Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CSA Week 22, Final Share for 2010

Photo caption:
Digging up our final crop of potatoes this past week, Ken had to stop numerous times to wrangle weeds out of the potato harvester’s rungs. A conventional (non-organic) farm would have “burned” the weeds and any other living plant in the bed with an herbicide shortly before harvesting to avoid this added work. Chemical herbicides are never used at Free Bird Farm.

Three years ago a good friend asked us to start a CSA. She’d belonged to one when living in the Hudson Valley and sorely missed the fresh, abundant produce. So we started out. We started small. And we noticed it was working pretty well. So, the 2nd year we grew some more. And this year we finally got gutsy and expanded membership 5-fold.

It was a leap of faith and created significant change here seemingly overnight. It turned our schedule—the rhythm of when we plant, weed, take care of our fields, harvest—a bit upside down. Soon enough, however, we adjusted to such changes. But even when everything was running beautifully, we’d still worry about each week’s share—was it balanced enough, was it new enough, are people going to get totally sick of all these greens (in June) or how can we not have broccoli and Brussels sprout crops (now)? After all, our goal is to do our best to provide a great variety of organically raised food for everyone week after week after week. We want our members to be well fed and happy.

In all, the change was a great move for our farm. Perhaps most significantly, it provided us stability. Having a fixed community to grow for—a group of supporters willing to invest at the start of the season in what we aspired to accomplish in a season—meant a number of things. It meant we could better plan our plantings, using seed, space and time more efficiently. We could more efficiently harvest—knowing just what was needed for the distribution versus a farmers’ market that is based on guessing how much we think will sell and whether the weather will be nice enough for people to come out and shop. It also meant that we didn’t have to carry the same level of debt we usually take on at the start the season and then fret over repaying through the majority of the season.

We never thought we’d see as many people as we now do rolling into our distribution shed on Tuesday afternoons. It’s an inspiring sign of change. Our members want something better than what they can get at the local supermarket. They care about how their food is grown. And they care about supporting their local farmers.

We hope being part of the CSA was rewarding to you too.

Thanks to everyone who helped to support us this growing season.

Ken & Maryellen and family


1 winter squash
1 large head of head bok choy
1 bunch leeks
6 ounces mesclun mix
1 bunch carrots
1 head frissee
large bag of potatoes
1# bag of beets


Many of the items in this week’s share will hold. The potatoes and squash can be stored for many weeks in a dark, dry, cool location (in a cabinet, for instance). Avoid storing in plastic bags and don’t refrigerate potatoes (it turns the starches into an off-tasting sugar). The leeks, cabbage, and even the beets should easily hold for a few weeks in a refrigerator’s crisper (their outer layers might wilt, but that’s okay).


Recipe recommendations using items from this week's share:

Mushroom and Leek Soup with Thyme Cream
From Epicurious.com, Nov. 2007

Roasted Carrots
Gourmet, December 2008

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CSA Share Week 21

Caption: Weather extremes have stunted the farm’s broccoli crop, placing thousands of plants a few weeks behind schedule. Beautiful plants stand vibrant but with no edible buds in sight.

This week you’re seeing some fall favorites: parsnips and spinach. And we’ve tried to include as much that’s fresh from the field (versus storage crops) while we still have it. A sharp freeze any day now could kill off most of what still stands in our fields.

There are a few classic fall crops that we regret we just aren’t getting right now. Namely, broccoli. And cauliflower. And Brussels sprouts.

Their absence pains us as these are vegetables that we’ve been craving along with many CSA members and that we’ve put a lot of work into having this fall. All of these crops were planted in abundance and right on time late in the summer. Theoretically, they should be at their prime right now. But as soon as they were planted we hit the last of this summer’s extreme hot and dry spells. Two weeks’ worth. None of these crops thrive under such conditions. So they sat there dormant in the fields. The stretches of rain we’ve had haven’t helped either. Ten days without sun isn’t exactly an ideal growing scenario. So we’ve thousands of lusciously green leafy broccoli plants, cauliflower plants and Brussels sprouts without any “buds” to speak of. If we got some nice, consistent weather, maybe they’d bud up in a few weeks. But, basically, they’re well behind schedule, and there’s a good chance they’ll freeze before they come to fruition.

So, we work with what we have. Much to enjoy, just not everything we’d hoped, planned and planted for.

1 bunch parsnips
½ pound spinach
14 ounces yellow wax beans
1 bunch fresh, baby onions (green tops edible)
6 ounces mesclun mix (for salad or for quickly wilting in olive oil)
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch Easter egg radish
1 head “freckles” Romaine lettuce (see note)
1 bunch dinosaur or Tuscan kale (or 3/4# sugar snap peas if not in your share 2 weeks ago)


Freckles Romaine:
The reddish-brown “freckles” on this week’s head lettuce aren’t a sign of disease or frost damage. The speckles are intended with this variety of Romaine lettuce. In a salad, we think they look festive. And for a Romaine, we love how tender this variety of lettuce can be.

Tip: If you have dill left over from last week, chop and blend with some sour cream, lemon zest and lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil for a zesty dressing for the spinach (if eaten raw). Or drizzle over a salad of sliced radish and parsley leaves.

PARSNIPS are a classic in stews, but they are also terrific roasted on their own. We often make this recipe developed by a friend, Amy Albert, for Fine Cooking magazine.
RECIPE: Crisp Roasted Parsnip Sticks We eat them like fries, sprinkled with a little malt vinegar.

or, add a little local maple sweetness with the following roasted parsnip recipe:

From Free Bird Farm

1 bunch parsnips, cut on a diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 ½ tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Heat oven to 400°F. Toss the parsnips with the olive oil and a large pinch of Kosher salt in a bowl. Sprinkle with a large pinch of Kosher salt. Spread parsnips in single layer on rimmed baking sheet.

Roast parsnips 20 minutes. Turn and roast until browned and soft, 15 to 25 minutes longer. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and push the parsnips together into a loose pile with a metal spatula. Drizzle the parsnips with the maple syrup and dot with the butter. Toss to evenly coat with the syrup and butter. Transfer to a plate, sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

At the farm, we had this for dinner last night, along with some gently crisped shallot slices and narrow strips of bell pepper (from last week's share) sauteed in olive oil. Great with some short-grain brown rice.

Quick Sautéed Spinach with Garlic Chips
From Free Bird Farm

4 peeled cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ pound spinach, washed and spun dry in a salad spinner
Kosher salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

Heat half of the olive oil a heavy, large skillet (we recommend cast iron) over medium heat. Add the garlic slices in a single layer and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining oil and increase the heat to medium high. Add the spinach and cook, tossing frequently with a pair of tongs, until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with lemon juice and Kosher salt to taste. Serve immediately with the crisp garlic “chips” sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Share Week #20

We’ve reached that time in the season when the weather really has the final word. We could have a good variety of crops thriving until almost Thanksgiving or it could be pretty much a wrap within the next couple of weeks.

This past weekend we got our first frost, and it was a good zap.

We spent Saturday harvesting like mad—bringing in whatever we knew wouldn’t stand up to Sunday’s early morning frost. Some of this week’s share consists of that final picking.

Saturday was also spent covering those crops most vulnerable to frost, such as green beans and baby lettuce, with a soft, protective agricultural fabric (seen in pic).

The farm is still waterlogged from that unrelenting rain we had up until Thursday. Even in sloped spots, the fields are still wet and muddy. We simply got more rain than the ground could absorb. This makes the harvest extra challenging—because there’s often 2 pounds of thick, heavy mud clinging to the soles of one’s boots. (Those CSA members who made it to this year’s rainy day Open House know a little bit about what we’re talking about.)

We could now use some consistent sun and relative warmth so that the fall plantings that survived all that rain can grow. Nothing has been able to progress or grow in the last couple of weeks, which could short us of harvestable crops in these last couple weeks of the CSA season.

2 lbs. red potatoes
3 red onions
6 ounces mesclun mix
1 bunch carrots
1 bok choy
6 ounces arugula
1 red leaf lettuce
1 bunch dill
3 yellow onions
last-of-the-season bell peppers or green beans


Dill goes with a lot more than just pickles. Looking for an idea? Here are a couple that go with some of the veggies in this week's share too:

Carrot Soup with Dill PestoFrom Epicurious.com


Creamy Potato Salad with Lemon & DillServes six.

This was adapted from a recipe by Molly Stevens in Fine Cooking magazine. The salad would be niced served over a bed of this week’s red leaf lettuce.

2 pounds unpeeled red potatoes, scrubbed (small potatoes left whole, medium to large ones cut into large chunks)
Kosher salt
¼ cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup heavy cream, well chilled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Freshly ground pepper

Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water by an inch or two, add a large pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, partially cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Test for doneness by spearing a potato with a thin metal skewer. It should penetrate easily into the center of the potato and then slide right out. If the skewer lifts the potato out of the pot when you withdraw it, continue cooking a little longer. Drain the potatoes and let them cool. You can drain them on a cooling rack set over or in your sink, which will avoid squashing the tender potatoes (as often happens with a colander) and also lets the potatoes cool quickly.

When the potatoes are at room temperature, cut them into 3/4-inch chunks and put them in a mixing bowl. Add the onion and fold gently to distribute; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the cream until frothy but not at all stiffened. Whisk in the mayonnaise and mustard. Add the lemon juice, zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the salad and fold it in with a rubber spatula. Taste for seasoning. Serve, or cover and chill for up to a day.

A great fall recipe for lunch or a light dinner (maybe with the carrot soup?) that makes use of this week's arugula: Open-Face Brie, Apple, and Arugula Sandwiches


Pasta Salad with Arugula, Feta & Sun-Dried Tomatoes, by Tony Rosenfeld, Finecooking.com

And here's something to try with this week's bok choy...

Salmon "Bulgogi" with Bok Choy and Mushrooms
Bon Appétit | June 2008

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.