Monday, September 29, 2014

Week 13: Thanks Belinda!

Belinda Mattfolk does many awesome things. Like making music and happy ponies.

She also trades art for vegetables.

You may have seen some of the photos she took of us at the farm earlier this summer when I posted them on facebook. If not, here is a peek:

My favorite from the summer shoot. When I have some time this winter
I plan to get this one all over the website.

Seda can't stay away from the lens. Really. My daughter is a diva.

We are missing Hailey the intern's hands now that she is back at school
for the year! We also miss the tender greens of early summer.

Walking the pea line.

She was back last Friday to do a bit of documenting while we dug potatoes (and to attempt to get a picture of me with my eyes open). I'm looking forward to seeing the results.

Even more exciting is the logo she is designing for Wintergreen Foods. She has been most patient with my vaguely specific requests (I'm pretty sure I asked her to create something with crayola jewel tones and a line engraving kind of feel. What does that even mean?) and the image she is putting together is beautiful. When you notice our products pop up in stores around town this fall, you can thank Belinda that they caught your eye.

Until then, enjoy your CSA share. It will include: Tomatoes, Potatoes, Spaghetti Squash, Apples, Carrots, Kale or Chard or Collards, Kohlrabi or Savoy Cabbage, and Watermelon or Muskmelon.

The melons made a valiant effort this cold year, and we made a valiant effort to harvest them at their peak. However, the muskmelons never actually seemed to peak this year. Like the watermelons, they are good, but not perfection. Perhaps next year will offer one of those elusive perfect U.P. melon years. 

I can't complain too much though. What the U.P. lacks in melon weather is made up sixfold in apple bounty.

I believe I have mentioned before that kohlrabi loves apples. As in this kohlrabi apple salad recipe I posted last year during summer kohlrabi season. But right now we are talking fall kohlrabi. It can be eaten raw (especially this year, the cold wet weather is kind to kohlrabi) but it really shines when it is cooked. Even in desserts.

Kohlrabi Apple Crisp

  • 6 small to medium apples, or 4 large apples
  • 1 large kohlrabi (or half of a truly gigantic one)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 cup salted butter (or unsalted butter plus a pinch salt), melted
  • 1/4 maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup quick oats
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Core the apples and slice them thinly (1/4 inch or less). Peel the kohlrabi (I never recommend peeling things, so you know you should definitely peel this.) and slice it slightly thinner than the apple. 

Place a single layer of kohlrabi slices in a large baking dish. Cover that with a layer of apple slices. Sprinkle about a third of the cinnamon and sugar over the apples. Continue making layers, sprinkling 1/3 of the cinnamon and sugar over the apples, until you have three layers. Be sure to have an apple layer on top, the kohlrabi will dry out too much if it is on top during baking.

Combine the melted butter and maple syrup. Add the oats and stir until they are moist. Stir in the flour, adding it in portions until the mixture has just become dry and crumbly (This might take slightly more or less than 3/4 of a cup of flour for you. Don't worry, it's pretty hard to get crumb topping wrong).

Sprinkle the topping over the final layer of apples, so things look like this:


Bake for 50 minutes, or until the kohlrabi and apple are tender.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Week 12: A Full Rich Weekend

We had a full rich weekend.

A flat tire came and went with barely a shrug, sandwiched--as it was--between a dead truck, a stuck ignition cylinder, and a birthday party.

Plus, we've harvested a bit of produce here and there ;)

It was tough, but once again we have learned what community support really means. We couldn't have gotten through the weekend without members, friends, and family lending us rides, patience, and even cars. And, of course, celebrating with us.

Because this little farmer turned five. Today!
Now that the weekend is done, I am pretty tired. So I'm just going to let a few pictures of the main events speak more or less for themselves and then get down to business.

There was cake.
And cake eating.
As well as gift trying.
Some good grandparent gifts.
This happened.
That hairy guy is my dad.
And now to business.

The week 12 share will include Kale or Chard, Spaghetti Squash, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Celery, Carrots, Basil, Parsley and Watermelon.

It's watermelon time. We grew our standby variety, goldflower. It's a small, oblong, yellow fleshed watermelon. With the cool season we have had this year, their flavor isn't make-you-cry stupendous (like it can be under ideal conditions), but it is far from disappointing.

And yes, I did come up with a spaghetti squash alfredo recipe. I hope you like it.


Baked Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

This isn't a true alfredo sauce. It's just a white sauce with Parmesan. For more authentic flavor add some minced garlic just before you add the milk. Seda has been on an anti garlic kick and I bent to her will on the matter, seeing as it is her birthday today.
  • One medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese, seperated
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped roughly (I told you it's versatile)
  • optional: chopped roma tomato
Preheat the Oven to 350 degrees

Halve the spaghetti squash and scoop out the seeds. Bake the squash in a 350 degree oven until it is tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

While the squash is cooking, prepare the sauce.

Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium sauce pan. Carefully stir in the flour and nutmeg to make a smooth paste. A silicone spatula works nicely for this. Stir and cook until the mixture just begins to bubble. It should look something like this:


Add the milk, either in small batches, mixing each portion of milk in completely before adding the next, or--if you can enlist a second pair of hands--in a thin steady stream while stirring constantly.

Continue stirring over medium heat until the sauce has thickened and no longer tastes at all starchy. Stir in half of the grated Parmesan cheese and stir until it has melted (or mostly melted, a lot of Parmesan cheese doesn't actually melt completely). Stir in the chopped parsley and remove from the heat.

When the squash is tender remove it from the oven and loosen and fluff the flesh with a fork, but do not remove it from the skin of the squash. Be careful not to tear the skin as you do this. You will be using the squash skins as bowls to finish the dish. If you want to add tomato, mix it in with the squash now.

Pour half of the alfredo sauce over each squash half, being careful not to overflow the skins. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over top of the squash. Broil the squash halves until the sauce is boiling and the surface has begun to turn golden. For me this took about seven minutes.



Monday, September 15, 2014

Week 11: Nailed It

Remember last week when I told you our prediction for the first frost? We were right. The first frost struck on the 11th.

Squash leaf with frost damage.
Not to worry though, it was light. And we were ready. We harvested a lot of the frost sensitive crops, like Spaghetti Squash, before the 11th and we covered what wasn't yet ready for harvest.

See? Spaghetti Squash.
We expect more frost tonight or later this week so we have been more or less continuously harvesting tender crops all yesterday and today. That has meant picking a lot of cucumbers, summer squash, and...

dry beans.
We put in about 10 rows of dry beans this year as an experiment. We pulled the plants today to allow the pods to continue drying inside, away from potential frost damage. They are looking good so far. We may even have enough beans to give some to the winter members. Or maybe we'll just eat a lot of soup this winter.

So, though you won't see the dry beans in your share this week, you will see many of the other things we've been harvesting. The share will include: Tomatoes, Potatoes, Carrots, Celery, Spaghetti Squash, Parsley, Cucumbers, Summer Squash, and Brussels Sprout Tops.

I know I said there would be Brussels Sprout Tops last week, but I really mean it this time. I promise :)

I feel the need to address the topic of parsley this week. We're aware you have been receiving it frequently this year and we know it can sometimes be a challenge to use it. I like fresh Italian parsley because it has a lot of flavor, but it's flavor is quiet. It's like perfect background music. It compliments anything that can use a bright green flavor (and what can't?) without ever really overpowering a dish. If you're having trouble figuring out when to add parsley to things, try some of these suggestions:
  • Any time you are eating pasta, add parsley.
  • Add parsley to mashed potatoes during the mashing or to sauteed potatoes right at the end of cooking.
  • Really add chopped parsley to any sauteed vegetables at the end of cooking.
  • Browning ground beef? Add chopped parsley.
  • Parsley leaves are also a great addition to salads. Not just the leafy kind. They're good in egg salad, potato salad, tuna salad...
I think you probably get the idea now. Parsley is very versatile and that's why we've been giving it to you so frequently. I realize I probably should have addressed this earlier in the season. Hopefully the ideas don't come too late.

You can also use your parsley in this week's recipe. Which is for basic Spaghetti Squash.

Spaghetti Squash

Of all the winter squash we grow, Spaghetti Squash is the one that members tend to feel most ambivalent towards. I think this tendency probably stems from attempts to substitute the squash for actual spaghetti. Sometimes that substitution works really well (I'm toying around with the idea of a Spaghetti Squash Alfredo for next week's recipe) but sometimes it doesn't. If you aren't sure you like it, don't forgo it just yet. Get to know Spaghetti Squash for it's own slightly sweet, nutty, squashy self and eat pasta when you want to eat pasta.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Optional: Butter and Chopped Parsley
Wash any dirt off of your Spaghetti Squash and halve it lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. If you compost the innards you will likely get some sort of mystery squash growing out of your pile next year :)

Compost Mystery Squash
of the Year.
Bake your squash until it is so soft that the sides begin to collapse (you might have to squeeze them with tongs before you really see the collapse happen), 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size of your squash.

Cool the squash for about ten minutes, or until it is cool enough to handle.

Use a large spoon to scrape the flesh out into a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Also chopped parsley and butter if you are into those things.

Then shovel it into your face.





Sunday, September 7, 2014

Week 10: Stuff It

A few years back (in this post from 2012) I pondered whether climate change had arrived and was the cause of our ever unpredictable weather. The weather continues to be impossible to predict and I continue to ponder those same questions.

The most pressing (to me) is: Will I ever see stable weather in my farming career? If so, I certainly hope it doesn't stabilize out to end up like it's been this year.

Normally, we are in week 12 or 13 by the second week of September. Normally, we see the first frost of the season in the second week of September. Well, it is only week 10 this year (thanks to the especially late spring), but we are still expecting to see the first frost this week.

Based on the forecast, we predict our first frost will come the night of the 11th or 12th. Unless it's cloudy those nights, then we might squeak through this week without a frost.

And now you know all the secret innermost thoughts of a vegetable farmer.

We are already preparing for the frost by harvesting the winter squash that is ready to harvest, and covering the squash that needs a few more weeks on the plants.

So far we have brought in the Eastern Rise and a few Nutty Delica.

Next on the agenda are two kinds of acorns, the spaghetti
squash and these gorgeous sweet dumplings.
But the winter squash won't be in the shares quite yet. They need to cure for a few weeks after they are harvested to sweeten up. Some of the varieties won't reach peak flavor until January. Those are destined for the winter shares.

What will be in the shares this week is the following: 2 lbs potatoes, 1/2 pound snow peas, Chard and/or Brussels Sprout tops, Cabbage or Kohlrabi, French Breakfast Radishes or Daikon, Cucumbers, Scallions, Parsley, Tomatoes (or Peppers or Eggplant) and Zucchini or Summer Squash.

The summer squash has been a bit stressed due to all the rain we have been having this year. Stressed squash plants means fewer large fruits. Happy squash make many fruits, for lots of seeds. Stressed plants don't, they put all of their energy into producing seed quickly rather than making several fruits

So, most of you will be getting great big summer squash or zucchini this week. Maybe even a few, if you want them.

What should you do with a giant summer squash? Stuff it.

Stuffed Summer Squash

I decided to make the recipe vegetarian this week, but if you would rather make it meaty you can. Just omit the lentils and cook the rice by itself. Brown some ground beef or lamb with the spices, parsley, and tomato. Then combine the meat, rice, squash innards and remaining tomato/parsley for your filling.
  • One large zucchini or summer squash
  • One cup brown lentils
  • Half cup brown rice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp plus 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch parsley, separated
  • 1 pound tomatoes (two medium or four small), separated
Preheat oven to 350

In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, rice, garlic, 3/4 tsp salt and 3/4 tsp cinnamon. Roughly chop half the parsley and half the tomatoes (hang on to the unchopped halves for later in the recipe). Add the chopped parsley and tomatoes to the lentils along with 2 1/2 cups of water.

Bring the lentil mixture to a boil. Once it is boiling, cover the pot and turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer until the lentils and rice are tender, approximately 45 minutes. Check the pot for liquid after about 30 minutes of cooking. Add more water if necessary.

Meanwhile, prepare the squash by slicing it in half lengthwise and hollowing out the seed cavities (an ice cream scoop works nicely for this). Sprinkle the remaining salt and cinnamon over the squash.

Like this.
Bake the squash at 350 degrees until it is tender, but still holds it's shape. This will take 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.

While the squash is baking, roughly chop the innards you scooped out of it as well as the remaining tomatoes and parsley.

When the lentils and rice are tender stir the raw chopped squash, tomatoes, and parsley into the hot lentil mixture. Then spoon the filling into the baked squash. 

Like this.
There will be more filling than you need (in fact, this recipe probably makes enough filling for two big squash).



Monday, September 1, 2014

Week 9: Carrots and Beets and a Labor Day Cucumber Feast

If you've been a member of the Wintergreen Farm CSA for long, then you know that a carrot beet choice is kind of a staple for us. You've probably also noticed that the carrots and beets haven't shown up much yet this year.

Hopefully you will be pleased to know that...

... they're here! (I promise we'll wash them before they
reach you guys)
They took a little longer than usual to show up this season because we shifted our carrot beet planting time a bit. This was partly intentional, because we wanted the bulk of our harvest to take place later in the season because we're growing a ton (actually several tons) of carrots and beets for storage this year, and partly due to the fact that (if you recall) spring was as cold and wet as summer is turning out to be.  

This week the carrot beet choice is actually a carrot beet carrot choice. As you can see in the picture, we have some grown up carrots and some baby carrots for you to choose from. The babies are essentially thinnings, but I assure you they are just as sweet and tender as the grown ups (if not more so).

No need to take my word on their yumminess.
Seda tested the baby carrots out for you.
She approves.
In addition to the carrot beet choice, members will receive onions, cucumbers, summer squash and/or zucchini, cabbage, beans, peas, parsley, radicchio, and tomatoes/peppers OR eggplant.

If you read radicchio and thought: No!! Not radicchio, I never want to eat another bitter leafy thing ever in my life or some such thing, check out the pinterest board for radicchio. It has lot's of good ideas for using your radicchio. In case you don't want to check out the pinterest board, I'll tell you a secret: cut your radicchio head into small wedges and saute it with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar (and honey if you are really afraid of bitter stuff). Then toss the radicchio with pasta, parmesan cheese and walnuts. It will taste good. I promise.

Or, if you aren't all that afraid of bitter stuff, you can chop up your radicchio and pile it onto a gyro with homemade cucumber sauce, like we did yesterday when we had a Labor Day cucumber feast over at my bother-in-law's house.

The feast was Scott's inspiration. Apparently he had a vision of cucumber sauce and cucumber sandwiches while harvesting cucumbers in the rain last week. We made his dream come true.


Scott made the pita bread.
Eric, my brother in law, seared some flank steak (it wasn't
exactly gyro meat, but it worked nicely).
Jake, my brother in law's brother in law, smooshed
together cream cheese, fresh dill, and lemon juice
for the cucumber sandwiches.
Which Eric declared kick-a$$.
And I made the cucumber sauce, which
also happens to be this week's recipe.
As is often the case in a family cooking event such as this one, the recipes were a little impromptu, but I'll do my best to describe how I made the cucumber sauce. Also, we all agreed it could have used a bit of garlic, but we didn't have any at the time.
Cucumber Sauce
  • Two medium cucumbers, diced small
  • salt, a generous quantity
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups plain greek yogurt (we used chobani) 
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • about a half cup roughly chopped fresh basil, mint, or parsley (or a combination of all three)
Toss the diced cucumbers with the salt, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Taste for salt and lemon juice.

Then slather it onto something meaty. Mmmm...

Sunday, August 31, 2014

We got Audited!

GAP audited that is.

GAP stands for good agricultural practices. GAP is a voluntary USDA inspection/certification program for farms that want proof they follow reasonable food safety protocols when growing and harvesting produce.

It's kind of a pain in the butt.

This is the cover page of our GAP log book. All those tabs
indicate logs we must fill out or on-farm food safety policies we
need to be aware of as we work.

The audit process is less an inspection of our farm, than an inspection of our log book, which is, you know, not fun. So why did we do it?

Well, GAP certification is a valuable thing for a farmer that wants to sell to institutional customers like schools, hospitals, grocery stores and restaurants. See, the farm to table movement is awesome for bringing local food to individual farmers market or CSA customers, but, while every consumer wants to buy the healthiest food possible (for both their body and their community) not every consumer is able to buy all of their food directly from a farmer or has the opportunity to tour every farm they are interested in buying from to ensure appropriate farming practices are followed.

Getting local food in every mouth in the community means small farms need to make institutional sales and local produce processing facilities need to exist. Farmers can't sit back and expect the world around us to change in a way that brings every hungry person directly to us, we need to change the world ourselves by jumping on to the path that leads to every table in our region.

Sometimes that path looks strange to idealistic farmers. Right now it's mainly tread by large agribusinesses that aren't concerned with producing food that increases the health of the land, local economies, or even the people that eat the food. But it doesn't have to be that way. The path isn't the problem, and it is possible for small farms to take it.

GAP certification is, for us, one of the many steps we can take to boost ourselves onto that path. It's also a part of keeping our farm open to our community and making our farming practices and goals obvious to anyone curious about them. The certification isn't anything like a member work day that brings CSA families out to our farm where they can learn how we farm by helping us do it. The certification is proof that we are using appropriate farming practices, so that the local school cafeteria manager can feel confident purchasing our produce. It just isn't possible for the average cafeteria manager to come spend a day on the farm.

One of the best things about our GAP certification process is that it has been a local process. There have been no anonymous "they" type auditors swooping onto our farm to tell us what we can and can't do. We have been fortunate to be a part of the Group GAP program via the U.P. Food Exchange. That's meant our experience with the GAP certification process (however frustrating it might be) has involved discussing appropriate farm practices and even pooling resources with other farmers in the region. The majority of the farm visits (including our audit) have been done by people we know and trust. People we were already partnering with to bring healthy food to our community.

People like Denina Kaunonen (from the Keweenaw Co-op) and Neal Curran
(from the Marquette Co-op). They're the lucky ones who got to wade
through my log book at audit time.

In the end a handful of the farms that are part of this Group GAP group will be audited by USDA inspectors, to ensure that we have developed appropriate standards as a group. And that's it. The rest is all about self regulation, teamwork, and trust between the farmers and other partners that have chosen to be a part of this Group GAP program.

So, while it's true that log books themselves will never be bucolic, our GAP audit was a valuable part of building the healthy rural community we're a part of. That's why we did it.

And the GAP auditors did have a chance to bring their
clipboards out for a little fresh air.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Week 8: A little Ecology with your Potatoes

Once upon a time, Scott and I went to college. Me for botany and Scott for fisheries and wildlife. (I think back to school season is making me nostalgic.)

We met in an ecology class at Michigan State, which ties into the thing I wanted to share with you all this week. This thing:


While enjoying this week's share (which includes Chard, Purple Beans, Peas (the second planting is producing), New Potatoes, Rutabaga, Summer Squash, Mini-Cabbage, Cucumber, Fresh Herbs, Lettuce and Tomatoes) please consider the above video.

As sustainable farmers, we try to grow your food in a way that works with and maintains the feedback loops of the environment around us. For example, we encourage predatory insect populations instead of simply killing every pest on our farm with broad spectrum insecticides. That's why you generally see a few bug holes in your leafy greens. If we killed off all the pests, the predators would have nothing to eat. And we love the predators.

Especially ground beetles, which are very prolific this year.

Another thing we give a lot of thought to is, of course, soil health. Especially the organic components of our soil, or the humus that was mentioned in the video. Of course, a large portion of the plants that we grow on our farm are eaten. They don't get a chance to rot in our fields and become humus. That's why compost is such an important component of sustainable farming. Compost heals the feedback loop that was disrupted when we (or our customers) stepped in and ate the vegetables we grew. Synthetic fertilizers make plants grow, but only by further disrupting the feedback loop that builds healthy soil and healthy plants.

(On a related note, Scott and I get kind of irked when people describe unharvested vegetables as food waste. There is certainly an amount of economic waste involved, but the nutrients in the vegetables go back to the soil--entirely unwasted. Food that ends up in landfills is a different story.)

If you have read this far, thanks for following me along my educational tangent. I hope you found it helpful. Now back to the potatoes, and rutabaga.

I know a few of you have been wondering what you should do with your rutabaga. I have been waiting for this week so I could give you my favorite answer: Mash it up with potatoes. It couldn't be simpler.

New potatoes are coming at you this week.
I feel like I've been kinda big on the unrecipes this year, but it's been a very busy season, what with growing more than twice the acreage we've grown before and everything.

That half acre of storage carrots we planted is coming along nicely!
I am comforting myself with the knowledge that all of our members have a lot of busy days too, so hopefully you appreciate the quick simple recipes as much as the more intricate ones.

Mashed Rutabaga and Potatoes

I remember when I was little my mom only made mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving. It was a slow process that involved peeling potatoes and boiling them whole until they were tender. I don't do it that way. The way I do it is as fast and easy as making pasta.
  • 1 large rutabaga (about a pound) trimmed and cubed
Like this.
  • 1 pound potatoes (new or otherwise) diced to about the same size as the rutabaga pieces
  • salt to taste
  • butter to taste (I used about half a stick)
  • milk to taste (I used about half a cup)
Boil the diced rutabaga and potatoes until they are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the rutabaga and potatoes, then return them to the pot you cooked them in. Add salt, butter, and milk, then mash away. I like to use an old fashioned potato masher for the coarse texture and ease of clean-up, but a rotary mixer makes a creamier texture that many people prefer. 

Pair them with the meat of your choice.

We went with sliders. They work in our repurposed diner.