Wednesday, November 7, 2012

CSA Week #22: Final Share of the Season

The last of the incredible carrots. Sad for us here at the farm since our kids snub store-bought carrots--the taste is incomparable.

About this week’s share: 

For this last-of-the-season share, whatever could be picked from our fields, we picked. Young broccoli, radish, purple carrots, escarole, kale, lettuce…

We actually held back on harvesting our ever-popular carrots (see pic) for last weekend’s farmer’s markets. We wanted to be sure we had enough for our CSA members this last week. We had plenty. In the process we learned that we have a lot of market customers hooked on our carrots. But instead of complaining that we didn’t have any at the market, many simply asked, “Why do they taste so good?”

You will probably notice that the broccoli is comprised of bunched buds, not crowns. This wasn’t intentional. The sun just didn’t shine enough this fall for the crowns to size up. Fortunately, the buds can be just as tasty when small, and don't let the stems go to waste. We often peel and then slice into sticks for eating with dip or cooking in a stir fry.

Season overview: 

Adapting has always been key to success in farming. And after two seasons marked by extreme weather, cultivating resilience is at the forefront of our thoughts. And in the wake of “Superstorm Sandy,” the subject of resilience is woefully in the thoughts of many or most.

Even our governor is acknowledging that extreme weather events are the “new normal.” And in this framework, we are looking carefully at how we, as farmers, can best be prepared to adapt and making changes accordingly.

But as we look back, we have to thank those members that shared their concern when this year’s historic drought was going from bad to worse. We thank those members who not only cheered for us when we finally got rain but also watched the radar to track rain storms in hopes that they’d come our way. And while we struggled with what we perceived as a lack of variety in the shares week to week due to drought- and heat-related crop loss, many members said they were too busy cooking their way through the abundance of what was in the shares to notice what wasn’t there. Besides, other members reminded us, how can you get sick of fresh tomatoes and red bell peppers? It was a banner year for these two items. It’s that kind support and commitment and enthusiasm that truly makes what we do “community supported” farming.

Special thanks to...

Free Bird Farm’s remaining field crew—Armando and Ariel Lopez (cousins)—who have stuck out the last few weeks of the season harvesting in the midst of tropical storms and finger-numbing weather.

...and also Shawn Cleland of Timberlane Farm, who supplied us many weeks of amazing blueberries. And we would never forget Tom Maynard of Maynard Orchards, who despite a startling shortage of pears and apples in New York this season, still took good care of our CSA.

In this week’s share:
1 head of escarole
1 head of lettuce
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch radishes (sweet—thanks to all the rain and the cold)
1 bunch parsley
2 heads of garlic
1 butternut squash
1 bunch kale
1 head Napa cabbage
1 bag of baby broccoli heads

Fruit share:
Empire apples

Empires are a terrific, all-around apple—great for eating out of hand or using in baking.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

CSA Week 21

This has certainly been an upside down week. We sincerely hope everyone is safe and well.

The farm was spared any damage by Sandy, which was more of a blustery tropical storm than a hurricane by the time it reached here. Our biggest worry was damage to our greenhouses. The storm, however, did trip us up in terms of our ability to harvest for this week's CSA distribution. So it's not our strongest share.

*We have decided not to distribute fruit for this week seeing that it's possible many of our members will not be able to pick up their shares for lack of public transportation or electricity. We'd rather reserve the balance of the fruit share for next week, which is the last week of the CSA season.

We send our well wishes to everyone in the city and NJ as the area recoups.

Ken & Maryellen

In this week's share:

1 bunch "dinosaur" or Toscano kale

1 acorn squash

1 pound yellow onions

1 bunch beets

6.5 ounces spinach

5 ounces salad mix

1 bunch cilantro

No fruit Share: See note above

Monday, October 22, 2012

CSA Share Week #20

Excavators have been at work in the back of our farm digging a new pond (see pic). We know…it’s square. It was dug in a part of the farm that always lies wet but was--no surprise--bone dry as they dug, up until the last week.
            This will be the 3rd pond on our farm, and it was built for the sole purpose of irrigation, as was pond #2.
The 1st pond was here when we bought the farm. It’s a long, narrow pool of water that is too shallow to pull water from but makes a nice habitat for water birds (a mallard couple, every spring) and place for skipping rocks in summer and ice skating in winter.
The new pond will provide irrigation for the very back of our farm where we established new vegetable fields in just the last couple of years.
We’ve been aware of the vulnerability of these new fields in terms of water access, but the cost of building another irrigation pond seemed too daunting. After this past summer, we’ve realized it’s much too costly not to have a pond out there. So, there we have it—1 million “gallons” of soil scooped up and relocated to build us a hole. The pond is too far out for ice skating, but we are thinking it would make a great spot for a camp site once we’ve re-established some grass around its…square (?) edges.

In this week’s share:

1 Napa cabbage

1 bunch green onions 

1 bunch turnips

1/2 pound spinach

1 butternut squash

1 bunch collard greens

1 bunch carrots

2 heads of garlic

 Fruit Share: Bosc pears

This week’s Japanese-style turnips are known for their milder flavor—mild enough to eat in a salad but also something you can cook without its turnip-y flavor being too intrusive. The skin is delicate and thin, so peeling is not necessary. Here are a few recipes that looked tempting to us:

Japanese Turnips with Miso (uses the greens!) 

New Orleans Coleslaw (lets you use this week’s green onions and Napa cabbage too)  

Glazed Turnips (this recipe uses the greens too)

We agree with cookbook author Susie Middleton, who says in the opening of this great Collards recipe, “The trick to quick-cooking collards (which are typically braised slowly for tenderness)is cutting them into very thin slices.” This recipe is on Fine Cooking magazine’s web site but also can be found in her book Fast, Fresh and Green (a handy book for helping you navigate through all of your CSA greens!)
You might also check out her web site,, for this recipe for Roasted Turnips and Pears with Rosemary-Honey Drizzle as well as a whole lot of other ideas for what to do with your fresh produce.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CSA Share Week #19

A beautiful bean crop killed off by the weekend freeze.

Last weekends’ record cold temps throughout the Northeast had everyone here scrambling in their winter gear to pull crops from the fields before the cold zapped the life out of things. Picking and washing produce in that kind of weather is downright physically hard and even painful, but we just couldn’t afford to lose the many beautiful crops that we knew wouldn’t survive the snap. (Ironically, up until this weekend, we had not had a single frost.)

Unfortunately, there was not enough time to get everything in. For instance, we lost the best bean crop we’ve had all season (see pic). It was abundant and gorgeous.

As has been a running theme this CSA season, this week’s share has managed to remain sizable but not quite with a wide change in variety. We regret you have been seeing a lot of repeat items, as we wait for many of the classic fall crops that can take some time (i.e. broccoli and cauliflower) come to size. They were planted on time in the summer but suffered from lack of rain in those first weeks. Even irrigation wasn’t quite enough. Many farms we know say they are in the same boat.

We have a couple pounds of potatoes in the share this week. Potatoes were one of many storage crops that took a real beating through this summer’s excessive heat and drought. We estimate that we lost more than 90 percent of this crop. We’ve just had to accept that this is one staple our members won’t be seeing beyond this week.

We intentionally paired the potatoes this week with leeks and parsley so that anyone craving a warming bowl of potato-leek soup can do so. Here at the farm, it’s definitely one of our favorites. Of course, we have lots of ways we love to eat potatoes.

1 bunch leeks
1 head frissee
1 bunch swiss chard
2 pounds potatoes
¾ pounds green or purple beans
6 1/2 ounces arugula
1 bunch opal basil
1 bunch parsley
1 head romaine lettuce
1 head green leaf lettuce
Empire apples
(Seckel pears for those groups that did not receive them last year)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

CSA Share Week #18

This long weekend, we juggled a triple-header: two busy farmers’ markets, harvesting for CSA members, and pulling off a birthday party for our now 8-year-old daughter.
Both our children celebrate birthdays in October, a month when—cold days, wet days, sunny days—we’re still full-on work wise. So time for fundamental birthday prep, like house cleaning, was limited (apparent as we sneezed our way through some dusting). There was little time to bake a memorable cake (enter one dear neighbor who is also one heck of a cake baker). And if we’re both too stubborn to take the more sensible way out and rent space at the local bowling alley, pool time at the Y, or (such fun) a bouncy house, our daughter is just as dogged about maintaining the tradition of having her party on farm.
On the flip side, the rows of round bales we lined up in the back yard easily equaled the fun of a bouncy house. Boys and girls tirelessly climbed, slid down, and leapt across and down the rows of bales taller than their 2nd-grade selves. And who doesn’t love going on a hayride, let alone while wearing a fake mustache (see pic)? Or searching for hidden “chicken eggs” (aka treat-filled Easter eggs) in a back-field scavenger hunt?
It was a great time, and it’s a positive reminder of the life we embrace here, not matter how busy.
Of course, that night for dinner, we ordered a pizza.

2 sweet dumpling winter squash
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch arugula
6 ½ ounces salad mix
1 head of garlic
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 bunch kale
3 red bell peppers

2 1/4 pounds Bartlett pears (local and Cooperstown members)

seckel pears and Golden Delicious apples (New York City members)

Fruit shares varied this week because of a change in the delivery schedule to New York City. Next week we will be returning to our regular schedule.

The Bartlett pears should sit out on your countertop to ripen. When they are a "canary yellow" and give just slightly when pressed with a finger, they are ripe and ready to eat.

The seckel pears are close to ripe and need just a few days out on the counter to ripen.

NEWS about apples and raspberries:

By this time of year we have usually enjoyed two or three weeks of fresh raspberries. Unfortunately, this year our local berry farmer’s raspberries were damaged by spotted wing drosophila. Originally from Asia, this fly has spread from California to the Northeast in the last 7 years, ruining berries by laying their eggs in the fruit. This year New York State was hit hard.
Another farm friend, who grows raspberries, described the damaging larva as “really gross”—not a combination of words we hear often from a farmer.
The VERY GOOD news is that our regular source for apples and pears was spared the statewide “apple-ocolypse”—as one local paper dubbed this year’s crop. Many orchards were severely impacted by an unseasonably mild winter and spring frosts that lasted into the month of May. Yields are down 50% from last year. Fortunately, “our orchard” (Maynard Farms) was one that was spared from damage.

*Keep “liking” Maynard Farms on its Facebook page or dropping him notes of appreciation; he has really appreciated hearing from our CSA members.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

CSA Share Week #17

Chardonnay grapes in this week's local fruit share (distributed last week to all other members because of different distribution schedule.) “The flavor is just beyond,” says farmer Tom Maynard. We'd have to agree. This is the same grape that is used to make a chardonnay wine.

This weekend the fall foliage here became noticeably awe-inspiring. Perhaps it wasn’t sheer coincidence that many of this week’s share items reflected this season’s brilliant, warm colors: the purple of opal basil and Russian kale, the burgundy beets and “red” Romaine lettuce, the yellow and bright red bell peppers, and the orange of bunched carrots. Fall foliage of another kind.
“Beets are Back, With Greens” is the timely title of a New York Time’s “Well” column published last week ( and accompanied by a series of inspiring recipes: Beet Greens Frittata, Beets with Goat Cheese and Spinach (go ahead and substitute the red Romaine for the spinach!), Beet and Chickpea Salad, Beet and Beet Green Fritters and Beet and Potato Salad.
Here at the farm, yes, beets are back, and, so long as we don’t get a hard frost, the greens will continue to hold up. Enjoy the greens while they’re around. They’re packed with nutrients, and, we think, really tasty too.

In this week’s share:
1 baby bok choy
1 bunch curly leaf parsley
1 bunch red Russian kale
2 red bell peppers
1 bunch opal basil
1 head red Romaine lettuce
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch beets
 Fruit share:
1 organic watermelon
1 quart Chardonnay grapes (for local/Cooperstown members; Bartlett pears for other members)

Maynard Farms truly treated our fruit share members this week with its new crop of chardonnay grapes. These are very sweet grapes—24% sugar—with 1 or 2 seeds in a grape. You can eat out of hand (politely spit out the seeds) or press through a sieve and use the juice to flavor a seltzer. “The flavor is just beyond,” says farmer Tom Maynard. This is the same grape that is used to make a chardonnay wine.

fruit storage tip: Watermelons do not further ripen once off the vine. Store in your refrigerator.

Opal basil seems to stump some people. This basil has a deep purple color with broad, fragrant leaves that are the same flavor as traditional green Italian basil. You should use it just as you would Italian basil, and, in fact, opal basil will turn green when cooked. So if you make it into a pesto and want to show off its deep color, use it to coat something that’s served cool or at room temperature, such as a potato salad or drizzle over slices off fresh mozzarella.