Archive

Monthly Archives: July 2011

by Zoë Abram

I love to hear the reasons people participate in CSA. As a former CSA member, I know logistics are important; deciding to join a CSA is a commitment that means thinking about your schedule, about the price or the work/share exchange, and about the amount of food you receive. Joining my first CSA was the first time I really felt awash in produce. It can be overwhelming, but it’s a welcome reminder about the nourishing nature of CSA. The CSA model contains ideas about how we should relate to each other, to what we eat and to the soil. There are never-ending big questions to tackle: how to structure the share to make it accessible and affordable, about outreach and how to foster an invested and involved community. These questions encourage us to dig deeper, to fine-tune the model so it works best for our community. For me, CSA  has the potential to radically change the way we manage risk for farmers, the way farmers can prioritize biodiversity and soil improvement. It transforms the economic interaction of purchasing food from an opportunistic one to one that includes a concept of enough, a mutually beneficial relationship. The security CSA provides farmers allows members to experience the growing season in ways they might not otherwise. The fresh and spicy tasting vegetables in spring, the joy of first fruits harvest, the sweet abundance of summer, and the storage vegetables in fall.

We’re in the abundance stage, and we hope you rejoice in it! As unit sizes increase for peak season summer crops, members get to share in the surplus of the season. Especially at this point in summer, when second and third successions of the same crop catch up quickly to older plants in the heat.

So what do you do with 2 pounds of squash, for example? Or the 4 slicing cucumbers you’re offered each week?  Squash is tasty in frittata, ratatouille, roasted, in salad, on pizza … and in countless other ways.  But if you can’t eat it all now: preserve it!  It’s quick: grate zucchini and pack it in a freezer bag. Frozen zucchini is good for baking, and for fritters or zucchini patties in winter. It’s fun to look up quick and simple ways to preserve many vegetables; the internet is full of people with ideas for preserving. Frozen peppers and corn are precious and sweet in March, when I’ve forgotten how plentiful they were.

One idea for your slicing cucumbers:

Cucumber Soup
4 large cucumbers, peeled
1 tablespoon fine-chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon fine-chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
24 ounces plain yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil oil
1/4 cup soda water
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Chop 3 of the cucumbers and throw them into the blender. Remove the seeds from the third cucumber. Throw the seeds into the blender, then fine dice and set aside the rest of the cucumber for garnishing later. Put the rest of the ingredients into the blender and mix it all up. Season to taste.

Refrigerate the soup for at least 1 hour before eating, and preferably overnight. Top each bowl of soup with a handful of fine-diced fresh cucumber.

(Savory and sweet ice pops seem to be a big trend these days …  to make these into popsicles, pour some of the chilled soup into ice pop molds or paper cups and let them freeze for at least 4 hours.)

Advertisements

Last week’s heat was brutal, both for the crops and those of us working out in the fields.  As I’m writing this, we are getting some much needed rain that will hopefully bring some relief for both us and the plants with some rain and a cooler and perhaps less humid day tomorrow.

But, we have managed, so far, to cope with the hot, humid but dry weather we’ve been experiencing.  We are still able to get work done out in the fields, but on those extremely hot days, we work earlier days, take a break in the heat of the afternoon and come back out to work in the evening.  We wear hats and clothing to protect our skin from the sun,  take breaks, drink plenty of water, and pace ourselves.  We try to tackle the more strenuous jobs earlier in the morning when it is cooler and as it gets hotter we perform less active, slower-paced work or jobs we can do in the shade.  And, cold watermelon or ice pops have helped us get through the day a few times.

As far as the crops are concerned, we try to grow seasonally appropriate vegetables.  But, they still need water and even some of them don’t like temperatures too hot.  For example, tomato plants and bean plants will drop their flowers in extreme heat resulting in fewer fruit or beans come harvest time.  And, the heat seems to speed up the growing and ripening process, and so we have to be even more vigilant about keeping on top of the harvests.  We harvest frequently and sometimes harvest tomatoes on the less ripe side or beans and zucchini on the smaller side just to stay on top of them.  We’ve been harvesting our cucumbers, squash and are now just starting to pick okra three times a week in an attempt to avoid balloon-like over-mature cucumbers, giant baseball bat-sized zucchini, and foot-long okra.  We do grow lettuce which is more of a cool-season crop all through the summer, but we have to keep it consistently irrigated and even then we only harvest it for a short period because it turns bitter quickly in this hot weather. Did I mention we irrigate?  We use drip irrigation, and have been running it almost non-stop during these past few weeks to keep everything alive and producing.

So that’s how we’re getting along here at the farm.  I hope you all have been managing to cope with the heat.

Expected Harvest 

beet greens (young thinnings from our new bed of beets)
cucumbers – pickling, and slicing
eggplant
garlic – Spanish Roja variety
lettuce mix
melons – jenny lind, a sweet, green-fleshed melon or cantaloupe
okra
onions – fresh, sweet, white onions & rossa lunga di tropea, an elongated sweet, red onion
peppers – green or purple bell and some red, ripe bell peppers
potatoes – dark red norland (a red-skinned, white-fleshed variety)
scallions
summer squash & zucchini
tomatillos (see below for recipes)
tomatoes – cherry, heirloom and red varieties
watermelon – Quetzali (reddish-pink interior) and maybe some Early Moonbeam (yellow interior)

Bonus Items
basil
parsley, flat leaf
hot peppers: anaheim, cayenne, fish, jalapeno, and poblano

Storing:

If you are not going to use them immediately, leave the husks intact, wrapped around the fruit like little paper bags. Either store on the counter or in the refrigerator. They should never be stored in air-tight containers.  They will keep well for several weeks to a month. They may also be frozen whole or sliced.

Preparing:

Remove the husks before using, the husks are inedible. Tomatillos are very easy to cook with because they don’t need to be peeled or seeded. Their texture is firm when raw, but soften when cooked.  Rinse before using as the tomatillo is covered by a sticky substance. Do not peel the green skin.
Cooking:

Tomatillos can by very inconsistent in flavor, with some being sour and others tasting mild and sweet. If the tomatillos are to tart for your taste, try adding a little sugar to balance the taste.

Raw – Raw or uncooked tomatillos are often in Mexican sauces. They add a fresh citrus-like flavor.

Blanching – Blanching mellows the flavor. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the whole tomatillos (husks removed and rinsed) and boil for approximately 5 minutes or until soft. Drain and crush or puree as directed in your recipe.

Fire Roasting – Roast under the broiler, with a propane torch, or over an open flame such as a grill. Make sure the heat is quite hot before roasting. If the heat is not hot enough, the tomatillos wil turn mushy before being charred. The charred or slightly blackened skins will enrich your sauces with a smoky flavor.

Dry Roasting – This will produce an earthy, nutty flavor. Place the tomatillos in a heavy fry pan (preferably a cast iron pan). Turn heat to low and roast for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

from: http://whatscookingamerica.net/tomatillos.htm

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

To cook the tomatillos, you can either roast them in the oven, or boil them. Roasting will deliver more flavor; boiling may be faster and use less energy. Either way works, though boiling is a more common way to cook the tomatillos.

Ingredients
1 1/2 lb tomatillos
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 Jalapeño peppers OR 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
Salt to taste
Method
1. Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well.

2a. Roasting method Cut in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin.

2b. Boiling method Place tomatillos in a saucepan, cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove tomatillos with a slotted spoon.

2. Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, chili peppers, sugar in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Cool in refrigerator.

Serve with chips or as a salsa accompaniment to Mexican dishes.

Makes 3 cups.

From: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/tomatillo_salsa_verde/

by Zoë Abram

Tomato time is here again! Before we even harvested any tomatoes, we’d spent a lot of time with the plants. We trellis the tomatoes, wrapping twine around stakes placed every two plants and tightly binding the tomatoes to force them to grow upright. We also “sucker” the tomatoes, which means pruning the side-shoots that appear in the crotch between main stem and leaves. If you let the suckers grow, the new stem competes for nutrients with the original plants: you may see more fruit, but the plant will struggle to ripen them all. Suckering also allows for more air to circulate, which prevents disease. Suckering is especially important for indeterminate varieties of tomatoes that will grow bushier and too heavy for their trellises if left alone.

These regular tasks mean we spent much of spring and early summer watching and waiting for the first tomatoes to ripen. It’s amazing how different the foliage of each variety looks before the different tomato colors and shapes are evident. Unlike many newer and hybrid varieties of tomatoes which were bred for thick skins and easy transport, heirloom tomatoes were bred for unique taste and appearance characteristics.  I’m continually amazed by heirloom tomatoes once they ripen, by the taste differences and the gnarled brown cat-faces and the sheer diversity of appearance.

In the pick-ups, you’ll notice some of these varieties appearing. This past week you may have seen some of the Cherokee Purple. They are a deep, dusky color, but they might have green shoulders even when ripe. We’ve also been picking the first Prudens Purple, a pinkish tomato and Goldie, which is yellowish orange and sometimes as big as the palm of my hand. We’re also growing a Ukranian red slicing tomato called Cosmonaut Volkov. The seed catalogue describes them as a “perfect blend of sweet and tart” and I agree! There are a few more varieties to look forward to: we’re just beginning to see ripe Green Zebra and Striped German!

Some varieties are doing better than others. We’re seeing a lot of blossom-end rot on the more oblong, dense, San Marzano Paste tomatoes. Blossom-end rot happens when plants have trouble uptaking sufficient calcium from the soil and also transferring it through the plant. We’re picking off these tomatoes early, hoping the plants will recover and produce fully ripened tomatoes unencumbered.

There’s so much to say about these tomatoes. Everyone has their own opinion about taste and the perfect ripeness. Along with the heirlooms, we also grow some irresistible hybrids: for example, there’s no better sweetness to me than a bright orange Sun Gold cherry tomato. We hope in your share you enjoy exploring the different tomatoes! Let us know what you find!

Expected Harvest

beans – regular green beans and maybe some royal burgundy beans (a purple-podded variety)
cucumbers – lemon, pickling, and slicing
eggplant
garlic – Spanish Roja variety
lettuce mix
onions – fresh, sweet, white onions & rossa lunga di tropea, an elongated sweet, red onion
peppers – green or purple bell
potatoes – dark red norland (a red-skinned, white-fleshed variety)
summer squash & zucchini
sweet corn – a bi-color variety called brocade
swiss chard
tomatillos (see below for recipes)
tomatoes – cherry, heirloom and red varieties

Bonus Items
basil
cilantro
parsley, flat leaf
jalapeno and maybe other hot peppers

We are excited to harvest our first sweet corn of the season.  We still have peppers and eggplant coming along, but we need to plan our harvests strategically–so we’ll have enough time to pick, wash, and pack up everything in time for it all to be ready and waiting for you by 4 pm.  So, since we have a big patch of green beans and sweet corn plus lettuce mix and more and more cherry tomatoes to harvest, we thought we’d hold off harvesting eggplant and peppers this week and give our eggplant a chance to grow a little more and the peppers time to start ripening.

Coming up soon: tomatillos, okra, and garlic.  The tomatillos are starting to fill in their papery husks and the okra plants are just starting to flower.  The okra, which are the seed pods of the plant, will follow shortly after.  We finished harvesting our garlic last week, and it is all curing, or hanging to dry, right now.  In a week or two, we will start taking it down, cutting off the stalks, and cleaning it up to give out at pick-ups.

And, perhaps by the end of this month, we hope to have some melons ready for harvest.  We are growing the Jenny Lind melon, a sweet green-fleshed variety, a variety of cantelope, and the same variety of watermelon as last year, Quetzali, a sweet, round, pinkish-red fleshed melon. There are lots of nice mlons sizing up in the field but they still need a little more time to ripen.  Below is a photo taken about three weeks ago of Sarah, Adrianne, and Colleen mulching between the rows of melons.  We mulch first with a layer of cardboard and then a layer of straw mostly to keep the weeds down, but also to give the melon a nice bed to rest on while it is growing.  This keeps the fruit from resting directly on the soil which could cause it to rot.  We can hardly wait until they are ripe.