CSA Weekly Update for July 9th-13th!
This week has been a busy & exciting one for us! With the redistribution of CSA delivery sites in honor of celebrating Independence Day, I am happy to share that everything went great for us. Overall, it was a great week! We got some more rain, and a lot more sunshine. The long warm days (and nights) really make a difference in plant growth!
This week I am going to focus a little less on the happenings in the field, and move straight to the produce because I have a lot I want to share with that.
This week in your CSA Share, you can expect: Red Potatoes, Zucchini, Pickles, Basil, Green Beans, and two types of lettuces (green/ red romaine, or green/red buttercrunch)!
We will continue to offer our members lettuces this week, but this is the last week! Once we get a few more weeks into the farm season you’ll start to notice how seasonal some of these produce varieties are. I think it helps me appreciate them a little more knowing we’ve only got our own for a short period of time, then it’s back to the grocery store lettuces.
As a born and raised Minnesotan, it’s still wild to me how much I didn’t know or even notice existed. I didn’t grow up farming like many others in our profession, Ben introduced me and I fell in love! I think that’s why my perspective is easy to read into… we’re all learning together!
Last week we started with our first harvest of pickles and zucchini. Some of our members saw pickles and some (most) saw zucchini in last week’s shares. The reason for this split is because during the first week of harvest the plants won’t produce as much. Think of it this way, the first week the plants are really just gearing up, putting on a lot more flowers and setting new vines. The second week of harvest continuing through the end of the harvest the plants will produce a significantly larger amount until they stop producing and die in a bit over a month. They would produce longer than that, but on our scale it makes more sense to till them under and plant something new in their place. Field space is precious!
Summer squash is a category of squash. Squash is generally broken down into 2 categories: summer squash and winter squash. The summer squash is the general term for 70 different kinds of the fast growing, thin skinned, tender squash that grows upwards on a single plant and can be harvested all season long. Winter squash is a type of squash that produces vines, and it’s harvested only once per season, and we have to wait until the squash are ripe to harvest those (only available in the late summer/fall). Types of winter squash include: spaghetti squash, butternut squash, buttercup squash, acorn squash, and more. Summer squash varieties examples: Zucchini, patti-pan squash, crook necked summer squash, and yellow summer squash.
So, what’s the difference between Zucchini and yellow summer squash? We grow both, so you'll see the yellow summer squash (by next week hopefully). Zucchini is a type of summer squash, but there is also a type of summer squash called yellow summer squash. Zucchini has a slightly thicker skin than yellow summer squash and doesn’t bruise or scrape as easily (although both are tender). The yellow summer squash has a very light yellow color to it, and often has a wider bottom to it than the zucchini which is uniform in width from the top to bottom.
Zucchini and yellow summer squash can be used interchangeably, as can any type of summer squash. We don’t wash the zucchini or summer squash because being exposed to water will make them soften quicker. The way they grow upwards on the plant also helps, they’re really never dirty so we don’t wash or rinse them.
Try the Baked Parmesan Zucchini recipe!
Pickles. Why do we call them pickles, why aren’t they cucumbers? Well, there are two different kinds of cucumbers that we grow. There are the traditional slicing cucumbers with the thicker dark green skin which can easily be found at the grocery store and then there are pickles which are smaller and have a thinner light green/dark green skin. To store, put the pickles 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.
Pickles can always be peeled and sliced like cucumbers, used on a salad or just dipped in ranch. They can also be used to make pickles, the kind that you would can with dill for example. Or refrigerator pickles that you’d make up in a vinegar brine and leave in the fridge (they last for months in the fridge).
I think pickles are better to snack on because the skins are so thin that you can just take a bite out of the pickle without peeling it, and of course a lot of the nutrients are in the skin of the pickle. Cucumbers have their own purposes too, which I am sure I will dig into once we start harvesting those.
If you’re looking for a creative way to use the pickles, don’t forget about the flavored water craze from last season. Slice them and add them to your water bottle for an easy shot of concentrated vitamins. Plus- they still taste the same after they’ve been in your water so they can also serve as a snack
Red Potatoes! You’ll notice in our CSA Shares that we try to balance the produce varieties that are lesser known with the classics, we want to give you produce you can use while also offering some fun varieties. Potatoes are one of the staples, because they can be used in so many ways and there are so many kinds of potatoes with their own unique purpose. You’ll see several weeks of potatoes throughout the season. We’re growing reds, Yukon golds, russets, purple potatoes (literally- they are purple on the inside), and sweet potatoes!
Interesting tid-bit. When you cut into a potato and your knife is covered in that white film? That’s the starch! They say that a potato with less starch is better to boil than to bake, and one with a lot of starch is better for baking because it is “fluffier”. To store, keep them in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks. We rinse them off but we don’t scrub them because that would leave blemishes on your potatoes. The more blemishes or cuts/scrapes a potato has, the faster it will soften or rot. If they soften, they can still be boiled or added to a roast for example but I wouldn’t use them in a potato salad because the texture would be off.
These are the first red potatoes of the year- you’ll see that they are fairly small. There won’t be a lot of large potatoes in the mix this week. We are digging a row at a time, so they aren’t going to be sorted by size, you’ll see a slight variation. I’m sure you’ve heard of it before, but the “baby reds” are very desirable. I’m happy to share these with you this week!
Basil is a potent herb, used in caprese salads, pesto sauce, many Italian cuisines, and more. I personally like to make bruschetta, the balance of fresh mozzarella and tomato with the balsamic vinegar is so good! If you’re like me and don’t have time to boil down balsamic vinegar, they sell “reduced balsamic vinegar” that’s ready to use. Perfect for those of us who enjoy this treat but don't have that much time to prep it.
Basil is delicate, and does not tolerate cold weather or refrigeration. Do not put the basil is the fridge, it will turn black. To keep the freshly harvested basil fresh, you can put the stems into a cup with water. If the stems aren’t long enough to get into the cup, you can take all the leaves off of the stems and wrap the stripped leaves in a dry paper towel in a plastic baggie.
To use your basil, I’ve got a couple of recipes posted to the blog this week that could use your fresh basil. Try the Zucchini Basil Lasagna! The parmesan zucchini (link above) also uses basil if you're looking for a way to use it.
Other ideas could be chopping it up and adding it to butter, cream cheese or your favorite pasta sauce. Make a batch of pesto or simply puree the extra basil with a bit of olive oil and freeze it in ice cube trays to keep it tasting “fresh” (as opposed to dried basil). Because it’s so fragile, it’s best to add basil near the end of a dish’s cooking time.
Green Beans!!! This is always a big hit. Fresh green beans taste nothing like the grocery store green beans, it’s like night and day. If you can actually get through the day without eating the whole bag of beans as snacks, one idea is to make stir-fried beans with garlic and lemon juice. Another way I like to prepare them is with a little olive oil in a tin-foil wrap on the grill. Makes an easy nutritional side dish for grilling dogs & burgers for supper, which it seems like my family is so fond of lately!
We are looking forward to a wonderful upcoming week of CSA Shares, hoping that you are enjoying this journey with us so far. We've got a lot to look forward to this week!
Have a great weekend!
~The Farmer's Wife