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.

The Week 7 CSA Share, It's Garlic Time

We spent the morning in pursuit of garlic, and were rewarded with a lovely harvest.

The potato onions are taking center stage here, but there is actually a lot of
garlic. On the left is the softneck we grow, to the right is the hardneck.
Some of you may remember the post I wrote way back in October about the planting of this garlic (and the potato onions). If you haven't seen it, click here to learn more about the birth of this particular batch of garlic. You will see Seda played the same role in the planting as she did today, in the harvest.

Garlic harvest with potato onion flowers in the foreground.
Those droopy brown stalks you see are the garlic, they need to
die back before harvest.
We have decided to stop growing the softneck variety because our long cold winters stress it out. Many of the cloves we plant don't survive until spring and those that do show signs of stress.

Bulbils (small garlic bulblets) have formed near the base of this garlic stalk.
This is an indication that our softneck garlic is stressed.
Therefore, we're going to include only the softneck garlic in our CSA shares this year and replant all of our hardneck. That translates to a nice quantity of softneck garlic for our members this year, and, what should be, an awesome harvest of hardneck garlic for next year's members.

The garlic that will be in the shares next week is green, or uncured, garlic. That means that members should use it up quickly or hang it up in a dry area with good air flow and no direct sunlight to store it. We plan to cure the remaining garlic so that it will be easier to store.

So, what's in the week seven share besides garlic? Members have plenty to look forward to. This week's share includes Tomatoes/Eggplants/Peppers, Lettuce, Radicchio, Kohlrabi, Chard, Scallions, Sorrel, Beets or Salad Turnips, and, of course, some garlic.

My guess is a few of you still have last week's kohlrabi in the fridge. They can be a little intimidating, especially the colossal Kossack variety that has been in the shares lately. If you are at a loss as to how to prepare it, try a curry. I just made one for dinner tonight out of some of our kohlrabi rejects (even ugly vegetables deserve to be served) and it could not have been simpler. 

The ingredients included Kohlrabi, Potato, Beets, and Onion, you can add other root vegetables (carrots, turnips...use the vegetables in quantities of your choosing), water, a fourteen ounce can of coconut milk, and green Thai Kitchen curry paste (this is a prepared item that can be found in the Asian section of the grocery store). I hadn't planned ahead at all so I didn't have the coconut milk or the curry on hand, but I was actually able to find them at the Pat's Foods in Ontonagon, so I know that they are easy to find.

First, I got some rice cooking. Then, I peeled the kohlrabi and diced all of the vegetables into more or less half inch cubes (except the beets and onions, which I sliced thinly). I placed the vegetables in a wide but shallow saucepan and added enough water to come about half way up the vegetables. I let them simmer, uncovered, until they were tender (not mushy) then drained the small amount of water that was left in the pan. Then I stirred in the whole can of coconut milk and added curry paste to taste. I made sure everything was heated through and that was it. We ate it over rice and it was awesome.

You may also be curious about the bag of edible flowers in your share. They were inspired by a row of uncooperative onions that decided to bolt on us, making lovely pungent flowers but no delicious bulbs (don't worry, we still have lots of other onions on the way), and the extreme abundance of wild carrot flowers this year, so that is the bulk of what is in there. We are also including a few other edible flowers that we have planted around the farm this year. The mix can be added to a salad (keep in mind those onion flowers are mega onion-y), used as garnish for soups or casseroles, added to the end of a stir fry, or mixed into a basic unsweetened pancake batter to make flower fritters. If you think of them as fresh herbs it may be easier to figure out how to use them. If you would like to know more about the individual flowers in your share, check here.

Finally, the radicchio may be new to some of you. It is a shockingly bitter Italian green (which is actually burgundy) that can be used cooked or in salads. Cooking does take the edge off of the bitter flavor, if you want to go that route I suggest this recipe, but a well prepared radicchio salad is truly exquisite. You just need to know how to compliment the bitter flavor. You need other assertive flavors and heavy dressing that can stand up to the radicchio. Try combining radicchio with lettuce, pears, pecans, and a high quality blue cheese dressing.

Or, try the following recipe.

Radicchio Salad with Raspberries and Creamy Lime Dressing

If you don't have raspberries try substituting another sweet/tart fruit in their place. Even apple will work well here. You can also use yogurt in place of the heavy cream, if you would like a lower fat version of the dressing. You may need to increase the honey in that case though. This recipe makes a large salad, you can use less greens and berries if you want a smaller version.
  • 1 head lettuce
  • 2 heads radicchio
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • the juice of one lime
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • pinch of salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Wash and tear or chop the lettuce and radicchio into bite sized pieces. Make sure they are dry, then toss them together in a large salad bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the raspberries on top of the salad greens.
  3. Whip the cream just until it is slightly thickened.
  4. Combine the lime juice and honey, stirring until the honey has dissolved into the juice. 
  5. Fold the juice into the cream, add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve the salad with the dressing on the side to keep the greens fresh until they are eaten.