Harmony Valley Farm
Cooking With This Week's Box:
This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
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.
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!
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.
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.
Last year's potato harvest
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
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
photo from familystylefood.com
*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.
- Put the potatoes and salt in a large pot (at least 5 quarts). Cover with water and bring to a boil.
- 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.
- Stir together the mayonnaise, fresh lemon zest and juice and garlic. Add the tarragon and a good 15 - 20 grinds of pepper.
- 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.
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.
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.
Our first load of garlic harvested in 2018!
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.
Garlic sprout peeking through the ground this spring
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.
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.
Richard enjoying the 2011 Garlic Diner
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
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
Red Amaranth: Black Beans with Amaranth (see below)
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.
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 Chimichurri. It’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.
Sweet Rice with Carrots & Nuts
Photo from food52
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.
Detox Summer Slaw
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.
Zucchini & Summer Squash Soup with Oregano & Chickpeas
Photo from with food + love
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.
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!
Green Bean Satay
Picture from Create kids club
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.
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.
Antonio S, Jose Luis, and Alfredo showing off the
amaranth they just harvested.
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.
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!
Red Lentil Soup with Amaranth Greens, one of the
many amaranth recipes from our searchable recipe database.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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!
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!
Cooking With This Week’s Box:
This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
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.
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.
Shrimp and Baby Bok Choi Stir Fry
Picture from food52
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!
Pizza with Spring Onions & Fennel
Picture from New York Times Cooking
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.
Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake
Picture from 101 Cookbooks
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
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 growing in the field
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!
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.
Shanghai-Inspired Stir-Fried Pork with Kohlrabi & Bok Choi
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)
- 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.
- Add the onion, dill, parsley, salt, and flour to the grated kohlrabi mixture. Stir in the eggs and mix until everything is well incorporated.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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!
- 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.
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!
Cooking With This Week’s Box:
This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
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!
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.
Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip
Photo from food52
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!
Zucchini Cornbread, photo from brown eyed baker
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.
Green Shakshuka, picture from epicurious
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.
Cold Noodles with Miso Lime and Ginger
Picture from smitten kitchen
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 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!
Fennel growing in the field
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.
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.
Photo from food52
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
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.
- First, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Remove from the oven and serve hot.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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!
Cooking With This Week’s Box:
This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
Celtuce: Fried Rice with Chicken & Celtuce (see below) and Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger and Sesame (see below)
Celtuce growing in our fields.
This week we get to experiment with a new vegetable! Celtuce is not very well-known in this country, so it’s hard to find recipes to use it. The key is to just keep it simple so you don’t cover up its unique flavor. As I was thinking about the best ways to use it, I couldn’t help but think of fried rice, thus I created this simple recipe for Fried Rice with Chicken & Celtuce (see below). This is a simple way to prepare this week’s celtuce along with the sugar snap peas. If you’d prefer to eat the celtuce raw, try the recipe for the Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger and Sesame (see below). It’s delicious eaten alongside a simple piece of grilled or pan fried fish or chicken.
With the remaining sugar snap peas, consider making this Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snap Peas and Mint. It’s light, refreshing and simple to make. It also travels well, so it’s a good candidate to take to work with you. As long as we’re on the topic of fresh, simple salads, we should talk about making a Creamy Cucumber Salad. This salad becomes a staple dish every year during cucumber season. If you don’t have fresh dill, you can substitute parsley, basil or any other fresh herb from your garden. This salad makes a delicious dinner alongside a simple grilled hamburger. If you’re grilling burgers this week, be sure to top them off with a few of the red butterhead lettuce leaves in this week’s box.
Use the remainder of the red butterhead lettuce to make this Simple Butter Lettuce Salad. It features a simple vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar, honey and olive oil. The lettuce is dressed with this simple vinaigrette and then the salad is garnished with salty olives, shaved manchego cheese and crispy panko bread crumbs. This salad will make a simple dinner when served with Pasta with Garlic Scape Pesto. You could add some grilled chicken to the pasta as well if you are looking for a little extra protein.
Last week this recipe for Pan-Fried Turnips with Thyme and Breadcrumbs popped into my inbox. This recipe doesn’t call for the greens, but you could easily wilt the greens down and serve these crispy turnips on top.
Simple Butter Lettuce Salad
Photo by The Modern Proper
It’s that time of year when we need to get creative with finding ways to use and enjoy zucchini. For starters, I am going to make Heidi Swanson’s recipe for “My Special Zucchini Bread”. We featured this recipe in one of our 2014 newsletter. This zucchini bread recipe includes crystallized ginger, poppy seeds and lemon zest which makes it a little different than traditional zucchini bread recipes. If you have some zucchini remaining, try the Creamy Zucchini-Cumin Dip recipe that we featured in the same newsletter. It makes a delicious snack served with chips or crackers.
Rainbow chard is packed full of nutrients and sometimes my body craves the thick, dark green leaves and colorful stems. This week I’m going to make this recipe for Skillet Strata with Bacon, Cheddar, andGreens. This recipe was created by Alexandra Stafford and is featured in a short video on Food52.com. This is a great dish to serve for a weekend brunch or enjoy it for dinner throughout the week.
Strawberries with Sour Cream and Dark Muscovado Sugar
Picture by food52.
I saved the sweetest part of the box for last. One of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh strawberries is simply topped with some really delicious fresh cream. There’s an article at food52.com featuring 5 New Ways to Serve Strawberries and Cream which features a few creative variations on this simple concept.
I hope you enjoy experimenting with the celtuce this week. Please let us know what you think about it and how you decide to use it! See you next week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Celtuce
Celtuce after trimmed in the field.
This week we’re excited to share a new vegetable with you. We enjoy growing and learning about new vegetables and this year we decided to challenge ourselves as well as our members with celtuce. Celtuce is thought to have originated in southern China and is also known as “Lettuce Stem.” While it is relatively well-known in China, you seldom see it in the United States but it can be found in some Asian grocery stores. Botanically, it is a member of the lettuce family. The plant grows similarly to lettuce and the leaves resemble lettuce leaves. While you can eat the leaves, the main feature of this plant is the long, thick stem. The lower leaves are usually trimmed away as they can sometimes become bitter as the plant matures. The upper leaves are usually left intact and are tender and generally less bitter if at all. Once the leaves are trimmed away, the thick, white stem is revealed. Celtuce is referred to as who sunin Chinese, but the term “celtuce” is the American name given to this vegetable when it was introduced to this continent by the Burpee Seed Company. It was named such because of its stalk like resemblance to celery coupled with its lettuce-like qualities. I actually think the stem on celtuce bears more resemblance to broccoli and personally, I would’ve named this vegetable Broctuce.
Peeled celtuce vs unpeeled celtuce.
Celtuce may be eaten raw or cooked. It has a unique flavor that is really unlike any other vegetable. As much as I dislike using the term “nutty” to describe a vegetable, that really is the first word that comes to mind when I think about the flavor. It also has a kind of smoky like characteristic to its flavor profile and if you smell the base of the stem, you’ll find it has a unique scent. When you are preparing celtuce, the first step is to trim away the tender leaves on the top of the stem. Save these and use them raw in a salad or, if you find them to be bitter, blanch them in boiling water to remove the bitterness and then eat them. Peel away the outer skin on the stem and you’ll find a light green, transluscent vegetable inside. It’s crispy and juicy when eaten raw or cooked. It may be julienned or sliced thinly and eaten in a fresh, raw salad. In China it’s often pickled. You can also saute it or stir-fry it. It is also sometimes used in soups, steamed or gently braised. As I was experimenting with cooking celtuce, I started by just simply sautéing it in butter. I melted some butter in a pan and sautéed some baby white turnips along with garlic scapes and minced scallions. Once the turnips were tender and nearly finished cooking, I added thinly sliced celtuce stem to the pan and cooked it just a few more minutes. With just a little added salt and pepper, this turned out to be a delicious dish! If you’re looking for something simple and fast to make for dinner, this is the way to go!
If you are looking on the internet for recipes using celtuce, you likely won’t find much. Last Sunday we had the opportunity to talk with two guests who are from China and had experience eating and preparing celtuce. They indicated that celtuce is generally eaten in very simple preparations without a lot of extra ingredients added in so as to preserve the innate flavor of the vegetable. It does pair well with other spring vegetables such as the baby white turnips, sugar snap peas, greens, scallions and garlic scapes. Store celtuce in the refrigerated, wrapped loosely in plastic or a damp towel. I hope you enjoy experimenting with this new vegetable. I’m still learning about celtuce and am interested in seeing how other members choose to use it, so please send us your ideas and feedback. Have fun!
Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger
Yield: 3-4 cups
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
2 celtuce stalks, peeled and julienned
2 scallions, thinly sliced (green tops included)
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Finely ground black pepper, to taste
1 ½ tsp toasted white or black sesame seeds
Recipe created by Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm
- Put vinegar and crystallized ginger in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes to soften the ginger. Stir in the sunflower oil and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine celtuce, scallions, cilantro and ½ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour the ginger vinaigrette over the vegetable mixture and stir well to combine. Add the toasted sesame seeds and stir again. Let the salad rest for a minimum of 15-20 minutes or overnight. This will allow the flavors to come together.
- Taste the salad and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more salt, pepper and/or vinegar as needed. Serve this salad either at room temperature or refrigerated.
Fried Rice with Chicken & Celtuce
4-5 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided
4 eggs, beaten
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 garlic scapes, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced (including green tops)
1 cup sugar snap peas cut into ½-inch pieces
2 celtuce stems, peeled, quartered and cut into ¼ inch slices
4 cups cooked rice
4 Tbsp soy sauce
Freshly ground white and/or black pepper
Toasted sesame oil, for serving.
- First, heat a small to medium skillet over medium heat and add 1 tsp of oil. When the pan and oil are hot, add the beaten eggs and ¼ tsp salt. Scramble the eggs until they are cooked through, yet soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Cut the chicken breasts into thin, bite-sized strips. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown. Stir to turn the chicken pieces over and brown the other side.
- Next, add the garlic scapes, ginger and scallions. Stir the mixture to prevent the ginger and garlic from getting too brown while you continue to stir-fry for 1-2 minutes or until the scallions are soft and the ginger is fragrant. Next, add the celtuce, sugar snap peas, and pepper. Continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add 2 more Tbsp of oil to the pan and tip the pan to distribute the oil evenly. Next, add the rice and continue to move the rice so it is evenly distributed in the pan. Continue to stir-fry the mixture until the rice is thoroughly heated, 3-5 minutes.
- Next, add 4 Tbsp of soy sauce. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a few more minutes. Adjust the seasoning with more soy sauce if you like and additional salt if needed. Stir in the scrambled eggs and serve hot with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil if desired.
Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm
By Farmer Richard
We plan for working around the weather every day, and party days are no different! This past Sunday we hosted our annual Strawberry Day event and it was a hot one! We had planned for about 200 people, but the forecast for a hot day with the possibility of thunderstorms must’ve deterred our visitors. We did have about 100 people in attendance with just two brave families camping. Were we disappointed? No! We enjoyed the smaller numbers which allowed us to have more personal contact with those in attendance. We had a great crowd of interested members and some of them brought extended family and friends as well. We had a great day! Thankfully the weather cooperated. Hot? Yes, but we had a nice breeze, traveled on covered wagons, parked in the shade and drank lots of ice water. Our campers enjoyed their night in the valley. Did the choir of frogs keep them awake? No, they had the best night’s sleep they’d had in weeks!
After enjoying a delicious potluck picnic lunch, everyone found their place on the wagons and we started off down the road for the field tour. Given the heat, we decided to stay close to the home farm and had intended to cut the field tour a little short. Even though we only traveled from one end of our home farm to the other, we still had a lengthy field tour as everyone was interested in learning about the crops along the way, stopped to harvest some for themselves and asked great questions! At our first stop we harvested celtuce, a new crop in this week’s box that originated in China. We were thankful that Christopher, a member from Madison, brought his parents with him to the party and they are from China! We considered them to be our guest “experts” about celtuce and they shared some of their uses for preparing it. We really appreciated their contributions and one young CSA member even had a chance to practice speaking Mandarin Chinese with them! While we were hanging out in the celtuce field, some members wandered into the adjacent field to pick baby dill, arugula, turnips, radishes, cilantro and some baby lettuce while learning more about which crops we plant every week as well as some of the opportunities and challenges associated with growing these vegetables.
Headed through the fields on the wagon tour!
We jumped back onto the wagon and continued on to the far end of the garlic field. We had to stop and dig a few garlic just to see how they were doing. Garlic harvest will be happening within the next month, so we learned how to read the signs of the plant to make the decision about when to harvest. We also learned a little bit about how we irrigate the garlic crop from our lead irrigation crew member, Vicente. As we left the garlic field and headed to the other end of the farm, we got a good look at the second planting of tomatillos and tomatoes. They look really nice and will be ready for staking and tying very soon!
Richard explaining what we look for in ripe garlic.
On our way to the strawberry field we made a brief stop in the zucchini and cucumber field. We are just starting to pick these crops, but we had to stop and see how many full-sized fruit we could find. The cucumbers are a solid mass of beautiful vines. I asked for only a few volunteers to help me and Vicente find some cucumbers and zucchini to cut. Our helpers did a good job, but couldn’t resist harvesting a few themselves! Their squeals of excitement when finding the hidden jewels was a joy to hear. As we pulled away from the field, most of the people on my wagon were eating a juicy, cooling cucumber. That’s one way to beat the heat!
Our final stop along the tour was the strawberry field. In less than one hour we had collectively picked quite a lot of beautiful ripe berries. A few committed pickers stayed late to pick more. Lisa, Carol and Paul were on a mission to pick their annual quota of strawberries and collectively walked out of the field with 50# of berries altogether! Overall we estimate that we picked about 235 pounds of strawberries. Of course we can’t weigh the berries that we ate in the field, so this is just an estimate.
Stawberry fields filled with guests!
We were all happy to enjoy a bowl of cold strawberry ice cream when we returned to the packing shed. While the day was hot, we were grateful that the thunderstorms held off until later in the evening after everyone was well on their way home. We had a great day and personally, I really appreciated the opportunity to connect with this group of cool CSA members and families of all ages. Hearing people say “Thanks, we had a great time!” as they left was music to my ears. A visit to the farm can be a very special thing. If you weren’t able to join us for Strawberry Day, we hope you’ll consider coming to our Harvest Party in the fall. In the meantime, enjoy the strawberries in your CSA boxes!
By Farmer Richard
Strawberry Day is upon us and we hope you are making plans to visit our valley to celebrate this year’s strawberry harvest. We are only in our first week of strawberry picking, which is about 10-14 days behind our “normal” strawberry season due to the cold, wet spring. This year’s strawberries are looking good, and taste great! In most years our Strawberry Day is near the end of the season whereas this year we’re just beginning the season. Before we go any further, I want to mention a few important things for this year’s Strawberry Day event. Normally we don’t worry too much if the kids (or adults) crawl, roll or run through the patch. They are having a great time and we’re usually done picking most of the berries so there isn’t too much harm that can be done. This year, we need to limit the amount of frolicking through the field. We are proud of this beautiful field and really need to make sure we treat the plants gently and tread lightly so we don’t damage the plants or the immature berries that we want to preserve for picking over the next few weeks. We’ll limit the traffic to our early varieties including Earliglow and our new early variety called Galletta. These two early varieties will be in full production. Some of our mid-season varieties are starting to produce some beautiful berries, but we need to try to stay out of this section of the field so we can continue to have abundant berries for two more weeks!
This year's strawberry field--streamers to deter the birds!
As you prepare for your trip to the farm this weekend, please remember to pack your ballet shoes (tutu not required) so you can walk gracefully through the field like a ballet dancer and watch where you step! While I understand many members really enjoy participating in the “Heaviest Berry Contest,” we will not be able to host this activity this year. Many of the big berries that are going to be tempting to pick will be in the part of the field that will not be open for picking. The competition can get pretty intense some years and we often have excited participants leap off the wagon so they can run through the field in search of the winning berry. Remember, ballet dancers don’t run. While they do leap, we ask that you only do maneuvers such as these if you are professionally trained to do so. Aside from the professional ballet dancers in attendance, we should all consider ourselves amateurs and limit our activity to gentle walking. Please, do not run through the field this year! If you do feel a sudden burst of joy coupled with the desire to run, feel free to do laps around the perimeter of the field. Thank you in advance for your attention to these details. If we all work together and treat the field with respect, we’ll be able to maximize our harvests this year and preserve the field for another great year in 2019!
Strawberry plants right after planting last spring.
While there won’t be a quiz about strawberry production when you come for Strawberry Day, we thought it might be interesting for our members to understand a little more about how we produce our strawberries. We use a matted bed system of strawberry production. This means we plant bare root dormant strawberry plants in early spring. We space them about 12-16 inches apart. The field we’ll be picking from this year is actually in its second year of growth, but this is our first year picking from it. We planted the field last year, spring 2017. The first year we do not harvest fruit. The plants will produce blossoms, but we snip them off to shunt the energy in the plant towards producing runners for daughter plants instead of producing fruit. Generally the amount of fruit a first-year plant would produce is not that great, thus it is more productive to forego the fruit for the sake of encouraging the plant to grow and spread. The main strawberry plant will send off new growth called runners. These runners will produce daughter plants that will set their roots into the soil thus propagating our strawberry crop.
Covering strawberries to protect from frost.
Over the course of the first year, we focus on controlling weeds with mechanical cultivation and hand weeding and make sure the plants have adequate water and nutrients to support their growth, health and development. We bury drip tape under the beds before we plant so we can easily and efficiently provide water as well as nutrients when needed through these water lines. In the fall, the plants will start to produce the embryos or buds in the crown or base of the plant for the following year. We then cover the plants heavily with straw mulch to protect this new growth from freezing and thawing over the course of the winter. In the spring, the plants are uncovered and the mulch fills in between the plants to help choke out any weeds and to provide a clean bed for the strawberries. The mulch isn’t removed too soon though or the plants will start blossoming and are at greater risk of being damaged by frost. We also cover the field with large row covers, basically a huge blanket to keep the strawberries warm and protected on nights when we anticipate freezing temperatures.
We select the varieties based on their ripening season, flavor, color, disease resistance and production potential. Flavor is one of our most important characteristics and we typically only choose varieties that are rated as having “Excellent” flavor by Nourse Farms, the farm that produces our strawberry plants. Genetics plays a very big role in flavor, which is why we’ve learned to trust Nourse Farms and their expert recommendations. Every year we evaluate the plants and the characteristics of their fruit to decide which varieties we like best and want to plant again. In California and Florida, two major strawberry producing states, the varieties they plant are “ever-bearing.” These varieties have longer ripening seasons and have been bred to be a firmer berry with a longer shelf life to hold up to shipping. While these strawberries often look pretty, their flavor is no comparison to any local berry you will get in early summer. The berries we plant are “June-bearing.” While our season is shorter in comparison, we select varieties that ripen at different times so we can extend our season as long as we can. We have some early berries (Earliglow and our new Galetta), some mid-season, and some late ripening varieties.
After the harvest is done, we will renovate the field. This means we will destroy some of the plants to promote more runners and daughter plant production for the next year. We only harvest off our field for 2 years before it is destroyed and we start a new field in a different location. Why do we do this when the field is still producing? Well, we like to keep our patch as clean as we can and free from perennial weeds. The older the patch, the greater the chance that weed seeds such as dandelion and thistle will make their way into the patch. This is also a means of controlling any leaf disease we may see on a variety. A young, clean patch will usually have greater production and yields.
The best way to eat a strawberry is while standing in the patch with the sun overhead and a gentle breeze blowing across your face. While I hope you have the chance to do this, the second best option is to eat locally grown berries in season. Sliced berries are a great topper for a bowl of cereal, ice cream, pancakes, waffles, or added to a spinach salad. You can also preserve them to eat later in the year in the form of frozen berries, strawberry jam or syrup. Other popular ways to enjoy strawberries include strawberry shortcake, pie, or chocolate covered berries!
The weather looks good for this weekend’s festivities. We have lots of other crops to show you and there may be an opportunity to pick some crops including onions and zucchini! Of course we’ll have plenty of nice strawberries, delicious strawberry ice cream, and lots of good company as well!
Our cabins are spoken for, but we still have lots of room in our two campgrounds if you’d like to turn your farm visit into a weekend adventure.
We hope you enjoy your strawberries this season and we look forward to seeing you at Strawberry Day!
Cooking With This Week’s Box:
This Week’s Summary of Recipes & The Vegetables They Utilize:
Cilantro: Thai Coconut Soup with Spinach and Garlic Scapes (See Below)
This week I’d like to start off by welcoming the Peak Season CSA Vegetable Share members! And just in time for the peak season...strawberries! We’re really excited to be kicking off strawberry season this week and want to remind you that this weekend is our annual Strawberry Day event at the farm. The strawberry ice cream is scheduled to arrive on Thursday and Richard’s planning the tour route. We hope you’ll plan on joining us!
This is a busy week, so I’m really looking for quick, easy dishes to prepare. That’s how this Thai Coconut Soup with Spinach & Garlic Scapes (see below) evolved. I haven’t made cream of spinach soup…well, ever. For some reason it sounded good to me this week, but I didn’t have extra cream and I wanted to avoid that overcooked spinach flavor. I ended up going with a Thai coconut soup concept, but I blended fresh, raw garlic scapes and spinach into the flavorful coconut milk broth. This soup is easy and fast to make as well as being flavorful and filling. Garnish it with scallion greens and some of the fresh cilantro in this week’s box and your set.
Several years ago we featured a recipe for Spicy Ginger Pork Noodles with Bok Choi. This is the perfect week to make this recipe using hon tsai tai which is an acceptable substitute for the bok choi. You’ll make use of some of the garlic scapes, scallions and cilantro in this recipe. This will make a simple dinner and leftovers are equally as good!
Spicy Ginger Pork Noodles with Bok Choi
Another blast from the past recipe that crossed my mind this week was my White Turnip Salad with Miso Ginger Vinaigrette. This is a refreshing, light salad that rounds out a simple meal when served with a piece of grilled salmon or chicken. This salad makes use of both the greens and the turnips and is garnished with almonds for a little extra crunch.
This is definitely a week to enjoy salads and here is a recipe that was made for this week’s box contents. This Boston Lettuce Avocado Salad with Lime Dressing will make good use of the head lettuce in this week’s box along with the avocadoes and limes from the fruit box! It also includes cilantro…which just happens to be in this week’s vegetable box as well! This salad will make a nice light lunch along with some crackers and sliced French Breakfast Radishes.
So what are you going to do with the delicious strawberries in this week’s box, and the next few weeks to come? Well, this week I’d recommend using some of them to make a Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette. This light, sweet dressing will go very nicely on a salad made with either red oak or Boston lettuce. Garnish your salad with some crumbled feta and maybe a few croutons. This would actually be a nice salad to eat with a sandwich, so perhaps you’ll try this recipe for a Strawberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese! Strawberry season doesn’t last long, so you’ll want to eat them while you can! I never considered putting fresh strawberries on a sandwich, but this sounds delicious. The cheese this recipe calls for is similar to medium to sharp cheddar. I think this would be delicious with gouda or a smoked cheddar as well. While we’re talking strawberries, I want to share this cocktail with you as well. If you have any rhubarb left from last week’s box, consider pairing it with some of the strawberries this week to make Strawberry Rhubarb Gin Rickey cocktails to celebrate Father’s Day!
Strawberry Rhubarb Gin Ricky
Photo from Family Style Food
Some boxes this week will include baby arugula and others will have saute mix. If you receive the baby arugula, consider this recipe for Grilled Chicken with Arugula & Warm Chickpeas which will make a delicious, simple dinner. Eat it on the patio with some good crusty bread slathered with Garlic Scape Herb Butter (See below).
If you are looking for another way to put this week’s radishes to use, consider making this Dal recipe with Radish Raita. The radishes add a little zing to the yogurt which is served as a condiment for the dal. This recipe also calls for a generous portion of cooking greens. This is your opportunity to utilize any greens that may be lurking in your refrigerator. Radish or turnip tops, spinach or saute mix, or hon tsai tai would all be appropriate to include in this dish.
Well, we’ve almost reached the bottom of another CSA box. We’ve covered lunch and dinners for the week with quite a few dishes ranging from noodles to grilled cheese to soup. Lets not forget to eat well for breakfast too. If you receive saute mix in your box this week instead of arugula, use it to make this simple Greens & Grains Breakfast Scramble. The other delicious, simple vegetable dish I’ve enjoyed for breakfast this week is this recipe for Summer Squash with Basil Butter. Use the zucchini in this week’s box along with basil from your own herb garden! This makes a great vegetable to serve for brunch with eggs, bacon and toast. If you have any left, turn it into a breakfast quesadilla the next day with some Monterey Jack to hold the quesadilla filling together.
Greens & Grains Breakfast Scramble, Photo from epicurios
Before I close out this week’s Cooking With The Box article, I just want to invite any new peak season members to join our Facebook Group. This is a great forum to converse with other CSA members, share your recipes, ask questions and create a great connection with others in this HVF community of eaters. Have a great week and we look forward to seeing you at Strawberry Day!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Garlic Scapes
Garlic scape emerging from the hardneck garlic plant.
Garlic is a staple item in our kitchens, but bulbs of garlic to use in the form of cloves are hard to come by this time of the season. It’s too early for fresh bulbs of garlic and if you have any garlic remaining from last fall, it is likely sprouting by now. Even with a staple ingredient like garlic, we can continue to eat seasonally and locally when we are willing to consider garlic in its other forms. For the past several weeks we’ve enjoyed green garlic. Green garlic is best when it’s young and tender, but as it continues to grow the base starts to become a bulb and the layers of the plant become tough and less than desirable to eat. That’s just the way the garlic grows. Just as we outgrow green garlic, garlic scapes start to form and we take the next step in our seasonal garlic journey.
Garlic scapes are the long, skinny, green vegetable with a lot of curl that you’ll find in this
week’s box. Up until the early 90’s we used to remove scapes from the garlic plant and throw them on the ground! What were we thinking?! We were the first farm in the Midwest to start harvesting the scapes for use as a vegetable, thanks to one of our customers from Korea who asked us to save the garlic scapes for her so she could make pickles. We thought this was odd (remember we used to throw them on the ground), but saved some for her anyway. She was gracious enough to share a jar of pickled scapes with us and that was our introduction to how delicious they are to eat!
Garlic scapes are a curly shoot that forms on a hardneck garlic plant and grows up from the center of the plant in June. All of our varieties of garlic are hardneck garlic. This type of garlic produces scapes as part of nature’s plan for the plant to propagate itself in the soil. Right now we want the garlic plant to focus its energy into producing a nice bulb of garlic, so we remove the scape from the plant. Nearly the entire scape is edible and is best when harvested young and tender. You may need to trim off the skinny end near the little bulb as it is tough sometimes. Garlic scapes are very tender and do not need to be peeled…Easy! Scapes have a bright, mild garlic flavor. They can be used in any recipe that calls for garlic cloves, just chop them up and add them as you would clove garlic. They can be grilled or roasted, pickled, fermented, and make an awesome pesto such as this Cilantro & Garlic Scape Pesto recipe Dani Lind from Rooted Spoon Culinary shared with us back in 2015. Check out our recipe archive for other delicious recipes utilizing garlic scapes including Pickled Garlic Scapes and Tempura Garlic Scapes. Store your scapes in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them. They’ll store for 2-3 weeks.
Thai Coconut Soup with Spinach & Garlic Scapes
By Chef Andrea
Yield: 2 quarts
4 cups chicken stock
1 can coconut milk (15-16 oz can)
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp maple syrup
¼ tsp red chili flakes
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp lime juice
8 oz baby spinach
3-4 garlic scapes, cut into 1 inch pieces
Zest of one lime
Cilantro, chopped, to garnish
- Put the chicken stock and coconut milk in a medium sized sauce pan along with the minced ginger, fish sauce, soy sauce, maple syrup, chili flakes, ½ tsp salt and black pepper. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium to medium high heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, uncovered, to infuse the flavors.
- After 10 minutes, remove the coconut milk mixture from heat. The next step is to puree the soup in a blender. If you have a large blender container, you may be able to puree the whole batch of soup at one time. Otherwise you may need to blend the soup in two batches. First put about half of the spinach and the garlic scapes into the blender. Pour the hot coconut milk mixture over the spinach and add the lime juice. Secure the lid on the container and turn the blender on, starting on low speed and gradually increasing. If you are blending everything in one batch, stop, remove the lid and add the remainder of the spinach. If blending in two batches, blend the first batch until the spinach is chopped finely, but there is still a little texture to the mixture. Pour the soup into a bowl and then repeat the process with the remaining spinach.
- Once the soup is blended, stir in the lime zest and taste it. Adjust the seasoning to your liking with more salt, pepper and lime juice as needed.
- Serve the soup hot with chopped cilantro as a garnish.
Garlic Scape Herb Butter
Yield: 1 cup butter
Photo from Dishing up the Dirt
1 cup (2 sticks) good-quality unsalted butter, softened
1 garlic scape, minced
2 ½ Tbsp minced parsley
2 ½ Tbsp minced dill
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp sea salt
- Using a hand mixer or a small food processor, beat together the softened butter, garlic scape, herbs, lemon juice, and salt until well combined. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
This super-simple recipe was borrowed from Andrea Bemis’s book, Dishing Up the Dirt. She serves this butter as a spread for a fresh vegetable platter. This spread would be delicious on a radish sandwich, spread it on toast, use it for your morning eggs, or use it to cook other vegetable in such as sautéed spinach or sautéed baby white turnips with their greens.
By: Farmer Richard
It’s been 7 weeks since the last farm update we shared with you on April 19, written with a foot of snow on the ground! In that update we reported that this year sets the record for the coldest and wettest spring in the forty plus years since I started farming! Despite that crazy, wet, snowfall in late April, we were able to do our first spring planting on April 24 which is one full week later than any other year I’ve had farming. The late start to the season would suggest that all of the crops would be later and heat loving crops like tomatoes, sweet corn and peppers would be equally late and have a short season, barely making it before the first fall frost! Well folks, keep reading as I have some good news!!
We had to plan our greenhouse transplants for a “normal” year. We started planting in late February and actually had some really nice, sunny days in March. We have new plastic on all the houses, so our early seeded crops took off nicely and even when the days became more cloudy, the crops continued to grow and were ready pretty much on schedule. As soon as the skies cleared (and the snow melted away), we seized the few dry days we had to prepare ground, lay plastic (for some of our transplants like onions and tomatoes) and tried to keep our field plantings on schedule. When greenhouse transplants are ready, they really need to get to the field! However, just because you get a plant to the field it doesn’t mean it’s going to take off and grow, especially when it’s cold as it has been this spring.
We decided to invest the time and energy into covering some crops with row covers to help trap heat and accelerate plant growth. We cover some crops every year, but this year we had so many fields to cover that we had to fill an extra 1,000 sandbags and cut 1,000 new wire hoops to put over the beds to keep the covers from damaging the transplants under them. Without the hoops we risk giving the plants cover abrasion and we need the sandbags to hold all the covers in place! We couldn’t have covered all of these crops without our amazing crew! When we had only a few dry days to plant and cover, they were asking “can we work late to finish?” They repeatedly tell me, “if we don’t plant it and take care of it, we don’t have a crop to harvest!” It’s important to get the big picture!
Antonio, Jose Luis & Carlos laying out hoops to cover zucchini
We are well aware that it is our crew’s dedication to getting the crops planted on time, covered for protection from cold and storms and willingness to work late some nights that has changed the picture from coldest/latest spring to bring us pretty much back on schedule! Does anyone remember that heat wave we had at the end of May? We went from cool growing weather to blazing hot! Those covers we had on everything…..most of them had to come off because now we ran the risk of the crop getting too hot! We had to uncover the zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. When we did, we were really happy to see beautiful plants that now appear to be growing at a normal rate!
Strawberries right after the covers were taken off.
Vicente and the irrigation crew members receive some acknowledgement here as well. They have worked diligently to set up all the drip irrigation making it possible to give many of our new transplants a small drink of water mixed with fish and kelp fertilizer shortly after they were planted. The combination of water and nutrients followed by a week of unseasonable, warm temperatures and we really saw some growth under those covers! We are now ahead of schedule for zucchini, cucumber, melons, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers!!
Zucchini plants thriving after being uncovered!
We have two crops of sweet corn and beans up and growing and one planting of edamame. We lost about 25% of the first planting of corn to the Red Wing Black Birds. Unfortunately they found that they could dig up the corn seed that was planted shallow because the soil was cold and we wanted the seeds closer to the surface so they would receive heat from the sun. These were pretty determined birds that didn’t seem to mind the “scare eye” balloons and shiny streamers we put in the field to try to deter them. They ignored our tactics and continued to dig up the seeds. So our solution was to feed them organic corn on the edge of the field. That actually did work as a decoy and and we still have 75% of the crop! It’s hard to get upset with these birds, after all they have babies to feed and we’re always encouraging parents to feed their young ones more organic vegetables!
If the weather cooperates we can still have a great year! Right now we’re working really hard to battle the weeds. Rafael has done a superb job of flaming crops to kill weeds just before a crop comes up. Our local Cenex crew has been super cooperative in keeping our flamer filled and repaired. A few gallons of propane used on the precise day saves hours and hours of weeding later! The result of being diligent and staying on top of flaming is the main reason we have two beautiful crops of early carrots and five acres of parsnips, cilantro & dill! Rafael has also done a lot of mechanical cultivating and has been instrumental in directing other cultivating crews. Luis and Felix G have become masters at operating our new Kult/Cress German cultivator. They’ve learned how to work together to use this machine to mechanically kill a lot of weeds!
Luis and Felix G mastering the new cultivator
Andrea gets huge credit for keeping ahead of our frantic spring planting schedule. Simon has also been a key player in helping us keep the greenhouse plantings on track and has helped with our “hot water” seed treatment for some seeds and biological seed treatments for others. Andrea has also worked hard to maintain our seed inventory and provides planting plans for each crew every time they go out to plant. Gwen is now learning the ropes of managing our records once a planting is done. It’s super important that we have good, complete records both for our own use as well as for maintaining our ability to trace crops back.
HVF crew hand weeding parsnips.
Our Strawberry Day event is coming up on June 17, and yes it looks like we’ll have strawberries! We hope to see you at the party, or join us for the weekend and do some camping! We have had a few CSA member visitors this spring and we welcome more. If you’re interested in camping, we’d love to offer you a spot in one of our two campgrounds or reserve our cabins for your stay.
As I write this article on my back porch, I have marveled at the dozens of hummingbirds and the many bumblebees that I see coming to visit the columbine flowers in our yard. Our strawberries are being pollinated by small bees I collectively call “sweat bees.” As the light dims and the day turns to night, I am in awe of the whippoorwills singing to me. After a five year absence when we didn’t hear them in our valley, we’re very thankful that they’ve returned! Every night we listen as they sing us to sleep and every morning they wake us up like an alarm clock, right outside our window. Despite a challenging spring, life is good!
Bee pollinating the strawberries
Cooking With This Week’s Box:
This Week’s Summary of Recipes and the Vegetables They Utilize:
Baby White Turnips: Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza (See Below) OR Spring Celebration Bowl (See below)
Welcome to the first week of June! In our world, June means picking strawberries, sugar snap peas, and zucchini while still trying to stay ahead of the weeds. It’s going to be a very busy month!
This week we will be saying good-bye to asparagus, rhubarb and pea vine. If there is something you’ve been thinking about making with any of these three things, this is the week to do so! I’m going to use the asparagus to make Heidi Swanson’s Asparagus Panzanella. Panzanella is traditionally an Italian tomato and bread salad. This Asparagus Panzanella is a seasonal adaptation of this concept.
Asparagus Panzanella, picture by 101 Cookbooks
I want to try something new with the rhubarb this week. I stumbled across two delicious and interesting recipes this week. I haven’t decided yet which one I’m going to make, but the choices are Bourbon Roasted Rhubarb with Crème Anglaise or Strawberry Rhubarb Jalapeño Spread. I’m leaning towards cutting up the rhubarb and freezing it so I can make the Strawberry Rhubarb Jalapeño Spread once I have strawberries and a fresh jalapeño. The author of this recipe gives suggestions for using this spread including serving it on bread or crackers with cream cheese.
There was some nice action last week in our Facebook Group. Several people decided to use the pea vine to make this Pea Vine Quesadilla recipe from our archives. Another member suggested this Green Goddess Detox Salad which uses spinach & pea vine to form the greens base of a simple, delicious salad that has a lot of green in it! In addition to the spinach and pea vine, this recipe also uses green onions and calls for garlic (substitute green garlic or garlic scapes). Another great suggestion from the Facebook group last week is these Fried Greens Meatless Balls. This recipe is a great way to use a variety of greens. Some members chose to use the hon tsai tai and pea vine to make this recipe, but you could also include your radish tops, turnip tops and/or spinach. If you want to take it a step further, serve these meatless balls in a baguette and turn them into a vegetarian Bahn Mi sandwich. What a great idea! You can use sliced radishes and chopped green onions as toppings for the sandwich.
Fried Greens Meatless Balls, picture by Food52
This is one of those weeks when you will definitely “Eat your greens every day!” If you missed last week’s newsletter article about the value and vitality we get from eating greens in our diet, take a few minutes to read it here on our blog. Make a jar of this Maple
Mustard Balsamic Dressing and keep it in the refrigerator so you can make quick salads throughout the week. Just toss it with some of the salad mix or red oak lettuce and top off your salad with either hemp seeds or toasted pumpkin seeds. Sometimes I’ll add a hard boiled egg to the salad as well. This would be an excellent salad to serve along with Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza. What? Turnips on a pizza? I know it sounds odd, but I tried it and it is really good! You take the turnip greens and make them into a pesto to spread on a pizza crust in place of tomato sauce. The turnips get sliced thinly and cooked briefly before layering them on the pizza along with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. I also added some crumbled bacon which was a nice complement to the turnips. This is definitely a recipe worth trying and I’m sure I’ll be making it again!
Maple Mustard Balsamic Dressing,
picture by Green Healthy Cooking
The other recipe I’ve included this week featuring baby white turnips is Andrea Bemis’s Spring Celebration Bowl (See below). While written as a recipe, it’s more of a concept and launching pad that you can use to create your own version of a “Spring Celebration Bowl.” You form the base of the bowl with a cooked grain. She used quinoa, I used short grain brown rice. Then you roast asparagus and baby white turnips and add those to the bowl along with chopped cilantro, sliced radishes and drizzle the whole thing with a tahini miso sauce and sesame seeds. Top it off with a fried egg and you just created a delicious bowl of nourishing food that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The whole idea is that you can make all of the components in advance and then just heat and assemble the bowls when you’re ready to eat. It’s pretty simple food, but it’s really good and nourishing!
Lastly, we need to find a use for the gorgeous green Boston lettuce. I’m going to use it to make these Easy Cilantro-Lime Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups. While the recipe calls for diced tomatoes, tomatoes are not in season, so I’m going to substitute diced Red Radishes.
Ok, that brings us to the bottom of another CSA box. I hope you have an awesome week of cooking and I look forward to sharing next week’s box with you! –Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Baby White Turnips
Baby white turnips are a classy little vegetable we often describe as being “pristine.” They are classified as a salad turnip and are tender with a sweet, mild flavor. Both the roots and the green tops are edible and may be eaten raw or lightly cooked.
We plant baby white turnips for harvest early in the season and again in the fall when the growing conditions are cooler. We harvest them while they are still small and tender, when the sweet flavor matches its delicate appearance. Compared to the common purple top turnip, or other storage turnips, salad turnips are much more mild and subtle in both flavor and texture. The turnips we grow in the fall are meant for storage purposes and have a thicker skin compared to the thin skin of a salad turnip. Baby white turnips also mature much faster than beets, carrots and fennel, etc so they are a very important part of our spring menus until other root vegetables are ready for harvest. To prolong the shelf life, separate the greens from the roots with a knife and store separately in plastic bags in your refrigerator.
To prepare the turnips for use, separate the roots from the greens and wash both well to remove any dirt. Salad turnips have such a thin exterior layer, they do not need to be peeled. They are delicious eaten raw in a salad, or just munch on them with dip or hummus. You can also cook these turnips, but remember to keep the cooking time short as it doesn’t take much to cook them to fork tender. You can simply sautè them in butter, stir-fry or roast them. The greens may be added to raw salads, or lightly sautè or wilt them in a little butter. When cooking baby white turnips, remember to keep the cooking time short and the preparation simple. Cook them just until they are fork tender. You can also stir-fry or roast them and they are a nice addition to light and simple spring soups.
Spring Celebration Bowl
Yield: 4 servings
This recipe is from Andrea Bemis’s book, Dishing Up the Dirt. Andrea is a farmer on the west coast and here’s her intro to this recipe: “I like to cook up big batches of grains along with a few sauces or salad dressings on Sundays. This makes weekday mealtime (specifically lunch) really easy for us. Lunch is the toughest meal of the day because I have no prep time—but a simple bowl of grains, some veggies, fried egg, and a sauce makes for a stress-free and energizing midday meal. This soul-soothing bowl truly celebrates the bounty of spring.”
Tahini Miso Dressing
¼ cup tahini
1 Tbsp white miso
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup warm water, plus more to thin if necessary
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup dry quinoa
¾ to 1 pound asparagus
2 cups sugar snap peas*
Turnips from one bunch of baby white turnips, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus additional for frying eggs
3 to 4 red radishes, thinly sliced
1 bunch cilantro, minced
¼ cup sesame seeds
1. Prepare the dressing. Whisk together tahini, miso, and lemon juice with an immersion blender or hand whisk. Slowly add ¼ cup warm water, adding more, if necessary, until you reach your desired consistency. I like this dressing on the thicker side but feel free to add more water for a thinner sauce. Season with pepper and set it aside.
2. Prepare the quinoa according to the package instructions. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the asparagus, sugar snap peas, and turnips with the oil. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until they are lightly browned and tender, 18 to 20 minutes. Toss veggies halfway through cooking.
3. When you’re almost ready to serve, fry your eggs. Heat a little olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium. When the oil is hot, crack in the eggs. Cook until the whites are set and the yolks are still slightly runny, about 5 minutes.
4. To assemble, spoon quinoa into the bowls. Top each serving with roasted veggies, radishes, cilantro, and sesame seeds. Drizzle with the dressing and place a fried egg on top.
*Note From Chef Andrea: This recipe is very easy to adapt. I didn’t have quinoa, so I used short grain brown rice instead. We don’t have sugar snap peas yet, so in place of those I added steamed turnip greens. Use what you have in season and adapt this recipe as needed to match what’s seasonal and available!
Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza
Yield: 4 Servings (One 12 to 14 inch pizza)
Turnip Green Pesto
Turnip greens from one bunch baby white turnips, roughly chopped
1 garlic scape or 1 stalk green garlic, chopped
¼ cup pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, toasted
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp lemon juice
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to thin if necessary
Salt and pepper, to taste
Turnips from one bunch baby white turnips, thinly sliced
1 ball of pizza dough (homemade or store bought)
½ cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
4 oz cooked bacon or sautèed mushrooms (optional)
Recipe adapted from Andrea Bemis's Blog, Dishing Up the Dirt.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add all of the ingredients for the pesto (except the oil). Process until a paste is formed. With the motor running slowly add the oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 475° F. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced turnips and cook for about 1 minute per side (you may need to do this in batches).
- Roll out your pizza dough onto a pizza stone or pizza pan. Spread the pesto on top of the crust and layer on the sliced turnips, bacon or mushrooms if using either, both cheeses, and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes. Bake in the oven until the crust is golden and crisp and the cheese is bubbling. About 13-15 minutes.
- Remove the pizza from the oven. Slice and serve.
By Chef Andrea Yoder
Farmer Richard says “Eat your greens every day!” Yes, this is a direct quote and a message we try to follow in our own lives for our own health and well-being. “Greens” is a general term we use to refer to a wide category of vegetables that includes leafy vegetables such as kale, collards and Swiss chard. This group also includes “salad” type greens such as lettuce, arugula, baby kale mix, and spinach. Of course, we can’t forget the Asian greens including bok choi, tat soi, hon tsai tai, mizuna, komatsuna, and the list goes on! I’ve already listed twelve different vegetables and I didn’t even mention some of the unique greens we grow such as the pea vine in this week’s box, sorrel, amaranth greens, Egyptian spinach, nettles and Portuguese kale. Of course we can’t forget the bonus greens we get when we harvest root crops with their green tops still attached. This would include things such as turnip greens, radish tops, carrot tops and beet greens. In this short paragraph alone I’ve listed over twenty different vegetables that could be loosely categorized as “greens.” Oh man, I totally forgot to mention sweetheart cabbage, kohlrabi leaves, mustard, mibuna, broccoli raab, escarole, radicchio, and endive! If you’re eating out of a CSA box, you can see that it’s actually very easy to follow Farmer Richard’s advice to eat greens every day! I’ve listed thirty different greens and this list still isn’t all-inclusive!
Greens are not just something we grow as a “box filler.” We believe they are an important part of a seasonal diet and we try to provide a minimum of a salad green and a cooking green in most boxes over the course of the season. Of course there are some challenging times of the year when we are more limited in what’s available. For example, spinach and lettuce are challenging crops to grow in the heat of the summer. The seeds are difficult to germinate in hot soil and the product often looks tough and doesn’t taste very good when grown in this season. These crops are much happier when grown in the cool of spring and fall and actually taste much better! During these times of the season, there are other greens we can rely on, such as amaranth which actually thrives in the heat of summer, tastes good and is more nutritious than even spinach! Later in the season as winter approaches, we look for different greens that will be able to survive a frost and actually thrive when grown in colder conditions. This is why we grow vegetables such as escarole and radicchio. So, from a growing perspective, there is some strategy involved in selecting different greens for different parts of the season.
Amaranth thriving in the summer heat
The other reason we grow greens is because they are so nutritious and they are good for us! Food provides us with nourishment and vitality. What is vitality? Vitality refers to a feeling or state of aliveness when you are full of life and energy. The food we choose to eat is a big part of building vitality. When you choose fresh vegetables eaten as close to the point of harvest as possible, you are feeding your body living foods brimming with vitality. The nutrients and plant compounds that we ingest become part of our bodies and give us energy, nourishment, strength and health. Who doesn’t want to feel better! Greens in particular are powerhouses of vitality and nutrition. When we make an effort to include a variety of greens in our diet and commit to eating some kind of “green” every day, we provide our body with a diverse profile of nutrients to work with. Of course every green does not have the same nutritional profile. Iceberg lettuce does not contain the same nutrients as amaranth or kale. Nonetheless, greens contribute a whole host of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other beneficial phytochemicals to our diet that impact our health and well-being in many positive ways. Greens contribute nutrients to our diets that are important to many body systems including our skin, immunity, detoxification pathways, skeletal health and our circulatory system.
CSA Box contents from June 15, 2017
Do you realize how fortunate you are to be a CSA member and have the opportunity to eat
such a wide variety of foods, greens included? Greens have not always been a big part of my personal diet. My exposure to greens as a kid included a little bit of spinach, lettuce and cabbage. I remember seeing collard and turnip greens in the grocery store on occasion, but we never bought them. We didn’t know what to do with them! I admit, I’m envious of CSA kids and families who have the opportunity to be exposed to these greens and they just become part of the “normal” diet. It wasn’t until I became an adult, went to culinary school, ventured out of the Midwest and then landed on a vegetable farm that I even knew many of these green leafy vegetables even existed!
Have I convinced you yet that you should eat your greens every day? If you’re still teetering on the fence, here are a few more points to consider. We all like convenience and there are days when we just don’t have a lot of time to cook and prepare food. When you find yourself in this position, remember that many greens are actually nature’s version of “fast food!” Most greens don’t take long to cook or can be eaten raw. I like to fill my kitchen sink with water, get my salad spinner out and wash all of my greens for the week at one time. I put them in bags or containers in the refrigerator so they are ready for me to use. Then, throughout the week I can very easily incorporate greens into our meals with minimal prep time. Add some greens to your smoothie or scrambled eggs in the morning. Make a quick salad for lunch or make a quick wrap with a tortilla spread with cream cheese and packed with some greens. One of my go-to quick dinners is a seared pork chop or piece of salmon with sautéed greens. Salmon and pork chops are pretty fast cooking and you can add the greens to the same pan just before they are finished. You can have dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes!
Do you have bad memories of overcooked, boring, tasteless or bad tasting greens from prior experiences or your childhood? I understand. I can still smell that disgusting, overcooked spinach they tried to serve us as part of our elementary school lunch. Please understand, it doesn’t have to be that way! There are so many delicious ways to enjoy greens. Sometimes I like to keep it simple and just season greens with salt, pepper and maybe a splash of vinegar or lemon juice. You could also do something as easy as adding some sautéed garlic, onion or ginger to the pan and then drizzle a little bit of toasted sesame oil on the greens once they are cooked. Soy sauce, mushrooms, dried fruit, nuts, olives, pepper flakes, cream, cheese…these are all simple, complementary ways to dress up some simple greens.
Baby White Turnip and Yogurt Dressing Salad
I want to mention that some greens have a stronger flavor or sometimes bitterness (as in the case of escarole and radicchio) when eaten raw. If you taste a little piece of green and find the flavor to be too strong or pungent, don’t automatically eliminate it as a possibility of something you might like. Other ingredients help to balance the flavors of greens, making them more enjoyable. For example, I do not care to just eat a handful of arugula leaves on their own. I do, however, enjoy eating an arugula salad that has a light citrus vinaigrette, some shredded Parmesan, a few slices of sweet apple and some toasted almonds. The acidity from the vinaigrette, fat from the cheese and nuts and the sweetness of the apple all come together to create a harmonious flavor along with the arugula. Cooking also mellows out the flavors of greens. For example, mustard greens are pretty pungent when they are raw, but are very palatable and enjoyable when wilted into dishes along with beans, rice, etc.
Intimidated by cooking greens? Don’t be...in fact, let me just say you should never feel intimidated by a vegetable. It’s just a vegetable! Plus, we’re here to help you learn how to enjoy the vegetables in your box, greens included. Cooking greens is actually pretty simple when you consider a few basic things. Some greens are more delicate and tender, such as spinach, arugula, tat soi, saute greens, hon tsai tai, etc. These greens generally may be eaten either raw or cooked. If you’re cooking them, they are going to wilt down very quickly so you just need a quick-cooking method such as pan-steaming, stir-frying or sauteeing. These greens can usually be cooked in 5-10 minutes at most. Some greens, such as green curly kale, lacinato kale and collards, have a thicker leaf and will require a little longer cooking time to soften and tenderize the leaves. These greens are also often cooked with liquid, either braised on their own or incorporated into a soup, stew or other braised dish. It may take 15-20 minutes or more to cook these greens, depending on your preferences. If it’s your first time cooking a green that is new to you, just take a minute to consider its characteristics and that can help you decide the best way to prepare it. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ways of cooking greens and figure out your preferred methods.
Curried Nettle Stew with Chickpeas & Chicken
Historically our CSA members have been somewhat divided regarding greens. Half of the membership loves greens and wants more and the other half says “too many greens” and in some cases, “no more greens!” We try to strike a healthy balance and encourage everyone to approach these vegetables with an open mind and a willingness to at least try them. I truly hope you enjoy or learn to enjoy eating your greens and exploring ways to incorporate them into your meals each week. We do our best to grow nutritious food for you and hope you experience health, well-being and a greater sense of vitality when you eat vegetables from your farm. So, let's all make Farmer Richard proud…eat your greens today!
Farmer Richard eating a Nettle Cupcake
Cooking With This Week’s Box:
This Week’s Summary of Recipes & The Vegetables They Utilize:
Mini Romaine Lettuce: Romaine & Cheese Roll Ups (See explanation below)
Pea Vine: Pea Vine & Asparagus Soup with Buttermilk and Mint (See Below)
Welcome back for another week of spring cooking! This week we’ll make the transition into the month of June which means strawberries and summer vegetables are just around the corner! Mark your calendars for June 17 and join us at the farm for our annual Strawberry Day event!
The theme of this week’s newsletter and box is “Greens.” This week I used the pea vine to create a new recipe for Pea Vine & Asparagus Soup with Buttermilk and Mint. (See BELOW) This is a simple, brothy, light soup to prepare. The thing that’s so striking about it though is the bright pea flavor and aroma you experience when it’s freshly made. You can taste the vitality in this soup!
I enjoy the flavor of hon tsai tai most when it’s raw. So this week I’m going to make this Sesame-Soy and Hon Tsai Tai Chicken Salad that we featured in a 2014 newsletter. The recipe calls for baby white turnips, which aren’t quite ready. In their place, you can substitute roasted asparagus.
The remaining asparagus can be used to make this simple Fettucine with Asparagus. This will make a simple, light dinner.
I seldom get past red radishes with butter and salt…before I know it the whole bunch is gone. But this week I want to try this recipe for Radish & Scallion Salsa that can be used to make these Spicy Lentil Tacos with Radish & Scallion Salsa. You can serve these with either saute mix or salad mix as the recipe calls for “baby greens.” Any remaining greens will make a simple salad to serve with any leftover Skillet Chicken with Rhubarb and Green Garlic.
We’re down to a little head of romaine lettuce and some spicy radish tops. This week I’ve been eating the romaine lettuce as a snack. I take a leaf of the lettuce and spread a little bit of mayonnaise on the leaf and top it off with a slice of cheese. Wrap it up like a burrito and it makes a great afternoon snack! The radish tops have been making their way into Richard’s breakfast burritos this week. This week’s breakfast burrito has been bacon, scallion, radish tops scrambled with eggs and Parmesan. I spread a little sour cream on a warm flour tortilla and then wrap up the scrambled eggs in the tortilla. Simple, delicious, and a great way to use the tops of the radishes!
That’s a wrap...I’ll see you back next week to talk cooking and share more recipes!—Chef Andrea
Featured Vegetable: Hon Tsai Tai & Pea Vine
Hon tsai tai and pea vine hold an important place in our spring vegetable line-up. We rely on them to bridge the gap between the long winter and greater availability of other crops coming in from the fields. Hon tsai tai is in a group of plants referred to as “flowering brassicas.” While it is related to such vegetables as mustard greens and bok choi, what sets it apart is that it has beautiful purple stems that produce a sweet, delicate, edible yellow flower. The sweetness of the buds and flowers is the part we love the most! While other vegetables in the brassicafamily also produce flowers, they do so towards the end of their life cycle and at that point there are often undesirable flavor changes in the edible portion of the plant. Hon tsai tai is unique in that it produces the flower early in its life when all the parts of the plant still taste good.
Hon Tsai Tai in the field
Hon tsai tai has a mild mustard flavor. The entire plant is edible and may be eaten raw or cooked. The thin purple stems are more tender when the plant is young. While still flavorful, they may become more coarse as the plant matures, so should be cut very finely at this stage. Hon tsai tai is delicious in stir-fries or lightly steamed or sauteed, but also makes a stunning and flavorful addition to raw salads. A common preparation in Chinese cuisine is to quickly stir-fry hon tsai tai with garlic, onions, and ginger, then add oyster sauce. Store hon tsai tai loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready for use.
Pea Vine is actually an immature heirloom snow pea plant that is harvested before the vine starts to develop blossoms. It has a mild, sweet pea flavor and may be eaten raw or lightly cooked. While the tendrils and leaves are tender, the main stem can sometimes get tough depending on how mature the plant is at harvest. This week’s pea vine may be a bit more mature and you may find some of the lower stem is a bit more coarse. If you find this to be the case, pick the leaves, tendrils and thin, tender stems off the main stem. I must admit that I don’t like to spend a lot of time sorting through a bunch of pea vine and I prefer to use as much of the bunch as I can...plus there is a lot of flavor and nutrition in the stem! Thus, when the pea vine is more mature and some of the stems are a bit more coarse, I tend to use pea vine in ways that allow me to blend it in a blender or food processor to make things such as pea vine pesto or pea vine cream cheese.
The other way I like to use pea vine is in sauces, soups or broth. I generally chop the pea vine into smaller pieces and add it to hot broth or a sauce base. Let the pea vine simmer briefly to extract the flavor, but don’t overcook it or you’ll lose the bright pea flavor. Once you’ve infused the flavor of the pea vine into the sauce or broth, you can strain it out to remove it. If you’d like to extract just a little more flavor, blend the mixture before straining it. Store pea vine loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready for use.
Pea Vine & Asparagus Soup with Buttermilk & Mint
Yield: 3-4 servings
¾ cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp olive oil or butter
1-2 pieces green garlic
2-4 green onions
½ pound asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 bunch pea vine
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Fresh mint, to garnish (optional)
- First, measure out the buttermilk and set it aside. You want to allow it to come to room temperature while you prepare the soup.
- Heat olive oil or butter in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Separate the green tops from the lower white base of both the green garlic and green onions. Finely chop the white part of both the garlic and onions. You will need about ¾ cup total. Thinly slice the green tops and set aside.
- Add the chopped garlic and onions to the pan and saute them briefly, just until softened.
- Next, add the asparagus and broth to the pan along with freshly ground black pepper and a bit of salt. Bring the soup to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the asparagus is bright green and tender. Be careful not to overcook the asparagus!
- While the soup is simmering, prepare the pea vine. Remove the lower 1-2 inches of stem from the bunch and then roughly chop the remainder.
- Once the asparagus is tender, transfer the soup to a blender and add the chopped pea vine. If you have a large enough blender container you can puree the soup in one batch, otherwise you may need to puree it in two batches. Be careful when blending the hot soup.
- Blend the soup until all of the vegetables are incorporated and you have a smooth soup. You can choose to either strain the soup or leave it as is. If you like a silky, smooth soup, strain it through a fine mesh strainer. If you don’t mind a thicker soup, just move on to the next step and skip the step of straining.
- Once the soup is blended (and strained if you choose to do so), return the soup to the pan and reheat it just enough to bring it to the temperature you’d like to serve it at. Please note this soup is good when eaten hot, room temperature or as a chilled soup. The soup should be a bright green color at this point. You want to minimize any further cooking time so you can keep the bright green color and the perky pea flavor of the broth.
- Just before serving, stir in the buttermilk. Portion the soup into bowls and garnish with the sliced green onion and green garlic tops as well as fresh mint.
We enjoyed this soup served very simply with crackers, sliced radishes and a hard-boiled egg. As mentioned in the method, this soup is delicious eaten at any temperature.
Recipe created by Chef Andrea Yoder
Cooking With This Week’s Box:
This Week’s Summary of Recipes & The Vegetables They Utilize:
Rhubarb: Chipotle Rhubarb Sauce (see below) & Grandma Yoder’s Rhubarb Custard Pie (see below).
While it feels like spring has been slow to come this year, I’m always amazed at how the natural progression of vegetables always happens and each week we’re able to pack our CSA boxes. Just as ramps were winding down, asparagus started to come in and this week we’ve replaced the ramps with green garlic and Egyptian walking onions. We also have several new greens in this week’s box along with a splash of color from pretty little radishes and rhubarb. Yes, we have plenty of ingredients to use this week!
Our featured vegetable this week is rhubarb, which may be used in both sweet and savory preparations. One of this week’s recipes is for a Chipotle Rhubarb Sauce (see below) which may be used as an Enchilada Sauce or treat it like a barbecue sauce and use it to baste barbecued chicken, grilled pork chops, pork loin roast or serve it with grilled or pan-fried salmon. I used it on a pork loin roast and it was delicious! I mixed some of the leftover sauce into mayonnaise and used that as a spread to make sandwiches with the leftover pork. The sauce has a little kick of heat from the chipotle and the rhubarb gives it a nice tanginess that works well with meat.
Chipotle Rubarb Sauce on Pork Loin
If you prefer a sweet recipe for your rhubarb, I’ve shared my Grandma Yoder’s recipe for Rhubarb Custard Pie (see below). It’s been probably 20 years since I made this recipe, so I was happy to find the recipe on a card in my old recipe box. The recipe was one of my grandma’s typical recipes, written in the cryptic way that only my grandma and those who know her would understand. I had forgotten how easy this pie is to make! It really doesn’t take much to put it together, and don’t be afraid to use a prepared pie crust if you need to expedite the process even more. Grandma always used water in the filling, likely because it was more thrifty than using precious milk or cream as you normally would to make custard. If you prefer a creamier filling, substitute milk for the water in the recipe.
I hope asparagus season will continue for several more weeks as I have accumulated a stack of asparagus recipes I really want to try! This week I’m going to use the asparagus to make this recipe for Spring Salad with Asparagus and Soft Boiled Eggs. The mini romaine lettuce heads will work great for this salad. This recipe is written for a single serving, so you’ll need to double it if you’re serving two people or quadruple it for four servings. If you use both heads of lettuce for this recipe, you should be able to make four servings of this salad. This salad will be great for a light lunch or dinner served simply with a piece of buttered toast. You could also add a few sliced radishes!
I look forward to spring radishes every year and can’t get enough of them! My favorite way to eat them is dipped in salt, and a little butter. I came across this simple recipe for Radish Toasts with Scallions featured on the Edible Communities website. It’s the perfect combination of radish, butter and salt with a little extra flavor from onions. These simple toasts will be delicious using some of this week’s Egyptian walking onions. I’m going to make these for our weekend brunch served with a fried egg.
The green tops on this week’s radishes are beautiful! Don’t discard them, they are edible too! Radish greens are a nice spicy green that may be sautéed with other greens or on their own. I’ve been chopping them up and sautéing them with a little bit of green onion and green garlic and then I use that as the vegetable base for our scrambled eggs in the morning. Add a little bit of feta cheese and it’s a delicious and invigorating way to start the day! There’s also a recipe for Radish Top Pasta with Chickpeas and Parsley that we featured in a newsletter back in October 2016.
I’ve been anxiously and impatiently awaiting sorrel! This is a delicious, unique green that many people enjoy in soup such as this Sorrel & White Bean Soup. However, this week I am using the sorrel to make Frosty Banana & Sorrel Smoothies! This is a refreshing and invigorating way to start your day and a super-easy way to eat your greens!
Frosty Banana & Sorrel Smoothie
The pea vine surprised us and really grew over the past few days, so we decided to go ahead and include it in this week’s box. Every spring I look forward to making Pea Vine Cream Cheese. This is a very simple recipe and is especially good when made with the Egyptian walking onions. You can spread this on a bagel for breakfast or lunch or use it to make a wrap. We usually fill our wraps with leftover cooked chicken, salmon or a little crumble of bacon along with whatever fresh vegetables are available. This week you could add some diced red radish and roasted asparagus or some of the romaine lettuce.
Finally, the last item in your box is the green garlic. I’m going to use this week’s green garlic to make these savory Green Pancakes. The green in these pancakes comes from green garlic (both the greens and the lower white portion) as well as spinach. If you don’t have spinach in your refrigerator, you could also substitute nettles if you have some remaining from the previous delivery. This would also be a good way to use the radish tops! Serve these with a little dollop of sour cream and enjoy them with eggs or as a side dish along with fish or meat for dinner.
I hope you enjoy this week’s recipes and have fun cooking with these fresh, spring vegetables. We have more exciting vegetables coming up very soon including hon tsai tai and baby white turnips! See you next week!—Chef Andrea
Featured Vegetable: Rhubarb
By Chef Andrea
I grew up in a Mennonite & Amish community where it’s expected that everyone has a rhubarb plant in their back yard. I loved to harvest rhubarb and we looked forward to eating it every spring, mostly in the form of pie. In the world I came from, I only knew rhubarb as a “fruit” that paired well with sugar in my Grandma Yoder’s kitchen to create a delicious rhubarb custard pie or a rosy rhubarb sauce we would spoon over shortcake. My mother made a delicious rhubarb crisp, Aunt Marty made tasty rhubarb snack bars, and there was a lady at church that made this magical dessert that was simply called rhubarb fluff (and likely contained Cool Whip as the main ingredient.) It wasn’t until my adult life that I learned that rhubarb is really a vegetable and can be used in savory ways as well!
Rhubarb is thought to have originated in the areas of China, Mongolia and Russia. Before it was used as a food, rhubarb root was traditionally used as a medicine to treat a wide range of ailments. Its culinary use also started in the east where it was used in drinks and meat stews before later spreading to Europe and finally the United States at the end of the 18thcentury. It now holds a special spring time slot in our Midwestern diets.
Rhubarb is part of the knotweed family of plants that also includes sorrel and buckwheat. Both rhubarb and sorrel are perennial crops that we rely on to fill the gap in our diet between stored winter vegetables and spring planted crops. Both rhubarb and sorrel are high in oxalates which is what gives both of these vegetables that sour, tangy flavor characteristic of both. In the case of rhubarb, the stalk is the edible part of the plant and the leaves are discarded. Rhubarb may be eaten raw, however it is pretty sour in the raw state so most individuals prefer to cook it first.
While the tart, sour flavor of rhubarb is often masked or covered with copious amounts of sugar and sweeteners, it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of masking the characteristic flavors of rhubarb, why not use those innate qualities to your advantage?! Rhubarb pairs well with fatty meats such as duck, pork, chicken thighs and salmon. The tartness of the rhubarb helps to balance the fattiness of the meat as well as eggs and dairy products such as cheese & cream. In a previous newsletter, we published a recipe for Braised Pork Shoulder with Rhubarb- Red Wine Sauce. It also helps to wake up your taste buds which makes it easier for you to experience other flavors in a dish. The flavor of rhubarb can stand up to bolder spices such as curries, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon and ginger. Rhubarb can be used as a stir-fry vegetable, added towards the end of cooking so it just starts to soften, but still holds its shape. It can also be used to create a flavorful braising liquid and then sauce for pork and other meats. It also makes a delicious compote or chutney to eat alongside Indian food, spoon over grilled or roasted meats, or simply eat as a snack with cream cheese and crackers!
Of course, you’ll never go wrong with enjoying rhubarb in sweet preparations as well. Muffins, cakes, cobbler, fruit crisps and beverages are all excellent ways to use rhubarb. Rhubarb pairs well with fruits including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, lemon, oranges and apples.
Rhubarb should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to keep it fresh and firm until you’re ready to use it. If it gets a little floppy or dehydrated, don’t throw it away as it can still be used in dishes where you’re cooking the rhubarb. Rhubarb can also be frozen for later use. If you want to freeze rhubarb, simply wash the stalks, cut into smaller pieces (size is up to you) and put it in the freezer in a freezer bag. You do not need to cook rhubarb before freezing it, you can freeze it raw.
Chipotle Rhubarb Sauce
Yield: About 2 cups
This recipe was adapted from the recipe for Swiss Chard and Black Bean Enchiladas with Chipotle Sauce that was featured at naturallyella.com. You can use this sauce as an enchilada sauce or treat is like a barbecue sauce and baste it on grilled chicken or pork chops or slather it on a pork roast. It would also make a good dipping sauce for chicken strips or mix it with mayonnaise to make a sandwich spread.
1 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup minced onions
2 cups diced rhubarb
½ tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
2 ½ Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium. Add in onions and sauté until the onions become translucent, 4-5 minutes. Stir in rhubarb and continue to cook until rhubarb begins to soften, 3-4 minutes.
- Next, add remaining ingredients. Stir and bring sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let cook for 10-15 minutes. The rhubarb will begin to break down and sauce will smooth out as it cooks. You can leave it as a coarse, slightly chunky sauce, or you can puree it in a blender for a smooth sauce.
- Once the sauce is cooked, taste it and adjust the seasonings as needed by adding more salt, chipotle powder and/or maple syrup.
Grandma Yoder's Rhubarb Custard Pie
Yield: 1—8 or 9 inch pie
Pie Crust Dough, enough to make an 8 or 9 –inch single crust pie
2 ¼-2 ½ cups rhubarb, small to medium dice
5 Tbsp water
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1-2 Tbsp cold butter
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out pie dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Put the pie dough in an 8 or 9 inch pie pan and trim the excess dough from around the edges. Crimp the edge of the pie crust if you would like and then put the pie crust in the refrigerator until you finish preparing the filling.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat 2 eggs until pale yellow, then add the water and beat until the mixture is frothy. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Once the dry ingredients are combined, add them to the egg mixture and beat well to combine.
3. Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and put the diced rhubarb in the pie crust. You want enough rhubarb to fill the pan evenly. Pour the egg and sugar mixture over the rhubarb.
4. Dot the top of the pie with pieces of cold butter and sprinkle the top of the pie with cinnamon.
5. Bake the pie for 10 minutes at 400°F, then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue to bake for another 40-50 minutes. Bake the pie until the crust and top of the pie are golden brown. The center of the pie may still be soft, but it should not be runny.
6. Remove the pie from the oven and cool to room temperature before you cut and serve it. If you are not going to eat it right away it is best to store the pie in the refrigerator.
This recipe has been passed down through our family and is the rhubarb pie recipe my Grandma Yoder always made for us. Her original recipe was essentially a list of ingredients with a few comments eluding to the procedure. I interpreted the recipe, recreating it to match the memory of it in my mind! While I’ve never tried this, I think you could substitute milk for the water in the filling to give a creamier filling that is more similar to traditional custard.—Chef Andrea
By Chef Andrea
Fresh herbs bring a fragrant vitality to your kitchen as well as adding beauty to your landscape or patio if your garden space is limited to potted plants. Back in our early days of CSA, we used to include more herbs in the CSA shares. We wanted to give members fresh herbs to cook with, however we heard frequently from members that they were not using all of the herbs in a bunch before they went bad. We brought this issue up at a meeting with our members and one member suggested we send the herbs as plants that they can plant themselves. What a great idea and an even better way to accomplish the overall goal of making fresh herbs available for CSA members to incorporate in their meals! When you need a fresh herb, you simply cut it from your plant—it doesn’t get any fresher than that!
This is our second week of deliveries for herb packs, so hopefully by the end of this week everyone will have a pack! You can plant your herbs in a garden space or in pots to keep on your patio, porch or kitchen window sill if you’re limited on space. Choose good, loose garden soil mixed with lots of compost (up to 1” mixed into the soil if you’re planting into a garden space). The plants will do best in well-drained soil with full sun. If you don’t have a space with full sun exposure, partial sun will be ok too. If you have rabbits or other little herb-loving critters in your yard, you might need to fence your herbs to protect them.
If you need help identifying the herbs in your pack, please refer to this diagram as well as the pictures that follow.
There are four perennial herbs in your pack: Sage, Oregano, Savory, and Thyme. These herbs can survive the winter and will consistently come back year after year, so consider where you’d like to establish these herbs in your garden. Sage and oregano will get quite large, so it is best to give them about 2 square feet of space in the area you plant them in. Each year we cut off all the old wood from our sage plant to make room for the new growth. Thyme and savory are a bit smaller and only need about 1 square foot of space.
The remaining plants in your pack are annuals and include Italian Basil, Chervil, Italian Parsley and Curly Parsley. Annuals will only produce for this season and will not survive the winter outdoors. Italian basil and chervil need to be cut back regularly to delay flower and seed formation so they continue to produce usable leaves. If you see even the earliest sign of flowering in either of these plants, cut them back to keep them vegetative. Parsley will continue to produce throughout the season, so don’t be afraid to cut these plants back too. If you can’t use your herbs as fast as they are growing, cut the extra herbs anyway and preserve them. There is more information about that below. When harvesting your herbs, use a sharp knife or scissors so you can make a clean cut.
Herbs are a great way to add flavor and nutrition to your cooking. Sometimes herbs are used to provide a background flavor, such as when you add herbs to the pot when making stock, broth or braised dishes. Often the herbs are put in as whole stems or bundles, are left to impart flavor and then are removed before using or serving. Other times herbs are used as a garnish, added just before serving with the purpose of complementing the dish. Examples of this include adding a little fresh parsley to a bowl of chicken soup or a plate of pasta or perhaps you add a little fresh basil to a pizza after it comes out of the oven. Fresh herbs should be cut as close to serving as possible and with a sharp knife so you don’t bruise the leaves. The flavor and aroma from herbs comes from the oils in the herb and will lessen over time. This is also why you usually add fresh herbs to a dish at the end of cooking or shortly before serving. In contrast, dried herbs need more time to develop the flavors that have been preserved in the process of drying. Dried herbs are added earlier in the cooking process to give them time to develop and come together with the other ingredients in the dish. In culinary school, we were taught to strip the leaves from the stems on fresh herbs and either discard the stem or use it in stock. If the stem is tough or more like a stick, you will want to do this. However, some herb stems are tender, flavorful, juicy and totally usable! I often chop the leaf and the stem when I’m using fresh thyme, parsley, chervil and sometimes young basil stems. Sage, savory and oregano stems are sometimes a bit more coarse and not as usable.
There are some classic preparations from around the world that feature herbs not as a garnish, but rather as the main ingredient. When your plants are really producing and you have a lot of fresh herbs available, consider using them more as a main ingredient in some of these preparations. Pesto is a great example of this and is traditionally made with fresh basil. Gremolata is an Italian condiment made from fresh parsley, lemon and garlic. It is traditionally served with osso bucco, an Italian dish of braised veal shank, but can also be served with lamb, beef, chicken or bean dishes. Chermoulais a Morroccan herb condiment made with fresh herbs including parsley and cilantro. It is often served with fish and seafood dishes. Chimichurri is another parsley based condiment originating in Argentina. It also includes garlic and parsley as the main ingredients, but also often includes fresh oregano, red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar. Salsa Verde is another fresh herb sauce, different from the salsa verde made from tomatillos. The herbal version of Salsa Verde is a simple herb sauce, similar in some ways to a coarse pesto. It’s often made with parsley, but you could make it with any fresh herbs.
There are also some traditional salads that feature fresh herbs. Tabbouleh, a Lebanese salad, is a combination of bulgur, tomatoes and lots of fresh parsley and mint. The Italian Caprese salad is another delicious salad built on simple ingredients of fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and a little olive oil. You can also make your own simple vegetable and herb dishes with a few simple ingredients. In the middle of the summer I like to make a salad with whatever fresh vegetables are available. It could be something as simple as chopped peppers, shredded carrots, cucumbers and or tomatoes. Put them in a bowl and toss them with salt, pepper, olive oil and handfuls of whatever fresh herbs are available! These types of fresh vegetable salads make a delicious, fresh accompaniment to simple summer dinners which may be nothing more than a simple piece of grilled fish, a plate of fresh pasta or some good bread and cheese.
If you do have more herbs than you can use fresh, cut them back and preserve them. Some herbs, such as basil and parsley, can be pureed with a little oil and frozen in ice cube trays or muffin tins. Other herbs such as parsley, sage, oregano, thyme and savory are good as dried herbs. After you harvest them, give them a quick rinse and then dry them in a low-heat oven or in a food dehydrator. The other option is to bundle the herbs in small bundles and hang them in a dry place with good air flow and let them air dry. If you do this, make sure the herbs are more on the dry side when you bundle them and don’t put too many stems in a bundle or they may mold or take longer to dry. I hung bundles of herbs in my kitchen last year and they dried beautifully. Once your herbs are dried, strip them off the stem and put them in a glass jar.
Some herbs also have medicinal uses and can be preserved for use throughout the winter to keep your immune system strong and help treat colds, etc. Jean Schneider, Madison CSA member and an herbalist, shared some ideas for medicinal uses of some of the herbs in our herb packs in an article last September. You can read her full article on our blog and learn how to make sage honey and how to use thyme as a tea.
We hope you enjoy growing your own herbs and find interesting and delicious ways to make use of them throughout the year. They really are a simple way to brighten up your landscape as well as your meals and the benefits they offer go beyond the flavor.
By Farmer Richard
I’ve recently been reading Richard Louv’s books including this one entitled The Nature Principle, Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. He has spent years researching and experiencing the benefits of human contact and connection with the natural world. There are both physical and mental health benefits from being exposed to nature including the ability to help heal from illness, increased mental capacity and ability to learn and increased productivity in the work place. These benefits as well as others are seen even with the smallest and most brief, but regular contact with nature. Richard Louv’s books offer hundreds of ways for us to combat what he calls “nature deficit disorder.” The possibilities are endless, but many doable almost immediately. Here are just a few of his suggestions ranging from urban renewal and suburban community planning to incorporating nature into school programs and curriculum, growing and connecting with our food sources and bringing nature into our home environments with something as simple as a piece of wood or a plant.
We plan to do a more in depth follow-up in the future, but for now we want to introduce this concept and make some obvious contributions. As a CSA member with our farm, you have the opportunity to connect with nature in the form of your food every week and every day when you eat! You have the opportunity to visit our farm at any time to witness and participate in the act of growing food as well as experience the environment in which it is grown.
Farmer Richard sharing the farm's beauty with a young visitor
Another way you can connect with nature and your farm is to read our newsletters! We go to considerable effort to educate, provide transparency about our life and efforts to produce food in the most environmentally friendly and worker friendly way with respect and care for our natural world and the people and creatures involved. If you really want to immerse yourself, we can also offer you a campsite or cabin so you can stay overnight. Bring your family for a weekend so you can explore and experience the beauty and treasures in nature that we experience daily.
As I write this on the back porch, I hear the chorus of tree frogs, the “spring peeper” frogs, and the whippoorwills calling. Some nights you can hear the coyotes yipping and howling in the distance. Every morning we are greeted by the hooting of the Great-horned owls that live in our pine forest. This weekend, May 19, we are offering a very special opportunity to walk our land and woods with a very knowledgeable nature guide—“Little John.” We will visit a special little creek that is a natural spring coming from the hillside. We consider it a place of magic where we find special plants growing in the spring. Perhaps we’ll even be able to harvest a little watercress and of course we’ll be looking for morel mushrooms as well!
Watercress growing in natural spring
We’ll have more treasures to share with you, both ones we know about and others we discover along our way. Just this last week I found some beautiful ground nests of the Eastern towhee bird at the very foot of one of our effigy mounds that is shaped like a bear. I’d love to show you the delicate nest with its eggs and we’ll probably get to see the male and female pair that are caring for them! Our valley is particularly beautiful and filled with energy in the spring. You never know, this could be one of those life changing experiences, especially for young people, to experience the natural world in this season in a respectful and caring way. We so badly need more “respectful and caring” people in this world of disrespect and hatred. We hope you’ll join us!
Cooking With This Week’s Box:
Welcome back for another week of delicious spring cooking! I want to start by thanking all of the members who have been posting their recipes and pictures in the Facebook Group. You’ve been making some delicious creations and I appreciate the recipes you’re sharing with other members!
So this week’s main focus is Asparagus! In addition to the two recipes included with this week’s newsletter (see below), Food52 also has an interesting and diverse collection of asparagus recipes. Asparagus is truly one of nature’s fast food recipes, so at the very least just give it a quick saute and serve it with your dinner.
Sadly, this is our last week for ramps. If you haven’t made Ramp Pesto or Ramp Butter yet, this might be the week to do so. Both of these can be eaten when freshly made or you can freeze them in small portions and pull them out later in the year. Ramp pesto is delicious when simply tossed with pasta for a quick meal and ramp butter is good on bread, steak and mashed potatoes.
If this is your first time working with nettles this week, don’t be intimidated or afraid. Check out last week’s vegetable feature on our blog which will guide you in handling them and includes a delicious recipe for Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream. One of our members also shared this recipe for a Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie that some members made using nettles instead of spinach! What a great suggestion!
This week I’m going to make this Smoked Trout Spread using chives as the herb of choice. This will be great spread on a bagel for lunch or on crackers for a little afternoon snack. Kelly also reminded me that I need to make our annual batch of Chive & Parmesan Popcorn while chives are in season!
Lastly, we’re excited to be able to include rhubarb in this week’s box. While rhubarb may be used in both sweet and savory ways, I always need to squeeze in a dessert or two during rhubarb season so I’m starting on the sweet side this week. I found a recipe for Rhubarb Picnic Bars that I’m going to make for our market crew snack this weekend. On the same website there’s also a recipe for Rhubarb Spice Cake that looks really good!
Have a great week and enjoy the last of the ramps and the first of the asparagus. Next week we are looking forward to sending some gorgeous heads of lettuce along with the first radishes of the season!—Chef Andrea
Featured Vegetable: Asparagus
“Asparagus signifies spring regardless of the weather…..The closer to you asparagus is grown, the better it is.” This is an excerpt from vegetable chef expert, Deborah Madison, in the introduction for Asparagus in her book, The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Asparagus is a perennial crop that we rely on in the spring before other spring planted vegetables are ready. It is very weather dependent and it’s hard to predict when asparagus season will start. Once it does start producing, it responds dramatically to temperature. If you have a hot day, yields may double or triple compared to a colder day. We usually harvest at least three times a week, however sometimes we pick five to six days a week when it’s in peak production. Typically we see a harvest window of about 5 weeks, so pace yourself and plan out all the recipes you want to make!
As a perennial crop, it takes about three years to establish a field. During the first few years after asparagus crowns are planted, the goal is to build fertility in the field, provide adequate moisture, and allow the plant to capture solar energy and store it in the roots. Once we do start harvesting, we continue to focus on making sure there is enough fertility in the field as well as moisture. We also focus on weed control, which is very important in a field that will have the same crop for multiple growing seasons. In the world of conventional asparagus production, asparagus fields are often bare because they are sprayed with herbicide to keep weeds under control. Our asparagus fields are actually green because we employ a method of cover crops and hand weeding to control weeds instead of using chemicals. We sometimes also use mechanical cultivation, but the risk of damaging the root system is pretty great so we’re limited with this technique. While cover crops help to build soil fertility and help to decrease weed pressure, they also compete to a certain extent with the asparagus. We do also walk the fields and pull weeds by hand. As you can see, asparagus can be a labor-intensive and challenging crop to maintain! Our cost of production is greater than conventional production, so if you ever wonder why our price might be higher than other growers, this is why.
Asparagus may be eaten raw, although it’s most often cooked. It may be steamed, boiled, sautéed or roasted. The lower portion of the stem may be a little tough. If this is the case simply snap or cut that portion off. You can save these pieces and use them to flavor vegetable stock. Be careful not to overcook asparagus or it will become soft, mushy and a dull olive green color. Cook it just until it’s bright green and tender. If you are boiling or steaming it, either serve it immediately or put it in cold iced water to stop the cooking process.
Asparagus pairs well with other spring vegetables including ramps, mushrooms, green garlic and green onions and peas. It’s also often served with lemon, cheese, cream, eggs, mint, parsley, chives, dill, bacon, pancetta. Many times I never get past simply roasting asparagus as it is good when just eaten in this simple form. It is also delicious in a quiche, frittata, scrambled eggs, risotto, or savory tarts.
We hope you enjoy the bounty of this year’s asparagus harvest and eat it to your heart’s content. Remember, we’ll only have it for a few more weeks!
Asparagus and White Bean Salad with Feta and Lemon Dressing
Yield: 2 servings as a main dish or 4 servings as a side dish
“Served with crusty bread, this salad makes a terrific meal. White beans provide a delectable hearty-tenderness, without overwhelming the delicate asparagus. Tangy feta, zesty lemon, and a touch of mint give this salad a bright and refreshing flavor.”
1 pound asparagus, cut on an angle in 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp freshly grated lemon zest
⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked or canned white beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup thinly sliced radishes
2 Tbsp thinly sliced scallions (may substitute green garlic or ramps)
- Place the asparagus in a steamer basket, set over 1 ½ inches boiling water, and cover. Steam until the spears are tender-firm, 4 to 7 minutes depending on the thickness. Drain and place in an ice water bath (or under cold, running water) for a moment to stop the cooking. (Chef Andrea Note: You may also roast asparagus. Lay the spears on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and then roll the spears with your hand to coat them with the oil. Roast for 10-12 minutes in a 350°F oven. Remove and cool before cutting into smaller pieces and adding to the salad)
- Put the olive oil, lemon juice, fresh mint, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until well combined. Drain asparagus.
- Combine the beans, feta, radishes, and scallions in a large bowl. Add the asparagus pieces. Pour on the dressing and gently toss. Serve at room temperature or chilled. (Chef Andrea Note: You can turn also add a can of tuna, poached salmon or cooked chicken to this salad and serve it as a main dish.)
This recipe is featured in Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables, by our friend, Farmer John Peterson.
Sesame Noodles with Asparagus
“Whenever people ask what they can make a lot of easily and ahead of time for a party, this is what I suggest. It’s endlessly versatile-you can vary the vegetable to go with the season.”—Chef Deborah Madison in The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
3 Tbsp Chinese black or balsamic vinegar
3 ½ Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 (14-ounce) package thin Chinses egg noodles or rice noodles
10 green onions, including the firm greens, thinly sliced (may substitute ramps)
¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted until lightly browned
- Mix the marinade ingredients together, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the asparagus. Cook until bright green and tender but still firm, just a few minutes. Scoop the asparagus out, rinse it under cold water, and set on a towel to dry.
- Pull the noodles apart with your fingers, add them to the boiling water, and give them a quick stir. Boil until tender but not overly soft, tasting them often as they cook. It should take only a few minutes. Pour the noodles into a colander and immediately rinse under cold water. Shake off the excess water.
- Toss the noodles with all the marinade and most of the onions, sesame seeds, and asparagus. Mound them in a bowl or on a platter, then garnish with the remaining asparagus, onions, and sesame seeds.
Cooking With This Week’s Box:
This Week’s Summary of Recipes & the Vegetables They Utilize:
Nettles:Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream, Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles
Ramps: Spring Confetti Salad, Ramp Chimichurri Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream
Overwintered Parsnips: Parsnip Soup with Toasted Almonds, Parsnips with Brown Butter, Pecans & Maple
Overwintered Sunchokes: Sunchoke Chive Soup, Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles
Overwintered Spinach: Korean Spinach Salad
Black Spanish Radishes: Spring Confetti Salad, Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles, Roasted Black Radishes with Brown Butter, Chives & Rice or Black Radish Pickles
Chives: Sunchoke Chive Soup, Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles, Roasted Black Radishes with Brown Butter, Chives & Rice
Asparagus: Roasted Asparagus with Bread Crumbs & Herbs
We have a few new items in this week’s box including one of our spring favorites, Nettles! Don’t be intimidated by nettles, it’s just another vegetable that requires a bit of careful handling. The benefits you’ll reap from them far outweigh the little bit of time you’ll invest in preparing them. I’m excited to share two delicious nettle recipes with you this week. The Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream and Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles recipes are adaptations of recipes shared by members in our Facebook Group. Both recipes have several components, but neither recipe is complicated and once you have the different parts prepared the final product comes together pretty quickly. The pizza recipe is a bit on the rich side, so it would pair well with a simple, light spinach salad on the side. The Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles is a great dish to prepare in advance and stick in the refrigerator. It reheats well, so gives you a good, quick option for dinner on a busy night.
We’re fortunate to have a late spring which means we get to enjoy ramps again this week! I am going to make a batch of Ramp Chimichurri this week. This is great to have in the refrigerator as it has many uses. I like to eat this with grilled flank steak and then use the leftovers in scrambled eggs or as a sandwich spread. With the remaining bunch of ramps, I am going to make Chef Bri’s Spring Confetti Salad. This is a very light, simple salad that gets its flavor from ramps. It also includes black Spanish radishes and you could add a little carrot as well. This is a nice light salad to serve as a side dish or add some beans to it and turn it into a main dish.
I often overlook black Spanish radishes, but with limited vegetables to choose from this spring I’ve been challenged to find more ways to use them. In last week’s newsletter we featured a recipe for Roasted Black Radishes with Brown Butter, Chives & Rice. This is a pretty easy recipe to prepare and makes great leftovers. If you’re making the Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles recipe this week, prepare some extra rice and you can use it to make this recipe. I also came across this recipe for Black Radish Pickles I think these would be a great condiment to eat alongside sandwiches or added to spring salads over the next few weeks.
This week I’m going to use a small amount of sunchokes in the featured curry dish with nettles, but the remainder will be used to make Sunchoke Chive Soup, a recipe I developed when I was cooking for the crew my first year at the farm! If you are one of those individuals who does better with smaller portions of sunchokes, you’ll want to enjoy this soup in small quantities. I’m going to serve it with a Korean Spinach Salad that has hard-boiled eggs, bacon (optional) and a tangy, slightly sweet dressing. This is a salad my mother used to make when I was a kid.
Lastly, we are super-excited to be able to include asparagus in this week’s box! I really enjoy this simple recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Bread Crumbs & Herbs. We’ll enjoy this with over-easy eggs and a few pieces of bacon for Sunday morning brunch.
That brings us to the end of another CSA box. I always enjoy seeing pictures and learning about the different recipes you’re preparing in your own homes. Please feel free to shoot me an email with your latest creations or share them in our Facebook Group!
Featured Vegetable: Nettles (yes, the stinging kind...please read this feature for more information)
We look forward to nettles every spring as they are one of our “Wisconsin Super Foods!” They are one of the most nutrient-dense spring greens we have available early in the season. Please be forewarned that these nettles are the “stinging nettles” many might consider a weed. They have little fibers on the stems that contain formic acid which will give you a “stinging” sensation if you brush up against them before they’ve been washed or try to harvest them with bare hands. Washing the nettles will remove most of the stinging fibers and there is no sting remaining after they are cooked. We have vigorously washed the nettles in your box and put them in a bag to make handling easier for you. Even though we’ve washed them, I would still recommend you handle them carefully and avoid touching them with your bare hands prior to cooking them. With a flavor similar to spinach, they contain a whole host of nutrients including protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, boron, carotenoids and iron. They are also reported to relieve eczema and seasonal allergies.
Nettle leaves are perishable, so it is best to cook them shortly after you receive them. Even if you don’t want to eat them right away, it is better to store them in their cooked form for a few days until you are ready to use them. The cooking water actually makes a beautiful tea, so don’t discard it. You can drink the tea either hot or cold and mixed with honey and lemon. It’s delicious and makes the cooking process dual purpose. Nettles actually originated in Europe and Asia, so are a familiar vegetable in many of the cuisines from these regions. They are often used to make soups, but you can also use the nettles in a pesto, to top off a pizza, or incorporated into a risotto or pasta dishes. Nettle puree may be used in pasta or gnocchi dough to make a stunning appearance, or the nettles can be used in a ravioli filling. Nettles pair well with cheese, cream, mushrooms and other spring greens.
Please refer to the handling instructions and tips that follow before you open your bag and use the nettles. These guidelines will help you find success with your nettles! If you do get a little sting while handling nettles, it generally subsides within an hour. If the sting does persist you may find it soothing to apply a little aloe vera or make a paste with baking soda and water and put it on the affected area.
Please note, while most people eat nettles cooked, you can eat them raw as well. If you choose to eat them raw, we would advise you to do so in a form that requires them to be chopped finely either with a knife or in a food processor, such as nettle pesto. Some individuals may be sensitive to eating raw nettles, so if you have any hesitancy we’d recommend just blanching or thoroughly cooking the nettles before you eat them. Below we have outlined two methods for handling and blanching nettles. Choose whichever method you prefer and don’t let a little extra handling deter you from eating this wonderful spring vegetable!
Method #1: Blanch nettles whole with the leaves still attached to the main stem
Step 1: Wash the nettles
Use the bag the bunch of nettles is in as a barrier between your hand and the nettles. Hold the bunch of nettles with your hand on the outside of the bag. Pull the bag back and over your hand to expose the nettles. Carefully remove the twist tie and put the bunch of nettles in a sink of cold water. You can use your bag-covered hand to swish the nettles around in the water. Alternatively, you can use kitchen tongs or gloves to wash the nettles as well. While we have washed the nettles at the farm, it is good to do so again after removing the twist tie.
Step 2: Blanch the nettlesBlanching is a cooking process where a food, usually a vegetable, is cooked briefly in boiling water, then removed and immediately placed into iced water or placed under cold running water to stop the cooking process. In the case of nettles, blanching is important to remove the sting from the nettles so they are easier to work with.
Bring a pot of water to a vigorous boil. Using a pair of tongs, remove the nettles from the sink of water and transfer them to the boiling water. Submerge the nettles completely in the water and boil for about 2-3 minutes. The nettles will wilt and turn bright emerald green. Remove the nettles from the water and put them into a colander. Run cold water over them or plunge them into a bowl with iced water.
Step 3: Prepare the leaves for useNow that the nettles are cooked, you can handle them with your bare hands. Remove them from the cold water and squeeze out all the excess water. Using a paring knife or kitchen shears, cut the leaves and any small stems off the main stem. Discard the main stem and the leaves are now ready to use!
Method #2: Remove the leaves from the main stem before blanching
Step 1: Wash the nettles
Use the bag the bunch of nettles is in as a barrier between your hand and the bunch of nettles. Hold the bunch of nettles with your hand on the outside of the bag. Pull the bag back and over your hand to expose the nettles. Carefully remove the twist tie and put the bunch of nettles in a sink of cold water. You can use your bag-covered hand to swish the nettles around in the water. Alternatively, you can use kitchen tongs or gloves to wash the nettles as well. While we have washed the nettles at the farm, it is good to do so again after removing the twist tie.
Step 2: Cut the nettle leaves from the main stem
Use the bag as a glove so you can pick the stems up individually. Using kitchen shears, cut the leaves and small stems away from the main stem. Collect the leaves in a bowl and discard the main stem.
Step 3: Blanch the nettles
Blanching is a cooking process where a food, usually a vegetable, is cooked briefly in boiling water, then removed and immediately placed into iced water or placed under cold running water to stop the cooking process. In the case of nettles, blanching is important to remove the sting from the nettles so they are easier to work with.
Bring a pot of water to a vigorous boil. Using a pair of tongs, dump the nettle leaves into the boiling water and use the tongs to make sure they are fully submerged. Boil for about 2-3 minutes. The nettles will wilt and turn bright emerald green. Remove the nettles from the water using tongs or a slotted spoon and put them into a colander. Run cold water over them or plunge them into a bowl with iced water.
Step 4: Prepare the leaves for useNow that the nettles are cooked, you can handle them with your bare hands. Remove them from the cold water and squeeze out all the excess water. The leaves are now ready to use!
Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream
Yield: One 12-14 inch pizza
½ bu ramps*
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp dry white wine
½ cup heavy cream
Pizza dough for one 12-14 inch pizza
1 bunch nettles
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 oz fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 oz mozzarella, shredded or thinly sliced
Parmesan cheese, for serving
*If ramps are not available, substitute 2-4 stalks of green garlic or 2-4 spring scallions
Note from Chef Andrea: This is my adaptation of a recipe entitled “Pizza with Garlic Cream and Nettles” which may be found at foodandwine.com. My version has more cream sauce and toppings than the original recipe and is rich, but balanced. If you prefer a drier, lighter pizza, refer to the original recipe.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Clean ramps and separate the greens from the white bulbs. Thinly slice the leaves and set aside. Finely mince the bulbs.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add the minced ramp bulbs and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the white wine and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream and ⅛ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer over low heat until the mixture is reduced to about half the volume and has thickened. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and stir in the ramp greens. You should have about ½ cup of cream sauce. Set aside.
- Prepare the nettles by first washing them in a sink of cold water. Then, using a kitchen shears, trim the leaves from the stems and collect them in a bowl. Discard the stems.
- In a medium saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sautè just until softened. Add an additional ½ to 1 full tablespoon of oil to the pan and then add the nettle leaves. Season lightly with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan for 2-3 minutes or just until the nettle leaves are wilted. Remove from the heat.
- Prepare the pizza dough. Roll or press the dough into a 12-14 inch circle and place on a pizza stone or baking sheet dusted with cornmeal or semolina to keep it from sticking. Prebake the pizza crust for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Spread the ramp cream evenly on the crust, being sure to take it all the way to the edges. Next, spread the mozzarella cheese on top of the cream. Evenly spread the nettle and mushroom mixture on top of the cheese.
- Put the pizza back in the oven and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown, the cheese is melted and the cream is bubbling.
- Remove the pizza from the oven and grate Parmesan cheese over the top. Cut and serve.
Coconut Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
2 ½ tsp mild curry powder
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
1 (2 ½ inch) piece ginger, peeled
4 garlic cloves or 2-3 pieces green garlic, ramps or scallions, lower white portion only
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp coconut or vegetable oil, divided
½ cup sunchokes, small dice*
½ cup black Spanish radish, small dice*
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bunch nettles
¼ cup raw cashews, chopped
1 ½ tsp yellow and/or black mustard seeds
1 cup finely minced chives
Cooked rice, for serving
*You may substitute other root vegetables (such as carrots or parsnips) if sunchokes and black Spanish radishes are not available.
Note from Chef Andrea: This spring curry recipe was adapted from a recipe entitled “Coconut Chicken Curry in a Hurry” which may be found at epicurious.com. While there are several components to this recipe, it actually comes together pretty quickly. This is a good recipe to make in advance and then refrigerate the components individually. When you are ready to eat, simply reheat the rice and curry mixture and add the garnishes before serving. The fresh chives and the cashew/mustard seed garnish are a nice touch on the final dish.
- Slice chicken into 1-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl. Add curry powder, 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper. Mix the spices with the chicken and set aside.
- Place coconut milk, ginger and garlic (or green garlic, ramps or scallions if using) in a blender and process until the mixture is very smooth. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add the sunchokes and radishes and cook, stirring periodically, until the vegetables are tender and starting to brown. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes or just until the chicken starts to brown just a bit. Add the chickpeas and the coconut milk mixture to the pan and bring it to a simmer. Simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
- While the curry is simmering, prepare the nettles. First wash the nettles in a sink of cold water. Then, using a kitchen shears, trim the leaves off the stem and collect them in a bowl. Discard the stems. Once the sauce is thickened, add the nettles to the pan and cover just until the leaves have wilted. Remove the lid from the pan and stir to combine. Taste the sauce and season to your liking with salt and pepper as needed.
- Lastly, heat 2 tsp oil in a small sautè pan over medium heat. Add the chopped cashews and mustard seeds. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer mixture to a small bowl.
- Serve the curry mixture over rice and garnish each portion with some of the cashew & mustard seed mixture as well as 3-4 tablespoons of minced chives.
By Farmers Richard & Andrea
This week is our first of two deliveries for our Pollinator Packs. These are a garden pack of nine different native plants including grasses and flowers that have been carefully selected by Richard. These plants are beneficial for our environment for many reasons including providing habitat and food sources for a variety of species that provide pollination services, help control pests, and contribute to keeping our ecosystem healthy and in good balance. The idea for these Pollinator Packs came about back in 2015. In May 2015 the White House released the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. Many individuals felt this was a groundbreaking step towards acknowledging and mobilizing action around rapidly declining pollinator populations within North America. The importance of setting a national strategy to guide the protection, restoration, and enhancement of pollinator habitats is largely undisputed among scientists and others operating within conservation circles. However, this national plan failed to address a selection of key considerations that appeared to have been left out of the national plan. Primarily, questions surrounding pesticide use—including that of glyphosate and systemic insecticides like neonicotinoids, which have been directly linked to the decline of bee and other wildlife populations.
As organic farmers, we do not use these agrochemicals, but felt it was important that we fully understand the impact these chemicals are having on our pollinating creatures as well as our environment and human health. So, we launched a series of newsletters that we called “The Silent Spring Series.” Over the course of six articles, we sifted through a variety of resources, journal articles, etc in an effort to educate ourselves about some of these agrochemicals and the direct impact their use is having on the people, creatures and environments where they are being used. Sarah Janes Ugoretz authored these articles and fearlessly attacked these difficult topics. She reviewed the research and eloquently presented her findings in a way that we were all able to understand. We encourage you to take a moment to go back and read this series of articles as the information contained in them is very important to understand for our own health as well as the health of our environment, etc. Links to each of these articles are as follows:
About half way through this series, the content was feeling pretty heavy and a bit depressing. We started asking ourselves, “What can we do?” Sometimes these problems seem so grand and out of our control that it’s hard to know where to start, but we know that even small, individual efforts can collectively create great change and can make an impact. So the final article in our series focused on the future. Our goal with these articles was to leave our members with a sense of empowerment and some motivation. Empowerment in the sense that, if we’ve done our jobs well, our members would walk away with a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the use of agrochemicals and the depth of their impact. As a result of being better informed, our hope is that our members would then be motivated to look at ways they could bring about positive changes within their own circles.
We have extensive plantings of native grasses and flowers on our farm that we’ve established because we want to provide habitat and a food source that will attract and support a wide variety of beneficial creatures including bees, wasps, birds, butterflies, etc. These creatures help to support a healthy, balanced ecosystem on our farm, they aid our efforts in controlling pests in our vegetable crops, assist with pollinating our flowering crops such as squash, melons, cucumbers, etc and they are a joy to watch and observe. We know how to grow plants, so we thought perhaps we could grow these Pollinator Packs to share with our members. In this way we are able to expand the benefit these plants can offer beyond our own valley and into the neighborhoods where our members live, work and play.
So that is how Pollinator Packs came to be! We didn’t plant them last year and we had quite a few members asking for them, so we decided to do them again this year. We’re offering these, free of charge, to our CSA members and encourage each of you to consider where you might be able to plant these in your community. Some members have larger garden areas and are able to plant several packs while others are more limited in their space and do something as simple as plant them in pots on their balcony or patio. Every little bit helps and we guarantee you’ll enjoy watching these plants become established, grow and come back year after year. Of note, all of the plants in the pack are perennials.
This year the contents of the packs are different from two years ago and will be a good complement to the previous selections. Some of the flowers may not bloom until next season, so don't get discouraged if you don't see flowers this year. We purchased all of the seed from Prairie Moon Nursery, so if you’d like more information about any of these plants or others you can visit their website. They have a lot of interesting and valuable information to share.
If you did not request a Pollinator Pack(s) for this week’s deliveries, it’s not too late. We still have plenty of packs available and will be delivering them again next week. If you’d like to join in on the fun, please email Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know how many packs you’d like us to send with next week’s deliveries.
Here’s a little more information about the plants in this year’s pack as well as a diagram and pictures to help you identify each one:
Diagram of plants in your pack
Side Oats Grama: This is an interesting grass that produces tiny flowers during its summer bloom time in August and September. When the seed heads dry, they have an oat-like appearance. It is a food source or larval host for at least five types of skipper moths. It grows to about 2 feet high.
Great Coneflower: This is a large plant that can grow up to 6 feet tall and produces yellow flowers in June & July. It does best in full to partial sun.
Smooth Blue Aster: This plant has smooth leaves with a tough stem that sometimes has a shady blue appearance. It stands 4 feet tall and produces beautiful blue flowers over a long time from August through October. It does best in full to partial sun.
Purple Coneflower: This plant is also known as Echinacea purpurea and has a wide range of medicinal uses. It grows to a height of 4 feet and produces purple flowers from July-September. This plant is very attractive to bees, so get ready to see some action! It does best in full to partial sun.
Silky Wild Rye: This is a common woodland grass. It is a thicker grass than the others in our pack and actively grows during spring and fall when soil temperatures are cool. It grows to a height of 3 feet and does best in partial sun to shady areas.
Blue Sage: This is an easy, beautiful plant to grow in areas that are a bit more dry. It grows to a height of 5 feet and produces blue flowers in August and September that are very attractive to butterflies and bees. Because of its height, it has a tendency to flop over, so it benefits from being in close proximity to other plants that can provide some support or you may want to tie it to a stake to keep it upright. If you brush up against the leaves, you’ll pick up the typical scent of sage.
Blue-Ridge Buckbean: This is a legume also sometimes referred to as Carolina Lupine. This plant blooms early in the season in May and June when it produces bright yellow flowers. It grows to a height of 4 feet, does well in full to partial sun and can thrive in drier soil.
Purple Prairie Clover: This flowering plant has a shorter stature growing to just 2 feet tall. It produces purple flowers in July, August and September. It does well in full to partial sun and drier soil.
Blue Grama Grass: This is a drought-tolerant grass that will form a larger clump. It actively grows during the summer when the soil is warm and only grows to a height of 12 inches. It forms attractive blue seed heads in late summer to early fall.
Cooking with this Week’s Box
Black Spanish Radishes: Black Radish Salad or Roasted Black Radishes with Brown Butter, Chives & Rice (See Below)
I don’t know about you, but I know I’m ready to start cooking with fresh food again! I hope you had an enjoyable winter and are ready to jump back into some seasonal CSA cooking. If you aren’t familiar with the items in this week’s box, please take a little time to read this week’s main article. I also want to mention that we have an awesome Facebook Group that all CSA members are welcome to join. This is a great place to share recipes with other members as well as learn from and encourage each other. We also have all of our previous years’ newsletters archived on our website and have a searchable recipe database as well. Please use these resources to learn more about your food and find tasty recipes.
Lets get cooking. Black Spanish radishes may be a bit intimidating at first, but they are really quite manageable. If you like the crisp radish flavor, I’d recommend trying the Black Radish Salad featured back in one of our early 2007 newsletters. This is one of my original recipes and calls for mint and basil. If you don’t have these herbs available right now, you could also use some chives or any other fresh herbs of your choosing. If you are not much of a radish eater, try cooking them. You’ll likely be surprised by their sweet, mellow flavor. Try the recipe featured in this week’s newsletter for Roasted Black Radishes with Brown Butter, Chives & Rice. (See Below)
Just in case you didn’t have a chance to read the newsletter, I’m going to mention here that some people do have some abdominal discomfort when they eat sunchokes while others are unaffected. If you are eating them for the first time, try a small serving to start with. You may find a small quantity is well-tolerated. Roasted sunchokes are my favorite way to eat this vegetable because they get crispy on the exterior and are moist and fluffy inside. This week’s newsletter features my recipe for Chili Roasted Sunchokes (See Below). You can eat them on their own or make a combination of roasted sunchokes and black radishes. I also like to make sunchoke croutons to eat on top of a spinach salad. It’s a great way to eat a small portion where you can enjoy their flavor and crunch. I also like to make this Chile and Lime Sunchoke Salsa that is great on top of a piece of salmon or chicken tacos. Yes, I think chili and lime are great flavor complements for sunchokes!
Last but not least, we need to find a use for the pretty little bunch of chives. Andrea Beming has a great recipe for a Spring Parsnip Mash that includes fresh chives or check out Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Curried Egg Salad. Her version includes bits of apples & fresh chives to complement the curry seasonings.
Enjoy cooking out of the first box of the season and I look forward to meeting you back here next week with more delicious spring recipe ideas!—Chef Andrea
Roasted Black Radishes with Brown Butter, Chives & Rice
Yield: 4 servings as a side or 2 servings as a main
1-1¼ pound black radishes
2-3 tsp olive oil
Salt & black pepper, to taste
1 ½ Tbsp unsalted butter
¼ tsp red chile flakes
3 cups cooked rice
2 Tbsp minced chives
1 ½ tsp honey
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Recipe developed by Chef Andrea Yoder
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the black radishes into medium dice. Put the black radishes in a bowl and drizzle with 2-3 tsp olive oil. You will need just enough oil to thoroughly coat all the pieces. Season the radishes with salt and pepper and toss to evenly distribute the oil and seasonings. Place the radishes in a skillet or pan with an ovenproof handle.
- Roast the black radish in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the pieces are starting to brown and are tender. You may have to turn the radishes once or twice during the cooking time. Remove the pan from the oven and put on the stovetop. Turn the burner on to medium heat. Add the butter and red chile flakes to the pan. Once the butter is melted, cook until it starts to turn golden brown and nutty smelling, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to combine. Continue to cook the rice, stirring it frequently, until the rice is heated through.
- Remove the pan from heat and add the chives, vinegar and honey. Stir to combine, then adjust seasoning to your tastes by adding more salt, pepper, honey and/or vinegar as needed. Serve hot as a side dish or as a main item. If you have leftovers, consider reheating and serving with a fried egg on top!
Chili-Roasted Sunchokes (with a Crouton Variation)
By Chef Andrea Yoder
This is one of my original HVF recipes that I developed back in 2007! It’s still a favorite, so I thought I’d share it again along with a few variations you might want to consider.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
⅛ tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp lime juice
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut sunchokes into 1” pieces and put in a medium bowl.
- Combine the oil, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper and pour over the sunchokes. Toss sunchokes in oil mixture until well coated.
- Transfer the sunchokes to a baking dish or sheet tray and roast until tender, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with the lime juice just before serving.
- Croutons: If you cut the sunchoke pieces into a small dice size and roast them until they are crispy, you can use them as a “crouton” to garnish a spinach salad or a warm bowl of soup.
- Roasted sunchokes & black Spanish radishes. Consider using using ½ pound sunchokes and ½ pound black radishes. This is a good option for individuals who prefer to eat smaller quantities of sunchokes at a time.
- If you aren’t a fan of the chili and lime combination, make up your own spice blend or use something that is already blended such as Madras curry powder.
By Chef Andrea Yoder
Welcome to the 2018 CSA Season! Whether this is your first year “eating out of the box” or you are a seasoned veteran with years of experience, we hope you enjoy this journey of seasonal eating adventures. Learning to eat “out of the box” is a transition for your mind as well as your palate. Many of our longtime members tell us it takes a good three years to make the solid transition to change the way you approach mealtime as you build your meals and menus around the seasonal produce in your CSA box. Seasonal eating is not some new concept recently developed, it’s how our ancestor previously ate out of necessity! This way of eating makes us more aware of the seasonal changes in our environment. We look to the fields, or to our storage areas throughout the winter, to find the ingredients we’ll build our meals upon. In doing so, we can enjoy a wide variety of vegetables that are at their peak of freshness in their season and nourish our bodies in just the right way during that time of the year.
Early spring can be a challenging time of the year to eat local, seasonal food. Our ancestors didn’t have the luxury of going to the grocery store to purchase produce shipped in from other parts of the country during the winter. They had to store food from their fall harvests to sustain them until the next growing season. In the spring time, when their stores of winter root vegetables had dwindled, I’m sure they looked forward to the return of fresh, spring food. While the start of every spring can be difficult, this year in particular has been very challenging! This year spring came very late and we set a new record for the latest day to start working in the fields! We started on April 25, a full week later than our previous record-setting date. Thankfully we’ve been able to get a lot of crops planted and have really made some good progress, but it will be at least another 4 weeks or so before we can harvest anything from these plantings. Chef Joshua McFadden, in his book entitled Six Seasons, calls this time of year the “hunger gap.” “The ‘hunger gap’ is the period between the end of winter and beginning of spring vegetables. You’re either sick of winter vegetables or you’ve consumed them all, and you can’t wait for the first radishes and lettuces of spring to appear.” Thankfully, we have some other options and tactics we can employ to help us bridge this gap. While we’re waiting for the spring planted crops to mature, we continue to rely on storage vegetables such as black Spanish radishes, as well as overwintered root crops including sunchokes and parsnips. We also look to our wild areas where we can forage edible plants such as ramps. Lastly, we rely on perennial vegetables and fall-planted crops to bridge this gap. These are crops that are planted in the field and can survive a Midwestern winter. They start growing in the spring long before any other spring planted vegetable will be ready. These crops include chives, potato onions, Egyptian walking onions, green garlic, asparagus, sorrel and nettles. So while it might seem like slim-pickings this time of year, we still have plenty to sustain and nourish us!
We realize many members may not be familiar with the vegetable selections in this week’s box, but we want to reassure you that we are here to help you! We usually feature one vegetable each week in our newsletter and on our blog. Since this week’s box contains some unique selections, we couldn’t decide on just one vegetable to feature! So, we’re going to walk you through this week’s box and share a little more information about each one. We’ve featured nearly all of these vegetables in previous newsletters, so if you’re interested in reading more about a particular selection, please refer to the newsletter archive section on our website where you’ll be able to view these articles. I’ve provided links for you throughout the remainder of the article.
Lets tackle these mysterious looking Black Spanish Radishes first. These are the vegetable that have the black skin and resemble a turnip. Yes, the skin is supposed to be black! This is a storage radish with a tremendous ability to store for months. We harvested these late last fall and have kept them in cold storage. There are very few vegetables we grow that have a storage capability as long as Black Spanish Radishes. They are just as good now as they were five or six months ago! This is a pungent radish with a bit of a horseradish flavor. The flesh is dense, crisp and white. They may be eaten raw or cooked. If you are a radish-lover, you’ll likely appreciate their strong bite. If you aren’t as keen on the flavor of a strong radish, you’ll want to consider cooking them or peeling them to lessen the pungency. Cooking mellows the radish flavor significantly and you’ll actually taste more of their sweetness. You can roast, steam or saute black Spanish radishes, but they are also good added to soups, stews and other cooked preparations. If you are eating them raw, slice them thinly and eat them with a bit of salt or layer them on a piece of good bread with some butter for a radish sandwich. You can also shred or dice the radish and mix them into sour cream to make a nice condiment for beef, lentils, pork, etc.
Sunchokes are another unique vegetable in this week’s spring lineup. These are the knobby root vegetables that kind of resemble ginger or a potato. We left some of last year’s crop in the field to “overwinter” and harvested them this spring. It was a hard winter for overwintered vegetables and we are seeing some surface skin discoloration on this year’s crop. It is only on the surface, so simply peel off the skin and you’ll find a dense, white, crisp flesh inside. They have a mild, nutty flavor and may be eaten raw or cooked. When cooked, sunchokes can be prepared in any way you might prepare a potato. They are excellent when roasted, but also make a nice smooth cream soup. They are also good in stir-fry and resemble a water-chestnut for this use. If you prefer to eat them raw, you can use them in salads, or turn them into a salsa-type condiment. This next bit of information is important, so listen up. Sunchokes contain a non-digestible fiber called inulin which is actually a pre-biotic nutrient and very beneficial for our health. Prebiotics are an important food source for the beneficial bacteria in our large intestine. While the health benefits are great, some people do experience abdominal discomfort and flatulence when they eat sunchokes. In some individuals, the response is dose-dependent, so if you are eating sunchokes for the first time, do so in small quantities until you see what your body’s response will be. I like to use sunchokes in small quantities in preparations where they can be a complement to the food I’m serving instead of the main attraction. I wrote a more extensive article about sunchokes in our May 14, 2016 newsletter which you’ll find on our website. I also included a recipe in that newsletter for a sunchoke salsa that is easy to make and can be used as a condiment to enhance fish, chicken and beef dishes. You can also serve it with tacos or eat it with your scrambled eggs and toast in the morning.
We also overwinter parsnips. Parsnips are the long carrot-like vegetable in your box. This past winter was also hard on these parsnips and they came out of the ground looking pretty rough. Nonetheless, we’re happy to have them and the gray and brown discoloration you see on the skin is only on the surface. Just use a vegetable peeler to take away the outer skin and you’ll find the flesh inside is creamy white. Over the winter, parsnips convert more starches into sugar as a means of survival. The benefit to us is they are super sweet and delicious! My favorite way to use overwintered parsnips is to simply cut them into slices, toss them with some oil, salt and pepper and roast them until they are golden. You can also use them in soups, add them to pot roast, use them to make fritters or put them in baked goods in any way you might typically use shredded carrots. We featured overwintered parsnips in our newsletter on April 25, 2014. Refer to this newsletter for more information and a recipe for Parsnips with Brown Butter, Pecans & Maple.
Overwintered parsnips ready to come out of the ground!
Ramps are an exciting spring delicacy that has become more recognized and popular over time. We do not cultivate ramps. They grow on wooded hillsides in our valley and we wild-harvest them. They are one of the first beacons of spring that we see and have a very short season of availability ranging from 3-5 weeks at most. Ramps have a lily-like leaf with an onion-like bulb on the bottom. They have a distinct onion/garlic flavor that is best described as “rampy.” You can eat both the leaf and the bulb, you only need to trim away the root end. When eaten raw, ramps have a very pungent, sharp flavor. Once they are cooked the flavor mellows a bit. There are many ways you can use ramps and I’ve found that most people who know ramps have their list of favorite ramp recipes that they make every year. Ramps pair well with eggs, so one of the easiest ways to enjoy them is in scrambled eggs. They are also excellent when used in pasta dishes or risotto and they pair well in any preparation that includes cream, mushrooms and other spring vegetables such as asparagus and spinach. The leaves are very delicate, so wrap your bunch of ramps in a damp paper towel and store them in the refrigerator. If you’d like to read more about ramps, including our methods for sustainable harvests, refer to the newsletter article we wrote last year on April 22, 2017.
Finally, we come to two more familiar vegetables—overwintered spinach and chives. We look forward to overwintered spinach every year as it is the most flavorful, sweet spinach of the year. The spinach was planted last fall and we are harvesting the new growth from those plants this spring. The leaves on overwintered spinach are thick, yet tender. After a long winter without greens, spinach salads are a refreshing treat! If you aren’t a salad eater, consider using the spinach on sandwiches or wilt it into egg or pasta dishes. Chives are the last vegetable we’ve included in this week’s box. Aside from ramps they are the earliest onion-type vegetables we have in the spring. They add a bright, flavorful element to any dish ranging from salads, to vinaigrettes, sauces and spreads. Chive cream cheese is one of the easiest things to make with chives. I also know we have a few CSA kids in our membership who are known to just munch on raw chives…sometimes consuming the entire bunch by themselves!
I hope you find this information helpful as you cook through and explore the contents of this week’s box. For more recipe ideas and culinary suggestions, visit the “Cooking With This Week’s Box” article on our blog. I’ll include recipe suggestions and links for every item in the box. Of course, you can also just give us a call or send us an email if you come across a culinary question that you can’t find an answer for! Have fun and enjoy the season!
View after the April 18th snowfall and new
crew members below that we hope
won't be staying around too long!
Well friends, if we had to choose one word to describe April it would be “Challenging!” Over the course of the past forty years of farming, we are typically able to start field work and planting late March or the first of April. Sometimes the weather is still cool and things grow slowly, but at least we can start marking things off the planting list. Historically, April 18 was the latest date we started field work which means we’ve set a new record this year for the latest spring! Here we are on April 19 with nearly a foot of snow (although it looks like it could melt fast)! Back in March it looked like we were going to have an early spring and we pushed hard to secure appointments with the consulate in Mexico so our crew members could get their visas and return to Mexico by the first of April. We are thankful to have 29 of our crew members back at the farm. They are ready and willing to work and have helped us get caught up on our greenhouse work as well as tackle some big cleaning and repair projects. Unfortunately, they’ve had to take some days off as there are limits to what we can do on days when it’s snowing, raining or just too muddy and cold to do what needs to be done in the field. They’ve been advised to rest and take advantage of the down time as we have some long days of work ahead of us as soon as this snow melts! In those years when we were able to start our field work earlier, it didn’t necessarily mean crops were ready much earlier. As mentioned, things grow more slowly in the cool of the spring than they do when they are planted later when the day and night temperatures are higher. It is helpful though when we can get things in the ground, even if they grow slowly, as it spreads out our workload. Now we’re facing some long days and the time crunch to get it all done!
Head lettuce transplants in greenhouse
While we enjoyed some gorgeous sunny days and warmer temperatures in March, April has definitely proven itself to be wet and cold. Last week we had 2.75 inches of hard rain accompanied by hail. That was followed by about 8 inches of wet, heavy snow over the weekend. Much of the snow had melted away, but now our valley is once again blanketed in white. We know, all too well, that sometimes Mother Nature trumps us despite our best efforts to overcome weather challenges such as these. There isn’t much we can do aside from being prepared to hit the ground running and put forth our best effort as soon as the snow melts away and we can get into the fields. We’re preparing machinery, getting seeds ready and making sure everyone is ready to go when the conditions are favorable. With a few warm, sunny days, the picture could change and we just might get a window of opportunity.
Our greenhouses are nearly full and the plants look really good right now. The onions and our first plantings of broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, cabbage, kale and collards are residing in our cold frame greenhouse where they enjoy breezy days and chilly nights with temperatures dipping down into the 40’s. Our goal is to keep them on the cool side to toughen them up and keep them growing at a moderate rate so they develop into strong, sturdy plants. The peppers and celeriac plants were transplanted into larger cell trays last week and they look very good. Earlier this week Leonardo, Lupe, Miguel, Pepe and Leon spent a sunny day in the greenhouse planting herb packs for you! We are planning to deliver them in mid to late May so you can plant them in your own garden space or put them in pots on your patio and enjoy fresh herbs throughout the season. Our pollinator packs are also looking really good!
Celeriac seedlings in the greenhouse
We were scheduled to plant zucchini this week, but we’re planning to delay that planting a week or so. Zucchini grows very fast and when it’s ready it needs to go to the field. We are hoping to transplant some head lettuce into our tunnel greenhouse next week, if the weather is a bit more favorable. The goal is that we would have mini romaine head lettuce by late May, a few weeks ahead of lettuce that will be transplanted into the field.
French Breakfast Radishes
CSA deliveries start in just two more weeks. What does all this snow mean for the start of our CSA deliveries? Good question. The early boxes may be limited in variety, but we’re hoping to fill them with delicious overwintered spinach, parsnips, sunchokes and ramps! If you’ve been with us in previous CSA seasons you know that we often struggle to have overwintered spinach and ramps in our early CSA boxes. Sometimes these crops come in early in April and are nearly done by the start of CSA. We’ve even had years when we aren’t able to include ramps in May boxes. Perhaps the silver lining in this year’s late spring will be that we get to enjoy the luxury of more ramps and overwintered spinach in our early boxes! That’s not such a bad tradeoff! Yes, the early boxes might be more limited, but we do have our perennial crops to rely on until we can start harvesting spring planted crops such as radishes, salad mix, bok choi, etc. Some of those perennial crops include asparagus, sorrel, chives and nettles. We will also have green onions that were planted last fall to round out the selections until the green garlic and spring scallions are ready. This is the adventure of eating and cooking with the seasons.
This week we welcomed a new crew member to our team. Gwen has joined us in the office to help Kelly and Andrea with a wide variety of tasks. We’re very happy to have her on our team and look forward to teaching her the ins and outs of managing the many details of a vegetable farm! On April 30 we anticipate our final eleven crew members will arrive for their first day of work. We’ll be welcoming four new crew members to our team this year and are anxious to meet them.
Our CSA numbers are still down and we still have plenty of shares available. If you haven’t sent in your order yet, please do so soon! We appreciate the referrals we’ve received and ask that you continue to share your CSA experience with your friends, neighbors and co-workers. We’re looking forward to getting this growing season underway and thank you for your continued support of our farm!