More Good Things to Come
The summer share season is ending just as the first real feeling of fall-like weather descends on the Bluegrass. The partnership we have with you is a very important part of our farming business. You made not only the financial commitment last spring that helped us get started this season, but also the commitment to secure your share each week and nourish your family with wholesome, organic produce all summer. We are committed to producing the foods, delivering them on time, and educating you about them. Whether you sign up for the fall season share, or come to the market or both, we have lots of great crops growing in the fields, and we hope to serve you well into the winter, if not all year. (We will be at markets in Lexington and Cincinnati all year!)
We strive to send a good mix of items each week for balanced nutrition as much as for good flavors. Given the vagaries of the weather, our plant-production practices, and harvest- and packing-labor demands, it can be quite challenging to hit the high standards we set for ourselves each season. We have a philosophy of always giving you a little more than the mathematical minimum of what you paid for. When the lettuces seemed to all ripen at the same time, you got extra. The timing of the sweet corn and berry harvests, for example, can make the shares different each day of the week, but we keep track to be sure everyone gets their fair share.
We will soon be asking you to respond to a survey about this season's experience. The feedback from you will guide our decision making this winter to prepare for next year. We review the surveys carefully, take all comments into consideration and look for trends. Constructive criticism is well received. The occasional jabs are hard to not take personally, and positive comments are exhilarating and motivational, much like conversations at the market.
On the Farm
With one of the top-10 wettest Augusts and a top-10 driest September on the books, our well-laid plans were challenged, to say the least. The extended hot-dry weather pattern has required us to irrigate fields just so we can work the ground and plant the plants or seeds. It has been difficult to dig potatoes and sweet potatoes with the ground so hard. The cooler weather this week makes us and the plants feel better, and lest we not forget, first frost is just a few weeks away. That being said, the early Fall CSA shares will still have tomatoes and other summer-season goodies for the first few weeks. We begin the baby-ginger harvest in October, so look for it in your fall share, or at the market, if the harvest is bountiful.
The farm tours and tour/dinners we offered this year have been well received by those who participated. Some have come back several times to see the progression of the season. Hosting the tours gave us an opportunity to demonstrate the biological principles our farming systems are built on in a way that our guests can see, feel and remember.
Each tour has a theme and is scripted to ensure we stay on target and on time. On the Good Bug: Bad Bug tour, entomologist Dr. Ric Bessin, from UK, explained insect life cycles, interactions between good guys and bad guys, and the harmful effects of toxic pesticides on these ecosystems. He not only confirmed we are doing a great job of managing the habitat, but it was like a National Geographic movie coming to life for those on the tour. Having professional scientists like Dr. Bessin and Dr. Rob Paratley, our UK Department of Forestry expert on the tree tour, elevated the conversation exponentially. Our plans are to build on what we learned as hosts this year and provide an even richer experience next year.
We will round out this year's tours in October with a focus on the role livestock play on the farm on October 6 and on turkeys for the Chef John Foster dinner and farm tour on October 18. (Find details about these tours at elmwoodstockfarm.com/farmtours.)
Behind the Scenes
We are fortunate to have hired some outstanding, enthusiastic and intelligent young people to join us in providing good food, fun markets and educational opportunities. I hope you have met them at one of the markets, but they also spend a lot of time compiling production and sales data, editing these newsletters and the website, initiating the e-newsletter, pulling restaurant and other special orders together, and countless other tasks required for us to do what we do. There is a lot of responsibility that goes with employing such talented individuals—now we know how Coach Calipari must feel—but the benefits and rewards they bring to us, and you, by extension, are off the charts.
Thanks, again, for your continued support as CSA shareholders. You are our prime, number-one customers. If we have limited quantity of something, it goes into your shares, not to the market. (Regular farmers-market egg customers are wishing they had signed up for an egg share right now.) There is a tremendous amount of produce yet to come out of the fields this year, while next year’s production is already in the works. All of us at Elmwood Stock Farm are working diligently to bring you the best of the best in one form or another. Let us know what you think, and invite your friends and family to invest in their health by joining our CSA. Remember: Food is Medicine! —Mac Stone
In Your Share
Sweet Potato-Stuffed Eggplant, adapted from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
2 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, diced
½ T. ground coriander
1 tsp. chopped fresh lemon thyme
pinch of red chile flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. tomato paste
1 large tomato, blanched, peeled, seeded and diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely grated
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
2 oz. Emmentaler cheese, grated (divided)
1 T. chopped cilantro
Slice each eggplant in half lengthwise. Scoop out flesh, making sure to keep outer skin of eggplants intact. Transfer flesh to a board and chop; set aside. Sprinkle inside of eggplants with sea salt and turn them over; leave them alone for 30 minutes.
In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, ground coriander, lemon thyme and chile flakes. Cook, without browning, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, tomato paste and tomato and continue to cook 4 minutes, stirring. Add carrot, sweet potato, eggplant flesh and bay leaf, and season with sea salt. Cover and simmer about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft. Discard bay leaf. Stir in three-quarters of the cheese and the cilantro.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Stuff eggplant skins with the cooked vegetables and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Place stuffed eggplants in an oven dish, and drizzle with remaining oil. Pour a little water in bottom of dish and bake in preheated oven, 45 to 50 minutes, until nicely colored on top.
Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup, adapted from The Food Network
Assuming cool days are on the horizon, this soup would be nice served with crusty local bread.
3 T. good olive oil
¾ c. chopped red onion
1 carrot, unpeeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb. tomatoes, coarsely chopped
¾ tsp. sugar
1 T. tomato paste
⅛ c. packed chopped, fresh basil leaves, plus julienned basil leaves, for garnish
1 ½ c. chicken or vegetable stock
½ T. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ c. heavy cream
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and carrots, and sauté for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, stock, salt and pepper, and stir well. Bring soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.
Add the cream to the soup, and process it through a food mill into a bowl, discarding only the dry pulp that's left. (Use an immersion blender or regular blender if you don’t have a food mill.) Reheat soup over low heat, just until hot, and serve with julienned basil leaves.
Roasted Bell Peppers, adapted from Tori Avey
Many recipes call for roasted, peeled, seeded bell peppers like the ones you find packed in oil in a jar at the grocery store. This is an easy way to make your own.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with foil. Lay peppers on their sides on the foil. Roast for 40 minutes, flipping peppers halfway through. The skin should be charred and soft, and the peppers should look slightly collapsed.
Place the peppers on a cutting board with a large bowl upside down over them to trap the steam inside. Steam for 15 minutes.
Slice the pepper vertically from top to bottom and split the pepper open so it becomes one long strip. Pull the stem and clump of seeds from the top of the pepper. Rinse or use a towel to wipe off loose seeds that remain inside the pepper. Peel off the charred skin--you should be able to pull this off easily with your fingers. Slice the peppers into strips.
Put them in a jar and cover them with olive oil to keep in the refrigerator for a few days.