Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Week 1: a seasonal journey through the garden

Hello Community Supported Agriculture members,

Are you ready for a seasonal journey through the garden
Our vegetables are grown with love using organic methods.  No synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides.  We want to send out a big “fresh” hello to you, our farm members, for the 2013 Community Supported Agriculture program!  As a Bluebird Farm CSA member, you are a steward of local farmland and you are actively investing in a local source of food that is outside of the industrial food chain.  We’re growing for you!  We couldn’t farm without you.

At the farm
Layer hens on pasture
Your shares of the farm’s bounty have prepared for several months now.  Even though we are just now harvesting your kale, lettuce, radishes, and other delicious vegetables the vegetable season here at Bluebird Farm has been busy since January.  We raise layer hens starting as day old chicks through the fall, winter, and spring, and mother the meat chicks in March.  When the chickens develop their adult feathers and can withstand variable temperatures and rain, we carefully introduce the chickens to their respective chicken coops and the pasture exploration begins.  In January, we started with a vegetable plan-choosing seeds, figuring out how much of each type of vegetable, mapping out the vegetable field, and setting out planting calendar.  Then the “big” work started.  Big work is what I call all the projects that we do to the entire field-often with the help of a tractor or other equipment.  Things like spreading compost, disc plowing weeds, and forming beds.  From there it’s right into the planting and harvesting and all of a sudden it’s May!

And what a May it’s been.  It’s a good thing we made raised beds because last Sunday we got almost 12 inches of rain.  The paper said up to 7 inches fell in Burke County.  But I definitely emptied the rain gauge 4 times with 3 inches each.  Silver Creek left its banks at the big vegetable field in the creek bottom.   The majority stayed behind a berm built for flood control.  But with 12 inches of rain everything was soaked.  The beds were half submerged, but they were high enough to keep the seedlings and plants up out of the water.  The layer hens were high and dry in that field- they spent most of their rainy days perched up in their hen wagon coop.  During the spells that were less wet, hens would squish through the field and excitedly find earthworms brought to the surface. The field was flooded to within 6 feet of the hens and pigs.

William in the garden
In addition to the flood we’ve had one cool spell after the next.  Even though our planting calendar said to put out the tomatoes and peppers a week ago they still aren’t in the ground.  Good thing too because they would not have appreciated the wet feet of the flood.  Or, even more extreme two nights of mid-May FROST!  That’s right-we spent last Sunday evening covering the squash and cucumbers we do have planted because frost was predicted.  Sure enough, both Monday the 11th and Tuesday the 12th morning we woke up to a light brush of frost that would have killed tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and squash plants.  For comparison there is a 90% chance that there will be no frost after April 12thAll the water and cool will slow us down significantly on hot summer crops.  So we will all have to be patient with the summer crops like cucumber, peppers, and tomatoes this summer.
In your veggie box
Bok Choy or Bok Choi 
Washing veggies: We’ve got wonderfully fresh vegetables for you.  Just remember to rinse or soak your veggies before preparing or cooking.  I have a large bowl that I fill with cold water to soak and swish veggies around it before cutting them up or spinning the salad greens dry. I also have an awesome little salad spinner stays full in the fridge with my washed baby lettuce and arugula mix.

This week’s harvest and cooking ideas and tips:
        ~Mix into lettuce or enjoy it on its own.  Try an arugula salad with fresh dill and goat cheese.  Add something sweet like grated carrots to an arugula salad.  Add some strawberries if you can find them.  I love a sweet white balsamic vinegar with arugula.
Salanova, lettuce mix- We grow a mix of different delicate and tender baby lettuce varieties. This mix, Salanova, is a gourmet mix with great texture, leaf shape, and color.
        ~Add to sandwiches. Make a baby salad and hummus wrap.
Radishes “French Breakfast” This variety is easy to slice or grate. It is more mild than other types. (Of course it does get spicier when the weather warms up.)

        ~Do you think radishes are spicy? Much of the spiciness is a volatile, aromatic flavor that will dissipate once you slice or grate the radish.  I make sure to dress the sliced or grated radishes with a bit of salt, olive oil, and sweet white balsamic vinegar and let them marinate for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Hakurei turnips- These smooth white salad turnips are sweet! Slice and eat raw in a salad.They taste like a mix between a carrot and a radish.

-Head lettuce- Green or Red Buttercrunch or Boston Bibb - (Small or Baby size) The best lettuce!
Dill- Adds a lively, fresh flavor to your creations.
~ Add to any potato dish, really.  Great with eggs: Add to lentils, greens/lettuce salads, egg salads, frittatas, fried egg sandwiches. Add to any salad. See a salad idea in the arugula section.
Cilantro- Add to a homemade vinaigrette.  See recipe below. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over any Mexican or Brazilian fusion style meal.  We love cilantro with black beans and our chorizo sausage.
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. This a staple cooking green that is more mild than mustard or collard greens. 
Red Russian kale
~ It is very tender, so it requires very little cooking. I just “wilt it down” in a sauté.  See recipe below. Very good with canned diced tomatoes or add to spaghetti sauces.  I strip the leaves of their stems, dice about ½ of the stems, and chop the leaves into 1 inch pieces.  Saute the diced stems with onions in olive oil for about 4 minutes before adding the chopped leaves. Try making kale chips.        Recipe below
Laccinato Kale- Large shares only: flat leaves, a Italian heirloom variety. Great flavor, very tender and mild!
        ~See above cooking tips.  This variety has a highly desired heirloom flavor that is a bit like broccoli.

Many of my personal recipes are kitchen ideas that I try to capture before cooking dinner myself.  My ideas are sometimes typed on the fly, so if a recipe seems a little incomplete, just go for it and innovate!  Use your judgment and your wonderful fresh veggies and it will taste wonderful!
Vintage Horsepower

Bok Choy:     Asian Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce
Peanut Sauce-
Sauté 4 garlic cloves and 1 chili (or 1 teaspoon chili powder) over medium heat in a medium pot for 4 minutes.  Then add 1 cup water, ¼ cup soy sauce,  1/3 cup peanut butter (crunchy or creamy), and 2 teaspoons brown sugar.  Stir vigorously to combine.  Thicken sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally.     Makes about 1 ¼ cups of sauce
Stir Fry Vegetables: Add any veggie that you’d like. The possibilities are endless.
Saute 1 onion and 2 carrots over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add chopped bok choy stems and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn up heat to medium high heat and add a splash of water. Add roughly chopped bok choy leaves and stir. After about another minute of cooking, lower heat to medium and pour peanut sauce over veggies. Cook over medium heat until some sauce absorbs or vegetables are done to your liking.
Serve over soba noodles, basmati rice, or brown rice.

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.

Kale:              Marie’s favorite Kale Chip Recipe
You can use any variety of kale.
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
A drizzle of balsamic vinegar (about ½ tablespoon)
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (175 degrees C)
With a knife or kitchen shears remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. (I like to use my hands to strip the leaves from the stem.)Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Place kale in a plastic bag. Drizzle kale with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with sea salt. Thoroughly massage the bag to mix the oil and vinegar into the leaves.
 Using several baking sheets spread the kale pieces out so that they are not touching; I use 3 or 4 sheets.  Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, about 7 to 12 minutes. Make sure to check the chips almost every minute after 7 minutes have passed.  Every oven is a little different…Adjust this recipe’s time to your oven!

Kale:          Fettuccine with sausage and kale
Recipe from Shiloh at Tumbling Shoals Farm in Wilkesboro, NC.  We both have stands at the Hickory Farmers’ Market, and she sends her vegetable customers over for our ground Country or ground Italian sausage for this recipe!  She says this recipe is how she gets her farm customers “hooked” on kale!  It’s certainly an all-star vegetable in this awesome recipe!
Makes  4 servings
A quick hearty Italian dinner.  I prefer to use a whole wheat penne, but the fettuccine is always tasty!  With tender young kale, you may skip the blanching step and add the chopped leaves after partially cooking the sausage for 4-6 minutes and sauté the kale and sausage for 5 minutes while the pasta boils.
    3 tablespoons olive oil                                        
    1 pound turkey or pork sausages, casings discarded and sausage crumbled
    1/2 pound kale, tough stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped (about 1 bunch of kale)
    1/2 pound or less of dried egg fettuccini pasta                   
    2/3 cup chicken broth                                          
    1 ounce finely grated pecorino Romano cheese plus additional for serving
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook sausage, chopping in quarter sized pieces with a spatula or spoon, 4-6 minutes.  Meanwhile, blanch kale in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, 5 minutes.  Remove kale with a large sieve and drain.  Return cooking water in pot to a boil, then cook pasta in boiling water, uncovered, until al dente.  While pasta cooks, add kale to sausage in skillet and saute, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 5 minutes.  Add broth, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet.  When pasta is al dente, reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander. Add pasta and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water to skillet, tossing until combined.  Stir in cheese and thin with additional cooking water if desired.  Serve immediately with additional cheese on the side.
Gourmet, March 2006
Your farmers,
Marie and William
Please don’t hesitate to email or call. or 584-7359

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