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.