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.

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