Early Season Crop Report
Periodically throughout the season we like to give you a glimpse of how the crops are progressing and how the farm is fairing from the weather we are getting. The annuals are delayed by the excessively wet April and the perennials are a bit behind normal, whatever normal means. With a strong El Nino in the Pacific again this year, severe lingering cold winters may be the new normal. All in all, we are off to a great start, just a few weeks delayed in some crops getting underway.
Our new seeding room performed as designed with a special chamber for germination we constructed, and we see excellent germination yields with the delicate little seeds. The soil mix contains some of our homemade compost which can be a little tricky to get the blend just right, and this year the transplants are going to the field with great color and a strong stem and root ball. Uniformity in plant size helps us adjust the planting implements such that the plants go into the ground at the right depth and spacing within the row, appropriate to the species. Some of the early season crops, like spinach, beets, peas, and radish, do not transplant well and must be direct seeded. These, along with the lettuces, kales, cabbages, broccoli, and other such items all went into the ground during a handful of short window(s) of opportunity in mid-April and early May. The Mycorrhizae fungi in the soil are doing a good job helping the roots feed the plants and beneficial insects seem to be keeping most potential pests at bay. Faster maturing crops are coming ready for your shares now, and you should see something new each week as we progress into the summer.
Once we were caught up with the frost tolerant plantings it was immediately time to get the “summer stuff” out. We were scarily hot and dry earlier this month, but it did allow us to get the fields prepped for planting, and then setting out the first of several varieties of squash, tomato, pepper, melons, green beans, and the favorite sweet corn. There are no biological or natural enemies to control cucumber beetles for us Kentucky cucurbit farmers, so after planting we loosely stretch 50 foot wide thin mesh fabric across several rows to physically keep the adult beetles away from the tender young plants. (We don’t like to think about the highly toxic compounds most commercial farmers are “recommended” to use.) The row cover stays on until the crop begins to flower, then is removed to allow the bees to pollinate them. Squash have male and female flowers and are only open and viable for one day. The bees are the vehicle to put the pollen where it goes. If this does not happen, no squash, melons, or cucumbers! We are grateful to host one of Beekeeper Nick’s bee yards, and he says the bees like being here.
This condensed and busy planting season also includes sowing prior crop fields in legumes like alfalfa and clover for subsequent grazing, hay, or cropping. Organic corn for the chickens has to be planted somewhere. Some of the prime alfalfa fields are being baled right now for the first of several cuttings we hope to get this year. From here on out during hay season, we are checking the weather on our phones, dozens of times a day to monitor the possibility of rain, to decide when to cut the next field, and when it is dry enough to rake and bale.
The heritage turkey hatch is going great, the brooder room upgrade over the winter is performing as planned, and the pastures are lush and fantastic this time of year for grazing. For those with egg shares, know that the small pullet eggs are a true treat, the compact flavor of the firm texture is phenomenal. Don’t let the smaller size fool you, and as the hens mature the egg size increases.
We have a great crop of young people helping out in the packing shed, working at the markets, and delivering shares – most having their first experience on an organic farm. Just as UK Coach Calipari says, it is a lot of responsibility to bring dynamic young people together with high expectations of performance demanded of them, and help them grow and learn from experiences they never imagined they would have.
All-in-all, we are off to a good start albeit many things are a couple of weeks behind “normal”. Enjoy each crop when it is in its prime (asparagus and strawberries have been great the last couple of weeks!) as we are really just getting started.
In Your Share
Purple Top White Turnips
Roasted Sweet Potato, Goat Cheese & Spinach Sandwiches Thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe she adapted from thekitchn.com, and describes as “yummy with spinach!” Makes 4 sandwiches.
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes (3/4 - 1 pound total), scrubbed clean
1/4 packed C sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
3 oz goat cheese
8 slices hearty whole-grain bread
1-2 tsp honey
a few handfiuls spinach
Heat oven to 400°F. Brush a baking sheet with some of the oil from the tomatoes and set aside. Slice the sweet potatoes into rounds 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Lay them on the baking sheet in a single layer. Brush the tops with more oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake until the rounds are browned, tender, and look toasted on the undersides, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Meanwhile, mince the tomatoes into small pieces, and then mash them into the goat cheese in a small bowl. Set aside. To assemble, spread two slices of bread with a tablespoon of the tomato-goat cheese mixture. Add a layer of sweet potato rounds to one of the slices, overlapping them slightly. Drizzle a little honey over the sweet potatoes. Top with a handful of spinach and the second slice of bread. Repeat as needed to make more sandwiches. Eat immediately or wrap the sandwiches and eat within 4 hours. Ingredients can be prepared ahead and kept in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Crustless Sweet Potato, Goat Cheese and Rosemary Quiche Thanks to a CSA member for sharing this quiche recipe from wellplated.com, makes 6 servings.
2 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)
3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 large eggs
2/3 C milk
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 T fresh rosemary, chopped
Wash and peel the sweet potatoes, then cut them into 1/4-inch cubes. Toss the pieces with 1½ T olive oil and ½ tsp kosher salt. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer, then roast at 400°F until soft, about 20 minutes. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. In a large skillet, heat the remaining ½ T olive oil over medium. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside. Layer the sweet potatoes in the bottom of a greased pie plate, then sprinkle the caramelized onions, goat cheese, and rosemary over the top. Whisk together the eggs, milk, nutmeg, and remaining ¼ tsp kosher salt. Pour the egg mixture over the quiche, then carefully place the quiche on a large baking sheet. Bake at 375°F for 45 to 55 minutes, until the quiche puffs up and just barely jiggles. Remove from the oven and let sit 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Fresh Strawberry Cobbler Thanks to a CSA member for sharing this delicious recipe, her family now calls it her “signature dessert!”
2 ½ C fresh strawberries
1 c sugar
1 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 C milk
½ C butter, melted
Cream (whipped cream or ice cream, if desired)
Wash and hull fresh strawberries. Put aside in a bowl. Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and milk. Stir in melted butter until blended. Spread in ungreased 8-inch square pan. Spoon strawberries over batter. Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until golden. Serve warm with cream.
Simple Sweet Potato Salad, serves 6 (foodnetwork.com)
2 C medium-diced sweet potatoes
½ C raisins
2/3 C finely diced red onions
1/3 C finely diced celery
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
½ C mayonnaise
1 T finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to tasteCook potatoes in boiling water until they are fork tender. Drain and let cool completely. Meanwhile, soak the raisins in hot water for 15 minutes, then drain. Combine all ingredients by folding together thoroughly but gently. Allow salad to chill in refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.
Braised Turnips with Poppy-Seed Bread Crumbs, Serves 4 from Gourmet Magazine
3 T unsalted butter
2 lb. medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
1 ½ C water
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 C fine fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1 T poppy seeds
1 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
Melt butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, then add turnips, water, lemon juice, and ½ tsp salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Increase heat to medium and stir turnips, then briskly simmer, uncovered, until all of liquid has evaporated and turnips are glazed and just tender, 20 to 35 minutes. For breadcrumbs, heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook garlic, stirring, until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add bread crumbs and poppy seeds and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and salt to taste. Just before serving, sprinkle bread crumbs over turnips.
Asparagus and Strawberry Salad, (tasteofhome.com)
¼ C sugar
2 T cider vinegar
1 T poppy seeds
1½ tsp sesame seeds
¾ tsp grated onion
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ C vegetable oil
1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
¼ C crumbled blue cheese, feta, or goat cheese (optional)
In a jar with tight-fitting lid, combine the sugar, vinegar, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion, salt if desired, paprika and Worcestershire sauce; shake until sugar is dissolved. Add the oil; shake well. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.In a skillet, cook the asparagus in a small amount of water until crisp-tender, about 6-8 minutes; drain well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Arrange the asparagus and strawberries on a serving plate; sprinkle with cheese if desired. Pour the dressing over all.