Monday, July 14, 2014

Birch Point CSA News Week 5: Try New Things, Garlic and Cookbooks, Share the Benefit; Share the Risk

In Your Share This Week
Kohlrabi-- more crisp, bulbous stems! The most common feedback we get about kohlrabi is in two categories: a)what IS that thing? what do I DO with it?  and b) Wow! I tried it; I loved it!  Never have I had a kohlrabi newbie come back with a negative report-- it may be unknown to some people, but it's consistently love at first bite. However, I've decided from reading popular food/farm blogs and articles that kohlrabi really takes an unfair beating at the hands of certain writers (e.g. --a good article full of delicious-sounding recipes, but a bit kohlrabi-phobic if you ask me).  What do YOU think of this spaceship-shaped vegetable?

Fresh Garlic!  The first, small bulbs out of the field.  We'll be trickling in garlic over the next week or two, then we'll hold our big garlic harvest party; stay tuned for the date and time! Store fresh garlic in the fridge for best quality-- it's so juicy at this stage that it can be susceptible to mold at room temp.  Also, USE the tops-- the stems and leaves are GREAT in soups/stocks.  After you remove the bulb to use, plan to make soup, and just stick the whole stalk in your soup pot til it cooks completely through, then remove to the compost pile. The flavor will then be in your soup. While the bulb wrappers are still fresh and juicy (rather than papery, as later-season, cured garlic will be), you can use them in soup stock the same as the stalks, just for flavor. If you can't figure out what to do with fresh garlic, make a stir-fry out of greens, chop several cloves finely, add to greens, toss with lemon juice and/or vinegar, enjoy.  And/or get your hands on a copy of Asparagus to Zucchini (see Announcements, below).

Swiss chard OR Kale- your choice of two mainstays.  If you ever are at a loss for how to use kale or chard, I've got two words for you: 1. eggs  2. massage.  Eggs for omelets, scrambles, frittatas, or even egg salad w/chopped greens.  Massage coarsely chopped leafy greens by hand in a bowl, with some coarse salt, until they appear cooked-- basically this breaks the cell walls, like the heat of cooking does, without destroying enzymes or nutrients in the leaves (the argument against cooking posed by raw-foodies everywhere).  Enjoy well-massaged greens with an acidic condiment of your choice, like lemon juice, vinegar, or tomatoes (soon to be in season!), to make the calcium and iron in greens even easier for your body to absorb.

Lettuces- all kinds!  The late, wet spring meant head lettuces (like butterhead, romaine, and leaf lettuces) got off to a GREAT start and are still going strong (now that the heat wave has passed).  We also have a ton of baby leaf salad greens in the field, but those hold a little better in the field than "big" lettuce. And when everything is ready to to harvest at once, we have to triage who goes and who stays in the ground another week.  So we're sharing the bounty of big lettuce with you right now; expect to see a return to baby salad mix soon!  This week you may see les Oreilles du Diable ("devil's ears"), green leaf, red leaf, butterhead, or romaine in your share.  It's still salad season (see "Field Notes" below), though we're verging on grilling season, so I hope you're enjoying lots of big, crisp lettuce salads, as well as lettuce on sandwiches, in spring rolls, as lettuce wraps, etc.  There's really not much you can't do with lettuce.  Romaine tends to store better than more delicate-leaved varieties, so if you need to prioritize, use the romaine last.

Herbs- your choice of cilantro OR parsley

Grab bag surprise-- You may also get one or more of the following (different by pickup day): Bok Choi, Broccoli, Scallions, the first baby zucchini or summer squash, the first hot peppers, or surprise veggie.  These things are just starting to come on in small quantities (zukes and peppers) or just finishing their last wave for spring (choi and broccoli), so we still wanted members to have them even though everyone's share will be slightly different as a result!

1. Asparagus to Zucchini cookbooks will be available next week.  It's a cookbook generated by and for CSA members and farmers' market shoppers, organized by vegetable instead of type of dish.  Each section has nutrition and storage info for each veggie, as well as several simple recipes.  It makes a great gift for anyone just getting into local, seasonal eating, as well as serving as a survival guide for some new CSA members!  $15 per book. We're ordering a case of 20 unless we hear otherwise. Email ASAP to reserve a copy. Pay when you pick up your books.

2. Heart of Summer shares start NEXT WEEK. For Saturday folks that's the 19th. Monday the 21st, Tues the 22nd, or Wed the 23rd.  Heart of Summer shares run six weeks, and pickup time/location is exactly the same as full-season shares.  More Heart of Summer shares ARE still available if you know folks who'd like to join-- please share the invitation!

3. Garlic Harvest Party is coming up soon!  We'll gauge the timing based on weather and maturity of garlic, but it will be in the next two weeks.  Keep your eyes peeled for date and time--it's a great work party followed by our first CSA potluck of the season.

Field Notes
     It's DRY here.  Despite several small rain events, the cumulative rainfall has dropped ... er... precipitously below that of the beginning of the season.  This week's challenge is getting irrigation to sections of the fields that previously had none. We're setting up new drip systems, running sprinklers constantly, getting mulch hay and straw delivered, and looking forward to Tuesday's predicted storm (fingers crossed!).  The dry soils have slowed production in some areas, threatened survival in others, and caused farmers to shake fists at skies and sing our friend Chris Dorman's "Wandering Wanda" song to the skies.
     We've had several visits from old friends recently, and anticipate even more in the next week! Farm season is of course also vacation season. Since you live here, you're probably familiar with the phenomenon of friends and relatives on vacation who come to visit and want YOU to be on vacation as well.  We work all summer, but feel extremely fortunate to have a lifestyle that allows for visitors, flexibility, and even fun rolled into the work day-- it's incredibly gratifying to be able to catch up with visitors over farm lunch, weeding carrots together, or other tasks that are part of our day but still enjoyable to visitors, allowing us to be productive and still reconnect with dear friends. Often we just need to crank through a day's work, but when it is possible to relax, weed, plant, or water and chat at the same time, we're thankful.
     Crops looking great: beets, kale, beans, onions, summer squash, peppers, potatoes, leeks, tomatoes, eggplants, rutabagas, turnips, lettuces lettuces lettuces, parsnips, celeriac, basil, dill, and more. Crops in need of love: carrots need some serious moisture beyond irrigation, and more weeding. I think our first carrots will be even later than the late spring was already going to make them-- but we will have lots when they're finally mature! Cabbage needs irrigation and fertility.  Early cabbages were planted in the back field, with the least organic matter (OM) of any soil on the farm (there's lots of variability from garden to garden here). They got fertilized, but the low OM combined with low rainfall makes for some slow growth-- my hope is a good infusion of fish emulsion combined with tomorrow's rainfall will push them over their hesitation, and we'll have gorgeous cabbage soon. Following cabbage: a heavy application of compost before replanting those areas to crops or cover crops.  Crop failures: no new bad news to report! hooray. We'll see how the season progresses ;)
     This is what the "share the benefits; share the risk" mantra of CSA is about-- we grow a diversity of good food, and you can be assured of getting a good quantity of a good mix of fresh, delicious items.  Every year is different, so we never know exactly which crop are going to be amazing and which will be lacking.  So you agree to take on part of the risk of not knowing, and also end up benefitting from those that do well.  We're benefitting from lettuce right now, taking a hit on peas.  We'll benefit from hoophouse tomatoes (soon!!!) and hope that the predicted cool temps don't set back our field-grown tomatoes and other heat-loving crops too much. You and we took a risk by growing at two different locations this year (here at Birch Point and also at Brenin's family land in Grawn, where he's been farming the past four seasons), and we're benefitting from the heavy clay soil down there-- it retains moisture much better than the sandier soils here, meaning less rainfall is less of a problem down in Grawn, which is good since we're there only once a week. The list goes on-- whenever you're curious about how your food is grown, please ask when we see you at CSA pickup.  Thank you so much for sharing this farming season with us, financially, socially, and culinarily!

Michelle's All Time Favorite Greens (Kale, Chard, Collards, Beet Greens, etc- use what you've got)
1 bunch hearty greens of your choice
1 onion or several scallions
a few cloves garlic or more if you're a garlic fanatic, or a handful of scapes if you have them
a generous handful or two of chopped, toasted nuts (I like walnuts, but pecans, pine nuts, or sunflower seeds are also good)
a generous handful or two of dried (or fresh) cherries, raisins, or currants (or OLIVES to take it in a different direction!)
olive oil
balsamic vinegar OR lemon juice
salt and pepper

Chop and saute, in olive oil over medium heat, onions with leafy green STEMS- having separated the stems from leaves, cook them first so they have a chance to tenderize equally with the quicker-cooking leaves.  Add chopped or chiffonaded greens, garlic, and cherries, saute til tender but still bright green and vibrant. Remove from heat. Toss in toasted nuts and vinegar/lemon, salt and pepper, serve with rice, pasta, other grains, anything you like! You can use this formula for any leafy greens:

Leafy greens
+ allium (onion/garlic family representative)
+ acid (e.g. lemon or vinegar)
+ fat (e.g. oil)
+ extra yummy bits (e.g. cherries, nuts, olives, use your imagination)
Dinner, or at least a good part of it!

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