CSA Weekly Update for August 20th- 24th!
Wow, the tomatoes are really coming in now! We have been planning extra time in our schedule to harvest tomatoes because there is just so many to harvest right now. The longer the wait for the first ripe tomato of the season, the larger the overall harvest will be (reference my previous blog post).
This year, tomatoes are definitely later than they’ve been in the past. To paint a clear picture of how cold our spring was (outside of the obvious snow storm at the end of April), we were planting our sugar snap peas when there was only 6 inches of thawed ground. I remember thinking I wasn’t strong enough to push in the stake to mark the row, or I hit a rock, but nope! It was still frozen. We also see this trend with watermelons right now, they’re a week behind last year’s melons. Ben said we can expect to have watermelons for the following week’s boxes though!!
At this time of year, we are all start thinking about preserving produce for the offseason and doing an inventory of the deep freezer. Until now, I haven’t mentioned much about freezing or storing produce because let’s be honest, we needed to eat that sweet corn! We couldn’t save it for the off-season. Now that we’re getting well into the season, we can start putting up some produce. You will start seeing tips and tricks on freezing produce in the blog.
We are now offering canning tomatoes and all the fixings for salsa or stewed tomatoes, etc. We offer a discount to all of our CSA Members as a way to say thank you for buying a share of our harvest this year! CSA Members can purchase canning tomatoes for $20 a basket ($25 for non-members). If you purchase peppers or onions for example, you’ll get a discount on those too!
A basket of normal canners (large round tomatoes) is about 25 pounds. A basket of Romas is about 28 pounds of tomatoes; since they are smaller tomatoes there is less space between the tomatoes and therefore fits more. A basket of tomatoes is a half bushel. So if you say a bushel of tomatoes, that’s actually 2 baskets of tomatoes, and roughly 50#. If you want tomatoes or any additional produce, please send me an email at Jodi@brownfamilyproduce.com
The varieties that will be included in your CSA Share this week are: Sweet Corn, Eggplant, Onions, Slicing Cucumbers, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, and Grape Tomatoes!
Sweet corn is best if eaten within a few days, but if you don’t plan on eating it the same day, just put it in the fridge (with the husk still intact) for up to 3-4 days ideally. If you don’t think you’ll be able to get to it within a couple of days, one option is to freeze it. To freeze corn, blanch (Boil) on the cob for 3-5 minutes, rinse under cold water, and drain. Dry corn well, cut off the kernels with a knife, and then pack it into airtight freezer containers. If you’re like us and really like corn, you can also buy it in bulk to freeze. We do about 6 dozen in the freezer each winter.
Eggplant is a variety we have had a hard time growing in the past. When we planted to eggplant in the Big Lake field, it would be eaten by the numerous potato beetles there. Even though we don’t grow potatoes there, the potato beetles are always plentiful because our town is known for it’s potato production. Our city wide festival is actually called “Spudfest” because there are so many potato farmers in our area.
Now that we are growing it in Zimmerman, we don’t have as many problems. When we first added eggplant to the CSA Shares they weren’t particularly pretty. Now that we are onto the second harvest they’re almost completely blemish free which is a normal trend in eggplant. If you need ideas for how to use your eggplant, try the tomato eggplant bake recipe I posted this week. Another idea is the classic eggplant parmesan, basically a layered eggplant bake with all sorts of cheese and melded flavors (and it’s been around forever for a reason). There are also fried eggplant recipes, similar to the zucchini chips that are dipped in egg, breaded and baked or fried.
Store 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.
Slicing Cucumbers! Put cucumbers in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to a week. These are often peeled, but the skin actually contains a lot of the nutritional value. If the seeds are bulky, slice the cucumber lengthwise and scoop them out. Scoring the skin of a cucumber with a fork gives it attractive stripes.
A few more ideas for cukes: Eat cucumbers raw in sandwiches or salads. Try cucumber rounds topped with vegetable, egg, or tuna salad, goat cheese. Use cucumbers in chilled summer soups. Slice up cucumbers and drop into a pitcher of water to make cucumber water. You can also freeze the cucumbers slices by cutting the cuke, laying all the slices on a baking sheet (so they don’t stick together), and putting the tray in the freezer. Once frozen, place in a plastic bag and try to squish the air out. I’ve done this in the past and it’s like having flavored ice cubes for your water!
Bell peppers should be refrigerated unwashed in a sealed plastic bag in hydrator drawer for 1-2 weeks. If you want to freeze any of the peppers you get from us, the process is always the same: Wash and dry peppers. Freeze whole or cut into bite-size pieces and place in ziplock freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Peppers will soften when thawed, so take out only the amount you need, and use them in recipes where their crisp texture is not necessary. You can also dry peppers in a food dehydrator. My favorite way to use our frozen peppers is small diced peppers in sloppy joes.
For greatest nutrition retention, eat bell peppers raw. You can also roast peppers: Place bell pepper under broiler, above hot coals, or over open flame. Toast it, turning often, until the skin is black. Place pepper in brown bag, close and allow to steam 15 minutes. Skin will peel off easily with the aid of a paring knife. Try steaming peppers whole for 10 minutes and then stuff with your favorite stuffing.
Tomatoes are the variety of the week!
Make sure to wash the ‘maters under cold water, rinsing off any outside dirt or things like dried leaves. Do not refrigerate tomatoes; cold temperatures deplete their flavor & texture. Check out the blog for awesome tomato recipes! This week we are getting some rain (finally!) and we expect some cooler days, so the Fresh Tomato Soup will be a hit I am sure!
Tomatoes can be frozen whole. Skin and core* tomatoes, place on cookie sheet, and freeze. When solid, place in ziplock freezer bag and replace in freezer. *Score the end of the tomato with an “X,” dunk whole tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, lift out with slotted spoon, plunge into ice water, and the skins will slide off. Use a paring knife to cut out the core, or a tomato corer which is available for about $2 at most grocery stores.
Thawed tomatoes are appropriate only for cooking sauces, salsas, or purees. Tomatoes can also be dehydrated. Farm mom TIP: Avoid cooking in aluminum or iron pots because tomatoes react with those substances, giving the dish a metallic taste.
Grape Tomatoes are a lot of fun to add into the CSA Shares. It’s a variety that can be a snack or added to a salad, lightly browned and added to a stir-fry, or added to a shishcabob, to name a few examples. These should be kept out of the fridge as well, cooling the tomatoes will take away from the flavor.
Have a wonderful week,
~The Farmer’s Wife