CSA Week 5: Transition Time

We’re finally in the transition time.  Just as we enter those Dog Days of summer we also get to enjoy the transition into the more summer filled flavors of beets, beans, raspberries and tomatoes rather than greens and radishes.  We also transition from the early season chores of planting, tilling, weeding and replanting to the summer chores of watering, more weeding, trellising, pest management, harvesting with just minimal planting.

mulched tomatoAs plants grow, weeding becomes less of an issue as the the summer is typically drier and hotter, which doesn’t encourage or help weed germination. Crops also grow and shade out the ground which prevents germination.  During this time we also have mulch laid down and some cover crops are starting to fill out.  Most of the preventive weed maintenance comes from mulching the walk ways between tomatoes, peppers and potatoes with grass hay or bean straw.  The mulch maintains soil moisture, temperature and prevents germination of weed seeds (which is only true if the mulch is free of seeds!)  It is also helpful by adding organic matter to the soil and keeps my feet a little less muddy after rains or watering.  Walkways are planted with live cover crops such as white and sweet clover. These do much of the same job as the dried material but also help by adding nitrogen to the soil and help by sending roots down that help improve soil texture and bring up nutrients from deeper in the soil.  Clovers also flower and help attract pollinators throughout the growing season.  White clover is planted in the rows of brassicas (cabbages, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and broccoli) and is a low growing mat of green.  Sweet clover is used between the rows of squash and pumpkins.  It is a bit taller, but the squash don’t mind much and actually seem to set more fruit in the somewhat taller cover of the crops.  In the fall or spring, both clovers are easily killed when the field is plowed.  In the end, the cover crops prevented erosion, water loss, and weed growth all while adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

Much of the cover crop inspiration came through reading Eliot Coleman’s book,The New Organic Grower.  In the book Coleman does an excellent job discussing planting and growing techniques after years of experience as a market farmer.  The book is great for those who garden for hobby or for those wanting to take it to the next level.

CSA week 5 2013

This weeks share holds just the start of our summer crop transition.  Inside you will find lettuce, onions as well as our last week of napa cabbage and garlic scapes.  There is also a bit of dill weed and a sprig of basil.  While the basil is not enough for a big batch of pesto, I thought I would start slowly distributing it out.  If your not going to use it, it could be easily dried in a dehydrator or hung in a dry place out of direct light.

New this week come pak choy.  The small bundle is great stir fried.  Pak choy is similar to the larger bok choy and can be used wherever bok choy is called for.  Nutritionally speaking, pak choy is not as nutrient dense as many other leafy vegetables but is high in vitamins A, C and K.

Also something different is the small bag of sugar snap and snow peas.There was not quite enough for just one or the other as there was a little issue with plant loss early in the year.  Either can be eaten, pod and all, raw or cooked.  

Finally we added beets to the share this week.  There is a mix of varieties.  The large goldish orange beets are called Touchstone gold. At the farmers market these are commonly praised as one of the best tasting beets.  A little less earthy flavor makes them more palatable to those who are not total beet fans, but they still have a great sweetness that everybody likes.  Your bunch also contains the common Detroit Dark red.  There are a few dark red beets with dark red leaves, these are an old variety called Bulls Blood.  Finally the bright red beets with green tops are called Chioggia. This size of beets is great peeled and boiled but even better oven roasted.  Just toss with olive oil and sea salt and roast till tender.    At this stage of the game, the beets tops are also very good to eat.  They can be cooked like spinach, steamed with pasta like you would swiss chard or just juice them. 

I hope you enjoy the new boxes.  I went with them because they can be reused many times, tough, have a bit of an insulating factor, and can be washed easily.  They do have holes that can allow them to leak water out, but this also helps with ventilation and should prevent them from getting to stinky.  I have enough for a couple weeks, but returning them weekly would be helpful.  As for next week, raspberries should be ready (I have snacked on a few but not enough to pick). Also zucchini should be ready and I am going to go hunting for potatoes.

Have a great week!

Larry

 

Some Like it Hot

Welcome to our first blog posting of the 2013 season.  Its has been a crazy first 4 weeks of the season, but on the bright side, the contents of the baskets have not changed much so this posting will work great for all of them.  There has been a bounty of cool season crops: Lettuce, Radishes, Onions, Endive, Rhubarb, Dill, Broccoli, and other various greens.  The cool wet spring was wonderful for most of them, as long as they didn’t flood out. Verona Savoy Cabbage 2013We were particularly lucky as we were able to dodge the major flooding, hail and wind that many other growers had to contend with.  The only losses were some early planted green beans, spinach and a few spotty tomatoes plants that got a little too wet right after planting.

The last two weeks have seen a shift in our weather pattern to lots of sun an heat.  This all couldn’t come soon enough to get our heat loving plants to grow.  This includes the peppers, squash, green beans, melons, and beloved tomatoes. But with the heat, it does mean we will probably see the amount of greens diminishing (I am sure some of you are thankful for that).

In terms of other happenings on the farm, the poultry flock is growing by size and number nearly every day.  More free ranged muscovy ducks and renegade chickens have been coming off of nests with little ones and the broiler chickens have made it to a size where we started butchering this week.  If your interested in chickens, there are few that will be available yet.  The next processing day is Monday, July 8.  Contact me if you have any questions.

While the goats are done kidding, they are still milking well.  Some of the milk has been used for feeding kids and our household use.  We have also started making those wonderful fresh chevre and fromage blanc goat cheeses.  What is left over has been used to fatten up the 8 feeder pigs that have been growing like weeds.

ankel high sweet corn july 3 2013waist high july 3 2013Hay has been baled much to the enjoyment of the goats and cattle and it looks like the corn made it to Knee High by the 4th of July(waist high actually). Some sweet corn is only ankle high, but that will be good for a later crop.  Now just pray for timely rains and good warmth to let this growing season catch up.

Basket #4 Contents:

basket week 4 2013

Napa Cabbage – This year has been one of the best for producing Napa Cabbage.  This is the second, but probably last week to enjoy it.  It works fine as a cabbage substitute but I prefer it used in a basic fresh salad with a simple vinaigrette dressing.  Theold Daytons Potluck Cook Book has a wonderful recipe submitted by Carole Busch.  Of course you can omitt the chicken or use other ramen flavors. It goes as follows:

Dressing:

  • 5 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • flavor packet from 2 packages chicken-flavored ramen noodles

Salad:

  • 1 pound cabbage, shredded
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Noodles from 2 ramen noodle packs
  • 5 tablespoons sesame seed
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken.

In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients.  Cover: refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.  Just before serving, combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl; add dressing. Mix well.

Also in the basket is a bag of mixed lettuce (green and red leaves), onions, rhubarb, cilantro, mint (mojitos anyone?), garlic scapes, french breakfast radishes, and spicy Italian salad mix (all green and mostly frilly leaves). The full share folks also received our fist zucchini and kale as well.

After getting radished for 4 weeks, you may be out of ideas for them.  My sister found this great radish salad that uses radishes and the cilantro.  If radish flavor is just too much, then substitute some 50% of the radishes for jicama.

garlic scapeGarlic scapes are the flower buds of a hardneck garlic plant.  Each clove planted in the previous fall produces one scape.  Many remove scapes because they feel it will encourage increased size of the growing garlic bulb; I remove them because they make a great garlic substitute with out sacrificing the whole bulb right away.  To learn more about garlic scapes, check out the Plum Creek Garlic posting on scapes. If your really interested in garlic, you should consider going to the Minnesota Garlic Festival.

The spicy Italian salad mix is comprised of bib lettuce, arugula, chicory and mostly frisee endive.  It has a little punch when eaten so is best to have wilted or braised.

A sneak peek into next weeks box: same old stuff + baby beets, pak choi, and possibly sugar snap peas and raspberries.

I hope this week treats you well and you find a great way to celebrate the 4th of July and this wonderful weather.

Larry

CSA 2013

Last year at this time, the rows of lettuce, spinach and radishes had already emerged from the soil.  This year, I can finally see the soil after the last snow melted away just a few days ago.  The slow spring of 2013 makes me wonder if the whole year will be on the cool side, or if we will just  jump right in to summer all of a sudden.  Either way, it will come, and either way, we have been putting in to motion the plans and planting for our 2013 CSA.  The thing about farming and gardening is that each year is exciting and each year one is filled with hope.  Hope that the weather and season goes well.  Hope that the new varieties are pleasing.  Hope that all of our usual intentions, like weeding or transplanting on time, become reality.  I don’t think many hobbies/professions are so often rooted in as much hope as this one. Nor do i think as many give a person a second chance to try again.    

The year 2013 has a few new things in store for us at the farm.  After perusing for hours over the webpages and catalogs of our favorite seed suppliers like Baker Creek, Italian Seed and Tool, Seed Savers, Burpee, and FedCo, were adding 20 new varieties of tomatoes, 12 pepper varieties, 12 squash and much more. Were excited to try some new varieties of tomatoes like San Marzano Gigante and Indian Stripes from Sandhill Preservation Center.  Were growing some Purple Viking Potatoes this year after a trial last year.  We also picked up some new beans called Cut Short or Greasy Beans.  These beans are heirlooms from the Appalachian region.  While they may be different and take some getting used too, I am excited to get the seed in the ground in the ground.  Were also working to go heavy on our production of common favorites like spinach, colored bell peppers, red tomatoes, sugar snap peas and golden beets.  We also will be retiring the quaint wooden baskets and begin using a more clean, convenient and larger corrugated plastic tote. Finally we are making space to add a few more patrons to our CSA this year. 

Some more long term projects for the year are expanding our fruit and perennial crop area with more raspberries, asparagus, plums and historic apple varieties like Ashmeads Kernal, Pound Sweet and Arkansas Black.  

 If you are interested in finding out more about the CSA or signing up, feel free to contact us.  Just be aware, it is planting/hatching/kidding/grafting season and were not always right near the phone.  We will try to get back to you as quickly as possible.

 

Thanks

Larry

CSA September 6

CSA Weeks ??? September 5

I don’t know about you but these last few weeks for me have just flown by.  Between vacation and the start of school it has been pretty crazy, but a very fun crazy.  I hope you didn’t miss my little chatter too much.  The gardens are charging ahead full force, and we are ushering in another season, this time the fall crops of squash and pumpkins.  At this point, as long as there is no hard freeze, the shares will keep coming through the month of September for certain. 

 

This week’s share contained some old stand bys like carrots, potatoes, garlic, basil and kale.  There were a few new things.  The big one this week was spaghetti squash.  I was never a fan of spaghetti squash because we either ate it like spaghetti with marinara sauce or like squash with brown sugar and butter.  But I have found that my preferred way is to eat it with just butter, salt and pepper.  Just cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and bake at 350 until the squash can be pulled out like spaghetti.  When done add the butter, salt and pepper to taste.  If you don’t get to eating it right away, it keeps very well just on the counter.  For a faster way, cut it in half, take out seeds, place it in a large bowl with some water in the bottom, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 10 min. 

Also this week, we offered Haralson apples.  Haralson is an older great all purpose apple.  While they are not large, overly sweet or white like many new varieties they make a great all purpose apple for apple dumplings, pie and fresh eating.  Despite the scare of an early bloom spiked with a late freeze, our apples came out unscathed.  Many orchards in the area wound up with an excellent crop of apples this year, unlike many orchards to the east and south of the twin cities.  The only down fall to a tree loaded with apples is that their size is a bit smaller than usual.  Hopefully next year we will get them thinned better and increase the size of the apples.

Some of you also received an interesting onion variety, Torpedo Red.  This red onion is an Italian variety with strong red color and elongated shape.  Use them like any other onion variety. 

And again, there were tomatoes.  A mixed bag of cherry tomatoes and another bag that contained purple Russians (moms favorite), carbon (a round purple variety) Dr Wyche’s orange and maybe a few random red tomatoes. 

Like everything, determining how many tomatoes to offer is kind of a challenge.  If people only eat them raw, then it is easy to get too many.  However, if you want to make a batch of marinara sauce, then it takes quite a few.  With that being said, this week if the tomatoes are plentiful, you can opt to get a larger quantity.  It will not a be a huge amount for making salsa, but something more substantial if you wanted to cook with it.

Have a great week!

CSA Week 10 August 15

CSA Week 10 August 15, 2012

Week 10 brings a few new things to your share, bell peppers and watermelon.  Growing up we never grew melons.  Mother always said it wouldn’t grow in our heavy soils.  A few years ago I tried melons and had great luck with a great little green melon called Edens Gem.  It was like candy; A great green melon about the size of a softball.  Ever since I have tried to grow melons buy only had moderate success.  This year looks to be a different story.  After a little bit of a battle against cucumber beetles, the vines took off in our hot wet conditions and there are a respectable number of melons out in the patch.  This week it was an old heirloom watermelon variety called Chelsea.  We also had super long Moon and Stars, but kept that for ourselves.  The only downfall with not growing melons is I never really learned when to know they are ripe.  I think they could have been picked sooner, hence the cracking in some, but they are still tasty.  Also new are a few peppers, a green bell names California Wonder and a purple bell, Lilac. Along with the newbies, you will find 2 small heads of garlic, a mix of Yukon Gold and All Red Potatoes, some Marketmore 76 cucumbers, a bunch of lettuce leaf basil, Cour Di Bue cabbage, a mix of Chioggia, Bulls Blood and Detroit Beets, some yellow crooked neck and patty pan squash, and a mixed bag of tomatoes.  Usually I have early tomatoes compared to others, but this year mine are later than most.  The cherries are a mix of Mexico Midget (little Red), Green Grape (big yellowish green), Lemon Drop (light yellow), Blondkopfchen (dark yellow), Riesentraube (larger Red), Brown Berry (ehh, brownish), a few Cream Sausage (long creamy colored) and Wapsipinicon Peach(larger round and fuzzy).  I also had a few bigger tomatoes.  You could have received, Cherokee Purple, Dr Wyches orange,  Master (red) or Purple Russian (elongated fat purple).    They all taste so unique it is crazy.  Depending on the growing conditions each year they also taste different, but my favorites are consistently Mexico Midget, Green Grapes, and Purple Russians.

Ideas for the week:

Tomato Basil Bruschetta:

A simple way to use tomatoes is to make a simple bruschetta.  Dice tomatoes,  a few leaves of basil, season with salt and pepper and marinate in balsamic vinegar.  Eat them as they are or on a piece of crusty bread.  So simple, yet so great.  Firm dry tomatoes like the cream sausage work the best but any will do.

 

We love cabbage.  Baked, boiled, slawed, fermented, braised and creamed we love it all ways. It must be our Polish Roots.  Creamed cabbage is kind of an old fashion thing.  You don’t come across it too often but it is nice, different, and tasty.

 

Creamed Cabbage

 

 

Boil cabbage until tender, approximately 30 minutes and drain well.

Make a roux from the butter, flour and milk stirring constantly until it turns a light brown. Add bouillon and stir to combine.

Add cabbage, salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir to mix together.

Serve.

 Have a Great Week!

CSA Week 9 August 1

CSA Week 9

 

Happy Week 8, or almost 9.  The fair this week got me kind of busy, hence this is late but it was well worth it.  The goats did great at the fair, the people had fun and my vegetables did pretty well.  You can be excited to know you are getting the best yellow wax beans, purple beans, endive, squash and beets in the county! Well, you probably don’t get the best as I used those as my entry, but pretty close to the best. 

This weeks basket contained: 

Marketmore 76 Cucumbers

A mix of Royal Burgandy, Yellow Wax and Dragon Tongue Beans.  The Dragon Tongue beans are the best raw, if cooked, watch them closely as they get soft quite easily.  Even the large beans are still quite good. 

White Onion

Hardneck Garlic

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Rhubarb

Summer Squash Mix

Chioggia Beets    – these beets are a great sweet treat.  While their colorful stripes to leave while cooking, their flavor is great and there is less mess.

Yellow Stone Carrots

Herb Bunch of Lettuce Leaf Basil, Cilantro, and Dill Weed

Jalapeno Peppers

Sweet Corn – the first of the season but it is coming on like gang busters now.  You will probably be getting a similar amount for the next few weeks. If you would like to purchase a large quantity for freezing, feel free to contact me and we can have that ready by Wednesday.

I have 2 great recipes this week that use the ingredients provided. The first link is for Vomacka soup. This was made at the famous Schumachers Restaurant in New Prague.   http://www.showcaseminnesota.com/recipes/recipe_detail.aspx?rid=275  Again, thanks to my friend Brian for enlightening me to this great soup.

This second recipe is for a fresh zucchini salsa. Sometimes it feels like people keep shoving zucchini in things as a way to use it.  Often the zucchini doesn’t really improve the final product. This salsa is different in that it is something different, yet really yummy. The only thing we have done differently is to keep the Zucchini coarse.  It was not done in the food processor, only chopped finely with a knife. http://www.pearlandpine.blogspot.com/2011/07/all-things-zucchini.html This blog also has other great recipes and pretty nice photography as well. 

 

This is the high time of summer gardening.  Tomatoes and peppers are right around the corner, there is a lot of produce happening.  If you feel you are getting too much of something, feel free to give it away or just let me know and I can adjust the quantity down.  If there is something you totally don’t want, or don’t use I can avoid giving it to you all together so you don’t have to feel bad about wasting anything.

CSA Week 8, July 24

CSA Week 8

Welcome to Week 8!  During this time of the year I always get the desire to begin a challenge be a self sustainable homesteader for a year.  It reminds me of the Barbara Kingsolver book, Animal Vegetable Miracle.   When the gardens are producing more than you can eat, animals are growing well and the weather is great, it’s easy to think…”I could do this every day.” But soon enough winter will be here and the lettuce at Cub Foods will be a welcomed sight. That being said, there might be times when you have more than you feel like eating.   Some things are quite easy to keep by freezing or drying them for those not so abundant winter days.  There is always something satisfying about reliving a bit of summer when you open up something that you preserved. 

Here are a couple ways to freeze some common vegetables:  

Zucchini:  Simply slice or grate zucchini and put in a freezer bag raw and freeze.  It is convenient to have a recipe in mind, like 2 cups for bread, and freeze that quantity so you can thaw it all out at once.  When the zucchini is thawed and used, the juice can be used in the recipe as well.

Beets:  It is helpful to cut the beets so they are the same size, but don’t cut up into bite size pieces as they lose much juice when cooking.  Place the beets in a pot and add enough water to cover all the beets.  Cook the beets with the skins on until tender, about 25 minutes. Cool the beets, peel, slice like you want, bag and freeze.

Beans: Bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the snapped and washed beans to the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes.  Remove the beans, cool, bag and freeze. 

On to this weeks basket:

Zucchini, cucumbers, onions, carrots, dill weed, parsley, basil, string beans, are all things you have seen before.  I have a couple of great ideas for using them in the recipes that follow.  Also this week is something new, Fennel.  On fennel all three portions can be used.  Fennel is not too common, but has an unusual licorice flavor.  The leaves can be used in a salad, or as an addition to potatoes or other vegetables.  The roots can be used in soup or stew and the bulb and stalk can be baked like other vegetables.

The potato tray consists of mostly 2 varieties: Purple Majesty, the all purple potatoes are a favorite around here.  Purple Viking, the purplish pink skinned potatoes are also a great tuber.  Try to use the potatoes quickly as the plants were still green and the potatoes may tend to soften if kept too long.  If you can’t use them too soon, try to keep them in a cool, dark place but not in the fridge.  

Zucchini Quiche

4 cups thinly sliced zucchini

1 large onion thinly sliced

3 tablespoons butter

2 eggs

2 teaspoons parsley

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon basil

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

9 nine inch pastry shell

Directions:

1. In large skillet sauté onion, zucchini and butter until tender.

2. In large bowl whisk the eggs, parsley, salt garlic powder oregano basil and black pepper.

3. Stir in the cheese and zucchini mixture.

4. Spread mustard on pastry shell and pour in your egg mixture.

5. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 35-40 min or cover and freeze unbaked for up to 2 months.

Roasted Vegetables with Fennel

2 small fennel bulbs, tops removed

1 pound small potatoes

1/3 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

½-1 pound string beans

1 bunch carrots (or asparagus)

¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425

2. Cut the fennel bulbs into 4 wedges.  Place on a sheet pan.  Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and place them on the pan.  Cut the carrots in half, or in 4 pieces if larger. 

3. Drizzle the olive oil on the vegetables, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Toss with your hands.

4. Roast the vegetables for 25 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, tossing once while cooking. 

5. Toss the string beans with the roasted vegetables and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. 

6. Sprinkle on the parmesan cheese and roast another minute or until the cheese is melted. 

7. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve hot.