Tuesday, November 1, 2011

CSA Share Week 22

Snow in October? Even here in Upstate New York, it’s just about unheard of.
     In the last week, we had not one but two snow events here. Neither accumulated more than an inch or so. More significantly, with the snow came overnight temps dropping into the 20s. Not many plants will survive that kind of cold. Some do: hearty greens like collards, kale, escarole (in pic) and even some lettuce.
     Fortunately, we harvested like mad before the first storm to get everything in that we knew wouldn’t tolerate the cold. Better said, Ken and our two remaining employees—Armando and Ariel Leal (cousins)—did the work, in the rain and in 30-degree temperatures, harvesting, washing and packing the produce. Talk about numb fingers.
     It’s a relatively large share, but many of the items will hold. So there’s no need to feel like you have to eat it all in one week. Store the garlic on your countertop. It will hold there for weeks. The onions can do the same. Potatoes are best kept in a dark, cool but not cold location (don’t refrigerate). Many of the greens will hold up in your crisper. Just store in produce bags.
     It was quite a growing season. We’ve never experienced anything quite like it. So you may be wondering if we’re glad it’s over. The truth is…nah. We love what we do and regret seeing another season come to an end. We are so very grateful for all of you who took a chance on us for yet another season or for the first time. We didn’t get all the crops we’d hoped or planted for, we were lucky that we never came up short overall.

1 bunch carrots
1 bunch kale
1 bunch cilantro
2 heads lettuce
1 bunch leeks
1 head escarole
1 bunch collards
5.6 ounces arugula (.35#)
Garlic *
3 pound bag potatoes
Onions (red and/or yellow)*

*Amounts vary at distribution sites based on onion and garlic size
Potatoes, Leeks…. Need we say more. It’s time to make soup!

Similarly, escarole is a classic and tasty green in a chicken soup. For a quick fix, stir-fry it. It’s great with an orange-soy sauce (orange juice, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, Vietnamese hot sauce). Every year we recommend this Escarole and White Bean Stew with Rustic Croutons. A number of CSA member have tried it and loved it, so we keep recommending it. (It’s perfectly delicious without the pancetta).

This side dish of Sauteed Escarole with Raisins, Pine Nuts and Capers developed by Maryellen’s friend Jennifer Armentrout of Fine Cooking is equally delicious and quick too.

Collards also make a nutritious and simple weeknight side dish, such as in this recipe by Susie Middleton for Quick Sauteed Collard Ribbons.
We also stumbled over this recipe—Mama Nava’s Ye’abesha Gomen (Collard Greens). The ingredients are a bit unexpected, but it sounds as if it's a hit.

Lastly, if you still have butternut squash left over from last week and are not saving it for Thanksgiving, it can be used with this week's cilantro in a quick side dish for Butternut Squash with Ginger and Cilantro.
The CSA structure truly helps to buttress our farm so we can better focus on what we are passionate about—growing great organic food. Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

CSA Share Week 21

Letter from the farm:
We finally were able to dig up our potato crop. Until last week the ground just had not dried out enough for us to be able to run our potato digger through the many, many rows of potatoes we planted this year. At one point we tried digging them up by hand, but the yield on the crop was so poor from the wet spring that the few crates we got out of a row would have to be valued at $16 a pound to justify the time it was taking to dig them up by hand. That’s a slight exaggeration. But, essentially, digging dozens of acre-long rows by hand wasn’t going to work.

While our digger got the job done, the ground was still a bit heavy for harvesting mechanically and a part on the digger did irreparably break in the process. It was an old digger, but as a farmer friend with a much bigger potato digger told us this weekend, his digger snapped from the weight of the wet soil too. We’ll need to look at replacing ours. A new one could cost anywhere from $5,500 to $16,000—and all that piece of machinery does is get pulled behind a tractor to dig up rows of potatoes towards the end of the season. There is no motor or anything electronic or computerized—just gears, belts and a lot of metal. Farm machinery can be costly that way, but without a potato digger, there’s just no sense in growing potatoes on a production scale. The time it takes to dig them up by hand with a potato fork and the percentage of potatoes that inevitably get speared and ruined by the fork make it worth investing in a replacement. There’s always the chance we might find a decent used one too.


6.4 ounces baby winter mesclun mix

1 bunch carrots

½ pound shallots

2 1/2 pounds red potatoes

1 head red curly leaf lettuce

1 butternut squash

¾ pounds green beans

2 kohlrabi

Winter Greens and Green Beans: One of our CSA members said she had delicious success cooking her green beans with the winter mix that’s in this week’s share. She said to start cooking the beans in butter in a 12-inch skillet and, once they’re crisp-tender, stir in the greens and some minced garlic. As soon as the greens have begun to wilt, remove the pan from the heat. It should be just enough time to wilt the greens. The winter mix does contain a number of baby-sized cooking greens, including kale. It is equally good enjoyed as a salad—cold or lightly wilted. This is a cool-weather loving crop of greens, which is why you are just seeing it this time of year and not through the summer months.

Tip from the farm on Kohlrabi: Not sure what to do with kohlrabi? Trim off the leaves and slice the bulb into matchsticks. Our kids think they’re as tasty as eating apples. Kohlrabi is a cabbage but a surprisingly sweet one. You can always dip the sticks into a dressing. Or add to a stir fry or make a cole slaw…

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

CSA Share Week 20

This is the 3rd to last CSA share (that is, 2 more weeks to go).

It’s definitely feeling like we’re well into fall here. It’s so much harder to harvest, wash and pack produce when it’s chilly out, like it was here on Monday.

Almost everyone in our family has caught a cold in the last couple of weeks. This shouldn’t be a big deal—everyone gets colds—but for someone like Ken who is working outdoors 7 days a week and getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning a few times a week only to work until dark, a little cold can easily turn into pneumonia. So we’re making lots of soups, drinking cold-friendly teas, and eating raw garlic to stay strong (okay, maybe the kids aren’t eating the garlic).

One of our interns years ago taught us the trick of eating raw garlic when feeling run down, and our local natural food store owners swear by it too. Sliced and sandwiched between a couple pieces of cheese, it’s quite tasty. Sure, it’s strong. It takes some getting used to. And if you have a special someone in your life, it’s good to consult with them first or have them ingest along with you. And it’s definitely not a friendly thing to eat before attending an event. But once you’ve gotten a taste for sliced raw garlic (eat at least a clove), it can be habit forming.

While there isn’t any garlic in this week’s share for members to snack on if they’re feeling run down, there are purple carrots. Yes, the purple carrots are back!!! Carrots were originally purple, and, from what we understand, any vegetable with purple pigmentation contains more nutrients.

So, if you don’t have any garlic hanging around from last week’s share and you too have or are coming down with a cold, eat your carrots!

In this week’s share:

1 bunch purple carrots

1 bunch beets

1 head curly leaf red lettuce

1 head frisée

5.6 ounces arugula
1 bunch scallions
Winter squash
Red onions

Frisée or curly endive is a chicory. It’s classically known for being served with a warm bacon dressing, but there are a lot of other delicious ways to enjoy it. Wash it, spin it dry, and tear the leaves into pieces to prepare. It would be delicious as a salad with roasted beets (in this week’s share; diced or in wedges), toasted walnuts and an orange vinaigrette. Or try one of the following recipes:
Wilted Frisée Salad with Hot and Smoky Tomato Dressing--http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/wilted-frisee-salad-with-hot-smoky-tomato-dressing

Frisée Salad with Blue Cheese, Dried Cherries and Walnut Vinaigrette http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/frisee-salad-blue-cheese-dried-cherries-walnut-vinaigrette.aspx

Upside-down-apple-cheddar tarts with Frisée and Walnuts-- http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/upside-down-apple-cheddar-tarts.aspx

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

CSA Share Week 19

On a day when we’re typically straight out harvesting and packing up the share, we somehow squeezed in a fun birthday party Monday for our oldest child, who is turning seven.
Every age seems to be magical, and seven is no exception. As we set up for our CSA distribution at the farm, our daughter now makes the signs that we attach to the bins, labeling the item and letting members know how much to take (as in pic). And this week both she and her brother, almost 4, helped pack all of the eggs. That was a lot of eggs.

It’s not easy involving our children in the work we do. The fact is, the pace is fast, there is a certain skill set often required (plus strength and endurance), and many aspects of farming are not safe for children to be around. But we try to include our kids when we can, whether it’s offering a learning experience—such as figuring out how to spell the name of a vegetable—or, most importantly, a chance to spend time together. After all, those birthdays seem to come all too quickly.

Field notes: This last week we had two nights with freeze warnings, so to prepare we picked out our entire eggplant and pepper crop (these plants don’t tolerate those kinds of temps). It got cold. We’ve seen “burn” marks on some of our beans from frost . But new and delicious crops are here this week too: bok choy, acorn squash, mesclun mix... And we’re not giving up. We put new plants in the ground just last week with hopes we might have an extended fall. Sometimes that can happen. Wouldn’t it be nice!


½ pound mesclun mix
1 acorn squash
1 bunch leeks
1 bok choy
1 bunch cilantro
¾ pound green beans
2 habañero chiles
2 jalapeños
1 head of garlic
4 bell peppers

Monday, October 3, 2011

CSA Share Week 18

This week we feel fortunate to be able to offer a decent variety of vegetables—some new, some familiar, all ones that have been able to stand up to the ridicule of persistent rain we continue to experience.

It’s like déjà vu here. The season is ending just like it started. Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain. We might get one bright afternoon or even a full day of glorious sunshine only to be followed by more rain. If our fields can’t dry out, we can’t can work them. Things are just too saturated.

We don’t mean to harp on this topic of bad weather. But we are frequently reminded that most people don’t connect how all this rain affects a farmer. At a farmers’ market this weekend we had customers tell us they were unable to find spinach. This is a market with 36 vendors, granted, the vendors are not all farms and where at least 3 farms have had to drop out because of the weather this fall. Even though this market is located where federal disaster funds are being allocated due to flooding, we find we still need to do a lot of educating as to how so much rain is putting all farms under great stress—whether or not they’re in a flood plain or are a vegetable farm, orchard or dairy farm.

As we plan our meals here at the farm, however, we don’t find ourselves thinking about what’s not at hand because of the rain. What we have we’re thankful to work with. It is good food, delicious food, mindfully grown and true to what nature is able to offer during this sodden season.

So, maybe we’ll make a pasta dish tonight with golden cubes of sautéed eggplant, wilted arugula, garlic, and some goat cheese feta we purchased from a local farm. And maybe tomorrow we’ll make a lentil dish studded with butternut squash and Indian spices scooped up with some homemade flatbread or a fall stew with the turnips, squash and onions in this week’s share. And the braising greens (seen in pic)—we’ve been waiting for this mix of spicy, cool-weather greens to come into season. They’re just so good and nutritious.

At this stage in fall, we are lucky there are some vegetables still hanging on from summer. They haven’t been knocked off by a frost—yet. And there are some heartier vegetables new to the scene (despite the odds) that satisfy cravings for comfort foods as cooler temperatures arrive this week.




4 onions

1 bunch mixed braising greens (see note below)

1 head Freckles Romaine lettuce

1 butternut squash

1 bunch turnips*

¾ pound green beans

We’re not totally sure why the spicy greens in this week’s share are called a “braising mix” (the seed catalog has tokened the it this and at the farm it has just stuck). This bunched mix includes green mustard, red mustard, kale, tatsoi and hon tsai tsai—a Chinese specialty green also known as Kailaan (purple stems, some with edible flowers). You can chop and use in salads. At the farm, we like to lightly cook or stir-fry in olive oil, stirring in some minced garlic as soon as they’re wilted.

*If you have a bunch of turnips with healthy green tops and don’t plan to use them, pass them on. They’re delicious and super nutritious. There’s apt to be another CSA member glad to use them. Cook them like you would the “braising mix” mentioned above.

REMINDER: This is the 18th of 22 share weeks. The last distribution is Tues., Nov 1.

Monday, September 26, 2011

CSA Share Week #17

Fall has arrived. We can see it in the lengthening of the trees’ shadows. We can hear it in the quietness of the air and the occasional call of a single Blue Jay swooping between the trees. We can smell as the colorful decaying leaves begin to accumulate on the ground. And our CSA members can taste it in this week’s share—with the arrival of winter squash and sweet potatoes.

We continue to hear of more and more farmers that have been completely washed out for the season. Many fellow growers and CSAs are done prematurely for the season. On our farm, many of our fall crops were damaged or lost to the extreme rains. The fields look so barren. But we are fortunate to still be standing and still able to offer a variety of vegetables in this week’s share.

Note on last week’s corn: A few members reported they found a worm in their fresh corn last week. We are sorry to hear that, but it’s actually not such a bad thing. It’s an indication that your corn has been organically grown and with certified organic seed. Corn is a tricky crop to grow pest free. Conventional corn can be grown with pesticides spliced into the seed, so that it’s in the plant tissue. So corn can be sold as “spray free” but contain a pesticide component in the plant itself.

For the future, if you see a bug or worm in your corn, simply cut off that portion of the corn cob. We know, it’s not a comfortable sight to discover. Usually pests invade at the tip. Cut it off and you’re set to enjoy the rest of the ear of corn.


1 head escarole

6 1/3 ounces salad mix

1 bunch swiss chard

2 delicata squash

2 heads of garlic

1 bunch leeks

3 bell peppers

1 bunch radish

sweet potatoes


Delicata is a favorite winter squash here at the farm. It’s a great weeknight squash. Creamy in texture and nutty in flavor like a butternut squash, but not a big project to cut up and cook. In fact, don’t even bother to peel them.

Perhaps the simplest way to cook it: slice it in half down its length, 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. Or melt a few tablespoons of butter with chopped rosemary in a small saucepan. Add ½ cup of cider and bring to a gentle boil. Cook until the cider mixture is reduced by about half. Drizzle over the roasted squash halves (cut side up) and serve.

Alternatively, slice the squash in half down its length. Then slice each half into thin slices to make half-moon slivers. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread in a single on a heavy duty rimmed baking pan (like a jelly roll pan). Once golden brown on the underside, flip and continue to cook until golden brown and tender. The skin will shrivel and tenderize so it can be eaten (no need to slice off). In the last few minutes of roasting toss with minced garlic and some minced rosemary, if you like. Or serve with the cider glaze in recipe above.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CSA Share Week #16

We have the best CSA members. We really do. And this weekend’s Open House at the farm was a strong reminder as to just how lucky we are. It was a gorgeous fall-like day—the sun warm and relaxing. We took a tour of the farm’s main growing field, where Ken was able to talk about our farming philosophy, answer members’ questions, and show members how and where things grow. Then members shucked corn and helped set up a large table of food for a pot luck lunch, which was chock full of delicious, healthy food. (see recipe below for Neil's dish we all really loved)

We enjoyed hearing from members as to how the CSA has enriched their lives—whether it has meant eating more healthfully, trying vegetables they would never have tried, enjoying how fresh everything tastes or insuring one’s family is eating sustainably-raised food. And we were inspired by just how much of a commitment members expressed for the farm. (We can always use that kind of morale boost.)

Thanks to all those who took a day off to come here to the farm (we know, we’re far). We wish the day could have stretched on longer.

This week’s share is showing just a glimpse of how the farm has been hurt by the drastic weather events of late August and early September. Call them Irene and Lee. The result: slim pickings. And, yet, we’re among the lucky ones! We have something to offer—just not many things we had planted for. At one of our farmer’s markets in the Hudson Valley we heard from many, many people that their CSAs were simply done for the season. Wiped out. Kaput. We appreciated hearing their tone of compassion for those farms. As it’s not an “us” vs. “them” kind of thing. We’re all in it together. We’ve all been hurt. Some just more seriously than others.

-Ken & Maryellen

P.S.- for those who were fans of the gingerbread made at the Open House, here is a recipe that’s similar to what she followed in the King Arthur cookbook: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/gingerbread-recipe.

3 pounds Tongue-of-Fire heirloom shell beans (info. follows)
6.4 ounces salad mix
¾ pound fresh edamame
6 ears sweet corn*
1 bunch carrots or other item
Sweet bell peppers
1 melon

*Natural sugars in sweet corn turn to starch rapidly. If you can’t cook the corn immediately (Tues. night), wrap in a damp towel and then tuck in a plastic bag and store in your refrigerator’s produce drawer to help preserve it best.

TONGUE OF FIRE SHELL BEANS.  At Free Bird, shelling these Italian heirloom fresh shell beans is a family affair. If there’s extra after a market, we all sit on the back of the truck and start shelling away—prying open the colorful mottled shells and flicking the beans into a communal pot. If we aren’t finding something to laugh over while sharing in the task, we simply enjoy the time together just being quiet. And then we cook up a big pot. Whatever beans you cook up and don’t eat, drain and freeze in zipper-locked bags and enjoy later on in a stew or pasta or with sautéed greens and lots of garlic. These beans are creamy in texture and mildly nutty in flavor, similar to a cannellini bean. A lot of our market customers buy them to make pasta e fagiole (pasta and beans).
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. (Taste to test for doneness.)

HOW TO FREEZE PEPPERS. As you may be noticing, the farm had one heck of a pepper crop this year. If you’re not sure what more to do with your peppers, stash them in the freezer. They hold up beautifully. First, remove the stem and core and then slice the pepper into strips or chop up. Place in a freezer-grade ziplock plastic bag removing as much air out the bag as possible. Then freeze. Pull the peppers out any time this winter when you want to make a stir fry, a pasta dish, chili, soup,… They hardly even need to be thawed before throwing in a hot pan.

Neil Doshi's Fabulous Stew:

Hello everyone,

I went to the open house at the farm the past weekend and brought this dish for our potluck lunch. A few people asked me to share the recipe for the newsletter so here it is. It is a slightly modified version of a dish my girlfriend and I had in Turkey. All the ingredients are easy to obtain except for the last two, but both of them are optional. The resulting stew is great hot, cold, or at room temperature. It only gets better the next day and is great with some some pita. The prep and cooking time is under an hour.

1 medium-sized italian eggplant (1/2" cubes) or a few skinnier eggplants cut into rings (about 1/4" thick) with the skin on
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 onion (cut along the grain, julienne)
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-4 Tomatoes chopped (see notes)
2 tbsp of tomato paste
1-2 tsp of turkish pepper paste (optional - see notes)
a few pinches of turkish pepper flakes (optional - see notes)

Add olive oil to a stewing pot of some sort (I used an enameled dutch oven)
I turned the stove to medium heat (I wasn't going for any caramelization or browning)
Fry the peppers in the oil for about 5 minutes
Add the onions and fry for another 5 minutes
Add the garlic and fry for about a minute or so
Add the tomato paste and the option pepper paste and powder and fry for a few minutes
Add the tomatoes and cook on low for 10-20 minutes until a sauce forms

While this is going on, pan fry the eggplant on high in a different pan until browned and thoroughly cooked with a high heat vegetable oil to prevent smoking.
You can press out some of the oil from the eggplant after it is cooked with some paper towels because it will have absorbed quite a bit.
Stir the eggplant pieces into the vegetable stew and turn off the heat after a minute or two.

1) You can use whole fresh tomatoes (I like roma tomates) with the skin & seeds or tomatoes from a can of whole peeled tomatoes without the liquid (its too salty). You could even add some whole cherry tomatoes in addition to the cut up tomatoes that form the sauce.
2) Turkish pepper paste is basically the red pepper equivalent version of tomato paste. I used something I picked up in Turkey, but you can buy something similar at Kalustyan's called "Biber Salcasi".
3) Turkish pepper powder is a dried pepper powder that is made from a mild to medium red pepper. Once again, I used something that I bought abroad, but they have two versions at Kalustyan's that you could try called "Kirmizi Biber" and "Biber Tursu". Alternatively, you can use a little bit of the usual red pepper flakes (cayenne) or some hot paprika.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CSA Share Week #15

“Twelve days, sixteen inches of rain.” That’s how a fellow farmer in the region grimly summed up the last week and a half here—post Hurricane Irene. Excessive rain here in our county. Flooding. Landslides. Damns breaking. Roads closed. Schools closed. Residents and businesses evacuated.
At the farm, even our best-drained, high ground soils were so saturated that there was nowhere for the water to drain off. Many of our fall crops appear to have been ruined or substantially damaged.
We do our best to keep the focus on silver linings here. The loss we’re experiencing on the farm is short term (specific to this season). We haven’t had entire fields permanently washed away, and we’re not located in flood plains where river waters contaminated with chemicals and human pathogens have leached into our soil. And, looking beyond our region, there are much more serious natural disasters occurring in parts of the world where the consequences are life-threatening shortages of food.
But we’d be lying if we said we weren’t disappointed. We had done everything right to prepare for a strong end for our CSA members. Plants nurtured in the greenhouse since mid-July for the fall harvest were transplanted into the ground on time. Direct seedings were done right. Everything planted in abundance. Much work, time and money invested so that the next 7 weeks would be a banner finish.
This is truly a test for all of us—the farmers and the CSA members. We’ve had a number of market customers asking where’s the broccoli, when will we have spinach, are there any more tomatoes … ? When we explain the situation, they not only have been quick to understand but also have been more than willing to adapt and make do with whatever our fields are yielding. We hope our CSA members are able to share in that spirit of understanding.

1 bunch turnips with edible greens or radish
5 ½ ounces arugula
7 ¼ ounces salad mix
3 sweet peppers
2 cucumbers
1 eggplant
¾ pound green beans
1 head garlic
2 to 3 red onions

*Amounts or type of vegetable with asterisk varying depending on your distribution location and what you received last week; we always strive for balance.
Winging It: quick menu ideas from the farm that combine items from this week’s share
• sautéed eggplant with garlic, wilted arugula, and kalamata olives served over polenta
• Panini with caramelized red onions, arugula, roasted peppers and goat cheese
• Wilted turnip greens with garlic and chopped walnuts

The following is a recipe a couple of our Cooperstown CSA members recommended to us, adapted from: http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/10/roasted-eggplant-soup/
1 mid-small eggplant
3 mid sized tomatoes
1/4 a jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
1 large onion
8 cloves of garlic
4 cups veggie broth (2 cans)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese to top
1. Lightly oil a baking pan and preheat the oven to 425
2. Cut the eggplant, tomato, and onion into 1/2 inch thick slices and spread out on the baking pan. Peel the garlic and lay the cloves, uncut on the pan. Also add your slice of jalapeno pepper – but make sure you keep track of where you put it.
3. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove the garlic. Put the rest back in the oven, turn the heat down to 400 and roast another 15-20 minutes.
4. Remove the pan and put the onion, garlic, eggplant, and tomatoes in a soup pot. Remove the jalapeno completely – just the oil from baking it will be plenty hot.
5. Add the veggie stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn down the heat a little and cook until the veggies are all tender. About 10-15 minutes.
6. Blend the whole soup in a food processor until completely smooth, then return to a low heat. Add the cream, milk, and a little less then 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Cook, stirring often, for 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat, sprinkle with fresh parsley, and eat with bread.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CSA Share Week 14

Happiness is…fresh melon.
For us here, it’s “back-to-school” week, but technically it is still summer! And melons are an icon of summer we can’t get enough of here. We’ll be transporting more than 1000 pounds of melon from the farm to the city this week. So bring an extra bag so you can lug your cantaloupe or watermelon home.
Watermelons do not further ripen off the vine. Canteloupe do. The best way to tell if a cantaloupe is ready to eat is if the nub end gives when you press into it with your thumb and the “button end” has a sweet, aromatic melon scent to it (versus a “green” smell). If it isn’t quite ripe, just leave it on your countertop until it does yield when you press it with your thumb. It should only take a day or two. It’s worth the wait.
It’s really hard not to talk about the weather. After all, we are farmers. We live according to it, and, boy has the weather been weird. This past week our region was declared a federal disaster area, and many here are coming to difficult terms with the significant damage caused by Hurricane Irene. We lost about 15 percent of our fall crops to flooding, but that’s nothing to complain about. We were lucky. We personally know 2 farms devastated from flooding. One farmer friend lost 5 feet of topsoil from 15 acres of cropland. Now it’s just bed rock. Many people lost their homes. Meanwhile, the state is investigating “compelling video evidence” of a tornado touching down not far from here during one of Sunday’s thunderstorms. Good grief.

1 head green curly leaf lettuce
6 1/3 ounces salad mix
1 red cabbage
4 sweet bell peppers (red, yellow or orange)
2 jalapenos
2 serrano peppers (spicy)
4 tomatoes
1 bunch cilantro
1 large mild onion
1 bunch turnips (great for salad; cook the greens!) or 1 bunch radish
1 melon

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

CSA Share Week 13

How did we fare from Hurricane Irene? After a precursory look at the fields, it looks like we’ve dodged a bullet. The storm dropped about 5 inches of rain here. So maybe 10 to 20 percent of our fall crops—those planted in low-lying fields—might not make it.
The high winds we experienced didn’t cause any structural damages. We were worried about our greenhouses and our 200-plus-year-old barn. Ken and two others spent half of Saturday repairing and reinforcing the barn roof as it likely would have lifted if we experienced any stronger winds.
Sadly, many farms in our region were not so lucky and presently still sit under a lot of water due to rivers flooding more extensively than they have in 500 years.
A substantial section of the NYS Thruway here is closed due to flooding. So deliveries to the city could be delayed due to detours and traffic.
We’ve mentioned this before...it has been a hard growing season . There seems to be a running joke among NY farmers that they’re just waiting for this season to end. But, knowing some of those farms that have been hard hit, Irene was the last thing they truly wanted or needed.

1 lb. string beans (green, purple or yellow wax)*
¾ pound edamame
2 large white onions
1 bunch leeks
6 ½ ounces salad mix or 4.8 ounces arugula*
2 cucumbers
1 red or yellow bell pepper or eggplant*
1 ½ pounds beets without greens
1 tomato

*items may vary according to distribution sites due to limited quantities of each crop.

The farm’s crop of LEEKS have come in. And while they’re great as a base for soup or in a stir fry and a pleasant partner to salmon, they can also stand on their own, such as in this recipe for Creamy Baked Leeks with Garlic, Thyme, and Parmigiano.

Brown them with garlic and butter then simmer in white wine and a little chicken broth for an elegant but easy-enough-for-a-weeknight dinner of Spaghetti with Creamy Braised Garlic and Leeks.

BEETS: “People who swear they hate beets love this salad.” That was a compelling enough opener by Martha Rose Shulman in the New York Times to offer up this recipe for Grated Raw Beet Salad. If you’ve never eaten a beet raw, you’re in for a surprise. They’re incredibly sweet and healthy for you too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

CSA Share Week 12

Mark your calendar: Free Bird Farm is hosting an Open House for CSA members on Sunday, Sept. 18 from 10 to 3 p.m. Tour the farm, see where your produce is being grown, meet your farmers and get a chance to hang out with some engaging people (other CSA members, that is!). Everyone is invited to bring a dish to share for lunch. Last year's potluck was a real hit. Be sure to bring a water bottle and sun protection too.

As for this week: we're happy to report our hens are back into the swing of things and laying enough eggs for all of our CSA members. We are still short on eggs as a whole—not having enough to bring to the farmers’ markets we attend. But there are now enough eggs that we don’t need to supplement with free-range eggs from a neighboring Amish farm.

Otherwise, we’re just plugging along here—grateful when there’s a break in the humidity and when a new crop pops up.

This week’s arugula is beautiful and tasty—bright and peppery and not riddled with holes. We managed not to put any tears in it as the hundred or so yards of cover was laid down and anchored with shoveled soil along the edges. If there is a miniscule tear in the cloth, the beetles will find their way under and start their gluttonous munching. The itsy insects merely create cosmetic damage—and you’ll never see a flea beetle on a washed leaf, but it is still much more rewarding to bring in a crop that isn’t riddled with bitty holes .

5 ½ ounces arugula
¾ pound French string beans
4 tomatoes
3 cucumbers
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch carrots
2 red bell peppers
2 heads garlic
2 zucchini

For those who are receiving the green French string beans this week, these beans requires removing the strings that run on each side of these flat, long beans. Snap off the stem end and the string on at least one side will readily pull off. If you miss a string, you’ll know it when you bite into it, and can easily just pull it off then. These are a dense-skinned bean—best eaten cooked to tenderize the bean.
This recipe from Ina Garten for String Beans with Garlic is simple and tasty.

No matter which style or color bean is in your share, both are great in Maryellen's recipe for Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Arugula & Basil Dressing.

1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
2 strips lemon zest about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide, white pith removed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
¾ lb. French string beans, strings along edges removed
¾ pound cups arugula, rinsed and spun dry
1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
1-1/2 cups (10 oz.) 1-inch-diameter fresh mozzarella balls (ciliegine), halved
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice; more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Fill an 8-quart 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 2 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 TipsYou 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 16, 2011

CSA Share Week 11

The little pods of fresh soybean (edamame) dangle from a jungle of foliage. They're time consuming to pick but most worth it.

Usually in the weekly farm letter we focus on what’s been going on at the farm for the week. But since some members have been inquiring about how the farm is doing (and how our son is faring), we thought we’d talk about the big picture this week.

To be honest, it has been a frustrating growing season. Granted, we’re lucky we aren’t in Texas, where they’re experiencing record drought, or in the Midwest, where there was so much rain this spring that CSA farms were unable to offer members shares until mid-July. But here in Upstate New York the growing conditions this year have been challenging.

We are still seeing long-term negative effects of the sopping wet spring. Many of our crops that should be flourishing right now, like melons, aren’t producing what they should. We were forced to plant them in unrelenting wet conditions, and, consequently, many transplants drowned or their root systems rotted underground. Seed washed away. We probably got at best 1/3 of the sweet corn crop we had planted, and our first melon planting failed from root rot. We were stuck—we couldn’t hold plants in the greenhouse any longer than we did, or they’d become what is called “root bound,” so we were forced to plant into subpar conditions.

Hudson Valley orchard farmer and friend Tom Maynard suffered an 85 percent loss on his cherry crop early this summer because of this spring’s wet weather. That is, with the lack of sun, the trees didn’t photosynthesize at an adequate rate, which affected the blossoms ability to produce fruit. For Tom, his cherry crop is what typically covers his labor costs. No small loss.

Shawn Cleland, owner of nearby Timberlane Blueberry Farm, said the wet spring significantly compromised her crop too. When the bees arrived in mid-May there were no blossoms on the blueberry bushes for them to pollinate (the blossoms arrived about a month late). “We had no humming this year,” she said in reference to the usual bee activity. This week is probably the last of the blueberries that we’ll see. In a good year, she’d normally have another 3 weeks to harvest.

The one crop that liked all that ridiculous spring rain was our garlic crop. It did well. Phew.

Then came July. As the NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center summed up: “Persistent, scorching heat in the central and eastern regions of the United States shattered long-standing daily and monthly temperature records… making it the fourth warmest July on record nationally.” The NOAA noted, too, that the heat wave was marked by higher than normal overnight and early morning temperatures. That is, to the detriment of our hen flock, temperatures at night stayed high through the heat wave.

In the fields, we are still seeing some of the effects of the extreme heat we had in July. For instance, our peppers and eggplant experienced something called “blossom drop.” That is, the flowers on the plants fell off during the heat wave. It is from these flowers that the vegetables are produced on the plants. We are just now seeing new blossoms, but by the time they generate more “fruit,” the plants will probably be killed off by frost.

We planted a tremendous tomato crop, and it was looking beautiful up until blight and fungal disease arrived. We did everything right—we planted the tomatoes in a field where we’d never planted tomatoes before (thus reducing chance of picking up soil-born disease), they were pruned right and planted right. But air-borne disease blew in aggressively killing the tomato plants’ foliage and leaving spots on the tomatoes. So our crop has been compromised.

Even though we planted significantly more than was necessary for the CSA this year as a safeguard, overall yields have been disappointing on a wide variety of crops and some crops we completely lost. The quality of many items hasn’t been as top notch as we expect because of this year’s weather conditions. We hate to say it but…it has not been a banner year.

The weather this year has underscored some concerns we have about what kind of a long-term future is in store for farmers if the weather extremes we’ve experienced in the last few years truly are due to climate change and are to become the “new normal.” NPR’s Terry Gross/Fresh Air ran a compelling interview of climatologist Heidi Cullen on this subject a couple of weeks ago. When things slow down here (come winter) we plan to get a copy of Cullen’s book The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and other Scenes from a Climate Changed Planet. Maybe some of you, too, heard the interview. What she said really spoke to us in terms of what we have been observing.

Despite the setbacks, each week we have been able to drum up a sizable share and new crops keep arriving. This week’s purple beans, for instance, look gorgeous. And we are pleased to offer fresh edamame this week—something our staff had to spend hours picking (a very tedious crop to pick) and that you normally only see frozen (see tips, in newsletter, on how to cook fresh). This crop is a treat.

Update on Xavier: Our 3 ½-year-old son seems to be doing fine. Unfortunately, we don’t know what was wrong with him back in late June when we ended up 3 times in the emergency room and overnight in the hospital for a couple of days. The doctors were stumped and released him with a diagnosis of most likely having neurological complications, possibly from a concussion. Fortunately, Xavier’s symptoms have not recurred for more than a month. Needless to say, it was impossible to neatly compartmentalize that ordeal while trying to keep up with the demands of the farm. We greatly appreciate the e-mails, cards and well wishes we received. They really helped to carry us through a stressful couple of weeks.

2 white, large mild onions (great for kebabs and on the grill)
¾ pound velour stringless beans (see below)
1 pound edamame (fresh soy bean)
1 bunch basil
1 bunch amaranth greens (see below)
1 additional item to be determined (broccoli, Romanesco cauliflower or gold beets)

Amaranth Greens:That curious bouquet of purpley-red and green leaves is back this week. Known as amaranth greens or Asian spinach, we have had a lot of farmers' market customers try it on a whim and come back the next week anxious for more. We hope you're just as glad to try it again. At the farm on Sunday, we cooked it as follows and served over a bed of quinoa and alongside some grilled zucchini and grilled sliced onions (also in this week's share). So healthy. We had some balsamic vinegar on hand to drizzle over it, but it was so tasty, we never opened the bottle.

To cook the amaranth greens: Pluck the leaves from the stem, rinse and pat dry with a towel or spin dry in a salad spinner. (Discard the stems.) Mince 1 to 2 cloves of garlic.

In a heavy-bottomed saute pan or a cast iron fry pan, heat a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, stirring, until fragrant. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the greens, and toss with tongues to coat the greens with the oil and mix them with the garlic. Continue to cook until the greens have lightly wilted, about 3 minutes.

Season with Kosher salt to taste. If you wish, add a splash of balsamic vinegar or squeeze of lemon juice.

Edamame: Pronounced like eh-dah-mah-may. That would be the name for the fuzzy little pods containing nutty little fresh soybeans in this week's share. Kids and adults alike love this finger food. Very simple, very, very tasty.

To cook: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Carefully add the edamame in their pods (no shelling necessary) so as not to splash yourself.
Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. To test for doneness run a cooked pod under cold water to cool slightly and then slip a bean out of the pod. The bean should be firm, yet give to the teeth. Mushy beans means that they are over cooked.
Drain in a colander and let cool to room temperature, or refrigerate for a couple of hours to serve cold. Before serving, toss the pods with a generous pinch of Kosher salt.
To eat, slip the beans out and into your mouth by pulling the pods between your teeth. Discard the pods.

A Note from the farm about the purple beans:This week’s purple velour filet beans are a “haricot vert”—a very slender, stringless bean that’s a favorite of chefs. We sautéed some as they came in from the field, and they are deliciously tender and flavorful when cooked for just a few minutes in a skillet over medium-high heat in some extra-virgin olive oil with a sprinkling of coarse or Kosher salt to finish. Sadly, as with so many purple varieties of produce, they will not hold their deep burgundy color once cooked. So if you want to showcase their color, serve raw in a salad or with a dip.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Share Week 10

Our Big, Fat Coyote Spotting
Late the other night, as we were returning home from dinner with friends (a much-needed evening off the farm), we bypassed our driveway and pulled into one of our fields instead to check up on the hens. We wanted to make sure everyone was snug in their hen houses, doors shut tight—something one of our employees said he’d do (but always good for us to double check). Just as we pulled in a fat coyote was prowling through the grass heading towards the hens’ houses. He quickly high-tailed it back into a small wooded area.

While our flock took a beating from the heat a few weeks back, over the course of the season we’ve probably lost just as many hens to predators this year—mostly coyotes and foxes. Occasionally, there is something attacking them even in the middle of the day. We aren’t sure what it is, but we can tell by the pile of feathers that are left in the field that something was in their fenced-in area. While we’ve had troubles in the past 12 years with the occasional fox—or, worse, neighborhood dog, usually it is with the even more vulnerable meat birds we raise that get hit. This year has been a new and difficult experience, and we’re thinking hard about what we need to do differently to ward off the problems we’ve had without compromising the way we raise our birds.

Ken spent Saturday putting in a good amount of seed for fall crops—in anticipation of some forecasted rain this weekend. We ended up getting more rain than we’d expected and hope the heavy downpours weren’t so strong that they washed seed away. We also put in a few thousand transplants for fall, including the lettuce seen in the picture provided. Indeed, it’s time here to start preparing for the final act—autumn. There’s still a ton of work ahead (we’re only about halfway through the season), but it is that time when many of our end-of-season plants get started in the greenhouse or directly in the field.

1 bunch basil
1 bunch cilantro
2 large onions
1 Jalapeno
6 ¼ ounces salad mix
1 head of garlic
1 bunch leeks

*This is an approximate list. We were short on a number of items this week, so there was variation among groups as to the items they receive. For instance, the types of tomatoes and cabbage varied this week among sites; we simply did not have enough of one type to go around for all but do keep track of who gets what so that, for instance, this week you might receive a variety of tomato that last week you did not.

This is a great week to make some fresh salsa. But there are plenty of other things to do with the produce from this week's share. Here are a few that grabbed us.

Using this week's red cabbage and cilantro--
Chinese chicken salad:

Mexican-style Slaw with Jicama, Cilantro and Lime:http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/mexican-style-slaw-jicama-cilantro-lime.aspx
(I wouldn't hesitate to leave out the jicama if you don't want to make a trip to the store. Substitute the leek greens--very thinly sliced--for the scallions.

This week's leeks...
Creamy Baked Leeks with Garlic, Thyme and Parmigiano

This is one way to use up your onions (last week's or this week's--doesn't matter that they're not red) and wow people you might be entertaining (or treat yourself). You can also follow the recipe's method for caramelizing the onions, and make a simpler bruschetta with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozarella and a basil leaf:
Fig and Onion Bruschetta

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

CSA Share Week 9

Former farm intern Anna Lehr Mueser pitched in with packing this week's share at the farm. (Thanks Anna!) She holds a few bouquets of this week's ultra healthy (and beautiful) amaranth greens.

This week we have our first harvest of tomatoes and eggplant coming in. New also are amaranth greens, which come with a little story:

A few miles down the road from the farm is a roadside peddler named Cookie. He has a lot of junk, often some treasure, and always a friendly smile that readily stretches across his deeply tan face. A long-time resident, he knows our farm, and he knows we’ve got plenty of pigweed. Also called amaranth, to us it’s a rampant but relatively benign weed that grows all over the farm and is edible. In the past we’ve pulled some from the ground and brought it to Cookie to cook up. This year, we actually planted a variety of amaranth greens for our CSA members (leftovers for Cookie).

The cultivated version of amaranth is a lot more cooking friendly than the “weed”, with broad, deeply colored green and purple leaves that pluck easily from the stem. It’s mild like spinach and extremely good for you. Here’s an excerpt about it from Wikipedia.com:

“Amaranth greens, also called Chinese spinach, …are a common leaf vegetable throughout the tropics and in many warm temperate regions. It is very popular in India. They are a very good source of vitamins including vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin, and folate, and dietary minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. Because of its valuable nutrition, some farmers grow amaranth today.” That includes us.

Approach it like you would spinach—in soups, in a stir-fry, wilted in olive oil with a little garlic (served with some grilled meat) on the side or in a sandwich with sautéed onions and cheese. We used the amaranth recently in a black bean burrito with brown rice, diced tomato, and some of the sweet onions in this week’s share sautéed until soft and lightly golden.

In this week’s SHARE:
1 bunch amaranth greens
1 bunch basil
6 1/3 ounces arugula
2 jalapenos
1 bunch beets
1 bunch Swiss chard
2 sweet bulb onions (1 red, 1 white)
1 large Italian eggplant or 2 Japanese eggplant*

*varies with distribution location

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CSA Share Week #8

Laying hens recover from the heat. Half the farm's flock was lost to last week's extreme heat.

A bit of a disaster struck the farm this past week. We were braced for the heat—making sure our generator was set up in case of a black or brown out. Without electricity we’d lose produce in our walk-in cooler and fall plantings that we’ve started in our greenhouse, because they need frequent watering (and thus a functioning water pump). Fortunately, we never lost our power. Unfortunately, instead, we lost half our flock of laying hens. With the first hot night, we lost 15. The next hot night, another 11, and so the week continued. Sunday night, when the heat finally broke, we finally didn’t experience any losses. This is a first for the farm. We’ve lost hens to predators and had mature meat birds die from overheating (their breed is prone to heart failure under extreme heat), but we’ve never lost our laying hens in the heat. They’re usually a hearty lot.
Typically, it has helped that at night our hens roost in mobile hen houses—houses built on wheels. The floors are constructed of sturdy wire mesh so that the houses normally get a good bit of air flow, even when the doors shut at night from underneath. We construct them this way so that their manure doesn’t accumulate on the floor but falls onto the ground a few feet below them. This means their houses stay cleaner, the soil below gets some terrific, natural fertility, and they get good air. But this week’s heat was so relentless that we ended up putting baby gates in the hen house doors at night (to let more air in but keep predators out), and we ran extension cords from the barn into the field to run fans in each house through the night. We provided added shade in the field during the day, and hosed down their houses to cool things down too. But it wasn’t until we simply got a normal, reasonably cool night with a breeze (Sunday) that we stopped losing the birds.
So what does this mean for your egg share? At this moment, we’re trying to gauge how this is going to affect members’ egg shares in the long term. We have enough eggs for everyone this week. And it may be we’ll have enough for the coming weeks—and just none for our farmers’ market customers. It’s hard to tell right now, because the hens that held up through the heat aren’t laying at their normal rate. When chickens are stressed, they’ll stop laying eggs. We should have a better sense for how this affects our egg production by next week’s distribution and will keep everyone posted.
Meantime, while hens were dropping in the heat, our field crew was putting in 11-hour days in order to get their usual work done as well as bring in our largest garlic harvest ever. Our crew is a determined-to-work bunch. They don’t like to take days off, and they passed on the option of taking extra long lunch breaks so they aren’t working in the height of the heat. Thanks to their determination, the garlic came in on time (too long in the soil and it starts to break), and the hot, dry breezes we’ve had helps to cure or dry the crop as it hangs in the barn.

1 cabbage
1 head of garlic
Fennel (1 large or 2 small that have been bunched)
6 1/3 ounces salad mix
3/4 pound (12 ounces) green beans
1 bunch carrots
2 fresh red onions (mild and wonderfully sweet when cooked or grilled)

On Fennel- You can do just about anything with fennel—grill it, roast it, sauté it, or, one of the farm’s favorites, eat it raw in a salad. For the latter, you’ll want to very thinly slice it or the texture can be a bit too coarse. You don’t have to have a super-sharp knife and knife skills to achieve this. A vegetable peeler lets you shave it. Trim the base, quarter lengthwise, cut out the core, and run the peeler lengthwise along each quarter to shave. You can also use a mandoline or hand slicer, if you have one. We stumbled upon this recipe for Quinoa, Nectarine and Fennel Salad on Sproutedkitchen.com. We especially liked that it used nectarines, which are in this week’s fruit share.

Cabbage: Don’t feel like you have to use your large head of cabbage overnight. This vegetable will hold in your crisper for at least a couple of weeks. While coleslaw is a refreshing way to eat cabbage raw, there are other ways to use raw cabbage, such as in a fish taco or, one of our favorite sandwiches, a reuben. Here’s an update on the reuben by a good friend, Tony Rosenfeld. He uses smoked turkey and a sun-dried tomato mayo instead of Thousand Island dressing: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/smoked-turkey-reubens.aspx

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CSA Share Week 7

The farm's big garlic harvest has kicked in. Ariel washes recently harvested garlic before it gets hung in the barn to cure.

About 12 years ago Ken’s sister joined a CSA when she was living in Hoboken, NJ and working in the city. The CSA concept back then was new to us (and unknown to many). So when we asked her how she liked it she said it was a good experience but with one caveat: she didn’t see any tomatoes in her share until late July. Little did she know, that’s about when tomatoes appear in the Northeast (unless grown in a greenhouse).

We try to remember this anecdote every year, as tomatoes seem to be a gold standard for many CSA members, and one that’s easily misunderstood—even by the sibling of a vegetable grower . Tomatoes are a crop that require a lot of sun and heat and time to come to fruition (along with peppers, melons and eggplant). Most varieties require about 60 to 70 days of growth after transplants are planted into the ground. And since you don’t want to plant a tomato transplant in the ground before the risk of a frost is over (late May, to be safe), tomatoes grown outdoors don’t usually prosper until mid- to late-July.

These dog days of summer we’re finally experiencing are good for ushering the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant along, but we’re not there yet. Hang tight!

Meanwhile, it’s a good time to enjoy some other crops that have finally come in, like fresh green beans. Beans are labor-intensive to pick. You’re not only picking one bean at a time but also having to search through a jungle of a knee-high plant to pick only the ones that are to size (leaving the smaller ones on the plant so they can fill out). Some CSAs actually don’t offer green beans because they require too much labor to pick. Some have their members do their own picking. Since most of our members can’t do that (we're a bit too far), we take the time to make sure you can enjoy these fresh.

On the weather front (what’s a farm letter without talking about the weather…) we finally got a bit of rain Monday. Hopefully it’s enough to give the soil a good soaking. After the dry stretch we’ve had in July, the plants could really benefit from some rain. Hard to imagine being for want of rain after this spring, but here we are, needing it now.

¾ pound green beans or yellow wax beans
1 bunch beets
1 bunch basil
6 1/3 ounces salad mix
1 bunch large, mild fresh onions with green tops
1 bunch swiss chard
¾ pound sugar snap peas (pods are edible, no need to shell) or 2 cucumbers (whichever one your distribution site didn’t get last week)
1 large or 2 small to medium zucchini

This recipe comes from the Fast, Fresh & Green cookbook by our friend and former Fine Cooking executive editor Susie Middleton (Chronicle Books, 2010). This is a terrific book to own—“more than 90 delicious recipes for veggie lovers.” And it comes in a soft cover ($16.41 on amazon.com). Susie has a great approach to food—she offers a lot of fresh ideas, most of which are doable on a weeknight but remarkable enough to serve to guests.

Stir-Fried Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts and Balsamic Butter (from the Fast, Fresh & Green cookbook by Susie Middleton)
Serves 2 to 3.


1.In a small bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar.
2.Pull or cut the stems away from the chard leaves. Cut or rip the leaves into 2- to 3-inch peces and wash and dry them well. Rinse the stems and slice them crosswise into ¼-in. pieces
3.Heat the peanut oil in a large nonstick stir-fry pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (it will loosen and spread out), add the pine nuts and cook, stirring almost constantly, until they’re all lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch carefully, because they brown quickly. Remove the pan from the heat and use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer the pine nuts to a heat-proof plate or pan, leaving behind as much fat as possible.
4.Return the pan to the heat, add the chard stems and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re shrunken and beginning to brown lightly, about 5 minutes. (They will begin to crackle in the pan as moisture evaporates.) Add the garlic and stir-fry just until fragrant, a few seconds. Add the chard leaves and ½ tsp. salt and, using tongs, toss the chard leaves in the pan just until wilted (30 to 45 seconds). Scrape the balsamic mixture into the pan, stir, and remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter and toss and stir until it’s melted. Fold in half of the pine nuts. Transfer the chard (including all of the stems and liquid) to a small serving bowl and garnish with the remaining pine nuts.

The Farm's Basic Recipe for Roasted Beets
If you’ve never roasted beets, you’ve got to try it out. The dry heat of the oven tenderizes the beets and concentrates their sugar, so they’re both succulent and caramelized sweet.

1 bunch Free Bird Farm’s beets, scrubbed but not peeled
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Cut off the tops and trim the bottoms of the beets. If medium in size, slice into wedges, from top to bottom, so that the wedges about 1 ½ inch thick at their widest point. Small beets can be sliced from top to bottom in half. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Pile the beet wedges or halves on the baking pan and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with a large pinch of salt, and toss to evenly coat. Spread the wedges out evenly on the baking sheet, cut side down, and roast until the undersides of the beets have begun to brown and become crispy, about 20 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the beets and continue to roast until they feel tender when pierced with the tip of a knife or the tines of a fork, about 10 to 15 more minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve with the skins on or slip off by rubbing the skin portion of the wedges with a sheet of paper towel.

Roasted beets are wonderful on their own with a little butter and salt or a squirt of lemon, pesto, or serve with a balsamic vinaigrette. Crumbled fresh goat cheese also goes well with the beets and the vinaigrette or pesto. The roasted beets will keep for five days in a covered bowl in the refrigerator. Make a salad with chilled roasted beets, mixed baby greens (from this week’s share), almonds, blue cheese and a vinaigrette.
© Maryellen Driscoll

A note on zucchini. This is the 3rd week in a row we have zucchini to offer. With zucchini, we have to constantly harvest the “fruit” off the plants, or the plants will stop producing new zucchini. So, since we have it, we decided to include it for another week. If you have a grill, that’s a favorite way to prepare it here on the farm. You can use the technique from the following recipe Maryellen wrote for Fine Cooking last summer. If you don’t feel like buying chives, you can make a similar oil using basil from this week’s share.

Grilled Zucchini with Chive Oil

Or if you don’t feel like cooking, you can riff off of her recipe for

Two-Color Zucchini Ribbons with Mint and Olive Vinaigrette
Don’t worry about using 2 colors of zucchini. One will do. And feel free to substitute the frisée with some of this week’s baby salad greens. (No sense in going out and buying produce if you don’t have to.)

And then there’s always zucchini bread…!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

CSA Week #6

Continued thanks to all those who have reached out to the farm with well wishes and prayers for our 3-year-old son, Xavier, photographed in today’s packed truck. He has been suffering from sporadic spasms shortly after a head trauma (horsing around after dinner). In two weeks we’ve seen 7 doctors, and no one is quite sure what he “has.” We are fortunate that in the last 4 days he has shown no symptoms. Of course, we are constantly on watch. We truly appreciate people’s concern.

At one of the farmer’s markets we attend, there is a young couple just getting started on their own farm. They’ve worked on a successful, high-profile farm, but, as we learned when we bought our farm, there’s a big difference between working on someone else’s farm and starting out on one’s own. Sometimes, as we’re all setting up at the market, I think I see sheer panic in their eyes. And I can only project that they’re thinking: “How is this ever going to work?”
At the same market, there’s a middle-aged fellow, a 2nd generation farmer. He milked cows most of his life. When we met him 10 years ago the stress of farming had become so great for him that he was throwing up on his way to the barn every morning (and his 2nd hand man was showing up to work daily with a 12-pack of beer). Last we’d heard, he’d sold off his cows and was selling insurance. But now he’s giving the farming thing a whirl again, trying to make it selling tomatoes locally. I’m not sure what they’re thinking, but when I last spoke to them about their venture, I couldn’t help but think, “How are they ever going to make it work?”
On the phone yesterday, another long-time, highly diversified farmer (veggies, berries, syrup, livestock…) we know said the growing season is going so horribly that he’s rethinking his career choice. (He already holds a part-time job off the farm.) Even on a decent year, he says, it’s such a marginal enterprise. He is thinking, “I’m not sure this is really working enough.”
Meanwhile, in the last week it seems everyone around us—other than our farming friends—seem to be going on vacation, going away camping on the weekends, calling us to say hello while they’re sitting on the beach.
No matter how you slice it, farming is tough. There are a number of ways to manage risk, and, for us, the support our CSA members is a significant part of that. But, even then, we can’t predict when Mother Nature is going to slap us with one horrific season. We’ve managed to make it work—some years tougher than others, early on with both of us holding off-farm jobs, a couple of years going without health insurance,… And we’ve learned to be happy for our friends who are at the beach or on vacation while we’re working 7 days a week for a 9-month stretch. But those nagging questions: i.e. “is this really going to work?” or “is this really sustainable?” Well, they’ll persist. We’ve learned to tolerate the uncertainty of farming. It’s not a comfortable feeling, but sometimes it’s in pondering such questions that we come up with some of our best ideas.

1 large, fresh mild Alyssa Craig onion
1 bunch collards
1 head escarole
1 bulb fennel
1 bunch carrots
2 to 4 zucchini*
broccoli, cucumber or sugar snap peas
Napa cabbage
1 bulb fresh garlic

*zucchini amount varied among different distribution sites depending on size. Amount to take home will be specified at your distribution.

COLE SLAW: Feeling daunted by your overstuffed produce bins? Here at the farm, we were feeling the same way too. We cleaned out a good chunk of space Monday evening making a festive cole slaw with finely sliced cabbage--in this week’s share--and carrots and zucchini--in last week’s share and in this week’s. The carrots and zucchini were sliced into long shreds using a zesting peeler (a very handy utensil-drawer gadget to have). You could always just grate them. The dressing was made with grapeseed oil mayonnaise, rice wine vinegar, honey, and a mild vegetable oil (we used grapeseed oil). (Sorry, no recipe; just kind of winged it—about 3 tablespoons mayo, 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey, and 2 to 3 tablespoons oil). Salt and pepper were added to taste.


Sauteed collard ribbons: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/quick-sauteed-collard-ribbons.aspx

and Sauteed Escarole with Raisins, Pine Nuts and Capers: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/sauteed-escarole-raisins-pine-nuts-capers.aspx

Monday, July 4, 2011

CSA week #5

It’s now July, but it seems like the summer groove has yet to kick in for us here at the farm. Apparently, a lot of people are feeling the same way. As we overheard one woman say this week, “I haven’t even ordered myself a Coolatta this summer. It just hasn’t felt hot enough.”

Along with a shortage of beating-hot summer rays, we’re still getting quite a bit of rain. So the ground is often wet. This makes it hard to get some critical tractor work done—to keep weeds at bay, hill potatoes, prep new beds for new plants, and plant seed and transplants from the greenhouse. Most plants don’t care for quite so much rain either. We’ve seen certain crops simply rot in the field recently.
That said, as you can see with this week’s share, it’s not all awash (pun intended).

The garlic has liked all this wet, relatively cool weather. If you’ve never had fresh garlic before, you’re in for a treat. Peel away the outer, fibrous layer, like you would cured garlic, and inside you’ll find the cluster of cloves—snappy crisp and moist.

And new crops are popping up—like this week’s kohlrabi. Last week’s CSA volunteers were so excited to see this, they literally noshed on some like apples, right in the field.

On Friday, the ground was dry enough—or the situation urgent enough--that Ken was able to get some beds prepped and plastic and irrigation tape laid down for a 2nd planting of melons and cucumbers. Our 6-year-old daughter was working with him all day and took a snapshot of this from the tractor’s closed cab (see pic). We thought it was a pretty good shot. She spent a lot of time working with her dad this last week, as some of you know, because our 3-year-old son was in and out of the hospital. Let’s just say it was a tricky, tiring week—worrying about and caring for him while trying to keep each day’s pressing farm work under wrap. We appreciate the well wishes we’ve received from members and the support we got from core group members in pulling together last week’s newsletter without any photos or letters or tips from the farm.

Share List for Week #5
2 purple kohlrabi
1 head fresh garlic
1 bunch young leeks
1 bunch parsley
6 1/3 ounces salad mix
1 bunch swiss chard
1 bok choy
1 bunch kale
1 bunch basil

LAST WEEK’S BROCCOLI- The farm apologizes to those who received broccoli with florets that began to turn brown last week. It was green when it was harvested, washed and stored in refrigeration on the truck. So we aren’t quite sure why it turned so quickly, but we were disappointed to see this change when it came time to distribute.

Kohlrabi is a type of cabbage that looks like a root vegetable but actually grows above ground. The variety in this week’s share is purple on the outside, white on the inside. If you’re used to green kohlrabi, purple tastes essentially the same.
Kohlrabi has a crisp, juicy texture and the earthy sweetness of a combination of broccoli and cabbage. Kohlrabi is delicious paired with fresh herbs like chives, cilantro or parsley, radishes, carrots and apples, as well as with seasonings like horseradish, sesame, ginger, and mustard. Slice it into batons and snack on it with a creamy dip or dressing in the afternoon or before serving dinner. Thinly sliced, it can also be added to a salad. A popular way to prepare kohlrabi is as a slaw.
Kohlrabi is also tasty sautéed or roasted (cut them into thin slices or bite-size wedges first) or added to a braise or stew. You can also boil the bulbs until tender and mash them.
Kohlrabi will hold in the refrigerator for at least a couple of weeks. So, don’t feel pressed to use it up this week. Save some for a summer picnic.

Recipe from the farm: Kohlrabi Slaw with Confetti Chard
Making “matchsticks” and “confetti” might sound tedious, but a chef’s knife makes easy work of this. To make the matchsticks, thinly slice the kohlrabi. Stack a few of the slices on top of one another and then slice into the sticks. For the chard, roll the leaves into cigar shapes and then very thinly slice across to make the confetti.

2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 Tbs. walnut or other mild-tasting oil
2 medium carrots, sliced into 1/8-inch thick matchsticks
1 purple kohlrabi bulb, trimmed and cut into 1/8-inch-thick matchsticks (2 cups)
1 cup of very thinly sliced chard leaves (see tip, above)
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

In a small bowl whisk the vinegar, honey, mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt, and a pinch of pepper. Gradually whisk in the walnut oil until combined.
Put the kohlrabi, carrots, kale, and parsley in a medium bowl. Pour in the dressing and gently toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

What do you do with your cooking greens?
Swiss chard and kale and similar cooking greens have this way of stumping people in terms of what to do with them. As the season progresses, we’ll try to offer new ideas. But if you have a surefire something you’d like to share with us—it doesn’t even have to be a recipe, maybe just an idea—please pass it on. The following recipe for crispy kale is a favorite with at Free Bird Farm (the only way their kids will go near this earthy-tasting green).

Crispy Kale
Serves four.
Roasting kale until it’s hatter crisp is one way to coax finicky eaters into enjoying this highly nutritious green. Children and adults alike eat them as if they’re chips. Serve as an appetizer, snack or with a meal.
Tip: To quickly remove the stem from a kale leaf, wrap your hand around the stem at the base of the leaf. Firmly hold the stem with your other hand as you run your wrapped hand up towards the leaf tip, quickly stripping the leafy portion from the stem. Discard or compost the stems.

1 bunch of kale from this week’s share, washed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Kosher salt

Heat the oven to 350° F. Meanwhile, strip the kale leaves from the stems (see tip, above). Tear the leaves into large, bite-size pieces. Thoroughly dry in a salad spinner. Transfer onto a clean kitchen towel and blot just to make sure the kale is dry.
Mound the kale on a heavy-duty, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and cider vinegar and toss with your hands to evenly coat the leaves. Bake in the oven, turning the leaves once they’ve begun to crisp, after about 10 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and continue to cook until crackly crisp but not browned, 8 to 12 more minutes. Do not let the leaves turn brown; they’ll taste burnt and bitter. Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and serve.

Here’s what we gleaned from e-how.com:
“Don't throw those radish greens away. They are perfectly good food. Radish health benefits are many; they are a good source of vitamin C, folate and vitamin K (people with high blood pressure shouldn't overdo on the greens). They may also aid in digestion and help flush toxins from the body.

Whether you are growing cherry belle radishes in your garden, buying a bunch to make radish rose garnishes, or just enjoy the flavor in a salad, save those radish greens and cook up some of these easy, tasty recipes.”

Read more: How to Use Radish Greens | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_5620696_use-radish-greens.html#ixzz1RAJFF4X1