Monday, June 20, 2011

CSA News, Week 7

Soil: Where it all begins . . .

Let’s explore the ground we grow your food from. The predominant soil at Elmwood is named Maury Silt Loam, which lays over a Karst geologic structure. The properties of each of these formations have unique physical, chemical, and biologic characteristics and are the foundation of our productivity.

Karst topography describes the geologic weathering of the various layers of limestone. Rather than evolve into a series of tributaries, streams, and rivers, the rainwater drained through a series of fractures in the rock layers forming depressions, which drains away the rains into a series of underground streams. Most of our depressions are covered with soil, which we pasture, or crop.

After an exceptionally large rain event a couple of years ago, one of these sink holes suddenly opened up into a 15 foot wide hole over 40 feet deep. Another notable sinkhole is one surrounded by old trees that have a cave opening about 20 feet wide and 6 to 8 feet high.

Our topsoil is described as a silt loam. If you picture a complicated ven diagram with sand, silt, clay at each corner of the triangle, the mixture of these particles changes the deeper you dig with more clay the deeper you go. Clay particles (the smallest) are flat platelets, silt (middle size) is powder like, and sand (the largest) is pebbles. Combined, they create microstructures that allow tiny channels and pockets for water, roots, air and microbes to live. Each of these particles also has unique chemical properties related to ion exchange of plant nutrients like calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and more.

USDA has mapped all the soils in the state with their structural and chemical properties described in detail. This information is used by engineers and farmers in decision-making.

How we manage the plants and tillage practices has a dramatic effect on the organic matter component of soil life. We grow certain cover crops to incorporate into the soil to add vast amounts of organic matter. In general, most plants have an equal amount of root mass that mirrors the shape and struc-ture of the above ground part. When a plant is cut or trimmed, an equal amount of roots die because there is less photosynthesis potential to support all the roots. This root loss helps feed more organic matter into the soil, and forms channels and pockets for air, water, insects, microbes, etc.

As we consider all this in producing your produce, it is fascinating to think about the geologic time it took to be like this. Look closely at the road cuts going down towards the Kentucky River, and see the layers of rock. Some flaky, some solid, cracks that go up and down, layers turned sideways. It all supports one of the keys to growing good food, the soil.

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

Carrots - organic
Enjoy the first harvest of sweet, crunchy carrots. Use the tops for juicing or making stock.

Swiss Chard– organic
Any thing that you might do with spinach, you can try with Rainbow Swiss Chard.

Cucumber–New this week!

Kohlrabi – organic
You can use the leaves of your kohlrabi as you would kale or collard greens: steam, sauté, juice, use in soups, quiches, wraps, or chop finely for cole slaw. The ball-like kohlrabi itself will keep well for you when refrigerated.

Red Leaf & Red Oakleaf Lettuces - organic

Green Zucchini – New!

Green Garlic – organic
Mustard Greens and either Green Curly Kale or Red Russian

Kale – organic
For optimum health, we are all advised to eat our greens, everyday. Steam, sauté, bake in a casserole or lasagna, blend in a smoothie, finely chop for a salad, add to zucchini bread, make kale chips, and just imagine the possibilities!

English Shell-Out Peas – organic

Shell the green peas out before preparing. Lightly blanch or steam, then enjoy in a cold salad or with your favorite seasoning.

Salad Mix – organic

Recipes to Enjoy . . .

Sweet and Savory Kale Greens

We shared this recipe in a prior season, but had a request for it just last week, so thought we’d include it again as it might just become your favorite too! Our thanks to a CSA member who first shared it with us. You can use most any cooking green, just remember that the more tender chard, beet greens and spinach will cook faster than kale, collard, turnip, kohlrabi or mustard greens.

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T Dijon mustard
4 tsp white sugar
1 T cider vinegar
1 ½ C chicken broth
4 C stemmed, torn and rinsed kale
¼ C dried cranberries
salt and pepper to taste
¼ C sliced almonds

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion softens and turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mustard, sugar, vinegar, and chicken stock, and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the kale, cover, and cook 5 minutes until wilted. Stir in the dried cranberries, and continue boiling, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced by about half, and the cranberries have softened, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with sliced almonds before serving.

Zucchini-Lettuce Salad

2 cups shredded lettuce
½ cup shredded zucchini
½ cup sliced ripe olives
1/3 cup chopped red onion
½ cup Italian salad dressing
¼ cup shredded Parmesan

Combine veggies. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Swiss Chard Bruschetta

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz Swiss chard, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
2 Tbsp water
Salt and pepper
6 slices French bread, cut diagonally ¾-inch thick
2 oz. garlic-and-herb feta cheese (used Asia go)

In small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp oil and vinegar. Set aside.

In large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp oil and stir fry chard over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add water and cook 2 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

To serve, divide chard among pieces of toast. Drizzle with oil-and-vinegar mixture. Top with arugula and cheese. Toast under broiler in oven until cheese melted. Serve immediately. Makes 6 side-dish servings.

Greens and Goat Cheese Scramble
This and the following recipe are both from Bert Greene.

6 eggs
¼ C heavy or whipping cream
2 T butter
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled or chopped
½ C fresh greens, chopped in ribbons, stems removed
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Beat the eggs with the cream.

Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over low heat. Pour in the eggs and cook, uncovered, whisking frequently, until they are velvety, about 25 minutes. Eggs can be removed from the heat to hold, or to keep from cooking too quickly. Stir in the cheese and greens. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves 2 to 3 for brunch.

Green Quills
At the farm, we have made a similar version of this recipe for years, preparing the stems of chard first then adding the leaves when Bert adds the fresh herb. To prepare leaves, roll them cigar-like and cut in ½ inch section, resulting in ribbons. It is nice to offer you his more complete recipe to follow.

3 T unsalted butter
2 shallots or green onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound stems from fresh greens (best is Swiss Chard, but any stems you remove from greens can be used – cut into pieces ½ inch wide and no more than 2 inches long)
½ C chicken or vegetable stock
3 T chopped fresh parsley or favorite fresh herb
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the shallots; cook 1 minute. Stir in the garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add the chard stems, tossing well to coat with the mixture. Stir in the broth. Cook, covered, until tender, 15 minutes.

Remove the cover and raise the heat. Stir in the fresh herb. Cook over medium heat, tossing constantly until all the excel liquid has evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4 as a side dish.