Monday, July 11, 2016

CSA News, Week 11

Because You Can

Farm life requires you to live by the seasons. We are not in control of the length of days, the temperature or the rainfall, but we get to watch them all go past us in a cycle of seasons that’s familiar each year. We eat along with these seasons, savoring each new crop as it emerges, knowing it might not be here for long. And, as much as we promote eating locally and seasonally, we also cheat the seasons by putting food by to enjoy when the harvest slows down. 

Canning, freezing, dehydrating, fermenting, and storing vegetables and fruits are among the joys—necessary evils, some might call them—of eating local year-round. This time of year, CSA shares get overwhelming. You’re still covered up in greens, and in come the tomatoes and summer squash. Cabbage and garlic are new regulars—signaling you’re somewhere around the halfway mark of the Summer Season CSA Share—and you realize root vegetables and winter squash will be here before you know it. Much of this can be saved for the winter, when you’ll be wishing you had something local, organic and green in your pantry to brighten a meal on a gray day. (I might also point out that Elmwood Stock Farm sells year-round at farmers markets in Lexington and Cincinnati—though we don’t have okra or zucchini for you at that time of year.)

Canning is usually the first means of food preservation that comes to mind, and it’s also the most complicated. There are piles of vegetables to prep, water baths and pressure canners to maintain, hot jars to handle, and a short period of time to get it all done. Canning requires that you follow exact recipes and instructions to reduce the chance of invisible botulism bacterial growth that could make you very ill. 

There are several good books about safe canning, including the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, by Judi Kingry, and Putting Food By, by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg and Beatrice Vaughan. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is the place to turn online for up-to-date canning advice: And your county cooperative extension offers canning classes, too.

You can put by these CSA items by canning them: asparagus, corn, green beans, okra, peas, strawberries (jam or jelly), summer squash (relish), and tomatoes (whole, diced or in sauce). You might even want to buy more jars and stock up on more local produce than what’s in your CSA share, because once you’re set up for canning, you might as well make a day of it.

Freezing is an easy means of putting food by, but it is energy- and space-intensive. Many foods require blanching—a quick dip in boiling water—before freezing. Others don’t require it, per se, but it is recommended. What goes into the freezer rarely comes out in the same consistency, so be prepared to use these items in cooked dishes rather than raw. Cabbage, for example, tends to get soft, and tomatoes lose their shape.

Foods you can freeze include asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, corn, green beans, greens, herbs, melons, okra, peas, peppers, strawberries, summer squash, Swiss chard, tomatoes and winter squash. 

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has good information about freezing.

Dehydrating takes time but no fancy equipment. It’s super nice to have a dehydrator, but you can use your oven or the sun for most things. Try dehydrating herbs (these are the easiest—just hang any except basil to dry), broccoli, corn, strawberries, summer squash, peppers and tomatoes.

The book Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning, by The Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante, is a good one for dehydrating tips, as is the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. 


Fermenting could be the most fun, as the flavor combinations you can come up with are endless—sweet, spicy and sour! Sauerkraut and pickles are the most obvious ferments, but there are few vegetables you can’t put in a brine to preserve for later—though lettuce and greens would not work. You really just need a mason jar, salt, water, and lid fashioned from a cloth and rubber band, though you can get a lot fancier than this. 

The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a reliable website, of course, and Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning is also good. A few other websites that will help you get creative with your fermentation experiments are and

Asparagus, beets, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, radishes, summer squash and turnips are each worth a try in a fermentation vessel.

While some vegetables and fruits beg to be eaten immediately, others can hang out in the refrigerator or pantry until you’re ready for them. Take some of the pressure off of yourself by leaving those until later, if one week your CSA box is not so bountiful. 

Beets, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, radishes and turnips want to be kept in a cold (32 to 40 degrees F), humid (95 percent) and dark place, while sweet potatoes, pumpkins and winter squash do best in 50- to 60-degree-F storage with 60 percent relative humidity, according to the University of Minnesota.

Eating seasonally takes some upfront work, but it’s so worth it. Stock up on your favorite fruits and vegetables at the farmers market to round out your CSA bounty, call your friends, and make a day of putting food by for the off-season. When you pull corn out of the freezer for a hearty winter soup, everyone at your table will be glad you did. —Lisa Munniksma


In Your Share

Dragon Tongue Beans
Sweet Corn
Summer Squash
Heirloom Tomatoes
Red Russian Kale


Whole Grain Salad with Tomatoes and Corn, adapted from
This recipe uses farro, a nutty and chewy grain that you can find in the bulk department of many grocery stores. You can substitute any grain, if you prefer.

1 c. pearled farro
3 c. water
1 pint cherry tomatoes or 2 c. chopped tomatoes
2 c. fresh corn (about 3 ears)
4 oz. fresh mozzarella, diced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
¼ c. chopped parsley
¼ c. minced chives

In a saucepan, combine farro and water; add 1 teaspoon coarse salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until farro is al dente, about 15 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl. 

In a glass measuring cup, whisk together garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Pour half of dressing over farro while the farro is still warm, and toss to coat. Let cool to room temperature. 

Add cherry tomatoes, corn and mozzarella, and toss to combine. Add remaining dressing and combine. Top with fresh herbs.

Grilled Romaine Heart, adapted from Simply Recipes

This recipe calls for the heart of the romaine head, meaning the tightly packed inside leaves. Cut off the looser outside leaves for a salad.

romaine hearts
3 T. olive oil
1 T. red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
2 tsp. chopped, fresh herbs
¼ tsp. salt

Prep the romaine hearts—pull off any wilty outer leaves. Chop off the top 1 or 2 inches of the lettuce head, and shave off the browned part of the root end, leaving the root end intact so that the lettuce head stays together. Prepare your grill for high, direct heat. Paint the lettuce hearts all over with the vinaigrette. Prepare the vinaigrette. Put the oil, vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk with a fork to combine. Grill romaine hearts until lightly browned on all sides, turning every minute or two until done. Serve immediately, either with hearts whole or chopped as a salad.

Charred Mexican Squash, Thanks to CSA member Kim for sharing this recipe, which she adapted from, with us!

4 green zucchini or yellow squash
1 T. olive oil
red pepper flakes
¼ c. mayonnaise
1 c. queso fresco, crumbled
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
ancho chili powder, for dusting
1 lime, cut into wedges

Preheat broiler. Slice squash in half lengthwise; scooping out larger seeds. Place on baking sheet cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Place under the broiler until sizzling and well charred, 3 to 8 minutes. Watch closely to be sure they don’t burn. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Stir together mayonnaise, queso and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir until evenly combined. Top each squash half with a bit of prepared filling. Dust generously with ancho chili powder and serve immediately with wedges of lime.

Grilled Beet Burgers, adapted from Green Kitchen Stories

3 c. grated, raw beets
1 small onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
7 oz. feta cheese or firm tofu
1 1/2 c. rolled oats
2 T. cold-pressed olive oil
2 organic eggs
1 handful fresh basil
salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Set aside for about 30 minutes so the oats can soak up the liquid and the mixture sets. This step is important for the patties to hold together. Try shaping a patty with your hands. If the mixture is too loose, add more oats. Form 6-8 patties with your hands. Grill the burgers 2-3 min. on each side, or fry them in a frying pan with coconut oil or ghee. Serve with grilled sourdough bread and toppings of your choice.