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.