Monday, August 27, 2012

Week 7, CSA


Farm Ingenuity

The last time a farmer friend was at Elmwood Stock Farm, we were discussing how farmers are in the “material handling business.”  Whether it is making hay for winter-feeding to livestock or packing produce crates for market, each farmer has to develop a system to move stuff around.  For us, it’s not just about efficiency, but food safety, worker comfort, scheduling, flexibility with varied climatic conditions, and equipment capabilities - it all comes into play. By definition, no two days are alike at the farm. The pick list for the produce is different every time. The produce itself varies depending on the weather, and must mesh with a bunch of other produce coming in from different fields. We must be prepared with enough trays, totes, buckets, tubs, boxes, carts, racks, dollies, passive conveyors, grading equipment, walk-in coolers, wash sinks, etc. Each morning the crew makes a plan on which produce gets picked and in what order.   There needs to be an efficient system in place to be sure it all gets done in time to pack your share and put it on the truck at the appointed time.

Our packing shed, where all the produce comes in from the field to be washed and/or packed is a good example of the “farm ingenuity” needed in order to handle these materials (fresh produce and water). All the leafy greens, peppers, cucumbers, beets, lettuces and the like must be washed to meet our quality standards and be appealing to you.  We do not offer any of our produce as ready-to-eat and encourage you to always wash any produce you get in your CSA share, at the supermarket, or at a farmers market.  But many of our produce items are double rinsed.  We use potable water to wash field dust off of the produce and allow the cold water temperature to help lower the temperature of the item as it comes in hot from the field – the first step in proper post-harvest handling.  The packing shed is set up with materials, equipment, and supplies in their appropriate spot adjacent to the wash lines. To supply water to the sinks, a water line is attached to a frost-free hydrant, and then runs up the wall along the ceiling of the shed over the sinks. The waterline is cut to the appropriate length, configured with T’s and L’s to provide line drops into each of the wash sinks, and a good brass shut off valve acts as the on/off allowing the supply water to be pulled as needed to the basins for fresh water.

The sinks are built into a custom frame for the best height to reduce back strain from bending over. One of the sinks is on wheels so it can be positioned in unique locations if need be to work around something else or even loaded on the truck for field packing. The other two pair of sinks are stationary. These sinks have an air gap drain that drops the water into a half barrel. The barrel acts as a settling basin for the soil that comes in with the vegetables, keeping it out of the drainpipes where it would accumulate and cause a problem.  We then clean the valuable soil out of the barrels and use it as an inoculant in the compost system. The air gap in the drain is a food safety feature as bacteria cannot grow up the inside of the pipe and reach the sink. Because the vegetables come in from the fields as truckloads, there is a big demand for lots of water to fill and refill all the sinks rapidly, faster than a waterline can supply. By adding a ballast barrel in the loft of the packing shed, its 55 gallons of water can be easily drained into the sink system rapidly to get the washing accomplished quicker.   Finally, this all must be set up to be easily drained in winter on a daily basis so the waterlines don’t freeze and burst.

Another example of farm ingenuity is managing the 1200 pound round bales of hay. The fields are cut with a 9 foot wide mower, the clippings are raked into windrows with a 20 foot wide rake that folds up for transport, and baled with an implement that rolls it up and wraps string around it to hold it together. At this point the bales are scattered about the field. Rather than pull wagons out into the field, un-hook the tractor to use the front end loader to hoist them onto the wagon, then re-hook the wagons, then un-hook at the hay yard to unload, we engineered a way to move four large bales at a time, without getting on and off the tractor. Two steel spears, actually four foot long spikes, are welded to a rugged steel frame that can quickly be attached to the front end loader on the front and two spears are welded to rugged steel that quickly attaches to the lifts on the back of the same tractor to carry four bales at one time (over 2 tons of freshly baled hay). This way we can drive thru the field spearing the bales with the spikes, then drive to the hay yard and drop two at a time in neat rows. At feeding time in the winter, a separate implement, attached to the tractor, pinches each bale between two arms in the center of the roll. When the tractor gets to the field, it moves along unrolling the bale across the field so all the animals have access to hay and can eat at the same time. This also prevents the animals from harming the ground by compacting the soil if too many are crowded into a small area around the bale to eat.
These are just a couple of examples of the many systems needed to allow a diversified farm to function well.  At Elmwood Stock Farm, we use a combination of traditional methods combined with modern technology with the intent to bring some efficiency to our “material handling business.”  

In Your Share

Green Beans- organic
Onions -organic
Bell Peppers
Fingerling Potatoes - organic
Tomatoes – organic
Sweet Basil-organic
Swiss Chard – organic

Hot Chile Peppers - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Chicken Enchiladas, our thanks to a CSA member who shared one of her family’s favorites using the delicious red bell peppers, now in season.

2 red bell peppers, seeded
3 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat, fine)
3/4 C picanti sauce
1/2 tsp salt
3 C chicken, cooked and chopped or shredded
1/2 Cgreen onions, sliced
8 flour tortillas
1 C shredded cheese

Sauce: Puree 1 pepper, 3 oz. cream cheese and salt until smooth.  Stir in picanti sauce.

Filling:  Stir together chicken, the other pepper diced, onions and half of the above sauce.  Spoon filling onto tortilla, roll and place seam side down in baking dish (sprayed with Pam).  Spoon reserved sauce over rolled tortillas.  Cover loosely with foil.  Bake 20 minutes at 350°F  or until hot.  Remove foil, sprinkle with cheese.  Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce, with black olives and sour cream, if desired.

Orecchiette with Ricotta and Chard Pan Sauce, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this tasty recipe from Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

1 large bunch organic Swiss chard
¾ lb dried orecciette
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T butter
crushed red pepper, optional
2 oz ricotta salata, asiago, or pecorino cheese, freshly grated
¼ C fresh, whole-milk ricotta cheese
sea salt and cracked black pepper
freshly grated ricotta salata, asiago or pecorino cheese

Bring large pot of generously salted water to boiling.  Separate chard stems from leaves; cut both into bite-sized pieces.  Add orecchiette to boiling water.  Set timer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, for pan sauce, in large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add chard stems; cook 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp-tender.

After 10 minutes, add chard leaves to cooked pasta; cook 2 minutes more.  Drain, reserving about ¼ C of cooking liquid.  Return pasta and chard to pot; place over lowest heat setting.  Add chard stems and any residual oil to pasta, along with butter, crushed red pepper, and reserved cooking liquid.  Grate in ricotta salata; toss.  Season with pepper and nutmeg.  Divide among bowls.  Top each with about 1 T ricotta.  Add sea salt , pepper and additional ricotta salata to taste.  Makes 4 servings.
Roasted Eggplant and Yogurt Spread with Onions and Olives, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this easy recipe.  She adapted it from an original found online. 

1 medium to large eggplant
6 T Kalamata olives, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 ½ T fresh basil, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
½ small onion, finely chopped
½ tsp favorite seasoning mixture
8-12 oz Greek yogurt

Roast eggplant whole on a baking sheet in the oven for about 50 minutes to 1 hour at 400°F.

Meanwhile, prepare and mix the olives, garlic, basil, onion and seasonings together in a bowl.

When the eggplant has cooled enough to handle, cut off the stem end, slit the skin and scoop out all of the eggplant pulp.  Mix the pulp in with the other ingredients.  Start adding the yogurt and stirring it in until you have a spreadable consistency.

Refrigerate several hours or overnight to allow flavors to meld.  Serve on flatbread or with favorite crackers or bread as a dip.

Margaret’s Chile Sauce
from Maggie Green’s Kentucky Fresh cookbook.  Enjoy on meatloaf, beans or scrambled eggs.  Makes 5 pint jars.

4 ½ to 5 lb tomatoes, finely chopped (12 C chopped)
1 ½ C finely chopped onion
3 red or green bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
3 C finely chopped celery
2/3 C light brown sugar
1 T celery salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 T salt
1 C apple cider vinegar

In a large Dutch oven, mix all the ingredients except the vinegar.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 1 and ½ hours.  Stir in the vinegar and simmer for 45 minutes longer, stirring frequently.  Pour the hot tomato mixture into sterilized jars.  Put on the sterilized lids and rings.  Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the jars and place them on a towel to cool, leaving at least 1 inch space between the jars, let sit for 12-24 hours.  The lids should seal down tight during the cooling process; do not push down on the lids until after completely cooled and sealed.  Any lids that do not seal should be refrigerated and eaten soon.

Monday, August 20, 2012

CSA, Week 16

Elmwood Stock Farm is one of over 85,000 farms in Kentucky, more farms than any other state.  There is a lot of diversity in what each produces, though it wasn’t always that way. Kentucky has more farms than any other state, in part from the previous tobacco production quota system. Many of you are aware of Wendell Berry’s writings on the value of farmers and farming, the need to maintain the culture that agriculture brings to the fabric of Kentucky. You may not be aware that Wendell’s father, John Berry, is the father of the quota system for tobacco production.  Under the program, every farm that grew tobacco would agree to limit its production in exchange for a fair price. The amount a farm was entitled to grow (its base) was related to not only the acreage of the farm, but also the productive capacity of the property, without causing environmental degradation of the land. A highly erodible hilly farm would have a smaller base than a flatter farm of equal size. The highly productive soils of the Central Bluegrass (along with the available work force of area horse farms) helped make Lexington the epicenter of burley tobacco marketing, processing, and politics. The farmers knew how many pounds of burley they could sell, when it would sell, and what it would sell for. The bank also knew this and could comfortably loan farmers money for equipment, supplies, and labor to “make a crop”. Every farm had a Ford 5000 tractor, an International Farmall cultivating tractor, barns were measured and referred to by how many sticks of tobacco they would hold. (A stick is a 1”x1”x 4’ oak stick that held several plants.  It would hang across tier rails to allow the stalks to hang upside down and dry or cure in the barn. Some hand split sticks are still around, but the last 75 years, most were cut at sawmills.) Every farm also had to round up a work crew to tend the crop from pulling plants from the seed beds, to planting, chopping out weeds, topping the flowers off, cutting, housing, and stripping the leaves off the stalks, though much of the work was done by family members and neighbors.   The tobacco quota program allowed even the smallest farm to generate a moderate income and kept KY farms intact when so many others across the country were forced to “get big or get out” during the farm crisis of the 1980s.  Since Congress ended the tobacco program, only a small fraction of Kentucky farms still grow tobacco, and the free market system has moved most of the production overseas. 
Years ago, Elmwood Stock Farm began growing vegetables as a way to keep good tobacco workers employed over the entire growing season, by having more work avail-able such as harvesting vegetables. The large acreage, single variety, wholesale marketed, vegetable crops were planted and harvested around the schedule of the more profitable tobacco.  Later, as the farm grew less tobacco, an interest developed in raising smaller volumes of multiple crops over a longer season for direct sales – this brought new management strategy issues. The ever-evolving decisions around what equipment is needed, where do you get it, how many people do you need, what do they need to know, insect problems, what is the best variety to grow, what variety tastes best, what price will it receive, and on and on …  Today, each of the crops grown at Elmwood are relatively small scale by commercial vegetable production standards, yet quite a large scale when there are thousands of kale leaves to be picked, or beets to be pulled, or tomatoes to harvest and box for delivery to you. Most commercial equipment is not appropriate and too expensive. We have purchased a few key pieces of specialized equipment, modified some of the older tractors, and built a program of production around them both. Mostly, we have developed systems of harvesting and handling with homemade ingenuity while still depending on hands-on labor to ensure the care that a quality food crop requires.  

We touched on this topic so you can better see how your role as a shareholder in Elmwood benefits not just your family, and not just Elmwood Stock Farm, but your partnership keeps a former tobacco-dependent farm intact and sustainable.  As the current generation of Kentucky farmers age and the tobacco program funding ends, there will be more and more Kentucky farms faced with development or consolidation – either one will reduce the number of viable farms.  With your support as a partner in Elmwood’s CSA program, one of those 85,000 Kentucky farms will continue to flourish!

In Your Share

Cabbage- organic
Celery – organic
Onion -organic
Bell Pepper -organic
Heirloom & Hybrid Tomatoes – organic
Green Beans-organic
Garlic - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Grilled Celery Salad with Tarragon Dressing, recipe from Country Living Magazine July 2012

1 head celery, stalks separated and ends trimmed
3 T olive oil, plus more for grilling
¼ C red wine vinegar
2 T roughly chopped fresh tarragon
3 oz shaved Parmesan (about 1 cup)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat grill to medium.  Lightly brush celery stalks with olive oil.  Grill celery until marked and partially softened, about 12 minutes, turning once halfway through.  Transfer to cutting board and cool, about 5 minutes.  Slice celery on the bias into ¼ inch thick pieces.

In a medium bowl, combine celery, olive oil, vinegar and tarragon and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Top with Parmesan.  Serve at room temperature; or cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Quick Moussaka, a Martha Stewart recipe using feta and ricotta rather than the traditional white flour-butter-milk sauce.

Butter, for baking dish
1 large eggplant (2 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
7 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef or lamb
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, drained OR equivalent fresh
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (9 ounces) ricotta cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup (4 ounces) feta cheese, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter a 4-quart ovenproof dish. On a baking sheet, toss eggplant with 6 tablespoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer, and roast in the oven until soft and golden, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer eggplant to prepared dish, spreading in an even layer.

In a large saucepan, warm remaining tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and ground meat; cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until meat is browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in drained tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, oregano, cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Simmer, crushing tomatoes with the edge of a spoon, 15 minutes. Spread the mixture evenly over the eggplant.

Heat broiler. In a small bowl, mix ricotta, feta, egg, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of salt. Pour mixture over the casserole, and spread evenly to the edges. Broil until topping is browned in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Tomato and Corn Pie, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe, adapted from Pink-Parsley, previously adapted from Bakin and Egg and Smitten Kitchen, originally from Christ Church Cooks and Gourmet.  Makes one 9-inch pie.

For the crust:
·                                 2 cups all-purpose flour
·                                 1 T baking powder
·                                 3/4 tsp salt
·                                 6 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
·                                 3/4 cup buttermilk
·                                 2 T butter, melted
For the Pie:
·                                 1 3/4 lbs tomatoes
·                                 salt
·                                 2/3 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
·                                 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz)
·                                 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
·                                 2 garlic cloves, minced
·                                 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
·                                 2 T snipped fresh chives
·                                 2 T fresh lemon juice
·                                 freshly grated black pepper
·                                 1 1/2 cups fresh corn (from 2-3 ears)

To make the crust, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, then blend in cold butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk, 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. Either fold the round gently in quarters, lift it into a 9-inch pie plate and gently unfold and center it or, roll the dough around the rolling pin and transfer to the pie plate. Pat the dough in with your fingers and trim any overhang.  Place the pie plate in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the filling.  Wrap the second half of the dough in plastic wrap and chill as well.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cut an "x" in the bottom of each tomato.  Have a large bowl of ice water ready, then add the tomatoes to the boiling water.  Cook for about 10 seconds then transfer to the ice water.  When cool enough to handle, peel the skins from the tomatoes.

Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels or a lint-free kitchen towel.  Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices and arrange in a single layer over the paper towels.  Sprinkle generously with salt and allow to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.  Blot the tomatoes with more paper towels (or another kitchen towel).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together the mayonnaise, cheeses, garlic, and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the piecrusts from the refrigerator.  Layer half the tomatoes on the bottom of the pie. Scatter half the corn over the tomatoes, then drop spoonfuls of the cheese-mayo mixture over the top.  Sprinkle with half the basil and chives, then repeat the layers:  tomatoes, corn, cheese, herbs.

Roll out the second piecrust into a 12-inch circle.  Fit over the filling, pinching the edges of the two crusts together to form a fluted edge, or use the tines of a fork to fit together.  Use a small knife to cut 4 slits in the top of the crust, then brush with melted butter.

Bake pie until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling, 30-35 minutes (place a cookie sheet on the rack below the pie in case any of the filling boils over).

Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before cutting into slices and serving.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Week 15, CSA

Save Some Summer for Winter

While we are welcoming some cooler weather and it feels like an early fall day, don’t miss an opportunity to capture the abundance of summer vegetables and preserve them for winter meals. There is nothing like making a batch of ratatouille or pot of chili with snow on the ground and be able to tell your family and friends that all this came from “my farm”. We have an abundance of canner tomatoes and freezer sweet corn this week, so stop by the market and load up. Greens will be thriving again shortly, onions will be dug soon, and broccoli will be back. Freezing these vegetables is easy and very rewarding. Assemble your stock pots for boiling some water, purchase heavy zip-lock freezer bags, get some friends or loved ones together and put summer in the freezer. A few tips:
  1. Blanch (drop in boiling water for a minute) vegetables to arrest enzymatic activity, which preserves freshness. In the case of greens it reduces volume tremendously.
  2. Place tomatoes in ice water out of the blanching pot, the skins will easily peel.
  3. Cut corn off the cob to save space. It’s better cooked this way anyway.
  4. Cut peppers into slivers, lie out on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. When frozen hard, then bag them, so individual pieces can be taken out later.
  5. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. There are some good sealing systems available if you get serious. Be sure to label with name and date.
  6. The faster things freeze the better. Flatten bags, place loosely in the freezer to quick freeze, then box or organize later.
  7. Make a note on your calendar of how many of each item you prepared.
If you come to the market to purchase items for freezing or for those things not in your share on a given week, here are some tips on how to be a good market customer. We want CSA members to help us educate the un-indoctrinated.

Tomatoesyou will notice all the tomatoes are stem side down. This is the best way to spread the weight of the fruit on the tray to prevent them from rolling around and minimizes bruising from travel. So please place them back this way if you decide not to purchase one you pick up. We hope you never ever use your thumb to test firmness. Lots of perfect tomatoes are ruined by shoppers “thumbing them”. They, for sure, will then have a soft spot there. Instead, place your entire palm over the fruit and feel the firmness over a larger area of your hand, just watch out to avoid finger-nailing adjoining ones. Lastly, don’t be too picky. Many blemishes are only skin deep, others around the stem will have little impact on edible yield when you core them out. Many of the heirloom varieties have green shoulders or larger cores. That’s the way it is, part of the deal to get really great tasting tomatoes. Be sure to sample all the colors and shapes available these days.
Sweet corn – Feel don’t peel. The tip of the ear tapers down where the silks emerge from the husk. There are several things that cause the tip of the ear to have issues. Birds can tatter the ends trying to get in. Often the kernels don’t pollinate at the tip. Insects can burrow in here. The ear sometimes outgrows the husk. We manage production to minimize these problems, but sometimes they are hard to detect, and organic corn “with issues” is still better than no corn. We can demonstrate how to feel through the husk, how well-filled-out the ear is, or if there are issues with the tip. Each patch is different, but we will know all this by the time you get to market. People that peel back the husk are worried they are not getting their money’s worth if they have to remove the very tip of the ear. The tip represents a very small percent of the total. When they peel it and toss it back, it now looks worse than anything nature would do to it. 

Cucumber, squash, eggplant, pepper, etc. Look for a shiny, firm fruit. Again, don’t be too picky about shape and blemishes, unless it is part of the presentation like stuffed peppers.

We strive to only include the highest quality produce in your share, and likewise to sendto market, though the CSA shares get organized first. Sometimes other issues compromise the appearance of the produce. If so, blanch it and put in the freezer. 

Let us know if you want a “canner box” of tomatoes or some “#2” sweet corn for your freezer, the time is right now.

In Your Share

Green Beans- organic
Beets – organic
Sweet Corn - organic
Green Onion -organic
Sweet Pepper -organic

Heirloom & Hybrid Tomatoes – organic
Brussels Sprouts-organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Sweet Corn Ice Cream, adapted from Vegetarian Times magazine

4 C fresh corn kernels
1 C cashews, unsalted
½ C agave syrup
1 T lime zest
1T lime juice
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt

1. Puree 2 C corn, ½ C cashews, and 1 C water in food processor until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl.  Repeat with remaining corn, cashews and another 1 C water.

2. Strain corn puree through mesh sieve into a bowl.  Discard the solids.

3. Whisk together agave syrup, lime zest, lime juice, vanilla extract and salt.  Whisk mixture into strained corn puree.

4. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Browned Brussels Sprouts in Parmesan Crust, recipe from Farmer John’s Cookbook

½ lb Brussels sprouts (peel any loose leaves, cut away large stems, or cut an X at the bottom of a small stem)
½ C olive oil
1 C seasoned dry bread crumbs
¼ C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper

Bring 2 C of water to a boil in a large skillet.  Add the sprouts and a large pinch of salt; cook until bright green and just tender-crisp, 5 to 7 minutes depending on size.  Drain; briefly rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking.  Add the sprouts, cook, stirring occasion-ally, until they begin to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.  Add the bread crumbs and slowly roll the sprouts around until they are complete covered.  Continue cooking until the bread crumbs are brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sprouts to a serving platter and immediately sprinkle with Parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

The following recipes shared from Waltham Fields Community Farm.

Greek-Style One-Dish Meal
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 C beef broth
1 ½ C whole wheat penne pasta (or similar)
2 diced tomatoes
2 C cut green beans
2 T tomato paste
2 tsp oregano
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 C feta cheese

In heavy pan, brown beef with onion and garlic.  Add broth and bring to a boil.

Add pasta and return to a boil.

Stir in all ingredients except feta cheese. Return to a boil. Add ½ C feta cheese. Simmer until sauce thickens (7 to 10 minutes). Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Asian Marinated String Beans

Steam string beans until they’re bright green and al dente but cooked through. While they’re hot, pour a vinaigrette over them made from a little bit of each of the following, and serve them hot.

olive oil
lemon juice
soy sauce
garlic powder
sesame oil

Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce

1 to 1-1/2 lb ripe tomatoes, about 3 large tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 T olive oil
1/4 C chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
black pepper, to taste

If desired, peel tomatoes by cutting a small "x" in the base and dropping into boiling water for 20 seconds (use the pasta water before adding the pasta).  Use a slotted spoon to remove from the water as soon as you see the skin curling up. Then just pull off the skin!

In a food processor, combine garlic, tomatoes with juice, 3 T olive oil, and basil.  Pulse quickly to chop roughly.  Pulse more for a smoother sauce.

Transfer to a bowl, add salt and pepper and add to hot pasta. If needed, heat it through in a pan. Top with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Tomato Soup with Indian Spices

8 medium tomatoes
3 ½ C water
1/2 tsp butter
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground ginger (or minced fresh ginger)
1/4 tsp garlic powder (or minced fresh garlic)
salt to taste
plain yogurt, for garnish

Cut the tomatoes into quarters. Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cook until tomatoes are tender. Add other ingredients. Mash tomatoes as needed. Serve hot. Garnish with yogurt.  That's it! Simple and tasty. If you are a purist, you can strain to remove tomato skins and seeds.

Monday, August 6, 2012

CSA News, Week 14

Wonderful World of Wildlife

Our relationship with nature to produce wholesome food is part of our motivation to dedicate our lives to this pursuit. In prior news-letters, we have discussed the fascinating insect interactions, the marvels of microbes, and the wrath of weather.  Now, for the wonders of wildlife.  At the farm we employ countless techniques in producing our crops in a manner to co-exist with nature and rearing domesticated animals in harmony with the wild ones.

Let’s start with the feathered ‘friends’. Those beautiful songbirds we all enjoy hearing are able to find safe nesting sites in the abundance of habitats on the farm. When our barn swallow (one pair has a nest in the corner of one of our sheds) returns from South America, we know spring has sprung. When working the fields, which stirs up flying insects, these small birds dive and swoop all around like fighter jets snatching the insects out of mid-air. It is neat to think that many generations will also return to us and announce the arrival of spring. Occasionally when cutting up trees downed by storms, we recognize the orange plastic hay strings that form the intricate pouch like nests of the Baltimore oriole.  However, other birds can cause economic hardship on our business.  We must feed the chickens twice daily instead of once, so feed is not available for the wild birds to consume at will. Blackbirds often will descend in great numbers and eat a few kernels on the end of the ear of sweet corn just hours before it is ripe and ready to harvest. Beach ball size balloons painted with a large eye will help deter them, depending on what other food sources are available in the area at that time.

Speaking of sweet corn, raccoons can completely wipe out a patch in a matter of a few days. They climb the stalks enough to pull them down, eat part of an ear, and move to another. We have been told they travel as much as 5 miles per night to access food and water. Corridors like Elkhorn Creek and Millers Run give them a highway to our farm. As the sweet corn ripens, we use electrified net fencing to keep them out. This must be moved from patch to patch as the corn matures. We also enlist a trapper, who is a fellow Lexington Farmers Market vendor. He sets traps in the winter trapping season, which is strictly regulated and monitored by the KY Game Warden. He has caught coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, possum, and weasel on our farm. These pelts are sold to leather companies and are used for trim pieces on purses, clothing, and upholstery, as they are easier to work with than cow hides.

All the furry creatures listed above also love chicken dinner, given a chance. The electric net fencing is our best line of defense. This is considered a psychological barrier versus a physical barrier. It has a modified current that scares the living daylights out of animals and people, without hurting them.  It must be properly installed and maintained daily to ensure its effectiveness. In very dry weather, an animal is not well grounded, making the effectiveness greatly reduced.  Our Great Pyrenees dogs are also quite effective at keeping prey away, when they are awake. One method this breed of dog uses is to sit out among the poultry at night and bellow for hours on end. This sends a signal to creatures near and far that a very large dog is working here, so you better stay away. Once, one of the dogs lay in the field for days refusing to move.  He was not ill, but would not leave to eat or drink anything. We were not sure what was wrong and you cannot make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. Eventually he came walking up with a ground hog. We later figured out he knew where the ground hog was going for water and waited it out. These ground animals, along with moles, voles, and field mice have access to water many places on the farm, except in droughty conditions. But not to worry, they have discovered if they chew through the plastic tubing we use to supply the chickens with fresh water or the plant irrigation tubing, they have all the water they need. We have to search for the leak when it is discovered, make the repair, and prepare to do this task each day.

Deer are a major problem for most Central KY farms. Since we are the first farm East of Georgetown, the deer population is less than our neighbors further out, but we still take into account that the deer will eat some percentage of certain crops. Cha-Ching!

It is quite thrilling to see a Coopers Hawk or Great Horned Owl on the farm, though we know they are eyeing the poultry. It’s also pretty thrilling to see a family of coyotes playing in the snow, hopefully only catching mice and voles to eat.  With documented proof of economic hardship from wildlife activity, farmers can obtain depredation permits from US Fish and Game officials in Atlanta GA. We have not gone this route, preferring to locate new technologies and modify our production methods to peacefully share Elmwood Stock Farm with the wildlife.  

In Your Share

Green Beans- organic
Sweet Corn – organic
Garlic - organic
Potatoes - organic
Heirloom & Hybrid Tomatoes – organic
Daikon Radish-organic
Fennel – organic
Lettuce – organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Skillet Green Beans with Orange, recently shared in the Lexington Herald Leader, From The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern by Matt Lee and Ted Lee

1 large navel orange
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, champagne vinegar or rice vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Finely grate zest of the orange and reserve it. Segment the orange and keep the sections and juice in a bowl.

In a large cast-iron skillet or sauté pan, heat canola oil over high heat, swirling it around the pan so it coats the bottom thinly and evenly. When the oil begins to smoke, add beans (in batches if necessary — don't crowd the pan) and scatter ½ teaspoon salt over them. Cook, stirring only every 1½ to 2 minutes, until beans are half-blistered and blackened, about 8 minutes. 

Transfer beans to a serving platter or bowl. Lift the orange segments out of their juice (reserve juice) and scatter them over the beans. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon orange zest over beans and oranges.

Add vinegar, olive oil and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt to bowl of orange juice, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour dressing over beans. Toss, then season to taste with salt, black pepper and the remaining orange zest.

Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe, you can use any type of potato, you can also switch out the cheese if you enjoy a different type better.

1 Savory Tart Shell, below, or recipe of your choice, in a 9-inch tart pan and ready to fill
1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoons finely chopped herb or herbs of your choice

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan, cover potato slices with water by two inches. Simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. If the potatoes don’t seem very dry, pat them dry with towels.  Arrange potato slices, overlapping slightly, in concentric circles around the tart pan. Sprinkle blue cheese over potatoes. Whisk cream and egg yolk together and pour into tart shell, then sprinkle tart with herbs of your choice and salt.

Bake tart on a baking sheet until bubbling and golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan on rack and serve warm or cold.

Savory Tart Shell
1 1/4 (5 1/2 ounces) cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, diced
1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or two knives until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg and mix with a fork until a dough forms. If this does not happen easily, toss it out onto a counter and knead it together. This dough is rather tough but with a little elbow grease, it does come together nicely.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan and press to remove any air bubbles. Level the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Daikon-Potato Puree
1 pound daikon radish
1 small potato
¼ C half-n-half or whipping cream
1 T melted butter
½ tsp dried chervil or basil, crushed
freshly grated nutmeg

Peel daikon and potato and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks.  In a medium saucepan cook in boiling, salted water for 20 minutes, or until tender; drain.  Puree in a food processor with cream, butter, and herb.  Serve dusted with nutmeg. Makes 4 servings.

Moroccan Eggplant and Pasta
recipe shared by a friend of the farm

1 tbsp + 1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes
½ + ¾ tsp salt
1 lb ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
3 cups chopped tomatoes
½ cup chicken broth
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
corkscrew pasta

1.  Prepare past according to package directions.

2.  Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add eggplant and ½ tsp salt.  Cook stirring, until tender and just brown, 10 minutes.  Transfer eggplant to bowl.  

3.  Add 1 tbsp oil to skillet.  Add ground beef, onion, and ¾ tsp salt.  Cook until well browned.  Drain fat from skillet.  Add garlic, cumin, red pepper, and cinnamon and cook 1 minute.

4.  Stir in eggplant, tomatoes, chicken broth, and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.

5.  Stir in fresh mint.

6.  Toss with pasta.