CSA 2011 – Week 7: Soil Fertility and Cover Crops

I had the pleasure of following Farmer John around the barnyard this morning to get some knowledge of our soil fertility tactics here at GTF. We first discussed cover crops. John says that cover crops work well for farms that have long rotations, or space that they do not need to plant anything into for up to 6 months. In the traditional cover cropping system you let the crop go for awhile, sometimes until as much as 6 feet high. Then, you would disc it down and let the green material break down for another 6-8 weeks before it’s ready to plant in.

We have a bit more of an intensive rotational system because most of the land we farm is planted almost all year round without much of a break, since we over winter quite a bit of crops. We do however have some parcels of ground clear of food crops in the winter that we will utilize cover crops in. When we use cover crops we usually plant field peas, vetch, and rye. Our cover crop system is a little bit more modified than other farms. We will let them grow until just before we need to use the parcel to plant in, and then we use a forage chopper to truck away the greenery as one of our compost feed stocks. We can then plow, disc, and prepare the land to be ready to plant in the next day. This saves us the 6-8 weeks of waiting for the plants to break down in the field. In our case the cover still serves the purpose of holding the soil from eroding in the winter rains as well as keeping the micro-organisms healthy and happily eating away.

As I followed John around to assess a manure spreader that went out of commission last night, he explained that we will use this tactic especially in fields where we will be planting later summer crops such as melons. There is a point in the fall, towards the end of October, that it gets too late to plant a cover crop. If we don’t plant early enough the cover crop will not have a developed root system, and we will end up with an insignificant crop that will not hold the soil or build it. If we don’t plant anything into an empty field, winter weeds can serve the same purpose; or in fact chickweed, which grows in plenty around here, makes a great winter cover.

As John got out from under the manure spreader, diagnosed the problem, and then made a phone call to our loyal mechanic, he added that we tend to rely more on compost than cover cropping. Our compost is a stable addition to the soil. We do two main types of compost: your basic compost and composted chicken manure. The chicken manure compost along with a fish fertilizer that we run through our irrigation are our two main fertilization tactics for crops that need more nitrogen to thrive. We also apply gypsum to all of our fields since our soil is low in calcium. The good thing about gypsum is it doesn’t change the pH of the soil either, which is another important factor. As I wrapped up brain-picking with John this morning, socket wrench still in hand, I was just amazed with the amount of interesting information I had learned. Maybe I should do this more often!

Lisa Hargest
CSA coordinator


What’s in the Box?

1.5 lb Potatoes (purple viking) – See below.
Carrots, bunched – They are great raw, on salad, slaw or stir fried.
1 bunch baby Walla Walla onions – chop the onions and eat raw on salads or soups. Try them grilled! The top green part goes well with eggs, cheese, stir fries or pasta.
1 bunch beets – They are great boiled, roasted, or even grated raw and dressed. Eat the greens too; they are great sautéed with olive oil and salt.
1 green pepper– It is wonderful grilled, sautéed, roasted, or raw.
Summer squash (1lb) – Try them sautéed, grilled, in a soup or stir fried.
2 cucumbers – Eat raw, on salad, or marinate them.
1 bunch parsley – Chop it raw as an addition to a sauté, use in pesto with or without basil. See recipe.
1 bunch basil – Make pesto! Eat with tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and salt.
Romaine lettuce – Make a salad, or add to sandwiches.
2 tomatoes – Chop raw on salad, eat plain like an apple!
1 pint of strawberries

On Purple Viking Potatoes
These purple Viking potatoes were freshly harvested this week. The skins are sensitive and have not hardened yet. These potatoes are a bit more starchy, but do well baked or boiled. I would mash them up with some butter and salt. If you wanted to try something different you could boil them whole, then chop and add some balsamic vinegar, mustard and salt while still warm. They are also quite tasty roasted with the usual rosemary, salt and olive oil.

Tabouli
1/2 cup bulgar
1 bunch parsley, chopped finely
1 bunch baby onions, chopped, greens and all
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, julienned (optional)
1/4 cup or more lemon juice
1/4 cup or more extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: chick peas, cucumbers, a pepper

Boil 3/4 cups water, add to bulgar and cover. Let sit for 15-20 minutes, or until bulgar is tender. Add lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Place in
refrigerator. Add the rest of the ingredients about 30 minutes before serving. Serve cold.

Raw Beet Salad
1 bunch beets, greens chopped off and beets grated
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons honey, maple syrup or sugar

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and season to taste. This is a very simple salad. It goes great on any green salad.
Variations: add grated carrots or chopped parsley to switch it up.

CSA 2011 – Week 6: Water, Water Everywhere…

In the Willamette Valley, most of the time we are spoiled with beautiful, warm, and dry summers. That is really most of the allure of living here. The summers are phenomenal; they warm your soul up enough to last the six rainy months of the year. This past weekend was not the summer that I know. It is interesting to think about how the rain really affects all of the vegetables in the fields. It doesn’t affect them all in a negative way, as it does my personal vitamin D level.

One vegetable that is affected in a negative way is garlic. Our garlic that is trying to dry has a hard time drying in rain, even if it’s covered or under a tarp. The moisture in the air and ground can easily seep its way into that freshly harvested garlic. Luckily the crew is on top of making sure the garlic is covered before rains, but like I said that doesn’t always keep it dry. The tomatoes are not so fond of downpours either. Of course they need water to grow well, but when it pours and then warms up that causes the skins of tomatoes to split. This type of occurrence has the same effect on cherries as well. Some crops thrive in cool rain, for example potatoes and most brassicas (such as kale and cabbage). Lucky for us we grow such a variety of crops that when one crop has a difficult season, there is another crop booming. I guess this goes along with the saying,…

…‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket.’

*CSA Tour and Tasting: Sunday August 28th 2-5pm *
Join us for a farm tour, melon and tomato tasting!

What’s in the Box?

1.5 lb Potatoes (Nicola and fingerling) – These are best steamed, fried, or boiled.
Purple Carrots, bunched – They are great raw, on salad, slaw or stir fried.
1 bunch baby Walla Walla onions – chop the onions and eat raw on salads or soups. The top green part goes well with eggs, cheese, stir fries, or pasta.
1 red cabbage – make slaw, braise it, or use it in a stir fry
2 Leeks – They go great with eggs in a scramble, omelet, in soup, or stir fried.
1 pint sugar snap peas – Eat them raw or do a quick sauté with olive oil and salt.
Summer squash (1lb) – Try them sautéed, grilled, grated raw, soup or stir fried.
Red or Green Leaf lettuce – Make a salad, or add to sandwiches.
2 cucumbers – Eat raw, on salad, or marinate them.
1 bunch dill – Yummy addition to potato salad, cucumber salad, or slaw!
1 Siletz tomato – Chop raw on salad, eat plain like an apple!
1 pint of cherries – picked from the trees down the road at Fritz and Beverley Lonsway’s house.

Recipes:

Stir-fried Sugar Snap Peas

1 pint sugar snap peas, ends and strings removed
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch baby Walla Walla onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Stir fry onions and peas in olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add sesame seeds and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the toasted sesame oil. Season to taste.

Vegetable Leek Medley

2 medium leeks
2 summer squash
2 carrots
4 Tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut top and root end off the leeks and set aside. Cut the leeks in half length wise and chop into 1/4 inch size slices. Rinse the chopped leeks and set aside. Finely chop carrots and zucchini. Sauté carrots and leeks in butter. When they are almost cooked all the way through (5-10 minutes) add the zucchini and cook for another 2 minutes. Season to taste.

Zucchini Cakes

4 cups grated zucchini
1 Tablespoon salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups bread crumbs
Sea salt and pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mix zucchini with salt and let stand 1/2 hour. Rinse well with water and squeeze dry in a tea towel. Mix with eggs, onion, bread crumbs, cheese, and cayenne pepper and season to taste. Form into cakes and sauté a few at a time in butter and olive oil.
Variations: You could add chopped or roasted garlic, sautéed leeks, shredded carrots, chopped onion tops, or even dill to this recipe!

CSA 2011 – Week 4: More than Just Farming

When you think about farms and farming, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me six years ago, it was fields of plenty, chickens, cows – you know the picturesque version of Old McDonald. Since I began working on farms four years ago, my vision is a little different. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it; I love getting up at the crack of dawn to go pick lettuce, or getting to feel the warmth of the morning sun while washing potatoes. However, farmers, small and large, have to deal with regulations, certifications and logistics constantly, probably just as much as any other business if not more.

One of these logistics is our basic organic certification. Oregon Tilth visits us every year in order for us to hold our organic standing. We have to list everything we grow and everything we use in growing our vegetables. We are also in the process of being certified by the AJP (Agricultural Justice Project). AJP is mostly all about treating employees fairly, similar to a fair trade certification. We completed the process for AJP, and we expect to be certified soon. OGC (Organically Grown Company) is going to be requiring all of their produce providers to have the AJP certification by 2012. This is a must for us, since we sell them quite a bit of overflow produce throughout the year. The ODA (Oregon Department of Agriculture) also pays us a visit just about every year, but mainly to inspect our on-site kitchen.

Last week, we had a surprise visit from an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) inspector. OSHA mainly ensures worker safety, and this inspection went pretty well, but it reminded us that being safe in a work place, especially a place with a lot of equipment, is key. This is just one of many hurdles that any organic farm that wants to function as a business must deal with. On top of worrying about seeding, transplanting, prepping ground, composting, harvesting , weeding, washing, and conducting all eight weekly markets, we have these certifications and inspections annually.

Overall, these certifications are positive because they are made to ensure proper treating of the land and workers, a type of check and balance. However, it makes one realize that in order to make a business out of farming, there are a lot of little details to work out and make note of. At the end of the day, it all seems worth it when you get to settle into a lovely bowl of salad greens, cucumber salad and grilled zucchinis. I will be dreaming of August heat and melons and forget all about the acronyms until they come knocking next year.

Lisa Hargest
CSA coordinator

What’s in the Box?

1.5 lb Colorado Rose Potatoes – These are best steamed or fried
Carrots, bunched – They are great raw, on salad, slaw or even stir fried.
1 bunch Baby Onions – Chop the onions and eat raw on salads or soups. The top green part goes well with eggs, cheese, stir fries or pasta.
1 Cabbage – Make slaw! I like my slaw with a oil and vinegar dressing
1 pint Snow Peas – Eat them raw or do a quick sauté with butter or olive oil and salt.
1 bunch of Basil – Make pesto, add to pasta dishes, salads, or even sandwiches. See recipe.
Assorted Summer Squash (1lb) – Try them sautéed, grilled, grated raw, soup or stir fried.
Romaine Lettuce – Great for salads or on sandwiches, Romaine is the traditional Caesar salad lettuce. See recipe.

 

Recipes:

  • Basic Basil Pesto
    1 bunch of basil, leaves removed
    3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
    2 Tablespoons chopped nuts (almonds or pine nuts work best)
    2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
    Juice of 1 lemon
    Pinch of salt
  • Combine olive oil and garlic in a blender or food processor, blend for 1 minute, or until garlic is fine.
  • Add basil leaves and nuts, pulse until the basil is as fine as you would like it. Add lemon juice and cheese and pulse a but more.
  • Salt to taste.

You can do this by hand if you don’t have a blender or food processor, by hand chopping everything and mixing. Note, you don’t have to use the lemon juice if you don’t wish to, but it does keep the pesto from turning brown on top.
Use Basil Pesto as a topping for roasted or steamed potatoes, or a dip for carrots, cucumbers or peas.

  • Dan the Man’s cucumber salad
    3 thinly sliced cucumbers
    1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
    2 Tablespoons sesame oil
    2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon maple syrup/ or honey
    Pinch of salt
  • Combine all the ingredients and let marinate for 30 minutes before eating.

    Variations:
    Add chopped baby onions or onion tops.
    Add snow peas, chopped cabbage or shredded carrots to make a more slaw-like dish.

Caesar Salad Dressing:
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, chopped
Pinch of black pepper to taste

Use this dressing on Chopped Romaine lettuce for a lovely Caesar salad. Add parmesan cheese or home-made croutons out of leftover bread on top.

Grilled Caesar Variation:  Try cutting the head of romaine into quarters and brushing with olive oil and grill about 1-2 minutes on either side. Take off the grill, chop or keep whole and dress the salad, serve warm right away.

CSA 2011 – Week 3: Scrounging for Strawberries

It was about 5:30 yesterday, and it had been raining for a half an hour. I had just finished up taking the compost out with Robyn, our compost queen. So I headed up to the office to hopefully tie up some loose ends. Then Sally came into the office and seemed in a hurry. She was talking strawberries with Rodrigo on the phone. She hung up and asked me if I’d be interested in picking strawberries with the crew. Of course I wanted to go pick strawberries!

Knowing I had a couple more hours of work waiting for me in the office I joined the crew to Fairfield farm U-pick strawberries so that you may all get some fresh fruit this week! We had to hurry for fear of the rain clouds rolling in and watering down your delicious fruit. We got all 14 flats picked in about an hour and luckily we were barely rained on. We ideally wanted to provide you with our crop of seascape strawberries. They were planted late, although they are an ever-bearing crop, so we are still hopeful for a good late strawberry crop.

Of Favas and Fennel

Featured in this week’s box are two of my personal favorite spring vegetables: Fava Beans and Fennel! These two are not as straight forward as other vegetables.

Fava beans:

First you peel the outer layer of the bean to remove the inner beans. The outer shell will open up by simply popping it with your hands or you can cut it with a knife along the side. The outer shell can then be set aside for compost.

Now that you have all the inner beans, you can blanch them in salted boiling water. Drop the beans into the water for about 2-3 minutes and then pull them out and submerge them into ice water. Now you need to peel them again. Once they are blanched, the outside white layer of the bean should come off with ease. Compost the white outer layer and save the bright green inner bean! These beans can be used in stir fries, on salads, with soup, or just sautéed in some olive oil with a little salt and garlic.

Chef JC makes a wonderful spread using mashed up fava beans, chopped garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. This spread goes great on bread, fish, or meat. It could also be used as a lovely dip!

Fennel:

Fennel is a wonderful vegetable with a mild anise flavor. The bulb is usually the most sought after part of the vegetable. To use the bulb, cut off the bottom 1/2 inch or so, and cut the top stalks and fronds as well. Then you can cut the bulb in half and proceed to chop it as you would an onion. Fennel can be sautéed in olive oil or butter with  salt and garlic. It makes a great addition to a simple soup or stir fry. Another tasty way to eat it is sliced thin and then dressed with a vinaigrette such as the lemon vinaigrette (featured in our Week 1 Newsletter). If you want to try using the stalk and fronds, the stalk can go in a stock of some sort. Also, the fronds make a great addition to a salad or even potato salad. For those out there with juicers, try juicing the fennel stalk. Carrot/ Fennel juice is quite lovely, but I would do a 2:1 ratio of carrot to fennel since the fennel can be a bit strong.

What’s in the Box?

  • 1.5 lb Colorado Rose Potatoes ($4.50) – These are best steamed or fried.
  • Chard ($2.50) – You can steam or sauté it, or use it in place of spinach.
  • Carrots, bunched ($3.00) – They are great raw, on salad, slaw, or even stir-fried.
  • Fennel ($2.50) – See recipe below, and instructions above.
  • Fava Beans (1lb) ($2.50) – See instructions above.
  • 1 Onion ($1.50) – Sauté, or use in soup. Rhese are also great just raw on salad or a sandwich.
  • 2-3 Summer squash (1lb) ($2.00) – Try them sautéed, grated raw, in soup, or stir-fried.
  • Garlic Tops ($2.50 ) – These are a great addition to any meal. Stir-fry, sauté with chard, or even eggs for breakfast. They have a mild garlic flavor. (see recipe)
  • Red or Green Leaf Lettuce ($2.00) – Great on salads or in sandwiches.
  • 1 pint of Strawberries ($3.50) – Eat them just as they are!
  • 2 cucumbers ($3.00) – Eat raw on salad, or marinate.

 If you were shopping at the market, the total cost of this box would be:  $29.50

 

Recipes:

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 bunch of garlic scapes
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon (juiced)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated small
Pinch of salt to taste

  • Chop the garlic scapes in small pieces, compost the very top flower part.
  • Combine the chopped scapes, olive oil, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor. (If you don’t have either you can finely chop the scapes and mix the whole thing by hand).
  • Add in the grated cheese and pulse a bit until the mixture is the consistency you would like.
  • Taste and add salt if it needs any. You’re good to go!

*This Pesto makes a great dip for those cucumbers, carrots and zucchinis!*

Raw Fennel Salad:

1 fennel bulb
1/2 onion
1 chopped cucumber

  • Thinly slice the fennel bulb.
  • Chop the onion fine.
  • Slice the cucumber into thin pieces.

Orange Dressing:

3 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange rind
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon flax seed oil or sesame oil (optional)

  • Combine all ingredients into a bowl and whisk vigorously. Add salt to taste.
  • Dress the Fennel, onion and cucumber with the dressing and serve.

Hint: if you let the salad marinate for 1 hour before eating, the veggies will have more flavor. Add toasted sesame seeds to mix it up a bit. Or grate some carrots on top to garnish!

The Farmer
By: Wendell Berry

I am going to seed

into the beloved body

Remembering the fields,

I have come through

the dead and the dark,

the winter, the eye

of time, as through

a gap in the hills,

into the new land.