what we love to do and we want to continue to invest our time, energy and resources in doing the best job that we can while continuing to learn and improve each year. We will be offering a similar line-up of vegetable share options for the 2019 growing season and have decided to hold our pricing steady with our 2018 prices for next year.
We are also excited to have room in our week to offer a weekday delivery option for the Madison area. This is something we’ve been considering doing for the past few years, but it just hasn’t felt right and honestly, we just weren’t sure where or how we’d squeeze it into the week! Our decision to discontinue packing fruit shares has opened up more labor hours and space in the packing shed on Wednesdays to allow us to pack boxes for a Thursday delivery into Madison. This Thursday delivery route will hopefully open up some opportunities we haven’t previously been able to explore with our Saturday route. In particular we’re hoping to add some business and workplace delivery locations. This route is still under construction, and we’d value your input! If you have a suggestion for a business location we might be a good fit for, please let us know as soon as possible so we can reach out to them. We’ll also be offering several residential delivery sites. If you’re interested in the possibility of hosting a CSA pick up site, please let us know so we can consider your location as we put together the route.
In closing, we want to wish everyone a joyful and peaceful winter season. We will be working with focused determination to prepare for another growing season and we look forward to being your farmers in 2019!
Richard & Andrea
By Andrea Yoder
“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.”—Wendell Berry
Since the 1990’s our food supply has changed dramatically. When I was a kid Cheerios were pretty safe to eat, but now they are laced with glyphosate residues. Now foods made from GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops are widespread within our food system and until recently we had no way of knowing if a food contained GMOs or not. Some products are now labeled, but there is still a big void for most consumers about the negative impact GMO crops and their production system are having on both human and environmental health. The six main GMO crops being produced now are corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets and alfalfa. Additionally, GMO salmon, papaya, potatoes, apples, sweet corn, zucchini and yellow squash are also being produced but in lesser amounts.
Jeffery Smith is the founder of The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), which has become “a world leader in educating policy makers and the public about genetically modified (GM) foods and crops.” Mr. Smith recently released a film entitled “Secret Ingredients” that is now available to the public. Richard and I had the opportunity to watch the movie earlier this week and would like to share a little glimpse of the movie as well as encourage everyone to take the time to watch it.
Kathleen DiChiara (photo from her website
The goal of the movie was to bring greater awareness to the public about the relationship between foods containing GMOs and toxic chemicals, such as glyphosate, and the vast array of chronic illnesses and health problems that are on the rise in our country including obesity, infertility, cancer, digestive disorders, autism, brain fog, skin disorders, gluten sensitivity, allergies, chronic fatigue, asthma, anxiety and many more. The movie starts off with the story of Kathleen DiChiara and her family including three young sons. Kathleen was a well-educated person, a loving mother, an athlete attentive to health and thought she was eating a healthy diet. Then the health of her family started to unravel. She herself experienced an array of debilitating symptoms leading to a surgery that left her with paralysis as well as chronic pain in addition to the other symptoms she was experiencing including irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, rashes and more. She went from participating in triathlons to being in a wheelchair and lost her job due to her disabilities. At the same time she was trying to raise a young family, but was challenged by caring for her oldest son who was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, an autism spectrum disorder. She also had a son struggling with asthma as well as a third son who had extensive and painful skin rashes covering his body. Altogether, their family of 5 had 21 chronic health disorders. As she and her husband struggled to figure out how to heal their family, her research led her to their food. She didn’t realize the food she was eating and feeding her children was what was making them so sick. When their family committed to eating an organic and GMO-free diet, their bodies healed and they were able to regain their health. Their story is both heartbreaking as well as full of joy as they now living strong, vibrant lives they can enjoy. In the movie, Kathleen made the statement “I chose to take my family out of this human experiment.”
This movie also included interviews with physicians including Dr. Michelle Perro, author of “What’s Making Our Children Sick?” and Dr. David Perlmutter, renowned neurologist and author of multiple books including his most recent entitled “Grain Brain.” Both of these physicians have years of clinical experience and have seen the dramatic improvements on health in patients who remove GMO foods from their diet and eat only organic food. They speak extensively in the movie about the gut microbiome. The healthy bacteria in our bodies are the gate keepers for our system, keeping our digestive tract intact and preventing foreign proteins, toxins, and allergens from entering our system. They regulate inflammation in our bodies and have an extensive role in our brain chemistry. The problem is that the chemical glyphosate, which is used extensively in conjunction with GMO plants, relies on a pathway to kill plants (weeds) called the shikimate pathway. Humans don’t utilize this pathway, thus it has been said that GMO crops and glyphosate are safe for humans. Unfortunately, this is a lie. The bacteria in our gut are impacted by this pathway and exposure to GMO crops and glyphosate can cause extensive damage to our gut microbiome, leaving our systems vulnerable to attack from all the things these bacteria are meant to protect us from.
There is much more depth of information in the movie than I can present here, but I do encourage you to take the time to watch the movie and see it for yourself. Throughout the movie, it becomes clear that organic and non-GMO food is no longer just a lifestyle, but rather can be a life saver. They also acknowledged that food can be deceiving. If you put organic food and GMO foods side by side you likely won’t be able to tell the difference. You can’t see the pesticides and herbicides they contain and you can’t see the allergens or novel proteins that can harm you. Food is supposed to be our life force and bring vitality, not disease and destruction to our bodies. Kathleen made an interesting point that it can be “Socially Inconvenient” to eat organic. It’s hard to eat out and it’s hard to eat on the go or when you are traveling. However, for those who are committed to eating this way, there are ways to overcome these challenges. Kathleen and her family are very intentional about their diet. They eat before they go out or pack snacks to take with them. If going to a birthday party or the like, they take their own dessert made with organic ingredients. They’ve also made friends with other families who are like-minded and they have dinner parties together. They have experienced first-hand the impact high quality, nutrient dense food that is free from chemicals and GMOs can have on their health and ability to enjoy their lives, and that isn’t’ something they’re about to trade for a little bit of convenience.
I’m going to close with a few lines from a song that was played at the end of the movie. The lyrics are simple, but powerful. “Health is wealth, it’s the gift we give ourselves. Health is wealth, don’t leave it to no one else….Give me food that’s grown on farms with butterflies & bees.”