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.