Week 5 from Valley Flora!

  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Green Cone Cabbage
  • Bunch Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Fennel
  • Arugula
  • Head Lettuce
  • Zucchini

On Rotation:

  • Broccolini

Last Thursday, hot on the heels of the solstice, we crossed the threshold from spring food into summer food. It was a distinct shift: suddenly the sugar snap peas were fat on the vine, the cabbages had heft, the beets were flashing broad shoulders above the soil line, and the zucchini were fat and abundant. It makes for a fun change in the Harvest Basket this week, away from leafy greens and turnips, and towards the sweet crunch of summer. I often breathe a slight sigh of relief at this point in the season, knowing that most of you probably know what to do with peas, carrots, and cucumbers - things that even your pickiest five year old most likely enjoys raw, simple and unadorned. 

For some of you, this week's kitchen challenge will be fennel. I always have to remind myself that not everyone is as excited by fennel as I am, either because they've never had it, or they detest black licorice. To the first point, fennel is not a commonly eaten vegetable in the U.S. Go to Italy and you'll find big, fat fennel bulbs on prominent display in every grocery store, and at bargain basement prices. It's a culinary staple there. But here if it's stocked at all it gets relegated to a little corner of the produce aisle and is often bruised, tired and expensive. I don't blame you for not buying it every week alongside your broccoli and romaine.

As a CSA member you'll see it four or five times this season from now until November (it's really at its prime in the fall when the bulbs get huge and juicy under the influence of shortening, cooler autumn days). Summertime fennel is often smaller in size but bigger in flavor, which brings us to the second point: black licorice. Some people complain that fennel tastes like it, but I disagree. Black licorice bludgeons you with its overpowering black licorice-ness (I'm not a fan), whereas fennel is more subtle and delicate (I'm a zealot). They are two very different flavors in my book. The word for fennel in Spanish is "anís." Anise, flavor cousin to black licorice, manifested gently in an earthy, juicy, crunchy, beautiful bulb named fennel. 

So how do you eat it? First off, you can eat the whole thing, bulb and leafy fronds. The leaves are often used as an herb garnish - chopped up like dill. The bulb is the meat of the matter and it can be eaten raw or cooked. I love it thin-sliced into salad or as the base for slaw, but I also love to saute it down with onions until it's caramelized and then eat it atop pasta or a grain. Cooking diminishes the anise flavor of fennel, so if you are on the fence about striking up a love affair with this particular vegetable, you should cook it first to ease your way into the relationship.

Nothing brings me greater joy than having a skeptical CSA member report back that they have learned to love fennel, so please write in the event that your heart (and your tastebuds) are moved!

Strawberry U-Pick Opens Today!

At last! The berries are ready enough for us to open the gate for u-pick. We'll kick off the season today, Wednesday, June 28th and should now be open every Wednesday and Saturday starting at 11:30 am. The berries are still limited and strawberry fever is running hot, so we expect the patch will get picked out pretty quickly these first few weeks. The u-pick will be open only as long as there is ripe fruit to pick each day; once it's picked out we will close (our apologies that we cannot guarantee an exact range of open hours for u-pick). Our "official" hours are 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, or until the patch gets picked out - whichever comes first. Sometimes we are only open for a quick hour at the start of the season when strawberry fever is at its peak (we often refer to it as a "strawberry derby" in June and July). 

We provide buckets to pick into, but PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINERS TO CARRY YOUR BERRIES HOME IN (bowls, cardboard flats, buckets, etc).

U-Pick is $3.50/pound and like everything on the farm our berries are grown according to the National Organic Standards (and then some!). Our bareroot crowns (variety is Seascape) are sourced from the only organic strawberry nursery in the nation and from the moment they are planted at Valley Flora in early November they are tended using organic practices and inputs. We never use sprays or chemicals anywhere on the farm, ever.

Remember, our strawberries yield all summer and well into September, so there is ample opportunity to get your fill this season. If you don't like a crowd, or are traveling a long way with eager kids whose hearts will be broken if we're picked out, or are hoping to pick heaps of berries to fill your freezer for winter, you might wait until August when there's more elbow room and lots of super-sweet berries! Also a reminder that Valley Flora grows 101 other things besides strawberries. We know it's hard not to love the sugar, but there are additional reasons to visit the farm, all waiting for you pre-picked at the farmstand: Sugar snap peas, which actually have "sugar" in their name! Bunch carrots, which might be sweeter than the strawberries right now! Abby's Greens, find them in the new Farm Fridge at the farmstand! Head lettuce, larger than your overweight cat! And much more!