Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2012 is Almost Here.

Scott and I frequently talk about next year's growing season.

As in "Next year we should build a big trellis that we can grow mouse melons and hardy kiwi on." or "Next year we will definitely remember every member's name." or "Next year we will be much more organized about the garden rotation."

In other words, next year is sure to be perfect. That's why it's always a tiny shock for me when, right in the middle of our down time, it actually turns into next year.

In just a few weeks the 2012 CSA season won't be next season, it will be this season.

Which means it's time to get back to work!

This time of year work means reading seed catalogs and signing up CSA members, which is what this particular post is all about.

We are welcoming back returning members as well as taking on several new members for the 2012 season. Our hope is to reach a membership of 60 full shares in 2012, which means we have room for lot's of folks.

Membership is the same price as last year. $300 for the full share and $165 for a half share. The pick-up schedule will be the following:

Ironwood - Wednesdays 10 to 6 at the Northwind Natural Foods Co-op
Hancock - Wednesdays 10 to 1 at the Tori Market
Ontonagon - Wednesdays 3 to 6 at the Superior Farm Market
Lake Linden - Saturdays 10 to 2 at the Lake Linden Farmers Market
L'Anse - Saturdays 3 to close at Java by the Bay

We are also looking for two work share members to help us out with harvest on Tuesdays and Fridays. We need four hours of labor on just one of those days from each work share member. In return, the work share members will receive full CSA shares free of charge.

Finally, we are planning many more work days for the 2012 season than we've had in seasons past. For example, unless the weather is extremely uncooperative, every Saturday in May and early June will be a work day in the 2012 season. Members will have the chance to start seeds, transplant starts, get to know each other, and just generally get their hands dirty. It should be pretty awesome.

This is what a CSA work day looks like. Our favorite kind of fun :)
So, we're going to get bigger, change the schedule, take on our first work share members, and host members more next season. That's sure to go perfectly, right? I guess Scott and I can start talking about the perfect season we're going to have in 2013.

If you are interested in membership please email us at wintergreenfarm at live dot com.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Can Take Constructive Criticism

I remember a day when I was in the second grade. My reading teacher elected not to assign us homework (unusual for her) and I was sure that I had made a mistake. When my dad came to pick me up I insisted we visit her room and collect the assignment I'd missed.

She laughed at me. She called me a worry-wort. I'd say her assessment was spot on. forward a couple decades, plus a wee bit, and fretting is still one of my major past times.

What am I worried about now?

The CSA, of course.

Week 16 of the 2011 Season
We're done growing for the 2011 season and now is the time to review our performance. The member surveys are rolling in and they are refreshingly candid, which I honestly appreciate, but my thin skin is definitely showing as I read some of them.

Here is what I tell myself before I dive into the more critical assessments:

1. I know that no CSA season is ever going to be perfect.
2. Regardless of how much we prepared ourselves (College, Internships, Getting to know our land for a few seasons) I knew there would be a big learning curve when we began growing on a larger scale.
3. CSA farming is community farming. Part of our job is to find members that fit well in our CSA community. I know we'll have a few years of relatively high turnover as we find those people that want to support the work we are doing. It takes time.
4. We asked for feedback so that we could find out how to make our business better. A better CSA will be the end result.
5. Finally, and thrillingly, most of the feedback has been positive. We already have many members who are excited to support us as our farm grows.

Most of the criticisms focused on areas that we knew were a problem (we really didn't plant enough big slicer tomatoes this year...especially considering it was one of the only seasons we may ever see here with weather that was perfect for them!) and we already have many changes in mind for next season.

More details about the changes are soon to come, but I'll say now they include a swap table to allow members to leave veggies they don't want and pick up other discards and an additional pick-up location in the Keweenaw.

I've said it before, but it still holds true. The hardest thing for me about farm life is waiting an entire year before I can start again. There is so much to do better next year, and I want to stop fretting over it and start getting it done.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Week 18 - The 2011 Season Ends with Acorn Squash

Wow. The last CSA distribution of the season. I'm feeling a little misty eyed. And more than a little exhausted.

2011 was our third year as CSA farmers. It was also our "jump" year. We made the plunge into full time farmer life and, while it certainly wasn't perfect, overall we think it was a success. Hopefully our members agree.

One of my favorite images of the season. I was taking photos of Scott getting
ready for the frost when Seda ran up to me with these baby carrots she had
pulled saying "Seda harvest. Picture! Picture!"
We had our successes (watermelons!) and failures (pole beans!) and, as with every year, we learned more and came up with more new ideas than we can hope to put into practice next year (though we're already itching to implement them). Thank you members for coming along for the ride with us. We really couldn't do this without you.

For our final distribution of the season members will receive Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Acorn Squash, Parsley, Kale/Chard, Clover Sprouts, and a selection of Herbs.

Honey Bear acorn squash just after harvest, curing in the early fall sun.
There are many ways to cook acorn squash, and there is certainly nothing wrong with simply halving them, scooping out the seeds and baking them with a little butter and cinnamon. But if you want to make them the centerpiece of a meal, try stuffing them as in the recipe below.

Lentil Stuffed Acorn Squash

If you don't have mace on hand try nutmeg or allspice. 

  • 2 acorn squash
  • 1 cup dry brown lentils
  • 3 cups water or stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (or less, to taste), minced
  • 1 small sweet potato, chopped into 1/4 inch dice 
  • 3 apples, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2 a bunch kale or chard, chopped finely
  • a pinch of mace
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Remove stems and halve the acorn squash. Bake them, cut side up, in a 350 degree oven until the are tender, approximately 45 minutes. 

While the squash is baking, prepare the stuffing. Combine the lentils, water or stock, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium sauce pan. Bring the lentils to a simmer and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are tender, approximately 30 minutes. If necessary add more liquid as the lentils cook. If there is remaining liquid when the lentils are tender, drain it.

While the lentils are cooking, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium/low heat. Add the garlic and stir until the garlic is golden. Add the sweet potato and stir to coat with oil. Cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the apples and kale or chard to the pan and stir. Season with mace (just a pinch, the flavor can be overpowering in large quantities) and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally for another five minutes or until the apples and sweet potatoes are tender.

Combine the apples and sweet potatoes with the cooked lentils.

When the squash is tender, scoop out the seeds and spoon the lentil filling into the cavities of the squash. If you have leftover filling, combine it with seasoned brown rice and eat it along with the stuffed squash.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Week 17 - Apples, Apples, Sweet Potatoes

There is much to say about this share, even though its bulk is made up by the gloriously familiar apple.

This week's share includes: Apples, Chard or Kale, Sweet Potatoes, Mustard Sprouts, and Gourds. You probably all know this, but don't eat the gourds, just admire them. They taste yucky.

The sweet potatoes were grown in the hoophouse. They are shaped more interestingly than those at the store and also, because they're freshly harvested, they're starchier. You can save them at room temperature for a few weeks to let them sweeten up or eat them now. They're tasty already, they just get sweeter with time. Don't worry if there is a broken end on one of your potatoes. Sweet potatoes "heal" so they can be stored even if they are broken. Just be sure to scrub off the dirt well before eating them, but not before storing them.
This one sweet potato is over a pound. So far our record is a three pounder.
We're stretching them over two weeks so that all the half share members will have the opportunity to eat some Upper Peninsula grown sweet potatoes (not something you see every day!), which means that while full share members will get about 2.5 pounds of sweet potatoes all together you won't them all at once. If you full share folks want to make a large dish with your sweet potatoes you might want to wait until next week and combine them.

But the true star of this week is the apples. Everyone is receiving a can-able quantity and, with the area's rich mining (and hard cider drinking) heritage, it's not unlikely that some members already have some apples of their own to contend with.

Some of our apples have scab, a fungus that does not affect eating quality
(at this level - sometimes it's severe enough to affect the texture),
just appearance. We do not treat it because we see no reason to spray
fungicides to treat a disease that doesn't hurt our fruit. We do minimize it
the best we can.
Our apples were likely planted sometime in the 1920's, when the house was originally built. We have two varieties that produce well, and we have no real way to determine what kind they are. We think that one of them (the one members will mainly receive) is Duchess of Oldengurg, based on input from neighbors and online descriptions of the fruit. They are a bit tart, but also spicy, juicy, and sweet. I love to eat them fresh but some may find them too tart. They are excellent cooking apples.

So, how should you cook them?

Eight Great Things to do with APPLES
  1. Sauce them. I use a food mill when I make apple sauce. I halve the apples but do not peel or core them. Simmer them in a heavy bottomed pot with about an inch of water (just so they don't burn) until they are completely soft, run them through the food mill, and can in quart sized jars (which require 20 minutes in a boiling water bath). If you don't have a food mill you can peel and core before simmering and then just mash them if they don't soften completely through cooking. Whatever method you use, you can add whatever sweeteners or flavorings you like as well. I like my applesauce plain.
  2. Make Apple Sauce Pie. If you find yourself with a few jars of applesauce on the shelf in mid January try making a pie with some. Combine three cups apple sauce, one and a half cups cream (or evaporated milk), four eggs, 2/3 cup sugar (if using unsweetened sauce), 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour it into a pie shell and bake at 425 for 15 minutes, and then at 350 until it's set (45 minutes to an hour). It's basically a pumpkin pie with apples instead of pumpkin and, as far as I know, I invented it (probably others have made it - but sometimes I like to pretend I am a genius).
  3. Make Apple Cake. I made an apple cake for Seda's birthday this year (with sungold tomato frosting - which was way better than it sounds) and she loved it. Your family will too. The internet is crawling with apple cake recipes and I actually forget which one I used. Be adventurous and try one!
  4. Caramelize them. Those of you that (wisely) eschew corn syrup should move on to the next idea. Those that occasionally indulge read on. Melt caramel cubes in a crock pot with a little bit of water (otherwise it gets all lumpy). If you are planning to do this with your kids keep in mind that it takes a while for the caramels to melt (about an hour on high in my crock pot) so prepare them for a wait. Once the caramel is smooth, dip in apples that have popsicle sticks stuck in them. Allow excess caramel to drip off and roll the apples in something good like peanuts, coconut, sprinkles, or crushed cookies. I especially like coconut. Have waxed paper on hand to set them on. They'll stick to whatever they touch!
  5. Saute them. Chop them into bite sized pieces (one apple per person plus an extra "for the pot") and saute them in olive oil or butter, depending on what you're going for. If you want something sweet add a bit of sugar or honey, some cinnamon or nutmeg, and a little vanilla. If you want something savory add some black pepper and garlic, chopped kale or chard, and a little balsamic vinegar or grate some cheddar cheese over them when they're done (which is whenever they're as soft as you like them). 
  6. Make Campfire Apples. Make a fire and let it burn to coals. Core apples, place each on a square of tinfoil and fill the middles with a little butter, rolled oats, sugar/honey, and dried fruit. Wrap up the apples in the tin foil and place them in the coals. Let them cook until they are completely tender.  
  7. Apples, Potatoes, and Sausage. To serve four people brown a pound of your favorite kind of sausages (I like to use sweet Italian for this - the fennel goes great with the apples) in a medium frying pan. Slice the sausage into 1 inch pieces, return it to the pan, then add 4 apples (chopped into bite sized pieces) and two large potatoes (sliced thinly) to the pan. Add a little olive oil if there isn't enough fat in the pan to keep the apples and potatoes from sticking. Saute until the sausage is fully cooked and the apples and potatoes are tender. This is great with homemade sauerkraut.
  8. Bake them with Sweet Potatoes. Core four apples. Slice them about 1/4 inch thick. Slice a pound of sweet potatoes 1/4 thick. Layer these slices so they are just overlapping in a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and freshly ground nutmeg. Add a tiny bit of apple juice or water (to just barely moisten). Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 until tender, about 45 minutes.
WHEW! I hope you all enjoy your apples!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Week 16 - Tomatillos from the Hoophouse

This week we are cleaning up the last fruits in the hoophouse. That means everyone will get a last hurrah of tomatoes. Eat them quick because they are starting to split on the vines out there. Members will also receive a bag of tomatillos this week. It's time for a big batch of salsa verde or, for those interested in another canning project, pickled tomatillos (recipe below).

Pickled tomatillos, pictured snug in their jar, make an awesome addition to quesadillas,
burritos, roast meats, and fish all winter long.
For week 16 members will receive Spaghetti Squash, Carrots, Apples, Fenugreek Sprouts, and Kale or Chard along with their Tomatoes, and Tomatillos.

We've let the last of the tomatoes ripen up in the hoophouse.
As you can see, the plants are done now. Eat your tomatoes
up fast because they are ready to burst!
Tomatillos will keep for a week or so on the counter. Use them in salsas, stews,
or sauces. They also make fantastic chili. Or try them out in the pickle recipe below.
Pickled Tomatillos

Last year we were overrun with tomatillos from the hoophouse very late in the season. I had to figure out what to do with them before they rotted. The favorite solution turned out to be these pickles, based on a recipe from Linda Ziedrich's Joy of Pickling. If you are itching to can something, give these a go. They're simple to put together and oh so welcome when the summer garden is covered in snow.

This recipe makes about a quart of pickles. It works best canned in 1/2 pint (1 cup) or 1 pint (2 cup) jars
  • 1 Pound Tomatillos (amount in share), husked, washed, and halved or quartered.
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons pickling salt (or sea salt - just make sure it doesn't have an anti-caking agent)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
The following ingredients are per jar of pickles:
  • 1 clove garlic, slivered
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
Pack the tomatillos into two prepared pint or four prepared half pint jars (prepare jars by washing them and drying them in a 200 degree oven, or sterilizing in some other manner) leaving a half inch head space. Add one clove of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 10 peppercorns to each jar.

Bring the vinegar, water, salt and sugar to a simmer. Stir until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Pour the liquid over the tomatillos, separating it evenly between the jars. If the tomatillos are not quite covered add an equal amount of vinegar and water to cover them.

Cap the jars with two piece canning lids, be sure not to close the rings to tightly. Boil for ten minutes in a boiling water bath. Let sit for one month before eating so that the flavors (especially the oregano) have a chance to mellow and combine. The pickles will keep for at least a year, or a month in the refrigerator once opened.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Week 15 - The Worst Halloween Treat Ever

The week 15 share is bursting with fall. Members will receive Spaghetti Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Apples, Kale, and Kohlrabi or Carrots.

The Kohlrabi has been in cold storage since earlier in the season. It looks a little strange at this point, and, like many vegetables in storage, has started to grow a tiny bit of fuzz on the peel. No matter the outsides, the insides are every bit as good as they were two months ago. We had sauteed kohlrabi with olive oil and garlic with breakfast this morning just to be sure.

The Spaghetti Squash is finally cured and ready to go! See below for a spaghetti
squash recipe that Scott proclaimed "the only meal he ever wants to eat again".
Apple sauce, apple crisp, sauteed apples, apple cake, apple butter,
apple pickles, baked apples, apple pie...
Brussels sprouts! Don't boil them, roast them. Mmm...they
still won't make a good Halloween treat.
I have heard it said that Brussels sprouts are the devil. That simply is not true. It's just that some people choose to cook them in devilish ways, with slightly evil results. If you are sure you hate Brussels sprouts please give them one more try by roasting them with plenty of garlic some apple if you have a sweet tooth. It's fast, easy, and delicious. Combine 3/4 lb Brussels sprouts with 2-4 cloves (depending on your taste) of garlic, slivered, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and one apple (optional) chopped into 1/2 inch pieces. Arrange the sprouts in a single layer on a baking dish or cookie sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes (or until they are just beginning to brown) stirring every five minutes. Everyone will love them, unless they have the option of gorging on candy instead. I know this from experience.

Last Halloween I was running late for trick or treating at my Sister-in-Law's house and Seda hadn't eaten lunch yet. I was making a batch of garlic roasted Brussels sprouts for lunch and, since we were in a hurry, I just pulled them out of the oven and took them to the festivities. I tried to share, but not one single cousin would try them. Seda and I ended up eating the whole bowl full. They're good, but apparently they can't compete with pumpkin shaped peanut butter cups. Maybe if I had played up their devilish qualities.

Spaghetti Squash with Two Sauces

You may recall my promise to share Scott's favorite dinner with you when the spaghetti squash was ready. Here it is. It has a few more steps then the recipes I usually include in the share description, but the results are worth the effort.

  • One large spaghetti squash
Tomato Sauce
  • 1 lb ground beef or lamb
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 14 - 16 ounces tomato puree (home canned or store bought)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
White Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Cut the spaghetti squash into quarters, place on a baking sheet cut side up, and bake at 375 degrees until tender (approximately 45 minutes). 

While the squash is baking, make the tomato sauce. In an oven safe saute pan (I use a 12 inch cast iron skillet) brown the ground beef with the onion, pepper, salt, garlic, and dried oregano. When the meet is cooked and the onions are soft add the tomato puree, thyme, and red wine vinegar. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.

While the tomato sauce is simmering, prepare the white sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium/low heat. Add the flour, stir to make a smooth paste. Continue stirring constantly (a rubber spatula or wooden spoon works well for this) until the flour is golden and smells nutty. Continuing to stir (a set of helper hands comes in handy at this point) pour the milk in very slowly. Stir as it is added to keep the sauce as smooth as possible, and be careful of hot splatters. When all the milk is added, add the salt and nutmeg. Continue stirring as you bring the sauce to a very light simmer, remove from the heat when the sauce has reached the consistency of heavy cream.

When the spaghetti squash is tender remove and discard the seeds, then remove the flesh from the peel (use forks if you don't want to wait for it to cool). Turn the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Arrange the spaghetti squash in a single layer on top of the tomato sauce. Pour the white sauce over the top of the squash.

Place the saute pan with the tomato sauce, spaghetti squash, and white sauce in a 400 degree oven. Bake for 15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes turn the broiler on and broil just until the white sauce turns golden.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Frost

We had our first frost the night of September 15th this year. Right on schedule.

We had much to do to prepare for it.

First we harvested and harvested everything we didn't want to freeze out. Including watermelons :) which are going out as bonus items in the shares. Winter squash will start going out in week 15, after they have had the chance to properly cure and sweeten up. Gourds will go out in October.

Then we covered the tender crops with Agribon, the same material we use to cover brassicas for flea beetle control. Note Seda's snow pants. It was really cold that evening.

We made sure they were tucked in good.

Then we crossed our fingers. The next morning came with many survivors. Everything we covered made it. The uncovered tender crops didn't completely die, but they didn't look so good come morning.

Week 14 - Green Tomato Relish Pictorial

Now that we have had a freeze (see freeze prep photo post here), it is officially fall. Scott says that we shouldn't dare give out any more summer squash or zucchini (does everyone have a loaf of zucchini bread in the freezer yet?) but you're getting them at least one more time.

This week's share includes carrots, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers/summer squash, 2 lbs green cherry tomatoes, onions, parsley, two apples, and one jalapeno.

In honor of fall, everyone is receiving the ingredients to make a small batch of green tomato relish, which explains the last five items in the share list. 

The ingredients in the shares makes slightly more than four half-pints
of relish.
I don't get a lot of time to can in the height of harvest, and most of our cucumbers and ripe tomatoes go to the members anyway, so I preserve the items that we have in abundance once the season slows. Thankfully, that allows me to make all the green tomato relish I want. It's sweet, sour, and pleasantly spicy. Perfect with cheese, lunch meat, or hot dogs. I want a lot of it.

I understand that not everyone is up for canning, so before I get to the relish how to I'm going to offer another option.

Fried Green (Cherry) Tomatoes

Fried stuff is good. Especially when it's garden fresh stuff coated with egg wash and a layer of corn meal crunch. Generally I fry sliced green tomatoes by first dredging in flour, then egg wash, then seasoned corn meal, then pan frying in canola or peanut oil. I wanted to include my recipe because fried green tomatoes need to be enjoyed in the Yoop, but the shares have green cherry tomatoes. This is my solution. 
  • 2 cups green cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 cup corn meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • canola or peanut oil for frying
  1. Halve the cherry tomatoes and place them in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Toss tomatoes with the flour, coating as evenly as possible.
  3. Lightly beat the egg and milk together, then toss the tomatoes with the egg mixture.
  4. Combine corn meal, salt, black pepper, and paprika.
  5. Add the corn meal mixture to the tomatoes and toss, again coating as evenly as possible. It will be a bit slippery and lumpy. That is okay.
  6. Cover the bottom of a 12 inch frying pan with about an 1/8 of an inch of oil and heat it over medium high heat.
  7. When the oil is hot enough to make a drop of water sizzle (test with just a drop - otherwise you risk a burn) pour the tomato mixture in the pan like a giant pancake.
  8. When the bottom is set and turning golden, flip the "pancake". It will break apart, just try to flip all the pieces.
  9. Cook until the second side is set and golden. Remove from heat.
I snapped this photo just after the flip so you would know what you were going for.
Sorry my stove is a bit of a mess, note the recipe notebook in the background.
And onto the relish.

Green Tomato Relish

If you taste the relish right after cooking you may think it doesn't live up to my praise, don't worry. It needs a month on the shelf before it is perfect. If you want to eat it before then you will just have to settle for really good.
  • 2 pounds green tomatoes (cherry or otherwise)
  • 2 small or one medium onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper (or none if you despise heat)
  • 10 stems parsley, tough lower stem removed
  • 2 tart, firm fleshed apples
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick 
  • 10 whole allspice berries
  • 20 whole black peppercorns

Place the tomatoes, onion, parsley, and jalapeno into the bowl of a food processor. It chops much better if you put the parsley and jalapeno on the bottom, but I wanted you to see how the parsley is trimmed. Use all tender portions of the stem along with the leaves.

Chop until it looks like this. It only takes a few seconds. You want some texture left in it. Once chopped, transfer the mixture to a sauce pot that will hold all of the ingredients with room for simmering.

Chop the apples into small pieces.

Add them to the pan along with the sugar, vinegar, and spices. There's no need for a spice bag because the allspice and pepper are left in for canning and the cinnamon is easy to fish out.

Bring to a boil and simmer until the apples are soft, 30 - 45 minutes. Ladle the hot relish into clean half pint jars (you should need four with about a half a cup left over) leaving a half inch head space. Top with two piece canning lids and tighten the rings "fingertip tight".

Boil for ten minutes in a boiling water bath (AKA an old stockpot with enough water to cover the jars by at least one inch). There is less risk of breaking a jar if you use new jars, do not close your lids too tightly, and bring the water to a boil with the jars in it, rather than adding jars to already boiling water.

The relish will keep for at least a year on the shelf. Remember it is best after it has sat for at least one month.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First Freeze and Pickled Beets

We know it's coming. We're even pretty sure when it will hit. Nevertheless, the first frost is always a let down.

This week's share, which includes two pints of cherry tomatoes, summer squash/zucchini, cucumber, chard or kale, sorrel, potatoes, and a pickle-able quantity of beets and small onions, may be the last of the summertime produce. In fact, the Saturday shareholders may find that they are already seeing fall items this week.

We will use every trick up our sleeves to hold off the inevitable. So, who knows? Maybe there will be sungolds for next week's share too.

If not, everyone can join us as we begin our tour of the flavors of fall.

Scott harvested the first sweet potato today. As I type he is cooking it in a curry with eggplant, onion, tofu, and Thai basil. It looks like it should be a good harvest (at least the bed he checked looked very promising). Expect locally grown sweet potatoes in a share to come.

Seda, spearing curried sweet potatoes with her characteristic
dinner time intensity.

But, as always, I am focusing on things to come instead of the share at hand - and this week's share is worth focusing on.

First, the yukons are done, so we're giving out purple potatoes this week! Purple majesty potatoes to be exact. They are awesome boiled and mashed, with or without the skins, and doctored up with a bit of butter and/or flax seed oil (we prefer the combination), sea salt, and pepper. Apparently they contain massive quantities of antibiotics too, all the better!

They are also very good in potato salad. The other day I had an intense potato salad craving but not a lot of time. I chopped the potatoes into bite sized pieces, boiled them in salted water until they were fork tender and made a dressing using about 3/4 of a cup of mayonnaise, a generous squirt of flax seed oil, and one large clove of garlic, crushed. I combined the dressing with the potatoes - which were still warm, a chopped cucumber, and a finely chopped kale leaf. It was the world's simplest potato salad and seriously good. The flax seed oil gave the mayonnaise a nutty richness but I think it was the freshness of the potatoes that made it really great.

The thing that I am really excited about this week is the beets. I know the members already got a ton of beets this season and may not be feeling too excited about them but this week is different. We put together enough beets and onions for everyone to make a small (three pint) batch of pickled beets.

Many of you probably have experience pickling already, but we figured this small quantity would be a good start for those of you that haven't ever pickled. If you don't want to worry about canning, it is also a good quantity for a batch of refrigerator pickles.

If you just hate pickled beets, try making borscht instead. The options for borscht making are endless. If you want to go for borscht, start with the beets, add a good stock, and get creative. Here's the borscht wiki to get your juices flowing

Pickled Beets

This is our favorite recipe for pickled beets. It is very sweet and a little unusual with the slight citrus flavor of coriander. After we eat a jar, we love the leftover pickling liquid as a base for salad dressings.  This recipe is written for the quantity of beets and onions in the shares this week, and should make about three pints (6 cups) of pickles. Also, I know the pickling will require some extreme onion peeling. Try blanching the onions first, the peels should slip off after that.
  • 2 pints beets (the amount in the share)
  • 1 pint pearl onions (again, the amount in the share)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 3/4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seed per jar
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black mustard seed per jar
  1. Peel onions, carefully wash beets but do not peel them. Slice any particularly large beets or onions in half.
  2. Combine 2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, 1 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Meanwhile add 2 teaspoons whole coriander seed and 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed to each of three sterilized pint jars (sterilize jars by boiling for ten minutes). Pack the onions evenly between the jars, then pack the jars with the beets.
  4. Pour the hot pickling liquid over the beets, cap with two piece canning lids, take care not to over tighten the rings, and boil in a boiling water canner* for twenty minutes. This is an unusually long time to boil pint sized jars for canning, but the beets were not cooked before going into the canner so this is when they become tender.
  5. If you do not want to can the pickles, simply boil the beets and onions in the pickling liquid with 6 teaspoons coriander and 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed for about 20 minutes before putting the whole works in the refrigerator in a covered, non-reactive container.
  6. The beets will keep for a year canned, a month in the refrigerator.
* If you are not familiar with the term, a boiling water canner is a large pot full of enough boiling water to cover your jars by at least one inch.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Week 12 - A chill settles over the farm...

The week 12 share includes potatoes, tomatoes, summer squash and/or zucchini, cucumbers, fennel, onions, garlic, kale, parsley, Brussels sprouts tops.

The first week of September means many things.

Zucchini grow huge in the blink of an eye.
The first frost could come tonight, or a month from now. (Please wait for the melons
to ripen.)
The gourds are this close to awesome.
And it's time to top the Brussels sprouts.
Brussels sprouts are basically side shoots growing along the long stalk of a tiny head of cabbage. It's one of those tiny heads that you see in the picture above. If we chop the "cabbage" off the stalk toward the end of the growing season it encourages larger sprouts to form. We only have so much use for tiny, lose leaf, cabbage heads, so we decided to add them to your shares this week. They have a nice spicy cabbage flavor, though they are a bit tougher than cabbage. Use them as you would kale.

Actually this week you are receiving kale as well, making this the perfect week to make Caldo Verde, a Portuguese soup with kale, potatoes, and sausage. Try either of the recipes described here, using a combination of the Brussels sprout tops and kale for the greens. Each share contains a pound and a half of potatoes, which should be just right for the soup recipe.

It has turned into winter food weather, at least tonight. It could warm up again before the week is through. I wanted to experiment with the fennel before we added it to the shares, and came up with a dish that turned out perfect for the chilly evening.

Pork with Cherry Tomato Glaze, Fennel, and Potatoes

First, a note on the fennel in your shares. They are small and tender - really just babies yet. We planted some old seed late on a whim so they had no hope of growing to full size. Prepare them by separating the stalks as you would celery and roughly chopping the entire thing, up to and including the fronds. The cherry tomato glaze is my homage to the time honored tradition of pork chops cooked in ketchup and Coke. Though I think my mom always cooked hers in plain ketchup.

  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (about a third of the share), halved
  • 1 onion, diced very small 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pork chop per person
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (or more as needed)
  • 1 pound potatoes (more if serving several people)
  • The fennel from your share (equal to one medium fennel bulb)
  • 1/2 cup water + more as needed
  • salt and pepper
  1. Combine the cherry tomatoes, diced onion, sugar, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside to allow the tomatoes to release their juice.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium/high heat in a frying pan large enough to hold all of the pork chops.
  3. Place the pork chops in the pan, sprinkle each side with a pinch of salt and pepper. Brown on both sides.
  4. When the pork chops are browned, turn the heat to medium/low and spoon the cherry tomato mixture evenly over the pork. Be sure to get all of the liquid from the bowl into the pan.
  5. Cook, stirring and turning the contents of the pan frequently, until the tomatoes are very soft and the pork is cooked to your liking, about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your pork chops.
  6. As the pork is cooking, prepare the fennel as described above, reserving some of the fronds for garnish, and slice the potatoes about 1/8 of an inch thick.
  7. Position the pork on a serving dish, spoon the tomatoes over the top of the pork, be sure to get all of the sauce out of the pan. Place the pork someplace to keep warm.
  8. Turn the heat back up to medium/high and add 1/2 cup water to the frying pan. Stir with a spatula to loosen any browned bits of pork or sauce from the bottom of the pan.
  9. Add the potatoes and fennel to the pan.
  10. Cook, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are tender. Add water as needed to prevent the potatoes from becoming dry and sticking to the pan.
  11. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Surround the pork on the serving dish with the potatoes and fennel and serve together, garnished with some fresh minced fennel fronds.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Week 11 - Mouse Melons!

For week 11 members can expect to receive tomatoes (mainly cherries, the slicers in the hoophouse are petering out), zucchini and/or summer squash, eggplants/peppers/tomatillos, potatoes, onions, garlic, parsley, cucumbers, and chard or kale.

So, if you've been paying attention you've probably figured this out already, but I really like to grow vegetables that are new to me. I love finding something I've never heard of in a seed catalog, getting a pack of seed in the mail, and experimenting. I love it even more when the experiment goes well. 

Mexican Sour Gherkins AKA Mouse Melons. I'm kinda thinking that everything
should be called Mouse Melon.
One of this season's successful experiments is the Mexican Sour Gherkin. They look like tiny watermelons and taste like lemony cucumbers, though they are neither watermelons nor cucumbers (or lemons for that matter). They are in the same family as melons and cukes, but they're their own thing. And, even though they have Mexican in their name, they seem to like it in the U.P.

They are producing quite well for us, the quantity we've harvested from our little test patch is pretty impressive. We weren't expecting to have enough to include in shares this year.

Also, they're delightful. Seda loves them. I told her they were baby cucumbers and she sang a lullaby to every one she picked until she realized she could eat them. At that point they started leaving the bucket faster than I could put them in it and her energies had to be...redirected. Potato harvest with Dad went much better. 

We are considering the Mexican sour gherkins to be cucumbers for the purpose of the shares and some members will probably receive regular old cucumbers this week rather than the little guys. They should keep going until frost though, so hopefully we will be able to give everyone a taste of them.

Mid-season is ruled by garden standards like zucchini, tomatoes, and potatoes (and thankfully so), so it's nice to be able to add something unusual to the shares this time of year. However, members might be wondering what to do with them. There isn't a ton per share, so they may get munched before finding their way to a recipe, but if you want to get creative try the following quick pickle.

Summer Refrigerator Pickle

This recipe can be changed to fit the vegetables you have. If you don't have Mexican Sour Gherkins substitute half of a salad cucumber or one pickling cucumber, diced like the zucchini. Or leave out cucumbers altogether and just use more zucchini.
  • 1 mounded cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large handful Mexican Sour Gherkins (about 25)
  • 1 small zucchini or summer squashed, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic (or more to taste), minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Approximately 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  1. Slice the cherry tomatoes and Mexican sour gherkins in half.
  2. Combine all of the vegetables, sugar, salt, mustard seed, and pepper in a one quart non reactive bowl. Stir very well.
  3. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables have released a lot of liquid.
  4. Add the vinegar and stir well. 3/4 cup was the perfect amount for me, but use however much vinegar you need to just barely cover your vegetables. Adjust the seasonings as needed.
  5. Refrigerate the pickles for at least a half hour before eating them. 

Summer Refrigerator Pickles, ready to go into the fridge.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Week 10 CSA - Another Season Shift is Heading Our Way

The week 10 share will include Tomatoes, Eggplant or Peppers (a few shares may have tomatillos instead), Carrots, Zucchini/Summer Squash, Cucumbers or Wax Beans, Onions, Sorrel, Mint, Basil, and Escarole.

Sounds like summer is in full swing for us, no?

Before I get into what can be done with this week's share, I want to say a few things (or actually I want to show a few things) about some of the fall items that are on their way for the members.

We have winter squash:

Spaghetti Squash. A good size but still ivory. By frost it will have
ripened to a pale yellow. The recipe I will share when these are ready
is Scott's favorite dish I make.
The spaghetties are pretty abundant.
Emerald Bush Buttercup. These are not quite as prolific as the spaghetties, but
we have a few very nice fruits coming on.
Honey Bear Acorn Squash. These small acorn squash are, again, not quite as
productive as the spaghetties, but it looks like we'll have at least one for everybody.
We've also been experimenting with melons this year, and it appears that we may be successful. We're trying two small short season melon varieties, gold flower water melons, and jenny lind muskmelons. We planted only a few of each because we were not sure how they would come out. They have been doing so well that we hope to have a half a melon for each member this year - though we may be being overly optimistic. Even if they don't end up in the shares this year, you can be sure we will plant enough for the shares next year.
A couple of our gold flowers. Full size (just over a foot long) but not quite ripe yet.
One of our jenny linds, just starting to net up. We cannot wait to taste a
ripe one.
Now, back from the future vegetables to talk about this week's share.

Escarole may be new to some of you.

Escarole in the field this evening, awaiting tomorrow's harvest...
It looks lettuce-y, so don't be fooled. It's another bitter Italian green. Though it can be used in a salad (if you want to go that route, try something similar to the radicchio and raspberry salad I posted a few weeks ago - the sorrel would be a nice addition as well) it is most often eaten braised. It can be used in place of the radicchio in the eggplant recipe posted for the week eight share, braised in a more traditional Italian way, as in this recipe, or, my favorite, braised with apples as in this recipe.

Though sorrel isn't new to you, this is the first week we have included it in the shares without any lettuce and we know that many of you used the early season sorrel mainly as a salad ingredient.

Sorrel, without the rest of the salad...
For those of you that are not sure what to do with sorrel when there isn't any lettuce to pair it with I am including an extremely simple sorrel recipe that Scott came up with several years ago. It showcases the flavor of sorrel a bit better than the mac and cheese recipe I posted in the first share while still only requiring a small quantity of leaves.

Chicken with Sorrel Mint Sauce

This is a recipe we make pretty frequently, especially in the early summer, but it's also a recipe that we have never really written down. The ingredients are few and the method is simple so I am going to give you a skeleton set of instructions. Let me know if you need any clarification.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • handful of sorrel, stems removed and leaves chopped finely
  • handful of mint, stems removed and leaves chopped finely
  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium high heat.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste over both sides of the chicken.
  3. Add the chicken to the frying pan and brown on both sides.
  4. Turn the heat to low, add the sorrel and mint to the chicken.
  5. Stir the greens with the oil and pan juices until it is moist.
  6. Cover the pan. Cook, stirring the greens frequently, until the sorrel has softened to a sauce-like consistency and the chicken is cooked through.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Week 9 Share, Scraggly Craggy Root Vegetables

So, I'm late getting the blog post up this week and the share is already inspiring a few questions.

Questions like "What are these little white turnip things?".

Those are turnips. Little ones. Sorry.

This week's share includes tomatoes, summer squash or wax beans or cucumbers, new potatoes, chard, beets, eggplant or peppers, herbs, onions, and turnips.

The turnips are a salad turnip variety that didn't grow as they have in the past. Perhaps it's the new garden soil (some other strange stuff is happening in the bed next to them too). Perhaps it's the weird weather this year (of course, the weather is always weird). Perhaps it's some problem we haven't considered. Whatever the reason, we know one thing for sure - we're going to have to baby our turnips next year.

We decided to share them with you because they are still nutty and good - even though they're small and ugly - and we put together a recipe that combines them with the other root vegetables in the share and makes a nice meal out of them.

So, peel them well. Chop the few big ones that we managed to harvest (you may have a slightly big one, you may not). Combine away and you'll have the beginning of something appetizing.

Turnips, chioggia beets, and new potatoes. The little just to the left of
center is a turnip. This is the first step of the recipe below.

The potatoes, on the other hand, are supposed to be little. We're including a little over a half a pound of mountain rose or purple majesty potatoes specifically because the turnips are not as nice as we would like them to be. Both varieties of potatoes are pretty small when mature, but these are not quite mature new potatoes so they are even smaller. Between the turnips and potatoes it's our hope that members can make something delicious. Future weeks will bring larger quantities and larger varieties of potatoes.

So, now that I have explained the not so great stuff, check out all the sungolds!

The sungolds outside of the hoophouse are really starting to produce.

And we have these ladies to thank:

Bumble bee pollinating a sungold in the field.
Tomatoes are pollinated through a process called sonication, which means that the bees have to vibrate their wings at a certain frequency to release the pollen. It is truly awesome to harvest tomatoes, surrounded by a chorus of buzzing bees as they stop to sing a low note on each blossom, ensuring more tomatoes to come.

And now, the promised recipe. 

Meatballs, Root Vegetables, and Potatoes

This can, and should, be served with some kind of noodle. I used a box of whole grain rotini pasta because that's what I had on hand. It gave the dish a bit of a hamburger helper feel and kept my (almost) two year old entertained. I like to cook meatballs with vegetables this way because it flavors both the meatballs and the vegetables and it keeps the meatballs moist as they cook.
  • One bunch beets, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound new potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch pieces or left whole if very small
  • turnips from the share, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch pieces or left whole if very small
  • Two medium onions
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 6-8 sprigs thyme or rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste (I used 10 grinds)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  1. Chop one of the onions into 3/4 inch pieces and combine it with the root vegetables. Set these aside.
  2. Dice the other onion very finely.
  3. Remove the woody stem from the thyme or rosemary and mince half the leafy portion. Chop the other half roughly.
  4. Combine the ground beef, diced onion, minced herb, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Get a large frying pan heating over medium/high heat with the olive oil.
  6. Thoroughly mix the ground beef mixture, making sure the onion is well incorporated into the meat. This is best done by hand.
  7. Form walnut sized meatballs and drop them into the heating frying pan.
  8. Turn the meatballs so that they brown evenly.
  9. When the meatballs are just barely brown on all sides, add the root vegetables and roughly chopped herb to the pan.
  10. Turn the heat to simmer, make sure all of the vegetables are in contact with the bottom of the pan, and cover the pan.
  11. Allow to cook, covered, for about 30 minutes or until the root vegetables are tender enough to pierce with a fork. Stir 2 or 3 times as it cooks.
  12. If you are planning to serve this with noodles or pasta, combine the noodles with the meatballs in the frying pan if there is space. That way the noodles will be coated with the juices from the meat and vegetables. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Don't Fear the Eggplant

The week 8 share includes: Tomatoes, Eggplants or Peppers, Basil, Lettuce, Onions, Cucumbers and/or Summer Squash, Parsley, Kale, Beets, and Radicchio.

The hoophouse vegetables are on in full force this week, which means lots of tomatoes for the members.

One of our Ontonagon members will be receiving these in their
share tomorrow.
And, lots of eggplant. People have strong opinions about eggplant. I myself LOVE it (I know I say that about almost everything we grow, but remember that I am the one who puts together the seed order, so it follows that I would be fond of what gets planted.) so much that I go out of my way to find imperfections in the eggplant we harvest so that I can put it in our fridge instead of sell it.

Seriously, I harvested about 35 eggplants today (it was our small harvest day) and I wanted to keep them all.

I left this little guy on the plant for Saturday harvest.
But I know that not everyone feels this way about eggplant. A lot of members are wary of them. I think that  the wariness might be a result of poor quality grocery store eggplant - it just doesn't compare to garden grown.

So, I came up with a really simple one dish dinner that showcases the eggplant in this week's share. It can be adjusted to the whims of the cook in infinite ways (add some beets or summer squash, use basil instead of parsley) or cooked exactly as written. I included the radicchio in the recipe as well, for those of you who are not into bitter salad greens. Cooked radicchio is still bitter, but the bitterness is less intense. 

One Dish Eggplant Dinner

Those of you who are not meat eaters can omit the meat, add 2 T olive oil and a 14 ounce can of garbanzo beans. Begin the recipe by cooking the eggplant, spices, and olive oil together, add the drained beans with the tomatoes and radicchio. Cinnamon may seem like a strange choice here, but it is commonly included in savory Greek and Middle Eastern dishes and it really enhances the flavor of eggplant. 
  • 1 lb ground lamb, beef, or turkey (I used lamb) + one tablespoon olive oil if the meat is very lean
  • 2 small onions, cut into eighths
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 small eggplants or one medium eggplant, sliced into quarter inch rounds and chopped into bite sized pieces 
  • 1 large or two small slicer tomatoes, chopped into rough 1/2 inch cubes (or any combination of tomatoes from the share to make about a cup of chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 head radicchio, quartered and sliced
  • 5-6 stems of parsley, finely chopped
  1. Brown the meat, onions, garlic, and spices in a large saute pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is very tender but not falling apart, about 15 minutes.
  3. When the eggplant is soft, stir in the tomatoes, radicchio, and parsley. Continue stirring until the tomatoes are soft, but not mushy, and the radicchio is wilted, 3 - 5 minutes.
  4. Serve with plain brown rice or pilaf.
The purple eggplant and radicchio quickly fade to brown as they cook,
so I'm afraid the finished dish isn't very photogenic. Ugly food
can still be tasty food.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Edible Flowers of Wintergreen Farm

I am a big fan of the edible flower. When I like to eat something I always want other people to try it too, so we are sharing some of the edible flowers we have growing at the farm with our CSA members. I know eating flowers isn't for everyone, but hopefully members will try them, and even enjoy them as much as I do.

Bachelor's Button
This gorgeous flower, which comes in shades of pink as well as blue, doesn't really have much flavor. It should be used as a garnish or added to a salad to preserve it's fresh beauty.

Calendula, or Pot Marigold
This flower has a rich, slightly resinous flavor. Generally only the petals are eaten. They are traditionally used to garnish carrot dishes. I really like them in fritters and they are also good in salads.


Onion flowers are very pungent. They taste, not surprisingly, like onions. If you like raw onions, you will enjoy the flowers raw as well. Add them to salads like scallions. Otherwise, use them cooked as you would onions, keeping in mind that they only need a very light cooking.

This is my first year growing safflower (yes, it is the source of safflower oil) and they have only just started blooming so I have not experimented with eating them much yet. I have nibbled them and can say that they have a surprisingly nutty flavor. The green portions are tough and a little bitter, but the base of the flower and the petals are very good to eat. I think they would do well in a fritter or a salad.

Wild Carrot, or Queen Anne's Lace
These lacy white flowers are, or course, weeds. Or volunteers if you would like to be more sensitive about it. Weed or not, they're putting on quite a show this year and have a pleasant carroty flavor. They don't really hold up well to cooking, but can easily be added to salads or salad dressings. They can also be included in hot dishes that have carrots (or would benefit from some carrot flavor) as long as they are added at the end of cooking, as you would add fresh basil.