Welcome back to another update from your farmers in Big Lake! We’re well into the season now and we’ve seen a lot of produce varieties already. We still have a LOT to look forward to, another 10 weeks to be exact! :) We will start seeing the mid-summer classic varieties soon- peppers, tomatoes, watermelons, muskmelons, and Spaghetti squash for example. This week will be our first week with peppers this season!
We grow several sweet pepper and several hot pepper varieties, including sweet banana, bell peppers (4 colors, including purple), gypsy peppers, Anaheim peppers, jalapenos, and hot Hungarian wax peppers to name a few. The hot peppers are always bagged, and the sweet peppers are never bagged. That way, the hot peppers don’t share any of their heat with the other produce varieties in your box. This is an easy quick way to find out if you’ve got hot or sweet peppers in your CSA Share.
The tomato plants are huge! You can see from the photo below that the grape tomato plants are almost taller than our kids! They’re finding a handful of red tomatoes but the patch hasn’t really started turning yet. The healthier the plants, the longer it takes to produce a ripe red tomato. When the plants are really healthy, they continue to put their energy into the flowers and producing more fruits, as opposed to ripening the fruits already on the vine. The trade-off is waiting a little longer for tomatoes but the overall yield will be higher!! I am so excited to share these tomatoes with you! I would estimate about a week or two before we have tomatoes in our CSA Shares.
You can expect these varieties in your CSA Share this week: Sweet Corn, Cauliflower or Cabbage, Eggplant, Banana Peppers, Pickles/ Slicers, Zucchini and Onions!
Sweet corn is best when eaten right away. The sugars in the kernels will start to turn to starch (the chemical process behind corn aging and decomposing), and you’ll gradually loose the sweetness. If you’re not eating the corn that same day you get your CSA Share, make sure to store the corn in the fridge in a plastic bag so it doesn’t dry out. Keeping the corn cool also slows the process of sugars turning into starches.
Cauliflower or Cabbage. Depending on what you got this last week, you will get the opposite this week. i.e. If you got cauliflower last week, you’ll get cabbage this week. Cauliflower does not hold well. It is best used within a few days but can last up to a couple weeks in the fridge if it’s kept in a loosely wrapped plastic bag in the crisper. I posted with a garlic mashed cauliflower recipe this week, and you don’t necessarily need a food processor either. (I try to look for recipes that are tasty, while still approachable).
The variety of the week is Cabbage! Fun fact: It is one of the best varieties to grow in the arctic regions where food is scarce and the growing season is very short. It’s cold tolerant and can live through the frost, and it also keeps for months. If the outer leaves get soft, just peel some leaves off until you get to desirable cabbage. Before using, rinse the cabbage under cold water. Cut the cabbage into quarters, then diagonally across the wedge. Be sure to remove the stem end and triangular core near the base. (It’s easy to see once you cut into it). Green Cabbage is good fixed in any way; raw, in salads, cooked, steamed, braised or fried. Check out the blog recipes to find some ideas for how to use your cabbage.
Eggplant! What’s this?! It’s one that many of us probably haven’t approached on our own in the grocery store or market. This is your opportunity!! Eggplant is a close relative of tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. They are smooth-skinned, oval to elongated, and range in color. Eggplant requires the right kind of preparation; otherwise it can be unpleasantly bitter, rubbery, or watery. To store the eggplant, wrap unwashed eggplant in a towel (not plastic) to absorb any moisture, and keep it in the veggie drawer of your refrigerator. Or store unrefrigerated at a cool room temperature. Use within a week and it should still be fresh and mild.
Eggplant is usually peeled. The flesh will brown when exposed to air. To prevent browning, coat in lemon juice or keep submerged in water. Rinse eggplant in cool water and cut off the stem. The shape of the eggplant determines how to prepare it: cut straight narrow eggplant into strips for grilling or broiling, and cut a rounded bulbous eggplant into cubes for stews and stir- fries.
To remove bitter flavors and excess moisture, lightly salt slices of eggplant and allow them to sit in a colander for 10-15 minutes. Gently squeeze out any liquid. Eggplant will now soak up less oil and need less salt in preparation. I’ve got two extra recipes on the blog this week to help give you a couple of ideas of how to use it!
Peppers! Banana peppers are the classic, long pointy tipped light yellow pepper. If you notice any purple on the pepper (usually in streaks), it’s just cross pollination between these and the purple bell peppers. The bees visit so many flowers in one day that when they pollinated the banana pepper plants they left behind some purple pepper pollen on their flowers as well. These can be kept in a loose plastic bag in the hydrator drawer of the fridge for up to 2 weeks. If the peppers get soft earlier than you’re ready to use them, keep in mind that you can still cook with them although I would not suggest eating a soft raw pepper. It isn’t bad for you and won’t make you sick, but it’s not as desirable as the fresh crunch you get with a pepper straight from the farm.
Pickles slicers and zucchini are in the CSA Shares again this week. At this time of year, you'll see these varieties a lot because they produce everyday, whereas peppers, cauliflower, corn and almost every other variety in our CSA Shares this week are varieties that produce very slowly, it takes weeks (sometimes even the entire season) to harvest certain varieties. This is part of the CSA Share program, showing our members what is in season at what time of the year and sharing the seasonality and a good understanding of this produce! Hopefully with all the recipes on the blog and google sourcing, you can find some fun ways to use this produce. Remember, zucchini is like a potato; it can be baked, fried, grilled, broiled, put into a casserole julienne style, and so many more options.
These are best if kept in the fridge. One of the best CSA tips I can give you is peeling and slicing your cukes and pickles right away this week. That way, they’re ready to just pop into a lunch box and with no prep work required at the time, it makes them a very approachable option for a side to your lunch. Some people add vinegar to the pickles to give them a new twist.
Onions are getting bigger! Woohoo! These are still fresh onions, so they need to be kept in the fridge. If you leave these on the counter you’ll notice a smell after a couple days. It’s easier to just keep them in the fridge though. In the fall, you’ll see the dried onions, these are the ones that we’re all familiar with- the kind with the dry flakey skins at the grocery store. We dry our own onions, you’ll see them in Sept/Oct.
Have a wonderful weekend,
Thank you! ~The Farmer’s Wife