Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mulching the Strawberries

If anyone ever asks what CSA members do at the farm on a work day, just point them to this video. Believe me, a lot of work got done in a very short time thanks to the membership. Go team!

A larger version is on YouTube.

In the Share - Week 17

TOMATOES (F/P) There is a few more juicy jewels of summer left
POTATOES (F/P) More of the yellow-fleshed, creamy type
ONIONS (F/P) We're clearing out the last of the sweeter varieties, some red, white and yellow.
SWEET PEPPERS (F/P) We grow bells and marconis, the latter being the elongated pointy ones.
SUMMER SQUASH (F) We still have lots of these dependable summer fruits. Check Farmer Tom's blog for the Ruggieri family recipe.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH (F) You know fall is coming when you start eating the winter squash. We have a bumper crop this year of butternuts, acorns, carnivals and pumpkins. While we wait for the other fall crops to mature, we are filling the lull with the smaller ones. They keep well so there's no rush to eat them.
SWEET POTATO GREENS (P) Okay partial shares, it is your turn to try something new. Check last week's blog for all the info on cooking these satisfying greens.
CUCUMBERS (F) That 4 inches of rain last week was a bit too much for the cucumbers but they are starting to pick up again.
SMALL LETTUCE (F/P) Ditto on the effects of the 4 inches of rain, however the lettuce is less forgiving. Our first planting for the fall is beginning to bolt, i.e. send up a flower stalk and turn bitter. We are picking it at 'baby' size in order to that we may all eat it while it is still edible.
OKRA, HOT PEPPERS OR EGGPLANT (F) The okra is in it's prime right now. Take advantage as the season won't last much longer. We're hoping on a flush of peppers and eggplant to come later in September.
HERB CHOICE (F/P) Basil, thyme, garlic chives or a dried herb

ALSO THIS WEEK: Bread of Life Bakery shares delivery

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash and okra. Garlic returns. We're still waiting on the kale. Partial shares will get their butternut.

The end of August is here and we feel like we've finally passed over the hump of the growing season. Most all the crops are planted and all we have to do is tend to them and harvest. Well, not exactly. There's a big ole list of things that should be done. However, at the end of August it does become harder to keep up the same intensity of work that has been the norm since April. We wonder if it is the barometric pressure, but undoubtedly we are just tired.

This is not to say that we are unhappy with our lot. On the contrary we consider ourselves supremely lucky to breathe in the fresh air and eat well off of the fruits of our labor.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 17

Enjoy Some Fried Food
Not a normal suggestion from an organic farmer, but one that I think will delight your palate this week. It comes from my father's side of the family---zucchini fritters. We know we have been giving you a lot of beautiful summer squash and zucchini and you may be running out of ways to cook it. This is a definite crowd pleaser.

It is a modification of my Aunt Betty's recipe. I made it for brunch on Sunday to feed three of my sisters who were visiting. They agreed that the fritters had a taste that reached back in time to when we used to travel to South Bend, Indiana to visit my Dad's folks.

Sorry I don't have a picture of the fritters, but I do have one of my sisters at the farm. Left to right; Jeanne, Margy, Cathy, me, Rebecca

Zucchini Fritters
A fritter starts out as one thing; a pancake like batter with zucchini and seasoning. You simply fry it in a 1/2 inch of oil until browned on both sides. The aroma of it cooking is worth it.

2 cups shredded zucchini
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup grated cheese (parmesan, goat cheese, mozzarella...)
1/2 cup water
flour to make a pancake-like batter (thick)

Mix together all of the ingredients except the flour. Add flour to form a thick batter.
Heat 1/2 inch frying oil in a pan.
With tablespoon, spoon batter into the oil to form patties. Fry until browned on both sides.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In the Share - Week 16

SWEET POTATO GREENS (F) a seasonal treat. It is time for the plant to stop growing greens and start bulking up those roots. See Tom's post for more info.
TOMATOES (F/P) We have not had our best tomato year. The cold snap in May and the humid summer did not help. But we do still have a few for everyone for another couple of weeks.
CARROTS (F) sweet orange ones.
GARLIC (F/P) of the hardneck variety
SUMMER SQUASH (F/P) get it while it last!
GREEN BEANS (F) The first picking of the last planting.
OKRA OR SWEET PEPPERS (F) Rumor is the okra is more popular than sweet peppers. You don't say.
BASIL, GARLIC CHIVES OR COMMON CHIVES (F) partials gets a choice of either herbs or garlic.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Parker Farms delivery
NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, squash and peppers. Potatoes and onions return. Perhaps some kale. Won't be long before we have some lettuce again.
It seems no matter where we go lately we see butterflies. Of every size and color, they are everywhere. One of their favorite meeting spots apppears to be our compost pile. Here is a photo of them gorging on the leftovers from the melon harvest.

The Limenitis arthemis astyanax, or Red-spotted Purple, seems to be particularly inclined towards the watermelon rinds. They are the blue and black ones with the red dots on their wingtips.

Butterflies are not the only creatures that seem to be thriving on the farm. Our daily tasks in the fields are often accompanied by a cry for everyone to gather for the latest critter needing inspection. Most are harmless; many are fascinating. Moth larvae with strange protuberances along their bodies, robber flies carrying off their latest prey, large black ants setting up house in a winter squash and even crawfish entertain us with their weird beauty.

In amongst the sage plants, we discovered a large and quite beautiful moth, although we later discovered that it is the adult form of the tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) a quite formidable pest if left to devour a plant from the top down.

The farm's ecosystem also supports a large population of frogs and toads. Here is a leopard frog blending in amongst the mulch of the flower patch.

We are heartened to see all the life that shares the fields with us. Amphibians and reptiles, butterflies and moths are especially sensitive to toxins that are commonly used in chemical farming systems. Leopard frogs, in particular, are seen as environmental indicator species.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 16

Sweet Potato Vines
This little cooling spell has made it feel like Fall is around the corner. It reminded us of how long we have been without greens in our meal. Well, the farm provides, as we currently have a sea of sweet potato vines growing.

Our knowledge of their delicious nature, nutritional facts and growing requirements has been increasing over the past several seasons. Among the new things we've experienced is eating the sweet potato vines.

We sauteed some up tonight with a little oil, garlic, onion, salt, and vinegar to re-aquaint ourselves with their mild flavor. It made a small side-dish. It's nice to work it into a main dish too. Add it to your favorite tomato sauce and cook until tender. Or add some fresh to a salad.

Treat it like you would spinach or any other green. The stems are also edible, so chop them up and add them to the dish, not the compost.

When storing, DON'T PUT THEM IN THE FRIDGE. The sweet potato is a tropical plant and the coolness of your fridge will kill it quickly. Instead, store it in a jar of water on your counter.

For a great recipe I suggest going to Emily Akins' blog. If you don't have all the ingredients for her Sexy Stir Fry, substitute as the share allows.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fair Share Farm Art Project

Submissions are slow, but behind the scenes we are seeing the CSA lumber to life. Interest in the Fair Share Farm Art Project is growing. We know of several pending artworks for display in our gallery.

As a CSA member you are among those that know the most about food. You've picked you own beans, and dug your own carrots. You've visited the chickens, pigs, sheep and cattle that you buy. You've helped harvest and distribute food to over 120 families. So who better to describe their feelings about food in art?

Just click on the happy girl with the big carrot for all the details.

Bulk List---Week 15

Sorry, there are no items available for bulk this week.

What To Do With Your Share---Week 15

Summer is passing in the fields, though some crops have just started. The okra has liked the African weather the last month, and is starting to flower and fruit. The stem of the pod is the same as the stem of the flower. After pollination the pod starts growing up from the base of the flower, shedding the pedals and making some wild looking food.

For the eating part we turn to a recipe from Jan Glauberman. We can attest to her knowledge of okra, having watched her make this dish, and tasted its virtues. We also made it ourselves tonight and remain impressed.

Wok Fried Okra
Water is the enemy of okra. Cooking okra with water will bring out the slimy texture we all hate. Okra needs to be cooked with dry heat and the easiest way I have found is to cook it in the wok with a little oil.

Wash and dry the okra. I leave the cap on but cut off most of the stem, then slice into 3/4 quarter inch pieces. Heat the wok on high and add 1/2 to 1 Tbl of oil, corn or canola works well with the high heat. Just before the oil starts to smoke add the okra and saute, stirring frequently.

It takes about 10 minutes at most and the okra will start to get black edges and soft. Add a sprinkling of kosher salt, stir and it's ready to eat. I like to add 1/2 tsp of an Indian spice mixture called Pickle Masala after I stir in the salt. It can be purchased at the local Indian market.

If you want to make your own, there is a good recipe at Simply.food. Just type in Pickel Masala. This is about the easiest way to cook any vege. Woks rule!

Jan =

In the Share - Week 15

WATERMELON (F/P) One last week of melons. The scorching heat did a number on the last planting, but we found enough to get everyone a red or yellow one.
TOMATOES (F/P) Another 3 or 4, but also some romas or cherry tomatoes thrown in.
SUMMER SQUASH (F) There will be a few warty yellow ones in the mix, Rugosa Friulana from the region near Venice, Italy. It's a bit ugly, but has good flavor with no squeaky texture.
SWEET PEPPERS OR OKRA (F/P) See Tom's post for the best okra recipe ever (no slime!) submitted by of your fellow CSA members.
EGGPLANT (F) I know it is not a familiar vegetable to alot of my fellow Midwesterners, but it grows well in our region. There are more recipes for eggplant than any other vegetable, many of which are quite delicious.
SALSA PACK/PEPPERS (F) The tomatillos are slowing down, so some will get another shot at sweet peppers instead of the salsa.
HERB CHOICE: Basil, thyme or a dried herb.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Bread of Life Bakery delivery

NEXT WEEK: more tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra and squash. Cucumbers, green beans, carrots and garlic return.

The big break in the weather this past weekend signaled our entrance into late summer. The final plantings of cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and squash will be on the plate for another few weeks. The peppers, eggplant and okra have been growing since early spring, but have one last push through the month of September before falling to frost. These summer fruits will continue to be combined with the storage crops of potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic safely kept in the upper barn.

our newest addition to the stores

Winter squash has recently joined its fellow keepers in the barn. After we harvested the standard issue of tomatoes, squash, cukes, peppers, eggplant, okra and tomatillos in preparation for tomorrow's shares, the rest of today was spent harvesting a lovely crop of butternut, acorn squash and pie pumpkins.

Our relationship with winter squash is a tumultous one. We love them as they are tasty and keep far into the winter. All too often, however, we have been left at the end of fall with no crop. Vine borers, squash bugs and cucumber beetles along with various viruses, mildews and wilts are formidable opponents for an organic farmer armed with row cover and not much else. This year a combination of technique and luck seems to have paid off. We added generous amounts of Missouri Organic compost and used the Allis-Chalmers G to make hills. The weather was pretty ideal during most of their growth -warm and relatively dry. So, who knows what made the difference and really, in the end, who cares! We've got lots of winter squash to eat! But not yet, in a couple weeks. We'll put them in the share when they are fully cured and when a warm butternut squash soup sounds just right.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What to Do With Your Share---Week 14

Fatigue is setting in out here at the farm. It's all part of summer though, as we can't coast home just yet. But the bounty has fed us well. The diversity of the farm has shone this year, as a disappointing crop of early tomatoes is replaced by wonderful melons.

And the thing about melons is that you don't have to cook them. This week's watermelon can be sliced and eaten, or turned into a refreshing juice. Just scoop out the flesh, squeeze it and press it through a colander, and you have a ruby red drink.

We mixed it with some strawberry juice frozen since June, added a little honey, and filled some popsicle containers. Looking forward to one at lunch tomorrow.

It also makes a dynamite drink. Some strawberry/watermelon juice, ice, water, Italian fizzies, a shot of rum and a lime garnish is the cat's meow.

Bulk List---Week 14

We have a lot of tomatillos available this week.

Bulk List
Drying tomatoes: $4.00/qt
Tomatillos: $2.00/lb
Salsa Packs: $2.50/pack
Basil bunch (large pesto size): $4/bunch

In the Share - Week 14

TOMATOES (F/P) Another week of an adequate tomato crop, nothing too overwhelming. Plants that survived the cold, wet early May are doing horrid compared to those planted afterward, some of which are slow to ripen.
WATERMELON (F/P) A choice of two varieties: the red Sangria (oblong and grassy-green on the outside) or the yellow Peace (more round and a lighter green with dark green stripes). As our favorite Coop seed company, Fedco, says "Give Peace a chance".
SALSA PACK (F/P) All full shares get them, partial shares get a choice with carrots
CARROTS All orange this week
GARLIC (F/P) An artichoke softneck variety
HERB CHOICE: Basil, garlic chives or a dried herb. Partial shares choose between garlic and herbs.
SUMMER SQUASH (F) Running out of summer squash recipes? The last planting of the season is just coming on now. Check out FSF CSA member Emily Akin's blog for a recipe for vegetarian squash burgers
CHERRY TOMATOES OR RATTLESNAKE BEANS (F) The pole beans are beginning to slow, so enjoy them while you can
HOT PEPPERS OR EGGPLANT (P) Check Tom's blog from last week for the hot pepper i.d.
EGGPLANT, SWEET PEPPERS OR OKRA (F) Nothing loves the heat more than the okra.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Parker Farms shares delivery

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplant and salsa. A few more melons. The last planting of cucumbers may be starting. Potatoes and onions return.

When Tom and I first moved back to the Graff-Cave Family Farm in the fall of 2002 the region was in the second year of a two-year drought. Photographs from the time contain lots of burned-up grass and stunted crops. Our first irrigation system was built in a hurry out of resources on hand. The old cattle pond served as water source and a gas-powered generator pumped the water to our thirsty crops. It wasn't a very elegant solution, but it kept our plants alive along with our dream of building a truly sustainable farm.
Fast forward to 2010 during a hot, dry summer. Yes, I said dry. Most everyone in the region is feeling the heat this summer, but most have had record rainfall to go with it. Not us. We count ourselves lucky to have missed the 2-5 inch deluges that others have received. The headline of the KC STAR today reads First rain, now heat causes grumbling among growers. While our neighbors to the north and south have much to grumble about, we have been spared for the most part (what's my excuse then?!).

pond full of water makes farmer sleep easy

Dry weather can only be looked upon as good luck if you have an dependable irrigation system. Ours has come along way since our first year at the farm. A new pond and a solar-powered pump bring water to our fields cleanly, quietly and cheaply with a rate of at least 25 gallons per minute. We've been pumping thousands of those gallons on our fields for the better of three weeks now and will probably be pumping for a couple weeks more. As long as we get the usual soaking fall rains, the pond should recharge quickly. Irrigation is especially critical for establishing the fall crops.

Newly transplanted cabbage with drip tape

The next chapter in the irrigation saga is about to unfold. Energize Missouri Agriculture, a program funded with Federal stimulus dollars is helping us expand our solar-powered system. With cost-share funds we were able to purchase additional solar panels and underground supply pipe that will make our system more energy-efficient with better pressure so that we can bring water to the highest sections of the farm. We will be installing the supply line in the next month or two, as soon as the weather breaks and we have time to get to it.

pile of pipe and valve boxes waiting to be put to use

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Fair Share Farm Art Project

And now for some CSA fun. The Fair Share Farm Art Project is online. The time has come for all you members and friends of the farm to let us know what you think about food. Express your thoughts in the way that only art can capture.

We have set the stage. The idea, the website, the team, the judges, the opening venue. All that we need now is the art. Go to http://www.fairsharefarmart.com/ to learn the details. The submissions are coming in, so check back often.

All made possible through the generous work of the following:
Stacey Cook, Director---it's only the beginning, eh?
Bobby and Christina Hubbard, web design---awsome job folks
Heather Murphy---inspiring logo Heather
Farmer Rebecca---the stabilizing force

A thanks also to our competition judges: Laura Berman, Dean Kube, Pete Dulin and Pam Taylor. More on them at the Judges link soon. Suffice it to say, the local art community is pumped to help out with the project.

You've know about this since March, but time is running down with only about 8 weeks until the submission deadline. The peak of summer is a great time to reflect on food. Can't wait to hear from everyone.

Bulk List---Week 13

Get your dehydraters working. We have Principe Borghese drying tomatoes available for sale. These small tomatoes are made to be split open and dried. A great raw food. You can eat them like candy, or rehyrate them for your favorite recipe.

We also have an abundance of tomatillos if you would like to buy them by the pound, instead of purchasing a salsa pack.

Bulk List
Drying tomatoes: $4.00/qt
Tomatillos: $2.00/lb
Salsa Packs: $2.50/pack
Jalapenos: $2.50/pint
Pepperoncinis: $4.00/quart
Basil bunch (large pesto size): $4/bunch
Summer squash/cucumbers-lg $1.25 ea
Summer sq/cucumbers-med $0.75 ea
Summer sq-small $3.25/qt

In the Share - Week 13

TOMATOES (F/P) The heat is ripening them fast right now and the dry weather is concentrating their flavor.
POTATOES (F/P) Mainly Kennebec but we'll be filling in with some Desiree. The links take you to our supplier of potato seed.
WALLA WALLA ONIONS (F/P) Not many more sweeties, but we think enough for everyone this week.
SALSA PACK (F) Last year's survey prompted us to grow more salsa fixins and they just keep on coming.
HOT PEPPERS OR EGGPLANT (F) See Tom's post for more info on the different types of hot peppers that we grow.
SUMMER SQUASH (F) More sweet little pattypans
RATTLESNAKE POLE BEANS (F/P) Our favorite beans, so tender and with real bean flavor.
CANTALOUPE (P) Keep these out of your fridge until completely ripe and sweet. The cantaloupe go to the partial shares in KC this week, since they didn't receive any last week. Partial shares on Saturday will get salsa packs instead.
HERB CHOICE (F/P) Basil, Summer savory, Garlic chives or a dried herb.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Bread of Life Bakery shares

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, summer squash, beans, eggplant, peppers and salsa. Perhaps the first watermelons. More carrots and garlic.

We know what you are all wondering. Yes, it is hot even for us seasoned, acclimated-to-the-outdoors farmers. The good news is the crops so far seem to be taking it in stride more than the humans who are tending them. It helps that we have a big pond of irrigation water and that most of our summer crops have either a thick layer of mulch or have a vining habit that creates it's own shade. Our biggest challenge is caring for the newly-planted fall crops. Yesterday I cultivated our baby fall cauliflower, brussel sprouts and broccoli with our electric Allis Chalmers G.

While the tractor gets alot of the weeds, we still need to come through with hoes for the weeds in row and any others that survived. That took the rest of the afternoon, but by the end they were weed-free and getting a good dose of water.
Harvesting takes up the majority of our time at the moment. It is a pretty enjoyable task, especially when the crop is good. And when you have a great crew to help.

Here are the Saturday bean pickers after a hot slog through 400 ft. of pole beans ... and still smiling.
Harvesting requires close inspection of each plant and often leads to discoveries beyond the crop itself. As with this perfect little bird nest amongst the drying tomatoes.
(yes, we grow tomatoes suited for dehydrating. Check the bulk list for more info.)

Harvesting also rewards us with big dose of all natural color therapy. Working our way through the squash patch we are cheered by their many sunny flowers.

And there's one of "our" honeybees working to feed her community and also increasing our crops in the process. Thank you honeybees!

What to Do With Your Share---Week 13

Hot Peppers
They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This week we say, when life is stifling hot, give the members hot peppers.

Our crop of these spicy solanaceous plants is doing better this year than any other. We have more than we need right now for salsa packs, pickling and the swap box, and so we are making them a choice for the shares.

We only grow a limited amount, as they are something that we know not everyone cares for. But we hope that you are daring enough add them to your favorite dish, or otherwise enjoy their spiciness. There are 4 types to choose from this week.

Left to right:
NuMex Joe E. Parker (Anaheim type)--This variety is the mildest of the four. We like it raw in salads as an alternative to green sweet peppers. It is best though, when roasted and peeled. Cut off the top/stem, slice in half, remove the seeds, and place skin side up on a baking sheet. Roast at 450 deg F or broil for about 10 minutes, until charred. Place in a glass bowl and cover with a plate. This helps to steam off the skins. Then, when cool to touch (10 to 20 minutes), simply peel the skin off and you have a flavorful, tangy pepper.

Volcano (Hungarian wax pepper)--These plants are from some free seeds we got last year. The plants produce well and the peppers are nice and hot, but with a fire that doesn't last in your mouth too long. They turn orange and then red when mature. These are good raw added to your favorite salad, or grilled with your favorite veggies.

El Jefe (Jalapeno)--Quite hot. Just one in your salsa pack can provide just the right amount of spiciness. Two will make it firey hot. There are hundreds of ways to enjoy jalapenos; fresh, pickled, roasted, smoked, deep fried, jellied...the list goes on. Use the power of the web to explore the possibilities.

Use caution when handling these peppers, as they can make your fingers burn. And be sure not to rub your eyes or other extremities after handlings them.

Italian and Greek pepperoncini--You may be familiar with these as some pizza parlors garnish their dishes with them. Moderatley hot, they are traditionally pickled, but we also like to eat them raw. A simple recipe is to chop up one medium tomato, one medium cucumber, half a sweet onion, and about 3 to 4 pepperoncinis and dress this salad with balsamic vinegarette or some other Italian dressing.