Monday, October 8, 2007

Wrap Up

From the Farm . . .

It is hard to believe that the last week of our CSA season is here – the air temperature, humidity, and sunshine all remind us more of August than of October. Most of the summer plants have peaked, reaching their maximum production several weeks ago. Although our temperatures remain warm, the season encourages us to move towards eating cooler weather foods - find several of those in your final basket.

After your heavily filled baskets during the first third of the season, we continued to harvest more-than-average amounts hoping that you all had a little time to pop some things into your freezer for later use. In June and July, our dry soil contained very little groundwater and no rainfall in sight gave us caution on how some late summer and fall crops would perform. We spent a lot of labor hours on hand weeding and moving water lines. With irrigation lines running across the field, tractor cultivation cannot be done without snagging a water line. In drought conditions, weeds take advantage of any water source and will try to crowd out the desired plant to suck up any moisture. To give you a little wrap-up on the growing season, we have a quick run-through on some of the vegetables we know faced challenges this year. Some items had an irregular growing season more as a result of heat than drought: spinach, lettuces, eggplant, herbs. Things that did not go as we intended despite our continued efforts resulting in less than desired yields, size, or item quality (we believe as a result of extreme soil dryness and high air temperature): onions, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes. Finally, the crops that were planted and cultivated but still resulted in no harvest include edamame, watermelons, artichokes, shell-out beans. Overall for the season we feel we had a fairly decent year production-wise; it was just extremely tough and expensive. Dry conditions coming into the spring resulted in having to irrigate to start and establish crops, not just to grow them. Then the hot, dry wind coupled with the high temperatures of June, July, and September, resulted in twice as much water needed when irrigating.

Some folks have been asking about the “entire state declared a disaster due to drought” as reported by local media. Many commodity crops like corn and soybeans are eligible for a government crop insurance program that will pay farmers in a disaster situation. Their payment (about 20% of expected sales) is to ensure the farm has enough cash flow to purchase supplies to replant the following year. Vegetable farms are able to purchase similar government insurance, but our experience has been that a 20% payment of the average conventional wholesale vegetable prices (not considering retail sales nor organic premium) is not enough cash to even cover the insurance premium.

Though we had a few crops fail this summer, we have to tell you that every basket we put together this year met or exceeded the value of your share size. Every single item in every basket this season was irrigated – otherwise we may have had very little to offer. With two out of the last three summers being so dry, we can’t imagine running a CSA program and asking for your season-long commitment without irrigation equipment, the commitment to put in the hours needed using it, and an adequate water source.

“Imagine for a moment if we once again knew, strictly as a matter of course, these few unremarkable things: What it is we're eating. Where it came from. How it found its way to our table. And what, in a true accounting, it really costs.”
- Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma

We would like to express our sincere thanks for your support this past season. Your commitment as a partner with the farm through CSA and your kind words at the weekly pickup convey your interest and care about sustainability of local farms, wholesome organic food, and the future of both.

In Your Basket . . .

Parsnips –organic – new this year!
In Europe, parsnips were once more popular than carrots as they can be the most sweet of all root vegetables. They are high in potassium and Vitamin C and contain fewer calories than other starches like potatoes. These will keep for several weeks in your refrigerator Рpeeling them before use is your choice. Parsnips can be prepared any way similar to a carrot or a potato. Boiling cut up pieces usually takes about 8-10 minutes; steam for 12-15 minutes if planning to puree. Saut̩ with butter, oven-roast, or mash. Find an easy roasted recipe below and a creamy soup.

Brussels Sprouts – organic
Try a stir-fry medley of garlic, sprouts, parsnips, and broccoli – season with favorite soy or sesame oil.

Broccoli – organic

Cabbage – organic
Fresh cabbage tastes wonderful in a refreshing cole slaw. Find a recipe below for vinegar based dressing rather than mayonnaise.

Garlic - organic


Bell Pepper

Cilantro - organic – new fall crop!
There are so many dishes now that use cilantro – it has expanded past salsa into soups, slaws, and entrees.

Larger Baskets Only:
Arugula – new fall crop!

Recipes to Enjoy . . .

Coleslaw with Cilantro and Chives
recipe from Angelic Farm; add fresh bell peppers, celery, or even shredded parsnips.

4 to 6 C shredded cabbage
¼ C minced cilantro
¼ C chopped chives
3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T white wine vinegar
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt

Toss the cabbage, cilantro, and chives in a bowl or container; refrigerate covered for at least 1 hour or overnight. When ready to serve, mix the oil, vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl until well combined. Pour the dressing over the chilled cabbage and mix well before serving. Serves 8-10.

Oven-Fried Parsnips
recipe from From Asparagus to Zucchini

2 pounds parsnips
2 T olive oil
coarse sea salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking 1 or 2 sheets with parchment paper. Peel parsnips. Cut them crosswise into 2 ½ inch chunks, slice the chunks lengthwise into ¼ inch thick planks, and cut planks into sticks. Toss with olive oil and a little sea salt. Spread into a single layer on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes; toss well and add additional salt. Continue to bake, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 30 minutes total. Serves 4-6.

Curried Parsnip and Apple Soup
recipe from Pete Luckett’s Greengrocer’s Kitchen

2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
2 pounds parsnips, scrubbed and chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 T curry powder
4 C chicken or vegetable stock
½ C heavy cream
salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter and oil in a large saucepan, and stir in the onion, garlic, parsnips, potatoes, and apple. Cover and cook for 15 minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened. Stir in the curry powder and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are very tender. Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Return to saucepan and add the cream. Reheat gently, check the seasoning, and serve. Garnish with freshly snipped chives or other herb if desired.

Arugula Salad with Pear, Goat Cheese and Roasted Walnuts

recipe from Live Earth Farm

½ C toasted walnuts
¾ C extra virgin olive oil, plus little more for roasting nuts
1 T cranberry mustard or mild, sweet mustard

3 T balsamic vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 handfuls of arugula, stems or end pieces removed

2 pears, washed, cored and sliced lengthwise
1 C crumbled goat cheese

Toss and coat the walnuts in a light amount of olive oil. Roast them in a toaster over or conventional oven. Take care not to burn them. Put all mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and run until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle ¾ C olive oil in until smooth. Toss the arugula with the vinaigrette, add a little at a time while tossing, so as to coat lightly. You can always add more, but you can't take it away. Divide the tossed arugula on individual plates. Place the pears, goat cheese and walnuts on top of the arugula and serve immediately.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Where does my food grow?

Farm Tour . . .

This coming Sunday, October 7th, from 2 pm to 5 pm, we invite CSA members and your families to come out to the farm for a tour of things and a visit with us - or with the chickens, whichever your group may prefer. This is an opportunity to view the crops, the high tunnel, the compost system, etc. Ask questions about the veggies, the season, and other things of interest.
We apologize for taking so long to firm up the time and plans for the day as we really wanted to offer you a bonfire harvest dinner – but the drought and lack of rainfall predicted this week makes the fire out of the question. As a result, we have cancelled the potluck portion of the plan. Rather, we want to focus on letting you see what goes on here in producing vegetables for you. Due to our livestock, please do not bring your dogs. Wear appropriate footwear for walking about and spend a little time in the country this week!

In Your Basket . . .

Broccoli –organic – new fall crop!
The recent cooler temperatures (in the 80s rather than 90s) have helped the broccoli. Loaded with Vitamins A & C, try not to overcook to enjoy the full flavor.

Stringless Green Beans – organic
Our last green bean planting is ready for harvest this week. The pods may not be as filled out as desired, but these beans cook up nicely. Snap the beans, blanch in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, rinse in cold water to stop the cooking, drain, dry and pack into freezer containers. Pull out in the middle of winter for a reminder of summertime. Find a new green bean recipe below.
Fall Greens Mix (kale, mustards, turnips) – organic
Your fresh cooking greens bundle contains a medley of curly kale, giant red mustard, green mustard, or turnip greens. Find an easy soup recipe below using your greens, red onion, and any root vegetables you might have on hand.

Garlic - organic


Red Onions - organic
These red onions are freshly harvested though beginning to dry as a storage onion does. Remove the tops for long term storage. We find these more of a strong rather than a sweet flavor. Use in any recipe calling for an onion, they are especially nice pan fried or caramelized.

Acorn Squash
Remember that this hard skinned winter squash can be kept in your pantry for weeks. It also can be refrigerated, but will suffer if allowed to freeze (this means don’t store in your garage).

Mini Decorative Pumpkin
Our larger pumpkins just won’t fit in your baskets! We will have some available at the farm tour though.

Your Choice Basket:
Red Tomatoes – new fall crop

We estimated it would be the first of October before the last tomato plants offered ripe fruit. With night temperature reaching into the 40’s, these will finish ripening inside your house better than outdoors.

Recipes to Enjoy . . .

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions
from From Asparagus to Zucchini

2 pounds green beans, stem ends snipped off, snapped into bite sized pieces if desired
2 T butter
2 medium onions, sliced as thinly as possible
1 C chicken stock
1 ½ T sugar
1 T red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Cook beans in boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes (check to make sure pods are cooked, may need a little longer). Drain; immerse in ice water. Drain again and let stand to dry. Melt butter in skillet over medium flame. Stir in onions and cook them slowly until very wilted and deepened in color, about 15 minutes. Boil stock in a saucepan until reduced to ¼ C; stir in sugar and vinegar. Stir in onions. Simmer until slightly reduced. Combine onions and green beans; heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 8 servings.

A Simple Greens Soup
from From Asparagus to Zucchini, makes 4 servings

2 T butter or oil
1 small onion, medium-diced
1 pound peeled Jerusalem artichokes or other root vegetables, medium-diced
4 C water or chicken broth
1 bunch greens, washed and chopped (suggestions include watercress, sorrel, red kale, nettles)
salt and pepper
½ C heavy cream (optional)

Heat butter or oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onions; cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent (don’t let them brown). Add the artichokes or other roots and water or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the root vegetables are soft when pierced with a fork, approximately 15 minutes. Add the greens and cook them until they wilt, about 5 minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or in batches in a blender) until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Optional: You may pass the soup through a strainer to take out the little bits and make it smoother. If so, you may skip the peeling of the root vegetables, as the skins will strain out.
Creamy option: Add heavy cream at the end and heat through.

Garlic-Onion Tomato Pizza
We enjoy pizzas many nights during the summer months with a variety of toppings from fried eggplant to basil pesto. This recipe from Taste of Home Magazine.

2 pre-baked pizza dough, homemade or purchased, about 14 inches
2 medium yellow or red onions
8 garlic cloves
6-8 plum tomatoes
herb mixture (oregano, parsley, pepper)
1½ C shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ C grated Romano cheese

Thinly slice onions. Halve garlic cloves. Broil both 3-4 inches from heat until softened and lightly browned. Cut tomatoes into eighths and remove seeds. Broil tomatoes for 2 minutes on each side. Finely chop garlic. Arrange onions, garlic and tomatoes on pizza crusts. Sprinkle with herbs and cheeses. Bake at 450 degrees for 8-9 minutes until cheese is melted.