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!

Hail Storm Missed the Farm…Whew

We saw the ominous dark storm clouds looming off to the North last Thursday evening, hours after we finished planting 100s of cucumber and squash seedlings. The weather seemed unstable and we had an eye to the sky. We watched as the wind picked up and the clouds released some rain over us, but thankfully no hail.

We later heard Chester Springs, Exton and West Chester all suffered a considerable amount of damage due to a heavy hail storm. This is every farmer’s worst nightmare, and one we were very thankful to avoid! Hail can absolutely devastate vegetable plantings and fruit trees alike. We have a lot of seedlings in the ground and plenty more lined up on the transplant wagon. All is okay for now, and we will certainly be keeping our fingers crossed in the coming days and weeks that these crazy storms continue to avoid us!

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.

April Showers Bring…

too much rainWhatever happened to April “showers” bring May flowers? This is much more than a shower! I am happy that we are not slated to experience the record rain fall that Florida has just seen, but I can’t help but wonder just how much this big rainstorm is going to affect our food system? Timing is everything!

What an odd weather year 2014 has presented thus far. It is such a pleasure to finally see Spring flowers after such a long and snowy Winter. Spring has presented us with seesawing weather patterns however, so many of the ornamental trees that usually bloom sequentially all seem to be blooming at once. Here at the farm, the peach orchard is very pretty right now as it is reach full bloom—about 2 to 3 weeks later than normal.
I thought that I had put my Winter hat and warm work gloves away for good, only to dig them out again for what I hope will be the last time this Spring. Spring has arrived very late this year, with overall temperatures remaining cooler than average. A few warm days accelerated the growth of many plants, only to have the temps plunge to near freezing at night. As a farmer, it is the cold temps that are the worry. The peach crop is particularly vulnerable to cold damage, but so far, I think we are fine—I do not think we sustained any frost injury to the peach blossoms.2014 orchard

The cool wet weather also has put us behind in setting out our vegetable transplants. Seeing that the weather was so slow to warm up this Spring, we (slightly) delayed the sowing of some of our little seedlings. The greenhouse benches are now stuffed full however! Many seedlings are ready for planting and are spending their last few days sitting out on the farm wagon, toughening up a bit before they get planted out to the fields. Others need a few more weeks of warm greenhouse growing before the soil and air temperatures are warm enough for them to make the big move outside.

As I write this it is raining like crazy. I realize it will be days before we will be able to get into the fields again to continue with our planting schedule and I am hoping that recent sowings are not getting washed out.

Spring Isn’t the Only Time to Plant

chinese cabbage plantingWhile most everyone else is starting to think of Back to School, changing leaves, and pumpkins, we are thinking of a most Spring-like activity—planting! Fall is a great time to plant—cooler, more moderate temperatures give tender seedlings a good start. Because the day length is shorter, it can take crops longer to grow…but greens planted now should last us through the Fall, and maybe even into Winter or next Spring.seedling

Yesterday we transplanted hundreds of bok choi, pac choi and Chinese cabbage. Tomorrow it will be time for the lettuce.  We may even get a chance to sow some Kale! That would be exciting since the evil harlequin beetles ate the entire first crop…in yougo!