Tuesday, October 5, 2010

CSA Share Week 19

After harvesting the CSA share and emptying out some sand bags (used to hold down row covers) on Monday, one of Free Bird Farm’s staff is ready to shower and put his feet up (boots off, of course). It sure is wet.

There’s a lot of mud on our boots. Here at the farm, we don’t have sidewalks, paved roads around the fields or even a paved driveway. There’s some gravel and a whole lot of exposed dirt. And after the 6+ inches of rain we got late last week, it seems like it’s all just mud.

As it rained and rained and rained Wed., Thurs. and Fri., there was still a large harvest to tend to. So everyone worked, moving inside to clean onions or to handle other tasks when the rain fell just too hard. And now everyone is working through the storm’s aftermath, trudging through the fields with heavy hunks of mud clinging to boots and mud stained through the knees of one’s pants, smeared on sweatshirts, splattered on hats. It’s a mess.

It’s still a little early to assess the damage of the excessive rain that dumped on the fields last week. It seems to have ruined some heads of lettuce that were due in a couple of weeks. And there’s even more rain in store this week. Time will reveal what crops were able to hold up and which are going to perish from the excessive water.

(P.S. There are quite a few new or less familiar items in this week’s share, so we included many “primers” and recipes this week to hopefully inspire you.)

In this week’s share:
2 delicata squash
1 pound Tongue of Fire fresh shell beans
¾ pound green beans
1 head of escarole
6 ounces of arugula
1 bunch Tuscan or “dinosaur” kale
1 head of Romaine lettuce
2 kohlrabi or ¾ pound peas*

*We had limited availability of both these crops this week. Our hope is there will be enough next week so that whoever received one gets the other.

“Rusty” green beans
You might notice reddish-brown markings on some of this week’s green beans. This “rust” basically shows up on the beans in wet and cool temperatures (like we’re having). They are still good to eat, but… they are not going to hold as long as usual in your refrigerator. So eat sooner than later.

This is a great weeknight squash. Perhaps the simplest way to cook it: slice it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, brush cut sides with oil, sprinkle with coarse salt, and roast on a heavy duty sheet pan with raised edges in a 375 degree oven. At Free Bird, we like to start the roasting process cut-side down until it’s nicely caramelized underneath where the flesh touches the pan. Flip once it’s richly golden brown to finish cooking through (if the squash flesh is not already fully tender when pierced with a fork). Sorry—we’re guessing on the time: about 30 minutes? Check after 20 minutes, just to be on the safe side. To serve, rub the flesh with butter and, if you like, lightly drizzle with maple syrup.

REVISITING SHELL BEANS We’re always glad to see an extra basket of these beans in the farm’s walk-in cooler. As a family we’ll sit together for a good long while (you’d never believe a 2-year-old could sit at such a task for so long) and gently pry open the shells, popping the colorfully mottled beans into a bowl or large cook pot. Sometimes we have a contest—which team can shell the most beans at once. Most of the time we sit quietly, focused on the group task. Whatever we don’t eat, we freeze in zipper-locked bags and enjoy through the winter in stews, pastas or with sautéed greens. These beans are creamy in texture and mildly nutty in flavor, similar to a cannellini bean.

TO COOK THE FRESH SHELL BEANS: place the shelled beans (pods discarded) in a pot of water. Add a bay leaf and any aromatics you have on hand, such as a chopped carrot, parsley stems, or an onion, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are creamy in texture all the way through, about 30 minutes.

These beans would go great with this week’s kale. Strip the stems from the kale and sauté it briefly in extra-virgin olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add a clove of minced garlic at the end of cooking, turn off the heat and toss in the (cooked beans). Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

OR try the beans with this recipe for White Bean and Escarole Soup with Garlic (perfect for this cool, rainy week we’re having).

OR make your own vegetable soup, like a minestrone, with the shell beans, green beans, kale and, if you have left over from last week, butternut squash and carrots. Include a can of tomatoes if you have that in your pantry.

Primer on Kohlrabi
If you’re wondering what the ogre-like turnip-looking vegetables are in this week’s share (white or purple), they’re kohlrabi. Actually a cabbage, kohlrabi has a bulbous stem that grows just above ground. Its leafy stalks shoot upward from the bulb. Both parts can be eaten but are best cooked separately. (*Kohlrabi can be prone to splitting during growth. This happened to some of our white ones in this week’s distribution. We found they are still just as tasty—just a little unusual in appearance.)

Kohlrabi has a crisp, juicy texture, like an apple or water chestnut. Peel the thick, outer skin off, and inside you’ll taste an earthy sweetness reminiscent of cabbage with a hint of bite like a radish.

Kohrabi is often used shredded or thinly sliced in a slaw or salad, such as in this recipe for Kohlrabi-Radish Slaw with Cumin and Cilantro. (If you don't have radish on hand, thinly slice the kale or escarole to substitute. Or use cabbage.) If cooked – sautéed, roasted or added to a braise or stew—kohlrabi retains some of its crunchy texture, but the flavor mellows quite a bit.

To store, cut the leafy stalks off the bulbs and refrigerate the bulbs separately in a sealed bag or container. If stored properly, the bulbs can last a few weeks.

No comments: