Happy Solstice! - Week 4 from Valley Flora

  • Baby Bunch Carrots
  • Braising Mix (a tender mix of mustards, kale, tatsoi, and other Asian greens in the 1/2# plastic bag)
  • Head Lettuce (two heads this week, so you can go all-in on the Summer Solstice Salad Challenge, see below!)
  • Strawberries
  • Shallots
  • Hakurei Turnips - Getting backed up on turnips? (Yes, they are rather large, aren't they?! But delish!) Never fear, this is the last week you'll probably see them until Fall, and they store well in the fridge if you top them. Here are some recipes to help them go down easy (note: you can use Hakurei and Violet Queen turnips interchangeably in any of these recipes; they are both tender salad turnips with mild flavor):

On Rotation (lots of things right now as our early summer crops ramp up):

  • Broccolini
  • Cilantro
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
    • The first wave of cucumbers is starting to come out of one of our high tunnel greenhouses right now. In sampling them, a few have had some bitterness at the stem end. The bitterness is due to the compound cucurbitacin, which is naturally occuring in all Cucurbits (cukes, zukes, winter squash, melons, etc), but levels fluctuate based on growing conditions. The more stress a plant is under, the more cucurbitacin it will produce. Temperature stress, inadequate water or low fertility are usually the culprits. Because ours cukes are growing in well-watered, rich soil, we're pretty sure that the occasional bitterness is due to unstable temperatures, which are a hallmark of spring (these cukes were planted in April and thus have weathered temps from the mid-30's to over 100 degrees on Mother's Day). The problem for us as farmers is that we can't tell if a cuke is bitter unless we cut the stem end off and lick it. And since you all probably don't want pre-licked cucumbers in your totes (no matter how much you love your farmers), we recommend you do it yourself: cut an inch of the stem end off and lick it. If it's bitter, then you can use this old trick: rub the butt end in a circular motion on the cut face of the cucumber. This will "milk" out the bitterness (you might even see a white film develop). Then peel your cucumber from blossom end to stem end and rinse under cold water. Most of the time this leaves you with a deliciously sweet cuke. Hopefully as temperatures stablize we won't have this issue, but it's always a good thing to check a cucumber before you dice it up into your Greek salad - and then find out the hard way that you got a bitter one.

Summer Solstice Salad Challenge!

If you were a head of lettuce living out your life at Valley Flora, you would love the month of June. Everything is perfect: the days are long and not too hot, your roots are well-watered, the soil is rich. You would grow to a colossal size, racing the bed next to you to see who could get the biggest the fastest. And then one cool morning when you were in your prime - perhaps gloating about being the girthiest head of romaine, or the most voluptuous ball of butterhead ever to grace this earth - Zoë would come along with a large, sharp knife and with one swift stroke, fell you to the ground. Shocking at first as you tumble over, finding yourself looking sideways up at the sky. But you're not alone. Four or five hundred other heads of lettuce topple alongside you in the span of a couple hours, then you all get packed into bins, loaded onto a truck, put into a cold, dark box. Then out of the box into the light again, only suddenly to find yourself tumbling into a tank of water head-first. "But I can't swim!" you are thinking, panicked, until you realize, fear ebbing, that you innately know how to bob. A moment of lovely, relaxed, gravity-free floating. "I could get used to this spa," you're musing, contentedly (although it's crowded with a dozen other heads of over-sized lettuce floating shoulder to shoulder). You're really hoping no one pees in the pool. Then comes the big hand that dunks you under again and the world goes dark and muted, then light again, upside down and askance while you are shaken vigorously, water flying off you like a wet dog (you know about them because sometimes the naughty ones run through your field and the humans suddenly start yelling loud words). Before you know it you are being stuffed into another bin, packed tight like your vertebrate brethren, the sardine (although you haven't met in person, you've heard of him and possibly been fertilized by some of his bones, so the kinship is not entirely a figment of imagination). Back into the cold dark box for a few hours, then into the light again, only to be plucked from the bin (quick, a hasty farewell to your lettuce comrades squished in around you). You are put into another tote alongside another head of lettuce (phew, not entirely alone!), atop some bright orange sticks and alluring red orbs (who knew there was other plant life besides lettuce lettuce lettuce!). Now the world goes dark and cold again for many hours and the whole time you are bathed in an intoxicating aroma like none other (it's basil perfume, you just don't know it). Also, you're pretty sure those big white balls are farting, and not even trying to cover it up (that's what turnips do, though, so you admonish yourself not to judge - everyone has their gifts). Hours later there is some jostling, then the hum of an engine (kinda reminds you of the tractor passing nearby when you lived in the field), then some more jostling, then suddenly: blinding light and the face of a human with big googly eyes staring down at you, their mouth forming the words, "holy s**t, what am I going to do with all this lettuce?!"

And so begins the Summer Solstice Salad Challenge, unfurl the banner in your kitchen this week! The lettuce is huge and juicy and these long solstice days have created an insane pile-up in the field, with three beds ready all at once (instead of one). You're going to eat salad this week, lots of it, and you will love it (I am smiling while I say this, not slowly tapping a baseball bat in my hand).

  • First off, if you have a head of romaine in your tote, please make a Solstice Caesar! That's where you use raw, cubed hakurei turnips for croutons, or in addition to croutons, with my favorite riff on Caesar dressing.
  • Oakleaf lettuce - everyone is getting a head of this special lettuce this week. It's very similar to butterhead, but crinklier (which makes it great for holding onto yummy dressing). This Peach and Butterhead Salad with Honey-Shallot Vinaigrette is a winner. Although it's a little early for Oregon peaches, you might be able to find some from California at the grocery store, and it's a good use for your shallots.
  • Butterhead - if you have a head of red butter in your share, the outer leaves are great for lettuce wraps. In this vegetarian version you could sub your turnips for the daikon and use your bunch carrots (if you don't eat them all on the way home!).

I believe in you. Send those intrepid lettuce heads on the final leg of their journey so they will have lived a vegetative life fulfilled!

Summertime Music and Artisan Festival in Langlois this Sunday!

Point yourself in the direction of the Langlois Cheese Factory this Sunday for an all-day outdoor music extravaganza and artisan market. There are some great bands coming our way, including The Travelin' McCourys, Low Down Brass Band, Reb and the Good News, Wild Hog, and more. Local food trucks on site to keep your dancing legs fueled!