Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 22 Newsletter

Well, supposedly we’ll have a week without rain, which will be delightful. Hopefully we can take advantage and finally get some serious mowing and mulching done. And the forecast is for mid-eighties, which is perfect weather for working outside. We have our fingers crossed.
Our summer crops are starting to pick up. We are harvesting squash and zucchini steadily at this point, though they are still small fruits. There are a few good-sized cucumbers on the vine, though they’re not ready to harvest yet. There are lots of green tomatoes, so if we start to get some consistently warm nights, they’ll ripen. We probably won’t be harvesting tomatoes until July, but maybe we’ll get some early cherries.
We’ve just started picking flowers as well, and should have quite a few to take to market in the next couple of weeks. We were worried about the zinnias after we had a late frost a few weeks ago, but they bounced back really nicely. We planted a few more in the greenhouse anyway, and we can put those out this week, hopefully. And the calendula, which is a new flower for us, is coming in nicely.

This Week (*full share only):
NOTE: contents may vary throughout the week

Lettuce Mix
Napa Cabbage
Swiss Chard
Purplette Onions
Squash and Zucchini
Garlic Scapes
Baby Leeks*

What to do with it:

Most of these veggies are familiar to those who participated in the Spring share, so apologies if any of this is redundant. The Napa cabbage is for cooking or eating raw. We just made a salad the other night with only Napa cabbage (no lettuce) and it was really good. But we also stir-fry it frequently with whatever else we have laying around (onions, garlic, mushrooms, squash, peas, etc).
We made a Swiss chard pizza last night that was like a white pizza (no tomato sauce). Our pizza dough was homemade, but you could use store bought as well. If anyone would like our dough recipe, you can email us. We sautéed onions, garlic, mushrooms and the chard, and then put some melted butter on the dough, layered mozzarella cheese, the sautéed mix, and then more mozzarella and parmesan. Then we baked it for 15 minutes or so. It was great. We’ve found that in general, you can substitute Swiss chard for spinach with excellent results.
Garlic scapes are the top of the garlic plant. The swollen part is a flower bud that would bloom if left on. By cutting this part off, the energy of the plant is redirected to enlarging the garlic bulb under the soil. But the scape is edible too, and has a strong garlic flavor. You don’t eat the flower bud part, just the stem. You just chop it up and put it in whatever you’d want to put garlic in – salad dressing, eggs, or sautés. It has a slightly tougher texture, though you can peel the outer layer if you want a softer texture.
Baby leeks are very mild members of the onion family. In general, when using leeks, we recommend avoiding garlic, since it will overshadow the leeks. They’re excellent additions to soups and stews, and go well with potatoes and other root vegetables. The best smell in the world comes from leeks sautéed in butter. You can also steam them and serve them with a Dijon vinaigrette dressing (just wing it – olive oil, red wine vinegar, a dollop of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, maybe an herb that you have handy, like thyme).
Carrots are new for the bags, but should be pretty familiar to everyone. We mostly eat them raw in salad, though they sometimes make it into our stir-fries. They’re so good raw that you can just wash them and eat them. They pair well with the Napa cabbage.

June 15 Newletter (first of the summer share)

Welcome to Passage Creek Farm’s Summer CSA

This is the first week of our summer share, and welcome to all of you who are new customers. We hope you enjoy this exercise in seasonal eating! We’re happy to report that the rain has let up somewhat, enough that we were able to plant our basil and okra last week. Those were the last plants that needed to get out of the greenhouse, so now we’re on to weeding and mulching. Theoretically we would have been able to do more of the mulching by now, but the weather hasn’t cooperated. So we’ll be extra busy the next few weeks.
Harvesting will take up more of our time as well, since we are selling three days a week now (Saturday at the Woodstock Rite-Aid and Wednesday and Sunday at Fort Valley Nursery). Our spring crops are flagging, but our summer crops are coming in. We’ve probably reached the end of the snap peas, but we picked some baby squash yesterday and that means we’ll be deluged within two weeks. We’ve picked the scallions pretty heavily, but we’ve got actual onions and leeks on the way. The cucumbers are blooming, and we’ve got small tomatoes on the vine. We should be rolling in veggies pretty soon!

This Week (*full share only): NOTE: Contents may vary throughout the week

Romaine Lettuce
Napa Cabbage
Swiss Chard
Purplette Onions*
Baby squash and zucchini*
Herb share: purple basil (tastes very much like the green basil you’re used to)

What to do with it:
The little round zucchinis are called Eight Ball, and they taste just like the regular kind. We like to slice them into rounds and fry them (totally indulgent, but delicious). There are several squash and zucchini recipes on our website, including Todd’s Pasta Primavera and the Zucchini-Okra Frittata (you can omit the okra, since it’s not in your bag yet).
Romaine lettuce is the Caesar salad lettuce, and there’s a great Caesar dressing on our website. Swiss chard is our most favorite green. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s versatile, too. You can put chopped chard into soup, using a simple broth and maybe some white beans or lentils. Cooked greens are great additions to scrambled eggs and omelets as well. We love sautéed chard with onions, garlic, and mushrooms served over grits, quinoa or rice. If we’ve thought ahead enough to pull some kind of meat out of the freezer, we sometimes add sausage or ground turkey.
Kohlrabi is new for a lot of folks. It’s a brassica, meaning it’s related to broccoli and cabbage. You eat the bulb but not the greens, or at least we do. You can use the greens for soup stock, but they’re very strong and flavor and texture, so we usually just compost them. You don’t necessarily have to peel the bulbs, but if you eat it raw (as for crudités), you probably won’t want the skin on. If you’re stir-frying, the skin is fine to leave on. You can also grate the bulb into salad or coleslaw. If you’re making mashed potatoes, boil some kohlrabi to mash into the potatoes. Todd recently put some grated kohlrabi (raw) into a hot-style pasta salad, and it was delicious.
As for scallions and the purplette onions, they’re both mild, so you can put them in anything. Salad dressing, stir-fry, pasta, eggs, pretty much anything but dessert. Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Spring CSA Newsletter - Last one!

Well, this is the last week of the spring share. Thanks to all of you who signed up; we hope you enjoyed it! It was a good experiment for us. We really pushed ourselves to have as much produce ready as we could in May, and it was very challenging. But every year we try to grow a little earlier and a little later so we can get closer to year-round food.
Speaking of which, we planted all our winter squash last week and we should have a TON of it come August. Winter squash is great because it stores so easily for so long. You can just keep it on your kitchen counter for months! We’re growing butternut, spaghetti, acorn, buttercup, and sugar pumpkins. We also got our muskmelons out this week (cantaloupes, for you non-botanical types). Historically, they’ve been our most delicious crop. We’re hoping for a better yield than last year, which was just cucurbit-unfriendly.
The rain continues to bog us down. It’s created a huge gully in our new field, washing away some of our peppers and squash plants. We’re not sure how to fix this problem, except to mulch, mulch, mulch. Of course, mulching is one of those things that’s hard to do when you’re getting 3 to 5 inches of rain a week. And having a 5 month old is fairly time-consuming, so things like mulching and weeding tend to fall by the wayside. Hopefully we’ll have a streak of rain-free weather (though not a long one, we hope) and we’ll be able to get some things done!

This Week:

2 heads lettuce (Butterhead and green leaf)
Snap peas
Napa Cabbage
Lemon Balm

What to do with it:

Napa cabbage is new this week. It’s a versatile green, good for eating raw or cooking. It’s very mild and makes a nice addition to salad. It’s also a great green for steaming or sautéing. Since it’s a brassica (related to broccoli, cabbage, etc.), it’s also super healthy. It’s what’s used to make kimchee (Korean sauerkraut) as well. We made some this week, following Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions recipe. Basically you shred a whole head of Napa cabbage, and add minced garlic and ginger. She calls for carrots, but we used kohlrabi instead (about a cup grated), since that’s what we had. You add a little hot pepper, a few tablespoons whey, and about a tablespoon of salt. Then pound the whole mix with a mallet till the juices flow. Stuff into a quart-sized mason jar and let ferment for 3 days. Ours is fermenting now, so we can’t report on the result yet. But it was certainly delicious before it went into the jar!
Lemon balm is our favorite herb, and we only do one thing with it (besides using it for soap). We make lemon balm iced tea. Just throw the whole bunch into a large stock pot filled with water, and let simmer for an hour or so. Or bring it to a boil and then turn it off and let it sit for an afternoon (it’s not an exact science, and we have to work around not being in the kitchen all day). Add honey or sugar to taste, and serve over ice. It’s so refreshing on a hot day. Plus, it’s a very calming herb.
We frankly don’t get very creative with the snap peas. They’re just so good raw. They would probably make an excellent addition to stir fry, if they were just steamed slightly. They would be terribly sad if overcooked, so be careful. One of our market customers had plans to mix hers with dill, which sounded intriguing. They add a delicious crunch to salads, and you can just slice them into bite-sized chunks. Enjoy!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Spring CSA Newsletter

We’ve been further delayed in our planting, since the rain just kept coming last week. But the stuff that’s out looks really good. The squash is blooming, the tomatoes and zinnias (mostly) bounced back from the hard frost we had, and the potato plants are looking lush. Todd was finally able to mow some yesterday, so we can walk around the yard without our knee-high boots now.
The raccoon (or another raccoon, who knows?) made another appearance this week, and had a squawking chicken in its clutches when Todd ran out to investigate. He chased the raccoon off and went looking for the chicken (in the dark, mind you). Luckily she was a white chicken, so he found her easily. She didn’t have a scratch on her, the feisty gal. So for those of you who have strong feelings about gun control, we are definitely feeling like we need a gun. We can’t just be throwing axes and cinderblocks at feral animals (our strategy thus far). We promise to only shoot things that attack the chickens (and rattlesnakes).
We start our first market at Fort Valley Nursery this Wednesday from 9 to 1, and we will also be setting up there on Sundays from 12 to 4. Next week (June 8 for the Monday shares and June 13 for the Saturday shares) is the last week of the Spring share. For those of you who have not signed up for Summer, we have spaces left, so please contact us soon if you are interested.

This Week:

2 heads lettuce (green leaf and Romaine)
Swiss Chard
Garlic Scapes

What to do with it:

Garlic scapes are the stem that grows out of the garlic plant and blooms. If garlic were left to its own devices, this is how it would reproduce. The bloom would produce seeds. The way garlic is reproduced by growers is by planting the cloves, which form bulbs. The scape is like a tougher, garlicky tasting scallion. You can chop it up and use it as you would garlic, though it has a milder flavor. The part between the cut end and the bloom (just a swelling in the stem at this point) is the part you want to use. It works in salad dressing, eggs, stir-fries, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
We made a new Swiss chard dish last night that was really good. We sautéed some onions in butter and olive oil, then added ground turkey, and once that was cooked, added chopped chard leaves. We served it over rice with some grated parmesan and a yogurt-cilantro sauce (which is exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of minced cilantro in a cup or so of yogurt, mixed by hand or by blender). It was delish. You could probably substitute or add the kale if you boil it briefly first.
We have an excellent Caesar salad recipe on our website. It was Katherine’s mom’s way of fixing it, and it’s just the best. That’s ideal for the Romaine lettuce. We’ve been adding radishes to everything: burritos, salad, stir-fry, whatever. They’re mild enough so they can be thrown into anything. We’re into cheddar-dill biscuits lately, and chances are you have a million biscuit recipes on your cookbook shelf so just take one and add a couple tablespoons of chopped dill and a ½ cup or so of grated cheddar. If you’re feeling really fancy, poach an egg to place atop each half of biscuit. That’s a deluxe Sunday breakfast.