Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In the Share - Week 12

TOMATOES (F/P) Literally bursting with flavor this week from the frequent rain showers. Treat gingerly.
EGGPLANT (F/P) check out Emily's blog for the prettiest aubergine dish ever
ONIONS (F/P) the last of the Walla Walla and the first of the Ailsa Craig, which is more pungent but a better keeper.
POTATOES (F/P) Bintje, pronounced ben-jee. Very similar to the famous Yukon Gold, but more prolific.
SALSA PACK (F) go to Tom's blog for a roasted recipe
PURPLE PEPPERS (P) Tequila is a green pepper that starts out purple and will have you dancing on the table.
SUMMER SQUASH (F) The last few before we take a break until the next planting kicks in.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Parker Farms delivery

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, beans, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers and melons. Carrots and garlic.

THE FIELDS: It's hard for farmers to say that things are going well. Somehow it seems decidely dangerous. The moment I write such a thing I want to take it back before the twister/hail storm comes along to make me wish I'd never been so boastful. But, it cannot be denied that the farm is in much better shape than last season. Same time last year we literally had rivers running through the fields, most of our potatoes had rotted and many crops were barely parsing out enough twisted fruit to fill the shares. In contrast, for most of this season the harvests have been plentiful and the shares full.

The rains have been just generous enough, giving us around an inch per week. In between the rains we've managed to squeeze in the turning under of the finished crops and the preparation of new ones. Thanks to a bit of hustling on the part of the farm crew the fall planting is pretty much on schedule. The far field is filling up with cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and lettuce. The direct seeded carrots, beets and turnips are sprouting. Monday we planted the K family: kale, collards, kohlrabi, and chinese cabbage. To transplant a tender seedling on a summer day we have a definite routine. First, prepare the bed and lay out the irrigation tape. Second, let the sunshine pump water on the beds for a few hours. Next, turn off the water and wait for the wet holes at each emitter to drain until damp but not sticky. Finally, plant the crop right into the wet spot. Oh, one more thing, turn the pump back on and you've got a happy transplant in the heat of the summer.

While we've been busy planting, the sheep have been busy eating. Our little paddock of six Parker Farms sheep are doing a bang-up job of mowing the unused areas of the fields and depositing nutrients at the same time. We move their electro-netting every three days to a new paddock. Here you can see them in their new spot with their old, munched-over spot on the left.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 12

Roasted Salsa and Bulk Tomatoes...But First, Some Free Stuff
Many of you may be aware that as an organic practice we use EM (efficient microorganisms) on the farm. We add these beneficial bacteria to our greenhouse water, as well as our irrigation system, to help promote healthy biological growth. It is also an excellent foliar feed for plants, crowding out harmful diseases on leaves and plant surfaces. In doing this, we are not just organic farmers but biological farmers.

Our source for these probiotics is Sustainable Community Develpment (SCD), located on 9th St. in KCMO. Recently the plant rep, Micheal Snyder, called us to see if we wanted to take some extra product off his hands. These items were nearing their listed expiration date, and he needed room in the warehouse for newer batches. The extra product filled the floor of our VW van, and we have more than we need.

Much of it is in sample containers, and we are passing it along to the membership for free. There are 4 main products to choose from:
EM Plus-this is the same product we use,
Odor Away-an industrial odor control concentrate (good for the home too),
Probiotica-an herbal probiotic supplement, and
Bio Klean- an industrial cleaning concentrate also good for the home.

There are links to info on each product above to hopefully answer any questions you may have. Hope that you find these items useful. Let us know what you think.

Tomatillo Saga
This week seems to be a peak week for tomatillos and jalapenos. So much so that we actually have enough for all 74 full shares to get a salsa packs (partials all get one next week). The tomatillos are doing well right now, due in part to our seed saving initiative.

We have found that having a vigurous and productive tomatillo plant is all in the seeds. In the past we have bought them and been disappointed with small fruit, weak plants, or ones where the fruit never seems to fill out the husk.

Last year we took time to save seeds from the plants that produced the best, in hopes of starting a dependable Fair Share Farm strain. It has paid off so far this year, with the saved seed plant producing better than the purchased seed plants. There are complications though, as each saved seed plant still seems to have its own unique characteristics. Some are sprawling and produce small fruit (but lots of them), others produce just they way we are hoping, and still others are infected with the mosaic virus. We are selectively saving seeds from many plants this year, with the hope of ending up with a productive, disease-resistant strain that will produce many a salsa pack in the future.

Roasted Salsa
A second way to enjoy your salsa pack (see Week 10 for the first).

1 salsa pack (tomatillo, garlic, onion, jalapeno)
1 medium tomato
1 tbsp vegetable or other oil
1 to 2 tbsp fresh chives or cilantro, chopped

Remove husk from tomatillo. Core and cut in half. Clean and cut onion in half. Core tomato and cut in half. Cut jalapeno in half and remove seeds. Clean one clove of garlic.

Place above ingredients on small baking sheet. Pour 1 tbsp oil over all and mix to coat.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once or twice (toaster ovens are perfect for this). Let cool slightly and then chop on pulse mode in a food processor.

Transfer to bowl, top with chives or cilantro. Serve with corn chips or as an accompaniment to tacos, burritos or other dishes.

Bulk Order List (week of July 27)
Paste tomatoes (firsts) - $3.00/lb; $2.50/lb over 10 lbs
Tomato seconds (heirloom and hybrids) - $2.50/lb; $2.00/lb over 10 lbs
Kale - $3.00/bunch
Swiss chard - $3.00 per bunch
Carrots - $3.00/bunch
Onions $3.00/quart
Oregano, basil, mint, dill flowers $2.oo/bunch
Dried herbs $2.00/tin (thyme, marjoram, dried hot peppers, lovage, lavendar flowers, coriander, oregano, rosemary)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In the Share: Week 11

TOMATOES (F/P) A good share’s worth this week, if a bit more cracked due to the rain.
SALSA PACK, BELL PEPPERS OR GREEN BEANS (F) Your choice with many more of all three to come
EGGPLANT (F/P) One for everyone
GARLIC (F/P) The Musik variety is the first to harvest and thus, the first in the shares. Big, meaty cloves with a kick
COLORFUL CARROTS (F/P) A rainbow of carrots this week, each with its own unique flavor
CABBAGE OR BEETS (F) The last of both until fall.
CUCUMBERS (F/P) One for everyone
SUMMER SQUASH (P) One squash and one small cucumber for each partial share
GREEN BEANS (F) ‘Jade’ beans are our favorite, so long and lean.
HERB CHOICE (F/P) Italian basil, summer savory, parsley, chives or a dried herb.

Also this week: Bread of Life Bakery delivery

Next week: More tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, salsa packs and beans. Time for onions and potatoes again. The okra will begin appearing in the swap box.

Phew! We just finished a 3-day farming marathon as we attempted to catch up on all of the work that the wet weather had been preventing. The skies were blue and the temperatures mild as we sprinted through the fields sowing cover crops in all the empty beds, seeding the fall beets, carrots and turnips, transplanting broccoli, brussel sprouts and lettuce, preparing beds for fall planting, hoeing several beds of young summer crops, tilling the strawberry patch, and pulling all the onions we could as the rain began falling. The newly-planted broccolis are already spreading out their leaves to take in the sun. The onions are nestled warm and dry in the barn and your farmers will soon lay down their heads for a much-needed rest.

For a few hours on Saturday we shifted our attention to the youngest in the membership. Melissa Laycock, the FSF CSA Kids Activities Coordinator, organized a fun event on the most beautiful day of the season. The kids sat in rapt attention as the Stubblefields explained the secrets of beekeeping. The screened tent kept the little ones safe as Keith opened the hives and pulled out the honey-filled combs for all to see.
Later, we looked for worms in the compost pile and then they planted bean, lettuce and pea seeds in pots to take home.
At the end of the afternoon they cut bouquets for their family from the u-pick flower garden.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 11

As your farmers, Rebecca and I don't get a share, but are lucky enough to be able to chose every night what we want to eat from the bounty of the week. Sometimes we are struck by the beauty of what is available and are drawn to particular vegetables. For us the combination of chard, eggplant and Walla Walla onions cries out for a dish that includes them all.

For this week's dish we borrowed a bit from a recipe from our first year, Stuffed Chard Leaves, and modified it to suit what we had at hand. As is the case with both eggplant and greens, the trick is to cook things long enough so that they are tender, and so that the flavors can blend.

Chard Leaves Stuffed with Eggplant and Onions
2 medium or 1 large eggplant
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup grated parmesan or other cheese
salt and pepper to taste
8 chard leaves
3 tbsp olive oil

To Make the Stuffing: Cut the stems off the chard at the bottom of the leaves. Then chop the stems, eggplant, onions and garlic into a small dice and saute in 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil for 10 minutes over medium heat, or until eggplant is tender. Let cool slightly and mix with the cheese.

To Make the Wraps: Dip the chard leaves in boiling water for 1 minute to soften them. When slightly cool, place 1 to 2 tbsp of stuffing and fold them into a wrap/pouch.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F. Place the wraps on an oiled baking sheet. Rub the tops of the wraps with olive oil to help prevent them from browning and drying out. Bake for 30 minutes. You can also pour tomato sauce over them, or cover them to help them stay moist.

Bulk Order List (week of July 20)
Kale - $3.00/bunch
Swiss chard - $3.00 per bunch
Carrots - $3.00/bunch
Walla Walla onions $3.00/bunch
Oregano, basil, mint, dill flowers $2.oo/bunch
Dried herbs $2.00/tin (thyme, marjoram, dried hot peppers, lovage, lavendar flowers, coriander, oregano, rosemary)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In the Share: Week 10

TOMATOES (F/P) Read below for some helpful hints for enjoying your tomatoes
CABBAGE OR SALSA PACK (P) America’s favorite condiment is now in season. Check out Tom’s blog for more info.
BEETS OR EGGPLANT (F/P) We are going to have a good crop of eggplant this year, so get ready!
‘Walla Walla’ ONIONS (F/P) More of those sweeties.
POTATOES (F/P) We’re a bit in between new potatoes and fully dried-back storage potato season so eat these soon or refrigerate.
SWISS CHARD OR KALE (F) Thanks to our no-till experiments the greens keep coming.
CUCUMBERS (F) Our first planting is winding down, but we have more plantings coming.
GREEN BEANS (F) May have some yellow wax beans mixed in this week. They are just starting. The green variety is our favorite bush bean, ‘Jade’.
HERB CHOICE (F/P) Italian basil, summer savory, mint, chives or a dried herb.

Also this week: Parker Farms delivery

Next week: More tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, salsa packs and beans. More garlic and carrots. A few bell peppers perhaps.

Tomato 101: Tomatoes are nearly everyone’s favorite summer vegetable, but we find that many have a hard time figuring out when they’re ripe. Granted we don’t make it easy on you as we grow tomatoes in every color of the rainbow. Waiting for your Fair Share Farm tomato to turn red is not always a sure solution. We do grow a good amount of the standard red and gold hybrid types, but we also grow many heirlooms, old-timey varieties with names like ‘Aunt Ruby’s German Green’, ‘Cherokee Purple’ and ‘Brandywine.’ The flavors of the heirlooms are as diverse as their coloring from sweet and mild to rich and meaty. All that said, the best way to determine if a tomato is ripe is to feel it. Pick it up in your hand. The fruit should give slightly when you just barely squeeze it. If it feels more like an apple than a peach, let it sit a day or so on your kitchen counter. Then, when it does ripen, enjoy the lusciousness that only a local, organically-grown tomato can offer.

Weather: As we led the Growing Growers CSA workshop attendees through the fields yesterday evening, I remarked that our soil had finally dried out to the point where we could finally finish the garlic harvest and plant some fall crops. Alas, I spoke too soon. This morning Mother Nature had other things in mind. We received an inch of rain and had to put off the garlic harvest for another day. Here’s a photo of what we were doing yesterday when we could have been farming.

The Fields: While we can’t accomplish all that we wish, we have been keeping busy in the fields. Harvesting the cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers takes most of our Tuesday and Friday mornings. The remainder of our days are spent weeding, tending to the fall crops in the greenhouse and keeping up with the tomato trellising. Thanks to the Saturday work crew we removed the pea fencing and on Monday we installed it on the rapidly growing pole beans just in time. This afternoon Tom mowed down the strawberry patch. The before and after shots look a little severe, but the plants do seem to like it. Next we’ll take the walk-behind tiller down either side of each row. Those in the know call this practice ‘renovation’. Mowing removes all of the diseased leaves and opens up the ground to the sanitizing power of sunlight and air. Tilling thins out the rows further and re-establishes the paths that we need to harvest. Last thing to do is apply some organic fertilizer or compost and watch the patch grow back renewed.

What to Do With Your Share --- Week 10

Salsa Packs
This week marks the return of the salsa pack as a share item (choice though it is). The tomatillos and jalpenos are just coming on, and look good at this point, so we hope it will be a regular item for some time to come. For you old-timers, it's a familiar scene. For new members, you will find that it is your chance to make a fresh salsa that is second to none.

We provide the key ingredients---tomatillos, jalapenos, garlic and onion, and you supply the tomato and desired garnishings. The recommended recipe is presented below. It is deliciously spicy with just one seeded jalapeno, just to let you know.

The salsa packs are a choice for the partials...one of those times when they get first dibs. Fulls will get their chance next week. Here are some other recommended recipes for use with this week's share:

Onion and Chard Macaroni and Cheese
Phat Thai Style Eggplant, Apples and Onions

Fresh Salsa
1 salsa pack
1 medium tomato
2 tbsp chives or cilantro
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp salt

Clean the salsa pack items (remove the husk from the tomatillos and core them, cut the root end and top from the onion, peel the garlic, cut in half and seed the jalapenos)

Put in a food processor with the tomato and process in pulse mode until chopped to desired consistency (we leave the tomato out and chop it by hand for a chunkier texture)

Add the oil, vinegar, lime juice and salt

Mix and top with chives or cilantro

Bulk Order List (week of July 13)
Kale - $3.00/bunchSwiss chard - $3.00 per bunch
Carrots - $3.00/
Walla Walla onions $3.00/bunch
Oregano, basil, mint, dill flowers $2.oo/bunch
Beets $3.00/qt We have medium size and small (golf ball) size beets. You also have a choice of standard purple beets or Chioggas (bright red and white inside)
Dried herbs $2.00/tin(thyme, marjoram, dried hot peppers, lovage, lavendar flowers, coriander, oregano, rosemary)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In the Share - Week 9

TOMATOES (F/P) More than last week with many more to come.
LETTUCE (F/P) A brief bit of summer lettuce until it leaves us until fall.
CABBAGE OR EGGPLANT (F) Check out the best eggplant recipe ever on Tom’s blog – so delicioso and simple.
CARROTS (F/P) More freshly dug roots, topped for longer storage.
FRESH GARLIC (F/P) freshly pulled, not cured so keep it in the fridge.
CUCUMBERS (F/P) the essential crunch of summer
SUMMER SQUASH (F/P) lots of round zucchini, for those who want to try the stuffed squash recipe from last week.
GREEN BEANS (F/P) Thanks to all the pickers that are keeping those beans a-comin.
HERB CHOICE (F/P) Italian basil, Thai basil, herb fennel or a dried herb.

Also this week: Bread of Life delivery

Next week: More tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers and beans. More onions, beets and carrots.

Weather: Sunny skies and mild temperatures keep us smiling. The sky has been such a brilliant color of blue that you might think it unnatural if it wasn’t shining down on our heads. The sheep have been enjoying the weather. We now have six lambs 'on loan' from Parker Farms. Currently they are helping us clear out the fencerows of poison ivy. Yes, they seem to love the stuff!

The Fields: The garlic harvest continues. With over half of the crop dug, sorted and hung to dry in the barn we are cautiously optimistic. Last year was a bad one for our garlic. The ground didn’t dry out once while the crop was growing, much less during the critical period prior to harvest. We ended up with many small and/or rotten heads as a result. So we had fewer, smaller heads in the shares last year and not enough good-quality seed to plant in the fall. To fill in the gap, we purchased about a bed’s worth of seed from California. Since the early spring we have noticed that the plants from the purchased seed were variable. Some failed to grow at all, many grew very oddly with extra bulbs along their stems instead of just one underground. Overall, the yield from the purchased seed is much diminished. That is in comparison to our two beds of saved seed plants that look amazingly good this time around. We’re seeing the best quality garlic harvest ever on our farm from those two beds. We’re putting the goofy California garlic in the shares this week and saving plenty of the best for next year’s crop.

Links: If the buzz about Food http://www.foodincmovie.com/Inc. is true, the film should be the biggest hit yet in the ‘what’s wrong with our food system’ genre. Produced by some of the same folks that brought us ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, ‘Food Inc.’ promises to be the catalyst for change in how we eat that the former film was for changing the way we use energy. The Tivoli Theatre in KC begins it’s showing this Friday.

What to Do WIth Your Share---Week 9

Eat Your Eggplant
There are several vegetables that we often take extra time trying to "sell" to the CSA, from greens to kohlrabi. Eggplant also falls into that category.

Perhaps the most beautiful vegetable we grow, eggplant is a favorite all over the world. It is said that there are more recipes for eggplant than any other vegetable. Many people are unfamiliar with it and how to cook it though (besides eggplant parmesan). The one bit of advice that we often give is to cook it to the tenderness of mushrooms, as undercooked eggplant can be a real turnoff. We have some of the best looking plants we have had in some time this year, and expect to have nice supply this summer.

In addition to proper cooking, it is important to know that you should ignore any recipes that call for peeling your eggplant. We pick the eggplant at a size smaller than what you may normally see in the grocers or market. This keeps it tender, with less seeds in the pulp. Many recipes also call for salting eggplant to remove bitterness. This is also not necessary with those in your share. The Italian eggplants and the Asian varieties (the long, skinny ones) require only that you cut or peel off the green stem cap. The recipe below is for one of the tastiest eggplant dishes you will ever make. A friend of ours, Kate Garland, made it for a dinner several years ago and shared the recipe with us (not sure what cookbook it was).

Marinated Eggplant
2 medium eggplant, cut into rounds or bite size pieces
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 cloves
1 small tomato, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
3 tbsp raisins
2 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
Large pinch dried pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat broiler to high. Rub the eggplant with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Broil for 10 minutes or until tender, stirring once.

To make the marinade, put the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, cloves, tomato, pine nuts, raising, sugar and bay leaf in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

Place the hot eggplant in an earthenware or glass bowl and pour the marinade over. Allow to cool, remove the cloves and bay leaf. Serve cool or at room temperature.

Bulk Order List (week of July 6)
Kale - $3.00/bunch
Swiss chard - $3.00 per bunch
Carrots - $3.00/bunch
Green onions - $2.50/bunch
Walla Walla onions $3.00/bunch
Oregano, basil, mint, dill flowers $2.oo/bunch
Beets $3.00/qt We have medium size and small (golf ball) size beets. You also have a choice of standard purple beets or Chioggas (bright red and white inside)
Summer squashcucumbers-lg $1.25 ea
Summer sq/cucumbers-med $0.75 ea
Summer sq-small $3.25/qt
Dried herbs $2.00/tin
(thyme, marjoram, dried hot peppers, lovage, lavendar flowers, coriander, oregano, rosemary)