Harmony Valley Farm
By Gwen Anderson
First CSA Box of 2019 Season
Our 2019 End of the Season Survey wrapped up on January 4th this year, and we have spent the last few months compiling, reviewing, and considering all of the information we gathered from the responses. First off, we would like to once again thank everyone who took the time to participate in the survey! Your feedback helps us make business decisions and improvements so we can better serve our members. To show our appreciation, we wanted to take the time to share some of the feedback and information we received from you!
We put a lot of thought into the types of questions we ask on our surveys to garner the best information to help us improve in ways that are important to our members. If you were one of the 528 people who took our survey, you may have noticed quite a few questions about our newsletters. We invest a lot of time in creating newsletter content and this is one of our primary means of connecting with members every week during the season. We feel the newsletters are important, and we have had members express this to us in the past as well, but it is hard for us to gauge the value of these types of correspondences without further feedback. Are we hitting the target and giving our members useful information, or are we just shooting in the dark?
What did we find out? Yes, people are reading the newsletters! 98% of our members said they read the "What’s in the Box" newsletter at least half the time, with over 77% reading it every week! Over 66% of our members are regularly reading the "Weed ‘Em and Reap" newsletter as well. We received a lot of positive feedback about our newsletters, and it made us feel like we are indeed doing the right thing with them! Last season, due to feedback from a previous survey, we tried something new and printed two newsletters. There is a lot of information we want to share with you, and a single sheet of paper had been too limiting. Previously, we adopted a blog format in order to provide more information for our members, and put “teaser” articles in our printed newsletters to encourage people to visit our blog for the remainder of the article. We received some feedback from members that this type of printed newsletter was irritating; they wanted the entire article without being directed elsewhere. So, we decided to split the newsletter into two portions. The "What’s in the Box" newsletter would contain the vegetable feature, recipes and the box contents for that week. The "Weed ‘Em and Reap" newsletter would be the place for articles about other important topics including farm updates, news reviews, employee highlights, or whatever other information we feel is important to share with our members. This change means there are two folders with newsletters at your pickup site, one with the "What’s In The Box" newsletter, and one with the "Weed ‘Em and Reap" newsletter. It was clear from our last survey that there are still many people who are unaware of the change we made to the printed newsletters. We are planning to continue to do the two newsletter format this year for those of you who prefer the paper copies; and as always, the information will still be linked in our email communications and posted on our blog as well.
Recipes continue to be the most valued resource we provide for you, and the request for more recipes topped out the list of suggestions for improving our newsletters. The "Cooking with the Box" segment we offer on our blog was started in 2017 as a means to address this request and features recipes and suggestions for every item in the box! We do our best to provide you with as many recipes as we can each week, with a little something for various levels of cooking experience. Nearly 82% of our members said they read the "Cooking with the Box" segment, and over 69% said they regularly use the suggestions found therein. If the "Cooking with the Box" segment still leaves you craving more recipes, check out our Facebook group! There are always great posts about what people are cooking up with their boxes, including recipe links. Sometimes, we even borrow the recipes shared in the Facebook group and use them in the "Cooking with the Box" segment!
Additional feedback we received for improving our newsletters included providing more vegetable storage information. We were also asked to provide an earlier “best guess” or a "What’s in the Next Box" section to give you an idea of what might be included in the current week’s box as well as the next week’s box. We are currently brainstorming on how we can improve our communications to include more of this valuable information.
As your CSA farm, we strive to provide you with as much information as possible to ensure that your CSA experience is both positive and successful. By asking what resources you may have been struggling to find last season, we were able to identify additional resources to call attention to or create. Vegetable storage information showed up often in this question as well. There were also a great deal of requests for more information on how to preserve, freeze or dry vegetable for later use. As of now, we have a list of vegetable storage suggestions in the back of our current CSA calendars and include this information in our weekly vegetable features. We will continue to include storage suggestions in our calendars each year. Due to your feedback, we realize that we need to have the information available in more locations that are easier to reference. We will do our best to provide this information more consistently in our newsletters each week, and we are looking into how to get the information available on our website.
“What do our CSA members want in their boxes?” is always a fun question to ask on a survey, and it is one we ask ourselves each year when we do our planning in the winter. This year, we took the guesswork out and decided to ask our members directly. The answer? Ginger! And in one very emphatic case it was GINGER GINGER GINGER GINGER GINGER GINGER PLEASE BRING BACK THE GINGER!!!!! Lemongrass was a not-too-distant second. We hear you, and would love to grow these items for our CSA boxes this year. For the sake of transparency, the seed for ginger and lemongrass has been challenging to source this year. We are still trying to secure enough seed to plant in order to provide these highly requested crops, and are hopeful that we will be successful. Ginger is grown in our cold frame greenhouse, so we had to take a few years off from growing it in order to rotate crops in this space just like we do in the field. We’re looking forward to growing both ginger and lemongrass again this year!
The next three runners up were globe artichokes, Egyptian spinach and purple Napa cabbage. The silver lining is that we will for sure be growing Egyptian spinach and purple Napa cabbage this season! Our plan is to harvest the Egyptian spinach for summer boxes, and to have the purple Napa cabbage available in the fall. We’ve grown Egyptian spinach before, and used it for a delicious soup we are excited to try again. Purple Napa cabbage is a new variety and we are anxious to try it out!
The last batch of questions we ask on our survey were geared towards marketing. We know, as it has been proven time and time again, that our customers are our best source of advertisement and are a wellspring of creative ideas and solutions. By finding out what it is that you value about being part of our CSA program, we can use those values to draw in more like-minded members. By asking what we can do to help you promote your CSA farm, we are able to create resources and promotion materials that reflect what would grab your attention, and thus the attention of the people who share similar values. We have already heard from some members requesting the promotional materials we have available, and we are always happy to oblige! We have several different printed material options available, and we have plenty of pictures and short messages we can send out for our members to post to social media. If any of this sounds like something you would be interested in, please feel free to call or send us an email for more information!
We want, and need, to build our membership in order to keep our CSA program sustainable, so we asked for your suggestions to help up improve our outreach. One of the top suggestions we received was to partner with area businesses. We are happy to announce that we are now partnering with Twin Town Fitness and Lakewinds Minnetonka in the Twin Cities. In the Madison area, we are partnering with three new UW Health System locations, the VA Hospital, MGE and the Garver Feed Mill. We’ve also added an additional residential site in Middleton for our Madison Thursday route! On top of these confirmed new locations for next season, there are a few potential sites in all our CSA areas we are still looking into. As exciting as the new sites are, we still need our current members’ help bringing in new members. We’ve added the sites, please help us add the people! What tools do we have at our disposal to help you bring in new members? We offer a new member coupon, which will give the new member between $15 and $25 off their first season depending on the share they select. This coupon also comes with a referral line, and the referring member will receive a $20 gift certificate! Another great way to get our standard $10 referral coupon is to write your name in the referral line on sign up forms when you hand them out to neighbors, friends and family, or that stranger in the co-op line! When they sign up, we’ll send you a coupon!
Andrea Enjoying the company of some of our CSA members
at Strawberry Day 2019
What do our members value most about being part of our CSA program? The vegetables, of course! The top five responses we received on this question were high quality produce, supporting local businesses, variety of produce, freshness, and being organic. We were a little surprised that organic didn’t come in higher on the totem pole, but we were very pleased to hear how highly our quality, freshness and diversity were regarded. Community was also a common theme we ran across in the comments of this section. While we appreciate the positive feedback about our vegetables, what really touched our hearts was the human connections our CSA program has fostered. We enjoyed hearing that the information we provide to you in newsletters strengthens the connection between us and how important that connection is to you. The connections our members have made between each other were also a joy to hear about! (Thank you to our Powderhorn site host for being “a wonderful person and a great site manager!”) We also care a great deal about our land and the people who work on it, so it was also wonderful to hear that the care and dedication we strive for in maintaining both is something our members value as well. Our organization and attention to detail is something we also loved hearing is appreciated.
There were many other interesting things we found out through our survey, too. We’ve received quite a few requests for videos of all kinds: cooking demos, field work, newsletter recaps, etc. The videos we have made in the past have been fun to do, and broadening our horizons in this form of communication is something we have a great interest in. We are currently brainstorming how to incorporate this into our day as well as what type of content will garner the most interest from our members. As well as videos, we received many suggestions for having a larger social media presence in general. After carefully considering our options, we have decided to continue using Facebook and to start a Harmony Valley Farm Instagram page! Please feel free to follow us on Instagram @harmonyvalleyfarm for more great updates from your farm.
Merchandise was another suggestion that popped up here and there. We do currently have t-shirts available for purchase during our on-farm events, and have been thinking about what other cool things our members might like to see as well (like re-usable tote bags)! My personal favorite suggestion was to create a hot sauce subscription program to supplement our CSA. The Korean Chili Sauce has been a big hit, and it might be fun to try new sauces in the future. We don’t have any immediate plans to pursue this, although it is a really hot idea.
Our website was also a subject we received lots of feedback on. We understand the one we currently have needs improvement, which is why we are working with our friends at Leum Tech to roll out a site that has a fresh look, greater functionality and will work great with mobile devices! Converting our information to the new site takes time, and we are currently prioritizing what needs to be on the site for launch day. Eventually we will have features like online ordering and an integrated blog! Our current recipe and newsletter archives are going to be available much like they are now, and we are looking for ways to make our future newsletters and recipes easier to locate and search as well. Additionally, we will be releasing a new and improved Vegetable Gallery that will include photos, descriptions, storage information, and much more!
As our review of the 2019 End of Season Survey comes to a close, we would like to thank you one more time for the invaluable feedback you have provided. Your support, positive feedback and creative ideas have helped in more ways than a simple newsletter and a “thank you” could ever express. We are truly looking forward to doing an even better job at being your CSA farm next season. See you then!
Did you know you can comment on our blog?
There are a couple different ways you can leave a comment, depending on how you are accessing the blog. If you use a link that takes you to a specific article, or click into a specific article, when you scroll to the bottom, you will see this:
Just click on the "Post a Comment" link, and it will bring you to the screen to do so!
If you are at the blog homepage, where all of our articles are available to scroll through, at the end of each article you will see this:
If you click on where it says "No comments" it will bring you to the "Post a Comment" screen as well!
Once you've written a comment for us, make sure to click the "I'm not a robot" check box, and click the orange "Publish Your Comment" button. We love hearing for you, and leaving comments on our blog lets us know you stopped by as well!
By Richard & Andrea
Harvesting curly willow earlier this week
When winter sets in we always feel like we have “all this time” to tackle our projects, brainstorm, lay out plans, etc. Here we are, approaching the end of January and believe it or not we’ll be packing our first CSA boxes of the 2020 season in less than 100 days! We’re thankful to see the days getting longer—it’s still light outside at 5 pm when the crew is heading home! Sign-ups are rolling in as are shipments of seeds. This week our winter crew was in the field trimming curly willow as we take advantage of appropriate conditions to get the willow out of the field while it’s above zero degrees and the snow is not too deep. We’ll spend the next few weeks trimming and bundling it in the greenhouse before we need to prepare that house for growing transplants. Yes, we’ll be setting up our first greenhouse to start planting onions and celeriac next month! It’s exciting to see another CSA season starting to unfold!
Drip tape line used to deliver nutrients to sweet potato plants.
As farmers, weather is always on our minds, so we might as well tackle this topic and get it out of the way! There is some evidence that El Niño is finally turning to La Niña, which typically means less moisture and maybe even a bit of drought. Since you just never know what you may get, we thought it prudent to update our irrigation permits and make sure our equipment is prepared and working well. Whether we need irrigation as a means of delivering water to a crop or not, we use buried drip irrigation lines to deliver nutrients, microorganisms and trace minerals to our crops. This year we are excited to expand our use of “sap analysis” to determine the specific nutrient needs of individual crops. Sap analysis is kind of like a blood test for plants that allows us to better understand the plants’ nutritional needs at different points in growth. Last year we saw some dramatic results when we used sap analysis to help us determine what support some of our crops needed in order to thrive. We are planning to use sap analysis more proactively this year so we can be more aware of deficiencies and do what we can to correct them before they become a big problem.
As for crop planning, we’re laying out the plan and getting all the parts and pieces in place. Sweet potato plants have been ordered, all 18,000! We’ll be growing our two favorite orange varieties, Burgundy and Covington, and are also going to try a new variety called Bayou Belle. We had better luck growing the white-fleshed Japanese sweet potatoes last year, so we’re going to expand that part of the planting a little bit.
Diana radishes, freshly washed!
We continue to appreciate the color and nutrition we get from our line-up of purple vegetables. The color purple represents anthocyanins, plant compounds that play an important role in our physical health. We’ll be doing one planting of the beautiful Amethyst beans and are considering growing the sweet and tasty purple tomatillos again this year. Last year we also tried Diana radishes for the first time. This is a spring radish that is shaped like a traditional red radish, but it has purple on the top and white on the root end. We received positive feedback about this variety and we liked the way it looked in the field with regards to disease resistance, etc. We have secured seed for our new favorite purple cauliflower, Purple Moon, and have our fingers crossed that we’ll get the Purple Majesty potato seed we have on order. Lastly, we have to try a new bright magenta napa cabbage named “Scarrossa.” We don’t typically grow napa in the fall, but that’s the recommendation for this variety so watch for this around October.
Fresh baby ginger with greens
We have been reviewing the results of our end of season survey that closed the fourth of January. We asked members for their input on which specialty produce items we should grow this year. It’s clear that ginger is high on the list along with lemongrass! We can’t make any promises at this point, but know we are trying to get some ginger “seed”. Our supplier has closed ordering for now, but we’re on the list for an opportunity to purchase seed when they open ordering again sometime in February. Wish us luck! The other crop that had a lot of support was Egyptian Spinach. This is a unique vegetable that grows in the heat of the summer when other greens struggle. It is packed with nutrients and you just feel really good when you eat it! It is a little challenging to grow, but we’re willing to give it a try!
Summer 2019: Richard sampling and selecting
French Orange melon seeds
We continue to look for a personal-sized, yellow seedless watermelon, but there just isn’t anything available. What about the French Orange Melons? Good question. For those of you who know the sweet, delicious, aromatic, one-of-a-kind French Orange melon, you may remember the sad story about how the producer has decided to drop the seed. Richard has been working on saving seed for this melon for several years now. This is not a quick or easy process. The original seed was a hybrid. When we plant the seed from melons produced from the original seed, we get a variety of results. The sizing, color and characteristics of the melon are not always a direct reflection of the original seed. As such, it takes several years of selecting the seed from the melons that most resemble the original set of characteristics and eliminate the off-types. We feel like we are at a pretty good place with the quality of the seed we produced in 2019 and we finally have enough volume of seed that we can put in two nice sized plantings for actual production and harvest. Richard will continue to carefully select seed and plant a separate seed production plot each year in an effort to refine our seed stock for this variety. Wish us luck—we’re really hoping for a much better melon season than in 2019. One of the problems we experienced last year was fewer pollinators. We think the cold, late spring may have caused a decreased population of pollinator creatures. It’s easy to take these little creatures for granted, but when something affects their population and they don’t show up, the results can be very dramatic!
Our crew happily putting together our first pollinator packs in 2016.
Speaking of pollinators, we are going to be planting pollinator packs again this year! This is a project we started back in 2016. In 2015 we published a series of newsletter articles we entitled “The Silent Spring Series.” If you’re interested in reading these information-packed articles, you can find them all on our blog
. Basically the series took a look at the impact the use of agro-chemicals is having on our environment, ecosystem and our bodies. The topic is pretty heavy and as we worked our way through the series we felt like we needed to create some light at the end of this very long tunnel. We needed something positive to move the needle back to a point of hope. We decided to plant pollinator packs, a garden pack with 9 different plants. We started the seeds, transplanted them into the trays and delivered them to CSA members in the spring so everyone could use them to plant pollinator gardens in their own yard, on a patio space, in a community space or anywhere else they could think of where they would flourish, grow and serve to attract and support pollinator creatures (bees, butterflies, birds, wasps, etc). We only intended to do it once, but it was so well-received, we get requests for them every year! So, for those of you who already have an established pollinator garden, perhaps you’d like to add a few new plants to your space. If you are just starting out, no worries! We’ve included some plants in the pack that are easy to establish and will bloom in the first year! Our order is nearly finalized and here is the list of seeds we ordered for this year’s packs. Please note, the packs only hold 9 plants, but we’re ordering more than 9 different things just in case something doesn’t germinate very well and we can’t include it in all packs. Here’s what we’re looking forward to:
We are looking forward to a great season and packing boxes for you and your families. Once again we hope to strike a balance between supplying the staple items (onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli) and longtime favorites (sweet corn, tomatoes, green beans, strawberries) with some interesting and unusual selections to bring a little extra variety to your meals and challenge you, just a bit, to step out of your vegetable comfort zone and experience something new. You never know, you just might discover a new flavor or vegetable you didn’t even know you liked!
In closing, we would like to share an excerpt from a note we received from a CSA family when they signed up for their second year with our farm. Here’s what they shared: “This past year was our first year getting a CSA share and it is not an understatement to say that it has changed our lives. Thank you for doing what you do! We love you guys!” Thank you so much to all of you who send us notes like these. We hope you understand how meaningful it is for us to read these and we also hope you understand that we think of you as we make our plans, select the varieties and pack your boxes each week. Cheers to an awesome 2020 CSA season!
Cooking With This Week's Box
We have officially reached the end of another year of eating out of a CSA box—can you believe it?! It doesn’t seem possible, but as I spent some time reflecting on the season as I wrote this week’s newsletter article the food memories started flooding my mind. While this will be my final “Cooking With the Box” article this year, I’m confident HVF vegetables will continue to be part of your weekly cooking repertoire well into the new year because this week’s box is packed full of storage vegetables! We’re kicking off this week’s cooking chat with horseradish, this week’s featured vegetable. I hope you’ll take a moment to read more about horseradish in this week’s “What’s In the Box” email/newsletter where you’ll learn that horseradish is intended to be a complementary ingredient as opposed to the main star of the show. One of this week’s featured recipes is for Lemon Horseradish Butter (see below). This is a good way to preserve horseradish as you can freeze the butter in smaller portions and pull it out when you’re ready to use it. Slice and melt it over a hot grilled steak or salmon, on toast, or cooked vegetables. I also included a recipe for Prepared Horseradish (see below) which is the form many recipes call for. Check out Food52 Editor’s Picks--Horseradish for a list of over 20 recipes including horseradish. One of my all-time favorite ways to use horseradish is in Roasted Garlic & Horseradish Mashed Potatoes. We used to make big pots of these potatoes at a restaurant I worked at in New York while I was in culinary school. You could apply this same recipe to a nice root mash as well. The last horseradish suggestion I have for you is to make a batch of Fire Cider. This is a tonic of sorts thought to be good for boosting immunity throughout the winter. In addition to horseradish, this recipe also calls on the healing powers of garlic and onions as well as cayenne pepper, turmeric, etc.
Moving on, lets talk carrots. I know you’ve received a lot of carrots over the past few deliveries, but hopefully you have a safe place to store them so you can use them well into the winter! While carrots are not referred to as a “superfood,” I think they should be. They are also so versatile in their use and can be part of our diets in any meal. In our Facebook Group last week a member shared this recipe for Indian Carrot Dessert. Wow, this looks so delicious! I also want to try this recipe for Vegan Carrot Waffles. While I haven’t done this recently, Richard and I like to pull out the waffle iron on Sunday morning for a leisurely brunch and by now you know I like to sneak vegetables into as many meals of the day as possible! I also came across this Carrot Asiago Bread. This is a savory quick bread courtesy of Martha—as in Stewart. I like this idea because it is faster to make than yeast bread but would be a great accompaniment to a winter salad, soup or stew. Lastly, check out Grandma Delilah’s Chocolate Carrot Bundt Cake. This looks sinful, but perhaps it isn’t since it contains carrots?!
Lets tackle a few more roots, like beauty heart radishes and golden turnips! Personally, I like to eat beauty heart radishes raw and this Beauty Heart Radish and Sesame Seed Salad is one of my favorite, simple radish salads. If you find the bite of the radish to be a bit much for your senses, consider cooking it. You could try these Spicy Roasted Beauty Heart Radishes and Carrots with Tahini or Root Vegetable Gratin with Gruyere. Now this root vegetable gratin recipe is written for sweet potatoes, celeriac and parsnips. Perhaps you have all of these vegetables in your fridge right now, but if you don’t, do not worry—start substituting! One of our members posted a meal she made that included Scalloped Beauty Heart Radish. This recipe is made in a similar way and I never would have thought to include beauty heart radishes in this dish, but why not! As for turnips, if it takes you all winter to work your way through the turnips in your crisper drawer, that’s just fine, they should keep. Pull them out on a snowy winter night and make this dish of Roasted Turnips, Apples and Rosemary Chicken Thighs. I also found this collection of Country Living’s 20 Turnip Recipes. Surely there’s at least one suggestion in this list that will appeal to you!
Before we move on from root vegetables we need to chat about sunchokes. One of our market customers told me she made some delicious Sunchoke Pickles. You’ll need to cut this recipe in half as it calls for 2 pounds of sunchokes and there are a little over one pound in your box. I also want to try this recipe for Sunchoke Latkes with Poached Eggs. This recipe calls for sunchokes, potatoes and parsnips, but you could sub in another root vegetable for any of these if you would like. Lastly, check out this recipe for Sunchoke and Cashew Stir Fry. It does call for corn and fresh chile peppers. Unless you have some frozen corn and/or jalapenos from this past summer, my suggestion would be to substitute finely chopped carrots and siracha.
Festival squash is very similar to acorn, except it tastes MUCH better! While this recipe for Maple Butter Roasted Acorn Squash with Pecans
calls for acorn squash, you can substitute the festival squash. Serve this for weekend brunch or dinner alongside this French Onion Quiche
. And last, but not least, check out this recipe for Bacon Onion Jam
! Use it as a spread on toast with cream cheese or as the base for a pizza or flatbread along with roasted butternut squash. These are just two simple ideas and I’m sure you can come up with more!
That’s it. We’ve reached the bottom of the last box of the season and it’s time for me to sign off for a few months. I look forward to cooking with you in a new decade! See you in 2020!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Horseradish Whips
by Andrea Yoder
Richard in the horseradish field
While horseradish is not a radish, it is in the Brassica family along with radishes. The vegetables in the Brassica family are known for their strong, pungent flavors and they are powerhouses for valuable plant compounds that are beneficial for human health. While many sources say that horseradish can’t be or isn’t consumed in quantities large enough to get much nutritive gain, I’d counter with the consideration that it isn’t always the amount of a food you are eating. Rather, including small amounts of powerful foods periodically over time will result in a cumulative positive effect on your health. With that in mind, lets explore horseradish a little further.
Pepper Crusted Salmon Cakes with Horseradish Sauce
photo from food52.com
Horseradish is a bold, pungent vegetable that has the power to make you cry, take your breath away and open every nasal passage you have—that is if you work with it and/or eat it in large quantities. However, the same plant compounds in horseradish that make you do all those things are also the compounds that give horseradish its peppery flavor that wakes up our taste buds. These compounds also have the ability to attack cancer cells and boost our immune systems. Horseradish is intended to be used in small quantities, as a condiment or an accompaniment to enhance foods. It goes well with rich and fattier foods such as salmon, beef, sausage and ham. It also goes well with more acidic foods such as tomatoes, apples, lemons and other citrus. It’s also a good accompaniment to bland foods that give it a base, but make horseradish look and taste good—foods such as sour cream, cream, butter, seafood, potatoes and root vegetables. Prime rib and/or roast beef is often served with a creamy horseradish sauce. Horseradish is a key ingredient in the classic ketchup based cocktail sauce served with poached shrimp. If you’re into Bloody Marys, you’ll know horseradish is part of this drink recipe as well. These are just a few examples of how and where you might use horseradish. On the recipe website, Food52.com, they have an “Editor’s Picks” list for horseradish that contains over twenty recipes using this vegetable. A few of my favorites from this list include Pepper Crusted Salmon Cakes with Horseradish Sauce, Sour Cream Biscuits with Horseradish, Chives & Bacon, Horseradish and Crab Appetizer and Horseradish Parsnip Apple Slaw.
This week your box contains a bag with 4-5 ounces of horseradish whips. While the root and leaves are both edible, we only harvest and eat the roots. Horseradish is a perennial plant that is typically planted in the fall from seed pieces that are taken from cuttings when the previous crop is harvested. A nice seed piece is a straight piece usually about 8-10 inches long with the diameter of a fat pencil or a thin marker. Seed pieces grow off the main horseradish root which is the most saleable portion of the plant on the wholesale market. Any pieces that are smaller than is needed for wholesale or seed are called whips. Whips are usually thrown away, but this is actually the part of the root I prefer to work with for several reasons. First of all, I think the skin is thin and tender enough on these pieces that you don’t need to peel it. The less you have to handle horseradish, the better! I also think the whips are a more manageable size to deal with instead of a big root. On the internet you’ll see references that say horseradish should be eaten within 1-2 weeks…..my friends, I think that’s wrong. Your horseradish whips will store much, much longer than 1-2 weeks if you keep them in the bag in the refrigerator. To give you a frame of reference, we harvest horseradish the latter part of October. In many years, we’ve held horseradish in cold storage for months and sell it all throughout the winter! Don’t be afraid of a little fuzzy white mold on the surface either. It’s not uncommon to see this after extended time in the refrigerator. If you see that happening, but the integrity of the root is still good, just wash it off. If you do decide to discard some/all of your horseradish, do heed caution that you may not want to put it in your own compost pile or the like. Any chunks of horseradish that don’t fully degrade may grow under the right conditions. If you’re not careful you just might plant horseradish in your own back yard and if you do so unintentionally, it will be with you for years to come!
Horseradish Apple Parsnip Coleslaw, Photo from food52.com
Back to the whips. Once you start cutting, grating or chopping horseradish you’ll release the volatile oils that give horseradish its bite. This is when you need to make sure you have adequate ventilation to decrease the chances of your eyes tearing up. Also, make sure you wash your hands after handling horseradish so you don’t accidently get these peppery oils in your eyes. Some recipes might tell you to grate the horseradish on a box grater. This is kind of hard to do with whips because they’re so skinny. My recommendation is to just cut the whips into 1-2 inch pieces and chop them finely in a food processor. You could also use a blender. Little blenders like The Bullet or Ninja can be useful for smaller quantities, or just use a hand chopper. Last but not least, you could chop the whips finely with a chef’s knife. As soon as you start chopping horseradish the pungent oils will start to volatilize. If you are going to serve a dish with freshly grated horseradish, you’ll want to chop it just before serving. If you chop horseradish in advance and don’t do anything to stabilize the oils, the majority of the flavor will dissipate and the horseradish won’t be very spicy or flavorful. Often times you’ll see a recipe that calls for “Prepared Horseradish.” This refers to horseradish that is pre-chopped/grated and stabilized in a vinegar solution which sets the flavor and prevents it from dissipating. This week I’ve included a recipe for prepared horseradish. You can keep prepared horseradish in the refrigerator for several weeks like this before it will start to lose its pungency. This can be super handy to have as you can just take a teaspoon or two as needed for different recipes without having to chop it fresh every time.
Lastly, if you don’t like spicy things or don’t think you’ll like horseradish, just start small. Stir a little bit of freshly chopped horseradish into mayonnaise and spread it on a sandwich or make horseradish cream and drizzle it lightly over roasted root vegetables. You just might find you like that little bit of kick and flavor it adds!
Lemon Horseradish Butter
Yield: 1 ½ cups (One 8-inch log)
1 or 2 horseradish whips, cut into small chunks
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the horseradish until finely grated. You will need about 1 - 1½ Tbsp grated horseradish, depending on how strong you want the butter. Scatter the lemon zest and salt over the top and pulse once or twice until evenly distributed. Add the butter and process until smooth, creamy and well combined. Add the parsley and pulse just until evenly distributed.
Lay a long sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap on a work surface. Using a rubber spatula, spread the butter into a long, rough log about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap the parchment snugly around the log and, using your palms, roll the log back and forth to shape it into a smooth, uniform cylinder. Twist both ends like a candy wrapper to seal them closed. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
This recipe was borrowed from Diane Morgan’s book, Roots. Here are some of her suggestions for how to use this butter: “Grill a steak or a piece of fish and finish it with a slice of this horseradish butter. Roast some fingerling potatoes and dab them with the butter. Put it on a humble baked potato to dress up. Soften the butter, spread it on crostini, and top it with a slice of smoked salmon for an instant appetizer. Having this kind of homemade food on hand takes cooking from good to great.”
Note from Chef Andrea: When I make flavored butter like this, I like to roll it into smaller logs that are 2-3 inches long. This is just the right amount for our household to thaw and use within a few days. If you don’t want to take the time to roll logs, you can also just freeze 2-3 oz portions in small storage containers. You can’t slice the butter as nicely as you can with a log, but once it’s thawed it’s easy to spread on bread, vegetables, etc.
Yield: 1—half pint jar
3 oz fresh horseradish whips
4 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
¼ tsp salt
Have a clean and sterilized jar with a lid and canning ring available nearby.
Cut the horseradish whips into chunks and place them in the food processor. Pulse to grind. It will be a bit dry, something like coconut.
Add the vinegar, salt and sugar. Blend to combine well.
Pack the horseradish into the jar and refrigerate.
Recipe adapted from The Kitchen Ecosystem by Eugenia Bone.
By: Farmer Richard and Chef Andrea
This is it. The last CSA box of the decade! At this point in the season it’s always helpful for us to take a step back and evaluate. So here’s our 2019 CSA year in review. Over the course of our 30 week season we delivered over 70 different vegetables and a handful of fruits! That doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that we had 8 different varieties of potatoes, about 10 different varieties of winter squash, several different types of onions and six different types of head lettuce. If you have a long road trip coming up over the holidays we challenge you to make a list of all the vegetables you can remember eating out of your CSA boxes over this past season and see how close you can get to 70. “Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables” they tell us. Well we have that recommendation covered, and then some!
Healthy strawberry blossoms from June 2019.
Every season has opportunities and challenges. We weren’t sure how we were going to pull off the first few boxes of the season when spring turned out to be wet, cold and late! Mother Nature throws us curveballs for sure, but she always manages to keep us fed. She came through for us with a perfectly timed ramp season and we were able to deliver two solid weeks of ramps with two bunches per box. We followed up ramps with a nice run of asparagus harvest that extended for 5 ½ weeks. Just when we were fretting about what we’d put in the box when some of our spring crops were lagging about a week behind schedule from when we needed them, the head lettuce in our greenhouse tunnel was ready to pick and the field crops followed right behind very nicely. We delivered over 6 different varieties of head lettuce this year as well as salad mix for about 2-3 weeks in the spring and another 4-5 weeks in the fall. Strawberry season was late this year and, unfortunately, the season ended very abruptly when we got hit with rain that super-saturated the berries and caused the quality to drop quickly. While that was a disappointing way to end the season, the berries we picked earlier were delicious and at the peak of the season we had a week where we packed 2 quarts AND 2 pints in every box!
Once the season gets going, it’s seems to just fly ahead at full speed. No sooner than we had finished strawberry season, the garlic field called out for our attention. We were so thankful to FINALLY have a good crop of garlic after several disappointing garlic harvests. Every box this year contained garlic in some form! Our onion crop started out looking really good too, but some mid summer rains, heat and winds changed the trajectory of that crop very quickly. When the tops started to show signs of disease and toppled over, we had to get them out of the field at a fast pace to avoid losing them. Thankfully though, we had enough to reach the end of the year.
Sweet corn ready to be harvested in August 2019.
Sweet corn was another summer crop that afforded us some wins and some losses. Our first and last plantings of the season were sparse and disappointing due to weather related field conditions. While we would’ve liked to have picked more sweet corn, we did have some pretty fantastic tasting corn and managed to have about four weeks of harvest overall. This year was not a blue ribbon tomato season either. Our first crop was hit with disease early on and it felt like we had barely even started picking them when the vines started to die and we had to abandon the crop. The effects of high humidity and heat created the perfect conditions for leaf disease despite our best efforts. Thankfully, our second crop fared much better and we were able to get about 12 weeks of tomatoes overall. Tomatillos, on the other hand, produced very nicely this year and we were able to include them in four boxes which is more than we’ve done in past years.
Our crew putting up stakes for tomatoes in June 2019.
We win some, we lose some, but we always have food on the table and this is what CSA is all about. This is our guarantee to you as we share in the bounty and the loss of every growing season. We all eat our way through the different parts of the year, with an opportunity to be acutely aware of the impact rain, temperature, storms and sunshine are having on our food supply. We have a diversified farming operation and some weeks you may not have noticed that we were having challenges with some crops. This is because we are able to divert product from our wholesale markets sometimes to pack it in CSA boxes instead. However, we can only do that to a certain point as our business needs to remain financially viable.
We do believe our CSA offers members a good value. Over the course of the season we track the value of our box contents and it’s always interesting to see just how many dollars of produce we actually deliver in a season. After this week’s box is packed, the total for the season for all 30 boxes, based on our market prices, will total about $1,300. Compare this to our weekly share price of $1,050 and you’ll see that you received a value that is about $250 greater than what you paid! Please note, this is just the value of the vegetables. This does not include the value of communications, newsletters, recipes and other resources you receive with every delivery. This also does not include the value of having a connection with our farm and an open invitation to visit and have a transparent look for yourself to see just where your food comes from. We mention this as a reminder that participating in CSA is a much different model for sourcing your food than going to the grocery store each week and there are just some things CSA represents and provides that will never be matched in the same way by a grocery store. We do have a “secret shopper” who visits three different retail grocery stores each week to compare prices and selections available in these stores to the contents of our box. However, it isn’t always an apples to apples comparison. On average, there are about two items in every box that are not available in the retail stores and often the selections are not sourced from a local grower. The other point we’d like to make is that organic options for these vegetable selections are not always available while in contrast, every single item you receive in your CSA box is certified organic.
In less than two weeks we’ll roll over into a new year. Once our final week of deliveries is completed we’ll turn our full attention to planning and preparing for the 2020 growing season. Our 2020 CSA sign up form is now available on our website. We’ve decided to continue our 2019 prices and share offerings for the 2020 season. We’ve added one new site each to the Twin Cities and Madison. We’re very happy to be partnering with TwinTown Fitness in Minneapolis to offer CSA pickup at their gym for both gym members and the general public. In Madison we’re excited to be partnering with Sitka Salmon Shares to offer a CSA pickup at their facility located in the recently renovated Garver Feed Mill. We are still looking to add a few more sites to our Madison area on either Thursday or Saturday to provide access to some underserved areas. If you have any suggestions or are interested in hosting a CSA site in 2020, please let us know!
Many of you are aware that CSA membership across the nation has been on the decline over the past 10 years or so. We’ve watched the number of boxes we’re packing on a weekly basis drop from about 1,100 to about 600-650 boxes per week. This has contributed to a financial strain on our business as we strive to keep our farm financially viable. We remain hopeful and steadfast in our belief that CSA is a unique and valuable model both for farmers and for eaters. This is why we keep coming back year after year and continue to explore ways we can do what we do while continuing to push ourselves to learn, research and farm better each and every year. We are beyond grateful for all of you who are dedicated to CSA as well and appreciate your notes of encouragement and continued support.
As we look to the next season our reality is that we need to not only reverse this downward trend, but we need to increase our membership significantly. We know word of mouth is by far the most effective way to recruit new members and connect with the community. If CSA has had a positive impact on your lifestyle, we hope you’ll share your experiences with your friends, family members, colleagues, or anyone else who might be interested! We do have a referral program, so encourage anyone who’s signing up for the first time to include your name on the referral line of their sign up form so we can send you a referral coupon as our way of saying “Thank you so much!”
Our happy crew cleaning ramps
for CSA boxes this spring.
We are also exploring some ways we can connect with our community in 2020. In particular we are interested in pursuing some creative collaboration with some of our talented food bloggers, cookbook authors, chefs, etc in the region. If you work, or play, in this space and are interested in collaborating with us to brainstorm some fun ways we can work together, please send us an email or give us a call!
In closing, we have one more small request. If you have not already done so, we ask that you take a few minutes to complete our end of season CSA survey. We sent an email with a link to the survey last week and will be resending that link on Thursday, December 19. If you’d be willing to offer us some feedback and input, we’d really appreciate hearing from you. We do read each and every comment.
As we sign off for 2019 we want to say one huge, final THANK YOU! Our members are the reason we get up each morning and whether you realize it or not, you are an important part of what we do. We hope you enjoy the holiday season and don’t forget to spend a little time out in the natural world. We’ll see you in four short months. Until then, I leave you with visions of fresh, green ramp leaves; the scent of sweet, sun-ripened strawberries; and the memory of fragrant, sweet juice from a French Orange melon running down your chin.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Rutabaga: Finnish Rutabaga Casserole (see below); Rutabaga & Apple Salad (see below); Norwegian Mashed Rutabagas (see below)
Happy December! As we roll into the home stretch of the 2019 CSA season, I am reminded that seasonal eating can be a lot of fun! This week we’re featuring rutabagas—and if you just groaned or moaned, I want you to know I heard you! Just kidding. Over the past few weeks we’ve eaten quite a few rutabagas as I trialed some new recipes and this week I have three simple recipes to share with you. The first is for Finnish Rutabaga Casserole (see below). While I made this for Thanksgiving, my understanding is that this is actually a traditional Finnish dish often served at Christmas alongside ham. You can make it with rutabaga only or you can do a mix of rutabaga and potato. The next recipe is for Norwegian Mashed Rutabagas (see below). In Norway they cook rutabagas with carrots to make a simple mash. Really, you can make root mash with any combination of vegetables. Rutabagas and carrots go really well together and make a pretty root mash, but also one that has a hint of sweetness. If you wanted to add some potato or sweet potato to the mix, you might be veering from tradition but I guarantee it would still be delicious. The last recipe, Rutabaga & Apple Salad (see below), comes from a blog written by an American now living in Norway. I don’t know if this is a traditional recipe, but it is so delicious! When Richard sat down to eat dinner his first comment was “What a beautiful salad!” As we started eating it, we both commented “Wow, this really tastes good!” I am going to add this to my lineup of winter vegetable salads. It’s crispy, crunchy, slightly sweet and very simple. While rutabagas won’t win the prize for being the most flashy vegetable, they have a lot of potential to create some tasty meals. If none of these recipes appeal to you, you might want to check out Dishing Up the Dirt where you’ll find 11 more delicious recipes to utilize rutabagas.
Turnips are another underappreciated root vegetable, but how can you not appreciate this week’s gorgeous sweet scarlet turnips! I’ve likely shared this recipe for Apple Turnip Quiche before, it’s one of my favorites and I make it quite frequently throughout the winter. This recipe is credited to The Birchwood Café and I have to say, my homemade versions are just as good as the piece I ate at the café! This quiche is delicious served for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. There are several other winter recipes that rotate through my kitchen from December through March. Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping is one of them. I use whatever root vegetables I have available, typically carrots, parsnips, celeriac and either turnips or rutabagas. Sweet scarlet turnips are always my first choice because they look so pretty in this dish. I had never heard of pasties until I moved to Wisconsin. Last year I decided to give them a try and we featured this recipe for Cornish Pasties in our December newsletter. They are very easy to make, leftovers reheat well and they are simple but tasty. Again, use whatever root vegetables you have available.
We’re nearing the end of green vegetables, but do still have a small amount of kohlrabi and some green savoy cabbage that we tucked away for this month’s deliveries. I am looking forward to making Andrea Bemis’ recipe for Kohlrabi & Chickpea Salad. This is a great salad to enjoy during the winter. This creamy vegetable salad includes toasted sunflower seeds and raisins to add a bit of crunch and sweetness to accompany the kohlrabi and chickpeas that provide the base of this salad. If you have green savoy cabbage piling up in your refrigerator, consider trying a dish from another country such as this Ethiopian Spiced Cabbage, Carrots & Potatoes. Of the nine ingredients in this recipe, 5 of them are vegetables in this week’s box. This recipe is super simple, vegetarian and can be the base of a nice weeknight dinner when served with lentils and Ethiopian flat bread. The unique part of this recipe is that it uses Berbere spice. Berbere is a unique Ethiopian spice blend that has a lot of spices including chiles, garlic, fenugreek, cinnamon, allspice and a variety of other components. You can find this in the bulk spice section of most co-ops, so just get a little bit for this recipe—it’s what makes Ethiopian food Ethiopian food!
Every week needs a pizza and this week’s seasonal combo is Carrot Pizza with Fontina & Red Onion. This recipe uses carrots to make a creamy “sauce” to spread over the crust. I’m not sure what this would look like with the purple carrots. I might recommend using the orange ones for this recipe. If anyone does try it with purple carrots, please post a picture in the Facebook Group! I do think it would be fine to use the purple carrots, or a combo of both colors, in this Bombay Carrot Salad with Cashews & Raisins. This salad, paired with Garlicky Lentil Soup, would make a tasty, nourishing winter meal.
One of the things I love about food is how it can take you to other parts of the world. We started off this week’s discussion with recipes from Finland and Norway. Our carrot salad took us to Bombay and we had a taste of Ethiopia just ahead of that. While we’re in Africa we might as well explore this Peanut and Sweet Potato Soup. This is a Deborah Madison recipe we featured back in 2014. If you aren’t into African flavors, maybe you’d prefer this Thai Red Curry Soup with Sweet Potatoes & Squash. This is one of the easiest Thai curry recipes—great for a quick weeknight dinner.
Ok, one more thing to share and I have no idea how this recipe ties together with anything I’ve shared this week. I just think this idea for Roasted Red Onion Flowers is super fun and I really want to try it. Just look at how beautiful they are! So if you have a stash of red onions on your counter, give these a try. They’ll go great as a side dish with nearly anything.
And on that random final note….Have a great week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Rutabagas
by Andrea Yoder
Nature has a way of giving us what we need in its appropriate season. As we move into the winter months, we no longer have the luxury of eating fresh veggies out of the field. Instead, we turn to foods that store well and in preparation for the long, cold months we stock our root cellars full of vegetables that can survive the winter. Not as many people these days have a root cellar, but you can use your crisper drawer for a similar purpose! Rutabagas, along with turnips, are two of the best storing root crops and the stars of this week’s “Weed Em’ & Reap” newsletter article. Take a moment to read more about these two underappreciated vegetables and you’ll quickly learn they have been an important part of winter diets in northern regions for a long time!
When you are ready to use your rutabagas, trim off the neck on the top. Cut the vegetable lengthwise in halves or quarters so it is more manageable to handle. Trim off the exterior skin using a paring knife, You’ll find the flesh to be a beautiful golden color, firm and crisp. When cooking rutabagas, less is often more. Don’t try to make rutabagas fancy, that’s just not their style. This week’s recipes reflect tradition and feature dishes from both Finnish and Norwegian culture. Rutabagas can be eaten raw, boiled, stir-fried, roasted, baked and braised. Elizabeth Schneider wrote, “There is really just one way not to cook it: in lots of water for a long time….” Perhaps this cooking method is responsible for turning up many noses over the years. If you overcook rutabagas, they will quickly go from tender, sweet and delicious to mushy, strong flavored and stinky. Rutabagas are also often used in soups, gratins, roasted root mixes, and root mashes, but can also make a really nice winter salad or stir-fry. Rutabagas pair well with butter & cream (big surprise), ginger, lemon, nutmeg, parsley, sage, thyme, apples, pears, other root vegetables, bacon and other smoked and roasted meats.
Rutabagas should be stored in a cold environment with moisture to keep them from dehydrating. If stored properly they can be preserved for months. If you notice your roots starting to get floppy or soft, just soak them in a bowl of water in your refrigerator and they’ll spring back to life. Don’t let them shrivel up in the crisper drawer this year, give them a try! You just might find you like them and will miss them come spring!
Finnish Rutabaga Casserole (Lanttulaatikko)
Yield: 6 servings
6 cups peeled & diced rutabaga OR 3 cups rutabaga and 3 cups peeled & diced potatoes
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
¼ cup heavy cream
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 2 ½-quart casserole and set aside.
Cook the rutabagas and/or potatoes together in salted water to cover, just until soft and tender.
Drain and mash with a potato masher. Soak the bread crumbs in the cream and stir in the nutmeg, salt, and beaten eggs.
Blend mixture with the mashed rutabagas and potatoes. Turn into the casserole dish. Dot the top with butter. Bake for 1 hour or until the top is lightly browned.
This recipe was borrowed from Beatrice Ojankangas’ book, Homemade: Finnish Rye, Feed Sack Fashion, and Other Simple Ingredients From My Life In Food. Beatrice grew up in rural northern Minnesota, the oldest of ten children. In addition to a lifetime of experience cooking for her family, she also has an extensive list of accomplishments as a food writer and recipe developer. While she comes from Finnish descent, she also lived in Finland for a short while. During this time she researched and collected recipes that she compiled and published as, The Finnish Cookbook.
Mashed Rutabagas (Kålrabistappe)
Yield: 4-6 servings
1.5 pounds rutabaga (kålrabi)
8 oz carrots (2-3 medium)
1 qt water
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
¼ cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp butter
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
Peel and cut rutabaga and carrots into pieces (large dice). Place the vegetables into a pan and cover with a quart of water seasoned with 1 Tbsp salt. Bring the water to a boil and cook the rutabagas and carrots just until tender and soft. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
Mash the rutabagas and carrots by hand using a potato masher.
Stir in cream, butter, pepper, and nutmeg. If needed, add the additional teaspoon of salt and maybe a dash of the reserved liquid, to taste.
This recipe was adapted from one originally printed in the Oct. 21, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. It was submitted by Lillian Laila Owren of Kristiansand, Norway.
Rutabaga & Apple Salad (Kålrabi Salat med Epler)
Yield: Makes a large bowl (7-8 cups)
1 medium or several small rutabaga (about 1 pound)
2 tart apples, cored
¼ red cabbage (about 2 cups, sliced thinly)
½ cup hazelnuts, whole
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
⅓ cup oil (neutral vegetable oil or hazelnut oil)
¼ cup apple juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
Peel and cut the rutabaga into matchsticks by hand or with a mandolin. Cut the apples into matchsticks as well. Thinly slice the red cabbage. Place rutabaga, apples and cabbage in a serving bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and toss to combine.
Place the hazelnuts in a large frying pan over medium-high heat to toast. Shaking once and a while to prevent burning. When starting to turn a golden brown remove from the pan. (I like to add the skins and all, but you can remove the skins if you wish by rubbing the hazelnuts between your palms or in a tea towel.) Roughly chop the nuts and add to the salad.
Combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl and whisk well. Pour over the salad and gently mix until everything is covered. Serve immediately.
This recipe was borrowed from northwildkitchen.com
, a blog written by Nevada Berg. Nevada grew up in Utah, but now lives in the beauty of Norway where she enjoys foraging, exploring, and cooking. The pictures and stories on her blog are beautiful!
By Andrea Yoder
Winter can be a challenging time to eat seasonally and locally for many in the upper Midwest and sometimes we have to think “outside the box” as we get creative with preparing storage vegetables until spring returns. Root vegetables such as celeriac, turnips and rutabagas often get a bad wrap, and honestly—most of the time it’s because someone is intimidated by them, doesn’t have a clue what to do with them, or has had a bad experience with them (….as in their mother or grandmother served them overcooked vegetables!!!!). So this week, we’re going to bring two of these often underappreciated roots out of the shadows and give them a brief moment of fame. Let me introduce you to the stars of this week’s show---Rutabagas and Turnips!
Gold Turnips, Sweet Scarlet Turnips, and Purple Top Turnips
I asked Richard how long he’s been growing rutabagas and turnips. His reply, “Almost forever!” His earliest memories of these vegetables goes back to his Grandpa Nick who grew them in his garden, both to feed his family as well as his animals through the winter. Even though we grow these every year, we’ve tried to limit the number of storage turnips and rutabagas we’ve included in late season boxes. In fact, many years we haven’t even put rutabagas in the box and still we have people tell us in end of the season surveys that they “got too many rutabagas!” Perhaps they are confusing rutabagas and turnips or maybe they just haven’t been able to surmount that hurdle of “What the heck do I do with these roots?!” Friends, I hope you’ll trust me on this and know that both of these humble vegetables have and deserve a place on our tables this winter, just as they’ve graced the tables of our ancestors for hundreds of years before us! Both rutabagas and turnips have a long history in the culture of peoples from northern regions such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Scotland, Ireland, and northern Asia. This is because both of these vegetables grow well in regions with a colder climate where other crops can’t be produced.
Hand-harvesting rutabagas on a sunny fall day
Consider what it was like to live in a time where you had to eat what you could grow because transportation just wasn’t available. It’s too cold to grow bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes and even some grains, but you can grow potatoes, carrots, cabbage, turnips, rutabagas. Now it makes more sense why some of these root vegetables became such an integral part of these cultures! In Norway the nickname for rutabagas is “Nordens Oransje” which means, “Orange of the North.” This brings up another important point about these roots. It’s not just that they are able to be grown in these areas, they also provide valuable energy, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that our bodies need to stay healthy over the winter. As the nickname indicates, rutabagas are actually a pretty good source of vitamin C. Of course, I should mention that both rutabagas and turnips are members of the brassica family which is known to be a family of important foods that provide us with antioxidants and other phytochemicals that build up our immune systems, prevent cancer and protect our bodies in many other ways. So it seems, nature does provide us with the foods we need. Now it’s our job to embrace them!
Scarlet turnips as far as you can see!
In Scotland rutabagas are called “neeps,” while in Ireland rutabagas are called “turnips” and the English seem to follow the lead from Sweden and call them “swedes.” As you can see, turnips and rutabagas are often confused. Rutabagas are a buttercream yellow with purple shoulders. They are often on the larger size growing anywhere from 5-7 inches in diameter, or bigger! The ones in your box this week are on the small side and, while not necessarily good for yields and profitability, you will find them more manageable to work with. Rutabagas have more of a pointy bottom on the root end and often have a Dr. Seuss like stem, although we often trim away most of the stem so all you see is the stem stump on top. Turnips on the other hand are more rounded, or more of a flattened round shape. The traditional storage turnip is a purple top turnip that has a white bottom with purple shoulders.
Rutabaga leaves--seldom eaten by people,
but excellent forage for animals!
See why it’s easy to confuse them with rutabagas? In addition to purple top turnips, we also grow golden and sweet scarlet turnips. All three of these varieties store very well, but we think the flavor is different amongst these three and we tend to favor the golden and sweet scarlet varieties. However, it’s important to note that, as with many other vegetables in the Brassica family, the flavor of the vegetable is significantly impacted by exposure to cold. The turnips and rutabagas we harvest early in the fall before we’ve had frost are not as sweet and mild as those harvested after a few chilly nights. The other factor that affects taste is how you cook them. If I were allowed to have only one pet peeve in the world, it would be “Do Not Overcook Brassicas!” Turnips and rutabagas need to breath, so when you’re cooking them either leave the lid off or at least open it up a bit. If you don’t, all of those sulfur containing phytochemicals which make these vegetables so darn healthy for us will volatilize, build up in the steam and get trapped in the pot. When you remove the lid, WHOOEEEE they do NOT smell good! Many a grandmother and mother of the past have subjected their families to boiled turnips and rutabagas that simmered away in a big pot on the stove, covered, for hours filling the whole house with their stench. No one wants to sit down to the table to eat overcooked vegetables. Just don’t do it, ok?
Turnips and rutabagas have also been known as “peasant food” or “animal fodder.” Now, would you rather eat something with the reputation as being good enough to feed the peasants and animals or something fit for a king? Well, actually I think it’s a testament to the vegetable that it’s versatile enough to feed both a human and an animal. Furthermore, farmers often used these vegetables as feed as well as forage crops (letting the animals graze and eat the green tops) because they were a valuable source of nutrition in the days before hybrid grain varieties were available. Prior to these hybrid varieties, corn and other grains couldn’t always be grown in some of these northern climates because the growing season wasn’t long enough. Additionally, turnips and rutabagas could be stored and fed to the animals all winter! In addition to his memories of Grandpa Nick, Richard also remembers seeing bunker silos full of root vegetables being stored as winter animal feed when he visited Europe. Once we had cheap grain available, these crops fell out of favor for use with animals. So it has nothing to do with the fact that the rutabaga or turnip is a crop of lesser value and thus was fed to the animals or lower rungs of society.
Ok, two fun facts before we wrap up. Did you know there is a festival called Räbeliechtli that is celebrated in German speaking regions throughout Switzerland? This word comes from “rabe” meaning turnip and “liecht” meaning light. It’s celebrated in early November and includes a procession or parade at night in the dark in which children carry lanterns carved from turnips! So if you really can’t find anything to make with a turnip or a rutabaga, at least turn it into a fun, creative project and carve it into a lantern. Here’s how!
The other fun fact I want to share with you is that there is actually a sporting event held in celebration of the rutabaga. That’s right, there is an International Rutabaga Curling Championship held in Ithaca, New York every year towards the end of December at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market. The event is open to both amateurs and professionals and, according to this website
, ‘Preparation is crucial. “Athletes must prepare by sending positive vibes to the Gods of Rutabagas. First-time spectators cannot possibly be prepared for this event.”’ I know we have some CSA members with ties to Ithaca as well as the sport of curling (Kathy P, I’m looking at you). If anyone has ever attended or participated in this event, I want to know about it!
I really hope you’ll give these humble vegetables a chance this winter. While they are seldom the focus of a dish, they can easily be incorporated into many tasty dishes that will nourish your body and keep you well throughout the winter. I haven’t told you much about cooking them yet, but that information can be found in this week’s “What’s In the Box” newsletter which features rutabagas. Congratulations Friend, you’ve made it to the end of the season!
Cooking With This Week's Box
Black Futsu Pumpkins:
Creamy Cider & Black Futsu Pumpkin Soup (see below); Maple-Sage Roasted Black Futsu Pumpkin (see below); Winter Slaw
Maple-Sage Roasted Black Futsu Pumpkin
(see recipe below)
Did you notice the unique little pumpkins in this week’s box? It’s the Black Futsu! I’ve been looking forward to this vegetable all season long. It’s a new one for HVF and I think it might have earned a place in next year’s line up as well! I have two Black Futsu recipes to share with you this week. The first recipe is Creamy Cider & Black Futsu Pumpkin Soup
(see below). This is a simple recipe to make, but you do need to give yourself time to caramelize the onions and bake the black futsu pumpkin in advance. Once those two things are accomplished the rest of the soup comes together very quickly. It’s delicious served on its own, but I chose to serve it with wild rice and toasted pumpkin seeds as a main dish. This soup would also be lovely to serve as a starter for Thanksgiving dinner, or serve it after Thanksgiving along with a turkey sandwich. The second recipe is for Maple-Sage Roasted Black Futsu Pumpkin
(see below) This is another simple recipe that just requires a little patience to allow time to roast the black futsu pumpkin wedges until they are golden, sweet and crispy around the edges. With this recipe, you do eat the skin which is part of the overall effect. Once the pumpkin is nearly roasted to completion, brush it with a mixture of maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and whole grain mustard. After this you put it back in the oven for 7-10 minutes. When you pull them out, the wedges will have a light glaze on them that seemingly transforms them into something so delicious it’s hard to stop popping them in your mouth!
Sheet Pan Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Apples,
and Brussels Sprouts, photo from wellplated.com
We’re happy to have enough Brussels sprouts to send them to you one more week. It seems everywhere I looked the past few weeks I was seeing recipes for Brussels sprouts paired with sweet potatoes! Here are two of my favorites that stood out, both from www.wellplated.com
. The first is Sweet Potato Pasta with Brussels Sprouts
. This is a one pan pasta dinner, quick and easy enough for a weeknight vegetarian main dish yet classy enough to incorporate into holiday celebrations. It’s topped with crumbled feta, dried cranberries and sage. The other recipe is for Sheet Pan Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Apples and Brussels Sprouts. Everything gets roasted on a sheet pan, seasoned with a touch of rosemary.
The next two recipes for tat soi were shared by members in our Facebook Group, and they look delicious! Tatsoi Saag Paneer
is a classic Indian dish typically made with spinach, but this version uses tat soi instead. This recipe is also made with tofu instead of the traditional paneer cheese, so it’s vegan. Serve this with naan bread or rice. The other recipe is for Sweet Potato and Tatsoi Soup
. Several members made this recipe and it seems to be a winner. It calls for celery, but you could substitute celeriac in this week’s box.
I love making crunchy vegetable slaws during the winter and am anxious to try this Winter Slaw
that uses red and/or green savoy cabbage along with apples to make a tasty slaw topped with Parmesan cheese, dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds. The recipe calls for 1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds, which is about the amount you’ll get if you save them from 2 (medium) Black Futsu pumpkins. Don’t throw those seeds away, put them to use!
If you’re looking for a classy vegetarian dish for Thanksgiving, consider this Savory Potato Tart with Celeriac & Porcini
. If you don’t have porcini mushrooms, substitute another dried mushroom of your choosing. While we’re talking mushrooms I thought I’d share this recipe for French Onion Stuffed Mushrooms
. This recipe would make a great appetizer and is a good way to use up onions if you have a pile building up in your pantry!
With Thanksgiving coming up, I couldn’t resist adding shallots to this week’s box. A special holiday requires a special onion. No shallots are not just another onion, although they are in the same family. Balsamic Roasted Shallots
is a classy vegetable side dish that will go nicely with Thanksgiving dinner. Or you could always make this decadent Caramelized Shallot Gravy
I’ve had these two recipes for homemade tater tots in the cue for several months, waiting for the canela russets. Tater tots take me back to my childhood and I never considered making them myself. The first recipe for homemade Fried Tater Tots
is most like the Ore Ida tater tots I remember from my childhood. These are formed into the traditional tot shape and then fried in oil on the stove top. The other recipe is for Baked Tater Tots
that are made in mini muffin tins. With this recipe you get all the flavors of tater tots, including the crispy exterior, but in a little lighter version.
Red Cabbage Vegetable Quinoa Stew
just might win the prize for “Recipe containing the most items in this week’s box!” I think you could incorporate up to seven of this week’s vegetables in this recipe alone! Since this is such a healthy stew, you could balance off this meal with dessert. What might that be? Carrot Cake Cheesecake
Well friends, we have reached the bottom of the box. I hope you have a nourishing, relaxing Thanksgiving holiday and are able to take a little time to reflect on the many things you are grateful for in this year. I will see you back here in December for our final two boxes of the season. Happy Thanksgiving!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Black Futsu Pumpkin
by Andrea Yoder
This week I’m excited to introduce you to the beautiful, unique Black Futsu Pumpkin! This is a heirloom Japanese squash variety that caught my attention in the High Mowing Seed catalog last winter. What was this odd looking pumpkin shaped vegetable with skin that was a grayish, charcoal color mixed with tan? After a little research indicating it has good flavor and is revered by chefs, I convinced Richard we needed to try it.
When we harvested these black futsu pumpkins, their skin was starting to show some signs of changing to a buff tan color, but they were more of a mysterious gray. We weren’t quite sure what to expect. Will they store well? Will they continue to ripen in storage? We didn’t have a lot of information to work with, so we had to just figure it out on our own. I had planned to work them into the schedule much earlier, however when I cooked one and tasted it, it really was pretty bland and did not match the flavor profiles I had read. So we left them alone for a bit. We were pleasantly surprised to find this variety actually holds up very well in storage! They also continued to ripen and now they have very little to no gray coloring on the skin.
When I cooked one recently, I was surprised to see the color of the flesh had changed to a darker, bright orange color and the flavor was much different than my first experience! So it seems we made the right decision to wait! I tried cooking this pumpkin different ways and the options for what you can do with these little guys is endless! The flesh is dense and holds up well to roasting and pan-frying. When baked, either whole or cut in half, the flesh was moist, smooth, creamy and sweet. The descriptions I read also indicated that the skin was edible. It does have a very thin skin and given the bumpiness of the exterior, I didn’t want to attempt to peel it. When pan-fried or roasted the skin gets nice and crispy and offers a nice contrast to the soft, smooth flesh. When I baked the pumpkin whole and scooped out the flesh, I ate a little piece of the skin. While it was edible, I didn’t find it as delectable and did discard it.
Baked Black Futsu Pumpkin
So what are you going to do with these cute things? As I mentioned before, this variety is delicious when roasted. You can either cut them into wedges or chunks, toss them with oil, then roast them on a sheet tray. I’m not usually a fan of pan-frying squash, however this one is a candidate for this method. I would recommend cutting thin slices about ⅛ - ¼ inch thick. Cooking them on a griddle or in a cast iron pan in butter yields a nice crispy, golden final product. You can also cut them in half and bake them in the oven. Honestly, if you don’t want to mess with anything else, just bake them and eat the flesh seasoned with a touch of salt and pepper and a pat of butter. It’s delicious just like that, however you could also stuff the pumpkin halves with a filling of your choosing. Of course, you can scrape the cooked flesh out of the shell and use it to make a wide variety of things. In one of my trials, I used a paring knife to cut a circle around the stem, about 1 ½-2 inches in diameter. I lifted this little section out and used a spoon to scoop out the seeds, then put the little lid back on and baked the pumpkin until the flesh was tender. If you are careful when you scoop the flesh out of the skin, you can use the skin as a little bowl to hold your pumpkin creation. With the holidays coming up, this would make a festive and eye-catching presentation. I wouldn’t serve soup in it, but you could serve Pumpkin Hummus, Pumpkin Goat Cheese Dip with Caramelized Onions or even Pumpkin Fruit Dip! Don’t be afraid to eat pumpkin for breakfast too. I found some tasty recipes for Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal with Maple and Pecans, Pumpkin Overnight Oats, or even Pumpkin Cream Cheese to spread on a bagel or toast!
Store your black futsu pumpkins at room temperature and use them as a decoration until you’re ready to eat them! Once you’re ready to cook them, give them a little scrubbing and then get to work. I forgot to mention that the seeds are also edible. Before cooking, extract them from the flesh, rinse them and lay them out on a tea towel (the seeds will stick to the towel, so don’t use paper or anything fuzzy) or a plate to dry. Once dry you can toss them with a little oil and season them with salt and pepper or seasonings of your choosing before toasting them in a 350°F oven. These seeds really are tasty and, in my opinion, worth the effort to extract them. If you have children, this is a great kitchen job for them! One more tidbit of information I gathered from my experiments is that one medium sized black futsu pumpkin will yield about ¾-1 cup of cooked flesh. I hope you have fun experimenting with the Black Futsu!
Black Futsu Pumpkin seeds: clean, dry and ready to roast
Creamy Cider & Black Futsu Pumpkin Soup
Yield: 4 servings
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup peeled, chopped apple (2-3 small to medium)
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1 pinch nutmeg
1 cup non-alcoholic apple cider or hard cider
1 ¾-2 cups cooked black futsu pumpkin flesh
2 cups water
½ cup cream or coconut milk
2-3 cups cooked wild rice (optional, for serving)
Seeds of 2 black futsu pumpkins, toasted (optional, for serving)
Gently heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced yellow onions and 1 tsp salt. Evenly distribute the onions on the bottom of the pan. You want to hear them sizzle gently, but make sure the heat isn’t too high. You do not want to brown them. Cook gently, stirring periodically, for 20-30 minutes or until the onions are soft, reduced in volume and starting to turn more of a beige color. The goal is to caramelize the onions slowly to develop their sugars.
Next, add the chopped apple, cinnamon, smoked paprika and nutmeg. Stir to combine and then add the cider. Turn the heat up to medium high so the liquid is at a rapid simmer. Continue to simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the apples are soft and the liquid has reduced by about half. Remove from heat.
Next, you will use a blender to combine the soup. First, put the pumpkin puree in the blender. Carefully add the onion and apple mixture. Add the water, cover the blender and blend on low speed, increasing to high speed gradually. Blend until the soup is smooth.
Pour the soup into a medium saucepan and return the soup to the stove top. Bring the soup to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until hot. The soup should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add a little water to thin it to the desired thickness. If the soup is too thin, continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until it reaches the desired thickness.
Stir in the cream or coconut milk. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings by adding more salt and pepper.
If you are serving the soup with wild rice, make sure the rice is hot. Put ½-¾ cup rice in each bowl. Ladle the soup around the rice and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds if you wish.
Recipe by Chef Andrea
Maple-Sage Roasted Black Futsu Pumpkin
Yield: 5-6 servings
2 medium black futsu pumpkins
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp whole grain mustard
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the black futsu pumpkins in half and scoop out the seed cavity. Cut the pumpkins into wedges no more than ½ inch thick. Put the pumpkin wedges in a large bowl and toss with sunflower oil to generously coat all the pieces. Sprinkle salt and dried sage over the pumpkin. Combine to evenly distribute the seasoning.
Spread the pumpkin wedges out on a baking sheet. Try to separate the wedges so they are in a single layer. Roast for 30-40 minutes, turning once about half-way through.
While the pumpkin is roasting, mix together the maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and whole grain mustard in a small bowl. Set aside.
Once the pumpkin wedges are tender and light golden, remove the pan from the oven. Brush the maple syrup mixture over all the pieces using a brush. Turn the pieces over and brush the other side. Return the pan to the oven and roast for an additional 7 to 10 minutes to glaze and finish roasting. Remove and serve immediately while the pumpkin is still warm.
Recipe was adapted from The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman.
By Chef/Farmer Andrea
From left to right: Rohan, Dina, Griffin,
Caden, and Corey Nash
This week I’m excited to introduce you to one of our awesome CSA families. Meet Corey & Dina Nash along with their sons Griffin, Caden and Rohan. Corey and Dina joined our CSA when Griffin, now in 8th grade, was only 2 years old. Shortly after becoming part of our CSA family, their family grew to include Caden and Rohan who are now in the 6th grade. Over the years the Nash family has made it a priority to include a visit to Harmony Valley Farm for a farm event nearly every year. They’ve made the effort to connect with their farm, not just the place but also the people. Over the years we’ve enjoyed watching their children grow and change and every year we learn a little more about each person in their family as we catch up on the past year while sipping iced maple lattes or standing in the pumpkin field enjoying another Fall Harvest Party. We look for their names on the RSVP list and are always happy to see them walking up the drive way, smiles on their faces and ready for another day of adventure at the farm. We look forward to talking to Griffin, Caden and Rohan, three very articulate young men who are a pleasure to converse with. One of the great joys we have in our work is getting to know the people who eat the food we work hard to grow. CSA is a lot of work for a farm to pull off, and it requires some additional effort from the members as well. Is the extra effort worth it? From our perspectives it is a definite “Yes!” If you were to ask any member of the Nash family the same question, I think they’d echo the same. This past June I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the Nash family after our Strawberry Day party. I wanted to know more about their decision to make CSA a priority for their family, why CSA is important to them, how they make it work for their household, and the benefits they reap from being CSA members with our farm. I learned a lot from them and am excited to share some of their thoughts and insights.
The young Nash boys enjoying tomatoes from their garden!
While they now live in Minneapolis, Dina & Corey Nash grew up in rural Minnesota where they had access to fresh vegetables. When it came time to feed their own family, they knew fresh food needed to be a priority. Recognizing fresh vegetables contain valuable nutrients, they asked themselves “what can we do to maintain the nutrient value of our food?” One obvious answer was to reduce the carbon footprint their food left due to travel and source their food from as close to its origin as possible. They also wanted to support local, smaller farms to help keep them in business while reaping the taste and flavor benefits reminiscent of the homegrown vegetables they grew up eating. They decided to join a CSA for all these reasons as well as seeking to build a connection with the place and people who were growing their food.
Griffin, munching on a garlic scape in the field.
HVF Strawberry Day 2019
If you spend a little time with the Nash family, you’ll quickly realize they are a family of very willing and adventurous eaters. No, they may not “love” every food, but they keep an open mind and have a willingness to try new things. We’ve watched Griffin, Caden and Rohan munch on freshly dug carrots in the field. I’ve helped them cut their own head of celery, taught them how to pick kale, and they are now old enough that they even do some of their own self-guided field tours when they come to the farm. This fall they returned from a little side excursion to a nearby field munching on leaves of spicy mustard greens they had just picked! But wait, kids aren’t supposed to like and eat vegetables! That’s the difference and these kids debunk that myth! The Nash boys have been exposed to a wide variety of flavors and foods from a very early age. I asked Corey and Dina how they managed to pull this off. For starters, set a good example. “They’ll do what you model, not what you tell them to do.” They also have a “One Bite” house rule which says that you have to at least taste something once. Why is this important? Dina shared that she believes tasting new things is so important to training tastes as children grow and develop. There aren’t any food battles at the table because the kids know what vegetables taste like and there is no cover up mission underway to get the kids to eat them. Cheese sauce is a treat to complement the flavor of vegetables as opposed to trying to cover them up. No trickery involved, they really enjoy the taste of vegetables! Dina also commented that they have tried to capture the real taste of food for their children in the early years as opposed to skewing their taste buds with artificial flavors. In fact, their kids don’t’ care to eat at McDonalds or other fast food places because in their opinion, the food has too much salt and sugar and doesn’t taste good to them. When I asked the boys about this, Griffin’s response was “That’s what happens when you know what good food is!”
Strawberry-stained hands of the Nash family
at HVF Strawberry Day!
Another thing Dina and Corey have been intentional about is creating an awareness for their children of their own bodies and the way food makes them feel. When they eat healthy food, such as vegetables from their CSA box, they stay healthy and have both physical energy and mental stamina. They are able to excel in their school work and still have energy to participate in activities after school! They have tried to teach them to make better choices on their own by pausing to think about the positive and negative consequences of their choices. During this part of our conversation, Caden chimed in to add “Sometimes I think, ‘Yes, I want to eat that,’ but then I ask myself, ‘do I REALLY want it?’”
So how do Corey, Dina and their sons make CSA work for their household? For starters, they take advantage of the weekend to wash, cut and prepare the vegetables from their box so they are either ready to eat or ready to use in meals throughout the week. Dina and Corey also make use of the weekly “What’s In the Box” email and newsletter. They try to read through the information in the newsletter before they pick up the box as this helps them start planning what they want to do with that week’s box contents. They have also found our private Facebook Group to be a safe and approachable place to go for help with finding uses for unusual vegetables. They describe it as a great place to ask questions, as there is probably someone else out there who has the same question!
Captain Jack, happy to spend quality time with the Nash boys!
Now that we’ve talked about some of their food choice tactics and philosophy, lets come back to where we started—visiting the farm. If Dina and Corey had not made it a priority to come to the farm, we may have missed out on the opportunity to get to know this family. From their perspective, there are many reasons to make the effort to come to the farm. First, the kids love being able to eat out of the field which has helped build their excitement for learning where their food is grown. They have fond memories of picking their own vegetables, digging carrots and picking pumpkins. They also enjoy the fun games, spending time with Captain Jack the Dog, and being out in nature. Richard had the opportunity to spend some time talking to Caden at our Harvest Party last year (fall 2018). As he was getting ready to leave he thanked Richard sincerely for the opportunity to visit and expressed that the day “put him in a zone,” a good zone that he needed. In touch with the fields of vegetables, the sky, the trees, a good “zone” to be in. This may seem like a simple statement, but it was a golden moment for Richard who wishes every CSA kid in our membership would have the chance to come to the farm, play in the dirt, eat & pick vegetables right out of the field and have the opportunity to experience the beauty of being in nature.
Dina Nash and her boys,
all smiles after a day at the farm!
We look forward to continuing to be a part of Dina, Corey, Griffin, Caden and Rohan’s lives. We appreciate our connection to their family as well as the many other families we have formed connections with through CSA. We applaud the parents who have made the decision to make CSA and organic vegetables a priority for their families. We appreciate the individuals who have chosen to make that 2-3 hour drive to the farm so they can see and experience the farm for themselves. I am admittedly jealous of Griffin, Caden and Rohan as well as all of the other kids who get to grow up as “CSA kids.” I think Dina and Corey hit the nail on their head when they commented “You have to slow down and make the investment. That’s what CSA is, it’s worth it for healthy kids who are productive and articulate.” We’re willing to make the investment and we hope more individuals and families will choose to do the same!
By Chef/Farmer Andrea
Jorge, Jose Luis, Leonardo and Silvestre trimming turnips.
As I began writing this article, the snow was just beginning to fall gently outside my window. As I do the final edits to this on Wednesday morning, November 6, I am happy to report that we woke up to a beautiful white valley blanketed in about 4 inches of snow! Yes they said it may happen, but I’m not sure any of us were really ready to accept it. So this morning we faced the reality that winter is here. We pulled out the snow shovels and buckets of sidewalk salt, pulled on the snow boots, and started our winter shoveling workout. Over the past few weeks we’ve watched the weather and strategized. What do we need to do before it rains? Will it freeze overnight? If so, how long will we have to wait in the morning before the air temperature is above freezing so we can send a crew to the field to harvest. Will the double cover over the daikon be enough to protect it from damage if the temperatures really drop into the twenties? How many people do we need to get all of the Brussels sprouts harvested before the sun goes down today? Are we going to have enough dry and somewhat warm days to be able to plant garlic, horseradish and sunchokes for next year? We’ve hustled, we’ve worked hard, and with the exception of more tat soi and maybe some radicchio in two weeks for CSA boxes, our 2019 harvests are complete. Miraculously, garlic, horseradish and sunchokes are all planted thanks to our hardworking crew that understands the importance of getting these things done before the ground is covered in snow as it is this morning. Now what?
All hands on deck to harvest Brussels Sprouts before the big freeze!
“What do you do during the winter?” This is a common question we get asked every fall, so we thought we’d give you just a little insight into what we all do once the harvests are complete, the ground freezes and the snow starts to fly. Last weekend the first group of our crew members departed en route to sunny, warm Mexico. We’re always sad to see them go, but the huge smiles on their faces as they say their goodbyes is all we need to see to know it’s time. They’re anxious to see their families and ready for a little rest. Before Thanksgiving we’ll say goodbye to another group and then the final members of our field crew will return to Mexico before Christmas. I asked some of our guys what they plan to do once they get back to Mexico. Most of them plan to take a few weeks off to rest, relax and spend time with their families. Of course there will be some holiday celebrations and at least one family will be celebrating with their sister who’s getting married in December. After a little R & R, it’s back to work for many. Some will spend the winter months doing construction on their homes, taking care of repairs, making improvements, etc. Others will find work driving truck, working on vegetable farms near their homes, or managing their own businesses back in Mexico. The months will go by way too fast and before we all know it, April will be here and it will be time for them to head north to Wisconsin again.
Nestor and Manuel M. sorting firewood.
Our field work has transitioned from harvest to clean-up and preparation for next year. This is the time of year we clean up brush piles, cut firewood, pick up sandbags and row covers, clean fallen trees out of waterways, and winterize machinery. We still need to mulch the strawberry and garlic fields and then we’ll officially be finished for the year!
In the packing shed, we’re still rockin’ and rolling as we whittle away at the pile of storage vegetables we’ve stockpiled in our coolers. We still have over 350 bins of vegetables in storage, plus sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions and garlic. We hope to sell out of most items by Christmas time, but we will carryover some vegetables into the new year that we’ll wash and pack in January. Yes, we do still have a crew in January! We have about 10 crew members who work with us year round. During the winter months they take care of all the winter cleaning projects, harvest curly willow and pussywillow, prepare the greenhouses and then start planting in the greenhouses in mid February.
After the holidays are behind us and we ring in a new year, it’ll be time to get serious about laying out the framework for a new growing season. Amy has already started inventorying the seeds we’re carrying over into next year. The first seed catalog has arrived and we expect more in the mail any day now! Richard, Rafael and I need to lay out the plans for next year’s crops. What crops will we plant? Which field will we plant them in? How much do we need? Do we have seed or will we need to purchase it? Our growing season technically will start when we plant those first onion seeds in the greenhouse in February! That’s not far away!
Our seed cooler nicely organized and inventoried.
Kelly and Gwen will have plenty to occupy their time with once 2020 CSA sign-ups start rolling in after the first of the year. Gwen will be working on the new CSA calendar and they’ll be busy processing orders. Andrea will be doing some traveling to meet with some of our wholesale buyers throughout the region as well as working on improvements to our food safety program. Richard will be working on his crop plan with Rafael as well as ordering field supplies such as drip tape, row cover, and plastic mulch. Of course if it snows, we’ll all be spending a lot of time shoveling and clearing snow as well!
Crew harvesting curly willow in February.
While much of our crew will be enjoying sunny Mexico, those of us remaining in the cold of the upper Midwest do hope to have a little time to relax as well. We’ll take some time off for Christmas and New Years and we’ll close down the farm for one week at the end of January so our crew can have a little winter break. Hopefully we’ll have some time to do some snowshoeing and build a snowman or two! Kelly and Gwen haven’t decided where they’ll be going for winter vacation, but I am looking forward to traveling to Italy for the first time with my friend Kay from JenEhr Farm! Richard is anxious to do some woodworking and has chosen to have a ‘staycation’ so he can work on building a bed frame with a beautiful live edge walnut headboard.
Winter does mean a slower pace for all of us, but the work doesn’t stop. Animals will still need to be fed, coolers will need to be managed, and we need to work diligently towards our winter goals so we’re ready for another growing season next spring! While this hasn’t been the easiest year of farming and we’ve had some challenges to surmount, we’ve also had many blessings and many more things that have gone well. We’re grateful for all our crew members who helped us pull off yet another year of farming. We wish them all safe travels home and will look forward to seeing them next spring when we’re all refreshed and ready to do it all again!
Cooking With This Week's Box
Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away! One thing I like about this time of year is that it’s a great time to collect vegetable recipes! One of my favorite recipe collections to peruse is Food 52’s Automagic Thanksgiving Menu Maker. Whether you’re looking for vegetable recipes for Thanksgiving dinner or just to enjoy throughout the winter, there are some good finds in there! For example, this Autumn Root Vegetable Gratin with Herbs and Cheese is a tasty twist on a traditional potato gratin with the addition of parsnips and butternut squash! I also found this recipe for a Brussels Sprouts Gratin. I’ve never used Brussels sprouts like this, but it’s hard to go wrong with a gratin. If you are looking for something a bit more on the light side, try these Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts with Honey and Sriracha. Maybe you’ll discover a fun, new recipe to introduce to your friends and family for the holiday, or perhaps you’ll just have fun trying something new on a regular old day in the kitchen. Don’t forget, next week is a meat only delivery week. So, I’ll plan to see you back here in two weeks!—Chef Andrea
Hello Everyone! I can’t believe we’re down to the final four boxes and we are still having trouble getting everything in the box! Well, one reason is we have these beautiful tat soi to pack this week! So lets start off this week’s cooking chat with a simple dish, made in one pot. Our featured recipe this week is Vegan One-Pot Ramen Noodles with Tat Soi (see below). This is one of those very adaptable recipes, which has already been adapted several times! Ok, lets talk ramen for just a moment. I have to confess, I’ve never eaten instant ramen noodles. I know, how did I ever survive my college days!? If you think ramen starts and stops with those little instant packets of ramen noodles, I’m happy to fill you in that ramen is more than those little packets. Ramen noodles originated in Japan and “ramen” stands for a “pulled noodle.” I was happy to find a package of ramen noodles in the grocery store that were not only certified organic, but I was also able to buy just the noodles—no mysterious flavoring packet included. You could substitute udon noodles if you like and you could make this with any green of your choosing. If you aren’t feeling ramen noodles this week, maybe you’d prefer spaghetti? This recipe for Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash and Tat Soi was our featured recipe last year!
Certified organic, gluten free ramen noodles!
As we move into the winter months, cabbage becomes our stand-by green and can end up on our table in many different forms. Richard always wants cole slaw, but I like to shake things up a bit with recipes like this Shredded Cabbage Salad with Apples
. The name of this salad seems pretty simple, but it’s a classy salad that combines the flavors of an Indian chutney with the creaminess of a traditional cabbage slaw. It has a creamy curry dressing with raisins and apples blended in for a sweet contrast to the spicy dressing. Another simple way to use this week’s green savoy cabbage is for this simple Irish recipe for Fried Cabbage & Potatoes
. A little bacon adds some richness and flavor, but the vegetables dominate. The German Butterball potatoes this week are a great variety to use in this way. You can serve it on its own or put a fried egg on top! Eat it for dinner or in the morning for breakfast. You know what would be good with this dish? Biscuits!
I’m not sure what has gotten into me, but it’s been a long time since I last made biscuits. I did some searching and found several tasty vegetable-inclusive biscuit recipes. Check out this one for Garlic Butter Biscuits
or this one for Roasted Garlic Parmesan Biscuits
. I also found a recipe for Caramelized Onion Biscuits
which is a perfect fit for this week’s Scout yellow onions. Serve these biscuits for breakfast, with a bowl of soup, or just on the side of a hearty fall/winter meal.
Carrot Cake Balls, photo by Rocky Luten for food52.com
I’m always looking for non-traditional ways to use vegetables, such as in desserts or for breakfast. If you didn’t have a chance to make the Oatmeal Parsnip Chocolate Cherry Cookies
we featured in the newsletter several weeks ago, add them to your list for this week or for this holiday season. We don’t think twice about using carrots in cake, but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of carrot pie. Google can help you find anything though, so when I went searching I found this tasty recipe for Chai Carrot Pie
. If you aren’t afraid of breaking tradition, you might even decide to add this pie to your Thanksgiving Day line-up of desserts! If you prefer to keep your carrots in the traditional carrot cake fashion, perhaps you’d at least be willing to try this twist on the traditional, Carrot Cake Balls
. These don’t require any baking and are something a little less indulgent but every bit as decadent. Use them as a healthy snack or breakfast item to fuel you through the cold winter days. Ok, one more somewhat non-traditional way to incorporate sweet potatoes into breakfast. Make a Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl
! This is super easy. Just take cooked, mashed sweet potatoes and blend them with nut butter and cinnamon. Top it off with raisins and cinnamon and you have a warm, nourishing alternative to hot breakfast cereal.
Despite the fact that there is an endless array of possibilities for how you might use sweet potatoes and butternut squash, I often tend to just cook them and eat them with butter. So I’m challenging myself to use them in some more interesting ways. This recipe for Spicy Sweet Potato Dip
is described as “hummus vibe without chickpeas.” Serve it with pita bread, crackers or fresh veggies for dipping such as slices of winter radish or carrots. You could also use this as a spread to make a quick veggie wrap stuffed with tat soi, shredded carrot and maybe some leftover chicken. I also am intrigued by this recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Spicy Onions
. Cut the recipe in half to serve 4 as it calls for 4 pounds of butternut and there isn’t that much in the box! You will roast the butternut and then toss it with herbs and spicy red onions. Serve it slightly warm or at room temperature—it’s kind of like a salad and kind of like a side.
Vegetable Feature: Tat Soi
by Andrea Yoder
I look forward to this vegetable every year and consider it to be one of our staple greens for these late season CSA boxes. I had never seen tat soi before I came to Harmony Valley Farm. I remember the first time Richard showed me this vegetable. It was so beautiful I almost didn’t want to eat it….but that feeling quickly passed and I dove in! It’s also packed with nutrients which make us healthy, but also give it a rich flavor. I suppose I should back up and tell you what this gorgeous vegetable looks like! You’ll recognize the tat soi in your box this week as the large, dark green flower-like vegetable with long slender light green stems and rounded spoon-like leaves. It is a relative of bok choi and has a mild mustard flavor that has been sweetened by a few frosty nights. Both the leaves and the stems are tender and may be eaten raw or cooked.
This is one of the last crops we plant during our main season, with the intention to harvest it as late as possible. Depending on the weather, we are usually able to leave it in the field until mid-November. While this plant usually grows upright, as the temperatures start to decrease it lays itself flat to hug the ground for warmth. The result is a very open, flat rosette that has a deep, dark green color that intensifies with cold weather. Tat soi is very resilient to cold temperatures and can recover after being frozen, which is why it’s a unique selection for this time of the year. We do put hoops and a field cover over them to offer them some protection from the really cold nights. If you see some outer leaves on your tat soi that have a white to grayish hue, you’re looking at a little frost damage. You might also see some stems that have kind of a wrinkled, loose appearance. This happens sometimes when the stem freezes and then thaws. These stems and leaves are still good to eat and those frosty, cold nights are what make this green taste so mild and sweet!
If you’re looking for recipes that use tat soi, your search will likely turn up pretty slim. Expand your search to include recipes that feature bok choi, spinach or even chard as tat soi can be used interchangeably in recipes with any of these greens. Tat soi leaves and stems are tender enough to be chopped and eaten raw as a salad. Use it to make a beautiful winter salad with shredded carrot, slices of beauty heart or purple daikon radish and a light vinaigrette. Turn it into an entrée by adding a protein such as seared beef, fish or tofu. Tat soi is also a quick-cooking tasty green to use in stir-fry and pasta dishes. It’s also a nice addition to brothy soups such as miso soup or hot and sour soup or use it in a tasty bowl of ramen such as in this week’s featured recipe.
It’s best to store tat soi in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. To prepare it for use, turn it over and use a paring knife to cut the stems away from the base. Wash the stems and leaves vigorously in a sink of cold water. If you’re using it to make a salad or stir-fry, make sure you pat the leaves dry or dry them in a salad spinner. If you’re using them in a soup or just wilting them, just shake a little water off of them. Savor the last of this year’s greens!
Vegan One-Pot Ramen Noodles with Tat Soi
Yield: 3-4 servings
This recipe was borrowed from alexandracooks.com with just a few minor changes. It is her adaptation from a recipe for “Better-Than-Take-Out Stir-Fried Udon” originally published in Bon Appetit magazine. The original recipe included ground pork, which you could also add to this recipe if you wish.
Alexandra’s recipe calls for green savoy cabbage, but she offers this note: “This recipe can be adapted to what you like or have on hand. I love draining noodles over things like cabbage and dark leafy greens to soften them just slightly. If you want to add carrots, sweet potato, or other harder vegetables, you could shred them in the food processor to ensure they cook quickly.” So, I (Chef Andrea) took the liberty of adapting this recipe one more time to include this week’s tat soi!
7-8 cups tat soi or bok choi, leaves and stems thinly sliced
6-8 oz ramen noodles (could substitute rice or udon noodles)
10 ounces Cremini (or other) mushrooms
1 small knob ginger, about an inch long, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes or more to taste
⅓ cup mirin
⅓ cup soy sauce
1 medium red onion, finely minced
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
2-4 tsp toasted sesame oil
Hot sauce, such as Sriracha, for serving
Fill a large, wide sauté pan or Dutch oven with water and bring to a simmer. (Alexandra recommends using a wide sauté pan to make this a one-pot endeavor, but you could also simply use a small saucepan to boil the noodles and then a separate large sauté pan to sauté everything together. Cleanup will still be minimal.)
Place the thinly sliced tat soi in the colander you will use to drain the noodles.
Add the ramen noodles to the simmering water and cook for 30 seconds. Using a fork, separate them a little bit and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes. You don’t want them to be fully cooked, more like 85% done. Drain the noodles over the tat soi, being careful the noodles don’t slip over the sides. Keep colander in sink. Reserve your pan.
Meanwhile: chop the mushrooms and mince the ginger and garlic.
Heat the 1 Tbsp of olive oil in your reserved sauté pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms, season with a pinch of kosher salt, stir. Let cook undisturbed for 1 minute, then stir and continue to cook at medium-high heat until the mushrooms begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the ginger, garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to the pan, and stir to combine. Add the reserved noodles and tat soi. Add the mirin and soy sauce. Use tongs to stir and combine. Simmer for just a few minutes.
Add the onions, sesame seeds, and sesame oil, and using tongs again, stir to combine.
Serve immediately, passing hot sauce of choice on the side.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Purple Daikon Radish: Soy-Pickled Daikon (see below); Daikon Apple Slaw (see below)
I love learning about new vegetables, and this week we have another purple beauty to share with you! In this week’s box you’ll find beautiful bright purple daikon radish. Some people love radishes and others are still learning to like them. If you’re in the latter group, I hope you’ll stick with me and hear me out. This is a delicious and beautiful radish to eat! Daikon radishes originated in Asia, so it’s fitting to go to Asian cultures to figure out what to do with them. One of this week’s featured recipes is for Soy-Pickled Daikon (see below). These are so very easy to make, so if you don’t do anything else with the daikon, at least make this recipe. These pickles can hang out in your refrigerator and you can eat them in small quantities as a condiment with vegetables, meat or grains. While there is some vinegar in the brine, they are more sweet and salty as opposed to sour or overly acidic. In traditional Chinese cuisine pickled vegetables such as these are often served with rice porridge, which leads me to the next featured recipe, Congee with Chicken and Greens (see below). I thought this was a fitting recipe to go along with the Soy-Pickled Daikon since Congee is rice porridge! There is no one single recipe for Congee as it is one of those common household recipes that everyone puts their own spin on. This version includes chicken and greens, which could be bok choi, red mustard or kale from this week’s box. Feel free to make it your own and garnish it with whatever toppings you like, such as cilantro which is also in this week’s box. Serve it with some of these pretty Soy-Pickled Daikon on the side. Congee is simple to make but has a long cooking time. If you want something that is more “set it and forget it,” check out this recipe for Congee in an Instant Pot. I’ve also included a simple recipe for Daikon Apple Slaw (see below). This is a crunchy, fresh salad with a light vinaigrette. The tartness of this salad would make it a good accompaniment to fatty, rich foods such as short ribs or grilled chicken thighs.
Brussels Sprouts Ceasar Salad, photo by Alpha Smoot for food52.com
We’re excited to be sending the first Brussels sprouts this week! Use them to make Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts, or use them raw and turn them into this Brussels Sprouts Casear Salad! Make sure you cut this recipe in half because it calls for 2 pounds of Brussels Sprouts and you only have 1 pound in your box. This will then serve 3 to 4.
Now that we’ve seen the first snowfall, soups are going to become more of a regular part of our weekly meals, starting with this Silky Ginger Sweet Potato Soup. This is a good recipe to hang on to and make throughout the winter as it will warm you both by its temperature as well as the warming ginger. If you want something a little more hearty, use sweet potatoes to make Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili.
Did you see the cute little butternut squash we have this week!? These cuties are delicious just simply baked, but if you want to do something more with them, turn them into Vegan Butternut Black Bean Nachos. The nachos are topped with chunks of roasted butternut and there is a sauce, reminiscent of nacho cheese sauce, made from pureed butternut squash. If nachos aren’t your thing this week, maybe pizza is? If so, here’s a knock-your-socks-off recipe for Sweet N’ Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza with Cider Caramelized Onions & Bacon. There’s a lot happening on this pizza, but all of it will be well worth your time!
Every now and again you just need a simple meal of a good, homemade burger. What goes with burgers? Fries! Jazz up burger night with Carrot Fries with Curry Dipping Sauce! Life is about balance though, so now that we’ve had our fill of (healthy) nachos, pizza and burgers, lets make sure we eat our greens too! We are nearing the end of greens season, so lets make the most of these last fresh ones. Not sure what to do with red mustard? Check out this article and find “10 ways to Use Mustard Greens”. If you don’t use them to make congee, you could also use either red mustard or this week’s baby bok choi to make this recipe for Vegan One-Pot Ginger-Scallion Ramen Noodles. This is simple, warming, nourishing, and who doesn’t love noodles!
(Freezable) Stuffing with Caramelized Onions & Kale
photo by Rocky Luten for food52.com
Don’t forget the lacinato kale! Have a spaghetti squash hanging around, use it to make Spaghetti Squash with Kale Pesto. Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, so you could also get a jump start on cooking for the big day and use the kale to make (Freezable) Stuffing with Caramelized Onions & Kale. While you’re caramelizing onions, you might as well do some extra and turn them into Caramelized Onion Dip. You could pre-caramelize the onions, freeze them, and then make the dip the day before Thanksgiving. You have to have snacks to munch on while watching football, right!?
That’s a wrap for this week. I’ll see you back next week with one more fresh from the field green and we’ll get started on planning for Thanksgiving! Have a good week—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Purple Daikon
by Andrea Yoder
It’s been several years since we included daikon radish in CSA boxes, but you know we have an obsession with gorgeous purple vegetables and couldn’t resist trying this purple daikon! This is our first year growing this variety, called bora king. Its beautiful purple color, which extends through to the center, is what first caught our attention, but it has some other great qualities as well. First of all, it’s much smaller than traditional white daikon radish that can grow to be more than 12 inches long! It’s hard for a small family to eat that much radish and white daikon is one vegetable I don’t like to have remnants of hanging out in my refrigerator due to its pungent aroma. This purple daikon, however, is much smaller which makes it more manageable to use. It also has a delicious, slightly sweet, balanced radish flavor. It does still taste like daikon, but I think it’s a little more balanced flavor than some white daikon that can be pretty pungent.
Daikon radishes are classified as a winter storage radish and are an important part of many traditional cultures throughout Asia. Because of its ability to be stored, it’s an important winter food both because it’s available but also because it is high in nutrients including vitamin C which can help keep us strong and healthy throughout the cold winter. Radishes are actually one of the oldest cultivated food crops and there are literally thousands of different varieties. In the book, Roots, by Diane Morgan, she cites the following history: “Radishes are likely indigenous to Europe and Asia and are believed to have been first cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean before 2000 B.C., probably in Egypt, where they were reportedly included in the daily rations, along with onions and garlic, given to the workers who built the pyramids.”
Daikon radish can be used in a variety of ways, both raw and cooked. In Chinese and Japanese culture daikon radish is often pickled, another tactic to help preserve this food and so it is available throughout the winter. Pickled daikon radishes, such as the recipe included in this week’s’ newsletter, are often served as a condiment. One of this week’s recipes is for Soy-Pickled Daikon, borrowed from the book Phoenix Claw and Jade Trees, a book about traditional Chinese cooking. The author explains that pickled vegetables, including daikon, are often served with rice porridge. After reading this I had to go do a little research and found that congee is the name given to rice porridge. I am by no means an expert on Chinese food, culture or history, but I am always intrigued to find out about traditional dishes. Congee is often eaten for breakfast, but it really can be eaten at any meal of the day. It is a dish that came from peasant food and is a way to make a small amount of rice go a long way. My understanding is that there is no one or right recipe for congee, rather everyone has their own version they identify with and the one they like is probably the one their grandmother made! This week I have included a recipe for Congee with Chicken and Greens. This is a fitting recipe to go along with the Soy-Pickled Purple Daikon which can be served as a condiment alongside this dish. This week’s box also has plenty of greens to choose from (bok choi, red mustard or kale), all of which are appropriate for this recipe.
Now that we’ve talked about congee, lets get back to daikon! Daikon radish may also be used in salads and other fresh condiments, often paired with other vegetables and dressed with a light sauce or vinaigrette. Daikon radishes are also used in stir-fries and braised dishes. It was interesting to learn that in some areas of China daikon is used in braised stews and soups, such as what would be equivalent to our beef stew. Whereas we would use potatoes, they often use chunks of daikon radish. Of course, remember daikon has a lot of nutritive value, so adding it to hearty broths and stews is a great way to fortify the soup. Daikon radishes are also traditionally used in Korean kim chi, which is once again an important food to eat both for nourishment and health throughout the winter.
Store daikon radish in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic to keep it from dehydrating. It will store for at least 4-6 weeks if not longer.
Soy-Pickled Daikon Radish
“Pickling in soy brine is one of China’s ancient methods of preserving vegetables. Any firm vegetable can be used for pickling once its moisture is leached out using salt and sugar.”
Yield: 4 servings as an appetizer, or more as a condiment
1 medium or 2 small purple daikon radish (12 oz)
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
Soy Pickling Brine
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp white rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
Peel the daikon radish (just remove a thin outer layer) and slice it very thin (for the best results, use a mandoline to slice them). Put the daikon slices in a medium bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Stir the daikon well to make sure the salt is applied evenly and let it marinate for about 30 minutes at room temperature. At this point the moisture will have bled out of the daikon and collected in the bottom of the bowl. Squeeze as much of the liquid out of the daikon as possible and discard all the liquid.
Sprinkle the sugar over the daikon and mix well. Let the daikon marinate for another 30 minutes at room temperature. As with the salt, a pool of liquid will form at the bottom of the bowl. Once again squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible and discard all the liquid.
Add the ingredients for the soy pickling brine to the daikon and mix well. Transfer the daikon and brine to a storage container, cover, and refrigerate at least overnight or for up to a month.
Serve the pickled radish in a small bowl with some of the soy brine.
Recipe borrowed from Phoenix Claw and Jade Trees, by Kian Lam Kho.
Congee with Chicken and Greens
“Congee is a smooth rice porridge, and it’s really all about the toppings. Even in its plainest form, however, it’s wonderful. Top with hot sesame oil, Kimchi, scallions, soy sauce, sesame seeds, cilantro, or anything else that calls to you.”
1 cup white rice
10 cups water, stock, or whey
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 boneless, skinless single chicken breasts (4 to 6 oz each)
1 ½ cups tender greens, cut into thin ribbons (spinach, tatsoi, bok choi, mustard greens, or any other green you have on hand)
Combine the rice and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium low, and cover. Cook for 1 ½ hours, stirring every so often. It will seem like there is too much liquid and not enough rice, but it will thicken. When it does, add 2 tsp of the salt.
Rub the remaining tsp of salt over the chicken breasts. Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken into thin slices, about ½ inch. Add them to the pot, stirring the chicken into the hot rice. Stir in the greens. Continue to cook until the chicken turns white and the greens are soft, about 5 minutes.
Note from Chef Andrea: As indicated in the introduction, you can garnish congee with any additional ingredients you’d like. I’d recommend some chopped cilantro on top and serve it with the Soy-Pickled Purple Daikon Radishes on the side!
For a coconut congee, replace 2 cups of the liquid with a can of coconut milk.
Replace the chicken with sliced pork tenderloin or tofu.
Recipe borrowed from The Homemade Kitchen, by Alana Chernila.
Daikon and Apple Slaw
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Sesame Seed Vinaigrette
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
3 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp sambal oelek (or any other chili-garlic sauce)
1 tsp sea salt
2 green onions, including green tops, thinly sliced (or substitute thinly sliced red onion)
1 large crisp apple such as Granny Smith
12 oz daikon radish, peeled (2 small or 1 medium)
To make the vinaigrette, using a mortar and a pestle or a spice grinder, grind the sesame seeds to a powder. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ground sesame, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, oil, sesame oil, sambal oelek or chili garlic sauce, and salt. Add the onions and stir to combine. Set aside.
Peel, half, and core the apple and cut into sticks about 3 inches long and ¼ inch thick and wide. As the apple sticks are cut, add them to the dressing and stir to coat to prevent browning. Peel the daikon and cut into sticks the same size. Stir to combine the apples and daikon with the vinaigrette. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until chilled before serving, about 30 minutes. (The salad will keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.)
Recipe adapted from Roots, by Diane Morgan.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Italian Garlic: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic; Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage; Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes
Broccoli OR Cauliflower: Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad with Chickpeas
Orange Carrots: Carroty Mac and Cheese; Carrot, Feta and Almond Salad
Peter Wilcox and/or Mountain Rose Potatoes: Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream; Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic
Red Onions: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage; Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes
Red Mustard: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Sweet Potato Quesadillas
Spinach or Salad Mix: Sweet Potato Quesadillas
Burgundy Sweet Potatoes: Sweet Potato Quesadillas; Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes
Mini Butternut Squash: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Roasted Honeynut Squash
Parsnips: Parsnip Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies (see below); Parsnip, Lemon and Poppyseed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle (see below)
Green Savoy Cabbage: Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream; Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage
Last week at market it seems like our customers were finally ready to embrace root vegetables. For the first time that I can remember in the history of HVF, we sold out of both parsnips and rutabagas! This week we’re facing our first hard frost with temperatures dipping into the 20’s, which makes us all ready to make the transition to hearty fall and winter fare. Lets kick off this week’s chat with dessert—why not?! Parsnips are delicious in soups, stews and other savory preparations, but they’re also delicious in baked goods and desserts such as these Parsnip Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies (see below)! This recipe is the creation of my friend, Annemarie of Bloom Bake Shop in Madison. I asked Annemarie to make a special sweet treat for our Harvest Party and the one requirement was to include parsnips. She knocked our socks off with these delicious cookies. If you weren’t able to join us for the party, be assured these cookies are worth making! The other recipe featuring parsnips this week is Parsnip, Lemon and Poppyseed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle (see below). I made these muffins for the market crew earlier this year when we had overwintered parsnips. They were so delicious! Both of these recipes are good ones to tuck away and use for your Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. A bit non-traditional, yes, but both recipes that will impress your guests!
While we’re talking roots, lets tackle carrots. Everyone loves a good mac and cheese, so why not try this recipe for Carroty Mac and Cheese. It’s rich and creamy, but the carrots add a sweet, earthy balance. Serve this as a main dish or a side. If you’re looking for something a bit more on the lean side, consider this recipe for Carrot, Feta and Almond Salad.
Did you notice how gorgeous the red mustard greens are this week! This is my favorite time of year to enjoy red mustard and one of my favorite recipes to use it in is this one for Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens. You could also use spinach in this recipe, but mustard greens are always my first choice when making this recipe. It also makes use of this week’s butternut squash. If you don’t use your butternut squash in the lentil recipe, then consider making this simple Roasted Honeynut Squash. If you aren’t familiar with Honeynut Squash, this title is referring to a specific variety of mini butternuts called Honeynuts. They are a personal-sized mini butternut as well. In this recipe you do nothing more than bake the squash and top them off with cinnamon, salt, pepper and butter. They are so delicious you don’t need anything more than these few simple ingredients.
We’re always excited to kick off sweet potato season, so pull out all of your favorite sweet potato recipes and lets get started cooking! We featured this recipe for Sweet Potato Quesadillas featured back in one of our 2007 newsletters. You build a quesadilla with mashed sweet potatoes, cheese and greens. You could use either spinach or red mustard in this recipe. Prep all the components in advance and you can pull off a quick dinner in about 10-15 minutes! I am also going to mention one of my all-time favorite sweet potato recipes. If you’ve been with our farm for awhile this recipe will likely not be a surprise, but it’s so good I want to share it with everyone again! Try these Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes. They are so delicious!
Before we move to above ground vegetables, we need to talk about potatoes. This recipe for Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic is one of my favorite, simple ways to eat potatoes. I also really like the simplicity of this Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream, a recipe we featured last year. This soup is very simple, but very satisfying. If you don’t use all of your cabbage to make this soup, consider trying this recipe for Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage. With a name like that, I have to try it! There’s a video link for this recipe as well….and you’ll have to check it out for yourself to find out what makes it so delicious!
Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage, photo by Julia Gartland for food52.com
Now that we’ve dealt with most of the vegetables that grow underground, we can turn our attention to the last item in the box. Use this week’s cauliflower and broccoli to make this tasty recipe for Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad with Chickpeas. Enjoy this salad as a main dish for lunch or serve it in a smaller portion as a side dish.
It’s hard to believe, but after this week we only have five more CSA boxes in the 2019 season. I’ve already started planning the contents of our final boxes and I have to tell you, we have a lot of vegetables to try and squeeze in before the end of the season! Have a good week and I’ll see you back here next week for more delicious recipes!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Parsnips
By Chef Andrea
Parsnips fill an important place in our seasonal Wisconsin diets because of their ability to store well through the winter, both in our refrigerators as well as in the field. Parsnips are one of our largest crops and this year we planted 3.5 acres. That may not sound like very much, but in the world of parsnips it is quite a lot and will yield tons of food! Parsnips are a challenging crop to grow because their seeds take about 2 weeks to germinate and we have to plant them early in the spring when the soil is still cold. They also have a very long growing season which means more management in the field to keep them healthy and keep the weeds under control. Parsnips are often described as being a white carrot. While they do resemble carrots, they are not really just a white carrot. They have a distinct flavor that is much different from a carrot. They also have the ability to survive if we leave them in the field over the winter. We’ll harvest most of this year’s crop this fall, but we will leave some parsnips in the field with plans to harvest them next spring. It’s a little risky, but parsnips can be overwintered in the field and when we dig them in the spring they are even more sweet and delicious than they are this fall!
Parsnips are a versatile vegetable that can be prepared in a variety of ways. Their sweetness really comes out when they are roasted, which is one of my favorite ways to prepare parsnips. They also make a nice addition to a fall root mash or mix them with other vegetables in hearty soups and stews. You can also use them in baked goods, similar to how you might use carrots. I’ve used them to make parsnip muffins that are similar to carrot cake and this week we are featuring a recipe for Parsnip, Lemon & Poppy Seed Muffins (see below)! You can also use them to make quick breads such as Andrea Bemis’ Spiced Honey Parsnip Bread. You can also use them in cookies. Make sure you check out the recipe for Parsnip Oatmeal, Chocolate, Cherry Cookies (see below) in this week’s newsletter!
Parsnips pair very well with other root vegetables, wine, shallots, apples, walnuts and a variety of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger. Some people really like the distinct flavor of parsnips, while others may still be learning to like them. If you’re in the latter group, I’d recommend that you start by using parsnips in a baked good or use them in small quantities mixed with other vegetables in soups, stews or a simple root mash.
Store parsnips in the coldest part of your refrigerator in a plastic bag. They will store for several weeks under these conditions, so don’t feel like you need to eat them all right now. When you are ready to use them, Scrub the outer skin with a vegetable brush and trim off the top and bottom. If you are making a pureed parsnip soup and want it to be snow white, I’d recommend peeling the parsnips. If you aren’t looking for an art display presentation, I would recommend skipping the peeling part of the process.
Parsnip Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Yield: approximately 40 cookies (2-3 inch diameter)
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
⅓ tsp nutmeg
1 ¾ cups oatmeal
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 Tbsps white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups parsnips, shredded
1 cup finely shredded coconut
1 pkg (10 oz) chocolate chips (1 ¾ cup)
¾ cup dried cherries
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in oatmeal and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine vegetable oil, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix until smooth and well combined.
Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, incorporating well after each addition. Add the parsnips and stir to combine.
Last, fold in the coconut, chocolate chips and dried cherries. The dough is going to be very stiff and you may feel like you are not going to be able to incorporate all of these last ingredients. Trust the recipe and keep working them in. It will come together! Don’t forget to scrape down to the bottom of the bowl!
Drop by the tablespoon full onto a cookie sheet. Do not flatten the cookies, they will spread out as they bake. Bake in a 350°F oven for 14-16 minutes. The cookies should still be a little soft in the middle when you take them out of the oven. They will set up nicely as they cool. If you want a crispier cookie, bake them a little bit longer. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
This recipe was created by Annemarie Maitri, owner of Bloom Bake Shop in Madison, Wisconsin. Annemarie dreamed up this cookie recipe when I asked her to make a sweet treat for our Fall Harvest Party this past September. She was so pleased with the creation that she added it to her cookie menu for the fall! Thank you Annemarie!
Parsnip, Lemon and Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle
Yield: 12 Muffins
5 oz raw parsnip (approx 1)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
½ cup butter, softened (plus extra for greasing)
¾ cup sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup plain yogurt
¾ cup powdered sugar
4-5 tsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line a muffin tin.
Peel and finely grate the parsnips. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the poppy seeds and parsnip.
In another bowl, use an electric mixer or wooden spoon to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each in well. Beat in the zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract, blend well and then add the yogurt and combine.
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, alternating three times.
Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups, filling them ¾ full.
Bake for 25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the drizzle topping: Stir lemon juice, teaspoon by teaspoon, into the powdered sugar until it is a runny consistency. Drizzle over the completely cooled muffins.
This recipe was borrowed from veggiedesserts.co.uk
, a very interesting food blog written by Kate Hackworthy. If you like this recipe, check out her blog where you’ll find more delicious baked goods featuring parsnips as well as other vegetables!
By Chef/Farmer Andrea
This year's sweet potato vines in July.
We’re excited to be delivering the first of several weeks of sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes are an important crop for us, not so much because they are a big money maker, but more so because they are an important part of our diet and we love to eat them! Richard may or may not admit this, but I think he also likes the challenge of growing a tropical plant in the upper Midwest! As with every crop, you just never know what kind of a year you will get. Up until 2016, we had always had a sweet potato crop to harvest. Some of you may remember fall 2016 when we had a devastating 100 year flood at the end of September. Sadly, our sweet potatoes were planted in field #65, right next to the river. The rain started to fall, the river started to rise and quickly became a raging, angry beast that came out of its banks and flooded our beautiful sweet potato field. It was heartbreaking as we were only one week away from harvest. Even now it’s hard to write about that year when we lost the entire sweet potato crop. We all survived with plenty to eat, but a winter without sweet potatoes just isn’t right! We came back in 2017 and had a pretty good year. The crop wasn’t perfect, but we were just thankful to have something to harvest! In 2018, Richard and the crew were determined to have a knock-out sweet potato year. Their determination paid off and we had the best sweet potato crop in the history of Harmony Valley Farm! We harvested over 30,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and they were gorgeous! It’s hard to match a crop like that, but we set out to do so again this year.
We planted this year’s crop on June 1. We get our sweet potato plants from two organic producers in North Carolina. Due to a cold, wet start to their season, they shipped our plants about 10 days later than we had planned. Nonetheless, the field was ready before we received them so we were ready to start planting them the same day they arrived! Most of the plants survived the transplanting process and took off. Overall, the crop looked to have a good start. We fertilized and delivered nutrients as needed, but there were periods of time when the soil was wet and saturated, despite the fact that we grow on beds covered with plastic mulch for heat gain. I mentioned earlier that sweet potatoes are tropical plants. They thrive in hot, dry climates. In wet conditions, you often end up with scraggly roots and the plants don’t set potatoes as they should. This year’s yields came in at about 50% of last year with an estimated 17,000 pounds. The potatoes are nice and tasty, we just didn’t find as many potatoes per plant as in previous years. Our two main varieties this year are Covington and Burgundy. Both are orange fleshed sweet potatoes known to be sweet and flavorful. We also grew Murasaki sweet potatoes, a white fleshed Japanese variety. We haven’t had much luck with these potatoes in past attempts. They have never yielded very well and the potatoes are always very small and skinny. I can’t help myself though, it’s a delicious potato with sweet, moist white flesh. Somehow I managed to convince Richard we needed to try them yet again this year. Surprisingly, the yield was significantly improved and we harvested the largest potatoes we’ve ever seen on this variety! Evidently this variety actually thrives with a little more moisture. Despite a disappointing yield, we did make some important observations that will help us raise future crops and we’re always happy to have something instead of nothing. We do plan to deliver sweet potatoes in most, if not all, of the remaining CSA boxes and we’ve allocated some to offer as a Produce Plus offering before Thanksgiving as well as part of our End of Season special offering. We also partner with the Lakewinds Food Co-Ops in Minneapolis and they’ve done an outstanding job selling and promoting our sweet potatoes in their stores in previous years. This year we’ll send a few their way, but not nearly what we or they had hoped for. Because we knew our yields would be low this year, we saved every little potato when we were harvesting. Typically when the potatoes are more abundant we would leave some of the little guys in the field. But this year, every potato is precious to us. So we have some potatoes we’re sorting out as “Baby Bakers.” Evidently we’re not the only ones in the country who have small, fat potatoes. Within the last year other companies have started selling these baby sweet potatoes as well. They are completely usable potatoes, just much smaller than the historical industry standard. You’ll likely receive some in your box before the end of the year. They are the cutest little things and are actually easier in many ways to work with compared to some of the bigger potatoes.
Freshly washed sweet potatoes.
After we harvest the sweet potatoes, we bring them into our nursey greenhouse in wooden crates. We stack them up and once they are all harvested, we start the curing process. When sweet potatoes first come out of the field they are not very sweet and flavorful. The skins are also very tender and delicate, so we have to handle them very careful with gloved hands to minimize any surface damage to the skin. We hold them at a temperature of 85-95°F with humidity of 90-95% for 7-10 days. During this time the greenhouse feels like a sauna! This process helps to set the skins so they’ll last longer in storage. It also develops the starches into sugars, making them a truly sweet potato!
Sweet potatoes are best stored at a temperature of 55-65°F. Do not store them in your refrigerator or at temperatures less than 50°F or they’ll get chill injury. Store them in a cool, dry location or on your countertop until you’re ready to use them.
There are so many things you can make with sweet potatoes ranging from sweet potato casserole to sandwiches, fries, soup, cakes, pies, donuts, salad and more! Of course, one of the simplest things you can do is just bake them and eat them right out of their skin with a touch of butter!
Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes
1 pound sweet potatoes
1 cup packed kimchi (approximately 7 ounces), chopped finely
1 ½ tsp finely chopped garlic
1 to 2 Tbsp chopped fresh Serrano chiles (The amount of chile pepper you use may be adjusted to your liking and will also be dependent upon the heat of the kimchi. If you do not have fresh chiles available, you may also substitute pickled jalapeño or a pinch of dried red pepper flakes.)
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp kosher salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour
About ½ cup vegetable oil
Peel sweet potatoes and julienne (very small strips) using a mandolin or the shredding attachment on a food processor. You should have about 6 cups of sweet potatoes once they are cut.
Stir the potato together with the remaining ingredients except for the oil. Let the mixture stand at room temperature until wilted and moist, about 5 minutes, then stir again.
Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Using 2 serving spoons, scoop up some of the sweet potato mixture in one spoon and use the other one to compress the mixture and form a rough patty. Care- fully slide the patty off the spoon and into the hot pan. Repeat the process to add another 4 or 5 pancakes to the pan. You will need to do several batches to cook all the pancakes.
Cook until golden brown, 1 ½ to 2 minutes, then flip the pancake. Add a little more oil if necessary. Cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels or to a baking rack on a sheet pan. Hold the pancakes in a warm oven (set at 150-200°F) until you are finished frying the pancakes and are ready to serve them. Add oil to skillet between batches as needed.
Serve warm with a dipping sauce of your choice. The original recipe was accompanied by a soy-vinegar dipping sauce, but I prefer to serve them with a dollop of sour cream or sour cream mixed with lime juice and cilantro.
If you have extra pancakes leftover, they can easily be cooled and frozen. When you are ready to use them, reheat the unthawed pancakes in a 375°F oven.
This recipe is a long time favorite! It was originally published in Gourmet magazine and can be found at www.epicurious.com.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Broccoli OR Cauliflower: Lemony Cauliflower and Carrot Soup; Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce
Peter Wilcox Potatoes: Swiss Chard and Potatoes
Orange Carrots: Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below); Italian Wedding Soup; Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce; Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread
Calibra Yellow Onions: Warm Red Cabbage Salad (see below); White Bean and Escarole Pizza; Utica Greens; Lemony Cauliflower and Carrot Soup; Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic
Baby Beets: Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread; Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic
Red Chard or Red Mustard: Creamy Penne Pasta with Greens and Parmesan; Swiss Chard and Potatoes
Escarole: White Bean and Escarole Pizza; Italian Wedding Soup; Utica Greens
Red Cabbage: Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below); Warm Red Cabbage Salad (see below); Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread
Salad Mix: Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic
Spinach or Baby Arugula: Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheeseand Honey Balsamic; Creamy Penne Pasta with Greens and Parmesan; Swiss Chard and Potatoes
This week we have another beautiful vegetable to feature, red cabbage! We love to eat and grow vegetables with a variety of colors. Of course you know that color also equals flavor and nutrients! It’s win win on all fronts! This week I’ve shared a recipe for Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below). I’ve been making this recipe for years and it comes from Lorna Sass. Her book was one of the first vegetarian cookbooks in my collection and I still reference recipes in it frequently. This is a very simple recipe to make and goes well as a side along with a bowl of soup. The second recipe in this week’s feature is also a salad, Warm Red Cabbage Salad (see below). This recipe comes from one of my other favorite vegetarian cookbook authors, Deborah Madison. You could add pancetta or bacon to this recipe if you like.
Last week our featured vegetable was Escarole. We featured two recipes using this delicious fall green. If you didn’t have a chance to make the White Bean and Escarole Pizza or the Italian Wedding Soup, take some time to try one of these recipes this week. I’m not sure how I missed this in my research, but a friendly market customer this past weekend told me about a traditional recipe using escarole called Utica Greens. It’s very simple and includes prosciutto, wilted escarole and hot pickled cherry peppers with a crumb topping of herbs, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. I’m going to have to try this one!
If you don’t use all your garlic when cooking the escarole, turn it into Roasted Garlic Butter. You can use this on bread and sandwiches, or put a dollop on top of grilled steak or roasted winter squash.
One of my favorite parts about the farmers’ market is talking to customers about the dishes they make with our vegetables. In addition to the recipe for Utica Greens, I got a tip on this Melissa Clarke recipe for Lemony Cauliflower and Carrot Soup. I haven’t tried this yet myself, but some of our longtime CSA members tell me this is a super simple soup to make and there’s no dairy in this. The creaminess of the soup comes from pureeing the vegetables and the addition of lemon brightens all the flavors in your mouth. If you receive broccoli instead of cauliflower, consider this recipe for an Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce. This recipe calls for edamame. If you don’t have any in the freezer, I’d suggest that you substitute some chopped sweet peppers or carrots in their place.
Looking for a quick lunch option? This is a great week to make Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread. Instead of shredding the carrots and using them as part of the vegetable filling, they go into making a flavorful, healthy spread for the wrap. You can stuff these with the toppings of your choosing, but the recipe suggests shredded red cabbage and beets. What a perfect recipe for this week!
The other thing I want to use the baby beets for is a simple roasted beet salad. The baby beets we’re delivering this week are perfect for roasting whole and then using them to make a delicious salad with any of this week’s greens as a base. This simple Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic can stand alone or serve it as a side dish to a meal.
There are a lot of greens in this week’s box, so I wanted to share the link to this recipe for Creamy Penne Pasta with Greens and Parmesan. We featured this recipe in a newsletter back in 2007. You could use chard, mustard or spinach to make this recipe. It’s simple to make and you can add chicken or sausage to it if you so desire. Here’s another recipe for a simple greens based recipe, Swiss Chard and Potatoes. You could use this week’s Peter Wilcox potatoes for this recipe.
I believe we’ve cooked our way to the bottom of another box. Before I close, I just want to let you know the sweet potatoes are about half way through their curing process. It looks like we’ll be able to start washing them for CSA boxes as early as next week! Start pulling out all of your favorite sweet potato recipes and get ready! Have a great week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Red Cabbage
By Chef Andrea
We call it red cabbage, but others may refer to it as purple cabbage. Perhaps it’s splitting hairs to debate whether it’s red or purple when the bottom line is that it is simply gorgeous! Red cabbage is different from our green cabbage in several ways. First, it’s obviously much different in color which means it also has a bit of a different nutrient profile. Purple and red pigments in vegetables indicate the presence of chemical plant compounds called anthocyanins. We talked about these several weeks ago when we delivered the black nebula carrots. Anthocyanins have many health benefits including being antioxidants that combat free radical damage in our bodies. Thus, they play a role in cancer prevention as well as enhance cardiac health and boost our immunity, amongst a long list of other benefits. In addition to the benefits from anthocyanins, red cabbage also offers all the similar benefits of other vegetables in the Brassica family including phytonutrients called glucosinolates and sulfuraphane. These two nutrients are important for reducing the potential for carcinogens to damage our tissues while also assisting the liver with detoxifying the body. Red cabbage heads are also more dense and the leaves are thicker in comparison to green savoy cabbage or the sweetheart salad cabbages we delivered earlier in the season.
Red cabbage may be eaten both raw and cooked. One of the simplest ways to use it is to just slice it very thinly and mix it in with salad greens or other vegetables when making vegetable salads or slaws. It can also stand alone to make beautiful and tasty slaws and salads which may be served either cold or warm. This week I’ve included a recipe for a simple Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below) that I’ve been making for many years. Red cabbage is also often used to make braised red cabbage, a more common part of German and northern European cuisine. Recipes for braised red cabbage will often include apples, juniper berries, caraway seeds and either red wine or red wine vinegar. This is a good place to talk about how to retain that bright purple color when cooking red cabbage. When you cook red cabbage, you can retain the bright purple color by adding an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or lemon juice. If you don’t add acid and cook it for any period of time with the lid on the pan, the cabbage will turn to more of a blue-green-gray color. This is kind of a fun kitchen experiment to do with kids so they can see how the color pigments change when in an acidic versus basic environment. Beyond braised red cabbage and slaw, there are a lot of other ways to use this cabbage. While I don’t have any experience using red cabbage in Indian cuisine, I did find some interesting recipes using Indian spices. I also found a recipe that used the red cabbage to make Purple Cabbage Paratha, an Indian flatbread. You can also use raw cabbage in spring rolls and wraps such as this Winter Veggie Wrap with Carrot-Miso Spread that we featured several years ago. It’s also a great stir-fry vegetable, however I’d recommend using a sauce that has some citrus in it to help retain the bright purple color.
Some other foods that are complementary and are often used with red cabbage include the following: apples, oranges, lemons, currants, onions, shallots, caraway, juniper, clove, star anise, red wine, vinegar, carrots, beets, blue cheese and goat cheese. Red cabbage stores well, so don’t feel like you have to use it all right away. It’s best to store red cabbage in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. You’ll be surprised by how much you will get out of a head once you start slicing it! If you don’t use all of the head, simply wrap up the remainder and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it again.
Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple Mustard Dressing
Yield: 6 servings
“The compliments will start pouring in for this tasty, gorgeous salad, which you’ve thrown together in about 5 minutes….Don’t be tempted to leave out the juniper berries: They are the secret ingredient that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.”
1 tsp coarsely ground juniper berries
½ to ¾ cup Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below)
1 ½ lb red cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrot, grated
⅓ cup tightly packed minced fresh parsley
Sea salt to taste (optional; you may not need it)
Recipe borrowed from Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen.
- Stir the juniper berries into the maple-mustard dressing and, if time permits, let set for an hour.
- Just before serving, toss the cabbage, carrot, and parsley in a salad bowl.
- Toss in just enough dressing to coat the salad. Add salt to taste if desired.
½ cup sunflower oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp dry mustard
Pinch of salt
In a small jar, combine all of the ingredients and shake well.
Use immediately or refrigerate in a tightly sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe borrowed from Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen.
Warm Red Cabbage Salad
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
The cabbage is cooked just enough to soften it, then tossed with apples, goat cheese and roasted walnuts. This is a very nice salad for fall when both walnuts and apples are newly harvested. For variation in flavor and color, mix the cabbage with other greens, such as spinach or curly endive.
15 to 20 walnuts, enough to make ¾ cup shelled
2 tsp walnut oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 small red cabbage
1 crisp red apple
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 ½ Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 to 4 oz goat cheese, broken into large pieces
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
½ tsp marjoram, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Crack the walnuts, leave the meats in large pieces, and toss them with the walnut oil and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toast them in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they begin to smell nutty. Then remove them from the oven and let them cool.
Quarter the cabbage and remove the core. Cut the wedges into thin pieces, 2 to 3 inches long, and set them aside.
Cut the apple lengthwise into sixths, cut out the core, then slice the pieces thinly, crosswise.
Put the garlic, vinegar, and oil in a wide sauté pan over a medium-high flame. As soon as they are hot, add the onion and sauté for 30 seconds. Next add the cabbage and continue to cook, stirring it with a pair of tongs for approximately 2 minutes, or until just wilted. The leaves will begin to soften and the color will change from bright purple-red to pink. Season with salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and more vinegar, if necessary, to sharpen the flavors. Add the goat cheese, apple slices, herbs, and walnuts. Toss briefly and carefully before serving.
Recipe borrowed from The Greens Cookbook, by Deborah Madison with Edward Espé Brown.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Italian Garlic: White Bean & Escarole Pizza (see below); Italian Wedding Soup (See below)
Escarole: White Bean & Escarole Pizza (see below); Italian Wedding Soup (see below)
Our nights are getting colder and warm hats have become part of my daily attire again. We haven’t had a frost yet, but we may see one before the end of the week. These cool nights are great for sweetening crops, such as the escarole in this week’s box. This is an interesting vegetable that is delicious both raw and cooked, however I think it’s at its best when cooked. A traditional, simple way to cook escarole is to saute it in plenty of olive oil along with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes. The Italian way is to cook it until it’s very soft, silky and tender. While this makes a delicious side dish on its own, you can also take this base preparation and put it on a pizza. One of this week’s recipes is for a White Bean & Escarole Pizza (see below). In this recipe you use a flavorful white bean puree as a base to spread on the crust and then top it off with the cooked escarole and parmesan cheese. Of course, you can add meat if you like. The second recipe featuring escarole this week is for Italian Wedding Soup (see below). This is a classic way to use escarole and it’s a super simple soup. Get the kids to help you form the meatballs and the rest will come together quickly. The escarole will become silky and soft when cooked in the broth and is a nice complement to the fattiness of the pork.
Sadly, we’re nearly finished picking peppers and if we do get a frost this weekend that will officially mark the end of pepper season. This week we’ve packed three more little jalapenos, which could be used to make this Honey Lime Jalapeno Vinaigrette. Use it as a salad dressing or as a marinade for fish or chicken.
While we’re talking salad dressing, I want to share this recipe for Hot Bacon Vinaigrette. You can use this vinaigrette to make a wilted spinach or chard salad, but it can also be tossed with roasted cauliflower/Romanesco, mini sweet peppers or potatoes right after you take them out of the oven.
Fall is the time of year when brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc really thrive. You don’t have to do anything fancy with them and sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. Try this Parmesan Roasted Broccoli. You can make this with broccoli and/or Romanesco. As for the cauliflower this week, last week I found this recipe for Cauliflower Pizza Bake. This is basically a combination of roasted cauliflower with pizza toppings! I have a feeling this recipe might become a family favorite!
This week’s purple majesty potatoes are a great variety to use in this recipe for Breakfast Potato Nachos. This is a recipe we featured in a previous newsletter. In this recipe the potatoes are sliced and baked to make a chip that takes the place of a traditional nacho corn chip. Top off the potatoes with beans, sour cream, jalapenos, and all the traditional nacho toppings!
While carrots can make their way into many dishes as a base flavoring ingredient, you can really make them shine when they are the main ingredient, such as in this recipe forCarrot, Feta and Almond Salad. I love carrot salads because they are super easy, but also tasty and convenient to make.
Here we are at the bottom of another CSA box. Wish us luck as we continue to dance around the weather and try to get root crops harvested in between the rains! Even though we’re approaching the end of our season, we still have more delicious vegetables for you including Brussels sprouts, Black Futsu squash, tat soi and more! Have a good week—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Escarole
By Chef Andrea
This week’s featured vegetable is escarole. Many people mistake escarole for a head of green leaf lettuce. While they do look very similar, they have some differences. For starters, escarole is in the chicory family and is considered to be a bitter green. Escarole is a frost tolerant green, which is why we plant them as a late season crop. Cool temperatures result in a more balanced flavor in this vegetable. If you eat a little bit of the leaf when raw, you will notice it has a mild bitterness. While escarole may be eaten raw, I think this vegetable shines at its best when cooked. When you cook escarole, the green wilts down into a smooth, silky green and the flavor mellows out so it is more balanced, slightly sweet and less bitter. The center leaves are sometimes light green or slightly yellow and the outer leaves are more broad and a bit more thick when compared to leaf lettuce. If you are going to use escarole raw, I recommend using the center leaves for raw preparations as they are often more tender.
Escarole is a popular green in Italian cuisine. There’s a classic preparation for escarole that some Italian cooks call Scarola Affogata, which means “smothered escarole.” In this dish, garlic is sautéed in olive oil until golden, then chopped escarole, salt, red pepper flakes and seasoning are added to the pan. The greens are cooked until they are soft and tender. This is then served as side dish, or you can use the greens for another purpose, such as on top of a pizza as we’ve done in this week’s recipe, White Bean and Escarole Pizza.
Escarole is also often used in winter soups along with white beans and other vegetables. This week one of our featured recipes is for a classic Italian Wedding Soup. This soup actually has nothing to do with weddings. It has its origins as a peasant soup made to make use of meat scraps, stale bread and basic vegetables all cooked in a flavorful broth. One thing that makes this soup unique and kind of fun is that it includes mini meatballs which are traditionally made with pork, but you could also use ground chicken or turkey if you prefer.
Escarole pairs well with other fall vegetables and fruits such as apples, pears, persimmons, lemons, oranges, garlic, onions, beets, potatoes and butternut squash. It is also often included in dishes with white beans and lentils. Additionally, it pairs well with hazelnuts and walnuts as well as butter, prosciutto, bacon, cheese (including blue cheese, Parmesan, and gruyere).
Store escarole in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use. You will need to wash the leaves well in the same way you would wash head lettuce. The heads we’re delivering this week weigh on average between 0.75-1.0 pounds each.
Italian Wedding Soup
Yield: 8 servings
1 small onion, finely chopped
⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 large egg
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 slice fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound ground pork
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups chicken broth
2 cups carrots, small dice
1 pound escarole, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- To make the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, pork and pepper. Using 1 ½ tsp for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven until lightly browned.
- To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the meatballs, carrots and escarole and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the escarole is tender, about 8-12 minutes.
- Whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin strands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. Finish soup with Parmesan cheese if desired.
Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’s recipe found at www.foodnetwork.com.
White Bean & Escarole Pizza
Yield: 4 servings
2-3 cloves garlic
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp dried parsley
½ tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
½ of a large head of escarole (8 oz)
1-2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pizza Dough, enough to make a 12-14 inch crust
Olive oil, additional as needed for the crust and finishing
2-3 oz pepperoni or salami (optional)
3 oz shredded Parmesan cheese
- While you make the toppings for the pizza, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- First make the bean puree. Place garlic cloves in a food processor and blend until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the beans, olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano and lemon juice. Blend until the beans are smooth and all the ingredients are well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Set aside for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors develop, then taste the beans and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding salt, pepper, vinegar and/or lemon juice as needed. The consistency of the beans should be smooth and spreadable. Thin with a few tablespoons of water or a little more olive oil if needed.
- Next, prepare the escarole. Heat 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil in a medium sautè pan over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onions and garlic. Sautè until the vegetables are softened, then add the escarole. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle in the red pepper flakes. Stir to combine and continue to stir periodically as the escarole wilts down. Once the escarole is wilted, add the red wine vinegar and continue to cook until nearly all the liquid is reduced. Adjust the seasoning to your liking. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Shape the dough and place it on a preheated pizza stone or pizza pan. Brush the crust with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove the par-baked crust from the oven. Spread the bean puree evenly on the crust. Depending on the size of your pizza, you may not need all of the bean puree. Save any unused portion and use it elsewhere. If you are using pepperoni or salami, lay it out on top of the bean puree. Evenly distribute the escarole on top of the crust. Top off the pizza by spreading shredded Parmesan over the whole pizza.
- Return the pizza to the oven and bake it an additional 15-20 minutes or until the crust and cheese are golden brown.
- Cut into 8 pieces and serve hot.
Recipe by Chef Andrea, Harmony Valley Farm.
Year after year we are reminded, and more so in recent years, just how important cover crops are to our farming and ecosystem. Throughout the season, we’ve made reference to cover crops. Earlier this year Richard gave us a glimpse into his new strategy of inter-seeding cover crops in the spaces between our raised beds for the purpose of keeping the soil in place should we get hard, fast, pounding rains that have washed our soil off fields in recent years. We’ve learned some things about this strategy and will be evaluating improvements we can make next year. Every year we are once again amazed at the benefits cover crops offer. Plants have a powerful ability to hold our fields together and offer many other benefits to our farming and ecosystems. They have always been a priority at Harmony Valley Farm and we’ve known for a long time that they are beneficial. Nonetheless, we continue to learn more about these amazing plants and what they can do for all of us. So, for those of you who have been with our farm for many years, this week’s article is not totally new. For those who are recently new to our farm, we want to give you an opportunity to gain insight into how we employ cover crops and why they are important. 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.
Whtie Dutch Clover sharing space with our melon crop.
In recent years the term “Regenerative Agriculture” has been introduced in the context of finding solutions to mitigate climate change and steer our future in a more positive direction. We’ve mentioned this term in previous articles, but here’s the specific definition of this term taken from the definition paper available in full text at regenerationinternational.org:
“ ‘Regenerative Agriculture’ describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity—resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.
Specifically, Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density. Regenerative agriculture improves soil health, primarily through the practices that increase soil organic matter. This not only aids in increasing soil biota diversity and health, but increases biodiversity both above and below the soil surface, while increasing both water holding capacity and sequestering carbon at greater depths, thus drawing down climate-damaging levels of atmospheric CO2, and improving soil structure to reverse civilization –threatening human-caused soil loss.”
The following is an excerpt from a newsletter article Richard wrote in 2017 along with a few updates that he has added (in italics). While we utilize and plant cover crops throughout the season, we are currently in the height of cover crop planting time as we race to get crops off the fields and plant cover crops so they can put down roots and maximize their growth potential before winter sets in. This will continue to be a topic we keep at the forefront and it’s an important one for all of us to continue to learn about. It’s going to take both more farmers adopting these practices as well as consumers who support these practices to drive positive change in our current climate predicament.
Cover Crops 101: Keep It Covered!
By Richard deWilde
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 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!
A well-established cover crop planting in late fall
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 backburner 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. We have also expanded this practice to include our fall broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. All of these already have an established cover of small clovers and grass. 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.”
Side by side cover crops planted one week apart
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.
Crimson clover cover crop
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, hairy vetch as well as Alice clover and red clover. 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.
Richard evaluating biodiversity in this multi-species planting
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. Each variety also supports its own unique microbes that interact with the plant at the root level. We are also learning that there is also a synergy between organisms that multiplies the benefits exponentially. Little is known about this interaction, but it is believed that the microbes communicate and function as a larger, very complex organism that can move water and nutrients across the field to plants in need. How cool is that! 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.
Onions on raised beds with inter-seeded cover crops
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.
Australian peas, with nitrogen capturing nodes on their roots.
We hope you too can appreciate the benefits of cover crops in an organic farming system and will continue to learn along with us as we learn more about their role in our future. We also hope you 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.
Closing Note: If you’re interested in learning more about Regenerative Agriculture and the work being done worldwide to promote these practices, visit www.regenerationinternational.org
Cooking With This Week's Box
Black Nebula Carrots: Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils (see below); Carrot and Parsley Salad (see below)
Red & Yellow Onions: Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils (see below); Carrot and Parsley Salad (see below); One-Pot Vegetable Curry
This week we have a fun, new vegetable to cook with! Yes, I know
carrots are not a new vegetable, but the Black Nebula Carrots are a new type of carrot and they are super-cool! I’ve never cooked with a carrot that has this much intense color. I’m not usually a fan of carrot soup as I find it to be kind of boring and it isn’t a very filling soup. When I started researching this purple carrot, I was in awe at the beautiful purple color I was seeing in pictures of purple carrot soup. Would the color really be that vibrant? I have never eaten purple soup, so I had to give it a try. This week’s recipe for Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils (see below) is not your typical, boring carrot soup. This is a simple soup, but it has a lot of flavor. When I tested the recipe, I took my first bite and said out loud to myself (I was the only one in the kitchen), “Wow! That is delicious!” I spiced up the lentils with one finely chopped Korean pepper that gave it just the right amount of heat without being too hot. I really like coconut milk, so I added a little more instead of water. This soup is sweet, flavorful, smooth and just downright beautiful!
The second recipe is for a very simple Carrot and Parsley Salad (see below). I’ve made this before with orange carrots, but I have to say it is quite striking with the black nebula carrots. When you look at the recipe you might think, “there’s not much happening in this salad.” I thought the same thing the first time I made it. I can’t explain it, but the simplicity of this salad is what makes it so delicious. Of course that is assuming you have delicious carrots and fresh parsley! Serve this as a side dish with a sandwich, roasted or grilled meat, fish, etc. Leftovers are also good for a few days.
This week we’re finishing off the last of our jicama. Use it to make this light, creamy Jicama Apple Slaw that we featured in our newsletter several years ago, or check out last week’s vegetable feature article and the recipe for Baked Jicama Chips. When the jicama is gone, we’ll finish off the packing by substituting potatoes. Use them to make this One-Pot Vegetable Curry. I love this recipe because you can vary the ingredients depending on what you have available. In addition to a little potato, I’d recommend including either broccoli Romanesco and/or cauliflower along with sweet peppers!
We’re in the midst of salad season and have a lot of options to choose from with salad greens this week. I want to try this version of a creamy Greek vinaigrette. The creaminess comes from including Greek yogurt. Use it to make a Tossed Salad with Greek Vinaigrette. You can choose what to put in/on the salad. My recommendation is to use either the head lettuce or salad mix as the base of the salad. Top it off with slices of sweet peppers, thinly sliced red onions, olives, and feta cheese. Before we’re finished with sweet peppers, make this recipe for Creamy Roasted Sweet Pepper Dressing. This would be another good dressing to use on salads this week!
Squash & Poblano Quesadilla
with Pickled Jaoapenos and Chipotle Creama
I’m going to wrap up this week’s chat with a few of my favorites from past newsletters. Every year I make this Spaghetti Squash and Leek Skillet Gratin. If you have a few leeks still hanging out in your refrigerator, put them to use in this simple yet hearty gratin. I like this recipe because it’s another one of those transition recipes featuring sweet peppers as the last of the summer veg paired with leeks and spaghetti squash representing fall. My other two favorites will make use of the baby white turnips. If you want to use them in a cooked dish, consider this recipe for Creamy Turnip Grits and Greens that we featured earlier this year. The finishing touch on this dish that brings it altogether is the hot sauce vinaigrette at the very end. Don’t skip this step—it’s what brings it altogether! Lastly, I wrote this recipe for White Turnip Salad with Miso Ginger Vinaigrette several years ago and I still like to make it. It’s simple, fresh, light and flavorful.
Ok, that wraps up this week’s box. Before I go I’d like to thank everyone who came to our Harvest Party last weekend. Even though the crowd was small, we all had a good time and I had a lot of fun making the 20 Vegetable Harvest Chili! Several of you asked for the recipe. I need a little time to scale down my adaptation to a reasonable batch size. In the meantime, here’s the original recipe for Chili Con Carne that I fashioned my recipe off of. It’s a recipe I used as a basis to make chili for the crew when I was cooking as the Seasonal Farm Chef back in 2007! Have a great week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Black Nebula Carrots
By Chef Andrea
We have a fun vegetable to feature this week—Black Nebula Carrots! They are such a dark purple color they really do look almost black! This is the first year we’ve grown this variety. Many purple carrots are disappointing because the purple color is only on the skin and once peeled, the purple is gone and you basically have a yellow or orange carrot. When we saw this variety, we were enticed because it was touted to have really good color. Little did we know we had stumbled on a really fun and interesting carrot!
While black carrots are new to us, they are actually the original type of carrot first recorded and thought to have originated in the middle East, specifically Afghanistan. Orange carrots are actually a newer carrot that is the result of horticulturists’ efforts to hybridize older varieties. The original carrots were actually purple/black and yellow. When I first saw this carrot come off the wash line, I have to admit my first thought was “oohh, these are not so beautiful.” We’re accustomed to seeing more refined carrots with uniform shapes, smoother skin, etc. This carrot has a different look that I would describe as being similar to how I would describe an old turtle. This carrot looks ancient and weathered. These carrots are less refined with some odd twists and bumps that make every carrot unique. They also have more root hairs that grow in clumps and don’t come off with washing, giving them kind of a crusty, old look. As I started working with this carrot though, I came to realize its natural beauty and I couldn’t help but think that it also contains an ancient wisdom that will benefit all of us.
There are some things you should understand about this carrot before you use it. For starters, I’d recommend you peel it. This isn’t my typical line, but I do think the finished carrot product benefits from peeling first. You’ll notice the color permeates throughout, right down to the core! The deep, rich color comes from a group of plant compounds called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give fruits and vegetables purple, blue and dark red colors and are found in foods such as beets and blueberries. They are powerful plant compounds that benefit our bodies in a variety of ways. They help prevent cancer, are cardio-protective, anti-inflammatory, and may even benefit our neurological health. The previous sentence doesn’t do justice to the health benefits we reap from eating anthocyanins, which is why it’s so important to include a variety of plants in your diet! The color compounds in these carrots are so rich, some people actually use them as a natural dye for textiles, Easter eggs, etc. Yes, they will stain your hands, possibly your cutting board, and your clothes. I can tell you that the discoloration on your hands will go away in a day or two, especially if you hand wash a few dishes. The stain on my cutting board also faded quickly.
You can eat these carrots both raw and cooked. The purple coloring will spread to other ingredients, just as when making things with red beets. They are delicious roasted, but will also retain their color nicely when stir-fried, boiled and steamed. They also make a beautiful and nutrient dense juice. I didn’t try this myself, but I found several references that say adding an acidic ingredient to the juice, such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, will turn the juice bright pink! There are a few traditional preparations from the Middle East that utilize black carrots. The first is called Carrot Kanji. This is a fermented black carrot juice drink that is part of northern Indian culture. It also includes mustard powder and chili powder with the purpose of keeping the body warm in the winter. In Turkey they make Salgam which is another fermented vegetable drink.
As I’m still learning how to use and appreciate this carrot, I decided to start with some simple preparations that would highlight the innate beauty of this unique carrot. So this week’s featured recipes include one simple soup and a salad. Don’t be fooled by their simplicity, they really have a lot of delicious flavor in them and you just feel good knowing you are giving your body such a powerhouse of nutrients! Let me know how you use your carrots and have fun!
Carrot Parsley Salad
Yield: 3-4 cups
4 cups peeled and shredded purple
or orange carrots (1-1.25#)
1 cup chopped parsley
1 medium red onion, small diced
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 to 4 Tbsp cold pressed flax oil or extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
3 Tbsp toasted unhulled sesame seeds, optional
Place shredded carrots in a medium bowl and add the parsley and onion.
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, oil and ¼ tsp salt. Whisk to combine and then pour the dressing over the vegetables.
Mix well and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Take a little taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking with additional salt, lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar. If using, stir in the toasted sesame seeds.
The salad tastes best when served immediately, but any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a few days.
Recipe adapted from Amy Chaplins’ book: At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen.
Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils
Yield: 3-4 servings as a main or 4-6 servings as a side dish
1.25# purple carrots (3-4 carrots), peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp coconut oil or vegetable oil (divided)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 medium onion, small dice
2-4 cups water or vegetable stock
1 to 1 ⅔ cups coconut milk
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp minced fresh Korean chili or ¼ tsp dried cayenne pepper
¾ cup brown or green lentils
1 ½-2 ½ cups water
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing
Cilantro, chopped, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put the carrot pieces in a medium bowl, drizzle with 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil or vegetable oil and sprinkle in 1 tsp salt. Toss to combine and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Roast the carrots for 30-40 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking. You want the carrots to be tender and just starting to get crispy. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside.
While the carrots are roasting, prepare the remainder of the soup and the lentils. In a medium saucepot, melt 2 tsp coconut oil. When the oil is hot, add ginger and onion and saute until the onions are translucent. Add 2 cups water or vegetable stock and 1 cup coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Cover to keep it warm.
To prepare the lentils, first melt 1 Tbsp oil in a small saucepot. When the oil is hot, add the cumin, coriander, turmeric and fresh or dried chili. Stir to combine and cook briefly until the spices are aromatic.
Stir in the lentils along with 1 ½ cups water. Bring the lentils to a simmer, then adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes. You may need to add additional water and cook the lentils for an additional 10-20 minutes. You want them to be soft and tender with just a small amount of liquid remaining in the pan. As they start to soften, stir in ½ tsp salt. Once finished, remove from heat and keep warm.
Now it’s time to assemble the soup. Put the roasted carrots in a blender along with the gingered coconut milk mixture. Blend until well combined and very smooth. Taste a little bit. At this point you will likely need to add more liquid to get the soup to the consistency you desire. You can add either more coconut milk, water, or stock. If you add coconut milk the soup will be a little more rich and sweet. Adjust the seasoning to your liking with salt and freshly ground black pepper as well.
Return the soup to the pan and bring it to an appropriate serving temperature.
Ladle the soup into a bowl and top with the curried lentils and fresh cilantro.
Recipe adapted from www.nourishdeliciously.com.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Purple or Orange Carrots: Jicama and Carrot Slaw with Honey Lime Dressing (see below)
Jicama: Baked Jicama Chips (see below); Jicama and Carrot Slaw with Honey Lime Dressing (see below)
Cilantro: Jicama and Carrot Slaw with Honey Lime Dressing (see below)
Welcome to another week of CSA eating! This week’s vegetable treasure is a bit less flashy than most vegetables. Jicama is a humble vegetable, but one we’ve come to love and appreciate—both because we like to eat it and because we like the challenge of growing it! It’s often eaten raw as a snack or used in raw salads and slaws. One of this week’s featured recipes is for Jicama and Carrot Slaw with Honey Lime Dressing (see below). Eat this on its own as an accompaniment to a sandwich or bowl of soup, or use it as a topping on tacos or even a lettuce wrap. This recipe for Black Bean Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps calls for serving them with a mango salsa, but they’d also be good with the Jicama Carrot Slaw! The second featured recipe is a simple one, Baked Jicama Chips (see below). Everyone loves a good vegetable chip and of course every chip needs a dip. My suggestion is to turn the poblanos in this week’s box into Caramelized Onion & Roasted Poblano Dip. I’ve mentioned this recipe in previous years because it’s a good one and is on my favorites list! It’s a good dip for chips, but it’s also good on baked potatoes, spread on sandwiches, and stirred into scrambled eggs.
We’re moving into fall greens and that means leafy green salads are back on the menu! This week’s boxes will contain either spinach or baby arugula. Fall greens go very nicely with fall fruit such as pears and apples. This week I have two suggestions for fruity greens salads. The first is an Apple Cranberry Spinach Salad. This salad features fresh apple, dried cranberries, walnuts, feta and a honey-dijon dressing that is more of a vinaigrette than a creamy dressing. You can eat this as a side salad or add some cooked chicken and turn it into a main dish salad. The second recipe is an Arugula Salad with Pears, Prosciutto and Aged Gouda. This is a slightly different take on a dijon based vinaigrette, which is a nice contrast to the fattiness of the prosciutto and gouda as well as the sweet pears. Of course, you can mix and match your greens in these two salads.
We also have salad mix this week! I like to keep a jar of one of my favorite, basic salad dressings handy for quick salads on the fly. One of my favorite go-to recipes is for Balsamic Vinaigrette. If you have a jar of this in the refrigerator, you can build a quick salad in no time at all! Toss it with some fresh salad mix and then start adding toppings as you wish. You might include some thinly sliced red onion, sweet peppers, shredded carrots, dried or fresh fruit, toasted almonds, and the list could go on!
Sadly, this is our last week for leeks. One of our members used her leeks last week to make this classic leek dish, Leeks Vinaigrette. I have to mention it because it is not only a simple, classic way to prepare leeks, but also because she said it’s kid-approved and accepted! Of course, I can’t resist a good quiche and I love the way the silky leeks mix with the creamy custard of a quiche. So, perhaps you’ll join me in making Leek & Mushroom Quiche. Serve it for breakfast, dinner or brunch alongside this Cauliflower Slaw. Of course you can substitute broccoli Romanesco for the cauliflower in this recipe. This dish also includes some sweet, dried currants, toasted almonds, and a light vinegar based dressing.
Eggs are typically in abundance around here and Richard always loves a good deviled egg. How about making these Jalapeno Popper Deviled Eggs! Eat them as a snack, add them to a dinner menu, or pack them and take them for lunch!
Lastly, while food is our medicine on a day to day basis, sometimes during the winter cold and flu season we need a little extra immunity protection. Start now and make this Honey Fermented Garlic. Keep a jar of this in your kitchen and use it as your own homemade way to prevent and ward off colds, flu, etc this weekend.
That brings us to the bottom of the box. Before I close, I want to extend one final invitation to you to join us at our Harvest Party this coming Sunday. We’ll have lots of good food, games, activities and more. We hope you’ll join us for the day and come prepared to reap the benefits of being immersed in nature!
Vegetable Feature: 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.
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 fruit including citrus (oranges, grapefruit, limes), pineapple, mango, and apples. It is common to see jicama slaws, salads and salsas that also include fruit. It also pairs well with avocado, hot and sweet 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.
When we first started growing jicama, we realized by accident just how important post-harvest handling is to the overall quality of the vegetable. Jicama needs to be “cured,” similar to how we cure sweet potatoes after they are harvested. We held the jicama in one of our greenhouses for a week after harvest at a temperature of 68-77°F with high humidity of about 95%. This process helped to set the delicate skins so they will store better. 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. If you store it in the refrigerator, you’ll notice the quality will deteriorate quite quickly. Once you cut into it, store any cut jicama in the refrigerator and eat it within a few days.
We can’t deliver jicama without giving credit to one of our crew members, Jose Antonio Cervantes Gutierrez (aka JAC). JAC is responsible for introducing jicama to Harmony Valley Farm. Without his influence, we likely wouldn’t be growing this vegetable! 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 it has a permanent spot on our list of “vegetables we grow every 2-3 years.” 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 and Carrot Slaw with Honey-Lime Dressing
Yield: 8 servings
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp fresh lime juice
¾ tsp honey
¼ tsp ground cumin
⅛ tsp salt
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound jicama peeled & thinly sliced (1 small or half of a large)
2 large or 4 small carrots, grated
3 Tbsp minced cilantro
½ jalapeño pepper, seeded & minced
In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, honey, cumin and salt. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together the jicama, carrot, cilantro and jalapeño pepper.
Add the dressing and toss to coat.
Baked Jicama Chips
Yield: 4 servings
2 medium or 1 large jicama, peeled
2 tsp olive oil
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper or baking racks if you have them.
Cut the jicama into super thin slices. Try to achieve similar thickness with all the pieces. You can cut the jicama using a mandolin or just a sharp knife.
In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, lime juice and zest, chili powder and salt. Add the jicama slices, and mix well so that all the slices are fully coated.
Place the slices of jicama in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, or until they begin to brown and get crispy.
By Farmer Richard
Harvest crews working to gather harvest before the storms hit
Recently we came up on the one year anniversary of the 2018 fall floods. While we are thankful we have not experienced another major weather event like that in this growing season, the weather patterns of 2019 have made this season another extremely challenging year to be farming. We started out with a cold and wet spring which made planting seeds and transplanting plants from the greenhouse very challenging! We are all avid weather map and forecast watchers and our crew is 110% with us. We made good planning decisions and when a hint of dry weather looked imminent, we pulled out all the stops to prepare ground, plant and transplant. On those days, we worked until it was too dark to see and if the forecasted rain missed us we continued the next morning. We pushed the limits, we transplanted in the rain, we harvested in the rain. We had to take some time off when the storms were severe. When we did get some fast, heavy rains, the extensive repair work we did to creek bottoms and berms last fall proved to be effective and mostly held and protected fields!
Black Futsu Pumpkin plants starting to
flower earlier this season
Despite the challenges, we did manage to plant all our crops fairly timely, even when it was wet and cold. In late May and early June the weather shifted to the other end of the spectrum and became extremely hot and humid! The heat loving plants took off and made up for lost time! Unfortunately, so did the weeds. We had to play our cards right to make weed control a priority when it was dry enough and pushed the limits at times to complete some critical cultivation. Hot and wet weather also brings its own problems with disease, poor pollination and even nutrient problems. In early summer we were seeing some disease and fertility problems in some of our crops. We collected leaves from some of the affected plants and sent them off to a laboratory for a sap analysis (kind of like a blood test for plants) to diagnose the problems. With results in hand, we set out to correct some nutrient and microbial deficiencies likely caused by the excess water. We applied copious amounts of beneficial organisms, soluble nutrients and trace minerals that the plants needed and saw some dramatic responses in our pepper, eggplant and squash crops. We also had several weeks of growth during that hot period where plants that should have been setting fruit were not doing so (tomatoes, melons, squash and watermelons), which resulted in low yields. Despite our best efforts, only one of our five sweet corn plantings was the quality we had hoped for. Sadly, the cold wet conditions followed by the hot and wet weather not only took a toll on our crops, but our native pollinators as well. We rely on their services and were concerned that many of our native pollinator creatures were very late to show up. Thankfully the populations seem to have recovered. While we all would’ve liked to have seen more tomatoes and sweet corn in the box, we have been able to include most items we had planned for in the CSA boxes. So, while you may have been just minimally affected by our crop deficits, our bottom line has taken a hit with some of our crops that we plan to have in quantities that allow us to supply CSA boxes and then have extra to sell to wholesale buyers. The good news is, we did have some better weather in August and our fall crops actually look quite nice! Time and again, Mother Nature continues to provide for us, even when she’s at times a bit cantankerous.
Farmer Richard inspecting cover crop
As we head into fall, we’re happy to report our cover crop plantings have been timely and some fields have well-established cover crops that we’ll reap the benefits of next year. Some of our fall crops are coming in ahead of schedule, including celeriac, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, turnips and winter storage radishes. We’ve already started harvesting many of our root crops and will continue doing so until they’re all in. The sweet potatoes look promising, but need a couple more weeks of growth. Fall greens, such as escarole, look very nice, but the recent 80°F weather has them coming in earlier than we had hoped for. Sadly, we did lose 50% of our spinach stand last week when we had 4.5 inch or rain, but we have more plantings coming and they look promising. In the midst of vegetable farming, we’ve also managed to get sufficient hay put away for our animals despite forecasts of hay shortages in the rest of the farming community. If Mother Nature will afford us just get a couple of dry weeks to get our roots harvested and plant garlic, sunchokes and horseradish for next year, we would be most grateful.
Despite the challenges of this season, we are proud of the CSA boxes we have delivered this year. The boxes have been plentiful, colorful and delicious. If you’ve been pleased with your shares this year, we’d appreciate your help in spreading the good word about our CSA to your friends, family members, work associates, etc. We’re hopeful that our membership numbers will grow for the 2020 season, but we need your help to make that happen! Yes, we’re already laying out plans for next year!
As I reflect on the past few months, I realize we have learned a lot from this season! As we’ve dealt with crop challenges due to fertility, etc, we have all became more aware of the very subtle differences in the many shades of green of our plants which will help us care for our plants better in the future. We watched for blossoms, pollinators and fruit set as we learned to observe and listen to our plants more closely. As we learn more about the value of our microbial communities in the soil, we have gained a new appreciation for the role they play in our environment and still have trouble fathoming the billions of micro-organisms that surround us! We realize we are all part of a living organism. There is a life force that emanates from the soil, the plants, the animals and people. The many families that depend on our farm and the many that we provide nourishing food for are all a part of our farm and community. I want to close with a quote from an interview with Michael Phillips, an organic orchardist growing in New Hampshire. He wrote a book entitled Mycorrhizal Planet
and was featured in an interview in a recent issue of Acres
magazine. He says “The plants and fungi have always sung what I think of as a soil redemption song—and they’ll continue to sing it—and that is what makes life possible on earth. Our job is to emulate all these good teachings and to make it part of our agriculture, part of our communities, part of our innate understanding of what it is to be a caring human on this blessed planet.”
Cooking With This Week's Box
Welcome back to another week of cooking! We are officially two-thirds of the way through the 2019 CSA season. Can you believe it?! Things are happening fast here at the farm. Summer crops are winding down and as they do, fields are cleaned up, cover crops are seeded and we’re getting ready to put them to bed for the winter. Root crop harvest is underway and we continue the transition to fall vegetables and dishes. This week we’re featuring broccoli raab, a vegetable we started growing because customers were asking for it! We’ve found fall is the best tasting time of year to grow this vegetable. This week’s recipe is a main dish Mediterranean Gratin with Almond Breadcrumbs (see below). While many gratins are rich and creamy, this is a lighter gratin. Imagine you’re sitting on the coast of Italy when you eat it, sipping a glass of red wine. This gratin features sweet peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic that are then combined with broccoli raab and either beans or ground pork. The acidity of the vegetables mellows out the broccoli raab and the crunchy topping helps bring it altogether. I also want to mention this recipe we featured last year for Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Raab. It’s easy and delicious and you might just find it can be a family favorite.
I’ve been waiting for our Korean peppers to ripen to red, as that is when I believe they have the best flavor. Thankfully they’re ready to send to you this week! If this looks like a lot of hot peppers, don’t worry, I’m going to tell you what to do with them! Last year when we featured this vegetable I shared two simple recipes. The first is for a HVF Fresh Korean Chili-Garlic Sauce. This is very similar to gouchujang, a traditional Korean chili paste that is used extensively in Korean inspired cuisine. Last year I made a batch of this and then divided it into small jars and put it in the freezer. I thawed them one at a time and used little bits at a time when I needed some heat in a dish. I also used it to make these Spicy Korean Style Gochujang Meatballs. They were so delicious! Tuck this recipe away and make these meatballs for your 2020 Super Bowl Party! The other recipe you can make with the Korean chili peppers is for Salt-Cured Chiles. I kept a jar of these in my refrigerator all winter long and just pulled from it little by little whenever I needed a little heat in a stir-fry, taco meat, etc. Even if you aren’t into hot peppers, I encourage you to make one or both of these recipes and use the peppers throughout the fall and winter. While these are hot peppers, they are very flavorful and you can get the effect of the flavor without burning your tongue off! Adjust how much you use to your liking.
While we’re talking hot peppers, lets deal with jalapenos too! How about this recipe for Jalapeno Popper Dip?! This would be another good Super Bowl party recipe. Freeze the jalapenos and you can make it this winter!
I always think about using leeks in a traditional potato leek soup, but I probably wouldn’t have thought to make Potato Leek Pizza! One of our members posted her version of Potato Leek Pizza which included bacon. What a great idea! I also remembered this recipe for Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon and Bacon. This was a popular recipe when we posted it several years and it’s perfect for this week because it also includes corn and sweet peppers!
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year to eat baby arugula. I like the flavor of arugula better once we start to have more mild temperatures and the pungency and bite of arugula pairs well with fall fruit such as apples, cranberries and pears. This week I’m going to use the baby arugula to make this Arugula Salad with Walnuts, Blue Cheese, and Cranberries. This would be delicious as a side along with a pasta or pizza dinner.
It’s nice to have lettuce back as an option for salads as well. The Green Boston Lettuce this week has tender, more delicate leaves, thus is best used with a light vinaigrette instead of a heavy creamy dressing. Use it to make this Boston Lettuce Salad with Citrus Honey Vinaigrette.
Last, but not least, we’re happy to have cauliflower and broccoli Romanesco coming in! I came across this recipe for Cauliflower Patties. I’ve never used cauliflower for anything like this, but they look cheesy, garlicky and delicious. Paired with one of the aforementioned salads, they would be a great dinner option. I also like just a simple roasted broccoli Romanesco, so might just have to do this recipe for Garlic and Lemon Roasted Broccoli Romanesco.
photo by Mark Weinberg, from food52.com
That’s a wrap folks. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to mark your calendars for Sunday, September 29 and plan to join us for a fun day at the farm as we celebrate fall with our annual Harvest Party! I’m planning to make a delicious vegetable chili featuring 20 different vegetables! Think I can pull that off? Come find out and see if you can guess all 20 vegetables!
Have a great week—Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Broccoli Raab
In this week’s box you’ll find a big bunch of green leaves. Wondering what it is? It’s broccoli raab! While its name would lead you to believe it’s a type of broccoli, it actually is in the mustard family. It is considered to be a slightly spicy bitter green, although this effect is minimized by growing it in cooler temperatures. We find the flavor of this green to be more balanced and pleasing when we grow it in the fall compared to when we grew it in the spring and summer. If you look closely near the base of the stem, you just might see a little broccoli-like head starting to push up through the center of the plant.
While this green may be found all over the world, it’s typically associated with Italian food, a region of the world where this green is quite popular. Broccoli Raab pairs well with ingredients such as tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, almonds, olives, white beans, sausage or pork cuts and red pepper flakes. When you’re looking at recipes that use broccoli raab, you’ll typically find many of these ingredients. In many traditional Italian recipes, broccoli raab is prepared very simply by cooking it along with garlic in olive oil until it is very soft and tender and then is finished with a splash of vinegar. Fatty olive oil and tangy vinegar help to tone down the bitterness. While you can eat broccoli raab raw, it is most always cooked. It’s tender enough that it doesn’t require a very long cooking time, unless you prefer to have it super soft! It can be boiled, steamed or sautéed. Broccoli raab is often used in pasta and bean dishes, but it can also be incorporated into toasted vegetable sandwiches, pizza, soups, etc.
Store this green in a bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Wash it well in a sink of cold water, then shake off extra water before using. Nearly all of the plant is usable. I generally just trim off the lower portion of the thicker stems.
Mediterranean Gratin with Almond Breadcrumbs
Yield: 6-8 servings
12 oz penne or other similar pasta
1 pound ground pork OR 1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced sweet peppers
1 ½ cups diced tomatoes
½ cup pitted black olives, chopped (optional)
¼ cup fresh or 1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 cup dried bread crumbs or panko
½ cup toasted raw almonds, finely chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup red wine
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 bunch broccoli raab
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
While you assemble the components for the gratin, preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-8 minutes. You want the noodles to be starting to soften, but you do not want them fully cooked. Once they are cooked to this point, drain the pasta. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
If you choose to use ground pork, preheat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the ground pork, then remove it from the pan and set aside. Clean out the pan and then return it to the heat to proceed with cooking the onions. If you are not using the pork, just skip this step and move on to step 3.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the preheated skillet. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onions. Saute the onions for 10-14 minutes, or until softened and starting to caramelize. You may need to reduce the heat to medium low to keep the onions from frying and browning. Once the onions are softened, add the garlic, red peppers, tomatoes, olives, parsley, 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to the pan. Saute the vegetables for another 8-10 minutes.
While the vegetables are simmering, you can prepare the topping. In a small mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs, finely chopped almonds, Parmesan Cheese, ½ tsp salt and 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Stir to combine.
Next, add the red wine, balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar to the pan with the vegetables. Continue to simmer for another 10-12 minutes or until the tomatoes are very soft and the liquid has reduced by about half to two-thirds.
Chop the broccoli raab into bite sized pieces and add to the pan. Stir to combine. As the greens wilt down, continue to stir them into the vegetable mixture. Add the pork or beans, then simmer an additional 5-10 minutes. Taste a little bit of the mixture and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more vinegar, salt and pepper as needed. At this point you want there to be some liquid in the pan, but it shouldn’t be soupy. If it looks like there’s too much liquid, simmer an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Put the cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add the hot vegetable mixture. Stir to combine well and then spread it in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Spread the bread crumb and almond mixture evenly over the top of the pasta mixture. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the base is bubbly.
Remove from the oven and serve while warm.
Recipe adapted from one in Mark Bittman’s book Dinner for Everyone.
By Chef Andrea
Winter squash…where do I start!? Growing up we ate squash in basically one of two ways—pie or a simple puree with butter. It really wasn’t one of my favored foods and I had no idea winter squash could be used in so many ways! I also had no idea there were so many different kinds of winter squash! In my world, I only knew buttercup (my mom’s favorite), crookneck (the giant ones my grandma grew to make pies), butternut and acorn (likely the two most well-known). Now that I’ve expanded my culinary and agricultural boundaries, I realize the world of winter squash has so much more to offer, both in variety and culinary experiences. So, if you’re in the group of folks who are yet to embrace winter squash, I encourage you to keep reading. Trust me, there are so many ways to prepare squash, there have to be at least a few keepers for your recipe collection!
Last week we officially finished our 2019 winter squash harvest! Winter squash can easily be damaged by a frost, especially if the vines have started to die back, exposing the squash. This year the squash were ready well ahead of the first frost and are now safely tucked away in one of our greenhouses for storage. Over the next few months we’ll be packing a variety of different squash varieties in your boxes, each with different characteristics and attributes. While there are hundreds of different types of winter squash, we have narrowed the selection to less than 10 categories. We’re starting off the season with Delicata or Sugar Dumpling and Kabocha squash. Over the next few months you’ll also receive several different types of butternut squash, spaghetti squash, festival, and the newest kid on the block, black futsu.
When the seed catalogs come in December, it’s easy to be wooed by all the different varieties. As we make our selections we have several different criteria in mind. First of all, we’ve trialed a lot of squash over the years so we tend to stick with some of our historically strong producers, ones that have disease resistance and are high yielding. But those aren’t the only two qualities we look at. Of course, it has to taste good! We are looking for varieties that are both sweet and flavorful. Spaghetti squash is really the only squash we grow that is not intended to be sweet, but we have chosen the variety we believe has the best flavor! We also want to keep things interesting for you over the course of the final few months of our CSA season, so we try to grow squash that have different colors, shapes, textures and uses. While we intend for you to (eventually) eat the winter squash, they can also add beauty to your home in the meantime!
As we journey through the season, watch your What’s In the Box
newsletter for more detailed information about the individual varieties of squash. For now, I’m going to cover some basic information applicable to most varieties. First, the ideal temperature for storing squash is between 45° and 55°F. This is a bit more chilly than most of your homes, so know that it’s ok to store them on your kitchen counter at a warmer temperature as long as you keep your eye on them. You do not want to store squash in the refrigerator
or in an uninsulated garage where the temperatures could dip below 45°F once winter sets in. At temperatures less than 45°F squash is vulnerable to chill injury. You need to check in on your squash periodically. If you notice any sort of a spot starting to form or any signs of deterioration, you need to intervene immediately. A small spot doesn’t mean the squash is bad or needs to be composted, rather it means you need to eat it right away! Just cut away the bad spot and use the rest. If you leave it unattended, the spot will continue to grow and consume your squash….which is what we do not want to happen! Even if you are not quite ready to eat the squash, I encourage you to cook it anyway. Winter squash is a great vegetable to cook in advance and freeze. It’s super quick and easy to pull precooked squash out of the freezer in the middle of the winter and heat it up to eat as a side dish or incorporate it into baked goods or other dishes. The main thing is, don’t let it go to waste! If I have a pile of squash on my counter, I like to bake a lot at one time…the oven is already hot, and if you’re going to make a mess it’s better to clean up just once!
Before we officially move on from the topic of storage, it’s important to understand that not all winter squash are intended for long term storage. There are some squash varieties that naturally have a thinner skin and/or higher sugar content. Typically, these are the squash that will taste the best right out of the field. However, these are not the varieties of squash we would expect to store well into the winter. The thicker the skin, the greater protection for the squash. We handle squash very carefully when we’re harvesting and packing it, taking care not to damage the skin which can become an entry point for bacteria and cause the squash to deteriorate. But life happens and chances are your squash may get a bump along the way, which is why we encourage you to stay in tune with your squash! Squash that are high in natural sugars are great, but typically don’t have as long of a life. So that’s another consideration to keep in mind when storing squash. Finally, the storage potential of squash is directly related to field conditions. If we’ve had a wet, cold season and there is leaf disease in the field, the squash are generally more vulnerable to decay in storage and won’t last as long. In other years that are more dry and we see less disease pressure, we see very little decay in storage and can often store squash until the next spring!
Now that you know how to store squash, lets talk about eating it! Winter squash is easy to cook and you have several options. The method I employ most frequently is to simply cut the squash in half, scrape out the seed cavity, and bake it. I place it, cut side down, in a baking dish and add a little bit of water to the pan, enough to cover the bottom of the pan and come up about ¼-½ an inch on the squash. I bake it in the oven at about 350°F until it is tender when poked with a fork. Once tender, I remove them from the oven and flip them over so the cut side is up. I allow them to rest until they are cool enough to handle, then scoop out the flesh. I usually puree the flesh in a food processor so it is smooth. Now it’s ready for use in soups, desserts, etc. This is the easiest method, but you don’t always want puree, sometimes you want chunks or pieces to work with. Most winter squash needs to be peeled, but there are some varieties with thinner skin that can be eaten. The Delicata and kabocha squash we’re delivering this week are two varieties that have thinner skin and many people choose not to peel them. It’s totally up to you! Where I’m going is that squash can be cut into chunks or smaller pieces to be roasted, boiled, steamed, baked or otherwise incorporated into dishes, etc. I also want to mention that the seeds of many varieties are also edible! Typically the smaller squash have more tender seeds, whereas kabocha seeds generally have a thicker skin and are not as tasty. Once you scoop them out, rinse them to remove any flesh, then dry them in a dehydrator or just air dry. After they are dried, you can toast them as you would toast any other nut or seed either in a hot pan on the stove top or in the oven.
As with many different vegetables, I always like to look around the world to see how different cultures use squash. Squash is one of those vegetables that is found worldwide, so there are a lot of different possibilities to explore! I’m fascinated by Japanese culture and was interested to find out that two of our new squash trials this year are actually varieties originating in Japan. The Black Futsu Pumpkin is a Japanese heirloom variety and Tetsukabuto means “steele helmet” in Japanese. It was touted as the “squash to survive the apocalypse” by the seed catalog, which is another way of indicating that it has the potential to be stored for a really long time! In Japan, kabocha squash in particular is a common food and is often eaten as a side dish. It is also prepared with tempura. You’ll also find winter squash in Asian cuisine such as Thai curries and stir-fries. It’s also a part of the diets of different European countries where it is used to make gratins, silky soups, souffles, desserts and more. Winter squash is also part of Middle Eastern cultures, showing up in Arabic stews and preparations alongside ingredients such as lamb, tahini, and pomegranate.
Winter squash can be incorporated into any meal of the day! Use it to make frittatas, quiche and breakfast casseroles or stir squash puree into oatmeal or even a breakfast smoothie! You can incorporate winter squash into desserts such as the flan recipe featured in our vegetable feature about kabocha squash. Some varieties are also delicious to use for making cheesecake, breads, cookies, cakes, pies and more. Roasted squash can become a topping for pizza, or use it to make quesadillas and pasta dishes. Don’t be afraid to incorporate squash into preparations like risotto, croquettes, fritters and dumplings.
If you ever find yourself wondering what to do with winter squash and can’t find ANYTHING to make with it, give me a call or send me an email. I’m certain I can find something you can make with it!
Cooking With This Week's Box
Jalapeno Peppers: Squash & Poblano Quesadilla with Pickled Jalapenos & Chipotle Crema (see below)
Delicata Squash: Squash & Poblano Quesadilla with Pickled Jalapenos & Chipotle Crema (see below)
Lets kick off this week’s Cooking With the Box discussion with two simple recipes that just might have a chance at being family favorites. Lets start with dessert first. Last year I found Deborah Madison’s recipe for Fall Flan with Maple Yogurt and Caramel Pecans (see below). It was actually a sweet potato flan recipe, but it is just as delicious with winter squash as it is with sweet potatoes! I adapted the name to “Fall Flan” and here you go. I really like this recipe because it’s very simple and streamlined. Basically all the flan ingredients go into the blender to be mixed, then you pour it directly into custard cups or ramekins and bake it in the oven. Once it’s baked and cooled, you can serve it with a dollop of maple yogurt (simply stir maple syrup into plain yogurt) and, if you want to go all out, make the caramelized pecans to put on top. If you’re short on time you could also just do a spoonful of premade vanilla yogurt and some simple chopped nuts. Besides being simple to make, I like this recipe because it relies on the sweetness of the vegetable along with a little maple syrup to give it its sweetness. Aside from the touch of sugar on the nuts, there is no refined sugar in the recipe! I also like it because it can be dessert, an after-school snack, or you could even have it in the morning for breakfast. It’s delicious eaten warm, at room temperature, or chilled. You could even bake it in short pint jars so you can put a lid on it and take it to go for lunch!
The second recipe we’re featuring this week is a Squash & Poblano Quesadilla with Pickled Jalapenos & Chipotle Crema (see below). Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe. There are multiple steps to get all of the quesadilla components prepped, but once you have the components it takes no time to make the quesadilla. This is a good recipe to prep on the weekends so you can pull off a simple, hot dinner in 15 minutes or less during the week! This recipe calls for delicate squash, but you could also use sugar dumpling, butternut or even kabocha squash in its place. The key is to keep the slices of squash thin.
If you aren’t feeling like quesadillas this week, how about pizza? This recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash and Poblano Pizza also caught my eye and is a great recipe for this week’s vegetables. It calls for butternut squash, but you could use roasted kabocha squash or even the delicate in its place. Top it off with some crumbles of queso fresco and fresh cilantro for a tasty vegetable pizza!
I have to admit, tomatoes have been a challenge this year and we haven’t been able to offer you the variety and quantity we had planned for. Nonetheless, we’re thankful for what we have and still can enjoy a few old favorite recipes as well as a few new ones! This past week I came across this simple, yet flavorful, recipe for Tomato Rice Pilaf with Chickpeas. While the rice is cooking, you mix fresh garlic with lemon, chopped walnuts, basil and olive oil. That makes a dressing of sorts that is tossed with tomatoes, cooked rice and chickpeas. This makes a delicious vegetarian main dish, or you could serve a smaller portion as a side dish along with chicken, fish or steak. Any kind of tomato can work in this dish.
While we’re talking about tomatoes, I should mention this recipe for Cod with Leeks and Tomatoes. This is a light dinner option featuring the lean cod with tangy tomatoes and silky leeks. A nice, light simple meal to mark the final days of summer.
What do you do when you only have a few ears of corn to work with? Use the corn as an accent ingredient instead of the main attraction! I love adding a small amount of fresh corn to dishes because it lends a little pop of sweetness, color and a little texture contrast. Here is a simple recipe for Pasta with Swiss Chard & Corn. This is a pretty quick and easy recipe to assemble. If you have some leftover chicken or steak you could toss it in for a little extra protein, or even stir in a can of tuna. Here’s another take on corn with pasta in this Bell Pepper & Corn Pasta Salad. This is a colorful salad featuring sweet peppers, red onions, corn and fresh herbs. The recipe calls for basil and parsley, but if you could also use some of the cilantro in this week’s box if you like. Take this for lunch along with a deli meat sandwich or serve it for dinner with a grilled burger.
I love chard because it can be used in so many different ways, both raw and cooked. If you haven’t yet found a use for it this week, consider making this Restorative Rainbow Chard & Leek Soup. I like to balance some rich meals with some lighter meals and this soup works for that purpose. Silky leeks mingle with the chard leaves which soften in the hot broth. Arborio rice adds some starch and body to the soup and it’s finished with fresh herbs.
It must be a pasta kind of week! I have two more recipes based on pasta. Check out this colorful Beet Pesto & Greens Pasta! This recipe uses both the beet roots and the green tops! While we typically make pesto from green leafy vegetables, this recipe turns the root into a “pesto” type sauce that is tossed with the pasta and the greens are wilted in with the hot sauce and pasta. This will definitely be an attention getter!
And the final pasta recipe of the week, 15 Minute Lo Mein. I like vegetable lo mein because you can eat it hot or at room temperature and you can toss in any vegetables you want! Carrots, sweet peppers, onions, etc are excellent options for the week, but you could also include the leeks. Kids will love this recipe too, I mean who doesn’t love a bowl of noodles!
Ok, we’re rolling into the home stretch. If pasta wasn’t comforting enough, read on for a few more comfort food ideas! Mashed potatoes anyone? I had forgotten about this recipe for Sweet Pepper Mashed Potatoes that I developed several years ago. Purple Viking potatoes are a great choice for this recipe. You can use either the Ukraine or Italian Frying peppers to make this recipe. These potatoes are light and fluffy and full of flavor! Serve these with Skirt Steak with Cilantro Garlic Sauce for a complete meal option.
I grew up in a meat and potatoes Mennonite community. At nearly every celebration dinner or potluck they would serve either mashed potatoes or scalloped potatoes. So, if you don’t make the mashed potatoes this week, consider Scalloped Potatoes with Leeks!
Ok, we started this week’s chat with something sweet, so lets end it on a sweet note as well! Lets turn those carrots into some kind of a baked treat this week. Perhaps a loaf of this Carrot Coconut Bread or this Easy Carrot Coffee Cake. Both would be a great option to enjoy as you sip your Sunday morning coffee, read the newspaper and embark on a day of relaxation.
And that officially brings us to the bottom of another box. I’ll see you back again next week! Cross your fingers for a little more corn and get ready for the Korean chili peppers! Have a great week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Orange Kabocha Squash
By Andrea Yoder
This week we’re packing one of our longtime favorite squash varieties, orange kabocha. You’ll recognize this squash by its bright orange skin and rounded, disc-like shape. This variety is also sometimes called a Japanese Pumpkin and is similar to other squash varieties such as orange kuri and buttercup. The flesh is dark orange in color and has a silky, custard-like texture when cooked.
This is a versatile squash and may be used for a variety of preparations including soup, puree, baked goods, curries, stews or simply roasted. Most of the time this variety may be used in recipes that call for buttercup, butternut, or orange kuri as well as any recipe calling for pumpkin. The flavor of this squash is excellent and surpasses even the best tasting pumpkin.
There are several ways you can cook this squash. My 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 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. You can use it to make a simple squash puree seasoned with spices of your choosing and a pat of butter. Orange kabocha puree can also be used in baked goods and desserts. This rich, sweet flesh makes a delicious pie filling and yields rich, moist, flavorful quickbreads, muffins, pudding and soufflé.
Aside from baking, kabocha squash may also be roasted or simply steamed. In Japanese cuisine, kabocha squash are also referred to as Japanese pumpkins. Known for their simple, clean preparations, you’ll find Japanese recipes for kabocha squash to be equally as simple with just a few ingredients. Slices or chunks of kabocha squash are often steamed or simmered in a simple dashi broth with kombu seaweed and sometimes miso, soy sauce and sometimes sake. This is a classic and common way to prepare kabocha squash in Japan. It is often a component in Japanese bento boxes (healthy Japanese take out) and is often served as a side dish. You can also roast kabocha squash as you would prepare any other root vegetable or potato for roasting. When prepared this way the exterior of the squash gets nice and crispy while the flesh inside stays moist and sweet.
One Pot Kabocha Squash and Chickpea Curry
While this squash can usually be held for longer storage, I would encourage you to eat this week’s selection sooner than later. We’ve already seen some of them starting to deteriorate, so watch them carefully and if you notice any spots starting to form on the exterior, cut that area out of the squash and cook the remainder immediately.
Fall Flan with Maple Yogurt and Caramel Pecans
Yield: 6 servings
1 cup cooked, mashed winter squash (kabocha or butternut) or sweet potatoes
⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ tsp ground ginger
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
2 tsp vanilla extract
Caramel Pecans & Maple Yogurt:
1 tsp butter
½ cup pecans
1 tsp sugar
1 cup yogurt
1 Tbsp maple syrup
- Heat the oven to 325°F. In a blender, combine the squash or sweet potato, spices, maple syrup, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and ¼ tsp salt and puree until smooth. Divide the puree among six custard dishes.
- Put the custard dishes in a baking pan and pour hot water into the pan until it reaches at least an inch up the sides of the dishes. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. The flans should be set and barely quiver when shaken. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- While the flans are cooling, melt the butter in a small pan over low heat. Add the pecans, dust them with the sugar, and turn to coat evenly. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar has melted, caramelized, and coats the nuts. Turn the nuts out onto a plate, add a pinch or two of salt, and let cool. Chop finely or coarsely, as you like.
- In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup and the yogurt. Taste, and add more maple syrup if you wish. Serve the flan topped with a spoonful of maple yogurt and a little heap of chopped crisped pecans.
This recipe is an adaptation of one originally published by Deborah Madison in her book, Vegetable Literacy.
Squash & Poblano Quesadilla with Pickled Jalapeños & Chipotle Crema
Yield: 4-6 servings
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1-2 delicata or sugar dumpling squash, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
2 poblano peppers, deseeded and sliced
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
3-4 Tbsp sunflower oil, divided
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 can (16 oz) refried black beans
⅓ cup water
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
8-12 small corn or flour tortillas
Pickled Jalapeños (optional):
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup white vinegar
½ cup sour cream
¼ tsp chipotle powder
Juice of ½ a lime
Salsa, for serving
Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
If making the pickled jalapeño, put salt and vinegar in a bowl, stir to dissolve the salt. Add the jalapeño slices and let set until ready to serve.
Prepare the spice mixture by combining garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, cumin, brown sugar and salt in a small bowl. Note: Half of the spice mixture will be used for roasting the squash and onions. The remainder will be used for the refried beans.
Place squash slices in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with sunflower oil and sprinkle with about ¼ of the spice mixture. Toss to combine and coat the squash pieces evenly, then spread in an even layer on one of the baking sheets. Repeat the process with the sliced onions and poblano peppers, spreading them in an even layer on the second baking sheet.
Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes or until slightly browned and cooked through. Once the vegetables are done, remove from the oven and cool slightly.
While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the refried beans. Add 1 Tbsp oil to a small pot over medium heat. Add garlic and sautè for 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining spice mixture and the beans. Stir for a minute. Add water and bring to a simmer. Let the beans simmer over low heat for 10 minutes with the lid on. Remove from heat and set aside.
While the beans are simmering, make the crema. Combine sour cream, chipotle powder and lime in a bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.
Prepare the quesadillas: Spread a thin layer of refried beans on each of four-six tortillas (depending on the size). Divide and evenly spread the squash, onions and peppers on each tortilla. Top each with shredded cheese, then press another tortilla on top, gently.
Heat a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add just enough oil to lightly coat the pan. Once the oil shimmers, carefully place the quesadilla in the pan, cheese side down. Cook until the bottom side is golden brown, then carefully turn the quesadilla and repeat on the other side. Repeat the process until all quesadillas are toasted.
Cut each quesadilla into halves or quarters and serve, hot, with the crema, pickled jalapeño slices, cilantro and salsa of your choosing.
Recipe adapted from tuttalavita.ca
Cooking With This Week's Box
This week we move into late summer as we start the transition into fall. Peppers are ripening like crazy, zucchini production is tapering off, melons and watermelons are nearly finished, and we’ve started winter squash and root crop harvest. I enjoy cooking with vegetables coming in this time of year as most of them are very versatile and can play well with summer vegetables and fall vegetables. A good example of this is this week’s featured vegetable, leeks. Leeks are a late season allium, the last allium we’ll harvest this year. There are classical preparations that pair leeks with summer vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes, but they also complement fall vegetables like spaghetti squash and celeriac. So this week we’re featuring two recipes. The first is a Herbed Leek Tart (see below) that is very simple and in terms of tarts, it’s on the rustic end. You don’t need a tart pan to make this one, it’s more of a crostata where the pastry is just laid out on a baking sheet and is folded around the filling. This filling is a simple leek, herb and sweet pepper filling. This could serve as dinner along with salad or a bowl of soup. Leftovers reheat well and are good eaten either hot or at room temperature.
The second recipe this week pairs leeks with celeriac, more of a fall root vegetable. This is a simple recipe for Celeriac & Leek Soup (see below), courtesy of Farmer Andrea Bemis. It’s a lean soup based on leeks, celeriac and potato to thicken it. At the end you stir in a dollop of crème fraiche or yogurt to add some richness to the soup and bring it together. The combination of leeks and celeriac makes a nice silky, smooth soup.
If you don’t use celeriac to make the featured soup recipe, consider making this Wild Rice & Celeriac Gratin. You can keep it vegetable based, or it’s also good with chunks of chicken or turkey mixed in.
This week in our Facebook Group a member shared this recipe for Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle Salad, a recipe I’m anxious to try. This salad is built off of a base of cabbage and is topped with toasted almonds and ramen noodles as well as mango and edamame. The whole thing is dressed with a simple Asian vinaigrette that you make by shaking all the ingredients in a jar. You can make this salad now, or save this recipe and squirrel away some edamame in the freezer so you can make it later in the fall or winter when cabbage is abundant. This is a nice refreshing salad to liven up your winter mealscape. I also think it would be nice to add some thinly sliced sweet peppers or shredded carrots for some extra flavor and crunch.
While tomatoes haven’t been as plentiful this summer, the tomatillos have been producing very well! If you’re tomatillo-ed out for now, I encourage you to make another batch of tomatillo salsa and tuck it away in the freezer. If you don’t want to make salsa right now, at least clean the tomatillos and freeze them so you can make salsa later! Tomatillo salsa can be used for more than just dipping chips in it. Here’s a few ways you can put it to use. Check out this recipe for Avocado Tomatillo Breakfast Tacos which are topped with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa. These tacos call for spinach, but you could easily substitute this week’s beet greens in place of spinach.
If you’re going to make a batch of tomatillo salsa, you might as well use it for multiple recipes. Here’s another recipe, courtesy of the same blog (loveandlemons.com), for Smoky Sweet Corn Tostadas. For this recipe, you make a creamy sweet corn hummus that gets spread on crispy tortillas and topped off with sliced jalapenos, onions and tomatillo salsa.
If you didn’t have a chance to make the Red Pepper, Lentil & Tomato Salad featured in last week’s newsletter, I encourage you to check it out this week. It’s easy to make and can serve as a main dish or a side salad. It’s also very colorful with sweet peppers and grape tomatoes in shades of red to orange!
This may be the last week for watermelon. The easiest thing to do is cut it in half, grab a spoon, position yourself in a comfy chair on the patio and just eat it right out of the rind! If you want to put forth a little more effort, but not too much, make this 1-Ingredient Watermelon Slushie! While we’re making drinks, what better way to mark the end of melon season than Sangria! Here’s a recipe for Chardonnay Cantaloupe Sangria. While it calls for cantaloupe, I think this would be delicious made with any of the melon varieties in this week’s box.
I don’t typically pair beets and corn together, but why not?! This is a simple, refreshing recipe for a Beet & Corn Salad with cilantro and onions dressed with a light vinaigrette. It would be a nice accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken or serve it alongside the Herbed Leek Tart for a full vegetarian dinner.
I think that concludes this week’s cooking adventure. Pretty soon we’ll be picking the Korean chili peppers, which have become one of my favorites for making chili garlic sauce to stash away in the freezer. I’m also excited to start experimenting with recipes for the new Black Futsu Pumpkin! Jicama will be coming in, likely before the end of the month. There are so many delicious things yet to come! Have a great week!
Vegetable Feature: Leeks
By Andrea Yoder
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. It’s best to sweat leeks, meaning you cook them at a lower, more moderate heat to soften them but don’t try to brown them.
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 the shank and block sunlight which keeps it white. 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. In our opinion, Purple Viking potatoes are one of the best potatoes to use for Leek & Potato soup, which is why we included them in this week’s box! It is best to take your time and cook leeks more gently and slowly over medium heat. Sauté 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.
Celeriac & Leek Soup
Yield: 4 servings
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, diced
1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small or 1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium to large potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (plus more to thin as needed)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Crème Fraiche or plain yogurt, for serving
Minced parsley, for serving
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and onion and cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, celeriac, potato and a hefty pinch of salt. Stir well. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let the soup cool for a few minutes before transferring the soup (you may need to do this in batches) to a high speed blender and pureeing until completely smooth and creamy.
Return the soup back to the pot, stir in the lemon juice and taste for seasonings. If the soup seems too thick, add more stock or water. Keep the soup on low heat until ready to serve. Serve with a drizzle of crème fraiche or plain yogurt and minced parsley.
Recipe borrowed from DishingUpTheDirt.com, by Andrea Bemis.
Herbed Leek Tart
Yield: 2 tarts (8 servings each)
3 cups thinly sliced leeks (about 4 medium)
½ cup chopped sweet pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ cups shredded Swiss cheese
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp herbes de Provence (or may substitute dried thyme)
1 package (15 ounces) refrigerated pie crust
1 tsp whole milk
2 Tbsp chopped almonds or walnuts, optional
In a large skillet, sauté the leeks, red pepper and garlic in oil until tender. Remove from the heat; cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese, mustard and herbs; set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each sheet of pastry into a 12-inch circle. Transfer to parchment-lined backing sheets. Spoon leek mixture over pastry to within 2 inches of edges. Fold edges of pastry over filling, leaving center uncovered. Brush folded crust with milk; sprinkle with nuts if desired.
Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Using parchment, slide tarts onto wire racks. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers.
Recipe borrowed from www.tasteofhome.com.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Yellow or Red Grape Tomatoes: Red Pepper, Lentil & Tomato Salad (see below); Sweet Corn Risotto
Red Seedless Watermelon: Chill & Eat! No recipe needed!
This week the box is filled with a lot of sweetness, starting with our featured vegetable, Sweet Peppers! There are a lot of peppers in this week’s box. If they are red, yellow or orange, they are sweet. If they are dark green, those are poblano peppers which have a mild to medium heat. Poblano peppers were our featured vegetable last week. If you didn’t have a chance to try our featured recipes last week, I’d encourage you to consider both Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblanos and Caramelized Onions and Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Poblanos and Corn. Both recipes call for about 2 medium poblano peppers and they are both recipes that appeal to a wide range of eaters. But lets get back to the sweet peppers. Ever since I picked up Yasmin Khan’s book Zaitoun, I’ve had my eye on this recipe for Red Pepper, Lentil & Tomato Salad (see below). Now that the sweet peppers are ripening, it’s time to actually make this! This salad is substantial enough to serve as a main dish, or you can eat it as a side. It’s packed with the flavors of summer, leftovers are good for a few days, and it’s pretty easy to make. You can make this salad with any of the sweet pepper varieties in the box, including mini sweet peppers.
Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Poblanos and Corn
Before we leave peppers and move on to the other box items, I want to mention that it’s time to make a batch of Jalapeno Cream Cheese. This recipe calls for several jalapenos, but for most individuals, one jalapeno is likely enough. This is one of my favorite summer cream cheese spreads for bagels and toast.
One of our other “sweet” vegetables in this week’s box is sweet corn! Earlier this week, Andrea Bemis posted this recipe for Tomato, Zucchini & Corn Pie with Almond Crust on her blog. This recipe is another one that screams to be made in the summer and it includes fresh tomatoes, zucchini and sweet corn. I’m also excited to try Andrea’s Almond Crust as a gluten-free alternative. I’ve also been remembering how delicious fresh sweet corn is in Sweet Corn Risotto with a little fresh tomato salad on top, so that is on the list for this week as well.
While our melon and watermelon season are short and a little late this year, at least they made it before Labor Day! These two selections need little to no explanation as to what to do with them. They are sweet and delicious on their own, so cut a melon in half, grab a spoon and just eat them. Yes, scoop them right out of the rind. If you do want to do something a little extra special, make these tasty little Melon Prosciutto Skewers. They’ll be a simple, yet impressive addition to a Labor Day picnic.
We’ve been enjoying a plentiful harvest of tomatillos this year and while salsa verde is a great way to use them, you can also use them in other ways such as this Raw Tomatillo Salad. This recipe combines tangy raw tomatillos with smoky chipotle chiles, fresh cojita cheese and suggests scooping it up with tortilla chips.
Last weekend we finished harvesting all of our potatoes! In the coming weeks we’ll be delivering a variety of different kinds. This week we’re featuring our Rose Finn Apple Fingerling potatoes, an heirloom selection known for being a tasty potato. Whenever I think of fingerling potatoes, I think crispy! Last week this recipe for The Best Pan Roasted Potatoes was featured on Food52.com and I immediately thought of making this recipe with the fingerling potatoes. In this recipe, the salt actually goes on the bottom of the pan, so I’d recommend cutting the fingerling potatoes in half and putting them in the pan cut side down. The cut side of the potato will be crispy, salty and delicious. Serve these for breakfast along with eggs, for dinner along with a grilled steak, or just make the potatoes and serve them with fresh corn on the cob, boiled edamame, tomato slices, and wedges of fresh melon. That my friends is the beauty of delicious, simple summer vegetable cooking.
The Best Pan Roasted Potatoes
photo by Rocky Luten, from food52.com
If you don’t use the potatoes as mentioned above, and you haven’t eaten all of your mini-sweets by the time you get to this point in the article, I’ll mention another one of my favorite recipes using both potatoes and mini sweet peppers. This is a simple recipe for Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken with Potatoes & Mini Sweet Peppers. I like to make this with fresh potatoes and peppers, but you could also make this in the dead of winter with mini sweet peppers that you pull out of the freezer (hint, hint—freeze some mini sweet peppers!).
Before edamame season is through, I always have to make Fried Rice with Edamame and Corn. While I vary the vegetables in fried rice throughout the year, one of my favorite combos is edamame and fresh sweet corn. This is another recipe that can be made in the winter with vegetables you pull from the freezer, so if you have some extra corn, cook it, cut it off the cob and freeze it along with some edamame. You’ll be glad you did when you pull it out in the winter to make this recipe.
Fried Rice with Edamame and Corn
As we close out this week’s Cooking With the Box conversation, we’ll end with this recipe for
Summer Minestrone Soup. This is a great soup to make as we move out of summer and slide into fall. Use this week’s green beans, zucchini and other summer vegetables in this classic Italian soup.
We’ve reached the bottom of another delicious box of vegetables. Next week the box contents will likely shift a bit. We’ll still have plenty of peppers, hopefully some zucchini and tomatoes, but we’re also planning to start pulling leeks along with green top celeriac and our final crop of green top beets. Have a great week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Sweet Peppers
By Andrea Yoder
The peak of pepper season typically marks the point in the year where late summer collides with fall. At the end of this week we’ll be turning another calendar page, Labor Day will come and go, children will return to school and soon we’ll officially say good bye to summer. Peppers are one of my favorite vegetables to grow and eat and they so gracefully represent this unique point in our growing season. They play well with summer vegetables, but can also dance with fall and winter selections. They are easy to eat, right off the stem in all of their crispy, raw glory. Roast them and they become soft, sweet and smoky in flavor which can add a sweet richness to sauces, soup, sandwiches and more. While pepper season usually lasts several weeks, I never get tired of peppers and always make sure I have enough frozen peppers in the freezer to span winter, spring and early summer until the next crop comes in. I use them throughout the winter on pizza, add them to pasta dishes, mix them with root vegetables and roast them with chicken, add them into winter soups and stews, and of course they end up in scrambled eggs, quiche, frittatas and egg bakes. Peppers are one of the easiest vegetables to preserve, so even if I don’t feel like I have the time to tackle preservation projects, I know I can always successfully freeze peppers. Peppers do not need to be cooked before freezing. So, at a minimum, freezing peppers requires the time it takes to wash the pepper and put it in a bag. If I have a little extra time, and to save some freezer space, I’ll actually remove the stem and seeds and cut them into smaller pieces. Really, it’s that simple and you’ll really appreciate having them in the dead of winter!
We grow several different types of sweet peppers. All peppers start out as green peppers when they are immature. While we eat green peppers, peppers are really fully ripe and at their peak of sweetness and flavor if we let them turn color to be fully red, yellow or orange. Our mini sweet peppers are our all-time favorite variety and the sweetest and most flavorful pepper we grow. While there are many snack peppers available in the marketplace today, we believe our peppers are more flavorful than commercial seed varieties. We’ve been saving our own seed for well over 15 years and our variety is not just carefully selected, but also well adapted to our area.
Orange Italian Frying Pepper
We also really enjoy growing and eating Italian frying peppers. Italian frying peppers are long, slender peppers that, despite their name, may be eaten either raw or cooked. We have both red and orange varieties and both have pretty good pepper flavor and sweetness. One of our other unique sweet pepper varieties is the Ukraine pepper. This is another pepper that we save our own seed. It’s actually not available commercially and we got the seed from a woman who brought it from Ukraine. We like this pepper because it’s a heavy producer, often with as many as twelve peppers per plant. This pepper resembles a bell pepper, but they are smaller and have a pointy bottom instead of a blocky bottom. They also ripen to more of an orange red color instead of bright red. They have a thick wall which makes them a good candidate for roasting. They’re also a good pepper to use for stuffed peppers.
Roasting Sweet Peppers on Stovetop
While sweet peppers are delicious eaten raw, they can also be sautéed and roasted. You can roast peppers, whole, over an open flame such as on a grill or just on your stovetop if you have gas burners. Otherwise, peppers may be roasted under a broiler in the oven. When roasting peppers, you want to blacken nearly the entire exterior of the pepper. Once blackened, put them in a bowl and cover them so they steam for about 10 minutes. Remove the cover and once they are cool enough to handle you can peel away the black skin. Once you have roasted the pepper, it’s ready to use however you’d like. Slices of roasted red pepper are a nice addition to sandwiches, grain or lentil salads, or use them to build an antipasto platter. You can also use roasted sweet peppers to make a delicious cream sauce, dressing or soup.
Peppers are high in vitamins A & C as well as a whole host of other phytonutrients, so munching on a sweet pepper also has nutritive benefits. I mentioned above how easy it is to preserve sweet peppers so you can enjoy them throughout the year. Watch your email for our produce plus offerings coming as early as next week. You’ll have the opportunity to purchase larger quantities of peppers if you’d like to preserve more than you receive in your box each week. Enjoy!
Red Pepper, Lentil and Tomato Salad
Yield: 4-6 servings as a side dish or 2-3 servings as a main course
1 cup brown or green lentils
5 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of ½ lemon, or to taste (approximately 2 Tbsp)
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet peppers, ¼ inch pieces
1 cup quartered small tomatoes (red or yellow grape, etc)
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 ½ Tbsp basil leaves, roughly torn, plus more to serve
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 ½ oz feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
Cook the lentils in a saucepan of simmering water until they are soft but still have some bite. Depending on the freshness of the lentils, this will take 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the vinegar into a small bowl and add the red onion. Stir well, then leave the onion to soak (this removes some of its pungency).
Once the lentils are cooked, drain them, rinse with warm water and place in a serving bowl. Immediately squeeze the lemon juice and 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil over the lentils and stir well. Leave to cool completely.
Stir in the red onion (drain and reserve the vinegar for the dressing), sweet pepper, tomatoes, lemon zest, garlic and basil.
Dress the salad by combining 2 Tbsp of the reserved vinegar, the remaining 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Pour over the lentils, mix well, then taste and adjust the seasoning. You may want to add a bit more of the vinegar, lemon juice or salt to balance out the flavors.
Just before serving, strew with a few more basil leaves and the feta, if you are using it.
Recipe borrowed from Yasmin Khan’s beautiful book, Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen.
By Gwen Anderson
Sweet corn, the iconic summer vegetable. You can hardly drive a mile in the countryside without running into fields’ worth of corn of some kind (and probably not the tasty sweet corn type). But you know right away what it is, with its tall stalks, long green leaves, and silky ears. Even in the city, farmers park their trucks, beds piled high with the golden goodness, off the shoulder of the highways and in busy parking lots to sell their crop to passersby (but the back of the truck is a hot place for corn, and allows the sugars to quickly convert to starch). Everyone loves sweet corn, which is exactly why we grow it. Richard has a saying: “Some crops you grow for profit. Some you grow to make friends. We grow corn to make friends.” How do we make friends with sweet corn? By prudently selecting the right varieties, careful planning, vigilantly combating pests, and having an expert harvest crew. If everything is done right, we will have the best sweet corn ever.
The process starts with selecting the best corn seed. Like with all lifeforms, genetics plays a vital role in the characteristics that show up in corn. All types of corn, whether field corn, decorative corn, popcorn, or sweet corn, are the same species: Zea mays. The genes needed to make corn sweet instead of starchy are recessive genes. The starchy gene is the dominant gene. Genes come in pairs, one from each “parent.” If the genes passed down from the “parents” are the same, that is the characteristic that is displayed in the “child.” However, if the genes in the pair don’t match, it is the dominant gene’s characteristic that is displayed. Take humans for example: Brown eyes are a dominant trait, blue is recessive. If both parents have blue eyes, they will have children with blue eyes. If one parent has blue eyes and the other has brown eyes, the children could have either brown or blue eyes. If both parents have brown eyes, the children could still have brown or blue eyes. It really just depends on what kind of genes the parents are carrying.
There are three recessive “sweet genes” in corn: sugary (su), sugary enhanced (se), and supersweet or shrunken-2 (sh2). Su is the oldest of the sweet corn varieties to have been cultivated. It has around 9% sugar content which quickly converts to starch once it is harvested. The short shelf life of this sweet corn is traded off for good corn flavor, mild sweetness, and a creamy texture. Se corn has between 16-18% sugar content and has a slower sugar to starch conversion rate than su corn, which means that sweet flavor is more stable. The kernels on se corn are also extremely tender; so tender they are easily damaged. Sh2 corn has about 35% sugar and has a super slow rate of converting sugar to starch. The kernels are also thick, so it stores well. However, those thick kernels also make for a crunchy eating experience. But remember how genes come in pairs? It turns out genetics isn’t exactly as cut and dry as recessive and dominant genes, and by mixing the recessive traits we can make new kinds of corn: Synergistic (su and sh2 mix) and Augmented (sh2 and se). Synergistic corn blends the sweetness of sh2 corn with the creamy texture and tenderness of su corn while giving it a long enough shelf life to do some traveling. Augmented corn does basically the same thing, just with the se corn instead of the su corn. All these hybrids were created by naturally crossbreeding the corn. We do not use any GMO altered seeds of any kind, nor do we use seeds that have “seed treatments” that contain various poisons such as neonicotinoids.
With this lesson of genetics under our belts, we pick up a seed catalogue. Farmer Richard has done plenty of trial and error, and has also learned to trust the advice of our experienced seed rep, Phil Timm. We buy all of our corn seed from the same company because of the relationship we have built with Phil. With his help, we try new corn varieties and also have been able to find our favorites: Nirvana, Sweetness, Kickoff, and Awesome.
During the winter, we plan which crops we are going to plant and where. This helps us decide how much seed we are going to purchase. With the plans made and the seeds purchased, it is a waiting game for the right time to plant. We normally plant corn, weather permitting, around May 1st. For the first planting of sweet corn, it is essential to pick a variety that has “cold soil vigor.” We also wait for the perfect time to plant it: a day with nice, bright sun that will be shining for the next 24 hours. Depending on the soil temperature, we are able to play around a little with how deep we plant the seeds. For example, we would plant the seeds more shallow if the soil was still too cool in order for the sun to warm the seeds better and encourage them to germinate. However, this can be risky because birds love corn seeds. Last year, the red-winged blackbirds found our first shallow planted corn in the field, dug it up and ate a good portion of the crop before it could germinate!
Sweet corn in early July this year
Another thing we need to keep in mind when we are planting our sweet corn is what kind of sweet corn we are planting. Because of sweet corn’s complicated genetics, it is important to keep sweet corn isolated from other types of corn; this is even true for different types of sweet corn! Corn is wind pollinated, so we need to be cognizant of preventing cross-pollination. It is recommended to keep at least a 250 foot distance between corn varieties that will be tasseling up at the same time to avoid cross-pollination between the varieties. Another option is to time the plantings to ensure at least 14 days between the estimated tassel dates to keep corn from cross-pollinating. If we follow these guidelines, we are able to keep the true genetics of the variety of corn we plant which is then displayed in the characteristics of the corn we pick. When Richard took me out to one of our corn fields last week, it was situated in a beautiful field next to our winter squash crop, surrounded by wildlife habitat, forest, and rolling hills. It was picturesque, to be sure, but it was also very far away from any other potential corn fields.
I mentioned the importance of knowing when the corn is going to be “tasseling up,” or getting ready to be pollinated to create the kernels. The pollen of corn is in the tassels. Corn takes 65 to 90 days to mature, and that range is broken into 3 different sub-seasons: early varieties (less than 70 days to mature), mid-season varieties (70-84 days to mature), and late varieties (more than 84 days to mature). If we were going to be planting different types of corn together, we would want to make sure that they were in different sub-seasons. By planting corn from different sub-seasons, we can continue to deliver corn as long as possible throughout corn’s growing season, while also avoiding the potential for cross pollination between the varieties.
Sweet corn field during harvest time
Earlier I had mentioned how the red-winged blackbirds had found our first crop of corn last year. Birds are only one of the pests we have to combat when growing sweet corn. We have a couple different tactics we use to try to deter birds, but like all deterrents, they need to be in place before the animals figure out there is tasty corn to be had. We hang “scare eye” balloons with long silver streamers on poles out in the field. These “scare eyes” work on the same principle that protects moths that camouflage themselves with large eye-like patterns on their wings: big eyes mean big predators. The silver streamers reflect light and move in the wind, also scaring the birds away. We also have fake owls and hawks posted on the fence lines. These fake birds of prey are solar powered and have moving heads, keeping an ever-vigilant eye on the fields for us and keeping pesky corn eating birds at bay. The fence these sentinels sit on is plastic mesh tied to poles we place in the field that are 6 feet high. This fence is a deterrent to deer, but again, only if they don’t know what is on the other side of it. Corn is a much tastier treat then grass and leaves, and sweet corn is so much better still than the field corn that is growing elsewhere. The fence also doesn’t do much to keep raccoons out. So, in addition to the fence, we have an electrical ribbon running through the mesh near the bottom of it to surprise and deter any raccoons who try to pass through the fence.
Richard explaining how the fake owls work
Now that we have the critters dealt with, there is one last pest we need to protect our corn from: Earworms. Earworms are moth larvae that hatch from eggs that are laid on the silks of corn ears. When they hatch, they spend a few days on the silks before they eat their way down into the ear of corn. To combat the earworms, we use an organic approved Bt spray, a naturally occurring bacteria that is toxic to the earworms. We have pheromone traps set up in the cornfields that attract the moths when they are ready to start laying eggs. When we have moths in the traps, we know it is time to spray the corn. With the right timing, the newly hatched earworms eat the Bt we’ve applied to the corn silk and die before they can damage the sweet kernels inside. Again, timing is everything and we only want to spray when necessary.
Richard checking the pheromone trap for earworm moths
With the pests dealt with and the corn crop mature, the next step is harvest. At one time, we had a mechanical corn harvester. We would run it through the field, harvest all the corn at once, and then need to sort through the corn when we brought it back to the packing shed. This lead to a lot of corn that would never be ripe and good, thus it was wasted. We decided we were going to go back to hand harvesting the corn. This allows us to pick only the best ears of corn at the right moment, leaving the unripe ears to grow up and become the best that they can be as well. Every person on our corn harvest team was trained by Farmer Richard on how to look and feel for the best corn in the field. Ripe corn will have nice “shoulders” at the top of the ear, whereas an unripe ear will be pointy. If the corn looks like it has shoulders, the next step it to feel the tip, by where the silk is. If the tip is soft, it is ready to be picked. If it is still a little stiff, it needs a few more days to let the kernels inside grow up and fill the rest of the ear. If the ear is ready to be picked, you grab the ear and twist it down, making sure you snap off as much of the stalk and leave it behind as you can. If you have too much stalk left on the ear, you’ll have to go back later and break it off before you pack it for shipping. Once the ear is picked, you place it in your bag and move onto the next one. And all of this happens in a split second!
Richard harvesting sweet corn
When your bag is full, you bring it to the wagon and get ice on it right away. This is a crucial step because icing the corn and keeping it cold slows down the sugar to starch conversion, and lets you enjoy the corn for a longer time! When harvest is done for the day, the wagon brings the corn home where we ice it again before putting it in the cooler so it can be completely cooled. At this point, we have done everything we can to ensure that we have grown the best corn ever. It is now your job to make sure you keep your corn cold before you are ready to use it. Always store sweet corn in the refrigerator and eat it within a few days of receiving it.
Did we achieve “the best corn ever” this year? We hope you have enjoyed this article about the iconic summer vegetable and have learned a thing or two about how we bring it to your table. With all the hard work we put into it, we sure hope we managed to make a few friends along the way by giving you a few sweet ears of our golden goodness this year!
Sweet corn being iced before being stored in the cooler