Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Week 2 5-23-2012

This week’s box

Remember, you can look at each week's newsletters on this CSA blog.  Look at previous weeks for veggie tips and recipes.

Make sure to wash all veggies! I recommend soaking and rinsing all leafy green vegetables.  Rainstorms are very good at splashing up dirt on veggie leaves.

This week’s harvest and cooking ideas and tips:
Baby lettuce mix- We grow a mix of 12 different delicate and tender baby lettuce varieties.
        ~Add to sandwiches. Make a baby salad and hummus wrap.
Baby Salad Mix (Arugula, Mizuna, and Tatsoi) - This lively mix has the peppery flavor of arugula with the more mild flavors of mizuna and tatsoi. 
Mizuna- fancy Japanese green that is a bit peppery, but is much more mild than arugula. It has fancy, deeply serrated edges.
        Tatsoi-(pronounced: tat soy) a
Radishes- “French Breakfast”    
Head Lettuce- “Buttercrunch” is a mild, tender, and crunchy head lettuce that is very delicate when handled.  This week’s box has a green buttercruch variety.
Cilantro- Adds a fresh flavor to eggs, beans, or almost any dish.
Add to a homemade vinaigrette.  See recipe below. You should make the  vinaigrette recipe if you haven't yet!
Bok Choy- Crunchy and mild Asian veggie that is great diced up raw in salads or cooked in a stir-fry.  See recipe below.
Kale “Red Russian”- a wavy, tender kale with a mild kale flavor.
~ It is very tender, so it requires very little cooking. I just “wilt it down” in a sauté.  Kale goes very well with sausage and onion. Heat skillet to medium heat.  Add an onion and a pound of your favorite sausage to a skillet.  Cook over medium heat until the sausage is almost done, then add the chopped kale.  Cook only 3-5 minutes longer until the kale is tender and sausage is cooked through.  Serve with your favorite carb like rice, grits, couscous, potatoes, or pasta.    
Swiss Chard- large shares only this week.  Plenty more to come of this delicious green.  We add it to almost all of our vegetable sautés.
Farmer to Member newsletter...

Hello all,
                This week saw the final big transplanting sessions in the garden.  Our biggest job in the spring is taking all of the babies we’ve started in the greenhouse and getting them out to the field.  We want to get them in nice and early so they will be ready to harvest sooner.  But we can’t plant too soon or they may get nipped by cool weather.  For each crop cool weather is a little different.  Cool season crops like lettuce and kale don’t even mind a light frost very much.  But peppers will complain if the nights get below 50.
                Besides transplanting seedlings the other method we use to plant is to direct seed crops.  We do this for crops like lettuce mix, arugula, beets, and radish.  These small, quick growing crops don’t appreciate the root disturbance that comes from transplanting.  To direct seed a crop we have to start with a totally weed free, nicely loosened garden bed.  We can’t have any weeds because they will quickly out compete the crop that is trying to sprout from seed.  The soil has to be the right texture so that the vegetable seed will come into contact with moist soil for water and nutrients.  But we don’t want to pack it down too tightly or else it’s like asking the seed to grow in a brick. 
                This week the seeds we planted: lettuce mix, arugula, and radish all came up in about 2 days!  This is incredibly fast germination because the temperature and moisture conditions were ideal.  Back in the early spring when the soil was still cool (probably about 55 degrees) lettuce mix took a solid week to germinate.  We like it when the vegetables germinate faster because it gives them an edge over the next round of weeds (there’s always a next round of weeds).  It also means that it will be ready to harvest sooner.  The tricky part about accelerated germination and growth is that a later succession of a crop can catch up to an early one providing and over abundance one week and leaving a hole in the harvest the next.  For example: we might plant lettuce mix 1 week apart.  But the weather is so much better for growth the second week that that planting comes up only a few days behind the first.  Now that its up and the weather is nice it might even catch up.  To help solve this problem we try to space out the planting longer and longer as the spring goes on.  So the early successions might be 1 week apart while later successions space out to almost 2 weeks.
                A downside of this perfect plant growing weather is that it is also perfect insect growing weather.  We’ve had our hands full with several of our common pests.  Squash bugs are starting on the squash, cucumber beetles have enjoyed their favorite appetizer of swiss chard and are now headed to the cucumbers themselves.  In the potatoes a herd of potato beetles was munching until we got out there with one of our biological controls and took care of them!  The other big muncher is a small insect: the flea beetle.  The fleas beetle got its name form its small dark look as well as its habit of leaping away form threats.  It particular enjoys eggplant (which we think we saved just barely) and certain cabbage family plants like arugula, mizuna, and tatsoi .  You may notice small holes in the spicy salad mix leaves-that’s the handiwork of our friend the flea beetle.

Flea beetles with their characteristic "shot gun" damage to a leaf.  They don't affect flavor, but can eat so much that they eventually kill a plant. (photo from Wikipedia)

                Out in the big vegetable field we are enjoying a subtle flower show.  Our potatoes are blooming!  We grow a nice variety of potatoes for the CSA and for ourselves.  This year we are trying a purple variety as well as a red, white, and gold type.  After the plants have grown for a month or so they send out delicate flowers at their tops.  The flowers are not necessary for crop production because the potatoes we eat are all clones of the mother seed potato.  This year the purple type has one of the nicest flowers: a lavender petal with a rich buttery center.  We’re looking forward to the potatoes later this summer!

Potato blossoms.  Ours look something like this (photo from http://www.fourgreensteps.com/)

Cilantro:    Honey Cilantro Vinaigrette        
Adapted From Passionate Vegetarian
Makes about 1 ¾ cup

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch cilantro
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1 jalapeno pepper or 1 pinch cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce(optional)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste, freshly ground
1 cup olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor.  Process until smooth, scraping the sides when needed.  With the machine running, slowly pour olive oil into dressing.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Best if aged for at least one hour or overnight.

From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce (written by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition)

Crunchy Bok Choy Ginger Salad

1 medium bok choy
1 cup shredded daikon radish (Marie used regular radishes)
1 tablespoon salt (make sure you follow the recipe and rinse the salted bok choy and radishes)
½ cup slivered sweet pepper (a colorful pepper is beautiful! We leave out the pepper since they are out of season)
¼ cup finely chopped green onions
1 inch knob of gingerroot, grated
2 tablespoons of each chopped mint and cilantro (fresh…used 1 tablespoon of mint if it is dried)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
Pepper to taste

Marie’s tips- Washing bok choy:  I like to chop the very bottom of the head off and then wash and quickly scrub each leaf.  
Rice vinegar: If you don’t have this item, try using a sweet white vinegar or a white balsamic vinegar….or you can make up your own fun vinaigrette!

Steps: Thin- slice the bok choy leaves.  Thinly slice the stems on the diagonal.  Toss bok choy leaves and stems, and the shredded radishes, with salt in colander.  Let stand to wilt vegetables, about ½ hour. Rinse, drain, and squeeze out excess liquid from mixture. Place in paper or cotton towel and squeeze again. Toss with remaining ingredients in bowl and chill before serving.  Makes 6 servings.

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