Good afternoon All!
This is the first edition of our Farm Newsletter for 2023!! We are happy to welcome our Members for another season of sharing farm fresh goodies every week! We've got a big season ahead and can't wait to show you what's in store for you ;)
Every morning starts the same around here during CSA Harvest Season. 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!
THESE ARE ALL TOMATOES!
We're right on schedule and these tomatoes are really loving the heat. They have drip line on them (you can see the wet spot under the plants the whole length of the row). Things are looking really good this summer so far, regardless of not getting rain!
Usually we plant these tomatoes with our transplanter. I even promised you guys a cool video! Unfortunately, the ground was so dry that we couldn't even use the equipment. We planted this entire patch (spoiler alert, it's thousands of plants) by hand because Ben wanted to plant them into moisture so they wouldn't be too stressed out. Ben ran the drip tape lines for a few hours before we started planting and the ground was nice and saturated when we started putting them in the ground. Sorry there won't be a video this season, but we'll have some awesome 'maters to share in just a couple short months!
To make sure the season goes smoothly, I have a couple reminders!
1. The boxes are on a rotation, so when you pick up a box you need to bring back your empty box from the week before. This first week you won't have a box to return. Some people bring reusable bags and empty their CSA contents into their bags and leave their boxes at the site. However you want to do it is great, we just need to have one of your boxes back every week.
2. Everyone’s names are on their CSA Share boxes. It’s a safety precaution to make sure that we have the least number of people handling your CSA boxes.
3. Make sure you take your CSA box. You’d be surprised by how often it happens that folks take the wrong box actually. It’s almost always when you’re out of town and send someone else. People don’t always look before they grab a box and go. There is a fee if you do end up with someone else’s’ box because it’ll help cover the special deliveries and additional produce we’re out. The only time there is any chance of an additional charge throughout the season is if you take the wrong box ($50) or if you dispose/wreck your boxes ($5 replacement fee).
4. Please make sure to pick up within the time frame your site has assigned. If you don’t pick up in that time frame your CSA is considered forfeited, unless you make arrangements with me in advance, in which case we’re happy to help communicate that with your host! If you’re looking for your pickup time frame, it’ll be in your handbook at the top of the second page.
Understanding these protocols helps our season run very smooth and we appreciate your willingness to help us out :)
We have had a very dry start to the season so far. I added an X where our farm is at on the map. We haven't gotten measurable rain in over a month! This is as dry as we've ever seen it! We even have to put drip irrigation on our sweet corn because we don't use any overhead watering systems.
I'm not really worried because we have drip line irrigation on everything at the farm here basically! That means that we water sections at a time and can water the entire cauliflower patch in one swoop for example, though it does take a few hours of the water running to get it nicely saturated.
Ben sets his alarm for all hours of the night and goes out with his headlamp and switches irrigation lines in the fields. Like I said, I'm not worried because Ben knows what he's doing and this isn't his first drought. We'll be OK either way, but a nice shot of rain tomorrow would be amazing!!!
CSAs are our specialty for many reasons. Most notably because it's an efficient way to plan our fields and be able to produce the maximum yields during our fairly short MN growing season!
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 of course!
THIS WEEK IN YOUR CSA SHARE-
JUMBO & FAMILY SHARES: Green Romaine, Red Buttercrunch, Kale, Rhubarb, Radishes & Garlic Scapes! SINGLE SHARES: Green Romaine, Red Buttercrunch, Kale, Rhubarb, Radishes & Garlic Scapes!
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 that I rinsed out wish dish soap. 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, 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. We've been known to use both for lettuce wraps. I prefer romaine because it's tougher so it doesn't fall apart on you.
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!! I didn't do it right the first time but I'm glad I gave them a second chance, they're so good!!
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.
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!
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 with them. It actually cuts down the heat a little bit and still adds a great texture (think water chestnut).
GARLIC SCAPES What are those weird alien looking things in your CSA box?!
It's the flowering part of the garlic plant. They need to be removed so that the bulb focuses on filling out instead of redirecting energy into going to seed/ producing the flowers. The grow out of the singular stem and curl into a twisty tie. They're cute, and also very flavorful!!
This picture is from a few years ago. The only update is that now we decided to add them "loose" to your CSA box, eliminating the rubber binder because it's really not necessary to bunch them and we're trying to cut down on unnecessary plastics when possible. This is another one of these special spring varieties that you won't see again this season. Garlic only flowers at this time of year and it's singular stem/ they're not going to regenerate.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING US THIS SEASON!!
We've got a big season planned! I'm sure you already know this- but we don't even go to farmers markets anymore. We have one farm stand on the weekends at Hardware Hank in Zimmerman (we open when we have sweet corn). We focus 99% of our produce into our CSA program and curtail what we grow and how much of it, depending on what we're hearing from you guys on a year-to-year basis. Our entire farm is focused on CSA Shares and we hope that's reflected in the amount of care and enthusiasm we have for sharing all of these farm fresh goodies all summer long!!
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!!
Eat Good & Be Well!
~The Farmer's Wife