Monday, June 27, 2011

CSA News, Week 8

Soul of the Soil

Last week we described the geologic weathering of the limestone bedrock and the physical characteristics of the soil here at Elmwood Stock Farm. The biological activity within the soil is the heart of all the production on the farm.

The complex array of microorganisms that colonizes the soil determines the productive capacity of that soil. It is estimated there are 10-15 thousand species of bacteria and 20-25 thousand species of fungi each with their own requirements with respect to pH, temperature, moisture, etc. As these organisms multiply, vast quantities of nutrients are consumed and released back into the soil. Flashback to high school biology of mitochondria and the Krebs cycle. Leaves photosynthesize nutrients to feed the roots and this jungle of life beneath the surface we see.

The mycorrhizal fungi that act as the tollgate for nutrients in and out of the roots depend on the microbes as a reservoir of these nutrients. Our job as farmers is to optimize the diversity and overall capacity of this ecosystem to maximize plant growth.

Much like the diversity we know to live in the rain forests around the world, an equally complex environment lives within the soil. Along with the microbes are nematodes, single cell organisms, insects, and earthworms. Larger, more complex organisms have a higher carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N). The bacteria and fungi have a C:N ratio of 1:1, which is really juicy. When an organism that has a C:N ration of 5:1 consumes bacteria, it must eat five of them to meet its demand for carbon, which leaves 4 units of nitrogen for the mycorrhizae to feed the plant. This is known as the soil food web, which is continually being altered. Different plants have differing nutrient requirements and provide you with diverse nutrition for a balanced diet.

As we manage the fields through cultivation, planting, and crop rotation, every consideration is to culture this activity beneath the surface. It is the essence of being organic farmers, as we would never introduce pesticides, salt or petroleum based fertilizers into this ecosystem, which would compromise the productive capacity of the soil. The more diverse an ecosystem is, the more stable it is. Here at Elmwood, this diversity that is encouraged with a steady mix and rotation of food crops, forage crops and livestock, is the soul of our soil, and we strive to improve it as we produce your fruits, vegetables, meat and eggs.
In Your Share
Items in shares may vary depending on share size and harvest day. Every share may not contain each item listed below.

Red Beets - organic
The rain has helped the early beets to size up nicely this week. Consider oven roasting this week and adding to fresh salads. A popular beet and feta recipe is below.

Green Cabbage– organic
The first cabbage of the season is a new variety that makes a very small head. With the 2 inches of rain in the last 24 hours, many of the heads are starting to split – you may have seen this in tomatoes, melons or other ball-like produce items – the inside grows faster than the outside and splits the outer layer or skin. Cabbage will keep quite awhile for you refrigerated.


Red Leaf Lettuce- organic

English Garden Peas – organic
We did all the work for you on these peas! Well, not the cooking, but you only need to steam, sauté, or boil for just 2-3 minutes – enjoy with salt, pepper, or butter. Refrigerate and use soon.

Yellow Squash and Green Zucchini
Find some tender green zucchini this harvest. You can prepare with the yellow squash, or use on its own. Enjoy raw in dips, grated into salads, steamed, fried, sautéed, stir-fry, baked in casseroles, or try some zucchini bread.

Lacinato Kale – organic
Try the very popular recipe for Kale Chips, easy to find several versions with an internet search.

Baby Leeks – organic

Salad Mix – organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Salad Mix with Beets and Feta
adapted from Rock Spring Farm

Wash, dry, and tear your lettuce ready for salad toppings. Plan ahead to roast beets in advance.

2 tsp red wine vinegar
3 Tbs. olive or nut oil
1 lb roasted red beets
3 cups salad mix
1/4 lb feta cheese, crumbled

Whisk together the vinegar and oil to make vinaigrette. Add salt to taste. Slice the beets thinly and toss with a little bit of the vinaigrette. Combine the greens with the vinaigrette, and arrange over the beet slices. Crumble feta on top.

To Roast Beets:

Scrub beets and trim tops to 1 inch (leaving a little stem prevents the bleeding common with red beets). Place in foil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap tightly. Oven roast 350-400 degrees or put on grill for 30 minutes – 1 hour depending on size of beets. Beets are done when can be easily pierced with a fork. Let cool and remove skins.

Julie Rosso recipe of Silver Palate Cookbooks

3 T apple cider vinegar
1 T plus 1 tsp sugar
3 T sour cream
1 ½ C shredded cabbage
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar and sour cream and mix until smooth. Add the cabbage and toss to coat well. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend before serving.

Red Curry Beef, serves 4
We are bringing back this recipe again after a special request. Our thanks to a CSA membe a couple of years back who shared this versatile and tasty recipe. She reported, “I have found this to be the best way I can use large quantities and wide varieties of greens. Amazingly, our 7 and 10 year-old kids even love it! I have also added other veggies thinly sliced.”

2 T canola oil
1½ T red curry paste
1T soy sauce
1T sugar
1 lb. ground beef
¼ C coconut milk
6 scallions, thinly sliced
5 oz. baby spinach (I also use Swiss chard, turnip greens, other root tops, etc.)
Zest and juice of ½ lime
½ C shredded fresh basil
½ C crushed unsalted peanuts

In skillet over medium heat, combine oil, curry paste, soy sauce & sugar. Cook about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add beef and sauté until cooked through. Stir in coconut milk and reduce to a simmer. Mix in scallions and spinach until just wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in limejuice & zest and basil. Serve over cooked rice, garnished with peanuts, or drain juices and serve in tortillas.

Squash Fritters
recipe from Sue McCoy

3 T vegetable oil, divided
1 egg, beaten
2/3 C milk
½ C self-rising cornmeal
1 C packed grated yellow squash or zucchini
2 T grated onion
2 T sour cream
2 T finely shredded Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
prepared salsa

Combine 2 T oil, egg, milk, cornmeal, squash, onion, sour cream, cheese, cayenne, salt and black pepper; mix well. Add additional milk for a thinner consistency or another tablespoon of cornmeal if batter is too runny.

Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Spoon ¼ C batter per fritter into skillet. Cook until golden, about 4 minutes on first side and 2 minutes on second side. Repeat, with remaining batter.

Serve with salsa. Serves 4 as an entrée, 8 as a side.