Monday, October 2, 2017

News from your farmers-- long overdue!

Birch Point Farm Occasional Newsletter: CSA week 16: Share Items and Recipes, Fall Farm Party (Oct 15), Fall-Winter CSA and Preserving Shares

These many weeks have come and gone; and we've so very much enjoyed growing food for you this season!  We're not done yet; just wanted to acknowledge that I know it's been a good long while since the  last newsletter.    I do hope y'all have been enjoying the summer bounty!  With the recent weeks' weather, I wasn't convinced that it was fall, BUT we've been putting together essentially "soup shares" the past couple of weeks, since we're due for some good soup weather :) And it's always (so far) good cherry tomato snacking weather!

In Your Share This Week:

Potatoes,  either white skinned/white fleshed Superior, an early tasty big multipurpose workhorse variety (read: productive!), or Red Gold (pink skin, yellow flesh, perfect littlemultipurpose spud), or perhaps Ama Rosa, the pink inside-and-out fingerling, or Adirondack Blue, the purple inside-and-out small fryer/baker.  Or a mix! potato tip: even though "floury" textured spuds are traditionally baked, and "waxy" textured spuds are typically fried, you can certainly roast or boil anything, and with a little salt and/or butter/olive oil and/or fresh parsley, it doesn't really matter how you prepare them.  'Potatoes are yum!' -Rudy

Turnips, either Hakurei (white Japanese "salad" turnips) or Scarlet Queen (red inside and out).  On the turnip spectrum, with the old fashioned purple-tops as a reference, Scarlet Queens are milder and more tender than purple-tops, and Hakureis are much more mild and even tenderer-- we enjoy them raw (slice, sprinkle with salt or not, dip or not, enjoy like carrot sticks, or grate/slice onto salads) OR roasted like potatoes or made into turnip soup.

Sweet Onions-- Ailsa Craigs, our favorite sweet onion variety.  This year I ordered plants for most of our alliums, instead of starting them from seed in our greenhouse as in the past.  I'm happy with their production (and the rain didn't hurt either!), so I think we'll do that again in the future, rather than heat the greenhouse for an entire month just for onions (the earliest seeds we typically sow in trays in the greenhouse, often as early as February!) and come out ahead by the savings on greenhouse propane, even though plants cost more than seed.

Leeks! the first few weeks of leek harvest of the season, and I have to say, they are looking lovely. Leeks are totally interchangeable with onions in recipes, though the flavor and texture is slightly different. Contrary to what some people would have you believe, the green part is totally edible and useable; I've never understood why it got the reputation of being inedible!    This week's share was loosely intended to be a "soup" share, and potato-leek was on my mind. See below for recipe.

Winter Squash-- we've officially crossed the threshold from summer (zucchini, pattypan, etc) to winter (acorn, delicata, dumpling, buttercup, etc) squash.   Those summer (soft skin, fresh-eating) squash plants cranked out so much food this summer that if you're like us, you're not sorry to see them go, but the winter (long storing, hard skinned) squash plants are holding their own, having produced loads of sweeties to enjoy now and right through winter.  This or next week we'll do the big squash harvest, bringing everything into the greenhouse to "cure," or develop a hard shell, to maximize storage life.  If you haven't already done so, you can join the fall-winter CSA (8 weeks of fresh and storage crops, from November through December) for even more squash!  Different varieties develop their best flavor after various curing/storage times, so we're enjoying the "early" varieties now but will see even more diversity later in the fall/winter.

Swiss Chard, Collard Greens, or Kale "No one can imagine a CSA without kale." - David Hambledon, CSA farmer in NY, at a conference I attended many years ago.  I would add "or collard greens, Swiss chard, or bok choi."  Vitamin- and mineral-packed greens are really the heart and soul of the farm-fresh veggie revolution.  Careful, you may end up with super powers.  If you're ever at a loss for what to do with cooking greens, see below for "greens patties" recipe.

Cherry tomatoes-so many cherry tomatoes!!!  Preserving Shares Available if you are the kind of person who likes to roast and freeze cherry tomatoes (our favorite tomato preservation method).

Heirloom Tomatoes- so many varieties.. my favorites include Crnkovic Yugoslavian, Paul Robeson, Japanese Trifele, and Nepal.  Kelly's favorite is Aunt Ruby's German Green.  Just ask if you want help identifying the lovely beauties in your share! Each one has a story, and each has a unique flavor, texture, and appearance.  Preserving shares also available for lugs of cherry tomatoes OR big  heirlooms ($40 per crate, approx. 1/2-bushel,  for CSA members).

Lettuce- is back by popular demand (and by the good graces of the deer).  This week you'll get a couple different red and/or green varieties, perhaps classic red leaf, green romaine, red or green summer crisp (which is in between a "leaf" variety and an '"iceberg" variety, but with more character and flavor than an iceberg), or red butterhead.

Herbs- parsley, thyme, sage, or oregano.  If you're ever overwhelmed by fresh herbs, here are two suggestions: 1. "Parsley" Potatoes (sub ANY herb for parsley! equally delicious and different!): Boil or roast plenty of cubed potatoes, toss with a generous amount of olive oil and/or butter and/or heavy cream and/or plain yogurt and/or sour cream (i.e. some type of fat; your choice- try them all over time).  Coarsely chop a generous handful of fresh herbs-- less of the more pungent types like sage, more of the mellower types like parsley.  Use a mix or only one type of herb, up to you. Toss with hot potatoes, salt generously and pepper a bit,  serve and eat immediately. 2. Hang up in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight; when dry, strip/crumble into a jar for winter potatoes/soup/popcorn (yep for real: popcorn with butter or coconut oil or olive oil, with salt AND crumbled dry sage or crumbled dry hyssop or thyme is one of our favorite winter treats)

1. Birch Point Fall Potluck and Cider Pressing Party Sunday, October 15, 2017 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Please join us at the farm for an afternoon "snackluck"  -bring snacks to share, apples and a jug if you like (to take home fresh-pressed cider-- optional; there will be fresh cider to enjoy on site, and part of the fun of a cider party is the "stone soup" aspect of it-- the more different types of apples that go into it, the better the flavor, and the more we can make. So stop by your favorite feral roadside/old field apple tree, pick a few or a lot, and bring them over). 
Farm tours, chicken hide-and-seek, yard games, and all-ages conviviality-- all are welcome; bring your family and/or a friend.

2. Fall/Winter CSA shares- a few spaces remain in our 8-week Fall/Winter CSA. Starts the first Saturday of November and runs eight weeks. $250 for a weekly box of fresh greens, root veggies, squash, onions and other "storage" crops, fresh and dried herbs, and possibly apples and/or chestnuts.  Pick up every Saturday at the indoor farmers market at The Commons in TC.  Please email/call for details.

3. Preserving Shares- Half-bushels of mixed heirloom tomatoes ($40) and 1-lb bags of basil ($10)available by request, while supplies last and weather permits.  These are not "canning" or "paste" tomatoes necessarily, though there are a few in the mix. I recommend slicing, roasting, and freezing heirloom tomatoes for a lovely burst of summer in the dark winter months.

4. The End is Near-- the end of main season CSA, that is. :(  Hard to believe the season has gone by so very quickly.  We are going to run almost to the end of October this year!  The weather is still lovely, and crops look good (they probably look good to the deer, too, so fingers crossed for continued availability of greens from the field).  The final pickup dates will be Saturday October 21, Tues. Oct. 24, and Wed. Oct. 25.  That will give us an almost-one-week break between main-season and Fall-Winter CSA, but don't worry, the final week will be an extra-large share, so you should have plenty of veg through the first week of November!  We're mainly taking the mini-break to start putting the farm to bed for the winter, clean up, re-cover the old hoophouse (stay tuned for a plastic-pulling party invitation), and get ready for winter market season.

5. Thanksgiving Shares -- Sign up for a one-time box of fall bounty!  $40 gets you $45-50 worth of mixed veggies the Saturday before Thanksgiving- pick up at our stall at the indoor market.   And/or consider donating a Thanksgiving share (or partial share, as your budgets permits) to the Goodwill Inn for their Thanksgiving meal.   Birch Point Farm typically donates several shares worth of veggies for Thanksgiving; you can make our delivery even more meaningful (bigger) by underwriting one or more shares for the Inn.  You write a check to Birch Point Farm; we harvest and deliver the food.   Email or call to sign up!


Greens Patties, or "Leafburgers"
1 bunch (or so) of leafy greens, chopped finely and massaged in a bowl with coarse salt for 5min, to reduce volume and release moisture, stems optional but also chopped finely
1 med onion, chopped
1-4 cloves garlic, minced
handful of fresh herbs of your choice, chopped. Faves include parsley, thyme, sage, or savory.
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes OR 1 fresh jalapeno, chopped (optional as always)
1 c. flour or fine cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs (or 1 if that's all you have; not critical the exact amount)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together WELL.  The egg and flour are just binders to keep the greens intact once you form them into patties.  You can choose to use more or less egg/flour mixture, depending on your household's greens affinity level.  More egg/flour = more typical savory "pancake." Less egg/flour mixture = more hippy green experience.  Once the greens are thoroughly coated with egg/flour mixture, regardless of how much you use, form the soggy but solid mixture into patties about the size of a typical burger.  Heat a generous amount of olive oil or coconut oil over medium heat in a skillet or flat bottomed wok.  Gently place a few patties into the hot oil and fry til browned on the edges. Flip and fry til brown on the other side. Check center to be sure egg is thoroughly cooked, and serve immediately or keep warm in oven while frying the rest of the patties.  Extra tang: serve with lemon juice-yogurt or lemon juice-tahini dressing.

Potato-Leek Soup lifted from
MF note: this is all approximate amounts.  Keep in mind that if you prefer thicker or thinner soup, adjust liquid accordingly.  If you prefer more salt/cheese/herbs, do it (I would).  The approximate ratios of solids to liquids is a great starting point, but don't worry about exact amounts for soup!  Also, these directions yield a chunky soup, but if you have an immersion blender, this is a great time for it, either thoroughly blending or just partially blending the finished product.

2 tablespoons butter, or more if needed 

  1. Melt butter in a pot over medium heat. Cook and stir leeks and onion until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir potatoes and broth into onion mixture; simmer until potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Pour half-and-half into potato soup and continue to simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes more.
  4. Stir Cheddar cheese, parsley, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper into soup until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017 CSA Weeks 1-3, rolled into one blog

Summer is here!  CSA is well underway; the nighttime air temperatures have warmed up, the lake temperatures are still rising, and the fields are full of beautiful, tasty vegetables for you.  Thanks for reading this little blog; please "follow" or check back weekly for CSA share items, farm news, and occasional photos.

What's In Your Share This Week?  Stir-fry time!
Bok Choi- tender, little heads of this versatile Asian veggie.  You probably know choi is wonderful in stir-fry, kimchi, spring rolls, and soup. Have you tried it as a slaw?  See below for recipe suggestion.

Spinach- we have had a great spinach harvest this year. The unusually consistent rains and cooler temps (up til now) have kept this cool-weather crop happy and productive.  It's not many years we get to include beautiful spinach in shares for three solid weeks in the summer.  Normally by now, hot temps and dry conditions cause the spinach plants to bolt, or send up flowering stalks, and at that point they stop producing new leaves and start to taste bitter, so this has been a great run.  Hope you've enjoyed it raw OR cooked, as salad, on pizza, in omelets, wrap/sandwich greenery, etc.

Scallions- the first of these little beauties.  Please use the whole thing!  I'm mystified about where the idea of not using the green part came from-- eat it; it's delicious!  We mainly enjoy scallions sliced fresh and sprinkled onto anything, but hard core onion lovers will trim the roots and dip the ends in salt for a pungent, raw treat.

the very first CUCUMBERS of the season! Just a taste of classic green slicers OR little round lemon cucumbers.  These young sweeties came from the trellised plants inside the hoophouse;  field-grown cuke plants are looking good, but harvest is still a few weeks out.

Garlic Scapes-- they keep coming!  Next week may be the first "true" garlic week, i.e. young bulbs rather than the flowering stems --the scapes-- but for now, enjoy this comical twist on a familiar flavor.  We like to think of garlic scapes as vegetables rather than seasoning (though they are completely interchangeable with garlic cloves in recipes, 1:1 by volume, roughly).  My favorite way to prepare them is to toss whole scapes with olive oil and salt and pepper whenever the grill or oven is already fired up, and grill or roast them til blackened on the edges, and creamy-soft inside.  Basically, any way you'd prepare asparagus applies to scapes!  For true garlic lovers, scape pesto (pesto made with scapes and only scapes, no basil!) is to die for. Holler if you'd like a bulk quantity for your freezer.

Pea shoots-- this fresh, tender treat is so delicious to munch right out of hand that they may not even make it home.  Baby pea plants, or sprouts, are grown in trays in the greenhouse, then cut like sunflower sprouts or baby salad, to be tossed with your salad, sprinkled on top of any vegetable or protein, or even cooked. They're so tender that cooking should really just be heating slightly, as they will melt in your pan on high heat, but they're excellent with soft, sautéed garlic or garlic scapes-- as much garlic as you can stand, tossed with as many pea shoots as you've got. We'll include these with shares periodically- even though there's not much "food" there, they are tasty and fun, AND one of the few green things our 2-year-old is excited about (the other is peas themselves-- which have gotten munched several times by rabbits; I HOPE we get at least one good harvest for you, but not counting on much yet).

Hakurei Turnips-- the "gateway variety" for turnip-wary folks, these are so tender, so buttery, and so mild that we normally eat them raw (sliced or grated onto salad, sliced for a crudité tray, or out of hand like an apple).  However, they are of course delicious roasted or stir-fried.  Don't forget the greens!! Turnip greens are a vegetable unto themselves. Later in the season you'll see turnip greens that will put these to shame, in terms of size and robustness, but Hakurei greens are as good a way to ease into turnip greens as the roots are to ease into turnips. Chopped and sauteed quickly with onions or garlic, sprinkled with hot pepper vinegar and/or lemon juice, they go down easy.

Tuesday, July 4, pickup is STILL ON, as usual, tomorrow.  If you need to reschedule due to the holiday, please call or email ASAP.  Options include picking up on farm any time after Tuesday (call/email to arrange a time), Wednesday afternoon at The Little Fleet, or next Saturday (in which case you'll get a share Saturday and the following Tuesday, but none this week).
     Saturday shares will once again be down at the alternate cherry fest market location-- the Old Town parking deck on Eighth St.
     Wednesday Little Fleet shares--  please remember to return the previous week's empty box when you come to pick up your share. Leave empty boxes where you find your full box; we'll pick them up Thurs. a.m.  If you have a stash of boxes at your house from past seasons, please bring them to our stall at market or to the farm-- we will put them to use; thanks!

2. Asparagus to Zucchini cookbooks are available-- recipes arranged by vegetable name, rather than dish type, this book was compiled by and for CSA members and farmers' market customers, and it includes several recipes featuring each kind of veggie, as well as storage and nutrition info.  It's published by the Fair Share CSA Coalition in Madison, WI, an organization dedicated to supporting and promoting CSA and education on agriculture, health, and nutrition.  $17 for CSA members. 

This Week's Featured Farmer Bio: Christina Barkel
     I grew up in metro Detroit and have lived in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ferndale and now Traverse City. I became interested in sustainable agriculture while getting my degree at the University of Michigan, where I learned about the intersections between social justice, food sovereignty and environmental issues. Plus, I quickly figured out that the best food comes from local farms! My first farm job was at Frog Holler Farm in Brooklyn, MI and I've been farming in some form or another ever since.

     2017 is my 4th season farming at Birch Point. My love for the land and creating tangible change motivates me year after year - there is nothing like standing in the back garden on a beautiful breezy day, looking at the garden bed you've just weeded while eating a fresh bean or green from the field. Getting to know our CSA members and market customers is also something I enjoy - I love learning new recipes and swapping stories about food and gardening.  Dragging irrigation hoses and harvesting summer squash, on the other hand, are tasks I could live without. My favorite vegetables to grow are peas and garlic, and I live for strawberry season. When I'm not farming I like knitting, swimming, biking and drinking tea. 

     What I ate for dinner last night: Palak Chana (or, how to use up all the greens in your CSA share at once and the leftover greens from last week too)

Field Notes
guest written by Christina this week!
     We are really excited about the great start our cucumber, summer squash, winter squash and melon transplants got a few weeks ago. We rented a plastic layer from Michelle Shackelford of Leelanau Specialty Cut Flowers - this magical tractor implement forms a garden bed, lays down irrigation line and black plastic mulch all at the same time. With the rain we got the previous week and some chunky soils we had a little bit of a challenge getting everything working smoothly, but in the end it all came together and now we have beautiful rows of plants all tucked in and covered (to protect against squash bugs). Time to grow up little ones!

     We also spent time pounding posts and tying trellis lines in our tomato hoop house. The challenge is getting the lines as tight as possible while you're tying - the tomato plants get huge and need all the support they can get.

     Finally, we spent lots of time the past few weeks week cultivating as many garden beds as we could.  The heat and rain made the weeds spring up all at once, or so it seemed anyway. We got as much work done as we could so we could go on our first farm crew field trip of the year - to the movies to see Wonder Woman! We have an all-female crew this year and the beginning of this movie (if you haven't seen it, it takes place on an island paradise where strong amazing women train to be warriors) is basically your typical day on the farm.
Our manual manure spreader, AND a gorgeous swarm of honeybees that our beekeeper Greg caught and housed in a new hive in the back field!

Asian-ish Slaw:
1 lg or 2 small heads Bok Choi, chopped thinly
1 carrot, grated or julienned
1 small onion, sliced, or 3-5 scallions, sliced
3-4 garlic scapes or 4-6 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 knob fresh ginger, minced or grated
a handful of radishes or turnips, sliced or julienned
1/2 c. toasted sesame oil
1/2 c. rice vinegar, white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1/2 cup toasted nuts or seeds- I like sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped peanuts, or slivered almonds
red pepper flakes, ground cayenne, or fresh hot chiles, sliced or minced- to taste
cooked/soaked/drained rice noodles (follow direction on package), in whatever ratio you prefer (1:1 noodles:slaw makes a nice lunch, or fewer noodles makes a salad with that much more interest)

Toss everything together, taste, add more tamari or salt if necessary, more spice if you like, or a little more oil or vinegar to dress everything well if necessary.
Bonus: top with fresh pea shoots to serve!

Christina's Favorite Greens: Palak Chana

1 large bowlful greens (this could be 2 bunches of kale or chard, a big bag of spinach or beet greens, spicy salad mix, or some combination of all of the above)
1 chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
1-inch knob fresh ginger 
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
1 dash cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons yogurt
1/2 cup tomato sauce or 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups cooked chickpeas 
juice of 1 lemon
a dash of heavy cream or 3-4 tablespoons butter

1. strip greens from stems if using kale or chard, and tear into rough pieces. wash greens by swishing them around in a big bowl of water, then lifting them out. dump the water and return greens to the bowl. 

2. heat enough water to cover the greens to boiling, then pour over the greens. stir for a minute or two, until the greens wilt and turn bright green. drain the greens, return to the bowl and cover with cold water. this blanches them for use later in the recipe.

3. meanwhile, heat the cooking oil of your choice (ghee or coconut oil would be good picks here) in a heavy-bottomed, deep pan. add the onion and fry for a few minutes, until it turns translucent. 

4. add the ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, for two or three minutes. then add your spices and cook for a minute, or until they deepen in color and become fragrant. be careful not to burn them.

5. add the tomato sauce and stir, be sure to scrap up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. let the sauce come to a simmer and then turn down the heat. Add the yogurt, one tablespoon at a time, and stir.

6. add your blanched greens along with a tablespoon or two of water, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. 

7. transfer half of the mixture to a blend or food processor, and process until smooth. if you have an immersion blender, even better! just blend to your desired consistency. I like mine smoother so I usually blend it all.

8. return mixture to the pan and add the chickpeas, butter or cream, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. let simmer for 10 more minutes. 

9. serve over rice or noodles along with yogurt, pickles or fresh radishes.