Thanksgiving

Dear Farm Partners,

We are now come to the close of our Harvest Baskets season. It has been a long year for us, full of hard work and lots of change. Yet we find ourselves happier and even more committed to farming than before, and for this I am thankful. I am thankful that this is a life that Jeremy and I can share, in which we can work together. I am thankful that this is a job and a lifestyle that is healthy for us, for the earth, and for our community. I am thankful for the opportunity to struggle and to learn more about myself, and perhaps to grow as a person. And Jeremy and I are deeply thankful for the people who support us by partaking of our produce and through constant encouragement. A farm really cannot exist as the sole endeavor of one or two people—it takes a community to build a healthy farm, and we are glad to give back.

Thank you.

And now, I think I am ready to feast, and to take a long winter’s nap.

In your baskets this week:

Butternut Squash, Baby Leeks, Lacinato Kale, Carrots, Beets, Onions, Lettuce, Garlic, and Sage.

Have a blessed holiday season,

Ashli

ps, I will be writing through the winter, so stop by the blog from time to time! I’ll have updates about the greenhouse and other farm projects that will be taking place over the winter

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Frost

Dear Farm Partners,

At long last, our first frost of the fall and winter months came on Saturday night, followed by a good hard frost the next evening. After such a hot summer and warm autumn, I had truly forgotten what it feels like to be cold! It is remarkable to look back over the season’s unusual weather, such as the lack of rain and persistent summer heat that pushed late into the fall. As difficult as it has been for me personally to struggle through hot days (I’m an Oregonian), to miss the rain (again, Oregonian) and the typical fall crispness, all of this has made for a great growing season. The hot dry summer days were wonderful for our heat-loving summer produce, allowing us to grow more during the main season. With our frost date pushed back a full month from the normal date (about October 15), our season was extended later than usual. It has been a bountiful season, for which we are very thankful.

Now the frost has come, however, and all that remain are the hardiest vegetables and a few stragglers. The chard is dead, the carrots, beets, and onions are snug below ground, and the lingering produce has gone from rapid growth to a slower pace (or a complete stop). At home, our cat Eliot has found a warm spot from which he hasn’t budged for the last twenty-four hours; he, like the produce, seems ready to hibernate for the winter. I think Jeremy and I are as well.

In this week’s basket: Butternut Squash, Parsnips, Baby Carrots, Collard Greens, Onions, Garlic, Parsley, and Thyme.

I’ve been very excited about the parsnips! I think of them as the intermediate between a carrot and a celery root; they’re carrot-shaped but cream-colored and pithier in texture like a celeriac, with an earthy flavor somewhere between the two. They’re just fun to look at, with their round turnip-like tops tapering into long, skinny root ends. Parsnips are delightful roasted, and add wonderful sweetness to beef stew. I strongly encourage you to try the following recipe, since you have three of the main ingredients in your basket (lucky for you!).

Maple-glazed Carrots and Parsnips with Orange and Thyme
adapted from The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther

This is a truly beautiful dish. It draws out the natural sweetness of the roots through caramelizing, deepening it with good autumn/winter flavors of rich maple sweetness, citrusy sweet orange, and strongly herbal thyme. You have a pound each of parsnips and carrots in your baskets, perfect for this recipe.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and parsnips, stir to coat them in butter, then decrease the heat to medium. Fry them for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the edges of the vegetables start to caramelize. Add the maple syrup and orange juice, stir well, and cook for about two more minutes until the liquid evaporates. Remove the pan from heat, sprinkle the vegetables with the thyme and a little sea salt, stir, and serve.

“Can I use squash in my Thanksgiving baking?” Why yes! Ditch the canned stuff and make your “pumpkin” pies out of butternut squash. What passes for canned pumpkin is often just butternut squash purée anyways. Freshly prepared butternut or acorn squash purée make very flavorful and often superior pies. Roast halved squash at 375 degrees until soft, about 40 minutes. Be carful not to cook too long or the flesh will be watery. Cool the squash until you are able to handle it, scrape the flesh out of the skin, and purée it until perfectly smooth (a food processor works best but a blender is fine). You now have a base for pies and other “pumpkin” desserts that can be used cup for cup as a replacement for canned “pumpkin”.

Have a good week,

Ashli

Two Weeks More

Dear Farm Partners,

I would say that it’s hard to believe that we have only two weeks left until the end of our Harvest Baskets season. Only two more baskets, and then we say goodbye until next year! Didn’t it just fly by! Try as I might, I cannot be amazed. All I am is tired, and glad to have this year’s work wind down into winter. And so it does wind down, with the shortened days and sudden chill. I do love the look of the farm in late fall light, though.

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What I say is true, however: we have only two more weeks! The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, November 26, is our last delivery. Be sure to pick up your last baskets and make final payments so we can have a neat ending to the season.

In this week’s basket:

Delicata Squash, Fennel, Purple Carrots, Chard, Mesclun, Onions, Garlic, and Mint.

You have great flavors and colors this week, and I would encourage you to match them up creatively. I was recently turned on to a method of cooking root vegetables which calls for pan-caramelizing them in butter. Cut them into uniform matchsticks, then pan-fry in hot butter (a couple of tablespoons) until they begin to caramelize. They are nice simply salted, or you can add a little orange juice, apple juice, honey, or maple syrup towards the end of the cooking time, depending on the vegetable. Carrots are very nice this way, as is a combination of carrots and fennel.

I would also just roast squash, carrots, and fennel together and eat them on mesclun or as a side dish with chicken. Here’s an example of lovely spiced squash and fennel recipe from epicurious.com.

A note on Chard: Chard stems are much tougher than the leaves, so if you wish to sauté them or toss them into a soup, separate the leaves from the stems first. Chard leaves cannot be cooked very long or they become dull, so cook them very lightly if sautéing, and add them to soups and stews at the last minute. Chard stems can be steamed or roasted on their own like a vegetable.

Stay warm!

Ashli

What I do with the produce

Dear Farm Partners,

Assorted Squash, Gold Beets, Green Kohlrabi, Onions, Red Russian Kale, Lettuce OR Endive, Garlic, and Parsley.

I often get this question from farm partners: “So, what do you do with the produce?” I would like to dedicate today’s article to answering this question.

Many people know that I love to cook, and that I serve as the cook in my household. I also have the responsibility of telling people what is in their weekly Harvest Basket and what they can do with it, either to furnish grist for the mill or indeed to save someone from the desperation brought on my too many greens. This being the case, I would also like to clarify that I do not receive a weekly basket of produce as our farm partners do. I have the privilege of “shopping” in our fields, and thus am not subject to so many heads of lettuce, pounds of beets, or bunches of radishes week after week. However, I do sometimes get over-enthusiastic and end up with a fridge full of vegetables and the need to do something about them. If you too find yourself with backed-up beets or escarole, here are my primary strategies in such situations:

-Roasting. If I have a bunch of roast-able produce (roots, squash, bulbs, etc.) that needs to go, I just cut them all up into smallish chunks, toss in some garlic cloves, pour on the olive oil, and roast the lot for 45 minutes in the oven at 375 degrees. Roasted vegetables caramelize deliciously; you get a lot of flavor for a very simple preparation.

-Colors. One of the first things I do when composing is a vegetable dish is putting colors together. A recent favorite has been roasted orange squash and red beets; I’ve also enjoyed roasted red beets, pink-skinned scarlet turnips, and potatoes (a nice red scale). I often find that I’m more likely to eat it if it’s pretty, so I match colors and textures as well as flavors.

-Salads. I make a lot of salads. I also define “salad” very loosely. A salad can contain leaves, greens, and all kinds of vegetables, whether grated, chopped, cooked, or raw. I adorn leaves with thinly sliced or grated vegetables, or mix together grated or julienne vegetables into slaw-type salads. Remember The Salad? This salad is infinitely adaptable. Roasted veg makes a wonderful topping for salad greens, especially mesclun or bitter greens like escarole. I also incorporate fresh and dried fruits and nuts, and even legumes and grains into my salads, making them main dishes instead of “side salads.”

Lightly cooked greens. Kale, collards, chard, even escarole and frisee can be lightly steamed in butter for a simple side dish.

Poached eggs. Jeremy and I eat a lot of eggs. We are very busy during the week and honestly, I don’t have lots of time to cook. We eat meat, but most often have recourse to eggs. I prepare a hearty salad or a dish of roast veg, then top it with a couple of poached eggs, and dinner is served.

These are my tricks. They aren’t tricky. I aim for simplicity, recipes and techniques that don’t require a lot of fuss but also acknowledge the natural beauty and goodness of the produce. I would also suggest investing in a good vegetable or whole-foods cookbook. I can highly recommend Eating Close to Home, a highly applicable vegetable cookbook by local author Elin England (she also recently wrote a grain and legume book). The internet is also very handy! Try recipe databases like allrecipes.com and epicurious.com.

I have to confess, I don’t always know what to do with the produce. Cooking my way through our garden has been a learning experience for me. I enjoy it, though, I want to encourage all of you to enjoy it through simple preparations and techniques.

To your good health,

Ashli