Friday, September 28, 2012

Squash Varieties this Fall

Squash and pumpkins curing on racks
We grow several varieties of squash.  In any year some varieties will produce more squash than others.  Some are early varieties that taste best just after frost.  Others seem to reach peak flavor mid winter.

Acorn squash is the earliest of the winter squash.  It's flesh is sweeter than most squash.  I usually bake acorn squash as it remains moist and delicious.

Sweet dumpling or little dumpling squash is a cross between acorn and delicata squash.  Delicata is a small banana shaped squash that is one of the sweetest squash and has very little flesh to eat.  Crossing the two squashes means an acorn sized squash that has slightly drier and very sweet flesh.  I often bake these squash for one or two people.  They are one of my favorites.

Butternut squash is a beige long squash with all the seeds in one end.   These are the smoothest textured squash, so many cooks use this squash for soups and pie.  They don't have to puree the flesh - it is smooth as it is.  They are tasty and good in all squash recipes.

Buttercup and the Japanese kabocha are a longer keeping, drier fleshed green skinned squash.  Ken likes this squash a lot.

Blue ballet is a smaller hubbard style squash that seems to mature later and store great.  It is less sweet, but has deep squash flavor.

Hubbards are an old traditional, large squash.  They mature late, keep well, and are quite large.  Many people buy these to process and either can or freeze a lot of squash all at once.  We tend to stuff them with bread or rice and meat for events with lots of people.

We also grow pie pumpkins.  These are moist and sweet and make excellent pies and soups.  They can also be eaten in any squash recipe.

Although any pumpkin or squash will work for you, it is fun to try new varieties and decide which you like in your favorite recipes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has arugula and chard, golden beets, celery, tomatoes, cukes, eggplant, green onions, red onions, squash, grapes, raspberries and /or melons or watermelons.

Field Notes.  We have had our first frost. This marks a transition from summer vegetables to fall ones.  Some tender plants like beans are done for the year, and the other heat loving plants in the greenhouse are producing less now.  We will see how long there are tomatoes and eggplant.  The cool weather means we move into fall with our first winter squash.  Ken harvests winter squash after frost so it has fully matured and is sweeter.

This week a new project starts here.  Why you may ask, is there a picture of an open space in the woods and a wood pile in the CSA newsletter?  Well, Ken and Loyal have been cutting and hauling wood into the yard.  
Once here in the yard, I help with moving, buzzing, splitting and piling it up.  The reason they are cutting wood is to make room for the heavy equipment operator who arrives this week to work on completing the irrigation pond by the mobile high tunnel and a new dam and pond by the garden

The pond by the high tunnel was not completed and it went dry this season.  The pond by the garden means the end of taxing our well for vegetables.  We are pretty excited as this will enable us to better cope with the wide swings of weather we have been experiencing.

And Ken continues to plan and plant garden and fields.  Now, after frost, he will be pulling things like the cucumber fence and setting up the garden and field for fall and winter.  Soon hoopettes will start to appear.  And we will be digging and storing winter root crops.

From the Kitchen.  Fall!  Both Ken and I love winter squash.  The sadness at the end of some things like basil and beans is quickly gone when the aroma of squash fills the house.  I tend to bake squash.  
I set the squash so it lays flat, cut a hole like you would for a Jack o lantern ( could be on top or a side of the squash), scoop out seeds replace the piece I cut, and place on a dish and set in the oven.  I usually serve with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper.

Chard will take a light frost, so we have chard this week - maybe for the last time.  I tend to use chard in egg dishes.  It is a relative of spinach, and I substitute chard in cooked spinach dishes.  I had a serving of braised chard with bacon bits recently - quite good.

These raspberries are some of the smallest in my memory, but their flavor is concentrated and intense - the reason is so little rain.  With frost and lack of rain, the insects are eating them, too - the yellow jackets eat the tips, the picnic beetles find the ripe ones and I even saw a cucumber beetle on one today.  The insects become desperate for food once frost and dry weather kill their usual food.  So enjoy the berries while we have them.
'Til Next Week

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Busy bees
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has arugula and kale, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, kohlrabi, celery, basil,  golden beets, and leeks.

Covered Annual flowers

Field Notes.   Although frost was forecast for Monday night, we were not that cold - only 34 degrees.  I had taken the precaution of covering some annual flowers, and picked today's basil.  Ken is getting ready to harvest the winter squash, so I will be shifting the onions from drying racks to storage bins.
This weather reminds us that there is still much to harvest - potatoes, root crops like beets, carrots, celeriac, black and daikon radishes, rutabagas. These will go to the root cellar for fall and winter boxes.  The greenhouses will extend the season for many crops.  That adds variety to the boxes.

Ken and Loyal have been cutting trees and brush to get ready for the heavy equipment that is coming to finish the irrigation pond by the mobile high tunnel, and the dam and irrigation pond for the garden.  These collection areas for water will enable us to better cope with heavy rains when we get them, and save water for irrigation when we have extended dry periods during the growing season.  Ken has read that we are in a no rain shadow created by the Twin Cities, and this is one explanation for our lack of rain this growing season - even when the cities got rain and it appeared to be headed our way.

From the Kitchen. Many farms end their season in October, but years ago when members requested we extend the season so they did not have to go to the store, we did.  We eat our produce all year - some is stored, some is cultured, some was frozen during peak season. Our diet varies with the seasons.  As it gets colder I light the oven more often, start roasting meat and vegetables, make hearty stews, and other heavier, calorie dense food.  Today I am stewing meat and vegetables for midday meal.

This crop of kohlrabi is mostly tops.  These greens are like cabbage or kale.  Great in soup, stir fry or a wilted salad.

The golden beets are a real treat.  Many people say they do not like red beets, but like the golden ones.  They have a lighter, less earthy flavor and are a bit sweeter.  I use them in any of my beet recipes.  Unlike red beets, they will not turn the dish pink.  

Ah, leeks.  Leeks start in late summer and early fall and are one of my favorites.  They are the creamiest of the onions.  I love their mellow onion flavor in soups and stews.  To clean a leek, cut it lengthwise and rinse out any soil between layers.  I use the white portion in quick cooking and the tops in stocks and long cooking as they are tougher.  

And as a last summer recipe - here from our friend Dianne, is an eggplant recipe:
"As for your request for an eggplant recipe, I made this last night but I don't have a written recipe. It's yummy, fast and easy,  and I make it often in the summer when it's too hot to eat meat.
Slice eggplant in 1/2 inch slices. Dip in beaten egg with a tablespoon of cold water.  Then coat in Italian style bread crumbs.  Fry in a little olive oil till brown.  Put in shallow baking dish and top with slices of tomato.  Sprinkle grated mozarella and parmesan over all.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 min. or till slightly brown on top.  It's good with pasta flavored with a little salt, pepper, butter and Parmesan." 
'Til Next Week, 

Fall is Coming - the last of the annual flowers?

Well, last night's forecast was for frost.  We got down to 34 degrees about 6:30 a.m.  This is not that early for first frost, but it always comes as a bit of a shock that the end of the tender crops is near.  

I covered some annual flowers in the hopes that we have a longer season. 

The zinnias, New England asters, marigolds, and nasturtiums all are still quite nice. 

And Ken's self seeded morning glories in the garden are still blooming.

The bees are busy collecting nectar.

So, we are ready, and with greenhouses, our season is extended, but the leaves are turning and fall is coming

Pigs are Growing

The pigs have been growing right along.  I have been remiss in posting photos, but took some last night.

Ken and I agree that cute little piglets become pigs about June or July, and then sometime around Labor Day they become hogs.

Even as adults, the pigs run toward me when I appear with a bucket.  They are a thundering herd!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, cucumbers,  kohlrabi, chard and arugula, watermelon, and grapes.

Field Notes.  Still dry here.  As I write this Tuesday afternoon, there is a chance of rain tomorrow on harvest day.   I would gladly put on the rain gear!  The dry weather means constant vigilance as hungry animals search for food.  Here is some damage to a melon about two days before it was ripe enough to pick!  And deer have nibbled some beet greens.

With the start of school, many people's schedules change.  We here look to fall and winter.  Ken continues planning and planting for fall garden crops, and is deciding next spring's harvest and planting spots.  There are factors like sunlight and rotation to consider.    And we start to plan the digging of fall crops and getting them into the root cellar.

With the recent cool nights and short days the hot weather crops slow down - some begin to give up - even with irrigation and Ken closing the greenhouses at night and opening them each morning.  Enjoy them before they are done for the season.  With kohlrabi we start moving toward fall crops.  

The pullets in the egg mobile have started to lay, so we can now offer egg shares with your box.  Pullet eggs start small (the photo is from last week), but they are nearly regular size.  It is pretty exciting (eggciting?) that we have increased supply for increased demand!

From the Kitchen.  Harvest and preservation are in full swing here.  The dehydrator has seen good use as Ken keeps it going.  And I have been canning tomatoes right along.  Monday I started up the steam juicer with the small grapes.  Ken is cooking down more fruit on the stove.  Ken sees preserved, concentrated fruit as future sweeteners.  He uses steamed juices as part of his gelatin desserts.  He uses canned fruit and juice concentrates as the sweetener and liquid in coffee cake type desserts.  Dried fruit gets packed for a snack while cutting wood.  His resourcefulness makes me rethink how I store food for future use.

Although Tuesday returns us to some hot weather, I am moving from raw food to cooked.  I have been sauteing onions and peppers and poaching pullet eggs for breakfast. Ken saw a photo on face book, and made pepper ringed eggs with green onion garnish.  The bulk of photos and recipe precede this newsletter in the blog - see Chef in the Kitchen.  At least one other CSA has requested to post this on their newsletter.

A vegetable stir fry on cous cous
I also saute onion and pepper and cabbage or kohlrabi for a vegetable medley at noontime. When Ken was gone at a meeting at noon, I sauteed an onion, some ripe pepper, cut corn off one ear, added a chopped tomato, one crumbled slice of cheese and chopped basil on cous cous. Once the temperature drops a bit Ken will be pickling peppers and I will be making baba ganoush, an eggplant spread that can be frozen.

These grapes and all the grapes we grow have seeds.  The varieties were developed by a man named Swenson who worked at the University of Minnesota and lived in Osceola.  Swenson worked a lifetime to develop cold hardy varieties of fruit and vegetables that thrive in this region.  His varieties not only grow well here, they consistently have great flavor.

'Til Next Week!
Judith and Ken

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Chef in the House - Eggs in Red Pepper Frames

Ken was cruising the internet, and saw a photo with eggs and red peppers, and said, "I can do that!"  The next morning as I came downstairs, I was met with the sight of Ken in the kitchen.  

First he cut the peppers, then cooked them on the griddle.  Then he popped eggs in the red peppers, and put on a cover so the whites could cook.  He topped them with chopped green onions - 

We plated them up and voila!  What a breakfast!

Beautiful Ripe Peppers

Red bell, bull's horn and yellow pepper
This year's heat and space in greenhouses has meant we can offer ripe peppers!  What's the fuss?   Well, a ripe pepper takes longer to ripen than a green pepper, the ripe pepper has more flavor and sweetness, and nutrition.  Why aren't they as common as green peppers?  Green peppers have longer shelf life.  If a farmer keeps picking green peppers, the plant will keep making peppers so there is higher production.  But once you have had a full flavored ripe pepper, it is worth the wait - tough to go back to green - tastes like an unripe apple!  So enjoy the reds, yellows, and great ripe pepper flavor!


Each year as fall approaches, we are reminded that we live in close proximity to wildlife.  This year's dry weather means animals are pretty desperate for food and water.  The rats have left the marshes and are looking for food and shelter.  They munched this melon about two days before it was ready to harvest.  We will do our best NOT to provide them with shelter, so they can move on for the winter.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

CSA Newsletter

Mowing the fence line in the field
Greetings from the Garden!  This box has tomatoes, corn, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, green onions, beans, basil, melon, the last of the zucchini, and the first of a new crop of kohlrabi.

Egg mobile
Field Notes.  Now that the new eggmobile is in place, Ken has been catching up - first in the garden and now in the field.  In the garden he has been making room for more fall plantings.

With the dry weather we have decided to move forward with making the irrigation pond by the mobile tunnel deeper; the water level is currently too low for irrigation.  And we will be working on an irrigation pond for the garden - we currently use well water.  With the dramatic shifts in weather, we feel it best to prepare for the worst.  Once we complete these two projects, heavy rain can be held for later use during dry periods.  These infrastructures mean hiring heavy equipment, but we believe the cost is worth it.

Smaller cockerels
The soil is still dry.  Very dry.  This creates stress on plants.  The current bean crop is just too dry to continue to produce. More will be coming.  They are blooming now.  Many root crops are small.  Leaves look limp midday.  We wish for rain - a nice slow drizzle that soaks in.  Farmer friends just posted photos of hail.  Hail does so much damage in such a short time.

From the Kitchen.  This week has seen lots of chicken recipes after we butchered seventeen cockerels - young roosters.  They reach an age when they fight and harass the hens.  Of the forty some we moved from down by the mobile high tunnel, 17 were large enough to butcher.  The rest remain by the garden.  And without the hens they seem much quieter - hmmm. 

Stock with Ken's pickles and the dehydrator in the background
So first a roasted chicken with roasted onions, beets and carrots.  Then after cutting the meat from the carcass, I boil the bones one hour, pick the meat off the bones, and return them to the stock to simmer until they soften so the cartilage and marrow have gone into the stock.  Next I drain the stock through cheesecloth and cool the stock so I can skim the fat.  Then I heat the clear stock and can most of it in either pint or quart canning jars in the pressure canner.

Then with some of the stock we have stews and soups with green onions, red peppers, and cabbage or broccoli.  Sometimes with curries,  sometimes with chipotle and paprika.  I have served them with rice.  and I made some cold salads with chicken, vegetables, and cous cous or quinoa or bulgur wheat.  These grains seem lighter weight, and so we usually have them at supper so Ken does not run out of steam mid afternoon.

Pullet egg on left
With the egg mobile's small pullet eggs, we have had omelettes in the morning - sauteed onion, red peppers, sometimes zucchini. 

Enjoy the corn - we are heading to the end.  It has been a good run!

Ken moving the egg mobile
'Til Next Week!