To all our wonderful CSA Members – and newsletter subscribers, too, we don’t have a lot of change this week, but man are we excited about the spinach finally coming in. Also, Ian has really dialed in the brassica salad mix which is a big favorite. I hope everyone enjoyed Charlotte’s little brownie treat last week as we will have more from her in the future. Next week we are going to have something equally tasty, but I’m keeping it a surprise for now. Please remember that all CSA Members are more than welcome to come visit us at the farm at River Bluffs, and we’d love to see you at the farmer’s markets here. Beware though, you might end up in a newsletter!
Oh! Last news item. Please join our Turner Family Farms CSA Members page on Facebook here. It’s an open group so anyone can join. We would like to create a forum for our Members to share recipes, pictures and any ideas or requests. By 2020, we will be able to migrate a lot of that to our website, but the Facebook group is very useful for now.
This week we have broccoli rabe (also know as “rapini,”) spinach, rainbow chard, sweet potatoes, carrots with tops, microgreens, and, our awesome brassica salad mix.
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.
Spinach. Spinach, like our rainbow chard below, is an Amaranthaceae or beet family member. We were finally able to harvest some as we had some seeding failures earlier this season. Spinach is a bit colder-hardy than chard, though we should be able to grow it for quite a while using shade cloths and other season extending devices, and we intend to grow heat tolerant substitutes like Red Leaf Vegetable Amaranth and Malabar Spinach over the summer months.
I really like our spinach raw in salads, but it’s also great in a simple, quick saute. Sweat some garlic and olive oil in stock pot or large pan – don’t burn the garlic (yuck!) – and then add in as much spinach as you can. I like to turn over the heap every so often with a large pair of tongs. You can remove it when it looks like canned spinach, or try a very light wilt. You won’t regret it. It tastes great and it’s more nutritious that way. If you want to be more adventurous, check out the 19 excellent spinach recipes at the Saveur website here.
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.
Forgive me, Members, I know there is a lot of repetition in this post from last week. Ian and I have been buried in planting work and greenhouse repair/top installations these last few days. We are planting bed after bed of Spring and Summer crops for you to enjoy. Check out some of the “goings on” below in the picture gallery, and we will see most of you tomorrow.
— Farmer Steve