Monday, May 28, 2012

CSA News, Week 4

Farm and Crop Report

This is turning into one of those springs where one just doesn’t know what to expect.  We already had May weather during March, now we are having July weather during May, what’s up?  Because of an unusually moderate winter, followed by warm spring-like temperatures in March and April, several items were ready to harvest 3 to 4 weeks earlier than their expected growing season.  Spinach and parsnips that we plant in the fall to have for you in May were ready in April and had a short season due to the heat.  Strawberries, also planted in the fall, this spring started flowering weeks early, were hit by two nights of freezing temperatures resulting in lost berries, were ready to pick in April, and were practically finished by Memorial Day (normally the peak time of berry season!?)

Last spring’s cooler temperatures and rainy days resulted in delayed harvest on lettuce and broccoli – completely opposite this year.  The bok choy, Napa cabbage, and broccoli are usually ready in June, but the heat and high air temperatures push them to grow faster, and around the clock (not just during the day), so again ready to harvest earlier than normal.  The heat and dryness is starting to be a real concern as our last day of measurable rainfall was on May 13.  We were happy to see our farming friends towards the East get rain last week, but disappointed that all of our crops missed out.

John and Cecil pulled the irrigation pump, filter, and pipes out this past weekend and set up the circular big gun to begin watering the unmulched crops.  As May is normally the #1 wettest month of the year for our region the water table is usually high, soil moisture is readily available, and spring planted crops like lettuce or cabbage don’t need supplemental irrigation. But not this year!  The soil is so dry that it must be watered in order for bean and sweet corn seeds to germinate, and before tilling to plant the sweet potatoes slips. No one can recall having to move so much water during the month of May.  
The farm crew has been putting in long hours and a lot has been done: the early tomatoes are staked, pruned, and strung up; mid season tomatoes have been transplanted; sweet corn, beans, beets, and radishes have been sown in several fields; greens and lettuces have been tractor cultivated and the weeds hand chopped between the plants in the rows; squash, cucumbers, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, and melons are growing and the grass strips between their rows have been mowed back; the overwintered crops have been cut back, plant residue tilled in, and the fields replanted for more spinach and carrots (though germination is a challenge in such high temperatures).  The black-berries have been weeded and are blooming in abundance.  The fall-bearing raspberries are growing out new canes, and will need weeding soon.

Long-term forecasts predict milder temperatures for June and July, and there are chances of precipitation the first of June. 

Update: Tuesday’s rain dissipated before reaching the farm, which is unfortunate, as a timely rainfall right now will make all the difference in the season - send it our way!

In Your Share


Broccoli – organic

Greens Bunch – organic
Research shows that eating greens every day is an important component of preventing disease that attacks human health.  While we aren’t going to load you up that much, a fresh greens bunch every couple of weeks for the  mini shares, and weekly for the larger shares is part of the plan.  This week you will hit a home run for health enjoying the highly nutritious collard and mustard greens.  A recent Harvard study shows a cup of cooked collard greens has more calcium than a glass of skim milk.  They are high in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health (does macular degeneration run in the family?) they’re very high in Vit. A and C, manganese, folate and dietary fiber; and a good source of potassium and vitamins B2 and B6.  If you don’t eat a lot of dairy, collards will help with your body’s calcium needs.  Find two new recipes this week for fresh greens.

Lettuce – organic

Sugar Snap Peas – organic   These are edible pod, break off the ends and eat the whole pod & peas (more ready in the next week or so, needing some rainfall to fill out the pods)
Spinach - organic

Beets - organic
Onions - organic

Rainbow Swiss Chard – organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Shaved Asparagus and Quinoa Salad Thanks to a CSA member for sharing this timely seasonal recipe.

¾ to 1 C cooked quinoa
6 to 7 stalks of asparagus
1 small lemon
olive oil (the good stuff), to taste
sea salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
2 T pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds
1 to 2 ounces Parmesan, shaved

Cook the quinoa (I like to make extra for more salads and for breakfast, 1 C of dry quinoa yields over 3 C cooked quinoa). Combine rinsed quinoa with twice as much water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed, remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

Shave the asparagus with a vegetable peeler. To do so, hold the tough end of the asparagus against a cutting board, and peel from the tough end toward the tip. Toast the nuts, either in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often, or by baking at 350° for 5 to 10 minutes (stirring often). Zest the lemon (if desired) and slice it in half.

In a bowl, combine cooked quinoa and shaved asparagus. Squeeze in most of the juice of half a lemon (add more to taste later) and a good drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground black pepper and toss to coat. Sprinkle with nuts. Use your vegetable peeler to shave Parmesan directly onto the salad. Don’t skimp on the cheese! Top with lemon zest. If necessary, add more lemon juice, olive oil, or salt and pepper to taste.

Lasagna with Collard Greens from Martha Rose Shulman’s The Very Best of Recipes for Health, appearing in the New York Times.  She reports that collard greens are so big and flat that they fill in for a layer of noodles in this easy, satisfying lasagna. Be careful not to use up your ingredients on the first layers, as you should have enough for three layers here.
½ pound collard greens, preferably large leaves, stemmed and washed, leaves left intact
salt to taste
extra virgin olive oil for the pan
2 C marinara sauce, preferably homemade from fresh or canned tomatoes
½ pound no-boil lasagna noodles
½ pound ricotta
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan 

1. Steam the collard greens for 5 minutes above an inch of boiling water, or blanch in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towels. 

2. Preheat the oven to 350° degrees. Oil a 2- or 3-quart rectangular baking dish with olive oil. Spread a small amount of tomato sauce over the bottom and top with a layer of lasagna noodles. Top the noodles with a thin layer of ricotta. Lay collard green leaves over the ricotta in a single layer. Top the leaves with a layer of tomato sauce, followed by a thin layer of Parmesan.

3. Set aside enough tomato sauce and Parmesan to top the lasagna and repeat the layers until all of the ingredients are used up. Spread the tomato sauce you set aside over the top, and sprinkle on the Parmesan. Make sure the noodles are covered, and cover the baking dish tightly with foil. 

4. Place in the oven and bake 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and uncover. Check to be sure that the noodles are soft and the mixture is bubbly. Return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes if desired, to brown the top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.  Tip:  You can assemble this up to two days ahead and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Tacos with Eggs, Onions and Greens another Martha Rose Shulman recipe

½ bunch fresh greens, stemmed and washed
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small or ½ medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 serrano chili, minced (optional)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper
6 eggs
2 T chopped cilantro (optional)
6 corn tortillas
crumbled queso fresco (optional)
salsa (optional) 

1. Bring an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer (I use a pasta pot with an insert for this). Place the greens in the top part of the steamer, and steam until the leaves are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the steamer, rinse with cold water, squeeze out extra water and chop medium-fine. 

2. Wrap the tortillas in a heavy kitchen towel and place in the steamer basket. Cover tightly, steam 1 minute, and turn off the heat. Allow to sit for 15 minutes, without uncovering, while you finish preparing the filling. 

3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it is tender, about 5 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt and the garlic and optional chili. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, and stir in the greens. Turn the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5 minutes, until the greens are tender and the onion is lightly colored. 

4. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cilantro if using. Add to the pan with the greens and onions and cook, stirring, until set. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Spoon onto hot tortillas, sprinkle with cheese if using, and serve, passing the salsa on the side.  Yields 6 tacos.