Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Was that a downcast paragraph? This isn't downcast: Here is what's in the share this week:
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
You-Pick Snap Peas (optional)
*We did not grow the corn that is offered in this week's share. Because it uses a lot of space for a relatively scant yield, corn is a tricky crop for small-scale farmers. Each corn plant, planted at 1-foot intervals the length of a bed, will grow to be nearly eight feet tall and will produce only one ear of corn. The plant feeds heavily from the soil to attain its height, and it offers little in return. A single ear of corn sells for very little money, which means that a full bed of corn will use far more of the farm's resources (soil fertility, human labor, etc.) than it is worth. For these reasons, and because it is our first year planning a crop schedule for a CSA, we decided not to grow our own corn. That said, in the CSA model the value of a crop is more than its direct monetary worth: Each distinct crop that we grow adds diversity to the CSA as a whole, and enhances the experience of the subscribers. And because corn is something that we feel it is safe to assume people like to eat during the summer, we decided to buy corn from another local farm and offer it in three weeks worth of CSA shares, beginning this week and continuing for the two weeks that follow. We placed inquiries with several local farms, and we decided to order our corn from Volante Farms in Needham. What you need to know about this corn is that unlike everything we grow ourselves (that is, everything else in the CSA shares) it has not been grown using organic methods. The difficulties I mentioned with corn are slightly (and only slightly) abated by the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. They skip some of the steps of soil building and weed management that require so much time on an organic farm, and therefore allow the farmer a slightly improved (again--only slightly) profit on his crop. For this reason it was easier for us to source corn from a grower using non-organic methods--they devote more acreage to the crop and grow far more corn than most organic farmers in the area, and they therefore had some to sell to us.
So: The corn is not organically grown, but we are happy to be supporting a local business, and we're proud to be able to offer corn this year from Volante. If you are uncomfortable with the contradictory growing methods the corn represents, don't feel obliged to take it. Like I said, the corn is a bonus that we wanted to offer to any of our members who want it. It is likely that with a year of experience under our belt we'll try to incorporate corn into our crop plan in the future. Until then, we're interested in any feedback you have about this issue. Please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*I mentioned last week that we were offering husk cherries as a you-pick item. The plants are producing so well, though, that we decided this week to pick them ourselves to ensure that everyone in the CSA gets a pint. They're packaged for you in shell that is like a paper lantern. Remove this and you'll find the ripe yellow cherry itself. They're sweet, with a flavor a little unlike anything else we grow. Eat them as they are, add them to salads, use them for jam, or try them in this pie:
Husk Cherry Pie
2 1/2 - 3 cups husk cherries
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp butter
Place the husk cherries in an unbaked pie shell. Stir together the brown sugar and 1 Tbsp of the flour. Put this evenly over the husk cherries and sprinkle everything with water. Stir together the 3 Tbsp sugar and the remaining 3 Tbsp flour. Cut in the butter until it is crumbly, and place on top of pie. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then turn down to 375 and bake another 25-28 minutes.
*You may have more experience with them than I do, but the only thing I know to do with Tomatillos is make salsa. That said, they make some of the best salsa I've ever had.
1 1/2 lb tomatillos
1/2 cup chopped onion
chopped garlic to taste
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp sugar
2 hot peppers
salt to taste
Begin by heating the tomatillos whole in a skillet until their papery husks have blackened and the fruit is soft. Puree with the remaining ingredients. Easy!
*This eggplant recipe was sent to me from Austin, Texas. It originally appeared in the Austin Chronicle.
Caribbean Griddled Aubergine
5 Tbsp olive oil, plus 2 Tbsp to brush on eggplant
3 sweet peppers, deseeded and diced
3 sticks of celery, diced
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large eggplants, cut into rounds about 1/2 inch thick
1 hot pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
3 Tbsp tomato Puree
3 Tbsp tamarind paste
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley leaves, to garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in a large saucepan and add the peppers, celery, squash, and garlic, cooking until almost soft (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, brush the eggplant with oil and fry very quickly in another pan, on both sides, to brown.
Add the chile, tomato puree, tamarind paste, and sugar to the softening diced vegetables along with 4-5 Tbsp of water and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste, and add more tamarind or sugar as necessary to get a good sweet and sour balance. Put eggplant in an ovenproof dish. Top with dollops of the suace and cover with foil or a lid. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the eggplants are tender. Served garnished with the cilantro or parsley.
*This has been a lot. There's barely room to mention the mizuna. It's an asian-style green with a spicy, mustardy taste, great in salads and on sandwiches, and a great addition to any stir-fry.
*I'm temporarily out of current photos of our produce, so this is what you get:
Monday, August 23, 2010
I have a theory that there is always at least one blustery day in the second half of August. Today, then, along with yesterday, is fall's annual incursion upon summer. We expect sun and warmer temperatures by the end of the week, but for now it is cool and windy and the rain has been steady and it certainly feels like a new season. Our soil will appreciate the moisture, and we appreciate the opportunity to leave the fields to the weather while we complete a few indoor projects. (This morning, for example, we spent some hours preparing our seed garlic. Of the garlic that we grew for CSA distribution we set aside a crate of particularly robust heads; we separated these into individual cloves, each of which will be planted next month as part of next season's garlic crop.) Our harvest, though, isn't slowed by the temporary change in conditions. This week's share:
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
Notes about the food:
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
3 yellow bell peppers, pierced with tip of knife
2 medium zucchini, quartered
1 medium eggplant, quartered
About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 head garlic
2 cups tomato sauce
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram, chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
In large saucepan over moderately high heat, bring 2 quarts
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Our farm is surrounded on all sides by thin woods or by suburban lawns that are surrounded by their own thin woods. So we are situated below the horizon, and as the sun rises and lights the sky our fields are a rectangular cup that holds shadow until the sun rises higher and the morning light moves down the trees and across our crops. The cool and shaded early morning of a bright August day contains its own sort of quiet, and it is a good time to work. It is the warm and sun-filled days, though, that have been good for the things we grow. Melons, tomatoes, and peppers are all hot weather crops, and all are included in the share for the first time this week. It is hard to overstate the satisfaction we felt harvesting such things this morning: their availability to us means that the farm has fully entered its summer season, and has done so with the sort of abundance we are scared to hope for, but hope for anyway.
The success of these crops has also pleased the crows. You'll notice that we have strung VHS tape across several beds of tomatoes and melons: This is because as those fruits ripened they were--without exception--pecked and sampled. (A former teacher of ours would refer to fruits destroyed in this way as "bird-certified ripe".) To prevent further loss we collected old videos from the Dover dump, and we dismantled them for the tape. Unspooled and strung above our crops, it moves in the wind and catches the light, and its flicker and glimmer deters the birds. So far it has worked: we haven't found a pecked tomato since it has been there, and because one of the videos is Hercules we're able to say--finally--that our farm is adorned with images of Greek gods doing battle, albeit in the form of Disney animation, preserved on magnetic tape.
Here is what's in the share this week:
Cherry Tomatoes, sungold
Slicer Tomatoes, oregon spring
Heirloom Tomatoes, prudence purple -and/or- paul robeson
Green Peppers, ace
Notes about the food:
*Heirloom tomatoes are notable for their bulbous shapes and for the variety of colors in each fruit. Don't be put off by their appearance! They look exactly as they should, and we assure you they are some of the best tomatoes you've had. Because of their odd construction they don't stack or ship well, which is why heirloom varieties of tomato are almost exclusively available direct from farmers--large scale growers have no recourse for distributing such unpredictable fruit, which is why grocery store tomatoes are uniformly red and round.
You'll notice that we harvested some with green shoulders. We do this because we don't want to risk allowing the tomatoes to over ripen and crack on the vine. A tomato with green shoulders will be good eating now, but it will also continue to ripen if you leave it on your counter for one or two days. If you plan to eat the tomato today, take one that is fully colored. In this week's share the pinkish heirlooms are a variety called Prudence Purple, and the deep orange-red heirlooms are a variety called Paul Robeson.
*The Cantaloupe, too, can be allowed to sit on the counter for a few days. Test the melon for firmness, and eat it before it is too soft. Melons cause us a little bit of trepidation, because there is no way we can know what the inside of every melon that we distribute is like. We harvest them when we are confident they are ripe, but there is a certain amount of educated guesswork involved.
*The CSA email included "broccoli leaves" as an item in this week's share. Joshua and I both like the idea of providing a leafy green in the share whenever possible, and at this point in the season the leaves of our broccoli plants are the best that we have. As I mentioned in a previous entry, the leaves of broccoli plants are under appreciated, but they are nutritious and can be prepared like other greens in the brassica family (kale, collards, etc). After assessing the crop, we realized that many of the plants had produced florets, so we changed the item to full-fledged broccoli, and we harvested stems and florets of various sizes, and bunched them with extra leaves. I like to prepare the broccoli leaves as I would prepare collard greens:
Freshly harvested greens
hot pepper oil
soy sauce or salt
Carefully stack and roll leaves, and cut into 1/2-inch strips. Heat olive oil in frying pan or wok. Toss in coarsely chopped garlic, a dash of hot pepper oil, and a dash of sesame oil. Quickly saute garlic until lightly browned. (Scallions can be included as well.) Over medium-high heat, throw in the greens and toss to uniformly mix and cook. Add a dash of salt or soy sauce and the sesame seeds, and stir to mix. Lower heat, add a few tablespoons of water, cover and steam for several minutes until tender.