Friday, May 29, 2009

Here We Go! Newsletter May 28 - week #1

Red Springs Family Farm
May 28, 2009, Week #1

This week’s selection:

Lettuces Garlic Scapes
Snow Peas Dandelion Greens
Sorrel & Oregano Lemon Balm
Parsley flowers Sweet Potato

Here we go!

Thank you for joining us this season. For some of you, this will be the third year you’ve been with us. We are excited to get things going again, and glad to see this Spring’s labors begin to bear fruit.

Were we to sum up the nature of this Spring in one word, it would be WET. We live and work in a hollow, the curve of Long Hungry Creek, and the hillside to our east drains through our property, into the creek. Crawdad’s live in our ground to keep the water moving and when the water table gets high enough, spontaneous springs sprout from our pasture areas. Because of this, our gardens perform wonderfully during drought, and are somewhat challenging during wet times. We are grateful to see the water table restored after last year’s drought; it is the best thing for the creeks and surrounding land. What challenges us in spring will serve us well in summer.

We started early this year – planting hundreds of broccoli and cabbage seeds indoors. The gardens were well composted and waiting. The rain barely stopped for long enough for the soil to dry before it began again. We squeezed plantings between the raindrops. A few of the more severe downpours took whole plantings with them – we’ve watched two plantings of spinach melt back into the soil. We lost one row of chard, but have transplanted a second that is growing well. Other important spring crops, such as the arugula, radishes, and even our beloved broccoli, are now struggling to emerge from the dampness. We’ve taken every possible opportunity to breathe air into the rain-pounded ground. We can’t promise that they will come through, but we are still trying.

The first harvests of spring are traditionally a little bit on the light side. Stick with us into tomato season and your perseverance will be rewarded. We have about 250 tomato plants waiting to be trellised and mulched now. Nearly half that many peppers, and loads of eggplant this year as well. Green Beans, beets, carrots, summer squash and zucchini, cucumbers and some beautiful herbs, not to mention melons, are all coming along nicely now, too.

To help bulk up these baskets, we’ve included the last of our sweet potato stash that we grew last year. These sweets are cured out completely and probably a little on the dry side. They would really like to be chopped into cubes and used in a nice sweet coconut milk curry.

Garlic scapes are the green curls of garlic trying to set seed. We cut these off to send the growth potential into the bulb. The ‘scape’ is a complete delicacy. It’s taste is milder, greener, than fresh garlic cloves, and tender enough to chop into salads. Use it as you would garlic and enjoy.

These dark green umbels are last year’s parsley plants going to seed. The flavor is perhaps even a little stronger than fresh parsley. I wouldn’t recommend that nursing mothers eat these in abundance, as parsley dries lactation. We throw them into soup, chop them into salad, and enjoy them whole in stir fries.

Sorrel, the bright green arrow-shaped leaf, tastes distinctly lemony. It’s great to spark a salad, and can be tossed into pasta or bean salads effectively. It is great with fish as well. We love sorrel.

These wild dandelions were too abundant in one field to be missed. They are a great spring tonic – definitely a wild bitter green. We recommend blanching them (boiling briefly and discarding the water) before using. A couple recipes here to help:

Dandelions for meat eaters:
1 large onion, chopped 1 pound bacon or sausage, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp olive oil Bunch of dandelion greens, cleaned and cut 1-to-2-inch lengths
2 tbsp blackstrap molasses Salt and pepper to taste

In a cast-iron skillet, brown onions and meat in the olive oil on medium heat. Add greens, molasses, salt and pepper, then stir and cover. Reduce heat and stir occasionally, cooking until the meat is done. Serve over a baked potato.

Dandelions for vegetarians: Dandelion Greens Sauté
big bunch of dandelion greens 3 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic 1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Wash and slice greens. Blanch in enough water to cover about 1 minute. Drain and saute in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes, then add the sesame and garlic and saute for couple minutes more. Add the sesame oil and serve.

And, just in case you’re not a tea drinker – here’s something else to do with Lemon Balm:
2 tbsp. minced lemon balm leaves 1 tsp. lemon juice1 c. butter, softened 2/3 c. sugar1 egg 2 1/3 c. all-purpose flourWhole lemon balm leaves for garnish

In small dish, combine first 2 ingredients, press mixture with back of spoon to blend. In large mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and lemon mixture. Gradually beat in flour and salt. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours or until firm. Roll in wax paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On wax paper slice into slices about 1/8" thick. On ungreased cookie sheet bake 8 to 10 minutes. Will brown slightly around edges.

Next week, we hope to bring more lettuce, scapes, peas, dark greens, more herbs, with luck some arugula and radishes, and maybe more treats from the winter pantry as well. Unless you let us know otherwise, we will harvest for you again.

We encourage you to bring your own re-usable shopping bags, and also clean plastic grocery bags for us to re-use. Have a great week and enjoy your vegetables!

All the best,

Paul, Coree and Lulah Entwistle
Red Springs Family Farm

“Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.” – Paul Hawkin

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