Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Week 15: The First Double Share

It's a big week this week, and not just because of the vegetables. Seda turned three over the weekend and Scott turns thirty today!

Party Time!

Also, we do have a LOT of vegetables for you. This week's share (which is technically the week 15 and the week 17 share combined - but that is a little confusing) will include: Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Sorrel or Parsley, a Selection of Fresh Herbs, 2 pounds of topped Beets, At least 3 pounds of topped Carrots, Rutabaga, Head Lettuce, 3 pounds Green Tomatoes, Spaghetti Squash, Onions, a Pumpkin or Gourds, and optional Jalapeno peppers.

Bring a strong back to pick-up this week! And maybe an extra bag.

If you're wondering how you can possibly use all these vegetables before they go bad, remember several of them are easy to store.

Brussels Sprouts: We're leaving them on the stalk because they store best this way. They are best fresh but will keep for up to a week wrapped in plastic in the fridge. We have kept them, on the stalk, for a few weeks in our unheated porch with little damage, though they taste best right after harvest. The simplest way to cook them (which also happens to be delicious) is to roast them. You can find my recipe for roasted sprouts in this post, just below the photo of Brussels sprouts.

Fresh Herbs: These can be hung to dry. Thyme, oregano, and rosemary all dry particularly well. Just make sure they are out of the sun. You can also dry them in a frost free refrigerator. Simply leave them in there, whole and uncovered, until they become crisp. I find refrigerator dried herbs have the best flavor.

Beets and Carrots: We have removed the leaves on these items so they will store longer (leaves take moisture from the roots, even in storage). Keep them in their plastic bags and store them in your crisper drawer, they will keep for at least two weeks this way. You can also pickle them. Pickyourown.org (a great online resource for canning information) has recipes for pickled beets and pickled carrots here. Scroll down to the pickling section to find them.

Rutabaga: These will also keep in your crisper drawer for at least two weeks. If space is tight they can  go on the counter for a week or so. If you aren't sure what to do with your 'bagas, try steaming or boiling them and then mashing them just like potatoes. Add butter, herbs like sage or thyme, or even a dollop of maple syrup. A few carrots will go nicely in the mash too.

Green Tomatoes: Three pounds of green tomatoes may sound like a lot, but it is just the right amount for a small batch of green tomato relish (recipe here at the bottom of the post) and some fried green tomatoes. The fried green tomato recipe can be found at the end of this post. Green tomatoes will keep on your counter for at least two weeks, ripening slightly as they sit. These tomatoes will never get fully ripe. If you want to make the relish, be sure to take a few of the optional jalapenos in the share. Green tomatoes also pickle beautifully.

Spaghetti squash just after harvest.

Spaghetti Squash: This will keep for at least a month on your counter, or much longer in a cool dark space like the closet of an unheated spare room or in a reasonably dry basement. When you are ready to cook it, the options are many. I like spaghetti squash baked, forked out, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and dried tarragon. If you want to get fancy, try the recipe at the bottom of this post. The recipe I linked to is what I'll be making Scott for his birthday dinner.

Onions: These are cured storage onions. Store them and use as you would any storage onion from the store, but expect them to taste better :)

Pumpkins just before harvest.

Pumpkins: We don't have enough pumpkins for every member to get one, so you'll have the option of either one pumpkin or three gourds. You should be able to keep your pumpkin out for decoration through Halloween with no problem, but if you want to carve it you should probably wait a few weeks because, of course, once you cut it it will not last as long. You can also paint it is Seda is demonstrating below. I haven't tried it yet, but the variety we grew is supposed to be a pretty good pie pumpkin too.

Gourds: I imagine you all know that gourds are not edible. They are pretty much the only thing that we grow that isn't. Usually I have little patience for cultivating plants that I won't be eating, but for some reason I LOVE gourds passionately. If you do too, hang on to them until they are dry and they will last more or less forever, as long as you keep them dry. Their color will fade, but their character won't.

Gourds adding flare to the acorn squash box. (Acorn squash
will go out next week.)

Fried Green Tomatoes

The ingredients to this recipe are the same as those in the green tomato post linked to above, with the fried green cherry tomato recipe, but the technique is a little better. If you've never had fried green tomatoes I STRONGLY suggest you try them. They're surprisingly easy to make, once you figure out how to get the breading to stick to the tomatoes (it took me some trial and error...), and kind of addictive.
  • Canola or Peanut oil, as needed
  • 2 pounds green tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch or thinner slices
  • Flour, as needed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 cup corn meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

In a large skillet, heat about an eighth of an inch of your chosen oil over medium heat.

Spread some flour onto a small plate.

Lightly combine the egg and milk in a small bowl.

In another small bowl combine the corn meal and seasonings.

Dip the green tomato slices in the flour, then the egg/milk mixture, then the corn meal mixture, coating thoroughly but thinly at each station.

When the oil is sizzling hot, fry the slices in batches until the breading is golden and the tomatoes are slightly soft.

Or until they look about like this. Complete with oil
splatter on the stove top.
If necessary, drain on paper towel before serving to remove excess oil. These are best when they are still nearly hot enough to burn your mouth.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Week 14: Threats of Frost and more Kohlrabi

Do you find Kohlrabi threatening? I hope not, because they are back for the fall!!!
We are growing on borrowed time right now. Nearly every year we have farmed here we've see a first frost on September 15th. This year there was a threat of frost the morning of September 15th, we actually saw a hint of it near our picnic table, but it didn't hit the vegetables. But it's coming any day now, maybe tonight...

And with the cold weather comes a shift in the shares. The summer squash, cucumbers, and eggplants are done and the cabbage family crops, starting with kohlrabi, are coming back into the spotlight. This week members can expect: Beets, Carrots, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Chard, Parsley or Sorrel, and a mix of Fresh Herbs.

This is very likely the last week of ripe tomatoes (due to that pending frost I mentioned above). We will be picking everything likely to ripen today and tomorrow to hold onto for the weekend shares. 

Tomatoes ripening on the awesome blue crushed velvet couch
that resides in our porch/vegetable ripening area.
Next week you'll probably get some green ones along with a recipe for fried green tomatoes and links to last year's green tomato relish post. 

You may get some more kohlrabi too. I know it isn't everyone's favorite. I also know that CSA farmers across the land scratch their heads over that fact. It's easy to prep, just peel and chop, and oh so very versatile. It's mild broccoli like flavor works in everything from curries to pasties. According to one member, it even works great in place of zucchini in zucchini muffins. If you still feel you need to get to know kohlrabi a little better, check out this post  from a CSA called Fair Share Farm in Missouri.

Then, if you are so inspired, you can try out the following kohlrabi recipe.

Kohlrabi Saute

This is a very simple way to turn a giant kohlrabi into a delightful side dish. 
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 1 Medium Onion, chopped
  • 1 Large Kohlrabi, diced into bite sized cubes
  • 1/2 Bunch (3-4) Carrots, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Vinegar, apple cider or white wine
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the onion and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has begun to soften.

Add the kohlrabi and carrots, stir to combine.

When the kohlrabi has begun to release some liquid, stir in the sugar, vinegar, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kohlrabi is as tender as you like. I like it to remain somewhat crisp so I usually cook for about 10 - 15 minutes. If you want it very soft you may find that lowering the heat and placing a lid over the pan improves the cooking process for you.

Everything in the pan, now it just needs to cook for a while.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Week 13: Watermelons and Green Soup

Brown watermelon tendril, a good indicator of ripeness.

It's watermelon time! We have been testing them (read: Seda has been DEVOURING not quite ripe watermelon) for about a week and a half now, and all signs finally indicate readiness.

Returning members may remember last year, when we had enough melons for every member to get half a melon. This year's harvest is slightly better, and we have enough for each member to get a whole melon this week. Unfortunately we only have enough for one week though, so group two half share members won't get any. Two weeks of watermelons is what we will strive for in 2013!

In addition to melons, members should expect: Carrots, Beets, Tomatoes, Eggplant or Peppers, Fennel or Dill, Summer Squash or Cucumbers, Lettuce or Radicchio, and Baby Kale plus Brussels Sprout Tops.

There's a few things to explain in this week's share, but first lets talk watermelons.

We grew four different varieties this year. The most prolific was the variety we grew last year, Goldflower. They are the traditional oblong watermelon shape and quite small. They are yellow fleshed. The second most prolific variety was Cream of Saskatchewan, which is also relatively small. It is round and white fleshed. Most members will receive one of these two types. If you get to pick-up early, go for the Goldflower, they are tastier!

The two remaining varieties, Blacktail Mountain and Sweet Favorite, did not produce quite as well for us. Blacktail Mountain is a round, black skinned watermelon with red flesh. Sweet Favorite is a traditional large, oblong, red fleshed watermelon. As larger melons, the Sweet Favorites have a slightly longer season than the others and they actually aren't quite ripe yet. If the frost holds off as long as it seems like it will though, we should get to taste some ripe ones.

We also have another fennel dill choice this week (Remember, we had one way back in the first share?) This time they're coming from the field rather than the hoophouse and they look a bit different. The fennel is small bulbs we planted as a fall planting. The idea was that they would get a little larger than the summer planting did before they started to bolt, thanks to cooler fall weather, but it's 82 degrees today and they are getting ready to bolt, so the fennel is dainty. Use it with fish or eggs, or in the pork and fennel recipe I posted a few weeks back.

The dill is flowering. You can use it in pickles, if you've got something you want to pickle, or as an herb in pasta salad, with baked fish, or with brie cheese in an omelet. 

Finally, the Brussels sprout tops need a bit of explaining. Brussels sprouts are basically baby cabbages that form along a long stalk. There is also a main loose cabbage head that forms at the top of the stalk. If you cut off that head, the sprouts grow a little bigger than they would if you left it on (or so "they" say), so we like to cut the head off. 

Brussels tops, ready to cut.
The result is a big pile of kale-like greens that are tasty enough for sharing. Combine them with the bunch of baby kale in your share (Yay! The kale is back!) in any recipe you like. Including the one below.

Caldo Verde

This hearty soup is velvety from potatoes, flavorful from sausage, and a delicious way to eat up kale and other other greens! As a traditional Portuguese soup it actually calls for a traditional Portuguese sausage, called linguica, which is seasoned with paprika and oregano. But this is the Yoop, I could't find any linguica and you guys probably won't be able to either (tell me if you do 'cause I'll get some). I used polish sausage and it worked nicely. 
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound potatoes, chopped
  • 6 cups stock or water
  • 1/2 pound sausage
  • 8 - 12 ounces kale and other greens (in other words, the kale and sprout tops in your share), sliced into bite sized pieces. I use stem and all, but feel free to remove the stems if you don't like extra crunch.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil over medium/low heat in a 2 quart pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are just soft and translucent.

Stir in the chopped potatoes and pour in the stock or water. Bring the stock to a simmer and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

While the potatoes are simmering, cook the sausage. Brown it and cook it through, then slice in into bite sized pieces.

When the potato is tender, puree the soup until it is smooth. Add the cooked, sliced sausage and return the soup to a simmer. Simmer for about five minutes.

Stir in the chopped greens and simmer until they are tender to your liking. I like them after about five minutes. 

Taste for salt and pepper. If your taste buds are like mine the sausage will have added enough flavor and you won't need any more of either.

Why yes, that is a WWII era US Navy soup spoon, and there is an
interesting story behind it. Thanks Grandma!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Week 12: Summer continues...

I'd like to start with an update on the potential schedule change. If there is a member reading this who has no idea what schedule change I am talking about, please shoot us an email so I can explain. 

As of this moment, we have heard from 52 out of 79 of you. 49 of you have voted yes for the change (which actually hits our 60% threshold) and 3 have voted no. No one has said "No absolutely not, I am offended by the suggestion." (or anything along those lines), but one member brought up a concern about having the time to deal with a double share before things go bad, which makes me think I didn't explain things clearly enough. 

The storage items that we will be giving out in the last few shares are things like spaghetti squash, which will keep for several weeks on the counter and months if you have a dry 50 to 60 degree place to store it,  rutabaga, which will keep for several weeks in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, and cured onions. They are items which will store without any work on your part.

All that being said, we are going to wait until after this week's distribution before we come to a final decision about the change so that members have a chance to talk to us about it in person first.

Now, I'd like to talk about this week's share, which doesn't realize it's back to school time and is once again full of summer's bounty. 

Members can expect: Carrots, Beets, Basil, Summer Squash/Zucchini, Cucumbers, Tomatoes plus Eggplant/Peppers/Tomatillos OR Ground Cherries, Potatoes or Rutabaga, and Chard.

The chard is still a little rough looking from the aphid attack, but it is also delicious so we've decided it's time to add it to the shares again. 

And, of course, there is still summer squash and zucchini coming, though it is definitely starting to slow down. Hopefully everyone has come up with wonderful ways to use it up. Here is another idea for you.

Zucchini Pizza

This is a fun and family friendly way to eat up summer squash or zucchini. For those of you with kids returning to school this week, it would make a great after school snack.
  • 2 medium or 1 large zucchini or summer squash
  • About 1/3 cup of tomato sauce or tomato slices as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 8 large basil leaves
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, preferably water packed, thickly sliced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Slice the zucchini into half inch slices. Slice small zucchini lengthwise. Larger fruits should be sliced into rounds. Arrange the slices in a single layer in a non-metal baking dish.

Spoon tomato sauce or lay tomato slices evenly over the zucchini slices. Sprinkle a pinch of oregano over each slice, reserving some for garnish if desired.

Slice basil leaves into ribbons and divide them among the zucchini slices.

Cover the zucchini with overlapping slices of mozzarella cheese.

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the zucchini is just barely tender. If desired, sprinkle with remaining oregano.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Made with tomato sauce instead of slices.