Monday, June 13, 2011

Week 6, CSA

Water: Too much – not enough – just right

Remember the record setting rainfall in April? It was not only the most, but fell over so many days, our soil did not dry out enough to “work” (we wrote about this in an earlier newsletter). However, no one at Elmwood Stock Farm said “I wish it would quit,” because we know that once it stops, it might be for a really long time.

We are blessed with a farm that has Maury silt loam soil. It possesses many quality traits, one of which is that it is moderately well drained. This means the structure of sand, silt, and clay particles combined with the soil food web of microbes and insects, provides a series of channels and cavities to hold water as well as roots but drains away excess water rather quickly. The root hairs have a symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi partnership that captures nutrients from the soil and sends them into the roots to be carried up to the leaves and fruit with the water. Though manipulating the soil under wet conditions disrupts this structure and microbial activity, soils high in organic matter can tolerate a little wet handling and even foot traffic. Now that it has dried out, that same organic matter in the soil is holding water for the root hairs to capture as we irrigate.

When planning what crops go in which fields, there is usually no need to plan on irrigation for fast maturing spring vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and peas because spring rains are enough to provide all their needs. However, this year, many of these plants went out after the five-week deluge, and the only water they have had is from our pump, filters and pipe system utilizing either Elkhorn Creek or the municipal water we purchase. We use a trickle irrigation tape under four foot mulch strips for the mid summer crops. We have a hose and overhead reel system, called a traveler, for shorter season crops. This device uses its own water pressure to walk itself the length of the field spraying water some 120’ wide swath as it goes. It can get quite tricky managing soil moisture that is optimum for plant growth, yet allowing opportunity to cultivate and harvest your produce.

We are fortunate to have access to Elkhorn Creek and the old mill dams that established the 5-8 foot deep pool of flat water to draw from. The pipes go under the highway through the culverts and we have trenched a main trunk line to feed water to the crop fields well away from the creek. Right now the pumps are running 24 hours daily to water existing crops with highly efficient drip lines and to establish new crops with overhead water to ensure a strong supply of produce to nourish you and your family. This is why we never said, “…Wish it would quit raining.”

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

Red Beets - organic
The first beets of the season! Remove the roots from the stems and use the greens either raw in a fresh green salad, or cook with your kale. Beets are known to be good for anemia, your heart and circulation. They also contain notable amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium & phosphorus.

Refrigerate for storage; the root will keep for several weeks, the greens should be used within a few days. Recipes can be found on our online web blog, and included here.

Kale Greens Bunch – organic

Kohlrabi – organic
The round, ball-like item with just a few leaves coming out is kohlrabi. It contains a lot of fiber and is high in Vits. A and C. You do want to peel the outer tough skin, then either plan to enjoy raw or cook. Kids, especially, seem to like the raw, sweet kohlrabi sticks – but you can also add to fresh green salads or coleslaw.

Try sautéing in a little butter or olive oil then eating as a side dish topped with black pepper or other seasonings. The kohlrabi has an unexpected sweetness that you really have to try to appreciate! It has a short season and is only available here in the spring and fall.

Green Butterhead and Red Leaf Lettuces - organic

Sugar Snap Peas – organic
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve harvested 2 plantings of peas, and now the third is ready as wellsugar snaps to resemble a shell-out pea, and you can enjoy them either way. Some of the pods are starting to dry from the hot conditions in the field, so you can shell those peas out. For the others, just snap off the stem from each end, and eat the whole pea and pod.

Steam or sauté just a few minutes for the most nutrition and a crispy texture. Find a new recipe included.

Yellow Squash
First of the year – Enjoy!

Garlic Scapes – organic
This will be the last week on the garlic scapes this season. Use this special veggie in any manner you would use garlic cloves, chop finely or use a processor. Store refrigerated for several weeks.

Salad Mix – organic

Recipes to Enjoy . . .

Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Our thanks to a CSA member for sharing both of the next two recipes. She adapted from some ideas found online and reports, “The lettuce wraps recipe may seem imposing with such a long list of ingredients, but it came together quickly and really was simple to prepare.”

1 lb ground chicken breast
2 t minced ginger
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 T rice or red wine vinegar
½ c pine nuts or chopped peanuts
2 t Asian chili pepper sauce
2 T minced garlic
8 oz. water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 T soy sauce
1 bunch green onions
¼ c hoisin sauce
2 t sesame oil
Lettuce leaves such as butterhead or Bibb

Cook chicken in large skillet over medium heat, stirring often to break up. Add onion, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin, ginger, vinegar and chili sauce. Cook until meat is crumbled and brown. Add water chestnuts, pine nuts or peanuts, and green onions. Cook until onions wilt, about 2 minutes. Stir in sesame oil. Cool slightly.

Assemble by scooping a small amount of chicken mixture into a lettuce leaf and rolling leaf around filling burrito style.

Asian Sugar Snap Peas

1 lb. sugar snap peas
¼ C soy sauce
¼ t sesame oil
a few drops Asian chili sauce
½ t packed brown sugar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 T sesame seeds, toasted

Wash and trim peas. Combine remaining ingredients, except sesame seeds, and toss with peas. Pour mixture onto a foil lined baking sheet and broil 3 minutes, or until peas are tender. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Whole Beet Skillet
Recipe from Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert

4-6 medium or 3 large beets with fresh greens
1-2 T butter
1-2 T lemon juice
1-2 tsp ginger root, peeled and minced
1-2 tsp honey

Cut greens off beets, leaving about 1 inch of greens on beets. Place beets in large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beets are tender when pricked with fork, 15-30 minutes, depending on size.
While beets are cooking, remove stem from beet greens. Chop stems in 1inch pieces. Chop greens separately.
Drain the cooked beets and rinse with cold water. When beets have cooled enough to handle, slip peels off with fingers. Cut beets in slices.

In saucepan sauté stems in 1-2 T butter until tender. Add greens and sauté until bright green and just tender. Add sliced beets and heat through. Stir in other ingredients and serve immediately. Serves 2-4.

Crock Pot Chicken Broth
Our thanks to a CSA member who shared this recipe, originally her mother’s. Her directions are well suited to those with a busy lifestyle and may be of use to CSA members with an Elmwood chicken share.

Every time I cook an Elmwood chicken, I throw the bones and unused bits, such as the backbone, in a plastic bag in the freezer. At the same time, I also add any leftover veg--that half an onion, pepper, tomato, leek, or parsley that has been languishing in the bottom of the fridge--in another bag. When the bags are full, I pull out my slow cooker, dump the bags out frozen and all), cover with water, and add a bay leaf or two, peppercorns, and a bit of Kosher salt. Flip the switch to high for as long as you want (usually 6-8 hours does the trick), and go about your business. If you are so inclined, skim off any crud that appears on the top, but it isn't the end of the world if you have better things to do. (I usually do.) When the broth is ready, let it cool, strain it (twice, and maybe even a third time for good measure), and put it in plastic containers overnight in the fridge. Skim off any fat the next morning, close tightly, and freeze. You will end up with at least 2 1/2 quarts of stock, or, about $8-10 worth, which, of course, has cost you nothing but your freezer leftovers.