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Week 19 Newsletter

October 23, 2017

In your box:

–Brussels sprouts

–Carrots

–Celeriac

–Garlic

–Leeks or kale

–Salad mix

–Winter squash, “Acorn”

–Winter squash, “Butternut”

Full shares: Buttercup squash

Welcome to your last box of fresh produce for this growing season! As we basked in the sun all weekend and enjoyed temperatures in the 70’s, it certainly didn’t feel like it’s time to wrap up the gardens. But the forecast for next weekend has temperatures about thirty degrees colder than what we just enjoyed with night-time lows well below freezing, so we’ll just consider it quitting while we’re ahead.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the season! The weather has been about as good as we’ve ever experienced, crop yields were way up, and disease and pest pressure were not much of a factor. I’ve finally gotten our seeding schedule to the point where I don’t need to change too much from year to year, and it seems to have paid off with consistently full boxes. I’m sure the boxes might have been too full at times this year (especially with cucumbers and squash, I’m guessing!), but hopefully you found a way to put most of it to good use.

Within the next week or two I will be sending out a link to an online survey for your feedback. Please take the time to fill this out and send me your thoughts, regardless of whether or not you plan to return next year. This information is helpful in terms of knowing what changes to make to our garden plans, distribution, and delivery sites.

Thanks so much to our all-star volunteers for so much support this year! We couldn’t do what we do without the tireless help throughout the summer of Julie Healy (Nina’s mom) and my parents, Steve and Arlene Kirkman. My dad has been amazing right up to the last box, washing whatever I bring in from the field even though the freezing cold water in our packing shed no longer allows him to manipulate his fingers in any manner.

This week brings our only celeriac of the year. Celeriac is, obviously, a close relative of celery, but it has been bred to emphasize its root mass. The green tops of celeriac can be used just like celery, but the root itself is what really distinguishes this crop. To use it, first remove the top growth and store that in a bag in the fridge. The root should be peeled to remove all root hairs and any dirt residue. Once it’s cleaned up, we run it through a medium cheese grater and add to soups, stews, or pretty much anything in the crock pot. It adds a great dose of celery flavor but with a consistency and texture closer to potatoes. The root itself will store for months in a root cellar, and it should last at least a month in the fridge. If you don’t end up using a whole celeriac in one meal, keep the unused portion in a tupperware and it should remain crispy and fresh.

Also this week—even more winter squash! This week we are featuring butternut squash, my personal favorite and one of the most versatile squash. These are perfect in the squash soup recipe listed below. All the winter squash you’ve received have a long shelf life. Unless they are bruised or develop any small rotten spots, they can keep through the winter. Store them in the basement and check periodically for any blemishes.

If you still have any empty CSA boxes around the house, please return them to your delivery site by Halloween. I will be making one last trip to all of our sites to pick up any that straggle in, and I’m able to reuse some of them and recycle the rest. Thanks!

Once again, thanks so much for your support! Farming becomes more of a passion for me with every passing year, and I’m so thankful to all of the families that make up our CSA for enabling me to keep growing nutritious crops in a sustainable way. We hope you’ll join us again in 2018 to see what next year’s growing season brings. But for now, we wish you a restful winter. And yes, you do still have to eat veggies for the next six months even if they aren’t delivered to your neighborhood in a box!

Expected next week: really cold fingers and toes, more work than I can possibly fit in before the ground freezes, and hopefully a nice long nap.

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Week 18 Newsletter

October 12, 2017

In your box:

–Arugula

–Beets

–Brussels sprouts

–Cabbage

–Garlic

–Leek

–Lettuce, “Rouge d’hiver”

–Radishes

–Winter squash, “Fordhook Acorn”

Thanks so much to everyone who made it out to the farm for our harvest party last week!  It was great to see some familiar faces and meet some new folks.  Next year we hope to offer a couple more open houses during the growing season so we can get more members involved on the farm.

This week we had our first frost and freeze of the season, just a few days later than average. We had frosty mornings on both Tuesday and Wednesday this week, including a low of 30 degrees on Tuesday the 10th. At this point in the year it’s not at all detrimental, except that our sunflowers have died off and there’s not much left in flower for our bees. The frost does change the flavor of some crops, so you’ll notice that the arugula this week is much sweeter than it was a week ago. It will also make the turnips less bitter next week, so in all it’s a good thing to get a frost this time of year.

This week we introduce leeks for the first time in a few years. I had some poor germination for a couple years in a row that prevented any crop, so it’s nice to have them back this year. Leeks are a close relative of onions and garlic, but they really stand out in a soup. Our leeks had a really good year this season, and many of them are real monsters and can be counted as two leeks in a recipe. To use them, just cut off the root base and clean the innards thoroughly. Peel off any outer skins and then chop up the remainder into slivers. Include as much of the greens as you like—the whole leek is edible.

About ten years ago I was in Wales, in the west of the U.K., where leeks are the national symbol. Why, you ask? There are two theories, both involving a decisive battle nearly 1500 years ago. Some records indicate that the Brits, led by Welsh patron Saint David, wore leeks in their caps so that they could tell which team they were on. Other legends have it that the battle was held in a farmer’s field of leeks. I find this a little hard to believe—leeks are really big and stiff and it would be nearly impossible to navigate a whole field of leeks, let alone while carrying armor and trying to chop up your enemy. Regardless, on March 1 every year the Welsh wear leeks in their hats and Welsh troops eat a whole raw leek. Leeks keep well through the winter here, so you’re welcome to keep your leek in the fridge until spring and try one raw. Of course, you have to be careful that no one goes into the fridge before then to take a leek. You know…. “take a leek.” Ok, that’s my only potty joke of the year. But I love that joke.  And besides, I have two boys age 5 and under–potty jokes are my life right now.

Our winter squash this week come from our harvested mountain of acorn squash. These little guys really outdid themselves, and we’re happy to pass on double our usual amount this week. All half shares will receive two yellow winter squash, an acorn variety named “Fordhook.” Full shares will receive two of those as well as two of the usual black acorn squash. I’m not sure why they are both classified as acorns—the yellow ones look much more like a Nerf football than an oak nut. But the usage is the same, so I let it slide.

We like to use the Fordhook acorns as a pizza topping. To do this, just peel the outside until you get down to the good flesh. Then chop it down the middle and scoop out all the seeds. Chop up the remaining squash into bite-size pieces and coat lightly with oil. Spread them in a casserole dish and cook in the oven at 350 degrees for about half an hour, stirring once or twice if you think of it. After that half hour, remove them from the oven and add to your pizza. We love the mixture of sage and squash, so our pizzas from now until March are always a combination of dried sage and baked squash.

By the way, I did plant beds of sage, oregano, and rosemary this spring. Unfortunately, I planted them right next to the winter squash and they were quickly submerged by the mass of squash leaves and vines and I wasn’t even able to locate them until the frost this week killed off all the squash vines. Now that I know where these are, they’ll be able to get some sunlight and should be ready for harvest next year. These are all long-lived perennials, so we should have a larger variety of herbs for the next few years.

I also have one sad dud to report: there will be no spinach this fall. I planted it back in early August, but unfortunately it never germinated and we won’t have any in the boxes. We do have a nice bed of salad mix ready, so I’ll be harvesting that for your final box next week.

Just a reminder that next week will be your final delivery of this CSA season. We hope you’ve enjoyed the experience! I will follow up in a couple weeks with a brief survey to help us as we shape our plans for the next growing season. Don’t forget to gather up any CSA boxes you might have around the house and bring those back to your delivery site. I will come through all the sites a week after your last delivery to collect any boxes, so please bring them back even after your last pickup if you still have any. Some of the boxes will be good enough to use next year, and I am able to recycle any that are too dirty or banged up for further use.

Also, a note for our Thursday deliveries: your next box will be delivered on WEDNESDAY, October 18th at the usual times. This is to accommodate any of you getting away for MEA weekend and so that Nina and I can get a vacation in. Please let me know if you have any conflicts with this so we can make other plans. Thanks for your understanding!

Expected next week: Salad mix, garlic, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, carrots, celeriac, turnips, and leek/onion.

Fall Harvest Party is this Sunday

October 7, 2017

Hi everyone–

Just wanted to remind you that we’ll be having our annual fall celebration here on the farm tomorrow (Sunday the 8th) from 3:30-6:30pm.  We’d love to have you out for farm tours, yard games, and the simple pleasure of a beautiful fall day in the country.  Please bring a dish to pass for a potluck (starting at 5:30), table settings, yard chairs, and good boots for all of our mud.
Hope to see you on the farm!
17250 County Road 122
New Germany 55367
952-353-1762
Non-CSA members and friends of the farm are welcome, as long as you play well with others.
–The Kirkmans

Week 17 Newsletter

October 7, 2017

In your box:

–Arugula

–Brussels sprouts

–Celery

–Decorative gourds

–Napa Cabbage

–Lettuce, “Crisp Mint”

–Potatoes, “Kennebec”

–Pie pumpkin

Full shares: Spaghetti squash

This week has been a muddy mess here on the farm, as we’ve tallied several days of rain and some impressive thunderstorms. Overall we’ve had just under five inches of rain, making this our rainiest week since late June of 2011. At this point in the growing season the rain isn’t too much of a problem. Most of the crops that would be susceptible to diseases brought on by rain and humidity are already dead, and I don’t have any plants or seeds I need to get in the ground. It is a nice recharge for our groundwater and it’s allowed me to bring in all of our hoses and irrigation equipment early. I am concerned about our final harvest of carrots, which I fear to be rotting in the ground. And I do need to plant garlic in a couple weeks, for which I’ll need the ground to dry out enough to get a tractor into the fields to prepare the beds for planting.

I’m sure our neighbors are much more concerned—their acres of corn and soybeans need heavy combines for harvest, and with all this mud it could be a few weeks before they resume their work. It’s yet another reason I’m thankful that my farm work is spread out so evenly throughout the entire growing season.

This week we have our only non-edible crop to appear in your box: decorative gourds. Gourds are one of my favorite things to grow, especially because the pressure is so low—a crop failure here doesn’t lead to anyone starving in the winter. They take no work, they yield easily, and they help to decorate the house during the peak harvest season. I always had a couple gourds on my windowsill growing up, right up to the point where they rotted and left a big mess of decomposing gourd stinking up my room. Now that I’m in charge of cleaning them up, we always make sure to compost them after Thanksgiving before they start rotting. We grow warty gourds, smooth gourds, and mini-pumpkins for your boxes this week.

This week we also welcome the first of our three servings of Brussels sprouts. If I were to give awards to vegetables, which is not a thing that I actually do, Brussels sprouts would have to win a “most improved” award. Like just about everyone, I grew up thinking that these were a cruel trick invented by grown-ups to punish children who leave gourds out on their windowsill to rot. And indeed, if you cook them for too long they are a cruel punishment. But as soon as I sampled my first properly prepared sprouts a few years ago, I’ve been hooked. I crave these all season, and I would rate these my second favorite vegetable after spinach. In case you’re still a sprout sceptic, give them a try with the proper treatment. Our usual way to eat them is just to boil them in water for 4 minutes and add a little pepper or eat them plain. We’ve also come to enjoy them baked—just coat them lightly with oil and bake them for 30-40 minutes in an oven set to 350 degrees.

Most of your box is taken up with a pie pumpkin. Purists still use these for baking their pies, but any can of “Pumpkin Pie Filling” will usually list its contents as butternut squash. Our butternuts will be coming in the final box of the year, so for now you can try your hand with a true pumpkin pie pumpkin. To cook these, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves in a casserole dish filled with an inch of water and bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes. After that, remove the pumpkin from the water and allow to cool. Scoop out the guts from the skin and puree in a blender, if needed. This can then be measured out for pie, pumpkin cookes, or—our family’s favorite—pumpkin pancakes. Full shares will receive one pie pumpkin and one spaghetti squash. These are yellow rugby balls that have a true noodle-like texture once they are cooked. I’ve included a recipe, below.

Expected next week: Arugula, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, acorn squash, beets, cabbage, radishes, leek, and garlic.

Week 16 Newsletter

September 28, 2017

In your box:

–Cherry tomatoes or ground cherries

–Garlic, “Killarney Red”

–Komatsuna

–Lettuce, “Crisp Mint”

–Onion

–Potatoes, “Kennebec”

–Sweet pepper

–Winter squash, “Delicata”

Full shares: Buttercup squash

Every fall, our family marks the beauty of the autumn harvest with a hay wagon ride out to our field to bring in our crop of winter squash, pumpkins, and gourds. Some years we have a good crop, while a few years have been less than satisfying. We look forward to this afternoon all year, when we work together to bring in my favorite crop. Winter squash and gourds grow on long vines and need to be separated with sharp pruners. Pumpkins have a thicker stem that usually requires long-handled loppers. Nathan and Adam have slowly been able to carry more and larger squash from the field to the wagon, while Nina organizes the transportation and unwraps toddler ankles from squash vines. I’m in charge of cutting and consolidating the crop into piles, and I’m also responsible for driving the tractor to the field and back with the wagon in tow. For a few more years, at least—I’m sure Nathan will start begging to drive the tractor not too long for now. Once all the squash and pumpkins are piled onto the wagon, we make a slow and bumpy loop around the fields and meander back toward the packing shed. We take pictures until Nina is finally satisfied, and then we decorate the yard and house with gourds and warty pumpkins until it’s dark. This ritual feels timeless and it’s been a familiar tradition going back for generations—just change the tractor for livestock pulling the wagon, and this could just as easily be 1917 or 1817.

Now that the squash are harvested, it’s time for our second favorite tradition—eating them! This week we start with a Delicata squash. These are the long yellow squash with green and orange striping. Delicatas have a softer skin, and can be eaten along with the flesh. To prepare, we just cut these down the middle and scoop out the seeds. Cook them at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes placed face-down in pans of water. Remove them from the water carefully, and enjoy! We like ours with brown sugar or honey sprinkled down the middle, but these are often sweet enough to enjoy plain. If the skin texture isn’t to your liking, you can scoop out the squash and enjoy like any other winter squash.

Full shares will receive one Delicata and one Buttercup squash this week. We had an incredible harvest of winter squash, so I’m optimistic we can continue to offer them for each of the remaining three boxes. Enjoy!

Even though our main crop of tomatoes is essentially done for the year, our cherry tomatoes have escaped any blight and are still producing a remarkably healthy crop. Ground cherries are genetically distinct from tomatoes to the extent that tomato blight doesn’t usually impact the crop, and so far those are in good shape too. So as unusual as it is to still find tomatoes into early October, I’m not about to move on from those delicious nuggets while their season still provides.

This week is the grand finale of sweet peppers, which had a pretty decent year this season. We didn’t have much heat in August when they needed it, which probably kept their numbers down a little. Eggplant are a mystery—they gave one decent harvest and then just sat out the rest of the year. Perhaps they heard that many of our CSA members don’t like them and just decided that they don’t like you, either. But if eggplant is my biggest garden failure in a given year, I can definitely live with that.

I was able to dig all of the remaining potatoes from the garden before the heavy rains earlier in the week, so thankfully cleaning them is a pretty easy task instead of scraping off mud. This week we are offering Kennebec, a standard white potato with a good taste and crispy texture. Kennebecs are great roasted or boiled and are also a perfect candidate for mashed potatoes. It looks like we’ll have enough spuds to offer them once more, probably in the final week of the season.

In case you’ve forgotten about komatsuna since it last appeared in your box way back in June, this is the cooking green with long green and white leaves. It is a good stand-in for cooked spinach and also works nicely in a stir-fry. I’m afraid some of the mud from our latest rainstorms will have dirtied the inside of the stems on these, so be sure to wash it thoroughly once you separate the stems from the root base.

Expected next week: Salad mix, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, carrots, Napa cabbage, rutabaga, and celery.

 

Week 15 Newsletter

September 21, 2017

In your box:

–Beets

–Broccoli

–Cabbage

–Celery

–Kale, “Red Russian”

–Parsley

–Summer squash or cucumber

–Tomatoes

For the past few weeks we’ve been enjoying an incredible migration of Painted Lady butterflies. I’m not sure why the population has been so sizeable this year, but it seems to have something to do with perfect weather conditions for their reproduction. About three weeks ago we had a surge of Painted Ladies move in, and they are only now moving southward and decreasing their population here. I’ve planted several orange Mexican sunflowers and some native prairie perennial flowers to attract native pollinators, and they have been thick with these butterflies lately. They seem really reliant on sunlight, so as soon as the sun hits their flower in the morning they are busy all day until sunset. We have several hundred comfrey flowers on our property, and this seems to be among their favorites. It’s actually been tricky walking through our young orchard, where many of these comfrey are—it’s hard to move without running into a butterfly! I’m sure they will be moving south once the weather turns, but for now we’re loving this explosion of life among us.

Our lone new-comer this week is a head of savoy-leafed cabbage, my personal favorite. This is almost comparable to a Napa cabbage in its crispness, but has the storage life of regular green cabbage. It is great in a cole slaw or lightly wilted into a salad, and also works great in stews. I couldn’t keep the cabbage moths off of it this year, so there are some cosmetic issues. But as they say, you can’t taste the holes….

We have one final harvest of broccoli for the year, and the plants have done quite well this fall. The 90 degree heat has them a little confused, so some of them have started flowering. I’ve never seen this in autumn broccoli before, while it’s expected with the spring crop. The flowers are harmless and still tasty, and can be eaten raw or cooked with the rest of the broccoli head.

Even though we can’t quite shake the last of the summer heat, the changing of seasons is definitely upon us now. This week will be the last of the summer squash and cucumbers, as their plants have stopped flowering and won’t be producing any more fruits. This has been by far the most productive squash & cucumber year we’ve ever had, so I’m definitely not going to look down my nose at them for retiring now. Our tomatoes are also done in for the year, partly due to the shortening days but mostly due to a late blight that is killing off our plants. We have just a few plants that haven’t been effected, so enjoy the tomatoes in your box this week—it will be nine months until you taste any tomatoes this good again! Our sweet peppers have been slowing down the past couple weeks, but I’ll try for one more harvest next week and then be finished with them for the year.

This week I’m finishing off a couple beds of beets, so I’m providing more beets of smaller size than usual. I’m giving a mixture of red and gold beets—the gold ones having a tapered shape that resembles carrots, even while their greens are distinctly beet-like. Red and gold beets can be used interchangeably and have a similar taste. The only difference is that gold beets don’t bleed like red ones do, making clean-up much easier.

A quick note on the end of our season—after this box we still have four more to go. This will keep Tuesdays busy until October 24th. Since we started the season on a Thursday, their boxes will end the week before that. But since this falls on MEA weekend, and since Nina and I are celebrating our 10th anniversary with a child-free vacation, I’m planning to bump that delivery up a day to Wednesday, October 18th. All deliveries until then will still be on Thursdays, so this will only affect that final delivery. Please let me know if you need other arrangements for that last delivery. I will remind you before that final box, of course. Enjoy the next four weeks!

Don’t forget–our annual Fall Festival will be on Sunday, October 1st from 3pm until 6:30pm. Hope to see you on the farm!

Expected next week: Arugula, lettuce, garlic, storage onion, winter squash, carrots, komatsuna, sweet pepper.

Kale and Beet Salad

September 20, 2017

Ingredients:

  • 2 Bunches of Kale (stems removed sliced thin)
  • 1 Large Golden Beet (peeled and sliced paper thin)
  • 1 Large Red Beet (peeled and sliced paper thin)
  • 1/2 cup Almonds (toasted)
  • 1/2 cup Crumbled Feta
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Dill (chopped)
  • 1 Clove Garlic (minced)
  • 1 Red Onion (peeled and sliced paper thin)
  • 3 oz Red Wine Vinegar
  • 6 oz Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Place kale, beets and onion in a large mixing bowl and season liberally with salt.  Mix and top with the vinegar. Set aside. (This can be done up to a couple hours in advance.)
  2. Whisk together the oil, garlic and dill. Toss the oil mixture with the kale, beets and onion. Add feta and almonds. Mix and serve.