Monday, June 6, 2011

CSA News Week 5

Animal, Vegetable, Insect??

Just like the animal kingdom, the insect world has herbivores and carnivores. At the farm, we minimize vegetable robbing pest problems by using crop rotation, interplanting species, soil building . . . basic tenets of organic production. Some of your produce is particularly inviting to specific insects, and we use those plants as indicators for activity elsewhere on the farm. Some insects chew, some have a pointy snout to pierce and suck, some lay eggs inside a plant leaf and hatchlings eat their way out. Adults eat little compared to all their babies.

In a healthy organic system, we have less herbivores (predatory insects) to deal with. With a diversified mixture of plant species, along with various stages of plant maturity, the carnivores (beneficial insects) can find their niche in this environment. The insect-eating beneficial creatures also chew, pierce and suck, and lay eggs inside their prey. One of our favorites is a tiny brachonid wasp that lays her eggs one at a time in adult aphids. When the egg hatches, the tiny wasp eats the aphid insides out leaving a dried mummified aphid shell. Another favorite is the green lacewing. She lays her eggs atop a hairlike structure because her babies aggressively eat the first bugs they find, so she hides them from each other.

We know when to expect certain pests on produce throughout the growing season. We are constantly watching for signs of activity, as your vegetables are being grown, harvested and washed. The beneficial insects are also adjusting as the availability of their food source increases and decreases. There are many decisions regarding what is the threshold level of damage to the plants that can be tolerated.

If it appears the pests will overpopulate the ability of the beneficials to restrict damage, certified organic farmers have access to an arsenal of inputs.

* Purchase beneficial insect eggs to equalize the population.

* Pheromone traps to confuse pests, or attract beneficial adults to stimulate mating activity.

* Spray plant or insect based com-pounds that target specific pests at a specific stage of maturity. Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) is a common example as it only affects a class of loopers, common in broccoli and cabbage, by infecting the looper with a virus that erodes the lining of its stomach after ingestion.

Managing all of this is not only challenging, it is fascinating to watch the balance of nature in action.

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

Butterhead Lettuces and Oak Leaf Lettuce - organic
The butterhead lettuces (both a green and a red variety) are in the same family as Bibb lettuce with very tender leaves. Remember that the more color in your vegetables, the more nutrition in each bite – your red oak leaf is high in potassium and calcium.

Kale, Collards, and Turnip Greens Bunch – organic
Fresh greens are one of the healthiest items in your share this time of year. Kale contains calcium, iron, Vits. A and C, and is said to offer protection from both macular degeneration and colon cancer. Turnip greens, like many others, are high in calcium and Vit. A.

There are many choices for preparation:
(1) the old KY standard recipes of simmering on the back of the stove for a couple of hours seasoning with bacon grease, peppers, or an onion for extra flavor;
(2) steam until wilted and serve sprinkled with vinegar;
(3) sauté with garlic or onion until tender.

With any recipe, remove any thick stems by tearing the stalks out of the leaves. And be sure to cook your greens long enough to ensure they are cooked through and tender.

Sugar Snap Peas – organic
The entire pod and peas inside are edible. Our hot temperatures make this week’s harvest a little sweeter – moisture evaporates resulting in the sugars becoming more concentrated; the peas are more flavorful then earlier when we had lots of rainfall. You are familiar with this already in berries and cantaloupes. To prepare, break any stem end away and any developing string also. This variety is a string less type, but we have learned in hot, dry weather it does try to produce a string along one side that should be removed for a better eating experience.

Steam or sauté/stir fry, and try not to overcook or the texture can become a little mushy. Store refrigerated in a closed container and use fairly soon as they will lose crispness over time. Sugar snap peas can be frozen after blanching.

Spinach – organic

Purple Top White Turnips – organic
Find the first bulb turnips of the season, tender and not very spicy as they get later on with all the heat. You can peel and eat raw (the texture is like an apple) as a snack or sliced with a dip; peel, cube, cover with olive oil and oven-roast at 400° for 30-45 minutes; or boil or steam then enjoy with black pepper and a little butter. Finally, you can enjoy grated on top of a lettuce or spinach salad. Refrigerate and the turnip roots will keep for you up to a month if desired.

Garlic Scapes – organic
A garlic scape is the center stalk of a hard neck garlic plant. Use this special veggie in any manner you would use garlic cloves. Chop finely or use a processor. The flower head is also edible. You can make pesto; chop in salads; or sauté similar to green onions. Store refrigerated or in water in a vase.

Salad Mix – organic

Recipes To Enjoy . . .

Pasta with Lettuce and Peas
Adapted from Mark Bittman

2 T butter
1 lb pasta (shells work well)
1 green garlic or garlic scape, minced
½ C organic broth or dry white wine
2 C fresh or frozen peas (break ends and check for strings if using sugar snaps)
6 - 8 oz lettuce
2 - 3 T bacon bits
1 C grated Parmesan

Cook pasta; drain, reserving some cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook about 1 minute.

Add peas, lettuce, and stock or wine to skillet and cook until peas turn bright green and lettuce is wilted, about 5 minutes (If lettuce is very young and tender, wait to add it until the last minute or so of cooking).

Add pasta to pan and continue cooking and stirring until everything is just heated through, adding extra stock or some reserved cooking liquid if needed to moisten.

Toss with Parmesan cheese, garnish with bacon bits, adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

Summer Vegetable Risotto
Our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this wonderful recipe, her tips are included within. With these quantities, it can serve 1 as a main or 2 as a side.

¾ C Arborio rice
2¼ C chicken broth
½ C dry white wine
few handfuls of asparagus, the tough parts removed and chopped into small pieces
few handfuls of fresh sugar snap peas
fresh herbs, whatever you have
½ bulb of fennel and some fennel fronds
½ an onion
green garlic
black pepper
a few handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese
2 T butter

Sauté the asparagus and sugar snap peas in the butter for 3-4 minutes until tender but still crisp. (Use less butter or substitute olive oil if you are feeling virtuous. I never am.)
Remove vegetables and set aside.

Heat the broth in another pan until it is simmering--keep at a low simmer while you proceed.

Sauté onion, green garlic, and fennel on medium-high heat until translucent. Add the rice and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the wine and stir until absorbed. Continue to cook the risotto by adding ½ C of the hot broth to the rice and stirring constantly (this is the temperamental part) until absorbed. Continue to add the hot broth; ½ C at a time, in the same manner, until the broth is gone and the rice is cooked. (Start tasting at 15 minutes--depending on your stovetop, the rice could be done at 15, 18, or 21 minutes.) Stir in cheese, black pepper, vegetables, and fresh herbs.

Serve immediately with a crisp Riesling and a simple salad.

Sweet Spicy Turnips
Serves 4, from recipezaar . com

1 T brown sugar
2 tsp butter melted
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1 dash ground allspice
3 turnips peeled and each cut into 6 wedges (6 ounces each)
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400° F. Combine first 7 ingredients in a jelly roll pan or shallow roasting pan coated with cooking spray, toss to coat. Bake for 35 minutes or until tender, stirring every 10 minutes.