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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.

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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.

Roasted Beet and Garlic Pasta

September 20, 2017
A rich and healthy pasta that is packed with nutrients. It is delicious served with a big scoop of Ricotta.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound whole grain spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 pounds beets, trimmed and scrubbed
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • freshly ground salt
  • red pepper flakes
  • 2/3 cup ricotta
Instructions
  1. Prepare spaghetti according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.
  2. Preheat oven to 400F. Drizzle beets with olive oil and wrap beets and garlic cloves tightly in foil. Roast until very tender, approximately 1 hour. After removing from oven, remove foil and let cool slightly. Carefully peel beets and coarsely chop.
  3. In a food processor, combine roasted beets, garlic, remaining olive oil, walnuts, and tomatoes. Pulse until smooth and creamy, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Season with salt to taste.
  4. Toss pasta and beet mixture until well combined. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve with a scoop of ricotta on the side.

Black Bean Vegetable Chili

September 20, 2017

from The New Basics Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 small tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 4 tsp chili powder
  • Dash of cayenne
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 ear of corn, removed from the cob
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Sour cream, for garnish
  • Green onions, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Dice the eggplant, zucchini, onion, and pepper into cubes about 1/4 inch (the eggplant will cook separately; the other veggies can all be mixed together).
  2. In a large skillet, heat about a tablespoon of oil, just over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the eggplant and cook until the pieces are just tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in your largest pot, heat another tablespoon of oil over medium heat, and when it’s ready add the garlic, zucchini, onions, and peppers, and cook until the vegetables are soft and most of the water has evaporated (about 10 minutes).
  4. While the vegetables are cooking, chop the tomatoes into 1/4 inch dice, and chop the basil and parsley if you haven’t already. When the vegetables are cooked, put the eggplant into the pot with the other veggies, then add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, stock, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Give the mixture a good stir and bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover the pot loosely and let it cook for about 30 minutes.
  5. While the chili is cooking, dry roast the corn (we use the same skillet we used for the eggplant – just wipe it out with a paper towel and you’re ready to go). Heat the skillet (dry) to medium high heat, then add the corn kernels. Cook until they have started to brown and become fragrant (about 8 minutes), then remove to a bowl.
  6. When the chili has been cooking for about 30 minutes, stir in the corn, beans, and lemon juice, and let it cook at a simmer for 15 minutes more. Serve, garnished with sour cream, green onions, and cheese, if you like. We like to eat this with a side of a simple cheese quesadilla – pepper jack in a flour tortilla.

Week 14 Newsletter

September 14, 2017

In your box:

–Bok Choy

–Broccoli

–Cucumber

–Garlic, “Purple Glazer”

–Lettuce

–Potatoes, “Yukon Gold”

–Summer squash

–Red onion (also a storage onion to full shares)

–Tomatoes

Even though the temperatures still make it feel like summer, it’s definitely beginning to look like fall in the gardens. Every time I harvest a bed of lettuce, dig up a row of potatoes, or finish off any other crop for the season, it’s time to prepare the planting bed for the winter. For our farm, this entails replacing what has been taken from the field and improving the soil to where it is even better than it was before the planting season.

All harvested crops take some nutrients out of the soil, so unless I replace the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other minerals I would eventually destroy my field and leave it unsuitable for further use. Since we follow organic practices, we cannot rely on synthetic fertilizers to prop up this system. Instead, we keep our field ready for future seasons with a mixture of poultry manure and compost. The manure would start to decompose and leach into the ground water if I applied it in the fall, so that waits until spring right before I begin planting. Even then, this fertilizer is “water insoluble”–it doesn’t rapidly wash away into the groundwater and rivers with rain events like the chemical fertilizers used in conventional agriculture. But our best source of nutrients comes from compost. Our finished compost is full of nutrition that feeds next year’s plants while also trapping carbon in the soil, building up our organic matter, helping to drain excess rain but also holding onto moisture in dry periods.

So this time of year I spend a few hours a week pushing a wheelbarrow full of compost from my homemade pile out to the field. I spread this finished compost in the field, work it in with a tractor, and then seed a cover crop to put the bed to rest for the winter. I’ve experimented with dozens of different varieties of cover crops over the past few years, and my best results have been with a mixture. This year my mix includes oats, radishes, sunflowers, buckwheat, field peas, and clover. These are all planted too late to produce anything edible—their whole purpose is to grow quickly so that their roots and biomass will cover the soil and hold my good dirt in place over the winter. The cover crops die off at either a frost or after a few nights below freezing, and then slowly break down all winter long. By the spring they have decomposed to even more compost grown right in the field.

The effects of cover crops are most discernible in the winter. Our neighbors are conventional farmers and don’t plant any cover crops, even as this has caught on among non-organic growers and has even been shown to save money in the long run despite seed costs. With nothing to hold their soil in place, the harsh winter winds push a layer of their topsoil south from their fields right on to the snow and ice on our field. They are giving me the best, most nutritious soil they have, soil that was formed over centuries by glaciers, all because they don’t have their soil covered. I can usually get nearly all of our gardens planted to cover crop by October 1st, and our fields are surrounded by perennial grasses and windbreak trees that don’t give up any soil to wind erosion. We don’t lose any of our soil to the ditch, the road, or our neighbors during the winter. And the soil that is covered is healthier the next spring than it was a year ago. This is what sustainability is, and I hope that you can appreciate it for more than a buzzword and see that it is so necessary for our agricultural communities, our nutrition, and our earth.

Most of our CSA box this week should be familiar. Our cucumber and summer squash plants are finally looking like their end is near, but this summer-like heat has them still in reproduction mode. Enjoy them while they last!

Our potatoes this week are my personal favorite, “Yukon Gold.” Any green spots should be peeled off and composted. These are caused by exposure to the sun, even under a shallow soil covering. I’ve done my best to cull out any greened potatoes, but any slight blemishes can be peeled off and the remainder will be fine to eat.

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: Parsley, Cucumbers, summer squash, pepper, tomatoes, celery, cabbage, beets, and kale.

Week 13 Newsletter

September 11, 2017

In your box:

–Basil

–Carrots

–Celery

–Cucumber or summer squash

–Eggplant or cherry tomatoes

–Lettuce

–Sweet onion or red onion

–Sweet pepper

–Tomatoes

After weeks of nearly perfect growing weather, we finally had our first real weather worthy of complaint last week Monday night. A very isolated hail storm passed over at dinner time and sent down marble-sized hail for about ten minutes. This was the first real hail storm we’ve ever experienced, and the timing wasn’t all that bad, considering. While a spring hail storm can kill off small plants for the whole year, at this point most of the garden is established enough to handle getting pelted with hail. We did have a lot of “cosmetic” damage that doesn’t effect the quality of the crops. So if you see some dents on the summer squash and peppers, it’s just from hail and not bugs. It also shredded some of the leaves of the basil and lettuce, but the quality of these didn’t suffer from the storm. And at least we aren’t dealing with a series of hurricanes or four feet of rain!

Last week I mentioned that there was no “scientific” reason to not harvest beans after Labor Day, but I had a very strange experience this week that provided just the scientific, rational basis I needed. I headed out to pick just a few beans for our family two days after Labor Day, and as I approached I nearly stumbled upon a male pheasant who was nesting in the bean field. He took flight, almost from under my feet, and in doing so he…..loosened his bowels from the air. I know this sounds ridiculous, but the scared bird completely tainted the remaining beans in perhaps the most disturbing way possible, thankfully sparing me in the process.

A few years ago I was completely at one with nature when a sparrow landed on my arm while I picked raspberries. Spooking a pheasant with excretory problems definitely falls on the opposite end of the spectrum. But at least now I know to stay out of the bean patch after Labor Day!

This week we offer Celery for the first time of the season. For our first few years we grew a tough, dark green variety that had many small stalks. We just stumbled upon this “Tall Utah” variety a couple years ago, and it has easily become a favorite. Celery is great as a raw snack, and is also essential in soups. If you have more than you can use, just chop it into fine pieces and freeze for up to six months.

We are finally getting a decent crop of eggplant, so many of you will receive one this week. I don’t plant a lot of eggplant since they’ve never been widely popular with our audience. Unless you indicated a love for eggplant on your membership form at the beginning of the year, you will just be receiving one this year. Those of you not receiving eggplant will get cherry tomatoes this week and hopefully an eggplant over the next few weeks.

Mark your calendars—our annual Fall Festival will be on Sunday, October 1st from 3pm until 6:30pm. We hope you can join us for a beautiful day on the farm and a celebration of the nearing end of the growing season. We will have yard games, farm tours, hopefully some pumpkins to take home, and a potluck dinner. Please bring a dish to pass, table settings, and lawn chairs. Hope to see you on the farm!

Even after our late fall gathering, we will still have a few more weeks of fresh veggies from the garden. I’m still optimistic that we can deliver a box on the 19th week of the season, which will be in mid-late October. More details on that as we get closer. It looks like we’ll have a great harvest of Brussels sprouts and winter squash, as well as the usual salad greens and roots of fall during our last few weeks.

Expected next week: Garlic, Cucumbers, onion, summer squash, pepper, tomatoes, bok choy, parsley, potatoes, and lettuce.

Week 12 Newsletter

August 31, 2017

In your box:

–Beans

–Cucumbers

–Garlic, “Chesnook Red”

–Ground cherries

–Kohlrabi

–Lettuce or Salad mix

–Summer squash

–Sweet pepper

–Tat Soi

–Tomatoes

All winter long, I dream about the bounty of crops in the height of summer. I yearn for green beans. Cucumbers sound good even on a cold day. No pizza seems complete without a diced zucchini on top. And then August finally comes, and the farm bursts forth with week after week of any taste I could possibly crave. This has been one of the better summer seasons we’ve had, and the boxes were still plenty full despite my decision to abandon growing sweet corn. The squash plants are still healthy, the cucumbers are still flowering, and it seems like summer could go on for weeks.

But as soon as school starts, something in my taste buds changes. I have exhausted our list of meals and sides using cucumbers. I hope no one notices when I pass the bowl of beans around without taking any. And I start snooping over to check on the Brussels sprouts and winter squash, ready to move on in the garden calendar and try some new tastes and recipes.

So if you’re less and less excited to open your box and find even more cucumbers, you’re not alone! This week I finally have some of our fall crops ready for harvest, and with the onset of these cooler-weather crops I’ll begin phasing out some of the summer stalwarts. I’ve decided that it’s bad luck to pick beans after Labor Day, despite a lack of scientific proof to back that up. So this is the last picking of beans for the year, and cucumbers have their days numbered, too. I’ll keep up with peppers and tomatoes until the frost kills them off, but we’re finally ready to change up some of the regularity of your box.

This week we have two new crops: Ground cherries and tat soi. Ground cherries have a great citrus taste but are members of the tomato family. To enjoy, just remove the paper husk and eat them. You you can eat them raw or use them in baked desserts. Tat soi is one of my favorite looking veggies, with its dark green leaves and rounded shape. Tat soi is great in stir-fries and can also be wilted down like any cooking green.

Our tomato crop is definitely making up for its slow start. After weeks of slowly ripening in the cool start to August, we’ve finally had enough sunny days for the tomatoes to really kick into high gear. We have lots of heirlooms coming in, including my best crop ever of Cherokee Purple and two smaller purple ones: “Nyagous” and “Black Prince.” We also have Brandywines (an often unsightly but always delicious red one) as well as two orange ones: “Moonglow” and “Valencia.” We grow several other heirlooms as well, but they end up looking and tasting pretty much like the hybrids we grow.

We have more tomatoes than we can possibly force in your CSA box, so we will start offering boxes of tomatoes for canning or freezing. If you are interested, we can put together a 10 pound box of tomatoes (mostly Romas, paste tomatoes, Juliets, as well as some others) for $25 ($2.50 per pound). Please let me know if you are interested and what dates you’d be able to take them. I expect to have a surplus for the next three weeks or so. Of course, I never sell tomatoes unless we have more than I want to force on you. If you are interested in purchasing canners, send me an e-mail any time.

Around this time of year many of you will have changes to your schedule due to school resuming, sports practices, etc. If you would benefit by changing your delivery site, even to one on a different day, please let me know. It makes no significant difference to me, and I’m happy to accommodate any changes you need. Just send me an e-mail and I’m happy to help.

Expected next week: Basil, cucumbers, onion, summer squash, pepper, tomatoes, celery, parsley, carrots, and lettuce.