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.
IN THIS WEEK’S SHARE:
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
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
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
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
Posted by Free Bird Farm at 9:54 AM
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
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!
IN THIS WEEK’S SHARE
½ pound mesclun mix
1 acorn squash
1 bunch leeks
1 bok choy
1 bunch cilantro
¾ pound green beans
2 habañero chiles
1 head of garlic
4 bell peppers
Posted by Free Bird Farm at 7:49 AM
Monday, October 3, 2011
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.
THIS WEEK’S SHARE:
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.
Posted by Free Bird Farm at 6:27 PM