FARM NEWSLETTER // WEEK 1
This is our first FARM NEWSLETTER of the season! I am so excited for this journey together. We will see a ton of produce varieties throughout the next 16 weeks together, learn lots along the way, try new recipes, laugh at our mistakes, & enjoy all the awesome meals we all create with these FRESH flavors! There is nothing better than farm season.
Starting out our first season on our own land gives us a whole new perspective on farming. As many of you know, Ben & I have always rented land and up until this spring we farmed 3 separate fields in 3 separate cities. Having everything here has opened my eyes A LOT. I think we can value the beauty of the produce and the land we have here much more because we see the transformation on a day to day basis. Ben has always been in touch with all the produce on a day to day, but I never was. My job within the farm is different than his, so this is new to me.
The fields look amazing. We spent time cultivating between rows today, after we spent the last couple of days hoeing. The hoeing takes care of weed between the plants, but the cultivating takes care of the weeds between the rows. Both are super important!!
We got the stakes pounded in the first tomato patch and got them all tied. Instead of using wire cages, that’s how we support the tomato plants when they’re heavy with fruits. So we “tie” them usually 3 times. Once they grow for another 2 weeks or so, we will tie them again, and then the last time when the plants are at their full height/width. Lots of the ‘maters have flowers and we’ve even seen a couple of tiny little Roma tomatoes developing!
The past couple of days here have been super dry and windy. So windy that we had to replace the hardware on our screen door because it was almost ripped off the house. After last night’s rain, we’ve seen huge growth today. The squash plants were barely on the edge of the mulch and now they’re overflowing into the rows, literally overnight. The zucchini and pickles have doubled overnight Ben said. Greens & lettuces are looking great too! Spinach is a little behind but that’s because we chose to wait to plant it. The conditions for planting were terrible by the time it was large enough to be transplanted from the in trays to the field. If it’s too dry, too windy, or too anything really, the plants get stressed out. That stress will decrease overall production long term, so it was an easy choice to wait a few days to plant those little beauties. They're all in the ground now, and were very happy to get that rain the other night.
The onions were NOT happy with the heat this past couple of days. The purple onions are bolting, which means they’re going to flower and producing their seeds; they won’t grow anymore. This is so weird because it’s just the purple onions bolting, not the yellow onions. They were planted in rows next to each other and are mixed pretty well so it’s not like one spot is higher/lower, shaded, etc. They’re still perfectly edible and super tasty! They’ll be in your shares this week because if we left them in the field they won’t grow anymore and eventually they’d soften. May as well enjoy them now while we can, though it was planned to wait until they were larger to pull them! Too bad “plans” don’t ever work well in farming ;) haha
We haven’t been able to source strawberries for this season. We had to switch suppliers from last season because they weren't able to meet our needs. Last season they weren't able to supply us because it got super hot super fast and ended the berry season early. Also because they didn't have as good of a yield as they were counting on early on, so we were told to wait but then by the time we waited the season was over. So this season we chatted with 3 other farmers to see if we could buy from them. I did get a confirmation and then about a week ago was told that their retail sales are up really high so they don't want to harvest and sell to us because they can make more money when people go out to their farms for u-pick strawberries. They are a 2-3 week season in MN at most. Unfortunately there isn't anything we can do.
What we need is our OWN strawberries. Now that we’re in our own land, we can invest in perennial crops like this. Stay tuned..
The sugar snap peas are looking great! They’ve got flowers and I’m hoping in the right conditions we will have those for you next week. Even the zucchini is flowering, but they are slow to start producing at full capacity so I’d think it’d be 2-3 weeks until we are able to share those.
THIS IS IMPORTANT:
In the past we have had 2 sizes of CSAs. It was easy to calculate everything and list the produce out because the family share was exactly half of the size of the jumbo share. That’s still the case for those 2 share sizes! Now we offer the single share too, which is about a quarter bushel, it is about half of the family share. I say *about half* because the single shares might not see every variety that we have listed for the jumbo and family sized shares. That doesn’t mean you’re missing out if you have a single share- I can assure you that you will see all the same varieties of produce, but some might be the week before or after the jumbo/family shares. As you can see from below, the majority of box contents are the same. There is not an exact science to the single shares, but I can tell you that we will be leaning on the heavier side and not the lighter side.
This is the first season we have rolled these out on a larger scale, so I’m really interested in your feedback too. Instead of just one list like it’s been in the past, I will be providing 2 lists- the Jumbo/Family Shares and the Single Shares.
This week in the JUMBO & FAMILY Shares you will receive: rhubarb, radishes, green butter-crunch lettuce, kale, swiss chard & bunched onions!
This week in the SINGLE Shares you will receive: rhubarb, radishes, Green butter-crunch lettuce, kale & bunched onions!
I sent out the Farm to Table Storage Guide yesterday in the reminder email you should have received. If you didn’t get that, please check your spam folder because sometimes my email will get flagged as spam because we have a large mailing list. Though, I promise I’m the only one with our farm's email address and I’m not spam haha!
The Farm to Table Storage Guide is A LOT more than storage. It has background info on all the produce, pictures, ideas of how to use it and more! I suggest saving the storage guide so it’s easy to reference this summer. To quick-search the Farm to Table Storage Guide PDF, open the document and click the "control" button (CTRL button on the lower left side of a laptop keyboard) & the letter "f". That will bring up a little window at the top of your screen where you can search for keywords. Type in the variety or keyword and it'll bring you to that spot on the document.
Rhubarb is a special variety that you will see one time this season. It grows best in the cool spring months with better flavor. Everyone always goes straight to the dessert recipes with rhubarb because it’s best paired with sugar and sweets to balance out the natural tartness. That’s why you’ve heard of strawberry rhubarb jam, rhubarb crisp or bars, rhubarb apple fritters, etc. One thing we don’t often hear about is the less known savory rhubarb recipes. I found an awesome pork chop rhubarb combo that I’ll be posting to the blog. It’s super simple, just a few ingredients and the prep time is non-existent basically! Please store your rhubarb in the fridge wrapped in plastic. Either pre-cut into pieces or in stalks works, but stalks will hold longer than the pre-cut pieces. Keeping them in plastic reduces the air flow around the rhubarb which will keep it fresh for longer (which is true of many veggies we will come across this summer).
Radishes! These are one of those love hate veggies for a lot of you. If you’re a big fan, we don’t even need to tell you how to enjoy them because I’m sure you’ve already got plans lined up! Even if that’s just salting them and munching on them, slicing them for salads, etc. sometimes easier is better ;) BUT if you’re like me and don’t really like the spice of the radishes, try cooking them because it will pull out some of the spice. We had a huge patch of radishes, and since it got so hot they’ve all grown pretty uniformly. We will be harvesting that whole patch over the next week and will reseed another patch later on. Out of everything we grow, radishes go from seed to harvest faster than anything else! (Appx 30 days). Did you know that you can eat radish greens too? Especially with these tender small tops, I would highly recommend at least experimenting with them! In the past, the best recipe I've come across is a radish top pesto.
A tip straight from my Farm to Table Storage Guide: If you still think they’re spicy, try grating them to better distribute the radish over your meal, instead of chopping or even mincing the radish. Grated radishes add the classic earthy flavor, without the heat.
Green butter-crunch lettuce is MY FAVORITE. I love butter-crunch because it has the tender delicate leaves almost like spinach which is kind of spongy. They’re thicker leaves, but they are still tender and go really well in a salad mix. Lettuces can be a challenge to clean. Now that we’re growing in soil and not in sand, it should be easier to clean them. TO CLEAN THEM: pick the individual leaves away from the head and rinse them under water running your fingers up and down through the center of the leaf. Make sure to go over it several times back and forth to remove all the dirt. PRO TIP: Wash your lettuces right away to prep them for salads. I can tell you that you’ll be much more apt to eat your greens if you can open the fridge and see them already prepared just waiting for salad dressing :)
Kale! This is a fun one that you can use in a million different ways. It was one of the most recent ‘fad’ vegetables but has continued with popularity because it’s really that good for you, and if you try some recipes it can really be super tasty too! I found that it was easiest to mix the kale into our salad mix, or to cook with it. I know there are a lot of other ways to enjoy it but that was the path of least resistance into our kitchen :P Cooking with greens can be tricky sometimes, but just keep in mind that whatever else it is pairing with needs to be cooked longer so don’t throw everything in at once. Usually when cooking with greens, recipes will say add them right before turning off the heat in your fry pan so they’re not overcooked (don’t want them to get soggy). If you want to check out recipes, go to the “blog” tab on the main header. Then click the little search icon and type in kale or whatever other variety you want to look up. It will list all the posts that have the keyword you entered! I have a lot of recipes for kale on the blog to choose from.
The bunched onions are a treat at this time of year. We weren’t planning on having these already but like I mentioned above, they’re flowering so we need to harvest them now. The flowering doesn’t take away from the flavor at all, but it will stop the onion growth so we may as well enjoy them now. You’ll see some that have the flowers on top already, I assume by next week's harvest some of you might even get a bouquet of onion flowers haha! The greens are edible and we encourage you to add those to whatever you’re cooking too! Treat it like a green though, add the green tops at the last second instead of dicing the onions and throwing it all in at once. Cooking the bulb first and then adding the greens will preserve the texture.
Swiss Chard is a type of green that can be harvested throughout the season as long as you take individual leaves from the plant instead of clipping the whole plant. So you’ll see bunches of Swiss chard throughout the season. They’re super colorful too! From reds to yellows, greens and pale/whites, they add a beautiful aesthetic value to any supper. These are actually in the beet family, but they don’t ever produce a bulb. On some of the larger leaves, you will want to remove a portion of the stem in the center because they can get grainy kind of like celery. When cooking with swiss chard, it’s recommended you remove all of the stems and treat the stem and the leaves individually because the stems should be cooked first and then the greens are added at the last minute.
If you haven’t ever cooked with greens, now is the time!! Even if you don’t want to follow a recipe, try heating up olive oil and adding garlic, simmer for a few minutes and add the greens shortly before the cooking process is over. I think one value that our CSA Members will have forever is the techniques that come along with eating seasonally. It’s not always about finding a new recipe. When you start cooking with fresh produce every week, you’ll see yourself trying new ways of cooking that aren’t recipes at all. Mastering some of the techniques is where you'll find a lot of value with your veggies.
I didn’t mean for this to go on and on and on but here we are, haha! I am just really excited for this next week and what we all have to look forward to together!!
Have a great weekend,
~The Farmer’s Wife