Tuesday, September 8, 2015

CSA News, Week 19

Investing in the Future

The potatoes and garlic in your share, along with several other goodies, are a result of our saving back “seed” for the following season, and has been saved backed many generations in some cases. As we harvest or grade certain crops, we sort out what we think is best to have for planting next year, although it’s kinda tricky to know which ones to keep. It is important to maintain cultivars that have adapted with us to our organic production system, especially in light of the ever shallowing gene pool in the marketplace.

“Seed” refers to actual hard dry seeds, to garlic cloves, to potato eyes, to runners or cuttings, to rhizomes, and numerous other forms of reproduction in the plant world. Each has its own considerations when it comes to determining which to keep and which to eat. True seeds must be from open pollinated varieties, not hybrids. When you see heirloom on signage or in seed catalogues, that generally means the parent stock are genetically the same, so the offspring will look just like the parent. Versus a hybrid, which is the result of differing parent lines crossed in a Mendellian fashion, seeking to get the best attributes from each parent to make a genetically superior plant, known as hybrid vigor. If you save the seeds from a hybridized plant, the offspring may grow out to be every extreme from one parent line or the other. This is why those melons or squash that grew out of your compost pile were healthy, but possibly not all that great to eat. There are volumes written on how to save true seeds, but it is not with-out its perils, such as disease and virus issues, so ready up if you try this at home. Archeologists recently found some maize (corn) pollen in Mexico some 4000 years old indicating our ancestors have been saving seeds for quite some time.

We mentioned potatoes - it is a healthy “eye” we are looking to save. It is not as easy as just saving the big ones hoping that it leads to more big ones next year. We look for tubers that match the parent stock the best: oblong, smooth skin, and deep color for example. Then we consider the overall health of each potato, knowing they have the best chance to store well over winter under refrigeration. Some varieties we save the smaller ones because they do not have to be cut before planting, whereas the bigger ones can yield enough eyes for several plants.

Garlic was harvested during the extremely wet conditions this year and has been hanging in the barn since then. As we pull it down for your shares, and clean it up, we grade out the nice heads for y’all, and set aside the ones that have issues such as a missing clove or cut from a shovel during harvest. Then, the best cloves are separated from the damaged ones ready to be planted this fall for next year’s crop. Each clove will produce one bulb next year. After planting and watering, we’ll mulch the crop to aid root growth this fall and winter.

We harvest runners from the strawberries and root them to create new plants. As sweet potatoes require special management to produce new plants in the Spring, we usually purchase slips from an organic farm that specializes in that crop. Our dry beans are all open pollinated as well as some of the green beans. These need to fully mature on the plant to increase their viability, and must be harvested before the pods dry out and shatter the seeds on the ground.

Seed catalogues are full of acceptable hybrid varieties that have been bred for superior flavor, appearance, or disease resistance for example, and we use a lot of them. For us, they must come from an organic farm, which also means they have been selected as superior in organic systems. We depend on a network of organic farmers to provide us the genetics we need to produce the crops we grow.

As farmers all over the world save ‘seeds’, there will naturally be genetic drift after many generations of selection. Therefore we occasionally purchase new pure lines of seeds to ensure we are capitalizing on the benefits the professional seedsmen offer. The growth of the organic food movement has spurred farmers to capture unique genetic diversity and make it available to other farms. However, public access to USDA held seed banks is continually shrinking; though Land-Grant Universities often provide this service to us. For example, Kentucky State University in Frankfort is the National Germplasm Repository for Paw-Paws.

It is the opposite situation for a farmer that grows Genetically Modified crops – he/she would be liable for theft if they save seeds, as it is akin to stealing the patented intellectual property of the company that produced it. At one time, inserting a terminator gene into the parent stock was being considered by some companies so the seed would not ever germinate. This idea was to “better the free world by ensuring, even impoverished nations, would always have access to the latest and greatest technology.”

Thankfully the organic community was able to hold on to some good genetics before the germplasm grab by the big companies got underway. Organic farms don’t want anything to do with the so-called “intellectual property.” A little intellect tells us we are more secure by saving and sharing seeds of many kinds. With your support of organic production, farms like ours are able to grow and save seed, and continue investing in the future of your food supply.

In Your Share :

Fresh Basil
Bell Pepper
Hot Pepper
Summer Squash
Kale Greens


Roasted Celery & Blue Cheese, adapted from an online recipe
1 bunch celery, leaves trimmed and set aside, stalks halved lengthwise
½ C diced celery
1 ½ T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T honey, divided
1 C apple juice
4 oz blue cheese, crumbled
¼ C walnuts, toasted and chopped
¼ C fresh celery leaves, chopped
Pepper, freshly ground
Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Submerge celery halves in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a baking pan.  Drizzle oil, then 1 T honey, over celery. Season with salt. Pour apple juice into pan and roast until celery begins to brown, about 20-25 minutes, watch carefully if using narrow celery stalks that it doesn’t burn.  Transfer celery to a platter. In a small bowl, mix blue cheese, walnuts, celery leaf, and remaining celery. Season with pepper. Spoon over roasted celery, drizzle with remaining 1 T honey, and serve.

Chop Suey, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe that she loves when using fresh celery! Of course, we have to recommend using Elmwood’s organic beef if you don’t have pork on hand already.
2 lbs pork
2 T oil
1 C diced onions
1 bunch celery, including leaves, sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1-5 oz can water chestnuts, chopped
3 T soy sauce, or to taste
1 tsp ground ginger, or to taste
2 C boiling water
Cube pork and dredge in flour. Warm a pan with oil, then brown pork in the pan.  Once the pork is brown, add remaining ingredients. Simmer covered for one and one-half hours.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice.

Blue Cheese, Balsamic and Tomato Pizza, a Heather Cristo recipe
1 whole head of garlic with the top ¼ cut off
1 T olive oil
kosher salt
1 pizza dough
4 T balsamic glaze
2 C fresh tomatoes, chopped
8 oz blue cheese
olive oil
Preheat the crust to 400°F. Wrap a whole head of garlic with 1 T olive oil and salt in a sheet of foil and put in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes until the garlic is soft.  Drizzle olive oil on a sheet pan. Roll out the dough into a thin round. Transfer the dough to the sheet pan and fold the edges over into a crust. Spread Olive oil over the top of the crust and sprinkle with salt and bake until pale golden, about 8-10 minutes. Pull the golden crust out and drizzle a generous amount of balsamic glaze over the bottom of the pizza. Add the cheese, tomatoes and squeeze the roasted garlic from the bulb onto the crust. Drizzle with olive oil and put the pizza in the oven to bake for another 6-8 minutes. Pull the pizza out, slice and serve hot!

Beef and Celery Stir-Fry, recipe adapted by Tammy Donroe from Elephant Walk Cookbook by Longteine de Monteiro and Katherine Neustadt. She says, “don't throw away those celery leaves—they wilt down deliciously! Farm celery stalks are often skinnier than supermarket celery, which means you should cut the pieces larger than indicated to keep the cooking time the same.”
1/4 C vegetable oil
6 to 8 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
1 lb boneless sirloin, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips about 2 x 1.5-inches in size
3/4 lb celery stalks, leaves included, sliced on the diagonal about 1/2-inch thick
3 ½ T fish sauce
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1 lb tomatoes, cored, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and stir-fry the garlic cloves for 10 to 20 seconds until starting to brown. Add the beef and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the celery, and cook for about 2 minutes, tossing frequently. Stir in the fish sauce, sugar, and salt, and then fold in the tomatoes. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, until the beef is cooked through and the celery is crisp-tender. Season with black pepper to taste, and serve with rice.

Cream of Celery Soup with Bacon, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this delicious recipe, makes 7 cups
4 strips bacon
1 T butter
5 C (loosely packed) chopped celery, stalks and tops
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T fresh thyme
1 medium baking potato, peeled and cubed
2 C vegetable or chicken stock
2 C whole milk
salt and pepper
Cook bacon in the bottom of a large stock pot or Dutch oven over low heat for about 15 or 20 minutes, until crisp (cooking time will depend on how thick your bacon is). Remove and set aside on paper towels.
Add butter to the pot, increase the heat slightly, and add celery, onion, garlic, and thyme. Season well with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Add the potato, stock, and milk to the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the milk from forming a film, until potato is very soft.
Purée the soup with an immersion blender or by transferring it to a food processor or blender. Season to taste with salt (we added at least 2 or 3 more tsp) and pepper (about 1 tsp). Serve with cooked bacon crumbled on top.