Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CSA Week 14

The rain broke after four full days, as you know. I was surprised that night to wake to the sight of moonlight through my window and to the sound of insects instead of the sound of water falling from the sky. Those were four days of November transplanted to late August, and now that they're over they have been replaced (as you also know) with a dry, baking heat that we expect to continue until Friday. When it is raining it is hard to think of anything but the rain, and when it is hot it is hard to think of anything but the heat, but the contrast between these two consecutive periods of weather reminds me that though we cannot often see beyond the horizon of our present condition, moments are replaced often and easily. This is as true of the weather as it is of the mornings I wake with a headache and a stiff body and am immediately consumed by thoughts of my own mild discomfort. They are conditions that will pass, and once gone will feel as distant and unknowable as a cold and blustery August day from a hot and dry vantage point that is only one day later. May we no time soon be subject to the sort of personal or meteorological calamity that gives permanence to our discomforts and finally teaches us how fleeting they have always been.

Was that a downcast paragraph? This isn't downcast: Here is what's in the share this week:

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes
Husk Cherries
Hot Peppers
Sweet Corn
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 doverfarmcsa@gmail.com.

*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.

Salsa Verde

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:

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