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Week 1 Newsletter

June 24, 2011

 June 24th or 28th

 In your box:

  •  Arugula, mustard, and mesclun mix
  • Bok Choy
  • Garlic scapes
  • Kale, Red Russian
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries

 Welcome to our first week of produce delivery! We are so excited to be harvesting the first veggies from our garden. We are truly grateful to have you as a member this year, and we appreciate your support as we do what we love.

Nina has issued me a challenge for this season of not complaining about the weather in any newsletter. So I think I can do that—I’ll be sure to not mention the 103° day two weeks ago that burnt us and our soil to a crisp. The fact that we haven’t seen the sun in weeks doesn’t need to be talked about. Maybe the winter was bitter and long, spring cold and damp, and our “summer” non-existent thus far, but perhaps my memory is only faulty. So yes, I will attempt the impossible—become a farmer that does not complain about the weather. Wish me luck…

 Even though this spring has not been all we desired, weather-wise, we are still optimistic about this farm season. We are all caught up on seeding and the vast majority of our transplants are out in the field. Zucchini plants are all sporting flowers already, the strawberry fields are ablaze in red, little cauliflower heads are forming, and I even feel like we might have spring broccoli this year! Even in the worst of weather, the life of our garden encourages me and reminds me that all of our plants want to live. Some of them even cry out in the field, vocally begging us to let our members eat them.

 Our biggest farm project this winter/spring was to finally build a greenhouse. For the past two years, we had started all of our transplants in our basement under fluorescent lights. While this was satisfactory, it took a lot of time to carefully water down there and our basement emitted an eerie glow at night. As our farm and CSA operation have grown each year, we could no longer get by with just our basement. Due to our short growing season here in Minnesota, we have to transplant the vast majority of our crops. Everything from broccoli and cabbage to sweet corn and cucumbers get a head start and are planted as teenagers in the field. As we increased from 45 members to 60, this was clearly the year to build a greenhouse to accommodate all of the transplants we would have. After looking at different models and options, I decided to build a passive-solar greenhouse. Rather than relying on a propane-fueled heater, our greenhouse captures solar energy in “water wall bags”—1500 gallons of water that capture the sunlight. Because water holds its temperature so well, the water mass helps stabilize the temperature and successfully keeps the greenhouse from cooling too rapidly at night. Our final structure is 32 feet long, 16 feet wide, and 14 feet high. It’s still receiving a few final touches, but I’ll try to get photos up on the website soon.

 

What is this stuff?

Our first few boxes are a little heavy on obscure greens, as we wait for the colors of carrots and beets to fully bless our harvest. It is not acceptable to eat only the strawberries and compost the rest! We hope you enjoy these less common, ultra-healthy greens and try some great experiments.

 Kale is one of the healthiest green things around. We have three different varieties to try this year, starting with “Red Russian” this week. To prepare, fold the whole leaf over on itself and trim off the rigid stem/spine. Cut it into ribbons, and then lightly steam it or bake it into a casserole, lasagna, etc. It can also be prepared and chopped, lightly oiled, and then roasted plain in the oven at 400°for a few minutes until it blackens. The result is kale chips that are not for the kale purist, but a good way to use it up if your family doesn’t immediately appreciate kale.

The curly, green/white beaked snakes are Garlic Scapes. These are a backup reproductive option of garlic plants, producing seeds (very rarely, and not in most varieties) and bulbils, which are essentially miniature cloves that would achieve full garlic size in a few seasons of planting. They have much of the same taste as the cloves themselves, and can be substituted into any recipe calling for garlic. They will keep for a couple weeks in the fridge, preferably in a bag or a humidifier drawer.

 Arugula is all green, has rounded edges, and tastes like a kick in the teeth. Whenever my morning coffee is defective or slow to kick in, I’ll snack on some of these in the field and find the strength to do what needs to be done. Try these raw, mixed in a salad, or processed into pesto.

 Mustard greens are dangerous purple monsters. These have to be consumed raw to appreciate the full blast of flavor, but satisfy pickier eaters with a light steaming. The seeds of this plant are crushed to make Dijon mustard. We prefer mustard greens in pasta: chop and steam them for a couple minutes separate from the pasta, and then mix them in. They give a nice kick to macaroni & cheese and pasta alfredo, in particular.

Bok Choy is one of my early favorites from the garden, especially as it grows so fast and adds a lot of substance to meals. Your best bet with bok choy is to chop it up into small chunks (white stems and greens together) and add it to a stir-fry.

There are a few holes in your bok choy and some of the mesclun mix, which are the result of hungry flea beetles out in the field. These buggers are an eternal struggle with organic farmers. Fortunately, this year I invested in a floating row cover for sensitive crops that should help keep future bugs off of these crops.

 Coming soon: Spinach, lettuce salad mix, mizuna, tat soi

 Thanks so much to Nina’s aunt Liz, who was a great help to us around the farm last week. Come back soon!

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Gillian Gale permalink
    June 25, 2011 8:15 pm

    Our first CSA box of the season, yeah! I cooked up the rhubarb and some of the strawberries in a sauce with about 3/4 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger. We served it over yogurt. I highly recommend adding ginger. It was my first time and I loved it. I found this concept in a recipe called Ruby Rhubarb Ginger Crunch in the cookbook: From Asparagus to Zucchini. Also, for breakfast, I lightly cooked up the scapes and greens in olive oil then added an egg over the top and sliced tomatoes to the side of the pan with a little water and covered it for about 2 1/2 minutes letting everything steam. I like my eggs a little runny. I put it on my plate and added a little fresh arugula, salt, pepper and drips of truffle oil. Usually I put a piece of toast under this but not this time. I am ready to tackle the day.

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