Thursday, August 11, 2011

Birch Point 2011 CSA Week 9- summer squash and cucumbers and garlic, oh my!

Week 9 already! Since we guarantee 18 weeks for a full season share, or go up to 22, weather permitting, we could be at the half way mark already! That is nuts- seems like just yesterday we held the pre-season meeting in the barn. Wow, time flies. Right now it looks like we're going to go longer than 18 wks, as the season started on the late side, and we've got the hoophouse this year to extend it.
We are just now entering the true "heart of summer"- field tomatoes *just* starting to ripen, melons on the verge of ripeness, garlic all in the barn, onions starting to come in.... the list goes on. So, in your share this week:

Carrots! the first of the season- how did that happen? These carrots went in the ground early; they just took forever to size up. Thanks for your patience, everyone. You'll see either carrots or beets in your share every week from now on, weather permitting. Storage tip: remove greens from carrots (all roots, really, like beets, radishes, etc) to keep roots firm. Leaves continue to evapotranspire even after harvest, stealing moisture from the roots, which shortens storage life. Soak in cold water, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for max crispiness.

Cucumbers! They are on a rampage. You may see regular slicers, lemon cukes (small, round, whitish-yellow cukes- taste like cucumber, looks like lemon), or Suyo Long cukes ("burpless" Asian cukes that grow in crazy shapes and to enormous lengths).

Summer Squash/Zucchini- also unstoppable right now. You may get a mix of green or yellow zucchini, yellow or green pattypan squash, yellow crookneck squash, "eightball" zukes (round, dark green), Tondo Chiaro di Toscano or Ronde de Nice (both light green round squash), or maybe a mystery squash.... Guess what- they are all interchangeable! Small ones are tender with edible skin; big ones are seedier with thicker skin (great for zucchini/summer squash bread). Though I must point out, I've enjoyed a couple of enormous Tondo Chiaro squash (8" diameter), and they were sweet, tender, and not very seedy at all.

Sweet Onions- the very first Walla Wallas, harvested by Hannah Israel, who moved here three years ago from Walla Walla, itself. Remember how early in the season I lamented our small onions (they went in late and took forever to start sizing up)? Some of them are indeed small, but others lived down their inauspicious beginnings and are at least tennis ball sized. All are sweet and delicious.

Hoophouse Tomatoes- another lovely mix of Juliets (long, red), Fargo Yellow Pears (just like they sound), Sungolds (small, orange), and a few Black Cherries (smoky brown-purple). OR Oregon Spring slicers- an early heirloom that produces copious quantities of early fruits. The Oregon Springs have a good flavor, but I can't WAIT to share the rest of the heirlooms from the field with you, for flavor AND texture. AND color. The very first ripe field tomatoes were spotted last week- I estimate next week we'll have our first CSA-sized harvest IF the heat keeps up. If not, it could be two more weeks.

Fresh GARLIC- all the garlic is tucked away in the barn now, and our garlic planting party will be on or around Halloween/Dia de los Muertos. Check back later for the actual date. Meanwhile, enjoy the "stinking rose." This fresh, juicy garlic stores well in the fridge. Later on, when you start getting cured (dry skin) garlic, it will store better in a cool, DRY spot.

Oh Boy! It's Pac Choi! (a.k.a. "Bok Choy")- Lovely, crisp, juicy Asian relative of the cabbage. This time of year, I like to chop it into a simple Asian salad, with garlic, ginger, hot peppers (optional), cilantro, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. It's always good stir-fried, too. See "A to Z" for more preparation ideas.

Either Broccoli OR Giant Kohlrabi- remember last week when I said that was the end of the kohlrabi until fall? I forgot about the GIANT kohlrabi in the back field! We've had such good responses to kohlrabi that we planted a lot this year. Please let me know what you think about this weird spaceship-like veggie. These giants are now my favorites- they're juicy, tender, and crisp, without any woodiness so far. But if your family is saying "enough already!" to kohlrabi, take broccoli instead.

The very first BEANS of the season- you may get a "rainbow mix" of green, purple, and yellow, or the flat-podded Italian Roma beans, or possibly plain old Jade, my current favorite green bean- the best flavor available, and when picked small and tender, the best texture, too - "to die for" according to CSA member Sheila McRae. A pet peeve of mine: big, stringy, starchy beans. We try to pick them small and tender. Enjoy steamed lightly OR raw- the purples turn green when cooked, so try the rainbow mix in a marinated raw bean salad instead of cooking. Sheila also recommended a recipe from A to Z that involves pine nuts and vinegar and olive oil- "so good it should be illegal." Check it out.

Possibly another surprise or two.....


1.Wareberries are back! Ware Farm in Manistee County has a very limited quantity of their certified organic blueberries available. If you'd like to order a 10# box, email me ASAP. Tuesday shares, email me by Sun evening, so I can order your berries to be delivered here Tues. Saturday shares- I know it's short notice, but email me by Friday morning, so I can call Wares to have your box at market this Sat. They *may* extend the blueberry season til next Sat, in which case you'll have one more week to order, but no guarantees.

2. Dilly Beans and Cucumber Pickling Workshop: Thursday Aug 25, from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm at Birch Point Farm. Come learn how to make and can dilly bean and cucumber pickles; or if you know how, come join in the fun of a community canning party. Register early, since space is limited. Produce, canning jars and lids will be provided. Each participant will can dilly beans and pickles hands-on, and take home a share of the jars at the end of the workshop. There will be take-home information and other canning resources available. Presented by ISLAND ( with support from Organic Valley, Eden Foods, & Rising Star Wellness Ctr. $30, Preregistration required. Contact ISLAND at (231) 480-4515 or

Field Notes

45 days til frost! That's the mantra running through my mind this week. It's crazy to think we've not even started picking field tomatoes or melons, and fall is already on the horizon. There's no way to tell exactly when the first fall frost will hit, but the first week of October is a likely bet. The past few years it's been mid-Oct, so we may see that trend continue (later frost), but for planning purposes, I consider Oct. 1 the end of summer. That means we're getting all the very last outdoor fall plantings in (daikon radish, the last round of beets and carrots, fall turnips, trays and trays of late-summer lettuces, radicchio, Asian greens, scallions, one last round of broccoli, and more baby salad mix, to name a few. I even threw in one last batch of transplanted pickling cukes and one last bean planting, to see if we could eke out more late-season summer crops -maybe the frost will come late, after all!).
I'm also attempting to nurture a warm-season spinach planting through the heat of August to harvest in Sept- a trick, as spinach really hates the heat and bolts (starts to flower and turn bitter) in hot weather. I'm watering like mad and have a shade cloth on deck in case of another 95 + degree spell. This goes against my nature, to just eat what grows easily in season, but it seems spinach has a more dedicated following than other greens, so to fulfill the mission of getting more local greens into more local folks, we're trying this. Depending on the outcome of this experiment, you may see some summer spinach in shares in Sept!
Last week we hosted our last field trip of campers from Camp Arbutus-Hayowentha. The girls were the most enthusiastic group of the summer, and they LOVED squishing tomato hornworms and watching the green guts spew everywhere. (I'm repeating what they said) They also helped take down the pea trellises from the early spring garden. A whole batch of volunteers and farm friends showed up on Tuesday for CSA harvest- we had a relaxing day and a bountiful harvest, with plenty of hands on deck. CSA members and friends- you are ALWAYS welcome to come pitch in for harvest, or any day on the farm. Any time you get the urge to dig in the dirt (or pick beans or tomatoes, or weed the compost pile, or do data entry, or clean out the chicken coop), you are welcome. Come for an hour or a day, just let me know you're coming, so we can put you to work. You'll always go home with extras, too.


Quick Cucumber Salad

Since it's non-lettuce salad season, I'd like to share my favorite cool cuke salad with you:

2 large or 4-5 small cucumbers, chopped into bite-sized pieces. Remove seeds if you like. Skin if you feel compelled to.
1 sweet onion, sliced into thin half-rounds
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
A handful of any fresh herbs you have on hand, chopped- I'm partial to dill, thyme, basil, or chives
1 Tbsp coarse salt
2 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
2 tsp. ground mustard (optional)
2 tsp. sugar (optional)
1 Tbsp. ground black or white pepper
1/2 c. rice vinegar or any light-colored vinegar
1/4 c. tasty olive oil

Toss cucumbers, onions, garlic, herbs, spices, sugar, salt, pepper, and vinegar, let marinate for 10-30 min (or more- let sit overnight if you like), then toss with olive oil and serve. For a yummy yogurty twist- reduce vinegar to a tablespoon, and stir in 1/2 cup plain yogurt before serving. Garnish with chopped tomatoes or more herbs.

Summer Squash Patties from


* 8 medium yellow squash, shredded (MF note: use any color or kind of summer squash or zucchini- yellow and green mixed are beautiful)
* 1 onion, shredded
* 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup cornmeal
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
* ground black pepper to taste
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


1. Place the squash and onion in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and drain about 30 minutes, until no longer moist.
2. In a bowl, mix the squash and onion, flour, cornmeal, egg, and cheese. Season with pepper.
3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Drop squash mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls into the skillet, and cook 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

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