Monday, July 30, 2012

CSA News, Week 13

Yes, some sweet corn was blown down last week during the storm.  Wait . . . a storm?  a rainstorm?  with rain? 

There was rain at Elmwood the end of the week, and though we lost a little corn, the much-needed water will go a long way towards helping several other crops.  Luckily, no other serious damage.

How Can I Do More?

You belong to an organic CSA program, you might shop at a local farmers market, and you may purchase organic products from the local natural food store or food-buying club.  How else can you be involved in changing the future of food for yourself and your family?  Learn more about local and national groups and organizations that work in the areas of food production and food policy.  Some advocate for policies to help organic farming, some give technical advice for organic production, some help shoppers make better informed decisions when in the marketplace.  Collectively they help shape a different type of food production system that ultimately leads to healthier people sustained by nutritious foods, and a cleaner, more sustainable world.  Yes, thinking globally while acting locally.  No matter our age, there is always more to learn!

(1) OAK:  According to the mission, the Organic Association of Kentucky(OAK) promotes organic production and consumption in Kentucky as part of a food and farming system that strengthens communities by being economically viable and environmentally sound.  OAK is a member-driven nonprofit organization. Members work together to:
* Promote Kentucky’s organic farms and farmers
* Share information with one another
* Guide research programs related to organic agriculture
* Educate consumers about organic food and farm products
This fairly new organization holds an annual conference, maintains an active blog-based website, and is welcoming membership to anyone interested in supporting organic farming in Kentucky.

(2) SSAWG:  The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, commonly known as Southern SAWG, was founded in 1991 to foster a movement towards a more sustainable farming and food system – one that is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just and humane.   It functions as a regional entity, working with and through hundreds of associated organizations across 13 southern states.   Southern SAWG focuses attention on issues and differing perspectives around food production, marketing, and distribution, and
brings sustainable solutions to farmers, families and communities in the southern U.S.   SSAWG has provided education and outreach to more than 10,000 farmers and food advocates in the past 20 years. The annual Conference is hailed as the South's leading sustainable and organic agriculture event, bringing together over 1,200 people annually for peer learning, networking and cross-pollination of ideas.

(3) OFRF:  Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has a very clear vision -- that organic farming will be the leading form of agriculture in America. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policy that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production. Founded in 1990, OFRF is a leading champion of American organic family farmers.  Its four areas of focus are: policy in Congress and federal agencies; education work to integrate organic farming programs into all agricultural universities; grantmaking that expands the adoption of organic farming and practices while addressing urgent issues faced by many organic farmers in America; and building community to cultivate a broader and deeper connection among organic supporters.

(4) LFM:  The Lexington Farmers Market, where Elmwood sets up a booth several days weekly, is the largest outdoor market in the state, continuously open since 1975.  A special upcoming event “A Taste of the Farm Dinner” will be held on Saturday evening, August 25th in the Pavilion at Cheapside Park.  Tickets are now available online

Another way to become involved includes volunteering at one of the markets through the partner organization, Friends of the Farmers Market, at the information booth, or as an ambassador for local food.

Your farmers at Elmwood Stock Farm have been involved with each of these groups through the years, including serving on the Board of Directors, attending or presenting at the annual conferences, and giving time and resources whenever we can.  Having a network of resources helps in every profession, even organic farming!

In Your Share

Blackberries- organic
Sweet Corn – organic
Onions - organic
Green Bell Pepper
Salad Mix - organic

Heirloom & Hybrid Tomatoes – organic
Beets – organic
Collard Greens -organic
Hot Peppers – organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Heirloom Tomato Salad, a Heidi Swanson recipe, serves 4-6 as a side, visit her website, 101 Cookbooks.

2 pounds tomatoes (a mix of small heirlooms & cherry tomatoes), halved
¼ C extra virgin olive oil
1 T brown sugar or maple syrup
couple pinches of fine grain sea salt
1/3 C toasted almond slices
2 T capers, fried in a bit of oil
6 oz good mozzarella, torn into chunks
a handful of torn lettuce leaves
generous drizzle of lemon olive oil or chive oil
herb flowers, to serve

To start, you're going to roast about 1/2 of the tomatoes.  Preheat the oven to 350°F, and adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven. Toss the tomatoes you will be roasting gently (but well) in a bowl along with the olive oil, sugar, and salt. Arrange them in a single layer, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, without stirring, until the tomatoes shrink a bit and start to caramelize around the edges, 45 to 60 minutes. Set aside to cool.
When ready to serve, gently toss the roasted and raw tomatoes with a bit of chive or lemon oil, most of the almonds, the capers, the mozzarella, and the lettuce. Taste, season with a bit more salt if needed. Serve topped with the remaining almonds, and any herb flowers you might have.

Pasta with Beet Greens and Raisins, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe, she highly recommends adding ricota salata, feta, or another crumbly cheese to make this significantly better!

8 oz uncooked pennette (mini penne)
¼ C raisins
1 ½ olive oil
2 C coarsely chopped trimmed beet greens (spinach or chard could also be used)
2 tsp minced garlic
1/3 C slivered almonds, toasted
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
cracked black pepper (optional)

Cook the pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. While pasta cooks, place raisins in a small bowl; cover with hot water. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain. While pasta cooks and raisins soak, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add greens and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until greens are tender. Stir in pasta, raisins, almonds, salt, and 1/8 tsp black pepper; toss to combine. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper, if desired. Yields 4 one-cup servings.

Tomato and Sweet Corn Pie, recipe from Deb Perelman, adapted from Gourmet, August 2009. Visit her website, SmittenKitchen

2 C all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 3/4 tsp salt, divided
3/4 stick (6 T or 3 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 tsp melted
3/4 C whole milk
1/3 C mayonnaise
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 3/4 lbs beefsteak tomatoes
1 1/2 C corn (from about 3 ears), coarsely chopped by hand (my preference) or lightly puréed in a food processor, divided
2 T finely chopped basil, divided (skipped this, no harm was done)
1 T finely chopped chives, divided
1/4 tsp black pepper, divided
7oz coarsely grated sharp Cheddar (1 3/4 C), divided

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 3/4 tsp salt in a bowl, then blend in cold butter (3/4 stick) with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until mixture just forms a dough, then gather into a ball.

Divide dough in half and roll out one piece on a well-floured counter into a 12-inch round (1/8 inch thick). Fold the round gently in quarters, lift it into a 9-inch pie plate and gently unfold and center it. Pat the dough in with your fingers, trim any overhang.

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Put the second half of the dough in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Whisk together mayonnaise and lemon juice.

Cut an X in bottom of each tomato and blanch in a large pot of boiling water 10 seconds. Immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to cool. Peel tomatoes, then slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick and, if desired, gently remove seeds and extra juices.  (This is not necessary, but excessive juice will allow the piecrust to become slightly soggy in the center – though it will be very yummy). Arrange half of tomatoes in crust, overlapping, and sprinkle with half of corn, 1 T basil, 1/2 T chives, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and 1 C of grated cheese. Repeat layering with remaining tomatoes, corn, basil, chives, salt, and pepper. Pour lemon mayonnaise over filling and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Roll out remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round in same manner, then fit over filling, folding overhang under edge of bottom crust and pinching edge to seal. Cut 4 steam vents in top crust and brush crust with melted butter (2 tsp). Bake pie until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes, then cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, July 23, 2012

CSA News Week 12

This N That ...

This week starts the second half of the summer CSA season – one of the strangest growing years ever known to two generations of farmers producing your vegetables.  Last winter’s mild weather, followed by the hot early spring, a drought-dry summer, intensely high temperatures not seen in a generation, waves of storms and rainfall around the area but not at the farm: combined scenarios to show us that everyday at the farm is a reward, surprise, mystery, disappointment, and never, ever the same.

Sweet Corn:
It has such a short season, and makes such a strong impact – sweet corn ranks up there with berries, tomatoes and lettuce as one of your favorite fruits or vegetables.  Many years ago when Elmwood diversified into vegetables for fresh markets, customers still asked for field corn, not just sweet corn.  Apparently our collective palates desire sweeter flavors these days as no one asks for the starchy, non-sweet, field corn fresh on the cob anymore.  It’s used for livestock, ethanol, corn flakes, corn syrup, and various other things.

Corn does not transplant well, so it is often direct seeded into the soil in May and June for harvest 90 to 120 days later, depending on the variety.  Each plant produces 1 to 2 ears (not a whole lot for the amount of space it uses), the silk strands go inside the ear to the kernel, each one is to be pollinated individually – have you ever had an ear missing a few kernels? Poor pollination due to heat, drought, cold, or other challenging growing condition.

Non-organic corn is usually treated with a fungicide allowing corn to be planted when the soil is cold and moist.  The kernel will germinate and grow before soil bacteria starts to break down the corn kernel.  Common conventional production practice these days is to drench the soil row with a pesticide that keep a specific soil worm from burrowing inside the newly-planted kernel and eating it out hollow, leaving nothing left to germinate.  Alternatively, organic corn starts with organic seeds that are planted with a knowledge of soil temperatures, an awareness of the life cycle of predatory insects and bacteria, and the discipline to only plant when these conditions are right.  It may be more challenging, but seeds have been germinating on Earth for hundreds of thousands of years, without the use of fungicides and pesticides developed in the last forty years.

Once tomatoes start to change color from green to the red, pink, black or yellow color they ultimately become, the process happens pretty fast.  We often have tomatoes at various stages of ripeness and include them this way in your shares to give you a sequence of ripening over the week rather than having them all ready the first day.  Some varieties of tomatoes are harvested a little earlier than dead-ripe in order to get them to you un-smashed.  Most of the heirloom varieties have a thin skin and will ripen faster than the red hybrids.  They are also very difficult to package and transport, especially in the mini share bags.  Tomatoes give off a natural ethylene when ripening, and by closing them in a container you can speed up the ripening process (most of you know this about peaches, and tomatoes are the same way).  Don’t store tomatoes in the refrigerator.

Heirloom tomato seeds can be saved and the next generation will reproduce true to the parent.  Hybrid tomatoes are a cross between two different parent stock seeds, which is a natural production process, and a saved seed may revert to one of the parent tomatoes, not be the same as the hybrid from which it came.  No genetically altered seed is used at Elmwood including tomato seeds.  One must assume these days that all seeds are GMO unless the seed seller gives assurance or proof that the seed is not genetically modified.  No GMO is allowed in organic production and affidavits from seed companies are required to prove it.
Varieties this season include Arkansas Traveler, Pink Rose, Green Zebra, Sungold, Yellow Pear, Black Plum, Persimmon, Rocky Top, Purden’s Purple, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Rose de Berne, West Virginia Mt Princess, Peron (a South American tomato with the highest Vitamin C of all tomatoes), and more!

Farm Crew:
We want to mention how proud we are of the farm crew this season, and make sure you know how fortunate we all are to rely on them in making your CSA share come together each week.  We made slight adjustments in the work schedule during the 11-day stretch of 98-104° temperatures, but there was never a complaint, nor a no-show during the terribly hard outdoor working conditions.  Each person takes pride in the produce grown at the farm, and wants to keep bringing you the best.  And, a little rain this past week helps all of our spirits!

In Your Share...

Blackberries- organic
Sweet Corn - organic
Lettuce or Salad Mix - organic
Green Bell Pepper
Yellow Squash and/or Green Zucchini
Heirloom & Hybrid Tomatoes – organic
Garlic – organic
Purple Top White Turnips - organic

Recipes to Enjoy


Garden Vegetable Tart, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this easy, pizza style recipe.

1 frozen puff pastry sheet
2 ears sweet corn, shucked and cleaned
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 pint cherry tomatoes
olive oil
¼ C tomato paste
¼ C water
4 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 425°F.  On a lightly floured surface roll puff pastry into a 10 x 14 inch rectangle; transfer to a baking sheet.  Prick pastry all over with a fork.  Bake 10 minutes, until center is set.  Remove from oven; lightly press center with a spatula.

Wrap sweet corn in wax paper and microwave cook on high for 2 minutes.  Preheat an indoor grill pan over medium-high heat, then add corn, zucchini, and tomatoes, brushed with 1 T olive oil and sprinkled with ½ tsp salt.  Grill until tender, 5 to 7 minutes, turning when needed. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together tomato paste and water; spread onto pastry.  Cut corn from cob.  Top pastry with vegetables and cheese.  Bake 10 minutes until pastry is golden and cheese is melted.  Serves 4.

Squash Casserole
Thanks to the CSA member who shared this delicious recipe, originally in a Southern Living magazine.  Makes 8 servings.

2 ½ lbs yellow squash, sliced
¼ C butter
2 large eggs
¼ C mayonnaise
½ C chopped onion
2 tsp sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
½ C crackers, crushed, either Saltine or buttery
½ C shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Cook squash, covered, in a small amount of boiling water 8 to 10 minutes or until tender; drain well.  Combine squash and butter in a bowl; mash until butter melts.  Stir in eggs, mayonnaise, onion, sugar and salt; spoon into a lightly greased shallow 2-quart baking dish.  Sprinkle with crushed crackers.  Bake at 325° for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese; bake 5 more minutes or until cheese melts.

Sweet Spicy Turnips
Serves 4, from recipezaar . com, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe

1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons butter, melted 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 dash ground allspice
3 turnips, peeled and each cut into 6 wedges (6 ounces each)
cooking spray 

Preheat oven to 400f degrees. Combine first 7 ingredients in a jelly roll pan or shallow roasting pan coated with cooking spray, toss to coat.   Bake at 400f degrees for 35 minutes or until tender, stirring every 10 minutes.

Italian Corn, from Mario Batali and Judith Sutton’s Italian Grill, makes 6 ears

6 ears corn, shucked
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 to 1-1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Hot red pepper flakes

1. Preheat a gas grill or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill.
2. Place the corn on the hottest part of the grill and cook for 3 minutes, or until grill marks appear on the first side. Roll each ear over a quarter turn and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then repeat two more times.
3. Meanwhile, mix the oil and vinegar on a large flat plate. Spread the Parmigiano on another flat plate.
4. When the corn is cooked, roll each ear in the olive oil and vinegar mixture, shake off the extra liquid, and dredge in the Parmigiano to coat lightly. Place on a platter, sprinkle with the mint and pepper flakes, and serve immediately.

Tomato and Bread Salad, our thanks to a friend of the farm

¼ lb Italian bread, torn into chunks (4 cups)
¼ cup olive oil
½ small red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 large tomatoes (1 ½ lbs), diced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced
¼ cup thinly sliced basil leaves

1.  Toast bread on baking sheet in 350-degree oven for 5 minutes. 
2.  Heat olive oil in large skillet.  Cool onion and garlic over medium-high heat, 2 minutes.
3.  Remove from heat, then stir in tomatoes, vinegar, slat, and pepper.
4.  Place bread in large bowl and toss with tomato mixture, cucumber, and basil.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Week 11, CSA News

Food Farming and Crop Rotation

We get a lot of questions about vegetable growing in general, questions about organic specifically, and questions about farming with both plants and animals.   So, we’ve allotted more newsletter space this season to production issues, and so far have shared details on the soil, insects, watering, weeds, and of course, the weather’s effect on all of it.  Well, why does organic farming work?  One reason is the employment of crop rotation, today’s topic.

The acreage at Elmwood that is suitable to tillage without the risk of erosion is where we plant the food crops (flatter fields, not the hilly ones). Before this disruption of the soil occurs, it must be in the right condition to meet the needs of the ensuing crop.  Everything here starts with alfalfa, commonly referred to as the Queen of forage crops. Alfalfa is a leguminous, tap rooted, broadleaf plant emerging from a seed about half the size of a sesame seed. It is slow to germinate and establish itself when planted in the fall, so we sow a fast growing small-grain like wheat or barley at the same time. This small-grain grass germinates quickly, holding the soil, and helps keeps weeds from trying to grow that would compete with the small alfalfa plants.  In early summer, we harvest the wheat heads, leaving behind the alfalfa.  The wheat is considered a nurse crop, helping to give the alfalfa seed a chance to get established, though eventually it is used in another part of the operation -- just last week, John harvested the wheat grain with a small combine.  We can feed the grain to poultry or use the seeds to plant with alfalfa in a similar method later this fall.   We know this variety of wheat does well on this farm, so saving our own organic seed is a sustainable key.

The alfalfa will be cut for hay numerous times for four years to nourish the cattle and sheep in winter. The taproot of the perennial alfalfa plant will penetrate deep into the soil, breaking up the harder clayey profiles and retrieving nutrients. Each time the plant is cut for hay, an equivalent amount of root mass dies, since there is not enough leaf area to support it all. These dead roots are decomposed by the microbes, releasing a wealth of nutrients for the new roots to feed from. It also opens up channels for air and water to feed the microbes. 
In addition to all of this, the symbiotic relationship the plant has with a beneficial microbe is the dramatic part of the story. Alfalfa seeds are inoculated with a specific strain of microbe before planting. The microbe will attach itself to the root, forming small pink nodules. While the plant is providing safe haven and nutrients, the nodules are extracting nitrogen from the air and feeding it to the plant. Any nitrogen produced that is not need-ed by the alfalfa is made available to other grass plants and soil biota. After four years of this soil building and animal feeding farming, the land is plowed and tilled to prepare for vegetables.

Generally, the high-value, long-season, heavy-feeding crops like tomato, pepper, melons, and sweet corn are the beneficiaries of this vibrant soil. When they are finished being harvested, we will plant some of that wheat seed in the fall to hold the soil, play host to the michorizae fungi, and keep weeds from encroaching. This wheat cover crop is easily tilled the following spring for short season crops like greens, broccoli, lettuce, beets, etc.  Actually, we can get two crops per year from this same acreage, as many of these same crops grow well into winter, and the second planting will hold the soil and provide food for fall CSA shares. The next spring, this land will be planted to the self-feeders. These are legumes like green beans, dry beans, and peas. After they are harvested, in comes the alfalfa and wheat nurse crop, setting up the 7-year cycle to begin anew.  A huge benefit to utilizing crop rotation is that insect pests and plant diseases often get lost in the shuffle, neutering their ability to hurt the crops. 

As members of the Elmwood Stock Farm CSA, you now not only know where your food is coming from for the season; you know where it will be growing next year, and the next, and the next: a testament to the crop rotation planning that is necessary to ensure your produce will be healthy, productive, and wholesome.  Hopefully, it feels pretty good to know where your food will be coming from year after year.

In Your Share

Blackberries- organic
Savoy Cabbage – organic
Sweet Corn - organic
Green Bell Pepper
Tomatoes – organic
Tomatillos – organic
Fennel – organic
Garlic – organic
Kohlrabi - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Roasted Ratatouille, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing, she roasted the veggies on a pan with parchment paper on her gas grill, and mentions that this is a great way to enjoy fennel if you don’t have a lot of experience with it.  Try including your Sungold cherry-type tomatoes if you don’t eat them all fresh!

1 large onion, cut into 12 wedges
12 garlic cloves, peeled
¾ lb eggplant cut in chunks
½ lb zucchini, cut into ½ inch rounds
1 lb plum tomato, cut into 4 wedges
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut in 12 wedges
¼ lb mushroom, cut in quarters
1 sweet red pepper, cut in strips
1 yellow sweet pepper, cut in strips
1 T chopped fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
1 T chopped fresh rosemary or ½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ C shredded fresh basil or ¼ C chopped fresh parsley
1 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar

Spread onion, garlic, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, fennel, mushrooms, and sweet peppers in large lightly oiled roasting pan.  Sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.  Stirring occasionally, roast vegetables in pre-heated 400° oven for 45 minutes, or until tender and browned.  Toss with basil, olive oil and vinegar.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. 

Blue Cheese Coleslaw
Our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this easy, tasty recipe.

¾ head Savoy cabbage, shredded
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 C mayo (light is fine)
4 oz blue cheese crumbles (1 C)
4-5 green onions, diced
red grapes, halved
salt and pepper

Mix lemon juice, mayo and blue cheese crumbles. Stir in cabbage, green onions and red grape halves.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Eggplant Casserole

1 large or 2 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into cubes
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
½ C butter
16 oz canned or frozen tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes peeled and coarsely chopped
5 oz jar Old English Cheese spread
1 C cracker crumbs
Worcestershire sauce
Dried cayenne pepper flakes
1 C breadcrumbs
½ C grated Parmesan cheese

Boil eggplant pulp for 15 minutes.  Drain well.  Sauté onion and green pepper in butter until tender.  Add tomatoes, English cheese, cracker crumbs and pulp.  Season with Worcestershire and cayenne to taste.  Put into casserole dish.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and paprika.  Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes.

Eggplant Involtini, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this new recipe she really enjoyed.

1 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped (about 3 large)
½ tsp kosher salt, divided
4 garlic cloves, crushed and divided
12(1/4-inch-thick) lengthwise slices eggplant (about 2 medium)
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
cooking spray
2 T pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 oz whole-wheat French bread, toasted and torn into pieces
8 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 large egg
¾ C chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about ½ C) and divided

Combine oil and tomatoes in a medium saucepan; stir in ¼ tsp salt and 2 garlic cloves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until reduced to 2 C. Cool 10 minutes. Place mixture in a food processor; process until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat broiler to high. Sprinkle eggplant slices evenly with ¼ tsp salt and pepper; arrange slices in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Lightly coat eggplant with cooking spray. Broil 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Place remaining 2 garlic cloves in a mini food processor; pulse until chopped. Add nuts and bread; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs form. Add ricotta, lemon rind, and egg; process until smooth. Stir in ½ C basil and ¼ C Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Spread 1½ C tomato sauce over the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spread 2 T ricotta mixture onto each eggplant slice; roll up jellyroll fashion. Place rolls, seam sides down, over sauce in dish. Spoon remaining sauce over rolls. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ C Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining basil to serve.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 10, CSA

Planning, Planting and Produce

Long before you signed up to be a member of our CSA program, we were planning how much of each item we might grow, how many times it would need to be planted, and where to plant it.  We all know there is no such thing as a normal weather pattern, but during the crop-planning phase we have to make decisions as if there is some normalcy.

For example, the plan calls for planting multiple varieties of lettuce with differing days to harvest maturity dates.  In the spring, there are short windows of opportunity when the ground is in the right condition for planting, so putting them a couple of varieties out on the same day is efficient for us and still should provide harvest over a longer period of time.  In addition to this, we set out transplants of all these varieties that we grew in the green-house in order to get a jump on the season.  When the transplants are ready and are harvested for your share, the direct seeded plants are coming on.  This process is repeated several times with successive plantings to ensure availability during the season.

Some crops that produce over a long period of time, like tomatoes or peppers, might only need to be set a couple of times each year.  By picking the fruit as they ripen, this stimulates the plant to bear more fruit in an attempt to generate seeds to propagate the species.  All of this is mapped out to provide a continued variety of produce we enjoy throughout the year.  Then the weather comes into play.

With the recent extended sweltering heat, the plants go into overdrive.  The plant version of sweating is called transpiration.  Water moves up the plant and out the leaves through little holes called stomata.  Cool season crops, like lettuce, cannot move enough water to stay cool so they just shut down.  Warm weather crops, like peppers, are accelerated through their life cycle causing them to stop producing new fruit, so the earlier fruit will be the ones to make seed.  You may have heard about pumpkins, peppers and tomatoes “dropping their blooms” when it gets really hot – the plant literally gets rid of new blooms in order to conserve energy for itself and the existing fruit it supports. 

With weather patterns being more of a series of extremes rather than predictable averages, it is difficult to have everything following the plan.  We are happy to report the arrival of 1.25 inches of rainfall at the farm on Sunday evening – it will help a few items at a very critical time in their growth, and for a few others it comes too late.

We expect that sweet corn will be in short supply with small ears (we have irrigated all 4 plantings that are up and growing, but that just can’t mimic natural rainfall in enough capacity for a heavy-water-user like corn).   Potatoes, carrots, beets, and onions will really benefit from this rain, and the fall squashes will now germinate (also helped by the lowering of the air temperature).  More normal temperatures should encourage tomatoes, peppers, melons, beans, and eggplant to set another set of blossoms, with the resulting fruit ready next month.   Irrigation has been just maintaining the longer season growers, like sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, so now they will have a chance to size up.

We are fortunate that our primary access to irrigation water on Elkhorn Creek is above a dam, and most years we can pull water from a deep-enough pool.  Our second access is just below a dam, and when it is dry enough to need irrigation, the water is not flowing over the dam, only leaking through slowly – we must hold off on irrigating for several days allowing the irrigation pool to fill for there to be enough water to pump.  Also, we are fortunate that water restrictions have not been enacted restricting municipal water usage (although farms are usually considered essential users compared to washing cars or watering lawns), as we depend on municipal water to rinse your produce, provide for the livestock and poultry, and water all the greenhouse plants, berries, and early tomatoes.

The farm definitely can use more rain, and the weather this week will make a real difference in how bountiful a season this becomes.  

In Your Share

Stringless Green Beans - organic

Blackberries- organic


Garlic – organic

Green Bell Pepper – organic

Yellow Squash and/or Green Zucchini

Rainbow Swiss Chard - organic

Tomatoes - organic

Carrots - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Grilled Zucchini Tomato Tart, adapted from a Southern Living recipe, several variations now found online, including this one by Willi Galloway.

1 package of refrigerated crescent rolls.  (10.1 oz.)
2 medium zucchinis (sliced length-wise to grill)
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
3 medium plum tomatoes sliced
½ cup fresh basil chopped
1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

In a pie shell that is coated with non-stick cooking spray, pinch unrolled crescent dough into pie shell.  A fluted dish makes for a beautiful final presentation.  Using a fork, poke holes into the crust you just formed.  Bake piecrust at 425 degrees for 8-9 minutes (or until piecrust is lightly golden).  Let piecrust cool. 

Outside by the grill sprinkle your zucchini strips with oil, salt, and pepper.  Grill, flip, and cook the zucchini until lightly brown.

Next, layer grilled zucchini across the piecrust. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on top of zucchini.  In a separate small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, cheese, and chopped basil.  Using a teaspoon, drop the spread in even dollops on top of tomatoes, and spread gently.  Sprinkle with pepper to taste.  After all of the spread is on the tart, spread evenly and gently with spoon.  Bake the tart at 425° for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese mixture is slightly melted.  

Lentil Bolognese Lasagna, our thanks to a friend of the farm for sharing this vegetarian lasagna recipe.

1 large onion
2-4 shredded zucchini
1 carrot
few cloves of garlic
3-6 fresh tomatoes, cut in cubes
small can (2oz) tomato paste
4 C veggie broth/water
2 C red lentils
lasagna noodles
any hard cheese

In large pan heat olive oil and onion until translucent, add carrot and garlic. After a couple minutes add shredded zucchini, and cook a couple more minutes. Add cut tomatoes, veggie broth and tomato paste. Stir until paste is dissolved. Add 2 C red lentils and let simmer until lentils are done, about 30 minutes.  Salt and pepper for taste.

In a large lasagna pan, drizzle and coat pan with olive oil. Start first layer with lasagna noodles (preferably noodles you do not have to cook, will say on package), then layer a good amount of lentil sauce topping it of with shredded cheese.  Repeat, and keep layering until out of sauce (at least three layers). Always finish top with sauce and cheese. Bake for 45 minutes at 350° covered with foil.   Uncover the last 10-12 minutes to let cheese melt and brown.

Crab Stuffed Zucchini Boats, from Robin Miller’s Quick Fix Meals.

2 large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1/3 C sour cream
½ C coarsely chopped artichoke hearts
¼ C plus 2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Creole or Cajun seasoning
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 T seasoned dry breadcrumbs

Using a spoon, scoop the seeds from the center of each zucchini half, making four long, canoe-like boats.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the crabmeat, sour cream, artichoke hearts, ¼ C of Parmesan, mustard, Creole seasoning, slat and pepper.  Mix gently to combine, being careful not to break up any crabmeat lumps.  Spoon the mixture evenly into the zucchini boats.  Transfer the zucchini to a shallow baking dish.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 T Parmesan and the breadcrumbs.  Sprinkle over the crab mixture.
Preheat the oven to 400°.  Bake until the top is golden brown and the filling heated through, about 15 minutes.

Basic Grilled Beans, another Willi Galloway recipe.

1 pound of green beans
1 T olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
¼ tsp ground cumin (optional for spicy)
¼ tsp ground coriander (optional for spicy)
½ tsp smoked, hot paprika (optional for spicy)

Snap off the tips and stems of each bean and pile them into a colander. Wash them, shake off excess water and dump them into a large bowl.  If using, mix the cumin, coriander, and paprika together in a small bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the beans and toss until the beans are evenly coated with oil. Sprinkle the spices over the beans, add salt and pepper to taste, and toss again.
Grill the beans over low flame (or on the edge of coals, if using a charcoal grill). Be sure to lay the beans crosswise across the grill’s grate to prevent them from falling through, even better use a vegetable grilling basket. Place the lid over the grill and let the beans cook. Stir the beans every few minutes to make sure they cook evenly and don’t burn. Remove from the grill when they are tender crisp (about 8 to 10 minutes). Serve plain or with Raita, see below

Cucumber Raita

1C plain Greek yogurt
¾ C cucumber, finely chopped
2 T cilantro, minced
1 T chives, minced
salt and pepper

To prepare the raita, combine the yogurt, cucumber, cilantro and chives together in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, July 2, 2012

CSA, Week 9

Yes, It's Hot!

With the hot dry weather the irrigation pumps are running night and day to keep the vegetable and fruit crops growing and ripening their fruit.  It is impossible to water every item everyday as we have a lot of acres in different stages of growth.  But, we continue moving the pipes, turning off a block of rows, and turning on the next block – keeping the water pressure sufficient to reach the plants at the end of each row.  By the time the last block is watered, plants in the first block are ready for more!

The pastures are too expansive and scattered making it unfeasible to water them. Vegetation in the fence rows and tree lines generally have deeper root systems keeping the leaves green, but not actively growing. Not only do these diverse landscapes go dormant, they fail to provide habitat for beneficial insects. 

The vast majority of insects at Elmwood Stock Farm are beneficial to farming and food production systems if you give them a chance. These insectivores feed off other insects at some stage of their life cycle. They also need refuge areas for safe haven and food sources as part of that ecosystem.   Extremely hot, dry weather reduces the ability for the insect jungle to flourish, and pest insects look to nice juicy vegetables to feed on. We actively provide insect habitats because the good guys will effectively suppress the bad guys over time.

The insect world is a marvel of diversity but we will make some broad generalizations for this short note. Insects either have chewing mouthparts or piercing/sucking mouthparts. Some are chewers as larvae and piercers as adults. Many of you know some of this about ladybugs and praying mantises. They are the “poster children”, but perhaps not the “work horses” of an organic farming program. One of our favorites is the family of brachonid wasps. They come in many shapes and colors, but all are very small. We plant flowering buckwheat plants in the drive rows of our vegetable fields for the mom and dad wasps to feed on the nectar. Then these teeny tiny wasps seek out aphids to raise their babies. The female pokes her ovipositor into the aphid and deposits one egg before moving to many more aphids to lay many more eggs. This does not kill the aphid. However, when the egg hatches, the larva eats the insides of the aphid before chewing its way out to mature. (Aphids are very destructive to many types of vegetables and are one of the first reasons home gardeners reach for a bottle of insect spray.)  You know you have beneficial wasps if you see aphid mummies, usually a brown shell with a small hole in the back.  
Another of our favorites is the lacewing family. These are larger than brachonids, yet still small and dainty. Their babies are anything but dainty. The lacewing lays her teeny tiny egg at the top of a hair-like stick structure about half an inch long. Each egg on a stick is scattered over several leaves and on the plant’s fruit as well. When a lacewing baby hatches, a voracious little larvae crawls down the hair and eats the first thing it sees which might be a cluster of potato beetle eggs, aphids, or some type of larvae of a pest insect. The lacewing eggs are programmed to hatch at different times so each can crawl away from their hair, not see other eggs up on the other hairs, and move away before the next one emerges. Otherwise they would eat each other. Stop by the market and we can show you what to look for, they are really fascinating.
We sometimes purchase and release these creatures, as they are key components of pest control at Elmwood Stock Farm.  A big problem with spraying toxic chemicals is that they not only kill the pests, but the beneficial bugs as well. In the insect world, the pest must be present for the beneficial to have the host available.  Besides the obvious effects, this hot dry weather is also hard on the hidden insect world.  The production of wholesome, organic food depends on the work of the beneficials, so we must watch carefully to see that this delicate balance is maintained and the pests do not get out of hand.  A little rain will help to restore habitat for beneficial insects, and regain the balance.

In Your Share


Blackberries- organic


Broccoli – organic.


Green Cabbage - organic






Yellow Squash and/or Green Zucchini 


Tomatoes - organic


Garlic – organic


Tomatillos – organic  

Recipes to Enjoy

Savory Bread Pudding with Summer Squash and Feta, a Martha Rose Shulman recipe from The New York Times

4 oz whole-wheat bread or baguette, crusts removed (weigh after removing crusts)
2 garlic cloves
1 ½ C milk
1 ½ lb mixed green and yellow summer squash, grated
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small or ½ medium onion, chopped
1 T chopped fresh dill or mint
1 T chopped fresh parsley
4 eggs
2 oz feta, crumbled (1/2 C)
1 oz Parmesan, grated (1/4 C)

Slice the bread about ¾ inch thick. If the bread is not stale, toast it lightly. Cut 1 of the garlic cloves in half and rub each slice of bread with the cut side of the garlic. Then cut the bread into 1-inch dice, place in a bowl and toss with 1 cup of the milk. Refrigerate for 1 hour, tossing every once in a while. Mince the remaining garlic and set aside. 

While the bread is soaking, place the grated squash in a colander and salt generously. Toss and let sit in the colander in the sink for 15 minutes, then squeeze out water (important to keep from becoming too watery). 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a 2-quart baking dish or a 10-inch ceramic tart pan. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes, and add a generous pinch of salt, the garlic and grated squash. Stir together until the garlic is fragrant and the squash limp, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped mint or dill and the parsley, and remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Remove the bowl with the soaked bread from the refrigerator. Using your hands, a whisk or an immersion blender, mash or beat the soaked bread so that the mixture turns to mush. Add the squash mixture and the feta to the bowl and stir together. Scrape into the oiled baking dish. Top with the grated Parmesan. 

Break the eggs into the bowl and beat with the remaining milk, salt to taste (about ½ tsp) and freshly ground pepper.  Pour over the bread mixture and place the dish in the oven. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until the mixture is puffed, golden brown on the top and set. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes or longer before serving.  Yields 6 servings.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato with Pine Nuts in Mustard-Balsamic Vinaigrette, recipe from Farmer John’s Cookbook.

¼ C roughly chopped pine nuts or slivered almonds
olive oil for greasing the pan
1 pound eggplant (about 1 medium)
½ pound ripe tomatoes, stems removed, seeds squeezed out, diced
¼ C apple juice or white grape juice
3 T balsamic vinegar
3 T finely chopped fresh parsley
2 T prepared grainy mustard (use Sunflower Sundries Hot Garlic or Balsamic Mustard)
2 T freshly squeezed lemon or limejuice
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (about 1 tsp)
1 tsp salt
½ C extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Toast the nuts either in the oven, or in a dry heavy skillet over high heat until they start to brown, only about 1 minute.  Be careful not to burn.  Transfer to a cool dish immediately.

Brush a baking sheet with a light coating of olive oil.  Quarter the eggplant lengthwise and cut each quarter into two or more long, narrow slices.  Arrange the slices on the baking sheet.  Pile the diced tomatoes around the eggplant.  Oven roast until soft about 30 to 40 minutes.

Mix the juice, vinegar, parsley, mustard, lemon juice, garlic and salt in a small bowl.  Slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly, until the dressing is thick and no longer separates.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and flip the eggplant pieces over with tongs.  Spoon about 2/3 of the mustard dressing over the cut surfaces.  Set the baking sheet aside to let the vegetables cool.

When the eggplant has reached room temperature, transfer several slices to four individual plates.  Divide the tomatoes evenly among the plates and drizzle the remaining dressing over the tomatoes to taste.  Sprinkle on the toasted nuts and season each serving generously with salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature.

Cabbage Slaw Salad, recipe from Nikki Goldbeck’s Cooking What Comes Naturally, serves 6.

1 pound cabbage, chopped (about 5 C)
2 small tomatoes, diced
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 T peanut oil
2 T cider vinegar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper sauce, or more to taste

Toss all ingredients together and refrigerate until time to serve.  Use freshly mixed for a crunchy salad, or make ahead several hours to marinate and wilt slightly.  Spicy and refreshing either way!

Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Enjoy with tortilla chips, or use as a sauce over roasted fish or chicken.  The same ingredients can be prepared fresh without cooking, but the farm crew’s favorite method is below. 
1 – 1 ½ pints tomatillos
1-2 chiles, like serranos or jalapenos (optional)
½ medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 T cilantro, chopped
1 T fresh lime juice
Salt, to taste
Cumin, to taste, just a dash (optional)

Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse off the sticky resin in warm water.  Place tomatillos and chiles in a saucepan, cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove items with a slotted spoon.  Place tomatillos, chiles, onion, cilantro, and lime juice in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt and cumin.

Can be served hot or at room temperature.  Store refrigerated for up to a week.