Thursday, November 14, 2013

CSA member survey- reply and be entered to win a free Thanksgiving share!

Hello farm friends!  I can't believe how fast the past few weeks have gone- CSA feels like a long time ago already--- hopefully not so long that you've forgotten all the ideas and feedback you had for us at the end of the season!
Below is the link to the member feedback survey.  While we appreciate any and all feedback all the time (CSA members, investors, market customers, nosy neighbors), this survey is specific to CSA, and the drawing for the free Thanksgiving share is for CSA members only.  If you win the drawing, you can pick up your Thanksgiving share Sat. November 23 at our stall at the indoor market in Bldg 50 (Sat from 10 am to 2 pm).
Deadline for survey responses to be entered in the drawing: Wed. Nov. 20
Deadline for survey responses (not entered in the drawing): Dec. 31

Deadline for feedback, input, ideas, concerns, questions: never!

Survey link:

Thank you SO much for joining us this year.  It felt like a great and productive season; I look forward to hearing YOUR perspective!

Monday, October 14, 2013

BPF CSA Week 19: Thanksgiving Shares, Organic Apples, Winter Shares, Surveys

Lovely turnout for the Sunday Harvest Party and potluck on Sunday!  We got all the squash and gourds out of the field, and a good amount of potatoes into the barn, too. Thanks SO much to CSA members, neighbors, and friends who pitched in and/or stayed to share food and fire afterward.
The Eldred family collected buckets full of black walnuts for dyeing, chickens enjoyed a feast of half-rotten melons, and our youngest CSA member Elena Stauffer (8 weeks old) even joined us for the evening! Brenin and John pressed about 10 gallons of cider, and we still have apples left over!  Which reminds me: organic apples from Gene Garthe in Northport are available to order .  $1 per lb for orders of 10# or more, or $4 per quart.  Bushels are approx 40 lbs, so approx $40.  Scroll down to Announcements for details on varieties available. Also detailed in Announcements: Thanksgiving Shares, Winter Shares, and End-of-Season Surveys (*survey respondents will be entered into a drawing for a free Thanksgiving Share!).

In Your Share This Week:

Turnips: one of the most misunderstood vegetables, this hearty representative of European peasant food is a favorite of mine and a staple in the fall/winter diets of northern cultures the world around (*including northern MI*). Sweet and pungent, turnips are delicious raw (grated, sliced thinly, and/or fermented), cooked (roasted, baked, fried, souped), as greens (anything you'd do to kale, try it on turnip greens), and as a surprise at the back of your fridge in January (surprise! they are still delicious-- excellent keeping quality is what made them good peasant food-- try them now AND in mid-winter in hearty stews and roasted mixed roots).  You might see Scarlet Queen (pink inside and out!) or Gold Ball (pale gold-white).  If you need to triage vegetables to minimize waste, cut off the greens and use now, and store the roots in an airtight container (bag) in the fridge. They'll keep for several months if necessary.  See Recipes section for Smashed Turnips (with or without potatoes), one of my fave fall dishes.
Eggplant, mix of varieties
Peppers, sweet and/or hot
French Fingerling Potato
Winter Squash- Acorn/Delicata/Dumpling
Greens: either Brussels Tops, Kale, or Chard
Salad Mix- finally back after a long hiatus!  I hope you've been enjoying Napa, kale, waldorfy, and cabbage salads in the meantime, but it is nice to finally get a good harvest of baby greens again.
Cherry Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes- since we still haven't had a frost, they are still going, but certainly slowing down. It is nice to keep sharing this summer bounty with you well into fall.
Melons- either watermelons or canteloupe or galia.  What's been your favorite this season?

1. Thanksgiving Shares available: Sign up now to get a box of $40-50+ worth of veggies the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  Pick up boxes at our stall at the indoor winter market (basement of Bldg 50; The Commons).  Purchase one or more for your family and/or sponsor a share to be donated to Food Rescue/Goodwill Inn for Thanksgiving meals for local families. Thanksgiving shares will cost $40-50, depending on crops available in November; exact price available soon. Things you may
see in the Thanksgiving share: winter squash, potatoes, onions, leeks,
garlic, root veggies like carrots, turnips and/or beets, Brussels
sprouts, celery and/or celeriac, cabbage, radishes, cooking greens
like kale/collards, salad greens, herbs, and possibly a few surprises.

2. Organic Apples from Gene Garthe in Northport available to order! This has been a tremendous year for apples -- "if you ever wanted amazing apples, this is the year!" according to my husband Jess, who's been helping Gene harvest.  $1 per lb for 10# or more.  (a bushel crate = approx 40 lbs, so approx $40) or $4 per quart (5-7 apples depending on variety). Deadline to order: Halloween.  Order early for guaranteed selection-- and since this year is so amazing (big, beautiful apples!), think storage-- cool, dark places like garages and basements and attics are perfect for months of fresh apples-- applesauce, dried apples, frozen apple pie filling, baked apples in foil in the fire, apple-squash soup, apple cider!

Varieties available NOW: 
Swiss Gourmet

Golden Supreme- like a golden delicious but crisp and better
Graham Spy - Kathy Garthe's favorite baking apple
Elstar- Abra Berens' favorite all-around apple
Swiss Gourmet- Jess' and my favorite eating apple, hands down
Honeycrisp- need I say more? organic honeycrisp anyone?

Varieties available by November:
Ida Red
Northern Spy

3. The End is Near.   The last week of October will be the last week of CSA shares this year, for a 21-week season! Last date for Saturday people: Oct. 26; Tuesday people: Oct. 29; Wednesday: Oct. 30.  I'll be sending an end-of-season survey to get your feedback for help in planning next year's season.  All survey respondents will be entered in a drawing for one FREE Thanksgiving Share! So look for the survey (probably electronic- possibly paper) soon!

4. Winter Shares: Who wants to keep this going? We've had a few requests for winter shares.  Normally our winter shares take the form of investor shares (you invest cash in exchange for farm credit plus interest in the form of additional credit; each time you shop from our market stall, we debit your purchases from your account- no cash needed). More flexible than traditional shares, but you also have to show up early like any market customer to get the best selection.
If we did do a traditional winter share, it might be a once-a-month box. Say a $50-60 box of storage crops plus greens, once a month for four months, $200. Pick up at our stall at the indoor winter market. Just gauging interest here-- who's in? 


Smashed Turnips
3-4 lg turnips, scrubbed and cut into 1-2" cubes or wedges
half (or more) that amount of potatoes (optional), scrubbed and cut into 2" cubes or wedges
1 head roasted garlic
Veg oil
salt and pepper

1. Boil turnips and potatoes in generously salted water til tender but not falling apart. Drain.
2. Heat enough oil in a large skillet over high heat to fry the turnips/potatoes-- not deep frying, but a generous amount of oil nonetheless. I use veg. oil for high heat frying because olive oil and butter tend to smoke at the high temps that make for really nice fried things.  350 F if you're measuring.
3. Gently dump in enough turnips/potatoes/peeled roasted garlic to fill the skillet about 2/3 full in a single layer- don't overcrowd. Do it in multiple batches if necessary.  Smash the chunked roots with a potato masher or the bottom of a mug-  not to actually mash to a pulp, but to flatten a bit and mush up the different flavors of the different roots if using turnips AND spuds AND garlic, to increase surface area that's in contact with the hot oil (*this is why it's good to only fill the skillet 2/3 full at first, so the smashed roots have room to be in contact with the pan, rather than crowding up on top of each other*).
4. Let them fry til crisp on one side, then flip with a spatula to fry the other side.  You'll see if you used enough oil-- there will still be some left to do the second side. If not, don't add more now; the cool oil with just make everything greasy.  Use more for the second batch. Push around with the spatula a bit if they start to stick. Let them fry til brown and crisp; drain on paper towels.
5. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Serve hot with ketchup, garlic aioli, hot sauce, hot sauce+mayo (I know, sounds weird; tastes delicious), tahini-lemon dressing, whatever you like.

Friday, October 4, 2013

BPF CSA Week 18: Falling for Brassicas

Foods in the Brassicaceae, or cabbage, family  are fall staples-- hearty turnips and radishes, sweet crunchy cabbage, tender and versatile broccoli, weirdly delicious kohlrabi, among others, form the centers of many meals this time of year.  Brassicas also contain sulfur compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention-- as if delicious and beautiful weren't enough! This week delivers a barrage of brassicas, among other fall goodness.  Bon appetit!
***Remember: Fall Harvest Party and Potluck Sun. Oct. 13. Harvest: 2-5 pm. Potluck: 5:30-8 pm***

In Your Share This Week:

Broccoli-- beautiful fall broccoli!  We planted three different varieties with the intention of harvesting over 3-4 weeks, but guess what- they're ALL coming on all at once, so lots of broccoli this week!  Possibly one more week of broccoli, but it depends on weather (whether they hold in the field or need to come out yesterday)
Cabbage- red or green-- a great storage item-- these cabbages are fresh and delicious, but if you need to prioritize your veggies so you make sure to use them all with minimal waste, keep in mind that cabbage is an excellent keeper. Great for kraut, cabbage rolls, coleslaw, stirfry, or soup.
Turnips with gorgeous greens-either Gold Ball, Scarlet Queen, or Hakurei- see below for a delicious turnip soup recipe. The smell of turnip greens always makes me feel like fall is here- it's inextricably linked to cool, moist air, foggy mornings, chilly fingers.  It makes me want to pop into Matt Murphy's Irish Pub in Brookline MA where I had the best turnip soup of my life, 13 years ago!  I worked at a farm outside of Boston, and we'd sell at a market near Brookline, then hit Matt Murphy's for turnip soup and a pint after market, and usually some traditional Irish music, too.
Radishes- French Breakfast or D'Avignon, the mildest and tenderest of radishes.
Brussels Tops OR Swiss Chard- so many greens! cabbage, turnip greens, AND brussels tops or chard. So Brussels tops.... are the tops of Brussels sprout plants.  And we top them for two reasons: 1. It causes the plants to direct growth at making bigger sprouts rather than growing taller, and 2. They are delicious!  I happen to prefer them after a frost (like B-sprouts themselves), because the cold temps make them sweeter, but they are still tasty now, and since we haven't had a frost and need those sprouts to size up, here you go!  Use just like Collard Greens or Kale.  Chard is interchangeable with spinach or beet greens, also delicious in a simple saute with olive oil, onions, garlic, lemon or vinegar. voila.

Carrots- yum! sweet fall carrots, several different varieties.
Celery- remember this from a few weeks ago?  cut off the tops (leaves) to maintain keeping quality if you're not using it all immediately. DO use leaves in soup, stew, stock, or salad.  You know what to do with the rest!
Potatoes- Red Gold or Nicola... which is your favorite so far?
Winter Squash- Delicata, Sweet Dumpling, and/or Acorn- yum.  Winter squash keeps well at a cool temp (55ish) for months or possibly room temp (60's not 70's) for several weeks at least.  If you see any soft or rot spots developing, cut them out and cook immediately. Freeze frozen squash if you can't use it immediately
Cherry Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes

Sunday, September 29, 2013

BPF CSA Week 17: Asian Invasion!

-It's time for stir-fry, kim chee, edamame, and/or eggrolls.  This week's share is bursting with Asian-style veggies.  Your Napa cabbage might last the entire week if you don't use it for a giant batch of kim chee, so start on it now! See recipes for my favorite slaw.
-Please help choose a date for the End of Season Harvest Party and Potluck: Oct. 13 or Oct 15?

Also- we have at least two more weeks of CSA.  As you know, CSA runs at least 18 weeks, and up to 22 weeks, weather permitting.  Since this is week 17, the season could end as early as next week. However, there's no frost in the forecast for the next 10 days, which means warm-weather crops like tomatoes, melons, eggplant, basil, and flowers should keep on coming at least that long.  Right now I'm predicting a 20-week season (three more weeks after this one), but I will keep checking weather and our store of crops and keep in touch about the end date.  We'll keep going if warm-weather crops AND cool-weather crops are still going strong, but we'll usually call it a season if we've had a frost, and the last couple of weeks are all storage veggies (e.g. potatoes, onions, garlic, squash, root veggies)-- if that's the case, we'll send you home with one last extra-large share instead of asking you to come pick up the same thing in smaller quantities for more weeks.  I'll keep you updated when the end is in sight ;)

What's in Your Share This Week

Napa Cabbage (Chinese Cabbage)- one of the most versatile of Brassicas, Napa can be cooked any way you'd use round cabbage; it is more delicate so requires less cooking time.  It's also delicious raw in so many forms- shredded slaw, chopped inside of egg rolls or spring rolls, lacto-fermented into kim chee (amazing Korean kraut-style fermented greens), you name it.  Here's a link to a blog by two Philly-area CSA members about what they did with Napa in their share--with a nice recipe for pot stickers! See Recipes for my favorite slaw.

Edamame- edible soybeans!  You'll see these as a big handful of bean plants with pods still attached. Remove pods from plant, compost the plant, boil the pods whole in heavily salted water til tender. Eat the beans (seeds) from out of the pod. They should be tender and flavorful. This makes an excellent appetizer or snack- set out bowls of beanpods and bowls for people to put in the empty pods after scraping out the beans with their teeth (sort of like scraping an artichoke petal with your teeth).

Daikon Radish-- one of my favorite radishes, daikon have affectionately been called "baby arm radishes" by a few different farm crew members here-- they can get that big!  These daikon this week are thinnings from the row-- small representatives. You  might see one more week of giant daikon before the season's end.  Enjoy these any way you normally use radishes- fresh on salad, grated onto anything, roasted, etc.  They make a delicious lacto-fermented pickle, are very nice sliced paper-thin and floated on a bowl of hot miso soup, or cut into long dipping sticks for hummous, tahini-miso dip, or anything else you'd like to eat with a radish stick. ALSO-- the greens are delicious!  Smooth (not hairy) and juicy, these radish tops are interchangeable with other Asian greens like bok choi or Napa in any recipe.

Broccoli-- the fall beauties! They are looking so delicious right now.  The broccoli is one of a few things in this family that did NOT get sprayed with Bt (an organic pesticide for cabbage loopers-- cabbage butterfly larvae-- see last week's blog posting/newsletter for details). That means there may still be loopers (small green worms exactly the color of the broccoli stem and incredibly hard to see) in the broccoli.  How to remove: soak broccoli in heavily salted cold water for 30-60 min. Agitate a few times, and worms should float free.  Rinse under cold water to blast off any remaining worms and the salt. Always store broccoli in an airtight container in the fridge.  If you use in the first few days, go ahead and leave leaves on; if not, remove leaves-- just like with carrots, the leaves will continue to transpire moisture away from the plant, resulting in rubbery broccoli.  Leaves ARE edible just like kale. But remove leaves for crisper stalks/florets.

Eggplant- are you still loving eggplant? It seems like we haven't had enough. I could use one more big harvest; I haven't even made any baba ganoush this summer! But those that we've had have been delicous-- try them simmered in coconut milk for 15-20 min for a delicious start to any Thai curry dish.

Peppers-sweet and/or hot, enjoy these ripe, i.e. red (or orange or lime green etc, depending on variety) rather than green for the best flavor and sweetness, but green peppers are still crispy, beautiful, and tasty, too.

Basil- probably the last of this heat-loving herb, basil is not only great as pesto or with tomatoes, but is also a delicous finish/topping for most Thai curry dishes. Try whole leaves or flowers floated in any kind of spicy soup (e.g. tom kha, hot and sour, or any spicy brothy soup), and woody stems in your veggie stock (see last week's blog re: making stock).

Onions- a mix of yellow onions, red Lunga di Tropea, or cipoollini.

Garlic- still got a good supply in store-- check farm news for our Garlic Planting Party invitation, probably right around Halloween time.

Carrots- always store in something airtight like a tupperware or plastic bag. If they get limp or rubbery, cut in half and soak in ice cold water, right in the fridge, for a few hours, and they will crisp right back up.

Cherry Tomatoes-  these plants are certainly starting to slow down in production from cooler temps and shorter days, but aren't done yet!

Heirloom Tomatoes-  like the cherry tomatoes, these heat-loving plants aren't dead yet, but have peaked and are starting to slow down. That said, we're not done yet! If you haven't had enough caprese salad yet (sliced tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella topped with olive oil and salt and possibly balsamic vinegar too), this is a good week for it.


1. End-of-Season Harvest Party and Potluck: Which works best for you, Sun. Oct. 13 OR Tues. Oct. 15?  Harvest party from 2-6 ish; potluck from 6:30-8 ish. Come for either or both parts. Also, cider pressing in the barn, so bring apples to contribute to the mix, and a jug to take some cider home!  But please weigh in on the date ASAP- which date is better for you?

Recipe: Michelle's favorite Asian-ish Slaw

4-5 cups shredded Napa cabbage, bok choi, daikon greens, or any green Asian (or not) leafy thing you've got around
2-4 grated carrots
1 finely sliced 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
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 squeeze of fresh lime and/or bean sprouts and/or pea shoots and/or fried tofu and/or anything else you like.
Prepared edamame

small daikon radish
Napa w/outer leaves removed-- you CAN eat them, by the way!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Birch Point CSA Week 16: Thyme for Soup!

What's in Your Share This Week?

Celery- the very first of the season!  I love homegrown celery for its intense flavor, dark green color, and versatility (did you know that if you grow your own celery, instead of cutting off the whole head at the base, you can harvest just the outer leaves/stalks as you need them, and the plant will continue to grow all season?).  Commercial celery is often blanched, or grown under hilled soil or mulch, which results in pale, weak-flavored stalks (read: less color, less flavor, less nutritional value, which is partly why celery has a reputation for being all fiber and nothing else).  We grow our celery exposed to the sun, which results in dark green, super flavorful stalks and leaves.  And yes! You CAN use the leaves.  Store-bought celery usually has the leaves removed because they transpire moisture away from the stalk, resulting in rubber celery, so removing them extends the storage life. The same is true for your farm-grown celery, BUT you should remove the leaves and USE them chopped in soup, stirfry, and/or egg salad-- anywhere you like celery flavor, basically.  Then eat the stalks fresh or cooked, too.  It's like double-celery (leaves AND stalk) ;)

Carrots- we just harvested a LOT of carrots and topped them for better storage life (see note on celery leaves. The same applies to any veggie with leaves).  You'll probably see carrots w/out tops for the next week or two.  These are still fresh (less than 2 weeks old, unless we have WAY more than I think, and they last us 3 weeks), and delicious raw OR cooked-- perhaps in soup?

Onions-- we'll continue to supply you with a mix of onion varieties.  We've just run through the last (I think) of the sweet onions, which we like to use up first because they don't store nearly as well as the red, yellow, and cipollini onions.  From now on, you'll see a mix of yellow and red storage onions, cipollini, Tropea (the long red ones resembling biceps- an Italian heirloom of gorgeous appearance and delicious flavor), and perhaps some shallots, too.

Garlic- could we go a week without garlic? I think not. If you use a lot of garlic, more is available to purchase; just ask at CSA pickup.  If you are stockpiling because you don't use much garlic, never fear- it keeps wonderfully for months IF you keep it cool and DRY-- i.e. NOT in the refrigerator.  Any cool, dry place will do.

Potatoes-- as with onions, you'll keep seeing a mix of potato varieties.  I believe this week it's Augusta, a white-fleshed, yellow-skinned variety, which according to Fedco Moose Tubers (where we purchased the seed potatoes) make the best potatoes au gratin, and are a favorite of our friends Bill and Patrice Bobier at Earthscape/Full Circle Farm in Hesperia, MI.  I am partial to all varieties of potatoes roasted (cut into bit-sized pieces, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet or skillet, and roasted in the oven at 400-ish F til brown and crisp on the edges but creamy-soft in the centers). Seriously- any potato is good that way. But the best way to compare varieties is simple boiling- it reveals the texture (floury, waxy, creamy, or dry) and flavor of a spud.  Please check out the info-packed Wood Prairie Kitchen Potato Guide to choosing the best preparation for different potato types-- I believe Augusta is not on that list, but you'll get a general idea of what to do with floury vs waxy vs moist vs dry spuds. In case you need it :)

Leeks-- finally it's leek time!  In case you can't tell, we've basically handed you a potato-leek soup box this week. See recipes below for my fave version of this classic fall/winter soup.  BTW, you CAN use the green part of the leek. I've never understood why people don't use it more often-- it can be a little fibrous, but for goodness sake, just slice it finely across the grain and saute. Puh-leez.  And if you don't want to do that, toss it into your stock pot for the "onion" part of any soup stock (basic veggie stock: whatever "onion" and garlic parts you have around-- skins, butts, greens, etc, whatever carrot (or parsnip) parts you have around-- same, whatever celery (or parsley) parts you have around-- same, a good handful of thyme OR just the woody parts of fresh or dried thyme if you've saved those, a few bay leaves, salt and pepper.  Put it all in a pot, just cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer it for 10-20 min.  Cool. Strain. Use immediately or fridge or freeze according to your needs.  You can put anything in homemade stock-- I find veggie stock easy because I chuck into a bag in the freezer all the veggie end, butts, skins, unwanted "parts" all week/month (keep the bag near the top/front of freezer for easy access to add more parts every time you cook and generate veggie waste) until I have a stockpot worth, then I make stock and then compost the veg "waste" whose flavor I just captured.  If your veg waste was dirty/gritty to start, strain your stock through multiple layers of cheesecloth OR a paper coffee filter before using/freezing. Note: my opinion: avoid brassicas in soup stock (cabbage, kale, broccoli etc).  I think they lend too strong a flavor for most soups.

Herbs-Thyme OR Parsley-- Thyme for the stock and/or beginning of your soup project, parsley as generous fresh garnish.  Either or both will make your soup that much more delicious.  By the way, the parsley STEMS are delicious- crispy and juicy; chop and throw into anything you might like parsley in. OR toss them in your stock while simmering.

Kale OR Swiss Chard-- surely you know what to do with these by now?  If not, there's always eggs, the vehicle for all things mysterious.  Chop said mysterious things (though CSA members have no reason to include kale and chard in this category by this time of the season, you may still enjoy them with eggs!), saute with onions and/or garlic in skillet, pour in beaten eggs (whatever ratio of "things" to eggs you like- if you like eggs, use more; if you like greens use less egg), scramble and/or fry til flippable, then flip like a burger. Enjoy with chopped tomatoes, peppers, hot sauce, dash of lemon, bread, friends, family.

Cherry Tomatoes-- oh, you're tired of these?  Sure, we can leave them out next week... haha, kidding!  Once the frost hits, we'll be done with tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, beans, and sunflowers.  Til then, though, these things are still going strong (see Field Notes for update on summer squash and cucumber).

Heirloom Tomatoes- thanks to all who came out for the Tomato Tasting and Rock and Roll Show last Tuesday!  Who knew that barnyard could create such an amazing amphitheater of sound?!  OK, it was actually farmer Spencer Boyles' band the Dead Letter Office, but we learned what a loud amp plus a natural bowl-landscape surrounded by walls can do. Wow! And the tomatoes were pretty tasty, too :)  As you might imagine there were as many favorites as there were tasters, but a few stood out as consistent faves: Gypsy, Green Zebra, Solar Flare, and Paul Robeson were each chosen by multiple people, though just about every variety had a fan.  What's your favorite so far? If you have no idea what you've been eating, please ask a farmer- OR consult the Birch Point/Bare Knuckle facebook posting from early in the spring about the varieties we grew.

Melons- watermelons OR canteloupe-- Here we are solidly into fall weather, and the melons are coming on like gangbusters. I hope you all get at least one more picnic in before it's too cold to eat outside.  Alternately, melon sorbet is lovely indoors, even in the winter.  (full disclosure: I haven't tried this particular recipe, and I don't have an ice cream maker, but I'm willing to give it a shot, modifying the directions to be something like instead of using an ice cream maker, just freeze it all, then chop into pieces, food process again, and freeze again. Perhaps twice.  I've done this with other "ice cream" recipes with good results)

Winter Squash-- Did you know that there is a seasonality to winter squash varieties?  The early season varieties, those we're harvesting now, are at their peak when harvested; they do store well but don't improve or change much with storage.  The later season varieties (buttercup, kabocha, butternut, hubbards, etc) actually improve in flavor and texture quality after a month or more of curing and storage.  So-- for peak squash experience, eat them each in season-- the acorns, delicatas and dumplings now, followed by the buttercups/kabochas, and last of all the classic keepers, the butternuts and hubbard-types. Everyone wants butternuts all time, but be patient, enjoy the squash that's peaking now, and it will afford you even more butternut love later when the time is right ;)

Sweet Dumpling


1. End-of-Season Harvest Party and Potluck: We've narrowed it down to two possible dates:
Sunday Oct. 13    OR
Tuesday Oct. 15
Please RSVP with your preference ASAP!
Harvest will start at 2 pm and go through 6 pm; potluck 6:30-8:30-ish.  Join us for either or both parts! We'll be digging potatoes (remember planting those back in May? seems like just last week!), bringing in the very last of the winter squash, and cleaning garlic and onions.  Bring your APPLES and a JUG to contribute to the Community Cider Pressing- throw in your apples, take home a jug of cider!  We'll borrow a press for the day, and press until we run through all the apples (there are  few feral trees on Birch Point Rd I've got my eye on- how about you? got any favorite feral trees?)
If we do it on Tuesday, it's partly during CSA pickup, so many of you will be here already. Plan to come early to help harvest and/or stay for the potluck.

2. Art in the Garden: Did you see Colleen's announcement about a second art workshop in the Children's Garden? She and Blackbird Arts teachers Melissa and Phil are also trying to plan the date for the workshop and pole-raising.  Please RSVP directly to Colleen by Sept 23 if your family would like to be part of the workshop in October:
Reply to colleen@creehanphotography with the following info...

1) how many in your family are interested in participating
2) does Tuesday, October 1st starting at 5pm work for you?
3) does Tuesday, October 8th starting at 5pm work for you?  

3. 2014: Farm Collaboration! Many of you already know this, but it's official: Brenin Wertz-Roth, of Giving Tree Farm in Grawn, and I are going to join farming forces starting next season.  Brenin and I have wanted to collaborate for some time now, and we're making the big move: his CSA and my CSA are merging.  We'll keep some crops going down at Giving Tree, things like garlic and pumpkins that don't need daily attention, but focus attention on Birch Point.  What does that mean for you?  
     1. More CSA options next year: I think we're going to keep all current options available for pickup, which means Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday, at the farm, at the TC market, AND at Little Fleet on Monday evenings.  I'll keep you updated if that changes, and we'll hold a general meeting next spring for members of the two farms to meet each other, answer questions, and for them (and  you!) to see Birch Point and meet both your farmers and our respective families!
     2. Perhaps a different mix of crops-- as you know, my favorite crops are tomatoes, alliums, leafy greens, and flowers, although we do a little bit of everything.  I happen to know Brenin is a brassica-phile, and his cabbages and Brussels sprouts may even be nicer than ours! (you haven't seen any of those yet, but next week you'll get cabbage.  Brussels sprouts will come after the frost, when they truly sweeten up).    Next year- more of all of them!  Our combined experience and interests will, I hope, create an even better, lovelier mix of crops for you next season.  On that note, look for an end-of-season survey to help us better plan for next year-- your feedback helps form the crop plan!
     3. More early crops- the current plan is to move Brenin's hoophouse here, which means more space for early lettuces, spinach, herbs, root veggies, etc.  Your CSA shares and our farmers' market stall will reflect that extra capacity for early production with more volume and more diversity early on.

Potato-Leek Soup
6 -8 med potatoes, scrubbed and chopped (why bother peeling, unless you're bored?)
1 onion, chopped
1-2 leeks, chopped (see note above re: green parts. go on, use them)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped (see note re: peeling potatoes)
3-4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
olive oil or butter
water/stock of your choice
optional: milk or cream or plain yogurt, fresh parsley and/or other fresh herbs

Saute onion, leek, and carrot in a generous amount of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot on medium heat til tender/translucent. Add garlic and potatoes, thyme and bay leaves, salt and pepper, and saute another couple of minutes. Add water/stock til soup is a little thicker than you like it, but all veggies are at least under water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cook til potatoes are tender.  Optional: immersion blenderize partly for a creamy soup with some chunks, or completely for a smooth soup.  You can also do that transfer-to-a-blender-or-cuisinart-then-transfer-back thing, but I find that tedious at best and dangerous at worst. If you like blenderized soups, just admit it and go get an immersion blender. You won't be sorry!  Taste.  It probably needs more salt. add it. don't be shy. If you honestly have dangerously high blood pressure or are cooking for someone who does, I suppose you could go light on the salt, but for everyone else- Don't Undersalt Your Soup!  While you're at it, add more pepper.  Keep tasting, though.  Make sure it's how you like it.  Add a little more hot water/stock as necessary to make it the consistency you like.  Keep it hot.  If you like creamy goodness, add a generous splash of milk or heavy cream and/or plain yogurt to each bowl- you might heat the milk/cream gently first so as not to make the soup lukewarm.  You could also add it to the pot, but if you'll have leftovers, it's nicer to reheat if it's dairy-free (no risk of scalded-milk-taste that way).  Top each bowl with a generous grind of black pepper and sprinkle of fresh parsley and/or other herb of your choice.  Try some red pepper flakes and/or fresh hot chiles, minced, for a spicy new-world twist on a European classic dish.

Field Notes

Summer Squash/Zukes and Cucumbers are nearly dead.  There were new plantings of both that were begining to flower, promising another wave of potential pickles and pattypans, but they got hit by a disease I couldn't identify-- a drying of the leaves despite ample rain lately, no apparent mildew or much yellowing, but they plants have stopped growing (which could of course be due to cool temps) and leaves are drying/dying back from the edges toward the stems.  This means less photosynthesis, less growth, less flower/fruit formation.  I am not hopeful, friends.   It was a good run of cukes and zukes from the early plantings, so I'm satisfied with our yield, but of course I would have liked one more wave of cukes at least, as I didn't pickle any yet this year!  I'll let you know if anything changes, but I think that's a cuke/zuke season.  Everything else is looking good- the fall brassicas in the field by the road are lush but have been hit hard by cabbage loopers (the larvae of the white-and-yellow cabbage butterfly, which eat large, ragged holes in brassica leaves, reducing photosynthesis and slowing growth, also depositing copious amounts of frass, or larva poop, in the cabbages- ick).  Just so you know, I did spray Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis, on that field to control them.   Bt is a naturally-occurring soil bacteria that, when ingested, kills moth and butterfly larvae.  In this case it specifically targets cabbage loopers, as they are the larva that eat the leaves of the brassica plants (brassica=everything in the cabbage family, like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, collard greens, radishes, turnips, mustard greens, etc), and it is when they munch the sprayed leaf that the Bt on it kills them.  Since it rained, I'll have to reapply it, as the little monsters are still active.  Bt IS safe for humans- I don't know what kind of studies have been done about how much you'd have to ingest to observe damage, but in recommended quantities, it is not dangerous to us. Although I cringe at spraying anything (it feels like cheating at best, dangerous at worst) on our crops, the damage done by the loopers far exceeds, in my estimation, any risk posed by Bt.  In an interesting twist, BT is such an effective organic insecticide that the GM crop industry has engineered crops like potatoes to manufacture their own Bt in their own cells.  One might think (if one were open to GM crops at all) that is a reasonable use of genetic engineering in crop development, but the risk posed is that of Bt-resistant pests.  Since organic farmers have been judiciously (hopefully judiciously) using Bt for years to safely control cabbage loopers, the idea that broad expanses of cropland might suddenly present an opportunity for Bt-resistant mutants to survive and spread is rather terrifying.  Not only could Bt-producing genes potentially escape and react with unanticipated outcomes in the environment, a dependable, safe (to the best of our knowledge), organic pest control could be rendered useless.  Lots of things about GMO crops are terrifying, but to me the most unforgivable is the seemingly cavalier attitude of the industry to the unknown environmental impacts, which are inextricably linked to the success of organic producers, as described in the above scenario.  Note:NewLeaf (Bt) potatoes were pulled from the market in 2001, but Monsanto et al. continue to provide pesticide-producing commodity crops like grain and fiber crops. I don't even know where to begin thinking about addressing the fiber issue, but I think we can grow some grains locally-- for example, corn, buckwheat, and rye, and possibly wheat and barley too, on an economical scale.  What locally-produced, organic grains would you like to try? Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 13, 2013

BPF CSA Week 15

What's in Your Share This Week?

Potatoes-- after a couple weeks' break, these staples are back for soup season!
the very first Winter Squash- Delicata and/or Sweet Dumpling- see below for my favorite preparation
Collard Greens- a nutritional powerhouse AND so delicious; interchangeable with kale in recipes
Basil- the basil went from scrawny little plants to big, bolting beauties, so you're getting a bodacious bunch with flowers- just toss them right in with the stems and leaves for pesto; blend a minute extra
Tomatoes- full size heirloom slicers! See below for invite to the Heirloom Tomato Tasting Tuesday
Cherry Tomatoes- still irresistible; still coming on strong
Beet Greens OR Kale OR Swiss Chard- mmm more more more greens! Please saute and enjoy with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, wine reduction, and/or tomatoes. anything else=optional
the first MELONS!  Watermelon, Galia Melon, and/or Canteloupe- wow; they are starting to pour in; I hope we get at least another week of picnic weather to enjoy them outside! (Galia=green fleshed, netted skin, reminiscent of honeydew, but SO much better)

1. Heirloom Tomato Tasting here at BPF; Tuesday Sept. 17 3-7 pm.  Yes, it is during CSA pickup for Tuesday CSA members; everyone else- hope you can make it out on Tuesday! We will feature our best/favorite heirlooms along with samples from Bare Knuckle Farm, Loma Farm, and Giving Tree Farm.  Music from the Dead Letter Office, farmer Spencer Boyles' band.

2. Red Barn Yoga: Wednesday Sept 18, 6-7 p.m. in the red barn at BPF.  Donation-based, all-levels yoga class taught by Amy Hubbell. All-levels class; all invited.  Wear yoga-comfortable clothes with layers (it could get chilly!); also bring a yoga mat, towel, or lightweight blanket.

Winter Squash (universal recipe- fancify to taste)
Slice in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds.  Place face down on a cookie sheet/in shallow baking dish, add water to cover cut edge (prevent drying out).  Bake at 350-400 until flesh is soft (60 min+ for large squash; 30 min or so for small squash; test to make sure the texture is to your liking); remove from oven, serve in the skin "on the half shell" for small squash; sliced OR scooped out for larger squash.  Add any number of condiments (for example butter, salt and cinnamon, OR olive oil, roasted garlic, and ground sage, OR anything else that suits you- try it PLAIN first to see what it needs, if anything!)

Collard Greens- Michelle's favorite way
Slice collard greens crosswise into thin ribbons, massage in a bowl with salt til tenderized. Saute lightly if you like (really unnecessary, but hot food is nice in the fall!), with onions, garlic, and tomatoes, chopped (chopped hot pepper optional).  Douse with olive oil, lemon juice (or cider vinegar or hot sauce), and black pepper. Serve hot or cold.
OR boil them almost beyond recognition with a hambone in a big pot- southern style ;) Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

BPF CSA Week 11

Past the half-way mark! Hard to believe, but even if CSA lasts 22 weeks (max possible for the season), we are now halfway through.  And tomatoes are just starting to trickle in.  We harvested the first 3 large tomatoes and first 2 pints of cherry tomatoes from the field today (as opposed to the hoophouse where all tomatoes up til now have come from).  Ah. It's on the horizon! (the tomato tsunami)
In Your Share This Week:
Summer Squash and/or Zucchini
Hakurei Turnips
Cherry Tomatoes
Sweet Onions
Potato Medley
Kale or Chard
Lettuce- mix of varieties of leaf/butterheads

1.Remember: Red Barn Yoga tomorrow (Wed) from 7-8 pm.  All are welcome.  All levels class, by donation, taught by Amy Hubbell.  Wear comfortable clothes,  bring a yoga mat, towel, and/or lightweight blanket-- the barn floor is old and wood and may be splintery.

2. Upcoming: Let's set the date for our end-of-season CSA potluck celebration!  Traditionally it's been attached to either the big squash harvest (usually early Oct) or the garlic planting party (end of Oct).  I suggest early-mid Oct. so we might still have good weather for an outdoor event! Which of these dates looks best to you (work party approx 2 pm, potluck approx 5:00 pm):
Sat. Oct. 5
Sat. Oct 12
Sun. Oct 13
Tues. Oct 15 (during normal CSA pickup time)

That's it for now- thanks for reading, and please enjoy your food.

Monday, July 29, 2013

CSA Week 8 and mid-summer farm updates

What's in Your Share This Week?

CARROTS!  We grow several varieties of orange carrots (long-skinny, short-fat, and everything in between), white carrots, yellow carrots, purple carrots. If you're new to rainbow carrots, you're in for a beautiful surprise.  Storage tip: as with any root veggie, remove the carrot tops  before storing in an airtight container (e.g. sealed plastic bag) in the fridge.  Since the carrot is still alive even after harvest, the leaves will still transpire moisture out of the root, resulting in rubbery carrots.  For root crops whose leaves you also eat (e.g. turnips, beets), remove leaves and store both leaves and roots separately, airtight in the fridge. Voila, everyone's happy.

Purslane, or verdolagas -- Purslane is a succulent, wild edible plant that shows up like a weed in our garden.  It's high in vitamin C and omega-3s ( ), has a lovely lemony flavor, and is incredibly versatile.  I like it in salads, stirfry, frittata, deviled eggs, smoothies, and salsa. If you have a garden, it will probably show up--  just eat it!   If you speak Spanish, google verdolagas-- there are many more recipes from Latin American cuisine than from English-language cuisine.

Sweet Onions-- We are growing three varieties of sweet onions, the bright white Sierra Blanca, and the tan-skinned, round Ailsa Craig and more flattened Walla Wallas. Can you taste the difference among varieties?  These fresh sweet onions are best stored in the fridge, since they are so high in moisture and aren't intended for long storage, unlike the yellow and red onions you'll see later in the season.

Fresh Garlic-- Last week, one of my fave farm lunch items was simple roasted veggies- whole garlic cloves (not peeled), halved tomatoes, chopped eggplant (coming soon! the farm crew got the very first sampling), sweet onion, with rosemary, salt, and pepper coarsely ground and generously sprinkled, with olive oil.  I throw garlic into just about everything this time of year- Yum!  ALSO-- if you get garlic with green stalks still attached, cut off the stalks and use as a bed for anything on the grill (kind of like you would do with fennel)-- lay a few garlic stalks on your grill, then lay grillables right on top of it for a super summer garlic infusion. Afterward, discard stalks and/or toss into any soup stock you're simmering that night. (*tip: carrot tops and trimmings, garlic skins and tops, onion skins and trimmings make excellent vegetable stock, along with some salt, pepper, thyme and bay)

Broccoli OR Napa OR Braising Mix-- see note from last week

Tomatoes -- We're still harvesting cherry tomatoes, and a few large Moskvich (Russian heirloom-- red, of course) from the hoophouse, though the field tomatoes are green and plentiful!  If this cold snap continues, it will be a while before field tomatoes ripen, but when we get warm temps back, you may float away on a sea of heirloom tomatoes...
Storage tip in preparation for tomato season: Don't you EVER store tomatoes in the refrigerator, hear?  Tomatoes should be stored at 55-68 degrees F to minimize chilling damage (mushy texture, reduced flavor, soft spots) or rot (  Exception: if you know you are going to cook your tomatoes, go ahead and store in the fridge. Otherwise, it's like freezing bananas: satisfying for smoothies or banana bread, but not much else.   The tomatoes we grow are harvested either dead ripe or 1-2 days shy of dead ripe, quite different from the tomatoes in the store, even those marketed as "vine-ripened," which usually means the vine is snipped off the plant along with the tomatoes, when they are still quite green, then ripened in CA (controlled atmosphere) with high ethylene concentrations, or in a shipping container en route to the store.  Our heirlooms are handled with great care, on the plant and off, so you get the maximum sugars produced by photosynthesis in good, rich soil, not just the maximum skin color change produced by ethylene.  Please treat them gently and store properly for maximum AMAZING flavor and texture.

Baby Salad Mix--a mix of lettuces, and often other baby greens as well.  Feedback time:  you've had both baby mix and "adult" lettuce (i.e. whole heads)-- what's your favorite form of salad?


1. Red Barn Yoga: Aug. 21 from 7-8 p.m, by donation. Farm friend and yoga teacher Amy Hubbell,
who currently teaches Yoga on the Beach, among other locations, will lead this all-levels class. Wear yoga-comfortable clothes and bring your own mat or towel (*mat or towel [or lightweight blanket] is very important here- it's an old wooden barn floor, possibly with splinters-- protect your dogs and digits).  It's the first of hopefully more to come. Q: even if you can't make it on Aug. 21, would do you come to Red Barn Yoga on another day/date?  I want to gauge interest here, so we can offer a weekly class next year!

2. Coffee from Higher Grounds available two ways:
     a) A few 1-lb bags available this week only at the sale price of $8 per lb (med-dark roast), first-come, first-served, Tues at CSA pickup. IF you pre-ordered a 1-lb OR 5-lb bag for this week, your order will be here Tuesday. Bring $ or check.
     b) Coffee Shares still available: 1 lb of whole-bean coffee per week for $10 per week, for as many weeks as you choose to sign up for.  You choose medium or dark roast, Higher Grounds will rotate varieties within your roast preference, so you can try several over the season.  (I realize it's not very tempting to pay $10 per pound while they're offering $8 per pound, but I believe the amazing sale prices are over for the season-- and $10 per lb is still a much better deal than retail).

3. Certified Organic Blueberries available SOON from Ware Farm-- details forthcoming; just wanted to make your mouth water for a minute.

4. Weeders Wanted:  Our driveway flower bed has been sadly neglected, and while the brave sunflowers and unstoppable perennials are still going strong, we can barely see them through the lambsquarters!  Volunteer a few hours of weeding, and take home a bouquet once the sunflowers are in full bloom.  Please email or call to set up a volunteer flower weeding shift -- thanks!

Field Notes

Joyful Moment: Over 3600 bulbs of garlic harvested, bunched, and hung in the barn last week-- hooray!  Thanks to our four volunteers and dedicated crew, we are rich in garlic.  We've seen a notable decrease in plant and bulb size from two years ago.  We're still planting the same varieties (and hence same genetics with same hugeness potential as ever), but environmental conditions (drought, and this year, cold & late spring, so a shortened growing season) have resulted in smaller-than-possible bulbs.  I'm still pleased with our garlic, especially when I compare it to other garlic I see at farmers' market, but I'm recognizing the importance of irrigation.  Until last year, garlic rarely required irrigation, and we've always had gorgeous bulbs, so I took for granted that we could get away without watering much, but next year I'll be sure to prioritize it in the irrigation lineup, early on, to ensure a return to a state of garlic glory.
Next steps: continue to distribute garlic in CSA shares and at market, and once the bunched stems are completely dried down (in 2-3 months) sort into seed stock (largest, best specimens) and eating stock (the rest).  End of October: Garlic Planting Party!  If it happens to fall near Hallowe'en, it'll be a costume party-- stay tuned.

Crop Update, field by field: 

Back Field:
Onions, shallots and leeks are all looking amazing.  The Birch Point crew has keep the allium field beautifully weed-free this year, and the plants are responding well, despite the hot temps.  Unlike the garlic, I kept the onions well watered, so despite the late planting date, they've sized up well, and I think we'll have a good harvest of sweet AND storage bulbs.  Leeks will be on the late side, but for being small, they still look great.  Potatoes are also looking amazing.  This is one of the few years we've both had a huge infestation of Colorado Potato Beetles AND kept up with hand-picking them!  They are still there, but in tolerable numbers, and I think those spuds will just keep growing until harvest, unlike last year (remember the leaf hopper invasion early on that decimated the potato plants? No-leafhoppers-no-leafhoppers-no-leafhoppers...)This mid-season rain, coupled with SERIOUS mulch, should keep the plants happy and tubers growing.  Peas and Fava beans are on their way out-- this mid-season cool, moist spell might set another round of flowering, but I'm not counting on it.  SQUASH is looking good, overall-- unlike most years, the transplants actually did better than the direct seeded squash.  Due to drought, we had terrible germination on a few things, namely gourds and jack-o-lanterns.  The good news is that all the edible varieties (butternut, buttercup, delicata, acorn, sweet dumpling, and more) are looking great-  lots of flowers and even several young fruits set and growing.  It doesn't hurt pollination to live right next to the honeybees! Summer squash and cucumbers haven't fared as well as winter squash, in terms of transplant vigor- we certainly have a crop, but it's tiny, and I'm going to squeeze in one more planting this week, to see how many more cukes and zukes can mature before frost.  You'll see the bulk of these things later in the season this year.  The bees are the most productive I've seen since they arrived in 2009.  Our beekeeper, Greg Griswold of Champion Hill Farm, has stacked up to six supers (honey storage chambers) on top of many of the hives, anticipating a huge honey harvest!  Farm members will have the opportunity to order pure Birch Point honey later this summer (as opposed to regular Champion Hill honey, which is blended from multiple bee yards Greg maintains around the county.

Vermont Field (adjacent to the road):
All the early brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale) except kohlrabi took their sweet time in maturing this year-- note to self: kohlrabi is a real trooper, thriving even under adverse conditions!  Cabbage is finally starting to form firm heads, while broccoli has been trickling in, with smaller-than-average heads AND little side shoots, for several weeks.  The kale in the VT field was ravaged by flea beetles early on and is just starting to outgrow the damage, so most kale you've seen in shares has come from the hoophouse.  Swiss chard has thrived this year-- as long as we keep it covered with reemay (the lightweight white fabric you see over many crops)-- to protect it from (get ready for this) goldfinches!  No joke, goldfinches are an agricultural pest, preferring chard, but settling for beet greens in a pinch (they're the same species, remember!) They perch on the tallest leaves, tearing holes with their little claws, and shredding the leaves further with their little bills... little monsters.  All the fall brassicas are finally in the ground (brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, Napa cabbage, more kohlrabi, romanesco cauliflower, more kale, and collard greens!) and looking very happy- the rain and cool temps couldn't have come at a better time to settle in these summer-planted-but-cool-temp-loving crops.

From the North Garden/Middle Earth/Rhubarb Row (three sections of the same field):
Flowers are coming on strong!  Everything we transplanted is doing great, having a head start over the direct-seeded sunflowers and second generation of zinnias.  Flower shares start this week, even though sunflowers are *just* barely starting to open-- there will just be more and more of them-- all the other flowers are blooming their heads off.  Celery and Celeriac have been invaded by a robust purslane crop-- hence the purslane in your shares this week- it is delicious and a bonus, but we will have to weed it out once you get it in shares, so that you can get celery and celeriac later.  Turnips have been a complete bust this year-- terrible germination on the first planting, followed by root maggots in those that did make it, and the second generation is still tiny.  I feel hopeful about those new little guys, but it will be several weeks, still!  Beets in this garden are just hanging out, being small. The plan was a seamless transition from hoophouse beets (what you've been eating so far) to field-grown beets, without missing a... beat... but they are stubbornly small, still.  I think one more round of thinning, combined with this rain and cool spell, will be just what they need to jump start growth.  (Late fall beets are going in the ground this week, along with more carrots, turnips, rutabaga, daikon radish, and more!). Carrots and parsnips are finally sizing up!  They, too, were just hanging out, being small (until we handweeded with a fine toothed comb); now they're happy and coming on strong.  Beans are flowering and (now) well-watered-- we should finally see some beans in the next 1-2 weeks!  Bulb fennel and the next generation of leaf lettuce (not baby salad) are coming right along-- depending on weather, it could be 3-5 weeks before we get our first fennel harvest.  Rhubarb is completely overgrown by grass-- a fall project is to dig up all the rhubarb and relocate them somewhere with less grass competition-- I know, it seems impossible that anything could overtake rhubarb, but we have some seriously healthy grass around here!

Red Barn Garden
Tomatoes are healthy and robust, just a few weeks behind where we'd like them to be at the end of July-- lots of green fruit there, so when the heat returns, we'll be rich in tomatoes! Peppers and eggplants- same story: looking good, a little behind, green fruits just starting.  Basil is also taking to the red barn garden quite well- interplanted with peppers, it's bushing out and we might get our first harvest next week, possibly the week after.  Purslane is also making a healthy appearance here, but it makes a fine living mulch under the nightshade plants, so I don't mind it much here (unlike under celery/celeriac, where it competes too much for water and nutrients; nightshades are better competitors for resources, and the spreading plant keeps water backsplash to a minimum, controlling soil-borne tomato diseases, just like any mulch).

That's it for now-  more later, and I look forward to seeing you at CSA pickup!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Birch Point CSA Week 7

What's in Your Share This (past) Week?

Napa Cabbage OR Broccoli (or Braising Mix)- why are these things all one item?  Because the Napa and Broccoli are just trickling in. Instead of getting an entire CSA worth of harvest all at once, we've been getting a few each week, due largely to the drought (inconsistent water).  The plan is that if we keep offering these as options, everyone will get everything, just not necessarily the same week as the next member!  Napa and Broccoli are in the same (Cabbage) family, store similarly (airtight in a fridge for at least a week- Napa probably even longer).  You CAN eat broccoli leaves, which is why we leave them on; they are delicious-- toss them in with broccoli OR any other greens you're preparing. Braising Mix is intended for sauteing, stirfrying, steaming, adding to eggs, soup, or anything else you cook (rather than eating fresh- they are hearty leaves!)
New Potatoes- surely you know what to do with potatoes? steam or boil, enjoy with butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, and/or anything else you like.
Last of the Peas/First of the Tomatoes! Doubt these will even make it home- don't tell your family they were in the share :)  You will see more and more tomatoes over the coming weeks, first cherry tomatoes followed by small slicers and finally the gigantic heirlooms will appear on the scene later in August.
Sweet Onions Can be enjoyed cooked OR raw- they are so sweet and mild they're perfect for salads or sandwiches OR grilling entire rounds, sliced thickly.
Fresh Garlic!  Garlic is a backbone of the farm lineup- along with salad greens, tomatoes, and root veggies. You'll see more garlic over the course of the season- notice how the fresh juicy quality changes over time, after the bulbs start to cure and the skins grow papery (and easier and easier to peel!)  Try roasted garlic, minced raw garlic, garlic chopped and steeped in olive oil (then use the olive oil for cooking or drizzling), anything you can think of.  This fresh, juicy garlic stores best in the fridge, while late-season, cured bulbs store best at room temp.
Beets with Greens These are the end of our early beets, and the mid-season beets are just starting to size up, so we'll have a little lull on the beet scene, but they will be back soon!  Meanwhile,  you'll get to know another favorite root veggie, the carrot (next week!).
Kohlrabi We're also near the end of the early-kohlrabi season-- it has been a great run!  The fall kohlrabi transplants just went in the ground, so you'll see more of these in your share later in the season. If you're still new to kohlrabi, try it fresh first- peel the thick skin with a paring knife, chop into sticks or bite sized pieces, and enjoy like a radish or carrot stick, with a sprinkle of salt if you like.  Kohlrabi leaves are also delicious- use just like kale, and/or toss them into a saute pan with your beet greens.

1. Garlic Harvest is this week!  Thursday afternoon we'll be pulling the "stinking rose" and hanging it in the red barn to cure.  I know it's short notice,  but come join us any time between 3 and 7 pm Thurs. July 25, in the Back Field. Wear clothes and shoes to get dirty, sweaty, and garlicky.  All ages and abilities welcome.

2. Yoga in the Red Barn Wednesday Aug. 21, 7-8 p.m. Join yoga teacher Amy Hubbell (who currently teaches Yoga on the Beach, among other places) for the first-ever Barn Yoga Class!  This one-hour drop-in class is all experience levels, by donation.  And it might smell like garlic (see Announcement #1).  Bring your own mat or towel, wear comfortable, loose clothing. Open to any and all farm friends, not just CSA members.

3. Coffee Sale- For those that missed the last bulk coffee sale, Higher Grounds is once again offering a sale on bulk quantities of coffee. $8 per lb or $40 per 5-lb bag.  Order by Friday July 26 via email for pick-up next Tuesday, July 30, on the farm.Varieties available:
           Peruvian Cepicafe (light roast)
            Colombian Ocamonte (single-origin medium roast)
            Bolivian Pumiri (single-origin medium-dark roast)

4. Goat cheese still available to purchase at Tues. CSA pickup-- made by our friends at Clean Plate Farm in Cedar, this delicious soft cheese is available in three flavors: Hint of Lavender, Onion-Chive, and Basil-Garlic-Thyme.  6.00 per tub.  Wed and Sat. shares can order goat cheese to pick up with your share at market. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Higher Grounds coffee CSA-only special sale!

This just in, friends:
Higher Grounds is offering a few varieties of coffee at super discounted prices for a short time, to their CSA farm partners.

Normally around $12 per lb retail (or $10 per lb if you have a coffee share), these varieties are available for $8 per lb for at least one more week:

   Sumatran (single origin dark roast)
   Nicaraguan La Fem (single origin medium roast)

Let me know if you'd like 1#, 5#, or any other increment.  It's whole-bean (not ground).  You DON'T have to have a coffee share to order these coffees right now; it's open to any CSA member (including Heart of Summer, flower shares, and investor shares).  Pick up will be at the farm ONLY (not at farmers' market) during Tuesday CSA pickup from 4-6 pm.

Order before next Monday July 15; I'll place the order Monday, and coffee will be available Tuesday July 16 at the farm.  
Normal coffee shares still available if you'd like to get in on that! ($10 per week for as many weeks as you sign up for in advance-- one pound whole bean coffee per week, your choice of medium or dark roast, rotating varieties weekly, within each roast).

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

CSA Week 5

What's in Your Share This Week?

Strangely, almost the same things as last week!  Major exception: sugarsnap peas and either kohlrabi, broccoli, or turnips.  Eat these peas whole, the pods are sweet and bursty tender.  Use kohlrabi fresh or cooked (I heard there might have been a good recipe suggestion on Local Thyme--? check it out!); be sure to use the greens too, just like kale.  Turnips should be eaten fresh; they are so tender and mild.  Broccoli- these sweet little heads are finally maturing. The drought put the brakes on their development, but a few have trickled in over the past couple of weeks, and I think we might see a nice broccoli harvest in 2-3 weeks, now that they've had a good drink.

On the horizon: hoophouse tomatoes!  The first few have been delicious, and soon we'll have enough to harvest for CSA!  Our outdoor tomatoes will be later than usual, thanks to the late spring, but the hoophouse tomatoes will fill that gap (between now and outdoor tomatoes).  Also potatoes!  The nightshade family is about to shine, as is garlic (fresh bulbs, not just scapes) in a couple of weeks.  Onions are looking great, if they can outgrow the weeds after this rain (i.e. if we can get a minute to weed them!), they'll be big and beautiful and delicious soon.  Those are highlights for now; longer newsletter next week.  bon appetit, Michelle

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Birch Point CSA Week 4

What's in Your Share This Week?

more Garlic Scapes!  I hope you know all the delicious things you can do with these by now.  For example, chop/slice/mince and use exactly like garlic in any recipe or salad/salad dressing or eggs or you-name-it.  ALSO try them on the grill.  Just toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and lay them right on the grill that's already hot for anything else you're already grilling.  Turn once or twice til they're evenly browned/slightly blackened, and enjoy.  Same for oven-broiling: olive oil-salt-pepper, then cookie sheet on highest oven rack, broil on high, turn once during browning. Enjoy.  The heat mellows out the bite and turns them into finger food.  OR make garlic scape pesto: chop coarsely, pulse in a food processor with lots of olive oil, some salt and peppers, generous squeeze of lemon juice and/or dash of rice vinegar, cayenne (optional), and toasted walnuts/pine nuts/sunflower seeds (add last so nuts maintain a little nutty texture instead of turning into paste). Last but not least, scapes keep in your fridge incredibly well.  Seal in an airtight container (e.g. plastic bag), hoard til you're ready to use them.  Enjoy.

Kale: The ruler of the green world.  Kale is perhaps my favorite vegetable, as it's incredibly delicious, versatile, and nutritious.  Always try a simple saute or steam when faced with a new leafy green.  Then try adding flavors to complement: acid, fat,salt, pepper.  My fave kale preparation: coarsely chop or chiffonade the leaves (yes include stems, unless you're making food for toothless people-- just chop stems more finely than the leaves).  Saute garlic or onions (e.g. scapes) in olive oil, add kale stems, saute another few minutes, add leaves, saute til it's as tender as you like it.  Add toasted chopped walnuts or pecans, a handful of dried cherries or raisins or currants, toss with balsamic vinegar.  Crumbled goat cheese or feta optional. Voila.  Also try kale chips.  Recipe forthcoming, or google it yourself.

Beets with greens-- I'll bet you know how you like beets, but please see "kale" for my same thoughts on beet greens.  Beet greens and chard can always be substituted for any recipe that calls for spinach.
Tip: to store beetroot AND beet greens longer, cut off greens, and store in airtight containers (e.g. sealed plastic bags) in fridge. The leaves will continue to transpire moisture away from the root even after it's in your fridge, so separate them to keep roots firm longer. That goes for any root veggie with greens (carrot, radish, turnip, etc). 

Scallions- use the entire thing, "tip to tail."  Even the roots!  Did you know chefs use scallion roots as a garnish?

Salad mix OR lettuce heads- something to make into salad

Strawberries- probably the last of these sweeties for the season; the patch is slowing down in the heat.  I hope to plant out the "daughter" plants (the new plants at the ends of the runners sent out by the "mother" plants) to expand our strawberry patch for next year.  *Great volunteer job!!!*  Any strawberry lovers/planters out there?

1. Support a young entrepreneur!  My 4-year-old neighbor Kaia and her mom are making gluten-free baked goods, available to purchase at Tuesday CSA pickup.  Kaia is the one with the bike helmet and basket full of cookies ;)

Monday, June 24, 2013

CSA Week 3 and Farm News

What's in Your Share This Week?

Baby Salad Mix OR Leaf/Butterhead Lettuce (big, not baby)-- something to make into salad
Garlic Scapes! Already!   If you are new to scapes, you are in for a treat.  A scape is the flowering stalk of a garlic plant.  We pull them off the plant so it directs growth at forming a bigger bulb, rather than flowering, but we end up with a delicacy-- use it exactly like garlic (it IS garlic, after all, just a part of the plant you don't often see).  OR grill or broil in an oven.  Toss (whole) with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and throw them right on the grill with anything else you may be grilling.  Let them turn brown on the outside, and check for tender insides. OR if you feel fancy, coat them in a Japanese-style tempura batter and deep fry for a most decadent and potent variation on onion rings.
Radishes OR Kohlrabi-- Easter Egg (multi colored) or French Breakfast (half pink/half white) radishes OR the very first little Kohlrabi--- these are just starting to size up, so we may wait a week, but if you're lucky you'll see a few this week! My fave way to try radishes: slice or chop coarsely, toss with coarse salt, set a minute, then enjoy. Salt mellows the bite and draws out the juice, making them more tender and more enjoyable than plain radishes, a nice way for the radish-skeptic to transition to radish-enthusiast.
Swiss Chard-- a close and beautiful relative of beets (they are in fact the same species; one bred for a big leaf, the other for a big root), chard, beet greens, and spinach are interchangeable in most recipes.  Try chard lasagna! Or try lightly sauteed with chopped garlic scapes, olive oil, and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Optional: chopped toasted walnuts and/or crumbled goat cheese. 
Sweet Marjoram-- the herb that resembles oregano but is distinctly not oregano.  They are somewhat interchangeable, but the reason we're including marjoram now is that I recently learned that marjoram is a classic pairing with fried morel mushrooms-  make a breading with bread crumbs and finely crumbled marjoram, salt and pepper, and batter and fry. Voila.  If you still have one precious sack of morels in your fridge, now's the time to cook with fresh marjoram.  Alternately, hang this bunch of herbs to dry in a dark, dry place, and save for next spring's morel season.
Last but not least, Strawberries!  For those who did not get them last week, these are for you.  Bon appetit!

1. Bulk strawberries available for freezing, drying, or eating your heart out, from Ware Farm.  Certified organic, $42 per flat (8 qts per flat).  Ware Farm sells them for $44 at market, so it's a small savings for you, and you can pick them up when you get your CSA share.  Sign up tomorrow on paper (Tuesday people) or via email (Wed and Sat people) with your name and number of flats.  Make checks to Birch Point Farm; I'll pay Bernie and Sandee Ware in one lump sum.

2. Bread shares start this week, but you can still sign up to start next week.

3. Volunteer Opportunity: Weed Whipping (or whacking).  Farm tidy-up committee needs you!  Not only weed-whipping, but weeding, shoveling/raking, painting, perennial flower bed maintenance, etc.  Let me know if this is your kind of thing and when you'd like to come out!

Field Notes:
It was a cold, wet, late spring. Now seemingly all of a sudden, it's dry and warm.  This week's priorities include finishing summer planting (more tomatoes, melons, and cukes STILL need to get in the ground!), laying irrigation, and picking potato beetle larvae.  It's been a great potato year so far (plants are all mulched, growing like nuts, and even starting to flower!), but the CPBs (Colorado Potato Beetle, our major potato pest) just started showing up in larval form. We've been scouting and destroying by hand the adults and eggs, but a few obviously hatched, and now the larvae are appearing and feeding on the potato leaves.  Best strategy? Squish by hand. Ick.  Tedious and icky, but way less icky (to me) than spraying insecticide, for now.  (Another good volunteer opportunity, especially if you enjoy gross, icky stuff OR potatoes!)
Crop rundown:
Looking great: onions, leeks, garlic, Asian greens, beets, carrots, parsnips, yellow pole beans, sunflowers, other cut flowers, new salad greens, potatoes, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, cilantro, pattypan squash, fava beans, peas (though the plants are still small- hope for rain!), strawberries, watermelons.
In need of more plants/seeds in the ground: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, celery, celeriac, beans, parsley, lettuce, fennel (some planted, others bursting out of their trays).
Questionable but still a chance: turnips (terrible germination and heavy flea beetle damage), chickpeas (an experiment), edamame (terrible germination on the first seeding).
On deck and on schedule for planting next week: Fall brassicas-- broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc., lettuce, more root veggies, more flowers, more beans.

Award for best entertainment goes to ..... the chickens!  Close runner-up: the ducks!  These ducks arrived about 2 weeks ago.  I was told they were all female.  Now I'm not so sure-- so far no eggs. They're right around the age when they should start laying, so we'll know for sure soon.  Meanwhile, they are really quite funny, especially with the hose and kiddie pool.  Feel free to bring a bucket of water to dump in their pool- they'll appreciate it.

thanks for reading, and don't forget to sign up with Local Thyme for recipe suggestions tailored to our CSA shares: 
Enter the code BIRCHPOINT then follow the steps to register.  It's a free service to CSA members, and my first year using it, so please give feedback- is it valuable/worth doing?  How are the recipes?  Other info? Thanks!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Birch Point CSA Week 2 and Farm News

What's in your share this week??

 Salad Mix-- you know what to do with this!
Green Garlic-- use just like garlic (in fact, it IS garlic!), tip to tail. Yes, even the green parts are good. Perhaps the larger leaves are a bit fibrous, so slice across the grain and saute, etc. just as you will to the bulb itself later this season. Fun in the kitchen: slice through the white end that will become the bulb. Observe the segments (cloves) just starting to form, but without the papery skins. Eat.
Beets with Greens! Hooray for beets! And please DO use the greens, just as you would use spinach- they are closely related, similar nutritionally, and interchangeable in recipes.
Kale or Swiss Chard-- the wheel o' greens starts turning.... you can plan on seeing one or more "cooking greens" (as opposed to baby salad greens) in your share each week. Returning members know, and new folks will soon find out, that my not-so-secret agenda is to get everyone to eat more greens. Try simple preparations to find out what your favorites are: e.g. lightly steamed or sauteed with a fat and an acid (e.g. oil and vinegar, butter and lemon juice, drippings and tomatoes, etc-- the fat+acid plus greens is a fail-safe formula). Oh and salt. Don't forget the salt.
Baby Leeks or Scallions-- these beauties overwintered in our low tunnels- 3' high mini-hoophouses that were covered in greenhouse plastic (and snow) all winter. These baby leeks and scallions, along with many of the salad greens you've been enjoying, were planted in the fall and uncovered unscathed and lovely this spring-- part of the experiment to see what we could do with low tunnels. You'll see more scallions this summer but probably not too many more baby leeks. Enjoy!
Asian Greens- either Tatsoi (dark green, pingpong-paddle shaped leaves) or Bok Choi (which incidentally is the same thing as Pac Choi-- different transliteration of Chinese to English). Most Asian greens are interchangeable in recipes; some require less cook time if they're especially tender. And YES, they are supposed to have flowering stalks! Tatsoi and Bok Choi both tend to bolt (send up flower stalks) in weather fluctuations, which we've had plenty of lately. The flowers and stems themselves are absolutely edible and delicious, just not something you often find in stores. Suggestion: Asian-ish Slaw. Chop greens coarsely, toss with grated ginger and green garlic, sliced scallions or baby leeks, perhaps some julienned beet or carrot or whatever other veggie you have around. Add a light dressing of rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil, with generous crushed red pepper flakes if you like heat. Lime? Cilantro? Toss it in! No lime? No cilantro? Leave it out.
Last but not least, you may just get some strawberries in your share, either this or next week! Our new strawberry patch is going bananas.... er, I mean strawberries :) We planted it in hopes of having plenty of berries for personal use and to grow plants to possibly expand into a CSA-sized strawberry patch in the future. So it's a small patch. But there are SO MANY BERRIES right now, starting to come ripe. So that means there ARE enough for CSA members to get some, but NOT enough for everyone to get a quart in the same week. If you get a quart this week, next week you won't. And vice versa, until every share has had at least a quart. See Announcements for bulk strawberry ordering info.

1. We will be taking orders for certified organic Ware Farm Strawberries in the next few weeks-- as soon as Sandee Ware gives us the go-ahead (as soon as they're picking bulk quantities). Last year Wareberries were $40 per flat; I expect them to be in that range again. Stay tuned!
 2. Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery Bread Shares: Several folks have asked about bread shares-- they will start NEXT week (the 22nd for Sat people, the 25th for Tuesday people, and the 26th for Wed. people) and go through Oct. 12, 15, or 16th (17 weeks). One loaf per week, baker's choice. I still haven't got firm prices from the bakery, but there will be two categories of bread to choose from: Plain and Fancy. Plain refers to things like Whole Wheat, Whole Wheat with Sesame, Ciabatta, and Golden Wheat. Fancy refers to things like Parmesan-Olive-Herb, Tomato-Parmesan, Chocolate-Cherry, etc. Plain bread shares will most likely be in the $90-100 range ($5-6 per week); Fancy shares will likely be in the $140-150 ($8-9 per week) range. I'll set out a sign-up sheet today (Sat and Wed people-- email me!); you can write a check at your first bread pick-up (at CSA).
 3. Need recipe ideas? Birch Point is part of an online consortium called Local Thyme. They take our list of items in shares each week and supply you with a recipe or two based on share items-- all tested recipes, all in season. You need to set up an account with a password to access their site, and I think it promises to be worthwhile. This is the first year I've used them, though, so I don't know exactly what to expect! Your feedback will be most helpful. Go to  and enter the code BIRCHPOINT, then follow the steps to access our recipes of the week.

That's it- I'll try to get this newsletter out earlier next week. See you soon!

Monday, June 10, 2013

First CSA shares of 2013: It's a green, green, green, green share

We start with an infusion of spring green things! In this week's share: Baby Salad Mix, Spinach, Scallions, Parsley, perhaps a few other surprises. . Stored in an airtight bag, baby greens should last a week in your refrigerator (IF you need them to- who waits that long to enjoy their salad, though?). Spinach: 4-5 days. Probably longer, but after 4-5 days they should still be beautiful, not just edible. . Saturday shares got an unanticipated treat: Golden Oyster Mushrooms! The logs "fruited" at just the right time to include mushrooms in Saturday shares. It looks like Tuesday and Wednesday won't be so lucky, this week anyway-- mushrooms, while cultivated (not wild) are weather-dependent. If the moisture and temperatures are just right, we get a mushroom harvest. If not, we have to wait. Don't worry, you'll see mushrooms in your share at least once this summer! . Available to purchase at CSA pickup: . 1. CSA cookbooks: Asparagus to Zucchini (cookbook compiled by CSA members in Wisconsin, organized by vegetable instead of by dish type, so you can look up anything in your share and get recipes, nutrition info, storage tips, etc. Available for $17 to CSA members (also makes a great gift for folks who might be new to farmers' market or seasonal eating in general. . 2. Goat cheese from our friends in Cedar, MI-- remember the herbed goat cheese at the pre-season member meeting? We have plenty more for you, in 3 varieties: Onion-chive, Hint of lavender, and Garlic-basil-thyme. $6 per 8 oz tub. . Available to pre-order at CSA pickup: . 1. Maple Syrup from Kirk Waterstripe 2. Coffee shares from Higher Grounds 3. Bread shares from Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery 4. Cut flower shares from Birch Point

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's a New Season-- Time for a New Logo and a New Crop

Check out our beautiful new logo! Chelsea Bay Dennis designed this for the farm last year, based on our lovely, hand-painted sign made by Andrea Moreno-Beals many years ago (the wooden sign you see at our farmer' market stall every week). You may have noticed this logo on our facebook page. Next step: rubber stamps. Whoa. watch out! ;) Season update: Seed orders have mostly all arrived. The things I am most excited about this year are Lutz Winterkeeper beets- giant storage beets with luscious greens, Roman Candle yellow paste tomatoes (back after a few years' absence) as well as the lovely array of other heirlooms- Ananas Noire, White Tomesol, Rose de Berne, Chocolate Stripe, Green Zebra (and so many more!), flowers (expanding the cut flower operation), and CORN! We are going to attempt to grow corn this year- no, not sweet corn (see below for thoughts on sweet corn), but flour corn, and possibly popcorn. Jess and I had the good fortune last month of traveling in Arizona and New Mexico, in search of sun and warm weather. We found the sun, but the heat eluded us (a record-breaking cold front moved in just days after we did- haha!). It was a fantastic trip, and one of the highlights was visiting Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson. They are an organization that preserves native and historical agricultural crops of the desert southwest, by growing out and selling the seeds. We went nuts in their shop, purchasing obscene (for our bioregion, anyway) amounts of chiles, amaranth, gourds, sunflowers, squashes, and CORN varieties like Chapalote, Hopi Greasy Head, and Glass Gem (see pics below). Did you know you can now buy seeds of Teosinte????? (One of the wild ancestors of domesticated corn) That changed my world a little bit. How much more exciting is that than the availability of Roundup-Ready corn?!! (Answer: infinitely more exciting, for me) We also happened to be there the night of a talk by a farmer from Oregon: Anthony Boutard who owns Ayers Creek Farm and wrote an inspiring book called Beautiful Corn. . Long story short- we became smitten with the idea of growing corn again. I've grown corn before, sweet corn and popcorn. From a financial perspective, it does not make much sense to grow sweet corn at the scale we're at here- it takes up a lot of space, time, and fertility for a small return (per acre). And there is a LOT of delicious, if non-organic, sweet corn available in the area already. So up til now I've vetoed corn as a Birch Point crop. However, corn as a GRAIN, instead of as a fresh vegetable, makes a lot more sense on this scale, which is the point Anthony Boutard made in his talk and in his book. Flour corn and popcorn can be picked and shelled by hand, do not require a combine, can be stored in a barn (provided animals are excluded), and can provide a much higher-quality corn meal than store-bought corn meal. Our neighbors Nick and Sara, who work at Pleasanton Bakery and also farm on Birch Point Road (their farm is called Loma Farm), have been growing and milling flour corn for a few years now, and their blue corn meal is exquisite. (Try the blue corn meal scones at Pleasanton!) I am so excited to follow their lead! So look for flour corn (possibly milled into cornmeal or corn flour) and popcorn to round out Birch Point offerings late this season. Thanks for checking in- I look forward to growing food for you again this season!