CSA2015 Week 7: Time for Cukes and Zukes!

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One of the great things about eating seasonally, once you start to get sick of something, it often goes away and something new comes into play.  Gone are the days of greens an peas (although those are hard to get sick of) and now we are in the season of cucumbers and zucchini.  While the first planting of zucchini mysteriously didn’t germinate well at all, the replant sure did and caught up amazingly fast to the first planting.  When I head to the zucchini patch, I feel like I am entering the amazon as the plants are pretty much chest high.  We will see how long they look this amazing until the squash bugs attack.  They are so big I doubt I will be able to effectively pick them off.  You received a mix of zucchini.. a few small ones great for the grill and a couple of bigger ones that could be used in this amazing Zucchini Quiche or Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

The first cucumbers are also beginning to come in.  A few small slicers and a basket of small Edmundson Whites. While they are a pickling cucumber, I have them, they are fine to use as in a salad, or in dilled cucumber dip and so you get them!  Next week you probably can expect a large amount of slicers as there are loads coming in.

Rounding out the box is another beautiful head of broccoli, some purple beans, Viking potatoes, a bunch of kale, some dill, basil, a few onions, a mix of pretty carrots, cylindrica beets, and some Italian Soft Neck Garlic.

Speaking of garlic, the next few days I’ll be thick in it as it is garlic harvest time!  Digging, cleaning, sorting, and curing will all be taking place.  This year we have 13 different varieties growing  – mostly hardneck and a few softneck which I will talk about more next week, although I must admit, I rarely keep track of what I am eating, only growing so knowing differences about their looks and growth, but not so much taste.  Maybe a garlic tasting party is in order?

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Other doings…  been working on some goat fencing which allows kids more access to some pasture.  They love it although it takes little time to eat all down.  The last of the broilers have been cleaned.  This is always a relief as it eliminates the daily chore of feeding and moving them.  There are peppers coming, tomatoes forming and I spied the first few Blacktail Mountain Watermelons in the patch.  It also looks as though I will need to start makin’ kraut next week as the cabbages are getting pretty darn big. AND the county fair is next week.  Busy but fun times are ahead!

CSA2015 Week 6: Timing is Everything.

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Something great about this year… I only turned on the water 3 times. Once when I planted the cabbage, once when I planted the tomatoes and peppers and once just after planting some seeds in front of a forecast hot, dry spell. The timeliness of the rains has been amazing.  We have pretty much caught an inch each week. This gives adequate moisture, time to dry out and till and plant, and moisture to help pull weeds.  Rain also keeps many bugs away as it can literally wash them off the plants and just isn’t as favorable for some insect growths.  It does increase some disease issues,  but nothing too terrible quite yet.

When it comes to harvesting crops and filling up the crop box timing also goes into what is ready when.  Will that broccoli make is another week before flowering?  Do I have to pick cabbage too?  Will these beets get too big?  So sometimes you might get something a bit more than desired other times not what you are hoping for.  The cabbage is rolling on its 3rd week – but that should be it for a while.  But the broccoli made it the week like I hoped and you should have received some beautiful heads of it.  Also new this week were some zucchini.  Some are little – great for grilling and frying up and there is a big one or two for bread or muffins.

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The golden beets are still going strong and onions are bulbing nicely.  Within the next week all the garlic will be pulled and hung for curing, so you can anticipate some each week.  If you ever want a larger amount of garlic, just say the word and more can be available if you have the need.

With the kale there is some beautiful ferny leafed stuff called fennel. Typically it’s let go a bit longer and the bulbs get larger as that is used more commonly, but I thought I would throw some as you know to dabble with a bit.  It has a strong anise flavor, which calls for some unique recipe ideas. A quick google search brings up a few ideas from Martha Stewart and  the Huffington Post.  A little bit roasted with beets and root vegetables. If you don’t like it, throw it in a vase with some flowers.  It still looks pretty.

The potatoes are the patriotic red, white and blue assortment.  The purple ones are called Magic Molly, the red ones are called Adirondack Red and the white are German Butterball.

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The yellow wax beans and green beans are still coming in strong. A great way to use them, and the potatoes, is in Vomacka Soup. This recipe is from the famous Schumacher Restaurant in New Prague.

The bees have been busy in the cucumber patch, so get ready for those and I am headed into the Black Currant patch this week.  Just a few insights to what is ahead.

CSA2015 Week 5: A Trio of Alliums

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Week 5 Share

Sometimes I think the Brassica family is my favorite, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Kale and even Rutabagas are easily grown, always tasty and since they grow so fast early in the year they make things exciting.  Other times I think that the Solanaceous family is great.  The grandeur of a great tomato or functionality of a potato is obvious.   But this week our sites are set on the Allium family.  The garlic is to the point that it can be yanked out of the ground.  Onions are bulging nicely and the shallots are beginning dry off.  Often overlooked, there is rarely a dish that doesn’t call for at least one volunteer from the Allium family to add great depth of flavor.

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Garlic Scape

This week there is fresh garlic.  Unlike cured garlic that can sit on the counter till you need it, fresh garlic should be used quickly and kept in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.  It has its roots intact to tell it apart.  The onions are, well, white onions and the shallots are the smaller yellow ion looking things.  Shallots are mild tasting onions. Some recipes call for them specifically, but usually they can be substituted for onions.

We are switching it up this week with the long, dark red, cylindria beets. While golden beets are great, I find the dark red beets have more of that beet flavor.  If you like beets, I think these are better.  The small cabbage is called Premier.  The first time grown,  I didn’t really look at the size estimates.  I let it go thinking it would get bigger but it just cracked.  But I learned that Premier is a great variety.  Super thin, tender leaves, good sweet taste and useful size make it a great pick.

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Cylindrica Beets

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Red Lasota and Purple Viking Potato

There is some spinach and snow peas, probably the last for a while. More are planted for later but I think a break is fine.  We have another round of radishes coming in.  There is also a small bundle of herbs including French Tarragon and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley.  The parsley could go well with the potatoes – Purple Viking and Red LaSota.

The beans are really starting to come in.  Velour is this weeks variety. Purple beans are always wonderful to eat – great sweet taste, fun hyper-color change in the water from purple to green, and they are PURPLE! But the difficulty comes in growing.  They are often less productive, short, and scabby.  But not this year.  It has been a very good year for beans and these are the longest, most beautiful purple beans I have had ever.  While steamed beans are great, perhaps pairing them with the shallots would be pleasing.  Ina Garten always has top notch recipes, String Beans with Shallots is no exception.

Optionally there are tart cherries to pick from.  Typical sweet cherries are not real hardy

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Sour Cherries

for Minnesota, but tart pie cherries sure are.  This variety is Bali.  Maybe it was the spring, maybe the honeybees housed on the property, but we had a tremendous crop of cherries.  They are best when cooked and sweetened up a bit.  We made this Yeasted Sour Cherry Coffee Cake. It was pretty good. and doesn’t require a huge amount like many recipes.

Rounding out the box is a small helping of raspberries.  Enjoy!

CSA2015 Week 4. Gaining Weight

While most are not really excited about gaining weight, when the box gains weight I am delighted!.  That means we are moving on from the season of leaves to things a bit more substantial.  Today’s CSA share has some familiar faces…Onions, Lettuce,Arugula, Garlic Scapes Golden & Chioggia Beets, Sugar Snap Peas and Snow Peas.  The box also contains a few newcomers including Potatoes, Green Beans,  Kale and Cabbage.

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As you head out to prepare for the 4th of July, hopefully amidst hot dogs and s’mores you can find some interesting ways to use up this weeks box.  Cabbage is great in slaw, but really sweetens up when cooked or braised a bit.  It can be wrapped in foil with butter and grilled, boiled on the stove or attempt this great oven roasted version with bacon.

You were provided with a pretty generous bag of Sugar Snap Peas with this box.  Of course eating them raw is always a treat. But steaming or sauteing them also really brings out the sweetness. You may notice a few pods have white splotches, that is thanks inpart to the brief hail we had earlier in the week.  It doesn’t hut them in the long haul; it is just cosmetic.

The lettuce has moved on from leaves to full blown heads.  Speckled Trout is the variety of choice this week.   It was not really washed as that extra water held in the heads only shortens the shelf life so it will need to be washed well before using.

I am glad for these long days this time of the year as it helps in getting all the various chores done.  We have been butchering chickens, hatching new layers, prepping goats for show, baling hay, planting some later crops and weeding, weeding weeding.  Luckily we have not needed to water much.Bellini Mora 20154

The melons and cucumbers are making vines and flowering well.  Late cabbage is forming nice heads and we are near the time to harvest the garlic!

Hopefully this weekend I will find some quiet time to dive into the three new reads I picked up.  The Grafter’s Handbook is all about grafting which I might actually save fore winter reading.  I am hoping the Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher spawns some creative ways to use some excess goat milk and maybe I will pick up a new trick or two from Will Bonsail’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening.

I hope you enjoy this weeks share and Happy 4th of July!

CSA2015 -Week 3, Brought to You by the Letter ‘P’

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When you buy seeds, almost all are labeled with a number of days till you can expect to harvest.  This is helpful in planning a succession of crops throughout the growing season.  What is doesn’t always take into consideration is the difference in weather.  Sometimes the weather speeds things up, sometimes it slows it down.  Sometimes crops planted 2 weeks apart still are ready for harvest the same time as seeds may sit in the soil due to insufficient moisture or get a slow start due to cold temperature.

Such is the cases with peas.  While they were planned to be more spread out(15 days according to the packet and planting date) they were all ready the same time.  So this week the share had Swiss Giant Snow Peas.  These flat, edible pod peas are best sauteed or stir fried.  The Cascadia peas are a marvelous shelling pea with nice long pods and the short podded, fat, Sugarsnap peas are great anyway you try them – raw, stir fried, steamed, chopped on a salad.  This is one of the best pea crops ever for me so expect them again.

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Also included are lettuce, garlic scapes, Napa cabbage, onions, beets, dill, spinach and little bin of strawberries.

As we look to week 4 I think I am going to get after some potatoes, Finish off some spinach for a while and maybe there will be some sort of berry in production.  We will see.

Enjoy the Fantastic Weather!

CSA2015 Week Two – Garlic Beginings with Scapes

As the weeks progress, each day the field is monitoredCSA2015 Week2.  Some crops are watched for adequate water, others like peas and tomatoes sometime need help trellising, potatoes are watched for those pesky potato bugs, and still others in anticipation of when a new crop will be ready, this week Garlic Scapes and Beets will find their way into the CSA box!

Garlic Scapes are the immature flowers of hard neck garlics.  The scapes can be used however garlic is used as it has the same great flavor. They don’t keep as long as garlic so it is best to refrigerate and use them up as quickly as possible.  If you don’t have a need for them, an easy way to preserve it so whip up a batch of Garlic Scape Pesto. Perfect on pasta, bread, and sandwiches.  I like to mix some in goat cheese or cream cheese for a great dip as well.  Garlic Scape season is short, as the by the garlic scape4th of July, they are often overly mature and become fibrous so enjoy them while you got ’em!

Hanging out in the box with the scapes are leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, more head lettuce, green onions, Swiss chard,  rhubarb, bok choy, some beautiful dill weed, AND the first of the beets.  Today’s mix contain the ever sweet Golden Beets and beautifully stripped Chioggia Beets.  There are only a few as I had to scrounge to find enough sizable ones but they are a great hint of what is to come.  This time of year the tops are also exquisitely tasty.  They can be juiced, steamed, creamed or cooked up in this tasty rendition.    There will be plenty of beets spaced through out the season including red ones, striped ones, golden ones, and cylindrical ones.  This small taste is just tease of what is yet to come.

This weekend I get the great excitement to get to Iowa for a little camping trip.  While Iowa is not always at the top of everybody’s list of great places to go, it does mean I get to make a stop at Seed Saver Exchange.  Seed Savers is a nonprofit organization that focuses on preserving rare vegetable and plant varieties and also makes many available to the public, many of which find their way to my garden.  No better way to preserve these treasures than to get people eating them. Hopefully I can document the place and share it with you in the future and NOT come home with a pile of seed packets.

Let the Greens Begin!

The CSA Begins this week with the much anticipated box of greens: Lettuce, Spinach, Arugula, Bok Choy, Pea Tendrils, Onions, Radishes,  Cilantro and a little bit of goat cheese. CSA2015 Week1 The spring has been very generous to us and the plants with favorable weather and timely rains.  This had lead to the garden looking beautifully.  The last of the cucumber transplants have been planted as well as the later crops of beans, beets, and carrots.

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All of the bagged greens have been washed and should be ready to go in your favorite salad, wilted or used in this easy gem of a salad: Spinach, Arugula, Cranberry and Walnut Salad. If not used right away, keep them in the bag with the paper towel in the refrigerator, although it is best to use them quickly to get the most nutrients out of them.   The pea shoots are a new trial this year. After hearing my sister rave about how great they were when she had them on vacation I thought I would try them out. This variety is called Maestro and is specifically grown for the insane volume of tendrils it produces.  The shoots can be sauteed, used in salads, as a sandwich garnish or try out this flavorful rendition, of Pea Shoots Sauteed in Garlic and Ginger.

The favorable conditions also allowed for the transplanting of 80 apple trees to their permanent spots. Some of these are well known current varieties like HoneyCrisp and Haralson while others are some more obscure Antique Apples like Water Mellon and Pound Sweet.  It will be a few years till these varieties become available, but my older established apples have a nice collection of fruit set, probably due impart to the beehives we are keeping on the property.

Other than that, the chickens are growing well outdoors and the goats are enjoying our first cutting of hay that was bailed today.

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Next week should bring more of the same but also look for a few new things… for sure I saw some garlic scapes popping out, either mustard greens or  tatsoi will be ready to harvest and the sugar snap peas are flowering, we will see if they get here in time.

On to Another Season

The snow has melted and given way to green grass, spring rains and new life bounds at the farm.  The first seeds and plants have been planted, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys have begun hatching, and the fruit trees are teasing us with plump buds.  Even after the winter that felt like it drug on forever, nature surprises us with its amazing resiliency.  The birds survived exceptionally well all winter, the garlic sprouted the best in years and we have a healthy crop of new goats on the ground.

New this year we will be offering a few geese for the old tradition of Christmas Goose.  These American Buff Geese are the gentle giants around the farm, protecting the rest of the birds yet being exceptionally docile to humans.  The hatching is going well and were excited to watch them grow this summer.

CSA shares and pastured poultry reservations are currently taking place. There are many great new varieties of vegetables in the works and the shares might have a few more fruits tucked in them than in years past. We are expanding the number of shares this year, so if your interested, please contact us.

Like every farming year, it is always exciting to start anew each year. Optimism is high that this year will a great year for growing, eating and all around enjoying.

 

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