Harmony Valley Farm

Harmony Valley Farm

Follow-Up Report From Our Recent Letter to Members

29 Nov 2017 22:50

by Farmer Richard

Just one of the beautiful mineral rich
fields in our secluded valley!
Several weeks ago I wrote a letter to you, our members, asking for your feedback on the future of our CSA and the direction we might take our program as we are coming up on a new year.  We have particular concern for the CSA portion of our business as our membership numbers have been declining since about 2010.  We had over 120 responses from members with many lengthy, well thought out responses and suggestions.  We also held two webinars that were very helpful.  What did we learn that could be helpful in reversing our downward sliding numbers?  Well, a lot!  Before I share some of the suggestions and thoughts we received, I want to clarify something from the letter that may have been misunderstood.  We are not in financial trouble and are not considering quitting CSA.  We have had some challenging weather events with crop losses, but we’ve worked hard to make up for some of the losses with this year’s fall crops and did have reserves to rely on.  We would like to build our CSA back to full capacity and are encouraged to do what we can to make that happen.  We have 100 acres of mineral-rich land, plus the experienced crew, the knowledge and the passion for producing nutrient dense, delicious, clean, safe food.  We have been able to keep the farm going by increasing wholesale sales when our CSA membership declined, but that market is not our first choice!  Yes, we get an occasional call or email from an appreciative burdock customer in Pennsylvania or Chicago, but what we have come to value greatly is the much more personal connection and interaction with our CSA members!  The many thank you notes, the pictures of a child eating vegetables as their first solid food, the Thank You notes and drawings from young and old ones that have visited the farm—this is your farm too and you are our best supporters.  You are what keeps us going when times are tough.  You are our community and you are what “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA) is all about.  That is what we work for and we sincerely thank you for being a part of our farm.  While we are not able to respond personally to all of the great emails we received, be sure that we read each one and have noted your suggestions. 
So here are some of the thoughts and ideas we gleaned from members’ responses:
  1. Overwhelming praise for “freshness, quality, variety, value and customer service!”  “You need to advertise that!” “People don’t know you!”
  2.  Convenience:  CSA is a huge time saving convenience over “grocery store shopping” when the pick-up site is in their neighborhood, near to their home.  We were encouraged to do recruiting around existing sites.  Many neighborhoods have a Facebook group.  It may be most effective for a member of the neighborhood to chime in and inform their neighbors of the convenient opportunity to participate in CSA in their neighborhood.
  3.  Work Place CSA Sites:  This is another way we may offer convenience and many employers offer incentives to “eat healthy” which, in the end, is a benefit to you, your employer and us!
  4. Recruitment:  Our satisfied members are our best recruitment.  “Give us an extra box to give to a prospective member.”  Done, great idea!  Just ask and supply us with contact information for follow-up and there will be 2 boxes under your name at the next pick-up, one for you and one for the person you’re introducing to CSA.  Another idea that was suggested is to do a “Trial Share,” another great idea!  We can offer a 4 box trial, pick your weeks, give us a try and then decide on a longer commitment for the remainder of the season.
  5. Easier sign-up and ordering—we have already committed to building a new website, being designed by a longtime business associate in our community.  It will be friendly to new mobile devices (no PDF documents) and we’re working towards being able to accept sign-ups online and also accept orders for our special produce plus offers online with multiple payment options.
  6. More options for “Pack your own” boxes & produce plus.  Again, offering an easier way for members to take advantage of our special offers with easy online ordering and more offerings to help customize your experience and meet your needs.  For example, maybe we could put together some special offers before the holidays to allow you to stock up for holiday meals, guests, etc.  It was also suggested that we provide more options for simple preservation, ie salsa packs, etc.
  7. More of a full meal option.  Perhaps there are more offerings we could include that would allow you to stock your pantries with high quality ingredients to use in making your meals.  Maybe we could have more opportunities to purchase maple syrup, Driftless sunflower oil, Marian Farms’ raisins & almonds or Frog Hollow Farm’s olive oil, we may even be able to make another batch of ramp cheddar cheese with Castle Rock Organic Dairy.  We have trialed and know many, many more of the best organic producers in the area and our community of producers we’ve met through our fruit share.  We are exploring the option of including an egg share with our neighbors who do a good job of producing organic eggs with nice, pasture, outdoor access. 
  8. Changing the delivery day.  Our largest decrease in CSA members is in Madison.  We have long heard from some that they do not like Saturday delivery!  So, we are considering a weekday delivery, possibly Wednesday, which would also allow us to have business drop sites.  We have one good possibility.  Could you help us find other businesses that have the potential for 20 or more boxes?    How many members and coordinators would want to change to a weekday?  Lots of questions!!!

So, these are the thoughts rolling around in our minds right now, but what can you do?  For starters, help us find new members that have the potential to learn and be successful with “seasonal eating.”  Perhaps you would be willing to mentor new members to help them make the transition to “eating out of the box.”  Perhaps you know of a business that might be interested in serving as a delivery site for their employees and possibly even opening it up to other non-employees.  Keep talking to us!  We appreciate your perspectives & ideas.  While we may not be able to do everything that is suggested, we want to explore different possibilities.  This is our business, but it’s a business with passion for helping families eat better and be healthy. 
Peak Season Vegetable share from 2017.
We realize that CSA is not for everyone, but our hope is that we can do a good job taking care of those individuals who do find it to be a good fit for their lifestyle and values.  Thanks again to everyone who took the time to send a response and share your thoughts.  We also appreciate those of you who took the time to talk to us in our webinars.  We appreciate your support and look forward to another year of CSA! 

November 30, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Storage Turnips

29 Nov 2017 22:26

Cooking With The Box

We are coming up on the end of our delivery season, just two more boxes (including this week's box) before our winter break.  These last two boxes are packed full of wonderful winter vegetables, most of which will store just fine, so don’t feel pressured to eat through your box within the next two weeks. 
This week’s featured newsletter recipe, Apple & Turnip Quiche (see below), comes to us from The Birchwood Café in Minneapolis.  After discovering this recipe a year ago, it quickly became a winter favorite and I’ve made it multiple times.  It’s a great item to serve for breakfast, brunch or dinner.  It reheats very well.  It makes a great appetizer or light dinner option for holiday gatherings.  If you like quiche, you’ll like this recipe and it’s a great way to use turnips.
We’re pleased to have enough Brussels sprouts to include them in this week’s box.  Just before Thanksgiving Andrea Bemis posted this recipe for Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Dates.  Make this one while dates are readily available and enjoy the sweet, salty, smoky combo of this dish.  This would be a good side dish to serve with the Apple & Turnip Quiche.
Lets talk breakfast for a moment.  Winter is a pretty easy time to incorporate vegetables into breakfast.  A batch of Sweet Potato Morning Glory Muffins  is on my list for this week.  I’m also going to try Carrot Cake Oatmeal with Pecans.  An extra dose of beta carotene from these vegetables has got to equate to an awesome start to the day!
 There is quite a pile of sweet potatoes in this week’s box.  Definitely enough to make the muffins and have plenty remaining to make a batch of Chicken, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Stew.  Make a batch of cornbread or some rice to serve alongside and you have a simple dinner, likely with leftovers.  I also want to try this recipe for a Winter Panzanella with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Panzanella is typically made with tomatoes in the summer, but this winter version includes winter squash, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.  This salad would be great served with roasted chicken or grilled pork tenderloin.
While you have the oven on to make the Sweet Potato Morning Glory Muffins, you might as well make some Carrot Oatmeal Cookies.  We featured this in our newsletter last year.  These cookies are nice to have on hand for a sweet treat, but can also make a nice holiday cookie.  Their sweetness comes from the carrots and some maple syrup, so they are a nice alternative to some of the overly sweet Christmas cookies.
I love the versatility of carrots.  You can eat them in oatmeal for breakfast, have an afternoon snack with carrots in the form of a cookie, and still have enough remaining to make Baked Egg Rolls!  This recipe makes great use of this week’s cabbage and carrots.  It also calls for water chestnuts, but instead of using those canned ones just substitute diced sunchokes!  Sunchokes have the same crispy, crunchy texture as water chestnuts, making them a great stand in.  The author of this recipe also tells you how to freeze and reheat these eggrolls.  If you’re up to it, make a double batch so you can keep them in the freezer for one of those nights when you get home late and need a quick something to become dinner on the fly. 
After you’ve made the Apple & Turnip Quiche, there should still be some turnips remaining.  I’m going to make one of my favorite fall/winter recipes that sounds complicated by the name, but really is a nice, simple one-pan creation.  Pan Seared Pork Chops with Turnips, Apples & Cider Cream Sauce is delicious and makes a great dinner.  
Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa
served with Salmon!
With this week’s bag of beets, I am going to make these Beet Patties with Tzatziki.  While tzatziki usually contains cucumbers, make it with small diced beauty heart radishes instead!  Serve these patties with Chili-Roasted Sunchokes or skip the tzatziki entirely and serve them with Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa.  Both recipes were featured in previous newsletters. 

Most of this week’s beauty heart radishes are going towards making this beautiful Radish Salad with Orange & Goat Cheese. You can use any kind of citrus to make this salad, so if you don’t have oranges but have grapefruit (in this week’s fruit share), use those instead!  Pair this colorful salad with A Pizza in the Roman Way for a simple, yet satisfying meal.  This pizza recipe was featured in our newsletter earlier this year.  It’s very simple and is basically pizza dough covered with delicious caramelized onions! 
I came across this recipe for Onion-Beer Dip, an Edible Madison featured recipe for this fall.  They recommend serving it with vegetable chips, so why not use this week’s celeriac to make these Celeriac Chips to eat with this dip!  Eat it as a snack or take it to a holiday party for a different take on the traditional “chips & dip.” 
I told you there were a lot of vegetables in this week’s box!  What shall we do with those stunning Festival Squash?  This week the NY Times featured Melissa Clark’s recipe for Sweet & Spicy Roasted Tofu and Squash.  Melissa recommends serving it with rice, but it can stand alone for a vegetarian dinner option as well.

I think that just about brings us to the bottom of this week’s box.  I’ll see you back here next week for our final Cooking With the Boxfor the season! 

Vegetable Feature: Storage Turnips

Scarlet Turnips
Gold turnips
Nature has a way of giving us what we need in its appropriate season.  As we move into the winter months here in the Midwest we no longer have the luxury of eating vegetables freshly harvested from the field.  Rather, for those who choose to embrace a seasonal, local way of eating, we turn to root crops and other vegetables that will store well through the winter months.  Feel free to take your time eating through the last two boxes of the season.  There’s no rush….most items will store well for several weeks if not months.  This week we’re going to turn our attention to the humble storage turnip. 
Storage turnips are much different from the tender, mild baby white salad turnips we grow in the spring and early fall.  Storage turnips are denser, have a stronger flavor and will keep for months in cold storage.  We grow three different colors of storage turnips including the classic and familiar purple top turnips, golden turnips (in your box this week), and sweet scarlet turnips. Purple top turnips have the strongest turnip flavor while golden and sweet scarlet turnips are more mild.  Golden & sweet scarlet turnips are our two preferred varieties, which is why we’ve chosen them for your last two boxes of the season!
Turnips are sometimes a challenging vegetable for CSA members to embrace.  I’ve heard longtime members say “I can conquer everything in the box, but those late season turnips are a challenge for me!”  Perhaps you have memories of strong-flavored, overcooked, unpleasant turnips lingering in your mind or just find the unfamiliarity of a turnip intimidating.  I hope you’ll approach turnips with an open mind this year as they have a lot of great qualities and a wide variety of uses.  If you’re still learning how to use and appreciate turnips, use them in recipes where they are combined with other ingredients as opposed to being cooked on their own. 
Turnips are often paired with bacon, ham, apples, cheese, cider, cream, garlic, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and lemon as well as other root vegetables.  They make a delicious addition to winter soups, stews, and pot pies.  They may be used in root vegetable gratins, winter stir-fries, fried rice, etc.  While turnips may seldom be the star ingredient, they provide more of a background flavor that, if missing, will leave your eater wondering what’s different!  This week’s recipe for Apple & Turnip Quiche is excellent and I encourage you to try it.  It’s a well-balanced dish where the richness of the eggs and dairy along with the sweetness of the apples balance the turnip flavor.  As with all vegetables in the brassicas family, heed my warning to not overcook them!  The sulfur compounds in turnips and other brassicas can be very overpowering if you overcook them, which is why some people may have bad memories of turnips!

Turnips should be stored in a plastic bag or container in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.  I seldom peel turnips, however if you find their flavor to be more pungent than your liking, peeling may help decrease some of the characteristic turnip bite.  Also, with extended time in storage you may find some turnips may develop some browning due to oxidation or some surface scarring, which is sometimes a reason to peel the turnip.  The defect is often only on the surface and the rest of the turnip is totally usable.  If your turnips start to dehydrate a little bit in storage, either rehydrate them in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator or cut them up and put them in a stew or soup.
We hope you’ll choose to embrace turnips this year and try some new and different ways to prepare them.  In addition to this week’s newsletter recipe, there are several more delicious and creative turnip recipes on our website including Pan Seared Pork Chops with Turnips, Apples & Cider Cream Sauce and Roasted Turnip Ganoush.  

Apple Turnip Quiche

Yield:  6 to 8 servings
“Sweet, tart apple makes a nice foil to turnip’s sharper edge in this wintery quiche.  Sometimes we use celery root instead of turnip, and rutabaga works nicely as well.”
Basic Pastry Crust
1 ⅓ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 oz cold cream cheese, cut into pieces
2 to 3 Tbsp ice water
Quiche Filling
1 ½ cups small diced apple (peeled & cored)
2 cups small diced turnip
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
5 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups whole milk
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  1. First, prepare the pastry crust.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar.  Cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour mixture to make coarse crumbs.  Stir in just enough ice water to bring the mixture together.  Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in parchment paper, and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before rolling it out. (Note:  This step may be done a day or two in advance.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Roll out the pastry dough and fit it into a deep 9-inch pie pan.  Line the crust with parchment paper, and weight it with pie weights or dried beans to keep the crust from forming an air bubble.  Parbake the crust for about 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set the crust aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the apples and turnips with the oil and spread them out on a baking sheet.  Roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the apples are soften and the turnips just begin to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Set the apples and turnips aside.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, salt, pepper, and thyme, and stir in ½ cup of the cheese.  Stir in the apples and turnips.  Place the prebaked crust on a baking sheet and carefully pour the filling into the crust.  Top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese.  Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven.  Bake the quiche until the filling is just set but still moist, about 40 minutes.  The quiche should jiggle a little in the middle.  Let the quiche cool on a rack before cutting it.  Serve at room temperature.

Chef Andrea’s Notes:  This is my favorite recipe in The Birchwood Café Cookbook by Tracy Singleton and Marshall Paulsen.  This recipe represents what The Birchwood Café in Minneapolis, MN does best---cook seasonally with what’s available at that time in the Midwest.  In the intro to this recipe they also recommend making this recipe with celeriac or rutabaga in place of turnip.
This has become one of my staple winter recipes.  Sometimes I make it as written, but I’ve also prepared it with a few of my own adaptations.
  • Add crumbled cooked bacon to the egg and milk mixture. 
  • Layer 8 ounces of browned ground pork in the bottom of the pastry crust before pouring the filling on top. 
  • In place of Gruyere cheese I’ve used Gouda, cheddar, or a combination of one of these mixed with some smoked cheddar.  

Carrots & People: What Really Matters?

15 Nov 2017 22:45

By Andrea Yoder
Andrea motoring around the cooler!
Waste…it’s hard to face, for some, yet in my day to day work it is inevitable.  Yes, I’m the one scrounging through the bin of vegetable waste and trimmings on the wash line trying to save every last vegetable with thoughts like these rolling through my mind:  Why are there so many carrots being discarded?  These look just fine!  This crew is being too picky….and then I pick them up and realize the crew is doing just fine.  The vegetable may look fine on one side, but was discarded because maybe it had a split, a small bad spot, was shaped funny, maybe slightly discolored, too short, too fat…the list goes on.  Throughout the year, but especially during fall/winter root crop season, my days are filled with tracking inventories—How many bins of carrots do we have?  How many more do we estimate we’ll be able to harvest?  Where will we store them?  How many do we need to reserve for CSA boxes?  Who will buy the extras?  Do we have enough or do we need more?  Along with tracking inventories, I do a lot of forecasting, anticipating what we’ll need for CSA boxes, reading the minds of our buyers to anticipate the items and quantities they might buy between October and the end of December.  Of course, in the midst of inventories, forecasting, packing CSA and wholesale boxes, I’m tracking yields.  This lot of carrots is only yielding 500# per bin instead of the usual 650#....why is that?  Wet harvest day and we brought in a lot of mud?  Too many forked carrots that have to be discarded?  Too many splits? 
Bin of 'funny' carrots.
Earlier this week as I was motoring around the cooler on my forklift pulling bins for the crews to wash, carrots was the subject matter that laid heavy on my mind occupying my brain space.  The pallet of ‘funny carrots’ (the name we lovingly give to odd-shaped carrots) is getting pretty big.  Where are they going?  Will I ever find a buyer for them?  We’re generating more than the food pantry can take, perhaps I should just compost them.  But they’re good carrots!!!  They’re sweet, delicious, and well—they’re interesting and have character!  In the course of washing tons (literally) of carrots, we have to face the sobering fact that they are not all perfect.  Despite the fact that they are perfectly wholesome, delicious, sweet carrots, they are considered of lesser quality and value in the marketplace!  I can’t say I like this reality, but it’s not a bias I can change singlehandedly.  Of course, our goal is to maximize yields and get a favorable return on the crop.  But what do you do when no one wants these less than perfect carrots?  Are they truly worthless?  Who decided the “perfect” carrot is long & straight?
You know, carrots and people have more in common than any of us may ever have taken the time to reflect on.  Carrots, just like people, come in a rainbow of colors…yes, there are more colors of carrots than just orange.  We grow beautiful bright orange carrots, but we also grow some stunning dark purple varieties as well as bright, golden yellow carrots, red carrots and even white carrots!  Carrot seed is produced all around the world, with some seed coming from Oregon state in the US while other seed is produced in France and even South Africa to name just a few locations.  But when someone looks at a carrot or takes a bite of it, does it really matter where that carrot came from originally or what color it is?  I might choose to use purple carrots for roasting and orange carrots to make a soup because these are the preparations where each color will shine the most, but aside from that the color of the carrot doesn’t matter as long as it’s a delicious tasting carrot!   
In the vegetable industry, there is a classification system for sorting vegetables.  Straight carrots are sorted as “number 1,” carrots that are slightly less than perfect end up labeled as “number 2,” really crazy looking carrots are called “number 3,” etc and with each class ranking the value of the carrot decreases.  The reality is that every crop of carrots is different and the perfect, straight, number 1 carrots may only be a small percentage of some crops.  Of course these perfect carrots are what every buyer and customer wants, they’re obviously more desirable and more valuable…is that true?  And those less than perfect carrots that are left behind?  What are we supposed to do with all of those?  Does an imperfection in the shape of how a carrot grew make the carrot bitter or somehow inedible?  In my experience these carrots taste just as good as the straight ones, we just haven’t grown to the point as a society where we can willingly accept and embrace their uniqueness.  Yet every carrot has a purpose and in the hands of the right person, that carrot can realize its purpose. 

'Funny' Shaped vegetaables are beautiful in their own way!
As with carrots, so with people.  We’re not all “perfect,” but we all have purpose and value.  Is it fair to toss aside those people/carrots that aren’t perfect and deem them “less valuable” than the others?  Perhaps they require a little more care and attention to trim them up and make them usable, but if you make a pot of delicious carrot soup, when its done you won’t know if it was made from a straight, perfect carrot or a funny shaped carrot.  If it was a good tasting carrot, that is the characteristic that will leave the lasting impact.  Those funny shaped carrots demonstrate the harsh realities of life in a field.  Sometimes you hit a rock or a hard spot in life that might set you back.  You can give up, wither and fade away, or you can push through and overcome the obstacle.  In the case of a carrot with a funny shape, that doesn’t represent an inferior carrot, the shape demonstrates the fact that this is a carrot that came up against adversity and continued to push through, determined to grow and make something of itself.  Carrots can’t get up and choose to relocate to a different field.  They have to do the best they can with what they have.  This year our carrots had some trying times---first it was too dry, then it was too wet.  Yes, all these life events played a role in shaping their final outcome, just as we too are shaped by our life experiences.  Just because we may look or seem a little different than someone else doesn’t mean we’re less valuable.  Yes, funny carrots require a little more time and attention to trim and clean them, but on the inside they are still sweet and delicious!  Funny and broken carrots that might be tossed to the side, discarded and ignored, may be the most valuable carrots to some.  A farmer might snatch them up…. “Hey I’ll take these.  They’ll be a great source of nutrition for my animals.”  Or another farmer might want them to work into his compost pile to create compost to put on the field to feed another year’s crop.  A chef might spot them and say, “Oh, let me toss these in my stockpot.  They’ll add depth of flavor and a special sweetness to this stock!” 
And so it is with people.  We all have our own purpose in life and while some may seem to have a more glorious purpose than others, at the end of the day it takes all of us to make this world work.    Let us not be too quick to judge, but rather lets embrace the diversity and uniqueness of each person/carrot while focusing on the positive qualities that really matter, offering a little extra time and patience to work with them, and allowing them to become the something beautiful, sweet and valuable that they were meant to be.
No, I never really thought a carrot could teach me anything about life, but there are some important parallels we can embrace.  With open minds, hearts and appetites, I hope we can all move forward into this season of Thanksgiving and a new year with a heart of gratitude and acceptance for all the people of this world and all the carrots of the fields.  Happy Thanksgiving. 

November 16, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Carrots

15 Nov 2017 22:44

Cooking With This Week's Box

This week’s box is another full and bountiful box filled with a wide variety of colors and vegetables.  As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday next week, we realize we have a lot to be thankful for this year.  While this year’s growing season had its ups and downs, our fall harvest has been bountiful and this week we’re sharing some of that bounty with you and your families! 
From a culinary perspective, Thanksgiving is a fun time of year for cooking.  All of the cooking magazines boast beautiful layouts and articles featuring a variety of festive, fall recipes.  Whether you’re looking for recipes to include in your Thanksgiving dinner or not, this is a great time to scout out new vegetable-centric recipes for the fall.  I’ve been poking around the internet at some of my favorite cooking sites to see what they have to offer this Thanksgiving season and I’d like to cast my vote to Food52 for a very nice feature on their website.  They’ve created Food52’s Automagic Thanksgiving Menu Maker.  This is a great one-stop shop feature that is basically a collection of recipes they’ve gathered and categorized based around the typical components of a Thanksgiving dinner.  This is a helpful tool for gathering recipes, tips and suggestions for your Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s also packed with a lot of great recipes that can be prepared at any meal this fall.  So lets get started cooking!
Photo from Food52.com
Carrots are the topic of this week’s vegetable feature and we have two delicious recipes in this week’s newsletter.  The first recipe is for Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip and Potato Mash (See below).   I came across this recipe on Food52 where they suggested it as a vegetarian main dish for Thanksgiving.  I think it’s a great recipe for any meal in the fall or winter and it incorporates several of the root crops in this week’s box including parsnips, carrots, onions and garlic.  It also calls for celery, but you can easily substitute celeriac with delicious results.  While there are multiple steps required to put together Shepard’s Pie, the end result is a flavorful, hearty, nourishing meal.  The author of this recipe also comments that it can easily be frozen, so while you’re making a mess consider doubling the recipe and making two pans of this—one to eat now and the other one to go into the freezer.
Photo from food52.com
The other recipe in this week’s newsletter is for Sticky, Spicy, Sweet Roasted Carrots and Chickpeas with Date Vinaigrette (see below).  This is another recipe from Food52  and I thought it to be a fitting recipe for the week since we have dates in this week’s fruit box!  This dish is beautiful made with different colors of carrots and can stand alone as a vegetarian main when served, as suggested by the author, alongside couscous, bulger or pita bread.  You can also use this as a side dish to serve alongside lamb or chicken. 
I mentioned using parsnips in the Shephard’s Pie recipe, but here’s another idea for using parsnips that will also make good use of any leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  This recipe for Turkey Hash with Brussels Sprouts and Parsnips would make a great post-Thanksgiving brunch or dinner when served with a fried egg on top.  Speaking of Brussels sprouts, if you’re looking for more ways to put your Brussels sprouts to use, check out this collection of 20 of Our Best Brussels Sprouts Recipes for Thanksgiving featured at cooking.nytimes.com
Butternut squash has a wide variety of uses, but I’m going to make two very different suggestions for how to use it this week.  First, I have to honor the memory of my grandmother with Grandma Yoder’s Squash Pie.  This is a light, fluffy alternative to pumpkin pie and is a recipe my grandma always made for our Thanksgiving family dinners.  The other suggestion for butternut squash is from, you guessed it, Food52.  Check out this recipe for Herbed Butternut Squash Chips. Serve these as a snack while Thanksgiving dinner is being prepared, or serve them with a leftover turkey sandwich.
There are a lot of things you could do with sweet potatoes this week, but one of my favorite dishes this time of year is this recipe for Ginger-Coconut Sweet Potatoes.  This is one of Heidi Swanson’s recipes and it’s a keeper.  It’s easy to make, reheats well and is tasty served along with some tangy cranberries! 
We’re happy to have some fresh greens for this box!  We took our chances and left the tat soi in the field covered with a double layer of row cover to protect them through several very cold nights over the past two weeks.  When we peeled back the cover we were happy to see they were alive and well!  This will be the last leafy green vegetable we take from the fields this year, so savor its goodness!  Last week I came across this simple soup, Ginger Bok-Choi Soup with Noodles.  Tat soi is related to bok choi and they can be used interchangeably.  You have enough tat soi in this week’s box to double this recipe.  The recipe calls for vegetable broth, but you could also make this using turkey broth if you take advantage of the leftover turkey carcass to make a flavorful broth. 
Richard will be packing up a big box of beauty heart radishes to take with him when he visits his family in South Dakota next week.  Beauty heart radishes are an essential part of the de Wilde Thanksgiving celebration.  We slice them up and serve them with dip as a snack before the meal and with leftover turkey sandwiches.  Richard and I also like to pack slices of beauty heart radishes and some cheese slices to take with us for road food while we’re traveling to South Dakota.  We eat them like cheese and crackers with the slice of radish serving as the “cracker.”  Several years ago we featured this recipe for Beauty Heart Radish and Sesame Seed Salad in one of our winter newsletters.  This is a stunning salad that is super-easy to put together.  If you’re looking for something different to wow your holiday guests, consider using this recipe.
Another one of our favorite fall vegetable salads is this Celeriac & Apple Slaw.  I like to add chopped, fresh cranberries to this salad, so thought I’d mention this recipe while cranberries are available.  This slaw is delicious with a wide variety of meals.  I’ve served it with ham and pork chops as well as roasted chicken.  It is also good with a simple cheeseburger!
Now that it’s cold, it’s time to make more soup!  Several weeks ago this recipe for Vegetarian Cabbage Soup was posted at Alexandracooks.com.  This is a simple, yet hearty soup that makes a complete meal when served with some crusty bread and butter.
Well, that covers nearly everything in the box except for the sugar dumpling squash.  This week I’m going to try Andrea Bemis’s recipe for Sweet Dumpling Eggs in a Nest.  Eggs are our go-to quick fix, so I’m always interested in ways to pair them with vegetables to make a quick meal.  You can bake the squash in advance and then just reheat them before adding the egg.  Serve this with a piece of toast or a biscuit and a bit of fruit for a simple dinner or breakfast.

That’s a wrap for this week.  I hope you enjoy your cooking adventures over the next few weeks.  If you stumble upon a good recipe or take the time to try something I’ve suggested here, please post pictures in our Facebook Group!  Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at HVF!
—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Carrots

As we move into the heart of winter, carrots become an important staple food for Midwesterners who eat a diet based on local foods.  Carrots are packed with important nutrients, specifically beta carotene which is an important antioxidant and vitamin for our bodies.  It’s important for vision, immunity and a whole host of other health benefits.  Because they are a staple vegetable, we try to include carrots in as many summer and fall boxes as possible.  Carrots aren’t always an easy crop to grow.  The varieties selected for winter storage are planted in the summer when growing conditions can be hot and dry.  It takes an observant farmer to get enough moisture to the seed so it can germinate.  Once they are up, it’s a battle against weeds to keep the crop clean and make sure they have enough nutrients to produce a healthy plant and a tasty carrot!  This year we grew several different colors of carrots.  In the last box we included red carrots.  This week your bag includes purple carrots and we hope to send some of our new white carrots before the end of the season. 
The carrots in your box this week can are storage carrots meant be stored for months if you keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  They are a bit more dense than some of the earlier season varieties that are more tender but have a shorter shelf life.  Carrots are versatile in their uses and can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, baked, and even fried!  They can be added to soups, stews, braised meats, root mashes, pancakes, bread, cookies and a whole host of other uses.  Since they are such a common vegetable, I think sometimes they get overlooked and we forget that there are so many more things you can do with a carrot aside from the traditional carrot sticks in dip.
I’d like to challenge you to think “outside the box” this winter and try some different ways to use carrots throughout the winter months.  I love making carrot salads for something fresh, light and crunchy.  Carrots pair well with a variety of herbs & spices as well as fruits such as apples & citrus.  You can make a very simple, quick, and easy salad with just a few ingredients.  Soup is another great way to use carrots---either as the main ingredient or as part of a mélange of vegetables in say, chicken soup.  Carrots are also delicious in baked goods such as carrot cake, carrot cookies, apple-carrot muffins, and carrot pancakes.

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip and Potato Mash

Yield:  6-8 servings
2 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
6 medium parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy option of your choice)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, medium diced
2 ribs celery, medium diced (may substitute celeriac)
6 oz baby bella, cremini, or button mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ cups brown or green lentils, dry
1 cup vegetable broth or water
1 tsp dried rosemary
¼ tsp dried thyme
  1. Place potatoes and parsnips in a large pot and submerge in cold water (there should be at least 1 inch of water over the vegetables).  Salt water well.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and allow potatoes and parsnips to cook for approximately 25-35 minutes, or until both vegetables are very fork tender.  Drain, return the vegetables to the pot and add ⅔ cup milk, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mash well with a potato masher.  If you need more milk, add the remaining ⅓ cup.  Set the mashed potatoes and parsnips aside.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, bring 1 ½ cups lentils and 3 cups water to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until lentils have absorbed all liquid, and are soft (about 30 or 35 minutes).  Set lentils aside.
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium.  Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent and golden (10 minutes or so).  Add the carrots and celery and cook till both vegetables are tender (another 8 minutes).  Add the cremini mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes before adding the lentils, the rosemary, the thyme, and ½ cup vegetable broth.  Simmer the mixture, stirring well to incorporate flavors.  Add more liquid as needed:  you don’t want there to be too much broth or liquid in the bottom of the pan, because you’ll get a runny shepherd’s pie, but you do want it to be quite moist.  When everything is warm and well mixed, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large casserole dish, pour the lentils into the bottom and then evenly spread the vegetable mixture on top.  Spread the mashed potatoes delicately and evenly over.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are browning.  Sprinkle with extra rosemary, if desired, and serve.
Recipe featured on Food52.com.

Sticky, Spicy, Sweet Roasted Carrots and Chickpeas with Date Vinaigrette

Yield:  4 servings
Date Vinaigrette:
5 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped into small pieces
1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped
¼ cup sherry vinegar, plus additional to taste
Finely grated lemon zest plus 2 Tbsp lemon juice, from 1 small lemon
Salt, to taste
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 4 Tbsp warm water
1 ½ pounds carrots, cut into even pieces ( ¼ inch thick coins or cut lengthwise)
1—15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp Aleppo pepper (may substitute ⅛ tsp cayenne and ¾ tsp sweet paprika)
1 tsp cumin seed, lightly crushed
1 tsp coriander seed, lightly crushed
Salt, to taste
Coarsely chopped dill or cilantro, for serving
  1.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. First, make the vinaigrette.  Combine the dates, garlic, sherry vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt, stirring a few times to ensure the dates and garlic are fully submerged.  Do this step in the blender jar if using a standard blender, or a glass measuring cup or other suitable container if using a stick blender.  Let macerate for 20 to 30 minutes while prepping the carrots and other ingredients.
  3. After 20-30 minutes, add the extra-virgin olive oil and the warm water (starting with 2 Tbsp) to the macerated dates and garlic in the blender jar.  Blend until the vinaigrette is smooth, adding a few more teaspoons of warm water at a time to thin the vinaigrette.  You’re looking for a slightly thick vinaigrette, but one that can still be drizzled or poured.  Add salt and sherry vinegar, to taste.  Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the carrots & chickpeas with ¼ cup of the date vinaigrette, Aleppo pepper, cumin seed, coriander seed, and a few large pinches of salt.  Toss to combine and ensure everything is evenly coated.   It may seem like too much vinaigrette, but it’ll reduce down and coat the carrots and chickpeas—so don’t skimp! 
  5. Spread the carrot mixture on a sheet pan or baking dish lined with parchment that’s large enough to fit them in a single, even layer.  Roast until the carrots and chickpeas are golden and the carrots are fork-tender, stirring 4 to 5 times to ensure even roasting and to avoid the vinaigrette from burning in open areas of the pan (but don’t be too concerned—it’s why you’re using parchment!).  The roasting time will depend on the size of the carrots—anywhere from 25 minutes to 45+ minutes.  If the carrots are browning too quickly but aren’t tender, lower the oven to 375°F and continue roasting until tender.
  6. Scatter the dill or cilantro over the carrots and chickpeas, ad adjust seasoning to taste.  Serve warm, making sure to drizzle more of the vinaigrette over the carrots and chickpeas before serving.
This recipe was featured at Food52.com.  The author of the recipe recommends using any leftover Date Vinaigrette to drizzle on greens or roasted Brussels sprouts!

Glyphosate: An Important Update

1 Nov 2017 22:43

By Andrea Yoder
We’ve included reports about glyphosate in our newsletters in previous years, but sadly this chemical and its issues have not miraculously disappeared from the headlines or from our lives.  We all have reason to be concerned about this chemical as it is now the world’s most widely used herbicide and can be found extensively throughout our environment, our food supply and in human bodies across the country and world.  Glyphosate has been in the headlines recently, including just last week when the European Union held their initial round of votes on October 25, 2017 regarding the proposed 10 year re-license for glyphosate use within the European Union, which expires on December 15, 2017.   The majority voted against the re-license and has voted to ban glyphosate completely by 2022.  Additionally, they have voted to impose restrictions on its use starting in 2018.  While we could write volumes about glyphosate and the controversy and health & environmental impacts it has caused, we wanted to provide you with a brief update.  For those of you who are not as familiar with glyphosate, its use, etc, we’ve also provided several resources for you to further your own understanding of this dilemma we’re all in, whether we like it or not.  As consumers, we need to practice our right to make informed decisions regarding our purchases, and in this case specifically food purchases.  The choices we make can have great implications on our own health and well-being as well as casting a vote in the marketplace.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, patented in 1974, is now the world’s most widely used pesticide.  When it was initially introduced into the market, farmers used it as a pre-emergent herbicide to kill weeds before planting their fields as well as for weed control in non-crop areas.  In 1987 6 to 8 million pounds of glyphosate based herbicides (GBH) were applied in the US.  The first genetically modified (GMO) seeds were commercially planted in 1996 and were made to have resistance to glyphosate, thus the two were meant to be used together.  By 2007, the amount of GBH being applied in this country rose to 180-185 million pounds.  In more recent years GBH have been used as a pre-harvest desiccant for small grain crops including wheat, barley, oats, lentils, flax and dried beans with the intention of accelerating the dry down of the crop before harvest.  Because the chemical is applied so close to harvest, high levels of the chemical are found in the crop and the food products made from them.  GBH are now being used quite extensively on both GMO and non-GMO crops which has led to even more chemical being applied on US agricultural land.  In 2014, approximately 240 million pounds of GBH were applied in the US alone.
While the manufacturers of GBH continue to claim it is harmless, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.  In 2015 the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen to humans.  On July 7, 2017, California’s Environmental Protection Agency added glyphosate to their Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer.  The IARC’s classification of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen prompted many to file lawsuits against Monsanto by people alleging that exposure to Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop cancer.  There are currently more than 50 lawsuits pending in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.   
There are many problems with the use of glyphosate, making it overwhelming to even know where to start.  The use of GBH as a desiccant so close to harvest has led to a significant increase in glyphosate and its primary metabolite in food products including seemingly benign foods like Cheerios!  While food products are not being extensively tested for glyphosate, Food Democracy Now in coordination with the Detox Project requested testing of some food products at a FDA-registered food safety testing laboratory.  They found extremely high levels of glyphosate in common food products including Cheerios breakfast cereal, Ritz Crackers, Oreos, Doritos and even Goldfish crackers.  Glyphosate has also been found in honey, beer and wine.  Last week a research letter was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) regarding the findings of increased levels of glyphosate in urine specimens collected from participants in a prospective study being conducted in Southern California.  The mean glyphosate levels in urine specimens increased from 0.024 ug/L in 1993-1996 rising to as much as 0.449 ug/L in 2014-2016 for 71 participants with detectable levels.  This was a very small study, but nonetheless it raises concern for the rest of us in the population and demonstrates a need for future research to study the relationship between chronic glyphosate exposure and human health impact.
Monsanto has laced the industry with lies and deceit in exchange for economic gain.  They’ve influenced governments to make regulations, or drop regulations based on their proprietary studies which are not available for independent review and the credibility of which are very questionable. Last week a German publication, Spiegel Online, released an article reporting on the recent release of the “Monsanto Papers” which included internal emails, presentations, and memos suggesting they have participated in ghostwriting, scientific manipulation and withholding important information from government regulatory agencies and the public. 
So, where do we go from here?  Do we really know and understand the full impact glyphosate has and is having on human health and our environment?  If we continue on the current trajectory, where will we be in another 10, 20, 30 years?  Cancer, allergies, birth defects, endocrine disorders and the list of possible health concerns associated with glyphosate goes on.  I mentioned the Detox Project earlier.  This is an organization that has set up a means for testing glyphosate levels in participants all across the nation.  Anyone can participate as long as you’re willing to purchase a test kit and submit a urine sample.The purpose of their study and testing is to start tracking glyphosate levels in the population, but also to help individuals understand what their personal exposure is based on the levels found in their own body.  The Detox Project website also has a lot of informative resources for the general public as well as links to scientific research and papers.
The research group that published the research letter in JAMA mentioned above is expanding their work at the University of California, San Diego.  They have initiated the Herbicide Awareness and Research Project to conduct research in the areas of how glyphosate exposure might have changed over time since the introduction of GMO foods and to set up longitudinal epidemiological studies to look at glyphosate exposure and human health. 
A picture of one of our CSA share boxes.
This has become our medicine!
All of these things are good moves in the right direction, but do we have time to wait for the research?  What can we do in the meantime?  Organic food has become our medicine now more than ever.  For those who do not feel comfortable wondering if the foods they eat have herbicides and pesticides in them and/or don’t want to wait to find out if there really are negative health consequences, choosing to eat certified organic food may be the best choice.  Taking it one step further, knowing more about your food and where it comes from is more important now than ever.  Sadly, there is corruption within the organic industry as well and the organic credibility of some companies, both domestic and  international, have been questioned.  “Know your farmer, Know your food” is not just a catchy phrase to support a feel-good campaign to support local farmers.  It’s an important tool in your tool box to help you make informed food purchasing decisions.
I’ve included several resources below and encourage you to do some further investigation into this topic on your own. There really is something for everyone here.  If you’re interested in health and want to read the scientific papers, I’ve included a consensus statement published in Environmental Health.  If you’re interested in the legal issues, policy, etc you might find it interesting to look into the “Monsanto Papers”.  If you just want some easy to read documents to bring you up to speed and guide you in making decisions for your family, I’ve included several good resources for that as well.  I hope you’ll take the time to become more informed, if you are not already, about the realities of glyphosate in our food and environment today.  It’s an issue that impacts us all and we all have the right to know about it.

November 2, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Brussels Sprouts

1 Nov 2017 22:42

Cooking With This Week's Box

Today marks the first day of November and we are into our final two months of CSA deliveries.  Where has the time gone!  This week’s brisk, cold temperatures are a reminder that winter will be coming soon.  We’re scrambling to harvest the remainder of our root crops before the ground freezes and is covered with snow.  Even though our growing season will soon be coming to a close, we have a lot of delicious cooking yet to accomplish!  This week we’re excited to be sending one of our farm favorite vegetables, Brussels sprouts!  They are best after a frost…which they got over the weekend and earlier this week.  There are many things you could do with Brussels sprouts.  Often I don’t get any further than a quick saute in butter or bacon.  However this week I’d encourage you to try the Spicy Asian Chicken with Brussels Sprouts featured in this week’s newsletter (see below).  I don’t often equate Brussels sprouts with Asian flavors, but it works!
Have you checked out our Facebook Group lately?  There have been some tasty recipes shared by members lately including this one for Thai Curried Butternut Squash Soup.  If you receive the Butterscotch butternut squash in your box this week, I’d recommend using them to make this recipe.  If you receive the sugar dumpling squash, consider trying this recipe for Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash that was recommended by another member who made this recipe using the sugar dumpling squash from a previous week.
Another recipe that was recommended in the group was for a Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burger.  I can’t wait to try this--it looks delicious!  I’m telling you, there have been a lot of great recipe suggestions in the group lately.  If you haven’t joined our Facebook group yet, I’d encourage you to do so.  It’s a great place to share recipe ideas and ask questions.  This would be good with a few slices of avocado from this week’s fruit share!
Speaking of the avocados in the fruit share, our fruit newsletter features a recipe for Avocado & Beet Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette that was borrowed from one of Alice Water’s cookbooks.  This will be a great way to use the beets in this week’s box…regardless of whether you have the baby beets, medium sized beets or the muy grandes (BIG ONES!). Just vary your cooking time….everything else will be the same.
The bunches of Red Mizuna and Tat Soi in this week’s box are gorgeous!  I love these greens this time of year for both their flavor and color.  Both may be eaten raw or cooked, but since we don’t have any other “salad” greens anymore, I think a big salad is in order!  I’m going to make one of my “catch-all” salads using some of both the tat soi and red mizuna, partly because it will taste good and partly because it will be beautiful!  This Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette will be the dressing for the greens and I’ll top it off with toasted almonds, shredded carrots and some thinly sliced, seared flank steak.  With the remainder of the greens, I’m going to make this Turmeric Roasted Carrots with Seeds recipe.  This is kind of a “composed” salad that has a base of greens.  The red and orange carrots in this week’s box will be so sweet and delicious once roasted and will look stunning on top of a bed of tat soi.  Eat this salad with a bowl of lentils or roasted chicken for a warm, comforting meal. 
This week’s spaghetti squash and lacinato kale will come together in this Roasted Garlic, Kale and Spaghetti Squash dish. Hopefully there will be leftovers of this one for lunch the next day!

Well, that’s it for another week of cooking with the box.  We don’t have vegetable CSA deliveries next week, but we’ll be back for another vegetable share delivery the week of November 16/17/18.  This is the week before Thanksgiving, so if you haven’t planned your menu yet, it’s time to start!  We’re planning to send more sweet carrots, although the next bag you receive will have another pretty color to go with the orange carrots.  We’ll also have more sweet potatoes, winter squash and hopefully more Brussels sprouts.  That’s by no means everything that will be in the box, but just a few items to get you started!  While I haven’t seen the list for our next fruit share delivery yet, I am pretty certain we’ll have cranberries in that box.  Ok, the rest of the shares will have to be a surprise.  Have a great week!
—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Brussels Sprouts

“Brussels sprouts are the only vegetable I cannot eat unless the weather is cold.  No frost, no sprouts.  I am not alone …Frost makes the sprout.…Eaten at the wrong time of year, cooked too long, or served with too much else on the plate, the sprout is hard going.” –Nigel Slater in Tender
Brussels sprout harvest.

Brussels sprouts are a highlight of fall and its transition to winter in the Midwest.  They grow on a tall, thick, sturdy stalk.  The sprouts spiral up the stalk and are shaded by a tuft of leaves at the top, but also down the stem.  Chef Deborah Madison describes them like this:  “There is something so silly and Dr. Seuss-like about a stalk of Brussels sprouts with its little hat of leaves that it makes you smile and want to eat the sprouts.”
There are several important points that are very important when it comes to Brussels sprouts.  First, as stated in the opening quote from Nigel Slater, frost and cold temperatures contribute significantly to the eating quality of Brussels sprouts.  After a frost, the flavor of the sprouts is sweet, slightly nutty and pleasant.  California is a major Brussels sprouts producer for the United States.  While Brussels sprouts do grow well there, there are many who are of the opinion that the mild California coastal climate just isn’t quite cold enough for Brussels sprouts.  Thus, consider yourself lucky that you live in Wisconsin & Minnesota where we can grow some delicious, sweet sprouts!
The second point of importance is DO NOT OVERCOOK THEM!  When the color fades from bright green to a dark olive color, the flavor fades too.  Overcooked Brussels sprouts go from crisp & tender to soft and mushy in texture and their sweetness is traded for a strong, unpleasant flavor with a pungent smell to accompany it.  Larger sprouts should be cut in half or parcooked if left whole.  Smaller sprouts may be left whole or cut in half.  When you are ready to use them, simply trim the end and remove any spotty leaves.  Rinse and then you are ready to use them.  They can also be shredded by cutting them in half and putting the cut side down and slicing them thinly with a knife.  Brussels sprouts may be sautéed, roasted, or lightly steamed just until the color is bright and they are tender to slightly al dente.  While most frequently eaten cooked, Brussels sprouts may also be eaten raw.  This week’s boxes include 1 pound of Brussels sprouts.  One pound of Brussels sprouts is equal to about 4 cups halved.
Brussels sprouts pair well with smoky and salty foods including bacon, ham, aged or sharp cheese, and blue cheese.  Additionally, preparations often include mustard, walnuts, pecans, lemon juice, onions and garlic.
They are definitely worth eating from a nutrition standpoint.  They are high in fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K and are packed full of powerful, cancer-preventing properties as well.  Store your Brussels sprouts in the fridge in the bag we packed them in.  You should open the bag a bit though and let them breathe.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Maple Walnuts

Yield:  3 to 4 servings
Maple Walnuts
¾ cup walnuts, raw & unsalted
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 pinches of flaky sea salt
Maple-Mustard Dressing
3 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
1 ½ tsp pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Pinch of fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Brussels Sprouts
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 ½ tsp coconut oil, ghee or butter, melted
2 pinches of fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup pomegranate seeds
  1. Prepare the walnuts:  Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Place the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet with the maple syrup and salt.  Toss to coat and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, tossing once after 5 minutes when the walnuts begin to bubble.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
  2.  Prepare the Dressing:  In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, mustard, and vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.  The dressing will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 1 week.
  3. Roast the Brussels sprouts:  Slice the sprouts in half lengthwise.  Place them on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the coconut oil to coat.  Roast until the sprouts are tender but not overcooked, about 15 minutes.
  4. While the sprouts are roasting, roughly chop the cooled walnuts.
  5. When the Brussels sprouts are cooked through, remove them from the oven and immediately drizzle them with the Maple-Mustard Dressing, toss to coat, and season with salt and pepper.  Place them in a large bowl or serving platter, then scatter the pomegranate seeds and Maple Walnuts on top.  Serve warm.
This recipe was borrowed from Sarah Britton’s book, Naturally Nourished.  She recommends serving this recipe over cooked lentils for a vegetarian dinner.

Spicy Asian Chicken with Brussels Sprouts

Yield:  4 servings
1 cup long-grain rice
Photo from realsimple.com
½ cup cornstarch
1 large egg
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 large), thinly sliced
3 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus more if needed
½ pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced OR red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp chopped roasted peanuts, almonds, or toasted sesame seeds
½-¾ cup chopped cilantro
  1.  Cook the rice according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, place the cornstarch in a shallow bowl.  In a large bowl, beat the egg;  add the chicken and toss to coat.  A few pieces at a time, lift the chicken out of the egg and coat in the cornstarch, tapping off the excess;  transfer to a plate.
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a large nonstick skillet or a wok over medium-high heat.  In 2 batches, cook the chicken, turning occasionally, until golden 3 to 5 minutes (add more oil for the second batch if necessary);  transfer to a plate.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet.  Add the Brussels sprouts, ginger, and garlic and cook, tossing occasionally, until beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and ¾ cup water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts are crisp-tender and the liquid begins to thicken, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  5. Return the chicken to the skillet, add the chili, and cook, tossing, until heated through, about 1 minute.  Toss with the sesame oil and cilantro, serve over the rice and sprinkle with the peanuts or almonds.
Recipe adapted from Real Simple: Easy, Delicious Home Cooking, edited by Allie Lewis Clapp, et al.

October 26, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sugar Dumpling Squash

25 Oct 2017 22:02

Cooking With This Week's Box

Can you believe Thanksgiving is only about 4 weeks away!?  Have you started gathering your recipes and planning your menu for the big dinner?  Brussels Sprouts with Ginger & Cranberries, Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Apples,  Grandma Yoder’s Squash Pie . . perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.  Well, you still have some time but I would encourage you to start planning for the big day! 
As the weather becomes more chilly, I’m more in the mood to eat some of these warm, nourishing foods like winter squash and sweet potatoes.  This week’s featured vegetable is the sweet little sugar dumpling squash.  Use this squash to prepare Andrea Bemis’s recipe adaptation for Autumn Spiced Pork Sausage & Kale Stuffed Squash (see below).  She used delicata squash in her recipe, but this will work with any squash that has a little cavity to put a filling into.  This recipe also makes good use of the tender kale in this week’s box.  The other squash in your box, either honeynut butternut or butterscotch butternut, is a great variety to bake or roast and both are naturally sweet & flavorful.  Melissa Clark has a tasty recipe for a Roasted Mushroom and Butternut Squash Tart featured at cooking.nytimes.com
Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens   
I’m excited to have so many different greens in this week’s box and I have a use for each one.  The tender bunched kale will go into the stuffed squash recipe, but I’m saving the spicy mustard greens to make a recipe we featured in our newsletter back in 2015.  It’s a recipe for Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens.  You’ll likely have enough butternut squash to make both the lentil recipe and the tart recipe mentioned previously.  I really enjoy this recipe prepared with the spicy mustard greens.  It makes a flavorful, nourishing meal and may be served with rice. 
Bok Choi Salad with Sesame Almond Crunch

The baby bok choi is going to be used to make the Baby Bok Choi Salad with Sesame-Almond Crunch featured in our June 2016 newsletter.  Trust me…it’s delicious! 

This recipe for Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic is one of my simple go-to recipes for busy weeks. This recipe works well with the waxy potatoes like we have in this week’s box.  I usually just serve it with a seared steak or pork chop.  This week I think I’ll add roasted Broccoli and/or Cauliflower or Romanesco with Lemon and Garlic to this meal. If you’re going to eat garlic you might as well go big and put it in nearly everything!
I came across this recipe for Carrot Salad with Tahini and Crisped Chickpeas at Smitten Kitchen.  I think I’ll serve this salad with a roasted sweet potato for a simple vegetarian dinner.  Of course….there will be leftovers for lunch the next day! 
And once again we’ve reached the bottom of another delightful CSA box!  Next week we’re hoping to harvest Brussels sprouts and Tat soi for your boxes.  These are two of my favorite fall vegetables.  Even though we’re nearing the end of this year’s CSA Season, we still have a lot of interesting vegetables to include in your boxes!  Don’t forget that we change our delivery schedule a bit next week.  Please check your CSA calendar so you don’t miss any deliveries!

That’s a wrap for this week.  Have a good one!
-Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Sugar Dumpling Squash

Sugar Dumpling Squash
The world of vegetables is so diverse, and even within a category such as “winter squash” there are very different varieties.  This week we’re featuring the sugar dumpling squash, which has different qualities and characteristics in comparison to the two other squash we’ve featured this year.  Sugar dumpling squash is a variety that was developed out of collaboration between the University of New Hampshire and our friends at High Mowing Organic Seeds, an all-organic seed company in Vermont.  This variety is similar in shape to an acorn or festival squash, but is a bit more squatty and rounded.  It has yellow and green markings on the skin with a light yellow flesh.  The flesh is not as rich as a kabocha squash, but is very flavorful and sweet.  While they have been storing very well this year, they do have a higher sugar content which makes them less of a candidate for storing deep into the winter. 
Sugar dumpling squash is delicious when simply cut in half and baked until tender.  You can serve it with nothing more than a pat of butter and a little salt and pepper.  It also is a good squash for serving with a filling.  In late fall and winter I actually enjoy eating this squash for breakfast.  I cut it in half and bake it with apples, cranberries, and/or raisins in the middle and sprinkle it with a little cinnamon, a drizzle of maple syrup and sometimes I eat it with the toasted squash seeds on top.  You can fill it with any variety of fillings ranging from fruit to all vegetables, rice, meat, cheese, etc.  As I was thinking about the recipe I wanted to feature in this week’s newsletter, Andrea Bemis of Dishing Up the Dirt blog popped one right into my inbox!  Check out her recipe for stuffed squash featured in this week’s newsletter.  It was a perfect recipe that utilizes not only the sugar dumpling squash in this week’s box but also some of the onions and the tender kale. 

This squash variety also has tender seeds that toast up nice and crispy.  Last week Heidi Swanson did a very nice feature on her blog, 101cookbooks.com, about toasting pumpkin seeds.  The process is the same whether the seeds come from a pumpkin or a squash.  She has step-by-step pictures and several variations for how to flavor and season them, one of which is included in this week’s newsletter.  If you’ve never saved the seeds from your squash, or don’t have a good process for doing so, I’d encourage you to give it a try this week.  You might as well take advantage of using as much of the squash as you can!  

Autumn Spiced Pork Sausage & Kale Stuffed Squash

Yield:  4 servings

2 medium or 4 smaller sugar dumpling squash
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound ground pork sausage
¾ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small bunch of kale, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
½ cup dried cranberries, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and then drained
¼ cup pecans, finely chopped
Drizzle of pure maple syrup (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Set them aside so you can clean and prepare them to toast (an optional step, but highly recommended).  Drizzle the cut side of each squash half with a little olive oil and place each squash cut side down on a baking sheet.  Roast them in the oven until the squash is tender, about 25-30 minutes.  Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the squash.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until they are translucent.  About 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and continue to cook for about 2 minutes longer.  Add the pork, spices, salt and pepper and use a wooden spoon to help break up the meat.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is cooked through and no longer pink.  Add the kale leaves and continue to cook until the kale turns bright green and becomes tender, about 5-8 minutes longer.  Stir in the drained cranberries. 
  3. Once the pork and the kale are fully cooked, remove from the heat.  
  4. Divide the sausage mixture between the squash halves and sprinkle with the toasted pecans and a drizzle of pure maple syrup.  Put the squash halves back on the sheet tray and put them back in the oven just long enough to wam up all the ingredients.  Drizzle them with a little maple syrup just before serving. 

Andrea & Author’s Note:  If you have extra filling left over, put it in the freezer. You can use this filling for a future delivery of sugar dumpling squash or with the festival squash coming before the end of the season. This recipe was adapted from Dishing Up the Dirt.

Sweet Curry Squash Seeds

Yield:  1 ½ cups seeds (or however many seeds you get out of your squash!)
1 ½ cups winter squash or pumpkin seeds, well-cleaned, well-dried
2 tsps olive oil
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp brown sugar
Fine grain sea salt

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the squash/pumpkin seeds with the olive oil and sea salt. Transfer the seeds to the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the seeds are deeply golden. A zap under a broiler is a nice finishing touch, but not necessary.
  3. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for a minute or two, and then stir in the curry powder and brown sugar.  Sprinkle with additional salt if necessary.
This recipe was adapted from Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101cookbooks. com.  Just last week she did a great blog post all about how to save and toast pumpkin seeds, but she does mention that all the techniques also may be applied to seeds saved from a variety of winter squash.  Her post includes step-by-step pictures and instructions as well as a few other tasty seasoning variations.  You may need to scale this recipe to whatever quantity of seeds you have available from your squash.  

Fall "Crunch Time" is Here!

25 Oct 2017 22:02

by Farmer Richard
Do you remember the three foot deep snowfall on October 29, 1993?  I do!  I remember harvesting carrots by hand in the melting slush of that snow, not fun!  We love the cool, sunny days of fall, harvesting roots to take us through late fall and early winter boxes and wholesale sales.  Planting garlic, horseradish and sunchokes for next year after first selecting our seed pieces.  Preparing fields for winter by chopping crop residue, composting and planting cover crops—have to get ready for a new year! We have a long “to do” list and time is quickly slipping away.  The reality we face is we need 2 to 3 weeks of dry weather to get everything finished! 
Austraian Peas already doing their job,
growing nitrogen fixing nodules!

Four weeks ago we were caught up, every available acre was composted and cover cropped, some 60 acres of very nice cover crops with the Austrian peas already producing impressive nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots.  They were planted into very dry soil, but came up nicely with the first rain.  But then it rained again, and again…  We’ve had 6.42 inches of rain in October alone.  We still have about 30 acres of fields that need to have cover crops planted and we have fields to clean up including removing plastic and tomato stakes from the tomato, eggplant, pepper and basil fields.  Last Saturday afternoon we started planting our garlic fields, but only got 2 beds planted before the end of the day…and then it rained another inch that evening!
Do you sense some urgency here?  Some nervous apprehension?  We do!  We can harvest greens and herbs in the rain or wet soil, but those crops are almost done.  The warm weather of September and October (still no frost) has sped up the maturity rate of all crops.  We did some late plantings of beets, red radishes, cilantro, baby bok choi, etc knowing they might be a gamble if it got cold earlier.  We’re harvesting those crops this week and many will be finished for the season by the end of the week.  We’re thankful to be able to continue these harvests this late in the month and we’ve saved huge amounts of time and the expense by not having to put covers over crops to protect them from frost!  We expect our first frost to be more of a freeze (lower than 25°F), but by the time we see that, all of the vulnerable crops will be out of the field.  Now that it’s getting colder, the soil isn’t drying out as fast as it does when it’s warmer.  With more rain in the forecast, we’re concerned we won’t see the two weeks of dry weather we need to wrap this season up. 
The harsh reality is winter is coming.  As I sit on the back porch writing, I can hear the coyotes howling on the hillsides.  I love it!  They too sense the coming winter!  But we still have that garlic field to finish planting, plus most of the burdock field, parsnips, carrots, radishes, turnips and rutabagas to harvest and almost 2 acres of sunchokes to both harvest and replant!  This fall is much different than last fall.  Despite the challenges we face this fall, we’re thankful to have such a plentiful harvest in contrast to the crop losses we had last fall.  When we had extra crew time last year, we gambled and planted extra sunchokes and horseradish, with hopes of having a really good harvest this fall to make up for some of last year’s losses!  Well, our strategy worked and these crops have done well and sales are good.  But we still have to harvest and replant so we can do it all over again next year! 
Rufino, Luis, Jose Antonio and Alejandro coming
to the packing shed with broccoli romanesco,
cauliflower and broccoli.
Earlier this week on Monday, we mudded out some more daikon radish and finished our first fall carrot field.  I only got stuck in the field one time while pulling out a load of carrots, but despite the mud the harvest went pretty well.  We also went through our last three broccoli fields to find the small heads that continue to grow off the sides of the plant.  The pieces aren’t big, but they are tasty!  The broccoli romanesco field looks great!  This crop will survive a frost as low as 20°F and will actually sweeten a bit with the frost so we aren’t in a big hurry to harvest them.  There are still Brussels sprouts coming too!  We’ve intentionally held off on harvesting them because we want them to have a few frosty nights to sweeten them up.  We plan to harvest cabbage before the weekend freeze-up when our temperatures are forecasted to be 27°F.  It can sometimes be colder in the valley, so we’ve already started preparing so we aren’t caught off guard.  Irrigation pumps, filter trailers, etc are all drained and put away for the winter.  Bins of firewood are in place and I am back on winter wood stove duty.  We have a beautiful fire burning in the fireplace as I write.   It sure helps to take the chill off on cold evenings. 

Some of our crew 'cracking' garlic to get ready to plant!
Or crew is anxious to return home to their families and they are waiting for our final decision as to when they can start booking plane tickets to go home.  While some crew members have asked and volunteered to stay late this year, others are anxious to make it home in time to be with their wives when the babies they’re expecting are born!  Others have fields of hay on their family’s farm waiting to be cut and baled.  There will be coffee and corn to harvest, and of course there are anxious kids counting down the days until their dad comes home.  It’s hard to predict when our workload will lessen, but we do our best to make estimates and work efficiently.  We are trying to make the most of our time, spending frosty mornings and rainy days cracking garlic for planting, cleaning garlic and onions, trimming root crops stored in the cooler, washing sweet potatoes, etc.  But the bottom line is that we need those dry, sunny days!  Wish us luck and lets hope Mother Nature offers us a brief reprieve with some nice weather!  

October 19, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweet Potatoes

18 Oct 2017 22:41

Cooking With This Week's Box

After a year without sweet potatoes, we’re super excited to be sending sweet potatoes in your box this week!  Where do we start with cooking?  There are so many things we could make with sweet potatoes!  Don’t worry, we’ll be sending them for most of the remaining boxes, so you’ll have plenty of time to make all your favorite recipes and maybe try a few new ones!  This week we’re pretty busy with harvest so I’m keeping things a bit more on the simple side.  The Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad (See below) is pretty easy to make.  You just toss roasted sweet potatoes with a simple, but flavorful vinaigrette and eat it at room temperature.  I think I’ll roast a chicken and serve the Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad with the chicken and this simple recipe for Moroccan Couscous.   The currants and pine nuts in the couscous will go nicely with the sweet potatoes. 
We are finishing off our last crop of broccoli raab which will give me a chance to make Alice Water’s  Pizza with Broccoli Raab and Roasted Onions and Olives.  I think this would be good with a few little sautéed shrimp on top.  We need something to go along with the pizza, but we already have our greens on the pizza.  I think I’ll go with this simple French Grated Carrot Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette.  I like simple carrot salads for several reasons.  First, when the carrots are flavorful and sweet on their own, you don’t need to do much to them so keeping it simple is better. The other thing I like about carrot salads is that you can put the dressing on and it doesn’t get soggy like a greens salad does.  You know I’m a fan of taking leftovers for lunch the next day, and this type of salad works great for that purpose. 
Ok, we’ve done Moroccan and we’ve had a taste of France, now lets move into Indian cuisine!  I have pretty limited experience with Indian food, but am intrigued by the different styles of Indian cooking and the spices they use.  The food is much different than what I grew up with in the Midwest!  When I was in college, one of my neighbors in the dorm was from India and invited me to attend one of their traditional celebrations.  It was wonderful to experience their culture and I was overwhelmed by the delicious food they served.  In my feeble attempt to learn more about this cuisine and culture, I try to dabble a little with some of the easy adaptations as I build my comfort level and slowly learn more about this part of the world.  So that whole explanation leads me to this recipe for Indian Creamed Spinach.  Richard really likes creamed spinach, so I thought I’d try this variation.  The recipe calls for 16 oz of spinach, but the bag of spinach in this week’s box is only 8 oz.  You can either cut the recipe in half or use the green tops from the beet greens to make up the difference.   This recipe has a little heat in it, which can come from using either the jalapeno or guajillo in your box.  I’ll probably serve this with the leftover roasted chicken and some steamed basmati rice.
Recipe courtesy of foodiecrush.com
I think this is the week to make homemade Beet Chips! Any color of beet will work for beet chips, but the Chioggia beets are especially fun to prepare this way.  Most recipes just tell you to put the sliced beets on a sheet try, but I often put them on a rack on top of the sheet tray.  If you have a baking rack and can do this, it helps keep them get crispy.  These will be our Sunday evening snack that we’ll probably just eat with a simple sandwich as we’re making our plans for the crew.
What are we going to do with the squash this week?!  Well the honeynut butternut squash is an easy one.  These are so sweet and flavorful, you really don’t need to do anything more than to just cut them in half and bake them.  After they’re baked I usually just top them with a pat of butter, salt, pepper and occasionally a little bit of cinnamon or nutmeg.  This actually makes a very delicious breakfast item! 
This recipe for Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai with Cashew Ginger Sauce caught my eye, so I think I’ll give it a try this week.  I already used shrimp on my pizza, so I’ll probably substitute thinly sliced sirloin steak in place of the seafood.  This is a meal on its own!
I’ve had Fish Chowderon my mind lately.  The waxy gold-fleshed potatoes in this week’s box are perfect for this type of chowder. Serve a bowl of hot chowder alongside a fresh arugula salad with bread or crackers and you’re set. 
The last item in our box to use is the broccoli/cauliflower.  I love roasted broccoli and cauliflower, so I’m going to jazz up this concept this week with this Balsamic and Honey Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower. This will make a nice accompaniment to a seared steak or pork chop.
And that’s a wrap for this week!  What’s the next exciting vegetable coming up in the box?  Well, it may not be in next week’s box, but we’ll be harvesting Brussels sprouts before long!  That should give most of you something to look forward to this week.  I hope you have a good week and create some delicious meals!
—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Sweet Potatoes

This week we’re excited to be packing sweet potatoes in your boxes!  Sweet potatoes are an important part of our fall and winter diets.  If stored properly you can eat sweet potatoes all winter! The ideal storage temperature for sweet potatoes is 55-65°F.  They can get chill injury if stored at temperatures below 55°F, so if you don’t have the perfect location to store them at their ideal temperature, it’s better to store them on your countertop in the kitchen instead of putting them in the refrigerator. 
Peanut & Sweet Potato Soup
Sweet potatoes are less starchy and more sweet and moist than a regular potato and have a wide variety of uses.  You can simply bake them whole until fork tender and eat the flesh right out of the skin.  They are also delicious cut into bite-sized pieces and roasted or cut them into wedges or thin slices and make roasted fries or chips.  If you’re going to do this, it’s best to put the wedges or slices of sweet potatoes on a rack in a pan.  If you do this, the air and heat from the oven can better circulate on all sides of the sweet potato making it more crispy and less soggy.  Sweet potatoes also make delicious, hearty soups and stews.  One of my favorite sweet potato recipes is for a Peanut & Sweet Potato Soup that we featured in a previous newsletter.  Another favorite sweet potato recipe is for Sweet Potato and Kim Chi Pancakes.  This is a recipe that was shared with me by a CSA member and I look forward to making it every year.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you really should.  Don’t be afraid to eat sweet potatoes at room temperature or even cold in salads such as the Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad (See below)recipe featured in this week’s newsletter.
Sweet potatoes can also be incorporated into baking.  Sweet potato pie is a decadent way to eat a vegetable.  If you’re going to make pie, consider this Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping featured at MarthaStewart.com.   It’s delicious served with Bourbon Whipped Cream.  You can also use sweet potatoes to make biscuits, rolls, quick breads, cookies, bars, cheesecake and more! 
Sweet potatoes pair well with a wide variety of ingredients, which makes them so versatile in their use.  They pair very well with apples and pears as well as other root vegetables, bitter fall greens, dried beans and greens such as kales.  They also go very well with coconut, ginger, chiles, butter, cream, citrus and nuts of any kind.
This year we have several different trial varieties.  If you haven’t read Farmer Richard’s main article for this week, please take a minute to do so.  In his newsletter he discusses the different varieties we’ve grown.  We’ll identify the variety in each week’s newsletter.  We’re looking for member feedback about the different varieties so we can decide what to plant next year!  As we go through the remainder of the season, pay attention to the different varieties and let us know what you think! 

Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad

Yield:  6 servings
2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
⅓ cup plus 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¾ tsp kosher or fine sea salt
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
⅓ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F.  
  2. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with the 2 Tbsp oil and ¼ tsp of the salt.  Transfer the sweet potatoes to a large rimmed baking sheet and spread them out in an even layer. (Set the bowl aside to use for tossing the cooked potatoes).  Roast the potatoes, stirring once at the midpoint of roasting, until they are tender when pierced with a fork but still hold their shape, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, and the remaining ½ tsp salt.  Whisk in the remaining ⅓ cup oil.   Add the parsley and cilantro and stir to combine.
  4. When the potatoes are ready, return them to the large bowl.  Add the vinaigrette and toss gently.  Add the almonds if you are planning to serve the salad within a few hours;  otherwise, toss them in just before serving so they stay crisp.  Serve at room temperature.  The salad can be made up to 2 days in advance, covered, and refrigerated.  Remove from the refrigerator 2 hours before serving.
This recipe was borrowed from Roots by Diane Morgan.

Coconut Pan-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Yield:  4 to 6 servings
2 pounds of sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp coconut oil
Sea Salt, to taste
Maldon sea salt, for finishing
  1. Scrub the sweet potatoes, then peel and chop them into cubes a scant inch across.
  2. Warm the oil in an 8-inch or 10-inch sauté pan.  Add the sweet potatoes, turn them about to coat, and season with a few pinches salt.  Put a lid on the pan, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 20 minutes in all, giving the pan a shake every now and then to turn the potatoes.  Taste a piece and if they’re not yet soft, continue to cook a few minutes longer or until they are tender and browned.  Serve with flaky sea salt.  
This simple recipe was borrowed from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  

Sweet Potatoes

18 Oct 2017 22:41

By Farmer Richard
Sweet potatoes are a tropical plant originating in South America. The remnants of sweet potatoes have been found in Peru dating back 10,000 years and there is evidence of cultivation in Central America at least 5,000 years ago. Cultivated sweet potatoes spread to New Zealand, Polynesia and Africa. Today, Uganda is the second largest producer of sweet potatoes behind China.  In this country, sweet potatoes have been traditionally grown in the southeast. North Carolina is the leading producer, with California in second and Louisiana and Mississippi also being significant producers. 
Southern farms ‘plant’ selected sweet potatoes taken from last year’s harvest pretty close together in a bed of sawdust or peat moss.  The tubers send up green shoots which are cut off (called slips) and sent to us in bundles of 25 each.  They don’t look very good when we get them, but if we get them planted promptly, most of them will grow! 

Sweet potato blossoms
Farmer Richard digging sweet potatoes at our Harvest Party!
Researchers continue to experiment with new varieties. A new variety is created by cross pollinating flowers and planting 2 – 4 seeds that a flower produces.  We continue to trial them when the slips are available to us.  Our favorite slip producer is New Sprout Organic Farms. This year they offered some new varieties that we trialed. As we dug them this year, we looked at ‘marketable yield’, like tuber shape, set (how many tubers per plant), and color, both inside and out. Varieties ‘set’ 6-8 tubers in a banana like cluster from the main stem.  If 5-6 grow to a nice shapely size, it will be a good yield.  If only 2 or 3 fill out and one a 4 pound jumbo, maybe not as good.  It may be a photo opportunity at our harvest party when a 40 pound child joyfully lifts out a 5 pound sweet potato, but those jumbo’s may intimidate other CSA members who may not know how to cook a ‘monster’ that size or know how easily it will reheat in the oven. So, we try to avoid the ‘monsters’ by planting some varieties closer together, like 8 inches versus 12 inch to keep them to a manageable size!  Every variety has its learning curve. And of course every year has different growing conditions, so varieties need careful evaluation over time!

Plastic bed ready for sweet potatoes!
Newly planted sweet potato slip
Around the world there are 1,000’s of different sizes, colors and shapes of sweet potatoes, from white to yellow and orange to deep purple. But, since they are a tropical plant, we are very limited in what we can grow in Wisconsin. First, we use a system of dark colored plastic on a raised bed to hold extra heat in the ground and the plastic limits the rain water to a plant that thrives on limited moisture. We are limited to the varieties that will mature in 90-110 day range. That eliminates the purple flesh and white flesh varieties that we have tasted and would like to grow, but only produce stringy ½ inch thick roots when we tried them.  Andrea wants to develop our own breeding program for them since no one that we know is working on that! While we may have limited options to choose from, some of the new varieties from sweet potato breeding programs from North Carolina and Louisiana do/may work for us. We have several new varieties this year that we could use your help in evaluating!  We need a certain level of successful yield of shapely, not too big not too small tubers, but we also value flavor!

Once we were limited to only ‘Georgia Jet’ variety that would produce sizable yield in the North, but oh so ugly! Then came ‘Beauregard’ which, if planted close (8 inches), yielded pounds but had limited numbers of nice “saleable” shapely potatoes.  The plus to Beauregard is that it had good flavor! Then we found ‘Covington’, gave it 12 inch spacing and we got a much higher percentage of shapely tubers but don’t forget the flavor! We like naturally sweet sweet potatoes without added sugar or even maple syrup. We like the deep orange flesh color which has higher lycopene. But, there are other factors to consider. Different varieties of sweet potatoes have very different levels of at least 3 sugars, sucrose, maltose, and fructose. Each gives us a different perception of sweetness and they have different flavor profiles.   The sugars also change during the curing process.  Curing, yes that is also very important!

Harvesting sweet potatoes
Because Sweet potatoes are tropical, they are a perennial and never stop growing, so when we harvest them, their skin is very thin and delicate and can come off or be broken with any rough handling.  We gently lift and pull the banana-like cluster by the stem from the soil.  Then each bunch is placed (with cotton gloves) into the crate that will transport it to the ‘curing’ room.  Curing is a process we put the sweet potatoes through where we hold them at a high temperature of 85-90°F with 90-95% humidity to thicken the skin and heel any harvest scrapes.  The curing process also concentrates and converts the sugars. We measure the sugar with a refractometer and with the older varieties we generally see a Brix (unit of measurement) of 3-6% directly out of the field.  After 7 days curing, the Brix level increases to 10-12%.  That is a sugar level that I think says “add only a little butter and it is delicious!”
So, our ‘from the field’ Brix test on our new trial varieties is quite interesting!  Our recent ‘standard’ ‘Covington’ came in at the usual 3-5%, but several of the new varieties came in at 8-10% Brix. Wow, if that doubles in storage we have a whole new ballgame!  However, I was very surprised to measure the Brix after 6 days of curing and found that two of the varieties that originally had high levels had dropped!  What’s going on!?  The best I can conclude is that it’s not just a matter of looking at total sugars in the potato.  It depends on which sugars are in the potato and their ratios.  Sucrose gives us a stronger sense of sweetness, so even if the overall sugars are lower in a potato with a high percentage of sucrose, it might be perceived as being sweeter than another variety that had a high Brix level.  The bottom line is we have to eat them and evaluate each variety individually.  Please help us evaluate these new varieties!  There are other factors that Brix readings cannot account for. Differing levels of the different forms of sugar also may lend different flavor qualities to the different potatoes.  Also, when doing the pre-curing Brix test, I noticed quite a difference in texture, like when in the garlic press to squeeze them for juice for the refractometer; some were soft and juicy while others were much firmer and dry. These factors may affect cooking time and you may consider one texture more desirable than another. We want to know your observations; even a simple email would be appreciated.
Chart of Farmer Richard’s Brix testing. He tested two potatoes from each variety, each of those test numbers are listed in the corresponding cell.
Variety Name
Pre-Curing Brix Number
6 day Curing Brix Number
Richard’s visual notes
Light Orange
Dark orange/tan skin & small, but good yield
Intense orange/ dark burgundy skin
Carolina Ruby
Orange/dark red/some rot
Can we develop our own regional sweet potato variety, absolutely yes! Do we need a global distribution network with unknown inputs and unknown or known consequences, absolutely not! We can eat the best from our region with known inputs and know how it affects our environment and our fellow human beings!

2017 Autumn Meat Information

18 Oct 2017 22:40

Our fall meat deliveries are coming up soon with the first delivery on November 9/10/11!  We do still have Beef & Pork packages available for our November delivery and quite a lot still available for purchase for delivery December 7/8/9
If you choose to include meat in your diet, we hope you’ll consider trying our meat products this fall.  We feel it’s important for anyone who eats meat to make informed decisions with their meat purchases, so in order to do that here are a few important facts about the meat we raise.
Certified Organic:  All of our animals, pastures and feed are certified organic by MOSA.  That means we do not use GMO alfalfa, herbicides, pesticides, growth hormones or antibiotics.
  Grass-Fed Red Angus Beef:  Our beef cattle are 100% grass-fed.  They graze our mineral-rich pastures during the spring, summer and fall.  During the winter we feed dry hay and haylege which were harvested from our pastures and fields this past summer and stored for use during the winter.
Pastured-Pork:  Our pigs spend their days roaming their pasture hillsides where they use their snouts to forage for roots and snack on wild apples, nuts, and other wild plants they find in the woods.  They also receive a certified organic grain blend twice daily as well as vegetable scraps from the packing shed.  They especially enjoy spinach, beets, tomatoes and squash. Animal Welfare:  We place great importance on the humane treatment of our animals and offer them the utmost respect and care for their wellbeing.  We do our best to provide a natural, calm environment for them to live in where they do not experience stress or have limitations to their instinctual behaviors.  
Join Our Meat Club:  Enjoy the convenience of our meat club offering.  With one purchase you will sign up for 3 meat deliveries in November, December and May.  You can start at any time and in addition to the convenience of a one-time purchase, we’ve built in a 5% discount on your purchase! Fresh, Frozen:  All of our meat is freshly frozen and delivered to your CSA site in a reusable, thick-walled Styrofoam cooler.  You can store your meat purchase in your freezer and enjoy it throughout the winter with peace of mind knowing who your farmer is and where your meat came from! Ledebuhr Meat Processing:  Our animals are processed at Ledebuhr Meat Processing in Winona, MN.  They are a small-scale meat processing plant that is both certified organic and USDA inspected.  There is a USDA inspector in the facility who inspects every carcass individually. 
Concerned about freezer storage space?  If you’re limited on freezer space, consider some of our smaller 15# & 25# packages.  This picture demonstrates the space a 25# package of meat would take up in a standard home refrigerator with a freezer on top.  Additional questions?  If you have other questions we have not answered here, please feel free to call or email!
For more information about any of our packages, please see our order form website.

Labor and the Cost of Food

11 Oct 2017 23:36

By Farmer Richard de Wilde
Captain Jack and Rafael chillin out at lunch time!

Chef/Farmer Andrea and I work very hard to make it all happen, to set the standards for our farm and to lead the way.  But there would be a very different HVF if it were not for Kelly, Scott, Simon, Gerardo, Beatriz, Rafael and his brothers, JMC, Juan and every other person on our crew.  Our core group of employees has been the same for 5, 10, and some approaching 20 years.  Their years of experience and expertise are what make this farm “work” and they are dedicated to continuing to keep this farm going into the future because, as many of them say, “it is the best job they have ever had!”  From our perspective, they are the best work force we have ever had!
Here’s a little history for you.  Labor costs on our vegetable farm make up roughly half (50%) of gross revenue.  Hiring and managing that labor force occupies more than 50% of our time.  It takes a full year of on-the-job experience for a new crew member to learn how our farm operates.  Once they enter the second year of experience, they really start to build skills and build on their initial training investment.  Thus, we are really looking for long term crew members who will be with us for more than one or two seasons.  Over the forty plus years I have farmed, I have had many different employees.  “Interns” who work only one season for low pay and to gain experience, older Laotian Hmong people who had few other job opportunities, local high school and college students who start too late and leave just when our peak fall season starts, not very workable!  The inmates from the Vernon County jail work program were very dependable!  That is until they got out of jail and could not make it to work on time for even 5 days in a row!  We’ve also had many excellent employees that were with us for a season or two and showed great potential.  However, just when they were really becoming established on the farm, they chose to leave to pursue other opportunities and experiences. 
Our farm is very complex with about 150 crops planted over about a 25 week period.  Each crop has its own specifications and requires specific skills and expertise, which means there is a lot to learn!  We need and thrive when we have a stable, trained, dedicated and long term work force.  Unfortunately, our local community has not been able to provide that!  As part of the H2A visa process, we have to advertise our farm worker positions in great detail for several weeks in our local newspapers and on the WI job center website. We also have to post that position in newspapers in three different states as required by the United Sates Department of Labor.  This year was typical of the other years.  We only had two local young men with farming experience apply.  We hired both to start on the following Monday.  Neither showed up or even had the courtesy to call and explain!  This is not just a tractor driving job, but tractor driving is necessary.  We would never be able to staff our farm with individuals from our local or surrounding areas.  In contrast, our crew members who come to us through the H2A visa program are dependable and, in situations such as this week, exceed our expectations.  This week we had a crew of guys who finished our sweet potato harvest in two days despite working the last 3 hours in a light rain with mud building up on their boots, wet and cold.  Nonetheless, they finished the harvest with pride!  The sweet potatoes are safely stored in the greenhouse and the curing process has begun! 
This is the part of the conversation where we need to bring the Zuniga, Cervantes and Rodriguez families into the conversation!  They started working on our farm in the mid-90’s and in 1998 we were able to bring them here on H2A visas (agricultural guest worker program).  While many of the country’s vegetable workers are “undocumented,” the H2A visa program is the only legal way for farm workers to work in the U.S. aside from permanent residency.  Starting in 1998 we set out to learn the complexities of the H2A visa program so our workers could come and go legally while working here.  This allowed them to cross the border and return legally if they needed to and it has proven very important to many crew members who have gone home for the birth of a child, to attend funerals, see loved ones who may be ill, attend their children’s graduations, etc.  Unfortunately it is a very difficult and agonizing process.  We started by paying $5,000 to an agency to do the paperwork, but quickly learned that we could do it better.  Kelly and I, with help from Omar, a lawyer who works in Mexico, have been successful in bringing our present work force back each year.  It is very expensive and complicated.  We have to provide free housing, transportation to and from Mexico as well as to and from work each day, and we cover all the visa fees.  Once we put all of the expenses associated with this program together, the reality is that these workers have a cost of about $16 per hour.  This makes it very hard to compete in the wholesale market as we are trying to be competitive with other growers who may be paying $8.00 per hour, use contract labor, hire illegally, etc.  It is a challenge, but our dedicated crew totally “gets it”.  They need to be fast and efficient so we can compete and have high quality food and please our CSA members and other customers.  They are invested in making our farm “work” so they can continue to have a long term job!
2016 Crew Picture
Our current crew is the best work force we have ever had.  It is easy to show them respect because they deserve and earn it and it’s a welcome change from other jobs they have had that require a “yes, sir” to their employer.  At HVF they enjoy the opportunity to improve our processes, improve efficiency so much that we can almost compete with the other lower cost labor options.  It is a constant challenge in the whole sale market place.  In our CSA, the same efficiencies have allowed us to continue to deliver $1200-$1500 value for less than $1000 for a weekly vegetable share. 
Most of you as CSA members are in the workforce or have been in the work force.  You work hard to provide for your families.  For your health, we hope you value and purchase organic food, household and body care products.  As you make your purchases, we encourage you to not forget the people that produce these products for you! 
We are one out of only a few farms/companies who seek to change the world and strive to care for a healthy environment with healthy people as well as a healthy “respect” for those who work very hard to make sure we all have wholesome food to eat.  Will you continue to support them and others like them with your purchases or will you choose to support a system that is built on a cheap price and keeps the story of the food and its origin a mystery?
Right now there is a bill called the “Ag Jobs” bill in the House of Representatives.  This program is being proposed as a replacement for the H2A visa program and would instead be called H2C.  As currently proposed it would be a boon to employers, but not for workers.  The cost of the labor would be less for us as employers, but our employees would not benefit from the program.  We’ll keep you posted as that bill progresses. 
Our country has a long history of “cheap” food which comes only by exploiting someone along the supply chain with “cheap” compensation. There has been a shortage of “cheap” labor because of increased border security and raids on farms and businesses to expose illegal employees.  So something like 30% of fruit and vegetable production has moved south of the border, including organic production! As we consider what we want the future of our food system to be, we can’t overlook the topic of labor.  We must consider the “real” cost of producing fruits and vegetables and compensate fairly.  Will enough consumers be willing to pay the real price of food?  This is just one of many issues that goes into each and every purchasing decision you make, and your choices do make a difference!
Manuel, Rafael, Jose Alejandro, and Alvaro Morales Peralta
As we continue to explore this topic as well as others that impact the future of our food supply, there are a few resources we’d like to recommend.  Food First just published a book entitled A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism:  Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat, written by Eric Holt-Giménez.  We hope to receive our copy soon and will likely report more about the ideas in this book in the future.  Another book by Food First that you might be interested in reading is entitled Land Justice:  Re-imagining Land, Food, and the Commons in the United States.  This book is an anthology edited by Justine M. Williams and Eric Holt-Giménez.  Lastly, we recently watched a newly released documentary entitled, The Road to Ruin or the Path to Prosperity.  This movie was produced by Dr. Pedram Shojai and is currently available for free online screening.  You can find out more about this film and how to view it at Well.org.  The film takes a close look at how our individual choices as consumers can have a big impact on our world and our future.  It takes a look at some of the positive things companies and individuals are doing to point our future in a more positive direction and empowers each individual to look at their own choices and lifestyles to impact the world positively.  While this film does include a look at food systems, it goes beyond just food. 

October 12, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Broccoli Raab & Spaghetti Squash

11 Oct 2017 23:29

Cooking With This Week's Box

Welcome back for another week of Cooking With the Box.  After this week we only have 6 more CSA boxes!  How are we going to fit all the vegetables we still want to send you in just 6 boxes!  I’m excited to be transitioning to fall cooking and seeing the sweet potatoes piled in the greenhouse after this week’s harvest makes me even more ready!  Pull out your favorite sweet potato recipes…they’ll be in your box within the next few weeks! 
Lets start off with Broccoli Raab,  one of the bunching greens in this week’s box.  If you aren’t familiar with this green, take a minute to read more about it on our blog and/or in the newsletter.  It goes very well with garlic and pasta, which is why I recommend using it to make the pasta recipe in this week’s newsletter, Garlicky Pasta with Broccoli Raab (see below).  I adapted this recipe to include a few more vegetables, shredded carrots and sweet peppers, which add some color and sweetness to the dish.  Of course there’s lots of garlic as well!  Don’t forget to serve this dish with shredded Parmesan cheese.
Our second featured vegetable this week is Spaghetti Squash.  This week I’m going to try Sarah Britton’s recipe for Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Crispy Sage (See below).  This is an interesting way to use spaghetti squash, but will yield a little crispy patty that can be a main entrée or a side dish.  Spaghetti squash is much different than the other squash in your box this week, kabocha squash.  I found a delicious recipe for Miso Glazed Kabocha Squash on the Johnny’s Seed website when I was looking up seed information last week!  I didn’t expect to find a recipe on a seed company website, but it’s a tasty looking recipe and they even made a video to demonstrate how to prepare this dish!
Pizza with Arugula Pesto, Butternut Squash and Apples
The second bunching green in this week’s box is bunched arugula.  I have to admit, up until a year ago I seldom if ever ate full sized arugula as I found the flavor to be too strong.  Last year I tried using it to make Arugula Pesto and it was fabulous!  The pungency of the arugula pairs well with cheese, meat, fruit, etc.  The bite of the arugula stands up to the fat and acidity and the combination of the three is delicious.  Don’t worry, the arugula mellows out a bit in the pesto.  I like to use arugula pesto as a spread on a sandwich or a cracker along with cream cheese and/or smoked salmon or prosciutto.  You can also toss it with cooked pasta for a quick dinner, mix it into scrambled eggs, or even use it as the base for a pizza.  In the same newsletter where you’ll find the recipe for the arugula pesto there is a recipe for a Pizza with Arugula Pesto, Butternut Squash and Apples.  You could substitute the kabocha squash for butternut squash if this pizza sounds good to you this week.
I was poking around the Smitten Kitchen blog this week and found several delicious recipes including this one for Carrot Tahini Muffins.  I like carrot cake and I like tahini, I just never would’ve put the two together!  We’ll probably enjoy some of these with breakfast and save a few for afternoon snacks.  This recipe will use about half of the bag of carrots, so you’ll still have enough to include in the pasta recipe cited above.  I don’t bake very often, but for some reason I’m in the mood to do so this week!  While you have the flour and mixing bowls out, you might as well make a batch of Jalapeño Cheddar Scones. This is another recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog.  These would go great with breakfast or brunch alongside fluffy scrambled eggs, or serve them with a bowl of hot, cream of potato soup!
Since we mentioned potato soup, we might as well tackle the potatoes in this week’s box next!  My mom used to make this Hearty Potato Soup recipe that she clipped out of one of her Taste of Home magazines years ago.  It’s chunky and nourishing making it perfect to serve for dinner on a cool fall night.  If you have any potatoes left, cut them into chunks and roast them along with mini sweet peppers and onions.  This is one of my favorite roasted potato variations that I often make for breakfast or brunch or for dinner along with roasted chicken, a grilled steak, or even a simple hamburger!  If you have any mini sweet peppers remaining, don’t forget to take them with you to work for lunch or an afternoon snack.  Fill them with hummus or cream cheese if you want to kick it up a notch. 
We’re happy to have some very nice fall spinach to send your way this week.  The baby beets in this week’s box will be a great accompaniment to the spinach in this Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese & Beets.  Garnish the salad with toasted walnuts for a little crunch and if you want to get really fancy you could candy the nuts! 
We’ve had a pretty nice run on late summer/early fall broccoli and cauliflower.  I hope you’ve had a chance to try some new recipes using these two familiar vegetables.  If you have broccoli in your box this week, consider trying this recipe for Spicy Roasted Broccoli with Almonds. This is a recipe by Sarah Britton that dresses roasted broccoli with a dressing made with garlic, ginger, olive oil and a hot chili of your choosing….jalapeño would work.  If you have cauliflower in your box, you might want to go with this recipe for Cauliflower Slaw.   It has dried currants and crispy fried capers in it and is dressed with a light vinaigrette made with lemon juice and vinegar.  This recipe is also garnished with toasted almonds. 

We’ve reached the bottom of the box yet again.  I wanted to mention that I love when members share recipes with us.  If you have any favorite “go-to” recipes for fall vegetables and wouldn’t mind sharing them with us, we’d love to see what you’re cooking!  Either email them to csa@harmonyvalleyfarm.comor post them in our Facebook group.  I’ll see you back here next week with an update on how the “curing” process is going with the sweet potatoes.  Farmer Richard is hopeful they’ll be ready for next week’s boxes, but we don’t want to rush the process either.  We want them to be sweet and delicious for your first taste!  Have a great week and I hope you enjoy your time in the kitchen.
—Chef Andrea 

Featured Vegetables of the Week:  Broccoli Raab & Spaghetti Squash

Broccoli Raab
Broccoli Raab was one of the vegetables members requested on the survey we conducted at the end of last year.  You asked for it and here it is!  There are two bunching greens in this week’s box, the broccoli raab and bunched arugula. They look a bit similar, but you can tell the difference between the two by first noticing the color.  Broccoli raab is darker green and the arugula has a lighter, lime green color.  Broccoli raab also has thicker stems that resemble broccoli stems and if you look in the center of the stem you’ll likely see some small broccoli florets pushing up.  Broccoli raab is in the brassica family and has a mild mustard flavor with a slight bitterness.  We like to grow broccoli raab in the fall when the flavor is more mild and well-balanced.  You can eat nearly the entire bunch including the stems.  Sometimes the lower portion of a thick stem can get a little tough so you may need to discard the bottom inch or so if you find this to be the case. 
Broccoli raab is a popular Italian vegetable, but is also found in Asian cuisine as well.  It is often used in pasta and pizza dishes paired with sweet Italian sausage, garlic and cheese.  Nothing wrong with a combination of those ingredients!  While you can eat broccoli raab raw, it is most often cooked.  It’s tender enough that it doesn’t require a very long cooking time.  It can be boiled, steamed or sautéed.  In Italian cooking, you may find recipes that have longer cooking times to ensure the leaves and stem are very soft and tender.  Many times this preparation is done with a lot of garlic and olive oil.  I prefer the bright, light flavor of broccoli raab so usually just cook it long enough to wilt it and soften the leaves. 
If you taste a bit of the leaf in its raw form and don’t care for the bitterness, try cooking it before you rule it out.  When cooked, the flavor of broccoli raab mellows out.  It also becomes more balanced if prepared with a splash of vinegar at the end. 
Spaghetti Squash
The second vegetable we’re featuring from this week’s box is Spaghetti Squash.  Last week we featured kabocha squash and, while they are both classified as winter squash, they are very different.  Spaghetti squash will store for awhile, but it’s not known for long term storage into the deep of winter which is why we often deliver this one in October and/or early November.  The variety of spaghetti squash we grow is a smaller variety than some others you may see at the market.  We like the smaller, golden yellow varieties called Angel Hair and Small Wonder because of their more manageable size and because the flesh is more flavorful.  The seeds in a spaghetti squash are tender enough to eat.  If you’ve never cleaned and toasted squash seeds before, give them a try.  It’s not hard to clean and prepare them and the crispy, crunchy seeds make a nice snack or garnish for salads and soups.  Visit The Kitchn website where they have a nice article with pictures entitled How to Roast Pumpkin & Squash Seeds.” 
Squash and Leek Skillet Gratin
To prepare spaghetti squash, first cut it in half and bake it in the oven.  I usually bake it cut side down in a baking dish with a little bit of water in the bottom or the pan.  You can also bake it cut side up with the cut side brushed with some oil to give more of a roasted flavor.  Before you bake it, take a spoon and scrape out the seed cavity so you can save the seeds for roasting.  Bake the squash until it is fork tender, then remove it from the oven.  Once it’s cool enough to handle, use a fork to pull the flesh out of the shell.  The flesh of the spaghetti squash is just as its name indicates, stringy like spaghetti!  Once cooked, you can use the flesh in a variety of ways.  It makes a nice substitute for pasta and sometimes I like it simply sautéed with butter, garlic and fresh herbs.  There are some recipes, many in the paleo diet community, that use spaghetti squash as the “crust”-like base for dishes that are like a savory baked pie.  One of my favorite ways to prepare spaghetti squash is this recipe I created for Spaghetti Squash and Leek Skillet Gratinfeatured in one of our September 2016 newsletters.  If you don’t have leeks, you can also substitute shallots or yellow onions.  This recipe has become a favorite with some of our market crew and customers.
As with all squash, they are best stored in a dry environment at 45-55°F at 50-60% humidity, so keep them in a cool location in your house.  If you don’t have a location that meets this temperature criteria, just store them at room temperature on your counter and check them periodically.  If you notice a spot starting to form, it’s time to cook the squash!

Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Raab

Yield:  4 servings
12 oz pasta (shape of your choosing, spaghetti and fettucine work well)
½ cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (Optional, see note below)
2 cups (8 oz) shredded carrots
1 ½ cups thinly sliced sweet peppers
1 bu broccoli raab, chopped into bite sized pieces
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving.
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package instructions.  Before you drain the pasta, save 2 cups of the pasta water.  Drain the pasta and set it aside. 
  2. Put the olive oil in a small saute pan and add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Heat the oil over medium low heat.  You want to infuse the oil and cook the garlic gently just until the garlic becomes light golden.  It’s better to keep the heat low and do this slowly while you prepare the rest of the recipe so the garlic doesn’t get too brown.  If you notice the garlic starting to turn golden, remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Heat a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  Take 2 Tbsp of oil from the small pan and add it to the large pan.  When the pan and oil are hot, add the pieces of chicken and cook until browned on both sides. 
  4. Once the chicken is browned, add the shredded carrots, sweet peppers and 1 cup of the pasta water to the pan.  Simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half the volume.  Next, add the broccoli raab and allow the greens to wilt down.  Stir the vegetable mixture to combine them well and continue to simmer until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.  If the vegetables are not yet cooked to your liking, add more pasta water and simmer a little longer.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir to combine. Carefully pour the garlic oil over the pasta and toss to combine and evenly coat the pasta and vegetables.  Season with freshly ground black pepper and more salt as needed.
  6. Serve the pasta hot with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
This recipe was inspired by a similar recipe originally featured in Gourmet magazine, September 2006.
Note from Chef Andrea:  I wrote this recipe to include chicken, but this would also be delicious if made with Italian sausage, ground pork or shrimp in place of the chicken.  If you do not care for meat or seafood, just omit all protein options and prepare the dish vegetarian style.  The flavors of the vegetable are bold and delicious on their own.

Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Crispy Sage

Yield:  15-20 small patties
1 medium to large spaghetti squash (approximately 2 pounds) 
1 cup rolled oats, ground into flour (or use oat flour) 
4 cloves garlic 
1 green onion, with green tops (may substitute finely chopped yellow onion) 
1 tsp sea salt 
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper 
2 ½ oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (substitute ¼ cup nutritional yeast) 
1 organic egg, beaten 
1 bunch sage, about 30 large leaves, divided
Ghee or coconut oil, for cooking the patties
  1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Rub with a little ghee or coconut oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the oven, cut side up and cook for 45 minutes or so, until you can easily pierce the squash with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Using a fork, scrape out all flesh and place in a large sieve over the sink or a bowl to drain.
  2. In a food processor, grind oats until you have a rough flour. Add 12 sage leaves, garlic, salt, pepper and pulse to combine.
  3. Squeeze any remaining liquid out of the spaghetti squash. Place in a large bowl and add the oat mixture. Thinly slice the green onion into rings and add to bowl, along with the egg, and grated cheese. Fold to combine. A kind of dough should start to form as the ingredients come together. Take a small amount, roll into a ball and flatten into a patty shape – if the patty stays together they are ready. If they are too dry, add a little water, one tablespoon at a time until they hold. If they are too wet, add another handful of oats. Form all the cakes before you begin.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a knob (pat) of coconut oil or ghee. When hot, add the cakes and cook until golden on one side, then flip. Alternatively, you can cook these in a 375°F oven for approximately 10-15 minutes on each side.
  5. To fry sage, heat a couple knobs of coconut oil or ghee (ghee is preferable) in a small saucepan. When hot, add 6-8 sage leaves at a time, fry for 10-15 seconds, transfer with a fork to paper towels, and sprinkle with sea salt immediately.
  6. To serve, place a few squash cakes on the plate and garnish with fried sage leaves. Enjoy with roasted tomatoes and a simple massaged kale salad. Freeze leftover cooked cakes and heat to enjoy.
This recipe was borrowed from MyNewRoots.org by Sarah Britton.

Cover Crops 101….Keep it Covered!

4 Oct 2017 21:45

By Farmer Richard
In our newsletter article two weeks ago entitled “Soil….Our Hope for a Climate Solution,” we briefly discussed the importance of using cover crops as a means of “regenerative farming” to not only build soil, but also as a means of capturing atmospheric carbon through plants and storing it in the soil.  This week we want to share more about what it means to plant cover crops on our farm and why we consider them to be an important part of our production system.  We’ve been using cover crops for over 40 years, mainly as a means of enhancing soil quality.  Only recently have we learned that cover crops are an important tool we can use to help mitigate climate change, both by reducing excessive atmospheric carbon as well as their role in making our soils more resilient to erratic weather conditions.  We know that soils with high organic matter hold water better in drought conditions and are able to drain better in times of excess moisture.  There are many benefits to including cover crops in farming systems and, from a farmer’s perspective, I can’t understand why every farmer wouldn’t want to plant them!
Cover Crop starting to grow just before winter settles in.
Leave no ground exposed for the winter!
Cover crops are crops we plant in our fields before and after our vegetable cash crops.  While we plant vegetable crops with the intention of harvesting them for sale, we seldom ever sell a cover crop.  There are other reasons why we plant cover crops.  Our farming system developed from the work of Rudolf Steiner, JI Rodale, and William Albrecht, early advocates of using cover crops in organic systems as a means of keeping the ground covered at all times. In theory, this is a basic principle of nature that allows us to use plants to capture solar energy from the sun to enrich the soil and prevent erosion.  We don’t like to have bare ground over the winter as it is very vulnerable to winter winds, etc and we don’t want to lose our precious topsoil!  Cover crops, in certain locations, also help to filter and purify water to keep our waterways clean, and enhance and encourage biodiversity of soil microorganisms that help us increase the organic matter in our soil as well as hold nutrients in place so they are available for the next vegetable crop that will go in that field.  While this all makes sense in theory, in practice it all comes down to management! 
Many of our long term crew members understand our goals with regards to planting cover crops, but in the heat of the busy late summer and fall harvest season when we need all available hands on deck to harvest, it’s easy to put planting cover crops on the back-burner
to plant another day when harvest is done.  However, our crew members understand planting cover crops is a priority and work diligently to make sure they get planted as soon as possible.  As soon as we finish harvesting a crop and are done with it for the season, we prepare the ground and plant the cover crop even if it’s just two beds out of the entire field!  Time is of the essence in the fall and our goal is to give the cover crop as many growing days as possible to get established before the temperatures drop and winter sets in.  Cover crops may also be planted into a standing vegetable crop at the time of last cultivation.  This allows us to have a soil-improving cover crop already growing in the shade of a cash crop, ready to take over as soon as the cash crop is done and any remaining portion of the plants are chopped!  We use this method in crops such as asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb.  In these scenarios, the cover crop not only enhances the soil by increasing organic matter, but the cover crop also helps to compete with weeds and forms a mulch of sorts when the cover crop plant “winter kills.” 
Japanese millet planted in between rows of strawberries.

We have two main cover crop mixes we plant.  One mix includes plants that will “winter kill.”  Even though we may get some frosty nights and cold temperatures late in the fall, the plants in this mix continue to grow, albeit slowly.  Once the ground freezes solid their growth stops.  This mix includes Japanese millet, oats, field peas, crimson clover and a few other clover varieties. The benefit to planting a cover crop that winter kills is that the plants will not grow again in the spring and we can prepare that ground early in the spring to plant vegetable crops since the cover crop residue will work into the soil very easy without a lot of green crop plant matter to get in the way. 
An Austrian Winter Peas cover crop, notice the
the white nitrogen nodules already forming on the roots this fall.
Our second mix consists of plants that can go dormant during the winter, and then resume growing again in the spring.  We plant this mix in fields that we won’t need to plant very early in the spring.  This allows us to leave the cover crop in the spring so it can grow and we can maximize its benefits.  We usually cut or chop the cover crop just before it goes to seed.  This mix consists of cereal rye, rye grass, mammoth red clover and hairy vetch.  In addition to serving as a sponge to take up available nutrients and hold them in place for next year’s crop, the rye also makes a good mulch that we cut and bale.  We take the bales off of one field and put them on another field to mulch in between beds of vegetable crops such as strawberries, tomatoes and garlic.  The clovers and vetch are able to take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil, which means we don’t have to apply fertilizer!  If we have excess rye grass beyond our needs for mulch, we may choose to bale some to use as feed for our cattle and goats through the winter or sometimes we just chop the crop back onto the field and work it into the soil.  This is referred to as a “green manure” crop.
Even our cold frame greenhouse gets a cover crop!
We have embraced this practice and are always looking for ways to improve the system.  Over the past few years we’ve increased the diversity of plants in our cover crop mixes.  While it is more complicated to make these mixes, we appreciate the plant diversity and the different beneficial attributes each plant brings to the mix.  We will continue to invest both time and resources into planting cover crops as the benefits of doing so far outweigh any management challenges we may juggle.  Maintaining and improving the health and resilience of our soils is crucial to our ability to continue to produce vegetables with maximum nutrient quality.  We also want to do our part to maintain clean waterways, prevent soil erosion and maximize CO2 capture through our practices to do our part to mitigate climate change. 
As we continue our conversation about the future of our food system and what we want it to be, we feel it is important for you, the eater, to understand the growing system and practices we employ.  Not all food is created equal and it’s up to you to make an informed decision as to what type of farming practices you want your food purchases to support.  There are some conventional, chemical farmers who are trying to improve their soil quality with cover crops and are taking advantage of the assistance and incentives offered by the NRCS (Natural Resources and Conservation Services).  While this is good, it’s hard to make much positive headway when the cash crops being planted require chemical inputs that damage and degrade soil as well as cause other problems to the ecosystem and environment around them. 
We hope you too can appreciate the benefits of cover crops in an organic farming system and will choose to support local producers who prioritize integrating cover crops into their agricultural systems.  We’ll do our part, but we need the support of consumers to turn the tide and shape our food system into the future.  

October 5, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Kabocha Squash

4 Oct 2017 21:45

Cooking With This Week's Box

This week’s box has a burst of color with the gorgeous orange kabocha squash!  There are a lot of things you can do with this squash, but this week I’m going to use it to make a simple, seasonal One-Pot Kabocha Squash and Chickpea Curry (See Below).  This is very easy to make and uses the sweet peppers and tomatoes in this week’s box as well as some of the swiss chard.  Either mini sweet peppers or orange Italian frying peppers will work in this recipe.  This is actually better the second day, so it’s a great dish to make on the weekend and serve for dinner on a night during the week when you know you won’t have a lot of time to cook.  
Tomato and tomatillo season will be quickly coming to an end.  We’re glad to be able to send tomatillos one more time before they’re really finished!  Now that the nights are getting more cool, I’m more in the mood for warm, comforting stews.  One of my favorite recipes is for this Pork & Tomatillo Stew.  The tomatillos help thicken the stew and the carrots, potatoes and pork make it warm and satisfying.  Serve it with corn muffins, corn tortillas or chips on the side. 
Every once in awhile I get hungry for comforting dishes from my childhood.  Growing up in central Indiana, we had many ways to use mayonnaise and nearly every church potluck had several versions of a creamy broccoli and cauliflower salad.  So this week I’m reviving that salad with this Sweet Broccoli & Cauliflower Salad.  My family always encourages me to make it with the bacon, but you could easily leave it out or substitute toasted sunflower seeds instead.  While this recipe calls for both broccoli and cauliflower, you can also make it with just one or the other if you don’t have both in your refrigerator.  This salad goes well with a simple deli meat salad or my mom often served it with barbecued chicken or ribs.
I have to admit I’ve had my fill of fresh salsa, but tacos is a pretty easy go-to dinner during busy times.  To keep it interesting, I often serve tacos with different toppings.  This week I’m going to make some Mexican-Styled Pickled Carrots.  These make a spicy, tangy topping for tacos using this week’s carrots, red onions and jalapenos.  The recipe is for 4 pints, so I’ll probably scale it back to make just 1 pint.  If you want to make more, go for it. They’ll store for several weeks in the refrigerator.
I really enjoy jicama best in its raw form as a salad or slaw.  With the remainder of the sweet peppers in this week’s box, I’m going to make this Jicama & Sweet Pepper Slaw we featured in our newsletter back in 2013.  This slaw goes very well with grilled fish or chicken.
Back in 2011 Chef Bonnie spent the summer with us and developed this recipe for Fresh Turnip Salad with Curry Vinaigrette.  It’s been awhile since I’ve made this, but I have been on a curry kick lately and remembered her salad.  It’s bright and refreshing and utilizes both the turnip tops as well as some salad mix for the base of the salad.  If you want to turn it into a main entrée salad, just add some grilled chicken, fish or even baked tofu or tempeh. 
Lastly, you’ll probably have about half of your bunch of chard remaining if you use it to make the Kabocha Squash and Chickpea Curry recipe I mentioned in the beginning.  If you make some extra rice to serve with the curry dish, you can use the leftovers to make these Chard Leaves Stuffed with Rice and Herbs.  They’ll make a nice option to take for lunches or serve them with a salad for a light dinner.

Ok folks, that’s a wrap.  Get ready for more warm, comforting soups and stews in the weeks to come. Here’s a little tidbit of information to give you something to look forward to.  Word on the street around here is that we’ll be harvesting sweet potatoes next week!  We’ll need some time to “cure” them before they’re ready to eat, but they should be in your boxes within a few weeks!  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Orange Kabocha Squash 

This week we’re featuring the first of several different varieties of winter squash we grew for you this year.  This week’s selection, orange kabocha squash, is shaped like a plump round disc and has a stunning bright orange skin with deep orange flesh inside.  This is one of our favorite squash varieties because of its excellent eating quality, and in most years, its ability to store for several months.  While we typically don’t deliver this squash until November at the earliest, we’re including it in your boxes earlier because we suspect it may not store as well this year.  We’ve already noticed some spots forming on some of the squash and have been removing them from our storage bins at a greater rate than we normally see at this point in the season.  The storage-ability of a squash is directly related to the growing conditions in the field.  We suspect the rainy wet period we had at the end of July and first of August may have, in some way, impacted the shelf life of this squash this year.  The ones we’ve cooked and eaten have had excellent flavor and sweetness, so we can’t stand to compost them and would rather pass them on to you sooner than later! 
You’ll find kabocha squash to be a very dense squash that will require a little bit of effort to cut into.  Unlike some other winter squash, kabocha squash has a very thin skin that can be either peeled away or just eaten.  The skin is most tender shortly after harvest and toughens up the longer it is in storage, thus may not be as desirable to eat. When cooked, the flesh of kabocha squash is very rich, silky-smooth, sweet and flavorful.  There are several ways you can cook this squash. My go-to easy, low maintenance method is to just cut the squash in half, remove the seed cavity and put the squash halves, cut side down, in a baking dish.  Add a little bit of water to the pan and bake the squash at 350°F until the squash is soft and tender when pierced with a fork.  Remove the squash from the oven and turn the halves over so they can cool.  Once cool enough to handle, scoop the cooked flesh out of the shell and either mash or puree the flesh.  Once the flesh is cooked, you can use it to make a simple squash puree seasoned with spices of your choosing and a pat of butter.  Orange kabocha puree can also be used in baked goods and desserts.  While most recipes won’t call for this squash variety specifically, you can use this squash as a substitute in any recipe that calls for pumpkin or butternut squash.  This rich, sweet flesh makes a delicious pie filling and yields rich, moist, flavorful quickbreads or muffins. 
Aside from baking, kabocha squash may also be roasted or simply steamed.  In Japanese cuisine, kabocha squash are also referred to as Japanese pumpkins.  Known for their simple, clean preparations, you’ll find Japanese recipes for kabocha squash to be equally as simple with just a few ingredients.  Slices or chunks of kabocha squash are often steamed or simmered in a simple dashi broth with kombu seaweed and sometimes miso, soy sauce and sometimes sake.  You can also roast kabocha squash as you would prepare any other root vegetable or potato for roasting.
I’ll take a minute to mention squash seeds.  While we usually encourage you to save the seeds from your winter squash and roast them to make a crunchy snack, I have to admit I don’t care for the seeds from a kabocha squash.  They have a thicker hull and are more tough and less enjoyable to eat.  Save your efforts for some of the other squash that will come later such as the sugar dumpling, festival and butternut squash.
Winter squash is an important part of our fall and winter diets from both nutritional and culinary perspectives.  They are rich in carotenoids, the nutrient compound that gives their flesh its orange color.  They are also good sources of Vitamins A & C as well as potassium, manganese, folate and a variety of B vitamins.  This squash pairs well with other fall fruits and vegetables including apples, pears, herbs, and onions. 
For longer storage, winter squash is best stored in a cool, dry location at about 45-55°F.  However you can also keep them on your kitchen counter and enjoy their beauty if you are going to eat them within a few days or weeks.  I would encourage you to eat this week’s selection sooner than later.  Watch them and if you notice any spots starting to form on the exterior, cut that area out of the squash and cook the remainder immediately.  If you aren’t ready to eat squash yet, consider baking your squash and pureeing the flesh.  You can put the pureed squash in a freezer bag or container and pop it in the freezer.  I love having some cooked squash in the freezer to use during the winter to make soup, baked goods, or just to warm up with a pat of butter and serve as a vegetable side dish.

If you enjoy this squash variety and would like to have more, we will be offering this variety as a produce plus option for the next two weeks.  Check this week’s “What’s In the Box” email for details and get your order in for delivery within the next two weeks! 

One-Pot Kabocha Squash & Chickpea Curry

Yield 4-6 servings
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
½-1 jalapeño, finely chopped (quantity to your liking)
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
3 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, diced
2 cups diced sweet peppers
3 cups peeled, diced kabocha squash
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cans (13.5 fl oz each) coconut milk
2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
½ cup water
3 cups thinly sliced Swiss chard or spinach
Salt & Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)
1 oz fresh basil, thinly sliced (optional)
Cooked brown rice, to serve

  1. Heat a Dutch oven or other deep saucepan over medium heat.  Add 2 tbsp of the oil to the pan.  When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic, ginger and jalapeño.  Saute over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add one more tablespoon of oil along with the turmeric and cumin.  Stir to combine and saute for another minute.  Add the diced tomatoes, peppers, squash, chickpeas, coconut milk, tamari and water to the pan.  Stir well to combine and then bring the mixture to a boil.
  2.  Once the mixture has been brought to a boil, reduce the heat just slightly so as to maintain a rapid simmer.  Cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Remove the cover and simmer an additional 15-20 minutes or until the squash is tender and the liquid portion of the curry has reduced a little bit. 
  3. Stir in the chard or spinach leaves and simmer an additional 5-8 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
  4. Taste the curry and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Serve over rice and garnish with fresh basil and/or cilantro.
(Note:  This curry is even better the second day, making this a great recipe to use for batch cooking at the beginning of the week for meals throughout the week!)
This recipe was adapted from a similar recipe for One-Pot Eggplant, Pumpkin and Chickpea Curry featured at www.heavenlynnhealthy.com.

Roasted Winter Squash with Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary

Yield:  6 Servings
2 pounds kabocha or butternut winter squash
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 plump clove garlic, finely chopped
1 heaping tsp chopped fresh sage
1 heaping tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds.  Scoop out the seed cavity and slice the squash into crescent moon slices.  Peel the squash and cut into 1-inch chunks;  you should have about 4 cups. 
  3. Toss the squash in enough olive oil to moisten it, then season with ½ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Loosely arrange the squash in a single layer in a large baking dish or on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. 
  4. Roast the squash until the pieces are tender and browned here and there, about 35 minutes.  Every 10 minutes or so, give them a turn so that they color evenly.
  5. When the squash is tender and golden, warm 4 tsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic, sage, and rosemary and cook just long enough to remove the raw taste of the garlic, a minute should do.  Turn off the heat, and add the parsley.  Next, toss this mixture with the cooked squash.  Transfer to a serving dish, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Recipe adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy.

What a Party! A Recap of Our 2017 Harvest Party

27 Sep 2017 21:15

By Farmer Richard
Members enjoying a light snack before the wagon tour!
One of our younger members
stretching to step over the drain!
Last Sunday we hosted our annual Fall Harvest Party and had a great day!  Preparation for this party starts days before with planning, sending out invitations, ordering food, supplies, etc.  Then, the Saturday before the party comes and we kick it into high gear to get everything ready.  Our crew still had harvest to do as we finished putting together our orders for the week, but we all worked together to get the jobs done and then spent the last few hours of Saturday washing the work tractors, loading wood crates onto harvest wagons for the tour and making sure we were “parade ready.”  The packing shed crew spiffed up their area, moved equipment out and moved picnic tables in as we prepared for the potluck.  Andrea spent all day preparing snacks and food including some delicious caramelized onion & roasted poblano dip, black bean salad with tomato vinaigrette, fig & apple chutney and purple tomatillo salsa!  Angel, Oscar and Ascencion spent much of the day preparing the underground brick oven and the pork so it could slow-roast overnight.  By the end of the day we were all tired, but excited for the next day and its activities.
We had some members who came on Saturday afternoon so they could camp out on Saturday night.  They set up their tents in our camping area by the river, built a nice fire for cooking and beat the heat with frequent dips in the river to keep cool.  Chris & Lisa (members from Madison) brought a super powerful telescope.  After the sun went down, we had clear skies which made for spectacular star gazing.  We could see Saturn with its rings, Jupiter and its moons and the Andromeda galaxy.  What a cool treat!  All of the campers seemed to enjoy their night with a few hooting owls and other night sounds. 
We enjoyed music performed by Dave & Ryan!
Sunday dawned, clear and warm for last minute set-up and preparations.  Michelle arrived and took over kitchen duties so Andrea was free to mix & mingle.  Scott, Gregorio and Manuel pitched in too to help grill tortillas, finish preparing the pork and make sure everything was ready for the potluck.  Our guests started arriving at noon and enjoyed snacks and the gentle music of the Sonic Love Child.  Dave, one of the band members, is a CSA member from Minneapolis.  Unfortunately the other members of his group weren’t able to come this year, but Dave recruited another musician friend (Ryan) who actually lives in Viroqua and the two of them played for us.  The kids enjoyed giving Captain Jack (the dog) pets on the head and tossed sticks for him.  Kids of all ages tried to guess the number of baby potatoes in the gallon jar.  The winner was Clara, a young CSA member who walked away with the big jar of potatoes to enjoy!
Farmer Richard showing members how to dig sweet potatoes!
Look at this sweet potato!
One of the larger sweet potato finds this year!
Finally, it was time for the field tour!  We had 3 full wagons with a headcount of about 100 people!  We set out for our first stop at the tomato/eggplant/pepper field by the river.  We parked in the shade and spread out to find our favorites.  Some went to tomatoes, others meandered down the rows of eggplant and many enjoyed snacking on bright, sweet, warm peppers!  It’s great to see kids wrestling peppers off a plant and tentatively tasting.  Finding it sweet, they look for more.  You know the expression “kid in a candy store?!”  Yes, it’s a little like that.  After we’d had our fill, we hopped back on the wagons and headed to the sweet potato field!  We passed a very nice field of broccoli and celeriac and stopped to dig sweet potatoes.  This is a much different harvesting experience, having to remove the vines and dig to loosen the dirt with a shovel in order to pull the sweet potato bunch from the dry ground.  We have several different varieties we’re trialing this year, so we dug in several different places to check on the progress of the different kinds.  We found some very nice sweet potatoes, but it was agreed that many were on the small side and needed another week or two to grow to their full potential!

Our next stop was the pumpkin field!  We picked as many as we could including some 20# Jack-O-Lanterns and many smaller “winter luxury” pie pumpkins.  There were plenty of pumpkins for everyone and many still remained in the field as we drove away.  While we would’ve liked to stay and keep picking, we had to get back to the farm for the potluck! 
Some Members prefer the smaller pumpkins.
And some liked the bigger ones!
Chef Andrea with her wee little pie pumpkin.

The roasted pork turned out great and we enjoyed it carnitas style on corn tortillas with cabbage slaw and salsa.  Rufino made a super spicy sauce that took some by surprise!  We filled our plates, making sure we saved room for ice cream brought by Madison member, Sarah!  We had had such a great day, but wait!  We still had more activities to do!  Captain Jack took a place on the sideline, exhausted from chasing sticks and Frisbees.  While he rested, Rafael took a group to test dig the fall carrot field.  His group came back with big bunches of nice orange, yellow, red and purple carrots.  Meanwhile I took a group to check out a magnificent bald-faced hornet nest in the tree behind the office.  We also took a walk through one of our prairie spaces to collect wildflower seeds.  We wandered up to the woods and foraged for hickory nuts and stumbled upon a small patch of ghost plants!  This is a rare and strange plant that is “ghostly white”, having no chlorophyll.  We ended the walk by swinging past the Concord grape vines where we paused to pick a few to pop in our mouths.  One final visit to the goats and ducks and then it was officially time to bring the party to a close and head home!  While we were off on our adventures, our dedicated crew had already started cleaning up the wagons and was getting the packing shed put back together so we’d be ready to hit the ground running first thing on Monday morning.
After the tours, members could go with Rafael to
see and dig some carrots to take home.

Some HVF Crew took breaks under
the wagon to cool off!

Farmer Richard talking with members about Jicama!

Thanks to those that made the time to come and visit us.  We enjoyed your company and enthusiasm and hope you too enjoyed your farm experience.  If you weren’t able to join us this year, mark your calendars for next year and join us for a super-fun day at the farm!  We also want to pass on a big “Thank You” to all of our crew members who pitched in and helped us put on another great party.  Now that the party is over, it’s back to work for another busy week of packing CSA boxes, harvesting root crops, tomatoes, peppers and more!  Hope to see you next year!

September 28, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Jicama

27 Sep 2017 21:06

Cooking With This Week's Box 

Welcome back to another week of delicious cooking out of your CSA box.  This week’s box has a few special treats in it including this week’s featured vegetable which is jicama!  If you aren’t familiar with jicama, please take a few minutes to read this week’s vegetable feature.  While it can be eaten raw or cooked, I’m opting to eat it raw this week and have found two tasty and very simple salad recipes to share with you.  You may actually have enough jicama to give both a try!  The Jicama Apple Slaw (see below) recipe is made with tart Granny Smith apples and has a creamy dressing made with yogurt, lime juice and zest as well as a little heat from some jalapeno.  We included Granny Smith apples and limes in last week’s fruit box, so this might be a good recipe choice for members who also receive the fruit share.  The second recipe is for Thai Jicama & Red Onion Salad.  (See below) The author of this recipe recommends serving it with shrimp, but I think it would be delicious with any fish, seafood or even chicken. 
I came across two interesting recipes this week for broccoli and cauliflower.  The first recipe is Grilled Broccoli with Avocado and Sesame.  This is an interesting recipe that has several components to it that come together in the end.  Grilled broccoli is drizzled with a dressing made from avocado and tahini and then the salad is garnished with slices of red onion and a bit of pickled jalapeño.  This salad will make good use of not only the broccoli in this week’s box, but also will utilize the jalapeños and red onions.  Serve this salad as a main dish on its own or alongside grilled steak or chicken.  The other recipe I came across is for Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic & Thyme.  With this recipe you roast whole cloves of garlic with the cauliflower along with some onions.  When you serve this dish, diners can squeeze the sweet roasted garlic out of its skins and eat it with the cauliflower or you can spread the roasted garlic on bread and to eat alongside the cauliflower.  Any color of cauliflower will work for this recipe. 
What are you going to do with that crispy head of iceberg lettuce!?  Iceberg lettuce is light enough to be refreshing, but strong enough to hold up to creamy dressings such as blue cheese, ranch and thousand island.  I’m going to go with a traditional Cobb Salad this week and will use a recipe featured in Saveur as my guide.  This recipe calls for half of a head of iceberg mixed with some romaine and watercress.  I’m going to just go with all iceberg lettuce and in place of the spicy watercress I’m going to add the flavorful, tender greens from the baby white turnips.  I’ll use the grape tomatoes for this salad as well and may supplement with a few of the larger tomatoes. 
While the Cobb Salad makes a nice main entrée salad with head lettuce, I’m going to save the Salad Mix to use as a base for a simple side salad that could go with any meal throughout the week and is a good “go-to” option when you are tight on time.  I’ll use the orange Italian frying peppers to make my recipe for Creamy Roasted Sweet Pepper Dressing  featured in our newsletter back in 2014.  Once the dressing is made, all that’s left to do is just drizzle it on the salad mix and garnish with shredded carrot, tomatoes or any other vegetable of your choosing!  This dressing also makes a great dip for carrot or jicama sticks. 
Baby white turnips are one of those vegetables that we see in the spring and then it resurfaces for a few weeks in the fall.  Since I chose to use the greens for the Cobb Salad, I’m going to prepare the actual turnips using this very simply recipe for Glazed Baby Turnips with Carrots. Serve this as a side dish with a seared pork chop or a slice of ham. 
Finally, lets talk about this bag of sweet & delicious mini sweet peppers.  These little gems are delicious just eaten as is for a snack, but you can kick that snack up a notch by cutting off the tops and stuffing them with cheese!  I like to fill them with cream cheese or goat cheese, but you could also stick a piece of mozzarella inside and then pop them on the grill or put them under the broiler to melt the cheese and blister the pepper skin.  If you just have too much in your kitchen to eat this week, mini sweet peppers do freeze well and are just as tasty in the winter as they are right now.  I keep a bag in the freezer to use during the winter for pizzas, scrambled eggs, pasta dishes, etc.
Once again we find ourselves at the bottom of the box.  I’m not sure what next week’s box may hold, but if there is room we may start sending some winter squash your way.  So gather your squash recipes and get ready!  If you have any favorite squash recipes you’re willing to share, I’d love to try them!  Have a great week and enjoy!—Chef Andrea 

Featured Vegetable:  Jicama

Jicama is the odd-shaped vegetable with brown skin occupying one corner of this week’s CSA box.  It is also known as yam bean, Mexican yam or Mexican turnip and is native to Mexico.  The name of this vegetable is pronounced HICK-uh-mah or HEE-kuh-mah.  It is a tropical plant that resembles a bean plant with bean-like vines and seed pods.  The jicama grows underground and is a tuber that can produce multiple tubers off the one main stem. 
Once you peel away the outer skin, jicama has solid white flesh.
On the outside jicama is not the most attractive or flashy vegetable.  Peel away the brown, leathery skin and you’ll find a solid white flesh inside that is mild in flavor, crunchy with a slight sweetness and slightly starchy.  You can eat jicama both raw and cooked.  One of the most basic ways to eat jicama is to slice it into sticks and give it a squeeze of lime juice and a light sprinkling of chili powder and salt.  Jicama also pairs well with citrus fruit and is often used in raw salads and salsas prepared with limes and/or oranges.  It also pairs well with avocado, peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, seafood, onions, and garlic to name just a few complementary ingredients.  In Asian cuisine you may find jicama used in stir-fry type preparations.  When stir-fried, jicama should be added towards the end of cooking to retain the crisp texture.  If you let it get just slightly soft, it has almost a potato-like flavor and texture.

Jicama is very sensitive to chill injury, so it is best to store it on your kitchen counter until you are ready to use it.  Once you cut into it, store any cut jicama in the refrigerator and eat it within a few days. 
Jose Antonio holding a piece of Jicama!
We credit one of our crew members, Jose Antonio Cervantes Gutierrez (aka JAC), with introducing jicama to Wisconsin.  One day we were working in the greenhouse and he presented me with a handful of seeds in a small packet.  He asked if I thought we could grow it here?  Well, I had no idea how to grow jicama and had only eaten it several times.  We decided to give it a try and after several years of learning we are finally getting good results!  I asked him why he brought those seeds with him when he came to work here that year.  There is a large farm not far from where he lives that grows large amounts of jicama.  He would pass by their fields, see the jicama and was intrigued by it.  He said he brought them because he had tried planting them at home, but couldn’t ever watch them grow because he had to leave to come here to work!  So, he brought the seeds with him so we could plant them here and he could watch them develop!  JAC’s favorite way to eat jicama is to eat it raw with a squeeze of lime juice and salt or lime juice and a sprinkling of Tajin, a seasoning mix made from salt and a specific type of chile. 

We don’t grow jicama every year, but in our survey at the end of last year we asked you to vote for the top three vegetables you wanted to see us grow this year and jicama made the list!  You asked for it and here it is!  We’re grateful to JAC for introducing us to something new and we’re glad you, our members, have grown to appreciate it too!  

Jicama Apple Slaw

Yield:  4-5 servings
Picture from Food52.com
1 small jicama, peeled and fine julienned (3-4 cups)
1 Granny Smith apple, fine julienned
2 Tbsps cilantro, chopped
¼  green cabbage head, shredded (could substitute broccoli stems)
For the Dressing:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 limes, zest and juice
¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Mix julienned jicama, apples, cilantro, and cabbage together.
  2. Whisk all dressing ingredients together. Toss with jicama apple mixture.  Season as needed with salt and black pepper.  Serve immediately. This recipe is best eaten the day of. 

Recipe borrowed from Food52.com.

Thai Jicama & Red Onion Salad

Yield:  4-6 servings
Recipe picture from Cookingcanuk.com
1 small or ½ of a medium jicama, peeled 
½ small red onion, peeled
1 ½ Tbsp fish sauce
1 ½ Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp agave nectar (can substitute sugar)
1 red chili, minced or ½ tsp red chile flakes
¼ cup chopped cilantro
  1. Cut jicama into quarters, then thinly slice.  Thinly slice the red onion into half-moon pieces.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, rice vinegar and agave nectar or sugar until it dissolves.  Add chile or chile flakes and whisk again.
  3. Place the jicama and onion slices into a medium-sized bowl.  Toss with the rice vinegar dressing.
  4. Add the cilantro and toss again.  Serve.

Recipe borrowed from cookincanuck.com.

Fall is Here!

20 Sep 2017 21:12

We started harvesting sunchokes earlier this week
This Friday marks the official transition from summer to fall and on Sunday, September 24th, we’ll celebrate this year’s harvests with our annual Harvest Party shin-dig.  We’ve been talking about this seasonal transition now for several weeks as things have started to change in our fields.  This week however we are feeling it more than ever.  We’re harvesting purple top and sweet scarlet turnips, sunchokes, daikon radish, fall carrots and we will be packing Soup Mix before the week is finished!  The leaves are starting to change colors, hickory nuts are dropping to the ground, and we know it’s just a matter of time before we get our first chilly, frosty night.  We hope you are planning to attend the party this weekend so you can see our valley and fall crops for yourself!

Honeynut butternut squash curing in the greenhouse
A lot has been happening in our fields over the past few weeks, so we wanted to catch you up on our activities with a field report.  We said goodbye to watermelons, melons, zucchini and cucumbers over the past few weeks, but there were more crops entering the stage as these summer favorites dwindled.  We are nearly done with winter squash harvest.  We have harvested and cured most of our winter squash and will go back to harvest the last few loads remaining in the field before the end of the week.  We’re planning to start packing winter squash in your boxes possibly as early as next week.
Our first planting of tomatoes is nearly finished, but the second planting still looks pretty good and continues to produce.  We have been having pretty cool days and nights, so the tomatoes have been ripening slowly.  We’ll keep picking right up until the first frost.  We’ve also been hitting our pepper field pretty hard with harvests.  There isn’t a whole lot remaining at this point.  Our orange Ukraine plants are pretty much done.  They produced a lot for us, but there isn’t much remaining on them.  The Orange Italian Frying peppers are still producing and we’ll be able to pick for this week and next, but I’m not sure how much will remain beyond that.  We’re planning to deliver mini-sweet peppers in next week’s box, but these plants don’t have a lot of fruit remaining on them. 
Celeriac with green tops freshly washed!
This week’s featured vegetable, celeriac, comes to you with its green top still on.  This is another sign of the transition point in the season.  While we’re still harvesting them as green top, we’ve already started to mechanically harvest these roots for storage.  They’ll all need to be harvested within the next few weeks as they will not tolerate more than a touch of a frost.  This marks our transition in cooking as well.  Soon we’ll all be enjoying more root-focused soups, stews and braised dishes to warm us up on the cold days. 
 Scarlet & Purple Top Turnips harvested last Saturday
There are some vegetables that make their appearance in the spring and then return in the fall.  Fall is a special time in many ways for some of these crops as the cool fall days and nights help to intensify the colors of vegetables and the flavors of some things mellow out and are sweeter.  We’re harvesting a beautiful crop of fall fennel right now and just started harvesting our fall crop of baby white turnips.  Next week we’ll be resuming baby spinach and salad mix harvest.  The color on these crops is always very impressive this time of year.  The green colors of spinach are more intense and the red lettuces are stunningly gorgeous! 
At the farmers’ market we’ve already been getting inquiries of “When will Brussels sprouts be ready?” Well, they are making sprouts and looking pretty good, but this is one of the brassica crops that benefits from a few frosty nights before harvesting.  All brassicas undergo changes in flavor in cold weather.  Their flavor becomes more sweet and well-balanced.  So the best estimate I can give you for when we’ll harvest them is after it frosts.  We also have our eye on the sweet potatoes and will be harvesting those before too long.  We’ll have to do a sample dig at the party this weekend to check the progress in growth and gauge just how much longer it will be before we’re ready to pull the trigger and do the big harvest! 
Jicama, sweet potatoes, squash and more coming soon!

Newly planted escarole and radicchio plants
Next week we’ll be delivering jicama in the boxes.  It’s in the process of being cured right now to set the tender skins.  This year’s crop looks pretty good!  We’re still learning how to grow jicama but I think we’re making progress!  We did harvest some that don’t look so pretty.  If you come to the party on Saturday, we’ll share those with you.  They don’t look good but they are still good to eat!  We also have a crop of tat soi slated for a late season harvest and we’re trying a new growing method for some late season chicories.  This week Scott, Simon and Jose Antonio finished planting escarole and radicchio transplants in our cold frame greenhouse.  We did a pretty good job of growing head lettuce in the cold frame greenhouse this spring and delivered it in the May boxes.  We’ve never grown escarole and radicchio in a greenhouse, but thought we’d give it a try and hopefully they’ll be ready for some of the last boxes of the season in November and December.  They are more cold hardy greens that can take cold weather and frosty nights and their flavor actually improves in cold weather.  In the field they can sometimes get damaged when the nights get really cold, so we’re hoping the more protected environment of the greenhouse will allow us to get the benefit of the cold weather but gain the protection from deep frosts.  Wish us luck!
In addition to harvesting crops,  we’ve also managed to stay on top of planting cover crops.  As we finish harvesting a field, we move right into preparing it for  winter and includes establishing a cover crop.  Did you read last week’s newsletter regarding the importance of regenerative farming methods related to mitigating climate change?  Well, we’re trying to do our part by getting cover crops on bare ground so they can capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil.  How cool is that?!  We’ve also finished putting up stored hay for our animals to eat this winter and we’ve returned to some of our woods management projects.  The high winds we had in July along with the rains took the tops off of a lot of our trees in the woods. We’ve been scouting the woods identifying where the damaged and downed trees are.  We’ll focus on salvaging what we can this fall.

Despite the challenges of the July weather event, we’re gearing up for a bountiful fall harvest and we’re hoping Mother Nature will be cooperative!  There are still a lot of delicious vegetables remaining to experience this season as we continue our journey in our seasonal eating adventure.  I’m already starting to look forward to some favorite winter dishes such as Turnip-apple quiche, sweet potato casserole and rutabaga mash!  We hope to see you at the party this weekend and hope you enjoy the last few months of vegetables!

September 21, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Celeriac

20 Sep 2017 21:12

Cooking With This Week's Box

As we dive into this week’s box, we’ll start with our featured vegetable of the week which is green top celeriac!  This week’s newsletter features two different types of ways you can use your celeriac, one is raw and the other is cooked.  The Sesame Chicken Celeriac Salad (see below) is a main entrée salad that is very easy to make and will travel well for lunch the next day if you have leftovers.  If you’d prefer to make something warm, you might want to consider making the Celeriac, Potato and Apple Puree (see below).  This wasn’t my original plan for a recipe, however we had the opportunity to dine at Harvest Restaurant in Madison, WI last Sunday at their special 17th Anniversary Dinner. Chef Jon served a delicious celeriac and potato mash.  I had stumbled over this recipe over the weekend and once I sampled some of the apple from this week’s fruit box I decided the combination of celeriac, russet potatoes and apples was on the list for this week.  This puree will make a delicious accompaniment to any pork dish, grilled beef, duck or roasted chicken.
If you choose to make the Sesame Chicken Celeriac Salad, the recipe calls for chicken breasts.  If you are making the salad this week, you might as well use a whole chicken.  You can take the breasts off and cook them for the salad and then use the thighs and legs to make Jamie Oliver’s Tender and Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes & Basil. The recipe calls for 4 chicken quarters to serve 4 people.  If you’re using just one chicken you’ll have to cut the recipe in half and your yield will be for just 2-3 servings.  This recipe can be made with some of the tomatoes in this week’s box as well as garlic and basil from your herb garden.  Serve this with cannellini beans, mashed potatoes or pasta.
At the dinner last Sunday, we had another delicious course that included halved grape tomatoes served with an herbed buerre blanc sauce.  While I’m not going to get that fancy this week, I was inspired to take make this recipe for Marinated Cherry Tomato Salad.  Of course we’ll use the grape tomatoes, cut them in half and marinate them in vinegar, herbs and oil.  This can be served as a salad on its own or use it as a condiment to top off seared salmon, grilled steak or serve it on top of a bowl of lentils or cannellini beans. 
Well, sweet corn season is coming to a close but we still have a few ears to enjoy!  This week I’m going to cut the kernels off the cob and use them, along with one of the tomatoes, to make this Tomato, Basil & Corn Pizza.   The recipe calls for baking it in the oven, but you could put this on the grill too for a little extra smoky flavor.  I always like peppers on my pizza, so I’ll thinly slice the green bell pepper and add it along with the corn.  The orange Italian Frying Peppers are going to go on a tossed salad made with either the red Boston or red Batavia lettuce.  I’m going to toss the salad with this Creamy Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette and garnish it with some thinly sliced onions, croutons and some canned water-packed tuna for an entrée salad to eat at lunch. Any extra orange Italian frying peppers left over this week are going straight into the freezer so I have some to use on pizzas during the winter.  If I have time I’ll slice the peppers before freezing, but if time is short they can go into the freezer whole and I’ll deal with cutting them in February!
The remainder of the potatoes as well as this week’s leeks are going to be used to make Potato Leek Soup with Poblanos and Crispy Bacon.  I tried this recipe last fall and it is delicious!  I never would’ve thought to pair the gentle leek with a hot pepper, but the combination works and this combination is actually very good.  The recipe calls for Yukon Gold potatoes, but this week’s russet potatoes will work just fine. 
For some reason I have Mac & Cheese on my mind this week, so some of the broccoli is going towards making Macaroni & Cheese with Broccoli.  The remainder of the broccoli will end up in a frittata for Sunday brunch.
The gorgeous red chard in this week’s box is going to be used to make vegetarian Tacos with Black Beans and ChardI’ll serve this with Green Rice with Jalapeño, Garlic and Lime.  We have limes in this week’s CSA fruit share, so that’s one less thing I’ll have to pick up at the grocery store!
Well, that brings us to the bottom of another CSA Box.  Next week we’re hoping the Jicama is ready to go in boxes.  So, pull out those jicama slaw recipes and get ready!  If you’ve never had jicama, you have something new to look forward to!  
—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Celeriac

Celeriac, or celery root as it is also known, can be a bit intimidating if you’re encountering it for the first time.  However, as with all vegetables, there’s really no need to be intimidated…it’s just a vegetable!  Celeriac is in the same family as celery.  The difference is that celeriac is grown for its root and celery is grown for its stalks.  The stalks on celeriac resemble celery and have a lot of delicious flavor in them, however they are more tough and fibrous than celery and are not usually eaten as you would eat a celery stalk.  Don’t throw them away though!  Their flavor can add depth to a pot of stock or soup.  If you aren’t going to use them all now, put them in the freezer and use them later this fall or winter.
Now for the root bulb.  First, scrub the exterior of the root the best you can.  Next, thinly slice away the top and bottom of the root so there is a flat side on the top and the bottom.  You’ll probably need to take a little more off the bottom to get past the majority of the roots and get into the more usable bulb portion of the root.  At this point, I usually cut the root in half or into quarters so it is easier to handle.  Using a paring knife, carefully trim away the outer skin.  Once you’ve removed the outer skin, rinse the remaining piece of celeriac and clean your cutting board if there’s any residual dirt.  The inner portion of the root is white, solid and entirely edible. 
Celeriac has a subtle celery flavor that provides a background to soups, stews, and root mashes.  It also makes a delicious soup or gratin on its own or combined with potatoes or other root vegetables.  It can also be eaten raw in salads and slaws paired with other fall fruits and vegetables and s simple creamy dressing.  I’ve noticed more “paleo” recipes are encouraging the use of celeriac as a substitute for starchy potatoes, noodles, etc.  If you have a spiralizer, you can even make celeriac noodles (do we call them celoodles?)

Celeriac stores quite well, thus it is an important part of our seasonal winter diets.  It can actually be stored for up to 6 months!  Keep it in your refrigerator loosely wrapped in plastic or in the crisper drawer until you are ready to use it.  

Sesame Chicken Celeriac Root Salad

Photo credit from thekitchen.com
Serves 4
2 large carrots, peeled
1 large celeriac, peeled
3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (see Recipe Note)
½  cup chopped fresh basil, or cilantro
1 small clove garlic, peeled and grated with a microplane, or finely minced
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp dark pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 ½ tsp grated fresh ginger root
½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper
  1. Shred carrots and celeriac on a box grater or with the grating attachment of a food processor.
  2. Combine the carrots, celeroac, chicken, and basil (or cilantro) in a large salad bowl.
  3. Combine garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, maple syrup, tamari, sesame seeds, ginger, salt, and pepper in a jar and shake to combine. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
  4. Divide among 4 large plates to serve.

Recipe Notes: 
To cook chicken: Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add ½ tsp salt and stir to dissolve. Add 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts and return to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, turning occasionally to make sure it cooks evenly, until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool, at least 20 minutes before shredding.
This recipe was adapted from thekitchn.com.

Celeriac, Potato and Apple Puree

Yield:  3-4 servings
1/2  pound potatoes, peeled and cut in half*
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 small to medium tart apple, such as a Granny Smith, peeled, cored and quartered
¼ cup, approximately, warm milk or broth from the celeriac.
1 Tbsp butter or walnut oil, plus more to taste
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Place the potatoes in one saucepan and the celeriac and apples in another.  Barely cover each pan with water and add salt to each pan as well, about ¼- ½ tsp per pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Turn off the burner that the potatoes are on and remove the pan.  Drain the potatoes, and return the pot to the burner (do not turn the burner back on).  Leave the lid off and allow the potatoes to set for 5-10 minutes to steam and dry out. 
  3. Drain the celeriac and apples through a strainer set over a bowl to catch the cooking liquid. 
  4. Puree all of the celeriac and apple mixture as well as the potatoes in a food mill or a potato ricer.  (If you don’t have either of these tools, you can also use a food processor and process the potatoes separate from the celeriac/apple mixture.  The other option is to just mash the vegetables by hand with a potato masher.  The end result will be more chunky, but will taste just fine). 
  5. Combine the potato puree along with the celeriac and apple puree in a bowl.  Whisk in the milk or broth until the mixture is fluffy.  Add the butter or walnut oil to the hot puree, stir until the butter melts, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

*Chef Andrea Note:  The original recipe calls for Yukon gold potatoes.  I would recommend using our russet potatoes for this recipe as it will yield a lighter, fluffier mash.
Recipe adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe featured on cooking.nytimes.com.

Soil…Our Hope for a Climate Solution

13 Sep 2017 20:35

By Richard de Wilde & Andrea Yoder
In this week’s newsletter we’d like to return to our series of articles pointing to “the future of our food.”  The question on our minds this week is “Can we feed the world…without destroying it first?”  While we didn’t intend to write an article about climate change, here we are once again being faced with issues of climate change as it directly relates to this question.  Food First is an organization dedicated to ending the injustices that cause hunger and helping communities to take back control of their food systems.  Their work is centered around research, education and action.  This organization was founded by Frances Moore Lappé who, back in 1971, wrote Diet for a Small Planet.  Lappé laid out the evidence at that time representing several key points including the fact that there was 1 ½ times more than enough food to feed everyone on Earth, hunger is due to poverty and not scarcity, and the way the developed world produces and consumes food is damaging the planet.  Here we are over forty years later and the fact still remains the same that we still have enough food to feed the world and our corporate, industrial food system continues to damage the planet.  In Food First’s Summer 2017 “News & Views” publication, they stated “…the corporate food system contributes up to ⅓ of the world’s greenhouse gases, making industrial agriculture one of the main forces behind climate change.”2 In this week’s article we want to face this topic of climate change and look at how we can turn the tide, quickly, so we have a future.
Asparagus field with a well established
cover crop including a variety of clovers.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that “Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally.” The Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University released Climate Policy Brief No. 4 in April 2017 entitled, Hope Below Our Feet, Soil as a Climate Solution.1 In their report they quote climate scientist James Hansen who, in 1988, warned that:  “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that.”  They follow his quote with the fact that atmospheric CO2 levels today exceed 400 ppm and are still on the rise.  Carbon is not the culprit here, it is essential to our existence.  Climate change is happening because there is too much carbon in the atmosphere and the reason it’s there is largely due to human activities.  Carbon cycles in nature between five pools where carbon is stored.  Those five places include the atmosphere, oceans, fossils, soil and our biosphere.  The carbon cycle was in balance for many, many years cycling between these pools in a way that was beneficial to all life forms.  The problems started when we figured out how to extract carbon from fossils and use it as fuel, etc.  We disrupted the cycle and threw off the balance by putting more carbon into the atmosphere than the oceans, plants and biosphere could cycle.  The opening paragraph in the GDAE Climate Policy Brief1 mentioned above reads as follows: 
“A major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is clearly needed, but there is increasing scientific consensus that even if achieved, this will not be enough.  In addition to a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, carbon must be removed from the atmosphere.  An important solution is beneath our feet—the massive capacity of the earth’s soils to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere.” 
This field is ready for winter with a
young cover crop of rye in place.
The problem is the lack of balance.  Soil, which holds about three times more carbon than the atmosphere, offers us hope for restoring this balance of carbon in nature that humans have disrupted.    As farmers, this excites us and truly gives us hope.  Why?  Because we understand firsthand how resilient and beneficial soil can be when properly cared for and many of these strategies to store carbon in the soil are things we’ve been practicing on our farm for many years now!  Over 40 years ago I (Richard) was inspired by the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner who taught me about the value of capturing solar energy and putting it into the soil.  Through the process of photosynthesis, plants have the ability to take CO2 from the atmosphere along with water and sunlight to turn it into nutrients for the plant that develop root structures and carry these nutrients into the soil.  The nutrients feed the biological life in the soil and deposit carbon.  Carbon rich soil with high biodiversity is healthy, resilient soil.  I quickly learned the value of cover crops and we still make it a priority to plant a cover crop in a field as soon as we take our main crop off.  Cover crops fix nitrogen in the soil, hold soil in place and, in the end, break down and become part of the soil and build organic matter.  When I started planting cover crops, I did so for benefits including increasing soil fertility and tilth and increasing organic matter in the soil thereby increasing the resilience of the soil to hold water in a time of drought and drain water in times of excess moisture.  I never imagined we’d be in the position we are in now where planting cover crops and other basic, natural agricultural practices could be the key we need to regenerate and heal our broken cycle and reverse something as big as climate change!  In contrast, “Intensive forms of farming using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, are a leading cause of degradation of soils worldwide, as are destructive grazing practices in pasturelands.  But through appropriate practices that would enhance carbon pools in soils and biota, the potential terrestrial carbon sink capacity could be restored, essentially reversing its historic depletion, in what has been called the ‘recarbonization’ of the biosphere.”1  
Our young piglets enjoy romping
around in the lush pasture grasses.
Our grass-fed Red Angus beef cattle are
rotationally grazed on our nutrient rich pastures.
There are several approaches we can take to regenerate our soils and enhance the natural functioning of ecosystems to rebuild what we’ve lost.  The GDAE report outlines some important regenerative strategies to increase the ability of soils to store carbon.  In cultivated soils, strategies include things such as the use of cover crops, planting trees and legumes to fix atmospheric nitrogen, feeding the soil with manure and compost, decreasing erosion and soil loss from sloping soils through terracing, and increasing soil microbiology with fungi and other microorganisms.  Pasture management in animal production systems is another important factor.  Sustainable pasture management includes planned rotational grazing which can have a remarkable impact on regenerating pasture grasses, increasing soil fertility, and reversing and preventing desertification of soils.   We also need to consider forested soils.  There have been astounding acres of valuable forest lands cleared for industrial farming and agricultural purposes.  We need to stop deforestation and be promoting reforestation to regenerate degraded forest ecosystems.  All of these efforts have the net benefit of supporting the movement of excess carbon out of the atmosphere through the use of plants and putting it back into the soil.  While it’s pretty remarkable to be able to use plants to combat climate change in this way, there is a twofold benefit from regenerating soils.  More plants on the land and more carbon returning to the soil results in not only decreasing atmospheric carbon, but also leads to increased soil fertility which also can have a significant impact on production and yield as well as the quality of food.  This will also help us continue to produce food more reliably in the face of weather extremes which is our current reality.  However, remember that hunger is not caused by scarcity but rather poverty.  “What causes hunger is not lack of food, but lack of access to decent land and work.  Most of the chronically hungry in the world are marginalized farmers and rural workers.  It is not how much we produce that is important, but who produces it, how, and who profits.  With 70% employment in agriculture in many parts of the world, simply producing more food in countries like Kenya, Uganda, or India will not solve hunger if there are no decent and stable livelihoods in the countryside.  Industrial farming displaces workers—so many we would need unrealistically fast economic growth, evenly spread around the globe to create enough jobs to employ all the world’s peasant farmers.  To end hunger, we don’t need to produce more crops per se—we need to produce more decent livelihoods.”5  We need to turn food production back over to small farmers, thereby giving them food security by giving them their jobs back and allowing them to preserve their cultural heritage and feed their own local markets and be part of their local economy.  In this manner human needs are met in a way that restores ecosystems and communities instead of degrading them.  It’s an obvious win-win situation!  We’d encourage you to read the GDAE’s policy brief for yourself as there are more details and benefits from employing these strategies than we can fully report on here and truly does offer us hope.  We need to face the realities that industrial agriculture has no place in the future of our food system.  Eliminating this form of agriculture would gain us great strides in combating climate change, but furthermore if it were traded for regenerative farming practices we would actually be able to make some headway.  The answer to our original question is “Yes, we can feed the world without destroying it.”  The question now is “Will we?” 
If you’d like to learn more about how the soil can lead us in regenerative efforts to combat climate change as well as see some examples of how other countries are implementing action and incentives for this purpose, we’d like to suggest the following resources:
  • "The Soil Story", a video by Kiss the Ground that clearly summarizes the carbon cycle and the role of regenerative agriculture in less than 4 minutes!  If you do nothing else, watch this short video.
  •  Soil 4 Climate is a nonprofit organization that is an advocate for soil restoration as a climate solution.  They have a lot of informative resources available on their website for both education as well as action. 
  •  Global Development & Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University offers expertise in the areas of economics, policy, science and technology as they relate to global development and issues related to the environment.  They have numerous publications available on their website including the Climate Policy Brief we cited above, Hope Below Our Feet. 


September 14, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Leeks

13 Sep 2017 20:35

Cooking With This Week's Box

It is definitely starting to look and feel a bit more like fall.  The leaves are just starting to change and this week we’re harvesting leeks, which for us is part of that transition from summer to fall.  We included russet potatoes in this week’s box, so if you have a tradition of making Leek & Potato Soup with the first leeks of the season, go for it.  If you’re looking to try something new, check out the recipe for Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon & Baconfeatured in this week’s newsletter (See below).  I adapted this recipe from the original one posted at AlexandraCooks.com.  I added sweet corn and the orange Ukraine sweet peppers to Alexandra’s recipe because, well I like vegetables and color!  If you’re looking for a more simplified and/or vegetarian version of this recipe, she has another similar recipe on her blog for One-Pan Bucatini with Leeks and Lemon.
Back to those potatoes, russet potatoes are a starchier potato which means you could turn them into mashed potatoes if you’d like.  There’s a recipe in our archives for Leek & Cheese Mash which uses leftover mashed potatoes.  However, my favorite thing to do with these potatoes is to roast them whole.  In fact I have some in the oven right now!  Just rub the outside with oil and sprinkle them generously with salt and some ground black pepper.  Bake them on a cookie sheet until they are tender, then slice them in half and top with butter and sour cream or whatever baked potato toppings you like!  This can become a meal on its own or eat it alongside meatloaf for a nice homey meal. 
This week’s red Boston lettuce is so tender and delicious, I can’t wait to turn it into a beautiful salad.  I think I’ll cook the beets and dice them into bite-sized pieces for the salad.  Make this simple Balsamic Vinaigrette featured at The Kitchn to dress the lettuce and then finish off the salad with a little bit of fresh grated Parmesan and these Quick Stovetop Candied Pecans! Now that is a salad!  Hold on to the beet greens, they are far too tasty to toss in the compost.  It’s been awhile since I’ve made one of Richard’s favorites, Creamed Beets with Greens.  Whatever beets are remaining after the salad will go in here along with all of the beet greens.  This would be an excellent dish to serve with those baked russet potatoes and a nice grilled T-bone steak!
I came across this recipe for Southwestern Quinoa Salad at Food52.com.  This will make use of the grape tomatoes and an ear or two of this week’s sweet corn.  The recipe calls for scallions and poblanos, but I’m going to substitute thinly sliced red onions and orange Italian frying peppers instead.  For a little heat, I’ll include maybe half of a jalapeno.  This salad also contains black beans and feta, so it has enough body to it to stand on its own as a main dish salad to take for lunch or to have on hand for a quick dinner.  It could also be a nice accompaniment to grilled salmon or fish.
I’ve said it before, but I really enjoy the flavor of Yukina Savoy.  It has remained pretty mild in flavor with the cool days and nights we’ve had.  I’m going to adapt this recipe for Skillet Chicken with Bok Choi to include the yukina savoy.  Served with rice, this will become a quick and easy dinner.  If you have any sweet peppers remaining, add those in with the yukina savoy for a little extra color.
I’ve never made tomato pie, but have wanted to for several years and have heard several people talking about it at market over the past few weeks.  This week I’m going to use the larger tomatoes to try this Tomato Cheddar Pie.  This looks like a good dish to serve for Sunday brunch with a slice of bacon on the side. 
We’ve almost used every item in the box, except for the broccoli or cauliflower.  These two items are interchangeable in this recipe for Broccoli Salad with Sunflower Seeds & Cranberries.  This recipe calls for bacon, but I think I’ll opt to leave that out of this recipe and just enjoy the sweetness of the cranberries and the crunch of the sunflower seeds alongside the raw broccoli or cauliflower lightly dressed with a simple mayonnaise dressing.   This is another easy salad to take along for lunch and eat with a simple sandwich. 

Well, that brings us to the end of another delicious week of cooking.  Looking ahead to next week, it looks like we’ll have another fun fall vegetable coming our way to go along with the leeks and potatoes.  Can you guess what it might be?  See you next week!
—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Leeks

We’ve been enjoying a variety of vegetables in the onion/allium family since our first box all the way back in May.  From ramps and chives to overwintered spring onions, scallions and most recently sweet onions.  This week we’ll add leeks to the list.  Leeks are a favorite fall allium that, as Chef Deborah Madison says, “add more of a whisper and less of a shout.”  Leeks have a more delicate, mild onion flavor and are cooked using more delicate cooking methods to yield a soft, silky finished product.  They have fewer sugars than onions, so they will not caramelize in the same way as an onion.
Leeks have a long white shank that turns to more of a bluish green color as you reach the top of the leek.  The shank is made of many thin layers and is the portion of the leek most often used.  However, the green portion on top is equally edible and at the very least should be added to stock for flavor.  Throughout the growing process, dirt is hilled up on the leeks to cover and blanch the shank.  As a result, dirt may get between the layers.  While you need to take care to carefully clean the entire leek, the upper portion may have a bit more dirt between the layers and may need a little more attention.  I find it easiest to wash the exterior of the leek and then slice them.  Place the chopped leeks in a sink of clean, cold water and swish them around to remove any dirt.  Remove the leeks from the water and place in a colander to drain.  If there isn’t much dirt between the layers, you may also just place the sliced leeks in a colander and rinse them.
Leeks pair well with many fall vegetables including potatoes, celeriac, and fennel.  They are often incorporated into cream soups, gratins and egg dishes such as quiche.  A traditional use for leeks is to make Leek & Potato Soup, of which there are many variations.  It is best to take your time and cook leeks more gently and slowly over medium heat. Saute them over low heat to just sweat them until softened. When cooked in this manner, leeks become creamy and have a silk-like texture.  They pair well with white wine, lemon, cream, cheese, apples, walnuts, chicken, bacon, fish and fresh herbs to name just a few ingredients.

Store leeks loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.  

Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon & Bacon

Yield:  4 servings

Coarse salt and ground pepper, to taste
6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
3 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light-green parts only, rinsed well
1 cup fresh sweet corn kernels (from 1-2 ears of corn)
1 cup thinly sliced sweet peppers
½  to ¾ pound bucatini or spaghetti
2 large eggs
¼ cup (heaping) grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving (optional)
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice, plus more as needed
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)
1.       Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving excess fat in pan—you should have about 2 tablespoons.  If you do not have that much, add a little olive oil to the pan.   Add leeks, sweet corn and sweet peppers to the hot pan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring often, over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
2.       Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid before draining the cooked pasta.
3.       In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice. Whisk ¼ cup pasta water into egg mixture.
4.       Once the egg mixture has been combined, immediately add the hot, drained pasta to the egg mixture, along with bacon, vegetables, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. If necessary, add more of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to get the desired sauce consistency and adjust the seasoning to your liking with additional salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed.  If you’d like to put the pasta back in the pan and warm it up before serving, do so over low heat so the eggs don’t curdle.  The sauce on this pasta will be light, but creamy.  Serve immediately with more cheese on top.
This recipe was adapted from an original one posted at Alexandra’s Kitchen.  There is another similar recipe on her website, One Pan Bucatini with Leeks and Lemon that is a simplified, vegetarian version of this recipe.

September 7, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Tomatoes

6 Sep 2017 21:57

Cooking With This Week's Box

We know summer is coming to a close soon and fall is right on its heels.  Next week’s box will likely have a different look than the last several boxes.  This is the last week for melons, cucumbers and zucchini.  Watermelons are close to the end as well.  Hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy tomatoes and peppers for several more weeks, but there will be some new crops landing on next week’s harvest list.  Right now we have tentative harvest plans for leeks and celeriac!  But back to this week’s box.  Lets talk tomatoes.  There is a hearty bag of tomatoes in this week’s box and you’ll find several delicious tomato recipes to consider using for the large tomatoes as well as the little grape or chocolate sprinkles tomatoes in this week’s box.  I’d recommend giving the Tomato Jam (see below) recipe a try.  When you’re making this recipe, take a little time to separate the juicy seed portion from the flesh of the tomatoes.  Use the flesh to make the tomato jam and save the juicy seed portion to make the Tomato Seed Vinaigrette (see below).  These two recipes are very complementary and will leave you with very little waste left over.  The jam is a nice condiment to use on a hot ham and cheese sandwich or spread it on a cracker with cream cheese.  The tomato vinaigrette can be used on salads or drizzled on roasted vegetables or used as a dip.  You’ll still have about a pound of tomatoes remaining after these two recipes.  If you’ve never tried pairing tomatoes and watermelon together, consider doing so this week.  Sam Sifton’s recipe for Tomato and Watermelon Salad is very easy to make and includes just a few ingredients, including feta cheese.

You thought we were done with tomato talk, but not just yet.  We still have those little tomato gems to find a use for!  This week’s newsletter and blog features one of Heidi Swanson’s recipes for Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes(see below).  There are a lot of different ways you can put these to use, but I’m going to use them as a garnish on top of a warm bowl of Melissa Clark’s Fresh Corn Risotto.  You might have a few ears of corn left over, which will be just enough to make this Roasted Red Pepper and Corn Salsa to serve on taco night this week!  Either variety of sweet peppers in this week’s box will work for this recipe and you’ll need your jalapeño for this one too!
Wow, we have had a great year of edamame harvest!  One of our members shared this recipe for Edamame Hummus in our Facebook Group.  This will make for a great lunch item served with carrot sticks and sweet peppers in this week’s box as well as some crackers or pita bread and olives.  Put it all together Bento Box style and feel good about packing in so many different vegetables in one simple meal!  Any extra carrots and edamame will come together in this Edamame and Carrot Salad with Rice Vinegar Dressing.  This is a very simple salad that will come together quickly and go well with these Chicken Teriyaki Kabobs for dinner.  This salad recipe calls for green onions, but thinly sliced red onions will work just fine. 

That brings us to the bottom of this week’s box.  You might still have a little bonus item remaining to find a use for, possibly a little zucchini or cauliflower to add to a frittata or roast up as a side dish for dinner this week.  Start thinking fall vegetables as you get ready for next week’s box.  I’m feeling some soup coming up soon in our future.  Have a great week!
—Chef Andrea 

Vegetable Feature:  Tomatoes! 

Summer isn’t summer without fresh tomatoes! Tomatoes are actually a fruit, referred to by some as a vegetable-fruit.  Technicalities aside, tomatoes are a very diverse crop and are represented by a wide range of sizes from less than 1 ounce to as much as several pounds per tomato!  They are also diverse in colors ranging from white to red to green and may be either a modern hybrid or a traditional heirloom.  I’m not sure anyone really knows how many varieties of tomatoes there are across the world, but I do know that one seed company, Tomato Growers, offers over 500 varieties in their catalog!
Stake and tie method of weaving the
tomato plants to keep them upright.
We have a carefully selected lineup of tomatoes we’ve found do best in our valley.  Especially in a wet year, we can see disease set in early which causes the vines to die before the fruit is fully ripe.  Thus, we mostly plant more disease resistant hybrids and ‘heritage’ tomatoes which have some heirloom genetics in them, but also carry some modern hybrid characteristics which make them more attractive to our growing situation.  We use a stake-and-tie method for our tomatoes where we weave twine around the main stem and vines as the plants grow in order to keep the tomato plant upright and the fruit off the ground.  It’s a pretty labor intensive system, but it helps the foliage dry out faster and makes it easier to pick the tomatoes and keep them clean.  We also consider flavor, texture and color when selecting our varieties.  What makes a good tasting tomato?  Well, I suppose that’s up to every individual, but we look for tomatoes that have a good balance of both acidity and sweetness.  Some varieties, such as gold slicers, tend to be lower acid in general but still have a nice balance of sweetness and good “tomato flavor.”  There are some varieties that look beautiful, but when you taste them they lack actual flavor and are just kind of “blahh.”  Please refer to our blog post from August 27,2015 for pictures of the tomatoes we grow which will help you identify them and figure out what use they are best suited for.
Black Velvet tomato, our preferred variety for
fresh eating and to use on sandwiches.

Tomatoes may be found in cuisine across the globe from Europe to the Middle East, Asia and the Americas.  If you are ever at a loss as to what to do with your tomatoes, take a minute to look around, there are so many different things you can do with them!  Around here, BLT sandwiches are at the top of the list.  We typically reach for black velvet or gold slicer tomatoes for sandwiches because they are the most “fleshy” tomatoes and have a little less juice to run down your arm and make the bread soggy. Farmer Richard also wanted to mention that you don’t have to limit your “BLT” to just those three ingredients.  We often make variations on this popular sandwich that include toppings such as thinly sliced onions, basil leaves, baby arugula or baby kale mix, avocado, and even thinly sliced sweet peppers.  Every variation we’ve tried is excellent! 
Red Riviera tomatoes, excellent for eating fresh or cooking.
Tomato sauce is another popular way to use tomatoes.  There are so many different versions of “tomato sauce” ranging from spicy tomato sauces such as the Italian Desperata sauce that includes jalapeños to cookbook author Marcella Hazan’s popular recipe for buttery tomato saucethat has just four ingredients (tomatoes, butter, onion and salt).   When you are making sauce, it is generally recommended to use a “paste” tomato which is a descriptor for roma tomatoes.  Our Riviera tomato is also recommended for cooking and makes a delicious sauce.  The reason these varieties are often recommended for cooking is two-fold.  First, their flavor is enhanced by cooking and second, they are a more fleshy tomato with less juice in the seed cavities.  The benefit to this is a more concentrated sauce that will cook down faster with less moisture to evaporate out of the sauce.  If you’re planning to just eat your tomatoes fresh, either as a fresh tomato salad or just slices of salted tomatoes, pretty much any tomato will serve you well.  However, we do eat with our eyes so it’s nice to have a variety of colors and textures on a plate. 
Tomatoes pair well with a wide variety of ingredients including herbs such as thyme, oregano, basil and parsley.  They go well with butter, cream, cheese, olive oil, olives and a variety of meats.  Since tomatoes themselves are a fruit, it’s no surprise that they pair well with other fruits such as watermelons, peaches and cucumbers.  Of course, tomatoes pair well with a wide variety of vegetables including peppers, fennel, garlic, onions, greens, eggplant, squash, sweet potatoes, etc. 
Tomatoes are also a popular selection to preserve for use year round.  There are a variety of ways you can preserve tomatoes.  You could do something such as the tomato jam recipe in this week’s newsletter or make salsa and can it.  Of course you can also can tomato juice, diced tomatoes or make tomato sauce and can or freeze that as well.  I often don’t have a lot of time during tomato season for complicated preservation, so I tend to go the route of either freezing tomatoes whole or freezing tomato puree.  If you want to freeze tomatoes whole, simply wash them and cut out the core.  Pop them into a freezer bag and put them in the freezer.  When you thaw them, they will collapse and be juicy, but that makes them perfect for using in soups, chili, sauces, etc.  You can choose to either pull the skins off before you use them or I usually just blend them into the sauce.  For my quick method frozen sauce, I just chop up any extra tomatoes I have, skins and all, and cook them down on the stovetop in a wide pan.  Once they have cooked down, I cool them and puree them in the blender.  Pour the puree into freezer bags and lay them flat to freeze into “pillows.”  In the winter, when I have more time, I pull out the puree and turn it into spaghetti sauce, etc. 

Enjoy these fresh tomatoes while we have them.  If it looks like we’re going to get an early frost, we may have to pick green tomatoes and get creative with ways to use them!

Sweet & Hot Tomato Jam

Tomato Jam early stage.

Yield 1 quart
2 pounds ripe tomatoes
1 Tbsp honey
Zest and juice of ½ of a lemon
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced paper thin
1 ½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp red pepper flakes

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil.  Set up an ice bath near the stovetop.  Using a paring knife, score the tomatoes with an X on the bottom and carefully drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath.
  2. Peel the skin off the tomatoes then chop them and place in a medium saucepan with the honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, jalapeño, salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes.  Stir and bring to a simmer.  
  3. Clip a candy thermometer to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture registers 220°F (it should have a thick, syrupy consistency).  This may take 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  4. Put the jam in a jar or use immediately.  It will keep covered tightly in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe borrowed from America—Farm To Table, by Mario Batalia and Jim Webster.
The author offers this commentary:  “It takes a little time to make, but this is a condiment I will put on anything from Parmigiano-Reggiano, to an omelet, to fried chicken.  I must warn you about its addictive properties…So beware, and stock up.”
Tomato Jam cooked down.
Use this jam as a spread on a grilled chicken sandwich or grilled ham and cheese.  Spread cream cheese on a cracker or toast and top with a spoonful of the jam.  Use this jam as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, sweet potato fries, or any other fried goodie such as onion rings or fried zucchini.  Serve it alongside corn fritters or pancakes.

Tomato Seed Vinaigrette

Yield:  approximately 1 cup
3 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 ½ tsp dried
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 very ripe large tomatoes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, thyme, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes.  
  2. Halve the tomatoes crosswise and gently but firmly squeeze out the seeds and juices into the bowl with the vinegar mixture—be sure to get most if not all of them.  (Reserve the tomato flesh for another use).  
  3. Whisk together, then continue whisking while you drizzle in the oil to form a viscous emulsion.  Season to your liking with salt, pepper and/or a bit more vinegar as needed.

Recipe borrowed from America--- Farm To Table by Mario Batali and Jim Webster.

Oven Roasted Cherry/Grape Tomatoes

Yield:  About 1 cup
1 pint cherry, grape or other small tomatoes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp natural cane sugar or maple syrup
Fine-grain sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with an oven rack positioned in the top third of the oven.
  2. Slice each tomato in half and place in a large baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. 
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, and a scant ½ tsp salt.  Pour the mixture over the tomatoes and gently toss until everything is well coated.  Arrange the tomatoes cut-side up and roast for 45 to 60 minutes, until the tomatoes shrink a bit and start to caramelize around the edges.
  4. If you aren’t using them immediately, let the tomatoes cool, then scrape them into a clean glass jar along with any olive oil that was left in the dish.  Sometimes I top off the jar with an added splash of olive oil.  The tomatoes will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator.

This recipe was borrowed from Heidi Swanson’s book, Super Natural Every Day.  These oven roasted  tomatoes can be used in a wide variety of ways.  Serve them as a topping for pan-seared fish or chicken along with a handful of chopped fresh herbs.  Spread fresh goat cheese on a piece of toasted French bread and then top it off with these oven-roasted tomatoes and freshly ground black peppers.  Mix these tomatoes into a bowl of cooked pasta and garnish it with freshly grated cheese.  Use these to garnish soup, such as a creamy sweet corn chowder.

Fall Herb Preservation

6 Sep 2017 21:57

by Jean Schneider, Herbalist at Nativa Medica & HVF CSA Member
How did your spring herb packs do in your garden or pots this year?  If yours are like mine, the sage did pretty well if you could keep it dry enough this year!  Who knows when the frost will come, so it's time to preserve your herbs before it’s too late.  All of the herbs in our packs are Mediterranean herbs.  As a group, these herbs are pungent, aromatic, warming and many are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral.  Sounds like the perfect thing for fall and winter right?
As an herbalist I like to recommend herbs that are inexpensive and easy to find.  I am not very prone to colds, viruses and flu but those around me are!  My husband gets a few colds and viruses every winter, partly from all the time he spends in our public schools getting exposed.  Over the years, adding more consistent use of culinary herbs seems to have helped reduce the number and severity of illnesses he suffers each winter.  Every soup I make in the winter has a good amount of thyme in it and we regularly use sage honey in our cooking and make lavender honey tea.
There are two uses we will preserve herbs for from our herb packs; culinary and medicinal.  All of the herbs in the packs are culinary herbs and several of them are powerful medicinal herbs too.  Let’s start with preserving some of the herbs specifically for medicinal uses for colds, flu and viruses.  My two favorite herbs from the pack for this are thyme and sage. 

Medicinal Herbs

Thyme Preservation
I prefer to gently dry thyme.  Cut the thyme off about an inch above the ground.  Make sure the herb is dry already (not after a rain or with dew on it).  Either tie the stems into small bundles with string, or separate the stems and lay them out on your dehydrator racks.  Slowly and gently dry at low, low temperatures and monitor closely if in the dehydrator.  Using temperatures that are too high or drying for too long will cause the volatile oils that are important in the medicine of the plant to be lost.  If you tied the bundles with string, hang them in an area that gets good air flow (not your basement).  I hang mine on my kitchen cabinet knobs or on a coat rack in my entryway that I am not using.  Leave them for a week or so.  Once dry, remove leaves from the stems using clean hands by gently rubbing them off.  Store in an air tight container, like a Mason jar.
To Use Thyme as Medicine
       As a face steam for cough or plugged sinuses - put 1” of water in a pot, bring to low simmer so it is steaming.  Add a tablespoon of dried thyme leaves, put a towel over your head and lean over the pot.  Be careful as you first do this so your face doesn’t get too hot.  Move your face away or closer based on temperature.  Breathe in the steam and feel the loosening and draining begin.  Do this up to 3-4 times per day, as needed.
       As a tea - 1-2 teaspoons dried leaves per cup boiling water, steep 10 minutes, covered.
Use Thyme For:
      dry or wet coughs
      congestion of sinuses or lungs
      intestinal spasms and general gastrointestinal problems
Properties of Thyme
       stimulates immune system
       relaxes tissue
       penetrates and loosens thick stuck mucus in sinuses and lungs
       anti-spasmodic (for coughs and gastrointestinal)
Sage Preservation
Sage is a really fun herb to preserve for the winter and may be dried using the methods described for thyme preservation.  Additionally, you can use sage to make infused honey.
Fine mesh strainer and bowl used
to strain the herbs from the honey.
Sage as Infused Honey 
and Leaves for Tea
       sage leaves (no stems)
       honey from farmer’s market
       clean and dry Mason jar and two-piece lid
       fine mesh strainer
       large light weight bowl
First, get some good quality honey from the farmer’s market and have a clean and dry Mason jar ready.  Cut your sage off about an inch above the ground, making sure you harvest when the herb is dry (no rain or dew).  Remove the leaves from the stems and compost the stems.  Put the fresh leaves in the jar, press them down and fill to about half full.  Choose the size of the jar based on how much leaves you have.  Cover the leaves with honey and stir well.  Once the leaves are coated in honey, fill the rest of the jar with honey, leaving about an inch of air space between the lid and honey.  Make sure the lid is on tight and place in a sunny window or countertop and flip the jar once or more a day.  Kids love to be in charge of this!  Flipping the jar upside down allows the herbs to mix into the honey.  The herbs will slowly rise to the top, and the jar can be flipped again helping it mix.  The sunny window helps keep the honey warm, but a countertop will do just fine too.  I let this go for about a month, then pour into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and let gravity and stirring do the work of separating the honey from the sage leaves.  Do this in batches if necessary until done.  Store the infused honey at room temperature or in a warm place.  You can also keep it near your tea kettle so you don’t forget about it.  The honey is good indefinitely.  The leaves that are left will still have honey stuck to them, this is good as the honey will preserve the leaves.  Put the leaves back into the jar and then into the refrigerator where they will keep several months.
Herbs infusing with the honey. 


To Use Sage as Medicine
       sage infused honey - eat a spoonful or use in hot water as tea
       sage leaves coated in honey - use to make sage tea by adding several leaves per cup with hot water and steep for 10 minutes covered.
Use Sage For:
       sore throats
       runny noses
       wet coughs
Properties of Sage:
       dries moisture and brings up oil, soothing tissue
       a caution to nursing mothers - sage can dry up milk production
       not for use in pregnancy
Finished jar of herb infused honey!
Preservation of Tender Culinary Herbs
For the more tender herbs like basil, parsley and chervil this will be the best preservation method since they lose their flavor when you dry them.  You can use this method for the oregano and savory too, but both of those will dry well using either the hanging or dehydrator method from the thyme section. 
Easy Ice-cube Tray Preserved Herbs
       ice cube tray
       herb of your choice, stems removed, leaves chopped
       organic extra virgin olive oil
Place chopped herb leaves into a bowl, cover generously with olive oil and stir.  Place into as many ice cube compartments as needed.  Freeze until solid, pop out of the ice cube tray and put into labeled plastic bags in the freezer.  The herbs are already chopped and ready to use in any recipe.
I like to use these cubes in a variety of ways all winter long.  There is no need to thaw them out in advance as they take only a minute or two to melt in a pan or pot.  Most of the time I forget to add the herbs until the dish is almost cooked and I am looking for more flavor to add.  When sautéing veggies for scrambled eggs add the herb cube in.  For soups and stews you can either add the herb cube while you are sautéing veggies, or add it during the simmering time.  For Shepard’s pie or pot pies, add the herb cube in while the filling is simmering.
Don’t forget to use your dried thyme leaves in your cooking too.  Even though the medicinal uses are so important with thyme, you will get similar benefits from using thyme regularly throughout the winter.  Every soup, stew and roast I make gets a tablespoon or more of thyme added into it in addition to any other spices the recipe calls for.  I grow some in my herb garden, but it is never enough, so I buy it by the pound to make sure we have enough for the entire winter!
Using culinary herbs regularly gives our bodies and health a continual boost and support system.  I have always wondered if the main reason why the Mediterranean diet has resulted in healthy people actually has as much to do with regular use of culinary herbs (all the herbs from our packs are Mediterranean herbs)  as it does with fresh food.  The people of this area cook with fresh food and an abundance of herbs throughout the year.  Let’s follow their example.
It’s a great time to ask your friends if they have any herbs to spare from their gardens too.  Having a winter store of herbs to use not only makes our food more tasty in the winter, but also helps support our health.

Find me on Facebook: @NativaMedica

August 31, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Peppers

30 Aug 2017 20:06

Cooking With This Week's Box

This week we’re focused on peppers, both in our main newsletter article and as our featured vegetable of the week!  Depending upon the weather, we could have a few pepper-heavy CSA boxes coming up over the next few weeks.  There are so many ways to use peppers, but if you start to feel overwhelmed, remember they are super-easy to preserve.  Read this week’s vegetable feature on our blog for details about how to preserve peppers.  As for what to do with them this week, lets start with the Whole Wheat Udon Noodle Salad with Summer Vegetables and Sesame Marinade. (See Below)  I actually made this recipe for the first time during the winter using edamame, corn and peppers that I pulled out of the freezer!  This is an easy salad to make and incorporates several different vegetables from this week’s box including edamame, an ear or two of corn, and lots of sweet, ripe peppers and onions.  This recipe travels well, so this would be a great item to take to work for lunch.  Add some baked tofu if you’d like or eat it alongside seared salmon, grilled chicken or steak. 
I like to save the classical French preparation of ratatouille for late summer when sweet, red peppers are in their prime.  Alice Water’s Ratatouille, originally published in her book, The Art of Simple Food, may be found at Food52 where it earned status as a “Community Pick.” Pick up an eggplant from the choice box and use it along with your zucchini or scallop squash, some of your tomatoes and some of your sweet peppers. You can eat ratatouille on its own as a main dish along with some crusty French bread, or repurpose it into a spread for pizza or flatbread, toss it with pasta, etc.
If your box contains cauliflower this week, check out this recipe for Charred Cauliflower Quesadillas found at Smitten Kitchen.  This recipe was tested by our farmer’s market manager, Sarah, who gave it rave reviews!  If your box contains broccoli, check out these Broccoli Balls, the creation of Sarah Forte found at her blog, The Sprouted Kitchen.  This is a kid-approved recipe.  If you don’t believe me, check out her blog and see pictures of her two cute kiddos eating these easy, tasty and highly portable broccoli balls.   This might make a good item for school lunches or an after school snack.
Andrea Bemis just posted this recipe for Spiced Cantaloupe and Honey Lassi on her blog, Dishing Up the Dirt.  This is a refreshing, simple way to enjoy this week’s French Orange Melon, or freeze the melon this week and pull it out of the freezer after melon season has passed and use it to make this delicious drink. 
Sometimes you just need to go deep and do some frying at home.  I’m a sucker for a good onion ring and I guarantee these will surpass anything you might get at the county fair or off a food cart!  They’ve been on my mind for several weeks, so I figure it’s time to try this recipe for Southern Fried Sweet Onion Rings.  Eat them with a grilled burger, or Farmer Richard’s preferred sandwich at present, a BLT.  If you do go with a grilled burger, consider garnishing it with a homemade pickle.  One of our members shared this recipe in our Facebook Group for Homemade Pickles and cited them as “the best I’ve ever had!”  They added lots of dill, garlic and some slices of jalapeño peppers to their batch for extra flavor and some heat.  We may be nearing the end of cucumber season, so don’t wait to try this recipe.  Make it this week!
Yukina Savoy in the field
Yukina Savoy, the bunching green in this week’s box, is one of my favorite Asian Greens.  Right now it has a mild, balanced mustard flavor because of the mild summer we’ve had.  While you may cook this green, I think it’s in its prime for eating raw in a salad.  Put together your own Yukina Savoy Salad with Thai Peanut Dressing  and top it off with thinly sliced onion & sweet pepper, grated broccoli stem, and some of your small tomatoes cut in half.  Finish it with chopped peanuts or almonds and add some protein of your choosing if you’d like.

Finally, make a special after-school treat for the kids.  It’s hard to admit summer is coming to a close, but all good things must end.  Perhaps these Watermelon Popsicles will make the transition back into school a little more acceptable. 

Well folks, I’m not sure what next week’s box will contain.  We’re nearing the end of the season for cucumbers and zucchini.  We’re hoping to continue picking tomatoes for a few more weeks, but at the same time we’re starting to harvest some late summer/early fall crops like celeriac!  Richard dug some sweet potatoes earlier this week and they are looking really good, but need more time and some heat!  Enjoy the final few weeks of summer!
Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable (Fruit):  Peppers!

Peppers are classified as either sweet or hot and can vary in size from just a small pepper that resembles a large bean seed to a big, blocky bell pepper.  While it is common to eat green peppers, you’ll find the  flavor of a green pepper is more mild without a lot of sweetness.  This is because green peppers are immature.  All colored peppers start out as a green pepper.  As the fruit ripens on the plant, it makes a transition from green to its fully ripe color.  As this change occurs, natural sugars develop in the fruit making it not only sweet but also flavorful.  As a pepper ripens, the nutrient content also changes.  Colored peppers can contain as much as 60% greater levels of antioxidants and other nutrients including Vitamins C, A, E, K, B6 and folate. 
Poblano peppers in the field.
While most of the peppers we grow are sweet peppers, we do grow several hot varieties.  Our two main hot peppers are jalapeño and poblano peppers.  The heat of a hot pepper is mostly contained in the white pith and seed cavity within the pepper.  If you don’t have a tolerance for the heat, you can remove this portion of the pepper and significantly reduce its heat.  Two more words of caution when handling and cooking with hot peppers.  First, adjust the amount of hot peppers in the dish you are making to your liking.  Remember, you can always add a little more but you can’t take the heat away!  Second, it is advisable to wear plastic gloves and/or be aware of where you put your hands for awhile after you cut the pepper—as in don’t rub your eyes!
From a culinary perspective, peppers are versatile in use.  They can be eaten raw or cooked and pair well in dishes with other summer vegetables such as potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant.  Peppers mark the transition from late summer into early fall, and as such can dance on the line between summer and fall which means they also pair well with sweet potatoes, fall greens, and winter squash to name just a few. 
Roasting peppers on a rack placed
over the burners of a gas stove.
Peppers are part of many cultures around the world and, as a result, they are a key ingredient in some traditional dishes.  Ratatouilleis a classical French dish from the Provence region.  It is a summer “stew” made from onions, garlic, sweet peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and herbs.  It may be eaten as a dish on its own, served as a side dish, or re-purposed in many ways to become a topping for pizza, bruschetta, etc.  I learned about Shakshuka several years ago when I was researching peppers for the newsletter.  This is a dish thought to have originated in Tunisia, spreading through the Middle East and Northern Africa.  Tomatoes, onions and peppers create a sauce in the bottom of the pan and eggs are cracked on top.  The eggs are poached by the heat of the sauce.  This has become one of my favorite summer brunch or light dinner dishes.  Sweet peppers are also an important part of Spanish cuisine.  Sweet red peppers, along with tomatoes and onions, are paired to make sofrito.  This is used as the base for many other dishes, similar to a French mirepoix or the combination of garlic, ginger and onion in Chinese dishes.  There is also a Spanish sauce, Romesco sauce, made from sweet peppers and nuts (often almonds) that is thickened with bread and often served with seafood and fish.
Peppers are often roasted to not only develop their natural sweetness, but to also give them a smoky flavor.  You can roast any kind of pepper, but generally those with a thicker wall will yield better results.  There are several methods for roasting peppers---none of which are difficult.  Fire-roasted peppers can be charred over a direct flame, either on a grill or over a gas burner.  Just put the pepper directly over the flame either on a metal rack or just hold it with tongs.  Rotate the pepper until the outer skin is charred.  An alternative is to roast peppers under a broiler or just put them on a pan in a very hot oven.  This last method won’t give you as much of the smoky flavor, but still works great.  Once you’ve roasted the peppers on all sides, place them in a bowl while they are still hot and cover with plastic wrap so they steam as they cool.  Once they are cool enough to handle, pull out the cores and scrape the skin away from the flesh.  Now you can chop or slice the roasted peppers and add them to sauces, dips, salads, etc.
Homemade pizza in February, topped with
sweet peppers pulled out of the freezer.
Peppers are one of my favorite vegetables to preserve and use throughout the winter.  They can be frozen raw or roasted, either whole or cut down into smaller pieces, strips or diced.  When you want to use them, just pull them out of the freezer and use them as a pizza topping, put them on sandwiches, or add to soups, stews, sauces, etc.  You can also preserve peppers by dehydrating them.  For most peppers, you’ll want to cut them into strips or smaller pieces so they dehydrate faster.  Peppers with a thinner wall are best for dehydrating.
Orange Italian frying peppers in the field.
Please note, while many recipes call for “Red Bell Peppers,” any sweet pepper will generally do fine as a substitute.  Our Italian frying peppers (orange or red), orange Ukraine peppers and mini-sweet peppers are our main sweet varieties.  You’ll need to use your best judgement as to how many of whatever sweet pepper you are using is equal to one bell pepper.  Typically I substitute two Italian frying peppers or 2 medium to small orange Ukraine peppers for one red bell pepper. 

Udon Noodle Salad with Summer Vegetables & Sesame Marinade

Yield:  4 to 6 servings
1-2 ears sweet corn, husk and silks removed
1—8 ounce pack udon noodles
2 Tbsp unrefined, untoasted sesame oil or extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups thinly sliced sweet peppers
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
¾  cup cooked edamame beans (out of their pods)
1 tsp dried red chili flakes
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp tamari (or soy sauce), plus more to taste
¼ cup brown rice vinegar
3 Tbsp toasted black sesame seeds, plus more to garnish (may substitute white sesame seeds)
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
½ cup finely minced sweet onion or scallions
1 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Boil a large pot of water.  Add the corn on the cob and cook for 2 minutes.   Remove the ears from the pot, reserving the water;  set the corn aside to cool.  Use a strainer to remove any stray corn silk from the boiling water.  Add udon noodles and cook according to directions on package or until tender.  Drain and rinse the noodles under cold running water;  set aside to drain well.
  2. Warm the unrefined sesame oil or olive oil in a wide skillet (with a lid) over medium heat.  Add the peppers and saute for 10 minutes;  stir in ½ tsp salt, reduce heat to low, cover skillet, and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid;  raise heat to medium;  and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes more or until peppers are cooked through and beginning to brown.  Stir in edamame and chili flakes.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Make the marinade:  Add garlic, tamari, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame seeds to a salad bowl and whisk to combine.  Drizzle in toasted sesame oil and whisk again.  Add noodles;  toss until evenly coated with marinade.  Cut corn off cobs (you’ll need about ¾ cup) and add to noodles along with the pepper mixture, onions, and cilantro.  Mix well to combine.  Season to taste with extra tamari or sea salt.  Sprinkle with additional black sesame seeds and serve at room temperature.

Note:  This recipe was adapted from Amy Chaplin’s cookbook, At Home In the Whole Food Kitchen.  While this salad is delicious to make in the height of the summer vegetable season, you can also make it in the winter.  Thinly slice peppers and freeze them, raw.  Cook the corn, cut it off the cob and freeze the kernels.  Boil a pound of edamame pods and then remove the beans.  Pop those in the freezer too.  In the middle of the winter when you’re missing the summer heat, pull out your frozen vegetables and make this salad again!  Serve this on its own as a main dish item or as a side dish along with chicken, fish, tempeh or another protein of your choosing.

Marinated Roasted Red Peppers with Chickpeas

Roasted peppers, cooled and ready
to remove the charred skin.
Yield:  4 servings as a side dish or small plate
3-4  red bell peppers, stems, seeds, and ribs removed
1 ½ tsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 pinches of fine sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp raisins
Handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 ½ ounces feta cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Rub the peppers with the coconut oil and place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.  Roast until blistered and blackened in a few places, 35 to 40 minutes.  Remove the peppers from the baking sheet, place them in a bowl, and quickly cover it with plastic wrap to steam the peppers, which makes the skin very easy to remove.  When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skins.
  2. While the peppers are roasting, in a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Mince the raisins and chop the parsley.
  3. Tear or slice the skinned roasted peppers into large pieces and place them in the bowl with the dressing.  Add the chickpeas, toss to coat, and let marinate for about 15 minutes.
  4. Divide the mixture evenly among 4 plates.  Sprinkle with the minced raisins and parsley and crumble the feta over top.  Serve immediately.

Author’s note:  Make this a main dish by serving it over cooked quinoa.
Recipe borrowed from Naturally Nourished, by Sarah Britton.

Learning To Farm Better, Lessons From The Pepper Field

30 Aug 2017 19:31

by Farmer Richard and Chef Andrea

When we start to see more color in the pepper field, we know we’re approaching a transition point in the season.  This usually happens towards the end of August or first part of September.  The days are getting shorter, nights are a bit more cool, and we start thinking about when the first frost might nip us. While we’re still harvesting many summer vegetables, we’re also starting to move into fall vegetables such as celeriac and winter squash.  In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, there are peppers.  They won’t take a direct frost, but we can cover them to protect them from frost damage or we can pick them really hard before the first frost and just hold them for a bit in storage.  Sometimes, after the first frost, we get lucky and have a few more weeks of warm weather which pushes any green peppers along so we can continue harvesting into the end of September or first of October!  From a culinary perspective, peppers handle the seasonal transition well.  They pair well with summer vegetables, but they also play nicely with fall and winter vegetables too.  They really do play an important part in our progression through the seasons and are a reliable mainstay in our Midwestern diets.
Our winter crew does a thorough,
top to bottom cleaning of our
greenhouses at the beginning of each year.
Peppers have a long history at Harmony Valley Farm.  Over the years we’ve grown a lot of different types, both hot and sweet.  Our pepper selection has evolved over the years, partly because of changes in what our customers want, but also as a result of changes within the seed industry and as we learn more about growing them.  In fact, peppers have taught us some very valuable farming lessons over the years.  Some years ago, we discovered what bacterial leaf spot (BLS) is and how devastating it can be when it infects your crop.  We thought we were carrying over the disease from one year to the next in our greenhouse.  We changed our greenhouse set-up protocol to include a more extensive cleaning process including sterilizing the inside of the greenhouse, benches, equipment, etc before we started planting.  We also started sterilizing all of our greenhouse flats with hopes that if the bacteria was living on any of these surfaces, we could kill it and stop the cycle.  Unfortunately, we still had the BLS and were still losing pepper crops as a result!  We still thought the disease might be being carried over in the greenhouse, so we partnered with a new grower who had just built a new greenhouse, had new flats, etc.  He agreed to grow our pepper transplants for us one year in his new house that had never seen a pepper plant.  Well, low and behold we still had the disease.  Fortunately, we were able to detect that the disease was on one specific pepper, the Gypsy pepper.  This is how we learned that the disease was seed borne, came to us on the surface of the seed and then spread throughout our pepper field.  We lost our pepper crops for at least three years while we were battling BLS.  We still employ very thorough cleaning and sterilizing procedures every year when we set up our greenhouses.  While this may not have made a difference with this disease, it is a good practice that is valuable for preventing other plant diseases so we chose to continue the practice.  We also learned about the importance of carefully selecting pepper varieties, specifically ones that have disease resistance and are tested for BLS to guarantee there is no disease present on the seed coat.  Additionally, we started sterilizing seeds that have the potential to carry seed borne disease.  This is done through a treatment involving hot water only and, while not always 100% reliable, is beneficial.
A field of young pepper plants. Notice the reflective
plastic mulch covering their raised beds!
Remember the corn earworm Richard wrote about in last week’s newsletter about the challenges of growing corn?  Well, that little pest is attracted to peppers as well.  The larvae burrow into the pepper and feed on the flesh.  One of the means we’ve found to deter this pest in peppers is by changing our planting system.  We now plant our peppers on raised beds covered with a reflective plastic mulch.  The reflection helps to deter and confuse the moth that lays the eggs on the peppers.  With this system, we also use buried drip tape that helps us deliver water and nutrients as needed at different stages of growth.  While this is a more costly system, the results have been good for us and we’ve had some outstanding pepper crops over the years! 
This orange Ukraine plant is loaded with immature peppers
that will turn bright orange-red in color when fully ripe.
Ripe orange Ukraine peppers ready to be picked.

Peppers have also taught us a thing or two about saving seeds and developing varieties.  The Orange Ukraine peppers in your box this week are grown from seed we’ve been saving since the mid to late 90’s.  Richard used to work on the board of directors for the Michael Fields Institute, an organization that supports organic agriculture and research.  The director of that organization at that time visited the Ukraine, saw this pepper and liked it.  He brought some of the seed back and shared it with Ruth Zinniker, a biodynamic grower in East Troy, Wisconsin, who then shared it with Richard.  Richard has grown it ever since, being careful to always keep some of the previous year’s seed as well as saving new seed every year.  One year Ruth had a crop failure and didn’t have any seed to save for the following year, so Richard gave some seed back to her so she could keep growing it.  To our knowledge, we are the only two growers in this country who have grown this pepper!  We like this variety because it produces very heavily and the plants are pretty resistant to many diseases.  The fruit is similar to a bell pepper, except it is smaller with a pointy end instead of a blocky bottom.  When ripe, the fruit is more orange-red than a red bell pepper, but is equally as sweet if not more.  This fruit also has a thick wall which makes it a good choice for roasting! 

We save our own seed for our mini-sweet peppers.
There are usually only 4-6 seeds in each pepper!
This is not the only pepper variety we save seeds from.  It’s probably been at least 15 years or so since we started saving our own seed for mini-sweet peppers.  One of our longtime CSA members, David, was helping us out at a CSA fair in Madison in early March and he told us about this little sweet pepper from Mexico that they were selling at the Willy Street Co-Op.  He pegged it as the next hot thing in the vegetable world and encouraged us to check it out and see if we could grow it.  On his way home from Madison that day, Richard stopped at the Willy Street Co-op and bought a package.  When he got home he extracted all the seeds (which is not that many when you’re talking about this pepper) and planted them in the greenhouse.  It took several years to build up the seed stock to the point where he had enough seed to grow this pepper in volume.  In the early days, this pepper was only available out of Mexico in the winter months.  When we first started growing it, we were selling large volumes both in our region as well as shipping pallets to Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and even California!   The commercial seed company picked up on this vegetable’s success eventually and one company released seed for a variety called “Yummy.”  We bought some seed and grew it side-by-side with our mini-sweet pepper.  We thought it was pretty similar until we tasted it.  The difference in flavor was dramatic!  Our variety was by far a superior tasting pepper and we still consider it the best tasting and sweetest pepper we grow.  Despite the painstaking task of extracting just a few seeds from each pepper, we decided to continue to save our own seed and have not bought another commercially produced snack pepper seed since then.  The downside of this story, at least for us, is that the mini -sweet pepper market is now saturated since more growers are now growing the commercial varieties.  Over the past few years many of our markets have faded and we’ve had to cut back on the size of our planting.  We used to get a premium price for our mini-sweet peppers, but now that there are so many peppers on the market, the price is more volatile and can be pretty low at some points in the season.  Regardless of these changes in the marketplace, we continue to grow our original variety for our CSA members and our wholesale partners that know our pepper!
HVF pepper field circa 2012: One of the
most beautiful pepper fields in HVF history!
Yes, peppers have definitely taught us a lot over the years.  We continue to learn more lessons from this crop from year to year and it continues to be one of our favorite crops to grow.  This year has been a somewhat challenging year for our pepper field.  The plants were transplanted in the field when it was still pretty cool, but they did ok, put down roots and started to grow.  The field was looking pretty good when we had that rain event the end of July.  Unfortunately the low end of the field died out because the plants were sitting in standing water for too long.  The drainage for this field got backed up because of the silt that washed into an adjacent field and backed everything up.  Unfortunately we lost some of our hot peppers as well as some sweet peppers.  The remainder of the field is still looking good and producing well.  We have started to see some spots forming on some fruit, specifically the red Italian frying peppers.  This is not uncommon to see in a wet year and/or when peppers are fully ripe.  The pepper might look just fine when we put it in your box, but a spot could start to form after you get it.  Watch your peppers closely and if you see this starting to happen, cut the spot away and eat the remainder of the pepper as soon as possible! 
We are hoping to have several more weeks of peppers to include in your boxes, however if this cool weather continues it is highly likely the first frost will come soon.  We’re preparing to lay out remay (field blankets) to protect peppers as well as other vulnerable crops such as eggplant and basil from frost damage.   If we’re lucky, the pepper field will still be alive and well at our Fall Harvest Party coming up soon on September 24.  This is usually one of our favorite stops along the field tour as members get to pick and eat as much as you want!  Hope to see you there!
Children of all ages enjoy picking
peppers at our fall Harvest Party!
S3442 Wire Hollow Road, Viroqua, WI, 54665, United States
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