Harmony Valley Farm

Harmony Valley Farm

September 20, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Orange Kabocha Squash

19 Sep 2018 21:01

Cooking With This Week's Box:

Orange Italian Frying Peppers or Poblano Peppers: Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon & BaconPoblano Pepper Jack Cornbread
Red or Green Bell Pepper: Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon & Bacon
White, Yellow or Purple Cauliflower or Broccoli Romanesco: Aloo Gobi (Cauliflower & Potatoes)
Kabocha Squash:  Kabocha Nishime (see below) or Kabocha Squash Bread with Toasted Walnut Cinnamon Swirl (see below)
We have made the transition to fall, it’s official.  Our Harvest Party is coming up this weekend and we have orange kabocha squash in this week’s box!  This is one of my favorite squash varieties and this week I’m sharing two recipes with you from Amy Chaplin’s beautiful book, At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen.  The first one is for Kabocha Squash Bread with Toasted Walnut Cinnamon Swirl (see below).  I make this bread throughout the winter and we eat it for breakfast with a hard-boiled egg or sometimes have it as dessert with lunch or dinner!  It’s delicious on it’s own, but even better spread with soft butter or coconut oil.  It calls for spelt flour, which I really like, but I would guess you could also just use all-purpose flour.  If you’re not into baking and sweet things this week, consider trying Amy’s recipe for Kabocha Nishime (see below).  This is a Japanese preparation for kabocha squash where the squash is steamed until tender and very delicately flavored with kombu, fish stock and mirin.  You can eat it on its own or turn it into a bento bowl by serving it with rice, steamed kale and pickled vegetables.
Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon & Bacon
This week I went back through our recipe database because I was looking for a few recipes I thought we had featured before.  I found several recipes that I had forgotten about including one we featured last year for Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon & Bacon.  This recipe calls for sweet corn, which we don’t have, but you could easily substitute edamame or carrots instead.  This is a rich dish, but very delicious with the silky leeks, the sweetness from the peppers and the tang from the lemon. 
Another recipe I came across that I haven’t made for awhile is this one for Aloo Gobi (Cauliflower & Potatoes).  This is kind of like a quick, Indian vegetable stew with cauliflower, potatoes and tomatoes seasoned with curry powder and garnished with cilantro.  It’s flavorful, warming and can be eaten as is or along with rice or a flat bread.

I guess I’m starting to feel the chill of fall which makes me want to eat more soup.  This week I’m going to make Andrea Reusing’s recipe for Carrot Soup with Toasted Curry & Pistachios.  This is a very simple soup, yet so delicious.  If you have some carrots remaining from a previous week, use them to make this recipe for Carrot & Broccoli Salad with Miso Ginger Sauce.  This recipe will make great use of not only carrots, but also this week’s broccoli and the last of the edamame.

Kale Chips with Almond Butter & Miso
Lets talk about snacks for a bit.  Fall is the time of year when I like to make kale chips as our Sunday afternoon snack as we prepare for the week ahead.  I really like this recipe for Kale Chips with Almond Butter & Miso.  I prefer to make kale chips with green curly kale, but I’ve talked to other members who prefer Lacinato kale!  I’m sure they’re delicious with either variety and no reason to feel guilty eating chips!  The other snack food I want to make this week is Mini-Sweet Peppers Stuffed with Feta, Avocado, & Golden Grape Tomatoes.  Mini Sweet peppers are great for stuffing with a lot of things, so if you don’t like this recipe, make up your own or just eat them with cream cheese!

Some boxes this week may receive Orange Italian Frying peppers while others will receive poblano peppers.  For those of you who get the poblano peppers, consider making Poblano Pepper Jack Cornbread.  Serve it for brunch or a light dinner with scrambled eggs and fresh slices of tomatoes.

I have some exciting news to share with you….sweet potato harvest is coming very soon!  Rafael dug some gorgeous sweet potatoes yesterday!  If the rest of the field looks like the samples he dug, we’re going to have a great sweet potato harvest this year!  We haven’t eaten any yet, remember we have to cure them first to convert their starches into sugar.  Start gathering your recipes, they’ll likely be in your box within about three weeks or so.  Have a great week and we hope to see you at the party this weekend!---Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable: Orange Kabocha Squash

This week we’re packing one of our longtime favorite squash varieties, orange kabocha.  The varietal name for this squash is “Sunshine,” something we will take in any way we can get it given the recent rains and gray skies!  You’ll recognize this vegetable by its bright orange skin and rounded, disc-like shape.  This variety is also sometimes called a Japanese Pumpkin and is similar to other squash varieties such as orange kuri and buttercup.  This squash has a thick wall of flesh and a small seed cavity.  The flesh is dark orange in color and has a silky, custard-like texture when cooked.  
This is a very versatile squash and may be used for a variety of preparations including soup, puree, baked goods, curries, stews or simply roasted.  You can often use this squash variety in recipes that call for buttercup, butternut, or orange kuri as well as any recipe calling for pumpkin.  The flavor of this squash is excellent and surpasses even the best tasting pumpkin. 
You’ll find kabocha squash to be a very dense squash that will require a little bit of effort to cut into.  Unlike some other winter squash, kabocha squash has a very thin skin that can be either peeled away or just eaten.  The skin is most tender shortly after harvest and toughens up the longer it is in storage, thus may not be as desirable to eat. There are several ways you can cook this squash. My go-to easy, low maintenance method is to just cut the squash in half, remove the seed cavity and put the squash halves, cut side down, in a baking dish.  Add a little bit of water to the pan and bake the squash at 350°F until the squash is soft and tender when pierced with a fork.  Remove the squash from the oven and turn the halves over so they can cool.  Once cool enough to handle, scoop the cooked flesh out of the shell and either mash or puree the flesh.  Once the flesh is cooked, you can use it to make a simple squash puree seasoned with spices of your choosing and a pat of butter.  Orange kabocha puree can also be used in baked goods and desserts.  This rich, sweet flesh makes a delicious pie filling and yields rich, moist, flavorful quickbreads, muffins, pudding and soufflé.
Aside from baking, kabocha squash may also be roasted or simply steamed.  In Japanese cuisine, kabocha squash are also referred to as Japanese pumpkins.  Known for their simple, clean preparations, you’ll find Japanese recipes for kabocha squash to be equally as simple with just a few ingredients.  Slices or chunks of kabocha squash are often steamed or simmered in a simple dashi broth with kombu seaweed and sometimes miso, soy sauce and sometimes sake.  This week we’re featuring Amy Chaplin’s recipe for kabocha nishime which is made using this type of method for steaming.  Amy recommends including this as a component in a nourishing Bento Bowl, a Japanese way of eating a variety of simple preparations including steamed rice and/or beans, steamed greens and pickled vegetables.  You can also roast kabocha squash as you would prepare any other root vegetable or potato for roasting.  When prepared this way the exterior of the squash gets nice and crispy while the flesh inside stays moist and sweet.
This squash is also delicious when used in soups, stews and curry dishes.  It is also really easy to preserve.  I like to cook a lot of squash at the same time and then puree the flesh.  I pack it in quart freezer bags and then lay them flat in the freezer to freeze them in “pillows.”  I can thaw these bags really quickly and then use the squash as a quick side dish during the winter—just heat and add salt, pepper and butter.  It’s also super quick to pull out a bag of the prepared squash and turn it into bread, cookies, pie or some other tasty treat.
I’ll take a minute to mention squash seeds.  While we usually encourage you to save the seeds from your winter squash and roast them to make a crunchy snack, I have to admit I don’t care for the seeds from a kabocha squash.  They have a thicker hull and are more tough and less enjoyable to eat.  Save your efforts for some of the other squash that will come later such as the sugar dumpling, festival and butternut squash.
For longer storage, winter squash is best stored in a cool, dry location at about 45-55°F.  However you can also keep them on your kitchen counter and enjoy their beauty if you are going to eat them within a few days or weeks.  I would encourage you to eat this week’s selection sooner than later.  Watch them and if you notice any spots starting to form on the exterior, cut that area out of the squash and cook the remainder immediately. 

Kabocha Squash Bread with Toasted Walnut Cinnamon Swirl

Yield:  One 9-inch loaf
Photo from Amy Chaplin's book,
At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen
Cinnamon Walnut Swirl:
1 cup toasted walnut halves, chopped
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp maple sugar (may substitute brown sugar)
2 Tbsp maple syrup
Squash Batter:
½ to 1 medium kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and cut in ½-inch dice (about 3 ½ cups raw)*
2 cups spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp milk (dairy or non-dairy)
½ tsp sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
  1. Make the Cinnamon Walnut Swirl:  Place walnuts, cinnamon, maple sugar, and maple syrup in a bowl; mix to combine and set aside.
  2. Make the Batter:  Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly oil a loaf pan and line bottom and two longer sides with a sheet of parchment paper; set aside.
  3. Steam squash for 10 to 12 minutes or until soft.  Place in a medium bowl and mash with a fork.  Measure out 1 ½ cups cooked squash and set aside. *(see note below) 
  4. Sift spelt flour and baking powder into a medium bowl and stir to combine.  Add olive oil, maple syrup, milk, salt, vanilla, and egg to the mashed squash; whisk until smooth.  Using a rubber spatula, fold flour mixture into squash mixture until just combined.  Spread half of batter over bottom of loaf pan.  Layer cinnamon-walnut mixture evenly over batter and top with remaining batter.  To create a swirl, use a small rubber spatula or butter knife to zigzag back and forth through the batter (across pan) and one stroke straight through the center of the loaf (lengthwise).
  5. Place in oven, and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow loaf to sit 5 minutes before carefully turning out and placing on a wire rack.  Slice and serve warm.

*Chef Andrea Note:  Alternatively, you can cut the squash in half and put the two halves, cut side down, in a baking dish with a little water in the bottom.  Bake in a 350°F oven until tender when pierced with a fork.  Remove from the oven and turn the squash over so they can release steam and cool enough to handle.  Scrape out the seed cavity and discard it.  Scrape the remaining flesh away from the skin.  Mash it with a fork or puree it in a food processor.  Measure out 1 ½ cups cooked squash for the bread and refrigerate or freeze the remainder for another use.
This recipe comes from Amy Chaplin’s book At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen:  Celebrating the Art of Eating Well.

Kabocha Nishime

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

Photo from Amy Chaplin's book,
At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen

Note from author:  Nishime is a Japanese cooking style that means “long-cooked with little water.”  In macrobiotic cooking, it is said to create strong, calm energy and restore vitality.  This amazingly simple method is perfect for root vegetables and winter squash, as they become super-sweet and meltingly tender.
2 pound kabocha squash
4-inch piece kombu
¾ cup water
1 tsp mirin
1 tsp tamari
Pinch sea salt
  1. Remove seeds from squash, leave skin on, and cut into 1 ¼-inch wedges.  Cut each wedge in half to make triangles.  Place kombu in bottom of a medium-large pot or one that will snugly fit all squash in one layer.  Lay squash skin-side down over kombu and arrange in a circle, with pointy end of squash facing the center.
  2. Pour in water, and add mirin, tamari, and a pinch of salt to center of pot.  Place over high heat and bring to a boil.  Cover pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until squash is cooked through.  You can test it with a toothpick or tip of a small knife;  cooking time will depend on the thickness of the flesh.  Remove from heat and carefully lift squash into serving bowl
  3. The cooking liquid you are left with is sweet and flavorful and can be poured over the squash when serving.  Or you can simply drink it, as I love to do.

This recipe comes from Amy Chaplin’s book At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen:  Celebrating the Art of Eating Well.  She recommends including this squash as a component in a simple meal mirrored after the Japanese bento meal concept where different components are served in a lacquered box with divided compartments for each component.  To simplify this dish, skip the box and just create your own bento bowl.  Amy suggests choosing several different components such as steamed rice, the kabocha nishime, pickled vegetables and/or steamed greens.  Create a bowl for each diner with the components each desires.  This is a simple way to make a beautiful, nourishing meal.

September 13, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Mini-Sweet Peppers

12 Sep 2018 21:15

Cooking With This Week's Box:

Potatoes: Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken with Potatoes & Sweet Peppers (See below)

Variety of Tomatoes: Fried Green Tomatoes

Golden Grape Tomatoes: Veggie PizzaEdamame & Veggie Rice Bowl
Broccoli: Veggie Pizza

Mini-Sweet Peppers: Veggie Pizza; Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken with Potatoes & Sweet Peppers (See below); Edamame & Veggie Rice Bowl
Here we are in mid-September and while the trees are still mostly green, you can see they’ll be transitioning to their fall colors soon.  Yesterday we finished winter squash harvest and our greenhouse is filled with bins of colorful squash!  We hope you’ll consider joining us for our Fall Harvest Party coming up on September 23.  Come and see the farm and enjoy delicious food, great conversation with other CSA members and tour the fields! 

Lets kick off this week’s cooking extravaganza with a focus on this week’s featured vegetable, the beautiful mini-sweet peppers.  These little gems are delicious just on their own, but they are also really great when roasted.  This week I suggest using most of your mini-sweet peppers to make Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken with Potatoes & Sweet Peppers (See below).  This is a simple recipe featuring herb-roasted potatoes, mini-sweet peppers and sweet onions, but very tasty and filling. 

Spaghetti Squash & Leek Skillet Gratin
I’m excited that we have both spaghetti squash and leeks in this week’s box so we can use them to make Spaghetti Squash & Leek Skillet Gratin.  I have shared this recipe with anyone who tells me they don’t care for spaghetti squash and everyone who’s tried it has had to admit it’s a pretty good way to prepare this unique squash!  This dish is easy to put together and includes sweet peppers as well as spaghetti squash, leeks and garlic.  Leftovers are pretty good the next day too.  You might want to save one leek to make this recipe for Apple, Leek & Cheddar Quiche which we featured several years  ago in a newsletter.  I had forgotten about this until one of our members reminded us about this recipe in our Facebook Group last week.  This will make a great weekend brunch item with some leftovers for breakfast on Monday morning.

While the tomatoes in this week’s box aren’t technically green tomatoes, most of them were a bit on the under-ripe side when they were picked.  We know tomato season won’t last forever, so I’m going to pull the trigger on making our annual dinner of Fried Green Tomatoes.  This recipe also includes a simple sauce to serve alongside.

When I was a kid, one of the church ladies’ go-to recipes for snacks at church events was a cold Veggie Pizza.  This is a great way to incorporate a lot of vegetables into one preparation.  This could serve as a light dinner or lunch, but might also be a good thing to send in school lunches for the kids or just have it in the refrigerator for an after-school snack.  The recipe calls for using canned crescent rolls for the crust.  You could also use puff pastry as the base or make your own crust.  You can top this with any fresh vegetable you like, but I’d suggest using carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and sweet peppers from this week’s box.  You could also use edamame for a pop of green color. 

Caramelized Poblano Chile & Onion Dip
This will likely be the last week we’ll be able to deliver tomatillos.  Several years ago when Chef Chelsea worked at the farm, she introduced me to the beautiful combination of roasted poblanos and tomatillos.  So this week I think I’ll just keep things simple and make Roasted Poblano & Tomatillo Salsa Verde.  This will likely become our Sunday afternoon snack eaten with chips, but you could also use this salsa as a sauce over grilled chicken or pork chops or include it in a breakfast burrito.  The other poblano pepper recipe I have to mention every year is Caramelized Poblano Chile & Onion Dip.  I like to make this at least once every year and I use it in a variety of ways.  First of all, it’s really good as a dip with mini-sweet peppers, but it’s also good on quesadillas, on top of roasted potatoes, or use it as a base for something similar to the veggie pizza mentioned above.  This week’s sweet onions are one of the best varieties to use for this recipe.

We’re nearing the end of edamame for the season.  I’ve enjoyed having these sweet, tender beans over the past few weeks. If you’re looking for a simple vegetable snack for the kids, this is a good one.  Otherwise, this week I’m going to follow this simple suggestion for Edamame & Veggie Rice Bowl.  You could eat this warm or at room temperature.  Basically you pile brown rice in a bowl and top it off with roasted vegetables (such as carrots, broccoli, sweet peppers or grape tomatoes).  Serve it with chunks of avocado and dress it with a citrus lime vinaigrette.  This is a nice light, nourishing alternative to some of the more rich dishes I’ve recommended throughout the week.
Here’s another suggestion for something a bit on the light side.  If you get the red cabbage in your box this week, pair it with carrots to make this Thai Sesame, Red Cabbage & Carrot Salad.  It’s a basic salad consisting of cabbage, carrots, fresh herbs and a light vinaigrette.  You could turn this into a meal by adding some shredded chicken or salmon.

Lastly, if you didn’t have a chance to try the Korean Peppers last week, I’d encourage you to do so this week.  We’ve sent them as a choice item, so pick up a small handful and use them to make the HVF Korean Chile-Garlic Sauce or Salt-Cured Chiles we featured on the blog last week. You can also read more about this chile and how to use it in the same blog post.

Alright friends, we’ve cooked our way to the bottom of yet another CSA box.  I haven’t cooked any of our Kabocha squash yet, but I am thinking they’ll likely land in next week’s boxes, so start transitioning your thoughts to more fall cooking.  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable: Mini-Sweet Peppers

These sweet little gems have become something many of our members look forward to every year, and what’s not to like about them!  They are cute, colorful, sweet and easy to eat.  They travel well, require very little if any preparation, store well on the countertop during the season and are easy to preserve.  They are delicious raw, roasted, sautéed and are excellent for dipping or stuffing.  If I had to choose just one pepper to grow, this would be the chosen one.
For those of you who have been members with our farm for several years, you likely remember the story about how this vegetable came to be part of our repertoire.  It’s a relatively new addition to our crop plan and we’re grateful to one of our longtime CSA members who introduced us to them.  Upon his suggestion, Richard picked up a pack of these peppers at the co-op and saved the seeds from them.  Please note, each pepper only has a few seeds inside, so the amount of seed we had to start with was pretty slim.  He planted out the seeds that year, selected more peppers to save seeds from and thus began the process of developing our own line of seed.  At the time he first saw these peppers, they were not very wide-spread in the stores as they are now and seed was not commercially available in this country.  Times have changed and mini-sweet peppers, or snacking peppers as they are also called, are much more mainstream.  Seed is now commercially available in this country.  Several years ago we purchased some seed to try.  We grew it side by side with the seed we had saved and when we looked at the plants in the field, they were pretty similar.  We almost had ourselves convinced that we should just purchase seed and stop spending time painstakingly picking 4-5 seeds out of peppers at the end of every summer so we have seed for the next year.  But then we tasted them.  One bite of the purchased variety stopped us in our tracks.  It was an acceptable sweet pepper, but it did not have the level of sweetness or the depth of flavor we experienced with the variety we’ve been developing.  Deal breaker.  We haven’t purchased seed since then and will continue to refine the seed we save every year as it seems to be doing pretty well in our growing environment.
So what do you do with this little pepper?  Well the easiest thing to do is to just eat it as a snack.  I usually don’t even cut them or trim away the top.  I just use the stem as a handle and eat around the seeds.  One of Richard’s favorite ways to eat this pepper is stuffed with cream cheese or other soft cheese.  You can eat peppers stuffed in this way raw or pop them under the broiler for a bit to warm them up.  This pepper is also great roasted, such as in this week’s recipe.  Lastly, you can use this pepper as you would any other sweet pepper.
I mentioned above that it can also be preserved.  This is actually one of the easiest things to put away for winter.  All you have to do is wash them, let them air dry a bit and then put them in a freezer bag and freeze.  That’s it.  When you’re ready to use them, take out the portion you need and leave it on the counter at room temperature for just a few minutes so it softens enough for you to cut them.  I use these throughout the winter as a topping on pizza, added to soups and stews, or chopped and added to rice and pasta dishes.
We hope you enjoy this sweet little gem as much as we do!

Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken with Potatoes & Mini-Sweet Peppers

Yield 4-5 servings
4 cups diced potatoes (about 1 ½ pounds)
2 cups mini-sweet peppers, stem removed & quartered (about ½ pound)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
3 Tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil, divided
6 pieces chicken thighs, legs, wings or a combination, skin-on
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Combine potatoes, mini-sweet peppers, and onions in a medium mixing bowl.  Add dried herbs, freshly ground black pepper and about ½ tsp salt.  Drizzle with 2 Tbsp oil.  Toss the vegetables to thoroughly mix the vegetables with the herbs and coat everything with oil.  Spread the vegetables evenly on a sheet pan and set aside.
  2. Put the pieces of chicken in the same bowl you mixed the vegetables in.  Drizzle with 1 Tbsp oil and sprinkle with about ½ tsp salt as well as freshly ground pepper.  Mix well with your hands and make sure all sides of the chicken are thoroughly coated with oil and seasonings. 
  3. Put the pieces of chicken on top of the vegetables, skin side up.
  4. Put the chicken and vegetables in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.  If necessary stir the vegetables a bit so they brown more evenly.  Return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes or until the vegetables are golden brown and tender and the chicken is golden, crispy and cooked through. 
  5. Remove from the oven and serve hot.

By Chef Andrea, Harmony Valley Farm

A Giant Success For One Small Municipality

12 Sep 2018 21:14

By Gwen Anderson
The story we want to share with you this week is filled with hope and encouragement.  It has been exciting for us here at Harmony Valley Farm over the past few weeks as we’ve dug deeper into this rich story.  There is far too much for us to be able to sum up in one article, so we’ve shared some resources for you at the end of the article and encourage you to dive into this story and learn more.  The story is about a small township called Mals, which is (to our knowledge) the first municipality in the world to ban pesticides.  We first leaned about Mals when we read about it in an article in September’s issue of Acres U.S.A.  The article was an interview with Philip Ackerman-Leist, a farmer and professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at Green Mountain College in Vermont, who is also the author of A Precautionary Tale.  Ackerman-Leist is very familiar with the area surrounding Mals, since he lived and worked in the area as a farmer in the early 1990s.  In both his book and the article we read, he highlights the struggles Mals went through on its long and difficult journey to become a pesticide free municipality.  Their story is one of perseverance, tenacity, convictions, and the desire to, as Farmer Richard would say, “do the right thing.”
Mals, photo from motherearthnews.com
Mals (pronounced Mahltz) is a township located in the Upper Vinschgau Valley of the Italian Alps, in a region called South Tirol.  The township is made up of 11 villages ranging in altitudes of 3,000 to 5,500 feet.  The largest of the villages lends its name to the municipality, so the villages are collectively known as Mals.  Even though the township is in Italy, the inhabitants speak German and retain their Austro-Hungarian heritage.  The residents of Mals have been farmers for 30-35 generations, tending their small family farms and carrying on traditions of rotating grain crops with vegetable crops and keeping their soil healthy.  Most of the farms are small dairy farms, owning 8-12 cows, who grow their own vegetables and have a handful of fruit trees near their homes.  The area surrounding Mals is also the driest in the Alps, with only about 50 days of rain a year, but the water coming down from glaciers and easy access to irrigation have made this a prime agricultural region.
Ulrich Veith, Mayor of Mals
Photo from thelexicon.org
Ulrich Veith became mayor of Mals in 2009.  He was elected because of his desire to create a sustainable municipality while keeping with the local traditions.  The township was building a micro-hydro-system to generate green energy to power their homes, businesses, and the new Swiss-built train that brought their long abandoned rail system back into use.  The train brought tourists who were interested in Mals’ picturesque landscape and the town responded by making bike trails and opening South Tirol’s first organic hotel.  It was a new renaissance period for the people of Mals.
Elsewhere in South Tirol, there was another sort of renaissance happening.  Climate change warmed the Alps and made South Tirol a perfect place to grow fruit, and apples were becoming the biggest money maker around.  The farmers’ cooperatives were building their brands and spreading their markets across Europe and Russia.  They borrowed the efficient tree trellis method developed by the Dutch and the small 3-4 acre orchards were rolling in money.  With money in hand and looking to expand, the apple farmers set their sights on Mals and the valley below, where they could snatch up land at a low price.  With the apples came the pesticides.  Apple farmers are able to legally spray up to 30 different pesticides, each one being sprayed 12-14 times a year.  While the rest of South Tirol was using 35 pounds of pesticides per acre per year, Mals was making a wide-spread movement to organic agriculture.
Gluderer family's herb farm, Castle of Herbs
photo from vinschgau.net
The valley below Mals, which had once mirrored Mals’ picturesque medieval farm landscape, had transformed into a sea of commercial apple orchards.  Urban Gluderer and his family, whom had started an organic herb farm down in the valley in the 1990s, were soon surrounded by conventional apple orchards and quickly found the pesticide drift was spreading to their land.  They planted hedges to protect their herbs, but the produce was still too tainted by pesticides to sell.  After several attempts to speak with government officials in the provincial capital failed to provide an adequate response, the Gluderers spent a quarter of a million dollars to cover their farm with greenhouses as a means to protect their livelihood from the chemical trespass.
In 2009, Günther Wallnöfer, an organic dairy farmer in Mals, watched as two commercial apple orchards went in next to his hay fields.  He didn’t feel the legal requirement of a 3 meter (10 feet) buffer between fields was going to protect his farm, and stories like the Gluderer’s only gave him justification to worry.  As Ackerman-Leist said in the article, “You can’t even turn your tractor around in a 10 foot radius!”  The next year, Wallnöfer had cuttings of his hay tested for pesticides.  The first came back tainted, as did the second and third.  Wallnöfer went to see the new mayor and asked him to do something.  In a community that has a wind named after them, everyone knew that no one was safe from chemical drift.  Per Ackerman-Leist, “Pesticides represented the death knell to the renaissance that [Veith, Wallnöfer] and others had worked so hard to bring about.”  So Veith went to the provincial and local governments for assistance.  What Veith received were two test orchards, supposedly to test pesticide drift, but also to trial new fruit varieties.  The people of Mals didn’t want more orchards, and didn’t see the need for further testing when there was already enough evidence of the dangers pesticide drift presented.  In the summer of 2012, much to the chagrin of the township, the test orchards were built.  In the end, the test orchards brought talks about changing the buffer law, but nothing substantial ever came from them.
Dr. Johannes Fragner-Untherpertinger
photo from thelexicon.org
It was clear that the provincial government didn’t have its sights on the same goal, so the citizens rallied; not just the farmers and environmentalists, but small business owners, the local medical community, and concerned parents.  The Advocacy Committee for a Pesticide-Free Mals was born in February of 2013, and Dr. Johannes Fragner-Unterpertinger, the local pharmacist, was elected as the spokesperson.  The Advocacy Committee started talking about a possible referendum to ban pesticides in Mals.  Speakers from around the world were brought in to educate the community of Mals on pesticides, from toxicologists (Dr. Irene Witte) and entomologists (Dr. Hans Rudolf Herren), to an EU food safety expert (Hermine Reich) who supported “safe pesticide use.”
In the summer of 2013, Dr. Unterpertinger, together with fellow activist Dr. Elisabeth Viertler, a pediatrician, wrote a Manifesto of Doctors and Pharmacists calling attention to the health dangers that pesticides present.  It was signed by 51 members of the local medical community.  Ackerman-Leist quoted the pharmacist as saying “When I see something jeopardizing the population here, which is coming in tiny increments, just in the same way the medicine I give out is prescribed in tiny increments, there is no way that I see that as appropriate.”  “None of these pesticides are harmless,” Dr. Unterpertinger said.  “Providing this information over the last years has borne its fruit. The community now understands how dangerous pesticides are. If you have a bit of a conscience, you cannot stay silent as a doctor.”
Meetings and education were not the only form of activism in Mals.  A group called Adam & Epfl (or Adam & Apple in English, is a play on words for ‘Adam and Eve’ in the local dialect) held cultural events to showcase Mals’ unique culture and support the sustainable economic development the township was striving for.  They have also been known to use a guerrilla art tactic or two, leaving painted snakes around the towns and apple orchards as a reminder not to be tempted by the “promises” of the Big Apple (a term coined to describe the commercial apple industry modeled after the term “Big Ag” in the US)
5 members of Hollawint, from left: Pia Oswald, Dr. Elisabeth
Viertler, Beatrice Raas, Martina Hellrigl, and Margit Gasser
Photo from thelexicon.org
Martina Hellrigl and Beatrice Raas, the founders of a woman’s group called Hollawint (which means “Stop right there!”), wrote letters to the local newspapers pleading for the mayor to protect their health after the first submission of the referendum was declined.  Their first letter, which appeared multiple times with over 60 different signatures, read: “The increasing use of pesticides and herbicides in the municipality of Mals has us highly concerned for our health and especially the health of our children.  We ask our Mayor, who is responsible for the health of our citizens, to ensure that our environment and our health are not endangered.”  Another of their letters, sent to government officials during the referendum vote in September of 2014, focused on the highly profitable tourist trade: “We wish for everything that the tourist brochures have long promised: highly valued, healthy, and diverse foods that are grown in healthy soil and embedded in a landscape in which people, animals, and plants all have the possibility of a healthy life. We request that you publicly give us positive support in public and act accordingly.”  During the same time Dr. Unterpertinger was releasing his manifesto, the women of Hollawing hung over 100 recycled bedsheets throughout Mals stenciled with slogans promoting a pesticide-free future.  Hollawint also borrowed the guerrilla art tactic from Adam & Epfl by placing hay-stuffed pesticide suits sporting signs explaining the dangers of pesticides in high traffic areas around the township, and painted sunflowers to remind people to vote “Ja!” (or “Yes!”) for the pesticide ban referendum.
Eco-tourism was also a huge weapon the residents of Mals had in their arsenal.  “Probably the biggest mistake Big Apple made was overestimating their actual economic importance,” Ackerman-Leist stated.  “Agriculture only accounts for 6% of the South Tirolean economy, while tourism is closer to 25%.”  Elsewhere in South Tirol, stories were emerging about bicycling tourists being sprayed by pesticides while riding the countryside.  In April of 2013, a Swiss newspaper ran an article saying pesticides were ruining South Tirol as a vacation spot, which the region’s governor scoffed at.  Germany and Austria are also a huge tourism market for the South Tirol area.  When the Environmental Institute of Munich ran a campaign in April last year declaring many of the areas in South Tirol too filled with pesticides to visit, the South Tirolean government and tourism office were up in arms.  The institute then sponsored a bus trip to the villages of Mals in an effort to support their pesticide-free initiative.  A German tourism magazine interviewed Mayor Veith, which Ackerman-Leist summed up: “He essentially said, ‘We offer the perfect opportunity for eco-tourists.  Why wouldn’t you come to Mals, where you don’t have to worry about pesticide drift in your hotel or being sprayed when you’re out bicycling?’”
A Farmer's Future's logo
photo from thelexicon.org
Once Big Apple realized the citizens of Mals were serious about their referendum and were not going to just go away, groups were formed to fight back and put pressure on the government to intervene in their defense.  While the first attempt to submit a referendum failed, the second gained almost 3 times the signatures of support required in 2014.  In response, a media campaign called A Farmer’s Future was launched by the commercial fruit industry and allies of the South Tirolean Farmers Association.  This group tried to stop the referendum vote by requesting that the government invalidate Mals’ town council’s decision to allow the referendum only weeks before the vote.  The South Tirolean officials themselves had already stalled the vote on the referendum once by refusing to give Mayor Veith the voter list, saying the referendum was inadmissible.  When Veith countered the officials, they found an error on the request form and reminded the mayor that the voter list request must be completed, correctly, 45 days before the vote, thus forcing a reschedule.
Finally in September 2014, the citizens of Mals were able to pass the referendum to ban pesticides with 76% of voter’s support, but it still wasn’t enough to make it a law.  Mayor Veith and the town council had laid the groundwork for a referendum passed by the people to become law in 2012, but the change in the municipal code did not guarantee the referendum would be turned into law, only that it must be considered.  The ordinances imposing the referendum weren’t passed until March 2017.  According to Ackerman-Leist “it took more than a year and an election of town councilors before they actually voted to develop the ordinances to implement the referendum.”
Part of the issue slowing the referendum being turned into law was legal uncertainty.  The town council’s vote to change the municipality laws failed twice, in no small part due to lawsuits against the referendum (and a number of the activists) being paid for by the South Tirol Farmer’s Association, which supported commercial interests.  In 2016, the provincial courts even declared that the referendum was illegal because it was sponsored by the Advocacy Committee, six months after Mayor Veith and the town council had drafted the ordinances.  “The Malsers saw that as a technicality,” Ackerman-Leist stated.  “The ordinances for a pesticide-free Mals were not overturned.”
Ägidius Wellenzohn, photo from vip.coop
Lawsuits were not the only backlash the Mals activist saw.  Mayor Veith, a member of the region’s most prevalent political party, was under constant political pressure.  Dr. Unterpertinger, whose family had been pharmacists in the area for hundreds of years, received death threats and required police protection.  His garden was destroyed and his family’s graves were vandalized.  Ägidius Wellenzohn, another prominent activist, has been an organic fruit grower for 30 years.  Someone entered his orchard and sprayed it with glyphosate, not only destroying his crop for that year but also compromising his organic status for the next several years.  “Obviously, this is not something I ever wanted,” Ackerman-Leist quoted Wellenzohn as saying, “but I also realize that this is the price sometimes you pay for activism.  It’s still worth it to me to have been this involved.”
The town pulled together to support Wellenzohn, just as they had been supporting each other throughout the rest of their fight to live a life free of pesticides.  “I have the right not to be poisoned.  It would seem normal, but it’s something we need to fight for, not to be poisoned,” Dr. Unterpertinger says in a video from Friends of the Earth.  “They say that Bertol Brect says ‘[he] who fights may lose, but [he] who doesn’t fight [has] already lost.’  To say ‘Oh, well, there is nothing I can do,’ is unacceptable.” 
Mals is a lesson for us all on how education and collective community persistence can win against even the seemingly unbeatable Goliath powers of commercialism and industry.  When we consider the negative impact “Big Ag” has in our own country, it can seem impossible that “we” can ever find success in opposing their efforts to influence government and support their cause with the power of the almighty dollar.  Mals’ success story is one that many European groups, including the Pesticide Action Network and Friends of the Earth, are trying to spread with the hope that this story will be emulated in other communities, much to the delight of many of the people of Mals.  “I see it almost as a gift, what happened here,” Martina Hellrigl says in the above video.  “It’s a beautiful story and we hope this beautiful story acts like a seed.  I hope Hollawint’s seed grows in other places also.”
Philip Ackerman-Leist’s book, A Precautionary Tale:chelseagreen.com/product/a-precautionary-tale
                In audiobook format: amazon.com/precautionary-tale-pesticides-preserved-heritage/dp/1603587055
Lexicon Multimedia Project: topplinggoliath.org
Friends of the Earth Video: http://protectandresist.video/pesticide-free-town
Other sources: https://www.independentsciencenews.org/health/a-precautionary-tale-how-one-small-town-banned-pesticides/

September 6, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Korean Peppers

5 Sep 2018 21:56

Cooking With This Week's Box:

Leeks: Chile & Leek Stir-Fry with Ginger (see below); Alice Water’s Classic Potato Leek Soup
Korean Peppers: Salt-Cured Chiles and HVF Fresh Korean Chili-Garlic Sauce (see below); Chile & Leek Stir-Fry with Ginger (see below)
Variety of Tomatoes: Cream of Tomato Soup
Green Top Red BeetsRoasted Beet & Avocado Salad
Orange Italian Frying Peppers & Red Bell Peppers: Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo with Linguine
It’s been an eventful week to say the least!  While the rain fell Monday night, I distracted myself by experimenting with the Korean chiles in my kitchen!  I hope you’ll take the time to read this week’s article about Korean peppers and consider trying the recipes for Salt-Cured Chiles and HVF Fresh Korean Chili-Garlic Sauce (see below).  These are great condiments to have in your refrigerator and I offer several resources in the article for finding recipes and ideas for how to use them.  You can also use this chile in the recipe for Chile & Leek Stir-Fry with Ginger (see below).  It seems like gentle, delicate leeks and hot chiles are on different ends of the spectrum, but they actually complement each other quite nicely in this dish.  This recipe calls for tofu, but you could make it with chicken if you prefer.
If you don’t use the leeks to make the stir-fry, then you might want to use them to make Alice Water’s Classic Potato Leek Soup.  Her recipe calls for yellow potatoes, but I specifically included the Purple Viking potatoes in this week’s box because I think they’re one of the best varieties for this soup!
Roasted Beet & Avocado Salad, photo from Food & Wine
This week we are fortunate to have avocados in the fruit share.  Avocados and beets pair together very nicely in dishes such as this Roasted Beet & Avocado Salad.  Don’t throw away the green tops!  Wilt them with in olive oil and use them as the base for serving this salad.
I have been craving roasted red peppers and this is the week to make this recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo with Linguine.  While the recipe calls for roasted peppers from a jar, please do yourself a favor and roast your orange Italian frying peppers and/or red bell peppers for this recipe!  This recipe also includes onions as the base and this week’s sweet yellow onions will really enhance this dish.
I shared some edamame with a friend last week who had never had them before.  As I was telling her how to cook them I mentioned how when you roast them you can add different seasonings.  In my early days at the farm, I created this recipe for Wasabi-Roasted Edamame to honor Richard’s love of wasabi.  This makes a nice little snack in the afternoon.
Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Photo from Land of Noms
It’s supposed to be a cool week, so this is the week to make Cream of Tomato Soup with fresh tomatoes!  Serve a bowl of this tasty soup along with a Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich and you’re set for a light lunch or dinner.
Hopefully you still have a little fresh basil remaining in your herb garden.  If so, pick a little and use it to make this recipe for Pesto Stir-Fried Carrots, Cauliflower & Cherry (Grape) Tomatoes.  This dish makes use of some of your carrots as well as cauliflower (or substitute broccoli Romanesco) and the grape tomatoes in this week’s box. Serve this dish as a vegetable side to go along with grilled chicken or fish.
I hope you enjoy this week’s cooking adventures.  Lets cross our fingers that we’ll be able to harvest peppers and tomatoes for a few more weeks, but it’s also time to start preparing your plans for some of our favorite fall vegetables!  Spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, Kabocha squash, celeriac and more still coming your way!—Chef Andrea 

Exploring a new ingredient, HVF Korean Peppers

By Chef Andrea
Dang Jo Cheong Yang pepper photo from the
Osborne Seed catalog.
This week your CSA boxes include a beautiful bright red Korean Pepper called Dang Jo Cheong Yang.  Every year we look for some new, interesting vegetables to grow.  Last winter, as we were pouring over seed catalogs, this pepper caught my eye.  The picture in the Osborne Seed catalog showed a long, dark purple pepper that looked to be pretty prolific.  They described it as “a unique Asian pepper that is similar in pungency and appearance to a serrano. The fruit are purple in color and ripen to a deep dark red color. They are easy to harvest and uniform. Outstanding yield and good ripening ability in the Pacific Northwest make this a nice addition to a hot pepper program.”  We thought it would be fun to try something new and we don’t have any purple peppers so why not give it a try!  We have found that the plants are very prolific producers and just as the picture shows, they set on quite a lot of dark purple peppers.  Our next mission was to decide when to harvest them.  Since we’ve never experienced this pepper before we are basically doing our best to assess the qualities of the pepper at different stages and make our best judgements as to when it’s at its peak of ripeness.  I started trialing this pepper when it was just purple and found that it really didn’t have much flavor.  It tasted like a very green hot pepper.  Nothing really remarkable about it.  So we decided to let it ripen more and see what happened.  Now that they are fully red, the flavor has really changed and it not only has heat, but a much more complex flavor than when it was green.
As with every new vegetable we grow, we not only have to figure out how to grow it and when to harvest it, but we also have to figure out how to best put it to use in the kitchen.  Before we go any further, I should offer the disclaimer that I am very much a novice when it comes to the cuisine of most countries in Asia.  Yes, I had “Cuisines of Asia” in culinary school and I have a handful of Japanese, Thai and Chinese cookbooks, but I have to admit that I’m not very familiar with many of the cooking techniques and ingredients that are used in these cultures.  I’m also not familiar with the languages of this part of the world, so I just assumed this was probably some sort of a pepper from China.  I started researching more about this pepper, starting with the seed company.  Unfortunately they didn’t have much to offer beyond the description in their catalog.  When I looked up the name of the pepper, it actually pointed me in the direction of Korean cuisine.  So, based on my research I have concluded that this is likely a pepper variety coming to us from Korea.  Aside from knowing a few people from Korea and eating kim chi, I am not very familiar with the cuisine of Korea.  Thus began another culinary food adventure!  So for those of you who are in the same boat as I am and don’t know much about Korean cooking and ingredients, I’m going to do my best to share some of the information I learned from my research.  If you have more experience with Korean food and have additional information to share with me, I’d welcome your input, recipes and culinary expertise.
Gouchujang I brought home from Minneapolis
last winter.
One basic thing I learned about Korean cuisine is that it includes quite a lot of fermented foods as well as spicy hot foods.  Korean cuisine and its influence on food and cooking in the United States has been growing over the past few years as we see Korean influences crossing over into dishes from other origins, such as Korean tacos and pizza.  I suspect Chef Roy Choi holds some responsibility for this influence based on the success of his food truck business in Los Angeles, California that started with a Korean short rib taco and has now grown to include multiple food trucks as well as a catering business, restaurant and many features in cooking magazines and other media outlets.  Chefs and home cooks are taking some basic Korean ingredients and cooking techniques and applying them to other preparations.  One of these ingredients is called gochujang.  Gochujang is a savory, sweet, spicy condiment used in Korean cuisine.  It is considered a backbone ingredient to Korean cooking and one source I read likened it to sriracha mixed with miso, but with a more complex flavor.  Traditional gochujang takes quite a while to make because the complexity of its flavor comes from a fermenting process.  It’s made with glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, salt and the traditional dried Korean peppers.  If you’re interested in learning more about how this is made, you can find more description and pictures on this blog written by a Korean woman who is a simple home cook sharing the cuisine of her country.  Gochujang is used as a condiment in sauces, soups, dipping sauces, marinades and with roasted meats.  I am seeing this ingredient more in some of my cooking magazines, although I have limited experience using it and have not seen it in any of our local stores.  Last winter when I was in Minneapolis for sales meetings I found a jar of gochujang at one of the food co-ops.  It wasn’t organic, but it was made with non-GMO soybeans so I picked up a jar so I could see what it was like.  I have only used it once, but am glad I have a jar of it now that I’m learning more about what it actually is!
So back to the little bag of peppers in your box this week.  First of all, I want to make sure everyone understands that this is a hot pepper, with the heat level similar to a serrano pepper.  You can use this pepper anywhere you might need a fresh hot chile and I have been using it in recipes that call for jalapenos as well as fresh Thai chiles.  They have added a nice background heat to fresh salsas, scrambled eggs, Thai curry dishes and fried rice.  If you prefer less heat, just use a portion of the pepper or remove the seeds and white pith.  As with all hot chile peppers, handle them carefully and don’t rub your eyes with your hands for awhile after handling them!
Chile Ristra, photo from heb.com
In Korea, this pepper is often used as a dried chile.  This makes sense because it has a thinner wall which means it dries very easily.  I’ve actually dried some that have just been hanging out on my countertop, but you could also intentionally dry them in a dehydrator or low heat oven.  You could also use them to make a beautiful dried chile ristra.  Checkout this website for a step-by step guide for how to make a chile ristra.  You can string up the fresh chiles and hang them in your kitchen to dry naturally.  Once they are dried you can use them as a dried chile pepper including grinding them with a spice grinder to make hot chile flakes.  If you aren’t into hot peppers, you could also enjoy your dried chile ristra just as a decoration in your kitchen or use it as a Christmas gift for someone who does like a spicy culinary adventure!
This week we’re featuring two different recipes that use these Korean peppers in their fresh form.  The first recipe is for Salt-Cured Chiles.  I’ve made these before using a fresh Thai chile that is actually very similar to these Korean chiles.  This is a quick, easy way to preserve your chiles and I like it for several reasons.  First, all you need are the chiles and salt.  Second, if you use a food processor this recipe will take you maybe 10 minutes to make, including clean up.  Third, these chiles will keep in your refrigerator for months and retain that fresh chile flavor.  You don’t need much to add heat to dishes, so a little jar can last quite a long time.  You can use them to add heat to stir-fries, marinades, sauces or use them to make your own homemade hot sauce.
Korean Tacos
photo from KIMCHIMARI
The second recipe is for a preparation I’m calling HVF Fresh Korean Chili-Garlic Sauce.  It’s based off of a recipe that is a quick version of gochujang that anyone can make at home.  This is another quick and easy recipe to make.  I think it only took me about 10-15 minutes to make it and clean up.  This sauce will keep for a couple weeks in the refrigerator or you can portion it into smaller containers and freeze it.  Traditional gochujang is a thick paste, but this sauce made with fresh chiles is more of a sauce and less of a paste.  The flavor of traditionally fermented gochujang is more complex, so I don’t want to misrepresent this recipe as the way to make traditional gochujang.  I do think this is a really tasty chili-garlic sauce and it can be used in any recipe that calls for gochujang.  It is pretty spicy, so when you use it in recipes, adjust the quantity to the amount that fits your tastes.  If you’re interested in learning more about how this condiment can be used, I’d encourage you to check out the blog I mentioned earlier that includes recipes such as Korean Tacos.  There is also a nice article entitled “10 Fresh Ways to Use Korean Gochujang.”
I had a lot of fun learning more about this pepper and a little more about Korean cooking.  I hope you have fun experimenting with this pepper in your own kitchens.  I invite you to share your experiences in our Facebook group so we can all learn a little more about this pepper as well as experiment with different recipes and ways to use our own homemade Salt-Cured Chiles and HVF Fresh Korean Chili-Garlic Sauce!  Have fun and thanks for trying something new!

Salt-Cured Chiles

Yield:  ½ cup
4 oz fresh Korean peppers
1 Tbsp kosher salt
  1. Thinly slice peppers with a knife or roughly chop them and then use a food processor to chop the peppers into smaller pieces.  If you use a food processor, process just enough to coarsely chop the peppers.  You do not want to make pepper paste or puree. 
  2. Put the peppers in a small bowl and add the salt.  Mix very well with a spoon.  Cover the bowl with a plate or a clean kitchen towel and leave out at room temperature for 24 hours. 
  3. After 24 hours, move the bowl to the refrigerator and mix the peppers once a day for 5 days, or until the salt has dissolved and the now softened chiles are completely covered in liquid. 
  4. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid, tamping the chiles down so that they remain well  below the level of the liquid.  These will keep for several months in the refrigerator.
This recipe was adapted from Andrea Reusing’s book, Cooking in the Moment, although she credit’s Fuchsia Dunlop (author of Land of Plenty) with this simple method for preserving chiles for use long into the winter months.  Reusing suggests pureeing some of the salted chiles along with cider vinegar, garlic, and a little sugar to make your own hot sauce.  Of course you can use these chiles anywhere you need a little heat. Add them to soups, stews, marinades, stir-fry, dipping sauces, vinaigrettes, etc.

HVF Fresh Korean Chili-Garlic Sauce

Yield: 1 cup
4 oz fresh Korean peppers
4 cloves garlic
⅓ cup miso
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
  1. Remove the stem and roughly chop Korean peppers into one inch pieces.  Put the peppers in a food processor or blender along with the garlic cloves and roughly chop them until they are a fine, yet chunky paste. 
  2. Add the miso, maple syrup, and tamari.  Blend together until smooth.
  3. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed to your liking.  Add tamari for more depth of flavor, maple syrup for more sweetness, garlic to get more “zing” or salt if it just needs a little enhancement to wake up all the other flavors.
  4. Put the sauce in a glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  Alternatively, you can freeze it in smaller portions as a means of preserving it for later use. 
Note:  You may use this in place of the Korean fermented chili paste called gochujang.  It’s pretty hot, so a little bit will go a long way!
Recipe adapted from minimalistbaker.com

Chile & Leek Stir-Fry with Ginger

Yield:  4 servings

8 oz firm tofu (drained)*

3 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp sherry or dry vermouth
2 tsp honey
⅔ cup vegetable stock
2 tsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp sunflower oil
3-4 leeks, thinly sliced
1 red Korean pepper, sliced thinly
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Cut tofu into cubes.  Combine the soy sauce and sherry or vermouth in a medium bowl.  Add the tofu and stir to make sure the tofu is well coated.  Leave to marinate for about 30 minutes. 
  2. Strain the tofu from the marinade and reserve the marinade and juices in a measuring cup.  Mix the marinade with the honey, stock, and cornstarch to make a paste. 
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and when hot, stir-fry the tofu until crispy.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Reheat the oil and add the chili, ginger and leeks.  Stir-fry over high heat for about 2 minutes, moving the vegetables frequently to keep them from burning.  Stir-fry just until the leeks have softened. 
  5. Return the tofu to the pan together with the marinade and stir well.  Continue to simmer the mixture, while stirring frequently, until the liquid is thick and glossy.  Serve hot over rice or egg noodles.
*Note:  You may also substitute chicken breast meat for tofu.
This recipe was adapted from Christine Ingram’s book, Vegetarian and Vegetable Cooking:  The definitive encyclopedia of healthy vegetarian food.

Weather Update From Farmer Richard…..

5 Sep 2018 21:55

Last week we reported on the status of our farm after receiving 8” of rain earlier in the week.  This week I wanted to update you on our status over the past week.  Thankfully we had a few dry days at the end of last week.  We performed a few magic tricks to dry out some beds enough that we could do our scheduled weekly plantings on Friday, including our first planting of fall spinach.  We were proud of our efforts, accomplishments and had smiles on our face at the end of the week!  We had an immediate rain of 1.5” but thankfully the skies cleared on Saturday afternoon and we managed to harvest some beautiful winter squash and finished the potato harvest.  We have an abundant winter squash crop this year and we were pleased to find out it tastes really good just a few days after harvest!  Usually we wait several weeks to eat any as it needs a little time to cure and sweeten up.  All indications are that it is going to be a tasty winter squash season!  We also managed to fix all our field roads and after several days all our animal fences were fixed as well.

Unfortunately, we got more rain and severe storms again Monday night!  Thankfully it was only 4” of rain this time, but it came hard and fast and in several places the wash-outs were worse.  We had to cancel harvest on Tuesday morning and diverted all  available operators and equipment to clean up and fix roads, etc.  We made it through the last event without the bulldozer, which has been in the repair shop.  This time, however, there was some work that was best done with the bulldozer as tractors and skidsteers would’ve just sunk into the mud.  I called the shop and asked them to return it.  They dropped it off Tuesday afternoon and I was able to move enough mud from below our land dam with hopes that we could get through the night without problems if the predicted rain and storms really moved through our area.  Felix G was a trooper and worked with me throughout the day doing a lot of handwork and shoveling to clean up a fence line and clear debris and mud away from the inlet to our land dam that was plugged from the night before.  We were also able to resume harvest Tuesday afternoon! 
We did have about 1.5 inches of rain Tuesday night, but it wasn’t as much or as hard and fast as originally predicted so we fared pretty well.  Our total rainfall over the past two weeks is at about 15 inches now.  We have several days of sunny, dry and cool weather in the forecast, which will be a welcomed relief.
We’ve been pretty fortunate to not have lost as many crops as in previous events, but we are already seeing disease spots on many crops because of the prolonged hot/wet and humid weather.  We could still see more rot and disease spread in some areas if it doesn’t dry out soon.  Please be aware that the shelf life on some of your vegetables may not be what you’re accustomed to simply because of the wet conditions these crops have had to persevere through.  If you notice a spot forming on a tomato or pepper, that’s your cue to use them quickly.  This might be the week to make a batch of tomato sauce or saute all the peppers at one time and use them throughout the week.
I am writing this weather update to simply let you know what’s happening on our farm, which for our CSA members is also “your” farm.  We aren’t looking for pity, we only want to keep you informed and let you know we value your continued support.  Our crew has had some hard days and we all are in need of a spirit lift.  We appreciate the cards and emails of encouragement we have received.  They really help!

August 30, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Purple Potatoes

29 Aug 2018 21:21

Cooking With This Week's Box:

Zucchini or Yellow Summer Squash: Peppery Zucchini & Potato Packets on the Grill (see below); Vegetable Enchiladas with Creamy-Tomatillo Sauce; Zucchini, Bacon, Gruyere Quiche 
Zoey Yellow Onions: Peppery Zucchini & Potato Packets on the Grill (see below); Mango Edamame Quinoa Salad; Vegetable Enchiladas with Creamy-Tomatillo Sauce; Corn Stew with Chicken & Sausage
Jalapeno Peppers: Breakfast Potato Nachos (see below);  Roasted Salmon with Jalapeno;  Corn Stew with Chicken & Sausage
Red Seedless Watermelon: Honey Grilled Watermelon Caprese Salad
Large Tomatoes: Breakfast Potato Nachos (see below);  Honey Grilled Watermelon Caprese Salad;  Corn Stew with Chicken & Sausage
Purple Majesty Potatoes: Breakfast Potato Nachos (see below); Peppery Zucchini & Potato Packets on the Grill (see below)
When I was a kid, purple was one of my favorite colors.  At that time I had no idea that there were purple potatoes or purple carrots!  I do envy CSA kids who get to grow up eating all of these cool vegetables!  We’ll kick off this week’s cooking talk with a recipe for Breakfast Potato Nachos(see below).  The Purple Majesty potatoes are a good variety to use for this and make for a colorful presentation.  The potatoes are cut into thin slices and then baked as crisp as you like them, thus becoming the “chip” part of the nachos.  Top them with cheese and whatever other vegetables you like, such as black beans, tomatoes, onions, and avocado.  Put a fried egg on top and you have authorization to eat nachos for breakfast!  Our other recipe suggestion for this week’s Purple Majesty potatoes is a simple recipe for Peppery Zucchini & Potato Packets on the Grill (see below).  If you’re grilling out for Labor Day weekend, consider adding this to the menu.  If you have a camping trip planned for the holiday weekend, this is a fun thing to make over the campfire.  We used to make these at summer camp.  You can cook the packets on a grill set over the fire, or add an extra layer of foil and put the packet right into the hot coals.
Honey Grilled Watermelon Caprese
Photo from How Sweet Eats
While we’re on the topic of grilling, I want to share this recipe for Honey Grilled Watermelon Caprese Salad.  I found the link to this recipe on Ali’s blog, gimmesomeoven.com where she featured 15 recipes using watermelon.  I had never considered grilling watermelon, but this salad sounds delicious.  You could serve this as a side dish, or turn it into a light lunch or dinner by serving it with some slices of grilled bread and thinly shaved prosciutto.
Last week I came across this recipe for Mango Edamame Quinoa Salad.  This is an interesting, yet very simple, salad featuring fresh edamame, sweet peppers, & onions paired with fruit and quinoa to make a light summer salad.  The author also gives some suggestions for making some substitutions, so if you don’t have a mango, you could also use grapes or blueberries.  I think this salad will go nicely with Pan Roasted Salmon with Jalapeno for a light dinner option.  The heat and fattiness of the salmon dish will balance nicely with the simple, sweet salad.
If you didn’t have a chance to make the Vegetable Enchiladas with Creamy-Tomatillo Sauce from last week, I’d encourage you to give it a try this week and put this week’s tomatillos and a poblano to good use.  The filling for this enchilada includes corn, zucchini, peppers and onions.  Another suggestion for using the tomatillos and one of the poblano peppers is this recipe for Roasted Tomatillo & Chickpea Curry.  We featured this recipe in last year’s newsletter and it was a hit with many members!
Steak, Poblano and Mushroom Tacos
Photo from Gimme Some Oven
I don’t know what it is about poblano peppers, but I really like the flavor of this pepper.  So, I’m going back to Ali’s blog to make her suggestion for Taco Tuesday featuring this recipe for Steak, Poblano and Mushroom Tacos.  This recipe will make use of two poblano peppers along with onions and garlic.
Sweet corn season will be coming to an end soon, but before it does I want to try this recipe for Corn Stew with Chicken & Sausage.  This recipe will make good use of fresh sweet corn as well as the fresh tomatoes and a jalapeno from this week’s box.
We started the conversation with purple potatoes and we’ll end this week’s conversation with purple carrots!  I like mixing the purple and orange carrots and think they are beautiful in this Carrot Salad with Coriander Vinagrette & Pistachios.  This is a light, refreshing salad that will go nicely served with this Zucchini, Bacon, Gruyere Quiche.
That’s it for this week.  We’re starting to harvest winter squash this week and are hoping to send leeks your way very soon.  Enjoy these last days of summer!—Chef Andrea

Purple Potatoes

Potatoes are the fourth largest food crop in the world, following behind rice, wheat and corn. Potatoes originated in the Andes Mountains of Peru and Bolivia but have spread throughout the world and are grown and eaten all over the world.  While we’re accustomed to seeing just a few common varieties on grocery store shelves, the world of potatoes is actually very diverse with hundreds of different varieties that go beyond the common Yukon gold, red potatoes and Russet potatoes for baking.  Earlier this week we harvested these beautiful Purple Majesty potatoes which you’ll find have a deep bluish-purple skin and purple flesh.  This variety is classified as a waxy, high moisture potato, thus it is a good potato for roasting, pan-frying, and it will hold together well in soups and stews.
As a young dietetics student, I remember learning about different plant compounds (aka phytochemicals) that are nutrients with beneficial health properties for both the plant as well as the person who consumes the food.  The cool thing about these compounds is that many have color, thus you can easily look at many foods and have some indications as to what health benefits you’ll get from them.  Foods that are purple, blue and red in color are likely going to be high in anthocyanins, a water-soluble phytochemical that has these color pigments.  Anthocyanins are beneficial for cardiovascular health and contribute to lowering blood pressure.  They are also beneficial in cancer prevention.  While we now have many choices in potato varieties, choosing a purple potato from time to time can be a great addition to a diet rich in fruits and vegetables that supply our bodies with a variety of beneficial phytochemicals.  The cumulative effect of eating in this way and including a variety of different colors from day to day will benefit your overall health.
Unlike many purple vegetables, such as beans, that fade to green when cooked, purple potatoes generally will hold their color when cooked.  The color may change, depending on the cooking method as well as the other ingredients you’re preparing with them.  If you want to maximize the purple color, choose a dry heat cooking method such as roasting, baking or pan-frying.  These potatoes may also be used in soup, but be aware that they may fade to more of a blue-gray if cooked with more alkaline ingredients such as cream or milk. If you boil potatoes, it’s best to cook them whole with the skins on to best preserve the color.  Because this is a waxy potato, it is not the best choice for making mashed potatoes as they can get sticky if you mash them too much.  They will however make a pretty violet mash!
Earlier in the season we featured new potatoes.  We told you to handle them carefully as they had delicate skin.  This week’s potatoes are not new potatoes.  The vines of the plant were cut in advance of harvest, thus helping develop the skins so they are more durable and will protect the potato for longer storage.  If you need to store them for a bit, you should be fine doing so.  Just store them in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight and don’t put them in the refrigerator.

Breakfast Potato Nachos

Yield:  4 servings
Picture from the little epicurean
Chili Spiced Potatoes:
2 pounds potatoes, sliced into ⅛-inch or ¼-inch thick rounds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
⅛ tsp ground cayenne pepper
½ cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese
½ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced
tomato salsa
sour cream
sliced green onions
chopped cilantro
sliced avocado
lime wedges
fried egg
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
  3. Coat potato slices with olive oil. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on two baking sheet trays, making sure the potatoes do not overlap. Sprinkle spice mixture over potatoes, flip potatoes and sprinkle spice mixture on the other side. Bake for 25-30 minutes until potatoes are tender. (Note: if you slice the potatoes ⅛-inch thickness, bake for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are crisp)
  4. Set oven to broiler setting.
  5. Layer about half of baked potatoes on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with half of black beans and half of shredded cheese. Top with remaining potatoes, black beans, and shredded cheese. Set under broiler for 20-30 seconds until cheese is melted.
  6. Garnish nachos with salsa, sour cream, sliced jalapeños, avocado slices, sliced green onions, and chopped cilantro. Before serving, top with fried egg. Enjoy immediately.

This recipe was borrowed from Maryanne Cabrera and was featured on thelittleepicurean.com.

Peppery Potato and Zucchini Packets on the Grill

Yield:  4 servings

1 ½ pounds potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh thyme, or ½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp salt

  1. Heat the grill.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl.  Divide the mixture among 4 pieces of aluminum foil, placing the mixture near one end.  Fold in half to form a packet;  then fold the edges to seal completely.  Grill the packets 25 to 30 minutes, turning over once, until the potatoes are tender when pierced.
Recipe borrowed from The CSA Farm Cookbook, by Mi Ae Lipe.

Severe Weather Event….Again

29 Aug 2018 21:21

By Richard DeWilde
Well here we go again!  Another severe weather event, the third in 3 years.  This is starting to look like an annual event!  What started in 2007, 12 inches in 24 hours, was called at the time a “100 year event.”  Meteorologists no longer refer to 50 or 100 year events, because they now appear to be annual events!
Jack weathering out the storms Tuesday night at Richard's
feet, all snug in a comforting denim shirt.
So what is it like for us to deal with such an event?!  On Monday night it started to rain with possible “heavy rain” in the forecast.  It rained and rained, our weather man referred to it as a “trailer,” new to me but meaning that the band of showers did not just pass through, but the tail end continued to build into heavy showers for 12 hours!  I dumped the rain gauge at 10 PM, emptying 4.5 inches.  I tried to sleep, but our sweet dog Jack kept waking us to adjust his blanket covering because he was terrified by the constant thunder and lightning.  So after a troubled sleep, we rose before dawn to assess the damage.  By morning the total rainfall had risen to 8 inches rain in less than 12 hours.
From past events, the obvious first thing to check is the animal fencing that crosses the creek.  Yep, they were washed out!  Angel and Juan Pablo were here at the first light of dawn to contain our animals.  As of Tuesday night the pigs are in the corral, their two creek fences still not complete.  The cows are all accounted for and contained, but much more fencing work is needed!
One of our field roads off of Wire Hollow Road , completely
washed out from the storm.
Now, on to harvest!  Our pre-dawn assessment found that no fields were accessible.  River and creek crossings, roads to bench fields and the dry washes were all plugged with rock and debris.  We canceled morning harvest, pulled every skilled operator and utilized every piece of equipment to spend the morning fixing roads and our yard to make them passable while the rest of the crew worked in the packing shed and greenhouses to pack things harvested the previous day and worked on trimming and cleaning onions and shallots for storage.
In the afternoon, we loaded up the harvest wagons to resume harvest. Unfortunately, the rain started just as the crews were heading to the field.  It was a wet, muddy afternoon, but we were able to pick peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and tomatillos in the on again/off again rain!  We had to fix some of the tomato trellises that had tipped over with the soggy soil.  Not the most fun day of harvest, but the product was fine and the crew got it done.
Large branches and other debris from the dry wash just down
the road from the field road pictured above.
A disappointing moment in the day was the field report from the corn harvest crew.  We’ve worked very hard to grow the very best crops of corn we have ever grown this year.  Sadly, they found the remaining corn was tipped over from wind and saturated soil that couldn’t support the stalks anymore.  The crop scheduled for picking this week as well as our next and final crop, flattened!  They were and will be able to pick some of it for this week and we’re crossing our fingers that the last crop might perk up with a few sunny days.  Also on that farm, they found all of our beautiful sunchoke stalks laying flat as well.  Argh!
Greens?  We delayed harvest until Wednesday morning because the leaves showed signs of being  water-soaked.  Based on our prior experience, the plant usually recovers from this, but needs some hours of dry weather preferably with sun before we resume harvest.
Vincente blading a washed out field road.
Everything we harvested is muddy and needs to be washed.  No worries, we know how to do that.  Tuesday evening still a steady rain, another “trailer!”  The old “normal” weather, gone, prepare for the worst!  As we finish up this article on Wednesday morning, we’re thankful for blue skies and sunshine.  The crews are back in the fields and we’re preparing to pack the CSA boxes for our Twin Cities members.  We’re making plans to continue the cleanup and will revisit the berms and ditches that failed or were damaged.  We’ll put things back together, build the berms higher and clean out the ditches.  We can’t quit--We have families to feed!
Our changing weather patterns are for real, and I don’t see this erratic weather going away anytime soon.  Should we transition to inside, greenhouse production?  Can we really curb the excess atmospheric carbon and stabilize our climate?  That would be preferable!  The technology is there for clean energy, clean cars, and carbon capture.  Much of the civilized world is already making huge improvements.  But will we?  Do we have the political will and leadership to do it?  I sure hope so.

How Cover Crops Help Save the Planet

22 Aug 2018 21:49

By Gwen Anderson
Like most kids, I learned about photosynthesis when I was in grade school.  I learned that plants ate sunshine, breathed in carbon dioxide, and exhaled oxygen.  I remember as a child thinking how great it was that I was exhaling what my new tree out back was inhaling, and in turn, it was exhaling what I needed as well.  I knew protecting the forests was good for the planet; we learned about it every Earth Day.  What I didn’t know is that we should also be protecting our farmlands.
As we are growing our crops, they are eating all of that sunshine, breathing in all of that carbon dioxide, taking nutrients out of the soil to grow.  Then we harvest those crops.  They stop breathing in that carbon dioxide.  Then what?  On the typical conventional farm, the lands sits empty, doing nothing.  Rain comes, washes away all of that expensive chemical fertilizer, the ground gets hard and cracked as it dries, and blows away in the wind.  Next year, they plant seeds, spray it with more chemicals because they all washed away the year before, harvest the crop once it grows, if it grows.  Rinse, repeat. 
Cover crop (millet, oats, rye grass, and 3 types of clover)
planted 2 and a half weeks ago in our fields.
That isn’t how we do things at Harmony Valley Farm.  Farmer Richard has been planting cover crops for over 40 years.  As soon as we are done harvesting, we either plant a new crop if the season is early yet, or we “put the field to bed” by planting cover crops.  Right now, we already have 30 acres of our farm planted with cover crops, and will continue planting it as the harvests keep coming in.  As it stands, about 70% of our ground will be cover cropped by fall, and we are increasing that number by seeding grass and clover into our late harvested crops like Brussels sprouts and fall broccoli.
Cover crop (winter rye, rye grass, and 3 types of clover) in
the same field as above, planted one week later.
What are cover crops?  They are crops that cover the ground!  We don’t sell them, they aren’t vegetables.  They are there to photosynthesize away while we wait for the planting season to start again.  Of course, there are plenty of other benefits as well, like holding nutrients in the ground and literally holding the ground in place, instead of letting it wash away in the rain and wind.  They help build up the organic matter in soil, which translates to healthier soil, which is able to better feed the crops we grow and filter the water as it drains, keeping the nutrients in our soil instead of our waterways.  Healthier soil also holds more water, so there is less run off in the first place, and more water for plants to utilize in times of drought.
One thing my childhood rendition of photosynthesis left out is what the plants do with that carbon dioxide they breathe in.  While they do use some of it to grow, because carbon is the building block of life, they also leak the extra carbon they don’t use to grow right down into the soil itself, which feeds micro-organisms that in turn produce food for the plant.  And why is this so important and groundbreaking?  Because right now, there is too much carbon in the air, which is the leading cause of climate change.  By allowing Mother Nature to take all of that carbon that we humans have been pulling out of the ground for centuries and putting it back into the ground, we can have a real impact on climate change.  Rumor is we could even reverse climate change it if we act quickly. According to an article posted in April, 2014 by the Rodale Institute: “If management of all current cropland shifted to reflect the regenerative model as practiced at the research sites included in [Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming], more than 40% of annual emissions could potentially be captured.  If, at the same time, all global pasture was managed to a regenerative model, an additional 71% could be sequestered.  Essentially, passing the 100% mark means a drawing down of excess greenhouse gases, resulting in the reversal of the greenhouse effect.”
Map of the world's farmland, indicating average size of farms, picture from fastcompany.com
About one third of the Earth’s land is used for farming, and while the number of farmers using cover crops is at an all-time high right now, those numbers are still remarkably small.  According to the Des Moines Register in a study published in March 2017, only 2.6% of Iowa’s almost 23 million acres of farmland had cover crop on it in 2016, which was barely better than Illinois’ 2.3%.  Iowa has a goal of getting 12.6 million acres of farm land planted to cover crops, but at the current rate it will take about 3 decades to achieve.  According to Ben Dobson, who was hired on by Stone House Farms in Livingston, NY to convert the 2,200 acre farm from conventional to organic, in their first year alone they increased their soil carbon content by 0.7%.  That amounted to 15 tons of carbon dioxide being removed from the air per acre.  The average passenger vehicle emits 4.6 tons of carbon dioxide per year according to the EPA.  Stone House Farms managed to take the emissions of just over 3 cars back into their soil per acre per year.  Imagine how much carbon could be placed back into the ground if we could get the whole world on board with this!  If Iowa can reach their goal of 12.6 million acres, we are talking about 189 million tons of carbon dioxide (or just over 4 million cars’ worth) in just one year, and that is only half of one state’s farmland. 
Of course, planting cover crops is just one aspect of regenerative farming which is a more holistic approach to soil health, results in cleaner waterways, puts carbon back into the ground, and ultimately helps us combat climate change.  Things such as conservation tilling, crop rotations, composting, diversifying crops that are grown, and the reintegration of animals to the farm are all needed for maximum effectiveness of the regenerative farming model.  And in order for this to be done, more than one eco-minded family farm at a time, we need open communication between farmers, and the backing of government policy to encourage the changes instead of reinforcing the mono-crop farming habits of today.  The good news is that there is a new certification, the regenerative organic certification, which is currently being piloted by the Rodale Institute.  Organic Valley is also piloting its own program in California, where there are already incentive programs in place for “carbon farming” planning and practices.
Per the Rodale Institute, the goal of the regenerative organic certification is to “increase soil organic matter over time, improve animal welfare, provide economic stability and fairness for farmers, ranchers, and workers, and create resilient regional ecosystems and communities.”  The aim is not to replace current organic practices, but rather to support them as well as make it easier for widespread adaptation of the regenerative farming model.  This is something that has really caught our interest here at Harmony Valley Farm, and we look forward to hearing more about it in the future.
The initiatives here in the US aren’t the only ones aiming to combat climate control through regenerative farming.  Regeneration International, a world-wide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and practicing regenerative farming, has played a huge role in bringing the 4 per 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate Initiative to the world stage.  4 per 1000 is a regenerative farming initiative launched by the French government in December 2015, and goes hand in hand with the Paris Climate Accord, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreement between 197 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that was also signed that same month.  However, out of the 197 countries to sign the Paris Climate Accord, only 36 of them have also committed to regenerative farming practices.  In order to bring awareness to the world benefiting practice, Regeneration International has assisted in bringing 1 per 4000 Initiative teaching events to Washington DC, Mexico City, and Montreal, Canada.  In October of this year, they are partnering with South African agencies as well as the French and German governments to hold a symposium in Johannesburg.
Little baby clover (cover crop) overseeded
in our
Brussels sprout field.
We’ve talked about how great regenerative farming is for the planet, but what does it do for farmers?  As I mentioned earlier, Farmer Richard has been planting cover crops for over 40 years, well before the regenerative farming movement caught his attention, because of the benefit it gives the farm and because it is the right thing to do.  Something he knows well is that healthy soil means healthy crops.  And healthy crops are good for the bottom line.  Del Ficke, a 5th generation farmer from Pleasant Dale, NE who adopted practices such as cover crops, reintegrating livestock, and using manure instead of chemical fertilizer, told the Union of Concerned Scientists “I used to farm 7,000 acres. Now I’m less than 700 acres, but 70 percent more profitable.”  While starting these practices takes time and commitment, and are oftentimes difficult, when your soil is healthy and you are following good farming practices, regenerative farming can produce yields comparable to conventional crops, or even better yields, without damaging the planet.  “It’s a ripple effect,” Ficke says.  “Money will follow the sustainability.”  Once we can show the everyday farmer how these practices can not only help the environment, but make their farms more productive and economical, it is only a matter of time before everyone gets on board.  Let’s just hope it's not too late.

August 23, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Tomatillo

22 Aug 2018 21:49

Cooking With This Week's Box:

This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
Tomatillos: Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce (see below)
Poblano Peppers: Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce (see below); Roasted Poblano, Onion and Jack Quesadillas
Zucchini or Yellow Summer Squash: Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce (see below); Zucchini-TomatoTart
White Spanish Onions or Red Onions: Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce (see below); Fried Rice with Edamame & CornRoasted Poblano, Onion and Jack Quesadillas
Missouri Garlic: Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce (see below); Fried Rice with Edamame & CornZucchini-TomatoTart 
Green Bell or Orange Italian Frying Peppers Or Orange Ukraine Peppers: Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce (see below)
Jalapeno Peppers: Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce (see below); Spicy Watermelon Margaritas
Sweet Corn: Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce (see below); Fried Rice with Edamame & Corn
Welcome back for another week of cooking with the bounty of late summer!  I had a lot of fun testing this week’s featured recipe for Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce (see below).  This was my first time ever making enchiladas.  While there are several steps to the process, they are really quite easy to make and very delicious to eat!  It also gave me a chance to talk to some of the Mexican ladies I work with about cooking.  Beatriz and Antonia are excellent cooks and make delicious tortillas, tamales, etc.  They coached me on different ways to prepare enchiladas, salsas, etc.  Food is a great portal to use for getting to know other people and other cultures.  While my version of this recipe may not be entirely traditional, it’s pretty close and I think you’ll enjoy it!  This recipe is also a great way to utilize multiple vegetables in your box in one recipe!
We’re happy to have more sweet, tender edamame beans this week and I can’t resist making my favorite Fried Rice with Edamame & Corn.  I make this in the winter with frozen vegetables, but it’s best made in the height of the season with fresh vegetables including edamame, sweet corn, carrots, garlic and onions.
Zucchini-Tomato Tart, photo from The Bojon Gourmet
This past week I came across a new blog that I really like and found this recipe for a Zucchini-Tomato Tart.  This recipe has a cornmeal crust and is filled with mozzarella, goat cheese, fresh basil, tomatoes and zucchini.  It makes a simple dish to serve for dinner or even brunch.
You won’t use all of your tomatoes in the Zucchini-Tomato Tart, so with the remaining tomatoes you can try this recipe for Brown Butter Tomatoes that can be found at Food 52.  This is a super simple recipe consisting of slices of fresh tomatoes drizzled with fresh, brown butter.  Eat these with toast and eggs for breakfast or as a side dish. 
Lets talk about the red seedless watermelon in this week’s box.  You could just opt to eat it just as it is, or you could use it to make either Spicy Watermelon Margaritas or Watermelon Peach Frose.  The watermelon margarita recipe comes from Jeanine who writes on her blog, loveandlemons.com.  Jeanine is from Texas and knows margaritas!  This one gets its sweetness from watermelons and the spice from a jalapeno!  The watermelon peach frose recipe is a good option if you also receive the fruit share as we have Colorado peaches in this week’s box.  Basically you freeze fresh peaches and watermelon and then blend the frozen fruit with rose wine to make an adult slushy!
Photo from A Sweet Pea Chef
Now that we’ve tackled dinner ideas for 3-4 nights, as well as an idea for weekend brunch and some tasty drinks to enjoy on the patio with friends, lets clean up the remaining items in the box.  With the remaining peppers lingering in the bottom of the box, I’d like to suggest making the Roasted Poblano, Onion and Jack Quesadillas.  This recipe calls for 3 poblano peppers.  If you used one of your three peppers for the enchilada sauce, you may find yourself a little short on poblanos for this recipe.  If that’s the case, use the remainder of your poblano peppers and supplement with some of the sweet peppers.  Serve these with Parmesan Roasted Green Beans Parmesan Roasted Green Beans on the side.
There may be a few items in your box that I haven’t mentioned.  Some members will receive the last of this year’s Sweet Sarah Cantaloupe this week, but we won’t have enough for all boxes.  Don’t worry, we won’t leave a big hole in the box when the cantaloupe are gone!  We’re hoping to dig more potatoes this week, so for those who don’t receive the cantaloupe, you’ll most likely receive more potatoes or possibly more tomatoes.  I hope you have a great week and enjoy the final days of summer before it’s time to go back to school and transition into fall!  Next week we’ll be saying good-bye to August and welcoming in September!  —chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Tomatillos

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

Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce (Enchiladas Suizas)

Yield:  4 servings

¾ pound green tomatillos, husks removed
1 jalapeño pepper
1 poblano pepper
¼ tsp cumin seeds, toasted
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½- ¾ cup roughly chopped cilantro
½ cup boiling water
½ cup sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for frying the tortillas
4 oz fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup diced sweet peppers
1 cup diced zucchini
½ cup diced red onion
2 ears fresh corn, kernels cut from the cob
4-6 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 (6 inch) corn tortillas
Pico de gallo, for serving (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  You will also need a blender to puree the sauce.
  2. First, roast tomatillos, jalapeño and poblano pepper either over an open flame such as a grill or gas burner, or under the broiler in the oven.  Roast until blackened all over.  Once roasted, put the tomatillos and jalapeño directly into a blender.  Put the poblano pepper in a bowl and cover it to steam for 5-10 minutes before removing the peeling and the seeds.  Roughly chop the poblano pepper and add it to the blender.  
  3. Add the cumin seeds, garlic, cilantro, salt, freshly ground black pepper and boiling water to the blender along with the tomatillos and peppers. Blend until smooth, then add the sour cream and blend to combine.  Taste and adjust the seasoning of the sauce to taste with additional salt and pepper.  Set the enchilada sauce aside.
  4. Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 Tbsp vegetable oil to the pan.  When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and onions.  Sautè for several minutes or until the mushrooms begin to soften.  Add 1 Tbsp more oil to the pan and then add the sweet peppers, zucchini and corn.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sautè until the vegetables are tender but not fully cooked.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. Heat another medium sized skillet over medium-high heat.  Add enough vegetable oil to the pan to completely cover the bottom of the pan in a thick layer.  Working in batches, grasp tortillas with tongs and fry each one in the oil just until it’s pliable, 30-40 seconds at most.  Transfer the tortillas to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.  Once all of the tortillas are fried, you can start assembling the enchiladas.
  6. First, prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking pan by pouring a thin layer of sauce in the bottom.  Lay each tortilla on a work surface and prepare them one at a time.  Put some of the vegetable mixture on the tortilla and roll it as tightly as you can.  Put the rolled tortillas in the baking pan, seam side down.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas to create one row down the center of the dish.  Once all of the tortillas are rolled, pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the tortilla rolls.  Spread the shredded cheese evenly over the top of the tortillas.
  7. Bake the enchiladas for 25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted on top and lightly browned.  Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes.  Serve warm with plenty of sauce and pico de gallo.

This recipe was created by Chef Andrea Yoder.  It was adapted from and inspired by a recipe for Chicken Enchiladas Suizas featured in the July 2012 publication of Saveur magazine.  The original version of the recipe may be found at saveur.com.

August 16, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Edamame

15 Aug 2018 21:31

Cooking With This Week's Box:

This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
Edamame: Summer Succotash Salad with Orzo (see below)
Purple Amethyst Beans: Summer Succotash Salad with Orzo (see below)
Zucchini or Yellow Summer Squash: Herb Garden Zucchini Pizza
Green and/or Silver Slicer Cucumbers: Easy Cucumber Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette
White Spanish Onions & Red Onions: Summer Succotash Salad with Orzo (see below); Easy Cucumber Salad with Red Wine VinaigretteItalian Egg Bake
Missouri Garlic:  Summer Succotash Salad with Orzo (see below)
Red or Golden Grape, Sunorange or Chocolate Sprinkles Tomatoes: Summer Succotash Salad with Orzo (see below)
Green Bell and/or Green Italian Frying Peppers: Crock Pot Chicken Philly Cheese Steak
Sweet Sarah Cantaloupe: Cantaloupe Rum PopsCantaoupe Popsicles  
French Orange, Sugar Cube or Sivan Melon: No recipe recommendations….just enjoy this melon as it is!
Red Seedless or Yellow Seeded Watermelon: Watermelon Salsa
Sweet Corn: Summer Succotash Salad with Orzo (see below); Creamy Corn Pasta
This is the point in the season where we have trouble fitting everything into the box!  We have a lot to work with in this week’s box, starting with Edamame!  If you’ve never cooked edamame before, please read this week’s vegetable feature for more information. It’s quite simple, but important to cook edamame before you try to remove it from its pod.  I like to add these sweet, tender beans to salads, such as the Summer Succotash Salad with Orzo (see below) featured in this week’s newsletter.  This is a simple salad featuring fresh edamame, tomatoes, red onion, corn and the gorgeous purple amethyst beans in this week’s box.  This is a great way to use the purple beans and retain their dark, majestic purple color.
There’s nothing like the flavor of fresh sweet corn and sometimes the simplest dishes are the most enjoyable when you have good ingredients to work with.  This recipe for Creamy Corn Pasta comes as a recommendation from one of our CSA members who posted the link in our Facebook Group.  This recipe has just a few simple ingredients including sweet corn and fresh basil from your garden.  You can also garnish this dish with some fresh, diced tomatoes.
Easy Cucumber Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette
Photo posted by April N on geniuskitchen.com
There were several other good recipe recommendations from members on our Facebook group this week including this simple recipe for Easy Cucumber Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette.  This is a simple salad pairing cucumbers with chunks of fresh tomatoes and thinly sliced red onions.  It’s a great salad to serve with dinner and will keep well so you can take leftovers in your lunch the next day.
Last week this recipe for Herb Garden Zucchini Pizza was featured at Loveandlemons.com blog.  This is a simple pizza featuring marinated slices of fresh zucchini paired with mozzarella and basil pesto as the base.  After this is baked, you could serve it with some freshly diced tomatoes and/or arugula if you like.
I typically invest a little more time in Sunday brunch than I dedicate to preparing breakfast throughout the week.  This week I want to make this Italian Egg Bake,  another member recommended recipe.  This will make good use of some of the fresh tomatoes as well as some red onions and oregano from our herb garden.  This would be delicious served with a little arugula salad such as this on the side.  This is a simple recipe for an Arugula Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette  that would pair nicely with this dish.
Cantaloupe Popsicle
Photo from Leite's Culinaria 
This is a peak week for melons!  Enjoy them while you can, as we’re nearing the end of melon season.  If you have more than you can eat fresh this week, consider eating the small personal-sized melon fresh for a snack or breakfast and use the larger Sweet Sarah Cantaloupe to make these Cantaloupe Rum Pops.  These are obviously more for the adult crowd, but here’s a recipe for kid-appropriate Cantaoupe Popsicles.
While watermelon is delicious just eaten off the rind with juice running down your chin, you can also use watermelon to make a refreshing Watermelon Salsa.  Dice the watermelon flesh and combine it with red onions, cilantro, jalapeño, etc to make this delicious salsa to serve with grilled chicken.
This week’s peppers are going towards this chicken version of Crock Pot Chicken Philly Cheese Steaksandwich .  You cook the chicken and vegetables in the crock pot and then just build your sandwich.
Lastly, we need something on the sweet side, which is where this Flourless Carrot Cake comes into the picture!  This cake is supposed to keep for up to five days in the refrigerator, if you can make it last that long!
That brings us to the bottom of this week’s box.  Next week we’re hoping to harvest tomatillos and poblano peppers for you.  We’ll also likely start seeing some colored sweet peppers next week along with more tomatoes and corn!  Have a great week and I’ll see you next time—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 this country edamame is most often found in the frozen section either in the pod or shelled.  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 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.  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!
shelled edamame
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. 

Summer Succotash Salad with Orzo

Yield:  6-8 servings
1 ½ cups dried orzo
3 quarts water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp stoneground mustard
1 Tbsp honey
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup red wine vinegar
⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ear cooked sweet corn, kernels cut off the cob
½- ¾ cup edamame beans (cooked and shelled)
1 cup diced tomato
½ medium or 1 small red onion, minced
½ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup bite-sized pieces purple amethyst beans
Handful fresh basil
  1. Put 3 quarts water in a 4-5 quart saucepot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Generously salt the water, then add the orzo.  Cook for 10-12 minutes or until the orzo is tender.  Pour orzo and water into a colander to drain the orzo.  Rinse with cold water, then set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine garlic, mustard, honey, ½ tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper and red wine vinegar.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until all is incorporated.  Taste the vinaigrette and add salt or pepper if needed.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium to large bowl, combine sweet corn, edamame, diced tomato and red onion.  Add the cooked orzo and about half of the vinaigrette.  Stir to combine.  Add more vinaigrette if needed.  You want enough that the orzo will soak up the flavor, but not so much that there is excess vinaigrette in the bottom of the bowl.  You may not need all of the vinaigrette.
  4. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and black pepper as needed.  Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes or overnight.  Just before serving, add the purple beans and fresh basil.  Either cut the basil leaves into thin slices (chiffonade) or snip into coarse pieces with a kitchen shears.
  5. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Recipe created by Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm

Growing Onions at Harmony Valley Farm

15 Aug 2018 21:30

By Farmer Richard
We have long felt that onions, and the related families of garlic and ramps, are essential to good health and should be eaten daily.  Thus, we consider onions to be a staple vegetable and plan to include some type of onion/garlic selection in every box throughout the course of our CSA season.  This is quite a feat, but we’ve been able to include some perennial and foraged crops such as chives and ramps that allow us to get our weekly onion selection until our overwintered scallions are ready. We plant onion sets and onion tops in the fall for our Egyptian walking onions and potato onions.  These are both multiplier onions that are established in the fall, continue their growth cycle the following spring and are ready for harvest ahead of any spring planted onions.   Next are the first spring scallions which are planted into the field in April from transplants we grow from seed in our greenhouses.  Once we’ve moved through the scallions, we continue with our seasonal progression and harvest an early fresh purple cipollini onion called Desert Sunrise.  This usually brings us to about the end of June when some of our early sweet Spanish onions are big enough to harvest.  Due to their high sugar content, they are an excellent choice for eating fresh as they are pretty mild.  Unfortunately, they don’t store very well.  That’s ok though, because they come in ahead of our storage onions and fill the mid-season slot very nicely.  Once we’ve moved through the sweeter Spanish type onions, we turn to our red and yellow storage onions to take us through the latter part of the season and through the winter.  Yes, it’s a challenge to pull this off, but if you look back over this year and previous years, you’ll find that we’re able to achieve this lofty goal most of the time!
We eat a lot of onions in our household, using them at least once a day if not more.  They often provide the background flavor base for our meals and we include them in everything from our scrambled eggs in the morning to soup, salads, etc.  We do believe onions play an important role in health and value our daily dose of nutrients from this food.  Onions contain powerful antioxidants, many of which are sulfur compounds.  These antioxidants play a role in overall health and immunity and benefit the body with their anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.  They are also thought to play a role in cancer prevention as well as a whole host of other health benefits.  Eating onions raw may be slightly better than cooked, but onions in any form are beneficial.
Onions starting life in the greenhouse this March.
There are some challenges to growing onions, but I’m always up for a good farming challenge!  We start onions and shallots from seed in the greenhouse late in February.  We plan to take care of them for at least 7-8 weeks before they are transplanted into the field.  They are the first crop transplanted in early April.  They can survive snow and cold to 20° F!  While we don’t have to worry about weed pressure in the greenhouse, we are thinking about how to control weeds in the field.  Because of their slim, round stem, onions are poor weed competitors.  Plants that have a wide leaf are able to shade the ground and deprive weeds of valuable sunlight.  Onions grow upright and their tops don’t provide much shade, thus weed control can be a challenge.  They are one of the first crops to need hand weeding and we have found we have to make this job a priority so we have a clean field before we divert our crew time to picking strawberries and peas.
Twenty years ago we planted our spring onion transplants into flat bare ground.  If we managed to keep the weeds out, they grew well.  However, we faced another challenge presented by a tiny little insect called an onion thrip.  This little creature pierced small holes deep in the center growth point of the plant where organic insecticides offered limited control and protection.  The onion thrip is very difficult even for conventional growers, so they have gone to using 100% systemic insecticides, mainly neonicotinoids that make every part of the plant toxic.  It works well to control the thrips, but do we want to eat a toxic plant?
Our onions grown in the flat ground would look good until we brought them into the greenhouse to dry.  After drying and cleaning, we found a soft rot in the neck and top of the onion and often a bad rotting ring somewhere in the onion.  We went to the extension service and had the disease identified by plant pathology and asked what we could do.  The answer was to grow on raised beds.  Heavy rain events on small onions make them vulnerable to getting bacteria inside the center of the onion.  The bacteria causes rot on the inside layers of the onion but appears to be fine from the exterior.  We only see the damage after some time in storage or when we cut them open to use them!  The same is true with another onion disease called neck rot.  Bacteria enter the neck and develop during curing, and often go unnoticed until the end user cuts it open!  This all points back to thrip damage that created the entry point to allow the bacteria to enter!
Raised beds?  How do we do that?  This is not a garden.  We figured it out.  We built equipment to create a 6-8 inch raised bed with a smooth top to plant or transplant all our crops on.  Now, most of our crops, onions included, are planted on raised beds.  The raised bed allows excess water to run off the bed into the lower wheel track between beds and careful ditching at the lower ends of fields prevents the water saturation that would cause onions to later rot.  With this new system, the quality of our onions improved!  But we still had the onion thrips piercing holes that allowed disease bacteria to enter the neck.
Onion transplanting crew, putting the little onions in the
raised beds with the reflective plastic mulch.
Next, we found a reflective plastic mulch that we could use to cover the beds.  It is shiny like aluminum foil and when the sun shines on it the reflection off the mulch disorients thrips and totally deters them from entering the field and onion plants.  We found that this technique also works for other insects on other crops!  So we covered our raised bed with reflective plastic and the high and dry onions without the thrip damage were better than ever!
Did I mention that growing onions has some challenges?  The raised, plastic covered bed has 2 drip tapes buried under 4 rows of onions.  With the help of water sensors we found the onions need lots of water, sometimes we have to irrigate twice per week when it is hot.  Each time we water the onions, we can also give them some fertilizer through the drip lines to provide the nutrients and nitrogen they need to produce well.
The sum total of our efforts allows us to prevent thrip damage to produce healthy onions.  We do still need to manage the harvest and try to bring them in with some green still remaining in the tops. We put them into our shade covered greenhouses to allow them to dry down, cure and set skins for longterm storage.  We are now able to have disease free onions that produce yields comparable to conventional yields but without using systemic poison!
Last year's onions drying in the greenhouse.
Once the onions are dry, we choose to top and clean all our onions and shallots by hand.  It takes time, trimming the top off of every onion with a scissors, but we think it is worth it for a pristine appearance.  Mechanical means of topping onions can cause injury to the onion which then can limit their ability to store well.
As you can see, onions are very important at Harmony Valley Farm and we have a very good crop this year.  We plan to keep you supplied with onions weekly until our CSA delivery season ends.  If you get behind and they start building up on your counter, don’t worry. If you store them properly they will keep well for quite awhile.  Keep them in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight.  When the season ends, we’ll give you an opportunity to order more onions, shallots and red cipollini onions to supply your pantry through the winter!  Display your onions proudly in your kitchen, eat them daily and enjoy being healthy.

August 9, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweet Corn

8 Aug 2018 22:33

Cooking With This Week's Box:

This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
Zucchini or Yellow Summer Squash: Vegetable KabobsZucchini Breakfast Cookies
Cucumbers: Easy Greek Salad
White Spanish Onions: Corn & Tomato Salad with Torn Croutons (see below); Vegetable Kabobs
Red Grape Tomatoes: Vegetable KabobsEasy Greek Salad
Italian Frying Peppers and/or Green Bell Peppers: Vegetable Kabobs
Sun Jewel Melons or Sweet Sarah Cantaloupe: Melon Prosciutto SkewersMelon Sorbet
French Orange Melon: Melon Prosciutto Skewers; Melon Sorbet
Sweet Corn: Corn & Tomato Salad with Torn Croutons (see below); Jalapeño Popper Cornbread Muffins
Variety of Tomatoes: Corn & Tomato Salad with Torn Croutons (see below); Easy Greek Salad
Green Beans: Cashew Curry
Can you believe this week marks the halfway point in our CSA season?  This week we’re packing box #15 of our 30 week season.  Yesterday Jose Antonio asked me if I’d taken a look at the winter squash field recently.  His observation was they look like they’re almost ready to harvest!  Yes, the reality that fall is just around the corner is very present in our minds, but we can’t dwell on that thought too long because we still have a lot of summer distractions.  So let's focus on some of those delicious summer distractions this week starting with Sweet Corn!  This is a bountiful week for sweet corn and it is delicious!  This week we’re picking a new variety called Kickoff that is proving to be quite tasty.  I hope you’ll agree.  Of course you may choose to just boil or grill your corn on the cob, slather it with butter and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  You can’t go wrong with this and often that’s the way we eat it.  But you don’t have to eat corn on the cob.  It’s a great addition to other dishes including salads such as the Corn & Tomato Salad with Torn Croutons that we’ve featured in this week’s newsletter (see below).  This is a recipe from Chef Joshua McFadden’s book, Six Seasons, A new way with vegetables.  It’s a simple salad combining fresh corn cut right off the cob combined with onions, tomatoes, a light vinaigrette and rustic croutons.  A great salad to serve alongside a grilled steak for dinner.
Vegetable Kabobs
Photo from damndelicious
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve made kabobs, so this week I found this recipe for Vegetable Kabobs that will make good use of the zucchini, white Spanish onions, green bell or Italian frying peppers and red grape tomatoes.  This recipe calls for roasting the kabobs in the oven, but you could also grill them if you prefer.  Serve this with a simple rice pilaf and you are set for dinner.  If you have some zucchini left over, use it to make these simple, yet tasty Zucchini Breakfast Cookies.  I made them last week for our market crew snack and they were a hit.  I  didn’t have any chocolate chips so I substituted raisins instead.  They are great for a quick breakfast to go or as a snack.  I had intended to make zucchini bread, but didn’t have a lot of time.  These came together really quickly and only took about 10 minutes to bake.  Super easy.
What are you going to do with those little jalapeño peppers this week?  If they don’t end up in a bowl of fresh salsa, use them to make these Jalapeño Popper Cornbread Muffins.  If you have a little extra fresh corn you could even add some fresh kernels to the batter to jazz it up a bit.  Serve them for breakfast with scrambled eggs or as a side for dinner.
Now that we have tomatoes in the box, it’s time to pair them together with the cucumbers to make this Easy Greek Salad.  You can use your grape tomatoes or just cut up some of the larger variety of tomatoes in this week’s box.  Serve it with Greek Chicken Marinated Chicken.  If you have any leftover chicken and salad, mix the two together and put it in a pita pocket for lunch the next day.
Melon Prosciutto Skewers
Picture from delish
The French Orange melons are decadent and delicious all on their own.  I seldom recommend doing anything other than just eating them as they are.  However, this recipe for Melon Prosciutto Skewers would be a great way to use either the French orange melon or the sweet Sarah melon.  I also found this recipe for Melon Sorbet.  It calls for using a charentais melon, which is similar to the French Orange melon, but you can make this delicious treat using any melon including the Sweet Sarah cantaloupe or sun jewel melon.
I want to do something different with carrots this week and thought this recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus would be a great way to use this week’s sweet carrots.  Roasting the carrots will enhance the sweetness and flavors of the carrots.  You can use this hummus as a snack or eat it for lunch with pita bread and fresh vegetables or turn it into a pita sandwich or wrap.  Use the hummus as the spread and add chunks of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes.  This might be a winner with kids too, making it a potential school lunch option and a great way to include vegetables in their day!
This week’s boxes will contain either broccoli or cauliflower, and thankfully both pair well with cheese!  I’ve been hungry for mac & cheese lately, but I like this simple recipe for One-Pan Cauliflower Mac & Cheese that doesn’t even contain pasta.  While the recipe calls for cauliflower, you could easily substitute broccoli.  You could also use the broccoli or cauliflower along with this week’s green beans to make Heidi Swanson’s Cashew Curry recipe.  This recipe includes tofu as the protein, which could be substituted with chicken if you don’t care for tofu.
Ok friends, we’ve reached the bottom of another box.  We have more delicious summer vegetables to send your way over the next few weeks.  Edamame should be ready for next week’s boxes and we’re hoping to include tomatillos and poblano peppers very soon.  The mini-sweet peppers should be ready for picking very soon as well and we have a cool, new Chinese hot pepper we’re anxious to try....it’s purple!  Have a great week, enjoy cooking and I’ll see you back next week.—Chef Andrea 

Featured Vegetable: Sweet Corn

There’s always some excitement around sweet corn, after all it is a classic summer vegetable loved by most!  Farmer Richard enjoys the challenge of growing “the best” sweet corn, a delicate balance between choosing a variety with good genetics, one that will perform under challenging field conditions, and one with good corn flavor and just the right balance of sweetness and tenderness.  No small task!
As for eating sweet corn, it’s important to keep sweet corn cold.  After the corn is picked, sugars will start to convert to starch.  Keeping corn cold will slow this process down, preserve the quality and sweetness and give you a few more days to enjoy it.  One of the qualities Richard looks for in a sweet corn variety is the rate of conversion of sugars to starch.   We choose ones that have been developed to have a slower conversion rate, which gives you more time to eat and enjoy the corn before it becomes starchy and compromised.  Despite the fact that you see people selling and transporting corn out of the back of a pickup truck, this is not the best tactic.  We take ice to the field when we harvest it, ice it again when it comes in and store it in the cooler until we pack it and load it on a refrigerated truck.  We do what we can to grow the tastiest corn for you, but you need to do your part too!  Take a cooler with you when you pick up your box, store it in the refrigerator and eat it within a few days.  If you have limited refrigerator space, husk the corn and put it in a plastic bag before refrigerating it.
While eating it off the cob is a special summer treat, fresh corn can be enjoyed in so many other ways.  Cut it off the cob and add it to summer vegetable salads, salsas, or relishes.  Stir fresh corn kernels into cornbread batter, make fritters or sweet corn pancakes.   It’s also good in summer vegetable chowders and light soups.  If you cut the corn off the cob, don’t discard the cob.  Add it to soups or stock where it will impart a delicious corn flavor.
Corn pairs well with a lot of other ingredients including summer vegetables such as green beans, tomatoes, edamame, onions, and peppers.  It also plays well with butter, cream and cheese such as Monterey Jack, Parmesan and feta.  As for herbs, corn dishes pair well with cilantro, basil, mint and thyme to name a few. 
If you’d like to preserve sweet corn, it’s a little messy but overall pretty easy to do.  First you remove the husk and silks.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water.  Cook the ears of corn just until you see the color of the kernels change to a bright yellow.  Remove the corn from the boiling water and put it in a pan or sink of clean water with ice in it.  Put the corn in the ice water to stop the cooking process.  Once cooled, stand the ear of corn upright on the wide base of the ear on a cutting board.  Cut the corn off the cob by running the paring knife down the ear.  Try to cut as close to the ear as possible to avoid wasting any of the good corn or the juice! You can also run the back of a knife on the cob to get all the good corn juice.  Once the corn is cut off the ear, just spoon it into a freezer bag, close the bag and freeze the corn.  You’ll be glad you did this when you are pulling frozen corn out in January to make a delicious corn chowder!

Corn and Tomato Salad with Torn Croutons

Yield: 4 servings
Kernels cut from 3 ears sweet corn, plus the milky pulp scraped from the cob (about 2 cups total)
1 lb tomatoes (all shapes and colors) cored and cut into wedges or chunks, or whatever looks pretty
1 medium white Spanish onion, sliced thinly
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups torn croutons (see recipe below)
½ cup pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 handful basil leaves
1 handful mint leaves
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste

  1. Put the corn, tomatoes, and onions in a large bowl.  Add the vinegar and toss gently to mix.  Season generously with salt and pepper and toss.  Taste and adjust the seasoning so the salad is nicely bright.
  2. Add the croutons, pistachios, pecorino, basil, and mint and toss again.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.  Moisten with ⅓ cup olive oil and toss again.  Taste and adjust.  Serve lightly chilled or at a little cooler than room temperature.

Torn Croutons
Yield: about 2 cups
2 large, thick slices country loaf (about 4oz)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Tear the bread, crust and all, into bite-size pieces.  Toss the torn bread with the olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the croutons on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake until golden brown, checking every 4 to 5 minutes and moving the outside croutons to the center of the pan so they cook evenly.  Don’t let them get rock hard; leave a little bit of chew in the center.  The total baking time will depend on the type and density of bread you’re using, but most likely will be 10 to 20 minutes.
  4. Slide onto paper towels to absorb any extra oil and season again lightly with salt and pepper. Store the croutons in an airtight container.  (Be sure to make more than you need for your recipe because you’ll find yourself eating these as a snack.)

These recipes were adapted from Six Seasons, A new way with vegetables by Joshua McFadden with Martha Holmberg.

Sweet Corn & The Science Behind the Selection

8 Aug 2018 22:33

By Farmer Richard
“Some crops we grow for profit, others, i.e. sweet corn, we grow to make friends.” –Farmer Richard, 1980
The genetics of corn breeding have changed dramatically since I started raising sweet corn in the 70’s.  Even then we sought out the exceptional!  Sweet corn varieties are classified with terms that describe and classify their genetic traits.  Back then, all corn was classified as SU (sugary), but we found that white corn had less pericarp (outer skin on the kernel) which made it much more tender.  ‘Country Gentleman’ was an heirloom white corn with irregular rows, but it was tender, sweet, and had great corn flavor.  While these were superior tasting varieties, all the SU corns had a rapid conversion of sugar-to-starch which shortened the shelf life.  If promptly cooled and iced, you had a few good days, but eating the same day was by far the best!
Then came the SE (sugar enhanced) varieties.  The conversion of sugar-to-starch was much slower and we found bi-color corn to be much more tender, but still the rapid cooling and cold temperature kept the SE corn very sweet for several days.   Next, Sh2 (shrunken gene) varieties were being produced.  The sugar-to-starch conversion was greatly slowed, but they had a thick pericarp, read “tough and not tender.”  Some newer Sh2and SE ‘synergistic’ varieties have managed to achieve most of the desirable characteristics including good corn flavor, sweetness, slow conversion of sugar-to-starch, plus cold soil vigor and a tight husk on top to deter corn earworms from entering the ear.  All of the above improvements have been accomplished with natural breeding.  Unfortunately, in the last 10 years, most conventional sweet corn is now genetically modified to produce the Bt toxin in every part of the plant.  But in addition to killing root worms and earworms it has been devastating to other butterflies, including the Monarch.  Aside from the Bt toxin, GMO corn is also modified to be tolerant to Roundup Weed Killer.  GMO corn is not labeled, so as a consumer you have to ask and trust the answer.  GMO varieties are not allowed for certified organic growers, so if you wish to avoid GMO sweet corn, your best bet is to choose certified organic.  Our overall goal is always to produce “the best corn ever!”  Thus, we continue to carefully choose varieties, plant the seeds in rich organic soil, and cross our fingers for cooperative weather.  But the better the corn, the more wild critters come to try and eat.
Corn behind a fence to keep the critters at bay.
Pest control is quite the ordeal with sweet corn.  We put up an 8 foot high fence for deer.  It works, but we have to check daily for breaches.  The cute little raccoons are more persistent.  It takes two electric wires close to the ground and in place to keep them out before they even get a taste.  We also worry about the birds.  The beautiful red winged black bird plus many other birds love a good ear of corn!  They peck the top off the ear to get to the sweet juicy kernels.  We put up scare eye balloons on tall poles with many shiny streamers that flash in the breeze as well as several life sized hawks and owls that turn their heads from side to side.  We try to make it a scary place for the birds before the birds get a taste!
If we can manage to keep the raccoons and birds out, we aren’t in the clear yet.  There’s the corn earworms, a dusty gray moth that migrates yearly from the south.  I liked the image of large flocks of bats leaving their caves in Texas to intercept and feed on the moths before they can get to us.  But, sadly, the health of the bat populations has been compromised by agricultural chemicals, specifically neonicotinoids, and many are unable to fly high enough to intercept the corn earworm moth.  Thus we are left with a greater number of earworms migrating to the north that we now have to deal with.  Instead of combatting this pest with harmful chemicals, we use a pheromone trap to monitor the earworm moths during their night time visit to the corn field.  We haven’t caught one yet, but we check our traps daily now!  If our timing is good, we can have Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) available for them to eat when they hatch on the fresh corn silks.  Bt is a naturally occurring bacteria that affects only lepidopteron worms.   Our use of Bt affects only the worms on the corn ears, while GMO corn pollen drifts for miles, spreading the Bt toxin to non-target species, especially the monarch larva feeding on milkweed.
Ok, is the corn ready now?  No, patience.  Check the fence, check the traps, and watch for birds daily.  As the ear fills the tip goes from a point to having “shoulders,” which is the kernels, full to the top.  The last week before harvest, we pick a few ears every day to look and taste.  The difference between a good ear of corn and an excellent ear of corn can be the difference of just a day or two. 
Finally picking day comes!  One of the most skilled jobs on the farm, picking corn is done only by a few very experience pickers, all of whom were trained by me, Farmer Richard.  It takes sharp eyes to see the full shoulders through the husk.  Placing your hand over the top, if you feel a full ear with a soft tip under your hand, you twist down and turn, the ear is off the stalk and into your shoulder bag.  Or if your hand feels a slightly stiff tip and not quite full top, you leave the ear to be picked a few days later.  The decision is made in less than a second and you move to the next ear.
Silvestre returning to the farm with iced corn
from the field.
We average harvesting 100 ears per hour, including packing and icing in the field, before the ears come home to the cooler.  We have four fields of sweet corn this year.  The first early corn was planted only half an inch deep just before a couple of warm sunny days to avoid the colder, deeper soil.  It worked, they germinated, but the birds ate 50% of that shallow planted crop.  This is why there were only a few ears per box last week.  The second crop is abundantly ready this week, but space is limited in the box, so we offered it as a Produce Plus item.   We are happy to have received so many orders for it!  Fresh frozen corn has always been a favorite winter treat of ours.  With all due respect to organic processors, you can do better! 
We have two more promising crops to go, if we can beat the critters to it.  We plan to get as much excellent corn to you as we can manage and hope to make some long-time friends. Please let us know if we reached the status of “best corn ever!”

Looking to the future, the multigenerational impact of agrochemicals

1 Aug 2018 21:00

By:  Andrea Yoder
Dr. Paul Winchester
Honesty is the best policy, and honestly—I wish I weren’t writing this article.  As I’ve thought about this week’s topic and how this article might come together, I’ve had a whole mess of feelings ranging from mad to sad with a little bit of anxiety and overwhelm mixed in between.  The topic of this article spawns from last week’s newsletter where we reported some recent news highlights in the world of agriculture as featured in The Organic & Non-GMO Report.  One of the articles we mentioned from their most recent publication was one entitled “Toxic legacy: new science reveals generational harm of pesticides.”  The article reports on the work and observations of Dr. Paul Winchester, a pediatrician currently practicing in Indiana.  The introductory paragraph starts as follows: 
“When Paul Winchester, a pediatrician, moved to Indiana from Colorado in 2002, he noticed something disturbing—a high number of birth defects.  ‘I was used to the number of birth defects I should see in a community hospital, and I saw many more in Indiana,’ says Winchester, who is medical director of the Neonatal and Intensive Care Unit at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis.” 
Winchester started digging in to figure out the cause for his observations, and his research pointed him to the herbicide atrazine.
Atrazine has been widely used as a herbicide in agriculture for many years, especially in Midwestern states where corn and soy are major row crops.  If you take a look at the U.S. Geological Survey’s map of estimated atrazine use in the U.S. in 2015,  you’ll see some of the Midwestern states including Indiana, Illinois and Ohio are amongst the states with the greatest annual atrazine use.  Unfortunately, atrazine has a relatively long half-life and is not strongly absorbed by the soil, thus runoff from areas of use carries atrazine into groundwater, rivers and streams.    In Andre Leu’s book, The Myths of Safe Pesticides, he cites that “In lakes and groundwater, atrazine and its breakdown products are persistent, and can persist for decades.”  Why is this a problem?  Because atrazine is a known endocrine disrupter and can negatively impact human hormonal systems.

The article in The Organic & Non-GMO Report reports that recent research indicates that atrazine has epigenetic effects, meaning exposure to atrazine can cause changes to human DNA that can then be passed on to subsequent generations.  In September 2017, Winchester, along with a group of researchers, published the following research article on PLOS One:  “Atrazine induced epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease, lean phenotype and sperm epimutation pathology biomarkers.”.  If you are interested in the methods, statistics and further discussion of the observations made in this study as well as research that preceded this study, I encourage you to read the full research article.  The purpose of their study was to “investigate the potential that the agricultural herbicide atrazine may promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease in both male and female rats.”  Winchester’s group exposed the first generation to atrazine, but the three generations following did not have direct exposure.  What they found was that the third generation actually had more health problems than the earlier ones, suggesting that epigenetic changes to DNA caused by exposure to atrazine can be passed on to subsequent generations resulting in negative health outcomes.  In the article, “Winchester calls the discovery of the link between chemicals like pesticides and epigenetic changes leading to disease ‘the most important next discovery in all of medicine.’"
Winchester is also concerned that glyphosate, the most heavily used herbicide around the world, may also have multigenerational effects.  He has studied glyphosate exposure in pregnancy and, in one study, found that over 90% of women in the study had detectable levels of glyphosate in their urine while pregnant.  Whereas atrazine ends up in our water supply, glyphosate is more likely to end up in the food supply.  Glyphosate residue has been detected in food samples ranging from snack foods to cereal as well as products containing corn and other grains to name just a few.  We’re eating it! 
Atrazine and glyphosate are just two of the chemicals Winchester has researched, but there are many more.  Here’s what Winchester has to say about them:  “Every one of the chemicals tested so far produces infertility, and the industrial world has reached the lowest level of fertility on record.  We are below replacement levels in most industrialized countries including the U.S.  This is looking at your own species extinction.”
I grew up in rural Indiana on our family farm where my dad was born, farmed with his dad and brother, and still farms with my brother.  In 1963, he and his father decided to start using atrazine and continued to do so until about 2000 when they stopped using it and switched to a different herbicide because the weeds they were trying to kill had developed resistance to atrazine.  Around 2000 they also started using glyphosate because one of the farms they were renting had some persistent giant ragweed and the landlord was putting the pressure on them to clean it up.  Herbicides were and still are used by the majority of farmers in the community I grew up in.  I don’t know the full extent to which I’ve been exposed to chemicals such as atrazine, but I fully remember the putrid smell of chemicals that were stored on one end of the shed and the area just outside that shed where they were mixed and the sprayer was cleaned out.  So when I read this article I do get chills down my back.  The people we’re talking about are my people.  It’s me.
Sadly, the multigenerational effect of most agrochemicals being used has not been formally studied.  However I’d like to point out that regardless of good research to document safety or harm, the chemicals have been and continue to be used.  We are all part of a large population study, one that is being conducted without proper consent.  If in fact there are multigenerational effects of exposure to chemicals such as atrazine and glyphosate, I fear the day we’re able to connect all of the dots and realize the final outcomes.  Sadly, once we understand the full extent of the impact, it may be too late to reverse the damage and many people will suffer the damaging impact on their health and well-being.  People in the community I grew up in have suffered from and died from a variety of cancers, including my own mother who died of breast cancer in 2009.  While it’s hard for me to piece together all of the facts, I suspect my mother was exposed to agrochemicals both as a child and as an adult.  She grew up in rural Michigan on a farm where we know chemicals were used in the 1960s.  While I am not sure what was used prior to that time, their farm was downstream from a Dow chemical plant that was, in my opinion, too close for comfort.  They sourced their water from a shallow well for many years.  Her two sisters preceded her in death, both with breast cancer.  Her mother lived into her 80’s, but battled breast cancer several times and had pancreatic cancer at the time of her death.  This leaves me suspecting that I’m not the first generation to be exposed to these chemicals, but more likely I may be the second generation.
I’m grateful for the knowledge I have now and feel that I am better equipped to make informed decisions about my environment, the water I drink and the organic food I choose to eat in order to minimize my exposure to toxic chemicals.  What I don’t understand is how the harmful effects these chemicals are having on our health and our environment can continue to be ignored.  I realize I’m not the only person who has experienced the loss of a family member to cancer or has dealt with other negative health consequences related to chemicals, but that’s an experience I wouldn’t wish upon anyone and feel an urgency to stop it from happening anymore!  This research is too close to home and is the reality that reminds me that none of us are immune to this problem.  Whenever I ask how these things can continue to be ignored, the infuriating answer I get always points back to money, profit and economics.  
What will it take for the scales to reverse when we value the preservation of human health and the health of our environment over the power of the mighty dollar?  Consumer and public demand for clean water and food is the change we need.  It’s up to all of us to make this happen.  Thank you for choosing to support organic agriculture and for feeding your families certified organic food.  That’s a start.

August 2, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Green Top Beets

1 Aug 2018 21:00

Cooking With This Week's Box:

 This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
Zucchini or Yellow Summer Squash: Zucchini Grinders
White Spanish Onions: Western Omelet Quesadillas; Golden Beet Risotto with Crumbled Ricotta Salata and Sautéed Beet Greens (See Below); Cauliflower, Broccoli & Pepita Salad
Sunorange Tomatoes: Sweet Corn Panzanella
Italian Frying Peppers and/or Green Bell Peppers: Western Omelet Quesadillas
Sun Jewel Melons: Slice and serve!
Green Top Golden Beets:  Golden Beet Risotto with Crumbled Ricotta Salata and Sautéed Beet Greens  (See Below)
Happy August!  We’ve got a beautiful box for you this week including a bit more sweet corn and tomatoes.  We’ve just started picking our larger varieties, so we’re hoping to have more to send your way next week.  Lets start this week’s cooking with the featured vegetable, beautiful green top golden beets.  Gold beets are the beet variety most likely to be embraced by all—both those who love beets and those who are still learning to like them.  This week we’ll use the beets and their tops to make Golden Beet Risotto with Crumbled Ricotta Salata and Sautéed Beet Greens  (See Below).  Risotto takes a little time to make, but it’s really pretty simple and the end result is elegant.  Serve it with a glass of white wine and you’re set.
Creamy Pineapple & Cucumber
Smoothie, photo from Minimalist Baker
Our cucumbers in the second planting are approaching their peak production this week.  We’ve had a great run on cucumbers and zucchini this year, but there are so many ways to use these vegetables that we consider them to be summer staples.  This week I’m going to use cucumbers to make some refreshing summer smoothies.  I like this recipe for Creamy Pineapple & Cucumber Smoothie as a breakfast smoothie.  I also want to try this recipe for a Savory Cucumber Smoothie which is based on the concept of a Middle Eastern yogurt drink.  This recipe has dill, basil and mint which are excellent herbs to pair with cucumbers.  This drink is also finished with club soda, so it’s a little thinner than a smoothie and will make for a great afternoon refresher.  As for the zucchini and summer squash in this week’s box, I’m going to take the suggestion from one of our members who posted this recipe for Zucchini Grinders.  In her household the kids refer to these as “Pizza Subs.”  Sauteed zucchini is piled into a sub roll and topped with diced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  Wrap the sandwiches in foil and pop them in the oven.  What a great idea!
This recipe for Sweet Corn Panzanella popped into my inbox this week from Love and Lemons blog.  I love this version of panzanella featuring this week’s sweet corn, sunorange tomatoes and fresh basil.  This salad can serve as a main dish dinner.  Finish off the meal with slices of sun jewel melon and that’s what we call a simple summer meal.
This week I want to try the Cauliflower, Broccoli & Pepita Salad from Alexandracooks.com.  It looks pretty simple.  You chop the cauliflower and broccoli in a food processor, toss it with onions, minced jalapeno, sesame seeds, dates or other dried fruit and a light vinaigrette.  Top it off with toasted pepitas.  She says you can make it a day in advance and it travels well, so this will likely be served for dinner one night with a piece of grilled fish or steak.  Leftovers will be packed for lunches.
Carrot Cake Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
Picture from Eat Yourself Skinny
I’ve been on a western omelet kick lately since I’ve had green bell peppers and the delicious white Spanish onions on my counter.  This week I’m going to make Western Omelet Quesadillas for our breakfast item as long as the peppers last!
This week’s carrots will be used to make Carrot Cake Oatmeal Breakfast Bars.  These will make a great snack or may be breakfast for one of those days when we’re short on time in the morning.  I might even put some in the freezer for back-up to pull out on a week when I don’t have much time for baking or cooking and need a healthy option.
I think we’ve worked our way through this week’s box with a nice mix of some items to serve for dinner, a few ways to incorporate your CSA vegetables into breakfast and a few ideas to serve as snacks or light meals on the go.  Start pulling out your favorite pepper, tomato and corn recipes.  We’ll have more of these summer vegetables coming soon!  Have a great week!
—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable: Green Top Beets

Chioggia, gold, and red beets at our market stand.
Beets are a crop we have available starting in mid to late June with availability extending through December and sometimes even into January and February.  There are some beets better suited to harvest for storage and others that are intended for harvest with the green tops.  We grow three different colors of beets including the traditional red beet as well as chioggia beets (candy striped inside) and golden Beets.  At our market stand, we’re often asked to explain the difference between the different colors of beets.  In general, all of our beets, regardless of color, taste like beets.  Red beets have more of that traditional earthy beet flavor.  The chioggia and golden beets are generally more mild in flavor, but typically are as sweet or sweeter than the red beets.  Individuals who don’t care for beets generally like and will eat golden beets.  One of our market crew members calls golden beets “the gateway beet” that is a good starter beet for those who are still learning to like them and may not care for the earthiness of red beets.
Both the beet root as well as the green tops are edible and both are very nutritious.  Beet greens are generally eaten cooked, but may also be chopped finely and enjoyed in their raw form.    When cooking them, treat them like chard and lightly saute them or steam them until wilted and tender.  You can substitute beet greens in any recipe that calls for chard.  Beet greens can also be blended into smoothies.
Beets are usually cooked, but may be eaten raw.  Thinly sliced or grated beets are a nice addition to salads and slaws.  As for cooking, beets are generally either boiled or steamed on the stove top or roasted in the oven.  The cooking time will vary depending upon the size of the beet.  The general recommendation is to cook beets with their skins on and the root tail intact.  For red beets in particular, this minimizes the leaching of the water-soluble color compounds from the beet.  Once the beets are cooked, cool them so you can handle them and the peel should be easy to remove.  You know a beet is fully cooked when the beet easily slides off a skewer, fork or cake tester stuck into the middle of the beet. 
Red beets do contain a water-soluble nutrient called anthocyanin.  This is an antioxidant that also gives red beets their color.  It will stain your hands (temporarily) and the color will bleed onto other ingredients if you’re using them in a salad, soup, or otherwise.  Golden beets and chioggia beets don’t lose their color or bleed color onto other ingredients.  If you are looking to preserve the beautiful candy-striped interior of a chioggia beet, it is best to roast them.
Once cooked, beets may be used in salads or just simply reheated with a pat of butter and some salt.  You can also blend beets into hummus or make a delicious white bean & beet dip to eat with vegetables, crackers or use it as a spread for pizza or flat bread.  Beets pair well with a lot of other ingredients including vegetables such as fennel, celery, carrots, red onions, shallots, arugula and other salad greens as well as other root vegetables.  They also go well with fruits including apples, oranges, lemons, pears, avocadoes and pomegranates.  Additionally, beets pair nicely with goat cheese, feta cheese, blue cheese, butter, nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds to name just a few ingredients.
It is best to store beets in the refrigerator.  If you get beets with the green tops still on, remove the tops and store them separately in a plastic bag.  Try to use them within 5-7 days.  Store the beets in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer.  They will last longer than the greens.

Golden Beet Risotto with Crumbled Ricotta Salata and Sautéed Beet Greens

Yield:  4 servings as a main course
Photo from Summer Tomato

2 medium golden beets, trimmed, peeled, and cut into ¼-inch dice

6 cups chicken stock or broth
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
⅔ cup diced white onion
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
Kosher or fine sea salt, to taste
1 cup dry white wine
Sautéed Beet Greens (see below)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 oz ricotta salata cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a 2-qt saucepan, combine the beets and stock and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook the beets until tender yet still quite firm when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes (They should be slightly underdone, as they will finish cooking in the risotto.)  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beets to a bowl and set aside.  Adjust the heat so the stock barely simmers.
  2. In a heavy 4-qt saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp of the butter and then add the oil.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent but not brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the rice and 1 tsp salt and stir until the grains are well coated with the butter and oil, about 1 minute.  Add the wine and let it come to a boil.  Cook, stirring constantly, until most of the wine is absorbed.
  3. Add the beets and 2 cups of the stock to the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice has almost completely absorbed the liquid.  Adjust the heat so the risotto is kept at a slow simmer.  Repeat, adding 1 cup of the liquid at a time, stirring until it is almost fully absorbed before adding more.  Reserve ¼ cup of the liquid for adding at the end.  
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the sautéed greens as directed and keep warm.  
  5. After about 18 minutes, the rice will be plump, creamy, and cooked through but still slightly chewy and the beets will be tender when pierced with a fork.  Stir in the remaining ¼ cup stock.  Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 Tbsp butter, the Parmesan cheese, and about half of the ricotta salata, and the parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Spoon the risotto into warmed shallow bowls.  Mound a portion of the beet greens on top.  Garnish with the remaining ricotta salata and serve immediately.

Sautéed Beet Greens
Yield:  2 servings on its own
1 bunch beets, with green tops attached
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Kosher or fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  1. Trim off the greens, leaving 1 inch of the stem attached to each root.  Reserve the roots for another use.  Stack the leaves, then cut the stack in half lengthwise through the center vein.  Chop the greens crosswise into large pieces, about 2 inches wide.  Rinse the greens in several changes of cold water until they are clean and the water is clear.  Dry them in a salad spinner or blot dry with paper towels.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat and swirl to coat the pan bottom.  Add the garlic and sauté until soft but not brown, about 1 minute.  Add the greens and toss with tongs until wilted but still crisp-tender and bright green, about 3 minutes.  Add the lemon juice, season lightly with salt and pepper, and then give the greens a final toss in the pan. Serve immediately.

This recipe comes from Diane Morgan’s cookbook entitled Roots.

July 26, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Eggplant

25 Jul 2018 22:31

Cooking With This Week's Box:

This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
Zucchini: Zucchini Butter  
Carrots: Sheet Pan Korean Chicken and VegetablesVeggie Pot PieOne-Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry (See Below)
Broccoli: Sheet Pan Korean Chicken and VegetablesOne-Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry (See Below)
Cauliflower: Veggie Pot PieOne-Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry (See Below)
Italian Frying Peppers and/or Green Bell Peppers: Slow Cooker Jalapeño Pineapple Pork
Eggplant: Julia Child’s Eggplant Pizzas (see below); One-Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry (See Below)
Sun Jewel Melons: Melon Cucumber Agua Fresca
New Potatoes: Veggie Pot PieOne-Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry (See Below)
Green or Yellow Beans:  Veggie Pot PieOne-Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry (See Below)
Here we go…summer bounty is upon us and the box is bursting at the seams!  Our CSA Facebook Group has been awesome this past week!  If you are a CSA member and haven’t joined the group, we encourage you to do so.  Check your weekly email for more information.  A lot of great ideas were posted in the group this week, including this recipe for Julia Child’s Eggplant Pizzas (see below) which was very timely for this week’s focus on Eggplant as our featured vegetable of the week.  This “pizza” concept makes use of the eggplant as the base to carry a delicious, and simple, tomato and cheese topping.  You should know, this recipe is endorsed by one of our CSA kids who, at age 7, prepared this recipe herself!  Come on adults, you can do this.
Our other featured recipe in this week’s newsletter is a super simple recipe for a One-Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry (See Below).  I love this recipe because it’s very adaptable to the season.  I made it last winter with sweet potatoes and root vegetables and have been anxiously waiting to make the summer version of this recipe using eggplant.  I’ve adapted the recipe to guide you in being creative with how you make this.  Basically, make sure you have 5 cups of vegetables and feel free to vary the combination to your liking.  This week I made it using eggplant, carrots, potatoes and cauliflower.  It goes together really fast and, served with rice, is a complete meal on its own.  It also reheats well, so you have something to take for lunch the next day!

Sheet Pan Korean Chicken and Vegetables
Photo from dinnerthendessert.com
Last week in the Facebook group two members posted different recipes from a new food blog I wasn’t familiar with, dinnerthendessert.com.  I had to check it out, and I have to say it’s a pretty great resource!  One of the member-trialed recipes was for Sheet Pan Korean Chicken and Vegetables.  This recipe calls for lots of broccoli and carrots that are roasted along with chicken and some seasonings to make a simple, satisfying dinner.  The member who tried this recipe substituted zucchini for the broccoli, so you can see this is another adaptable recipe and a great way to use broccoli, carrots, zucchini or even some of the cauliflower in this week’s box!  I really like this blog because it has a wide variety of recipes including sheet pan dinner ideas as well as some pretty good slow cooker recipes!  This recipe for Slow Cooker Jalapeño Pineapple Pork caught my eye because we have a jalapeño in this week’s vegetable box and a pineapple in the fruit share!  This recipe calls for a six pound pork roast, a whole pineapple and two jalapeños to yield ten servings.  Since we have a smaller household, I’m going to cut this in half.  This recipe includes onions, but in the suggestions section the author also recommends adding peppers, which I think is a great idea since they’re also in the box this week!  Serve this with rice or carnitas style on tortillas.
This recipe for Veggie Pot Pie was recommended by another member in our Facebook group and I’d have to agree that it’s a great way to put a lot of vegetables to use in one fell, hearty swoop!  This recipe includes potatoes, green beans, cauliflower, carrots and onions.  Make your own pie crust or buy some premade crust.  Once you’ve prepared the filling, just pour it in the pie crust, put the top layer on and bake it.  Pretty simple and it’s described as “A mouthwatering-good vegetable pot pie.”

Zucchini Butter, Photo from thekitchn.com
What are you going to do with all that zucchini this week?  Seriously, this has got to be one of the most versatile vegetables we grow!  I love the suggestion one member made for making this recipe for Zucchini Butter You need to allow a little bit of time for cooking, but the preparation and method itself are easy.  You are basically slowly cooking grated zucchini with some shallots, garlic or onion and either olive oil or butter until it’s smooth and kind of caramelized.  You’ll end up with something that can be eaten as a side dish or can be used as a spread for sandwiches or toast.  Of course, I’m going to make it for Sunday brunch and serve it with eggs, toast and bacon.
Sweet Corn?!  We just have a little bit this week, but it’s the perfect amount to kick off sweet corn season and just enough to make this delicious Sweet Corn Risotto that is great on its own or you can garnish it with a simple little tomato, garlic, basil combo.  If you still have the red amaranth from last week’s box, you could use the corn to make this simple Amaranth & Corn Sautè.  It calls for edamame, which just isn’t quite ready yet.  Don’t worry, you can easily substitute yellow or green beans or zucchini and it will be delicious.
Turkey-Cucumber Roll-Ups
Photo from weelicious.com
We’ve pretty much taken care of dinner ideas for the week, so I’m going to throw in a few simple, light ideas as well.  Here’s a simple recipe for Turkey-Cucumber Roll-Ups that makes a simple lunch, snack or even a quick breakfast for kids or adults.  We also still have that pretty little sun jewel melon radiating at us from the bottom of the box.  Here’s a fun, simple recipe for refreshing Melon Cucumber Agua Fresca.  You blend cucumber, melon, mint and a touch of maple syrup to make a delicious drink to sip while hanging out on the patio.
What’s left?  A few potatoes, a little bit of onion and a touch of zucchini?  A few beans still hanging out in the refrigerator?  Take whatever is left and chop it up finely.  Sautè it with some chopped bacon and then put it in a container in the refrigerator.  This will be the base for a quick breakfast burrito.  Just reheat some of the bacon-vegetable mixture in a small skillet.  Add two beaten eggs, a little salt, pepper, a touch of cheese and some fresh basil if you have it. Scramble the mixture until the eggs are cooked through.  Warm a flour tortilla on the stove top or in the oven and spread some sour cream on it.  Put the scramble mixture in the tortilla, wrap it up and enjoy your simple, hearty breakfast!
Ok friends, that’s a wrap.  I hope you enjoy this week’s meals and get ready for more summer bounty to flood your kitchens next week.  We are looking forward to purple beans, poblano peppers, edamame, Sweet Sarah Melons, purple tomatillos and more corn! –Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Eggplant- Flashy, yet humble

Pair of Listada Eggplants growing in our fields
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.  Please refer to our previous blog post which includes pictures and profiles of each eggplant and highlights the characteristics of each in further detail.  Each variety is best for different uses, so it’s helpful to visualize which variety you have before you decide how you want to use it.
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and must be 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 for that reason.  You may still choose to salt eggplant to soften the flesh so it doesn’t absorb too much oil.  Most of our varieties of eggplant have skin that is tender enough to eat, thus you do not need to peel them.
Baba ganoush, photo from Tori Avey
While  eggplant 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, which is what makes it unique.  While it isn’t a predominant flavor, it has a texture such that it is able to absorb other flavors and pairs well with other vegetables including tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, potatoes and chickpeas.  It also goes well with flavorful olive oil, tahini, herbs such as basil and parsley and spices including cumin, coriander, sumac, and cinnamon.  It also goes well with dairy products including yogurt, cheese (feta, Parmesan and mozzarella), and cream and fruits including lemons and pomegranate.
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. 

One-Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry

Yield:  4 servings
5 cups seasonal vegetables** (eg 1 ½ cups eggplant, 1 cup carrots, 1 cup new potatoes, 1 ½ cups cauliflower florets)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
½ tsp salt
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbsp)
2-inches fresh ginger, minced (about 2 Tbsp)
4 ounces red curry paste
1 can (13.5 fl oz) coconut milk
1 ¼ cup water
2 Tbsp tamari
½ Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp lime juice (or rice wine vinegar), plus more to taste
Fresh basil, for serving
Cooked brown rice, for serving
1.     Prepare the vegetables:  Cut vegetables into ½-¾-inch dice or into bite-sized pieces.  You’ll want to group the vegetables according to how much cooking time they’ll need.  Harder vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and other root crops will need a longer cooking time.  Some vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers, green beans, zucchini, and broccoli will need a moderate amount of cooking time while greens such as spinach and kale may need less time.  You’ll need to use your best judgement with the vegetables you choose to use.
2.     In a large pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and cook for 3 minutes, until translucent. Next add the garlic, ginger and any more dense vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, etc. Continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
3.      Add the curry paste, coconut milk and water then bring to a boil. Stir in any vegetables requiring a moderate cooking time.  Reduce to a simmer then cover and cook for about 7-10 minutes, until vegetables are tender.  If you are using any quick-cooking vegetables, add them now.
4.     Stir in the tamari, maple syrup, and lime juice (or rice wine vinegar). Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, tamari or lime juice to your liking.  Serve over warm rice with fresh basil and enjoy!
Summer:  Eggplant, Carrots, New Potatoes, Peppers, Zucchini, Broccoli, Green Beans, Corn
Fall:  Sweet peppers, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Kale, Carrots, Cauliflower, Romanesco, Delicata or Butternut Squash
Winter:  Carrots, Winter Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Turnips, Rutabaga, Celeriac, Sunchokes
Spring:  Asparagus, Ramps, Mushrooms, Spinach, Baby White Turnips

**This recipe is Chef Andrea’s adaptation of a recipe originally featured on the blog, Making Thyme For Health**

Julia Child's Eggplant Pizza

Photo from KalynsKitchen.com

For Pizzas:

1 black or purple dancer eggplant, about 8 oz

1 Tbsp salt, for drawing water out of eggplant

2 Tbsp olive oil, for brushing eggplant before roasting

2 tsp dried Italian seasoning, for sprinkling on eggplant before roasting
10 large basil leaves, cut in chiffonade strips (optional)
⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan
⅓ cup finely grated low-fat mozzarella blend
Hot red pepper flakes for sprinkling finished pizza (optional)

For Sauce:
2 to 3 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can good quality petite diced tomatoes with liquid (or use 2 cups peeled and diced fresh tomatoes)
½ tsp dried Italian seasoning blend
¼ tsp dried oregano

Cut off both ends of the eggplant; then cut it into ¾ inch thick slices (trying to make them the same thickness!) Put the eggplant pieces on a double layer of paper towels and sprinkle both sides generously with salt. Let the eggplant sit with the salt on it for about 30 minutes to draw out the liquid. After the eggplant sets for 15 minutes, turn on the oven to 375°F.

While the eggplant sets, make the sauce. Heat 2-3 tsp olive oil (depending on your pan) and saute the finely chopped garlic just until it becomes fragrant. (Don't let it brown.) Add the petite diced tomatoes, dried Italian seasoning, and dried oregano and let the sauce cook at a low simmer until it's thickened, breaking up the tomatoes with a fork as it cooks. (Add water as needed, a few tablespoons at a time as the sauce cooks, keeping it hot by simmering at very low heat until it's needed for the eggplant slices.)


After 30 minutes, wipe the eggplant dry with paper towels (this also removes most of the salt.) Spray a roasting sheet with olive oil or non-stick spray, lay eggplant slices on, brush the tops of the eggplant with olive oil, and sprinkle with dried Italian seasoning. Roast the eggplant about 25 minutes (but "not so long that the slices become mushy and lose their shape" as Julia says.)

While the eggplant roasts, thinly slice the fresh basil leaves (if using) and combined freshly grated Parmesan and low-fat mozzarella blend. After 25 minutes or when eggplant pieces are done, remove eggplant from the oven and turn oven setting to broil. Spread a few tablespoons of sauce on the top of each eggplant slice, sprinkle with thin basil slices (if using) and top with a generous amount of cheese. Put pizzas under the broiler until the cheese is melted and slightly browned, 4-7 minutes.  Serve hot, with red pepper flakes to sprinkle on pizza if desired.
**This recipe is borrowed from pepperplate.com**

News Reports from The Organic & Non-GMO Report

25 Jul 2018 22:31

By Richard & Andrea

We subscribe to a publication entitled The Organic & Non-GMO Report which is a monthly publication led by editor Ken Roseboro.  Roseboro has done extensive research, writing, and speaking about all aspects of genetically modified foods (GM/GMO) and their impact on society.  The mission of this publication is to “…provide information you need to respond to the challenges of genetically modified (GM) foods.”  We appreciate this publication as it helps us stay up-to-date on global issues related to GM foods and reports on current scientific research and provides expert reports on important issues related to GM production.  The most recent issue was packed with a lot of interesting information, so we thought we’d share a few highlights with you this week.  We highly encourage you to check out their website where you can read past articles about a wide variety of related topics and find more information about subscribing to their publication if you’re interested in staying abreast of developments in this area.
One of the things we appreciate about this publication is that they present the facts, openly and honestly.  As organic growers, we do not believe GMO foods and crops are good for humans, other creatures, the environment, etc.  It is hard to read some of their reports about the damaging impacts we’re seeing from the production of GM crops and the agrochemicals used adjunctively in their production.  While we need and want to be informed, sometimes it can be pretty depressing information to read about!  Another thing we appreciate about this publication is their focus on positive news as well, so lets start there.
One article highlighted the small Indian state of Sikkim, which made the bold move to go all organic and reject its country’s trend towards agrochemical agriculture systems that dominate Indian agriculture.  Fifteen years ago they decided to protect their population of 610,000 people by phasing out pesticide use and transitioning acreage to organic production “…due to rising cancer rates, polluted rivers, and infertile soil that accompanied industrial farming.”  They now have 190,000 acres that are certified organic!  Since making this transition, they have noticed improved health in their population and have doubled tourism in their area as visitors are drawn to their clean air, water and food they experience when they take farm vacations and eco-tours in the area.  They’ve also inspired the Indian government to designate $119 million to support other organic farmers in India and they report that Indian now has 5.6 million chemical-free farm acres out of 400 million total acres.  The other encouraging bit of information is that the demand for organic in India is growing 25% annually and “Two other Indian states are planning to go all-organic, along with Bhutan.”  This is an exciting and encouraging report!
Another exciting report featured in this month’s publication was about rice production and the positive developments a new production method is yielding.  It is estimated that about half of the world population relies on rice to meet 60-70% of their daily calories.  By the year 2050, it’s estimated that we will need 50% more rice to feed people.  Genetically modified rice production promised increased yields, but that has not happened.  This article also cited the detrimental impacts conventional rice production has on both environmental and human health.  There is now a grassroots rice growing method that is being spread around the globe.  It is called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and is currently being used on 49 million acres around the world.  This system employs a different method of production that minimizes weed competition by more dense plantings of smaller seedlings.  This system also facilitates deeper root growth and fields are not flooded as they are in conventional production which creates an anaerobic environment that fosters populations of methane-producing bacteria.  This system has positive contributions towards mitigating climate change, and allows farmers to have a greater level of self-sufficiency as they’re able to produce enough food for their communities.  Additionally, this method of growing rice is demonstrating yield increases of 20 to 50 percent and sometimes as high as 100 to 200 percent.  It also has a 50% savings in water use, 30-50% reduction in chemical fertilizers and is building greater adaptability to climate conditions along with increased nutrient levels in the rice.  This article tells the story of how Lotus Foods, a California based company that imports rice, is working directly with organizations and businesses that support growers producing rice using this method.  Lotus Foods co-founder, Caryl Levine, was quoted as saying “Farmers know what to do, they know how to farm.  We need to give them the opportunity to adapt this method to their needs.  SRI provides economic, social, and environmental benefits just by changing the way people grow rice—not many things can do that.”
Back on the home front, there are some encouraging statistics about consumers in the United States.  According to the Organic Trade Association’s 2018 Organic Industry Survey, organic sales in the U.S. in 2017 were up 6.4% from the previous year, hitting a new record of $49.4 billion in sales.  Sales of organic non-food products also rose by 7.4% which is also a new record. 
They also reported on the findings of the Hartman Group’s Organic & Natural 2018 report which demonstrated that 46% of American consumers avoid GM foods and 97% of consumers are aware of GMOs, which is up from 50% in previous surveys.  Sixty-seven percent of consumers support mandatory GMO labeling and it’s clear that consumers are looking for greater levels of transparency and trust within the marketplace.  Forty-two percent of consumers looking to avoid GM foods look for the Non-GMO Project seal when they are making their food purchases.  This seal was developed by the Non-GMO Project, which is a nonprofit organization providing third-party verification for non-GMO food and products.  Their seal features a butterfly, which consumers have become increasingly more aware of and now rely on when making purchasing decisions.  “An independent study by Consumer Reports cites this label to be the only ‘highly meaningful’ label for consumers looking to avoid GMOs.”  (as cited at www.nongmoproject.org)

USDA's proposed GMO label
It’s encouraging to see that consumers are becoming more aware of GMO foods and products and are looking for greater transparency in their food system, something that is very important to us as producers.  This issue also included an article about the USDA’s proposed label for GMO foods.  The article was entitled: “Be real” USDA:  Smiley faces and complex QR codes do not give consumers GMO transparency.  Almost twenty years ago, participants in consumer focus groups conducted by the USDA looked at the question of whether or not GM food should be labeled and nearly all participants thought it should be labeled as such.  Some major food companies, including General Mills, Mars and Campbell’s, are labeling their products already, which is great because despite a GMO labeling law that was passed in 2016, there are so many flaws with the law and now the USDA is trying to change the way GMO foods are represented to the public.  They are proposing that GMO foods now be called “bioengineered” and be labeled with a smiley sun logo.  Consumers are not familiar with this terminology and some consumer advocacy groups believe this proposed label is “propaganda for the industry.”
There are many more interesting stories and reports we’d like to share from this recent publication, but we encourage you to seek out more information on your own.  There was one other very interesting article about the epigenetic changes being caused by exposure to agrochemicals.  This article features the work of Dr. Paul Winchester, the medical director of the Neonatal and Intensive Care Unit at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, only about one hour away from where Andrea grew up and her family still resides.  His clinical observations and research are disturbing and demonstrate serious problems being caused by pesticide exposure that are changing the epigenetic expression of genetic material in subsequent generations.  We would like to investigate this information in greater detail and report on it in a future newsletter article, but highly encourage you to read this full article for yourself.  It is available on the non-gmoreport.com website.
While there are many battles to fight in the world of industrial agriculture, we’re encouraged by some of the stories we’ve highlighted here.  We encourage everyone to become more informed about what’s going on and continue to seek out and demand more transparency in our food system and support more sustainable methods of production.

July 19, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring New Potatoes

18 Jul 2018 22:00

Cooking With This Week's Box:

This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
Green & Yellow Beans:  Summer Farmer Skillet
Red Amaranth:  Summer Farmer Skillet
White Cauliflower:  Cauliflower Patties
Alas, it’s time to cook new potatoes!  The first potatoes of the season are always the best tasting and really, the key to preparing them is to just keep it simple.  Simple is the key to this week’s cooking strategy, partly because of time and partly because the vegetables themselves just don’t need to be fussed with to be tasty and delicious.  Many of the items in this week’s box qualify as “Nature’s Fast Food.”  If they can’t be eaten raw, they can be prepared with minimal cooking time.  So, if you are short on time, hungry and tempted to order a pizza, pause for a minute and consider that you can pull off a simple dinner in the same time it will take you to order and pick up the pizza, or have it delivered.  Potatoes are likely the item that will take the longest to prepare, so lets start there.
New potatoes are delicious on their own, so simply boiling them until tender in salted water and then eating them with butter and black pepper is delicious.  If you want to kick it up a little bit, try one of the recipes featured below.  Nigel Slater’s recipe for Potatoes with Crème Fraiche and Dill(See Below) is super simple.  Boil the potatoes and add a spoonful of crème fraiche or sour cream along with a handful of dill or other fresh herbs.  That’s it—so delicious.  Karen from familystylefood.com posted this recipe for Cracked and Smashed Potato Salad with Tarragon Aioli and Sweet Peas  (see below) on her blog last week.  It’s pretty darn simple to make, but we don’t have peas anymore!  No worries—substitute fresh green or yellow beans for the peas and you’ll be good to go. 
Summer Farmer Skillet
This is the week to pull out the recipe for the Summer Farmer Skillet, a recipe I shared in a newsletter last year.  This is a dish I turn to whenever I need a simple, yet hearty meal that is heavy on vegetables and easy on preparation time.  Yes there’s some chopping involved, but it really doesn’t take long.  Everything goes in one pan and leftovers are excellent.  This recipe will make use of some of your green and yellow beans, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, amaranth and/or sweetheart cabbage as well as some fresh herbs from your garden.  In just one dish you can utilize seven to eight of the vegetables from this week’s box plus herbs!
This week I’m going to use some of the zucchini with the white Spanish onions to make the Zucchini & Onion Gratin featured in one of our 2016 newsletters.  This is a super simple dish to make and very tasty.  As I was looking for this recipe, I came across this recipe for Chilled Cucumber-Tahini and Herb Soup with Cumin-Spiced Roasted Chickpeas.  It will take you about 15-20 minutes to roast the chickpeas, but the soup is made by putting everything in the blender and that’s it!  You can use either green or silver slicers in this recipe along with some fresh garlic and fresh herbs.  There’s enough fat and protein from the chickpeas and tahini to make this soup substantial enough to enjoy for lunch or a light dinner.  
Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken
Last year we featured this recipe for Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken that is excellent made with the sweetheart cabbage.  The recipe calls for green onions and red onion, but the white Spanish onion will be just fine.  It also calls for carrots and snow peas, but this week I’ll substitute some of the green beans in place of the peas.  The beauty of this recipe is that it is adaptable to whatever vegetables you have available at the time.  I like to serve this as a main dish salad and then use the leftovers to make spring rolls that are easy to take for lunch. 
I’ve been hungry for Broccoli & Cheddar Soup, so that’s where all of this week’s broccoli will be used.  I’m hoping there are some leftovers I can freeze to have something quick and easy to turn to some evening when I need a break from cooking.  While you could make soup with the cauliflower, I think I’m just going to use that to make Cauliflower Patties to serve for Sunday brunch along with our bacon and eggs.

Well, I think we’ve reached the bottom of another CSA box.  We’ll have peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and sweet corn coming in very soon…possibly even next week for some of these vegetables.  Don’t forget, if you’re going on a summer vacation, camping or any other road trip, take your vegetables with you so you don’t miss out on any of the summer CSA bounty.  You’ll also feel better eating good food while you travel and will save money along the way!  Have a great week!
—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  New Potatoes

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 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 very thin, 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.
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. 
Last year's potato harvest
We still have six more varieties of potatoes to dig this year.  Some potatoes are classified as “waxy” while others are classified as “starchy,” or possibly a mix of the two classifications.  These classifications are assigned based on the type of starch that comprises the flesh of the potato.  Waxy potatoes are generally more moist and hold together better.  They are best used for roasting, boiling or steaming, and potato salad.  I do not recommend mashing them because they usually become sticky.  Starchy potatoes tend to be more dry and fluffy.  This is a variety of potato appropriate for mashing as well as for making roasted potatoes, pan frying, etc.  Starchy potatoes are also useful for thickening soups.  We’ll tell you more about each new variety of potatoes in the “What’s In the Box” section of every email, so check there for more info from week to week.
I encourage you to slow down and really savor the flavor of these fresh, delicate potatoes.  They have a unique “fresh” potato flavor that will never be the same as it is this week when they are freshly dug.  You really don’t need to do much to these potatoes and, in fact, I’d encourage you to do as little as possible!  Treat them simply and enjoy the flavor.  They are excellent with nothing more than a little butter, salt and pepper. 

Potatoes with Crème Fraiche, and Dill

Yield:  However much you would like
Gently rub the potatoes clean, washing them well under running water.  Leave the skin be if it is young and thin.  Peel it if not.  Put the potatoes into cold water and bring to a boil.  Salt generously, then simmer until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife—a matter of anything from ten to twenty-five minutes, depending on the variety of your potatoes.  Drain and return them to the stove, this time over gentle heat.
Put a large dollop of crème fraiche into the pan and a handful of chopped dill fronds.  Cover with a lid until the cream has melted.  Fold the potatoes gently over in the melted cream and herbs until they are lightly coated, then eat with ham or oily fish.
NOTE FROM CHEF ANDREA:  This recipe was borrowed from Tender: A cook and his vegetable patch, by Nigel Slater.  The recipe is exactly as he wrote it in his book.  It’s a loose recipe that will guide you through a very simple way to prepare new potatoes.  If you don’t have crème fraiche, sour cream is an appropriate substitute.  If you don’t have fresh dill, just substitute any other fresh herb you have available, such as parsley or basil.

Cracked and Smashed Potato Salad with Tarragon Aioli and Sweet Peas

Yield: 4-6 servings
photo from familystylefood.com
2 pounds new potatoes, preferably golf-ball size
¾ cup kosher salt (or plain table salt)
2 cups sugar snap peas or thawed frozen sweet peas*
1 cup prepared mayonnaise 
1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest and juice 
1 small pressed garlic clove
2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon*

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
  1. Put the potatoes and salt in a large pot (at least 5 quarts). Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Lower the heat and partially cover the pot. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 20 - 25 minutes. Throw the peas into the pot for the last 15 seconds of cooking. Drain and cool the potatoes 15 minutes.
  3. Stir together the mayonnaise, fresh lemon zest and juice and garlic.  Add the tarragon and a good 15 - 20 grinds of pepper.
  4. Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl. Using the back of a large wooden spoon, press down on the potatoes to lightly smoosh and crack them. Add ¾ cup of the aioli to the potatoes and toss gently to coat.  Taste and add more aioli if you like.
*Note: This recipe was borrowed from familystylefood.com.  Since we’re done with sugar snap peas for the season, consider using green beans in place of the peas in this recipe.  Also, if you don’t have fresh tarragon available, you could also substitute chervil from your herb garden.

King of the Farm

18 Jul 2018 22:00

By Andrea Yoder
Crack it, Plant it, Cover it, Mulch it, Pray for it, Wait for it, Hope for it, Fork it, Catch a Glimpse of it, Feed it, Water it, Weed it, Feed it, Weed it, Feed it, De-scape it, Dig it, Bundle it, Dry it, Select it, Clean it, Store it, Eat it, Be grateful for it, and do it all over again.  The “It” is Garlic.  It’s a lot of work.  It’s a lot of gamble.  It’s a lot of skill.  It’s a lot of patience.  It’s a lot of trust.  It’s not negotiable.  In our minds, it’s a staple.  It’s essential.  It keeps us healthy, nourishes us, enhances our meals and life without garlic would just be pretty bland.  It just might be the King crop of our farm.
Our first load of garlic harvested in 2018!
We started our garlic harvest last Thursday afternoon.  Thus far we’ve harvested 33,720 bulbs of garlic and hope to finish harvesting the remainder of the field before the end of the week.  We only have about 10% of the crop remaining in the field.  Garlic harvest is a big deal.  Timing is everything and it takes a lot of hands on deck to make it happen in a timely manner.  The crew has done an excellent job once again.  We’ll be honest with you, this is not the best crop we’ve ever harvested.  We lost some garlic to rot early in the spring when it was cold and wet.  Once we saw the sprouts starting to try to push through the mulch, the crew went out and loosened the mulch so they could make it through the thick, insulating layer.  The next day, April 18, we got a foot of heavy, wet snow that packed the mulch back down on top of the delicate sprouts.  Some sprouts didn’t fare so well.  Once the snow melted, we forked the mulch off the plants again, the survivors pushed through and we carried on.  So, this year’s garlic crop isn’t as plentiful as we were hoping for, but we still have garlic!  The bulbs are smaller and we’ve noticed they don’t have as many cloves of garlic per bulb as they usually do.  Italian garlic generally produced 8-10 cloves per bulb and Porcelain garlic generally produces 4-5 cloves per bulb.  This year we’re seeing more in the range of 7 per bulb on the Italian and 2 per bulb on the porcelain. 
Garlic sprout peeking through the ground this spring
Garlic growth is heavily regulated by day length and spring is a very important time of the year for garlic to grow and develop.  The conditions were not very conducive for “normal” growth this spring, yet the biological clock inside the plant continued to tick along with the changing day length.  Once we did get back on more of a “normal” weather pattern, the garlic resumed normal growth rates however it was unable to compensate for the lost growth time and thus, we have small garlic.  That’s our theory. 
The good news is that we have garlic and will be able to select seed from this year’s crop to replant in the fall for the 2019 crop.  We will need to be very careful with our selection this year and will likely take a larger percentage of our overall crop for seed than we normally do, which means the garlic available for eating may be more limited.  Another piece of good news is that this year’s garlic looks really healthy and we aren’t seeing much, if any, disease on the bulbs.  This is important both for storage potential, but also for selecting seed stock.  We don’t want to replant any cloves from bulbs with disease as we risk carrying disease from one year into the next.
Richard enjoying the 2011 Garlic Diner
So that’s the state of this year’s crop.  It isn’t the biggest, most plentiful crop, but we’re thankful for what we have and that we’ll be able to continue to preserve our varieties by saving seed for the next crop.  Even though there’s less garlic on the tables in our greenhouse this year, we still feel rich when we walk down those aisles.  
Last Sunday we attended the annual garlic dinner hosted by Tami Lax at Harvest Restaurant in Madison,Wisconsin.  Tami has been hosting this dinner every year in July for seventeen years!  We enjoyed a five course meal that included garlic in every course!  Chefs Josh and Evan, along with their culinary crew, used almost forty pounds of our garlic in the meal.  They used our fresh garlic, which is harder to peel.  I think Chef Josh said it took them nearly 6 to 7 hours to peel all the garlic!  It is always fun to see how they choose to use the garlic in each course and the dinner always serves as a representation of just how versatile garlic can be in its uses.  We enjoyed whipped, rendered pork fat that had been infused with garlic and was served with grilled bread and a simple fennel and radish salad.  They made a delicious cucumber salad featuring burnt garlic salt and crisp garlic chips with mint and feta.  This was an interesting dish featuring our porcelain garlic.  The garlic chips were the perfect shade of golden and sweet, not bitter.  Chef Even had the idea to actually burn garlic by roasting it in the oven and then ground it with salt to make this cool black salt that was infused with the garlic flavor!  This was one of my favorite dishes.  Yes, they even incorporated garlic into the dessert!  They were not shy in making a garlic streusel topping for a cherry crumble and they served it with ice cream made from black garlic.  Black garlic is a means of preserving garlic by very slowly roasting it over the course of weeks.  The process develops the natural sugars in the garlic and the end result is much different than fresh garlic!  We had a fun evening and were grateful for the opportunity to share in this celebration of garlic.
We hope you enjoy the garlic you receive in this year’s remaining boxes and appreciate what we have as we look forward to another crop in the future.  Garlic is our labor of love and we’re grateful for each and every hand that helps along the way.
Some of the many hands helping us with our labor of love

July 12, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Red Amaranth

11 Jul 2018 21:57

Cooking With This Week’s Box: 

This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
Purple Cipollini or Sierra Blanca Onions: Black Beans with Amaranth (see below); Detox Summer Slaw
Fresh Porcelain Garlic: Cheesy Garlic Zucchini Rice
Green & Yellow Beans: Green Bean Satay
Red Amaranth: Black Beans with Amaranth (see below)
Broccoli: Broccoli Slaw
Green Top Red Beets: Creamed Beets with Greens
Sweetheart Cabbage:  Detox Summer Slaw
This week’s box has some colorful new vegetable selections, starting with the gorgeous Red Amaranth!  This has become one of our favorite, and most striking, summer vegetables.  We’ve been growing this vegetable for several years, so you’ll find the most diverse recipe collection for this vegetable on our website in our searchable recipe database.  There are a few recipes popping up here and there on the internet, including the recipe we’re featuring this week.  This recipe for Black Beans with Amaranth (see below) was originally featured at Cooking.nytimes.com.  Several years ago one of our market customers brought me a copy of this recipe and raved about how good it is.  The next year, I had another market customer recommend this recipe, followed by yet another.  Needless to say, this recipe came highly recommended by several other members as well as one of my colleagues so I figured it must be a winner!  Serve these flavorful beans along with rice, meat or grilled vegetables to make it a full meal.
The other most colorful vegetable in this week’s box is the bunch of green top red beets!  You’ll want to utilize both the root and the greens, which is the reason I created this simple recipe for Creamed Beets with Greens.  This is one of Richard’s favorite recipes for preparing beets.  It’s a simple recipe that comes together very quickly and makes a nice side dish for grilled or roasted meat.
Sweet Rice with Carrots & Nuts
Photo from food52
If you haven’t noticed, we encourage our members to make full use of the vegetables in the boxes by utilizing the green tops attached to selections such as the beets and carrots in this week’s box.  So, this week I’m going to turn those carrot tops into Carrot Top ChimichurriIt’s a great condiment to enjoy with grilled flank steak.  This recipe will also make use of some of the fresh herbs in your herb garden including parsley and oregano.  As for the tender, sweet carrots, use them to make this interesting Persian dish of Sweet Rice with Carrots & Nuts.  This dish features jasmine rice seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom and turmeric with a touch of honey and the sweetness of shredded carrots.  You also add some fragrant orange zest along with pistachio nuts and almonds.  The author of this recipe recommends serving this with roasted chicken.
Detox Summer Slaw
Photo from with food + love
This week’s “salad green” is sweetheart cabbage, a variety of cabbage specifically grown to be eaten raw as a salad.  This recipe for Detox Summer Slaw is a simple way to use the sweetheart cabbage.  I’m not a fan of the name of this recipe, but I like the simplicity of it.  You combine shredded cabbage with green onions (use thinly sliced onion tops), fresh parsley and slices of fresh peaches (I’ll substitute nectarines from this week’s fruit share) tossed with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.  Garnish the slaw with sunflower seeds and avocado—that’s it!  Serve this salad for dinner with a piece of grilled or broiled salmon.  If you have leftover slaw, take it for your lunch the next day wrapped in a tortilla along with some shredded roasted chicken and a touch of mayonnaise.
Zucchini & Summer Squash Soup with Oregano & Chickpeas
Photo from with food + love
I know it’s the middle of summer and soup may not be at the top of your list, but this simple recipe for Zucchini & Summer Squash Soup with Oregano & Chickpeas looks like a great way to use some of the zucchini in your box along with more fresh herbs from your herb garden and some of the fresh garlic.  This soup will come together quickly if you need a quick dinner option, and the author suggests freezing it as well.  So, perhaps you want to make a double batch and freeze part of it to enjoy later in the year.  This soup can also be pureed and served chilled.
If you have some zucchini remaining after the soup, consider using it to make this Cheesy Garlic Zucchini Rice.  This dish could stand alone for dinner served with this Broccoli Slaw or serve it as a side dish with grilled sirloin steak or Grilled Portobello mushrooms.  The broccoli slaw I mentioned will make use of both the florets and stems of your broccoli.  This recipe also calls for dried cranberries and sliced almonds for some crunch.
Green Bean Satay
Picture from Create kids club
I have to admit I ate a lot of overcooked green beans as a kid, so green beans have never been one of my favorite vegetables.  However, I do really like properly cooked, fresh green beans and was happy to find this recipe for  Green Bean Satay. You make a simple peanut sauce to serve over sautéed green beans.  The author specializes in tasty, nutritious recipes that are attractive to kids and per her report, this recipe is a winner!
Kelly made some delicious refrigerator pickles with turmeric over the weekend.  Pickles are often considered a condiment, but if you slice them thin, you can use this concept to make a tasty cucumber salad. Here’s a recipe for Sweet Turmeric Pickles.  You can actually use this brine to pickle other vegetables too, such as zucchini or beets.
Well, that brings us to the end of the box.  The only thing remaining is a little bit of basil from the choice box.  Lets finish off this week with a little celebratory cocktail.  Here’s a recipe for a Basil French 75 Cocktail.  You make a basic basil simple syrup by blending fresh basil with honey and water in the blender.  Strain that out and combine it with gin, lemon juice and sparkling wine for a refreshing, light summer cocktail.  Until next week, Cheers! –Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Red Amaranth 

Red 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.
Antonio S, Jose Luis, and Alfredo showing off the
amaranth they just harvested.
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.

Nutritionally, amaranth is a power house.  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.
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. 
Red Lentil Soup with Amaranth Greens, one of the
many amaranth recipes from our searchable recipe database.
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!

Black Beans with Amaranth 

Yield: 6 servings

Photo from Cooking NY Times
1 pound black beans, washed, picked over and soaked for six hours or overnight in 2 quarts water
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt to taste
2 to 4 Tbsp roughly chopped cilantro, or a few sprigs fresh epazote
1 bunch amaranth, leaves and stems separated
  1. Drain and rinse the black beans, discarding the soaking water.  Put the beans in a large, heavy bottom soup pot or Dutch Oven.  Add fresh water to cover the beans by two inches.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and skim off any foam. Add the onion and half the garlic, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer one hour. 
  2. Next, add the remaining garlic, the epazote (optional) and salt. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Add the cilantro and finely chopped amaranth stems.  Simmer for another 30 minutes, until the beans are tender and the broth aromatic.
  3. While the beans are simmering, wash the amaranth leaves. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and fill a bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the amaranth. Blanch for two minutes, and transfer to the ice water. Drain, squeeze out excess water (it will be a beautiful plum color) and chop coarsely.
  4. Just before serving, taste the beans and adjust seasoning. Stir in the amaranth, simmer very gently for five to 10 minutes, and serve.
Author’s Note:  The beans will taste even better if you make them in advance, and they can be made up to three days ahead of serving. The blanched amaranth will keep for three days in the refrigerator. 

This recipe was adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s original recipe featured at cooking.nytimes.com

Summer Farm Update

11 Jul 2018 21:51

By Farmer Richard
Wow, how time flies when you’re having fun, or too busy to notice!  What happened to “Summertime, and the livin' is easy, Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high….”   Seems like we just started the season with late spring plantings and now here we are planting our late fall crops!  We’re nearly done with transplant production and the greenhouses are being prepared for drying the garlic & onions we’ll be harvesting soon.  It’s hard to believe we’re already nearing the halfway point in July, but that means tomatoes are just around the corner and we still have a lot of good summer eating coming our way!
Wall of tomato plants
Despite the late start to the season, our summer crops are coming in pretty much on schedule.  We planted tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers and eggplant during one of our chilly May weeks.  Thankfully they acclimated well to the field and have responded well to the fertilizer we’ve given them through the driplines.  Couple this with two hot spells and they look fantastic!  We started harvesting eggplant last week and little peppers are starting to hang on the plants in the pepper field which we just finished weeding this week.  The first tomato planting has been tied with 5 strings to anchor the plants to the stakes and keep them growing upright.  We have formed a wall of tomato plants with a lot of fruit hanging on the vines.  Pretty soon we’ll see them start to ripen!  Our second plantings of zucchini and cucumbers are looking good and will soon be ready to replace the early crop which has already peaked and is slowing down with production.
While we’re just starting to harvest summer crops, we’re also planting our fall crops.  We now have two fields of fall carrots planted and up!  The last planting needed to be watered to soften the hot dry soil crust so the new sprouts could push through.  This week we’re harvesting the first beets of the season, but we’re also planting the last crop of beets for storage into fall and early winter.  Only turnips, daikon, storage radishes, and tat soi remain.  Of course, we’ll continue to plant our weekly plantings of cilantro, radishes, dill, mustard, baby arugula, etc until early September.
Little peppers starting to grow
We have four crops of sweet corn, beans and edamame planted and growing well.  The edamame was attractive to some hungry deer so we had to put a fence around the field earlier than we anticipated.  The first crop of corn will be a little smaller due to the fact that black birds ate some of the seed before sprouts were even up!  Nonetheless, tassels and ears are setting on and the following crops look even better.  We’re happy to be picking our first beans this week and we’re looking forward to harvesting potatoes next week.  The potato field is full of blossoms and the plants are setting a nice crop of tubers.

It looks like garlic harvest will start in earnest probably next week and we’ll have a beautiful onion crop to harvest shortly after.  Once we bring the onions and garlic in from the field, they’ll need several weeks to dry in our greenhouses before we put them into storage for the fall and winter.  Simon and Antonio have been working hard with the help of several other crew members to get the shade cloth on the greenhouses, clean up the benches, drain down the water and prepare to receive garlic and onions soon.
Silvestre "scratching" between the broccoli rows
Our weeding and cultivating crews have done a great job, and it hasn’t been an easy job.  Even though we were able to dislodge and disturb many weeds, a constant series of rain allowed them to regrow before they totally died.  Thus we’ve had to utilize a technique we call “Scratching” to disturb the weeds several times in order to totally knock them back to a final death.
In between rain and storms, we managed to cut and bale our rye mulch for next year’s crops as well as feed for our cows this winter.  We now have 47 big round bales wrapped for winter.  The cows are still belly deep in grass as they graze the lush pastures, but they will appreciate and find the hay bales attractive this winter when the snow flies.
Did I forget the two crops of melons and watermelon?  They are looking great and it will likely only be a few weeks until they’re ready for harvest.  I also wanted to mention our pollinator gardens which are beautiful and in full bloom attracting a wide variety of creatures.  We’re happy to see more monarchs this year including four that have been flitting and playing in our front yard for several weeks!
In the midst of all the work that needs to be done, we’ll be taking a break this weekend to enjoy some leisure time with our hard working crew.  This Saturday is our annual crew appreciation party!  Feel free to join us at the Legion Park on County Road O just above our farm for lots of fun including volleyball, soccer and lots of food!  Our campgrounds are available if you’d like to make it a weekend getaway! 

July 5, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Kohlrabi

4 Jul 2018 21:33

Cooking With This Week’s Box: 

This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
Purple Cipollini Onions:  Pizza with Spring Onions & Fennel
Sugar Snap and/or Snow Peas:  Shrimp and Baby Bok Choi Stir Fry
Kohlrabi:  Kohlrabi Fritters with Garlic Herb Cashew Cream Sauce (See below);  Shanghai-Inspired Stir-Fried Pork with Kohlrabi & Bok Choi
Welcome to July!  This week we are cooking out of our 10th CSA box of the season.  Don’t worry or fret yet, we still have twenty more delicious boxes to enjoy before winter closes in on us again.  Green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and more will be here before we know it….with some of those coming as early as next week! (A little birdie told me beans and potatoes will likely be in next week’s box).  This week we are wrapping up strawberry season with our last pint of berries.  Thank goodness for our late variety that has performed very reliably this year, AC Valley Sunset.  As the sun sets on our valley this week, we hope you enjoy and savor these last few tastes of fresh, sweet strawberries.  You can do something fancy with them if you’d like, but I really think just eating them as they are will imprint the best memory to hang on to until next summer.
Shrimp and Baby Bok Choi Stir Fry
Picture from food52
This week’s featured vegetable is kohlrabi.  This is another unique vegetable, like fennel, that really is in a class all its own.  In this week’s newsletter, we’re featuring another tasty recipe from Dishing Up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis, Kohlrabi Fritters with Garlic Herb Cashew Cream Sauce (See below).  This farmer girl knows her vegetables and has even more recipes featuring kohlrabi on her website.  My other recipe suggestion for kohlrabi this week is the Shanghai-Inspired Stir-Fried Pork with Kohlrabi & Bok Choi, a recipe featured in our newsletter back in 2015.  This is the perfect way to use both kohlrabi and some of the bok choi in this week’s box.  Bok choi is such a good candidate for stir-fry, as are the sugar snap and/or snow peas in this week’s box.  So, lets do this Shrimp and Baby Bok Choi Stir Fry with the bok choi, peas and some of the tender little carrots!  This recipe doesn’t call for the carrots, but I think they would be a nice, sweet colorful addition to the vegetable mix. 
Pizza with Spring Onions & Fennel
Picture from New York Times Cooking
This is the perfect week to make Green Top Carrot Soup!  In my first year at the farm, Richard challenged me to find a way to use the green tops on carrots.  Truthfully, I had never eaten a carrot top and didn’t know it was even possible.  I was up for a challenge and came up with this recipe that uses not only the carrot tops in the box, but also fennel and some basil!  It’s a light, creamy pureed soup that is great served with a good piece of bread for dinner or lunch.  If you aren’t in the mood for soup, use the carrot tops and basil to make Carrot Top Pesto.  You can use this delicious creation as a spread for sandwiches or toast, scramble it into your morning eggs, or toss it with pasta for a quick dinner.  If your fennel is still available, use it to make this Pizza with Spring Onions & Fennel.  The purple Cipollini onions in this week’s box are an excellent onion for this recipe.  As for the fennel, you’ll mostly be using the bulb, so take whatever remaining fronds you have from the tops and use them to make Blended Lemonade with Ginger and Fennel.  Serve it with the pizza for a light dinner!
Kale & Cucumber Salad with Roasted Ginger Dressing
Picture from bon appetit
Ok, lets talk cucumbers and zucchini, as both of these crops are in the peak of their production this week and they are plentiful in your box!  Lets start with cucumbers.  BonAppetit.com has a collection of 53 Cool Cucumber Recipes That AreShockingly Easy!  Surely you can find a few recipes here to put these beautiful cucumbers to use this week.  Check out the recipe for Kale & Cucumber Salad with Roasted Ginger Dressing using the lacinato kale, cipollini onions and the fresh garlic in the box.  I also want to make the Falafel Fritters Bowl with Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce and I want to try this recipe for Cucumber Lime Paletas (popsicles).  I never would’ve thought to make a popsicle from cucumbers, but why not!
Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake
Picture from 101 Cookbooks
Ok, now for the zucchini.  Zucchini is one of those vegetables that can be used in a wide variety of applications, so even if you think you don’t like zucchini, look around and I guarantee there will be some way you can use zucchini in your meals this week.  At the very least, use it to make this simple Chocolate Zucchini Cake.  As long as we’re on cake, we might as well use some of the zucchini to make this savory Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake.  Serve it with a simple creamy cucumber salad and you have a simple dinner with plenty left over for lunch the next day.
Still have some zucchini left?  Don’t forget about breakfast!  Use it to make Zucchini and Dark Chocolate Pancakes with Maple Yogurt.  I think it’s totally fine to have chocolate for breakfast when you serve it with zucchini!
We’re almost at the end of the box, but we do still have some kohlrabi tops remaining.  You didn’t think I would forget about those did you?!  I will slice the kohlrabi tops thinly and saute them with some fresh garlic, a little minced onion and some bacon.  Once they’re wilted down, they’ll get scrambled with eggs and Richard will enjoy them for breakfast.  If you are into green smoothies, you could add the kohlrabi tops to your smoothie as well.  Not into smoothies or eggs?  Then how about pasta?  Thinly slice the kohlrabi leaves and saute them in olive oil or butter with some garlic.  Toss in some cooked pasta and top it off with Parmesan.  See those kohlrabi tops are pretty useful!
Have a great week and I look forward to cooking with you again next week!—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable: Kohlrabi 

Kohlrabi growing in the field
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 a unique appearance unlike any other vegetable. 
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. 
Kohlrabi can be prepared in many different ways, both raw and cooked.  It can be sautéed, stir-fried, braised, roasted, grilled and baked. The simplest way to eat it is to peel it and munch on slices plain or with just a touch of salt, a little lime juice and some chili powder.  It can also be shredded and used in slaws with a variety of dressings or sliced and added to sandwiches or salads.  Over the years we’ve featured a variety of kohlrabi recipes in our newsletters, which are archived on our website.  If you ask Farmer Richard what his favorite way to eat kohlrabi is, I guarantee he’ll say “Creamy Kohlrabi Slaw!”  If you search the recipe database on our website, you’ll find several different slaw recipes including Kohlrabi Slaw with Coconut & Cilantro and Kohlrabi with Creamy Cole Slaw Dressing.  One of my favorite recipes comes from the Dishing Up the Dirt cookbook by Andrea Bemis.  We featured her Kohlrabi & Chickpea Salad recipe in our newsletter last year.  You’ll also find her recipe for BLK sandwiches (Bacon, Lettuce & Kohlrabi) in that newsletter.  Trust me…they’re delicious! 
Shanghai-Inspired Stir-Fried Pork with Kohlrabi & Bok Choi
While kohlrabi pairs well with creamy sauces and is great in refreshing salads, it is actually an adaptable vegetable that also pairs well with a lot of other flavor profiles from around the world.  Don’t be afraid to use kohlrabi in curries or stir-fries such as this Shanghai-Inspired Stir-Fried Pork with Kohlrabi & Bok Choi recipe we featured back in 2015. 
To use kohlrabi, first remove the fibrous peel 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, juicy 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 Fritters with Garlic Herb Cashew Cream Sauce 

Yield:  4 to 6 servings
1 large or 2 medium kohlrabies, peeled (about 1 pound)
1 medium-sized russet potato, peeled (about ½ pound)
1 small onion, diced
1 ½ Tbsp minced fresh dill
1 ½ Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp fine sea salt
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
⅓ cup grapeseed oil (or other oil for high heat cooking)
Garlic Cashew Herb Sauce (recipe below)
  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F.  Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the kohlrabies and potato.  Alternatively, you can use the grating attachment on a food processor to do the same thing.  Transfer the grated vegetables to a dish towel, wring out any moisture, then put them into a bowl.
  2. Add the onion, dill, parsley, salt, and flour to the grated kohlrabi mixture.  Stir in the eggs and mix until everything is well incorporated.
  3. Heat the grapeseed oil in a large skillet over medium-high.  Spoon ¼ cup of the mixture into the skillet and flatten it gently with a spatula.  Add 2 or 3 more fritters to the pan.  Cook this batch of fritters until they’re golden brown and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side.  Drain them on a paper-towel-lined plate before transferring them to a baking sheet to keep them warm in the oven while you finish making all the fritters.
  4. Serve the fritters with the sauce and enjoy.

Garlic Cashew Herb Sauce 

Yield:  1 to 1 ½ cups
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 garlic, minced
2 ½ Tbsp minced dill
2 ½ Tbsp minced parley

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Drain the soaked cashews and rinse them under cold water.  Place the drained cashews with ½ cup water, lemon juice, oil, garlic, dill and parsley into a high-speed blender.  Whirl away on high until smooth and creamy;  this will take about 2 minutes, so be patient!  
  2. Scrape down the sides and add extra water, a little at a time, until you reach a smooth and creamy consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add more water to thin if necessary.
These recipes are from Andrea Bemis’ book, Dishing Up the Dirt and were recommended by a couple of CSA members who tried the fritters and really liked them!   She has more great kohlrabi recipes on her website as well, dishingupthedirt.com.

Maintaining Organic Integrity

4 Jul 2018 21:30

By Farmer Richard
Last week we had our annual organic inspection.  We’ve had this annual inspection every year for over forty years and have been inspected by three different certifying agencies.  Despite our history, we go through this inspection and our practices are reviewed every year in order for us to continue to be certified organic producers.  I’ve always been an advocate for organic certification and have encouraged many farmers to do the same over the years.  In fact I was part of some of the earliest efforts to form and support organic certification and was one of the first farms to be certified in the Midwest.  In order to understand today’s organic marketplace, I think it’s important to understand a little history.
The OGBA (Organic Growers and Buyers Association) of Minnesota was one of the first independent certifiers and was the certifier I worked with to get my organic certificate and be recognized as a “Certified Organic” grower when I was farming in Eagan, Minnesota back in the 70’s and early 80’s.  After moving to our present farm in Wisconsin I helped start the OCIA Wisconsin Chapter#1 (Organic Crop Improvement Association), which is still in existence and continues to certify worldwide.  From OCIA Wisconsin Chapter #1 was born MOSA (Midwest Organic Services Association) which is headquartered out of Viroqua, Wisconsin and is our current certifying agency.  They are a good, trustworthy organization!
In 1990 Congress passed The Organic Foods Production Act which mandated that the USDA would develop and write regulations to establish national standards for organic producers.  The purpose of this legislation was to bring clarity to the organic market place and establish a set of national standards.  Organic inspections are done by dozens of independent inspection agencies.  The USDA audits those agencies for compliance with the NOP (National Organic Program) standards.  The NOP is guided by the NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) appointed by USDA to oversee organic standards.  The NOP is now the federal regulator of these organic standards.
Organic inspectors are part of an independent certification organization where they receive training and guidance from experienced inspectors.  They do not “work for” any one certifier, but may do inspections for more than one.  I took certifier training in 1988 when I helped found OCIA Wisconsin Chapter#1.  Not because I intended to be an inspector, but wanted to know how well inspectors were trained.  I wanted consumers to trust “certified organic” and the certification process.  We have “trained” new inspectors through our own organic inspections and have been part of USDA Audits.  I have seen numerous producers who want to sell in the organic market, but want to hang on to their favorite conventional practices.  “I’ll just use a little Round-Up to keep the weeds out of my asparagus, it is safe!”  “A little ammonium sulfate fertilizer is needed to keep my crops green.”  “I can’t do all the paperwork that is required for certification.”  I’ve heard these phrases many times over the years and I’ve learned that the people saying these things are really saying “I do not have a clue about my operation because I don’t keep records!  I have no ability to ‘trace back’ and I don’t really know what inputs are approved for organic production.”   Part of going through organic certification is also about education and awareness, which is good for any farmer!
One of the reasons I’m an advocate for organic certification is that I don’t think consumers should have to be able to ask a producer about the many details of their production.  A consumer should be able to trust the standards upon which an organic farmer is held to and know what that certification represents.  There are hundreds of suppliers trying to sell products as “natural & organic,” but are they?  There’s another organization called OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) that is very important for organic growers.  They precede the NOP and continue to be approved by the NOP to review all products including additives and fillers to get “OMRI approval.”  We only use OMRI approved products because we trust their scientific diligence more than any sales person or brochure and it makes certification much easier when we’re using products we know are already approved.
So what does an inspection involve?  Our inspector arrived at 9:00 am.  We started with a facilities tour, at which time he chose three crops to audit for trace back.  We continued the inspection and showed him all of our buildings, every field, all the animals, animal housing, pastures and our ducks. He was also able to view the first hatch of 21 ducklings!  We showed him our intentional habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects and creatures.  He also observed our crop production systems including the use of reflective mulch to deter pests.  We use this as a first line of defense for problem pests and consider it a “must” before we use any organic based pesticide.
Then the paperwork!  We were asked to show every input from seed to harvest, from field to end customer as part of the trace back audit.  All of our products are assigned a lot number that allows them to be traced back to the field they were grown in, the day they were harvested, who harvested the crop, etc.  Additionally, we have to provide documentation of what seed was planted, the field work associated with the crop, etc.  Compare that to the recent illness and death from contaminated romaine lettuce and pre-cut packs.  It took weeks and still no resolution for the cause of contamination.  Most conventional foods have no trace-back or lot number system and thus, no transparency.  If you want cheap food, that is what you get, no accountability.  Certified organic has always required traceability!  We passed our audits, provided all the information and supporting evidence he asked for and did our exit interview at 3:30 pm.  Our inspector submitted his report to MOSA where it will be reviewed by the MOSA review board and we expect to receive our renewal that will include our “free-range organic ducks” this year!

Organic Integrity?  Is it a process you can trust?  If the certifier is MOSA, for sure.  In my opinion, they are the best certifying agency available.   The USDA Organic seal?  Well there are some problems!  When organic sales rose to several billion dollars, the Big Ag players wanted to get in on the market.  Of course, they didn’t like the rules so they paid politicians to represent them and get the rules changed.  They got the animal welfare and pasture rules thrown out and “no soil” hydroponic production is now in.  So if you buy the cheaper organic at the larger chains you probably are getting milk from cows that never see a blade of grass and organic eggs from chickens stacked three deep per square foot and never see the outdoors.  MOSA says they will not certify those farms, but there are several certifiers who will.  You can look at scorecard reports from Cornucopia Institute, an
excellent “organic watch dog” organization.  They have reviewed many companies who say they are organic, yet there practices are not in line with the standards.  USDA has not done
due diligence to preserve “organic integrity.”  There were significant quantities of fraudulent organic grain shipped from Turkey and Russia that should have been stopped at the port of entry.  We are now watching the development of standards that go “beyond” USDA organic that are being developed by the Organic Farmers Association  headquartered at Rodale Institute. They plan to certify farmers for all aspects of “organic integrity.”  In the meantime, buy with care and, as always, it is best to know your farmers!

June 28, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Fennel

27 Jun 2018 21:40

Cooking With This Week’s Box: 

This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
Green Scallions OR Green Top Purple Cipollini Onions:  Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)
Green Romaine Lettuce:  Traditional Caesar SaladGrilled Romaine Lettuce
Italian and/or Green Zucchini:  Zucchini Cornbread;  Sour Cream Zucchini Bread;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)
Green and/or Silver Slicer Cucumbers:  Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger;  Middle Eastern Chicken Burgers with a Yogurt Cucumber Sauce
Strawberries:  Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce
Sweet Baby Broccoli:  Green ShakshukaCold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)
Rainbow Chard:  Green Shakshuka  
Sugar Snap or Snow Peas:  Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger
Purple and/or Green Kohlrabi:  Green ShakshukaCold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger;  Kohlrabi Fries
FennelRoasted Fennel & White Bean Dip;  Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below)
Here we are in the last week of June!  Strawberry season is winding down which means garlic harvest is right around the corner!  We’re looking forward to attending the annual Garlic Harvest dinner at Harvest Restaurant in Madison on July 15.  Tami Lax hosts this dinner every year to help us celebrate the garlic harvest.  While we wait for this year’s garlic crop to come in, we have plenty of other vegetables to keep us occupied in the kitchen!
Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip
Photo from food52
Lets start with this week’s featured vegetable, fennel!  I’ve included two recipes for you to try this week.  The first recipe, Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip came to me with a strong recommendation from our friend Sarah.  This recipe suggests serving it with toasted bread, but I’m going to take it beyond an appetizer and turn it into dinner.  Serve this dip with a big platter of toasted bread, olives, some slices of salami and fresh vegetables such as sliced kohlrabi, cucumbers and lettuce leaves.  Take it out on the patio with a glass of wine and some good company and enjoy.  The other recipe utilizing this week’s featured fennel is my recipe for Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole. (See below) I actually created this recipe with inspiration from a recipe for stuffed shells that was shared in our Facebook group last year. I didn’t have the patience to stuff shells, so I created my own version of a lasagna-like dish.  Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients.  It actually is pretty easy to make and assemble and it will serve a small army!  If you are a smaller household, you may want to cut the recipe in half and assemble the casserole in a 8 x 8—inch baking dish.
Zucchini Cornbread, photo from brown eyed baker
This week’s romaine lettuce is a classic choice for a Traditional Caesar Salad or change it up a little and try this recipe for Grilled Romaine Lettuce which features a Caesar like dressing that is painted onto the crisp romaine and put on the grill to add a little smoky, charred depth of flavor.  Add some chicken to the grill to accompany the Grilled Romaine Lettuce and make a loaf of Zucchini Cornbread to complete the meal!  This cornbread recipe was shared by a member in our Facebook Group last week.  If you have some extra zucchini this week, check out this recipe for Sour Cream Zucchini Bread.  It’ll make a tasty desert or eat it for breakfast!
Green Shakshuka, picture from epicurious
There was a lot of good cooking and recipe-sharing happening in the Facebook Group last week, including this delicious recipe for Green Shakshuka.  I’ve made a tomato based version of this dish, but this green version sounds and looks delicious and is a good way to use a lot of greens!  You make a mix of wilted greens as the base, add some herbs and spices and then crack eggs on top and let it all come to the finish line together!  This is a great dish to make for brunch, but it can also serve as dinner.  You know I love any dish that includes eggs and this is no exception.  Use the chard in this week’s box along with the greens from your broccoli and kohlrabi.
I found this recipe for Middle Eastern Chicken Burgers with a Yogurt Cucumber Sauce and will prepare these for dinner served along with spicy Kohlrabi Fries.  
Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger
Picture from smitten kitchen
If you have any cucumber left over, add it to this recipe for Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger.  This is a simple dish made with buckwheat noodles dressed with a simple sauce based on miso and ginger.  It calls for “a mixture of raw vegetables of your choice” which means this recipe can easily be adapted to include whatever you have in your fridge at the time.  This will make a great salad to enjoy for a quick, yet nourishing lunch.  I’m going to use cucumbers, kohlrabi, sugar snap or snow peas and my green onion tops to make this this week.  You could also use some of the broccoli and zucchini if you like.  The trick is to keep it simple and seasonal. 
Finally, lets celebrate this year’s strawberry season with  Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce.  Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day and pancakes are one of my favorite foods.  Top them off with fresh strawberries and life is pretty good. 
And on that note I’m going to sign off.  Have an awesome week!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Fennel 

When I was in culinary school I worked as a cook at a restaurant called Mojo Grill.  One of the signature appetizers on the menu was a classy dish of bacon-wrapped scallops served with fennel and a delicious Sambuca cream sauce.  I was pretty excited when I was granted permission to prepare this dish, and even made it for a restaurant critic one night!  After cooking the scallops until they were nicely browned and the bacon was crispy, I’d remove them from the pan, add several pieces of fresh fennel and then get ready for the excitement.  With a bottle of Sambuca (an Italian anise-flavored liqueur)  in one hand and my other hand on the handle of the pan, I’d pour some of the liqueur into the pan and  announce “STAND BACK” as I tipped the pan away from me and watched the alcohol shoot up in flames!  It was meant to be an impressive display for diners to watch as they peered into our open kitchen.  (Do not try this at home.)  Once the flames burned off I reduced the heat, added some heavy cream to the pan and let the sauce cook down a little bit until it was thick, creamy and fragrant and the fennel was tender.  I will never forget the perfect way all the components of this dish came together with fennel as the star of the show.  I believe it was this dish that gave me a new respect and appreciation for this unique vegetable.
Fennel growing in the field
Fennel can be 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 about fennel and read on.  Fennel is not a root vegetable, it actually grows above the ground and the feathery tops create a magical, cloud-like appearance in the field that makes you want to walk down the row while running your hands over the tops just to feel the softness and encourage the sweet aroma to fill the space around you.  Yes, it’s magical.  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.  The stalks are sometimes too fibrous to eat, however they have a lot of flavor so don’t discard them!
Pasta with Golden Fennel
Fennel is often found in Italian cuisine, but it is also included in some classical French dishes and may also be found in the cuisine of different parts of Asia.  It may be eaten both raw and cooked.  In its raw form, you’ll find it to be crunchy and refreshing with a stronger anise flavor.  It’s super important, when eating fennel raw, to slice it paper thin.  It’s a very dense vegetable, so it’s a little hard to chomp down on a big, thick slice of it with enjoyment.  The flavor, texture and overall eating experience is greatly enhanced by simply slicing it very thinly with either a mandolin or just a sharp knife.  In its raw form it’s often used in vegetable and grain salads and can be pickled.  Fennel may also be cooked and can be roasted, sautéed, stir-fried, simmered in soups and stews and makes a delicious, flavorful gratin.  When cooked, the flavor of fennel mellows and is much more subtle.  This allows it to fade from the front, in-your-face position to a much more discreet presence as a background flavor that rounds out a dish.  For those of you who are still learning to like fennel, I’d encourage you to use it in a recipe where it will be cooked in some way.  This recipe for Pasta with Golden Fennel has proven to be a winner many times over the past few years with members who didn’t really care for fennel.  It’s also the only fennel dish the entire crew would eat when I was cooking for the crew my first summer on the farm!
Fennel pairs well with a wide variety of foods including seafood, poultry, pork and cured meats such as salami and sopressata.  It also works well with cream as well as fresh and hard cheese such as feta and Parmesan.  Recipes featuring fennel will often include white wine, honey, lemons and other citrus fruit and/or vegetables such as tomatoes, celery, carrots, cucumbers as well as beets, dried beans and herbs including parsley, dill and basil.  In addition to citrus fruit, fennel also pairs well with pomegranates, berries, apples and stone fruit. 
Cucumber-Fennel Fizz
Photo from food52
Fennel should be stored in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic to keep it fresh and crisp.  If you are using the fennel bulb, first peel off the outer layer of the bulb to wash away dirt that may be between the layers.  The outer layer is still usable after it is washed so don’t throw it away.  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.  If you are eating it raw, don’t forget to slice it paper-thin.  The feathery fronds can be chopped finely or just tear up little tufts of them and add them to fresh salads, use them as a garnish for pasta or rice dishes, blend them into sauces, soups or vinaigrette, or even use them in a drink such as this recipe for Blended Lemonade with Ginger & Fennel or Cucumber-Fennel Fizz.  The stalks are more fibrous, so generally are not eaten, however don’t throw them away.  They have a lot of flavor in them!  Put them in a roasting pan underneath a pork roast or whole chicken and the flavor and aroma of the fennel will permeate the meat as it roasts and it will add a nice background flavor to the pan sauce you make from the drippings.  If you’re making a seafood or potato chowder, add the stalks to the pot to flavor the broth or creamy base and just remove them before serving.  They also add a nice background flavor to something as simple as vegetable stock. 

On our farm, we only plant two crops of fennel in the spring for harvest in late June/early July.  So now is the time to embrace this vegetable and give it a try.  In addition to the recipes included with our vegetable shares this week, I’ve also included two recipes including fennel in our fruit newsletter!  Of course you can always search for more recipes on our website that have been featured in previous newsletters.  Have fun and enjoy this unique vegetable!

Summer Vegetable Lasagna Casserole 

Yield:  8 servings

12 oz fusilli or penne pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup onions, chopped finely
2 Tbsp garlic, chopped finely
1 cup fennel, small dice
1 cup broccoli or kohlrabi, small dice or florets
1 ½ cups zucchini, small dice
1 cup greens, thinly sliced (chard, kale, etc)
1 ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 oz ground beef, browned
16 oz cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup chopped fresh herbs of your choice (basil, parsley, oregano, etc)
Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
4 cups tomato sauce
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup red wine
¾ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

  1. First, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until it is about ⅔ cooked.  You want it to be undercooked when you add it to the casserole as it will soak up some of the moisture in the casserole and continue to cook and soften while baking.  Once the pasta is ⅔ cooked, drain the pasta into a colander, discarding the cooking liquid.  Set the pasta aside.
  3. In a medium sized sautè pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and garlic and sautè for 1-2 minutes or until tender and fragrant.  Next add the fennel and broccoli and sautè for another 3-4 minutes before adding the zucchini.  Season the vegetable mixture with 1 tsp of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the greens.  Cook the vegetables about half way and then remove them from the heat so they don’t become overcooked!  They’ll continue cooking in the casserole so you want them to be a little undercooked when you remove them from the heat.
  4. While the vegetables are cooking, mix the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:  ground beef, cottage cheese, egg, fresh herbs and red pepper flakes.  Once the vegetables are finished, add them to the mixture.  Taste a little bit and add more salt if necessary, then stir in the pasta.  Set aside.
  5. Heat the tomato sauce in a pan over medium heat.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar, red wine and ½ teaspoon salt.  Stir to combine and bring the sauce to a simmer.  Once the sauce is heated through, remove from the heat and taste a little bit. Add more salt or pepper if necessary.
  6. Put a thin layer of the hot tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Spread the vegetable mixture over the top, and then pour the remainder of the sauce over the entire dish being sure to evenly cover the vegetable mixture.
  7. Bake the casserole in the oven, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes or until the tomato sauce is bubbling a little bit.  After 25-30 minutes, remove the casserole from the oven and spread the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top.  Put it back in the oven and bake it for another 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted.
  8. Remove from the oven and serve hot.
Recipe created by:  Chef Andrea Yoder
Note:  You can vary the vegetables you include in this casserole according to what you have available as long as you have about 3 ½ cups of diced vegetables and about 1 cup of greens.

Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip 

Serves 12 as an appetizer

For Roasted Fennel: 
1 large or 2 small Fennel Bulbs, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces 
2-3 Tbsp olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, still in papery shell 
1 pinch salt and pepper (more to taste) 
For the Cannellini Bean puree: 
¾ cups olive oil 
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced 
2 ½ cups cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped 
1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed 
½  cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated 
1 baguette, sliced 
  1. First make the roasted fennel. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Toss the fennel and garlic cloves in the olive oil and spread on a sheet pan. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes, turning twice during cooking. Take out and let cool. When cool squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins. 
  2. Start the cannellini bean puree. In a small frying pan heat ½ cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook until lightly golden, add rosemary and cannellini beans and cook for one minute more. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Take it off the heat. 
  3. In a food processor combine the garlic bean mixture, fennel, roasted garlic, lemon juice, remaining ¼ cup olive oil and all but 3 Tbsp of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Puree until smooth. 
  4. Raise oven temp to 450°F. Transfer puree into a small baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Feel free to add more. If your dish is near full, place it on a baking sheet, in case it bubbles over in the oven. Bake until cheese is golden on top, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with crostini.
NOTE:  This recipe was borrowed from Food52.com.  Serve this dip with bread as suggested, or serve it with fresh vegetables, olives, cured meats.  You could enjoy this as an appetizer, or eat it as dinner!

Evolution of a Farmer

27 Jun 2018 21:39

By Dennis de Wilde

Dennis was out checking the crops with
Farmer Richard on Monday. Looks like the
tomatillos will be ready soon!
So, I am on my semi-annual visit to my brother’s Harmony Valley Farm….always an enjoyable experience to be in “the valley” and observe the bustle of more than 40 people engaged in the work of raising and marketing over 100 different varieties of organic vegetables while hearing how this large “farm family” is dealing with the accompanying weather and every year’s new business challenges. (As a retired business consultant, I find the depth and breadth of these challenges and the solutions to deal with them to be fascinating and inspiring.)  And, I often wonder, “How did this brother (Farmer Richard as he is now known) evolve, from the teenage rebel I grew up with, into the successful businessman/Farmer he is today?!”
Now and Then: Richard with his
high school yearbook.
In some ways, it is not so hard for me to look at who he was and to see how he became who he is today.  As brothers who were born only 16 months apart and were more or less of the same physical size since age 8/9, we shared equal responsibility for yard chores and later farming duties on the 800 acre family beef and grain farm in northeastern South Dakota.  But, it was clear from the start that Richard was the leader (or the brains of this duo), while I was a skinny version of the brawn - in other words, he laid out our daily work program and I executed (Richard also did his share). But more importantly, he answered to (or argued with) Dad regarding the planning decisions he made and the results from our efforts – Dad had a part-time day job, once this two-son crew was able to take on the farming duties.  Richard was leader, yes; but no one would have thought he was destined to be a Farmer – he left the farming to me and a younger sister every summer after his sophomore year in high school.  He spent the first summer weed-walking bean and corn fields in Nebraska, he worked a salmon fishing boat in Alaska the next and it was the stone quarry after that.  Now, while some might observe that he was a young lad mostly interested in young ladies during those summers away from the farm, I remember him returning with observations connecting the how and why regarding the way they did things in these different environments – he was an explorer and a learner.  When he returned at the end of the summers, he saw no reason not to put his new learnings into practice – an independence that may not have always been appreciated by the farm owner, his father.  No problem for Richard; he just did it his way – at the farm and, now that he had used his summer earning to buy a ’55 Chevy,’ in his personal life!  A rebel was born in of all places, South Shore, South Dakota.
As he entered college, his explorations, learnings, and independence became a way of life.  It was the late sixties; long-hair and non-conventional ways were in.  The rebel bought a motor bike (650 BSA) and chopped it!  He spent a summer hitch-hiking to California. He met people who thought differently about the world – where it had been and where it was going.  Earth-day was born – the seed of a cause was planted and Richard was a welcoming vessel.
He graduates college, with a degree in Mining Engineer and takes a conventional position with the US Bureau of Mines – a “new age” rebel with a bureaucratic day job. The Earth-day cause has far more pull for this explorer and learner than coming into an office day after day.  The questions “What is the purpose of this work, how can I change things, why am I here?” must have been bouncing around his head every day and night.  Without a connection between his cause and the work he was doing, the passion was missing – the separation from the Bureau of Mines was inevitable.
Blue Gentian Farm, Eagan, MN,
where Richard started exploring organic farming
Richard starts hanging around a day-care center for autistic children.  He enrolls in a graduate program to study autism.  He rents an old farm house – he is effectively back on the farm!  He wonders if there is a connection between chemical proliferation in the farming industry and the increase in the rate of the development of autism.  He re-connects with his farm upbringing, but he connects that with his Earth-day passion – he explores organic farming before organic farming was a defined methodology in the US agricultural community. It is 1973 – he has a cause and the rebel is determined to make it a career.  He will do it his way.  He will prove that you can integrate the honoring of “Mother Earth” and business success.  He will commit to a holistic lifestyle as a businessman (oh, that word was not used until years later, but it is fair to say it was that even then).  He will commit to making the world a better place by changing how farmers feed us.
Richard in the early days at Harmony Valley Farm
Over the following 40 years he goes on to train and inspire many new young farmers.  Learning to manage a business, manage employees, inspire employees and educate consumers.  And now I watch as he works to transition Harmony Valley Farm to dedicated employees. 

Thus, in hindsight it is easy to see how a first-born son of a strong-willed father accepts the challenges and opportunities that grants; becomes a leader who pushes boundaries and meets the complex challenges of growing and marketing organic produce to be enjoyed by those who understand, you are what you eat!
S3442 Wire Hollow Road, Viroqua, WI, 54665, United States
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