May 12, 2009

CSA News for the Week of May 11th

This Week's Vegetable Harvest:
  • Overwintered Spinach
  • Mixed Salad Greens
  • Head Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Fresh Dill
  • Bok Choy
  • Curly Endive
  • Whole Wheat Flour*
*not grown on our farm. See Notes from the Farm Kitchen for more info.

Farm Journal
It's that time of year again. During planting season there's so much to keep track of that I routinely misplace the car keys, lose track of time, and forget to keep my appointments. The dishes regularly go unwashed and the laundry remains unfolded. To my credit, however, I am proud to say that as of this writing, my kids are all accounted for. (!) I have a friend, a sometimes-harried mother of four with a great sense of humor, who maintains that if she can say that at the end of each day, well, then she's done her job. Anything else she accomplishes in a day is a bonus. I, on the other hand, am held accountable for accomplishing a few things in addition to keeping our three little ones alive and fed. At least during planting season, anyway.

For the next four weeks I will race around the farm muttering to myself and furiously scribbling notes on scraps of paper. These notes serve as important reminders of tasks that are in some way crucial to the success of one or more of our crops. To the casual observer, however, my notes might serve as evidence of having gone way, way off the deep end. How else would the average person interperate the words "cukes out", "fish on squash" and "fork onions" scrawled across the back of an old utility bill? For those of you who might need some help with the farmer shorthand, these three items translate as follows: (1) move the cucumber seedlings out of the greenhouse and into the shade so they might harden off before planting, (2) fertilize squash plants with fish emulsion, and (3) cultivate the last of the onion seedlings with a hand-held fork before applying compost to them.

During this crazy spring period, the greenhouse is my refuge, my respite from the world. I cherish the time I spend there in the morning before the kids are awake and before the employees have arrived. Truth be told, I'd spend my entire day there if I could. I love the warmth, the smell of dirt, the calming whir of the circulation fans, and of course, the glorious green life-force of thousands of happy seedlings. Unfortunately, I don't get to spend as much time in there as I'd like. Fortunately for me, our employee, Kim, likes spending time in the greenhouse too. She keeps an eye on things when I am occupied by other tasks, and she is glad to take charge of the myriad activities that must happen in the greenhouse before the plants are ready to go out to the field. Here is a shot of Kim transplanting tomato seedlings into growing trays.

If it weren't for Kim and the rest of our great staff--Luis, Becky, Matt, Reid, Nick, Jesse, Adam and Andy--this vital work wouldn't happen. We are blessed to be surrounded by such a great community!

Have a good week. -Peg

Notes from the Farm Kitchen

Although the exact geographic origin of dill is unknown, it is known to grow wild all over the European continent. It is used as a culinary herb as well as a medicinal herb that aids digestion. Dill is probably best known for its role in flavoring dill pickles, but it can also be used to flavor many other dishes including salad dressings and salads such as potato, pasta and tuna.

Curly endive, also known as friseƩ, is a relative of Italian dandelion. Its white inside leaves are milder in flavor than the outside green leaves. All parts of the endive plant may be used in salads and other dishes. It's slightly bitter taste pairs well fruits and nuts as well as with the bold flavors of strong cheese, cured meats, vinegars, and mustards. It's heavenly with a good, warm vinaigrette.

A Chinese vegetable that is gaining in popularity here, bok choy (also known as pac choi) has a mild, sweet flavor when cooked. Like many members of the Brassica family, its growing season is limited to the cool spring and fall. We cover our bok choy with fabric row cover while it is growing to protect it from one of our most persistent pests, the flea beetle. Nutritionally speaking, bok choy is loaded with vitamins. When cooking with bok choy, use the entire plant, both green leaves and white stems. It's also fantastic eaten raw. The mild, crunchy stalks are a particularly welcome addition to salads dressed with asian-inspired dressings.

You can't imagine how excited I was to find a local organic grain farmer this winter. Sourcing local meats, fruits, dairy products has been relatively easy compared to the challenge of finding a local source for wheat flour, corn meal, oats, etc. Ted Weydert is a fourth-generation farmer who grows all of these crops on his farm near DeKalb. We're eager to support the Weydert family's direct marketing efforts, so we chose to share a couple of their products with you. This week we'll sample their freshly-ground whole wheat flour, and in a few weeks we'll try their cornmeal. In my baking I tend to replace about 1/3 of the white flour called for in a recipe with whole wheat flour. I encourage you to experiment with some of your favorite recipes.

This Week's Recipes

Basic Rustic Wheat Bread Making bread does not have to be a chore, I promise! This no-knead recipe was inspired by a book given to me by a neighbor recently. It's called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and it's really changed my attitute toward making bread. I used to think that I needed to set aside a big chunk of time for baking bread, but that is no longer true. Try this rustic, free-form loaf and see what you think. I highly recommend purchasing the book and doing your own experimentation.

An Asparagus Bacon Sandwich Asparagus and bacon--what could be better?! This is a fun spring variation on the classic summer BLT.

Stir-Fried Chicken with Bok Choy Here's a recipe that can be adapted to the changing seasons. Baby turnips, carrots, napa cabbage and peas are among the many vegetables that would go well in this dish.

Tuna-Dill Burgers Quick, tasty and economical!

Creamy Sweet-Sour Dill Dressing The first dill of the season always makes me smile. This is a nice way to dress up your spring greens.

Curly Endive Salad with Apples and Almonds The sweet apples and the salty almonds are a perfect match for bitter greens. ( And a bit of good blue cheese wouldn't hurt!)

Next Week's Harvest (our best guess)... head lettuce, swiss chard, asparagus, rhubarb, chives or green onions, baby salad turnips, popping corn and more!