2012 Week 5 News

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News from the Fields • Week 5

Well, it is official: the meteorologists and farmers finally agree – we are in a drought. Officially, our region is classified under a “moderate drought” rating, but I tell you what, it seems AND looks a lot worse than moderate around here. Not (yet) as bad as the drought of ‘88, but getting to be worse than the drought of ‘02, we are well on our way to yet another dry and devasting year for the history books. It certainly is the driest year I can remember. It is a wierd thing – this lack of rain thing. A drought is quite different than a flood (of which we’ve experienced two doozies in 2007 and 2008). A flood hits you like a 2×4 straight across the face, swung by a very large and angry man. A drought like this year’s is much more akin to being stabbed  in the gut repeatedly by a small and somewhat dull  paring knife. One can’t help but wince and start to feel altogether nauseous as he goes about his daily tasks on the farm; watching crops slowly wither and die. I have said before: we irrigate as much as we can, but we just can’t keep up.

So that’s that! Let’s talk a bit about something else that is as equally nasty, yet (in my mind) very fascinating: WEEDS! Weeds are quite possibly the number one reason why organic food “costs” so much more than its conventional counterparts. You see, there is no effective or widely used organic herbicide that exists. Therefore, we have to deal with the many weeds that plague us (and I tell you what, they ARE many) by old fashioned means: the tractor or by the very sweat of our brows. Chemicals be damned, we are ready and willing to fight those weeds to the bitter end.

It goes a little something like this: before planting we prep and de-weed a field as much as weather permits and we have time for. We then plant. We then mechanically cultivate with a host of different sophisticated gizmos and gadgets mounted onto our rusting fleet of tractors. We do this 2-4 times, depending on the crop and how big its gets. Eventually, most vegetable plants will get too big that we can no longer run through the rows with a tractor, so at this point we are limited to hand weeding. Any given crop will be hand weeded at least once. For crops like kale, which is around and growing for most of the season, we’ve been known to hand weed it as many as 4 times. All in all, we generally make 4-6 weed removal sessions per crop. That’s a lot of time spent just on weeds! So, for better or worse, here’s a look at some of our well known enemies:

Lambs Quarters: A prolific weed that is a mainstay of any farm; lambs quarters is easy to remove and therefore considered to be a manageable pest. It is edible as well and a great addition to any stir fry (if you  are desperate, that is).

Purslane: Another edible one. Purslane is, for one reason or another, pretty much exclusive to vegetable farms. I liken purslane to the enchanted broom from Disney’s Fantasia: the more Mickey Mouse cut that broom up, the more it mulitplied. Same goes for purslane. If you were to rototill it, every little chunk you just chopped up would become it’s very own plant. In this way, purslane is a devil to control.

Wild Mustard: Yet another edible one (I am beginning to wonder why we don’t just grow weeds for the CSA boxes :). I haven’t seen this one as plentiful as I have on this farm. Wild mustard comes in early and is prolific all season long. It is a bugger to be sure – and the worst part is that it is in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, etc and therefore it hosts the same pests that prey on our precious crops. Therefore, anywhere you have wild mustard, you have hordes of flea beetles and other insects that just love to jump ship so to speak, and chomp on our broccoli, kale, cabbage and so on.

Pig Weed: a type of amaranth, pig weed is one of our worst enemies. I kid you not, it can go from an inch tall to 2 feet in a matter of days. And if you don’t catch it by the time it flowers, you are presented with a large and prickly mess. It especially loves to invade our cucumber and zucchini patches, making the picking of these crops an exceptional nuisance.

Velvet Leaf:  another mainstay, but pretty easily to control.

Quack grass: Woe to the farmer who has quack grass in his fields. It spreads underground and therefore is extremely difficuly to control. The only true way to get rid of quack is to dig up each and every little chunk of root and remove it from your fields.

Thistle: Canadian, bull, creeping; you name it, we’ve got it. Thistles, it seems, are as inescapable as death and taxes…

Well, this is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does includes the weeds that we deal with the most. I meant to include pictures, but ran out of space! I’ll be sure to send them with the online newsletter. Not receiving the online version? I email it out to everyone on the week they are picking up their box. It may be going straight to your junk folder. Well. have a great week everyone! (And please pray for rain!)

–Mike

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What’s in the Box?

Arugula – very spicy!!! –  because of its heat, you might want to mix it with some other greens, grated carrots, fennel leaves, & cucumbers & serve it with a very sweet & sour dressing (like honey mustard or honey-lemon).  Or top pizzas with it (pile it on fresh after it comes out of the oven), or wilt it in stir-fries or eggs.

Bunched Baby Leeks – don’t mistake these for large green onions – they are much milder in flavor.  You can eat them raw, but cooking really brings out their sweetness – try sautéing them in butter or adding them to a stir-fry.  Unlike big leeks, baby leek greens are nice to eat, too.

Broccoli or Cauliflowerit’s a small miracle that we have cool-weather loving broccoli & cauliflower during this heat-wave, so enjoy it!  In a normal year we would have been inundating you with it for the last few weeks. Blanch & cool either one & add them to pasta salads, steam & serve with sauce or drizzle with lemon, or sauté in olive oil & garlic, or add to stir-fries.

Cilantro – is such a versatile yummy herb, at least to those of us who like it. I have to admit that the first time I ever had it I hated it – it totally tasted like soap. Now I love it! It keeps best in a plastic bag with a paper towel in the fridge & should be used within 5 days or so.

Cucumbers the first of the year! Remember – there’s no need to peel a fresh organic cucumber! Most of a cuke’s nutrients lie in or just under its skin. Try on salads or make some fresh spring rolls or nori rolls with long strips of cucumbers, blanched beans, sweet peppers, & red onions. Or use slices of cukes instead of crackers as vehicles for seafood salads, soft cheeses, etc.

Fennel – both the bulb & the stems are delicious thinly sliced & added to salads, stir-fries, or pasta sauce. The leaves make nice garnish & are tasty on salads or in soups.

Garlic – Our cured “German” variety. Store on your counter or pantry.

Green Beans – The green beans are loving this heat and going like gangbusters right now. Delicious sauteed in olive oil with garlic & chopped fresh tomatoes, or in toasted sesame oil with garlic & tamari. Or steamed & topped with olive oil or butter & lemon juice. If you can’t keep up, beans are super easy to freeze – you don’t even have to blanch them like the broccoli. Simply snap off the stems put into freezer bags either whole or cut into a few pieces (I usually chop them the right size to throw right into winter time soups and stir-fries) – that’s it! Frozen this way, they should be used within six months. Don’t forger to write the date on the bag!

Green Top Carrots so sweet & crunchy!  The keep best in plastic in the fridge with the greens removed (you can eat or juice the greens if you wish – they are nutritious but very very bitter – I prefer to feed them to the chickens or the compost!).

Green Zucchini – is nice with black beans, either cooked into them or sauteed or grilled on the side. A great filler for fajitas! Try roasting zucchini with fresh onions, garlic, & green beans tossed in a bit of  sunflower oil & white wine vinegar in tinfoil packets on the grill. Store on the counter for a few days or in the crisper drawer for over a week.

Lacinato Kale  – our favorite kale – a dark-leaved Italian heirloom variety. Sweeter & more tender than other kales.  .

Romaine Lettuce – outer leaves are great as lettuce wraps/boats for holding grain, chicken, tuna, or egg-salads.

Sweetheart Cabbage A unique looking cabbage that we’ve nicknamed conehead. I think you will find this is some of the best tasting cabbage around. Great in coleslaws or as a taco-topping. Will store in your crisper for a couple of weeks.

Sweet Onions – yea!  Sweet onions!  Best eaten fresh on sandwiches, burgers, & salads but are also delicious cooked in stir-fries or kebabs.

Yellow Summer Squash – Summer squash is such a versatile veggie. Use them in pasta sauces, stir-fries, fajitas, omelets/scrambled eggs, on pizzas, or roast them with garlic & herb of choice (I like marjoram or oregano). For a tasty sandwich addition, slice them thinly lengthwise, rub them with olive oil & salt, & roast them (flipping once) until starting to brown but still soft. The roasted strips last for several days wrapped up in the fridge to add to weekday sandwiches.

 

Recipes

Deliciously Wilted Kale

Green Bean and Fennel Salad

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2012 Week 1 News

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News from the Fields

Joey & Eric riding on the back of our MT 5000 3-row transplanter. In this picture, they are transplanting broccoli.

And so it begins! With much anticipation and a whole heck of a lot of excitement, we once again start another CSA season. All of us here at Driftless Organics are proud to finally, after 3 months of hard work, be able to provide you all with your first CSA box of the season. What a spring it has been! With temperatures in the 80s in March and highs in the 40s in April, it seems like craze weather has become the new norm. Our biggest struggle thus this season has been a lack of rain. Coming off a virtually snow-less winter, and now nearly 2 months with a mere inch of rain, our soils our DRY. We do have irrigation though, and we are trying to keep it running around the clock to keep those thirsty veggies alive. Despite it all, we are really on top of things this year – and I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to be off to such a great start. We love spring with all of the planting and seeding and positive attitudes and excitement about starting the cycle all over again. We have about 55% of this year’s crops already planted: everything from 5 rounds of broccoli to most of the potatoes . With 2 rounds of carrots planted and 2 of the 4 plantings of sweet corn in the ground, things are looking great. Now comes the fun part – harvesting all of that goodness. We are hoping for a tremendously bountiful season, and hope you are ready to fulfill your duty as a CSA member. You see – being a CSA member isn’t just about getting a box of veggies every or every other week. It is about opening your minds (and mouths) to new foods, new recipes and new ways to prepare foods that you may not think you like. I am not going to lie – a CSA box can be challenging for those (like me) who haven’t spent a ton of time in the kitchen. All I can say is: the work is worth it and I do believe that we’ll all be healthier come fall after a season of eating ‘from the box;. Being a CSA member is more than just about the eating – it is as much about learning as well! How to eat seasonally, how and where those veggies of yours come from, and who actually grows them are all things that we hope to help you learn about throughout this season. And finally, I have to once again thank you all for signing up this season.  It is your dollars and your faith in us as farmers  that has enabled us, and I mean all of us: Josh, Noah and I; but also our amazing crew consisting of: Rachel, Eric, Kaleb, Lilly E., Patrick, Paul, Eric, Joey, Liz, Nick, Tom, Lilly D., Chris and Susan to do what we love and that is grow great vegetables for folks like you. And that’s the news for the week. Remember, if you have any questions, comments, complaints or whatever, feel free to give me a jingle. I would love to help you out in anyway I can to make this 2012 CSA season an enjoyable and educational one for you. Here’s to another year, may it be the best yet!

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What’s in the Box?

Arugula – probably my favorite salad green. Adds zippy spice & warm pepper notes to salads, sandwiches, omelets, & pasta. I had it fresh on top of pizza in Italy (cut up & put on the pizza after it comes out of the oven) & now it’s a mainstay pizza topping at home. Doesn’t keep long: store in plastic in the fridge & use up within a few days.

Black Spanish Radish – a crazy dinosaur egg-looking storage radish with black knobby skin & snow white flesh. It’s harvested in the late fall when it’s quite spicy & will store until the next summer, getting milder all the while. I like to keep the skin on because it looks great when grated onto salads or slice for a veggie tray. You can also cook with it – in stir-fries or Asian soups. In plastic in the fridge it should store for a couple more weeks.

Collard Greens – are in the same family as cabbage & kale, & are similarly super healthy for you! It’s easy to add collards into soups, stir-fries, pasta sauces, bean dishes, eggs, or sauteed with garlic. Best to strip the leaves off the stem, as it’s rather tough. Store in plastic in the fridge for about 5 days.

Fresh Garlic – is fresh out of the ground and uncured, meaning it won’t store like cured garlic will (fresh garlic will be layed out in the greenhouse with fans going for several weeks to cure and be ready to store). It’s really easy to peel. Use it like cured garlic, just use a little extra since it has a higher moisture content.

Garlic Scapes – are the gorgeously swirled flowering stem of hard-neck garlic. They are harvested about a month before their better known bulbs are ready to be dug. Scapes can be used as a substitute for garlic cloves, fresh or cooked, or cooked as a vegetable in their own right. Their flavor is slightly milder than garlic; their texture & shape are similar to asparagus when cooked. Store them in plastic in fridge for a week or two or trim the ends & put them in a vase (they are a flower, after all) to grace your kitchen table with for up to a week. You can fry, sauté, steam, boil, or roast them. The whole stem & flower bud is edible (discard the tough tip above the bud). Scapes are especially good in stir-fries, eggs, soups, mashed potatoes, pasta… Or try the pesto recipe on pasta, pizzas, in dressings, or as a dip.

German Butterball Potatoes – our favorite potato: golden skin that’s flakier than a Yukon but waxier than a russet. No need to peel – the slightly russetted skin roasts up nice & crispy. A great all-purpose potato, from mash, soups, & salad to steamed, boiled, fried, or roasted. Store in a cool dark place in paper, or even the fridge, & use up within a couple weeks.

Green or Red Leaf Lettuce – The outer leaves are perfect for sandwiches or lettuce wraps, while the inner part is sweeter & crunchier & is great in salads or as lettuce “boats” for many fillings, like tuna salad or tabouli. Store in a plastic bag with a paper towel in the fridge & use it up within a few days.

Mint – fresh mint is the making of many a middle eastern or Vietnamese dish. It’s also great in tea, hot or cold, & of course mint juleps & mojitos!! Store in plastic in the fridge & use it up within a few days.

Potato Onions – kind of a cross between a green onion, and a regular onion, you should refrigerate these in a plastic bag. Use like you would a green onion: even the majority of the green part!

Pea Tendrils – otherwise known as “pea vine” or “pea shoots” these edible vines have sweet pea flavor & crunch earlier than actual peas are set. They are fun to cook in stir-fries or sautéed greens, or you can cut them up in a salad. Use them within a few days & store in plastic in the fridge.

Rosemary – a classic Mediterranean herb that is delicious in roasted or mashed potatoes, salad dressings, pasta. Makes a fantastic rub/stuffing for any kind of roasted or grilled meat – chicken, beef, pork, lamb, or fish – simply grind the leaves coarsely with the white part of green garlic, salt, & pepper in a mini food processor or mortar & pestle (if it’s for chicken, lamb, or fish add some lemon zest too). Or try the rosemary vinaigrette recipe, below. Rosemary will keep in plastic in the fridge for a couple weeks. To use, strip the leaves from the stem, which is too woody to eat.

Spinach – add to salads, sandwiches, eggs, pasta, soups… Store in plastic & eat within a few days.

Strawberries – Our friends at Harmony Valley Farm helped us out in ensuring that y’all got 2 pints of strawberries for your first box. I think we all know what to do with strawberries, right?

Recipes

Strawberry & Arugula Salad with Fresh Mint

Rosemary Vinaigrette

 

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