What's in the Standard Share
Arugula - 6 oz. bag ($4/bag or 2 bags for $7)
(With Custom Order Options and Prices)
Carrots - 2 pound bag ($5/bag)
Cucumber - 1-2 cucumbers ($1.50/cucumber)
Eggplant - 1-2 eggplants ($1.50/eggplant or 3 for $4)
Green Beans - 3/4 lb quart ($4/quart)
Leeks - 1 bunch ($3/bunch)
Lettuce Mix - 6 oz. bag ($4/6 oz. bag or 2 bags for $7)
Pepper, Green - 1-2 peppers ($1/pepper)
Tomatoes, Cherry - ~1/2 pint (Standard Share only)
Zinnia (flowers) - 1 bunch ($3/bunch)
Zucchini - 1-2 zucchini ($1.50/zucchini) (some zucchini from Lacewing Acres in Ames, certified organic)
Also Available for Custom Order
Basil, (Choose Italian, cinnamon, lemon, or Thai) - $2.50/1.5 oz. pint or 2 pints for $4
Beets - 1.5 lb for $4
Beets, Small Pickling- 1 quart (~1.33 lb) for $3
Broccoli - 1/2 pound bag for $3
Cabbage- Choose green, savoy, red, or Napa. $2.50/head or 2 for $4
Fresh Garlic - $1.50/bulb
Kale, Lacinato - $2/bunch or 3 for $5
Kale, Red Curly - $2/ bunch or 3 for $5
Kale, Green Curly - $2/bunch or 3 for $5
Kohlrabi, Green or Red - $1/bulb or 3 for $2.50
Parsley - $2/bunch or 3 for $5
New Potatoes, Purple, Red Gold, or Yukon Gold- 1 quart (~1.75 lb) ($4/quart)
Turnips, Scarlet - 1 quart (~1.33 lb) for $2.50 or 2 quarts for $4
All annual & perennial herbs and annual vegetable plants are $2 each
Blueberries - 1 quart
Possibilities for Next Week
Good possibility of cherry tomatoes available for custom order next week. Juliet tomatoes should starting soon too, and rest of the crop looks good. More broccoli is on the way from the first summer planting. Peppers, eggplants, cucumbers will continue to be abundant. Zucchini are few and far between (hence why I'm getting some from Lacewing Acres this week), so will probably rotate them between standard and custom shares after this week.
The humidity this week has been brutal! I'm starting to feel the dog days of summer or as I've come to know this time of year, the summer doldrums. The doldrums originally referred to a region in the Atlantic Ocean with light, unpredictable winds that would leave sailing ships stranded. I guess that's how I sometimes feel this time of year. The long spring push of planting and early harvest is over. Farmers market and CSA orders often fall off this time of year as many people head of town prior to the start of school and other fall activities. The grind and routine of the season starts to feel a little stale. Last night, though, I remembered for thousandth time what this effort is all for - zucchini fritters, roasted eggplant and green beans, refrigerator pickles, cucumber salad, and green peppers for frying with eggs! My informal slogan for what I do is "persuasion through flavor". I want to convince people to buy local produce not because they feel obligated to but because it tastes better and gives them more pleasure and sustenance when eating. I guess I forget sometimes I have to keep persuading myself too
Some of the zucchini in the shares this week will come from my friend Julia Slocum at Lacewing Acres. We are trading cucumbers for zucchini to try to balance out our relative abundances so both our CSAs can benefit! Her certified organic farm is on the same property as Alluvial Brewing Company and Prairie Moon Winery just northwest of Ames. She has a similar size CSA to my farm. We both started farming in 2013 and she is a cherished friend of mine ever since we took a long winter driving trip together to pick up soil mix and visit a farm in eastern Iowa in February 2014.
There will be zinnias in the standard share as well as for custom order for the first time this season. My friend Todd Armstrong planted a double row of zinnias at the farm in late May and they have started blooming prolifically. He has offered to come out this week to cut them back so that they will grow taller and bloom more, so I thought it would be a great week to include flowers in the CSA.
After a dry early summer the recent rain followed by humidity has brought out some fungal diseases in some of the plants. Its gotten me thinking about the difference in approaching ecology between an organic system and a conventional system of agriculture. When problems arise, like fungal disease or pest infestations, conventional systems are very much tied up in treating the symptoms through chemical interventions (not unlike our current medical paradigm!). The spray planes that you may be seeing and hearing this month are indicative of that approach. They are spraying broad spectrum insecticides and fungicides made necessary by how corn and soybean agriculture dominates our landscape. By treating the symptoms, conventional systems often make the underlying problems worst, by destroying any residual beneficial fungi or insects which might have helped keep the problem organisms in check and by weakening the health and immune system of the plants themselves.
In an organic system, we often experience the same pest and disease problems and we also often intervene with naturally derived substances to control those problems. However, organic growers tend to think holistically about their problems. Rather than seeing pests and diseases as strictly inevitable enemies to their operations, they tend to think "What are the conditions I'm creating that are favoring pests and diseases? How can I prevent these pests and diseases from becoming a problem in the first place?" Organic growers see the web of organisms interacting in a complex system, rather than a mechanical system in which certain inputs equals a certain outcome. Why do pests and diseases only affect certain crops or even certain plants within a crop? Why do they only pop up at certain times of year or even in certain years? Why don't they overrun everything? The answer is the ecological balance that, like our functioning immune system, keeps the pathogenic organisms in check, most of the time. When that system gets out of balance, then the pathogenic organisms, which are fundamentally opportunists who thrive on disturbance (hello weeds!), can take over.
In 3 weeks, on Saturday, August 13 from 4-5 pm, I'll be teaching a free, on-farm class on "Organic Pest and Disease Control". Find out what I've learned works in four years of organic growing and what I am still learning about. I by no means have a perfect system for dealing with or a perfect understanding of pest and diseases problems, but I am constantly learning through observation and other's experiences about how to improve and refine my approach.
What to Do with Your Share
Arugula is a spicy, salad green in the brassica (broccoli) family. Its the most like a wild plant in its quick germination, hardiness, and probably nutrition as any plant that I grow.
Preparation & Cooking: Arugula comes double washed so there is no need to wash again. If you do, make sure to spin or pat dry before storing any leftovers. Arugula has a stronger, spicier flavor than lettuce. Its great in a salad with a heavy dressing and a cheese like feta or goat. You can also mix it with the lettuce greens if you don't like spicier greens. If you need to use it up arugula can be sauted like spinach.
Storage: Keep in sealed plastic bag in fridge. Should keep well for at least a week.
Carrots - As we finish the digging the first planting of carrots, there are lots of "bulk" carrots without tops now available. Expect more greentop carrots as the season continues, but I also like to give larger amounts of carrots without tops when I have enough available.
Preparation & Cooking: Carrots are wonderful raw or cooked. No need to peel them - a good scrub with a bristle brush will do to remove any remaining dirt. I enjoy them roasted alongside other root vegetables and especially underneath a whole chicken!
Storage: Roots can keep for well over a month. These carrots are not a storage variety, but will still hold up very well in fridge.
Cucumbers - I grow several prolific American, burpless slicing varieties. While the European types with thin skin are wonderful flavor, they are more difficult to grow and sustain more pest damage. I don't grow small pickling types.
Preparation & Cooking: I like to leave some of the cucumber peel on by peeling them in stripes. Check out one of the recipes of the week, Cucumber Salad, for a good way to get your fill of raw cucumber.
Storage: Keep cucumbers in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer set on high humidity and use within a week or so.
Eggplant - Standard shares will receive either long, skinny Japanese eggplant or globe type eggplant (purple or pink/white stripped).
Preparation & Cooking: Japanese eggplant's thin skin does not need to be peeled, but globe eggplant should be. Japanese eggplant tends to be milder and less bitter than the globe variety but also spongier, so it soaks up marinades (but also frying oil) more readily. There are many ways to cook eggplant â€” try grilling, sautÃ©ing or baking thin slices coated lightly in oil. Baba ganoush is a simple and wonderful eggplant spread using just a few ingredients - eggplant, lemon, garlic, salt, and tahini (sesame seed paste). We particularly like roasting slices of eggplant until they are very tender and just a little crisp, then tossing in soy sauce or salt. Delicious! Eggplant picked at the right stage should have few or no seeds inside and will not be bitter. However, in order to ensure that there is no residual bitterness, you can slice eggplant up, coat in salt, and leave in a colander for 15 minutes or so. The eggplant will begin to "weep". You can then rinse the salt and liquid that has weeped off the eggplant.
Storage: Keep in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer set on high humidity. Use within a week, while the eggplant is still relatively firm. It will begin to shrivel and discolor when it gets too old.
Green Beans - I am now picking from the 2nd planting of green beans, with the 3rd one not too far behind. So far its been much better than the first planting!
Preparation & Cooking: Like cabbages, broccoli, and just about any other vegetable, roasting is a great option for green beans. They can also be sliced and sauted in oil or butter as a side dish. Green bean pate is another favorite recipe of mine.
Storage: Store in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer for up to a week.Green beans, like peas, diminish in quality fairly rapidly the longer they are stored, so the sooner you use them the better.
Green Peppers - We divide the pepper field up into two sections each season - one where we pick green peppers as soon as they are large enough and the other where we leave those green peppers to ripen into red (or orange or yellow depending on the variety) peppers. The next few weeks, only green peppers will be available. You may receive either green or purple peppers, both of which are "green", and you may also receive peppers of various shapes and sizes, but note that they are all sweet peppers.
Preparation & Cooking: Being "immature" peppers, green peppers do not have the sweet flavor of colored peppers. I like to saute them with onions in the skillet for eggs. To quickly prep, cut the pepper in half lengthwise and pull out the stem and seeds from the top of each side and discard. Slice the peppers lengthwise.
Storage: Keep in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer set on high humidity. Use within a week or so, while the peppers are still relatively firm. They will begin to shrivel with age.
Leeks are a relative of onions and garlic they grow over a long season. These were planted in mid-April and I'll continue harvesting them all the way up to the killing freezes in November/December. Bunch will include 3-5 leeks depending on size.
Preparation & Cooking: Leeks are typically prized for their white shaft, with the green part of the shaft and the leaves being discarded. I still haven't achieved the right technique for growing a long white shaft on a leek, so I typically use as much of it as possible, white or green. The top layers of the leek tend to accumulate soil despite farm washing, so watch for grit under the leaves when washing them in your sink. Leeks can be used a mild substitute or compliment to onions. As this website claims, leeks are cooler than onions, they perform the same job but are sweeter with more delicate flavor!
Storage: Keep in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer on high humidity. Use within a week or so. The tops with begin to yellow as they age.
Lettuce Mix consists of 4-6 different varieties of red, green, and butter lettuces blended together.
Preparation & Cooking: Lettuce mix comes double washed so there is no need to wash again. If you do, make sure to spin or pat dry before storing any leftovers. From this week share, try combining with arugula, shaved, grated, or thinly sliced carrots, cucumbers, sliced raw or roasted green beans, thinly sliced leeks, peppers, cherry tomatoes, and/or cut up zinnia flowers!
Storage: Keep in sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer set on high humidity. Use within a week or so.
Cherry Tomatoes - I grow one orange cherry variety exclusively called "Sun Orange" (updated version of Sun Gold) that I think has unrivaled sweetness when compared to your typical red cherry tomato.
Preparation & Cooking: Obviously cherry tomatoes are wonderful for snacking and salads but you can also slice them and lightly roast or saute as well (they can also be dried in dehydrator this way).
Storage: NEVER refrigerate tomatoes unless you're trying to keep them from going bad for a short period of time. They lose their flavor in the fridge. Keep them on the counter and use ripe tomatoes within a few days. Unripe tomatoes may be held separately from ripe ones and given a few days to develop full ripeness and flavor.
Zinnias - are a warm season annual flower that is quite easy to grow from seed and blooms proliffically over a long season. A friend planted a double row on the farm with the idea that could be used for both cut flowers as well as to beautify the landscape and attract pollinators.
Preparation & Cooking: Believe it not, zinnias, like many other flowers, ARE edible!
Storage: Make a fresh cut on the bottom of the stems with a sharp knife (better than scissors, which tend to pinch the stems shut so they don't take up water) and put these flowers in a vase in water as soon as you get them home. Change the water every day or two to keep it fresh and the flowers happy. These flowers should keep well for at least a week depending on conditions in your house. Compost when bloom starts to fade.
Zucchini- You may get either yellow or green zucchini. Many people consider the yellow ones to be summer squash and not zucchini but it doesn't feel like meaningful difference to me. The plants and the fruits look exactly the same to me. The yellow zucchini does have a slightly thinner skin and maybe is a bit sweeter.
Preparation & Cooking: Smaller zucchini have thin skin and are the most tender for eating raw or light cooking. I really enjoy them lightly sauted in butter or used to make tempura, a light flour coating for frying. Larger zucchini tend to have thicker skin and if they are overly mature might even have seeds starting in them. These zucchini are best for shredding to be used in breads, cakes, and zucchini fritters, which are a favorite of ours (see the Recipes of the Week).
Storage: You have two options with zucchini. You can keep them out on the counter but they should be used within a few days, especially if they are smaller (they tend to shrivel faster). If refrigerating them, keep them in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer set on high humidity and use within a week or so.
Recipes of the Week
This recipe comes via my former employers at Grinnell Heritage Farm. As cucumber season hits its peak, its good to have some recipes where you can use up a lot of cukes at once. This is a great replacement (or compliment) to a leaf lettuce salad this time of year.
Â½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar â€“ or to taste
3 tablespoons of mayo (I also use Greek yogurt as a replacement)
2 small white onions - diced
Slice cucumbers and place them in medium sized
Add salt, sugar, vinegar, mayo, and onion. Mix
Chill in refrigerator for approx. Â½ hour.
This is a go to recipe at our house for zucchini. The detailed recipe seems at first glance to be complicated but its really not. The main thing is to not skip the draining step, since it will result in better quality, non-soggy fritters.
From Smitten Kitchen. Adapted a bit from Simply Recipes.
Yield: About 10 2 1/2 inch fritters
1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive or another oil of your choice, for frying
To serve (optional)
1 cup sour cream or plain, full-fat yogurt
1 to 2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinches of salt
1 small minced or crushed clove of garlic
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Have a baking sheet ready.
Trim ends off zucchini and grate them either on the large holes of a box grater or, if you have one, using the shredding blade of a food processor. The latter is my favorite as Iâ€™m convinced it creates the coarsest and most rope-like strands and frankly, I like my fritters to look like mops.
In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing away. Youâ€™ll be shocked (I was!) by the amount of liquid youâ€™ll lose, but this is a good thing as it will save the fritters from sogginess.
Return deflated mass of zucchini shreds to bowl. Taste and if you think it could benefit from more salt (most rinses down the drain), add a little bit more; we found 1/4 teaspoon more just right. Stir in scallions, egg and some freshly ground black pepper. In a tiny dish, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the zucchini batter.
In a large heavy skillet â€” cast iron is dreamy here â€” heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet only a few at a time so they donâ€™t become crowded and lightly nudge them flatter with the back of your spatula. Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you find this happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed. Repeat process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter. I like to make sure that the fritters have at least 10 minutes in the oven to finish setting and getting extra crisp.
For the topping, if using, stir together the sour cream, lemon juice, zest, salt and garlic and adjust the flavors to your taste. Dollop on each fritter before serving. These fritters are also delicious with a poached or fried egg on top, trust me.
Do ahead: These fritters keep well, either chilled in the fridge for the better part of a week and or frozen in a well-sealed package for months. When youâ€™re ready to use them, simply spread them out on a tray in a 325 degree oven until theyâ€™re hot and crisp again.
Photo of the Week
I was surprised to walk in the greenhouse one afternoon last week to find a half finished bird nest on top of one of the garden hoes! I had seen a bird flying in and out of the greenhouse a couple of times (might have been a barn swallow, not sure). I thought it was funny that it would start building a nest in the greenhouse, which has people walking through it at least several times a day. I guess there's not a whole lot of scouting that goes into nest building - they just start building one and if there is enough time to finish it without be disturbed then its good to go!