September on the Farm – A Time of Transitions

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we go hard all summer long. We Oregonians know all too well that summer sits precariously in the year like an island amidst a sea of rainy days, and we must make the most of it. So we get lost in the heat of the season, trying to soak up every last ray of sunshine while the days are long, jumping into the river every chance we get, and eating our weight of the sweet summer fruits that we’ll soon miss so much. For us on the farm, summer is the time to, as they say, make hay while the sun shines.

But then the abundance of August gives way to September, and things begin to transition all around us. Summer produce begins its descent away from the apex of abundance, and the nights roll in with a chill that reminds us that our time on this summer island will not last forever.

Though most of us mourn summer’s decline, September really is a unique time of year when we still get to enjoy the last fruits of summer even as the fall harvest begins rolling in. Our greens that have taken a hiatus in the heat are now bursting forth with delicate new leaves, winter squash is ripening up on the vine, and the immense diversity of root vegetables that we grow are sizing up secretly beneath the earth.

Farming requires us to have our bodies in tune with the environment in a way that modern life has worked to distance us from, and to notice the cycles of transition by which we must abide. In this way life demands of us that we be present to experience it if we are to expect it to produce the abundant food that graces your plate.

There are hot times and there are cold times, times of abundance and times of famine, and even more times where the lines between these extremes are not so clear. The food in front of you today is an embodiment of transition, and the flavors to be experienced cannot be found at any other time of year or on any other place on the globe. It is regionality by the spoonful. Nowhere else at this moment will a poblano be developing its deep, mole flavor as it enters its chocolate-red state of ripeness, ready to be combined with a sweet and buttery delicata winter squash fresh from the vine. It is in these times of transition that we can literally taste summer ending while fall begins, all within a single bite. Eat up.

Best,
Laura Bennett

Tetsukabuto Squash

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We’d like to introduce you to the Tetsukabuto Squash, commonly called a Japanese pumpkin. Although we are now out of butternut, we have PLENTY of Tetsukabuto to go around. The nearly round, dark green fruit has a deep yellow flesh that is so sweet and nutty and smooth and creamy, it’s like custard. It is well-suited for any pumpkin or winter squash recipe, but is especially delicious simply baked and served by itself.

Get your own Tetsukabuto at any of the farmers’ markets we attend, or call us to make a special order.

Winter Squash

 Gathering Together Farm winter squash display at the Corvallis Farmers’ Market

 A version of this post was first published on Wayward Spark.

Gathering Together Farm grows (among other things) seven types of winter squash on about five acres of fertile ground. Planting, tending, harvesting, washing, packing, and delivering the bounty to market requires a lot of time and a lot of laboring, but the result is monumental and delicious. Their delicata squash crop alone yields about 20,000 pounds of fruit.

buttercup squash, kabocha squash

Squash varieties have been trialed and selected over the years based on several characteristics: yield, market demand, storage, and taste. An individual variety may rate well in regards to several traits but poorly with others. Pie pumpkins are in demand, but they don’t keep very well. Kabocha squash has a decent yield, stores fairly well, and is delicious, but people often aren’t very familiar with it and are sometimes intimidated by its relatively large size.

delicata squash

Delicata squash is a perpetual favorite. Perfect size. Perfect sweet smooth flavor. Easy to cut into. Easily blends into any autumnal recipe. GTF with our partners at Wild Garden Seed grow, save, and sell a farm-original, ‘Zeppelin’ variety of delicata. (You can read the whole story of how they managed to avoid seed contaminated with bitterness like so many other farms experienced a decade ago.)

The farm’s seed/irrigation/greenhouse manager Joelene has observed that winter squash will produce more vibrant vines and have a larger fruit set if they are direct seeded in the spring. The downside of this method is that a wet spring can delay planting, or an early frost can leave a whole crop of underripe squash sitting unharvested in the field. Transplanting young squash seedlings is a more reliable though somewhat less productive method employed by GTF.

acorn squash

Winter squash begins to ripen in September, but the main harvest starts in early October. The skins of the squash harden, and the vines yellow and eventually die back. Before the first frost, teams of laborers head out to the fields to clip the squash stems and later load the harvest into industrial onion bins (with a method similar to the watermelon toss seen here). Bins are trucked back to the farm packing and storage area where they will be washed, sorted, and wiped dry by more workers with the help of a conveyor-belt sprayer system. Squash that doesn’t meet high quality control standards is donated to the regional food bank or composted.

 butternut squash, ambercup squash

Squash will generally keep for several months if it is kept in a dry place at a consistant, cool temperature. At the farm, squash that isn’t sold shortly after harvest is stored in a large shipping container with a dehumidifier.

Gathering Together Farm sells squash in all of our farmers’ market booths, to restaurants and grocery stores in Corvallis and the Portland area, and at our Farm Stand. We also have a long-standing contract for many tons of butternut squash with Oregon-based distributor of organic produce, Organically Grown Company.

This year, GTF grew the following varieties of winter squash:

Butternut

Metro‘ from Johnny’s Selected Seed
‘JSW 6823’ from Johnny’s Selected Seed
Early Butternut‘ from Osborne Seed Company
Nutterbutter‘ from High Mowing Seed Company

 

Kabocha

Delica‘ from Osborne Seed Company
Sweet Mama‘ from Osborne Seed Company
Cha Cha‘ from Johnny’s Selected Seed
Sunshine‘ (orange) from Johnny’s Selected Seed

 

Buttercup

‘Bon Bon’ from Johnny’s Selected Seed

 

Acorn

Jet‘ from Johnny’s Selected Seed

 

Delicata

Zeppelin‘ from Wild Garden Seed

 ‘Marina Di Chioggia‘ from Johnny’s Selected Seed

Sweet Meat‘ from Territorial Seed Company

CSA 2011 – Week 17: More on Storing Vegetables!

It’s hard to believe, but melons are gone and squash is here! There will most likely be a winter squash in each box for the rest of the season. Provided below is more information on storing and keeping vegetables. These are storing tips from Johnny’s Seed catalog.

Vegetables that last…

1-2 months: Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, parsley, turnips, winter squash (acorn and delicata).
2-4 months: Leeks, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash (buttercup, hubbard, kabocha, and Spaghetti).
4 months plus: Beets, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, parsnips, dried hot peppers, potatoes, rutabagas, butternut squash.

Temperature and humidity play a big role in a vegetable’s ability to store. Here are some tips on how these vegetables store best below:

Cold and Humid: Beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, leeks, parsley, radishes, rutabagas, and turnips.
Cool and Humid: Potatoes.
Cold and Dry: Garlic and Onions (this is why these are best stored when dry in a paper bag, or a bag with holes; not plastic).
Cool and Dry: Pumpkins, winter squash.

Winter Squash Information:
Acorn: Last up to 3 months
Spaghetti Squash: Lasts up to 3 months
Delicata and similar types: Stores up to 4 months
Buttercup: Sweeter after storing for a few weeks; keeps up to 4 months
Kabocha: Gets sweeter when stored for a few weeks; green varieties keep from 4-5 months. Grey varieties will keep up to 6 months.
Butternut and Hubbard: Best a few weeks after harvest; will store up to 6 months.
All Squash stores best if it’s stem is still intact.

Squash Towels! Have any old towels laying around the house that need a new home? Bring them down to GTF! We are at the brink of a wonderful squash washing season and are in need of old towel donations for drying them. We’ll gladly take them off your hands!

What’s in the Box?

1.5 lb Potatoes (nicola)– Steam, roast, fry, mash; you can do just about anything with these!

Carrots, bunched – Shred them on salad, sauté in butter with salt, or eat plain.

2 onions (wallas)– Caramelize, eat raw sliced thin on sandwiches, or add to a slaw or potato salad.

1 bunch of scallions– Chop raw for salad, mix chopped green tops with cheese or eggs.

2 delicata squash– Roast with olive oil and salt, add onions, scallions, or even chopped peppers if you’d like.

1 bunch of red kale– Sauté in butter or olive oil and salt. (See recipe)

2 colored peppers- Grill, roast, or just eat raw; they are sweet.

1 bag baby onions – Cut them into quarters and add to vegetable roasts or sautés.

1 Cauliflower or Romanesco– Roast with olive oil and salt, top with cheese and scallions.

Red oak, cardinal, red Leaf, or green leaf lettuce- Make a salad, or add to sandwiches. Use to make lettuce wraps.

Tomatoes (approximately 2 lbs) – Chop raw on salad or sandwiches.

Roasted Cauliflower with cheese
1 large head or 2 small heads of cauliflower or Romanesco, cut into quarter size or larger pieces.
4 tablespoons of melted butter
Handful of baby onions(6 or so), cut in half and then sliced into quarters
1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion tops
Pinch of salt
1 cup of sourdough or whole grain bread crumbs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the cauliflower, onions, scallion tops, butter and salt together. Place in a baking pan or dish and in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is mostly cooked but not brown yet. Add the shredded cheese on top and continue roasting until the cheese melts and starts to bubble and turn a light shade of brown. Add the bread crumbs in with the cheese if you want bread crumbs. This dish is versatile and a variety of seasonings can be used in it, such as chile flakes, chopped peppers, tomatoes, or even parsley. Mix it up! Try new things!

Roasted Delicata Squash
Cut the squash in half. Remove the seeds (you can save these seeds and roast them for eating or dry them for planting). Cut the squash up into 1/2 inch pieces. Place in a baking pan or casserole dish with olive oil, some pieces of butter and salt. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, checking the squash and mixing it every 10 minutes or so. For a crispier, more caramelized flavor turn the oven on broil for about 3-5 minutes at the end. Keep a close eye on it, the squash will brown fast. I like to eat the skins of the delicata, they are not tough and have a good flavor. Try seasonings with minced garlic if you want! But it’s wonderful plain as well.

Dan the Man’s Red Kale Specialty
1 bunch red kale
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil

Cut the leaves of the kale off where they end. You can remove the stem part if it’s too thick for your liking. Chiffonade (cut very thinly) the leaves and combine all the ingredients into one bowl. Mix thoroughly and serve. You can let it sit for 15-20 minutes before serving if you like, the kale will seem more cooked if you do. Dan says this recipe is a great way to eat any type of kale and the two acids in the recipe are what actually cook the kale. It is also great leftover the next day, the kale is tender as if it had been lightly cooked. Adjust the ingredients to your liking. If you like more soy sauce and less rice vinegar try that, or add some raw minced garlic if you want.

Enjoy!

Late Fall CSA Box 2011

Cannot bear to think of what you are going to do when your vegetable boxes end? Fret no longer…

We are offering a late fall CSA! These boxes will be perfect for those of you who love root crops such as carrots, beets, turnips, celeriac, parsnips and potatoes! It will also include winter greens: kale, collards, chard, bok choy, and cabbage. Winter squash, leeks, and onions will be included in these boxes as well, along with a bag of salad mix every week!

We will be able to offer 2 pickup sites on Saturdays only:

1) Portland Saturday Market
2) the GTF Farm
We may be able to add another pickup location in Corvallis if someone has a nice sheltered garage or space by their house that they could offer.
It will run for 4 weeks, from November 19th-December 10th, $100 for 4 weeks.