June 23, 2009

First Week of the Fruit Share

This Week's Vegetable Share:

  • Broccoli
  • Green or Red Kale
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Strawberries*
  • Green-Top Beets (Red or Gold)
  • Fennel Bulbs
  • Head Lettuce
*not grown on our farm. See Notes from the Farm Kitchen for more info.

This Week's Fruit Share:
  • Strawberries

Farm Journal

The last spot on this season's vegetable production crew was officially filled yesterday when Peter, an intern from the University of Chicago, arrived at the farm. Peter and some folks from the U of C will be carrying out a sustainability study this season on small-scale, diversified farms in the greater Chicago region. Peter is one of a half dozen or so interns who've been placed on a handful of rural and urban farms in the region. The interns will be gathering data related to the farms' direct and indirect energy inputs and comparing that to the energy that comes out of the system, i.e. the amount of food produced.The goal is to better understand the impact that local, family-scale farms have on the environment and to compare this particular model to other models of agricultural production.

In addition to gathering data, Peter will be spending a good deal of time helping with field work. His first day of work included harvesting beets (see below), kale and green onions. We look forward to sharing the results of the study with you.

Have a great week! --Peg

Notes from the Farm Kitchen

This week the strawberries for the vegetable share come from our friends Kay Jensen and Paul Ehrhardt who have a certified-organic farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. The berries are perfectly ripe and amazingly delicious, so you’ll want to eat them in the next day or two. The best way to store them is to put a paper towel on a plate and gently empty the strawberry pints onto the plate. Store them in the refrigerator. The strawberries for the fruit share come from Mick Klug, as does all of the fruit in our fruit share. Sweet cherries will be abundant in the coming weeks, followed soon thereafter by blueberries. Here are some ideas for maximizing this week’s strawberry bounty:
  • After you’ve had your fill of fresh berries, freeze some for later use. Remove the stems and caps and wash them first. You can freeze whole strawberries by placing them on a cookie sheet in the freezer until frozen and then placing them in a freezer bag. (When I’m especially pressed for time, I skip the cookie sheet step.) I use frozen whole berries to make smoothies, yogurt parfaits for the kids, pies, cakes, ice cream topping, margaritas, strawberry lemonade, jam, fruit leather and much more. If you prefer to sweeten your berries first, simply slice them, sprinkle with sugar and place in a freezer container.
  • No-cook freezer jam is another easy way to enjoy strawberries long after the season is over. I like to use Pomona’s Pectin, but there are plenty of other pectins out there such as Sure-Jell. They all contain directions for making freezer jam.

Kale is interchangeable for spinach and broccoli in many recipes, but it takes longer to cook. The key to enjoying kale is letting is simmer long enough so that it becomes tender. Before cooking with kale, take a sharp knife and slice out the tough, center rib. Add steamed or boiled kale to omelets, quiches, scrambled eggs, lasagnas, and casseroles. Add chopped raw kale to hearty soups and pasta sauces mid-way through the cooking time.

Try substituting fennel for celery in most any recipe, including chicken salad, tuna salad and potato salad. Use the feathery leaves as a seasoning. You can also try using it in place of dill. Fennel is excellent on baked or broiled fish with butter and lemon. Add to vegetable and chicken soups. The spicy anise flavor of raw fennel becomes sweet and mellow when sauteed or braised. It's almost like a completely different vegetable. One of my favorite ways to use fennel is to slowly sauté sliced fennel with onion and some Italian sausage. Then I add it to hot pasta, mix in wilted beet greens or chard, drizzle some olive oil on top and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Life doesn't get any better than that!

The curly garlic scape is the flower stalk of the garlic plant. If we had left them on the plants, those little buds at the end of each curly scape would eventually have become flowers. We snap the scapes off at this stage in the plant's development so that the plant will devote all of its energy to making a nice, big bulb rather than a flower. The delicious side benefit is that we get to eat the scapes! You can use the entire scape, but some people prefer to discard the pointy end. They can be used in place of garlic cloves or onions in most dishes.

A Note on Storage & Preparation...
All leafy greens and many other types of vegetables must be refrigerated in a plastic bag. Keeping these items in plastic helps prevent wilting. If you’ve got lettuce or some other tender vegetable that appears droopy, soak it in cold water for a few minutes and refrigerate in a plastic bag until it perks up. On a related note, we rinse the vegetables here at the farm, but you should wash them again prior to eating.

This Week's Recipes

Fresh Strawberry Pie
Kale and White Bean Ragout
Curried Chickpeas & Kale
Grilled Fennel with Lemon Juice, Sea Salt & Parmesan
Fennel & Italian Sausage Pie
Goat Cheese & Beet Crostini

Next Week's Harvest (our best guess...) head lettuce, zucchini, baby leeks, spinach, radishes, maybe cherries, maybe raspberries, and the last strawberries of the season.