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:

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.