Week 20: October 12-18

What's In Your Basket?

Delicata Winter Squash
King Richard Leeks
Rainbow Carrots
Sweet Peppers
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….

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:
[img_assist|nid=130|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=162|height=122][img_assist|nid=133|title=Abby - She's been growing more than just salad this season!|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=92|height=122]

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...


1 Comment

Thank You

Dear Valley Flora & Friends,
   I loved seeing Abby's photo.  Have not had a chance to see and say, "Congratulations, Abby and Terry!"  And, to see that sweet little squash blossom blooming.  I also want to add that Valley Flora has afforded me/us a chance to participate in nature's best, a study and tasting of what the earth offers up when cared for by such loving and incredibly hard working humans and critters. 

A huge thanks to VF and gang!