Monday, September 24, 2012

Week 21, CSA


Sometimes We Can't Just Let Things Go By . . .

Many of you may have seen the headline on a report from Stanford University, “Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods."

A more accurate headline should have been  “Stanford research confirms health benefits driving consumers to organic.”  But would we have learned about the study if the positive sentence were the lead one? 

First, for the record, the report is a review of many different research studies, not its own designed study. It is very difficult to combine studies with differing scopes and draw single strong conclusions. In conversation with agricultural researchers from the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University, they pointed out the conservative statistical tests used in the Stanford report brought the variation of each study into the same range, therefore no differences show up, although many of the individual studies do show a positive significant difference in nutrient content of organic foods.

As we have touched on before in your weekly newsletter, insects do not pressure organic crops when they have such a strong balance of nutrients in them to produce the com-pounds needed to resist chewing and piercing insect-feeders. It just goes to reason that the produce itself would have a similar balance of micro-nutrients, and those often are not included in studies like these. The Stanford report does go on to indicate higher levels of anti-oxidants are found in organic produce, those all-important nutrients, that contribute to a healthy body and offer disease suppression. 

One major conclusion of the report showed clear benefits to consuming organic foods due to a reduced exposure to pesticides. Face it, how well can one wash broccoli or strawberries? All pesticides have a ‘days to harvest interval’ after application, but there are serious insecticides, miticides, fungicides, and growth regulators that really do not need to be anywhere near the foods we consume. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen annual list.  

Not only is organic produce not contaminated with pesticides, but also organic grains are lower in mycotoxins.  Mycotoxins are toxic compounds associated with molds on or in grains. They can invade the grains during production or in post-harvest handling and storage. Because most organic grains are handled in smaller lots, not commingled with many other producers’ grains, and often sold locally rather than stored or shipped great distances, they are less prone to coming into contact with these molds. 
The report did find that a benefit of consuming organic meat and poultry is the reduced exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, along with the beneficial elevated levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Many non-organic farms add sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics to the feed to stimulate growth of their animals. Anyone can walk into a farm supply store and purchase them with no restrictions. These antibiotics are not only showing up in streams and rivers, but also in under-ground aquifers. There is evidence that now shows human pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to treatment because of this indiscriminate use in food animals.

The higher presence of the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids is a testament to raising the animals on pasture and with grazing systems that naturally expose the animals to the fatty acids in their diets. Important is not just what the animals eat, but allowing their digestive systems to function properly at the right pH level with an optimum balance of nutrients. 

The study itself has added some fuel to the fire of organic versus conventional production methods.  Interestingly, the inaccurate, but attention-grabbing headline for the Stanford research study has generated even more follow up news reports.  This begs the question, why does organic research have to misrepresent the results to get some ‘airtime’?

Nonetheless, a thorough consideration uncovers some pretty clear evidence.  Eating organic food is much better for you and for the environment.

In Your Share

Bok Choy – organic

Lettuce – organic

Yellow Sweet Candy Onion – organic

White Onion - organic

Sweet Bell Peppers – organic

Hot Peppers - organic

Potatoes – organic
Sweet Potatoes - organic
Garlic – organic

Purple Top White Turnips with Greens – organic

Raspberries - organic

Sweet Corn - organic

Tomatoes - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Velvet Chicken with Bok Choy our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe originally from Eating Well magazine, she recommends serving it over cooked brown rice.  If you prefer a little more spiciness, try using one of your fresh hot peppers.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into ¼ -inch-thick bite-size slices
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 T plus ½ tsp cornstarch, divided
2 tsp plus 2 T rice wine or dry sherry, divided
½ tsp salt, divided
3 T peanut oil or canola oil, divided
1/3 C reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ tsp ground white pepper
6 C water
2/3 C chopped scallions, divided
1 T finely julienned or minced fresh ginger
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
12 oz trimmed bok choy, cut into 2-inch pieces
Combine chicken, egg white, 1 T cornstarch, 2 tsp rice wine or sherry, and ¼ tsp salt in a medium bowl. Stir until the cornstarch is totally dissolved and no clumps are visible. Add 1 T oil and stir to combine.  Marinate in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine broth, soy sauce, white pepper and the remaining ½ tsp cornstarch and 2 T rice wine in a small bowl.

When the chicken has 10 minutes to go, bring water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add 1 T oil. Reduce the heat to low. Carefully add the chicken to the barely simmering water; gently stir so it doesn’t clump together. Cook just until opaque but not cooked through, about 1 minute. Carefully drain the chicken in a colander and shake to remove excess water.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the remaining 1 T oil. Add 1/3 C scallions, ginger and crushed red pepper; using a metal spatula, stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add bok choy and the remaining ¼ tsp salt.  Stir-fry until the bok choy is almost crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken.  Stir the broth mixture again, swirl it into the wok and stir-fry until the chicken is just cooked through and lightly coated with sauce, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1/3 C scallions.

Mashed Turnips with Caramelized Onions, recipe from The Wholesome Chef

2-3 turnips, green tops removed, reserved for another dish
¼ C olive oil
1 small yellow onion
½ C unsweetened coconut milk
3 T butter or earth balance
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
Peel and dice turnips into uniform cubes, add to a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer 25 minutes until fork tender. In the meantime heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Slice onion into thin rings and add to oil, cook until brown and caramelized stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Heat milk with butter over low heat until butter is melted. Add milk/butter mixture to a food processor with tender turnips, puree until smooth. Add salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. Top with onions and olive oil to serve.

Sweet Potato Hummus, a Sarah Britton recipe
2 cups chickpeas, cooked
zest of 1 organic lemon, juice of ½ lemon
3 small sweet potatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
2-3 pinches sea salt
3 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic

:  Don't get too hung up on the quantities of ingredients with this recipe - it's hard to make a mistake! Use more or less sweet potato than called for, more or less chickpeas if that suits you (or even leave them out!), omit the cayenne or throw in more if you like it spicy. Just work with what you have and what tastes good to you.

Place sweet potatoes (with the skin on) in a baking dish in a 400 F oven and bake until very soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size.
  Let the sweet potatoes cool down so that you can easily remove their skins - they should just peel off. Place them in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend on high to mix.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of cracked black pepper, and whatever herb you have on hand. This is wonderful with raw veggies, healthy crackers, or pita bread.   This dip doubles as an amazing sandwich spread, particularly on crusty sourdough with avocado, sprouts, and fresh herbs. Finally, you can use as a thickener for soups and stews.

Monday, September 17, 2012

CSA, Week 20

Organic Showcase

The organic world will convene in Baltimore, Maryland this week to display new products, discuss regulatory issues, share ideas for the future, and get customer feedback at the Natural Products Expo-East.  There are a series of presentations, educational seminars, and the ever-popular trade show.  The trade show for this convention is so large that there are only a few cities with large enough facilities to host it. In addition to all the food processing and distribution companies, exhibitors will include organic certification service companies, consumer advocacy groups, government agencies, and sustainable agriculture proponents.  Being so close to Washington DC, there will be a large number of government watch dog groups and national sustainable agriculture non-profit groups stopping in to educate attendees on the importance of developing a supply chain that is fair and equitable to organic farmers. Groups like Organic Farming Research Foundation, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Beyond Pesticides will be working the floor, happy to have some “face time” access with organic product processing and distribution company representatives, all present at one venue.

As the current Vice-Chairman of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), Mac is traveling from the farm to the meeting to give a presentation, along with several staff members of the USDA National Organic Program.  First created by Congress over 20 years ago, and finalized in 2000, the NOSB oversees the organic program including international compatibility issues, new products requested to be allowed, and general guidelines giving certification agencies the tools they need to effectively monitor the operations they certify as organic. Members of the board range from chemists to food manufacturing professionals, consumer advocates, livestock and crop professionals and certified organic farmers.

There will also be lots of discussion about the impending Farm Bill in Congress.  Revisited every five or so years, the federal Farm Bill encompasses things like school nutrition programs, farm commodity subsidies, natural resource conservation programs, agricultural research priorities, and the National Organic Program (NOP).  Many of these programs are authorized by the legislation, yet funding to administer them is a secondary legislative action. While many worthwhile programs have seen cuts in recent years, the NOP has seen its budget grow from $2 million per year just 3 or 4 years ago to over $9 million now.  As organic foods are the fastest growing segment of the food market, there is a need for increased staff at the NOP, and many good organic-thinkers have taken positions within the NOP resulting in improved services to certifiers, and better technical assistance to the NOSB for regulatory changes.

The Farm Bill affects all of us whether in the area of food safety, school lunch, wetland protection, international trade, or even access to credit.  To stay up-to-date on Farm Bill action (or inaction as often occurs in an election year) visit the website for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.  Our representatives in Congress are acting now, so take a few minutes to learn more about the policies that affect our food supply, and how we can ask for changes towards the type of food system we would rather see in our

In Your Share
Garlic - organic
Lettuce – organic

Onions – organic

Peppers - organic

Potatoes – organic

Stripetti Squash

Tomatoes - organic

Okra – organic
Brussels Sprouts – organic

Swiss Chard – organic

Sweet Corn - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Spaghetti Squash and Shrimp or Scallops
This recipe was such a hit, we have included it again this season. Our thanks to a CSA member who shared this great recipe! She was thrilled that her whole family really enjoyed this one-dish meal.

1 med. spaghetti squash (about 3 lbs.)

¼ C olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

½ pound shrimp, shelled and cleaned (or scallops)

2 T lemon juice

1 ½ T fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

2 sm. tomatoes, chopped

1 lg. bunch watercress or ½ bag spinach, washed

¼ C toasted pine nuts (optional)

1 C crumbled Feta or grated Parmesan cheese

Cut squash lengthwise; bake face down on oiled cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until easily pierced by fork. Cool; scoop out insides. Heat oil and sauté garlic. Add shrimp, lemon juice, and spices. Sauté, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and watercress or spinach and cook 1 minute longer until vegetables are wilted. Add pine nuts and cheese and toss with squash. Serve heaped in squash shells or individual casseroles. Makes 2 generous servings.

Lentil Almond Brussels Sprout Stir Fry, adapted from a 101 Cookbooks recipe

extra-virgin olive oil
6 to 8 very small new potatoes, cut into 1/2 pieces
2 cups cooked brown or black lentils
12 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, thinned out with a bit of water, and salted with a pinch of salt
2 dates, pitted and chopped

Cook the potatoes along with a generous splash of olive oil and pinch of salt in a large skillet over medium heat. Cover the skillet and let the potatoes cook through, this will take five minutes or so. The water in the potatoes will help steam and soften them. When the potatoes are just cooked through (not mushy or falling apart) remove the lid and give them a good toss. Turn up the heat to medium-high and stir every minute or so (a spatula helps)
until the potatoes look a bit golden. Stir in the lentils, and cook until heated through. Turn the potatoes and lentils out onto a large plate and set aside.

Now cook the Brussels sprouts using the same pan. Heat another splash of olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Don't overheat the skillet, or the outsides of the Brussels sprouts will cook too quickly. Place the sprouts in the pan (single-layer), sprinkle with a pinch of salt, cover, and cook for a few minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they're tender throughout. If not, cover and cook for another minute or two. Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized.

Add the lentils and potatoes back to the skillet and add most of the sliced almonds. Turn out onto a large platter and drizzle with some of the yogurt. Top with the remaining almonds and the chopped dates.
Serves 2-3.

Cheesy Bacon Spaghetti Squash Casserole, a Marla Meridith recipe, serves 6-8

1 Spaghetti Squash (3-4 pounds) - about 3 cups cooked squash is needed
splash of Olive Oil
a few pinches Garlic Salt
a few pinches Black Pepper
8 ounces Turkey Bacon (or nitrate free Pork Bacon), cook according to package directions
1 large Egg, whisked
1 cup low fat Cottage Cheese
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 cup Gruyére Cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F with the rack in the middle. Put whole squash in a baking dish and bake until you can easily insert a paring knife, about 40 minutes to one hour. Remove squash from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. 

Cut it in half from tip to tip (long ways) and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Scrape the sides of the squash with a fork until you have removed all the stringy spaghetti. Toss the strands in a bowl with some olive oil, garlic salt and pepper. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the middle. Prepare bacon according to package directions. In a medium bowl combine squash, cottage cheese, nutmeg, and another pinch of pepper and garlic salt to taste if needed. Add the egg. 
In a 9 inch bake safe pie dish layer squash mixture, then a layer of the bacon, another layer of squash then bacon again. Top with Gruyére cheese and bake for about 25 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden brown. If you want to crisp up the cheese a little more set the broil on low for a minute or two.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Week 19, CSA News

Landscape Architecture

When the Bell family expanded their farming operation in the 1950’s by purchasing the Elmwood property outside of Georgetown, those that farmed it before had set the basic footprint of infrastructure and much of the field layout we work with today. The original home place was built in the late 1700’s, complete with well and spring house, smoke house, out house, cisterns, and numerous other out buildings. The fencerows were established in accordance with the topography and access to water. Hilly areas were fenced off for cattle or sheep, while flat lands lent themselves to cropping, haying and grazing.

Thankfully the value of access to the water in the North Fork of Elkhorn Creek was considered when the farm was platted, so we have some “bottom” land across the highway near to irrigation water. Were this section of the creek not behind one of the many old milldams, it might have been only good for canoeing. The milldam allows a deep pool of water to form so that pump intake pipes can be immersed, and the pool is replenished by normal creek flow between irrigation events. Back in the heyday of Kentucky tobacco production, there was a lot of demand for creek and river water, and the dam pools were often pumped dry during droughty summers. This year was severe for drought, but there are fewer farmers raising fewer acres of crops, so the milldam pool near Elmwood filled sufficiently. 

Trees were allowed to grow along the fencerows to provide shade for livestock and wind breaks for crops and livestock. Years ago large steel tanks were cut into rings, imbedded in concrete with underground pipes supplying water into them.  More modern tanks are made of cast concrete or even heavy plastic.  These water reservoirs are placed in the fencerows so livestock can access them from two, sometimes three fields, and they do not impact field-cropping activities.

Gates to access fields were strategically placed in the fence line.  Some of the older, dry stone laid rock fences had a passageway constructed within the fence to allow people to cross, but not animals; or small livestock like sheep to pass through when needed.  In consideration of animal behavior, more modern gate openings are near the corners, not in the corner. Generally to move cattle or sheep, we open the gate and call the animals. They know fresh pasture awaits and will follow the lead animal that draws the others through the opening. A gate being ten or twenty feet from the corner makes a nice funnel but also keeps the lead animal from turning abruptly after passing through the opening. Were this to happen, young animals that lag behind may see the first few momma cows moving back towards them along the fence (although on the other side of it.)  Young calves want to stay close to their moms, so they are unwilling to leave her to go around through the gate opening, turning a small job of moving the cattle through the gate into a lengthy task.  A gate must also be hung so it folds all the way back against the fence and does not create a blockage sticking out into the funnel area. Some gates rest on a peg or rock when closed so as not to pull the post it hangs from, making it sag and eventually not open freely. Gate latches may range from a chain hooked over a nail head, clips that need human hands to open, or horse shoes on chains, which are fast and easy to open, especially in cold wintry weather with gloves on. 
Barns and sheds are strategically placed around the farm to allow easy access relative to slope, wet conditions, and patterns of use. The difference between a barn and a shed is that sheds are open on one side for ease of access into the protected space. Equipment sheds are long and narrow so each implement can be backed into its spot out of the weather but easily re-attached to the tractor the next time it is needed. Livestock sheds allow the animals free access to a protected space in inclement weather. Our produce packing shed has sliding doors along one side to allow multiple trucks to dock as items often go out about as fast as they come in.

All of the sheds in our area are open to the east. Weather systems generally come from the northwest, but the storms along the front come from the southwest.  Usually, very little rain blows into a shed with the east side open.   Look as you drive through horse country and you will see all the horse run-in-sheds face east. Occasionally in late winter and early spring, there are storms that approach from the east and when that happens they are usually doozies, which means we will have bigger storm problems than wet equipment or wet floors.

We continue to develop and maintain farm infrastructure, from planting a few trees each year to renovating old buildings, to putting in new waterlines.  We are appreciative for what was already here to work with, and have learned the importance of sustaining it.

In Your Share

Stringless Green Beans- organic
Cilantro – organic

Lettuce - organic

Onion – organic

Green Bell or Sweet Italian or Chocolate Brown Pepper - organic

Hot Pepper - organic

Potatoes – organic

Tomatoes – organic
Sweet Basil - organic 

Bok Choy - organic
Garlic – organic
Cippolini Onion - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Roasted Jalapeno Tomato Salsa with Cilantro, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this Rick Bayless recipe

1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes
2 to 3 fresh jalapeno chiles, stemmed
Half of a small white onion, about 2 oz, sliced ¼ in thick
4 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ C water
1/3 C chopped fresh cilantro, loosely packed
1 generous tsp salt
1 ½ tsp cider vinegar

Heat the broiler. Lay the whole tomatoes and jalapenos out on a broiler pan or baking sheet. Set the pan 4 inches below the broiler and broil for about 6 minutes, until darkly roasted — even blackened in spots — on one side (the tomato skins will split and curl in places). With a pair of tongs, flip over the tomatoes and chiles and roast the other side for another 6 minutes or so. The goal is not simply to char the tomatoes and chiles, but to cook them through while developing nice, roasted flavors. Set aside to cool. 

2. Turn the oven down to 425 degrees. Separate the onions into rings. On a similar pan or baking sheet, combine the onion and garlic. Roast in the oven, stirring carefully every couple of minutes, until the onions are beautifully browned and wilted (even have a touch of char on some of the edges) and the garlic is soft and browned in spots, about 15 minutes total. Cool to room temperature. 

3. For a little less rustic texture or if you're canning the salsa, pull off the peels from the cooled tomatoes and cut out the "cores" where the stems were attached, working over your baking sheet so as not to waste any juices. In a food processor, pulse the jalapenos (no need to peel or seed them) with the onion and garlic until moderately finely chopped, scraping everything down with a spatula as needed to keep it all moving around. Scoop into a big bowl. Without washing the processor, coarsely puree the tomatoes — with all that juice that has accumulated around them — and add them to the bowl. Stir in enough water to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency. Stir in the cilantro. 

4. Taste and season with salt and vinegar, remembering that this condiment should be a little feisty in its seasoning. If you're planning to use your salsa right away, simply pour it into a bowl and it's ready, or refrigerate it covered and use within 5 days. 

Green Bean and Potato Salad with Pesto a Martha Stewart recipe, you can use basic basil pesto, or experiment with arugula pesto, beet green pesto, or even garlic scape pesto you might have in the freezer.

1 ½ pounds small red new potatoes, scrubbed
1 ½ pounds green beans, trimmed and halved crosswise
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 – 4 T pesto of your choice (see recipe that follows)

In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with salted water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon (reserve pan of water). When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes into quarters; place in a large bowl.

While potatoes are cooling, return reserved water to a boil. Add green beans; cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain well; transfer to bowl with potatoes. Add pesto, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper; serve immediately.

Martha Stewart’s Easy Basil Pesto this recipe uses pecans rather than the traditional pine nuts; you can also try walnuts or omit the nuts altogether

½ C packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 C pecans, toasted
1 small garlic clove, chopped
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper

In a blender or processor, combine basil, pecans, garlic, lemon juice, oil, ¼ tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, and ¼ C water; blend until smooth.

Mexican Style Stuffed Peppers, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this internet recipe, she reports using several types of peppers with equal success. 

1 pound ground beef (or cooked chicken or turkey)
1 oz taco seasoning
¾ C water
2 tsp chili powder
½ C cooked rice
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp garlic salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
16 oz tomato sauce, divided
3 large red bell peppers
6 (1 inch) cubes Colby-Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. 

Place the ground beef into a skillet over medium heat, and brown the meat, breaking it apart into crumbles as it cooks, about 8 minutes. Drain excess fat. Stir in the taco seasoning, water, chili powder, cooked rice, salt, garlic salt, black pepper, and half of the tomato sauce (8oz); mix until thoroughly combined. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise, and remove stems, membranes, cores, and seeds. Place a steamer insert into a large saucepan, and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Place the peppers into the steamer insert, cover the pan, and steam until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  (This can be done if the microwave).

Place the steamed peppers into the prepared baking dish, and fill lightly with the meat filling. Press 1 cube of Colby-Jack cheese into the center of the filling in each pepper, and spoon the remaining 8 oz. of tomato sauce over the peppers. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.   Bake in the preheated oven until the peppers are tender and the filling is hot, 25 to 30 minutes.