From Seed to Supper

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the entire life of the vegetables that we pack into your CSA boxes every week; from being seeded into the soil, to its demise in your kitchen. It might not be directly apparent, but an enormous amount of time and care go into planning, planting, fertilizing, watering, weeding, harvesting, and packing a single item that is produced on our farm.  I decided to take a closer look at onions, something that is called for more often than not, and generally overlooked for being ordinary. What is story behind the Walla-Walla onions that are in your box today?

Walla Walla Onions

Your Walla-Walla seed was ordered way back last fall from a seed company by our seed and irrigation manager, Jolene.  She maps out the whole farms planting schedule a year or so in advance. Jolene compares records, and draws from her considerable past experience, and then she decides what and when to plant. This year the first week of September was when your Walla-Walla seeds went into the tilled soil. These onions take about one to two weeks to germinate, (or sprout) and then the real work of keeping them alive begins. These onions will over winter outside, which means that they are very vulnerable to the elements, to animals, insects, and disease.

If the small plants don’t succumb to any of the above threats they still must compete with the growth of other plants, namely weeds. Weeds are serious competitors, I talked with Rodrigo, our Field and Production Manager, and he said a crew of six weeded the onion field three times. Each time it took a six day work week, of 12 hour work days. That’s 72 hours per person for each onion weeding session, a total of 1296 man-hours of just weeding! That same crew also fertilizes the field three times, 12 hours a shot, for 36 more hours, all that on top of how long it takes to originally prepare the field. Whew. In addition to keep the onions from rotting this year, Colin has been spraying oxidate, an OMRI Tilth approved spray that basically works like hydrogen peroxide for plants. This spring the plants really needed extra protection from fungi that thrive in the cool, wet weather we’ve been swamped with. Not all of them make it of course, this year we lost about 30% of what we seeded, but that’s a risk that you have to be willing to take.

So after all this, how long does it take our surviving onions to reach maturity? We are just beginning to harvest our first Walla-Walla’s and its now mid-June. In a year with better weather we may have seen them sooner, but as it is its 10 and a half months out from the time that these baby’s went into the ground.  For this time, the field doesn’t produce anything else, but it consumes a great deal.

The end of the line comes when we harvest the onions. They come in off the field, we spray them off, and send them down our old conveyer belt to be washed again, and then we pack them away into tubs that either get loaded into trucks, and sent off to market, or we carefully arrange them into CSA tubs and send them off to you. Regardless, when it reaches the consumer, a lot comes down to cost.

So how much did the individual onion seed cost? What about the gas for the tractor that tilled the field? How much did all the labor cost? What are the other farmers charging? How much did we charge last year? How much human thought and energy went into this single onion? And how do you really put a fair price on that? I’ve glossed over the whole process a bit, but I’m willing to bet that the onion that you’ll slice into your pan has a far more detailed and delicate history then you may have thought. People often talk about how expensive organic food can be, but when you think about all that it took to make the delicious, local, pure items in your box, think again, because really, these onions are priceless.

Devon  Sanders

CSA Coordinator

What’s in the box?

Beets—3.00$- try baking the root, and then sautéing the greens the same way you would chard or kale

Carrots—3.00$

Fennel—2.00$-see recipe

Chard—2.50$-see recipe

Lettuce—2.00$

Kohlrabi—1.00$-see recipe, Kohlrabi has a flavor similar to broccoli, peel it raw,  slice and  add to salads, or use for dipping into creamy sauces.

Red Potatoes—4.50$

Zucchini—1.25$

Walla Walla Onion—1.50$

Strawberries—3.50$

If you were shopping at the market, this box would cost—24.25$

Recipe Suggestions

 Fennel and Kohlrabi Salad

1 medium head of Fennel
1 medium kohlrabi
1 large handful small capers
The juice of 1 large lemon  (1/2 is  for crisping the fennel)
1 large garlic clove
Twice the amount of extra virgin olive oil (as lemon juice)
Black pepper
Sea salt
1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard

– Slice the fennel as thinly as you can and add to a bowl of cold water and the lemon juice. Slice the kohlrabi and then pare strips off each slice with a vegetable peeler (this is to get wafer thin slices). Add to the bowl with the fennel.

– To make the lemon-caper dressing: Crush the garlic with a generous pinch of sea salt in a pestle and mortar (or in a mug with the base of a wooded spoon). Add some black pepper and a heaped teaspoon of wholegrain mustard. Stir together.

– Add the juice of 1 large lemon, the capers and twice the amount of olive oil. Whisk to mix.

– Drain the water from the salad and place in a bowl . Add the dressing and stir to coat.

Chard Frittata

1 lb. Swiss chard or spinach, stems trimmed and chopped
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 tsp. summer savory, minced (optional)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
8 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup your choice of cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

– Turn on broiler. Place Swiss chard in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Cover and cook 3-6 minutes or until just wilted. Drain, squeezing out excess liquid. Set aside.

– Melt butter in a heavy ovenproof 10 inch skillet over medium high heat. Sauté potatoes and summer savory about 3 minutes or until potatoes are light brown. Stir in onions and sauté another 2 minutes.

– Combine remaining ingredients, except chard and cheese, in a bowl. Stir in chard and grated cheese. Pour over onion potato mixture.

– Cook over low heat about 10 minutes or until top is slightly runny and bottom is set. Place under broiler about 2 minutes until top is set and golden. Cut into wedges to serve.

– Serves 6

How easily happiness begins by dicing onions,

A lump of sweet butter slithers and swirls across the floor of the sauté pan, especially if its errant   path crosses a tiny slick of olive oil.

Then a tumble of onions.

                                                                                                        ONIONS, by William Mathews


Words of Welcome from John and Sally

Hi! And Welcome to all our membership …..new and old. There is a lot to be positive about with respect to the farm and the relationship between you and us that is about to unfold through this coming season. I will go off about that soon, but first I have to declare;

Field full of water
Field full of water

“THIS WEATHER STINKS.” Of course this sentiment seems to be on the tongues of everyone farmer and city dweller alike. The feeling exemplified with this statement is magnified because we are watching many of the plants which will nourish you, struggle with the cold and wet spring. A small percentage of them are succumbing as they sit under small lakes in the low spots of our fields. The newly planted outdoor tomatoes and peppers look like life is a cruel joke and the overwintering sweet onions and garlic are feeling extra disease pressure from all this wet when they would like to be drying out. The first planting of sweet corn gave up trying to germinate and just rotted in the ground. Without sun soon the strawberry fields will be pathos.  Now that we have got all that moroseness out of the way……better weather has got to be on the way. There are actually many crops that are loving this weather. All of leafy greens are looking and tasting great. Most of the root crops (carrots, beets, turnips, potatoes} are just enjoying this nice even tasty drink of water.

Starting last spring and continuing through the winter we have put almost an acre of new hoop houses. With our existing structures we are up to 29 in number, ranging from a few small 20X100 houses to many in the 30X200 range. In a spring like this one they are saving our collective butts. In them the hot weather crops are doing just fine. The tomatoes and cukes look really, really healthy. The peppers and eggplants are busting up fast. We also have a lot of salad mix / leafy greens crops planted in the hoops because they were the only place we could prepare an adequate seed bed when the planting schedule dictated we get them planted.

Above all I want to say to you the farm is teaming with life …..everything is green and clean ….there are people everywhere doing farming things……a few are new ….just enough of them to give us hybrid vigor……the packing shed has a big addition and the wash line is getting a major redo….the smells coming out of kitchen and wood fired oven brighten even the most gloomy day. In short it is time to “rock and roll” glad to have you along for the ride.

On a sad note….our beloved dog Sam died about a month ago.  Those of you who have been to the farm probably remember him for the fine greeter and tour leader he was …..a true gentleman dog.  On a happy note….today we welcomed into the farm family the sweetest little, yet to be named, golden lab puppy.

Welcome & Thanks,
John Eveland & Sally Brewer

We’d like to congratulate the winner of our CSA Survey dinner for two, Maria Wright,

And a big thank you for all of you who took the time to complete it, we received a lot of great and useful feedback. Thanks for helping us keep growing!

What’s in the box?

All Blue Potatoes (4.50)-new potatoes are best  steamed or fried
Turnips (3.00)-thinly slice into your salad
Collards (2.50)  -See recipe
Zucchini (1.25 )-first summer squash of the season! Prepare for lots more in the coming weeks
Bok Choy (2.50)-great in any stir fry, or chopped and mixed into any salad
Cilantro (2.00)-see recipe
Romaine or Green Leaf Lettuce (2.00)
Walla Walla Onions (2.50)
Spring Garlic (1.25)-you don’t even have to peel the individual cloves as the skin hasn’t hardened. You can also use the stem up to about an inch above the head.
Strawberries (3.50)
Market Value: 24.00$

Recipe Suggestions

Vegetarian Southern Collards

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch collard greens, chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil and butter.  Sauté the onions until slightly softened, about 2 minutes, then add the red pepper flakes and garlic, cook another minute.  Add collard greens and cook another minute.  Add the vegetable stock, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until greens are tender, about 40 minutes.  Add tomatoes and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

This is delicious as a side, or served over rice to make a meal.  If you are a meat eater, collards are excellent when set off by the flavor of bacon.  You can use this same recipe but first cook 3-4 strips of bacon sliced into one inch sections.  Cook your bacon first until it is brown around the edges, and then proceed to follow the original recipe, tomatoes optional.

Zucchini Fajitas with Cilantro Lime Sauce

makes four fajitas
4 corn tortillas
1 zucchini sliced into rounds
1 cup sliced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (add more for more heat)
1/2 cup sour crème
Juice of one lime
Hot sauce (if desired)
Bunch of cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Make the sauce first; mix sour crème with 1/2 the bunch chopped cilantro, lime juice,  a dash or two of hot sauce, the juice of one lime, and salt and pepper to taste.  Set in fridge to cool.

Sautée zucchini,  onions, and garlic with all the spices until cooked through.  Set tortillas on top of vegetables until warmed.

Divide sautéed vegetables among the tortillas, sprinkle fresh cilantro over and top with a dollop of your chilled sauce.

To make a full meal serve with rice and beans on the side flavored with cumin, cayenne, salt & pepper.

This sauce is great is also great for dipping alongside salsa with tortilla chips.

 

A little Madness in the Spring,
Is wholesome even for the King.
-Emily Dickenson (1830-1866)

CSA 2010 – Week 1: Springing In!

Well here we are again! Welcome, and Welcome! Winter has passed us by, and it’s late, soggy spring in the beautiful state of Oregon. I’d first of all like to thank you for choosing to be a part of our CSA, whether you are a returning member of many seasons, or if this is new to you, we are thrilled to have you along with us!

It’s amazing how fast the past twelve months have gone by. I’ve been working here at Gathering Together for just over a year now, and while some visible changes are clear (read: OZONATOR, and NEW BARN!), it’s the less obvious things that really make this whole operation go that have me floored. I’ve always been in love with the
idea of the simple life, and caring for the land, now I realize that it really ain’t all that simple.  I finished my Communications degree from OSU in December, and decided to prepare myself with a crash course in farming over the winter.  My sister Ivy and I took off for three months in Argentina, where we connected with two different farms through the WWOOF program (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).   Lots of work, but oh so rewarding. We’d lay down at the end of the day in our tent, bodies aching, and brains buzzing from thinking in Spanish, but so happy to be doing something new and different.

So, coming back and jumping in as a working piece of this farm has really made me appreciate the complexities that aren’t all that evident from our picturesque cover.  Aside from the hard work, sometimes seeds don’t sprout, sometimes it doesn’t stop raining and we can’t transplant, things don’t always go according to schedule.  But we push on! No need to remind you how wet and cold its been, because it’s been this way before.  In Oregon
you just put on another layer, and enjoy the lush greens of spring until the summer sun comes out.  That being said:  prepare to enjoy many-a-lush green from our fields until it gets a bit warmer, and sooner or later it will.

I feel so lucky to be here, and I can’t wait to start putting the names I’ve been seeing with real faces. We encourage anyone in the area, or just passing through to stop by the farm, and see firsthand what it’s all about.

Thanks again, and Happy eating!

Devon Sanders, CSA Coordinator Continue reading “CSA 2010 – Week 1: Springing In!”