Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CSA Week 22, Final Week

The universe has been reading this blog. It has noted my preoccupation with the weather and it responded today with one of the most gorgeous days we have had on the farm. The air was unseasonably warm but the autumn light was still soft, and we began the final week of the CSA in extreme comfort. It is easy to be in a good mood in such conditions, and we performed the season's penultimate harvest happily, and with ease. We shed layers as we worked, and when it came time for me to remove my long-sleeve thermal and replace it with something lighter I was briefly shirtless, and Joshua advised our volunteers (Thank you volunteers, for being hard workers all season, and for being fun) to avert their eyes or consider wearing sunglasses. Maybe it is true that I am blindingly pale in the sunlight, but I was reminded of the Duino Elegies: "...beauty is nothing but the start of terror we can hardly bear."

That was a joke, it was hilarious. This is not a joke: Thank You to you everyone who has been a part of the 2010 Dover Farm CSA. Joshua and I arrived in this area last winter optimistic but unsure what to expect from the eastern Massachusetts community, from the piece of land that we would be farming, and from ourselves. Now, after one full season, we are proud of our work, we are happy with the productivity of the land, and we couldn't be more pleased with the community of customers, volunteers, and enthusiastic supporters that have been a part of the farm all season. I was especially wary of moving to a new community and establishing what would be the latest in a long series of temporary homes. In April, shortly after arriving, I met a friend for dinner in Waltham and I noticed that US Route 20 passes through that town on its way to Boston in one direction and on its way to the Oregon coast in the other direction, and I thought of that state where I spent the first half of my life and I thought of this state to which I was brand new, and I thought that I'd like it if we could tuck our fingers beneath the asphalt of the road and pull it toward us like a garden hose and keep pulling until multiple of our heart's locations were at our feet in a pile of crumpled geography. At least we'd be tired from all that pulling, and we could be still for a while. We've done it somewhere inside ourselves instead, in that part of ourselves where our own histories are coiled. We are spring-loaded against the day we return to the universe the accumulation of places we have visited and things we have seen, and we would do well to like what we are carrying. All I'm saying is, I'm happy to have arrived here, and to be a part of this farm and this farm community, and I'm happy to keep them alongside experiences past and future. Thanks, again, to all of you who have made this season possible.

Here is what's in the last share of the season:

Swiss Chard
Mixed Brassica Greens
Dandelion Greens
Hot Peppers
Sweet Peppers
Sweet Potatoes
Delicata Winter Squash
Mixed Herbs Bundles (Oregano, Sage, Cilantro, Dill)
Yellow Onions
Red Onions
You-Pick Tomatillos

*Consider whether you'd like to join the CSA in 2011. Joshua and I are excited to be returning for another season, and we'd love to see as many of you as possible back on the farm. Community Supported Agriculture is a non-traditional commercial model. By purchasing a share the customer enters a season-long partnership with the farmer in which the risks and rewards of farming are duly shared, and every season is different. As your farmers, we use every season as an opportunity to learn more about our piece of land and the crops we grow, and each season we hope to refine and improve our abilities as growers of food. Please consider making the CSA a long-term partnership for you and your family. We'll reserve a spot in the 2011 CSA for all current members until February 15, at which time we'll open enrollment to the general public. (And next season we plan to offer an increased number of memberships, so if you know anyone who might be interested in a full season of locally-grown produce, please spread the word.) For more information or for an enrollment form, please email us at doverfarmcsa@gmail.com.

*By this time of year I am so accustomed to eating food directly from the farm that I am nervous about the season's end. The prospect of returning to the grocery store on a regular basis baffles me, and spring seems like a long time to wait for fresh produce. If you are having similar apprehensions, our neighbor Chris runs a winter CSA, and he is still accepting shareholders. He's a great farmer, he has been an excellent mentor to us whenever we had a question this season that only another farmer could answer, and he is literally around the corner from Dover Farm on Haven St. If you are interested in a Vanguarden Winter CSA share, please contact Chris Yoder at cyoder12002@yahoo.com.

*Firewood is available by request this winter from Dover Farm. We have a large amount of wood that has been recently felled and split and is now curing on site. Please contact us if you are interested in purchasing some.

*And a final end-of-season note: Anyone looking for a good local source for pasture raised heritage turkeys should check out Brambly Farms (bramblyfarms.com). Ted and Sandra are offering Bronze and Bourbon Red heritage birds for the holidays. They are friends of a CSA member, and if enough people would like to purchase turkeys from them for Thanksgiving we may be able to arrange a pick-up at Dover Farm. Contact them at bramblyfarms@yahoo.com if you are interested.

*Let's actually end the CSA season with a few cooking tips for dandelion greens. You'll remember these bitter greens from the spring, but perhaps you didn't miss them. Give them another chance with these simple recipes from Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables:

Plain-Cooked Mild Dandelion Greens

"If you like the flavor of dandelions but do not enjoy the depth of bitterness, you can blanch the leaves to mellow the taste, as you would in French-style green preparations. Although the initial boiling and draining will eliminate some of the valuable nutrients, blanching is a time-honored way of retaining the color and texture of green vegetables."

1 1/2 pounds dandelion greens, washed
2 Tbsp butter, or 1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

1. Drop greens into a large pot of boiling water. Boil until tender--about 5 minutes. Drain, drop into a bowl of ice water, then drain again. Chop and reserve.

2. Shortly before serving, saute dandelions in a skillet in butter until heated through. Or boil cream for a few minutes to reduce it slightly, then add greens and simmer until almost no liquid remains. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Rice with Dandelions

"Chopped dandelion greens give rice a pleasing bitterness and aroma. Not for every taste, but bitter greens just aren't."

10-12 ounces tender dandelion greens, washed
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 2/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
salt to taste

1. Chop dandelions in small bits. Heat butter in heavy 2-quart saucepan and add garlic and greens. Stir over moderate heat to wilt. Lower heat and cook until tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes.

2. Add stock, water, and rice, and bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally. Add salt, if needed. Turn heat to lowest point and cover pot. Cook 20 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and let stand 20-45 minutes. Fluff gently into a warm serving dish. (Can be kept in very low oven, covered, for half and hour, or can be reheated.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CSA Week 21

The mornings are getting colder. The days are still warm by afternoon, but they begin with frost. We arrive at the farm by seven, before the sun is higher than the trees that surround our fields, and on the plants and on the bare soil of our empty planting beds there is a thin layer of white frost, a powdery crust that glistens cold. The morning light, when the sun does rise, is soft, and as the air warms steam is released from every cold surface. It wafts upward, illuminated, evaporation like the slow exhalation of a thing that has been still all night.

This morning was especially cold. We are accustomed to beginning our harvest with lettuce and other leafy greens that will wilt if left in the field until the day is hot, but this morning those things were frozen. They were stiff with rime and would break if we handled them, and so we harvested the crops for the CSA share in reverse order. By late morning the sun had burned through the clouds and the tender plants had softened and we were able to harvest last what we would usually harvest first.

The cold mornings are a challenge for people as well as for plants. As we harvest, our hands are in contact with moisture that is nearly frozen, and for all of us (and especially those of us who are tall and thin and whose extremities are particularly far from our heart) this results in fingers and hands that hurt in the cold. Last week my hands became sort of inoperable after half a morning in the mizuna and kale; I could no longer use my fingers as individuals, so I went to the barn and used my hands like shovels to pick up and count garlic and onions for the CSA share. Meanwhile the sun outlasted the mist and the generalized pain in my hands and feet ceased to register as a sort of nausea and the day continued to its warmer stages. We begin the work day in a cold that is bracing and end it in a warmth that is comforting. It's not a bad way to be.

Here is what's in the share this week:

Swiss Chard
Collard Greens
Dandelion Greens
Hot Peppers
Sweet Peppers
Delicata Squash
Sweet Potatoes
You-Pick Tomatillos
You-Pick Husk Cherries

*The proliferation of root vegetables is appropriate for this time of year, and I find that on many cold nights I want nothing more for dinner than a roasted medley of the things. This week that includes the carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic, and if you have any parsnips from last week those could be added as well. I chop the vegetables into cubes; the onion I peel and quarter, and the garlic cloves I peel and add whole. Everything can be assembled in a pan, coated with olive oil and seasoned with salt + pepper and any fresh or dried herbs that you like. I roast the dish at 400 degrees for approximately 40 minutes (until the vegetables are soft enough that you'd want to eat them), stirring occasionally. The Delicata winter squash in the share this week and next week would also make a good addition--chop it into bite-sized pieces, leaving the skin on, and roast it with the rest. And keep root vegetables in mind, because next week we're hoping to offer a medley that will include carrots, turnips, and beets.

*It is also apple season, so if you find yourself with an excess of fresh apples, try this spoon bread that also includes sweet potatoes (and sage, if you are still looking for a use for last week's herb):

Sweet Potato, Apple, and Sage Spoon Bread
(Thanks to Erin Harvey for the recipe.)

1 1-pound sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 6-oz. Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 cups whole milk
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp chopped fresh sage
2 tsp coarse salt
1 cup white cornmeal
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Cook sweet potato in pot of boiling water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain; transfer to large bowl.

Melt 2 Tbsp butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add apple; saute until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add apple to sweet potato; mash together. Cool. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 350. Bring milk, sugar, sage, and salt to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; gradually whisk in cornmeal. Cook until cornmeal absorbs milk and pulls clean from bottom of pan, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in 3 Tbsp butter. Whisk yokes in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in cornmeal mixture. Whisk in baking powder. Mix sweet potato mixture into cornmeal mixture. Beat egg whites in medium bowl to medium-stiff peaks. Fold whites into warm cornmeal mixture.

Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in heavy large ovenproof skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Pour batter into skillet. Transfer skillet to oven; bake spoon bread until top is golden and puffed, about 1 hour. Serve warm.

*I am loath to include a photograph of myself in which neither Joshua nor anyone else farm-related is also pictured, but this week I am light on photographs and I am also loath to post an entry that is all text, and you can see how those scales tipped. You should focus on the carrots, they are prospering in the cold soil, and they have been fantastic in recent weeks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CSA Week 20

Our work on the farm is a healthy mix of the tasks that are daily (tending the chickens, watering whatever plants are in the greenhouse), tasks that are recurring (sowing seeds, transplanting crops, harvesting, weeding), and tasks that are undertaken only once or twice a season. In this latter category are things such as harvesting and cleaning garlic, a job that occupied some afternoons in late July and was followed by our annual harvest and cleaning of the onions, and which will directly lead to the one afternoon this fall that we spend planting garlic. The sweet potato harvest was also a once-a-year job. Over the course of several days--many of them conveniently timed to coincide with the final September heat wave--Joshua and I and a few occasional volunteers dug by hand the entirety of the sweet potato crop. Prior to this season neither of us had extensive experience with sweet potatoes, so it was without expectation that we planted two beds of the things this spring, weeded them twice, and then watched as their vines spread low along the ground to the complete occlusion of the soil. And it turns out beneath that soil monster sweet potatoes had been growing. To dig them was laborious, but each potato was a happy discovery. I collected those that were shaped and sized like human organs, and I arranged them on a table in the greenhouse in an approximate human shape that included two lungs, a heart, stomach, liver, intestines, something I decided to call the duodenum, and some miscellany. I also dug a hummingbird and narwhal for our sweet potato zoo, and Joshua dug a potato exactly the size and shape of a duck. It was my intention to learn to control lightning and then bring these things to life (I commented that once animated and ambulatory the collection of sweet potato organs would be sort of gross, but a friend of the farm pointed out that no, they'd be sweet), but before I could do so we moved all of the potatoes to the barn, where they have been curing and awaiting distribution. Along with the other items we have arranged in that dry place (garlic, onions, winter squash) they will contribute heft to the remaining shares, a weighty once-a-year harvest that we'll offer alongside the greens and peppers and all that we pick on an ongoing basis.

The share this week:

Red Russian Kale
Swiss Chard
Heirloom Tomatoes
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Sweet Potatoes
You-Pick Tomatillos
You-Pick Husk Cherries

*The parsnips have been in the ground for a long time. We sowed them in April, they germinated slowly, they survived (rather, most of them survived) a brush with the rototiller, and they have been growing ever since. That's six months in the ground, for those keeping track. I don't know what to tell you to do with the green leafy tops, although it will be obvious that those have grown to be as abundant as the root. Feed them Boldto your rabbit, if you have a rabbit, or add them to your compost, if you have compost. Like carrot tops, they can probably be cooked as part of a vegetable stock and then discarded. As for the root, here are a few suggestions:

Pureed Roasted Parsnips

From Simply Recipes: "The easiest way to prepare parsnips is to slice them, steam them, and dress with butter and salt. However, to get the fullest, richest flavor from the parsnips, they should be roasted. The browning caramelizes the natural sugars in the parsnips. In this recipe we first roast the parsnips with some butter, then puree them with added water. It's quite simple, but if you've never had parsnips this way, you're in for a treat."

2 lbs parsnips, peeled and chopped
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 cups water
1/8 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400. Peel parsnips and chop them.
2. Place chopped parsnips in a medium-sized bowl, add the melted butter, and stir to coat. Lay the parsnips on a roasting pan in a single layer. Roast in the heated oven 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden, turning the parsnips once halfway through the cooking.
3. Put the cooked parsnips into a blender or food processor. Add the water and pulse until pureed to the desired consistency. Add more water if necessary. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Or include the sweet potatoes in this version from Gourmet:

Sweet Potato and Parsnip Puree

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and parsnips and boil gently until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a food processor. Add butter and puree until smooth. Add milk, brown sugar, and salt, and blend well. Season with pepper.

*Mizuna is in the share for the third and final time this season. It's part of a small arsenal of greens that we are offering this week (along with the lettuce, swiss chard, and red russian kale), all appropriate for the season. For tips and recipes concerning mizuna, scroll to week 15.

*This week's heirloom tomatoes will be the last. The plants have finally been felled by the season, but to this point they have thoroughly exceeded our expectations. (Our expectations, admittedly, were reserved--blight eliminated the tomato crop of most small-scale organic farmers in the northeast last year, and in light of that disaster we were reluctant to raise our hopes for this year.) The hot and dry conditions were favorable, and each week we were happily surprised by the number of healthy tomatoes we were able to harvest for the CSA. It's hard to believe that during the last week of August Joshua and I agreed that if we had tomatoes for one more week we would be happy. That was eight weeks ago, and the fact that we have been able to offer tomatoes through the middle of October has been one of our happiest accomplishments this season.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

CSA Week 19

I have been thinking recently of the ways in which humans have an adversarial relationship with the conditions that surround them. We insulate ourselves against the cold, we expose ourselves against the heat, and we create light against the dark. We constantly work to make a sphere of our own influence against what the world offers, and when we are unsuccessful, or when the conditions are insurmountable, we are uncomfortable. I appreciate farming in New England because we are regularly forced to work in a variety of the conditions that antagonize us, without recourse to full shelter when it is raining, or cold, or hot. We experience the world as a world relatively unencumbered by our efforts to modify it. On mornings such as this morning we experience rain as rain--that which wets the ground and those things upon it--and in it we are damp things, working. It is a privilege to know what it is to be wet or cold, and to know that those conditions can be fled when the work day is over, and we are grateful for it. There is a poem I like by Wendell Berry (a guy whose work I avoided for a while, for irrational reasons); I think of it in relation to this premise, and I apply it to a lot of things in life:

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

Try it in the most basic sense: leave the lights off as the day becomes dark so that you may know evening as evening and night as night and neither as things electrically illuminated; spend one minute being cold in the outdoors on a winter morning before putting on your coat, and for one minute know winter as winter. The ability to experience the world in a passive way without fully relinquishing our combative relationship with our surroundings--to know that we can be dark or cold and can then modify our environment to suit our comfort--is a special thing.

What was I saying? Oh--we harvested the share this morning in the dim light of a late dawn, in the spitting rain of a cold autumn day. It was fine.

Swiss Chard
Hot Peppers
Sweet Peppers
Heirloom Tomatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Husk Cherries
You-Pick Tomatillos, if you want them

*If you are familiar with radicchio, you know that it usually has the appearance of a tightly packed head that is the size of baseball or softball and is crisp like a cabbage. We've harvested some of the plants slightly before that stage because we have found that some of them are bolting (going to seed) before the head is fully formed. What we're offering, then, are beautifully colored heads of radicchio that are akin to lettuce in terms of texture and firmness. They still have the distinct bittersweet flavor of mature radicchio, and are excellent cooked as well as in salads. Two recipes with prefatory by Elizabeth Schneider, from Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables:

Salad of Radicchio, Red Pepper, and Avocado

"Brilliant-colored, this refreshing salad of bitter radicchio, crisp red bell pepper, and creamy avocado spotlights radicchio's unique qualities."

2 small heads radicchio (about 1/2 pound)
2 medium red bell peppers
1 medium avocado
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
Pepper to taste
4 Tbsp olive oil

1. Core, rinse and thoroughly dry radicchio. Cut into bit-sized pieces. Stem and seed peppers, then cut into thin julienne strips. Quarter and peel avocado, then cut across into thin slices or dice. Combine all in a serving bowl.

2. Blend lime juice, salt, and pepper. Gradually beat in oil. Pour over the salad and toss gently to coat the leaves. Serve.

Spaghetti with Radicchio, Anchovies, and Garlic

"When I first saw cooked radicchio, I was taken aback: where was the gorgeous garnet leaf with its sturdy crispness? But after a few tastes I began to understand the subtle changes the escarole-like leaf underwent when subjected to heat: an intensification of flavor and broadening of range to reveal its bitter-to-mellow-to-sweet spectrum. Although its brilliant red is lost once sauteed, radicchio gains an altogether new taste coloring."

1 pound spaghetti
1/3 cup full-flavored olive oil
2-3 tsp finely minced garlic, to taste
1 pound radicchio
2-ounce can anchovies in olive oil, sliced (do not discard oil)
2 Tbsp minced chive
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
Black pepper to taste
1 cup finely grated provolone

1. Drop spaghetti into a large kettle of well-salted boiling water; stir until water returns to a boil. Cook until just barely tender

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet; stir in garlic; cook over moderately low heat until just golden. Add radicchio and toss for a few minutes over high heat, until just wilted.

3. Drain pasta and toss in a heated bowl with the anchovies and oil. Add radicchio, chives, parsley, and plenty of pepper and toss well. Add half the cheese and toss. Serve at once with the remaining cheese on the side.

*When preparing the leeks, let's not stray from the standards, especially when they are fully appropriate for autumn:

Potato and Leek Soup

The white and pale green part of 2 large leeks, split lengthwise, washed well, and chopped
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound potatoes
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves or

In a large heavy saucepan cook the leeks in the butter with salt and pepper to taste, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are soft but not browned. Add the water, the broth, and the potatoes (cut into 1/2-inch pieces), and simmer the mixture, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. In a blender puree 1 cup of the soup, stir the puree into the remaining soup with the parsley, and season the soup with salt and pepper.

Or let's stray slightly, and incorporate the sweet potatoes. Like the recipe above, this is from Gourmet Magazine via Epicurious.

Sweet Potato-Leek Pancakes

1 large russet potato, grated
2 cups coarsely grated red-skinned sweet potato
1 leek, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only, about 1 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 275. Mix first 8 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop sweet potato mixture by 1/4 cupfuls onto skillet. Using spatula, gently flatten each mound to a 3 1/2-inch diameter round. Cook pancakes until brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer pancakes to baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil to skillet as needed. Transfer pancakes to plates. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.

*We couldn't be happier with the Swiss Chard. The leaves are large and undamaged by insects, and their colors are deep and full. We think they make beautiful bunches, and we hope you've been enjoying the abundance. A CSA member shared this recipe with us:

Sweet and Sour Swiss Chard

1 pound swiss chard (multiple colors preferred)
1 medium onion (diced)
1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
2 cloves garlic (minced)
3 Tbsp white or cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse chard, pat dry, and remove stems. Chop stems diagonally into small pieces. Stack leaves, roll up, and slice in 1-inch strips; keep separate from stems. Set aside.

In deep saucepan saute onion in 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients along with chard stems, cover and cook for 8 minutes. Place chopped leaves on top of the mixture (do not stir in), cover and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir and serve.