Good evening All!
This is the first edition of our Farm Newsletter for 2022!!! We welcome our Members for another season of sharing farm fresh goodies every week, all season! We've got a big season ahead and can't wait to show you what's in store for you ;) We already went through the business end of the CSA in my last newsletter, if you missed it, it's linked here.
The normal layout of the newsletter will start with some updates on how things are going, how the veggies growing, what's going good or bad, and what's almost ready to be harvested, for example. Then I'll list out all the produce you're getting this week! It'll be in bold so it's easy to find! Then for my favorite part, I get to tell you all about the produce you're getting in your shares! Fun facts, preservation tips, ideas for how to use it, and even just how to make it last longer.
Every morning starts the same around here. I give Ben a honey-do list. Except it's really like a honey-harvest list, haha! We harvest pack and deliver CSAs for 4 days a week and every day has a different number of shares and different sizes. So I'll give Ben a list for 125 heads of romaine, 5 bushels of kale to bunch, 75 heads of broccoli, for example. Ben has a handful of helpers in the field and I have a handful of helpers in the pack shed. We rinse the produce lightly and then pack the CSAs, and then load and deliver your produce!
The purpose of explaining that was to express how fresh everything is going to be. We don't harvest a week's worth of anything at a time. We harvest what we need each day, and then start the process over the next day!
Let's talk about the treasure I am going to share with you... I spent a LOT of time putting together a "Farm to Table Storage Guide" and I update it every season. I hope that you reference this guide every week!!! Please save the document or have it in a spot where it can be found easily.
It literally includes every single picture of every produce variety we grow, tips on storage, preservation, fun facts and even techniques on how to use it. I think the most valuable thing you can gain from our CSA, besides the awesome veggies and memories in the kitchen of course, is the TECHNIQUE. You'll read a lot more about that in the Guide I have below.
I'd love to share with you how things are going over here in the fields! We're off to a slow start as you know, things were not growing as much as we'd like- and then that rain and warmer weather came and we're really seeing some promising growth!
We have tomatoes on the vines already! Hold your horses though!! They still have to grow quite a bit. And then they have to ripen.. so we're not close to having tomatoes but the growth and amount of flowers are very promising!! Things are looking good!
All of the stakes you see here are pounded with a stake driver. They're a 4 foot long 1 by 2, and they're used to help support the tomatoes as they grow. We "tie" our tomatoes several times each season as they're getting bigger so that it supports their branches. The alternative is of course the standard tomato cage but with the numbers we have, tying tomatoes makes much more sense. If we didn't tie them or put cages up, the weight of the fruits on the branches would be so heavy that it would break the stems and allow for disease transfer.
Kohlrabi is one of those lesser known varieties that a lot of people love! It's getting bigger but the bulbs aren't quite big enough yet. We'll have this in the CSAs for week 2, for sure! The kohlrabi is basically two plants in one. The large green leaves hold a huge amount of nutrition and are very tasty, and the bulbed root is a real treat because it's got an awesome texture and has a mild very approachable taste! I look forward to sharing more next week on these beauts.
Here is a picture of one of our field roads. Honestly I didn't know if I even wanted to tell you how close we were to destruction... but less than 5 miles down the road a farmer we know lost 60 acres of produce to hail last night. SIXTY acres. We've got about 12 in production to put it in perspective. I want to just cry for them- it's heart breaking that everything can implode in one fell swoop. We did get a lot of rain but luckily we didn't get ANY hail. Crazy considering the damage our "neighbor" had. The road here looks bad but there isn't any standing water in the fields so we're sitting good for now.
Part of a CSA is the nature of the relationship we form together. As farmers and consumers, we make an arrangement where your investment into the harvest season is fulfilled by Ben and I providing you with a quality product all season long. If disaster were to hit, we would still do everything we can to make sure we have a great variety for you!
Last year for example, the frost, eeek! We spent thousands on row covers and still lost a portion of our pickles and zucchinis. But you know, as soon as we heard of the frost warning (in June!), we dropped everything and drove 4 hours to pick up row cover, and spent the evening hours feeding our kids McDonalds while calling in help from any family who could come. By the time it was dark, we were all out there with headlamps pulling and weighting down the row cover. We STILL had a crop to share!!! It wasn't as bountiful as it could have been without the frost, but I can say with confidence that we will never go down without a fight. Ben & I cherish what we have built and appreciate your support throughout the ups and the downs.
WHAT TO EXPECT
We plan our entire season around your CSAs and we seed in accordance to when we want to harvest. Tentatively, we have a plan in place before the season starts. That's updated every season with new quantities, new varieties or changes in the planting dates for example.
You'll notice that we offer 3 sizes of CSAs. The Single Share is the smallest portion, then there is the Family Share and then the Jumbo Share (2x the Family Share). Not every share size will get the same varieties every week. Some weeks, like this week, you will. I keep very meticulous records on what goes into your CSA- even down to the detail of what color the zucchini is that you're getting that week. We do this to make sure that everyone, no matter what CSA size, will see the same varieties throughout the season <3
This week for example though, all of the boxes will have the same varieties, but they will all have different quantities.
PRODUCE YOU CAN EXPECT THIS WEEK: In the Jumbo & Family Shares: Rhubarb! Red buttercrunch, green romaine, kale, green buttercrunch and radishes.
In the Single Shares: Rhubarb! Red buttercrunch, green romaine, kale, green buttercrunch and radishes.
Let's start with the lettuces and greens. Most folks aren't used to getting them literally straight out of the field. We rinse them to cool them down and then pack them into your shares. That being said, they will come with some dirt. They're not dirty but they do have residual dirt around the base of the leaves.
Two ways to go about it- you can either prep the lettuce right away and wash it, or don't wash it and put it in the fridge with intentions to use it in the next few days. Keeping it unwashed and in the fridge will help it store longer, though at this time of year you'll be getting greens every week for a few weeks so I'd suggest micro-prepping because it just makes it that much easier to use during the week when we're busy.
Have you ever stood in the fridge with the door open? Think of reaching for a baggie with lettuce vs a head of lettuce you need to wash. Biggest tip I can give you this season is to care for all the produce you get right away. Don't leave the box on the ground in the entry way for a couple of days... it certainly won't look like the produce we harvested for you.
To prep the lettuces and greens I always start with a clean sink. I have a clean dish towel to the side of the sink ready for the fresh goodies! I start by running water into the sink and then carefully breaking off the leaves from the head one at a time. Discard the core because it is tart and usually very hard. As the sink is filling up with water I start rinsing the leaves individually. Make sure you're running your fingers along the center rib and all over the leaves through the creases so that there isn't any hidden dirt. Make sure to rinse once under running water and then lay out your lettuce and greens on your clean dish towel.
When they've dripped dry as much as possible, add a paper towel to the bottom of a plastic baggie and put your greens in there. If you have a lot of greens, I suggest also adding a paper towel to the outside edge of your baggie. You don't want them to be 100% dry, but you also don't want residual moisture sitting on the leaves because it'll make it deteriorate faster.
Please keep in mind that these greens are the way nature intended them; they're not sprayed. While we don't see damage on there from pests, please know that if you see a spot simply cut away that bit.
OK because I know I have to move on... I just want to touch on one thing quickly. Buttercrunch VS romaine! Buttercrunch is a softer leaf and the center stems aren't quite as tough. Buttercrunch is actually my favorite lettuce because it has an awesome crunch but it reminds me of spinach with it's softer more supple leaves. Romaine holds it's composure even when cut into small pieces and has an awesome crunch.
RHUBARB! This is a seasonal treat that you will see one time. This is it!! It's a cooler weather crop that everyone in MN knows about. If you haven't used it yet- I highly suggest making a dessert with it. The most characteristic feature of Rhubarb (in Minnesota at least) is that we can't help ourselves but to douse it in sugar. Rhubarb tarts are the most popular way to enjoy it and although I like to try to go light on the sugar, it is the most popular recipe for a reason!!
Fun fact about rhubarb- the leaves are POISONOUS. You read that right. The leaves are poisonous, so we cut the greens off and we're left with the nice red thick stems. The leaves have a high amount of oxalic acid that can lead to difficulty breathing, nausea and even kidney stones. Word to the wise, if you see rhubarb when out and about walking your furry friends, make sure they don't ingest any leaves!
KALE is still the most popular super food in my opinion. For years and years we heard of kale and it's amazing health benefits: It's low in calories, has no fat, and is rich in so many nutrients!
Kale can be enjoyed raw or it can be cooked; it's very versatile and can easily be a centerpiece in a dish.
The first time I tried kale chips, I wasn't impressed. **Word to the wise** Make sure you're massaging the leaves with olive oil. It sounds silly and you're probably thinking, well, why can't I just toss them in olive oil, right? By massaging the kale you're getting it into all the little cracks and crevices, and hence you will get the texture you're hoping for. Nice and crispy throughout!!
Adding it to a mixed salad is a great way to include it without eating a straight kale salad (because that can be overwhelming to some), or you can add it to things like your eggs or stir-fry's. I've got some recipes on the blog too- if you go to the blog and just search for "Kale" I have a half dozen+ recipes that will pop up for inspiration.
RADISHES are one of those varieties that can either be a hit or miss with some. I'm the same way- it took me a while to enjoy radishes. I'll be honest- I have very midwestern tastebuds and I'm shy towards spicy varieties in my salads. Depending on the weather radishes can be mild or HOT. Even though they're all from the same seeds, the heat is dependent on the growing weather.
An easy way to prepare them differently is cutting them into match sticks instead of slices. I think it's true that we eat with our eyes first. I'm not a chef by any means, just a self-proclaimed foodie. Though I can't even hold a torch to some of you!! One way that many people haven't tried is cooking them. It actually cuts down the heat a little bit and still adds a great texture (think water chestnut).
There is literally no way that I can tell you everything I want to share with you. I hope you come back next week and read some more about the produce you're going to be seeing in your kitchen very soon!!
We look forward to a great first week of CSAs and are hopeful for great harvest weather! Even though you know we're harvesting either way ;) Rain or shine, baby!!
Stay well Friends! ~The Farmers' Wife