This is one of the most exciting times of year for us! We are so happy to share that we will be delivering your first CSA Share next week!
Ben & I have been keeping busy around the farm of course, weeding and cultivating is our main job at this time of year now that most of our produce varieties have been planted. Cultivating a field is done by using equipment with metal tines to drag through the middle of a row of crops to pull the weeds out, then we go back and hoe between each plant in each row.
The only produce that we have not planted yet is the second and third crops of beans, zucchini, cucumbers, and a few others. The reason we need to have multiple plantings of these varieties is because they are not meant to produce throughout the entire season. For example, the zucchini that is already in the field will be flowering and fruiting within the next 2 weeks, producing heavily for several weeks after that.
When the production starts to trail off or stops completely, we will till those plants under to use that space in the field for something different, for example the next bean crop. We have several tillers, 2 hand operated ones for smaller spaces, a front driving and rear driving. We use the tractor pull behind tiller for larger areas, it is important for aerating the soil; it turns over, exposing the moist more nutrient rich soil under the top layer. Cultivating and tilling is something Ben has on a regular schedule, to keep weeds down and fields ready to plant for the next crop.
I sent out an email a few days ago titled “Important CSA Share Site Specific Information” which included all of the information for your residential or corporate pick up site, including address, where the boxes will be found at that location, and what to do with your empty CSA Share box.
To reiterate here quickly, CSA Share boxes are on a rotation. We will deliver a CSA Share box full of produce and at that same time we will pick up the empty box that you left for us the week prior.
The label on each CSA Share box with a member’s last name helps us avoid mistakes during packing, I also have a check off list that is checked 3 times for each member throughout the delivery day (the box is returned, the box is packed and loaded, the box is delivered). If you don’t remember to return your box one week don’t worry, we have extras. However, it is much appreciated if I have the boxes as it makes it much easier to double check my deliveries with each member’s last name.
During the season you can expect to see the CSA weekly update on a Friday or Saturday. Since the harvest has potential to change so quickly, we found that waiting until later in the week to send out the update allows us to provide a more accurate list of what will be included in the CSA Shares the following week.
Members, if you ever see something coming in your box and want to order extra just send me an email and we can bring it along with your CSA Share. The easiest way to receive payment for the extras is by taping an envelope inside the empty CSA Share box that you are returning back to us.
Now that we are all done with the housekeeping-
During the Spring we get to see some varieties of produce that are considered special to us. Cold tolerant crops are the varieties of produce that can be slightly frozen in the early season without harming the foliage. Our members will notice that the first few weeks of CSA Shares are packed with produce that is otherwise unavailable during the rest of the season because it will bolt when it gets too warm outside. Bolting is when a plant is going to flower, so the plant puts it’s energy towards reproduction instead of growing anymore.
At that time of year when the overnight temperatures are staying higher (early-mid July) we will start to see a lot of different produce varieties. Until then, let’s enjoy these special ones together!
This week in your CSA Share: Strawberries, Rhubarb, Red Romaine, Green Romaine, Bok Choy, Radishes, and Kale!
We will be providing Strawberries in your CSA Share that are sourced from a Ma & Pa farm in Nowthen, MN which is only 15 minutes from our farm (local!). They only use organically certified products and pick all of their berries by hand. These are the kind of farmers we want to support, so we hope you are happy with our choice as well!
Fresh strawberries in MN are smaller than the ones you will see in the grocery stores, partially because of our shorter season length. These strawberries are a different variety than you will find grown in other states, specific to MN! Fruit is always best kept in the fridge.
Rhubarb is another special treat for us to share, as it only comes once a season. Once the overnight temperatures increase, the plants will start to get stalky and bitter. We harvest in June to avoid the change in flavor. Rhubarb will stay firm in the fridge for about a week. If you would like to preserve it and use it later in the season the easiest way is to wash & cut it into 1 inch pieces, lay them flat on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Freeze them for about 2 hrs, and then put them in a plastic baggie. If you put them directly in the bag to freeze they will freeze as a large chunk, and then it’s harder to measure later when making your recipe. The Rhubarb will be soft when thawed, but in most baking dishes that won’t make a difference.
Lettuces are very delicate. They are a cold crop for the most part, once the mid season hits the red and green romaine, along with buttercrunch lettuces and a few others will not be available. So there are more lettuces in the first few week’s CSA Shares than there will be in the remainder of the season, we have to enjoy them now! 🙂
After reading more literature this winter, the best way to keep lettuces freshest for longest is to keep them in a plastic bag in the crisper after washing them. Washing lettuces could be another whole CSA blog post. With lettuces, washing them right away is best. We do rinse them at the farm before adding them to your share, but when they arrive at home the best/ most thorough way to wash them is by pulling the leaves off of the center head, making sure to run your fingers on both side of the leaves because lettuces tend to have more grit on the bottom than the top of the leaves. When storing it in a plastic bag, it’s important to make sure there is no moisture with the lettuce, most sources suggest adding a dry paper towel to the bottom of your lettuce bag.
We do wash most of the produce varieties that we provide in the CSA Shares but there are some things that are actually harmed by being washed. Zucchini for example, shouldn’t be washed until right before it’s being used or it will expire quickly. No, the produce in the Shares won’t ever be “dirty” but please know if it isn’t sparkling clean, there is a reason.
Kale is not a cold crop green, it will produce all season long. Kale seems to be a love it or hate it variety for many. Some people think the only reason to use Kale is to decorate the plate, or use it in a smoothie (yes, I was even a kale denier for years). I hope I can help make kale more approachable for our members by providing recipes and different ways to use it for those who are unfamiliar with it. Some of my favorite methods of using it is cooking with it- roasting and spicing greens, or using it in a soup base. Kale is stored in the same way as lettuces, washed thoroughly, dried, and placed in a plastic bag in the crisper. Squeezing out most of the excess air in the bag can also help it hold longer.
Radishes are a classic. The red bulbed root crop even has edible greens, if you google radish greens you will see so many recipes! They are a little peppery, so it would be best to add them to a salad mix, comparable to arugula. The radishes are washed, but please rinse them at home as well. The best way to store the bulbs is keeping them in an airtight container. Radishes will last in the fridge for over 2 weeks if stored properly- as a root crop they don’t barely soften at all.
Bok Choy is a type of Chinese cabbage that is commonly used in stir-frys. Some of it’s “cousins” are broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts. One interesting fact about the Bok Choy is that it actually gets sweeter if it freezes in the early spring. It is known for it’s nutritional value; it has one of the highest calcium contents compared to all other garden varieties in our area in addition to many vitamins like A & C.
If you are using it in a stir fry, start by cutting off the base of the plant just above where we cut it from the field. Then start picking the leaves off, paying close attention to the base of the leaves when washing because that is where dirt settles. Separate the leaves from the thick white stem and chop both into 2 inch wide diagonal slices. The stem pieces should be added to the stir-fry several minutes before the leaves, as they need more cooking time. If you are using it in a salad you don’t need to worry about separating the leaves and stems, it is all edible.