Monday, July 30, 2012

Week 7: Broccoli and other Flowers

I'm getting the Week 7 post out without an original recipe because we had a bit of fun this weekend. My Mom is in town, camping with a friend who she has been close with since the mid 50's! We've been picking blueberries at Gierke Blueberry Farm in Chassell and toasting marshmallows (and also beets and rutabaga - we ARE vegetable farmers) over the camp fire.

We also made it to the Ontonagon County Fair yesterday, which was a blast as always. This year they had a train of sorts made of barrels, pulled by a small tractor. Seda had the opportunity to ride it, more or less making her year.

This is the actual definition of adorable, right?
Don't worry though, we've had time to put together a great share for you this week as well. Among other things, the earlier broccoli variety is starting to come on, and the radicchio has headed up nicely. This week members can expect: Broccoli, Radicchio, Beet Greens, Head Lettuce, Basil, Onions, Kale, A Cucumber or Summer Squash (they're just starting to come in quantities big enough for the shares), Edible Flowers/Herbs, and Tomatoes/Peppers/Eggplant/Etc. from the hoophouse and field.

The beet greens are thinnings from our field beet planting, which will be sizing up in the next few weeks. You'll see a few baby beets attached to your greens. Separate them or cook them all together as you wish. The greens can be used as you used the braising mix from the earlier shares, their flavor is like extra intense chard. If you need some ideas for cooking them, check out this list of 5 recipes that include beet greens.

Radicchio is another bitter green, it always seems to be more popular than the chicory and escarole. I'm not sure if that is because radicchio is slightly more tender than escarole, or simply due to the fact that radicchio is one of the most beautiful greens in existence.

A green in name only: Lovely cream and wine colored radicchio heads.
Radicchio is used as a salad green. Toss it with the head lettuce, some basil leaves and edible flowers. Add some parmesan cheese shavings and dress with a balsamic vinaigrette.

It can also be cooked, as in this eggplant recipe I posted at radicchio time last year or substituted in for escarole in the bitter greens recipe I posted for week five this year.  

This year's edible flowers include: Calendula, Bachelor's Buttons, Dianthus, Queen Anne's Lace, and a few Onion flowers. This week members can choose the flowers or herbs such as thyme, oregano, lemon balm, or mint. Hopefully the flowers will go strong for a few weeks so everyone can get a taste of them. 

The lovely blue bachelor's button is my favorite to look at, but
the weedy, carrot flavored, Queen Anne's Lace is my
favorite to eat.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week 6: Pesto!

Hot and dry, again. No big surprise there.

But it has got me thinking. The weather has been "strange" ever since we started farming here, with no two years really looking the same. One of the first years we were here we experienced a July that barely broke out of the 50's. When we compare that to this July all we can do is scratch our heads.

A steamy scene, some volunteer cosmos, from last years planting,
amid the Brussels sprouts.
Can we ever expect to see standard Upper Peninsula weather (whatever that is)? We try to plan for every extreme. Which means something fails every year. This year it's the fava beans. They would much prefer it was in the 50's (though they could handle mid seventies) and in this heat they have turned to crispy brown sticks rather than bean plants. That year of the cold July, however, we didn't get more than ten ripe tomatoes out of the field. I just ate the first ripe field tomato today. So I guess it balances out.

What is really on my mind though is climate change. I know I'm not the only one wondering if this is it. Maybe all bets are off. Maybe the weather is going to continue to behave in this unpredictable manner for the rest of my farming career. This makes me wonder (as I sit at my laptop and listen to the walk-in cooler whirring away in the basement) how much I have contributed to (or mitigated) this possible change. I am a CSA farmer. Eating locally is tops on the carbon footprint reducing to-do list and I like to think I make that possible for many people in my community. But does it really make a difference? I wish that I could know for sure.

Heavy ponderings for a share description ;)

Which is to say, this week members can expect the following mix of cool weather and heat loving vegetables: Chard, Cauliflower or Kohlrabi, Salad Turnips, Leaf Lettuce, Basil, Cilantro, Garlic, Bunching Onions, Snow Peas, and Tomatoes/Peppers/Eggplant OR Ground Cherries.

We are beginning the harvest of a different kind of Kohlrabi this week.

It is called gigante and it is pretty much gigantic. Like, the size of a baby's head. It is meant to be a 130 day crop, which would put them ready to harvest in the fall. But, as we've seen in the cauliflower, some plants are maturing well ahead of schedule. Rather than let them go to waste, we are going to take the ready specimens now. We're not really sure if the others will continue maturing throughout the season or grow the long haul.

They are a bit different than the purple kohlibri kohlrabi of the earlier shares. Expect tough skin with a bit of woodiness that needs to be peeled away. The inner flesh should not be woody, please let us know if it is. The gigante we have eaten have been fine grained and nutty, with more rutabaga leanings than the kohlibri have. In short, exactly as we'd hoped they would be. We tried a different big kohlrabi last year (called kossack) that was supposed to stay tender when large but found it to be a bit woody. We'd like your feedback on this one so we know if we should stick with it.

If you're not sure what to do with a giant kohlrabi you can try this very basic recipe or use it in any dish that calls for root vegetables. I used some in a chicken pot pie the other day with excellent results.

The basil is coming on strong now.

Basil, basil, basil!!!
The plan is to give everyone about sixteen stems of basil, enough for a generous batch of pesto (see the recipe below) or several batches of this recipe for basil syrup. If you make basil syrup, please use it to make lemonade. It's luscious.

The cilantro is just starting to come on. We are crossing our fingers that if we keep it cut back and watered it will hold until the field tomatoes come on. We'll do out best. But those of you who want guaranteed cilantro come salsa time may want to freeze some to be one the safe side. I've actually never done this, but the first method in the link looks promising for salsa cilantro.


This is a very traditional pesto recipe. Note that basil oxidizes (turns an unattractive brown color) rapidly. If you want a lovely green pesto add a few sprigs of fresh parsley, which doesn't oxidize. Some people like to add salt to pesto, but I find the cheese brings enough salt to the recipe. You should taste this for salt at the end and add it if you think it's necessary. This recipe yielded a scant two cups for me.
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • Six cloves of garlic
  • 2.5 ounces Parmesan cheese, cut into small chunks.
  • Basil from the share, stripped from the large central stems (smaller stems are fine). For me this was about three cups of basil.
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
Combine the pine nuts, garlic, and cheese in the small bowl of a food processor. Process until the nuts, garlic, and cheese are very finely chopped.

Add the basil, in batches in necessary, and process until a thick chunky puree is formed.

Drizzle in the olive oil, or add it a quarter cup at a time, processing until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Taste for salt.

To store the pesto place it in a jar with a thin layer of olive oil on the surface to reduce oxidation. It can be refrigerated or frozen for longer term storage.

Or just eat it up right away, lovely shades of brown and all.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Week 5: Hot, Dry Weather and recipes for Bitter Greens

I hope you are all enjoying this beautiful lake weather, because it is causing us to chase our tails a little as we try to keep the plants happy.

This is not the farm. This is a lovely view
of Fuller Lake from our canoe.
Things are still holding, but we could use a day or two of gentle rain every now and then. Please. As we barrel through July that becomes less and less likely.

But really I can't complain. Some drought stricken CSAs in Wisconsin have been forced to cancel distribution during this dry spell. I hope they have understanding members who are willing to help them survive through the challenging weather. That must be very difficult for everyone involved. It also puts my anxieties over last week's stressed cauliflower into perspective.

This week is another mix of vegetables that love the heat, and those that wish it was cooler. The shares will include: Kale or Chard; Snow Peas; Radishes; Baby Pac Choi; Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatillos, OR Ground Cherries; Arugula; Mustard; Sorrel or Parsley; Scallions; Della Catalogna Lettuce or Escarole; and Salad Turnips.

We are finishing up the harvest of Della Catalogna this week and starting on the escarole. Both are bitter, sturdy greens that can be used in a salad, if you're into that sort of thing (and I know many people are not - if you are, scroll down to the bottom of this post from last year for a salad recipe that features bitter greens, swap in escarole or lettuce for the radicchio), but also do well as cooked greens. Escarole soup with sausage and white beans is a traditional Italian dish. This soup recipe looks simple and delicious. The Della Catalogna lettuce, which is an Italian heirloom lettuce, would work fine in place of the escarole. For those that aren't up for soup on an 80 degree day, below you can find a quick one dish recipe with similar flavors that won't heat up your kitchen as much as the soup.

Della Catalogna Lettuce to the left and Escarole on the right.

Salad Turnips are new to the shares this week. They are definitely not bitter, nor are they much like the rutabaga type turnips members received in last week's share. Scott describes them as "radishes injected with cream" and I think that is pretty much spot on. As you might guess from the name, they are meant to be chopped up and added to a salad.

Because you are receiving both salad turnips and radishes plus a generous amount of arugula and mustard this week, I suggest a spicy salad featuring chopped radishes and turnips briefly marinated in lemon juice, honey, and oil, salted to taste, with a little grated ginger or fancy mustard for flavor, served with several handfuls of mustard and arugula and a finely sliced scallion or two.

Sausage with Italian Bitter Greens
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves (more or less to taste) garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, green and white portions sliced thinly
  • 2 potatoes, 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1/2 bunch (approximately 6 stems) flat leaf parsley, stems and leaves chopped finely
  • 1 Head escarole or Della Catalogna lettuce, cleaned thoroughly and roughly chopped into bite sized pieces.
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the garlic, scallions, and potatoes. Stir until the potatoes are covered with oil and the onion greens are wilted. 

Add the sausages to the pan, making sure they are flat against the bottom of the pan rather than on top of  the potatoes. Brown on all sides.

Remove the sausages from the pan and slice them into bite sized pieces. Add the parsley to the pan, stir to combine with the potato and onions. Return the sausage to the pan.

Cook, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are tender and the sausage is fully cooked.

Stir in the chopped escarole or lettuce. Stir until the greens are heated through and lightly wilted. The center ribs should remain crisp.

Taste for salt. Generally when I cook with sausage I don't find that I need any additional salt.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 4: The Vegetables are Here

A lovely foggy morning in the field.
Last week one of our members asked "So, is it pretty much just greens again this week? No vegetables yet?" He is a lovely man, and we're sure the question was posed with the purest of intentions. But, I still feel the need to mention that kale, lettuce, and arugula *are* vegetables. Yummy and nutritious vegetables at that.

But I'm guessing most CSA members know that :)

I am curious to know though whether any of you might have an idea as to what this is about:

Our chard, which is generally a no fuss crop, is suffering from something
unpleasant this year.
We wanted to include chard in the shares this week, but it all looks like the plant pictured above. We've never seen anything like this. Have you? Our theories include virus and heat damage, though I don't really think the heat would do this. Research led me to a virus that only strikes beets and chard growing in arid regions of the country (our weather hasn't been that strange this season, right?) and aphids. The damage seems to fit the description of aphid damage, but I haven't seen a single aphid out there...hmm. Always something to learn in this line of work.

Happily, there are several items that look great for the share this week. Greens and vegetables. This week  members can expect to receive: Lettuce, Bunching Onions, Spicy Salad Mix (Arugula and Mustard), Parsley or Sorrel, Baby Pac Choi, Radishes, Snow Peas, Root Vegetable Combo (turnips, carrots, and beets or kohlrabi), Cauliflower, and A Hoophouse Treat. 

Though the weather has tempered for now, the cauliflower, which prefers cooler weather, began heading when it was still very hot out and the heads do show signs of stress. They are smaller than we would like and have a bit of a purplish tinge to them. I recommend using them cooked rather than raw (they would work very well in the curry recipe below if that strikes your fancy) because some of them have an extra strong cabbage flavor due to stress. Cooking will help to reduce that.

Things are starting to trickle out of the hoophouse in small quantities, so there is a wide selection of potential hoophouse treats. Members will be able to choose between tomatoes, eggplant, purple sweet peppers, jalapenos, tomatillos, and ground cherries.

A smattering of potential hoophouse treats.

The items in the photo that look like tiny tomatillos are the ground cherries, also called cape gooseberries. Other than a few plants in a tiny vegetable garden my parents let me grow many years ago, this is the first time Scott or I has grown ground cherries, so we are still learning the ropes with them. My guess is they are new to most of you too. Ground cherries are members of the tomato family that are used as fruits, rather than vegetables. They taste like a cross between tomatillos (which they are very closely related to) and pineapples (which, I hope you already realized, they are not even slightly related to). They can be made into pies, jams, and dried to use like raisins. However, the most anyone will get this week is one pint of them, so my guess is all the ground cherries going out will be munched upon plain, or possibly sprinkled on top of a salad.

I have to admit it is a little difficult to tell if they are ripe. The idea is that the ripe ones fall off the plant, so I pick up the fruits on the ground - most of those are golden and delicious. Many fruits fall off the plants at the slightest touch - most of those are golden and delicious too. Some of the fruits in both of those categories are still a bit green though. I find these green fruits are still pretty good, they just taste a lot like tomatillos and nothing at all like pineapple.

Root Vegetable Curry

The medley of root vegetables you are receiving this week may seem more fit for the fall. We planted them early in the hoophouse where they enjoyed the "cold" spring weather (there were a few stretches of proper weather) and then appreciated the heat - as long as we made sure they had plenty of water. Though they are traditional soup and stew ingredients, soups and stews are not really fitting this time of year. I think this mild curry is just the thing. Serve it over rice.

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced, or the bunching onions from your share 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 jalapeno (or more or less to taste) cut into thin rounds
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds root vegetables (carrots, kohlrabi, turnips, and beets in whatever combination you choose), peeled as needed and diced into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
  • Water
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste

Melt the butter over medium/low heat in a medium saucepan.

Add the diced onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeno (if using), and curry powder. Stir well to coat with butter. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and just beginning to turn translucent.

Add the root vegetables to the saucepan, stir well to coat with butter and seasonings.

Pour the coconut milk into the saucepan. Fill the coconut milk can about half full with water (which should be about 6 or 7 ounces of water). Stir the tablespoon of tomato paste into the water until it is evenly combined. Add the water and tomato paste to the saucepan and stir well.

Turn the heat up and bring the curry just to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender, approximately 20 minutes.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Week 3: The First Tastes of Summer

It looks like we may get a break from this dry heat towards the end of the week. Phew!

The vegetables are responding well to the weather for the most part, thanks to the miracle of rotating sprinklers.

Irrigating in the peas among cover crop stubble earlier this spring. The process
is pretty much the same this time of year, except the plants are much bigger.
One crop that is doing particularly well for us this week, despite conventional wisdom's assertion that it shouldn't stand up to the heat, is head lettuce.

Members (and market customers) will have their choice between two excellent varieties of lettuce, prizehead and della catalogna radichetta.

Prizehead, a loose headed, relatively mild, and richly colored lettuce.

Della catalogna radichetta, an Italian heirloom lettuce with
sturdy leaves and lots of flavor.

In addition to lovely lettuce, this week's share will contain: Kale, Braising Mix, Spicy Salad Mix (arugula and mustard), Radishes, Kohlrabi, Sorrel or Parsley, Baby Pac Choi, Jalapenos, Bunching Onions, and Basil.

There won't be a lot of basil in the shares this week, just a taste (the first taste of summer!). We'll be pinching the tops off of our basil plants this week, both sweet and Thai, to encourage the plants to fill out and produce better so that later season shares will see more basil. 

Lots of little top sprigs like this one add up to just enough basil for everyone
to have a little.

You'll probably notice a bit of grit on your basil (more than you find on most of our other produce). That's because we won't be cleaning the basil at all. If basil gets wet before it goes into the cooler it will quickly turn limp and black. For that reason we recommend that you don't wash it off until just before you plan to use it.

The jalapenos, unlike the basil, could be doled out in massive quantities, far exceeding the needs of all but our spiciest members.  

One of about 50 similarly laden jalapeno plants in the hoophouse.
Because we know that not everyone likes jalapenos, we will not be forcing a flood of them upon you. The plan is to harvest them on the light side and offer them as an option with everyone allowed to take none to three peppers. If anyone knows now that they will want more than that let us know and we will take that into account during harvest.

The bunching onions are simply baby storage onions, something we actually never thought to harvest until Eva at Northwinds Co-op requested them. I'm glad she clued us in, because they're a very versatile vegetable. The small bulbs can be used like any cooking onion and the green tops can be used like scallions. They're handy to have around, as you'll see if you try out the recipe below.

Sesame Noodles with Basil and Onion

This dish is light enough to enjoy in the most oppressive heat and features the lovely summer flavors found in this week's share. It works equally well with sweet and Thai basil. It makes about four servings.
  • Approximately 8 ounces of dry rice noodles (I used half a 16 ounce package of extra wide noodles)
  • 3 Tablespoons plus 1/2 Tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar, or other sweetener of your choosing
  • Jalapeno peppers, minced, to taste (optional)
  • 1 large handful of greens of your choosing (braising mix, mustard/arugula, or kale would all work well) chopped into bite sized pieces
  •  6 large eggs
  • 1-2 spring onions, greens and bulbs chopped finely
  • 1 handful (about three sprigs) basil, cut into ribbons
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, remove from heat, add rice noodles and soak until the noodles are tender. My noodles take about 10 minutes of soaking but this will vary by noodle size and brand.

Combine the 3 tablespoons of peanut oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and optional jalapeno in a small bowl. Stir very well so that the ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Poor this sauce over the rice noodles immediately after draining to prevent them from sticking. Toss the noodles to coat them with sauce and set them aside.

Heat the remaining half tablespoon peanut oil in a frying pan over medium/high heat. Scramble together the chopped greens and eggs. Cook them in the peanut oil, forming large dry curds of scrambled egg.

Combine the sauce covered noodles, eggs, onion, and basil.