What's in the share this week?
ARUGULA - Arugula has a peppery, slightly bitter flavor. It is stronger than most lettuces, so it’s often paired with other greens. Mature arugula has sturdy leaves, whereas baby arugula
tends to be more tender and milder in flavor. Hotter weather makes for spicier leaves. To store: Arugula is highly perishable. Store in the fridge inside a perforated plastic bag. If you decide to wash it first, be sure to spin the leaves dry before placing them loosely into a Green Bag with a dry paper towel to absorb the moisture. To freeze: Blanch leaves in boiling water or steam for two minutes, followed by soaking in ice water. Remove from ice water and drain well. Freeze "balls" of arugula on a cookie sheet in individual portions. When frozen, pop them into a Ziploc bag.
BOK CHOY - Bok choy, which may be written as bok choi, bok choy, or pac choi, is a traditional stir-fry vegetable from China. Bok Choy grows in elongated, upright heads of dark green leaves with large, white stems. The leaves can be cooked and eaten like spinach, while the crisp stems can be used like celery or asparagus. To store: Cut off any yellow leaves. Store wrapped loosely in plastic bag (or a Green bag) in the refrigerator. To prep: Wash and removed any damaged yellowing leaves. Cut off the root tip -about an inch worth. If the stems are thick, cut the leaves from the stems and cook them separately a few minutes before you add the leaves. To freeze: Cut the stems from the leaves and chop to desired size. Store those separately. Cut the leaves into ribbons or squares or keep whole. Store separately from stems. Bring salted pot of water to a boil. Boil the leaves in boiling pot of water for 90 seconds. Douse in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain the leaves and squeeze out moisture. Place in Ziploc freezer bags, removing as much air as possible. Put in freezer. Blanch the stems separately for 2 minutes. Douse in ice water and drain before packing into separate Ziplocs.
CUCUMBERS - Our very first of these! Cucumbers are in a family known as cucurbits that includes melons, squash, pumpkins and gourds. Please note that we'll have a limit on cucumbers this week because we have a small number since these are so early. To store: Place cucumbers in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to a week. To prep: Slicing cucumbers are often peeled. Pickling cukes are not. If the seeds are bulky, slice the cucumber lengthwise and scoop them out. Scoring the skin of a cucumber with a fork or zester gives it attractive stripes. Slice, dice or cut into chunks according to recipe. To freeze: You can freeze cucumbers in a vinegar brine, but they will be mushy when you eat them later. Not recommended.
HEAD LETTUCE - To store: Store unwashed lettuce in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. To store lettuce that you have already washed and dried with a spinner, place back in a plastic bag with a dry paper towel in the bag, and place the package in the vegetable crisper bin. Use within 4 days. To prep: Slice the head at its base with a knife and let the leaves fall open. Discard any damaged or leathery outer leaves and tear large leaves into bite-size pieces. Wash leaves in a basin of cold water. Dry in a salad spinner. To freeze: Not recommended.
KALE - Kale is a member of the brassica family. Kale comes in blue-green, reddish green, and red varieties and may have flat or curly leaves. All types of kale have thick stems. It has a mild cabbage flavor when cooked. To store: Place kale unwashed, wrapped in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Best used very fresh, but may last for a week. To prep: Wash leaves in basin of lukewarm water to remove grit. If your greens have thick stems, you must remove them. Fold each leaf in half and slice out the stem. Then stack the leaves up and slice them diagonally into 1-inch-wide strips. To use: Sauté in olive oil. Use in soups, spaghetti sauce, pesto, quiche, or kale chips. You can also eat the stems. To freeze: Blanch washed greens for 2-3 minutes. Rinse in cold ice water to stop the cooking process, drain, and pack into airtight containers. Stems can also be frozen.
MUSTARDS - Mustard greens are peppery-tasting greens that come from the mustard plant. This is part of the Brassica family, which includes kale, collard greens, broccoli, and cauliflower, among others. There are several varieties, which are usually green or red and have a mild spicy flavor. Hotter weather makes for spicier leaves. To store: Spin water out of leaves and store in a plastic Ziploc bag with a dry paper towel inside to absorb moisture. To prep: slice off tough bottoms of stems, and chop or mince leaves and remaining stem together. To cook: Add uncooked mustards to to a mixed green salad, or use in place of lettuce when you won't mind a bit of spice (think for tacos). Mix mustards with other milder greens and sauté until tender in a covered pot or large sauté pan with olive oil, a pinch of salt, and garlic or onion. Mustards are done once wilted, which should only take a minute or two.
RADISHES - (Save the greens to eat too!) To store: Remove radish leaves if they are still attached. Store the unwashed greens in a loosely wrapped plastic bag in the crisper bin of your refrigerator. Store radish roots unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 1 week. To prep: Scrub radishes well. Trim off the stem and rootlets. To use: Eat radishes raw with a sprinkle of salt. Slice radishes into matchsticks or grate them and add to slaws and salads. Try small young radish leaves in salads or scrambled eggs. Blanch whole radishes in boiling salt water for 5-10 minutes, or steam them until just tender, 8-12 minutes. Top with butter, salt, and pepper or with a vinaigrette. They’re also great grilled and pickled. Radish greens are slightly hairy and are best cooked or blanched.
SALAD TURNIPS - (Save the greens to eat too!) Turnips are a root vegetable, related to arugula and radishes, which are members of the mustard family. Large or old turnips can be unpleasantly “hot” if not cooked properly or combined with the proper vegetables (like potatoes), but younger turnips add great zip to dishes. They are best in the fall or spring, when they are small and sweet. To store: Remove the greens from the turnips and store in a plastic bag to use within 3 days. The turnip roots should be stored in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge for up to a week. To prep: Cut off the green tops (which can be eaten as well). Wash and cut the white roots into wedges or slices. To cook: Serve raw with dip in a veggie tray. Or grate and add them to a salad. Turnips are delicious when roasted with other root vegetables (like carrot, potatoes, rutabaga, garlic). Add a turnip or two to your favorite mashed potato recipe. Or add them into soups and stews. To freeze: Blanch for 3 minutes in hot boiling water. Cool in ice water for 3 minutes, drain and pack into freezer containers or freezer bags.
SCALLIONS - To store: Chop off the top inch of the tender green tips and stand the scallions in an inch of water in a tall container covered loosely with a Ziplock bag, refreshing the water every 3 days. To prep: Remove roots. Chop the leaves and stem before cooking. To use: You can eat the entire scallion. Rinse scallions in cold water and snip off anything that’s floppy. Use chopped scallions as a garnish; they are less pungent. The minced greens of scallions are a good substitute for chives. Use them in stir-fry. Use scallions in almost any recipe calling for onions, raw or cooked. They are excellent in soups and stew. To freeze: Chop into desired size and place on cookie sheet and freeze. Then pop into a Ziplock baggie and store in the freezer. You can even freeze the green tops!
SPINACH - To store: Keep dry, unwashed greens in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. To prep: Wash leaves in basin of lukewarm water to remove grit. Spin dry. To cook: Add uncooked spinach to a mixed green salad. Blanch spinach until it wilts, 2-4 minutes, or steam for 5-8 minutes. Sauté greens until tender in a covered pot or large sauté pan with olive oil, a pinch of salt, and garlic or onion. Watch for color to brighten as this signals it is done. To freeze: Blanch washed greens for 1 minute. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process, drain, and pack into airtight containers. Freeze.
SWISS CHARD - Swiss chard has expansive, pocketed leaves with stems in a spectrum of colors: red, white, green, yellow. It is actually in the beet family but doesn't develop a bulb. Its leaves are
more tender and delicate than other greens. Eat small leaves raw in salads and blanch or steam larger leaves. You can freeze chard for recipes later To store: Keep dry, unwashed greens in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. To prep: Wash leaves in basin of lukewarm water to remove grit. Remove the thicker stems by folding the leaves down the center and cutting out the stem. Stack several leaves on top of each other and slice into 1-inch wide ribbons. To use: Add uncooked greens to a mixed green salad. Steam stem pieces 8-10 minutes, and leaves 4-6 minutes. Or sauté greens until tender in a large sauté pan with olive oil, a pinch of salt, and garlic or onion. Watch for color to brighten as this signals they are done. Serve cooked chard alone as a side dish or use them in soup or with pasta, beans, rice, or potatoes. Chard also goes great in stir-fries or in any recipe calling for spinach. To freeze: Blanch washed greens for 2-3 minutes. Rinse in cold ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and freeze.
Growing in a Cool Weather Climate
At the farmers market this past weekend, we had a half dozen people come up throughout the day to ask us if we had basil. And y'all know I love to talk about veggies so I was happy to explain that it's a little early for basil. But one of the askers, a very tall college-age man in a group of equally tall friends, was bewildered. "Everyone seems to have the same thing," he said. "Is there going to be more variety?"
The short answer is yes! There's definitely going to be more variety. But it does take time, and here's why: We live in a cool weather climate. Our growing season, as you probably know, starts at the end of May. As farmers we have some ways to play around with the first planting date. But we can't hurry the plants along when it takes 70 days for a basil plant to be ready to harvest when growing from seed. If we put our basil seeds into the ground on May 25, the basil wouldn't be ready until August 5! And it's longer if you're a tomato.
One of the fun parts of farming is trying to figure out ways to push the envelope. We start our seeds in the greenhouse by the road. We began in March this year and used electric heat mats to keep our plants alive while the snow was falling. There were plenty of nights where we created low tunnels within the greenhouse itself using an extra piece of clear plastic spread over PVC hoops. This double greenhouse kept it just above 50 in the plant trays, so our seedlings were able to survive in spite of Vermont's cold winter temps.
We have another greenhouse in the field where we keep our tomatoes. These plants are grown on black landscape fabric, which helps warm up the ground while it suppresses weeds. And the greenhouse does the trick of keeping the days and nights slightly warmer. So while we planted our tomatoes in early June, we actually started their seeds in late March, making our estimated first tomato date somewhere around mid July, depending on the variety.
Then there are our cucumbers, which we set out under floating row cover, a type of water-permeable lightweight fabric. This helps the plants keep warm in the early part of the season, avoid the dreaded cucumber beetle, and grow strong enough to survive the winds and super hot days of midsummer.
So while your CSA is full of these crisp early crops that are heavy on greens, other good things are coming -- or in the case of cucumbers, they're already here! We're busting our overalls making sure our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are happy, and eagerly counting the days until our first cabbages, beets, and zucchinis make their appearance.
Farmer Seth's Field Notes
I logged some tractor time last week, using the discs to break up the earth that I had previously turned in our second field, the field we call Samwise (it's right next to field Frodo). The discs pulverize the mats of sod that have broken down over the last few weeks, helping to create a smooth soil bed. Next up for Samwise is using our little walk-behind tractor to make raised beds and then tilling the raised beds to create a smooth surface for planting into. It was a little too wet in the start of the week to do all that I wanted so we switched over to do some troubleshooting on our irrigation system.
We have a well at the top of our hill near our solar panels. I stood at the top of the hill and monitored the water leaving the well, while Christine reported on what was happening in the tomato greenhouse. We have enough water to irrigate the tomatoes, which use drip irrigation, but not enough water to power the sprinklers that water the remaining crops. The consensus is that we need to drop our well pump farther down into the well to hopefully see the water output that we need. We have a few parts on order to make this happen.
I rounded out my work for the week by setting up the trellising infrastructure in the tomato greenhouse to keep the tomatoes off the ground. We're trying two different trellising methods. One is called the basket weave and it involves pounding in stakes every few tomato plants, then weaving twine around plants and stakes like a basket, which holds them upright. The other method is clipping tomatoes to twine that hangs from the greenhouse ceiling and pruning each week to keep only two main growing points. These systems are both labor intensive but they see some big yields, and I'm looking forward to it. We all love tomatoes in this house, and I know many CSA members feel the same way.
We finished off the week at the Norwich Farmers Market again, keeping the veggies cool in the 90 degree heat and meeting all kinds of veggie lovers. To tell you the truth, meeting the customers is my favorite part of farming.
Week 3 Announcements
Check out our CSA Bingo challenge! Use our CSA bingo card and get 5 in a row over the next three weeks. At the end of three weeks we'll pick two winners. Winners receive their choice of either a dozen eggs or a flower bouquet.
Watch our weekly share unpacking video on Facebook! I talk about tips for storage, recipes, and share what successes and failures I've had with my veggies for the week. You can find the Facebook group at this link. If you aren’t on Facebook, we upload the unboxing video into the CSA Member Resource Library so you can watch there.
We're now offering eggs, thanks to McNaughton Farm in Weathersfield, VT. They have 100+ happy hens in a chicken wagon who free range on pasture. Their hens are fed with local, non-organic grain. You can pre-order them in our farm store and pay when you pick up your share, or bring cash to the pickup and we'll have some extras.
Week 3 CSA Recipes
Members can download these recipes as a PDF here. These recipes are designed to inspire you to use your share this week! Please check inside our private Facebook group to find your fellow members sharing ideas for what to make with their box! Share a photo and you might be featured in next week’s newsletter!
Watermelon Arugula Salad
Sweet and Spicy Bok Choy
Mashed Avocado and Radish Crostini
Warm Turnip Greens and Bacon Dip
Miso Roasted Japanese Turnips
Mango Cucumber Salsa
Mustard Green and Sweet Onion Frittata
Kale and Mustard Greens with Pepitas and Red Onion
Potato Salad with Arugula, Scallion, and Tomato