Monday, July 25, 2011

CSA Newsleter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has lettuce, beets, cucumbers, green onions, the first tomatoes, zucchini, beans, and peppers, red or green cabbage, and basil, parsley and oregano.

Field Notes. As the Asian proverb says, "Be careful what you wish for!" Ken had wanted about two inches of rain so he would not have to irrigate. And we got seven inches in less than a week! The raised beds saved us once again. The rain can flow off the beds into the low areas between beds so that the plants are not in standing water. The trenches also can retain that water that would otherwise run off. We are also happy that we did not receive any wind or hail damage and no tornado!

Summer has turned a corner now; the rush is on for the plants to reproduce. The vegetables in this week's box reflect this - these are the plants that set fruit: tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, and beans. And the days are shortening noticeably. Usually last week and this week are the hottest part of the summer. We had some "meltdowns" in last week's heat. Ken lost a crop of smaller transplants that just couldn't take it. Some lettuce bolted, and some Chinese cabbage rotted in the heart from the hot humid weather. The heat loving plants took off - the squash and melons really vined out. The sweet potatoes look good, too.

From the Kitchen. Ah, summer food. Sunday we grilled some green onions and zucchini. Delicious. And I made some cole slaw with an Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage that had some bottom rot. And cuke salad. Today we should have our first tomatoes as there are a couple with cracks. Here are some salad ideas.

I rinse and slice tomatoes and place chopped basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil salt and pepper between layers or as a dressing to tomatoes wedges. Let marinade about a half hour so the flavor develops. Nothing beats a tomato sandwich with white bread and homemade mayonnaise. It is one of the few times we use white bread - I keep some in the freezer just for this.

We love cabbage! Cole slaw is easy. Clean and slice cabbage and a little other vegetables for color like carrot or red cabbage and green onion tops. Sprinkle with salt and turn to mix the salt in. Set aside about a half hour. This will make the cabbage limp and sweeter. Make a dressing with vinegar or lemon juice, mayonnaise or yogurt, a bit of honey, and pepper. If salt is a concern, rinse the cabbage. Combine dressing and cabbage. We also steam wedges of Early Jersey cabbage as it is sweet and tender. And I make sweet and sour red cabbage - just saute an onion, add sliced cabbage and vinegar and honey to taste - great with pork chops.

I usually cut the tops off beets and store separately. I leave about an inch of stem and boil the beets until the skins slip off. I pour off cooking water, place beets in cool water, slip the skins and either serve or store for the next day. I usually warm them in a skillet with butter and fennel seeds. We keep hearing they are good grilled, but have not tried them grilled yet. I add the tops to salads if they are tender or braise with onion and add an interesting vinegar or dressing.

Beans are a favorite around here - a real part of summer. I often snap both ends and steam to al dente and add butter and salt and pepper. They are great in a cream sauce with or without sauteed mushrooms or onion.

Oregano is a Mediterranean herb that pairs well with tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers. I add it to olive oil for grilled vegetables.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nanking Cherries

I have just finished picking the Nanking Cherries. They are a small bush cherry with large pits. I have to keep ahead of the birds, and this year I managed to do so!

I use a steam juicer that takes an hour per batch and makes up to four quarts per batch.

And Ken took the pulp and has made a syrup that is great! Once the syrup is made the remaining pulp goes to the pigs. They love it!


During the heat we lost some celery. Ken took seven heads that had some damage like soft hearts, and rinsed, chopped and dried them. It was amazing to see seven heads of celery fit in a pint jar! And then he dried the leaves for soups and stews.

Heat and Crops

People have been asking how the heat has affected the farm. Here is the report. Bad news first. Some crops suffered with the heat. Members of the cabbage family seemed to have the worst time of it. We lost a few Chinese cabbage to rot, and some turnips I kept for us as they had blemishes became slimy over night. Ken lost a few smaller transplants.

On the good news front there are several happy heat loving crops: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cukes, zukes, melons and sweet potatoes all look very good at this point in the season.

Animals all survived. Low egg production in the heat, but the hens seem to be bouncing back with the last few cool nights. Pigs were snappish - a new phenomenon for us. The dogs and cats laid low in the shade. The geese were happy to find a spot to swim. The turkeys and their young seemed OK.

The farmers got a bit frustrated, but did what they could and were glad it was no worse. When someone complained about a recent storm, I said - no tornado, no hail, and I am glad.

Monday, July 18, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This box has lettuce, green onions, beets, Chinese Cabbage, celery, basil, parsley, tarragon, shell peas, cucumbers, kale,and turnips.

Field Notes. Just as Ken was about to irrigate, we got rain. He had hoped for 1 - 2inches, but we got 5 1/2! It was heavy and steady, but no downpour, so it all soaked in. And we are glad for it. HEAT. Heat takes its toll on the animals and even the farmers. Ken tends to divide his work so he is outside early and late; he finds shade or inside tasks during the heat of the day. Heat is tough on all the greens and cabbage family. Other crops like the heat - they are the nightshade family of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant; the curcurbit family of cucumbers and melons also enjoy heat, and the sweet potatoes thrive in hot weather.
From the Kitchen. This week we have Chinese cabbage and kale. We usually use the outer leaves in cooked dishes and save the tender hearts for salads. I cut leaf from stalk and cook stalk about a mint or two and leaf under a minute - just enough to wilt. The beets and cabbage would make great borscht. Saute some onion, add cooked slipped beets, stock and meat like cooked chicken. Simmer and add the Chinese cabbage before serving - it does not require long cooking time.

Turnips are in the cabbage family. They add zip to medleys and stir fry dishes. Ken loves them peeled, boiled and served with butter, salt, and pepper.
Sometimes I peel, cube, blanch, and freeze the roots for a nice addition to winter dishes. The greens are packed with nutrition as well. I cut leaf from stem and add to braising greens or soups or stir fry.

Kale is a great quick cook ingredient. I saute an onion, add kale to wilt and dress with vinegar or lemon or salad dressing. It works in borscht or other soups. I also mad a "cooked salad" for the farm tour with cooked carrots, blanched kale and green onions and chilled with cold water, drained and dressed with a toasted pumpkin seed, cooking water and a dab of umeboshi paste that I pureed in the blender until smooth.

Shell peas need to be shelled. I tend to boil the shells in water with other vegetable peelings or carrot tops for soup stock. It is sweet like the peas.

Cucumbers are a cooling vegetable in this heat. I either run a fork through the skin or run a peeler down the cuke to break up the skin - makes it more digestible. I also slice and salt for about a half hour to bring out the sweetness. If you are concerned about salt drain and rinse. I usually drainand use the liquid where I need salt. Then I make a dressing with onion and yogurt or kefir, vinegar, honey and salt and pepper or an Saian dressing with sesame and toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds, mild vinegar, honey and tamari and pepper or hot pepper.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

And the Compost Begins

Farmers are always balancing the past, present and future. As we harvest a crop we remember what has been planted there so we maintain crop rotation,assess current crop for soil depletion, and plan and work for next season.

Ken makes his compost. The mix varies with what is available each season. The compost he makes this season will be used next season. After moving the pigs,
Ken scraped up the leaves they have been turning and turning as they look for acorns or grubs. He has added cow manure he got last season from a young farmer, chicken bedding and some sheep manure he got last season. He also scrapes up the chicken and goose yards for the composted vegetables like bean plant stems.

And so he has started the pile. It will continue to grow!

Midseason changes in the field

As the season progresses the field and garden are in constant change. For example, the peas and oats by the raspberries were tall a week ago.

And now they have been mowed.

And the asparagus Ken kept picked is starting to shoot up and the buckwheat planted under the asparagus is starting to sprout.

Claendulas and coneflowers - working toward continuous bloom

Ken and I have flowers in the garden and field. We work for continuous bloom for beneficial insect habitat.

Right now the calendulas are blooming in the field and the cone flowers are just starting to bloom.

Farm Tour 2011

The weather was hot Sunday for the farm tour.

We were glad people came and had questions.

Whenever I take photos I realize most photos are of people looking at the plants on the ground.

After the tour we had a round of snacks from the garden: an Asian style snap pea salad, a kale and carrot salad, a cucumber salad, and some pickled vegetables.

Thanks to all who came out. we enjoy connecting and explaining what we do and why.

The Big Pig Rodeo

A week ago we had the big pig rodeo. Each year Ken starts the pigs in softer soil nearer the house and increases their pasture weekly. About this time each season they are ready for a larger project that is not adjacent to their starting spot. So we have to move them.

In the beginning we had to learn how to move pigs. If pigs get out, they do not stay together, but go in separate directions and are difficult to get together and back inside their area.

Now we have it down to a science, but I still call it the big pig rodeo. This year they have moved to the side of the road to the field. When we moved them it was quite overgrown.

Within a week they have it dug up and now Ken will begin their weekly expansion so they have fresh soil to dig for the rest of the season.

Processing Strawberries

After the first berries called king berries, the size of the strawberries gets smaller, and as the weather gets hot or too humid, the quality of the berries decline - more seeds, etc. That is when I sort out soft or small or seedy berries called utilities, and freeze them.

I have cored and frozen whole on a cookie sheet and then moved to a plastic bag. This is handy if I want just a handful of frozen berries to add to a smoothie.

I core, slice and add a bit of sweetener like sugar or honey so the berries make a bit of juice and freeze berries and juice in pint or quart zipper bags. I have found the teaspoon of sweetener preserves the berries and the lack of air prevents freezer burn so the berries keep their flavor.

Monday, July 11, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has lettuce, green onions, garlic scapes, broccoli, carrots, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, celery, basil, parsley, the last of the snap peas, asparagus and strawberries.

Field Notes. This week signals a big change as we move into summer vegetables like celery. It has been a good spring with beautiful greens, and now we move to heavier and more solid vegetables.

Ken has been cultivating the garden and field. Now comes the last decisions on where to mulch and where to plant green manures in the final spaces between crops. In drought years we mulched most of the areas because there wasn't rain for the green manures to grow. This year we have had more rain, but it is hard to predict how dry the rest of the season will be. Ken works hard to keep the soil covered with mulch or green manures so the soil temperature is moderated for maximum microbial life, and he minimizes any soil erosion.

The garden and field have a different look now. Each year I compare the garden and field to women. In spring they look like perky little cheerleaders, then as mature women of childbearing age. And finally as a wise older woman. They have moved from perky potential to productive. And that is why we like to do the garden and field tour now - even though it may be hot and there may be bugs.
Thanks to all who came out. Each year the garden and group of people are different, so it seems new. We are glad to share what we do, and answer gardening questions.

From the Kitchen. This time of year I start to get excited as we move into new crops. Each year someone tells me how much better our celery tastes. And I agree. I start by adding celery and the leaves to everything I prepare. Then I start cutting the leaves and drying them on a sheet of newspaper out of the sun, but in an area where there is good air circulation so they dry. I use dried celery leaves in winter soups and stews. And I usually make at least one batch of cream of celery soup - good warm in the morning or cool on a hot day. And for people who do not do dairy, try Ken's alternative - oatmeal. It lends a wonderful creaminess.

For the garden tour Ken made a batch of pickled vegetables and he found he loves adding green onions to the mix. The batch had some green onions, carrots and beets. And I made three salads. I cooked sliced carrots and blanched kale and dressed with a blenderized cup of toasted pumpkin seeds with a cup of the vegetable cooking water and a teaspoon of umeboshi paste. I blanched snap peas and dressed with sweet wine, tamari, toasted sesame oil, a bit of crushed hot pepper and toasted sesame seeds. And as the cukes have just started, I sliced a cucumber, salted it and let sit and hour, then poured off the salty cuke liquid that had weeped , and dressed with kefir, apple cider vinegar, pepper, chopped green onion, a bit of honey and some chopped fennel leaves. Pickles and salads all got good reviews from those on the tour.

Monday, July 4, 2011

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has lettuce and salad greens like arugula, bok choy, kohlrabi, kale, snap peas, garlic scapes, green onions, basil and thyme, asparagus, strawberries, and the first carrots.

Field Notes. Ken says, "We are settling into summer." He plans work around the time of day - transplanting in the cool of the day, killing weeds in the heat of the day, nailing frames for the bee hives or planting seeds inside during the hottest weather. And likewise I am planning picking around weather - cool for picking the strawberries and waiting until dew has dried to pick peas to avoid the spread of molds or fungus.

And in the midst of the heat wave we are discussing planting fall crops like rutabagas. Planning continues throughout the season. Ken is gearing up to move the pigs and get next year's compost together. So next week I hope to report on the annual "big pig rodeo" when we move half grown pigs to their next major pasture area.

From the Kitchen. Ah, garlic scapes. Certain varieties of garlic send up a seed head called a scape. These scapes need to be cut to help the garlic put energy into filling out the bulb rather than the scape. I see the scapes as a garlic preview - after a couple months of no garlic except garlic chives, I enjoy incorporating chopped scapes into salad dressings, stir fry dishes, pasta salads - anywhere I use garlic.

Kale is a favorite in this household. Kale is the oldest member of the cabbage family - right from the ocean before each culture kept altering it. Think how one plant became Brussels sprouts or cabbage, or cauliflower or broccoli or kohlrabi in Europe and bok choy or napa or tatsoi in Asia.

One of my favorite summer salads is to cut carrots in half circle slices, cook a few min, remove from heat and stir in the kale to wilt. Chill under cool running water, squeeze, and toss with dressing. I like to put toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds in a blender with umeboshi paste and some stock for dressing. Kale is great braised with a chopped green onion or garlic scapes and some interesting vinegar. Ken puts chopped kale in a bowl and tops with a poached egg in stock or any clear broth soup.

Basil's arrival signals summer is here. Basil likes heat and is one of the first plants to go with a light frost. So I enjoy the basil season. I make pestos for pasta. Pesto is paste, and Ken makes many herb pestos over a season. We freeze them and use in winter when green herbs are scarce. I add basil to tomato dishes, dill to fish, cilantro to Asian or Mexican dishes, etc. Rinse, dry, chop, and puree or process with some olive oil to make a paste. We store in freezer jam jars with a layer of olive oil on top to preserve color and flavor. Many people dedicate an ice cube tray to freeze and pop out small ice cubes of pesto and store is a freezer bag for future use.

We also add basil to soups, salad, stir fry. It is nice in a curry with coconut milk.

Sunday, July 10th is our annual Garden and Field Tour. Please RSVP if you plan to come so I know how many people to plan for the garden snack.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Snap Peas are Here

Well, after a cool spring and a smattering of heat and Friday's rain, we now have snap peas available for sale. Taste summer's sweetness! Snap peas have an edible pod and are a wonderful addition to salads, or as a side vegetable.

I like them in pasta salads, green tossed salads, and in an Asian style salad with sliced green onions and some sweet wine or honey, tamari or miso, hot pepper flakes, and sesame seeds. And of course there is the round carrot slices with peas and a bit of butter, salt and pepper.
Email or call to order some.


Endive. This great green from Europe puzzles many people. What do I do with it? Like all the members of the chicory family such as escarole, witloof, and radicchio, endive has a green and zippy flavor. After a cool spring of mild flavored lettuces and greens, the heat of summer features more robust flavors.

I dress my greens based on their flavor. In early spring I use light vinaigrettes. Now I move into stronger dressing choices. I like blue cheese or goat cheese, or Parmesan or Asiago with homemade mayonnaise or yogurt or cream for summer salads. I use first the garlic scapes and later garlic. I like the combination of goat cheese and toasted walnuts or pecans.

And if summer greens seem too strong, you can always either salt them for about a half hour or braise or wilt them. Imagine a pasta salad with blanched endive and a Caesar style dressing with olives and / or sliced summer sausage. I have been braising greens in the skillet after I have sauteed an onion; once they wilt, I have been topping with some beet pickle juice. and topping with cooked beets. And we have had grilled endives and radicchio - very tasty!