Harmony Valley Farm

Harmony Valley Farm

Into The Woods...

24 May 2017 22:14

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

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

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

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


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

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

A Box Deconstructed- 5/24/2017

24 May 2017 22:14

A Box Deconstructed- 5/24/2017

Cooking with This Week’s Box!
“Cooking is at once child's play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” 
 Craig Claiborne
Even though we’re only about a week away from the first day of June, it has been very chilly which makes me want to revert back to warm, comforting soup!  With this week’s box, I’ll start off by using the hon tsai tai to make a warm pot of the Asian Soup with Rice Noodles (recipe below) that is featured in this week’s newsletter.  It doesn’t take long to make and will utilize some of the potato onions and green garlic in this week’s box.  You could also make this soup using other greens such as this week’s saute mix or pea vine.  I don’t usually make two soups in one week, but this week might be the exception.  In our Facebook Group, Paul and Carol recommended a recipe for Cream of Asparagus Soup with Pea Vine that was published in an HVF newsletter back in 2004.  It calls for about 4 ounces of pea vine which is the size of the pea vine bunches this week. Thanks for reminding us to keep looking back to the oldies but goodies!
When you choose to eat seasonally and locally, that means eating a lot of greens in the spring!  Greens can be nature’s fast food since you can quickly turn them into a salad for dinner or wilt them in just a few minutes to eat alongside a piece of fish, chicken or eggs (my favorite).  My next suggestion is a Non-Recipe for a quick and easy dinner idea that I’ll call Wilted Greens with Black Beans, Eggsand all the fixins’.  There is no written recipe but I’ll tell you how to make a quick dinner that has proven to be my favorite this week.  Gently wilt the tops from your radishes along with a few handfuls of saute mix greens in a little butter and a bit of water if you need to.  Serve them with black beans, a couple fried eggs, hot sauce, sour cream and a few corn tortillas.  If you have some green onion or green garlic tops, chop them up and add them as a garnish.  If the beans are already cooked, you can have dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes!
This week Andrea Bemis from Dishing Up the Dirt sent another tasty seasonal favorite our way.  Her recipe for Green Garlic Risotto  is a great way to use the remainder of your green garlic and it also calls for a handful of mizuna or arugula.  You could use either the baby arugula or saute mix in this recipe.
Lastly, I’m going to steer you towards one of my favorite “go-to” salad dressings that I discovered last summer.  It’s featured in a blog post about CSA recipes on Alexandra Cooks.   You’ll find a lot of other tasty CSA-centric recipes as you scroll to the bottom of the blog…which is where you’ll find a recipe for a Creamy ButtermilkDressing that is part of her Simple Cabbage Slaw Recipe.  I know we don’t have cabbage this week, but I recommend you hijack the dressing part of this recipe and just follow step 1 in the directions.  I usually make a double batch and keep a jar in the refrigerator for quick and easy access.  You can add some fresh herbs if you’d like, but it’s also good in all its simplicity.  This week we can enjoy delicious salads made with the beautiful head lettuce in the box.  Top it with thin slices of crunchy radishes, maybe some grilled chicken, salmon or chickpeas for a little protein and a few slices of hard-boiled egg.  Dinner Salad…Done! If you have extra lettuce, dressings and some of the other components left over, put it all together in a wrap and call it lunch the next day!   
Eat well, be well, and have a great week! –Chef Andrea
Asian Soup with Rice Noodles
Yield:  4-6 servings
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly sliced
¼ cup minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 cloves garlic or ¼ cup minced green garlic
4 oz thin rice noodles, broken in half
10 oz firm tofu, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bunch hon tsai tai, finely chopped (stem, leaves and flowers)
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
4 tsp rice vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste (optional)
Salt, to taste
1.       In a large saucepan, combine the broth, mushrooms, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, and garlic.  Bring to a boil over medium heat. 
2.       Add the noodles and cook until almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
3.       Add the tofu and hon tsai tai.  Cook until the greens are tender, about 2 minutes

4.       Stir in the sesame oil and vinegar.  Adjust seasoning to your liking with a touch of white pepper, additional soy sauce and/or salt as needed.  Serve hot.
Recipe adapted from The Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook (2009).
Hon Tsai Tai Salad with Spicy Tahini Ginger Sauce
Yield 2-3 servings
Spicy Tahini Ginger Sauce (makes 1 ½ cups)
½ cup tahini
2 Tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
2-3 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
Salad Components
1 bunch hon tsai tai, finely chopped
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
9-12 radishes, thinly sliced
5-6 stalks asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Avocado, 1-2 each, cut into bite-sized chunks
Toasted almonds
1.       Make the sauce:  Place the tahini, ginger, tamari, maple syrup, lime juice, and ½ cup of water in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.  Set aside.
Photo Credit: Amy Pruess
2.       Prepare all of the salad components.  When you are ready to eat, build your salad by putting some of the hon tsai tai and a bit of the cilantro in a bowl along with the sliced green onions, radishes and asparagus.  Add enough sauce lightly coat the vegetables and toss to combine.  Garnish the salad with chunks of avocado and toasted almonds.
The sauce portion of this recipe was borrowed from Naturally Nourished by Sarah Britton.  It pairs well with the hon tsai tai and cilantro.

A Box Deconstructed- 5/18/2017

17 May 2017 22:14

Cooking with This Week’s Box!
The asparagus kicked into high gear with the warm temperatures we had over the weekend, so this week’s box has a nice sized bunch!  Lets start off with a recipe that just popped into my inbox this week from the Dishing Up The Dirt blog.  Andrea Bemis shared a very seasonal recipe for Herb Roasted Chicken with Asparagus and Green Garlic. This recipe will take about 40-50 minutes to prepare, but your entire dinner will be done in one pan and most of the time is just waiting for the chicken to cook!
Credit: Andrea Bemis
This is the last week for our overwintered spinach and I’ve had enchiladas on my mind.  I like this recipe for Spinach Enchiladas with Lentils featured at NaturallyElla.com.  This recipe is written for 2 servings of enchiladas, however the sauce part of this recipe is enough to make 4 servings.  While you’re making a mess, you might as well double the enchilada part and use all the sauce!  There are several variations at the end of the recipe, so adapt it to your liking!
Credit: Naturally Ella
The pea vine in this week’s box brings a refreshing new flavor to the table.  I am going to use it to make the Pea Vine & Green Onion Pasta Salad with Ginger and Lemon featured in this week’s vegetable newsletter.  Serve it at room temperature with a piece of seared salmon for dinner and then enjoy any leftovers as a cold salad for lunch the next day with any leftover protein mixed in!
The Charred Scallion Butter recipe in this week’s newsletter is super-easy to make and can be used in multiple ways throughout the week. This is part of a feature on Bon Appetit that features 32 recipes using scallions….all applicable to the Egyptian Walking onions in this week’s box. This recipe calls for two bunches of onions, but can easily be cut in half if you’re using one of your bunches for another recipe. Spread this butter on your morning bagel or toast and dip it into the soft yolk of an over easy egg. Spread it on crusty French bread and top it with a few stalks of roasted or grilled asparagus and some freshly chopped chives for a quick dinner or lunch option.  Still have a little left? Use it to saute some fresh mushrooms and then toss in some cooked fettuccine. Garnish with a little shredded cheese and you have a quick dinner option to enjoy with a crispy lettuce salad.
Lettuce!! Aren’t the head lettuces in this box beautiful! These tender heads of lettuce don’t need much beyond a simple vinaigrette….such as Jamie Oliver’s Honey and Lemon Juice Dressing.   Add some freshly chopped chives and chive blossoms and you have a simple, yet tasty salad. The lettuce leaves in these mini heads are also great to use as a wrap.  Fill them with your favorite filling or turn them into a taco!
Last but not least, this is probably our last week for chives and I can’t believe I almost forgot to remind Richard to make a batch of Chive Parmesan Popcorn!! Kick back for movie night or invite some friends over for popcorn on the patio.  
Have a delicious week! —Chef Andrea
“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” 
― Laurie Colwin

Charred Scallion Butter
Yield:  1 cup
2 bunches scallions or green onions, trimmed, halved crosswise
2 tsp finely grated lime zest
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1.       Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until smoking hot. Add scallions and cook, turning occasionally, until evenly blackened, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool; coarsely chop.
2.       Mix scallions, lime zest and lime juice into butter in a medium bowl until evenly blended;  season with salt and pepper
Credit: Bon Appetit
Note:  Butter can be made 2 weeks ahead.  Cover and chill.
Recipe by Alison Roman as featured at bonappetit.com 
Pea Vine & Green Onion Pasta Salad 
with Ginger & Lemon
Yield:  6-8 servings
12 oz pasta (macaroni, fusilli, penne or other small pasta)
5 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp honey
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 bunch green onions
5 Tbsp peanut oil or sunflower oil
1-2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
Juice and zest of 1-2 lemons (approximately 4 Tbsp juice)
1-2 Tbsp fresh mint, thinly sliced
1 cup finely chopped pea vine
Salt & black pepper, to taste

  1. Cook pasta in a pot of salted, boiling water until al dente.  Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water. Place pasta in a large mixing bowl.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, combine the apple cider vinegar, ginger, honey and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium   heat. Simmer for just 1-2 minutes, stirring to ensure the honey is dissolved. Remove     from heat and pour over the drained pasta. Stir to combine.
  3. Remove the root end from the green onions and cut apart the green tops from the white base of the onion. Finely chop the white portion and thinly slice the green tops. 
  4.  Add the peanut oil, sesame oil, lemon juice & zest, mint, green onions and pea vine to the bowl with the pasta. Stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper and set aside for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop before serving. This salad may also be made in advance and refrigerated overnight. Before serving, adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more lemon juice, salt and/or black pepper. Serve either cold or at room temperature.
    Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm.

Thyme Flies When You’re Having Fun!

17 May 2017 22:12

We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist."
― Wendell Berry
Thyme Flies When You’re Having Fun! Herb Packs Are Back!
By Farmer Richard
Back in our early days of CSA, we used to include more herbs in the CSA shares.  We invested time and money to grow a wide variety, spent time harvesting & bunching them, and then heard frequently from members that they were not using all of the herbs in a bunch before they went bad.  As we looked at our cost of production, we quickly realized some of these herbs were not a sustainable venture.  We brought this issue up with our members at a core group meeting.  Dear, sweet Marilyn, a long time CSA member, offered us an excellent solution to this problem.  Give us the herb plants and we can grow and harvest our own herbs as we need them!  What a great idea!  Ever since then, we’ve made herb packs a standard part of our vegetable shares. 
This week we’re delivering herb packs to your sites. They have filled up their little cells in the pack and are ready to be planted, so put on your gardening gloves and have some fun!  You can plant your herbs in a garden space or in pots to keep on your patio, porch or kitchen window sill if you’re limited on space.  Choose good, loose garden soil mixed with lots of compost (up to 1” mixed into the soil if you’re planting into a garden space).  The plants will do best in well-drained soil with full sun.  If you don’t have a space with full sun exposure, partial sun will be OK too.  If you have rabbits or other little herb-loving critters in your yard, you might need to fence your herbs to protect them. 
There are four perennial herbs in your pack:  Oregano, Sage, Thyme and Savory.  These herbs can survive the winter and will consistently come back year after year, so consider where you’d like to establish these herbs in your garden.  Sage and oregano will get quite large, so it is best to give them about 2 square feet of space in the area you plant them in.  Each year I cut off all the old wood from my sage plant to make room for the new growth.  Thyme and savory are a bit smaller and only need about 1 square foot of space. 
The remaining plants in your pack are annuals and include Italian Basil, Chervil, Italian Parsley and Curly Parsley (although the parsley plants in my garden survived the winter last year).  Italian basil and chervil need to be cut back regularly to delay flower and seed formation.  Parsley will continue to produce throughout the season, so don’t be afraid to cut these plants back too.  If you can’t use your herbs as fast as they are growing, cut the extra herbs anyway and preserve them for use later.  Dry them in a low-heat oven or in a food dehydrator and put them to use in the winter.  Later in the season, we’ll be writing a follow-up article about different ways you might preserve your herbs before the last hard frost of the season sets in.  Watch for that information in the fall!
I hope you can find a good place to plant your herbs so you may enjoy them throughout the CSA season this year.  If you need help identifying your plants, refer to the pictures below:
Green Onions & Pea Vine: A Peasful Pair!
By:  Laurel Blomquist & Andrea Yoder
     Onions are a staple of American cuisine for their ability to create layers of flavor in dishes. We strive to include at least one member of the allium or onion family in every CSA box. In the spring, we start with overwintered Egyptian walking onions and potato onions. Later, we move on to spring scallions and green top cipollini onions. Next, sweet onions arrive just before the red and yellow storage onions, which we can utilize all winter.
     The name of this week’s onion variety, Egyptian walking onion, is a bit mysterious. It is commonly known that ancient Egyptians were among the first to cultivate onions, so perhaps the name honors this heritage. The ‘walking’ part of their name takes an active imagination. Most onions, when left in the field, will produce flowers and eventually seeds from which you can plant new onions. These, however, will produce mini-onions, or sets, at the top of the plant. This top-set is so heavy that the plant slowly falls to the ground. Wherever the set lands, a new plant will begin. The process will infinitely repeat itself if given the space, hence over time, it appears as if the onion is indeed walking down the field!
     At this point, I’m sure you’re scratching your head, so I’ll prepare you for next week’s onion variety, potato onions. You may know them by their other name, multiplier onions. Both names imply the same thing: planting one set or bulb in the ground will produce around five onions if given time to multiply. If you know anything about planting potatoes, it’s that we don’t plant potato seeds. Instead, we plant a piece of potato, which sprouts and produces a plant that yields a group of potatoes. Potato onions got their name because they behave in the same way.
     The rest of our onions, including spring scallions, are planted and grown from seed. They are the first thing we plant in the greenhouse every February. Can you believe it takes that many months to produce onions from seed in Wisconsin?
     One bunch of potato onion, Egyptian onion, or scallion equals roughly four ounces, and yields ½ cup when chopped. Their milder flavor means you can use them in raw or cooked applications. Enjoy the first onions of spring!
     Pea Vine is actually an immature pea plant that is harvested before the vine starts to develop blossoms. It has a mild, sweet pea flavor and may be eaten raw or lightly cooked.  While the tendrils and leaves are tender, the main stem can sometimes get tough depending on how mature the plant is at harvest. This week’s pea vine is very young and most of the stem is still tender. Next week’s pea vine may be a bit more mature and you may find some of the lower stem is a bit more coarse. If you find this to be the case, pick the tender leaves, tendrils and thin stems off the main stem. I must admit that I don’t like to spend a lot of time sorting through a bunch of pea vine and I prefer to use as much of the bunch as I can...plus there is a lot of flavor in the stem! Thus, when the pea vine is more mature and some of the stems are a bit more coarse, I tend to use pea vine in ways that allow me to blend it in a blender or food processor to make things such as pea vine pesto or pea vine cream cheese (both recipes may be found on our website). 
     The other way I like to use pea vine is in sauces, soups or broth. I generally chop the pea vine into smaller pieces and add it to hot broth or a sauce base. Let the pea vine simmer briefly to extract the flavor, but don’t overcook it or you’ll lose the bright pea flavor. Once you’ve infused the flavor of the pea vine into the sauce or broth, you can strain it out to remove it. If you’d like to extract just a little more flavor, blend the mixture before straining it. Enjoy!

A Box Deconstructed- 5/11/2017

10 May 2017 17:03

A Box Deconstructed- 5/11/2017
Cooking with This Week’s Box…
This is our second week of deliveries, but if this is your first delivery of the season…Welcome! I’m glad you’ll be cooking with us this year and want to remind you we’re here to help you.  Remember to read your newsletter and “What’s In the Box” email that accompany each delivery.  This is where you’ll find important information about your box contents, recipes, etc.  This year we’re trying some new things in the newsletter, including this section which is intended to provide you with some ideas about what you might make with your box contents and, when possible, we’ll also provide you with a link to that recipe. 
This week’s box has a lot of GREEN!  Lets roll up our sleeves and get cooking!  Last week our featured vegetable of the week was nettles.  A CSA member in our Facebook group shared a recipe for Pizza with Garlic Cream and Nettles that is a spring favorite for her family.   This recipe will probably use about half of your nettle bunch (although you can put as many on your pizza as you’d like!), so you could use the remainder to make a quart of nettle tea or turn it into a small batch of nettle pesto.  If you are short on time this week and the pizza idea is a bit too much, consider just making the Nettle Pesto recipe we featured on our blog last week.  Nettle pesto is easy to make and versatile, so you might find it handy to have in your refrigerator.  Spread it on toast with cream cheese, stir it into scrambled eggs, add a dollop to a piece of seared salmon, or toss it into pasta for a super quick dinner. 
The spinach in this week’s box is possibly the last of our overwintered spinach, and I hope you’ll take a moment to notice how sweet it is this week!  Use one bunch to make the Green Pancakes recipe featured in this week’s newsletter and below.  Serve these pancakes as a side dish alongside a seared pork chop with sautéed asparagus and mushrooms to create a tasty dinner. If you have any pancakes left, heat them up in the morning for a quick breakfast item!  The second bunch of spinach will make a delicious salad dressed with the Creamy Green Garlic & Feta Dressing recipe featured in this week’s blog.  Add some cooked chicken, tuna or beef to the salad along with olives, croutons and grilled asparagus for an entrée salad.  Use the extra dressing as a dip for crackers, chips, bread or put a dollop on top of your Green Pancakes!
You’ll be using the green garlic in several recipes this week.  If you run short on green garlic, substitute some Egyptian Walking Onions.  Reserve a few onions to use in an Asparagus Stir-Fry, such as this one featured on Heidi Swanson’s blog.  While you’re at Heidi’s blog, check out her recipe for Baked Quinoa Patties.  Her recipe calls for chives and dill, but I substituted extra chives for the dill this week and they were delicious.  If you have a little bit of extra spinach remaining, substitute that for the kale.  These little patties are good for any meal of the day and are easy to take with you if you need something quick and easy to grab on the go.  Lastly, enjoy a few refreshing beverages with this week’s bunch of sorrel.  Use part of the bunch to make Frosty Banana and Sorrel Smoothies  (I can’t get enough of these!) and use the remainder to make a batch of Sorrel-Lime Cooler!  Sit back, relax and sip on one of these refreshing drinks as you soak up the green in these early spring boxes!  
 ---Chef Andrea 

“There are five elements: earth, air, fire, water and garlic.”  

Green Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp plus ¼ tsp salt
4 large eggs, 2 whole and 2 separated
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup minced green garlic, lower white portion
¼ cup thinly sliced green garlic tops
2 Tbsp dry white wine
½ cup milk
5 cups (5 oz) spinach, finely chopped
Olive oil, for cooking
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt and form a well in the center.   Add 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks and stir to mix with part of the flour from the mound.  (Put the egg whites in the refrigerator until you are ready for that step.)  Sprinkle with pepper.  Add the garlic bulb and tops, wine, and then pour the milk in a slow stream, whisking as you go. Whisk until all the flour is incorporated and the mixture is creamy and mostly lump-free. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. 
  2. When ready to cook the pancakes, remove the bowl from the fridge and fold in the spinach.
  3. In a clean bowl, beat the 2 egg whites with ¼ tsp salt with an electric mixer or a whisk until they form stiff peaks.  Fold them into the batter with a spatula, working in a circular, up-and-down motion to avoid deflating the egg whites.
  4. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Ladle about ¼ cup of the batter into the hot skillet, without flattening.  Repeat to form as many pancakes as will comfortably fit in the skillet, probably no more than 4.
  5. Cook until the edges are set and the pancakes are golden underneath, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is set and golden, 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer them to a sheet tray (with a rack if available) and hold them in the oven set at the lowest heat setting while you finish cooking the pancakes.  Grease the skillet again, and repeat with the remaining batter.  You should have enough to make 10-12 pancakes.  
  6. Serve hot.  You may choose to add a dollop of sour cream or pesto on top, however they are also good just on their own!  If you have any leftover pancakes, they reheat well in a toaster or toaster oven.  Spread a layer of cream cheese on the reheated pancakes and enjoy them as a snack or for breakfast! 
This recipe was adapted from Clotilde Dusoulier’s book, The French Market Cookbook.  Her original recipe called for garlic cloves and Swiss chard, thus you can see this recipe may be adapted to the season!  Clotilde also has a blog, chocolateandzucchini.com, where she writes about seasonal foods and shares simple, approachable recipes.   

Creamy Green Garlic & Feta Dressing 

Yield 1½ cups

1 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
 cup green garlic (tops and bottoms), finely chopped
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
⅓ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine yogurt, mustard, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, green garlic, 1 tsp salt and black pepper.  Stir well to incorporate all the ingredients.
  2. Fold in the feta cheese.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight to allow the flavors to come together.  Taste before using and season to your liking with additional salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Serving Suggestions:  This dressing is most appropriate for dressing more sturdy “salad greens” such as spinach and romaine lettuce.  Toss the greens of your choosing with just enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves, then garnish with any other ingredients you might choose.  A few additional ingredient suggestions that pair well with this dressing include olives, croutons, toasted almonds or sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, and grilled asparagus.  If you have extra dressing, use it as a dip for chips or vegetables or as a topping for a baked potato.
Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm

Beauty in the Branches

10 May 2017 16:48

“Farming is a Profession of Hope” 
― Brian Brett
Beauty in the Branches
By Farmers Richard and Andrea
   You may be wondering why we offer bunches of decorative curly willow and pussy willow every spring with the first two CSA deliveries.  Didn’t I sign up for a vegetable CSA?  Yes, our focus is on growing vegetables, but the willows are an important part of creating biodiversity on our farm thereby adding health and vitality to our vegetable production.  
   One winter back in the early nineties, it was cold and windy with little to no snow cover.  We had had some fields with late fall crops in them and there wasn’t enough time to plant and establish a cover crop after the vegetables were harvested.  Richard remembers seeing precious soil blowing off the fields that winter, so he decided to put in a hedgerow to provide a windbreak and prevent further erosion.  Curly willow and pussy willow varieties were chosen because they also would provide a saleable decorative product.  Little did we know we’d discover much more value from having these plants as part of our ecosystem.  Not only do they add beauty to our landscape and provide a windbreak, they also serve as habitat for birds, beneficial insects and creatures that are an important part of managing pest insects and pollinating our fruit and vegetables crops
Organic systems require more complicated production techniques than simply spraying chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  However, if you let nature do its thing, you don’t really have to do much except let the intricate natural system unfold.  Our willow hedgerows provide a permanent area that serves both as a refuge as well as a habitat.  When you set aside an area as a permanent “refuge,” you provide a place for critters to go when you work the field.  If we can keep them “on the sidelines,” they’ll be ready to move back into the fields after we’ve worked the ground.  We want creatures, such as ground beetles, in our fields because they eat weed seeds and other predatory pests.  The other benefit with having undisturbed ground in the hedgerow is that it provides a place for other creatures to live.  Some, such as goldfinches, may prefer to make nests in the branches.  Many beneficial bees and wasps are often ground dwellers, so they need undisturbed ground to nest in and raise their young. 
Every spring the pussy willow catkins (little fuzzy soft things everyone likes to touch) are buzzing with bees and wasps.  The pussy willows provide these critters with a source of nourishment early in the spring before other spring flowers are in bloom.  Bees are important pollinators for crops such as strawberries, watermelons, melons and squash.  We like to see the wasps because they help to control pest insects by attacking the larval or immature stages of whiteflies, moths, leaf beetles, cabbageworms, slugs and other pest insects that might cause problems with the crops in our fields. 
There’s another cool thing happening with the wasps in the willow. The willow produces a protein-rich sap from its branches.  There is a black aphid that likes to feed on the sap.  The black aphid isn’t a pest in our fields and confines itself to the willow branches.  This aphid consumes the protein in the sap, and exudes a sugary “honeydew” from its back.  Beneficial wasps love to feed on the honeydew on the backs of the aphids.  These predatory wasps help us to control our cabbageworm populations.  They can be seen carrying cabbageworms out of the fields to feed to their young larvae.  Small parasitic wasps also control the worms by injecting their eggs into the cabbageworms.  The cabbageworm then is host to the young wasp larvae that feed on the body of the cabbageworm after they hatch. 
In the winter, after all the leaves have fallen off the branches, we go to the wintry wonderland of our fields and trim the curly and pussy willow trees.  We need to keep them trimmed back so we can maintain our field roads that run alongside the hedgerows.  We also trim them to keep them thinned so there is room for new growth.  We carry out the branches we’ve cut off the trees and bring them into the packing shed, making giant piles in our coolers.  Over the winter our packing shed crew bundles them into the beautiful decorative bunches.  We are careful to take enough to maintain the space and the tree, but also make sure we leave enough branches to ensure it is a welcoming place for birds, bees, wasps and other critters to return to in the spring.  Some years we may have a lot and other years may be more limited.  While we enjoy their beauty in our homes, we have to remember they have to first serve their purpose in the field.
Curly willow and pussy willow branches are a very low-maintenance decoration to enjoy in your home or office.  Display the stems in a vase or container of your choosing.  They don’t require water and can last for years!!  You may add them to a vase of flowers with water for a short time, but they may sprout and produce roots.  If that happens, find a place to plant it in your yard and see what creatures take up residence in your space!
Let's Not Mince Words: Garlic Is Grrreat!
By:  Lisa Garvalia

   Green garlic is young, immature garlic which is harvested before the bulb forms. It looks similar to a green onion or scallion. It has a white bulb and green, flat leaves.  The flavor is more mild than that of green onions or scallions, and it has a pleasant garlic scent. The entire plant may be eaten, from the bulb to the green leaves. Green garlic should be stored in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel in your crisper drawer and should be used up within 5-7 days.
   When we harvest mature garlic in July, we put it in the greenhouse to dry. Once dried, we carefully sort the garlic and set aside the bulbs with the largest cloves and no signs of disease.  This is our seed stock for the next crop.  When it’s time to plant garlic in October, we crack the bulbs and separate the individual cloves.  If there are any smaller cloves on a bulb, we set those aside and this is what we plant for green garlic.  We also save small bulbs of garlic and give them a purpose by using them for green garlic seed as well.  The cloves for green garlic are planted just 2 inches apart, in contrast to 6-8 inch spacing for regular garlic that we want to grow to a full-sized bulb.
   Green garlic may be used in many of the same ways regular garlic or green onions are used, either fresh or cooked. Green garlic has a stronger flavor when raw, but mellows a bit with cooking. To use the green garlic, cut off the roots and give it a quick washing. Chopped green garlic tastes great in risotto, adding the chopped greens at the end of cooking. Green garlic can be added fresh to salads, again don’t forget to add the greens. It is also a great addition to soups, or sautéed with mushrooms and onions to eat with grilled beef or chicken. Drizzle a little olive oil on asparagus and whole green garlic stalks, add a little salt and freshly ground pepper and grill. Green garlic also makes a wonderful tasting aioli to add to your favorite sandwich. Green garlic is one of the many spring treats we get to enjoy after a long winter!!
CSA: It's Not Just for Veggies Anymore!
It's not too late to sign up as we do still have shares available!

Yes, we have our hearty Vegetable shares that people have loved for over 20 years. But we also have Organic Fruit, Meat & Coffee shares available, so don't delay! Bring in a friend and you'll receive a referral coupon for each new member who lists you on their sign-up form.

We still have room at all of our CSA sites in all delivery locations  including the Twin Cities, MNMadison, WI; and our local area including Viroqua, La Crosse & Onalaska, WI.

See our Sign-Up Form for share options and pricing.

We look forward to being your CSA farm for the 2017 season!

3 May 2017 21:02

A Box Deconstructed- 5/4/2017

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Nettles, Spinach, Sorrel, Ramps, Chives, Asparagus.
*Choice Item: Mixed Willow Bunch

Cooking with This Week’s Box…..
Welcome to the first CSA box of the season!  I’m glad you’ll be cooking with us this year and want to remind you we’re here to help you.  Remember to read your newsletter and “What’s In the Box” email that accompany each delivery.  This is where you’ll find important information about your box contents, recipes, etc.  This year we’re trying some new things in the newsletter, including this section which is intended to provide you with some ideas about what you might make with your box contents and, when possible, we’ll also provide you with a link to that recipe. 
To start off your week of cooking, I recommend making the recipe for Curried Nettle Stew with Chickpeas &Chickenfeatured in this week’s newsletter, served with Jasmine rice and a piece of warm pita bread.  Take one half of the bunch of sorrel to make Frosty Banana and Sorrel Smoothies for a quick breakfast.  This recipe was featured in our farmers’ market newsletter last week along with an article all about sorrel and a recipe for Armenian Cold Yogurt and Sorrel Soup.     Use the second half of the sorrel to make this soup, which also contains spinach and chives.  Since this soup is eaten cold, it’s an easy recipe to prepare in advance for a quick lunch or dinner option.  Serve it with a hard-boiled egg and a piece of toast slathered with Ramp Butter.  Ramp butter is very easy to make and the recipe may be found on our website.  It stores very well in the freezer, so eat some of it this week and put the remainder in a jar and pop it in the freezer to enjoy later in the year.  While chopping the chives for the sorrel soup, go ahead and chop a little extra.  Fold them into 8 oz of softened cream cheese with a few grinds of black pepper.  Now you have a spread for your morning bagel or put it on a wrap with a handful of spinach for a quick lunch.  What are you going to do with all the spinach this week?!  How about the Spring Spinach Chop Salad with Creamy Buttermilk RampDressing, featured in our newsletter in 2013.  Add a piece of grilled salmon and a few spears of grilled asparagus and serve it for dinner.  Any leftover salad ingredients and dressing will become lunch for the next day.    There should still be about half a bunch of ramps remaining, which is just enough to add to risotto.  Just use a basic recipe for risotto, but add chopped ramp bulbs and leaves in the final stages of cooking along with a handful of asparagus cut into bite-sized pieces.  Finish the risotto with some Parmesan cheese and you’re set!  Finally, with the little bit of remaining spinach, asparagus or any other vegetable bits still lingering, finish off the week with a frittata.  You can find a basic recipe for Spring Greens with Parmesan and Pancetta at Food52 (Spring Greens with Parmesan and Pancetta Frittata).  Happy Cooking!
---Chef Andrea 

May 2017—Nettle Cooking Tips & Recipes
A few cooking tips for nettles:
  What does the cooking term “blanch” mean?
Blanching is a cooking process where a food, usually a vegetable, is cooked briefly in boiling water, then removed and immediately placed into iced water or placed under cold running water to stop the cooking process.  In the case of nettles, blanching is important to remove the sting from the nettles so they are easier to work with.
  How much nettle is in one bunch?
1 bunch Harmony Valley Farm nettles weighs approximately 7-8 ounces with the stem and leaves
1 HVF bunch of nettle yields 5-6 cups lightly packed raw leaves
1 HVF bunch of blanched nettle yields 1 cup tightly packed or 1 ½ cups loosely packed nettle leaves 
Easy and Tasty Nettle Tea

1 quart canning jar
1 cup loosely packed, fresh nettle leaves
Hot water
Apple juice or honey, to taste
1.      Put nettle leaves into a quart canning jar and pour hot water over them.  Let set for 4 hours or overnight (for a long infusion). 
2.      Strain leaves out, sweeten, if desired, with apple juice or honey to taste.  Store tea in the refrigerator.  Drink one cup per day, either cold or warmed up.  Use within 3 days.
Recipe courtesy of Jean Schneider
Nettle Pesto
Yield:  Approximately 1 cup
Leaves and smaller stems from one bunch nettles, blanched (See note below)
2 to 5 cloves garlic
½ cup nuts (walnut or pine nuts are my favorites)
¾ cup Parmesan (or gruyere) cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ -1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
1.      Make sure you have squeezed out the extra liquid from the blanched nettles, then put the garlic cloves, nuts, nettles, cheese, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in the food processor.  Pulse a few times to break everything down. 
2.      Slowly add olive oil with the food processor running until desired consistency is reached.  Adjust seasoning by adding more salt and/or lemon juice to your liking.
Serving & Use Suggestions:  Eat with crackers or tossed with fresh pasta, add it to your scrambled eggs or spread a layer on your sandwich.  It is best used fresh, as it will oxidize (turn brown on the top).   The brown doesn’t hurt anything it just doesn’t look good!  Stir it up and it is fine to eat. If you must store it, put it in the smallest container possible and add a coating of olive oil on top to keep it from turning brown.  You can freeze it or keep it in the refrigerator. 
Recipe courtesy of Jean Schneider
HVF Note:  You will need approximately 5-6 cups of loosely packed fresh nettle leaves for this recipe, which is about one bunch.  The recipe calls for using blanched nettles, but you may choose to make this recipe using raw nettles.  While most people eat nettles cooked, you can eat them raw as well.  Some individuals may be more sensitive to this experience than others, so if you have any hesitancy I’d recommend just blanching the nettles.  I (Andrea) was a little skeptical about eating raw nettles.  I made this recipe with both blanched nettles and raw nettles and found both variations to be very good.  Raw nettles have a little different flavor than a cooked nettle, but both flavors are acceptable.  Richard and I enjoyed eating the raw nettle pesto.  Richard did not notice any ill-effects from doing so.  I had a slight irritation in my mouth, but I am often sensitive to things like this and the sensation was in no way anything more than a minor irritation that subsided within less than an hour.  You can choose your method for yourself!
Curried Nettle Stew with Chickpeas & Chicken
Yield:  4-6 servings
1 Tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil
4 pieces chicken legs and/or thighs, skin removed
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp curry powder
3 cups chicken broth or stock
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bunch nettles, blanched
3 Tbsp raisins
Salt, to taste
3-4 cups cooked rice for serving (Jasmine is my favorite)
1.      Heat oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat.  When the oil shimmers, add the chicken pieces.  Brown on one side for several minutes, then turn and brown the other side. Once the chicken pieces are nicely browned, set them to one side of the pan.
2.      Add the mustard seeds and curry powder.  Stir the spices into the oil and cook for a minute or so until they are fragrant.  Add the chicken broth and chickpeas. 
3.      Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat just a little bit and cover.  You do not want the stew to boil, just gently simmer.  Adjust the heat accordingly.  Simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.  Remove the cover and take the pieces of chicken out of the pan.  Set them aside to cool.  Once cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bones and cut into bite-sized pieces.  Set aside.
4.      While the chicken is cooking, prepare the nettles.  Remove the leaves and small stems from the main stem.  Discard the main stem and roughly chop the remaining leaves and small stems.  When you remove the chicken from the pan, it is time to add the nettles and the raisins to the broth.  Return the stew to a gentle simmer and partially cover the pan.  Simmer for about 12 minutes, then add the chicken back to the pan.  Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
5.      Remove the pan from the heat and taste a bit of the stew.  Season to your liking with more salt.  Serve the stew with hot rice. 

Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder

3 May 2017 20:34

Welcome to the 2017 CSA Season!  
Spring is an exciting time in our valley as we watch nature unfold around us.  The trees are putting on leaves, wildflowers are blooming, and we found our first morel mushrooms this week!  We hope you’re ready to embark on your seasonal eating adventure because this week’s box contains some tasty treasures.  If you are new to seasonal eating, some of these vegetables might be unfamiliar to you.  Sorrel, ramps, nettles….what are these things?  Where are the carrots and broccoli?  Eating with the season means taking advantage of what nature has to offer at different times of the year, and often these vegetables contain just the nutrients our bodies need at that time in the season.  While these vegetables may be new to you, they are by no means new vegetables.  In fact, many of our grandparents and great-grandparents likely ate these vegetables and considered them to be a “normal” part of their seasonal diet!  
In this week’s newsletter we are highlighting one of the most nutritious spring vegetables we have, nettles.  Yes, they are the stinging kind, but please don’t let that deter you.  Take a few minutes and read the article Jean Schneider, herbalist and CSA member, wrote for you.  The introduction is featured in the newsletter, but we hope you’ll go to our blog to read Jean’s full article about nettles.  It will help you understand more about how nettles fit well into our spring diet.  On our blog, you’ll also find step-by-step instructions for how to handle nettles so they don’t sting you!  We’ve also provided several recipes using nettles that you may choose to try this week.  We’re glad you’ve chosen to be part of our farm this year and hope you enjoy this week’s seasonal selections.
---Farmer Richard and Chef Andrea 
What do I do with Nettle?!
By:  Jean Schneider, Herbalist & HVF CSA Member
Nettle is an extremely useful spring plant as an herb and a food that tastes like spinach when cooked. This abundant plant grows where soil fertility is high, accumulating nutrients within the plant.  What does this mean for a CSA member finding this treasure in the box?  This plant gives you a boost of energy.  Here is more motivation to use nettle, it is: 
  •     anti-inflammatory
  •     anti-histamine (seasonal allergies)
  •     high in protein
  •     high in carotenoids, chlorophyll, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, selenium, silicon, vitamins: B, C, D, and K
  •     removes uric acid (gout, gravel in the kidneys) 

Nettle is a nutritious spring tonic plant and is a part of eating with the seasons.  It helps our bodies awaken after the long, cold, wet winter by warming and drying up excess fluid.  Nettle tea warms the kidneys and inspires them to work more efficiently and detoxify the blood and body.   Nettle is a blood building, iron rich plant.
Let’s eat some nettle!  First, there are tiny “hairs” all over the plant that produce a sting when they come in contact with your skin.  Lucky for you the farm pre-washes the nettle to remove most of the hairs, so what you have in your box should only have a few hairs left on it. The nettle is bunched together and wrapped in a clear plastic bag.  Use the plastic bag, gloves or tongs to handle the nettle.  You can use kitchen scissors to snip the leaves right from the bunch in the bag or other container (eg a canning jar if you’re making tea).  Once the nettles are cooked, chopped in a food processor, or made into tea with hot water, the hairs have been broken down and no longer sting.  While most people eat nettles cooked, you can eat them raw as well if they are finely chopped (eg made into a pesto).  Some individuals may be more sensitive to this experience than others, so if you have any hesitancy I’d recommend cooking the nettles before you eat them.  I love cooking nettle with a bit of butter in a pan and eating them that way.  Of course you can add them to soups or any other dish you would normally add spinach to.  Just make sure you wilt the nettle well when cooking. 
More About Nettle as a Spring Tonic
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is considered a weed plant and grows along edges of fields and natural areas and even might pop up in our gardens or yards.   Since it loves high soil fertility, make sure you are harvesting from areas with clean soil (avoid conventional farm fields, industrial waste areas, areas with an unknown history, etc.). Nettle spreads both by underground rhizomes and by seed so you tend to find nettle in patches versus single plants.  At the farm, both wild nettle and a prolific patch of cultivated nettle is harvested for your CSA shares.  The plant is harvested in the spring well before it flowers.  When nettle flowers the constituants in the plant change and we no longer use it.  Young tops of the plant are harvested, usually the top 1/3 and are used as a spring tonic food or dried for later use in long infusions (overnight tea).
When collecting wild nettle, be prepared for all those little stinging hairs that cover the plant.  Wear thick gloves, long sleeves, long pants and closed toe shoes.  Remember, you will likely be going into a patch of nettle where any body part can brush up against a plant.  A pair of garden shears or even kitchen scissors will work fine to cut the tops.  Take them home and process into pesto or start drying the plant right away.  If you use heat to dry it, use very low heat or hang it to air dry in small bunches.  If you want to rinse your bunches in water like the farm does it will remove most of the hairs and will make cooking with it easier.  The nettle doesn’t keep fresh in the refrigerator for very long, so make sure to use it up soon.
During the month fresh nettle is in season, use the plant in regular cooking or as a long infusion tea to help your body adjust to the change of season.  Moving the winter cold and dampness from the body and nutrifying tissues helps us transition into the next season of the year.
The sting in nettle has long been used as a folk remedy on arthritic joints…. yes, that means whipping your arthritic joints with the fresh plant!  It does hurt, I have tried it (once).  After the redness and sting have subsided (for me about an hour) the arthritic joint is less swollen and painful.  These benefits can last for several days.   Or you can use nettle internally and avoid the sting!
A friend of mine previously made nettle beer since her farm had an abundance of the plant.  It was very tasty!  Traditionally the beer was saved and used for gout and rheumatic pains for elders during the winters.
Since nettle is packed with protein and nutrients it’s no wonder the long infusion gives so many people a boost of energy.  Give this plant a try as a spring food and long infusion tea.  If you come to love it, send the farm an e-mail asking for more!
Jean Schneider, Herbalist
Nativa Medica, LLC
Facebook: @nativamedica
Nettles 101:  How to Handle & Prepare Stinging
Nettles are a very nutritious spring green and hold an important place in our spring diets.  They are unique in many ways including the fact that they can “sting” you when they are raw.  Stinging nettles have little “hairs” on them that can cause a sting or skin irritation if you touch them with bare skin before they are cooked.  Vigorously washing nettles in a sink of cold water will help remove some of the sting, but the sting may not be completely gone until they are cooked.  When we pack nettles in CSA boxes, we always give them a vigorous washing and then put them in a clear plastic bag before we put them in your box.  We do this so you don’t have to touch them with your bare hands as you’re unpacking your box. 
Please refer to the handling instructions and tips that follow before you open your bag and use the nettles.  These guidelines will help you find success with your nettles!  If you do get a little sting while handling nettles, it generally subsides within an hour.  If the sting does persist you may find it soothing to apply a little aloe vera or make a paste with baking soda and water and put it on the affected area.
Please note, while most people eat nettles cooked, you can eat them raw as well.  If you choose to eat them raw, we would advise you to do so in a form that requires them to be chopped finely either with a knife or in a food processor, such as nettle pesto.  Some individuals may be sensitive to eating raw nettles, so if you have any hesitancy we’d recommend just blanching or thoroughly cooking the nettles before you eat them. 
Below we have outlined two methods for handling and blanching nettles.  Choose whichever method you prefer and don’t let a little extra handling deter you from eating this wonderful spring vegetable!
Method #1:  Blanch nettles whole with the leaves still attached to the main stem
Step 1:  Wash the nettles
Use the bag the bunch of nettles is in as a barrier between your hand and the nettles.  Hold the bunch of nettles with your hand on the outside of the bag.  Pull the bag back and over your hand to expose the nettles.  Carefully remove the twist tie and put the bunch of nettles in a sink of cold water.  You can use your bag-covered hand to swish the nettles around in the water.  Alternatively, you can use kitchen tongs or gloves to wash the nettles as well.  While we have washed the nettles at the farm, it is good to do so again after removing the twist tie.

Step 2:  Blanch the nettles
Blanching is a cooking process where a food, usually a vegetable, is cooked briefly in boiling water, then removed and immediately placed into iced water or placed under cold running water to stop the cooking process.  In the case of nettles, blanching is important to remove the sting from the nettles so they are easier to work with.
Bring a pot of water to a vigorous boil.  Using a pair of tongs, remove the nettles from the sink of water and transfer them to the boiling water.  Submerge the nettles completely in the water and boil for about 2-3 minutes.  The nettles will wilt and turn bright emerald green.  Remove the nettles from the water and put them into a colander.  Run cold water over them or plunge them into a bowl with iced water. 
Step 3:  Prepare the leaves for use
Now that the nettles are cooked, you can handle them with your bare hands.  Remove them from the cold water and squeeze out all the excess water.  Using a paring knife or kitchen shears, cut the leaves and any small stems off the main stem.  Discard the main stem and the leaves are now ready to use!

Method #2:  Remove the leaves from the main stem before blanching
Step 1:  Wash the nettles
Use the bag the bunch of nettles is in as a barrier between your hand and the bunch of nettles.  Hold the bunch of nettles with your hand on the outside of the bag.  Pull the bag back and over your hand to expose the nettles.  Carefully remove the twist tie and put the bunch of nettles in a sink of cold water.  You can use your bag-covered hand to swish the nettles around in the water.  Alternatively, you can use kitchen tongs or gloves to wash the nettles as well.  While we have washed the nettles at the farm, it is good to do so again after removing the twist tie.
Step 2:  Cut the nettle leaves from the main stem
Use the bag as a glove so you can pick the stems up individually.  Using kitchen shears, cut the leaves and small stems away from the main stem.  Collect the leaves in a bowl and discard the main stem. 
Step 3:  Blanch the nettles
Blanching is a cooking process where a food, usually a vegetable, is cooked briefly in boiling water, then removed and immediately placed into iced water or placed under cold running water to stop the cooking process.  In the case of nettles, blanching is important to remove the sting from the nettles so they are easier to work with.
Bring a pot of water to a vigorous boil.  Using a pair of tongs, dump the nettle leaves into the boiling water and use the tongs to make sure they are fully submerged.  Boil for about 2-3 minutes.  The nettles will wilt and turn bright emerald green.  Remove the nettles from the water using tongs or a slotted spoon and put them into a colander.  Run cold water over them or plunge them into a bowl with iced water. 
Step 4:  Prepare the leaves for use
Now that the nettles are cooked, you can handle them with your bare hands.  Remove them from the cold water and squeeze out all the excess water.  The leaves are now ready to use!

28 Apr 2017 14:55

Sorrel Is Salad Gold!

Eating with the seasons can be an exciting, yet sometimes challenging adventure.  After a long winter, we’re anxious for the return of fresh food and are grateful for any green thing we can find!  While we are able to start planting vegetables in April, the days and nights are still cool and it takes awhile for the soil to warm up.  Thus, things often grow slowly and we have to wait patiently until the end of May and into June before we can start harvesting peas, beets, carrots, etc.  In the meantime, nature takes care of us by providing us with some delicious spring vegetables to enjoy.  Most of the vegetables we harvest this time of year are perennial plants that are either wild harvested, such as ramps and sometimes nettles, or are crops we planted in a previous year that start poking through on their own early in the spring.  Some of these vegetables include sorrel, chives, nettles, rhubarb and asparagus.  These are important vegetables for us to eat in the spring and all have different nutritive properties that help our bodies transition from winter into a new season.  If you are not familiar with these vegetables, they might be a little intimidating at first.  However, don’t let a vegetable intimidate you, just dive in and start learning how to enjoy something new!  Don’t worry, we’ll help guide you along the way!

Sorrel is a unique perennial plant we look forward to every spring and is amongst the first greens of the season.  It is actually in the same family of vegetables as rhubarb!  Sorrel leaves have a pointy, arrow shape and are thick in texture and bright green in color.  You’ll recognize sorrel by its tart and citrus-like flavor if you nibble on a raw leaf.  It has a bright flavor that will call your taste buds to attention.  Sorrel is a very nutritious green that contains antioxidants as well as vitamin C, fiber, iron, magnesium and zinc.

Sorrel may be used in a wide variety of preparations and may be eaten either raw or cooked.   Raw sorrel can brighten any salad and is excellent when blended into cold sauces, vinaigrette's, dressings or dips.  Because of its bold, tart flavor, it is often treated more like an herb when used raw and will give the end product a bright, cheery green color.  When cooked, sorrel behaves in a very interesting way.  First, its color changes from bright green to a drab olive green almost immediately.  Don’t worry, this happens to everyone and it’s just the way it is with sorrel!  The other unusual thing about sorrel is how it “melts” when added to hot liquids.  The leaves will almost immediately change color and then start to soften.  The longer it’s cooked, the more the leaves break apart and you can stir it into a coarse sauce.  This is one of the reasons it’s often used in soups and sauces.

The acidity of sorrel makes it a natural companion to more rich foods such as cream, butter, sour cream, yogurt, duck, and fatty fish (salmon & mackerel).  Additionally, it pairs well with more “earthy” foods such as lentils, rice, buckwheat, mushrooms and potatoes.  As with many other spring vegetables, sorrel pairs well with eggs and is often used in quiche, scrambled eggs, custard etc.  Don’t be afraid to think “outside of the box” and incorporate this green into beverages too!  In this week’s newsletter I have provided a tasty recipe for a Frosty Sorrel & Banana smoothie and in a past newsletter we published a recipe for a Sorrel-Lime Cooler (May 10, 2013).  The raw sorrel in both of these recipes lends a bright, fresh flavor to the beverage that is invigorating!

We have featured a wide variety of sorrel recipes in past newsletters.  These recipes may be found in the searchable recipe database on our website.  Here are a few of our favorites that might interest you:

  • Sorrel-Lime Cooler 
  • Sorrel Hummus
  • Spiced Lentils with Nettles & Sorrel Yogurt Sauce
  • Sorrel-Honey Vinaigrette
  • Sorrel Pesto
  • Sorrel & White Bean Soup

If you are interested in preserving sorrel to use during the winter, here’s an interesting idea from Deborah Madison’s book, Vegetable Literacy.  She recommends making a sorrel puree to freeze.  “Drop stemmed leaves into a skillet with a little butter and cook until the leaves dissolve into a rough puree, which takes only a few minutes.  Cool, then freeze flat in a ziplock bag….Just a dab will add spirit to the quiet flavors of winter foods:  break off chunks to stir into lentil soups, mushroom sauces or ragouts, or an omelet filling.”

We hope your spring is off to a good start and encourage you to incorporate some of these special spring vegetables into your meals.  In next week’s newsletter we will be featuring nettles, another unique spring green that is packed with flavor and nutrients!
Frosty Sorrel & Banana Smoothie
Yield:  2 servings, 14-16 oz each
¾ cup plain yogurt
1 cup milk
1 frozen banana, peeled and cut into chunks
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
7-8 ice cubes
½ bunch sorrel 
 1.  Put all ingredients in a blender in the order listed above.  Put the cover on the blender and, with the blender on low speed, turn it on.  Gradually increase the speed of the blender and blend until the mixture is smooth and bright green.
2.   Serve immediately in a chilled glass.  
*Note:  While this smoothie is best served immediately while it’s frosty, you can store it in the refrigerator for a day or so and it will still be delicious.  It may separate a little bit, but it will come together again if you just give it a good shake before you drink it.  
Recipe by:  Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm
Armenian Cold Yogurt & Sorrel Soup
Yield:  4 servings
1 ⅔ cups plain yogurt
1 quart water
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup long-grain white rice
4 oz spinach, chopped
2 oz sorrel, chopped (1/2 bunch)
½ bunch cilantro, chopped*
½ bunch dill, chopped*
*Note:  Since we do not have cilantro or dill available yet, I (Andrea) substituted 1 cup of chopped chives for the cilantro and dill.  It was delicious!
1.  Mix the yogurt, water, and egg together in a bowl.  Season this well with salt and pepper and give it a good whisk to incorporate the egg thoroughly.
2.  Place the rice in a large saucepan, cover with the yogurt mixture, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent the egg and yogurt from curdling.  
3.  Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the rice is cooked, about 10 minutes.
4.  Add the spinach, sorrel, and the herbs and cook for another minute.  Remove from the heat and let cool in the refrigerator, then serve cold.
Recipe borrowed from: Olia Hercules’ cookbook entitled, Mamushka: A Cookbook
Olia is from Ukraine and the recipes she shares in her book highlight the many other cultural influences she experienced growing up in this region. This recipe is one she learned to make from her half-Armenian Aunt Nina. It’s an interesting spring soup that you can actually enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Since it is served cold, you can make it the night before and it will be ready to enjoy for breakfast with a piece of toast and a hard-boiled egg. You can also take it along with you to work for a simple lunch with a few crackers or take it on a picnic!

20 Apr 2017 21:38

Time to Ramp Up!

Ramps are a special sign of spring we look forward to every year.  We’ve been wild-harvesting them for over 30 years in our valley and still get excited when we see the first green ramp leaves emerging from the forest floor.  Ahhh….spring has returned!  With their lily-like, delicate, rounded leaves and distinct aroma, there is nothing else that can be substituted for a ramp.  They are sometimes referred to as “wild leeks” and have their own distinct “rampy” flavor, but if they must be likened to another vegetable they may be described as having a garlic-onion like flavor and aroma.  Ramps are only available for a few weeks in the spring.  Most years we get about 4 weeks of harvest, but we’ve also seen years where the season is only 3 weeks and then they’re gone.


When you stand in the forest at the beginning of the year and look out over the sea of green leaves, it seems impossible that you could ever harvest so many that eventually they’d be gone, but we must remember nature is delicate and likes to maintain balance.  Ramps are a very slow growing crop and propagate themselves by bulb division as well as producing seeds.  They grow in many places around the world, mostly on steep hillsides and in ravines.  Since we started harvesting ramps back in the mid 80’s we’ve been aware of the need to manage our harvests responsibly so they continue to come back and flourish year after year.  It’s tempting to harvest the ones closest to the entry into the woods so you don’t have to hike as far to carry out the harvest…..but, we understand that if we were to do that year after year the ramp population would decline.  So, with respect, we enter the forest and carefully climb the steep hillsides taking care to tread lightly and carry out anything we carried in.
We have a very skillful crew who has been trained on proper harvest methods.  Ramps grow in clumps, and we are careful to only take a portion of a clump.  We intentionally leave some behind that will continue to grow and divide and are careful to do so with little disturbance to the soil.  Our forest hillsides have remained abundant with ramps for over 30 years as a result of these practices.  In fact, when we leave a portion of a clump behind, it may be 5 years or more before we come back to that area!  While most ramps grow wild in the forests, often on north-facing hillsides, they can be cultivated either from seed or by transplanting a ramp with the bulb and roots intact.  We have successfully transplanted ramps in suitable areas on our land where they were not previously growing, but we understand it may be many years before they are established enough that we can harvest them.
       Sadly, not everyone practices sustainable and ethical harvesting practices which does raise the concern that ramps may be overharvested.  When there is a demand for ramps and someone is willing to pay the price for them, opportunists may seize the opportunity to make a dollar with no regard for the plant or environment itself.  We share these concerns and feel it is important for consumers to know how the ramps they are purchasing have been harvested. As with so many other aspects of our food system, it’s important to understand the story behind your food so you can make informed purchases!  It takes more time and effort to carefully hike into the woods and up the steep hillsides to harvest ramps than it does to just walk into the base of the forest near the access point and easily walk them out.  If you ever wondered why ramps are a bit more expensive than other vegetables, it is because of the time we invest to harvest and carefully clean them.  

While ramps are not an endangered species, we do feel it’s important to be proactive in managing ramp populations to make sure we have them for years to come.  As part of our annual inspection, our organic certifier (MOSA) reviews and inspects our ramp woods and harvest practices.  They are concerned with maintaining organic integrity of the product as well as ensuring that we are using sustainable practices.  We support further regulation of ramp harvesting in public areas, as these are the most vulnerable locations where over-harvesting and disturbance of the ecosystem may take place.  If you are harvesting ramps yourself, please do so responsibly so they will be there for others to enjoy in the future as well.

Storage & Use

Ramps are a delicate vegetable and should be handled with care.  It’s important to store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.  The leaves are delicate and can wilt very quickly, so we recommend wrapping them in a damp towel and storing them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  The bulb portion of the ramp will store longer than the leaves, so some people choose to separate the bulb from the leaf and store them separately.
The entire ramp is edible with the exception of the roots on the very bottom of the bulb which should be trimmed off.  Ramps may be eaten either raw or cooked.  The flavor and aroma is a bit more pungent when eaten raw and mellows a bit with cooking.  

Ramps pair very well with other spring vegetables.  Mushrooms (morels in particular if you can get your hands on them!), overwintered spinach, and asparagus are a few of our favorite companions for ramps.  They also pair nicely with eggs and may be used in any kind of an egg preparation ranging from scrambled eggs to quiche, frittatas, omelets, deviled eggs or even egg salad.  Ramp risotto is a popular spring dish that many of our longtime CSA members make every year as a way of ushering in spring.  Ramp pesto and pasta dishes are other common favorite ways to prepare ramps.  Over the past few years, we’ve noticed an increasing affinity amongst our market crew members and customers for ramp butter--and rightly so!  The beauty of ramp butter is you can make and eat it when ramps are in season, but you can also freeze it to enjoy later in the year; perhaps in the middle of winter as a reminder that the season won’t last forever.

If you are trying ramps for the first time, start with something as simple as adding them to your scrambled eggs.  Finely chop the bulb portion of the ramp and saute it briefly in butter before you add the eggs to the pan.  Just as the egg is starting to become solid, fold in thinly sliced ramp leaves, season with salt and pepper and then cover the pan with a lid so the leaves wilt down and the eggs finish cooking.  You can find ramp recipes we’ve featured in previous newsletters in our searchable recipe database on our website (including the ramp butter recipe).  There is also a collection of tasty ramp recipes available at www.cooking.NYTimes.com including Ramp Focaccia and Egg and Lemon Soup with Ramps.

We hope you enjoy this spring vegetable treasure as we enter into another year of seasonal eating.  As you try new recipes and find your own “favorite” way to enjoy ramps, please keep us in mind!  We enjoy learning about new recipes and being reminded of the “oldies but goodies.”  Happy Spring! -Your farmers, Andrea & Richard

Spaghetti with Ramps and Mushrooms
 Yield:  3-4 as a main dish or 6 as a side dish
 8 oz spaghetti
 4 oz fresh mushrooms
 2 bunches ramps (approximately 6-8 oz)
 2 Tbsp butter
 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
 4 oz grated Parmesan or sharp cheddar, plus more to garnish
 2-3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste 
 Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
 1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Once the water is boiling vigorously, add the  pasta and cook until it is al dente.  Reserve one cup of pasta water before draining the pasta.  
 2.  While the pasta is cooking, prepare the remainder of the dish.  Thinly slice the mushrooms and set aside.  Separate the ramp bulbs and leaves.  Thinly slice both the ramp bulbs and the leaves and set aside.  
 3.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Melt the butter and one tablespoon of olive oil in the pan.  Add the mushrooms and 1 tsp salt to the pan and saute’ for 3-5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft.  Add the ramp  bulbs and saute for an additional 3-5 minutes or until the ramps are translucent. 
 4.  Add the ramp leaves to the pan and stir to combine.  Let the leaves wilt slightly and then add the spaghetti and about ½ cup of the pasta water to the pan.  Season generously with black pepper and stir to combine. 
 5.  Next, add 4 oz of grated Parmesan or sharp cheddar, about 2 Tbsp lemon juice, and the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil.  Stir to combine, adding more of the pasta water if needed to form a glossy sauce that lightly coats the pasta.  If you choose to include the bacon, add it now.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more salt, black pepper and/or lemon juice as needed.
 6.  Serve hot topped with additional cheese.
Recipe adapted from Alison Roman’s original recipe for “Spaghetti with Ramps”(Bon Appetit, April 2016)

Happy Spring Everyone!

17 Apr 2017 15:38

 By Andrea Yoder

Onions still in the greenhouse
April showers bring May flowers…..and green hillsides on our farm!  The pace of the farm has picked up and we’re rocking and rolling again!  This week we returned to the fields to harvest, work ground and plant.  Spring cleaning is happening in the packing shed and we’re all starting to get back into our vegetable groove.  Our CSA deliveries start in just three weeks and we’re excited to return to Madison, Wisconsin this weekend for our first farmers’ market of the season!  Things are changing fast and there’s quite a lot to fill you in on this month!

Both planting crews out in the fields
Our first group of field crew members returned from Mexico and started work on Monday.  We were thankful for their safe travels and were happy to see their smiling faces.  They hit the ground running on Monday.  Rafael, Juan, Jose Ramon and Nestor started off the week getting tractors, trucks and equipment out of winter storage.  By noon Nestor had already prepared ground for planting, so after lunch Rafael and Tomas were in the field doing our first direct seeding of the season!  Manuel and Juan Pablo followed behind and planted our first baby lettuces on Monday as well.  Angel and Juan Pablo have been working on fencing in the pastures……the cattle are anxious to be back out on grass and are happy to see the hillsides greening up.  Other crew members hopped on spring cleaning projects, joined the packing shed crew to transplant baby pepper plants in the greenhouses and started working on some field clean-up projects.
Ramps ready for DCFM
We decided to start our harvest for the farmers’ market on Wednesday, seeing rain in the forecast for Wednesday night and the latter part of the week.  While the ramps are still a little small, the crew was able to find enough to take to market and we anticipate they’ll be ready for larger harvests next week.  In the afternoon they went to the spinach field and spent the afternoon harvesting some sweet, tender overwintered spinach.  The hum of vegetable sorting and washing has returned to the packing shed this morning.

Lettuce planted in the Flower Tunnel
We have had some rain this week, so some of our field work is on hold.  We’re hoping to see some dry days in the near future so we can get some critical things done.  The onion transplants are almost ready to go to the field, but first we need to prepare their beds by covering them with the reflective plastic mulch that helps with weed and pest control as well as heat gain.  Next week we will be receiving some rhubarb and strawberry plants and need to get those fields ready for planting as well.  We are also anxious to plant some of our other early-planted crops including parsnips, burdock root and our first carrots and beets.

Transplanting pepper plants
The greenhouses are almost at full capacity, with only about two tables left in the nursery greenhouse……and we need those to finish the plantings on this week’s schedule!  The plants are looking very nice and many will be ready to go to the field within the next few weeks.  This year we’re trying something new.   Usually we use our greenhouses for transplant production only in the spring and we have one small house we seed edible flowers in for our salad mix.   This year we decided to try growing some early season head lettuces in these houses.  Simon, Scott and Gerardo started preparing the soil for planting last week and on Monday Scott and Leonardo finished planting the lettuce.  We’re hoping they’ll be ready for CSA boxes and the farmers’ market by the first to middle part of May which is several weeks earlier than the head lettuce we’ll harvest from the field.  

Jicama starting to come up in the greenhouse
Over the winter, Richard and Lisa spent quite a bit of time reviewing the results of the survey we did at the end of last year.  We really appreciate the input we received from those who chose to participate.  One of the questions we asked was for input on helping us choose three vegetables from our list of “unique crops” that you would like us to grow this year.  The top three vegetable choices were jicama, broccoli raab and dried beans!  We’re happy to report the jicama is planted and started sprouting this week.  The broccoli raab will be planted within the next few weeks and we’ll probably do a fall planting too.  It’s a little early to plant beans, but we have the seed!

Eagle in the tree
Farmer Richard is getting very excited for the May Woods Walks that he has planned.  In case you haven’t heard, we’ve invited our members to come to the farm this spring to join Farmer Richard for a walk through our wooded hillsides.  You will have the opportunity to explore areas of the farm we don’t usually feature at our other farm events.  There are a lot of treasures to discover in our woods and Farmer Richard is looking forward to guiding you on a walking tour using the new trails he and his crew made last fall!  As you hike through the woods, you’ll have the opportunity to look for spring wildflowers, learn how to identify different species of trees by their leaves and bark, forage for wild edibles, listen and look for birds, and you might even stumble on a morel mushroom or two!The two dates are May 13 and 20.  You’ll find more information about the event in this week’s email. This event is for CSA members only and space is limited, so we do ask that you email with an RSVP in advance.

We do still have CSA shares available for this year’s season, so please remind your friends and neighbors to sign up soon!  If you are in Madison, please stop by and visit us at the farmers’ market starting this weekend.  If you reside in the Twin Cities or our local area, please read your email for more details about some of the other events going on in the next few weeks.  Ok, that’s a wrap for now…time to water the greenhouses!

Early Spring Farm Update!

24 Mar 2017 20:38

by Andrea Yoder
Spring is officially here and our first week of CSA deliveries is only 6 weeks away!  Here at the farm we are looking forward to the return of spinach, salad greens, spring onions, ramps, asparagus, chives, baby bok choi……we love seasonal eating!   We’ve had an exciting first week of spring and within just a few more weeks, the pace of the farm is going to quicken.  As we transition into a new season, we thought we’d share a little glimpse of farm happenings.
Onions looking forward to going in to the Cold Frame
Greenhouse to 'toughen up' before the journey to the fields!
Back in February we fired up our nursery greenhouse.  Despite a few snow days that slowed us down, our small winter crew worked diligently to get the house cleaned and set up before starting to plant.  Our onions are now 4 weeks old and were fertilized for the first time last week.  They enjoyed a few bright, sunny days earlier this week and were so happy they shot up a few inches over the past two days!  We also have some pretty little lettuce plants, the fennel poked through this week and the celeriac is finally coming up!  Celeriac takes almost two weeks to germinate, so it can be a real nail-biter waiting for it to come up!  This week Beatriz & Laurel seeded all of the first plantings of broccoli, cauliflower, spring cabbage and kohlrabi as well as our first planting of kale and collards.  Over half of the herbs for the herb packs are planted and we’ll be putting those together in just a few short weeks so they’ll be ready to deliver to your CSA sites in May!  
Beatriz, Gerardo and Laurel
in the Nursery Greenhouse.
Our second greenhouse is quickly filling up, so we’ve been working on preparing the third and final house.  This is our cold frame greenhouse which has rollup sides to give the plants a bit of a controlled dose of reality before they are transplanted in the field.  They get tickled by the wind blowing in the sides and their nights are chillier than they are in the other houses.  The plants will spend a few weeks in this house to toughen them up before they are transplanted into the field.  
John, Scott and Simon finishing up the
Cold Frame Greenhouse plastic project!
This year we had to replace the plastic on the cold frame greenhouse.  Imagine giant sheets of plastic billowing in the air….a magical image, right?  Not in our world!  On our first attempt, there were reports of large men (Scott and Richard) being lifted right off their feet by the force of the gentle wind coming up under the plastic.  We’re thankful that Beatriz held on tight and she landed on two feet!  After having to abort the effort on Tuesday, we regrouped and tried again on Wednesday morning.  Everyone on the farm came in at 7 am and we were able to successfully get the plastic anchored onto the frame before those seemingly gentle gusts of wind came up.  Simon and Scott will finish putting the house back together today and the onions will move into that house on Monday!
Early Wednesday morning
greenhouse re-plasticing project!
Our winter crew members have been doing a great job keeping up with our greenhouse schedule, getting the willow trimmed and bunched, etc, but when we look at our to-do lists for the next few weeks, we acknowledge we’re going to need more hands to get everything done before the first week of CSA deliveries!  This week we were thankful to get our final approval and be able to move forward with the process to obtain H2A visas for our field crew members in Mexico.  Yes, we’ve been a bit nervous and won’t fully rest until our guys have safely returned.  We expect the first group to return the second week of April.  Keep your fingers crossed that the rest of the process and their travels will go smoothly and safely!  
Out in the pasture, the ducks and chickens are anxiously awaiting the return to their summer pasture by the creek.  The ducks are looking forward to playing in the creek again….the puddles just aren’t as satisfying.  Our goat herd has expanded by two kids this month and there are 5 more expectant mothers.  The cows are healthy and have had a good winter.  They’ve enjoyed their “chocolate” hay on cold, wet, snowy days when they eat inside the barn, but prefer to eat outside in the sunshine where we feed them their special haylage bales.  Within the next month we hope to add pigs to our pastures and then our “Old MacDonald” farm animal collection will be complete.
One of our roosters saying 'Hello'!
Ducks waddling in a puddle waiting
 to go back to their creek across the road! 

Farmers Richard & Andrea
holding one of the new baby goats!
In the office, Kelly and Lisa have been busy processing CSA orders and working on the 2017-2018 CSA Calendar.  Richard has been working on his crop plan, ordering field supplies and sneaking in some time to work on a few wood projects.  Over the winter John has been working on finishing the inside of the new solar kiln for drying lumber.  Laurel and I enjoyed attending the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in LaCrosse, Wisconsin at the end of February.  One of the highlights of the conference included a keynote presentation by Mas Masumoto, one of our fruit growers from California!  I had the opportunity to have dinner with him at the conference and will share more about his story and our conversations in our fruit newsletters this summer.  
Farmer Richard working on a
walnut coffee table
And finally….Farmer Richard has a field report for us.  The overwintered spinach is alive! We had large row covers on it for the winter and perimeter fence to keep the deer out. Several weeks ago we had high winds that lifted some of the corners got tangled up in the fence and made a real mess!   Scott and Richard replaced the fence before the deer realized it was down and turned the field into an all-you-can eat salad bar.  The garlic sprouts are pushing through the straw mulch and our rye cover crops are a bright, dark green.
Dreaming of Summer Strawberries!
We are looking forward to the start of a new CSA Season and hope you are too!  Our supply of canned tomatoes, frozen mini-sweet peppers and berries is dwindling.  The stored onions are starting to sprout and the last portion of our winter supply of potatoes are starting to look more like seed potatoes!  I have a stack of seasonal recipes I’ve been collecting and am looking forward to trying them as the vegetables come into season.  Before we know it, we’ll be enjoying thick over-wintered spinach salads, fresh oven-roasted beets, juicy ripe strawberries, fragrant basil pesto and sweet sungold tomatoes bursting in our mouths!

CSA Charter Release and CSA Day Celebration!

24 Feb 2017 14:36


     It’s hard to believe we are just 10 weeks away from the first CSA delivery of the 2017 season.  This year will mark our 24th year of CSA and we’re already looking forward to the bounty of a new year.  Our first greenhouse is set up and our winter crew has been seeding onions this week.  It won’t be long before the hustle-and-bustle returns to the fields and we’ll all have the opportunity to enjoy fresh vegetables again!
     Friday, February 24th is CSA Sign-Up Day, a day being recognized by farms across the country as a day to celebrate CSA.  CSA is a concept that came onto the scene in the United States about 30 years ago and we were among the first farms to start a CSA in this region in the early 90’s.  Over the years we have built a strong membership and, in fact, we still have many members who have been with us since the early years!  The market place and our food system has changed quite a bit over the past 20-30 years.  About 6 years ago we started to see a slight downward trend in our membership.  Soon we started to hear other farms across the country were experiencing similar trends.  Why is this happening?  No one knows for sure, but it’s clear that there are more outlets available for consumers to choose from when making their food choices.  Farmers’ markets, food co-ops, natural foods stores, upscale grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores, home delivery companies and even home delivery meal services.  So where does that leave us at the end of the day?  Where does CSA fit into the picture?

Read more about CSA Day on their website
     The concept of CSA has remained the same and we believe it will continue to be an important part of our farm.  After 30 years this concept remains rooted in establishing a direct connection between a consumer and a farm.  This is a connection that brings greater value to the table than just the face value of a vegetable—for both the farm and the consumer.  Even in the midst of a wide variety of food purchasing options, it’s important to remember that the story of our food goes beyond just the act of eating to satisfy the immediate hunger.  Our food choices have the ability to impact our environment, our health, the health and well-being of others, politics, economics and much more.  All food is not equal, and transparency is not always evident on grocery store shelves.  Understanding the story of our food leads to community….which is what “Community Supported Agriculture” is all about.
     So on Friday, February 24th, and every other day of the year, we will continue to celebrate the impact CSA has had on our farm and the community of people that we have been blessed with through our CSA.  We enjoy the opportunity and the challenge of growing a wide variety of vegetables over the course of the season for our CSA members.  Growing for CSA is not an entry-level position.  It takes skill, experience and a desire to keep learning and improving.  We have to work hard to make sure we have vegetables ready for you every week for 30 weeks and there are some challenging parts of the season.  While we’re all anxiously awaiting the first green beans, strawberries and zucchini, we learn how to incorporate kohlrabi, fennel and beets into our early summer meals.  Learning to eat and cook out of a CSA box may be a challenge the first year or so when you’re faced with new vegetables you’ve never seen or used before.  It takes time to learn to choose your recipes based on what is in your box instead of picking out a recipe and buying the ingredients.  Our long time members tell us it takes 2-3 years to fully make the transition to seasonal eating, but remember we’re here to help.  Once you have learned to eat with the seasons, you begin to anticipate what’s coming next and learn to eat a wide variety of vegetables!
     Last fall, a group of CSA farmers from across the United States and Canada started working together to create a CSA Charter.  The CSA values outlined in the charter are included in this newsletter and help all of us remember and understand the core values CSA was built upon.  It reminds us of the relationship that must be established between a member and the farm.  There is responsibility on both sides of the equation, but there’s also great rewards for both parties.  We reflect on the relationships we’ve formed over the years with some of those early members.  They made the choice to feed their children the highest quality food and placed value on including organic vegetables in their meals.  Their children grew up as CSA kids, helped pick up and unpack the weekly boxes, visited the farm and ate out of the fields, learned to recognize and were willing to eat a wide variety of vegetables, and the families built their seasonal repertoire of favorite recipes.  Now, their children are moving on to college, careers, and starting their own families….and they take their CSA upbringing with them.  They have learned to “eat out of the box” and we are now realizing how much the simple act of eating vegetables from “their farm” has had on their lives.  Sometimes we get the opportunity to see them again as they circle back to the farm for a farm event, send us an email, or stop by the farmers’ market for a visit.  They are now beautiful, intelligent, creative members of society and are evidence that it pays to invest in good food and community.  We are grateful to have the opportunity to grow with these families and look forward to continuing to build that connection with members into the future.
     As we approach the start of a new CSA season, we want to say “Thank You” to those of you who have already signed up for another year.  Your early commitment to 2017 CSA Shares is important for our farm.  We hope you’ll consider sharing your CSA experiences with other members of your community and encourage them to consider making CSA a part of their lives this year.  If you’re still contemplating signing up for 2017, we hope the CSA Charter will encourage you to take the CSA leap for another season.  Your membership in our farm does make a difference.

Farmers Richard, Andrea and the Entire HVF Crew

We invite you to read more about the CSA Charter
and why it is important on the website!

1.     Farm members buy directly from the farm or group of farms. There is no middleman.

2.     The farm provides member families with high quality, healthy, nutrient-dense, fresh and preserved, local and low fossil-fuel food or fiber, filling the share primarily with products grown on the farm or, if purchased from other farms, clearly identified as to origin.

3.     Farm members commit to the CSA, sharing the risks and rewards of farming by signing an agreement with the CSA and paying some part in advance, even as little as two weeks for those on Food Stamps.

4.     The farm nurtures biodiversity through healthy production that is adapted to the rhythm of the seasons and is respectful of the natural environment, of cultural heritage, and that builds healthy soils, restores soil carbon, conserves water and minimizes pollution of soil, air and water.

5.     Farmers and members commit to good faith efforts for continuous development of mutual trust and understanding, and to solidarity and responsibility for one another as co-producers.

6.     Farm members respect the connection with the land upon which the CSA grows their food and strive to learn more and to understand the nature of growing food in their locale.

7.     Farmers practice safe-handling procedures to ensure that the produce is safe to eat and at its freshest, tastiest, and most nutritious.

8.     CSA prices reflect a fair balance between the farmers’ needs to cover costs of production and pay living wages to themselves and all farm workers so that they can live in a dignified manner, and members’ needs for food that is accessible and affordable.

9.     Farmers consult with members, take their preferences into account when deciding what crops to grow and communicate regularly about the realities of the farm.

10.   Farm members commit to cooperation with the community of members and to fulfill their commitments to the CSA.

11.   Farmers commit to using locally adapted seeds and breeds to the greatest extent possible.

12.   The CSA seeks paths to social inclusiveness to enable the less well-off to access high quality food and commits to growing the CSA movement through increasing the number of CSAs and collaboration among them.

Harmony Valley Farm Special Offer

     In celebration of CSA Day, Harmony Valley Farm is offering a special $10 coupon to all new members as well as the usual $10 referral gift certificate to all current members that refer a friend! #CSADay

Winter Cookbook Review: Scratch

19 Jan 2017 22:41

by Farmer - Chef Andrea
     Happy New Year!  I hope your year is off to a good start and you are experiencing and looking forward to all the good things 2017 has in store for you and your family.  In between shoveling snow, and more recently scraping ice, we’ve been working on seed orders, laying out crop plans, washing the last of our storage vegetables and processing 2017 CSA orders!  In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the winter rhythm, I’ve managed to find some time to sit by the fire and do one of the things I like to do most….read cookbooks.  Every time I tell myself I’m not going to buy any more new cookbooks…..then another good one comes out!  In the process of Christmas shopping for others, I managed to find a few new books that were published within the last year, as well as a few that I’ve pre-ordered and look forward to thumbing through in the upcoming months.  So I thought we’d kick the year off with a review of one of these new finds.
     The book up for review is called Scratch and was written by Maria Rodale.  The purpose of this book is outlined nicely in the subtitle which reads, “Home cooking for everyone made simple, fun, and totally delicious.”  This book is an easy and interesting read that starts out with a nice introduction in which Maria shares a bit of her background as well as philosophy on cooking at home.  Throughout the book she has taken the time to introduce each recipe and provide a little background about where the recipe came from, how it was developed and how it fits into this collection of favorites.
     Before we go any further, I’d like to give you a little background about Maria and her family.  Maria is the granddaughter of J.I. Rodale who is considered to be the founding father of the organic movement in America.  As a result of some of his own health issues in the earlier part of his life, J.I. Rodale developed an interest in promoting health and wellness as well as exploring ways of preventing disease through lifestyle.  In 1942 he began publishing Organic Farming and Gardening Magazine which was one of the first forums for discussing principles of organic horticulture, compost, soil health and pesticides.  Our own Farmer Richard’s grandfather was an early subscriber of this magazine.  This is the grandfather Richard credits as a major inspiration for him choosing to implement organic practices when he first started farming.  J.I. Rodale went on to found the Rodale Institute in 1947, an organization that still exists today.  The purpose of this institute was and still is to investigate the connection between healthy soil, food and human health.  They do so on their certified organic farm located in Pennsylvania where they produce vegetables, small grains, apples, livestock and more while studying different facets of organic agriculture.
     Maria’s father, Robert Rodale, was also interested in health, wellness and organic farming.  He followed in his father’s footsteps, eventually took over the Rodale Institute farm and continued to develop the work being done there.  As a result, Maria had the unique opportunity to grow up on the country’s first organic farm!  Maria is now the chairwoman and CEO of Rodale Inc., the publishing company that grew out of her grandfather’s own early publications and still strives to promote health and wellness through their publications as well as other forms of media.
     As you can see, Maria has a long history related to organic food, farming and cooking.  She starts off in the introduction of her book with the following statement:   “I believe anyone can cook.  I believe that a home-cooked meal made from scratch—preferably with organic ingredients (and maybe even homegrown)—is one of the greatest pleasures in life.  I believe that when you cut through all the confusion about food and cooking—the fears and insecurities, social pressures, false ideals, or just plain not knowing where to begin—this is where you can begin, right here.  I will help you.”  The recipes contained in Maria’s cookbook are simple, both in the ingredients they use as well as their methods.  Anyone, regardless of culinary skill level or experience can cook from her collection of recipes.  The recipes are easy to read and prepare, but still interesting.
     I would describe Maria’s approach to cooking and sharing these recipes to be very informal, honest and transparent.  In her book she openly shares personal experiences from her own family related to food and cooking.  Her three daughters, Maya, Eve and Lucia, are an important part of her story and are active participants in cooking.  In the book Maria states, “I don’t cook because I have to, I cook because I want to and because it’s the most intimate, nourishing, and primal pleasure I can give to my family and myself.”  She also shares this message:  “I want everyone to feel safe in their kitchens.  Safe to experiment and learn.  Safe to express their differences and creativity.  Safe to try new things.  And most important, safe to make a big damned mess and laugh about it, and serve the food we’ve made even if it’s not perfect or “blog-worthy.”
     As I read through Maria’s cookbook I appreciated her real life approach.  Despite a busy and full work life, she strives to come back to the simple pleasures of life which include simple, homemade meals based on wholesome ingredients.  I look forward to preparing more recipes from this book.  I have my eye on her recipe for Asparagus and Lemon Cream Pasta, BLT Salad, Broccoli Cheese Bites, Sweet-And-Sour Tomato and Pepper Salad, Kale Salad with Zesty Lemon Dressing and her recipe for Glazed Strawberry Pie.
     Maria also has a blog called “Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen” where she blogs on a variety of topics and also shares recipes, some of which she has included in her book.  The recipe in this newsletter features carrots and was originally featured on her blog.  If you’re looking for some culinary exploration this winter, consider taking a look at this book.  It’s not too early to plot out your seasonal culinary adventures for 2017!

Carrot, Feta, and Almond Salad

“You know those times when your fridge is either empty or pathetically filled with shriveled produce? (Yes, even my fridge can look like that!)  Usually, all that’s left standing at that point are the carrots.  Especially in the dead of winter.  That’s exactly when you should make carrot salad”.—Maria Rodale
Yield: 4 servings
Herb Dressing
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian or curly parsley leaves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 large carrots, shredded or grated
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
⅓ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  1. To make the dressing:  In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste and mix with a fork to combine.
  2. For the salad:  Place the carrots in a large bowl, pour over the dressing and toss to combine.  Before serving, sprinkle the salad with the feta and almonds.
TIP:  If I make this in the warmer months, I like using a mixture of fresh herbs straight from the garden, but you can use all mint or all cilantro—whatever is your favorite and in season…..Maria Rodale
This recipe may be found on page 64 of Maria Rodale’s cookbook, Scratch.

Vegetable Feature: Carrots, A Winter Staple

15 Dec 2016 19:17

By Laurel Blomquist                                          

As 2016 comes to a close, you can be proud that you, as a CSA member, accomplished something that few Americans can claim: you ate with the seasons. You supported the regional economy. You based your diet on the freshest, most nutritionally-dense vegetables you could find, simply by being a member. And you can continue to do so until the root vegetables that you received in your share run out.

The subject of this week’s feature is the humble carrot. Luckily, carrots will last for months if stored in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer.  I have kept Harmony Valley Farm carrots for 2-3 months without a problem. It is best to store carrots away from apples, pears or potatoes, which give off ethylene gas and cause the carrot to deteriorate.

While the carrot may seem a little pedestrian in nature, they are ubiquitous because of their delicious sweet flavor and their versatility. Carrots are one of the ingredients in mirepoix, the flavor base from which many sauces, soups and other dishes get their start. Traditional French mirepoix is 2 parts onions, 1 part carrot and 1 part celery. These vegetables are called aromatics because they impart subtle flavor to a dish. You probably wouldn’t be able to single out that they were used, since they often are cut so small and cooked so long in a dish that they all but disappear. However, they give dishes layers of flavor that can’t be replicated without them.

With this in mind, make sure to grab a carrot or two every time you make anything in the slow cooker: soup, stew, braises, stock or under a piece of chicken, pork or beef. Carrots are also a nice addition to a jar of lacto-fermented vegetables, such as kimchi.  If you would rather see carrots on the plate and enjoy their sweetness, try roasting, braising or glazing them for maximum flavor. Juicing, salads and carrot cake or bread are more options.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t inform you of the health benefits of carrots. One carrot will provide over 200% of the RDA of Vitamin A through the conversion of beta-carotene in your liver, as well as some Vitamin K, C and calcium. Including orange foods in your diet lowers your risk of coronary heart disease and antioxidants such as beta-carotene lower the risk of lung, prostate and colon cancer.

Until the Dutch bred orange carrots in the 17th century, most carrots were purple, yellow or white.  Purple carrots, in addition to having the phytochemicals that orange carrots have, also contain anthocyanins, the antioxidant found in blueberries. (Foley) I would recommend keeping these carrots for roasting, braising, or glazing, so that your guests will notice them and remark on their beautiful color.

Enjoy our bountiful carrot harvest in as many ways as you can. And congratulations on completing another year of eating seasonally!

Foley, Denise. “Surprising Health Benefits of Purple Carrots.” Rodale’s Organic Life, Rodale Inc. 1 April, 2015.
Mercola, Dr. Joseph. “What are the Health Benefits of Carrots?” Mercola, Joseph Mercola. 28 December, 2013. 

Carrot Oatmeal Cookie

Yield: About 2½ dozen cookies

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder scant ½ tsp fine grain sea salt
1 cup rolled oats
⅔ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded carrots
½ cup real maple syrup, room temperature
½ cup unrefined coconut oil, warmed until just melted
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oats. Add the nuts and carrots. 
  3. In a separate smaller bowl use a whisk to combine the maple syrup, coconut oil, and ginger. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
  4. Drop onto prepared baking sheets, one level tablespoonful at a time, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake in the top ⅓ of the oven for 10 - 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden on top and bottom.
Note From Chef Andrea:  This recipe was borrowed from Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101cookbooks.com.  Heidi encourages experimenting with making different versions of this cookie.  When I made them, I used ⅓ cup chopped cashews and ⅓ cup shredded coconut in place of the walnuts.  I also added 1 tsp fresh lemon zest….and the results were delicious!  My friend, Steph, uses this recipe quite frequently.  One of her favorite ways to make this is to add mini dark chocolate chips in place of some or all of the nuts.  I think you’ll be pleased with the results any way you choose to make them!

Roasted Root Vegetables with Asian Honey Ginger Glaze

Yield: 7- 8 servings
Root Vegetable Blend
1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
9 cups root vegetables and/or winter squash, cut into medium dice (include any vegetables you have available—carrots, turnips, celeriac, potatoes, parsnips, beets)
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Herbs de Provence or Italian Seasoning
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp sea salt

Asian Garlic-Ginger Glaze
1 Tbsp ginger, peeled and grated or minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup soy sauce (reduced sodium recommended)
2 to 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup or honey, to taste
2 tsp red chili sauce (such as sriracha) or ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Put the diced onions and root vegetables in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle the vegetables with oil and sprinkle with the Herbs de Provence, chili powder and sea salt.  Use your (clean) hands to toss the vegetables and mix to ensure everything is well-coated.  
  3. Spread the vegetables in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Use two baking sheets if you need to in order to keep the vegetables in a single layer.
  4. Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, turning and stirring once, or until they are tender and golden-brown.
  5. While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the Asian Garlic-Ginger Glaze. Simply add all of the ingredients to a small skillet and bring to a full (but controlled) boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, while whisking frequently, until the volume is reduced by half.  This should take about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the glaze from the heat and set aside until ready to use (Note: as the glaze sits, it will continue to thicken).
  6. Once the vegetables have finished roasting, remove them from the oven.  Drizzle the garlic-ginger glaze over the vegetables.  Stir to coat the vegetables with the glaze.  Serve warm.  
Recipe adapted from one featured on theroastedroot.net.

Rolling Out 2017 CSA Shares!

15 Dec 2016 19:16

2016 Vegetable Share
It’s hard to believe this is our final week of CSA deliveries and Christmas will be here in less than two weeks! As we wrap up another year, we are already looking ahead to another CSA growing season. Regardless of how a year may unfold, we always strive to be prepared each year, with a plan for success in hand. 2017 will be no different and we’re anxious to put our plans in action and see what will unfold.

We’re excited to roll out our 2017 offerings and are already receiving CSA sign-ups for next year! You’ll find our updated CSA sign-up form on our website and there’s a link to it in this week’s email. We are offering an “Early Bird” sign-up offer again this year for members who sign up before February 14, 2017.  You can find more details about this offer on the front page of the sign-up form.

Our share offerings will remain the same for the 2017 season. We are continuing to offer the same vegetable share options, summer & autumn fruit shares and a coffee share in partnership with Kickapoo Coffee Roasters. While the pricing for our fruit shares will remain the same, we did apply a small increase to our vegetable and coffee shares.  As we discussed the 2017 coffee share price with Kickapoo Coffee, they felt it was important to institute a small increase this year as coffee prices are rising.  The good news is that this increase will be passed on to the producers!  As for our decision to increase our vegetable share price, we’d like to offer a little background.

2016 Fruit Share
For the past six years we’ve chosen to hold our vegetable prices at the same rate.  Back in 2010 we reached our peak in CSA membership and were packing 1,100-1,200 boxes per week.  We enjoy growing vegetables for CSA and consider it a very important part of what we do.  Our plan, at that time, was to maximize our CSA membership and decrease our production for wholesale accounts.  Unfortunately, the year we made this decision was the year we started to see a slight decrease in our CSA membership.  It was also about the time we were experiencing the economic recession and we assumed the decrease was associated with a change in consumer priorities and resources.  When we consulted with some of our core, longtime CSA members and shared with them what was happening.  They advised us to hold our prices steady, continue to do a good job and ride out the hard economic times.  Word of mouth advertising has always been our greatest way to sell CSA shares, so we decided to hold our prices to make it affordable for our members and focused on looking for ways to increase efficiency, decrease expenses, etc.

Unfortunately we have continued to see a slight decrease in CSA shares each year and overall the decrease each year has added up to about a 25% decrease in vegetable shares since our peak in 2010.  We’ve queried our membership as well as other growers around the country who are also experiencing the same reality.  Why is this happening?  Perhaps it is related to the fact that organic food has become more available at farmers’ markets as well as in mainstream grocery stores, Wal-mart and even the local Kwik Trips and convenience stores!  While it is good to see growth in the organic market, we believe it has impacted consumers’ choices to shop at other outlets instead of choosing to “eat out of the box.”  We continue to value our direct relationship with our CSA members. We believe sourcing your food through CSA provides a value beyond just the price you pay when purchasing food at Wal-Mart and the like.  We continue to invest resources, time and effort to produce the highest quality vegetables with good taste and nutrient density.  We try to do our part to connect you with “your farm” and provide a transparency that is not always present in our food supply today.  We understand that “eating out of the box” is different than shopping at the grocery store and do our best to provide our members with resources so they can find success in using the vegetables and creating delicious meals.

So, despite the fact that our CSA numbers have decreased, we still value CSA and want it to be part
Weighing strawberries at 2016 Strawberry Days.
of our business.  The reality though is that we cannot continue to absorb the increases in expenses we’ve experienced over the past six years.  The cost of some packaging and field supplies has gone up, at times fuel prices have been high, and the cost of labor has also gone up.  We recognize our crew works hard and we want to continue to support a living wage.  Thus our final decision was to increase our vegetable share price by about 3% on average across the vegetable share options.

Most of our CSA Sites will remain the same for 2017.  In the Twin Cities we are adding a new site in the St. Louis Park area.  We are still looking for a new site location in the North Plymouth area on the west side of Minneapolis.  If you are in this area or have a friend who may be interested in hosting a site, please contact us for more information.  Additionally, we are continuing our partnership with Lunds & Byerlys which allows us to expand our delivery options to the greater Twin Cities area with delivery to any of their 27 store locations.  If you are interested in learning more about this option, please reference the “Lunds and Byerlys CSA Sign-Up Form” on our website.  In the Madison area we will be closing our Marinette Trail site, however we will be adding a site located nearby on Robin Circle.

Before the end of the year you will be invited to participate in an End of the Season Survey.  We appreciate your feedback and this is your chance to offer input about what vegetables you might like to see in the boxes next year (Time to grow jicama again?  Radish seed pods, escarole, lemongrass or cardoons?) or communicate any other ideas or thoughts you may have for the future of our CSA.
In closing, we’d like to thank you for your support of our farm this year.  While we had some weather challenges to deal with and certainly miss having sweet potatoes this fall, knowing our membership was behind us is a huge encouragement for us.  We hope you and your families have a peaceful and restful holiday season and winter.  We look forward to growing for you again in 2017.

Sincerely, Farmers Richard and Andrea

December 2016 - Winter Is Officially Here

8 Dec 2016 19:54

     This is our final meat delivery of the 2016 CSA season and our pastures are quieting down.  This week we saw the first dusting of white covering our green, grassy pastures. The animals (and farmers) were grateful for the warm, mild weather we had in October and November.  Our pastures continued to thrive and the cattle were still able to forage enough grass until just recently when we started supplementing their diets with stored hay.  They are still out grazing and snacking on what is still remaining, but we are accepting that winter is here and it’s time to transition them to their winter diet.
     Just before Thanksgiving, we got 11 new Red Angus beef cattle.  They are only about 7-8 months old.  It took them a few days to acclimate to their new home, but they quickly became friends with our other cattle who graciously showed them out to the pasture and made them feel welcome.  All of our cattle made their way around our hillside through the pasture to their “winter camp.”  While they still spend most of their days and time outdoors, they are now close to the barn which we’ve prepared for them to use this winter.  They are cold-hardy animals and can withstand the cold of winter, but we like them to have a dry shelter to retreat to when the winter storms blow through.  We normally feed them their hay outside in their pasture, but on stormy or cold days Richard convinces them to stay inside by feeding them his special “Chocolate Hay.”  This is how we describe the best hay we have….the stuff the cattle would like to eat every day, but we have to make it last until spring so feed it sparingly.
Angel (Left) & Juan Pablo (Right): Our Animal Care Team
     We’d like to thank Juan Pablo and Angel for their help with caring for our animals this year.  These two gentlemen are responsible for feeding the pigs twice a day, maintaining the paddock fences for the cattle, moving the cattle to fresh grass as needed and making sure the mineral feeder got moved with them.  Farmer Richard and Captain Jack “The Dog” will be taking over animal feeding chores in about 2 more weeks when Angel returns to Mexico for the winter.  They don’t mind feeding animals through the winter and enjoy checking in on them once or twice a day.
     As we move into the cold of winter, I can’t help but crave warm comfort food…soups, stews, chili, etc.  I have a stack of about 15 cookbooks that were published by Taste of Home magazine.  My Mom used to give me one of these cookbooks every year for Christmas, long before I ever went to culinary school but enjoyed cooking for my family.   These books are filled with simple, down-home Midwestern recipes.  My brother used to flip through the cookbooks and mark the recipes he wanted me to make.  I haven’t cooked from them for many years, but just recently decided to look through them again to see what I could find.  Lots of simple, filling recipes!  This week’s newsletter features four simple, family friendly recipes using beef and pork.  They’ll guide you in making tasty, nourishing meals for your family this winter…and leave you with a little time to sit and sip some hot chocolate.  We hope you have a relaxing and nourishing winter.  We’ll see you in the spring!
–Your Farmers Richard & Andrea

Chili Casserole

Yield: 6 servings
Photo Borrowed from Taste of Home website

1 pound ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
1 can (15 ½ oz) kidney beans rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (14 ½ oz) stewed tomatoes
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 cups cooked bow tie pasta

1. In a skillet, brown beef and onion; drain.  Stir in beans, tomato sauce, tomatoes, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Stir in pasta;  heat through.

This recipe was featured in a cookbook entitled The Best of Country Cooking 1999, by Taste of Home.  It was in a section of the book entitled “Meals in Minutes.” Our Midwestern bookkeeper, Kelly, would argue that this is not really a casserole but rather a “hotdish.”
Whatever it’s called, it’s quick, simple and hearty!

Breakfast Patties

Yield: 8 Patties
Photo Borrowed from Taste of Home website

¼ cup water
2 tsp salt
2 tsp rubbed sage
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
⅛ tsp ground ginger
2 pounds ground pork

1. In a bowl, combine water and seasonings. Add pork and mix well.
2. Shape into eight 4-inch patties.
3. In a skillet over medium heat, cook patties for 5-6 minutes on each side or until no longer pink in the center.

This recipe was featured in the 1999 Taste of Home Annual Recipes cookbook.  It was submitted by reader Jeannine Stallings from Montana who says “This homemade sausage is terrific because it’s so lean, holds together well and shrinks very little when cooked.  It’s incredibly easy to mix up a batch and make any breakfast special.”

Hungarian Goulash

Yield: 6-8 Servings
Photo Borrowed from Taste of Home website

1 pound stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound lean boneless pork, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups water
2 Tbsp paprika
½ tsp salt
½ tsp dried marjoram
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
Hot cooked noodles

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown beef, pork and onions in oil; drain.
2. Add the water, paprika, salt and marjoram; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 ½ hours or until meat is tender.
3. Just before serving, combine flour and sour cream until smooth; stir into meat mixture.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Serve over noodles.

Recipe borrowed from the cookbook, 2002 Taste of Home Annual Recipes.

Barbequed Pot Roast

Cookbook Photo Borrowed from
Eat Your Books Website
Yield: 12 servings

1 boneless chuck roast (3 pounds), trimmed
¼ tsp pepper
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 cup water
3 medium onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup ketchup
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp ground mustard

1. Sprinkle roast with pepper. In a Dutch oven coated with nonstick cooking spray, brown roast on all sides.
2. Add the tomato sauce, water, onions, and garlic. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over meat. Cover and simmer for 3-4 hours or until the meat is tender.

Recipe borrowed from Low-Fat Country Cooking published by Taste of Home.

Adapting To Climate Change

1 Dec 2016 16:11

By Andrea Yoder

The Bad Axe River along Harmony Valley Farm

     We realize there are differing opinions about climate change, what is causing it, what should be done about it, etc. As we reflect upon our recent wet September and then an unseasonably warm and beautiful October and November, we (as farmers) would be foolish to ignore the fact that the climate and weather patterns are changing. While we were experiencing excessive rainfall, California and the upper northeast portions of the US experienced a drought. Since 2007 we’ve experienced three substantial “Hundred Year Floods,” but we also had a drought year stuck in there as well. Weather patterns are becoming more extreme and erratic. Despite these changes, we all still need to eat. This  means we need to figure out how to adapt to these changes so we can continue to do our job!
Photo Borrowed from UCS website
    In June of this year, The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a document entitled, Toward Climate Resilience:  A Framework and Principles for Science-Based Adaptation. Their framework starts with a concept they call “climate resilience gap,” defined as “the scope and extent of climate change-driven conditions for which people remain unprepared, leaving them open to potentially harmful impacts.”  There will always be times when we are faced with weather-related situations beyond our control. Despite our best efforts we may still suffer losses and major impact. But what can we do to adapt to these changes and do our best to be prepared and decrease the impact we experience from climate-change driven conditions?
     I think this is an important question for all farmers to ask themselves now. As we look at our own situation, we look for places of vulnerability in our operation. In doing so, we made a decision to stop farming one area of land we have leased for several years now. It is very prone to flooding and is not the most resilient soil. Several years ago we started leasing some new land that is “high and dry,” away from rivers and streams. We have transitioned the land to certified organic and are ready to put it into full production next year. In wet years, we value land like this. On the flip side, in a drought year we can have challenges with some of our higher ground that is further away from a water source. In some cases we don’t have a water source to irrigate from and in others we may not have permits to irrigate. We cannot live in fear of rivers and creeks and it isn’t realistic to move our farm out of the valley. There is no perfect situation, rather we value the diversity we have with different areas we farm and do our best to mitigate risk.
New in November 2016: Dike In Field
    Following the excessive rain this fall, Richard and many of the field crew took advantage of the time now available to work on some drainage improvements. In one area they rerouted the drainage ditch to take water around a field and built a nice berm to slow water down and shunt it in the right direction as it exits a culvert. We have another field that is located right along the Bad Axe River. The crew worked in this area to improve the drainage around this field so rain water can run off the field in the wheel tracks and is adequately drained away to avoid washouts and excessive wet spots. They also built a little dike! (Richard tapped into his Dutch heritage).  It will give us two feet of vertical protection to hold back the river if we have another flood type event. We also have a larger field that had some wet spots and areas that just didn’t drain well after it rained. In years like this where we had rainy day after rainy day, the plants didn’t thrive very well in those wet, soggy areas. It took several days of intense work to get the grade of the field worked out and build some drainage ditches around the perimeter of the field, but it looks great right now and we’re anxious to see how these changes work next year!
     We’ve also removed trees, branches and debris from the river as well as dry washes. If we don’t get these things out of the way, they will build up and create dams which obstruct water from flowing where it’s supposed to go and potentially can spill over into field and roadways. Management…it’s constant management and observation. You don’t clean or fix something up one time and assume it’s good for ever. Water is powerful and changes things as it moves. You have to constantly reassess the situation each year and especially after a major event.
Cover Crop: Built-in Soil Protection
     But what if we swing to the other end of the spectrum and have drought? One of our first defenses is to be ready to irrigate. Irrigation equipment is an expensive investment and some years it may be used minimally. In a drought year, it may be the only way we have to get even minimal amounts of water to vulnerable crops. Over the past few years we’ve also started burying drip tape in fields before we plant the crop. In many cases this is a more efficient way to water a crop as you lose less water to evaporation.
     We realize we have a lot to learn and will continue to assess what we can do to adapt as well as what we can do to contribute in positive ways to decreasing factors contributing to climate change. This is a big topic to explore, but we all have to assume responsibility for doing our part to care for our corner of our world.

Vegetable Feature: The Many Colors of Storage Turnips

1 Dec 2016 16:08

By Laurel Blomquist

Left: Purple Top Turnip / Right: Sweet Scarlet Turnip

     At Harmony Valley Farm, we grow several different varieties of storage turnips: gold, sweet scarlet and the more common purple top. Each can add a splash of color to your seasonal store of root vegetables this winter.
     Turnips have been cultivated for 4,000 years and probably originated in Middle or East Asia. There is evidence that they were grown for their seeds in India as early as the 15th century BC, and records exist of their cultivation in ancient Greece and Rome. They have served as an abundant winter crop for peasants when no other food was available, and also used as fodder for livestock during the long winter, when hay was scarce. Turnips are actually swollen stems fused with the root, and not just a root, as is commonly thought. The part that we eat is where the plant stores its energy that it would need to later produce seeds, if left to complete the full life cycle.
     Gold turnips can be traced to early 19th century Scotland, and were first patented in the United States in 1855 as “Robert’s Gold Ball.” The Scarlet turnip was introduced to the US in the 1890s by William Henry Maule as an improvement on a variety that originated in India. Purple Top turnips were introduced from France in 1852. The part that sits atop the soil line turns purple as it is exposed to sunlight.
      Storage turnips are dense and crisp with a sometimes spicy and pungent flavor when eaten raw. When they are cooked the flavor mellows and is mild and actually sweet. Gold and sweet scarlet turnips are our favorite turnips to eat as they are more mild than the traditional purple top turnip, which is the variety people are most often familiar with. Turnips harvested later in the fall after a few chilly nights are generally sweeter and have a more balanced flavor than those that are grown and harvested when it is warm or hot.
     Turnips are a very versatile root vegetable and may be eaten raw or cooked, although most often they are cooked. They can be stir-fried, steamed, boiled, braised, glazed, roasted or pickled. They also add a nice background flavor to soups, stews and braised meats. Storage turnips differ from the baby white salad turnips you received earlier in the season. They are meant for long storage and will keep for months if you store them in a cold, moist environment. Keep them in your refrigerator in a plastic bag. Sometimes when they are stored for longer periods of time they will start to get soft from moisture loss, but will firm up again when placed in a bowl of cold water. You can also use softer turnips in soups and you’ll never know the difference!
     Turnips are high in Vitamin C, minerals and dietary fiber, and are also low in calories. As a member of the brassica family, they contain cancer-fighting phytonutrients and antioxidants, an nice benefit to add to a winter diet. So enjoy your turnips and bring some color into your life during the cold, white winter.

Moroccan Turnip and Chickpea Braise

HVF Sweet Scarlet Turnip Harvest

Yield: 4 Servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut crosswise into ½-inch thick half-moons
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 (14-15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. In a large, deep saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
2. Add the tomato paste, turnips, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper and stir well. Add the chickpeas and broth, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
3. Stir in the pepper and cilantro. Serve hot.

Author’s Note:“Serve this wintry braise over rice or couscous or alongside a simple main dish, like roasted chicken thighs... If you like a saucy braise, serve the dish as soon as it is ready. The turnips will absorb the liquid as the dish cools.”

Recipe borrowed from Laura B. Russell’s book 
Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables.

Turnip "Risotto"

This recipe for Turnip “Risotto” was shared with us recently by a CSA member named Kristin.  If you are skeptical about cooking with turnips, consider what Kristin had to say: “I’m just writing to share a fantastic turnip recipe that we discovered. I’ve always had a hard time with turnips, never really finding a recipe that made them palatable to me (excluding salad turnips - those are delicious just as they are!). Then I came across this recipe, and it changed my whole world view on turnips.  We just tried it again last night with the beauty heart radishes that were languishing in our fridge, and it was delicious with those, too. Just sharing in case you are ever on the look out for a recipe to serve as a “turnip ambassador”.

Yield: 4 Servings
Photo Borrowed from seriouseats.com

6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, cut into ⅛ inch dice
1 ½ pounds turnips, cut into ⅛ inch dice
2 cup hot chicken stock
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Warm the chicken stock in a sauce pan over medium-low heat.
2. Pour the olive oil into a large skillet and turn the heat to medium. Toss in the onion and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the turnips and cook for 2 minutes. Ladle in some of the hot chicken stock and cook until absorbed. Continue until all of the stock has been added, about 10 minutes.
4. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the butter and grated cheese stir occasionally for a minute. Remove from the heat, garnish with parsley, and serve.

This recipe was featured on seriouseats.com
but Mario Batali is the original chef who created this recipe.

Doing The Right Thing

17 Nov 2016 15:49

By Farmer Richard

     “Donald Trump just got a temp job. The rest of us, with all our passions and ideals, have permanent appointments. We’ll always disagree over the political candidates. The trick is to keep moving forward in spite of it: to exercise our rights and responsibilities as citizens, while remaining together as family and community.”—Shannon Hayes (An excerpt from her blog, The Radical Homemaker, posted on 11/15/2016)
     We at Harmony Valley Farm have mostly opted out of the political mainstream. We have chosen to “do the right thing” according to our beliefs and understanding, even when the establishment’s point of view may differ. For example, many years ago county extension agents told me I wouldn’t be able to make a living farming organically. Nonetheless, we pursued our belief that we would farm in the way we thought was best for our land, our employees, our customers, our planet and the economics would work out. It has not always been an easy road and we’ve learned a lot along the way, but over 40 years later it has worked! So as we reflect on where we’ve come from and where we’re going, with a heart of gratitude we remember we are not alone, and the journey is worth it.
     We have chosen to make our life’s work to produce the most nutritious, wholesome food possible and are thankful for you, our many customers who appreciate the tasty, nutritious vegetables we produce for you. We have watched our long term members raise beautiful children who grew up eating our vegetables. They are now growing into adulthood and are healthy, smart young men and women with healthy brains who are going out into the world and doing “the right thing” to contribute to their communities and professions in positive ways. They are making wise and thoughtful decisions and we’re thankful to have had the opportunity to have been and continue to be part of their lives.

José Ramon spreading compost
     It’s important to remember that not one of us alone can change the entire world; however, when we work together collectively, even small individual changes or changes in a community can add up to make a difference. Shannon’s statement reminds us that we each have a responsibility to take care of and contribute in positive ways to change our own little corner of this world. We are by no means perfect, but we try to do our part. We continue to plant extensive cover crops and apply compost to our soil. This system helps to trap large amounts of carbon dioxide and helps mitigate atmospheric greenhouse gases. If done worldwide, the impact would be huge! We try to make the best use of our land by farming the portions that are appropriate for raising crops, grazing the hillside pastures that are prone to erosion, and managing our wooded areas by responsibly removing trees as needed and putting this resource to good use. We know not everyone in our membership chooses to eat meat or even supports our choice to raise animals for food, but regardless of our differences we continue to choose to raise our animals with respect and consider them to be an important part of our entire farm. We appreciate the opportunity to introduce children and members to our animals and allow them to see a healthy animal system. Can we ever have too many examples of respect and kindness to share with our children and each other?
Photo Borrowed from UCS website
     Nationwide there are examples of positive changes happening within communities and regions. In the Fall 2016 publication by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), they published an article about the positive impact climate legislation has had in California over the past 10 years. Since passing the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006, there has been a 7.3% cut in global warming emissions and petroleum consumption has dropped by more than 14% in the state. At the same time, they have seen economic growth with a 12.4% increase in gross domestic product and their population and employment have increased by more than 7%.
     In the same UCS publication, we read a story about GRID Alternatives, a non-profit organization that is working to bring solar energy to low and moderate income families, an example of social equity as well as environmental change. Solar installations can be costly and the initial investment as well as the fact that many people don’t own their own land or homes can be barriers to using solar energy. Through the work of GRID Alternatives, they have been able to support over 6,000 solar installations including many in neighborhoods where residents have lower incomes or much more fixed budgets. The impacts have been great, both at the individual level as well as the community level. Not only are they using a cleaner source of energy, they are also seeing lower monthly expenses for utilities which has helped decrease their financial stress.
     We find these stories encouraging. We will always have differences of opinions, political and otherwise. Nonetheless we need to move forward and know that our daily choices and involvement in our communities do matter and can produce positive change. What is your passion? Is it related to the environment? Is it related to social equity? Are you in a position to contribute to scientific research or policy change? Are you an educator? Whatever your place may be, thank you for doing your part.

Vegetable Feature: Collard Greens

17 Nov 2016 15:34

By Chef Andrea

     Believe it or not, I don’t think I ever ate collard greens until I came to HVF! I remember seeing them in the grocery store back in Indiana, but our “greens” safety zone consisted of iceberg lettuce and spinach. We never ate cooked greens. Now I fear the long winter when we don’t have greens available and look forward to the return of greens in the spring.
     This week’s selection is collards, one of the heartiest greens we grow. Collards are characterized by large, paddle-shaped leaves that are blue-gray in color and slightly wavy around the edges. The leaves are thick and have a mild flavor similar to cabbage. While we grow and harvest collards for much of the summer and into the fall, we typically save this green for your boxes until later in the season. We do this partly because it is more frost tolerant and we can keep it in the field longer than most greens, but also because it is sweeter and has a better flavor after it has been through a few cold nights!
     Collards are eaten throughout different parts of the world including Africa, India, Egypt, Spain and Pakistan. The seasonings and cooking methods may vary slightly, but in general collard greens go well with garlic, ginger, chiles, coconut, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, mustard seeds, potatoes, smoked meats, black-eyed peas, peanuts, corn and potatoes…to name a few. In this country we usually think of collards as a “Southern” food. In the southern states collard greens are often prepared by cooking collard greens along with some kind of a smoked pork product such as hocks, bacon, etc and liquid for quite awhile until the greens are soft and tender. While a longer cooking time and some liquid do help to soften collard greens and make them tender, you don’t have to cook them in this way. You can also slice them very thinly and saute them just until they are wilted. When cooked this way they will retain their green color better and will be tender, but not quite as soft. Collard leaves also make a great wrapper to use in place of a tortilla. If you want to use it to make a wrap, you should either blanch it or lightly steam it before using in order to soften the leaf slightly and make it more pliable.
     Before using collard greens, wash them in a sink of water and then remove the thick, white center stem and rib. Either cut into bite-sized pieces or stack the leaves on top of each other, roll them and then thinly slice the roll. Collard greens may be added to stir-fry, pasta dishes or even use them as the base for a creamy cole slaw in lieu of cabbage. They are also delicious when added to ham and bean soup or incorporated into a fall curry dish.
As our growing season is coming to a close, we hope you enjoy some of these last green indulgences and try a new recipe or two!

Spaghetti with Collard Greens and Lemon

Yield: Serves 4
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced (or more if you
   like garlic!)
¼ tsp red-pepper flakes
1 bunch collard greens (12 ounces),
   ribs removed, thinly sliced
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
Grated zest of 1 fresh lemon, plus more
   for serving
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Coarse salt, to taste
12 oz dried spaghetti
¼ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano,
   for serving
Photo Borrowed from

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes; cook until tender, about 1 minute. Add collard greens and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in pine nuts and lemon zest and juice. Season with salt.
2. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, drain pasta.
3. Add pasta and reserved water to skillet, tossing to coat. Serve immediately, garnished with additional lemon zest and sprinkled with cheese.
Recipe sourced from marthastewart.com.

Collard Greens with Lime & Peanuts

Yield: Serves 4
1 bunch collard greens, stems
   removed, leaves cut into thin strips
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp coconut oil 
¾ cup chicken stock
⅓ cup peanuts, toasted and roughly
Juice of one lime
Salt, to taste
1. Remove stems, chop and rinse the collard greens;  don’t worry about drying them, the water clinging to the leaves after rinsing will help them cook down.
2. Toast and chop peanuts, set aside.
3. Heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
4. Add greens and use tongs to toss until well coated, season with a bit of salt.
5. Add stock and reduce heat to simmer.
6. Cook on low, uncovered, allowing liquid to reduce slowly until the stock has nearly all evaporated.  This may take about 20-40 minutes (do not rush this part).
7. Once liquid has reduced, taste the greens to check texture (this part is all about preference;  if you like them softer, add more liquid and continue to cook).
8. When greens are finished cooking, remove from heat and stir in peanuts, lime juice and remaining 1 tsp coconut oil.
HVF Note: When we tested this recipe, we served the collard greens over cooked rice.  This recipe serves 4 if eaten as a side dish or 2 if eaten as the main dish.
Recipe adapted by one posted by Emily Nichols on Food52.com.

A Pasture Walk with Farmer Richard

10 Nov 2016 16:24

By Richard de Wilde
     This article was originally printed in our vegetable newsletter in September 2013. After a recent walk through our pastures this fall, Richard and I were reminded just how important it is to continue to manage our land, including our pastures and woods. It’s a big job, and one that is never finished. It takes a diligent effort to keep things “under control,” but the result is healthy pastures that are pleasant and desirable for our animals to live in and graze. We find joy and fulfillment in watching our cattle graze and live peaceful lives on our lush pastures while the pigs keep us entertained with their pig-like behaviors. Thank you for supporting us in our efforts to do the best we can to raise meat in the most respectful manner we can. 
--Farmers Andrea & Richard
     Our farm, like most farms in the Driftless region, has land along creek beds, dry washes and steeper hillsides that is not   suitable for farming and has traditionally grazed animals. Our hillside pastures were cleared and planted to wheat in the late 1800’s and it was an erosion disaster! The scars are now healed and grass covers the hillside, preventing erosion. This month’s Edible Madison magazine (September 2013) has a very well-written article on the birth of soil conservation and contour farming which started in the 1930’s in our own Vernon County, Wisconsin. The present day NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) was started and Aldo Leopoldo was actively working in the field with them to turn around 70 years of disastrous farming, which had destroyed the productive capacity of most of the county’s farmland. Animals, grass, and strips of non-erosive hay between cultivated crops saved the land. Now our county is experiencing a new crisis as animals leave the farms to go to big feedlots and confinement dairies and contour strips and grass waterways are being torn out to accommodate only two crops, corn and soybeans. As a result, erosion is on the rise once again.
     I milked cows on this farm from 1984-1986, but sold the herd to devote my time and resources to full-time vegetable farming. In the years that followed this transition, we saw the results of abandoned pastures. Prickly ash, willows, box elder trees, black locust, honeysuckle, multiflora rose and garlic mustard took over and choked out the hillsides. Our beautiful little Spring Creek disappeared in a tangle of brush and the stream no longer flowed openly. With the grass overtaken and the stream banks eroded, the trout were choked out. In recent years, we have spent considerable time and resources working towards reclaiming our beautiful Spring Creek, as well as learning from our mistakes and working hard to maintain other waterways and river banks on our property. We have removed huge patches of prickly ash, multiflora rose and invasive honeysuckle by pulling them out and then grading and reseeding these areas to establish new grasses and clovers. We built new fences and brought animals back to our hillsides to graze these areas to help us maintain them. We have cleaned the trees and brush out of the creek and fixed stream bank erosion with large limestone rocks lining the banks. Many areas we can now mow once a year to keep down invasive plants and prevent trees from taking over. Despite all our efforts, the single biggest help in maintaining our improvements are now the cows, pigs and goats that graze our pastures. 
     While we realize that not all of our customers choose to eat meat and our focus is on vegetable production, we’ve chosen to include animals on our farm because they have a very important purpose. Unlike feedlot cattle and pigs that exist solely to gain weight and be taken to slaughter, our animals have a greater calling. Their purpose is to graze and fertilize our hillside pastures, thereby maintaining them and improving them for years to come. This is a very different lifestyle for these animals in comparison to industrial animal production.  
     Farmers are stewards of the land, but we can’t forget that part of that calling is honoring and respecting the land and animals we care for. As we walk through our pastures and look out across the hillsides, we see the beauty that is the result of all of our hard work. We are blessed to live in a beautiful, unique location and will continue to strive to maintain our land.

Meatballs in Pineapple Sauce

Yield: 10 as an appetizer or 4 if served as a main entrée
For the Meatballs:
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp finely chopped onions
½ tsp salt
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 pound ground beef
2 Tbsp olive oil
For the Pineapple Sauce:
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 can (13 ¼ ounces) chunk pineapple, in natural, unsweetened juice 
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1. Mix all the ingredients, except the olive oil, in a large bowl.  Shape into 1 ½-inch balls.  
2. Saute meatballs in the olive oil over medium heat, turning occasionally, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until browned.  Pour off the fat, remove the meatballs from the skillet, and set aside.
3. Mix together the brown sugar and cornstarch, and add to the skillet used for the meatballs.  Pour in the pineapple and juice, and add the vinegar, soy sauce, and chopped pepper.  
4. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat immediately, add the meatballs, and simmer 10 minutes longer.
Recipe borrowed from Shannon Hayes’ book, The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook.

Slow-Cooker Chipotle Beef Tacos with Cabbage-Radish Slaw

Yield: 6 Servings
2 ½ to 3 pounds stew meat (May also use round steak or chuck roast, cut into 2-inch pieces)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 to 3 Tbsp chopped chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage
4 radishes, halved and sliced (may use fresh red radishes or beauty heart radishes)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
12 6-inch corn tortillas
Sour cream, pickled jalapeño peppers and hot sauce, for serving
1. In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, toss together the beef, onion, garlic, chipotles, bay leaves, oregano and 1 tsp salt.  Cover and cook until the beef is very tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 ½ to 4 hours.
2. Twenty minutes before serving, heat oven to 350°F.  In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, radishes, and cilantro with the lime juice and ¼ tsp salt.  Wrap the tortillas in foil and bake until warm, 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Transfer the beef to a medium bowl (reserve the cooking liquid) and shred, using 2 forks. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl and toss with the beef to coat.
4. Fill the warm tortillas with the beef and slaw.  Serve with sour cream, pickled jalapeños, hot sauce and lime wedges.
Recipe borrowed from Easy, Delicious Home Cooking by Real Simple.

The Easiest Ribs You’ll Ever Make

Yield: 2-3 servings
1½ to 2 pounds pork spare ribs 
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Smoked paprika 
¾-1 cup brown sugar
Heavy Duty Foil
1. Preheat oven to 275°F.
2. Rinse off the ribs and pat dry.  Liberally coat the ribs with the kosher salt, pepper and the paprika.  Pack on the brown sugar.
3. Lay out a piece of heavy duty foil that is large enough to fully wrap the meat in.  If your spare ribs are in more than one piece, you can wrap each piece individually if it’s easier.   Wrap the ribs into a packet and make sure it’s closed on all sides.  Place the ribs on a sheet tray and place in the oven for 2 ½ hours.  
4. Remove the tray from the oven.  Let sit for one hour.  Do not open the pouch during this hour.
5. When ready to serve, reheat the ribs in the oven for about 10-15 minutes at 350°F (this is assuming the ribs have not been refrigerated) or open the pouch, baste the ribs with the juices and place them under the broiler for five minutes.
6. Serve immediately with cornbread and a simple salad for a yummy yummy meal!
Chef Andrea Yoder’s Note: This is the easiest method I’ve ever used to cook spare ribs and they come out tender and delicious.  The prep time is very minimal, so I often prepare these the night before or first thing in the morning and put them in the refrigerator.  If I have enough time in the evening after work, I’ll cook them for dinner that night.  If we’re hungry and don’t want to wait, I’ll heat up the oven and cook them anyway while we’re eating dinner.  Then they’re ready to just reheat for the next night’s dinner!
Recipe adapted from the blog, Alexandra’s Kitchen: alexandracooks.com

Vegetable Feature: Fresh Baby Ginger

3 Nov 2016 15:29

By Chef Andrea

     We are very excited to deliver possibly the freshest ginger you may ever have experienced! Given our shorter growing season, the ginger we grow is actually considered “Baby Ginger.”  Ginger has a wide variety of culinary uses and is a common ingredient in the cuisine of many Asian cultures. It is a base ingredient in Chinese stir-fries. It is combined with lemongrass and chiles to make Thai curry pastes and in Japan, it is often served alongside sushi in its pickled form. Ginger has a spicy, warm flavor which also makes it an excellent ingredient to include in baked goods, tea and other beverages. 
     To use your ginger,  cut off a piece from the main chunk and peel it. Remember, this is very fresh ginger and still has a very thin skin so you don’t have to peel very deep, rather just gently scrape away the thin skin. You can store  ginger pieces for several days at room temperature or if you aren’t going to use it right away you can store it in the refrigerator. It can also be preserved for long term storage by freezing it. I like to cut it into smaller pieces before I freeze it so I can just pull out a small portion as I need it. You will find this fresh ginger to be very juicy and crisp with a bright flavor. The long green stems attached to the lower portion contain a mild ginger flavor as well. I cut them into 5-6 inch pieces and use them to infuse a little more ginger flavor into soups, stocks, curries, tea, etc.
     We have more recipes available on our website from past newsletters. A few of my personal favorites include Golden Milk, Chai-Spiced Bread, Ginger-Cardamom Tea and Pickled Ginger. Have fun using and experiencing this tropical Wisconsin treat!

Crystallized Ginger

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
Photo borrowed from The Food Network Website
8 oz fresh ginger root
4 cups water
½ lb granulated sugar, or as needed
1. Spray a cooling rack with non-stick spray or brush lightly with oil and set it in a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. 
2. Clean and peel the ginger. Because the ginger is so young and fresh, a spoon or knife scraped against the root should work well for peeling. 
3. Slice the ginger into ⅛ inch slices. Place ginger and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 35-50 minutes, or until the ginger is tender. 
4. Drain the ginger, reserving ¼ cup of the liquid. Weigh the ginger and add an equal amount of granulated sugar. Return the ginger, sugar and up to ¼ cup of the reserved liquid back to the pan. You only need to use enough liquid to dissolve the sugar. 
5. Stir over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and continue stirring and watching as the syrup thickens. Keep stirring and cooking until the syrup has dried and the sugar has recrystallized, about 20 minutes. The transformation will be obvious. Immediately move the ginger to the wire rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
HVF Note: Use the crystallized ginger in the carrot-ginger soup recipe in this newsletter or add it to banana bread, sugar cookies, ginger snaps, citrus salad, granola bars, cakes, pies, muffins, cupcakes, shortbread, pancakes, waffles, over ice cream, in lemon pound cake, cranberry relish or in pear or apple crisp. Save any gingery sugar crystals to put in your coffee or tea. You can even add the ginger water that you made in the first step to tea, but be careful - it’s spicy!

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Recipe adapted from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen
Yield: 6 servings
HVF Note: This recipe aims to keep it simple by amplifying the sweet flavor of carrots by using a few basic aromatics and lots of carrots, including carrot juice. If you’ve been stockpiling your carrots for the last few weeks, this would be a great recipe to use. The addition of baking soda is to tenderize the carrots and ginger, producing a perfectly creamy soup.
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, ghee or vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped fine
¼ cup minced crystallized ginger (see recipe, opposite) 
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
4 cups water
1 ½ cups carrot juice, divided
2 sprigs fresh thyme
½ tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional Garnishes: chopped chives, sour cream, croutons
1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onions, crystallized ginger, fresh ginger, garlic, 2 tsp salt, and sugar. Cook, stirring often, until onions are softened but not browned, 5-7 minutes
2. Stir in carrots, water, ¾ cup carrot juice, thyme sprigs and baking soda. Increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer gently until carrots are very tender, 20-25 minutes. 
3. Discard thyme sprigs. Working in batches, process soup in blender until smooth, 1-2 minutes (caution: vent the blender carefully, as steam will be released). Return pureed soup to clean pot and stir in vinegar and remaining ¾ cup carrot juice. 
4. Return soup to brief simmer over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, garnishing individual bowls with chives, sour cream and/or croutons.

Ginger: Spicy, or Anti-Inflammatory?

3 Nov 2016 15:25

By Laurel Blomquist

Fresh Baby Ginger
     Welcome to another article in our anti-cancer series. Today’s focus is on the tropical rhizome, ginger. Don’t forget, these anti-cancer foods also combat neurological, immunological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and metabolic disorders, as well as the process of aging. 
     Ginger has not yet been studied by Richard Beliveau and Denis Gingras, authors of Foods to Fight Cancer. However, they do include it in their appendix as a flavor you should include in your anti-cancer meals, particularly any of an Asian flair. They say, “One of the principal molecules present in this spicy root, known as gingerol, has often been put forward as a powerful potential anticancer agent, for its anti-inflammatory properties as well as its inhibiting activity on cancerous cells.” (p. 179)
     David Servan-Schreiber also mentions ginger in Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life. He calls out ginger’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and protective effects. He cites three studies that demonstrate this, as well as ginger’s ability to reduce the creation of new blood vessels. He recommends ginger to alleviate nausea brought on by chemotherapy or radiation, and suggests making a simple tea by slicing an inch of ginger and steeping in boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes. (p. 134)
     Ginger has been found effective at inhibiting liver cancer, a particularly fast-growing cancer that spreads rapidly. Researchers in China found that ginger reduced serum liver cancer markers and liver tissue growth factors. Ginger was also found to inhibit inflammation and promote apoptosis (ritual cell death) using three of its compounds: geraniol, pinostrobin and clavatol. 6-shogaol and 6-gingerol, two of ginger’s active ingredients, also prohibited metastasis, or the spread of liver cancer to other parts of the body. (Zhou et al. 2016)
Close-up: ginger in greenhouse
     I found a laundry list of benefits from ginger in the book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, by Jonny Bowden (p. 284-285). For those of you who practice Ayurveda, India’s 5000-year old “Science of Life,” you may already know that ginger is known as the universal remedy. Bowden reiterates ginger’s ability to stave off nausea and vomiting, and adds that since ginger doesn’t have side effects, it may be particularly of interest to pregnant women experiencing morning sickness. He lists several active ingredients, including shogaol and zingerone, which are anti-inflammatory and could be used by those suffering from arthritis or fibromyalgia. He cites a study suggesting that gingerols may inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells. Other studies show that ginger has positive effects on the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system, pain, and fever. 
     In mice and other animal studies, ginger was shown to lower cholesterol, slow the development of atherosclerosis (arterial plaque build-up), boost the immune system, slow the growth of tumors, and work as an antimicrobial and antiviral agent. Ginger can also improve circulation for those with perpetually cold hands and feet. However, precautions should be taken by those who take prescription medications that thin the blood, such as Coumadin or aspirin, since the effects will be amplified by ginger. Ginger also increases bile acid secretion, which is great for those with Fatty Liver Disease, but not so good for people with gallstones or gallbladder disease. An increase in bile helps the body process and absorb fats, which is necessary to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as A, E, D, and K. 
Ginger in the greenhouse
     The most exciting article I read about ginger cited a recent study that showed 6-shogaol (a compound found in dried or cooked ginger) is 10,000 times more effective than chemotherapy drugs at destroying cancer stem cells! The study was done on breast cancer stem cells, but the research suggests it could be used for any cancer. What is a cancer stem cell? It is the “mother” cell that regenerates to produce new cancer cells, forming tumors and offshoots. Chemotherapy does not kill off these cells, even at very high doses. Chemo also does not differentiate between healthy cells and cancer cells, which is why it typically makes the patient feel sicker in the short term. Killing cancer stem cells is very important for the long-term fight of any patient against cancer. Doctors may be able to remove cancerous cells and tumors, but unless they kill off the stem cells, cancer may return in the future. For more information on this study, and a link to the study itself, visit: foodrevolution.org/blog/ginger-cancer-treatment.
     I used to eat ginger a few times a week, but now I think I’m going to try to incorporate it into my meals or drinks every day. With its distinct flavor and potent anti-cancer compounds, ginger can’t be beat!
Beliveau, Richard, and Denis Gingras. Foods to Fight Cancer. 2007. 
Bowden, Jonny, PhD, CNS. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. 2007.
Ji, Sayer. “Ginger: 10,000 times stronger than Chemo in Cancer Research Model”. FoodRevolution.org. [Green Med Info], Oct. 19, 2015. 
Servan-Schreiber, David. Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life. 2009. 
Zhou Y, Li Y, Zhou T, Zheng J, Li S, Li H-B. March 10, 2016. Dietary Natural Products for Prevention and Treatment of Liver Cancer. Nutrients. 8(3): 156.

Wow, What a Year!

27 Oct 2016 17:37

Some of our wonderful crew helping out during Strawberry Days
By Farmer Richard

     We’ve had a roller coaster of challenging weather, but have had mostly successful crops despite the bumps along the road. Good management and good crew have been the key to this year, but there’s only so much you can do when you get the unavoidable 100 year flood! The third of its kind in 8 years!...hmmm. It did help us make the final decision to not farm one of those flood prone farms next year!
     The last couple weeks have been beautiful fall weather! We finished most of our harvest and had plenty of time to plant our 2017 garlic crop. We put a nice layer of mulch on it and are praying for a good crop for next year. We’ve also finished planting our sunchoke and horseradish crops for next year as well as applied compost and planted a rye cover crop on all available acres. Our crew spent quite a bit of time over the last month cleaning up most of the driftwood and rocks from flooded fields. We are ready for spring! We’ve completed all of these fall tasks earlier than usual, so we have also had extra time to clear trees out of the river and cut fallen trees.
     We also have been able to work in the woods! We have 325 acres of woods that have not seen much attention for 50 years until recently. We have a forester working on a management plan for us. He has been walking all our woods, cataloging tree species, designing a network of access roads, and recommending work to be done. It is enormous! The forester has described our woods as typical for most Wisconsin woods, representing 150 years of poor management and over-grazing with livestock. The best trees were removed by a logging company 40-50 years ago and the poor, crooked trees were left to capture the sunlight and dominate. We have many of those old trees, yet many good trees as well. Despite the fact that we have had offers from logging companies to come in and log some trees, we are well aware of their intentions to only take the good ones which will still leave us with a woods full of poor, crooked trees. Their price usually sounds good, but still would never cover the taxes that we have paid and will continue to pay on the woodlands. So we have chosen to decline their offers and take on management of our woods ourselves, which will also help support local jobs and local sales.
Bottle Stopper Top in Cherry Wood
     We have a small bulldozer and a strong desire to connect with our woods. Most woods are moderate to very steep slopes, difficult to walk, hunt, ski or enjoy. So this fall, the last few weeks of mostly warm fall weather, the leaves turning color and then dropping with rain and wind, I have been blessed to spend many hours on our little 80 hp New Holland bulldozer making roads through our woods. Roads that are very challenging to make, requiring a carefully chosen path flagged with yellow ribbons, sometimes weaving a bit to avoid big trees, but having a beginning and an end point. What a fine way to get to know your woods! Admiring the towering old oaks, walnuts, hickory and cherry trees and identifying the smaller trees to make the right decision about what stays and what goes, all the time looking for burls on cherry trees that would make nice bottle stopper tops. Most of our logging energy has gone into salvaging ash trees that have recently been killed by the Emerald ash borer. Ash is a beautiful hard wood. Anyone thinking about a new floor?  Once the logs are sawed, we will have approximately 15,000 board feet of lumber! We could provide you with a beautiful ready to install floor!
     Ah, working in the woods is such a joy. The fall colors, the few remaining birds. Even with the bulldozer running, I saw a beautiful buck deer slowly working his way through the trees below me…and that rabbit that was hiding under the parked bulldozer after lunch was quite the surprise! We love our beautiful woods, and I’ve dreamed about building access roads through it for many years. For the first time we have a road that runs from one end of our farm to the other allowing us an easy-to-walk path to stroll on, enjoying the peace and beauty of our valley and woods. Andrea and I took a little Sunday stroll a few weeks ago, what a fun escape!
     We’ve taken care to immediately seed fescue and clover grass as soon as we finished a section of the road and the fall leaves provided a beautiful mulch. We aren’t doing this just for us, it’s for you too! We hope you will consider a trip to the farm and enjoy hiking or skiing the roads on our farm as well!
S3442 Wire Hollow Road, Viroqua, WI, 54665, United States
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