Middle Way Farm CSA - Week 18
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Weekly Announcements

Last Week's Basil - I hope that those of you who received basil had a good experience with it. I took quite a bit home for myself and didn't do a good job sorting good leaves from bad leaves, resulting in pesto with a bitter aftertaste that I couldn't get rid of by adding other ingredients.  If you also experienced any bitterness when using the basil, I apologize. Please let me know and I will refund the price of that basil off your CSA. Next year I will make sure to harvest all of the basil before any cold snap damages the leaves. Its more sensitive to cold than almost any other crop. 

Bulk Orders - The final two weeks of CSA (next week and the following week) I will have many storage crops available in bulk for you to purchase and continue to eat local well after the end of CSA. 

Returning Boxes - I'm still down boxes, so please remember to return any you may have, particularly before the end of CSA deliveries. 

The Agri-Culture of Food

During a recent workday one of the artists in residence, who has been eating vegetables from the farm since late July, said that it had "changed the way I think about food". I told him that being a part of Grinnell Heritage Farm's CSA in 2009 had a similar effect on me. Once I understood seasonal and local eating, it became the lenses through which I looked at all food. My hope is that once you go local, and taste the difference, you don't go back, or at least not with out reluctance and sense of loss. Another seminal experience for me in understanding food and agriculture was attending Elaine Ingham's workshop on composting at the Practical Farmers of Iowa conference in 2013, before the first season of Middle Way Farm. Elaine is one of the chief scientists at the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, which has been a pioneer in organic agriculture since the 1970's. Her workshop focused on the fundamental role fungi and bacteria play in not only creating compost through decomposition, but in creating healthy soil where plants can thrive. This awareness of the microbiome (fungi, bacteria, and other microscopic life) in the soil has become another lenses through which I now see my work. 

Recently I began reading a book by chef Dan Barber called The Third Plate. Part of what Barber argues is that mineral rich, healthy soils not only produce healthier crops and more abundant yields without chemical inputs, but the flavor and very composition between foods grown in healthy, biologically active soils and chemically damaged soils is fundamentally different. This was something that I had understood to an extent through my own experience, but Barber's writing really drove it home for me. In a sense, what Barber is saying (and what Michael Pollen has also argued) is that taste is an indicator of something much deeper and more significant than just gustatory pleasure. Its the result of a whole system of management, a literal trace of the land, soil, and people who produced the food. One anecdote that Barber uses to illustrate this point is when he and a farmer tested the Brix score or relative sugar content of a carrot grown on the farm in upstate New York where Barber is a chef and a carrot from an organic, mass production farm in Mexico. The farm carrot had an unbelievable Brix score of 16 plus (very sweet) while the Mexican carrot measured 0. Zero. The carrots may have looked similar but they were fundamentally different. 

Terroir (pronounced tear-wawr, from French word terre, "land") is a concept primarily from the wine industry meaning that foods take on particular flavor and characteristics based on the geography, geology, and climate of particular place. In other words, a carrot is a carrot with a particular place and history that determines what it is. The forgery of mass produced foods is that all food is equivalent, not matter how or where it is grown. Our taste buds and stomachs tell us differently. What is terroir of Iowa? What can this land produce besides just corn and soybeans, confinement hogs and chickens? With some of the richest soil in the world, what food are we missing out on? What will be the food culture here in 20, 50, 100 years? We have an amazing opportunity to participate in building a genuine, local food culture that reflects the best of what this place has to offer. 
September seems like the ideal time for eating local. One of my lunch plates this week: apples foraged from Ahrens Park, eggs from Sandy Hill Farm, cheese from Milton Creamery, roasted red peppers, salad mix, radish, and delicata squash from Middle Way Farm. 

Notes on This Week's Share

Brussels sprouts are a true local treat of autumn. I grew up knowing brussels sprouts as the epitome of disgusting vegetables, but I learned as an adult that they are in fact one of the best vegetables out there. Roasting them is key. It brings out the sweetness in them and gives them better texture than boiling or steaming. Brussels sprouts will be available through the end of CSA and the flavor should continue to improve as temperatures drop. To roast them, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the stem end of the individual brussels sprout and discard any yellowed outer leaves. Smaller brussels sprouts can be left whole, large ones should be halved or quartered. Toss them in oil and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until they are tender and beginning to crisp around the edges. Season with salt or soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. 

I have a good crop of butternut squash this year so I'm pleased to be able to offer it for the last several weeks of the CSA. I usually have a harder time growing winter squash due to the heavy clay soil on the farm (they prefer lighter, sandier soil) and intense pest pressure from cucumber beetles and squash bugs (particularly the later in the late summer and early fall). This year has been somewhat of an exception. Butternut squash can be stored for several months, so I will be offering them bulk for the final weeks of CSA. They are quite simple to prepare. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the stem end, carefully slice in half with large, sharp knife, and scoop out the seeds and inner strands with a large spoon (saving the seeds for later). Place the two squash halves cut side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes or until it can be easily pierced with fork. Once baked, you can peel off the skin with knife, cube or mash, and eat alone or add to other recipes. The seeds can be rinsed clean, dried, tossed in oil and toasted in the oven alongside the squash or in a toaster oven until they are crisp and crunchy. After toasting, season with salt or soy sauce. Eating the seeds and the squash flesh provides the full spectrum of nutrition - protein & fat (from seeds) and carbohydrates (from flesh). 

Dragon Tongue beans are no longer a part of the standard share but you can still order them in smaller amounts or in bulk this week. However, this will be the final week that we pick them. 

Our fall tour of kale varieties continues with heirloom Lacinato kale. This kale is strong flavored and better cooked than eaten raw. Its excellent in soups, for kale pesto, and wilted and tossed in pasta. I've included one my favorite pasta recipes, which specifically uses Lacinato kale and butternut squash. 

Outdoor tomatoes are winding down for the season. Romas are still relatively abundant but the slicers and heirlooms are petering out. The greenhouse hybrid slicing tomatoes should extend the season a bit. Bulk tomatoes are still available this week and will likely be romas and juliets. 

Kohlrabi returns to the share in the form of nice, large, green bulbs of the variety Kossack. This variety can get quite large (as big as a cabbage head!) but the ones this week will be quite a bit smaller than that, although still larger than most of the spring kohlrabi. 

Sweet potatoes are now cured and ready to be eaten. For many, sweet potatoes are a holiday food that tends to be prepared with a lot of sugar. A good sweet potato, though, needs no sweetener, or maybe just a touch to bring out the natural sweetness. Its also much more versatile than candied sweet potatoes or other similar dishes. Here are a few other things to know about sweet potatoes:
  • What are usually marketed as yams in supermarkets are actually sweet potatoes. Yams are in an entirely different plant family from sweet potatoes and despite some similarity in appearance, yams are drier and starchier than sweet potatoes and can't be grown in the northern US.
  • In some parts of the world, sweet potatoes are a basic staple like corn or wheat would be to Europeans. 
  • If properly cured and stored, sweet potatoes can last for many months. They aren't typically known as a storage crop like cabbage or potatoes, but they have that potential
  • Raw sweet potatoes should NEVER be refrigerated. They will tend to form a pithy core if exposed to cold tempertaures. Cooked sweet potatoes can safetly be refrigerated. 

Fruit share returns to the Bartlett pears from several weeks ago. These were grown on the farm and are chemical free. I love these pears; large, juicy, and full of flavor. Most are ripe and ready to eat but a few may need to be set out for a few more days to fully ripen. The abundance and quality of the fruit coming from the single Bartlett pear tree on the farm makes me want to plant more of them. 

Recipe of the Week

A fantastic combo - the lemon zest and juice really makes the difference here.  

Kale Pesto Pasta & Butternut Squash

From, 11/25/09

1 1/2 lb butternut
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
3/4 teaspoon salt, more for sqaush
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch (about 1/2 lb) lacinato kale, center ribs removed
8 oz. pasta (penne rigate works well)
1/3 c toasted pinenuts (or substitute walnuts)
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
grated parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare butternut squash as described above. After baking, peel and cut into 1" pieces. Toss with salt and pepper. 

2. Bring large salted pot of water to boil. Prepare bowl of ice water. Boil kale for 45 seconds, remove and cool in water. You can save and use boiling water for pasta. 

3. Drain kale well, squeeze in dish towel. Roughly chop. 

4. Pulse kale, nuts, garlic, salt, and lemon zest in food processor until smooth & salt dissolved. With blade running, drizzle in olive oil. Taste & add salt dissolved in lemon juice as needed. 

5. Cook and drain pasta, retaining a little of the cooking water. Toss pasta, pesto, and cooking water, add cheese, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Serve topped with squash & more cheese. 

Insect visitors to the compost wheelbarrow, both feeding on the fruit sugar. A monarch butterfly and a very impressive cicada killer wasp. 
CSA Availability For Delivery on Wed, Oct. 1

Orders should be placed at by Tuesday morning if at all possible. Please submit all orders by Wednesday at noon at the latest. Go to the website and click Member Log-in. If you have any trouble logging in, use the E-mail Verification tool to receive a link to access the store. You can change your password to whatever you want and use your e-mail and password to log in for future orders.Please e-mail me at if you have any problems with access or ordering. 
  1. Brussels Sprouts - .75 lb ($3.00 or 2 for $5)
  2. Butternut Squash - 1 squash ($2.50 each) 
  3. Cabbage, Green - 1 head ($3 each or 2 for $5)
  4. Garlic, Hardneck - 1 bulb ($1/bulb or 3 for $2.50)
  5. Kale, Lacinato - 1 bunch ($2/bunch)
  6. Kohlrabi, Green - 1 bulb ($1.50 each) 
  7. Onions, Yellow or Red Storage  - 1 lb ($2/lb or 3 lb for $5)
  8. Pepper, Green/Purple - 1 pepper ($1/pepper or 3 for $2.50)
  9. Pepper, Red (limited availability) - 1 pepper only ($1.50/pepper)
  10. Potatoes, Red, Yellow or Blue - 1.5 pound bag ($3/bag or 2 for $5)
  11. Sweet Potatoes - 3 lb ($7.50 or 6 lb for $14)
  12. Tomatoes, Roma - a few (.50 each or 3 for $1)
  13. Tomatoes, Slicing (hybrid/heirloom) -  1 tomato ($1 each)

  1. Snap Beans, Dragon Tongue - 5 lb ($12.50)
  2. Tomatoes, Bulk (mix of romas, juliets, and slicers) - 5 lb ($9)

  1. Beets, Red (no tops) - 1 pound ($2.50/bunch) or 3 pounds for $6
  2. Carrots (no tops) - 1 pound ($2.00/pound) or 3 pounds for $5
  3. Kale - $2/bunch or 3 for $5 - Choose Winterbor (green, curly) or Redbor (red, curly)
  4. Peppers, Hot - Choose jalapeno ($.75 each) or Martin's Carrot ($.25 each or 5 for $1)
  5. Snap Beans, Dragon Tongue - .75 lb ($3 or 2 for $5)
  6. Tomatoes, Juliet - 1 pint ($2/pint or quart for $3.50)

Coming Up
Arugula, Salad Mix, Spinach
Kennebec Potatoes
Softneck Garlic

Fruit Share
2 pounds of Bartlett pears (chemical free, grown on farm)
Storage Tips: 
Butternut Squash - Store on the counter for immediate use or find a cool dry place in your house for long-term storage. Check periodically for rotting spots if in long-term storage. If spots develop, use immediately. 

Sweet Potatoes - Store on the counter for immediate use or find a cool dry place in your house for long-term storage. Check periodically for bad spots and shriveling if in long-term storage. If spots develop, use immediately. Sweet potatoes with nicks in the skin are more likely to develop rotting spots. NEVER refrigerate raw sweet potatoes, they can develop a pithy core. Cooked sweet potatoes are fine to store. 
Crimson clover and winter wheat cover crop. I have never grown either before as a cover crop, but I did grow winter wheat as wheatgrass in the greenhouse. 
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