Monday, September 6, 2010

CSA Share Week 15

This time of year most home gardeners put away their shovels and hoes. They enjoy what their gardens might happen to yield. Otherwise, what’s done is done. But after the last couple weeks of yo-yo weather we’ve had here, even those stick-it-out-‘til-the-bitter-end gardeners are feeling left with little choice but to call it quits.
While we’ve had a summer full of weather extremes, the latest two episodes were rough. It started two weekends ago when we had 6 inches of rain in about 24 hours. A state of emergency was declared in our valley because creeks and rivers were overflowing, making some roads impassable. The end result of that here on the farm wasn’t so great either. Certain low-lying fall plants simply drowned.
Next came the heat. Seven days of 90-plus degree hot, humid weather. No matter the crop, plants struggle in that kind of intense, sustained heat. Some just don’t make it. A lettuce crop we’d hoped to be harvesting right now (as we’re surely hankering for a head of lettuce) bolted. This happens when it’s too hot. The lettuce shoots up seemingly overnight to take on a cone-like shape and a bitter taste. There’s nothing to do but till it under.
By late Friday the cool air most elegantly arrived, and we’ve found ourselves thankful to be starting the day in long sleeve shirts.
Despite that fall feeling in the air, we’re still looking forward. It’s evident in our greenhouse, well-stocked with young, growing plants. We’ve newly prepared seed beds in the fields where we’re planting more arugula, salad greens, radish, etc. And in our basement a few “speed trays” of seedlings (pac choi and radicchio) are coming to life under grow lamps. So even though it might feel like we’ve plummeted into autumn, we’re banking on there still being time to keep growing some quick-to-grow, cool tolerant crops. It’s always worth a shot. How much time will we have? Well, we’re afraid that’s up to our friend Jack Frost.

In this week’s share:
1 watermelon
1 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
6 ounces arugula
8 ounces (1/2 lb.) shallots
1 pound beets (no greens)
1 head escarole
2 bell peppers
1 eggplant
1 garlic

A note on this week’s eggplant:
Like fair-skinned people, light-colored vegetables can suffer from intense sun, of which we’ve recently had plenty. You may notice it in this week’s share with one of the two varieties of eggplant. With the round-ish Rosa Bianca eggplant, which has violet and white streaks, some of the skin has begun to take on a yellow hue. Don’t be turned off by this. It’s simply a “sunburn” and doesn’t affect the quality or taste of this Italian heirloom variety known for its creamy, mild flavor.
Similarly, we’ve heard a number of people at our farmers’ markets recently ask how to tell if an eggplant is ripe. If it’s firm and the skin smooth and glossy, it’s good. It doesn’t matter what size the eggplant is. And if your eggplant sits in your refrigerator and begins to take on that puckered look, don’t feel like you have to throw it out. It’s simply losing moisture. In our experience, it has to look rather withered before it’s unusable.

An advisory on last week’s “sweet” hot peppers.
Some CSA members received classic bell peppers in their share. Others received fire engine red, long, tapered peppers. We’d bit into the tips of a few before packing this variety up to make sure it was sweet. Yes, they tasted sweet and refreshing. Then, this weekend, when Maryellen was working at a farmer’s market, a customer asked if the tapered red peppers were sweet. Indeed, she thought, and she bit valiantly into a tip of one to prove it to the customer. Yes, it was sweet. Then one of our wise-beyond-years staffers suggested she bite into the pepper at the top. Holy hot pepper. The burn was intense. The staffer, who happens to eat 2 or 3 jalapeƱos a meal, got a good chuckle out of it. But we’re left a bit stumped, as we don’t recall ordering any hot red pepper seed (will need to dig into our records to be sure). And we’re remiss, as we hate to think how many CSA members used their “sweet” pepper only to find it was anything but. We ran another little taste test today, and were amazed to find that if you never come into contact with the seeds, there is no heat in the flesh of this pepper. But take the top of the pepper and roll it back and forth between your palms to press the seeds into the pepper and you’ve got yourself one heck of a hot pepper.

***Our apologies to anyone who was taken by surprise like we were.***

Grated Beet and Carrot Salad
Instead of giving CSA members a recipe for roasted beets back in July when no one could even think of turning on their oven this summer, we should have shared this “recipe” for grated beet and carrot salad from It’s more of a roadmap than a recipe. The author includes a long list of options, so that you can easily create your own version based on what you have on hand in your kitchen (maybe some parsley left over from last week’s share?)

What’s for dinner at the farm? At Free Bird Farm, we always try to make 1 dinner a week that primarily uses ingredients going to CSA members. Sometimes you read about them in recipe form (i.e. last week's turnip and parsley salad). Sometimes we share the idea because it's simple enough that we believe you can take the concept and run with it to your liking.
Last night (Mon.) we built a sandwich off the grill with roasted bell peppers, a fistful of arugula, grilled lamb sausage, goat cheese, balsamic vinegar and some fresh garlic minced to a paste (the garlic probably would have been a little less assertive if it had been roasted and, surely, this would have been just as satisfying with grilled eggplant slices instead of the sausage). Everything was pressed between a couple slices of rustic bread brushed with olive oil and toasted on the grill. We admit that we sliced a tomato and added that in too (not in this week’s share, we regret; the crop is losing steam). We also had some raw carrots on the side.

Mustard & Rosemary Roasted Potatoes
Adapted from a recipe by Molly Stevens for Fine Cooking magazine

These potatoes start out looking very wet, but the mixture cooks down to leave the potatoes crisp, crusty, and tangy.
Serves four.

¼ cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons cup olive oil
2 teaspoons dry vermouth or other dry white wine
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
¾ tsp. coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch dice

Heat the oven to 400°F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard, olive oil, vermouth, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Dump the potatoes onto a large rimmed baking sheet and spread them in a single layer. Roast, tossing with a spatula a few times, until the potatoes are crusty on the outside and tender throughout, 50 to 55 min. Serve hot.

1 comment:

lia2878 said...

There was no escarole at the Colonie pick up.