Monday, October 2, 2017

News from your farmers-- long overdue!

Birch Point Farm Occasional Newsletter: CSA week 16: Share Items and Recipes, Fall Farm Party (Oct 15), Fall-Winter CSA and Preserving Shares

These many weeks have come and gone; and we've so very much enjoyed growing food for you this season!  We're not done yet; just wanted to acknowledge that I know it's been a good long while since the  last newsletter.    I do hope y'all have been enjoying the summer bounty!  With the recent weeks' weather, I wasn't convinced that it was fall, BUT we've been putting together essentially "soup shares" the past couple of weeks, since we're due for some good soup weather :) And it's always (so far) good cherry tomato snacking weather!

In Your Share This Week:

Potatoes,  either white skinned/white fleshed Superior, an early tasty big multipurpose workhorse variety (read: productive!), or Red Gold (pink skin, yellow flesh, perfect littlemultipurpose spud), or perhaps Ama Rosa, the pink inside-and-out fingerling, or Adirondack Blue, the purple inside-and-out small fryer/baker.  Or a mix! potato tip: even though "floury" textured spuds are traditionally baked, and "waxy" textured spuds are typically fried, you can certainly roast or boil anything, and with a little salt and/or butter/olive oil and/or fresh parsley, it doesn't really matter how you prepare them.  'Potatoes are yum!' -Rudy

Turnips, either Hakurei (white Japanese "salad" turnips) or Scarlet Queen (red inside and out).  On the turnip spectrum, with the old fashioned purple-tops as a reference, Scarlet Queens are milder and more tender than purple-tops, and Hakureis are much more mild and even tenderer-- we enjoy them raw (slice, sprinkle with salt or not, dip or not, enjoy like carrot sticks, or grate/slice onto salads) OR roasted like potatoes or made into turnip soup.

Sweet Onions-- Ailsa Craigs, our favorite sweet onion variety.  This year I ordered plants for most of our alliums, instead of starting them from seed in our greenhouse as in the past.  I'm happy with their production (and the rain didn't hurt either!), so I think we'll do that again in the future, rather than heat the greenhouse for an entire month just for onions (the earliest seeds we typically sow in trays in the greenhouse, often as early as February!) and come out ahead by the savings on greenhouse propane, even though plants cost more than seed.

Leeks! the first few weeks of leek harvest of the season, and I have to say, they are looking lovely. Leeks are totally interchangeable with onions in recipes, though the flavor and texture is slightly different. Contrary to what some people would have you believe, the green part is totally edible and useable; I've never understood why it got the reputation of being inedible!    This week's share was loosely intended to be a "soup" share, and potato-leek was on my mind. See below for recipe.

Winter Squash-- we've officially crossed the threshold from summer (zucchini, pattypan, etc) to winter (acorn, delicata, dumpling, buttercup, etc) squash.   Those summer (soft skin, fresh-eating) squash plants cranked out so much food this summer that if you're like us, you're not sorry to see them go, but the winter (long storing, hard skinned) squash plants are holding their own, having produced loads of sweeties to enjoy now and right through winter.  This or next week we'll do the big squash harvest, bringing everything into the greenhouse to "cure," or develop a hard shell, to maximize storage life.  If you haven't already done so, you can join the fall-winter CSA (8 weeks of fresh and storage crops, from November through December) for even more squash!  Different varieties develop their best flavor after various curing/storage times, so we're enjoying the "early" varieties now but will see even more diversity later in the fall/winter.

Swiss Chard, Collard Greens, or Kale "No one can imagine a CSA without kale." - David Hambledon, CSA farmer in NY, at a conference I attended many years ago.  I would add "or collard greens, Swiss chard, or bok choi."  Vitamin- and mineral-packed greens are really the heart and soul of the farm-fresh veggie revolution.  Careful, you may end up with super powers.  If you're ever at a loss for what to do with cooking greens, see below for "greens patties" recipe.

Cherry tomatoes-so many cherry tomatoes!!!  Preserving Shares Available if you are the kind of person who likes to roast and freeze cherry tomatoes (our favorite tomato preservation method).

Heirloom Tomatoes- so many varieties.. my favorites include Crnkovic Yugoslavian, Paul Robeson, Japanese Trifele, and Nepal.  Kelly's favorite is Aunt Ruby's German Green.  Just ask if you want help identifying the lovely beauties in your share! Each one has a story, and each has a unique flavor, texture, and appearance.  Preserving shares also available for lugs of cherry tomatoes OR big  heirlooms ($40 per crate, approx. 1/2-bushel,  for CSA members).

Lettuce- is back by popular demand (and by the good graces of the deer).  This week you'll get a couple different red and/or green varieties, perhaps classic red leaf, green romaine, red or green summer crisp (which is in between a "leaf" variety and an '"iceberg" variety, but with more character and flavor than an iceberg), or red butterhead.

Herbs- parsley, thyme, sage, or oregano.  If you're ever overwhelmed by fresh herbs, here are two suggestions: 1. "Parsley" Potatoes (sub ANY herb for parsley! equally delicious and different!): Boil or roast plenty of cubed potatoes, toss with a generous amount of olive oil and/or butter and/or heavy cream and/or plain yogurt and/or sour cream (i.e. some type of fat; your choice- try them all over time).  Coarsely chop a generous handful of fresh herbs-- less of the more pungent types like sage, more of the mellower types like parsley.  Use a mix or only one type of herb, up to you. Toss with hot potatoes, salt generously and pepper a bit,  serve and eat immediately. 2. Hang up in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight; when dry, strip/crumble into a jar for winter potatoes/soup/popcorn (yep for real: popcorn with butter or coconut oil or olive oil, with salt AND crumbled dry sage or crumbled dry hyssop or thyme is one of our favorite winter treats)

1. Birch Point Fall Potluck and Cider Pressing Party Sunday, October 15, 2017 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Please join us at the farm for an afternoon "snackluck"  -bring snacks to share, apples and a jug if you like (to take home fresh-pressed cider-- optional; there will be fresh cider to enjoy on site, and part of the fun of a cider party is the "stone soup" aspect of it-- the more different types of apples that go into it, the better the flavor, and the more we can make. So stop by your favorite feral roadside/old field apple tree, pick a few or a lot, and bring them over). 
Farm tours, chicken hide-and-seek, yard games, and all-ages conviviality-- all are welcome; bring your family and/or a friend.

2. Fall/Winter CSA shares- a few spaces remain in our 8-week Fall/Winter CSA. Starts the first Saturday of November and runs eight weeks. $250 for a weekly box of fresh greens, root veggies, squash, onions and other "storage" crops, fresh and dried herbs, and possibly apples and/or chestnuts.  Pick up every Saturday at the indoor farmers market at The Commons in TC.  Please email/call for details.

3. Preserving Shares- Half-bushels of mixed heirloom tomatoes ($40) and 1-lb bags of basil ($10)available by request, while supplies last and weather permits.  These are not "canning" or "paste" tomatoes necessarily, though there are a few in the mix. I recommend slicing, roasting, and freezing heirloom tomatoes for a lovely burst of summer in the dark winter months.

4. The End is Near-- the end of main season CSA, that is. :(  Hard to believe the season has gone by so very quickly.  We are going to run almost to the end of October this year!  The weather is still lovely, and crops look good (they probably look good to the deer, too, so fingers crossed for continued availability of greens from the field).  The final pickup dates will be Saturday October 21, Tues. Oct. 24, and Wed. Oct. 25.  That will give us an almost-one-week break between main-season and Fall-Winter CSA, but don't worry, the final week will be an extra-large share, so you should have plenty of veg through the first week of November!  We're mainly taking the mini-break to start putting the farm to bed for the winter, clean up, re-cover the old hoophouse (stay tuned for a plastic-pulling party invitation), and get ready for winter market season.

5. Thanksgiving Shares -- Sign up for a one-time box of fall bounty!  $40 gets you $45-50 worth of mixed veggies the Saturday before Thanksgiving- pick up at our stall at the indoor market.   And/or consider donating a Thanksgiving share (or partial share, as your budgets permits) to the Goodwill Inn for their Thanksgiving meal.   Birch Point Farm typically donates several shares worth of veggies for Thanksgiving; you can make our delivery even more meaningful (bigger) by underwriting one or more shares for the Inn.  You write a check to Birch Point Farm; we harvest and deliver the food.   Email or call to sign up!


Greens Patties, or "Leafburgers"
1 bunch (or so) of leafy greens, chopped finely and massaged in a bowl with coarse salt for 5min, to reduce volume and release moisture, stems optional but also chopped finely
1 med onion, chopped
1-4 cloves garlic, minced
handful of fresh herbs of your choice, chopped. Faves include parsley, thyme, sage, or savory.
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes OR 1 fresh jalapeno, chopped (optional as always)
1 c. flour or fine cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs (or 1 if that's all you have; not critical the exact amount)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together WELL.  The egg and flour are just binders to keep the greens intact once you form them into patties.  You can choose to use more or less egg/flour mixture, depending on your household's greens affinity level.  More egg/flour = more typical savory "pancake." Less egg/flour mixture = more hippy green experience.  Once the greens are thoroughly coated with egg/flour mixture, regardless of how much you use, form the soggy but solid mixture into patties about the size of a typical burger.  Heat a generous amount of olive oil or coconut oil over medium heat in a skillet or flat bottomed wok.  Gently place a few patties into the hot oil and fry til browned on the edges. Flip and fry til brown on the other side. Check center to be sure egg is thoroughly cooked, and serve immediately or keep warm in oven while frying the rest of the patties.  Extra tang: serve with lemon juice-yogurt or lemon juice-tahini dressing.

Potato-Leek Soup lifted from
MF note: this is all approximate amounts.  Keep in mind that if you prefer thicker or thinner soup, adjust liquid accordingly.  If you prefer more salt/cheese/herbs, do it (I would).  The approximate ratios of solids to liquids is a great starting point, but don't worry about exact amounts for soup!  Also, these directions yield a chunky soup, but if you have an immersion blender, this is a great time for it, either thoroughly blending or just partially blending the finished product.

2 tablespoons butter, or more if needed 

  1. Melt butter in a pot over medium heat. Cook and stir leeks and onion until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir potatoes and broth into onion mixture; simmer until potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Pour half-and-half into potato soup and continue to simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes more.
  4. Stir Cheddar cheese, parsley, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper into soup until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017 CSA Weeks 1-3, rolled into one blog

Summer is here!  CSA is well underway; the nighttime air temperatures have warmed up, the lake temperatures are still rising, and the fields are full of beautiful, tasty vegetables for you.  Thanks for reading this little blog; please "follow" or check back weekly for CSA share items, farm news, and occasional photos.

What's In Your Share This Week?  Stir-fry time!
Bok Choi- tender, little heads of this versatile Asian veggie.  You probably know choi is wonderful in stir-fry, kimchi, spring rolls, and soup. Have you tried it as a slaw?  See below for recipe suggestion.

Spinach- we have had a great spinach harvest this year. The unusually consistent rains and cooler temps (up til now) have kept this cool-weather crop happy and productive.  It's not many years we get to include beautiful spinach in shares for three solid weeks in the summer.  Normally by now, hot temps and dry conditions cause the spinach plants to bolt, or send up flowering stalks, and at that point they stop producing new leaves and start to taste bitter, so this has been a great run.  Hope you've enjoyed it raw OR cooked, as salad, on pizza, in omelets, wrap/sandwich greenery, etc.

Scallions- the first of these little beauties.  Please use the whole thing!  I'm mystified about where the idea of not using the green part came from-- eat it; it's delicious!  We mainly enjoy scallions sliced fresh and sprinkled onto anything, but hard core onion lovers will trim the roots and dip the ends in salt for a pungent, raw treat.

the very first CUCUMBERS of the season! Just a taste of classic green slicers OR little round lemon cucumbers.  These young sweeties came from the trellised plants inside the hoophouse;  field-grown cuke plants are looking good, but harvest is still a few weeks out.

Garlic Scapes-- they keep coming!  Next week may be the first "true" garlic week, i.e. young bulbs rather than the flowering stems --the scapes-- but for now, enjoy this comical twist on a familiar flavor.  We like to think of garlic scapes as vegetables rather than seasoning (though they are completely interchangeable with garlic cloves in recipes, 1:1 by volume, roughly).  My favorite way to prepare them is to toss whole scapes with olive oil and salt and pepper whenever the grill or oven is already fired up, and grill or roast them til blackened on the edges, and creamy-soft inside.  Basically, any way you'd prepare asparagus applies to scapes!  For true garlic lovers, scape pesto (pesto made with scapes and only scapes, no basil!) is to die for. Holler if you'd like a bulk quantity for your freezer.

Pea shoots-- this fresh, tender treat is so delicious to munch right out of hand that they may not even make it home.  Baby pea plants, or sprouts, are grown in trays in the greenhouse, then cut like sunflower sprouts or baby salad, to be tossed with your salad, sprinkled on top of any vegetable or protein, or even cooked. They're so tender that cooking should really just be heating slightly, as they will melt in your pan on high heat, but they're excellent with soft, sautéed garlic or garlic scapes-- as much garlic as you can stand, tossed with as many pea shoots as you've got. We'll include these with shares periodically- even though there's not much "food" there, they are tasty and fun, AND one of the few green things our 2-year-old is excited about (the other is peas themselves-- which have gotten munched several times by rabbits; I HOPE we get at least one good harvest for you, but not counting on much yet).

Hakurei Turnips-- the "gateway variety" for turnip-wary folks, these are so tender, so buttery, and so mild that we normally eat them raw (sliced or grated onto salad, sliced for a crudité tray, or out of hand like an apple).  However, they are of course delicious roasted or stir-fried.  Don't forget the greens!! Turnip greens are a vegetable unto themselves. Later in the season you'll see turnip greens that will put these to shame, in terms of size and robustness, but Hakurei greens are as good a way to ease into turnip greens as the roots are to ease into turnips. Chopped and sauteed quickly with onions or garlic, sprinkled with hot pepper vinegar and/or lemon juice, they go down easy.

Tuesday, July 4, pickup is STILL ON, as usual, tomorrow.  If you need to reschedule due to the holiday, please call or email ASAP.  Options include picking up on farm any time after Tuesday (call/email to arrange a time), Wednesday afternoon at The Little Fleet, or next Saturday (in which case you'll get a share Saturday and the following Tuesday, but none this week).
     Saturday shares will once again be down at the alternate cherry fest market location-- the Old Town parking deck on Eighth St.
     Wednesday Little Fleet shares--  please remember to return the previous week's empty box when you come to pick up your share. Leave empty boxes where you find your full box; we'll pick them up Thurs. a.m.  If you have a stash of boxes at your house from past seasons, please bring them to our stall at market or to the farm-- we will put them to use; thanks!

2. Asparagus to Zucchini cookbooks are available-- recipes arranged by vegetable name, rather than dish type, this book was compiled by and for CSA members and farmers' market customers, and it includes several recipes featuring each kind of veggie, as well as storage and nutrition info.  It's published by the Fair Share CSA Coalition in Madison, WI, an organization dedicated to supporting and promoting CSA and education on agriculture, health, and nutrition.  $17 for CSA members. 

This Week's Featured Farmer Bio: Christina Barkel
     I grew up in metro Detroit and have lived in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ferndale and now Traverse City. I became interested in sustainable agriculture while getting my degree at the University of Michigan, where I learned about the intersections between social justice, food sovereignty and environmental issues. Plus, I quickly figured out that the best food comes from local farms! My first farm job was at Frog Holler Farm in Brooklyn, MI and I've been farming in some form or another ever since.

     2017 is my 4th season farming at Birch Point. My love for the land and creating tangible change motivates me year after year - there is nothing like standing in the back garden on a beautiful breezy day, looking at the garden bed you've just weeded while eating a fresh bean or green from the field. Getting to know our CSA members and market customers is also something I enjoy - I love learning new recipes and swapping stories about food and gardening.  Dragging irrigation hoses and harvesting summer squash, on the other hand, are tasks I could live without. My favorite vegetables to grow are peas and garlic, and I live for strawberry season. When I'm not farming I like knitting, swimming, biking and drinking tea. 

     What I ate for dinner last night: Palak Chana (or, how to use up all the greens in your CSA share at once and the leftover greens from last week too)

Field Notes
guest written by Christina this week!
     We are really excited about the great start our cucumber, summer squash, winter squash and melon transplants got a few weeks ago. We rented a plastic layer from Michelle Shackelford of Leelanau Specialty Cut Flowers - this magical tractor implement forms a garden bed, lays down irrigation line and black plastic mulch all at the same time. With the rain we got the previous week and some chunky soils we had a little bit of a challenge getting everything working smoothly, but in the end it all came together and now we have beautiful rows of plants all tucked in and covered (to protect against squash bugs). Time to grow up little ones!

     We also spent time pounding posts and tying trellis lines in our tomato hoop house. The challenge is getting the lines as tight as possible while you're tying - the tomato plants get huge and need all the support they can get.

     Finally, we spent lots of time the past few weeks week cultivating as many garden beds as we could.  The heat and rain made the weeds spring up all at once, or so it seemed anyway. We got as much work done as we could so we could go on our first farm crew field trip of the year - to the movies to see Wonder Woman! We have an all-female crew this year and the beginning of this movie (if you haven't seen it, it takes place on an island paradise where strong amazing women train to be warriors) is basically your typical day on the farm.
Our manual manure spreader, AND a gorgeous swarm of honeybees that our beekeeper Greg caught and housed in a new hive in the back field!

Asian-ish Slaw:
1 lg or 2 small heads Bok Choi, chopped thinly
1 carrot, grated or julienned
1 small onion, sliced, or 3-5 scallions, sliced
3-4 garlic scapes or 4-6 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 knob fresh ginger, minced or grated
a handful of radishes or turnips, sliced or julienned
1/2 c. toasted sesame oil
1/2 c. rice vinegar, white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1/2 cup toasted nuts or seeds- I like sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped peanuts, or slivered almonds
red pepper flakes, ground cayenne, or fresh hot chiles, sliced or minced- to taste
cooked/soaked/drained rice noodles (follow direction on package), in whatever ratio you prefer (1:1 noodles:slaw makes a nice lunch, or fewer noodles makes a salad with that much more interest)

Toss everything together, taste, add more tamari or salt if necessary, more spice if you like, or a little more oil or vinegar to dress everything well if necessary.
Bonus: top with fresh pea shoots to serve!

Christina's Favorite Greens: Palak Chana

1 large bowlful greens (this could be 2 bunches of kale or chard, a big bag of spinach or beet greens, spicy salad mix, or some combination of all of the above)
1 chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
1-inch knob fresh ginger 
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
1 dash cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons yogurt
1/2 cup tomato sauce or 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups cooked chickpeas 
juice of 1 lemon
a dash of heavy cream or 3-4 tablespoons butter

1. strip greens from stems if using kale or chard, and tear into rough pieces. wash greens by swishing them around in a big bowl of water, then lifting them out. dump the water and return greens to the bowl. 

2. heat enough water to cover the greens to boiling, then pour over the greens. stir for a minute or two, until the greens wilt and turn bright green. drain the greens, return to the bowl and cover with cold water. this blanches them for use later in the recipe.

3. meanwhile, heat the cooking oil of your choice (ghee or coconut oil would be good picks here) in a heavy-bottomed, deep pan. add the onion and fry for a few minutes, until it turns translucent. 

4. add the ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, for two or three minutes. then add your spices and cook for a minute, or until they deepen in color and become fragrant. be careful not to burn them.

5. add the tomato sauce and stir, be sure to scrap up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. let the sauce come to a simmer and then turn down the heat. Add the yogurt, one tablespoon at a time, and stir.

6. add your blanched greens along with a tablespoon or two of water, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. 

7. transfer half of the mixture to a blend or food processor, and process until smooth. if you have an immersion blender, even better! just blend to your desired consistency. I like mine smoother so I usually blend it all.

8. return mixture to the pan and add the chickpeas, butter or cream, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. let simmer for 10 more minutes. 

9. serve over rice or noodles along with yogurt, pickles or fresh radishes.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

BPF CSA Week 13: the lusciousness of life

This week: Semi-Asian Invasion (see "In Your Share This Week"), The Pig Project (pork shares available), Volunteer opportunities (see "Announcements")

In Your Share This Week:

Beautiful Bok Choi-the most elegant and versatile of Asian greens- use in a stirfry, sliced thinly inside eggrolls, tossed into a slaw (see my perennial favorite Asian-ish slaw recipe, below), or just eaten raw/plain- seriously, the crunchy, curved stalks make great dippers for just about anything- try Bob's Amazing Tofu Spread (watch this video of our pals Seth, May, and Bob waxing rapturous about tofu and local veg- the actual recipe is below).
When faced with a new Asian green, my go-to approach is a simple stirfry with onion and/or garlic, fresh ginger, red pepper flakes (or fresh hot chiles if they are in season), finished with a dressing of toasted sesame oil, tamari or soy sauce, and rice vinegar, and tossed with sesame seeds and/or toasted sunflower seeds. Add fried bits of protein of your choice, serve with rice or noodles, and voila! (remember the voila- very important)

Various Eggplant- everyone's familiar with the oblong purple ones, but have you tried Apple Green, Rosa Bianca, or the long, skinny Asian varieties? All are interchangeable in recipes; all are delicious. Yes, delicious- even if you are eggplant-averse, try this super simple approach: slice into 1/2" rounds (whatever size eggplant you've got, doesn't matter the diameter), spread on an olive-oiled baking sheet in a single layer, drizzle/brush on more olive oil than seems reasonable (they are sponges; don't hold back!), more salt than you think you'll like, and roast in the oven at 375 or so (whatever temp you're already baking anything at is fine, as long as it's over 350), for 30-60 min, CHECK for doneness. Doneness= brown crispy edges, soft spoonable insides. Then eat it as is; careful don't burn your tongue, OR mash onto a piece of toast with a little feta or goat cheese and a slice of tomato OR single lettuce/kale/arugula leaf. Then come back and tell me you don't like eggplant. I dare you ;)

MELONS! Watermelons OR muskmelon-style- you may get red, orange, yellow, or salmon-fleshed watermelon, OR orange or green-fleshed muskmelons. The green muskmelons aren't truly muskmelons at all; they are a galia, or tropical, melon called Diplomat; they look like honeydew, and taste every so slightly of banana or pineapple :)  The rest of the melons are pretty darn tasty, too. Hooray for sun and water! Melons and squash are so amazing to me-- the amount of photosynthesis that has to take place in those leaves to produce such a concentrated amount of food just blows my mind. Love me some cucurbits!

Parsley OR Cilantro *think Parsley-Potatoes* with butter. yum.

Sweet Onions

Bodacious BROCCOLI- full up on broccoli yet?  We were a little worried that folks were tired of broccoli but here's a tip: blanch and freeze if you can't use it all this week. Remove leaves (but eat them just like kale!), chop into bite sized pieces, blanch in boiling salted water for three minutes, cool in iced water, drain, then pop into freezer bags or containers, label, and you're good for a couple of winter frittatas!

Tomatoes- sweet orange Sungold cherry tomatoes and/or various heirloom slicers- enjoy summer; it's still here!

Potatoes- red and/or yellow; mixed varieties. Try buttered boiled potatoes with parsley, why not?

Hot peppers- always available. If you don't see them in your share, just ASK! We make them optional extras because some people love them and some hate them. Speak up if you love them -- spice up your life!


1. PORK available by the whole or half hog.  See below for the entire rundown from Jae Gerhart about The Pig Project.  

2. Boxodus: seems like most of our boxes have up and left! If you have a stash of CSA boxes, PLEASE return them. We will be happy to get them back and use them. Thank you!

3. Heart of Summer Shares wrapped up last week- thanks for joining us! And look for an end-of-season survey via email soon. Your feedback will help us make an even better CSA for future seasons. p.s. your feedback is ALWAYS welcome- don't wait for a survey if you  have a question, idea, complaint, or suggestion. We are all in this together, and we do a better job of growing for you when we know what people want. (hint: except for chocolate. can't do that here. YET)

4. Three Volunteer Opportunities:
     1)Greenhouse Plastic Pulling: Want to help with a modern barn-raising?  We're replacing the plastic on the old hoophouse, and covering the new hoophouse.  The catch: we don't know when it will happen. It's completely weather dependent.  What we do know: sometime in the next two months, likely at the crack of dawn (least windy time of day), with no more than a week's notice, and more likely a day or two's notice. If you are a morning person with a super flexible schedule, able to work in a team, follow instructions, and keep your cool in the face of unexpected wind gusts (while holding onto a giant plastic sail), let me know-- I will add you to the email list to get the all-hands-on-deck call when the time is right! Email with "hoophouse plastic pull volunteer" in the subject.

     2)Garlic Planting: It's almost time for garlic planting, and we're switching it up from past years' open house-style work day.  Volunteers will need to be here for training before we start. To join the garlic team, send an email with "garlic planting volunteer" in the subject, and we will let you know when we know the date. Likely: mid-October, a weekday afternoon, in good weather (fingers crossed).

     3)General Farm Work: It's fall clean-up time!  We have a to-do list; do you have a few hours?  Any and all skill/experience level welcome. Join us (or plug away on your own) in dragging branches to the burn pile, stacking wood, scraping and painting garage doors,weeding and mulching perennials, fixing the chicken coop door, and more. Call or email to schedule a volunteer shift. Thank you!


Michelle's favorite Asian-ish Slaw

4-5 cups shredded/thinly sliced Bok choi,  Napa cabbage daikon greens, or any green Asian (or not) leafy thing you've got around
1-2 grated carrots OR beets (beets will turn the slaw pink!)
1 finely sliced sm. onion
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
equal amt of fresh ginger, also minced (if you have none, put in 1 tsp ground ginger to dressing)
at least 1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 generous handful coarsely chopped fresh herbs: cilantro OR lemon basil OR Thai basil OR dill/parsley if you prefer
optional: 1-2 fresh hot chiles, minced 

toasted sesame oil
rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
soy sauce/tamari
cayenne and/or your favorite hot sauce (I like Ray's Polish Fire)
pinch ground coriander
salt and pepper

Mix slaw ingredients well.  Mix dressing ingredients well, then mix w/ slaw. Enjoy!  Top with a good squeeze of fresh lime and/or bean sprouts and/or pea shoots and/or fried tofu and/or anything else you like.

Bob's Famous Tofu Spread

1 pound firm tofu, drained and patted dry
2 cups finely diced veggies (red or green pepper,celery carrot, onion, etc.)

2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup (more or less to taste) nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

1 teaspoon wet mustard
Dash of hot sauce (optional)

Crumble the tofu, by hand, into a serving bowl and blend in all of the ingredients other than the vegetables. Fold those in last. Can be used as a dip or sandwich spread.

Baba Ghanoush, or How to Preserve Eggplant for Winter

1 large eggplant
1/4 c. tahini (easy on the tahini- it's easy to overdo it, and you can add more later if necessary)
1/4 c. tasty olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin (or 2 tsp toasted whole cumin seed)
generous dash of salt and pepper
juice of one lemon OR 1/4 c. verjus
handful chopped fresh parsley-- use stems, but keep leaves and stems separate for now
optional extra: 1-2 fresh hot chiles

1. Roast eggplant: cut off stem, and end scar if there is one, cut in half, place face down on a generously olive-oiled baking sheet, rub olive oil over the outside, and roast at 350/375ish for 20-45 min, depending on size of eggplant. Check for doneness: it should give easily to the touch when poked, but skin should not be dried out or crispy.  If skin is tender, use the whole thing (no need to peel or scoop; just toss the whole darn thing in the cuisinart, skin and all
2. Buzz in food processor ALL ingredients EXCEPT parsley leaves- save those for garnish, but toss the stems in for flavor.
3. Taste- is it tangy enough? If not, add more lemon and/or salt.  Is it nutty and thick enough? If not, add 1-2 more Tablespoons tahini.  Is it spicy enough? If not, add more garlic and/or hot chiles.  Buzz once more for good measure, and taste again.  Store in an airtight container, but drizzle olive oil over the top first to minimize oxidation/browning. Freezes well for several months. Or serve immediately, drizzled with super tasty olive oil and that handful of chopped parsley leaves on top. For a super special treat, caramelize 1/2 a sweet onion and sprinkle that on top- you've got savory dessert.

The Pig Project by Jae Gerhart

What It’s All About
It’s about the fact that some of us love eating meat, pig meat specifically, and we want a freezer full of tenderloin and bacon and ribs and ham hocks for the long winter ahead.  It’s about raising that meat with a holistic outlook on the ecological system - clearing land overrun by autumn olives and quack grass.  It’s about turning vegetable scraps into bacon, turning brew mash into bacon, turning whey from cheese-making into bacon.  It’s about fertilizing.  It’s about entertaining neighbors and friends.  But most of all, its about offering friends and family quality meat raised and distributed in a sustainable way.

You Are What You Eat… And Same Goes for the Pigs
Since they arrived as 40lb feeder pigs in May, these oinkers have dined primarily on a non-GMO corn and soy mix, provided by the excellent farmers over at Hall Farms.  They have also gorged on produce from Birch Point Farm, food scraps from local restaurants, whey from a local cheese maker, and spent grain mash from NorthPeak Brewery.

These pigs are not organic, but they’re pretty darn close.  
They have a huge beautiful pen to run around and root and forage.


How to it Works
This is a direct-to-consumer operation.  This means that customers order half and whole pigs from me at a certain price ($4.00/lb.).   Customers can opt to pick up their pig live and do the slaughtering themselves, but for most of us its safer, cleaner, and more efficient to have the processor do the work for us.  Here is what that looks like:

Hanging Weight* Meat Price: $4.00/lb.
Processor Fee: $0.44/lb.
Kill Fee: $25

For example:
For 180 lbs. of hanging weight on a pig:
180 x $4.00 = $720
180 x $0.44 =$79.20
Total: $720 + $79.20 + $25 = $824.20

Most of these pigs will be between 150 and 200 lbs. hanging weight

*Hanging Weight: The carcass without the head, non-usable organs, and hooves.  The hanging weight is roughly 60% of the live weight.

The Processor – RRR Meat Processing, Buckley MI
I chose RRR Meat Processing (USDA certified) in Buckley for a couple reasons.  Location – Buckley is one of the closer processors in area, making it convenient for customers to pick up their meat.  Reputation – my friend and pig-farming mentor Jess Piskor at Bare Knuckle Farm has been using this processor for years, as do local restaurants such as the Cooks House.  For the Pigs – the pigs get dropped off the night before so they aren’t as spooked and stressed when it comes time to do the deed.  This is better for the meat as well as for the pigs and humans involved that day.

Common Questions:
Bacon thickness: they do 1/8 inch slices.  Can be adjusted based on customers preferences
Sodium Nitrates: used only in the smoking process.
Breakfast sausage spice mix: does include MSG.  

If you would like to order a whole or half pig, I will send you the order form where you can designate preferences for specific cuts of meat.  The order form is confusing, as it is intended for the processor and therefore gives very little information to the consumer.  Essentially the pig is delineated into 5 categories: Picnic, Shoulder, Loin, Belly, and Ham, and once I send the form, I will go over the specifics of how to order what you want.

Post Processing
Once the animal is processed (mid-October), I will call each of my customers to let them know that their pig is ready.  You should plan to pick up your half or whole pig within 3-5 days.  I recommend bringing a huge cooler or multiple coolers and a strong back or two to help lift the cooler into your vehicle.  

If you would like to be a part of The Pig Project for the 2015 season, please get a hold of me through email. Include in the email your name, whether you would like a half or whole pig, your phone number and your email address.  I will then contact you directly to confirm your pig order and send you the order form.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

BPF CSA Week 10: grateful for the rain, but what's with the 50-degree temps?

In Your Share This Week:

Basil! it's pesto time! See recipe below.
Garlic- still relatively fresh (not cured)-- will keep best in fridge.
Scallions OR Sweet Onions- YES you can use the whole scallion, white, green, all of it. Slice on the diagonal for extra elegance.
Cherry Tomatoes- starting to come in earnest, though they want more HEAT! Same for big slicers-- there are tons of green fruit on the plants. I predict next week's heat wave will push them over the edge, and we'll be awash in tomatoes soon.
Kale- "No one can imagine a CSA without kale" -David Hambleton, farmer at Sisters Hill Farm, Stanfordville, NY (and who would question this guy?) And btw, have you tried massaged kale?
Lettuce heads- romaine,  Batavian, red leaf, or butterhead-- these cool weather-loving beauties are happy for the temporary respite from heat (they may be the only ones, though)
Summer Squash and/or Zucchini- yes they are interchangeable; they are just all different shapes and colors
Cucumbers-Either Marketmore or Ministro (classic dark green slicing cukes) or Diva (super smooth, light green skin, can grow apparently huge without a hint of bitterness- one of my faves). See below for Sweet and Sour Cucumbers with Fresh Dill, esp if you still have dill left over from last week!
Fennel- a lovely licorice-ish flavored member of the Umbel family (related to celery, parsley, carrot, etc), fennel lends a sweet anise flavor to any dish. Use the bulb and stems cooked or fresh (see below for salad recipe); use fronds chopped in salad dressing or as a bed for fish (or anything!) on the grill

Three Recipes

1. Zee Besto Pesto that I've found: 
2 cups basil- leaves AND tender stems, but not woody/fibrous stems
1/2 c. toasted pine nuts and/or walnuts and/or sunflower seeds
2-3 fat cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional; can be added at serving time)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil- the more pungent the better
2 Tbsp lemon juice
generous pinch salt and pepper

Buzz everything in the food processor or blender til as smooth or chunky as you like. Freeze for months if you like, or refrigerate for a week or so. But really, how can you resist eating it all right now? Yes, with a spoon. Or your finger :)

2. Sweet-and-Sour Cucumbers with Fresh Dill compliments of farm member Dave Borton

2-3 cucumbers (1 1/2 pounds total), partially peeled, seeded and very thinly sliced
1-2 smaller Zucchini, similarly prepared to the cucumbers
2-3 small to mid-sized onions, sliced similar to above
10-12 or so grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place vegetable pieces/slices in colander. Sprinkle 
with salt; toss to coat. Let stand 15 minutes, stirring 
Meanwhile, for dressing, stir vinegar, dill, sugar, and 
pepper in large bowl until sugar is dissolved. 
Drain vegetables well; pat dry. Add cucumbers to 
dressing and stir to blend. Refrigerate at least 15 
minutes and up to 2 hours; serve cold.

3. Fennel-Orange Salad  MF note: There are lots of variations on this classic combo. I like to make a version of this salad with thick shaved parmesan or asiago cheese, a little thinly sliced sweet onion, and/or a handful of arugula tossed in. The point is sweet orange, pungent-sweet fennel, and piquant onion and dressing. The cheese and/or arugula just up the ante with saltiness and nutty-bitterness. See what your palate and family prefer!

compliments of Martha:
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 5 navel oranges
  • 3 to 4 fennel bulbs (about 2 pounds total), ends trimmed, quartered lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced, crosswise, plus 1/4 cup roughly chopped fennel fronds (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil; season with salt and pepper.
  2. Using a sharp knife, slice off both ends of each orange. Following the curve of the fruit, cut away the peel and white pith. Halve orange from top to bottom; thinly slice crosswise. Transfer oranges, along with any juices that have accumulated on work surface, to bowl with dressing. Add fennel and, if desired, fronds. Toss to combine

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Birch Point CSA Week 9: Full-on summer!

Happy truly-summer (i.e. heat, humidity, and tomatoes!)  And so sorry for the lack of communication the past 3 weeks- it's been busy around here!
BANJO SHOW TONIGHT @ BPF: Your farmer Brenin Wertz-Roth in concert with his old pals Hazel Rickard and John Hansen. Join us in the red barn for beautiful old-time, bluegrass, and other music and dancing.  Suggested donation: $5-20 (sliding scale). Show starts at 8. Come at 7 for a friends-and-members potluck if you like! All ages. Bring your own folding chair/blanket.

In Your Share This Week:

Sweet Onions- our fave variety, Ailsa Craig, a large white juicy mellow onion
Cucumbers- mixed varieties. Time for refrigerator pickles!
Summer squash and/or Zucchini- throw on the grill in kebabs or toss w/ pasta for lovely primavera
The very first Cherry Tomatoes
New potatoes- mix of varieties- with butter and parsley... or dill... what could be better?
Lovely lettuce heads- mainly the heat-tolerant Batavians (a cross between green/red leaf lettuce and summercrisp, or iceberg, types), but perhaps a few red leaf, romaine, or butterhead
Apricots from Gary Frederickson in Northport. NOT organic- be sure to wash thoroughly.
Herbs: dill, basil, or parsley *think cuke-dill refrigerator pickles with sweet onion!*


1.BANJO SHOW TONIGHT @ BPF: Your farmer Brenin Wertz-Roth in concert with his old pals Hazel Rickard and John Hansen. Join us in the red barn for beautiful old-time, bluegrass, and other music and dancing.  Suggested donation: $5-20 (sliding scale). Show starts at 8. Come at 7 for a friends-and-members potluck if you like! All ages. Bring your own folding chair/blanket.

2. Pork is still available! Farmer Jae is taking orders for whole and half hogs -- many of you have "met" these pigs already; if not, be sure to ask next time you're at the farm.  They're free ranging on pasture, eating brush and weeds, veggie scraps, non-GMO grain, and (we suspect) occasional donuts from our neighbor Jake. Call Jae @ 989-430-0926 for ordering info.

3. A few Fall-Winter Shares are still available.  Sign up soon to save your spot! $250 gets you eight weeks of hearty storage crops (e.g. carrots, potatoes, parsnips,  beets, turnips, rutabaga, radishes cabbages, onions, leeks, garlic, winter squash/pumpkins), hoophouse-grown salad mix, spinach, and other delicacies, and luscious fall field crops like kale, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, collards, bok choi, and herbs. Starts the first Saturday of November and runs 8 weeks. Pick up at the Saturday indoor market at Bldg. 50 @ The Commons.

4. Storm damage update: For those who haven't been here lately, Birch Point Farm lost LOTS of branches in the Aug. 2 storm, along with a few entire trees tipped up and toppled.  Somehow the gigantic old box elders all survived, albeit with lots of branches gone. We sustained minor hail damage, most notably on  peppers, but hopefully the plants will grow out of it, and the next round of peppers will be unscarred..  Flowers, especially the tall sunflowers, were wind whipped and bent over, but most lived to tell about it.  THANKFULLY no structures or wires were hit by trees/branches-- somehow!  Brenin has been chainsawing like a madman in every spare moment, clearing access to fields and buildings, but the branch pick-up will be an on-going project.  See a downed branch at the farm?  Feel free to drag it to the fire pit or nearest brush pile.

Recipe: Quick Refrigerator Pickles, shamelessly cut and pasted from

We love pickles, and we especially love the variety of flavors and vegetables being used to make them these days. But we've tended to shy away from making them at home, thinking that pickling requires pounds of vegetables, special equipment, and an entire free weekend. Recently, we learned there's another way...
Enter refrigerator pickling! These pickles aren't intended for long-term storage, but rather for casual eating over the course of a week or so. They're incredibly easy to make, even on a weeknight, and are a novel way to use up the odd carrot or quarter-head of cabbage left in the drawer.
First, clean and prepare all your vegetables. If it's a vegetable you like to eat raw, you can leave them as is. If not, you can blanch them in boiling water, steam them lightly, or roast them beforehand. You want them edible but still a bit crunchy.
Pack all the vegetables tightly into jars - you can use old canning jars or any other heat-proof container with an air-tight lid. You can also combine more than one vegetable in the same jar if you don't have quite enough of one. Just make sure the combined vegetables actually "go" together because they'll take on a bit of each other's flavors.
We like to use a basic pickling brine (below) and then riff on the spices or use different vinegars depending on what we're in the mood for. Bring all the brine ingredients to a boil in a small pan and then pour the brine over the vegetables. Put the lids on the containers, cool them to room temperature, and then refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating to give the flavors time to meld.
Refrigerator pickles will keep for about a month. If they develop any off flavors or smells, or if you notice fermentation, it's best to just discard the remaining pickles. Some kinds of fermentation are ok (like with kimchi), but we'll save that discussion for another time.
Many of these pickles are great as a snack right out the jar while standing at the counter! We also layer them on sandwiches, toss them in salads, or serve them as part of an appetizer plate.

Basic Pickling Brine
For every pound of vegetable:
1 cup vinegar (any kind except balsamic)
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
Extras: fresh herbs, red pepper flakes, mustard seed, cumin seed, pepper corns, cloves of garlic, or any other pickling spice

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Birch Point CSA Week 5

In Your Share This Week: Starting to turn this Spring Ship Toward Summer!

Broccoli OR New Potatoes (whichever you don't get this week you'll get next week)- the very first potatoes of the season, or early broccoli. We leave the greens on broccoli because they're delicious (cook any way you'd do kale, and/or toss in with the broccoli head), but they do transpire moisture away from the head, leading to rubbery broccoli. If you won't use it in the next few days, remove the leaves before storing.
Kohlrabi--click though here for a huffpost series called "WTF, CSA?" starting with Kohlrabi :) And yes you CAN use the greens- cook them just like kale.
Beet greens OR mustard greens- or mix the two and make a spectacular sag paneer--you'll notice in this recipe from Saveur, the author specifically mentions that "sag" just means greens, and you CAN use any greens you have on hand for sag paneer. Go on, be adventurous :) Beet greens: super nutritious!
Lettuce- more beautiful reds, greens, butterhead/bibb, or romaines
Cilantro- perhaps tossed at the last minute into a spicy stirfry of kohlrabi, scallions, peas, and broccoli? Or perhaps you have a garlic scape and a few pine nuts or sunflower seeds hanging around the back of your fridge? try cilantro-garlic scape pesto: Yum!
Scallions- so delicious, so versatile, and please DO use the entire thing, greens and whites. All is tender.
Peas- snow or snap-- may be coming to an end :(  It's been a good pea run, but BEANS are almost ready to take over next week!


1. Heart of Summer shares start THIS WEEK.  All Heart of Summer members should have gotten a reminder email- here's another one ;)  See you Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday!
2. Wednesday and Saturday shares- PLEASE remember your boxes--  bring back your empty box each week when you pick up your full one. If everyone remembers their boxes, it helps us keep costs and hassle down, AND helps keep your veggies happier than in a plastic bag (the fate of box-hoarders, if we run out of boxes).
3. Reminder: Dilly Bean canning workshop from ISLAND, here at Birch Point: Tuesday Aug. 4, 6-8:30 pm. Details and registration here. CSA members and general public welcome.


Save these! and/or bookmark the blog entries, because you'll see a lot of these items again, and next time you'll be even more prepared.

Cilantro Pesto
Take a basil pesto recipe (for example, the one below). Swap out basil for cilantro. Voila.  Hint: you can make pesto out of ANY herb, and many green leafy veggies, too. Anything you enjoy the flavor of will make a delightful pesto. Try basil, cilantro, dill (one of my faves), parsley, sorrel, kale, chives, etc.
2 c. herbs/greens of your choice
1/2 c. toasted nuts/seeds (I like a combo of pine nuts and walnuts and/or sunflower seeds)
2 fat garlic cloves or 1-2 garlic scapes
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/2 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice or verjus.
 dash salt and pepper.
Whiz everything in the cuisinart or blender. Adjust salt, add optional heat (ground cayenne, fresh or dried hot pepper), whiz again, taste. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for a week or so, or freeze for up to several months.

An amazing-sounding kohlrabi soup I found on the abovementioned huffpost kohlrabi article:
Sholeh Maash - Persian Green Mung Bean and Kohlrabi Hearty Soup
Serves 6

1 1/2  cups green mung beans, rinse 2-3 times
1/2 cup rice, rinse well
3-4 medium-size kohlrabi, peel and cut into small cubes, leave one cubed kohlrabi for the topping
1 large bunch of fresh tareh or scallions (green parts only), washed and chopped
1 small bunch of fresh tarragon, stems removed and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, diced
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
1/3 teaspoon red pepper *optional
1/3 teaspoon cumin *optional

  1. Place the beans and the rice in a large pot, add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
  2. Add the small pieces of kohlrabi, salt, pepper, cover and cook for 45 minutes on low heat.
  3. Periodically check to see if you need to add more water to the soup.
  4. Add the chopped vegetables, taste and adjust the seasoning, add more hot water if needed and let it simmer for another 15 minutes for the flavors to blend in.
  5. In the meantime, fry the sliced onions in 3-4 tablespoons of hot vegetable oil in a skillet until golden brown. Add the turmeric powder and the minced garlic to the oil, stir and saute further for another five minutes.
  6. Add a large tablespoon of the fried onion to the soup and gently mix well.
  7. Lightly fry the cubed kohlrabi in 2-3 tablespoons of hot vegetable oil until soft and golden on medium heat. Add a pinch of salt, turmeric, cumin and red pepper and stir well.
To serve ladle the soup into a soup bowl, top with the fried onions and kohlrabi. Serve hot with bread and yogurt.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Birch Point CSA Week 4

In Your Share This Week: 

it's still a green, green harvest. If we EVER get a true warm spell, the peas and lettuces will slow down, but on the up side, the tomatoes and beans will LOVE it.  For now, enjoy the leafy goodness this extended cool weather has brought.

The sweetest little Napa Cabbage
Kale OR Swiss Chard
Italian Parsley
Lettuces, all kinds
Baby Salad Mix
Peas! Snow or Snap


1. Heart-of-Summer shares start Tuesday July 21, or Wednesday July 22, or Saturday July 25, and run six weeks.  Heart of Summer shares ARE still available. Know someone on the fence about joining a CSA, or just up here for the summer?  Send them our way.
2. Dilly Bean pickling/preserving workshop here at Birch Point, in partnership with ISLAND. Tuesday Aug 4, 6-8:30 pm (during/after CSA pickup). $40 per person, learn the art of dilly bean preserving and pickling/canning safety, and take home jars of the end product! Oryana member discount. Pre-registration required. All details and how to register HERE
3. "Kaia's Cookies," made by our neighbor Kaia herself, are available to purchase at Tuesday CSA pickup. Kaia and her mom bake delicious gluten-free and dairy-free desserts. Support a young entrepreneur, and get a delectable treat next time you're here on Tuesday.
4. Upcoming: Children's Garden workday and events (e.g. cooking demo, fermenting, etc) on the way-  stay tuned!


Farm-ikopita (or Spanikopita made with whatever farmy green-ness you have on hand)
modified from