Thursday, August 4, 2016

CSA News, Week 14

What’s In a Name?

Most of you seasoned local foodies know the names of certain varieties of vegetables you like. Peaches and Cream sweet corn and Black Krim or Green Zebra tomatoes, for example, are some varieties that taste awesome. On our end, we want to plant the varieties that you are looking for, but we have to take into account many factors, like hardiness, disease resistance, yield potential, appearance and organic availability, to name a few. But ultimately, flavor and nutrition are what it is all about.

The first planting decisions were made long ago. No genetically engineered seeds or plant material will ever cross the Elmwood Stock Farm cattle guard on the UPS truck that delivers shipments to our packing barn. That primary decision cuts out lots of sweet corn and squash varieties that are available and used by other farmers.

Organic farmers are required to use certified-organic seeds and plant materials (which are always GMO-free). This rule made it difficult to source the varieties we wanted in the early days, but it also spurred many farmers to become organic seed growers to meet the demand that the law created. Now there are several seed companies that specialize in offering high-quality, organic seeds in the varieties that market farmers like us are looking for. Johnny’s Selected Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds and Seedway are three sources we go to for much of the seed that we use. Some crops, like broccoli, have limited organic-seed availability of the best varieties, which we have to live with. There are specialty organic growers of potatoes, ginger root and sweet potatoes that we buy from directly.

Every year, we start with varieties we are familiar with as the basis of our production for the year. Many are names you may not be familiar with, but they are tasty and meet the production attributes we are looking for: good germinators, sturdy stems, resistance to fungal spores, etc. As discussed in last week’s newsletter about sweet corn, husk coverage is important to produce clean organic corn. Good foliage canopy is important to protect peppers from the scalding rays of the sun. Cold tolerance is important for spinach and lettuce for our fall-winter-spring production period. Some squash varieties just can’t take the heat of summer.

We also experiment with new varieties in hopes of finding one that grows and yields well and tastes great. We learn about varieties that our farmer friends have tried and liked, too. Remember the cranberry potatoes we had a few years back? Customers loved them, but they are low yielders, which equates to a higher cost of production. Same for Yukon Gold potatoes, so we grow Yukon Gem potatoes instead. Everybody loves them, including us.

We save some of our own seeds from year to year, but that can be tricky, as well. If seeds are not properly harvested and stored, the germination rate may be low. We set back potatoes, garlic, and dry beans for winter sales and as seed to plant the following year. Many heirloom varieties of green beans, tomatoes, and even small grains, we let mature, then harvest for seed for the following year’s crop.

We are always glad to share with you the names of the varieties of the items we grow. Some you will recognize, others you won’t. But with the growing interest in organic food, the organic seed farmers are working diligently to adapt the varieties we all like to fit organic production systems. We are getting better at achieving higher yields on some of the garden-variety vegetables you are familiar with. Regardless, rest assured we grow the best-tasting varieties for your enjoyment—free from genetic modification—even if you have never heard of them.

Farming for Health and Flavor
Later this month (August 16), our evening farm tour will cover more about variety selection, as well as the ins and outs of organic farming from your (the consumer's) perspective. Come  take a guided walking tour of the greenhouse, high tunnels, seed room and vegetable field to learn about the decisions we make when choosing what and how to grow your food.

Find details on Eventbrite HERE. You get a free ticket as a CSA member, and others are welcome for just $10. We need you to pre-register so we can limit the number of guests in this small-group setting. CSA members should call us (859-621-0755), and others should register at the website above. We hope to see you! —Mac Stone

In Your Share

Green Beans
Sweet Corn
Green Bell Pepper
Candy Onions
Summer Squash
Heirloom Tomatoes
Pea Shoots


Potato, Green Bean and Tomato Salad, adapted from

2 lb. potatoes, chopped into 1-inch pieces
½ lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-in. pieces
2 c. chopped tomatoes
½ c. chopped green onions
½ c. chopped thinly sliced basil
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
1 T. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan; add water to cover potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until almost tender. Add green beans and cook 5 minutes longer or until beans are crisp-tender. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well.
Combine potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, green onions and basil in a large bowl.
Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, oil, mustard, salt, pepper and garlic in a small bowl. Pour dressing over potato mixture, and toss gently. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Thai Summer Squash Soup, adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 T. coconut oil oil or clarified butter
1 c. sliced onion
1-2 T. green curry paste, or to taste
1 can coconut milk (full fat)
5 c. chopped zucchini or summer squash
juice of one lime
cooked brown rice (or other grain)
topping ideas: basil oil, roasted cherry tomatoes, toasted nuts/seeds, quick pickled shallots, lots of lime, fresh herbs (coriander, basil)

Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stir in the onion and a couple generous pinches of salt, and sauté until soft. Stir in green curry paste along with a dollop of cream from the top of the coconut milk. Stir well, and sauté for another minute or so, until fragrant. Stir in squash with another couple of pinches of salt, and sauté, being careful not to brown, until the squash is tender, 5-7 minutes. Add remaining coconut milk and 1 cup of water, let everything come up to a simmer, and remove from heat.

Season with lime juice, and salt to taste. The soup should be brothy with strong coconut-lime flavor. Serve over a scoop of brown rice, topped with any of the toppings suggested.

Roasted Sweet Peppers, adapted from Smith Bites
There are no ingredient measurements listed here, because you can make this dish as large or as small as you’d like, depending on what you have on hand.

bell peppers
shallots or sweet onions
cherry tomatoes or whole tomatoes cut into 8ths
extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Cut off the tops of the peppers. Remove seeds and slice in half lengthwise.
Peel shallots and quarter.

Place pepper halves, shallots and tomatoes in a large bowl and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. You want the veggie mixture to be coated but not swimming in oil.

Spread vegetables onto sheet pan; sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper. Bake 25-30 minutes, until vegetables are soft and wrinkly with a bit of char around the edges but not burned.
Cool completely. Plate, drizzle with a bit more olive oil, salt and pepper, and serve as-is or on toasted pita bread.