Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In the Share: Week 7

In the Share:
BULB FENNEL: (F/P) Just for this week only, or perhaps once again in the fall. Check out Tom’s blog for recipes.
SWISS CHARD (F/P) A few spots – signs of our tropical weather
SUMMER SQUASH: (F/P) The squash season has arrived.
KOHLRABI (F) One last picking to end the season. Still crispy.
BEETS(F) My favorite vegetable and the secret ingredient in the best chocolate cakes.
CUCUMBERS (F) The first of hopefully many to come. Don’t fret, partial shares, you are next in line.
LETTUCE (P) Small red romaines or ‘Anuenues’.
HERB CHOICE (F/P) Basil, Summer Savory, Garlic Scapes or a dried herb.

Next Week: More summer squash, cucumbers, carrots and onions. The first beans (I mean it this time!). The first of the Cherry tomatoes? Bread share delivery.

Farm report
Tom and I feel very fortunate to not be under water like so many other farms in our region. Our hilly land can give us headaches for other reasons, but it is generally not prone to flooding. The most we’ve suffered is weariness from all the hand work. When the fields are too wet to cultivate with the tractor, or hoe, the weeds do not wait. They take full advantage and shoot for the stars. Thankfully, we were able to get in some much needed tractor work this week. Tom finished spading in the early spring crops, I was able to cultivate with our electric tractor and we rescued many beds from the crabgrass with a combination of hoeing and hand-pulling. Our dear friend, Bill McKelvey, visited us on Thursday and Friday working along side us like a pro. While his desk job in the Rural Sociology Dept. at MU keeps him busy, he is also a vegetable gardener extraordinaire. Bill brought along another Italian grape hoe to match the one we got from him last year. It’s Farmer Tom’s favorite new toy. In his hands, the crabgrass has been knocked back with amazing speed. Here’s some before and after shots. These come from the winter squash and melon patch. Yes, I said winter squash! (butternut, acorn, pie pumpkins and more. So far so good.)

We were also able to plant most of the rest of the summer crops, including the last of the squash, melon, and bean plantings for the summer. As it is critical for us to have a continuous harvest for the twenty-four week season, we are planting something almost every week. So far we have staggered plantings of our favorite Rattlesnake beans, five beds of bush beans, six beds of summer squash, seven beds of melons and four beds of cucumbers. The cucumbers and melons look promising if only it would turn hot and relatively dry for a bit. All this moisture is encouraging every form of mildew and rot, which can be quick death for either one. You’ll see some evidence of such spottiness in the shares this week on the leaves of the chard and beets. And mildew can be blamed for the early demise of the peas. Meanwhile, the summer harvest is a little slow to start perhaps because of the cool spring. Another week perhaps and the taste of summer should be within our grasp.

Week 6 - City Tasting - Mint

Having the sensation of skiing down an Alpine mountain is the theme of this week's City Distribution Tasting, aka Mint recipes.

First off - I am attempting Tom's Sun Tea recipe from a few posts back.  Hopefully the clouds will part and I'll end up with something a bit stronger than water.  I'm parking on the roof of my downtown garage - with tea jug atop and fingers crossed.  Adding the ice at the last minute.

The second recipe featuring mint is....a Mint.  Oddly enough, I found the recipe because I was inspired by Tom's Sun Tea and was rooting around for other herbal + rays concoctions.  My finished product is an adaptation of the Garden Party Mints on this page.  Here's what happened:

I doubled the recipe unsure of the quantity - which I probably didn't need to do in the end because I made my mints a little smaller than quarters and ended up with about 110 (thirty of which were donated to research and development efforts).  I chopped up a whole lot more mint than called for (I used 14 large leaves all together) and omitted the drops of peppermint oil.  I found via the mixing process that I needed additional melted butter and condensed milk to get to what I thought was a reasonable consistency (dry paste that will hold together when shaped) - but I added extra of both ingredients slowly to be cautious.  The chocolate was overpowering when the mints were dipped on one side as the recipe indicates - after a few trials I decided painting a stripe of chocolate on each piece with a chopstick resulted in a good ratio. Other possible uses for this mint mix - thin it down with more condensed milk and it would make an awesome and powerful mint icing.

What’s in the Share---Week 7

What’s for Dinner?

As the season gets going we hope that you are finding more and more local food on your plate. It’s one of the niceties of this time of year. Our dinner tonight included fennel, summer squash, onion, basil and chard from the farm, some homemade tomato sauce, meatballs made from Parker Farms pork sausage, and Bread of Life bread (with garlic). Making an entire meal from mainly local food is satisfying in many ways. We hope you are experiencing the same thing.


Though not a vegetable that is clamored for by the membership, we feel that fennel deserves a place at the table at least a couple times a year. Last December we were able to have the opportunity to visit Calabria, Italy, where a lot of Europe’s fennel is grown. We now know what fennel is supposed to taste like and are working to duplicate it here. Ours are smaller and not as mild, but otherwise quite tasty. This week’s recipe is great as a side dish, or can be used as a bed for fish or lamb. Week 8 of 2006 has two nice recipes; Fennel, Tomato and Feta Salad, and Fennel Mashed Potatoes.

Fennel, Summer Squash and Onion Salad

  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1 medium summer squash, grated
  • 1 spring onion, sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil or parsley
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ tsp salt

Cut the tops off the fennel, just above the top of the bulbs. (the tops can be chopped up and used in salads or dips). Cut the root end off and clean of any soil. Slice thinly across the bulb to form oval slices.

To the fennel add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Let set for 30 minutes.

NEED TO KNOW MORE? Go to our Recipe page and search.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Good-bye Spring, Hello Summer and Here Comes the Fall

UPDATED LIST THIS MORNING - after looking in the fields this morning and thinking about what we want to hand out next week, we've made some changes to the shares. We'll have some summer squash and kohlrabi in the swap box for the partials and we're saving the Swiss chard for next week.

In the Share:
PEAS: Sugarsnap and/or snow (F/P) We’re going to try to give everybody the sugarsnap and make the snows an extra item somehow. Tomorrow morning’s picking will tell.
YOUNG SPRING CARROTS (F/P) The first of the year, small but tasty. Scrub well and eat the whole root for the most nutrients.
Choice: SUMMER SQUASH or KOHLRABI (F) The cucurbitae family enters as the brasica exit til fall.
YOUNG SPRING ONIONS (F/P) They’re beginning to bulb out.
LETTUCE (F) Smaller heat-resistant romaine and crisphead types perfect on a sandwich.
KOMATSUNA (F/P) Crunchy and leafy in one. See farmer tom for more info.
HERB CHOICE (F/P) Mint or Parsley or a dried herb. New dried dill , marjoram & oregano will be available. Check farmer tom’s blog for a great mint tea recipe

Next Week: More summer squash and peas. The first cucumbers and beans. Swiss chard and beets. Meat and Egg share delivery.

June 20th is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. The summer solstice marks the confluence of our three growing seasons, as spring departs, summer enters and we prepare for the fall. This week Tom began the process of turning under the broccoli, spring lettuces, radishes and turnips. The first of the cucurbitae family – melons, cucumbers and squashes have begun producing. And this week we seed the first fall crops: brussel sprouts, kale and collards in our summer shade tents by the greenhouse. While the greenhouse is put to good use drying herbs at over 100 degrees, our shade tents will house the seedlings until they are planted. Cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli will soon follow.

Preparing for this shift at the farm is a bit nerve-racking with all three seasons going at once. The fall seeding, in particular, takes several days each week. Meanwhile the crabgrass is giving us hours of slow toiling through the spring and summer crops. This cool, wet weather is any grasses dream and we are struggling to keep it in check. We remain hopeful, partly because the crops so far have been able to put up with the crowding until we get to them, but the list of weeding chores is endless at the moment. Also, we are strengthened every time someone lends a hand. Jenn Baughman, our dazzling apprentice, has been slugging it out alongside us building her finger muscles as we pull millions out by the roots. A few stellar volunteers have us on their weekly schedule for a half or full day of farming followed by a free pass through the strawberry patch. And last weekend a few friends organized themselves for an impromptu visit, filling our refrigerator for most of the week with the leftovers and buoying our spirits. It’s the time of year when the community aspects of our farm operation really shine. Your weary farmers are deeply thankful.

If you’d like to visit the farm, the strawberry patch is still producing some, mostly good berries. Take what you want and pick some flowers too.

What’s in the Share---Week 6


New and old members alike have probably been a little stumped with the komatsuna. If you’re still not sure what I’m talking about it’s the vegetable member Lisa Markley is holding in the photo. A type of mustard green, it is what we use as a celery substitute here on the farm. Good in a stir fry, it also goes well in any salad, especially egg and potato salads.

Summer Savory

If the summer savory in your share is still around you’re in luck. As the summer crops come in, you’ll have lots of uses for it. The recipe below is a perfect example. Add some garlic bread and this dish is as good as pizza. Some dried oregano and red pepper flakes are good additions.

Summer Squash with Shells

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium spring onions, sliced thin
  • 3 garlic scapes, chopped fine
  • 2 medium or 4 small summer squash, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 tbsp fresh summer savory, chopped
  • 16 oz tomato sauce
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • shell macaroni
Sauté the onions and garlic scapes in the olive oil over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the squash and summer savory and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add tomato sauce, bring to boil, then turn heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve this over the shells and top with a generous portion of cheese. You can also simply mix the sauce, shells and cheese together in a pan.

Sun Tea

When the sun is strong is a great time to make a regular batch of sun tea. We make it different ways, depending on what we have on hand. Lots of late spring and summer herbs are available from the farm or our garden, including mint, bergamot and hyssop. We also get to put the tea in a very hot greenhouse to steep, a real luxury. The tea recipe below we tried for the first time today, and found it made a very refreshing drink. We hope to have a little bit of dried chamomile flowers in the herb box in the coming weeks.

To a large clear glass jar add 6 cups of water, 2 large sprigs of mint, (lightly crushed in your hand), 2 tbsp dried chamomile flowers (or 2 tea bags), 2 tbsp coarsely grated ginger and 1 tsp honey. Place the jar in direct sunlight for 6 to 12 hours. Strain, chill and serve.

NEED TO KNOW MORE? Go to our Recipe page and search.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Week 5 - City Tasting

Just wanted to post a head's up on what you will be able to sample at the Week 5 City pick up - and where you can find the recipes if you should so desire.

One of the things I've always appreciated about our CSA is that Tom makes great food preparation suggestions whether the fare for the week is completely unrecognizable to me or a trusty old favorite flavor.  This week I'm plying you with the product of two recipes that have become for me annual events as their produce arrives in our share boxes.

The first is from the very first CSA newsletter Week 1, 2004, Creamy Lemon Herb Dressing.  As with all recipes - the fun begins when you become comfortable with the formula enough to try new things.  Today's dip will have tons of Dill and Green Onion and more modest amounts of Cilantro and Garlic Scapes.  I also put in a touch of Agave Nectar and some Raspberry Champagne Vinegar to see what would happen - you'll have to be the judge.  Perfect for:  Dipping all sorts of veggies - particularly Sugar Snap Peas!, baked potato topping, mixed in with some cooled rice after boiling up a batch, add a hefty dollop with some canned tuna and you've got an awesome instant tuna salad, as a greens salad dressing and, disgracefully, it is often enjoyed in my house by the stolen spoonful if no one else happens to be in the kitchen.

The second is very special indeed because it makes wonderful use out of something that I've never found outside of the CSA - baby beets and greens.  The recipe can be found in the second CSA newsletter - Week 2, 2004, Baby Beet Greens and Tomato Sauce.  I didn't have Mizuna, but there were plenty of beet greens so they aren't much missed this time around.  I used Garlic Scapes for the Green Garlic and I decided upon Lime Cactus Corona Beer for the discretionary liquid because I happened to have some handy.  I also substituted Thyme for Oregano due to lack of the called for herb.  Because it would be unmanageable to hand out forks and plates with pasta servings, you'll have to make due with some blue corn chips for your taste testing.  I typically enjoy the Beet Sauce with whole grain thin spaghetti, (again) as a baked potato topper, and as a dressing for a bun-less Boca Chik'n Patty (with a little melted Mozzarella on top = heaven!).

One final tip on CSA recipes - check the archives of previous years newsletters.  Produce tends to come in around the same time each year - so if these recipes don't knock your socks off - browse the first few weeks of 2004/5/6/7.

Yours Sincerely - Stacey the Cook (aka one of your three lovely City Distribution Coordinators)

Week Five: In the Share and the Farm Report

In the Share:
LETTUCE (F/P) The last of the spring lettuce. The more sturdy, but smaller summer lettuces start next week.
PEAS (F/P) Choice of either sugarsnap or snow. Both are edible pod varieties.
BROCCOLI (F/P) A few cabbage loopers may have gotten past us. Inspect well.
KOHLRABI (F/P) Not sure what to do with it? Check out Tom’s recipes this week
CHOICE OF GARLIC SCAPES, RADISHES OR TURNIPS (F) The partials get a choice of scapes or an herb. We’ll put a few radishes and turnips in the swap box. The last until fall.
KOMATSUNA OR BABY BEETS (F) Last of the asian greens til fall and the beginnings of beet season.
HERB CHOICE (F/P) Parsley or Summer Savory.

Next Week: More beets, peas, lettuce and kohlrabi. The first carrots, summer squash and Swiss Chard. Bread share delivery.

Farm report
Monday the strawberries went from producing on average 50 quarts a day down to 26 quarts. Tis sad, but true the berry patch is winding down. For the first morning since the end of May we did not pick strawberries today. We’ll pick tomorrow with the membership and see what we have. We should have enough for everyone to get one last quart before we stop picking. Soon it will be time to mow down the plants, part of the ‘renovation’ necessary for a good crop next spring. But before we do, we are opening up the patch to the membership. Starting this Saturday, you all are invited to visit the patch and pick as many as you want. Of course, these are not the perfect, big strawberries that started out the season, but there should be plenty of good ones amongst the buggy, sluggy and spotty. The spots are caused by one of three different fungal diseases that affect strawberries. To control the rot, conventional growers in the US still use methyl bromide, a potent fumigant and ozone-depleting gas that has been banned by most other developed countries. Instead of such desperate measures we plan to keep the crop healthy through long rotations around the edges of the fields and the addition of some beneficial microbes.

One berry is replaced with another of sorts. The sugarsnap and snow peas are ready for the picking tomorrow. The crop came up patchy and we lost two beds to the spring rot, but we still have four beds full of fruit. The ‘Super Sugarsnap’, ‘Sugar Sprint’ and ‘Oregon Giant’ varieties are mildew-resistant and can give us a harvest of several weeks if we’re lucky. They are fantastic raw, but even sweeter sautéed in Tom’s Aloo Mater with Kohlrabi. Yum.

Instead of having our breakfast in the strawberry patch as we had grown accustom to, today we spent some necessary time with the broccoli. Our disappointmentin this spring’s crop led to neglect on my part, allowing for some pesky cabbage loopers to invade. We are double-washing the broccoli in salt water and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do the same at home or just keep an eye out when you chop it up. The cold spring-induced buttoning-up drastically reduced our harvest, but surprisingly we have had a lot of side shoots. You will be getting some of these or a small bunch this week. Thank Farmer Tom for the broccoli. I was ready to spade it in a month ago. Luckily, he refused and we have been able to have some form of the stalky flowers in the share for the past three weeks. This week will be the last until fall when broccoli really shines.

And finally, the u-pick flower patch is open for cutting. The yarrow and larkspur in many shades of pink, white and purple are flowering now. Look for the flower patch just inside the upper gate next time you visit the farm. Clippers and totes are located in and around the flower garden’s birdhouse.

What’s in the Share---Week 5

Red to Green

It’s nice to see the snap and snow peas finally coming on, and being in such good shape too. They appear to be coming on late and strong. Other crops are later than normal, like kohlrabi. We watched it grow so slowly this year we weren’t sure they were going to make it. But they did, and they meet the crisp and juicy test. Great raw, the kohlrabi is also an uncanny potato substitute.

Aloo Matar with Kohlrabi

This dish is a traditional Indian dish that calls for potatoes and peas. This version takes advantage of what’s in the share and is excellent. The garam marsala is a mix of roasted spices that is about all you need for flavoring. If you are well versed in Indian cooking you can simply use your favorite blend of spices.

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 3 garlic scapes (see photo), chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick and 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium kohlrabi, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 cups snap or snow peas, stringed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp garam marsala
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • chopped cilantro or dill for garnish
Heat oil in a deep bottomed pan and saute garlic scapes and ginger for 2 minutes over medium high heat. Add the garam marsala, bay leaf and cinnamon stick and saute for 1 minute more. Add potatoes, peas and tomato sauce and bring to boil. Turn down heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until kohlrabi is tender.

Garnish with a dollop of yogurt and chopped herbs.

Kohlrabi Radish Salsa

Kohlrabi can fit into the concept of Mexican cooking just as easy as Indian. Salsa after all is just something tasty to dip your chips into. This salsa would also be good on fish.

  • 1 kohlrabi, peeled
  • 2 radishes and/ or 2 Hakurei turnips
  • 2 garlic scapes or 1 green garlic
  • 2 scallions
  • 2 stalks komatsuna
  • 1 jalapeno or 1 tbsp hot sauce
  • 4 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of ½ lime
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro or dill for garnish

Clean and chop all the ingredients coarsely. Add the tomato sauce, oil, lime juice, hot sauce and salt. Mix well. Top with herbs.

NEED TO KNOW MORE? Go to our Recipe page and search.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Strawberry Soliloquy

Since the first season of the Fair Share Farm CSA in 2004 berries have topped the charts on our survey of what crops we should increase. So, in our second season we planted about 600 strawberry plants in three of our field beds.

Immediately the deer found them and ate most of their leaves. A great many crowns were yanked right out of the ground in the process. We tried all manner of deer repellents, animal hair, powdered bobcat urine and hot pepper sprays to protect our precious crop and a few plants did survive. The deer fence was up by later that season and the beds started to fill in … with grass that is. The sparse strawberry plants were no match for the sturdy brome grass and ladino clover that covers our walking paths.

But, there were still some berries out there, or at least there were until we went to pick them only to find that someone else had gotten to them first. We soon discovered the culprit (s) – a seemingly endless number of raccoons. For the entire strawberry season, Tom dutifully carted off the latest critter caught in the live trap to the other end of the farm. Every morning there was one in the trap or on one occasion, surprisingly two. As we were sharing our strawberries with our four-legged neighbors, there were hardly any for our dear two-legged members. The last two strawberry seasons have been nerve-racking with us only being able to distribute perhaps one pint of strawberries per member over the course of the season. Frustration reigned as members had to check off on a list for whether they had gotten their berries, so that the next week the rest of the membership could receive them. Very annoying for all of us, let me tell you.

We were beginning to think we should give up on the whole berry business, when we decided to give it once last try. The deer fence was keeping the deer out and we had started talking about getting a dog to keep out the raccoons. That winter at the Great Plains Vegetable Growers Conference, I attended a lecture on berry production where they described the ‘matted-row’ system for strawberries where you develop a thick row of plants separated by a mulched path. So early last year we prepared a 50’ x 100’ block and planted around 900 plants, a foot apart in rows five feet apart. At first the planting didn’t seem to be going too well as the early April ground was tight making digging difficult. Libby Negus, our fabulous ’07 apprentice, slogged along beside us digging the holes and carefully planting each one on a mound of soil with the roots carefully splayed about. For the entire 07 season all eyes were on the strawberries. On days when we finished the CSA harvest early, the members diligently weeded and mulched the patch. By fall we had jointly weeded the strawberries on five different occasions and applied about 80 bales of straw mulch.

Over the winter, we swore ‘never again’ to the raccoon onslaught decided to get a dog. Our pup, Rocky, was only here a short while before he frightened off his first varmint and there’s been no signs of our old masked bandits since. With the patch now protected, the plants were able to thrive in the cool, wet weather of this spring and by early May the rows had filled in nicely and were in full bloom.

Last week the strawberry distribution began with a tasting of strawberries for the Wednesday shares. By Saturday, we were picking 20 quarts a day. This week we are averaging 50 quarts each morning. Depending on how much help we have, it is taking us two to four hours to harvest the strawberries every day. But we cannot complain even though the other crops may be a bit unkept, because we have loads of the juciest, freshest, most scrumptious berries. This week the full shares will receive 2 quarts and the partials one. The overage we hope will end up in the freezers, canning jars and bellies of those who order extra. As this is a new experience for us, we’re not sure how long it will last. Our ‘Honeoye’ plants are June-bearers which are supposed to produce for 3-4 weeks, so we may have another weeks or two. So enjoy the berries while you can and remember all the good people who made it all possible – it was truly a community effort.

Week 4 What's in Your Share

This week’s blog is one that we had always hoped to be able to write; a full share that includes not just fresh Spring vegetables, but also fruit. Enough to make a whole dish.

For the past week we have tried strawberries several ways.

  • By themselves, soaking up the Vitamin C and anti-oxidants;
  • with homemade yogurt and local honey, the perfect 100 Mile Diet dessert;
  • as strawberry jam, so they can be enjoyed for many a breakfast; and
  • frozen, for future uses to be determined.

For the adventurous among you, making strawberry jam is a must. There are many ways to do it. The simplest is to buy some Sure-Jell and follow the instructions on the package. Another is the old fashioned way that involves only strawberries, sugar and a little water. That is the method we used (see below), straight from the classic book Larousse Gastronomique. I have added some hints to help “translate” this old recipe.

You can also check out the MU Extension publication on jellies and jams.

Strawberry Jam (Confiture de Fraises)

The strawberries must be selected for perfect unblemished ripeness. It is advisable not to wash them unless absolutely necessary. In this case they should be well drained and dried before cooking.

2 lb strawberries (net weight), 1-1/2 lb sugar, 6 tbsp water.

Dissolve the sugar in a pan with the water and cook to ball stage (240º F), skimming well.

Put the strawberries, stalks removed, in the dissolved sugar. Keep the pan on the side of the stove for a few minutes (I cooked them together for 5 minutes). When the juice from the strawberries has thinned the sugar to a syrupy consistency, drain the fruit through a silk strainer (a colander is fine). Cook the syrup again in the pan until it reaches 240 ºF once more (I used 230º F to make sure things didn’t turn to hard candy. This step takes several hours). Put the strawberries back in the pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, to the point at which the jam reaches the jelling stage (It actually took another 45 minutes or so to reach this stage. It is the tricky part). Finish in the usual way (ie, 15 minute hot water bath to seal jars).

The Rest of the Share

Lots of good greens and roots fill out your share this week. For those new to the shares, you can cook the greens from both the Hakurei turnips and baby beets. If you are making greens, a mix of the two, along with what ever other greens you have, can be quite tasty. Check out the greens recipe section of the website. Don't try cooking the radish greens though, they are a little fuzzy and tough.

Bulk List

Item Member Cost Non-Member Cost
Lettuce $2.00/head $2.50/head
Radishes/Hakurei Turnips $1.75/bu $2.25/bu
Tat soi or yukina savoy 2.00/head $2.50/head
Cilantro $1.50/bunch $1.75/bu
Dill $1.50/bunch $1.75/bu
Strawberries $4.00/qt $5.00/qt