This is our second season at Dover Farm. Last year we worked in a vacuum of experience: Joshua and I were new to eastern Massachusetts and new to this piece of land, and although we had both gained farming experience in different places over the course of several years, we were applying our knowledge in an unfamiliar setting. For me, this was liberating. Without the pressure of past success or failure, and without intimate knowledge of my surroundings, I felt that each step in the progress of the season was a discovery, and my investment in the result was akin to that of an explorer who doesn't know what he might find until he is upon it. We might plant lettuce and help it grow and then harvest it, and that was interesting. Or we might plant cabbage and help it grow and watch it fail, and that was interesting. I sometimes felt like a happy, hardworking bystander to processes I couldn't fathom.
Not so this year, when suddenly we have a precedent for everything we do. We are no longer strangers to this piece of land, and to the joy of discovery we have added the subtle stress of expectation. It is the nature of work that is inherently cyclical: Everything we do this year corresponds to something we did last year. The lesson for me is that this is a good thing. My awareness of the preceding season is at all times simultaneous to the ongoing anticipation of the current year, and although the result of this is disorienting and anxiety-inducing, the truth is that by using last year as a template we are working with improved organization and efficiency, and the results belie my anxiousness. Each share this year has been more abundant than its corresponding share last year, and we are proud of the quality of the produce. There will be weeks when we don't compare as favorably to ourselves of one year ago, and that's okay. I am willing to almost concede that the joys of being new are rivaled by the joys of working well in a known world.
The share this week:
Sugar Snap Peas
Notes about the food:
* Garlic scapes are the flowering part of the garlic plant, and one of the best flavors of spring. Their presence in the share means our garlic plants are approaching maturity; we remove the unopened flower and its stem to encourage the plant to redirect its energy toward forming a healthy bulb beneath the soil. The scape is crunchy and milder in flavor than a clove of garlic: Eat them raw or chop and cook as you would a garlic clove.
* Embrace the bitter greens. I know I'm not the only one who loves dandelion greens, but sometimes my enjoyment of them feels like a lonely pastime. I think of their bitterness as a fresh and invigorating quality, a kick in the mouth from spring. And their nutrition value is admirable. Click on the label below for more tips and recipes--I spent a lot of time trying to promote the things last season--or consider the following recipes, both of which are so basic I was surprised to find them in a cookbook. Because of their simplicity they may be a good way to introduce bitter greens to your palette. For each, consider using the dandelion greens alongside this week's turnip greens, chard, kale or spinach. From Still Life with Menu:
Black-Eyed Peas and Greens
"Even the bitterest, sternest-seeming greens soften their disposition in the company of naturally sweet black-eyed peas and soothing leeks. This dish might seem pedestrian at first glance, but you will be amazed by how delicious such sturdy and inexpensive fare can be."
3 cups dried black-eyed peas
6 cups water
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 to 8 cups (packed) chopped mixed greens
2 medium-sized leeks, cleaned and chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the black-eyed peas and water in a very large saucepan or a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and mostly cover (i.e. cover but leave an air vent). Cook gently until tender, checking the water level every now and then. If it appears to be getting dry, add water, 1/2 cup at a time. About 15 minutes into the cooking, add the garlic. The peas will take 30-35 minutes to cook.
2. When the black-eyed peas are just about tender, stir in the salt, greens, and leeks. Cover and continue to simmer just a few more minutes. (The greens and leeks will cook very quickly.)
3. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper, and serve hot.
Pasta with Greens and Feta
"Here is a painless way to slip some of those ultra-nutritious bitter greens into your diet. You can use any combination of kale, mustard, collard, dandelion, chard, or spinach."
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chopped onion
7 to 8 cups (packed) mixed bitter greens, coarsely chopped
salt to taste
3/4 to 1 lb. penne, fusili, or some comparable short, substantial pasta
1/2 to 3/4 lb. feta cheese, crumbled
freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, put the pasta water up to boil.
2. Add chopped greens to the skillet, salt lightly, and stir until the greens begin to wilt. Cover and cook 10 to 15 minutes over medium-low heat.
3. Cook the pasta until al dente. Just as it becomes ready, add the crumbled feta cheese to the greens. (Keep the heat on low as you add the cheese.)
4. When the pasta is done, scoop it out with a strainer (in however many batches it takes), hold it over its cooking water momentarily to drain, then add it directly to the potful of greens. Mix thoroughly.
5. Cook the completed dish just slightly over low heat for a few minutes. Add a small amount of parmesan, if desired, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
*The broccoli this week is small and semi-ragged. Our broccoli plants did not tolerate the heat last week, and have subsequently formed heads that are not as big as we'd like. We're harvesting them as they are because this may be all we get. The fall broccoli is already sown, and we hope for conditions that promote productivity in those plants. Don't neglect the stems and leaves in your broccoli bunch: It's all good to eat.
* The lacinato kale is the third of the three varieties of kale we grow. (Of the three it may be my favorite, but why choose?) It is distinguished by its deep green color and its long, narrow leaves. We will continue to offer one variety of kale each week until the plants succumb to the summer heat; take the time to notice the subtle differences in taste and texture of each variety, and you may find that you prefer to use them in different ways. The red russian kale, which was in the first share and will return next week, is the most tender of the three, and makes an excellent raw kale salad. The lacinato kale is hearty, making it especially good for soups. The following recipe was sent by a friend of the farm:
Portuguese Potato Kale Soup with Chorizo Sausage
Peel and cut into chunks 5 or 6 large potatoes.
Boil until soft, pour off most of the cooking water but leave enough in the pan to cover the potatoes.
Coarsely mash the potatoes into the water and pour into a large soup pot.
Add enough chicken or vegetable broth to fill the soup pot 3/4 full.
While heating to a slow boil wash and chop a large bunch of kale--leaves and stems.
Push the kale into the potato and soup broth; cover and cook until softened.
While the kale is cooking with the broth, slice a package of chorizo sausage into rounds and saute in a frying pan. Drain on paper towels.
When the soup is finished cooking, add the sausage and stir.
Season to taste. Allow to sit for a short while with the cover on the pot. Serve with crusty bread.
* I was sorry you couldn't come over for dinner last week, but it's okay, I don't mind eating alone. Here's a picture of what I made: I'll give it a name that is basically a list of ingredients plus the word "wilted" and tell you how it was prepared, in case it looks like a dish you'd like to eat alone sometime too:
Wilted Kale with Quinoa, Turnip, and Lemon
Prepare the quinoa by simmering, in a covered pot, 1 cup of the dry grain in 2 cups of water, for approximately 20 minutes, or until water has been absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. Allow to sit in the pot, off the heat. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Add 1 chopped onion and saute until translucent, then add 1 bunch chopped kale. Squeeze the juice of 1/4 fresh lemon over the kale as it cooks, and season with sea salt. When the kale is nearly finished, add 1 chopped clove of garlic (or, this week, garlic scapes). Remove from heat when kale has wilted and turned a deep green. Squeeze the juice of another 1/4 fresh lemon over the finished kale before serving. Serve alongside quinoa (seasoned to taste with sea salt, black pepper, and lemon) and chopped uncooked turnip.