Farewell Summer, Hello Autumn

Guest post from Work Share member Kris. We love the enthusiasm she brings to the farm as well as her endless interest in “playing” with her food!

SFC_potatoes_sweet_labeledAs we say farewell to Summer favorites like corn, peppers, and tomatoes, we welcome warm and hearty vegetables into our share. Crops that have been growing strong all Summer long are now producing hefty fruits of their (our) labor! Winter squash, sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, and of course, dark leafy greens, are all making their way into the Autumn harvest and your shares. As sunlight diminishes and the air cools, we begin to desire something more satisfying than a light salad in our tummies. This is where our Autumn harvest comes in.SFC_parsnips_labeled
SFC_kale_lacinato_labeledMy favorite thing about the Autumn harvest is that many of these crops mingle well together. I encourage readers to get away from strictly following recipes, and instead experiment with your ingredients in basic cooking. For instance, try:
  • roasting your root vegetables with the winter squashes with a few garlic cloves thrown in
  • throwing everything into a crock pot to make a hearty stew.
  • wilting your leafy greens in a skillet then stirring them into spaghetti sauce or a frittata.
  • sauteing a medley of greens and squash, mix in your favorite dried fruits and nuts (walnuts, cranberries and winter squash are always good together!), and throw it all over some rice.
The possibilities are endless, and trying different combinations will keep your taste buds intrigued. Get out of your comfort zone and play with your food!
To help you along in your cooking adventures, here are some tips to make things easier:
  • Roasting: Chop up your vegetables into similar sizes. Use a flat cookie sheet with a lip (to give your vegetables onto more surface area). Roast at a fairly high temperature, around 400. Use a good high-temperature oil (extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil). Go crazy with spices! Also, I like to add some Balsamic vinegar and/or honey, depending on the vegetables being roasted.
  • Squash: Sometimes winter squash can be a real bear when you want to make dinner quickly. You can get around this by cutting your squash in half (or quarters, depending on the size), scooping out the seeds and putting it in a microwave safe casserole dish with a little bit of water at the bottom (you want the skin side DOWN in the water). Cover with a piece of parchment paper, and cook on high for approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. This speeds things along nicely when you are incorporating squash into a dish, but I wouldn’t recommend eating it straight from the microwave. You can then mash it, or fork out spaghetti squash noodles, or mix it into a warm salad. Another possibility is quickly sauteing it in some oil or butter; that will add nice texture and dimension to your squash. SFC_squash_spaghetti_labeled
  • Soups/Stews: I highly recommend a crock pot for soups and stews. There is nothing like throwing all of your ingredients into a crock pot in the morning, and then coming home from work to a fully cooked dinner. Again I would suggest chopping your vegetables into similar sizes. Don’t be shy with herbs and spices. Experiment with liquid bases–broth, water, wine, tomato sauce, vinegar, or juices, and be sure to try different combinations of each! Don’t leave out pureed soups, they can be wonderfully filling, yet exceptionally healthy if you use thickeners like beans or starches. Also, soups freeze well, so don’t be afraid to make a big batch. You’ll thank yourself later this winter!
  • Warm salads/sides: Start with a base: rice, noodles, quinoa, barley, hearty grains, or potatoes. Add vegetables: roasted, sauteed, wilted, or steamed. Pick a protein: meats, beans, nuts, seeds. Sprinkle in accents; dried fruits, herbs, spices, oils, vinegars, condiments, or sauces. Throw it all together and enjoy!
SFC_spinach_leaves_labeledSo welcome fall with open arms (and empty stomachs!);it is not the end of the growing season, but the beginning of a new harvest! Have fun, and good luck on your food journey!

LETTUCE!

Green Summer Crisp

Green Summer Crisp

green forest romaine

Green Forest Romaine

Nancy butterhead

Nancy Butterhead

Nevada

Nevada

Red Cherokee

Red Cherokee

Two star

Two Star

Vollmecke has an abundance of lettuce right now, but it won’t be around for much longer, so make sure to get the most of it. Although lettuce is one of those vegetables that is heavily associated with one dish (salad), don’t let that limit you. Lettuce has a lot of untapped potential. At most grocery stores, you will find “green,” “red,” and perhaps some romaine or iceberg. Here at Vollmecke Orchards, we grow many kinds that are too delicate to withstand shipping and storage, so you will only find them here. Our favorite? Nancy Butterhead!

So what to do with this abundance? Here are a few ideas:
  • Make WRAPS! Instead of a tortilla, use a giant lettuce leaf! Much healthier, and adds some crunch. Try these lettuce wraps, based on the delicious ones served at P.F. Changs.
  • Juice it! Combine it with some strong fruits in your next juice or smoothie. Because lettuce has a subtle flavor, it won’t make your juice taste like liquid lettuce. This is a great way to stay hydrated!
  • Shred it and add to dips! Lettuce is especially good with Mexican themed dips, like seven layer or enchilada dip.
  • Put it on a sandwich! This seems obvious, but I know I sometimes forget about adding lettuce to sandwiches. Great way to eat your vegetables without overwhelming the meal.
  • Grill it! Yes, grill it!! Marinate in some Italian dressing and throw a whole head on the grill. Excellent BBQ/picnic side! Here is a Grilled Caesar Salad recipe. If it sounds like a lot of work, just substitute your favorite dressing for Casar dressing.
  • Make Soup! I know it sounds odd, but a fresh spring lettuce soup is actually quite delicious.
  • PRESERVE IT! You can actually freeze lettuce. We don’t recommend this for all of your lettuce, but don’t let it rot in the fridge just because you can’t eat it fast enough. If you feel like your lettuce is getting close to the end of it’s life, follow these instructions and save it for later (keep in mind the texture may be compromised).
To make sure your lettuce lasts as long as possible, you will want to store it correctly (click here to see how to store other veggies).  We recommend washing lettuce right before you eat it in order to maximize shelf life. But if you do want to give it a quick rinse, dry it THOROUGHLY before storing in a loose plastic bag. OR you can put taller head lettuce in an upright pitcher with a little bit of water (like so: picture). Both options will help your lettuce stay tasty and fresh longer.
Do you have any interesting or unique recipe ideas? Lettuce know!

How to use your share

 

Typically, Farmer Karen and I (Kate) are the ones to write the blog posts. However, we thought you might appreciate a different point of view from time to time. So, introducing Kris, one of our new Work Share Members this year!

SFC_kohlrabi_labeled

 

As a fairly new CSA member, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed and perplexed by some of the produce I receive in my share, as I’m sure many new members do. However, this is not an issue as long as you push yourself to be (and stay) creative! A recommendation for everybody: Try each of your share items RAW, at least once (like kohlrabi–it is delicious)! You may be pleasantly surprised and discover your new favorite vegetable! This also helps you get an idea for the taste, and more easily allows you to imagine it in some of your more familiar recipes…

SFC_garlic_scapes_labeledWhich brings me to another recommendation: Add your new produce to your old dishes! Your macaroni and cheese recipe that’s been in the family for decades may benefit with a little added kale mixed in! Throw some sauteed green onions or garlic scapes in there to give it a more savory flavor.  Don’t confine yourself to one recipe per dish—slowly add and/or omit ingredients, tweak ratios, taste test, and bulk up your cookbook! This process is very inventive and fun, and you typically get a very tasty end result!
OK, so worst case scenario, you hate a dish you created…what now? Well, this is a learning experience! Get back up and try again! Or totally scrap that dish and try something completely new. Just remember: CSA shares are for your health and happiness, don’t be afraid to use what has been given to you!
And one more (obvious) recommendation for you: Search the net!  The internet is the best tool SFC_beets_labeledfor finding new recipes and preparation ideas for unfamiliar produce. Websites like Pinterest, Yummly, and AllRecipes are top notch resources. All you need is the name of the vegetable or fruit you want to use, plug that into the search bar, and get ready to be bombarded with mouth watering recipes! You will be shocked by the clever things people can do with food! Who knew you could make DELICIOUS red velvet cupcakes using beets? (we also have a recipe on our site that we made last year–either way, give it a shot. They are delicious!) Or homemade ketchup with rhubarb? Possibilities are endless, as long as you are open to trying new things and experimenting!
So, from one seasonal eater to another, I urge you to be curious and brave with your food!
Eat, drink, and be merry!
—Kris