Harmony Valley Farm

Harmony Valley Farm

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

3 Jun 2020 21:43

Cooking With This Week's Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vegetable Feature: Cilantro

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

Creamy Cilantro Dressing

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

Noodles with Miso-Cilantro Sauce

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


3 Jun 2020 20:58

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

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

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

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

27 May 2020 21:16

Cooking With This Week's Box

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

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

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

Asparagus: Bright Spring Salad; Asparagus Ribbon Salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Baby White Turnips

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

Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy Pickled Eggs

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

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

20 May 2020 22:38

Cooking With This Week's Box

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

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

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

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

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

Vegetable Feature: Look at All These Greens!

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

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus

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

Easy Crust-less Spinach and Feta Pie

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

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

20 May 2020 22:33

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 May 2020 21:56

Cooking With This Week's Box

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

Vegetable Feature: Sorrel

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

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

Strawberry-Orange Sorrel Smoothie

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

Pasta with Sorrel Butter & Nettles

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

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

7 May 2020 00:56

Cooking With This Week's Box

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

Vegetable Feature: Wild Ramps!

By:  Chef Andrea Yoder

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

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

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

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

Ramped Up Mac & Cheese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipe by Chef Andrea

Nettle Soup (Nässelsoppa)

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

Welcome to the 2020 Harmony Valley Farm CSA Season!

7 May 2020 00:42

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

Pollinator Packs!

7 May 2020 00:25

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

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

April Farm Update

30 Apr 2020 19:31

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

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

7 Apr 2020 20:07

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

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

CSA Member Responsibilities:

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

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

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

7 Apr 2020 17:13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds!

19 Mar 2020 21:04

By Amy Peterson

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

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

Thank You for Your Input! 2019 Season Survey Results

27 Feb 2020 16:20

By Gwen Anderson

First CSA Box of 2019 Season
Our 2019 End of the Season Survey wrapped up on January 4th this year, and we have spent the last few months compiling, reviewing, and considering all of the information we gathered from the responses.  First off, we would like to once again thank everyone who took the time to participate in the survey!  Your feedback helps us make business decisions and improvements so we can better serve our members.  To show our appreciation, we wanted to take the time to share some of the feedback and information we received from you!

We put a lot of thought into the types of questions we ask on our surveys to garner the best information to help us improve in ways that are important to our members.  If you were one of the 528 people who took our survey, you may have noticed quite a few questions about our newsletters.  We invest a lot of time in creating newsletter content and this is one of our primary means of connecting with members every week during the season.  We feel the newsletters are important, and we have had members express this to us in the past as well, but it is hard for us to gauge the value of these types of correspondences without further feedback.  Are we hitting the target and giving our members useful information, or are we just shooting in the dark?

What did we find out?  Yes, people are reading the newsletters!  98% of our members said they read the "What’s in the Box" newsletter at least half the time, with over 77% reading it every week!  Over 66% of our members are regularly reading the "Weed ‘Em and Reap" newsletter as well.  We received a lot of positive feedback about our newsletters, and it made us feel like we are indeed doing the right thing with them!  Last season, due to feedback from a previous survey, we tried something new and printed two newsletters.  There is a lot of information we want to share with you, and a single sheet of paper had been too limiting.  Previously, we adopted a blog format in order to provide more information for our members, and put “teaser” articles in our printed newsletters to encourage people to visit our blog for the remainder of the article.  We received some feedback from members that this type of printed newsletter was irritating; they wanted the entire article without being directed elsewhere.  So, we decided to split the newsletter into two portions.  The "What’s in the Box" newsletter would contain the vegetable feature, recipes and the box contents for that week.  The "Weed ‘Em and Reap" newsletter would be the place for articles about other important topics including farm updates, news reviews, employee highlights, or whatever other information we feel is important to share with our members.  This change means there are two folders with newsletters at your pickup site, one with the "What’s In The Box" newsletter, and one with the "Weed ‘Em and Reap" newsletter.  It was clear from our last survey that there are still many people who are unaware of the change we made to the printed newsletters.  We are planning to continue to do the two newsletter format this year for those of you who prefer the paper copies; and as always, the information will still be linked in our email communications and posted on our blog as well.

Recipes continue to be the most valued resource we provide for you, and the request for more recipes topped out the list of suggestions for improving our newsletters.  The "Cooking with the Box" segment we offer on our blog was started in 2017 as a means to address this request and features recipes and suggestions for every item in the box!  We do our best to provide you with as many recipes as we can each week, with a little something for various levels of cooking experience.  Nearly 82% of our members said they read the "Cooking with the Box" segment, and over 69% said they regularly use the suggestions found therein.  If the "Cooking with the Box" segment still leaves you craving more recipes, check out our Facebook group!  There are always great posts about what people are cooking up with their boxes, including recipe links.  Sometimes, we even borrow the recipes shared in the Facebook group and use them in the "Cooking with the Box" segment!

Additional feedback we received for improving our newsletters included providing more vegetable storage information.  We were also asked to provide an earlier “best guess” or a "What’s in the Next Box" section to give you an idea of what might be included in the current week’s box as well as the next week’s box.  We are currently brainstorming on how we can improve our communications to include more of this valuable information.

CSA Box from June 2019
As your CSA farm, we strive to provide you with as much information as possible to ensure that your CSA experience is both positive and successful.  By asking what resources you may have been struggling to find last season, we were able to identify additional resources to call attention to or create.  Vegetable storage information showed up often in this question as well.  There were also a great deal of requests for more information on how to preserve, freeze or dry vegetable for later use.  As of now, we have a list of vegetable storage suggestions in the back of our current CSA calendars and include this information in our weekly vegetable features.  We will continue to include storage suggestions in our calendars each year.  Due to your feedback, we realize that we need to have the information available in more locations that are easier to reference.  We will do our best to provide this information more consistently in our newsletters each week, and we are looking into how to get the information available on our website.

Fresh Ginger
“What do our CSA members want in their boxes?” is always a fun question to ask on a survey, and it is one we ask ourselves each year when we do our planning in the winter.  This year, we took the guesswork out and decided to ask our members directly.  The answer? Ginger!  And in one very emphatic case it was GINGER GINGER GINGER GINGER GINGER GINGER PLEASE BRING BACK THE GINGER!!!!!  Lemongrass was a not-too-distant second.  We hear you, and would love to grow these items for our CSA boxes this year.  For the sake of transparency, the seed for ginger and lemongrass has been challenging to source this year.  We are still trying to secure enough seed to plant in order to provide these highly requested crops, and are hopeful that we will be successful.  Ginger is grown in our cold frame greenhouse, so we had to take a few years off from growing it in order to rotate crops in this space just like we do in the field.  We’re looking forward to growing both ginger and lemongrass again this year!

Egyptian Spinach
The next three runners up were globe artichokes, Egyptian spinach and purple Napa cabbage.  The silver lining is that we will for sure be growing Egyptian spinach and purple Napa cabbage this season!  Our plan is to harvest the Egyptian spinach for summer boxes, and to have the purple Napa cabbage available in the fall.  We’ve grown Egyptian spinach before, and used it for a delicious soup we are excited to try again.  Purple Napa cabbage is a new variety and we are anxious to try it out!

The last batch of questions we ask on our survey were geared towards marketing.  We know, as it has been proven time and time again, that our customers are our best source of advertisement and are a wellspring of creative ideas and solutions.  By finding out what it is that you value about being part of our CSA program, we can use those values to draw in more like-minded members.  By asking what we can do to help you promote your CSA farm, we are able to create resources and promotion materials that reflect what would grab your attention, and thus the attention of the people who share similar values.  We have already heard from some members requesting the promotional materials we have available, and we are always happy to oblige!  We have several different printed material options available, and we have plenty of pictures and short messages we can send out for our members to post to social media.  If any of this sounds like something you would be interested in, please feel free to call or send us an email for more information!

Garver Feed Mill, photo from garverfeedmill.com
We want, and need, to build our membership in order to keep our CSA program sustainable, so we asked for your suggestions to help up improve our outreach.  One of the top suggestions we received was to partner with area businesses.  We are happy to announce that we are now partnering with Twin Town Fitness and Lakewinds Minnetonka in the Twin Cities.  In the Madison area, we are partnering with three new UW Health System locations, the VA Hospital, MGE and the Garver Feed Mill.  We’ve also added an additional residential site in Middleton for our Madison Thursday route!  On top of these confirmed new locations for next season, there are a few potential sites in all our CSA areas we are still looking into.  As exciting as the new sites are, we still need our current members’ help bringing in new members.  We’ve added the sites, please help us add the people!  What tools do we have at our disposal to help you bring in new members?  We offer a new member coupon, which will give the new member between $15 and $25 off their first season depending on the share they select.  This coupon also comes with a referral line, and the referring member will receive a $20 gift certificate!  Another great way to get our standard $10 referral coupon is to write your name in the referral line on sign up forms when you hand them out to neighbors, friends and family, or that stranger in the co-op line!  When they sign up, we’ll send you a coupon!

Andrea Enjoying the company of some of our CSA members
at Strawberry Day 2019
What do our members value most about being part of our CSA program?  The vegetables, of course!  The top five responses we received on this question were high quality produce, supporting local businesses, variety of produce, freshness, and being organic.  We were a little surprised that organic didn’t come in higher on the totem pole, but we were very pleased to hear how highly our quality, freshness and diversity were regarded.  Community was also a common theme we ran across in the comments of this section.  While we appreciate the positive feedback about our vegetables, what really touched our hearts was the human connections our CSA program has fostered.  We enjoyed hearing that the information we provide to you in newsletters strengthens the connection between us and how important that connection is to you.  The connections our members have made between each other were also a joy to hear about!  (Thank you to our Powderhorn site host for being “a wonderful person and a great site manager!”)  We also care a great deal about our land and the people who work on it, so it was also wonderful to hear that the care and dedication we strive for in maintaining both is something our members value as well.  Our organization and attention to detail is something we also loved hearing is appreciated.

There were many other interesting things we found out through our survey, too.  We’ve received quite a few requests for videos of all kinds: cooking demos, field work, newsletter recaps, etc.  The videos we have made in the past have been fun to do, and broadening our horizons in this form of communication is something we have a great interest in.  We are currently brainstorming how to incorporate this into our day as well as what type of content will garner the most interest from our members.  As well as videos, we received many suggestions for having a larger social media presence in general.  After carefully considering our options, we have decided to continue using Facebook and to start a Harmony Valley Farm Instagram page!  Please feel free to follow us on Instagram @harmonyvalleyfarm for more great updates from your farm.

Merchandise was another suggestion that popped up here and there.  We do currently have t-shirts available for purchase during our on-farm events, and have been thinking about what other cool things our members might like to see as well (like re-usable tote bags)!  My personal favorite suggestion was to create a hot sauce subscription program to supplement our CSA.  The Korean Chili Sauce has been a big hit, and it might be fun to try new sauces in the future.  We don’t have any immediate plans to pursue this, although it is a really hot idea.

Our website was also a subject we received lots of feedback on.  We understand the one we currently have needs improvement, which is why we are working with our friends at Leum Tech to roll out a site that has a fresh look, greater functionality and will work great with mobile devices!  Converting our information to the new site takes time, and we are currently prioritizing what needs to be on the site for launch day.  Eventually we will have features like online ordering and an integrated blog!  Our current recipe and newsletter archives are going to be available much like they are now, and we are looking for ways to make our future newsletters and recipes easier to locate and search as well.  Additionally, we will be releasing a new and improved Vegetable Gallery that will include photos, descriptions, storage information, and much more!

As our review of the 2019 End of Season Survey comes to a close, we would like to thank you one more time for the invaluable feedback you have provided.  Your support, positive feedback and creative ideas have helped in more ways than a simple newsletter and a “thank you” could ever express.  We are truly looking forward to doing an even better job at being your CSA farm next season.  See you then!

Did you know you can comment on our blog?

There are a couple different ways you can leave a comment, depending on how you are accessing the blog.  If you use a link that takes you to a specific article, or click into a specific article, when you scroll to the bottom, you will see this:

Just click on the "Post a Comment" link, and it will bring you to the screen to do so!

If you are at the blog  homepage, where all of our articles are available to scroll through, at the end of each article you will see this:

If you click on where it says "No comments" it will bring you to the "Post a Comment" screen as well!

Once you've written a comment for us, make sure to click the "I'm not a robot" check box, and click the orange "Publish Your Comment" button.  We love hearing for you, and leaving comments on our blog lets us know you stopped by as well!

The 2020 CSA Season is Unfolding!

24 Jan 2020 19:57

By Richard & Andrea
Harvesting curly willow earlier this week
When winter sets in we always feel like we have “all this time” to tackle our projects, brainstorm, lay out plans, etc.  Here we are, approaching the end of January and believe it or not we’ll be packing our first CSA boxes of the 2020 season in less than 100 days!  We’re thankful to see the days getting longer—it’s still light outside at 5 pm when the crew is heading home!  Sign-ups are rolling in as are shipments of seeds.  This week our winter crew was in the field trimming curly willow as we take advantage of appropriate conditions to get the willow out of the field while it’s above zero degrees and the snow is not too deep.  We’ll spend the next few weeks trimming and bundling it in the greenhouse before we need to prepare that house for growing transplants.  Yes, we’ll be setting up our first greenhouse to start planting onions and celeriac next month!  It’s exciting to see another CSA season starting to unfold!
Drip tape line used to deliver nutrients to sweet potato plants.
As farmers, weather is always on our minds, so we might as well tackle this topic and get it out of the way!  There is some evidence that El Niño is finally turning to La Niña, which typically means less moisture and maybe even a bit of drought.  Since you just never know what you may get, we thought it prudent to update our irrigation permits and make sure our equipment is prepared and working well.  Whether we need irrigation as a means of delivering water to a crop or not, we use buried drip irrigation lines to deliver nutrients, microorganisms and trace minerals to our crops.  This year we are excited to expand our use of “sap analysis” to determine the specific nutrient needs of individual crops.  Sap analysis is kind of like a blood test for plants that allows us to better understand the plants’ nutritional needs at different points in growth.  Last year we saw some dramatic results when we used sap analysis to help us determine what support some of our crops needed in order to thrive.  We are planning to use sap analysis more proactively this year so we can be more aware of deficiencies and do what we can to correct them before they become a big problem.
As for crop planning, we’re laying out the plan and getting all the parts and pieces in place.  Sweet potato plants have been ordered, all 18,000!  We’ll be growing our two favorite orange varieties, Burgundy and Covington, and are also going to try a new variety called Bayou Belle.  We had better luck growing the white-fleshed Japanese sweet potatoes last year, so we’re going to expand that part of the planting a little bit.
Diana radishes, freshly washed!
We continue to appreciate the color and nutrition we get from our line-up of purple vegetables.  The color purple represents anthocyanins, plant compounds that play an important role in our physical health.  We’ll be doing one planting of the beautiful Amethyst beans and are considering growing the sweet and tasty purple tomatillos again this year.  Last year we also tried Diana radishes for the first time.  This is a spring radish that is shaped like a traditional red radish, but it has purple on the top and white on the root end.  We received positive feedback about this variety and we liked the way it looked in the field with regards to disease resistance, etc.  We have secured seed for our new favorite purple cauliflower, Purple Moon, and have our fingers crossed that we’ll get the Purple Majesty potato seed we have on order.  Lastly, we have to try a new bright magenta napa cabbage named “Scarrossa.”  We don’t typically grow napa in the fall, but that’s the recommendation for this variety so watch for this around October.
Fresh baby ginger with greens
We have been reviewing the results of our end of season survey that closed the fourth of January. We asked members for their input on which specialty produce items we should grow this year.  It’s clear that ginger is high on the list along with lemongrass!  We can’t make any promises at this point, but know we are trying to get some ginger “seed”.  Our supplier has closed ordering for now, but we’re on the list for an opportunity to purchase seed when they open ordering again sometime in February.  Wish us luck!  The other crop that had a lot of support was Egyptian Spinach.  This is a unique vegetable that grows in the heat of the summer when other greens struggle.  It is packed with nutrients and you just feel really good when you eat it!  It is a little challenging to grow, but we’re willing to give it a try!
Summer 2019:  Richard sampling and selecting
French Orange melon seeds
We continue to look for a personal-sized, yellow seedless watermelon, but there just isn’t anything available.  What about the French Orange Melons?  Good question.  For those of you who know the sweet, delicious, aromatic, one-of-a-kind French Orange melon, you may remember the sad story about how the producer has decided to drop the seed.  Richard has been working on saving seed for this melon for several years now.  This is not a quick or easy process.  The original seed was a hybrid.  When we plant the seed from melons produced from the original seed, we get a variety of results.  The sizing, color and characteristics of the melon are not always a direct reflection of the original seed.  As such, it takes several years of selecting the seed from the melons that most resemble the original set of characteristics and eliminate the off-types.  We feel like we are at a pretty good place with the quality of the seed we produced in 2019 and we finally have enough volume of seed that we can put in two nice sized plantings for actual production and harvest.  Richard will continue to carefully select seed and plant a separate seed production plot each year in an effort to refine our seed stock for this variety.  Wish us luck—we’re really hoping for a much better melon season than in 2019.  One of the problems we experienced last year was fewer pollinators.  We think the cold, late spring may have caused a decreased population of pollinator creatures.  It’s easy to take these little creatures for granted, but when something affects their population and they don’t show up, the results can be very dramatic!
Our crew happily putting together our first pollinator packs in 2016.
Speaking of pollinators, we are going to be planting pollinator packs again this year!  This is a project we started back in 2016.  In 2015 we published a series of newsletter articles we entitled “The Silent Spring Series.”  If you’re interested in reading these information-packed articles, you can find them all on our blog.  Basically the series took a look at the impact the use of agro-chemicals is having on our environment, ecosystem and our bodies.  The topic is pretty heavy and as we worked our way through the series we felt like we needed to create some light at the end of this very long tunnel.  We needed something positive to move the needle back to a point of hope.  We decided to plant pollinator packs, a garden pack with 9 different plants.  We started the seeds, transplanted them into the trays and delivered them to CSA members in the spring so everyone could use them to plant pollinator gardens in their own yard, on a patio space, in a community space or anywhere else they could think of where they would flourish, grow and serve to attract and support pollinator creatures (bees, butterflies, birds, wasps, etc).  We only intended to do it once, but it was so well-received, we get requests for them every year!  So, for those of you who already have an established pollinator garden, perhaps you’d like to add a few new plants to your space.  If you are just starting out, no worries!  We’ve included some plants in the pack that are easy to establish and will bloom in the first year!  Our order is nearly finalized and here is the list of seeds we ordered for this year’s packs.  Please note, the packs only hold 9 plants, but we’re ordering more than 9 different things just in case something doesn’t germinate very well and we can’t include it in all packs.  Here’s what we’re looking forward to:

Anise Hyssop, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery
Wild Bergamot, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery
Lance-Leaf Coreopsis, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery
New England Aster, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery
Brown-Eyed Susan, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery
Prairie Sage, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery
Lead Plant, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery
Little Bluestem Grass, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery
Blue Wild Indigo, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery
Leafy Prairie Clover, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery
Purple Coneflower, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery
Butterfly Weed, photo from Prairie Moon Nursery

We are looking forward to a great season and packing boxes for you and your families.  Once again we hope to strike a balance between supplying the staple items (onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli) and longtime favorites (sweet corn, tomatoes, green beans, strawberries) with some interesting and unusual selections to bring a little extra variety to your meals and challenge you, just a bit, to step out of your vegetable comfort zone and experience something new.  You never know, you just might discover a new flavor or vegetable you didn’t even know you liked!
In closing, we would like to share an excerpt from a note we received from a CSA family when they signed up for their second year with our farm.  Here’s what they shared:  “This past year was our first year getting a CSA share and it is not an understatement to say that it has changed our lives.  Thank you for doing what you do!  We love you guys!”  Thank you so much to all of you who send us notes like these.  We hope you understand how meaningful it is for us to read these and we also hope you understand that we think of you as we make our plans, select the varieties and pack your boxes each week.  Cheers to an awesome 2020 CSA season!

December 19, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Horseradish!

18 Dec 2019 23:32

Cooking With This Week's Box

Horseradish Whips: Lemon Horseradish Butter (see below); Prepared Horseradish (see below); Food52 Editor’s Picks--HorseradishRoasted Garlic & Horseradish Mashed PotatoesFire Cider
Festival or Heart of Gold Squash: Maple Butter Roasted Acorn Squash with Pecans
We have officially reached the end of another year of eating out of a CSA box—can you believe it?!  It doesn’t seem possible, but as I spent some time reflecting on the season as I wrote this week’s newsletter article the food memories started flooding my mind.  While this will be my final “Cooking With the Box” article this year, I’m confident HVF vegetables will continue to be part of your weekly cooking repertoire well into the new year because this week’s box is packed full of storage vegetables!  We’re kicking off this week’s cooking chat with horseradish, this week’s featured vegetable.  I hope you’ll take a moment to read more about horseradish in this week’s “What’s In the Box” email/newsletter where you’ll learn that horseradish is intended to be a complementary ingredient as opposed to the main star of the show.  One of this week’s featured recipes is for Lemon Horseradish Butter (see below).  This is a good way to preserve horseradish as you can freeze the butter in smaller portions and pull it out when you’re ready to use it.  Slice and melt it over a hot grilled steak or salmon, on toast, or cooked vegetables.  I also included a recipe for Prepared Horseradish (see below) which is the form many recipes call for.  Check out Food52 Editor’s Picks--Horseradish for a list of over 20 recipes including horseradish.  One of my all-time favorite ways to use horseradish is in Roasted Garlic & Horseradish Mashed Potatoes.  We used to make big pots of these potatoes at a restaurant I worked at in New York while I was in culinary school.  You could apply this same recipe to a nice root mash as well.  The last horseradish suggestion I have for you is to make a batch of Fire Cider.  This is a tonic of sorts thought to be good for boosting immunity throughout the winter.  In addition to horseradish, this recipe also calls on the healing powers of garlic and onions as well as cayenne pepper, turmeric, etc.
Grandma Delilah's Chocolate Carrot Bundt Cake
photo from rudyanddelilah.com
Moving on, lets talk carrots.  I know you’ve received a lot of carrots over the past few deliveries, but hopefully you have a safe place to store them so you can use them well into the winter!  While carrots are not referred to as a “superfood,” I think they should be. They are also so versatile in their use and can be part of our diets in any meal.  In our Facebook Group last week a member shared this recipe for Indian Carrot Dessert.  Wow, this looks so delicious!  I also want to try this recipe for Vegan Carrot Waffles.  While I haven’t done this recently, Richard and I like to pull out the waffle iron on Sunday morning for a leisurely brunch and by now you know I like to sneak vegetables into as many meals of the day as possible!  I also came across this Carrot Asiago Bread.  This is a savory quick bread courtesy of Martha—as in Stewart.  I like this idea because it is faster to make than yeast bread but would be a great accompaniment to a winter salad, soup or stew.  Lastly,  check out Grandma Delilah’s Chocolate Carrot Bundt Cake.  This looks sinful, but perhaps it isn’t since it contains carrots?!
Spicy Beauty Heart Radish and
Carrots with Tahini
photo from thingsimadetoday.com
Lets tackle a few more roots, like beauty heart radishes and golden turnips!  Personally, I like to eat beauty heart radishes raw and this Beauty Heart Radish and Sesame Seed Salad is one of my favorite, simple radish salads.  If you find the bite of the radish to be a bit much for your senses, consider cooking it.  You could try these Spicy Roasted Beauty Heart Radishes and Carrots with Tahini or Root Vegetable Gratin with Gruyere.  Now this root vegetable gratin recipe is written for sweet potatoes, celeriac and parsnips.  Perhaps you have all of these vegetables in your fridge right now, but if you don’t, do not worry—start substituting!  One of our members posted a meal she made that included Scalloped Beauty Heart Radish.  This recipe is made in a similar way and I never would have thought to include beauty heart radishes in this dish, but why not!  As for turnips, if it takes you all winter to work your way through the turnips in your crisper drawer, that’s just fine, they should keep.  Pull them out on a snowy winter night and make this dish of Roasted Turnips, Apples and Rosemary Chicken Thighs.  I also found this collection of Country Living’s 20 Turnip Recipes.  Surely there’s at least one suggestion in this list that will appeal to you!
Sunchoke Latkes with Poached Eggs
photo from naturallyella.com
Before we move on from root vegetables we need to chat about sunchokes.  One of our market customers told me she made some delicious Sunchoke Pickles.  You’ll need to cut this recipe in half as it calls for 2 pounds of sunchokes and there are a little over one pound in your box.  I also want to try this recipe for Sunchoke Latkes with Poached Eggs This recipe calls for sunchokes, potatoes and parsnips, but you could sub in another root vegetable for any of these if you would like.   Lastly, check out this recipe for Sunchoke and Cashew Stir Fry.  It does call for corn and fresh chile peppers.  Unless you have some frozen corn and/or jalapenos from this past summer, my suggestion would be to substitute finely chopped carrots and siracha.
It’s always sad when we come to the last of our sweet potatoes, but before they’re all gone, there are a few more things I want to make.  I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of sweet potato fries and I think this recipe for Sweet Potato Fries with Maple Mustard Dipping Sauce sounds delicious!  Serve these up with a burger and a side of Pina Colada Cole Slaw!  If you aren’t into pineapple, try this Carribean Cole Slaw with mango instead.
Mexican Sweet Potato and Quinoa Casserole
Photo from fitfoodiefinds.com
I also want to try this Mexican Sweet Potato and Quinoa Casserole.  Another nice warm, winter dinner option and a good candidate for leftovers!  While I’m not usually into squash soups, I do like this one for Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup.  The addition of the sweet potatoes adds a nice richness to the soup.
Festival squash is very similar to acorn, except it tastes MUCH better!  While this recipe for Maple Butter Roasted Acorn Squash with Pecans calls for acorn squash, you can substitute the festival squash.  Serve this for weekend brunch or dinner alongside this French Onion Quiche.  And last, but not least, check out this recipe for Bacon Onion Jam!  Use it as a spread on toast with cream cheese or as the base for a pizza or flatbread along with roasted butternut squash.  These are just two simple ideas and I’m sure you can come up with more!
That’s it.  We’ve reached the bottom of the last box of the season and it’s time for me to sign off for a few months.  I look forward to cooking with you in a new decade!  See you in 2020!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Horseradish Whips

by Andrea Yoder
Richard in the horseradish field
While horseradish is not a radish, it is in the Brassica family along with radishes.  The vegetables in the Brassica family are known for their strong, pungent flavors and they are powerhouses for valuable plant compounds that are beneficial for human health.  While many sources say that horseradish can’t be or isn’t consumed in quantities large enough to get much nutritive gain, I’d counter with the consideration that it isn’t always the amount of a food you are eating.  Rather, including small amounts of powerful foods periodically over time will result in a cumulative positive effect on your health.  With that in mind, lets explore horseradish a little further.
Pepper Crusted Salmon Cakes with Horseradish Sauce
photo from food52.com
Horseradish is a bold, pungent vegetable that has the power to make you cry, take your breath away and open every nasal passage you have—that is if you work with it and/or eat it in large quantities.  However, the same plant compounds in horseradish that make you do all those things are also the compounds that give horseradish its peppery flavor that wakes up our taste buds.  These compounds also have the ability to attack cancer cells and boost our immune systems.  Horseradish is intended to be used in small quantities, as a condiment or an accompaniment to enhance foods.  It goes well with rich and fattier foods such as salmon, beef, sausage and ham.  It also goes well with more acidic foods such as tomatoes, apples, lemons and other citrus.  It’s also a good accompaniment to bland foods that give it a base, but make horseradish look and taste good—foods such as sour cream, cream, butter, seafood, potatoes and root vegetables.  Prime rib and/or roast beef is often served with a creamy horseradish sauce.  Horseradish is a key ingredient in the classic ketchup based cocktail sauce served with poached shrimp.  If you’re into Bloody Marys, you’ll know horseradish is part of this drink recipe as well.  These are just a few examples of how and where you might use horseradish.  On the recipe website, Food52.com, they have an “Editor’s Picks” list for horseradish that contains over twenty recipes using this vegetable. A few of my favorites from this list include Pepper Crusted Salmon Cakes with Horseradish Sauce, Sour Cream Biscuits with Horseradish, Chives & Bacon, Horseradish and Crab Appetizer and Horseradish Parsnip Apple Slaw.
Horseradish Whips
This week your box contains a bag with 4-5 ounces of horseradish whips.  While the root and leaves are both edible, we only harvest and eat the roots.  Horseradish is a perennial plant that is typically planted in the fall from seed pieces that are taken from cuttings when the previous crop is harvested.  A nice seed piece is a straight piece usually about 8-10 inches long with the diameter of a fat pencil or a thin marker.  Seed pieces grow off the main horseradish root which is the most saleable portion of the plant on the wholesale market.  Any pieces that are smaller than is needed for wholesale or seed are called whips.  Whips are usually thrown away, but this is actually the part of the root I prefer to work with for several reasons.  First of all, I think the skin is thin and tender enough on these pieces that you don’t need to peel it.  The less you have to handle horseradish, the better!  I also think the whips are a more manageable size to deal with instead of a big root.  On the internet you’ll see references that say horseradish should be eaten within 1-2 weeks…..my friends, I think that’s wrong.  Your horseradish whips will store much, much longer than 1-2 weeks if you keep them in the bag in the refrigerator.  To give you a frame of reference, we harvest horseradish the latter part of October.  In many years, we’ve held horseradish in cold storage for months and sell it all throughout the winter!  Don’t be afraid of a little fuzzy white mold on the surface either.  It’s not uncommon to see this after extended time in the refrigerator.  If you see that happening, but the integrity of the root is still good, just wash it off.  If you do decide to discard some/all of your horseradish, do heed caution that you may not want to put it in your own compost pile or the like.  Any chunks of horseradish that don’t fully degrade may grow under the right conditions.  If you’re not careful you just might plant horseradish in your own back yard and if you do so unintentionally, it will be with you for years to come!
Horseradish Apple Parsnip Coleslaw, Photo from food52.com
Back to the whips.  Once you start cutting, grating or chopping horseradish you’ll release the volatile oils that give horseradish its bite.  This is when you need to make sure you have adequate ventilation to decrease the chances of your eyes tearing up.  Also, make sure you wash your hands after handling horseradish so you don’t accidently get these peppery oils in your eyes.  Some recipes might tell you to grate the horseradish on a box grater.  This is kind of hard to do with whips because they’re so skinny.  My recommendation is to just cut the whips into 1-2 inch pieces and chop them finely in a food processor.  You could also use a blender.  Little blenders like The Bullet or Ninja can be useful for smaller quantities, or just use a hand chopper.  Last but not least, you could chop the whips finely with a chef’s knife.  As soon as you start chopping horseradish the pungent oils will start to volatilize.  If you are going to serve a dish with freshly grated horseradish, you’ll want to chop it just before serving.  If you chop horseradish in advance and don’t do anything to stabilize the oils, the majority of the flavor will dissipate and the horseradish won’t be very spicy or flavorful.  Often times you’ll see a recipe that calls for “Prepared Horseradish.”  This refers to horseradish that is pre-chopped/grated and stabilized in a vinegar solution which sets the flavor and prevents it from dissipating.  This week I’ve included a recipe for prepared horseradish.  You can keep prepared horseradish in the refrigerator for several weeks like this before it will start to lose its pungency.  This can be super handy to have as you can just take a teaspoon or two as needed for different recipes without having to chop it fresh every time.
Lastly, if you don’t like spicy things or don’t think you’ll like horseradish, just start small.  Stir a little bit of freshly chopped horseradish into mayonnaise and spread it on a sandwich or make horseradish cream and drizzle it lightly over roasted root vegetables.  You just might find you like that little bit of kick and flavor it adds!

Lemon Horseradish Butter

Yield:  1 ½ cups (One 8-inch log)
Roots, by Diane Morgan
1 or 2 horseradish whips, cut into small chunks
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the horseradish until finely grated.  You will need about 1 - 1½ Tbsp grated horseradish, depending on how strong you want the butter. Scatter the lemon zest and salt over the top and pulse once or twice until evenly distributed.  Add the butter and process until smooth, creamy and well combined.  Add the parsley and pulse just until evenly distributed.
  2. Lay a long sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap on a work surface.  Using a rubber spatula, spread the butter into a long, rough log about 1 ½ inches in diameter.  Wrap the parchment snugly around the log and, using your palms, roll the log back and forth to shape it into a smooth, uniform cylinder.  Twist both ends like a candy wrapper to seal them closed.  Refrigerate for up to 3 days or store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
This recipe was borrowed from Diane Morgan’s book, Roots.  Here are some of her suggestions for how to use this butter:  “Grill a steak or a piece of fish and finish it with a slice of this horseradish butter.  Roast some fingerling potatoes and dab them with the butter.  Put it on a humble baked potato to dress up.  Soften the butter, spread it on crostini, and top it with a slice of smoked salmon for an instant appetizer.  Having this kind of homemade food on hand takes cooking from good to great.”
Note from Chef Andrea:  When I make flavored butter like this, I like to roll it into smaller logs that are 2-3 inches long.  This is just the right amount for our household to thaw and use within a few days.   If you don’t want to take the time to roll logs, you can also just freeze 2-3 oz portions in small storage containers.  You can’t slice the butter as nicely as you can with a log, but once it’s thawed it’s easy to spread on bread, vegetables, etc.

Prepared Horseradish

Yield:  1—half pint jar
3 oz fresh horseradish whips
4 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
¼ tsp salt
Sugar, pinch
  1. Have a clean and sterilized jar with a lid and canning ring available nearby. 
  2. Cut the horseradish whips into chunks and place them in the food processor.  Pulse to grind.   It will be a bit dry, something like coconut.  
  3. Add the vinegar, salt and sugar.  Blend to combine well.
  4. Pack the horseradish into the jar and refrigerate.  
Recipe adapted from The Kitchen Ecosystem by Eugenia Bone.

The Last CSA Box of the Decade! Reflections on 2019 and Our Vision for 2020

18 Dec 2019 20:51

By:  Farmer Richard and Chef Andrea

This is it.  The last CSA box of the decade!  At this point in the season it’s always helpful for us to take a step back and evaluate.  So here’s our 2019 CSA year in review.  Over the course of our 30 week season we delivered over 70 different vegetables and a handful of fruits!  That doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that we had 8 different varieties of potatoes, about 10 different varieties of winter squash, several different types of onions and six different types of head lettuce.  If you have a long road trip coming up over the holidays we challenge you to make a list of all the vegetables you can remember eating out of your CSA boxes over this past season and see how close you can get to 70.  “Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables” they tell us.  Well we have that recommendation covered, and then some!

Healthy strawberry blossoms from June 2019.
Every season has opportunities and challenges.  We weren’t sure how we were going to pull off the first few boxes of the season when spring turned out to be wet, cold and late!  Mother Nature throws us curveballs for sure, but she always manages to keep us fed.  She came through for us with a perfectly timed ramp season and we were able to deliver two solid weeks of ramps with two bunches per box.  We followed up ramps with a nice run of asparagus harvest that extended for 5 ½ weeks.  Just when we were fretting about what we’d put in the box when some of our spring crops were lagging about a week behind schedule from when we needed them, the head lettuce in our greenhouse tunnel was ready to pick and the field crops followed right behind very nicely.  We delivered over 6 different varieties of head lettuce this year as well as salad mix for about 2-3 weeks in the spring and another 4-5 weeks in the fall.  Strawberry season was late this year and, unfortunately, the season ended very abruptly when we got hit with rain that super-saturated the berries and caused the quality to drop quickly.   While that was a disappointing way to end the season, the berries we picked earlier were delicious and at the peak of the season we had a week where we packed 2 quarts AND 2 pints in every box!

Garlic Harvest 2019
Once the season gets going, it’s seems to just fly ahead at full speed.  No sooner than we had finished strawberry season, the garlic field called out for our attention.  We were so thankful to FINALLY have a good crop of garlic after several disappointing garlic harvests.  Every box this year contained garlic in some form!  Our onion crop started out looking really good too, but some mid summer rains, heat and winds changed the trajectory of that crop very quickly.  When the tops started to show signs of disease and toppled over, we had to get them out of the field at a fast pace to avoid losing them.  Thankfully though, we had enough to reach the end of the year.

Sweet corn ready to be harvested in August 2019.
Sweet corn was another summer crop that afforded us some wins and some losses.  Our first and last plantings of the season were sparse and disappointing due to weather related field conditions.  While we would’ve liked to have picked more sweet corn, we did have some pretty fantastic tasting corn and managed to have about four weeks of harvest overall.  This year was not a blue ribbon tomato season either.  Our first crop was hit with disease early on and it felt like we had barely even started picking them when the vines started to die and we had to abandon the crop.  The effects of high humidity and heat created the perfect conditions for leaf disease despite our best efforts.  Thankfully, our second crop fared much better and we were able to get about 12 weeks of tomatoes overall.  Tomatillos, on the other hand, produced very nicely this year and we were able to include them in four boxes which is more than we’ve done in past years.

Our crew putting up stakes for tomatoes in June 2019.
We win some, we lose some, but we always have food on the table and this is what CSA is all about.  This is our guarantee to you as we share in the bounty and the loss of every growing season.  We all eat our way through the different parts of the year, with an opportunity to be acutely aware of the impact rain, temperature, storms and sunshine are having on our food supply.  We have a diversified farming operation and some weeks you may not have noticed that we were having challenges with some crops.  This is because we are able to divert product from our wholesale markets sometimes to pack it in CSA boxes instead.  However, we can only do that to a certain point as our business needs to remain financially viable.

CSA box assembly line!
We do believe our CSA offers members a good value.  Over the course of the season we track the value of our box contents and it’s always interesting to see just how many dollars of produce we actually deliver in a season.  After this week’s box is packed, the total for the season for all 30 boxes, based on our market prices, will total about $1,300.  Compare this to our weekly share price of $1,050 and you’ll see that you received a value that is about $250 greater than what you paid!  Please note, this is just the value of the vegetables.  This does not include the value of communications, newsletters, recipes and other resources you receive with every delivery.  This also does not include the value of having a connection with our farm and an open invitation to visit and have a transparent look for yourself to see just where your food comes from.  We mention this as a reminder that participating in CSA is a much different model for sourcing your food than going to the grocery store each week and there are just some things CSA represents and provides that will never be matched in the same way by a grocery store.  We do have a “secret shopper” who visits three different retail grocery stores each week to compare prices and selections available in these stores to the contents of our box.  However, it isn’t always an apples to apples comparison.  On average, there are about two items in every box that are not available in the retail stores and often the selections are not sourced from a local grower.  The other point we’d like to make is that organic options for these vegetable selections are not always available while in contrast, every single item you receive in your CSA box is certified organic.

Squash Harvest 2019
In less than two weeks we’ll roll over into a new year.  Once our final week of deliveries is completed we’ll turn our full attention to planning and preparing for the 2020 growing season.  Our 2020 CSA sign up form is now available on our website.  We’ve decided to continue our 2019 prices and share offerings for the 2020 season.  We’ve added one new site each to the Twin Cities and Madison.  We’re very happy to be partnering with TwinTown Fitness in Minneapolis to offer CSA pickup at their gym for both gym members and the general public.  In Madison we’re excited to be partnering with Sitka Salmon Shares to offer a CSA pickup at their facility located in the recently renovated Garver Feed Mill.  We are still looking to add a few more sites to our Madison area on either Thursday or Saturday to provide access to some underserved areas.  If you have any suggestions or are interested in hosting a CSA site in 2020, please let us know!

Hon Tsai Tai field 2019
Many of you are aware that CSA membership across the nation has been on the decline over the past 10 years or so.  We’ve watched the number of boxes we’re packing on a weekly basis drop from about 1,100 to about 600-650 boxes per week.  This has contributed to a financial strain on our business as we strive to keep our farm financially viable.  We remain hopeful and steadfast in our belief that CSA is a unique and valuable model both for farmers and for eaters.  This is why we keep coming back year after year and continue to explore ways we can do what we do while continuing to push ourselves to learn, research and farm better each and every year.  We are beyond grateful for all of you who are dedicated to CSA as well and appreciate your notes of encouragement and continued support.

As we look to the next season our reality is that we need to not only reverse this downward trend, but we need to increase our membership significantly.  We know word of mouth is by far the most effective way to recruit new members and connect with the community.  If CSA has had a positive impact on your lifestyle, we hope you’ll share your experiences with your friends, family members, colleagues, or anyone else who might be interested!  We do have a referral program, so encourage anyone who’s signing up for the first time to include your name on the referral line of their sign up form so we can send you a referral coupon as our way of saying “Thank you so much!”

Our happy crew cleaning ramps
for CSA boxes this spring.
We are also exploring some ways we can connect with our community in 2020.  In particular we are interested in pursuing some creative collaboration with some of our talented food bloggers, cookbook authors, chefs, etc in the region.  If you work, or play, in this space and are interested in collaborating with us to brainstorm some fun ways we can work together, please send us an email or give us a call!
In closing, we have one more small request.  If you have not already done so, we ask that you take a few minutes to complete our end of season CSA survey.  We sent an email with a link to the survey last week and will be resending that link on Thursday, December 19.  If you’d be willing to offer us some feedback and input, we’d really appreciate hearing from you.  We do read each and every comment.

As we sign off for 2019 we want to say one huge, final THANK YOU!  Our members are the reason we get up each morning and whether you realize it or not, you are an important part of what we do.  We hope you enjoy the holiday season and don’t forget to spend a little time out in the natural world.  We’ll see you in four short months.  Until then, I leave you with visions of fresh, green ramp leaves; the scent of sweet, sun-ripened strawberries; and the memory of fragrant, sweet juice from a French Orange melon running down your chin.

December 5, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Rutabagas!

4 Dec 2019 22:07

Cooking With This Week's Box

Rutabaga: Finnish Rutabaga Casserole (see below); Rutabaga & Apple Salad (see below); Norwegian Mashed Rutabagas (see below)
Happy December!  As we roll into the home stretch of the 2019 CSA season, I am reminded that seasonal eating can be a lot of fun!  This week we’re featuring rutabagas—and if you just groaned or moaned, I want you to know I heard you!  Just kidding.  Over the past few weeks we’ve eaten quite a few rutabagas as I trialed some new recipes and this week I have three simple recipes to share with you.  The first is for Finnish Rutabaga Casserole (see below).  While I made this for Thanksgiving, my understanding is that this is actually a traditional Finnish dish often served at Christmas alongside ham.  You can make it with rutabaga only or you can do a mix of rutabaga and potato.  The next recipe is for Norwegian Mashed Rutabagas (see below).  In Norway they cook rutabagas with carrots to make a simple mash.  Really, you can make root mash with any combination of vegetables.  Rutabagas and carrots go really well together and make a pretty root mash, but also one that has a hint of sweetness.  If you wanted to add some potato or sweet potato to the mix, you might be veering from tradition but I guarantee it would still be delicious.  The last recipe, Rutabaga & Apple Salad (see below), comes from a blog written by an American now living in Norway.  I don’t know if this is a traditional recipe, but it is so delicious!  When Richard sat down to eat dinner his first comment was “What a beautiful salad!”  As we started eating it, we both commented “Wow, this really tastes good!”  I am going to add this to my lineup of winter vegetable salads.  It’s crispy, crunchy, slightly sweet and very simple.  While rutabagas won’t win the prize for being the most flashy vegetable, they have a lot of potential to create some tasty meals.  If none of these recipes appeal to you, you might want to check out Dishing Up the Dirt where you’ll find 11 more delicious recipes to utilize rutabagas.
Apple Turnip Quiche
Turnips are another underappreciated root vegetable, but how can you not appreciate this week’s gorgeous sweet scarlet turnips!  I’ve likely shared this recipe for Apple Turnip Quiche before, it’s one of my favorites and I make it quite frequently throughout the winter.  This recipe is credited to The Birchwood Café and I have to say, my homemade versions are just as good as the piece I ate at the café!  This quiche is delicious served for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.  There are several other winter recipes that rotate through my kitchen from December through March.  Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping is one of them.  I use whatever root vegetables I have available, typically carrots, parsnips, celeriac and either turnips or rutabagas.  Sweet scarlet turnips are always my first choice because they look so pretty in this dish.  I had never heard of pasties until I moved to Wisconsin.  Last year I decided to give them a try and we featured this recipe for Cornish Pasties in our December newsletter.  They are very easy to make, leftovers reheat well and they are simple but tasty.  Again, use whatever root vegetables you have available.
Ok, there’s one more underappreciated root vegetable in this week’s top 3 lineup—Celeriac.  One of my favorite winter dishes to make with celeriac is Wild Rice and Celeriac Gratin.  I also like this recipe for Braised Chicken with Celeriac & Garlic.  In both of these recipes the flavor of the celeriac is present, but subtle.
Ethiopian Spiced Cabbage, Carrots & Potatoes
photo from thewanderlustkitchen.com
We’re nearing the end of green vegetables, but do still have a small amount of kohlrabi and some green savoy cabbage that we tucked away for this month’s deliveries.  I am looking forward to making Andrea Bemis’ recipe for Kohlrabi & Chickpea Salad.  This is a great salad to enjoy during the winter.  This creamy vegetable salad includes toasted sunflower seeds and raisins to add a bit of crunch and sweetness to accompany the kohlrabi and chickpeas that provide the base of this salad.  If you have green savoy cabbage piling up in your refrigerator, consider trying a dish from another country such as this Ethiopian Spiced Cabbage, Carrots & Potatoes.  Of the nine ingredients in this recipe, 5 of them are vegetables in this week’s box.  This recipe is super simple, vegetarian and can be the base of a nice weeknight dinner when served with lentils and Ethiopian flat bread.  The unique part of this recipe is that it uses Berbere spice.  Berbere is a unique Ethiopian spice blend that has a lot of spices including chiles, garlic, fenugreek, cinnamon, allspice and a variety of other components.  You can find this in the bulk spice section of most co-ops, so just get a little bit for this recipe—it’s what makes Ethiopian food Ethiopian food!
Bombay Carrot Salad with Cashews & Raisins
photo from feastingathome.com
Every week needs a pizza and this week’s seasonal combo is Carrot Pizza with Fontina & Red Onion.  This recipe uses carrots to make a creamy “sauce” to spread over the crust.  I’m not sure what this would look like with the purple carrots.  I might recommend using the orange ones for this recipe.  If anyone does try it with purple carrots, please post a picture in the Facebook Group!  I do think it would be fine to use the purple carrots, or a combo of both colors, in this Bombay Carrot Salad with Cashews & Raisins.  This salad, paired with Garlicky Lentil Soup, would make a tasty, nourishing winter meal.
One of the things I love about food is how it can take you to other parts of the world.  We started off this week’s discussion with recipes from Finland and Norway.  Our carrot salad took us to Bombay and we had a taste of Ethiopia just ahead of that.  While we’re in Africa we might as well explore this Peanut and Sweet Potato Soup.  This is a Deborah Madison recipe we featured back in 2014.   If you aren’t into African flavors, maybe you’d prefer this Thai Red Curry Soup with Sweet Potatoes & Squash.  This is one of the easiest Thai curry recipes—great for a quick weeknight dinner.
Sweet Potato and Molasses Muffins
with Maple Cashew Frosting
photo from dishingupthedirt.com
I’m sure we all enjoyed our fair share of Thanksgiving pies, cakes, desserts, etc, so no dessert recipes this week, but a little something sweet to wrap up this week’s article.  These Sweet Potato and Molasses Muffins with Maple Cashew Frosting are courtesy of Andrea Bemis from Dishing Up the Dirt.  They are a healthy version of decadent—no guilt.
Ok, one more thing to share and I have no idea how this recipe ties together with anything I’ve shared this week.  I just think this idea for Roasted Red Onion Flowers is super fun and I really want to try it.  Just look at how beautiful they are!  So if you have a stash of red onions on your counter, give these a try.  They’ll go great as a side dish with nearly anything.
And on that random final note….Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Rutabagas

by Andrea Yoder

Nature has a way of giving us what we need in its appropriate season.  As we move into the winter months, we no longer have the luxury of eating fresh veggies out of the field.  Instead, we turn to foods that store well and in preparation for the long, cold months we stock our root cellars full of vegetables that can survive the winter.  Not as many people these days have a root cellar, but you can use your crisper drawer for a similar purpose!  Rutabagas, along with turnips, are two of the best storing root crops and the stars of this week’s “Weed Em’ & Reap” newsletter article.  Take a moment to read more about these two underappreciated vegetables and you’ll quickly learn they have been an important part of winter diets in northern regions for a long time!
When you are ready to use your rutabagas, trim off the neck on the top.  Cut the vegetable lengthwise in halves or quarters so it is more manageable to handle.  Trim off the exterior skin using a paring knife,   You’ll find the flesh to be a beautiful golden color, firm and crisp.  When cooking rutabagas, less is often more.  Don’t try to make rutabagas fancy, that’s just not their style.  This week’s recipes reflect tradition and feature dishes from both Finnish and Norwegian culture.  Rutabagas can be eaten raw, boiled, stir-fried, roasted, baked and braised.  Elizabeth Schneider wrote, “There is really just one way not to cook it:  in lots of water for a long time….”  Perhaps this cooking method is responsible for turning up many noses over the years.  If you overcook rutabagas, they will quickly go from tender, sweet and delicious to mushy, strong flavored and stinky.  Rutabagas are also often used in soups, gratins, roasted root mixes, and root mashes, but can also make a really nice winter salad or stir-fry.  Rutabagas pair well with butter & cream (big surprise), ginger, lemon, nutmeg, parsley, sage, thyme, apples, pears, other root vegetables, bacon and other smoked and roasted meats.
Rutabagas should be stored in a cold environment with moisture to keep them from dehydrating.  If stored properly they can be preserved for months.  If you notice your roots starting to get floppy or soft, just soak them in a bowl of water in your refrigerator and they’ll spring back to life.  Don’t let them shrivel up in the crisper drawer this year, give them a try!  You just might find you like them and will miss them come spring!

Finnish Rutabaga Casserole (Lanttulaatikko)

Yield:  6 servings
6 cups peeled & diced rutabaga OR 3 cups rutabaga and 3 cups peeled & diced potatoes
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
¼ cup heavy cream
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter a 2 ½-quart casserole and set aside.
  2. Cook the rutabagas and/or potatoes together in salted water to cover, just until soft and tender.
  3. Drain and mash with a potato masher.  Soak the bread crumbs in the cream and stir in the nutmeg, salt, and beaten eggs.
  4. Blend mixture with the mashed rutabagas and potatoes.  Turn into the casserole dish.  Dot the top with butter.  Bake for 1 hour or until the top is lightly browned.
This recipe was borrowed from Beatrice Ojankangas’ book, Homemade:  Finnish Rye, Feed Sack Fashion, and Other Simple Ingredients From My Life In Food.  Beatrice grew up in rural northern Minnesota, the oldest of ten children.  In addition to a lifetime of experience cooking for her family, she also has an extensive list of accomplishments as a food writer and recipe developer.  While she comes from Finnish descent, she also lived in Finland for a short while. During this time she researched and collected recipes that she compiled and published as, The Finnish Cookbook.

Mashed Rutabagas (Kålrabistappe)

Yield:  4-6 servings
1.5 pounds rutabaga (kålrabi)  
8 oz carrots (2-3 medium) 
1 qt water
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp salt (or to taste) 
¼ cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp butter
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
  1. Peel and cut rutabaga and carrots into pieces (large dice).  Place the vegetables into a pan and cover with a quart of water seasoned with 1 Tbsp salt.  Bring the water to a boil and cook the rutabagas and carrots just until tender and soft. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  2. Mash the rutabagas and carrots by hand using a potato masher.  
  3. Stir in cream, butter, pepper, and nutmeg. If needed, add the additional teaspoon of salt and maybe a dash of the reserved liquid, to taste.
This recipe was adapted from one originally printed in the Oct. 21, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American.  It was submitted by Lillian Laila Owren of Kristiansand, Norway.

Rutabaga & Apple Salad (Kålrabi Salat med Epler)

Yield:  Makes a large bowl (7-8 cups)
1 medium or several small rutabaga (about 1 pound)
2 tart apples, cored
¼ red cabbage (about 2 cups, sliced thinly)
½ cup hazelnuts, whole
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
⅓ cup oil (neutral vegetable oil or hazelnut oil)
¼ cup apple juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
  1. Peel and cut the rutabaga into matchsticks by hand or with a mandolin. Cut the apples into matchsticks as well. Thinly slice the red cabbage. Place rutabaga, apples and cabbage in a serving bowl.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and toss to combine.
  2. Place the hazelnuts in a large frying pan over medium-high heat to toast. Shaking once and a while to prevent burning. When starting to turn a golden brown remove from the pan. (I like to add the skins and all, but you can remove the skins if you wish by rubbing the hazelnuts between your palms or in a tea towel.)  Roughly chop the nuts and add to the salad.
  3. Combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl and whisk well. Pour over the salad and gently mix until everything is covered. Serve immediately.
This recipe was borrowed from northwildkitchen.com, a blog written by Nevada Berg.  Nevada grew up in Utah, but now lives in the beauty of Norway where she enjoys foraging, exploring, and cooking. The pictures and stories on her blog are beautiful!

Rutabagas & Turnips….Give Them A Chance!

4 Dec 2019 21:30

By Andrea Yoder

Winter can be a challenging time to eat seasonally and locally for many in the upper Midwest and sometimes we have to think “outside the box” as we get creative with preparing storage vegetables until spring returns.  Root vegetables such as celeriac, turnips and rutabagas often get a bad wrap, and honestly—most of the time it’s because someone is intimidated by them, doesn’t have a clue what to do with them, or has had a bad experience with them (….as in their mother or grandmother served them overcooked vegetables!!!!).  So this week, we’re going to bring two of these often underappreciated roots out of the shadows and give them a brief moment of fame.  Let me introduce you to the stars of this week’s show---Rutabagas and Turnips!

Gold Turnips, Sweet Scarlet Turnips, and Purple Top Turnips
I asked Richard how long he’s been growing rutabagas and turnips.  His reply, “Almost forever!”  His earliest memories of these vegetables goes back to his Grandpa Nick who grew them in his garden, both to feed his family as well as his animals through the winter.  Even though we grow these every year, we’ve tried to limit the number of storage turnips and rutabagas we’ve included in late season boxes.  In fact, many years we haven’t even put rutabagas in the box and still we have people tell us in end of the season surveys that they “got too many rutabagas!”  Perhaps they are confusing rutabagas and turnips or maybe they just haven’t been able to surmount that hurdle of “What the heck do I do with these roots?!”  Friends, I hope you’ll trust me on this and know that both of these humble vegetables have and deserve a place on our tables this winter, just as they’ve graced the tables of our ancestors for hundreds of years before us!  Both rutabagas and turnips have a long history in the culture of peoples from northern regions such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Scotland, Ireland, and northern Asia.  This is because both of these vegetables grow well in regions with a colder climate where other crops can’t be produced.
Hand-harvesting rutabagas on a sunny fall day
Consider what it was like to live in a time where you had to eat what you could grow because transportation just wasn’t available.  It’s too cold to grow bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes and even some grains, but you can grow potatoes, carrots, cabbage, turnips, rutabagas.  Now it makes more sense why some of these root vegetables became such an integral part of these cultures!  In Norway the nickname for rutabagas is “Nordens Oransje” which means, “Orange of the North.”  This brings up another important point about these roots.  It’s not just that they are able to be grown in these areas, they also provide valuable energy, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that our bodies need to stay healthy over the winter.  As the nickname indicates, rutabagas are actually a pretty good source of vitamin C.  Of course, I should mention that both rutabagas and turnips are members of the brassica family which is known to be a family of important foods that provide us with antioxidants and other phytochemicals that build up our immune systems, prevent cancer and protect our bodies in many other ways.  So it seems, nature does provide us with the foods we need.  Now it’s our job to embrace them!

Scarlet turnips as far as you can see!
In Scotland rutabagas are called “neeps,” while in Ireland rutabagas are called “turnips” and the English seem to follow the lead from Sweden and call them “swedes.”  As you can see, turnips and rutabagas are often confused.  Rutabagas are a buttercream yellow with purple shoulders.  They are often on the larger size growing anywhere from 5-7 inches in diameter, or bigger!  The ones in your box this week are on the small side and, while not necessarily good for yields and profitability, you will find them more manageable to work with.  Rutabagas have more of a pointy bottom on the root end and often have a Dr. Seuss like stem, although we often trim away most of the stem so all you see is the stem stump on top.  Turnips on the other hand are more rounded, or more of a flattened round shape.  The traditional storage turnip is a purple top turnip that has a white bottom with purple shoulders.
Rutabaga leaves--seldom eaten by people,
but excellent forage for animals!
See why it’s easy to confuse them with rutabagas?  In addition to purple top turnips, we also grow golden and sweet scarlet turnips.  All three of these varieties store very well, but we think the flavor is different amongst these three and we tend to favor the golden and sweet scarlet varieties.  However, it’s important to note that, as with many other vegetables in the Brassica family, the flavor of the vegetable is significantly impacted by exposure to cold.  The turnips and rutabagas we harvest early in the fall before we’ve had frost are not as sweet and mild as those harvested after a few chilly nights.  The other factor that affects taste is how you cook them.  If I were allowed to have only one pet peeve in the world, it would be “Do Not Overcook Brassicas!”  Turnips and rutabagas need to breath, so when you’re cooking them either leave the lid off or at least open it up a bit.  If you don’t, all of those sulfur containing phytochemicals which make these vegetables so darn healthy for us will volatilize, build up in the steam and get trapped in the pot.  When you remove the lid, WHOOEEEE they do NOT smell good!  Many a grandmother and mother of the past have subjected their families to boiled turnips and rutabagas that simmered away in a big pot on the stove, covered, for hours filling the whole house with their stench.  No one wants to sit down to the table to eat overcooked vegetables.  Just don’t do it, ok?

Cornish Pasties, made with a variety of root vegetables
Turnips and rutabagas have also been known as “peasant food” or “animal fodder.”  Now, would you rather eat something with the reputation as being good enough to feed the peasants and animals or something fit for a king?  Well, actually I think it’s a testament to the vegetable that it’s versatile enough to feed both a human and an animal.  Furthermore, farmers often used these vegetables as feed as well as forage crops (letting the animals graze and eat the green tops) because they were a valuable source of nutrition in the days before hybrid grain varieties were available.  Prior to these hybrid varieties, corn and other grains couldn’t always be grown in some of these northern climates because the growing season wasn’t long enough.  Additionally, turnips and rutabagas could be stored and fed to the animals all winter!  In addition to his memories of Grandpa Nick, Richard also remembers seeing bunker silos full of root vegetables being stored as winter animal feed when he visited Europe.  Once we had cheap grain available, these crops fell out of favor for use with animals.  So it has nothing to do with the fact that the rutabaga or turnip is a crop of lesser value and thus was fed to the animals or lower rungs of society.

Turnip lanterns to celebrate Räbelichtli,
photo from mrs-twinkle.com
Ok, two fun facts before we wrap up.  Did you know there is a festival called Räbeliechtli that is celebrated in German speaking regions throughout Switzerland?  This word comes from “rabe” meaning turnip and “liecht” meaning light.  It’s celebrated in early November and includes a procession or parade at night in the dark in which children carry lanterns carved from turnips!  So if you really can’t find anything to make with a turnip or a rutabaga, at least turn it into a fun, creative project and carve it into a lantern.  Here’s how!

International Rutabaga Curling Championship
photo from visitithaca.com
The other fun fact I want to share with you is that there is actually a sporting event held in celebration of the rutabaga.  That’s right, there is an International Rutabaga Curling Championship held in Ithaca, New York every year towards the end of December at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market.  The event is open to both amateurs and professionals and, according to this website, ‘Preparation is crucial. “Athletes must prepare by sending positive vibes to the Gods of Rutabagas.  First-time spectators cannot possibly be prepared for this event.”’  I know we have some CSA members with ties to Ithaca as well as the sport of curling (Kathy P, I’m looking at you).  If anyone has ever attended or participated in this event, I want to know about it!

I really hope you’ll give these humble vegetables a chance this winter.  While they are seldom the focus of a dish, they can easily be incorporated into many tasty dishes that will nourish your body and keep you well throughout the winter.  I haven’t told you much about cooking them yet, but that information can be found in this week’s “What’s In the Box” newsletter which features rutabagas.  Congratulations Friend, you’ve made it to the end of the season!

November 21, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Black Futsu Pumpkin!

22 Nov 2019 16:44

Cooking With This Week's Box

Black Futsu Pumpkins: Creamy Cider & Black Futsu Pumpkin Soup (see below); Maple-Sage Roasted Black Futsu Pumpkin (see below); Winter Slaw
Maple-Sage Roasted Black Futsu Pumpkin
(see recipe below)
Did you notice the unique little pumpkins in this week’s box?  It’s the Black Futsu!  I’ve been looking forward to this vegetable all season long.  It’s a new one for HVF and I think it might have earned a place in next year’s line up as well!  I have two Black Futsu recipes to share with you this week.  The first recipe is Creamy Cider & Black Futsu Pumpkin Soup (see below).  This is a simple recipe to make, but you do need to give yourself time to caramelize the onions and bake the black futsu pumpkin in advance.  Once those two things are accomplished the rest of the soup comes together very quickly.  It’s delicious served on its own, but I chose to serve it with wild rice and toasted pumpkin seeds as a main dish.  This soup would also be lovely to serve as a starter for Thanksgiving dinner, or serve it after Thanksgiving along with a turkey sandwich.  The second recipe is for Maple-Sage Roasted Black Futsu Pumpkin (see below)  This is another simple recipe that just requires a little patience to allow time to roast the black futsu pumpkin wedges until they are golden, sweet and crispy around the edges.  With this recipe, you do eat the skin which is part of the overall effect.  Once the pumpkin is nearly roasted to completion, brush it with a mixture of maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and whole grain mustard.  After this you put it back in the oven for 7-10 minutes.  When you pull them out, the wedges will have a light glaze on them that seemingly transforms them into something so delicious it’s hard to stop popping them in your mouth!
Sheet Pan Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Apples,
and Brussels Sprouts, photo from wellplated.com
We’re happy to have enough Brussels sprouts to send them to you one more week.  It seems everywhere I looked the past few weeks I was seeing recipes for Brussels sprouts paired with sweet potatoes!  Here are two of my favorites that stood out, both from www.wellplated.com.  The first is Sweet Potato Pasta with Brussels Sprouts.  This is a one pan pasta dinner, quick and easy enough for a weeknight vegetarian main dish yet classy enough to incorporate into holiday celebrations.  It’s topped with crumbled feta, dried cranberries and sage.  The other recipe is for Sheet Pan Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Apples and Brussels Sprouts.   Everything gets roasted on a sheet pan, seasoned with a touch of rosemary.
The next two recipes for tat soi were shared by members in our Facebook Group, and they look delicious!   Tatsoi Saag Paneer is a classic Indian dish typically made with spinach, but this version uses tat soi instead.  This recipe is also made with tofu instead of the traditional paneer cheese, so it’s vegan.  Serve this with naan bread or rice.  The other recipe is for Sweet Potato and Tatsoi Soup.  Several members made this recipe and it seems to be a winner.  It calls for celery, but you could substitute celeriac in this week’s box.
Winter Slaw, photo from wellplated.com
I love making crunchy vegetable slaws during the winter and am anxious to try this Winter Slaw that uses red and/or green savoy cabbage along with apples to make a tasty slaw topped with Parmesan cheese, dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds.  The recipe calls for 1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds, which is about the amount you’ll get if you save them from 2 (medium) Black Futsu pumpkins.  Don’t throw those seeds away, put them to use!
If you’re looking for a classy vegetarian dish for Thanksgiving, consider this Savory Potato Tart with Celeriac & Porcini.  If you don’t have porcini mushrooms, substitute another dried mushroom of your choosing.  While we’re talking mushrooms I thought I’d share this recipe for French Onion Stuffed Mushrooms.  This recipe would make a great appetizer and is a good way to use up onions if you have a pile building up in your pantry!
With Thanksgiving coming up, I couldn’t resist adding shallots to this week’s box.  A special holiday requires a special onion. No shallots are not just another onion, although they are in the same family.  Balsamic Roasted Shallots is a classy vegetable side dish that will go nicely with Thanksgiving dinner.  Or you could always make this decadent Caramelized Shallot Gravy!
Baked Tater Tots, photo from wellplated.com
I’ve had these two recipes for homemade tater tots in the cue for several months, waiting for the canela russets.  Tater tots take me back to my childhood and I never considered making them myself.  The first recipe for homemade Fried Tater Tots is most like the Ore Ida tater tots I remember from my childhood.  These are formed into the traditional tot shape and then fried in oil on the stove top.  The other recipe is for Baked Tater Tots that are made in mini muffin tins.  With this recipe you get all the flavors of tater tots, including the crispy exterior, but in a little lighter version.
Beauty heart radishes, also referred to by some as “watermelon radishes” are a flashy vegetable to brighten up our winter meals.  If you don’t know what to do with them, you might want to start by reading this article:  Watermelon Radish... What Do I do With it?  This Watermelon Radish, Orange and Goat Cheese Salad is also a showstopper, or you could always keep it simple with these Roasted Watermelon Radishes.
Carrot Cake Cheesecake, photo from cookingclassy.com
Red Cabbage Vegetable Quinoa Stew just might win the prize for “Recipe containing the most items in this week’s box!”  I think you could incorporate up to seven of this week’s vegetables in this recipe alone!  Since this is such a healthy stew, you could balance off this meal with dessert.  What might that be?  Carrot Cake Cheesecake!
Well friends, we have reached the bottom of the box.   I hope you have a nourishing, relaxing Thanksgiving holiday and are able to take a little time to reflect on the many things you are grateful for in this year.  I will see you back here in December for our final two boxes of the season.  Happy Thanksgiving!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Black Futsu Pumpkin

by Andrea Yoder
This week I’m excited to introduce you to the beautiful, unique Black Futsu Pumpkin!  This is a heirloom Japanese squash variety that caught my attention in the High Mowing Seed catalog last winter.  What was this odd looking pumpkin shaped vegetable with skin that was a grayish, charcoal color mixed with tan?  After a little research indicating it has good flavor and is revered by chefs, I convinced Richard we needed to try it.
When we harvested these black futsu pumpkins, their skin was starting to show some signs of changing to a buff tan color, but they were more of a mysterious gray.  We weren’t quite sure what to expect.  Will they store well?  Will they continue to ripen in storage?  We didn’t have a lot of information to work with, so we had to just figure it out on our own.  I had planned to work them into the schedule much earlier, however when I cooked one and tasted it, it really was pretty bland and did not match the flavor profiles I had read.  So we left them alone for a bit.  We were pleasantly surprised to find this variety actually holds up very well in storage!  They also continued to ripen and now they have very little to no gray coloring on the skin. 
Baked Black Futsu Pumpkin 
When I cooked one recently, I was surprised to see the color of the flesh had changed to a darker, bright orange color and the flavor was much different than my first experience!  So it seems we made the right decision to wait!  I tried cooking this pumpkin different ways and the options for what you can do with these little guys is endless!  The flesh is dense and holds up well to roasting and pan-frying.  When baked, either whole or cut in half, the flesh was moist, smooth, creamy and sweet.  The descriptions I read also indicated that the skin was edible.  It does have a very thin skin and given the bumpiness of the exterior, I didn’t want to attempt to peel it.  When pan-fried or roasted the skin gets nice and crispy and offers a nice contrast to the soft, smooth flesh.  When I baked the pumpkin whole and scooped out the flesh, I ate a little piece of the skin.  While it was edible, I didn’t find it as delectable and did discard it.
Pumpkin Overnight Oats, photo from wellplated.com
So what are you going to do with these cute things?   As I mentioned before, this variety is delicious when roasted.  You can either cut them into wedges or chunks, toss them with oil, then roast them on a sheet tray.  I’m not usually a fan of pan-frying squash, however this one is a candidate for this method.   I would recommend cutting thin slices about ⅛ - ¼ inch thick.  Cooking them on a griddle or in a cast iron pan in butter yields a nice crispy, golden final product.  You can also cut them in half and bake them in the oven.  Honestly, if you don’t want to mess with anything else, just bake them and eat the flesh seasoned with a touch of salt and pepper and a pat of butter.  It’s delicious just like that, however you could also stuff the pumpkin halves with a filling of your choosing.  Of course, you can scrape the cooked flesh out of the shell and use it to make a wide variety of things.  In one of my trials, I used a paring knife to cut a circle around the stem, about 1 ½-2 inches in diameter.  I lifted this little section out and used a spoon to scoop out the seeds, then put the little lid back on and baked the pumpkin until the flesh was tender.  If you are careful when you scoop the flesh out of the skin, you can use the skin as a little bowl to hold your pumpkin creation.  With the holidays coming up, this would make a festive and eye-catching presentation.  I wouldn’t serve soup in it, but you could serve Pumpkin Hummus, Pumpkin Goat Cheese Dip with Caramelized Onions or even Pumpkin Fruit Dip!  Don’t be afraid to eat pumpkin for breakfast too.  I found some tasty recipes for Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal with Maple and Pecans, Pumpkin Overnight Oats, or even Pumpkin Cream Cheese to spread on a bagel or toast!
Black Futsu Pumpkin seeds:  clean, dry and ready to roast
Store your black futsu pumpkins at room temperature and use them as a decoration until you’re ready to eat them!  Once you’re ready to cook them, give them a little scrubbing and then get to work.  I forgot to mention that the seeds are also edible.  Before cooking, extract them from the flesh, rinse them and lay them out on a tea towel (the seeds will stick to the towel, so don’t use paper or anything fuzzy) or a plate to dry.  Once dry you can toss them with a little oil and season them with salt and pepper or seasonings of your choosing before toasting them in a 350°F oven.  These seeds really are tasty and, in my opinion, worth the effort to extract them.    If you have children, this is a great kitchen job for them! One more tidbit of information I gathered from my experiments is that one medium sized black futsu pumpkin will yield about ¾-1 cup of cooked flesh.  I hope you have fun experimenting with the Black Futsu!

Creamy Cider & Black Futsu Pumpkin Soup

Yield:  4 servings
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup peeled, chopped apple (2-3 small to medium)
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1 pinch nutmeg
1 cup non-alcoholic apple cider or hard cider 
1 ¾-2 cups cooked black futsu pumpkin flesh
2 cups water
½ cup cream or coconut milk
2-3 cups cooked wild rice (optional, for serving)
Seeds of 2 black futsu pumpkins, toasted (optional, for serving)
  1. Gently heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the thinly sliced yellow onions and 1 tsp salt.  Evenly distribute the onions on the bottom of the pan.  You want to hear them sizzle gently, but make sure the heat isn’t too high.  You do not want to brown them.  Cook gently, stirring periodically, for 20-30 minutes or until the onions are soft, reduced in volume and starting to turn more of a beige color.  The goal is to caramelize the onions slowly to develop their sugars.  
  2. Next, add the chopped apple, cinnamon, smoked paprika and nutmeg.  Stir to combine and then add the cider.  Turn the heat up to medium high so the liquid is at a rapid simmer. Continue to simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the apples are soft and the liquid has reduced by about half.  Remove from heat.
  3. Next, you will use a blender to combine the soup.  First, put the pumpkin puree in the blender.  Carefully add the onion and apple mixture.  Add the water, cover the blender and blend on low speed, increasing to high speed gradually.  Blend until the soup is smooth.  
  4. Pour the soup into a medium saucepan and return the soup to the stove top.  Bring the soup to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer for about 10 minutes or until hot.  The soup should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon.  If the soup is too thick for your liking, add a little water to thin it to the desired thickness.  If the soup is too thin, continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until it reaches the desired thickness.  
  5. Stir in the cream or coconut milk.  Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings by adding more salt and pepper.
  6. If you are serving the soup with wild rice, make sure the rice is hot.  Put ½-¾ cup rice in each bowl.  Ladle the soup around the rice and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds if you wish.
Recipe by Chef Andrea 

Maple-Sage Roasted Black Futsu Pumpkin

Yield:  5-6 servings
2 medium black futsu pumpkins
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ Tbsp dried sage
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp whole grain mustard
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Cut the black futsu pumpkins in half and scoop out the seed cavity.  Cut the pumpkins into wedges no more than ½ inch thick.  Put the pumpkin wedges in a large bowl and toss with sunflower oil to generously coat all the pieces.  Sprinkle salt and dried sage over the pumpkin.  Combine to evenly distribute the seasoning.
  2. Spread the pumpkin wedges out on a baking sheet.  Try to separate the wedges so they are in a single layer.  Roast for 30-40 minutes, turning once about half-way through.
  3. While the pumpkin is roasting, mix together the maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and whole grain mustard in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  4. Once the pumpkin wedges are tender and light golden, remove the pan from the oven.  Brush the maple syrup mixture over all the pieces using a brush.  Turn the pieces over and brush the other side.  Return the pan to the oven and roast for an additional 7 to 10 minutes to glaze and finish roasting.  Remove and serve immediately while the pumpkin is still warm.
Recipe was adapted from The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman.

Meet the Nash Family!

20 Nov 2019 20:19

By Chef/Farmer Andrea

From left to right: Rohan, Dina, Griffin,
Caden, and Corey Nash
This week I’m excited to introduce you to one of our awesome CSA families.  Meet Corey & Dina Nash along with their sons Griffin, Caden and Rohan.  Corey and Dina joined our CSA when Griffin, now in 8th grade, was only 2 years old.  Shortly after becoming part of our CSA family, their family grew to include Caden and Rohan who are now in the 6th grade.  Over the years the Nash family has made it a priority to include a visit to Harmony Valley Farm for a farm event nearly every year.  They’ve made the effort to connect with their farm, not just the place but also the people.  Over the years we’ve enjoyed watching their children grow and change and every year we learn a little more about each person in their family as we catch up on the past year while sipping iced maple lattes or standing in the pumpkin field enjoying another Fall Harvest Party.  We look for their names on the RSVP list and are always happy to see them walking up the drive way, smiles on their faces and ready for another day of adventure at the farm.  We look forward to talking to Griffin, Caden and Rohan, three very articulate young men who are a pleasure to converse with.  One of the great joys we have in our work is getting to know the people who eat the food we work hard to grow.  CSA is a lot of work for a farm to pull off, and it requires some additional effort from the members as well.  Is the extra effort worth it?  From our perspectives it is a definite “Yes!”  If you were to ask any member of the Nash family the same question, I think they’d echo the same.  This past June I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the Nash family after our Strawberry Day party.  I wanted to know more about their decision to make CSA a priority for their family, why CSA is important to them, how they make it work for their household, and the benefits they reap from being CSA members with our farm.  I learned a lot from them and am excited to share some of their thoughts and insights.

The young Nash boys enjoying tomatoes from their garden!
While they now live in Minneapolis, Dina & Corey Nash grew up in rural Minnesota where they had access to fresh vegetables.  When it came time to feed their own family, they knew fresh food needed to be a priority.  Recognizing fresh vegetables contain valuable nutrients, they asked themselves “what can we do to maintain the nutrient value of our food?”  One obvious answer was to reduce the carbon footprint their food left due to travel and source their food from as close to its origin as possible.  They also wanted to support local, smaller farms to help keep them in business while reaping the taste and flavor benefits reminiscent of the homegrown vegetables they grew up eating.  They decided to join a CSA for all these reasons as well as seeking to build a connection with the place and people who were growing their food.

Griffin, munching on a garlic scape in the field. 
HVF Strawberry Day 2019
If you spend a little time with the Nash family, you’ll quickly realize they are a family of very willing and adventurous eaters.  No, they may not “love” every food, but they keep an open mind and have a willingness to try new things.  We’ve watched Griffin, Caden and Rohan munch on freshly dug carrots in the field.  I’ve helped them cut their own head of celery, taught them how to pick kale, and they are now old enough that they even do some of their own self-guided field tours when they come to the farm.  This fall they returned from a little side excursion to a nearby field munching on leaves of spicy mustard greens they had just picked!  But wait, kids aren’t supposed to like and eat vegetables!  That’s the difference and these kids debunk that myth!  The Nash boys have been exposed to a wide variety of flavors and foods from a very early age.  I asked Corey and Dina how they managed to pull this off.  For starters, set a good example.  “They’ll do what you model, not what you tell them to do.”  They also have a “One Bite” house rule which says that you have to at least taste something once.  Why is this important?  Dina shared that she believes tasting new things is so important to training tastes as children grow and develop.  There aren’t any food battles at the table because the kids know what vegetables taste like and there is no cover up mission underway to get the kids to eat them.  Cheese sauce is a treat to complement the flavor of vegetables as opposed to trying to cover them up.  No trickery involved, they really enjoy the taste of vegetables!  Dina also commented that they have tried to capture the real taste of food for their children in the early years as opposed to skewing their taste buds with artificial flavors.  In fact, their kids don’t’ care to eat at McDonalds or other fast food places because in their opinion, the food has too much salt and sugar and doesn’t taste good to them.  When I asked the boys about this, Griffin’s response was “That’s what happens when you know what good food is!”

Strawberry-stained hands of the Nash family
at HVF Strawberry Day! 
Another thing Dina and Corey have been intentional about is creating an awareness for their children of their own bodies and the way food makes them feel.  When they eat healthy food, such as vegetables from their CSA box, they stay healthy and have both physical energy and mental stamina.  They are able to excel in their school work and still have energy to participate in activities after school!  They have tried to teach them to make better choices on their own by pausing to think about the positive and negative consequences of their choices.  During this part of our conversation, Caden chimed in to add “Sometimes I think, ‘Yes, I want to eat that,’ but then I ask myself, ‘do I REALLY want it?’”

So how do Corey, Dina and their sons make CSA work for their household?  For starters, they take advantage of the weekend to wash, cut and prepare the vegetables from their box so they are either ready to eat or ready to use in meals throughout the week.  Dina and Corey also make use of the weekly “What’s In the Box” email and newsletter.  They try to read through the information in the newsletter before they pick up the box as this helps them start planning what they want to do with that week’s box contents.  They have also found our private Facebook Group to be a safe and approachable place to go for help with finding uses for unusual vegetables.  They describe it as a great place to ask questions, as there is probably someone else out there who has the same question!

Captain Jack, happy to spend quality time with the Nash boys!
Now that we’ve talked about some of their food choice tactics and philosophy, lets come back to where we started—visiting the farm.  If Dina and Corey had not made it a priority to come to the farm, we may have missed out on the opportunity to get to know this family.  From their perspective, there are many reasons to make the effort to come to the farm.  First, the kids love being able to eat out of the field which has helped build their excitement for learning where their food is grown.  They have fond memories of picking their own vegetables, digging carrots and picking pumpkins.  They also enjoy the fun games, spending time with Captain Jack the Dog, and being out in nature.  Richard had the opportunity to spend some time talking to Caden at our Harvest Party last year (fall 2018).  As he was getting ready to leave he thanked Richard sincerely for the opportunity to visit and expressed that the day “put him in a zone,” a good zone that he needed.  In touch with the fields of vegetables, the sky, the trees, a good “zone” to be in.  This may seem like a simple statement, but it was a golden moment for Richard who wishes every CSA kid in our membership would have the chance to come to the farm, play in the dirt, eat & pick vegetables right out of the field and have the opportunity to experience the beauty of being in nature.

Dina Nash and her boys,
all smiles after a day at the farm!
We look forward to continuing to be a part of Dina, Corey, Griffin, Caden and Rohan’s lives.  We appreciate our connection to their family as well as the many other families we have formed connections with through CSA.  We applaud the parents who have made the decision to make CSA and organic vegetables a priority for their families.  We appreciate the individuals who have chosen to make that 2-3 hour drive to the farm so they can see and experience the farm for themselves.  I am admittedly jealous of Griffin, Caden and Rohan as well as all of the other kids who get to grow up as “CSA kids.”  I think Dina and Corey hit the nail on their head when they commented “You have to slow down and make the investment.  That’s what CSA is, it’s worth it for healthy kids who are productive and articulate.”  We’re willing to make the investment and we hope more individuals and families will choose to do the same!

What Do You Do During the Winter?

6 Nov 2019 22:12

By Chef/Farmer Andrea

Jorge, Jose Luis, Leonardo and Silvestre trimming turnips.
As I began writing this article, the snow was just beginning to fall gently outside my window.  As I do the final edits to this on Wednesday morning, November 6, I am happy to report that we woke up to a beautiful white valley blanketed in about 4 inches of snow!  Yes they said it may happen, but I’m not sure any of us were really ready to accept it.  So this morning we faced the reality that winter is here.  We pulled out the snow shovels and buckets of sidewalk salt, pulled on the snow boots, and started our winter shoveling workout.  Over the past few weeks we’ve watched the weather and strategized.  What do we need to do before it rains?  Will it freeze overnight?  If so, how long will we have to wait in the morning before the air temperature is above freezing so we can send a crew to the field to harvest.  Will the double cover over the daikon be enough to protect it from damage if the temperatures really drop into the twenties?  How many people do we need to get all of the Brussels sprouts harvested before the sun goes down today?  Are we going to have enough dry and somewhat warm days to be able to plant garlic, horseradish and sunchokes for next year?  We’ve hustled, we’ve worked hard, and with the exception of more tat soi and maybe some radicchio in two weeks for CSA boxes, our 2019 harvests are complete.  Miraculously, garlic, horseradish and sunchokes are all planted thanks to our hardworking crew that understands the importance of getting these things done before the ground is covered in snow as it is this morning.  Now what?

All hands on deck to harvest Brussels Sprouts before the big freeze!
“What do you do during the winter?”  This is a common question we get asked every fall, so we thought we’d give you just a little insight into what we all do once the harvests are complete, the ground freezes and the snow starts to fly.  Last weekend the first group of our crew members departed en route to sunny, warm Mexico.  We’re always sad to see them go, but the huge smiles on their faces as they say their goodbyes is all we need to see to know it’s time.  They’re anxious to see their families and ready for a little rest.  Before Thanksgiving we’ll say goodbye to another group and then the final members of our field crew will return to Mexico before Christmas.  I asked some of our guys what they plan to do once they get back to Mexico.  Most of them plan to take a few weeks off to rest, relax and spend time with their families.  Of course there will be some holiday celebrations and at least one family will be celebrating with their sister who’s getting married in December.  After a little R & R, it’s back to work for many.  Some will spend the winter months doing construction on their homes, taking care of repairs, making improvements, etc.  Others will find work driving truck, working on vegetable farms near their homes, or managing their own businesses back in Mexico.  The months will go by way too fast and before we all know it, April will be here and it will be time for them to head north to Wisconsin again.

Nestor and Manuel M. sorting firewood.
Our field work has transitioned from harvest to clean-up and preparation for next year.  This is the time of year we clean up brush piles, cut firewood, pick up sandbags and row covers, clean fallen trees out of waterways, and winterize machinery.  We still need to mulch the strawberry and garlic fields and then we’ll officially be finished for the year!

In the packing shed, we’re still rockin’ and rolling as we whittle away at the pile of storage vegetables we’ve stockpiled in our coolers.  We still have over 350 bins of vegetables in storage, plus sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions and garlic.  We hope to sell out of most items by Christmas time, but we will carryover some vegetables into the new year that we’ll wash and pack in January.  Yes, we do still have a crew in January!  We have about 10 crew members who work with us year round.  During the winter months they take care of all the winter cleaning projects, harvest curly willow and pussywillow, prepare the greenhouses and then start planting in the greenhouses in mid February.

After the holidays are behind us and we ring in a new year, it’ll be time to get serious about laying out the framework for a new growing season.  Amy has already started inventorying the seeds we’re carrying over into next year.  The first seed catalog has arrived and we expect more in the mail any day now!  Richard, Rafael and I need to lay out the plans for next year’s crops.  What crops will we plant?  Which field will we plant them in?  How much do we need? Do we have seed or will we need to purchase it?  Our growing season technically will start when we plant those first onion seeds in the greenhouse in February!  That’s not far away!
Our seed cooler nicely organized and inventoried.

Kelly and Gwen will have plenty to occupy their time with once 2020 CSA sign-ups start rolling in after the first of the year.  Gwen will be working on the new CSA calendar and they’ll be busy processing orders.  Andrea will be doing some traveling to meet with some of our wholesale buyers throughout the region as well as working on improvements to our food safety program.  Richard will be working on his crop plan with Rafael as well as ordering field supplies such as drip tape, row cover, and plastic mulch.  Of course if it snows, we’ll all be spending a lot of time shoveling and clearing snow as well!

Crew harvesting curly willow in February.
While much of our crew will be enjoying sunny Mexico, those of us remaining in the cold of the upper Midwest do hope to have a little time to relax as well.  We’ll take some time off for Christmas and New Years and we’ll close down the farm for one week at the end of January so our crew can have a little winter break.  Hopefully we’ll have some time to do some snowshoeing and build a snowman or two!   Kelly and Gwen haven’t decided where they’ll be going for winter vacation, but I am looking forward to traveling to Italy for the first time with my friend Kay from JenEhr Farm!  Richard is anxious to do some woodworking and has chosen to have a ‘staycation’ so he can work on building a bed frame with a beautiful live edge walnut headboard.

Winter does mean a slower pace for all of us, but the work doesn’t stop.  Animals will still need to be fed, coolers will need to be managed, and we need to work diligently towards our winter goals so we’re ready for another growing season next spring!  While this hasn’t been the easiest year of farming and we’ve had some challenges to surmount, we’ve also had many blessings and many more things that have gone well.  We’re grateful for all our crew members who helped us pull off yet another year of farming.  We wish them all safe travels home and will look forward to seeing them next spring when we’re all refreshed and ready to do it all again!

November 7, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Tat Soi!

6 Nov 2019 21:43

Cooking With This Week's Box

Tat Soi: Vegan One-Pot Ramen Noodles with Tat Soi (see below); Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash and Tat Soi

Red & Yellow Onions: Caramelized Onion Biscuits; Roasted Butternut Squash with Spicy Onions

Italian Garlic: Vegan One-Pot Ramen Noodles with Tat Soi (see below); Spicy Sweet Potato Dip; Garlic Butter Biscuits; Roasted Garlic Parmesan Biscuits

Brussels Sprouts: Brussels Sprouts Gratin; Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts with Honey and Sriracha
Certified organic, gluten free ramen noodles!
Hello Everyone!  I can’t believe we’re down to the final four boxes and we are still having trouble getting everything in the box!  Well, one reason is we have these beautiful tat soi to pack this week!  So lets start off this week’s cooking chat with a simple dish, made in one pot.  Our featured recipe this week is Vegan One-Pot Ramen Noodles with Tat Soi (see below).  This is one of those very adaptable recipes, which has already been adapted several times!  Ok, lets talk ramen for just a moment.  I have to confess, I’ve never eaten instant ramen noodles.  I know, how did I ever survive my college days!?  If you think ramen starts and stops with those little instant packets of ramen noodles, I’m happy to fill you in that ramen is more than those little packets.  Ramen noodles originated in Japan and “ramen” stands for a “pulled noodle.”  I was happy to find a package of ramen noodles in the grocery store that were not only certified organic, but I was also able to buy just the noodles—no mysterious flavoring packet included.  You could substitute udon noodles if you like and you could make this with any green of your choosing.   If you aren’t feeling ramen noodles this week, maybe you’d prefer spaghetti?  This recipe for Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash and Tat Soi was our featured recipe last year!

Shredded Cabbage Salad with Apples
photo from foodfaithfitness.com
As we move into the winter months, cabbage becomes our stand-by green and can end up on our table in many different forms.  Richard always wants cole slaw, but I like to shake things up a bit with recipes like this Shredded Cabbage Salad with Apples.  The name of this salad seems pretty simple, but it’s a classy salad that combines the flavors of an Indian chutney with the creaminess of a traditional cabbage slaw.  It has a creamy curry dressing with raisins and apples blended in for a sweet contrast to the spicy dressing.   Another simple way to use this week’s green savoy cabbage is for this simple Irish recipe for Fried Cabbage & Potatoes.  A little bacon adds some richness and flavor, but the vegetables dominate.  The German Butterball potatoes this week are a great variety to use in this way.  You can serve it on its own or put a fried egg on top!  Eat it for dinner or in the morning for breakfast.  You know what would be good with this dish?  Biscuits!

I’m not sure what has gotten into me, but it’s been a long time since I last made biscuits.  I did some searching and found several tasty vegetable-inclusive biscuit recipes.  Check out this one for Garlic Butter Biscuits or this one for Roasted Garlic Parmesan Biscuits.  I also found a recipe for Caramelized Onion Biscuits which is a perfect fit for this week’s Scout yellow onions.  Serve these biscuits for breakfast, with a bowl of soup, or just on the side of a hearty fall/winter meal.

Carrot Cake Balls, photo by Rocky Luten for food52.com
I’m always looking for non-traditional ways to use vegetables, such as in desserts or for breakfast.  If you didn’t have a chance to make the Oatmeal Parsnip Chocolate Cherry Cookies we featured in the newsletter several weeks ago, add them to your list for this week or for this holiday season.  We don’t think twice about using carrots in cake, but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of carrot pie.  Google can help you find anything though, so when I went searching I found this tasty recipe for Chai Carrot Pie.  If you aren’t afraid of breaking tradition, you might even decide to add this pie to your Thanksgiving Day line-up of desserts!  If you prefer to keep your carrots in the traditional carrot cake fashion, perhaps you’d at least be willing to try this twist on the traditional, Carrot Cake Balls.  These don’t require any baking and are something a little less indulgent but every bit as decadent.  Use them as a healthy snack or breakfast item to fuel you through the cold winter days.  Ok, one more somewhat non-traditional way to incorporate sweet potatoes into breakfast.  Make a Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl!  This is super easy.  Just take cooked, mashed sweet potatoes and blend them with nut butter and cinnamon.  Top it off with raisins and cinnamon and you have a warm, nourishing alternative to hot breakfast cereal.

Spicy Sweet Potato Dip
photo from peasandcrayons.com
Despite the fact that there is an endless array of possibilities for how you might use sweet potatoes and butternut squash, I often tend to just cook them and eat them with butter.  So I’m challenging myself to use them in some more interesting ways.  This recipe for Spicy Sweet Potato Dip is described as  “hummus vibe without chickpeas.”   Serve it with pita bread, crackers or fresh veggies for dipping such as slices of winter radish or carrots.  You could also use this as a spread to make a quick veggie wrap stuffed with tat soi, shredded carrot and maybe some leftover chicken.  I also am intrigued by this recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Spicy Onions.  Cut the recipe in half to serve 4 as it calls for 4 pounds of butternut and there isn’t that much in the box!  You will roast the butternut and then toss it with herbs and spicy red onions.  Serve it slightly warm or at room temperature—it’s kind of like a salad and kind of like a side.
Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away!  One thing I like about this time of year is that it’s a great time to collect vegetable recipes!  One of my favorite recipe collections to peruse is Food 52’s Automagic Thanksgiving Menu Maker.  Whether you’re looking for vegetable recipes for Thanksgiving dinner or just to enjoy throughout the winter, there are some good finds in there!  For example, this Autumn Root Vegetable Gratin with Herbs and Cheese is a tasty twist on a traditional potato gratin with the addition of parsnips and butternut squash!  I also found this recipe for a Brussels Sprouts Gratin.  I’ve never used Brussels sprouts like this, but it’s hard to go wrong with a gratin.  If you are looking for something a bit more on the light side, try these Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts with Honey and Sriracha.  Maybe you’ll discover a fun, new recipe to introduce to your friends and family for the holiday, or perhaps you’ll just have fun trying something new on a regular old day in the kitchen.  Don’t forget, next week is a meat only delivery week.  So, I’ll plan to see you back here in two weeks!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Tat Soi

by Andrea Yoder

I look forward to this vegetable every year and consider it to be one of our staple greens for these late season CSA boxes.  I had never seen tat soi before I came to Harmony Valley Farm.  I remember the first time Richard showed me this vegetable.  It was so beautiful I almost didn’t want to eat it….but that feeling quickly passed and I dove in!  It’s also packed with nutrients which make us healthy, but also give it a rich flavor.  I suppose I should back up and tell you what this gorgeous vegetable looks like!  You’ll recognize the tat soi in your box this week as the large, dark green flower-like vegetable with long slender light green stems and rounded spoon-like leaves.  It is a relative of bok choi and has a mild mustard flavor that has been sweetened by a few frosty nights.  Both the leaves and the stems are tender and may be eaten raw or cooked.
This is one of the last crops we plant during our main season, with the intention to harvest it as late as possible.  Depending on the weather, we are usually able to leave it in the field until mid-November.  While this plant usually grows upright, as the temperatures start to decrease it lays itself flat to hug the ground for warmth.  The result is a very open, flat rosette that has a deep, dark green color that intensifies with cold weather.  Tat soi is very resilient to cold temperatures and can recover after being frozen, which is why it’s a unique selection for this time of the year.  We do put hoops and a field cover over them to offer them some protection from the really cold nights.  If you see some outer leaves on your tat soi that have a white to grayish hue, you’re looking at a little frost damage.  You might also see some stems that have kind of a wrinkled, loose appearance.  This happens sometimes when the stem freezes and then thaws.  These stems and leaves are still good to eat and those frosty, cold nights are what make this green taste so mild and sweet!
If you’re looking for recipes that use tat soi, your search will likely turn up pretty slim.  Expand your search to include recipes that feature bok choi, spinach or even chard as tat soi can be used interchangeably in recipes with any of these greens.  Tat soi leaves and stems are tender enough to be chopped and eaten raw as a salad.  Use it to make a beautiful winter salad with shredded carrot, slices of beauty heart or purple daikon radish and a light vinaigrette.  Turn it into an entrée by adding a protein such as seared beef, fish or tofu.  Tat soi is also a quick-cooking tasty green to use in stir-fry and pasta dishes.  It’s also a nice addition to brothy soups such as miso soup or hot and sour soup or use it in a tasty bowl of ramen such as in this week’s featured recipe.
It’s best to store tat soi in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.  To prepare it for use, turn it over and use a paring knife to cut the stems away from the base.  Wash the stems and leaves vigorously in a sink of cold water.  If you’re using it to make a salad or stir-fry, make sure you pat the leaves dry or dry them in a salad spinner. If you’re using them in a soup or just wilting them, just shake a little water off of them.  Savor the last of this year’s greens!

Vegan One-Pot Ramen Noodles with Tat Soi

Yield:  3-4 servings
This recipe was borrowed from alexandracooks.com with just a few minor changes.  It is her adaptation from a recipe for “Better-Than-Take-Out Stir-Fried Udon” originally published in Bon Appetit magazine.  The original recipe included ground pork, which you could also add to this recipe if you wish.
Alexandra’s recipe calls for green savoy cabbage, but she offers this note:  “This recipe can be adapted to what you like or have on hand. I love draining noodles over things like cabbage and dark leafy greens to soften them just slightly. If you want to add carrots, sweet potato, or other harder vegetables, you could shred them in the food processor to ensure they cook quickly.”  So, I (Chef Andrea) took the liberty of adapting this recipe one more time to include this week’s tat soi!

7-8 cups tat soi or bok choi, leaves and stems thinly sliced
6-8 oz ramen noodles (could substitute rice or udon noodles)
10 ounces Cremini (or other) mushrooms
1 small knob ginger, about an inch long, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes or more to taste
⅓ cup mirin
⅓ cup soy sauce
1 medium red onion, finely minced
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
2-4 tsp toasted sesame oil
Hot sauce, such as Sriracha, for serving
  1. Fill a large, wide sauté pan or Dutch oven with water and bring to a simmer. (Alexandra recommends using a wide sauté pan to make this a one-pot endeavor, but you could also simply use a small saucepan to boil the noodles and then a separate large sauté pan to sauté everything together. Cleanup will still be minimal.)
  2. Place the thinly sliced tat soi in the colander you will use to drain the noodles.
  3. Add the ramen noodles to the simmering water and cook for 30 seconds.  Using a fork, separate them a little bit and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes.  You don’t want them to be fully cooked, more like 85% done. Drain the noodles over the tat soi, being careful the noodles don’t slip over the sides. Keep colander in sink. Reserve your pan.
  4. Meanwhile: chop the mushrooms and mince the ginger and garlic.  
  5. Heat the 1 Tbsp of olive oil in your reserved sauté pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms, season with a pinch of kosher salt, stir. Let cook undisturbed for 1 minute, then stir and continue to cook at medium-high heat until the mushrooms begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. Add the ginger, garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to the pan, and stir to combine. Add the reserved noodles and tat soi. Add the mirin and soy sauce. Use tongs to stir and combine.  Simmer for just a few minutes.
  7. Add the onions, sesame seeds, and sesame oil, and using tongs again, stir to combine.
  8. Serve immediately, passing hot sauce of choice on the side.

October 31, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Purple Daikon Radish!

30 Oct 2019 20:52

Cooking With This Week's Box

Purple Daikon Radish: Soy-Pickled Daikon (see below); Daikon Apple Slaw (see below)

Baby Bok Choi: Congee with Chicken and Greens (see below); Congee in an Instant PotVegan One-Pot Ginger-Scallion Ramen Noodles
Red Mustard: Congee with Chicken and Greens (see below); 10 Ways to Use Mustard GreensVegan One-Pot Ginger-Scallion Ramen Noodles
Cilantro: Vegan Butternut Black Bean NachosCilantro Lime Rice; Congee with Chicken and Greens (see below)
Congee in an Instant Pot, photo from smithsonianapa.org
I love learning about new vegetables, and this week we have another purple beauty to share with you! In this week’s box you’ll find beautiful bright purple daikon radish.  Some people love radishes and others are still learning to like them.  If you’re in the latter group, I hope you’ll stick with me and hear me out.  This is a delicious and beautiful radish to eat!  Daikon radishes originated in Asia, so it’s fitting to go to Asian cultures to figure out what to do with them.  One of this week’s featured recipes is for Soy-Pickled Daikon (see below).  These are so very easy to make, so if you don’t do anything else with the daikon, at least make this recipe.  These pickles can hang out in your refrigerator and you can eat them in small quantities as a condiment with vegetables, meat or grains.  While there is some vinegar in the brine, they are more sweet and salty as opposed to sour or overly acidic.  In traditional Chinese cuisine pickled vegetables such as these are often served with rice porridge, which leads me to the next featured recipe, Congee with Chicken and Greens (see below).  I thought this was a fitting recipe to go along with the Soy-Pickled Daikon since Congee is rice porridge!  There is no one single recipe for Congee as it is one of those common household recipes that everyone puts their own spin on.  This version includes chicken and greens, which could be bok choi, red mustard or kale from this week’s box.  Feel free to make it your own and garnish it with whatever toppings you like, such as cilantro which is also in this week’s box.  Serve it with some of these pretty Soy-Pickled Daikon on the side.  Congee is simple to make but has a long cooking time.  If you want something that is more “set it and forget it,” check out this recipe for Congee in an Instant Pot.  I’ve also included a simple recipe for Daikon Apple Slaw (see below).  This is a crunchy, fresh salad with a light vinaigrette.  The tartness of this salad would make it a good accompaniment to fatty, rich foods such as short ribs or grilled chicken thighs.
Brussels Sprouts Ceasar Salad, photo by Alpha Smoot for food52.com
We’re excited to be sending the first Brussels sprouts this week!  Use them to make Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts, or use them raw and turn them into this Brussels Sprouts Casear Salad!  Make sure you cut this recipe in half because it calls for 2 pounds of Brussels Sprouts and you only have 1 pound in your box.  This will then serve 3 to 4.
Now that we’ve seen the first snowfall, soups are going to become more of a regular part of our weekly meals, starting with this Silky Ginger Sweet Potato Soup.  This is a good recipe to hang on to and make throughout the winter as it will warm you both by its temperature as well as the warming ginger.  If you want something a little more hearty, use sweet potatoes to make Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili.
Vegan Butternut Black Bean Nachos
photo from thefullhelping.com
Did you see the cute little butternut squash we have this week!?  These cuties are delicious just simply baked, but if you want to do something more with them, turn them into Vegan Butternut Black Bean Nachos.  The nachos are topped with chunks of roasted butternut and there is a sauce, reminiscent of nacho cheese sauce, made from pureed butternut squash.  If nachos aren’t your thing this week, maybe pizza is?  If so, here’s a knock-your-socks-off recipe for Sweet N’ Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza with Cider Caramelized Onions & Bacon.  There’s a lot happening on this pizza, but all of it will be well worth your time!
Every now and again you just need a simple meal of a good, homemade burger.  What goes with burgers?  Fries!  Jazz up burger night with Carrot Fries with Curry Dipping Sauce!  Life is about balance though, so now that we’ve had our fill of (healthy) nachos, pizza and burgers, lets make sure we eat our greens too!  We are nearing the end of greens season, so lets make the most of these last fresh ones.  Not sure what to do with red mustard?  Check out this article and find “10 ways to Use Mustard Greens”.  If you don’t use them to make congee, you could also use either red mustard or this week’s baby bok choi to make this recipe for Vegan One-Pot Ginger-Scallion Ramen Noodles.  This is simple, warming, nourishing, and who doesn’t love noodles!
(Freezable) Stuffing with Caramelized Onions & Kale
photo by Rocky Luten for food52.com
Don’t forget the lacinato kale!  Have a spaghetti squash hanging around, use it to make Spaghetti Squash with Kale Pesto.  Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, so you could also get a jump start on cooking for the big day and use the kale to make (Freezable) Stuffing with Caramelized Onions & Kale.  While you’re caramelizing onions, you might as well do some extra and turn them into Caramelized Onion Dip.  You could pre-caramelize the onions, freeze them, and then make the dip the day before Thanksgiving.  You have to have snacks to munch on while watching football, right!?

That’s a wrap for this week.  I’ll see you back next week with one more fresh from the field green and we’ll get started on planning for Thanksgiving!  Have a good week—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Purple Daikon

by Andrea Yoder

It’s been several years since we included daikon radish in CSA boxes, but you know we have an obsession with gorgeous purple vegetables and couldn’t resist trying this purple daikon!  This is our first year growing this variety, called bora king.  Its beautiful purple color, which extends through to the center, is what first caught our attention, but it has some other great qualities as well.  First of all, it’s much smaller than traditional white daikon radish that can grow to be more than 12 inches long!  It’s hard for a small family to eat that much radish and white daikon is one vegetable I don’t like to have remnants of hanging out in my refrigerator due to its pungent aroma.  This purple daikon, however, is much smaller which makes it more manageable to use.  It also has a delicious, slightly sweet, balanced radish flavor.  It does still taste like daikon, but I think it’s a little more balanced flavor than some white daikon that can be pretty pungent.
Daikon radishes are classified as a winter storage radish and are an important part of many traditional cultures throughout Asia.  Because of its ability to be stored, it’s an important winter food both because it’s available but also because it is high in nutrients including vitamin C which can help keep us strong and healthy throughout the cold winter.  Radishes are actually one of the oldest cultivated food crops and there are literally thousands of different varieties.  In the book, Roots, by Diane Morgan, she cites the following history:  “Radishes are likely indigenous to Europe and Asia and are believed to have been first cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean before 2000 B.C., probably in Egypt, where they were reportedly included in the daily rations, along with onions and garlic, given to the workers who built the pyramids.”
Daikon radish can be used in a variety of ways, both raw and cooked.  In Chinese and Japanese culture daikon radish is often pickled, another tactic to help preserve this food and so it is available throughout the winter.  Pickled daikon radishes, such as the recipe included in this week’s’ newsletter, are often served as a condiment. One of this week’s recipes is for Soy-Pickled Daikon, borrowed from the book Phoenix Claw and Jade Trees, a book about traditional Chinese cooking.  The author explains that pickled vegetables, including daikon, are often served with rice porridge.  After reading this I had to go do a little research and found that congee is the name given to rice porridge.  I am by no means an expert on Chinese food, culture or history, but I am always intrigued to find out about traditional dishes.  Congee is often eaten for breakfast, but it really can be eaten at any meal of the day.  It is a dish that came from peasant food and is a way to make a small amount of rice go a long way.  My understanding is that there is no one or right recipe for congee, rather everyone has their own version they identify with and the one they like is probably the one their grandmother made!  This week I have included a recipe for Congee with Chicken and Greens.  This is a fitting recipe to go along with the Soy-Pickled Purple Daikon which can be served as a condiment alongside this dish.  This week’s box also has plenty of greens to choose from (bok choi, red mustard or kale), all of which are appropriate for this recipe.
Now that we’ve talked about congee, lets get back to daikon!  Daikon radish may also be used in salads and other fresh condiments, often paired with other vegetables and dressed with a light sauce or vinaigrette.  Daikon radishes are also used in stir-fries and braised dishes.  It was interesting to learn that in some areas of China daikon is used in braised stews and soups, such as what would be equivalent to our beef stew.  Whereas we would use potatoes, they often use chunks of daikon radish.  Of course, remember daikon has a lot of nutritive value, so adding it to hearty broths and stews is a great way to fortify the soup.  Daikon radishes are also traditionally used in Korean kim chi, which is once again an important food to eat both for nourishment and health throughout the winter.

Store daikon radish in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic to keep it from dehydrating.  It will store for at least 4-6 weeks if not longer.

Soy-Pickled Daikon Radish

“Pickling in soy brine is one of China’s ancient methods of preserving vegetables.  Any firm vegetable can be used for pickling once its moisture is leached out using salt and sugar.”

Yield: 4 servings as an appetizer, or more as a condiment
1 medium or 2 small purple daikon radish (12 oz)
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
Soy Pickling Brine
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp white rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
  1. Peel the daikon radish (just remove a thin outer layer) and slice it very thin (for the best results, use a mandoline to slice them).  Put the daikon slices in a medium bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Stir the daikon well to make sure the salt is applied evenly and let it marinate for about 30 minutes at room temperature.  At this point the moisture will have bled out of the daikon and collected in the bottom of the bowl.  Squeeze as much of the liquid out of the daikon as possible and discard all the liquid.
  2. Sprinkle the sugar over the daikon and mix well.  Let the daikon marinate for another 30 minutes at room temperature.  As with the salt, a pool of liquid will form at the bottom of the bowl. Once again squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible and discard all the liquid.
  3. Add the ingredients for the soy pickling brine to the daikon and mix well.  Transfer the daikon and brine to a storage container, cover, and refrigerate at least overnight or for up to a month.
  4. Serve the pickled radish in a small bowl with some of the soy brine.
Recipe borrowed from Phoenix Claw and Jade Trees, by Kian Lam Kho.

Congee with Chicken and Greens

“Congee is a smooth rice porridge, and it’s really all about the toppings.  Even in its plainest form, however, it’s wonderful.  Top with hot sesame oil, Kimchi, scallions, soy sauce, sesame seeds, cilantro, or anything else that calls to you.”

Yield: 4 to 5 servings
1 cup white rice
10 cups water, stock, or whey
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 boneless, skinless single chicken breasts (4 to 6 oz each)
1 ½ cups tender greens, cut into thin ribbons (spinach, tatsoi, bok choi, mustard greens, or any other green you have on hand)
  1. Combine the rice and water in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium low, and cover.  Cook for 1 ½ hours, stirring every so often.  It will seem like there is too much liquid and not enough rice, but it will thicken.  When it does, add 2 tsp of the salt.
  2. Rub the remaining tsp of salt over the chicken breasts.  Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken into thin slices, about ½ inch.  Add them to the pot, stirring the chicken into the hot rice.  Stir in the greens.  Continue to cook until the chicken turns white and the greens are soft, about 5 minutes.
Note from Chef Andrea:  As indicated in the introduction, you can garnish congee with any additional ingredients you’d like.  I’d recommend some chopped cilantro on top and serve it with the Soy-Pickled Purple Daikon Radishes on the side!
  • For a coconut congee, replace 2 cups of the liquid with a can of coconut milk.
  • Replace the chicken with sliced pork tenderloin or tofu.
Recipe borrowed from The Homemade Kitchen, by Alana Chernila.

Daikon and Apple Slaw

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Sesame Seed Vinaigrette
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
3 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp sambal oelek (or any other chili-garlic sauce)
1 tsp sea salt
2 green onions, including green tops, thinly sliced (or substitute thinly sliced red onion)
1 large crisp apple such as Granny Smith
12 oz daikon radish, peeled (2 small or 1 medium)
  1. To make the vinaigrette, using a mortar and a pestle or a spice grinder, grind the sesame seeds to a powder.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the ground sesame, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, oil, sesame oil, sambal oelek or chili garlic sauce, and salt.  Add the onions and stir to combine.  Set aside.
  2. Peel, half, and core the apple and cut into sticks about 3 inches long and ¼ inch thick and wide.  As the apple sticks are cut, add them to the dressing and stir to coat to prevent browning.  Peel the daikon and cut into sticks the same size.  Stir to combine the apples and daikon with the vinaigrette.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Cover and refrigerate until chilled before serving, about 30 minutes.  (The salad will keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.)

Recipe adapted from Roots, by Diane Morgan.

October 24, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Parsnips!

23 Oct 2019 21:12

Cooking With This Week's Box

Italian Garlic: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic; Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage; Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes

Broccoli OR Cauliflower: Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad with Chickpeas

Orange Carrots: Carroty Mac and Cheese; Carrot, Feta and Almond Salad

Peter Wilcox and/or Mountain Rose Potatoes: Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream; Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic

Red Onions: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage; Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes

Red Mustard: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Spinach or Salad Mix: Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Burgundy Sweet Potatoes: Sweet Potato Quesadillas; Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes

Mini Butternut Squash: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Roasted Honeynut Squash

Parsnips: Parsnip Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies (see below); Parsnip, Lemon and Poppyseed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle (see below)

Green Savoy Cabbage: Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream; Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage
Last week at market it seems like our customers were finally ready to embrace root vegetables.  For the first time that I can remember in the history of HVF, we sold out of both parsnips and rutabagas!  This week we’re facing our first hard frost with temperatures dipping into the 20’s, which makes us all ready to make the transition to hearty fall and winter fare.  Lets kick off this week’s chat with dessert—why not?!  Parsnips are delicious in soups, stews and other savory preparations, but they’re also delicious in baked goods and desserts such as these Parsnip Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies (see below)!  This recipe is the creation of my friend, Annemarie of Bloom Bake Shop in Madison.  I asked Annemarie to make a special sweet treat for our Harvest Party and the one requirement was to include parsnips.  She knocked our socks off with these delicious cookies.  If you weren’t able to join us for the party, be assured these cookies are worth making!  The other recipe featuring parsnips this week is Parsnip, Lemon and Poppyseed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle (see below).  I made these muffins for the market crew earlier this year when we had overwintered parsnips.  They were so delicious!  Both of these recipes are good ones to tuck away and use for your Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.  A bit non-traditional, yes, but both recipes that will impress your guests!

Carroty Mac and Cheese, photo by Andrew Scrivani for epicurious.com
While we’re talking roots, lets tackle carrots.  Everyone loves a good mac and cheese, so why not try this recipe for Carroty Mac and Cheese.  It’s rich and creamy, but the carrots add a sweet, earthy balance.  Serve this as a main dish or a side.  If you’re looking for something a bit more on the lean side, consider this recipe for Carrot, Feta and Almond Salad.
Did you notice how gorgeous the red mustard greens are this week!  This is my favorite time of year to enjoy red mustard and one of my favorite recipes to use it in is this one for Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens.  You could also use spinach in this recipe, but mustard greens are always my first choice when making this recipe.  It also makes use of this week’s butternut squash.  If you don’t use your butternut squash in the lentil recipe, then consider making this simple Roasted Honeynut Squash.  If you aren’t familiar with Honeynut Squash, this title is referring to a specific variety of mini butternuts called Honeynuts.  They are a personal-sized mini butternut as well.  In this recipe you do nothing more than bake the squash and top them off with cinnamon, salt, pepper and butter.  They are so delicious you don’t need anything more than these few simple ingredients.

We’re always excited to kick off sweet potato season, so pull out all of your favorite sweet potato recipes and lets get started cooking!  We featured this recipe for Sweet Potato Quesadillas featured back in one of our 2007 newsletters.  You build a quesadilla with mashed sweet potatoes, cheese and greens.  You could use either spinach or red mustard in this recipe.  Prep all the components in advance and you can pull off a quick dinner in about 10-15 minutes!  I am also going to mention one of my all-time favorite sweet potato recipes.  If you’ve been with our farm for awhile this recipe will likely not be a surprise, but it’s so good I want to share it with everyone again!  Try these Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes.  They are so delicious!
Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage, photo by Julia Gartland for food52.com
Before we move to above ground vegetables, we need to talk about potatoes.  This recipe for Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic is one of my favorite, simple ways to eat potatoes.  I also really like the simplicity of this Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream, a recipe we featured last year.  This soup is very simple, but very satisfying.  If you don’t use all of your cabbage to make this soup, consider trying this recipe for Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage.  With a name like that, I have to try it!  There’s a video link for this recipe as well….and you’ll have to check it out for yourself to find out what makes it so delicious!
Now that we’ve dealt with most of the vegetables that grow underground, we can turn our attention to the last item in the box.  Use this week’s cauliflower and broccoli to make this tasty recipe for Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad with Chickpeas.  Enjoy this salad as a main dish for lunch or serve it in a smaller portion as a side dish.

It’s hard to believe, but after this week we only have five more CSA boxes in the 2019 season.  I’ve already started planning the contents of our final boxes and I have to tell you, we have a lot of vegetables to try and squeeze in before the end of the season!  Have a good week and I’ll see you back here next week for more delicious recipes!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Parsnips

By Chef Andrea
Parsnips fill an important place in our seasonal Wisconsin diets because of their ability to store well through the winter, both in our refrigerators as well as in the field.  Parsnips are one of our largest crops and this year we planted 3.5 acres.  That may not sound like very much, but in the world of parsnips it is quite a lot and will yield tons of food!  Parsnips are a challenging crop to grow because their seeds take about 2 weeks to germinate and we have to plant them early in the spring when the soil is still cold.  They also have a very long growing season which means more management in the field to keep them healthy and keep the weeds under control.  Parsnips are often described as being a white carrot.  While they do resemble carrots, they are not really just a white carrot.  They have a distinct flavor that is much different from a carrot.  They also have the ability to survive if we leave them in the field over the winter.  We’ll harvest most of this year’s crop this fall, but we will leave some parsnips in the field with plans to harvest them next spring.  It’s a little risky, but parsnips can be overwintered in the field and when we dig them in the spring they are even more sweet and delicious than they are this fall!
Spiced Honey Parsnip Bread
photo from dishingupthedirt.com
Parsnips are a versatile vegetable that can be prepared in a variety of ways.  Their sweetness really comes out when they are roasted, which is one of my favorite ways to prepare parsnips.  They also make a nice addition to a fall root mash or mix them with other vegetables in hearty soups and stews.  You can also use them in baked goods, similar to how you might use carrots.  I’ve used them to make parsnip muffins that are similar to carrot cake and this week we are featuring a recipe for Parsnip, Lemon & Poppy Seed Muffins (see below)!  You can also use them to make quick breads such as Andrea Bemis’ Spiced Honey Parsnip Bread.  You can also use them in cookies.  Make sure you check out the recipe for Parsnip Oatmeal, Chocolate, Cherry Cookies (see below) in this week’s newsletter!
Parsnips pair very well with other root vegetables, wine, shallots, apples, walnuts and a variety of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger.  Some people really like the distinct flavor of parsnips, while others may still be learning to like them.  If you’re in the latter group, I’d recommend that you start by using parsnips in a baked good or use them in small quantities mixed with other vegetables in soups, stews or a simple root mash.
Store parsnips in the coldest part of your refrigerator in a plastic bag.  They will store for several weeks under these conditions, so don’t feel like you need to eat them all right now.  When you are ready to use them, Scrub the outer skin with a vegetable brush and trim off the top and bottom.  If you are making a pureed parsnip soup and want it to be snow white, I’d recommend peeling the parsnips.  If you aren’t looking for an art display presentation, I would recommend skipping the peeling part of the process.  

Parsnip Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Yield:  approximately 40 cookies (2-3 inch diameter)
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour 
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
⅓ tsp nutmeg
1 ¾ cups oatmeal
½ cup vegetable oil 
1 cup light brown sugar 
½ cup plus 2 Tbsps white sugar 
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups parsnips, shredded
1 cup finely shredded coconut
1 pkg (10 oz) chocolate chips (1 ¾ cup)
¾  cup dried cherries 
  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Stir in oatmeal and set aside.  
  2. In a separate bowl, combine vegetable oil, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Mix until smooth and well combined.
  3. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, incorporating well after each addition.  Add the parsnips and stir to combine.
  4. Last, fold in the coconut, chocolate chips and dried cherries.  The dough is going to be very stiff and you may feel like you are not going to be able to incorporate all of these last ingredients.  Trust the recipe and keep working them in.  It will come together!  Don’t forget to scrape down to the bottom of the bowl!
  5. Drop by the tablespoon full onto a cookie sheet.  Do not flatten the cookies, they will spread out as they bake.  Bake in a 350°F oven for 14-16 minutes.  The cookies should still be a little soft in the middle when you take them out of the oven.  They will set up nicely as they cool.  If you want a crispier cookie, bake them a little bit longer.  Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
This recipe was created by Annemarie Maitri, owner of Bloom Bake Shop in Madison, Wisconsin.  Annemarie dreamed up this cookie recipe when I asked her to make a sweet treat for our Fall Harvest Party this past September.  She was so pleased with the creation that she added it to her cookie menu for the fall!  Thank you Annemarie!

Parsnip, Lemon and Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle

Yield:  12 Muffins
5 oz raw parsnip (approx 1)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
½ cup butter, softened (plus extra for greasing)
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup plain yogurt
¾ cup powdered sugar
4-5 tsp lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line a muffin tin.
  2. Peel and finely grate the parsnips. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the poppy seeds and parsnip.
  4. In another bowl, use an electric mixer or wooden spoon to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each in well. Beat in the zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract, blend well and then add the yogurt and combine.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, alternating three times.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups, filling them ¾ full.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Make the drizzle topping:  Stir lemon juice, teaspoon by teaspoon, into the powdered sugar until it is a runny consistency. Drizzle over the completely cooled muffins.
This recipe was borrowed from veggiedesserts.co.uk, a very interesting food blog written by Kate Hackworthy.  If you like this recipe, check out her blog where you’ll find more delicious baked goods featuring parsnips as well as other vegetables!
S3442 Wire Hollow Road, Viroqua, WI, 54665, United States
Switch to desktop site