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.

 

CSA 2010 – Week 6: Tomato Rising

The plants will be more than double overhead by this time next week, and it will require someone taller than our compact innovator Rodrigo Garcia to continue the highly laborious process of pruning and training the tomatoes as they continue on their upward journey. The knowledge and labor that holds these plants up isn’t outwardly apparent, but what is obvious is the feeling that you get when you first walk into one of our tomato houses. The space here is being completely utilized, heat radiates between the rows of tomatoes that stretch from wall to wall, and from floor to ceiling of the hoop house. If you’ve ever seen a tomato plant before then, your second thought is that these burly plants do not look the same as your run of the mill backyard tomatoes, and they’re not. Oh no, these are super tomatoes. Before working with them, I’d never given much consideration to the fact that there is more than one way to grow an organic tomato. Isn’t it all just cultivate soil, transplant, stake, prune, and harvest? Wrong again. It turns out that in order to grow super tomatoes, you have to provide some super attention.

Back in early January, seeds went in for heirloom varieties with names like Pink Beauties, Black Cherokee, Brandywine, and Japanese Black Trifle. Heirloom seeds mean that they come from open pollinated varieties,  and that the seeds are saved for generations because the fruit had traits that the grower deemed valuable. Unfortunately many of the heirloom plants themselves are fragile, and vulnerable to diseases, meaning that often they under produce or die off before they have a chance. To combat this, in the last few years, Jolene, Paula, and Sara  (our dedicated greenhouse women) have taken on the challenge of grafting tomato plants. That means taking the bottom half (the rootstalk) of a hearty strong tomato, and more or less fusing it with the top cutting of an heirloom plant. After considerable healing, and seriously special care, by  early April the new bionic version is ready to move outside.  These ultra- exotic varieties are even more beautiful than their names, but for now most of our heirlooms are still hanging green on their sinuous skyward twisting vines. So why exactly is there a gain in all this work, why train tomatoes how to climb, and just how do you do it?

Last Thursday I worked with Rodrigo and some of the crew in one of our tomato houses doing some hands on learning about the process that will produce some of the most plentiful and best tomatoes that we’ve ever grown at the farm. By the time that they reach the tomato houses these plants have already been seeded, weeded, watered, grafted, and transplanted with the utmost care. Over the last 10 years we’ve been moving away from growing our tomatoes in the  conventional manner, but during the 17 years that he has worked on the farm Rodrigo has amassed considerable knowledge regarding how to maximize tomato production. As we made our way down the first row he took great care to show me the difference between the thick main tomato stalk (which is what we train to grow ever higher), and so called “sucker” offshoots that grow out of the joints in the plant. These suckers are aptly named; every bit of new plant growth takes energy, and these suckers will just continue to draw fuel until they grow to be just as large as the main stalk. The problem is not that they grow and grow, but that they don’t produce much fruit, and in the process they take massive amounts of energy away from more productive growth such as fruit ripening.  You also have your fruit producing branches, which will unfurl and open into blossoms, and if all goes well mature into fully grown tomatoes. And finally there are leaf branches, which are just what they sound like, these are necessary to shade and protect the tomatoes as they ripen.

Once you get the hang of identifying the difference between all the different types of branches, it’s still an enormous amount of work to keep these plants pruned. Once the weather gets warm, and they really start to grow, it is necessary to go through and cut back the suckers on each plant once a week, every week for a span of about four months. Not only do they need constant pruning as they flourish, but it is also necessary to routinely wrap a guide rope that hangs from the ceiling around the main stem to help it grow straight and tall. If you’re like me, you may be beginning to wonder how all this work can be possibly be worth it… Luckily it is also the part that Rodrigo is rightfully the most proud of; Where one plant grown under different circumstances would produce about 20 pounds of fruit. One of Rodrigo’s specially grown tomatoes plants yields closer to 100 pounds of fruit per plant. I imagined how many acres we would have to plant with tomatoes to get the same yield if we didn’t grow them like we do…..and then I realized once again, that thankfully there is always more than one way of making something work.

Devon Sanders, CSA Coordinator

What’s in the box?

  • Siletz Tomato – Your first of the season,  and the inspiration for this weeks newsletter, woo-hoo!
  • 1.5 lbs Yellow Potatos
  • 2 Cucumber – see recipe
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce – Red leaf
  • 2 lbs Fava beans – did you eat your first ones? A reprint on how to cook these is included.
  • Baby Onions – great for grilling, or shish kabobs
  • Broccoli
  • 2 Zucchini
  • Summer Squash – you should have one of either the cocozella (a long striped green variety), magda (pale green, and eggplant shaped), yellow crook neck, yellow patty pan (resembles a space ship), or zapallito (a round green variety)
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Garlic
  • Fennel – slice thinly and enjoy raw,  add to soups, or  bake whole in the oven. The greens can be eaten also, they make a great flavor or color addition to pastas, salads, potatoes or eggs

Tzatziki Sauce

This tzatziki sauce is an easy take on the classic Greek sauce, you can use real Greek yogurt if you like, but I always just make it with the ever present Nancy’s plain yogurt that I have in my fridge. This sauce is great pared with curry, falafel, or rolled into pita style bread with a salad of cubed tomato, cucumber, and onion. I have estimated amounts, but mostly I just taste as I go until texture, and flavor suit me, I suggest you do the same.

2-3 cups of plain yogurt
2-3 tablespoons  of lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cucumber, also finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Put yogurt, and lemon juice in a bowl and mix together. Wash and finely chop cucumber and cloves of garlic and add to yogurt. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you don’t use this all at once it will keep well for several days if you cover it in the fridge.

Baby Onion & Summer Squash Kabobs

It’s finally sunny, which means time to roll out the BBQ again! Over the weekend I made some delicious kabobs for a fourth of July party. If you eat meat , you can add steak, chicken, or fish, the marinade works for all three.

Remember when making kabobs to pre-soak your wooden sticks in water, this will prevent them from burning when you put them on the grill.

Marinade:

1-2 cups water
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Soy sauce
1/2 cup Lemon juice
3 crushed garlic cloves
1 tablespoon of crushed ginger
A handful or so of chopped onion tops

Mix together thoroughly your marinade ingredients in a long shallow pan. Your container needs to be long enough and deep enough to partially submerge your kabob skewers in.

Slice summer squash into 1 inch size pieces, and cut the tops off of your baby onions. Skewer pieces (adding meat if you like), and let marinate for at least an hour before grilling. Once on the hot grill, they should only take 6 minutes or so on either side. Enjoy!

Fava Beans

Fava beans have a delicious buttery texture and lovely nutty taste. Although they require a bit more work to prepare, take the time to try this old world favorite.

When preparing fava beans you need to first remove the beans from the pod. After you have shucked your beans, dispose of the pods and start a pan of water boiling so that you can  boil the beans to make removal of the outer shell easier. Most people choose to remove the outer shell of the Fava bean before they eat them. So after 5 minutes or so of boiling, let your beans cool, or run them under cold water so you can remove the shell. Fava beans have what looks like a little seam on one side of the bean. Make a slit with your fingernail in the seam at one end of the bean and then squeeze the bean out. It should pop right out of the skin.  The boiled  beans should be bright green and are now ready to use in any recipe.

Suggestions: A cold pasta salad, with fava beans, parmesan, lemon juice, diced garlic, parsley, oil, salt and pepper.

Thicker than Water?

Monday the 21st was summer solstice, the first day of summer, and the longest day of the year. It seems hard to believe because it just doesn’t feel like it should be the end of June.  I checked out the official NOAA website and they confirmed what we can all feel, precipitation totals are well above normal. All this wet has me thinking about how much of our bodies, and how much of what we consume is water. We know that drinking contaminated water (even in small amounts) can have lasting harmful or deadly effects on humans. Our bodies are largely water, and so are many of the foods that we eat. It seems that we often  deceive ourselves into thinking that we are something stronger or greater than our chemical components. I wonder why we are not more cautious overall about the purity of all the water that surrounds us, because it directly feeds the seeds that will become us.

In your box this week, you have Cucumbers (95% water),  Carrots (84%  water) Lettuce (96% water) and strawberries (90% water), and a handful of other water dense vegetables…You’ll take these home to eat, and they will become a part of the water that makes up 60 % your body, and 83% of your blood. These vegetables are fed by the soil, air and water. Soil itself is 25% water the (rest is composed of 45% mineral material, 5% organic material, and 25% air) . We can greatly alter how a plant grows by boosting the minerals in the soil by using fertilizers, mainly nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It makes sense that people would need a type of fertilizer to grow also, but we don’t because we get everything we need from the plants we eat, and plants take everything in from their environment. Plants do all of the work to process the basic elements of life and make them available to us. But what about when our plants are feeding from an environment that has lingering chemicals left by pesticides or herbicides?

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the USA; but you may recognize it by its other name, Roundup. While it’s claimed that Roundup becomes inactive quickly in the soil, a study in the Ecologist found that it is more accurate to say that it is usually absorbed into the different components in the soil (water, mineral, organic, and air). That means it’s still active. So active that glyphosate residues have been found in lettuce, carrots, and barley that were planted a year after the field was treated. A different article in the journal, Environmental Pollution, showed that glyphosate also leaches through the soils; so the molecules may be potential contaminants of groundwater.

This brings us back to the idea of water purity. Now I know I’m preaching to the converted, but even if you go out of your way to eat organic produce, if your neighbor, or farmer across town uses a glyphosate based herbicide, the odds are it will slowly make its way into our soil and groundwater. When you eat vegetables that have grown from soil & water that have been exposed, do we really have any idea what the long term effects are?

Naturalist John Muir once said,  “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”.  And that seems to be the case with the water system. Maybe the unusual amount of rain we are having this year is connected to a greater issue. Either way, the water that keeps falling down on us is the same water that keeps your cucumber crunchy, it’s the same water that is rising out of the ground, and running into our rivers; it’s the same water that is circulating through your body.  Nothing is separate from everything else, and we ourselves are, no thicker than water.

Devon Sanders, CSA Coordinator

What’s in the box?

Fingerling Potatoes— 4.50$ (these are real gems, bake and enjoy with butter.)

Garlic Scapes—2.00$ (see recipe)

Fava Beans—3.00$(see recipe)

Basil—2.00$

Black Kale—2.00$

Cucumber—1.50$

Carrots—3.00$

Lettuce—2.00$

Walla Walla Onion—1.50$

Radishes—2.25$

Strawberries—3.00$

If you were shopping at the market, this box would cost—26.75$

Recipe Suggestions

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 bunch garlic scapes
1 tablespoon of  lemon juice
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
enough extra virgin olive oil to blend smoothly
coarse salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Blend garlic scapes, parmesan cheese, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Slowly drizzle in the oil with the motor running, and blend until smooth. Add a little more oil if you like yours a little looser, Taste and add coarse salt and pepper as needed. Mix this into your pasta,  use for a dip, or spread.

Fava Beans

Fava beans have a delicious buttery texture and lovely nutty taste. Although the require a bit more work to prepare, take the time to try this old world favorite. When preparing fava beans you need to first remove the beans from the pod. After you have shucked your beans, dispose of the pods and start a pan of water boiling so that you can partially boil the beans to make removal of the outer shell easier. Fava beans have a outer shell that needs to be removed before you eat them. Boil the beans until they turn bright green (about a minute or so), then remove them, run them under cold water until they are cool enough to touch. Now you need to remove the skin surrounding each bean. Fava beans have what looks like a little seam on one side of the bean. Make a slit in the seam at one end of the bean and then squeeze the bean out. It should pop right out of the skin.  Then the beans are ready to use in any recipe.

1.5 cups shelled fava beans (roughly 1.5 pounds unshelled)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic chopped finely
salt & pepper to taste

In a skillet on medium heat, add oil and garlic and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Add fava beans and sautee for 7– 10 minutes, or until they are done to your preference. Add salt and pepper to taste, and these beans are ready to eat!           Good ideas include an Italian inspired cold salad with goat cheese, olive oil, lemon juice , and parsley.

Or throw your cooked beans in a food processor with lemon, garlic, and olive oil and spread them on a piece of toasted French bread. Yummy!

Black Kale Salad

1 bunch of black kale
Several baby onions, thinly sliced
A handful of pitted kalamata olives, chopped or ripped into quarters
1/4 cup of feta cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of grey poupon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash your kale and remove the bottom stalk.  Chop the rest into 1 inch sections and put into a large bowl.  Chop onions and kalamata olives and add to the kale.  In a separate bowl mix or whisk the mustard and olive oil together until they are emulsified, pour mixture over the kale, olives and onions.  Coat kale leaves completely with the dressing,  then and add feta cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.

This salad is best when you make it in at least 6 hours in advance, so that as the kale wilts, it absorbs the dressing. This makes it more tender and easier to eat.