Monday, September 22, 2008

Week 20, CSA

News from the Farm

Some things have slowed down a little on the farm – most of all is the rate at which the crops grow with shorter daylengths and cooler nighttime temperatures. Summer crops will still produce, just the time to reach the same level of ripeness is much longer in September than in July. This change of season also affects the egg laying of our hens – shorter days equals less production and less eggs to gather and wash each day.

We continue to experience extremely dry conditions, some say we are in the same situation as the 2007 drought. However, by having early rain this season, we were able to get plants established and many items harvested before the non-rainy days began. We had some good early hay crops and have some bales of hay stockpiled for our livestock for winter feeding. (Actually some of our neigh-bors that do not rotate their animals as frequently as we do around several pastures are already feeding their winter hay supply. We may be in the same situation soon.) With such a low water table now, we face going into fall and winter with dry ponds and non-flowing streams. We are very thankful for the wisdom of our ancestors who chose this farm with good soils and a strong creek for fresh water. The ability to irrigate and the willingness to put the hours of time in to set up and move the lines and pumps around is a requirement in growing crops the last several years. We also use municipal water to irrigate and the expense adds up when the flow goes 24 hours daily.

On the up-side, weeds can be identified pretty easily in our row crops, only appearing around the irrigation line. We can spot water leaks pretty quickly from our water lines running to the cattle and the poultry as the leaky spot will green up the grass in a day. We don’t worry about the truck getting stuck in the field in that low spot that holds water, and we really don’t ever get rained out on harvest days. We have an appreciation for heavy dews and foggy mornings that pull a little moisture out of the air into the ground.

We had good yields on some earlier crops allowing us to get winter squash, garlic and potatoes into storage. We may get less than desired yield on later crops, however, but we know to take that into account as we plan for the fall. The dry conditions now will affect over-wintering crops such as next year’s garlic and onions if we do not receive any rainfall. The plants need to grow strong roots and be healthy to prepare for the cold winter their production cycle requires. The weather continues to keep things interesting.

In Your Share
Items in your share may vary depending on your share size and harvest day. Every share may not have every item listed below.

Beans, Green – organic
These tender and green late snap beans are a sight for sore eyes around the farm, with so many dried vines about. A lot of irrigation and a large block of field corn to block the drying winds allowed this fall planting to produce some nice beans. Beans are low in calories and high in Vit. A and potassium. Store refrigerated until ready to prepare. Find an easy, new recipe below.

Cilantro – organic
This popular pungent herb can be used right away in sauce, salsa, on salads, or with pasta. To freeze, remove the stem and put chopped leaves in ice cube trays, adding a little water if desired. Freeze. Remove cubes and store in freezer bags, pulling out one or two when needed later on. To keep fresh, store refrigerated in the coolest area, in a bag or container to keep from drying out.

The fall cucumber plants are producing, offering a refreshing crisp coolness during these dry days. Mostly water, cucumbers need to be refrigerated and will keep 7-10 days. Find two new recipes.

Hard Neck Garlic – organic
Our members have told us that garlic is one of your top vegetables and to keep including it in your share. You may not use a whole head each week, but you will want to save your extras in a dry, darkish area of your pantry. Your garlic will keep for many weeks and you will have it to use long after the CSA season is over. Chop with your fresh herbs to make pesto and pop into your freezer!

Potatoes – organic
This week’s potatoes are a good all-purpose type that can be used for most any dish. Please remember that organic potatoes are not treated with chemical sprays to prevent discoloration or sprouting, so store refrigerated out of the light. Your potatoes will also keep for you for several weeks.

Radish – organic
The fall root vegetables are beginning to get established, and the quick growing radish is ready for harvest this week. The greens will not keep as long as the bulbs but contain high nutrition. Find a recipe below using in a salad; also use your radishes cooked with roasted chicken or beef roast.

Summer Squash

Winter Squash
The squash will store for you several weeks, you do not need to use right away. To prepare, cut in half, remove seeds, bake in 350 F oven 30-60 minutes, depending on size. Enjoy with butter and seasonings or with honey.

Swiss Chard - organic

Red or Heirloom Tomato – organic
Open any cookbook and you are sure to find a recipe for fresh salsa using tomatoes and cilantro. The late tomato crop is a good time to enjoy the freshness of the tomato fruit with some homemade salsa – find one recipe below. Another option is to use some crusty bread in a late summer bruschetta.


Recipes to Enjoy

Find two ideas for fresh salads using cucumbers and radishes, adapted from Alanna Kellogg recipes

Cucumber in Vinegar

1 large or 2 small cucumber, trim ends, slice thin

6 or so red radishes, trim ends, slice thin
1 T kosher salt
Water and vinegar to cover, about 2:1 water:vinegar
Pinch sugar
Black pepper to taste

In a colander, layer the cucumber, radishes and salt. Place in a sink (or in a bowl in the frig, if you want the cucumber to be really cold) to drain for an hour. Lightly rinse in cold water. Taste -- if it's too salty, rinse again, though you do want some saltiness to come through.Transfer cucumber/radish mixture to a bowl. Add just enough water and vinegar to cover, stir in the sugar and black pepper. Stir and let rest for about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle with paprika, serve and enjoy!

Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber
1 T coarse sea salt or kosher salt
½ C sour creambunch of fresh herb, snipped with scissors (original recipe uses chives)
1 tsp sugar
Salt & pepper to taste

Slice the cucumber into thin rounds. Combine with the salt and let sit for about an hour. Rinse, press out what water you can, combine with the remaining ingredients, and serve.

Braised Garlic and String Beans
recipe from Bert Greene; serves 4

1 pound tender young beans, trimmed
3 T unsalted butter
4 to 5 large cloves garlic
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
1 T chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the beans in boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Rinse under cold running water until cool. Drain.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add the garlic cloves; cook, covered, until lightly golden and soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Do not let the butter burn. Remove the cover and mash the garlic with a fork until well mixed with the butter.

Add the beans to the skillet; toss over medium heat until warmed through. Add the sage, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

Tomato Salsa, a From Asparagus to Zucchini recipe

1 small onion
½ bell pepper
small bunch cilantro
3 minced garlic cloves
chile pepper to taste
1 T honey
salt to taste
1 ¾ pounds, peeled, fresh tomatoes

Process all ingredients except tomatoes in a food processor. Add peeled tomatoes. Process again, and it’s ready to eat. Will keep refrigerated 1 week. Does not freeze well. Makes about 2 cups.

Squash and Sausage Ratatouille
recipe from Bert Greene; serves 4

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ pound sweet Italian sausage, sliced into 1/8” rounds
1 medium sized pepper, seeded, cut into thin rounds
1 T red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion; cook 1 minute. Add the garlic, cook 4 minutes more. Stir in the sausage slices. Cook, stirring frequently, until well browned, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mixture to a plate.

Pour off all but 3 T fat from skillet (if not enough, add butter to compensate). Add the squash and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until tender, about 10 minutes.

Return the sausage mixture to the skillet, stirring well. Cook, covered over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and sprinkle the mixture with the vinegar. Cook uncovered, stirring constantly, 3 minutes longer. Add salt and pepper to taste.