Monday, May 30, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has lettuce and salad greens, spinach, braising greens like mizuna and radicchio, parsnips, sunchokes, turnips, asparagus, garlic chives or green onions, and sorrel.

Field notes. Ken has been a bit under the weather - very unusual for him. He has been transplanting and planting greens and some of the hot weather crops. I cleared some space in the flower bed and he has been transplanting there as well. He raises annuals from seed and plants them in the front of the bed for full season flowering. I work on the perennial flowers and perennial weeds. We work for continual bloom in garden, flower bed and field for the beneficial insects and the bees. Ken acquired two more hives from the Polk County honey queen. She is selling some hives to pay for college. She has had bees since she was eight years old - very interesting young woman.

From the Kitchen. Spinach spread! I am not an adventurous cook, but I worked out a recipe for a spinach spread to serve to my book group members on Thursday.
I blanched a huge pile of spinach, chilled in cold water, drained, squeezed out moisture, chopped. Scrubbed and chopped some sunchokes. I used The food processor to combine the above with the following - homemade mayonnaise, sour cream, salt, pepper, dry crushed chipotle, pepper sauce, lemon juice, honey, and hard cooked eggs. It was a hit. We spread on cornbread, but bread, crackers or chips would all work.

Last Tuesday while I was rinsing greens, Ken made turnips in a cream sauce with chopped green onions or chives as a topping. I have been using the tops in morning soups. Separate greens from roots and each will store better. I also cube and freeze turnips for some zip in my winter soups and stews.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Spinach Recipe

I was hosting book group this week, and decided to serve snacks "locally grown" from the garden. I made cornbread from our corn (see masa entry), and thought I should do something with spinach. So I googled spinach dip and spinach spread and made my own revisions!

Blanch spinach, place in cold water, drain, squeeze out water. Chop. Chop some sunchokes (recipes called for canned water chestnuts). Hard boil 2 - 4 eggs. Place the above in a food processor with sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice or vinegar, a little Tabasco or hot pepper, a tiny bit of honey (I used 1/2 teaspoon), salt and pepper. Puree. check and adjust to taste. Place in small bowl, chill and serve with cornbread, bread, or crackers. Members of the book group really liked it.

For dessert we had muskmelon sorbet and ginger cookies. In summer I take the melons too soft to sell, cube and freeze for smoothies or sorbet in spring before we have any of our own fruit.

Asparagus Available

After a late spring, the asparagus has arrived! Don't wait - it is always a short season and a long wait to the next!

Asparagus is a health food that eliminates uric and oxalic acid from the body. It can be viewed as a spring cleaning and tonifying food. It contains high amount of vitamins A, B complex and C plus minerals like potassium and zinc.

Asparagus is great grilled, lightly steamed, raw, blanched and added to green and pasta, and potato salads. I often steam and top with homemade mayonnaise.

And for folks who don't eat dairy, make cream of asparagus soup with some oatmeal - its creamy texture will be sure to please!

Call or email us now to rerve some to eat fresh or freeze for winter!

Flower Bed Progress

Perennial plants bring with them perennial weeds. The flower bed is no exception. The worst weeds are creeping charlie and grass.

The first phase was to clear some space so Ken could plant annuals at the front of the border.

Now I am working my way back through the rest. The weeds will compost and become an input. Ken also suggested some other soil amendments this year. We will see how they work.

And why do I do this? Flowers. Here is the first iris of the season. Late, but well worth the wait.

Trilliums Fading

The trillium flowers opened late this year. Usually they are at peak on Mothers Day.

Then they slowly change color from white to pink.

Then they droop and disappear.

Such beautiful flowers - I love to see them come and feel sad when they go.

Pigs Update

The pigs are growing. They are now clearly individuals - one is pushy, one is curious, one is whiny, one is cheery, one is friendly - it is like the Seven Dwarfs!

They are digging in the leaves to find acorns. As I approach with feed, I always count. Sometimes it seems one or two are missing - then a section of the leaf pile moves and voila a digging pig abandons the pile and comes romping over to see what has been brought from garden or sprouter.

If you are nearby, stop in and check them out - this is how pigs were meant to live. We sell pork by the half or whole.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Greetings from the Garden! This box has parsnips, sunchokes, radishes, green onions, lettuce, salad and braising greens, spinach, asparagus, sorrel (in photo at left), chervil and the first turnips.

Field Notes. Rain and more rain, but NO hail. I was running around laying fiber and sheets over the greens in the garden once I saw we were in the storm track for quarter size hail. No one wants pre-shredded greens! We were very fortunate on that and several counts - most of the rain was a slow soft drizzle that soaked into the soil. And we did not get tornadoes or other high winds that damage plants.

Ken returned from a last minute trip to the boundary waters. He agonized about going. This is a busy time of year for him. I covered the animal chores, but all his seedlings grew, and now he will busy moving them out to garden and field. He is amazed at all the changes and garden progress in the last four days.

From the Kitchen. This week we introduce some seasonal favorites. Sorrel is a lemon flavored green that some people add to salad. I like sorrel in egg dishes or creamy or potato soups or pasta salads with homemade mayonnaise dressing. I also wilt sorrel in butter and use in place of lemon - great on fish for example.

Chervil is a French herb usually found in fine herb mixes. It is like a cross of fennel and parsley. Delicious addition to salad, dressings, eggs, creamy soups, - ad just before serving as it is delicate and loses its punch when cooked. Best fresh.

Turnips are a zesty vegetables. I cook, add butter, salt, and pepper and serve. Some people make turnips au gratin with cheese. The small white Japanese turnips are excellent sliced and salted for an hour. The salt brings out the sweetness. Just rinse before serving if salt is a concern.

Turnip greens are a wonderful addition to braising mixes. Turnip greens are packed with nutrition - vitamins A, B complex, C, and minerals - potassium, magnesium, calcium.

Monday, May 16, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has parsnips, sunchokes, spinach, salad mix, lettuce, braising mix, green onions, and the first bit of asparagus.

Field Notes. Ken has been harvesting and planting. The greens that were planted in the fall, and most greens like cool, damp weather, so they have been very happy and productive this spring. Once we get temperatures above 80 degrees, the greens tend to stress and bolt. Bolt means go to seed.

May and June are busy months for planting. Ken has many sequential plantings during the season - greens, radishes, beets, carrots, broccoli for example. Other crops like tomatoes, cucumber, squash, peppers, eggplant, parsnips are planted once during the season in the next few weeks. As Ken pulls greens, he plants new crops.

From the Kitchen.
Ken has been invited to go with friends to the Boundary Waters. So he has made venison jerky and sunchoke chips for the trip. He fried the sliced sunchokes in our lard and placed in the oven. Then he tried some in the dehydrator. That worked great - lots of crunch and less fat. He just used a bit of salt, but one recipe had rosemary and salt. That sounded quite good. We don't usually make chips, but we agreed we will be perfecting the sunchoke chip recipe.

Ken also has a batch of sunchoke pickles working on the kitchen counter. He uses a recipe from Euell Gibbons that he found in Stocking up - 3/4 part salt to 10 parts water with 1/4 c vinegar to a gallon of liquid. He also adds some hot pepper and garlic and turmeric. He fills a jar with scrubbed sunchokes and adds brine to cover, weighs down the sunchokes with a smaller jar of water that fits in the gallon jar of pickles so the brine always covers the sunchokes, and leaves them for a week or two. In cool weather the process is slower. In hot weather the processing time is shorter.

Asparagus is just starting, and I thought getting a small amount would be better than waiting a week. We often steam asparagus and serve with homemade mayonnaise. We also started grilling asparagus a couple years ago and it is great!. Brush with olive oil and top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper before serving. If you aren't using the grill, you can use a heavy cast iron skillet for similar results. The hot oil seals the flavor. And this smaller amount would be nice blanched and added to a green or pasta salad or stir fry.

For green identification and recipe ideas check the blog entries prior to this one. I tried to get snapshots and ideas for each of our less common greens.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beet Greens and Pea shoots

As Ken thins beets, we offer them as great additions to salads and braising greens. Beets and their greens have vitamins A, C, calcium, and iron. Their color , texture and sweetness add variety. I often add baby and teen beet greens to salad and braising mixes.

Pea shoots are our newest, most popular spring green. Although we had read about them, we had not tried growing them until last winter. We hear all the time , "They taste like spring!" That clear, light green flavor enhances any salad, stir fry, braising mix.

Baby and Teen Brassicas - Tatsoi, Mizuna, Turnip Greens

Brassicas are the largest vegetable family with well known members like cabbage and broccoli. There are many Asian cousins that thrive in the cooler temperatures early and late in the growing season. Brassicas are nutritional powerhouses; most have high amounts of viatmins A , C, some of the B complex, calcium, and iron. Many people know brassicas as crucifers because their first leaves form a cross. They are high in antioxidants.

Many of these Asian brassicas appear in salad mixes; they are beautiful and flavorful. They also make great half and full size plants. Tatsoi has bright green spoon shaped leaves on white stems. Mizuna, found in both green and red varieties, are jagged sometimes feathery leaves.

As baby and teen plants I usually add to salads. As teens and adults I often add brassicas to braising mixes or soups. They are great additions to pasta salads for their color, texture and mild cabbage flavor.

Osaka Red Mustard

Osaka Red Mustard is a pungent red leaf that adds zest to salads. I roll the leaf and cut into ribbons to add to salads for its beautiful color and an accent. We also cook mustards. I like to saute an onion, and add mustard to wilt. Dress with lemon juice or an interesting vinegar and oil, or the dressing of your choice.

We also add mustard and other greens to soup, egg dishes, and pasta salads. If the flavor seems strong, wilt or cook and it will mellow.

Mustard is a member of the brassica family like cabbage and broccoli. These crucifers, named after the cross shape their first leaves form, are high in antioxidants. Greens have high levels of vitamins A & C.

Arugula and Radicchio

Arugula is an Italian green with a bright, peppery flavor. Many folks like to add arugula to salad and braising mixes. Often arugula is chopped and added to pasta salads and soups. Arugula is great in salad with some chopped walnuts and cheeses like feta, Romano, Parmesan or blue cheese. Arugula also shines with sauteed onions - caramelized onions, and or hard boiled eggs.

Radicchio is another Italian herb. There are many varieties of radicchio. People have often had the type that looks like a red cabbage with white stems. We grow a treviso type from northern Italy. This pungent herb is a nice accent salad. I cut ribbons to add to tossed green or pasta salads. This herb also is a delicious addition to a braising mix like the arugula above. I like to saute onions and or garlic and add chopped radicchio to wilt. I have also seen recipes for seared marinated radicchio in a cast iron skillet. Grilling would be good as well. Serve with shavings of a hard cheese or mayonnaise with garlic.

Greens are a great accent to add to any meal, and a wonderful source of vitamins!

Spring is coming - flowers in bloom

Spring is later than usual this year. Most years the trillium flower around Mothers Day. This year they opened a week later.

Once we got some warm weather last week, many plants started to catch up -
the cowslips, for example.

And the first of the tulips!

Monday, May 9, 2011

CSA Newsletter May

Greetings from the Garden! This box has head lettuce, spinach, salad greens, braising greens, parsnips, sunchokes, French breakfast radishes, bok choy, chives, and upland cress.

Field Notes. Ken said Monday was the first "summer rain" - thunder and lightning. Plants like peas, onions, broccoli, cauliflower will now shoot up. The Nankin cherries are starting to bloom. Feels like spring, doesn't it?

Ken is busy clearing hoopettes so he can plant new greens, celery and other crops. The cool damp weather we have had has meant great greens.

From the Kitchen. Upland cress is a peppery green great as an accent in sandwiches and salads. It is also tasty in stir fry or sauteed. It is a cousin to watercress which needs flowing water to grow.

During our Earth Arts tour, Ken made me a delicious lunch with meat, turmeric, sunchokes, and bok choy over rice. Bok choy was the original chop suey ingredient, and it shines in stir fry. I also use bok choy in breakfast soups, especially miso soup with rice. I like to use chives or green onions as a garnish. Miso is a fermented grain and bean paste used in Asia like we use soup stock or bouillon that has living pro-biotics. For that reason, do not boil, just add before serving.

This morning we had bean soup with parsnips and the last of our rutabagas. The parsnips gave it a sweetness that was such a treat. For refreshments during the Earth Arts tour, Ken served parsnip pie. I scrubbed, chopped and boiled the parsnips and drained and let cool. Ken follows a basic pumpkin or squash pie recipe - eggs, cream, milk, and a little cinnamon and mace. He used a bit of honey, too. Everyone thought it was delicious.

Coming Soon: Asparagus. Cool weather has slowed down the asparagus, but sightings were reported by Ken on Sunday.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

More Piglet Photos

The pig photos generate the most response and requests for more. It is amazing to see just how quickly they grow.

Food is always popular, of course.

Ken expanded their area to include the leaf pile. This was a major hit with the pigs.
One time when he brought feed, Ken only saw two pigs. Then he noticed the leaf pile was moving - they were buried under two feet of leaves!

They love digging through the leaves to find acorns, and any other tasty morsels.

And there is so much to dig!

And there is scratching the itch...

And checking out the dog.

They seem to be settling in and enjoying life.

Ken's Arsenal of Tools

Ken is a proponent of hand tools. He has tractors, but would rather sharpen his triangle hoe and head down the row.

Years ago while he was teaching a beginning farmer class, Ken told people bed preparation is well worth the time invested. He calls his garden rake one of his weapons of mass destruction. Ken rakes and kills the weeds so the seeds or transplants can get ahead of the weeds.

It amazes me just how quickly Ken can move down the rows and disturb that top layer of soil. It is like watching my husband dance!

Bees are Here!

Tuesday Ken delivered vegetables and kept going to pick up bees. He had bees for a couple years, but lost them last year.

He has read up on the subject, and has more information to help them flourish. Bees are new to Ken - and bees are not like plants or the animals we have. It is a new skill set to learn.

Really Free Range

Someone who stopped by last week was surprised our chickens were out. They are free range. The only fence they know is the one to keep them out of the garden.

This year we have two strong willed roosters. They protect the hens. This is a good thing, even if inconvenient when I get too close and they charge me!

Monday, May 2, 2011


What is kinpira? Kinpira is a Japanese cooking technique. In spring one uses carrots and gobo - burdock root - cut into matchsticks. In summer chefs combine thumb sized pieces of Asian eggplant and green pepper. And in fall squash like our buttercup cut into thin crescent shapes is common.

Start with a cast iron or heavy skillet. Toast some sesame seeds and set aside. Use a cooking fat or oil that can take heat, and add some dried hot red pepper flakes if desired. Add the vegetable that takes the longer cooking time (gobo in spring and green peppers in summer). Cook over high heat, and keep stirring. Add the second vegetable. Cook to al dente. Add a teaspoon to tablespoon of sugar, Stir to caramelize, but don't burn. Add a splash at a time of a sweet cooking wine like Japanese mirin or sherry. I use homemade parsnip wine. Finally add some good quality tamari or soy sauce. Top with the toasted sesame seeds and serve.

The sequence is important as the sugar and sweet wine seal in the flavors. Experiment as everyone seems to like a different ratio - some like it hotter, others like it sweeter or saltier. The end result is a toasted sweet, salty glazed vegetable with a bit of crunch. Delicious!

CSA Newsletter May

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has salad greens, braising greens, spinach, French Breakfast radishes, chives, parsnips, sunchokes, gobo, and shallots.

Field Notes. The greens are most happy. They do great in cool damp weather. We have to be careful on sunny days that they don't get too hot! We opened hoopettes so the plants all got rain and as Ken says, "They went to town!" Spread the word as we could have more CSA members.

Ken has been planting out in the field. The biodynamic calendar has the next couple days as fruit days, so Ken may be planting peas and tomatoes. He then moves on to the leaf days when he will clean out some of the hoopettes and plant new crops.

From the kitchen. Gobo or burdock root is a traditional Japanese spring tonifier; it is said to clean the liver and blood. We usually cook ours kinpira with carrots. I also add a bit to soups and stews and we cut long strips and toast in the oven at lowest heat setting until they are dry enough to snap. Then we cool and store for grinding into a root tea with dandelion, chicory and dock or elcapane roots.

The Osaka mustard has begun! It is a zippy green that I roll and cut small ribbons to add to salad. If you find it has a bit too much zip for you, wilt it. Both arugula and mustard lose their punch when heated. I also saute and onion, add braising greens like mustard or mizuna to wilt and then add vinegar, lemon juice or a dressing and serve.

Claytonia looks like lily pads. It is a mild green and we use it both in salad and braised. It is also fine in soup. We like soup in the morning as it is nice to start the day with warm food.

The first of the spring planted roots - French breakfast radishes are here. In the cool weather radishes are mild, and we often add the nice green tops to salad or braising mixes. Ken runs them in the blender to make a green goddess salad dressing.

This Saturday and Sunday is the EARTH ARTS spring tour. We will be here at the farm with vegetables and pottery for sale. Hope you can stop by. The wildflowers are starting to bloom - nice time to walk through the woods out to see the field.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Earth Arts Tour May 7th and 8th

We are getting ready for the Earth Arts tour next weekend - washing and pricing pots and cleaning roots and greens. We will be here at the studio - farm both days 10 - 5. Hope you can stop in for pottery or vegetables. We will also have maple syrup. And the wild flowers are blooming in the woods, so you can walk to the field and back. Maybe the triliums will be open!