Csa2016 Week 10: The Arrival of The Queen

Tomatoes are here!  The queen of the summer garden is the key vegetable that many gardeners use as the measure of the skill of the gardener.  Disease, pests, climate and a multitude of varietal choices all influence the end result.  This year, had been great for growing tomato plants and tomato fruit.  We have been having  some huge fruits from Nature’s RiddleOrange Oxheart and Ananas Noire.  Most impressive has been the new hybrid, Cherokee Carbon.  Big, beautiful, perfect shape and sweet taste make these great.
Also in the box are some carrots, beets, fingerling potatoes, broccoli, sweet corn, onions, garlic, beans, arugula, cucumbers, pattypan squash, basil, cilantro and bell peppers.  

Finally there are a few great pears called SummerCrisp.  This Minnesota introduction is crisp, sweet and the perfect size for a snack.  

CSA 2016 Week 11.  Winding down and winding up.


While summer is far from over according to the calendar, summer is winding down as soon school begins and weather forecasters are predicting some cool Canadian air.  In the garden, the same holds true as some crops like beans and cukes are reaching the end of their time while others like peppers, tomatoes and apples are starting to roll in.  

This week you get to enjoy those late summer flavors like a mixed bag of heirloom tomatoes, jalapenos, haralson apples and even a rutabaga (it might be soup weather this weekend). There are still some consistent goodies like garlic, carrots, broccoli and a beautiful egg plant.  There are some new beans.  The beautiful red beans are called Red Swan and the green ones are an Appalachian heirloom type called greasy cut-short beans. These beans have a little more ‘bean’ to them and when cooked have a little bit of a shiny appearance.  We’re trying them out, maybe they will be great, maybe not so much, you let me know. 

Happy week.

Garlic Harvest Time!

IMG_20160802_134958580

Music and Armenian, Sorted, bundled and ready for Curing!

Usually this heading would have come weeks ago, right after the 4th of July, but this year the consistent moisture and not crazy hot temps must have kept the garlic going longer than usual and so harvest was just completed.  I also was basing harvest on the new idea of lifting it when there are 4 green leaves remaining.  The old way had me lifting garlic when the scapes straighten out.  Digging too soon may lead to smaller heads and the protective outer wrappers to not be formed.  Leaving it in too long can lead to the heads bursting apart.  All those lead to a shorter storage life as well.  Whatever the case, this years garlic crop is hands down, my best ever!  I had great uniformity and size of each head, very few that were small but lots of great nice ones.  This year I grew 10 varieties on a large scale with a couple others are some experiments. While all are good and I really have a hard time discerning the difference once they are cooked up in a dish, they have their different qualities that make some better for canning, others better for baked garlic spread while some are more excellent in sauteed dishes.

Armenian

A hard to find porcelain variety with 4 to 6 very large, plump cloves.  Armenian garlic has a very full-bodied, earthy flavor raw and continues to hold up well while cooking.  

Bogatyr

A long storing purple skinned variety with dark brown cloves.  This rich flavor garlic is pleasing, especially in Italian dishes and has little to no heat.  

Broad Leafed Czech

Sourced from Seed Savers, this softneck variety typically only has between 8 and 12 tan cloves per head.  The smaller number means they are much bigger than typical softnecks.  When raw, it is very hot, but once cooked it becomes mild.  

Buffalo Rose

A locally collected garlic sourced from local garlic guy Gary Klingelhoets.  This hardneck variety boasts 12 to 15 smaller sized, yet strongly flavored purple tinted cloves.

Chesnok Red

Beautiful red cloves on this hardneck variety that keep a good deal of their strong flavor when cooking.  Heads boast 8 to 10 red-skinned cloves that peel easily.

German Extra Hardy

An easy growing hardneck variety with 4-7 huge cloves per head. German Extra hardy has some slight pink striping to the skin of the cloves which have a strong, robust flavor.  

Italian Late Softneck

One of the best for cooking, this softneck variety often carried over 25 cloves per head.  Excellent flavor hold up well to cooking and if properly cured and stored, heads can last 6 to 9 months.

Music

A great, reliable hardneck with tight head of 4-7 large cloves. The flavor is very pungent, yet sweet.  This variety is excellent drizzled with olive oil, baked and spread on a piece of crusty bread.  

Red Russian

Rich, musky, strong garlic  flavor that is very hot raw.  Typically 7 to 14 cloves per head with read streaking on the bulb wrappers.  Very hardy and dependable in our climate of Minnesota.

Shirley Ray

Another variety collected and named by Gary Klingelhoets.  This larger sized hardneck with a large number of  medium sized cloves is quite pungent, yet mellows nicely once cooked.

The Process

Each farmer has slightly different methods on how they do things based on mentors, what they read and their own trial and error.  These are my methods.  Others may be different and work well or even better but this is how my garlic grows with pretty good results overall.  The garlic season actually begins in late fall when individual cloves of garlic are planted in a prepared bed a couple inches deep spaced 6 to 12 inches apart, depending on the variety.  Garlic cloves are modified leaves, to grow well, plants need nitrogen so of all the plant nutrients, soil rich in nitrogen is the most beneficial.  Nitrogen is also the most fleeting nutrient so either supplement the soil at planting or in the spring or plant your garlic in a plot previous occupied by a nitrogen fixer like peas, beans, alfalfa or clover.  This year mine followed a cover crop of sweet clover.   Last year it was planted the last week of October.  2 years ago it was November.  Obviously the ground cannot be froze solid as it needs a couple weeks post planting to send down a few roots and begin a tiny sprout.  Planting too early or a late season warm and wet spell can cause it it to sprout considerably.  But if it sprouts just a little, no fear, it is probably safe for the next year.  At least my brothers was.  Mulch the bed with some organic matter such leaves, straw, old hay or grass clippings.  I typically use some junky hay.  Fluffing it up a bit is good so the garlic doesn’t have to work too hard in the spring shooting up.  I didn’t mulch a portion of the plot all on accident and had no problems this year, in fact, it was some of the nicer crop, but it could have also been due to soil conditions and the fact that there was enough rain during the growing season that mulch wasn’t all that necessary.

NCM_0456

977.523.8

In the spring, garlic is one of the first things up.  It is a welcome site for sore eyes.  Before the weeds come, trees bud or grass greens up, there will be these glorious green garlic shoots popping out of some dreary colored mulch.  At this time I check to make sure all can puncture their way through the mulch.  If a thick clump of hay lands on top of a sprout, it might have difficulty reaching the light.  That little clove only has so much energy and if the sprout has to turn sideways a few inches before breaking forth, it will be set back considerably or may not develop well at all.

Early in the growing season, keep the garlic consistently watered.   It doesn’t appreciate being water logged, but don’t let it dry out.  Also remove any competing weeds.

IMG_20160614_163929335Come June, the hardnecks will begin the process of sending up their scapes.  This are a great treat to get that hot garlic flavor before the garlic. Too many?  Try making Pickled Garlic Scapes, they go great on Bloody Mary’s, so I been told.   This is also the time that the garlic bulb is gaining weight.  Some say to remove the scapes to help the bulb grow larger and I typically do.  But some are always left and I find mixed results in the size.  I think if soil moisture is adequate, weeds are removed and garlic is spaced properly, garlic with scapes can grow plenty big.  But I like to stay on the safe side and remove them to let the plants put all their energy into the bulb.  Its at this time you can begin to harvest garlic an eat it fresh.  If your supply from last year is out, why not?  Fresh garlic should be use quickly and stored under refrigeration when not used.

In July the garlic harvest begins.  Look to the variety to know if it is an early, mid or late season type and harvest accordingly.  For me, the softnecks are early while the hardnecks are later.  This year, after a windstorm most of the softnecks bent over so I then harvested as I didn’t want them to begin rotting at the soil surface.  The hardnecks waited until the bottom leaves were dry and there were only 4 or 5 leaves still green.

When harvesting, I always dig the garlic as I don’t want to break the stems or damage the bulbs.  Hard soil can scrape or bruise garlic easily, diminishing shelf life.  Garlic is then sorted for size as I pick out my largest, nicest bulbs for planting next years crop.  It is bundled into groups of 8 to 12 heads and hung in an airy, dry place for curing.  Some will just lay their garlic on racks as well.

After 2 or more weeks, depending on how green it was and how dry the air is, curing may be complete.  the stems should be dry, a few outer skins should easily rub off and the garlic should have no smell.  What?  yes no smell.  If it still smells of garlic it is not fully cured or may be damaged.  I usually let mine go longer just be safe.  But don’t go too long as you don’t want a fall rain to raise the humidity and encourage the garlic roots to begin growing.  When ready, cut the stems a couple inches, trim roots, rub off easy to remove wrappers and store in a breathable bag in a dark coolish (55 degree) place with moderate humidity.  Too low of humidity and the garlic will loose moisture and get rubbery.  It is best to check the variety and determine which has the shortest shelf life and use that first.  As a rule of thumb, softnecks last longer, hardnecks not so much.  But we typically have all of our garlic make it to Easter with very little loss.

Overall, garlic is very gratifying to grow and the flavor of some high-quality, homegrown garlic variety trumps that boring Chinese stuff in the little boxes at the grocery store any day.  If you are not going to use it all quickly, you could chop, dry and grind for garlic powder.  Others will pack in oil, although I have seen some questions on the safety of doing so.  If done improperly botulism could be an issue and we don’t want that.

But of course, don’t forget to plant some more for next year!

NCM_1488

A Scape in the Sunset

 

CSA2016 Week9: Everything Takes its Turn

IMG_20160803_163732885One of the most enjoyable aspects of eating seasonally, is about the time you are sick of something, you get a break.  Now I know there are some things that people can eat all the time, we all have our favorites, but after weeks and weeks of beans and cabbage, there is a brief pause as we are between successions.  This week some of you will be gifted a beautiful eggplant, others still get broccoli.  Corn is full swing as are the cucumbers.  There are a few prized bell peppers and a half dozen patty pan squash.  Before too long we will be swimming in tomatoes and the squash will be coming in.  But as each new crop becomes ready, for some reason my body really craves it.  It is almost as though it is deprived of what ever nutrients they may have and it ready to soak them up.  That first bowl of creamy cucumbers or corn on the cob taste like heaven.

This week the box is heavy with many substantial things.  No greens to mess with, we are getting down to the results of 3 or 4 months of growth finally culminating in the fruits of all the plants labor.  While the beans may be on vacation, the beets are plentiful.  I planted a great heap of beets and so they are still present.  You may find the all red, earthy flavor of the Detroit Dark Red.  The slightly less earthy and pleasantly sweet and beautiful striped Chioggia,  the ever popular, smooth and sweet Touchstone Gold or the bright yellow and mild Yellow Mangel.  Their counter part, carrots are also hanging out in the box.  A few stored onions, a head of Italian Soft Neck garlic. This is mostly cured so it should be fine storing it on the counter.  The funny looking squash are the patty pan.  This delicate summer squash is excellent sauteed, or lightly fried with eggs, or baked with the basil.  There is a bunch of burp-less Marketmore Cucumbers,  a pile of Purple Viking potatoes, a lone leek, a bunch of basil and small pile of parsley, the best tasting Italian Flat Leaf (perfect for some boiled potatoes).  A dozen ears of corn is tagging along and there are 4 crisp, Summer Crisp Pears.  I only have a lone tree of this fantastic U of M Intoduction, but I wish the other 5 were all this variety cause I can eat them like nobody’s business.  Look for more next week.

With the garlic harvest complete and curing underway, the remainder of this week is dedicated to making Sauerkraut!  This time, the green cabbage is ready to go.   I hope to document the process and let it be known how its done.

And next week, I hope to provide you some Tomatoes, that is if we can stop eating all that ripen.

IMG_20160801_112952036

CSA2016 Week 8. Its County Fair Time!

IMG_20160727_100349582All across rural America, midsummer means county fair season for lots of kids and their families.  4-H and FFA form the backbone to many rural communities because people see the value in supporting organizations that build positive habits in youth.  Through showing livestock, exhibiting produce or taking on the technical tasks of sewing a dress or overhauling a tractor, parents know that their kids will learn how to work, plan, budget, care and speak.  Sometimes kids win, but more often they don’t and both are huge learning opportunities.

County fair was the highlight of every summer for me during my youth.  It was a chance to work with the things I love surrounded by like minded people.  Looking back, I have to shake my head at my early projects.  The terrarium full of weeds from the yard and the painted wooden calf in much need of a sand job both were full of good intentions yet not the most desirable products.  Yet in 4-H, it is also about what you know, what you learned, and what your plans are for next year.  My weed terrarium was actually a pretty good project and I did well because I knew the weeds, a little bit about them and they looked beautiful, or at least as beautiful as plantain, oxalis and chickweed can look.   Little did I know that knowing those weeds would be handy later in life.

IMG_20160727_154703704This week I got to take a peek at what kids did for their projects, especially the plant science exhibits.  Planning a good vegetable exhibit is a lot like packing a CSA box.  You need to have produce that looks good, is trimmed correctly, clean, and proper size. An added element is having a variety of types and colors to hit all the nutritional needs.  While you might have a rocking assortment of greens and bean, people crave variety and each week I try to put together a mix that is appealing from first glance.

This week we have a nice variety.  Beets and carrots are still in full swing.  Carrots this week include a new white variety of carrot called White Satin.  This white variety great raw while the darker ones, Purple Dragon are the better option for cooking.  There are dragon tongue beans and green beans which would be great with the potatoes in the  Vomachka Soup.  Here is the recipe.

Ingredients

-1/4 cup butter

-1 cup chopped onions

-1 cup chopped carrots

-1 cup diced celery

-3 chopped cloves of garlic

-3 cup green beans

-3 cups diced potato

-1/4 cup flour

-50 oz chicken stock

-2 tbsp chicken base

-1 or 2 tbsp dill weed

-1 cup sour cream

-1 cup milk

-2+ tbsp cider vinegar

-Ground pepper and salt

Directions

1. Begin sauteing butter, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic

1.5. Mix together sour cream and milk in a sauce pan and begin tempering while you do other things

2. Add and mix together flour, chicken stock/base, dill weed, diced potatoes, green beans and ground pepper to a large stock pot. When ready, add the sauteed vegetables and tempered sour cream/milk in the pot as well.

3. Add cider vinegar and a little salt. Mix it all together and put the stock pot on the burner for a while.

Also in the box a fresh batch of arugula and some goat cheese.  Try them all in a salad with some toasted wall nuts

Finally, there is corn, it is a wee bit immature, but I couldn’t resist.

.

CSA 2016 Week 7: Were Having a Veggie Wave!

IMG_20160720_161248166_HDRand a Heat Wave!  That is about all you hear on the news lately, well that and political stuff.  But yes it is hot, when coupled with the adequate moisture in the ground does help everything take big leaps towards maturity.  Some things are not fans.  Spinach, Lettuce and Radish throw up the white flag and flower surrendering to the heat, pretty much regardless of age.  I replanted them a few times, but I doubt it will amount to too much if the heat persists for very long.   Tomatoes don’t often set fruit very well, but there are plenty coming, but patience, it will be a few weeks.  Other things like beans and corn go in overdrive.  Also in overdrive is the broccoli.  I always have the great intention of doing some succession planting, but I didn’t with  the broccoli, and as a result we have great big wave of it happening right now of the first, nicest heads. Hopefully you can manage to find your own great ways of enjoying it… steamed, raw, that broccoli/carrot/raisin salad or some stiff fry perhaps? IMG_20160718_113452644

IMG_20160719_120405813Also making a debut in the box is a beautiful head of red cabbage.  300 lbs went into sauerkraut this week, but there are a few stragglers who will be garnishing your box the next few weeks.  We were graced with a patrons favorite way to prepare the cabbage, Sweet-Sour Red Cabbage

Here is the recipe:

Sweet-Sour Red Cabbage

1/2 cup butter

2 tbs chopped instant onions or 1/2 c minced raw onion

1/4 c packed brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp cloves

1 2-lb red cabbage, finely shredded.

1/c boiling water

1/2 c wine vinegar.

Melt butter in skillet; sautee onions until golden brown

Add sugar, seasonings, cabbage and mix lightly

Add water, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

Add vinegar and simmer 10 minutes longer

This is pleasantly tart; should you prefer it milder, use only 1/4 c vinegar.

Serve Hot to 8 people.

 

There are plenty of beans to go around so you received a healthy sum of green ones, if you get sick of snapping them just pawn them off on your neighbor.  Also included are the ever beautiful Dragon’s Tongue Beans.  These tender wide-podded golden beans with the purple flecks are surprisingly good with a light blanch or steam.  However since they loose their color in cooking maybe a eating them raw is the way to go? There is kale, some Purple Viking Potatoes, orange and red carrots, beets, a couple onions, a garlic, and zucchini. The bunch of onion looking things are actually shallots.  They are ready for curing so if you don’t use them, just find a nail in the closet, hand them up and let them dry for use later.  Many recopies call for this milder cousin of the onion. They often are very fitting to eat with beans.    Finally it wouldn’t be summer with out some cool slicing cucumbers.  These are the first of the year,  no bitterness, just greatness.

Enjoy the week!IMG_20160720_161254616_HDR

CSA 2016 Week 6: A tribute to the Vikings.  

Sorry to disappoint the fans of Leif Erickson and Thor, but it only seams fitting to acknowledge the Minnesota Vikings with our assortment of gold and purple in this week’s box.  
The beans are in full force with a first string lineup- yellow variety called Solei and the ever tasty purple Velour making the final cut.  This past weekend we celebrated by Dad’s 75th birthday and Mom made a big batch of this homemade green bean casserole and it was great!  The favorable spring and summer weather has worked well for the onions; there is a bunch of purple ones in the box.  Red beets  and a head of garlic are a gain playing in this week’s box as are the zucchini.  New to the team are the fancy, all-purpose Purple Viking Potatoes.  There is a head of beautiful, mild tasting iceberg lettuce which would be great on a summertime sandwich and a mini head of cabbage.  Finally, this is the retirement of the MVP of the last 3 weeks, the Napa Cabbage. You could try out this stir fried version if you have run out of ideas.   They have had a great run and I hope you enjoyed them.  There are a few planted for fall, so they may come out of retirement and make a return for the fall season, but we will have to wait and see. 

The garlic harvest has begun and by the looks of the 3 varieties lifted, it will go down as my best year of garlic of all time!  Get ready to start warding off the Packers.. errr….vampires because it will becoming your way. 

Also underway is the kraut making process.  First up is dill pickle, red and we are trying out a Jalapeno Red this year as well.  The 6 to 8 weeks wait time to try it out is just another lesson in patience.  
Enjoy the box and enjoy another beautiful week of summer in Minnesota because like most good things, they don’t last forever.