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.

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