Harmony Valley Farm

Harmony Valley Farm

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food….Meet Farmer Richard de Wilde

22 May 2019 20:07

By Gwen Anderson

I’ve worked with Richard for over a year, and seen him nearly every day.  I’ve always found it fascinating to talk with him; his enthusiasm and passion are contagious, he is a wealth of knowledge, and has a patience in teaching that I admire.  When Andrea asked me to write this article, I was more than happy to do so.  It was a chance to hear more interesting stories about the man straight from the source.  Many of our long time members may know Richard already, but there may be many of you who don’t know him so well.  After all, I see him all the time and I still found out a lot during our “interview” that I can share with you! 

Richard's Senior Photo
Richard grew up making hay and milking cows on a farm on the plains of South Dakota.  His father had a herd of 100 Black Angus beef, and for a few years they had some pigs and sheep as well.  Before his feet could reach the pedals on the one ton Chevy truck they used to haul oats, Richard was helping his father farm.  He would also help his grandparents’ garden, and loved to spend time in the kitchen with his mother making banana bread.

When he went off to college at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Richard thought “I want to work with my head, not my hands.”  He had an advisor who suggested he go into hard rock mining due to his love of nature.  The advisor told Richard he could have a “good, professional, high paying job and still be out in nature.”  After graduation, he got a job at Fort Snelling with the Corps of Mining Engineers, but not even a year had gone by before his thoughts began to wander. He would sit at his desk, his mind drawn to memories of beautiful fields of blue flax blossoms swaying in the wind.  It didn’t take long for the thought “I want to farm” to form in Richard’s mind, so he left the mining engineers, rented half an acre of land south of the Twin Cities and got back to doing what he loved.

Blue Gentian Farm, where Richard farmed with in the early years.
Once the farm was rented, Richard took the time to get to know his neighbors, one of which was a school for special needs children.  Richard has a soft spot for well-behaved children, so when he wasn’t farming, he would volunteer at the school. As he got to know the children better, he realized he had found a second calling.  Richard began studying and earned a master’s degree in Special Education with a focus on autism from Mankato State.  Upon graduation, he worked in special education in the St Paul public school system.  Later, he found meaningful work in being a foster parent for teenage boys who needed extra care and attention by running a specially licensed therapeutic foster home on the farm.

Being an organic farmer was never a question for Richard.  His Grandpa Nick was a dedicated organic farmer and had helped shape Richard’s opinions on the matter.  When agro chemicals came out after World War II, Grandpa Nick refused to use them, and suffered being called old fashioned and unwilling to change with the times because of it.  Richard always had a love for nature and all things wild, and Grandpa Nick’s success without using chemicals as well as Rachel Carlson’s book A Silent Spring cemented Richard’s desire to not use them himself.  “When I read about agro chemicals, I decided I didn’t want anything to do with them.”

Richard cultivating broccoli with his horses,
King and Prince.
Richard was one of the pioneers of organic farming.  He was a trail blazer for integrating cover crops, making compost, and attracting beneficial insects, birds and bats well before there were any large scale conversations happening about such things.  There was no such thing as organic certification when he started his farm, he just wanted to do what was right for the soil and nature.  So he experimented, learned what worked and what didn’t, and taught what he had learned to other farmers.  Richard sold his vegetables to the new co-ops in the Twin Cities where people went to buy healthy, organic vegetables.

In his early days, Richard had a chance to meet the Dakota County extension agent who told him “You can have an organic garden, but if you are talking about making a living farming, you can’t do it organically.”  The conversation spurred Richard to prove him wrong; he was going to do the right thing and he was going to make a living doing it.  (Fast-forward 20 years, that same County extension agent had changed his tune and met up with Richard again at a MOSES conference to say “You’ve been right all along: it turns out you can make a living farming organically!”)

By the mid-1980’s, suburbia was encroaching on Richard’s farm south of the Twin Cities to the point where it was time to move on.  When he left the fields he’d been farming for 12 years, he knew where he wanted to go: the Driftless Region.  Richard had been there several times before, and he loved the rolling hills and valleys, the waterways, and overall natural beauty the area had to offer.  The soil was rich and healthy, and the hills made a beautiful backdrop for the fields he worked.  After all, seeing a well-cared for field thriving in a natural surround is one of Richard’s favorite things about being a farmer.

Adrian (left) and Ari (right), The Melon Boys
Richard spent the first few years at Harmony Valley Farm building up soil health, structures, and business relationships.  He was still selling his produce in the Twin Cities and found a new market in Madison at the Dane County Farmers’ Market.  In 1989, Richard’s son, Ari, was born and soon became part of the daily farming operation.  Ari and his step-brother, Adrian, grew melons and sold them at the Farmers’ Market, becoming known as the “Melon Boys.”  As business grew, Richard began expanding the farm by leasing more nearby land and converting it to organic status.

When Richard and then partner Linda Halley added Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to their farming model in 1993, they did so out of a desire to have a direct connection with more people than they could reach at the Farmers’ Market.  CSA birthed on farm events like Strawberry Day, which allowed Richard to meet the families he was growing food for face to face.  Being able to watch the children from those first CSA families grow into smart, healthy adults makes farming worthwhile for him.  Many of those children are now graduating from college, starting their own families and joining CSA’s of their own!

Nowadays, Richard sees himself as a support for the great crew he has to help with the farm.  He gives information and direction when needed to a crew who want to do the best job they can.  Harmony Valley Farm is a mature farm, with all the systems and infrastructure in place, no longer looking to expand.  With growth a thing of the past, Richard is now focused on making the farm better.  “I believe if you aren’t making improvements, you are going downhill,” Richard said.  “We aren’t looking for more, but better; always better.”  He is also selecting and training the next generation of Harmony Valley Farm farmers

Richard helping the crew harvest winter squash
“There is a great deal of joy in seeing things work, when things go smoothly,” Richard said about his farm and crew.  He gets great satisfaction out of a job well done.  “How many people, for their life’s work, get to have a job where you are outside in nature, watching things grow, you grow a lot of healthy food for a huge amount of appreciative people, and everything works?  Yes—I’ve worked too hard for most of my life, but I feel fortunate to be where we are today.”

So who is Richard de Wilde?  He is a man of perseverance and innovation.  He is a visionary who is not afraid to take on challenges to bring his dreams to fruition.  In his own words, he is a hippie rebel with an “I’ll show you” attitude.  In my opinion, he’s a darn good boss and a great storyteller.  I encourage you not to take my word for it though; come to the farm and talk to him yourself.  You’ll be richer for the experience.

May 23, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Hon Tsai Tai!

22 May 2019 20:07

Cooking With This Week's Box

Chives: Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce (see below); Roasted Radish and Herbed Ricotta Omelet; Sunchoke Chive Soup
Green Garlic: Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce (see below);  Spring Salad with Green Garlic Dressing
Hon Tsai Tai:  Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce (see below);  No Bacon Pasta Carbonara Loaded with Greens
Don’t be intimidated by the length of the featured recipe in this week’s newsletter.  The recipe is for Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce (see below).  This week’s recipe will take a little time to assemble, but potstickers are both fun to make AND eat!  If you recruit a friend or two or make it a family event you’ll have them made in no time.  So what’s the story on potstickers? 
Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers 
Potstickers are a type of Chinese dumpling.  The story, as told by Andrea Nyugen on her blog, is that potstickers date back to somewhere between 960-1280 AD.  A Chinese chef was steaming dumplings in a wok, got distracted and let the pan go dry.  The dumplings stuck to the bottom of the wok—uh oh, what to do?  Well, they must not have been burned and he must’ve been in a pinch because he served them to the guests who actually really liked them!  Thus, these little dumplings became known as potstickers because they stick to the bottom of the pan.  So a potsticker is different from other Asian dumplings in that they are first fried in a thin layer of oil to get a crispy bottom, then they are steamed to cook the rest of the dumpling, then fried again at the very end to ensure a crispy bottom and a soft top with the filling thoroughly cooked.  They are often made with ground pork or other ground meat, but I wrote this recipe with a vegetable only filling.  If you like, you can add ground meat to the vegetable mixture.  Potstickers are best served warm right out of the pan.  They can also be frozen, so if you aren’t going to eat all the potstickers this recipe makes, freeze some of the dumplings on a parchment lined cookie sheet before they are cooked.  Once they are frozen you can take them off the cookie sheet and put them in a bag in the freezer.  I haven’t tried this myself, but from what I’ve read you want to pull them right out of the freezer and put them directly into a hot pan to start cooking them.  If you thaw them first the wrapper will get soggy and might tear.
If you’ve never shaped potstickers before, here are a few videos that will be helpful and show you how to do this.  Try this one OR this one.  I hope you’ll consider making these and even more, I hope you have some fun doing it! 
Shaved Asparagus and Whipped Ricotta Pizza
Photo from HowSweetEats.com
Ok, moving on to the other things in the box.  I always love a good pizza and thought this recipe for Shaved Asparagus and Whipped Ricotta Pizza looked pretty delicious.  Serve this with a baby arugula or spinach salad dressed with this simple Balsamic Vinaigrette.  The acidity of the vinaigrette will be a nice balance to the rich cheese and prosciutto on the pizza. 
It’s a radish kind of week!  If you are a radish lover this is the week for you.  If you are still learning to appreciate radishes, perhaps you might like them better roasted?  Roasting helps to mellow the radishy-ness of radishes and even brings out a hint of sweetness. Try this recipe for Roasted Radishes with Brown Butter & Lemon.  This is a pretty simple preparation.  If you prefer something a bit more rich try this recipe for Pan Roasted Radishes in Bacon Cream Sauce.  This is the recipe Richard prefers.  You could serve this as a side dish or turn it into a main entrée by tossing the radishes with cooked pasta.  I also found this recipe for Roasted Radish and Herbed Ricotta Omelet.  This recipe calls for fresh herbs in the ricotta cheese, so I’d recommend using a generous addition of the chives in this week’s box.  Chives and radishes are a great combo.
Don’t forget the radish tops!  They make up more than half of the vegetable and so often they just get thrown away!  One thing you could use them in is this recipe for No Bacon Pasta Carbonara Loaded with Greens.   This is a great recipe to make use of any greens that might be hanging out without a purpose in your refrigerator.  Radish or turnip tops, spinach, saute mix, hon tsai tai, nettles….what do you have? 
Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa on top of seared salmon
If you’re looking for a light lunch option, that’s also pretty quick to make, consider using the salad mix to make a Spring Salad with Green Garlic Dressing.  This recipe calls for baby spinach, but salad mix will work too.  The greens are dressed with a simple green garlic dressing and the salad is topped off with cooked bulger, sunflower seeds and hard-boiled eggs.  You could also serve this salad alongside Sunchoke Chive Soup.  The two will make a great spring dinner on a cool evening.  You could also use the sunchokes to make Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa.  I like to eat this on top of seared salmon or as a topper for tacos.  I also like to just add a spoonful to a bowl or rice or a simple green salad. 
That brings us to the end of another week’s box.  We’re hoping our little romaine head lettuces are ready for next week.  I have a few lettuce wrap recipes I’m looking forward to trying.  We are also planning to send baby white turnips, another spring favorite.  And for one more little beacon of hope to leave you with….we’ll likely be picking strawberries in just 3-4 short weeks!  Enjoy this week’s box!

Vegetable Feature: Hon Tsai Tai

Hon tsai tai (pronounced hon-sigh-tie) holds an important place in our spring vegetable line-up.  It matures more quickly than other spring-planted greens and is very tasty when grown in cool spring weather.  It is in a group of plants referred to as “flowering brassicas.”  While it is related to such vegetables as mustard greens and bok choi, what sets it apart is that it has beautiful purple stems that produce a sweet, delicate, edible yellow flower.  While other vegetables in the brassica family also produce flowers, they do so towards the end of their life cycle and at that point there are often undesirable flavor changes in the edible portion of the plant.  Hon tsai tai is unique in that it produces the flower early in its life when all the parts of the plant still taste good.
Hon tsai tai has a mild mustard flavor that is very well-balanced this time of the year.  The entire plant is edible and may be eaten raw or cooked.  The thin purple stems are more tender when the plant is young.  While still flavorful, they may become more coarse as the plant matures, so should be cut very finely at this stage.  Hon tsai tai is delicious in stir-fries or lightly steamed, but also makes a stunning and flavorful addition to raw salads.  A common preparation in Chinese cuisine is to quickly stir-fry hon tsai tai with garlic, onions, and ginger, then add oyster sauce.  This would also be a tasty green to use in spring rolls, pot stickers or fried rice.  This vegetable is also a good addition to broth-based soups such as miso soup or could be a nice addition to a ramen bowl.  
If you do a search for recipes using hon tsai tai, you likely won’t find much.  Your best bet is to check out our recipe archive on our website for past recipes we’ve featured in previous newsletters.  You can also use hon tsai tai interchangeably in recipes calling for bok choi or mustard greens. Store hon tsai tai loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready for use.  

Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce

Yield:  30-40 potstickers
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
½ cup minced green garlic
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly and chopped
3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp ground coriander
1 bunch hon tsai tai, leaves and stems finely chopped
¼ cup minced fresh chives
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
Salt and black pepper, to taste
36-40 dumpling wrappers (see note below)
Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup finely minced chives
⅓ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp Korean chili paste or chili sauce
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 Tbsp honey 
  1. Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  When the oil shimmers, add the ginger and green garlic.  Saute for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until they are softened.  
  2. Add soy sauce and coriander.  Stir to combine.  Add hon tsai tai and season with a small amount of salt and black pepper.  Cover the pan and steam for about 1 minute or until the greens have wilted down.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Stir in the chives and sesame seeds.  Cook until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Remove from heat and taste a bit of the mixture.  Season to your liking with additional salt, pepper or soy sauce.  Set aside to cool while you make the dipping sauce.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients except for the chives.  At the very end, stir in the chives.  Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.
  5. Now it’s time to assemble the potstickers.  If you are using eggroll wrappers, make sure your potsticker wrappers are cut and ready to use.  Lay the wrappers out on a work surface, 3-4 at a time.  Leave the remaining wrappers covered with a towel or plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.  Put about 1 tablespoon of filling on each wrapper.  Brush water around the edge of each wrapper with your finger.  Fold the wrapper in half to create a half moon shape.  Using your fingers, pinch the edges to seal them.  The water will act like the glue to hold the two sides together.  You want to have enough filling in the wrapper so the dumpling is full, but not too much or it will pop open.  Once the edges are sealed, you can pleat the top by folding the edges over on themselves (there are videos online that demonstrate how to do this) and pinching the pleats to secure them.   Place the formed dumplings on a platter and continue to form the remainder of the dumplings.
  6. Once the dumplings are formed, heat a large skillet (or two if you want to cook them all at the same time) over medium-high heat.  Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, or enough to just lightly coat the bottom of the pan.  When the oil shimmers, add the potstickers to the pan.  You want to leave a little space in between each, don’t overcrowd the pan.  Once they are in the pan, let them cook for about 3 minutes or until the bottoms are light golden brown. 
  7. Next, you need to steam the dumplings to finish cooking them.  To do this you will need to add ¼ cup water to the pan, but do so carefully and immediately cover the pan with a lid.  Continue to cook, covered for about 3 minutes to steam the dumplings.
  8. Remove the lid and reduce the heat just a bit.  Continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated.  This will help crisp up the bottoms of the potstickers.  Be careful not to get them too crispy though! Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

Recipe adapted by Chef Andrea from an original recipe featured at www.halfbakedharvest.com
Note about dumpling wrappers:  Dumpling wrappers are thin sheets of dough typically round and about 3 inches in diameter.  You can make them (there are lots of recipes on the internet) or buy them premade.  They are typically found in the refrigerated section near tofu, tempeh, kim chi and sometimes tortillas.  If you are not able to find round dumpling wrappers, you can use egg roll wrappers which are made from a similar dough.  Egg roll wrappers are rectangular, so you need to cut them into rounds using a biscuit or cookie cutter, a round glass, etc.  I used egg roll wrappers when I made these and was able to use a 2½ to 3 inch cutter to get two round pieces from each egg roll sheet.  

May 16, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Rhubarb and Sorrel!

15 May 2019 22:03

Cooking With This Week's Box

Spinach: Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup (see below); Sausage, Egg and Cheese Casserole with Spinach
Overwintered Parsnips: Parsnip Hash Browns
Chives: Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup (see below); Nettle & Wild Onion Rice Balls
Rhubarb: Rhubarb-Almond Baked Oatmeal (see below)
Sorrel: Frosty Sorrel-Banana Smoothies; Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup (see below)
For those of you who are joining us for your first week of deliveries…welcome to the weekly 2019 Cooking With the Box!  The box is already packed with some fun and delicious ingredients and we’re only in the second week of the season!  Meet me here each week and I’ll walk you through the contents of each box, offering recipe and serving suggestions for every item!  Along the way I hope you’ll find some recipes that fit your style or perhaps a bit of inspiration to make something else.  Either way, don’t forget to have fun, enjoy eating well and NEVER BE INTIMIDATED BY A VEGETABLE!
Frosty Sorrel-Banana Smoothie
I always like to start with our featured vegetables, which means we’re going to kick off this week’s cooking with Rhubarb and Sorrel. As much as possible, I try to incorporate vegetables into breakfast.  One of this week’s featured recipes is for Rhubarb-Almond Baked Oatmeal (see below), which is a delicious start to any day.  You can prep this recipe the night before and bake it off in the morning which will fill your house with sweet, spicy aromas that are sure to get everyone up and going for the day!  We like to eat this with a drizzle of maple cream and a few slices of salty bacon.  You can also incorporate sorrel into your morning with this Frosty Sorrel-Banana Smoothie.  This is a recipe I developed several years ago and I just can’t get enough of these when sorrel is available in the spring. 
If you don’t use your sorrel for a smoothie, you could use it to make the other featured recipe this week for Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup (see below).  This is based on the traditional Greek soup called Avgolemono which is a simple chicken soup flavored with lemon and thickened with eggs which enrich the soup and make it velvety smooth.  You can make this recipe in 15-20 minutes at most and it’s a great way to incorporate greens into your day.  You can just make the basic soup or you can add orzo or rice as well as shredded chicken if you like.  Serve this with a slice of rustic bread or a green salad and dinner is done.  In fact, you could make some Ramp Butter to slather on that bread or you could make these Buttermilk Ramp Biscuits.  If you have any biscuits remaining, heat them up in the morning to make some breakfast sandwiches including scrambled eggs with chopped chives. 
Radish Top Aioli, photo from food52.com
If you’re making the ramp butter, don’t be afraid to double the recipe and use the entire bunch of ramps.  It freezes really well and is nice to tuck away for a nice winter treat.  It is also really delicious spread on the pretty little French Breakfast radishes!  I typically eat the first radishes of the season with nothing more than salt and butter, ramp butter is just a bonus.  Don’t forget about the radish tops—they’re part of the vegetable and may be eaten as well!  I like to spread butter on the leaves and then wrap them around the radish for a quick little snack.  You could also try this recipe for Radish Top Aioli.  Spread the aioli on bread and add the sliced radishes for a quick open-faced sandwich or, as the French call it, a tartine.
Nettle & Wild Onion Rice Balls
Photo from GatherVictoria.com
I’m really excited to try this recipe for Nettle & Wild Onion Rice Balls.  The “wild onion” called for in this recipe may be ramp leaves or chives.  You do have to plan ahead to get all the components ready including blanching the nettles and preparing the rice.  For this recipe you’ll need to use a short grain rice or sushi rice which is stickier than long grain rice.  These can be served at room temperature with a little soy sauce.  I’m going to serve them with a fresh salad made from this week’s saute mix tossed with this Toasted Sesame Asian Salad Dressing.
What are we going to do with the pound of asparagus in this week’s box?  I typically don’t get past simply steaming or roasting asparagus, but I also really like asparagus with mushrooms.  Thus, this recipe for Chicken, Asparagus and Wild Mushroom Stir-Fry caught my eye.  This has more of a French feel to me than an Asian feel which I associate more with the term “stir-fry,” but who can go wrong with mushrooms, asparagus, cream and white wine or dry vermouth to make a light cream sauce!?  Serve this over cooked egg noodles with a bit of chopped chives as a garnish.
Sausage, Egg and Cheese Casserole with Spinach
Photo from AlexandraCooks.com
Most weeks need to include some sort of quantity egg dish, at least in my world.  This week I’m going to try this simple recipe for Sausage, Egg and Cheese Casserole with Spinach.  You can use whatever greens you have remaining which could be spinach, saute mix, nettles or even your radish tops! Serve this breakfast casserole with Parsnip Hash Browns and you’ll have yourself one delicious meal.
We’ve reached the bottom of this week’s box.  Next week we have our eye on a unique spring green, Hon Tsai Tai.  Don’t worry, I’ll coach you on how to pronounce it next week!  It looks like our first crop of salad mix may be ready next week as well and we have some pretty little mini romaine lettuces that may make it within the next two weeks.  Have a great week of cooking and I’ll see you back here next week!

Featuring Sorrel & Rhubarb...the Unsuspected Vegetable Cousins from the Buckwheat Family

This week we have another double vegetable feature, which is very fitting since the two vegetables are in the same botanical family!  We’re talking about RHUBARB & SORREL.  Rhubarb?  I thought rhubarb was a fruit, not a vegetable.  Lets talk, starting with rhubarb first.
Yes, RHUBARB is a vegetable, although it is most often used like a fruit.  Rhubarb is a perennial crop and it takes several years to build up the energy reserves in the rhizome.  Thus, we don’t harvest rhubarb until, at the very earliest, the third year.  We remove the leaves in the field because they should not be consumed or eaten.
Rhubarb is thought to have originated in Asia, specifically the areas of western China, Tibet, Mongolia and Siberia.  Thus, it’s easy to understand it is well adapted to cold climates.  Before it became a food crop, it was actually used for medicinal purposes.  It was the early 1900’s before it really gained much momentum as a food crop, at least in Europe and the United States.  
Grandma Yoder's Rhubarb Custard Pie
Rhubarb has a distinct, unique flavor that is quite good.   It may be eaten raw or cooked, however it’s pretty tart and it is most often cooked first.  Over the years it became known in some areas as “The Pie Plant” because it is most often used in pies.  While the sweetness of baked goods helps to counter balance the tartness of rhubarb, this vegetable can also be used in savory preparations.  Instead of masking the characteristic tartness of rhubarb with sugar, why not use those innate qualities to your advantage?!  It can be used to create a flavorful braising liquid or sauce to serve with pork, duck, chicken thighs or other fatty meats.  The flavor of rhubarb can stand up to bolder spices such as curry powder, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon and ginger, thus rhubarb chutney can make a nice accompaniment to Indian curry dishes or serve it with grilled or roasted meats.  Rhubarb compote or chutney is also delicious served simply as a snack with cream cheese and crackers!  Rhubarb can also be used as a stir-fry vegetable, added towards the end of cooking so it just starts to soften, but still holds its shape.
Whether sweet or savory, there are so many things you can do with rhubarb.  If you can’t decide what to make now and need some time to think it over, you can easily preserve rhubarb by freezing it.  Just wash the stalks, cut them into bite-sized pieces and put them in a freezer bag to pop in the freezer.  Perhaps you’ll come up with just the right use for it sometime during the winter!
Ok, moving on to SORREL.  Sorrel is a leafy green that is bright lime colored with pinkish stems.  Just like rhubarb, it is characterized by its tartness.  It has a bright citrusy flavor and may be eaten both raw and cooked.  In its raw form, it makes a nice addition to salads or some of our other spring favorites including Sorrel Hummus, Sorrel-Lime Cooler and Frosty Sorrel-Banana Smoothies! Thinly sliced sorrel is also a nice addition to spring tacos or use it as a garnish for lentils or beans in lieu of a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
Sorrel is also commonly used in soups and sauces.  It is an interesting green that literally melts when you put it in hot liquid.  It gives soup a velvety texture and creates smooth sauces. You’ll also notice the color will quickly go from bright green to olive green when you cook it.  Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong, that’s just what it does.  Sorrel pairs well with cream, eggs, chicken, fish, mushrooms, asparagus, spinach and other spring greens.  It is also a nice balance to more neutral foods such as dried beans and potatoes.
There you have it, two unique spring vegetables with a long list of possibilities of delicious outcomes!

Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup

Yield:  4 servings
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bu sorrel, roughly chopped (approx. 4 cups)
3 oz baby spinach (approx. 4 cups)
½ cup finely chopped chives (for garnish) AND 1 cup roughly chopped chives
1 tsp salt, plus to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 eggs
3 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup uncooked orzo or ¾ cup cooked rice (optional)
½- ¾ cup shredded cooked chicken (optional)
  1. Place chicken or vegetable broth, sorrel, spinach and the 1 cup of roughly chopped chives in a blender along with 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper.  If your blender pitcher is too small to contain all the greens, just add part of the greens at first, run the blender for a few seconds and then add the remainder.  Blend until all the broth is smooth and all the greens are well blended.
  2. Pour the mixture into a large saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer over medium to medium-low heat.  If there is a froth on the top of the soup, use a large spoon to skim some of it off.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until they’re well blended and a pale yellow.  Whisk in the lemon juice, one tablespoon at a time.
  4. Once the greens broth is warm, add the orzo or rice.  Simmer just until the orzo is al dente or the rice is heated through.  Reduce the heat to low.  
  5. Next you will need to carefully temper the eggs.  To do this, ladle about ½ cup of the warm broth into the egg mixture and whisk to combine.  Continue to do this 4 or 5 more times.  The purpose of doing this is to slowly warm up the egg mixture without curdling the eggs.  Be patient and don’t skip this step.
  6. Once you’ve tempered the eggs, add the egg mixture into the warm broth and whisk well to combine.  Gently simmer the soup for another 1 to 2 minutes, whisking periodically.  The soup should thicken slightly and lightly coat the back of a spoon.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more salt, pepper or lemon juice if needed.
  7. Serve hot and garnish with the finely chopped chives.
This soup is based on the classic Greek soup called Avgolmemono.  It is a simple chicken soup that is thickened with eggs and flavored with lemon juice.  It yields a silky, slightly thickened broth and often has orzo pasta or rice added to it.  This soup only takes 15-20 minutes to make from start to finish and while it’s very simple, it’s also rich enough to be filling. If you have leftovers, take care to reheat them gently over medium-low heat so you don’t curdle the egg.
Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder

Rhubarb-Almond Baked Oatmeal

Yield:  6 servings

⅔ cup chopped almonds, toasted
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp baking powder

¾ tsp sea salt
1 ¾ cup whole milk or nut milk
½ cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
1 ½ tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups rhubarb, small dice
Maple Cream (optional):
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 ½ Tbsp maple syrup
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9-inch baking dish or individual ramekins.  You may also use a 9 ½ x 11-inch baking dish, the pieces will just be thinner.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking powder and salt.  Stir well to combine.
  3. In a smaller mixing bowl, combine the milk, maple syrup, eggs, butter and vanilla.  Whisk until well blended.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix well.  Fold in the rhubarb.  
  5. Pour the batter into the baking dish or ramekins.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is nice and golden.
  6. While the oatmeal is baking, combine sour cream or yogurt with maple syrup and set aside.
  7. When the oatmeal is finished baking, remove from oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve warm topped with maple cream if you like.  You could also serve it with a drizzle of melted butter or a drizzle of heavy cream or milk if you prefer.
NOTES FROM CHEF ANDREA:  You can assemble this recipe a day ahead and hold it in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, remove the baking dish from the refrigerator and let it warm up a bit while you preheat the oven.  If you have any leftovers, they reheat very well in a toaster oven or oven.  I have not tried reheating it in a microwave.

Recipe adapted by Chef Andrea from a recipe for Honey & Nut Baked Oatmeal originally published at dishingupthedirt.com.

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food….Meet Farmer & Chef Andrea!

8 May 2019 22:40

One of the things we appreciate most about growing for our CSA program is the opportunity to connect with our members.  Forming a connection goes both ways, so we thought we’d start off the year by telling you a little more about ourselves.  I’ll share about myself this week and you can watch for Farmer Richard’s story coming in the next newsletter!

Chef Andrea preparing for a food demo.
I came to Harmony Valley Farm back in 2007.  I had signed on to be the seasonal farm chef from April through November and my primary job was to prepare lunch for the farm crew and dinner for farm residents Monday-Friday.  I was also asked to write articles and recipes for the newsletter and serve as a resource for CSA members.  I was a recent graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York (CIA).  When I decided to go to the CIA, I was labeled as a “Career Changer Student.”  I was in my mid 20’s and had been working as a registered dietitian at the University of Virginia Health System.  I was a clinical dietitian and worked with nutrition support (tube feedings and IV nutrition) and saw patients in an outpatient GI (gastrointestinal) clinic.  While I had a great career going and enjoyed my work, I always felt like there was something missing and really couldn’t see myself continuing on that trajectory the rest of my career.  So I started looking around and stumbled across the CIA website.  I had never even considered going to cooking school, but after I went for a visit I knew that was the next step on my journey.

Chef Andrea roasting garlic in the farm kitchen 
I never imagined culinary school would lead me to being a farm chef, but on the other hand, I really couldn’t see myself as a restaurant chef either.  Honestly, I didn’t know what being a farm chef was when I got here.  I also didn’t really know what it meant to be “certified organic.”  I was mostly just intrigued by all the unusual things Richard was growing here!  My vegetable repertoire was pretty limited when I started, but I quickly figured out how to tackle new vegetables.  Eat it raw, eat it cooked, overcook it so I know what it means to be cooked just perfectly, do a little research and then start experimenting.  I learned to get creative with the vegetables we had available and how to prepare lunch for 35 crew members in a cost-effective way.  At the end of my contract, I was asked to stay and help manage some other parts of the farm.

Our "kids" are pretty cute!
Fast forward to today and I can hardly believe this is the start of my thirteenth growing season!  I have a lot of different responsibilities on the farm.  I manage greenhouse transplant production as well as the packing shed.  I schedule trucks, manage our food safety practices, do employee training, manage wholesale sales, go to the farmers’ market, troubleshoot refrigeration and electrical problems, schedule drain cleaning, take care of goat babies born in the middle of the winter, and basically anything else that may need to be done.  Another important, and really fun part of my life here, is to be a culinary resource for you, our CSA members.  My mission each week is to help guide you through the boxes.  When I write in the newsletter or on the blog, I try to imagine that I’m talking to you as if I were talking to you face to face at the farmers’ market!

So what else?  Simply put, I love food! I love experiencing flavors, smells, textures and watching food change and develop as I cook.  I love the life and energy we get from food and I LOVE the beauty of vegetable fields! I like to eat soup, leftovers and salad for breakfast.  I think eggs are an amazing gift from nature and eat them nearly every day.  I think everyone should be able to eat good food, and I cringe at how many boxes of cereal I ate to sustain me during my college days.  I’m jealous of CSA kids—I wish I were one.  At least I had the opportunity to be a farm kid and have fond memories of gardening with my mom, picking and preserving vegetables for winter storage and accidentally pulling all the parsley out of my mom’s garden in an effort to “help her with the weeding” (oops—sorry mom).  I love cookbooks, especially ones with beautiful photos, nice binding and interesting stories and commentaries.  I most often don’t follow the recipes, but use them for inspiration and to generate ideas.  I like to eat out in restaurants.  However I’m often disappointed because, honestly, the food we prepare at home is always so much better!

Farmer Andrea checking on her "babies" in the greenhouse.
I’m intrigued by soil and plant health and am amazed at how nature works.  I more fully understand now why eating organic food is so important for the health of our environment, but also our bodies.  If we choose food that is alive and healthy itself, it can help us live our best lives and feel good.  Food can be our medicine, but it can also bring us pleasure, joy and connection with people and places.  Food can open our eyes, minds, and hearts and can be the common denominator in a world of differences.  It allows us to travel and experience a little piece of another part of the world without even leaving home.

I believe that anyone can cook and no one should ever be intimidated by a vegetable.  Life is research and if a recipe doesn’t quite turn out as you thought it might, that’s ok. It might actually be better than what it was supposed to be! In the newsletters each week I try to offer you simple, doable, yet interesting and tasty recipes.  Sometimes I might include a recipe that is a little more complex or uses an ingredient that might be new to you with hopes of challenging you to do something you may have never done before.

Visiting with farmer friend, Mas Masumoto
I like to know where my food comes from.  I like to know the people who make and produce it.  I want to know what impact it had on the environment and I want my food choices to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.  I like to use olive oil grown and pressed at Frog Hollow Farm by Farmer Al, which is the most “local” olive oil I’ve been able to find.  I can’t get enough of Jamie and Diane’s shiitake mushrooms from the farmers’ market.  If I’m going to eat a nut grown outside our region, it’s going to be biodynamic almonds grown by my friend Gina at Marian Farms.  Her raisins are also quite spectacular.  I prefer cheese from the herd at McCluskey Brothers at Shillelagh Glen Farms.  I am slightly addicted to Faith Annaker’s (Fizzeology) fermented hot sauce, especially the sauce she made with OUR peppers!  I like to sit down to a meal and be able to give thanks for the hands that make it possible for me to enjoy such delicious, nourishing meals and for the many friendships I’ve developed with these people over the years.

I will be the first to admit I do not know all there is to know about cooking and vegetables.  I value learning from other people and appreciate it when members share their favorite recipes with me.  I want to know how you make the best use of your CSA box each week.    I want to know what evokes the “Happy Food Dance” in your household!

Lastly, I believe CSA is a good thing—for farmers, for the land, for our kids, our families and our future.  I hope you enjoy being part of our farm this season and I look forward to getting to know you better.

May 9, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Stinging Nettles and Wild Ramps!

8 May 2019 22:40

Cooking With This Week's Box

Wild Ramps: Ramp Pesto (See Below); Quiche with Ramps, Mushrooms & BrieNettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream

Quiche with Ramps, Mushrooms & Brie
(photo from thegourmetgourmand.com)
It’s time to get into the rhythm of “cooking out of the box!”  After a long winter, it feels good to have fresh greens and new vegetables coming in from the field.  Lets dive in with this week’s box contents.  With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, I think we should treat our Moms (or yourself if you are the Mom) to a special Mother’s Day Brunch.  This Quiche with Ramps, Mushrooms & Brie served with Alice Water’s Warm Spinach Salad will make a lovely meal.  For a little added bonus, make a batch of these Parsnip, Lemon & Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle.
Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream
We have two bunches of ramps this week, so even after making the quiche, there should still be enough to make a batch of Ramp Pesto(see below).  This is great to have in the refrigerator to make a quick pasta dinner.  Just boil some fettuccine and toss it with a few spoonfuls of ramp pesto.  Done!  Of course we could also use that second bunch to make this absolutely delicious Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream!  This is one of my favorite spring recipes that was actually prompted by several members.  If you don’t use your nettles to make this pizza, you could always try this week’s featured vegetable for Nettle Chips (See Below).  This is a great way to eat your greens and these make a great afternoon or weekend snack when you just need something crispy and salty, but very simple.  If you’re really short on time this week, the easiest thing of all to make with nettles is Easy & Tasty Nettle Tea.  In the midst of a busy week this might be a good way to support your body and keep you well.
Green Garlic Soup
(photo from loveandoliveoil.com)
The nights are still a little chilly which makes me want to eat soup, such as this Green Garlic Soup.  This recipe makes 8-10 servings and calls for more green garlic than is in this week’s box.  I’d recommend cutting the recipe in half and using the entire bunch of green garlic supplemented with some chives.  If you aren’t into soup this week, use the green garlic to make this Green Garlic Toast.  This toast will go great with scrambled eggs (perhaps with some ramp pesto mixed in) for a light dinner or a hearty breakfast. 
If you have some chives remaining, use them to make Almond-Chive Salmon for dinner served with Creamed Spinach & Parsnips.  If you have any salmon left, mix it with mayonnaise to make a little salmon salad to take for lunch the next day.
This recipe for Carrot Tart with Ricotta & Herbs is a little bit more complicated, but it’s a lovely dish and would make a nice brunch item or eat it as a light dinner.  Of course, those sweet carrots might also be great used to make these Carrot Cake Pancakes.  This is a sure way to get children of all ages to eat their vegetables! 
We have a great week of meals ahead of us with all these options.  As we look ahead to next week, we are crossing our fingers that we’ll be able to deliver ramps again as well as more chives, nettles and green garlic.  We should also have some asparagus and red radishes to add to the box!  So, if you find more recipes you want to try, save them until next week!  Have a great week of cooking and I’ll see you back here next week!

This Week's Featured Vegetables:  Stinging Nettles & Wild Ramps--The Wild Things!

Spring has a beautiful way of nourishing us and giving us just what we need, even when we don’t know we need it!  The first of our double-vegetable feature this week is Stinging Nettles.  We wild harvest them on our farm, but also plant them in the field.  They need to be handled carefully, especially before they are washed and cooked.  They have little fibers on the stems that contain several different compounds including formic acid, which will give you a “stinging” sensation if you touch them with your bare skin.  “Why are you giving me a vegetable that will sting me?!  Are you trying to kill me?!”  No, quite the contrary!

Nettles are very nutrient dense and we consider them to be a “Wisconsin Super Food.”  They help our bodies wake up after a long, cold wet winter and help us purify our blood and cleanse our bodies.  They have anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties.  They are high in protein as well as carotenoids, chlorophyll, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, selenium and vitamins B, C, D and K.  Wow—that’s a lot of nutritional goodness in one plant!  Nettles give us that jump start we need in the spring and, they also taste great!  Cooking destroys the stingers so you can then safely handle them with bare hands.  We recommend cooking them before eating.  They have a rich flavor similar to spinach, but even better!  So no, we are not trying to harm you.  Rather, our intention is to give you something delicious and nourishing.
Use the bag as a "glove" when handling nettles.
Here are some recommendations for handling them.  First, many of these stingers are removed with vigorous washing, which we’ve already done for you.  Even though we’ve washed them, I would still recommend you handle them carefully and avoid touching with bare hands prior to cooking.  Some people are more sensitive to their sting than others, which is why we’ve also put them in a plastic bag to make it easier to get them home without touching them.  You can use the bag as your “glove” to hold the bottom of the bunch while you carefully remove the twist tie.  We do recommend you wash them in a sink of water after you’ve removed the twist tie.  While you are washing them, bring a big pot of water to a boil.  Transfer the nettles from the sink to the boiling water using a pair of tongs.  Boil them for 2-3 minutes and then transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool them.  Now you can handle them with your bare hands.
Some of the lower portion of the stems may be tough, so only use the leaves and tender upper stem portions.   You can pluck or cut these off the main stem after they are cooked.  Alternatively, you can hold each stem (with your gloved/bagged hand) and use a pair of scissors to snip the tender leaves off the main stem before you cook them.  Checkout this blog post we did on May 10, 2018 which demonstrates these processes and includes pictures.
Nettle leaves are perishable, so it is best to cook them shortly after you receive them.  It is better to store them in their cooked form for a few days until ready for use.  The cooking water makes a beautiful tea, so don’t discard it.  You can drink the tea either hot or cold and mixed with honey and lemon.  The water can also be used to cook pasta, rice, etc.  Nettles are often used to make soup, but you can also use them in pesto, or risotto and pasta dishes.  Nettles may be substituted for spinach in any recipe calling for cooked spinach.  They pair well with eggs, dairy, mushrooms, asparagus and other spring greens.

The second part of our feature is Wild Ramps!  Ramps are are one of the first green things to pop up in the spring.  They have a very short season lasting, at most, 4-5 weeks.  They have a unique flavor that is kind of oniony-garlicky, but honestly the best way to describe it is simply rampy.  They resemble a green onion, except they have tender, delicate lily-like leaves.  Ramps grow in the woods and, while they can be replanted to establish new patches, it takes a very long time for them to multiply and spread.  Many, us included, are concerned about the sustainability of ramps.  Because they take so long to multiply and replenish, it’s important to be mindful when harvesting them.  Ramps grow in clumps and we’re careful to only take about half the clump while leaving the other half undisturbed.  If you’d like to learn more about our harvest practices, please read our blog post from April 20, 2017.
Ramps may be eaten raw or cooked.  When raw they can be quite pungent, but the flavor mellows with cooking.  You can eat both leaves and the lower bulb.  Just trim away the roots.  Some popular ways to use ramps include risotto and pasta dishes.  Ramps also pair well with eggs in scrambles, frittatas and quiche.  Ramp pesto is another great way to use this vegetable and it’s our featured ramp recipe this week.  Ramps pair well with cream, cheese, bacon and other spring vegetables including mushrooms, asparagus, nettles and spinach.
The leaves on ramps are the most perishable part and should be used within a few days.  To store ramps, wrap the bunch in a damp paper or linen towel and keep them in the refrigerator.
If you’re looking for more recipe and use ideas for these two spring treats, check out the recipe archive on our website.  We hope you enjoy these spring treasures!

Nettle Chips

Yield:  2 cups
1 bunch nettles
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
Salt, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Wash the nettles in a sink of cold water.  Using gloves or a bag over your hand, take the nettle stems out of the water and place them on a towel.  Gently pat them dry. 
  3. Using a scissors, trim the tender leaves and upper stem off the main stem.  Put all of the trimmed leaves into a mixing bowl.
  4. Drizzle the leaves with oil and soy sauce or coconut aminos.  Using a tongs, toss the leaves to thoroughly coat them with the oil and soy sauce mixture.
  5. Spread the leaves on a non-stick baking sheet (or use parchment paper).  If you use low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos, you’ll want to season the nettles lightly with a sprinkling of salt.  If you use full sodium soy sauce, you may not need additional salt.  
  6. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until crisp.  You will need to turn them once about halfway through baking.  Try to separate the leaves as best you can so they bake more evenly.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool.  Taste one and add additional salt if needed.  They are best eaten immediately. 

Note:  If you have leftovers, crush the chips and use them as a topping to sprinkle on top of salads, eggs or buttered toast.

Recipe by Chef Andrea

Ramp Pesto

Yield:  1-1 ½ cups
1 bunch ramps, cleaned
½ cup toasted almonds or pine nuts
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (or other hard cheese)
3-5 tsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Cut the leaves off the ramps.  Roughly chop the leaves and set them aside.
  2. Put the ramp bulbs and nuts in the bowl of a food processor and coarsely chop them.
  3. Add  the cheese, ¼ tsp salt, black pepper, 3 tsp lemon juice and the ramp leaves.  Continue to process the contents while slowly pouring in the olive oil.  
  4. Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper and lemon juice to brighten it up.
  5. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.  It’s best to pour a little extra olive oil over the top of the jar to preserve the color of the pesto.
Note:  If you do not have a food processor, you can also make pesto in a blender.  Of course people used to make pesto before the invention of electronic appliances, so you could also just use a knife and finely chop all the ingredients.

Ramp Pesto Serving Suggestions: 
  • Toss a few spoonfuls with hot pasta
  • Stir into scrambled eggs
  • Use ramp pesto as the base for a delicious homemade pizza topped with mushrooms, bacon, prosciutto, mozzarella, etc.
  • Spread on toast or a bagel with fresh ricotta or cream cheese
  • Stir a spoonful into mayonnaise and use it as a sandwich spread or dipping sauce
  • Baste grilled or roasted chicken with pesto
  • Serve with seared salmon
Recipe by Chef Andrea

Community, Connection and Really Good Food!

18 Apr 2019 20:59

“Vote with your food dollars.”
“Keep your money in the local economy.”
“Know your farmer, know your food.”
Are you familiar with any of these phrases?  What about “Sign-Up Now?”  Or “Join now so you don’t miss out!”  Hey, those are my lines and we’ve been using them a lot as we are trying to encourage people to sign up for CSA shares before the season starts in three short weeks!  “Miss out on what?  It’s just vegetables, what’s the big deal about CSA anyway?"  Does any of this “support your local food system” talk even matter? 
Andrea B. sampling grapes  (photo from localthirty.com)
Earlier this year, my friend (ok, we’ve only met once, but she’s awesome) Andrea Bemis released a film called Local Thirty.  This was one of the main films featured at Fairshare CSA Coalition’s Food and Farms Film Fest this past March.  While many documentaries about our food system over the past 10-12 years have been very informative and brought important truths to light, some have been pretty heavy and intense!  This film was different.  It was about food, forming connections, and finding a sense of “home.”  It focused on exploring your local food system and the positive impact that can have on our lives and our meals.  It was a welcome relief to watch a film about our food system that made me laugh, chuckle, yet still pushed me to think about my own food choices.
Andrea B. is a real live farmer who grows vegetables at the base of Mt Hood in Oregon along with her husband, Taylor.  In addition to farming, Andrea B also writes a blog called Dishing Up the Dirt, which is also the title of her cookbook!  If you’ve followed my CookingWith the Box articles on our blog over the past few CSA seasons, you’ll likely recognize her blog as I have shared many of her recipes along the way.  It all started back in September 2018 when Andrea B, her husband Taylor, and their farm crew (Adam and Rachel) decided to challenge themselves to source all of their ingredients from within a 200 mile radius.  They had 10 cheat foods each (eg coffee, lemons, black pepper, etc), but aside from those foods they only ate the things they could source within 200 miles.  Why would anyone do something like this?  They didn’t really have an end goal or mission they were hoping to achieve.  They used this time as a framework for learning and discovering their local food system.  What treasures (both food and people) were they missing?  It was about finding more of a sense of “home.” 
Andrea B with a freshly caught tuna!
(photo from localthirty.com0
As they prepared for and lived out the month of September, they had to do their research to find some of the ingredients they didn’t produce themselves.  Research for Andrea B went beyond the internet, she actually left the farm to visit people she’d never met before so she could learn more about what they were doing.  She had the opportunity to stomp grapes at a vineyard, take a wild fishing trip off the coast to catch tuna, visit a dairy farm and drink milk right from the cow, forage for wild mushrooms and walk the pastures on a neighbor’s cattle ranch.  And what became of all of this?
The final producer meal (photo from localthirty.com)
Here is Andrea B’s conclusion in her own words:  Eating locally for me is about discovering and celebrating what we have, not mourning what we don't. It's about strangers becoming friends, and learning more about our landscape and the place we call home. When we start looking around and talking to each other, it becomes evident that we just have so much……When I first set out on a month long challenge to only eat ingredients produced within 200 miles of my home I had no idea how transforming that experiment would be. Eating the foods I found and prepared rooted me deeper into my home. They were the flesh of plants I touched and animals I knew. This made me feel more alive, wild and human. I found out that eating locally is about discovering and celebrating a bounty that is all our own and letting it shape a little bit of who we are. It's about joy.”
So does it really matter if you know your farmer?  Does it matter if you eat food from local sources?  Does the story behind the food you eat mean anything?  Does being part of a CSA or shopping at the farmers’ market impact your life in any way that‘s different than shopping at the grocery store?  Well for some people, perhaps these things don’t really matter.  But for me…yes, it matters and yes, it’s important.  Andrea B. is right, it’s about joy and forming connections. 
Food is political, food is social justice and injustice, food is linked to our environment and our economy.  But food is also relational.  It’s a bridge to bring our lives together.  You just don’t know what treasures you might discover and what stories you will unveil when you take the time to look.  Connection.  Whether we know it or not, we all need connection.  Every time you learn a little more about your food sources, you’re allowing a little piece of someone else’s world to become part of yours. This does bring joy, appreciation, respect and understanding.  It causes you to think outside of yourself and your own experiences while at the same time, bringing some stinkin’ delicious food to your tables!  Yes, I’m convinced that food tastes better when you know the story about where it came from.

The fertile soil and beautiful fields of Harmony Valley Farm
So back to the original question, does any of this “support your local food system” talk even matter?  I believe the answer is “Yes.”  At the very least, if you like to eat good food I guarantee you’ll find some of your best ingredients when you look locally.  The other part of this “Yes” is the community piece.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, but this isn’t a one-way concept.  We need the community to support our farm, but the community also needs to be supported by those producing food!  In the end, we all have a part in this thing we call our local food system, or in Andrea B’s words, the place we call home. 
In closing, I’ll leave you with one last message.  Our deliveries start in just three short weeks, so Join Now So You Don’t Miss Out!  If you’re looking to add a new dimension as well as some joy and really great food to your meals, we hope you’ll not only join us for the 2019 CSA season but encourage you to see what other treasures you can find within your local food system this year.
---Farmer/Chef Andrea
NOTE:  Go to  www.localthirty.com for more information about Andrea Bemis’s documentary and how to watch the whole thing.  It’s only 46 minutes long, so make some snacks and kick back to watch it this weekend!

March Farm Update

21 Mar 2019 21:29

By Andrea Yoder 
The farm is almost in full swing as we near the end of March and look forward to the start of April!  We’ve nearly filled our first two greenhouses with seedlings and will need to move into the third house early next week.  Most of our snow has melted away and, thankfully, we made it through the melt without flooding or too many issues.  We’ve enjoyed some beautiful sunny days and it’s been refreshing to have some warmer temperatures to go along with the sunshine! 
Our crew with the willow they've tucked away in the cooler.
Earlier this week the packing shed crew spent some time in the fields trimming the pussy willow and curly willow trees which took off as soon as the weather started to warm up!  We had just a little window of opportunity to get into the field and trim the pussy willow before the catkins (little fuzzy things) opened too far and leaves started growing on the branches.  Our trimmings are safely tucked away in the cooler to keep them from opening further.  We’re also happy to report that no one got stuck in the mud!  The fields are still very wet, but some sunshine and a little spring breeze should help them dry out over the next few weeks. 
Onions in the greenhouse waiting to be planted in the field.
Our first group of field crew will be traveling to Monterrey, Mexico this weekend to have their interviews at the consulate and hopefully they’ll be on their way to Wisconsin with visas in hand by the end of next week!  We’re looking forward to their return and wish them safe travels!  Once they’re back, the pace of the farm will kick into high gear.  We’ll spend some time doing annual training and we have a lot of spring cleaning projects to do, but as soon as the fields are dry enough we’ll be anxious to get some field work done!  Onions are scheduled to go to the field early in April and our first scheduled planting of salad greens, spring spinach, radishes, cilantro, etc is April 8!  We’re crossing our fingers that the weather will cooperate and make that date a reality!
Longtime CSA members, Carol & Bob.
We still have plenty of CSA Shares available and are anxious to fill up our sites before the start of deliveries in just 7 weeks!  If you’ve already signed up for your 2019 shares, you will be receiving a Welcome Packet early in April.  If you are new to our farm or still contemplating whether or not you want to join CSA this year, take a moment to read this letter from longtime CSA members, Carol & Bob.  They sent us this earlier this month and asked that we share it with Prospective CSA Members.  In their letter they make the point that the value of CSA does go beyond the dollars of vegetables in your box.  It is also an opportunity to take your food purchases beyond your plate and vote with your food dollars by supporting farms and systems that are in alignment with your own values.  
Have a great spring and stay tuned for more updates as spring unfolds on our farm!

Thinking Beyond the Box: A Letter to Prospective CSA Members from Longtime Members Carol & Bob

21 Mar 2019 21:29

If you are new to the concept of CSA and/or new to our farm, this letter is for you!  It was written by longtime CSA members of our farm, Carol Wilson & Bob Philbin.  We hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it and consider their insights as you think about joining a CSA for the 2019 season!  We did not ask them to write this letter, this is something they chose to do on their own as a way of sharing their perspectives of their CSA experience over the past 20 plus years. 
--Richard & Andrea 
Spring 2019
Dear Prospective Harmony Valley Farm CSA member,                                   
Pollinators planted alongside crops.
You have a bewildering number of choices about which CSA is right for you – length of season, variety of vegetables, cost, convenience of pick up location, day of the week for pick up, etc.  Another topic to consider is what the farmer(s) of the CSA are doing to address the health of our environment.  Richard de Wilde and Andrea Yoder, the farmers of Harmony Valley Farm, are conscientious stewards of the land.  They have a system of land management that both produces healthy and nutritious food for their members, and provides healthy habitats for insects and animals that are part of their comprehensive organic growing practice.  In addition their processes also address climate change by planting cover crops that sequester carbon thereby reducing the carbon in the atmosphere.  Farmer Richard has been planting cover crops for over 40 years, well before carbon sequestration was being talked about!  His farming practices are informed by science as well as by his decades of experience as an organic farmer.
As the plight of bees, monarchs, and other pollinators has become known, Harmony Valley Farm has included “pollinator packs” in the CSA share.  These packs have native flowers and grasses that offer “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.”  Because of these packs, we now have a lovely patch of anise hyssop, silky wild rye, and other flowers and grasses to offer our neighborhood insects. 
Cover crop growing in our fields.
Harmony Valley Farm (HVF) has been our source for vegetables, beef, and pork since our adult children were young.  Richard and Andrea do not rest on their laurels, though they could!  They are always learning about and trying new vegetables, new varieties of vegetables, and new ways of helping their members to make good use of their CSA share. There are so many things to appreciate about being part of HVF including the informative, educational, and practical newsletters, the variety of vegetables, the value of the share, and the length of the season.   As part of the HVF CSA, you receive all of this AND the knowledge that you are part of the environmental and climate change solution.
You can learn more about HVF by visiting their website and by reading their blog.  Check out a newsletter or two to see how Andrea shares ideas and recipes for making use of all of the veggies in the box.
Good luck with your decision and we hope to see you at HVF Strawberry Day!
Carol Wilson and Bob Philbin

February Farm Update

22 Feb 2019 22:20

By Andrea Yoder
Happy February!  It’s hard to believe another month has passed us by since our last farm update, but here we are approaching the end of February.  Despite the slower pace of winter, we’ve actually had a lot going on over the past month.  Here’s what we’ve been up to.
Polar Vortex Sunrise on January 31, 2019
First, we’re happy to report we survived the Polar Vortex of 2019!  For those few bitter cold days, our valley was eerily quiet and still.  I have to admit they were also several of the most gorgeous, sunny winter days we’ve ever experienced!  The skies were bright blue and totally clear.   The sunrises in the morning were gentle as the sun woke up and shined a rosy smile upon our valley. The trees were so cold we could hear them cracking and moaning in the crisp, bitter cold morning air.  Before the cold set in we made sure the animals had extra bedding in their shelters and the cows got some of their “chocolate” hay to encourage them to stay inside the barn for shelter and warmth.  We made sure furnaces were working, drained any water pipes not in use and were diligent about doing frequent checks of employee houses as well as the packing shed.  All in all, it wasn’t so bad and we realize others in the region experienced much colder temperatures than we did.
Snow Mountain after clearing snow this Thursday.
I’ve lost track of just how much snow we’ve actually had throughout the month, 4-5 inches here, 6 inches there….the bottom line is it’s really starting to pile up!  As we started this week, our snow piles looked more like snow mountains and on Wednesday we got another 5 inches.  While we all enjoy a good snow  day, it has made it difficult to get our winter work done.  Nonetheless we’ve tried to make the most of our days and the packing shed crew and office staff have been working their way down the winter to-do lists.  The packing shed crew did a thorough top to bottom cleaning of the shop and lunch area….wow what a difference!  Everything looks much brighter and we love clean!  Nearly all the greenhouse flats have been washed and sterilized.  The potting soil arrived at the end of January and we have three big bags thawed out and ready to go.  We had hoped to start planting in our first greenhouse earlier this week, so last week the crew did a thorough cleaning of the nursery and finished setting up the heat table system on Monday.
Simon checking the water temperature as he sterilizes seeds.
Our plans didn’t quite play out as we had hoped for this week.  On Monday we received a couple big wholesale orders, which we are grateful to have.  Everyone shifted gears and we worked hard to wash over 1,000 pounds of burdock, a few bins of sunchokes, along with a few cases of radishes, turnips, and shallots.  Now that the orders are filled, our focus is back on getting some seeds planted!    This morning Simon set up our super high-tech (ok, not so high tech, but it works) seed sterilizer to hot water treat our onion seeds to remove any seed borne diseases.  We are happy to report we were able to start planting this afternoon!  Beatriz, Moises and Gerardo are enjoying a sunny day of greenhouse work.  They filled and pre-watered flats in the morning and Gerardo started planting this afternoon!  It was so refreshing to walk into the greenhouse after lunch and smell the wet potting soil!  It will take awhile to get all the onions planted and then we’ll need to move on to celeriac, leeks, lettuce, kohlrabi and more!
Snow falling on our Curly Willow & Fantail Willow Hedgerow 
This month’s crop report will be brief.  We’re happy to report the deer fence around the overwintered spinach field is upright, intact and doing its job to keep the deer out.  The spinach is nicely insulated with all this snow, so lets all cross our fingers and hope we have a good harvest this spring!  Last fall we were also able to lay the reflective plastic mulch and drip tape for this year’s onion field.  We put a deer fence around it as well to keep them from tromping across the field poking holes in the plastic.  Very soon we need to get out to the field to trim our willow hedgerows, but all of this snow will make it a bit of a challenge!  I have to say, the fantail & curly willow trees look pretty cool against the white backdrop and add some texture to the landscape!

Mike changing one of the tractor tires.
We’ve also taken advantage of winter down time to get some tractors repaired.  One of our little IH Super C cultivating tractors was hauled to a shop last week for repair.  This week the two Allis Chalmers WD 45 tractors that pull harvest wagons got new tires.  Thank you to Mike & Mark from our local Cenex station for helping us with this repair project!
Andrea spent several days this week visiting some of our buyer partners in the Twin Cities and scouted out our two new CSA sites including The Power House at St. Louis Park & Roseville City Hall!  Kelly  & Gwen continue to process CSA orders and have been working hard on getting our promotional materials up to date, putting together this year’s CSA calendar, and a whole host of other tasks!  We’re still working on finalizing our Thursday CSA route in Madison, but we’re almost finished!  We’re happy to have added new sites in the DeForest/Windsor and Waunakee areas.  We also have new sites on the northeast side of Madison as well as one on Sherman Avenue and another near Monroe St.  We’re excited to be partnering with several business locations as well.  Some locations are for employees only, however we do have several that are open to the public including one in Middleton!  Thank you for your patience as we have been working to put together all the logistics for this new route.  Now it’s time to fill the truck!
Promo materials we have been working on.
We still have plenty of shares available and would like to ask you for your help in spreading the word about CSA within your communities.  From past experience, we know that some of the most meaningful “advertising” happens when CSA members share their CSA experiences and encourage other people in their community to consider connecting to a farm.   We have a variety of materials we can send to you if you’re willing to help us extend our reach to your community.  We’d be happy to send pull tab posters, sign up forms, informational brochures/cards and we have New Member Coupons as well.  These coupons entitle a new member to receive $15 to $25 off their order and the referring member will receive a $20 coupon!  Just let us know and we’ll put together a packet of information for you.

Photo from DishingUpTheDirt.com
There are a couple of events coming up as well.  On March 5, Fairshare CSA Coalition is hosting a Food & Farms Film Festival.  They have a pretty good lineup of films including the new Local Thirty documentary featuring Andrea Bemis!!  For those of you who follow along in my Cooking with The Box articles throughout the season, you know I have an affinity for Andrea’s blog, Dishing up the Dirt.  I’m really hoping to be able to meet Andrea in person so we can geek out about growing, cooking and eating vegetables!
On March 17 we’ll be attending the Fairshare CSA Open House, now called the Find Your Farm event.  If you live in the Madison area, we hope you’ll stop in to say hello.  This is a great event to share with anyone who may be considering joining a CSA but hasn’t yet made the commitment.
That’s a wrap for this month.  In case you’re wondering, we’re only about 10 ½ weeks away from the first CSA delivery week!  Keep that in mind as we gear up for another winter storm this weekend!

January Farm Update: What’s in store for our 2019 CSA Season and more!

25 Jan 2019 21:54

Hello from Harmony Valley Farm! As I write this, the snow has blanketed our valley in bright white!  While our fields are resting peacefully, we are reminded that our growing season officially starts in about 3 weeks with our first greenhouse planting AND we’re only 15 weeks from the first CSA delivery week!  Yikes…we better keep moving! 
We’ve been hard at work preparing for the upcoming season, but wanted to take a moment to connect with you and share a little glimpse into our winter world.  We also want to tell you about some of the exciting things we’re looking forward to for the 2019 CSA season.  Before we jump into 2019, lets take a brief look back at our 2018 CSA year.
First CSA box of 2018, with 2 bunches of ramps!
Last year set the record for being the latest first planting date in the history of Harmony Valley Farm!  After getting a foot of snow on April 18th, we were relieved to watch it melt quickly allowing us to finally get into the fields to start planting just one week later on April 25th.   It took focused determination and a lot of team work to get caught up, but we were able to pull it off and get back on track pretty quickly.  One of the benefits to a late spring is that the ramp harvest season was also several weeks behind, but just in time for our first week of CSA deliveries!  We were able to pack not one but TWO bunches of ramps in each of the first three boxes of the season. We also had an awesome asparagus season that started the second week of CSA deliveries.  Our new fields produced very well and we were able to pack generous amounts of asparagus for 5 weeks!  Despite the spring challenges, Mother Nature came through for us and we were still able to deliver very nice spring boxes with good value.
Last CSA box of 2018
Every year of farming has its own set of challenges, most often related to the weather.  That’s just something you sign up for when you choose to be a farmer!  After pushing through the late spring, we reached our weather climax with two big rain events late in August/early September that proved to be our biggest weather challenge of the year.  Nonetheless, we stayed in the game and were still able to pack beautiful, plentiful CSA boxes for our full 30 weeks of deliveries!  Over the course of the season we delivered about 64 different types of vegetables, and that doesn’t include the multiple different varieties of some vegetables such as seven different varieties of winter squash, three colors of beets, etc. 
As we look back, we are also reminded of some of our 2018 farming victories including a delicious 4-week strawberry season, 9 weeks of potatoes, and 7 weeks of sweet & beautiful sweet potatoes!  We try to include some of the more staple vegetables more frequently over the course of our 30 week season.  Last year we delivered some type of onion & garlic in EVERY CSA box ranging from chives, overwintered onions and green garlic in the spring to delicious white Spanish onions mid-summer and a plentiful supply of red & yellow storage onions as well as shallots and red cipollini onions to wrap up the season.  Two-thirds of the boxes included carrots and about one-third of the boxes included broccoli.  We also had a nice 10-week run on tomatoes starting late July and running through the end of September!  All in all, I’d have to say it was a pretty amazing season!
Black Futsu Pumpkin
photo from High Mowing Organic Seeds
So what’s in store for 2019?  First, we have a pretty new radish called “Diana.”  Diana is a fresh radish that’s round and has purple shoulders and a white bottom.  They are described to be “crunchy and sweet with just the right amount of spicy.”   I’m also excited to try the “Black Futsu” winter squash (also referred to as a pumpkin) which is a Japanese vegetable with “unique black, warty skin and nutty, fresh flavor.”  One source describes it to have “very smooth, fine grained flesh and a fruity flavor at harvest that lends itself to thinly sliced raw or pickled preparations…With its very edible thin skin, it doesn’t require peeling.”  We have a few more new winter squash varieties to trial including two new personal-sized butternuts called “Butterbaby” and “Brulee,” thought to be as delicious as our beloved Honeynut Butternut, but with better yields and longer storage potential.  We are also interested in trying “Tetsukabuto” which is described to be “the squash of choice for the Apocalypse!”  The word means “steel helmet” in Japanese.  With a name like that, it sparked our interest and I guess whomever is left after the Apocalypse can enjoy this “sweet and nutty” squash that is “versatile in the kitchen” and has “exceptionally long storage.”
Last June's celtuce harvest
We’re also looking forward to refining our techniques for growing some crops we’re less familiar with or would like to improve upon.  Last year was our second attempt at growing celtuce.  It was a lot of fun, but we learned a few things and think we can do a better this year.  Even after 40 plus years of growing sweet corn, Farmer Richard continues to set his standards high for growing the most delicious sweet corn.  We’ve secured our preferred varieties and Richard and the crew have refined their strategy to protect the crop from pests.  Last year was a pretty good year of sweet corn, but we hope this year will be even better!
Of course we continue to consider more ways we can develop greater resilience to the erratic weather patterns we fear are our new norm.  We have watched our soil and fertility end up in the creek bottom or road ditches after heavy downpours of rain that come too fast for the moisture to be absorbed.  We think about this a lot—what else can we do to keep our soil in place and prevent erosion?  We have tried a new approach of planting permanent short grass and clover in between beds of vegetables and pathways around and within fields where water drains off the fields.  We had some success with this last year and are planning to expand this practice this year.
Farmer Richard & CSA kids at the Harvest Party 2018
While we realize CSA may not be for everyone, we believe it can be a good fit for many and is intended to be a different model that goes beyond the act of just buying food.  Rather, the whole point of CSA is to connect an eater to the source of their food and a greater community.  This can become a much deeper and more meaningful experience for both the consumer and the farmer with values and benefits that far exceed that of a simple dollar.   We are excited to have the opportunity to continue growing for our CSA members as it really is the most meaningful part of our business.  We know there are values and benefits associated with participating in CSA that are hard to measure, but include health benefits of having a wide variety of plant foods in your diet, learning more about how and where your food is grown, visiting the farm and connecting with both the place and people, participating in the act of preparing your own food and doing so as a family.  These are just a few of the additional benefits CSA members have shared with us about their experiences, but I’m sure there are more. 

We are curious how our CSA boxes compare to shopping at a retail grocery store.  Every year we ask a CSA member to be our “Secret Shopper.”  Each week this individual compares the contents of the vegetable box we deliver to three different types of retail grocery stores which include a local food co-op, a larger natural foods grocery and a traditional grocery store.  We took a look at these reports as well as our own data from last year and wanted to share some of the results with you.
CSA box #19 from 2018 included 3 items not found in
grocery stores: fresh edamame, broccoli Romanesco, and
orange Italian frying peppers
Lets talk about dollar value first.  Our weekly CSA vegetable share costs $1050 and includes all 30 weeks of deliveries.  The average cost of a box is $35, although some boxes may have a value a little less than that while others might have much greater value.  If you were to have purchased everything that was delivered over the course of the season at one of these other retail outlets, you would have paid approximately $1300 at the food co-op and traditional grocery store or about $1200 at the larger natural foods grocery store.  Additionally, if you had purchased all of the box contents at our market stand you would’ve paid $1315.  The take home message here?  CSA members receive a value of 14-25% above the actual dollars paid for the share and would have to pay the higher price if they were to make the same purchases at a retail store.  

Sun Jewel Melons ready to be packed in CSA boxes
We also found that 13% of all items sourced at the large natural foods store were not organic and at the traditional grocery store 28% of the items were not available organic.  The food co-op was the only store where someone would be able to purchase all organic.   There were also items included in our CSA shares that were not available at any of the comparison stores.  This rate was lowest at the food co-op, but we still found that 22% of the items were not available.  At the other two locations about 30% of the items were not available at all.  Some of these items include some of our seasonal favorites like green garlic, sweetheart cabbage, sun jewel melons, French Orange melons, fresh edamame, purple beans, orange Italian frying peppers, broccoli Romanesco and colored cauliflower. We strive to provide a wide variety of vegetables over the course of the season to keep things interesting and fun, but also because it’s important to eat a wide variety of foods for their nutrients.
As the first month of this new year comes to a close, we thank you for being part of our community.  If you have already made the decision to sign up for a CSA share for this year, thank you!  If you are still in the contemplative stage, we want to remind you that we have an Early Bird Sign Up offer available until February 14.  

We also have two new sites in the Twin Cities area and are still working on refining our new Thursday route into Madison.  Some of our new sites for this route have been confirmed, so check out our sign-up form for these locations.  Be well and enjoy this winter season!---Farmers Richard and Andrea

December 13, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Cipollini Onions

12 Dec 2018 22:52

Cooking With This Week's Box

Red Savoy Cabbage: Cabbage & Mushroom Lasagna
Red Cipollini Onions: Balsamic Roasted Cipollini Onions (see below)
This is it, our final box of the season.  This week’s box is packed full of storage vegetables that will keep well into the next month.  Take a moment to read this week’s newsletter to find out how to best store each item.  Lets start this week’s cooking with the Red Cipollini Onions which are this week’s featured vegetable.  This is a special onion that is at its best, in my opinion, when roasted.  My simple recipe for Balsamic Roasted Cipollini Onions (see below) is my favorite way to prepare these onions and is a great dish to serve alongside buttered noodles, grilled steak or roast chicken.  I featured this recipe way back in 2007, but it’s still a keeper!
I found this recipe for Pasta Salad with Roasted Carrots and Sunflower Seed Dressing It’s simple, but interesting and will be good for a light lunch or a holiday potluck.
Celeriac and Apple Soup with Tarragon
photo by Linda Xiao, food52
On the same website, Smitten Kitchen, I found this recipe for Cabbage & Mushroom Lasagna.  The recipe uses thin slices of potato as the “lasagna” noodle layer.  I’m going to substitute thin slices of celeriac instead.  If you don’t use all your celeriac for this recipe, consider making this simple Celeriac and Apple Soup with Tarragon.
I love finding interesting ways to eat root vegetables throughout the winter, including ideas for salads.  I’m excited to try this recipe for Spiced Beet Salad with Citrus Ginger Dressing.  In this recipe the beets are tossed in a citrus vinaigrette that is seasoned with coriander, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes and turmeric.  Once roasted, the beets are served topped with a dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of the dressing, mint and pistachios.
Buy a few extra pistachios so you can try this recipe for Simple Kohlrabi with Pistachios and Sage.  This kohlrabi tastes so sweet and delicious when roasted and this simple recipe will be easy to pull off with little time to invest.  Serve it with rice or alongside poached salmon or even just a simple fried egg.
If you’re looking for a recipe that can handle variations in ingredients and still be delicious, this recipe for Sesame Noodles with Seasonal Variations is a good one to try.  I featured this recipe in the newsletter several years ago and it’s a good one.  The recipe is written to include storage turnips as well as carrots, but you could also include beauty heart radishes and/or kohlrabi if that’s what you have available.
If you didn’t have a chance to make the recipe for Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping that we featured in our last newsletter, be sure to save it and give it a try this winter.  It’s a great way to incorporate a lot of different root vegetables into a meal including turnips, celeriac, carrots, and any other root you want to include!
Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
This week some boxes will receive butternut squash and others will receive festival squash.  If you receive the butternut squash, or have some remaining from a previous delivery, consider making this Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette.  We featured this recipe on our blog last winter.  You’ll have to scroll to the bottom of the blog post.  This is a delicious creation that takes a little time to make, but is really quite easy.  If you receive the festival squash, consider making this recipe for Vegan Stuffed Acorn (sub Festival) Squash.  The squash are filled with a mixture of quinoa, cranberries, apples and pecans. 
We’re one vegetable away from cooking everything in this week’s box.  We’re down to sweet potatoes and I have one sweet and one savory suggestion.  I couldn’t resist this recipe for Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie and for all you Midwesterners…Breakfast Hot Dish featuring sweet potatoes!
Friends, I’m signing off for a little winter rest.  I hope you have fun cooking up creative winter meals and I look forward to meeting you back here in this space again next spring as we start another season of delicious, seasonal eating!  Happy Holidays! –Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Red Cipollini Onions

As you unpack the contents of this week’s box, don’t think the beautiful red onions packed in a brown paper bag are just another red onion.  These are a special onion that have a more flattened shape and are known for their higher natural sugar content in comparison to other storage onions.  Cipollini onions are at their best when slowly roasted to develop these natural sugars, leaving them silky, soft and so sweet they’ll melt in your mouth. 
This is not an onion you want to chop up— it’s one to be featured whole in soups, side dishes, roasted alongside beef, pork or chicken, or on kebobs. Roasted cipollini onions can be served as a side dish on their own— flavored with balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, marinade, or simply tossed with olive oil or butter and salt and pepper. While I think this onion is best roasted, you can also boil or braise them. They add flavor and color when braised in the cooking liquid of pot roast or pork roast along with other root vegetables. Smaller cipollini onions can also be added to soups or stews.
As with any other onion, the papery skin needs to be removed prior to cooking.  They are kind of challenging to peel by hand without peeling off an outer layer of onion flesh.  There is a trick to making them easier to peel. The first step is to trim the stem and root ends with a paring knife. Next, pour boiling water over them and let them set for 5-10 minutes. This helps loosen the skin and you should be able to slip it off easily. Now the onions are ready to be used as you wish. 

Balsamic Roasted Cipollini Onions

Yield:  4-6 servings

1 pound cipollini onions
¼ cup balsamic vinegar, or as needed
2 tbsp butter
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

    Preheat oven to 375°-400°F. 
  2. Prepare onions by trimming both ends and removing the skin.  In a baking dish, toss onions with vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and put in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until start to become tender. 
  3. Remove cover and add butter.  Allow the butter to melt, then toss it in with the onions and bake, uncovered, until onions are tender and the liquid has reduced.  You may need to add more vinegar if the liquid has reduced and the onions are not yet done baking.  Serve hot.

Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder

What’s in store for 2019? Retiring Fruit & Coffee Shares AND Adding Thursday delivery to the Madison Area!

12 Dec 2018 22:52

Dear Members,
Packing CSA Vegetable shares
This week we’ll be packing and delivering the final CSA box of the 2018 season.  I (Andrea) still remember sitting at my desk on the night of April 19.  It had snowed over 10 inches that day and I was having a hard time imagining just what we were going to pack in our first CSA box that was just two weeks away.  Fast forward through ramps, asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, melons, peppers, leeks, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and here we are in December, wrapping up another bountiful season of delicious vegetables.  Richard and I would like to thank each one of you for allowing us to be your farmers and grow food for you and your families this year.  Growing vegetables for our CSA families is the most meaningful part of what we do and we consider you, our CSA members, to be a very  important part of our farm.
As we look ahead to 2019, we have some updates to share with you about next year.  It’s no secret that CSA memberships, across the country, have been declining over the past 8-9 years.  This has been true for our farm as well, but we do not believe that CSA is a dying model.  Rather, we believe CSA is a very valuable model, for farmers, individuals, and our community.  CSA is unique, it’s not for every farmer and it’s not for every eater.  We’re thankful for our longtime members who have shown us just how important CSA has been in their lives.  We feel privileged to be able to watch so many beautiful CSA kids grow into bigger CSA kids as they become intelligent, beautiful individuals who are having and will have a positive impact in this world.  Over the past twenty-five years we’ve seen the results that come from “eating out of the box.”  Children that learn how to cook and feed themselves.  Adventurous eaters who are willing to try new things and enjoy eating a diverse diet.  Members who visit the farm and form a connection with where their food is grown.  Families who take the time to eat meals together, even in the midst of their busy lives.  Individuals who regain and maintain their health simply by eating more vegetables out of the box.  These are just some of the ways we know CSA can change and impact lives in a positive way.  We’re not giving up on CSA, rather we’re holding on to what we believe is a good thing and we’ll do our best to continue growing for our CSA families, making whatever positive impact we can in our little corner of the world.
Andrea with grower Mas Masumoto, Rick & Kathie (Co-Op Partners)
One of the difficult decisions we have made for the 2019 season is to discontinue offering Fruit & Coffee shares.  Those of you who have enjoyed these shares may be saying “WHAT!!!”  We are grateful for the partnerships we’ve formed with other producers that have allowed us to offer these shares for many years, however as we look at the “big picture” of our business we feel it’s time to retire these shares and focus on what we love the most and do the best, grow vegetables.  Producing fruit is not an easy job and we have a great respect for the excellent growers we’ve had the opportunity to work with.  Farmer Al at Frog Hollow Farms, Mas Masumoto, Gena Nonini at Marian Farms, Rich Johansen, Reusch Century Farm, and the list goes on.  Rick Christianson, our friend and buyer at Co-Op Partners’ Warehouse in Minneapolis, has been our conduit to these many excellent fruit growers.  He’s sourced fruit for us that is special, unique and sometimes in limited supply.  He’s connected us with these growers so we can have personal conversations with them and then pass their stories onto our members.   His job has not been easy and in many ways it continues to become more and more challenging as he deals with changes in the marketplace, challenges with transportation to get the fruit to us, etc.  Fruit is a delicate commodity and maintaining quality can be challenging.  We face quality issues with our own vegetables, that’s the life of farming.  The difference is we have more control over quality with our own products than we do with products we source elsewhere.  We hope our current and past members will continue to support our awesome, talented, skillful fruit producers when you see their fruit at your local co-op or maybe even do a special purchase on line…you know, for those extra special Warren pears.
TJ & Caleb,  Kickapoo Coffee owners.
We’ve also enjoyed our relationship with Kickapoo Coffee and are excited to see their business grow and flourish while they hold tight to their foundational beliefs.  They not only source some of the best quality coffee in the world, but they do it with integrity, fairness and respect for the producers.  They also happen to be pretty darn good at roasting it to perfection.  We’ll certainly continue to start our day with a delicious, rich cup of Kickapoo coffee and we hope you’ll consider doing the same (if you’re a coffee drinker).  They have an awesome subscription service too, so sign up for that and they’ll deliver it right to your door! 
Now that we have that announcement behind us, lets get back to vegetables!  At the end of the day, growing vegetables is what we love to do and we want to continue to invest our time, energy and resources in doing the best job that we can while continuing to learn and improve each year.  We will be offering a similar line-up of vegetable share options for the 2019 growing season and have decided to hold our pricing steady with our 2018 prices for next year. 

We are also excited to have room in our week to offer a weekday delivery option for the Madison area.  This is something we’ve been considering doing for the past few years, but it just hasn’t felt right and honestly, we just weren’t sure where or how we’d squeeze it into the week!  Our decision to discontinue packing fruit shares has opened up more labor hours and space in the packing shed on Wednesdays to allow us to pack boxes for a Thursday delivery into Madison.  This Thursday delivery route will hopefully open up some opportunities we haven’t previously been able to explore with our Saturday route.  In particular we’re hoping to add some business and workplace delivery locations.  This route is still under construction, and we’d value your input!  If you have a suggestion for a business location we might be a good fit for, please let us know as soon as possible so we can reach out to them.  We’ll also be offering several residential delivery sites.  If you’re interested in the possibility of hosting a CSA pick up site, please let us know so we can consider your location as we put together the route. 

In closing, we want to wish everyone a joyful and peaceful winter season.  We will be working with focused determination to prepare for another growing season and we look forward to being your farmers in 2019!
Richard & Andrea

November 29, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Storage Turnips

28 Nov 2018 21:45

Cooking With This Week's Box

Italian Garlic: Roasted Garlic Hummus
Spaghetti Squash: Spaghetti Squash Fritters
Scarlet Turnips:  Chicken Pot Pie (see below);  Cornish Pasty (Meat Hand-Pies) (see below)
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Did you stick with the familiar traditional foods or did you try some new recipes? We’re entering into our final month of the year, the cold has set in and the snow is flying.  Doesn’t it make you want to hunker down and cook comfort food?! 
Lets kick off this week’s cooking adventure with two traditional recipes for winter comfort food that will make use of the sweet scarlet turnips which are this week’s featured vegetable.  The first recipe is my version of a Chicken Pot Pie (see below).  While I usually make pot pie with chicken, you could also turn this into a vegetarian dish by omitting the chicken and using vegetable stock.  Pot pies usually have a pie crust topping, but I’ve never been a fan of that so I always make mine with a crispy biscuit topping that includes a little cheddar cheese.  This is hearty enough for a full meal, so we generally just eat it for dinner with a little bit of cranberry jelly on the side to complement the rich, creamy gravy.  The second featured recipe this week is for Cornish Pasties (pronounced past-E) (see below).  These are kind of like the original hot pocket and are a traditional food of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula thanks to the Cornish miners who immigrated there in the 1800’s.  Pasties are one of their national dishes and they took them with them for lunch when they were working down in the mines.  They generally consist of some kind of beef and/or pork along with potatoes, rutabagas or turnips, carrots, onions and in modern versions there may be some dried herb and garlic.  They have a flaky, crispy, buttery pastry that encloses a hearty filling.  They are sturdy enough that you can hold them in your hand and they reheat well.  In one source, I read that they would sometimes cut the initials into each one of the person who was intended to eat it so they didn’t get them confused!  In the original recipes, the pasties are quite large which makes sense for a hardworking man.  In the recipe below, I offer the suggestion to make them half of the original size, which I find to be a more manageable size for those with a smaller appetite.
Roasted Black Radishes with Brown Butter & Rice
Moving on, I’m going to tackle the mysterious black Spanish radishes next.  Earlier in the spring I featured a recipe for Roasted Black Radishes with Brown Butter & Rice.  My original recipe was written for spring cooking and included chives.  You can omit them since they are out of season!  If you taste the black Spanish radish raw and think it’s too strong for your tastes, give this recipe a try.  The black radish will mellow out when it is roasted. 
Chili-Lime Sunchoke Salsa with Pan-Roasted Salmon
This week we have another root vegetable that may be less familiar to some and may be mistaken for a piece of ginger.  This vegetable is the sunchoke, otherwise known as a Jerusalem artichoke.  I will forewarn you if you’re trying them for the first time, they contain inulin.  Inulin is a non-digestible fiber that is really good for our bodies as they feed prebiotic bacteria in our colon and help to maintain our digestive health.  It is best to eat them in small quantities at first as some may have a bit of digestive discomfort if they eat too much.  I recommend making this Chili-Lime Sunchoke Salsa which is great on pan-roasted salmon or as a topping for tacos.  Another great recipe that is fitting for this week’s box is this Cabbage & Sunchoke Pizza.
You should be able to get possibly several meals out of the head of cabbage in your box.  In addition to the pizza, use some of your cabbage to make this simple Kohlrabi & Cabbage Slaw or try this recipe for Cabbage Pad Thai with Tofu.
Festival Squash with Kale & Sausage
Photo from epicurious.com
This recipe for Festival Squash with Kale & Sausage was shared by a member in our Facebook group.  If you don’t have any kale or collards hiding in your refrigerator, try substituting green savoy cabbage for the kale.  The original recipe calls for acorn squash, but the festival squash in this week’s box is an acceptable substitute.  Some boxes this week will also receive spaghetti squash.  I want to try this recipe for Spaghetti Squash Fritters.  As with most fritters, we’ll probably eat them with a little scoop of sour cream and they’ll probably go with either a quick seared pork chop or maybe a burger!
I love roasted garlic and am anxious to try this recipe for Roasted Garlic Hummus. This will make for a quick lunch spread on a piece of toast or a bagel or simply served with slices of raw carrot and kohlrabi.
We’re going to give onions center stage this week with this recipe for Jamie Oliver’s World’s Best Baked Onions or this creamier recipe for Creamed Onion Gratin.   Either recipe could serve as a side dish along with roast beef or chicken or make it a main dish with a salad on the side.
Quick Kohlrabi Kim Chi Salad
Photo from JeanettesHealthyLiving.com
As with your cabbage, you’ll also likely get several meals from the kohlrabi.  In addition to the Kohlrabi & Cabbage Slaw mentioned above, you could use kohlrabi to make this Quick Kohlrabi Kim Chi Salad or try cooking kohlrabi with this recipe for Cider-Braised Kohlrabi.
This week is the last week we’ll be including parsnips in the share.  I always tend to keep it simple when preparing parsnips and roasting is my favorite method, such as in this recipe for Roast Parsnips with Chili Maple Butter.
I’ve saved the orange vegetables for last and am anxious to try this recipe for Thai Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup with Curry Roasted Cashews I also want to try this recipe for  Raw Carrot Pasta with Ginger Lime Peanut Sauce.   If you have a spiralizer, you can use it to make carrot noodles, or you can just simply make long ribbons of carrot with a vegetable peeler. 
That’s it for this week.  Stay warm and I’ll see you back here in two weeks for our final box of the 2018 CSA season!

Featured Vegetable: Storage Turnips

Scarlet Turnips
Friends, it’s that time of year.  We’ll be ushering in the first day of December before the week is finished.  We are officially done harvesting vegetables, but this week’s box is still brimming with abundance as we pull from our stores of roots, cabbage, alliums, squash, etc.  We plan for this time of year and make sure we have plenty of vegetables stashed away when the snow starts to fly.  This is a new season of local fare and this week I want to turn our attention to the humble storage turnip.  Some vegetables seem to scream “Look at me!” while others, such as turnips, seem to hang out in the shadows.  But turnips are an important part of our winter diet and deserve a mention.  They are much different from the tender, mild baby white salad turnips we grow in the spring and early fall.  Storage turnips are much more dense and have a stronger flavor.  They also have the ability to store for months (literally!) in cold storage.  We grow three different colors of storage turnips including the classic and familiar purple top turnips, golden turnips, and the hot pink sweet scarlet turnips included in this week’s box. Purple top turnips have the strongest turnip flavor while golden and sweet scarlet turnips are more mild.  Golden & sweet scarlet turnips are our two preferred varieties, which is why we’ve chosen them for your last two boxes of the season!
Yes, we realize turnips are sometimes a challenging vegetable for CSA members to embrace.  I’ve heard longtime members say “I can conquer everything in the box, but those late season turnips are a challenge for me!”  Most likely this stems from a bad experience early in life.  Perhaps overcooked turnips or canned turnips.  Turnips are part of the Brassica family and, like many other vegetables in this family, it’s important not to overcook them thereby releasing those strong sulfur compounds that can be strong and unpleasant.  I hope you’ll approach turnips with an open mind this year as they have a lot of great health and culinary qualities and can be used in a wide variety of ways throughout the winter. 
Turnips are seldom a featured vegetable in a meal, rather they play their greatest role by hanging out in the shadows of your culinary creations.  If you’re still learning how to use and appreciate turnips, use them in recipes where they are combined with other ingredients as opposed to being cooked on their own.  Turnips pair well with apples, cheese, cider, cream, garlic, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and lemon as well as other root vegetables, bacon, ham and roast beef.  They make a delicious addition to winter soups, stews, root vegetable gratins, root mash and pot pies.  Turnips are also a great vegetable to use in a winter stir-fry, or pickle them and use them as a condiment for sandwiches or alongside rich meats, etc. 
Apple & Turnip Quiche
If you’re looking for a recipe and not sure where to start, I’d like to suggest the recipe in this week’s newsletter for Chicken Pot Pie (see below--may also be adapted to be vegetarian).  My other all-time favorite recipe utilizing turnips is the Birchwood Café’s recipe for Apple & Turnip Quiche.  I serve this frequently during the winter.  Richard also likes this simple one-pan recipe for Pan Seared Pork Chops with Turnips, Apples & Cider Cream Sauce and if you really like the flavor of turnips and want to give it more of the center-stage, try Roasted Turnip Ganoush
Turnips should be stored in a plastic bag or container in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.  I seldom peel turnips, however if you find their flavor to be more pungent than your liking, peeling may help decrease some of the characteristic turnip bite.  Also, with extended time in storage you may find some turnips may develop some browning due to oxidation or some surface scarring, which is sometimes a reason to peel the turnip.  The defect is often only on the surface and the rest of the turnip is totally usable.  If your turnips start to dehydrate a little bit in storage, either re-hydrate them in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator or cut them up and put them in a stew or soup.
We hope you’ll choose to embrace turnips this year and try some new and different ways to prepare them!

Cornish Pasties (Meat Hand Pies)

Yield:  6 large or 12 small pasties
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
1 cup butter or shortening
Salt, to taste
1 cup cold ice water
12 ounces ground beef (uncooked)
½ cup carrot, small dice
½ cup turnip or rutabaga, small dice
½ cup parsnips, small dice
½ cup potato, small dice
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper
1 large egg, beaten
  1. For the pastry:  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  Cut in the butter or shortening using a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add half the water and stir gently with a fork.  Add the remaining water and bring together the dough into a large ball.  Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large bowl, combine beef, small diced vegetables, thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Thoroughly  mix to combine and set aside.
  3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 6 even pieces (if making large pasties), or 12 pieces (if making small pasties).  Flour a work surface and roll out each ball of dough into an 8-inch circle (for large pasties).  Put about ¾ cup filling on one side of the circle of dough.  Fold the dough over to cover the mixture and crimp the edges to seal the pasty.  You may flute or gently roll the edges for a decorative touch.  Carefully lift the pasty onto a baking sheet (lined with parchment for convenience if you wish).  Repeat with remaining pasties.
  4. Brush the pasties with the egg wash using a pastry brush.  Cut 3 small slits in the top of each pastry to prevent steam from building up and splitting the dough.  Bake for 1 hour until the crust is golden brown and flaky and the filling is firm and thoroughly cooked.  Serve warm, with ketchup or brown gravy if you like.
  5. If you have leftovers, wrap in foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months.  You can reheat these in a 350°F oven.

This recipe was adapted from a recipe for Michigan Pasty found at cookingchanneltv.com and a recipe for Cornish Pasties found at kingarthurflour.com.

Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping

Yield:  4 servings

½ cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 pints chicken stock
½ tsp dried thyme
2 ½ cups root vegetables (turnip, carrot, parsnip, celeriac, rutabaga), medium dice
8 ounces cooked chicken, diced
Sea Salt, to taste
Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Biscuit Topping (See Recipe Below)

  1. In a small sauce pot, melt 2 Tbsp of butter.  Sweat onion and garlic in butter until softened.  Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter and melt.  Stir in whole wheat pastry flour to make a roux.  Gradually add chicken stock, stirring constantly to combine.  Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently to keep from scorching the bottom of the pot.
  2. Add thyme, diced vegetables and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.  Stir in chicken and pour into an 8 x 8 inch baking dish.  Drop spoonfuls of biscuit dough evenly on top of filling.  Bake in a 400°F oven for 35-40 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Biscuit Topping
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 Tbsp unsalted cold butter
½ cup buttermilk
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper.  Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.  
  2. Add cheese and toss to coat.  Add buttermilk and stir to combine.  Mixture should be stiff.
Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm

Health is Our Wealth

28 Nov 2018 21:45

By Andrea Yoder
“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.”—Wendell Berry
Since the 1990’s our food supply has changed dramatically.  When I was a kid Cheerios were pretty safe to eat, but now they are laced with glyphosate residues.  Now foods made from GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops are widespread within our food system and until recently we had no way of knowing if a food contained GMOs or not.  Some products are now labeled, but there is still a big void for most consumers about the negative impact GMO crops and their production system are having on both human and environmental health.  The six main GMO crops being produced now are corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets and alfalfa.  Additionally, GMO salmon, papaya, potatoes, apples, sweet corn, zucchini and yellow squash are also being produced but in lesser amounts. 
Jeffery Smith is the founder of The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) which has become “a world leader in educating policy makers and the public about genetically modified (GM) foods and crops.”  Mr. Smith recently released a film entitled Secret Ingredients that is now available to the public.  Richard and I had the opportunity to watch the movie earlier this week and would like to share a little glimpse of the movie as well as encourage everyone to take the time to watch it. 
Kathleen DiChiara (photo from her website)
The goal of the movie was to bring greater awareness to the public about the relationship between foods containing GMOs and toxic chemicals, such as glyphosate, and the vast array of chronic illnesses and health problems that are on the rise in our country including obesity, infertility, cancer, digestive disorders, autism, brain fog, skin disorders, gluten sensitivity, allergies, chronic fatigue, asthma, anxiety and many more.  The movie starts off with the story of Kathleen DiChiara  and her family including three young sons.  Kathleen was a well-educated person, a loving mother, an athlete attentive to health and thought she was eating a healthy diet.  Then the health of her family started to unravel.  She herself experienced an array of debilitating symptoms leading to a surgery that left her with paralysis as well as chronic pain in addition to the other symptoms she was experiencing including irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, rashes and more.  She went from participating in triathlons to being in a wheelchair and lost her job due to her disabilities.  At the same time she was trying to raise a young family, but was challenged by caring for her oldest son who was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, an autism spectrum disorder.  She also had a son struggling with asthma as well as a third son who had extensive and painful skin rashes covering his body.  Altogether, their family of 5 had 21 chronic health disorders.  As she and her husband struggled to figure out how to heal their family, her research led her to their food.  She didn’t realize the food she was eating and feeding her children was what was making them so sick.  When their family committed to eating an organic and GMO-free diet, their bodies healed and they were able to regain their health.  Their story is both heartbreaking as well as full of joy as they now living strong, vibrant lives they can enjoy.  In the movie, Kathleen made the statement “I chose to take my family out of this human experiment.” 
This movie also included interviews with physicians including Dr. Michelle Perro, author of “What’s Making Our Children Sick?” and Dr. David Perlmutter, renowned neurologist and author of multiple books including his most recent entitled “Grain Brain.”  Both of these physicians have years of clinical experience and have seen the dramatic improvements on health in patients who remove GMO foods from their diet and eat only organic food.  They speak extensively in the movie about the gut microbiome.  The healthy bacteria in our bodies are the gate keepers for our system, keeping our digestive tract intact and preventing foreign proteins, toxins, and allergens from entering our system.  They regulate inflammation in our bodies and have an extensive role in our brain chemistry.  The problem is that the chemical glyphosate, which is used extensively in conjunction with GMO plants, relies on a pathway to kill plants (weeds) called the shikimate pathway.  Humans don’t utilize this pathway, thus it has been said that GMO crops and glyphosate are safe for humans.  Unfortunately, this is a lie.  The bacteria in our gut are impacted by this pathway and exposure to GMO crops and glyphosate can cause extensive damage to our gut microbiome, leaving our systems vulnerable to attack from all the things these bacteria are meant to protect us from. 
There is much more depth of information in the movie than I can present here, but I do encourage you to take the time to watch the movie and see it for yourself.  Throughout the movie, it becomes clear that organic and non-GMO food is no longer just a lifestyle, but rather can be a life saver.  They also acknowledged that food can be deceiving.  If you put organic food and GMO foods side by side you likely won’t be able to tell the difference.  You can’t see the pesticides and herbicides they contain and you can’t see the allergens or novel proteins that can harm you.  Food is supposed to be our life force and bring vitality, not disease and destruction to our bodies.  Kathleen made an interesting point that it can be “Socially Inconvenient” to eat organic.  It’s hard to eat out and it’s hard to eat on the go or when you are traveling.  However, for those who are committed to eating this way, there are ways to overcome these challenges.  Kathleen and her family are very intentional about their diet.  They eat before they go out or pack snacks to take with them.  If going to a birthday party or the like, they take their own dessert made with organic ingredients.  They’ve also made friends with other families who are like-minded and they have dinner parties together.  They have experienced first-hand the impact high quality, nutrient dense food that is free from chemicals and GMOs can have on their health and ability to enjoy their lives, and that isn’t’ something they’re about to trade for a little bit of convenience.
I’m going to close with a few lines from a song that was played at the end of the movie.  The lyrics are simple, but powerful.  “Health is wealth, it’s the gift we give ourselves.  Health is wealth, don’t leave it to no one else….Give me food that’s grown on farms with butterflies & bees.”

November 15, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Tat Soi

14 Nov 2018 21:03

Cooking With This Week's Box

Red & Yellow Onions: Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below)

Italian Garlic: Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below); Chili Lime Sweet Potato Gratin with Goat Cheese

Butterscotch Butternut Squash: Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below); Grandma Yoder's Squash PieRoasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup

Tat Soi:  Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below)
It doesn’t seem possible that we’re down to our last three CSA boxes.  Weren’t we just harvesting ramps not too long ago?  Thanksgiving will be here next week and Christmas will follow close behind.  Whether you’re looking for recipes to make for the holidays or just looking to find some tasty, seasonal recipes to try for weekly meals, this is a great time of the year to collect recipes from blogs, cooking magazines, etc.  One of my favorite sites to peruse this time of year is Food52.com.  I’ve already made a list of new recipes to try from their Food52 Thanksgiving Menu Maker.  Check it out and you’ll find a lot of really good ideas for fall and winter vegetables.
Ok, time to get cooking with this week’s box and first on the list is our featured vegetable, the beautiful tat soi!  If you aren’t familiar with tat soi, please take a moment to read this week’s vegetable feature article.  Tat soi is a tasty and versatile green.  This week I used it to make the featured recipe below, Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below).  This turned out to be a pretty simple dish to make and very beautiful with contrasting colors of dark green, orange and purple from the red onions.  Unlike many pasta dishes that contain dairy, this dish is not only vegetarian but also vegan.  The chopped nuts with lemon zest that are used as a garnish is a perfect finishing touch to complete the dish.  This can stand alone as dinner itself or is tasty side dish with a seared pork chop, grilled salmon or roasted chicken.
The other green in this week’s box is collards.  Farmer Richard always tells us to “eat your greens every day,” so we’re doing our best to extend greens season as long as we can!  This week I want to use them to make this recipe for Collard Greens with Lime & Peanuts.  This is a simple, tasty recipe we featured in a previous newsletter.  I like it served over rice and will sometimes add a little fish or chicken as well.
It’ll be awhile before we see those pretty little fresh red radishes again, so we turn our attention to storage radishes to get us through the winter.  This week’s box contains beauty heart radishes which are more mild and sweet than other winter radishes.  If you aren’t familiar with this radish and aren’t sure what to do with them, you might want to refer to this article in a previous newsletter from several years ago which includes a list of things you can do with a beauty heart radish.  This radish has become a staple ingredient at Richard’s family’s Thanksgiving celebrations.  We eat them as snack food when we travel during the winter---radish slices with cheese.  It has to have more antioxidants than a wheat cracker!!  You could also use this radish to make this simple, attractive salad for Winter Radishes with Sour Cream Dressing & Poppy Seeds.  This is a tasty salad to enjoy throughout the winter when you’re looking for something fresh and crunchy.
Celeriac and Apple Romoulade
Photo from Romulo Yanes, MarthaStewart.com
If you don’t already have something in mind for this week’s celeriac, consider making one or two of my favorite dishes for celeriac.  Throughout the winter we often make Celeriac and Apple Remoulade.  Basically, it’s a creamy slaw made with shredded celeriac and apples.  I also like to put fresh, chopped cranberries in it.  It is simple enough to make for a regular, weeknight dinner, but classy enough that you could use it for a holiday dinner as well.  I also like to take leftover chicken or turkey and add it to this Wild Rice & Celeriac Gratin.  Consider putting this on the menu for the week after Thanksgiving.
What are you going to do with those rosy pink shallots?  We packed these in this week’s box so you’d have something a little extra special to use for your Thanksgiving creations.  There are a lot of fun things you can do with shallots.  You could give them center-stage and make Herb-Roasted Turkey with Shallot Pan Gravy If you’re making a traditional green bean casserole, consider trading those canned onions for Crispy Fried ShallotsShallot Marmalade is another option that could add some class to a leftover turkey sandwich or serve it as an appetizer with bread and cheese throughout the holiday season.  Lastly, this Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup offers a more reserved and simple option that is simply delicious.
Lets move on and tackle the orange vegetables in this week’s box starting with the carrots which are large, crispy, sweet and delicious!  If you’re into spiralizing, these might be a good carrot to sprialize into a salad.  This week I want to use these big carrots to make Carrot Fries.  These will go great with grilled cheese or a cheeseburger.  I also want to make these Apple and Carrot “Superhero” Muffins featuring oatmeal and almond meal.  The blog this recipe comes from also includes options for using whole wheat flour in place of the almond meal. Serve these for breakfast or brunch.
Sweet Potato Flan, photo from food52
Last year I made Deborah Madison’s Sweet Potato Flan and it’s on the list to make again within the next two weeks!  While it’s intended to be a decadent dessert, I also like eating it for breakfast!  Bake it in squatty half-pint canning jars so you can put a lid on it and send it in the kids’ lunch…like pudding.  Earlier this week I came across this recipe for Chili Lime Sweet Potato Gratin with Goat Cheese which would be great for Thanksgiving or just a regular weeknight!
I’ve already suggested a few uses for the last orange vegetable in the box, butternut squash.  If you aren’t feeling like Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup or Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below), may I make my annual suggestion to try my Grandma Yoder’s Squash Pie.  I think about Grandma a lot this time of year and am thankful she shared this and many other family recipes with me that our family continues to enjoy.
We have reached the bottom of the box, so all that’s left is to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!  We’ve been very blessed this year to have the opportunity to be your farmers and I’ve enjoyed sharing recipes and cooking ideas with you each week.  I hope you’ve found nourishment for your bodies as well as your souls throughout the season.  Please meet me back here again in two weeks as we roll into the home stretch of the 2018 CSA Season with our final two deliveries.  Happy Thanksgiving—Chef Andrea 

Featured Vegetable: Tat Soi

Tat soi is one of my favorite fall vegetables.  This is a gorgeous vegetable, but it’s also delicious and packed with nutrients.  You’ll recognize the tat soi in your box this week as the large, dark green flower-like vegetable with long slender light green stems and rounded spoon-like leaves.  Tat soi is a relative of bok choi and has a mild mustard flavor that has been sweetened by a few frosty nights.  Both the leaves and the stems are tender and may be eaten raw or cooked. 
Tat soi is one of the last greens we plant during the season with the intention to harvest it from the field as late as possible—early to mid-November.  As the temperatures start to decrease, the plant lays itself flat to hug the ground for warmth.  The result is a very open, flat rosette that has a deep, dark green color that intensifies with cold weather.  Tat soi is very resilient to cold temperatures and can recover after being frozen.  We did put hoops and a field cover over them to offer them some protection from the really cold nights.  If you see some outer leaves on your tat soi that have a white to grayish hue, you’re looking at a little frost damage.  You might also see some stems that have kind of a wrinkled, loose appearance.  This happens sometimes when the stem freezes and then thaws.  These stems and leaves are still good to eat and those frosty, cold nights are what make this green taste so mild and sweet!  We hope you’ll be forgiving of a few frosted leaves as you appreciate the beauty and taste of this late season vegetable.
Bok Choi Salad with Sesame Almond Crunch
Try this salad with the Tat Soi in place of Bok Choi!
If you’re looking for recipes that use tat soi, you’re search will likely turn up pretty slim.  Expand your search to include recipes that feature bok choi, spinach or even chard and you can use the tat soi in place of these greens.  Tat soi leaves and stems are tender enough to be chopped and eaten raw as a salad.  You can make a beautiful winter salad with tat soi, shredded carrot, slices of beauty heart radish and a light sesame-soy vinaigrette or even just a simple lemon vinaigrette.  I like to make a simple salad like this and turn it into an entrée by adding seared flank steak or grilled salmon and some chopped toasted almonds or sesame seeds.  Tat soi is also tasty used in stir-fries or wilted into brothy soups such as miso soup or hot and sour soup.  In a previous newsletter we featured recipes for Tat Soi & Chicken Stir Fry and Pan-Seared Sesame & Garlic Marinated Tofu with Wilted Tat Soi.  While I have a tendency to gravitate towards Asian ingredients and flavors when cooking tat soi, it also goes well with other flavors such as fennel, chiles and lemon as in the recipe for Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash and Tat Soi (see below) featured in this week’s newsletter.  We have two recipes in our archives that have been very popular amongst our members and were written to feature bok choi.  You can use this week’s tat soi in place of bok choi in this recipe for Spicy Ginger Pork Noodles with Bok Choi or this recipe for Bok Choi Salad with Sesame Almond Crunch.
To prepare tat soi for use, turn it over with the bottom facing up and carefully trim each stem from the base.  Wash the stems and leaves vigorously in a sink of clean, cold water.  Remember, tat soi lives very close to the ground so there is often dirt on the stems at the base of the plant.  Once the leaves and stems are clean, spin them dry in a salad spinner or loosely wrap them in a large kitchen towel and shake them to remove excess water.  If you are cooking the greens, it is a good idea to trim the stems from the leaves and put them in the pan first to give them a 1-2 minute head start before you add the leafy portion.  To store your tat soi, place it in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. 

Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi

Yield:  3-4 servings
2 ½ to 3 cups butternut squash, medium diced
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
¾ cup red wine
1 tsp fennel seeds
¼ - ½ tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups thinly sliced tat soi leaves & stems
8 oz dried spaghetti
Salt & Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Juice and zest of one lemon
½ cup toasted walnuts or almonds, finely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Put diced butternut squash in a mixing bowl and drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.  You want just enough to lightly coat all pieces.  Season with salt and pepper and spread the squash in a single layer on a baking pan.  Roast for 40-50 minutes or until the squash is tender and golden.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the finely chopped nuts along with ½ tsp salt and the zest of one lemon.  The lemon zest is best done on a microplane so it is very fine.  Alternatively, chop the zest finely with a knife.  Set the nut mixture aside to use as a garnish when serving this dish.
  3. Next, put on a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook spaghetti until al dente.  Before draining the spaghetti, remove one cup of the pasta water and set it aside.  Drain pasta and set aside. 
  4. While the squash is roasting and the spaghetti is cooking, heat 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil in a medium to large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and sauté lightly until they are softened and starting to caramelize.  If they start to brown, reduce the heat.  This will take about 15-20 minutes. 
  5. Once the onions are caramelized, add the red wine, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes.  Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. 
  6. Add the roasted butternut squash and tat soi to the pan.  Place the cooked spaghetti on top and stir to combine all of the ingredients.  Add some of the pasta water and continue to cook over medium heat until the tat soi is wilted and tender.
  7. Season with salt and pepper and add 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice.  Add a little more pasta water if necessary and simmer for another 4-5 minutes.  Taste and further adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and/or more lemon juice.
  8. Serve the pasta warm and topped with the mixture of toasted walnuts/almonds and lemon zest. 
Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder


14 Nov 2018 21:03

The article that follows was written by Shizue, Content Coordinator at Kickapoo Coffee Roasters.  In last week’s coffee newsletter, Shizue shared a glimpse into how pricing works in the coffee industry, connecting issues associated with commodity pricing to the impacts a volatile market have on the coffee producers.   We invited her to share a slightly expanded version of this article with our broader membership as her article represents issues in our food system that apply to all of us, whether you are a coffee drinker or not.  Commodity pricing plays a role in agriculture, perhaps more than any of us may realize.  Anything from raisins to chocolate, coffee to potatoes, avocadoes to lettuce, milk, and the list goes on.  As a farmer with fixed costs and family members to feed, working off of a volatile commodity market is less than reassuring and in many cases proves to be less than sustainable.  When prices are based on perceived values and market demands instead of the true cost of production, it often leaves producers holding all the risk.
In this article, Shizue poses the basic question “How do we value our producers?”  We encourage everyone to be an informed consumer and eater.  The system will only change when we as consumers demand the change.  How we value our producers—both those growing and producing in our local markets as well as those more distant from us who grow products we consume are important.  The fact that many producers around the world are forced to sell to a market at a loss for their hard work is heartbreaking.  Are we willing to pay the price our producers need to stay in the game and live a sustainable life?  We’re not talking about their ability to build extravagant homes, take vacations and drive expensive cars.  We’re talking about making sure the return they get for the product they produce is enough for them to continue to farm in another year, feed their families and provide for their basic needs, and hopefully have a little bit left over so they can invest in their future.  The reality is, if we don’t support our community of growers, we will continue to lose more small farmers.  We hope you’ll take a moment to read this article and want to thank you for being part of a more sustainable food system!—Farmers Richard & Andrea

By:  Shizue Roche Adachi, Kickapoo Coffee Roasters
A coffee farmer walks his fields in Peru.
On August 20th, the international price for green coffee (C-Price) plummeted to less than 97 cents per pound, the lowest it’s been in 12 years. And it’s not bouncing back. With an average cost of production hovering around $1.04 per pound, the market is now paying most farmers less than it costs to grow, cultivate, and process their coffee. Coffee farmers are already the least economically empowered players in the coffee supply chain, and now they are being asked to carry the financial burden of a system that’s failed them.
So, how did we get here? Like many industries, the true economy of coffee has been manipulated by speculation. Composed of a relatively small group of individuals, the financial sector holds an immense amount of economic power over the market. And they wield that power for their benefit, profiting off of a volatile commodity price while producers face uncertainty and instability.
At its foundation, the coffee industry is made up of an intricate web of relationships that tether coffee farmers and farmworkers to millers, roasters, exporters and retailers, and ultimately to coffee consumers worldwide. But the needs and interests of this interconnected community have been drowned out by those of speculators, traders, and investors. The C-Price, as with any commodity, dips and jumps in relationship to perceived value. It bears no responsibility to the true value of a coffee bean. And this is why our farmers can grow coffee in good faith, only to have to sell to the market at a loss. The market is not invested in the long-term sustainability and success of the coffee industry. It is interested in short term profits.
In an article published by the Specialty Coffee Association, the SCA’s Chief Sustainability Officer posited that we may lose half of our coffee farmers by 2030, forced out of livelihood that may have supported multiple generations before them. This loss is not only threatens the world’s coffee supply, it threatens the welfare of coffee producers around the world and the future of coffee farming as we know it.
While explaining the fluctuations in the C-Market demands a fuller explanation than can be captured here, what it really comes down to is a question of how we value producers. This is what happens when the market isn't held accountable to farmers. This is what happens when the industry confuses opportunities for quick profits with good business. This is what happens when we fail our producers and take their livelihoods for granted. And this is when Kickapoo Coffee's commitment to #RaisetheBar by setting a minimum price to farmers irrespective of the C-Price holds real weight.
In 2017, Kickapoo Coffee announced a guaranteed minimum price of $2.75 per pound to our farmers. This baseline commitment creates the economic security for farmers to see a future in coffee. And now, even though the C-Market price has fallen, we’re raising our minimum. This year, we’ll be writing contracts with a minimum price of $2.85 per pound.
While we can never rid ourselves of the commodity market, the specialty coffee industry can divorce itself from this degrading pricing model. Specialty coffee depends upon the producers who dedicate themselves to furthering their craft and exceeding market standards. And yet most industry players continue to base their prices on the commodity market.
This expectation to follow the commodity market is like expecting a local farmer selling heirloom varieties of popcorn to determine their price per pound according to the price of corn harvested for livestock feed. Or like asking an artisan chocolate maker to price their truffles based on the price of the Hershey’s bar at the gas station. Not only is this a ridiculous expectation, it’s a degrading one, with significant financial repercussions to those least empowered in the trade of coffee: the smallholder farmer.
The market won't change until we make it. Someone, somewhere, is always paying the true cost. So let’s put people above profits and give our farmers the dignity of a living wage.
To learn more about our minimum price guarantee to farmers and our campaign to #RaisetheBar, check out our website at kickapoocoffee.com.
Kickapoo Coffee co-owner, Caleb Nicholes, visits with a
member of the Adenisa Association in 2018.

Research Update: Organic Food Consumption and Cancer Risk

31 Oct 2018 21:42

By Andrea Yoder
Last week a research paper entitled “Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption with CancerRisk:  Findings from the NutriNet-SantéProspective Cohort Study” was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  This paper was written by a group of researchers in France.  The research presented in this article is part of a large-scale prospective web-based study that was launched in 2009 and is ongoing. The purpose of this large-scale study is to “study associations between nutrition and health, as well as the determinants of dietary behaviors and nutritional status.”  The volunteers in this study were recruited from the general French population and participate in the study by completing online self-administrated questionnaires.

The purpose of this portion of the study was to “prospectively examine the association between consumption frequency of organic foods….and cancer risk” in the participants.  This is the first research study of this type to be done prospectively.  The authors acknowledge that cancer rates worldwide continue to rise and are one of the leading causes of mortality in France.  Environmental exposure to toxic chemicals is considered by some to be a risk factor for cancer, however the focus of exposure in this context is most often related to occupational exposure.  However, there is a growing body of evidence linking cancer development to pesticide exposure and there is now some published research documenting pesticide residue levels in food as well as urinary markers of pesticides in humans.  What is not well documented is how the dose and/or effect of chemical cocktails impact cancer development in humans.  Thus, the purpose of this study was to observe the correlation between eating organic food and the development of cancers. 

If you are interested in reading this paper yourself and understanding more about the study design, population size and demographics, statistical evaluation, etc, the article is available in full text online.  For the purposes of this report, I’m going to jump to their conclusions.
Researchers found that participants with higher organic food scores (ie those who ate more organic food in their diet) were associated with overall heathier lifestyles with diets rich in nutrients.  They also found that those with high organic food scores had an overall lower risk of cancer.  With regards to specific types of cancer, they found that those with high organic food scores had a lower incidence of postmenopausal breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and all lymphomas.  No associations were observed with other cancer sites.  The researchers commented that “Epidemiological research investigating the link between organic food consumption and cancer risk is scarce, and, to the best of our knowledge, the present study is the first to evaluate frequency of organic food consumption associated with cancer risk using detailed information on exposure.”  They also comment that “While there is a growing body of evidence supporting a role of occupational exposure to pesticides for various health outcomes and specifically for cancer development, there have been few large-scale studies conducted in the general population, for whom diet is the main source of pesticide exposure.  It now seems important to evaluate chronic effects of low-dose pesticide residue exposure from the diet and potential cocktail effects at the general population level.  In particular, further research is required to identify which specific factors are responsible for potential protective effects of organic food consumption on cancer risk.”

Farmer Richard with some of our gorgeous, nutritious
radishes earlier this spring.
So what is the take-home message here?  It’s been eleven years since I worked as a clinical dietitian at a major medical university hospital on the east coast.  However, during my time as a clinician it was often a challenge to get the medical community I worked with to even acknowledge the major role even basic good nutrition plays in health both for disease prevention as well as healing and rehabilitation.  I recall little if any discussion of food quality, let alone discussion about the pros and cons of food produced in an organic system.  In that world, the sentiment always seemed to be that a calorie is a calorie and a carrot is a carrot.  No distinction was made between an organic carrot versus a conventional carrot.  So, for those who still question whether or not food produced without dangerous toxic chemicals has a positive impact on human health, I think it’s great that we are finally starting to discuss this topic and do the prospective research needed to fully evaluate this question from a scientific perspective.  I am also encouraged that this paper has been published in a major medical journal in this country.  I count this as progress and am hopeful that this research and these discussions will continue to move forward in a way that ultimately impacts our population in positive ways through greater knowledge and hopefully changes in dietary recommendations given by health professionals.
It’s obvious that Richard and I have a biased opinion about this topic as we have clearly chosen to produce food using organic methods.  We also seek out organic food for our own diets and believe that it is the best way to feed and nourish our bodies both by limiting exposure to potentially cancer-causing chemicals as well as providing our bodies with nutrients that help prevent cancer.  So, as always, we encourage everyone to make their own informed decisions about their food.  For this reason I hope we continue to see more research reports from well-designed studies to help us understand these issues surrounding the way our food is produced and the ultimate outcome for our health. 

November 1, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Chicories

31 Oct 2018 21:41

Cooking With This Week's Box

Red & Yellow Onions: Caramelized Onion Jam
Italian Garlic: Garlic Soup
Escarole:  Escarole & Bean Soup (see below);  Pasta with Gorgonzola, Radicchio, Walnuts, and Orange (see below)
This week’s box is packed full of fall goodness and while we’re moving into November, we are thankful to still have some delicious greens to enjoy!  This week we’re featuring Escarole or Radicchio.  I like bitter greens and this is by far my favorite time of year to enjoy them.  We can use the escarole to make this very simple Escarole & Bean Soup (see below) or use escarole or radicchio in this recipe for Pasta with Gorgonzola, Radicchio, Walnuts, and Orange (see below).
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos
photo from eats well with others
We all like an easy recipe or two to have on the back burner for a busy evening when you don’t have a lot of time to make dinner.  This recipe for Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos is pretty easy.  You could even roast the sweet potatoes in advance so you would just have to warm up the components and assemble the tacos.  Serve this with the Carrot, Beet & Apple Salad we featured in this week’s fruit newsletter and you have a quick, simple and very healthy option for dinner!
A few weeks ago I came across this recipe for a Butternut Apple Cranberry Sandwich.  This is a vegetarian sandwich based on slices of roasted butternut squash layered with fresh apples, dried cranberries a handful of arugula or other greens and a bit of quick pickled red cabbage.  Not only is this filling, but it’s packed with nutrients!
Tis the season for butternut squash, and I’ve had my eye on this Butternut Squash & Bacon Breakfast Casserole.   I love a good egg dish and would likely never have thought to put butternut squash in a dish like this!  The recipe calls for spinach, but the author suggests substituting kale instead.  Conveniently, we can use this week’s lacinato kale tops to complete this recipe!  Serve this along with Brussels Sprouts with Maple & Cayenne for a tasty brunch on the weekend.
With this week’s parsnips, I’m going to make two things.  First, this recipe for Chardonnay Braised Chicken Thighs with Parsnips which we featured in our newsletter previously.  This recipe will use about a pound of the parsnips, but you have 1 ½ pounds in this week’s box.  So, lets take the remainder, shred them and use them to make these Parsnip Muffins!  Even people who do not like parsnips usually enjoy this recipe!
photo from Wellness Mama
What are you going to do with all these onions?  Make Caramelized Onion Jam!  Make a big batch of this jam for the holidays.  Serve it on bread or crackers with goat cheese or another soft spreadable cheese of your choice.  You might also want some of this after Thanksgiving to use as a smear on bread for that after-Christmas TV Marathon.
Last, but not least, we have one head of garlic remaining in the box!  Keep yourself healthy this winter.  Use garlic in your diet every day and you’ll reap the health consequences for sure!  Check out this recipe for Garlic Soup!  We’re determined to stay healthy this winter!
Have a great week and we’ll be back in two weeks!
Thank you—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable: Chicories--Escarole & Radicchio

As we push into the final months of the year, our Midwestern seasonal diet shifts more to hearty roots and storage vegetables and fresh greens become more sparse.  But don’t think we’re done with greens yet!  This week we’re happy to be able to include some late season, cold-hardy chicories including either escarole or radicchio.  Both of these greens are bitter, cold-hardy greens that are best suited for growing in the fall and are sturdy enough to be able to take some frosty, cold nights.  In fact, we don’t even think about harvesting them until they’ve had some chilly nights!  The flavor of these greens changes dramatically after they’ve had cold treatment.  They are bitter greens, but don’t let that deter you.  When you harvest them after a frost, you’ll find their flavor profile to be bitter, but it’s a much more mild, well-balanced and slightly sweet flavor.  We have had temperatures down into the lower twenties.  These greens do just fine uncovered when freezing temperatures are in the low 30’s and high 20’s, but they can sustain some damage when we get a hard freeze.  So, we do cover these plants to protect them from freezing too hard on those really cold nights.  We don’t want the cover to rub on the leaves, so we have to put wire hoops over the beds to keep the cover off the plants.  The deer in our valley like to eat their greens every day and when their food sources are limited, they do enjoy a nice nibble on some escarole.  While we like to support our local wildlife, we do not like to share these greens with them!  So, the crew put a tall deer fence around the perimeter of the field to protect them.
Escarole resembles a head of green leaf lettuce.  The center leaves are sometimes light green or slightly yellow and the outer leaves are more broad and a bit more thick when compared to leaf lettuce.  There are several different kinds of radicchio, but this year we grew the round type that is supposed to make a little round head, similar to a Boston lettuce.  The leaves are dark red and even the outer leaves of the plant may be eaten.  Radicchio has a pretty long growing season and some years it’s hard to get them to full size.  They are very light and small right now, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to have enough more warm, sunny days to make much of a difference in their size so we decided to harvest them while we can.
Both escarole and radicchio may be eaten raw or cooked.  If you don’t mind a little bit of the bitter taste, you will enjoy eating these greens as a salad.  Cooking mellows out the bitterness and accentuates the sweet qualities in these greens.  Both of these greens are used more in Italian cuisine.  There’s a classic preparation for escarole that some Italian cooks call Scarola Affogata, which means “smothered escarole.”  In this dish, garlic is sautéed in olive oil until golden, then chopped escarole, salt and red pepper flakes and seasoning are added to the pan.  The greens are cooked until they are soft and tender.  This is then served as side dish, or you can use the greens for another purpose, such as on top of a pizza!
Escarole and radicchio pair well with other fall vegetables and fruits such as apples, pears, persimmons, lemons, oranges, garlic, onions, beets, potatoes and butternut squash.  They are also often included in dishes with white beans and lentils.  Additionally, they pair well with hazelnuts and walnuts as well as butter, prosciutto, bacon, cheese (including blue cheese, Parmesan, and gruyere).  Escarole is often used in soup, such as in this week’s featured recipe.  Radicchio is often used in pasta dishes, on top of pizza, or raw in salads.
Store escarole and radicchio in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use.  You will need to wash the leaves as you would wash head lettuce.  We hope you enjoy these unique, late season greens and the vitality you get from eating them!

Escarole and Bean Soup

Yield: 6 servings
Author’s note:  “This is probably the fastest soup you'll ever throw together.  I sometimes add sausage to make it a little heartier.”
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 head escarole, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1-ounce chunk of Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
Crusty Bread, for serving
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the escarole and saute until wilted, about 3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth, beans and chunk of Parmesan cheese.  Simmer until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Ladle the soup into 6 bowls.  Drizzle 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil over each portion.  Serve with crusty bread.

Recipe borrowed from Giada de Laurentiis’ book, Giada’s Family Dinners.

Pasta with Gorgonzola, Radicchio, Walnuts, and Orange

Yield:  4 servings

1 cup chopped walnuts

Salt, to taste

8 to 12 oz pasta, such as penne or gemelli

¼ cup olive oil
10-12 oz radicchio and/or escarole, cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 oz crumbled gorgonzola or other mild blue cheese
½ cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
Zest of 1 orange, plus the juice (optional)
Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano, for serving, optional
  1. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the walnuts and toast them over medium-low heat for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently so they do not burn.  Remove and set aside.  Wipe out skillet.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt and return to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package directions.
  3. While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the radicchio and/or escarole and season with salt and pepper. Cook the radicchio until it begins to wilt and brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the gorgonzola and cook for 2 minutes. Add ½ cup of the pasta water directly from the pot and simmer for 3 minutes more. The water should emulsify the cheese and create a velvety texture.
  5. Scoop the cooked pasta directly into the skillet (alternatively, drain, reserving plenty of the pasta cooking liquid) and toss to combine the pasta with the sauce. Add the walnuts and parsley and toss again until glossy, adding ¼ cup of pasta water or more (up to 1 cup), as needed to loosen up the sauce. Add the zest and toss to combine. Taste. Adjust as needed with more salt and pepper.

This recipe was borrowed from Alexandracooks.com, with recipe featured on Food52.com.

Dusk…Fall…Frost… Winter

24 Oct 2018 21:48

By Chef Andrea
Kohlrabi harvest from Saturday, complete with snow.
Last weekend we had our first hard frost with temperatures dropping down into the twenties.  We also saw snow flying and on Saturday we were pelted with snow, rain and sleet as we unloaded the harvest wagons when the crews came in for lunch!  Needless to say, now that the chill is on it’s time to truly acknowledge we’re shifting seasons.  While some may scowl at the thought of winter weather, the changing of seasons is one of the beauties of living…and eating in the midwest.  As CSA members, you are probably some of the most seasonally informed eaters as we follow the cues nature gives us as we harvest and plant across the wide range of seasons we experience from spring to summer and then fall and into winter.  Nature gives us what we need, when we need it and now we’re entering into the season of the year where the daylight hours are dwindling, the temperatures are dropping, and it’s time for us to slow down and keep warm.  In The Birchwood Café Cookbook, they call the transition from summer to fall the season of “Dusk” and mark the transition to winter with the onset of the first frost.  I like the description they use: “…out in our fields, ghosts of the harvest—stalks and vines, a few errant squash—are coated with silver and glisten in the morning sun.  The sudden cold snaps our appetites into action.  Hungers surge, and we start roasting roots and cooking whole grains and working with farmstead meats.”  This description is what we woke up to Sunday morning and those “ghosts of the harvest” were evident.  Stalks and stems once vibrant and alive now with frosted, wilted leaves frozen and motionless.  Our field work is dwindling, but we’re well-stocked with plenty of delicious vegetables to sustain us through the winter.
Escarole Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Pears,
and Almonds
“Bittersweet.  That’s fall in a nutshell.  Leaves are dropping, along with the temperatures, and the lush plants bursting with life such a short time ago look all used up.  Yet after summer’s frenetic growth, I can’t help but welcome fall’s slower pace.  I’m ready to be indoors, spending a little longer by the warm stove…Vegetables that love the cold—like Brussels sprouts and braising greens—are coming into their prime, sweetened by the cold nights and occasional fall frosts that encourage sugar development.  Roots are sweeter now as well.  I do still serve some fall vegetables raw, especially those first Brussels spouts and kale leaves.  But I’m more likely now than in early months to turn up the stove and transform the vegetables with heat.”  This is an excerpt from Joshua McFadden’s book Six Seasons in which he introduces the changing of seasons and cooking in the fall.  He’s right, the slower pace of winter can be a welcomed relief.  We replace quick vegetable sautes and grilled vegetables with roasted vegetables, baked sweet potatoes and squash and slowly simmered soups and stews.  While there are still some quick preparations for roots and the like, many of these vegetables need some time to become soft, tender and for their flavors to develop.  That being said, I do encourage you to continue to enjoy some things raw.  Even though we don’t have spinach, lettuce and salad greens anymore, we can still enjoy fresh, crunchy vegetable salads.  Now is the time to get creative with cabbage slaws, shredded carrot salads, Kohlrabi and celeriac slaws and even beet salads.  We also have some hearty fall greens that are frost-tolerant, such as escarole and tat soi.  There are so many interesting ways to prepare these vegetables in their raw form.  Combine them with different flavorful oils such as hazelnut or walnut oil.  Mix them with winter fruit like apples, pears, and citrus.  Add some additional crunch with toasted squash seeds, roasted nuts, croutons or crispy shallots. 
One Pot Kabocha Squash and Chickpea Curry
With the holidays upon us, it’s also a time of the year to come together to celebrate and enjoy the company of friends and family.  Spend some time cooking and eating together.  It’s good for the soul and remember, part of this whole CSA concept is community!  I’m reminded of the beauty of community every year when we receive an invitation to the annual Verona Root Party.  This is a party hosted at the beginning of December every year for…well I’m not sure how many years but I’d guess it could be as many as 20 or more!  This is a group of CSA members who have “grown up” together, sharing in the beauty of friendships and community as they’ve helped each other raise their children, watched them grow up and move out to go to college and find their place in this world.  Every year they take the time to celebrate not only their community, but the food and relationship they have to our farm.  Their meals are delicious, creative and beautiful. 

Brussels Sprouts in the field covered in snow.
So as we move into yet another season, I hope you’ll pause to consider how fortunate we are to be able to eat through the different seasons, experiencing the best that nature has to offer us.  Our own experienced Farmer Richard has learned a lot of farming “tricks” over the years that allow us to extend the perimeters of our farming season by working with nature and being willing to try different vegetables that may not be so common.  We started off the season with ramps, sorrel and nettles and we’ll end it with Brussels sprouts, cabbage, storage kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, winter squash and a plethora of hearty roots.  These vegetables will sustain us as we move through winter and welcome the arrival of another spring….and then we’ll start the cycle all over again.  Thank you for choosing to eat seasonally.  As we finish out the final two months of CSA deliveries, we’ll be stocking your refrigerators and pantries to prepare you for the winter.  We hope you enjoy this season of fall and winter culinary creativity as you prepare delicious, hearty, nourishing meals. 

October 25, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Celeriac

24 Oct 2018 21:48

Cooking With This Week's Box

Burgundy and/or Japanese Sweet Potatoes: Japanese Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Wasabi Aioli
Russet Potatoes: Carrot and Potato Mash
Baby Red Beets: Blueberry Beet Muffins
Spaghetti Squash: Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai
Celeriac: Wild Rice & Celeriac Gratin (see below); Celeriac Salad with Buttermilk Dressing (see below)
It’s time to transition to hearty fall and winter fare.  Braised vegetables and meats, casseroles, hearty stews and crispy root vegetable winter salads.  Lets dive into this week’s box and tackle celeriac first.  You may be surprised by how far even one medium celeriac will go, and it’s a pretty versatile vegetable to use.  I really enjoy the how the flavors of wild rice and celeriac go together as both are very hearty and slightly earthy.  You’ll enjoy this combination in this week’s featured recipe for Wild Rice & Celeriac Gratin (see below).  This dish can stand on its own as a main dish or you could serve it as a side dish along roast beef or braised pork.  The other recipe we’re featuring this week is for a simple raw Celeriac Salad with Buttermilk Dressing (See Below).  This recipe calls for celery, which I don’t have right now so I’m going to use shaved carrots instead.  If you don’t have fresh pomegranate seeds, you could also use fresh or dried cranberries in place of them.
Kohlrabi & Chickpea Curry
Photo from DishingUpTheDirt.com
Wait until you taste the kohlrabi in the box this week!  We don’t always grow kohlrabi in the fall, but thought we would include it this year so we have another crispy, crunchy option to enjoy in salads and just as a raw vegetable after all the other fresh vegetables are harvested.  If it seems too big for you, don’t think you have to use it all at one time.  Just cut off the portion you want to use and return the remainder (unpeeled) to the refrigerator, well wrapped to keep it from drying out.  Richard’s been asking for Kohlrabi slaw, so this week I want to make this Kohlrabi and Apple Slaw using some of the apples we got in our fruit share last week.  I’ve never used kohlrabi in any kind of a curry dish, so I’m intrigued by Andrea Bemis’s recipe for Kohlrabi & Chickpea Curry.
I have a big jar of red lentils on my shelf, so this week I’m going to make Red Lentils with Winter Squash & Greens.  We featured this recipe in a previous newsletter and recommended using mustard greens or spinach.  We’re done with both mustard greens and spinach so I’m going to use the green curly kale in this week’s box.
A few weeks ago I made this simple Carrot and Potato Mash and it was so delicious!  I usually put about 4-5 different roots in our root mash, but opted to keep it simple and the result was so good.  It’s light, fluffy and slightly sweet.  We’re going to have this for dinner this week with pot roast, with a little gravy of course.
Blueberry Beet Muffins
Photo from TheLeanGreenBean.com
I usually opt for simple steamed beets or a beet salad, but I have to try this recipe for Blueberry Beet Muffins!  I never would have paired beets and blueberries together, but think about all the antioxidants you’ll get in these pink muffins!  This was a recipe a member shared on our Facebook group.  Thanks for sharing this Greta!
I have really been enjoying trying new spaghetti squash recipes this year.  Thankfully these squash have been storing well despite the fact that this variety historically is one that we try to use sooner than later.  This week I’m going to try this recipe for Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai.
I hope you enjoy trying some of the Japanese sweet potatoes this week.  We don’t have many, but we’re going to include a little bit in as many boxes as we’re able to.  I want to try this recipe for Japanese Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Wasabi Aioli.  Of course this recipe will work with regular orange sweet potatoes as well so I’ll be using both, which will look really beautiful along with some white and black sesame seeds sprinkled on top.  These will go well with Fried Fish Sandwiches with Radish Slaw.  The recipe for the radish slaw calls for salad turnips, but I’m going to use kohlrabi instead.
We’ve reached the bottom of yet another CSA box and have quite a variety of recipes in the lineup for this week.  Just because we’re heading into the season of storage vegetables doesn’t mean our meals can’t still be diverse, flavorful and exciting to prepare and eat!  Have a great week and start thinking about Thanksgiving. It’s time to start planning the menu and getting the recipes lined up!—Chef Andrea 

Featured Vegetable: Celeriac

Celeriac, or celery root as it is also known, can be a bit intimidating if you’re encountering it for the first time.  However, as with all vegetables, there’s really no need to be intimidated…it’s just a vegetable!  Celeriac is in the same family as celery.  The difference is that celeriac is grown for its root and celery is grown for its stalks.  The stalks on celeriac resemble celery and have a lot of delicious flavor in them, however they are more tough and fibrous than celery and are not usually eaten as you would eat a celery stalk.  While this week’s celeriac do not have tops, we do sometimes deliver green top celeriac.  If you ever get celeriac with the tops still on, don’t throw them away!  Their flavor can add depth to a pot of stock or soup. 
Now for the root bulb.  First, scrub the exterior of the root the best you can.  Next, thinly slice away the top and bottom of the root so there is a flat side on the top and the bottom.  You’ll probably need to take a little more off the bottom to get past the majority of the roots and get into the more usable bulb portion of the root.  At this point, I usually cut the root in half or into quarters so it is easier to handle.  Using a paring knife, carefully trim away the outer skin.  Once you’ve removed the outer skin, rinse the remaining piece of celeriac and clean your cutting board if there’s any residual dirt.  The inner portion of the root is white, solid and entirely edible. 
Celeriac has a subtle celery flavor that provides a background to soups, stews, and root mashes.  It also makes a delicious soup or gratin on its own or combined with potatoes or other root vegetables.  It can also be eaten raw in salads and slaws paired with other fall fruits and vegetables and a simple creamy dressing.  There is a classic French preparation called Remoulade which is basically a creamy celeriac slaw.  I like to make a slaw based on this concept, but add apples and fresh, chopped cranberries as well as parsley when available.  I’ve noticed more “paleo” recipes are encouraging the use of celeriac as a substitute for starchy potatoes, noodles, etc. 
Celeriac stores quite well, thus it is an important part of our seasonal winter diets.  It can actually be stored for up to 6 months!  Keep it in your refrigerator loosely wrapped in plastic or in the crisper drawer until you are ready to use it.

Celeriac Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Yield: 4 side salads
1 celeriac (about ¾ pound)
¾ cup Buttermilk Dressing (recipe follows)
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup peeled and shaved celery
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt

  1. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the celeriac, and then finely julienne it.  In a bowl, dress the celeriac with ½ cup of the buttermilk dressing.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the pomegranate seeds, parsley, celery, olive oil, and lemon juice.  Season to taste with salt, and toss well.
  3. Spoon 1 Tbsp of the remaining buttermilk dressing on each plate, and spread it out with the back of your spoon.  Divide the dressed celeriac among the plates, and then spoon the pomegranate, parsley, and celeriac salad evenly over the top.
Recipes borrowed from The Broad Fork, Recipes for the wide world of vegetables and fruits by Hugh Acheson

Buttermilk Dressing
Yield: 1 cup
½ cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp crème fraiche
½ tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine the buttermilk, mustard, lemon juice, mayonnaise, crème fraiche, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Whisk to combine, and serve.  The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days.
Recipes borrowed from The Broad Fork, Recipes for the wide world of vegetables and fruits by Hugh Acheson

Wild Rice and Celeriac Gratin

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

¼ cup minced shallot or onion
3 Tbsp butter or oil
2 Tbps flour
1 ½ cups milk, scalded (can be nondairy milk)
½ tsp sea salt
Freshly milled white pepper
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 Tbsp butter
1 small celeriac, peeled and grated
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
Sea salt and freshly milled pepper
3 cups wild rice, cooked
½ cup grated Gruyère
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan

  1. Cook the shallot in 3 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan over low heat for 3 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes more.  Whisk in the hot milk all at once, then cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, or for 30 minutes in the top of a double boiler.  Season with ½ tsp salt, a little white pepper, and the nutmeg. Set the sauce aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Lightly butter or oil a baking dish.  Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the celeriac with the lemon juice, garlic, and parsley and cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Combine the wild rice, celeriac, and sauce and stir in the cheeses.  Turn into the dish and bake until firm, about 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.
Recipe adapted from The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

October 18, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Green Savoy Cabbage

17 Oct 2018 21:26

Cooking With This Week's Box

Garlic: Roasted Cabbage with Bacon Gremolata or Toasted Walnut Sauce (see below); Smoky Squash Chili with Quinoa, Pinto & Black BeansCharred Broccoli & Tofu Stuffed Avocados with Sweet Curry Lemon Sauce    
Broccoli Romanesco or Cauliflower: Curried Cauliflower Pizza
Baby ArugulaPear Vinagrette or a fruity Apple Vinaigrette
Burgundy Sweet Potatoes: Sweet Potato Skillet Hash
Russet Potatoes:  Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream (see below)
Green Savoy Cabbage:  Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream (see below);  Roasted Cabbage with Bacon Gremolata or Toasted Walnut Sauce (see below) 
Here we are, almost at the end of October!  The past week has been a chilly one which makes me really ready to fully transition to fall and winter cooking.  Lets kick off this week’s discussion with a super-simple recipe for Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream (see below).  Deborah Madison is well-known for simple, vegetable-centric recipes.  This soup is no exception.  From beginning to end it only took me 35 minutes to prep all the vegetables and simmer the soup.  No blenders, no complicated steps and very limited ingredients.  This is nothing fancy, but it’s nourishing and delicious.  I followed Deborah’s suggestion to garnish it with a dollop of sour cream and freshly chopped parsley.  You could grate Parmesan cheese on top or you could add a can of cannellini beans to the soup if you wanted to add a little more protein or body.  We enjoyed this warm soup with a piece of rustic bread and a light salad made with our salad mix tossed with vinegar and oil.
The other cabbage recipe we’re featuring this week is a combination of recipes from Andrea Bemis’s book, Dishing up the Dirt, and Sarah Britton’s book, Naturally Nourished.  Andrea has a delicious recipe for Roasted Cabbage with Bacon Gremolata (see below).  This is another very easy recipe that doesn’t take much time to prepare, you just have to be patient while the cabbage roasts.  If you don’t care for the Bacon Gremolata, try Sarah’s Toasted Walnut Sauce(see below).  Sarah has a similar recipe for charred cabbage in her book and garnishes the cabbage with this sauce which I think is a great vegan option for the roasted cabbage recipe.  This dish could stand on its own for any meal of the day if you served it with a piece of toast and a fried egg, or you could serve it in a smaller portion as a side dish.
Carrot Corn Muffins
Photo from Creative Culinary
It’s chili season!  This recipe just popped into my inbox, Smoky Squash Chili with Quinoa, Pinto & Black Beans.  This is a hearty vegan chili that uses the sweet, rich honeynut butternut squash for a bit of sweetness.  The smokiness comes from chipotle adobo sauce and fire-roasted canned tomatoes.  This will be delicious served with chunks of fresh avocado, which we conveniently have in this week’s fruit share!  I’m going to add a few slices of fresh lime as well (also in our fruit share) and serve it with these Carrot Corn Muffins.
While I was poking around on The First Mess blog after reading the post about the Squash Chili recipe, I came across this recipe for Charred Broccoli & Tofu Stuffed Avocados with Sweet Curry Lemon Sauce.  This sounds like a delicious, flavorful recipe to make with some of the last broccoli of the season paired with avocados from the fruit share.  If you don’t care for tofu, consider substituting tempeh or even chicken if you prefer.  This recipe also calls for fresh apricots, which are not available now.  I’m going to substitute chunks of fresh Jonagold apples instead.
Any time you can incorporate vegetables into your breakfast, you earn an automatic win for the day.  Check out this simple, yet flavorful recipe for Sweet Potato Skillet Hash.  This recipe is from Sarah Britton.  While most of her recipes are vegan, she does on occasion incorporate organic free-range eggs, which is the case with this recipe.  This is a hearty way to start the day or have it for weekend brunch and make a little extra that you can quickly heat up for breakfast on Monday morning.
Curried Cauliflower Pizza
Photo from Naturally Ella
You know I like a good, unique pizza!  This week lets try this Curried Cauliflower Pizza!  I can’t say that I’ve ever had pizza with cauliflower on it, but I made one earlier this year with salad turnips so why not try this one!  Of course you could also use the Broccoli Romanesco for this recipe as well.
Throughout the week round out your meals with a simple side salad using the Baby Arugula in this week’s box.  Make a simple homemade vinaigrette to have on hand so you have something quick and easy to use to dress your greens with.  Perhaps a sweet and tangy Pear Vinaigrette or a fruity Apple Vinaigrette.
Enjoy your cooking adventures this week and get ready for more hearty cold-weather fare next week.  While we enjoy our final days of fresh greens, we’ll start to transition to more root crops to go along with our sweet potatoes and winter squash.  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable: Green Savoy Cabbage

Green Savoy Cabbage vs Red Cabbage
This week we’re featuring one of our favorite fall & winter greens, green savoy cabbage.  While many growers choose to grow “kraut cabbage” which is the standard smooth, green cabbage, we choose to grow savoy cabbage.  The term savoy refers to the ruffled leaves which we think are beautiful!  We also like this type of cabbage because it has more texture when eaten raw or cooked.  In addition to green savoy cabbage, we have a red savoy cabbage variety as well.  Despite the fact that this is a great variety, both beautiful and has long storage potential, the seed producers have chosen to discontinue seed production.  This will be our last year to grow and deliver red savoy cabbages as we have planted out the remainder of the seed we had in storage and cannot get any more.  We’ll be delivering red savoy cabbage in late November or December.
Cabbage has long been known as a staple vegetable necessary for surviving a long winter in cold climates.  It stores well and has a wide variety of uses.  Additionally, cabbage is packed with nutrients including vitamins C and K, fiber B6 as well as antioxidants.  When it’s too cold to harvest other greens, we can rely on cabbage to get us through until spring!
Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken
Green savoy cabbage may be eaten raw or cooked.  In the raw form, use this cabbage to make a traditional creamy cole slaw along with carrots and/or other root vegetables such as celeriac.  You can also use this cabbage to create some main dish salads such as this recipe for Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken which was featured in one of last year’s newsletters.  You can also use this cabbage to make a quick pickled salad or shred it, salt it and turn it into a simple slaw to eat with tacos.
Green savoy cabbage may also be cooked.  You can add it to soup, such as in this week’s newsletter or use it to make Beet Borscht.  I also like to use this cabbage in stir-fries over the winter.  Combine it with beauty heart radishes, thinly sliced turnips, carrots and onions to make a delicious winter vegetable stir-fry served with rice.  I also like to use cabbage throughout the fall and winter to make Farmer Skillet.  The recipe on our website is for a Summer Farmer Skillet, but you can use this concept to make a winter version of this using root vegetables with thinly sliced cabbage as the green on top.
Store your cabbage in the refrigerator loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.  If you don’t need to use the whole head at one time, just trim off the portion you need and put the remainder back in the refrigerator.  If your cabbage starts to get soft or a little dehydrated, don’t throw it out!  It’s still good and is perfectly usable for making soup or any other dish where you’ll be cooking the cabbage.

Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream

Yield: 7 to 8 cups
5-6 cups green savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
2 to 3 Tbsp butter
1 ½ cups sliced leek or diced yellow onion 
2 cups diced potato (russet potatoes are preferred) 
1 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
Freshly grounded black pepper, to taste
Sour cream or yogurt, for serving
Minced parsley or dill, for serving
  1. Melt the butter in a soup pot.  Add the leek or onion and potato, give them a stir, and cook for a minute or two, then add the cabbage and 1 tsp salt.  Pour over 5 cups water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, cover, for 20 minutes or until the potato is tender. 
  2. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper.
  3. Ladle the soup in to bowls, then add to each a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of fresh herbs, and a final grinding of pepper.

  • Add 5 juniper berries and 2 tsp finely chopped rosemary to the leek/onion and potato.  Serve the soup with an extra pinch of rosemary.
  • Reduce the water by ½ cup and at the end replace the sour cream with crème fraiche or cream.

Recipe adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, by Deborah Madison.

Roasted Cabbage with Bacon Gremolata Or Toasted Walnut Sauce

We’re offering two suggestions for serving this roasted cabbage.  If you enjoy meat, try the Bacon Gremolata with Parmesan cheese.  If you’re looking for something a little lighter and/or a vegetarian option, try the Toasted Walnut Sauce.—Chef Andrea

Yield: 4 servings

1 medium-sized head of cabbage, sliced crosswise into 1-inch thick rounds
2 Tbsp olive oil
Bacon Gremolata and Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese or Toasted Walnut Sauce (see below)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Brush both sides of the cabbage rounds with olive oil.  Place them on a baking sheet and roast until they are tender and browned on all sides, 35 to 45 minutes.  Toss halfway through cooking.
  2. To serve, sprinkle the roasted cabbage with the gremolata and Parmesan or drizzle with Toasted Walnut Sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe from Dishing up the Dirt, By Andrea Bemis.
Bacon Gremolata
4 strips good-quality thick-cut bacon
¾ cup roasted unsalted almonds
3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
Pinch of kosher salt
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook until it is slightly crispy on both sides.  Transfer the bacon to paper-towel-lined plates to drain, and when it’s cool enough to handle, chop it into small pieces.
  2. Finely shop the almonds into small pieces.  Add the chopped nuts to a bowl, along with the bacon crumbles, minced parsley, lemon zest, and pinch of salt.  Set aside.

Recipe from Dishing up the Dirt, By Andrea Bemis.
Toasted Walnut Sauce
Yield: Approximately 1 cup
1 cup raw, unsalted walnuts
1 garlic clove
2 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp pure maple syrup or raw honey
2 generous pinches of fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spread the walnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Toast until they are golden and fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes, watching them carefully so they do not burn.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  3. Add the toasted walnuts, garlic, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup to a blender.  Blend on high, adding 1 cup of water to thin the dressing as needed—you are looking for the consistency of melted ice cream.  Season with salt.  Store in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Recipe from Naturally Nourished, by Sarah Britton.

Farm Update

17 Oct 2018 21:26

By Farmer Richard
Fall is here!  The trees are turning beautiful colors.  It seems quiet now that the humming birds, swallows, dragonflies and butterflies have all left for warmer climates in the south.  We look forward to their return in the spring!  We heard a few whippoorwills as they passed through on their way south, but now the resident Great Horned and Bard owls keep us company as they talk to us every morning and at night.
It is proving to be a very wet fall encompassing multiple flood events followed by weeks of wet days.  The damage caused by the floods at the end of August and first of September created quite a mess for us to clean up!  The powerful waters blew out field protecting berms, washing away as much as five inches of the best topsoil and depositing sand, rock and driftwood in its place.  It’s a mess to say the least!  So we have spent the last three weeks clearing not only piles of driftwood and rocks from fields, but also removing most of the trees that have grown up in the creek bed over many years.  This is a huge job involving six crew members daily for three full weeks.  Our little spring fed creek normally is only six inches deep and six feet wide, but when the run off from the surrounding woods and poorly managed ridgetop fields pours into our valley, the result has been devastating.  This year we saw significant damage to fields that have not been flooded since 1952.  The NRCS staff that cost-shared our streambank repairs in 2006 and again in 2008 admit they did not understand how to prevent future damage.  Together we figured it out and are working to improve the landscape before the next substantial weather event.  We removed all trees that impeded water movement.  We left single trees of apple, walnut and majestic shade trees and a few black locust to use for future wood and fence posts.  We made sure there are no two trees left side-by-side that could catch drifting logs and create a dam effect.  The concept is to let flood water easily spread rather than forcing a bank to wash out or overflow into our fields.  The result is actually attractive.  Our neighbors say it looks like a park!  It will now grow more soil protecting grass for our cows to eat instead of the willow thickets and junk trees that blocked water movement previously.
One of our other challenges is that we have to put the topsoil back where it washed out.  We have a plan, but it depends on dry weather!  We have a forecast for several dry, windy days this week, and maybe more.  But HVF doesn’t operate on maybe!  We are full out harvesting the roots that we need for fall and planting a rye cover crop on the fields as soon as we can to provide for winter protection.  We have our garlic seed cracked and ready to plant.  Please, please, just a few more days of dry weather to get it in!   A few more days to plant horseradish and sunchokes would be appreciated.  And at the same time our root harvest progresses even though a bit muddy, less than ideal, but if we can, go for it.  Most carrots are in, celeriac is smaller than we like, but in.  Cabbages are in and look great.  Brussels sprouts now sweetened by several frosts are limited but yet to harvest.
We’re hoping to finish harvesting beets tomorrow (Wednesday) and will then move on to more parsnip, burdock, turnip, beauty heart radish and a very nice crop of the very large kohlrabi for December boxes.  We still have hopes for some more spinach and a long shot gamble on other greens that would only make it if we had a nice, warm “Indian summer.”
We’re doing the best we can in less than ideal conditions.  Despite the challenges, we’re still bringing in some beautiful vegetables!  We still have five more CSA deliveries after this week and we’re confident these boxes will continue to be filled with beautiful vegetables.  We’ll continue to make the most of each day and do our best to finish the season strong.  Our guys are anxious to return to Mexico to see their families, but we need to get our fall work finished first.  Keep your fingers crossed that we get those dry days we need! 

October 11, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweet Potatoes

10 Oct 2018 22:03

Cooking With This Week's Box

Yellow & Red Onions: Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below); Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below); Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo SalsaSheet Pan Chicken & Broccoli; Mizuna Quinoa Salad with Lemon Scallion Vinaigrette
Garlic: Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below)
Broccoli or Broccoli Romanesco: Sheet Pan Chicken &Broccoli  
White or Yellow Cauliflower: Cauliflower Tots
Sugar Dumpling Squash: Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo Salsa
Honeynut Butternut Squash: Chai Spiced Bread
Baby Spinach: Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below)  
Salad Mix: Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below)
Burgundy Sweet Potatoes: Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below); Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below)
The moment we’ve all been waiting for…SWEET POTATOES!  After we lost our entire crop two years ago, we all hold our breath until we know for sure the sweet potatoes are harvested and stored away safely in our greenhouse.  If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read Farmer Richard’s article this week.  We have a great crop this year and we’re excited to start sharing them with you this week.  Our featured recipes this week give you two options to start your sweet potato cooking season.  The first is a delicious, and simple, recipe for Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below).  In this recipe you roast the sweet potatoes before adding them to the soup which adds a little extra layer of sweetness and flavor.  The other recipe is for Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below).  I think this is a great recipe for this week with our fall spinach or salad mix.  You could even add a little crumbled bacon if you like. 

Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo Salsa
photo from Smitten Kitchen
I continue to collect winter squash recipes and appreciate this recipe for Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo Salsa that was shared by a member in our Facebook Group.  Of course we don’t grow acorn squash, but you can use the sweet and delicious sugar dumpling squash in this week’s box in place of it.  This is a perfect recipe this week to wrap up our season with peppers and tomatillos.  You can use both in this recipe along with a jalapeno or the Korean chili peppers. 
The other winter squash selection in this week’s box is the beloved little honeynut butternut squash.  This is another one of our sweet specialty squash varieties that is really quite good just baked and enjoyed with a little salt and a pat of butter.  Of course, you could bake it and use the flesh to make this delicious Chai Spiced Bread, a recipe that a member shared with us several years ago.  I’m warning you…it’s delicious!
I’ve really been enjoying the carrots this summer and fall and I think the thing I appreciate the most about them is how easy it is to prepare a delicious, simple dish because the carrots themselves are so good!  This week I am into roasting and want to try this recipe for Honey-Maple Roasted Carrots.  Enjoy these as a simple side dish to make a meal as simple as a seared pork chop, the carrots and a salad made with this week’s salad mix.
Sheet Pan Chicken & Broccoli
photo from Overtime Cook
I’ve seen recipes for Cauliflower “tater” tots before, but they always seem complicated. This recipe for Cauliflower Tots actually seems pretty manageable, so I’m going to give them a try this week!  Serve these with a burger or grilled cheese sandwich for an All-American meal!  As for this week’s broccoli or broccoli Romanesco, these will be used to make a simple dinner of Sheet Pan Chicken & Broccoli.  Serve this with steamed rice for an easy dinner.
This is the time of year when some of our Asian greens that are a little spicy taste the best.  This week’s boxes include mizuna, either green or red.  Check out Early Morning Farm’s list of 7 Ways to Use Mizuna including this recipe for Mizuna Quinoa Salad with Lemon Scallion Vinaigrette.  Of course we don’t have scallions now, but red onions would work as well. 

What should we do with the last of the sweet peppers?  Check out The Food Network’s “10 Ways to Use Sweet Mini Peppers”
and you’ll find tasty recipes including one for Sweet Pepper Poppers!
We did it!  Another week of delicious, nutritious and tasty meals.  Do you ever just stop to consider how many different vegetables you’ve consumed over the course of the season?  This is our 24th week of deliveries.  If anyone goes back and counts how many different things we’ve had to cook with, please let me know what number you come up with!  We still have more delicious vegetable tricks up our sleeves as we finish out the season.  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Sweet Potatoes

This week we’re excited to be packing sweet potatoes in your boxes!  Sweet potatoes, which are actually a tropical vegetable, are an important part of our fall and winter diets.  If stored properly you can eat sweet potatoes all winter! The ideal storage temperature for sweet potatoes is 55-65°F.  They can get chill injury if stored at temperatures below 55°F, so if you don’t have the perfect location to store them at their ideal temperature, it’s better to store them on your countertop in your kitchen instead of putting them in the refrigerator.
Straight out of the field, our sweet potatoes tasted pretty good, but not good enough to eat.  That’s right, we have a rule around here that you don’t really eat sweet potatoes for at least two weeks after they are harvested.  When they are first harvested the potatoes are starchy, not very sweet or tasty, and the skins are very tender requiring careful handling.  Sweet potatoes aren’t truly sweet potatoes until we “cure them.”  Curing is a process by which we hold the sweet potatoes at high heat and high humidity for 7-10 days, basically it’s kind of like a sauna for sweet potatoes!  During this time the starches in the potatoes are converted to sugars and the skins become more stable for long term storage. 
Sweet potatoes are less starchy and more sweet and moist than a regular potato and have a wide variety of uses.  You can simply bake them whole until fork tender and eat the flesh right out of the skin.  They are also delicious cut into bite-sized pieces and roasted or cut them into wedges or thin slices and make roasted fries or chips.  If you’re going to do this, it’s best to put the wedges or slices of sweet potatoes on a rack in a pan.  If you do this, the air and heat from the oven can better circulate on all sides of the sweet potato making it more crispy and less soggy.  Sweet potatoes also make delicious, hearty soups and stews, may be added to chili, shredded and fried like hash browns, or just simply cook and mash or puree them. 
Sweet potatoes can also be incorporated into baking.  Sweet potato pie is a decadent way to eat a vegetable.  If you’re going to make pie, consider this Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping featured at MarthaStewart.com.  It’s delicious served with Bourbon Whipped Cream.  You can also use sweet potatoes to make biscuits, rolls, quick breads, cookies, bars, cheesecake and more! 
Sweet potatoes pair well with a wide variety of ingredients, which makes them so versatile in their use.  They pair very well with apples and pears as well as other root vegetables, bitter fall greens, dried beans and greens such as kales.  They also go very well with coconut, ginger, chiles, butter, cream, citrus and nuts of any kind.
If you haven’t read Farmer Richard’s main article for this week, please take a minute to do so as it will help you understand more about what it takes to actually grow this tropical vegetable in a northern climate! 

Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad

Yield: 6 side salads
Roasted Vegetables:
2 cups ½ inch cubed sweet potato
2 cups ½ inch cubed red onion
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh sage
1 tsp kosher salt
A couple cracks of black pepper
Crushed Croutons:
1 Tbsp salted butter
½ cup panko
1 ½ Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp pure maple syrup
Pinch of kosher salt
A couple cracks of black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
5 oz spinach (or substitute salad mix)
½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
¼ cup dried cranberries or tart cherries
¼ cup goat cheese or crumbled feta
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)
  1. Prepare the roasted vegetables.  Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the prepared potatoes and onion on the baking sheet.  Add all the remaining roasted vegetable ingredients to the pan; toss to coat.   Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly charred, stirring halfway through.
  2. Make the crushed croutons.  In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the panko and toast until golden, about 3 minutes.  Set aside.
  3. Make the dressing.  In a serving bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until emulsified (until the oil and vinegar become one).  This can be made 3 weeks in advance and stored at room temperature.
  4. Assemble the salad.  Add all the greens ingredients into the salad bowl along with the roasted vegetables (including the crispy herbs) and crushed croutons.  Toss to combine.  Serve immediately.

Recipe borrowed from Melissa Coleman’s book, The Minimalist Kitchen.

Sweet Potato Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

Yield:  4 servings

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small pieces (about 5 cups)

2 ½ Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1 (15-oz) can coconut milk
1 ½ Tbsp red curry paste
1 (15-oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup red or yellow lentils
Salt, to taste
Lime juice, to taste
Cilantro, chopped, for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Toss sweet potatoes with 1 ½ Tbsp of olive oil and roast for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown and tender. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  Sauté the ginger, onion, and garlic in oil until softened.  Add the coconut milk, red curry paste, tomatoes and red lentils.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  Add roasted sweet potatoes and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Use an immersion blender or regular blender to blend until smooth or to desired consistency.  Thin with additional water if needed.  Season with salt and the juice of one lime.  Stir to combine.  Adjust seasoning to your liking with more salt and/or lime juice as needed.
  4. Serve hot, garnished with chopped cilantro.

Recipe adapted from Elizabeth Stein’s book, Eating Purely.

Sweet Potato 2018

10 Oct 2018 22:03

By Farmer Richard

Sweet Potato Harvest, 2017
Every year is different.  How was this year’s crop?  Well, considering we had a cold, wet spring followed by a wet late summer which continued into fall, what would you expect for a tropical, hot and dry loving plant?  Maybe a crop failure?  Surprise!  From the 16,000 slips, planted on 1.5 acres of sandy river bottom ground we brought in a surprising 33,300 pounds of very nice sweet potatoes!  Less than the average yield from North Carolina or California, the leading sweet potato producers in the US, but our unique production system of planting into raised beds covered with green plastic really surprised us!  Even though it was far too wet when we harvested them the excess water had drained off between the beds, so under the raised plastic beds, the soil was only moist and the sweet potatoes had happily produced a nice “banana bunch” like cluster.  We only used our buried irrigation lines to deliver a bit of fertilizer and a new organic product to deter the worms that had previously produced deep holes in the developing sweet potatoes.  Well, something worked!  You’ll notice there are almost no holes this year!  Thanks to Kyle’s feedback (Madison CSA member) about the holes on some of our sweet potatoes last year, we tried to address the problem and appear to have succeeded!  We listen, we try. 
Last year we did a more extensive trial of new varieties and asked for feedback on your favorites.  Based on last year’s trials and your feedback, we chose two varieties, “Burgundy” and “Covington,” both available from our certified organic friends at New Sprout Farms.  We also added a small amount of the Japanese white fleshed variety “Murasaki” on Andrea’s insistence.  They produced only ⅓ of the volume of the best two, but they are so “unbelievably sweet” even before they were cured.  Despite the meager yield, this is by far the best yield we’ve ever seen on this potato and they actually produced sizeable potatoes this year!  We hope to pack a few in your boxes this fall.

Sweet potatoes "curing."
After last year’s variety trials, which you can read about on our blog, we find that our refractometer reading for “Brix” does not always reflect the eating experience.  The fact that different varieties have different levels of the 3 sugars, sucrose, fructose, and maltose actually plays into the eating experience.  The Brix measurement we get only reflects overall sugars, but does not give us an indicator of the overall sensation of sweetness.  So while we do still measure brix levels, we’re really left with just cooking them and eating them to see how they taste!  We did “cure” them for a full 10 days at 85°F and 90% humidity.  We burned up a bunch of wood and some propane in the process, but we think it was worth the wait!
Look forward to an abundance of sweet potatoes in all remaining boxes and feel free to order extras for winter.  We’ll offer them as a produce plus item before Thanksgiving and again in December.  We plan to eat them until spring.  Of course, we always appreciate your feedback, so let us know what you think! 
One little side note in closing, our sweet Captain Jack, “The Dog,” has developed a very strong liking for dried sweet potato slices when we tried to find healthy chew treats for him.  So with Jack as tester, I have developed the precise method of slicing, baking, and drying for a shelf stable, healthy organic treat for special dog friends.  Of course, made from the “not so pretty” sweet potatoes, but just a tasty.  If you have a four-legged friend that might be interested in trying these, watch for this offering from me & Captain Jack later in the season.

The Local Thirty..30 days, 200 miles

3 Oct 2018 20:49

By Andrea Yoder

For those of you who have been members with our farm for awhile and read the newsletter pretty regularly, you may already know that I first came to the farm back in 2007 as the summer farm chef.  I knew very little, much less than I realized at the time.  I came because my two favorite things to cook were fish and vegetables, the latter being the focus of my attention when I accepted the position.  I didn’t know much about what it meant to be certified organic or why I would come to value eating certified organic food, but I was eager to learn and accepted the challenge.  I don’t recall Richard every telling me that all the food I purchased and prepared for the crew had to be 100% certified organic, but it seemed a bit contradictory for it to be any other way.  So I raised the bar and strived to achieve it with each menu I planned and each purchase I made. 
Chef Andrea getting ready to process beets.
But that wasn’t the only thing I had to figure out.  There was this thing called ‘seasonal eating’ that also factored into my cooking.  It snowed the first week I was here, so there wasn’t much coming out of the fields.  No worries, there was a pallet of “extras” waiting for me in the cooler.  Carrots, sunchokes, black radishes, beets….notice I didn’t mention potatoes.  That’s right, I cooked for several months without a single potato.  As I kicked off the season, I quickly learned that I really enjoyed the challenge of seasonal cooking and worked really hard to incorporate as many of the vegetables we were growing into the meals I was preparing for the crew.  Sourcing certified organic ingredients wasn’t too hard, but it did mean that there were some ingredients that just weren’t available for me to use.  Somewhere along the way I also began to value sourcing ingredients locally.  Maybe it was the fun of trading with other vendors at the farmers’ market.  Maybe it was the experience of going over to our friends’ farm, Jim & Phyllis, to help them catch the chickens they had raised for us and then helping Elizabeth butcher them.  I valued each and every chicken that I prepared that summer and not a morsel went to waste.  Along the way Richard challenged me to take the concept of a CSA Cheese Share and turn it into a reality.  I called a lot of cheese producers, asked them a lot of questions and was finally able to narrow down the list of farmers that met our qualifications.  Of course I wanted to make sure we knew what we were distributing, so I visited each producer so I could see for myself that they were the real thing….and they were.  Over the course of time my diet and outlook on food has changed.  I can’t say that I know the origin of every single ingredient in my kitchen, but I can usually identify the majority of what we eat and I continue to challenge myself to keep searching. 
Andrea Bemis, from her website dishingupthedirt.com
Andrea Bemis is a vegetable farmer, along with her husband Taylor, at their small farm in Oregon.  She also has a food blog and a cookbook, both titled Dishing Up the Dirt.  I follow her blog regularly and have adapted, referenced and shared quite a few of her vegetable-centric, simple recipes over the past several years.  Earlier this year she announced a challenge that she called “The Local Thirty.”  For the month of September Andrea and Taylor challenged themselves to source all their food within 200 miles for 30 days.  She did allow herself 10 “cheat items,” partly because there are some very enjoyable foods that were part of her diet that can’t be sourced locally (like coffee and chocolate) and because the challenge wasn’t about deprivation as much as it was becoming more informed about the foods she was consuming.  She identified “three pillars” that are the most important considerations when choosing food.  These include wellness (Is it good for the body?), sustainability (Is it good for the planet?) and community (Is it good for other people?)  The closer you are to the source of your food, the more opportunity you have to know more about the people who are producing and/or distributing the food as well as the intricacies related to how it’s being produced.  At the end of her announcement about her personal challenge, she stated “For the 30 days of September I’m going to source all of my ingredients from a 200 mile radius of where I live.  I’m hoping that in doing so I will find a more grounded sense of place and a community of folks that I never knew existed.”
Well, the month of September is officially over and so is Andrea’s challenge.  I applaud her for keeping up with this project in the midst of the growing season, but she did it and managed to document her experiences intermittently on her blog as well as more frequently on Instagram.  In one post she commented "As we navigate through finding local resources for some of our favorite ingredients I'm learning that this month isn't going to be perfect. But that's okay. We are meeting so many amazing folks who are making our community a better place. And the community is reaching farther than our tiny corner of the world as I get to be a part of so many of your local journeys as well." She recently posted on her blog about her experience of getting to go tuna fishing.  In this post she commented “When I began really exploring where my food comes from, I started to realize that this is not so much about the ingredients for me anymore.  It’s about these people (most often strangers) and how little pieces of their world make up mine.”  Her comment struck me.  She’s totally right.
Our Dane County Farmers' Market crew!
There are many reasons to eat locally, we’ve all heard the lingo.  “Keep your food dollars local.”  “Know your farmer, know your food.”  If you’re curious about your food and your community, or if you really just want to have a source for the best tasting food, local is the way to go.  In this region we are so blessed with a rich supply of really great food!  If we take a little time to look around, it’s easy to find some awesome people making some really great food that is special.  Special because it’s made with care, passion and sincerity.  Special because you get to connect with the people behind it.  At our recent Harvest Party I had a conversation with a member about the beauty of an egg laid by a happy chicken on pasture.  Grocery store eggs, even most organic ones, are not the same.  She asked me “how do I get these eggs.”  My simple answer, “You need a supplier.  You have to talk to farmers, find someone who’s doing it right and get on their list.” 
When we sit down to eat, we really enjoy eating chicken from our friend Gretchen, roasted vegetables from our farm tossed with sunflower oil produced by our friends at Driftless Organics.  We enjoy Castle Rock cream from the Kostka family in our morning cup of coffee, roasted locally by our friends at Kickapoo Coffee.  I’m not trying to be high and mighty here, just agreeing with Andrea B. that it’s really cool to be able to identify where my food comes from and to think about and appreciate the people who work hard to bring it to my table.  It’s much more satisfying than opening a package from afar and not knowing much if anything about what I’m putting into my body.  If we do choose to eat food grown outside our local area, there's opportunities to source these things carefully as well.  For instance, Frog Hollow Farm in California, one of our fruit share producer partners, also makes olive oil with the olives they produce on their farm.  Marian Farms, also in California, is my source for raisins and almonds.  While these foods can't be sourced locally, I appreciate the opportunity to at least purchase them directly from the producers, especially because I have had the chance to talk to them personally and want to support what they're doing!  Food is personal, at least I think it should be.
While Andrea didn’t intend to do this in the beginning, she actually connected with some filmmaker friends who traveled with her and documented some of her experiences associated with her challenge.  She’s turning it into a documentary that will hopefully be done before the end of the year!  I look forward to hearing more about her experiences, reflections, etc.  In the meantime, I encourage each of you to take a look in your backyard and see what you can find.  You might be surprised by what you find. If you already have some sources for awesome local foods, share them with your friends and neighbors so they too can support these local producers and together we can do our best to build a strong community and a strong food system!  Of course, along the way you'll glean nourishment for your soul and some really great meals!

S3442 Wire Hollow Road, Viroqua, WI, 54665, United States
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