Good morning all,
I hope everyone had a good week! Am I the only one who’s shocked to see it’s already mid-July? It feels like this summer has gone by so fast. This is our fifth week together this summer out of 16 weeks, so we’ve still got a LOT to look forward to together!
Holy buckets it’s been hot! I’m sure we’ve all noticed this, the humidity and heat combined make it hard to even breathe outside lately. The plants like the heat though; peppers, tomatoes, and melons are all making big strides this week! There are a lot of small fruits and flowers in the field. Everything comes from flowers, so the more flowers we see, the higher potential yield.
This week we get to highlight a special relationship with J&Q Berry Farm in Princeton. They’re a certified organic berry farm that’s been around for more than a century. We are happy to share that we will be purchasing pints of blueberries from them to add into your CSA Shares this week!
For those of you who may not know, we purchase strawberries, blueberries and apples from other nearby farms because Ben & I haven’t gotten into perennial berries and fruits due to not owning our own farm land (we rent acreage).
The goal is to provide our CSA Share Members with a sense of seasonality, when things are ready, what’s in harvest and what’s available locally. We know that these blueberries are special treats in our Minnesota growing season, and we want to make sure you get to see the whole spectrum! Honey Crisp apples are coming this fall as well!
Melons are coming along great. We’ve got two plantings of muskmelons and several types of watermelons coming. They’re small, but with this heat the muskmelons could be just a couple weeks away!
You’ll notice that we add muskmelon into the CSA Share boxes because they aren’t too large to fit into the box. Watermelons don’t fit into the CSA Share box. If we wanted to conform to other CSA’s we could just grow tiny little melons (who wants that?), or add them into the CSA Share and take up the entire box with little room left for other produce varieties. Instead, our special value-added for our Members is putting the watermelons on the side of our CSA Share boxes. Each melon will be bagged so it’s easy for you to grab at your CSA Share site. That way, we can still grow prime watermelon varieties, and offer you the greatest value! Ben & I pride ourselves on the fact that our farm is geared and focused to your CSA Shares, our Member Families always come first!
The varieties of produce you can expect in your CSA Share this week:
Yukon Gold Potatoes, Blueberries, Zucchini, Summer Squash, Pickles, Broccoli, and Swiss Chard.
Blueberries need to be rinsed & eaten or refrigerated as soon as possible. If you’re freezing them don’t wash them before you freeze them or they’ll be mushy when you defrost them to use them later. When using frozen blueberries, let them defrost completely then rinse gently before adding to your dish.
Yukon Gold Potatoes are one of our staple potatoes, you’ll see these guys at least a couple times this season. These are my favorite potatoes because they have a very buttery texture & flavor compared to their other white fleshed potato relatives like reds and russets. In our house, we boil them whole (or cut in half depending on size) for about 8-10 minutes, or until you can stick a fork in it. The fork should pass smoothly through the potato, if you feel resistance boil the potato for a couple more minutes and try again. Once they are on our plates, we just use the back of the fork to smoosh the potato and top with salt and pepper. In my opinion, this is one of the only potatoes that can be eaten like this without butter because it has such a great flavor! Plus, they’re gold on the inside!
Did you all notice that we had summer squash last week? We didn’t think it would be ready but the heat got it growing really fast! The yellow summer squash it a little more tender, but can be used in substitution for zucchini or other summer squash in any recipe. They can also be combined. The yellow zucchini and yellow summer squash are slightly different colors (the summer squash is lighter yellow), so adding them together just promotes more color in your meals!
Zucchini is kind of like a potato in it's versatility, it can be baked, fried, diced, used in substitute for noodles (ex: Zoodles, and zucchini lasagna), grilled, roasted… and better yet zucchini has a ton of ways to use it raw as well! If you’re not familiar with it, try to push yourself out of your comfort zone. If you don’t like following recipes, try simply adding a little bit of oil to a pan, and adding zucchini slices until they are tender but not mooshy (literally a few minutes). Salt and pepper & waahlaaah! Keep zucchini and summer squash in the fridge in the crisper drawer, the lesser amount of air flow the slower the produce will wilt or become undesirable.
CSA Pro Tip: How to pick the best zucchini during the off season. Try to avoid the pre-packaged zucchini that are stacked in the Styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic wrap. Those are going to tend to be not as fresh as the loose ones that are in the store. How to check if a zucchini is good? Lightly press your fingers on the flowering end of the zucchini- that is where it will soften first. The end of the zucchini where it’s cut off of the plant will generally stay firm the longest. What happens if you select a zucchini that’s softening quickly? You can make zucchini bread, use it in a stirfry or veggie medley on the grill, just about anything but eating it raw.
***We learn about produce during the farm season and take this knowledge into the winter! We want to help all of our CSA Share Members be “vegetable snobs” as my sister calls us! Food is important, it’s good to know what is quality and what’s not.
Broccoli!!! What?!?! These are in the brassica family. This family also includes cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale and kohlrabi. All of the cole vegetables contain bioflavonoids that help reduce the risk of cancer. It is also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A and folate, along with calcium, iron, and other minerals. This family is grouped by how the plant grows, they produce a single head. It’s a one time harvest and then the plant is done producing, unlike tomatoes, peppers, pickles, and so many others. They are also cold tolerant. These broccoli are ready this early because Ben plants these first, in middle of May! They can tolerate the cold or freezing temperatures. (We could never plant tomatoes or peppers that early at risk of losing the whole crop.)
To keep Broccoli fresh, wrap loosely in a plastic bag and keep it in the vegetable bin in your refrigerator. It will keep for over a week but it firmest and tastiest if used within a few days.
Organic broccoli in particular seems to attract small green worms hiding in its depths. We soak the heads of broccoli to remove the worms, they will all fall out. If you’re worried about finding one, soak head upside down in cold salted water (1 teaspoon salt to 8 cups of water) for 30 minutes to remove any hidden field worms. Any critters will float to the top where you can rescue them or allow them to suffer a salty death. After cutting off the florets, don’t discard the stem. Sliced stems are juicy, crunchy, and perfectly edible. If the skin is thick, you can remove it with a knife or peeler before adding the stem to your dish.
Swiss Chard is coming in our CSA Shares again this week! It’s such a beautiful plant, and adds a lot of color to any dish. (You’ll hear me talk a lot about colors… it’s what makes eating fun!). Chard is actually in the beet family but doesn't develop a bulb. Its leaves are more tender and delicate than other greens. Eat small leaves raw in salads and blanch or steam larger leaves. You can freeze chard for recipes later, I’ve heard many freezing it for soups in the offseason.
To use, wash leaves in basin of lukewarm water to remove grit. Remove the thicker stems by folding the leaves down the center and cutting out the stem. Stack several leaves on top of each other and slice into 1-inch wide ribbons. From there, you can add it to a salad or stir fry, or any recipe that calls for greens.
Pickles are the variety of the week!! Pickles & Cucumbers are in a family known as cucurbits that includes melons, squash, pumpkins and gourds. Seems unlikely right? I believe the reason that pickles/cukes are in the same family as melons, squash and pumpkins is because of how they grow. They all create vines, and creep out from the center of the plant. Cucumbers are classified as either slicers or picklers. This week, we will have picklers but Ben said we might have some cucumbers to add to the shares depending on how fast they grow this weekend!
We have got a TON of pickles. We are selling extra cases of picklers to our CSA Share members for $20 each for the chub size (4-6 inches), which make great spears. There are quick pickle brine mixes available at every grocery store (I just made some this week), and they cost about $2 for the packet. They are quick pickles too, so if you can them they're ready to eat within 24 hours. Using these packets eliminates the need for fresh dill but still provides the classic dill flavor. There are also spicy mixes, bread and butter mixes and many more options. You can also make refrigerator pickles (without the canning process/ hot water bath), that will store in the fridge for up to 3 months in the brine. Questions? Please ask!
For those who have placed pickle orders for smaller sizes of pickles, we don't fill those orders until the weeks that we aren't including the pickles in our CSA Shares. Our Members come first, but we are happy to get you pickles as soon as we can!!
They will store best in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to a week. Keep them far away from tomatoes, apples, and citrus which accelerate their deterioration. If you’re looking for a way to use pickles, I’ve got a lot of recipes on the blog this week.
I love having this in my lunch box. It's a great side to a sandwich because it's not too heavy but it's got enough cream to satisfy the craving!
I had to add this recipe because I had it at a baby shower a couple weeks ago and it was amazing! It sounds weird with the mint, but it's the flavors melding together that make it such a treat.
This one has cilantro, which I adore! But I know some despise it (including Farmer Ben). You can alter the recipe and add a different herb to spice it or just exclude the cilantro and let the natural flavors take the lead.
Classic recipe with a twist! It's almost the same as making potato salad and then adding the chopped cukes at the end. It does add an awesome crunch!
Thanks for sharing interest in our farm, we are happy to have members engaging and learning with us. It makes our work very rewarding!
Have a wonderful week, ~The Farmer’s Wife