Monday, August 26, 2013

Week 9: All About Edible Flowers

I don't particularly like working in the garden when it is this hot and humid.

Fortunately, many of the hard working plants disagree with me.

These peppers like it hot.
So do these tomatoes.
I wonder what next week will bring...

This week's share will include: Cucumbers, Zucchini or Summer Squash, Kohlrabi or Broccoli or Mini Cabbage, Onions, Potatoes, Basil, Tomatoes etc, Endive or Radicchio, and a choice of Herbs or Edible Flowers.

I think a few members are wondering about the edible flowers. They're fun to try, but what should you actually do with them?

They're definitely more of a garnish than a meal, but there is a wide variety of ways to cook with flowers, and some are surprisingly tasty. 

For instance, a few months ago, we sprinkled salt, pepper, sliced scallions, and calendula petals on some pork chops before we grilled them.

And I swear the calendula made it taste like we'd grilled them with
fresh pineapple slices.
Notice that I said petals. Flowers vary quite a bit in taste, from resinous calendula to spicy dianthus and mild borage, but most of the sepals (aka "green bits") taste the same - icky.

So pull the petals off and leave the sepals behind.

Eat this.
Not that.
If you would like more ideas, check here: edible flower recipes.

Or you can try the following very simple recipe:

Flower "Jello"

These quantities make a very stiff "finger jello" type dessert. For a softer consistancy, use as little as half an ounce of gelatin.
  • 4 cups apple juice, separated. Or use half juice and half water.
  • 1 ounce dry powdered gelatin 
  • Edible flowers from one share (about fifty blossoms), sepals removed and composted
In a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup of the apple juice, allow to sit for at least one minute. Bring the remaining three cups of juice to a boil.

Pour the boiling juice over the juice and gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Transfer the juice and gelatin to a mold or shallow pan if desired.

Refrigerate for about a half an hour. If you add the flower petals to the boiling hot mixture they will cook and their color will fade.

After the mixture has cooled to about room temperature, stir in the flower petals.

Get your kids to help :)
The petals will float on the surface of the juice.

Go with it, it works.
Refrigerate for an additional two hours, or until the gelatin is firm. 

Unmold, or slice into squares, or just eat it with a spoon - like we did.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Week 8: Don't You have Hoop Houses?

Yes, we do have hoop houses. Two in fact.

And, as Seda likes to say - they're jungles inside.
Last year, when it was unusually hot, they were churning out jalapenos by the first week of July.

This year, when it is unusually cold, they provided us with just enough tomatoes, eggplants, and tomatilloes to split up among 75 shares last week and give each member a small taste of summer.

This kind of year is the reason we have hoop houses. We plant all the warm weather stuff in the field too, but even the shortest season varieties won't yield if the weather doesn't cooperate. When a tomato seed packet says 65 days, that means 65 *degree days* after transplanting. It doesn't include the time the seedlings were growing in the greenhouse, and it doesn't include days when the high temperature refuses to creep past 55 degrees.

Thankfully, we have had a stretch of proper degree days lately. The heat will not only speed up ripening in the hoop houses, it means we'll probably get a nice harvest out of the field before the first frost as well.

Until then, the shares will continue with just a taste of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, or ground cherries. This week the tastes will be accompanied by: Cucumbers, Summer Squash/Zucchini, Lettuce, Basil, freshly dug Potatoes, Onion, Kohlrabi or Mini-Cabbage, and a choice of Herbs or Edible Flowers.

So, what can you do with just a taste of tomatoes (etc.)?

Well, this week makes me think of ratatouille, that classic combination of zucchini, tomato, eggplant, and basil. I realize that the ratios are a bit off and there are only a few eggplant to go around. But a zucchini, tomato, and basil tart would certainly keep to the spirit of the idea. Start with this recipe and tweak as needed.

If you come home from pick-up with tomatillos, you will need to go in a different direction. My usual recommendation is to use them in guacamole. I stand by that. It's good. Try this recipe if you want to.

The lovely and delicious tomatillo.
But tomatillos have a really complex flavor and they are surprisingly versatile. This week I decided to play around with them, and came up with this salad/quick pickle recipe, which is even easier to make than guacamole.

Cucumber and Tomatillo Salad

You could also make this with tomatoes, but then you will have to come up with a different name.
  • 1 small onion, sliced thinly and rings separated
  • 2 medium cucumbers, sliced thinly
  • 6 - 8 small tomatillos (about 6 ounces), husked and diced small
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
Toss together all of the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least a half an hour. The cucumbers will release a lot of liquid while they rest. Toss again before serving.

The balsamic really brings out the fruity, tart flavors of the tomatillo. Yum.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Week 7: Burgundy Beans and Frogs

I like being a CSA farmer.

Frogs abound in my puddles. This photo shows four, if you're counting.

And, on any given day (during the growing season),
my daughter can sit and munch on fresh vegetables
to her heart's content.

Today it was burgundy beans (AKA purple podded
green beans)
This week some members will have the opportunity to munch burgundy beans too! 

We're still transitioning between peas and beans (I'm starting to think we might not actually switch all the way over to beans this year, we're supposed to have another 45 degree night tonight) so there will be a choice between snow peas, favas, and a mix of green and burgundy beans.

Along with beans or peas, members can expect: Beets, Head Lettuce, Cucumbers, Basil, Kale or Chard, Zucchini/Summer Squash or Radishes, and Sorrel or Parsley.

Before I forget, the purple beans turn green when you cook them. Eat them raw if you want full color impact.

I kind of struggled to come up with a recipe this week. If you haven't heard, we just purchased some new property on Thursday. Read about it here if you're curious. We also had friends and family in town and just general life happened.

While I have been able to keep up with a lot of things, I haven't been cooking as much as I usually do. So, the recipe this week is more of a method. I barely cooked at all and I ended up with a delicious lunch for two. It could also be the base of a more substantial meal.

Fried Basil over Noodles

I used Thai basil and rice noodles in this version. If you want to use Italian basil use olive oil instead of peanut oil, add freshly grated Parmesan cheese instead of soy sauce and rice vinegar for a salty/pungent kick, and serve it over pasta. Add any lightly cooked vegetables you want (green beans, zucchini, cauliflower...raw could even use lettuce and cucumbers and make a salad) to either version. This technique can be used to fry any herb. Sage fried in butter served over egg noodles is a classic. Whatever combination of herb and oil you use, the result will be slightly crisp flavorful herbs and fragrant oil.

  • 3 Tablespoons Peanut Oil
  • About 4 ounces dried rice noodles (or enough to serve two)
  • A handful of basil leaves (I used about half a share's worth of basil), chopped roughly
  • Soy Sauce and Rice Vinegar to taste
Heat the oil in a small, high sided pan over medium/high heat. You want the oil to get very hot without reaching its smoke point, so watch it carefully.

While the oil is heating, prepare the noodles according to the package directions.

When the oil is hot, toss the chopped basil into the pan (be careful, it will definitely splatter - this is why I said to use a high sided pan) and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Stir to make sure that all of the basil is cooked.

When the noodles are drained, chop them into bite sized pieces and toss them with the basil and oil. Drizzle on soy sauce and rice vinegar to taste.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Nope, We're Not Opening a Restaurant

We are converting this restaurant

into a produce processing facility.

We plan to offer various products, such as bagged salad mixes, frozen squash puree, dried greens, and zucchini chips, for sale to local institutions (like school cafeterias), restaurants, and grocery stores. Items will be made entirely with Upper Peninsula grown produce, some grown by us and some by other area farmers.

Playing with our new Dehydrator.
It's going to be a few months before we really have
products for sale, but drying greens is fun :) 
We'll use the existing walk in cooler to store winter vegetables such as potatoes, beets, carrots, rutabaga, celeriac and anything else we (and other area farmers) decide to grow and, as soon as practical, we plan to build more cold storage in this section of the restaurant:

I imagine there are still some head scratchers out there, people wondering just what, exactly, we are up to. The best term for the business we are undertaking here is regional food hub. That term is quite general, just as any given store will look different from the next, there isn't one specific definition of a food hub. If you would like to learn more about the concept, this USDA publication should shed some light: USDA Regional Food Hub Resource Guide.

So, I hope that answers at least some of the questions that are floating around right now. Stay tuned for more details as we get things underway!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Week 6: Good Stuff

It has been a good week.

Scott and Seda found a snake during Friday harvest.
We made some serious headway on our fall planting.
We just came inside from planting several different types of fall radishes,
gold ball turnips (my favorite!), and more. We also have about 2000
fall starts - from spinach to cauliflower - in the greenhouse.
We finally set a closing date for this place (THIS THURSDAY!!!) which
we are going to turn into a produce processing facility called
Wintergreen Foods. I promise much more on that subject soon.
And the summer crops are starting to come on strong enough
 to make their way into the shares.

This week members can expect: Cucumbers, Head Lettuce, Kale or Chard, Beet Greens (from the thinning of our summer beet planting - there might be some baby beets attached, feel free to cook them all together - click here for some recipe ideas), Spring Onions, Cauliflower or Zucchini, Peas or other Beans, and an Herb/Flower Choice.

This year's transition out of greens season is still a little tricky. The peas are starting to slow down as the favas and green beans are picking up. That's the normal progression of things, but this year it's much more drawn out than we usually see, which is why this week's share has peas or other beans. Most members will probably end up getting snow peas on Wednesday, but we really can't say what the end of the week might bring...

If you end up getting favas and find them a little perplexing, please have a look at this post from 2011, which was a bumper fava year for us.

When I have a particularly good week, it's also usually a particularly busy week, so this week's recipe is for a simple frittata. 

Whatever You Want Frittata

Frittatas are fast, flexible, and ridiculously easy. You can put any number of veggies in them, so they are a great way to use your share. The frittata in the photo has about three and a half cups of  chopped "weeds" that I pulled out of the field (mostly lamb's quarters, with a bit of purslane and amaranth thrown in as well) and a small zucchini. I also seasoned it with curry powder, but you could use a few cloves of garlic if that's more your thing. Just cook the garlic for a couple minutes in the olive oil before you add the vegetables to the pan.

  • Approximately 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 - 4 cups chopped vegetables. Items in this week's share that would work well include cauliflower/zucchini, the peas or beans, and any of the greens.
  • Salt and Other Seasonings (Maybe just black pepper or garlic, cumin, curry, jalapeno...) to taste
  • 8 Eggs

Preheat your oven's broiler.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch oven proof skillet over medium heat. Add whatever vegetables and seasonings you are using and saute them until they are cooked to your liking. This may mean adding items at different times. For my weeds and zucchini frittata I wanted the zucchini to cook a little longer than the greens so I added them about a minute before the greens.

Crack the eggs and whip them lightly. You want the yolks and whites just combined.

When the vegetables are cooked to your liking, stir them into the eggs. Add a bit more olive oil to the pan if it looks like it needs it, then pour the egg and vegetable mixture back into the pan. Allow the eggs to cook, not stirring them, until they are almost entirely set. Lift the sides up as the eggs cook to let some of the raw egg flow into the bottom of the pan and cook.

When the frittata is mostly set, with a thin layer of uncooked egg on the surface (this should be after about 8 to 10 minutes of cooking), place it under the broiler until it is completely set and the surface is slightly golden, 2 - 3 minutes.

Run a knife or fork between the pan and frittata, to help it release, then invert the frittata onto a plate and cut it into wedges for serving.

My in-oven-photo skills are somewhat lacking, but I just couldn't
resist this opportunity to share a shot of my dirty oven with the world.