Monday, May 25, 2009

CSA News, Week 3

News From the Farm . . .

We try to keep you updated about our seasonal work at the farm to grow and harvest your vegetables. Sometimes things move at such a fast pace, it’s hard to pack all the details into a weekly paragraph or two. We hope to give you insights into the workings of food production while not trying to complain about the weather too much! As many of you know by now, each day our work plan takes into account the weather (both the forecast and actual conditions).

Since most vegetables are primarily water inside plant cells, rainfall (or lack of) is vitally important to both the plants themselves and the soil the plant roots need to thrive.

Each day decisions are made based on both the current microclimate here at the farm, but also based on weather we experienced several days prior. Is it too wet to drive the tractor over the soil and risk compaction though we really need to plant more sweet corn? Is it too dry to pull garlic as we risk breaking off each stalk at soil level? Do we harvest the peas while wet and risk rusting the beautiful pods (see below for explanation)? Since it is too wet to transplant peppers, do we string up tomato plants instead (knowing that we risk spreading a plant disease from one plant to the next since the leaves are wet and our hands become the carrier)?

Along with the daily harvest for CSA shares each morning, we continue to weed and plant something each day. We still have several thousand transplants to go to the fields from the greenhouses including late tomatoes, the second round of melons, squash, and cucumbers, and late peppers. The chard, onions, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, blackberries and late lettuces were weeded last week. The raspberries are on this week’s ‘to do’ list along with staking and stringing tomatoes, and finishing transplants.

Last Tuesday we did get to 35° at 5am and had frost form in several fields. John used his overhead sprayer to mist water over the tender plants already out in the fields. He traveled up and down the rows from 4am until sunup and saved the beans, squash, tomatoes, eggplant, and other crops. The sweet potatoes seem to have experienced the most loss. Luckily we have a few more potato plants to go out this week and fill in the gaps.

With the drought of the last several years, we really don’t want to complain about weather or rainfall. Learning to work around its unpredictability is part of the fun!

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

Enjoy the asparagus for one more week, as we can’t be sure how long its season will last. Usually asparagus production is over by the last week of May.

Herb, Fresh Mint – organic
Store refrigerated either rolled in a damp paper towel or in a small glass in water (in the fridge if you can). This type of mint we call KY Colonel and has been growing at Elmwood for over 100 years. It can be used in teas, specialty drinks, or for cooking as in the pea and mint recipe below.

Lettuce, Head – organic
This week’s share contains a couple of new lettuce varieties. The red and green oak leaf head is a rare heirloom variety named Bronze Arrow. It has mild flavor for a red leaf lettuce and we think quite attractive also. The green head is a Summer Crisp type similar to a romaine with a crisp leaf, but sweet and juicy taste without bitterness.

Store all of your fresh greens refrigerated in a container of some sort to keep the airflow from drying them out. You can either wash and dry the leaves now, or when ready to eat. Drying is important. If your lettuce leaf is dry, not watery wet, your salad dressing stays put.

Sugar Snap Peas – organic
On the harvest list for today are yummy Sugar Snap Peas. The entire pod and peas inside are edible and you can enjoy them 1) raw, 2) lightly blanch then plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking and add to salads, 3) steam and add a little butter, or 4) use in a quick stir-fry. You need to pull the string from end to end (similar to stringing a green bean) before preparing.

As has occurred every Monday of CSA so far this season, we had to pick some of your items while it was raining or we would not have time to harvest everything. This week we had to harvest your peas while they were wet – what this means to you is there is a chance of the pods experiencing a slight discoloration if you store them for several days before eating. “Rusting” may occur on both peas and green beans when they are picked while wet – the rust color does not affect the taste and does not mean they are old or have gone bad – it is just a cosmetic occurrence and sometimes it cooks out anyway.

Store refrigerated in a bag and use fairly soon as they will lose crispness over time. Peas can be frozen after blanching for 2 minutes

Strawberries – organic
Hot temperatures have caused the berries to ripen fast, but a few days of dryness has helped to also sweeten their flavor a little. Eat them soon.

Bok Choy – organic
We hear from several of you about your love or non-love for Bok Choy. Like some other veggies (fennel and beets come to mind), folks seem to find it a favorite or just don’t care for it at all. We do know that sometimes all it takes is a new recipe to turn an unpopular vegetable into something the family will enjoy for at least one meal. Don’t be afraid to try a new way of preparation. A stir-fry with different seasonings is a quick change idea.

Spring Salad Mix – organic
This week’s salad mix is only lettuce, no spicy greens included. We rinsed field dirt, but are not sending it to you ready-to-eat as you see some of the bagged items in the store. As we suggest with all of your vegetables, wash well before preparing.

Recipes to Enjoy . . .

Strawberry Spinach Salad
Thanks to a member for sharing one of their favorite recipes using many items from their CSA share. Maybe try with lettuce rather than spinach this week?

1 lb asparagus spears
8 cups torn fresh spinach
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries (and/or blueberries)
½ cup bottled Italian dressing
1 Tbsp orange juice
1 tsp grated orange peel
¼ cup pecan (or walnut) halves
¾ to 1 lb cooked, cubed turkey (optional)

Wash asparagus and cut into 1-inch pieces. Put in a 1-quart microwave-safe baking dish with 2 table-spoons water. Microwave, covered, on 100% power for 5 to 7 minutes or till crisp-tender, stirring once. Drain asparagus; rinse in cold water, and let stand in cold water until cool, then drain.

Mix bottled dressing, orange juice, and orange zest.

In a salad bowl, combine asparagus, spinach, berries, and turkey. Toss. Serve with dressing, top with nuts.

Sweet Peas with Fresh Mint

2 pints organic sugar snap peas
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T butter (optional)
¼ C chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper to taste

Trim and string peas. Steam or simmer until bright green and just tender, about 4-5 minutes. Drain if necessary, and toss with other ingredients. Serve warm. Recipe serves 6, can be halved.

Asparagus with Lemon Zest
recipe from McClanahan Publishing House

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
2 tsp lemon zest
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 T butter
1 T soy sauce

Cook asparagus in a covered saucepan with 1 inch of water for about 7 minutes, or until tender. Drain and return to the pan; add lemon zest, salt, pepper, butter and soy sauce. Shake pan to coat all. Serves 4.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Chicken Little has a New Home

New nest boxes along the side of the mobile hen house encourage a safe, clean place to lay the daily eggs. The hens love hopping up on the ledge to get away from the others for a little while each day.

It also is much nicer for the egg-gatherer to collect eggs at waist level rather than bending down and around at ground level.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Week 2, CSA

Kitchen Tips . . .

Some tips from long-time members to help you be ready for your share:
* Olive oil should always be available – often used to sauté or stir fry, sometimes used uncooked in a salad dressing or pasta.
* All of the produce and most of our recipes are well suited for vegetarian diets. Some recipes may include butter or oil, but substituting your favorite often will not often alter the performance of the recipes we try to offer.
* Having on hand items such as citrus juice, mustards, balsamic vinegars, honey or other sweeteners, nuts, and your preferred types of dairy and cheeses will offer you many options in using your veggies.
* A steamer basket or small steamer pot offers high flavor and nutrients from steamed vegetables rather than the unfriendly mushiness that boiling directly in water achieves. Sometimes texture is as important as flavor.

* We encourage you to share your favorite recipes with us. We would like to include them in our newsletter, especially those with relatively few steps, using ingredients kept on hand in the kitchen, and that are might tasty!

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

We are glad to have more asparagus for another week. Only available for about a 30 day window in the spring, it is one item that once it is gone for the year, we can’t just plant more and harvest again. Asparagus roots are planted in the spring and won’t send up a potential stalk until one year later. But, you can’t harvest them the first year, as your plants are not yet well established. By year two, you can take a little, and by year three, you are ready for a real harvest. Years ago, every rural farm-stead had its own bed of asparagus providing the first fresh green vegetable after a long winter of canned and stored items. High in Vit. A, B-complex and C when raw, a little nutritional value is lost when cooked.

Bok Choy – organic
This early spring green vegetable can withstand a light frost and is a fast grower. It is also a huge attractor of flea beetles, one of organic produce’s primary pests. Another vegetable full of vitamins and minerals, bok choy is said to contain the most calcium of all garden veggies while very low in calories. Somewhat intimidating at first, bok choy is very easy to prepare and is complemented by a variety of cooking styles. The white stalk and the green leaf portions are all edible, just cut into pieces before steaming, stir-frying, or sautéing. The stalk pieces may take a little longer than the leaf. Store in hydrator of fridge, leaves may wilt slightly if dried out, but does not affect your flavor.

Garlic Greens – organic
Several recipes are out and about for wonderful green garlic soup. Find one below that calls for 1-½ pounds. If you still have some from last week, you probably have enough. If not, consider halving the recipe. Remember that the garlic can be used in anything calling for garlic cloves or anything calling for green onions (just your flavor will be garlic rather than onion.) You can also chop and freeze to make green garlic pesto later on.

Herb, Fresh Flowering Sage – organic
The aromatic Sage is one of the most popular fresh-cut herbs. Sage has a long history dating to the Romans. It is associated with immortality and mental sharpness, and even Charlemagne had it grown in his royal gardens for its benefits to the human body.The leaves are chopped and eaten fresh in salads, topping pasta, with meats, or with cheese. Dried it can be used many ways and will be stronger in flavor. Store refrigerated either rolled in a damp paper towel or in a small glass in water (in the fridge if you can). Fry sage leaves lightly in butter and enjoy the resulting butter-sage sauce over pasta. Enjoy the edible, colorful blossoms in a fresh green salad or as a garnish.

Lettuce, Head – organic
Every share contains a green oak leaf lettuce head with the variety name of Royal Oak. Like many lettuces that grow well in KY, the leaves do not form a tight head. The larger shares contain a red French Heirloom type, Rouge de Grenoblouse. Store refrigerated in a container to prevent the leaves from drying out. This may be a good time to think about acquiring a salad spinner for washing and drying your fresh greens.

Parsnips – organic
Enjoy as you would any root vegetable. Eat raw like carrot sticks, steam with butter, oven roast in a little olive oil. Find a yummy soup recipe & an oven roast recipe online in Oct 2007 post found here just at the right.

French Breakfast Radishes – organic
This tasty variety of radishes from Southern France can be used many ways. Of course try them raw on green salad, but also consider slicing into a vinegar/water marinade for an easy quick pickle.

Spinach – organic
This will most likely be the last harvest from the sweet fall spinach.

Strawberries – organic
Yeh! The strawberries are ready. These are picked at full ripeness and have nice flavor. Wash before eating as rainy weather is not a friend to fresh berries. Some may have a little dirt from rain that splashes topsoil up onto the fruit. This week they are in limited supply due to two nights of frosting cold. We’ll have more as the days warm up.

Recipes to Enjoy . . .

Bok Choy Stir Fry
adapted from La Vista Ecological Center recipe

2 T soy sauce
2 T water
2 tsp sugar
1 T oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 bok choy
3-4 green garlic, chopped
crushed red pepper flakes

2 T chopped peanuts (optional)

1. In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, water and sugar; set aside.
2. Cut bok choy ribs and leaves crosswise into 2- inch pieces.
3. In a wok or deep skillet, heat oil and sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add bok choy, garlic, soy sauce mixture and pepper flakes to taste. Stir-fry just until bok choy is wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in peanuts and serve immediately. Can be used as a side dish or served over rice as one-dish meal. Serves 4.

Roasted Asparagus
roasting tips from Mollie Katzen of the Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook series

fresh asparagus, tough ends trimmed or snapped off
extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a baking sheet with foil and brush or spread it generously with oil. Distribute the asparagus on the sheet and roll them around so they will be completely coated with oil. Place the sheet on the center rack of the oven and roast about 3 minutes. Shake the sheet and/or use tongs to reposition the asparagus so it can roast evenly all over. After another couple of minutes, begin checking for doneness. Remove from oven as soon as asparagus is “this side of tender.” You can salt lightly if desired. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Notes: You can roast asparagus of any thickness. Simply keep your eye on it and take out of the oven any that are ready first. Asparagus will continue to cook from its own heat for another few minutes and you don’t want it too soft.

Green Garlic Soup
adapted from a James Peterson recipe

1 ½ pounds garlic greens
2 T butter
3 ½ C broth
½ C heavy cream (optional, for creamy soup)
salt and pepper to taste

Cut most of flat leaves away, leaving inch or so of dark green above the white portion. Cut off roots and discard. Cut into pieces to fit into deep skillet with butter and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add stock and bring to simmer over high heat. Turn heat down to low and simmer gently for 10 minutes more. Use hand blender in pan to puree, or carefully puree in blender for 1 minute. Work through strainer into a clean pot with the back of a ladle. Add cream, if desired, bring to a simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Monday, May 11, 2009

CSA News, Week 1

Week 1 of the 2009 season

Welcome to 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 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 visit this web-blog as a reference. 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.

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

Our late, wet spring is not holding back the asparagus. We often consider start-ing CSA a week or two later in May since it is difficult to have enough diverisity for the first week’s har-vest. But, we would miss most of the asp-aragus harvest if we wait, and it’s one of your top favorites you tell us 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 is a favorite recipe.

Dried Beans – organic
Our organic black turtle beans are now one of the farm favorites. Popular in both Latin American and Caribbean cuisine, the beans can also be used in soups, stews, or in fresh vegetable wraps. We have yet to invest in a commercial bean sheller, however we did borrow one over the winter. It did an okay job on shelling, but also cut several of the beans in half – you can see the white centers. This does not affect the flavor, cooking ability, nor storage time – and the whites dissapear when cooked. These beans are not stored for years like packaged commercial dry beans. Our beans are fresh from the fall harvest and do not need to be soaked overnight before cooking. Recipe below.

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.

Over wintered Parsnips – organic
Parsnips have a long growing season and this crop was grown last year and harvested this spring. That makes them extra sweet. It can also cause the larger ones to be a bit hollow-cored or rusty inside. Just trim out the core, if you wish. If you are making a mashed parsnip, puree or soup, you can use your vegetable peeler to keep shaving away to prepare your parsnips for boiling, just stop your peeling if you get to a hard core in the center – you will notice the change in color from creamy parsnip to white core. Will keep well, store refrigerated.

Over wintered Spinach – organic
This Bloomsdale variety is one of only a couple that will handle our unpredictable winters. Only greens that were planted last fall are really large enough for harvest this week due to weeks of cloudy days and cool temperatures. We also benefit from great flavor by having spinach that has been through a frost. Store in the bag or another container refrigerated.

Fresh Thyme – organic

Fresh Horseradish Root – organic
If you have never seen fresh horseradish root before, process of elimination will identify it as the whitish, curly root. Store refrigerated for several weeks if not ready to use soon. To prepare, peel the skin then use either a hand grater or food processor to grate into fine pieces. Add to some white vinegar and store in a sealed container or jar in your refrigerator. As the root is exposed to air, the heat will begin to mellow; so to retain the most heat, add your vinegar as quickly as possible after peeling and grating. Add your prepared horseradish to ketchup for homemade cocktail sauce; add to mayonnaise for a spicy spread for meats or roasted vegetable sandwiches or wraps.

Recipes to Enjoy . . .

Kentucky Asparagus
recipe adapted from the Governor’s Mansion as showcased in recent Kentucky Monthly Magazine, April 2009

1 ½ to 2 pounds asparagus
½ C soy sauce (reduce slightly if using balsamic)
½ C sugar (we use honey instead)
½ C white wine vinegar (balsamic is good too)
toasted sesame seeds

Mix together equal parts of soy sauce and sugar, and white wine vinegar. Heat the mixture in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until dissolved. Cool and pour over blanched asparagus.

To blanch asparagus, bring to boil a large pot of water. Place asparagus in the boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove and immediately plunge them in ice-cold water to cool. Drain. Pour marinade for 4 to 6 hours. Drain, place on serving tray and top with toasted sesame seeds. Recipe can be doubled or halved.

Steamed Parsnips with Sweet Butter Sauce
recipe from Farmer John’s Cookbook, The Real Dirt on Vegetables, serves 3-4

3 large parsnips, sliced into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup butter
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

-Place parsnips in a steamer basket set over 1 ½ inches boiling water and cover. Steam for 10-15 minutes, depending on size. Transfer to a serving bowl.
-Melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat. Remove the pot from heat and stir in maple syrup or honey.
-Pour the butter mixture over the parsnips. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Basic Black Bean Soup
recipe for smallest share size; for larger share increase water by 1 Cup and use all beans in the share

¾ C black beans
3 C water

Combine beans with water and simmer gently for one hour. Salt and pepper to taste. To this you can add one or any number of these items: diced onion, tomato, garlic, chiles, cilantro, lime juice, or ground cumin. Serves 2 to 4 depending on share size. Stores well refrigerated.