Monday, May 26, 2014

CSA Farm Share, Week 2

What should you expect to get in your shares this season? Along with the wholesome organic produce, and meat and eggs for some, you can expect to learn more about our philosophy on farming.  We will share information in this space each week about how, as organic farmers, we interact with nature in growing crops, the science behind nature, and the effects of the curve balls she sends our way. 

As you are aware, we moved the CSA season two weeks later because the spinach, asparagus and strawberries told us to. Also, the early annual vegetables went through a 21-degree night in mid-April, burning the outer leaves, and they needed time to grow out of it. All in all, the crops we are harvesting now look good. The later transplants also went through a later-than-normal near frost, slowing them down for a spell as well. We used insect barrier row covers to hedge our bets and provide some frost protection over several acres of the cucumbers, summer squash, melons, tomatoes and peppers.  Thankfully we did not experience a heavy frost those nights, which could have caused some bigger trouble. The rains have provided sufficient soil moisture so far and also have given us enough time between them to get some field work done like planting, weeding, harvesting, and transplanting. Given this two or three week later-than-normal start, we are pleased with how vigorous the plants look. You can expect to get a wide array of seasonal vegetables over the season, but we only have so much control over when exactly that is.

We expect there will be just as many insects this year as any, although their pattern may have been affected by the prolonged cold. Often we hear folks say they hope the bad winter will kill all the bugs. If that were really true, there would be no bugs in Minnesota, but we know farmer friends up there have plenty. Secondly, as long-time members have learned by now, most of the bugs are good guys, and we need them to fair well through the winter. Science has yet to determine exactly how and when they emerge from hibernation. Nature has a way of timing these things, so that the life cycles of beneficial good insects will coincide with the life cycle of the plant hosts.  We expect them to be right on track with this 2 to 3 week delay.

The cattle did just fine through “The winter of ‘14”, although the late greening of pastures stretched our hay resources pretty hard. We always try to put up a little extra, just in case, and this winter was one of those cases.  We counted out the remaining bales in March.  With close attention each day to feeding out the hay, all the animals did have enough, and every single hay bale was eaten.  We are having our best lamb crop in quite some time and are very glad we kept the ram away from the ewes until late last fall, so the little ones did not start arriving until the worst weather passed this spring. Turkeys are hatching at the highest rate we have seen in awhile. Our young pullet hens are late reaching the egg-laying stage, which means egg supplies will be tight for a few more weeks. So, protein shares can expect more of the best, while we will just need to be patient with the hens. Pasture and hay fields are greening and all the livestock are very thrifty right now. Our organic grazing and mowing management seem to be reducing the weed pressure a little more each year.

As farm shareholders, you can expect to be our prime customer. As the harvest comes in from the fields, we happily fulfill your shares first, before we take extra items to the farmers market, or other outlets.  You have made a commitment to Elmwood Stock Farm, and we have a commitment to you – good expectations!

In Your Share This Week:

Roast, steam, sauté or grill and enjoy the various flavors that asparagus brings to your table. 

Green Leaf or Red Leaf Lettuce
When ready to enjoy lettuce, remove the leaves from the stalk and tear into desired size pieces.  A salad spinner allows you to wash away any dirt and completely spin away the rinse water.  Leaves without water will allow your dressing to better adhere. Interested in trying a new spin on salad, try it grilled or sauté with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Use your fresh spinach as an accent in warm or cold side dishes or meals. Simply tear the spinach in small pieces or cut in strips for a new texture or taste.

Warm weather has encouraged fast ripening of the berries this week, so your share includes more than last time.  Add this first fruit of the season to enhance side dishes, desserts, and salads or as a snack.

Swiss Chard
Chard is a tall leafy green vegetable and belongs to the same family as beets and spinach.  It shares a similar taste profile as spinach with a stronger flavor and courser texture.  It takes more cooking and is not as good raw, but it suits gratins, pastas, quiches, and pies.  Swiss chard truly has an impressive list of health-promoting nutrients. Although Swiss chard is available throughout the year in the supermarket, its peak-growing season for KY runs from June through September.

Chard has a thick, crunchy stalk to which fan-like wide green leaves are attached. The leaves may either be smooth or curly, depending upon the variety, and feature lighter-colored ribs running throughout. The stalk, which can measure almost two feet in length if left to grow unharvested, is available in a variety of colors including white, red, yellow, pink and orange.


Garlicky Swiss Chard and Chickpeas serves 6
1 or 2 bunches Swiss chard, center stems cut out and leaves coarsely chopped
1 15.5 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium shallots, finely chopped (about ½ c)
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 tbsp lemon juice (fresh is best)
1 tbsp olive oil, divided
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add half of the chard and cook 1 to 2 minutes.  When the first half has wilted, add the remaining chard.  When all of the chard is wilted, add the chicken broth.  Cover the chard and cook 10 minutes.  Drain the chard through a fine sieve (strainer) and set it aside.  Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until they are softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the chard and chickpeas and cook until heated through 3 to 4 minutes.  Drizzle the lemon juice over the mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle cheese on top.

Parmesan Asparagus
10 fresh asparagus spears trimmed
olive oil cooking spray or olive oil
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp garlic salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Lightly coat asparagus with olive oil or cooking spray; place on prepared baking sheet.  Combine parmesan cheese and garlic salt in a small bowl; set aside.  Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes; turn asparagus and continue baking until tender, about 6 minutes.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese mixture over asparagus.

Strawberry Short Cake
1 egg
1/3 c butter or shortening
1 ¾ c flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 c milk (or buttermilk)
¼ c sugar
1/8 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients until incorporated and pour batter into greased muffin tins.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes until a toothpick can be inserted and comes out clean.  Makes 10-12 muffins.

Serve with fresh strawberries and ice cream, whipped cream and/or milk.  Yum!

Easy Lettuce Salad
5-6 oz mixed lettuces, tear in bite sized pieces
1 baby fennel bulb, finely sliced
1 small red onion, finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Put lettuce, fennel, and onion in a bowl.  Just before serving drizzle with olive oil and vinegar over salad and toss lightly and serve.