Monday, April 25, 2011

CSA Newsletter April

Greetings from the Garden!
This week's box has shallots, parsnips, sunchokes, potatoes, bok choy, spinach, salad greens including lettuce, claytonia, arugula, red mustard, baby beet greens, baby brassicas like tatsoi and mizuna, green onions, and the first of this season's radishes.

Field Notes. Today Ken removed the plastic from all the hoopettes so when it rains the plants get water. There is rain forecast for late tonight and tomorrow.

Ken spent Easter evening transplanting and many of the onions and shallots are now in the ground. Ken has spent many evenings transplanting plants that tolerate cool weather. He has planted some heat loving plants in the high tunnel in the field. The garden is filling up.

As the days lengthen and temperatures rise the plants are growing more quickly. It is really dramatic to see little transplants sizing up. And Ken continues planting in the studio so he will have replacements as he harvests and space opens up for the next planting.

From the Kitchen. This morning we had chopped mizuna in a soup. I have also added the baby tatsoi to stir fry at the end of cooking time - just enough to wilt it. Ken brought some mizuna for friends he stayed with last Thursday, and they added mizuna to scrambled eggs.

Bok choy is the original chop suey ingredient. Celery was an American substitution. We like bok choy in stir fry. I tend to add it to soup. We had bok choy in miso soup many mornings while we were in Japan. I separate the stem from greens as the stems need a bit more cooking. Bok choy is a brassica - member of the cabbage family.It is high in calcium, vitamins A, B complex, and C, and some minerals. It is a calorie bargain for its nutrition - only 24 calories per one cup.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Piglets are Here

On Monday we went to Amy's to pick up piglets. They chatted all the way home.

Upon arrival, they stuck together and looked around. It was their first time in a new place with access to sun, wind, and
GRASS. Within minutes they were checking it out.

And then digging in earnest began.

Oscar wanted to herd and nanny them.

And they have gotten bold enough today to start checking him out.

And the best part of being in their new home?

Greens gone wild

Last week we opened the hoopettes before a rain, and things really perked up. We will do it again tomorrow. We expect the plants to really grow with the added moisture.

It is pretty exciting to have all these greens doing so well in spite of our cool and late spring.

And they are available for purchase. Check the website -

Think Spring! Happy Earth Day!

Even with the snow, some plants are flourishing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

CSA Newsletter April

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has two types of potatoes. two types of shallots, green onions, parsnips, sunchokes, mizuna, mixed greens that include baby lettuce, many brassicas, claytonia, and spinach.

Field Notes. We had opened the hoopettes before the last rain. That 1/4" really made a difference - things perked up and grew. The one layer of poly makes all the difference these cold nights. In spite of the cool spring, things are growing, and we are happy to offer greens this early.

Ken is planting, transplanting and thinning. He planted some lettuce seed that had not been germinating well over the season. Now he has a carpet of plants to thin and transplant. He theorizes that particular seed needed a frost to germinate.

And the high tunnel offers new opportunities for experiments. All Ken's experience from almost two decades of hoopettes has him thinking about the possibilities that larger space has to offer. Many plants are coming up in the tunnels for early crops. Once those crops are harvested, Ken will transplant heat loving crops.

From the Kitchen. Isn't it fun to have fresh food! I have been so excited to move into greens. These early greens tend to have a more delicate flavor, and I use a lighter dressing like a vinaigrette. Once we get hot weather I move into more robust dressings with garlic, I taste the greens as I wash them so far only the red mustard seems to have a bite. This week we may have claytonia also known as miners lettuce. It is a lovely succulent that people call those lily pads.
Mild even when blooming.

The brassicas are members of the cabbage family - the largest vegetable family. There are many Asian greens that grow well in cooler weather and remain mild once they flower. Mizuna is one of these. I tend to saute some onion and add the mizuna to wilt and dress with an interesting vinegar and some oil. Ken likes to chop it and place in a bowl and add hot broth soup or miso soup to wilt. Many folks just chop and add to salads.

For some spice in your life try a curried cream of parsnip soup. Someone pointed this recipe out to me in the Asparagus to Zucchini Cookbook. It is a cream soup with sauteed onion, potato, chicken broth and parsnips. Cook to soft, puree and add a bit of curry and serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, some powdered red pepper, and maybe a garnish of green onion. Beautiful and tasty.

I was advised to try sunchoke chips - similar to the ever popular kale chips. If anyone has a recipe, please send it to me and I will share it.

For more recipes, check the previous blog entry on spring foods.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Recipes for Spring Foods

Many spring foods are less well known, but still nutritious and tasty.

Parsnips are a white root related to carrots. They are sweetest when over wintered in the garden and dug in spring. They are high in minerals - especially potassium with more vitamin C than carrots. They are high in carbohydrates and vegetable protein. For recipes check the CSA Newsletter from April 4th in the From the Kitchen section.

Sunchokes are also known as Jerusalem artichokes. They come in different colors, but are round tubers with red or pink skins that don't need peeling; a good brushing to loosen dirt between the scales of skin will do. They are an indigenous food that is high in inulin, a cousin to insulin. Because of this, many people find they help with keeping blood sugar levels even. They are good raw, quick cooked and added to stir fry for a crunchy texture like a water chestnut. Check that same CSA Newsletter April 4th From the Kitchen for cooking ideas.

Gobo is a long thin root - a Japanese treat that is considered a tonifier for the liver and blood. In Japan people add small amounts to stews and soups. We cut roots lengthwise and dry in the oven at lowest possible heat. Once the pieces snap, we cool and store to grind with other roots like dandelion and chicory for a roasted herbal tea. The most common way to eat gobo in Japan is cooked kinpira style. This style is used for matchstick gobo and carrots in spring, and again with thumb sized slices of green pepper and Japanese eggplant in summer, and also with thin crescent slices of squash like our buttercup varieties. For the kinpira recipe check the 8/31/10 CSA newsletter From the Kitchen section. Just use the gobo and carrots cut into matchsticks in place of the peppers and eggplant.

Mizuna is a very mild Japanese mustard that most people recognize from salad mixes. It is nice in salad and great braised or added to clear broth soups just before serving. Ken places chopped mizuna in the bowl and puts the hot soup on top - that is all the cooking it needs. Like all brassicas, mizuna is a power house of nutrition with many antioxidant properties. For other mizuna ideas, check the 7/08/10 CSA newsletter From the Kitchen section.

We also recommend the Madison Area CSA Coalition's cookbook called Asparagus to Zucchini. It has a section on each vegetable with history, storage and general cooking instructions along with recipes from several different sources.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Maple season Ends

Well, the party's over. Ken pulled the buckets and taps, and I offered to wash up.
The season was better than expected, not stellar, not dreadful. It is the same amount of work to set up and clean up in a good or a poor season.

Now it is on to more garden tasks. Sounds like we may get snow this weekend. Ken wants to get in some green manures that germinate in the cool and damp.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Just in the Jars

We got this batch in jars last night and I made the labels on the computer this morning. The labels took a while, but this old dog is still learning new tricks!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Making Masa

We grow Nokomis Gold corn; it resists GMO pollen. We dry it. Then we make batches of masa.

We boil the corn in lime (pickling, not green fruit). This makes it more digestible.

Then I rub and rinse. Once the water is clear, it is ready to grind.

We use a manual crank grinder.

It is not difficult.

It does not take long.

I use masa for cornbread.

This morning I made blueberry muffins.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Think Spring!

I did not spend the entire day inside. And on the way to the garden and mail box guess what I found! As evening approached, Ken was shouting for me to get on my shoes, and come out - Quick! Quick! He had found the crocus, too. After a relatively cold, snowy spring, these first small flowers are pretty exciting!

Thursday in the Kitchen

Ken and Cole have been out in the high tunnel and hoopettes today. Beautiful day and that soil is dry enough to work thinning, weeding, transplanting.

This was my first Thursday at home after five Thursdays at ArtZ gallery in Amery. I have been working as many hours as possible at the co-operative gallery before garden season hits. So, I hit the kitchen. I made a couple batches of raspberry jam and one of strawberry jam as I had found some nice organic lemons at a lower price. In between batches, I tackled other tasks.

And I made mayonnaise with some yolks and macaroons with the whites - Ken loves macaroons, and they don't really tempt me. Perfect.

Monday, April 4, 2011

CSA Newsletter April 4th

Greetings from the Garden! This box has three types of potatoes, shallots, parsnips, sunchokes, and a mix of greens - pea shoots, young spinach, lettuce and brassicas like tatsoi, bok choy and mizuna.

Field Notes. This has been a cool and snow covered spring. That means some crops are slower than usual - this is the latest we can remember digging the parsnips. Ken and Cole dug just enough for this week through the snow. There have been real advantages to all this snow: the frost did not drop deep into the ground since the snow acted as an insulating blanket over the soil. The melting snow has added water to streams and rivers at a slower rate. so the flooding has been less severe. And the snow usually seeps into the soil rather than running off. And we hope that means our low lake levels will rise.

Ken has been planting and moving plants from 3/4" soil blocks to 2 " soil blocks. The house and studio are full of plants. This week the onion seedlings will go into one of the low hoopettes to start hardening off before they are transplanted out in the field. And greens will be filling hoopettes.

Ken has also been running tests in the high tunnel to see what germinates and grows well there. Once these early crops are harvested, new ones will get transplanted - particularly heat loving species.

From the Kitchen. Ah, spring! It is great to get freshly dug roots. Parsnips dug in spring are sweeter than those dug in the fall. Parsnips are high in minerals especially potassium, and they have more vitamin C than carrots. They have as much carbohydrate and vegetable protein as potatoes. We often scrub, slice, parboil for 4 - 5 min, drain and then saute in butter just to the point of caramelizing - the traditional way to serve them. Some people Slice and brush with oil, bake at 400 degrees on parchment paper for about 15 min and toss with sea salt. Parsnips are wonderful au gratin like potatoes or rutabagas. And I like to make a cream of parsnip and potato soup with a bit of curry. Ken cooks, purees and makes parsnip pie similar to squash pie - but with little or no sweetener.

Sunchokes are also known as Jerusalem Artichokes. They are not from Jerusalem, nor are they related to artichokes. They are related to sunflowers, and have a lovely crunchy, slightly nutty taste that shines when braised or quick stir fried, used raw in salads or pickled. Just don't overcook them to grey mush! We like to saute in sesame oil with garlic and add tamari just before serving. One of us usually makes a batch of pickles with a brine, garlic, hot pepper, and some turmeric. They are nice as a substitute for water chestnuts in Asian recipes. Sunchokes are gaining popularity due to their high inulin content. This cousin of insulin helps balance blood sugar. Sunchokes also have iron and niacin. No need to peel, just scrub where the skin overlaps to remove any soil.

The greens in this box are all young and tender. I usually rinse them and add to salads. These young greens are like a spring tonic. Ken read two winters ago that spinach loses most of its nutrition after eight days. We are happy to bring you these greens harvested the same day you receive them. Enjoy.

Logistics: Please return your box and towels, so we can reuse them. Our next harvest is in two weeks. Call or email us with any questions. Thank you for your support!

Checking Under the Fiber in the High Tunnel

Ken and I went out Sunday to check the high tunnel out in the field. It was a slow walk through slushy snow. Once inside the warm hoop, Ken removed some spun fiber he had placed over seeds to maintain ground heat.

And behold!

Sprouting seeds.
There were radishes, beets, tatsoi, pea shoots, and lettuce.

Soon he will be transplanting and harvesting. In spite of the snow it felt like spring!

Soil Blocks: Planting Continues

People often ask what are soil blocks that I talk about so much. They are 3/4" blocks with a dent for seeds.

Ken plants seeds in soil blocks. Once they germinate and grow, he transplants them into larger blocks. Then he transplants them into the garden. Why?

Well, there may be more work up front, but he does not have to thin.

He transplants a healthy seedling into the garden so it has a good jump on weeds.

The plants are in the garden for less time so it is easier to continue sequential plantings for optimum space use.

And the planting is done inside, upright and close to the heat mat - perfect for early seed planting.