In Your Box:
–Cucumbers or summer squash
As the calendar flips to September, we continue sinking slowly intro a drought across Minnesota. It’s hard to believe we could ever want for rain after all the soakings we got this past spring, but the dirt can only “bank” so much for so long. We’ve had just an inch of rain in the past six weeks, far less than the inch per week we’d love and the half-inch that is sustainable. The good news is that our plants are nearly all well-established, with long roots scouring the soil for moisture and a good layer of straw mulch on many crops to help hold moisture in when it does fall.
The only crops that could really use a good soaking are our fall greens (salad mix, spinach, arugula) and our cover crops. Once we are finished with a bed of crops, we add compost, till the soil to work it in, and seed with a cover crop (usually oats, annual rye, clover, or forage radishes) to reduce erosion, add nutrients and organic matter to the soil, and maintain soil life through the winter. This seed can be expensive, and of course it provides no benefit if it doesn’t ever receive enough rain to germinate.
Our most exciting addition this week is Edamame, or fresh soybeans. Our green beans have been a complete dud this year and look to have given up the ghost, but thankfully these soybeans look great and will help fill that gap. These are really time-consuming for harvest, and most large farms would have a combine to quickly strip these small beans from the plant. What I do have, thankfully, is a wheelbarrow. After cutting the plants at ground level, I throw the whole plant in my trusty wheelbarrow and take it to the shade, where I pull all of the pods from the stalk. Even if the job gets a little tedious, I suppose it’s a better job than deciding if we should bomb Syria or not.
Edamame are the premature form of soybeans that line the country roads all around the Midwest. Allowed to ripen, they harden and can be used as dry beans, pressed for soymilk, or, most often, fed to livestock. Edamame are pretty much perfect nutritionally, containing all nine amino acids, calcium, iron, zinc, several B vitamins, and isoflavones. On top of all that, they are delicious. To prepare them, bring a small pot of water with a dash of salt to boil. Once it has reached a rolling boil, add the edamame just as they are. Cook for three minutes (more than that makes them mushy) and strain them from the water. They can be eaten warm or refrigerated. Either way, add salt if desired and then consume by squirting the inner beans from the pod into your mouth. The hairy pods are not eaten.
Edamame is extremely popular in Japan and China, where it is often served in bars in place of nuts or pretzels. In this sense, it’s really just a vehicle for salt to make you drink more. It is also known as “beer friend.” If you don’t like them, perhaps you’re drinking the wrong beer.
For the first time this year, we add Collard Greens this week. Collards are a close relative to kale and mustard greens, so similar in structure that they share the same scientific name with kale. They do have a unique taste, however, that is more smoky and “green” than its often bitter cousins. Collards are believed to be a descendent of wild cabbage that had been cultivated in Turkey before recorded history. It is essentially a cabbage that doesn’t form a head.
Collards are a mainstay in the cuisine of the American South. Black slaves, looking for a replacement for the cooking greens of their homelands, were drawn to collards as a replacement. Collards are quite tolerant of heat, and so do well even in the South. Collards are not nearly as popular here in the North, where milder summers allow for the production of cabbage and a limited interest in their close cousins.