FARM NEWSLETTER // WEEK 3
Welcome to week 3 of your summer CSA. We're happy to have you on board with us this season!!
Look at this great picture, of nothing! Just kidding. To the left we've got some of our herbs and to the right is the freshly tilled field getting ready for all of our direct seeding!
Plants are started in two ways: they're seeded into trays in the greenhouse and then transplanted into the field OR the seeds are put directly into the soil and germination happens in the field, not the greenhouse. With some of the more sensitive varieties we always start them in the greenhouse. We also start varieties in the greenhouse that take longer to grow. For example, in Minnesota you'd never be able to put a tomato seed directly into the ground and expect to get the biggest potential yield because the plants literally don't have enough time to grow once the soil is warm enough to germinate seeds. Of course it's possible to direct seed tomatoes, but we prefer to start all of our 'maters in the greenhouse so we have a better yield.
This blank canvas above :D is being reserved for the next planting of cukes, zucchini, beans and even some pumpkins it sounds like. As many of you know, Ben is in charge of the operations in the field. He has over two decades of experience either as a farm hand as a ki & young adult, or starting his own farm as an adult. He worked at a coffee shop for one summer in high school, but even during that time he was still working full time at the farm. So he's going on like, 25 years.
His strong suit is growing things. Mine is talking.
I'm Jodi, the Farmer's Wife, as you'll see me sign at the bottom of our newsletters. I am in charge of all communications and CSA operations. Sounds official and like we planned it, right? Actually, Ben and I both just pursued our strengths within the farm and this is where we ended up! We both have roles here and it's helped delegate our day to day farm operations where we both have our own passions that we can pursue within our livelihood.
Nice to meet you!!!
Let's talk about the size of these lettuces. Did you have a hard time unpacking your CSA? Imagine the Tetris puzzles we had in the pack shed ;P The boxes were very full, and we expect them to be just as full this week! We do sort through sizes so the largest of the lettuces made their way into the Jumbo Shares, while the "smallest" heads made their way into the Single Shares. To put this picture in perspective, I am not a small person, lol, these lettuces are really just that big!
We did get some hail damage on our plants (I mentioned this in our last newsletter). Not enough that we're concerned about the health of the plants but they're not as pretty as we'd like them! The swiss chard is a great example- we did our best to remove the leaves with too much hail damage but those leaves are tender and show damage easily because it rips right through the leaves. Swiss Chard will come back (just like the kale) because we're able to harvest the individual leaves and not the entire plant.
Here is a picture of the cucumber plants with some damage. Like I said, we're not too worried, but the greens could look a bit better! The lettuces have much more sturdy leaves and weren't affected as much that's for sure. A couple of holes/ bruises here or there but nothing like the chard from last week.
This week in your CSAs you can expect: Jumbo & Family Shares: Kohlrabi, Green Romaine, Red Romaine, Red Buttercrunch, Beets, Zucchini & Slicers! Single Shares: Kohlrabi, Green Buttercrunch, Red Romaine, Red Buttercrunch, Beets, Zucchini & Pickles!
Let's start with the cucumbers and pickles. This is one of my favorite "ah-ha" moments to share. Pickles (sometimes we call them chubs) or slicing cucumbers (slicers) are NOT the same thing. Some of you have a thorough understanding of each and some of you are in the same spot I was, I'll explain.
Pickling cucumbers are the smaller cucumbers that you won't really ever find in grocery stores unless they're sourced very locally. The profit margin for pickles is very small for the grocery stores because these usually come at a premium (the maintenance, and labor for harvesting are so much more $ than other varieties)!
Pickles are generally shorter and have a thinner lighter green skin. Slicers are the traditional cucumbers that you can buy at the grocery store year-round. Slicers have a very dark green skin and it's thicker in diameter than a pickling cucumber. They hold a bit better and stay firm longer than pickles do.
The seed cavities make a big difference in how you go about using your pickles or slicers. The pickles have a smaller seed cavity which makes them ideal for pickling, go figure, haha! The smaller seed cavity means that it won't get soft/ squishy through the pickling process, whereas if you were to pickle slicers, you would end up with some sad pickles because the seed cavity is larger and doesn't hold a nice firm shape after pickling.
That being said, you can use either slicers or pickles for any of the purposes that the other can be used for really.
OK onto zucchini!! I have to stress here, everyone is in their own place in their kitchen. Some folks joining our CSAs have Master's Degrees in the Culinary Arts and others haven't ever used a zucchini. We'll love you either way!!
Zucchini are just as versatile as a potato in my opinion. Zucchinis can be sliced and added to salads, grated and made into fritters (recipe coming this week!) made into oven fried zucchini, baked, sauteed... the list goes on. I wouldn't say they're flavorless, but they do take on other flavors very well, which is why we add them into so many of our meals here at the farm.
Radishes were mentioned last week in my newsletter here and I said we'd include them in the Single Shares this week. Apparently I spoke to soon, because Ben wants them to grow a while before we start harvesting those again. The patch has a lot of little ones but there aren't many bigger than a dime out there. Fingers crossed they'll be in week 4 (the following week) for our Single Shares.
We love beets around here. I can make a side with just beets but I have some fun chilled salads that use little beets. They're very sweet and tender when they're young (kind of like our kids, haha!) and then they get a little bigger and they get a little tougher, haha!!!
Larger beets can sometimes be "woody" but I've found that up until about a baseball sized beet, I don't see a decrease in quality. Not to mention, everything has a place in my kitchen, the trick is to know how best to prepare it. Even larger beets are still welcomed here because I know that the larger the beet the easier it is to peel without losing a finger, and if I process any it makes sense to use larger ones. That being said, these beets this week are mostly small-medium sized, though we did find a couple of bigger ones out there.
Don't throw out your beet leaves!! These are a prime example of learning how to enjoy your entire CSA :) There is actually an ENTIRE section in the Farm to Table Handbook on beet greens!! I attached the document again at the bottom of this newsletter if you want to reference the full 40 page guide!
Beet greens are the tops of the beets! They are medium sized leaves and have bright red veins. Large leaves can be cooked like chard (and resemble chard); small, tender smaller leaves are good in salads. Beet greens are high in potassium, calcium, iron, beta carotene and vitamin C. You can also use them for making vegetable stock.
To store: Cut beet greens from their roots; store beet roots separately. Keep dry, unwashed greens in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator up to 1 week. Handling: Wash leaves in basin of lukewarm water to remove grit. Remove the thicker stems because they can be tough.
To cook: Add uncooked greens to a mixed green salad.... Or saute greens until tender in a covered pot or large sauté pan with olive oil, a pinch of salt, and garlic or onion. Watch for color to brighten as that signals they are done. Or... blanch greens until they wilt, 3-5 minutes. Dot the cooked greens with butter or cream and season with fresh herbs or salt and pepper. Serve cooked greens alone as a side dish or use them in soup or with pasta, beans, rice, or potatoes.
To freeze: blanch washed greens for 2-3 minutes. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process, drain, and pack into airtight containers.
We've got a lot of lettuces for you again this week!! The red romaine that everyone is getting this week looks amazing. It's SO bright but the center stems have a little green to them, it's beautiful!! They're nice thick firm leaves and would make perfect "boats" if you haven't tried that yet! The first time I ever tried it was with a tuna salad that I was made and we used romaine instead of bread for a sandwich. 5 stars, highly recommend! There are a lot of other recipes out there too, one of my favorites is the one with chicken and avocado (recipe already in the blog, just search for lettuce at the top of the page here and it'll bring it up.
The last thing I could end on is the kohlrabi. Make sure you're peeling the outside of the kohlrabi- the outer skin is always tough and I don't recommend eating it. The leaves are very mild and can be added into any salad as long as you rip them into small enough pieces. They meld well in a mixed green salad- and they add so much nutrition as well!!
I'm not a chef and I don't have any formal cooking experience. The stuff we talk about here is simply my opinions. If you've learned otherwise or have anything to share with me I am ALWAYS listening- I love learning and looking.
I hope everyone is having a great weekend! This is our last weekend before we start the farm stand starts, so we're trying to fit in some more projects. This morning Ben was working in the fields and had some cute little helpers along chasing toads, lol! In a little while we'll be working on the next pig pen (for rotating them through different areas), we have all the materials now we just need to put the muscle behind it. I'll be realistic and say this pen won't be finished today because it's I'd guess 50 yards long and 40 feet wide, and we're using cattle panels, t-posts and 4X4s on the corners.
We might be sneaking away for the afternoon because I heard there was a rodeo in Isanti and none of us have ever been to one. We've still got some work to do, but we're looking forward to our play time, too! :P
Stay well Friends,
~The Farmer's Wife