Thursday, July 14, 2011

BPF CSA 2011 Week 5 news

Birch Point CSA 2011
Week 5 News

In Your Share This Week: It’s an Asian Invasion ;) (See Recipes section)

Peas- Snow and/or Sugarsnap. Eat the whole pods. There are just so many peas right now.
Giant Chinese Cabbage (Napa Cabbage) with outer leaves- the outer leaves are a little ragged, but still delicious.
Giant Scallions
The Sweetest Little Broccoli Heads Ever (tiny, early broccoli- you’ll see larger heads as the season progresses)
Dried Hot Chile Peppers (stored from last fall)
Garlic Scapes- the very end (I know I said it was the end last week, but this is REALLY the end- next week we’ll start harvesting fresh garlic! A couple weeks later we’ll have our garlic harvesting party- stay tuned)
Baby Salad Mix with Edible Flowers
Kale or Swiss Chard


1. New this summer: starting the last week of July, 2011, Birch Point will offer up to 10 six-week “Heart of Summer” shares, specifically for folks who are in northern MI only for summer, or who want to try CSA without committing to an entire season, or who just recently heard about CSA and can’t wait til next year to join. Please spread the word to friends and summer people. More info available on the website:
2. Second Films for Farms of the season: Saturday June 30- all are invited. Bring friends, family, food, and a chair or blanket to sit on in the barn. Film TBA

Field Notes
Last week we were blessed with a barrage of visitors and volunteers. I specifically want to mention April, who visited from downstate. April has been working for the past the two years at Tantre Farm in Chelsea (outside Ann Arbor), where I worked ten years ago! It was so much fun to compare stories about Tantre Farm then and now, and April also happens to be a rock-star weeder and pea picker, so it was a joy to have her here. Thanks to everyone who came out and pitched in this past week!
It still hasn’t rained since last week- since longer ago than that, even. We got a tiny sprinkle on Monday, just a teaser as it turned out. Luckily the irrigation and all the organic matter in the soil is working to keep the soil moist in the plants’ root zone, if not right on the surface. All the compost and cover crops we’ve added in the past four years are really showing up this season- we’ve added relatively little compost compared to past years (except in new planting areas), but plants are healthy, green, and productive. We’ve had to add compost and do spot-applications of alfalfa pellets for short-term nitrogen boosts in the hoophouse. But the field soils appear to be supporting healthy crops without much help from us this year! It’s high time to do another soil test (I like to do them every other year, but the last one was in 2008), and I’ll share the results when we get them. I’m especially interested to see how the soils have changed since the last test- we’ve added tons (literally) of organic matter and changed the ecology of the soil pretty dramatically by switching it over from a primarily perennial (old pasture/abandoned fields) to a primarily annual (vegetables) system.
A new baby salad planting went in today. I like to seed salad in at least two staggered plantings- things like lettuce, spinach, and baby chard take a longer time to germinate and grow, so I plant those first. One to two weeks later, I’ll plant the spicy greens- things like baby kale, tatsoi, mizuna, cress. Those grow much faster, so a staggered planting results in more uniformly sized leaves. Sometimes that strategy works perfectly; sometimes the leaf sizes are still pretty variable. I like to play around with timing and pay attention to the weather. Every planting is a little different (that darn weather), though, both in rate of growth and in composition- I tend to plant more non-lettuce varieties in the heat of summer, since they tolerate heat better than lettuce. In the spring and fall, salads tend to be heavy on the lettuce, lighter on the spice. What’s your favorite baby salad green variety- green or red lettuces? Baby red Russian kale? Mustard greens? Tatsoi? Beet greens? Baby chard? The edible flowers? Something else?
We finally finished mulching the potatoes! At least we used up all the mulch-still a couple of bales shy of finishing. Those spuds look GOOD! Thanks to Jason and Matt for seeing it through to the very end. Next step is to call my neighbor to see how many extra bales of old moldy hay he can round up from the back of his barn (anyone out there have a stash?) I think the potatoes will recover from the severe Colorado Potato Beetle infestation- we’ve been hand-picking eggs and larva off almost every day. I sprayed one row with an organic insecticide, and it seems to have been effective, though not necessarily more so than hand-picking. The damage is comparable, but maybe the proof in the pudding will be how soon and how heavily the beetles return to each row, and how much damage they do next time. I’ll keep you posted.

Meet Your Farmers
I’ll introduce myself next week, since we highlighted Jason and Julie the past two weeks. In the future, we’ll feature farm volunteers, and then CSA members, maybe even you.


Birch Point Chinese Cabbage Salad

This dish can be served warm or room temp or cold. If you chop and prepare everything in advance, then toss it all together as soon as the noodles and protein are cooked, then you’ll have a warm salad. If you toss it all together and let it set and/or refrigerate it, that’s equally delicious, maybe even better on a hot day.

1 package rice noodles or bean thread noodles (clear, turn to white)
You can also use any long, thin pasta (spaghetti, fettuccini, capellini) you have on hand, but the rice or bean noodles are pretty and maybe more traditional (since I made up this dish there’s no real tradition yet, but I like the Asian style rice noodles-see what you like best)

Equal amount Chinese cabbage, shredded or finely chopped into noodle-like strands
I like a 1:1 ratio of noodles to cabbage, but more cabbage is very nice too (1:2)

2-3 garlic scapes, finely chopped

1 lb firm tofu or other protein of your choice, marinated, then crumbled and fried til browned (Marinate tofu 20-30 min for more flavor- it’s a great vehicle for other flavors, but not too exciting on its own, in my opinion. See below for my favorite marinade.)

1-2 large scallions, sliced thinly and diagonally for elegant ovals instead of rings- nothing wrong with rings, it’s just nice to mix it up sometimes, you know?

3-4 Tbsp. sesame seeds

½ cup chopped peanuts

(optional) 1-2 dried hot chiles, soaked in warm water til soft, then muddled or chopped

Oil for frying tofu/meat on med-high heat

Boil water, add noodles, boil or set in hot water til soft (follow instruction on pkg), strain. For cold salad, rinse in cold water to cool. For warm salad, toss with oil to keep from sticking together until mixed with the rest of ingreds. Toss with cabbage, dressing, fried tofu, chiles, and garlic scapes. Top with scallions, a generous handful of sesame seeds, and chopped peanuts. Serve warm or chill first.

Toasted sesame oil
Tamari/soy sauce
Rice vinegar (or white vinegar. Or apple cider vinegar)
Juice of one lime
Peanut butter and/or tahini (I like half and half)
Generous pinch ground ginger
Generous pinch cayenne (optional)
Mix 1/4 c. each sesame oil, soy sauce, and vinegar, add a generous dollop or two of peanut butter/tahini, mix well. Add lime juice and spices, thin with warm water if necessary to generously coat all ingreds.

Tamari or soy sauce
Rice vinegar, white or apple cider vinegar
Ground ginger
Ground cumin
Ground cayenne
Ground black pepper
Mix equal parts tamari, vinegar, and water, add a glug or spoonful of honey (warm water helps to mix honey with other ingreds). Add a few generous pinches of each spice, mix well, pour over crumbled tofu in a shallow dish, swirl to cover all pieces. Swirl occasionally if some pieces are exposed. Set for 20-30 min, pour the whole thing into a frying pan of med-hot oil- it’ll steam and sputter from the liquid, so lean away from the pan for this part!

Note: hold onto this recipe; you’ll want it in a couple of weeks when we are rolling in cilantro. You can substitute Chinese cabbage with lettuce or regular cabbage or kale. Optional: top this salad with cilantro in addition to scallions and peanuts!

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