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.