To all our wonderful CSA Members – and newsletter subscribers, too, I’m going to try to get a post out before every delivery day, currently Thursdays, so you get a heads up of what’s coming. I’ll identify the crops in the box, but don’t hold it against me if we make slight changes at the last minute. There may be times when we have a problem, and there are more likely times when we see something cool we can harvest at the last minute, so you may get small surprises. I’ll also do my best to include relevant culinary information (recipes, cooking videos, links) about the items in the box. Keep in mind that I tend to get carried away in these newsletters and blogposts, etc. I don’t expect you to look up and read every single link in these posts. I just put them there for easy reference.
This week we have broccoli rabe (also know as “rapini,”) radishes with tops, rainbow chard, sweet potatoes, carrots with tops, microgreens, and, our awesome brassica salad mix. Oh, and we have a treat this week from our favorite local food artisan.
Broccoli rabe is similar to broccoli but with smaller heads and wonderful edible leaves. To me, it tastes like a cross between broccoli and turnip greens. By the way, broccoli greens are one of the best tasting greens of all the brassicas but most folks forsake it for the flower head. Our brassica salad mix has baby broccoli leaves in it, and I can tell when you get some in a bit. It’s sweeter. Probably the easiest way to prepare broccoli rabe is to saute it in olive oil or butter with just salt and pepper, but you could certainly steam it, or roast/bake it. Just don’t overcook it no matter what your choice of heat…….. Ha! The first recipe I googled is by Anne Burrell and she does a quick, one-minute, par boil before sauteing, here.
Radishes with tops are one of our favorite crops. But for some reason, to Americans, radishes are the red-rooted step-child of brassica family, when they really should be a mainstay of our cuisine. Because we don’t spray our radishes, you can eat the wonderful greens, too. You can see my blog-rant entitled Yes Eat Your Radish Greens here. There are some wonderful recipe links there, but for me, my favorite preparation of radishes with tops is a French favorite taught to me by my buddy, Chef Alexis Fouros .
I’m winging it a bit here, but basically the standard garnish to a pan fried steak is to deglaze the pan with the radishes, sliced down the middle with the tops on. You can add a little wine or stock for liquid but you don’t need much (think shotglass.) Move the radishes around a bit to pick up some of the fond and remove when the greens are wilted and you’ve got a little color on the root-halves. A little butter is amazing on top for the French flair.
Rainbow chard is a mixture of swiss chards with colored stems. It is in the Amaranthaceae family like beets, spinach, and celosia (the flower) which is also edible. It’s a fascinating crop from a farmer’s perspective because it fits a unique niche in the crop rotation with both cold-hardy and heat tolerant characteristics. In the summer, we add a close cousin, Red Leaf Vegetable Amaranth to our salad mixes and as a summer spinach substitute.
Nutritionally speaking, like spinach, chard is unusual in that it has all three of the main minerals (magnesium, iron, and potassium,) and it is a good source of vitamin K. I think Popeye would have been just as well served with chard. It tastes a bit like spinach too, but it’s prettier on the plate.
For cooking, you can wilt chard just like spinach, or just add chopped leaves to any salad. You can also add it to soups near the end of preparation, and I’ve even seen it in quiche, pasta, and omelettes. I think a simple saute-wilt is my favorite and I found a link here that is very similar to how I prepare it.
Sweet potatoes are from another unique plant family, Convolvulaceae. Basically, they are morning glories with tuberous roots. As far as I know, they are the only plant in that family worth eating, so, they too fit nicely in a crop rotation where a farmer tries to separate plants in the same family through space and time. – I could write a book on the complexities of a proper crop rotation. 🙂 They are usually grown from “slips” grown out of seed sweet potatoes. They are amazingly drought resistant and, though we do irrigate ours, it’s not absolutely necessary.
Nutritionally speaking, the sweet potato is lower on the glycemic index than Irish potatoes and are more nutritious. We haven’t used the young shoots in salads yet, but they are not only edible but tasty. My favorite way to prepare them is to just roast (bake) them and serve them like a baked Irish potato with butter, however, we know the sweet potato lives in both the sweet and savory worlds, so it’s just as useful as a dessert. My friends Betsy and Alexis of Feast for the Gods gave me a terrific but very simple recipe for white or regular sweet potatoes in our blogpost here.
Carrots with tops! Carrots are in the Apiaceae family along with celery, parsnip, dill, fennel, coriander, chervil, cumin and parsley. It’s not the easiest crop to grow as it takes a long time to germinate and we need to create weed free beds in which to plant them, otherwise the weeds take over before the carrots have a chance to get established. Once you get it figured out, growing carrots is very rewarding. We grow several varieties including Napoli, Yellowbunch, Malbec, Purple Haze, Mokum, and Romance.
Culinarily speaking, carrots are good raw (typically sliced thin,) roasted/baked, glazed and sauteed. The tops are a great addition to salads when used judiciously, or in smoothies. I have a couple of really good new recipes to share. The carrot bisque is from Chef Erin at Porches Cafe, and the other is a really cool carrot greens pesto I found online a while back. In the next couple weeks, we are going to be working with Chef Dean Neff on some recipes and I know he’s keen on teaching a really simple root vegetable glazing method, and I’m certain that our carrots will be featured prominently in his vegetable glazes.
Microgreens Most people have heard of microgreens by now. They are the small cotyledon shoots from vegetable, herb, and even flower seeds that are usually harvested before their true leaves form – though some growers allow the true leaves to emerge for a fuller green. Microgreens typically have five times more nutritional value by weight than mature greens, and, as anyone that’s tasted one or two tiny microgreens can attest, they have equally intense flavor. At Turner Family Farms, we grow arugula, broccoli, radishes, kohlrabi, wasabi, chard, basil, collards, amaranth, mustards, beets, salad burnet, and more. Check out our more comprehensive blogpost on this crop here. You may also be interested in our greens unit which is improving all the time with the addition to our TFF team of our hydroponic guru, Randall Shapiro, previously of Sunlight Supply.
For culinary uses, there is a fantastic post here that shows a dozen uses for microgreens with great information a beautiful pictures.
Baby Brassica Salad Mix We grow a lot of lettuces at Turner Family Farms, but to a person, we prefer this baby-leaf brassica mix for salad. It’s made up of pac choi, red mustard, mizuna, and leaf broccoli. It’s colorful and nutritious. Recently, we began preaching the benefits brassicas, not just for dieting, but for antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and possibly even anticancer properties (according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.) There is an outstanding and readable scientific article on this very subject available here. This salad mix, with it’s combination of “sweet” brassicas (broccoli and pac choi,) and the spicy true mustards (red mustard and mizuna,) make the healthy sulphoraphanes more bioavailable. Check out the Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s short video explaining this phenomenon.
All that nutrition science aside, this Baby Brassica Salad Mix is THE BOMB. It has so much flavor that it doesn’t need overwhelming dressings. A basic olive oil and lemon juice dressing will suffice, but feel free to add any dressing you like. If you choose to wilt the mix, be sure to do it very quickly to retain the fresh flavor and the abundance of nutrients.
Charlotte Is Back! Charlotte Evans, the owner of Cravings- The Healthy Fix is adding some healthy treats to the CSA Box again this week. She wouldn’t tell me exactly what it would be, but everything she makes is mouth-watering, so it doesn’t really matter.
If you’re not familiar with Cravings, check out our short and sweet – and slightly amusing – blogpost here.
Well, we have one more day of Winter weather, and then I’m hoping it stays a little warmer. Next week’s box will have some new items in it, and the warmer it gets, the more new varieties will come available for harvest. In the near future, I’ll be developing a site-page that shows our basic overall crop plan/list so our CSA Members can see what to expect in the coming weeks. Thanks everyone!
— Farmer Steve