Late Winter Update

Good day to you all,

It feels like spring is officially on it’s way: day light savings has kicked in, the sun is higher in the sky and we seem to have lost about a foot and a half of snow cover over the last week! We at Sleepy Root are waking out of our slumber and are itching to get back outside and get our hands in the dirt.

 It’s been an active winter for us:  not only have we been planning for another season in which we hope to grow our farm business by 50%, we are seeking our USDA Organic certification this year. It’s a lot of work and big step in showing our commitment and dedication to the principles we hold to our members and our farming community.

We also had the happy event of our wedding in February! We were so grateful to have so many friends and family come out and celebrate with us for a beautiful snowy weekend at the farm.

Late Winter and Spring around here start getting busy pretty fast.  We will start growing our onions (all 15,000 of them!) the week of March 17th in trays in a neighbor’s greenhouse which should give us enough time to finish building our new greenhouse that we started last fall.  Once that is completed we will begin a steady stream of seeding transplants in the greenhouse at the beginning of April.  Once it warms up enough, and if it’s not too wet, we (hopefully) will be working the soil and seeding in the field by mid to late April.

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We are starting to fill up our CSA shares, so if you know anyone who is looking for a quality CSA or if you are a previous member who wants to renew for the 2014 season, please do so soon to secure your spot!  As usual we are adding a few new exciting varieties to the line-up of vegetables this season and have integrated feedback from members into our box plans including earlier tomatoes, more cherry tomatoes, and my personal promise of this being the year of the melon!  You’ll all be happy to know there will be considerably less eggplant this year as well.  Any more feedback or suggestions are always welcome.

We are still looking for two employees to come work with us this summer, if you know any one who might be interested in working on a small scale vegetable farm with organic practices feel free to point them to our website.

We are looking forward to another great season and hope you are all enjoying the warmer weather!

Best,

Brandon and Heather

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Fall Extended Share Part II

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Hello everyone!

Welcome to the last box of the year! We’re really excited about it as it’s got some really neat items. We did some drying and preserving of foods in the late summer and now have some cool stuff to put in the box, like pasilla bajio peppers and an assortment of teas! Of course, there are some items that hope to catch your attention for a Thanksgiving or Hanukkah feast, like pumpkins for pie-making, rutabaga for mashing, or beets for roasting. This box is my dream fall holiday meal box! We hope you use some or all of these wonderful vegetables to feed yourselves, your families and your friends, and we give thanks to you for the extra support and interest in us and our farm. We’ll raise a toast to you all on Thanksgiving!

Without further ado, here’s our last box of offerings from Sleepy Root Farm until next spring!

Butternut Squash and/or Carnival

Minnesota Sweet Pie Pumpkins

Carrots

Rutabaga

Celeriac

Beets

Onions

Leeks

Cabbage

Baby Kale

Baby Asian Mustard Greens

Radishes

Dried Pasilla Bajio Peppers

Dried Oregano and Thyme

Mint and Chamomile Tea Bags (4 of each)

Minnesota Sweet Pie Pumpkins: We tried this variety for the first time this year and there’s no going back! Absolutely the best, sweetest, best-yielding pie pumpkin we’ve ever met. Want to make your holiday pie-baking a breeze? Take your pumpkins, cut them in half, and place them cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven at 375 degrees until they’re soft when you poke them. Let cool, scoop out the flesh, and puree in a food processor or blender. Place 2 cups in freezer bags, label, and when you need to make a pie, pull out the puree, thaw, and you’re ready to go! This method is tried and true, just ask Brandon how many pumpkin pies he’s already eaten, and how many are stored away for the future! I’ll include my best-ever pie recipe below.

Celeriac: These odd-looking white root vegetables with tons of squiggly roots are really neat! Also known as celery root, they have a mild taste of celery, and a texture similar to turnips. You can peel and roast them, or peel, dice, and mash them. They’re fantastic added to mashed potatoes or great mashed on their own for a starch-free alternative. Of course, celeriac is the star ingredient of remoulade, a stunning French vegetable slaw. Remoulade is perfect on it’s own as a side dish, or on any kind of sandwich in place of cole slaw. Check out this link to some fun information and a host of recipes for this lovely little root.

Baby Asian Mustard Greens: An awesome blend of scarlet frills, mizuna and red choi. These little gems are a product of our winter hoophouse.

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Brandon harvesting in the hoophouse

For the fall shares we experimented with heartier greens that can take the lower temperatures of an un-heated but sheltered space. The hoophouse helps keep the ground warmer and shelters the plants from the wind, giving us the ability to grow fresh greens year-round. None of these plants would survive this late in the year if they were grown out in the field. We can’t decide if they’re best enjoyed as a tasty raw salad mix (we do miss our greens these days) or very gently stir-fried and served with quinoa or whole wheat couscous or some other healthy grain. Fortunately we’ll be able to harvest both the baby kale and the Asian greens all the way up to April!

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Baby Kale Mix

Dried Pasilla Peppers: (pa-SEE-yah) There’s no doubt that I love Tex-Mex, Mex-Mex, and anything in between. We dehydrated these peppers so we’d have the joy of making some of our favorite foods during the winter.

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Dried Pasilla Peppers

Traditionally used for mole sauce, a deep, richly flavored sauce with dark chocolate and assorted spices, Mole is known as the curry sauce of Mexico for it’s endless variations and possibilities. The dried chilis provide added depth to soups, salsas, or anything else you can come up with. Visit this great blog for mole ideas!

Mint and Chamomile Tea: We’ve given you four bags of each herbal tea. They are both caffeine-free. The mint has a strong, recognizable aroma and is more bulky than the chamomile. The Chamomile has a distinct floral pungency and is pale yellow. Chamomile tea is often prepared at bedtime for a calming, mellowing effect. Mint tea is said to be good for the stomach and digestive system, and I find it a refreshing and relaxing beverage any time of day, iced or hot.

 Recipes

Minnesota Sweet Pumpkin Pie

Pie dough: a.k.a. Pate Brisee

1 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 T. sugar

1/2 cup butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, chilled

1/8-1/4 cup ice water

Sift the dry ingredients together. Place in food processor and add butter, pulse until the mix resembles coarse cornmeal. Add water, a few Tablespoons at a time, using as little as possible, until the dough comes together. Press into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Pie Filling:

2 cups pumpkin puree

3 eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. cloves

1/2 tsp. salt

Lightly beat the eggs. Mix the spices with the brown sugar, and add the spiced sugar mix to the heavy cream. Pour this over the pumpkin filling, add the eggs, and stir until just combined.

When ready to make pie, turn the oven on to 375 degrees, and when the oven is ready, pull your dough from the fridge. As soon as the dough is workable roll out and place in pie pan. Keep the edges plain, flute with a fork, or use any other decorative method you wish. Pour the pie filling in the unbaked shell, and bake 35-40 minutes or until the filling is just set. Don’t overbake, or the the filling may crack. Allow to cool to room temperature, and if you like, serve with whipped cream sweetened with maple syrup.

 

Celery Root Remoulade

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound celeriac (celery root) coarsely grated
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice, divided
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cornichons
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

How to make celeriac remoulade:

Toss the grated celery root with 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice and set it aside for a moment.

Make the remoulade by whisking together the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, red wine vinegar, parsley, cornichons, and mayonnaise. Toss the prepared celery root with the dressing and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour before serving.

This celeriac remoulade, or celeri remoulade, recipe makes 4 servings.

 

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Fall Extended Share pt 1

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Hello again, hello again!  We hope you have had a nice couple of weeks and had a chance to catch up on the odds and ends of produce that were hanging around your fridge.  Without harvest and delivery last week, Heather and I were able to focus our energy on cleaning up the farm in preparation for next spring.  All of the 300 some pieces of rebar used to trellis the tomatoes have been pulled, drip line has been wound up, sandbags and row cover taken out of the fields, and the new greenhouse is slowly coming together.  We’ve also been taking some time to catch up on sleep and eating a lot of delicious fall food.

It is exciting to be doing an extended share this year, bringing you some familiar favorites as well as a few new items.  For past generations, the need to have produce keep all winter has led to the development of fall crops that are dense, hearty and keep well–until new crops can be grown once again.  It is a very tangible example of climate shaping our culture of food.

The double size of the shares may seem daunting at first, but most fall crops will keep very well and last through a good part of the winter if kept properly.  There are some storage tips listed close to the end of the newsletter to help keep your produce in its best shape all winter long.

Whats in the boxes:

Onions
Carrots
 Squash
Fairy Squash
Squash: Kabocha, Kuri or Buttercup
Potatoes
Rainbow Chard
Baby Kale
Rutabaga
Cauliflower: Purple of Sicily or Romanesco
Sage
Oregano
Thyme
Chives
 

  Every year we try a few new varieties of winter squash, melons and tomatoes.  This year we had seven new trial winter squash/pumpkins, some of the favorites will be showing up in your winter shares and will become part of our regular repertoire next year including two featured in this delivery: Chirimen and Fairy.

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Chirimen is a Japanese variety that is quite delicious and sweet.  Don’t let its unusual and humble exterior fool you, this is one excellent squash. Its texture is like a cross between the acorn types (delicata, carnival, jester, etc.) and the maxima types (kabocha, kuri, buttercup) and is good for any use whether roasted and pureed or cubed and sautéed.  We were very pleased with how tasty this squash was and how visually interesting its exterior is.  I really like the color of this squash and how its skin has a natural “chalky” appearance and texture.

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Fairy is another neat looking squash, but in a much more adorable way.  Very smooth skin with a pretty green and yellow mottling, this squash is in the Pepo family and is very much like what we think of as a cooking pumpkin.  It has a rich dark orange flesh that has a strong savory quality to it and is appropriate for any use, including pies (there will also be a traditional pie pumpkin coming next delivery, just so you know).

Storage tips:

Roots: All root vegetables like carrots, beets, and rutabaga will keep best if  stored in a closed plastic bag in the refrigerator.   Root vegetables benefit from cold environments that have a high humidity.  Keeping them in a bag creates a humid microclimate which slows their respiration of water, keeping them crisp.   Removing any greens that may come with carrots or beets will slow down the loss of water as well since greens transpire water from the roots as well as themselves.

Potatoes and Squash: Potatoes are different than the other root crops (technically they are not really a root either, they are a tuber). They, as well as winter squash, want to be in a dry cool place–but not too cold!  Potatoes ideal temperature is between 45-50 degrees and able to breathe.  Much colder than this and the texture of the potato will be compromised.   Remove your potatoes from the plastic bag they came in and put them in a dry bag with holes or a paper bag.  If potatoes or squash are in a damp or humid environment they will quickly rot.  We usually keep our potatoes in a basket in our pantry and leave our squash on display on our counter tops, never putting either in the fridge unless they’ve been cut open.  If you have a room in your house that is kept cooler during the winter but doesn’t freeze, this would also be an ideal place.

You may occasionally notice sap from your winter squash coming from the stem or a small cut on its body.  This is just sugars of the squash leaving from an open wound, much like maple syrup from a maple tree.  If your squash is doing this, it’s best to eat it sooner than later, as the sugars are likely to attract mold and is indicative of a wound, which are prone to expediate the spoiling of the squash. .  If you can’t get to eating it soon, at least periodically wipe off the sap to prevent molding.

Cabbage and Cauliflower: Both like similar conditions to root vegetables, cold and humid.  Use the plastic bag your potatoes came in or any other produce bag you have around to wrap up your cauliflower and cabbage and put i the crisper in your fridge.  The same principles of respiration apply: if they are not wrapped up they will soon become soft and spongy.  Your cabbage should keep at least until January (if not longer) if kept properly.  If you are delaying your cabbage gratification until early spring, check on it every now and then to cut off any damage or spoiling parts.

Herbs: Herbs like chives that have a high water content should be kept like greens: in a bag in the crisper.  Herbs like thyme and sage can be kept in the fridge or on the counter.  Both time and sage will have a tendency to dry well if they are kept on the counter or hung and can then be used later in the year.  After they are fully dry you can put them in a bag or bottle, or simply leave them out and use when needed.  Oregano, if wanted to be used fresh, should be kept in a bag in the fridge.  Its leaves are more prone to wilting while drying, making it not as usable in the stages between fresh and dried.  You can hang your bundle if you wish to dry it, or spread the individual stems out on the counter or on a ventilated surface (screen or cookie cooling rack).  Once dry, crumble the dried leaves into a container and discard the stems.

Recipe: Squash Gratin

Ingredients:

2 tbsp canola oil, divided
3 or 4 shallots, thinly sliced
salt
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 to 2 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves
1 large squash
1 whole nutmeg

Instructions:

Heat half the oil over medium heat, then reduce to medium-low. Add the onions and season with salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until soft, adding a bit of water if necessary to prevent sticking. Add the garlic and cook for about 5 more minutes. Sprinkle the shallots around a 9-inch oval baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese and sage, and set aside. Peel, then slice the squash into 1/4-inch-thick cubes or slices. Toss squash pieces in remaining oil, then layer them over the shallots. Season with salt and a light dusting of freshly grated nutmeg. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top. Cover and bake for 1 hour, or until the squash is fully tender. Let the pan rest about 10 minutes, then broil it uncovered to brown the top. (If you can’t resist, you can sprinkle on more cheese.) Serves 4 to 6.

 
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Week 18

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Medium Share

 

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Full Share

The final box of the season is here.  There have been a lot of changes for us on the farm this year.  We moved away from the land we had been renting west of the Twin Cities to Wisconsin.  We jumped from 45 to 100 members and grew our restaurant sales.  Heather made the transition from being the head chef at Surdyk’s to growing food full time.  Frank gave up the cultured dog life of the city for a simpler country existence.   The spring was long, cold and rainy.  The summer was mild and pleasant and at times very dry.  The fall has been wonderful, long and warm.  We met many new and wonderful members and continued to share with those that have been with us in the past.  There were surprises and successes out of the garden and disappointments as well.  And all along the way we were able to share with you the best we had to offer.  It’s amazing how long and how short 18 weeks can be.

We hope you have enjoyed being part of the CSA.  It is a great joy for us to be able to do this kind of work and provide people with something so necessary and sacred as the food they eat.  If we did our job right the share has enriched your life, brought a few new items to your dinner table, sparked a few conversations, and overall been a stimulating, enjoyable experience, and maybe even made for a few nice meals.  From all of us at the farm, thanks so much for being a member and spending 18 delicious weeks with us.

So, one last time for this year, here is what’s in the box:

Onions
Cabbage
Leeks
Butternut Squash
Carrots
Spinach
Sage
Beets (medium and full)
Parsley (full)
Ornamental Gourds (medium and full)
 
 

Butternut Squash is the standard of winter squashes, and for good reason.  Its filling is smooth, rich and sweet with a comparatively small seed cavity, making it an excellent choice for one of our favorite squash dishes: winter squash gnocchi.  Gnocchi is an easy and delicious pasta dish that is made with both flour and a starch such as potatoes or squash.  Squash gnocchi has an appealing color and a full flavor.  See recipes below.

The carrots this week are some of the best we’ve had all year.   Young and tender, they are perfect for roasting whole.

Leeks are making their end of the year appearance.  A darling of the allium family, leeks are much milder than their onion cousin.  They take considerably longer to grow, though, being one of the first things we start in the greenhouse and then taking an additional 120 days once planted (pretty much our whole growing season) making it just in time for the last box!  They are prized for their white trunks, but the green leaves are good for enhancing homemade stocks.

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The ornamental gourds are a little extra surprise for mediums and fulls.  These little cuties are great for decorating your fall table.  They are probably edible, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I got these seeds three years ago and every year have neglected to give them the time and space.  In the midst of planting thousands of other plants this year Heather convinced me to put them in the ground and then lobbied to get them in the box as well.  We hope you enjoy them!

 

Recipes

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use any squash or pumpkin for the base. Cut your squash or pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and place cut side down on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until soft to the touch. When cool, scoop out the flesh and mash well or puree in a food processor. Save the filling for a soup base, pancakes, or use as a launching point for one of our favorite fall meals, gnocchi. Sometimes we just toss these with a little butter and parm, and when Brandon’s really feeling hungry we add venison sausage, bechamel, and fresh sage.

Pumpkin/Squash Gnocchi-from The Skinny Fork, complete with lots of helpful photos!

Ever had the pleasure of trying gnocchi?

 

If you aren’t familiar, these are sort of the italian equivalent to dumplings.

Gnocchi are traditionally made with semolina, flour, egg, potato, breadcrumbs, cheese, or other similar ingredients. These soft little pillows of pumpkin heaven are the perfect replacement for usual gnocchi, making any dish even more fall-friendly!

 

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Making your own gnocchi does take some time, but I always find it to be a rather fun little 30-45 minute project. The process doesn’t consume many brain cells, and with so fewingredients the dough comes together pretty quickly.

 

What takes the most time is cutting the pieces and then adding the texture to them with the back of a fork. Let me be very clear that the added dimples are entirely un-needed, so feel free to skip that step to make this a less time consuming project!

 

 

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Gnocchi are pretty versatile. You can use them on their own in a sort of ‘pasta’ dish, toss them with some simple brown butter or Guiltless Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce, or even add them to soup!

 

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Clean Eating Pumpkin Gnocchi
TheSkinnyFork.com

Rate this

The Skinny:
Servings: 4 • Size: About 1 Cup • Calories: 220.3 • Fat: 2.5 g • Carb: 40.5 g • Fiber: 8.5 g • Protein: 8.8 g • Sugar: 2 g • Sodium: 22 mg

Ingredients:
1 C. 100% Pure Pumpkin Puree (Not pie filling!)
1 1/2 C. Whole Wheat White Flour
1 Large Egg
1/8 Tsp. Nutmeg
Salt & Pepper to Taste

 

Directions:

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Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl.

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Using your hands, mix everything together to form dough.

You will want the dough to be slightly sticky. Mine was also pretty dense. 

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Divide the dough into four sections.

Roll each section on a lightly floured surface until about 1/2″ thick.

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Cut the long rolled out sections ito 1″ ‘pillows’.

Dust the pillows with just a little bit of flour to help prevent sticking.

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If you want the traditional gnocchi indentation, gently press the pillows into the prongs of a fork.

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil and ad the gnocchi. Cook in batches if necessary.

As soon at the gnocchi begins to rise to the surface, they are cooked! 

Cooking doesn’t take long. Mine started to rise to the surface of the boiling water in about 5 minutes or less.

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Drain and let cook slightly.

Leek and Bread Pudding, courtesy of our dear Martha

Leek Bread Pudding

Serve this leek bread pudding for a delicious accompaniment to any meal — including your Thanksgiving feast. Courtesy of “Ad Hoc at Home,” by Thomas Keller, (c)2009, Artisan Books. Photo credit: Deborah Jones

  • SERVINGS:12
Leek Bread Pudding

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups leeks (white and light-green parts only), sliced into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
  • Coarse salt
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 cups 1-inch cubes crustless brioche or Pullman sandwich loaf
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded Comte or Emmentaler

DIRECTIONS

  1. STEP 1

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. STEP 2

    Fill a large bowl with water and add leek slices. Swirl leeks so that any dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat; using your hands, lift leeks out of water and transfer to skillet. Cook, stirring often, until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

  3. STEP 3

    Reduce heat to medium-low; continue cooking until leeks release their liquid. Add butter to skillet and stir to emulsify; season with pepper. Cut a parchment paper round the same size as the skillet with a 1-inch hole in the center and set round in skillet. Cook leeks, stirring every 10 minutes, until very soft, 30 to 35 minutes. If the butter breaks or looks oily, stir in a tablespoon water to re-emulsify. Remove and discard parchment lid.

  4. STEP 4

    Meanwhile, spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in oven for about 20 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through, until dry and lightly toasted. Transfer to a large bowl. Add leeks to bread; toss to combine. Add chives and thyme.

  5. STEP 5

    In another large bowl, lightly whisk eggs. Add milk, cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg; whisk to combine. Set custard mixture aside.

  6. STEP 6

    Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread half of the leek mixture in baking dish and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat process with remaining leek mixture and 1/4 cup cheese. Pour enough of the custard mixture over leek mixture and press gently on bread so it soaks up the custard. Let soak for 15 minutes.

  7. STEP 7

    Pour remaining custard over leek mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and season with salt. Transfer to oven and bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about 1 1/2 hours. Serve.

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Week 17

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Medium Share
 

Week 17

Hello everyone! Here it is, week 17 already. It seems like it was only yesterday that we were packing boxes full of nothing but radishes, lettuces and micro greens, and now all of a sudden the wind is howling, the shadows are long at 10 am, Brandon’s birthday is in a week (!!!) and the annual, much-anticipated Fajita box is here!

Usually the Fajita box happens near the end of September. (Last year it was Week 14!) It was created as a result of the fact that the first frost historically happens when there’s still tons of beautiful ripe peppers, hot peppers and cilantro in the field which wouldn’t survive the cold temperatures. We pay lots of attention to the weather, so when we hear the “killing” frost is coming we race outside, harvest EVERYTHING that’s sensitive, and prest-o! the fajita box is born. It’s unusual for the fajita box to be this late-and if we waited for the actual frost to happen you might be getting your box in November! We pulled nearly 800 peppers out of the field yesterday, however, and cut the healthy, happy cilantro, trimmed the onions, and made the box anyhow, because we think it’s lots of fun.

Brandon is quite skilled at making flour tortillas for our fajitas, and if you have a spare 30 minutes I’d highly encourage you to try it. It’s really not hard at all, even if the thought is a bit intimidating. Try this recipe,  or visit this great blog for a highly educational and entertaining step-by-step guide on how to make this fajita essential.

Whether you make your own tortillas or buy them at the store, we’ve given you a bunch of necessary goodies to make fab fajitas. At home, we often cook a bunch of black beans and rice, and simply saute the whole mess of peppers and onions together with a lot of freshly toasted and ground cumin. We go for lots of cheese and sour cream, and don’t forget the sliced chicken breast, grilled flank steak, or even Texas wild brown shrimp if you fancy a little meat in there.

You’ll be getting both sweet/bell peppers and hot peppers this week, so here’s what your hot peppers will look like:

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Note the rubber band around the peppers. Hopefully the band is still on there by the time you get your box unpacked, but we specifically chose the Ancho Poblano and the Anaheim peppers because they’re very distinct and fajita-perfect. The Ancho is at the top of the photo, and is distinguishable by its deep rich green color and slightly pointed cone shape. The Anaheim stands out because of its lovely bright green color and very long, tapered shape. Neither one is really that hot, but as always use a bit of caution and common sense as you cook with them. You can always taste a small slice to gauge how hot it feels to you and therefore how much to use in your cooking. One great way to handle these peppers is to roast them on the grill until they’re charred, place them in a covered bowl for a little while, peel the skins off and take the seeds out, and then slice and fold them into your fajitas, or turn them into a great enchilada sauce.

One other identification note-some of you may be getting either Delicata or Jester for your winter squash this week. Here’s the who’s who:

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Delicata on the left, Jester on the right. Notice Jester’s adorable pumpkin-like shadow!

Housekeeping notePlease Please Please remember to bring all of your boxes back to your drop sites this week and next. Since next week is the last delivery, it would be great to gather everything up by then. Those darn boxes are really expensive and if we can keep re-using them we can keep our costs (and yours!) down. Thanks so much for remembering. We love all of our members but definitely love most the ones who bring us boxes!

Here’s what’s in the box this week:
Onions
Sweet and Bell Peppers
Hot Peppers
Cilantro
Winter Squash: a mix this week of kuri, butternut, jester, carnival or delicata
Rutabaga
Kale
Mixed Greens
Cauliflower (full shares)
 

We hope everyone is enjoying the fall and taking in the beauty of the changing seasons. I’ll leave you with a view of the farm in the early misty morning. Enjoy!

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Week 16

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Full Share

Greetings!  It has been another stretch of beautiful weather on the farm this past week.  The sky has been a shining blue and the fall colors have really started coming on around here. Heather and I have begun our end of season tasks.  As fall continues and turns to early winter, our tasks change from actively planting and maintaining crops to removing dead plants, taking down trellising, pulling up irrigation lines, and, in general, readying the farm for the dormancy of winter and its re-awakening next spring.

Much of the fields are seeing the growth of young cover crops were summer vegetables had run their course and were tilled back into the soil.   New ground has also been worked up and planted into cover as seen below, extending our fields for more growth next year.IMG_0126

The cover crops we plant serve to protect the soil from erosion, hold nutrients that the plants take up, add nutrients in some cases (legumes such as peas and clover form a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria who actually extract nitrogen from the air and turn into a usable form for plants in exchange for the plants providing them with sugars), and add organic matter when the cover is worked back into the soil.  We use all sorts of different cover crops to accomplish different goals and that are appropriate for different seasonal growing conditions.  Above is a mix of oats (a quick grower), winter rye (will regrow next spring), vetch (a nitrogen fixing legume), winter peas (another legume with good cold hardiness), clover (another legume that will grow again next spring),  and a few odds and ends that were in the seeder from the last time it was used.

Beyond preparing the fields for next year, we have also been saving seeds.  We spent the afternoon last friday collecting tomato seeds from our favorite plants.  The process is pretty straight forward.  Find a good tomato, squeeze the juices and seed into a cup, let the mixture ferment, drain and rinse seeds, dry and store seeds.  Fermentation is a necessary part of the process, dissolving a coating on the seeds that prevents their germination.  This coating is the reason why tomato seeds don’t germinate inside the tomato while it is still on the plant.  Its a clever little trick.IMG_0112

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Alright, without further delay, the line up this week:

Onions
Cucumber
Beets
Winter Squash: Buttercup or Kuri
Rutabaga
Cabbage: Deadon
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Thyme
Swiss Chard (medium and full)
Tomatoes (full only)
 

Don’t be fooled by the root crop that looks a lot like a salad turnip, it is actually a rutabaga!  Rutabagas are a starchy and sweet storage root that can be used in similar ways as a carrot or beet.  Good roasted, sauteed, even boiled and mashed like a potato!  Rutabaga will keep a long time in your crisper, especially if in a plastic bag.  Like many root crops, it is best peeled before eaten as its skin can sometimes be bitter.  There will be one more box with this gem in it, so if your looking to do a big mash don’t think you have enough rutabaga, save it until your next installment comes in two weeks.

Your Thyme will keep well both in the fridge and out.  You can leave it out of your fridge in its bundle either hanging or on the counter were it can stay dry get decent air flow.  If you don’t get around to using it fresh it will dry nicely in this state and will keep for a very long time.   The best way to get the tiny leaves off is to strip them from the stem by running your pinched fingers from the top of the stem to the bottom.

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Many of you will get a Buttercup squash this week.  We didn’t end up having enough of these for everyone, so some people will get a Kuri squash in its place.  Buttercup (as you may be able to tell by its corky stem) are similar in texture, flavor and flesh color to the Kuri and Kubocha squashes that came in your boxes last week.

Some of you may notice a striking similarity between your swiss chard and the greens on your beets.  That is because they come from the same ancestor and were bred apart for their leaves (swiss chard) and their roots (beets)!  Beet leaves can be cooked and eaten just like swiss chard, you’ll likely have a hard time telling them apart.  We recommend removing your beet greens as soon as you get your box and placing them in a separate plastic bag or in the same bag as your swiss chard.  Your beets should also be put in a bag for optimal storage.  Beets without greens keep longer as they don’t transpire moisture as quickly.

IMG_2334 And finally, on this weeks who’s hot and who’s not:  Pablano Pepper (left) and Chocolate Sweet Pepper (right).  Who’s hot and who’s not?  You may get one of these varieties, both or neither in your box this week (depending on which hot pepper and which sweet pepper you get).  The important thing is not to confuse them with each other.  Guessing right will bring you great success and fortune in your meal making endeavors.  Guessing wrong will lead to certain misfortune.  Good luck!

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Week 15

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                                                                                 Medium Share
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                                                                                             Full Share

Good day all,

Another beautiful week on the farm.  I can’t remember a season when this late into September was so sweet and comfortable.  Its been nice having such a warm fall, especially since we had such a cold late spring.  That being said, this will likely be the last week of tomatoes for most, if not all, members.

Despite no frost coming to take their fragile lives, the cooler temps of the past several weeks have taken their tole on the plants and fruit.  Without warm evenings, the plants tend to stop flowering and fruiting new tomatoes, and even when they do, the cold nights tend to compromise the integrity of the fruits.

So enjoy them while you can!  We’ve sent out tomato’s favorite herbs, basil or oregano, this week to make the most of their last appearance.  I know we will be eating BLTs all week long!

In the box this week:

Squash: Kabocha Sunshine or Red Kuri
Onions
Cucumber
Tomatoes
Salad Turnips
Lettuce or Spinach
Peppers
Hot Pepper: Hungarian Hot Wax
Purple Basil or Oregano
Eggplant (Full and Medium)
Cauliflower or Carrots (Full and Medium)
Melon (Full)
 
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Inside the back of the truck during harvest
 

Salad turnips are back and are as sweet and crunchy as ever!  Toss them with your spinach or lettuce or slice them up with some salt for a little snack.

The squashes this week are two of my favorites.  They are both varients of the Cucurbita maxima group of squash.  I am particularly fond of this family (which also includes the popular buttercup (not to be confused with the even more popular butternut)).  They have a very sweet and dry orange flesh, and a thicker skin that is generally good for eating.  I also find the density of their size and shape very appealing, not to mention these two varieties’ gorgeous deep orange color.

A lot can be told about a squash just by its stem.  Most of the squashes in the Cucurbita maxima family have a very thick yet airy stem.  Last week’s squash, Carnival, is part of the Cucurbita pepo family and has a stem that is ribbed, thin and hard and often twists, similar to the stems of what we usually consider pumpkins (which are also in the Cucurbita pepo family–as well as all the summer squashes/zucchini you enjoyed this year).  As winter squashes, pepos usually have a body with pronounced ridges and a flesh that is thinner but moister than the maximas.    The most famous of the squashes, Butternut, belongs to neither of these species, it is a Cucurbita moschata (if you ever buy pumpkin puree in a can it is most likely a moschata).  Knowing what the different stems look like can often give you a pretty good clue as to what the flesh of the squash will be like (but not all the time, of course).

All squashes are believed to have originated in Mesoamerica.  Despite coming from the Americas, Kabocha and Kuri have only over the last two decades begun to be widely available in the United States.  Both are very popular in Japan and were originally grown here on the west coast for the sole purpose of importing to the island nation.   Excess that did not get sold to Japan starting showing up in markets in California and soon gained enough popularity that the varieties were grown for local consumption as well.

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These two squash have a similar flavor and look.  Kobacha (on the left) is stout and boxier, while Kuri (on right) is generally more of a pear shape.  Kuri’s name is the same as the Japanese word for chestnut, likely suggestive of its flavor.  My favorite way of cooking them is simply slicing them in half, removing the seeds and setting on a sheet pan (insides up or down depending on how dry you want the flesh) and roasting for 30-50 minutes at about 425 degrees (until you can easily slide a fork through the meat).  From there the insides can be scooped out and eaten plain, mixed with a little butter, milk, or water for desired texture.  Add a little salt, brown sugar, or maple syrup for flavor.  Soups, gnocchi, pies and other endless variations can be had from there!

Enjoy!

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