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.