Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What to Do With Your Share---Week 8

 If you haven’t already, I hope that you have read the Pickling Primer in the blog below. Pickling cukes are here, try them out. The window of opportunity is small, take advantage now!

No pickles at dinner, but we did enjoy a nice assortment of vegetables. Paste is a go-to meal for us on nights we are busy. We make a lot of tomato sauce each year for just such an occasion. As we like to say, when we can the sauce---we are thinking of the future Tom and Rebecca. Thanks guys.
A quick sautéing of onions and chard stems, followed by some chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce, and finished with a nice bunch of chopped Swiss chard leaves. A good quick, hearty meal and usually some leftovers.

Another suggestion for this week is grilled pasta primavera. Summer squash, eggplant, peppers, onions and garlic are all great either grilled or broiled. Cook amounts based on what you have on hand and how hungry you are. Once the grilled vegetables are cool to the touch, chop them and mix them with pasta, olive oil and grated cheese.

Fair Share Farm Pickling Primer

Now that the pickle packs are here the orders have been flowing in. Some have been from those of you with a background in the craft. Others are ready to try your hand at it and see “the pack” as an opportunity to become a pickler.
For those of you new to pickling here are a few pointers, and then some recipes.
We sort pickles into three sizes:
Small: cucumbers/pickles this size are often called cornichons or gherkins. They are generally less than 2 inches long, and ½ inch fat. As you can imagine, picking your cucumbers so small requires a lot of plants and a lot of picking, so they are a bit of a delicacy.
Medium: We sort the next size up so that they are small enough to easily fit whole into a wide-mouth canning jar. They make for a beautiful pickle. Depending on your hand, they are generally “finger-sized.”

Large/Slicer/Chunker: Cucumbers that start getting too fat or large to fit many into a jar are still good for pickling and have many uses. Bread and butter pickles, lime pickles and dill pickle spears are all examples of pickles you can make from large ones.
There are a few general things about pickling that are good to know before you get started:
1.      Only use pickling cucumber varieties when pickling. They are a firmer cucumber than slicers and have the ability to stay crunchy.

2.      Scrape or cut the blossom end (the “bottom” of the cucumber) off your cucumber as there are enzymes in the remains of the flower blossom that can soften your pickle in storage.

3.      To help keep pickles crunchy people have for years added grape leaves to their jars of pickles. The tannins in the leaves are supposed to help keep them crisp. You can also use oak leaves, currant leaves, sour cherry leaves or horseradish shavings. (This isn’t necessary for lime pickles.)

4.      Do NOT use table salt for any pickling recipes, it contains non-caking agents which can discolor your product. Use pickling salt or sea salt.

5.      Canning is not a necessary step for making pickles. For many pickle recipes you can simply put the jars in your fridge, give them a week to pickle, and have a great batch of “refrigerator pickle” They are a good way to begin learning pickling and test out the flavors and tastes you like best.

6.      To learn how to process you pickles so that you can bring them out for your Thanksgiving or Xmas nosh, come to the pickling class that Emily Akins and I are teaching at the Bad Seed in July. Go to their website for more information. Note that the date may change based on this year’s pickling cucumber harvest dates.
A general source for canned pickle recipes (tested for safety) is the MU Extension. You should read this link (Pickling Basics) and the associated Quality for Keeps: Steps to Success in Home Canning . The first document has recipes for sweet gherkin pickles, dill pickles, bread and butter pickles and pickle relish.

You can also buy pickling lime at the grocery store and make lime pickles. The recipe on the Mrs. Wages bag is for sweet pickle chips that are crunchy every time. Just follow the instructions and be sure you rinse the cukes well.
The makings of pickle chunks

For a great refrigerator recipe go to our newsletter of July 5th, 2006. I make it in a gallon pickle jar, though smaller jars work too. You can use any of the pickle pack's aromatics. Simply clean the ingredients and add to the jar. Pre-boiling the cucumbers is something that I do not do anymore and the pickles are fine. You can omit that step and will find that this is a very simple recipe, and the cukes are a real treat.
Refrigerator pickles
If you want to make pickles the really old fashioned way, with salt brine, check out the progress of making a batch in last year's blog, bere and here. The recipe is in the MU Extension pickeling publication.

In the share - Week 8

first picking of the eggplant

CUCUMBERS (F/P) It is peak week for our first round of cukes and everyone is getting a good amount. We will also have available a crate of “take what you want” ones that the cucumber beetles munched. Look for the crate at the end of the line marked “Cucumber 2nds”.

SUMMER SQUASH (F) Our first planting of the summer squash is winding down, but we have another round of pattypans coming in soon.

NEW POTATOES (F/P) The first of the fresh potatoes – eat soon or store in the fridge. Their skins are not developed enough yet to keep very long, but boy there's nothing like a new potato.

TOMATOES (F/P) We have a new record for earliest harvest with over 100 lbs today. There’s a nice selection of hybrids and heirlooms. We grow many colors of tomatoes including green, yellow, orange, pink, striped, black (dark red really), and of course, red.  All of the tomatoes that we are giving you this week are ripe or 1-2 days away from being ripe. Not sure if your tomato is ripe? Give it a gentle squeeze – it should feel soft not hard.

 This photo shows only heirloom varieties although this week we have quite a few standard red ones too.  Some of the varieties above are Black Krim, Amana Orange, Aunt Ruby's German Green and Marianna's Peace.

GARLIC (F/P) The first offering from the garlic bulb harvest is Musik, a hardneck variety. Hardneck garlic has large cloves that surround a central stalk.   The garlic is cured and should keep on your countertop for a month or more although they are at their prime right  now while they are fresh and juicy.

BASIL (F/P) We are sending in pesto-size bunches this week to go along with the garlic.

PEPPERS AND/OR EGGPLANT (F) The first picking with what looks to be many more to come.

CABBAGE (F) More heads have grown since our last picking, especially the pointy-headed ones.

CHERRY TOMATOES (F) We are hoping to have enough pints for the full shares this week, next week we'll have some for the partial shares.

WALLA WALLA ONIONS (P) These are sweet onions, perfect for every summer salad. Not cured, so refrigerate.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Parker Farms CSA shares

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, cucumbers and summer squash. Carrots return. Onions for the full shares.  Salsa packs make their debut.


While I made a quick run to Fayette, Missouri for the biennial Rains family reunion on Sunday, Farmer Tom stayed home and got our new storage room ready for the tomato harvest. Just in time too, with our nice harvest today and hot weather in the forecast.  Using a window air-conditioning unit, a gadget called a CoolBot and a lot of insulation we now have a room to keep crops that prefer a cool but not cold storage temperature. It is built in the lowest corner in our barn against two underground walls. We call it the Cave.

Cave was also the last name of my grandmother, Allene. It was her parents, Louie and Cleve, who bought the land that Tom and I now farm. Grandpa Cave had cattle on pasture and grew hay in the field where we currently have carrots, squash and cucumbers growing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In the Share - Week 7

SUMMER SQUASH (F/P) Some of these boys got a big on us, thanks to the heat. See Tom’s post for some yummy recipes for these big boys.

CARROTS (F/P) First of the season, fresh out of the ground with their tops. We like to give you the entire carrot for the first round, but they keep better with their tops off. Leave half an inch of green and store in a plastic bag in your crisper.

WALLA WALLA ONIONS (F) Fresh, sweet onions are best appreciated raw in your favorite salad.

KOHLRABI (F/P) The last of the spring crops, these are so crisp and juicy they will remind you of a rainy day.

CUCUMBERS (F/P) Talk about crisp and juicy, the cuke is the perfect farmer snack after sweating in the fields.

CHOICE OF KALE OR SWISS CHARD (F) Our crop of greens is hanging in there for now. Enjoy their healthy goodness while they last.

HERB CHOICE (F) Basil, summer savory, parsley or dried herbs.

LETTUCE (P) We managed to grow just enough lettuce for the partial shares to get their turn this week. After that it is curtains for the frilly heads until fall.

CHERRY TOMATOES (F/P) Just a small taste to whet your appetite.

NEXT WEEK: More cucumbers, summer squash and tomatoes. More beets. Garlic and new potatoes.


The first day of summer is here, although it has felt like summer for months. This week it feels like a blast furnace actually. I despise these hot, dry, windy days almost over any other weather short of something dangerous like a tornado. At least with a tornado you usually get some rain! We thought we might get some rain on Friday.  The clouds looked promising as we harvested the garlic.

But only a few drops fell.  Don't get me wrong, I am not wishing for severe weather, but the farm’s plants and people are ready for a break from this desiccating blow torch!

Despite said blow torch, the crops for the most part continue to survive and flourish thanks to a steady stream of irrigation water. The pond has dropped quite a bit since we began drawing from it in April.
Here’s a picture.

That’s about the level it was at the end of last summer, the lowest it’s ever been. So here’s a game we will now play called: How low will the pond go? Will we draw it down until we can draw no more? Or will our dear pond water hold out until the September rains fall?

Thanks to all that water and a thick layer of mulch on almost everything, the farm looks a lot like summer with big bushy tomato plants full of green fruit. Wait a minute ...  there’s actually a few red ones out there! We’ve never harvested ripe tomatoes in June until today. There’s the silver lining in our harsh weather reality: early summer fruit! Look for the tray of cherry tomatoes at distribution this week for a first taste of the season.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 7

Summer will be officially upon us during Wednesday distribution this week, and the crops in the field are backing that up. The first cucumbers, more summer squash and a few cherry tomatoes all say that the Spring of 2012 is over.

With this hot, dry weather the zukes have grown large between pickings. So we are sorry that this week's squash is big, but offer a recipe for zucchini fritters as a tasty suggestion for using them. The aroma alone is worth cooking these, so enjoy some fried food this week.

The carrots and Walla Walla onions make their debut for this season too. We love our carrots here at the farm and hope to have them in the share every other week for most of the rest of the season. This first selection is a variety called Bolero. They grow well in our soil, and have a nice shape, texture and taste. We recommend eating them fresh and raw right now. One important note however is to cut the green tops off if you are going to store them in the fridge, and be sure to keep them in a plastic bag, as they will dry out otherwise.

Find the cucumbers in the picture.

The Walla Walla's are a sweet onion, so don't be afraid to eat them raw too. They are a great addition to a fresh summer salad. Cukes, onions, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic makes a never fail simple, crisp and bright salad.

The dog days of Summer aren't supposed to be until August, but this year they have arrived 2 months early. We are hoping that the temperatures do not continue to rise, as all living things on the farm are already feeling the effects of the abnormally hot Spring of 2012.  Rocky tries to keep cool in his polar bear coat of fur by laying on the cool concrete in the barn or on the gravel in the packing area.

Our boy Rocky staying cool.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In the Share - Week 6

earliest yellow onions ever!

LETTUCE (F) The lettuce patch is getting smaller by the day. What remains are the crisphead varieties that can handle the summer heat more than most.

BEETS (F/P) The first pulling of the beets will commence tomorrow morning. They are still young and tender and the greens are great!  Sautee the roots and greens together in a pan and you've got a glorious dish!  Can you tell that beets are my favorite vegetable?

CABBAGE (F/P) We grow small varieties that mature quickly for the spring.  Just the right amount for a big bowl of cole slaw.

SUMMER SQUASH (F/P) The squash harvest is beginning to get weighty. Look to Tom’s post for some easy recipes to enjoy the bounty.

BROCCOLI OR PEAS (F) The last picking of both of these spring vegetables. We’ll have broccoli again in the fall when it really thrives in the cool weather.  The peas are a spring-only crop so enjoy this offering.

PLUM PURPLE RADISHES (F) The last planting of radishes is here for this week only. Partial shares get a choice of radishes or herbs.

YELLOW ONIONS (F/P) We are really psyched about our big yellow onions. We planted them last summer, mulched them over the winter and here they are – a good 2 months before we would have anything of this size and maturity. Keep these on your counter, it is too moist for them in the fridge.

HERB CHOICE (F/P) Parsley, mint, summer savory or basil

ALSO THIS WEEK: Parker Farms CSA shares

NEXT WEEK: More summer squash. Walla Walla onions and carrots. Swiss chard and kale.


Every plant and beast on the farm sighed with relief as the rain fell Sunday night.  The slow steady rain seeped in the ground, filled in the cracks and washed us clean.  About an inch fell and we needed every drop.  We continue to irrigate and mulch and the crops seems to be thriving so far.  The moist soil allowed us to begin renovating the strawberry patch.  With all the berries picked, there's nothing left to do but mow it all down.

farm apprentice, Ryan, mowing the strawberry patch

Mowing the plants removes any diseased leaves and opens up the crowns to the sanitizing rays of sunshine.  We'll give them a good helping of organic fertilizer, till the paths and then let the plants grow back.  By fall the patch will be full of healthy leaves and tidy rows ready to produce next year's crop.  

With the upcoming arrival of summer (June 20), harvest begins to play a bigger role in our daily routine.  We are currently picking the summer squash twice per week.  The plants are healthy and the harvest weighty.  Soon we will add tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers on to the routine.  

summer squash ripe for picking

What to Do With Your Share---Week 6

Six weeks in and you either are full of good, fresh, Missouri vegetables or you have enjoyed some and have a fridge filled with the rest. Either way, we are here to help. While what we give you may seem like a lot, it doesn't take much to make a few tasty dishes and use up a good portion of your share.

There are many dishes that use 2, 3 or 4 share items and give you a good dose of flavor and nutrition, the kind you can only get from eating fresh food. In cooking it is all about the ingredients, and your share gives you a good start on any dish.

Last night we made a simple pasta dish (recipe follows) that included onion, zucchini, chard, green garlic and oregano, with a garnish of parsley. It is a dish that you can substitute with most whatever ingredients you have on hand. Rebecca says more vegetables, less pasta in the mix.

The idea of the dish is to toss your vegetables with some pasta to make a warm dish. The leftovers are then a delicious cold salad that you can jazz up with things like nuts, dried fruit or dressing. If pasta isn't your thing, it goes well with grains like rice or quinoa.

Pasta Tossed With Sauteed Vegetables
1 large or 2 medium summer squash/zucchini
1 large onion
1/2 bunch Swiss chard
3 green garlic
1-1/2 tbsp dried or 2 tbsp fresh oregano
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup grated cheese

1 lb pasta

Start the pasta first so that it is ready when the veggies are done. We used a penne pasta, a type of macaroni.

Cut the stem out of the chard and chop into small dice. Cut leaves into thin pieces. Cut squash lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds in the cavity with a spoon and discard. Cut zucchini into chunks. Trim the top and bottom off the garlic and chop the white part.

Put 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the chard stems, onion and green garlic until the onions become soft. Add the zucchini and salt, and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the chard and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the chard is tender.

Mix the pasta, cheese and vegetables in the pasta pot while adding 2 tbsp olive oil. Garnish with parsley.

Parker Farms Tour
Rebecca and I enjoyed a drive in the country and a visit to a farm last Saturday. It was windy and warm at Parker Farms, and you felt like you were on the edge of the prairie. Tom, Paula and the 4 Parker girls were wonderful hosts.

A hearty pot luck started the afternoon, and then a tour of the chickens, sheep, hogs and cattle. Their operation is top-notch, and we feel fortunate to have farmers like them providing us with our meat and eggs.

Parker Farms Tour 6/9/12

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

In the Share - Week 5


LETTUCE (F2/P1) More romaine and red leaf lettuces that are so far surviving the heat!

SWISS CHARD (F/P) The first picking of this leafy green from the beet family.

BROCCOLI (F/P) Again, keep an eye out for any pesky caterpillars we might have missed.

SUMMER SQUASH (F/P) It feels like summer once the yellow squash and zucchinis make their entrance.

PEAS (F/P) It is most likely the last week of  a bumper crop of peas.  We think we'll top 500 lbs. after tomorrow's picking - a record for us. See Tom’s post for a deliciously simple recipe for cooked herbed peas.

HAKUREI TURNIPS (F) These are from our second spring planting and they are faring remarkably well considering they’ve had no water for a month!

SCALLIONS or HERBS (F) Parsley, dill or green onions.

NEXT WEEK: We are transitioning from spring to summer crops and the shares may be lighter for few
weeks. We will have more squash, lettuce, and turnips. Cabbage and baby beets.


The last time rain fell on the farm in any substantial amount was about a month ago. Thanks to our big irrigation pond and solar-powered pump we are keeping all the crops watered and alive. We are also adding a thick layer of mulch whenever we find the time.

Tom and I are looking forward to taking a break from our dryland worries and instead soaking up some good food and friendship THIS Saturday, June 9th at the . . .

43602 Highway F, Richmond MO 64085

Farm tour starts at 4:30 pm, followed by potluck dinner. The Parker family will provide the grilled meats, you bring a dish to share and a lawn chair. That’s it! So simple.

The shindig is in part an open house for current Parker Farm CSA members or anyone else that is interested in learning about their farming practices. The Kansas City CSA Coalition is also promoting the event amongst their membership, of which Fair Share Farm & Parker Farms are two of 14 CSA farms.

The Parker Farm sits atop one of the many gently rolling hills of rural Ray County. The pigs, sheep, chickens and cows move through the farm on fresh grass and lots of space. The Parkers have a beautiful system of rotating the animals around the farm very much like Polyface Farm in Virginia, farmed by rotational grazing farming advocate, Joel Salatin, who is as brilliantly entertaining of a sustainable agriculture spokesman as we’ll ever have. Anyway, I digress, the Parkers are our Missouri “Polyface” and they deserve a ton of credit for showing us all how it is done.

We have been incredibly fortunate to partner with the Parker family, Tom, Paula, Jessica, Tiffany, Brittany and Kimberly for the past 6 years. Tom and I receive the vast majority of our meat for the year from the Parkers CSA and can’t recommend it enough. If you’re curious about how animals are raised using humane and sustainable methods, come on out on Saturday. The more, the merrier!!

RSVP to the Parkers at: (816) 470-FARM (3276).  View their CSA Coalition listing here .

The KC CSA Coalition is promoting several farm tours in the coming months. Here’s the rest of the schedule:

July 14th 4:30 Karbaumer Farm
12200 MO 92 Highway, Platte City, MO 64097

August 11th 4:30  New Roots for Refugees
100 Richmond Ave, Kansas City, KS 66101

September 9th 3:30 Fair Share Farm
18613 Downing Road, Kearney, MO 64060

October 14th 4:30 Herb’n Gardner
17th & Belleview, KCMO 64108

Each farm on the tour is unique, please visit the KC CSA Coalition website at www.kc-csac.org for more information on this year’s hosts.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 5

Spring is passing to Summer right now. The peas and broccoli are finishing up their runs after a good season. The peas are a record harvest, and the broccoli might be too. Hope you have enjoyed the bounty.

Summer squash harkens the new season, hopefully followed soon by its cousin, cucumbers. But now is your chance to enjoy a good mix of two different season's vegetables. Tonight I made a pasta sauce by sauteing onions, garlic greens, broccoli florets and chopped summer squash and then adding enough cream and butter to build it into a sauce. A little salt, black pepper and nutmeg and you have a dish that's as good as you can get, and filled with share items.

We went to the open house at Urbavore Farm on Saturday and enjoyed an excellent pot luck, while seeing the farming practices of farmers Brooke and Dan. They have put down a wonderful landscape of orchard, fields and "barnyard." The no-till practices they use are based on their knowledge that, as a farmer, your job is to feed the soil. Keep it up guys.

Member Emily Akins' contribution was a pea salad with a mint vinegarette dressing. I missed it but Rebecca raved, so we got the recipe. Emily's version used scapes instead of shallots and was minus the lima beans. We made it tonight using garlic greens and dill and it was very good.

One another note, we have a telescope here on the farm that we use for just such an astronomical event as the transit of venus. While the telescope is not equiped with a camera mount, I have found that you can take a decent picture through the eyepiece with a digital camera. It was a thrill to see first hand.

Venus transiting the sun.