In your box:
As the public has shown increased interest in supporting area farmers and sourcing local foods, farmers have once again assumed a idyllic image and a sort of heroism in certain circles. When you think of a farmer, perhaps you picture a woman in a homemade straw hat and overalls braving a driving rain to rescue artisan-cheese-making goats from pasture in a thunderstorm (right?). And when you think “organic farmer,” maybe you have a stereotype of a dread-locked hipster communing with nature and singing to his cabbage plants.
I do not have dread-locks and I do not sing to my plants. I wear a straw hat, but it is not homemade. I have hugged a tree before, but I have no problem swatting mosquitoes by the hundreds. But I did have a great connection with nature yesterday that should be the new stereotype of organic farming: a bird landed on me. Now, many have confused my chiseled physique with that of Greek sculpture (this is not true), but I have never had a bird confuse me with a statue. So it was with great shock that a small bird flew out of the raspberry patch as I passed and alighted upon my calf, where it stayed for several seconds until our dog came over to investigate.
Before you make this new stereotype of me walking out to the field, hoe in hand and birds on my shoulder, you should probably know that I shrieked when the bird landed on me and initially tried to run away before seeing that the bird meant well. But I don’t like the image of me running away from a bird. Try to picture Francis of Assisi in a straw hat, bending down to carefully cut salad mix as birds alight upon my shoulders and woodland creatures emerge from the woods to howl their greetings.
Our main new addition this week is Chinese Cabbage, also known as Napa Cabbage. This crop is very intolerant of heat, so we have harvested it before its heads have fully formed. The entire plant is edible, however, and the outer leaves can be used just as well as the inner head leaves. We plant these again for the fall, when the cooler weather is more favorable to their growth. Napas keep well for up to two weeks in the hydrator drawer of your fridge. It can be eaten raw (chop it into fine pieces), shredded into cole slaw, steamed, or stir-fried. It can be used in any recipe calling for traditional cabbage, but reduce the cooking time by about two minutes. Both the stems and the leafy greens should be eaten. Try it in soup, egg rolls, mashed potatoes, or fried rice. As with any cabbage, over-cooking leads to an unpleasant aroma that can quickly sour your 4th of July festivities.
This week we also have one of my favorite herbs, Sage. A perennial crop, we planted this three years ago and expect harvests well into the future. There is a similar crop, White Sage, that is an annual and grown primarily for incense and decoration. This green sage is commonly used in stuffings and soups, but its leaves can be eaten raw in salads, omelets, marinades, and meat dishes. If you don’t have a use for it currently, it can be stored by removing the leaves from the stem and placing on cloth or paper in the shade until dry. The bunch itself can also be hung to dry, with the leaves removed afterward. Once dry, the leaves may be stored in an airtight container. Try dried sage as a tea or baked in dishes or soups. Dried sage makes an incredible pizza topping, especially when paired with winter squash.
We also have some tiny white Turnips this week. I haven’t had time to thin them out yet, resulting in a numerous crop of really small roots so far. After this mini-harvest, the rest will have room to expand and should reach a mature size in 2-3 weeks. These are not the usual bitter turnips that prove rather divisive among eaters, but a specialty sweet turnip that is best eaten raw. Since they’re so small, you’ll probably want to treat them like a radish and chop into a salad. They should be washed but do not need peeling.