Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Week 21, CSA News

Organic  Farmers  & Consumers  Continue to  Lead the Way!

A recent USDA study showed that fully half of the vegetables offered to consumers in this country are potatoes and tomatoes. It is unclear which came first: is this what consumers are asking for, or is this what the food industry offers us? Underlying the data, it appears a big percentage is in an unhealthy form like French fries and pizza or pasta sauce. Lettuce is third on the list, but that leaves 41% for everything else! Through your CSA Farm Share, we are proud to offer you more than just three vegetables.

Organic farmers have gone from being hippies and weirdos to trendsetters, as the science began to substantiate organic production ideas. It just makes sense to avoid using toxic synthetic pesticides on food we consume. It just makes sense that a healthy well-balanced soil produces wholesome, well-balanced and nutritious foods. It just makes sense that if animals are on a diet consistent with their evolutionary track, they are healthier, and produce healthier products for us to consume. It also just makes sense that if you eat more variety of foods; your body is more likely to get the nutrients it needs to be healthy. All of the above have been borne out by science.

Here at Elmwood Stock Farm, over the years as we shifted vegetable production from lots of acres of a few crops (tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes ironically) grown for the wholesale market, to smaller quantities of many different produce crops for the farmers markets and local restaurants, we struggled with what mix of crops to grow. Did we let the customers decide what we offered by only growing what they were already buying elsewhere, or should we grow some different crops, like kale, that we wondered if they would even try? Back in the day, market customers looked at us funny, as did many of the other vendors. We got used to people asking “What’s this” and then “what do you do with it”. And this was long before kohlrabi, purple potatoes, and Napa cabbage. That’s when kale was mostly a garnish to hide the ice beside the bowls on a salad bar, or eaten by country people that cooked it all day with some fatback and onions.

Our relationship with chefs at local, independently-owned restaurants in Lexington helped us to try different food crops, like those purple potatoes, patty pan squash, and edible pod peas. Such chefs try to offer something different than chain restaurants, and can adjust their menus to the seasons. They also help lead customers to new and different foods, well outside the norm of the big three farm market items: tomatoes, green beans, and sweet corn. By diversifying our offering, it helped to secure a season-long labor force, versus the short spikes in demand for people to harvest the wholesale crops when there is little work in between harvests. Growing more variety also helps develop a healthier crop rotation plan for our fields.

The CSA farm share program has allowed us to take the lead in healthy eating to a whole new level. With your support and feedback, we can certainly offer the foods you are familiar with, along with some new ones to try out. The recipes help us all evolve our taste pallets, and many of you have learned the joys of experimentation with fresh foods. Thank you, by the way, for sharing your favorite recipes and cooking ideas with each other through our weekly newsletter.

While all this exploration into new and different foods has been happening, the nutritionists were discovering the health benefits of consuming them. Anti-oxidants, flavonoids, and anti-inflammatory foods were not even part of the conversation way back then. Because the link between diet and health is a complicated biochemical process, it was easy for industrial food processors to oversimplify what was going on, and declare all fats as bad, and highly processed oils as better than real butter. Now, there is undeniable truth, that consuming whole foods, rather than processed foods, will actually improve your health. A sophisticated multi-vitamin can in no way replace the nutrient density of a diverse diet of plants and proteins.

As a general statement, organic farmers led the way in growing wholesome foods for the local markets. Organic farmers led the way with chefs in guiding consumers to try new foods, all the while educating them about food, how it is raised, and how to prepare and enjoy it. Organic farmers led the way in the CSA model of connecting consumers with their farmers. Today, organic consumers are leading the way on how to reap the health benefits of “eating your veggies,” by belonging to a local farm share program and enjoying many of the other 41% of vegetables. And, since we all know many other recipes now than just French fries and pizza sauce – even organic potatoes and organic tomatoes are just fine for us too!

In Your Share :

Bell Pepper
Sweet Pepper
Hot Pepper
Kale Greens
Green Beans


Orzo Comfort Dish, adapted from a Jeanne Kiger recipe, good for this time of year when we move into cooler temperatures and delicious with fresh celery!
¼ C oil
1 C chopped onion
1 C chopped celery
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 C orzo
3 ½ C organic chicken or vegetable broth
1 C cooked beans, drained
1 C fresh greens, destemmed if needed
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add onions, celery and garlic and sauté until transparent.
Meanwhile, cook orzo until done in broth rather than using water.  During last 2-3 minutes of cooking, add fresh greens.  Drain well.  Add beans, onion mixture, salt and pepper.  Mix gently until well-combined.  Serves 4.

All Purpose Tomato Sauce, adapted from a Capay Valley FarmShop recipe
1 lb Elmwood’s Sweet or Hot Italian Beef sausage, casings removed (omit for vegetarian)
3 T olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, diced
1 medium onion, diced OR 1 packet
1 large or 2 small carrots, grated
2 sweet peppers, diced OR 2 packets
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
1 1/2 T tomato paste
1- 2 lbs finely diced tomatoes
1/2 C red wine
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 T fresh
1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary or 1 T fresh, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
In a heavy-bottomed pot, brown the sausage on medium heat, breaking it up as it cooks.  Remove from the pot and set aside. Heat olive oil and add the garlic, onion, peppers,and carrot and saute on medium-high heat until the onions soften (about 3 minutes). Add chile flakes, salt and pepper to taste, tomato paste, and cook for another minute, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, thyme, and rosemary and simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes, then add the browned sausage. Stir to combine, then add the red wine. Simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with the lid off for 30-45 minutes. This sauce is great for pasta, eggplant or chicken parmesan, lasagna, stuffed shells, basically everything.

Peanut Noodles with Crunchy Celery and Celery Leaves, serves 4, thanks to a CSA member for sharing, she enjoys with lime juice best
¼ C toasted sesame oil
¼ C low-sodium soy sauce
¼ C smooth peanut butter
2 T lime or lemon juice
2 T brown sugar
1 T plus 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)
1-2 T Sriracha chile-garlic sauce, or to taste
½ lb whole-grain linguine
Salt, to taste
1½ C thinly sliced celery stalks
½ C chopped celery leaves, plus 1 cup whole or torn celery leaves
⅓ C finely chopped roasted peanuts, optional
Process sesame oil, soy sauce, peanut butter, lime juice, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and chile-garlic sauce in blender or food processor until smooth. Cook pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions. Drain, and cool in strainer 20 minutes, tossing occasionally to prevent sticking. Transfer pasta to large bowl, and season with salt, if desired. Add celery stalks and leaves, half of peanuts (if using), and sauce; toss to combine. Garnish with remaining peanuts (if using) and whole or torn celery leaves. Serve at room temperature.

Kale Potato Hash, serves 4, from Veggiecation on Instagram
1 bag kale leaves, remove stems and ribs
½ medium onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 C cooked diced potatoes, drained and cooled
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 T oil
After removing stems and ribs from greens, wash, dry and chop. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and kale and sauté. Add potatoes to the mix, spread out evenly in the pan and cook. Stir every 3 to 4 minutes, returning the mix to an even layer each time until the potatoes begin to turn golden brown and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes total.

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, serves 4, Taste of the South
2 lb potatoes cut into 1 inch cube
¾ C milk, divided
¼ C grated Parmesan cheese
3 T butter
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
In a large saucepan, place potatoes; add water to cover by 2 inches.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low simmer until potatoes are very tender but still hold their shape, 12 to 15 minutes.  Drain well. 
In a medium bowl, place potatoes, ½ C milk, cheese, butter salt, and pepper.  Mash to desired consistency, adding remaining ¼ C milk, if needed.

Roasted Sweet Peppers our thanks to a CSA member for sharing her research on how to roast and freeze bell peppers.  What a wonderful treat this winter!
     Wash peppers and place on top rack of electric oven, preheated on broil setting, or place under broiler of gas oven.  Alternatively, peppers can be roasted directly on a gas flame, on a grill, or carefully over an open fire.  Regardless of method, roast peppers, turning frequently, until most of the skin is charred.  Set aside to cool completely.
     When peppers have cooled, peel away strips of skin with your fingers or rub gently with paper towels until all skin is removed.  Remove stems and seeds, then halve peppers so pieces lie flat.  Place roasted pepper pieces between sheets of waxed paper, then slide into zip-top freezer bags, squeezing out as much air as possible.  Freeze until solid.  Remove and defrost peppers as needed for recipes.