Halfway Through

Dear Farm Partners,

I know it is not my usual day for posting, but it has been such a busy week that I have not been able to get to it until now. August is our most active month on the farm; because it is the peak of the growing season, there is a lot of harvesting to do. Keeping up with summer’s bounty is plenty of work, but on top of this, August is the month during which we prepare many of our fall and winter crop beds and transplant the little starts that will grow through the winter. So we’re not only in the thick of summer, but embarking on autumn as well.

 

permanent raised beds

 

However, the sight of all these beautiful, fresh little beds offer much encouragement; all of the work is actually bearing fruit, and soon, summer will be finished and we can settle into a somewhat calmer rhythm with autumn. In fact, we just passed the highest pitch of summer harvest. It is Week 12 of the Harvest Baskets season, which means that we’re halfway through already! Thank you to all of you for joining our farm community, and whether it is your second season or your second week with us, we hope that you continue to enjoy summer’s offerings in your basket this week.

Mesclun, Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers, Tomatoes (Heirloom and Beefsteak), Red Radishes OR Carrots, Cucumber, Zucchini, Onion, Lettuce

The only really notable item* this week is the Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers, which as the name belies, are on the hot side. Be cautious when preparing them, because they can leave hot oils on your skin (in other words, wash your hands well and don’t touch your eyes). They are wonderful when stuffed with cheese and baked until meltingly delicious. If you are not partial to spicy foods, the heat can be neutralized by finely chopping them and using them sparingly (or indeed, as much as you want) in Mexican foods, for instance in taco meat and fajitas. They really add nice flavor to a variety of foods. Amusez-vous!

Note that you received EITHER radishes OR carrots, but not both.

Fun fact: After all of this talk about getting ready for fall, the mesclun and radishes are actually harvested from the new beds which we prepared for fall and winter! They’re already producing.

Enjoy the rainy day (I know I am),

Ashli

*I should say, item that you haven’t had before. Because really, what isn’t notable about those luscious tomatoes, or peppy little radishes, or elegant mesclun…?

Heirloom Tomatoes and Fingerling Potatoes

Dear Farm Partners,

May I share with you my love of tomatoes? I love to eat them, of course, but my affection for them goes beyond their taste. I just love the way they look and smell, especially when they’re still hanging on the vine in the hoophouse. I believe that I became attached to them when I first came to work with Jeremy on the farm, because he immediately set me to work on pruning and trellising what seemed like millions of tomato plants. I should probably hate tomatoes after an experience like that; at the time it felt more like the farm version of hazing as I spent FOUR DAYS in the same sweltering hoophouse trimming and tying up those unruly things. However, working with tomato plants is a skill I’ve retained and continued to build since then, and is one of the handful of tasks that falls mostly to me when necessary. This is gratifying, as is seeing all those great colored orbs hanging from those beautifully pruned vines.

After all that, it would perhaps be proper to accompany all those words with some photographs! We have none at present, but you can at least see the tomatoes for yourself in your baskets this week. We have both Beefsteak and Heirloom Tomatoes, and I hope you find them as joy-inducing as I do! They’re just fun to look at, whether they’re sitting on the countertop or arranged in succulent slices on a plate. Just eat them fresh; raw tomatoes this wonderful cannot be obtained at any other time of year. They can be enjoyed very simply, such as slices layered with Basil and cheese, or on good thick slices of bread with butter or mayonnaise. Varieties of beefsteak are Big Beef and New Girl, and heirloom varieties include Dr. Wyche’s, Red Brandywine, and Cherokee Purple. We’re likely to have photographs of each kind of tomato soon, probably when my husband is finished dorking out over his farm tools (and who can blame him? This here is a Flame Weeder, which is exactly what it sounds like: a propane-powered device which sets fire to budding weeds, thus killing them).

 

 

Also in this week’s basket: Fingerling Potatoes, Red Radishes, Onions, Beets, Cucumbers, Basil, Garlic

Fingerling potatoes are one of my favorite potatoes; they have such a rich flavor, and their size, shape, and waxiness allow you to cook and serve them whole (they keep their shape and texture well). I adore them boiled with a side of homemade mayonnaise for dipping. You can also serve them whole or in spears with melted butter as a side dish. Fingerling potatoes are fantastic for potato salad.

A nice use for cucumbers: peel them (or not), and cut them cross-wise in 1-2 inch lengths. Scoop out about three-quarters of the seeds, so that your cucumber sections have little bowls in the center. Fill them with any dip or filling of your choice (hummus, cream cheese, pesto) and munch! For a visual aid, as well as a much more sophisticated preparation, check out this offering from The Kitchn. The Chef de Cuisine at Excelsior Restaurant made these on Wednesday and Thursday for the restaurant’s Seed to Table dinner. He stuffed them with little Oregon shrimps – delicious!

A tomato storage tip: Tomatoes keep best in cool storage, somewhere around 70 degrees (not in the refrigerator, which actually decreases the shelf life of a tomato). The refrigerator is fine, as is the kitchen counter, if you don’t have a convenient cool spot in your house. Wherever you store your tomatoes, be sure to store them stem-side down; they ripen (and become squishy) much more quickly if you keep them on their bottoms.

There’s a fun bread offering this week: Whole Wheat swirled with Tomato Basil Sauce (farm-fresh, naturally) and topped with crunchy Parmesan cheese.

Thanks for your patience, by the way. I ended up being very sick this week, and was not able to post on Wednesday.

Ashli

And Then The Tomatoes

Dear Farm Partners,

It’s wonderful to greet you on a cool day! I myself have been making the most of it by wearing scarves, drinking pots of tea, and baking some soft ginger molasses cookies. I appreciate the glimpse of fall amidst the seemingly endless hot days. Nonetheless, even if autumn is in the air today, it is SUMMER in your Harvest Baskets, for inside your baskets are Tomatoes. Yes, the tomatoes are finally here, and nothing tastes of summer like they do. We have a mix of them for you today: some of you received robust red beefsteak tomatoes, while others got the very colorful cherry tomatoes (a combination of orange Sungold and purple Black Cherry varieties). You may already have your favorite tomato recipes, or may simply wish to eat them out of the basket without further ado. In any case, The Kitchn has some wonderful tomato salad recipes, such as this Tomato Salad with Red Onion, Dill and Feta (or just visit their sight for all kinds of tomato-related delight).

Do you recall the photo of teeny escarole starts from last week? Well, they’re still teeny (they won’t be ready until fall), but we have a bunch of mature Escarole ready for you this week. They resemble large, sturdy heads of romaine lettuce, and can be used in salads just like lettuce. They also have a lovely lacy pattern in the leaves which I find delightful. Escarole is a variety of endive, and is a member of the chicory family along with frisée, radicchio, and Belgian endive. These greens tend to have a more structured, crunchy texture and bitter flavor than regular lettuce, but that makes escarole an even more delicious base for salads such as this gorgeous Lemony Escarole Salad with Peaches and Feta (a creation of the wonderful chef Anya von Bremzen). This is especially nice for those of you who got cherry tomatoes!

A traditional frisée salad is Lyonnaise Salad, but you can substitute escarole (again, thanks to The Kitchn.) If you want to have some fun with your vibrant Red Onion, try this Escarole Salad with Pickled Red Onions from smitten kitchen.

On rotation this week are Cucumbers and Melons. There will be enough melons for all of our Harvest Basket recipients, but because we’re a small farm, it sometimes happens that half the amount we need is ready at a given time. So, when we put an item on rotation, it means that if you got it this week, congratulations, you received a beautiful cantaloupe! If you didn’t, you will the next time they’re ready. And, in case anyone really wanted to know, cucumbers and melons are different varieties of the same family anyways (Cucurbitae, to be specific). This rotation also applies to the tomatoes. If you got one type this week, you’ll get a different one next time.

In addition, everyone has: Mesclun, Zucchini, Red and White Onion, Carrots, and Beets. Do watch out for some of the mustard greens in the mesclun; as with last week’s arugula, the hot weather increases the heat of the peppery greens, and some of the mesclun leaves are very hot indeed.

The bread people have a lovely Whole Wheat Farm Loaf.

Until next time, 

Ashli

Oh, and ps, check out the new wheels!

 

Excelsior Farm Mobile

 

Walla Walla Onions + Some Fun Recipes

Dear Farm Partners,

Today is going to be lighter on the blog end of things, but I do have one cool new vegetable and a handful of fun recipes to share with you. You have two  Walla Walla Sweet Onions in your basket, a special variety of onion from Washington that is lauded for its sweetness. As these are fresh onions, they will be somewhat more juicy and pungent than storage onions (the kind with papery skins that you can buy in bags and keep on the countertop). However, being Walla Wallas, they are characteristically milder and sweeter. You can cook normally with them, but they do have a nice flavor for raw-eating (for instance, on top of hamburgers or mixed into salads). A bonus of eating fresh onions is that you get to eat the green tops as well! Use them like green onions, or cook with them if you wish. One Farm Partner mentioned to me just this morning that she sautéed the chopped tops in butter and used them to garnish mashed potatoes. Delightful!

Also in this week’s basket: Yukon Gold Potatoes, Assorted Beets, Cucumbers, Celery, Carrots, Japanese Turnips, and Parsley.

Some novel recipes:

Martha Stewart has a very elegant recipe for Crushed Yukon Gold Potatoes, which consists of boiling potatoes until tender, lightly crushing them into a sort of patty, and then pan-frying them in butter. These are quite delicious, but be careful to crush them gently; I made some of mine fall apart! Find the recipe (and pretty photograph) here.

Golden Potatoes with Parsley-Cucumber Sauce: This is a fun recipe that uses a lot of things in your basket. Quarter your potatoes and roast, fry, or grill (the original recipe is for grilled potatoes). Set aside, and prepare the sauce. Peel, seed, and chop one cucumber. In a food processor combine the cucumber with the following: One cup fresh parsley leaves, one quarter cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (substitute apple cider vinegar if you wish), one half cup chopped fresh onion tops (green parts). Pulse ingredients into a coarse purée. Pour this sauce over the potatoes, mix thoroughly, and season with salt and pepper. (Adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas)

In general, Yukon Golds are floury potatoes that are good for baking, roasting, frying,  and mashing.

I found this unusual recipe for a carrot dip, not for dipping carrots, but actually made of carrots: Finely chop one onion, and place in a saucepan with 3 grated carrots. To this add the grated rind and juice of two oranges and one tablespoon curry paste (mild or hot depending on your taste). Stir, bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, then lower the heat and allow to simmer (covered) for ten minutes. Once this mixture is cooked, process it in a food processor or blender and allow it to cool completely. Transfer to a bowl and stir in two-thirds of a cup of plain yogurt and a handful of chopped parsley leaves. Season to taste with lemon juice (one to two tablespoons), salt, pepper, and, if you wish, some splashes of hot sauce. Use as a dipping sauce for chilled crudités (sliced vegetables—maybe some slice turnips, celery, cucumbers, etc?). (Adapted from Vegetarian: The Best Ever Recipe Collection by Linda Fraser)

If you can’t bear to look at another beet or Japanese turnip, they can be sliced and deep-fried in hot oil like potato chips. They can even be roasted or boiled, then puréed and mixed with lots of butter, like mashed potatoes (heck, turnips prepared this way can even be hidden in mashed potatoes, if it comes to it!). Turnip leaves are very tasty as greens.

The bread people have a tasty treat this week! The bread baker at Excelsior made his nearly famous Garlic Potato Rosemary loaves today, with a hint of lemon zest. So lovely.

All the best,

Ashli

ps, Here’s a little peek at two of our fall/winter crops! Cute, yes?

 

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Little starts of Escarole, a salad leaf of the chicory family

 

 

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Itty bitty Winter Scallions (see the little black seed shell?)