Dear CSA shareholders,
It seems this time of year that my refrigerator is always stuffed with produce. Having worked on a farm and now running my own, I've gotten used to having my pick of the "seconds", the vegetables that don't make the cut for market for whatever reason, and to having more vegetables at any one time than I know what to do with. I usually don't end up with much marketable produce in my own kitchen, just way too many bags full of spotted peppers, too small cucumbers, and harvest-damaged potatoes. If I really want something, I'll harvest some of it for myself, but generally I take what's left over after farmers market and CSA at the end of the week. At the scale I'm growing at, very little actually goes to waste. If it isn't being sold, I'm probably bringing it home and eating or preserving it. Otherwise its going to volunteers who help on the farm, to Molly and Joe at Grin City, or to the MICA food pantry. Whatever isn't actually edible goes in the compost heap or into worm bin, which are just future soil to grow more vegetables. This weekend, while I worked to clean up my garden and storage areas for the fall artist residency, next weekend's farm ramble, and the Rurally Good Festival in two weeks, my partner Emily plowed through all those seconds in our fridge, including some garlic scapes and onions from June(!) that we kept overlooking (they were still good). The spotted tomatoes became tomato sauce, the small, damaged, and overripe eggplant became eggplant gratin and ratatoullie, and the soft delicata squash became squash fries. A portion of each goes in the freezer for the winter. We spend a lot of time cooking in our house, and it sometimes does feel excessive. Weekends become cooking strategy sessions and marathons to keep up. But we've become used to this way of eating, where fresh produce comes in waves during the late summer and fall and then not at all during the winter. We start with the ingredients and then build towards recipes. I find this way of cooking liberating, because it means that although I could make any number of dishes, my ingredients are limited to what is on hand, what is in season.
Finally, its time for melons! I have both a yellow flesh watermelon and a honeydew/cantaloupe cross with green flesh. Please let me know if you have preference for one or the other, Due to limited availability and variable ripening, you will get one melon this week, either the watermelon or melon. Also new this week are mature leeks (the contemporaries of those baby leeks earlier in the season), which will be available again at the end of the CSA season in October. Swiss chard makes a reappearance this week. The chard I planted has largely failed to thrive this year, but I've given it a rest from picking for several months so I think its time to harvest it while there is still time for it to regrow. The slicing tomatoes are coming on very heavy. I picked 60 tomatoes on Saturday after picking just the day before(I normally don't pick over the weekend but there were so many ripe that it was worth it), so I anticipate having a lot of tomatoes this week. The bulk deal on Juliets/romas still stands, but I'm adding slicing tomatoes to that. I would still recommend using mostly Juliets for sauces and salsas, because the slicers have a higher water content and take much longer to cook down and thicken. The slicing tomatoes are very easy to freeze for winter use. Just scoop out the stem end (there is a very handy tool called a tomato scoop
for this task) and put them in a freezer bag. If you need more of any other ingredients like peppers, garlic, or onions, let me know. Even if I say I only have a certain amount available each week, I often do have the flexibility to accommodate a few larger orders, so it doesn't hurt to ask!
The aronia berries this week come from Keller BerryFarm in Toledo, a transitioning to organic fruit operation. Aronias are certainly not a typical fruit for most people but they are becoming increasingly popular for local production in Iowa and elsewhere as nutrient-packed "superfood". Aronias are native to North America and are very hardy, well adapted to our climate, and mostly free from pests and diseases. A mature bush can produce upwards of 20 to 25 pounds of fruit in a season. They are commonly cultivated in Eastern Europe and Russia but have only recently become a commercial crop in the United States. Most aronias go towards processing for wine, jam, syrup, juice, soft spreads, tea, food coloring, and flavoring yogurts and beverages. They resemble a blueberry but are more astringent than sweet. However, their deep purple, almost black, pigmentation is a result of some of the highest antioxidant content of any plant. The Midwest Aronia Association has a variety of recipes on their website
. Like blueberries, they work well in many baked goods and desserts.
Preparations for the fall are coming up fast. I took soil samples tonight to send in for testing tomorrow morning. I'm getting a truckload of compost delivered in late September and my goal is to apply any recommended soil amendments along with the compost in October. I'm getting ready to cover the greenhouse while the weather is still warm and looking towards what winter greens I'll be planting after the green beans and tomatoes come out. Its less than a month till garlic planting and the area where I'm going to plant will soon be ready. Before planting garlic, I need to lay out a water catching swale (which I mentioned at the end of last week's e-mail) across the field to define the layout of the garlic planting, since it will be in place next spring when I create swales for the rest of the hillside. Meanwhile, harvest season goes on. September is always one of my favorite times of year. The recent heat wave has made it feel like an extended August, but I'm looking forward to cool nights and the turn of the season that signal the shift towards the slower, colder fall season.