Monday, July 25, 2011

The Week Six Share, A New Kind of Kohlrabi and a Pac Choi recipe

I love this little apple tree by our big garden. It's a volunteer, but it looks
like it was pruned by an expert.
We're another week into the CSA season, and more things are ripening in the gardens and hoophouse. Actually, week six marks the 1/3 point. Not that I am counting down, I'm just amazed by how quickly the season is passing.

Already we know we want to make some changes for next year. We'll probably be reworking the harvest schedule to try to cut from three harvest days down to two. Three harvest days is a rough schedule for us. We are also hoping to offer at least one work share membership next year. Last, we definitely want to plan member workdays in advance next year, so we have a schedule that everyone (including us) can plan around ahead of time. It's hard for us to put work days together spur of the moment, and I know it is harder for interested members to attend the workdays when they have short notice.

But enough about farm scheduling, I'm sure you're all wondering what's in the share this week. For the week six share members will receive: Kohlrabi, Head Lettuce, Scallions, Braising Mix, Pac Choi, Herbs, Chard, Fava Beans, and Something Solanaceous. 

An eggplant flower. We are lucky enough to have
several of these beauties in the hoophouse right now. 
Something Solanaceous? That just means something from the tomato family. In this case tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, or eggplant. Potatoes are also solanaceous, but they come later.

Tomatillos, on the plant.
If you are lucky enough to get a share with tomatillos, make a simple salsa verde. Chop the fruits roughly (papery husks removed), combine with freshly chopped cilantro, one clove garlic, crushed, the juice of half a lime (more or less to taste), a pinch of salt, and as much finely chopped jalapeno as you like. Serve this with chips, over black bean burritos, or with mashed avocados and rice.

Okay, now what about those fava beans? If you are not familiar with favas, they take a whole post of their own to explain. Check it out here if you haven't seen it already. You'll find pictures of how to prepare the beans for cooking and a few recipe ideas. 

Kossack Kohlrabi
The kohlrabi of this week is a different variety than the kohlrabi members received in their week one and two shares. You might notice that it is green, rather than purple, and relatively ENORMOUS. Most of the time giant kohlrabi is woody and tastes bad, but kossack kohlrabi is bred to be big. We have actually noticed that the largest of the kossacks have the best flavor and texture.

If you're wondering what to do with all of this kohlrabi, try adding it to a slaw, making au gratin kohlrabi, or eating it in the following way: Peel the kohlrabi and slice it into half inch strips, combine the kohlrabi with the juice of one lime or orange, a pinch of salt, sliced fresh herbs (basil, thai basil, parsley, and cilantro are all good), and sugar or honey to taste.

Members are receiving pac choi in their shares again this week, and more than one has told me that the pac choi is the one item they have had trouble using up. Therefore, I have decided to share my favorite pac choi recipe. It looks a little intimidating because of the long list of ingredients, but it's very simple and the results are worth the small amount of fuss required to make the sauce. If you aren't a red meat eater the recipe also works fine with chicken or tofu in place of the beef.

Beef and Pac Choi

If you do not have miso, it can be left out. Serve this with rice or Asian noodles.

·         1/4 cup soy sauce
·         1 tsp honey
·         1/2 tsp miso
·         2 cloves (or more if you like) garlic, minced
·         Dried hot pepper flakes, to taste
·         1/2 cup water
·         1 Tbs plus 2 tsp corn starch
·         One pound beef in small cubes or thin slices
·         2 tsp peanut or vegetable oil
·         One bunch of baby pac choi

1.      Combine the first six ingredients (everything through the water), stirring well to make sure that the miso is dissolved.
2.      Measure out 1/4 cup of the sauce you just created, save the rest. Add 1 Tbs cornstarch to the 1/4 cup of sauce. Stir until there are no cornstarch lumps and then pour it over the beef. Allow this to marinate, in the refrigerator, for at least 1/2 an hour.
3.      Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium/high heat. Add the beef and stir as it browns on all sides. The sauce will thicken and look sort of chunky, don't worry it becomes smooth.
4.      Once the meat has browned, turn the heat to low/medium and let it simmer until the meat is cooked. Cubes of meat will take a lot longer than thin slices. Stir this occasionally so that the sauce doesn't stick to the pan.
5.      Chop the pac choi into bite sized pieces, keeping the stems and leaves separate.
6.      Stir the remaining two teaspoons of cornstarch into the remaining sauce. Again making sure there are no lumps.
7.      When the beef is cooked to your liking, add the pac choi stems and remaining sauce. Allow this to simmer until the sauce thickens. It should only take a minute or two.
8.      Stir in the pac choi leaves. Continue stirring until they have just wilted.
9.      Serve with rice or Asian noodles.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Anatomy of a Fava Bean

No, I'm not going to mention liver and Chianti.

Sadly, Hannibal Lecter is the only exposure that many Americans have to the fava bean. Wintergreen Farm is hoping to change that.

Frolicking in the fava bean patch. 
Favas, along with peas, lentils and chickpeas, are one of the few old world legumes that are cultivated on a large scale. They are easy to grow, but can be slightly daunting to prepare. However, favas have been a staple in some cultures since ancient times, so surely you can give them a try.

In milder climates favas are planted in late fall, overwintered, and eaten in the very early spring. In the U.P. we plant them at the same time we plant the peas and generally begin harvesting them just as the pea harvest is winding down.

Which means now.

Favas in the pod.
A lot of pod comes along with the fava bean. The pods are edible, and very tasty. If you want to try the easiest fava bean recipe I have ever seen go with this grilled whole fava bean recipe and you will be happy. You can also saute favas in the pod as you would green beans.

If you'd rather things get a little more complicated, read further.

Each pod contains two to five beans, encased in a thick greenish-white skin.
Once shelled, favas can be eaten as is, either pealed of their papery skins (which have a slightly astringent taste) or not. Many Brits love these as much as Americans love fresh baby shelling peas. They can also be steamed, sauteed, or otherwise cooked with some butter/olive oil, and salt and enjoyed as a side dish. I have also heard of frying them until their skins pop, salting them, and eating them that way with beer, though admittedly I have not tried this.

A freshly peeled fava. It's easy to see why these are also
called broad beans.
After shelling and peeling, two pounds of favas in the shell can yield as little as one cup of beans. But it is one cup of sweet, buttery goodness. Peeling is easiest after a quick blanching or steaming of the beans, but can be done while the beans are still raw as well.

So, if you have gotten this far without eating all of your favas, what should you do with your lovely peeled beans?

Favas and Chard

This recipe highlights the unique flavor of the peeled fava bean. It can be eaten as is, as a side dish, or served over pasta as a light main course.
  • Two pounds fava beans, shelled and peeled
  • 4 - 5 stems Chard, sliced (both leaves and stems) into bite sized pieces
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, thyme or sage
  • several grinds of fresh pepper
  • 1/2 cup water or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or cream
  • Salt to taste
  1. Simmer the fava beans, chopped chard stems, fresh herbs, garlic, and freshly ground pepper in the water or stock until the beans begin to break up, 15 - 20 minutes.
  2. Add the milk or cream and stir until the broken up favas begin to blend with the milk.
  3. Stir in the chopped chard leaves. Continue simmering just until the chard is wilted.
  4. Add salt to taste.

The Tomatoes We Grow

Michigan's Western Upper Peninsula is a challenging place to grow tomatoes. It is not unheard of (though, thankfully, also not very common) for this area to experience freezing temperatures in July. Ick.

For that reason, a few tricks are necessary if you want to ensure a yearly supply of luscious ripe tomatoes. We grow most of ours in the hoophouse. In chilly years, when the high temperature seems to stay below seventy degrees all summer long, the hoophouse is the only place tomatoes will ripen up here. In warm years, like this one, the hoophouse offers us an extended season for growing our heat loving favorites.

We grow several different tomato varieties, including both heirlooms and hybrids. They range from standard bright red slicers, to dusky brownish-mauve cherries.

If you are only familiar with the red varieties, it can be hard to tell when a brown (or peach, or orange...) tomato is at its peak. We try very hard to offer only the most perfect specimens to our market customers and CSA members, but if you are not sure if your tomato is ready for eating, or you just want to know what you're munching on, check out the following list of tomatoes we grow for more information.

Black Prince
These relatively small slicing tomatoes ripen to a brownish red with army green shoulders. Inside, they are green, brown, red, and meltingly delicious. An heirloom variety from Irktusk Siberia, black prince tomatoes are fantastic for salads, sandwiches, and are even meaty enough to cook into a sauce.

Brown Berry
Brown berries are large cherry tomatoes with the colors of an early fall sunset. They have the same sophisticated tomato flavor of large black slicers (which are very long season varieties that take lots of heat to ripen - hard for us to grow even in the hoophouse) but they come in a convenient bite sized package. Pop them in your mouth whole, or slice them in half, drizzle with oil and vinegar, and add to a salad of greens or other tomatoes.

Cosmonaut Volkov
These are the show stopper, fire engine red, perfect for a BLT, slicer tomatoes that we grow. The one in the photograph is one of the bigger specimens, but even the small ones are substantial. Cosmonaut Volkov is a Ukrainian heirloom variety that always delivers. Expect to see this variety at Wintergreen Farm for many years to come. We will grow them until we are no longer capable of planting tomato seeds.

Garden Peach

This heirloom tomato first became available in New York in 1890. With its blushed peach skin, slight fuzz, and delicate fruity flavor, for over a century the garden peach has been billed as a novelty tomato. I think this does it a disservice as this tasty tomato deserves significant respect. It's small, but packs a lot of fabulous flavor for a salad or sandwich and it keeps well off the vine.

The story is that these little guys (the red ones in the photo, the others are garden peach) were actually bred by Heinz for processing. So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the flavor is a bit flat. This is the first year we have grown them, and we haven't reached a final verdict. They do seem to be producing a lot of nice paste tomatoes. We shall see, tell us what you think of them please.

These small, grape shaped tomatoes appear at first to be just another cherry tomato, but they are actually so much more. These very small paste tomatoes are exactly the thing that we have been searching for. A heavy yielding, short season tomato that can be used with abandon for salads, fresh sauces, canned sauces, and even drying. These ripen to a lovely orange red and beg to be experimented with. The plants are currently loaded with green fruits. We'll report further as soon as we have had the chance to try preserving some. 

Sun Cherry
These little red charmers are sweet and attractive. Sun cherries are the perfect red cherry tomato for snacking, salads, or slicing and sauteing with some herbs and green beans.

Sun Gold
The sun gold cherry tomato is one of few hybrid tomato varieties to reach household name status (at least among tomato geek households). It is also the one tomato for which I reserve the term "jewel-like", a phrase many seed catalogs like to use when describing tomato varieties. Sun golds ripen to a translucent orange hue, have a sweet, almost tropical, flavor, and are perfect for eating by the handful, enjoying in a salad, or cooking lightly. They hold their shape and texture very well when added to stir fries or sautes. They are also short season and prolific, so they are the only tomato variety we chose to plant both in and out of the hoophouse this year. As the season progresses we should be harvesting quite a few of these beauties.

Monday, July 18, 2011

HEAT! and a versatile pasta recipe to keep your kitchen cool.

How is it this hot?

Hopefully everyone is keeping cool as we toil away growing vegetables. Surely the sweat dripping off my brow is good for those pea plants :)

Thank you Mike for visiting us and snapping
some lovely photos!
(Photo courtesy Mike Berkowitz)
So what have we grown this week? Another goody from the hoophouse, summer carrots, and one of the best flavors of summer, basil, are the new comers to the share this week. For week five the members will enjoy the following: Head Lettuce, Braising Mix, Cauliflower, Carrots, Parsley, Snow Peas, Kale or Chard, Basil, and Pac Choi.

Harvest day is always rewarding. It's fun to gather the fruits of one's labor, but I am especially looking forward to harvesting the basil for the shares this week. The smell is heavenly. There is nothing I like better than the lingering perfume that follows me after I've harvested dozens of basil stems. Mmm...

The Hoophouse Basils
The basil on the left is Genovese. On the right is Thai basil, which is possibly the only thing in the world that smells better than Genovese basil. Members will receive one or the other variety this week. It won't be enough basil for a batch of pesto but it will be more than enough for the following meal, based on a recipe in Nigel Slater's "Real Fast Food". Either Thai or Genovese basil will work well in this recipe.

Pasta with Peas, Basil, and Pecans

This recipe, like many in Nigel's book, is meant to be quick, delicious and serve only two. It could easily be doubled to serve more. I wanted to share this particular recipe because it is a great basic starting point to play off of. The combination of nutty pecans, sweet snow peas, and aromatic basil is not the only one that could be paired with pasta in this way. The same technique could be used with walnuts, baby beets, and rosemary, or even pepitas, sweet potatoes, and sage (though in that case I'd opt for butter instead of olive oil).
  • 1/3 cup pecan pieces
  • Dried pasta for two, he calls for fettuccine but any pasta you like will work
  • 1 large handful snow peas, sliced into half inch pieces
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8-10 basil leaves, torn to shreds
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  1. Toast the pecan pieces in a dry pan over medium heat until they are very fragrant. It shouldn't take more than five minutes.
  2. Put a pan of water to boil for the pasta, make the pasta according to the directions on the box.
  3. In the meantime, add the olive oil, snow peas, basil, and salt and pepper to taste to the pan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the peas are tender. Again, this probably won't take more than five minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta and toss it with the pecans and peas.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Early Summer Soup with PEAS!

The fields have officially switched from spring to summer. The greens will be tapering off (they certainly won't be gone entirely - what's a CSA share without a few greens?), and the non-leafy vegetables will begin filling up the share bags. This week includes three new to 2011 non-leafy items for members to enjoy, along with lots of greens to keep things interesting.

The share includes: Head Lettuce, Salad Mix with arugula and mustard, Braising Mix, Chard, Green Onions, Snow Peas, Shelling Peas (probably, we might give the Saturday folks shell peas this week and the Tuesday/Wednesday folks shell peas next week), Cauliflower, Mint, and a Green Pepper from the hoophouse. A few of you may get a couple jalapenos, a handful of cherry tomatoes, or a Japanese eggplant if we run low on peppers.

New Ace Peppers in the Hoophouse. On July 11th.
In the Upper Peninsula. Astounding!
First, I gotta say it blows my mind that we have so many peppers ready in the same week that the peas are coming in. The peppers are coming from the plants we planted in the hoophouse on our member work day way back on May 1st. We were actually a little worried about the peppers a few weeks ago because they were kind of slow to take off, but now that they have, they are going strong. A few varieties seem to be exploding with peppers. Season extension is an amazing thing.

An Oregon Giant Snow Pea. These things really do get giant,
but they remain sweet and tender, even when they're huge! 
Second, I have to say Hooray For Peas!!! The peas went in the ground around mid May. If you remember, the spring was cold and wet this year and we had to wait a little longer than we wanted to get our seeds in the ground. Well, the peas didn't mind getting in late. They have grown like gangbusters and they're starting to come on around the same time they have in years past.

As mentioned earlier, all members will receive snow peas this week (and hopefully for the next couple of weeks) but we are not quite sure about the shelling peas. If they plump out enough by tomorrow everyone will get them this week, otherwise the Tuesday/Wednesday members will get them next week. The window of perfection is slim for those little guys and we want to make sure that no one gets teeny or mega giant shelling peas.

Cauliflower and Chard, glowing in the afternoon sun. 
My guess is that no one will have trouble figuring out how to use the new items in the share this week. I wouldn't be too surprised if many of you find your snow peas are all eaten up before you even make it home from pick up.

The only new thing that some of you may not be very familiar with is the chard, which has shown up already in its baby form in the braising mix. Chard is the same plant as the beet, bred for large greens rather than a plump root. When it is tender it can be sliced up and added to salad, but it is generally eaten cooked. Try using it similarly to the braising mix or kale you have received or, if you haven't eaten all of your snow peas yet, make a pasta salad. Slice snow peas, green onions, and chard in bite sized pieces (include the chard stems, sliced into quarter inch pieces). Marinate the vegetables in a dressing made with white wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs (thyme, mint, or basil would be good) for about a half an hour. While things are marinating, prepare a box of farfalle, rotini, or macaroni according to the directions on the box. Cool the pasta and toss it with the marinated vegetables.

If you would rather cook your chard, and feel like spending a bit more time in the kitchen, try the following soup recipe.

Early Summer Soup

This is a very light and delicate soup with no cream, or even stock to distract you from the fresh flavors of the vegetables. Paired with toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, it made a perfect dinner for the three of us (with a little soup left over) on this oppressively hot evening.
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups (or more) shelling peas, measured in the shell
  • 1 small bunch green onions (8-10 onions)
  • 4 chard leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
  1. First make a vegetable stock by simmering the following ingredients in a covered pan for about 30 minutes: water, the shells from the peas (but not the peas themselves - reserve the peas), the chopped green portions of the green onions, the chopped chard stems (but not the leaves), the pepper, and the salt.
  2. While the stock is simmering, separate the cauliflower into very small florets, slice the white portions of the green onions thinly, and slice the chard leaves into very thin strips. 
  3. When the stock has finished simmering, strain the liquid, and return it to the pan.
  4. Add the cauliflower and onions to the stock and simmer until the cauliflower is just tender, about fifteen minutes.
  5. Add the peas and chard leaves to the soup, stir for one minute.
  6. Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped mint.
  7. Taste for salt and pepper before serving.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Beets from the Hoophouse and Storing Extra Greens

The heat is on for summer and the squash, beans, and tomatoes are loving it, but we have a few more weeks to savor greens, radishes, and scallions before the summer produce takes center stage. This week's share includes: beets, green onions, leaf lettuce, pac choi, kale, radishes, braising mix, parsley, sprouts, and fresh herbs.

Scott's sister, the photographer, took some lovely photos of our farm
this holiday weekend, including this one of freshly harvested radishes.
Thank you Stacy!
We're pretty much ecstatic about our early hoophouse beets. While the beets in the field are just big enough to thin out some greens (look for them in your braising mix this week), those in the hoophouse are ready for harvest. We seeded one bed of chioggias, two of early wonder tall tops, and a few cylindrical red beets for good measure. They have put on size at different rates in the hoophouse, so some of them are still pretty small. All this means that everyone will get something a little different in the beet department this week. We hope members are as excited about them as we are.

Early wonder tall top greens above,
chioggia beets below. The chioggias are
sweet and tender. Try them raw in
a salad.
If you're not sure how to use them up you can always try this beet brownie recipe. I came up with it last fall as an answer to all those beet brownie recipes that promise to hide the flavor of beets. It has become my go to recipe when I have a few extra beets hanging around and need a way to use them up.

On another note, we understand some members may be starting to feel a little overwhelmed by greens at this point. We want to make sure that everyone gets their fill, but we know you can't always get through all of the greens in your share in one week. If you have spare greens, remember that you can preserve them for later. That way, when the urge for kale hits you in the middle of February (you know it will, you're hooked now) you can dip into your stash of dried stuff, rather than buying a $3.50 bunch from California.

If you are interested in drying some greens, here is how. Kale, beet greens, chard, and mizuna dry well. I haven't tried drying all of the greens in the braising mix yet but I think it should work. I will let you know when I try it.

If you would rather freeze your greens, that's pretty simple too. First you need to blanch them by dipping them in boiling water (place them in a strainer basket and dip that into the boiling water) just until they wilt. Then cool them quickly under running water or in a bowl of ice water. Squeeze out excess liquid, chop roughly, pack into a zip top bag, label and freeze. Kale, chard, beet greens, braising mix, arugula, and mustard all freeze very well.

Of course, if you want to eat your greens up right away you can always try the following quiche recipe. I have shared one version or another of this quiche with members every year so far and I'm sure I will continue to do so. It's fast, delicious, and a great way to eat your greens. Why wouldn't I share it?

Quiche with Braised Greens

This is a very flexible recipe. Sausage works well instead of the bacon. You can make it vegetarian by omitting the bacon and cooking the greens in some olive oil. Also, it can be made with just about any green you want, so try them all.

Preheat the oven to 425 F

For the crust:
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the filling:
  • Four slices thick cut bacon
  • One bunch green onions, sliced thinly or one small small onion, diced
  • 3/4 pound braising mix (the amount in one share), chopped roughly
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Three eggs
  • One cup milk
To make the crust:
  1. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Stir together the oil and water briskly with a fork until they have emulsified.
  3. Pour the oil and water onto the flour and stir until all the ingredients are evenly combined.
  4. Press the dough into a pie plate and refrigerate while the filling is prepared. 
To make the filling:
  1. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until it is crisp enough to crumble. Remove the bacon from the pan and set it aside to cool slightly.
  2. Add the onion to the skillet and stir until it is just soft.
  3. Add the braising mix to the skillet along with fresh ground pepper to taste.
  4. Stir the greens until they are wilted. 
  5. Add 1/2 cup water to the skillet.
  6. Cover the skillet and allow the greens to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.
  7. Stir together the milk and eggs until they are uniformly combined.
  8. When the greens are done simmering, remove them from the pan, leaving most of the liquid behind, and place them in the prepared crust.
  9. Crumble the bacon on top of the greens.
  10. Pour the milk and eggs over the greens and bacon.
  11. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 425 F. When the quiche is ready, the top will be golden brown and the center firm.