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 ;)