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Week 6 Newsletter

July 17, 2018

In your box:

–Beans

–Broccoli

–Cabbage

–Cucumber or eggplant

–Kohlrabi

–Scallions

–Summer squash

–Tomato

I’m the proud papa of two fine boys: Nathan (age 6) and Adam (age 3). Given the history of large farm families working together and producing as many willing workers as nature will allow, I get a lot of questions about the boys helping on the farm. This is a beautiful idea, but it’s also a sure-fire way to burn them out and overwhelm their childhood with sweaty tasks of manual labor under clouds of mosquitoes. And besides—what is it about the nature of farming that it is automatically assumed that they are being reared to help out? This is my job. My wife Nina is a teacher. It would be ludicrous for them to go to work with her, grading papers or cleaning the chalkboard or applying classroom discipline. It’s her job. And it’s their job to be kids.

So I am daily walking the line between sharing my world with them and walling off my farming world so that I am “at work” even when I’m just in the back yard, and they are free to play with Legos. But my job also involves tractors. And these boys like tractors. It also involves cherry tomatoes, baby broccoli sprouts, spinach, and strawberries. And the blessing of walking the land, learning about the soil, and observing the natural world all throughout my day. All of which I want to share with them, but not to the extent where I am burdening them with my own employment or keeping them away from the sandbox by insisting they pick green beans with me. So far the balance has been working—they like to hear about what I worked on that day and they watch me on the tractor and occasionally help bring in a basket of squash, but I’ve yet to ask them to thin carrots with me for four hours with a cloud of deerflies chasing us….

This week we welcome beans for the first picking this season. We grow four different kinds of fresh beans—green, yellow wax, a purple variety called “Royal Burgundy” and my personal favorite, an heirloom purple and white variety called “Dragon’s Tongue.” We grow a lot of beans—I’m impartial to any crop that grows more than a couple inches off the ground, so that I’m not hunched over on the ground any more than I need to be. We’re likely to have beans until Labor Day, as long as the plants keep happy and healthy and continue producing new beans. We strongly recommend not overcooking them! It really just takes about 4 minutes in boiling water to get these cooked. Anything longer than that makes for mushy beans and unhappy eating.

Beans keep well for a week in the fridge, but if you find you can’t get to them before your next box arrives it’s quite easy to freeze them for use in the winter. Just cook them up as you would for fresh eating (maybe a minute less so they stay a little rigid), cool them off with cold water so they stop the boiling process, and then set out on a drying rack to cool and dry. Once most of the water has come off of them, just put them in a freezer bag and store for 6 months or more.
This week we also welcome one of our most divisive crops: Kohlrabi. If you’re unfamiliar with this crop, kohlrabi is the white bulb with a short stem and large kale-type leaves rising off the top. There are also purple varieties of kohlrabi, but this what kind has been the most consistent for me. In our member application I always ask what crops people are most and least excited for, and roughly 25% of members list kohlrabi in the excited column and 25% of members are dreading it before it even ends up on their plate. So I compromise and make no one happy—I grow just a little bit. We’ll have it this week for a spring planting and then in September when the weather cools and it’s happy to grow again. To use it:

  • Peel off the outer skin and slice up the kohlrabi into slivers. Try dipping it in lemon juice, olive oil, or dressing.

  • Grate it into a salad for a modified cole slaw.

  • Add it to a stir-fry.

The leaves are edible and can be cooked up as a substitute for kale. The leaves will keep well for a few days in the fridge, while the bulb itself will last for a week to ten days in the fridge.

Expected next week: Tomatoes, beans, endive frisee, basil, cucumber, zucchini, scallions and baby beet greens.

Week 5 Newsletter

July 10, 2018

In your box:

–Broccoli

–Chinese Cabbage (aka “Napa”)

–Fennel

–Garlic Scapes

–Kale (“Curly Roja”)

–Salad mix

–Summer squash or red onion

There are a lot of things I expect to endure in my work as a farmer. Blistering heat and humidity—sure. Unpredictable weather—ok, at least it gives me something to talk about. Rain and mud are ok. I get used to mosquitoes and I can tolerate a few deerflies. But when a horsefly found me yesterday and flew off with a chunk of my….hindquarters….it was simply not acceptable. I jumped a foot in the air and used some words I’m glad my mother wasn’t around to hear, and within a few minutes I had an unpleasant welt rising that has made sleeping, walking and sitting quite uncomfortable for the past day.

In the world of more pleasant bugs (ones that don’t consume human flesh from vulnerable parts, at least), it’s been a good year for Monarch butterflies here on the farm. I’ve planted dozens of milkweed and butterfly weed plants on the farm, and I do my best to mow around the native milkweed that volunteer everywhere throughout our fields. It takes some extra work and concentration to work around these beautiful plants and the potential caterpillars feeding on them, but every time I pass by a butterfly it certainly feels worth it.

This week is the final picking of garlic scapes, so this is your last chance to enjoy the taste of fresh garlic for a few weeks. I’m expecting to harvest all of the garlic by the end of the month. Once it is out of the ground it needs to dry out for a couple weeks so that it is fully “cured” for storage and the taste is at its peak, and we’ll start offering heads of garlic by late August for the rest of the year.

Our summer squash are just starting to mature. I planted them a week later than usual due to weather uncertainty, but the plants look good and it looks like we should have another strong year of these. Anyone not receiving a squash this week will receive a red onion instead. The cucumbers are full of flowers, and I’m expecting to have those in your box next week.

This week we have a new variety of Kale: “Curly Roja.” I have no idea why half of the name is English and half is Spanish. If it were all Spanish the name would be “Rizada Roja,” which I kind of prefer personally. I suppose it sounds more international or culturally inclusive? Maybe we are transcending international differences with a bilingual name? Regardless, it is used like the Red Russian variety we’ve had earlier. The leaves on this variety don’t get as large as the Red Russian, but we’ve found it to be a little more tender when we cook with it.

Our broccoli bed has been meticulously weeded as of late, and the plants are responding with a strong first harvest. I love broccoli and it’s pretty easy to grow, so we hope to offer it a few times this spring and again in the fall. Cabbage moths and loopers haven’t been too pervasive this year, but a few cabbage loopers always seem to make their way into the plants. We don’t spray anything to control these—even organic pesticides tend to harm beneficial caterpillars as well—so we recommend taking a good look through your broccoli and cabbage heads to remove any tiny green worms that might be hiding in there.

A crop in your box that might be new to you this week is fennel, a licorice-scented member of the carrot family (along with celery, parsley, dill, and many flowers). The whole crop is edible, with the leafy fronds a common ingredient in soups and baked dishes, and the bulbs used for stir-fries and roasting.  The bulbs can be substituted in any recipe calling for celery.  For a good starter into the world of fennel, try it baked: cut into quarters, drizzle with olive oil, and bake until tender, about 35 min at 350°. To store: The bulbs will last for two weeks in a plastic bag in the fridge.  The leaves will go limp, and should be wrapped in a moist towel in the fridge.

Expected next week: Currants, tomatoes, green cabbage, kohlrabi, cucumber, zucchini, scallions and baby beet greens.

Week 4 Newsletter

July 3, 2018

In your box:

–Basil

–Garlic Scapes

–Head lettuce

Komatsuna

–Salad mix

–Scallions

–Turnips

 

During this time of year I feel like I’m not really doing my job as a farmer-citizen unless I eat three square salads a day. There is so much green stuff in the garden in spring and early summer that it just seems right to enjoy some crispy lettuce or spinach with pretty much every meal. One good aspect of our climate is how rapidly the seasons change—and the garden produce with it. Just as soon as I can’t bear the sight of asparagus any more, its season is finished and we don’t have to try to figure out how to stuff asparagus into macaroni and cheese for another 10 months. The same with salad—after weeks of bountiful greens in every shape and color, and just as a fourth salad of the day doesn’t have quite the same appeal anymore, the calendar flips to July and salads are slowly ushered out in favor of brighter colors and different tastes from other parts of the garden.

I know we’ve been heavy on salad ingredients in the first few boxes, but it looks like we’re soon turning the corner on that season of the year. Lettuce, spinach, arugula, and sorrel are all cool-season crops and don’t handle the heat of summer very well. I still try to offer head lettuce throughout the summer as growing conditions allow, but for the rest of the season we expect to have greater diversity than we’ve had so far. And just when you’ve had your fill of cucumbers and tomatoes, the weather turns cool again and we’re able to enjoy some more great salads before they’re all covered in snow. So enjoy the last few big salads for a few weeks, and start clearing out room in the fridge as we work toward the the height of summer’s bounty.

The basil was a surprise this week, but much of our first planting is about to go to seed and I wanted to harvest it while it’s still in prime condition. Basil doesn’t tempt me too much without tomatoes to pair it with, but the leaves are great in pesto or spread on a simple pasta. We have two plantings of basil and expect a few harvests from each, so we’re sure to have more basil throughout the heat of the summer.

And speaking of tomatoes—I spied my first fruit starting to change color earlier today. It wasn’t red enough to pick it yet, but it’s a good sign that tomatoes are just around the corner. The heat and humidity have been a big blessing to peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, summer squash, and beans. All of these crops are looking great and we should start to see some of these typical summer crops in the following weeks.

We are pleased to offer Turnips this week after an earlier planting was flooded out. These are not the usual bitter fall turnips you might be used to, but a sweet white variety called “Hakurei.” These are quite sweet and tasty and we hope you enjoy them. You can chop them up and eat them plain or with a little salt. They are a great addition to a salad or they can be stir-fried as well. They do not need to be peeled unless they have any residual dirt on them you can’t get off.

We continue to get way too much rain, but we’re still avoiding destructive flooding. What has made this year so difficult is how frequently we’ve been getting rain. Just as soon as we start to dry out and I can think about planting a late crop or catching up on weeding, another thunderstorm pops up and we get another inch of rain. We have lost a few scattered crops in low spots where the rain puddles and sits stagnantly, but so far we haven’t seen any of the diseases that usually accompany wet and humid weather. So, while we haven’t had any catastrophic flooding despite all of the compiled rain, it certainly makes me apprecite a sunny day with low humidity!

Just a reminder to return your CSA boxes each week. There are two ways to do this, and it doesn’t make much of a difference to us. You can either bring your own bags or boxes to your delivery site and transfer everything out of your box and just leave the empty one there, or else take the box home for the week and bring it back empty when you pick up your new box the following week. These are a significant expense for us, so we appreciate your help and cooperation!

We hope you all have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July holiday! Nina and the boys will enjoy a parade and maybe some fireworks on Wednesday (unless the thunderstorm moves in too soon) and I’ll be staying well-hydrated as I pull weeds and start getting ready for Thursday’s CSA box. Hopefully your holiday is a little more enjoyable than sweating over weedy beets!
Expected next week: Salad mix, garlic scapes, chard, cabbage, kohlrabi, cucumber or zucchini, and baby beet greens.

Week 3 Newsletter

June 26, 2018

In your box:

–Garlic Scapes

–Kale (“Red Russian”)

Komatsuna

–Salad mix

–Scallions

–Spinach

–Strawberries
I wanted to start this week with a very important answer to the question on everyone’s mind: has a bird landed on Farmer Red yet this year? Thankfully, the answer is already yes. I don’t feel like I’m really doing my job, that I’m completely one with the natural world of our farm unless I have wildlife landing on me throughout the year. In our nine previous years of farming I have had two sparrows land on my shoulder and a red-winged blackbird dive-bomb my straw hat. I am not sure if I should include the blackbird as part of my tally—I’m looking to be accepted into the natural world, not attacked by it. Last week a baby robin was just learning to fly and succeeding about as well as I would. Baby robins are not cute and they are not good at flying. This one was remarkably not good at flying. The baby robin finally made it off the ground and sputtered through the air for ten feet before crash landing on the nearest object at hand—an elevated platform that happened to be my back, bent over baby carrots. Baby robin landed with a thud and grabbed at me desparately with its feet, which for the purpose of this story I will refer to as “razor-sharp talons.” The sudden presence of razor sharp talons digging into my back caused me to jump up, sending baby robin back into the air where he flew for a dozen pathetic feet and landed in the grass. Skeptics might say, “That robin landed on you because he was either drunk or exhausted.” But I humbly respond, “That robin landed on me because organic farming makes me one with nature.”

We have some nice new additions to your box this week, starting with Komatsuna. This is a Japanese green that we’ve really come to love for its heartiness in the field and its versatility in the kitchen. Komatsuna is great in a stir-fry, delicious when steamed on its own and seasoned, and wonderful as a cooked green. We’ve had komatsuna cooked into lasagna, chopped and topped on spaghetti, and baked into a quiche. I would call it a spinach substitute, except that we also have spinach in your box this week. Usually spinach has gone to seed by now and is no longer available, but this spinach has held on well despite the heat. This is the last week of spinach until the fall, however, so enjoy it while it lasts!

I had hoped to offer turnips this week but unfortunately our first planting has been lost to flooding. I do have a second batch of spring turnips that I hope to have ready to harvest soon. In their place we have a bunch of kale this week.

The loose beaked curlicues are Garlic Scapes. Garlic is planted in mid-October and is our only crop that over-winters. At this point in its development, garlic is all about procreation. It grows these scapes out of the top of its stalk as its first reproductive option. The beaked ends will open to form bulbils (miniature cloves) and flowers for seed. By cutting off the scape, we block both of those outlets and force the garlic to emphasize its third-string option for reproduction: the familiar garlic bulb. Garlic that keeps its scape grows only small cloves, so by cutting them we get the ideal clove at garlic harvest (late July). So what do you do with it? The scape has all the taste of a clove, so simply dice it up and add to any dish calling for garlic. Or, for added fun, challenge your family to a scape-eating contest: the first to successfully eat a whole raw scape wins—or loses?

Another new entry this week is the bunch of Scallions (also called green onions). The white bulb has the sweetest flavor, but the whole green top can be eaten as well. Just cut off the root base and enjoy in any recipe calling for onion.

We’ve had a few people ask about delivery for next week with the 4th of July holiday, and we want to confirm that delivery will go on as usual next week. If you happen to be traveling and will not be back in time for your box, feel free to have a friend pick up your box for you. If you’ll be gone and don’t have anyone lined up to take your produce, please let me know so that we spread out your vegetables in the other CSA boxes and avoid anything going to waste. Thanks!

Expected next week: Salad mix, head lettuce, sweet turnips, garlic scapes, komatsuna, scallions, and baby beet greens.

Week 2 Newsletter

June 19, 2018

In your box:

Bok Choy

–Chard

Head Lettuce (“Red Romaine”)

–Radishes

–Salad mix

–Strawberries or sorrel

What a muddy mess! We’ve logged a month’s worth of rain in just the past week, and as a result we have standing water in our farm rows and a trail of mud that follows me everywhere I walk just like the cloud of dust that follows Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen. I haven’t noticed any damage yet to the crops themselves—thankfully we plant all of our crops in raised beds that are shaped by my tractor. This keeps them six inches above the low point of the fields and allows excess rain to flow off of the beds (where it would cause some veggies to rot) and into the aisles. On rainy days I wish I had a gondola and Italian hat so I could row down the standing water and pick the veggies without getting my feet dirty. Also I would be singing opera. So if you know any gondola builders, please put them in touch with me….

The humidity of the past week has helped everything to continue growing, but unfortunately this includes the weeds as well. The soil has been too wet to get in with a hoe and keep things under control, so for now I’m really hoping for a nice dry spell so I can free up the good crops from the encroaching army of purslane, timothy grass, pigweed, ragweed, and thistle. It gets really tedious to pull all of these weeds individually by hand, but as soon as the soil dries out I can seek my vengeance with an array of hoes.

Nearly all of the produce in your boxes has already been washed, though some delicate crops (Berries and tomatoes) and some impractical ones (beans and many herbs) have not been washed by us. It’s a good idea to wash everything again before feeding your family—it helps keep the veggies fresh and ensures the cleanest and safest possible produce.

This week we have the usual green variety of bok choy, and thankfully the bugs have mostly left this alone. My stock answer for “what do I do with bok choy?” has always been: stir fry it. But this winter I found a recipe for a casserole that uses bok choy and that tastes amazing. I’ve included it below and you’ll definitely want to use it if stir-frying isn’t your thing. The “Grains and Greens” recipe works with komatsuna as well, which we’ll be harvesting next week. You can also use chard and kale for the greens if you like.

Strawberries are slowly beginning to ripen and a few of you will be receiving them this week. I’ll keep track of whose boxes have had berries and try to keep it even going forward. Anyone not receiving berries will get a bunch of sorrel in your box. Sorrel is a perennial green that is great in a salad. The initial taste and texture are like spinach but the aftertaste is like citrus.

I’m giving the spinach a week off to regrow more leaves for the next harvest, so hopefully that will be available again next week. This week brings our first harvest of salad mix of the year. This is a blend of 8 different kinds of leaf lettuce and we’ll offer it throughout the late spring and again in the fall.

This week also brings us our first Swiss Chard of the season. Chard is a close relative of beets that bears new leaves throughout the year—the more we pick, the more we get. If you are unfamiliar with chard, this is the bunched greens with pink and yellow stems. Chard is a great companion in egg dishes like omelets, frittatas, and quiche. It can also be stir-fried, lightly wilted, or eaten raw. Chard leaves are more fragile than kale, so the heavy winds we’ve had this spring have left a few of the leaves a little shredded. We tend to not have as much wind in the summer here as in the spring, so unless we have hail damage our next batch of chard leaves should be more whole.

Expected next week: Salad mix, spinach, sweet turnips, garlic scapes, komatsuna, scallions, and strawberries.

Grains and Greens Casserole

June 18, 2018
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • ½ onion
  • Bok choy or komatsuna or vivid choi chopped into small pieces
  • 1 bunch kale; stems removed and coarsely chopped
  • 10 oz baby spinach
  • 4 cloves garlic; minced
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (or quinoa/barley/lentils or a combination)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 eggs; beaten
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 13 x 9 baking pan
  2. Add olive oil to skillet or wok at medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sautee for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add all the greens (in small batches) to the wok and cook until wilted
  4. Remove greens from heat to large bowl to cool. Stir in cooked grains and add salt/pepper. Stir in eggs and cheese.
  5. Transfer to prepared baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove foil and cook until the top is lightly browned.

Week 1 Newsletter

June 12, 2018

In your box:

–Arugula

Bok Choy (“Vivid Choy”)

Head Lettuce

–Kale (“Red Russian”)

–Radishes

–Rhubarb

–Spinach

Welcome to your first CSA delivery of the 2018 season! We are so excited to kick off the growing year and we hope you enjoy all of the flavors and crops that this season brings.

Back in April it seemed like this first harvest would never come. We received far more snow than we have ever had that late in the winter, and temperatures were very slow to warm up to anything like average. But as soon as the calendar flipped to May the farm was off and running. The warm dry weather we had during May was so helpful to getting the fields ready to plant, and we ended up receiving just enough rain to keep the crops happy. I always get nervous when the weather in April is lousy, but I’ve been learning that it’s really the growing conditions we have in May that set the tone for the whole year.

June has been ok but wet, so everything is growing well—including the weeds. After heavy downpours over the weekend and on Monday I would really appreciate a nice dry spell to catch up on weeding and keep the good crops growing nicely.

This week’s box is mostly greens, as strawberries are still a week or two away. One new crop offering some beautiful color is a pink/purple variety of bok choy called “Vivid Choy.” This is the first time we’ve grown this crop, and it’s kind of a combination of kale, mustard greens, and the usual bok choy that I expect to harvest next week. Vivid Choy isn’t as rigid as common bok choy, so it can be wilted and cooked down like kale or chopped into a stir fry. The stems can be eaten or removed, depending on your preference.

Unfortunately all of our Asian greens are nibbled this year. We usually try to cover them with a netting that keeps the flea beetles off. But the netting adds a few degrees to the temperature of the plants, so with the 100 degree weather a couple weeks ago it seemed like it would have killed the plants to keep the netting on. Without any protection the flea beetles did some cosmetic damage, but the crops themselves are still in good shape despite the beetle holes.

The beetles also got into the arugula, but overall the taste and quality is still good. If you’re not familiar with arugula, this is the short green with rounded edges in your box. Since they are not longer baby-sized, I have bunched them this week. Arugula is great mixed in with a salad, but it can also be wilted in a stir-fry or processed into pesto. If you aren’t a fan of the spicy flavor, try substituting it for basil in a pesto recipe and you’ll get a great-tasting pesto that doesn’t have the peppery flavor of arugula.

In our CSA boxes, we always try to strike a balance between organization and not over-packaging. We know of some farms that just dump everything in a box and others that wrap everything in plastic, and we try to find the right balance in between. The bags that we provide for many salad items and green beans later in the year are compostable and recyclable, and they really go a long way to keeping these items fresh. If you have access to a compost program or a backyard pile we’ve had good success in their decomposition and recommend this for finished bags. It does take a couple years in a compost pile to really break them down, but in a municipal pile this isn’t a problem. We also use cardboard pint and half-pint containers for berries and cherry tomatoes. These can be recycled or returned to the farm if they are in good shape.

Thanks again for your support this year! Farming continues to be my passion and a unique encounter every year. We couldn’t do it without the support of our CSA community. We hope you enjoy the season and try a few new crops with us. Be sure to contact us if you have any concerns or questions: foxandfawnfarm@gmail.com or 952.353.1762.

Expected next week: Salad mix, arugula, sweet turnips, chard, head lettuce, bok choy, strawberries.