Monday, July 20, 2015

Week 11, CSA Farm Share News

Too Much of a Good Thing

We fielded lots of questions this past weekend about the impact of all this rain on the farm. The farm is better off with more rain than less, but this year, the almost daily pattern is relentless. The combination of heavy down pours, little sunshine, and foggy mornings have a devastating effect on our crop production.

The most noticeable effect to the casual observer is the preponderance of weeds. Since we use no toxic chemical herbicides, we rely solely on mechanical means of weed control. With the fields so wet for so long, there is no way we can drive between the rows and “plow out” the weeds that grow between the rows. Normally, we run the rows every couple of weeks to catch the weeds when they are small with weak root systems. The fields that looked pretty good when all the rains came, now have a thick blanket of weeds between the rows and starting to compete with the planted crop for sunlight and nutrients. We have to “chop out” the weeds between the crop plants in the row by hand hoeing or really mostly hand pulling. This cannot be done in these saturated conditions either. Johnson Grass is a particularly aggressive exotic invasive grassy weed that can grow 6-8 feet tall and spreads by seeds as well as insidious stolons, or underground stems.

Next you might notice there are fewer young plantings of crops in the fields. We are unable to make as many successive plantings to keep harvestable fruit available to pick. We are seeding more transplants to try to keep on schedule, but when the early beans or greens become less productive, there may be less of them available when the time comes.

Less noticeable right now is the lack of fruit from lack of pollination. We depend on the bees to pollinate many crops and they cannot get out to forage as they normally would with all the rainfall. When they are forced into the hive during heavy down pours, the hot damp conditions cause them to become quite agitated, they cannot travel as far for foraging, and are out less hours per day. In the case of a squash or melon plant, the male and female flowers are only open for one day; many get missed, therefore reducing the number of fruits to mature. The pollen is so wet it is hard to move to the female flowers and the nectar, where actual honey comes from, is watery and less nutritious to the brood for which it is meant. The heavy rains can actually knock flowers off some plants like beans and tomato. 

Some devastating plant diseases proliferate in these hot humid conditions. Some of the more common of these are early blight and late blight on tomatoes. Many of you may have seen the lower leaves turn brown and wither away on your tomatoes. This is one, or both, of these diseases. With the wet weather, the spores sporeolate at a much more rapid rate, in some cases they can defoliate a plant before the fruits even ripen. Another common problem in these conditions is with the downy and/or powdery mildews on the squash and melons. These give the leaves a white powdery appearance, hence the name, and can quickly rob the plant of any photosynthetic capability and rob the existing nutrients, reducing its ability to make fruit. Even commercial chemical intensive agriculture has trouble controlling these diseases in these conditions which is why so many vegetables are grown in less-humid areas of California.

Then there are the root crops. We pulled the garlic in the rainy conditions which is really labor intensive to wash all the mud off. But the real problem is the potatoes are laying in such wet soil, they become waterlogged, soft, and susceptible to insects that normally are not interested in them. Not sure what we are going to find out there yet.

The hay cannot be cut at the proper stage of maturity for winter feed for the livestock which means it will have less nutritive value and there will be less of it to boot. The gravel roads have some bad wash outs and we have to cut up tree limbs periodically. We won’t even mention all the mud that has to be washed off boots and rain jackets several times a day.

This is just the reality of farming for the local market. This has been, and will continue to be a challenging and memorable production year for us. We are doing the best we can, and appreciate your patience as we work through it. And by the way, you will never hear a seasoned farmer say “I wish it would stop raining” as rain is always better than a drought.

In Your Share :

Green Beans
Sweet Corn
Fresh Onion
Sweet Pepper
Swiss Chard



Pasta with Greens, Onions, and Carrots, serves 6 (adapted from
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Click to see savings3 cups (1/3-inch) diagonally cut carrots
2 1/2 cups sliced onion (about 1 large)
Click to see savings1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Click to see savings1/2 cup dry white wine (or additional stock if preferred)
8 cups trimmed chopped kale, chard or other favorite green
Click to see savings1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
Click to see savings1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add carrot to pan; cook 12 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring occasionally. Place in a large bowl; keep warm.

2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium-low heat. Add onion to pan; cook 20 minutes or until tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in thyme and garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine (or stock); cook 3 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in greens and broth; cook, covered, 5 minutes or until kale is tender. Uncover; cook 4 minutes or until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally.

3. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Add drained pasta to greens mixture. Stir in carrots, 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper; cook for 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Add remaining 1/4 cup cooking liquid if needed to moisten. Top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

Lebanese Meatballs with Cucumber Sauce (meatballs: Urban Simplicity, 7-spice blend: CSA member)

For the Meatballs:
1/2 cup medium bulgur wheat                                              
3/4 pound boneless lamb (or beef), diced or ground
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Seven-Spice Blend (1 Tbsp each: ground allspice, black pepper, and cinnamon; 1 tsp each ground cloves, coriander, ginger, and nutmeg)
Place the bulgur in a bowl, cover with warm water and let soak 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess liquid. Place the bulgur along with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and process for until you have a smooth paste (about a minute), scraping down sides halfway through. Stir in the mint and shape into small balls and refrigerate for ½ hour. Bake, fry, sauté, or poach the meatballs and serve with yogurt sauce.

For the Cucumber Yogurt Sauce:
1 cup yogurt
1 small cucumber, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch mint, minced
1/4 small onion, minced
1/4 tsp salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a small glass or ceramic bowl, cover securely and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve with the meatballs.

Swiss Chard Frittata, Serves 4 (Martha Stewart Living)
1 large egg
10 large egg whites
1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese
½ tsp coarse salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 leaves Swiss chard (4 ounces) sliced ½ inch thick crosswise (1 ¼ cups), stalks removed and chopped into ½ inch pieces (1/2 cup)
½ large onion, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk together egg, whites, ricotta, ¼ tsp salt, and pepper in a bowl. Heat oil in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add Swiss chard stalks and onion and cook about 4 minutes, until tender. Add leaves and cook, stirring, until tender, about 1.5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining salt. Add egg mixture and stir to distribute vegetables evenly. Place skillet in oven and bake until eggs have set, about 13 minutes. Serve hot. 

Swiss Chard with Raisins and Almonds, Serves 4 (Gourmet Magazine)
½ large onion, sliced lengthwise 1/4 –inch thick (1 cup)
2 ½ Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
¼ tsp Spanish smoked paprika
2 lb. Swiss chard, center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup water
¼ cup coarsely chopped almonds with skins
Cook onion with ¼ tsp salt in 2 Tbsp oil in a 5 to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring, until softened. Sprinkle with paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add chard in batches, stirring frequently, until wilted, then add raisins and water. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, about 7 minutes. Season with salt. Cook almonds in remaining ½ Tbsp oil in a small heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden, 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle almonds over chard.

Corn Soufflé Puddings, serves 6 (Fresh)
1 cup milk
2 cups corn kernels (from about 3 ears)
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp sliced fresh chives
½ cup heavy cream
Puree milk and 1 ¼ cups corn kernels in a blender. Strain through a sieve, using a spatula to push as much pulp through as possible; you should have about 1 ½ ups puree. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook for one minute. Slowly whisk in corn puree and stir over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes; mixture should have the consistency of pudding. Let cool completely. Preheat oven to 400°F and butter six 6-oz ramekins. When puree mixture is cool, stir in egg yolks, remaining corn, salt pepper, and chives. Next, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into the soufflé base, half at a time. Fill ramekins just over ¾ full and set in a baking dish. Pour hot water into dish to come halfway up the sides of ramekins. Bake until puddings are puffed, set, and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Rotate pan once during baking. Cool ramekins outside of baking dish. Remove cooled soufflés from ramekins into a gratin dish and drizzle with cream. Put back in oven until the cream bubbles, about 10 minutes.