Week 23: November 2-8

What's In Your Basket?

Butternut Winter Squash
Diablo Brussels Sprouts
Hakurei Turnips
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.

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.

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.