2013 Middle Way Farm CSA - Week 4
Middle Way Farm
onion weeding

Onion weeding

I got some timely help today from my girlfriend Emily and her parents Jerry and Nancy, who are visiting from Wisconsin. They hand weeded two beds of onions and were proud to show off fistfuls of buttonweed, crabgrass, and dandelion! Although the soil was soft from the recent rain and weeds yielded more easily than usual to being pulled, Jerry noted that its nothing like the sandy soils in south central Wisconsin that he's used to, where everything but a dandelion will come out with a gentle tug.
Dear CSA shareholders,

It feels like summer has arrived, in a number of ways. The heat and humidity are up, the weeds have reached a new level of growth, and there is a lot of food in the garden! This week's offering reflect the gathering abundance that will continue into the summer and fall as more crops mature. The pattern of a traditional CSA share is that boxes get larger each week over the course of the season. My goal with the CSA is to offer you everything that is available at any given time but let you choose what you want. As the season goes on, your choices and preferences will become more important in determining what you get in your delivery each week, whether its everything that I'm offering or just a selection. I am happy to deliver as much or as little as you want each week; that's the service I want to provide and the service I hope you will appreciate this season.

In last week's newsletter, I mentioned the global food system that currently supplies most of our food. Agricultural systems across the world and the United States have become highly specialized by country and region. Iowa produces corn, soybeans and hogs. Florida produces citrus and tomatoes. Texas produces cottons, grapefruits, and onions. Idaho produces potatoes. The result in all places is highly mechanized operations, massive monocultures, low agricultural and ecological diversity, an exploited migrant and immigrant work force, highly polluted air and water, and declining rural populations and communities. I believe in building a community based food system, where each community and regional "food shed" produces the diversity of foods that it needs. This is really not a new concept, its more like "back to the future". Before the industrialization and globalization of agriculture, communities largely supplied their own food. There was still a robust trade of food between regions, but even as regions and communities specialized in certain goods for export, each regions retained the diversity required to feed itself. Rather than a handful of huge farms concentrated in a few agricultural regions, we need many small farms scattered throughout the country to meet our food needs. In addition to what I grow, I feel its important to connect my CSA customers to the wider local food system that exists in central Iowa, beyond just the vegetables and herbs I am growing. Whenever I have the opportunity I will be offering items that I don't personally produce from other local growers and producers, to increase the diversity of what I supply each week and to make you more aware of what local food resources are out there. That's why I have partnered with Sarah's Simples to offer their baked goods and why earlier this season I purchased asparagus from Sojourn Farm. This week I am doing that with strawberries.

I'm very excited for the start of strawberry season! The strawberries will be coming from KellerBerryFarm (and that is how they spell it!) in Toledo. They are a transitioning to organic berry farm started in 2010. There is a very little certified organic fruit grown in Iowa so its a huge deal that KellerBerryFarm is so close to us in Grinnell. Although I will be offering strawberries from them for as long as they are doing pick-your-own, I would encourage you to visit the farm yourself and get the direct from the grower price! My price reflects the cost of the berries at the farm as well as expenses such as gas, repackaging, and the labor to pick them. In either case, whether you pick your own or get them with the CSA, its a great price for chemical free strawberries, much better than what you could get for similar strawberries in the grocery store. Strawberries are among the "Dirty Dozen" on the Environmental Working Group's 2013 list of fruits and vegetables most contaminated by pesticides. Conventional strawberry production is very chemical intensive, so I would encourage you to look for organic strawberries whenever possible.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Chinese cabbage, its also called Napa cabbage and can be used in similar ways to European cabbage. Its traditionally used to make kimchi in Korea (a fermented side dish similar to sauerkraut) and as a wrap for meats.  Its a great stir fry vegetable but can also be used in soups. The stems of the leaves are quite succulent and somewhat similar to celery. Its less susceptible to flea beetle damage than the bok choi and is a very reliable early summer crop. I will also be offering it next week and possibly the week after as the planting continues to mature and yield larger cabbages.

For a wild edible this week, I'm offering purslane, an old favorite. Like lamb's quarter and amaranth, purslane is a common and much maligned garden weed that is also highly edible. Its just beginning to size up this week (I discovered it growing in the onions that desperately needed to be weeded) but its another plant that is abundant in my garden and will likely be available multiple times this summer. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered some of the most important nutrients for a healthy brain and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Many foods are touted as sources of them, chiefly fish and eggs, but also a handful of plant sources including flax seed, walnuts, and canola. Among the land plant-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, purslane has the most! And this is a weed that is constantly overlooked or discarded! The stems, leaves, and flowers (which will emerge later) are all edible. The leaves are succulent and have a slightly sour (more so if harvested in the morning, I've learned) and salty taste that lends itself well to salads, stir-fries, and soups and stews (especially because of its thickening qualities). Purslane pair wells in a salad with fresh tomatoes as well as with cooked potatoes. Its commonly eaten throughout the world, including in Greece, Turkey, India, and Mexico. My friends from Mexico call it "verdolagas".

I hope to offer mulberries and black raspberries next week, but it will depend on how quickly they ripen. Certainly within the next two weeks. Unfortunately it looks like juneberries are slightly past and I don't know enough local trees to be able to gather a large enough quantity to offer in the CSA. Finding more trees to forage will be a goal for next year!

Order quantities: Each week I give a maximum quantity for each item I offer. This is based on what I have available as well as my desire to give everyone in the CSA a chance to have at least 1 of each item. I am happy to try to accommodate orders above the maximum that I set, but I can't guarantee that I will have enough available. If you want to order above that maximum for any item, please make a note of it in your order e-mail and I can let you know the likelihood that I can fill that order.

Limited availability: Items that I list as "limited availability" are one's that I can't confidently offer to the entire CSA but will supply on a first come, first serve basis. So if you are interested in them, please let me know in your order e-mail, regardless of when you send me that e-mail. I will let you know if a particular item will not be available that week. Its better to order something even if its limited availability than to not order thinking its been sold out. Sometimes there is more available than I think (since I try to be cautious in my estimates) and so I may be able to fill more orders than I initially anticipated.

Middle Way Farm produce at Relish: I'm pleased to let you know that Relish in Grinnell will be featuring my lettuce mix in their salads this week as well as a garlic scape and potato soup using scapes from the farm! I encourage you to visit them for lunch or dinner and let them know you appreciate their support of local growers and their focus on seasonal foods. I look forward to continuing to work with Relish through the rest of the growing season.
For delivery Friday, June 21st. Please e-mail with your order (for items from all categories) by 11 pm on Tuesday night, June 18. If you would like 1 unit of each produce item listed under "Standard" below, simply put "standard share" in the subject line. If you only want to receive the standard share each week, just put "always standard share". You can change this preference at anytime.  If you are getting the standard share, extra items will need to be ordered separately.


  • Broccoli - 3/4 lb ($3/pound) - final amount will depend on harvest this week. It may be more but this is my best guess at this point!
  • Chinese cabbage - up to 2 heads ($2.00 each)
  • Garlic scapes- as many bunches as you want! ($1.50 each)
  • Green onions - 1 "mini" bunch ($1.50)  (onion plants are on the small side again this week but will get bigger as season goes on)
  • Kale - up to 2 bunches ($2.00) - choose from green curly leaf, red curly leaf, or green flat leaf (lacinato heirloom variety)
  • Romaine or oakleaf head lettuce - up to 2 heads ($2.00 each) - please let me know if you have a preference for either (last week of head lettuce!)
  • Strawberries (locally sourced from KellerBerryFarm, transitioning to organic) - pint ($2.50) or quart ($4.00)  (if you want more to freeze please let me know)
  • Swiss chard - 1 bunch ($2.00)
  • Arugula - 1 six oz. bag ($3.00)
  • Kohlrabi - a few with greens (limited availability) ($2.00)
  • Purslane  - 1 six oz. bag ($3.00)
  • Radish - 1 bunch (limited availability) ($1.50) - funny story: I spilled some seed when I was planting radishes and these are the one's that came up!
  • Salad turnip (limited availabilty) - 1 bunch ($2.00)
  • Salad mix - 1 six oz. bag ($3.00)
Storage Tips: For all of this week's produce, store in the crisper drawer of your fridge in separate, sealed plastic bags to keep them from dehydrating.  Turnips greens and kohlrabi greens are edible. Cut them from the roots and store them separately if not using immediately. Purslane should be used within a few days, it does not store well!

Plant Starts
  • Basil ($2 or 3 for 5)
  • Oregano ($2.50)
Baked Goods (Sarah's Simples)
  • Please see original e-mail with the Sarah Simples baked goods list attached. Let me know if I need to resend it to you.
New potatoes and peas are on the horizon! Several of the potato varieties have begun to flower (the signal to begin new potato harvest) and the peas are also just starting to produce flowers. I hope they will be available next week. The first planting of beets and carrots are also sizing up, and the basil and parsley have put on good growth so far this month. Zucchini plants that germinated well despite the deluge of late May are beginning to take on size as are the tomato, peppers, and eggplants. 

Your farmer,

Jordan Scheibel
(641) 821 0753

Mounded potatoes

One of the big tasks associated with growing potatoes is "mounding them up". As the potato plant emerges from the ground, its stem will produce more tubers if it is covered with dirt as it grows. This is accomplished by scrapping the dirt from the pathways between the potato rows into a hill around the base of the potato plant, which also has the benefit of weeding the pathway. The hilled potato will produce more tubers and any tubers that do develop are less likely to be exposed to sun, which causes their skin to turn green and toxic.


In addition to its edible qualities, purslane is also known as a beneficial weed and companion plant. As a low growing plant, it provides a ground cover that retains moisture and protects the soil while its deep roots bring up moisture and nutrients for nearby plants, even providing a pathway for those other plants' roots to follow. Its also an extraordinarily hardy plant that can survive drough because of its succulent leaves and ability to switch to CAM photosynethsis, the same type of photosynthesis used by desert plants in very hot and dry environments.
chinese cabbage

Chinese cabbage

Chinese cabbage is a versatile vegetable that can be eaten both raw and cooked. Here is a recipe for a chinese cabbage salad using raman noodles, green onions, and almonds.
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