Using your vegetables

Dear Farm Partners,

A word of thanks

In this our fourth week your farmers would like to thank you all for being such dedicated, encouraging CSA members. We have received many kind words through conversations and emails over the past few weeks, and we feel immensely blessed by them. Jeremy and I work very long days this time of year; there is so much to do that we are up with the sun in the morning and work all day, pushing through heat and fatigue, then bring our tired bodies (and minds) home late with just enough time to have a beer and hit the hay. Then we do it again. And again. And just when I think I could not be more drained, someone sends us a lovely note describing her contentment with our produce, how beautiful everything is, how happy she is that we are doing what we do. On hot days, tired days, frustratingly busy days, an appreciative word can feel like divine help. So thank you–we are grateful for every one of you and your support.

In this week’s basket

Purple Viking Potatoes, Pointy Cabbage, Broccoli, Swiss Chard, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, Scallions, Lettuce, Cucumbers, and Sage.

Using the produce

About this time each season I sometimes find that newer members shift from the honeymoon phase of being part of a CSA (“Oh, wow, look at ALL THIS PRODUCE! I love having SO MUCH PRODUCE!”) to the real work of preparing and eating ALL THAT PRODUCE. If you find yourself, in our fourth week, thinking “What the cuss am I going to do with all this? I still have some from last time,” do not be anxious. There are plenty of time-honored strategies for incorporating vegetables into your meals in all kinds of ways. Before I go further, however, I do wish to acknowledge that it is a bit of a task to go through so many vegetables. In asking members to sign up for our Harvest Baskets, we are in a sense asking for members to commit to a change in lifestyle, that is, accepting a box of vegetables every week that you did not get to choose, some (or many) of which may be unfamiliar. And it is a lot of veggies each week! Thanks for being so brave.

Some typical (and economical) strategies of vegetable-centered eating include soups, at the forefront, as well casserole-type dishes and salads (and many other creative things like pickles). These dishes maximize the use of available vegetables as well as prolong protein resources like meat, eggs, and legumes. It is daunting indeed to think of preparing so many standard meat-centered meals, with plain vegetable side dishes; it would be harder, I think, to use up the contents of a CSA box that way. Here are some “veggie-centered” meal ideas that lend themselves to using whatever is in your fridge!

~SOUP. I cannot stress enough the importance of soup. You can hide a lot of greens in a soup, so if you are not a greens fan, well, then, SOUP! Greens and cabbages both pair well with most meats and legumes, so if you start with a little sautéed onion, just throw in your chopped greens and some leftover meat or beans, cover with stock or water, and allow to simmer for a few minutes until everything melds. Soup is also a happy home for leftover grains, so throw that rice in, too. Nothing could be easier! Soup is also fun to garnish: use scallions, poaches or hardboiled egg, fresh herbs, fried sage leaves, bread crumbs, cheese…it never ends.

~Salads are the other side of the soup coin. Sauté or roast veggies and throw them on a salad, again with any leftover proteins from the fridge, breadcrumbs or croutons, nuts, seeds. I made a salad of roasted cauliflower, lentils, zucchini, and hazelnuts on fresh mesclun the other day, which was a very satisfying meal.

~Anything tastes good in cream sauce, so make delicious casseroles of cauliflower, broccoli, greens, etc. by covering them in béchamel sauce in a dish, sprinkling with cheese and bread crumbs, and baking until bubbly.

These are a few starting ideas. You can also read an article I wrote last season, What I do with the produce, which outlines some of the frequent ways in which I use our vegetables. You should certainly check out this excellent post by an excellent farm near Portland, Working Hands Farm, which features tips contributed by a seasoned CSA member. I especially like her whole mindset for approaching a CSA box, which involves preparing the fridge in advance and firing up the soup pot immediately after picking up the week’s share. To these articles I would add that the Internet generally is a fantastic resource for recipes and refreshing ways of preparing vegetables, with more blogs and recipe databases than you can ever use in your lifetime. A few favorites:

The Kitchn

Food52

The Nourished Kitchen

You can also use allrecipes.com and epicurious.com for hundreds of recipe ideas for any vegetable.

Well, we press onward. Thank you for being with us! And stay safe during the next wave of hot, hot heat.

Ashli

All the pretty little vegetables

Dear Farm Partners,

 

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Did you ever see such nice cauliflowers?

 

I think I could go on and on about how charmed I am by every item in your baskets this week. It’s amazing, really; after months of starting seeds, then transplanting the starts into the beds we painstakingly prepared with compost and other soil amendments, and then cultivating to keep the weeds at bay so that our plants can thrive–here they are, thriving, healthy, and vibrant. And even after all those months of work, and the work of harvesting, I am filled with wonder all time at the sight of our beautiful vegetables.

 

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Savoy Cabbage

 

 

 

 

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Scallions

 

 

 

 

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French Breakfast Radishes, when they were babies

 

As one of our interns commented yesterday while we were harvesting, “All of your vegetables are mind-blowingly beautiful.” I am so charmed, as I said, by all of them. I love the little crinkly frills of the Savoy cabbage, the knobby and bright French Breakfast Radishes, the snowy Cauliflower heads. Even the more standard items like Lettuce and Scallions delight me with their rich colors and flavors. They renew my appreciation for vegetables for sure!

Also in this week’s Harvest Basket: Chioggia Beets, Cucumbers, Baby Tatsoi OR Baby Bok Choi, Garlic Scapes, and Spearmint. Zucchini is still on rotation.

Here are some notes and recipes:

For an easy intro to cooking Savoy cabbage, try this simple sautéed cabbage that uses garlic and scallions (swap garlic cloves with some chopped scapes to use another item in your basket!). Pan-frying really enhances the texture of the rumpled leaves and gives them a buttery flavor. If you feel like stretching your wings a little, these inspirational 10 cabbage recipes from The Guardian show the wide range in which cabbage can be used, and many of them feature Savoy cabbage. Some may be a little more adventurous and unusual, but there are some fairly simple preparations like a creamed cabbage and a fresh sauerkraut with sausages (and the photographs are fantastic!).

French Breakfast radishes are an heirloom variety of radishes that originated in the Paris area in the late nineteenth century. They have been a favorite ever since and are now widely grown. These are perfect snacking radishes with a sweet crunch and slight bite at the end.

Chioggia beets are another specialty vegetable, this time of Italian origin. You may be quite surprised to slice one of these open and find, not the deep red interior you expected, but a pink and white candy-striped pattern! These are delicious. I like them because they are not as strongly-flavored as red beets. They caramelize beautifully when roasted, but have less flavor when boiled (unlike red beets).

Some of you have Bok Choi in your baskets, while the rest have Tatsoi. These are both Asian varieties found in the brassica family. They are both great for stir-fries and Asian noodle salads. Tatsoi is evidently even more versatile; this article offers more information and a week’s worth of interesting recipes for tatsoi.

I only ever knew Cauliflower as bland and rubbery, but our cauliflowers are a totally different thing. They are sweet and crisp, and make a great steamed, mashed, or roasted side veggie. Cauliflower is also extremely versatile and can be steamed then blended into a “cream” for soups, sauces, and dips.

The Spearmint is fabulous as a tea on its own or added to iced tea and lemonade, but don’t let that stop you from using it in salads! It pairs nicely with beets, mint, and cucumbers all, so don’t hesitate to chop a little and toss it into a beet or cucumber salad.

I hope these recipes spark not only your creativity and appetite but also your appreciation for vegetables. I personally never knew vegetables could be this nice or flavorful! What a privilege every day to grow and tend such lovely, adorable produce.

Best,

Ashli

Our Second Week

Dear Farm Partners

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I hope all of our CSA members enjoyed their first week! This hot weather is making stuff grow with abandon, so there will be lots more to enjoy in the coming weeks. Speaking of which…

In your Harvest Baskets this week: Lettuce, Kohlrabi, Japanese Turnips, Collard Greens, Garlic Scapes, Scallions, Dill, and Cilantro. Zucchini is once again on rotation at one lucky pick-up site.

After last week’s basket of fairly familiar veggies like radishes and spinach, these week we have unleashed some of the more unusual CSA items like Kohlrabi, Japanese Turnips, and Garlic Scapes. Before you start saying “Oh no, what have I done by signing up with these people,” allow me to reassure you that each of these is delicious and approachable in its own way. Here are the basics about each along with some preparation suggestions.

Kohlrabi is the one that you will probably glimpse in your box and think, “Uhhhhh…..” Yes, it’s very strange, but different in a good way. It is a brassica family vegetable, meaning that it is a relative of broccoli and cabbage. The flavor is close to both of those, but with a refreshing sweetness and crisp crunch, especially when chilled. Peeled and sliced cold kohlrabi makes very good snacking on these hot days! If you’re not up for that, kohlrabi is also a very versatile cooking vegetable. I recommend this article from The Kitchn for some nice recipes and methods for using your kohlrabi. I generally highly recommend this website for vegetable recipes and local/seasonal eating tips.

Japanese Turnips, or “Hakurei” or “salad” turnips, are another great raw snack veggie. You may be the most familiar with the purple-top turnips as far as turnips go, which are typically a cooking turnip. These, however, are wonderful for plain eating or salads rather than cooking. Think of a nice salad of your lettuce, some sliced turnip, and a little snipped dill. I just love to eat these turnips as if they were little apples. Should you wish to cook them, they are delightful roasted.

Garlic Scapes are a wonderful vegetable to get to know! They are simply the flowering stem of the garlic plant. We trim them off so that the garlic plant can put its energy into producing good garlic bulbs rather than into the flower. I adore them roasted on their own as a vegetable. I urge you to try it. Or just use them like garlic to make pesto and stir-frys, or some of these recipes.

As for the other items, the herbs and scallions are wonderful snipped over salads, or pretty much anything! And Collard Greens are very good when sautéed in a little butter with garlic or onions. You can also you them as fans.

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Being very silly with collard greens at our Farmer’s Market stand.

You can see this and more at the Lane County Farmer’s Market (Saturdays in Dowtown Eugene) this weekend, June 13! We have been absent a few times this season, but we will be at the market every week starting this weekend.

Have a great day!

Ashli

Let the CSA Begin!

Dear Farm Partners and Friends,

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A small cucumber plant waves hello

We are excited to greet you on the very first day of our Harvest Baskets CSA 2015 season! Welcome to all of our new members,  and many thanks to the members who are joining us for another year.

We’ve been working hard planting and tending our crops all spring, and are delighted to bring you these beautiful vegetables today: Bunched Small Fennel, Red Radishes, Spinach, Arugula, Fresh Garlic, Scallions, Red Russian Kale, and Parsley. We also have Zucchini on rotation today, meaning that it will be at one pick-up site this week, then another next week, until it has cycled through the spots. Later in the summer we’ll have plenty for everyone all at once, since that is the nature of zucchini.

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Some of today’s fennel while it was still in the field

A few recipe notes:

Greens like Spinach and Kale are always good simply sautéed or steamed with a little butter. Remove the leaves from the stems, chop, and sauté until wilted. This is a great side dish, and very easy. Arugula is wonderful on it’s own as a salad.

Radish and fennel tops can be used as an additional vegetable. Chop and sauté fennel fronds, and add radish leaves to soups (or make my very favorite Radish Leaf Soup).

The Garlic is very fresh and can be used just like cured garlic, but it will be a little juicier and more pungent.

I hope you enjoy your produce and the sunny day! It’s great to have you all with us.

~Ashli

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Vibrant Parsley