A new season is upon us

Here we are, getting ready to start our third full week of the CSA season…and I am just now writing our “welcome” blog. Gives you an idea of how nuts it has been this year! The weather has been full of extremes: a cooler and way drier than normal spring…moving into summer with days of extreme heat and drenching rains.vibrant rhubarb

Because of the cool dry spring, many early season crops were a little late getting in the ground…BUT, this also allowed us to get many of our summer crops planted much earlier. There is always a flip side in farming…

One of my goals with this blog is to present ideas on how to use your share. It does neither of us any good if you pick up a crate of vegetables each week, just to have them slowly rot away in your fridge. We take the utmost care to make sure we harvest early in the day, and get the produce into the cooler as quickly as possible, to make sure that it stays as fresh and tasty as possible. Once you get your share home, here are a few tips to help you store your veggies correctly. Now that you have everything stored correctly, what do you do with it???

Eating seasonally can take some getting used to. When people picture joining a CSA, they often have visions of cucumbers, melons, tomatoes and peppers dancing in their heads. not necessarily kohlrabi and turnips. BUT, all of the above make their appearance later in the summer–July at least, so, we grow what does well in season until we get to “the good stuff.” Another goal of mine is to get our members to see all of the produce as good stuff! Just because you have never heard of it doesn’t mean it isn’t good!

If you find yourself stumped for ideas, check out the word cloud on the right hand side of the page. Click on whatever vegetable interests you and you will see all the blog posts written on that topic.  Other social media sites are full of ideas: Facebook and Pinterest are great places to see what is happening with food.green onions

One of my favorite food blogs, and where I often go for inspiration is Alexandra’s Kitchen. She is a devoted CSA fan and has many wonderful, delicious ideas to get you going. As the mom of two young kids, her recipes are pretty easy to follow and don’t tend to involve any overly complicated kitchen sorcery.

Some of the recipes I have shared lately are Rhubarb Glazed Shrimp and Roasted Rhubarb and Asparagus Pasta Salad.

Without a doubt, one category of produce that continues to mystify and overwhelm people is GREENS. Particularly Asian greens: bok choy, Chinese cabbage, Yukina Savoy, Asian Salad Greens. These are pretty abundant in the spring and fall. They are so good for you, and so tasty once you figure out what to do with them!

Most of the time, a simple saute or braise can be used on many of our greens. They cook way down, so what seemed like a lot, becomes much more manageable. Fritters and slaws are a great way to handle many veggies as well. Fresh bok choy and apple slaw makes a great cool side dish–perfect for a hot day.

 

Revisiting the Flavors of Summer

A frequent theme we hear during the summer is, “I love all this produce, but I don’t have time to cook it all!”

We feel your pain. This is one of the great ironies of being a farmer–you are surrounded by all this gorgeous, fresh, organic produce…and we have no time to cook it. I used to try to can my leftovers, but frankly, it was too much work. I still made some pickled carrots, okra and turnips this year, but that was about it. FREEZING produce is much more my style.

Many types of produce can be frozen with little or no prep. Some may need to be par-boiled or peeled first, but most things can just be slipped into a ziploc bag and be stored until you need it. Like now.

eggplant burthaI have been using my frozen green peppers (remember when we got TONS of those this summer?) in chili and gumbo. Over the weekend I found a bag of grilled eggplant I had tucked away. I had made baba ganoush with the last batch I found, so wanted to do something different. I found a recipe that we gave out to members this summer: Eggplant Burtha, from my friend Sujata. It is absolutely delicious!

Eggplant Burtha
Two large Italian eggplants
2 Tsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
One green chili, finely chopped
One clove of garlic minced
Two vine ripened tomatoes, chopped (I cheated and used 1/2 a can of diced tomatoes)
One tsp. ginger, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. chili pepper
1 1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. salt
Finely chopped cilantro (plus a little extra for garnish)

Roast whole eggplants in the oven or on an outdoor grill. Let cool, then remove the skin. Mash with a potato masher.

Heat the oil in a medium size frying pan. Add cumin seeds. Once they are brown, add green chili and onions. Fry onions to golden brown (keep stirring so they don’t burn). Add garlic and tomato and fry for few more minutes to reduce the juices.

Add all other dry spices and fry for 2–3 minutes. Once the juices from the tomato have reduced, add mashed eggplant, salt and cilantro. Add minced ginger and cook everything for about five minutes on low heat or until all liquid has reduced. Garnish with extra cilantro.  Serve with steamed rice, roti, or naan.

What else is in that freezer?

Yesterday I unearthed a bag of frozen peaches. You may remember that our peaches were a little funny looking this summer–some were on the small side, some were freckled and weird looking. These were some of the sweetest most delicious peaches I have ever had though, and I didn’t want any to go to waste! My daughter has been enjoying them in smoothies all winter, but I wanted to try something else. So yesterday morning we had peach scones. What a treat on this brutally cold winter day!

chopped peaches

Work share member Meghan must have been thinking of warmer days as well. I saw a post from her on Facebook that she found a bag of frozen garlic scape pesto leftover from June. She and her family enjoyed garlic scape pesto pizza using pre-made naan from Wegman’s. How easy is that? garlic scape naan

I guess the lesson I am trying to impart today is, even if you don’t have the time or the interest to deal with your produce during its peak, try to set aside 10-15 minutes and save it. Not for a rainy day, but a miserably cold one like today–you will be very happy you did!

Lots of greens!

Broccoli rabeOne thing you will notice about your first share…there are a lot of greens in it.  If you didn’t grow up eating a lot of greens, you may be challenged by this. For instance, if you are unsure about broccoli rabe–never had it, had it but don’t like it, try making it into a pesto. Easy AND delicious! The recipe below was adapted from Mario Batali’s collection. Scroll down for recipes for Asian Salad Greens, which can be another head scratcher…

broccoli rabe pestoBroccoli Rabe Pesto
Yield: 1 cup

  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb broccoli rabe, stems removed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds (can use toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts instead)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 – 6 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 2 tbsp kosher salt. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking; drain well.

With the motor running, drop the garlic into a food processor and finely chop it. Add the broccoli rabe and pumpkin seeds and pulse until finely chopped. Add the mustard and blend well. With motor running, drizzle in the oil. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the parmesan.

Note: The pesto can be stored in a lightly sealed jar topped with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil, for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Source: Molto Gusto by Mario Batali

FunJenAsian salad greens, aka, Fun Jen cabbage isn’t something a lot of new members are familiar with. It is technically a cabbage, and can be treated like one, but its leaves are very full, and “fluffy” more like a lettuce. In fact, this cabbage can be sauteed or stir fried like a “regular” cabbage, or tossed into a salad. Below is a quick stir fry recipe, though Fun Jen is equally good fresh in a tossed salad as well! fried-brown-rice-shrimp-ck-x

Quick Fried Brown Rice w/Shrimp, Snap Peas and Asian Salad Greens
Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 1/2 (8.8-ounce) pouches precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
  • 10 ounce medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (or chicken, pork or tofu)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, diagonally sliced (or asparagus or snow peas)
  • 2 cups shredded Asian Salad Greens
  • 1/3 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  1. Heat rice according to package directions.
  2. Combine soy sauce, sambal oelek, and honey in a large bowl. Combine 1 teaspoon peanut oil and shrimp in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add shrimp to pan, and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add shrimp to soy sauce mixture; toss to coat shrimp. Add 1 teaspoon peanut oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add eggs to pan; cook 45 seconds or until set. Remove eggs from pan; cut into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add rice; stir-fry 4 minutes. Add rice to shrimp mixture. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add sugar snap peas, Asian greens, peanuts, salt, and garlic to pan; stir-fry for 2 minutes or until peanuts begin to brown. Add shrimp mixture and egg to pan, and cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Adapted from Cooking Light

 

 

First CSA Pickup!

At long last, the 2014 CSA season has begun! As I sit here typing this, work share members are already at the farm–harvesting greens for tomorrow’s shares. Last night’s brief showers have hydrated all the lettuces and greens beautifully! They will be harvested, and packed into the cooler, and on your table tomorrow night. I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait! Read on to learn about a few things that will hopefully make your CSA experience a more enjoyable one!

Each week, you will receive an email reminder from us the night before your pickup. We will give you an idea of what to expect in your share, plus any other updates you may need to know for that week.

We have added a few links to our website to help you get the most out of your shares. First, we have Storage Tips. This is a work in progress, and will be added to as we progress through the season. If you are still in doubt about something, please just ask. We want to make sure you get the most out of your shares. We also have a guide for pickup day. This can be confusing, especially if you are new. Even if you aren’t new, we have a listing of all the pickup days. And, though this is just a rough guide, we have a guide showing the crops you can expect this season, and when they should be ready to harvest.

Our main goal this year, other than growing delicious produce, is to help you use and enjoy your share. Seasonal eating can be a challenge if you aren’t used to it. We will be posting recipes here on our blog and adding interesting finds to our Pinterest board.

There is also a new service that you may be interested in, which is designed to help you get the most from your shares. Patricia Mulvey, the Fair Share CSA Coalition chef, and co-writer of Asparagus to Zucchini, is the creator of Localthyme.com, a CSA menu planning service. She is working to end “veggie guilt” one share box at a time by providing CSA members with a range of tools to put veggies on their plate, not in the compost. Membership includes:

  • the largest online searchable database of seasonal vegetable-centric recipes
  • a beautiful vegetable ID section
  • tips and tricks
  • support from the chefs
  • menu plan and shopping list generators or menus planned by Local Thyme chef

Membership starts as low as $20 a month. Here is a link to a free 1-month trial. Vollmecke Orchards is not currently a member, but this is something we are looking into as well. If anyone joins, we would love to hear your feedback!

How Has Weather Affected the Farm?

… and your food?

Like many folks in the Northeast, we got walloped by a huge ice storm early in February, and like many, we lost a lot of trees. A number of our elderly peach trees broke under the weight of the ice, but it was the white pines bordering the neighborhood to the East that took the biggest hit. Two large evergreens in front of our tenant houses also were badly damaged and will need to be removed. To date, we have spent several weeks cleaning up all the damage, with many limbs still stacked in big piles awaiting chipping. All of this needs to be cleaned up before the grass grows too high, making the job even tougher. This has given us a lot of added work to do in our already busy Springtime rush. I know many people in our area are experiencing the same thing–we just might have more than the average homeowner.

All the snow we had this Winter also kept us from getting to some of the outdoor projects we had planned on tackling in our “off season”. It did not, however, keep us from pruning the apple orchard–this was just a lot more effort, having to hike through the snow to get there!

The cold temperatures and Winter snow blanket have led to a delayed Spring this year–which appears to be two to three weeks behind what we think of as “normal” in our area.  In addition to the lateness of the season, we had almost 6 inches of rain that saturated already wet soil. Some plantings were washed out by this rain, and will have to be sown again. We have thousands of seedlings that have been transplanted to the fields between rain storms. The greenhouses are still stuffed full of plants waiting their turn to head out into the great outdoors. We are really hoping that this week will be sunny, and that the fields will dry enough to do the many essential early season farm tasks that will set the stage for the next wave of planting. Come on sunshine!

Because Mother Nature has been a little rough on us these past few months, we have decided to move the start date of the CSA season back a week, to the second week of June. This will allow our crops to mature just a little more before we start sending them out to you and your families. We are disappointed, as we expect some of you to be as well, however, we think the wait will be worth it once we are rewarded with the beautiful, delicious, fresh produce of Spring.

Lovage

lovage


Lovage is one of the earliest things up in the garden. It looks small, and tentative at first, but by July, it is well over six feet tall. The leaves have a pronounced celery flavor, and can be used in salads (think tossed salad, or chicken or egg), or simmered with potatoes and onions and pureed into a creamy soup. I think our favorite way though is to harvest a sturdy stalk, trim the ends, and use it as a celery flavored straw for a Bloody Mary.

The following was adapted from an article on CNN. scroll down for a lovage soup recipe

If you love herbs and like to garden, a good perennial herb is lovage. The French call it céleri bâtard, or false celery. It is a great addition particularly to potato and tomato dishes.

Lovage has been used since Greek and Roman times as a seasoning in food, an additive to medicines, even an ingredient in love potions.

Lovage Soup

Lovage introduces a clean, celery-like, herbal flavor to this simple creamy soup. Use an immersion blender to give the soup a smooth consistency. — Adapted from http://nourishedkitchen.com

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 bunch green onions (white and light green parts, chopped)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 3 medium Russet potatoes (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 bunch (1 oz) lovage leaves (chopped fine)
  • Heavy cream (optional)

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium-high heat. When it froths, reduce the heat to medium and stir in green and yellow onions. Cook until fragrant, about five minutes.

Pour in chicken stock and stir in chopped potatoes. Simmer, covered, about 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in lovage and simmer, covered, a five or six more minutes.

Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Season with unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in a spoonful of heavy cream if you like, and serve.

It looks and smells something like celery but is much larger, growing more than 6’ tall, according to Michael Weishan, publisher of Traditional Gardening Magazine and host of National Public Radio’s “The Cultivated Gardener,” to debut in October.

“One of its principal uses is as a salt substitute in dishes. If you are trying to cut down on salt, it can be used instead in soups or stews,” he said.

Lovage can be used in almost any dish celery or parsley would be used in. It isn’t as bland as celery, so Weishan cautioned people should be careful of the amounts they use. “A little lovage really goes a long way,” he said.

Though there are recipes with lovage, a recipe isn’t necessary to use it. Lovage can just be added to dishes. It is great in green salads, potato dishes, soups and stews to give a dish “a little oomph,” Weishan said.

He said anything with a carbohydrate base or that is bland is better with a little lovage.

“It is one of my favorite herbs,” he said. “It is part of the carrot family and is one of a number of herbs the Emperor Charlemagne mandated must be grown in every garden.”

Lovage also has the added health benefit of being high in vitamin C.