Monday, May 26, 2008

CSA News, Week 3

News From the Farm . . .

Over the years of growing and selling fresh vegetables, we have learned that unless you are standing in the field eating your produce just seconds after you picked it, good post-harvest handling is necessary to keep fresh veggies fresh. We do everything we can to make sure what goes into your share is in the best possible shape when it leaves the farm. We begin harvest in early mornings picking greens and lettuces first before the sun heats up the plants. Our harvest containers are regularly returned to our packing barn where we hand rinse most items to remove soil, reduce the field heat, and remove any damaged leaves. We use on-farm coolers to chill produce to its preferred temperature. The quicker all this happens, the longer the fresh-life for everything. The quicker you can cool your items after pickup, the better. We all have days when we don’t make it home as early as plan-ned. If so, swirl your greens in a sink of cold water for about 10 min-utes, shake dry, then put in a sealed container in the refrigerator to re-invigorate the slightly wilted leaves. Remember that all greens need to be stored in a closed container in the coolest part of your fridge. Enjoy!

In Your Share . . .

Greens, Cooking – organic
Many folks put greens into the categories of “love it” or “hate it.” If you fall into the latter, you owe it to yourself to try cooking greens again! Some are more common and some unusual, but each has unique flavors that change slightly depending on weather conditions and the season. The nutritional benefit to human health of vitamins, minerals, and folic acid just cannot be duplicated in tablet or capsule forms. Disease prevention is well documented from leafy greens – so experiment a little bit and find a recipe that works for you and your family. We have many recipes for kale, chard, arugula, turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, and more in newsletters over the past years – you can substitute one for the other in most recipes. If all else fails, throw chopped greens into soup, stew, casseroles and add to your holiday backyard barbeque!Today’s harvest is Giant Red Mustard Greens and Tasty Turnip Greens. Both have a pungent, spicy flavor and will cook down to 25% or less of fresh volume if boiled in the country style. Try rough-chopping into smaller pieces and adding to an omelet, quiche, or frittata. Find a recipe below.

Lettuce – organic
This week’s harvest comes from several varieties of tender heads. You will have one of Thai Green, Reine des Glaces Crisphead, or Optima Greenleaf. The Thai resembles the old-time traditional Black Seeded Simpson long grown in Kentucky gardens. The Reine des Glaces has a scalloped, spiky outer edge on the lower leaves resembling the spikes of a crown, leading to its name as Queen of Ice. The Optima is a darker green than the Thai with enjoyable butterhead flavor.

Swiss Chard - organic
This crop is a Rainbow mix of red, pink, white, yellow, orange, and striped color chard. The greens of the chard plant can be prepared like spinach. Large stalks can be cut into bite size pieces and used in any chard recipe – just know they take a little longer to cook than the more tender leaf.For a quick side dish, chop leaves and stems into ribbons and 1 inch chunks. Sauté in olive oil or steam – either way start with stems first, then after 3-4 minutes, add the ribbon leaves.

Enjoy baby leaves added to salad, or add to pasta, quiche, or a frittata – if you choose to steam, it will wilt way down as does spinach!

Strawberries - organic
Yeh, more berries! In our region, strawberry plants produce berries once per year. In other areas like California or South America, mul-tiple climate zones allow for many plant-ings resulting in longer seasons for ripe berries. Some say the tasty flavor is worth our shorter KY season. Enjoy all you can of local organic berries now!

Larger Baskets Only:

We still are getting some asparagus, but the harvest each day is much smaller. Since asparagus must grow its roots for a full year prior to producing the spears we enjoy, now is the time in the season to cut back on harvesting. The asparagus stalk needs to put energy into flowering in order to have a sufficient crop next spring. Enjoy this last treat as the season for asparagus winds down.

Bok Choy - organic
Long viewed as a specialty item, bok choy is becoming better known and well liked as our menus and palates expand. Try a simple stir-fry by sautéing some garlic or onion in olive oil or butter; add the chopped white stalks, then a few minutes later add the chopped green leaves. When wilted, but still crunchy, add a dash of sesame oil. Enjoy as a nice side dish with fresh garden flavor.

Recipes to Enjoy . . .

Strawberry-Blueberry Compote in Red Wine Syrup
adapted, not original farm recipe

1 cup dry red wine
½ cup sugar
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
2 (2 ½-inch) orange rind strips
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
4 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries

Combine first 6 ingredients in small non-aluminum saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until liquid is reduced to ½ cup.

Drain mixture in colander over large bowl. Discard solids. Add berries. Toss to coat. Serve warm or chill up to 2 hours. Makes 8 servings.

Spicy Mustard Greens with Cumin

recipe from Bon Appetit – use any of your greens including tops from beets and turnips – may want to halve the recipe since smallish bunch harvested this week.

¼ C extra virgin olive oil
2 med. onions, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 T cumin seeds
½ tsp dried crushed red pepper
2 bunches mustard greens, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper
1 T balsamic vinegar

Heat oil in large pot, medium high heat. Add onions & sauté until soft, about 7 min.
Stir in garlic, cumin seeds, and red pepper flakes. Sauté 3 minutes.
Add mustard greens in batches, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until greens are very tender, 15 minutes or more. Stir frequently.
Season with salt and pepper. Mix in vinegar.
Can be made 3 hours ahead. Serve hot or at room temperature. Recipe can be halved.

Wilted Chard with Onions

from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

1 bunch chard
2 T olive oil
1 onion, diced

Wash and drain chard. Pull the leaves from the ribs. Trim the ends from the ribs and then cut them into thin slices. Cut the leaves into wide ribbons. Heat oil in a heavy pan and add onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chard ribs and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Add the leaves and salt. Cook, stirring now and then, until the leaves are tender. Add a little bit of water if the pan gets dry and the inions begin to stick and brown.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Week 2, CSA News

News from the Farm . . .

Currently living and farming at Elmwood Stock Farm are the fifth and sixth genera-tion of the Bell family to farm in Central Kentucky. Over the generations the farming operations have varied in overall degrees of diversity and utilization of specific crops and/or livestock but there have been some fundamental consistencies handed down from one generation to the next. There have always been family sized operations, usually over 100 acres and under 500 acres, big enough to support the family, but no bigger. Each farmer utilized a mix of livestock and crops, with consistent, planned rotations of livestock grazing on pasture and the seasonal crops. Passed down is the knowledge to plant a diverse mix of forages for livestock and the utilization of fall cover crops to prevent soil erosion and protect the topsoil during winter.

Some specific practices added by the fifth generation to the family-farming recipe include the extensive use of no-till row crop production starting in the early 1970s. This early conservation practice is now a backbone for organic production. Elmwood was one of the first farms in the area to utilize greenhouses instead of outdoor field beds for transplant production. Early models were home-built structures with low cost engineering, but healthy, sturdy transplants during wet, blustery springtime proved the benefit of the system. Always having livestock as part of the diversified operation, Elmwood began raising and selling registered breeding stock instead of only commercial livestock, eventually specializing in the Black Angus breed.

The farm's management now includes an increase in the volume and diversity of retail food crops and livestock, and less dependency on traditional wholesale marketing outlets. Crop production has added management intensive but highly efficient plasticulture and the dripline irrigation system. Produce quality is en-hanced, evaporation of irrigation water is reduced, and while necessary to produce vegetables, more water is conserved in food production. Elmwood's soil fertility program uses less manufactured fertilizer and more mined natural minerals, spreading less animal manure but more compost, and results in less focus on treating insects or disease and more focus on producing healthy plants in healthy soil that are less attractive to such predatory problems.

Early generations depended on the large family to perform all of the daily chores and neighbors to assist in the crop harvest. While not possible today to rely so much on family and friends to perform farm work, much of the current crop production and livestock management does still depend on manual tasks. Mostly family works in the winter months while the summer crop season requires seasonal help for the labor -intensive vegetable crop production and direct-to-you distribution of the fruits of the labor. The diversification of the type and number of crops has increased since years past, with over 240 varieties of different vegetables this year. As there is a renewed interest in eating locally produced foods, a diverse product offering is required and a longer season of availability is desired. Ongoing efforts at the farm to meet these customer demands may make it possible for more generations to continue farming at Elmwood Stock Farm.

The photo above shows Cecil Bell, along with family and neighbors, adding water to the transplanter while putting out the crop near the Elkhorn Creek in Scott County.

In Your Share . . .
Items will vary depending on your harvest and pickup day and the share size - every share may not have every item listed.

Enjoy another week of fresh asparagus with a new recipe below. Added to its popular taste is the benefit of Vitamins A, B-complex, C and E.

Bok Choy – organic
This week’s harvest finds the popular Asian vegetable, Bok Choy, ready to enjoy. It can withstand the cooler temperatures better than some, and will keep on growing even if frosted. Bok Choy is said to be high in calcium and vita-mins, but low calories of only 24 per cup serving.Use both the stalk and the leafy greens, either together in a dish, or chopped and prepared separately. If stir-frying, add the stalks first as they cook a little longer than the more tender greens. Though loved by flea beetles (which have somehow started their quest for brassica vegetables even in cold temperatures!), taste and flavor of the bok choy will not change if there are a few holes in the leaves. Store in a plastic bag or other closed container in the refrigerator, leaves will wilt prior to the stalk.

Green Oakleaf Lettuce – organic
This week’s lettuce is a tender, green variety called Emerald Green Oakleaf. Remember that the sooner you can wash and process, the longer you can store your fresh greens. It does really payoff to acquire a salad spinner that helps to remove the wash water. Your refrigerator will dry out most items if not stored in a closed container.
Concept Crisphead Lettuce - organic
This Batavia type of dense head lettuce offers a sweet flavor while flourishing in our cool temperatures. Remember that the sooner you can wash and process, the longer you can store your fresh greens. It does really payoff to acquire a salad spinner that helps to remove the wash water. Your refrigerator will dry out most items if not stored in a closed container.

Spinach – organic
Your spinach harvest this week is the first of the spring planting. Earlier spinach to date was harvested from fall plantings that had good roots established and was able to grow leaves early in the spring.Enjoy as a salad, or added to pasta, quiche, or a frittata – if you choose to steam, it will wilt way, way down!

A couple of sunny days seem to make all the dif-ference – everyone gets the yummy berries this week. Store refrigerated and wash right before eating or using.

Garlic Greens – organic
This will be the last week of garlic greens, the center stalk begins to toughen up a little which is what we want to make the bulb. Find a new recipe below.

Recipes to Enjoy . . .

Sesame Grilled Asparagus
a Food Network recipe

Wooden toothpicks or bamboo skewers 1 pound asparagus 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 clove garlic, minced (or use your garlic greens)2 tablespoons sesame seeds Salt and black pepper

In a shallow pan, soak skewers in cold water for 1 hour, then drain and set aside. Preheat grill to high. Snap off the woody bases of the asparagus and discard. Skewer 4 or 5 asparagus spears together, using the toothpicks or 2 bamboo skewers, forming a raft shape. In a small bowl, combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, and garlic and stir with a fork to mix. Brush this mixture on the asparagus rafts on both sides. Season the asparagus with a little salt and lots of pepper. When ready to cook, place the asparagus rafts on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds as they grill. You can serve the asparagus as rafts or unskewered.

Coconut Curried Bok Choy
recipe from Harmony Valley Farm
3 tsp olive oil
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
2 T yellow curry powder
2 tsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
2 tsp lime juice
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
½ C cilantro, chopped
1 head bok choy

Cut bok choy into bite size pieces, keeping the stems separate from the leaves. In a medium sauté pan, heat oil. Stir in curry powder, salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook about 1 minute. Add bok choy stems on the bottom of the pan and layer the greens on top. Pour coconut milk over the top. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until stems are tender and the greens are wilted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, lime juice, and cilantro.

Parsley-Green-Garlic Vinaigrette
recipe from San Francisco Chef Daniel Patterson

6 T fruity extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2 to 3 stalks green garlic, chopped, dark green parts
2 T Champagne vinegar
2 T lemon juice
¼ C chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper.

Prepare a grill or set an iron skillet over high heat. When it is very hot, lightly oil the stalks and cook them for about 2 minutes. Season with salt, and mince. In a bowl, combine the green garlic, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil. Just before serving, stir in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon over baked cod, grilled chicken or steamed asparagus. Makes about 1 cup.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Has Spring Sprung? Week 1

News from the Farm

Welcome to the 2008 season of Elmwood Stock Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program. Our goal is to provide you clean, tasty, beautiful, special, high quality fresh foods. We hope you enjoy eating fresh from the farm and have fun with the experience of sometimes trying new things!
Seasonal eating is an adventure. As each basket comes, you will be exposed to the new colors and flavors of foods you have never cooked with before, as well as familiar favorites. We have a few tips to help anyone through the adjustment period.
· Take a few minutes to assess your basket – look at the listing at top right to scan the contents - you might choose to utilize the swap basket at your pickup location. When you get home, decide what needs to be eaten fairly soon and what can wait until later in the week. A few minutes now will save you time later and often some items are more perishable than others – we will let you know what keeps well.
· Remember to wash your vegetables. We do not offer the produce ready to eat. Some items are rinsed and cooled before you get them, but this aids in removing dirt and reducing the field temperature – things we do to ensure better post-harvest quality.
· Try to refrigerate as soon as possible. This is the number one way to keep everything fresh. We do have tips to refresh your greens or lettuce; so don’t give up if you are not able to go straight home.
· Keep your newsletters handy (a 3 ring binder or file folder) or revisit our web-blog Later in the summer when you might be really busy or another family member gets CSA duty the week you are gone, a quick recipe or description of a new vegetable may be needed.Find recipes that fit your lifestyle from vegetable cookbooks or the internet. We have resources if you need them.

Note: Each week we scout the fields ready to harvest each new produce crop at the peak of ripeness. A few plants will be ready early, then the majority of the crop comes, followed by a few more that ripen a little later. Think of the bell curve.If you do not have an item like the spinach, this week, don’t worry, there is plenty planted and warmer weather will bring a much larger harvest soon. We keep track of what goes into each share every week to make sure everyone shares in the bounty!

In Your Basket

Our late, wet season is not holding back the asparagus. It’s fresh flavor makes it a farm favorite and one of the top veggies each year for CSA shares. You don’t have to cut the end on a long piece – just bend lightly until it breaks naturally. Short stalks may not have to be trimmed if the ends are tender or you may want to lightly peel away the outer skin at the bottom of the stalk. Enjoy raw, boiled, steamed, sautéed, baked, or roasted. To store, put the cut ends in water or wrap in a wet paper towel and place inside a plastic container. Below are some recipes.

Salad Mix - organic
This week find young and tender lettuces to make a fresh salad. If you wash gently, they should store very well in the fridge for several days. After washing, a salad spinner will help remove excess water as lettuce will keep better when not soggy and prevents your dressing from slipping off. This week’s mix includes Ruben’s Red Romaine, Jericho Romaine, and Thai Green varieties.

Garlic Greens - organic
Resembling a green onion, the delicate green garlic can be enjoyed only in the spring before the plant’s energy is put into making a bulb under the ground. Use all of the white and as much of the green as you find tender. You can enjoy any way you would a scallion or green onion: sauté in olive oil; chop in salad or pasta, make pesto, or add to soups. A yummy Alice Waters recipe is below.

Radishes – organic
We hope you like both the look and the taste of the Plum Purple round radishes – a newer variety this season. We also are harvesting the cylinder shaped French Breakfast radish that is actually easier to slice! Enjoy with salad, or dip lightly in salt or favorite cream cheese for a nice healthy snack. The leaves are not so tasty and will wilt quickly, but the radish itself stores well refrigerated.

Only in Larger Baskets:

Spinach – organic
This Bloomsdale variety offers enough for an early small harvest. Add to your lettuce for a week of green salads, or lightly sauté with a green garlic and radish. It wilts dramatically when steamed down to a very little portion!

Our strawberries are planted in two sections of our unheated high tunnel, protected from the pelting rains. After Sunday’s day of storms, we are happy to have a few berries ready to harvest, as they would have been ruined if completely outdoors. We try to only pick the reddest, ripest berries; they should be washed right before eating rather than in advance, and will keep best refrigerated. This is the first week of the berry harvest and we expect to have plenty more once a little sunshine comes our way.

Recipes to Enjoy

New Garlic and Semolina Soup from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.
Semolina, coarsely ground durum wheat, turns simple, homemade chicken broth into a more substantial, silky textured soup.

In a heavy soup pot, bring to a boil:
2 quarts chicken broth
1 herb bouquet, tied with cotton string (a few sprigs of thyme and parsley, and a bay leaf)

Stirring constantly with a whisk, sprinkle in:
½ cup semolina

Lower the heat and continue stirring until the semolina is suspended in the broth and no longer settles to the bottom, about 5 minutes. Add:
3 green garlic plants (bulbs and stalks), trimmed and finely chopped

Cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for 20 minutes. Discard the herb bouquet, taste for salt. Adjust as needed, and serve hot.

[Variation: add cooked, chopped spinach to the bowl when serving.] Makes about two quarts, 4 to 6 servings.

Baked Asparagus with Goat Cheese and Bread-crumbs

1½ lb fresh asparagus
2¼ T butter, melted

2 oz fresh white goat cheese, crumbled (¼ C)
½ C fresh breadcrumbs
Coat asparagus spears in 1½ T of the butter, then salt lightly. Arrange in a shallow baking dish large enough to accommodate all the asparagus in a single layer. Evenly distribute cheese over asparagus, then breadcrumbs. Drizzle with remaining butter, and bake at 400 degrees until the asparagus is lightly crisped and the bread-crumbs are browned, about 10 minutes.

Asparagus Vinaigrette
adapted from the food-blog Orangette

1 bunch asparagus, blanched until bright greenSalt2 T lemon juice1 T white wine or champagne vinegar1 T Dijon mustard½ tsp fine sea salt5 T olive oilScant 1/8 t pressed garlic1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped (optional)Zest of half a lemon (optional) In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and salt. Add the oil, and whisk well to emulsify. Taste, and if necessary, add a bit more oil. Add the garlic, and whisk to combine.To serve, drizzle the vinaigrette over the asparagus, and top, if you like, with hard-boiled egg. If you choose to use the lemon zest, sprinkle a couple of pinches on top.