Thursday, February 8, 2018

Connection…Does It Make A Difference?

By…Farmer Richard

I thought you might find it interesting to know that I started vegetable farming in Eagan, Minnesota with the help of students from one of the first Minneapolis Charter schools and a nearby group home for troubled youth.  At the time I also worked with autistic children at the University of Minnesota and later the St. Paul School system.  While working at the Dakota County Developmental Learning Center adjacent to my farm, I first became aware of the positive influence a farm environment could have on children.  A seven year old autistic boy who had never before spoken a word was feeding ears of corn to the horses when he yelled to me from across the barn, “MORE CORN!!”  Telling this story still brings tears to my eyes. 

Later I was a professional parent to 4-12 year old boys in “therapeutic foster care.”  They lived with me on my farm and helped care for the animals and raised vegetables which they sold on the roadside and at markets.  They earned their own money and learned to spend it wisely.  They were successful and self-confident.  They began to succeed in schoolwork, made friends and their teachers liked them!  They were a success for the first time in their lives.  One of my most dramatic experiences was with Ronnie.  He came to me from Fairview Hospital psych ward, heavily medicated with anti-psychotic drugs.  Once he was off the drugs, we realized he was very sensitive to food additives which were contributing to some of his behavioral problems.  He went on a strict diet of organic food with no preservatives, and he was a totally different boy!  Everybody liked this smart, happy, funny boy and he liked himself.  My lesson learned, food can make a huge difference!

Farmer Richard with his son Ari

The quality of food, connecting with the source, and being an active participant in the process of getting food to the table are all important elements of forming a healthy and holistic diet.  I was fortunate to have had some professional parenting training and valuable life experiences before raising my own son.  Really it’s about quite simple things, such as we all eat better when we are hungry!  If you are filling up on snacks, you won’t be hungry for a meal!  Either cut out the snacks or make it something healthy, like carrots.  We also had a few simple household rules.  Everybody ate a little bit of everything, but had the right to just take a small portion justified by the fact that they “were still learning to like it.”  Kids like to be involved in food procurement, preparation, picking up the CSA box and unpacking the contents.  Involving children in these acts helps to connect them to the process it takes to get it to the table.  As they are learning about new foods, it’s important for them to be able to touch, smell and taste.  A visit to the farm can be very formative for young children, even if it’s just one time.  As they walk (or run) through the fields they get to see what the plants look like, they figure out how to harvest the food and then get to eat it right in the field!  If you’ve ever eaten a warm strawberry right in the field, you know how memorable that can be.  My own son, now 29, grew up eating a wide variety of vegetables and is still a very good eater.  He still remembers eating daikon radish right out of the field and still counts radishes as one of his favorites. 

But it’s not just children!  Adult member lives have also been greatly impacted by participating in CSA and forming a connection with their farm.  We have great respect for the many adults who have learned how to eat through a box every week, were brave enough to try unfamiliar foods and have come to enjoy cooking.  They are committed to taking their healthy lunch to work and putting any extra in the freezer for winter.  Some have been generous enough to share their recipes with our Facebook group.  Adults are also impacted by a farm visit.  At the end of last season we received this email from a member:  “I also wanted to mention that I have hugely reduced my grocery store purchases of produce since switching to your CSA and signing up for the fruit share. I cut back to every other week, as my family has shrunk. I made the occasional trip to the local farmer's market to supplement as needed. I am a strong believer in what you are doing. We have been so impressed with your beautiful farm and the way you manage the land, as we have seen in our two visits for the strawberry picking. I also love your newsletters and recipes.

In our busy world, with so many choices and distractions, it can be a challenge to dive into eating out of a CSA box, but it is so worth it!  Over the 20 plus years we have been feeding CSA families, we have seen so many examples of what happens when families commit to CSA and healthy eating.  Yes, for families with children it takes some good parenting skills, but it results in beautiful, healthy, smart people who grow up and will change the world.  When parents make the choice to make organic food a priority, children have the opportunity to learn what real food tastes like and nutritious healthy food tastes good! 

Beyond the nutritional value of the food, CSA allows children and families to connect with the people and source of their food.  Eating can just be a passive act, but it becomes much more meaningful when you know where your food came from and can form a connection.  Whether it’s simply participating in the weekly ritual of picking up your CSA box and unpacking it, or it’s the experience of actually visiting the farm, these are memorable experiences that shape and mold a child’s view of food and where it comes from.  We wanted to share a few stories with you, and then we hope some of you will share your stories with us! 

We love it when members visit the farm and enjoy seeing children explore and experience new things.  It’s the little things such as holding a fuzzy, baby chick or feeling the goats nibble grain out of their hand for the first time.  Last year a mother contacted us to see if it would be possible to bring her daughter to the farm for her birthday.  The birthday present this girl was looking for was the experience of being able to touch and feed our farm animals.  She had a blast and it was really fun to see the joy on her face as she stood amongst our critters in the pasture. 

I love to see the excitement in a child’s face as they get to harvest their own vegetables and eat them in the field.  We’ve had parents nearly faint as they watch their children run up and down the rows of vegetables in the field.  Kids who fuss at the table because they don’t want to eat their vegetables, and here they are picking and eating them in the field!  There was one little boy who marched up to Andrea and asked her if she would like him to show her how to pick the best peas.  He confidently explained how to do so and then picked a few for them to eat so he could prove his techniques were solid.  This was one of those children who would not eat a vegetable, however his parents told us that after that visit to the farm he now willingly eats vegetables…if they were grown at “his” farm by Farmer Richard. 

Some kids find the harvesting experience to be quite rewarding and we’ve been surprised at some of the vegetables they’ve pulled from the ground.  One little guy pulled a huge scarlet turnip out of the ground on one farm visit.  Strength must run in the family, because we remember when his older brother (full of excitement) pulled an entire kohlrabi plant out of the field—roots and all!  If you aren’t familiar with kohlrabi, I’ll tell you that those plants are very firmly rooted.  He was so excited to show us what he had pulled and when his mother asked him what it was he replied “I DON’T KNOW!”  It didn’t really matter…he was having a great time.   

Last summer we received this email from a Twin Cities family:  “At dinner the other night, our two-year-old told my husband, ‘These veggies are from Farmer Richard. He grows our veggies and brings us our fruit. He's a part of our family.’ Thanks for letting us raise our boys eating delicious produce and knowing where it comes from!” 
And then there’s this recent story shared with us this past December 2017.  It’s the story of one of our “grown-up” CSA kids.  “My son came home tonight to  say Hi, saw the box and checked the contents, he was thrilled to see the celeriac and rest of the goodies and grabbed the box before anyone could tell him no.  He then asked if perhaps there was another celeriac he could have, maybe one from the swap box to take back home.  Alas no, but never in my life could I imagine a 21 year old man seeking out and excited about celeriac.  To have an incredible box in mid-December and a young man transfixed and transformed by HVF produce is a great kick-off to the holiday season.

These are just a few stories, but we know there are many more.  We would love to hear your stories and would encourage you to share them with us!  How has CSA impacted your family, your children, your health, your perspectives on food & agriculture?  If you are willing to share your stories, please send us an email, make a quick video, or just pick up the phone and call! 

When I was in my twenties, I set out to do meaningful work.  I may not have chosen the easiest career in the world, but it has definitely proven to be very meaningful work.  Just as every family has their “family doctor,” I hope more families will thoughtfully consider who they want their “family farmer(s)” to be.  If you choose Harmony Valley Farm, we hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity you have to come and see your farm for yourself.  Even if it’s just one time, we promise you it will be a memorable experience….and it might even change your life. 

Welcome back to the Chef’s Corner!

I wanted to share this recipe for Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Galette.  This recipe looks lengthy, but don’t be deterred by that.  There are three main components to make before you assemble the galette, but none of the components are difficult or time consuming to prepare.  Your time investment is in the time it takes to roast the squash, caramelize the onions and bake the galette.  You can prep the three components in advance and keep them in the refrigerator.  This makes for a quick and easy dinner on the night of your choosing.  Just pull out the components and assemble the galette while the oven is preheating.  Pop it in the oven to bake it and dinner is done. 

The beauty of a galette is that it isn’t fussy and it’s very forgiving.  If you shy away from things that have a pie crust (eg quiche), you might find you’ll like a galette.  It’s kind of like a pie, but much more free form and forgiving—it’s not supposed to be perfect.  It’s versatile like a quiche, but you don’t have to mess with the custard filling.  If you have some left over, it reheats well for breakfast or lunch.

As always, we’d love to know what you’ve been cooking this winter and our Facebook Group is a great place to do that! If you aren’t already a member, click here to join.

See you next month!
Chef Andrea

Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Galette

Yield:  One hearty 12-inch galette or Two 9-inch galettes
For the Pastry:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (may include ½ cup whole wheat flour if you like)
½ tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks)
½ cup sour cream
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
⅓ cup ice water

For the Filling:
2 ½ pounds butternut squash, peeled & diced (5-6 cups)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp butter
5 medium red or yellow onions (1 ½ pounds), thinly sliced
¼ cup red wine
1 tsp maple syrup
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
2 cups (6 oz) grated fontina or gouda cheese
1 egg, beaten, for glazing the pastry (optional)

  1. First, make the pastry.  In a bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Cut the butter into chunks and add them to the bowl.  Using a pastry blender, break up the butter into bits until the texture of the flour and butter mixture is like cornmeal, with the biggest bits the size of pebbles. 
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water.  Pour this over the butter-flour mixture.  Stir with a spoon or a rubber spatula just until a dough forms, kneading it once or twice on the counter if needed to bring it together.  Pat the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and chill it in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
  3. Next, prepare the squash.  Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Peel the squash, then halve and scoop out the seeds.  Cut into ½ to ¾-inch chunks and put in a mixing bowl.  Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil and season with ½ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Toss to thoroughly coat all the pieces, then spread the squash on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender and just starting to brown.  You may need to turn the squash once while it is roasting.  Once done, remove the squash from the oven and set it aside to cool slightly.  Leave the oven on.
  4. While the squash is roasting, caramelize the onions.  Melt 1 Tbsp butter and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet.  Add the onions and 1 tsp salt.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft and tender, about 25-35 minutes.  Don’t try to rush this process.  When the onions are very soft, add the wine, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, thyme and sage to the onions.  Continue to simmer over medium-low heat until nearly all the wine has been reduced.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Now it’s time to assemble the galette.  On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 16-17 inch round (or two 11-12 inch rounds).  Transfer the pastry to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Spread the onions on the pastry, leaving a 2 to 2 ½ inch border.  Spread the roasted squash on top of the onion layer and then spread the grated cheese evenly over the galette filling.  Fold the border of pastry over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit.  The center will be open.  Brush the outside crust with egg, if using.
  6. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 30-40 minutes.  Remove the galette from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide it onto a serving plate.  Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Deb Perelman’s book, Smitten Kitchen.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

So What Food System Will You Support?

By Farmer Richard

Towards the beginning of this CSA season, we were faced with the buyout of Whole Foods Market by Amazon.  Given we grow a significant amount of produce for Whole Foods Market, this buyout weighed heavy on our minds and left us wondering how this business decision may trickle down and directly impact our farm.  It also left us wondering what may happen to our food system in general as we as a society adapt to the changes in the market place.  We truly believe our future and the future of society is in the hands of the consumers.  Over the course of the season we have tried to report on a variety of  topics to impress upon our readers about how our food purchasing choices affect our health, our community, our downstream communities and more.  Our choices will sculpt our future food system and are based on and related to more than just the basic price of an item.  So what are the issues?

One of the most important issues that plays into the bigger picture view we are seeking is our health.  Choosing to eat more organic vegetables grown locally and in their season is one of the best ways to maximize the nutrition you get from your food as produce received directly from the farm typically is more fresh and thereby has retained more nutrients.  Vegetables grown in nutrient dense soils are especially high in antioxidants and other nutrients.  Just as you would seek out an experienced surgeon with lots of experience to perform a surgery, so it is with finding an experienced farmer to grow your vegetables!  For those who choose to include meat in their diets, choosing to eat only meat produced locally from pastured animals and grass-fed beef may be the healthiest choice.  Eating local and in season is also beneficial for community health.  When food is grown locally, there is an opportunity for any “extras” to go to a local food pantry, thereby opening up access to fresh, nutritious produce in communities that may otherwise have limited access or be unable to afford purchasing fresh food.  This year we donated over 30,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to our local food pantry that picks up weekly at our farm during the growing season. 

More and more people are choosing organic for health reasons including to minimize pesticide residues and to raise healthy children!  We applaud your choice.  But organic is available everywhere now.  Not just the co-ops and farmers markets, but almost every grocery chain including Wal-Mart.  Even convenience stores, ie in our area Kiwk Trip, now carry some organic products.  But is all organic the same?  Unfortunately, the answer is No!

Rooster keeping an eye on his hens!
Muscovy Duck with ducklings.
When I started as an organic farmer in 1973, there were very, very few organic customers.  Now something like 65% say they buy organic at least sometimes.  Organic now represents 10% of food purchases and some 10 billion dollars, enough of an impact on the market to attract the “big business” players.  That is good and yet a huge complicated “bad.”  Money, greed and politics all come into play in what once was our small scale arena of trust and integrity.  Now we have big business, “green washing,” “white wash and hog wash” politics and fraud infiltrating into the organic market place too!  Take eggs as an example.  We have a small flock of chickens in a mobile coop that are totally free range.  They scratch and forage in the pastures and are really healthy and happy birds.  Their eggs are fantastic!  Their yolks are not just yellow, but rich golden in color with the same rich flavor.  Our hens will raise new chicks in the spring to sustain our flock and continually be replacing birds that pass away from old age and the occasional bird that falls victim to predation.  Same with our flock of ducks.  They raise their own replacements, they live on the creek, they fly and only come home at dark to eat a little organic grain and then retire to their safe house that we secure them in for nighttime safety from predators.  We could expand our chicken flock to 400-500 birds housed in a mobile coop the size of a school bus and move them to new pasture every few days and produce those eggs with golden rich yolks, but we are not looking for a new business and with the labor involved, we would need to get $5-$6 per dozen for those wonderfully tasty and nutritious eggs.  How many of you would sign on to that?

So we went to our neighbors who raise organic eggs for a major co-op.  They have 2 chicken barns that hold 10,000 chickens in each and look very much like an industrial egg factory, but with some important distinctions.  They have no cages for laying hens and they give their birds 2.5 sq ft of space inside and provide a nice outdoor yard with shade and dirt to scratch.  Their egg yolks have a little color, but nothing like a totally free range bird.  They need to get $4.00/dozen eggs to survive.  They are lamenting that their co-op has lost market share because the new organic rules for pasture and outside access has again been delayed by large scale factory farm lobbyists who are also producing organic eggs.  While our neighbor is already in compliance with the new organic rules, the factory farm lobbyists want to stick with their 1.5 sq ft of space and little or no meaningful outdoor access.  Those eggs sell for $3.00/dozen at many, many supermarkets. 

So there is my example.  Beware of the sales promos that show young girls in a dress carrying fresh flowers with happy chickens or cows and a red barn in the background!  It is marketing PR, pure and simple and a certain amount of “hogwash.”  On the bright side, at least they are eating organic feed and not being fed antibiotics and/or hormones.  Organic is now “big business” and it is a difficult task for you the consumer to sort out the truth from the hogwash or chicken wash or green wash!

The same is true for vegetables, most of the big players now also do organic including Grimmway, the largest producer of vegetables in the world.  And frankly, they do have the resources to do a pretty good job!  We can’t forget about the home delivery meals and CSA style “look-a-likes” that claim to be helping support local farmers, but substitute cheaper conventional to help their bottom line with less than transparent disclosure.  Read the recent NY Times article about the local farmers left with crops in the field when the delivery service with their sophisticated software to offer “your choice” for “your box” suddenly goes into bankruptcy.  We experienced the same with Door to Door Organics, a home delivery company in Chicago that we grew for previously.

So what about the original, traditional CSA model where consumers, eaters, pledge/commit to support a farm and farmer for better or worse!?  That is the model that is suffering and experiencing decline across the nation.  Why is this? 

It requires a “two way street” and a little give and take between farmer and eater.  The farmer pledges to do their best job, given their experience or inexperience to provide a season of produce or meat, or eggs, etc for the supporting eater.  The CSA member agrees to learn to “eat out of the box” and eat seasonally.  The catch is that a real CSA commitment requires a very experienced farmer team who can grow a very wide variety of crops throughout the season in order to provide a balanced full box for a long season, 30 weeks in our case.  We refer to it as “graduate level” growing, not for beginners, and we are confident that we do the best job of any!  But the two way street?

Harvest Party at Harmony Valley Farm
We read and understand the requests to customize boxes, let us order just what we want.  We looked at the sophisticated software for individual boxes, the crew time to pack those boxes, and the chance of pickup mistakes that we are expected to remedy and those costs are huge!  We can do special orders to help you meet your needs, but for now we are pinning our hopes on our solid, members who have been able to make the transition to seasonal eating.  We hope these successful members will help us find those increasingly rare families that do cook and want to learn about new vegetables.  This is a necessary part of a successful CSA experience. In other words, rather than us transitioning to a personalized delivery service, we need to find those that will make the transition to seasonal eating.

I hesitate to say this, but here it is!  It is not just about “me,” “what I want now,” easy order, delivered to my door, now!  This may be the present climate and there are a world of companies preparing to meet that “me, now” mentality, but we are pinning our survival on a more traditional Community Supported Agriculture, where it is a two-way street of learning, new foods, etc.  Kids can come to the farm, even only once to experience picking all the strawberries they can eat or picking their own pumpkins.  We have seen, and many of you have experienced, the transformation that can come from that experience that changes lives forever.  That is our core, that is our wish.  In this day and age of “me first” please help us continue a historic connection to food and land, our land, your farm, we your farmers.
Farmer Richard and Chef Andrea

December 14, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Horseradish

Cooking With the Box

Well friends, here we are at the end of the season.  I’ve enjoyed sharing recipes and cooking ideas with you throughout the season and look forward to doing so again next year!  Lets see what delicious things we can make with this week’s box contents.

Lets start with this week’s featured vegetable, horseradish.  The Horseradish Sour Cream Dip (See below) is a nice dip to serve for holiday parties.  Make a platter with fresh vegetables or homemade vegetable chips.  Beet chips, butternut squash chips, even sweet potato chips!   If you have leftover dip, serve it with roast beef or salmon. 

Now that you’re well stocked with root vegetables, there are a lot of delicious dishes we can prepare.  Lets start with this recipe for Rustic Roasted Root Vegetable and Goat Cheese Tart.  This tart calls for parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and celery.  In place of the celery, use celeriac and feel free to substitute another root vegetable in place of any of these if you’d like.  Don’t have a rutabaga?  Substitute carrots.  This recipe for Rice Noodles with Stir-Fried Chicken,Turnips & Carrots will make good use of some of the carrots and turnips in this week’s box as well.

With the remainder of this week’s parsnips, consider making Parsnip Biscuits with Black Pepper and Honey.  Serve them for breakfast along with scrambled eggs and these Sweet Potato Maple Hash Browns.
Carrot Bacon picture from

Last week I stumbled across this recipe for Carrot Bacon.  There is no real bacon involved, rather this vegan preparation uses long strips of carrots that are seasoned with smoked paprika and baked to make a bacon-like strip.  You can munch on these as a snack or use them as a garnish for soup, grain dishes, etc.  If you have some larger carrots, those would be the ones to use for making Carrot Bacon.

Trying to figure out what to take to that New Year’s Eve party you were invited to?  How about Real Sour Cream & Onion Dip. You could serve it with Carrot Bacon!

Before we end the season, we need one more recipe for a seasonal take on pizza.  This recipe for Roasted Apple, Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Pizza uses white beans as the “sauce” base. 

Have a few sweet potatoes still hanging around?  Why not turn them into a dessert?!  Try this recipe for Deborah Madison’s Sweet Potato Flan.

Some boxes this week will contain escarole, while others will contain radicchio and/or cabbage.  If you receive escarole, consider making this recipe for Stewy White Beans with Escarole, Garlic and Sizzled Rosemary.  If you receive the radicchio, here’s a tasty recipe for Spaghetti with Radicchio & Ricotta.  Serve this on its own or add some sautéed shrimp.  Lastly, if you get cabbage in your box, check out this recipe for Roast Pork and Sweet Potatoes with Spicy Cabbage.  This recipe was recently shared by a member in our Facebook Group.

Picture of Quinoa Stuffed Squash from

 Whether you receive Festival, Carnival or Sugar Dumpling Squash, you may use any of these varieties to make Quinoa Stuffed Squash.  This recipe includes dates and pistachios.  It can stand alone as a meal or you could serve these as a side dish with a pork chop or roasted chicken.

Lastly, here’s a different way to use celeriac.  I found this recipe for a vegetarian burger made with celeriac.  Check out this recipe for Celeriac Burgers. I bet they’d be good served with either the Horseradish Sour Cream Dip (see below) or the Real Onion Dip.

That brings us to the bottom of another CSA box and the conclusion of another CSA Season.  Thank you for joining us for a seasonal eating adventure this year.  I hope you have a wonderful winter and we look forward to growing for you again next year. Next year’s sign-up form will be available on our website very soon!

-Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Horseradish

Horseradish Whips
We’ve been growing horseradish for many years, however we don’t put it into CSA boxes every year.  Horseradish is a big wholesale crop for us.  It stores amazingly well and can maintain quality for months in storage allowing us to sell it throughout the winter.  You’ll find your horseradish in this week’s box packaged in a small ziplock bag.  We are sending you a 3 oz portion of horseradish whips.  You may be wondering “What is a horseradish whip?”  The whips are my favorite part to use because they really don’t need to be peeled!  A horseradish whip is a small, skinny piece of horseradish that was cut off the main root.  They are not appropriate for a standard wholesale pack, so we trim them off, but can’t bring ourselves to throw them away because they are perfectly fine to use and are actually easier to work with than the larger root pieces!  We also save pieces that are larger than whips but smaller than the big roots we sell.  Typically pieces that are about the diameter of your finger and 10-12 inches long are saved as seed pieces that we plant in the fall for the following year’s crop.

Horseradish is in the brassica family along with cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc.  It is high in vitamin C as well as other nutrients and is used both in culinary ways as well as in medicinal applications.  Horseradish is very pungent.  It has isothiocyanates, a type of mustard oil, that are released into the air when the flesh of the horseradish root is cut. If you get a whiff of this oil, you may feel your eyes and nose burn a bit.  It’s a similar reaction as cutting into a strong onion.  When you are working with horseradish, do so in small batches and keep a window open for a little ventilation.  The compounds that give horseradish its pungent kick will volatilize into the air.  As such, horseradish is usually added to a recipe towards the end so as to preserve as much of the characteristic horseradish flavor as possible.  Vinegar also helps to stabilize horseradish.  If you’d like to have horseradish available to use in small quantities when you want some, I’d suggest making the prepared horseradish recipe featured in this week’s newsletter.  The addition of vinegar will stabilize the flavor and the horseradish will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. 

Because the flavor of horseradish can be very strong and pungent, it is used mostly as a condiment or seasoning.  It pairs well with cream, sour cream, crème fraiche, cheese, etc.  Thus, it’s often mixed with one of these dairy products to make a nice cream sauce to serve on beef or fish.  You can also use horseradish to make cocktail sauce and it pairs nicely with beets, roasted root vegetables, beef, salmon, etc. 

Don’t feel like you have to be in a hurry to use the horseradish in this week’s box.  I mentioned previously that it stores very well.  Keep it in the ziplock bag and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  If a little surface mold starts to form on the exterior, simply wipe or wash it away.  The root itself will most likely still be just fine to use.  Why is this?  Because horseradish has strong anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties so it rarely ever rots.  That’s also why it’s a healthy food to include in our diets!

Prepared Horseradish

Yield:  1—half pint jar

3 oz fresh horseradish whips
4 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
¼ tsp salt
Sugar, pinch
  1. Cut the horseradish whips into chunks and place them in the food processor.  Pulse to grind.   It will be a bit dry, something like coconut.  Add the vinegar, salt and sugar. 
  2. Have a clean and sterilized jar with a lid and canning ring available nearby.
  3. Add the vinegar, salt and sugar.  Blend to combine well.
  4. Pack the horseradish into the jar and refrigerate. 
Recipe adapted from The Kitchen Ecosystem by Eugenia Bone.

Horseradish Sour Cream Dip

Yield:  2 cups

1 cup sour cream
¾ cup peeled, cored and minced Granny Smith apple
¼ cup lightly packed grated horseradish
2 Tbsp minced onion
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshlty ground pepper
¼ cup finely snipped fresh chives  (may substitute with 2-3 tbsp dried chives)
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, apple, horseradish, onion, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chives.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld and the dip to thicken.  It can be prepared up to 1 day in advance.  Remove the refrigerator 10 minutes before serving.
This recipe was borrowed from Diane Morgan’s book, Roots.  This dip is excellent served with roasted beets, baked potatoes, toast crisps, or even just potato chips!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Follow-Up Report From Our Recent Letter to Members

by Farmer Richard

Just one of the beautiful mineral rich
fields in our secluded valley!
Several weeks ago I wrote a letter to you, our members, asking for your feedback on the future of our CSA and the direction we might take our program as we are coming up on a new year.  We have particular concern for the CSA portion of our business as our membership numbers have been declining since about 2010.  We had over 120 responses from members with many lengthy, well thought out responses and suggestions.  We also held two webinars that were very helpful.  What did we learn that could be helpful in reversing our downward sliding numbers?  Well, a lot!  Before I share some of the suggestions and thoughts we received, I want to clarify something from the letter that may have been misunderstood.  We are not in financial trouble and are not considering quitting CSA.  We have had some challenging weather events with crop losses, but we’ve worked hard to make up for some of the losses with this year’s fall crops and did have reserves to rely on.  We would like to build our CSA back to full capacity and are encouraged to do what we can to make that happen.  We have 100 acres of mineral-rich land, plus the experienced crew, the knowledge and the passion for producing nutrient dense, delicious, clean, safe food.  We have been able to keep the farm going by increasing wholesale sales when our CSA membership declined, but that market is not our first choice!  Yes, we get an occasional call or email from an appreciative burdock customer in Pennsylvania or Chicago, but what we have come to value greatly is the much more personal connection and interaction with our CSA members!  The many thank you notes, the pictures of a child eating vegetables as their first solid food, the Thank You notes and drawings from young and old ones that have visited the farm—this is your farm too and you are our best supporters.  You are what keeps us going when times are tough.  You are our community and you are what “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA) is all about.  That is what we work for and we sincerely thank you for being a part of our farm.  While we are not able to respond personally to all of the great emails we received, be sure that we read each one and have noted your suggestions. 

So here are some of the thoughts and ideas we gleaned from members’ responses:
  1. Overwhelming praise for “freshness, quality, variety, value and customer service!”  “You need to advertise that!” “People don’t know you!”
  2.  Convenience:  CSA is a huge time saving convenience over “grocery store shopping” when the pick-up site is in their neighborhood, near to their home.  We were encouraged to do recruiting around existing sites.  Many neighborhoods have a Facebook group.  It may be most effective for a member of the neighborhood to chime in and inform their neighbors of the convenient opportunity to participate in CSA in their neighborhood.
  3.  Work Place CSA Sites:  This is another way we may offer convenience and many employers offer incentives to “eat healthy” which, in the end, is a benefit to you, your employer and us!
  4. Recruitment:  Our satisfied members are our best recruitment.  “Give us an extra box to give to a prospective member.”  Done, great idea!  Just ask and supply us with contact information for follow-up and there will be 2 boxes under your name at the next pick-up, one for you and one for the person you’re introducing to CSA.  Another idea that was suggested is to do a “Trial Share,” another great idea!  We can offer a 4 box trial, pick your weeks, give us a try and then decide on a longer commitment for the remainder of the season.
  5. Easier sign-up and ordering—we have already committed to building a new website, being designed by a longtime business associate in our community.  It will be friendly to new mobile devices (no PDF documents) and we’re working towards being able to accept sign-ups online and also accept orders for our special produce plus offers online with multiple payment options.
  6. More options for “Pack your own” boxes & produce plus.  Again, offering an easier way for members to take advantage of our special offers with easy online ordering and more offerings to help customize your experience and meet your needs.  For example, maybe we could put together some special offers before the holidays to allow you to stock up for holiday meals, guests, etc.  It was also suggested that we provide more options for simple preservation, ie salsa packs, etc.
  7. More of a full meal option.  Perhaps there are more offerings we could include that would allow you to stock your pantries with high quality ingredients to use in making your meals.  Maybe we could have more opportunities to purchase maple syrup, Driftless sunflower oil, Marian Farms’ raisins & almonds or Frog Hollow Farm’s olive oil, we may even be able to make another batch of ramp cheddar cheese with Castle Rock Organic Dairy.  We have trialed and know many, many more of the best organic producers in the area and our community of producers we’ve met through our fruit share.  We are exploring the option of including an egg share with our neighbors who do a good job of producing organic eggs with nice, pasture, outdoor access. 
  8. Changing the delivery day.  Our largest decrease in CSA members is in Madison.  We have long heard from some that they do not like Saturday delivery!  So, we are considering a weekday delivery, possibly Wednesday, which would also allow us to have business drop sites.  We have one good possibility.  Could you help us find other businesses that have the potential for 20 or more boxes?    How many members and coordinators would want to change to a weekday?  Lots of questions!!!

So, these are the thoughts rolling around in our minds right now, but what can you do?  For starters, help us find new members that have the potential to learn and be successful with “seasonal eating.”  Perhaps you would be willing to mentor new members to help them make the transition to “eating out of the box.”  Perhaps you know of a business that might be interested in serving as a delivery site for their employees and possibly even opening it up to other non-employees.  Keep talking to us!  We appreciate your perspectives & ideas.  While we may not be able to do everything that is suggested, we want to explore different possibilities.  This is our business, but it’s a business with passion for helping families eat better and be healthy. 

Peak Season Vegetable share from 2017.
We realize that CSA is not for everyone, but our hope is that we can do a good job taking care of those individuals who do find it to be a good fit for their lifestyle and values.  Thanks again to everyone who took the time to send a response and share your thoughts.  We also appreciate those of you who took the time to talk to us in our webinars.  We appreciate your support and look forward to another year of CSA!  

November 30, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Storage Turnips

Cooking With The Box

We are coming up on the end of our delivery season, just two more boxes (including this week's box) before our winter break.  These last two boxes are packed full of wonderful winter vegetables, most of which will store just fine, so don’t feel pressured to eat through your box within the next two weeks. 

This week’s featured newsletter recipe, Apple & Turnip Quiche (see below), comes to us from The Birchwood Café in Minneapolis.  After discovering this recipe a year ago, it quickly became a winter favorite and I’ve made it multiple times.  It’s a great item to serve for breakfast, brunch or dinner.  It reheats very well.  It makes a great appetizer or light dinner option for holiday gatherings.  If you like quiche, you’ll like this recipe and it’s a great way to use turnips.

We’re pleased to have enough Brussels sprouts to include them in this week’s box.  Just before Thanksgiving Andrea Bemis posted this recipe for Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Dates.  Make this one while dates are readily available and enjoy the sweet, salty, smoky combo of this dish.  This would be a good side dish to serve with the Apple & Turnip Quiche.

Lets talk breakfast for a moment.  Winter is a pretty easy time to incorporate vegetables into breakfast.  A batch of Sweet Potato Morning Glory Muffins  is on my list for this week.  I’m also going to try Carrot Cake Oatmeal with Pecans.  An extra dose of beta carotene from these vegetables has got to equate to an awesome start to the day!

 There is quite a pile of sweet potatoes in this week’s box.  Definitely enough to make the muffins and have plenty remaining to make a batch of Chicken, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Stew.  Make a batch of cornbread or some rice to serve alongside and you have a simple dinner, likely with leftovers.  I also want to try this recipe for a Winter Panzanella with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Panzanella is typically made with tomatoes in the summer, but this winter version includes winter squash, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.  This salad would be great served with roasted chicken or grilled pork tenderloin.

While you have the oven on to make the Sweet Potato Morning Glory Muffins, you might as well make some Carrot Oatmeal Cookies.  We featured this in our newsletter last year.  These cookies are nice to have on hand for a sweet treat, but can also make a nice holiday cookie.  Their sweetness comes from the carrots and some maple syrup, so they are a nice alternative to some of the overly sweet Christmas cookies.

I love the versatility of carrots.  You can eat them in oatmeal for breakfast, have an afternoon snack with carrots in the form of a cookie, and still have enough remaining to make Baked Egg Rolls!  This recipe makes great use of this week’s cabbage and carrots.  It also calls for water chestnuts, but instead of using those canned ones just substitute diced sunchokes!  Sunchokes have the same crispy, crunchy texture as water chestnuts, making them a great stand in.  The author of this recipe also tells you how to freeze and reheat these eggrolls.  If you’re up to it, make a double batch so you can keep them in the freezer for one of those nights when you get home late and need a quick something to become dinner on the fly. 

After you’ve made the Apple & Turnip Quiche, there should still be some turnips remaining.  I’m going to make one of my favorite fall/winter recipes that sounds complicated by the name, but really is a nice, simple one-pan creation.  Pan Seared Pork Chops with Turnips, Apples & Cider Cream Sauce is delicious and makes a great dinner.  

Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa
served with Salmon!
With this week’s bag of beets, I am going to make these Beet Patties with Tzatziki.  While tzatziki usually contains cucumbers, make it with small diced beauty heart radishes instead!  Serve these patties with Chili-Roasted Sunchokes or skip the tzatziki entirely and serve them with Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa.  Both recipes were featured in previous newsletters. 

Most of this week’s beauty heart radishes are going towards making this beautiful Radish Salad with Orange & Goat Cheese. You can use any kind of citrus to make this salad, so if you don’t have oranges but have grapefruit (in this week’s fruit share), use those instead!  Pair this colorful salad with A Pizza in the Roman Way for a simple, yet satisfying meal.  This pizza recipe was featured in our newsletter earlier this year.  It’s very simple and is basically pizza dough covered with delicious caramelized onions! 

I came across this recipe for Onion-Beer Dip, an Edible Madison featured recipe for this fall.  They recommend serving it with vegetable chips, so why not use this week’s celeriac to make these Celeriac Chips to eat with this dip!  Eat it as a snack or take it to a holiday party for a different take on the traditional “chips & dip.” 

I told you there were a lot of vegetables in this week’s box!  What shall we do with those stunning Festival Squash?  This week the NY Times featured Melissa Clark’s recipe for Sweet & Spicy Roasted Tofu and Squash.  Melissa recommends serving it with rice, but it can stand alone for a vegetarian dinner option as well.

I think that just about brings us to the bottom of this week’s box.  I’ll see you back here next week for our final Cooking With the Box for the season! 

Vegetable Feature: Storage Turnips

Scarlet Turnips
Gold turnips

Nature has a way of giving us what we need in its appropriate season.  As we move into the winter months here in the Midwest we no longer have the luxury of eating vegetables freshly harvested from the field.  Rather, for those who choose to embrace a seasonal, local way of eating, we turn to root crops and other vegetables that will store well through the winter months.  Feel free to take your time eating through the last two boxes of the season.  There’s no rush….most items will store well for several weeks if not months.  This week we’re going to turn our attention to the humble storage turnip. 

Storage turnips are much different from the tender, mild baby white salad turnips we grow in the spring and early fall.  Storage turnips are denser, have a stronger flavor and will keep for months in cold storage.  We grow three different colors of storage turnips including the classic and familiar purple top turnips, golden turnips (in your box this week), and sweet scarlet turnips. Purple top turnips have the strongest turnip flavor while golden and sweet scarlet turnips are more mild.  Golden & sweet scarlet turnips are our two preferred varieties, which is why we’ve chosen them for your last two boxes of the season!

Turnips are sometimes a challenging vegetable for CSA members to embrace.  I’ve heard longtime members say “I can conquer everything in the box, but those late season turnips are a challenge for me!”  Perhaps you have memories of strong-flavored, overcooked, unpleasant turnips lingering in your mind or just find the unfamiliarity of a turnip intimidating.  I hope you’ll approach turnips with an open mind this year as they have a lot of great qualities and a wide variety of uses.  If you’re still learning how to use and appreciate turnips, use them in recipes where they are combined with other ingredients as opposed to being cooked on their own. 

Turnips are often paired with bacon, ham, apples, cheese, cider, cream, garlic, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and lemon as well as other root vegetables.  They make a delicious addition to winter soups, stews, and pot pies.  They may be used in root vegetable gratins, winter stir-fries, fried rice, etc.  While turnips may seldom be the star ingredient, they provide more of a background flavor that, if missing, will leave your eater wondering what’s different!  This week’s recipe for Apple & Turnip Quiche is excellent and I encourage you to try it.  It’s a well-balanced dish where the richness of the eggs and dairy along with the sweetness of the apples balance the turnip flavor.  As with all vegetables in the brassicas family, heed my warning to not overcook them!  The sulfur compounds in turnips and other brassicas can be very overpowering if you overcook them, which is why some people may have bad memories of turnips!

Turnips should be stored in a plastic bag or container in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.  I seldom peel turnips, however if you find their flavor to be more pungent than your liking, peeling may help decrease some of the characteristic turnip bite.  Also, with extended time in storage you may find some turnips may develop some browning due to oxidation or some surface scarring, which is sometimes a reason to peel the turnip.  The defect is often only on the surface and the rest of the turnip is totally usable.  If your turnips start to dehydrate a little bit in storage, either rehydrate them in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator or cut them up and put them in a stew or soup.

We hope you’ll choose to embrace turnips this year and try some new and different ways to prepare them.  In addition to this week’s newsletter recipe, there are several more delicious and creative turnip recipes on our website including Pan Seared Pork Chops with Turnips, Apples & Cider Cream Sauce and Roasted Turnip Ganoush.  

Apple Turnip Quiche

Yield:  6 to 8 servings
“Sweet, tart apple makes a nice foil to turnip’s sharper edge in this wintery quiche.  Sometimes we use celery root instead of turnip, and rutabaga works nicely as well.”

Basic Pastry Crust
1 ⅓ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 oz cold cream cheese, cut into pieces
2 to 3 Tbsp ice water

Quiche Filling
1 ½ cups small diced apple (peeled & cored)
2 cups small diced turnip
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
5 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups whole milk
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

  1. First, prepare the pastry crust.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar.  Cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour mixture to make coarse crumbs.  Stir in just enough ice water to bring the mixture together.  Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in parchment paper, and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before rolling it out. (Note:  This step may be done a day or two in advance.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Roll out the pastry dough and fit it into a deep 9-inch pie pan.  Line the crust with parchment paper, and weight it with pie weights or dried beans to keep the crust from forming an air bubble.  Parbake the crust for about 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set the crust aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the apples and turnips with the oil and spread them out on a baking sheet.  Roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the apples are soften and the turnips just begin to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Set the apples and turnips aside.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, salt, pepper, and thyme, and stir in ½ cup of the cheese.  Stir in the apples and turnips.  Place the prebaked crust on a baking sheet and carefully pour the filling into the crust.  Top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese.  Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven.  Bake the quiche until the filling is just set but still moist, about 40 minutes.  The quiche should jiggle a little in the middle.  Let the quiche cool on a rack before cutting it.  Serve at room temperature.

Chef Andrea’s Notes:  This is my favorite recipe in The Birchwood Café Cookbook by Tracy Singleton and Marshall Paulsen.  This recipe represents what The Birchwood Café in Minneapolis, MN does best---cook seasonally with what’s available at that time in the Midwest.  In the intro to this recipe they also recommend making this recipe with celeriac or rutabaga in place of turnip.
This has become one of my staple winter recipes.  Sometimes I make it as written, but I’ve also prepared it with a few of my own adaptations.
  • Add crumbled cooked bacon to the egg and milk mixture. 
  • Layer 8 ounces of browned ground pork in the bottom of the pastry crust before pouring the filling on top. 
  • In place of Gruyere cheese I’ve used Gouda, cheddar, or a combination of one of these mixed with some smoked cheddar.