Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sweet Potatoes

By Farmer Richard

Sweet potatoes are a tropical plant originating in South America. The remnants of sweet potatoes have been found in Peru dating back 10,000 years and there is evidence of cultivation in Central America at least 5,000 years ago. Cultivated sweet potatoes spread to New Zealand, Polynesia and Africa. Today, Uganda is the second largest producer of sweet potatoes behind China.  In this country, sweet potatoes have been traditionally grown in the southeast. North Carolina is the leading producer, with California in second and Louisiana and Mississippi also being significant producers. 

Southern farms ‘plant’ selected sweet potatoes taken from last year’s harvest pretty close together in a bed of sawdust or peat moss.  The tubers send up green shoots which are cut off (called slips) and sent to us in bundles of 25 each.  They don’t look very good when we get them, but if we get them planted promptly, most of them will grow! 

Sweet potato blossoms
Farmer Richard digging sweet potatoes at our Harvest Party!
Researchers continue to experiment with new varieties. A new variety is created by cross pollinating flowers and planting 2 – 4 seeds that a flower produces.  We continue to trial them when the slips are available to us.  Our favorite slip producer is New Sprout Organic Farms. This year they offered some new varieties that we trialed. As we dug them this year, we looked at ‘marketable yield’, like tuber shape, set (how many tubers per plant), and color, both inside and out. Varieties ‘set’ 6-8 tubers in a banana like cluster from the main stem.  If 5-6 grow to a nice shapely size, it will be a good yield.  If only 2 or 3 fill out and one a 4 pound jumbo, maybe not as good.  It may be a photo opportunity at our harvest party when a 40 pound child joyfully lifts out a 5 pound sweet potato, but those jumbo’s may intimidate other CSA members who may not know how to cook a ‘monster’ that size or know how easily it will reheat in the oven. So, we try to avoid the ‘monsters’ by planting some varieties closer together, like 8 inches versus 12 inch to keep them to a manageable size!  Every variety has its learning curve. And of course every year has different growing conditions, so varieties need careful evaluation over time!



Plastic bed ready for sweet potatoes!
Newly planted sweet potato slip
Around the world there are 1,000’s of different sizes, colors and shapes of sweet potatoes, from white to yellow and orange to deep purple. But, since they are a tropical plant, we are very limited in what we can grow in Wisconsin. First, we use a system of dark colored plastic on a raised bed to hold extra heat in the ground and the plastic limits the rain water to a plant that thrives on limited moisture. We are limited to the varieties that will mature in 90-110 day range. That eliminates the purple flesh and white flesh varieties that we have tasted and would like to grow, but only produce stringy ½ inch thick roots when we tried them.  Andrea wants to develop our own breeding program for them since no one that we know is working on that! While we may have limited options to choose from, some of the new varieties from sweet potato breeding programs from North Carolina and Louisiana do/may work for us. We have several new varieties this year that we could use your help in evaluating!  We need a certain level of successful yield of shapely, not too big not too small tubers, but we also value flavor!


Once we were limited to only ‘Georgia Jet’ variety that would produce sizable yield in the North, but oh so ugly! Then came ‘Beauregard’ which, if planted close (8 inches), yielded pounds but had limited numbers of nice “saleable” shapely potatoes.  The plus to Beauregard is that it had good flavor! Then we found ‘Covington’, gave it 12 inch spacing and we got a much higher percentage of shapely tubers but don’t forget the flavor! We like naturally sweet sweet potatoes without added sugar or even maple syrup. We like the deep orange flesh color which has higher lycopene. But, there are other factors to consider. Different varieties of sweet potatoes have very different levels of at least 3 sugars, sucrose, maltose, and fructose. Each gives us a different perception of sweetness and they have different flavor profiles.   The sugars also change during the curing process.  Curing, yes that is also very important!

Harvesting sweet potatoes

Because Sweet potatoes are tropical, they are a perennial and never stop growing, so when we harvest them, their skin is very thin and delicate and can come off or be broken with any rough handling.  We gently lift and pull the banana-like cluster by the stem from the soil.  Then each bunch is placed (with cotton gloves) into the crate that will transport it to the ‘curing’ room.  Curing is a process we put the sweet potatoes through where we hold them at a high temperature of 85-90°F with 90-95% humidity to thicken the skin and heel any harvest scrapes.  The curing process also concentrates and converts the sugars. We measure the sugar with a refractometer and with the older varieties we generally see a Brix (unit of measurement) of 3-6% directly out of the field.  After 7 days curing, the Brix level increases to 10-12%.  That is a sugar level that I think says “add only a little butter and it is delicious!”

So, our ‘from the field’ Brix test on our new trial varieties is quite interesting!  Our recent ‘standard’ ‘Covington’ came in at the usual 3-5%, but several of the new varieties came in at 8-10% Brix. Wow, if that doubles in storage we have a whole new ballgame!  However, I was very surprised to measure the Brix after 6 days of curing and found that two of the varieties that originally had high levels had dropped!  What’s going on!?  The best I can conclude is that it’s not just a matter of looking at total sugars in the potato.  It depends on which sugars are in the potato and their ratios.  Sucrose gives us a stronger sense of sweetness, so even if the overall sugars are lower in a potato with a high percentage of sucrose, it might be perceived as being sweeter than another variety that had a high Brix level.  The bottom line is we have to eat them and evaluate each variety individually.  Please help us evaluate these new varieties!  There are other factors that Brix readings cannot account for. Differing levels of the different forms of sugar also may lend different flavor qualities to the different potatoes.  Also, when doing the pre-curing Brix test, I noticed quite a difference in texture, like when in the garlic press to squeeze them for juice for the refractometer; some were soft and juicy while others were much firmer and dry. These factors may affect cooking time and you may consider one texture more desirable than another. We want to know your observations; even a simple email would be appreciated.

Chart of Farmer Richard’s Brix testing. He tested two potatoes from each variety, each of those test numbers are listed in the corresponding cell.
Variety Name
Pre-Curing Brix Number
6 day Curing Brix Number
Richard’s visual notes
Covington
4.5/2.5
8.0
Light Orange
Bellevue
7.5/7.5
4.0
Dark orange/tan skin & small, but good yield
Burgundy
9.0/8.5
8.0….hmmm
Intense orange/ dark burgundy skin
Orleans
10.0/8.0

Orange/red
Carolina Ruby
8.5/9.0

Orange/dark red/some rot

Can we develop our own regional sweet potato variety, absolutely yes! Do we need a global distribution network with unknown inputs and unknown or known consequences, absolutely not! We can eat the best from our region with known inputs and know how it affects our environment and our fellow human beings!

October 19, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweet Potatoes




Cooking With This Week's Box

After a year without sweet potatoes, we’re super excited to be sending sweet potatoes in your box this week!  Where do we start with cooking?  There are so many things we could make with sweet potatoes!  Don’t worry, we’ll be sending them for most of the remaining boxes, so you’ll have plenty of time to make all your favorite recipes and maybe try a few new ones!  This week we’re pretty busy with harvest so I’m keeping things a bit more on the simple side.  The Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad (See below) is pretty easy to make.  You just toss roasted sweet potatoes with a simple, but flavorful vinaigrette and eat it at room temperature.  I think I’ll roast a chicken and serve the Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad with the chicken and this simple recipe for Moroccan Couscous.   The currants and pine nuts in the couscous will go nicely with the sweet potatoes. 

We are finishing off our last crop of broccoli raab which will give me a chance to make Alice Water’s  Pizza with Broccoli Raab and Roasted Onions and Olives.  I think this would be good with a few little sautéed shrimp on top.  We need something to go along with the pizza, but we already have our greens on the pizza.  I think I’ll go with this simple French Grated Carrot Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette.  I like simple carrot salads for several reasons.  First, when the carrots are flavorful and sweet on their own, you don’t need to do much to them so keeping it simple is better. The other thing I like about carrot salads is that you can put the dressing on and it doesn’t get soggy like a greens salad does.  You know I’m a fan of taking leftovers for lunch the next day, and this type of salad works great for that purpose. 

Ok, we’ve done Moroccan and we’ve had a taste of France, now lets move into Indian cuisine!  I have pretty limited experience with Indian food, but am intrigued by the different styles of Indian cooking and the spices they use.  The food is much different than what I grew up with in the Midwest!  When I was in college, one of my neighbors in the dorm was from India and invited me to attend one of their traditional celebrations.  It was wonderful to experience their culture and I was overwhelmed by the delicious food they served.  In my feeble attempt to learn more about this cuisine and culture, I try to dabble a little with some of the easy adaptations as I build my comfort level and slowly learn more about this part of the world.  So that whole explanation leads me to this recipe for Indian Creamed Spinach.  Richard really likes creamed spinach, so I thought I’d try this variation.  The recipe calls for 16 oz of spinach, but the bag of spinach in this week’s box is only 8 oz.  You can either cut the recipe in half or use the green tops from the beet greens to make up the difference.   This recipe has a little heat in it, which can come from using either the jalapeno or guajillo in your box.  I’ll probably serve this with the leftover roasted chicken and some steamed basmati rice.

Recipe courtesy of foodiecrush.com
I think this is the week to make homemade Beet Chips! Any color of beet will work for beet chips, but the Chioggia beets are especially fun to prepare this way.  Most recipes just tell you to put the sliced beets on a sheet try, but I often put them on a rack on top of the sheet tray.  If you have a baking rack and can do this, it helps keep them get crispy.  These will be our Sunday evening snack that we’ll probably just eat with a simple sandwich as we’re making our plans for the crew.

What are we going to do with the squash this week?!  Well the honeynut butternut squash is an easy one.  These are so sweet and flavorful, you really don’t need to do anything more than to just cut them in half and bake them.  After they’re baked I usually just top them with a pat of butter, salt, pepper and occasionally a little bit of cinnamon or nutmeg.  This actually makes a very delicious breakfast item! 

This recipe for Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai with Cashew Ginger Sauce caught my eye, so I think I’ll give it a try this week.  I already used shrimp on my pizza, so I’ll probably substitute thinly sliced sirloin steak in place of the seafood.  This is a meal on its own!
I’ve had Fish Chowder on my mind lately.  The waxy gold-fleshed potatoes in this week’s box are perfect for this type of chowder. Serve a bowl of hot chowder alongside a fresh arugula salad with bread or crackers and you’re set. 

The last item in our box to use is the broccoli/cauliflower.  I love roasted broccoli and cauliflower, so I’m going to jazz up this concept this week with this Balsamic and Honey Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower. This will make a nice accompaniment to a seared steak or pork chop.

And that’s a wrap for this week!  What’s the next exciting vegetable coming up in the box?  Well, it may not be in next week’s box, but we’ll be harvesting Brussels sprouts before long!  That should give most of you something to look forward to this week.  I hope you have a good week and create some delicious meals!

—Chef Andrea


Featured Vegetable:  Sweet Potatoes

This week we’re excited to be packing sweet potatoes in your boxes!  Sweet potatoes are an important part of our fall and winter diets.  If stored properly you can eat sweet potatoes all winter! The ideal storage temperature for sweet potatoes is 55-65°F.  They can get chill injury if stored at temperatures below 55°F, so if you don’t have the perfect location to store them at their ideal temperature, it’s better to store them on your countertop in the kitchen instead of putting them in the refrigerator. 


Peanut & Sweet Potato Soup

Sweet potatoes are less starchy and more sweet and moist than a regular potato and have a wide variety of uses.  You can simply bake them whole until fork tender and eat the flesh right out of the skin.  They are also delicious cut into bite-sized pieces and roasted or cut them into wedges or thin slices and make roasted fries or chips.  If you’re going to do this, it’s best to put the wedges or slices of sweet potatoes on a rack in a pan.  If you do this, the air and heat from the oven can better circulate on all sides of the sweet potato making it more crispy and less soggy.  Sweet potatoes also make delicious, hearty soups and stews.  One of my favorite sweet potato recipes is for a Peanut & Sweet Potato Soup that we featured in a previous newsletter.  Another favorite sweet potato recipe is for Sweet Potato and Kim Chi Pancakes.  This is a recipe that was shared with me by a CSA member and I look forward to making it every year.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you really should.  Don’t be afraid to eat sweet potatoes at room temperature or even cold in salads such as the Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad (See below)recipe featured in this week’s newsletter.

Sweet potatoes can also be incorporated into baking.  Sweet potato pie is a decadent way to eat a vegetable.  If you’re going to make pie, consider this Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping featured at MarthaStewart.com.   It’s delicious served with Bourbon Whipped Cream.  You can also use sweet potatoes to make biscuits, rolls, quick breads, cookies, bars, cheesecake and more! 

Sweet potatoes pair well with a wide variety of ingredients, which makes them so versatile in their use.  They pair very well with apples and pears as well as other root vegetables, bitter fall greens, dried beans and greens such as kales.  They also go very well with coconut, ginger, chiles, butter, cream, citrus and nuts of any kind.

This year we have several different trial varieties.  If you haven’t read Farmer Richard’s main article for this week, please take a minute to do so.  In his newsletter he discusses the different varieties we’ve grown.  We’ll identify the variety in each week’s newsletter.  We’re looking for member feedback about the different varieties so we can decide what to plant next year!  As we go through the remainder of the season, pay attention to the different varieties and let us know what you think! 


Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad

Yield:  6 servings

2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
⅓ cup plus 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¾ tsp kosher or fine sea salt
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
⅓ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F.  
  2. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with the 2 Tbsp oil and ¼ tsp of the salt.  Transfer the sweet potatoes to a large rimmed baking sheet and spread them out in an even layer. (Set the bowl aside to use for tossing the cooked potatoes).  Roast the potatoes, stirring once at the midpoint of roasting, until they are tender when pierced with a fork but still hold their shape, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, and the remaining ½ tsp salt.  Whisk in the remaining ⅓ cup oil.   Add the parsley and cilantro and stir to combine.
  4. When the potatoes are ready, return them to the large bowl.  Add the vinaigrette and toss gently.  Add the almonds if you are planning to serve the salad within a few hours;  otherwise, toss them in just before serving so they stay crisp.  Serve at room temperature.  The salad can be made up to 2 days in advance, covered, and refrigerated.  Remove from the refrigerator 2 hours before serving.
This recipe was borrowed from Roots by Diane Morgan.

Coconut Pan-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

2 pounds of sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp coconut oil
Sea Salt, to taste
Maldon sea salt, for finishing
  1. Scrub the sweet potatoes, then peel and chop them into cubes a scant inch across.
  2. Warm the oil in an 8-inch or 10-inch sauté pan.  Add the sweet potatoes, turn them about to coat, and season with a few pinches salt.  Put a lid on the pan, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 20 minutes in all, giving the pan a shake every now and then to turn the potatoes.  Taste a piece and if they’re not yet soft, continue to cook a few minutes longer or until they are tender and browned.  Serve with flaky sea salt.  
This simple recipe was borrowed from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  

2017 Autumn Meat Information

Our fall meat deliveries are coming up soon with the first delivery on November 9/10/11!  We do still have Beef & Pork packages available for our November delivery and quite a lot still available for purchase for delivery December 7/8/9

If you choose to include meat in your diet, we hope you’ll consider trying our meat products this fall.  We feel it’s important for anyone who eats meat to make informed decisions with their meat purchases, so in order to do that here are a few important facts about the meat we raise.

Certified Organic:  All of our animals, pastures and feed are certified organic by MOSA.  That means we do not use GMO alfalfa, herbicides, pesticides, growth hormones or antibiotics.
 
 Grass-Fed Red Angus Beef:  Our beef cattle are 100% grass-fed.  They graze our mineral-rich pastures during the spring, summer and fall.  During the winter we feed dry hay and haylege which were harvested from our pastures and fields this past summer and stored for use during the winter.


Pastured-Pork:  Our pigs spend their days roaming their pasture hillsides where they use their snouts to forage for roots and snack on wild apples, nuts, and other wild plants they find in the woods.  They also receive a certified organic grain blend twice daily as well as vegetable scraps from the packing shed.  They especially enjoy spinach, beets, tomatoes and squash.
 
Animal Welfare:  We place great importance on the humane treatment of our animals and offer them the utmost respect and care for their wellbeing.  We do our best to provide a natural, calm environment for them to live in where they do not experience stress or have limitations to their instinctual behaviors. 
 

Join Our Meat Club:  Enjoy the convenience of our meat club offering.  With one purchase you will sign up for 3 meat deliveries in November, December and May.  You can start at any time and in addition to the convenience of a one-time purchase, we’ve built in a 5% discount on your purchase!
 
Fresh, Frozen:  All of our meat is freshly frozen and delivered to your CSA site in a reusable, thick-walled Styrofoam cooler.  You can store your meat purchase in your freezer and enjoy it throughout the winter with peace of mind knowing who your farmer is and where your meat came from!
 
Ledebuhr Meat Processing:  Our animals are processed at Ledebuhr Meat Processing in Winona, MN.  They are a small-scale meat processing plant that is both certified organic and USDA inspected.  There is a USDA inspector in the facility who inspects every carcass individually.
 

Concerned about freezer storage space?  If you’re limited on freezer space, consider some of our smaller 15# & 25# packages.  This picture demonstrates the space a 25# package of meat would take up in a standard home refrigerator with a freezer on top. 
 
Additional questions?  If you have other questions we have not answered here, please feel free to call or email!

For more information about any of our packages, please see our order form website.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Labor and the Cost of Food

By Farmer Richard de Wilde

Captain Jack and Rafael chillin out at lunch time!






Chef/Farmer Andrea and I work very hard to make it all happen, to set the standards for our farm and to lead the way.  But there would be a very different HVF if it were not for Kelly, Scott, Simon, Gerardo, Beatriz, Rafael and his brothers, JMC, Juan and every other person on our crew.  Our core group of employees has been the same for 5, 10, and some approaching 20 years.  Their years of experience and expertise are what make this farm “work” and they are dedicated to continuing to keep this farm going into the future because, as many of them say, “it is the best job they have ever had!”  From our perspective, they are the best work force we have ever had!

Here’s a little history for you.  Labor costs on our vegetable farm make up roughly half (50%) of gross revenue.  Hiring and managing that labor force occupies more than 50% of our time.  It takes a full year of on-the-job experience for a new crew member to learn how our farm operates.  Once they enter the second year of experience, they really start to build skills and build on their initial training investment.  Thus, we are really looking for long term crew members who will be with us for more than one or two seasons.  Over the forty plus years I have farmed, I have had many different employees.  “Interns” who work only one season for low pay and to gain experience, older Laotian Hmong people who had few other job opportunities, local high school and college students who start too late and leave just when our peak fall season starts, not very workable!  The inmates from the Vernon County jail work program were very dependable!  That is until they got out of jail and could not make it to work on time for even 5 days in a row!  We’ve also had many excellent employees that were with us for a season or two and showed great potential.  However, just when they were really becoming established on the farm, they chose to leave to pursue other opportunities and experiences. 

Our farm is very complex with about 150 crops planted over about a 25 week period.  Each crop has its own specifications and requires specific skills and expertise, which means there is a lot to learn!  We need and thrive when we have a stable, trained, dedicated and long term work force.  Unfortunately, our local community has not been able to provide that!  As part of the H2A visa process, we have to advertise our farm worker positions in great detail for several weeks in our local newspapers and on the WI job center website. We also have to post that position in newspapers in three different states as required by the United Sates Department of Labor.  This year was typical of the other years.  We only had two local young men with farming experience apply.  We hired both to start on the following Monday.  Neither showed up or even had the courtesy to call and explain!  This is not just a tractor driving job, but tractor driving is necessary.  We would never be able to staff our farm with individuals from our local or surrounding areas.  In contrast, our crew members who come to us through the H2A visa program are dependable and, in situations such as this week, exceed our expectations.  This week we had a crew of guys who finished our sweet potato harvest in two days despite working the last 3 hours in a light rain with mud building up on their boots, wet and cold.  Nonetheless, they finished the harvest with pride!  The sweet potatoes are safely stored in the greenhouse and the curing process has begun! 

This is the part of the conversation where we need to bring the Zuniga, Cervantes and Rodriguez families into the conversation!  They started working on our farm in the mid-90’s and in 1998 we were able to bring them here on H2A visas (agricultural guest worker program).  While many of the country’s vegetable workers are “undocumented,” the H2A visa program is the only legal way for farm workers to work in the U.S. aside from permanent residency.  Starting in 1998 we set out to learn the complexities of the H2A visa program so our workers could come and go legally while working here.  This allowed them to cross the border and return legally if they needed to and it has proven very important to many crew members who have gone home for the birth of a child, to attend funerals, see loved ones who may be ill, attend their children’s graduations, etc.  Unfortunately it is a very difficult and agonizing process.  We started by paying $5,000 to an agency to do the paperwork, but quickly learned that we could do it better.  Kelly and I, with help from Omar, a lawyer who works in Mexico, have been successful in bringing our present work force back each year.  It is very expensive and complicated.  We have to provide free housing, transportation to and from Mexico as well as to and from work each day, and we cover all the visa fees.  Once we put all of the expenses associated with this program together, the reality is that these workers have a cost of about $16 per hour.  This makes it very hard to compete in the wholesale market as we are trying to be competitive with other growers who may be paying $8.00 per hour, use contract labor, hire illegally, etc.  It is a challenge, but our dedicated crew totally “gets it”.  They need to be fast and efficient so we can compete and have high quality food and please our CSA members and other customers.  They are invested in making our farm “work” so they can continue to have a long term job!
2016 Crew Picture
Our current crew is the best work force we have ever had.  It is easy to show them respect because they deserve and earn it and it’s a welcome change from other jobs they have had that require a “yes, sir” to their employer.  At HVF they enjoy the opportunity to improve our processes, improve efficiency so much that we can almost compete with the other lower cost labor options.  It is a constant challenge in the whole sale market place.  In our CSA, the same efficiencies have allowed us to continue to deliver $1200-$1500 value for less than $1000 for a weekly vegetable share. 

Most of you as CSA members are in the workforce or have been in the work force.  You work hard to provide for your families.  For your health, we hope you value and purchase organic food, household and body care products.  As you make your purchases, we encourage you to not forget the people that produce these products for you! 

We are one out of only a few farms/companies who seek to change the world and strive to care for a healthy environment with healthy people as well as a healthy “respect” for those who work very hard to make sure we all have wholesome food to eat.  Will you continue to support them and others like them with your purchases or will you choose to support a system that is built on a cheap price and keeps the story of the food and its origin a mystery?

Right now there is a bill called the “Ag Jobs” bill in the House of Representatives.  This program is being proposed as a replacement for the H2A visa program and would instead be called H2C.  As currently proposed it would be a boon to employers, but not for workers.  The cost of the labor would be less for us as employers, but our employees would not benefit from the program.  We’ll keep you posted as that bill progresses. 

Our country has a long history of “cheap” food which comes only by exploiting someone along the supply chain with “cheap” compensation. There has been a shortage of “cheap” labor because of increased border security and raids on farms and businesses to expose illegal employees.  So something like 30% of fruit and vegetable production has moved south of the border, including organic production! As we consider what we want the future of our food system to be, we can’t overlook the topic of labor.  We must consider the “real” cost of producing fruits and vegetables and compensate fairly.  Will enough consumers be willing to pay the real price of food?  This is just one of many issues that goes into each and every purchasing decision you make, and your choices do make a difference!
Manuel, Rafael, Jose Alejandro, and Alvaro Morales Peralta
As we continue to explore this topic as well as others that impact the future of our food supply, there are a few resources we’d like to recommend.  Food First just published a book entitled A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism:  Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat, written by Eric Holt-Giménez.  We hope to receive our copy soon and will likely report more about the ideas in this book in the future.  Another book by Food First that you might be interested in reading is entitled Land Justice:  Re-imagining Land, Food, and the Commons in the United States.  This book is an anthology edited by Justine M. Williams and Eric Holt-Giménez.  Lastly, we recently watched a newly released documentary entitled, The Road to Ruin or the Path to Prosperity.  This movie was produced by Dr. Pedram Shojai and is currently available for free online screening.  You can find out more about this film and how to view it at Well.org.  The film takes a close look at how our individual choices as consumers can have a big impact on our world and our future.  It takes a look at some of the positive things companies and individuals are doing to point our future in a more positive direction and empowers each individual to look at their own choices and lifestyles to impact the world positively.  While this film does include a look at food systems, it goes beyond just food. 

October 12, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Broccoli Raab & Spaghetti Squash


Cooking With This Week's Box

Welcome back for another week of Cooking With the Box.  After this week we only have 6 more CSA boxes!  How are we going to fit all the vegetables we still want to send you in just 6 boxes!  I’m excited to be transitioning to fall cooking and seeing the sweet potatoes piled in the greenhouse after this week’s harvest makes me even more ready!  Pull out your favorite sweet potato recipes…they’ll be in your box within the next few weeks! 

Lets start off with Broccoli Raab,  one of the bunching greens in this week’s box.  If you aren’t familiar with this green, take a minute to read more about it on our blog and/or in the newsletter.  It goes very well with garlic and pasta, which is why I recommend using it to make the pasta recipe in this week’s newsletter, Garlicky Pasta with Broccoli Raab (see below).  I adapted this recipe to include a few more vegetables, shredded carrots and sweet peppers, which add some color and sweetness to the dish.  Of course there’s lots of garlic as well!  Don’t forget to serve this dish with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Our second featured vegetable this week is Spaghetti Squash.  This week I’m going to try Sarah Britton’s recipe for Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Crispy Sage (See below).  This is an interesting way to use spaghetti squash, but will yield a little crispy patty that can be a main entrée or a side dish.  Spaghetti squash is much different than the other squash in your box this week, kabocha squash.  I found a delicious recipe for Miso Glazed Kabocha Squash on the Johnny’s Seed website when I was looking up seed information last week!  I didn’t expect to find a recipe on a seed company website, but it’s a tasty looking recipe and they even made a video to demonstrate how to prepare this dish!

Pizza with Arugula Pesto, Butternut Squash and Apples
The second bunching green in this week’s box is bunched arugula.  I have to admit, up until a year ago I seldom if ever ate full sized arugula as I found the flavor to be too strong.  Last year I tried using it to make Arugula Pesto and it was fabulous!  The pungency of the arugula pairs well with cheese, meat, fruit, etc.  The bite of the arugula stands up to the fat and acidity and the combination of the three is delicious.  Don’t worry, the arugula mellows out a bit in the pesto.  I like to use arugula pesto as a spread on a sandwich or a cracker along with cream cheese and/or smoked salmon or prosciutto.  You can also toss it with cooked pasta for a quick dinner, mix it into scrambled eggs, or even use it as the base for a pizza.  In the same newsletter where you’ll find the recipe for the arugula pesto there is a recipe for a Pizza with Arugula Pesto, Butternut Squash and Apples.  You could substitute the kabocha squash for butternut squash if this pizza sounds good to you this week.

I was poking around the Smitten Kitchen blog this week and found several delicious recipes including this one for Carrot Tahini Muffins.  I like carrot cake and I like tahini, I just never would’ve put the two together!  We’ll probably enjoy some of these with breakfast and save a few for afternoon snacks.  This recipe will use about half of the bag of carrots, so you’ll still have enough to include in the pasta recipe cited above.  I don’t bake very often, but for some reason I’m in the mood to do so this week!  While you have the flour and mixing bowls out, you might as well make a batch of Jalapeño Cheddar Scones. This is another recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog.  These would go great with breakfast or brunch alongside fluffy scrambled eggs, or serve them with a bowl of hot, cream of potato soup!

Since we mentioned potato soup, we might as well tackle the potatoes in this week’s box next!  My mom used to make this Hearty Potato Soup recipe that she clipped out of one of her Taste of Home magazines years ago.  It’s chunky and nourishing making it perfect to serve for dinner on a cool fall night.  If you have any potatoes left, cut them into chunks and roast them along with mini sweet peppers and onions.  This is one of my favorite roasted potato variations that I often make for breakfast or brunch or for dinner along with roasted chicken, a grilled steak, or even a simple hamburger!  If you have any mini sweet peppers remaining, don’t forget to take them with you to work for lunch or an afternoon snack.  Fill them with hummus or cream cheese if you want to kick it up a notch. 

We’re happy to have some very nice fall spinach to send your way this week.  The baby beets in this week’s box will be a great accompaniment to the spinach in this Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese & Beets.  Garnish the salad with toasted walnuts for a little crunch and if you want to get really fancy you could candy the nuts! 

We’ve had a pretty nice run on late summer/early fall broccoli and cauliflower.  I hope you’ve had a chance to try some new recipes using these two familiar vegetables.  If you have broccoli in your box this week, consider trying this recipe for Spicy Roasted Broccoli with Almonds. This is a recipe by Sarah Britton that dresses roasted broccoli with a dressing made with garlic, ginger, olive oil and a hot chili of your choosing….jalapeño would work.  If you have cauliflower in your box, you might want to go with this recipe for Cauliflower Slaw.   It has dried currants and crispy fried capers in it and is dressed with a light vinaigrette made with lemon juice and vinegar.  This recipe is also garnished with toasted almonds. 

We’ve reached the bottom of the box yet again.  I wanted to mention that I love when members share recipes with us.  If you have any favorite “go-to” recipes for fall vegetables and wouldn’t mind sharing them with us, we’d love to see what you’re cooking!  Either email them to csa@harmonyvalleyfarm.com or post them in our Facebook group.  I’ll see you back here next week with an update on how the “curing” process is going with the sweet potatoes.  Farmer Richard is hopeful they’ll be ready for next week’s boxes, but we don’t want to rush the process either.  We want them to be sweet and delicious for your first taste!  Have a great week and I hope you enjoy your time in the kitchen.
—Chef Andrea 

Featured Vegetables of the Week:  Broccoli Raab & Spaghetti Squash

Broccoli Raab
Broccoli Raab was one of the vegetables members requested on the survey we conducted at the end of last year.  You asked for it and here it is!  There are two bunching greens in this week’s box, the broccoli raab and bunched arugula. They look a bit similar, but you can tell the difference between the two by first noticing the color.  Broccoli raab is darker green and the arugula has a lighter, lime green color.  Broccoli raab also has thicker stems that resemble broccoli stems and if you look in the center of the stem you’ll likely see some small broccoli florets pushing up.  Broccoli raab is in the brassica family and has a mild mustard flavor with a slight bitterness.  We like to grow broccoli raab in the fall when the flavor is more mild and well-balanced.  You can eat nearly the entire bunch including the stems.  Sometimes the lower portion of a thick stem can get a little tough so you may need to discard the bottom inch or so if you find this to be the case. 


Broccoli raab is a popular Italian vegetable, but is also found in Asian cuisine as well.  It is often used in pasta and pizza dishes paired with sweet Italian sausage, garlic and cheese.  Nothing wrong with a combination of those ingredients!  While you can eat broccoli raab raw, it is most often cooked.  It’s tender enough that it doesn’t require a very long cooking time.  It can be boiled, steamed or sautéed.  In Italian cooking, you may find recipes that have longer cooking times to ensure the leaves and stem are very soft and tender.  Many times this preparation is done with a lot of garlic and olive oil.  I prefer the bright, light flavor of broccoli raab so usually just cook it long enough to wilt it and soften the leaves. 

If you taste a bit of the leaf in its raw form and don’t care for the bitterness, try cooking it before you rule it out.  When cooked, the flavor of broccoli raab mellows out.  It also becomes more balanced if prepared with a splash of vinegar at the end. 

Spaghetti Squash
The second vegetable we’re featuring from this week’s box is Spaghetti Squash.  Last week we featured kabocha squash and, while they are both classified as winter squash, they are very different.  Spaghetti squash will store for awhile, but it’s not known for long term storage into the deep of winter which is why we often deliver this one in October and/or early November.  The variety of spaghetti squash we grow is a smaller variety than some others you may see at the market.  We like the smaller, golden yellow varieties called Angel Hair and Small Wonder because of their more manageable size and because the flesh is more flavorful.  The seeds in a spaghetti squash are tender enough to eat.  If you’ve never cleaned and toasted squash seeds before, give them a try.  It’s not hard to clean and prepare them and the crispy, crunchy seeds make a nice snack or garnish for salads and soups.  Visit The Kitchn website where they have a nice article with pictures entitled How to Roast Pumpkin & Squash Seeds.” 

Squash and Leek Skillet Gratin
To prepare spaghetti squash, first cut it in half and bake it in the oven.  I usually bake it cut side down in a baking dish with a little bit of water in the bottom or the pan.  You can also bake it cut side up with the cut side brushed with some oil to give more of a roasted flavor.  Before you bake it, take a spoon and scrape out the seed cavity so you can save the seeds for roasting.  Bake the squash until it is fork tender, then remove it from the oven.  Once it’s cool enough to handle, use a fork to pull the flesh out of the shell.  The flesh of the spaghetti squash is just as its name indicates, stringy like spaghetti!  Once cooked, you can use the flesh in a variety of ways.  It makes a nice substitute for pasta and sometimes I like it simply sautéed with butter, garlic and fresh herbs.  There are some recipes, many in the paleo diet community, that use spaghetti squash as the “crust”-like base for dishes that are like a savory baked pie.  One of my favorite ways to prepare spaghetti squash is this recipe I created for Spaghetti Squash and Leek Skillet Gratin featured in one of our September 2016 newsletters.  If you don’t have leeks, you can also substitute shallots or yellow onions.  This recipe has become a favorite with some of our market crew and customers.

As with all squash, they are best stored in a dry environment at 45-55°F at 50-60% humidity, so keep them in a cool location in your house.  If you don’t have a location that meets this temperature criteria, just store them at room temperature on your counter and check them periodically.  If you notice a spot starting to form, it’s time to cook the squash!


Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Raab

Yield:  4 servings

12 oz pasta (shape of your choosing, spaghetti and fettucine work well)
½ cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (Optional, see note below)
2 cups (8 oz) shredded carrots
1 ½ cups thinly sliced sweet peppers
1 bu broccoli raab, chopped into bite sized pieces
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving.
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package instructions.  Before you drain the pasta, save 2 cups of the pasta water.  Drain the pasta and set it aside. 
  2. Put the olive oil in a small saute pan and add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Heat the oil over medium low heat.  You want to infuse the oil and cook the garlic gently just until the garlic becomes light golden.  It’s better to keep the heat low and do this slowly while you prepare the rest of the recipe so the garlic doesn’t get too brown.  If you notice the garlic starting to turn golden, remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Heat a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  Take 2 Tbsp of oil from the small pan and add it to the large pan.  When the pan and oil are hot, add the pieces of chicken and cook until browned on both sides. 
  4. Once the chicken is browned, add the shredded carrots, sweet peppers and 1 cup of the pasta water to the pan.  Simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half the volume.  Next, add the broccoli raab and allow the greens to wilt down.  Stir the vegetable mixture to combine them well and continue to simmer until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.  If the vegetables are not yet cooked to your liking, add more pasta water and simmer a little longer.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir to combine. Carefully pour the garlic oil over the pasta and toss to combine and evenly coat the pasta and vegetables.  Season with freshly ground black pepper and more salt as needed.
  6. Serve the pasta hot with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
This recipe was inspired by a similar recipe originally featured in Gourmet magazine, September 2006.

Note from Chef Andrea:  I wrote this recipe to include chicken, but this would also be delicious if made with Italian sausage, ground pork or shrimp in place of the chicken.  If you do not care for meat or seafood, just omit all protein options and prepare the dish vegetarian style.  The flavors of the vegetable are bold and delicious on their own.

Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Crispy Sage


Yield:  15-20 small patties

1 medium to large spaghetti squash (approximately 2 pounds) 
1 cup rolled oats, ground into flour (or use oat flour) 
4 cloves garlic 
1 green onion, with green tops (may substitute finely chopped yellow onion) 
1 tsp sea salt 
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper 
2 ½ oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (substitute ¼ cup nutritional yeast) 
1 organic egg, beaten 
1 bunch sage, about 30 large leaves, divided
Ghee or coconut oil, for cooking the patties

  1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Rub with a little ghee or coconut oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the oven, cut side up and cook for 45 minutes or so, until you can easily pierce the squash with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Using a fork, scrape out all flesh and place in a large sieve over the sink or a bowl to drain.
  2. In a food processor, grind oats until you have a rough flour. Add 12 sage leaves, garlic, salt, pepper and pulse to combine.
  3. Squeeze any remaining liquid out of the spaghetti squash. Place in a large bowl and add the oat mixture. Thinly slice the green onion into rings and add to bowl, along with the egg, and grated cheese. Fold to combine. A kind of dough should start to form as the ingredients come together. Take a small amount, roll into a ball and flatten into a patty shape – if the patty stays together they are ready. If they are too dry, add a little water, one tablespoon at a time until they hold. If they are too wet, add another handful of oats. Form all the cakes before you begin.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a knob (pat) of coconut oil or ghee. When hot, add the cakes and cook until golden on one side, then flip. Alternatively, you can cook these in a 375°F oven for approximately 10-15 minutes on each side.
  5. To fry sage, heat a couple knobs of coconut oil or ghee (ghee is preferable) in a small saucepan. When hot, add 6-8 sage leaves at a time, fry for 10-15 seconds, transfer with a fork to paper towels, and sprinkle with sea salt immediately.
  6. To serve, place a few squash cakes on the plate and garnish with fried sage leaves. Enjoy with roasted tomatoes and a simple massaged kale salad. Freeze leftover cooked cakes and heat to enjoy.
This recipe was borrowed from MyNewRoots.org by Sarah Britton.