Monday, June 15, 2015

Week 7 CSA News

Seeds of Many


Harvesting, packing, and delivering your shares are the last steps on the journey from seed to wholesome food. The greenhouse flats we seeded back when there was 18” of snow blanketing the farm have produced the vegetables in your share this week and for several weeks to come. We marvel at the power of the seed, but there are many hands and many minds that brought it to fruition.

Seeds are such a tiny bundle of energy and genetic potential and must be carefully handled in order to express their genetic potential. The organic seeds we use come from organic seed farmers that shoulder the burden of selecting the best parent stock to produce the best offspring. Using Mendelian cross pollination techniques, the cultivars are bred to perform well in organic systems. There are always tradeoffs like receiving higher yields at the expense of flavor or color or husk coverage. We experiment with several varieties of each crop, each season, to see which ones perform well for us on our farm in our growing conditions, and you help us evaluate flavor, appearance, and quality. The seed farmers care for the plants well past a normal harvesting stage fostering the reproductive maturity that produces the seeds. Much seed harvesting must be done by hand to select and sort the best stock. Then, the farmers carefully sort and grade the seeds, before cataloguing them and placing them in properly controlled environmental conditions. If the seeds are not kept at full dormancy, some of the energy packed inside will be wasted and the seedling will not be as vigorous when planted.

Once we get the seeds, we continue to hold them in a cool dark environment until they go into the greenhouse trays or out to the field. The greenhouse transplants usually come out of the warm, wind-free greenhouse onto a wagon to harden off several days before taking them to the field. This time allows them to toughen up the stems from the wind, get used to the full sun, and adjust to daytime/nighttime temperature swings. Our wagons hold several thousand individual plants of many varieties of vegetables that are then taken to the fields to be transplanted into the loose soil. Two people ride backwards on a transplant machine that is attached to the back of a tractor. As the “setter” is pulled across the field, the “setters” pull an individual plant from the plant tray, and drop each plant into a cuplike container that spins like a carousel. As the cup rotates around, a device opens the cup so the plant will fall out the bottom at the right place and time to go into a furrow opened by the shoe of the machine. A dash of water is flushed over the plant’s root ball, and then the roots are neatly covered with fresh soil, the plants evenly spaced in a nice straight row. If the plants are delayed getting “set” because of wet weather, they grow long and leggy that can make them hang up in the machine, or if the root system is not fully developed in the tray, the roots may tear as the plant is pulled from the tray. Wet seasons, like this year, mean less use of the transplanter and more hand planting. Minimizing transplant shock is one key to having a good crop. Long-season crops like tomato, melons, and cucurbits are transplanted through three foot wide rows of thin plastic mulch that help control weeds, conserve soil moisture, and regulate soil temperature.

Some seeds are sown directly into the ground with a seeder that places the seeds at the proper depth and spacing for that particular crop. Weed seeds also begin to grow after the crop seeds are planted, so care must be taken to keep them in check so the vegetable crop seedlings get off to a good start. The weed control cultivation implements, mounted on the front and/or the back of the tractor are designed to scruff up the soil between the rows of vegetables, eliminating weeds. Weeding by hand is also necessary for some crops. We’ll walk the rows to “chop out” the weed seedlings between the plants in the rows. This can be very tedious work to do a good job of hoeing the weeds, without damaging the crop, yet also rewarding to know you have eliminated the competition for the tiny carrot, spinach, or beet seedling. Once the seedlings get bigger, different cultivation equipment can be used to control weeds until harvest time.

We walk the fields daily looking at maturity patterns and predicted harvest scheduling, scouting for insects, and determining irrigation needs. It is fascinating to think that the spinach or peas in this week’s share started the journey many years ago, on an organic seed farm, when the parent lines were nurtured to produce the best seeds. We know there are hours and hours of hard work by dozens of people, over many months, if not years, for these particular vegetables to be in your share. The seeds determine the schedule of all this effort, not the other way around. We hope you enjoy the fruits of our labor (and of the seed savers before us), because we all love what we do to grow you good food.

In Your Share

Garlic Scapes
Sugar Snap Peas
Yellow Squash
Kale Greens


Lettuce Wraps with Almond-Basil Chicken, serves 4 (a Bountiful recipe)

2 T grapeseed oil or other cooking oil
1 small onion, minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. chicken, died small
1 small red bell pepper, halved, seeded, and diced
1 tsp honey
2 tsp fish sauce or soy sauce
2 T hoisin sauce
½ tsp rice vinegar
1 head fresh lettuce leaves
½ C chopped fresh basil
¼ C roasted almonds, sliced

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add the chicken and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper honey, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, and rice vinegar. Continue cooking until the chicken is fully cooked, 10-15 minutes. Serve the chicken in a shallow dish alongside a plate of the lettuce leaves. Fill the leaves with the chicken mixture and top with a sprinkling of basil and almonds.

Shaved Kohlrabi and Green Leaf Salad with Garlic and Paprika Dressing, Serves 4, adapted from Martha Stewart Living

2 medium heads garlic
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest, plus 3 T fresh lemon juice
½ tsp hot Spanish smoked paprika
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium or 1 large kohlrabi, peeled and trimmed (about 1 lb)
1 ½ C fresh greens (spinach, arugula, lettuce), trimmed
¼ cup toasted sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove 1 garlic clove from 1 head and finely grate (about 1/8 tsp). Set aside. Wrap remaining heads of garlic in foil and roast until very soft and golden inside, about 1 hour. Unwrap and let cool. Meanwhile, whisk together grated garlic, lemon zest and juice, paprika, mustard, ½ tsp salt, and 1 tsp water in a small bowl. Squeeze roasted garlic from skins and add 2 T to bowl, reserving remainder for another use. Stir to combine but leave very chunky. Stir in oil but do not completely incorporate. Shave kohlrabi very thinly and divide among 4 plates; season with ½ tsp of salt. Spoon dressing over kohlrabi, then top with fresh greens and almonds. Serve Immediately.

Lettuce Soup
Our thanks to a CSA member who shared this recipe a couple of years back, it’s a tasty use for any extra lettuce.

1 medium onion
2 garlic clove, chopped
3 T ghee (clarified butter)
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 medium gold potatoes, diced
4 medium-sized heads of coarsely chopped lettuce leaves including ribs (I used the red leaf variety)
3 C water

Sauté onion and garlic in 2 T ghee on medium-low heat in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in potato, lettuce and water and simmer, until potato is very tender. Purée soup in batches. Serve warm with a drizzle of walnut oil!

Pan Fried Kohlrabi Cakes, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this dish from Allrecipes.  She reports that she uses this recipe for any type of root she gets in her CSA share including radishes and turnips.

½ C grated kohlrabi (after peeling and removing stems)
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced
½ onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
½ C Italian seasoned bread crumbs
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp chile-garlic sauce
1 ½ C oil for frying
Place the kohlrabi in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and drain. Stir in the garlic, onion, egg, bread crumbs, pepper, paprika, and chili garlic sauce. Mix well. Form into 8, small round patties. Pour oil into a large skillet. Heat over medium heat. Fry patties in the hot oil until firm and nicely brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Enjoy alone or serve with ketchup, or your favorite spice condiment.

Garlic Scape Carbonara, serves 4 (recipe from Sarah’s Cucina Bella blog)

½ lb. campanella pasta, or shape of your choosing
4 slices bacon (about 3¼ oz), chopped
¼ C garlic scapes, cut into ¼ inch coins
2 organic eggs
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ C freshly grated Romano cheese

Cook pasta of your choice according to package directions. Meanwhile, cook the bacon, then remove with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on paper towels. Next, add sliced garlic scapes to pan and cook until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain with bacon. Next, whisk together the eggs, salt, and pepper flakes. When pasta is done, drain it and return to pot; reduce heat to low. Add the egg mixture, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes until the sauce is thick and creamy. Slowly stir in the cheese, a little at a time. Finally, toss with the bacon and garlic scapes and serve immediately. 

Warm Kale Salad, serves 2-4 (a Bountiful Recipe)

2 T unsalted butter
1 large apple, chopped
1/3 C dried cranberries
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 bunch kale (about ½ lb.), ribs and tough stems removed, leaves chopped
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the apple, cranberries, cinnamon, and salt. Sauté until the apples are soft, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and cook until it becomes tender. Serve warm or chilled. 

Snap Pea Stir-Fry, serves 6 (a Taste of Home recipe)

1 lb sugar snap peas
2 tsp canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 ½ tsp balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Dash of cayenne pepper, if desired
1 T minced fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted

In a large non-stick skillet or wok, sauté peas in the canola oil until crisp-tender. Add the garlic, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, cayenne, and sesame oil. Sauté one minute longer. Add the basil and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds before serving.