Thursday, July 7, 2011

weeks 5, 6, 7

It's so easy to get behind! It's so nice to get caught up.

July 7, 2011 week 7

Lettuce Carrots Beets
Bell Pepper Patty Pan Garlic
FIRST Tomato Wax Beans
herb bag: Sorrel Basil Cutting Celery

It’s our seventh week of the main season deliveries, and it happens to fall on the seventh day of the seventh month of the year. That feels lucky!

We hope you all had a fun Independence Day. We enjoyed time with family and friends, and Lulah enjoyed the fireworks just as much as Levon DIDN’T enjoy them. The raw blueberry pie was incredible. If you want to learn to make one, ask us for the recipe, or scan through the blog. I’m fairly sure it’s posted in there somewhere.

New item in your herb bag this week is Cutting Celery. This little green herb has all flavor of a celery stick in a small sprig of green. Not so handy for dipping peanut butter, but great in soup stocks, potato salads, and green salads. Our parsley took a hit in the last big rain, so it could be awhile before we have larger quantities of those greens to share. Cutting celery is abundant now.

Tomatoes are on the verge. The gardens on the hill have never looked better. Paul and Branden have worked hard to get the squash, corn, melons, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes and onions laid out and tucked into mulch. There are loads of fuzzy young cantaloupes, miniature watermelons, and thousands of green tomatoes. This week is a particularly precious time, because even though everything is green and lush and beautiful, it's still small enough to maneuver around the gardens. Soon, the tomato vines will close in and picking tomatoes will be like a trip into the primeval tomato jungle. Walking through the squashes and melons will be a tip toe dance around intertwining vines and blooms, and the sweet potatoes will be a solid carpet of beautiful ropy vines and leaves. Everything is growing strong and it won’t be long before we’ll be in full harvest up there. Corn will be late this year, but here come the peppers…

Peppers have a funny way of setting a great big fruit early in the season, right smack dab in the middle of the plant. That first pepper can grow quite large and actually lodge itself in the plant’s branches, making it difficult to harvest. These peppers you’re receiving today are those first big peppers. We picked them out to make room for the others to grow larger. There’ll be more soon.

This is the end of carrots for awhile. We're sad to see them go. It's been a lovely harvest. We'll have more later in the season. Beets are here, and we know they're not everyone's favorite vegetable, so we'd like to give you some information about why and how to love them. Unique pigment antioxidants present in beets have been found to offer protection against coronary artery disease and stroke, lower cholesterol levels in the body and have anti-aging effects. Beets are a great source of B vitamins, have more iron than spinach (step back Pop-eye!), and are also an excellent source of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, and natural sodium. A quick online search, also yielded this, um, interesting tidbit:

“Dandruff: Mix a little vinegar to a small cup of beets juice. Massage it into the scalp with your fingertips and leave on for about an hour, then rinse. Do this daily till dandruff clears up. Warning: you will smell awful during this hour! “

Nutritional information is motivational, but recipes are probably more useful:

Beet Roesti with Rosemary (from Mark Bittman)
Makes 4 servings Time: 20 minutes
An almost unbelievably sweet and wonderful side dish. The sugar in the beets caramelizes, and the flavors of the rosemary, beets, and butter meld beautifully.
· 1 to 1 1/2 pounds beets · 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
· 1 teaspoon salt · 1/4 cup flour
· 2 tablespoons butter
1. Trim the beets and peel them as you would potatoes; grate them in a food processor or by hand. Begin preheating a medium to large non-stick or well-seasoned skillet over medium heat.
2. Toss the grated beets in a bowl with the rosemary and salt, then add about half the flour; toss well, add the rest of the flour, then toss again.
3. Place the butter in the skillet and heat until it begins to turn nut-brown. Scrape the beet mixture into the skillet, shape it into a nice circle, and press it down with a spatula. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the bottom of the beet cake is nicely crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Slide the cake out onto a plate, top with another plate, invert the two plates, and slide the cake back into the pan. Continue to cook, adjusting the heat if necessary, until the second side is browned. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Roasted Beets, Italian style

Trim off the tops must 1/4 inch or so above the root. Rinse. Wrap all the beets together in a double-thickness of aluminum foil, crimping the edges together to seal tightly. Roast in a 400ºF oven until tender, 1-2 hours. Remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, peel the beets (the skin will pull away) and slice into thin rounds or half rounds. Just before serving, dress with good-quality red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. Serve warm or room temperature. Especially nice after lamb dishes.
Roasted Beets can also be used in fancier salads. Try combining them with orange sections and watercress or lamb's lettuce -- or with walnuts and goat cheese – or with sliced red onions and fresh herbs – in a sherry vinegar dressing.

Quick and Easy Beans

Cook beans in a 4-quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain in a colander, then immediately toss in a large bowl with either:

1 Tbsp. honey, ¾ tsp. Grated lemon zest, and ¼ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil, juice of one lemon, 2 minced cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper.

This week, we hope to pull onions and dig potatoes. Cucumbers will be fattening up, and the tomatoes will pink up. Summer crops are upon us.

Have a great week, and please remember to send us your blueberry orders.
Thank you for your good eating.

Paul, Coree, Lulah, Levon and Branden

“The old agriculture of the 19th and 20th century is dying, and consumers can hasten that death, and they should. They are, after all, the walking wounded, offended by the chemical amateur. The consumer cannot hide in an organic garden or sleep in a subway or ignorance. Consumers will get lean agriculture when they demand it, casting their demands in knowledgeable terms and nailing those terms to the market door.” ~ Charles Walters, A Voice Eco- Agriculture, 1975

June 30, 2011 week 6

Lettuce Lacinato Kale Carrots Beets
Red Onion Garlic Chard Wax Beans
herb bag: Sorrel Basil Green Onions

Is it my imagination or was June SO fast? We are happy to see the sun shine again these days. By our estimations, we've had at least 7 ½ inches of rain in the past ten days. Monday night's finale thunderstorm was a light show to put most firework displays to shame. There was no sleeping through it, and Branden was tempted to bail out of his tent house. The gardens are still too wet to cultivate and we can't mulch or plant until after we cultivate. The to-do list has gotten pretty darn long! We'll hit the ground running on Friday morning.

Food ripens and grows, no matter what the weather. The first picking of green, (actually, yellow) beans was a little thin. We're aiming for more next week. Summer squashes have not enjoyed the rain, but persist in blooming, as do the cucumbers. There are spiny baby cucumbers all over the vines. Lulah has eaten about three not-quite-ripe tomatoes in the garden now. Soon, so soon, those best loved garden fruits will be rolling in. This week's sunshine will bring big growth.

In the meantime – here's to beets and carrots. Make your holiday weekend colorful by using these bright veggies. We like to grate beets on a salad. (You might have noticed already, but we'll put almost anything on a salad. We hope you will try too.) They turn whatever they come into contact with a delightful bright pink (it's especially delightful if you have a young daughter :)). They are great baked in foil, just like a white potato, and if you're doing some grilling this weekend – check out these tips for Grilled Beets, a great addition to a grilled veggie platter:
Heat the grill to medium-hot – you should be able to hold your hand about an inch over the cooking grate for about 2 seconds.
Peel and slice beets.
Brush beets with olive or vegetable oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
Place beets on grill. If using a gas grill, cover. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, turn, and cook until beets are tender and grill-marked, another 8 to 10 minutes.
Serve beets hot, warm, or at room temperature. Drizzle with additional olive oil for serving, if you like. This is also a great time to use any nut oils - toasted walnut oil or hazelnut oil in particular - since they are delicious on grilled beets.

Reminder - any oil you use can be easily infused with garlic and/or basil or any other herb you choose, simply by crushing the herb or spice and mixing it with the oil. The longer it soaks in the oil the better, and if you're infusing for more than a few hours, please move the container to the fridge.

Another good thing to do with beets:
Beet Raita
3 cups raw beets, grated 1 bay leaf 1 Tbsp sunflower oil
½ tsp mustard seeds 1 tsp sea salt 1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
2 cups yogurt
Steam beets over 1 inch of water in a saucepan for 2 to 3 minutes. Heat oil in a small skillet; add mustard seeds and crumled bay leaf. When mustard seeds pop, take skillet off heat. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Chill if desired. Enjoy as a garnish with bread, soup rice or vegetables.

These pretty little kale tops are the end of the brassica family in the garden until Fall. Some will mourn their loss and others rejoice. Here at home we do a little of both. Leaving a good space between the Spring and Fall cabbage family plantings helps reduce the caterpillar population, and leaves us with better garden rotation options.

Here's a nice soup, from Laurel's Kitchen, to use your kale. You could probably use chard in this as well. I probably would not use them both together.

Potato Kale Soup
1 onion 1 tbsp oil/fat
1 clove garlic 2 large potatoes
1 large bunch kale 5 cups hot water or stock
1/2 tsp salt or to taste black pepper

Sautee onion in fat until slightly golden. Add potatoes and 2 cups water. Simmer, covered, until potaotes start to soften at the edges. Meantime wash kale(soak in a sink or bowl of water. Remove stems...chop fine and steam. (don't cook with the potatoes...the flavor will be too strong.)
When the potatoes are well done, puree half of them with remaining water and salt an pepper (consider using miso instead of salt here). Combine all and heat gently (do not boil). Correcting consistency by adding hot water or milk. Makes about 6 cups.

In coming weeks, we hope to grub some white potatoes, pick more beans, and ripe tomatoes, and bring some cucumbers to town.

We hope you have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend, and look forward to seeing you next week!

Your Gardeners
at Red Springs Family Farm

PS – There are still shares available – pass the word along to your friends. Also, basket up for grabs next week – if someone wants a sample.

June 23, 2011 week 5

Lettuce Chinese Cabbage Carrots Broccoli Red Onion Fresh Garlic
herb bag: Sorrel Basil Shiso
Green Coriander Anise Hyssop Echinacea flowers

Amazing how fast we can oscillate between praying for rain and begging for it to stop! Oh well. All seeds planted are sprouting well now. So are the millions of weeds we will be pulling and hoeing when the garden soil dries enough to walk upon again. We prefer to not even walk in the garden when the soil is this wet. Good garden soil teems with microscopic life, and when the soil is wet, that life is all the more fragile. Our heavy steps have a heavy price.

These lovely red onions came from Lulah's hands to your kitchen. We were up on the hill making the most of a few sunny hours on Tuesday. The garlic harvest needed to happen before the next rain, which seemed emenent. Lulah looked at the onion bed and noticed that the red onions' tops were laying down. We confirmed her suspicion that they were ready to come out of the ground, and she harvested all the bent onions, laid them in piles, and carried them to the tractor all by herself. Purple is one of her favorite colors, which made the job a real joy for her.

These red salad onions are not cured. They should be stored in a plastic bag in your refrigerator and eaten within a week or two. Here's a basic Greek Salad to use a red onion in:

1 large head Lettuce 1/2 half red onion, sliced
1 English Cucumber, sliced 1 cup Kalamata olives
1 cup Greek Feta, crumbled

Dressing: 1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dried oregano 1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper

1. Place lettuce in a large bowl.
2. Mix dressing ingredients in a bottle and give it a good shake.
3. Toss lettuce with about 1/2 the dressing.
4. Place remaining salad ingredients on top of lettuce, and drizzle with some more dressing.
(Recommendation from the farm kitchen – use thinly sliced tender broccoli stalks and small florets instead of cucumbers, which won't be ready for another couple weeks.)

It's such splendid work to grow garlic. In the midst of the garlic harvest, I remembered that Paul went up to plant the garlic 8 months ago, last October, when I was just getting the feeling of going into labor with Levon. Tuesday, Levon fell asleep in the stroller, giving his Momma a rare and wonderful opportunity to work unencumbered in the garden. The garlic is beautiful. Fresh garlic is something you can't ordinarily buy in a grocery store. The clove skins are not dry - the bulb is on the whole juicier than most garlic. Enjoy. You'll be getting a bulb each week, but this new fresh garlic is special.

Shiso, or Perilla, is a new one in your herb bag this week. Looking on wikipedia, I find this:
“ Perilla is traditionally used in Chinese medicine and has been shown to stimulate interferon activity and thus, the body's immune system. It is used to ease the symptoms of the common cold. It is fried in oil with garlic or ginger in the wok, and eaten as a dish with meals. “

We like to slice it thin on salads. Shiso grows as a weed in our garden, a very beautiful and tasty weed. You may have seen it used as a garnish in Japanese restaraunts. We can get a chuckle by asking the sushi chef what s/he pays for that garnish. What kind of farm income could we generate by selling our weeds?!

This will be the last of the broccoli until Fall. The cold snap did the broccoli good. We think you'll find this week's selection slightly superior to last week. We experimented with an open pollinated variety this spring, and we have been pleased. Broccoli, in general, has been highly hybridized to perform under particular conditions in a very specific time frame. The hybrid broccolis sometimes don't go all the way to flower! They turn yellow but dont' bloom, which seems strange, at least. The open pollinated variety behaves more like a natural broccoli, seems to keep more tender stalks, and we hope you find the flavor agreeable as well.

Chinese Cabbages are not our usual spring garden fare. They enjoy one great advantage over their western relatives (broccoli, head cabbages, kale, etc.) in that the cabbage lopers aren't attracted to them. Unfortunately, the flea beetles do enjoy them, and the recent soggy conditions have made life all the better for those bugs. The damage is primarily aesthetic. These cabbages are tender enough to cut fine in salads. If you want to stir fry them, they need only a short time in a hot pan.

Carrots are beginning to be damaged by the excessive rain. The root bottoms suffer in our low hollow – high water table. We'll hope that things dry out this week and give them a chance to recover. Here's our favorite carrot salad recipe:

12 medium carrots, grated 1 cup fresh pineapple, drained and chopped
½ cup raisins ½ cup roasted pecans
1 Tbsp parsley (optional) ¾ cup basic dressing (below)
Mix well and chill.

Basic Dressing:
1 tsp Dijon type mustard 2 Tbsp. Plus a bit wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil 1 Tbsp flax oil

Dip a fork into the ja of mustard and transfer about 1 tsp to a small bowl. Add vinegar and mix around. Add olive oil in a thi stream, stirring all the while with the fork, until oil is well mixed or emulsified Add flax oil and use immediately.

COMING SOON – new potatoes, beets, green beans. We don't know when the first tomatoes will ripen but we sure look forward to that day!

FARM BUSINESS – if you are paying on the quarterly payment plan, this is your last week paid for. Please bring a check next week, if you didn't already this week. Thank you!

Thank you for your good eating. Happy Summer!

VIII When I rise up, let me rise up joyful, like a bird.
When I fall, let me fall without regret, like a leaf.
~ Wendell Berry, Prayers and Saying of the Mad Farmer

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