Tuesday, July 31, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Bee in the curcurbit blossom
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has cabbage, heirloom and salad tomatoes, green peppers and a hot pepper or two, white bulb onions, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, eggplant, and basil.

Field Notes. Hot and dry are the two key words for the week.  Although storms have hit other surrounding towns, we have been grazed with a sprinkle here or there - no measurable precipitation.   The heat loving crops are doing great - tomatoes, peppers, eggplant.  This looks like our best eggplant crop in years.  

Each season I compare the garden to a person.  At this point it looks like a woman with several children  - not that perky cheerleader look of June, and not the tough old lady of October.    And like a healthy mom with happy children, it looks beautiful!

Ken and the tiles in Barron
Other Keppers news: We will be teaching a class at Hungry Turtle Tuesday August 14th - fermentation of vegetables - not just sauerkraut.  Please contact Erica at 715-268-4214 eromkema@hungryturtle.net for registration information.

And the tile installation at the Barron clinic is completed.  Ken enjoyed it, but is happy to be back on farm.

Corn in the morning with dew
From the Kitchen.  Hot Weather vegetables!  Most years I suggest people think outside the lettuce salad box.  I make cucumber onion salads with yogurt or Asian dressing or tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and basil or blanched bean salads.  This early cabbage makes great salads - it is mild and tender.  I slice it thinly and salt for a half hour then drain to bring out the sweetness and add a dressing.  There will be weeks when there is no lettuce at this time of years - it could bolt in the heat or just stand still - waiting for rain (and even Ken's irrigating is just not the same).

The long triangular peppers are a frying pepper we tried last year, and people really liked it so we grew it again this season.  It shines when sauteed, but is just fine raw in salad.  It is not hot.  The little jalapenos are hot.  If you do not want any hot peppers, let me know, so I can leave them out of your box.

Eggplant.  It is the only vegetable requiring cooking.  It is good with tomatoes, onions, and peppers in a ratouille style stew over rice.  We cook it Asian style - kinpira (see last week's newsletter).  It is great in Ken's biscuit dough pizza - he puts it in the pan first so it will cook.  Eggplant is the vegetable highest in protein.

Try grilling zucchini.  I cut it lengthwise and oil and sprinkle with paprika - voila.  It is delicious

Any new recipes you care to share?  Let me know and I will share them - thank you and enjoy the week!

Coming Soon: Corn

Tile Installation

Ken received a commission for a tile installation at the Clinic waiting room in Barron, Wisconsin.  The tiles are on a vertical surface between cabinets over a sink.

The tiles included larger tiles with botanical imprints, and fire glazed tiles in two sizes.

The larger tiles had white pine imprints.

The tiles were installed one day, the next grout was done, and two days later a sealer was applied.

The feedback during the installation was really positive.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Two heirloom tomato varieties
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has lettuce, mizuna, early tender cabbage, beans, radishes, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, early white bulb onions, the first Asian eggplant, and savory.

Field Notes.  The days are getting noticeably shorter.  When I wake up at 5 a.m. on harvest day it is not so light outside.  With these shorter days and heat the vegetables that set fruit really produce.  Their goal is to make seeds.  As we pick the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, etc the plants make more fruit and push to get it ripe.  In my life this means as the days shorten I see an avalanche of cucumbers, a tsunami of zucchini, a flood of tomatoes.  Some days it is a bit overwhelming.  Ken takes it all in stride.  He has made kim chi and pickles.  I have frozen strawberries and broccoli.  Next I will be freezing beans.  Ken will can the blemished tomatoes.  And now is the time if you want to freeze, pickle or can.  Let us know if you want more produce to do so.

Burpless European cucumber
Ken continues to plan and plant and transplant.  He is a master juggler of crops, time, and space.  Where do green manures go?  What space gets replanted?  What will go under plastic?  All these questions come up each season.  And with the experience of each season, Ken refines these decisions.  I am constantly amazed.

On an off farm note, Ken is doing a tile installation at the Barron clinic.  If you end up in the clinic waiting room after next week, check out the tiles.

From the Kitchen.  All this summer produce forces tough decisions.  How many salads can I put on the table at one meal - cucumber salad, tomato salad, tossed green salad.  And I look at cooking and oven time in the heat.  I love green beans - steamed to the al dente stage and topped with a bit of butter or umeboshi paste.  

Asian eggplant
Asian eggplant is a real treat.  It is not tough, so there is no need to peel or salt.  Eggplant is the only vegetable that must be cooked according to three different cookbooks.  We like it cooked with green peppers cooked kinpira style.  The instructions for kinpira are in the blog entry just before this one.  

And now is the time for Ken's quick upside down "pizza."  This annual favorite is a whatever you have and like recipe.  Ken takes a pie plate, oils it and then places vegetables in it.  The ones requiring more cooking time like eggplant or great caramelized like onions go in first.  Peppers and tomatoes and zucchini are good additions.   Ken tops this with a biscuit dough and pops in the oven.  Follow your biscuit recipe for temperature and cooking time.  Once it is done remove from oven and as you cut slices flip onto the plate.  One friend added grated cheese to the biscuit dough and said it was good that way, too.

Savory is a favorite around here - it is rather like a cross between thyme and rosemary - less resinous than rosemary, but more punch than thyme.  I chop it and top steamed vegetables or add it to baked or green beans.

This cabbage is early and tender - great salad cabbage or tasty steamed and topped with oil or butter or umeboshi paste.
'Til next week!

Kinpira Style Vegetables

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!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Flowers in the Summer

With the record heat, many flowers are blooming early this year.  This is Joe Pye Weed - one of my larger plants.  There are two varieties - one with white flowers and one with pink.  To give a sense of scale, day lilies are in front of the Joe Pye Weed.

And speaking of day lilies, here is a stunning red one - 
and a nice lemon yellow one.

And one of Ken's favorite annuals is blooming - moss roses.

The Latest Hatch of Chicks

Ken just moved some chicks from the brooder space to an area near the house. 

It always amazes me how much people fear cats in close proximity to birds - note the cat sleeping on the chair.  Our experience is that cats prefer rodents.

And Oscar the Dog takes his job of protecting the place and its animal life quite seriously - we don't worry about predators with him on duty.  A working dog is an invaluable part of any farm.  Not only does Oscar keep predators out, he works to alert me to get chicks back inside if they get out.

Also in this space is the prior batch of chicks - they are at that gawky age.  The first night without their moms, they were pretty loud, but they seem to be fine.

Pigs Move and Thrive

We moved the pigs last week.  They are now at the edge of the woods, and have dug most of their new spot up in less than a week.  

Ken makes sure they have mud to cool off, and it makes for some interesting looking pigs!

They are happy eating...

...and digging

Still cute.

Geese Then and Now

Geese and chickens grow so quickly.  Here is a photo I took today of the smallest batch of goslings.

I thought it might be fun to dig up an old photo of these goslings just hatched in late June - Here they are at that time - just little fluff balls.

And today - still a bit more downy than their elders, but little geese, no longer puffballs

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Beans in bloom
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has lettuce and salad mix, broccoli, celery, Chinese cabbage, carrots, turnips, green onions, tomatoes, cucumbers,  zucchini, radishes, potatoes, beans and parsley or basil.

Field Notes.  Hot and dry.  Ken has harvested the garlic; it is curing and I will be pulling out the bulbs we will need to plant this fall.  Then garlic will start to appear in your box.  Ken has also been pulling shallots, and the onions will be next.  The garlic and onions are the first of the full season crops to harvest.

With this heat many of the heat loving crops have come in - the beans have begun.  As I picked these beans I could hear the buzzing of the bees and felt fortunate to have pollinators working for us!

Winter squash vines
In any given vegetable family, there are members who like it cool and as the saying goes, some like it hot.  In the legume family, peas like it cool and beans like it hot.  Spinach likes it cool and chard likes it hot.  And in extreme heat the heat loving crops may drop their blossoms and take a pause in production.  This happened last year and people became impatient waiting for tomatoes, peppers, etc. to keep their blossoms and set fruit.

About every five years I convince Ken to plant some early potatoes.  Tuesday we dug them and I remembered why I usually wait for late season potatoes.  Yields are notoriously low on early potatoes, their skins bruise easily, and they do not keep.  And it is just as much work for Ken to dig and me to pick whether there are few or many.  When I think of space and time requirements, these guys did not pull their weight.  Enjoy them while they last!

We need rain, but I am being careful what I ask for as last time I wished for rain we got over five inches.  And today we are getting some - glad it is not a downpour that does not soak into the soil!

From the Kitchen.  This is a real summer box.  Tomatoes have started. I usually use the small firm and plum tomatoes in sauces, the medium salad types in our salad, and the large ones I slice.  We like tomato sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise - one of the few times I eat white bread.  And I like to layer basil and a balsamic vinegar dressing.  Or just lightly salted and as they are.

These new potatoes require less cooking time.  The skins are a bit more delicate. The flavor is great.  No need to peel them - I just boil a few minutes and serve with butter, salt, pepper, and herbs.

Beans!  The first beans I usually steam and serve with oil or butter.  Beans are good in cream sauces, vegetable combinations, stir fry dishes, casseroles.  Beans freeze well.  If you want beans to freeze, call or email me and I will let you know when I have them. 

Cucumbers also speak of summer heat.  I usually run a fork down the length of the cuke to break up the less digestible skin - and the breaks are a nice visual element.  Once I slice cucumbers I usually salt and set aside for about a half hour.  This alters the chlorophyll  to sweeten the vegetable.  Yesterday I served cucumbers in a yogurt dressing with green onions.  Ken read a cooling summer drink of lemonade with cucumbers.  Once we have more I shall try it and report back.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Recipes - Broccoli, bok choy and Chinese cabbage

Broccoli in the field
This heat finds me doing early morning cooking to avoid midday cooking in the heat.  

Last week's broccoli and cauliflower
Today I tackled a big batch of broccoli.  One of our favorite varieties has larger, looser florets that look overly mature.  I rinsed and chopped with the midsections of several green onions - I use the green tips as garnish and the white roots in dishes I saute - with a pint of stock and a pint of water.  Cook to tender and run first through a blender and then through a food mill.  Return to pan if you want hot soup or pour into a bowl if you want cool soup.  Add desired amounts of salt and pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.  Just before serving add cream, yogurt, or sour cream and a bit of paprika or powdered hot pepper.  For non-dairy eaters, oatmeal can be used in place of cream.  For vegetarians, use a stock from cooking vegetables.

Napa on left, bok choy on right
I like bok choy in morning soups.  If it is cool in the morning having a warm meal seems easier on the stomach.  We use bok choy most often in miso soups with green onions.  Egg drop soup or leftover cooked meat is a nice protein addition.  In Japan they use tofu.  I also like bok choy in stir fry side dishes with onions and tiny slices of julienned carrots for color.  To cook bok choy I separate leaves from stems as stems require a a minute or two of cooking time and leaves can be added just before serving to wilt.  Bok choy can also used like Napa in pressed salads

Pressed roots on a bed of wilted greens
Napa or Chinese cabbage is a great early season cabbage.  I tend to cook the outer leaves and once I get into the heart where the leaves are a bit more tender, I make salads or pressed salads.  I like to chop the cabbage and salt for a while to sweeten the cabbage.  After about a half hour there will be liquid, I pour this off and use where I need to add salt.  If people with salt issues are eating with us, I rinse the cabbage.  Pressed salads are salads made in layers, salted and weighed down to encourage the salt to work.  In Japan we had layers of carrots, turnips, radishes, cabbage or bok choy.  The vegetables need to be sliced thinly for this method to work.  I often create an Asian dressing to go with this - tamari, sesame oil and seeds, mild vinegar, honey and pepper.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Broccoli plants a couple weeks ago
Greetings from the Garden!  This week's box has lettuce, radicchio, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, cucumbers, celery,  Chinese cabbage, carrots, turnips, green onions, and the first tomato, pepper, and basil.

Field notes.  The garden and field tour was last Sunday - thank you to all who came and participated.   Ken was really happy about the questions on how and why we grow the way we do and the discussions of food politics - local, seasonal, nutrient density, etc. People tell us that we are passionate about food, and it is great to see this spread to other people!

In the field Ken just planted more greens and has shifted out of spring and into summer mode.  As we say this season's farewell to the early crops like spinach, asparagus, peas, strawberries, we get excited about the first of the new summer crops.  And Ken starts his weekly pick of some vegetables, and twice a week pick of others like tomatoes, summer squash and cucumbers.   And this week we have broccoli and cauliflower.

And Ken continues to cultivate.  One of his observations after the tour was he has shifted to work with the weeds.  He cultivates when and where necessary as crops start and as they grow and develop canopy, it is less pressing.  He has weeds in the walkways this year, and he moves before they set seed.  And he makes various preparations for the garden from weeds.  Weeds let him know if his soil is short in something - minerals, too acid, etc.

From the Kitchen.  So many new vegetables in the box this week.  This variety of cauliflower is delicate and delicious cooked or raw.  I steamed and tossed with a few pea pods and a vinaigrette dressing for the farm tour.  I like to steam vegetables, chill them in cold water, drain and toss with a dressing and chopped nuts.  I think of combinations of texture, shape and color.  This cauliflower would be great with chopped kale and green onions as well.

And speaking of salads, I made three for the garden and field tour.  In addition to the above, I made an Asian style salted salad of thinly sliced red turnip roots and tops rinsed, drained and tossed with a dressing of olive oil, tamari, a little powdered red pepper, honey, and toasted sesame seeds.

The best way to store basil - a sealed bag on the counter
And my favorite "cooked" salad was also a hit. Steam sliced carrots, add green onions for the last couple minutes, and then sliced kale.  Drain and save the cooking water.  Rinse the vegetables in cold water, drain.  I made a dressing of toasted pumpkin seeds (sunflower seeds are also good) umeboshi paste and about a cup of the cooking water run through a blender.  Umeboshi is a Japanese pickled plum available in health food or Asian food stores.  It adds fruitiness, sour, and saltiness.  I toss the drained vegetables with the dressing and serve.

Another celery.  At this point it is cool enough I will probably make one of Ken's favorites: cream of celery soup.  Saute some onion.  Add chopped celery and stock.  Simmer so celery is soft.  Ad salt and pepper as desired.  Run through a food mill and add cream or sour cream or yogurt before serving.  This soup is delicious hot or chilled.

Annual Garden and Field Tour

In the garden at the start.  More came later
Sunday was a great day!  People came and toured garden and field with Ken while I was selling pottery and vegetables and preparing snacks from the garden.

Lots of good questions and conversation.

No photos of food - it went quickly.
Thank you to all who came and participated.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Heat and flowers art Keppers

Wow! It has been hot, so all the flowers are going quickly - the hollyhocks, for example usually bloom slowly up the stem for a long season , but in this heat it is whoosh! 

And Ken has requeste I save seed from these dramatic black ones - beautiful!

My Favorite Cauliflower is in season

Here it is - my favorite - really delicate so it is great raw or cooked.  I brought some on a vegetable tray with dip and it was the first to go.

Summer suppers

With this heat, I have moved to what I call summer suppers.  We don't have air conditioning and we work outside.  Once we get beastly hot weather we shift to split shifts - getting up early to work in cooler weather and after taking a break and working inside or some shady place like the barn midday, we work outside again once it has cooled down in the late afternoon. 

And with that I minimize oven and cooking time.  This is the season for grilling, pasta dish suppers, shortcakes that take 15 minutes in the oven in lieu of pies that require an hour.

This fourth of July we were invited to a party and we brought zucchini.  Zucchini you say, so what!  Well zucchini shines when grilled.  I cut zucchini lengthwise and then in sixths  - a nice long and substantial piece that wont fall into the coals.  I tossed in powdered ancho pepper and olive oil and salt and pepper.  I think paprika or powdered chipotle for the "spicy set" would also be good.  Ken, our master griller (anything with a fire..) set them on the grill and when he went to plate them up - some were already gone!  They are easy to prepare, easy to grill and a REAL hit.

I do a lot of pasta suppers in the summer.  In winter I am a roaster and slow cook type.  Once the thermometer reads over 80 I shift to pasta - 8 - 12 minutes and what shall I add?  Tonight it is the first of the basil and since we are post scape and pre bulb I have cut some garlic chives and Ken brought home some fresh mozzarella.  So as the pasta cooks, I have rinsed the basil and chives, chopped them and the mozzarella, added olive oil and tossed with my cooked pasta.  Dill and fish like salmon was a great combo last week ( a friend brought us some wonderful salmon and we grilled it one night and put leftovers in salad with dill and homemade mayonnaise).  I did a fennel, chopped olives and home made sausage combo recently - it was a hit.

And for the gluten intolerant there is soba (buckwheat) or quinoa or other non gluten grains.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Zucchini season has started
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has lettuce and salad greens, braising greens, celery, bok choy, kohlrabi, carrots, radishes, turnips, shell peas, and zucchini.

Field Notes.  Heat is the word.  The weather forecaster said most years the Twin Cities gets about 10 - 13 days over 90 degrees and at that time there had already been eight.  Heat is good for some crops, and not for others.  Greens prefer cool and damp.  Peas prefer cool and damp.  All the cabbage family (the largest family of vegetables - the brassicas) prefer cool and damp.  The peas are giving up - just too hot and dry.  Ken says if it is a short peas season it could be a very good melon season.  
Coming Soon!

Peppers - one of the nightshades
And there are several plants who prefer heat - mostly those in the curcurbit family like cucumbers, squash, melons and the solanae or nightshade family like eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.  BUT if it gets too hot as it did last year the plants who love heat will drop their blossoms and we just have to wait for the next ones to set fruit.

Ken has been weeding the asparagus and planting a green manure in the asparagus beds. Now the plants will shoot up, grow, and make energy for next year's crop.  Soon he will mow the strawberries.  Once they regrow, he weeds and moves runners to next year's location.  Perennials require attention several times during the year. 
Ken has been mowing and spiffing up the place for next Sunday's garden and field tour.  Please let us know if you plan to come as I make some garden snacks for after the tour - it is nice to know if that will be two or twenty.

Salted roots on a bed of wilted greens
From the Kitchen.  Heat.  I have been doing more quick cooking.  I wash, slice and salted vegetables like kohlrabi bulbs, carrots, red turnips, and radishes and placed them on a bed of greens I have wilted.  I clean up combinations of kohlrabi, beet, turnip, and radish tops with any other braising greens like kale or chard.  I saute the white part of green onions, add the chopped greens to wilt, add an interesting vinegar and or cream or sour cream or yogurt (last week I used balsamic vinegar and cream, and Ken gave it a thumbs up).

I also used wilted greens in pasta salads with some olives or meat.  You can add a Caesar style dressing or a vinaigrette or a yogurt.  I did a pasta salad with salmon with dill and wilted greens and salmon with rice and peas and wilted greens.

This week we have shell peas.  This English variety needs shelling.  Each year a grandmother contracts with me for a picking of shell peas.  She and her grandchildren shell and eat peas as they watch videos in the evenings.  They love the activity and she loves giving them a healthy snack.  I tend to save the  pods after I shell out the peas and boil the pods down for a really sweet soup stock.  Then the spent pods  go to the pigs.

It  is our first of many weeks of zucchini.  We love grilled zucchini.  I also add it to tomato sauce or soups.  As a child during summer camp one day we made "pocket stew" from vegetables we brought from home.  I probably brought carrots - one of my favorites.  That night I told my family someone brought a cucumber with no seeds.  My mom laughed and explained what a zucchini was to me.  Enjoy this versatile vegetable.  I welcome any ideas from you and I will share the recipes.

Hope you can make the garden tour!