Harmony Valley Farm

Harmony Valley Farm

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.

July 27, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Eggplant

26 Jul 2017 21:26

Cooking with this week’s box!

As we think about how to use this week’s box contents, lets start with our featured vegetable of the week….eggplant!  The Eggplant Patties (recipe below) featured in this week’s newsletter is a great way to incorporate eggplant into your meals and yields a tasty vegetarian entrée complete with Sweet Onion Yogurt sauce using the mild, sweet onions in this week’s box.  The patties also reheat well, so leftovers won’t go to waste!
I’ve had my eye on another recipe by Alexandra Stafford, the blog writer we featured last week, and I think this is the week to try it.  Her recipe for Cabbage Pad Thai with Baked Tofu is featured at Food52.com.  In place of pad thai noodles, you use thinly sliced cabbage along with shiitake mushrooms and marinated baked tofu with a garnish of cilantro and peanuts.  This will be a great way to use this week’s sweetheart cabbage.
Somehow I have accumulated four packages of fettuccine noodles in my pantry, so I knew I wanted to include a pasta dish in this week’s menu.  I’m going to take the zucchini and turn it into this Summer Squash Sauce with Pasta.  You take two to three medium sized zucchini and melt them down into butter and olive oil along with onions and garlic.  Toss this simple “sauce”  with hot pasta to make a main dish pasta garnished with Parmesan cheese.  
It’s been awhile since I’ve cooked anything from Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 cookbooks.com, but I have had this recipe for Morrocan Carrot and Chickpea Salad  flagged for awhile.  The salad is dressed with a toasted cumin dressing that coats the carrots and chickpeas.  You add in dried fruit, fresh mint and then garnish the salad with almonds.  I’m going to serve this salad along with seared salmon topped with Carrot and Yogurt Sauce.  Heidi has another recipe I stumbled across that looks quite tasty.  Check out her Cashew Curry  dish that features green beans and cauliflower.  If you received broccoli instead of cauliflower this week, you could use that in place of the cauliflower.  Her recipe calls for tofu, but I may substitute chicken instead.
I stumbled across this recipe for Beet, Greens and Cheddar Crumble, a recipe featured at cooking.nytimes.com that was written by Melissa Clark.  Here’s Melissa’s description of this dish.   “This unusual, savory crumble is reminiscent of macaroni and cheese, but with vegetable matter (beets and beet greens) standing in for the pasta. The vegetables are bound with a rich béchamel laced with grated clothbound cheddar, and the whole thing is topped with peppery oatmeal crumbs.”  I’m intrigued by this recipe, but also like that it uses the beets and the greens in one preparation.
Last year I tried this recipe for Vegetable Quesadillas with Pistachio-Kale Pesto and really enjoyed them.  I’m going to use this week’s kale to make this pesto and use it to make these quesadillas.  I can prep them in advance and then just warm them up for our lunches in the toaster oven or in a cast iron skillet on the stove top.
Lastly, I think I’ll do another stir-fry this week and am turning to this recipe for Chicken Stir-Fry with Peppers. This will make use of the Italian frying peppers or green bell peppers in this week’s box.  The recipe calls for one pound of peppers, but since we only have a few peppers this week I’ll add any remaining green beans, broccoli stems, random carrots, etc that might still be lingering in the refrigerator to bulk out this meal.

I can’t believe we’re in the last week of July already!  Looking ahead, I’m starting to set aside recipes for edamame, sweet corn and fresh tomatoes!  Next week we’ll have more cucumbers too (hopefully), which is good because I found an interesting recipe for a cucumber and citrus mocktail as well as several recipes for dishes where you stir-fry or cook cucumbers (not something I’ve done before).  See you back here next week for more delicious seasonal cooking!—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Eggplant

Eggplant is one of the most beautiful crops we grow.  The plants grow several feet tall and, in their peak, are loaded with beautiful glossy fruit hanging heavy on the plant.  There are many varieties of eggplant ranging in size from small round eggplant the size of a golf ball to large globe eggplant weighing over a pound.  They come in a variety of colors ranging from various shades of purple to black, green, lavender, white and orange.  We have narrowed our lineup of eggplant to our four favorite varieties including Lilac Bride, Purple Dancer, Listada and the traditional Black eggplant.  
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and must be cooked.  While it is thought to have originated in the area around India and Pakistan, it has now been spread around the world.  Since eggplant is part of so many cultures, there are a lot of ways you can use eggplant in your cooking.  It is often incorporated into curry and stir-fry dishes in Indian, Thai, and Chinese cuisine.  Sicilians are famous for eggplant caponata while Middle Eastern dishes include baba ganoush.  The French put their mark on eggplant with the traditional Provencal dish, ratatouille.  Eggplant has a mild flavor and soft texture when cooked. Many resources will tell you to salt eggplant before cooking it to remove bitterness.  While some older varieties were bitter, the new varieties we grow have been selected because they are not bitter, thus you can skip the salting step.  Most of our varieties of eggplant have skin that is tender enough to eat, thus you do not need to peel them.  
Eggplant does not store terribly well, so it is best to use it soon after getting it.  It is best stored at a temperature of about 45-50°F, but your home refrigerator should be colder than this.  Thus, we recommend storing your eggplant on the kitchen counter and use it within 2-4 days.  
We encourage you to refer to our blog post from last year which includes pictures and descriptions of each of the eggplant varieties we grow and will help you identify the eggplant in your box this week. 

Eggplant and Chickpea Patties

Yield: 6 - 8 patties
Yogurt Sauce with Onions:
¾ cup Greek yogurt
⅓ cup finely minced onion
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
Eggplant Patties:
4 cups eggplant, small dice 
3 Tbsp sunflower oil, divided
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup finely minced onion (if using green onions, save some green top for garnish)
¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup panko bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Make the yogurt sauce:  In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Make eggplant patties:  In a large skillet, combine 2 Tbsp sunflower oil along with the eggplant and garlic.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until eggplant is tender;  remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Add garbanzo beans to a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.  Add to a large bowl.
  4. Add eggplant, onions, cilantro, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to bowl with garbanzo beans;  mix well.
  5. Add panko and eggs;  mix well.  
  6. Preheat a cast-iron griddle or pan over medium-low heat.  Once the griddle or pan is hot, brush the pan with the remaining sunflower oil.  Form mixture into patties (about ½ cup each so you have a total of 6-8 patties) and slide them one at a time into the hot pan.  The mixture may be fairly wet, so it may be easiest to form the patties on a large serving spoon that you can slide them off of when putting them in the pan.  
  7. Cook on each side for about 6 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from the pan and serve warm with yogurt sauce.

 This recipe was adapted from one featured in Mary Janes Farm Magazine

"How's the Weather?"

26 Jul 2017 21:15

by Farmer Richard

This is a continuation of our series of newsletters on the subject of “the future of our food” as we discuss what kind of food system we want going into the future.  This week I’d like to discuss a topic that’s always on our minds, but even more so over the past week….WEATHER.
Weather has been with us forever!  In my case I only have 60 years of weather memory.  Starting on the South Dakota plains, with winter blizzards when we went to the neighbors’ house a mile away with Smoky and Barney pulling the bob sled for a Saturday night taco and card game evening.  A night when only a team of horses could have made the trip.  And then there was the ice storm of ’59 when a heavy buildup of ice snapped off power poles for miles.  We were without electricity for two weeks.  My brother Dennis, my Mom and I milked our cows by hand while Dad was off helping the electric linemen put in new poles.  I know something about weather, I’ve farmed around weather for most of a lifetime.  Sometimes it is too wet and sometimes too dry.  We have learned to farm around it.  We watch weather forecasts day and night and plan accordingly!  We make the absolute most of dry days to keep planting schedules and do our weed control.
Early spring onion field on raised beds
Twenty five years ago we converted to farming with a system of raised beds so excess moisture immediately drains to the wheel tracks and off the fields.  We watched the water run during rain storms so we could observe how it moved and then made ditches and berms to protect fields and drain off excess water.  We built high organic matter in the soil that allows it to be more resilient, absorbing  water and at the same time draining well so it can be worked very soon after a rain.  When it was dry, we irrigated.  We learned to use a variety of different irrigation methods including buried drip irrigation lines to efficiently deliver water and nutrients to plant roots without watering the soil surface and germinating new weeds. 
Last year we built a new dike to help prevent rising waters.

We are very good farmers and have consistently raised good to excellent crops through a variety of weather variations that we considered “normal.”  But over the past ten years, that has changed for the worst!  For example, lets look at the history of the Bad Axe River watershed we live and farm in.  Human beings have lived and survived here for 10,000 years, but farmed for only the last 1,500 years.  European settlers have farmed here for less than 200 years.  The Bad Axe River would periodically flood over its banks and damage the rich valley farmland.  So starting in the 50’s a series of dams were built on the North and South forks of the Bad Axe River to hold excess water and prevent flooding.  The dam that is 5 miles above our farm is the Runge Hollow Dam.  It successfully ended flood events until 2007 when we had what was called a “100 year flood,” with an unprecedented 18 inches of rainfall in 24 hours that overflowed the dam and flooded our valley crops. We survived life and limb and came through economically with the help of many friends and customers.  Then it happened again ten months later.  We had another “100 year flood.”  We survived again and went on to have several good years, got out of debt, and then had another “100 year flood” last fall, September 2016.  We really needed a good year to recover from the losses of that last event, but here we go again just 10 months later! 

A fallen tree on our landlord's storage shed!
 Is our climate changing?  Absolutely!!  We have experienced four “100 year” weather events in less than 10 years!  The overall average temperature has risen a few degrees, ie “global warming” has brought us some late, warm falls and some earlier springs which were welcomed by us.  However, those few degrees in the ocean leads to melting the polar ice caps and may not be welcomed by coastal dwellers in the future.  But what we are struggling with now is the extreme, more intense storm events and weather patterns!  What does that look like for us? 

Cleaning up fallen trees & branches
on field roads Thursday morning
Good, healthy soil can absorb up to one inch of rain in an hour with minimal run-off.  We have recently witnessed three inches of steady rain over a six hour period with minimal problems.  But our recent four inches of rain that fell in less than an hour followed by another four inches just six hours later caused huge problems!  Eight inches of rain on every square foot of field at a rate of two or more inches per hour is “intense.”  Our raised beds with five rows of crop, lost the outside two rows!  The water could not drain away fast enough and fields looked like a “lake” for a time because our valley drainage systems were overwhelmed with the huge amounts of water and debris running from the surrounding woods and hillsides.  When I wrote last week’s newsletter about making choices and considering your impact downstream, I had no idea what we were in for before last week was over. In last week’s newsletter I wrote “Sometimes we are the person being impacted downstream and other times we are the one with the ability to impact what’s happening downstream.  Yes our choices do matter and the farming practices you choose to support can make a significant impact on our local health and environment as well as the health and environment downstream.  At the end of the day, we are all a community and we all have choices.”  Unfortunately, last week we were the downstream recipients who paid for the poor choices and irresponsible actions of a farmer on the ridge above us who chose to clear steep hillsides so he could plant corn.  

Farmer Richard making use of his bulldozer to
clean silt and debris off a field.
When the rains came, there was significant erosion off those hillsides that washed down into one of the dry wash ditches that is supposed to direct water from the hillsides and carry it to the river.  The rocks, silt, soil and sand that washed off the ridge top came down fast with the momentum of the water driving it.  It clogged up the dry wash and came close to taking out our neighbor’s solar panels and house basement.  The debris covered Newton road with silt, soil and debris that was one foot deep.  Because the water and debris didn’t follow the intended path, it spilled over the road and onto one of the fields we farm covering half of a field of small beets intended for fall harvest.  In other places, the erosion and volume of water running off the hillsides took out our five fences that contain our animals and cross our small creek.  After the first 4 inches of rain, our crew put back fences to contain the pigs, working well until after dark only to do it all over again in the morning.  There were numerous trees that fell and broke off throughout the valley as a result of the high winds including a large one on our neighbor’s property that took down a power line.  Wednesday evening Juan, Andrea and I got two generators in place and running so we could generate our own power to run the essentials until power was restored 24 hours later.  We kept greenhouses inflated so they were rigid enough to withstand the high winds of the second storm that came through in the middle of the night.  We were also able to keep our coolers and ice machines running as well as the water pump so we could continue to wash and pack vegetables on Thursday as we tried to fill our wholesale orders and prepare to pack CSA boxes on Friday.  Did we say intense and violent storms? 

The goats really like the fallen trees!
In the days that have followed, we have had six skillful young men working full-time replacing fences, cutting downed trees, clearing silt from river crossings and fields. We lost many hundreds of trees, snapped off from tornado like winds.  We can salvage some firewood and maybe hopefully sell some wood products to help contribute towards the cost to clean all this up!  The wind driven rain and the hail the storm brought with it has shredded the leaves on many crops, leaving them vulnerable for leaf disease.  The water-logged soils  have already led to some plants dying.  Brassicas in particular (kale, collards, broccoli, etc) do not like “wet feet,” meaning their root system cannot stand in water for extended periods of time.  We’ve seen many of these sensitive plants wilt, die and add to our losses.  In our past experience we find that waterlogged plants and crops that go through wet, humid days may look fine, but the shelf life may be shorter and they may suddenly start to rot or break down.  So, please be patient, observant and understanding.  Please do your part to store your vegetables properly, keep your eye on them and eat them in a timely manner so you don’t lose them.  We will never intentionally pack a poor quality vegetable, but what may look fine when it goes in the box may not look fine when you take it out or go to use it several days later. 
Replacing fencing panels washed out by the swift current.
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.

We Do Have A Choice…And It Matters!

19 Jul 2017 21:18

 By Farmer Richard
We make many, many choices daily.  We choose the food we eat, the body care products we use, the clothes we wear, the energy we use for transportation, heating, and cooling.  We make choices about our personal living space and how we treat our family and the extended community that we interact with.  When we make healthy, positive choices for ourselves and our family, we affect the larger “market place.”  When there is consumer demand for healthy products and services, the result is that more healthy choices become available for all of us.  In many cases, our healthy choices can mean less synthetic chemicals are used to produce our food, etc resulting in less chemical residues entering our bodies and less goes into our environment, the air, the water.  That’s the air we breathe and the water that we drink as well as the environment all living creatures depend on for survival.  Whether we realize it or not, we are all connected.
Ducklings in our creek!
Over the past several months, The Country Today newspaper has reported on the experiences of Midwest farmers participating in a cultural exchange with Louisiana fishers, shrimpers and crabbers.  The Country Today editor traveled to Louisiana this spring along with Wisconsin farmers, Dick and Kim Cates. This exchange was made possible with assistance from the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and was funded by a grant received through Wisconsin’s Producer-Led Watershed Protection Program.  The purpose of this exchange was to connect Midwest farmers doing something to keep their water clean and Gulf of Mexico fishermen affected by Midwest farming practices.  It is an undisputed fact that excess synthetic agricultural fertilizer, animal manure and soil from Midwest farm fields are washing down the many watershed creeks and rivers, into the Mississippi River and ending up in the Gulf of Mexico.  This nutrient and chemical pollution has created a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where there is not enough oxygen to support aquatic life.  In 2016, the dead zone was estimated to be an area documented to be the size of the state of Connecticut. 
So just how do our choices and practices in the Midwest affect the fishermen in Lousiana?  While the Gulf of Mexico is quite a distance from the Midwest, we cannot forget that those who live downstream are real people with families and the right to live and work in a healthy environment.  Our Midwestern waste flowing down into their waters directly impacts their health and, in the case of the fishermen, their livelihood.  Diversified farming practices, grass-based grazing, the use of cover crop to prevent erosion and build soil are all practices that can positively impact those downstream by reducing pollution and these practices can make all the difference!  Wisconsin is losing family dairy farms rapidly, yet overall milk production is up due to large mega dairies that have too many animals and too much manure in one place with little to no grass for their animals.  Large-scale meat production is the same.  The animals are fed grain in huge confinement lots, no grass, too much manure which is running off and entering our water.  Yes, our public officials, even universities, have not done their job for the “public good,” but that is another newsletter.
Early Spring Creek water flowing down stream!
You may be thinking, “Ok, but I am not a farmer and I don’t do these things.”  No, but you vote when you make your purchases.  Have you ever wondered why when you drive through the Midwest country side you see mostly corn and soybean fields?  It wasn’t always that way!  Not so long ago, all farms had animals as well as crops and all farms had grass and pastures for these animals to graze in.  When the animals go to huge confinement lots, the more highly erodible land that once produced grass for animals becomes highly erosive corn and soy bean fields to produce grain to feed these animals.  This is just one example from our food system to demonstrate how your vote to purchase grass-fed meat and dairy can make a difference for your own health, but also will impact the whole ecosystem from here to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.    
Dead zones do not only exist in the Gulf of Mexico.  John Rybski, a gentleman who lives in rural northeast Wisconsin, wrote an opinion essay that was published in the June 2017 issue of Acres U.S.A.  In his article he stated the following:  “The accumulation of individual acts to farm “my land” and maximize tillable acres and provide the best, short-term return for “my labor” has turned our streams and rivers in Kewaunee County into open agricultural sewers and the bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan into enormous sewage-holding pods.  The documented dead zones….are clear evidence of the nutrient pollution generated by agriculture destroying these water bodies.”  He also commented that “industrial agriculture is not farming.  Farming is living with the land.  Farming is working with living soils.  Farming is working with a natural cycle where energy from the sun and nutrients provided by the microbial community in the soil is converted by plants into fiber, carbohydrates and proteins to feed animal life.  Sustainable farming is a cycle of addition and subtraction in balance:  neither adding more than is taken nor taking more than is added.  Farming is stewardship.  Industrial agriculture on the other hand is exploitation.  An inch of soil that takes years of forest growth to build can be wind-stripped from fall-plowed bare fields in just five winters.  The long-term results of industrial agriculture are the same in the countryside as the results of industrial manufacturing in urban places--air pollution, water pollution, deteriorating human health and the destruction of the natural environment and all its critters , including, and perhaps rightfully, us.”  Rybski goes on to say “We should be worried, and we must act together;  farmer and consumer, dairyman and neighbor, country-dweller and urban-dweller.” 
Sometimes we are the person being impacted downstream and other times we are the one with the ability to impact what’s happening downstream.  Yes our choices do matter and the farming practices you choose to support can make a significant impact on our local health and environment as well as the health and environment downstream.  At the end of the day, we are all a community and we all have choices.

July 20, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweetheart Cabbage

19 Jul 2017 21:18

Cooking with this week’s box……

This week I want to introduce you to Alexandra Stafford, the blog writer behind alexandracooks.com.  Alexandra lives in Upstate New York with her husband and four kids.  She stays busy cooking with the vegetables from her own CSA share and shares her recipes on her blog.  She also writes for Food52.comand recently published a cookbook about bread.  Both of the recipes featured in this week’s newsletter come from her blog.  So lets dive into the box and talk about this week’s featured vegetable first, Sweetheart Cabbage! 

The first recipe in this week’s newsletter is Alexandra’s Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken.(See Below) It makes a nice main dish salad as it is light enough for a hot summer evening but filling enough to satisfy you.  In addition to the cabbage, this slaw also uses carrots, snow peas and the green tops from the Cipollini onions as well as sliced onion.  This recipe does make about 8 cups of slaw, so if you are a smaller household you will have leftovers or may want to cut the recipe in half.  The slaw is delicious to eat as it is the next day, or repurpose it into spring rolls!  They are pretty quick and easy to make and transport well if you want to take them for your lunch.  If you’ve never worked with rice spring roll wrappers, be patient with yourself.  Your first few will likely tear, but that happens to everyone and you can usually stick them back together.  The other recipe option to consider using your cabbage for this week is The Simplest Slaw, (See Below) which is also featured in the newsletter.  As the name indicates…it is a very simple recipe!  It will leave you with a bowl of creamy cabbage slaw that will make a nice accompaniment to a grilled burger, pan-fried fish, or a barbecued pulled pork sandwich.
Alexandra has some other interesting vegetable focused recipes I’d like to highlight.  You know those bushy carrot tops I’m always encouraging you to eat?  Well you can always fall back on pesto or chimichurri, but here’s another idea to try.  Alexandra has a recipe for Fried Greens Meatless Balls.  This recipe calls for a lot of greens, so you could use the carrot tops along with chard if you like, or any beet tops, amaranth or other greens you might have remaining from last week’s delivery.  There are some good ideas for variations in the comments listed below the recipe, so you might want to peruse them to see what other people have tried.  These Fried Greens Meatless Balls would pair nicely with Alexandra’s New Potatoes with Green Harissa These tasty potatoes will make good use of basil and any other herbs you have available from your herb garden.  The recipe calls for 1 pound of potatoes, but you have 2 pounds in your box.  You can either double the recipe if you’re feeding more people, or use the other pound of potatoes to make Crushed Potatoes with Cream and Garlic.  This is a recipe from Nigel Slater’s cookbook that we featured in a previous newsletter.  They are an excellent accompaniment to steak or roasted chicken.
The red chard this week is one of my favorite box contents!  I’ve had my eye on Alexandra’s Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon,Parmesan and Breadcrumbs for awhile now.  Chard is usually eaten cooked, but it is tender enough to eat raw if you slice it thinly.  This could easily become a main dish salad by adding some protein such as chicken, tuna or some chickpeas or white beans. 
During the summer we often have sandwiches, good for dinner and easy to make again for lunch the next day.  This week I’m going to use the baby arugula to make Skirt Steak Sandwiches with Herbed Mayonnaise and Arugula. You’ll need to pick a few more herbs from your herb garden to make the mayonnaise.  Serve these sandwiches with Alexandra’s Cucumber and Feta Salad.  This recipe is part of another recipe, so scroll all the way to the bottom of the blog post and you’ll find it. 
What shall we do with the zucchini this week?  Well, I haven’t made zucchini fritters yet this year, so I think it’s time.  Check out Alexandra’s recipe for Zucchini Fritters with Tzatziki.  Her Tzatziki doesn’t call for cucumbers, but I think I’ll dice some up and add it in. 
Lastly, we need to use the broccoli!  I’m saving some of the broccoli to make this Summer Breakfast Strata.  It calls for a small head of broccoli and some zucchini.  I may substitute more broccoli for some or all of the squash and might even add some mushrooms.  Her recipe calls for garlic scapes, but the fresh Italian garlic will be a great substitute.  We’ll enjoy this for Sunday brunch along with a few pieces of bacon and fresh fruit. 
Lastly, before next week’s box rolls around I’ll pull out all the odds and ends of vegetables remaining and turn them into stir-fry.  I’m going to use Alexandra’s Stir-Fried Veggies and Tofu recipe that has a simple 5-ingredient sauce to put on the stir-fry.  Richard isn’t a big fan of tofu, so I’ll probably substitute chicken instead. 
There you have it…this week’s box is all used up.  Thank you Alexandra for helping us find a use for everything in the box!  Now it’s time to start planning what to do with the tomatoes, eggplant and peppers that we’ll be picking very soon!  Have a great week and have fun cooking!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Sweetheart Cabbage

Sweetheart cabbage is a unique cabbage both in appearance as well as other characteristics.  We plant most of our cabbage for harvest in the fall as cabbage thrives and tastes better when it is grown in more cool temperatures.  One of the unique attributes of sweetheart cabbage is that it does fare well as an early-season cabbage.  It is known as a “salad cabbage” because the leaves are tender enough to be eaten raw in salads and the flavor is mild and well-balanced.  Another reason we grow this variety for summer harvest is that it gives us another option for a “salad green” during the part of the season where salad mix and lettuce are not available.  You can recognize sweetheart cabbage by its pointy head with tightly wrapped leaves. 
Sweetheart cabbage may be eaten raw or lightly cooked.  I recommend slicing it thinly or shredding it for use in vegetable slaws or other raw salads.  It can also be used to make spring rolls (see this week’s recipe) or you may use the leaves as a wrap in place of tortillas or bread.  If you choose to cook it, I’d recommend a quick cooking method such as stir-frying or grilling and be careful not to overcook it!   
Store your sweetheart cabbage loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  Lightly rinse the outer leaves before using.  If you don’t use the entire cabbage for one preparation, wrap the remaining portion of cabbage and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  One cabbage typically yields 6-8 cups of shredded cabbage.

Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken 

Yield: 6 servings
2 chicken breasts, about 1 lb., (optional)
6-8 cups shredded cabbage
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup thinly sliced snow or sugar snap peas*
2 to 3 carrots, thinly sliced or shredded
6 scallions, thinly sliced (May substitute the green onion tops in this week’s box)
1 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped to yield about 1 cup
1 small red onion or purple cipollini onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice and the zest of 2 limes
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 ½ Tbsp sugar 
½ tsp Sriracha, plus more to taste
*Note from Chef Andrea:  The original recipe called for red peppers, but the author encourages you to substitute whatever vegetables you have in season.  I chose to use snow peas in place of the peppers.
  1. If you are using the chicken, bring a small pot of water to a boil and salt the water as if you were going to boil pasta.  Drop in the chicken breasts. Cover the pot. Remove pot from heat. Let stand 15 minutes. Uncover. Remove breasts. Let cool briefly. Pull/shred into pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the cabbage in quarters and remove the core. Thinly slice the cabbage and place in a large bowl. Pour in the oil. Sprinkle evenly with the salt. Massage the cabbage with your hands. Really squeeze it firmly until it shrinks in size and becomes more saturated in hue.
  3. To the bowl of cabbage, add the peas*, carrots, scallions, cilantro, and red onion. Add the chicken, if using.
  4. Make the dressing: Stir together the lime juice, lime zest, fish sauce, sugar, and Sriracha. Pour over the bowl of vegetables. Toss to coat evenly. Taste. Adjust with more salt or Sriracha as needed.

Chef Andrea’s Variations:  This recipe was written by Alexandra Stafford and was featured on her blog, alexandracooks.com.  The actual recipe may be found at Food52.com.  It is delicious as it was originally written, however here are a few variations you might want to consider trying.  
Chef Andrea's Spring Rolls with a Basil leaf added!
  • In addition to the cilantro, add fresh basil and/or mint to the slaw.
  • Consider garnishing the slaw with chopped roasted peanuts or cashews
  • If you have any leftover slaw, repurpose it the next day to make fresh spring rolls using rice paper wrappers.  Simply soak the rice wrappers in water for 20-30 seconds to soften them, then put some of the slaw in the middle of the wrapper and roll it tightly like a burrito.  If you plan to do this with the leftovers, I’d recommend saving about ¼ to ⅓ of the dressing to use as a dipping sauce with the spring rolls. 

Simplest Cabbage Slaw

Yield:  4 to 6 servings
½ cup sour cream
½ cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 small head cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  1. Whisk together the sour cream, buttermilk, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Taste. For more bite, add another teaspoon of vinegar. Stir and taste again. Adjust with more salt if necessary.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage and onion. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Taste. Adjust with more salt if needed.
This recipe was written by Alexandra Stafford and may be found on her blog, alexandracooks.com.  This is a simple, basic slaw recipe that you can tweek to your liking.  Add some shredded carrots or chopped fresh herbs if you’d like.  Or, just keep it simple.

Garlic Harvest 2017 - It All Depends on the Weather!

12 Jul 2017 20:29

By Farmer Richard

I’ve been growing garlic since 1975.  When I first started farming, I didn’t have the ability to do a “google search” to find an answer to a farming question or learn about how to grow different vegetables.  I had to search for my own answers.  So when it came to growing garlic, I tapped another farmer on the shoulder to try to learn more about it.  That farmer was Dave Frattalone, an experienced grower who sold vegetables at the St. Paul farmers’ market.  At the time, Dave was planting a soft neck garlic variety in the spring.  His yield was slim and the bulbs were small, but he had the monopoly on that market because no one else knew how to grow garlic any better!  When I asked Dave for some garlic education, he made it very clear to me that I was on my own to figure this one out.  So, I did my own research and found a grower in Canada who was growing a hard neck type of garlic that he planted in the fall.  So I bought some hard neck garlic seed, planted it in the fall, and the following summer I brought some beautiful garlic bulbs to market to show Dave Frattalone.  While he didn’t say it in words, I could tell that I had earned Dave’s respect with this garlic.  He asked me how I had grown such big, beautiful garlic and I willingly shared the secret with him….plant it in the fall!  This was an important moment in my farming career.  I still had a lot to learn about other vegetables and Dave was one of the old-timers that knew a lot of the information I needed to learn, such as when to plant cauliflower for fall harvest.  Garlic was the key to open the door to this wealth of experience and knowledge.

The crew cracking garlic last fall for planting

While I did buy seed stock in my early years, I quickly learned that garlic seed sold as “disease free” was rarely ever really disease free.  Fusarium basal rot is a common disease in garlic.  Garlic “seed” is actually the cloves on a bulb of garlic.  If you have disease on the bulb, you will likely spread the disease from one year into the next.  In an effort to prevent fusarium basal rot in my garlic, I decided it might be a better idea to raise our own seed stock.  So for the past 30 years we’ve maintained our own seed for two major varieties of hard neck garlic and every year we take the best, biggest, nicest garlic bulbs and plant them for the next year’s crop.

Garlic is not a crop we grow for the wholesale market.  Gilroy, California used to be the “Garlic Capitol of the World,” but now most of the garlic is produced in China and South America, organic included.  Unfortunately the price you can get for garlic is pretty cheap, but the cost to produce garlic is high.  Nonetheless, we still consider garlic to be an important part of our CSA season as well as our own diets!  So we continue to grow garlic and after all these years, I’m still learning how to grow the best garlic!

2016 Fall planting
Mulched garlic field ready for the winter!
This year’s crop was planted last October.  The bulbs were cracked and the individual cloves were separated.  The nice, big cloves that came off of good quality bulbs were set aside to plant for full-sized garlic. If there were any small cloves on a bulb, those cloves were saved to be planted as green garlic.  It’s important for the garlic roots to become well-established before the ground freezes for the winter.  The mulch is important to the survival of garlic over the winter because it protects the garlic from extreme temperature changes and excessive freezing and thawing.  However, you have to get the mulch off the garlic in the spring so the new growth can push through!  Unfortunately, our field crew hadn’t arrived yet when this needed to be done this spring.  As soon as they arrived, one of the first missions they had was to pull back some of the tight-packed mulch.  As a result, we may have lost a few plants that just couldn’t push through the mulch.  But that’s the life of farming, there are no guarantees.  The remaining plants looked really good and have produced some very nice garlic this year!

This year we tried a new method for watering the garlic.  We buried drip tape in the beds so we could easily irrigate and had a means of delivering nutrients through the drip lines at some critical stages of their growth.  After all the garlic scapes were removed from the plants, we watched them closely for signs of maturity and watched the weather closely because, even though we stopped irrigating weeks ago, a heavy rain could make harvest difficult and increase the potential for disease. 

I often use the phrase “it all depends on the weather.” Well, garlic harvest is no different and it is always dependent on the weather.  I’ve been closely watching the garlic as it matures over the past few weeks, while also keeping close watch on the weather forecast.  We deemed this week as the major push to harvest our 1.5 acre field of garlic.  This is no small task and requires a significant amount of crew and time to complete the harvest.  We still have to keep up with our regular harvest schedule while trying to tackle the garlic, so it has proven to be an “All Hands On Deck” kind of week!  To add an element of urgency, they were predicting rain and thunderstorms to move into the area Tuesday night with predictions of over one inch of rainfall.  Yikes!  That could ruin a garlic crop overnight!
Garlic in the greenhouse starting to dry.

So we have been running full throttle since the beginning of the day on Monday and anyone who was available to help with the harvest has joined the fun.  We made pretty good progress in two days and estimated that we’d have about 75% of the crop harvested by the end of the work day on Tuesday.  I asked some field crew members to go to the garlic field after their harvest was complete on Tuesday evening.  We needed help picking up the garlic that had already been dug.  I only intended for them to help get things picked up.  I didn’t anticipate that they decided that they were so close to being finished, we might as well work late, dig the remainder and be done for the year!  We worked until after 8 pm, but at the end of the night every piece of garlic was in the greenhouse.  I must say, it was a good way to end the day and I feel very blessed to be able to work with such a loyal, dedicated, “get the job done” kind of a crew.  They did it…and Tuesday night the weather forecast came true.  We got 1.5 inches of rain overnight.  Good job guys.  Job well done.    
Final harvest sheet records for garlic this year!

July 13, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring New Potatoes

12 Jul 2017 20:28

July 13th CSA box contents!

Cooking with this week's box!

Well, it’s been an exciting week here at the farm.  The theme of the first part of the week was “Dig It!”  Thankfully we were able to get all of the garlic dug this week and we dug our first round of potatoes on Monday….ahead of the rainstorm thank goodness!  So we’re going to kick off this week’s “Cooking with the Box” with one of the newsletter recipes this week, Summer Farmer Skillet Dinner (see below).  This is a dish I make throughout the year, varying the ingredients with the season.  This week I made it with the new potatoes, freshly dug carrots, green beans, zucchini and the amaranth greens.  I developed this dish out of necessity.  It’s the end of the day, we’re hungry and I don’t have a plan for dinner.  I start cooking some ground meat, add some onions and garlic….all the while not really knowing where I’m going with this.  I started pulling vegetables out of the refrigerator and adding them in layers, basically until the pan was full.  I needed some kind of a “sauce,” so I added some cream.  Of course everything is better with cheese on top, so that was the finishing touch.  When we sat down to eat, Richard asked “And what’s this dish called?”  My response at that time was simply “Dinner.”  I’ve since refined the meal a bit, but it’s still a simple dish that you can vary with the seasons.  You can also get a pretty significant vegetable count with this dish as well and it’s a good way to use up remainders of vegetables before your next CSA delivery.  Sorry it isn’t anything fancy, it’s just simple farmer food.

There have been some good suggestions for recipes on our facebook group this week.  I’m going to use some of this week’s zucchini to make the Lemon Zucchini Bread recipe one member suggested.  There was also mention of a Zucchini and Garlic Soup recipe.  There isn’t enough zucchini in this week’s box to make both of these, but I’m going to hang on to the soup recipe for a future week. 
There is a good sized portion of broccoli in the box this week.  One recipe I came across was for Skillet Macaroni and Broccoli and Mushrooms and Cheese .Whew, that’s a mouthful to say, but it looks like a pretty good main dish recipe that I think will appeal to children of all ages.  If there’s some broccoli remaining after this dish, I’d like to make Sauteed Broccoli with Toasted Garlic, Orange and Sesame.This looks like a simple recipe that will be delicious with the fresh garlic in this week’s box and will make use of some of the Valencia orange peeling from this week’s fruit share.  This will go nicely alongside grilled teriyaki chicken breasts and a side of steamed rice. 
We have mangoes in this week’s fruit share, so I’m going to try this recipe for a Tropical Cucumber Salad. This fruity salad will make a simple dinner along with broiled salmon. 
Don’t forget to use the carrot tops!  I’m voting for another batch of Carrot Top Pesto that I will toss with cooked pasta and any other bits and pieces of vegetables remaining at the end of the week.  This could become a hot pasta dish, or I might opt to turn it into a cold salad and add some salty olives and freshly grated cheese to finish it off. 
We’ll use a few carrots for the Summer Farmer Skillet Dinner (recipe below), but the remainder will get chopped up in the food processor to make vegetable cream cheese.  I like to chop the raw carrot finely and then fold it into softened cream cheese along with finely sliced onion green tops and fresh herbs from the garden.  This  will becomes a spread for a sandwich or a wrap and will likely make it onto my morning toast as well. 
I think we’ve used just about everything in this week’s box….so I’ll give you a glimpse into what will be coming our way pretty soon.  Richard reported this morning that there are baby eggplant and peppers set on the plants.  The tomato plants have also set on fruit, so it won’t be long before we’re making traditional ratatouille and tomato sandwiches!  Have a great week!
-Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  New Potatoes

Harvest starting earlier this week!
The potatoes in your box this week are a variety called Red Norland.  They are an early variety red-skinned potato with creamy white flesh and this week they are classified as a “new potato.” The difference between a new potato and other potatoes we’ll deliver this season is not the variety or the size, but the way they are harvested.  New potatoes are classified as such if they are harvested off of a plant that still has green leaves on it.  With latter varieties, we’ll mow down the potato vine about a week in advance of harvest.  In the week between mowing down the vines and actually harvesting the potatoes, changes take place in the potatoes that help to set the skins and make them better for storage.  They are also easier to handle without damaging the skin. 
New potatoes have a thinner, more tender and delicate skin.  They need to be handled with care so as not to disturb the skin and expose the flesh.  Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place, but not in the refrigerator.  It’s important that they are not exposed to light or they will turn green and be bitter.  In general, potatoes will store for a few weeks at room temperature in a brown paper bag.  However new potatoes will not store as well and are best eaten within one week. Do not store potatoes in a plastic bag or in the refrigerator.

Wagon load of potatoes ready for  CSA boxes!
New potatoes are, in my opinion, the “best of the best” potatoes of the season.  They are tender & creamy with a fresh, pure potato flavor.  This week’s variety is a “waxy” variety.  They lend themselves well to basic boiling, roasting or pan-frying.  You could make “smashed” potatoes with them, but I’d discourage you from making mashed potatoes out of them as waxy potatoes have a tendency to become sticky when mashed.  We still have several more varieties to dig.  Make sure you check the newsletter each week to find out more information about each variety and the best ways to prepare them.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt 

Yield:  4 to 6 servings
2 ½ pounds small waxy potatoes
Fine sea salt
1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
2 Tbsp minced dill
2 Tbsp minced parsley
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh lemon juice and ½ tsp grated lemon zest
½ tsp honey 
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh herbs for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover them with water.  Sprinkle a few pinches of salt into the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the potatoes are tender (but not falling apart).  Test the potatoes by inserting a knife into the center.
  3. While the potatoes cook, prepare the yogurt sauce.  In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, dill, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and zest, honey, oil, and a healthy pinch each of salt and pepper;  whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  4. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them cool for 8 to 10 minutes.  Spread the potatoes out over the baking sheet and use a spatula to lightly press down on each one until it is mostly flattened.  (Some may fall apart a bit, but that’s okay!)
  5. Drizzle each potato with a teaspoon or so of olive oil and roast for 30 minutes or until they are golden brown and crisp on the bottom.  The timing will vary depending on the size and variety of your potatoes.
  6. Serve them with the garlic herb yogurt sauce and a sprinkling of chopped herbs.
This is another tasty recipe from Dishing Up the Dirt, written by farmer Andrea Bemis.

Summer Farmer Skillet Dinner

By Chef Andrea 
Yield:  4 to 6 servings
1 pound ground pork or beef
1 cup chopped onion
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
⅓ cup white wine
2 cups potatoes, skin on, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup carrots, medium dice
1 cup zucchini, medium dice
2 cups green or yellow beans, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup cream, divided
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, savory, oregano, rosemary etc.)
4 cups greens (amaranth, chard, beet greens, or any other seasonal cooking green), washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. If you have a broiler in your oven, position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the broiler.  If you do not have a broiler, preheat the oven to 400°F.  
  2. Heat an 11-12 inch oven proof skillet on the stove top at medium-high heat.  Add the ground pork or beef and cook until browned.  Add the onion and garlic and continue to cook for a few more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the white wine to the pan and then layer the potatoes and carrots on top of the meat mixture.  Season again with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and simmer for 5-8 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots have started to soften but are not all the way cooked.  
  4. Add the zucchini, green beans and ½ cup of the cream to the pan.  Season this layer with salt and pepper.  Cover the pan again and simmer for another 5-6 minutes. 
  5. Remove the cover and sprinkle the herbs on top.  Spread the greens on top, and season with salt and pepper.  Pour the remaining ½ cup of cream around the edge of the pan.  Cover the pan again and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the greens are wilted.  Remove the cover and simmer on the stovetop for an additional 5-6 minutes or until the cream is reduced by about half.  
  6. Spread the shredded cheese on top of the greens.  Remove the pan from the stovetop and put it in the oven under the broiler or in the hot oven.  Bake just until the cheese is melted, bubbly and starting to brown.  
  7. Serve hot.  If you have any leftovers, they will reheat well for another meal or they are delicious served with toast and eggs for breakfast.  
This is a basic recipe that can be altered to use any seasonal vegetables you have available.  Add the vegetables that will take the longest to cook to the pan first and finish with the quick cooking greens on top.  And the best part is…you only dirty one pan!  This has become one of our favorite, simple ways to make a hearty meal using seasonal vegetables without a lot of fuss and enough leftovers for the next day!  Perfect farmer food at the end of a long summer day!

Overwhelmed? Don’t Be!

5 Jul 2017 20:15

Meet My Friend Carol….

Carol looks forward to the first taste
of strawberries each year!
This week’s newsletter article was written by longtime CSA member, Carol Wilson.  Carol was kind enough to share some of her strategies, resources and thoughts about how to find success and pleasure as CSA members “eating out of the box.”  Carol and her husband, Bob, have been CSA members in Madison, Wisconsin for over 20 years.  They raised two wonderful children on HVF CSA vegetables.  Their daughter, Jesse, lives and works in New York City where she now enjoys cooking with her own CSA shares.  Their son, David, resides in California where he enjoys his work as a wine maker.  Both Jesse and David have grown to develop an appreciation for good food and totally get what it means to eat seasonally.  When their children left home, the weekly CSA box became more of a challenge for only Bob and Carol, but they have done well with the challenge and continue to eat through a weekly vegetable share.  They have seen us through times of bounty when we had huge pepper crops and stuck with us through three difficult flood years.  They have listened to us when we needed their support and perspectives, offering us enlightenment and sometimes just a dose of comic relief.  Over the years they have become not only loyal, committed CSA members, but they have also become our good friends.  This past winter they visited us for a weekend, including their dog Iris.  Bob helped me reinstall a bathroom cabinet that had been removed for a plumbing repair while Carol coached Andrea through a basket weaving project!  Bob and Carol are an example of how important our CSA members are to our farm.  They help make the difficult days more manageable and meaningful.  This is what Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is really about!  ---Farmer Richard
Overwhelmed? Don’t Be!
By Carol Wilson, Madison HVF CSA Member

We have been members of Harmony Valley Farm (HVF) for over 20 years and initially experienced being overwhelmed as we learned to eat seasonally and to make use of our wonderful HVF produce. Learning to eat seasonally and to incorporate less familiar vegetables into your repertoire is so rewarding, but requires strategies and a little effort.   Below are some of the strategies we learned over the years and now, long after our children grew up and moved out, we continue to receive a weekly box and experience the pleasures of healthy eating.

When we come home with the box, 2 things are key for me: proper storage and inventory.  My daughter does not bag her greens and then they wilt.  Another friend leaves veggies sitting on the counter and they go soft quickly.  Properly stored veggies last longer and taste better.  However, once those veggies are stored away, it can be hard to remember what you have on hand.  I solve that dilemma by creating a list of our veggies and posting it on the fridge.  I have counted over 20 different veggies at one time in our fridge!

Before my husband retired and started preparing the week night meals, I spent time on the weekend creating a menu for the week that used the veggies.  At the same time, I created a shopping list for anything else we needed to make the meal plan work.  During the week it was so nice to know what the plan was and to just come home and start cooking.  I didn't have to think or dig through cookbooks - all that work had been done.
Over the years, we have invested in a few cookbooks that focus on veggies and/or seasonal eating.  With the help of those, the HVF newsletters, on-line recipes, magazines, friends, etc., we have a collection of recipes that we look forward to every year when it is that veggie or fruit's time of year - currant scones, strawberry shortbread pizza, Zucchini-Cumin Dip, rhubarb crumble, ramp and asparagus pizza, etc.  
When it’s been a busy week and you find yourself with lots of veggies at the end of the week just before your next pick up, we use one of our ‘clear out the fridge’ strategies.  Our primary go-to is pizza, but we also do warm veggie salads.  My husband also makes delicious soups.  My sister does burritos.  Whatever is left at the end of the week gets sautéed together and then put on a pizza with sausage or bacon.  Or, put on greens with a good dressing.  Or, made into a soup.  Or, put in a tortilla.

To preserve the bounty, we freeze.  Mostly peppers, but also strawberries and tomatoes.  We have started pickling and canning and have a wonderful recipe for both a zucchini and a fennel relish.  We also purchased a dehydrator several years ago and use that for drying herbs. 
Cook more veggies at a time than you think you will eat.  Two things happen: you will eat more veggies at meal time because they are there and ready and fresh and delicious, and, second, you will pack the leftovers for lunch the next day.  And, in the same vein, put in more veggies than the recipe calls for.  Lots of recipes are trying to please an audience that is practically terrified of veggies, so they call for limited amounts of things - a small zucchini, a half of a pepper, etc.   Go nuts! Use two small zucchini or go crazy and use the whole pepper!
Substitute, substitute.  If your recipe calls for a veggie you don't have, substitute one that you do have.  Think of veggies in categories - ramps, onions, green garlic, etc. are all onions.  Fennel, carrots, parsley root, celery, etc. are all aromatics.  This takes practice and learning about veggies, but will start to make sense over time and lead to lots of delicious creations.
Looking ahead at this week’s box, here’s what I’m thinking.  We will likely make Carrot Top Pesto (recipe available on the HVF website) which is fantastic!  The combination of fennel and zucchini is one of my favorites so a simple saute is in order using those.  The Amaranth Corn Saute recipe from the HVF website is a favorite, but many of the veggies that it calls for are not yet available so we will substitute or use things from our freezer, such as red pepper and edamame.  We don’t have corn, so we might substitute fennel, giving it a slightly different flavor.  I love a good Chinese ground pork (from HVF, of course!) stir fry that uses lots of veggies in whatever proportion you wish.  Of the veggies in this week’s box, the only ones I probably wouldn’t use in the stir-fry are cucumbers and beets, but that’s just me.  (I love beets and cucumbers, just not with this flavor combination.)  We love a fairly simple saute of greens as a bed for fish, so that’s a possibility for the beet or amaranth greens.   
Finally, don't be embarrassed to compost.  It happens to the best of us.  Whether they belong to a CSA, grow their own produce, or shop at a conventional grocery store, everyone occasionally has to throw something out.  Let it go and don't feel guilty.  {Note from Farmer Richard…Do be wary of composting sunchokes and horseradish.  If your compost is not hot enough to kill them they may take over your compost pile.  We dry them to death before adding to our compost.  I give you this warning because Bob and Carol are not the only CSA members who have been haunted by the seemingly endless battle of sunchokes growing in their compost/yard.} 
I would say that it took us several years to get comfortable with and confident about using a CSA box.  Don't give up after the first year - you are just getting going!  Our daughter (who now lives in New York City, and participates in CSAs there) adds, “At first it is overwhelming, so it's about managing being overwhelmed.  Don't let it get you down!”
Lastly, here are some of our go-to cookbooks:
From Asparagus to Zucchini – the MACSAC cookbook available for purchase online from Fairshare CSA Coalition
Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make by Melissa Clark, who lives in NYC and shops the various Farmers’ Markets.  She includes adaptations, modifications, and how to make dishes kid friendly.  She has the tendency to do what we do – go to the Farmers’ Market, buy lots of beautiful produce and then come home and figure out what to make with it all.
Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi – (our daughter loves this one!)
Roots by Diane Morgan
Farmer John’s Cookbook by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics
The Produce Bible by Leanne Kitchen
Dishing up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis
Naturally Sweet Food in Jarsby Marisa McClellan (source of the Zucchini and Fennel relish recipes)

We also have many vegetarian cookbooks that provide us with inspiration and ideas.

July 6, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Amaranth Greens

5 Jul 2017 20:15

What’s In The Box?
Purple Scallions: It’s been an excellent onion year so far.  Cross your fingers that the tops will continue to remain healthy in the field and the onions will keep growing and multiplying as well as these purple scallions have! 
Fennel: Please refer to last week’s newsletter and blog post about fennel.  You’ll find two delicious recipes plus suggestions for other ways to use this unique vegetable.    
Fresh Italian Garlic: This garlic was just harvested, so the layers of skin surrounding the cloves are still very fresh and will need to be pulled away to expose the fresh, juicy cloves inside.
Green Top Gold Beets: If you profess to not like beets, this may be the beet for you.  Golden beets are more mild in flavor and sweeter than red beets….and as always, eat the greens too!
Sugar Snap OR Snow Peas: We still have one more planting of peas coming…they’re blooming right now.  Don’t forget that all of our peas have edible pods.  All you have to do is remove the string that runs on top of the pea and is connected to the stem.  
Italian & Green Zucchini: Our first crop of zucchini is producing much better this week now that we have had some warm days! The Italian variety is lighter green with stripes and ribs.  It is more firm and best for grilling.
Green OR Silver Slicer Cucumbers: Another heat-loving crop that really stepped up production with the heat this week!  The silver slicer cucumbers have pale yellow skin, are a little smaller than the green cucumbers, and have a crisp texture with a fruity flavor.
Green Top Carrots: These are an older European “nantes” variety called “Mokum” that is known for being an early carrot with a sweet juicy flavor.  The greens are edible too!  Read on for suggestions about using the carrot tops!
Broccoli: The stems of broccoli are edible too.  Just peel away a thin outer layer of skin and you’ll find a tender, juicy core that is delicious raw or cooked.
Amaranth Greens: Don’t be fooled…this is a cooking green, but the leaves are mostly deep burgundy red in color and sometimes have a touch of dark green!  See this week’s vegetable feature below for more information about this cool vegetable!

Cooking with This Week's Box!

I recently picked up another cookbook entitled Six Seasons:  A New Way With Vegetables by Joshua McFadden.  In his book he divides the summer season  into three different sections, early summer, midsummer and late summer.  According to his system for seasonal distinction, we are still in early summer, as we transition from the tail end of spring into the first part of summer.  Salad mix is done until fall and it’s time to switch to summer cooking greens and salads made with vegetables other than lettuce!  There is quite a selection in this week’s box so cooking and eating is going to be very interesting this week!

Lets start with this week’s featured vegetable, Amaranth.  If you’re new to this green, take a moment to read the vegetable feature in this week’s newsletter or on our blog.  Our featured recipe this week is Spicy Amaranth Greens with Zucchini and Black-Eyed Peas.  This dish is tasty on its own, or you can serve it over grits, polenta or rice.  If you’re not into black-eyed peas, substitute another bean of your choosing or leave them out as well!
We’re going to have amaranth in the box again within the next few weeks and when we do, I want to use it to make a recipe for Amaranth Leaves Rotti, an Indian flat bread.  In this recipe they recommend serving the Rotti with a pickle, so I want to use the fennel this week to make the Indian Spiced Fennel Pickles mentioned in last week’s vegetable feature about fennel.  This recipe makes 2 quarts, so I might cut the recipe in half so I can use some of the fennel for another use.  I think the fennel pickles might go well with the rotti and some dal and you can store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.  I admit I don’t have much experience cooking food from India, so if anyone has another suggestion for what to pair with the Rotti, please let me know.  Otherwise, I’m going to try my combo and we’ll see how it is!

The remainder of the fennel is going to be used to make the Fennel and Beet Salad with Honey LemonVinaigrette featured in our June 2007 newsletter.  This is a recipe I developed the first year I was at the farm because Richard convinced me that beets and fennel are a seasonal pairing and go together well.  I really hadn’t used fennel much before, but played around with it and came up with this salad which remains one of our annual favorites!  
We’re excited to be harvesting carrots again!  This week we are delivering the carrots with the green tops still attached to the root.  In the cookbook I mentioned earlier, McFadden likens cooking vegetables to the whole nose-to-tail movement with meat whereby the user is challenged and encouraged to use everything, leaf to root!  So, in the case of carrots and beets that still have their tops on, we’re challenged to find a use for the greens and the roots.  It’s actually like having two vegetables in one, so why throw away half the package?!  “Ok, great Andrea, but what am I supposed to do with these carrot tops?”  What else do we do with green things we’re not sure what to do with?  We make pesto of course!  At the Kitchn blog, there’s an article entitled “Not Just Rabbit Food:  5 Tasty Ways to Eat Carrot Tops.”  One of the recipes they link to is for a Grilled Cheese with Roasted Carrots andCarrot Top Pesto.  If you’re like Richard and appreciate meat, you could add some crispy pancetta or bacon to this sandwich, or I’m sure prosciutto would be tasty too.  If the grilled cheese sandwich concept isn’t grabbing your attention but you like the pesto idea, there’s another version of CarrotTop Pesto from one of our past newsletters. If you aren’t sold on pesto, then consider Roasted Carrot and Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro and Carrot Green Chimichurri. Chimichurri is another great way to utilize carrot tops.
So we have a use for the carrot tops, but what about the beet greens?  Fried eggs are my go-to “quick and easy but still good for you” dinner item and they go great with a wide variety of vegetable combos.  So this week my vegetable-egg creation started with some sautéed onion and garlic.  Once the onion and garlic were softened, add the chopped beet greens to the pan along with a few splashes of red wine vinegar a few pinches of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Put a lid on the pan and let the greens wilt down.  Once they are wilted, allow them to simmer briefly until nearly all the liquid is evaporated.  Push the greens to the side of the pan and add some butter to the pan to fry your egg in.  Put the beet greens on your plate and add some crumbled feta cheese.  The egg goes on top of the beet greens and then you eat the whole mess with a few olives on the side and a piece of buttered toast.  So delicious! 
Golden Beets are so sweet and delicious that even people who don’t usually like beets often like them!  If you don’t use your beets in the fennel and beet salad I mentioned, then consider preparing them in a super-simple preparation such as this recipe for Roasted Golden Beets with Rosemary and Garlic. Sometimes the most simple preparations are the best!
Fennel Cucumber Salsa - photo from allrecipes.com
Thank goodness it warmed up so we can actually feel like it’s summer and enjoy our zucchini and cucumbers!  How about a juicy burger on the grill (beef, turkey or veggie….your choice) served with Baked Parmesan Zucchini and a simple Chili-Cucumber Salad. If there are any cucumbers left over, they make a great snack with just a little salt or put them on toast with cream cheese and fresh herbs. You could also turn them into a salsa such as the one posted by one of our CSA members in our CSA Facebook Group.  It’s a recipe for Fennel-Cucumber Salsa to serve with fresh bread, tortillas, or with sautéed fish or chicken.  
Of course, we’ve nearly used up our onions and garlic by now, but we still have broccoli and sugar snap or snow peas remaining.  Lets turn these vegetables into a simple but delicious Beef, Broccoli and Snow Pea Stir-Fry.   You could throw a carrot or two into the mix for a little color if you like. 
Well, this week’s Cooking with the Box should give you at least 2-3 main entrées and 1 sandwich idea along with a few salad options and a few side dishes including a pickle to enjoy over the next few weeks.  Add a little protein to some of the salads and sides and you should be able to round out a pretty delicious week of eating out of your CSA box!  Of course, there will likely be some leftovers to enjoy in your lunch or repurpose into snacks or dinner for another night as well.
I hope you’ll stretch yourself a little this week and try something new….perhaps this will be the week you tackle those beet and carrot greens!  Let me know how your creations turn out, or post in our Facebook Group and inspire another member!—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Amaranth Greens

 Amaranth is a stunning “green” that actually has dark, burgundy colored leaves.  It is an ancient plant that was part of the diets of Aztec civilizations in Mexico up to 7,000 years ago.  It was also an important staple food for the Incas of South America and the people of the Himalayan region of Asia.  In these ancient cultures, amaranth was also used medicinally and in cultural rituals.  It was held as a symbol of immortality and means “never –fading flower” in Greek.  Like many other vegetables, amaranth was a multi-use vegetable.  The seeds were used as a winter staple and the young leaves were eaten as a fresh vegetable.  There are about 60 different varieties of amaranth, some grown to harvest seeds, others for the leaves, and several ornamental species.  The variety of amaranth we grow is referred to as “Polish Amaranth”….and there’s a story to go with this name.
We actually purchased the seed for this year’s crop from Wild Garden Seeds (WGS), which is kind of funny because Richard is the one who actually gave them the seed originally!  Some of you may have heard this story already, but for those of you who don’t know it the story goes like this.  One day Richard was driving to town and saw a beautiful red amaranth plant growing in a garden along the way.  He stopped and asked the people who lived there about this plant.  They said their Aunt May brought the seed with her from Poland and they were happy to share it with Richard. So Richard collected some seed and started growing it, mostly as a baby green to mix into his gourmet salad mix. It didn’t do so well as a salad mix ingredient, but in later years we found success growing it as a mid-summer bunching green used for cooking.  Since we aren’t in the business of seed production, Richard passed the seed onto Frank Morton at WGS and he has been maintaining this variety of amaranth.   Thanks Frank! 
Amaranth greens have become an important part of our seasonal diet because of their ability to grow in the heat of the summer when other greens, spinach and lettuce do not thrive.  Amaranth is able to adapt to variable conditions with little impact from weather or disease.  It is able to survive in extreme heat or drought conditions because it is able to convert twice the amount of solar energy using the same amount of water as most other plants. 
While I’ve never sent a sample to the lab to test nutrient levels, I think we can add amaranth greens to our list of HVF “super-foods.”  The leaves of this plant are high in calcium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin C, carotene, iron, B vitamins, and trace elements including zinc and manganese.  Compared to spinach, amaranth leaves have three times more vitamin C, calcium and niacin!  Of course we know vegetables that have rich colors like the magenta leaves of amaranth are also packed with important phytonutrients and antioxidants. 
Ok, enough of the history and science of this vegetable.  Lets get serious and figure out how to use it!  Amaranth is similar in flavor to spinach, except better!  You can prepare it similarly to spinach or other cooking greens.  While amaranth may be eaten raw, the more mature leaves and stems are best when cooked.  The stems and leaves are both edible, however the stems might need a little longer cooking time so it’s best to separate the leaves from the stem.   Amaranth greens may be steamed, sautéed, added to soups, stews, wilted and stir-fried.  Amaranth pairs well with so many other summer crops including onions, fresh garlic, zucchini, peppers, corn, green beans, basil, oregano and tomatoes. 
Amaranth is thought to have originated in Central and/or South America, but has made its way around the globe.  It can be found in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, which means there are many options for finding ways to use this vegetable.  Season it with cumin, coriander, oregano and serve it with black beans for more of a Mexican approach.  Stir-fry it with garlic, onion, ginger and a drizzle of sesame oil for more of a Chinese influence.  Mix it with pasta, tomatoes, oregano, basil and Parmesan for an Italian flair, or take it in more in the direction of Indian cuisine by choosing curry spices & lentils.  When I was first introduced to amaranth ten years ago, you could hardly find any recipes in cookbooks or on the internet.  That has changed a lot and now I’m confident you will be able to find at least one way to prepare amaranth that will become your “favorite” way to enjoy this vegetable.  We have some tasty recipes from previous newsletters available on our website as well.  We hope you enjoy this lovely green, for its aesthetics, nutrition, history and flavor! 

Spicy Amaranth with Zucchini & Black-eyed Peas 

By Andrea Yoder
Yield:  4 Servings
1 bunch amaranth greens, washed
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger 
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup finely chopped onion (If using an onion         with green tops, save the tops)
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cloves 
¼ tsp ground cardamom 
⅛ tsp cayenne (optional)
2 cups zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 can (15 oz) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1-2 tsp salt, or to taste
2 Tbsp lime juice 
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup finely chopped onion tops, optional (if using scallions or another onion with green tops)
  1. First, prepare the amaranth greens.  Wash the greens in a sink of water.  Shake to remove most of the excess water.  Separate the leaves from the stems.  Finely chop the stems and set aside.  Roughly chop the leaves and set aside. 
  2. Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat.  Add 1 Tbsp of oil to the pan.  Once the oil is hot, add the ginger, garlic and onion.  Saute for 2-3 minutes or until you can smell the ginger, garlic and onion and the vegetables are softened.  
  3. Add the spices and 1 tsp salt to the pan.  Stir to combine.  Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan along with the zucchini and amaranth stems.  Stir to combine and then saute for 7-10 minutes or until the zucchini starts to get tender, but is not fully cooked.  
  4. Add the black-eyed peas and stir to combine.  Add the amaranth leaves to the pan and cover.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the greens to wilt down for about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the cover and add the lime juice.  Stir to combine the greens with the bean mixture.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more lime juice and/or salt.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the green onion tops if you are using them.
  6. You can serve this on its own or over creamy polenta, grits or cooked rice. 

28 Jun 2017 20:51

Changes in the Marketplace: Where Do We Fit?
By Farmer Richard de Wilde
Many of you will have heard by now that Amazon has bid $13.7 billion to buy Whole Foods Market (WFM).  Within the industry and news in general, this deal has put quite the focus on the future of food buying and many are speculating about how this will change the face of grocery retail, specifically related to perishables.  Only time will tell just what is in store for consumers and producers like us.  Some of you may be wondering why we are even writing about this business deal?  Well, Harmony Valley Farm has been growing produce for WFM stores in the Midwest region for over 25 years.  We have a long and mutually beneficial relationship with them, so we are concerned about the impact this buy out will have on our farm. 
WFM purchases large quantities of selected vegetables we agree to grow for them based on preseason commitments and negotiated pricing.  They have had remarkable follow through and they stay true to their commitments throughout the season.  They are reliable, consistent, and they pick-up at our farm twice per week.  The trucks that deliver product from the distribution center outside of Chicago to their stores in the Twin Cities are mostly empty on their return trip, so they stop and pick up produce at our farm and other regional farms as a back haul.  Their consistent volume purchases have allowed us to obtain efficiencies of production we do not have with small volume orders.  If we have a large amount of a crop available in excess of commitments and we need help finding a home for it, they have stepped up to the plate and helped us out so product doesn’t go to waste.  Our CSA members do benefit, unknowingly, from these efficiencies.  For example some crops, such as celeriac, would be very inefficient for us to produce for only a few CSA boxes and a few pounds for farmer’s market and local wholesale accounts.  We are able to plant a larger quantity that will meet our commitments to WFM and leave plenty to supply our CSA boxes and smaller volumes for other accounts.
WFM has eleven regional buying centers across the country.  This allows them to buy and offer local foods in any given region!  That is considered a very inefficient system by the mega players.  If Amazon chooses to establish a national buying center to replace the regional centers, we may not be able to compete with the mega-farms.  If that’s the way things go, what will happen to the local products?  Will anyone ask where things are coming from or how they are being produced? 
WATCHBuy Local with Harmony Valley Farm Bio Video
One of the strategies we’ve chosen to employ on our farm is building diversified markets.  We grow vegetables for wholesale distributors, retail outlets, restaurants, etc.  A small percentage of what we grow is for our farmer’s market customers.  Of course, we also grow crops for you, our CSA members.  Over the past few years we’ve shared with you our concerns about the trend in declining CSA membership, both within our own membership as well as CSAs across the country.  When we saw our CSA shares trending down, we were able to increase our sales in other parts of our business.  WFM was our largest account to respond to this shift and our sales to them increased significantly, allowing us to maintain our production and keep our business stable.  WFM is not the largest player in the produce ring, but they have been a stable revenue source for our farm for many years!  Yes, we do wonder, will that change with this buy out?  At this point, honestly we don’t know.  What generally happens with similar buy outs, involving big players in a competitive market, is workers and suppliers get squeezed to lower costs and increase profits.  We are not willing to squeeze our good employees and/or compromise the integrity of our business to accommodate a corporate buy out!  Of the many articles circulating in the news, little is being said about the impact this buy out may have on the many mid-sized organic farms WFM has nurtured for so many years. 
Our farm has been doing fine and, despite significant crop losses last fall due to weather, we are back in the game this year.  But we certainly realize the game is changing and knew this even before Amazon’s buy out of WFM.  This situation actually brings a conversation to the forefront that has been brewing for years.  What is the future of food buying?  What do consumers want, and how will these needs and wants be met?  In the case of the WFM buy out, just what will WFM customers get out of this? Maybe they will benefit from a more convenient shopping experience.  They can walk-in with a list, place their order and the groceries will be packed while the customer enjoys lunch at the deli.  Or better yet, order on-line and have your groceries delivered to your door!  What do consumers value and what will they vote for with their food purchases?  Folks, please realize your food choices as consumers directly impact the future of our farm and our food system as a whole.   Ultimately, our future and the future of our food industry is in your hands.  

Back in February, we had the opportunity to meet with most of the produce buyers we do business with, including one I have been working with for over 40 years.  This guy not only knows the ins and outs of the wholesale produce world, but he also desires to do the right thing and does his part through his purchasing to build connections with growers and pay a fair price for the produce he’s sourcing.  In the course of our conversation we discussed some of the elements of the “darker” side of the produce world.  He made a comment that whenever you see a low price in produce, you have to assume that at some point along the supply chain, someone was exploited.  But is that something anyone considers when they just got “a good deal?”  I don’t want to focus on the negative side of the produce industry, rather I’d like to reinforce the idea that there are many models of producing food.  The demand for organic food in the marketplace continues to grow, and along with it the supply must also grow.  In many ways, this is a good thing regardless of the size of the farm or company producing food.  Any land that is managed by certified organic standards is land that is not being treated with harmful chemicals, planted to genetically modified crops, etc.  However, please realize that an organic certificate does not encompass all of the aspects related to producing food in a way that is beneficial for communities, local economies, the environment, workers involved in food production and more.  Yes, these are all factors that play into the bottom line.  Again it is up to the customer to decide what kind of agriculture and distribution systems we want to build and support. 
We know first-hand there is a benefit to forming a connection with those who produce your food.  We appreciate transparency in our own food both as eaters as well as producers!  We place great value on delivering fresh, nutrient dense food that tastes good, but there are so many other parts to this story.  Will convenience and low prices supersede the value and recognition needed to address and care for these other issues?  What about worker welfare, building a healthy ecosystem, supporting pollinator populations, building a strong food safety program, providing a place for your children to learn about and experience first-hand where their food comes from.  Aren’t these things also important? 
We have lost CSA and farmers’ market customers over the past few years for a variety of reasons.  We are confident that we are the best growers in the Midwest and are always striving to make improvements so we can do what we do, just better!  Will this be enough to stay in the game, or will the industrial food system win?  In future newsletters this year, we will go into more detail about some of these issues including the following:
  • Do consumers value local production?  Do they want to know and develop trust with the growers producing their food? 
  • Is their transparency between the producer and the consumer?  For example, is it clear how they pay and treat workers?
  • How important is it to be certified organic, with verification by an independent third party?
  • Will we have to do door-to-door delivery to keep our customers?
  • Where does freshness and nutrition of local produce come into play?  Does it matter?
  • Is it important for consumers to connect with local producers and have an opportunity to actually visit the farm, camp, tour, learn, let kids eat vegetables straight from the field?  This is a unique attribute Amazon probably can’t offer!
  • Is anyone concerned about conservation of water, birds, bats and bees?  WFM tried to include that in a complicated evaluation process for producers to help guide their purchases and support growers who go above and beyond to support some of these other aspects of agriculture.  We scored the “best” rating in their system, but will this rating mean anything once Amazon enters into the picture? 
We welcome your thoughts and would like you to be part of this ongoing conversation as we examine our place and the place of other local producers in the “future of food” that meets your needs and desires.
For another take by a food pioneer we respect and admire greatly, read:
Alice Waters wants Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to ‘make a difference’ with Whole Foods

28 Jun 2017 20:40

A Box Deconstructed- 6/29/2017

Cooking with This Week’s Box!

“Great cooking is about being inspired by the simple things around you — fresh markets, various spices. It doesn’t necessarily have to look fancy.” – G. Garvin

Despite the fact that summer made its official entrance last week, it has been a bit on the chilly side!  I thought we’d get hit with a wave of cucumbers and zucchini for this week’s box, but these crops need heat to produce and it just hasn’t been warm enough.  So, we’ll set aside all the cucumber recipes I’ve been looking forward to and we’ll focus on some other delicious recipes this week!
This is our last week for salad mix until we resume planting in the fall.  With the pretty little beets in your box this week, I think a beet salad is in order.  Here’s a recipe for a Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Walnuts.  The bunches of beets this week include a variety of colors.  If you’d like to keep the color in each variety, cook them separately or roast them.  If you cook the golden and Chioggia beets with the red ones, they’ll all turn red.  This is a great salad to serve alongside the Pizza with Spring Onions and Fennel recipe featured in this week’s newsletter.  You could even chop up some of the fennel fronds and add it to the salad if you like.  Otherwise, save the fronds to make Blended Lemonade with Ginger and Fennel!  
Make sure you save the greens from your beets!  Beet greens are packed with nutrition and can be added to a green smoothie in the morning, lightly sautéed or eaten raw.  Beets and Swiss chard are in the same family and you can actually use these two greens interchangeably.  If you combine the beet greens and the bunch of Swiss chard in this week’s box, you can make this Chard Gratin recipe featured at Food52. If you’d like to turn this into a main dish, add a layer of cooked cannellini beans on the bottom of the gratin. 
I’m feeling like stir-fry this week.  Several weeks ago I was reminded about this recipe for Pork & Kohlrabi Stir-Fry that I created for our June 2013 newsletter. If you make extra rice to serve with the stir-fry, you can use the leftovers to make this recipe for Fried Rice with Ham, Egg and Scallions. This recipe was highlighted by one of our CSA members who shared it with our Facebook group. This recipe calls for frozen peas, but you can certainly use the sugar snap peas in this week’s box instead!  You should still have some sugar snap peas remaining for another use, unless you are like me and eat half the bag raw as a snack!  Sugar snap peas actually make a handy afternoon snack for adults and kids alike.
And last but not least, lets find a good use for the baby arugula.  In this week’s fruit share newsletter we mentioned a recipe for Grape, Avocado and Arugula Salad.  If this doesn’t intrigue you there is also a recipe for Arugula Salad with Parmesan, Lemon & Olive Oil featured on the same blog.  Either salad would go nicely with a lightly breaded chicken breast or pork chop--and a glass of white wine for dinner. 
Ok, that’s a wrap.  I’ll see you back next week for more delicious eating out of the box!—Chef Andrea
Featured Vegetable:  Fennel
Fennel is a unique vegetable easily identified by its feathery tops and distinct aroma.  It has the flavor of anise, or mild licorice, which some people love and others are still learning to like.  If you are in the latter group, please keep an open mind and read on.  Nearly all of the fennel plant is edible and is comprised of three main parts.  The white bulb at the base of the plant is the most commonly used part.  The soft, fine, feathery green portion extending off the stalks is called “fronds.” The fronds are also edible and can be used more as an herb, seasoning or garnish to add a bit of flavor to soups, salads, etc.  The stalks are sometimes too fibrous to eat, however they have a lot of flavor and can be used to make vegetable stock or a soothing tea.   

Fennel has a wide variety of uses and may be found in recipes from a variety of culinary backgrounds.  It’s often used in Italian cuisine, can be found in classical French food, but also finds its way into cuisine from different parts of Asia.  I recently came across a recipe for Indian Spiced Fennel Pickles that I’m anxious to try.  Fennel may be used in gratins, cream soups, seafood dishes, simple salads and antipasto platters.  It pairs well with a whole host of other foods including lemons, oranges, apples, honey, white wine, olives, olive oil, beets, carrots, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, fish, seafood, pork, cured meats, white beans, cream, Parmesan cheese, feta cheese, cucumbers, dill and parsley. 
Fennel should be stored in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic. When you are ready to use it, you may need to peel off the outer layer of the bulb to wash away dirt that may be between the outermost layers.  The outer layer is still usable after it is washed.  Cut the bulb in half and make a V-shaped cut into the core at the base of the fennel bulb.  Remove most of the core, then slice thinly or cut as desired. The bulb is crisp, sweet and can be eaten raw or cooked.  If you enjoy the fresh anise flavor of fennel, you will likely enjoy eating fennel in salads and other raw or lightly cooked preparations.  One important thing to remember is to slice fennel as thinly as you can.  It makes for a more balanced eating experience. 
If you are in the group of people who just really don’t care for the flavor of licorice and are hesitant to embrace this vegetable, I’d encourage you to incorporate fennel into a cooked preparation.  When sautéed, roasted or otherwise cooked, the oils in fennel that give it the distinct flavor volatilize which lessens the intensity of the flavor and develops the natural sugars.  The Pasta with Roasted Fennel Tomato Sauce featured this week may be a dish you’ll enjoy.  There are also two other recipes we’ve featured in previous newsletters that have received the seal of approval from other CSA members who were hesitant to try fennel.  However, they tried these recipes and actually really enjoyed them!  The two recipes I’m referring to are Caramelized Fennel & Beet Pizza featured in our June 2016 newsletter andPasta with Golden Fennel from our July 2013 newsletter. 
Fennel is a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C & A.  The volatile oil that gives it the distinct flavor and aroma is called anethole.  It has been shown to reduce inflammation and help prevent some cancers.  As an added bonus, it is also a natural digestive and breath freshener!
Pasta with Roasted Fennel Tomato Sauce
Yield:  4 servings
2 fennel bulbs, cored and sliced thinly
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
½ tsp chili flakes
 2 Tbsp whole fennel seeds
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 can (14 oz) whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
½ cups shredded Parmesan
1 pound short pasta
1.     Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Combine the fennel, onion, garlic, oil, chili flakes, fennel seeds, salt,  and pepper in a roasting dish and roast for 15 minutes, tossing once or twice during cooking.
2.     In the meantime, bring a pot of salty water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente.  Reserve  some pasta cooking water.
3.     After 15 minutes of roasting, stir in the crushed tomatoes, combining well.  Roast 5 to 10 minutes more, until the fennel is tender and starting to brown.
4.     Drain the pasta and toss with the roasted vegetables and Parmesan, adding some pasta cooking  water if necessary until the sauce is loosened and coats the pasta.  Serve immediately.

This recipe & photos were featured at seriouseats.com and commented on by Blake Royer.  He introduces the recipe with the following commentary: “Due to unhappy experiences with licorice at Grandmother’s as a child, I’ve long been an anisephobic eater.  ….for a long time, even foods that vaguely tasted of the stuff (like tarragon and fennel) sent me running.  That all changed when I tasted roasted fennel.  It’s remarkable stuff.”


Pizza with Spring Onions and Fennel
Yield:  1 12" Pizza
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (scallions or sweet onions)
Salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 ¼ pounds trimmed fennel bulbs (2-3 each depending upon size), cored and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp minced fennel fronds
½ recipe whole wheat pizza dough*
1.     Preheat the oven to 450°F, preferably with a baking stone in it.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet, and add the onion and about ½ tsp salt.  Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about five minutes.  Add the fennel and garlic, and stir together.  Cook, stirring often, until the fennel begins to soften, about five minutes.  Turn the heat to low, cover and cook gently, stirring often, until the fennel is very tender and sweet and just beginning to color, about 15 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in the chopped fennel fronds, and remove from the heat.
2.     Roll or press out the pizza dough and line a 12 to 14 inch pan.  Brush the pizza crust with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle on the Parmesan.  Spread the fennel mixture over the crust in an even layer.  Place on top of the pizza stone, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges of the crust are brown and the topping is beginning to brown.  Remove from the heat.  Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

* This recipe was created by Martha Rose Shulman and was borrowed from cooking.nytimes.com.  The whole wheat pizza dough recipe referenced above may be found at cooking.nytimes.com.  It’s part of another pizza recipe by Martha Rose Shulman.  Search for “Pizza with Green Garlic, Potato and Herbs” and you’ll find the dough recipe.

21 Jun 2017 23:36

A Box Deconstructed- 6/22/2017

Cooking with This Week’s Box!

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”  -François de La Rochefoucauld

Welcome to summer…and all the delicious vegetables it brings with it!  As we start cooking from this week’s box, how about making a cake to celebrate the first day of summer this week?  Cake, with vegetables?  Yes—Zucchini Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting! You can make this cake and still have plenty of zucchini left to make Hummus and Grilled Zucchini Pizzas.  There are so many things you can do with zucchini, so don’t let them intimidate you this summer.  Rather, put them to use and find interesting ways to use and enjoy them throughout the summer!!
In this week’s newsletter, we’ve included two kohlrabi recipes from Andrea Bemis.  I don’t usually highlight multiple recipes from one source in the same newsletter, but Andrea Bemis knows kohlrabi and these are both good recipes!  You have enough kohlrabi this week to make both BLK Sandwiches for two (bacon, lettuce and kohlrabi) as well as Kohlrabi and Chickpea Salad. If you don’t care for either of these recipes, visit Andrea’s blog, Dishing Up the Dirt where you will find more interesting recipes in her collection utilizing kohlrabi.  Andrea Bemis is not only a recipe developer, but she is also a farmer.  One thing is for sure…she knows vegetables and how to properly use and enjoy them throughout the season!
Sugar snap peas are one of my favorite vegetables, and one of my favorite dishes to make during their season is a simple dish of Sugar Snap Peas and Scallions.  This is a recipe we featured in our June newsletter back in 2008.  It calls for fresh thyme, but it’s also good with other herbs such as dill or parsley.  I like to serve this as a side dish with a variety of meals, but it goes particularly well alongside grilled or sautéed fish or roasted chicken.  I also like to make Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snap Peas and Mint. This is a recipe we featured in our newsletter in June 2007.  It’s a light, refreshing, simple salad to make and travels well.  Take a larger portion of this to enjoy as a main item in your pack-and-go lunch or serve it as a side dish at dinner.
We’re excited to finally have fresh beets!  Notice how beautiful the greens are this week…and don’t forget to use them!  Fresh, green top beets are like two vegetables in one.  It would be a shame to throw away the greens when you could put them to use in so many different ways.  This week, I’m going to use the green top beets to make this interesting Beet Pizza with Beet Greens Pesto.  The pizza crust will turn pink, which will make for an interesting and eye catching pizza!
This is our last week of head lettuces until we harvest our fall plantings.  My mom and grandma used to make a simple creamy dressing to drizzle over fresh leaf lettuce from the garden.  It’s very similar to this recipe for Lettuce with Cream Dressing This is a simple and delicious salad to make with just a few ingredients including the head lettuce and scallions in this week’s box! 
I’ll reserve the baby kale mix and the kohlrabi tops this week for breakfast.  Incorporate these greens into a frittata to eat for Sunday brunch and then enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day, along with a green salad.  Here’s a recipe for Frittata withGreens to guide you. Adding greens to your breakfast is a great way to start your day and increase your daily vegetable consumption. 
Salad Mix will weave its way in and out of meals throughout the week.  If you need a quick snack, meal or side dish, it takes just a moment to put some salad mix in a bowl, toss it with a dressing or vinaigrette and you’re done.  If you have a little more time, you could add olives, other chopped vegetables, diced cooked chicken, nuts, seeds, etc.  The point is…keep it quick, keep it simple and enjoy the convenience!  Visit The Kitchn to find a few simple vinaigrette recipes.  Whip up a jar of one of these and keep it in the refrigerator next to the bag of salad mix!    
That does it for this week’s box.  Looking ahead to next week, I’ll give you a little sneak preview of a few things that might make their way into the box.  Richard brought the cutest little cucumber in from the field earlier this week.  They should be ready to start picking next week!  We’re also keeping our eye on the fennel and broccoli.  Both of those items should be ready soon as well.  Have a great week and welcome to summer! —Chef Andrea 
Featured Vegetable:  Kohlrabi
The name for kohlrabi is derived from “khol” meaning stem or cabbage and “rabi” meaning turnip.  While it is in the cabbage family and resembles a turnip, it grows differently than both.  Many people mistake kohlrabi for being a root vegetable that grows under the ground, but it is actually an enlarged stem that grows above the soil level.  Its stems and leaves shoot up from the bulbous part to give it, as many describe, the appearance of a space ship. 
We grow both green and purple kohlrabi, which are no different from each other once they are peeled.  Kohlrabi is seeded in the greenhouse in early March and transplanted to the field as early as possible in April, along with other vegetables in the same family of cole crops including broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.  Kohlrabi is reliably the first of this family of vegetables to be ready, so it has earned its “niche” in seasonal eating while we wait for broccoli and cauliflower to make heads. 
The fibrous peel should be removed from the bulb prior to eating.  You can do this easily by cutting the kohlrabi into halves or quarters and then peeling away the outer skin with a paring knife.  The flesh is dense and crisp, yet tender and sweet with a hint of a mild cabbage flavor.  The leaves on kohlrabi are edible as well, so don’t just discard them.  They have the texture and characteristics of collard greens, so you could use them in any recipe calling for collards.  They are also good eaten raw.  Just make sure you slice them thinly and toss them with an acidic vinaigrette to soften the leaves.  To store kohlrabi, cut the stems and leaves off.  Store both leaves and the bulbs in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  The leaves will keep for about 1 week, and the bulbs will last up to several weeks if stored properly.
Kohlrabi can be prepared in many different ways, both raw and cooked.  The simplest way to eat it is to peel it and munch on slices plain or with just a touch of salt.  It can also be shredded and used in slaws with a variety of dressings or sliced and added to sandwiches or salads.  Just this week we enjoyed a creamy kohlrabi slaw for dinner when Richard’s mother and brother joined us for a visit.  This is reliably Richard’s favorite way to eat kohlrabi and every year as he puts kohlrabi on the kitchen counter he asks, “Can we have creamy kohlrabi slaw?” 
I always think of kohlrabi as an old-world European vegetable, which it is, but don’t forget that kohlrabi is also eaten in other parts of the world such as China and India.  You can find some interesting ways to prepare kohlrabi in stir-fries and curries if you look to these parts of the world for recipe ideas.  In this week’s newsletter we’ve included two recipes from Andrea Bemis, a recipe developer and farmer who lives in Oregon.  She has more recipes including kohlrabi on her blog, Dishing up the Dirt.  There are also some interesting recipes at cooking.NYtimes.com.  Hopefully you’ll find a recipe that sparks your interest this week as you find ways to use this interesting vegetable! 
Kohlrabi & Chickpea Salad
Yield:  4 servings
2 medium-sized kohlrabies, about 1 ¼ pounds
1 ¼ cups cooked chickpeas (rinsed and drained, if from a can)
¾ cup full-fat plain yogurt
2 ½ Tbsp minced dill
2 ½ Tbsp minced parsley
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp honey
2 ½ Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
A few healthy pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup sunflower seeds, lightly toasted
½ cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, then drained

¼ tsp sumac (optional)
1.      Trim the leaves and stems from the kohlrabies and use a sharp knife to peel the bulbs.  Cut them into 1/4 to ½ inch cubes and place them in a large mixing bowl.  Add the chickpeas and set the mixture aside.
2.       In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the yogurt, dill, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, honey, oil, salt, and pepper.  Taste test and adjust seasonings as needed. 
3.       Pour the dressing into the bowl with the kohlrabi and chickpeas.  Mix until well combined.  Add in the toasted sunflower seeds and raisins. 
4.       Sprinkle with sumac and serve.


What is Sumac?  
Sumac is a common Middle Eastern spice and is one of the main ingredients in the spice blend za’atar.  It has a tangy, lemony flavor.  I like it because it isn’t as tart as lemon juice and it adds a lovely finish to a variety of dishes, from scrambled eggs to roasted veggies and even hummus.  It can be found in Middle Eastern grocery stores, spice shops, and online.  
This recipe was borrowed from Andrea Bemis’s book, DishingUp The Dirt.
BLK  (Bacon, Lettuce & Kohlrabi) Sandwich
Yield:  2 servings
Cashew Herb Spread
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
2 ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 ½ Tbsp minced parsley
2 ½ Tbsp minced basil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 slices of good quality bread
6 slices of good quality bacon (may substitute a vegetarian alternative “bacon”)
1 medium kohlrabi, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds
1 small head of lettuce, washed and individual leaves separated
Flakey salt and fresh ground pepper
1.       Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water. Place all the ingredients for the spread in a high speed blender– along with 1/3 cup of water and whirl away until completely smooth and creamy, adding more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency–it should be smooth and spreadable. Taste test and adjust flavors as necessary.
2.       Fry your bacon in a large cast iron skillet or frying pan until fully cooked and crispy. Drain on paper- towel lined plates. Pour out half of the bacon fat (save for another use) and return the pan to medium­-high heat. Add the sliced kohlrabi in a single layer and cook in the bacon fat until crisp tender and lightly browned on both sides, about 1­2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towel lined plates.
3.      Toast your bread in a toaster oven, outdoor grill, or under the broiler until golden brown and crisp.
4.       To assemble the sandwiches spread a tablespoon or two of the spread over each slice of bread. Layer with the bacon, kohlrabi and lettuce. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and enjoy.

This recipe is featured on Andrea Bemis’s blog, DishingUp the Dirt, where she shares this recipe as well as other tasty ones featuring kohlrabi and other season vegetables!  

Strawberry Day 2017…What a Fun Day!

21 Jun 2017 23:35

By Farmers Richard & Andrea

Last Sunday we hosted our 24th annual Strawberry Day event at the farm. While this day is sometimes a scorcher, we were pleased to have a very pleasant day for the party. With just a little rain overnight and a few clouds passing through, we made it through the day with just a few sprinkles of rain. The cloud cover and temperatures in the 70’s was the perfect backdrop for comfortable strawberry picking. We had an estimated 120-130 members in attendance. One member referred to our visitors as members of our “fan club.” Our “fan club” included people ranging in age from the very little ones riding in carriers with their moms to seasoned veterans returning to the farm for another visit to check in on us and make sure we still know what we’re doing!  

We started off the event with our annual potluck. We enjoy seeing our vegetables return to the farm in various forms. Jars of fermented vegetables and salsas preserved from last year’s bounty, pasta tossed with garlic scape pesto garnished with sugar snap peas and baby white turnips, and strawberry-rhubarb lemonade were just a few of the foods that made their way to this year’s potluck. We also enjoyed a delicious and refreshing batch of Strawberry Basil Kombucha made with our strawberries and basil by NessAlla. Of course a farm party isn’t complete without Iced Maple Latte made with cold brew coffee from Kickapoo coffee!

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, mountain, sky, outdoor and natureAfter the potluck, we loaded up the harvest wagons and made our way to the fields to check out some crops.  We enjoy taking members to the fields every year and feel that it makes your CSA experience so much more personal and meaningful when you can see for yourselves what it takes to grow and care for your vegetables.  Field tours have also proven to be a very meaningful and formative experience for children who visit the farm, and this year was no different.  On our first stop, Richard took a group over to check out the onions.  He showed them how to pull the purple scallions, clean them, and then of course you have to eat them!  This year’s purple scallions are pretty pungent, but that didn’t deter some of the kids and adults alike to try eating them raw right there in the field.  Richard was afraid the hot onions might leave a negative impression on one young member, but quite the contrary.  She did acknowledge they were hot, but described it as a “good hot.”  Not the kind of heat you get from hot salsa, but rather a healthy kind of hot.  She didn’t even fall victim to onion crying!  On the other side of the field, Andrea showed a group of members how to pick basil and rainbow chard.  Everyone commented about how fresh the basil smelled when it was picked right there in the field!  A few people who had never tasted fresh basil were able to pick some and get their first taste right there in the field.  Next to the basil we found the rainbow chard.  There were a few children and adults who were not familiar with this vegetable, so we found some big leaves to pick and sample.  Everyone who tried it agreed that it was pretty tasty.  What a sight to see children munching on a chard leaf in the field!  Awesome!
Image may contain: plant, sky, tree, bridge, house, grass, outdoor, nature and water
The next stop on our tour was the potato field.  One member made an observation when we were in the field that when Farmer Richard picks up a carrot fork and starts walking, everyone follows in anticipation of what he might find!  We wanted to stop at this field so we could dig some potato plants and check the progress.  First we had to identify the early variety, Red Norland.  Once we found that variety in the field we looked for plants with blossoms and hopefully some cracking on the ground around the plant which would indicate potatoes swelling and growing underneath.  We dug a few plants, and did find some potatoes, but they were tiny!  We did make the assessment that we need to give them a few more weeks before we start harvesting them, but we observed great potential on the plants we took a look at!  There were as many as 10 potatoes forming on one of the plants. With a few more weeks to grow, we should get pretty good yields on our harvest.  As we walked back to the wagons we took a look at the winter squash crop which looks pretty nice.  At this point we paused to take a vote as to where to go next and the consensus from the group was to move on to STRAWBERRIES!  

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, tree, child and outdoor
As we approached the field, we could smell the scent of the berries wafting our way.  Even though we were at the tail end of the season, there were still nice berries in the field.  It just took a little more time and patience to find them, but we didn’t have the hot sun beating down on our backs so everyone just settled into picking and took their time.  There was plenty of sampling in the field, but no one declared themselves too hungry for strawberry ice cream!  There were over 200 pounds of strawberries picked on Sunday.  We didn’t weigh any children or adults before and after picking, so this is just an estimate of the berries picked and eaten in the field as well as those that were taken home.  
When the wagons returned to the farm, we all enjoyed a bowl of strawberry ice cream.  This is a highlight of every Strawberry Day as this is one-of-a kind ice cream made for us by Castle Rock Organic Dairy using our very own strawberries in a higher ratio than normal.  It was described as the “best ice cream ever” and many people commented about how creamy it was….as they ate a second serving!
Over the course of the day we enjoyed our conversations with members, both those we have known for years as well as new members visiting the farm for the first time!  We watched children playing together throughout the day.  Some used their imaginations to pretend the wagon was their pirate ship and they showed us handfuls of their “gold,” which we usually just call gravel.  We had some runners in the group too.  When they got off the wagons they started at one end of the field and ran the entire length of the field and back!  What energy!  It must be all the organic vegetables they are eating!  It’s wonderful to see children feeling free to run, play, experience and enjoy their day on the farm.  

We are grateful to everyone who took the time to come and spend the day with us.  We appreciate the opportunity to visit with you, show you our farm, and get to know you more personally.  Your faces and stories stay with us and we think of you throughout the year as we work.  We would also like to thank our crew members who volunteered to help us set up, clean up, assist in the strawberry field, drive the tractors, etc.  We couldn’t do this all by ourselves and we appreciate their willingness to participate in making this a fun and memorable day for everyone.

Image may contain: one or more people, grass, tree, sky, plant, outdoor and nature
If you weren’t able to make it to the farm for Strawberry Day, we hope you’ll consider joining us for the Harvest Party in the fall.  We’ll have field tours, pumpkin picking, live music, games and another delicious potluck!

14 Jun 2017 22:09

A Box Deconstructed- 6/15/2017
Cooking with This Week’s Box!

“Great cooking is about being inspired by the simple things around you — fresh markets, 

various spices. It doesn’t necessarily have to look fancy.”
 – G. Garvin
Before we get cooking with this week’s box, I’d like to welcome any new members who are just joining us for the start of our Peak Season Vegetable shares.  Please take a moment to read your newsletter and “What’s In the Box” email that accompany each delivery.  This is where you’ll find important information about your box contents, recipes, etc.  This year we’re trying some new things in the newsletter, including this section which is intended to provide you with some ideas about what you might make with your box contents and, when possible, we’ll also provide you with a link to that recipe. 
Ok, lets dive into this week’s box.  It’s been a whirlwind of strawberry picking over the past two weeks so I’ve got strawberries on my mind and am thinking a batch of Buttermilk Pancakes with fresh strawberries and whipped cream sounds pretty good for weekend brunch!  Farmer Richard always likes bacon with his pancakes so we’ll add that to weekend brunch as well.  I’ll set aside a few pieces of cooked bacon though so I can use it to make a Tossed Bacon, Egg and Spinach Salad with a honey-mustard bacon dressing. If you prefer a vegetarian spinach salad option, check out this recipe for a Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Feta Dressing.  
The featured vegetable in this week’s box is garlic scapes.  When you see garlic scapes, you know garlic harvest will be coming soon!  Use this week’s garlic scapes to make a Creamy Garlic Scape Dressing. This is a recipe flashback to one of our June 2003 newsletters.  This recipe can be made thick and used as a dip or thinned out and used as a dressing.  The original recipe called for dried dill, but why use dried dill when you have a bunch of fresh dill in this week’s box!  Take the outer leaves of the green Boston and tear them into bite sized pieces along with the red oak lettuce.  Dress these beautiful lettuces with this creamy garlic scape dressing and top it off with chunks of avocado, a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese and some cooked chicken or salmon to make an entrée salad for lunch or dinner. Use the inner leaves of the Green Boston to make the Butter Lettuce Cups with Peaches and Blue Cheese, featured in our Fruit Share newsletter this week. This is a recipe from the Masumoto Family Farm in California. Either enjoy the salad on its own for a light lunch or dinner or serve it with a grilled pork chop or a slice of ham.
This will be our last week for baby white turnips until our fall plantings come in.  I’ve been eating them in salads, but this week I think I’d like to make Braised Turnips and Greens to serve with a piece of broiled fish.  If you have some of the fresh dill remaining, chop it up and add it to a little melted butter.  Pour it over the fish and finish it with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  It will be a simple yet delicious dinner! 
It’s been awhile since I have made Braised Pork Shoulder with Rhubarb-Red Wine Sauce, so I think that will be on the menu this week.  This recipe was featured in one of our June 2013 newsletters.  Serve this with some simple Sauteed Broccoli Raab or Red Russian Kale for dinner along with a piece of warm, crusty bread to sop up the sauce!
That brings us to the end of this week’s box.   I hope to see you at our Strawberry Day party this weekend. If you come, you might get a sneak peak at our zucchini field.  Farmer Richard said it’s almost time to start picking!  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea 
Featured Vegetable:  Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are the long, skinny, green vegetable with a lot of curl that you’ll find in this week’s box.  Up until the early 90’s we used to remove scapes from the garlic plant and throw them on the ground!  We were the first farm in the Midwest to start harvesting the scapes for use as a vegetable.  In the early 90’s there was a woman from Korea who asked us to save the garlic scapes for her so she could make pickles. We thought this was odd (remember we used to throw them on the ground), but saved some for her anyway. She shared a jar of pickled scapes with us and we realized how good they are for eating! We stopped throwing them away and started eating them!
  Garlic scapes are a curly shoot that forms on a hardneck garlic plant, which is the only variety we grow, and grows up from the center of the plant in June. This is part of nature’s plan for the plant to propagate itself. The scape extends from the middle of the plant and forms a small bulb on its end. If left to choose its own destiny, that bulb would eventually fall over and plant itself in the soil. Right now we want the garlic plant to focus its energy into producing a nice bulb of garlic, so we remove the scape from the plant. 
  Nearly the entire scape is edible and are best when harvested young and tender. You may need to trim off the skinny end near the little bulb as it is tough sometimes.  Garlic scapes are very tender and do not need to be peeled….Easy! Scapes have a bright, mild garlic flavor. They can be used in any recipe that calls for garlic cloves, just chop them up and add them as you would clove garlic. They are a great addition to eggs, are tasty when mixed with butter to use as a spread, or toss them into a stir-fry. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. 
Tempura Garlic Scapes
Yield:  3-4 as an appetizer
1 bunch garlic scapes
3 cups vegetable oil for deep frying
1 egg yolk
1 cup ice water
2-3 ice cubes
1 cup flour, cake or all-purpose
1.   Prepare the scapes:  Cut off the stringy tip from the flower end.  Cut each scape in half or thirds, so that each piece measures about 4 to 6 inches in length. 
2.  Fill a heavy pot with tall sides (something with a wide opening is ideal) with the oil to a depth of at least one inch.  Use a deep fry thermometer to gauge the temperature—it should be steady at 360°F.  Maintaining a consistent temperature is important. 
3.  While the oil is heating, line a sheet pan with paper towels and set aside.  Place the egg yolk in a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Mix the egg yolk with 1 cup of cold water.  Add 1/8 cup of ice cubes.
4.  Add 1 cup of flour.  Hold four chopsticks with their tips pointed down and stab at the flour to combine it with the liquid until a loose, lumpy batter forms, about thirty seconds.  Do not whisk, and do not use a fork—the batter should be barely mixed with pockets of dry flour visible.  The liquid will be the consistency of heavy cream.
5.  Dip a scape into the batter, then gently lower into the oil.  Repeat until there are 5 or 6 scapes in the oil.  It is important not to overcrowd the pan.  Note:  Do not rush through the frying process by crowding the pan—the scapes won’t cook properly.
6.  Cook until the batter turns golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes total.  Remove the scapes from the oil using a slotted spoon, and place them on the paper towel-lined tray to drain.  Season with a pinch of salt immediately, then repeat the dipping and frying with the remaining scapes.
7.   Serve immediately with aioli.  If you have garlic scapes remaining from last week, you can use them to make Garlic Scape Aioli.  The recipe may be found at food52.com as an accompaniment to this recipe.
Photos credit: food52.com
Recipe adapted from Alexandra Stafford’s recipe featured at food52.com
Garlic Scape Dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
4-5 garlic scapes, finely chopped
1 ½ Tbsp dried dill or 3 Tbsp fresh dill
3 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Milk, as needed to thin it to desired consistency
1.      Mix all ingredients except for the milk in a blender.  Blend until all ingredients are well-combined. 
2.     Add milk as needed to thin it to the desired consistency. If you are using it as a dip or spread, you will want it to be thicker.  If you want to use it as a salad dressing, thin it with a little more milk. 
3.     Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store in the refrigerator.
Photo Credit: Diana Rattray
This recipe may be found on our website in our recipe database.  It was originally featured in our June 2003 newsletter and was created by Lee Davenport who was the farm chef!

14 Jun 2017 22:07

💦How Quickly The Picture Can Change: Lets Talk Irrigation💦
By Farmer Richard de Wilde
Our last farm report was all about a six week run of cool and wet weather.  Despite the challenges we faced, we planted all of our heat loving crops because we figured the warmer weather would come eventually! And it did come. We quickly changed course from chilly days and nights to three full weeks of 80’s and 90’s with NO RAIN! Our irrigation equipment, which had seen very little use for the last two years, has suddenly been needed everywhere! Our irrigation crew, under Vicente’s guidance, became a full time job. This crew has worked long days, and has gotten up in the middle of the night to check pumps or turn off irrigation when it is finished. Many things can go wrong: Leaks, problems with pumps, etc. It takes a dedicated, diligent and determined crew to keep up with irrigation during a time like this.
  Every crop has different water needs.  Since we have a lot to water right now, we use sensors buried six inches deep in fields to help us monitor moisture in different crops so we can prioritize our watering schedule. They have to be “read” every day or two so we know how to plan our irrigation schedule.  
  We have three main types of irrigation we use. The first type is Buried Drip Tape. We’ve used this method for many years with crops that are planted on plastic mulch, such as tomatoes and onions. In recent years we’ve also started to use this tape on bare ground crops such as kale. The benefit of drip irrigation is that you can feed the plants water and fertilizer right at their roots. No evaporation loss, so it only requires ⅓ to ½ the amount of water needed with overhead methods. The other benefit is that the watering is more specific so you don’t water as many weed seeds!
The second type of irrigation we use is Sprinklers.  Germinating seeds is another matter that relies on consistent observation of moisture in the soil.  Small seeds in particular, such as carrots, need to be planted shallow, ¼ to ½ inch deep.  They need moist soil to germinate, so if the top layer of soil is dry and there’s no rain in the forecast, we have to provide the moisture in order for the seed to germinate.  This is where we often use sprinklers to either pre water several days before planting or immediately after a planting.  Larger seeds, such as sweet corn and beans, are planted 2 inches deep.  Most of the time we can plant deep enough to get to moisture and these crops often come up well without having to water. In fact, that’s what happened!  We planted and the seeds did germinate.  We also use sprinklers to water transplants that have just been put out in the fields, such as broccoli or lettuce.  The down side to sprinklers is that it takes a lot of time to lay out all of the pipe and then the pipe has to be picked up and moved before we can take other equipment into the field to cultivate.  The sprinklers also have a wider area that they water, so they do water weed seeds as well.
Lastly, we have an irrigation tool we call “The Gun.”  This is an overhead sprinkler that has a long hose mounted on a reel that can be travel slowly across a field with water pressure.  With one large nozzle, this can deliver 150 gallons of water a minute.  This equipment has a high initial investment cost, but the benefit is that it can be set up with only 2 people.  It does require a straight line and level ground to work properly, so we can’t use it in all of our fields.   

Our main crew includes Vicente, Manuel, Juan Pablo, Rafael and Alejandro, although other crew members have stepped in when additional hands are needed.  Of course, there are always repairs, so we can’t forget to thank Juan for helping us keep the equipment running!  
If you come to our Strawberry Day party this weekend, please take a moment to thank our awesome irrigation crew for their hard work.  We did get one inch of rain earlier this week, for which we are very grateful.  We can’t water everything, which reminds us we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature sometimes.  We continue to do the best job we can and remember that every year of farming is different.  

A Box Deconstructed- 6/8/2017

7 Jun 2017 23:29

A Box Deconstructed- 6/8/2017
Cooking with This Week’s Box!
“A recipe has no soul, you as the cook must bring soul to the recipe.”
 – Thomas Keller

Wow!  We have a treat for you in this week’s box….STRAWBERRIES!  They started ripening at the end of last week, but with the warm days we’ve had they’ve been ripening fast.  So what are you going to do with all these strawberries!?  Well, of course you’ll probably want to just eat some fresh, right out of the container.  I like to have fresh strawberries with vanilla yogurt or on my morning bowl of cereal during strawberry season.  If you are looking for some ideas for tasty desserts to make with your strawberries, check out 21 Recipes to Celebrate Strawberry Seasonat NY Times.com.  They feature delicious recipes such as Double Strawberry Cheesecake and Strawberries with Swedish Cream.   If you are afraid you can’t eat all the strawberries before they go bad, give them a quick rinse, pat dry, remove the green top on the stem end and then pop the whole berries into a freezer bag and stick them in the freezer.  You’ll be glad you took a little bit of time to do so when you pull them out and enjoy them during the winter. 
Ok, so what are we going to do with the rest of the box!  Well, lets start with the rhubarb.  You could make a pie, but I think Rhubarb Vinaigrette would be delicious tossed on the salad mix in this week’s box.  This recipe suggests adding fresh strawberries and almonds to the salad as well.  You may not need all of the rhubarb to make a vinaigrette, so use the remainder to make Rhubarb Chutney.  Use the chutney as a spread on a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.  The chutney recipe calls for onions and garlic cloves, but you can substitute the potato onions in this week’s box as well as either green garlic or garlic scapes.
Ethiopian Kale might be a new vegetable for many people, but it’s really quite similar to kale or collards and can be used as such in any recipe.  I’d suggest making the Ethiopian Kale and Black Eyed Pea Gratinfeatured in this week’s newsletter.  It’s a simple dish to make and you can eat it for dinner as a main dish or as a side dish with roasted chicken or grilled pork chops. If you have any left over, heat it up for breakfast and eat it with a fried egg on the side. 
One of my favorite ways to eat the baby white turnips is to make the recipe for White Turnip Salad with Miso Ginger Vinaigrette featured in our newsletter back on May 25, 2012.  It uses the green tops and the white roots, is very simple to make, and even people who say they don’t like turnips will eat this salad!
If you haven’t made Pea Vine Cream Cheese yet, this might be the week to do so.  It’s delicious spread on a bagel or a wrap and then topped with thin slices of red radishes and a sprinkling of salt.  You can also fold it into scrambled eggs, or use it as a spread for a cold vegetable pizza.
Farmer Richard tells us to “Eat your greens every day!”  That includes the radish tops as well!  Use the radishes and their tops to make this tasty Rustic Radish Soup featured at Food 52
Well, the only thing left from this week’s box is the asparagus.  I’m tempted to just keep it simple to enjoy the final taste of asparagus for the season.  Saute it lightly in butter, season with a touch of salt and pepper and just simply eat it! 
If you haven’t already made plans to join us for Strawberry Day on Sunday, June 18, we hope you’ll consider making the trip to the farm.  We’re going to have a great time and will be eating lots of fresh strawberries.  Hope to see you soon!—Chef Andrea
Featured Vegetable:  Ethiopian Kale
The bunching green in your box this week is called Ethiopian Kale. It actually originated in Ethiopia where it is a very common green.  It is known by other names as well including Amara Greens, Ethiopian Blue Mustard, Highland Kale and in Ethiopia the name is Gomenzer. So is it a mustard or a kale? Technically it’s classified as a mustard, and if you eat a piece of it raw you’ll get a pungent, spicy, peppery bite that is the characteristic mustard flavor.  However, it does share some qualities that are more similar to that of kale and collards.  It has a sturdy, thick leaf and a thicker stem that bears more resemblance to kale than traditional mustard greens. Nearly the entire portion of plant in your bunch is edible.  The thick stems are still tender and just need to be chopped into bite-sized or smaller pieces.  Both the stem and leaves require a little longer cooking time with some liquid to make them tender.  When cooked, the flavor mellows significantly and you lose much of the sharpness you get if you try it raw. 
We read about this vegetable several years ago in a culinary magazine, but it’s just been within the last few years that seed has been available in the United States.  Menkir Tamrat is the man credited with introducing this vegetable crop to the United States. His story was told in the Fall/Winter 2011 issue of Edible Magazine for the Bay Area of California. Tamrat came to the United States from Ethiopia in 1971 to go to school. He had every intention to return to his country, however a revolution occurred in that country in 1974 and came under the rule of a Soviet-backed military ruler.  Tamrat was not able to return to his country and stayed in the U.S.  He found it very hard to find his traditional foods in the U.S. and, after growing tired of trying to make substitutions, decided to start growing some of his traditional foods himself. Eventually he connected with Fred Hempel, a plant biologist and owner of a farm and nursery in California. Tamrat got seeds from Ethiopia and, together with Hempel, they started growing them out and producing more seed. While Ethiopian Kale was not the only crop they worked with, it was one of the crops Tamrat introduced to this continent.
From a growing perspective, Ethiopian Kale has some positive attributes.  First, it is a very vigorous, fast growing plant.  We’ve also found it to be resistant to leaf disease and it is less susceptible to pest pressure than other similar greens we grow, especially in the spring when we see a lot of flea beetle pressure in crops such as bok choi, arugula and mustard greens. 
We hope you enjoy trying something different and, at the same time, experience a little taste of another part of our world! 
Ethiopian Kale and Black Eyed Pea Gratin
Yield:  4-6 servings
3 Tbsp butter
¾ cup chopped green onion
¾ cup chopped green garlic or garlic scapes
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1-2 tsp berbere (see note below)
1 bunch Ethiopian kale, stems and leaves chopped into small, bite-sized pieces
1 ½ cups diced canned tomatoes, with the juice
1 can (15 oz) black eyed peas, drained
¾ cup dry bread crumbs or cracker crumbs
1.       Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2.       In a medium, oven-proof skillet, melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat.  Once the butter  is melted, add the green onions and green garlic or garlic scapes.  Saute just until the  onions and garlic start to soften. 
3.       Add the berbere and 1 tsp salt to the pan.  If you enjoy some heat and spice in your food,  add 2 tsp of berbere.  If you prefer things a little less spicy, start with 1 tsp berbere and  add more to your liking.  Stir to combine the salt and berbere with the vegetables.

4.       Add the Ethiopian kale to the pan and pour the tomatoes over the top.  Put a lid on the  pan and let the greens steam and wilt down for a few minutes.  Once the greens are  wilted, remove the lid and stir in the black eyed peas.  At this point you should have  enough liquid that the greens and beans are almost at the point of being covered with  the liquid.  If you don’t have this much liquid in the pan, add a little bit of vegetable  broth or water to the pan.  Simmer, uncovered for 10-15 minutes or until nearly all the  liquid has evaporated.  At this point, remove the pan from the burner.
5.       Melt 2 Tbsp of butter.  Mix the melted butter and bread crumbs in a small bowl.  Evenly  spread the bread crumbs on top of the green mixture. 
6.       Put the pan in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the topping is lightly toasted.
What is Berbere?
Berbere is a traditional chili-spice blend used extensively in Ethiopian cuisine to season meats and vegetables.  It is an interesting blend that leaves you with the spicy heat of the chilies as well as warmth from some of the spices.   Recipes vary from cook to cook, but the mix usually contains hot peppers, black pepper, fenugreek, ginger, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. Other ingredients may include ajwain, cumin, allspice, nutmeg, paprika, onion, or garlic.  I usually find this mix in the bulk section at our local co-op.  The other option is to make it yourself at home.  You can find several different recipes online, but Marcus Samuelsson has one on his website.  Check it out here! 

Just What Does It Take to Grow a Strawberry?

7 Jun 2017 23:26

Just What Does It Take to Grow a Strawberry?
By Laurel Blomquist
Berries getting ready to go home after the party!

Strawberry season is upon us! For those of you who have been eating with the seasons for some time now, you know that this time of year is one of the most highly anticipated. What you may not know is that in order for us to provide you with as many great-tasting strawberries as we can for as long as possible, we have to plan years in advance. I sat down with Farmer Richard to get the scoop on how we grow strawberries, from start to finish.

Step 1: It all starts with genetics. We carefully select varieties based on trials we do at the farm, along with information received from Nourse Farms in Massachusetts, which is where we get our strawberry crowns for planting. We choose varieties with excellent flavor and disease resistance. Many of the plants at Nourse were bred in Canada, while other varieties were developed in the US and Germany.
The early season varieties that we are currently growing include Earliglow and AC Wendy. Earliglow is a favorite among CSA members and market patrons alike, known for its excellent flavor. It’s an heirloom variety that produces a large amount of small berries. AC Wendy is highly prolific, providing the bulk of the first crop of berries.
Strawberry Field

Midseason varieties include Darselect, Flavorfest, and Jewel. Darselect is high-yielding and dependable. Flavorfest is a new favorite, with excellent flavor and large, disease-resistant berries. Jewel was developed at Cornell University and is our best main-season plant and a reliable performer.
Our late season variety is AC Valley Sunset, which is great at extending the season a few more days. Even though we grow early, mid-, and late season berries, the total season time is usually no more than four weeks. If we get a hot streak during strawberry season, the berries can ripen very fast!  No sooner than you get to the end of the field, you have to turn around and start picking at the other end again!  We purposely plan Strawberry Day to land in approximately the third week, when berry production is peaking. We need your help to get the berries out of the field, and you reap the benefits by getting the freshest, most flavorful berries around!
New strawberry field just starting out!
Step 2: Now that we know which varieties we want to grow, it’s time to start planting. In the first year, we plant strawberry crowns in April or May. We make sure to choose a field that did not recently have either berries or plants from the solanaceae
family (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers), for maximum disease resistance. We grow plants using a matted row system, which means that we space the crowns out so that their daughter plants will fill in the row later. Spacing of the crowns is important. We need enough room for the daughter plants to fill in, but not so much that weeds will overtake the plants. Too many plants in the row will bring on leaf diseases and pests, thus proper spacing will maximize berry yield. 
Step 3:De-blossoming. In the first year, the plants will develop blossoms, but we don’t want those blossoms to grow into strawberries just yet! So we remove the blossoms, which encourages the plant to put out runners. At the ends of these runners are daughter plants. The best strawberries come from daughter plants. We space the daughter plants out to fill in the spaces between the crowns in the row. Keeping the bed weed-free is important so that we have space to place the daughter plants.

Japanese Millet cover crop in with the Strawberry field.
Step 4:Weeding! Yes, it’s not the most glamorous step, but necessary to keep the bed productive for several years. The bed needs to be kept weed-free while the crown grows runners and daughter plants. Weeding, while necessary, is tricky, since the roots of the crown are so near the surface. For the first couple of months, we can do this using a special tractor attachment with soft “fingers” to weed around the crowns. Later in the summer, around August, we need to weed by hand, because there are too many runners and daughter plants filling in the space. At this point, we plant a thick stand of Japanese millet, which will prevent future weeds and become a living mulch. It will winter kill with the first frost.
Mulching the field for winter.
Step 5:Mulching. In the late fall, we place a heavy layer of rye straw mulch over the plants to provide them with a more stable environment over the winter and prevent the ground they are in from freezing and thawing.  Strawberry plants are planners. In the late summer and early fall, they are thinking about their conditions and whether or not to grow a large crop the following summer. If the plants have been well weeded and fertilized, with adequate water and sunlight, they think that conditions are ripe (no pun intended) for a bountiful harvest the following year, and they form blossom buds that will become dormant over the winter and then produce flowers and fruit the following summer. If weeds are overtaking the plants, or they are lacking in nutrients, water, or sunlight, these blossom buds will not form, lowering overall yield for the following year. You can see how one year’s harvest is affected by the previous year’s maintenance (or lack thereof). These blossom buds are very sensitive to frost, which is why a thick layer of mulch is necessary.

Cover being unrolled over the Strawberries.

Covering the Strawberries.
Step 6:Insulating. In the early spring, around the first or second week of April, we check the plants for signs of new growth. Once the plants have started growing new leaves, we remove most of the thick mulch layer so the plants can emerge and grow, leaving a thin layer of straw under each plant. This layer will help deter weeds and will also give the berries a clean spot to land once they grow. You may think that this is how strawberries got their name, but humans were harvesting wild strawberries long before they used this cultivation practice. After the mulch is partially removed, an agricultural blanket is placed over the entire bed. We use this cover to protect the plants from frost.  At this point in the season we may still have some frosty nights.  The cover protects the blossom buds from freezing, which could damage the berry and impact our overall yields. 

Strawberries all covered up and safe from the frost!
Strawberries under the covers.
Step 7:Uncovering. In the late spring of the 2nd year, after threat of the last frost has passed, the blanket is removed. The plants (including the daughter plants) start producing blossoms in late May, and berries in June. It’s this brief time of the cycle that we’re in now. It may seem like a lot of berries at once, but we will lose a certain amount to birds. Bugs can also damage the berries when they enter the blossoms for sweet nectar. This is why you may find some “cat-faced” berries from time to time. The blossoms need to be pollinated in order to produce fruit, so don’t fret if you find a less-than-perfect berry. It just means that this plant got a little extra love from a bug.

Once the berry growing season is over, the beds need to be renovated so that the plants continue to produce for years to come. The plants are mowed down just above the crown, and the daughter plants are removed as well. This is done so that the plants grow new runners and daughter plants, producing delicious berries the following year. Once renovation is done, we start the process again by preparing them for winter.  After 2-3 years of berry production, depending on weed pressure, the plants are tilled in and we go back to Step 1 with a brand new set of crowns in a different field.

Picking Strawberries with Farmer Richard!
Whew! That’s a lot of year-round work for a mere month of strawberries. Now that you know how it’s done, you can appreciate these sweet beauties even more. To get a closer look at the peak production of the process, make sure you come to Strawberry Day on Sunday June 18th. We’ll have plenty of fresh berries for eating straight out of the field or for freezing for enjoyment year-round. You can see our “older” strawberry field in production and see next year’s field in its first year of being established.  They both look good now!  Farmer Richard will be there to answer any questions you may have about how to grow delicious, organic strawberries. Enjoy!

31 May 2017 21:44

🌾 On the Farm and In the Field with Farmer Richard!
"If you tickle the earth with a hoe, she laughs with a harvest."-Douglas Jerrold

Every year is different and brings its own opportunities and challenges.  This may be the new record for the longest, coldest, most wet spring in my 40 plus years of vegetable farming.  Despite the weather challenges, our crew has done a super job of seizing each small window of dry weather to prepare fields, plant, cultivate and put row covers on crops for heat gain and to keep away the dreaded flea beetles.  We started our weekly “salad greens” plantings on April 10 and have only missed one planting due to rain.  We have kept up with weeds (it helps when everything is growing slowly!), both with hand weeding and as much mechanical cultivation as we can.  While the season has had a bit of a slow start, we’ve been enjoying the special spring greens and radishes, but change is in sight!  All of our heat loving crops are planted and ready for some warmer weather!  If you have not been checking our weekly blog, this is the week!  I took some pictures earlier this week as I made my rounds through the fields to check on crops.  Join me as I show you what’s happening here at the farm!
Sugar Snap Peas: 3 Crops Planted, No Blossoms Yet
Salad Lettuce & Greens: Next Week's Crop
Looking Great for a Full Season of Onions!
Zucchini Under Row Cover for 3 Weeks, Now It's Time for some Warm Sun☀️

Kohlrabi & Green Curly Kale, Ready to Take Off!
Celeriac, Coming Up Nicely
Green & Yellow Beans, Peaking Out for Warm Weather

Basil, STILL Undercover Waiting for Summer!

3rd Year Strawberry Field is Full & Blushing, We'll Start Picking This Week 🍓

1st Year Strawberry Field Just Planted--No Weeds!🌿
Lupines in Full Bloom by the Strawberries (I had to take a picture!)
First Planting of Tomatoes

Organic sweet potato plants from New Sprout Organics in North Carolina will arrive later this week—field is ready

Ok, so some things might not look like much, but they are in the field, rooted and ready for some warmer weather.  If we get even 75/80°F they will explode and take off.  Trust me, I’ve seen this happen for 40 years!  We are in the welcome calm before the storm of weeds, summer harvest, and for you, lots of cooking!  
So enjoy the radishes and wild greens of spring and get ready to pick some strawberries!  Hope to see you at Strawberry Day coming up on Sunday, June 18! 🍓🍓🍓

Baby White Turnips

Baby white turnips are a beautiful little vegetable….”pristine” is the word we often use to describe them.  They are classified as a salad turnip and are tender with a sweet, mild flavor.  Both the roots and the green tops are edible and may be eaten raw, lightly sautéed or stir-fried.   

We plant baby white turnips for harvest early in the season. This cool weather spring vegetable is harvested while still small and tender when the sweet flavor matches its delicate appearance.  Compared to the common purple top turnip, or other storage turnips, salad turnips are much more sweet and subtle in both flavor and texture.  The turnips we grow in the fall are meant for storage purposes and have a thicker skin compared to the thin skin of a salad turnip.  Baby white turnips also mature much faster than beets, carrots and fennel, etc so they are a very important part of our spring menus until other vegetables are ready for harvest.  To prolong the shelf life, separate the greens from the roots with a knife and store separately in plastic bags in your refrigerator.
To prepare the turnips for use, rinse the roots and greens thoroughly and trim the root end of each turnip.  Salad turnips have such a thin exterior layer, they do not need to be peeled.  They are delicious eaten raw in a salad, or just munch on them with dip or hummus.  The greens may be added to raw salads, or lightly saute' them in a little butter.  When cooking baby white turnips, remember to keep the cooking time short and the preparation simple.  Cook them just until they are fork tender. Honestly, they are tasty just simply sautéed in butter with the greens wilted on top.  You can also stir-fry or roast them and they are a nice addition to light and simple spring soups.  

31 May 2017 21:38

A Box Deconstructed- 6/1/2017
(Lettuce Not Pictured)
Cooking with This Week’s Box!

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." 
 Virginia Woolf
Before we dive into this week’s box, I’d like to highlight the cooking and recipe resources available at NY Times Cooking,  This is an online culinary resource I’ve started using more recently and would encourage you to check it out.  They have a weekly email newsletter called “Cooking” that you can sign up for in addition to utilizing their extensive collection of recipes online.  You can set up your own “recipe box” and when you come across a recipe that looks interesting just click “save” and it will be filed in your virtual recipe box so you can easily find it.  They also have cooking guides about different topics, such as How To Make Salad,  which often include videos demonstrating techniques and recipe preparation. I’ve found this resource to be very helpful and hope you do too!
Ok, lets get cooking.  
As June rolls in, I think it’s time to fire up the grill!  Use the asparagus in this week’s box to prepare Charred Asparagus with Green Garlic Chimichurri, a recipe featured on NY Times Cooking This makes a nice accompaniment to grilled chicken and is a great way to utilize the last of the green garlic this week!  Throw some extra chicken on the grill so you’ll have some available later in the week to make the Sesame-Soy Hon Tsai Tai & Chicken Salad, a recipe we featured in a newsletter back in 2014.  This salad uses Hon Tsai Tai as the salad green base alongside sliced radishes & a few turnips if you like. 
I’ve had my eye on a recipe for Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Glaze  featured at NY Times Cooking.  This recipe will utilize the potato onions and cilantro in the box.  It calls for ground turkey, but you could substitute ground pork if you prefer.  It’s described more as an appetizer meatball dish, but makes enough to serve 4 if you eat them as a main dish.  Serve these with steamed rice and some sautéed greens to make a full meal.  This is a great place to put the radish tops to use.  Remove the greens from the radishes, wash well, dry and then chop into bite-sized pieces.  Lightly saute the radish greens along with some baby kale mix, turnip greens, hon tsai tai, or any other greens that might be hanging out in your refrigerator from a previous week’s deliveries.
The Turnip Salad with Yogurt, Herbs & Poppy Seeds (below)is on the menu this week served alongside broiled or grilled salmon which pairs nicely with the light flavors in this salad.  This is just one of many salad options you have this week!  This recipe is also featured on Dishing Up The Dirt.  Salads are a good option to take for lunches or can become a quick and easy dinner option if you don’t have much time to cook.  If you’re looking for some new inspiration to throw into your salads this week, check out the recipe collection at NY Times Cooking entitled: 9 Dressings and Vinaigrettes That Will Make You Fall in Love With Salad If you want to keep things super-simple, just make a jar of Mark Bittman’s Jar Vinaigrette.  It doesn’t get much easier than this!  Keep this jar of simple vinaigrette in the refrigerator so it’s easy to reach for when you want to toss it with a handful of salad mix or baby kale mix. 
That does it for this week’s box.  Enjoy your cooking adventures and start thinking about what you’d like to make with the strawberries coming up next week!—Chef Andrea   

Pancetta Wrapped Baby Turnips
Yield:  6 appetizer portions
1 bunch baby White Turnips
6-12 paper-thin slices pancetta
1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Place a flat wire roasting rack in a large rimmed baking sheet.
2. If the greens are still attached to the turnips, trim them off, leaving at least ½-inch of the stem intact. Reserve the greens for another use. Trim the root ends of the turnips flat so they will stand upright. If the turnips are not all the same size, cut the larger ones in half. Gently scrub the turnips under cool running water to remove any dirt from the skins and between the stems and then pat dry.
3.Wrap each piece of turnip with a slice of pancetta (or a portion of a slice if the turnips are smaller), covering the turnip and leaving the stem exposed. The pancetta should cling tightly to the turnip skins. If not, use toothpicks to secure. Arrange the turnip on the rack in the pan, spacing them at least 1 inch apart.
Photo: Shutterstock
4.Roast until the turnips are tender when pierced with a paring knife and the pancetta is crisp and golden, 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the turnips.  Remove the toothpicks if used.  Serve immediately, or let cool and serve at room temperature.
Photo Credit Roots by Diane Morgan
Recipe adapted from Roots by Diane Morgan.
Turnip Salad with Yogurt, Herbs & Poppy Seeds
Yield:  4 servings
1 bunch baby white turnips
4 green onions, trimmed (including ½ inch of the green tops), sliced on a sharp angle
½ cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek yogurt)
1 lemon, juiced
½ tsp dried red chili flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
About 1 cup lightly packed mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped (may include mint, parsley, chives or any other fresh herbs you have available)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup poppy seeds
1.       Slice the turnips lengthwise as thin as you can.  If you have a mandolin, use it;  otherwise a sharp knife and steady hand will do just fine.  Soak the sliced turnips in ice water for 15 minutes then drain them very well. (Note:  Soaking the turnips will make them very crisp.  This is a nice step to follow, but it isn’t essential if you’d prefer to skip it.)
2.       Rinse, dry and roughly chop the turnip greens.  Put them in a large bowl along with the sliced turnips and the green onions.
3.       Prepare the dressing.  In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, red chili flakes, ½ tsp salt, a bit of freshly ground black pepper and olive oil.  Stir well to combine, then add the herbs and poppy seeds.  Stir well.
4.       Just before serving, toss the vegetables with the dressing.  You may not need all of the yogurt dressing, so add some to the vegetables and toss first before adding more.  Adjust the seasoning with additional lemon juice, salt and pepper as needed.  Once the greens have been tossed with the yogurt dressing, they will not store if you have leftovers.  If you don’t think you’ll eat all of this salad at once, only dress the portion you need and save the extra vegetables and dressing for another meal.
      Note from Chef Andrea:  The method above is my adaptation of the original recipe featured on the Dishing Up the Dirtblog.  The original recipe comes from Joshua McFadden’s new book, Six Seasons of Vegetables.  The ingredients remained the same, I just simplified the method to make it easier to prepare in a home kitchen. 

Into The Woods...

24 May 2017 22:14

“Going Into The Woods Is Going Home.” -John Muir
By Farmer Richard 
I have always enjoyed being in nature, walking in the woods, observing the sounds, trees, plants and animals around me. For many years I have wanted to create walking trails through our woods and have slowly been working on doing so over the last few years.  Last fall we had time to really make some progress and were able to make trails to access parts of our woods that were previously inaccessible. All the time we were working in the woods, I kept thinking about how much I’d like for our CSA members to be able to enjoy our little corner of the world and all of the beauty and treasures within our woods. In our 2016 survey, we asked our members what farm events they would enjoy participating in and woods walks was at the top of the list! So for the past two weekends, I was able to get out into our woods with some of our CSA members and a few expert friends to help us all learn more about what is actually living and growing in the woods. On Saturday, May 13, we hosted a woods walk with a bird-watching emphasis. Kyle Lindemer was our bird expert who helped us on this walk. This past Saturday we invited Little John to join us. John Holzwart (aka Little John) is from the Sheboygan area and is very knowledgeable about foraging from the woods, identifying plants and knowing which ones are edible, medicinal, or both! We had a great time on both walks and I wanted to share a little bit about our experiences.
Lets start with our bird walk two weeks ago. The timing for our walk was perfect as it was a prime time to see birds migrating through our area. It also happened to be "Global Big Day,"  a day sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that helps to connect a network of people across the world working to understand and conserve birds needed for the health of our planet.  On this day, all around the world, individuals and groups submitted bird counts about the birds they observed in their areas.   We were thankful to have a beautiful day for the walk and set out around 9:30 am to see what we could find.  We walked the woods road to the south end of the farm.  We saw many, many birds flitting amongst the new leaves, but just a glimpse and always a song.  Kyle, the master of bird song identification, would call out, “That was an eastern towhee,” and the list went on.  Many times I would think, “Oh yes, I know that sound!”  We went down the hill to the Spring Creek and, because it was a quite warm day, the bird action was great.  Just when a flash of yellow made me think “that’s a gold finch,” Kyle’s ear confirmed “yellow warbler.” 

After lunch we decided to go down to our Hammel Lane farm to check out the bird activity along the banks of the Bad Axe River.  OK, so what about those swallow-like birds circling overhead, doing all sorts of flying tricks but ignoring us?  We were looking at a huge complex of cliff swallow houses under the bridge, but not a one would acknowledge their house by going there while we are observing!  Smart birds!  Self-preservation!  Our river excursion offered up herons, kingfishers and an eagle fishing to feed its new babies in the nest downstream.  Kyle submitted our observations for the day which included 53 different types of birds!  We had hoped to spot a few morel mushrooms along the way as well, but only found two….oh well, maybe on the next walk.
Last Saturday was not exactly the sunny, warm day we had the previous week.  We took a quick tour of the greenhouses as we waited for everyone to arrive.  A light rain was falling, but everyone had rain coats so we headed out.  We walked the road between the field and woods, stopping frequently to identify and eat plants.  We ate young basswood tree leaves, quite good and reminiscent of a green bean!  The peeled new shoots of sumac were juicy with a lemon flavor.  Creeping Charlie left a mild mint flavor and we learned that the inner bark of the Siberian elm is good for soothing a sore throat.  These are just a few of the many plants we saw!  As we walked the woods road we also spotted different types of mushrooms.  Small, brightly colored mushrooms arranged like shelves ranging from blue to dark magenta, too small to think about eating but beautiful to see on the moist, mossy tree bark.  But then some sharp eyes spotted a snow white group of polyporus mushrooms (oyster mushrooms) on a fallen log.  Identified as edible, they were soon photographed, cut and bagged.  We kept our eyes open for morel mushrooms as well, but weren’t able to find any….I think the season ended early.  Moving on, Little John was a non-stop source of information about edible and medicinal use of the plants we saw…..and the rain continued.
Spruce tree tips were young and prime.  I knew they made a tasty beer, but they are good right off the tree!  Then we reached our destination, a series of springs that are the “head waters” for the creek that runs through our farm.  John called it a “Fen,” but everyone agreed it was a magical place full of watercress and delicious Angelica shoots and strange plants like “skunk cabbage” and “Jack in the pulpit!”  

Still raining, but spirits high, we headed back for lunch. Cold and wet, we opted to eat lunch inside.  Scott built a fire in the office stove and Andrea brought dry towels and put wet clothes in the dryer while we ate our lunch.  We enjoyed the fresh oyster mushrooms fried in butter and we warmed up with a very tasty roasted acorn coffee that Little John brewed.  We were entertained by a variety of different birds visiting the bird feeder while we ate.    

 Warm and mostly dried, we decided to take another walk…still raining!  We headed into the woods to see the effigy mounds.  We snacked on more plants, found some unique ones we could not identify and pondered the question of “What did the native people who built these mounds eat?”  As we left the woods, the rain finally stopped!  Three –quarters of an inch of rain had fallen while we were on our journey, but this dedicated group had no complaints!  They all agreed that the best treat of the day was the abundant and very delicious columbine blossoms.  We all had a taste and plenty remained for the humming birds, moths and butterflies that depend on them.  Several of the group members commented, “Now that we know the farm and where to go, can we come any time?”  Yes, you can!  This was just the introduction!  Maybe we should do this again!


Hon Tsai Tai
Hon tsai tai holds an important place in our spring vegetable line-up.  It matures more quickly than other spring-planted greens and is very tasty when grown in cool spring weather.  It is in a group of plants referred to as “flowering brassicas.”  While it is related to such vegetables as mustard greens and bok choi, what sets it apart is that it has beautiful purple stems that produce a sweet, delicate, edible yellow flower.  The sweetness of the buds and flowers is the part we love the most!  While other vegetables in the brassica family also produce flowers, they do so towards the end of their life cycle and at that point there are often undesirable flavor changes in the edible portion of the plant.  Hon tsai tai is unique in that it produces the flower early in its life when all the parts of the plant still taste good.

Hon tsai tai has a mild mustard flavor.  The entire plant is edible and may be eaten raw or cooked.  The thin purple stems are more tender when the plant is young.  While still flavorful, they may become more coarse as the plant matures, so should be cut very finely at this stage.  Hon tsai tai is delicious in stir-fries or lightly steamed, but also makes a stunning and flavorful addition to raw salads.  A common preparation in Chinese cuisine is to quickly stir-fry hon tsai tai with garlic, onions, and ginger, then add oyster sauce.  Store hon tsai tai loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready for use.  

S3442 Wire Hollow Road, Viroqua, WI, 54665, United States
Switch to desktop site