Monday, June 16, 2014

CSA News, Week 5, Working Up Your Share

Working Up Your Share

We thought we should share some tips on how to manage the individual items that you will be receiving in your share over the course of the season. Besides using them in your favorite recipe, you may choose to hold them for later use or preserve them for much later use. Either way, you should go through your share and handle each one individually in the best way possible. 

Most of the vegetables we share with you are washed at the farm before cooling. We do not claim these to be “ready to eat” washed items. The washing we do is to remove any dirt that has splashed on the crop from heavy rains, but more importantly it removes the field heat and very quickly gets the temperature of the product down into the mid-fifty degree range. The additional moisture on the surface aids in evaporative cooling when it is placed into the walk-in cooler at 38 degrees. We manage the harvest to be sure this important step is fully executed so the produce will arrive at the pick-up location in the best shape possible. You should always wash the items before using them in your favorite recipe.

Once you obtain your weekly share, you should get it home as quickly as possible to preserve the freshness it left the farm with. Keep the sun off the share even in an air-conditioned vehicle and do not leave it unattended in a locked car while running other errands where the inside temperature can melt your items. Some items need to be refrigerated, others not. Some should not be washed until ready for use; others already have had their initial washing and may benefit from more.

Many of you have told us how much fun it is to unpack the items from your share and begin dreaming up how you want to use each item and do some menu planning for the week. Each one can be placed in its optimum environment until ready for use. Undoubtedly, some get prepped and go straight into a pot or bowl for immediate consumption.

Any of the leafy greens, kale, lettuce, spinach, is best kept on a plastic sack or container loosely sealed. This will hold moisture but allow for a little breathing. An airtight container may allow anaerobic bacteria to thrive and cause an upset stomach later. Any of the head lettuces, Chinese cabbage and the like will have additional soil in them and should be washed more thoroughly. We recommend cutting the stem end off and running cold water over each leaf where it adjoins the stem and then dunking in cold water. This serves to further hydrate them from the ride to your house and gives you the opportunity to sort or cut out any blemishes or stray leaves. A salad spinner will do well to remove excess moisture or a good slinging over the sink never hurt anything. Then when placing them in the semi-sealed container, they will be ready for quick meal prep later in the week.

Berries, okra, peas, and green beans should never be washed until ready for use. We cannot even pick them with dew on or too soon after a rain. If they are kept in a container wet, the berries will begin to rot very quickly, and the peas/beans will begin to “rust”. Rusting is primarily an appearance issue and less of a food safety issue, nonetheless, these items should be refrigerated to preserve freshness.

Peppers, potatoes, squash, and cucumbers should be stored in the fridge as well and they really don’t care if you wash them now or later.

Tomatoes should be kept at room temperature. Place them stem side down on the counter so they can taunt you into deciding just how ripe they should be to be eaten. We harvest them with the idea they should finish ripening at your house, otherwise they will get bruised up in transport, much like bananas. We also try to send variable states of ripeness so you can spread out their use throughout the week. When we have a big flush of tomatoes due to planting dates and weather patterns, we partner with a co-packer to make the salsa, marinara, ketchup, and diced tomatoes for wintertime use. We schedule this a few weeks in advance of when we see it coming so we can get on the list, and allow for preservation to occur at the peak of ripeness and flavor. Thanks to your support in the past for purchasing the BPA-Free jarred items, we are planting more tomatoes and such, to be sure we do not run out next winter.

Onions, sweet potatoes, fall squash, and garlic can stay in a dry dark space, room temperature is fine. They may keep longer in the refrigerator if you are going out of town for a trip, but people have been known to hold butternut squash in a cabinet for an entire year, until the next crop comes in.

By all means, dismantle your share as soon as you can after picking it up. Not only will it make meal prep that much easier later in the week, but your mouth will begin to water thinking of all the wonderful flavors you will be enjoying all week as well. The fall share CSA folks who pick up every-other-week can confirm how well our properly handled produce will keep for two weeks or more. Of course it is no trouble to blanch and freeze most of these items if you are not going to get to them for some reason. And there is no better feeling than serving your friends and family a special holiday meal with local organic produce from Elmwood Stock Farm.

In Your Share



Green Leaf or Red Leaf Lettuce

Napa Cabbage


Sugar Snap Peas


Kale Greens
Stir Fry Cabbage, an Ellie Krieger recipe

2 tsp canola oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced (garlic scapes)
1 tsp minced ginger
1 head napa cabbage, cleaned and sliced
2 T soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the canola oil and heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and saute, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the cabbage and cook until just starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and rice vinegar and stir well and cook just until cabbage is wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle with the sesame oil. Optional: add in other favorite vegetables such as snap peas, pepper strips, or mushrooms; for more spice add crushed red pepper.

Roasted Fennel with Parmesan, Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa.
2-4 large fennel bulbs
½ C good olive oil
1 tsp salt, kosher if available
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove the stems of the fennel and slice the bulb in half lengthwise. With the cut side down, slice the bulb vertically into ½ inch thick slices, cutting right through the core. Spread the fennel slices on a baking sheet, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss with your hands.
Roast the fennel slices for about an hour, turning them once after 30 minutes, until the edges are crisp and brown. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and roast for 5 more minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve.

Beet, Orange and Fennel Salad

2 large or 4 small red, gold, or striped beets, about 1/2 lb. total  

2 tsp olive oil 

2 oranges 

1 fennel bulb 

2 T orange-infused olive oil 

1 tsp red wine vinegar 

1 tsp balsamic vinegar 

½ tsp salt 

¼ tsp freshly ground pepper 

8 to 12 red leaf or other delicate lettuce leaves 

½ C grated pecorino cheese  

¼ C slivered almonds, toasted  

Preheat an oven to 350°F. If the beet greens are still attached, cut them off, leaving ½ inch of the stems attached. Place the beets in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and turn to coat. Roast, turning the beets occasionally, until tender when pierced with a fork, about 1¼ hours. When the beets are cool, remove the skins and cut into quarters. Cut a thick slice off the top and bottom of each orange. Stand the orange upright and, following the contour of the fruit, carefully slice downward to remove the peel, pith and membrane. Holding the orange over a bowl, cut along each section of the membrane, letting each freed section drop into the bowl. Strain the oranges, reserving 2 tsp of the juice. Cut off the stems and feathery leaves from the fennel bulb. Discard the outer layer of the bulb if it is tough. Quarter the bulb lengthwise and cut away any tough base portions. Cut the fennel into slices about ¼ inch thick. Add to the bowl. Add the beets to the bowl along with the reserved orange juice, the orange-infused olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Place 2 lettuce leaves on each individual plate. Top with the beet mixture, dividing it evenly, and spoon some of the juices from the bowl over the salad. Sprinkle with the cheese and toasted almonds, dividing evenly. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6. 

Simple Green Salad

1-2 cloves fresh garlic

3 T good olive oil

2 T balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

8-10 oz  favorite salad greens: spinach, arugula, lettuce

3-4 oz. goat cheese, sliced or crumbled

½ C dried cranberries

½ C nuts (candied, raw, walnut, pecan, cashew)

½ apple, diced

Mince or press garlic.  In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and add in garlic.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Compile this salad by mixing the dressing with the greens and the goat cheese in a large bowl. Just before serving, add the cranberries, apple and nuts.