August 3, 2011

CSA News for the Week of August 1st

This Week's Vegetable Harvest:
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell Peppers
  • Poblano Chile Peppers
  • Green Kale
  • Red Onions
  • Beets with Greens
  • Sweet Corn
  • Zucchini/Summer Squash
  • Green Beans or Cucumbers
  • Fresh Basil (farm pickup only)

This Week's Fruit Share:
  • Peaches
  • Blueberries
  • Yellow Plums

Farm Journal
Tuesday afternoon

"But Mom, it's too hot!"

This is the refrain that's been echoing throughout our house for the past several weeks. It's the response I get when I tell the kids to go outside and fill the water bucket in the henhouse or when I ask them to run out to the barn and bring me some cucumbers from the walk-in cooler. This morning it was their protest when I reminded them to carry their breakfast dishes to the sink. So I am fully prepared for the response I will get when I inform them that I am going out to pick peppers and that they will have to come along so I can keep an eye on them. The three of them collapse on the floor, eyes rolled back in their heads, moaning, "but MOM, it's like a hundred degrees out there."

"Actually," I reply, glancing at the thermometer outside the kitchen window, "it's closer to 92 degrees. Put your shoes on and let's go." As I stand at the sink filling a jug with drinking water, I secretly worry that some day, years from now, my kids will be talking to their therapists about how their cruel, heartless mother made them play outside all summer long while all their friends were allowed to play video games in their air-conditioned bedrooms. Fortunately, the rising decible level of the whining and complaining jolts me back to reality before I can get myself too worked up about the psychological damage I am causing.

"You are NOT staying in the house," I say as I slap the lid on the drinking water jug. "Come on, it'll be fun." This statement provokes more eye rolling, but they follow me across the driveway and plop down on the harvest wagon. I fire up the old Chevy and the kids bounce along under the wagon's canopy as we make our way down the rutted field road. When we reach the pepper field, I strap on a large harvest sack similar to the type worn by urban mail carriers. I start down the first row and the kids holler after me, asking what they should do now. "You'll figure it out," I holler without looking back.
I am a big believer in making kids figure it out.

It takes me about 15 minutes to fill the harvest sack. Then I turn to walk back down the row where I will empty the sack into a large crate. By the time I get to the end of the row, I look up to see the kids laughing hysterically as they run up and down the carrot beds in the next field. I watch them for a minute, being careful to make sure they don't see me watching. As far as I can tell, they have devised a game that looks like a cross between a relay race and a version of dodgeball involving rotten peppers. I harvest two more sacks full of peppers before the kids tire of the game and return to the shade of the wagon's canopy.

Thirty minutes later, I lift the last of the crates onto the wagon. The kids are now standing along the edge of the field, bent over in a patch of flowering prairie plants. "Ok, it's time to go back," I yell. " Nobody moves. "But MOM..." begins the familiar refrain.  And then one of them continues, "...we don't want to go back yet. We're catching bugs for our collection." I walk over to them and flop down on the ground, tired out from picking all those peppers. "All right, we can stay out here a little bit longer," I say. I watch as the oldest one pounces on a large grasshopper. "Looks like you guys are having fun," I say quietly. The oldest one looks up at me sheepishly. "Well," he concedes with a grin, "...maybe a little." Then he turns his attention back to the bugs.


Notes from the Farm Kitchen

As far as hot peppers go, poblanos are somewhere in the middle of the heat index scale. They are not as hot as a jalapeno or a serrano. This week's poblanos are between 3 and 5 inches long and are dark green and glossy. Roasting poblano peppers before using them improves their flavor and allows you to remove their waxy skin. Once you've roasted them you can put them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer for months. Poblanos can be used in many different Mexican-inspired dishes from rice dishes to casseroles to the well-known chiles rellenos. To roast them you can either put them under the broiler, use a skewer to hold them over an open flame on your stove top, or stick them in a very hot toaster oven. You should roast them until the skin starts to bubble and the bubbles start to blacken. Once this starts to happen, flip them over and do the same to the other side. Allow them to cool before pulling the skin off with your fingers. (You might want to wear gloves.) Finally, make a slit in each one and remove the seeds. Enjoy!

The sweet corn harvest here at Sandhill Organics is officially underway. We have planted a handful of different varieties, from quick-maturing types to types that take much longer to mature. We do this in order to stretch out the harvest window. Ideally, we'll be harvesting sweet corn over the next several weeks. Nadia, Travis and I were out harvesting this morning, and I must have eaten 5 or 6 ears right off the stalk during the course of the morning. There are few culinary experiences that rival the pleasure of eating sweet corn while standing in the middle of the field where it was picked. This corn is really tasty, but there is a catch. Because our farm is certified organic, we are not allowed to spray the corn in order to kill insect pests. The main pest on sweet corn is a critter called the corn earworm. So you may find one of these earworms near the top of the ear when you shuck it. Please don't panic if you do. Simply cut off the damaged part at the tip of the ear and cook it as usual.

Because we are at the peak of blueberry season you will receive 2 pints of blueberries in your fruit share this week. If this is more than your family is able to eat this week, you can freeze them by rinsing them, patting them dry and placing them in a freezer bag. It's as easy as that. Some people will tell you to freeze them on a cookie sheet before putting them in a freezer bag, but that's one step too many for me! It works just as well to put them straight in the bag.

Many of the stone fruits are also at their peak right now. Peaches, plums and nectarines can all be eaten out of hand, but don't overlook their potential for making great desserts. Plums, in particular, are transformed into something alltogether different when used in baking. While I definitely like plums as a snacking fruit, I absolutely adore them in baked goods. I encourage you to try this week's recipe for plum shortcakes. You can also find recipes for plum buckle and plum kuchen at our website,
This Week's Recipes
Cajun Vegetable Salad (featuring kale, sweet corn, and tomatoes)

Recipes from past newsletters that would also work well this week...
Rick Bayless' Swiss Chard Tacos (works well with beet greens)
Garden Minestrone (great way to combine kale with other summer veggies)
Corn, Squash & Beans with Basil Butter

 Next Week's Harvest (our best guess) ... sweet corn, apples, beans, red potatoes, carrots, eggplant, sweet onions, garlic, tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, watermelons and more!