Monday, June 22, 2015

Ahh, the Rain - Week 8 CSA

Ahh, the Rain

Elmwood Stock Farm was fortunate to receive well over four inches of rain in so many days. These rains, often very heavy at times, have the potential to cause damage from erosion of topsoil to downing of big limbs and trees. Organic farming practices protect us from some of the risk while feeding us at the same time.

Heavy down pours, even if for just 10-15 minutes, hit the soil surface with the incredible force of moving water. Organic farming will help that water absorb into the soil by nurturing the Soil Food Web (SFW), which builds a well-established community of microbes and insects that are capable of managing all that water. Earthworms and ants build intricate tunnels, quite deep, to stabilize the colonies throughout the variances of extremes summer to winter. While feeding in the summer, they can build new tunnels, and repairs others. These are extremely important sources of air, to feed plant roots, and the SFW. During downpours, they all retreat to their safe place while the tunnels fill up with the rain water, which is more slowly absorbed by the SFW capillaries described below.

Decayed plant roots open channels for air and water. Every time a plant has part of its green top growth removed, an equivalent mass of root material dies, since there is not as much photosynthetic food production to support all the root mass. This is soil building (and SFW building) at its best. When we cut tall plants for hay, much of the undernourished root system is consumed by microbes, leaving a void in the soil, while nurturing the SFW in the process. The insect tunnels lead to this network of smaller and smaller channels, much like a roadmap of rural Kentucky. There are also small insects that aggregate sand, silt or clay particles to make tiny igloos for safe habitation, which helps hold them in place during an onslaught of rain.

Understanding the value of feeding the SFW with air and water through these natural systems, impacts our decision-making on a daily basis. To properly prepare a seed bed for small seeds to germinate and grow in a uniform manner, the ground must be tilled. The existing plant roots and shoots are mixed with the soil which feeds the microbes and insects which starts the tunneling and channeling all over in the top few inches that are disturbed, the many feet below un-bothered. We try to minimize the number of times we cultivate the weeds along the rows of vegetables, for this reason, but it must be done. The rows are planted on the contours of the slope so the plant rows will hold as much water as possible from moving downhill and encouraging it to absorb into the SFW venous system.

We generally count on getting enough rain to grow the spring crops like we are harvesting now, expecting that irrigation water is not necessary. Had we not gotten such a good soaking rain this past week, we might have had to irrigate them this year. The longer season summer season crops like tomatoes, sweet corn, and beans can be watered either through trickle irrigation lines along the row, or overhead walking sprinklers, in the case of sweet corn. We are also fortunate to have the North Fork of Elkhorn Creek along our farm’s Southern border. With pumps, along with underground and above-ground pipes, we can move the water to most any field on the farm, where the trickle irrigation system can be employed. We also use municipal water for irrigation in our greenhouses, high tunnel, and some crops. Water not only hydrates the plant, but nourishes the SFW. Since we depend on the SFW to feed our crops, we can irrigate for longer periods of time to ensure all the nooks and crannies of the soil are hydrated in the zone around the plants roots.

As certified organic farmers, we have come to appreciate the value of a dynamic SFW. Since we never use pesticides or salt generating fertilizers that would harm some aspect of the SFW, we now farm the self-fulfilling prophecy of the Laws of Nature. Manage the SFW well and the well-managed crops will thrive. Our job is to be sure our soil has enough air, and can handle lots of water now and then. It’s really fairly simple, don’t put toxic chemicals in the system, allow the creatures to set up their colonies, keep plant roots active, and the magic happens. 

In Your Share


Green Garlic


Napa Cabbage

Yellow Squash

Swiss Chard

Green Zucchini

Purple Top  White Turnips


Tacos with Eggs, Onions and Greens a Martha Rose Shulman recipe

½ bunch fresh greens, stemmed and washed

1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small or ½ medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 serrano chili, minced (optional)

Salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper

6 eggs

2 T chopped cilantro (optional)
6 corn tortillas

crumbled queso fresco (optional)
salsa (optional) 

1. Bring an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer (I use a pasta pot with an insert for this). Place the greens in the top part of the steamer, and steam until the leaves are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the steamer, rinse with cold water, squeeze out extra water and chop medium-fine. 

2. Wrap the tortillas in a heavy kitchen towel and place in the steamer basket. Cover tightly, steam 1 minute, and turn off the heat. Allow to sit for 15 minutes, without uncovering, while you finish preparing the filling. 

3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it is tender, about 5 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt and the garlic and optional chili. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, and stir in the greens. Turn the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5 minutes, until the greens are tender and the onion is lightly colored. 

4. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cilantro if using. Add to the pan with the greens and onions and cook, stirring, until set. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Spoon onto hot tortillas, sprinkle with cheese if using, and serve, passing the salsa on the side.  Yields 6 tacos.

Basic Green Soup Recipe, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing one of her “go-to” recipes for including fresh greens in the family meal. This chard-and-spinach soup gets complex flavor from slowly cooked onions and lemon juice, while a sprinkle of rice gives it body and a velvety texture.  Serve with a swirl of fruity, fragrant extra-virgin olive oil for richness.  Recipe by Anna Thomas for Eating Well.

2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1 tsp salt, divided
2 T plus 3 C water, divided
¼ C Arborio rice

1 bunch chard (about 1 lb)
14 C gently packed spinach (about 12 oz), any tough stems trimmed
4 C vegetable broth, store-bought or homemade
Big pinch of cayenne pepper
1 T lemon juice, or more to taste

Heat 2 T oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add onions and ¼ tsp salt; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low, add 2 T water and cover.  Cook, stirring frequently until the pan cools down, and then occasionally, always covering the pan again, until the onions are greatly reduced and have a deep caramel color, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 3 C water and ¾ tsp salt in a soup pot or Dutch oven; add rice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Trim the white ribs out of the chard (save for another use, such as to add to a stir-fry or other soup).  Coarsely chop the chard greens and spinach.

When the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, stir in the chard greens.  Return to a simmer; cover and cook for 10 minutes.  When the onions are caramelized, stir a little of the simmering liquid into them; add them to the rice along with the spinach, broth and cayenne.  Return to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring once, until the spinach is tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes more.

Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until perfectly smooth or in a regular blender in batches (return it to the pot).  Stir in 1 T lemon juice.  Taste and add more lemon juice if desired. Garnish each bowl of soup with a drizzle of olive oil.

Roasted Summer Squash with Sage Pesto (serves 4, recipe by
For the Pesto:
3 large handfuls sage leaves, stems removed, washed and dried
3/4 cup unsalted pecans (or almonds)
1/3 cup chopped fresh garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups coarsely grated
parmesan cheese (or more)
Snip sage leaves from stems and pulse in a food processor until minced. Add nuts, garlic, salt, and cheese, and pulse until well combined. With processor running, slowly pour olive oil in until smooth.

For the Squash:
4 medium or 6 small yellow summer squash or zucchini, washed and cut into ½ inch slices or half slices
1 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
¼ C Sage-Pecan Pesto

Preheat oven to 400F. Wash squash and cut off stem and blossom end. Cut squash into 1/2 inch slices, cutting larger slices in half so all pieces are about the same size. Toss squash pieces with 1 T olive oil and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Arrange squash in single layer on a roasting pan. Roast 25-30 minutes, turning once or twice. Squash is done when pieces are starting to soften and brown slightly on the edges.
While squash cooks, put pesto in a bowl big enough to hold all the squash and let it come to room temperature. When squash is done, toss with pesto and serve hot.

Sautéed Summer Squash, a Catherine McCord recipe
1 T canola oil
1 small onion, diced
3-4 yellow squash, sliced into coins
1 tsp kosher salt
splash of water grated Parmesan 

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until they start to caramelize. Add the squash, salt, and a splash of water. Stir to combine, cover, and cook for 10-12 minutes for crisp/tender squash or 15 minutes for softer squash. Serve warm.

Squash Slaw a Taste of the South recipe
2 large yellow squash, grated and squeezed dry
2 large zucchini, grated and squeezed dry
2 carrots, grated
¼ C finely chopped red bell pepper
2 green onions, finely chopped
½ C white vinegar
¼ C sugar
½ tsp salt & ½ tsp pepper
¼ C vegetable oil

In medium bowl, combine squash, zucchini, carrots, bell pepper, and green onions. In small bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Gradually add oil, whisking until well blended. Add vinegar mixture to squash mixture, stirring to combine well. Cover, chill for 1 hour. Serves 6 to 8.