Monday, June 29, 2015

Week 3: Certified Naturally Grown

Though today is drizzly, we have had the opportunity to get a lot of seeds and starts in the ground over this past week. In fact, the drizzles are helpful. The dry bean seeds appreciate a bit more moisture :)

There is more to plant yet, so I think I'll show off the (finally!) fully planted fields in next week's post. 

This week I'm all about the Certified Naturally Grown inspection that happened at the farm last Saturday. 

The Certified Naturally Grown program has a lot in common with the Organic Certification program. It asks growers to follow identical guidelines regarding soil inputs, allowed pesticides and herbicides, etc. 

The big difference is the inspection itself, which is peer to peer or community based. No official inspector comes out to the farm for a CNG inspection, instead the inspections are performed by other CNG farmers or, as we chose to do it this year, by farm customers.

So, five Wintergreen Farm CSA members came out to the farm last Saturday to get a behind the scenes look at our growing practices.

They spent about two hours at the farm.

Much of it at this table
going over ten pages(!) of exciting CNG provided
forms like this one.
They also got to walk the entire fields at our Wintergreen Foods location.

They listened attentively as we talked about our growing methods.
Scott isn't always a talker, but if you get him going about soil
fertility, you better be ready to listen :)
They even smelled our compost! The form said to and they dutifully verified that we truly are not spreading a big pile of raw manure on our fields. 

And in the end, one of our inspector/customers wrote this:

Reads: "Andrea and Scott care a lot about doing things in a thoughtful
manner and really display a commitment to the beneficial farming
practices outlined in this checklist--it's hard to farm in the U.P. of MI,
and they are making it work!"
Which pretty much made my day.

This week's share will include: Mesclun (it's extra spicy this week, with a bit more cress than the last two shares had), Arugula, Pea Shoots, Braising Mix, Radishes (either French Breakfast or Easter Egg--there might be a couple daikon to choose from too), Pac Choi (this is a full sized variety called Joi Choi), and a choice of Fresh Herbs.

As you can see, the shares are still heavy on the leafy greens. As I've mentioned (and you've probably noticed), it's been a cool and wet June. The weather makes for challenging planting, but happy greens!   

Hopefully members are finding delicious ways to eat all the greens that have been in the shares thus far. I've come up with a simple pasta salad recipe (which would be perfect at a 4th of July picnic, you might want to double it to feed a crowd) to add to the list of excellent greens dishes I am sure everyone has been making. 

The sharp feta and sweet cranberries in this salad pair especially well with the assertive arugula and extra spicy mesclun members are getting this week.

Fourth of July CSA Pasta Salad 

  • 12 ounces pasta (I always like bowties for pasta salad) cooked according to the package directions and rinsed in cold water to chill
  • 1.5 ounces arugula (about half of what is in the share) roughly chopped
  • 2 ounces mesclun (again, half the share quantity) roughly chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil or mint
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper                                                                        
Toss together the chilled pasta, greens and herbs, cranberries, and feta.

Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Toss the dressing over the pasta and greens to coat. Serve immediately or chilled for up to 24 hours.

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Week 2: Rain Rain Go AWAY!!

Remember last week when I mentioned that it has been a challenge to get everything planted between rain showers this year?

That was something of an understatement.

Normally, our main planting push starts in early June and tapers off by the end of the month. This year, we started putting plants in the ground on time.

And everything we've put in so far looks great:

Including potatoes,

early cabbage,


and purple kohlrabi.

But right after planting season got under way, it started to rain.

And it rained.

And rained.

And continued to rain, to the point that as of today we've already gotten about 30% more rain this month to date than we normally get for the entire month of June.

It's not like we haven't seen any sunshine.

What's that bright thing behind the clouds?
It's just that the sunny spells we have seen have been brief and bookended by rain showers.

Though Scott does a masterful job of contouring the fields for good drainage, there is a certain point when there just isn't anywhere left for the water to go.

See, it's full.
Which is why Seda and the tractor got stuck in this mud hole when we tried to sneak in between raindrops and plant some things on Saturday. The field (in the background, where we planted squash into black plastic) sheds water to the edges to keep the growing space nice and fluffy, but the tractor has to turn around somewhere...

At least someone is enjoying the mud :)
We haven't reached a point of crises yet, but we are getting a bit concerned.

We have a lot of planting yet to do for the season.

Like these trays of plants, plus many many more.
So if you notice we seem extra tired at pick-up the next couple weeks, you'll know why. 

Thankfully, there is plenty of good stuff coming out of the fields for shares right now and, so long as the rain slows down and we are able to get the planting finished up in the next couple of weeks, members will see good solid shares all season long (though the timing of some items might be a little different than you're used to).

This week members can expect the following: Mesclun (salad mix), Braising mix, Radishes (a choice of french breakfast or small daikon), Spring Onions, Pea Shoots, Sorrel, Fresh Herbs, and optional Hakurei (we're still harvesting from the planting that got hit by root maggot, the next planting should be ready in two to three weeks)

Most of the items in the share should be familiar from last week's share. The big newcomer is pea shoots, which are a new item for us this year.

The pea shoots are a variety called Usui, from Kitazawa Seed. They are grown for their leafy tendrils, rather than their pods or seeds, and they're quite tasty raw or cooked.

 Because of their newness, I decided to feature the pea shoots in this week's recipe, pea shoot polenta, which is nice as a simple side dish or light lunch.

Pea Shoot Polenta

You can pair most any greens with polenta in this way, but the fresh grassy flavor of pea shoots is particularly tasty.

  • 1 cup cornmeal (small or medium grind, you don't need a special "polenta" kind)
  • 4 cups water, plus more
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon butter 
  • 1 to 1.5 ounce freshly grated Parmesans cheese
  • 1.5 - 2 cups pea shoots (the amount in the share), roughly chopped
  • 2 spring onions, sliced thinly

Bring four cups of water plus half a teaspoon salt to a boil. Bring an additional cup of water to a boil separately, you may need it later. When the four cups of water come to a boil, whisk in the cornmeal. Stir constantly for 3 or 4 minutes to break up any lumps.

Continue cooking the cornmeal at a simmer for about 40 minutes, until it has lost all of its grittiness. Stir at least every ten minutes while it is cooking. Keep a close eye on the polenta as you may need to add more water as it cooks. I usually add more water whenever I see the polenta start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Use the water that you heated up earlier for this, to keep the temperature from swinging around too much in the pan.

Once the polenta is smooth, stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted completely. 

Remove the polenta from the heat and stir in chopped pea shoots and spring onions.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Week One: Slow and Steady Starts the Season

Spring came on time this year. I have to admit, that kind of surprised us. It doesn't usually do that.

Once the snow melted, we were poised for a rapid upswing in temperatures like the spring of 2012, but that definitely didn't happen.

Instead spring has been slow this year, evenly coolish without being cold and with only occasional flashes of heat.

We've been enjoying lots of coastal weather, with fog coming in most mornings to remind us that we live just a few miles away from Lake Superior.

And turn the fields into this kind of lovliness.

Though it has been a bit of a challenge to get into the fields to plant seeds and set out transplants between rain showers, what has made it in so far has thrived in the calm spring weather.

These Chinese cabbage and cabbage starts couldn't
ask for better weather to grow in.
In other words, it has been an excellent spring for growing lots of normal spring crops, like the greens and radishes that are featured in this, the first share of the 2015 season.

This week members can expect: Mesclun, Baby Pac Choi, Daikon Radishes, Hakurei Salad Turnips, Sorrel, Kale OR Braising Mix, and a choice of Fresh Herbs.

Most of the items should be familiar to returning members, but some might be new for new members, so here is a brief tutorial:

Mesclun is salad mix, it contains leaf lettuce and other salad greens. This week's mesculn has baby kale, three kinds of mustard, and chrysanthemum in addition to the leaf lettuce.

Baby Pac Choi is a leafy green, but the stems are where it shines. They're mild and substantial, perfect for stir fries.

This week's daikon are on the small side. If you remove the greens you could trick your family into thinking they're about to bite into a white carrot. Not that I would be so tricky, these things are spicy ;) If you don't like the heat, cook them briefly as in the lo mein recipe below.

See, it looks just like a carrot. (Everyone blogs with a radish
on hand, right?)

Hakurei are the greatest thing ever. You can eat them raw in salads or cooked lightly. While they are botanically turnips, they have a radishy texture and a taste all their own. If you need some ideas on how to cook them, check out our hakurei pinterest board.

Sorrel is a sour green that can be used in salads (though I find it overpowering, which is why we don't mix it into the mesclun) or cooked. I always favor cooking it. It's great with other assertively flavored herbs and creamy cheeses. For lunch today we had an omelet with sorrel and chive blossom filling and a bit of muenster cheese. Omelet filling is one of my favorite uses for sorrel. Start by sauteing the sorrel in a little olive oil, it will almost melt as it cooks, then add your other ingredients.

In this case chive blossoms pulled off the flower heads, which
I didn't cook at all before putting in the omelet.
I think most of you are probably pretty familiar with kale.

Braising mix is a mix of greens for cooking. This week's mix includes baby collards, dandelion, mizuna (a mild spiky mustard), orach (a purple spinach relative) and the Asian greens senposai and yokatta na. Use it in any recipe that calls for any type of cooking green.

This week's herbs will mostly be chive blossoms or mint. Ask at pick-up if you need some ideas for using these up!

As always in the spring, the share includes a lot of greens. I know greens are not go to ingredients for a lot of cooks and can often be tough for members to use up. I always find myself telling members to "just throw them in stuff" like spaghetti sauce or scrambled eggs. We definitely do that this time of year. We also cook a lot of lo mein, which is a great way to eat up almost any quick cooking vegetable.

Lo Mein with Greens and Daikon

If you like the sound of this recipe but are going gluten free, you can make the same thing with rice noodles instead of the lo mein.

  • 8 oz dry lo mein noodles (lo mein is a chinese egg noodle similar to linguine, in a pinch you can substitute linguine)
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut oil (plus more for cooking)
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small (about the size of a garlic clove) knob fresh ginger, minced
  • Sriracha or other hot sauce, to taste (We just discovered a chili infused sesame oil we've been using in this recipe. Use that if you like heat and can find it!) 
  • Daikon radish (three small, as in the share, or one medium) scrubbed and chopped into bite size pieces.
  • A large handful of baby pac choi and/or braising mix, roughly chopped.
Prepare the noodles according to the package directions.

Stir together the peanut oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger, and hot sauce. It will seperate like a salad dressing, but don't worry. It will mix up on the noodles in the end.

Heat a small amount of peanut oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the daikon and cook until it is done to your likeing. I prefer it just barely heated through so that it is still crisp but loses its radishy edge (which, sadly, gives me heartburn...)

Place the roughly chopped baby pac choi/braising mix in the bottom of a large serving bowl.

When the noodles are done cooking, drain them and immediately plop them on top of the greens. Their heat will wilt the greens. Then pour the sauce over and add the cooked daikon. Stir everything together well and serve.