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Farm Floods in Big Storm - January 19th

Mid-day on January 19th, Floras Creek topped its banks and flooded the farm. The high water completely inundated all of our perennials - artichokes, asparagus, raspberries, strawberries, dahlias, grapes, marionberries, and the orchard - plus a good bit of our annual cropland. U-pick would have been possible only by canoe. Our equipment shed flooded, but we had moved most of our valuables out of it in anticipation of high water.  Fortunately, the flooding lasted only a half day, so we are crossing our fingers that some of our more water sensitive plants like raspberries did not drown altogether. We won't know until spring.

 

The last time the farm went under was in the high water event of 1996, when the field was still just pasture. We've been waiting with a mix of curiosity and anxiety for a flood event like this - unsure of how our cropland would fare. We have not yet assessed the full extent of the damage, but we are hoping that the deposition of some lovely new topsoil will make up for any setbacks. Our fall-planted strawberry field is sure to be a mess of drip tape and weedmat, but hopefully nothing that a few days work can't repair. The flood made us ever-more grateful for the trees we planted 20+ years ago along the bank. They not only helped stabilize the riparian zone, they also kept large debris from crashing through our fenceline and into the field. At least this time.

 

Ah, farming - never a dull moment...

16 Floodwaters at their peak 13 3 feet of water at the entrance to the farm 14 The farmstand 15 Looking east across the perennial field
       
19 The river tops its bank and enters the field

20 U-pick by canoe only...:)

   

Weeks 25 & 26: November 22nd

 
What’s in your DOUBLE Share This Week?
 
Leeks
Yellow onions
Red shallots
Mixed beets (red, gold & chioggia)
Rainbow carrots
Orange carrots
Celery
Escarole
Winterbor kale
Yellow potatoes (Yellow Finn, German Butterball & Bintje)
Brussels sprouts
Celeriac
Delicata squash
Sunshine squash
 
The New Stuff: How to chop it, cook it and keep it…
 
Escarole
Despite getting a beating from the hail and cold weather this past week, we are hoping to pull off a salvage escarole harvest and include a head in your basket this week. (If you don’t see it in your tote, it’s because they were too battered by hail-balls to merit harvesting…).
 
I personally love escarole – a heavy-leafed green warrior that holds up better than any outdoor head lettuce at this time of year. Some people don’t like it because it belongs to the chicory family, along with radicchio and endive. These greens have a reputation for erring on the bitter side. Everyone has a different tolerance for bitterness on their palate but when it comes to this variety of escarole, I’ve found that I’m not offended by it – meaning we make regular green salads with it at home. I first wash and spin dry the leaves, then slice them into thin ribbons with a knife (if you're particularly sensitive to that bitter taste, try soaking your ribboned escarole in cold water for a half hour, then spin it dry). Escarole pairs wonderfully with dried cranberries, fresh pears or apples, and candied walnuts – creating a great balance of flavors and texture. I usually make a creamy maple syrup dressing to go on top (it varies every time, but usually involves some combo of mayo/veganaise, olive oil, cider vinegar, thyme, maple syrup and Dijon mustard. Like many winter greens, escarole is sweetened up by cold weather – which we’ve had plenty of this week – which means you may not detect much bitterness in it at all.
 
You can also cook your escarole, use it for wraps, and many other things. Get online and hunt around for recipes, or dive into your favorite cookbook.
 
 
 
Store it as you would lettuce, in a plastic bag in the fridge.
 
On the Farm…

Numb hands, muddy boots, and heavy roots – that pretty much sums it up these days! This week is a crazy one for us as we attempt to harvest for and pack 184 totes (because everyone gets a double share) in the same amount of time we usually do 46 totes (because it’s a short week due to Thanksgiving)! Fortunately, we’ve done some proper prior planning and have spent the past 2 weeks gearing up: pre-digging storable root crops like carrots and parsnips and celeriac, cleaning onions and shallots, and stockpiling all of our red and blue totes for the big week!
 
Our 3-day farm week is going to be tightly scripted. On Monday, we’ll be harvesting and washing all of the last-minute perishables – like kale, escarole, celery and Brussels sprouts.
 
On Tuesday morning we’ll do our final restaurant harvest for the year, then spend the rest of the day packing all of your totes (imagine two long assembly lines set up in the barn, with red totes going down one line and blue totes going down the other, with different things being put into each color tote). We’re glad we have lights in the barn, cuz it might be a long day! The totes will all get put into our cooler for the night, assuming we can get the door closed at the end of the day!

 
Bright and early on Wednesday morning, we’ll load up our delivery van and drop off the Farm totes and the Port Orford totes. Then we’ll come back to the cooler, load the van AND the pick-up truck with all of the totes for Bandon and Coos Bay, and head north. Kind of like Santa having to fill every stocking around the globe in one night, we’ll be pulling off our own local version of his feat – all before noon on Wednesday.
 
And why this frenzy to get everyone all their food by Wednesday? Because eating locally on Thanksgiving is a radical and important act. Why? Because around the country, the food that goes into preparing most Thanksgiving meals will probably have traveled over 1500 miles. It will probably be highly processed, heavily packaged, and funneled through a complex industrial food chain. It will not directly support family farmers, or sustainable agriculture, or local economies. Eating Valley Flora produce on Thanksgiving does.
 
I have never encountered a more revealing description of the modern, industrial, Thanksgiving phenomenon than that which is excerpted here:
 
The Corporate Agribusiness Research Project’s Thanksgiving Day Meal
 
“Every year, Americans sit down with their families to celebrate Thanksgiving, looking forward with mouth-watering anticipation to the bounty that will be spread before them.
 
But for most Americans, the turkey is not likely to be from Uncle Ray’s farm, nor the potatoes from Aunt Jean’s recipe, nor the biscuits from Mom’s oven.
 
No, most Americans are more likely to find a Butterball™ turkey or maybe a Cook Family Foods™ ham on the table. There might also be some JackRabbit™ long grain rice, potatoes from Golden Valley Foods™, and bread made from Peavey Grain™. A non-traditionalist might even suggest putting a few Singleton™ butterfly shrimp on the barbecue grill, with the grill heated by JustLight™ charcoal briquettes.
 
There might also be private label past from the local supermarket, as well as tomatoes from Hunt’s™. The spices might be from Armour Dairy™, with perhaps some Asian seasoning from La Choy™. The salad oil might be from Wesson™, the cheese from Miss Wisconsin™, the canned beans from Van Camps™, and the tomato or apple juice from Mott’s™. For dessert there might be Swiss Miss™ pudding, or a frozen dairy dessert from Healthy Choice™, topped perhaps with some Reddi Whip™.
 
While watching the traditional Thanksgiving Day football game on television, the family might want to dip into some Orville Redenbacher’s™ popcorn, putting another handful on the Budget Buy™ paper plate for future munching. Adults might also want to enjoy a bottle of Carlsberg™ beer as the watch the game.
 
All in all, it will be quite a testimonial to the cornucopia of food that Americans have come to take for granted in the land of Freedom and Choice.
 
Yet the fact of the matter is that all that food, all those products and those brands came from just one company – Con Agra Inc. – the nation’s second largest food processor and manufacturer. Like most vertically integrated agribusiness corporations, ConAgra operates ‘across the food chain’ – from seedling to supermarket – reaping enormous profits at the expense of family farmers, workers and consumers.
 
Each of the company’s 25 branded foods has annual retail sales exceeding $100 million, one reason that six cents out of every American food dollar today goes to this one company. But that isn’t enough to place ConAgra at the top of the corporate food head: the nation’s largest food business, Philip Morris, takes ten cents of every American food dollar.”
 
(Excerpted from: Norberg-Hodge, Helena, Todd Merrifield and Steven Gorelick. 2000. Bringing the Food Economy Home. ISEC. Berkeley: International Society for Ecology and Culture.)
 
I came across this research project a decade ago when I was researching and writing my undergraduate honors thesis in college. In the ten years since it was published, Nestle and Kraft have jockeyed into the number one and number two positions, respectively, for largest food and beverage corporations in the U.S.
 
Who’s at the top of the corporate food heap is not the point, however. What the Corporate Agriculture Research Project’s Thanksgiving Day Meal does is get straight to the heart of the beast that is our mainstream, industrial food system. Whether you’re naming brands that are owned by ConAgra or Kraft or PepsiCo or Dupont, the point is that most food on our grocery store shelves is the product of a highly consolidated, corporate-controlled, industrial food system. It's a system that routinely exploits farmers and farm labor, wreaks havoc on the environment, jeopardizes public health, and undermines local economies. Suddenly that Butterball™ turkey doesn't look so appetizing after all...

 
So, by making sure that your kitchen is stocked with a heap of local, seasonal produce from Floras Creek this Thanksgiving, all of us together are collectively saying “no” to corporate, industrial food.
 
And that’s pretty radical.
 
By the way, here’s my dictionary’s definition of the word:
 
rad·i·cal adj
1.         relating to or affecting the basic nature or most important features of something
2.         far-reaching, searching, or thoroughgoing
3.         favoring or making economic, political, or social changes of a sweeping or extreme nature
4.         excellent, admirable, or awe-inspiring (slang)
 
I'd like to hope that our farm can be part of sweeping economic, political and social change, but there is one thing that is certain: You all have been a most excellent, admirable and awe-inspiring group of eaters this season! I thank you for your support, your culinary adventuresome-ness, and your ongoing commitment to the farm. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s true: we couldn’t do what we do without you.
 
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we extend our deepest gratitude for all that you eat, and for all that you’ve done to help the farm thrive this season.
 
We are already looking forward to 2011. In the meantime, eat well, be merry, and be sure to tell Kraft that you made your own homemade roasted root stuffing this year (and man was it good)!
 
Cheers,
Zoë
 
P.S. for all kinds of Thanksgiving-inspired recipes, check out the recipe exchange!
 

Week 24: November 15th

 
What’s in your Share This Week?
Red Onions
Storage Kohlrabi
Cabbage (green or savoy)
Carrots
Potatoes
Broccoli
Rainbow Chard
BonBon Buttercup Squash
Turnips – Scarlet Queen or Hakurei
Head Lettuce
 
The New Stuff: How to chop it, cook it and keep it…
 
Storage Kohlrabi
This is the first year I’ve grown this variety, a behemoth called “Kossack” that can get up to 8” in diameter. Some – not all – reached that size, so hopefully the kohlrabi lovers amongst you received the lunkers this week.
 
Kossack is intended specifically as a storage kohlrabi (said to last up to 4 months in cold storage), but can be eaten fresh as well. We harvested these before we left for Italy, so they have been in our cooler almost a month already. I am always curious to experiment with veggies like this, in the interest of season extension. Given that we have the cold storage infrastructure now (in the form of our 12’x12’ walk-in cooler), I’m constantly on the lookout for varieties that we can harvest in the fall and hold in our cooler for distribution at a later date – in hopes of keeping the CSA share diverse, interesting and abundant – even in the darkest, wettest, coldest time of the year.
 
To enjoy your kohlrabi, remember that you need to peel it first to reveal the tender flesh inside. Most people liken the flavor and texture to that of peeled broccoli stems. Raw or sautéed, there are recipes to found via the Recipe Wizard in case you need a nudge of inspiration to put your kohlrabi to use – as something other than a softball or a doorstopper.
 
BonBon Squash
Your winter squash this week is a Buttercup variety with thick, dry, sweet, orange flesh. It’s probably most similar to Sunshine, the scarlet-orange squash you received a couple weeks ago. It’s hard to go wrong - no matter how you prepare any of the winter squash varieties - but BonBon’s drier flesh makes it especially well-suited for pie (sweet or savory), ravioli filling, or any other “stuffing” application. Or if you need a quick fix, just cut it in half, bake it face-down on a cookie sheet in the oven, and then slather it with butter and maple syrup. Ooooo, I’m getting hungry.
 
On the Farm: This Week’s Cabbage Lesson, Recordkeeping, Strawberry Planting, and a sneak peak at your Thanksgiving Share…
One of the things I love most about farming is that I learn something new almost every day – and get to apply that learning to the next season. This week’s lesson was that we should plant Storage #4 green cabbage for the last cabbage distribution of the year (this week), instead of savoy cabbage. There’s nothing wrong with the Savoy, but it was very clear as I sat in the cooler cleaning cabbages this Monday that the Storage #4’s (a tight, green, smooth-leaved cabbage) had held up far better in storage while we were away. I had to strip many layers of leaves off of the Savoy type to clean them up, whereas the Storage #4’s only needed one or two outer leaves peeled away. We harvested both types in the middle of October and have held them in storage for the past few weeks.
 
So how does a farmer remember all these little details as the season progresses, especially when she’s keeping track of over 100 different varieties throughout the year? The answer is good record-keeping. Every grower has his or her own system – or lack thereof – from the hi-tech iTouch approach to scrawling notes on the back of the hand.
 
My system in the field is a simple write-in-the-rain notebook that I always have on hand in the pick-up. Every week or two – or whenever I learn/observe something that could improve the farm in the following season – I sit down on the tailgate and jot down some notes. I usually start a new entry with the date and the crop written in all-caps, underlined – so it’s easy to find it when I flip through my notebook down the road. I also star things to indicate “take action on this item next year!” It works pretty well.
 
Along with that notebook, I have a binder full of field maps, planting calendars, and harvest records that gets updated throughout the year. Come December and January, I sift back through it all and start formulating the master crop plan for the next season. It’s a month-long planning process that always begins with decisions about our market – what markets (CSA, restaurants, farmstand, u-pick, etc.) are we going to grow for and how much are we going to grow. From there, I get into the details of timing, successions and varieties – fine tuning the previous year’s plan with all of the nuggets of info I jotted down during the season. The crop planning process culminates in a big seed order (usually on the order of $1000-$1500 in seed each season).
 
By February, the entire farm for the upcoming season is in my hands, in the form of hundreds of seed packets – all of which fit into a single Rubbermaid tote! It never ceases to amaze me that that single tote of seeds will transform into acres of vegetables and full-time employment for me, Roberto, my sister, my mom, and the handful of folks that help us part-time. I am reminded every year to never underestimate the power of seeds.
 
Or, for that matter, strawberry crowns – 5000 of which will be arriving at the farm today via UPS from a nursery in northern California. Sadly, I wasn’t able to source organic crowns this year, due to the fact that my usual supplier – and the ONLY organic strawberry crown nursery in the country, Prather Ranch - halted its organic strawberry crown production for lack of demand (as I explained in a frustrated summer newsletter a few months ago). Even though the crowns aren’t organic, their fruit will still be considered “organic”…funny how the organic rules are crafted.
 
The arrival of the crowns ushers in a flurry of activity for us as we try to get all of them in the ground as quickly as possible. We’ve spent the past few days prepping the new beds (laying drip lines and stapling down landscape fabric to prevent weeds) and are almost ready to dig in. This will be the largest strawberry planting we’ve ever put in (9 beds instead of the usual 6), so we’re anticipating a big and bodacious harvest next summer.
 
It’s always odd to me to be so immersed in strawberries (or strawberry potential at least) at same time that we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving. I imagine many of you are starting to make plans for your feast, so I’m including a quick preview list of what (and how much) to expect in your TWO totes next week – so that you can incorporate your farm ingredients into your holiday food extravaganza. Also, keep in mind there are many Thanksgiving-inspired recipes on the Recipe Exchange – some that are traditional and some that add a new twist on old favorites. And, if you have a favorite crowd-pleasing dish that’s part of your Thanksgiving tradition, post it on the Recipe Exchange! Happy menu-planning!
 
In your TWO totes next week!...
2 leeks
2 yellow onions
1.5 lb red shallots
1+ lb beets (mixed red, gold, chioggia)
1+ lb rainbow carrots
1+ lb orange carrots
4-6 stalks celery
1 head escarole
1 lb Winterbor kale
2 lb parsnips
4-5 lbs yellow potatoes (Yellow Finn, German Butterball & Bintje)
1 stalk Brussels sprouts
2 celeriac
4 Delicata squash
1 Sunshine squash
 

Week 24: November 15th

What’s in your Share This Week?
Red Onions
Storage Kohlrabi
Cabbage (green or savoy)
Carrots
Potatoes
Broccoli
Rainbow Chard
BonBon Buttercup Squash
Turnips – Scarlet Queen or Hakurei
Head Lettuce
 
The New Stuff: How to chop it, cook it and keep it…
 
Storage Kohlrabi
This is the first year I’ve grown this variety, a behemoth called “Kossack” that can get up to 8” in diameter. Some – not all – reached that size, so hopefully the kohlrabi lovers amongst you received the lunkers this week.
 
Kossack is intended specifically as a storage kohlrabi (said to last up to 4 months in cold storage), but can be eaten fresh as well. We harvested these before we left for Italy, so they have been in our cooler almost a month already. I am always curious to experiment with veggies like this, in the interest of season extension. Given that we have the cold storage infrastructure now (in the form of our 12’x12’ walk-in cooler), I’m constantly on the lookout for varieties that we can harvest in the fall and hold in our cooler for distribution at a later date – in hopes of keeping the CSA share diverse, interesting and abundant – even in the darkest, wettest, coldest time of the year.
 
To enjoy your kohlrabi, remember that you need to peel it first to reveal the tender flesh inside. Most people liken the flavor and texture to that of peeled broccoli stems. Raw or sautéed, there are recipes to found via the Recipe Wizard in case you need a nudge of inspiration to put your kohlrabi to use – as something other than a softball or a doorstopper.
 
BonBon Squash
Your winter squash this week is a Buttercup variety with thick, dry, sweet, orange flesh. It’s probably most similar to Sunshine, the scarlet-orange squash you received a couple weeks ago. It’s hard to go wrong - no matter how you prepare any of the winter squash varieties - but BonBon’s drier flesh makes it especially well-suited for pie (sweet or savory), ravioli filling, or any other “stuffing” application. Or if you need a quick fix, just cut it in half, bake it face-down on a cookie sheet in the oven, and then slather it with butter and maple syrup. Ooooo, I’m getting hungry.
 
On the Farm: This Week’s Cabbage Lesson, Recordkeeping, Strawberry Planting, and a sneak peak at your Thanksgiving Share…
One of the things I love most about farming is that I learn something new almost every day – and get to apply that learning to the next season. This week’s lesson was that we should plant Storage #4 green cabbage for the last cabbage distribution of the year (this week), instead of savoy cabbage. There’s nothing wrong with the Savoy, but it was very clear as I sat in the cooler cleaning cabbages this Monday that the Storage #4’s (a tight, green, smooth-leaved cabbage) had held up far better in storage while we were away. I had to strip many layers of leaves off of the Savoy type to clean them up, whereas the Storage #4’s only needed one or two outer leaves peeled away. We harvested both types in the middle of October and have held them in storage for the past few weeks.
 
So how does a farmer remember all these little details as the season progresses, especially when she’s keeping track of over 100 different varieties throughout the year? The answer is good record-keeping. Every grower has his or her own system – or lack thereof – from the hi-tech iTouch approach to scrawling notes on the back of the hand.
 
My system in the field is a simple write-in-the-rain notebook that I always have on hand in the pick-up. Every week or two – or whenever I learn/observe something that could improve the farm in the following season – I sit down on the tailgate and jot down some notes. I usually start a new entry with the date and the crop written in all-caps, underlined – so it’s easy to find it when I flip through my notebook down the road. I also star things to indicate “take action on this item next year!” It works pretty well.
 
Along with that notebook, I have a binder full of field maps, planting calendars, and harvest records that gets updated throughout the year. Come December and January, I sift back through it all and start formulating the master crop plan for the next season. It’s a month-long planning process that always begins with decisions about our market – what markets (CSA, restaurants, farmstand, u-pick, etc.) are we going to grow for and how much are we going to grow. From there, I get into the details of timing, successions and varieties – fine tuning the previous year’s plan with all of the nuggets of info I jotted down during the season. The crop planning process culminates in a big seed order (usually on the order of $1000-$1500 in seed each season).
 
By February, the entire farm for the upcoming season is in my hands, in the form of hundreds of seed packets – all of which fit into a single Rubbermaid tote! It never ceases to amaze me that that single tote of seeds will transform into acres of vegetables and full-time employment for me, Roberto, my sister, my mom, and the handful of folks that help us part-time. I am reminded every year to never underestimate the power of seeds.
 
Or, for that matter, strawberry crowns – 5000 of which will be arriving at the farm today via UPS from a nursery in northern California. Sadly, I wasn’t able to source organic crowns this year, due to the fact that my usual supplier – and the ONLY organic strawberry crown nursery in the country, Prather Ranch - halted its organic strawberry crown production for lack of demand (as I explained in a frustrated summer newsletter a few months ago). Even though the crowns aren’t organic, their fruit will still be considered “organic”…funny how the organic rules are crafted.
 
The arrival of the crowns ushers in a flurry of activity for us as we try to get all of them in the ground as quickly as possible. We’ve spent the past few days prepping the new beds (laying drip lines and stapling down landscape fabric to prevent weeds) and are almost ready to dig in. This will be the largest strawberry planting we’ve ever put in (9 beds instead of the usual 6), so we’re anticipating a big and bodacious harvest next summer.
 
It’s always odd to me to be so immersed in strawberries (or strawberry potential at least) at same time that we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving. I imagine many of you are starting to make plans for your feast, so I’m including a quick preview list of what (and how much) to expect in your TWO totes next week – so that you can incorporate your farm ingredients into your holiday food extravaganza. Also, keep in mind there are many Thanksgiving-inspired recipes on the Recipe Exchange – some that are traditional and some that add a new twist on old favorites. And, if you have a favorite crowd-pleasing dish that’s part of your Thanksgiving tradition, post it on the Recipe Exchange! Happy menu-planning!
 
In your TWO totes next week!...
2 leeks
2 yellow onions
1.5 lb red shallots
1+ lb beets (mixed red, gold, chioggia)
1+ lb rainbow carrots
1+ lb orange carrots
4-6 stalks celery
1 head escarole
1 lb Winterbor kale
2 lb parsnips
4-5 lbs yellow potatoes (Yellow Finn, German Butterball & Bintje)
1 stalk Brussels sprouts
2 celeriac
4 Delicata squash
1 Sunshine squash

Week 23: November 8th

Week 23: November 8th
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
Brussels Sprouts
Parsnips
Celeriac
Watermelon Radishes or Scarlet Queen Turnips
Lacinato Kale
Butternut Squash
Leeks
Broccoli
Carrots
Sweet Peppers
Head Lettuce
 
Lots of new Fall food this week, some of it rather on the alien-looking side! If you’re not sure what to do with it all, there are recipes galore to be found with the Recipe Wizard and on www.epicurious.com. The emphasis on root crops at this time of year always suggests the easy and obvious meal to me: roasted roots extravaganza! Here are some basic tips and info in the meantime:
 
The New Stuff: How to chop it, cook it and keep it…
 
Brussels Sprouts
Your Dr. Seuss vegetable of the season has arrived! You may have never encountered Brussels sprouts on the stalk in the grocery store, but this is how they grow out in the field (plus a lot of leaves that we strip off when we harvest). Harvesting these stalks is one of the more athletic, samurai endeavors on the farm: every stalk gets whacked down with a machete, and then chopped again at the midriff to make them short enough to fit into the totes. Brussels sprout stalks are as woody as a young sapling at the base, so you work up a sweat in the process – and spend a good amount of time sharpening your machete along the way!
 
Brussels sprouts are another one of those “love ‘em or hate ‘em” kinds of veggies – often because people are forced to eat them as a kid – AND because most of the U.S. crop is grown on the central coast of California where temperatures don’t get cold enough to sweeten up the sprouts. Cold temperatures – and especially a frost – will replace the stinky old gym sock flavor with a wonderful sweetness and tenderness. I hope you’ll give these sprouts a chance. It hasn’t frosted yet, but they’re pretty good. Wonderful steamed or roasted.
 
To store, strip them from the stalk and put in a plastic bag in the fridge. If you get any sprouts that have some black funk on the outer leaves, just trim their butts with a paring knife and peel away the first couple layers of leaves – like a mini cabbage. You’ll find a perfect, clean sprout beneath those outer leaves.
 
Parsnips
The big, white carroty-looking roots in your tote this week are parsnips – another of the most underrated garden veggies in the U.S. But some will claim that parsnips deserve the “most sweet and delicious” award of all the root vegetables. Our parsnips always have a little bit of “rust” on their skins – a cosmetic defect that only goes skin deep. It’s easily removed with a peeler.
 
Due to their extremely long growing season (planted in May, mature in November), they don’t find their way into our seasonal kitchen until late in the fall. Like many of the autumn crops we grow, they improve in flavor after a frost – getting much sweeter as the starches convert to “anti-freeze” sugars. They were widely cultivated all over medieval Europe, and some of the sugary varieties were fermented into wine! They found their way to North America in the 17th century, but have never had a starring role in our cuisine, unfortunately.
 
Parsnips are high in potassium, have more vitamin C than carrots, and rival potatoes for their carbohydrate and vegetable protein punch. You can mash them, roast them, steam them, puree them with pears, sautee them with butter, grate them into salads, use them as a substitute for spuds in potato pancakes, roast them with other root vegetables, make soup…the possibilities are endless. They store well for many weeks in the fridge.
 
Celeriac
Also known as celery root, celeriac is closely related to its better known cousin. Its stalks and foliage are very similar to celery, but celeriac is cultivated specifically for its swollen, edible, bulbous root crown. Like parsnips, it has a long growing season (May-November here), and can be enjoyed all winter long with the right storage conditions.
 
It’s another of those veggies that is commonplace in Europe (we saw it in every grocery store in Italy, right next to the common head lettuce and bananas), but unusual in the U.S. Don’t be put off by it’s alien exterior. Beneath that furry façade lies a delicious, versatile veggie. It has a concentrated sweet, nutty, celery flavor that works raw or cooked. We love to cube it up and roast it with parsnips, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, spuds, fennel and any other roots lying around. It’s also wonderful boiled and mashed with potatoes, used in place of celery for seasoning up a soup or stir-fry, or raw – grated into salad, dipped into dressing, or plain.
 
To get to the heart of the matter, peel away the outer skin with a paring knife. Rinse off any dirt and have at it! Celeriac store best in the drawer of the fridge in a plastic bag – for up to a month!
 
Watermelon Radishes or Scarlet Queen Turnips
You’ll be getting one or the other this week. If you’re in the Watermelon radish crowd, you’ll see a bunch of pale-green-skinned radishes in your tote with a crown of tall green leaves. Inside those radishes – especially the bigger ones – is a mild, fuschia, juicy heart! If you slice up your radishes like a mini-watermelon, you’ll get the same effect: a tough green rind cupping a juicy, fruity pink heart! All the spice is in the skin, so take it or leave it, depending on your preference.
 
As for the Scarlet Queens, they are a great late-fall vegetable, and pretty! Scarlet-skinned with pure white flesh inside, they are like the radishes: all the spice is in the skin, so peel ‘em if you like it mild or bite straight in if you like a kick!
 
Lacinato Kale
There isn’t a more appropriate type of kale to send to you this week, on the heels of our trip to Italy! Lacinato kale, or cavalo nero in Italia, grows EVERYWHERE in Italy! It is planted along train tracks, in flower pots, backyard gardens, at freeway interchanges! It appears that it is the national kale of Italy, and for good reason! Lacinato is my favorite variety at this time of year: sweet, hearty, and flavorful – the perfect accompaniment or centerpiece to a cozy winter meal.
 
Butternut Squash
The quintessential soup-making squash! Butternuts are the meatiest – and creamiest – of all the winter squash, making them ideal for bisques, bevies, and creamy soups. They store for weeks – even months – on your counter, giving you plenty of time to peruse cookbooks for your ideal recipe!
 
On the Farm…and in Italia!
We are just home from Italy and the Terra Madre conference, and settling back into farm routines. It was a relief to return home to a smooth-running ship, thanks to the hard work of Roberto and Tiffany who kept the harvest coming, and to Roxy who made sure all of the food got to town each week! What a team! We are so grateful to get to work with such awesome people. Hats off to them!
 
Lucky for us there were no big freezes or floods or natural disasters in our absence. Instead, the cover crops put on 6 inches of growth, the celeriac sized up, and the hills turned green. The farm looks great – ready for winter, but still pumping out the food!
 
Italy – or “Eataly” as it’s often dubbed - was an adventure more full than a few paragraphs could describe, but suffice it to say that food is king there! We ate well, for sure, but even more fascinating were some of our observations about how – and where - their food is grown. The climate if fairly similar to ours, leaning a little more towards California as you travel south, and we saw a lot of similar things growing in their gardens and farms: huge lacinato kale plants everywhere; leeks; fennel (and LOTS OF IT – they LOVE the stuff!); mustard greens and turnips; winter broccoli; romanesco; cauliflower; chicory (escarole & endive); fava beans; cardoons and artichokes. The last of the tomatoes were still clinging to the vines, the fig trees were losing their leaves, and the grape vines were turning yellow – much like home.
 
Unlike here, however, the olive harvest had just commenced, black and white truffle hunting was in full swing, and chestnut season was on in the woods! We got to spend one day with a group of villagers gathering chestnuts in the forest and then took them home for a community festival where together we roasted the bounty and indulged in all kinds of traditional chestnut sweets. I am newly inspired to plant a grove of chestnut trees on the farm!
 
Italy is densely settled; we were never in a place where you couldn’t see houses, lights or roads (even in rural Umbria, where we spent two days). But the striking thing about their landscape (other than the medieval fortresses atop the hills, the soaring gothic churches, and the ancient stone architecture) is the omnipresence of gardens and small farms tucked everywhere. You can’t throw a stone without hitting something edible, whether you are amidst the narrow, serpentine streets of old Genova or the rolling hills of Tuscany. Every available space is growing something – be it grapes, or olives, or figs, or kale. We even stumbled upon a 6” by 6” square of dirt at the corner of an ancient church in Assisi – cobblestones in every direction – and there grew a skinny olive tree, loaded with fruit.
 
That may be part of the reason that most of the produce we encountered at outdoor markets, in little shops, and in the supermarkets was from Italy. Every product was labeled with its place of origin, and most things had come from provinces within the country: clementines, apples, pears, lettuce, lemons, herbs, potatoes - you name it. And that was just the produce! A vast majority of the products we found on store shelves were Italian in origin as well: of course olive oil, Balsamic vinegar of Modena, and wine, wine, wine (all three of which were remarkably cheap!). Not only were they Italian, but they were labeled with a D.O.C. stamp – “denominazione di origine controlata.” The government there gives products from specific regions a stamp of certification, for instance: Chianti wine is only produced in Chianti and you can’t call a wine produced outside of Chianti, “Chianti.” Parmiggiano Reggiano comes only from Reggio. All the balsamic vinegar was from the town of Modena.
 
The amazing thing is that their D.O.C. system is incredibly specific. When we shopped for wine, instead of choosing something from, say, the Napa Valley or the Columbia Gorge, we would buy something that came from a specific town instead. There is a village in the Piedmont region (in the Northwest) called Asti, which is famous for wine, cheese and other delectables. Those products carry a specific “Asti” D.O.C. stamp. And with that stamp, there is an enormous amount of pride in the product, and a means by which to protect their market niche and assure quality.
 
It is almost true that the wine is cheaper than the water in Italy, but I unfortunately wasn’t able to partake of much of it – no matter the bargain. As some of you know, I’m about 7 months pregnant these days(!). Even if I had to skip out on many a bottle of local red, I did my part to make sure the growing belly was well-fed on homemade raviolis, thin-crusted pizza, and all kinds of amazing cheeses, salami, truffles and olives. In fact, everyone ate so well, we’re not sure if the pregnant lady here gained the most weight in the end - even with the growing baby inside!
 
I’m due in early January and we’re hoping the next member of the Valley Flora family comes out speaking Italian.
 
Thank you again to everyone who made our time at the Terra Madre gathering in Italy possible. It was an incredible couple of weeks. We feel lucky to have had the opportunity to have met farmers from 161 other countries around the world with a shared purpose, to learn about unique food traditions and cultures, and to savor Italy. It wouldn’t have been possible without all of the support from our community. Grazie Mille!
 

Week 19: October 11th

Week 19: October 11th
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
Copra Yellow Onions
Romanesco Cauliflower
Celery
Curly Parsley
Carrots
Lettuce
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Tomatoes
Cherry Tomatoes
Broccoli
Radishes
 
 
The New Stuff: How to chop it, cook it and keep it…
 
Copra Yellow Onions
Copras are a fantastic storage onion. We’ve let these cure, so you can safely leave them on your counter to store, or if you prefer you can keep them in the fridge. They are a great all-around, all-purpose onion.
 
Romanesco Cauliflower
This might just be the most-anticipated vegetable we grow for many Harvest Basket members. At the farm this morning, one of our members opened her tote and exclaimed “at last, it’s here!” She held up her neon green, minaret head of romanesco with a huge grin on her face. “I LOVE this stuff.”
 
I’ve learned that emotions run high around the romanesco not only because it tastes great (likened to the nutty taste of an artichoke heart by one member), but perhaps more because of it’s looks. We had one member confess that she never ate hers last year because she couldn’t bear to cut into it; it just sat and sat on her counter – a feast for the eyes.
 
As I explained to folks last year, romanesco is a mathematician’s dream vegetable because it’s a perfect natural example of fractals. A fractal is essentially a pattern that repeats itself infinitely. If you look at your romanesco, you’ll see that every Dr. Seuss-ish green spire is studded with a whole bunch of identical mini-spires, which in turn are made up of even tinier spires – all of which mimic the whole. Infinity is a hard concept to grasp, but this here veggie might help you see it.
 
When I was harvesting, I noticed that some of the heads had hollow cores – a sign that they may have grown too quickly and cracked up the center. It shouldn’t be a problem in the kitchen, as you tend to cut off individual florets/spires to prep and eat it – as opposed to carving up the whole head.
 
As for preparing your romanesco, it’s a lot like cauliflower. There are a few recipes on the Recipe Exchange/Recipe Wizard, or look up some new ones on Epicurious.com. We love it steamed, or even better, roasted with some salt and olive oil in the oven.
 
Keep it in the fridge in a plastic bag – it’ll store much longer than if you leave it on the counter as a new kitchen art piece.
 
 
On the Farm…
This week feels like a true turn towards fall, with Brassicas such as broccoli, romanesco cauliflower, and radishes sitting shoulder to shoulder in your totes with yellow storage onions and peppers. We’ll admit that we’re relieved that last week’s produce climax is behind us; as of this week your Harvest Baskets are starting to look (and feel!) a little more sane. There are still summer crops to enjoy – the last of the tomatoes, and next week, one more batch of corn. But those flavors are slowly being edged out by the forward march of our Fall crops. After five months of harvest(!), the strawberries are pretty much done for the season, and next week you’ll see the first of the winter squash, which will become a new staple in your totes until Thanksgiving.
 
Not that our dwindling summer produce signifies any slow-down in the work schedule on the farm. Fall is actually one of the busiest times for us. We are immersed in our usual daily harvest, but are also diligently digging potatoes; pulling, curing and cleaning storage onions; clipping and curing our winter squash; planting our garlic crop (Yes, we are experimenting with garlic this year - cross your fingers!); and perhaps most importantly, seeding our winter cover crops.
 
This Fall’s to-do list has been particularly frenetic due to the fact that we are headed to Italy in a week for the Slow Food Terra Madre gathering and we’ve had to compress all of our fall projects into three short weeks before we leave. Fortunately, the weather has cooperated beautifully, allowing us entire weeks of sunshine to dry onions and cure squash – and just enough rain to bring up our recently-seeded peas, oats, clover and vetch that will serve as soil-building cover crops through the winter. A farmer couldn’t ask for a more perfect October so far!
 
As abundant and beautiful a time as it is, Fall does does bring up a few new challenges for us on the farm. Cooler, wetter weather sets the stage for rot and certain plant diseases to set in. For instance, carrot tops become very weak, rendering our carrots un-bunchable. Beet leaves surrender to a couple of different diseases, also making them un-bunchable.
 
Many of our root crops fall prey to various critters. Beets are a favorite snack for field mice, who love to nibble one or two bites from the shoulder of every beet – which is our cue to pull them, top them, and store them safely in the cooler (one of our Big Dig projects this weekend!). The same thing often happens to our celeriac. Meanwhile in the carrots and parsnips, wireworms and rust fly start having a heyday, tracking up our beautiful carrots. We do our best to sort out any damaged carrots, but they sometimes slip through the wash line. If you encounter a carrot that has a small dark spot, just cut around it. Usually, 99% of the carrot is perfect, except for the one place where a wireworm wriggled in to chow down. I suppose you can’t blame them – those Nelson carrots ARE good!
 
Also, next time you get kale, you might encounter a few aphids on the underside of the leaves. They often try to proliferate in the Fall. We do our best to pick around them and exclude them from your kale bunches – but if you do get a few, they are easily washed off under the tap.
 
All in all, Fall is a time to enjoy the hearty foods of the season (spuds, squash, shallots, beets, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, heavy heads of broccoli…) – and to be surprised at just how sweet and flavorful those foods can be when harvested in season, at their peak. There’s always a tinge of sadness in me to see the strawberries and tomatoes go, but it’s usually right around the time that I start craving kaleslaw and winter squash instead. Unlike the supermarket, everything has its time on the farm - and after enough years of eating from the field instead of the produce aisle, your body let’s you know when it’s time to embrace a new season and bid farewell to another.
 
I hope you enjoy the flavors of Fall.
 
 

Week 18: October 4th

 
Week 18: October 4th
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
Leeks
Carrots
Lettuce
Sweet Peppers
Strawberries
Tomatoes
Cherry Tomatoes
Broccoli
Napa Cabbage
D’avignon Radishes
Sugar Buns Corn
Summer Squash
 
We are fully aware of the fact that you all are receiving a hefty pile of food this week - about 15 pounds of it, to be exact. We weigh your totes each week and they tend to average 10-12 pounds apiece. This week is scale-breaker. As I explained last week, sassy old Mother Nature has decided to bring it on all at once, with our summer crops (like corn, cherry tomatoes and peppers) arriving later than usual and our fall crops coming early. Rather than let the Napa cabbage and broccoli rot in the fields, we’re sending it to you anyway, even if it is 2-3 weeks sooner than anticipated.
 
Wouldn’t it be great if we could control when every crop was ready and deliver the perfect amount of food all 26 weeks of the season? Alas, living in the Northern hemisphere dictates that September and October are our aptly named “harvest” months. Add some unpredictable weather to the mix and you quickly learn that this is the time to pull the Ball Blue Book off the shelf, buy some mason jars, be grateful for the fresh cornucopia while it lasts, and put some away for wintertime when it’s just good old kale, winter squash and cabbage out there!
 
That being so, some of you might be feeling overwhelmed by the bounty (welcome to the reality of eating seasonally! We are like manic squirrels at this time of year – canning, drying and freezing up a storm!). The good news is that many of the things in your Harvest Basket can be put up for later – either canned, frozen, or dried. I’m dedicating this newsletter to food preservation tips, in order to help you enjoy the produce crescendo, as opposed to resenting it and feeling guilty about wasted food! Also remember that many of the foods in your tote – like tomatoes – will cook down into a less daunting heap. Sauté up your leeks and peppers, add your tomatoes, and voila! You have a killer fresh pasta sauce and all your veggies have magically disappeared!
 
So here you go – Food Preservation 101 for this week’s share.
 
First, a couple of resource & tool recommendations in case you want to delve into the world of food preservation in a more serious way:
 
Books:
The Ball Blue Book – the “bible” for putting food by. Has recipes, instructions, safety info, and more for canning, freezing, dehydrating, etc. Available online or at just about any bookstore, kitchen store or thrift store.
 
Tools:
A food dehydrator. We use a 9-shelf, electric Excalibur. It will do large quantities, is quiet, and has a temperature control (also available with a timer, and it comes with a dehydration book called “Preserve it Naturally”). Note: if you have a gas stove, you can also dry foods in the oven on pilot. Food dehydrators are available online, through catalogues like Cabela’s and Lehman’s, at hardware stores, or if you’re lucky at a thrift store. We use it for cherry tomatoes, berries, and fruit. Also good for rising bread, making yogurt, and more.
 
A canning kit. Usually includes a big enameled pot for your hot water bath, a canning rack that fits inside the pot to hold your mason jars, a special funnel for filling jars cleanly, a magnetic lid lifter to pull your canning lids out of hot water, and a special grip to pull your jars out of the hot water bath. Available at hardware stores, Bi-Mart, thrift stores, etc.
 
Glass canning jars & metal lids & rings. All sizes and shapes: wide and narrow-mouthed half pints, pints, quarts, and half gallons, with lids and rings to match. Available at grocery stores, Bi-Mart, at garage sales, etc. If buying used, be sure that the rim of the glass jars is not chipped (it’ll prevent the lids from sealing), and most people do not recommend re-using the metal canning lids.
 
Freezer Bags. Use heavy duty plastic Ziplocs - or any brand- available just about anywhere, and cheap. We re-use ours for at least few years until they pop holes.
 
Pressure Canner: In case you want to can veggies (or meats/seafood such as albacore tuna) without brining them (as in pickling), you’ll need a pressure canner. They usually cost around a $100 new and are available at hardware stores and online.
 
Vacuum Sealer: You can get away with just using freezer bags, but vacuum sealers can be handy as well. Available at Bi-Mart, hardware stores, or online. Usually cost $50-$100 new, depending on the brand. Keep in mind that the special plastic bags you have to use are pricey, but you can re-use them to save some $.
 
Preservation Tips:
In general:

  • It’s always a good idea to label and date the food you put by. It helps you keep track of how old things in your pantry or freezer are so you can prioritize when to eat them. A permanent pen like a Sharpie comes in handy!
  • For dehydrated foods, we still keep them in our chest freezer once they’re dried. Our climate is so damp, things can re-hydrate themselves and then mold in the winter.
  • When canning, be sure to follow all recommended guidelines for recipes and hot water bath times. Nobody likes botulism!
  • When using freezer bags, it’s always a good idea to try to suck all the air out of the bag when you seal in order to get a vaccum-seal-like effect. It will keep the contents fresher and less prone to freezer burn.
  • A word about blanching: not all veggies need to be blanched before they are frozen (for instance, peppers), but most do. Blanching is the simple process of cooking a vegetable very quickly in boiling water, removing it, and dunking it in cold water to stop the cooking process. Doing so prevents deterioration from enzyme activity and will keep your veggies from turning to mush when they thaw out. Different veggies have different suggested blanching times, so check a resource like the Ball Blue Book to dial it in.

 
Sweet Peppers are easy to preserve and are a wonderful, colorful addition to wintertime meals.

  • Freeze: Wash, stem and removed seeds. Freeze whole, as halves, strips or diced. Do not blanch. Pack peppers into bags or jars. Seal, label & freeze.
  • Dry: Wash, remove stems and seeds. Dice. Dry at 125 degrees until leathery.

 
Tomatoes are a staple in our pantry, stewed, sauced, salsa-ed and canned whole.

  • Freeze:
  1. Whole tomatoes: blanch the whole fruit (dunk into boiling water for 1 minute, then dip into cold ice water), peel the skins, core, and put them whole into freezer bags.
  2. Stewed tomatoes or sauce: cook down your tomatoes on the stove and put into freezer containers/jars.
  3. Roast & freeze: this is an great way to put tomatoes up. Wash them, core them and put them shoulder to shoulder in a roasting pan. Add any spices, olive oil, etc. that you like. With the oven at 400 degrees, roast them until they are mushy and carmelized. You can then spoon them into muffin tins or ice cube trays to freeze individual servings, or put into freezer containers.
  • Dry: Best to use Roma type tomatoes for this, as they have less water content. Blanch, remove skins, core and cut into 1/4” slices. Dry at 145 degrees until crisp. Great in soups, sauces, or ground into powder.
  • Can: Follow a recipe for canning tomatoes – to make sauce, salsa, ketchup, relish or anything else. You’ll be happy you did come January!

 
Cherry Tomatoes

  • Dry: Wash, cut in half, and arrange on a food dehydrater tray (or cookie sheet if you’re doing it in the oven). Note: if you are putting the tomatoes onto a metal surface, I suggest putting them cut-side facing up, as the metal can react with the acid of the tomato and give them an off-taste. Dry at 135 degrees until leathery. Pack into freezer bags and freeze. Usually takes 24 hours to dry.

 
Broccoli

  • Dry: You can dry broccoli florets as you would anything. Wash, cut into small florets, and dry at 125 degrees until crispy.
  • Freeze: Wash and removed leaves and woody portions. Cut into convenient size pieces and immerse in brine (1 cup salt to 1 gallon water) for 30 minutes to remove insects. Rinse and drain. Blanch medium size piece 3 minutes and large pieces for 4 minutes. Dunk into ice water. Drain. Pack into freezer bags, seal, label and freeze.

 
Napa (or any kind of) Cabbage

  • Kraut & Kimchi! Find a recipe for sauerkraut, or refer back to the kimchi recipe we provided earlier this season. Nothing beats the flavor and health benefits of homemade, raw kraut! Live long and prosper!

 
Sweet Corn

  • Freeze:
  1. Shuck your corn & wash.
  2. Bring 6-8 quarts of water to a boil.
  3. Submerge several ears into the boiling water to blanch, 5 minutes from the time you put the ears into the pot.
  4. Remove corn from the pot and submerge in cold water, at least 5 minutes.
  5. Drain & dry the corn.
  6. At this point you can either freeze the whole ear intact (which uses a lot of freezer space), or cut the kernels from the cob. To cut kernels off the cob, hold the ear upright, resting one end on a cutting board. Cut kernels from the cob with a sharp knife from top to bottom.
  7. Pack the kernels into freezer bags or jars. For whole ears, wrap in freezer wrap and pack into freezer bags. Seal, label and date.

 
Berries:

  • Freeze:
  • Strawberries: Cut tops off. If you are going to wash your berries, we suggest freezing them on a cookie sheet individually and then putting them in freezer bags.
  • Raspberries: Dump them straight into a freezer bag, seal, label and date.
  • You can also make freezer jam. Follow a recipe.
  • Dry: Cut strawberries into halves. Arrange on a drying tray and dry at 135 degrees until leathery. You can dry raspberries whole.
  • Can: Follow a recipe for jam or preserves, or you could make syrup or juice!

 

Week 17: September 27th

 

Week 17: September 27th
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Cherry Tomatoes
Strawberries
Red Onions
Beets
Carrots
Sweet Corn
Summer Squash
Red Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes
Hot Peppers
Head lettuce
Basil
 
On Rotation:
Spinach
Romano Beans

Sweet Peppers

The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it…
 
Red Onions
In most places, the storage onions would have bulbed up, dried out and been hung in the barn by now – but we are just beginning to bring our harvest in from the field. The yellow storage onions are further along than the reds and have all been pulled and laid out in windrows to cure in the field (while we have this amazing window of dry, hot weather).
 
The reds, on the other hand, are taking their sweet time. It looks like many aren’t planning to bulb up at all, and those that have are still standing strong with green tops. We went ahead and harvested some fresh for you this week…who knows if they are EVER going to flop over and succumb to their fate as storage onions! We’ll see.
 
Nevertheless, they are pretty to look at and tasty to chew on as fresh onions. Enjoy them raw, or cook them up any old way. They’ll store best in the fridge and should hold for a week or two.
 
Sweet Corn
Good things are worth waiting for, and nothing proves it like the first corn of the season (and man, did we have to wait this year)! Because of the long, cold wet spring, we were almost a month delayed getting our corn seeded, so that the old adage, “knee high by the 4th of July” was more like “knee high by the 4th of August” this year.
 
For the past three weeks, it’s seemed like the corn was just a couple days from being ready – but then came the rain and 60 degree days and clouds and I feared it might never ripen.
 
But this week’s heat has done the trick and we are harvesting an abundance of bi-color sweet corn by the name of Trinity. It has succulent kernels and great flavor; the only complaint I have with the harvest is that the pollination appears to have been spotty. You may encounter a couple ears with irregular or incomplete kernels (though I did my best to give each ear a squeeze before harvesting to try to ensure that they were full ears).
 
Why the pollination trouble? I’m not entirely sure. Having never grown this particular variety before, it may well be a bad habit of Trinity itself. But I have a hunch that’s not the case. This was our first planting and it’s on the western edge of the corn patch. Our prevailing winds are from the west, and being a wind-pollinated crop, I’m wondering if perhaps the pollen blew east and overshot its target of all the corn silks below eagerly awaiting fertilization.
 
(A biological sidenote here: in case you didn’t know, every single kernel on an ear of corn is individually pollinated through one of those “silks” that stick out the top of the husk. Pollen showers down from the top of the corn plant, sticks to the silks, and travels down each silk inside the husk to fertilize a single corn kernel. Amazing design.)
 
Fortunately, the yield is good on Trinity, so instead of the anticipated 4 ears per share, we were able to send 6 to everyone instead – so hopefully that will make up for any imperfect ears you might encounter.
 
There are two more varieties of corn still to come – a yellow corn called Sugar Buns (our tried and true favorite, coming next week), and a white corn called Whiteout that is another experimental planting. We’ll cross our fingers it’s a goodie!
 
As for eating your corn, the most important thing is to do it soon! Once sweet corn is harvested, its sugars promptly begin to change to starch and the flavor and tenderness begin to decline. How to cook it? You can grill it in the husk, or shuck it and steam or boil it. Make sure not to overcook it so the ears will retain their wonderful, perky pop!
 
And of course, no matter what, LOTS of butter!
 
 
On the Farm…
I know farmers talk ad nauseam about the weather, but whoa, what a week! Not that many days ago we were slogging around in raingear and rubber boots, lamenting the end of summer, the end of swimming, the beginning of mud, rotting lettuce, under-ripe corn and green tomatoes. And then came this thing called high pressure…really high pressure.
 
It’s been 80+ degrees at the farm this week, and you can tell! The outdoor tomatoes are suddenly coming on in a crazy glut. The corn is ripe. The strawberries got a bad sunburn, but the ones that survived the scorching weekend are as sweet as the come. After a week’s reprieve, we are irrigating again and the horses are sucking down their water trough like it’s mid-August. The dogs are seeking shade everywhere we go on the farm. Swimming has been a mandatory mid-day activity for canines and humans alike.
 
After a fieldwalk on Monday, it became suddenly apparent to me that we are headed for a serious produce glut (brace yourselves!). As you know firsthand, many of our summer crops – like tomatoes - have come on late and are just hitting their peak right now. But all of our fall crops – broccoli, romanesco, radishes, cabbage, pac choi, etc. – are coming on early (it seems they really liked our cool summer). The broccoli is going to be 1-2 weeks early (you’ll see it next week in your totes). The romanesco cauliflower is probably going to be 2-3 weeks early. The radishes, napa cabbage, and pac choi will probably follow the same pattern. All of this food is going to overlap squarely with the late summer produce and make for some of the heaviest Harvest Baskets we’ve ever packed!
 
Which means that the next few weeks of food could be slightly overwhelming for you (let this be fair warning!). I’ll do my best to remind you about food preservation options along the way, in case you can’t eat it all in a single week.
 
But then again, this could be a good challenge – who can chow down their entire Harvest Basket in seven short days…..?
 
I sense a reality TV show in the making.
 
Enjoy the glut!
 
 
 
 

 

Week 16: September 20th

 
Week 16: September 20th
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Raspberries
Carrots
Summer Squash
Fennel (sorry, Gunta!)
Tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes
Cilantro
Sweet Peppers
Shallots or Onions
Celery
 
On Rotation:
Spinach
Romano Beans
Cherry Tomatoes
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it…
 
Celery
The poll results are in and the Celery Stalkers have won out over the Whole Headers: 25 to 9! (FYI, the Potato Pounders have also persevered over the Specialty Spudsters, 24 to 9). You can’t argue with a good, solid, democratic majority, so this week you’ll find a handful of celery stalks in your totes – hopefully a good amount to season up a soup, stir-fry, or to add to a platter of crudités.
 
But beware the Ranch dressing! I once heard of a guy who wanted to lose some weight. He went on a celery diet, because apparently it’s such a fibrous vegetable that your body burns more calories chewing and digesting it than it gains from the celery itself. This man – a friend’s grandpa – ate celery day after day, but ended up gaining weight. The moral of the story: if you want to lose weight, don’t dip your celery in the jar of Ranch dressing!
 
Celery IS a pretty darn fibrous veggie, though, and you may find that these first stalks are more so. As you well know, the outer stalks are always a little tougher than the more tender, inner, blanched ones. To harvest stalk by stalk – instead of head by head – we have to strip the plants from the outside in, so these celery stalks might seem more chewy. BUT, I think you’ll find that they aren’t lacking one bit in flavor.
 
Celery is a water-hog; its undomesticated ancestors were bog plants. At Sauvie Island Organics, where I worked before I came back to Floras Creek, we used to grow celery and water it with overhead sprinklers AND a double line of drip tape – meaning it essentially got twice as much water as any other plant on the farm each week.
 
I gave your celery no such special treatment this season – which means it’s not as succulent as something store-bought from California, but I also think it has a much more intense flavor – in a good, sweet way. A little will probably go a long way.
 
I wanted to find a recipe that would combine a bunch of your veggies this week, namely the celery, carrots (we sent you an extra large helping this time around), and the much-maligned fennel bulb. I can’t vouch for this recipe firsthand, because I haven’t had a second at home in the kitchen the past two weeks, BUT it sounds pretty darn tasty. Give it a try and let me know!
 
Chilled Indian-Spiced Tomato Soup with Crabmeat
 
To store your celery stalks, you could either put them in a plastic bag in the fridge, or keep them in a jar of water in the fridge with a bag over their heads. Remember that the leafy tops are a great addition to a quick homemade vegetable stock.
 
 
On the Farm…
Supper in the Field, what a magical night at the farm! Despite all the spitting and blowing from that tropical Pacific typhoon that blew through last weekend (2.5 inches of rain on the farm!), the fundraiser dinner was so much fun that we are still reveling in the revelry! We converted our equipment shed into a fine dining room for the night, replete with candlelight, flowers, white linens and lots of wine! Abby, Bets and I got to play waitress for the first time ever (decked out in black skirts and rubber boots), and loved it (not that we’re going to quit our day jobs or anything). We managed to not drop any plates or spill any glasses of wine on people’s heads. Miraculous.
 
Chef Scott Guynn of TuTuTun Lodge dished out a 5-course feast that left people smacking their lips and licking their plates (much encouraged on the farm). The music and wine poured forth in equal measures all evening, and we even managed to do the full lap tour around the farm before the single, dramatic downpour of the evening.
 
There aren’t words big enough to express our gratitude to all the folks who made the evening possible. To all the members of the farm and local community who attended, thank you for your support! To Scott of TuTuTun, Kristin of Black Market Gourmet, and Diane of Casa Bruno, WOW! What a team! To John and Carl for their music, to Terry Wahl for the lamb, and to Orion Ashdown for the fish, Grazie Mile! To Ulli Lau of Oregon Overseas Timber for the two loads of bark mulch and to Roxy Long for all of her flower power, you guys made the place sparkle!
 
As the night wore on, folks kept asking, “When’s the next supper?! Next month? Next summer?! You gotta do this again!” Well, we’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, we are so excited to be heading to Terra Madre with the eighteen other Oregon delegates come October. As far as we know, we’re the first farmer delegates to ever represent the Southcoast – and we’re proud to do it! (And hoping to smuggle home some cool new seeds as well!!).
 
In gratitude and appreciation - heaps and heaps of it – we thank you!
 

Week 15: September 13th

 
Week 15: September 13th
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Raspberries
Cucumbers
Potatoes
Summer Squash
Carrots
Tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes
Dill
Leeks
 

On Rotation:
Hot Peppers
Sweet Peppers
Spinach
Pac Choi
Romano Beans
Cherry Tomatoes
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
 
Heirloom Tomatoes
Badda-bang! Here come the 2 pound tomatoes! In addition to the cherry tomatoes that I grow, and the regular red slicers that my mom grows, she also has part of a greenhouse dedicated to heirloom tomatoes. They come in all kinds of wobbly, swollen shapes and sizes, and more colors, flavors and textures than you could shake a stick at. You’re seeing a couple different varieties in your totes this week. And never fear – if you got a green tomato, it’s not really a “green” –as in “unripe” – tomato! It’s a variety called Aunt Ruby’s, which has so far won our informal taste tests on the farm this year! It’s a new winner!
 
What’s an heirloom, you might ask? Well, technically it’s an open-pollinated variety, as opposed to a hybrid. That means that if you were so inclined, instead of eating it, you could let your tomato rot in a bucket and then save the seeds (no, really(!) this is how you save tomato seeds - the acidic fermentation breaks down the gelatinous coating on the seeds and primes them for germination next year….). If you planted those saved seeds next spring, you could be relatively assured that you’d get the same kind of tomato again (versus a hybrid, which wouldn’t come “true”).
 
Heirlooms are also tomatoes that have typically been passed down through a few generations, hence the name….
 
How to eat them? I have a feeling you can figure that one out. Our favorite thing to do at this time of year is to make a simple platter of caprese: slices of tomato, layered with buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil. Drizzle with good olive oil and some sea salt. If you want, you can eat it atop slices of baguette. It’s late summer in it’s purest form.
 
Like all your other tomatoes, store your heirlooms on the counter, but be forewarned: if your heirlooms seem soft to the touch and ripe when you get them, you should eat them sooner than later. They are fragile (more prone to splitting and bruising) and don’t hold up as well as the red slicers.
 
Leeks
The first of the leeks are upon us! They’re not as huge and fat as they’ll be later in the fall, but they’ll make a tasty companion to your spuds in case you want to make potato leek soup to combat the rain this week.
 
Leeks are members of the Allium family, alongside onions, shallots and garlic. Of all the alliums, they are probably the most mild. We use them in lieu of onions all the time (a mercy tactic for my Allium-sensitive gut!), so they’re wonderful sautéed, steamed our souped up.
 
We usually cut them into thin slices across the shaft, all the way up to the leaves. If you are one of those industrious veggie scrap utilizers, throw your leek tops into a stock pot of water with your carrot peelings and other veggie scraps in order to make a great, fresh vegetable stock.
 
Leeks store well in a plastic bag in the fridge for quite awhile – a few weeks at least.
 
On the Farm…Tom Lynch To the Rescue!!!
This week we've been in high gear preparing for Supper in the Field, hustling this way and that in order to organize, beautify, and make ready the farm. Monday night I was mowing the farmroad, and on my last pass right before dusk, I cut it too close next to an irrigation valve box. The lid flew off the valve box and a geyser of water erupted from the ground, straight from the buried mainline pipe. I cut the engine on the tractor and leaped off, only to discover that I had just inflicted the most-dreaded injury to our irrigation system: a below-ground valve break – one of the biggest uh-ohs we could have (especially at dusk, the day before our biggest harvest day, in mid-September).
 
I leapt onto a farm bicycle and pedaled madly to the pump, a half mile upstream, to flip the pump breaker and shut it off. By the time I got back to the break site, a swampy lake had formed where the geyser had been - and it was very clear in the fading light that there would be no fixing it tonight. I excavated as much dirt as I could to uncover the pipe and took stock.
 
How in the world was I going to fix this? Tuesdays are insane fourteen to fifteen hour harvest days for us. There’s no time for lengthy irrigation repair. Normally, Wednesdays might afford an afternoon window for unexpected projects like broken mainlines – but of all weeks, this Wednesday I had to fly to Portland at 5 a.m. to keynote the Organically Grown in Oregon conference and wouldn’t be home until late Wednesday night.
 
That meant at least two days without water – our lifeblood – on the farm. If I was lucky, I might be able to fix it by the end of Thursday …assuming I could get all the replacement parts.
 
I was kneeling in the mud in the moonlight, trying to strategize a solution when I suddenly heard the voice of Tom Lynch in my head: “If you ever need any help at the farm, just let me know. I’d be happy to lend a hand.”
 
Tom is a Harvest Basket member, going on two years with Valley Flora, and has offered over and over to help us if ever we need anything. I suddenly realized that this was his moment. I needed help.
 
I called him that night and explained the situation.
 
“I’ll be there at 9 am to take a look.” Sure enough, he was there, and after taking inventory of my muddy mess, he left again to gather up tools, parts, pipe, PVC glue, and extra dog biscuits for my dog, Sula.
 
We were in our usual harvest frenzy all morning, but Tom dug in (quite literally: he was up to his waist in an open trench for a good part of the day, shoveling muck out of the way). In the mid-afternoon, he showed up at the barn where we were packing out produce, his fingers stained with blue PVC glue.
 
“I think we got it,” he announced. “Everything is glued up, like new.”
 
“Time to switch on the pump and pressure test it, then?” I asked.
 
“I think we’re ready.”
 
I gave Tom a walkie-talkie and he drove back into the field. I stationed myself at the pump breaker box. “Are you ready, Tom?”
 
“Ready,” his voice replied through the radio. I flipped the breaker and the pump motor hummed on. Slowly the whole system recharged, until the pressure switch read 50 psi. The pump switched off automatically, as it should.
 
“We’re there, Tom, at 50 psi. How’s it look out there.”
 
“We’ve got water,” he said – and for a moment my heart sank. The repair job must be leaking. “In all the right places,” he finished.
 
I grinned into the walkie-talkie. “Tom, you’re a miracle!” I thanked him profusely and sent him home with a heap of berries and the largest red beet we’ve ever harvested at Valley Flora.
 
It was a big red beet, but not nearly as big as his heart.
 
Thank you, Tom, for saving the day this week. And for putting “community” smack dab at the core of “community supported agriculture.”
 

Week 14: September 6th

 
Week 14: September 6th
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Raspberries
Summer Squash
Tomatoes
Carrots
Red & Gold Beets
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Parsley
Romano Beans
Fresh White Shallots
 
 
On Rotation:
Spinach
Pac Choi
Cucumbers
Cherry Tomatoes
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
 
Romano Beans
At last, beans! Like most of our direct-seeded crops (corn, spinach, carrots, beets, dill & cilantro, etc.), the beans have come on late this year. We can blame it entirely on the weather we got in May & June – so much rain that it was impossible to successfully direct-seed any crops into our soggy bottomland. As a result, the beans didn’t get a chance until the end of June – which is why it’s now the beginning of September and you’re seeing them for the first time!
 
This particular variety is a large, flat, Italian pole bean that will grow as high in the sky as our trellising will allow. Don’t confuse them with other large, wide beans like favas. They are as tender and sweet as any skinny little green bean out there! Our favorite way to prepare them is to cut them on the diagonal into 2” pieces and then ever-so-lightly steam or sautee them until they’re bright green and still tender. Eat them naked, or let a little salted butter melt on top. Holy moly!
 
Your beans will keep in the fridge for a week or so in a plastic bag, but really, why wait?
 
Fresh White Shallots
Shallots are often lumped into the onion family, but in fact, are a much closer relative of garlic. They are common to French cuisine (especially to impart that Je ne sais quoi to sauces and dressings) but you can use them any way you would eat an onion.
 
We usually plant them as pencil-thick starts at the end of April (seeded in the greenhouse in February), alongside all the onions and leeks. This year we didn’t get them into the ground until late May, due to the weather. Fortunately, they sprang in action and have grown beautifully this season. A single shallot seedling will divide itself into multiple “bulbs,” somewhat like a clove of garlic turns itself into a multi-cloved head.
 
This is your first fresh taste of one of the three varieties we are growing: Olympus (white), Saffron (gold), and Ambition (red). It’s not very common to encounter fresh shallots; they’re typically sold cured, with dry skins and without tops. That said, there’s no reason not to eat them straight out of the ground for a juicier shallot experience! We decided to harvest the Olympus this week because they seem to be poorer keepers than the red and gold varieties. In the coming weeks we’ll be pulling the rest of them out of the field, curing them in the shade (a process of simply letting the tops dry down out of the sun in a dry place where there’s good ventilation), and then trimming them up for later distribution in October and November.
 
The amazing thing about cured shallots is their storage life. They keep better than any onion or garlic I’ve ever met. We still have cured shallots on our counter from last September, and they are perfectly perfect.
 
For these fresh shallots, keep them in the fridge in a plastic bag. They should hold for at least a week, if not longer.
 
 
Cherry Tomatoes
We started picking the first few cherry tomatoes from our outdoor planting a couple of weeks ago, and each week there have been more and more. Finally this week they added up to just enough to put them on rotation. The harvest will only swell as September comes on, so everyone should be seeing them in their totes over the next few weeks.
 
As many of you know, there is a mantra at Valley Flora: “everything we do has to be at least 51% art.” That is at least part of the reason I decided to grow six(!) different cherry tomato varieties this season, in hopes of filling those pint baskets with a rainbow of color and flavor. We’re growing the beloved Sungolds (orange & tropical); steadfast Sweet Millions (red and reliable with classic cherry tomato taste); late-bearing Isis Candy (an heirloom swirl of orange, red & yellow), mysterious Black Cherry (also a late-bearing heirloom, with a deep purple-black color); controversial Yellow Pear (cute but with somewhat insipid flavor); and perky Yellow Mini (cheerful lemondrops).
 
The heirloom varieties have yet to really hit their stride, but should begin bearing more heavily in the next couple of weeks – at which point the rainbow effect should really attain lift-off!
 
As for keeping your cherry tomatoes – and all tomatoes in general – don’t put them in the fridge! They will get sweeter and riper if you leave them on the countertop. I tend to enjoy them most like a candy snack – straight out of the pint. But they also make divine gazpacho, and are absolutely wonderful dried (for those of you who have a dehydrator or a gas oven with a pilot light). Dried, all of their sugars and flavors become concentrated and will add wonderful flair to winter pasta, soups, quiche and more. Simply cut them in half and dry them down until they’re just shy of crispy (usually takes a full day or so). We keep ours in a Ziploc in the freezer to ensure that they don’t mold in our damp climate.
 
Pac Choi
For those of you receiving Pac Choi this week, I feel like I should apologize. Or explain. Or….
 
If you got your Harvest Basket today, you probably already lifted the lid and screamed. The enormous (as in 3-4 lbs!) vegetable lying on top is not an alien creature, but a very large pac choi. I personally have never seen them get this big or unwieldy (it’s the same variety we grew last year), but somehow they are about twice as big as usual, and 3 weeks early. Go figure. I guess there’s at least ONE vegetable on the farm that’s loving this cool weather!
 
If you can’t appreciate it for it’s sheer mass and intricate balustrade of upright white stems, well then, hopefully you’ll make a big stir-fry, invite all your friends over, and enjoy its flavor. Remember that you can eat both the white stems and the green leaves of the pac choi (in fact, the stems are my favorite part – succulent! The flea beetles seem to like the leaves the most, hence the scattershot holes in the leaves – and that’s despite our best efforts to prevent this kind of cosmetic damage by using floating row cover to protect them…..sigh). If you’re not a flea beetle, pac choi is wonderful lightly steamed, braised in sake or a sesame-soy glaze, stir-fried with cashews, or if you really want to make it disappear, add it to soup. Think garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, peanut oil, a dash of sugar, some chicken or veggie stock, salt and pepper – some combo of all that in a pan with your giant choi, and you should be good.
 
And if you can find a plastic bag big enough, it should keep in your fridge for up to a week. Good luck.
 
 
 
 

Week 13: August 30th

Week 13: August 30th
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Summer Squash
Cucumbers
Walla Walla Sweet Onions (the last week of ‘em)
Tomatoes
Green Cabbage
Sweet and/or Hot Peppers
Cilantro
 
On Rotation:
Spinach
Carrots
 
 
Recipe Ideas for the Week:
 
Fresh Salsa!
If ever there was a week to make fresh salsa, here it is! Tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, walla walla sweet onions, and cilantro – with a side of green cabbage to cool your tongue down!
 
No need for a recipe – just dice it all up in the proportions you like, add hot peppers, fresh lime and salt to taste, and grab a bag of corn chips!
 
Zucchini and Cilantro Soup with Chile and Mint!
Last week I suddenly realized that I had neglected to cut the zucchini off of our 7 plants in the garden (yes, I have a garden AND a farm…call me crazy). A week had gone by since I’d last checked them, and sure enough, there were over a dozen giant zukes hiding under the leaves – many of them almost the size of Pippin. I harvested them, lugged them home, and piled them shamefully in the kitchen.
 
Ah, the burden of too many zucchinis! It IS that time of year when people start locking their cars to prevent neighbors from leaving their over-abundance of giant summer squash in the backseat. I decided I couldn’t let them go to waste, nor do we have many neighbors whose cars we can plunder – so I set to work. Some of them ended up in two loaves of zucchini bread. Lots more got grated into Ziplocs and frozen for winter. But there were still more in the heap.
 
Enter Danny, my husband, who decided that Friday night would be zucchini theme night at our dinner table. He embarked on an ambitious menu of three distinct zucchini dishes: zucchini fritters, grilled zukes with fresh, rough-chopped pesto, and the best of all, this spectacular soup (adapted from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors cookbook). You’ll need to get some mint, parsley and fresh lime to finish it off, but the rest of the produce is in your tote this week. Yum: http://www.valleyflorafarm.com/content/zucchini-and-cilantro-soup-chile-...

 
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
 
Green Cabbage
These are sweet, petite, tight little cabbages by the name of Gonzales. So tasty in fact, that an army of tiny little grey slugs raided the patch and chewed holes in many of the outer leaves. I’d recommend peeling your cabbage down one or two layers before you eat it, and don’t be surprised if you encounter a bitty slug hiding within. Whatever you do, don’t let that little slimer loose in your own garden!
 
Ah well, on the bright side: if you find a slug, you know you’re eating clean food that’s never been sprayed.
 
Cabbage is 90 percent water (only 15 calories per 1 cup serving), but still delivers a significant dose of vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium and magnesium. It’s purported to be a great digestive aid and intestinal cleanser as well. Cabbage is thought to be the most globally cultivated of all the plants in the Brassica family, and is eaten in almost every country around the world. It’s nourished humanity for centuries, whether in the form of kimchi or sauerkraut or good old slaw.
 
Like the red cabbages we sent out in July, this week’s green variety will store well in your fridge in a plastic bag for weeks.
 
On the Farm…
Is it just me, or is there a hint of Fall in the air? The back and forth between drizzle and glorious sunshine has leant a new feel to the farm these days. There are vine maple leaves turning red along the creek, and the evening shadows seem stretched out longer across the valley.
 
The notion of Autumn has us gearing up for a handful of season-specific activities on the farm right now: Pulling and curing our storage onions and shallots; ordering seed garlic for an experimental planting this fall (we haven’t been able to grow it for years, due to issues with white rot in the past – but we’re hoping to try it again!); reserving strawberry plants for our usual November planting; and gearing up for winter squash harvest and a lot of fall cover crop plantings. We’ll also be tearing out our three year old strawberry plants this fall and replacing them with two or three new lines of perennial Marionberries – in order to round out the berry offerings even more.
 
Just as Spring has it’s own frenetic pace in order to get everything planted, so does Fall in order to get everything harvested! Which is why we’re looking ahead to October right now and have set a date for the first ever Root Harvest Party at the farm! Mark your calendars for October 16th. Rain or shine, we’re going to have a carrot and beet digging extravaganza – in hopes of pre-empting the mice and wireworms, who always become stiff competition for our root crops in the later Fall. We hope you’ll join us! Bring your shovel, and come get dirty! More details to come….
 
 

Week 11: August 16th

In Your Share:
Strawberries
Head Lettuce
Summer Squash
Cucumbers
Carrots
Red, Gold & Chiogga Beets
Walla Walla Sweet Onions
Tomatoes!

On Rotation:
Spinach!
Rainbow Chard

There are some exciting new faces in your totes this week: Walla Walla Sweet Onions, Spinach (for Coos Bay & Bandon; Port Orford and Farm will see it next week), and the first of the TOMATOES! Also, you'll find a pound+ of mixed beets: red, gold and chioggia (or Italian heirloom candy-stripe beets...cut them cross-wise and you should see a perfect pink and white bulls-eye pattern!).

Walla Wallas:
So sweet and mild, they don't even make you cry! Slice them raw for sandwiches, make fat beer-battered onion rings, or sautee them on medium heat and render them down into a carmelized gooey mess of deliciousness. There will be more next week, so no need to save them for later. Keep them in a plastic bag in the fridge.

The Beets:
Rather petite, these beets are from our first spring planting. We decided to clear the whole bed and top all the beets in order to erase all those terrible memories of cold, grey, rainy May. As a result, some beets are big and some are baby, but they should all taste good. I find the red beets to be the sweetest, with the golds taking a close second. I like the flavor of Chioggia beets the least, but they have a lot of interior pizazz when you cut them open to reveal the candy-strip bulls-eye inside. We love to eat our beets steamed or roasted; just be sure you cut them to be a similar size so they cook evenly. These puppies will store for a long time in a bag in your fridge, so no pressure if you're distracted by other things in your Harvest Basket, like....TOMATOES!

Tomatoes:
That's right, they're here. This is the beginning of the Summer Solanum Celebration: tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, more potatoes...it's all in the pipeline and ripening nicely. These tomatoes come out of Betsy's greenhouses where they ripen more quickly than they will outdoors. In the coming weeks you'll also be enjoying a rainbow array of cherry tomatoes (grown outdoors), more slicing tomatoes, and some fancy heirlooms as well (they usually peak in early September). You can eat your first tomatoes however you please, but whatever you do, DON'T PUT THEM IN THE FRIDGE! They like to sit on the countertop, where they will continue to ripen and maintain their sweet flavor and good texture. Refrigerated tomatoes often get mealy and bland = yuck.

Spinach:
At last! Oddly enough, August seems to be our month for spinach at Valley Flora. We were expecting it in June and July, but every planting bolted. We're guessing it had something to do with the dramatic switch in the weather from cold and grey to hot and sunny, so quickly. Nevertheless, Abby's recent plantings are looking great - so we're finally able to bag some up and share it with you. You'll see it either this week or next week. Store it in the fridge. It should keep for up to a week.
On the Farm:
Yes indeed, help has arrived! We've hired one person full time and another to help on our big harvest days. Training is going well - albeit a bit frantic, given that it's August and we are in the thick of things! Nevertheless, we are so grateful and relieved to have found some stellar folks to work with us.

Sadly, help has also departed. We bid farewell to Marisa, my dear buddy from Hawaii, on Wednesday. After extending her visit by two weeks (!) in order to help us through our labor crunch in early August, she finally had to board a plane and go back to her life in Hilo. If all goes right, though, she might just be back in Langlois in a year to spend the summer and start a homemade ice cream CSA! We are particularly excited about getting to be her official taste-testers if she does it....:).

And about that cauliflower last week...I didn't mention it because some folks didn't receive theirs until this week, but I've been fielding some questions about it, like "Is it supposed to be bright orange?" "Why is it neon purple?" ETC. Well, the truth is, we grew three variety trials this year: a white cauliflower called Amazing (which was far from it), an orange cauliflower called Cheddar, and a purple cauliflower called Graffiti. Usually varieties like Cheddar and Graffiti aren't very vigorous, plus the specialty seed costs a whole lot - so I was fully expecting those two varieties to flop. Au contrare, mon freir! (Or however you spell that....:). The Amazing did pitifully, while the Cheddar and Graffiti were the most vigorous. We did have some teeny heads among the colored varieties, but I attribute that more to the fact that I planted them at the edge of the field where we thoroughly neglected them, let the weeds run wild, and only sort-of watered them. Even so, the Cheddar and Graffiti mostly pulled through...which means that next year we are going whole hog with the bright orange and purple color scheme!

If you are one of the people who got a boring old normal white head of cauliflower and feel kinda cheated, well, stick around for 2011 and we'll do our best to hook you up with some outrageous neon cauliflower, straight out of the 80s!

Hope you all have a great weekend,
Zoë

 

Week 12: August 23rd

Week 12: August 23rd
 
What’s in Your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Summer Squash
Cucumbers
Basil
Walla Walla Sweet Onions
Tomatoes
Fennel
Sweet and/or Hot Peppers
 
On Rotation:
Spinach
Chard
Baby Carrots
 
I was particularly excited that the fennel, tomatoes, basil and Walla Wallas all came on at the same time this week. Why? Because it means you have all of the farm-fresh ingredients to make one of our all-time favorite summertime dishes: Finocchio! This is the dish that tends to convert fennel skeptics into wild enthusiasts. Give it a try.
 
The recipe is available at: http://www.valleyflorafarm.com/content/finocchio
It calls for two big fennel bulbs, but we suggest using one fennel bulb plus one or two of your Walla Walla Sweet onions to substitute. Oh yum.
 
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
 
Peppers – Sweet & Hot!
We sometimes play a game on the farm that goes something like this: “If you could only eat three vegetables for the rest of your life, what would they be?” It’s a painful, traitorous exercise of choosing favorites and there’s a lot of hand-wringing that goes on. “I couldn’t live without salad, but then again, if I had to have either lettuce or kale, maybe I’d want the kale because it grows year-round and is chock full of good juju and it’s really versatile and…hmmm...And what about tomatoes…maybe we can classify those as a fruit and keep them out of this game…” And so on.
 
Nevertheless, the one vegetable (er, fruit actually) that always, ALWAYS makes my Top Three List is peppers. Sweet, sweet peppers. Which means that this week marks the beginning of produce bliss for me. The sweet and hot peppers are beginning to pour out of Betsy’s greenhouses in a vibrant parade of color: reds, yellows, oranges, whites, purples, greens, blocky bells, Italians, stuffing peppers, roasting peppers, hot peppers, sweet peppers. Over the coming weeks, you’ll see a smattering of the various colors, shapes and flavors that she’s growing this season. And the extra good news is that she’s growing more peppers than ever, thanks to a new hoop-house we constructed this spring specifically for pepper production.
 
This week in your totes you’ll encounter the first of the harvest, which will likely include a sweet Italian red roasting pepper (that you can enjoy raw or sautéed or roasted) and possibly an Anaheim-type hot pepper (not too hot), which are great for spicing up any dish, roasting, stuffing (think chile rellenos), etc.
 
Peppers can be stored on the counter at room temperature (out of the sun), or in the fridge. In fact, the way peppers are typically colored up is to pick them when they’re approximately 40-50% colored (as in turning from green to red) and then to leave them at 65 degrees out of the sun to complete their coloring.
 
If you want to save your peppers for winter, they are actually one of the easiest foods to freeze: simply cut them into bite-size pieces and toss them into a freezer bag: no blanching or cooking needed. They’ll soften when you thaw them out, but they make a wonderful, colorful addition to soups and stir-fries in the dead of winter. We also make a point of roasting a bunch of peppers in the fall and either freezing them or canning them for later.
 
Peppers are chock full of vitamins A, C and E as well as iron and potassium.
 
On the Farm…
We are on the cusp of a full-on feeding frenzy on the farm: that delectable, fleeting window when almost every food we grow is available at the same time. Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes (soon!), peppers, sweet corn (soon!), potatoes, chard & kale, lettuce, berries (the late summer raspberries are about to EXPLODE!), leeks, onions, shallots, carrots, beets, spinach, zucchini, fennel, herbs…you name it. I wish I had a bottomless, ever-expanding stomach and the time and endurance to eat non-stop right now.
 
Certain crops have staggered a little along the way - like our carrots, which have been slow to size up this summer (the reason that they are on rotation this week), and more recently, our strawberries - which have been significantly slowed down by overall cooler temperatures over the past four weeks. But overall, given what a shoddy start we had to the season, it feels like the farm is doing pretty well. Having such a wide diversity of crops makes a big difference. Boy, would it have been a bummer to have put all our eggs in the cauliflower basket this year, or the Italian plum basket (two crops that have been unimpressive in 2010).
 
That’s the beauty of the community-support agriculture (CSA) model that you are all a part of as Harvest Basket members: your commitment to the farm creates an imperative for us to grow lots of different crops, and in doing so, spreads the overall risk of farming out amongst 100s of different varieties, dozens of different plant families, and many successive weeks of planting. With that kind of farming approach, something – and hopefully many things – are bound to grow well.
 
August has been a challenging month on the farm, what with all the labor tumult of the past three+ weeks. We are taking a deep breath now that we have Tiffany, Roberto and Roxy on board - and it feels like I can finally look up, look around, and smile at the abundance that is starting to manifest all around. Enjoy the harvest this week, and thanks for sticking with us through thick and thin!
 

Week 10: August 9th

 
Week 10: August 9th
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Broccoli or Cauliflower
Carrots
Zucchini
Cucumbers
Potatoes
Dill
Cilantro
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
 
Red, White and Blue Potatoes
Better late than never! We had hoped to send out our usual distribution of red, white and blue potatoes for the 4th of July, BUT here we are in the second week of August finally enjoying them. Our cold, wet spring and delayed summer slowed these early potatoes down considerably and also reduced their yields, unfortunately.
 
We did manage to “dig” them with the help of Maude and our new horsedrawn potato digger – a semi-kamikaze event on Monday evening that left a wake of drunken, swervy furrows and scattershot potatoes across the field. I’m hoping to refine our technique for the next dig!
 
The red variety is Red Pontiac; the blue is Adirondack Blue; and the white/yellow potato is Yellow Finn.
 
Potatoes store almost forever in the fridge. We usually put ours in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. That said, there is nothing like a freshly-dug potato – they usually have much more flavor and juiciness than those that have sat around on the store shelves for months.
 
Some spud trivia for you:

  • Potatoes are the leading vegetable grown worldwide, produced in 130 countries, from below sea level to above 14,000 feet.
  • They are native to the Andean mountain region of South America where they have been cultivated for over 5000 years.
  • Potatoes belong to the Solanum family, along with tomatoes and many deadly nightshades.
  • Americans eat an average of 75 pounds of potatoes per year – mostly in the form of French fries and potato chips.

 
Dill & Cilantro
In a perfect farming world, these two herb crops would have come on a week apart, but no, we don’t get to control these things at Valley Flora. Instead, it’s an herb party this week in your harvest baskets! The potato-dill combo was entirely intentional….steamed potatoes with a little butter and dill…..yum. And then, fire up a meal with Latin flair the next night: huevos rancheros with homefries, smothered in cilantro.
 
Store your herbs in the fridge – either in a plastic bag, or in a glass of water with a plastic bag over the top. They’ll keep for up to a week.
 
On the Farm…
We are still looking for help on the farm. Unfortunately, the person who was supposed to start work for us on Monday never showed up. If you know of anyone hard-working, reliable and good-natured, please let us know!
 
Back to the fields I go!
 

Week 9: August 2nd

 
Week 9: August 2nd
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Broccoli
Purplette Onions
Fennel
Baby Carrots
Zucchini
Cucumbers
Red Ursa Kale
Basil
 

All of this week’s produce has already been introduced to you in prior weeks. Now that you’re somewhat familiar with the fennel, the purplette onions, and all the rest of it - it’s a great opportunity to experiment with your veggies. Go free-form in the kitchen this week and see what happens.
 
Coming soon: Potatoes, at last!
 
On the Farm…
Well……it’s been one of those weeks. Angela, our farmhand, had a personal emergency and had to depart the farm abruptly this week, leaving us reeling at the prospect of heading into the peak of our season - August and September – without her help. I’ve been scrambling to find experienced, reliable hands to replace her and coming up against what so many other farmers – and employers in general – gripe and moan about: “it’s hard to find good help these days.”
 
This week’s labor hunt has been an experience both horribly stressful and oddly beautiful at the same time. Without another person on board, Abby, Bets and I simply can’t get all the food watered, weeded, harvested, washed, packed and delivered to town. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do it, or enough mitochondria in our bodies to fuel it. It takes four of us, and sometimes more. So when our fourth person evaporated, dread crept in on me. We don’t live in a place where experienced agricultural workers are a dime a dozen – people who are familiar with lots of crops, with harvest techniques, with our particular systems, with the sheer physicality of a 14 hour day. And to imagine having to train someone from scratch at this point in the season…oof. Daunting.
 
I started to wonder if I was going to have to ask all of you to come pick your own veggies for the rest of the year.
 
Some anxious days passed for us and I called every single person I could think of locally who might be a fit for the job. I left messages on their answering machines and heard nothing back. I composed an email to all of you (that I didn’t send), asking for leads. My husband, Danny, wrote the same email to all of his acupuncture patients (that he didn’t send).
 
On Monday morning, my mom and I sat on the tailgate of the pickup out in the field, trying to strategize for the week. Who was going to do Wednesday delivery? Saturday delivery? Who was going to help with harvest, set up the farmstand, wash the totes? Where could we cut corners? What was essential and what wasn’t? Did those weeds absolutely have to get pulled? And then my mom looked up at the sky and said, “Come on universe. Throw us a bone.”
 
I’ve noticed that the universe likes to make you sweat a little, and sure enough, we were. Tuesday is our biggest, longest harvest day and we were going into it down by one. I was gearing up to be at the farm with my headlamp on Tuesday night. Which is when Marisa, who was supposed to go home to Hilo this week, announced that she had changed her plane ticket and could stay for another two weeks. Beautiful thing number one.
 
Later that day, when I was dreading the looming task of digging potatoes – a back-breaking, slow, hot, dusty job – all of a sudden, a truck and horse trailer pulled up at the farm. It was my friend Laurie, who on a whim had decided to bring me some loaner equipment from her farm outside Coos Bay. One of the items: a horsedrawn potato digger that Maude could pull. If it worked, it would likely save us hours and hours of digging. Beautiful thing number two.
 
I went home that night relieved, but also knowing that the fix was temporary. We’d been given a two week reprieve, but we still had a longer-term labor dilemma: What happens when Marisa is gone? I was absorbed in my worry when I walked in the door of our house and saw the answering machine blinking with six messages. “Come on universe,” I said under my breath. “Come on.”
 
And it did. Four of the six messages were call-backs from people interested in farmwork. (Beautiful things three, four, five and six). One of the people who called was from California and had called us out-of-the-blue, completely unaware that we were in a desperate hunt for help. The other two calls were from friends who said they didn’t want jobs but that they would be happy to help in any way to see us through until we had the folks we needed. (Beautiful things seven and eight). Thank you universe.
 
So, a long story and a heinous week made short, next Monday a new hired hand arrives and we’re going to do a trial period with him. We’re hoping it’s a good fit. He’s jumping in with us right as the harvest rodeo really starts to buck, so it’s fingers crossed. Meanwhile, we’re still getting your lettuce and broccoli and onions and fennel and berries out of the field before midnight, thanks to Marisa.
 
And hopefully with some help from Maude and that new potato digger, we’ll be getting some spuds out of the ground this week as well.

 
Thanks for your ongoing support for the farm. It means the world to us all of the time, but especially during nutty periods like this. You guys make it all worth doing. Our appreciation runs deep.
 
 
 
 

Week 8: July 26th

 
Week 8: July 26
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Broccoli
Sugar Snap Peas
Purplette Onions
Baby Carrots
Hakurei Turnips
Baby Zucchini
 
On Rotation:
Cucumbers
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
 
Purplette Onions
Purplettes are our earliest-maturing onion on the farm. They are meant to be harvested with green tops, which you can enjoy just like green onions. As for the onion bulb itself, it’s fairly mild – wonderful raw or cooked. We sliced some up the other night and grilled them with olive oil and salt – alongside some fennel, beets, and zucchini. Yummers. They will store for a week or two with tops in a plastic bag in the fridge.
 
The purplettes kick off the Allium harvest on the farm. Maturing behind them this year are Walla Walla Sweet Onions, a red storage onion, a yellow storage onion, three types of shallots, and two varieties of leeks. In general, I’ve noticed that onions take much longer to mature here on the southcoast than they did on Sauvie Island (where I farmed near Portland) or in California (where I worked for another organic farmer for a season). We were often pulling out the storage onion crop in mid-July in those places, whereas here we usually don’t pull the storage onions until mid-September – most likely due to our overall cooler summer temperatures.
 
Some of you may be wondering about the other key member of the Allium family: garlic. We haven’t grown garlic in years, after getting wiped out time and time again by white rot, a soil-borne disease that seems to thrive on our place. We may make another attempt on a new piece of ground this fall and see if we can out-run the rot.
 
Baby “Betty Olson” Carrots
You’re all enjoying the first carrot harvest this week, thanks entirely to Betty Olson of Port Orford – your fellow Harvest Basket member who has been coming to the farm and rescuing beds of carrots from the weeds. The carrots we dug for you this week came from the very first surviving bed we seeded in early May. It BARELY survived, which means we dug every last carrot in the bed in order fill your totes this week. They are mostly Mokums, an early sweet orange carrot variety, but mixed in you might also find a Rainbow carrot or two – purple, white, red and yellow roots. For best storage results, top them and keep them in a plastic bag in the fridge.
 
Overall, the carrot field is starting to look better thanks to all the weeding we’ve been doing AND thanks to excellent germination in the more recently seeded beds. My guess is that it’s going to be a great carrot year, but a late one. I’ve seeded a bunch of extra beds to make up for our spring losses, and they’re coming on thick. We’ll do our best to get you carrots as often as possible in the coming weeks, but the steady, heavy harvest probably won’t be here until late summer.
 
I won’t even bother to tell you how to prepare these little orange candy sticks: after months without homegrown carrots, we go into a fever over the first carrot harvest. Most of the time we eat them straight out of the ground with nothing more than a cursory dirt swipe on the leg of our already dirty pants! Nevertheless, they are great prepared in all kinds of other manners: steamed, sautéed, soup-ed, carrot caked, salad-ed, etc. There are lots of carrot recipes to be found on the Recipe Wizard, including a recipe for carrot top soup…..enjoy!
 
Baby Zucchini
You can thank my mom for these little morsels. She’s the cucumber/zucchini/tomato/pepper/basil diva at Valley Flora – and in that niche she grows the truest tastes of summer. The tomatoes and peppers are still a ways off, but the cukes and zukes are starting to come on strong. You should see them almost weekly for the next couple of months.
 
Zucchini and summer squash don’t store very well in the fridge. They’ll keep for up to a week refrigerated in a plastic bag, but often start to grow scum after that. Outside the plastic bag, they often go limp in the fridge. The fact is, they prefer to be kept at about 50 degrees – which can be a hard temperature to find in the summertime. Your best option: eat them within 4-5 days and look forward to the next batch!
 
Hakurei Turnips
The Hakureis aren’t new to any of you, but take note: this later planting is spicier than the spring plantings we sent out a month+ ago. They’ve got a little more of a radish kick, but still have that same wonderful creamy texture.
 
On the Farm…
Last summer a wonderful thing happened: my dear friend Marisa from Hilo, Hawaii, got on an airplane, flew to Oregon, found a ride from Portland, and arrived at the farm for the month of September. She dug potatoes like a machine, pulled carrot weeds until dark, got up at 5:30 am on harvest mornings, and picked so many strawberries her index fingers cracked. Then she would come home, can all the tomatoes, freeze all the berries, bake a cobbler, cook dinner, wash the dishes, and rub my shoulders.
 
She referred to it as a “vacation.” (!?!)
 
I referred to it as “crazy.”
 
This year, she came back for more, proving that I was right.
 
But what a godsend! She and I farmed together for two years on Sauvie Island before she moved back to her native Hawaii, and she knows her stuff. She is an ace greens buncher, a lightening fast weeder, an expert pipe mover, a devoted food preservationist, and Valley Flora’s biggest berry fan. She’s also a mere 5’ tall (hence her nickname, “The Littlest Farmer”), an occupational therapist, and the most rock steady friend, companion and fellow farm-mate I’ve ever known. (What I would do to ensnare her here in Langlois forever!).
 
She’s here for two and a half weeks this summer – a visit that is fast flying by for us - which means we are constantly hatching plans for how she can quit her job in Hilo, live in Langlois for half the year, open a homemade local, seasonal ice cream shop next to the Greasy Spoon, and farm with the Florettes. We can’t help ourselves.
 
In the meantime, we revel in the good homemade dinners, dunks in the creek, and long productive days on the farm together – and hope, hope, hope that someday our lives are able to collide for months at a time - not weeks - on the banks of Floras Creek…(or on the shores of the Big Island – that doesn’t sound so bad either.)
 
 

Week 7: July 19th

 
Week 7: July 19
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Broccoli
Sugar Snap Peas
Cucumbers
Red Cabbage
Easter Egg Radishes
Rainbow Chard
Basil or Parsley
 
On Rotation:
Basil & Parsley
 
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
 
Red Cabbage
The goal this year was to grow SMALL cabbages, not the basketball-sized lunkers that came out of the field last year. We’ve mostly succeeded, with most of the cabbages from this harvest weighing in at about 3 pounds. There will still a few six pounders that came in on the truck, but for the most part a tighter planting spacing seems to have helped keep the cabbages from getting too intimidating (AND we can get the lids on the totes this year!).
 
This variety is called Red Express, an open-pollinated early red variety. Over the course of the season you’ll also experience green cabbage, savoy cabbage and napa cabbage from the farm.
 
Cabbage is easy to grow in our relatively cool coastal climate, and is a great standby veggie to have in your fridge. It will keep in a plastic bag for weeks and weeks (just slice off the browned edge of a cut cabbage to reveal fresh layers beneath), and is wonderful raw or lightly cooked. We’ll often make slaw with ours (check out our all-time favorite Kaleslaw recipe – you could use your kale from last week, or sub in this week’s rainbow chard). It’s also tasty steamed lightly and doused with olive oil, salt and cider vinegar. It stir-fries well, or can be boiled with a chopped onion for five minutes and added to mashed potatoes. Last but not least, you could give wild fermentation a try: sauerkraut or kimchi. Angela provided a great kimchi recipe this week, which uses both your radishes and cabbage. Fermented foods like kraut and kimchi tend to be tangy, salty, sometimes a little spicy – and one of the secrets to a long, healthy life!
 
Easter Egg Radishes
These colorful bunches of radishes might even convince your kids to take a bite! They’re a fun way to dress up a salad or a veggie platter. Store, topped, in a plastic bag in the fridge and they’ll keep for a few weeks.
 
On the Farm…
The heavy foods are starting to hit their stride on the farm: cabbages, cucumbers, beets, potatoes, big heads of broccoli. We are transitioning out of the spring greens glut and into the heartier fare of summertime. It’s always a fun, colorful, and sometimes back-breaking time of year for us farmers, but above all, it’s a great time to eat! We hope your life is affording the time to linger over the table, to get inspired in the kitchen, and to let your harvest basket shape your meals each day.
 
I recently came across an amazing recipe resource, courtesy of another farm in California, Capay Organics. They actually run the largest CSA in the country – called “Farm Fresh to You” - with over 4,000 members! They have an incredible recipe index on their website, organized and searchable by individual food items –veggies, fruit and much more. Check it out at: http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/recipes/
 

Week 6: July 12th

 
Week 6: July 12
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Artichokes
Sugar Snap Peas
Broccoli
Fennel
Arugula
Basil or Parsley
 
On Rotation:
Basil & Parsley
 
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
 
Sugar Snap Peas
I don’t think it gets any better than crunching on sugar snap peas. In part because they are such a fleeting seasonal treat. Because they’re crispy and sweet and playful. And because they’re nothing short than a labor of love.
 
Three years ago I actually swore I would never grow peas commercially, in spite of my love for them – because I’d have to charge an arm and a leg to make the cost of picking them pencil out. My sister used to grow them, but she axed the “extras” this season, knowing she’d have little Pippin on her back. Facing the prospect of a CSA season with no peas, I decided to bite the bullet and break my own rule this spring: I seeded 3 beds of peas starting in early April through May. (What was I thinking!)
 
The first bed germinated miraculously through our cold, wet spring. The second bed suffered some, but still sent up a modest tangle of vines. And the third bed came up thick. This week we were picking the first bed, which means there will be peas in your future for at least another couple weeks. And some torturously slow harvest days for us!
 
It took us five hours to harvest 220 feet of peas this week, picking wild and fast! But no matter how quickly your hands fly, you still creep along the row a few slow inches at a time, gleaning fat camouflaged pods from the tangle of vines. It’s a lovely, zen undertaking when there is nothing else on the to-do list, but that’s never the case in early July!
 
Nevertheless, we emerged from the field with 100 pounds of peas – enough to ensure that every harvest basket gets a full, happy pound this week. Hopefully enough that they aren’t all gone before you get home from your pick-up site!
 
Some pea factoids:

  • Peas are like corn – best eaten as soon after harvest as possible because their sugars rapidly convert to starches, reducing flavor and sweetness.
  • Peas are as ancient a food as wheat, barley and garlic. They’ve been found in excavations dating back to 10,000 BC. They’re thought to have originated in northern India and migrated west into the Mediterranean, Europe and up into the British Isles.
  • Peas are chock full of vitamins A,C, K and the Bs. Also high in iron potassium and phosphorous – over all a high protein, high carb, high fiber package!

 
The peas in your tote are a snap pea, not a shelling pea, so you can eat the whole thing, pod and all. They are hard to beat raw, but are also sumptuous lightly steamed or sautéed until they are lime green, no more than 2 mintues (don’t over-do it – make sure you leave a little crunch to them!). Here’s a quick recipe for a Fresh Pea Pod, Broccoli and Rice Salad.
 
Fennel
Fennel is a fairly uncommon vegetable in the States, compared to the notoriety it enjoys in Europe. It happens to be one of my all time favorites, so much so that last season I set out on a quest to convert as many Harvest Basket members to become fennel-lovers as possible. We had some great success stories, and as far as I know, we didn’t engender any fennel-haters. 
 
For most folks, fennel is a mystery. What to do with the stuff!? We sent you whole fennel plants, meaning the bulb and the feathery tops. This way, you’ll know what it looks like growing in the field or garden, but you can also put both the bulb and tops to good use. The bulb takes most of the glory, but the tops are commonly used as a fresh herb for seasoning or garnish. It can replace dill (it’s cousin), and is great on baked or broiled fish with a little lemon and butter.
 
There are also lots of recipes on the Recipe Wizard to give you a helping hand. Here are the basics once you have your fennel on the cutting board:
 

  • Wash the bulb.
  • Try crunching a raw fennel stem to get a sense of the flavor. It has a subtle anise flavor.
  • Can be baked, steamed or sautéed with excellent results. You can also eat it raw, dipped into sauces or olive oil. We like to cut to tops off our fennel, slice our fennel bulbs in half from top to bottom, then cut the bulb cross-wise into thin slices. Then toss into a skillet with a little olive oil and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The fennel will start to carmelize like onions. Last night we tossed in some rainbow chard and fresh peas at the very end, salted it, and had a divine pile of veggies for dinner!
  • Store in the fridge in a plastic bag. Will keep for up to 2 weeks, or more. The tops will go limp, so we suggest cutting them off and wrapping them in a damp towel in the fridge.

 
And in case you ever end up on Jeopardy, some back pocket trivia:

  • Fennel grows wild around much of the world – for instance, you’ll see it along roadcuts here in Curry county. Two varieties are actually cultivated: the bulbous Florence fennel (what you have this week) and the common fennel (grown for seed and leaves).
  • It belongs to the Umbel family, along with carrots, celery, parsley, dill, and anise.
  • Fennel is best adapted to Mediterranean climates, but we manage to grow it up Floras Creek into the fall.
  • Fennel has been used for centuries as a food, medicine, herb and even insect repellent!
  • In Greek mythology, knowledge came to humans from Mt. Olympus in the form of a fiery coal held within a fennel stalk.
  • The ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans used fennel as an aid for digestion, bronchial troubles, poor eyesight and nervous conditions. Today in India, fennel seed is chewed after a meal as a breath freshener and digestive aid. Claims have been made that it’s a great weight loss agent!

 
 
On the Farm…
Summer is in evidence all around the farm these days: the hills are drying out and starting to turn their golden brown. The creek has warmed up enough for a daily dip (or for Sula, the farm dog, it’s an hourly dip). And with the help of an amazing volunteer by the name of Betty Olson, the root crops are getting a chance! Betty started coming out this week to help us weed the carrots, which with her tenacity and a little luck, might soon find their way into your harvest baskets!
 
Betty is a Port Orford member who has an uncanny love for hand weeding – and holy smokes is she working wonders in the root field! She tackled the first couple of beds of carrots yesterday, wrestling dock root and grass and chickweed for hours and then hauling it out of the field in a dump cart. She made multiple trips to the compost pile, and when she was done she announced she’d love to come back today and keep at it. We can’t thank her enough for the assist, just in the nick of time!
 
It’s a huge relief to see carrots emerging from the weeds, one row at a time – and to know that those sweet orange Nelsons and those eye-candy Rainbows will be bunchable and crunchable before the end of July (we hope!).
 
Thank You Betty!!!
 
 

Week 5: July 5th

 
Week 5: July 5
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Raspberries
Baby Beets
Broccoli
Kohlrabi
 
On Rotation:
Cucumbers
 
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
 
Beets
One of the lessons I learned last year is that there are two very distinct kinds of CSA members: beet lovers and beet haters. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to fully please either one of them. Beet lovers can’t get enough of these rich earthy roots and beg for them in EVERY basket. Meanwhile, beet haters loathe them with a passion and make special requests for us to substitute fennel or carrots or anything else in their tote (a request we unfortunately can’t fulfill).
 
No matter your inclination when it comes to controversial Beta vulgaris, we have posted all kinds of beet recipes on the recipe exchange, in hopes of delighting the beet lovers among you. And well, for the beet haters, I’d encourage you to at least give the Beet Chocolate Cake a chance. If sugar and chocolate can’t even convince you, then find a beet lover at your pick-up site and make their day.
 
We’re sending out baby and adolescent beets this week – a clever way for us to get our beet bed thinned AND get a colorful root into your baskets. There are a few wonderful things about petite beets:
1.   You can steam or roast them whole for an elegant presentation.
2.   Baby beets tend to be exceptionally sweet and tender.
3.   The young tops are great for eating. If you remember your rainbow chard from last week, you’ll notice a close resemblance to the beet tops. Close cousins. Beet tops can be used in all the same ways as chard, spinach, or other leafy greens.
 
A little beta on the betabel (that’s Español):
·      Beets are high in nutrients, including vitamins A & C, and also the carotenes. If you use your beet greens you’re also getting lots of vitamin C, calcium and iron. Move over Popeye.
·      Beets are tremendously long storing. If you top ‘em, they’ll hold in your fridge for weeks – even months under the right conditions.
 
 
On the Farm…
Weeds, weeds, weeds! It’s a short newsletter this week because there’s a war on in the root field! We are diligently rescuing our carrots (which are late this year, but coming soon!) from the June bloom of weeds. We’re also going full steam with hoes, horses and hands in the onions, leeks, parsnips, and broccoli.
 
The catch 22 of all this great weather is that the weeds like to grow as fast – and often faster – than our crops. So it’s off to the furrows with me! If you like weeding, drop us a line! It’s FUN.
 
Sincerely,
Huck Finn
 

Week 4: June 28

Week 4: June 28
 
What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Raspberries
Green Kohlrabi
Arugula
Rainbow Chard
Broccoli or Broccolini
 
On Rotation:
Cucumbers
 
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
 
Arugula
A wonderful specialty green that is a staple in Italy. When I was 9, we flew over to Italy for 5 weeks to stay with a friend who had rented a house near Bologna. It was a sprawling estate with an ancient vineyard and a castle built into a stone cliff – the kind of place that captivates the imagination of a little kid! We stayed in the villa below the castle and every day we were visited by an old woman named Maria who was the resident gardener. She would always bring us something from the garden in her wicker basket, and usually it was a weedy-looking spicy green. She was invariably enthusiastic about it and would holler it’s name at us - something that sounded like “Rucola, rucola!” We had no idea what it was. “Como?” And she would repeat, louder, a bit exasperated, “Rucola!”
 
Like, duh, you stupid Americans. Rucola. The stuff was nasty. Most of it ended up discreetly tucked into the compost.
 
After a few weeks at the villa, we traveled south to the Adriatic and got to explore the five little villages of Cinque Terra clinging to the cliffs above the sea. We ordered pizza for lunch, and it came out covered in that gross weed, wilted all over our pizza. Damn! The stuff was everywhere in Italy, and the locals loved it! “When in Rome”….well, we tried, but it was hard to gag their beloved green down day after day.
 
Back home in the U.S. - well, sure enough, a few years later arugula (“rucola!”) became all the rage on restaurant menus. It’s also known by the French term roquette. We soon discovered that there are other varieties – a wee bit less weedy, bitter and spicy that what we encountered in Italy – that are well worth growing and eating.
 
This tender baby arugula variety makes its way into Abby’s Greens each week, but it’s wonderful enjoyed on its own. There is an arugula pesto recipe on the website, or you can eat the arugula as you would mizuna: as it’s own salad (wonderful with goat cheese, fresh strawberries, and a light vinaigrette), under a slab of fish, or mixed into grain (rice, quinoa, orzo, pasta, etc.) salads. It has a wonderful spicy nip to it, as well as a nutty sweetness.
 
Store it in the fridge. Should keep for 5-7 days if it’s kept cold.
 
 
Rainbow Chard
We could keep it simple and just grow Ruby Red Chard or Fordhook Giant (the white-ribbed Swiss chard) – both of which are familiar supermarket standbys. But we can’t help ourselves. It’s that 51% art thing here at Valley Flora. We want all the colors, all together, all the time. Hence, your Technicolor bouquet of rainbow chard (aka “Bright Lights”).
 
It takes a few extra step to grow and harvest this chard. At planting, we separate all the baby starts out by color: whites, yellows, pinks, reds, oranges. They all get planted separately into color blocks. Then at harvest, we strip the leaves off each plant, count them, and keep them organized by color. The piles of leaves then come into the shady, cool barn. We figure out how many leaves we have, how many of each color can go into a bunch, and then we set to work “bouqueting.” 3 reds, 2 yellows, 1 white, 1 pink, 2 oranges...it’s very formulaic, and in the end we try to make sure every bunch as every color. Sometimes half the pleasure in food is the beauty of it.
 
As for eating it, chard – no matter the color – is a nutritious and versatile leafy green. It is high in vitamins A, E, and C, and minerals like iron and calcium. It is completely interchangeable with spinach in any recipe – lasagna, spanikopita, etc. – and in fact is more nutritious because it lacks oxalic acid, an element present in spinach that inhibits the body’s ability to absorb minerals.
 
Chard is the parent plant of beets; you can see the close resemblance in the leaves of beets and chard. It evolved in the Mediterranean, but is called “Swiss” due to its initial description by a Swiss botanist in the 16th century.
 
Great steamed or sautéed, chopped into soups, baked into quiche or scrambled with eggs, added to casseroles, or - one of my favorites - enjoyed southern-style: Steam it, drizzle it with a little vinegar, salt and olive oil and serve with black-eyed peas or baked beans and cornbread. Don’t be afraid to chop up the stems and eat them to; they add wonderful color and pizzaz to any meal!
 
Store it in the fridge in a plastic bag.
 
On the Farm…
Never have I seen a strawberry field like this one! The season started poorly with the wet weather, but now that the sun is out, whoooooo boy! Our new planting of strawberries is beginning to pump out red berries like nobody’s business, and everyday they get sweeter and sweeter and sweeter…..and bigger and bigger and bigger!
 
I’m convinced that the main reason this year’s new strawberries are so remarkable is because for the first time ever, I sourced my crowns from an organic nursery in Northern California. Like most strawberry growers in California, I grow out my plants from strawberry crowns that I buy and plant in the fall. These plants are runners trimmed from mother plants grown in high-elevation nurseries, most of which are located in Northern interior California. I order my plants in the summer and they usually come the first week of November, dry-packed in tidy boxes of 1000 bare root plants.
 
The first two years of farming, I bought them from a place called Lassen Canyon Nursery, near Mt. Shasta. The crowns I received were fine, and they have produced good berries over the years. But I soon learned that conventional strawberry plant production has a dark side. A very dark side.
 
Strawberries are susceptible to a whole host of diseases, which is why they are one of the most toxic conventional crops grown in California. Many of you have probably heard of Methyl Bromide, a soil fumigant that has been used in California for decades to nuke the ground prior to planting strawberry fields, among other crops. It kills everything – good and bad – leaving the soil sterile. It also has dangerous respiratory, kidney, and neurological effects and is a significant ozone depleting chemical.
 
The Montreal Protocol severely restricted the use of Methyl Bromide internationally – with a planned complete phase-out date of 2005. But the Strawberry Commission and other industries in the United States have successfully lobbied for “critical-use” exemptions. In 2004, over 7 million pounds of Methyl Bromide were applied to California fields, for production of tomatoes, strawberry fruit & strawberry plants, ornamental shrubs, and the fumigation of ham/pork products.
 
Which is why I was thrilled to hear about an organic strawberry nursery in Northern California. Prather Ranch produces organic hay, beef cattle and strawberry plants on a 10-year field rotation (meaning, strawberries only get planted in the same place every ten years, which is an optimal arrangement in terms of controlling diseases in strawberry crown production, without the use of toxic chemicals like Methyl Bromide).
 
I sourced my plants through them last fall and I noticed a difference right away. Out of the box, my crowns were healthier and more vibrant with a strong root system. We planted them in early November, and over the winter they established themselves in the field. By March, the new plants were putting on growth – more vigorously than I’d ever seen - and already beginning to flower. Last week, the berry harvest started to come on strong and I have been amazed. The berries are consistently larger, redder, sweeter, more prolific, and more perfectly formed than any crop I’ve ever harvested before. The plants are healthier than anything I’ve ever laid eyes on. It is a joy to pick them – which is saying something when you spend 10 hours a week stooped over in a strawberry field!
 
We haven’t done anything different in the way we’re growing them, which is why I believe the organic stock is making all the difference. They are far outstripping the conventional plants I’ve grown in the past in terms of flavor, appearance, and vigor. I’ve heard the same feedback from the other growers I know who have sourced from Prather.
 
But here’s the bad news. Prather Ranch – which is apparently the only organic strawberry plant nursery in the country – is suspending production of their organic strawberry crowns this year. The reason? Not enough organic growers are buying organic crowns from them. This is in spite of the fact that organic production of strawberries in California tripled between 2005 and 2009. Nevertheless, Prather’s nursery manager told me that large quantities of his beautiful plants sat unsold in the cooler this winter.
 
“But wait,” you’re thinking, “don’t certified organic farms HAVE to buy certified organic seeds and plant stock?”
 
The answer is yes, and no. There are loopholes that allow certified organic operations to purchase or use non-organic seeds and plants, based on price, variety, quantity, availability, etc. As a result, a lot of organic growers are still buying conventional strawberry crowns – because they fear that organically produced crowns will not be disease-free. Not only that, the majority of strawberry production comes from huge agribusiness operations like Driscoll’s. They are far and away the largest single marketer of organic strawberries, they grow almost entirely their own proprietary varieties in their own nurseries, and few of their nursery plants are organically grown. They can grow their own plant stock using Methyl Bromide, but still market their fruit as organic.
 
I am devastated that I won’t be able to get Prather’s plants – or any organic plants - next year. Losing Prather is a huge step backwards in our progress towards a more sustainable agriculture. We could reverse the trend, though, if the organic certifying agencies would require that all growers use organic strawberry planting stock. It will only work if everyone – Driscoll’s included – is required to take the leap at the same time. As our friends at High Ground Organics (in California) put it, “Using organic plants needs to be part of the very definition of what an organic berry is.”
 
Our farm is not certified organic, meaning we are under no obligation to follow the organic rules – but we do anyway, because we believe in it. I paid twice as much for organic strawberry crowns from Prather last fall because I wanted to vote with my dollars and support the transition to organics at an industry-wide level. And I would do anything to spend twice as much again for such healthy plants, if only I could. Instead, I will probably be going back to Lassen Canyon Nursery stock until the policy is in place to create enough market demand for Prather’s plants again.
 
If you want to voice your opinion on this matter, the best thing would be to write to the certifiers and rule-makers themselves. CCOF is the California certifying agency. Oregon Tilth is our very own certifier. QAI certifies some of the large organic operations in California and elsewhere. And then there’s the National Organic Program itself, which shapes policy and the organic rules nation-wide.
 

CCOF Certification Services
Contact: Claudia Reid
2155 Delaware Ave., Ste. 150
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Phone: 831/423-2263
E-mail: ccof [at] ccof [dot] org
Website: http://www.ccof.org/

 
 
Oregon Tilth        
260 SW Madison Ave, Ste 106
Corvallis, OR 97333
Phone: 503.378.0690
Fax: 541.753.4924
http://tilth.org/about/staff-and-contact-information/who-do-i-contact
 

Quality Assurance International – QAI
Contact: Kathleen Downey
9191 Towne Center Dr., Ste.510
San Diego, CA 92122
Phone: 858-792-3531
Fax: 858/792-8665
E-mail: maria [at] qai-inc [dot] com
Website: http://www.qai-inc.com

 

National Organic Program (USDA)
Mailing Addresses:
NOP Compliance
Agricultural Marketing Service
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Mail Stop 0268
Washington, D.C. 20250
 
Phone: (202) 720-8311
 
 

Week 3: June 21st

What’s in your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Strawberries
Raspberries
Kohlrabi
Braising Mix
Basil
Artichokes
Broccolini (on rotation)
 
The surprises keep coming this spring: this week you’ll find raspberries in your share, which are here at least a week earlier than expected! The variety is Cascade Dawn, a june-bearing variety that puts on a big show of fruit for about 3-4 weeks in the early summer. Somehow they weathered all the rain and cold and are starting to ripen up red and sweet for us!
 
The strawberries are finally starting to kick into high gear as well, with the help of all this sun. It’s a month later than last year, but better late than never! We’re picking both Seascapes (an ever-bearing, day-neutral variety that will go ALL summer, until the fall rains come) and Tillamook (a June-bearing variety that produces for a month in early summer).
 
U-pick is officially open for both strawberries and raspberries now, so if you want to fill your freezer, make some jam, or just have an overflowing bowl of berries on your counter, visit us on a Wednesday or a Saturday from 9-5 to pick your own. Info is on our website.
 
Also this week, we’re sending everyone a couple heads of romaine lettuce with Caesar salads in mind. There’s a good Caesar dressing recipe on the Recipe Exchange, compliments of a good friend’s mom.
 
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
 
Strawberries
Best eaten sooner than later, but if you need to store them for a few days, the fridge is your best bet. Many people put them into a Tupperware with a lid, sometimes with a damp paper towel on the bottom of the container to help keep the berries from drying out. They’ll keep for at least a couple of extra days this way.
 
Strawberries are also a cinch to freeze. Take the tops off and simply throw them into a freezer bag whole. They’ll be mushy when they thaw out, but they’re still great in smoothies, as a compote, filling for crepes, added to yogurt or in hot cereal.
 
Raspberries
Very delicate and very perishable, you should enjoy your raspberries within a day or two. If you want to try to store them for a couple of days, put them in the fridge. They also freeze well – treat them exactly like the strawberries.
 
Kohlrabi
Va-va-voom, I wish I had a dress the color of this kohlrabi. Kohlrabi is the alien-looking purple orb in your tote this week, a variety called Kolibri. Kohlrabi belongs to the Brassica family, along with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, mustard greens, and many more crops (it’s a very big family). It grows just above ground – squatting there like a happy, round beer belly - with a big crown of shady leaves overhead.
 
Kohlrabi is foreign to most folks, so a few tips:

  • The outer skin on kohlrabi is tough, so we suggest you peel it with a paring knife. The innards are tender and crunchy, like a peeled broccoli stem.
  • Kohlrabi is great cut into sticks and enjoyed raw, but you can also sautee or steam it lightly.
  • Kohlrabi stores like a champ – best in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer.

 
Braising Mix
The bag of baby mustards, kale, and other Asian greens is braising mix. It can be eaten raw as a salad, or flash sautéed or steamed. If you cook it, it’s wonderful drizzled with a little olive oil, cider vinegar and salt. It will cook down significantly if you leave it too long in the pan, so keep an eye on it!
Store it in the fridge. Should keep for 5-7 days if it’s kept cold.
 
Basil
One of the true tastes of summer, this basil is hothouse grown. We’re just now planting our outdoor basil crop to ensure a continuous harvest through the summer (a bit later than usual because of the cold, wet spring), but fortunately the greenhouse crop will carry us into July.
Store it in the fridge in it’s baggie, but beware: basil will turn black in your fridge after a few days, so use it while it’s perky and green!
 
On the Farm…
Farming is a constant series of tradeoffs, and this week is no exception. A few weeks ago we were lamenting the puddles of standing water in the field and the relentless rain; this week we are scrambling to get irrigation on all our crops before they wither under the solstice sun! We’re almost there, which means that the summer irrigation dance has commenced at Valley Flora.
 
This week I drew up the irrigation schedule for the season – a puzzle that often sends smoke streaming forth from my ears. Every crop has different water needs, and we water in many different ways on the farm: with overhead sprinklers, drip tape, poly tubing with special emitters (for the perennials and orchard), and automatic misters. We pump water from Floras Creek using a 30 gallon/minute (gpm) pump – which is a relatively small pump for our 8 acres of production. It means that something is always being watered on the farm – whether it’s 12 noon or 12 midnight – and it means that we have to be on our toes about turning things on and off throughout the day.
 
A typical Monday looks something like this in the Valley Flora irrigation realm:

  • 7 am: Turn on the double set of overhead sprinklers in the lettuce and root field. Run it for 5 hours using 26 gpm. (We run overhead sprinklers in the early morning before the afternoon breeze picks up – in order to conserve water and ensure an even distribution).
  • 12 pm: Turn off lettuce/roots. Clean the mainline filter.
  • 12:30 pm: Turn on Strawberry 1 (on drip tape, 12 gpm) and run for 3 hours. Meanwhile, turn on potatoes (drip, 8 gpm) and run for 4 hours. Also turn on Orchard 1 (poly tubing, 6 gpm) and run for 6 hours – for a total of 26 gpm running at once.
  • 3:30 pm: Turn off Strawberry 1. Clean the secondary filter. Switch to Strawberry 2 (drip, 10 gpm, 3 hours).
  • 4:30 pm: Turn off potatoes.
  • 6:30 pm: Turn off Orchard 1. Turn off Strawberry 2.
  • 8 pm: Automatic overhead sprinklers (controlled by a timer) turn on in the salad field and run on rotation until 6 am, Tuesday.

Whew. And then it starts all over again on Tuesday with another string of crops and timing. Counter to what most people imagine organic farming to be – groovy and mellow and unplugged – we all wear watches on the farm, carry clipboards, and we run most places. Vegetables – and their thirsty ways - rule our lives. And yes, we love it.

Week 1: June 7th

What's in Your Share This Week?
 
Head lettuce
Hakurei turnips
Crunchy Royale radishes
Baby Pac Choi
Mizuna
Chives
Artichokes
Broccolini (on rotation)
 
Lots of greens and spring food this week. Don’t be intimidated by the quantity of greenery – much of it will cook down if you don’t think you can go through the raw volume of it all. This week’s basket is a true reflection of eating seasonally during a wet, cold spring: all of the crops in your tote have done remarkably well with this soggy weather. What’s missing are the berries - which will hopefully be back in action next week with the help of the sun and some SOS gleaners this weekend  – and the asparagus, which came on a month early and stopped a month early. I guess you can’t expect everything to line up perfectly when you’re at the mercy of the weather.
 
And though it may seem like you’re getting a lot of greens in the month of June, remember to enjoy them while they’re here. Their primetime is relatively fleeting before summer’s dry heat begins to favor the rest of the vegetable kingdom instead. Also remember that in the coming six months, your harvest baskets will follow the arc of the growing season. That means that these early shares in June are always lighter and less diverse than those of summer and fall. This week’s basket is the first installment towards a produce climax that will probably leave you begging for mercy come September. At least we hope so. Aprovecho!
 
 

How to Eat it, Cut it, Cook it, and Keep it:
 
Head lettuce

  • Stores best in a plastic bag in the fridge. Don’t let it get too soggy!

 
Hakurei turnips

  • A Japanese specialty turnip that won the hearts of many a CSA member last year. White, sweet, and creamy all they way through – without a trace of that skunky, spicy turnip taste. We like to eat them raw – like apples! – but they’re also great cut up into salads (matchsticked or julienned is my favorite way) or lightly sautéed with other veggies.
  • They store best without tops in a plastic bag. In fact, I kept a topless bag of hakureis in the fridge from October until May this past year – and they were still good until the bitter end. But don’t toss the tops – they are great stir-fried like mustard greens!
  • For a quick and easy zingy salad using your turnips, radishes, chives & mizuna, try this recipe we invented this week. It went great as a side to homemade chicken enchiladas (made from Joe Pestana’s local pasture-raised chicken, frozen sweet corn from last season, frozen roasted peppers from last season, dried chiles from last fall, and home-canned tomato sauce from last summer – a dinner that came almost completely from the farm, via the freezer and pantry - YUM).

 
Crunchy Royale radishes

  • Another favorite from last year – a sweet, not too spicy radish variety that gets as big as a beet without becoming pithy!
  • Follow the same storage tips as with turnips. You can also eat radish greens – although they’re best cooked/sautéed in order to tame the spines on the leaves.

 
Baby Pac Choi

  • A CSA member specifically asked for “baby” pac choi at the end of last season, after we returned from our culinary adventure in Thailand. Here you go – a succulent variety that steams, sautees, and can be eaten raw – anyway you like it. The slugs munched the outer leaves this spring – so feel free to either strip them down to the heart, or chop up those outer leaves and throw them into your stir-fry pan or soup pot. They still taste great, even if they look at little Swiss.
  • Store in the fridge in a plastic bag. Like the lettuce, don’t let them get too soggy.

 
Mizuna

  • To be honest, we had hoped to send out arugula this week, but it’s been growing too slowly with all this nasty weather. So it’s mizuna instead – which maybe is a good thing to help stretch your culinary imaginations right off the bat. Many people wonder what the bleep they’re supposed to do with mizuna. Let us know what you like to do with it on the recipe exchange. And if you’re at a total loss, here are a few clues: add it to your salad...use it as a bed of greens under a nice hunk of fish...throw it into stir-fry...eat it plain...dress it up with your favorite dressing...feed it to your guinea pig.
  • One thing’s for sure, you want to keep it in the fridge in its plastic bag.

 
Chives

  • Great garnish, you know what to do.
  • Keep in the fridge in a plastic bag, or upright in a glass of water.

 
Artichokes

  • Of course this vegetable should have the word “art” in its name – the greens and the purples and the symmetry and the total unlikelihood that these thistle buds would be edible – and yet, they are!
  • Some of you got a pile of small ones; some of you got a couple of big ones. No matter what, our favorite way to choke them down is to steam them (about 45 minutes on the stovetop, or about 12 minutes in a pressure cooker) and then dip them lavishly in a homemade aioli. We mix up a couple spoonfuls of mayo or veganaise, add a splash of balsamic vinegar, a little spoonful of capers, and some fresh ground black pepper. Divine. If you got small ones, they are practically chokeless (the choke being that hairy part right before you get to the heart) – which means you can almost eat the whole thing from the bottom up, minus the tough tips of the outer leaves. One thing to beware of: artichoke stems can be extremely bitter, so don’t nibble too far down past the heart!
  • They keep well in the fridge in a plastic bag for up to a couple weeks. But I doubt they’ll linger in your fridge that long…

 
Broccolini

  • A sprouting version of broccoli that comes on earlier than those big hefty crowns you’ll be seeing later in June & July. This variety is called Happy Rich. It’s coming on in a staggered fashion, so we’ll be distributing a taste of it to each pick-up site on rotation in the next couple of weeks. When it does show up in your basket, I think you’ll be amazed at how tender and flavorful those lanky florettes are. We’ve been steaming them lightly and eating them with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and a little splash of cider vinegar. Uber-yum.
  • Store in the fridge in a plastic bag.

 
On the Farm...
We're wet, but we're mucking through! The last two week's worth of plantings (corn, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, dill, cilantro, winter squash, peppers, summer squash, etc.) have been stalled by this weather, so we're chomping at the bit for the field to dry out so we can play some serious catch-up out there.
 
The one upshot of all this rain has been that the barn has never been tidier, the totes have never been scrubbed so clean, and we're almost done building our dry storage room that is designed to keep the autumn squash harvest cool, dry, rodent-proof, and happy for many months this winter!
 
OK, enough faking it - we really want the sun to shine. Think blazing sunny thoughts. It's time to hang up the raingear.

Week 25 & 26: November 16...

What's In Your Basket?

Delicata Winter Squash
Baby Pam Pie Pumpkin
Sangre, Yukon Gold and Yellow Finn Potatoes
Red Beets
Rainbow & Nelson Carrots
Tadorna Leeks
Celeriac
Parsnips
Shallots
Kale
Escarole
Brussels Sprouts


Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!

It’s the big finale this week! Fortunately, with the exception of the escarole (that green lettuce-looking thing), everything in your basket is something you’ve seen at least once before this season. We’ve tried to load you up with all kinds of goodies that can become part of your Thanksgiving dinner next week: potatoes, celeriac, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, pie pumpkins, shallots and more. We’ve been adding Thanksgiving-inspired recipes to the Recipe Exchange, so take a gander and get adventurous on Turkey day. Instead of plain old mashed potatoes, try the Celeriac and Potato Puree. Forget the canned pumpkin filling and go for the real thing with a fresh, homemade pumpkin pie. See how close you can come to convincing the Brussels sprouts hater in your family that they might just be a Brussels sprouts lover - with the Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots. And try a new spin on stuffing with the Cornbread Dressing with Roasted Fall Roots. If you want to take it even farther, check out the epicurious.com Thanksgiving Headquarters for a smorgasbord of gourmet, seasonal recipes that will add some new flair to Thanksgiving dinner.

And as for that escarole in your basket, if you thought it was lettuce and tried to make a regular old salad with it, you might have grimaced at the bitterness. Escarole is in the chicory family, right along with radicchio and endive. Although it’s not sweet like lettuce, it does have an amazing array of uses in the kitchen – everything from raw salads to soups to wraps to sautees. In the spirit of choosing your own adventure, follow this link to dive into dozens of escarole recipes.

Store it as you would lettuce, in a plastic bag in the fridge.
 
On the Farm…
It seems entirely fitting that the Harvest Basket season is ending on the sweet note of Thanksgiving. Partly because we love to imagine Valley Flora food spread thick on your table next week, feeding your family and friends from near and far. Hopefully this will be one of the most local, seasonal Thanksgivings you've ever enjoyed. And hey - if you're traveling out of town to join loved ones elsewhere, don't leave your veggies behind! I'll be packing a suitcase of Brussels sprouts and shallots for my Dad to lug back to the Bradbury family Thanksgiving gathering that I'm missing in Chicago next week. No need to experience veggie separation anxiety when you can stuff the spuds right in there next to your toothbrush and clean undies. Seriously.
 
But feasting and veggie smuggling aside, Thanksgiving is also the perfect opportunity for us to say a giant thank you for being a part of the farm this season. We’ve loved feeding you, we’ve loved getting to know you, and we’re deeply grateful for your support.
 
And try as we might, we just can't seem to kick this crazy farming habit of ours. No doubt the vegetables will once again be bossing us around and running our lives next year, same as always. We hope you'll be there to eat them with us and once again share in the harvest.

And now, a word from your Thanksgiving Day turkey:

A Turkey Speaks

I have never understood
why anyone would
roast the turkey
and shuck the clams
and crisp the croutons
and shell the peas
and candy the sweets
and compote the cranberries
and bake the pies
and clear the table
and wash the dishes
and fall into bed
when they could sit back
and enjoy a hamburger.

~Author Unknown

Happy Feasting from the Valley Flora Posse
Zoë, Abby, Bets, Blake and all the critters...
 

Week 24: November 9-16

What's In Your Basket?

Buttercup Winter Squash
Savoy Cabbage
Purple Kohlrabi
Hakurei Turnips
Copra Onions
Head Lettuce
Rainbow Chard
Carrots


Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!


Buttercup Winter Squash

Buttercup squash are in the Kabocha family, similar to the Sunshine squash we sent out a few weeks ago. It has a corky stem, leathery skin, and dry sweet flesh. They are notorious for the grey “button” on the bottom of the squash – some barely show a trace of it, but others have a large button that bulges out as much as three inches.

On Monday night I peeled and chopped a Buttercup and used it as the main ingredient in an improvised Thai Curry. It was a quick, easy dinner and the meatiness of the Buttercup was the perfect base for the curry.

Store your Buttercup on the counter, not in the fridge. It will keep for months if conditions are cool (about 50 degrees) and dry.

 
Savoy Cabbage
Savoy cabbage is like a cross between Napa cabbage and a regular cabbage: it has the round shape of a normal cabbage, but the frill and flair of a Napa. I tend to love savoy cabbage above all other varieties. It’s crisp, sweet, tender, and like its other cabbage cousins it stores well for a long time in the fridge.

A couple of recipes to help you enjoy your savoy, cooked or raw:
Buttered Cabbage
Carrot Cabbage Cumin Slaw

Purple Kohlrabi
If I could dress myself the color of these kohlrabis everyday, I would! Deep plum skins reveal a white heart – and if you remember kohlrabi from that spring Harvest Basket many moons ago, you’ll know that this is a vegetable that achieves that unusual balance of sweet, crunchy, tender, bizarre and beautiful.

Try it this time roasted with Butternut Squash, or sautéed with kale or chard.

Stores well – for weeks even – in the fridge in a plastic bag.

On the Farm…
This week is the lull before the storm. Next week, Week 25, is the last week of regular Harvest Basket deliveries. “But wait,” you’re saying, “I thought we were supposed to get 26 weeks of produce from Valley Flora….?”

It’s true, you are, which is why next week you’ll be getting a double share. Two baskets in one. In other words, a mother lode of food. We’re ending the season with a bang for a couple of reasons:

  1. Lots of people are out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday and we don’t want them to miss out on the last week of produce.
  2.  We want you to have your Thanksgiving share in advance of Thanksgiving so that you can plan your menu accordingly – and hopefully enjoy the most local, seasonal Thanksgiving feast you’ve ever had!
  3. We’re excited to take the week of Thanksgiving OFF! Wahoo!

What this means is that next week’s share is going to be big, so bring extra bags/boxes to haul your goodies home in. There’s also a very good chance that all the food won’t fit in a single tote, so there may be a few items that get sent to your pick-up site in bulk, like winter squash. We will label the bulk stuff clearly with the share quantity you are to take. For instance, “4 Delicata per Harvest Basket,” or “1 Pumpkin per Harvest Basket.” Please be sure to read the signs carefully so that everyone gets their fair share.

We’ll also do our best to post a bunch of Thanksgiving-inspired recipes on the website, but you can help us by sharing some of your own favorites. Do you make a killer gravy or a have a seasonal stuffing recipe that calls for parsnips and celeriac? Post it on the Recipe Exchange!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because there is no other day of the year that is so unabashedly about eating. It’s a great time to celebrate good food, to be grateful for the abundance, and to share it with others. Thanks to a couple of our Harvest Basket members – Jo Rieber and Bill McArdle – we are sharing the farm’s abundance with a lot of families in need on the Southcoast, via the local food bank network. Jo and Bill helped connect the farm with food pantries in Port Orford and Langlois this Fall and now every week we donate a few hundred pounds of fresh food from the farm. Lettuce, cabbage, onions, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, beets, parsnips, and even Romanesco cauliflower have been finding their way to the food banks.

Once again, you and all our Harvest Basket members are to thank. Because of your commitment to the farm we’ve been able to extend our growing season later into the Fall and you’ve given us a reason to plant a lot of storage crops. Those crops are now not only ending up in your kitchen, but they are feeding other local families in need as well.

In so many ways, it takes a village. Thanks for being part of this one.

 

Week 24: November 9-16

What's In Your Basket?

Buttercup Winter Squash
Savoy Cabbage
Purple Kohlrabi
Hakurei Turnips
Copra Onions
Head Lettuce
Rainbow Chard
Carrots


Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!


Buttercup Winter Squash

Buttercup squash are in the Kabocha family, similar to the Sunshine squash we sent out a few weeks ago. It has a corky stem, leathery skin, and dry sweet flesh. They are notorious for the grey “button” on the bottom of the squash – some barely show a trace of it, but others have a large button that bulges out as much as three inches.

On Monday night I peeled and chopped a Buttercup and used it as the main ingredient in an improvised Thai Curry. It was a quick, easy dinner and the meatiness of the Buttercup was the perfect base for the curry.

Store your Buttercup on the counter, not in the fridge. It will keep for months if conditions are cool (about 50 degrees) and dry.

 
Savoy Cabbage
Savoy cabbage is like a cross between Napa cabbage and a regular cabbage: it has the round shape of a normal cabbage, but the frill and flair of a Napa. I tend to love savoy cabbage above all other varieties. It’s crisp, sweet, tender, and like its other cabbage cousins it stores well for a long time in the fridge.

A couple of recipes to help you enjoy your savoy, cooked or raw:
Buttered Cabbage
Carrot Cabbage Cumin Slaw

Purple Kohlrabi
If I could dress myself the color of these kohlrabis everyday, I would! Deep plum skins reveal a white heart – and if you remember kohlrabi from that spring Harvest Basket many moons ago, you’ll know that this is a vegetable that achieves that unusual balance of sweet, crunchy, tender, bizarre and beautiful.

Try it this time roasted with Butternut Squash, or sautéed with kale or chard.

Stores well – for weeks even – in the fridge in a plastic bag.

On the Farm…
This week is the lull before the storm. Next week, Week 25, is the last week of regular Harvest Basket deliveries. “But wait,” you’re saying, “I thought we were supposed to get 26 weeks of produce from Valley Flora….?”

It’s true, you are, which is why next week you’ll be getting a double share. Two baskets in one. In other words, a mother lode of food. We’re ending the season with a bang for a couple of reasons:

  1. Lots of people are out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday and we don’t want them to miss out on the last week of produce.
  2.  We want you to have your Thanksgiving share in advance of Thanksgiving so that you can plan your menu accordingly – and hopefully enjoy the most local, seasonal Thanksgiving feast you’ve ever had!
  3. We’re excited to take the week of Thanksgiving OFF! Wahoo!

What this means is that next week’s share is going to be big, so bring extra bags/boxes to haul your goodies home in. There’s also a very good chance that all the food won’t fit in a single tote, so there may be a few items that get sent to your pick-up site in bulk, like winter squash. We will label the bulk stuff clearly with the share quantity you are to take. For instance, “4 Delicata per Harvest Basket,” or “1 Pumpkin per Harvest Basket.” Please be sure to read the signs carefully so that everyone gets their fair share.

We’ll also do our best to post a bunch of Thanksgiving-inspired recipes on the website, but you can help us by sharing some of your own favorites. Do you make a killer gravy or a have a seasonal stuffing recipe that calls for parsnips and celeriac? Post it on the Recipe Exchange!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because there is no other day of the year that is so unabashedly about eating. It’s a great time to celebrate good food, to be grateful for the abundance, and to share it with others. Thanks to a couple of our Harvest Basket members – Jo Rieber and Bill McArdle – we are sharing the farm’s abundance with a lot of families in need on the Southcoast, via the local food bank network. Jo and Bill helped connect the farm with food pantries in Port Orford and Langlois this Fall and now every week we donate a few hundred pounds of fresh food from the farm. Lettuce, cabbage, onions, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, beets, parsnips, and even Romanesco cauliflower have been finding their way to the food banks.

Once again, you and all our Harvest Basket members are to thank. Because of your commitment to the farm we’ve been able to extend our growing season later into the Fall and you’ve given us a reason to plant a lot of storage crops. Those crops are now not only ending up in your kitchen, but they are feeding other local families in need as well.

In so many ways, it takes a village. Thanks for being part of this one.

 

Week 23: November 2-8

What's In Your Basket?

Butternut Winter Squash
Diablo Brussels Sprouts
Celeriac
Parsnips
Hakurei Turnips
Fennel
Leeks
Carrots
Head Lettuce
Broccoli or Romanesco

Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!

Butternut Winter Squash
Butternuts are the quintessential soup squash: thin-skinned, easy to peel, incredibly meaty, golden-hued, and sweet. If you’re in the mood for some winter comfort food that you can eat with a spoon, this is your squash. Not that Butternuts can’t play a main role in lots of other dishes as well: curries, root roasts, braised or glazed. They are easy to handle, delicious to eat, and impressive to behold. FYI, most of the squashes that we sent out this week were about 3 pounds apiece (unless you got two small ones, in which case they are about 1.5 pounds each). That could be useful information if you find a recipe that calls for pounds instead of cups.

A few Butternut recipes to tempt you:
Butternut Squash Soup
Winter Squash Curry

And if you want to do something simple, try roasting your Butternut: Heat the oven to 400. Peel your butternut and slice into ¼ inch rounds. Douse a roasting pan with some olive oil or melted butter. Arrange the rounds on the pan, sprinkle with salt, pepper and/or herbs like sage, thyme or rosemary, and drizzle with a little more oil/butter. Roast for about 20-30 minutes without turning until the squash is tender.

Store your Butternut on the counter, not in the fridge. It will keep for months if conditions are cool (about 50 degrees) and dry.

 
Brussels Sprouts
What are those wacky, whimsical, Dr. Seuss stalks in your tote this week? Brussels Sprouts, still on the vine! Snapping sprouts off the stalk is an incredibly slow, laborious task – and with so many mouths to feed, we opt for the more succinct harvest method: log the whole damn thing! Lopping the stalks is probably the most macho harvest on the farm, all year. It goes something like this:

  • We don full rain gear, even if the sun is shining (because the plants catch huge puddles of water and hold it in the cup of their leaves like living bird baths...).
  • Then we karate-chop off all the leaves, down the entire 3 foot length of the plant.
  • Next, we take a machete and swing with all our might at the base of the stalk, which is hard like wood. It often takes a few well-aimed swings.
  • Finally, once the stalk is cut, we whack it in half so that it will fit in a Rubbermaid tote.

Could make for a good scene in a veggie horror flick…

As for eating Brussels Sprouts, I know, I know – I promised we wouldn’t harvest them until we got a frost. But the mercury hasn’t dipped lower than 40 yet, and the weeks are running out to share them with you. We DID do a taste test and can vouch that they do not taste like old gym socks. In fact, they taste great.

You can cook them up in a number of ways. One of the best things you can do, especially if you are eyeing them dubiously and reliving “eat your vegetables” childhood nightmares, is to roast them. I know it sounds odd, but something happens to Brussels sprouts when you cut them in half, toss them with some olive oil and salt, and put them in the oven at 400 until they are tender and a little crispy-browned. They get sweeter, saltier, greasier, swoonier. So good that you might just like them. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll love them.

Another of my favorite recipes, which calls for Brussels sprouts and romanesco, broccoli or cauliflower:  Brussels Sprouts and Fall Brassicas with Mustard-Caper Butter

For ease of storage, you'll want to snap your sprouts off the stalk and close them up in a plastic bag. They’ll keep for at least a couple weeks that way. Take note that some of your sprouts might need to be cleaned before you cook them. Simply take a paring knife and cut the bottom of the sprout off. Like a tiny cabbage, the outer leaves will peel off revealing a light green perfect sprout beneath.

Celeriac
Also known as “celery root,” this is by far the most alien vegetable we grow. It is closely related to celery (the above-ground part of the plant looks like a dark green, leggier version of celery and the flavor is distinctly reminiscent), but celeriac is far more mysterious. Over the course of the whole season (we planted these puppies way back in May, and seeded them in the greenhouse in March!), celeriac slowly puts on girth below ground, swelling towards November until they are finally fat enough to yank from the ground. And I mean YANK.

What’s in your tote this week is a trimmed up, cleaned up, tidied up version of the uncensored celeriac. Straight out of the ground this veggie is about as unkempt as they come: huge hairy roots covered in mud; a wily top-hat of greenery; and the white orb itself sprouting what would be the human equivalent of nose hairs and chin hairs and ear hairs in wild disarray. It takes some deft work with the harvest knife to make them presentable, but I feel strongly that celeriac is well worth the effort. I’m guessing that most of you have never eaten it, and I am hoping hoping hoping that the amorous feelings I have towards this vegetable become your own.

Here’s why: nobody expects such an ugly vegetable to taste so good. How can something be at once subtle and extraordinary? I don’t know, but please, don’t use your celeriac as a softball. Try it. First, peel the rough skin off with a knife to reveal the white flesh below. For the pure taste experience, I suggest roasting it like you would the Brussels sprouts. But you can also dice up this dense, nutty root-wad and sautee it. You can steam it. You can boil it with potatoes and parsnips and then mash them all up together for the most surprising, yummy mashers you’ve ever had: Winter Root Mash.

And so you know, this week’s single celeriac is intended as a warm-up pitch. You’ll see this under-appreciated oddity of a vegetable again in the last week of Harvest Basket deliveries, and for those of you signing on for Winter Shares, celeriac will show up now and again.

It stores like a champ in the fridge, best in a plastic bag.

Parsnips
Another unusual vegetable coming your way. Parsnips are in the carrot family, but these long, white roots need to be cooked. They are a perfect companion to a few of the other oddballs in the share this week, namely celeriac (which they can be boiled and mashed/pureed with), Brussels sprouts (which they can be roasted with, alongside the celeriac), or you can enjoy them with carrots in this pretty recipe: Honeyed Parsnips and Carrots with Rosemary.

If I wanted to use up lots of this week’s veggies in one easy, tasty, fell swoop, I’d settle on an autumn roast of cubed Butternut squash, parsnips, celeriac and Brussels sprouts. Cut them all about the same size (Brussels just in half, and the small ones can stay whole), toss them with olive oil and salt, and roast in the oven until tender and slightly browned.

Store your parsnips in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Hakurei Turnips
They’re back, as promised! I think you know what to do with these guys: crunch ‘em down raw. There will be more in the next couple of weeks, so don’t worry about parsing them out to last you until June 2010.

On the Farm....
Whew. I’d say that this week’s share amounts to a true rite of passage for all you Harvest Basket members. If you can open your tote without screaming, empty the contents without panicking, and transform your veggies into a meal without the whole family bolting for Subway, then you will have earned yourself a gold star for becoming a truly seasonal eater. We didn’t grow all these weird veggies for Halloween, or to have a good laugh on you. We grew them because they’re what’s for dinner in November here in Oregon when you eat straight from a local farm.

Eating seasonally can be a challenge in a culture that is so deeply programmed to the season-less array of foodstuffs at American grocery stores. But if you can embrace snaggle-toothed vegetables like celeriac, find comfort in reliable staples like winter squash, potatoes, cabbage and carrots, and spark inspiration from kale – well, then a whole world of good eating opens up to you, right in your own backyard, straight on through winter. It takes some practice in the kitchen, and it takes more forethought than grabbing take-out on the way home, but if you’re biting into your first taste of roasted celeriac right about now, you’ll know why it’s worth it.

Good luck with your produce this week. We’re here if you need us.
 

Week 22: October 26-31

What's In Your Basket?

Sunshine Winter Squash
Fingerling Potatoes
Lacinato Kale
Shallots
Broccoli
Rainbow Carrots
Tomatoes
Head Lettuce

Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!

Sunshine Winter Squash
Sunshine is a Scarlet Kabocha type squash with smooth, sweet, bright orange flesh that is great for mashing, baking and pies. The flavor is almost tropical. If you’re hooked on making fresh homemade pumpkin pie now, you can substitute Sunshine for a pie pumpkin. Or consider baking your squash (cut in half, cut sides down on a baking sheet) until soft, scooping it out of its skin, and then mashing it like potatoes. Alloro Wine Bar in Bandon buys lots of Sunshine Squash from us to use as filling for homemade raviolis (the chef, Jeremy, insists that they are the best squash for that purpose because of their dry, incredibly sweet flesh).

Store your Sunshine on the counter, not in the fridge. It will keep for months if conditions are cool (about 50 degrees) and dry.

 
Fingerling Potatoes

You might be wondering about the oddly-shaped spuds in your share this week. Long and skinny, crooked and wobbly, nobbed and hooked – allow us to introduce you to fingerlings. You are getting two almost indistinguishable varieties mixed together, Austrian Crescent and Russian Banana.

Fingerlings are a bit of specialty item due to the fact that they yield fewer and smaller potatoes than your standard Yukon Gold or russet varieties, and are far from uniform. Nevertheless, they are a popular gourmet item with chefs, and wonderful to use in the home kitchen. The texture of fingerlings is often described as waxy and firm. They are not a mashing potato so much as a roasting or steaming potato, and due to their small size they rarely take more than 25 minutes to cook.

Make a marriage of your fingerlings and your lacinato kale this week and try this Kale and Potato Spanish Tortilla – a potato and egg frittata chock full of greens and flavor.

You can store your fingerlings in the fridge, or in a cool dark place.

Lacinato Kale
Also known as cavolo nero (“black cabbage”), Tuscan kale, Italian kale, dinosaur kale, black kale or flat black cabbage, lacinato kale goes by many monikers. I like to think that’s because this particular kale has earned itself an honored place in many different culinary traditions around the world. This is the kale that Marisa, my friend from Hawaii, threatened to forsake island paradise for, after all. And why? Because lacinato kale doesn’t grow well in the tropics; in fact, its glory season is just beginning here in Oregon as the days get shorter and the nights get cold. Little by little, the sugars are beginning to come up in the lacinato, and once we get a frost, it will be the best tasting kale on the farm, hands down.

A few tidbits of kale trivia should you like to begin crusading as a kale converter:
•    Kale is a form of cabbage in which the central leaves do not form a head.
•    Kale is the hardiest vegetable on the farm, withstanding (and in fact, improving with) hard freezes.
•    During World War II, the U.K. launched its own kale crusade via the Dig for Victory campaign (similar to the U.S.’ victory gardens). The vegetable was easy to grow and provided important nutrients that were in short supply due to rationing.
•    Because kale can grow well into winter, one variety is called 'Hungry Gap' - named for the winter months when precious other crops are available to harvest.
•    In Scotland, kale was such a staple in the traditional diet that the word “kale” in dialect Scots is synonymous with food. To be "off one's kail" is to feel too ill to eat.

If you don’t try this week’s recipe, you can improvise with you lacinato the same way you would any other kale – steamed, sautéed, in soup, or raw. Store in the fridge in plastic bag.

On the Farm....
We’re beginning to look ahead into 2010 and think about things like next year’s crop plan, the marketing mix, and labor, which inevitably means we're first taking a good long look at 2009. The consensus amongst everyone here at Valley Flora is that this has been the best season ever for us, in large part thanks to you, our Harvest Basket members. Having a CSA (community supported agriculture) program has made it possible to have a wonderful, direct connection to the people who are eating our food, and farming has never felt more fun, more gratifying, and more sustainable.

When I say “sustainable,” I mean it on a number of fronts: personally, financially, and environmentally. As for personal sustainability, Abby and I were just commenting this week on the fact that neither of us feel burned out the way we have in season’s past come Fall. For that we have Blake - our dedicated farm worker – to thank, as well as the many friends and volunteers who have helped out this season: Sara and Marisa, dear friends who each came on a month-long farm-cation this summer; Robin Giss, our amazing strawberry picking volunteer from Coos Bay; Jeri Bissel from Bandon who has been volunteering since September and who by now has plucked millions of petals off of the bachelor buttons and calendula flowers that Abby puts in the salad mix. All of these individuals have given the farm – and us - a loving boost this year.

But the other reason we aren’t burned out is because the CSA has brought a certain steady predictability to what is usually a hectic, frenzied growing season. We know just how many heads of lettuce and bunches of carrots we need to harvest each week – and the fact that the food is pre-sold takes a lot of the hustle and stress out of marketing in the summer. Unlike 2008, I was able to take a weekend off here and there this season, to go swimming up Elk River with family and friends, and to can some of my own tomatoes. Your commitment to the farm, your decision to be part of this with us, has helped make those simple but restorative pleasures a reality this season.

Financially, all of you helped the farm achieve a stability it has never experienced before. Knowing we had Harvest Basket commitments from 55 families enabled us to create a job in Curry County by hiring Blake full time on a year-round salary. It helped us afford the walk-in cooler, which has proven indispensable (I don’t know how we farmed without it before!). It helped avert the spring cash flow crisis that is so ubiquitous among farmers who typically have to spend heaps of money to get the season up and running, but won’t make that money back until later in the summer. And it enabled us to forecast and plan with a known budget.

In terms of environmental sustainability, you Harvest Basket members get full credit for the fact that the farm is more diverse than it has ever been in history. I was just glancing at our website today and read the paragraph I wrote 8 months ago about Valley Flora and the “60 crops” we grow. I haven’t done an official tally yet, but I’m guessing that number is closer to 100 now, in large part because having a CSA program means that we need to grow more variety so that there is always something new and exciting to toss into your tote. What we can grow will always be dictated by the arc of the season, by shrinking or expanding daylight and the natural miracle of photosynthesis, but within that natural arc we now have a reason to grow as many different crops and varieties as we think you’ll eat! Watch out: rhubarb, sunchokes, collard greens, figs, pie cherries, hardy kiwis, table grapes, quince and tayberries could be finding their way into your fridge some day!

What all this diversity means is that the farm is becoming ever-more complex, providing habitat, nectar, and forage for all kinds of critters; that the crop rotations and cover crop cycles are becoming more refined; that we as farmers are learning more every year about how to best assemble the puzzle and manage this precious piece of river bottom so that our kids and grandkids can continue to farm it if they want to, and your kids and grandkids can continue to be fed by it.

At a time when a lot of the news is grim, we feel lucky to be part of this great experiment in eating with you. We know full well there are days when you pull that bunch of kale out of your tote and wonder, “what in the world am I going to do with it this time!?” We know that some of you have pushed yourself to your culinary limits with things like fennel and beets and turnips. And we know that some of you have juggled your schedules and figured out complicated veggie carpools just to be able to pick up your share each week. We know all this takes commitment and we are deeply grateful to you for your partnership - for saying to us, and the world, “Local food matters. Family farms matter. Sustainable agriculture matters. And eating well, eating seasonally, eating as part of a community, matters."

Thanks for all that you eat.
 

Week 21: October 19-25

What's In Your Basket?

Acorn Winter Squash
Baby Pam Pie Pumpkin
Romanesco Cauliflower
D’avignon Radishes
Pac Choi
Copra Onions
Nelson Carrots
Hot Peppers
Red Beets
Head Lettuce

Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!

Acorn Winter Squash
These acorn squash go by the name “Tuffy,” and you only have to try cutting ‘em open once to understand why. Acorn squash typically have a very hard ribbed skin, which can make lopping them open a dangerous thing! To halve them, we suggest choosing a sharp, durable knife (don’t use your favorite $100 chef’s knife – we broke the blade of ours trying to hack open a winter squash!). With the squash on a cutting board, stab the tip of the knife into the valley of a rib and then work the blade down, turning the squash over to cut all the way around and through.

Or, you can just get out the machete and take a well-aimed wack at it on a chopping block.

Either way, once you get inside your acorn squash, you’ll encounter something similar to the Delicata: a hollow cavity full of seeds, surrounded by yellow flesh and sweet flavor. Unlike the Delicata, Acorn squash skins are not so palatable: kinda thick and leathery.

Acorns are great for halving and stuffing, or eating naked the way we suggested you cook your Delicatas last week. Here are a couple of recipes to inspire: Acorn Squash with Wild Mushroom Cranberry Stuffing and Beet Soup in Roasted Acorn Squash Bowls. They’re not the greatest squash for dicing up because the skin is a bear to peel: it’s a rollercoaster peeling job, over hill and dale with all those tough ribs. It does work to cut them in rounds, which are great roasted with salt and olive oil. You’ll find all kinds of inspired concoctions on www.epicurious.com.

Store your acorns on the counter, not in the fridge.
 

Baby Pam Pumpkins
We grow pumpkins every year for a couple of reasons:
1)    because pumpkin pie is to die for, and
2)    because carving jack o’ lanterns isn’t just for kids.

The pumpkins have also inspired another tradition that we look forward to every year: a riotous October visit from the Wilderland School in Langlois. The week before Halloween, about 20 pre-school and first grade kids come running through the farmgate sporting rubber boots and runny noses. We make them endure a farm tour all about plant families and praying mantis and perennials and our watershed before we turn them loose on the pumpkin patch where each kid gets to pick out a pumpkin to take home. The energy runs high and as we make our way down the farm road, the kids keep asking “when will we get to the pumpkin patch?”  “How much farther are the pumpkins?” “Are we there yet?”

Well, as it turns out there ISN’T a pumpkin patch for the kids this year, who are coming next week. We’ve already harvested all the pumpkins, stored them in the barn, turned under the squash field and planted cover crop there. But we do have something else in store for them: the first ever Valley Flora Pumpkin Treasure Hunt. There are pumpkins set aside for every kid, but they’re gonna have to put their riddle-solving powers to work to find them on the farm...

You, on the other hand, are not required to solve any riddles to enjoy your pumpkin. It’s the best variety there is for pie (and if you’ve never made a homemade pumpkin pie from scratch, now’s your chance to REALLY go for it with this extravagant recipe: Pumpkin Pecan Pie with Whiskey Butter Sauce). Don’t be limited by pie, however. Pumpkins make a great ingredient in savory recipes as well, including curries, salads, and soups. The possibilities are too numerous to post recipes for, so I’ll leave it to you to get creative with your cookbooks and the internet.

Baby Pams are also big enough to carve if you prefer to etch out a ghoulish face on yours rather than eat it. Either way, don’t forget that you can roast the seeds and make your own pepitas: scoop out the seeds, rinse them clean, toss with olive oil and salt on a roasting pan, and roast at 350 in your oven until lightly browned. Yum.

Romanesco Cauliflower, aka Broccoli Romanesco
Some of you have already emailed me asking what that psychedelic bizarre vegetable is in your basket this week. It’s called Romanesco, and it’s a mathematician’s dream veggie. Why? Because if you look closely you’ll notice that this thing is not only a showcase for the Fibonacci spiral, but also for fractals. Whu-huh? In mathematics, the Fibonacci sequence is the series of numbers starting with 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two, like this:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144...

And when you plot them using a method called “Fibonacci tiling,” you get that incredible spiral that you see on this vegetable. But to top it all off, there’s not just one spiral. Look closely and you’ll see that every “minaret” is a miniature of the whole romanesco. And every minaret is made up of an even small exact replica minaret, getting infinitely smaller. That’s a fractal:

frac·tal
an irregular or fragmented geometric shape that can be repeatedly subdivided into parts, each of which is a smaller copy of the whole.

WOW. Some vegetable. Oh, and by the way, it’s edible. Treat it like you would cauliflower – it’s dense and nutty like that, and tastes best lightly cooked - steamed, sauteed or blanched. Any recipe you have for cauliflower will work for Romanesco. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

D’avignon Radishes
Also known as French Breakfast radishes, these elegant, dainty little roots are mild and crisp. Great for snacking, cutting into a salad, or carving to make super fancy garnish sculptures.

On the Farm....
Abby and I made a blitz run to Portland this weekend to do a bunch of farm errands and visit some long-neglected friends. The truck was sagging on the way home with rolls of week barrier fabric for the next strawberry planting, metal posts for building grape trellises, a new weedeater to beat back the blackberries, and all kinds of other supplies. Abby realized it was the first time she had been anywhere beyond Gold Beach or Coos Bay since May 15th. That’s the veggie vortex for you: an all-consuming sprint through spring, summer and fall. But it’s loosening its grip and we’re all beginning to reclaim little pieces of our lives as the summer frenzy fades away. My mom has a dear old friend visiting from the Bay Area all week; Abby is freezing corn, picking up her knitting needles again, and starting to learn about the world of “diaper systems.” I’m writing embarrassingly belated birthday cards to far-flung friends who haven’t heard from me in months.

It’s a wonderful point in the season for us, when the pressure eases but the food is still bountiful and the weather is beautiful. Now is when the margins of life begin to widen again and make room for things other than farming – things like friends, husbands, and fiction. Thank goodness they are all patient, forgiving things - particularly the husbands.
 

Week 20: October 12-18

What's In Your Basket?

Delicata Winter Squash
King Richard Leeks
Broccoli
Rainbow Carrots
Sweet Peppers
Fennel
Rainbow Chard
Head Lettuce
New Girl Tomatoes

Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!

Delicata Winter Squash
Here’s your first taste of the parade of winter squash that will be appearing in your baskets for the next six weeks. Like I mentioned last week, we grew six varieties of winter squash this year plus a pie pumpkin variety. The curing process went great in the field, with sunny warm weather all last week. Then in anticipation of the rain fast approaching, we teamed up on Sunday afternoon and hauled in the harvest. All told, it came to about 1500 squash weighing in at around two tons. The walls of the barn are suddenly pressing in on us, with boxes of winter squash lining the perimeter and sheaves of onions hanging from the rafters. It looks like we’ve gone whole hog decorating for a fall harvest party in there!

After doing a taste test, we decided to send out Delicatas this week instead of Acorns. The acorns aren’t quite at their fullest sweetness yet, but another week or so of curing should do the trick. In the meantime, you get to enjoy what is perhaps our favorite winter squash in the lot. Delicatas are a summarily sweet, golden-fleshed squash, invented for baking or stuffing. The colorful skin is not only thin, it’s also edible. Our favorite way to eat Delicatas is simple: cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, turn them face down on a baking sheet, put a little water in the baking sheet, and bake at 400 until the squash are soft. Pull them out of the oven, put a pat of butter inside each hot half, and devour. If your sweet-tooth is extreme, some people like to douse them with a little brown sugar or maple syrup – although these squash are sweet enough on their own!

I’ve heard some folks claim that the flavor of the squash is enhanced if you bake them with the seeds intact – that they impart a rich flavor of their own. Try it and let us know!

My one request with these Delicatas is that you resist the temptation to use them just for decoration. Yes, they’re cute and they look great in a fall pumpkin display, but your tastebuds will thank you if toss them in the oven. That said, all of the winter squash we send you will store fine on your counter for a month – and probably much longer. They don’t need to be refrigerated, and in fact, the flavors will continue to evolve and sweeten if you leave them in a cool dry place, at around 50 degrees.

Rainbow Carrots
You might be wondering what happened to the carrot tops? They used to come in a pretty bunch and now you’re finding a pile of topped bulk carrots in your tote each week. Well, here’s why: Every year come fall, the carrot tops start to weaken. The cool, damp weather makes them floppy, thin, and spindly, which in turn makes bunching carrots a nightmare. Instead, we resort to a much faster and more satisfying harvest technique of digging the carrots and topping them in the field. It means that all those carrot greens you were probably throwing away or composting in your backyard (OK, did anyone try the carrot top soup recipe?) are now either feeding Barney and Maude or getting turned back into the fields on the farm. We hope you won’t mind topless carrots. A bit risqué perhaps, but so much easier for your farmers….

Fennel
This might well be your last installment of fennel for the season, weather depending. There have been some moving stories from the “Fennel Converted” this season – many of you have written to tell us how much you LOVE fennel now. Well, all I can say is “mission accomplished.” Savor these bulbs. I promise to grow lots more of ‘em next year….

On the Farm....
If someone had taken aerial time-lapse photography of us on the farm this past Monday, it would have been dizzying. We knew this storm was coming, so Monday afforded us our last window of dry skies to do EVERYTHING we could think of pre-rain. Here’s some of what that list included:
•    Pull the pumpkins out of the field.
•    Pull the driplines out of the pumpkin field.
•    Go to town and get diesel for the tractor.
•    Fire up the tractor and till under the pumpkin field.
•    Pull out all the beans, basil and summer squash. Till under.
•    Prep the 2010 strawberry planting, where the beans, basil and squash were.
•    Seed the last of the cover crop.
•    Seed the upper pasture.
•    Harness the team and roll the cover crop seed in with the horses.
•    Do the last pick of the strawberry field.
•    Dry and freeze the strawberries.
•    Do the last pick of the raspberry field.
•    Freeze the raspberries. Make jam.
•    Pull shallots. Hang onions. Find dry space for them all.
•    Get the hay bales out of the field.
•    Tools, row cover, carts, signs, tables and all the detritus of summer into the shed.
•    Harvest the routine things – salad, leeks, carrots, tomatoes - as usual.
•    Pick flowers for one last order of bouquets.
•    Pick the last of the cherry tomatoes before they split.
•    And on….

And miraculously – in a way that doesn’t often happen when you’re a farmer – it all got done. I collapsed on the couch that night with a sense of utter relief - and when I heard that first raindrop hit the roof, I smiled. We were ready for it. Ready, and happy for it. The image of thousands of Austrian pea seeds and crimson clover seeds and rye seeds and vetch seeds swelling in the rain – acres of cover crop germinating around the farm – brought a feeling of total satisfaction and contentment to my tired bones. 

This storm feels like an exclamation mark in what is a natural turning point in the season. Berries are officially done. Our boots are officially caked in mud. Kale is officially reigning supreme. I love the transition. I’m craving the kale. And now that I’m back in it, I realize there’s something I kind of like about the suck and slurp that my rubber boots make slogging from one end of the field to the other.

The other big shift afoot is the end of the Abby’s Greens season. That’s right - after 20 weeks of beautiful salad, this is it for you Salad Share members: your last bag. The end of the salad season is coming just in the nick of time because as it turns out, my sister has been growing more than arugula, mizuna, and lettuce this summer:
Abby - She's been growing more than just salad this season!

 
 
 
She’s over six months pregnant now and big enough that bending over that belly just about knocks the wind out of her when she’s harvesting. I’m due to become an auntie on Christmas day (Mom’s birthday). And quite appropriately, my little niece or nephew is apparently the size of a butternut squash this week. And by Christmas, will be just as sweet...