Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CSA Share Week 14

(caption: a canteloupe crop damaged by a fast-progressing powdery mildew lies lifeless next to a healthy watermelon crop (front right) resistant to the air-borne fungus)

On hot pink paper we received this notice in the mail a couple weeks ago: DISEASE ALERT! DOWNY MILDEW FOUND IN FULTON, MONTGOMERY AND SCHOHARIE COUNTIES! No sooner had we read the notice from Cornell University Cooperative Extension when, sure enough, we were seeing evidence that an air-borne fungus had landed in our fields.
Our spirits especially sank when we saw it on our winter squash crop—a white to grayish powdery growth on the upper surfaces of the leaves that would quickly penetrate the plant cells and kill the plant. We’d planted our winter squash seeds back in early May and nurtured them in the greenhouse for four to five weeks. Once in the field, we kept them well weeded as the vines stretched and the broad, deep green leaves unfurled forming a dense carpet over the plant beds and spreading across the paths on each side as well. The bees did their work too, pollinating flower after flower so that the plants would successfully produce fruit. All this time, resources and work, and only to have a common fungus show up aggressively shortly before the squash was to be ready for harvest.
It looks like our farm has not been hit with downy mildew but, instead, powdery mildew, a more widespread air-borne fungus. Nonetheless, we heeded Cooperative Extension’s warnings and read their 2-page informational sheet carefully. What we found striking was that the first 1 ½ pages of information were dedicated to a long list of synthetic fungicides that can be applied to control downy mildew (if you’re a conventional farm). Names like Ranman, Revus, and phosphorus acid fungicides. There are detailed instructions as to the amounts and frequency with which these products can or should be used (it’s not as if farmers apply the fungicide once and it’s a fix). It also explains which crops certain chemicals can and cannot be used on or which combination of products can or cannot be used.
And then there’s the organic section to the mailed notice. It’s one paragraph. It starts out, “Downy mildew is challenging to manage in an organically-produced crops due to current lack of adequately effective resistant varieties, cultural practices and approved products.” The organically approved products they did mention were recommended as preventative controls only. None would eradicate the fungus.
Whichever mildew hit our winter squash crop, our cucumbers and our cantaloupe crop, it hit fast. We didn’t even have time to contemplate applying an organically approved spray. For the squash and melons, we’d have needed a boom sprayer—a sprayer that would project over a field. That’s just something we’re not about. And because both of these crops sprawl beyond their beds, we cannot straddle the crops with a tractor and a spray applicator attachment nor reach with a small backpack sprayer.
For us, part of being organic is picking our battles—especially when it comes to applying sprays to crops—even ones that are organic. We’re glad to get what melons we’ve been able to harvest—enough watermelon for everyone this week(!). We’ll take a hit on the cucumbers—but everyone received a good stretch of cucumbers earlier this season, right? And we’ll hope for the best on the winter squash. As it goes, this is farming.

A note from the farm on the national egg recall
You don’t have to pay close attention to the news to know that about a half billion eggs were recalled from two Iowa egg farms in the last month. As we were pulling our farm letter together, the New York Times posted an update reporting that federal inspectors found widespread safety problems, including barns infested with flies, maggot and rodents. “Additional problems included overflowing manure pits, improper worker sanitation and wild birds roosting around feed bins.”
When the outbreak was first reported, we saw a tv news clip that showed images of a bunch of meat birds roaming “freely”—if somewhat packed together—indoors. We figured the news channel probably didn’t want to include images of industry-raised laying hens locked up in skyscraper-like stacks of cages because it’s simply not a camera-friendly image.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with how we raise our hens, it’s a lot different from the factory-like egg farms you’re hearing about in the news. We have about 200 hens and 2 portable homes for them. Other than to lay their eggs in their houses and roost at night, they spend almost all of their day outside on pasture pecking at bugs, eating grass, running towards anything and anyone that provide them some added entertainment. Their laying nests and houses are cleaned daily, although there is not much to clean since they spend little time indoors and because one house has a mesh floor, so manure actually drops right onto the floor ground. We move the birds’ homes through the field regularly so that they’re always on fresh grass. The only time they are confined is at night. This is to protect them from night-prowling predators like fox and coyote.

1 watermelon
1 ½ pounds Tongue of Fire fresh shell beans or 3/4 lbs. edemame*
1 bulb of fennel
1 bunch carrots
2 sweet Italian bell peppers
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch leeks
1 bunch small turnips
1 small white onion and 1 small red onion or 1 large white onion

*If your distribution site received edamame last week, you will receive shell beans this week instead.

Fresh soy beans are hard to find, super easy to prepare, and fun to eat. A real treat. Eat as a snack or serve as an appetizer before dinner (or with dinner). For good instructions on how to cook, go to wikipedia.com and search "how to cook edamame." Really, it's easier than cooking pasta.

Turnip greens are exceptionally high in calcium, and many of the turnips in this week’s share have greens good enough to still eat. To cook, very briefly wilt in a medium-hot pan with olive oil and, if you like, thinly sliced leeks. Stir in some minced garlic (optional) and remove from the heat. Serve with a drizzling of apple cider vinegar cut with a little honey and some cooked Tongue of Fire beans from this week’s share.

*If you don’t think you’ll ever cook your turnip greens, pick a bunch with greens that aren’t in as good of shape so that members who are inclined to try them can enjoy them.

Turnip Parsley Salad with Walnuts and Capers
While a new crop of salad greens at Free Bird has yet to come in, the small, mild-flavored turnips in this week’s share make a nice salad ingredient along with the parsley.

1 bunch turnips
½ cup parsley leaves, packed
2 teaspoons small capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
¼ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons walnut oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim the greens and root ends from the turnips. (Reserve any good-quality greens for wilting separately; see tip). Slice the turnips in half lengthwise, and then very thinly slice into half moons. You should have about a heaping cup of very thinly sliced turnips. Place the turnips in a medium serving bowl.
Loosely tear the parsley leaves and add to the bowl. Add the capers and walnuts. Toss to combine.
Drizzle with the cider vinegar and oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss. Add more vinegar, oil, salt or pepper to taste. The salad should taste lightly dressed.

Recipe by Maryellen Driscoll, Free Bird Farm

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

CSA Share Week 13

It’s been a pretty dry summer, but this weekend we got rain. Lots of it. It started Saturday night, continued through the day Sunday, and by Monday (as our local members know) a State of Emergency was declared in our county because of flooding. Most of our fields gently slope, so nothing is sitting in puddles. This is good for the new fall plantings we’ve been putting out (see pic). But all of our field staff is off today because it’s just too wet and muddy to get anything done in the fields.

This week you are still able to enjoy summer’s peak vegetables. As the days shorten and the intensity of the sun subsides, we’ll soon be moving away from the ingredients that make for some of summer’s favorites, like fresh tomato sauce, salsa, pesto, and grilled vegetables. Enjoy as much of it as you can. Freeze the rest!

(Our phone and internet service has been out too. It’s sporadically working now. So, the content for this blog is late and sparse. Sorry.)

In this week’s local share:
4 tomatoes
1 bunch basil
Bell peppers: 2 small red, 1 yellow
1 jalapeño
1 Italian eggplant
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch swiss chard
1 red onion
1 yellow onion

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

CSA Share Week 12

Just a quick note this week as we’re temporarily short handed. Sorry for the late posting.

The Italian fresh shell beans in this week’s share are an heirloom variety we grow every year. Crack open the shell and, depending on the stage at which the beans were picked, they can range from a pale green to a richly mottled white and rose. (Either way, sadly, they turn a drab beige when cooked.) We love their creamy texture and nutty flavor.

These beans are delicious, whether they are used to make succotash, added to a minestrone soup (using fresh tomatoes and green beans from this week’s share perhaps) or tossed into a pasta. We use the beans as many ways as we can think of—in pasta, on grilled pizza, tossed with caramelized onions and fresh thyme or slathered in pan drippings from a roast chicken. Store in your refrigerator. Any unused, cooked beans freeze well for winter soups or stews (see instructions for how to cook).

Tomatoes—1 large red plus 1 quart medium-small salad tomatoes
1 lb. 8 ounces Yukon gold potatoes
1 lb. 8 ounces Fresh Italian shell beans
1 bunch parsley
5 ½ ounces arugula
1 bunch basil
¾ lb (12 ounces) green or yellow wax beans
1 bunch beets

How to Cook Fresh Shell Beans
Shell the beans, discarding the pods. (This can be really relaxing.) Cover the colorfully mottled beans in chicken broth or water with a handful of added aromatics—such as leeks or onion, carrot, parsley stems, and a bay leaf. Either keep the aromatics in large enough pieces that you can easily fish out or bundle in cheesecloth. Bring the water or broth to a boil, and then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender (30 to 50 minutes; taste to check for doneness). Sadly, the beans will lose their color and mottling as they cook. Drain in a colander.

Quick-Roasted Beet Slices
We like this recipe because it requires a short amount of time in the oven and concentrates the inherently sweet flavor that beets have to offer.

1 bunch beets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt

After about 15 minutes, swap the pans to opposite racks and rotate halfway through.
Heat the oven to 425° F. Cover two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Slice off the tops and bottoms of the beets, reserving the beet greens for sautéing or another use if in good condition. Slice the beets into rounds as thin as possible (ideally 1/8 inch). If your beets are large, cut them in half first, lay them on their flat sides, and cut half moons instead of rounds for safer cutting. Toss the slices well with the olive oil and salt and spread them in one layer, with a little space between each, on the two baking sheets. After about 15 minutes, swap the pans to opposite racks and rotate so that they cook evenly. Continue to roast until the beets are soft and shrunken and crisp around the edges, about 25 minutes.
Serve immediately as is, drizzled with honey and melted butter, or with minced fresh basil and a drizzle of good-quality balsamic vinegar.

Or make the following salad with arugula and goat cheese salad.

Arugula with roasted beets and goat cheese saladServes 4 as a starter salad

5 ounces arugula
1 recipe quick-roasted beets (in this week’s newsletter)
Homemade balsamic or lemon vinaigrettte
1 ½ ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
¼ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a serving bowl combine the arugula and beets. Lightly drizzle with a few tablespoons of vinaigrette and toss to combine. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with the goat cheese and walnuts and add more dressing to taste.

Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Arugula & Basil Dressing
by Maryellen Driscoll
Serves eight.

This recipe was originally developed for Fine Cooking magazine when I was 8 months pregnant with our son. That feels like ancient history (okay, 3 years), but a CSA member and close friend who tried this at the farm reminds me every year how much this dish inspired her to branch out. So I share it another year.

1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1 strip lemon zest about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide, white pith removed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 lb. fresh slender green beans, trimmed (long ones snapped in half)
1 cup arugula, rinsed and spun dry
1 cup large diced tomato (or cherry tomatoes)
¾ (5 oz.) 1-inch-diameter fresh mozzarella balls (ciliegine), halved
1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice; more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Fill an stockpot three-quarters full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Put the basil and lemon zest in a metal sieve, immerse it in the boiling water, and blanch for 5 seconds. Remove, tapping the sieve over the sink to shake off excess water. Turn off the burner but leave the water in the pot with the cover on.

Roughly chop the lemon zest. Put the basil and lemon zest in a blender and pulse a few times. With the blender running, pour the olive oil through the lid’s fill hole and purée until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as needed. Transfer to a small bowl or liquid measuring cup and cover. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the salad.

Return the water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 Tbs. salt and the beans. Cook until the beans are crisp-tender or fully tender, depending on your preference, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Spread the beans on a large rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate to cool completely. If making more than an hour ahead, cover and refrigerate.

In a large bowl, combine the cooled beans with the arugula, tomatoes, and mozzarella. Toss with the basil oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper and more lemon juice.

Make Ahead Tips
You can cook the beans up to a day ahead, just spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate. The basil dressing can also be made a day ahead. Wait to combine the beans and dressing until just before serving.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

CSA Share Week 11

Tonight: eat your corn.
Don't wait till tomorrow. And please don’t tell us if you wait until even the next day. The sooner you eat this corn, the better. We grow varieties meant for fresh
eating, not for holding their sweetness as they're shipped from the South or
California to the Northeast. The corn we grow is meant to go from field to
table. The longer the corn is stored, the more the sugar in the corn turns to
starch. Tender to the tooth and with true corn flavor, this week’s variety is just enough but not too too sweet.

If you can't prepare it tonight, wrap it in damp dishtowels (clean) or
even newspaper, tuck in a plastic bag, wrap tight or seal, and stash in your
fridge's produce bin. That's the best way to store it.

Another corn-related suggestion: when picking up your corn at today’s distribution, please don't rip the ears open. This is a CSA, not a farmers' market. We pick enough for everyone but not a whole lot more than that. (In fact, at some distribution sites, where membership is small, we send exact amounts on most things.) So any corn you tear open and toss aside is corn that some other member ultimately has to take home. THIS IS ORGANIC CORN. NOTHING HAS BEEN SPRAYED ON IT. Absolutely nothing. So there is a chance you'll get an ear with a corn earworm—usually found towards the tip of the ear. In the course of this weekend, when we cooked a lot of corn for friends and family who were visiting, we probably found 1 worm in about every dozen ears cooked. They’re not a big deal. If you come across one, take a large, strong knife, like a chef's knife, and simply cut the tip off the corn (or the section where the worm has dined). Discard what you've cut away and enjoy the rest.

Similarly, this week you're going to see some less than picture-perfect
tomatoes. As a general rule of thumb, these are the tastiest of the batch,
as these are heirloom varieties. Heirlooms are not meant to look like the
perfectly uniform, candy-red tomatoes you see in the supermarket. They're
old-fashioned tomatoes regarded for their supreme flavor. They don't tend to ripen to a uniform red. Some aren't even supposed to be red, like the Pink
Beauties you see in this photo. Heirlooms can appear misshapen, they often
have cracks by the stem, but boy do they taste good.

As with the corn, we kindly ask that you don't overly handle the
tomatoes at distribution—squeezing one after the other to find the ripest of the lot. If you pick one up that's still on the firm side, consider this a long-term
asset. Left out on your countertop, it will be at its peak ripeness in a few
days when the riper others in your share have passed their time.

Tomatoes should be stored on the countertop. Refrigeration makes them mushy. If you've only used half of a tomato, store slice-side down on a plate and, if you like, cover with a bowl.


6 ears of sweet corn
4 tomatoes
1 jalapeño
5 ½ ounces salad mix
1 Japanese eggplant
1 red onion
1 bunch swiss chard
1 bunch carrots
2 sweet Italian frying pepper


If you haven’t been eating a carrot (or two) a day, take the challenge. Even as a late-morning snack. It’ll make you feel good. If you’re still behind on using your carrots and are loathe to turn on the oven and roast some with supper or bake some carrot cake for dessert, why not pickles? We liked this recipe for its simplicity. There are others, including one we plan to try this week from Thomas Keller’s book Ad Hoc at Home, that makes use of the jalapeño in this week’s share—in case you don’t use it to make in the salsa recipe below.

Pickled Carrot Sticks
from Gourmet | November 2003; originally published November 1985

Zanne Stewart, Gourmet's executive food editor, originally developed these carrot sticks to take on a picnic, but they were such a hit they've become a staple in her refrigerator. Best of all, they don't need to be sealed in sterilized jars, so they're a snap to make.

Yield: Makes 10 to 12 servings

1 pound carrots, cut into 3 1/2- by 1/3-inch sticks
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons dill seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons salt

Blanch carrots in a 4-quart nonreactive saucepan of boiling salted water 1 minute, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Transfer carrots to a heatproof bowl.

Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Pour pickling liquid over carrots and cool, uncovered. Chill carrots, covered, at least 1 day for flavors to develop.

Cooks' note:
Carrots keep, chilled in an airtight container, 1 month.

If you’re a vegetarian, skip the grilled chicken part of this recipe and serve over beans and rice or with quesadillas.

Grilled Chicken with Tomato, Lime & Cilantro Salsa
Adapted from a recipe by Jessica Bard in Fine Cooking magazine

This dish is also delicious served cold or at room temperature over salad greens. Serves four as a main course, six to eight as a “small plate.”

2 cups seeded, diced ripe tomatoes (2 to 3 medium tomatoes)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 to 4 tablespoons finely diced red onion
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Finely grated zest of 1 lime (about 1 tsp.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. minced chipotle (from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1-1/2 to 2 lb.)

Prepare a medium-hot grill fire.

In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, lime juice, 1 Tbs. of the oil, and the lime zest. If your tomatoes aren’t perfectly ripe and sweet, add 1/2 tsp. sugar. Season with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

In another medium bowl, mix the chipotle, the remaining 2 Tbs. oil, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

Trim the chicken. If the tenderloins are still attached, remove them and save for another use. Use the flat side of a meat mallet to pound each chicken breast to an even 1/2-inch thickness. Add the chicken to the chipotle mixture and toss well to coat.

When the grill is ready, lay the chicken on the hot grill grates and cook, covered, until the chicken has grill marks and the edges turn opaque, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the breasts and continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice each breast crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange the chicken on a platter and top with the salsa.

Make Ahead Tips
If you're serving at room temperature, the chicken can be grilled ahead. After grilling, let it cool for 20 minutes, refrigerate (for up to 8 hours), and slice just before serving with the salsa. The salsa ingredients may be prepared up to 2 hours ahead, but mix them together just before serving.

Yes, another week of eggplant. Some may be cheering. Others may be in need of something that takes this nutty, creamy vegetable a step further than just grilling or roasting (although that would be just great with a quick- sauce from this week’s tomatoes). Caponata--a sweet-and-sour Sicilian version of ratatouille--is the ticket. We like this recipe because it doesn’t involve the tedious step of salting your eggplant in advance, which we’ve never found all that necessary. Maybe that’s the difference between really fresh eggplant and not. It wouldn’t ruin the dish if you want to skip going out and buying celery. Try chopping up some of this week’s pepper instead.

Sicilian-Style Eggplant Caponata
Adapted from Wholefoods.com

Serves 4
Make sure to bring the caponata to room temperature before serving. It's delicious spooned onto bruschetta or pita chips.

3 cups chopped eggplant
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup celery, diced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained
3 tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts
1 1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon natural cane sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon dried chile flakes, optional
Sea salt, to taste
1/4 cup green Sicilian olives, minced for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss chopped eggplant with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Place a piece of unbleached parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Spread eggplant in one layer over the parchment paper. Bake eggplant for 25 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, sauté onion, garlic and celery over medium heat in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until onions are translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and eggplant. Continue to cook for 3 minutes. Add capers, pine nuts, sugar, vinegar and chili flakes, if desired. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until tomatoes are tender and vegetables are melding together.

Season to taste with sea salt. Garnish with minced olives. Refrigerate for at least four hours or, even better, overnight.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

CSA Share week 10

Good bye July. And good riddance. It was one of the hottest and driest of summer months on record. We have been noticing some low yields and heat stress on certain crops because of the weather but are surprised and relieved that overall the vegetables are hanging on. In late July and early August we begin to prep beds and plant cool-loving fall crops, such as peas, spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. For us, this means a significant change in weather is just around the corner. Hard to believe. We’re already starting to get some cool nights, which pleasantly makes for better sleeping.
So as we enjoy August’s heat-loving crops, which have been months in the making—tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and melons (ETA closer to Sept.)—we hope for rain to get the fall crops off to a good start.


1 large Italian eggplant
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch parsley
1 head of garlic
2 bell peppers
1 bunch kale
2 cucumbers
3/4 lb. (12 ounces) green beans



Kale with Panfried Walnuts
From Gourmet | November 2009
Recipe by Ian Knauer

When earthy greens are tossed with a walnut- and garlic-scented oil and lots of crunchy nuts, they taste delightfully new.

Yield: Makes 8 servings
Active Time: 20 min
Total Time: 30 min

3 pounds kale, stems and center ribs discarded
1 cup chopped walnuts (3 1/2 ounces)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Tear kale into large pieces, then cook in a large pot of well-salted boiling water, uncovered, until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain kale, and, when cool enough to handle, press out excess liquid.

Cook walnuts in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add kale and salt and pepper to taste and cook, tossing, until heated through.

Serve kale warm or at room temperature.

Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale
From foodnetwork.com
Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1/4 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered (about 14 mushrooms)
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and slice into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bunch kale (1/2 pound), rinsed, stemmed, and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, green beans, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and continue cooking until the green beans are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and the kale and continue cooking until the kale has wilted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and the Parmesan cheese. Toss to coat and serve immediately.