What in the world do I do with winter squash?

I apologize for this post in advance; I haven’t written anything for the past few weeks, so this is sort of a jumble of everything that has been on my mind…

I will let you in on a secret or two. I don’t really like Swiss Chard (yet). Or know what to do with winter squash (yet). It seems shameful, doesn’t it? I am a farmer (this is Kate by the way), and there are vegetables I don’t like or use frequently. I have to say, if I didn’t work here and belong to this CSA, I am pretty sure I would have stopped with Swiss Chard after my first time. However, it has been quite prolific this year AND I hate to waste food AND I paid for it, so I am going to eat it… I can report that I have turned a corner, because I really don’t dread it anymore, and have made several really delicious things out of it (see recipe below). As the CSA season is winding down, I am trying to use every last bit of everything before I have to return to the dreaded produce department for my weekly vegetables…

My squash is starting to pile up however, and I really do need to address the pile soon, but just haven’t had the chance. This blog post sounds promising, and I may even attempt something from it tonight: “10 Ways to Eat An Acorn Squash” . This link has some great info on just getting the squash “open” and how to go about cooking it.

I am so hoping our Tuscan kale will make it to harvest this year. We have had an awful time with Harlequin Beetles (a stink bug relative), which apparently LOVE kale and have been eating it faster than it has been growing. If you do end up with kale in your share, here is a great way to use it, kale chips. I have made these before and they are addictive.

frittataLast Thursday I was faced with a dilemma I am sure all of you have run into at some point—”crap, tomorrow is pickup day and my produce drawer is still full.” So I made a frittata (these, along with pizzas, are a great way to use a lot of vegetables at one time). I don’t always know what is going into my frittata until I open the fridge, but this one was a keeper, so I wrote it down (see below). First I sauteed some of the onions, garlic and sweet peppers from my share (a couple of hot ones would have been good too). Then I added some Swiss Chard, tomatoes, and kalamata olives. Gruyere and Parmesan cheese and some red pepper flakes got stirred into the eggs. Steamed broccoli rounded out the meal. By my count, that was six items from my share that made it into my meal, AND I had leftovers for lunch the next day AND room for new stuff in the fridge…SCORE!

Last Minute Swiss Chard Fritatta

6 eggs (preferably those from happy hens)
Salt and pepper to taste
A splash of hot sauce (optional)
1/2 cup Grated Gruyere cheese (or more, it is up to you) Swiss Cheese would also work
1 TB olive oil
1 or 2 small onions, diced
1 small red, green or yellow pepper, diced
A sprinkle of Red pepper flakes (optional)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 bunch of Swiss Chard, rinsed, de-stemmed, and sliced into ribbons
1 or 2 small tomatoes, or a handful of cherry tomatoes (sliced in half, or chopped, depending on tomato choice)
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat broiler. Break eggs into medium-sized bowl, add salt, pepper and hot sauce (if using) and Gruyere. Whisk to combine, then set aside.

Heat a medium-sized cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil; when shimmering, add onions, peppers and red pepper flakes (if using). Saute for a few minutes until just starting to brown. Add Swiss Chard, stir, then cover for a few minutes until the chard starts to wilt. Remove lid, add garlic and stir until it becomes fragrant. about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and olives. Let cook over medium heat for a few minutes until tomatoes soften.

Add egg mixture. Stir to combine, lower heat and let cook for several minutes until edges start to set. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and place under broiler. Broil for 2–3 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly puffy. Remove from oven and lit sit for about 5 minutes before slicing into wedges and serving. I also like this cold or at room temperature, though this does not appear to be a universal thing. Enjoy at whatever temp you like!

I also made horseradish the other day…did anyone else try? I followed the preparation advice I sent out in a previous post/email, but I think I added too much vinegar since my resulting sauce wasn’t very hot. If anyone else made it, send me an email or contact me on Facebook. I would be interested to hear about your results.horseradish 2 horseradish

Raspberries aren’t technically a share item, but I have had a lot of them this year, and I just keep freezing them (something to keep in mind for next year)—which came in handy last weekend. Raspberry scones!scones

Recipes from Our Members

I recently received several recipes from some of our members. They all sounded so good, I thought I would share.

Juliet used our peaches and raspberries to make a delicious crisp and peach muffins. I made the crisp as well, and it was indeed fantastic.  We still have a few peach seconds, which would be perfect for this!

Meghan, one of our Work Share members, shared this with me yesterday. It makes good use of a lot of your recent share items, including tomatillos. I have not yet made it, but it is going to be on our table sometime this week for sure.

Tracy, another Work Share member, sent me this recipe for Swiss Chard Olive Bread. Swiss Chard can be daunting for those of us still learning to love it—as well as for those who are ready for a new way to prepare it.

And finally, we are harvesting horseradish this week.  It will be a choice in the shares, since not everyone will be excited by this. For you diehards, fresh horseradish is fantastic! Here is a link to a brief article explaining how to prepare it.

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Changing Seasons, Changing Produce

dewey leafThe days are bright and sunny, and the nights are getting cooler. So far so good—this is Fall, just the way we like it. These are perfect growing conditions for all of the greens we have in the ground right now, and hopefully they are helping to ripen our apples as well!

We have spent quite a bit of time this season talking about what hasn’t grown well, so today I am going to point out a few things that did grow well. But I think you may already know what they are, as you have continued to get them in your shares all summer.

  • Swiss Chard. Nothing seems to stop it. If you don’t like it, now is the time to try, as it shows no signs of slowing down.
  • Tomatillos. Since this was sort of a poor year for tomatoes, I thought these wouldn’t do well, but I was wrong. Salsa Verde was last month; time to try them in a stew.
  • Potatoes. Other than the occasional nut sedge root infiltrating the tubers (see photo below), these just keep going and going…

…which, depending on your point of view, may or may not be a good thing. It is entirely possible that you are up to your eyeballs in potatoes. But just think of all the lovely, organic spuds you could have this winter if you start storing them. I know potatoes are readily available all year, but do you know how commercial growers harvest potatoes? While the vines are still green, they apply a broad range herbicide to kill the plant down to the roots, which makes them easier to harvest. Once the plants are dead and gone, they dig up the spuds and everything around them, which all gets transported to a factory somewhere to get sorted; first by machines, then by actual humans. At some point, they make it to the store.  Sounds tasty doesn’t it?

So how do we do it? We wait for the plants to die back naturally, then Farmer Karen drives the tractor down the row, digging a trench behind her. We, or Chester County Food Bank volunteers, follow along and pick the taters up out of the soil, put them gently into harvest baskets and bring them inside to store in a cool dark spot until we give them to you.

Which brings me to, How To Store Potatoes. They should not be refrigerated! Ideally, they should be kept in the dark, with minimal humidity and cool temperatures. I keep mine in a closed paper bag in the basement. If exposed to light, they will turn green and sprout. Or rot. But properly stored, they will last for months.

Recipes

sedge tater

If you see a little brown hole in your potato, chances are, it was left by a nut sedge root, not a varmint.

 

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!

Make Salsa While the Sun Shines!

Salsa IngredientsWe finally have tomatoes. That is the good news. The bad news is, we also have a killer crop of blight. Literally. So yes, we have beautiful tomatoes, but sadly, the season may not last as long as it usually would. These year we have been plagued by plagues. It would be funny if it weren’t so awful.  What next? I really am curious—we have had pretty much every bad weather, pest, and disease event known to man and farmer.  I am personally betting on a killer snow storm in September, because really, that is all that is left to happen.

For those of you who were members last year, I am sure you are wondering why your share box isn’t overflowing with produce like it was in 2012. In a nutshell: Last year the growing conditions were near perfect. This year? Not so much.  I do feel that the produce we have been sharing with you has been beautiful and tasty, but I wish there were more of it. Needless to say, we are already thinking to next year and how to avoid, minimize or protect ourselves from some of these issues. However, some are just unavoidable; there really is no good way to protect yourself from 7 inches of rain all at once.

But in the meantime, stock up now, and take advantage of these lovely gems while we have them! Below are a few recipes for salsa using several items from your share box: tomatillos, tomatoes, corn and hot peppers. Enjoy!

FINALLY…Tomatoes Are Here!

This year has been a challenge in so many ways. First, we had a cool, wet spring. Which brought us into an even wetter summer, which then catapulted us straight into an incredibly hot and humid stretch, followed by an unseasonably cool period. Really the only things to thrive during these weird weather spells are the plague-like levels of flea beetles and Colorado Potato Beetles. Fortunately, as we head into the final week of August, we are beginning to see some of our usual summer abundance. So, between that, and my need to remind myself of one of the main reasons I work at the farm (incredibly fresh, organic produce) I decided to cook this weekend. Scroll to the end of this post for this week’s recipes using corn, tomatoes and basil.

First, I had to figure out what I was making. I had a few eggplant from last week, in addition to what I got in my share Friday. I had a ton of tomatoes, and I had just bought some okra (see below)…so while this may not be the most balanced of meals, it certainly cured some of my cravings!  I fired up the grill to prepare for Grilled/Roasted Greek Eggplant Spread.  All I did was crank the grill to high, and put these babies on.  Once they were all charred and delicious on the outside, I just sliced them open, scraped their insides into my food processor, and proceeded with my recipe. The picture doesn’t really do the final product justice—but the resulting puree is fresh and light, and tastes good on just about anything. I usually just eat it as a dip with pita chips or other veggies. I have also used it on pizza (with a little feta cheese and maybe some kalamatas) or as a topping for crostini. If you have a lot of eggplant, you can grill/roast them and puree them, then freeze the puree in baggies until you figure out what you want to do with it, or save it until the middle of winter when you are trying to remember what summer tastes like.

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Next I made gazpacho—this is a great soup to make when you really want to make a dent in your share box.  I did use many of the tomatoes that I got in my share this week, but I also took advantage of our supply of seconds (produce with imperfections that doesn’t make the cut into your share). This allows you to buy produce in bulk for a discounted price. Who cares what a tomato looks like if it will just be turned into sauce or soup? Anyway, I had never tried this particular gazpacho recipe by Alton Brown, so gave it a shot. It was a little more complicated than the recipes I usually print out, so I didn’t bother writing it up. It was delicious; however I have followed other recipes that were not as complicated and tasted every bit as good. Too bad I forgot to photograph it before we ate it…

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Once the gazpacho was chilling, I decided I was in the mood for some fried okra. We are growing a really neat variety this year called Big Buck, a German Heirloom. It is really prolific and produces large, FAT fluted pods. It can be a little off-putting since it looks so big compared to “regular” okra.  However, this variety stays tender, even at the larger sizes.  Plus, when you slice it, it makes really pretty star shapes, which is beside the point when you are frying it, since the batter obscures the pretty stars…but it WAS tender and incredibly tasty.  Our okra crop isn’t really big enough to supply everyone with more than maybe a share, if that, but we do have some to sell. And, if you see it in the swap box, GRAB IT.

The final thing I figured I needed was some aioli, or mayonnaise. This recipe is a perfect use of your Happy Hen eggs—the fresher the egg, the better the mayo. This stuff is great. And mildly addictive. I added a handful (or two) of basil to the basic recipe and ended up with not only a dip for my fried okra, but a spread for the next day’s BLTs with heirloom tomatoes… Seriously, this stuff bears no resemblance at all to Hellmann’s, and it is ridiculously simple with this food processor recipe from Mark Bittman—all you need is an egg, some olive oil, a little lemon juice, then whatever flavorings you can dream up.

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