Wednesday, July 19, 2017

We Do Have A Choice…And It Matters!

 By Farmer Richard

We make many, many choices daily.  We choose the food we eat, the body care products we use, the clothes we wear, the energy we use for transportation, heating, and cooling.  We make choices about our personal living space and how we treat our family and the extended community that we interact with.  When we make healthy, positive choices for ourselves and our family, we affect the larger “market place.”  When there is consumer demand for healthy products and services, the result is that more healthy choices become available for all of us.  In many cases, our healthy choices can mean less synthetic chemicals are used to produce our food, etc resulting in less chemical residues entering our bodies and less goes into our environment, the air, the water.  That’s the air we breathe and the water that we drink as well as the environment all living creatures depend on for survival.  Whether we realize it or not, we are all connected.

Ducklings in our creek!
Over the past several months, The Country Today newspaper has reported on the experiences of Midwest farmers participating in a cultural exchange with Louisiana fishers, shrimpers and crabbers.  The Country Today editor traveled to Louisiana this spring along with Wisconsin farmers, Dick and Kim Cates. This exchange was made possible with assistance from the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and was funded by a grant received through Wisconsin’s Producer-Led Watershed Protection Program.  The purpose of this exchange was to connect Midwest farmers doing something to keep their water clean and Gulf of Mexico fishermen affected by Midwest farming practices.  It is an undisputed fact that excess synthetic agricultural fertilizer, animal manure and soil from Midwest farm fields are washing down the many watershed creeks and rivers, into the Mississippi River and ending up in the Gulf of Mexico.  This nutrient and chemical pollution has created a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where there is not enough oxygen to support aquatic life.  In 2016, the dead zone was estimated to be an area documented to be the size of the state of Connecticut. 

So just how do our choices and practices in the Midwest affect the fishermen in Lousiana?  While the Gulf of Mexico is quite a distance from the Midwest, we cannot forget that those who live downstream are real people with families and the right to live and work in a healthy environment.  Our Midwestern waste flowing down into their waters directly impacts their health and, in the case of the fishermen, their livelihood.  Diversified farming practices, grass-based grazing, the use of cover crop to prevent erosion and build soil are all practices that can positively impact those downstream by reducing pollution and these practices can make all the difference!  Wisconsin is losing family dairy farms rapidly, yet overall milk production is up due to large mega dairies that have too many animals and too much manure in one place with little to no grass for their animals.  Large-scale meat production is the same.  The animals are fed grain in huge confinement lots, no grass, too much manure which is running off and entering our water.  Yes, our public officials, even universities, have not done their job for the “public good,” but that is another newsletter.

Early Spring Creek water flowing down stream!
You may be thinking, “Ok, but I am not a farmer and I don’t do these things.”  No, but you vote when you make your purchases.  Have you ever wondered why when you drive through the Midwest country side you see mostly corn and soybean fields?  It wasn’t always that way!  Not so long ago, all farms had animals as well as crops and all farms had grass and pastures for these animals to graze in.  When the animals go to huge confinement lots, the more highly erodible land that once produced grass for animals becomes highly erosive corn and soy bean fields to produce grain to feed these animals.  This is just one example from our food system to demonstrate how your vote to purchase grass-fed meat and dairy can make a difference for your own health, but also will impact the whole ecosystem from here to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.    

Dead zones do not only exist in the Gulf of Mexico.  John Rybski, a gentleman who lives in rural northeast Wisconsin, wrote an opinion essay that was published in the June 2017 issue of Acres U.S.A.  In his article he stated the following:  “The accumulation of individual acts to farm “my land” and maximize tillable acres and provide the best, short-term return for “my labor” has turned our streams and rivers in Kewaunee County into open agricultural sewers and the bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan into enormous sewage-holding pods.  The documented dead zones….are clear evidence of the nutrient pollution generated by agriculture destroying these water bodies.”  He also commented that “industrial agriculture is not farming.  Farming is living with the land.  Farming is working with living soils.  Farming is working with a natural cycle where energy from the sun and nutrients provided by the microbial community in the soil is converted by plants into fiber, carbohydrates and proteins to feed animal life.  Sustainable farming is a cycle of addition and subtraction in balance:  neither adding more than is taken nor taking more than is added.  Farming is stewardship.  Industrial agriculture on the other hand is exploitation.  An inch of soil that takes years of forest growth to build can be wind-stripped from fall-plowed bare fields in just five winters.  The long-term results of industrial agriculture are the same in the countryside as the results of industrial manufacturing in urban places--air pollution, water pollution, deteriorating human health and the destruction of the natural environment and all its critters , including, and perhaps rightfully, us.”  Rybski goes on to say “We should be worried, and we must act together;  farmer and consumer, dairyman and neighbor, country-dweller and urban-dweller.” 

Sometimes we are the person being impacted downstream and other times we are the one with the ability to impact what’s happening downstream.  Yes our choices do matter and the farming practices you choose to support can make a significant impact on our local health and environment as well as the health and environment downstream.  At the end of the day, we are all a community and we all have choices.

July 20, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweetheart Cabbage




Cooking with this week’s box……

This week I want to introduce you to Alexandra Stafford, the blog writer behind alexandracooks.com.  Alexandra lives in Upstate New York with her husband and four kids.  She stays busy cooking with the vegetables from her own CSA share and shares her recipes on her blog.  She also writes for Food52.com and recently published a cookbook about bread.  Both of the recipes featured in this week’s newsletter come from her blog.  So lets dive into the box and talk about this week’s featured vegetable first, Sweetheart Cabbage! 


The first recipe in this week’s newsletter is Alexandra’s Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken. (See Below) It makes a nice main dish salad as it is light enough for a hot summer evening but filling enough to satisfy you.  In addition to the cabbage, this slaw also uses carrots, snow peas and the green tops from the Cipollini onions as well as sliced onion.  This recipe does make about 8 cups of slaw, so if you are a smaller household you will have leftovers or may want to cut the recipe in half.  The slaw is delicious to eat as it is the next day, or repurpose it into spring rolls!  They are pretty quick and easy to make and transport well if you want to take them for your lunch.  If you’ve never worked with rice spring roll wrappers, be patient with yourself.  Your first few will likely tear, but that happens to everyone and you can usually stick them back together.  The other recipe option to consider using your cabbage for this week is The Simplest Slaw, (See Below) which is also featured in the newsletter.  As the name indicates…it is a very simple recipe!  It will leave you with a bowl of creamy cabbage slaw that will make a nice accompaniment to a grilled burger, pan-fried fish, or a barbecued pulled pork sandwich.

Alexandra has some other interesting vegetable focused recipes I’d like to highlight.  You know those bushy carrot tops I’m always encouraging you to eat?  Well you can always fall back on pesto or chimichurri, but here’s another idea to try.  Alexandra has a recipe for Fried Greens Meatless Balls.  This recipe calls for a lot of greens, so you could use the carrot tops along with chard if you like, or any beet tops, amaranth or other greens you might have remaining from last week’s delivery.  There are some good ideas for variations in the comments listed below the recipe, so you might want to peruse them to see what other people have tried.  These Fried Greens Meatless Balls would pair nicely with Alexandra’s New Potatoes with Green HarissaThese tasty potatoes will make good use of basil and any other herbs you have available from your herb garden.  The recipe calls for 1 pound of potatoes, but you have 2 pounds in your box.  You can either double the recipe if you’re feeding more people, or use the other pound of potatoes to make Crushed Potatoes with Cream and Garlic.  This is a recipe from Nigel Slater’s cookbook that we featured in a previous newsletter.  They are an excellent accompaniment to steak or roasted chicken.

The red chard this week is one of my favorite box contents!  I’ve had my eye on Alexandra’s Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon,Parmesan and Breadcrumbs for awhile now.  Chard is usually eaten cooked, but it is tender enough to eat raw if you slice it thinly.  This could easily become a main dish salad by adding some protein such as chicken, tuna or some chickpeas or white beans. 

During the summer we often have sandwiches, good for dinner and easy to make again for lunch the next day.  This week I’m going to use the baby arugula to make Skirt Steak Sandwiches with Herbed Mayonnaise and Arugula. You’ll need to pick a few more herbs from your herb garden to make the mayonnaise.  Serve these sandwiches with Alexandra’s Cucumber and Feta Salad.  This recipe is part of another recipe, so scroll all the way to the bottom of the blog post and you’ll find it. 

What shall we do with the zucchini this week?  Well, I haven’t made zucchini fritters yet this year, so I think it’s time.  Check out Alexandra’s recipe for Zucchini Fritters with Tzatziki.  Her Tzatziki doesn’t call for cucumbers, but I think I’ll dice some up and add it in. 

Lastly, we need to use the broccoli!  I’m saving some of the broccoli to make this Summer Breakfast Strata.  It calls for a small head of broccoli and some zucchini.  I may substitute more broccoli for some or all of the squash and might even add some mushrooms.  Her recipe calls for garlic scapes, but the fresh Italian garlic will be a great substitute.  We’ll enjoy this for Sunday brunch along with a few pieces of bacon and fresh fruit. 

Lastly, before next week’s box rolls around I’ll pull out all the odds and ends of vegetables remaining and turn them into stir-fry.  I’m going to use Alexandra’s Stir-Fried Veggies and Tofu recipe that has a simple 5-ingredient sauce to put on the stir-fry.  Richard isn’t a big fan of tofu, so I’ll probably substitute chicken instead. 

There you have it…this week’s box is all used up.  Thank you Alexandra for helping us find a use for everything in the box!  Now it’s time to start planning what to do with the tomatoes, eggplant and peppers that we’ll be picking very soon!  Have a great week and have fun cooking!—Chef Andrea



Vegetable Feature:  Sweetheart Cabbage

Sweetheart cabbage is a unique cabbage both in appearance as well as other characteristics.  We plant most of our cabbage for harvest in the fall as cabbage thrives and tastes better when it is grown in more cool temperatures.  One of the unique attributes of sweetheart cabbage is that it does fare well as an early-season cabbage.  It is known as a “salad cabbage” because the leaves are tender enough to be eaten raw in salads and the flavor is mild and well-balanced.  Another reason we grow this variety for summer harvest is that it gives us another option for a “salad green” during the part of the season where salad mix and lettuce are not available.  You can recognize sweetheart cabbage by its pointy head with tightly wrapped leaves. 

Sweetheart cabbage may be eaten raw or lightly cooked.  I recommend slicing it thinly or shredding it for use in vegetable slaws or other raw salads.  It can also be used to make spring rolls (see this week’s recipe) or you may use the leaves as a wrap in place of tortillas or bread.  If you choose to cook it, I’d recommend a quick cooking method such as stir-frying or grilling and be careful not to overcook it!   

Store your sweetheart cabbage loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  Lightly rinse the outer leaves before using.  If you don’t use the entire cabbage for one preparation, wrap the remaining portion of cabbage and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  One cabbage typically yields 6-8 cups of shredded cabbage.


Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken 

Yield: 6 servings
2 chicken breasts, about 1 lb., (optional)
6-8 cups shredded cabbage
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup thinly sliced snow or sugar snap peas*
2 to 3 carrots, thinly sliced or shredded
6 scallions, thinly sliced (May substitute the green onion tops in this week’s box)
1 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped to yield about 1 cup
1 small red onion or purple cipollini onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice and the zest of 2 limes
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 ½ Tbsp sugar 
½ tsp Sriracha, plus more to taste

*Note from Chef Andrea:  The original recipe called for red peppers, but the author encourages you to substitute whatever vegetables you have in season.  I chose to use snow peas in place of the peppers.
  1. If you are using the chicken, bring a small pot of water to a boil and salt the water as if you were going to boil pasta.  Drop in the chicken breasts. Cover the pot. Remove pot from heat. Let stand 15 minutes. Uncover. Remove breasts. Let cool briefly. Pull/shred into pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the cabbage in quarters and remove the core. Thinly slice the cabbage and place in a large bowl. Pour in the oil. Sprinkle evenly with the salt. Massage the cabbage with your hands. Really squeeze it firmly until it shrinks in size and becomes more saturated in hue.
  3. To the bowl of cabbage, add the peas*, carrots, scallions, cilantro, and red onion. Add the chicken, if using.
  4. Make the dressing: Stir together the lime juice, lime zest, fish sauce, sugar, and Sriracha. Pour over the bowl of vegetables. Toss to coat evenly. Taste. Adjust with more salt or Sriracha as needed.

Chef Andrea’s Variations:  This recipe was written by Alexandra Stafford and was featured on her blog, alexandracooks.com.  The actual recipe may be found at Food52.com.  It is delicious as it was originally written, however here are a few variations you might want to consider trying.  
Chef Andrea's Spring Rolls with a Basil leaf added!
  • In addition to the cilantro, add fresh basil and/or mint to the slaw.
  • Consider garnishing the slaw with chopped roasted peanuts or cashews
  • If you have any leftover slaw, repurpose it the next day to make fresh spring rolls using rice paper wrappers.  Simply soak the rice wrappers in water for 20-30 seconds to soften them, then put some of the slaw in the middle of the wrapper and roll it tightly like a burrito.  If you plan to do this with the leftovers, I’d recommend saving about ¼ to ⅓ of the dressing to use as a dipping sauce with the spring rolls. 



Simplest Cabbage Slaw


Yield:  4 to 6 servings

½ cup sour cream
½ cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 small head cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

  1. Whisk together the sour cream, buttermilk, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Taste. For more bite, add another teaspoon of vinegar. Stir and taste again. Adjust with more salt if necessary.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage and onion. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Taste. Adjust with more salt if needed.
This recipe was written by Alexandra Stafford and may be found on her blog, alexandracooks.com.  This is a simple, basic slaw recipe that you can tweek to your liking.  Add some shredded carrots or chopped fresh herbs if you’d like.  Or, just keep it simple.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Garlic Harvest 2017 - It All Depends on the Weather!

By Farmer Richard


I’ve been growing garlic since 1975.  When I first started farming, I didn’t have the ability to do a “google search” to find an answer to a farming question or learn about how to grow different vegetables.  I had to search for my own answers.  So when it came to growing garlic, I tapped another farmer on the shoulder to try to learn more about it.  That farmer was Dave Frattalone, an experienced grower who sold vegetables at the St. Paul farmers’ market.  At the time, Dave was planting a soft neck garlic variety in the spring.  His yield was slim and the bulbs were small, but he had the monopoly on that market because no one else knew how to grow garlic any better!  When I asked Dave for some garlic education, he made it very clear to me that I was on my own to figure this one out.  So, I did my own research and found a grower in Canada who was growing a hard neck type of garlic that he planted in the fall.  So I bought some hard neck garlic seed, planted it in the fall, and the following summer I brought some beautiful garlic bulbs to market to show Dave Frattalone.  While he didn’t say it in words, I could tell that I had earned Dave’s respect with this garlic.  He asked me how I had grown such big, beautiful garlic and I willingly shared the secret with him….plant it in the fall!  This was an important moment in my farming career.  I still had a lot to learn about other vegetables and Dave was one of the old-timers that knew a lot of the information I needed to learn, such as when to plant cauliflower for fall harvest.  Garlic was the key to open the door to this wealth of experience and knowledge.

The crew cracking garlic last fall for planting

While I did buy seed stock in my early years, I quickly learned that garlic seed sold as “disease free” was rarely ever really disease free.  Fusarium basal rot is a common disease in garlic.  Garlic “seed” is actually the cloves on a bulb of garlic.  If you have disease on the bulb, you will likely spread the disease from one year into the next.  In an effort to prevent fusarium basal rot in my garlic, I decided it might be a better idea to raise our own seed stock.  So for the past 30 years we’ve maintained our own seed for two major varieties of hard neck garlic and every year we take the best, biggest, nicest garlic bulbs and plant them for the next year’s crop.


Garlic is not a crop we grow for the wholesale market.  Gilroy, California used to be the “Garlic Capitol of the World,” but now most of the garlic is produced in China and South America, organic included.  Unfortunately the price you can get for garlic is pretty cheap, but the cost to produce garlic is high.  Nonetheless, we still consider garlic to be an important part of our CSA season as well as our own diets!  So we continue to grow garlic and after all these years, I’m still learning how to grow the best garlic!

2016 Fall planting
Mulched garlic field ready for the winter!
This year’s crop was planted last October.  The bulbs were cracked and the individual cloves were separated.  The nice, big cloves that came off of good quality bulbs were set aside to plant for full-sized garlic. If there were any small cloves on a bulb, those cloves were saved to be planted as green garlic.  It’s important for the garlic roots to become well-established before the ground freezes for the winter.  The mulch is important to the survival of garlic over the winter because it protects the garlic from extreme temperature changes and excessive freezing and thawing.  However, you have to get the mulch off the garlic in the spring so the new growth can push through!  Unfortunately, our field crew hadn’t arrived yet when this needed to be done this spring.  As soon as they arrived, one of the first missions they had was to pull back some of the tight-packed mulch.  As a result, we may have lost a few plants that just couldn’t push through the mulch.  But that’s the life of farming, there are no guarantees.  The remaining plants looked really good and have produced some very nice garlic this year!



This year we tried a new method for watering the garlic.  We buried drip tape in the beds so we could easily irrigate and had a means of delivering nutrients through the drip lines at some critical stages of their growth.  After all the garlic scapes were removed from the plants, we watched them closely for signs of maturity and watched the weather closely because, even though we stopped irrigating weeks ago, a heavy rain could make harvest difficult and increase the potential for disease. 

I often use the phrase “it all depends on the weather.” Well, garlic harvest is no different and it is always dependent on the weather.  I’ve been closely watching the garlic as it matures over the past few weeks, while also keeping close watch on the weather forecast.  We deemed this week as the major push to harvest our 1.5 acre field of garlic.  This is no small task and requires a significant amount of crew and time to complete the harvest.  We still have to keep up with our regular harvest schedule while trying to tackle the garlic, so it has proven to be an “All Hands On Deck” kind of week!  To add an element of urgency, they were predicting rain and thunderstorms to move into the area Tuesday night with predictions of over one inch of rainfall.  Yikes!  That could ruin a garlic crop overnight!
Garlic in the greenhouse starting to dry.

So we have been running full throttle since the beginning of the day on Monday and anyone who was available to help with the harvest has joined the fun.  We made pretty good progress in two days and estimated that we’d have about 75% of the crop harvested by the end of the work day on Tuesday.  I asked some field crew members to go to the garlic field after their harvest was complete on Tuesday evening.  We needed help picking up the garlic that had already been dug.  I only intended for them to help get things picked up.  I didn’t anticipate that they decided that they were so close to being finished, we might as well work late, dig the remainder and be done for the year!  We worked until after 8 pm, but at the end of the night every piece of garlic was in the greenhouse.  I must say, it was a good way to end the day and I feel very blessed to be able to work with such a loyal, dedicated, “get the job done” kind of a crew.  They did it…and Tuesday night the weather forecast came true.  We got 1.5 inches of rain overnight.  Good job guys.  Job well done.    
Final harvest sheet records for garlic this year!



July 13, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring New Potatoes

July 13th CSA box contents!


Cooking with this week's box!



Well, it’s been an exciting week here at the farm.  The theme of the first part of the week was “Dig It!”  Thankfully we were able to get all of the garlic dug this week and we dug our first round of potatoes on Monday….ahead of the rainstorm thank goodness!  So we’re going to kick off this week’s “Cooking with the Box” with one of the newsletter recipes this week, Summer Farmer Skillet Dinner (see below).  This is a dish I make throughout the year, varying the ingredients with the season.  This week I made it with the new potatoes, freshly dug carrots, green beans, zucchini and the amaranth greens.  I developed this dish out of necessity.  It’s the end of the day, we’re hungry and I don’t have a plan for dinner.  I start cooking some ground meat, add some onions and garlic….all the while not really knowing where I’m going with this.  I started pulling vegetables out of the refrigerator and adding them in layers, basically until the pan was full.  I needed some kind of a “sauce,” so I added some cream.  Of course everything is better with cheese on top, so that was the finishing touch.  When we sat down to eat, Richard asked “And what’s this dish called?”  My response at that time was simply “Dinner.”  I’ve since refined the meal a bit, but it’s still a simple dish that you can vary with the seasons.  You can also get a pretty significant vegetable count with this dish as well and it’s a good way to use up remainders of vegetables before your next CSA delivery.  Sorry it isn’t anything fancy, it’s just simple farmer food.


There have been some good suggestions for recipes on our facebook group this week.  I’m going to use some of this week’s zucchini to make the Lemon Zucchini Bread recipe one member suggested.  There was also mention of a Zucchini and Garlic Soup recipe.  There isn’t enough zucchini in this week’s box to make both of these, but I’m going to hang on to the soup recipe for a future week. 

There is a good sized portion of broccoli in the box this week.  One recipe I came across was for Skillet Macaroni and Broccoli and Mushrooms and Cheese .Whew, that’s a mouthful to say, but it looks like a pretty good main dish recipe that I think will appeal to children of all ages.  If there’s some broccoli remaining after this dish, I’d like to make Sauteed Broccoli with Toasted Garlic, Orange and Sesame.This looks like a simple recipe that will be delicious with the fresh garlic in this week’s box and will make use of some of the Valencia orange peeling from this week’s fruit share.  This will go nicely alongside grilled teriyaki chicken breasts and a side of steamed rice. 

We have mangoes in this week’s fruit share, so I’m going to try this recipe for a Tropical Cucumber Salad. This fruity salad will make a simple dinner along with broiled salmon. 

Don’t forget to use the carrot tops!  I’m voting for another batch of Carrot Top Pesto that I will toss with cooked pasta and any other bits and pieces of vegetables remaining at the end of the week.  This could become a hot pasta dish, or I might opt to turn it into a cold salad and add some salty olives and freshly grated cheese to finish it off. 

We’ll use a few carrots for the Summer Farmer Skillet Dinner (recipe below), but the remainder will get chopped up in the food processor to make vegetable cream cheese.  I like to chop the raw carrot finely and then fold it into softened cream cheese along with finely sliced onion green tops and fresh herbs from the garden.  This  will becomes a spread for a sandwich or a wrap and will likely make it onto my morning toast as well. 

I think we’ve used just about everything in this week’s box….so I’ll give you a glimpse into what will be coming our way pretty soon.  Richard reported this morning that there are baby eggplant and peppers set on the plants.  The tomato plants have also set on fruit, so it won’t be long before we’re making traditional ratatouille and tomato sandwiches!  Have a great week!

-Chef Andrea



Vegetable Feature:  New Potatoes


Harvest starting earlier this week!
The potatoes in your box this week are a variety called Red Norland.  They are an early variety red-skinned potato with creamy white flesh and this week they are classified as a “new potato.” The difference between a new potato and other potatoes we’ll deliver this season is not the variety or the size, but the way they are harvested.  New potatoes are classified as such if they are harvested off of a plant that still has green leaves on it.  With latter varieties, we’ll mow down the potato vine about a week in advance of harvest.  In the week between mowing down the vines and actually harvesting the potatoes, changes take place in the potatoes that help to set the skins and make them better for storage.  They are also easier to handle without damaging the skin. 
New potatoes have a thinner, more tender and delicate skin.  They need to be handled with care so as not to disturb the skin and expose the flesh.  Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place, but not in the refrigerator.  It’s important that they are not exposed to light or they will turn green and be bitter.  In general, potatoes will store for a few weeks at room temperature in a brown paper bag.  However new potatoes will not store as well and are best eaten within one week. Do not store potatoes in a plastic bag or in the refrigerator.

Wagon load of potatoes ready for  CSA boxes!
New potatoes are, in my opinion, the “best of the best” potatoes of the season.  They are tender & creamy with a fresh, pure potato flavor.  This week’s variety is a “waxy” variety.  They lend themselves well to basic boiling, roasting or pan-frying.  You could make “smashed” potatoes with them, but I’d discourage you from making mashed potatoes out of them as waxy potatoes have a tendency to become sticky when mashed.  We still have several more varieties to dig.  Make sure you check the newsletter each week to find out more information about each variety and the best ways to prepare them.


Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt 

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

2 ½ pounds small waxy potatoes
Fine sea salt
1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
2 Tbsp minced dill
2 Tbsp minced parsley
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh lemon juice and ½ tsp grated lemon zest
½ tsp honey 
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh herbs for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover them with water.  Sprinkle a few pinches of salt into the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the potatoes are tender (but not falling apart).  Test the potatoes by inserting a knife into the center.
  3. While the potatoes cook, prepare the yogurt sauce.  In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, dill, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and zest, honey, oil, and a healthy pinch each of salt and pepper;  whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  4. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them cool for 8 to 10 minutes.  Spread the potatoes out over the baking sheet and use a spatula to lightly press down on each one until it is mostly flattened.  (Some may fall apart a bit, but that’s okay!)
  5. Drizzle each potato with a teaspoon or so of olive oil and roast for 30 minutes or until they are golden brown and crisp on the bottom.  The timing will vary depending on the size and variety of your potatoes.
  6. Serve them with the garlic herb yogurt sauce and a sprinkling of chopped herbs.

This is another tasty recipe from Dishing Up the Dirt, written by farmer Andrea Bemis.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July 6, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Amaranth Greens

What’s In The Box?
Purple Scallions: It’s been an excellent onion year so far.  Cross your fingers that the tops will continue to remain healthy in the field and the onions will keep growing and multiplying as well as these purple scallions have! 
Fennel: Please refer to last week’s newsletter and blog post about fennel.  You’ll find two delicious recipes plus suggestions for other ways to use this unique vegetable.    
Fresh Italian Garlic: This garlic was just harvested, so the layers of skin surrounding the cloves are still very fresh and will need to be pulled away to expose the fresh, juicy cloves inside.
Green Top Gold Beets: If you profess to not like beets, this may be the beet for you.  Golden beets are more mild in flavor and sweeter than red beets….and as always, eat the greens too!
Sugar Snap OR Snow Peas: We still have one more planting of peas coming…they’re blooming right now.  Don’t forget that all of our peas have edible pods.  All you have to do is remove the string that runs on top of the pea and is connected to the stem.  
Italian & Green Zucchini: Our first crop of zucchini is producing much better this week now that we have had some warm days! The Italian variety is lighter green with stripes and ribs.  It is more firm and best for grilling.
Green OR Silver Slicer Cucumbers: Another heat-loving crop that really stepped up production with the heat this week!  The silver slicer cucumbers have pale yellow skin, are a little smaller than the green cucumbers, and have a crisp texture with a fruity flavor.
Green Top Carrots: These are an older European “nantes” variety called “Mokum” that is known for being an early carrot with a sweet juicy flavor.  The greens are edible too!  Read on for suggestions about using the carrot tops!
Broccoli: The stems of broccoli are edible too.  Just peel away a thin outer layer of skin and you’ll find a tender, juicy core that is delicious raw or cooked.
Amaranth Greens: Don’t be fooled…this is a cooking green, but the leaves are mostly deep burgundy red in color and sometimes have a touch of dark green!  See this week’s vegetable feature below for more information about this cool vegetable!



Cooking with This Week's Box!

I recently picked up another cookbook entitled Six Seasons:  A New Way With Vegetables by Joshua McFadden.  In his book he divides the summer season  into three different sections, early summer, midsummer and late summer.  According to his system for seasonal distinction, we are still in early summer, as we transition from the tail end of spring into the first part of summer.  Salad mix is done until fall and it’s time to switch to summer cooking greens and salads made with vegetables other than lettuce!  There is quite a selection in this week’s box so cooking and eating is going to be very interesting this week!

Lets start with this week’s featured vegetable, Amaranth.  If you’re new to this green, take a moment to read the vegetable feature in this week’s newsletter or on our blog.  Our featured recipe this week is Spicy Amaranth Greens with Zucchini and Black-Eyed Peas.  This dish is tasty on its own, or you can serve it over grits, polenta or rice.  If you’re not into black-eyed peas, substitute another bean of your choosing or leave them out as well!

We’re going to have amaranth in the box again within the next few weeks and when we do, I want to use it to make a recipe for Amaranth Leaves Rotti, an Indian flat bread.  In this recipe they recommend serving the Rotti with a pickle, so I want to use the fennel this week to make the Indian Spiced Fennel Pickles mentioned in last week’s vegetable feature about fennel.  This recipe makes 2 quarts, so I might cut the recipe in half so I can use some of the fennel for another use.  I think the fennel pickles might go well with the rotti and some dal and you can store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.  I admit I don’t have much experience cooking food from India, so if anyone has another suggestion for what to pair with the Rotti, please let me know.  Otherwise, I’m going to try my combo and we’ll see how it is!


The remainder of the fennel is going to be used to make the Fennel and Beet Salad with Honey LemonVinaigrette featured in our June 2007 newsletter.  This is a recipe I developed the first year I was at the farm because Richard convinced me that beets and fennel are a seasonal pairing and go together well.  I really hadn’t used fennel much before, but played around with it and came up with this salad which remains one of our annual favorites!  




We’re excited to be harvesting carrots again!  This week we are delivering the carrots with the green tops still attached to the root.  In the cookbook I mentioned earlier, McFadden likens cooking vegetables to the whole nose-to-tail movement with meat whereby the user is challenged and encouraged to use everything, leaf to root!  So, in the case of carrots and beets that still have their tops on, we’re challenged to find a use for the greens and the roots.  It’s actually like having two vegetables in one, so why throw away half the package?!  “Ok, great Andrea, but what am I supposed to do with these carrot tops?”  What else do we do with green things we’re not sure what to do with?  We make pesto of course!  At the Kitchn blog, there’s an article entitled “Not Just Rabbit Food:  5 Tasty Ways to Eat Carrot Tops.”  One of the recipes they link to is for a Grilled Cheese with Roasted Carrots andCarrot Top Pesto.  If you’re like Richard and appreciate meat, you could add some crispy pancetta or bacon to this sandwich, or I’m sure prosciutto would be tasty too.  If the grilled cheese sandwich concept isn’t grabbing your attention but you like the pesto idea, there’s another version of CarrotTop Pesto from one of our past newsletters. If you aren’t sold on pesto, then consider Roasted Carrot and Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro and Carrot Green Chimichurri. Chimichurri is another great way to utilize carrot tops.

So we have a use for the carrot tops, but what about the beet greens?  Fried eggs are my go-to “quick and easy but still good for you” dinner item and they go great with a wide variety of vegetable combos.  So this week my vegetable-egg creation started with some sautéed onion and garlic.  Once the onion and garlic were softened, add the chopped beet greens to the pan along with a few splashes of red wine vinegar a few pinches of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Put a lid on the pan and let the greens wilt down.  Once they are wilted, allow them to simmer briefly until nearly all the liquid is evaporated.  Push the greens to the side of the pan and add some butter to the pan to fry your egg in.  Put the beet greens on your plate and add some crumbled feta cheese.  The egg goes on top of the beet greens and then you eat the whole mess with a few olives on the side and a piece of buttered toast.  So delicious! 

Golden Beets are so sweet and delicious that even people who don’t usually like beets often like them!  If you don’t use your beets in the fennel and beet salad I mentioned, then consider preparing them in a super-simple preparation such as this recipe for Roasted Golden Beets with Rosemary and Garlic. Sometimes the most simple preparations are the best!

Fennel Cucumber Salsa - photo from allrecipes.com
Thank goodness it warmed up so we can actually feel like it’s summer and enjoy our zucchini and cucumbers!  How about a juicy burger on the grill (beef, turkey or veggie….your choice) served with Baked Parmesan Zucchini and a simple Chili-Cucumber Salad. If there are any cucumbers left over, they make a great snack with just a little salt or put them on toast with cream cheese and fresh herbs. You could also turn them into a salsa such as the one posted by one of our CSA members in our CSA Facebook Group.  It’s a recipe for Fennel-Cucumber Salsa to serve with fresh bread, tortillas, or with sautéed fish or chicken.  

Of course, we’ve nearly used up our onions and garlic by now, but we still have broccoli and sugar snap or snow peas remaining.  Lets turn these vegetables into a simple but delicious Beef, Broccoli and Snow Pea Stir-Fry.   You could throw a carrot or two into the mix for a little color if you like. 

Well, this week’s Cooking with the Box should give you at least 2-3 main entrées and 1 sandwich idea along with a few salad options and a few side dishes including a pickle to enjoy over the next few weeks.  Add a little protein to some of the salads and sides and you should be able to round out a pretty delicious week of eating out of your CSA box!  Of course, there will likely be some leftovers to enjoy in your lunch or repurpose into snacks or dinner for another night as well.
I hope you’ll stretch yourself a little this week and try something new….perhaps this will be the week you tackle those beet and carrot greens!  Let me know how your creations turn out, or post in our Facebook Group and inspire another member!—Chef Andrea





Featured Vegetable:  Amaranth Greens

 Amaranth is a stunning “green” that actually has dark, burgundy colored leaves.  It is an ancient plant that was part of the diets of Aztec civilizations in Mexico up to 7,000 years ago.  It was also an important staple food for the Incas of South America and the people of the Himalayan region of Asia.  In these ancient cultures, amaranth was also used medicinally and in cultural rituals.  It was held as a symbol of immortality and means “never –fading flower” in Greek.  Like many other vegetables, amaranth was a multi-use vegetable.  The seeds were used as a winter staple and the young leaves were eaten as a fresh vegetable.  There are about 60 different varieties of amaranth, some grown to harvest seeds, others for the leaves, and several ornamental species.  The variety of amaranth we grow is referred to as “Polish Amaranth”….and there’s a story to go with this name.

We actually purchased the seed for this year’s crop from Wild Garden Seeds (WGS), which is kind of funny because Richard is the one who actually gave them the seed originally!  Some of you may have heard this story already, but for those of you who don’t know it the story goes like this.  One day Richard was driving to town and saw a beautiful red amaranth plant growing in a garden along the way.  He stopped and asked the people who lived there about this plant.  They said their Aunt May brought the seed with her from Poland and they were happy to share it with Richard. So Richard collected some seed and started growing it, mostly as a baby green to mix into his gourmet salad mix. It didn’t do so well as a salad mix ingredient, but in later years we found success growing it as a mid-summer bunching green used for cooking.  Since we aren’t in the business of seed production, Richard passed the seed onto Frank Morton at WGS and he has been maintaining this variety of amaranth.   Thanks Frank! 

Amaranth greens have become an important part of our seasonal diet because of their ability to grow in the heat of the summer when other greens, spinach and lettuce do not thrive.  Amaranth is able to adapt to variable conditions with little impact from weather or disease.  It is able to survive in extreme heat or drought conditions because it is able to convert twice the amount of solar energy using the same amount of water as most other plants. 

While I’ve never sent a sample to the lab to test nutrient levels, I think we can add amaranth greens to our list of HVF “super-foods.”  The leaves of this plant are high in calcium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin C, carotene, iron, B vitamins, and trace elements including zinc and manganese.  Compared to spinach, amaranth leaves have three times more vitamin C, calcium and niacin!  Of course we know vegetables that have rich colors like the magenta leaves of amaranth are also packed with important phytonutrients and antioxidants. 

Ok, enough of the history and science of this vegetable.  Lets get serious and figure out how to use it!  Amaranth is similar in flavor to spinach, except better!  You can prepare it similarly to spinach or other cooking greens.  While amaranth may be eaten raw, the more mature leaves and stems are best when cooked.  The stems and leaves are both edible, however the stems might need a little longer cooking time so it’s best to separate the leaves from the stem.   Amaranth greens may be steamed, sautéed, added to soups, stews, wilted and stir-fried.  Amaranth pairs well with so many other summer crops including onions, fresh garlic, zucchini, peppers, corn, green beans, basil, oregano and tomatoes. 
Amaranth is thought to have originated in Central and/or South America, but has made its way around the globe.  It can be found in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, which means there are many options for finding ways to use this vegetable.  Season it with cumin, coriander, oregano and serve it with black beans for more of a Mexican approach.  Stir-fry it with garlic, onion, ginger and a drizzle of sesame oil for more of a Chinese influence.  Mix it with pasta, tomatoes, oregano, basil and Parmesan for an Italian flair, or take it in more in the direction of Indian cuisine by choosing curry spices & lentils.  When I was first introduced to amaranth ten years ago, you could hardly find any recipes in cookbooks or on the internet.  That has changed a lot and now I’m confident you will be able to find at least one way to prepare amaranth that will become your “favorite” way to enjoy this vegetable.  We have some tasty recipes from previous newsletters available on our website as well.  We hope you enjoy this lovely green, for its aesthetics, nutrition, history and flavor! 



Overwhelmed? Don’t Be!

Meet My Friend Carol….

Carol looks forward to the first taste
of strawberries each year!
This week’s newsletter article was written by longtime CSA member, Carol Wilson.  Carol was kind enough to share some of her strategies, resources and thoughts about how to find success and pleasure as CSA members “eating out of the box.”  Carol and her husband, Bob, have been CSA members in Madison, Wisconsin for over 20 years.  They raised two wonderful children on HVF CSA vegetables.  Their daughter, Jesse, lives and works in New York City where she now enjoys cooking with her own CSA shares.  Their son, David, resides in California where he enjoys his work as a wine maker.  Both Jesse and David have grown to develop an appreciation for good food and totally get what it means to eat seasonally.  When their children left home, the weekly CSA box became more of a challenge for only Bob and Carol, but they have done well with the challenge and continue to eat through a weekly vegetable share.  They have seen us through times of bounty when we had huge pepper crops and stuck with us through three difficult flood years.  They have listened to us when we needed their support and perspectives, offering us enlightenment and sometimes just a dose of comic relief.  Over the years they have become not only loyal, committed CSA members, but they have also become our good friends.  This past winter they visited us for a weekend, including their dog Iris.  Bob helped me reinstall a bathroom cabinet that had been removed for a plumbing repair while Carol coached Andrea through a basket weaving project!  Bob and Carol are an example of how important our CSA members are to our farm.  They help make the difficult days more manageable and meaningful.  This is what Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is really about!  ---Farmer Richard

Overwhelmed? Don’t Be!
By Carol Wilson, Madison HVF CSA Member

We have been members of Harmony Valley Farm (HVF) for over 20 years and initially experienced being overwhelmed as we learned to eat seasonally and to make use of our wonderful HVF produce. Learning to eat seasonally and to incorporate less familiar vegetables into your repertoire is so rewarding, but requires strategies and a little effort.   Below are some of the strategies we learned over the years and now, long after our children grew up and moved out, we continue to receive a weekly box and experience the pleasures of healthy eating.

When we come home with the box, 2 things are key for me: proper storage and inventory.  My daughter does not bag her greens and then they wilt.  Another friend leaves veggies sitting on the counter and they go soft quickly.  Properly stored veggies last longer and taste better.  However, once those veggies are stored away, it can be hard to remember what you have on hand.  I solve that dilemma by creating a list of our veggies and posting it on the fridge.  I have counted over 20 different veggies at one time in our fridge!

Before my husband retired and started preparing the week night meals, I spent time on the weekend creating a menu for the week that used the veggies.  At the same time, I created a shopping list for anything else we needed to make the meal plan work.  During the week it was so nice to know what the plan was and to just come home and start cooking.  I didn't have to think or dig through cookbooks - all that work had been done.

Over the years, we have invested in a few cookbooks that focus on veggies and/or seasonal eating.  With the help of those, the HVF newsletters, on-line recipes, magazines, friends, etc., we have a collection of recipes that we look forward to every year when it is that veggie or fruit's time of year - currant scones, strawberry shortbread pizza, Zucchini-Cumin Dip, rhubarb crumble, ramp and asparagus pizza, etc.  

When it’s been a busy week and you find yourself with lots of veggies at the end of the week just before your next pick up, we use one of our ‘clear out the fridge’ strategies.  Our primary go-to is pizza, but we also do warm veggie salads.  My husband also makes delicious soups.  My sister does burritos.  Whatever is left at the end of the week gets sautéed together and then put on a pizza with sausage or bacon.  Or, put on greens with a good dressing.  Or, made into a soup.  Or, put in a tortilla.

To preserve the bounty, we freeze.  Mostly peppers, but also strawberries and tomatoes.  We have started pickling and canning and have a wonderful recipe for both a zucchini and a fennel relish.  We also purchased a dehydrator several years ago and use that for drying herbs. 

Cook more veggies at a time than you think you will eat.  Two things happen: you will eat more veggies at meal time because they are there and ready and fresh and delicious, and, second, you will pack the leftovers for lunch the next day.  And, in the same vein, put in more veggies than the recipe calls for.  Lots of recipes are trying to please an audience that is practically terrified of veggies, so they call for limited amounts of things - a small zucchini, a half of a pepper, etc.   Go nuts! Use two small zucchini or go crazy and use the whole pepper!

Substitute, substitute.  If your recipe calls for a veggie you don't have, substitute one that you do have.  Think of veggies in categories - ramps, onions, green garlic, etc. are all onions.  Fennel, carrots, parsley root, celery, etc. are all aromatics.  This takes practice and learning about veggies, but will start to make sense over time and lead to lots of delicious creations.

Looking ahead at this week’s box, here’s what I’m thinking.  We will likely make Carrot Top Pesto (recipe available on the HVF website) which is fantastic!  The combination of fennel and zucchini is one of my favorites so a simple saute is in order using those.  The Amaranth Corn Saute recipe from the HVF website is a favorite, but many of the veggies that it calls for are not yet available so we will substitute or use things from our freezer, such as red pepper and edamame.  We don’t have corn, so we might substitute fennel, giving it a slightly different flavor.  I love a good Chinese ground pork (from HVF, of course!) stir fry that uses lots of veggies in whatever proportion you wish.  Of the veggies in this week’s box, the only ones I probably wouldn’t use in the stir-fry are cucumbers and beets, but that’s just me.  (I love beets and cucumbers, just not with this flavor combination.)  We love a fairly simple saute of greens as a bed for fish, so that’s a possibility for the beet or amaranth greens.   

Finally, don't be embarrassed to compost.  It happens to the best of us.  Whether they belong to a CSA, grow their own produce, or shop at a conventional grocery store, everyone occasionally has to throw something out.  Let it go and don't feel guilty.  {Note from Farmer Richard…Do be wary of composting sunchokes and horseradish.  If your compost is not hot enough to kill them they may take over your compost pile.  We dry them to death before adding to our compost.  I give you this warning because Bob and Carol are not the only CSA members who have been haunted by the seemingly endless battle of sunchokes growing in their compost/yard.} 

I would say that it took us several years to get comfortable with and confident about using a CSA box.  Don't give up after the first year - you are just getting going!  Our daughter (who now lives in New York City, and participates in CSAs there) adds, “At first it is overwhelming, so it's about managing being overwhelmed.  Don't let it get you down!”

Lastly, here are some of our go-to cookbooks:

From Asparagus to Zucchini – the MACSAC cookbook available for purchase online from Fairshare CSA Coalition

Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make by Melissa Clark, who lives in NYC and shops the various Farmers’ Markets.  She includes adaptations, modifications, and how to make dishes kid friendly.  She has the tendency to do what we do – go to the Farmers’ Market, buy lots of beautiful produce and then come home and figure out what to make with it all.

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi – (our daughter loves this one!)

Roots by Diane Morgan

Farmer John’s Cookbook by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics

The Produce Bible by Leanne Kitchen

Dishing up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis

Naturally Sweet Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan (source of the Zucchini and Fennel relish recipes)

We also have many vegetarian cookbooks that provide us with inspiration and ideas.