Monday, August 25, 2014

Myths at the Market, CSA News Week 15

Many shoppers at a farmers market have ideas in their head about food, which guides their decision making, often leaving them frustrated and empty handed. Some of this is from BIG food marketing campaigns with the help of the USDA and FDA, or from repeated messages from supermarket chains. Others have ideas that go back to their childhood days, visiting their grandparent’s farm. Some of these people are missing out on some really good food because of these misconceptions.

Let’s start with “new potatoes”. For some reason, many people think this means small, round red potatoes, and they are the only kind that should be cooked with green beans. In fact, new potatoes are any and all varieties when freshly dug. These spuds are almost as exciting as the first tomato of the season. Potatoes size up depending on variety and growing conditions, and then the skin develops around them as a protection mechanism. We usually get excited to sample the crop and dig some before the skin is fully set, meaning a little thinner. These are hard to handle as the skin has a tendency to smudge, making them unsightly, but they are really, really good. The tubers have higher moisture content, and may even take longer to cook. At the farm, we will begin to harvest the entire crop in the coming week when the soil moisture conditions are right, and if the weather permits.  Soon you will have many shapes and sizes of “new” potatoes to enjoy. With a good skin set and proper storage conditions, the natural quality control mechanism will allow us to provide them to you throughout the fall and winter.

This time of year people ask, “Is this ‘silver queen corn’?” When we tell them we have a nice white or bi-color super sweet variety, we get an indignant look of disgust and they storm off in search of something else. Silver queen was one of the early corns bred for sweetness and white color, to distinguish itself from its yellow predecessors. Back in the day, people ate ‘roasting ears’ which were simply immature ears of field corn, grown for grain for livestock. The window when these were good was quite short; being the sugars had not turned to starch yet. Silver queen was also bred to slow this transition of sugar to starch and grow a big ear on a big sturdy stalk. However, when an ear of corn is pulled from the plant, the sugars begin the transition to starch as a self-protection mechanism in an effort to develop a viable seed. The thousands of “super sweet” varieties are bred to slow this transition of sugar to starch after harvest along with many other production and eating quality attributes. Quick cooling also slows this natural progression. If you can get the water hot before you pick the corn, then by all means enjoy some silver queen corn. Otherwise, enjoy the many varieties of organic sweet corn we grow for you, knowing it does not have to be silver queen to be good. You should also be aware that there are many varieties of GMO sweet corn at the farmers market (especially this time of the year), but our certified organic production will never subject you to these.

Several people come up to our meat table and say they only like fresh chicken and refuse to consider our frozen product when at the market. We are glad to offer fresh chicken a few days during the summer directly after processing, as it simply eliminates the thawing process or it helps with convenience because one can take fresh chicken home and eat it the same day. However, it is not feasible for us to harvest on a weekly basis, and it is easier for a consumer to maintain food safety with frozen meat over fresh, so offering frozen product is the best for everybody. The ‘fresh’ chicken in the grocery store is a bit of a misnomer, as ‘thawed’ might be a more accurate term. BIG chicken is allowed to hold product at 26 degrees, then sell it as fresh. A whole chicken at 26 degrees would feel hard, like a bowling ball. The USDA changed this designation to help balance the supply and demand of perishable products. So, due to a little confusion, misconceptions or incorrect assumptions, many shoppers are passing up an opportunity to enjoy a GMO grain-free, pastured, organic frozen product, to eat a thawed, who-knows-how-it-was-raised bird.

In Your Share :

Snap Beans
Kale Greens
Fresh Herb
Bell Pepper
Summer Squash
Green Onion


Summer Squash Rice Casserole, makes 12 servings
1 1/2 C long-grain brown rice
3 C chicken broth
4 C diced summer squash (about 1 pound)
2 red or green bell peppers, chopped
1 large onion, diced
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C low-fat milk
3 T all-purpose flour
2 C shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided
1 C fresh or frozen (thawed) corn kernels
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz turkey sausage, casings removed
4 oz cream cheese (Neufchâtel)
1/4 C chopped pickled jalapeños

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Pour rice into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Stir hot broth into the rice along with squash, bell peppers, onion and salt. Cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, 35 to 45 minutes more.

Meanwhile, whisk milk and flour in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until bubbling and thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add 1 1/2 C Jack cheese and corn and cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add sausage. Cook, stirring and breaking the sausage into small pieces with a spoon, until lightly browned and no longer pink, about 4 minutes.  

When the rice is done, stir in the sausage and cheese sauce. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 C Jack cheese on top and dollop cream cheese by the teaspoonful over the casserole. Top with jalapeños. Return the casserole to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tomato Pie
5 tomatoes, peeled and sliced (Roma work best)
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onion or sweet onion
1 (9-inch) prebaked deep dish pie shell
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 cup grated cheddar
3/4 cup mayonnaise (or half mayo, half Greek yogurt)
2 T fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the tomatoes in a colander in the sink in 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes. Use a paper towel to pat fry the tomatoes and make sure all of the juice is out. (You don't want wet tomatoes or your pie will turn out soggy).  Layer the tomato slices, basil, and onion in pie shell. Season with salt and pepper. Combine the grated cheeses and mayonnaise together. Spread mixture on top of the tomatoes and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.  To serve, cut into slices and serve warm.

Grilled-Stuffed Mini Bell Peppers
8 mini bell peppers, rinsed and cut in half lengthwise (remove any seeds)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 green onion, chopped
3 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons light sour cream
Salt, pepper Cooking spray
Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. In a small bowl combine reduced fat cream cheese, light sour cream, lime juice, cilantro, and green onion. Lightly salt and pepper each pepper, then scoop a small amount of filling in each. Spray the grill pan or grill rack with non-stick cooking spray, then place the peppers on the grill and cook for about 7-8 minutes, or until the bottoms of the peppers have a nice char to them.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Let Your Children Grow Up To Be Farmers!

Let Your Children Grow Up To Be Farmers!

A recent New York Times article made a case that parents should not let their children grow up to be farmers for lots of reasons, and there is some truth to the writer’s arguments. Some of the same reasons that make it sometimes really tough, are the same reasons we love the life we live. But it’s not for everybody.

The basic premise of the article is that in spite of the collective interest in the local food movement, there is still not much financial benefit for the farmer. This is basically true. Most all the food farmers we know around the country, are paying their bills and making a living. The corporate cheap food policy in the US does in fact set the commodity price for each and every food item. Then the perceived attributes of local, organic, fair trade, etc. beg our society for just and fair compensation. The reality is, the market will only bear so much for all the added value we deliver. So our job is to take a countless number of variables combined with sporadic weather patterns and produce wholesome food, but we do not get to name the price. As the next generation grows up and works their way in, the need for more revenue motivates the operation to diversify and simplify and modernize and market their food, all at the same time. With your support through the CSA Farm Share program, our business is sound and making plans for the next generation, but capitalization of expansion and re-tooling systems is expensive.  In farming circles, we recognize that we are land rich and cash poor. And, we have to work long hours for low pay, in order to maintain that richness.

The other basic premise of the article is that farming involves close contact with things that are heavy or cold or dusty or wet. This is all true, but they have little to do with why farmers like being farmers. The worse the weather, the longer we are out in it. A summer storm can drop tree limbs on fences, or a snowstorm may drift several feet up against the barn door, making it impassable, but that is no reason not to farm; it simply means you get out there a little early with a can-do attitude and tend to your work. When we bale the hay in the heat of summer, we are thinking about how precious it will be in the barn to nurture the next generation of animals, not how tired and hot we are. When we have to assist an animal during delivery, it might seem unpleasant to some, but to us, it’s as close to Mother Nature as it gets. So if a little adversity and unpredictability bother you, then you better stay away from farming. Ironically, that may be one reason we do it. Once your relationship with Nature takes place, it’s the greatest way there is to spend time. Refer to a previous newsletter on Chores vs. Work.

So all that being said, should you let your child grow up to be a farmer? First of all, if they are afforded a taste for it, and like it, then they should be encouraged to see if it gets in their blood. If they have the drive to evolve to a type of farming suitable to them, they can have a great lifestyle. With a sound financial footing underneath at the start, there is a better likelihood of success. There are many programs aimed at assisting young people to get into farming, but the financial burden often seems too overwhelming. We do need more young farmers in this country. And we need to figure out a way to support them.  The Annual Slow Money Conference will be in Louisville, November 10-12 this year, with food being a thread throughout the program. With a powerful program offered, we hope to gain some insight on bettering the local food system. Hopefully some you will go as well, as we need to all work together to make farming a chosen occupation and lifestyle for our children.

In Your Share :

Sweet Corn
Fresh Herb
Bell Pepper
Summer Squash


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.

Easley’s Slaw, from Revel: Junior League of Shreveport
1 large or 2 small heads cabbage, shredded
1 large white onion, cut into rings
1 C less 2 T sugar
2 T sugar
1 tsp celery seed
1 T salt
1 tsp mustard seed
1 C vinegar
½ C oil

Pour 1 C less 2 T sugar over cabbage and onions.  Set aside while making sauce.  Mix all other ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour over cabbage immediately.  Blend well.  Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours – can be kept up to 1 week refrigerated.

Scalloped Potatoes, Revel: Junior League of Shreveport
1 C diced onions
½ C celery leaves
¼ C parsley
3 T flour
3T butter
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 ½ C milk
4 large potatoes, peeled, boiled 30 minutes, sliced
1 ½ C grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Mix first 8 ingredients in blender.  Place potato slices in buttered oven-proof casserole dish.  Pour mixture over potatoes, top with cheese.  Bake at 350°F for 1 hour.  Serves 8.

Pepper Pasta, serves 6-8
2-3 large bell peppers
3 lbs chicken cut in 2-
inch pieces
salt and lemon pepper, to taste
1/4 C oil
6 green onions, chopped
4 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
1 lb hot, cooked fettucine
1/4 C bottled teriyaki sauce
1/4 C soy sauce
ground black pepper, to taste

Cut bell peppers into strips. Generously season chicken with salt and lemon pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté green onions and garlic 1 minute to soften; don’t brown. Add chicken. Stir-fry 5 minutes. Add bell peppers; sauté 3 minutes. Add teriyaki sauce and soy sauce; cover, reduce heat to low, and steam 2-3 minutes, until peppers are tender but not soft. Pour mixture over pasta in serving dish. Season with pepper. Serve hot.

Herbed Tomato Salad
1/4 C olive oil
3 T fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 T chopped onion
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp fresh chopped herbs
3 large ripe tomatoes

Combine oil, juice, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, paprika and herbs in jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake; refrigerate 30 minutes. Slice tomatoes, pour the dressing over and serve.

Cucumber Yogurt Dressing
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
2/3 C plain, unsweetened yogurt
2 T minced red onion
1 T toasted sesame oil or olive oil
2 tsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp chopped fresh dill

Puree cucumber, yogurt, onion, oil, vinegar, salt and dill in blender until creamy and smooth. Chill 2 hours. Serve over salad greens, use as dip for raw vegetables, or use as condiment on sandwiches. Makes 1 ½ C.

Easy No-Cook Tomato Sauce
4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 T olive oil
3/4 tsp each salt and sugar
½  tsp ground pepper
1½ - 2 tsp balsamic vinegar

In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients. Process to make a rough textured sauce. Adjust seasoning to taste. Makes about 1½ C sauce. Use on pasta or as condiment. Variations: Add 1/4 C chopped fresh basil; 1/4 C chopped Greek or Italian olives plus 1 ½ tsp finely grated orange peel; ½ C feta cheese plus 3/4 tsp minced fresh rosemary; or 3 T capers plus 2 T chopped parsley.