My Week of Eating from the Farm

Guest Post from longtime work share member Meghan

The CSA shares at the farm have certainly been a bounty of delicious veggies over the last few weeks. Four years ago, when I started as a work share member at Vollmecke Orchards & CSA, it was a learning curve to get used to using everything each week. I have gotten much better at planning and experimenting with all of the wonderful produce, so decided it was time for a greater challenge.

shareHow hard would it be to spend a week eating only food from the farm? This would include using the local products that Vollmecke sells such as beef, fish, yogurt, cheese, bread and eggs, in addition to the produce in my share. My exceptions to my little experiment were seasonings, condiments and beverages. As a relatively non-adventurous chef, I was a little nervous about trying this for a week, but after telling my farm friends of my idea, I was committed!

I picked up my share one Friday afternoon and also purchased eggs, a salmon filet, beef grillers, bread and cheese. I wrote down everything I had on hand and planned out the dinners for the week. So how did the week look? Breakfasts were fruit (raspberries and melon) and bread most days. I had Vollmecke Orchards’ apple butter on hand already, which is fantastic on Wonderful Good Market’s multi-grain bread. One weekend morning was classic eggs, potatoes and fruit. Lunches included egg salad sandwiches, green salads with tomatoes & Blazing Horizon cheese (also from Wonderful Good Market), and dinner leftovers.

Dinners were where the fun occurred:

Did I cheat? Yep. Over the course of the week I had two spoonfuls of peanut butter, and I added avocado to my fish tacos.

Was it hard? Not really! It took a little bit more planning ahead than I usually do, but it was fun to try some new things. Not having pasta, rice and beans was weird since they are staples in our pantry. The best part of the week was realizing that I snack on processed food too much. It’s so easy to grab a handful of goldfish crackers or make a quick stop at Wawa. This was a revelation for me, and one thing I will really take away from this experience.

Will I keep going? As much as I can. I am going to make a greater effort to eat more locally, especially at this time of year when it is so easy to do! Stock up on things you love that can be frozen or canned–you will love pulling them out in January!

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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New Recipes!

I realize I am falling behind in my posts. My excuse is that I have been farming. The weather, and the barrage of insect pests, has been crazy this summer! Things seem to be settling down somewhat, so I am hoping to find more time for the fun stuff—finding recipes and making samples for pickup days!

Today we harvested our first (ever), experimental celery crop. We learned a couple of things, and will apply these lessons when we grow it next year. While this celery does have good flavor, the texture is a little tough. This isn’t so much a crudité type of celery, but a gumbo, potato salad or soup celery.  It would definitely benefit from some cooking or spending some time in a marinade or dressing.  The leaves are also very flavorful and can be chopped and used in egg or tuna salad, or used as a garnish for a bloody Mary.  Or frozen and added to heartier soups this Fall.

Anyway, as I said, it was an experiment. One of the benefits of joining a CSA is that you often get to experiment right along with us. So please give us your feedback!