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