Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Birch Point CSA Week 12-13: Parties and fall shares on the Horizon

Grow garlic.JPG.jpgSave the date! Sat. October 18: Garlic Planting, Harvest Celebration and Farm Member Appreciation Potluck at Birch Point. You and your family are cordially invited to join us for the afternoon and/or evening in planting and mulching garlic, sharing food together, or both.  Rain date: one week later, Sat. Oct. 25.

In Your Share This Week:

Beets w/ greens: click here for one of the most comprehensive and tantalizing (and simple) list of beet preparation ideas from NYT food writer Mark Bittman
Scallions: see below for choi slaw recipe.  YES you can use the entire thing- tip to tail!  Some restaurants even use the roots as garnish-- they DO taste good even if they look funny on the plate.
Sweet Onions: Fresh or cooked, it's hard to beat a sweet onion.
Leeks: Time for soup! See here for a simple potato-leek soup recipe. and YES you can use the entire leek- don't ever let anyone tell you the green part is not edible- it is completely edible and delicious.  In larger/older leeks, sometimes the green part can get fibrous; not to worry, just chop finely, crosswise against the "grain" and saute a minute or two longer than the white part. If you can't bear the idea of green leeks in your dish, save the green part to make soup stock- it is packed with flavor.
Potatoes: Finally a critical mass of spuds have sized up!  You'll see a good mix of potatoes in your share over the next several weeks; let us know your favorites so we can plan accordingly for next year.  This week you'll get the hot pink "Strawberry Paw," large tan-skinned Anushka, smaller tan Bintje, or planetary-looking Purple Viking. Try each variety boiled or roasted (to roast: cut into bite-sized pieces, or leave small spuds whole, toss with olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper, roast in a single layer on a cookie sheet at 400 for 30-45 min, depending on size of pieces, test for doneness-- centers should be tender; edges caramelized).
5150mei_qing_choi.jpgMei Qing Choi (similar to Bok choi): one of our favorite chois (there ARE enough chois to have favorites); mei qing, or MQ as it's affectionately called here, is a lovely light green, small, relatively fast growing choi, excellent in stir-fry OR fresh in slaw (see recipe below) OR used as a dipping vehicle-- serve whole leaves WITH stems with an Asian dipping sauce ( I like Annie's ginger-sesame salad dressing, but anything vaguely sesame-esque and/or spicy and/or peanutty is delicious here). Dip stems, crunch, enjoy. Yes, it DOES encourage double-dipping, as stems are long- if you worry about that sort of thing, just serve individual dipping cups. Leaves themselves may be left on or removed and used in salad or stirfry; it is the stems who are the stars in the dipping scenario.
Lettuce, either green or red butterhead. Lovely butterheads, some of our favorites!
Swiss Chard or Kale: the green, leafy crops have been loving the moist, cool weather lately! Expect to see more of these (various cooking greens) over the next several weeks.  See below for preparation tips.
Sweet Peppers: are ripening all at once, finally!  We've had a ton (still do!) of green peppers on the plants much of the summer, just waiting for HEAT that never really came, in order to ripen. Despite cooler temps, some of these crisp, gorgeous sweeties are finally changing color anyway, and we're happy to share the bounty with you. If you prefer green (i.e. unripe) peppers to colored (i.e. ripe) peppers, please let us know-- there are tons with your name on them ;)  In addition to standard bell peppers, you may see Carmens (long, skinny SWEET red beauties), red or orange Pimientos (small, Cinderella-pumpkin-shaped, thick-walled, SUPER sweet), Lipstick peppers (red or yellow, med-small, with a distinctly pointed end, also thick-walled and super sweet), or Chocolate peppers (the ugliest sweet pepper of all- brown, sometimes lumpy, medium sized, not too pointy, but DELICIOUS! and very productive!)
Heirloom tomatoes have been a delectable if not overwhelming (in quantity) part of the harvest this season.  At this point in the summer, only a few varieties are still going strong-- you might see Garden Peach, Green Zebra, Black Zebra, Costoluto Genovese, Kellogg Breakfast, Amish Paste, or Pink Beauty (not an heirloom but a favorite nonetheless), among a smattering of others who have peaked and declined already. Due to the late planting date and cool summer temps, tomatoes tended to ripen only toward the end of summer. We're still harvesting, but many plants are already on the decline.  Such is the fate of a cool summer-- happy, bountiful kale and lettuce, not so many tomatoes.  I hope you've enjoyed the varieties you've tried so far-- let us know your favorites!  We probably won't offer canning/preserving shares this year, due to the low yield.  I'll keep you posted if that changes.  If we get a hot summer and good yield next year, we'll be back in the canning/preserving share business!
Cherry tomatoes: always a favorite, still producing though also slowing down, due to cooler temps and shorter days.  What did you think of the new Bumblebee Tomatoes? those are the slightly-larger-than-average-cherry-tomato, striped (yellow and pink OR red and gold) newbies.  They've been quite productive, and beautiful; if you've tried them, we'd like YOUR feedback on flavor and texture.

Green Zebra
Black Zebra
Kellogg Breakfast

Garden (or "Wapsapinicon") Peach

Costoluto Genovese

Amish Paste

Pink Beauty

Bumblebee tomatoes

1. Sat. October 18: Annual Garlic Planting Party and Farm Member Appreciation Potluck at Birch Point.  Mark your calendars!  Garlic planting in the afternoon (2-5ish) followed by a potluck for CSA members and farm investors in the barn (5:30ish til 8ish). All are welcome- if you missed the pre-season member meeting, this is a great chance to take a farm tour and see where your food has been growing all summer.  Who has a cider press we can borrow for the day? We'd like to continue the tradition of pressing apples that day-- everyone bring a crate or bag or handful of apples to contribute, and a jug, jar, or mug to take cider home. Rain date: one week later, Sat. Oct. 23.

2. Sat. Oct. 4: Grawndezvous!  Brenin Wertz-Roth and his dad Tom Wertz are your hosts for the annual cookout, potluck, bonfire, and musical extravaganza at the farm in Grawn.  CSA members and friends welcome-- if you've never been to the Grawn farm, this is a great chance to take a tour (come on the early, i.e. daylight, side) and see the fall crops still in the field.  Tom grows hops there, and Brenin has been farming annual veggies as well as a small perennial nursery there for the past four years. This year after Brenin and I joined forces, we focussed on fall crops that require minimal attention in Grawn-- things like leeks, potatoes, cabbages and Brussels sprouts, hot peppers, and potatoes, several of which will still be in the field in early October.  It could be chilly; be prepared!

3. Fall/Winter Shares available: Join us for eight weeks of fall and winter bounty (yes, "winter bounty" is a thing when you have a hoophouse!).  Starting Saturday November 1st, pick up shares every Saturday at the indoor winter market at Bldg. 50 @ The Commons (Sat. 10 am- 2 pm; market runs November through April).  Fall/Winter shares will include plenty of root veggies like potatoes, carrots, beets, leeks, onions, turnips, radishes, celeriac; as well as leafy greens like kale, collard greens, spinach, Asian greens, lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprouts AND greens; winter squash, herbs like parsley, thyme, and rosemary, sexy hoophouse greens like arugula, baby salad mix, baby spinach, and possibly a few surprises. Shares cost $250 and are intended to feed 2-3 adults or a small family. Since there will be so many storage crops, don't worry if you have a small household and can't use the entire share in a week; many things will keep well for weeks or months if you have a root cellar or cool storage area.

4. Going to the Earthwork Harvest Gathering this weekend? As Seth Bernard said, don't pack your coolers too full this year!  Birch Point Farm and several other grower/producers will be at the First Annual Harvest Gathering Farmers' Market, located on the northeast corner of the woodlot camping area at the festival.  We'll have fresh produce for snacking and for cooking on your campstove, as well as flowers to lively up your campsite!

Recipes: Asian Slaw w/Peanut Sauce, 50 ways to enjoy Kale and Co.

Asian Slaw w/Peanut Sauce (note: this is VERY  similar to the recipe in the last blog post; the only major difference is the Peanut Sauce-- our farm crew loved this dish so much today for lunch they thought it belonged in the blog!)
1 lg or 2 sm heads Bok Choi (or Mei Qing or any other choi or Asian greens you've got), finely chopped 
1-2 carrots OR beets, grated
1 sweet onion, sliced thinly
1/2 c. peanuts, chopped and lightly pan roasted
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes OR 1-2 fresh minced chiles (heat to taste!)
the juice of one fresh-squeezed lime
1/2 lb. firm tofu, cut in bite-sized pieces, pan fried to perfect crispness in toasted sesame oil and/or veg oil, with a good splash of soy sauce/Bragg's/tamari added partway through cooking

Toss all these things together.

The peanut sauce: 
1 c. peanut butter, creamy or crunchy will do
1/2 c. boiling-hot water- mix w/pb to make it more mixable w/other ingredients
1/4 c. tamari/soy sauce/Bragg's
1/4 c. rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/4 c. toasted sesame oil
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2-3 tsp. minced fresh ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger powder
1-2 scallions, sliced on a thin diagonal OR 1/3 c. minced onion
1/4 tsp ground cayenne

Mix all these things together and taste-- does it need more tang? add a little more vinegar. more salt? add more soy sauce. more heat? add more ginger AND cayenne. more peanuttiness? add more peanut butter OR just the peanut oil that's on the surface of the pb in your jar/tub. Perfect? toss thoroughly with slaw to coat every surface. Enjoy room temp or cold.

50 Ways to Enjoy Kale and Other Bodacious Leafy Greens
OK, not actually 50- BUT you can modify these suggestions to create over 500 variations of your own. Note: wherever it says "kale" below, freely substitute Swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens, or any other cooking greens you've got.

1. Raw: remove kale from rubber band. Wash. eat.  Variation: Chop first, toss with any acidic condiment of your choice (note: adding an acid makes the iron more bio-available). Variation: Chop finely, massage by hand in a bowl with coarse salt first, then dress, enjoy. Variation: add any companion veggies, e.g. onion, garlic, tomato, olives, herbs, etc.

2. Steamed: Wash, chop, steam, enjoy with any of the abovementioned modifications. Please eat stems- just chop finely and cook perhaps a few minutes longer. they are delicious.

3. Sauteed: Wash, chop, add to med-hot oil along with veggie companions like onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, corn, etc.  OR go the other way and toss with toasted walnuts and dried cherries instead of garlic, tomatoes, peppers.

4. Smoothied: Wash, add to blender/vitamix along with other smoothie ingredients. Try a little at first, then gradually work your way up to more!

5. Juiced: Wash, run through juicer. My fave combo: kale, apple, parsley, optional carrot or beet.

6. In Lasagna: EITHER chop and add to tomato sauce, OR chop and lay kale right in the lasagna as a layer all on its own (can be just kale or you can stir in an egg or two and some ricotta and/or cottage cheese first, then spread that mixture as a layer)

7. In Soup: I can't think of a single soup that wouldn't be tastier and/or more interesting with a little (or a a lot of) kale tossed in.  For brothy, thin soups, add finely shredded/chiffonaded kale leaves early-ish in cooking so they are tender and not overwhelming. For thick chunky and/or stew-like soup, chop coarsely and add any time you like; they won't overwhelm if everything else is also chunky or substantial.  

8. In EGGS- the universal vehicle for any new veggies or for loads of greens.  Wash, chop, add to scrambles, to omelets, steam first and then serve poached or sunny-side-up eggs on a bed of it, saute and add to egg sandwiches, or my fave: Greens Patties.  Chop and massage a LOT of greens, perhaps an entire bunch of kale or collards or chard or anything you've got.  Add some chopped onion and garlic, salt and pepper, fresh chiles or ground cayenne if you like.  Add a good handful of flour and mix  very thoroughly.  Add just a few eggs (1-2 per bunch?) and mix well-- you want to coat every surface with egg, but it's just a binder; you're not making Egg Foo Young.  Heat oil in a skillet over med heat, scoop out a handful of mixture, form a patty.  Lay gently in pan, use spatula to coax escaping bits back into the circular shape.  Flip when thoroughly cooked on one side and can be turned. Serve with spicy mayo or ketchup or hot sauce or.......

9. Kale Chips- wash, dry, rip into chip-sized pieces.  Either spritz with an atomizer/mister of olive oil, OR toss with oil, coating every surface, but be careful to go easy on the oil- you don't want soggy chips.  Sprinkle with salt OR mist/atomize lightly with soy sauce/Bragg's. Lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 until crisp-- maybe 10-20 min depending on size of pieces AND how drenched in oil/salt they are- check often to make sure they're not burning. There is a fine line between dried/crisped and burnt. I sometimes use an even cooler oven and essentially dehydrate them instead of baking, just to be sure not to burn them. A dehydrator would be even safer, if longer.

10. As a garnish- just kidding!  Did you know Pizza Hut is the largest restaurant-consumer of kale?  They use it to garnish their salad bar. I wonder if anyone ever thinks to put it on a pizza. We do!  It's delicious, chopped and layered UNDER the cheese, so it doesn't dry out or burn on the edges if exposed.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Birch Point CSA Week 11: Pickling workshop, Tomato Tasting, Winter Shares, and Parties for members and farm friends

First of all, now that "summer" (school vacation) is drawing to a close, SUMMER (killer harvest!) is in full swing  We've finally been getting the diversity and bounty we'd wanted a month ago, and I hope it is worth the wait.  Heart-of-Summer people, this is your LAST week of shares-- it's a great one; nice to go out with a bang.  I hope you'll rejoin us next year and/or for a fall-winter share this November and December
Second, sorry for no newsletter last week- it was a busy one.  Hopefully you could figure out everything in your share.  The one thing that may have required some explaining is Beet Greens.  You'll see more of these as we continue to thin the fall beets.  Prepare them exactly like spinach or chard- and yes, you can leave the baby beetroots on; at that size they cook as quickly as the greens. Just make sure to wash them thoroughly-- lots of crevices for dirt to hide in!
Third,  YOU are invited to a bunch of farmy EVENTS coming up soon, including a pickling and canning workshop (Sun, Sept. 14), our annual Heirloom Tomato Tasting (Tues, Sept. 16), Grawndezvous (a fall celebration at the Grawn farm, Sat, Oct. 4), and more. Please see Announcements for details.

What's In Your Share This Week

It's an Asian-inspired share this week, full of good things to stir-fry and/or make slaw, soup, or snacks.

Beans- is anyone tired of beans?  I know our crew is getting tired of picking them ;)  What's your favorite so far? Regular green beans? Purple? Yellow? Exra long yellow Romano pole beans? Fortex (super long, twisty green pole beans)? Purple Romano pole beans? Other?  Just trying to get a sense of what to plant more of next year.  If you're ever faced with more beans than you can use, or if you LOVE dilly beans, please join us and ISLAND for the Dilly Bean and Cucumber Pickle Canning Workshop Sunday. Sept. 14!  Also, it's super simple to freeze them: blanch for 1-2 min in boiling water, cool quickly under cold running water or plunge into ice water (to stop cooking).  Drain/dry thoroughly, de-stem, cut if necessary to fit into freezer bags,  bag, seal, and label. Voila. Pop into freezer. They're wonderful in winter stew and vegetable soup.

Napa OR mini cabbages- The summer Napa cabbage grew sweet and small, due to the drought, as did the mini cabbages (even more "mini" than we'd planned!).  Hopefully the fall Napa will size up with the sufficient moisture we've had lately.  These two varieties this week are interchangeable in recipes- Napa tend to be more tender and cook more quickly; mini cabbage tend to be firmer and require slightly longer cooking, BUT both can be used in a fresh Asian-ish slaw (see recipe below), or egg rolls, or any way you like cabbage.

Scallions/bunching onions- white OR purple. And yes you can use the whole thing!  bulbs, greens, all of it.  Like ALL leafy green veggies, store in an airtight container in the fridge (like a sealed bag) until using.

Potatoes OR Edamame-- I know, a weird choice, right?  We figure some people love potatoes and some love edamame.  We had a limited amount of edamame thanks to deer and drought, so some folks get to make appetizers, and some get to make chowder ;)  If you are new to edamame, they are edible soybeans popular in Japanese cuisine. A simple preparation: Boil heavily salted water (1/4 c. or more salt to 2 qts water), drop beanpods in (remove pods from plant but leave beans in pods), boil til tender.  Eat similarly to artichoke- holding the pod in your thumb and forefinger, close your teeth almost all the way around it, then pull it through your teeth and out of your mouth, leaving the beans and possibly some of the skin of the pod in your mouth.  Enjoy!   Be sure to boil thoroughly and test for doneness-- I usually leave them in 15 min or so, to make sure they are melty-soft. It's more pleasant AND easier to digest a thoroughly cooked soybean than a slightly crunchy one.

Beets! Lovely red, purple, or golden roots with delicious greens.  Our fave beets: scrub a whole beetroot (or several) well, do not remove skin or tails.  Coat completely in olive oil, wrap airtight in foil.  Throw on the grill (if already grilling) or in the oven or toaster oven at 450-500 for 45-60 min, depending on size of beets.  The super high heat combined with sealing in all the juices results in a thoroughly steamed beet with amazing flavor and texture, and super moist.  Skins will slip off, or you can eat them.  Serve with a knife for slicing-- they should be so well cooked that a spoon would do fine, too. If you need to store beets for more than a day, be sure to SEPARATE greens from roots- just chop off and store in two separate airtight containers (e.g. sealed bags) in the fridge.

Lettuce- heads of green or red leaf, butterhead, or romaine. Try lettuce wraps for a new twist on spring rolls! (wrap rice noodles, protein and/or veggies of your choice, cilantro, etc. in a lettuce leaf instead of a traditional spring roll wrapper) Dip in some hot sauce or sweet-and-sour sauce. Voila. The trick is in the wrapping of course- you can use a toothpick to hold it together if you like.

Eggplant- the first major eggplant harvest, though we got a few earlier this season. Store eggplant at room temp, and use soon for max quality.  My fave eggplant dish: super simple-- slice into 1/2" rounds, coat both sides thoroughly with olive oil, spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet, sprinkle liberally with salt, bake at 375 for 30-45 min (depending on size of slices-- you want them browned and caramelized on the outsides, soft and melty on the inside. check for doneness). Enjoy. May then be blended up into baba ghanoush, tossed with pasta or other dish you like, or eaten as is.

Peppers- sweet or hot. Different harvest days will get different varieties. You may see Hungarian Hot wax (pointy, yellow, turning to orange), a sweet-hot pepper that can be eaten fresh or cooked.  Or any number of green, red, brown, or orange bells.  Or Carmen, a long, pointy red sweet pepper, or perhaps Pimiento, a Cinderella-pumpkin-shaped thick-walled sweet red or orange pepper. Or any number of hot red or green chiles- cayenne, jalapeno, Thai hot, serrano etc.

Tomatoes-- a nice mix of heirlooms from the field and/or hoophouse

Cherry tomatoes- another box of irresistible sweeties

Herbs: Cilantro, Dill, Parsley, or Basil


1. Dilly Beans and Cucumber Pickles workshop here at Birch Point, hosted by ISLAND's Preservation Station: Sunday, September 1412:00pm - 5:00pm. $35-45 sliding scale: Show up, learn how to make pickles, take pickles home with you. All supplies included. Invite a friend! 

2. Annual Birch Point Heirloom Tomato Tasting: Tuesday Sept. 16. 4:30-7 p.m (during CSA pickup).  We're taking a quieter approach this year (acoustic music), but still the great and diverse spread of heirlooms for you to taste and compare and find your favorites.  Depending on the harvest that week, tomatoes may be available for purchase (beyond what's already in your CSA share and on the table for tasting). Friends welcome, not just for CSA members. 
Note: we did hear rumors of a late blight epidemic downstate. Late blight is the fungal disease that wiped out much of North America's tomato crop in 2009, just for reference.  If we don't get hit with late blight before Sept. 16, the tomato tasting is ON.  If we do get confirmation of the infestation (i.e. if reports are confirmed) but we haven't been infected here yet , we may go ahead and spray copper (an organic fungal control) on our tomato plants to prevent infection. We never normally use any fungicide, but late blight is so devastating that we may just do it to help protect the last few weeks' harvest, since the tomato harvest window has been so short this year. We'll keep you in the loop about what we decide to do.

3. Help wanted: Tuesday Bread Shares need a picker-upper.  A couple of people offered to help with this earlier, so now's your chance to help: we need someone to stop by 9 Bean Rows bakery on 204 (between Suttons Bay and Lake Leelanau, at the site of the former Covered Wagon farmstand) Tuesdays between 8 am and 2 pm.  Then drop off the bread at Birch Point Farm before 4 p.m. This could be a CSA member, someone you know who commutes from SB/Lk Leelanau area to TC every day around 8, or a retiree who loves picking up bread, for example. Farm vegetable credit in exchange for bread pick up and delivery every Tuesday through the end of the season. Please email for details.

4. Fall-Winter Shares still available! Eight weeks of fall and winter bounty starting the first Sat. in November and running through mid-December.  Fall is a great time to savor the amazing diversity of farm food northern MI has to offer-- everything from summer crops like tomatoes (which should still be growing in the hoophouse in early Nov!) and peppers, to cool weather-loving greens like spinach, salad mix, kale, chard, and collards,  to hearty storage crops like carrots, potatoes, squash, beets, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and more.  I'm always pleasantly surprised how late "fall" actually extends into winter-- hope you'll join us! $250 for eight weeks, share size intended to feed a family of four-ish or 2-3 adult veggie lovers.

5. Grawndezvous- Y'all are invited to the annual fall festival held in Grawn at the farm where Brenin's been farming the past four years. Brenin and his dad Tom host a mean potluck, grill-out, and singalong under a big tent and/or around a fire, weather permitting.  Save the date: Sat. Oct. 4. More details to come soon!

6. Late summer/early fall CSA Appreciation and Season Celebration Potluck: Date TBA. Look for a doodle poll soon to set the date for a late-season gathering here at the farm (may be in conjunction with garlic planting in October, or possibly earlier).

Field Notes

It's been a rainy week and a half around here- finally! It is such a relief to report that.  All of our green leafy crops (cabbage, lettuce, herbs, kale, chard, collard greens, etc) are just soaking it up and growing back faster and more lush than before.  Root crops (beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes) are sizing up so fast that we're often finding split and cracked roots, but mostly gorgeous and growing big and fat.  Droopy peppers and eggplants have perked right up (and in combo with the heat last week, started ripening finally!). The onions that are left in the field are still sizing up, and beans just won't stop. 
     We've been planting our latest rounds of fall crops: more radishes, turnips, spinach, more kohlrabi and broccoli, lettuces, radicchio, herbs, and Asian greens.  The cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, carrots, beets, celeriac and rutabagas, all staple fall crops, are looking great. Mid-season beet are coming on strong, as evidenced by your share this week.  Mid-season carrots are on the horizon (finally!), a welcome relief after the terrible germination of the early season carrots. Sunflowers are still going bonzo all around the farm, both the planted rows in the flower garden and the feral sunflowers that pop up all over, which we tend to leave in, for beauty.
The children's garden is finally greening up and filling in also! Like the rest of the farm, it benefitted greatly from the rain.  We're looking forward to at least one fall music-in-the-garden event for CSA kids and farm friends-stay tuned!


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 OR beets (beets will turn the slaw pink!)
2-3 diagonally sliced scallions/bunching onions (greens and bulbs) OR 1 finely sliced sm. 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
1 generous handful coarsely chopped fresh herbs: cilantro OR lemon basil OR Thai basil OR dill/parsley if you preferoptional: 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 good squeeze of fresh lime and/or bean sprouts and/or pea shoots and/or fried tofu and/or anything else you like.