Monday, June 18, 2012

Week 7, CSA


More on Water & Soil . . .

We get a lot of questions about how to grow vegetables, or how to help a home gardener figure out what might be going on with their tomato plants.  Last week we barely scratched the surface on water management in soil, so this week is devoted to helping you help the piece of earth you are the caretaker of.  To give us a frame of reference, realize that it took eons for soil to develop from the underlayment of limestone.  Then in a relative nano-second of time, people came in, shoved trees out of the way, and built houses and roads.  In Central Kentucky, we focus our energy on improving tight clay soils, not sandy porous soils.  Soil is the backbone of a plant’s lifecycle, so building good soil and taking care of it, is the key to being successful in whatever food plants, grass, flowers, or trees you might want to grow.

How old your house is, helps to determine where all the clay soil went from what is now your basement or foundation - it depends on the building practices at the time of construction.  Once you figure out where that soil is, it will have special needs.  Some of you may have clayey soils from years of erosion or a location relative to streams, long before heavy equipment showed up.   Or, perhaps your topsoil was not put back into place after construction was complete.  Take a spade into your yard and sample how easy it is to dig when it is wet and again when it is dry, to learn for yourself where and when is the right time to work your soil.  Basically, you should never work soil when it is wet – it will compact.  And also not when it’s too dry – it will turn into dust and blow away.  Some sites can be improved with compost and plant material, others will benefit greatly from a more aggressive jumpstarting of the repair.

If it is really tight clay, use shovels, picks, post hole diggers, iron digger, whatever it takes to chunk up the area so you can mix compost, good dirt, peat moss, horse muck, neighbors’ grass clippings, etc. into the area as deep as you can.  It may have to sit and rest for a while for the biology to start working.  Remember air in the soil is important for the microbes to thrive, and heavy clay soil just doesn’t have enough air pockets.  At some point, you can begin to work the soil into a smoother surface for planting.  For locations where annuals are planted each year, perform some version of this soil amendment process every time you work your soil.  Take a soil sample to the UK Extension office for a free or low-cost analysis.  Adjusting the pH with natural limestone will give the microbes better living conditions to mineralize the rest of what they need.
For perennial foundation plantings, ornamental gardens, and edible landscape plantings, mulching is the most powerful tool for you to use.  Since you don’t want to disturb the roots by working the soil, topdressing of compost on the surface will provide an inoculation of new beneficial microbes to your soil mix.  You don’t need to cover the entire surface until it looks black, maybe 50% of the surface will suffice.  The feeder roots are often at the drip line, not near the base of the plant, depending on size and age, so make sure you address enough of the plant area.  Water, and cover with mulch after application as the sun and desiccating winds must be kept off.  Mulching around perennials and annuals not only protects the plants from the direct sun, it slows the capillary action of soil water movement.  On a bare soil, the wind and open air creates a zillion chimney effects, pulling moisture up into the air from each little cavity and crevice.  Sometimes you may need to use this phenomenon to dry out your soil for planting purposes.  Mulching with a biologically active plant material will spur microbial activity, making its own compost all year long.  Bed the area 4 or 5 or 6 or more inches deep with organic hay around established plants.  This will suppress weed growth, hold moisture, and become a beneficial insect haven.  If you use non-glossy paper or plastic under a shallow layer of mulch, it will lessen the benefits, but is still better than nothing.   Remember, your soil is a live culture of organisms.  It will feel so nice to look out at your plants and know they have just the right amount of air and water in their roots, and the best possible soil that you can give them.  Finally, let us know if you need some hay or some compost, we can help!

In Your Share

Broccoli – organic If you have too much on hand, blanch for 1 min. in hot water, plunge into ice water, then pop into a freezer bag for later
Fennel – organic  Use the fern ends as a fresh herb. Saut√© or ovenroast the bulb. Stalks can be used in a veggie or fish stock, then discarded.

Kohlrabi – organic

Sugar Snap Peas – organic Fatter peas will develop a string; break the end and remove it before preparing peas  

Yellow Squash and/or Green Zucchini

Kale Greens – organic

Lettuce – organic

Green Onions - organic


Recipes to Enjoy

Summer Squash and Ricotta Galette,  Thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine, July 2012

Dough for single-crust pie
1 medium zucchini
1 large yellow squash
1T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ C grated Parmesan
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
½ tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp water
1 large egg white
¼  C fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Slice squashes crosswise into ¼ -inch-thick slices; combine with olive oil and minced garlic, and set aside.  Combine ricotta with next 6 ingredients (through egg) in a medium bowl.  Roll dough out into 14” circle and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Spread ricotta mixture over dough, leaving a 2-inch border.  Arrange squash slices over ricotta mixture and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Fold edges of dough toward center, pressing gently to seal (dough will not completely cover squash).  Whisk egg white and water together and brush dough edges with mixture.  Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool 5 minutes and sprinkle with basil.  Cut into wedges to serve.

Broccoli Parmesan Fritters,  On her website, Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perelman has several photos taken while making the fritters that you may enjoy seeing before you prepare this.  Her recipe uses a lot of broccoli and little “breading” and is a fantastic way to include broccoli or many other vegetables to make them appetizing for small children or so called “broccoli haters”. No one can pass up fritters!

 8 oz (1 small-to-medium bundle) fresh broccoli (3 C chopped)
1 large egg
½ C all-purpose flour
1/3 C finely grated parmesan cheese
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ tsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste
A pinch of red pepper flakes or several grinds of black pepper
Olive or vegetable oil for frying

Separate the broccoli florets from the big stem. Cut the florets into 1-inch chunks. Peel the stem, then slice them into 1/2-inch lengths. You want a total of about 3 C of chopped broccoli.

Steam your broccoli until tender but not mushy.  One method is to bring a ½ -inch or so of water to a boil in a small saucepan, then add the broccoli, place a lid on it and simmer it for 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the broccoli, and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add the flour, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Then, add the somewhat cooled broccoli and, using a potato masher, mash the broccoli just a bit. You’re looking to keep the bits recognizable, but small enough that you can press a mound of the batter into a fritter in the pan. Once mashed a bit, stir or fold the ingredients together the rest of the way with a spoon. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat. Once hot, add about 2 to 3 T oil (try a mix of olive and vegetable oil). Once the oil is hot, scoop a 2 T-size mound of the batter and drop it into the pan, then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Repeat with additional batter, leaving a couple inches between each. Once the bottom side is browned, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip each fritter and cook on the other side until equally golden, another 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer to paper towels to drain, then to a serving plate if you’ll be eating them shortly or a baking sheet in a 200° oven if you’d like to keep them warm for a while until needed. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil as needed. Serve with a dollop of garlicky lemon yogurt (1C plain yogurt, 2 T lemon juice, 1 tiny minced clove of garlic, a bit of zest and salt), or ricotta, or a squeeze of lemon juice.   Yield: 9 fritters 2- 2 ½ inch each.

Kohlrabi, Fennel and Blueberry Salad, a Stephanie Izard recipe found in Food & Wine, July 2011, and shared by a friend of the farm with high recommendation

½ C sliced almonds
2 T minced peeled fresh ginger
2 T minced shallot
1 T white balsamic vinegar
1 T mayonnaise
1 ½ tsp Dijon-type mustard
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp maple syrup
¼ C grape seed oil
salt and pepper
1 ¼ pound kohlrabi, peeled and very thinly sliced, then cut again into bite-sized slivers.
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 oz goat cheese, semi firm, shaved
1 C blueberries
2 T torn mint leaves

Preheat oven to 350° and spread the almonds on a pie plate and toast until golden, about 7 minutes.  Let cool.

In a processor or blender, combine the ginger, shallot, vinegar, mayo, mustard, soy, and maple syrup.  Puree.  With the processor on, add the grape seed oil in a thin stream and blend until creamy.  Season with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, toss the kohlrabi with the fennel, cheese toasted almonds, and dressing.  Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Add blueberries and mint and toss gently.