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.

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