Tuesday, August 28, 2012

CSA Week 12

WEATHER NEWS: The farm received a total of 1 1/2 inches of rain late Monday night and early Tuesday morning!!!

Farm Letter

This past week we had our annual organic inspection. A USDA-accredited inspector spent the afternoon at our farm inspecting our fields and reviewing piles of paperwork.
People often think that the difference between organic and non-organic farming comes down to pesticide use. Its much more complex than that. As a consumer, it’s a good thing to be apprised of the differences since there are many labels non-organic growers or food packagers might place on their products to make them appear as if they are the same as organic but quite essentially are not.
It’s hard to explain it in a nutshell. The Organic Farming Research Foundation does a good job of explaining the many facets of organic growing. 
For us, one perennial challenge as organic farmers is keeping up with the weeds. Organic farmers are not allowed to spray herbicides—synthetic sprays that kill weeds. On our farm, we remove weeds by hand, with handheld or hand-pushed equipment, such as hoes, or with a cultivating tractor. Depending on the crop and its stage of growth (or our time limitations), sometimes we just have to tolerate the weeds.
The cultivating tractor we have (see pic, taken in spring) is a new (used) purchase from this past winter and something Ken has had on his wish list for years. It has been a great help, and the first time Ken used it, he said he could see out of the corner of his eye our field crew watching quite carefully. The tractor's efficiency at uprooting the weeds was spectacular. So amazing that the crew was probably wondering how this wonder-weeder-on-wheels might cut into their work hours!
Just drive by our farm and you’ll see this tractor hasn’t obliterated the weeds. The crew is by no means short on hours, and the hand-held tools and push cultivators are not collecting dust. But the tractor has helped us significantly, and the option of spraying chemicals into our fields to keep weeds at bay doesn’t even cross our minds.
Now that we’ve had our organic inspection, we wait for a board of reviewers to evaluate our application, paperwork and the inspector’s report before hearing back (usually some time later this fall). It’s a process, and a lot of record keeping, but we appreciate that there is some layer (or many layers) of accountability that we and other organic farms are held to. It’s worth it to us, and, we hope, to you too.

In this week’s share:2-3 red bell peppers*1 bunch leeks6 1/3 ounces (.40 lbs) salad mix1 bunch cilantro2 small heads of garlic1 Italian eggplant1 pound red onions2-3 slicing tomatoes*1 ¼ pound salad tomatoes Fruit share:End-of-season yellow nectarines

*Amounts vary among distribution sites depending upon size of peppers and tomatoes.

FRUIT TIP: At this stage in the season, Maynard Farm’s nectarines are BIG and great for baking crisps, crumbles, rustic tarts or turnovers. They are also great for smoothies or maybe a nectarine lassi? Substitute nectarines for peaches in this lassi recipe.


If you are still working through the last weeks’ tomatoes, there are a number of ways to hold them up:

  • Make some salsa to can or simply freeze in baggies or jars for later use.
  • Halve and roast the salad tomatoes and then freeze. Great for an intensely flavored pasta dish in fall or winter. 
  • Or take the lazy route—just freeze fresh tomatoes whole in a freezer-grade plastic bag (i.e. Ziploc®) until you can get around to cooking them. The tomatoes will exude a lot of water upon thawing, but once the liquid is drained off or cooked off, the tomatoes are perfectly prime for an intensely flavored sauce.

At the farm this week, Maryellen made a large batch of tomato sauce with diced eggplant and then froze leftovers to enjoy during winter months. She didn’t follow a recipe, but this is what she did: sautéed diced eggplant in a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet until golden brown and softened; then added chopped onion and garlic, cooking briefly to lightly brown. Fresh, diced tomatoes were stirred in and simmered briefly to break down some. To finish, rinsed capers, minced basil and Kosher salt to taste were added. The sauce was served over cheese tortellini.

Cilantro storage tip: Place your bunched cilantro in a glass with an inch or so of water. Tent with a plastic bag and refrigerate.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

CSA Share Week 11

Friday night fun: Ken uncovers "artesian well" near a newly tilled field with fall crops.

excerpt from a recent note from a CSA member:
I want to remind you that even in challenged year, what you have sent to our table is wonderful. Last week, David and I sat down to a dinner at which nearly everything came from the farm. Our gazpacho had peppers, tomatoes, onions, thai basil and garlic from you. We had homemade babaganoush made with your eggplant and garlic and ate it with your carrots. We had your beets, roasted, atop your greens in a dressing that included your leeks. We sautéed your zucchini in garlic and thai basil. It was one of our best meals of the summer. We thought of you at dinner that night, as we do often throughout the season. We marveled, just as we did last year, at what you manage to accomplish. We thank you for everything you do. 
-Rachel Levin, 2nd year CSA member

FARM LETTER, 8.21.12

We've received a number of supportive letters from CSA members in the last week. We really appreciate these kinds of communications.

The crops we’ve been irrigating for most of this summer have nearly been picked out. The tomatoes are the one crop coming in strong. So we humbly offer you what we’ve dubbed a tomato share for the week. Combine with last week’s onions and garlic and some extra-virgin olive oil, and you’ve got yourself the fixings for one heck of a fresh, homemade tomato sauce.
When stress creeps up on us—because the week’s share isn’t what we want it to be—we have to remind ourselves that we’ve done the best we can do with what we have, and in better weather circumstances we would have had more crop than we could move through the CSA without overwhelming members.
So, we practice acceptance—reluctantly.

As I’m writing this week’s letter, our home office is filled with the smell of fresh basil that the guys just harvested in a nearby field—heaven—AND we are getting a “scattered shower” that should last about 5 minutes. That seems to be the pattern of precipation here—short, sporadic showers. On Sunday, a Hudson Valley farm friend showed us his pocket notebook where he has been recording the nearly daily rainfall his farm has been getting. He’s bent out of shape—too much rain. It was hard to feel sorry for him.
As naive as it sounds, it’s so hard to fathom how we can be so dry here while just an hour south of us they’re on the verge of too wet.
These scattered showers do help get seed to germinate. That’s key. But they aren’t penetrating the soil deep enough to satisfy the roots of more established plants. So tricky.
We plowed a new field in the middle of the farm. The soil is beautiful, and the gently undulating rows are an inspiring site. There is arugula just popping up, peas too. Yet nothing is near to size for picking.
So, we practice patience.

When we purchased our farm, the previous owner told us about an “artesian well” located near the newly planted field we’ve just described. The well had been covered up with plywood and many feet of dirt, but there was a pipe sticking up to mark its location. We’d never bothered to investigate closely because we’ve never needed the water.
On Friday evening, Ken headed out with a shovel to see if it held promise. He dug until he was neck deep and at the bottom of a cement-lined hole, water seemed to freely replenish itself every time he scooped up and tossed out a bucket of mud.
We are not sure if this is really an artesian well or a spring. The next step is to consult with our local USDA Conservation Corps engineer to determine if it holds potential.
As Ken pitched buckets of mud from the hole, we all watched with shared excitement. After 13 years on 134 acres, there is still much to explore, discover and celebrate.

 This week’s share:4 large slicing tomatoes
3 pounds Mountain Magic salad tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil
¾ pounds green beans
3 red bell peppers

The round, golf-ball sized tomatoes are the Mountain Magic tomato. They are sweet, crack-resistant with sweet, bright flavor. They are great for making a tomato salad with this week’s basil and some fresh mozzarella, chopped kalamata olives and extra-virgin olive oil. They also make a flavorful fresh tomato sauce.
Most of the larger, crack-prone slicing tomatoes are Pink Beauties. These have a sweet, not-so-acidic flavor profile and meaty texture that tastes great sliced thick with a sprinkling of Kosher or a specialty salt--simple as that—or added to a sandwich. When ripe, use promptly, as they do not hold well.

Tip: Avoid refrigerating your tomatoes! They’ll turn mushy.

About 2# white donut peaches
1 pint blueberries  (if your group did not receive them last week)

Peach tip: Leave these squat peaches out on the counter to ripen. The peaches are considered ready when the greenish part of the flesh turns to a cream color and the peach is slightly soft to the touch.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

CSA Week 10

Mixed salad greens coming back!

We are just now, finally, seeing our tomatoes ripen(!). Many of our farming friends (including ourselves) have been stumped as to what has been taking the tomatoes so long to ripen. A recent Cornell Cooperative Extension newsletter article dubbed “The Mystery of Unripening Tomatoes” explained that lycopene and carotene, pigments responsible for giving the fruit their typical red appearance cannot be produced when it’s as hot as it has been this summer.
We are still irrigating, and our pond has not completely dried up. But as we move into weeks where we should be swimming in peak summer crops, we are instead having to divvy out the short supplies of what we have (eggplant being the exception!). Some of our CSA groups are getting one item while others receive something different, but, all in all, the share is turning up just fine.
We do see a break this week in terms of getting some rain and having temps staying in the 80s. And many of the crops Ken seeded down in the last few weeks are beginning to pop up (as in pic). So while we cannot completely recover our losses from this summer’s epic hot, dry weather, we are hoping to recoup with crops that do well in the fall.
Many parts of New York have received continuous relief from drought in the last few weeks (we understand there was even flooding this week in the city). Frustratingly, most of these storms have missed our farm, often skirting our side of the Mohawk River--or have not fallen with any duration or emphasis (see map). (Last night's rainfall was not heavy but was slow moving, giving the ground some time to soak things in!)
Plants need about an inch of rain a week to grow healthfully, and we’ve measured about a total of 2 1/2 inches rainfall on our farm in the last 65 days.

 Consequently, we should be harvesting sweet corn now, but the plants are knee high and the ears inadequately developed. (see pic, below)
We should be swimming in melons, but the 2,400-foot crop is only sparsely producing some fruit now.
Our 2 acres of winter squash plants are at the size they would normally be in early June with little to no sign of any “fruit” developing it. 
Our potato crop is nearly nonexistent.
We explain this not to bellyache but to keep members informed as to how things are shaking out here and what happens on a farm when there’s inadequate precipitation.
Fortunately, we still mange to pull together a decent share each week (if not our dream share). And we have plowed under a lot of what didn’t make it to make room for the new. If there were a theme song for the week here, we’d have to pick John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over.” We keep moving forward.

Share List:
3 heads of garlic
Red Cabbage and/or beets and/or carrots*
1 bunch fennel (2 in a bunch) or cucumbers or zucchini*
1 eggplant
2 jalapenos
6 ounces salad mix

*(share contents varied among distribution sites due to short supplies, noted in the above letter)

Fruit Share:
1 pint blueberries
2 pounds mixed plums, Shiro and Ruby Queen


If this cooler weather has you nostalgic for a bowl of soup, or if you are looking for a fresh idea for what to do with all your garlic, Cara Wolinsky, our stupendous Turtle Bay CSA coordinator in Midtown, recently tried this Smitten Kitchen garlic soup and reports it was delicious. (thanks to Scott for the photo)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

CSA Week 9

An eggplant, is an eggplant, is an eggplant…

We grow a few different kinds of eggplant—the traditional, plump Italian eggplant, a deep purple, long, narrow Japanese eggplant, and a striking burgundy and white striped variety (see pic). Market customers often ask the difference. While we’ve never eaten them side by side (maybe we should!), we have never noticed a difference in how they taste.
What we notice is a difference in how we cook them. The Japanese eggplant we like to slice into coins or oval shapes, grill or roast and serve with pasta. The smaller shape holds together nicely, so we can serve it in whole pieces without having to use excessive amounts of oil—as you do if you cube and sauté Italian eggplant.
The Italian and striped eggplant is great grilled too, but it’s plump shape makes it prime for roasting. Cut lengthwise in half, roasted eggplant is ridiculously simple and takes on this stunningly creamy texture that makes it worth turning on the oven. For a recipe see: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/oven_roasted_eggplant.aspx
This link has a few other tasty ideas for what to do with eggplant.

In this week’s share:
2 Japanese eggplant
2 light green or traditional green peppers
1 bunch Thai basil
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch leeks
1 bunch Swiss chard

Encore Fruit Share
1 pint Adirondack blueberries
2 - 2 1/2 lbs. fresh yellow peaches from the Hudson Valley

Tip for cleaning leeks:
Leeks are notorious for trapping dirt, and it didn’t help that we got a smattering of rain before they were harvested—spreading the dirt more (but not making enough of a difference in our thirsty fields). If you don’t know how to clean a leek, there’s a simple trick that you can watch on youtube
It makes all the difference to know how to do this.

8 Ways to Use This Week’s Leeks:
1.    Leek and potato soup
2.    Leek tart
3.    In a stir-fry (along with this week’s basil and carrots)
4.    Re-fried rice (along with this week’s basil and carrots)
5.    Creamy Baked Leeks
8.    And, lastly, one we’re all sure to be making this week: Pan-seared Rattlesnake on Braised Leeks

Asian Slaw
With all these humid, 90-degree days we’ve been having, we don’t feel like eating much more than fruit and raw vegetables (and maybe an occasional hit of chocolate). But at this point in the growing season, lettuce doesn’t grow well. It’s too hot and will bolt—growing into a triangular, torpedo-like shape and taking on a bitter flavor. So, we’ve decided, if we’re craving raw foods, it’s time to pull out those flavorful carrots! Last night Maryellen used her julienne peeler to make an Asian-style slaw with the carrots we seem to have in abundance (maybe you’ve noticed…) as well as some zucchini. 
Julienne peelers are a veggie peeler that turns vegetables into delightful, little matchsticks. They’re affordable and worth owning.
Here's a recipe with a dressing that's similar to what was used for this slaw.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

CSA Share Week 8
Rain, glorious rain! It started with a dramatic thunder and lightning storm last Monday night (7/23) and it continued off and on until this past weekend. In total, we have probably had about 1 ½ inches total rainfall this past week.
All vegetation—vegetables, weeds, grass—seem to be on heaving a sigh of relief. Outside it even has a hint of that Upstate “green” smell in the air again. Heavenly.
That’s the good news.
Six weeks without rain and with temperatures consistently up in the mid-90s has had its consequences on our farm—some lost crops, some stunted crops.
As for the latter, Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension specialist Chuck Bornt recently explained in a newsletter what happens in temps 90° F and up: “the plant is working so hard staying cool that it is expending all of its energy moving water from the roots through the plant. Photosynthesis may cease all together and that, in turn, stops the production that you plan on selling.”
He also discussed how air pollution damage or “ozone damage” is common on hot days and how this can be damaging to plants. We have noticed this to some extent as well.
So, what’s next? We ask that our CSA members hang in there while the shares are less abundant or diverse than we had planted for. Ken is waking extra early and often working until dark to plant new beds while there’s enough moisture to get seeds to germinate. We absolutely need additional rainfall.
Meantime, we still have a couple of items we’re introducing this week: Yukon Gold potatoes and aromatic Thai basil!

Ken & Maryellen

TIP of the week: Bag It Up.

Most (or all) of your produce is distributed in bulk, not bagged. Most of what you receive, however, should be stored in the refrigerator in some kind of plastic bag (such as a produce bag) or a bio bag designed for produce storage. This helps hold in the moisture so that your vegetables stay fresh longer and things like carrots stay crisp and crunchy.  Lettuces store especially well in a salad spinner (in the fridge). This week’s garlic and potatoes should be stores in a dark, cool spot in your kitchen (not in the fridge, not in the sunlight).

In This Week's Share:

1 bunch red onion

1 Italian eggplant

2 garlic heads

1 bunch beets with green tops

1 bunch carrots

1 bunch Thai basil

1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

 Fruit Share:

John Boy yellow peaches

1 pint Adirondack blueberries


Eat your beet greens!

Beet greens are incredibly nutritious for you. At the farm, we like to sauté them in olive oil until wilted and then stir in some minced garlic, much like this Food Network recipe. A squirt of lemon juice or splash of balsamic vinegar is a nice finishing touch, as is blue cheese or goat cheese. You could add them to a pasta or an egg dish, or just serve as a side. You can also add beet greens to a green smoothie (just don’t overdo it or their earthy flavor will come through).

THAI BASIL. Thai basil is commonly used in Asian cuisines and has a subtle licorice flavor. It smells heavenly and immediately reminds me (Maryellen) of curries and coconut milk. It is also commonly served as a condiment to phŏ (Vietnamese noodles soup).

Here are a slew of recipes we hope will inspire you to try it out. Let us know what you did with it!

Squash and Corn in CoconutMilk with Thai Basil (this recommends Magda squash—the light green zucchini-like squash you’ve been seeing in your shares.

Peaches have arrived!

 This week’s variety is a yellow peach called “John Boy” and, according to farmer Tom Maynard, they’re the “peach of the season” as far as flavor goes. These are an eating-out-of-hand peach. Expect pie peaches to arrive later in the season.
Peaches do not ripen on the tree, and these were just picked. To ripen, leave out on your countertop in a bowl. Once it feels ripe (the peach gives slightly when you press with your thumb, and it smells sweet), refrigerate to slow the ripening process.

Can’t eat all of your peaches in one week? Freeze the peaches for making smoothies! The blueberries freeze equally well, and are just as tasty a snack eaten frozen.

Haven’t finished all of your plums from last week? At the farm we simmered them with sugar and rum to make a sauce for ice cream and yogurt (we then froze the sauce in batches). Sorry, no recipe. We winged it—but start with less sugar and  not too much rum (or no rum at all), bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and taste after cooking for about 15 minutes. You can always add more. We added a cornstarch slurry to thicken it slightly.