Greetings all,

Welcome to week 7 with your Brown Family Farm CSA :D Let's start with whats new in the fields!

There are acorn squash in the field that already have the orange spot on the bottom which is indicative of the ripening process. Ben was so sweet he brought me one and said look what I have!! (You know, the farmer kind of presents for their spouses' lol!) The stems aren’t dried out all the way yet though, which is the final sign of ripening. When there is a spot on the bottom (wherever the squash sits on the ground will change color) and the stem is dried and hard, that means they’re ready to make the leap into your kitchen! Spaghetti Squash are the exception for this though, their stems will still have a bit of moisture when we harvest them. Instead of having a ripening spot, the entire spaghetti squash will turn a yellowish color, though it will still have a small ripening spot with an obvious color change for the most part.

These squash are doing so well there are acorn squash out there bigger than the biggest pie pumpkin we saw last season. That’s really big!! They are not even staying in their own rows anymore, this picture below shows the buttercup squash creeping over the top of eggplant and the peppers as the vine continues to grow and expand. There are some squash at their max size getting ready to ripen and some that are just starting to grow like the one in this picture, meaning we have very healthy plants. So. many. squash.

This past week we donated over 850 pounds of produce to CAER! (Community Aide Elk River, it’s the food shelf we primarily work with). They also received some donated CSAs from this past week as well, so together all of our donations were literally almost 900 pounds!!! They are so happy to be seeing all the fresh goodies they set up a farmers market inside. They also told me that they ask everyone what they’ll be using the veggies for and if they need other supplies the food shelf will provide it. For instance, if they’re making refrigerator pickles they’ll also give them plenty of vinegar, sugar & salt.

They have an awesome program there and we are so proud to partner with them! I am sure many of you know this, but the food shelf has been hit really hard this year. Covid has caused many family disruptions in working and schedules, income etc. and as a result they're seeing a huge increase in the # of families they serve. I just adore the team there, they are so committed and mindful of their work.

We planted leeks this season and didn't say anything yet because we haven't ever grown them (successfully) before. They're weed free, and getting a girthy stem to them like they should have. These are still at least a month out from harvest I would expect. We expect to have some leeks to share with you this fall!

On a not so positive note, the grape tomatoes aren’t looking as good as what I had hoped. We have a lot that look like the picture below. If there is a large rain event when they're orange or red (not green), they’ll break open basically. Same thing happens with the larger slicing or roma tomatoes too. We had our helpers out with us picking and we had to throw out 80% of the first picking of grapes. The great news- there are a bazillion flowers and small grape tomatoes out there still that are still green so they aren't affected by the rain. So we do have a lot of potential left in that patch.

The roma plants are starting to get blight. I think it’s because it’s been so humid, but it could also be something specific to this variety of maters because the larger tomatoes don’t have any sign of blight (yet). I’m sure many of you are anxious to see tomatoes in our Shares but we haven't been able to harvest in quantity yet because the plants are so heathy! When tomato plants aren't healthy they'll all ripen at the same time basically, and really early. We saw this last season. We have seen some ripening this season but not at the rate that we’re anticipating will start next week. This week you might get a couple tomatoes. We will be back out picking again tomorrow. I know the ‘list’ of produce is usually pretty spot on, and I’m hesitant to add tomatoes to the list if they won’t be harvested in a big enough quantity to add red ripe tomatoes this week. Fingers crossed we get some in this week!!

This week in the Jumbo & Family Shares you can expect: Spaghetti Squash, Eggplant, Red Potatoes, Pickles, Jalapenos and mixed color bell peppers!

This week in the Single Shares you can expect: Spaghetti Squash, Eggplant, Red Potatoes, Slicers and colored bell peppers!

Spaghetti Squash! This is one of those varieties that I expect not everyone has tried before. I know this is one of those “challenging” varieties that might push you outside of your comfort zone in the kitchen. I want to assure you, there is nothing difficult about cooking this. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and bake it at 350* until fork tender (usually 30-40 minutes depending on size). Fork tender is how you test baked potatoes too i.e. pushing in a fork with little resistance. Once it comes out of the oven, use a fork to “comb” it out of the shell. Scrape it out of the shell. So instead of using a spoon and just scooping it out like every other kind of squash, you’re just using a fork. By using the fork, it gives it that long stringy appearance and texture and voila- it’s “Spaghetti”!

This is the fun part of CSAs in my opinion. Ben & I aim to make sure you get all the staples, but then also mix in some fun varieties that are maybe not as common. Eating seasonally takes work and it is challenging at first. Once you’ve cooked with everything in the garden, the next time it just gets easier and easier to the point where you can whip up meals without even using recipes. I LOVE techniques. Once we get into the root crops you’ll hear me talk about this a lot more. Techniques are better than recipes because it’s teaching you how to cook with the different garden goodies, not just a recipe to follow. For instance, when I roast veggies now I know exactly what to do and then just change the seasoning or preparation for a slightly different outcome. Gotta be able to change it up every once in a while ;)

Peppers! The sweet peppers are getting pretty big now, which is awesome because the more meat to the pepper the more uses it has. You could stuff the bell peppers, add them to shishkabobs with teriyakyi marinaded chicken, or make fajitas like I did last night. Look at all the colors, it's so beautiful!!

We are still just getting into the peppers, but if at any point you’re worried about not being able to use them before they get soft please keep in mind they are the easiest thing in the garden to freeze. When it comes to peppers, there is no blanching or prepping really. Just rinse the peppers and then chop them into whatever size you’d like. At the end of the farm season, I make sure to have about 20 bags of each size- the small diced ones for hash browns or egg bakes, minced ones that I add to my chili & ground beef (adds more volume, less calories, which I desperately need after the coronavirus season! Lol). And also the larger pieces for different casseroles (like shishkabob sized pieces). My mom will just cut the peppers in half and put them in a bag, then during the winter take them out and chop them down to whatever size you need. So after you chop them (or you don’t chop them), just put them in a ziplock bag and squish out all the air that you can, add a date on the bag and pop them in the freezer. That’s it!

Side tangent: I also freeze my onions the same way. There is no prepping required, just rinse them off and chop them down to size. The reason I do this is because it’s part of my meal prep. It’s not because the onions will get soft or not keep well, it's really just to save time in the moment which makes it easier to use more veggies while cooking. I mince them and chop them into smaller bits so that when I make ground beef or casseroles etc, it’s super easy to grab a chunk of frozen onions and toss it in. Like the peppers, it adds more volume and flavor with less calories. By freezing the onions, I can have the best flavors without spending hours on dinner.

Cukes & Pickles are coming this week but we won’t be adding them to the CSAs next week. That patch is starting to slow down. Remember that these can be treats too! If you’re bored of slicing them for on top of your salads and eating refrigerator pickles, maybe look up a new use for them (link below). I know one thing I like to do is use the slices as an appetizer or light lunch. I make a buffalo chicken dip and will put a dollop of that on top of the slices on a tray, add a small piece tomato on top for a little extra sweetness. There are also cucumber boat recipes I’ve seen, where you carve out the center seeds and fill it with taco fixings. We don’t want to give you too much of anything but please understand that we also need to reflect the field’s bounty in our CSAs. Every year is different.

I found a couple recipes for cukes linked below. If you’re looking for a less traditional way to use your cukes, try that cucumber mojito!

We will be including our red potatoes again this week. These are lightly rinsed. We don’t scrub them because the skins are still fairly thin and delicate, we don’t want to damage them at all. Even digging them by hand will damage them. A lot of our older farmer friends laugh at us for this but we can’t buy all the equipment a farm needs in such a short period of time so we're still digging them by hand. We invest in new equipment every year, but the potato digger doesn’t have any purpose outside of potatoes so it’s hard to make that a priority over multiple use tools & equipment. Maybe one day ;) But for now we will continue to be the ‘new kids on the block’ and enjoy our time with our dirt therapy as we've termed it ;)

We have lots of goodies to share with you this week!! Some are staples and some are fun new varieties, hopefully you'll find a way to enjoy them all!! I do have a few 'throw back' recipes in the blog too. Just click the search icon at the top and search for whatever variety you want, it will bring up every post with that variety listed which will include lots of recipes too! If you still have zucchini leftover from this past week, try the ratatouille recipe that will use a lot of your box contents.

Fingers crossed for muskmelon next week!I hope you have a wonderful rest of your weekend,

Take care!! ~The Farmer's Wife

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