Harmony Valley Farm

Harmony Valley Farm

Sweet Potatoes

18 Oct 2017 22:41

By Farmer Richard
Sweet potatoes are a tropical plant originating in South America. The remnants of sweet potatoes have been found in Peru dating back 10,000 years and there is evidence of cultivation in Central America at least 5,000 years ago. Cultivated sweet potatoes spread to New Zealand, Polynesia and Africa. Today, Uganda is the second largest producer of sweet potatoes behind China.  In this country, sweet potatoes have been traditionally grown in the southeast. North Carolina is the leading producer, with California in second and Louisiana and Mississippi also being significant producers. 
Southern farms ‘plant’ selected sweet potatoes taken from last year’s harvest pretty close together in a bed of sawdust or peat moss.  The tubers send up green shoots which are cut off (called slips) and sent to us in bundles of 25 each.  They don’t look very good when we get them, but if we get them planted promptly, most of them will grow! 

Sweet potato blossoms
Farmer Richard digging sweet potatoes at our Harvest Party!
Researchers continue to experiment with new varieties. A new variety is created by cross pollinating flowers and planting 2 – 4 seeds that a flower produces.  We continue to trial them when the slips are available to us.  Our favorite slip producer is New Sprout Organic Farms. This year they offered some new varieties that we trialed. As we dug them this year, we looked at ‘marketable yield’, like tuber shape, set (how many tubers per plant), and color, both inside and out. Varieties ‘set’ 6-8 tubers in a banana like cluster from the main stem.  If 5-6 grow to a nice shapely size, it will be a good yield.  If only 2 or 3 fill out and one a 4 pound jumbo, maybe not as good.  It may be a photo opportunity at our harvest party when a 40 pound child joyfully lifts out a 5 pound sweet potato, but those jumbo’s may intimidate other CSA members who may not know how to cook a ‘monster’ that size or know how easily it will reheat in the oven. So, we try to avoid the ‘monsters’ by planting some varieties closer together, like 8 inches versus 12 inch to keep them to a manageable size!  Every variety has its learning curve. And of course every year has different growing conditions, so varieties need careful evaluation over time!

Plastic bed ready for sweet potatoes!
Newly planted sweet potato slip
Around the world there are 1,000’s of different sizes, colors and shapes of sweet potatoes, from white to yellow and orange to deep purple. But, since they are a tropical plant, we are very limited in what we can grow in Wisconsin. First, we use a system of dark colored plastic on a raised bed to hold extra heat in the ground and the plastic limits the rain water to a plant that thrives on limited moisture. We are limited to the varieties that will mature in 90-110 day range. That eliminates the purple flesh and white flesh varieties that we have tasted and would like to grow, but only produce stringy ½ inch thick roots when we tried them.  Andrea wants to develop our own breeding program for them since no one that we know is working on that! While we may have limited options to choose from, some of the new varieties from sweet potato breeding programs from North Carolina and Louisiana do/may work for us. We have several new varieties this year that we could use your help in evaluating!  We need a certain level of successful yield of shapely, not too big not too small tubers, but we also value flavor!

Once we were limited to only ‘Georgia Jet’ variety that would produce sizable yield in the North, but oh so ugly! Then came ‘Beauregard’ which, if planted close (8 inches), yielded pounds but had limited numbers of nice “saleable” shapely potatoes.  The plus to Beauregard is that it had good flavor! Then we found ‘Covington’, gave it 12 inch spacing and we got a much higher percentage of shapely tubers but don’t forget the flavor! We like naturally sweet sweet potatoes without added sugar or even maple syrup. We like the deep orange flesh color which has higher lycopene. But, there are other factors to consider. Different varieties of sweet potatoes have very different levels of at least 3 sugars, sucrose, maltose, and fructose. Each gives us a different perception of sweetness and they have different flavor profiles.   The sugars also change during the curing process.  Curing, yes that is also very important!

Harvesting sweet potatoes
Because Sweet potatoes are tropical, they are a perennial and never stop growing, so when we harvest them, their skin is very thin and delicate and can come off or be broken with any rough handling.  We gently lift and pull the banana-like cluster by the stem from the soil.  Then each bunch is placed (with cotton gloves) into the crate that will transport it to the ‘curing’ room.  Curing is a process we put the sweet potatoes through where we hold them at a high temperature of 85-90°F with 90-95% humidity to thicken the skin and heel any harvest scrapes.  The curing process also concentrates and converts the sugars. We measure the sugar with a refractometer and with the older varieties we generally see a Brix (unit of measurement) of 3-6% directly out of the field.  After 7 days curing, the Brix level increases to 10-12%.  That is a sugar level that I think says “add only a little butter and it is delicious!”
So, our ‘from the field’ Brix test on our new trial varieties is quite interesting!  Our recent ‘standard’ ‘Covington’ came in at the usual 3-5%, but several of the new varieties came in at 8-10% Brix. Wow, if that doubles in storage we have a whole new ballgame!  However, I was very surprised to measure the Brix after 6 days of curing and found that two of the varieties that originally had high levels had dropped!  What’s going on!?  The best I can conclude is that it’s not just a matter of looking at total sugars in the potato.  It depends on which sugars are in the potato and their ratios.  Sucrose gives us a stronger sense of sweetness, so even if the overall sugars are lower in a potato with a high percentage of sucrose, it might be perceived as being sweeter than another variety that had a high Brix level.  The bottom line is we have to eat them and evaluate each variety individually.  Please help us evaluate these new varieties!  There are other factors that Brix readings cannot account for. Differing levels of the different forms of sugar also may lend different flavor qualities to the different potatoes.  Also, when doing the pre-curing Brix test, I noticed quite a difference in texture, like when in the garlic press to squeeze them for juice for the refractometer; some were soft and juicy while others were much firmer and dry. These factors may affect cooking time and you may consider one texture more desirable than another. We want to know your observations; even a simple email would be appreciated.
Chart of Farmer Richard’s Brix testing. He tested two potatoes from each variety, each of those test numbers are listed in the corresponding cell.
Variety Name
Pre-Curing Brix Number
6 day Curing Brix Number
Richard’s visual notes
Light Orange
Dark orange/tan skin & small, but good yield
Intense orange/ dark burgundy skin
Carolina Ruby
Orange/dark red/some rot
Can we develop our own regional sweet potato variety, absolutely yes! Do we need a global distribution network with unknown inputs and unknown or known consequences, absolutely not! We can eat the best from our region with known inputs and know how it affects our environment and our fellow human beings!

October 19, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweet Potatoes

18 Oct 2017 22:41

Cooking With This Week's Box

After a year without sweet potatoes, we’re super excited to be sending sweet potatoes in your box this week!  Where do we start with cooking?  There are so many things we could make with sweet potatoes!  Don’t worry, we’ll be sending them for most of the remaining boxes, so you’ll have plenty of time to make all your favorite recipes and maybe try a few new ones!  This week we’re pretty busy with harvest so I’m keeping things a bit more on the simple side.  The Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad (See below) is pretty easy to make.  You just toss roasted sweet potatoes with a simple, but flavorful vinaigrette and eat it at room temperature.  I think I’ll roast a chicken and serve the Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad with the chicken and this simple recipe for Moroccan Couscous.   The currants and pine nuts in the couscous will go nicely with the sweet potatoes. 
We are finishing off our last crop of broccoli raab which will give me a chance to make Alice Water’s  Pizza with Broccoli Raab and Roasted Onions and Olives.  I think this would be good with a few little sautéed shrimp on top.  We need something to go along with the pizza, but we already have our greens on the pizza.  I think I’ll go with this simple French Grated Carrot Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette.  I like simple carrot salads for several reasons.  First, when the carrots are flavorful and sweet on their own, you don’t need to do much to them so keeping it simple is better. The other thing I like about carrot salads is that you can put the dressing on and it doesn’t get soggy like a greens salad does.  You know I’m a fan of taking leftovers for lunch the next day, and this type of salad works great for that purpose. 
Ok, we’ve done Moroccan and we’ve had a taste of France, now lets move into Indian cuisine!  I have pretty limited experience with Indian food, but am intrigued by the different styles of Indian cooking and the spices they use.  The food is much different than what I grew up with in the Midwest!  When I was in college, one of my neighbors in the dorm was from India and invited me to attend one of their traditional celebrations.  It was wonderful to experience their culture and I was overwhelmed by the delicious food they served.  In my feeble attempt to learn more about this cuisine and culture, I try to dabble a little with some of the easy adaptations as I build my comfort level and slowly learn more about this part of the world.  So that whole explanation leads me to this recipe for Indian Creamed Spinach.  Richard really likes creamed spinach, so I thought I’d try this variation.  The recipe calls for 16 oz of spinach, but the bag of spinach in this week’s box is only 8 oz.  You can either cut the recipe in half or use the green tops from the beet greens to make up the difference.   This recipe has a little heat in it, which can come from using either the jalapeno or guajillo in your box.  I’ll probably serve this with the leftover roasted chicken and some steamed basmati rice.
Recipe courtesy of foodiecrush.com
I think this is the week to make homemade Beet Chips! Any color of beet will work for beet chips, but the Chioggia beets are especially fun to prepare this way.  Most recipes just tell you to put the sliced beets on a sheet try, but I often put them on a rack on top of the sheet tray.  If you have a baking rack and can do this, it helps keep them get crispy.  These will be our Sunday evening snack that we’ll probably just eat with a simple sandwich as we’re making our plans for the crew.
What are we going to do with the squash this week?!  Well the honeynut butternut squash is an easy one.  These are so sweet and flavorful, you really don’t need to do anything more than to just cut them in half and bake them.  After they’re baked I usually just top them with a pat of butter, salt, pepper and occasionally a little bit of cinnamon or nutmeg.  This actually makes a very delicious breakfast item! 
This recipe for Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai with Cashew Ginger Sauce caught my eye, so I think I’ll give it a try this week.  I already used shrimp on my pizza, so I’ll probably substitute thinly sliced sirloin steak in place of the seafood.  This is a meal on its own!
I’ve had Fish Chowderon my mind lately.  The waxy gold-fleshed potatoes in this week’s box are perfect for this type of chowder. Serve a bowl of hot chowder alongside a fresh arugula salad with bread or crackers and you’re set. 
The last item in our box to use is the broccoli/cauliflower.  I love roasted broccoli and cauliflower, so I’m going to jazz up this concept this week with this Balsamic and Honey Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower. This will make a nice accompaniment to a seared steak or pork chop.
And that’s a wrap for this week!  What’s the next exciting vegetable coming up in the box?  Well, it may not be in next week’s box, but we’ll be harvesting Brussels sprouts before long!  That should give most of you something to look forward to this week.  I hope you have a good week and create some delicious meals!
—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Sweet Potatoes

This week we’re excited to be packing sweet potatoes in your boxes!  Sweet potatoes are an important part of our fall and winter diets.  If stored properly you can eat sweet potatoes all winter! The ideal storage temperature for sweet potatoes is 55-65°F.  They can get chill injury if stored at temperatures below 55°F, so if you don’t have the perfect location to store them at their ideal temperature, it’s better to store them on your countertop in the kitchen instead of putting them in the refrigerator. 
Peanut & Sweet Potato Soup
Sweet potatoes are less starchy and more sweet and moist than a regular potato and have a wide variety of uses.  You can simply bake them whole until fork tender and eat the flesh right out of the skin.  They are also delicious cut into bite-sized pieces and roasted or cut them into wedges or thin slices and make roasted fries or chips.  If you’re going to do this, it’s best to put the wedges or slices of sweet potatoes on a rack in a pan.  If you do this, the air and heat from the oven can better circulate on all sides of the sweet potato making it more crispy and less soggy.  Sweet potatoes also make delicious, hearty soups and stews.  One of my favorite sweet potato recipes is for a Peanut & Sweet Potato Soup that we featured in a previous newsletter.  Another favorite sweet potato recipe is for Sweet Potato and Kim Chi Pancakes.  This is a recipe that was shared with me by a CSA member and I look forward to making it every year.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you really should.  Don’t be afraid to eat sweet potatoes at room temperature or even cold in salads such as the Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad (See below)recipe featured in this week’s newsletter.
Sweet potatoes can also be incorporated into baking.  Sweet potato pie is a decadent way to eat a vegetable.  If you’re going to make pie, consider this Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping featured at MarthaStewart.com.   It’s delicious served with Bourbon Whipped Cream.  You can also use sweet potatoes to make biscuits, rolls, quick breads, cookies, bars, cheesecake and more! 
Sweet potatoes pair well with a wide variety of ingredients, which makes them so versatile in their use.  They pair very well with apples and pears as well as other root vegetables, bitter fall greens, dried beans and greens such as kales.  They also go very well with coconut, ginger, chiles, butter, cream, citrus and nuts of any kind.
This year we have several different trial varieties.  If you haven’t read Farmer Richard’s main article for this week, please take a minute to do so.  In his newsletter he discusses the different varieties we’ve grown.  We’ll identify the variety in each week’s newsletter.  We’re looking for member feedback about the different varieties so we can decide what to plant next year!  As we go through the remainder of the season, pay attention to the different varieties and let us know what you think! 

Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad

Yield:  6 servings
2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
⅓ cup plus 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¾ tsp kosher or fine sea salt
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
⅓ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F.  
  2. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with the 2 Tbsp oil and ¼ tsp of the salt.  Transfer the sweet potatoes to a large rimmed baking sheet and spread them out in an even layer. (Set the bowl aside to use for tossing the cooked potatoes).  Roast the potatoes, stirring once at the midpoint of roasting, until they are tender when pierced with a fork but still hold their shape, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, and the remaining ½ tsp salt.  Whisk in the remaining ⅓ cup oil.   Add the parsley and cilantro and stir to combine.
  4. When the potatoes are ready, return them to the large bowl.  Add the vinaigrette and toss gently.  Add the almonds if you are planning to serve the salad within a few hours;  otherwise, toss them in just before serving so they stay crisp.  Serve at room temperature.  The salad can be made up to 2 days in advance, covered, and refrigerated.  Remove from the refrigerator 2 hours before serving.
This recipe was borrowed from Roots by Diane Morgan.

Coconut Pan-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Yield:  4 to 6 servings
2 pounds of sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp coconut oil
Sea Salt, to taste
Maldon sea salt, for finishing
  1. Scrub the sweet potatoes, then peel and chop them into cubes a scant inch across.
  2. Warm the oil in an 8-inch or 10-inch sauté pan.  Add the sweet potatoes, turn them about to coat, and season with a few pinches salt.  Put a lid on the pan, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 20 minutes in all, giving the pan a shake every now and then to turn the potatoes.  Taste a piece and if they’re not yet soft, continue to cook a few minutes longer or until they are tender and browned.  Serve with flaky sea salt.  
This simple recipe was borrowed from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  

2017 Autumn Meat Information

18 Oct 2017 22:40

Our fall meat deliveries are coming up soon with the first delivery on November 9/10/11!  We do still have Beef & Pork packages available for our November delivery and quite a lot still available for purchase for delivery December 7/8/9
If you choose to include meat in your diet, we hope you’ll consider trying our meat products this fall.  We feel it’s important for anyone who eats meat to make informed decisions with their meat purchases, so in order to do that here are a few important facts about the meat we raise.
Certified Organic:  All of our animals, pastures and feed are certified organic by MOSA.  That means we do not use GMO alfalfa, herbicides, pesticides, growth hormones or antibiotics.
  Grass-Fed Red Angus Beef:  Our beef cattle are 100% grass-fed.  They graze our mineral-rich pastures during the spring, summer and fall.  During the winter we feed dry hay and haylege which were harvested from our pastures and fields this past summer and stored for use during the winter.
Pastured-Pork:  Our pigs spend their days roaming their pasture hillsides where they use their snouts to forage for roots and snack on wild apples, nuts, and other wild plants they find in the woods.  They also receive a certified organic grain blend twice daily as well as vegetable scraps from the packing shed.  They especially enjoy spinach, beets, tomatoes and squash. Animal Welfare:  We place great importance on the humane treatment of our animals and offer them the utmost respect and care for their wellbeing.  We do our best to provide a natural, calm environment for them to live in where they do not experience stress or have limitations to their instinctual behaviors.  
Join Our Meat Club:  Enjoy the convenience of our meat club offering.  With one purchase you will sign up for 3 meat deliveries in November, December and May.  You can start at any time and in addition to the convenience of a one-time purchase, we’ve built in a 5% discount on your purchase! Fresh, Frozen:  All of our meat is freshly frozen and delivered to your CSA site in a reusable, thick-walled Styrofoam cooler.  You can store your meat purchase in your freezer and enjoy it throughout the winter with peace of mind knowing who your farmer is and where your meat came from! Ledebuhr Meat Processing:  Our animals are processed at Ledebuhr Meat Processing in Winona, MN.  They are a small-scale meat processing plant that is both certified organic and USDA inspected.  There is a USDA inspector in the facility who inspects every carcass individually. 
Concerned about freezer storage space?  If you’re limited on freezer space, consider some of our smaller 15# & 25# packages.  This picture demonstrates the space a 25# package of meat would take up in a standard home refrigerator with a freezer on top.  Additional questions?  If you have other questions we have not answered here, please feel free to call or email!
For more information about any of our packages, please see our order form website.

Labor and the Cost of Food

11 Oct 2017 23:36

By Farmer Richard de Wilde
Captain Jack and Rafael chillin out at lunch time!

Chef/Farmer Andrea and I work very hard to make it all happen, to set the standards for our farm and to lead the way.  But there would be a very different HVF if it were not for Kelly, Scott, Simon, Gerardo, Beatriz, Rafael and his brothers, JMC, Juan and every other person on our crew.  Our core group of employees has been the same for 5, 10, and some approaching 20 years.  Their years of experience and expertise are what make this farm “work” and they are dedicated to continuing to keep this farm going into the future because, as many of them say, “it is the best job they have ever had!”  From our perspective, they are the best work force we have ever had!
Here’s a little history for you.  Labor costs on our vegetable farm make up roughly half (50%) of gross revenue.  Hiring and managing that labor force occupies more than 50% of our time.  It takes a full year of on-the-job experience for a new crew member to learn how our farm operates.  Once they enter the second year of experience, they really start to build skills and build on their initial training investment.  Thus, we are really looking for long term crew members who will be with us for more than one or two seasons.  Over the forty plus years I have farmed, I have had many different employees.  “Interns” who work only one season for low pay and to gain experience, older Laotian Hmong people who had few other job opportunities, local high school and college students who start too late and leave just when our peak fall season starts, not very workable!  The inmates from the Vernon County jail work program were very dependable!  That is until they got out of jail and could not make it to work on time for even 5 days in a row!  We’ve also had many excellent employees that were with us for a season or two and showed great potential.  However, just when they were really becoming established on the farm, they chose to leave to pursue other opportunities and experiences. 
Our farm is very complex with about 150 crops planted over about a 25 week period.  Each crop has its own specifications and requires specific skills and expertise, which means there is a lot to learn!  We need and thrive when we have a stable, trained, dedicated and long term work force.  Unfortunately, our local community has not been able to provide that!  As part of the H2A visa process, we have to advertise our farm worker positions in great detail for several weeks in our local newspapers and on the WI job center website. We also have to post that position in newspapers in three different states as required by the United Sates Department of Labor.  This year was typical of the other years.  We only had two local young men with farming experience apply.  We hired both to start on the following Monday.  Neither showed up or even had the courtesy to call and explain!  This is not just a tractor driving job, but tractor driving is necessary.  We would never be able to staff our farm with individuals from our local or surrounding areas.  In contrast, our crew members who come to us through the H2A visa program are dependable and, in situations such as this week, exceed our expectations.  This week we had a crew of guys who finished our sweet potato harvest in two days despite working the last 3 hours in a light rain with mud building up on their boots, wet and cold.  Nonetheless, they finished the harvest with pride!  The sweet potatoes are safely stored in the greenhouse and the curing process has begun! 
This is the part of the conversation where we need to bring the Zuniga, Cervantes and Rodriguez families into the conversation!  They started working on our farm in the mid-90’s and in 1998 we were able to bring them here on H2A visas (agricultural guest worker program).  While many of the country’s vegetable workers are “undocumented,” the H2A visa program is the only legal way for farm workers to work in the U.S. aside from permanent residency.  Starting in 1998 we set out to learn the complexities of the H2A visa program so our workers could come and go legally while working here.  This allowed them to cross the border and return legally if they needed to and it has proven very important to many crew members who have gone home for the birth of a child, to attend funerals, see loved ones who may be ill, attend their children’s graduations, etc.  Unfortunately it is a very difficult and agonizing process.  We started by paying $5,000 to an agency to do the paperwork, but quickly learned that we could do it better.  Kelly and I, with help from Omar, a lawyer who works in Mexico, have been successful in bringing our present work force back each year.  It is very expensive and complicated.  We have to provide free housing, transportation to and from Mexico as well as to and from work each day, and we cover all the visa fees.  Once we put all of the expenses associated with this program together, the reality is that these workers have a cost of about $16 per hour.  This makes it very hard to compete in the wholesale market as we are trying to be competitive with other growers who may be paying $8.00 per hour, use contract labor, hire illegally, etc.  It is a challenge, but our dedicated crew totally “gets it”.  They need to be fast and efficient so we can compete and have high quality food and please our CSA members and other customers.  They are invested in making our farm “work” so they can continue to have a long term job!
2016 Crew Picture
Our current crew is the best work force we have ever had.  It is easy to show them respect because they deserve and earn it and it’s a welcome change from other jobs they have had that require a “yes, sir” to their employer.  At HVF they enjoy the opportunity to improve our processes, improve efficiency so much that we can almost compete with the other lower cost labor options.  It is a constant challenge in the whole sale market place.  In our CSA, the same efficiencies have allowed us to continue to deliver $1200-$1500 value for less than $1000 for a weekly vegetable share. 
Most of you as CSA members are in the workforce or have been in the work force.  You work hard to provide for your families.  For your health, we hope you value and purchase organic food, household and body care products.  As you make your purchases, we encourage you to not forget the people that produce these products for you! 
We are one out of only a few farms/companies who seek to change the world and strive to care for a healthy environment with healthy people as well as a healthy “respect” for those who work very hard to make sure we all have wholesome food to eat.  Will you continue to support them and others like them with your purchases or will you choose to support a system that is built on a cheap price and keeps the story of the food and its origin a mystery?
Right now there is a bill called the “Ag Jobs” bill in the House of Representatives.  This program is being proposed as a replacement for the H2A visa program and would instead be called H2C.  As currently proposed it would be a boon to employers, but not for workers.  The cost of the labor would be less for us as employers, but our employees would not benefit from the program.  We’ll keep you posted as that bill progresses. 
Our country has a long history of “cheap” food which comes only by exploiting someone along the supply chain with “cheap” compensation. There has been a shortage of “cheap” labor because of increased border security and raids on farms and businesses to expose illegal employees.  So something like 30% of fruit and vegetable production has moved south of the border, including organic production! As we consider what we want the future of our food system to be, we can’t overlook the topic of labor.  We must consider the “real” cost of producing fruits and vegetables and compensate fairly.  Will enough consumers be willing to pay the real price of food?  This is just one of many issues that goes into each and every purchasing decision you make, and your choices do make a difference!
Manuel, Rafael, Jose Alejandro, and Alvaro Morales Peralta
As we continue to explore this topic as well as others that impact the future of our food supply, there are a few resources we’d like to recommend.  Food First just published a book entitled A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism:  Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat, written by Eric Holt-Giménez.  We hope to receive our copy soon and will likely report more about the ideas in this book in the future.  Another book by Food First that you might be interested in reading is entitled Land Justice:  Re-imagining Land, Food, and the Commons in the United States.  This book is an anthology edited by Justine M. Williams and Eric Holt-Giménez.  Lastly, we recently watched a newly released documentary entitled, The Road to Ruin or the Path to Prosperity.  This movie was produced by Dr. Pedram Shojai and is currently available for free online screening.  You can find out more about this film and how to view it at Well.org.  The film takes a close look at how our individual choices as consumers can have a big impact on our world and our future.  It takes a look at some of the positive things companies and individuals are doing to point our future in a more positive direction and empowers each individual to look at their own choices and lifestyles to impact the world positively.  While this film does include a look at food systems, it goes beyond just food. 

October 12, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Broccoli Raab & Spaghetti Squash

11 Oct 2017 23:29

Cooking With This Week's Box

Welcome back for another week of Cooking With the Box.  After this week we only have 6 more CSA boxes!  How are we going to fit all the vegetables we still want to send you in just 6 boxes!  I’m excited to be transitioning to fall cooking and seeing the sweet potatoes piled in the greenhouse after this week’s harvest makes me even more ready!  Pull out your favorite sweet potato recipes…they’ll be in your box within the next few weeks! 
Lets start off with Broccoli Raab,  one of the bunching greens in this week’s box.  If you aren’t familiar with this green, take a minute to read more about it on our blog and/or in the newsletter.  It goes very well with garlic and pasta, which is why I recommend using it to make the pasta recipe in this week’s newsletter, Garlicky Pasta with Broccoli Raab (see below).  I adapted this recipe to include a few more vegetables, shredded carrots and sweet peppers, which add some color and sweetness to the dish.  Of course there’s lots of garlic as well!  Don’t forget to serve this dish with shredded Parmesan cheese.
Our second featured vegetable this week is Spaghetti Squash.  This week I’m going to try Sarah Britton’s recipe for Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Crispy Sage (See below).  This is an interesting way to use spaghetti squash, but will yield a little crispy patty that can be a main entrée or a side dish.  Spaghetti squash is much different than the other squash in your box this week, kabocha squash.  I found a delicious recipe for Miso Glazed Kabocha Squash on the Johnny’s Seed website when I was looking up seed information last week!  I didn’t expect to find a recipe on a seed company website, but it’s a tasty looking recipe and they even made a video to demonstrate how to prepare this dish!
Pizza with Arugula Pesto, Butternut Squash and Apples
The second bunching green in this week’s box is bunched arugula.  I have to admit, up until a year ago I seldom if ever ate full sized arugula as I found the flavor to be too strong.  Last year I tried using it to make Arugula Pesto and it was fabulous!  The pungency of the arugula pairs well with cheese, meat, fruit, etc.  The bite of the arugula stands up to the fat and acidity and the combination of the three is delicious.  Don’t worry, the arugula mellows out a bit in the pesto.  I like to use arugula pesto as a spread on a sandwich or a cracker along with cream cheese and/or smoked salmon or prosciutto.  You can also toss it with cooked pasta for a quick dinner, mix it into scrambled eggs, or even use it as the base for a pizza.  In the same newsletter where you’ll find the recipe for the arugula pesto there is a recipe for a Pizza with Arugula Pesto, Butternut Squash and Apples.  You could substitute the kabocha squash for butternut squash if this pizza sounds good to you this week.
I was poking around the Smitten Kitchen blog this week and found several delicious recipes including this one for Carrot Tahini Muffins.  I like carrot cake and I like tahini, I just never would’ve put the two together!  We’ll probably enjoy some of these with breakfast and save a few for afternoon snacks.  This recipe will use about half of the bag of carrots, so you’ll still have enough to include in the pasta recipe cited above.  I don’t bake very often, but for some reason I’m in the mood to do so this week!  While you have the flour and mixing bowls out, you might as well make a batch of Jalapeño Cheddar Scones. This is another recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog.  These would go great with breakfast or brunch alongside fluffy scrambled eggs, or serve them with a bowl of hot, cream of potato soup!
Since we mentioned potato soup, we might as well tackle the potatoes in this week’s box next!  My mom used to make this Hearty Potato Soup recipe that she clipped out of one of her Taste of Home magazines years ago.  It’s chunky and nourishing making it perfect to serve for dinner on a cool fall night.  If you have any potatoes left, cut them into chunks and roast them along with mini sweet peppers and onions.  This is one of my favorite roasted potato variations that I often make for breakfast or brunch or for dinner along with roasted chicken, a grilled steak, or even a simple hamburger!  If you have any mini sweet peppers remaining, don’t forget to take them with you to work for lunch or an afternoon snack.  Fill them with hummus or cream cheese if you want to kick it up a notch. 
We’re happy to have some very nice fall spinach to send your way this week.  The baby beets in this week’s box will be a great accompaniment to the spinach in this Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese & Beets.  Garnish the salad with toasted walnuts for a little crunch and if you want to get really fancy you could candy the nuts! 
We’ve had a pretty nice run on late summer/early fall broccoli and cauliflower.  I hope you’ve had a chance to try some new recipes using these two familiar vegetables.  If you have broccoli in your box this week, consider trying this recipe for Spicy Roasted Broccoli with Almonds. This is a recipe by Sarah Britton that dresses roasted broccoli with a dressing made with garlic, ginger, olive oil and a hot chili of your choosing….jalapeño would work.  If you have cauliflower in your box, you might want to go with this recipe for Cauliflower Slaw.   It has dried currants and crispy fried capers in it and is dressed with a light vinaigrette made with lemon juice and vinegar.  This recipe is also garnished with toasted almonds. 

We’ve reached the bottom of the box yet again.  I wanted to mention that I love when members share recipes with us.  If you have any favorite “go-to” recipes for fall vegetables and wouldn’t mind sharing them with us, we’d love to see what you’re cooking!  Either email them to csa@harmonyvalleyfarm.comor post them in our Facebook group.  I’ll see you back here next week with an update on how the “curing” process is going with the sweet potatoes.  Farmer Richard is hopeful they’ll be ready for next week’s boxes, but we don’t want to rush the process either.  We want them to be sweet and delicious for your first taste!  Have a great week and I hope you enjoy your time in the kitchen.
—Chef Andrea 

Featured Vegetables of the Week:  Broccoli Raab & Spaghetti Squash

Broccoli Raab
Broccoli Raab was one of the vegetables members requested on the survey we conducted at the end of last year.  You asked for it and here it is!  There are two bunching greens in this week’s box, the broccoli raab and bunched arugula. They look a bit similar, but you can tell the difference between the two by first noticing the color.  Broccoli raab is darker green and the arugula has a lighter, lime green color.  Broccoli raab also has thicker stems that resemble broccoli stems and if you look in the center of the stem you’ll likely see some small broccoli florets pushing up.  Broccoli raab is in the brassica family and has a mild mustard flavor with a slight bitterness.  We like to grow broccoli raab in the fall when the flavor is more mild and well-balanced.  You can eat nearly the entire bunch including the stems.  Sometimes the lower portion of a thick stem can get a little tough so you may need to discard the bottom inch or so if you find this to be the case. 
Broccoli raab is a popular Italian vegetable, but is also found in Asian cuisine as well.  It is often used in pasta and pizza dishes paired with sweet Italian sausage, garlic and cheese.  Nothing wrong with a combination of those ingredients!  While you can eat broccoli raab raw, it is most often cooked.  It’s tender enough that it doesn’t require a very long cooking time.  It can be boiled, steamed or sautéed.  In Italian cooking, you may find recipes that have longer cooking times to ensure the leaves and stem are very soft and tender.  Many times this preparation is done with a lot of garlic and olive oil.  I prefer the bright, light flavor of broccoli raab so usually just cook it long enough to wilt it and soften the leaves. 
If you taste a bit of the leaf in its raw form and don’t care for the bitterness, try cooking it before you rule it out.  When cooked, the flavor of broccoli raab mellows out.  It also becomes more balanced if prepared with a splash of vinegar at the end. 
Spaghetti Squash
The second vegetable we’re featuring from this week’s box is Spaghetti Squash.  Last week we featured kabocha squash and, while they are both classified as winter squash, they are very different.  Spaghetti squash will store for awhile, but it’s not known for long term storage into the deep of winter which is why we often deliver this one in October and/or early November.  The variety of spaghetti squash we grow is a smaller variety than some others you may see at the market.  We like the smaller, golden yellow varieties called Angel Hair and Small Wonder because of their more manageable size and because the flesh is more flavorful.  The seeds in a spaghetti squash are tender enough to eat.  If you’ve never cleaned and toasted squash seeds before, give them a try.  It’s not hard to clean and prepare them and the crispy, crunchy seeds make a nice snack or garnish for salads and soups.  Visit The Kitchn website where they have a nice article with pictures entitled How to Roast Pumpkin & Squash Seeds.” 
Squash and Leek Skillet Gratin
To prepare spaghetti squash, first cut it in half and bake it in the oven.  I usually bake it cut side down in a baking dish with a little bit of water in the bottom or the pan.  You can also bake it cut side up with the cut side brushed with some oil to give more of a roasted flavor.  Before you bake it, take a spoon and scrape out the seed cavity so you can save the seeds for roasting.  Bake the squash until it is fork tender, then remove it from the oven.  Once it’s cool enough to handle, use a fork to pull the flesh out of the shell.  The flesh of the spaghetti squash is just as its name indicates, stringy like spaghetti!  Once cooked, you can use the flesh in a variety of ways.  It makes a nice substitute for pasta and sometimes I like it simply sautéed with butter, garlic and fresh herbs.  There are some recipes, many in the paleo diet community, that use spaghetti squash as the “crust”-like base for dishes that are like a savory baked pie.  One of my favorite ways to prepare spaghetti squash is this recipe I created for Spaghetti Squash and Leek Skillet Gratinfeatured in one of our September 2016 newsletters.  If you don’t have leeks, you can also substitute shallots or yellow onions.  This recipe has become a favorite with some of our market crew and customers.
As with all squash, they are best stored in a dry environment at 45-55°F at 50-60% humidity, so keep them in a cool location in your house.  If you don’t have a location that meets this temperature criteria, just store them at room temperature on your counter and check them periodically.  If you notice a spot starting to form, it’s time to cook the squash!

Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Raab

Yield:  4 servings
12 oz pasta (shape of your choosing, spaghetti and fettucine work well)
½ cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (Optional, see note below)
2 cups (8 oz) shredded carrots
1 ½ cups thinly sliced sweet peppers
1 bu broccoli raab, chopped into bite sized pieces
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving.
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package instructions.  Before you drain the pasta, save 2 cups of the pasta water.  Drain the pasta and set it aside. 
  2. Put the olive oil in a small saute pan and add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Heat the oil over medium low heat.  You want to infuse the oil and cook the garlic gently just until the garlic becomes light golden.  It’s better to keep the heat low and do this slowly while you prepare the rest of the recipe so the garlic doesn’t get too brown.  If you notice the garlic starting to turn golden, remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Heat a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  Take 2 Tbsp of oil from the small pan and add it to the large pan.  When the pan and oil are hot, add the pieces of chicken and cook until browned on both sides. 
  4. Once the chicken is browned, add the shredded carrots, sweet peppers and 1 cup of the pasta water to the pan.  Simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half the volume.  Next, add the broccoli raab and allow the greens to wilt down.  Stir the vegetable mixture to combine them well and continue to simmer until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.  If the vegetables are not yet cooked to your liking, add more pasta water and simmer a little longer.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir to combine. Carefully pour the garlic oil over the pasta and toss to combine and evenly coat the pasta and vegetables.  Season with freshly ground black pepper and more salt as needed.
  6. Serve the pasta hot with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
This recipe was inspired by a similar recipe originally featured in Gourmet magazine, September 2006.
Note from Chef Andrea:  I wrote this recipe to include chicken, but this would also be delicious if made with Italian sausage, ground pork or shrimp in place of the chicken.  If you do not care for meat or seafood, just omit all protein options and prepare the dish vegetarian style.  The flavors of the vegetable are bold and delicious on their own.

Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Crispy Sage

Yield:  15-20 small patties
1 medium to large spaghetti squash (approximately 2 pounds) 
1 cup rolled oats, ground into flour (or use oat flour) 
4 cloves garlic 
1 green onion, with green tops (may substitute finely chopped yellow onion) 
1 tsp sea salt 
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper 
2 ½ oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (substitute ¼ cup nutritional yeast) 
1 organic egg, beaten 
1 bunch sage, about 30 large leaves, divided
Ghee or coconut oil, for cooking the patties
  1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Rub with a little ghee or coconut oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the oven, cut side up and cook for 45 minutes or so, until you can easily pierce the squash with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Using a fork, scrape out all flesh and place in a large sieve over the sink or a bowl to drain.
  2. In a food processor, grind oats until you have a rough flour. Add 12 sage leaves, garlic, salt, pepper and pulse to combine.
  3. Squeeze any remaining liquid out of the spaghetti squash. Place in a large bowl and add the oat mixture. Thinly slice the green onion into rings and add to bowl, along with the egg, and grated cheese. Fold to combine. A kind of dough should start to form as the ingredients come together. Take a small amount, roll into a ball and flatten into a patty shape – if the patty stays together they are ready. If they are too dry, add a little water, one tablespoon at a time until they hold. If they are too wet, add another handful of oats. Form all the cakes before you begin.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a knob (pat) of coconut oil or ghee. When hot, add the cakes and cook until golden on one side, then flip. Alternatively, you can cook these in a 375°F oven for approximately 10-15 minutes on each side.
  5. To fry sage, heat a couple knobs of coconut oil or ghee (ghee is preferable) in a small saucepan. When hot, add 6-8 sage leaves at a time, fry for 10-15 seconds, transfer with a fork to paper towels, and sprinkle with sea salt immediately.
  6. To serve, place a few squash cakes on the plate and garnish with fried sage leaves. Enjoy with roasted tomatoes and a simple massaged kale salad. Freeze leftover cooked cakes and heat to enjoy.
This recipe was borrowed from MyNewRoots.org by Sarah Britton.

October 5, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Kabocha Squash

4 Oct 2017 21:45

Cooking With This Week's Box

This week’s box has a burst of color with the gorgeous orange kabocha squash!  There are a lot of things you can do with this squash, but this week I’m going to use it to make a simple, seasonal One-Pot Kabocha Squash and Chickpea Curry (See Below).  This is very easy to make and uses the sweet peppers and tomatoes in this week’s box as well as some of the swiss chard.  Either mini sweet peppers or orange Italian frying peppers will work in this recipe.  This is actually better the second day, so it’s a great dish to make on the weekend and serve for dinner on a night during the week when you know you won’t have a lot of time to cook.  
Tomato and tomatillo season will be quickly coming to an end.  We’re glad to be able to send tomatillos one more time before they’re really finished!  Now that the nights are getting more cool, I’m more in the mood for warm, comforting stews.  One of my favorite recipes is for this Pork & Tomatillo Stew.  The tomatillos help thicken the stew and the carrots, potatoes and pork make it warm and satisfying.  Serve it with corn muffins, corn tortillas or chips on the side. 
Every once in awhile I get hungry for comforting dishes from my childhood.  Growing up in central Indiana, we had many ways to use mayonnaise and nearly every church potluck had several versions of a creamy broccoli and cauliflower salad.  So this week I’m reviving that salad with this Sweet Broccoli & Cauliflower Salad.  My family always encourages me to make it with the bacon, but you could easily leave it out or substitute toasted sunflower seeds instead.  While this recipe calls for both broccoli and cauliflower, you can also make it with just one or the other if you don’t have both in your refrigerator.  This salad goes well with a simple deli meat salad or my mom often served it with barbecued chicken or ribs.
I have to admit I’ve had my fill of fresh salsa, but tacos is a pretty easy go-to dinner during busy times.  To keep it interesting, I often serve tacos with different toppings.  This week I’m going to make some Mexican-Styled Pickled Carrots.  These make a spicy, tangy topping for tacos using this week’s carrots, red onions and jalapenos.  The recipe is for 4 pints, so I’ll probably scale it back to make just 1 pint.  If you want to make more, go for it. They’ll store for several weeks in the refrigerator.
I really enjoy jicama best in its raw form as a salad or slaw.  With the remainder of the sweet peppers in this week’s box, I’m going to make this Jicama & Sweet Pepper Slaw we featured in our newsletter back in 2013.  This slaw goes very well with grilled fish or chicken.
Back in 2011 Chef Bonnie spent the summer with us and developed this recipe for Fresh Turnip Salad with Curry Vinaigrette.  It’s been awhile since I’ve made this, but I have been on a curry kick lately and remembered her salad.  It’s bright and refreshing and utilizes both the turnip tops as well as some salad mix for the base of the salad.  If you want to turn it into a main entrée salad, just add some grilled chicken, fish or even baked tofu or tempeh. 
Lastly, you’ll probably have about half of your bunch of chard remaining if you use it to make the Kabocha Squash and Chickpea Curry recipe I mentioned in the beginning.  If you make some extra rice to serve with the curry dish, you can use the leftovers to make these Chard Leaves Stuffed with Rice and Herbs.  They’ll make a nice option to take for lunches or serve them with a salad for a light dinner.

Ok folks, that’s a wrap.  Get ready for more warm, comforting soups and stews in the weeks to come. Here’s a little tidbit of information to give you something to look forward to.  Word on the street around here is that we’ll be harvesting sweet potatoes next week!  We’ll need some time to “cure” them before they’re ready to eat, but they should be in your boxes within a few weeks!  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Orange Kabocha Squash 

This week we’re featuring the first of several different varieties of winter squash we grew for you this year.  This week’s selection, orange kabocha squash, is shaped like a plump round disc and has a stunning bright orange skin with deep orange flesh inside.  This is one of our favorite squash varieties because of its excellent eating quality, and in most years, its ability to store for several months.  While we typically don’t deliver this squash until November at the earliest, we’re including it in your boxes earlier because we suspect it may not store as well this year.  We’ve already noticed some spots forming on some of the squash and have been removing them from our storage bins at a greater rate than we normally see at this point in the season.  The storage-ability of a squash is directly related to the growing conditions in the field.  We suspect the rainy wet period we had at the end of July and first of August may have, in some way, impacted the shelf life of this squash this year.  The ones we’ve cooked and eaten have had excellent flavor and sweetness, so we can’t stand to compost them and would rather pass them on to you sooner than later! 
You’ll find kabocha squash to be a very dense squash that will require a little bit of effort to cut into.  Unlike some other winter squash, kabocha squash has a very thin skin that can be either peeled away or just eaten.  The skin is most tender shortly after harvest and toughens up the longer it is in storage, thus may not be as desirable to eat. When cooked, the flesh of kabocha squash is very rich, silky-smooth, sweet and flavorful.  There are several ways you can cook this squash. My go-to easy, low maintenance method is to just cut the squash in half, remove the seed cavity and put the squash halves, cut side down, in a baking dish.  Add a little bit of water to the pan and bake the squash at 350°F until the squash is soft and tender when pierced with a fork.  Remove the squash from the oven and turn the halves over so they can cool.  Once cool enough to handle, scoop the cooked flesh out of the shell and either mash or puree the flesh.  Once the flesh is cooked, you can use it to make a simple squash puree seasoned with spices of your choosing and a pat of butter.  Orange kabocha puree can also be used in baked goods and desserts.  While most recipes won’t call for this squash variety specifically, you can use this squash as a substitute in any recipe that calls for pumpkin or butternut squash.  This rich, sweet flesh makes a delicious pie filling and yields rich, moist, flavorful quickbreads or muffins. 
Aside from baking, kabocha squash may also be roasted or simply steamed.  In Japanese cuisine, kabocha squash are also referred to as Japanese pumpkins.  Known for their simple, clean preparations, you’ll find Japanese recipes for kabocha squash to be equally as simple with just a few ingredients.  Slices or chunks of kabocha squash are often steamed or simmered in a simple dashi broth with kombu seaweed and sometimes miso, soy sauce and sometimes sake.  You can also roast kabocha squash as you would prepare any other root vegetable or potato for roasting.
I’ll take a minute to mention squash seeds.  While we usually encourage you to save the seeds from your winter squash and roast them to make a crunchy snack, I have to admit I don’t care for the seeds from a kabocha squash.  They have a thicker hull and are more tough and less enjoyable to eat.  Save your efforts for some of the other squash that will come later such as the sugar dumpling, festival and butternut squash.
Winter squash is an important part of our fall and winter diets from both nutritional and culinary perspectives.  They are rich in carotenoids, the nutrient compound that gives their flesh its orange color.  They are also good sources of Vitamins A & C as well as potassium, manganese, folate and a variety of B vitamins.  This squash pairs well with other fall fruits and vegetables including apples, pears, herbs, and onions. 
For longer storage, winter squash is best stored in a cool, dry location at about 45-55°F.  However you can also keep them on your kitchen counter and enjoy their beauty if you are going to eat them within a few days or weeks.  I would encourage you to eat this week’s selection sooner than later.  Watch them and if you notice any spots starting to form on the exterior, cut that area out of the squash and cook the remainder immediately.  If you aren’t ready to eat squash yet, consider baking your squash and pureeing the flesh.  You can put the pureed squash in a freezer bag or container and pop it in the freezer.  I love having some cooked squash in the freezer to use during the winter to make soup, baked goods, or just to warm up with a pat of butter and serve as a vegetable side dish.

If you enjoy this squash variety and would like to have more, we will be offering this variety as a produce plus option for the next two weeks.  Check this week’s “What’s In the Box” email for details and get your order in for delivery within the next two weeks! 

One-Pot Kabocha Squash & Chickpea Curry

Yield 4-6 servings
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
½-1 jalapeño, finely chopped (quantity to your liking)
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
3 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, diced
2 cups diced sweet peppers
3 cups peeled, diced kabocha squash
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cans (13.5 fl oz each) coconut milk
2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
½ cup water
3 cups thinly sliced Swiss chard or spinach
Salt & Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)
1 oz fresh basil, thinly sliced (optional)
Cooked brown rice, to serve

  1. Heat a Dutch oven or other deep saucepan over medium heat.  Add 2 tbsp of the oil to the pan.  When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic, ginger and jalapeño.  Saute over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add one more tablespoon of oil along with the turmeric and cumin.  Stir to combine and saute for another minute.  Add the diced tomatoes, peppers, squash, chickpeas, coconut milk, tamari and water to the pan.  Stir well to combine and then bring the mixture to a boil.
  2.  Once the mixture has been brought to a boil, reduce the heat just slightly so as to maintain a rapid simmer.  Cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Remove the cover and simmer an additional 15-20 minutes or until the squash is tender and the liquid portion of the curry has reduced a little bit. 
  3. Stir in the chard or spinach leaves and simmer an additional 5-8 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
  4. Taste the curry and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Serve over rice and garnish with fresh basil and/or cilantro.
(Note:  This curry is even better the second day, making this a great recipe to use for batch cooking at the beginning of the week for meals throughout the week!)
This recipe was adapted from a similar recipe for One-Pot Eggplant, Pumpkin and Chickpea Curry featured at www.heavenlynnhealthy.com.

Roasted Winter Squash with Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary

Yield:  6 Servings
2 pounds kabocha or butternut winter squash
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 plump clove garlic, finely chopped
1 heaping tsp chopped fresh sage
1 heaping tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds.  Scoop out the seed cavity and slice the squash into crescent moon slices.  Peel the squash and cut into 1-inch chunks;  you should have about 4 cups. 
  3. Toss the squash in enough olive oil to moisten it, then season with ½ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Loosely arrange the squash in a single layer in a large baking dish or on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. 
  4. Roast the squash until the pieces are tender and browned here and there, about 35 minutes.  Every 10 minutes or so, give them a turn so that they color evenly.
  5. When the squash is tender and golden, warm 4 tsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic, sage, and rosemary and cook just long enough to remove the raw taste of the garlic, a minute should do.  Turn off the heat, and add the parsley.  Next, toss this mixture with the cooked squash.  Transfer to a serving dish, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Recipe adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy.

Cover Crops 101….Keep it Covered!

4 Oct 2017 21:45

By Farmer Richard
In our newsletter article two weeks ago entitled “Soil….Our Hope for a Climate Solution,” we briefly discussed the importance of using cover crops as a means of “regenerative farming” to not only build soil, but also as a means of capturing atmospheric carbon through plants and storing it in the soil.  This week we want to share more about what it means to plant cover crops on our farm and why we consider them to be an important part of our production system.  We’ve been using cover crops for over 40 years, mainly as a means of enhancing soil quality.  Only recently have we learned that cover crops are an important tool we can use to help mitigate climate change, both by reducing excessive atmospheric carbon as well as their role in making our soils more resilient to erratic weather conditions.  We know that soils with high organic matter hold water better in drought conditions and are able to drain better in times of excess moisture.  There are many benefits to including cover crops in farming systems and, from a farmer’s perspective, I can’t understand why every farmer wouldn’t want to plant them!
Cover Crop starting to grow just before winter settles in.
Leave no ground exposed for the winter!
Cover crops are crops we plant in our fields before and after our vegetable cash crops.  While we plant vegetable crops with the intention of harvesting them for sale, we seldom ever sell a cover crop.  There are other reasons why we plant cover crops.  Our farming system developed from the work of Rudolf Steiner, JI Rodale, and William Albrecht, early advocates of using cover crops in organic systems as a means of keeping the ground covered at all times. In theory, this is a basic principle of nature that allows us to use plants to capture solar energy from the sun to enrich the soil and prevent erosion.  We don’t like to have bare ground over the winter as it is very vulnerable to winter winds, etc and we don’t want to lose our precious topsoil!  Cover crops, in certain locations, also help to filter and purify water to keep our waterways clean, and enhance and encourage biodiversity of soil microorganisms that help us increase the organic matter in our soil as well as hold nutrients in place so they are available for the next vegetable crop that will go in that field.  While this all makes sense in theory, in practice it all comes down to management! 
Many of our long term crew members understand our goals with regards to planting cover crops, but in the heat of the busy late summer and fall harvest season when we need all available hands on deck to harvest, it’s easy to put planting cover crops on the back-burner
to plant another day when harvest is done.  However, our crew members understand planting cover crops is a priority and work diligently to make sure they get planted as soon as possible.  As soon as we finish harvesting a crop and are done with it for the season, we prepare the ground and plant the cover crop even if it’s just two beds out of the entire field!  Time is of the essence in the fall and our goal is to give the cover crop as many growing days as possible to get established before the temperatures drop and winter sets in.  Cover crops may also be planted into a standing vegetable crop at the time of last cultivation.  This allows us to have a soil-improving cover crop already growing in the shade of a cash crop, ready to take over as soon as the cash crop is done and any remaining portion of the plants are chopped!  We use this method in crops such as asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb.  In these scenarios, the cover crop not only enhances the soil by increasing organic matter, but the cover crop also helps to compete with weeds and forms a mulch of sorts when the cover crop plant “winter kills.” 
Japanese millet planted in between rows of strawberries.

We have two main cover crop mixes we plant.  One mix includes plants that will “winter kill.”  Even though we may get some frosty nights and cold temperatures late in the fall, the plants in this mix continue to grow, albeit slowly.  Once the ground freezes solid their growth stops.  This mix includes Japanese millet, oats, field peas, crimson clover and a few other clover varieties. The benefit to planting a cover crop that winter kills is that the plants will not grow again in the spring and we can prepare that ground early in the spring to plant vegetable crops since the cover crop residue will work into the soil very easy without a lot of green crop plant matter to get in the way. 
An Austrian Winter Peas cover crop, notice the
the white nitrogen nodules already forming on the roots this fall.
Our second mix consists of plants that can go dormant during the winter, and then resume growing again in the spring.  We plant this mix in fields that we won’t need to plant very early in the spring.  This allows us to leave the cover crop in the spring so it can grow and we can maximize its benefits.  We usually cut or chop the cover crop just before it goes to seed.  This mix consists of cereal rye, rye grass, mammoth red clover and hairy vetch.  In addition to serving as a sponge to take up available nutrients and hold them in place for next year’s crop, the rye also makes a good mulch that we cut and bale.  We take the bales off of one field and put them on another field to mulch in between beds of vegetable crops such as strawberries, tomatoes and garlic.  The clovers and vetch are able to take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil, which means we don’t have to apply fertilizer!  If we have excess rye grass beyond our needs for mulch, we may choose to bale some to use as feed for our cattle and goats through the winter or sometimes we just chop the crop back onto the field and work it into the soil.  This is referred to as a “green manure” crop.
Even our cold frame greenhouse gets a cover crop!
We have embraced this practice and are always looking for ways to improve the system.  Over the past few years we’ve increased the diversity of plants in our cover crop mixes.  While it is more complicated to make these mixes, we appreciate the plant diversity and the different beneficial attributes each plant brings to the mix.  We will continue to invest both time and resources into planting cover crops as the benefits of doing so far outweigh any management challenges we may juggle.  Maintaining and improving the health and resilience of our soils is crucial to our ability to continue to produce vegetables with maximum nutrient quality.  We also want to do our part to maintain clean waterways, prevent soil erosion and maximize CO2 capture through our practices to do our part to mitigate climate change. 
As we continue our conversation about the future of our food system and what we want it to be, we feel it is important for you, the eater, to understand the growing system and practices we employ.  Not all food is created equal and it’s up to you to make an informed decision as to what type of farming practices you want your food purchases to support.  There are some conventional, chemical farmers who are trying to improve their soil quality with cover crops and are taking advantage of the assistance and incentives offered by the NRCS (Natural Resources and Conservation Services).  While this is good, it’s hard to make much positive headway when the cash crops being planted require chemical inputs that damage and degrade soil as well as cause other problems to the ecosystem and environment around them. 
We hope you too can appreciate the benefits of cover crops in an organic farming system and will choose to support local producers who prioritize integrating cover crops into their agricultural systems.  We’ll do our part, but we need the support of consumers to turn the tide and shape our food system into the future.  

What a Party! A Recap of Our 2017 Harvest Party

27 Sep 2017 21:15

By Farmer Richard
Members enjoying a light snack before the wagon tour!
One of our younger members
stretching to step over the drain!
Last Sunday we hosted our annual Fall Harvest Party and had a great day!  Preparation for this party starts days before with planning, sending out invitations, ordering food, supplies, etc.  Then, the Saturday before the party comes and we kick it into high gear to get everything ready.  Our crew still had harvest to do as we finished putting together our orders for the week, but we all worked together to get the jobs done and then spent the last few hours of Saturday washing the work tractors, loading wood crates onto harvest wagons for the tour and making sure we were “parade ready.”  The packing shed crew spiffed up their area, moved equipment out and moved picnic tables in as we prepared for the potluck.  Andrea spent all day preparing snacks and food including some delicious caramelized onion & roasted poblano dip, black bean salad with tomato vinaigrette, fig & apple chutney and purple tomatillo salsa!  Angel, Oscar and Ascencion spent much of the day preparing the underground brick oven and the pork so it could slow-roast overnight.  By the end of the day we were all tired, but excited for the next day and its activities.
We had some members who came on Saturday afternoon so they could camp out on Saturday night.  They set up their tents in our camping area by the river, built a nice fire for cooking and beat the heat with frequent dips in the river to keep cool.  Chris & Lisa (members from Madison) brought a super powerful telescope.  After the sun went down, we had clear skies which made for spectacular star gazing.  We could see Saturn with its rings, Jupiter and its moons and the Andromeda galaxy.  What a cool treat!  All of the campers seemed to enjoy their night with a few hooting owls and other night sounds. 
We enjoyed music performed by Dave & Ryan!
Sunday dawned, clear and warm for last minute set-up and preparations.  Michelle arrived and took over kitchen duties so Andrea was free to mix & mingle.  Scott, Gregorio and Manuel pitched in too to help grill tortillas, finish preparing the pork and make sure everything was ready for the potluck.  Our guests started arriving at noon and enjoyed snacks and the gentle music of the Sonic Love Child.  Dave, one of the band members, is a CSA member from Minneapolis.  Unfortunately the other members of his group weren’t able to come this year, but Dave recruited another musician friend (Ryan) who actually lives in Viroqua and the two of them played for us.  The kids enjoyed giving Captain Jack (the dog) pets on the head and tossed sticks for him.  Kids of all ages tried to guess the number of baby potatoes in the gallon jar.  The winner was Clara, a young CSA member who walked away with the big jar of potatoes to enjoy!
Farmer Richard showing members how to dig sweet potatoes!
Look at this sweet potato!
One of the larger sweet potato finds this year!
Finally, it was time for the field tour!  We had 3 full wagons with a headcount of about 100 people!  We set out for our first stop at the tomato/eggplant/pepper field by the river.  We parked in the shade and spread out to find our favorites.  Some went to tomatoes, others meandered down the rows of eggplant and many enjoyed snacking on bright, sweet, warm peppers!  It’s great to see kids wrestling peppers off a plant and tentatively tasting.  Finding it sweet, they look for more.  You know the expression “kid in a candy store?!”  Yes, it’s a little like that.  After we’d had our fill, we hopped back on the wagons and headed to the sweet potato field!  We passed a very nice field of broccoli and celeriac and stopped to dig sweet potatoes.  This is a much different harvesting experience, having to remove the vines and dig to loosen the dirt with a shovel in order to pull the sweet potato bunch from the dry ground.  We have several different varieties we’re trialing this year, so we dug in several different places to check on the progress of the different kinds.  We found some very nice sweet potatoes, but it was agreed that many were on the small side and needed another week or two to grow to their full potential!

Our next stop was the pumpkin field!  We picked as many as we could including some 20# Jack-O-Lanterns and many smaller “winter luxury” pie pumpkins.  There were plenty of pumpkins for everyone and many still remained in the field as we drove away.  While we would’ve liked to stay and keep picking, we had to get back to the farm for the potluck! 
Some Members prefer the smaller pumpkins.
And some liked the bigger ones!
Chef Andrea with her wee little pie pumpkin.

The roasted pork turned out great and we enjoyed it carnitas style on corn tortillas with cabbage slaw and salsa.  Rufino made a super spicy sauce that took some by surprise!  We filled our plates, making sure we saved room for ice cream brought by Madison member, Sarah!  We had had such a great day, but wait!  We still had more activities to do!  Captain Jack took a place on the sideline, exhausted from chasing sticks and Frisbees.  While he rested, Rafael took a group to test dig the fall carrot field.  His group came back with big bunches of nice orange, yellow, red and purple carrots.  Meanwhile I took a group to check out a magnificent bald-faced hornet nest in the tree behind the office.  We also took a walk through one of our prairie spaces to collect wildflower seeds.  We wandered up to the woods and foraged for hickory nuts and stumbled upon a small patch of ghost plants!  This is a rare and strange plant that is “ghostly white”, having no chlorophyll.  We ended the walk by swinging past the Concord grape vines where we paused to pick a few to pop in our mouths.  One final visit to the goats and ducks and then it was officially time to bring the party to a close and head home!  While we were off on our adventures, our dedicated crew had already started cleaning up the wagons and was getting the packing shed put back together so we’d be ready to hit the ground running first thing on Monday morning.
After the tours, members could go with Rafael to
see and dig some carrots to take home.

Some HVF Crew took breaks under
the wagon to cool off!

Farmer Richard talking with members about Jicama!

Thanks to those that made the time to come and visit us.  We enjoyed your company and enthusiasm and hope you too enjoyed your farm experience.  If you weren’t able to join us this year, mark your calendars for next year and join us for a super-fun day at the farm!  We also want to pass on a big “Thank You” to all of our crew members who pitched in and helped us put on another great party.  Now that the party is over, it’s back to work for another busy week of packing CSA boxes, harvesting root crops, tomatoes, peppers and more!  Hope to see you next year!

September 28, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Jicama

27 Sep 2017 21:06

Cooking With This Week's Box 

Welcome back to another week of delicious cooking out of your CSA box.  This week’s box has a few special treats in it including this week’s featured vegetable which is jicama!  If you aren’t familiar with jicama, please take a few minutes to read this week’s vegetable feature.  While it can be eaten raw or cooked, I’m opting to eat it raw this week and have found two tasty and very simple salad recipes to share with you.  You may actually have enough jicama to give both a try!  The Jicama Apple Slaw (see below) recipe is made with tart Granny Smith apples and has a creamy dressing made with yogurt, lime juice and zest as well as a little heat from some jalapeno.  We included Granny Smith apples and limes in last week’s fruit box, so this might be a good recipe choice for members who also receive the fruit share.  The second recipe is for Thai Jicama & Red Onion Salad.  (See below) The author of this recipe recommends serving it with shrimp, but I think it would be delicious with any fish, seafood or even chicken. 
I came across two interesting recipes this week for broccoli and cauliflower.  The first recipe is Grilled Broccoli with Avocado and Sesame.  This is an interesting recipe that has several components to it that come together in the end.  Grilled broccoli is drizzled with a dressing made from avocado and tahini and then the salad is garnished with slices of red onion and a bit of pickled jalapeño.  This salad will make good use of not only the broccoli in this week’s box, but also will utilize the jalapeños and red onions.  Serve this salad as a main dish on its own or alongside grilled steak or chicken.  The other recipe I came across is for Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic & Thyme.  With this recipe you roast whole cloves of garlic with the cauliflower along with some onions.  When you serve this dish, diners can squeeze the sweet roasted garlic out of its skins and eat it with the cauliflower or you can spread the roasted garlic on bread and to eat alongside the cauliflower.  Any color of cauliflower will work for this recipe. 
What are you going to do with that crispy head of iceberg lettuce!?  Iceberg lettuce is light enough to be refreshing, but strong enough to hold up to creamy dressings such as blue cheese, ranch and thousand island.  I’m going to go with a traditional Cobb Salad this week and will use a recipe featured in Saveur as my guide.  This recipe calls for half of a head of iceberg mixed with some romaine and watercress.  I’m going to just go with all iceberg lettuce and in place of the spicy watercress I’m going to add the flavorful, tender greens from the baby white turnips.  I’ll use the grape tomatoes for this salad as well and may supplement with a few of the larger tomatoes. 
While the Cobb Salad makes a nice main entrée salad with head lettuce, I’m going to save the Salad Mix to use as a base for a simple side salad that could go with any meal throughout the week and is a good “go-to” option when you are tight on time.  I’ll use the orange Italian frying peppers to make my recipe for Creamy Roasted Sweet Pepper Dressing  featured in our newsletter back in 2014.  Once the dressing is made, all that’s left to do is just drizzle it on the salad mix and garnish with shredded carrot, tomatoes or any other vegetable of your choosing!  This dressing also makes a great dip for carrot or jicama sticks. 
Baby white turnips are one of those vegetables that we see in the spring and then it resurfaces for a few weeks in the fall.  Since I chose to use the greens for the Cobb Salad, I’m going to prepare the actual turnips using this very simply recipe for Glazed Baby Turnips with Carrots. Serve this as a side dish with a seared pork chop or a slice of ham. 
Finally, lets talk about this bag of sweet & delicious mini sweet peppers.  These little gems are delicious just eaten as is for a snack, but you can kick that snack up a notch by cutting off the tops and stuffing them with cheese!  I like to fill them with cream cheese or goat cheese, but you could also stick a piece of mozzarella inside and then pop them on the grill or put them under the broiler to melt the cheese and blister the pepper skin.  If you just have too much in your kitchen to eat this week, mini sweet peppers do freeze well and are just as tasty in the winter as they are right now.  I keep a bag in the freezer to use during the winter for pizzas, scrambled eggs, pasta dishes, etc.
Once again we find ourselves at the bottom of the box.  I’m not sure what next week’s box may hold, but if there is room we may start sending some winter squash your way.  So gather your squash recipes and get ready!  If you have any favorite squash recipes you’re willing to share, I’d love to try them!  Have a great week and enjoy!—Chef Andrea 

Featured Vegetable:  Jicama

Jicama is the odd-shaped vegetable with brown skin occupying one corner of this week’s CSA box.  It is also known as yam bean, Mexican yam or Mexican turnip and is native to Mexico.  The name of this vegetable is pronounced HICK-uh-mah or HEE-kuh-mah.  It is a tropical plant that resembles a bean plant with bean-like vines and seed pods.  The jicama grows underground and is a tuber that can produce multiple tubers off the one main stem. 
Once you peel away the outer skin, jicama has solid white flesh.
On the outside jicama is not the most attractive or flashy vegetable.  Peel away the brown, leathery skin and you’ll find a solid white flesh inside that is mild in flavor, crunchy with a slight sweetness and slightly starchy.  You can eat jicama both raw and cooked.  One of the most basic ways to eat jicama is to slice it into sticks and give it a squeeze of lime juice and a light sprinkling of chili powder and salt.  Jicama also pairs well with citrus fruit and is often used in raw salads and salsas prepared with limes and/or oranges.  It also pairs well with avocado, peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, seafood, onions, and garlic to name just a few complementary ingredients.  In Asian cuisine you may find jicama used in stir-fry type preparations.  When stir-fried, jicama should be added towards the end of cooking to retain the crisp texture.  If you let it get just slightly soft, it has almost a potato-like flavor and texture.

Jicama is very sensitive to chill injury, so it is best to store it on your kitchen counter until you are ready to use it.  Once you cut into it, store any cut jicama in the refrigerator and eat it within a few days. 
Jose Antonio holding a piece of Jicama!
We credit one of our crew members, Jose Antonio Cervantes Gutierrez (aka JAC), with introducing jicama to Wisconsin.  One day we were working in the greenhouse and he presented me with a handful of seeds in a small packet.  He asked if I thought we could grow it here?  Well, I had no idea how to grow jicama and had only eaten it several times.  We decided to give it a try and after several years of learning we are finally getting good results!  I asked him why he brought those seeds with him when he came to work here that year.  There is a large farm not far from where he lives that grows large amounts of jicama.  He would pass by their fields, see the jicama and was intrigued by it.  He said he brought them because he had tried planting them at home, but couldn’t ever watch them grow because he had to leave to come here to work!  So, he brought the seeds with him so we could plant them here and he could watch them develop!  JAC’s favorite way to eat jicama is to eat it raw with a squeeze of lime juice and salt or lime juice and a sprinkling of Tajin, a seasoning mix made from salt and a specific type of chile. 

We don’t grow jicama every year, but in our survey at the end of last year we asked you to vote for the top three vegetables you wanted to see us grow this year and jicama made the list!  You asked for it and here it is!  We’re grateful to JAC for introducing us to something new and we’re glad you, our members, have grown to appreciate it too!  

Jicama Apple Slaw

Yield:  4-5 servings
Picture from Food52.com
1 small jicama, peeled and fine julienned (3-4 cups)
1 Granny Smith apple, fine julienned
2 Tbsps cilantro, chopped
¼  green cabbage head, shredded (could substitute broccoli stems)
For the Dressing:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 limes, zest and juice
¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Mix julienned jicama, apples, cilantro, and cabbage together.
  2. Whisk all dressing ingredients together. Toss with jicama apple mixture.  Season as needed with salt and black pepper.  Serve immediately. This recipe is best eaten the day of. 

Recipe borrowed from Food52.com.

Thai Jicama & Red Onion Salad

Yield:  4-6 servings
Recipe picture from Cookingcanuk.com
1 small or ½ of a medium jicama, peeled 
½ small red onion, peeled
1 ½ Tbsp fish sauce
1 ½ Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp agave nectar (can substitute sugar)
1 red chili, minced or ½ tsp red chile flakes
¼ cup chopped cilantro
  1. Cut jicama into quarters, then thinly slice.  Thinly slice the red onion into half-moon pieces.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, rice vinegar and agave nectar or sugar until it dissolves.  Add chile or chile flakes and whisk again.
  3. Place the jicama and onion slices into a medium-sized bowl.  Toss with the rice vinegar dressing.
  4. Add the cilantro and toss again.  Serve.

Recipe borrowed from cookincanuck.com.

September 21, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Celeriac

20 Sep 2017 21:12

Cooking With This Week's Box

As we dive into this week’s box, we’ll start with our featured vegetable of the week which is green top celeriac!  This week’s newsletter features two different types of ways you can use your celeriac, one is raw and the other is cooked.  The Sesame Chicken Celeriac Salad (see below) is a main entrée salad that is very easy to make and will travel well for lunch the next day if you have leftovers.  If you’d prefer to make something warm, you might want to consider making the Celeriac, Potato and Apple Puree (see below).  This wasn’t my original plan for a recipe, however we had the opportunity to dine at Harvest Restaurant in Madison, WI last Sunday at their special 17th Anniversary Dinner. Chef Jon served a delicious celeriac and potato mash.  I had stumbled over this recipe over the weekend and once I sampled some of the apple from this week’s fruit box I decided the combination of celeriac, russet potatoes and apples was on the list for this week.  This puree will make a delicious accompaniment to any pork dish, grilled beef, duck or roasted chicken.
If you choose to make the Sesame Chicken Celeriac Salad, the recipe calls for chicken breasts.  If you are making the salad this week, you might as well use a whole chicken.  You can take the breasts off and cook them for the salad and then use the thighs and legs to make Jamie Oliver’s Tender and Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes & Basil. The recipe calls for 4 chicken quarters to serve 4 people.  If you’re using just one chicken you’ll have to cut the recipe in half and your yield will be for just 2-3 servings.  This recipe can be made with some of the tomatoes in this week’s box as well as garlic and basil from your herb garden.  Serve this with cannellini beans, mashed potatoes or pasta.
At the dinner last Sunday, we had another delicious course that included halved grape tomatoes served with an herbed buerre blanc sauce.  While I’m not going to get that fancy this week, I was inspired to take make this recipe for Marinated Cherry Tomato Salad.  Of course we’ll use the grape tomatoes, cut them in half and marinate them in vinegar, herbs and oil.  This can be served as a salad on its own or use it as a condiment to top off seared salmon, grilled steak or serve it on top of a bowl of lentils or cannellini beans. 
Well, sweet corn season is coming to a close but we still have a few ears to enjoy!  This week I’m going to cut the kernels off the cob and use them, along with one of the tomatoes, to make this Tomato, Basil & Corn Pizza.   The recipe calls for baking it in the oven, but you could put this on the grill too for a little extra smoky flavor.  I always like peppers on my pizza, so I’ll thinly slice the green bell pepper and add it along with the corn.  The orange Italian Frying Peppers are going to go on a tossed salad made with either the red Boston or red Batavia lettuce.  I’m going to toss the salad with this Creamy Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette and garnish it with some thinly sliced onions, croutons and some canned water-packed tuna for an entrée salad to eat at lunch. Any extra orange Italian frying peppers left over this week are going straight into the freezer so I have some to use on pizzas during the winter.  If I have time I’ll slice the peppers before freezing, but if time is short they can go into the freezer whole and I’ll deal with cutting them in February!
The remainder of the potatoes as well as this week’s leeks are going to be used to make Potato Leek Soup with Poblanos and Crispy Bacon.  I tried this recipe last fall and it is delicious!  I never would’ve thought to pair the gentle leek with a hot pepper, but the combination works and this combination is actually very good.  The recipe calls for Yukon Gold potatoes, but this week’s russet potatoes will work just fine. 
For some reason I have Mac & Cheese on my mind this week, so some of the broccoli is going towards making Macaroni & Cheese with Broccoli.  The remainder of the broccoli will end up in a frittata for Sunday brunch.
The gorgeous red chard in this week’s box is going to be used to make vegetarian Tacos with Black Beans and ChardI’ll serve this with Green Rice with Jalapeño, Garlic and Lime.  We have limes in this week’s CSA fruit share, so that’s one less thing I’ll have to pick up at the grocery store!
Well, that brings us to the bottom of another CSA Box.  Next week we’re hoping the Jicama is ready to go in boxes.  So, pull out those jicama slaw recipes and get ready!  If you’ve never had jicama, you have something new to look forward to!  
—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Celeriac

Celeriac, or celery root as it is also known, can be a bit intimidating if you’re encountering it for the first time.  However, as with all vegetables, there’s really no need to be intimidated…it’s just a vegetable!  Celeriac is in the same family as celery.  The difference is that celeriac is grown for its root and celery is grown for its stalks.  The stalks on celeriac resemble celery and have a lot of delicious flavor in them, however they are more tough and fibrous than celery and are not usually eaten as you would eat a celery stalk.  Don’t throw them away though!  Their flavor can add depth to a pot of stock or soup.  If you aren’t going to use them all now, put them in the freezer and use them later this fall or winter.
Now for the root bulb.  First, scrub the exterior of the root the best you can.  Next, thinly slice away the top and bottom of the root so there is a flat side on the top and the bottom.  You’ll probably need to take a little more off the bottom to get past the majority of the roots and get into the more usable bulb portion of the root.  At this point, I usually cut the root in half or into quarters so it is easier to handle.  Using a paring knife, carefully trim away the outer skin.  Once you’ve removed the outer skin, rinse the remaining piece of celeriac and clean your cutting board if there’s any residual dirt.  The inner portion of the root is white, solid and entirely edible. 
Celeriac has a subtle celery flavor that provides a background to soups, stews, and root mashes.  It also makes a delicious soup or gratin on its own or combined with potatoes or other root vegetables.  It can also be eaten raw in salads and slaws paired with other fall fruits and vegetables and s simple creamy dressing.  I’ve noticed more “paleo” recipes are encouraging the use of celeriac as a substitute for starchy potatoes, noodles, etc.  If you have a spiralizer, you can even make celeriac noodles (do we call them celoodles?)

Celeriac stores quite well, thus it is an important part of our seasonal winter diets.  It can actually be stored for up to 6 months!  Keep it in your refrigerator loosely wrapped in plastic or in the crisper drawer until you are ready to use it.  

Sesame Chicken Celeriac Root Salad

Photo credit from thekitchen.com
Serves 4
2 large carrots, peeled
1 large celeriac, peeled
3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (see Recipe Note)
½  cup chopped fresh basil, or cilantro
1 small clove garlic, peeled and grated with a microplane, or finely minced
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp dark pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 ½ tsp grated fresh ginger root
½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper
  1. Shred carrots and celeriac on a box grater or with the grating attachment of a food processor.
  2. Combine the carrots, celeroac, chicken, and basil (or cilantro) in a large salad bowl.
  3. Combine garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, maple syrup, tamari, sesame seeds, ginger, salt, and pepper in a jar and shake to combine. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
  4. Divide among 4 large plates to serve.

Recipe Notes: 
To cook chicken: Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add ½ tsp salt and stir to dissolve. Add 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts and return to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, turning occasionally to make sure it cooks evenly, until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool, at least 20 minutes before shredding.
This recipe was adapted from thekitchn.com.

Celeriac, Potato and Apple Puree

Yield:  3-4 servings
1/2  pound potatoes, peeled and cut in half*
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 small to medium tart apple, such as a Granny Smith, peeled, cored and quartered
¼ cup, approximately, warm milk or broth from the celeriac.
1 Tbsp butter or walnut oil, plus more to taste
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Place the potatoes in one saucepan and the celeriac and apples in another.  Barely cover each pan with water and add salt to each pan as well, about ¼- ½ tsp per pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Turn off the burner that the potatoes are on and remove the pan.  Drain the potatoes, and return the pot to the burner (do not turn the burner back on).  Leave the lid off and allow the potatoes to set for 5-10 minutes to steam and dry out. 
  3. Drain the celeriac and apples through a strainer set over a bowl to catch the cooking liquid. 
  4. Puree all of the celeriac and apple mixture as well as the potatoes in a food mill or a potato ricer.  (If you don’t have either of these tools, you can also use a food processor and process the potatoes separate from the celeriac/apple mixture.  The other option is to just mash the vegetables by hand with a potato masher.  The end result will be more chunky, but will taste just fine). 
  5. Combine the potato puree along with the celeriac and apple puree in a bowl.  Whisk in the milk or broth until the mixture is fluffy.  Add the butter or walnut oil to the hot puree, stir until the butter melts, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

*Chef Andrea Note:  The original recipe calls for Yukon gold potatoes.  I would recommend using our russet potatoes for this recipe as it will yield a lighter, fluffier mash.
Recipe adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe featured on cooking.nytimes.com.

Fall is Here!

20 Sep 2017 21:12

We started harvesting sunchokes earlier this week
This Friday marks the official transition from summer to fall and on Sunday, September 24th, we’ll celebrate this year’s harvests with our annual Harvest Party shin-dig.  We’ve been talking about this seasonal transition now for several weeks as things have started to change in our fields.  This week however we are feeling it more than ever.  We’re harvesting purple top and sweet scarlet turnips, sunchokes, daikon radish, fall carrots and we will be packing Soup Mix before the week is finished!  The leaves are starting to change colors, hickory nuts are dropping to the ground, and we know it’s just a matter of time before we get our first chilly, frosty night.  We hope you are planning to attend the party this weekend so you can see our valley and fall crops for yourself!

Honeynut butternut squash curing in the greenhouse
A lot has been happening in our fields over the past few weeks, so we wanted to catch you up on our activities with a field report.  We said goodbye to watermelons, melons, zucchini and cucumbers over the past few weeks, but there were more crops entering the stage as these summer favorites dwindled.  We are nearly done with winter squash harvest.  We have harvested and cured most of our winter squash and will go back to harvest the last few loads remaining in the field before the end of the week.  We’re planning to start packing winter squash in your boxes possibly as early as next week.
Our first planting of tomatoes is nearly finished, but the second planting still looks pretty good and continues to produce.  We have been having pretty cool days and nights, so the tomatoes have been ripening slowly.  We’ll keep picking right up until the first frost.  We’ve also been hitting our pepper field pretty hard with harvests.  There isn’t a whole lot remaining at this point.  Our orange Ukraine plants are pretty much done.  They produced a lot for us, but there isn’t much remaining on them.  The Orange Italian Frying peppers are still producing and we’ll be able to pick for this week and next, but I’m not sure how much will remain beyond that.  We’re planning to deliver mini-sweet peppers in next week’s box, but these plants don’t have a lot of fruit remaining on them. 
Celeriac with green tops freshly washed!
This week’s featured vegetable, celeriac, comes to you with its green top still on.  This is another sign of the transition point in the season.  While we’re still harvesting them as green top, we’ve already started to mechanically harvest these roots for storage.  They’ll all need to be harvested within the next few weeks as they will not tolerate more than a touch of a frost.  This marks our transition in cooking as well.  Soon we’ll all be enjoying more root-focused soups, stews and braised dishes to warm us up on the cold days. 
 Scarlet & Purple Top Turnips harvested last Saturday
There are some vegetables that make their appearance in the spring and then return in the fall.  Fall is a special time in many ways for some of these crops as the cool fall days and nights help to intensify the colors of vegetables and the flavors of some things mellow out and are sweeter.  We’re harvesting a beautiful crop of fall fennel right now and just started harvesting our fall crop of baby white turnips.  Next week we’ll be resuming baby spinach and salad mix harvest.  The color on these crops is always very impressive this time of year.  The green colors of spinach are more intense and the red lettuces are stunningly gorgeous! 
At the farmers’ market we’ve already been getting inquiries of “When will Brussels sprouts be ready?” Well, they are making sprouts and looking pretty good, but this is one of the brassica crops that benefits from a few frosty nights before harvesting.  All brassicas undergo changes in flavor in cold weather.  Their flavor becomes more sweet and well-balanced.  So the best estimate I can give you for when we’ll harvest them is after it frosts.  We also have our eye on the sweet potatoes and will be harvesting those before too long.  We’ll have to do a sample dig at the party this weekend to check the progress in growth and gauge just how much longer it will be before we’re ready to pull the trigger and do the big harvest! 
Jicama, sweet potatoes, squash and more coming soon!

Newly planted escarole and radicchio plants
Next week we’ll be delivering jicama in the boxes.  It’s in the process of being cured right now to set the tender skins.  This year’s crop looks pretty good!  We’re still learning how to grow jicama but I think we’re making progress!  We did harvest some that don’t look so pretty.  If you come to the party on Saturday, we’ll share those with you.  They don’t look good but they are still good to eat!  We also have a crop of tat soi slated for a late season harvest and we’re trying a new growing method for some late season chicories.  This week Scott, Simon and Jose Antonio finished planting escarole and radicchio transplants in our cold frame greenhouse.  We did a pretty good job of growing head lettuce in the cold frame greenhouse this spring and delivered it in the May boxes.  We’ve never grown escarole and radicchio in a greenhouse, but thought we’d give it a try and hopefully they’ll be ready for some of the last boxes of the season in November and December.  They are more cold hardy greens that can take cold weather and frosty nights and their flavor actually improves in cold weather.  In the field they can sometimes get damaged when the nights get really cold, so we’re hoping the more protected environment of the greenhouse will allow us to get the benefit of the cold weather but gain the protection from deep frosts.  Wish us luck!
In addition to harvesting crops,  we’ve also managed to stay on top of planting cover crops.  As we finish harvesting a field, we move right into preparing it for  winter and includes establishing a cover crop.  Did you read last week’s newsletter regarding the importance of regenerative farming methods related to mitigating climate change?  Well, we’re trying to do our part by getting cover crops on bare ground so they can capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil.  How cool is that?!  We’ve also finished putting up stored hay for our animals to eat this winter and we’ve returned to some of our woods management projects.  The high winds we had in July along with the rains took the tops off of a lot of our trees in the woods. We’ve been scouting the woods identifying where the damaged and downed trees are.  We’ll focus on salvaging what we can this fall.

Despite the challenges of the July weather event, we’re gearing up for a bountiful fall harvest and we’re hoping Mother Nature will be cooperative!  There are still a lot of delicious vegetables remaining to experience this season as we continue our journey in our seasonal eating adventure.  I’m already starting to look forward to some favorite winter dishes such as Turnip-apple quiche, sweet potato casserole and rutabaga mash!  We hope to see you at the party this weekend and hope you enjoy the last few months of vegetables!

September 14, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Leeks

13 Sep 2017 20:35

Cooking With This Week's Box

It is definitely starting to look and feel a bit more like fall.  The leaves are just starting to change and this week we’re harvesting leeks, which for us is part of that transition from summer to fall.  We included russet potatoes in this week’s box, so if you have a tradition of making Leek & Potato Soup with the first leeks of the season, go for it.  If you’re looking to try something new, check out the recipe for Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon & Baconfeatured in this week’s newsletter (See below).  I adapted this recipe from the original one posted at AlexandraCooks.com.  I added sweet corn and the orange Ukraine sweet peppers to Alexandra’s recipe because, well I like vegetables and color!  If you’re looking for a more simplified and/or vegetarian version of this recipe, she has another similar recipe on her blog for One-Pan Bucatini with Leeks and Lemon.
Back to those potatoes, russet potatoes are a starchier potato which means you could turn them into mashed potatoes if you’d like.  There’s a recipe in our archives for Leek & Cheese Mash which uses leftover mashed potatoes.  However, my favorite thing to do with these potatoes is to roast them whole.  In fact I have some in the oven right now!  Just rub the outside with oil and sprinkle them generously with salt and some ground black pepper.  Bake them on a cookie sheet until they are tender, then slice them in half and top with butter and sour cream or whatever baked potato toppings you like!  This can become a meal on its own or eat it alongside meatloaf for a nice homey meal. 
This week’s red Boston lettuce is so tender and delicious, I can’t wait to turn it into a beautiful salad.  I think I’ll cook the beets and dice them into bite-sized pieces for the salad.  Make this simple Balsamic Vinaigrette featured at The Kitchn to dress the lettuce and then finish off the salad with a little bit of fresh grated Parmesan and these Quick Stovetop Candied Pecans! Now that is a salad!  Hold on to the beet greens, they are far too tasty to toss in the compost.  It’s been awhile since I’ve made one of Richard’s favorites, Creamed Beets with Greens.  Whatever beets are remaining after the salad will go in here along with all of the beet greens.  This would be an excellent dish to serve with those baked russet potatoes and a nice grilled T-bone steak!
I came across this recipe for Southwestern Quinoa Salad at Food52.com.  This will make use of the grape tomatoes and an ear or two of this week’s sweet corn.  The recipe calls for scallions and poblanos, but I’m going to substitute thinly sliced red onions and orange Italian frying peppers instead.  For a little heat, I’ll include maybe half of a jalapeno.  This salad also contains black beans and feta, so it has enough body to it to stand on its own as a main dish salad to take for lunch or to have on hand for a quick dinner.  It could also be a nice accompaniment to grilled salmon or fish.
I’ve said it before, but I really enjoy the flavor of Yukina Savoy.  It has remained pretty mild in flavor with the cool days and nights we’ve had.  I’m going to adapt this recipe for Skillet Chicken with Bok Choi to include the yukina savoy.  Served with rice, this will become a quick and easy dinner.  If you have any sweet peppers remaining, add those in with the yukina savoy for a little extra color.
I’ve never made tomato pie, but have wanted to for several years and have heard several people talking about it at market over the past few weeks.  This week I’m going to use the larger tomatoes to try this Tomato Cheddar Pie.  This looks like a good dish to serve for Sunday brunch with a slice of bacon on the side. 
We’ve almost used every item in the box, except for the broccoli or cauliflower.  These two items are interchangeable in this recipe for Broccoli Salad with Sunflower Seeds & Cranberries.  This recipe calls for bacon, but I think I’ll opt to leave that out of this recipe and just enjoy the sweetness of the cranberries and the crunch of the sunflower seeds alongside the raw broccoli or cauliflower lightly dressed with a simple mayonnaise dressing.   This is another easy salad to take along for lunch and eat with a simple sandwich. 

Well, that brings us to the end of another delicious week of cooking.  Looking ahead to next week, it looks like we’ll have another fun fall vegetable coming our way to go along with the leeks and potatoes.  Can you guess what it might be?  See you next week!
—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Leeks

We’ve been enjoying a variety of vegetables in the onion/allium family since our first box all the way back in May.  From ramps and chives to overwintered spring onions, scallions and most recently sweet onions.  This week we’ll add leeks to the list.  Leeks are a favorite fall allium that, as Chef Deborah Madison says, “add more of a whisper and less of a shout.”  Leeks have a more delicate, mild onion flavor and are cooked using more delicate cooking methods to yield a soft, silky finished product.  They have fewer sugars than onions, so they will not caramelize in the same way as an onion.
Leeks have a long white shank that turns to more of a bluish green color as you reach the top of the leek.  The shank is made of many thin layers and is the portion of the leek most often used.  However, the green portion on top is equally edible and at the very least should be added to stock for flavor.  Throughout the growing process, dirt is hilled up on the leeks to cover and blanch the shank.  As a result, dirt may get between the layers.  While you need to take care to carefully clean the entire leek, the upper portion may have a bit more dirt between the layers and may need a little more attention.  I find it easiest to wash the exterior of the leek and then slice them.  Place the chopped leeks in a sink of clean, cold water and swish them around to remove any dirt.  Remove the leeks from the water and place in a colander to drain.  If there isn’t much dirt between the layers, you may also just place the sliced leeks in a colander and rinse them.
Leeks pair well with many fall vegetables including potatoes, celeriac, and fennel.  They are often incorporated into cream soups, gratins and egg dishes such as quiche.  A traditional use for leeks is to make Leek & Potato Soup, of which there are many variations.  It is best to take your time and cook leeks more gently and slowly over medium heat. Saute them over low heat to just sweat them until softened. When cooked in this manner, leeks become creamy and have a silk-like texture.  They pair well with white wine, lemon, cream, cheese, apples, walnuts, chicken, bacon, fish and fresh herbs to name just a few ingredients.

Store leeks loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.  

Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon & Bacon

Yield:  4 servings

Coarse salt and ground pepper, to taste
6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
3 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light-green parts only, rinsed well
1 cup fresh sweet corn kernels (from 1-2 ears of corn)
1 cup thinly sliced sweet peppers
½  to ¾ pound bucatini or spaghetti
2 large eggs
¼ cup (heaping) grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving (optional)
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice, plus more as needed
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)
1.       Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving excess fat in pan—you should have about 2 tablespoons.  If you do not have that much, add a little olive oil to the pan.   Add leeks, sweet corn and sweet peppers to the hot pan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring often, over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
2.       Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid before draining the cooked pasta.
3.       In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice. Whisk ¼ cup pasta water into egg mixture.
4.       Once the egg mixture has been combined, immediately add the hot, drained pasta to the egg mixture, along with bacon, vegetables, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. If necessary, add more of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to get the desired sauce consistency and adjust the seasoning to your liking with additional salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed.  If you’d like to put the pasta back in the pan and warm it up before serving, do so over low heat so the eggs don’t curdle.  The sauce on this pasta will be light, but creamy.  Serve immediately with more cheese on top.
This recipe was adapted from an original one posted at Alexandra’s Kitchen.  There is another similar recipe on her website, One Pan Bucatini with Leeks and Lemon that is a simplified, vegetarian version of this recipe.

Soil…Our Hope for a Climate Solution

13 Sep 2017 20:35

By Richard de Wilde & Andrea Yoder
In this week’s newsletter we’d like to return to our series of articles pointing to “the future of our food.”  The question on our minds this week is “Can we feed the world…without destroying it first?”  While we didn’t intend to write an article about climate change, here we are once again being faced with issues of climate change as it directly relates to this question.  Food First is an organization dedicated to ending the injustices that cause hunger and helping communities to take back control of their food systems.  Their work is centered around research, education and action.  This organization was founded by Frances Moore Lappé who, back in 1971, wrote Diet for a Small Planet.  Lappé laid out the evidence at that time representing several key points including the fact that there was 1 ½ times more than enough food to feed everyone on Earth, hunger is due to poverty and not scarcity, and the way the developed world produces and consumes food is damaging the planet.  Here we are over forty years later and the fact still remains the same that we still have enough food to feed the world and our corporate, industrial food system continues to damage the planet.  In Food First’s Summer 2017 “News & Views” publication, they stated “…the corporate food system contributes up to ⅓ of the world’s greenhouse gases, making industrial agriculture one of the main forces behind climate change.”2 In this week’s article we want to face this topic of climate change and look at how we can turn the tide, quickly, so we have a future.
Asparagus field with a well established
cover crop including a variety of clovers.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that “Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally.” The Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University released Climate Policy Brief No. 4 in April 2017 entitled, Hope Below Our Feet, Soil as a Climate Solution.1 In their report they quote climate scientist James Hansen who, in 1988, warned that:  “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that.”  They follow his quote with the fact that atmospheric CO2 levels today exceed 400 ppm and are still on the rise.  Carbon is not the culprit here, it is essential to our existence.  Climate change is happening because there is too much carbon in the atmosphere and the reason it’s there is largely due to human activities.  Carbon cycles in nature between five pools where carbon is stored.  Those five places include the atmosphere, oceans, fossils, soil and our biosphere.  The carbon cycle was in balance for many, many years cycling between these pools in a way that was beneficial to all life forms.  The problems started when we figured out how to extract carbon from fossils and use it as fuel, etc.  We disrupted the cycle and threw off the balance by putting more carbon into the atmosphere than the oceans, plants and biosphere could cycle.  The opening paragraph in the GDAE Climate Policy Brief1 mentioned above reads as follows: 
“A major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is clearly needed, but there is increasing scientific consensus that even if achieved, this will not be enough.  In addition to a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, carbon must be removed from the atmosphere.  An important solution is beneath our feet—the massive capacity of the earth’s soils to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere.” 
This field is ready for winter with a
young cover crop of rye in place.
The problem is the lack of balance.  Soil, which holds about three times more carbon than the atmosphere, offers us hope for restoring this balance of carbon in nature that humans have disrupted.    As farmers, this excites us and truly gives us hope.  Why?  Because we understand firsthand how resilient and beneficial soil can be when properly cared for and many of these strategies to store carbon in the soil are things we’ve been practicing on our farm for many years now!  Over 40 years ago I (Richard) was inspired by the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner who taught me about the value of capturing solar energy and putting it into the soil.  Through the process of photosynthesis, plants have the ability to take CO2 from the atmosphere along with water and sunlight to turn it into nutrients for the plant that develop root structures and carry these nutrients into the soil.  The nutrients feed the biological life in the soil and deposit carbon.  Carbon rich soil with high biodiversity is healthy, resilient soil.  I quickly learned the value of cover crops and we still make it a priority to plant a cover crop in a field as soon as we take our main crop off.  Cover crops fix nitrogen in the soil, hold soil in place and, in the end, break down and become part of the soil and build organic matter.  When I started planting cover crops, I did so for benefits including increasing soil fertility and tilth and increasing organic matter in the soil thereby increasing the resilience of the soil to hold water in a time of drought and drain water in times of excess moisture.  I never imagined we’d be in the position we are in now where planting cover crops and other basic, natural agricultural practices could be the key we need to regenerate and heal our broken cycle and reverse something as big as climate change!  In contrast, “Intensive forms of farming using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, are a leading cause of degradation of soils worldwide, as are destructive grazing practices in pasturelands.  But through appropriate practices that would enhance carbon pools in soils and biota, the potential terrestrial carbon sink capacity could be restored, essentially reversing its historic depletion, in what has been called the ‘recarbonization’ of the biosphere.”1  
Our young piglets enjoy romping
around in the lush pasture grasses.
Our grass-fed Red Angus beef cattle are
rotationally grazed on our nutrient rich pastures.
There are several approaches we can take to regenerate our soils and enhance the natural functioning of ecosystems to rebuild what we’ve lost.  The GDAE report outlines some important regenerative strategies to increase the ability of soils to store carbon.  In cultivated soils, strategies include things such as the use of cover crops, planting trees and legumes to fix atmospheric nitrogen, feeding the soil with manure and compost, decreasing erosion and soil loss from sloping soils through terracing, and increasing soil microbiology with fungi and other microorganisms.  Pasture management in animal production systems is another important factor.  Sustainable pasture management includes planned rotational grazing which can have a remarkable impact on regenerating pasture grasses, increasing soil fertility, and reversing and preventing desertification of soils.   We also need to consider forested soils.  There have been astounding acres of valuable forest lands cleared for industrial farming and agricultural purposes.  We need to stop deforestation and be promoting reforestation to regenerate degraded forest ecosystems.  All of these efforts have the net benefit of supporting the movement of excess carbon out of the atmosphere through the use of plants and putting it back into the soil.  While it’s pretty remarkable to be able to use plants to combat climate change in this way, there is a twofold benefit from regenerating soils.  More plants on the land and more carbon returning to the soil results in not only decreasing atmospheric carbon, but also leads to increased soil fertility which also can have a significant impact on production and yield as well as the quality of food.  This will also help us continue to produce food more reliably in the face of weather extremes which is our current reality.  However, remember that hunger is not caused by scarcity but rather poverty.  “What causes hunger is not lack of food, but lack of access to decent land and work.  Most of the chronically hungry in the world are marginalized farmers and rural workers.  It is not how much we produce that is important, but who produces it, how, and who profits.  With 70% employment in agriculture in many parts of the world, simply producing more food in countries like Kenya, Uganda, or India will not solve hunger if there are no decent and stable livelihoods in the countryside.  Industrial farming displaces workers—so many we would need unrealistically fast economic growth, evenly spread around the globe to create enough jobs to employ all the world’s peasant farmers.  To end hunger, we don’t need to produce more crops per se—we need to produce more decent livelihoods.”5  We need to turn food production back over to small farmers, thereby giving them food security by giving them their jobs back and allowing them to preserve their cultural heritage and feed their own local markets and be part of their local economy.  In this manner human needs are met in a way that restores ecosystems and communities instead of degrading them.  It’s an obvious win-win situation!  We’d encourage you to read the GDAE’s policy brief for yourself as there are more details and benefits from employing these strategies than we can fully report on here and truly does offer us hope.  We need to face the realities that industrial agriculture has no place in the future of our food system.  Eliminating this form of agriculture would gain us great strides in combating climate change, but furthermore if it were traded for regenerative farming practices we would actually be able to make some headway.  The answer to our original question is “Yes, we can feed the world without destroying it.”  The question now is “Will we?” 
If you’d like to learn more about how the soil can lead us in regenerative efforts to combat climate change as well as see some examples of how other countries are implementing action and incentives for this purpose, we’d like to suggest the following resources:
  • "The Soil Story", a video by Kiss the Ground that clearly summarizes the carbon cycle and the role of regenerative agriculture in less than 4 minutes!  If you do nothing else, watch this short video.
  •  Soil 4 Climate is a nonprofit organization that is an advocate for soil restoration as a climate solution.  They have a lot of informative resources available on their website for both education as well as action. 
  •  Global Development & Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University offers expertise in the areas of economics, policy, science and technology as they relate to global development and issues related to the environment.  They have numerous publications available on their website including the Climate Policy Brief we cited above, Hope Below Our Feet. 


Fall Herb Preservation

6 Sep 2017 21:57

by Jean Schneider, Herbalist at Nativa Medica & HVF CSA Member
How did your spring herb packs do in your garden or pots this year?  If yours are like mine, the sage did pretty well if you could keep it dry enough this year!  Who knows when the frost will come, so it's time to preserve your herbs before it’s too late.  All of the herbs in our packs are Mediterranean herbs.  As a group, these herbs are pungent, aromatic, warming and many are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral.  Sounds like the perfect thing for fall and winter right?
As an herbalist I like to recommend herbs that are inexpensive and easy to find.  I am not very prone to colds, viruses and flu but those around me are!  My husband gets a few colds and viruses every winter, partly from all the time he spends in our public schools getting exposed.  Over the years, adding more consistent use of culinary herbs seems to have helped reduce the number and severity of illnesses he suffers each winter.  Every soup I make in the winter has a good amount of thyme in it and we regularly use sage honey in our cooking and make lavender honey tea.
There are two uses we will preserve herbs for from our herb packs; culinary and medicinal.  All of the herbs in the packs are culinary herbs and several of them are powerful medicinal herbs too.  Let’s start with preserving some of the herbs specifically for medicinal uses for colds, flu and viruses.  My two favorite herbs from the pack for this are thyme and sage. 

Medicinal Herbs

Thyme Preservation
I prefer to gently dry thyme.  Cut the thyme off about an inch above the ground.  Make sure the herb is dry already (not after a rain or with dew on it).  Either tie the stems into small bundles with string, or separate the stems and lay them out on your dehydrator racks.  Slowly and gently dry at low, low temperatures and monitor closely if in the dehydrator.  Using temperatures that are too high or drying for too long will cause the volatile oils that are important in the medicine of the plant to be lost.  If you tied the bundles with string, hang them in an area that gets good air flow (not your basement).  I hang mine on my kitchen cabinet knobs or on a coat rack in my entryway that I am not using.  Leave them for a week or so.  Once dry, remove leaves from the stems using clean hands by gently rubbing them off.  Store in an air tight container, like a Mason jar.
To Use Thyme as Medicine
       As a face steam for cough or plugged sinuses - put 1” of water in a pot, bring to low simmer so it is steaming.  Add a tablespoon of dried thyme leaves, put a towel over your head and lean over the pot.  Be careful as you first do this so your face doesn’t get too hot.  Move your face away or closer based on temperature.  Breathe in the steam and feel the loosening and draining begin.  Do this up to 3-4 times per day, as needed.
       As a tea - 1-2 teaspoons dried leaves per cup boiling water, steep 10 minutes, covered.
Use Thyme For:
      dry or wet coughs
      congestion of sinuses or lungs
      intestinal spasms and general gastrointestinal problems
Properties of Thyme
       stimulates immune system
       relaxes tissue
       penetrates and loosens thick stuck mucus in sinuses and lungs
       anti-spasmodic (for coughs and gastrointestinal)
Sage Preservation
Sage is a really fun herb to preserve for the winter and may be dried using the methods described for thyme preservation.  Additionally, you can use sage to make infused honey.
Fine mesh strainer and bowl used
to strain the herbs from the honey.
Sage as Infused Honey 
and Leaves for Tea
       sage leaves (no stems)
       honey from farmer’s market
       clean and dry Mason jar and two-piece lid
       fine mesh strainer
       large light weight bowl
First, get some good quality honey from the farmer’s market and have a clean and dry Mason jar ready.  Cut your sage off about an inch above the ground, making sure you harvest when the herb is dry (no rain or dew).  Remove the leaves from the stems and compost the stems.  Put the fresh leaves in the jar, press them down and fill to about half full.  Choose the size of the jar based on how much leaves you have.  Cover the leaves with honey and stir well.  Once the leaves are coated in honey, fill the rest of the jar with honey, leaving about an inch of air space between the lid and honey.  Make sure the lid is on tight and place in a sunny window or countertop and flip the jar once or more a day.  Kids love to be in charge of this!  Flipping the jar upside down allows the herbs to mix into the honey.  The herbs will slowly rise to the top, and the jar can be flipped again helping it mix.  The sunny window helps keep the honey warm, but a countertop will do just fine too.  I let this go for about a month, then pour into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and let gravity and stirring do the work of separating the honey from the sage leaves.  Do this in batches if necessary until done.  Store the infused honey at room temperature or in a warm place.  You can also keep it near your tea kettle so you don’t forget about it.  The honey is good indefinitely.  The leaves that are left will still have honey stuck to them, this is good as the honey will preserve the leaves.  Put the leaves back into the jar and then into the refrigerator where they will keep several months.
Herbs infusing with the honey. 


To Use Sage as Medicine
       sage infused honey - eat a spoonful or use in hot water as tea
       sage leaves coated in honey - use to make sage tea by adding several leaves per cup with hot water and steep for 10 minutes covered.
Use Sage For:
       sore throats
       runny noses
       wet coughs
Properties of Sage:
       dries moisture and brings up oil, soothing tissue
       a caution to nursing mothers - sage can dry up milk production
       not for use in pregnancy
Finished jar of herb infused honey!
Preservation of Tender Culinary Herbs
For the more tender herbs like basil, parsley and chervil this will be the best preservation method since they lose their flavor when you dry them.  You can use this method for the oregano and savory too, but both of those will dry well using either the hanging or dehydrator method from the thyme section. 
Easy Ice-cube Tray Preserved Herbs
       ice cube tray
       herb of your choice, stems removed, leaves chopped
       organic extra virgin olive oil
Place chopped herb leaves into a bowl, cover generously with olive oil and stir.  Place into as many ice cube compartments as needed.  Freeze until solid, pop out of the ice cube tray and put into labeled plastic bags in the freezer.  The herbs are already chopped and ready to use in any recipe.
I like to use these cubes in a variety of ways all winter long.  There is no need to thaw them out in advance as they take only a minute or two to melt in a pan or pot.  Most of the time I forget to add the herbs until the dish is almost cooked and I am looking for more flavor to add.  When sautéing veggies for scrambled eggs add the herb cube in.  For soups and stews you can either add the herb cube while you are sautéing veggies, or add it during the simmering time.  For Shepard’s pie or pot pies, add the herb cube in while the filling is simmering.
Don’t forget to use your dried thyme leaves in your cooking too.  Even though the medicinal uses are so important with thyme, you will get similar benefits from using thyme regularly throughout the winter.  Every soup, stew and roast I make gets a tablespoon or more of thyme added into it in addition to any other spices the recipe calls for.  I grow some in my herb garden, but it is never enough, so I buy it by the pound to make sure we have enough for the entire winter!
Using culinary herbs regularly gives our bodies and health a continual boost and support system.  I have always wondered if the main reason why the Mediterranean diet has resulted in healthy people actually has as much to do with regular use of culinary herbs (all the herbs from our packs are Mediterranean herbs)  as it does with fresh food.  The people of this area cook with fresh food and an abundance of herbs throughout the year.  Let’s follow their example.
It’s a great time to ask your friends if they have any herbs to spare from their gardens too.  Having a winter store of herbs to use not only makes our food more tasty in the winter, but also helps support our health.

Find me on Facebook: @NativaMedica

September 7, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Tomatoes

6 Sep 2017 21:57

Cooking With This Week's Box

We know summer is coming to a close soon and fall is right on its heels.  Next week’s box will likely have a different look than the last several boxes.  This is the last week for melons, cucumbers and zucchini.  Watermelons are close to the end as well.  Hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy tomatoes and peppers for several more weeks, but there will be some new crops landing on next week’s harvest list.  Right now we have tentative harvest plans for leeks and celeriac!  But back to this week’s box.  Lets talk tomatoes.  There is a hearty bag of tomatoes in this week’s box and you’ll find several delicious tomato recipes to consider using for the large tomatoes as well as the little grape or chocolate sprinkles tomatoes in this week’s box.  I’d recommend giving the Tomato Jam (see below) recipe a try.  When you’re making this recipe, take a little time to separate the juicy seed portion from the flesh of the tomatoes.  Use the flesh to make the tomato jam and save the juicy seed portion to make the Tomato Seed Vinaigrette (see below).  These two recipes are very complementary and will leave you with very little waste left over.  The jam is a nice condiment to use on a hot ham and cheese sandwich or spread it on a cracker with cream cheese.  The tomato vinaigrette can be used on salads or drizzled on roasted vegetables or used as a dip.  You’ll still have about a pound of tomatoes remaining after these two recipes.  If you’ve never tried pairing tomatoes and watermelon together, consider doing so this week.  Sam Sifton’s recipe for Tomato and Watermelon Salad is very easy to make and includes just a few ingredients, including feta cheese.

You thought we were done with tomato talk, but not just yet.  We still have those little tomato gems to find a use for!  This week’s newsletter and blog features one of Heidi Swanson’s recipes for Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes(see below).  There are a lot of different ways you can put these to use, but I’m going to use them as a garnish on top of a warm bowl of Melissa Clark’s Fresh Corn Risotto.  You might have a few ears of corn left over, which will be just enough to make this Roasted Red Pepper and Corn Salsa to serve on taco night this week!  Either variety of sweet peppers in this week’s box will work for this recipe and you’ll need your jalapeño for this one too!
Wow, we have had a great year of edamame harvest!  One of our members shared this recipe for Edamame Hummus in our Facebook Group.  This will make for a great lunch item served with carrot sticks and sweet peppers in this week’s box as well as some crackers or pita bread and olives.  Put it all together Bento Box style and feel good about packing in so many different vegetables in one simple meal!  Any extra carrots and edamame will come together in this Edamame and Carrot Salad with Rice Vinegar Dressing.  This is a very simple salad that will come together quickly and go well with these Chicken Teriyaki Kabobs for dinner.  This salad recipe calls for green onions, but thinly sliced red onions will work just fine. 

That brings us to the bottom of this week’s box.  You might still have a little bonus item remaining to find a use for, possibly a little zucchini or cauliflower to add to a frittata or roast up as a side dish for dinner this week.  Start thinking fall vegetables as you get ready for next week’s box.  I’m feeling some soup coming up soon in our future.  Have a great week!
—Chef Andrea 

Vegetable Feature:  Tomatoes! 

Summer isn’t summer without fresh tomatoes! Tomatoes are actually a fruit, referred to by some as a vegetable-fruit.  Technicalities aside, tomatoes are a very diverse crop and are represented by a wide range of sizes from less than 1 ounce to as much as several pounds per tomato!  They are also diverse in colors ranging from white to red to green and may be either a modern hybrid or a traditional heirloom.  I’m not sure anyone really knows how many varieties of tomatoes there are across the world, but I do know that one seed company, Tomato Growers, offers over 500 varieties in their catalog!
Stake and tie method of weaving the
tomato plants to keep them upright.
We have a carefully selected lineup of tomatoes we’ve found do best in our valley.  Especially in a wet year, we can see disease set in early which causes the vines to die before the fruit is fully ripe.  Thus, we mostly plant more disease resistant hybrids and ‘heritage’ tomatoes which have some heirloom genetics in them, but also carry some modern hybrid characteristics which make them more attractive to our growing situation.  We use a stake-and-tie method for our tomatoes where we weave twine around the main stem and vines as the plants grow in order to keep the tomato plant upright and the fruit off the ground.  It’s a pretty labor intensive system, but it helps the foliage dry out faster and makes it easier to pick the tomatoes and keep them clean.  We also consider flavor, texture and color when selecting our varieties.  What makes a good tasting tomato?  Well, I suppose that’s up to every individual, but we look for tomatoes that have a good balance of both acidity and sweetness.  Some varieties, such as gold slicers, tend to be lower acid in general but still have a nice balance of sweetness and good “tomato flavor.”  There are some varieties that look beautiful, but when you taste them they lack actual flavor and are just kind of “blahh.”  Please refer to our blog post from August 27,2015 for pictures of the tomatoes we grow which will help you identify them and figure out what use they are best suited for.
Black Velvet tomato, our preferred variety for
fresh eating and to use on sandwiches.

Tomatoes may be found in cuisine across the globe from Europe to the Middle East, Asia and the Americas.  If you are ever at a loss as to what to do with your tomatoes, take a minute to look around, there are so many different things you can do with them!  Around here, BLT sandwiches are at the top of the list.  We typically reach for black velvet or gold slicer tomatoes for sandwiches because they are the most “fleshy” tomatoes and have a little less juice to run down your arm and make the bread soggy. Farmer Richard also wanted to mention that you don’t have to limit your “BLT” to just those three ingredients.  We often make variations on this popular sandwich that include toppings such as thinly sliced onions, basil leaves, baby arugula or baby kale mix, avocado, and even thinly sliced sweet peppers.  Every variation we’ve tried is excellent! 
Red Riviera tomatoes, excellent for eating fresh or cooking.
Tomato sauce is another popular way to use tomatoes.  There are so many different versions of “tomato sauce” ranging from spicy tomato sauces such as the Italian Desperata sauce that includes jalapeños to cookbook author Marcella Hazan’s popular recipe for buttery tomato saucethat has just four ingredients (tomatoes, butter, onion and salt).   When you are making sauce, it is generally recommended to use a “paste” tomato which is a descriptor for roma tomatoes.  Our Riviera tomato is also recommended for cooking and makes a delicious sauce.  The reason these varieties are often recommended for cooking is two-fold.  First, their flavor is enhanced by cooking and second, they are a more fleshy tomato with less juice in the seed cavities.  The benefit to this is a more concentrated sauce that will cook down faster with less moisture to evaporate out of the sauce.  If you’re planning to just eat your tomatoes fresh, either as a fresh tomato salad or just slices of salted tomatoes, pretty much any tomato will serve you well.  However, we do eat with our eyes so it’s nice to have a variety of colors and textures on a plate. 
Tomatoes pair well with a wide variety of ingredients including herbs such as thyme, oregano, basil and parsley.  They go well with butter, cream, cheese, olive oil, olives and a variety of meats.  Since tomatoes themselves are a fruit, it’s no surprise that they pair well with other fruits such as watermelons, peaches and cucumbers.  Of course, tomatoes pair well with a wide variety of vegetables including peppers, fennel, garlic, onions, greens, eggplant, squash, sweet potatoes, etc. 
Tomatoes are also a popular selection to preserve for use year round.  There are a variety of ways you can preserve tomatoes.  You could do something such as the tomato jam recipe in this week’s newsletter or make salsa and can it.  Of course you can also can tomato juice, diced tomatoes or make tomato sauce and can or freeze that as well.  I often don’t have a lot of time during tomato season for complicated preservation, so I tend to go the route of either freezing tomatoes whole or freezing tomato puree.  If you want to freeze tomatoes whole, simply wash them and cut out the core.  Pop them into a freezer bag and put them in the freezer.  When you thaw them, they will collapse and be juicy, but that makes them perfect for using in soups, chili, sauces, etc.  You can choose to either pull the skins off before you use them or I usually just blend them into the sauce.  For my quick method frozen sauce, I just chop up any extra tomatoes I have, skins and all, and cook them down on the stovetop in a wide pan.  Once they have cooked down, I cool them and puree them in the blender.  Pour the puree into freezer bags and lay them flat to freeze into “pillows.”  In the winter, when I have more time, I pull out the puree and turn it into spaghetti sauce, etc. 

Enjoy these fresh tomatoes while we have them.  If it looks like we’re going to get an early frost, we may have to pick green tomatoes and get creative with ways to use them!

Sweet & Hot Tomato Jam

Tomato Jam early stage.

Yield 1 quart
2 pounds ripe tomatoes
1 Tbsp honey
Zest and juice of ½ of a lemon
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced paper thin
1 ½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp red pepper flakes

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil.  Set up an ice bath near the stovetop.  Using a paring knife, score the tomatoes with an X on the bottom and carefully drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath.
  2. Peel the skin off the tomatoes then chop them and place in a medium saucepan with the honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, jalapeño, salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes.  Stir and bring to a simmer.  
  3. Clip a candy thermometer to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture registers 220°F (it should have a thick, syrupy consistency).  This may take 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  4. Put the jam in a jar or use immediately.  It will keep covered tightly in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe borrowed from America—Farm To Table, by Mario Batalia and Jim Webster.
The author offers this commentary:  “It takes a little time to make, but this is a condiment I will put on anything from Parmigiano-Reggiano, to an omelet, to fried chicken.  I must warn you about its addictive properties…So beware, and stock up.”
Tomato Jam cooked down.
Use this jam as a spread on a grilled chicken sandwich or grilled ham and cheese.  Spread cream cheese on a cracker or toast and top with a spoonful of the jam.  Use this jam as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, sweet potato fries, or any other fried goodie such as onion rings or fried zucchini.  Serve it alongside corn fritters or pancakes.

Tomato Seed Vinaigrette

Yield:  approximately 1 cup
3 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 ½ tsp dried
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 very ripe large tomatoes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, thyme, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes.  
  2. Halve the tomatoes crosswise and gently but firmly squeeze out the seeds and juices into the bowl with the vinegar mixture—be sure to get most if not all of them.  (Reserve the tomato flesh for another use).  
  3. Whisk together, then continue whisking while you drizzle in the oil to form a viscous emulsion.  Season to your liking with salt, pepper and/or a bit more vinegar as needed.

Recipe borrowed from America--- Farm To Table by Mario Batali and Jim Webster.

Oven Roasted Cherry/Grape Tomatoes

Yield:  About 1 cup
1 pint cherry, grape or other small tomatoes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp natural cane sugar or maple syrup
Fine-grain sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with an oven rack positioned in the top third of the oven.
  2. Slice each tomato in half and place in a large baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. 
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, and a scant ½ tsp salt.  Pour the mixture over the tomatoes and gently toss until everything is well coated.  Arrange the tomatoes cut-side up and roast for 45 to 60 minutes, until the tomatoes shrink a bit and start to caramelize around the edges.
  4. If you aren’t using them immediately, let the tomatoes cool, then scrape them into a clean glass jar along with any olive oil that was left in the dish.  Sometimes I top off the jar with an added splash of olive oil.  The tomatoes will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator.

This recipe was borrowed from Heidi Swanson’s book, Super Natural Every Day.  These oven roasted  tomatoes can be used in a wide variety of ways.  Serve them as a topping for pan-seared fish or chicken along with a handful of chopped fresh herbs.  Spread fresh goat cheese on a piece of toasted French bread and then top it off with these oven-roasted tomatoes and freshly ground black peppers.  Mix these tomatoes into a bowl of cooked pasta and garnish it with freshly grated cheese.  Use these to garnish soup, such as a creamy sweet corn chowder.

August 31, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Peppers

30 Aug 2017 20:06

Cooking With This Week's Box

This week we’re focused on peppers, both in our main newsletter article and as our featured vegetable of the week!  Depending upon the weather, we could have a few pepper-heavy CSA boxes coming up over the next few weeks.  There are so many ways to use peppers, but if you start to feel overwhelmed, remember they are super-easy to preserve.  Read this week’s vegetable feature on our blog for details about how to preserve peppers.  As for what to do with them this week, lets start with the Whole Wheat Udon Noodle Salad with Summer Vegetables and Sesame Marinade. (See Below)  I actually made this recipe for the first time during the winter using edamame, corn and peppers that I pulled out of the freezer!  This is an easy salad to make and incorporates several different vegetables from this week’s box including edamame, an ear or two of corn, and lots of sweet, ripe peppers and onions.  This recipe travels well, so this would be a great item to take to work for lunch.  Add some baked tofu if you’d like or eat it alongside seared salmon, grilled chicken or steak. 
I like to save the classical French preparation of ratatouille for late summer when sweet, red peppers are in their prime.  Alice Water’s Ratatouille, originally published in her book, The Art of Simple Food, may be found at Food52 where it earned status as a “Community Pick.” Pick up an eggplant from the choice box and use it along with your zucchini or scallop squash, some of your tomatoes and some of your sweet peppers. You can eat ratatouille on its own as a main dish along with some crusty French bread, or repurpose it into a spread for pizza or flatbread, toss it with pasta, etc.
If your box contains cauliflower this week, check out this recipe for Charred Cauliflower Quesadillas found at Smitten Kitchen.  This recipe was tested by our farmer’s market manager, Sarah, who gave it rave reviews!  If your box contains broccoli, check out these Broccoli Balls, the creation of Sarah Forte found at her blog, The Sprouted Kitchen.  This is a kid-approved recipe.  If you don’t believe me, check out her blog and see pictures of her two cute kiddos eating these easy, tasty and highly portable broccoli balls.   This might make a good item for school lunches or an after school snack.
Andrea Bemis just posted this recipe for Spiced Cantaloupe and Honey Lassi on her blog, Dishing Up the Dirt.  This is a refreshing, simple way to enjoy this week’s French Orange Melon, or freeze the melon this week and pull it out of the freezer after melon season has passed and use it to make this delicious drink. 
Sometimes you just need to go deep and do some frying at home.  I’m a sucker for a good onion ring and I guarantee these will surpass anything you might get at the county fair or off a food cart!  They’ve been on my mind for several weeks, so I figure it’s time to try this recipe for Southern Fried Sweet Onion Rings.  Eat them with a grilled burger, or Farmer Richard’s preferred sandwich at present, a BLT.  If you do go with a grilled burger, consider garnishing it with a homemade pickle.  One of our members shared this recipe in our Facebook Group for Homemade Pickles and cited them as “the best I’ve ever had!”  They added lots of dill, garlic and some slices of jalapeño peppers to their batch for extra flavor and some heat.  We may be nearing the end of cucumber season, so don’t wait to try this recipe.  Make it this week!
Yukina Savoy in the field
Yukina Savoy, the bunching green in this week’s box, is one of my favorite Asian Greens.  Right now it has a mild, balanced mustard flavor because of the mild summer we’ve had.  While you may cook this green, I think it’s in its prime for eating raw in a salad.  Put together your own Yukina Savoy Salad with Thai Peanut Dressing  and top it off with thinly sliced onion & sweet pepper, grated broccoli stem, and some of your small tomatoes cut in half.  Finish it with chopped peanuts or almonds and add some protein of your choosing if you’d like.

Finally, make a special after-school treat for the kids.  It’s hard to admit summer is coming to a close, but all good things must end.  Perhaps these Watermelon Popsicles will make the transition back into school a little more acceptable. 

Well folks, I’m not sure what next week’s box will contain.  We’re nearing the end of the season for cucumbers and zucchini.  We’re hoping to continue picking tomatoes for a few more weeks, but at the same time we’re starting to harvest some late summer/early fall crops like celeriac!  Richard dug some sweet potatoes earlier this week and they are looking really good, but need more time and some heat!  Enjoy the final few weeks of summer!
Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable (Fruit):  Peppers!

Peppers are classified as either sweet or hot and can vary in size from just a small pepper that resembles a large bean seed to a big, blocky bell pepper.  While it is common to eat green peppers, you’ll find the  flavor of a green pepper is more mild without a lot of sweetness.  This is because green peppers are immature.  All colored peppers start out as a green pepper.  As the fruit ripens on the plant, it makes a transition from green to its fully ripe color.  As this change occurs, natural sugars develop in the fruit making it not only sweet but also flavorful.  As a pepper ripens, the nutrient content also changes.  Colored peppers can contain as much as 60% greater levels of antioxidants and other nutrients including Vitamins C, A, E, K, B6 and folate. 
Poblano peppers in the field.
While most of the peppers we grow are sweet peppers, we do grow several hot varieties.  Our two main hot peppers are jalapeño and poblano peppers.  The heat of a hot pepper is mostly contained in the white pith and seed cavity within the pepper.  If you don’t have a tolerance for the heat, you can remove this portion of the pepper and significantly reduce its heat.  Two more words of caution when handling and cooking with hot peppers.  First, adjust the amount of hot peppers in the dish you are making to your liking.  Remember, you can always add a little more but you can’t take the heat away!  Second, it is advisable to wear plastic gloves and/or be aware of where you put your hands for awhile after you cut the pepper—as in don’t rub your eyes!
From a culinary perspective, peppers are versatile in use.  They can be eaten raw or cooked and pair well in dishes with other summer vegetables such as potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant.  Peppers mark the transition from late summer into early fall, and as such can dance on the line between summer and fall which means they also pair well with sweet potatoes, fall greens, and winter squash to name just a few. 
Roasting peppers on a rack placed
over the burners of a gas stove.
Peppers are part of many cultures around the world and, as a result, they are a key ingredient in some traditional dishes.  Ratatouilleis a classical French dish from the Provence region.  It is a summer “stew” made from onions, garlic, sweet peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and herbs.  It may be eaten as a dish on its own, served as a side dish, or re-purposed in many ways to become a topping for pizza, bruschetta, etc.  I learned about Shakshuka several years ago when I was researching peppers for the newsletter.  This is a dish thought to have originated in Tunisia, spreading through the Middle East and Northern Africa.  Tomatoes, onions and peppers create a sauce in the bottom of the pan and eggs are cracked on top.  The eggs are poached by the heat of the sauce.  This has become one of my favorite summer brunch or light dinner dishes.  Sweet peppers are also an important part of Spanish cuisine.  Sweet red peppers, along with tomatoes and onions, are paired to make sofrito.  This is used as the base for many other dishes, similar to a French mirepoix or the combination of garlic, ginger and onion in Chinese dishes.  There is also a Spanish sauce, Romesco sauce, made from sweet peppers and nuts (often almonds) that is thickened with bread and often served with seafood and fish.
Peppers are often roasted to not only develop their natural sweetness, but to also give them a smoky flavor.  You can roast any kind of pepper, but generally those with a thicker wall will yield better results.  There are several methods for roasting peppers---none of which are difficult.  Fire-roasted peppers can be charred over a direct flame, either on a grill or over a gas burner.  Just put the pepper directly over the flame either on a metal rack or just hold it with tongs.  Rotate the pepper until the outer skin is charred.  An alternative is to roast peppers under a broiler or just put them on a pan in a very hot oven.  This last method won’t give you as much of the smoky flavor, but still works great.  Once you’ve roasted the peppers on all sides, place them in a bowl while they are still hot and cover with plastic wrap so they steam as they cool.  Once they are cool enough to handle, pull out the cores and scrape the skin away from the flesh.  Now you can chop or slice the roasted peppers and add them to sauces, dips, salads, etc.
Homemade pizza in February, topped with
sweet peppers pulled out of the freezer.
Peppers are one of my favorite vegetables to preserve and use throughout the winter.  They can be frozen raw or roasted, either whole or cut down into smaller pieces, strips or diced.  When you want to use them, just pull them out of the freezer and use them as a pizza topping, put them on sandwiches, or add to soups, stews, sauces, etc.  You can also preserve peppers by dehydrating them.  For most peppers, you’ll want to cut them into strips or smaller pieces so they dehydrate faster.  Peppers with a thinner wall are best for dehydrating.
Orange Italian frying peppers in the field.
Please note, while many recipes call for “Red Bell Peppers,” any sweet pepper will generally do fine as a substitute.  Our Italian frying peppers (orange or red), orange Ukraine peppers and mini-sweet peppers are our main sweet varieties.  You’ll need to use your best judgement as to how many of whatever sweet pepper you are using is equal to one bell pepper.  Typically I substitute two Italian frying peppers or 2 medium to small orange Ukraine peppers for one red bell pepper. 

Udon Noodle Salad with Summer Vegetables & Sesame Marinade

Yield:  4 to 6 servings
1-2 ears sweet corn, husk and silks removed
1—8 ounce pack udon noodles
2 Tbsp unrefined, untoasted sesame oil or extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups thinly sliced sweet peppers
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
¾  cup cooked edamame beans (out of their pods)
1 tsp dried red chili flakes
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp tamari (or soy sauce), plus more to taste
¼ cup brown rice vinegar
3 Tbsp toasted black sesame seeds, plus more to garnish (may substitute white sesame seeds)
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
½ cup finely minced sweet onion or scallions
1 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Boil a large pot of water.  Add the corn on the cob and cook for 2 minutes.   Remove the ears from the pot, reserving the water;  set the corn aside to cool.  Use a strainer to remove any stray corn silk from the boiling water.  Add udon noodles and cook according to directions on package or until tender.  Drain and rinse the noodles under cold running water;  set aside to drain well.
  2. Warm the unrefined sesame oil or olive oil in a wide skillet (with a lid) over medium heat.  Add the peppers and saute for 10 minutes;  stir in ½ tsp salt, reduce heat to low, cover skillet, and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid;  raise heat to medium;  and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes more or until peppers are cooked through and beginning to brown.  Stir in edamame and chili flakes.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Make the marinade:  Add garlic, tamari, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame seeds to a salad bowl and whisk to combine.  Drizzle in toasted sesame oil and whisk again.  Add noodles;  toss until evenly coated with marinade.  Cut corn off cobs (you’ll need about ¾ cup) and add to noodles along with the pepper mixture, onions, and cilantro.  Mix well to combine.  Season to taste with extra tamari or sea salt.  Sprinkle with additional black sesame seeds and serve at room temperature.

Note:  This recipe was adapted from Amy Chaplin’s cookbook, At Home In the Whole Food Kitchen.  While this salad is delicious to make in the height of the summer vegetable season, you can also make it in the winter.  Thinly slice peppers and freeze them, raw.  Cook the corn, cut it off the cob and freeze the kernels.  Boil a pound of edamame pods and then remove the beans.  Pop those in the freezer too.  In the middle of the winter when you’re missing the summer heat, pull out your frozen vegetables and make this salad again!  Serve this on its own as a main dish item or as a side dish along with chicken, fish, tempeh or another protein of your choosing.

Marinated Roasted Red Peppers with Chickpeas

Roasted peppers, cooled and ready
to remove the charred skin.
Yield:  4 servings as a side dish or small plate
3-4  red bell peppers, stems, seeds, and ribs removed
1 ½ tsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 pinches of fine sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp raisins
Handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 ½ ounces feta cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Rub the peppers with the coconut oil and place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.  Roast until blistered and blackened in a few places, 35 to 40 minutes.  Remove the peppers from the baking sheet, place them in a bowl, and quickly cover it with plastic wrap to steam the peppers, which makes the skin very easy to remove.  When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skins.
  2. While the peppers are roasting, in a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Mince the raisins and chop the parsley.
  3. Tear or slice the skinned roasted peppers into large pieces and place them in the bowl with the dressing.  Add the chickpeas, toss to coat, and let marinate for about 15 minutes.
  4. Divide the mixture evenly among 4 plates.  Sprinkle with the minced raisins and parsley and crumble the feta over top.  Serve immediately.

Author’s note:  Make this a main dish by serving it over cooked quinoa.
Recipe borrowed from Naturally Nourished, by Sarah Britton.

Learning To Farm Better, Lessons From The Pepper Field

30 Aug 2017 19:31

by Farmer Richard and Chef Andrea

When we start to see more color in the pepper field, we know we’re approaching a transition point in the season.  This usually happens towards the end of August or first part of September.  The days are getting shorter, nights are a bit more cool, and we start thinking about when the first frost might nip us. While we’re still harvesting many summer vegetables, we’re also starting to move into fall vegetables such as celeriac and winter squash.  In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, there are peppers.  They won’t take a direct frost, but we can cover them to protect them from frost damage or we can pick them really hard before the first frost and just hold them for a bit in storage.  Sometimes, after the first frost, we get lucky and have a few more weeks of warm weather which pushes any green peppers along so we can continue harvesting into the end of September or first of October!  From a culinary perspective, peppers handle the seasonal transition well.  They pair well with summer vegetables, but they also play nicely with fall and winter vegetables too.  They really do play an important part in our progression through the seasons and are a reliable mainstay in our Midwestern diets.
Our winter crew does a thorough,
top to bottom cleaning of our
greenhouses at the beginning of each year.
Peppers have a long history at Harmony Valley Farm.  Over the years we’ve grown a lot of different types, both hot and sweet.  Our pepper selection has evolved over the years, partly because of changes in what our customers want, but also as a result of changes within the seed industry and as we learn more about growing them.  In fact, peppers have taught us some very valuable farming lessons over the years.  Some years ago, we discovered what bacterial leaf spot (BLS) is and how devastating it can be when it infects your crop.  We thought we were carrying over the disease from one year to the next in our greenhouse.  We changed our greenhouse set-up protocol to include a more extensive cleaning process including sterilizing the inside of the greenhouse, benches, equipment, etc before we started planting.  We also started sterilizing all of our greenhouse flats with hopes that if the bacteria was living on any of these surfaces, we could kill it and stop the cycle.  Unfortunately, we still had the BLS and were still losing pepper crops as a result!  We still thought the disease might be being carried over in the greenhouse, so we partnered with a new grower who had just built a new greenhouse, had new flats, etc.  He agreed to grow our pepper transplants for us one year in his new house that had never seen a pepper plant.  Well, low and behold we still had the disease.  Fortunately, we were able to detect that the disease was on one specific pepper, the Gypsy pepper.  This is how we learned that the disease was seed borne, came to us on the surface of the seed and then spread throughout our pepper field.  We lost our pepper crops for at least three years while we were battling BLS.  We still employ very thorough cleaning and sterilizing procedures every year when we set up our greenhouses.  While this may not have made a difference with this disease, it is a good practice that is valuable for preventing other plant diseases so we chose to continue the practice.  We also learned about the importance of carefully selecting pepper varieties, specifically ones that have disease resistance and are tested for BLS to guarantee there is no disease present on the seed coat.  Additionally, we started sterilizing seeds that have the potential to carry seed borne disease.  This is done through a treatment involving hot water only and, while not always 100% reliable, is beneficial.
A field of young pepper plants. Notice the reflective
plastic mulch covering their raised beds!
Remember the corn earworm Richard wrote about in last week’s newsletter about the challenges of growing corn?  Well, that little pest is attracted to peppers as well.  The larvae burrow into the pepper and feed on the flesh.  One of the means we’ve found to deter this pest in peppers is by changing our planting system.  We now plant our peppers on raised beds covered with a reflective plastic mulch.  The reflection helps to deter and confuse the moth that lays the eggs on the peppers.  With this system, we also use buried drip tape that helps us deliver water and nutrients as needed at different stages of growth.  While this is a more costly system, the results have been good for us and we’ve had some outstanding pepper crops over the years! 
This orange Ukraine plant is loaded with immature peppers
that will turn bright orange-red in color when fully ripe.
Ripe orange Ukraine peppers ready to be picked.

Peppers have also taught us a thing or two about saving seeds and developing varieties.  The Orange Ukraine peppers in your box this week are grown from seed we’ve been saving since the mid to late 90’s.  Richard used to work on the board of directors for the Michael Fields Institute, an organization that supports organic agriculture and research.  The director of that organization at that time visited the Ukraine, saw this pepper and liked it.  He brought some of the seed back and shared it with Ruth Zinniker, a biodynamic grower in East Troy, Wisconsin, who then shared it with Richard.  Richard has grown it ever since, being careful to always keep some of the previous year’s seed as well as saving new seed every year.  One year Ruth had a crop failure and didn’t have any seed to save for the following year, so Richard gave some seed back to her so she could keep growing it.  To our knowledge, we are the only two growers in this country who have grown this pepper!  We like this variety because it produces very heavily and the plants are pretty resistant to many diseases.  The fruit is similar to a bell pepper, except it is smaller with a pointy end instead of a blocky bottom.  When ripe, the fruit is more orange-red than a red bell pepper, but is equally as sweet if not more.  This fruit also has a thick wall which makes it a good choice for roasting! 

We save our own seed for our mini-sweet peppers.
There are usually only 4-6 seeds in each pepper!
This is not the only pepper variety we save seeds from.  It’s probably been at least 15 years or so since we started saving our own seed for mini-sweet peppers.  One of our longtime CSA members, David, was helping us out at a CSA fair in Madison in early March and he told us about this little sweet pepper from Mexico that they were selling at the Willy Street Co-Op.  He pegged it as the next hot thing in the vegetable world and encouraged us to check it out and see if we could grow it.  On his way home from Madison that day, Richard stopped at the Willy Street Co-op and bought a package.  When he got home he extracted all the seeds (which is not that many when you’re talking about this pepper) and planted them in the greenhouse.  It took several years to build up the seed stock to the point where he had enough seed to grow this pepper in volume.  In the early days, this pepper was only available out of Mexico in the winter months.  When we first started growing it, we were selling large volumes both in our region as well as shipping pallets to Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and even California!   The commercial seed company picked up on this vegetable’s success eventually and one company released seed for a variety called “Yummy.”  We bought some seed and grew it side-by-side with our mini-sweet pepper.  We thought it was pretty similar until we tasted it.  The difference in flavor was dramatic!  Our variety was by far a superior tasting pepper and we still consider it the best tasting and sweetest pepper we grow.  Despite the painstaking task of extracting just a few seeds from each pepper, we decided to continue to save our own seed and have not bought another commercially produced snack pepper seed since then.  The downside of this story, at least for us, is that the mini -sweet pepper market is now saturated since more growers are now growing the commercial varieties.  Over the past few years many of our markets have faded and we’ve had to cut back on the size of our planting.  We used to get a premium price for our mini-sweet peppers, but now that there are so many peppers on the market, the price is more volatile and can be pretty low at some points in the season.  Regardless of these changes in the marketplace, we continue to grow our original variety for our CSA members and our wholesale partners that know our pepper!
HVF pepper field circa 2012: One of the
most beautiful pepper fields in HVF history!
Yes, peppers have definitely taught us a lot over the years.  We continue to learn more lessons from this crop from year to year and it continues to be one of our favorite crops to grow.  This year has been a somewhat challenging year for our pepper field.  The plants were transplanted in the field when it was still pretty cool, but they did ok, put down roots and started to grow.  The field was looking pretty good when we had that rain event the end of July.  Unfortunately the low end of the field died out because the plants were sitting in standing water for too long.  The drainage for this field got backed up because of the silt that washed into an adjacent field and backed everything up.  Unfortunately we lost some of our hot peppers as well as some sweet peppers.  The remainder of the field is still looking good and producing well.  We have started to see some spots forming on some fruit, specifically the red Italian frying peppers.  This is not uncommon to see in a wet year and/or when peppers are fully ripe.  The pepper might look just fine when we put it in your box, but a spot could start to form after you get it.  Watch your peppers closely and if you see this starting to happen, cut the spot away and eat the remainder of the pepper as soon as possible! 
We are hoping to have several more weeks of peppers to include in your boxes, however if this cool weather continues it is highly likely the first frost will come soon.  We’re preparing to lay out remay (field blankets) to protect peppers as well as other vulnerable crops such as eggplant and basil from frost damage.   If we’re lucky, the pepper field will still be alive and well at our Fall Harvest Party coming up soon on September 24.  This is usually one of our favorite stops along the field tour as members get to pick and eat as much as you want!  Hope to see you there!
Children of all ages enjoy picking
peppers at our fall Harvest Party!

Where's the Corn??!?!

23 Aug 2017 21:42

By Farmer Richard

Before and after cultivating pictures. 
We have planted four different plantings of sweet corn, with the first on April 28.  With each planting we plant two different varieties of corn, each with different maturity dates so we can get two weeks of corn from each planting for a total harvest window of eight weeks!  Unfortunately, things don’t always work out as planned.  Corn needs warm soil to germinate and if you think back to April, it was a cold, wet spring.  We picked a warm day, 65°F, when the forecast was for a second warm, dry day to follow.   We planted varieties with good cold soil vigor and only planted the seeds about ½ inch deep with hopes that the sun would warm the top of the soil enough to get the seeds going.  The first 24 hours are the most important to start the germination process.  One variety germinated ok, the second variety produced very few sprouts and wasn’t enough of a crop to keep.  Well, the first planting didn’t go so well, so the second time out, still cool, we replanted part of the ground we had planted the first time and, again, planted shallow.  This time it turned dry and the seed germinated unevenly over the course of two weeks after a small rain.  Ok, well that’s better than nothing, but then we had a wet period that prevented cultivation and weeds became a problem!  Thankfully, the third planting came up nicely and we had dry weather to cultivate it, so no weeds!  We followed this one with our fourth and final planting.  We decided to make it a larger one to try to make up for the poor early ones.  Even though the first two plantings weren’t that great, we chose to fence them anyway to keep the critters out.  So then what happened?  Well, July 19th happened and we had a severe weather event that sent water running across the middle of the field and took out the fence and much of the corn. 
After the rain, there wasn’t much left to do except clean up the fence.  We left the corn, fully exposed, for the raccoons as a sort of peace offering that they could have as much as they wanted from this field, but please stay out of the later plantings!  The last two plantings that are in a different field looked good initially, but after 8 plus inches of rain the plants started to yellow.  The excessive moisture rotted the main tap root leaving only shallow side roots, collaterals, supporting the plants!  The dry end of the field fared a little better and will produce some ears this week.  The remainder of the field is delayed and the quality of the corn is questionable as the ears haven’t filled out properly.  Nonetheless, we put up a 7-foot high fence with an electric tape running around the base of it.  The height of the fence will deter the deer and the low electric tape will keep the raccoons and other short, 4-legged creatures out of the field.  We also put up some owl and hawk decoys as well as bird scare eye balloons and reflective streamers to deter the birds.  Aside from playing some music and having a dance party, I’m not sure what else we can do!  Why have we gone to such extensive measures to protect our corn?  Well, it’s because we have a reputation amongst our local wildlife for having excellent sweet corn.  Unfortunately this is information that is passed on from generation to generation and thus, it is a never-ending, yet peaceful battle for us.
So our last field of corn is protected with all the bells and whistles to protect it from raccoons, deer, birds, and even bears!   But wait, there’s one more pest.   It’s the dreaded corn earworm!!  We monitor corn earworm presence by putting up a pheromone trap in the field to attract the corn earworm moths.   They migrate from the south and only arrive later in the season.  The female moths lay eggs on the new silk on the ears of corn and then 4-5 days later the eggs hatch and a worm emerges.  Conveniently, they are in perfect position to infiltrate the ear in their search for something to eat.  It is very difficult to combat this pest with any type of spray because you only have a small 2-day window of opportunity to kill the worm after it hatches and before it enters the ear of corn.  Once it’s in the ear, there’s nothing else that can be done.  So I use this pheromone trap to help me monitor the presence of the moths so we can try to time our spray applications with the best chance of killing the newly hatched worms.  I hadn’t found any moths up until last week when I found 12 corn earworm moths in the trap in one night!  That is the most I’ve ever caught in 40 years of using pheromone traps!  So where does that leave our last and best hope for sweet corn?  Only time will tell.

There was a time when huge flocks of bats emerging from caves in the south intercepted the moth migration and devastated their numbers.  Any moths that did make it to our region would be taken care of by our local bat populations.  Sadly, bat populations are being decimated by “white nose syndrome” brought on by a compromised immune system from eating insects that are contaminated with neonicotinoid insecticides used extensively in modern, conventional agriculture.  This leaves us facing a potentially severe earworm invasion!  We do have two organically approved insecticides that we can use, BT (bacillus thuringiensis) and Entrust.  Alejandro has been very diligent working late on Saturday night to time the application just right and try to coat the silks and infect the worms before they enter the ear.  Neither of these insecticides are systemic.  Conventional growers use systemic insecticides, such as neonicotinoids and GMO traits, that poison all parts of the corn plant thereby killing the earworm no matter where it is on the plant or in the ear.  But I don’t want that in my ear of corn!  I do not care to eat systemically poisoned corn!  Our experience is that it is impossible to kill every earworm with organic sprays.  We are doing our best, but if you find a worm on the tip of the corn in a future week, we hope you will cut off the tip and enjoy the remainder of the ear which I guarantee will be delicious.  It may be the best corn you have ever eaten and will be the best we can do for this year!
Well, battling corn critters is not the only thing we’ve been doing around the farm, so I’d like to share a few other farm and crop updates.  Overall it has been a cool summer!  Beautiful weather to work in with highs around 75°F and just a few days creeping into the 80’s, but nothing higher than that and cool nights dipping down to 50-60°F.  The eggplant has done well and the peppers look great and are ripening to orange and red.  The tomatoes, on the other hand, have been slow to ripen and the second planting may not ripen at all before we see the first fall frost!  Yes, we are close to the first fall frost which is still predicted for around September 15.  It’s been a few years since we’ve picked green tomatoes before a frost, but this just might be the year.  Don’t worry, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Fried green tomato sandwiches are delicious!
Carnival Squash still on the vine.
The sweet potatoes look very good and have set on many tubers that just need some heat to “size-up.”  The jicama also has some nice roots and could be a good crop if the moisture stays steady to avoid growth cracks!  We will likely be harvesting some of the winter squash before too long, so we’ve been working diligently to get all of the onions and shallots trimmed and put into the cooler for long term storage so we can use our greenhouses for the squash! 

Salad Mix planting
While many farmers are done planting, we still have several more weeks of plantings remaining.  Earlier this week we beat the rain to do our final planting of fall turnips and daikon radish as well as our weekly plantings which included our first planting of lettuce for fall salad mix!  In addition to harvest, planting, etc, we are working on removing trees and repairing a major drainage ditch that dumped silt and rock onto one of our fields during the weather event at the end of July.  It’s quite an undertaking, but I think we’re making progress and we’re hopeful it will keep the water contained should we have another big weather event in the future.  
We believe climate change is real, so we’re not wondering “If” it will happen again but rather we are preparing for when it happens again!  We may not see the extended warm fall we have seen for several years, but we will do our best to respond to the extremes, both hot and cold!  We hope you will be understanding as crops continue to come in.  Like it or not, we’re in this together and these are the realities of farming this year.  Despite the challenges, we are reminded every day of the bounty of food our resilient fields continue to produce.  We are truly blessed and grateful for the opportunity to share this summer bounty of vegetables with you this week.   

August 24, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Tomatillos

23 Aug 2017 21:42

Cooking With This Week's Box

This week’s box is packed full, so lets dive in and start cooking.  As usual, we’ll start with this week’s featured vegetable, tomatillos.  If you’re feeling like making a traditional tomatillo salsa this week, go right ahead.  The purple tomatillos in particular make a gorgeous salsa, raw or cooked.  If you’re looking for something a little different, try the Roasted Tomatillos & Chickpea Curry recipe in this week’s newsletter (see below).  This is a very easy dish to make, leftovers are even better than the first day, and it’s an easily adaptable recipe.  You can keep it simple with just the chickpeas, or add some thinly sliced chicken breast to the mix.  Serve this dish with slices of fresh, salted cucumbers and diced tomatoes. 
This week I came across this recipe for One Pot Pasta for Late Summer   This recipe really does use one pot and celebrates the simplicity of summer cooking, which somehow always comes around to a dish containing pasta and fresh tomatoes!  This recipe includes several items in your box including the pint of small tomatoes, some of your zucchini, and an onion.  You’ll also need to snip a few herbs from your herb garden to round out this dish which will stand on its own, or serve it alongside a piece of sautéed fish or chicken. 
While we’re talking about noodles, I should mention that this week’s yukina savoy can stand in for bok choi in most recipes, including Melissa Clark’s recipe for Spicy Ginger Pork Noodles with Bok Choi which we featured in our June 2016 newsletter.  Use the entire bunch of yukina savoy in place of the bok choi in this recipe.  This is one of my favorite recipes for several reasons including 1) it’s very easy to make 2) leftovers are equally delicious 3) it’s always a  crowd pleaser—who can go wrong with noodles?!
I keep thinking we’re at the end of green bean season, and then Richard finds more green beans!  That’s ok though, they’ve been really good and, sadly, this really is the last week for them.  I’m going to try this recipe for Ginger & Garlic Green Beans.   This recipe is written for a 2 pound quantity of green beans.  Unless you have more  beans lingering from last week’s box or have some from your own garden to supplement this week’s half pound bag, you’ll need to either cut this recipe down or substitute some other vegetables in place of some of the beans.  I’m going to use this week’s broccoli (stems and florets) along with the green beans and smother them both in garlic and ginger.  This dish will go great alongside this recipe for Chicken Teriyaki featured at NYTimes Cooking. Serve the chicken over steamed rice, and make sure you make enough so you have plenty of leftover rice to make Fried Rice with Edamame later in the week.  There’s a simple recipe featured in our August 2015 newsletter.  This recipe calls for a half pound of edamame and some corn.  Since we don’t have corn this week, just double the amount of edamame in this recipe.  You have about one pound of edamame in your box, so this will work out perfectly.  You can use ground pork, as the recipe calls for, or you can leave the pork out and have a vegetarian version.     I love fresh edamame in fried rice and I love how fast it is to make fried rice!  You’ll have dinner on the table in no time!
This week’s Italian frying peppers are going to find their home on an Italian Sausage Sandwich with Spicy Grilled Peppers and Fennel-Onion Mustard.  As long as you have the grill fired up to make the parts and pieces of this sandwich, you might as well enjoy this meal out on the patio taking in some summer night air. This is a substantial sandwich, so you won’t need to serve anything more than some fresh tomato slices to go along with it.  Finish off this meal with the French Orange Melon or some chunks of watermelon for dessert!  Not sure how to cut up a watermelon?  Check out this video at gimmesomeoven.com.  The author, Ali, shows you how to cut a watermelon in several different ways! 
What shall we do with this week’s cucumbers?  Perhaps we should make Cucumber Mojitos!  Summer won’t last forever, so make a drink to enjoy as you grill out on the patio.   You can make it with or without rum, your choice.
Well, we’ve almost finished eating through this week’s box.  The final little bit of zucchini, onions, garlic and the green bell pepper will go into a saute pan and be used in a morning scramble that will become a Breakfast Burrito when wrapped up in a tortilla along with some fresh tomato salsa. I don’t have a recipe for this, so feel free to wing it and customize your scramble to match whatever little bits and pieces of vegetables and other ingredients you have lingering in your refrigerator. 

This brings us to the end of another week’s CSA box.  If you are wondering where the sweet corn is this week, please take a minute to read Farmer Richard’s newsletter article which will answer your question.  I’ll see you back here next week for more summer recipe ideas.  Next week’s box should have some colored sweet peppers in it as well as some poblano peppers, which is one of my favorite peppers.  Thankfully I have a whole week to figure out how I’ll incorporate them into next week’s meals.  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Tomatillos

Tomatillos are an interesting “vegetable,” which are technically a fruit.  Despite the fact that they are often referred to as a “green tomato,” they are a bit different.  Tomatillos grow on plants that are similar to a tomato plant, but they are usually larger and have more of a wild, jungle-like appearance.  Their main stem is thick and sometimes resembles a small tree trunk! The plants can grow to be over seven feet tall, so we put stakes in between and tie the plants to them progressively as they grow in order to keep the plant upright and the fruit off the ground.  Tomatillos grow from pretty little yellow blossoms which are a favorite food source for bumble bees and other pollinator creatures.  The fruit is hidden inside a husk that looks like a little paper lantern.  You know the tomatillo is ready to pick when it fills the husk completely.  While most tomatillos are green, this year we’re growing a heirloom purple variety that, when fully ripe, is dark purple on the outside and light purple inside!
Tomatillos may be eaten raw or cooked and have a mild, tangy flavor that is slightly fruity.   Purple tomatillos are more fruity and sweet than green tomatillos.  When raw, tomatillos are firm with a dense flesh.  Once cooked, tomatillos soften and break apart becoming more like sauce.  They have a lot of natural pectin which is a natural thickener.  The outer husk is not edible, so this needs to be removed before you use them.  The fruit inside might feel a little sticky, which is normal.  Just give them a quick rinse and you’re ready to go. 
One of the most familiar ways to use tomatillos is in making salsa!  Tomatillo salsa may be prepared with all raw vegetables which will give you a fresh, chunky salsa.  The alternative is to cook the tomatillos on the stovetop with a little water before blending the softened, cooked tomatillos with the other salsa ingredients.  If you cook the tomatillos first, you’ll get a more smooth salsa.   Roasting tomatillos along with the other salsa ingredients such as onions, garlic, peppers and even limes cut in half will further develop the flavors of these ingredients giving you yet another version of tomatillo salsa.  You can roast the vegetables over an open flame on a grill or gas burner on your stove or put them in the oven under the broiler so you get that nice charred exterior.  Tomatillo salsa is delicious when simply served as a snack or appetizer along with tortilla chips, but it can also be used to top off tacos, quesadillas, make enchiladas, or served alongside your morning eggs or stirred into a bowl of black beans and/or rice.
Cooked purple tomatillo salsa (left) and
fresh purple tomatillo salsa (right)
Salsa is not the only thing you can do with a tomatillo.  There are many other interesting ways to take advantage of their unique tang and natural pectin.  The tanginess of tomatillos pairs very well with pork and can make a delicious Pork and Tomatillo Stew  which is thickened by the tomatillo.  They can also be used to make sauces for chicken and bean dishes, blend them into guacamole, or incorporate them into soups such as the Chilled Buttermilk and Tomatillo Soupwe featured in a past newsletter.  They can make a delicious fresh vegetable salsa or salad when combined with fresh tomatoes, corn, edamame, onions, garlic, sweet and/or hot peppers and fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsley or basil.  Purple tomatillos are one of just a few purple vegetables that actually retain their purple color when cooked.  In fact the color of a cooked purple tomatillo is a stunning bright purple that is just gorgeous!
Tomatillos are best stored at room temperature until you are ready to use them, however it’s best to use them within a week.  They are also very easy to preserve for use in the off-season.  One option is to make salsa now and either can or freeze it.  If you don’t have time to make salsa or just want to have tomatillos available in the off-season for other uses, you can freeze tomatillos whole and raw.  Simply remove the outer husk, wash and dry the fruit.  Put them in a freezer bag and pop them into the freezer.  They don’t retain their firm texture after freezing, so don’t be surprised if they are soft when you thaw them.  If you are using them to make a cooked salsa or some other cooked preparation, the texture issue isn’t an issue.  If you are interested in purchasing a larger quantity of tomatillos to preserve, watch your email for a special produce plus offer within the next few weeks.  Have fun and enjoy this unique selection!

Oven-Fried Tomatillos

Yield:  4 servings

Olive oil cooking spray
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed and cut into ½-inch thick slices
¼ tsp salt 
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Creole or Cajun seasoning (or other spice blend to your liking)
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup mayonnaise

  1. Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.  
  2. Sprinkle tomatillo slices with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  3. Combine the flour, garlic powder and seasoning blend of your choosing in a shallow dish.  Crack the eggs into a separate dish and lightly beat the eggs.  Put the breadcrumbs in a third dish.  Dredge the tomatillos in the flour mixture, dip in the egg and then coat both sides with breadcrumbs.  Place the breaded tomatillo slices on a backing sheet with a rack.  Generously coat the slices with cooking spray.  
  4. Bake the tomatillos for about 8 minutes or until the top side is crispy.  Turn the slices over and spray the second side with cooking spray.  Return the tomatillos to the oven and bake an additional 6 minutes or until the second side is also crispy.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the ketchup and mayonnaise in a small bowl.  Serve the tomatillos warm with the dipping sauce.  The outside of the slices will be crispy and the inside will be warm and soft.
Recipe adapted from EatingWell.com.

Roasted Tomatillo and Chickpea Curry

Yield:  4 servings
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed
1 poblano pepper or jalapeño pepper
1-2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup cilantro (handful of fresh leaves & stems)
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 Tbsp fresh oregano
1 tsp salt

Chickpea Curry
⅓ cup coconut milk, plus more to taste
1—16 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste

  1. Roast the poblano or jalapeño pepper and tomatillos directly on an open flame either on your stovetop or on a grill.  If you don’t have a gas range, you can also roast the vegetables under the broiler until nicely charred and soft.  Once the pepper is cool enough to handle, scrape the skin off of the pepper and remove the seeds.  
  2. Put the tomatillos, poblano or jalapeno (you may want to start with just half of a jalapeno and add more later if you want more heat), and the remaining salsa ingredients in a food processor.  Process everything to a smooth sauce consistency.  Pour the salsa into a bowl and set aside.  You should have about one cup of roasted tomatillo salsa.
  3. Put ½ cup of chickpeas into the food processor and pulse it a few times to mash them.  Set aside.
  4. Heat a saute pan over medium heat.  Add 1-2 tsp olive oil, then add the curry powder and stir it into the oil.  Let it sizzle in the oil for about 30 seconds.  It should be very aromatic.  Add ½ of the tomatillo salsa and cook for about two minutes.
  5. Next, add the mashed chickpeas, the remaining whole chickpeas, the remainder of the salsa, and ⅓ cup coconut milk.  Mix well and bring the mixture to a gentle boil.  Reduce the heat and continue to simmer the curry until it thickens a bit (5-7 minutes).  If it gets too thick you can thin it with a little water.  Taste and adjust the sauce to your liking by adding more coconut milk, salt, pepper and/or a squeeze of lime juice.  
  6. Serve over rice or quinoa with lime wedges on the side.

Recipe adapted from www.chefdehome.com.

Chef Andrea’s serving suggestions and variations:  You can make this dish as spicy or as mild as you’d like.  Sliced, salted cucumbers are a nice accompaniment for the dish that helps cool off the curry.  While this dish is good made per the recipe, I think it would also be good served with fresh, diced tomatoes on top or with the addition of chicken.  

Your CSA Box - You CAN Take It With You!

16 Aug 2017 21:19

by Chef Andrea and Friends!

 Sous Chef Bob preparing a roadside meal
As we near the end of summer, some of you may be squeezing in some of the last vacation days before we move into fall, return to school, etc.  While it’s fun to go away, it’s the peak of CSA vegetable season and that means finding another home for your precious CSA vegetables!  The idea for this newsletter came out of conversation with one of our longtime CSA families in Madison, Carol Wilson and Bob Philbin.  Here’s what Carol had to say “Over the years we’ve learned that taking our veggies with us on our trips means several days of healthy and good eating even while on the road or in the campsite!  We have cooked with HVF veggies along the Colorado River and even carried some in our backpacks into the Havasu Canyon!”  So this week I thought we’d toss out some suggestions for ways you can incorporate your CSA vegetables into your travels throughout the season.  In addition to travel for pleasure, many of you may travel for work.  Whether your travels take you away for one day or several days, there are things you can do to incorporate your CSA vegetables into your trips.  Yes, it does take a little forethought and planning, but there are some simple suggestions we’d like to offer for you to consider and adapt to your own needs. 
You can reap some important benefits from taking your own vegetables with you.  Sometimes there is limited access to food, not to mention healthy options and/or organic options.  Traveling can be hard on a body, especially if you are traveling a long distance, are taking public transportation, or have long days of driving.  It’s important to do what you can to keep your immune system strong so you feel good and can enjoy your travels.  The fuel you put in your body is one of the most important factors, so not something to be overlooked.  You can also save money by taking your own food with you.  Roadside food, airport restaurants and snack bars, etc are not cheap and often generate a lot of unnecessary trash from the packaging.  You’ve already paid for your CSA vegetables, so take them with you and spend your money on other things you want to enjoy such as adventures once you arrive at your final destination! 
Cutting mat for preparing vegetables roadside
To get started, I want to share a few strategies Carol and Bob offered from their experiences.  “Our primary strategy is to cook up a one-pot concoction. (Chef Andrea named this Summer Farmer Skillet Dinner in a previous newsletter and this dish uses the same principles, but skips the oven part.)  Besides the veggies, you will need a good knife (or two, if you have a sous chef) and a couple of cutting mats.  A basic Coleman stove and a decent skillet will work for most things.  We bring a couple of cans of beans and some canned/bagged meat or fish to add to the skillet and we always include salt, pepper, and a seasoning mixture we make at home.  Our mixture generally includes garlic powder, Aleppo pepper, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and thyme, but make a mixture that pleases your palate. When we are leaving for a trip, we pick up our box very early at the Farmers’ Market and then make a trip around the market to add to our collection of fresh produce.  We make sure to have a variety of fruits and veggies to snack on in the car and for quick lunches.  We add in some McCluskey’s cheese curds and maybe a bakery item or two and we hit the road.  If there are any items in the HVF box that would be too difficult to cook we leave them in the swap box for a lucky someone.” 
Carol goes on to say, “Using the most perishable items first is important.  Greens don’t hold up as well in a cooler as in a refrigerator so we are sure to use them the first day or two whereas carrots, beans, cauliflower, and cabbage all last several days in the cooler.  I know that I feel better when I eat lots of organic produce and a road trip doesn’t HAVE to mean fast food.  With a little planning ahead, you CAN take your HVF vegetables with you!”
Sous Chef Bob cooking at Campsite with HVF arugula
Carol brings up several important points to make your travel adventures a success.  First, choose to take vegetables with you that are durable and will hold up under your travel conditions.  If you are able to take a cooler with you, you may have a wider variety of options.  Root vegetables, cabbage, onions, garlic and warm weather loving vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes and zucchini all hold up pretty well and would even be fine for shorter periods of time out of a cooler.  You don’t want to subject them to temperatures that are too hot, but they would travel fine in the back of your car if you have a little A/C on or even in a suitcase if you’re flying!  I once took half a suitcase of carrots, sweet potatoes and black radishes home to Indiana for Christmas, upon request from my family. They would also be fine overnight at room temperature in a hotel or the like. 
If you know you aren’t going to be able to use something on your trip or eat it before you leave, the SWAP box is a great option.  Leave it at your CSA site so someone else can make use of it and save yourself the trouble of composting it when you get home.  Take a reasonable amount of food with you and not more than you think you’ll be able to eat or you may find you have to discard it along the way.  For example, when Richard and I travel for our winter get-away, we know we’re going to have a long day of air travel, but once we reach our destination we’ll have access to good, healthy food options.  We pack enough food to get us to our destination and eat our final bites before we get off the airplane.  Since we’re traveling in the winter we often take carrot sticks and slices of beauty heart radishes that we eat with nut butter or sliced cheese.  We eat the cheese early in the day and save the nut butter for later since it can withstand room temperature better.  There are some vegetables that are super-easy to take with you for snacks, etc.  Sugar snap peas, mini-sweet peppers, and boiled edamame are some great options.  Slices of kohlrabi, red radishes, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, etc are delicious on their own or you could add a little salt and/or a dip or dressing if you have that option.
Other vegetable-centric ideas that could fit into your travel adventures include fresh vegetable salsa to eat with chips or other vegetables, simple sandwiches built with a protein (cheese, meat, hummus, nutbutter, etc) and lots of sliced vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc), and hearty salads that you can make in advance such as a carrot salad with a light vinaigrette or a kale salad that will hold up ok with limited refrigeration. You’ll have to adapt your selections to your mode of travel, accommodations, cooking facilities along the way, etc. 

If you are camping and have the ability to cook, you can implement some of Carol’s suggestions or here’s an idea from another member.  “We love campfire Fajitas when we camp and it has become my ‘Signature dish’ when we go with a group of friends, and they request them specifically each year. The fajita mix is just the store bought package kind that you mix with water so nothing fancy. I chop up my peppers and onions at home and store them in a bag in the cooler. We cook them in a grill basket over our campfire so they get nice and smoky flavored. I typically cook the chicken on our camp stove (just a bit more reliable for something a bit more sensitive!), and then we combine them all together and serve. If you're lucky enough to get a jalapeño, have extra onion, and some tomatoes, you could mix up some killer pico to go with it!” 
Another member who had to travel a lot for work last year offered these suggestions:  “I think it’s helpful to do some advance cleaning, trimming, taking off tougher skin, etc (eg kohlrabi, can be made into a bald "ball", for use later). Some veggies are way more durable than I gave them credit for and as long as they're not in a super warm place, are a low food safety risk. I found that some of these vegetables travel well in a suit case: zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, kohlrabi, carrot, kale, shallots, some onions, smaller snack peppers, spaghetti squash, for starters.  Also, I began cooking some of my meals in my hotel room microwave. Some places like Ann Arbor, Michigan were so interesting that I just ate out every night. For other smaller towns....options were too chain restaurant heavy for me.  I never knew how SUPERB an impromptu  microwave ‘baba ghanoush’ could be--eggplant cut lengthwise, covered with slightly moistened paper towel, until softened as desired, then mushed up with spoon or fork, sprinkled with olive oil and salt/spices, or even just salt alone. I might have brought a small amount of tahini with me once.”
Carol eating Sweet Sarah cantaloupe!
With a little creativity and planning there are many ways to incorporate your CSA vegetables into your travels.  As you travel you may also find some interesting road side dining areas you may not have otherwise taken the time to stop.  You know those “Scenic Points of Interest” often marked along the roadsides?  Choose one of these to stop for a lunch break and relax and enjoy the view.  With your lunch packed in your car, you may even choose to take a different route through the mountains or take the more scenic route instead of traveling the interstate.  Do a little thinking “inside the box” and see if you too can find some ways to travel with your vegetables.  Happy Trails!

August 17, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Edamame

16 Aug 2017 21:07

Cooking with this Week's Box!

It’s hard to believe we’re already half way through August!  Summer is flying by, but look at this full box!  We’ve had some pretty cool weather over the past week, but we’re seeing the peppers start to change colors and the tomatoes are finally ripening…a little slowly, but that’s ok.  I’m sure we’ll be flooded with tomatoes before we know it! 
This week we’re excited to be picking our first crop of fresh edamame.  If you aren’t familiar with how to work with fresh edamame, take a moment to read this week’s vegetable feature which includes information about how to cook them, shell them, etc.  We’ve also included two recipes in this week’s newsletter and I’d consider either to be a good option for using your edamame this week.  If you’re looking for a hot preparation, go with the Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms & Edamame.  If you’re feeling something on the cool side, you might want to consider trying the Cold Peanut-Sesame Noodles with Cucumbers & Edamame (See Below).  
We do have quite a few cucumbers in this week’s box, so I think this is the week to try a recipe I’ve had on the back burner for awhile.  This is a Cucumber and Green Grape Gazpacho garnished with a fresh tomato salsa. This will use about half your cucumbers as well as most of your pint of small tomatoes and some or all of your jalapeno, depending upon your desire for heat.  This is a great recipe to make on a hot evening when you don’t feel like “cooking” and the leftovers will travel well for lunch the next day. 
Now that we have fresh tomatoes, it’s time to make Tabbouleh!  This is a dish that screams “SUMMER!” Fresh tomatoes, diced cucumbers and lots of fresh parsley from your herb garden all combined to make a light, refreshing salad that is quite nice on its own or you could pair it with a protein of your choosing or eat it with a pita bread spread with hummus for a light lunch.
The red curly kale in this week’s box is gorgeous!  If you’re looking for ideas for ways to use this, check out Bon Appetit’s “47 Kale Recipes That Go Beyond Salad” which includes this recipe for Spicy Kale and Ricotta Grandma Pie.  It’s basically a sheet pan pizza that looks really good!  If you’re looking for something a little more simple or want something you can take with you on the go, consider making Kale Chips with Almond Butter & Miso featured in one of our newsletters last summer.
Last week in our Facebook group a member shared this delicious recipe for Roasted Broccoli with Nacho Toppings!  I would have never considered turning broccoli into nachos, but what a great idea!  Another recipe idea that was shared in our Facebook group was for this Silky Zucchini Soup that received good reviews.  It is a super-simple recipe using just a handful of ingredients and it can be served either chilled or warm.  I think I’ll serve it with some crusty bread and a few slices of fresh tomato.
We’re likely in our last week of green beans, so go wild and try something new like Tempura Fried Green Beans with Mustard Dipping Sauce which is part of a collection of 15 Great Green Bean Recipes featured at Cooking.nytimes.com.

So here we are left with our lovely carrots, purple majesty potatoes and French orange melons.  This week’s carrots are going to be cut up at the beginning of the week and put in a canning jar in the fridge so they are easy to see and ready to go as a quick vegetable snack for those times when you just need something to hold you over until dinner.  The gorgeous purple majesty potatoes are going to become simple roasted potatoes for Sunday brunch.  Just a little olive oil, salt and pepper is all the treatment they’ll get before going into the oven.  Just before serving I’ll toss them with some fresh, chopped herbs from the garden.  I’ll serve them with scrambled eggs, bacon and a few slices of tomato for a simple brunch that we’ll finish off with some delicious, sweet French orange melon.  Have a great week and enjoy this week of summer cooking and eating!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Edamame

Edamame (eh-dah-MAH-may)is a fresh soybean that has grown in popularity in the United States over the past few years, but has been a part of Japanese and Chinese cuisine for much longer.  In Asia, edamame is often sold on the stem with leaves removed, however in this country edamame is most often found in the frozen section either in the pod or shelled.  American fine- dining restaurants traditionally offer a bread course before the main event, whereas in Japan or China you would usually sit down to a plate of steamed and salted edamame. True edamame intended for fresh eating is quite different than oil-seed soybeans and tofu beans most often grown to make tofu and other processed soy products.  The edamame varieties we grow were developed specifically because they produce a sweet bean that doesn’t have a “beany” aftertaste and is the preferred variety in Japan and China for fresh eating.  Edamame seed is very expensive to purchase and for many years the varieties for fresh eating were very hard to find.  We were able to source some seed over 15 years ago, paid the high price, planted it and decided to save our own seed for the next year.  We’ve continued to reserve a portion of each year’s crop to harvest for seed to plant the next year.  Our varieties have become acclimated to our growing area and do very well for us.
Edamame resembles a small lima bean encased in a pod.  The beans are sweet and tender and best eaten lightly cooked. Unlike sugar snap peas, edamame pods are not edible and should be discarded.  Edamame is hard to shell when it’s raw.  It is easiest to cook edamame in its pod first and then remove the beans from the pod.   To cook edamame, first rinse the pods thoroughly with cold water. Bring a pot of heavily salted water (salty like the sea) to a boil.  Add the edamame pods and boil for about 3-4 minutes.  You should see the pods change to a bright green color.  Remove the edamame from the boiling water and immediately put them in ice water or run cold water over them to quickly cool them.   After the beans are cooked you can easily squeeze the pod to pop the beans out, either into a bowl or directly into your mouth!  This is a great skill to teach children so they can eat them as a snack and help you shell edamame!  Once you’ve removed them from the pods, they are ready to incorporate into a recipe or eat as a snack.
You can also roast edamame in their pods.  There’s a basic recipe on our website, but basically you toss the edamame pods with oil and seasonings of your choice.  Some of our favorites include Teriyaki and Wasabi-Roasted Edamame  Spread the seasoned edamame on a cookie sheet in a single layer and roast in the oven until the bean is tender.  Serve the beans whole with their pods still on.  While you won’t eat the pod, you can use your teeth to pull the edamame out of the pod and in the process you’ll pick up the seasoning on the outside of the pod!
You can store fresh or cooked edamame for up to a week in the refrigerator, but it is best to eat them soon for the sweetest flavor and best texture.  If you are interested in preserving edamame for later use, simply follow the cooking procedure above for boiling, cool and freeze the beans either in their pods or remove them and freeze just the bean. It’s a nice treat to pull something green out of the freezer in the middle of the winter to enjoy as a snack or incorporate them into a winter stir-fry or pan of fried rice.

Children and adults alike often enjoy edamame as a simple snack, but you can also incorporate edamame into vegetable or grain salads, stir-fry, fried rice, steamed dumplings or pot stickers to name just a few suggestions.  They pair well with any combination of traditional Asian ingredients such as sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger.  They are also a nice, bright addition to brothy soups such as a miso soup.  If you follow the suggested method for boiling edamame before shelling them, the bean will already be fully cooked, so if you are adding edamame to a hot dish or recipe, do so at the end of the cooking. 

Cold Peanut-Sesame Noodles with Edamame & Cucumber

Yield:  6 servings
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
⅓ cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
3 Tbsp natural, unsweetened peanut butter or almond butter
3 Tbsp sugar or maple syrup
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp rice wine, sake or white wine
1 small clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp tahini
5 Tbsp roasted peanut oil or unrefined sunflower oil, divided
12 oz dried Chinese egg noodles or traditional spaghetti noodles
1 medium or 2 small cucumbers, halved & sliced thinly
½ to 1 whole jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)
1 cup shelled edamame 
½ cup chopped cilantro
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish (optional)
Roasted, chopped peanuts or almonds, to garnish (optional)

  1. In a blender, combine the ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut or almond butter, sugar or maple syrup, vinegar, rice wine, garlic, tahini and 3 Tbsp of peanut or sunflower oil.  Blend until smooth, then transfer the sauce to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to add to the noodles.
  2. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the noodles until al dente.  Drain and rinse under cold running water until chilled.  Shake out the excess water and blot dry;  transfer the noodles to a bowl and toss with the remaining 2 Tbsp of oil.  
  3. Add the cucumbers, jalapeño, edamame and cilantro to the bowl.  Drizzle with some of the peanut-sesame sauce and toss well to coat.  Add more sauce if needed.  Allow to rest for a few minutes, then taste.  Add salt and pepper to your liking.  Serve cold or at room temperature and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and/or toasted peanuts or almonds if desired.   
Recipe adapted from one originally featured in Food and Wine magazine, May 2012.

Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms & Edamame

By Andrea Yoder                                                             
Yield:  4 servings
2 Tbsp butter, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced, fresh ginger
4 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup Arborio rice
⅓ cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth, warmed
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste (optional)
Lemon zest, from one lemon
1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup shelled fresh edamame

  1. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a 4 quart sauce pan over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic and ginger.  Saute until softened.  Add the remaining Tbsp of butter to the pan along with the shiitake mushrooms, 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black and white pepper (if using).  Saute just until the mushrooms start to soften.  
  2. Add the rice to the pan and stir continuously for about 30 seconds, just long enough to slightly parch the rice kernels.  Add the white wine to the pan and allow the wine to reduce by half.
  3. You will add the warm broth in 3-4 additions.  Once the wine is reduced by half, add about 1 cup of broth to the pan.  Stir periodically until nearly all the liquid is absorbed, then add another 1 cup portion of broth to the pan.  Do this three times.  After the third addition, taste the rice to see if it is still starchy or if it is al dente.  You want it to still have a little bite to it, but it needs to be fully cooked.  If the rice needs a little more cooking time, add a little more broth and cook just a tad longer.  You want enough liquid remaining in the mixture to keep the rice creamy.
  4. Once the rice is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the edamame, lemon zest and 1 Tbsp of lemon juice.  Taste the risotto and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice to your liking.  Serve immediately.

This dish is delicious served on its own, but would also pair nicely with fish or seafood.

August 10, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Cucumbers

9 Aug 2017 21:07

Cooking with this Week's Box!

Welcome back for another week of cooking and eating out of the CSA Box.  This week I’m in the mood for simple food.  Simple in the sense of basic cooking methods, classic preparations, simple seasonings, and basically just stepping back and letting the vegetables stand on their own.  None of this week’s suggestions are complicated or intricate.  Some recipes may require time to marinate meat or bake something, so you’ll have to plan ahead a bit, but nothing is hard or time consuming. 
Lets start with this week’s featured vegetable, cucumbers!  This week I vote for the Vietnamese Cucumber Salad featured below.  This recipe consists of a bowl full of sliced cucumbers and onions tossed with fresh herbs, chopped peanuts, garlic and minced jalapeno dressed with a simple 5-ingredient dressing.  It would be excellent served with Vietnamese Pork Chops.  The pork chops are marinated for about 20 minutes before cooking, so marinate the chops first before you make the cucumber salad. 
The next recipe I’d like to suggest is Sauteed Sirloin Tips with Bell Peppers & Onions served with Potato Gratin. For this meal, you will need to plan ahead and marinate the sirloin tips overnight.  I would suggest putting this entire meal together the night before or better yet, if you are a weekend prepper, prep this meal on Saturday or Sunday.  Marinate the steak and make the potato gratin…even bake it off, cool it to room temp and refrigerate it.  When you get home from work the next evening, all you have to do is reheat the gratin and cook the sirloin tips along with the green bell and Italian frying peppers. 
Roasted chicken is such a simple dish.  Don’t let a whole bird intimidate you.  All you have to do is season it and put it in the oven to bake.  If you need a recipe to guide you, look in any basic cookbook or choose your favorite one on-line.  I like to put a layer of vegetables in the bottom of my roasting pan when I roast a chicken.  The vegetables cook in the juices running off of the chicken, making them so delicious.  Plus, an added benefit is that the vegetables prevent any splattering of juice and fat in your oven!  So this week I’m going to roast carrots and zucchini under the chicken.  The zucchini won’t need as long to cook, so I’ll add the zucchini to the pan about half way through the cooking time for the chicken.  By the time the chicken is cooked, the vegetables should be tender and golden.  Remove the chicken from the pan to rest for about 10 minutes.  Add a big handful of chopped fresh herbs from your garden to the vegetables and your dinner of Roasted Chicken with Roasted Carrots and Zucchini is ready!  One of the great things about a whole roasted chicken is how many meals you can get out of it!  Use the chicken carcass to make a delicious broth to use as the base for a simple Chicken and Noodle Soup.  Before you go to work in the morning, put the carcass in your crockpot along with some onions, garlic and some dried sage and parsley.  Let it simmer on the lowest setting all day.  When you get home in the evening you’ll be met by the aroma of homemade chicken broth!  Strain the vegetables and bones out of the broth and then reheat the broth in a pan on the stove.  Add some chopped onion, garlic and any leftover roasted vegetables and chicken you have remaining from the night before.  Bring the broth to a simmer and then add some noodles of your choosing.  Simmer the broth just until the noodles are cooked, then add a big handful of chopped fresh herbs to the pan and dinner is ready! 
One of my favorite ways to prepare cauliflower is to simply roast it.  My next meal suggestion could be prepared any night of the week, but it might be a nice fit for “Friday night Fish Fry.”   Turn your cauliflower into Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower and serve it with  Panko Crusted Fish Sticks with Herb Dip The fish sticks are actually baked, which I think is easier and leaves you with less mess to clean up.  Plus, you have the oven heated up to roast the cauliflower, so you might as well bake the fish in there too!  My strategy for preparing this meal is to make the sauce and put it in the fridge while the oven is preheating.  Then prep the cauliflower and get it in the oven to start roasting.   While it’s roasting, prepare the fish sticks.  The cauliflower will take 30-45 minutes to roast and then you put the cheese on and bake it another 10 minutes.  The fish will only take 12-15 minutes to bake, so put the fish in the oven when it’s time to add the cheese to the cauliflower and that should bring everything into the home stretch at about the same time! 
The tomatoes and green beans this week are going to form the base for this simple Penne with Tomatoes, Basil, Green Beans & Feta. Eat it as is or add some Italian sausage or some leftover roasted chicken to the dish if you’d like.
And lastly, I am on a kick with including broccoli in my Sunday brunch egg dishes!  This week I’m going to make this Broccoli and Mushroom Egg Bake  and serve it with Honey Skillet Cornbread. The catch is the cornbread will include the fresh corn in this week’s box.  Just cut it off the cob with a paring knife and include it in the cornbread.  There’s one catch to this plan, the cooking times for these two dishes are different.  One is at 350°F and the other is at 400°F….compromise at 375°F and I think you’ll be just fine.  If there are two of you in the kitchen, each of you tackle one of the dishes and you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and the morning paper for half an hour while your breakfast/brunch bakes.  Bread takes 20 minutes and the eggs take 30-35 minutes.  Best to let the bread rest a bit, so even if they go in the oven at the same time, it will all work together in harmony.  Serve this meal with fresh slices of SWEET SARAH CANTALOUPE!!!

Well, that brings us to the bottom of yet another CSA box.  We’ve all been anticipating tomato season, and I suspect next week’s box will include a sizeable bag of tomatoes.  So, get those tomato  recipes ready!—Chef Andrea  

Vegetable Feature:  Cucumbers

“Why Cucumbers? (Doesn’t everyone know about cucumbers?)”  This is the opening line to the chapter about cucumbers in Elizabeth Schneider’s book, Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini.  Cucumbers are a fairly mild-flavored vegetable with a high water content, but they are more than just crispy.  In this country we may be most familiar with the American green slicer variety, but this is just one of many different types of cucumbers grown around the world.  They do have characteristics that vary from variety to variety including appearance as well as flavor.  For example, there are long Asian cucumbers that are long and sometimes kind of curled.  There are also Armenian cucumbers that are described as  “serpentine fruit” because of their long, narrow, curled shape.  A few years ago we grew an Indian cucumber called Poona Kheera.  It was a small, stout cucumber that was bright golden in color when young and then the skin became russeted when fully matured.  We grow several different varieties of green slicer cucumbers, and in recent years we’ve taken a liking to a variety called Silver Slicer.  This variety was bred by Cornell University and is distinctly identified by its pale yellow skin and crisp, white flesh.  We like it because it yields well, holds up well after picking without getting soft, has tender skin that doesn’t get bitter and it has an excellent fruity flavor.  It is a little smaller than a traditional green slicer, which is also an advantage because it has a smaller seed cavity.
Transplanting cucumbers
Cucumbers may be grown in a variety of growing systems.  Some are grown in hoop houses or hydroponic systems with trellises to tame the vines and keep the fruit and plants upright.  We choose to grow our cucumbers in the old fashioned way…in the dirt outside in the fields.  We do have a unique strategy though.  We start all of our cucumbers in the greenhouse as a transplant.  They grow very quickly once the seed germinates, so we only have about three weeks from when the seeds are planted to get the field ready!  We plant our cucumbers on raised beds covered with a reflective silver plastic that has drip irrigation lines running underneath it.  We do this for several reasons.  First, the reflective plastic helps deter pests such as cucumber beetles which can wreak havoc on the plants by chewing the leaves and scarring the fruit.  The plastic mulch also provides some heat gain which helps encourage growth in this heat-loving crop.  We plant an early crop that we put in the field as soon as possible in the spring and then do a second planting to get us through the latter part of summer.  We typically cover the first planting with a row cover draped over wire hoops.  This protects the plants from any chilly nights and also helps trap more heat to help the plants get established and take off.  Once the plants are producing fruit, you can almost predict the volume of a harvest by the temperature.  Ok, not quite, but they are very responsive to changes in temperature and if you have a really warm week you can really see some phenomenal growth and be surprised with harvests that literally double and sometimes triple seemingly overnight!
Cucumbers are a simple food that may be eaten raw or cooked.  I have to admit I don’t have a lot of experience eating cucumbers cooked, other than a canned pickle.  While cucumbers are most often eaten raw in salads, sliced onto sandwiches, eaten with dip or simply salted, they can also be cooked.  I’ve seen recipes, such as the one featured in this week’s newsletter, for stir-fried cucumbers, but they can also be used in soup, braised, lightly sautéed or wilted.

If you find yourself with more cucumbers than you can eat in a given week, you can always turn back to the good old pickling method.  Refrigerator pickles are a quick and easy way to preserve cucumbers that won’t require canning or any special equipment.  While I, admittedly, most often consume cucumbers in the form of a simple creamy cucumber salad or simply sliced and salted, don’t limit yourself!  Branch out and try a cucumber stir-fry or make a cucumber soup—chilled or hot.  You can even make some delicious, refreshing cucumber drinks! 

Spicy Stir-Fried Cucumbers with Shredded Chicken

Yield:  4 servings
12 oz skinless, boneless chicken breast, pounded ⅛ inch thick and very thinly sliced crosswise
5 garlic cloves, smashed, divided
1 Tbsp finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger, divided
1 tsp baking soda
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp canola oil, divided
12 dried red chiles, such as chiles de arbol—10 left whole, 2 stemmed and crumbled
1 pound cucumbers, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
1 serrano chile (substitute jalapeño), thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Lemon wedges and steamed rice, for serving
  1. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with half of the garlic and ginger and the baking soda;  season with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl, stir the vinegar with the sugar and ¼ cup of water.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil until shimmering.  Add the chicken and stir-fry over moderately high heat until the chicken is almost cooked through, 2 minutes; transfer the chicken to a plate.  Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of the oil to the skillet along with the whole and crumbled dried chiles, cucumbers, vinegar mixture and the remaining garlic and ginger;  season with salt and pepper.  Stir-fry over moderate heat until the cucumbers are softened and most of the liquid has evaporated, 3 minutes.  
  3. Add the chicken and serrano/jalapeño and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through, 1 minute.  Stir in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper.  Serve with lemon wedges and rice.

This recipe was featured in Food & Wine, October 2013.

Vietnamese Cucumber Salad

2 pounds cucumbers
1 large jalapeño, seeds and veins removed if desired, thinly sliced
3 scallions, finely sliced (substitute 1 medium onion, thinly sliced)
1 garlic clove, finely grated or pounded with a pinch of salt
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
16 large mint leaves, coarsely chopped
½ cup toasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
¼ cup neutral-tasting oil (eg. sunflower oil)
4 to 5 Tbsp lime juice
4 tsp seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
  1. Using either a Japanese mandolin or a sharp knife, thinly slice the cucumbers into coins, discarding the ends.  
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, jalapeño, onions, garlic, cilantro, mint, and peanuts.  
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, 4 Tbsp lime juice, the vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, and a small pinch of salt.  
  4. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette and toss to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more lime juice as needed.  Serve immediately.

This recipe is from Samin Nosrat’s book, Salt Fat Acid Heat.  It was featured in an article on the alexandracooks.com blog.


9 Aug 2017 21:06

By Farmer Richard
This week we are continuing our on-going conversation about “the future of our food,” a discussion that  came to the forefront in our newsletters as a result of the buyout of Whole Foods Market by Amazon. The last article in this series was entitled, “How’s the Weather” and was published two weeks ago.  That article served as our first-hand account of our experiences with erratic weather patterns and being the person “downstream” from members of the community who are making poor choices on their land that impact others.  In our case erosion from a neighboring property washed down into our valley causing our drainage systems to back up resulting in crop losses and a big mess to clean up.  I concluded my last article with -“What’s next?  We keep talking.  Brainstorming.  We need solutions to these issues, we need changes to policy, we need to figure out the course our future will take.  We’re back to the ‘future of our food.’  I once again, encourage you to be part of these conversations so we, as a community, can proactively decide our future.  There are many things that could be done!  But, they take money, direction, leadership, ‘political will,’ regulation, incentives and education.  Firstly we need understanding, cooperation and the right attitude.”
This week I’d like to revisit that concept of “having the right attitude.”  Some years ago I had the privilege of visiting many farms in Europe over a month stay, both organic farmers and conventional farmers in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, England and France.  I learned so much and made many friends on that trip, but what struck me and made a lasting impression on me was their ATTITUDE!  The farmers had a positive acceptance of government regulations meant for the common good of the community.The consumers also had a desire to maintain and support their local, small farm economy.  The farmers were producing local food that had its own unique terroir, and within the communities the farmers were thriving and everyone was well fed.  For example, the Swiss value the small goat farms that dot the Swiss Alps, each making their own cheese to bring to the village to sell.  They, as a society, made the decision many years ago to preserve those small farms and they do so with government subsidies and regulation. 

I remember a conversation I had with a conventional hydroponic pepper and eggplant grower in Holland.  He was forced by regulation to install a recycling system for his greenhouse fertilizer solution before the water could be discharged into the canal.  He didn’t like being regulated, but all his neighbors shared the same situation and they decided to share in the investment for the technology to reverse an old practice that had led to fish death in the canals.  Because they all had to make the change, and the consumers wanted and supported the change, his attitude was that it was the “right thing to do.” Even though it cost him some money and effort, he had the support of other farmers and the consumers to do what was best for the big picture.  Plus, he acknowledged his previous practices were causing harm to the ecosystem and he too wanted to see the herons return to the canals with the fish.  It’s the right thing to do! 
In the recent Growing for Market publication (June/July 2017), there was an article written by a former vegetable grower and current student at Michigan State University pursuing a Master’s degree with a focus on organic weed control.  His name is Sam Hitchcock Tilton.  Earlier this year he, along with several other individuals from the Midwest, had the opportunity to travel to Europe to learn more about weed control methods.  However, despite all he learned about weed control, the thing that “stands out most brightly are the people that I met and the agricultural systems they are a part of....Just as the soil contains its own myriad characters and relationships, water vapor, bacteria, and worms, that all play interconnected roles to create fertility, so too I found the world of European vegetable growing to be peopled by many levels and relationships.  The entity with the biggest effect on all the others….was always the governments.  In each country the government played a large role in determining how farming is practiced.”  Sam also experienced that similar European attitude I experienced over thirty years ago!    Sam goes on to state “Whereas here we prize individual freedom and often put it before proper stewardship of our shared resources, in the European countries I visited the opposite seemed to be true—communal resources like water, soil, and the social fabric of rural communities are protected, often to the detriment of individual freedom.”
Farmer Richard standing in our field of cover crops!
Across Europe you find many examples of cultures that spend public tax dollars to preserve a food system that they deem important.  It is not about who has the most money to bid for a property or have the upper hand.  In fact, in Sam’s article he explains that renting and owning farmland in Europe is regulated by the government, so they decide who can rent land to farm.  While this may seem unfair, it actually works in the favor of both the farmer and the community as a whole.  In an example he uses in his article, Sam tells the story of a Dutch farmer he spoke with.  This farmer explained that “the Dutch government regulates long-term agricultural leases in order to encourage stability for those farmers who rent their entire farm, whereas if you are renting some fields for a few seasons it is your business…I was told that in the Netherlands his long term lease means that (he) can stay on his farm until he is 65, and that kicking him off before then would be a hard process.”  Additionally, this Dutch farmer also seemed happy when he explained to Sam how closely some farming practices are regulated.  For example, to prevent erosion and nutrient leaching no sandy fields are allowed to lie bare over the winter, they must all have a cover crop otherwise the grower is fined.  (The farmer) didn’t seem to mind this as he thought it was just good farming that protected the water and soil of his country.”
 Additionally, in Europe governments pay incentives to new farmers and organic farmers and insist they have a farming degree and gain appropriate experience.  They encourage education and support their up and coming farmers by setting them up for success.  On the flip side, the consumers are also willing to support their local farmers.  It’s not just about the farmers’ attitudes, the consumers are an important piece of this puzzle as well.
When we consider the attitudes I experienced as did Sam, it is clear that we have a very different attitude in this country!  For several years there has been an “incentive” from USDA to pay farmers to have a buffer strip between field and waterways.  The purpose of the buffer strip is to prevent erosion and filter out much of the fertilizer and chemicals running off of conventional corn and soybean fields so they do not pollute our waterways. What a great idea!  Farmers can be paid extra to plant that buffer to pollinator, bird and wildlife habitat!  Another great idea!  But very few, only the “do the right thing” farmers, are taking advantage of this incentive. 
Portion of our tool room,
organized with Dutch influence.
As I discussed in a previous article, the prevailing attitude in this country is more self-centered and often lacks consideration for the impact personal choices will have on shared resources and the greater community.  Attitude, culture, money and politics, they all go together.  I admire the European cultures.  When I visited my Dutch relatives, I loved their appreciation of good, local food and their attention to details.  Every tool was hung in its place, every outbuilding, even old thatched roof sheds had not one missing pane of glass in the whole country!  They are civilized and take pride in their work as well as their community.  Certainly they have similar challenges to ours, there are pressures from multi-nationals, etc, but they are a democracy and the majority has managed to hold on to their culture.  On the other hand, we have little culture to “hang-on” to!  I would not call Velveeta and Spam a cultural agricultural heritage we should defend!  Unfortunately any cultural heritage that we had, the self-sufficient homesteads that tamed the prairies, and then lost to the “dust bowl,” are gone.  The work ethic of the farm families, the community “threshing bees,” the cooperation among neighboring farmers, mostly gone! 
But there are some positive examples of attitude in this country as well.  Take our neighboring state of Minnesota as an example.  They have made it a regulation to put in buffer strips with cash incentives for farmers.  Despite the fact that the major farm organization who also sells ag chemicals and has massive lobbyists says, “You cannot tell us how to farm ‘our’ land,” Minnesota seems to have decided it’s “the right thing to do” and made it a law.
The USDA has a program called SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) that is part of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  The purpose of this program is to help advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities by providing education grants as well as conducting research and conducting outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.  In their recent Summer 2017 newsletter they featured several different grant recipients that have gone on to produce positive results in their community. In one example, a grant was used to help connect Michigan beef producers, local processors, distributors, and retailers in the Traverse City area in order to meet the Traverse city’s goal to source 20% of their food within a 100-mile radius by 2020.  As a result of this funding, beef producers have been trained in pasture-based grazing systems for raising beef cattle and they are seeing positive results in both the quality of the products they are producing as well as improving their land and quality of life.”
Our Red Angus Cattle enjoying time grazing in their paddock!
The further we go in these discussions, the complexity of our tangled food system and our understanding of it starts to unravel.  The individual attitudes of farmers, consumers, politicians, biotech advocates, etc are shaping our food system now and into the future.  In my next article, I’d like to explore more of the issues pertaining to this concept of “Feeding the World.”  I”ll share some of my own thoughts as well as those posed by Food First, a non-profit organization that researches, defends and develops policy related to food issues including food justice, food sovereignty , and food democracy.  In one of their recent newsletters they posed this question:  “Can we feed the world without destroying it?”  In closing, I continue to encourage you to consider your place in shaping our food system for the future and welcome your thoughts and input into this conversation.  

Onions: "A Healthy Basic"

2 Aug 2017 21:25

By:  Farmer Richard
Onions being unloaded for
drying in the greenhouse.
This week has been a big week for us.  In addition to our regular weekly tasks, we’ve been trying to get all of our onions pulled, dried and safely stored in the greenhouse.  We have been blessed with several days of dry weather which allowed us to start our harvest last week.  We brought some onions in on Saturday, then pulled more and left them to dry on top of the bed in the field before we brought them into the greenhouse on Tuesday for the final drying, cleaning, etc.  But now we’re faced with chances of rain the rest of the week.  Yes, there is an anticipation as well as some apprehension and nervousness that goes along with the excitement of every onion harvest.  I sleep at night because I’m simply tired, but I won’t sleep soundly until all the onions are harvested and safely under cover.  Two-thirds of this year’s crop are harvested and so far, they look great!
Onions are an important crop on our farm.  They aren’t one of our big dollar crops, in fact they are probably one of the most labor intensive crops to handle with a higher overall cost of production.  However, we firmly believe that daily consumption of plants in the onion/garlic family is one key to good health and they are a staple ingredient that we, and many other families, include in our daily meals.  Thus, we plan to include an onion and/or garlic selection of some sort in every CSA box over the course of our thirty week season.
Wild Ramps
With the above goals in mind, we start the season with ramps, wild-harvested from our woods.  Ramps are followed or accompanied by several perennial selections including chives and our overwintered Egyptian walking onions and potato onions.  These selections give us a jump start on the season while we are hustling to grow onions from seed to cover the remainder of the year and get us through the winter until the next spring when we start again with the perennial crops.  The beauty of onions is that they are “in season” every season of the year!
Whether red, white or yellow onions, there are a wide variety of choices to select from and we consider the genetics of a seed to be very important.    We look for varieties that have disease resistant tops that will survive long enough to produce a full sized onion.  The sweet Spanish onions you’ve been receiving in your boxes the past few weeks are an early season variety that is very mild when eaten raw and super sweet when cooked because of their higher levels of sugars.  They have a thinner outer skin and will store for just 3-6 months at most.  In contrast, there are different varieties grown to produce an onion that has the ability to hold in long-term storage for 9-12 months.  These varieties are usually “tear jerkers” and are much stronger and more pungent.  They still have natural sugars that come out when cooked, but the chemical makeup of the onion and lower sugar concentrations are what help keep the onion in good quality during long storage.  We don’t need to store onions for 9-12 months, so in recent years we have opted to grow more shorter season sweet onions that grow faster and are more mild.  We believe there are health benefits from eating raw or just lightly cooked onions and garlic, so for several different reasons we consider onions in this class to be a good fit for us. 
Potato onions popping up in the spring!!
Onions are a challenge to grow in that they grow slow and their tops are poor competitors against weeds.  Also, they are vulnerable to the tiny onion thrip, a natural pest enemy which sucks on onion tops deep in the center and leaves holes for disease spores to enter the onion as they kill the top and hence stop the onion development.  Commercial, conventional onions are all treated with systemic insecticide, a neonicotinoid which has its own severe problems.
Onions respond well to regular watering, but can quickly suffer from too much water.  Twenty-five years ago, when we grew onions on bare ground, we would harvest good looking onions to dry in the greenhouse, only to find later that many had “soft rot” in the center or a soft layer somewhere in the rings.  Our investigations led us to understand that the bad layer was the result of an earlier wet weather event in the field.  The neck rot was due to damage caused by the thrips that created an entry point into the onion for the bacteria that causes soft rot.

So we decided we needed a new strategy.  We transitioned to a system of transplanting 4 rows of onions on a raised bed, covered with plastic mulch that has a shiny, reflective surface that almost totally keeps thrips away by disorienting them!  The raised bed drains off excess water quickly, but the buried drip tape under the bed allows us to water and feed onions at their roots.

Onions starting out in the greenhouse.
Waiting for the day they can be in the field!
Before the storms blew through a few weeks ago, we had nice sized onions and shallots in the field.  The high winds blew the tops down, which was the start of the dry down process.  The size of an onion is determined by how thick or thin we seed them in the greenhouse.  Single onions can easily reach 1# each!  Too big for most meals, leaving you with a partially used onion in the refrigerator to be forgotten.  In my “humble cook” opinion, I think it is better to have more modest sized onions that can be used in one meal yet not so small that you have to peel several at a time. We pay close attention to the quality of the seed and try to adjust our seeding rate accordingly to get the size onions we’re looking for.
Field of Onions!
Once the onion transplants are big enough, we transplant them into their plastic mulch covered beds.  They go to the field as early in April as the weather allows and it takes us most of 3 days with a crew of 7 to transplant two acres.  Over the course of their season, they receive more water and fish fertilizer than most other crops.  The entire system is an expensive production system with the late February greenhouse planting, the reflective mulch to deter the thrips, hand harvest, and then the many hours of topping and cleaning them by hand.  We have a mechanical onion topper, but we have chosen to hand top and clean because it produces a more “pristine” onion without mechanical topping damage.  This is all very labor intensive and we know we cannot compete with the price of onions grown in the dry western states with more mechanized systems.  We only grow onions for our CSA members and local customers, with only a small percentage of shallots and cipollini onions for our retail partners.  We hope you appreciate the extra effort we put forth to make this all come together and I encourage you to please eat onions daily for flavor and health! 
Onions on the plastic mulch drying a
little before heading to the greenhouse
for more drying time!

August 3, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Onions

2 Aug 2017 21:25

Cooking with this Week's Box!

Yes, it is really the month of August which means we are in the peak of summer vegetables and cooking!  The tomatoes are starting to ripen and while the picking is a little slim this week, I’m sure we’ll have more next week.  Pull out all those recipes and ideas you’ve been saving for fresh tomato season…it’s time!
This week we are very focused on onions around here.  It’s a race against Mother Nature to get them out of the field.  Nonetheless, we’re thankful for all we have and have really been enjoying the sweet onions packed in this week’s box.  My recommendation for this week is to give the recipe for pizza in the newsletter a try.  This recipe for “A Pizza in the Roman Way” (see recipe below) is very simple.  You will need to set aside time to patiently wait for the dough to rise and the onions to slowly stew….but it will be worth the wait.  The weekend is perhaps a good time to prepare this recipe.  Take your time and enjoy the process.  When the pizza is done, take a seat on the patio with a glass of wine, a rosé or light red perhaps, and enjoy the simplicity of this dish.  Serve it with this simple Carrot Salad with Balsamic Dressing, some shaved salami and some salty olives on the side.
We’re coming towards the end of green bean season, so I wanted to try this recipe for French Potato and Green Bean Salad recently highlighted in a column at Cooking.NYtimes.com.  It will make excellent use of the tender, fresh potatoes and the green beans in this week’s box.  It calls for both parsley and basil, so you’ll need to make a trip to your herb garden to get those.  I think this salad will go nicely with a simple grilled steak, perhaps a rib-eye or a sirloin sliced thinly.  There are some tasty variations other people shared in the comments below the recipe, so I’d encourage you to read those to see if any of their ideas strike your fancy.
Lets talk about the Egyptian Spinach since this is a vegetable most of you may not be familiar with.  We don’t grow this crop every year, but thought we’d give it a try this year because it’s one of my favorite greens!  Unfortunately we lost our first crop to the rains a few weeks ago and the second planting had a bit of a thin stand.  We only have enough for boxes going to the Twin Cities this week.  My apologies to our Madison and Local members…we’ll try again next year.  For those of you who do receive this green, I’d encourage you to make one of my favorite soups that we featured in our newsletter in 2013.  This Egyptian Spinach Soup is a traditional way to use this green.  It takes a bit of time to make, but it’s not hard and the result is worth it. 
One of our members posted this recipe for Julia Child’s Tian de Courgettes au Riz…a fancy name for Zucchini Tian or, in Midwestern terms…a zucchini casserole.  This calls for a little more zucchini than is in this week’s box, so you may need to cut the recipe back a bit…or I’m going to try making up the difference with grated broccoli stem.  This dish is rich enough to be a main dish or could serve as a side dish as well.
Ok, I don’t normally advocate frying cauliflower, but I’ve been intrigued by this recipe for General Tso’s Cauliflower and want to give it a try. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I’m going to stir-fry the green bell peppers and some of the broccoli florets on the side and add it to the cauliflower…because I think it needs some green vegetables too!  Serve this over rice and dinner is set.
So we’re left with just a little bit of broccoli and a lonely jalapeño…but don’t worry. I’ve been saving this week’s jalapeño to make Jalapeño-Garlic Cream Cheese!  I had jalapeño cream cheese at Gotham Bagels in Madison last year and have to admit, it’s kind of addicting.  It’s easy to make, just fold finely minced garlic and jalapeño into softened cream cheese and season with a bit of salt and black pepper. I’ll enjoy this on morning bagels or English muffins.  And the broccoli….it’s going into a frittata along with some feta cheese and fresh herbs….first for breakfast with leftovers serving as lunch the next day!
Well, I was hoping the next cucumbers would be ready this week, but we’re going to have to wait until next week.  I still have some recipes set aside that I want to try before the season is done.  In addition to tomatoes, we should be picking edamame and hopefully (fingers crossed) we’ll have some sweet corn within the next few weeks!  Have a great week and wish us luck as we finish our onion harvest! –Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Onions

Sweet Spanish Onions
In this week’s main newsletter article, Richard walks you through what it takes to produce an onion.  Onions are a staple ingredient that, in my opinion, you can never have too much of in your kitchen!  Onions are used as the base of cooking all around the world and are revered for their role as an “aromatic”.  In French cooking, they are part of traditional mirepoix, a blend of diced carrots, celery and onion that is an important base for making stock and soups.  In Spanish cuisine, onions are included in their version of “mirepoix” which is called sofrito and includes tomatoes, onions and garlic.  In culinary school I had a chef instructor, Chef Chang, who was a master chef in China.  One of our first lessons about Chinese cuisine was how important it is to start each dish with garlic, onion, ginger….I suppose this is kind of like the Chinese “mirepoix.” 
While onions are often in the background providing the supporting role, they can also be found as a main, more prominent ingredient.  For example, there is a traditional dish from the Provence region of France called pissaladiére.  It is a tart of sorts featuring caramelized onion, olives, garlic and anchovies.  Of course there is French Onion soup, a delicious brothy soup that requires copious amounts of onions.  Pipperade is a mixture of onions, peppers and tomatoes that originated in the Basque region of Spain.  It may be eaten as a main item or used as a condiment.  I suppose in America we would boast French Onion Dip and Onion Rings?  Lets move on.
Onions may be included in a wide variety of ways in our day to day eating and cooking.  Raw onions are delicious on sandwiches and salads and play an important role in fresh salsa and sauces.  One of the important keys to an enjoyable dining experience with raw onions is to slice them very thinly.  I repeat…slice them thinly.  You want to get the flavor of the onion with each bite, but you don’t want that to be the flavor that dominates each bite.  If the piece of onion is too thick, that’s all you taste and it can throw off the balance.  I love thinly sliced onions on grilled burgers, Italian sandwiches with salami, added to a Greek salad along with tomatoes, olives, and romaine lettuce, or simply served with slices of oranges drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper for a super simple winter salad. 
Thinly sliced onions are important when cooking onions too.  There are several ways to cook onions.  You can sweat them which means you cook them at a moderately low temperature with the intention of gently cooking the onion to soften the texture, but you don’t want them to brown or get any color.  As you are cooking onions in this manner, you’ll notice the steam rolling off the pan.  This is the moisture coming out of (or sweating if you will) the onions.  If you patiently continue this process, you can caramelize an onion.  Basically you will sweat most of the water out of the onion which will concentrate the natural sugars left behind.  When you do this, the onions will significantly decrease in volume and will turn to a golden brown color and be sweet and delicious.  Onions are also delicious when roasted, grilled, and fried.  In general, onions are more mild in flavor when cooked.  The sulfur compounds in onions are what make an onion pungent and what causes us to cry while cutting them.  When you cut into an onion and release these compounds they dissipate into the air. 
Store onions in a cool dry place and out of direct sunlight.  We store onions in our cold cooler at a temperature in the mid 30’s and low humidity.  The humidity in most home refrigerators is too high to match our storage environment, so it’s best to store your onions out of the refrigerator.  You may not have the “perfect” environment, but do your best and just keep an eye on your onions.  If you notice them starting to sprout or form a bad spot…use them! 
We hope you will embrace the diversity we have to enjoy as we eat onions throughout the season.  If you don’t use them all throughout the course of your weekly cooking and you accumulate a large pile of onions, take the opportunity to try making something that requires a larger volume such as French Onion soup or an onion marmalade. You can also chop your onions however you are most likely to use them in the future and put them in a freezer bag in your freezer. Pull them out and use them throughout the winter!
We still have red & yellow storage onions, shallots and red Cipollini onions remaining to deliver.  Watch for these selections later in the season and, as you prepare them, take a moment to appreciate the special place each onion variety holds in our seasonal eating adventure.

 Lazy Cucumber and Onion Pickle

Yield:  About 3 cups “These need about three hours for their cure and will stay fresh in the fridge for about a week.” 
¾ pound cucumbers, unpeeled
1 sweet onion
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
½ tsp celery seeds
¼ tsp ground turmeric
  1. Slice the cucumbers thinly crosswise, or at an angle if they are very slender. Slice the onion into thin rounds.
  2. Put ½ tsp salt, a few twists from the peppermill, and the sugar in a bowl large enough to hold the vegetables.  Add the vinegar and 1 cup water and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Add the cucumbers, onion, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and turmeric.  Press on the vegetables to immerse them in the liquid.  (A plate set over the vegetables can help.)  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

This recipe was borrowed from Deborah Madison’s cookbook entitled Vegetable Literacy.  You may eat these as a salad or as a condiment with sandwiches or wraps.  We’ll be picking our second crop of cucumbers by the end of the week, so if you don’t have any cucumbers available this week hold on to this recipe for next week!

A Pizza in the Roman Way

Yield: One pizza, 8-9 ½ inches: There will be enough for two to four, depending on appetite and what else you have for the meal.
“In the pizzeria where I used often to eat when I spent a winter in Rome 25 years ago, by far the best pizza was spread only with onions stewed in olive oil and seasoned with oregano.  The Romans themselves claim this as the only true pizza, and dismiss the tomato and mozzarella verison of Naples as a fanciful upstart.” —Elizabeth David from her cookbook, Elizabeth David on Vegetables
For a 8 ½ to 9 ½ inch pizza, the ingredients for the dough are:
1 generous cup plain unbleached bread flour
1 tsp of salt
¼ oz fresh yeast 
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
4-5 Tbsp milk
1 whole egg
For the filling you will need:
1 ½ pounds of onion cut into fine rings
Olive Oil

  1. Make sure the flour is at room temperature and mix in the salt.
  2. Mix the yeast to a cream with 2 Tbsp tepid milk.  Break the egg into the center of the flour. Pour in the creamed yeast and 2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Mix to a light soft dough.  If too dry, add the rest of the milk and another tablespoon of oil.  Form into a ball.  Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise.  Allow 2 hours.
  3. While the dough is rising, stew the onions slowly, slowly, in fruity olive oil until quite soft and yellow.  Season with salt and a good sprinkling of fresh oregano.
  4. When the dough is ready, that is when it has just about tripled in volume and is light and puffy, break it down, shape it into a ball, and pat it out into an 8 ½ inch disk on a perfectly flat, oiled fireproof baking stone or baking sheet.
  5. Spread the warm onions on the dough, leaving a little uncovered around the outer edge.  Scatter a little more oregano and a little more olive oil over the filling and let rise for 15 to 20 minutes before putting it into the center of the oven to bake.  Temperature should be fairly hot, 425°F, and the pizza will take 20 to 25 minutes to bake.
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