To all our wonderful CSA Members – and newsletter subscribers, too, I apologize for being 24 hours late on this. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day. We had a big day at the Poplar Grove Herb & Garden Fair last Saturday and Sunday and we added quite a few new CSA members and newsletter subscribers. We are now expanding the service all the way up to Topsail, so if there are any new newsletter subscribers up that way, please feel free to sign up. We would love to have you.
If the Poplar Grove Herb & Garden Fair was any indication of what the Farmers Market at Poplar Grove is going to be like, then it’ll be a banner year. I give all the credit to the market managers, Suzette Cooper-Hawley and her husband Jackie. Turner Family Farms will be at that farmer’s market every Wednesday beginning April 4th.
I’ll be revamping our calendar on the website tomorrow, but I wanted to let everyone know that Ian and I will be with our awesome CSA member, Elizabeth Crawford, supporting Island Montessori School teachers tomorrow. I know teachers – my mother was a fantastic teacher – and they are a lot of fun. I’m sure there will be pictures and a TFF blogpost about this event over the weekend.
ABOUT THE BOX – How about those carrots! That’s a new (to us) variety of carrots that are named “Hercules.” Jessicca calls them “Bugs Bunny carrots” because they are shorter and fat, and very tasty. We also have collards this week. These are what country folks ruefully call “kale-collards,” as opposed to the much larger, cook-to-death-with-a-ham-hock-until-the-whole-house-stinks kind of collard preferred by us rednecks. The truth is, I love these smaller ones. They are terrific for making cooked and uncooked wraps. There is some arugula this week, and turnip roots, too – more below on those.
Again, if you’re on Facebook, 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 the terrific new salanova salad mix, radishes with tops (don’t forget to eat the greens!,) arugula, sweet potatoes, carrots with tops, collards, rainbow chard, and some turnip roots. Spring has sprung which means we will be having nice squashes, cucs, and tomatoes very soon!
Radishes with tops – Not everybody loves the tangy heat you get when you bite into a radish, but, everyone should eat the greens. YES! I SAID EAT THE RADISH GREENS! Not only are they a really tasty addition to a wilted salad or to bulk up your spinach, they are chock-full of B6, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, calcium, vitamin A, potassium, and folic acid.
Ok, so radishes and radish greens are nutritious and healthy, right? Well, they are tasty, too. Chef Alexis Fouros told me years ago that the traditional French preparation for a cast-iron pan-seared steak is to deglaze the pan after removing the meat with a radish (with greens) sliced down the middle and used as a garnish. Since then, that’s what I do with radishes, beets, and even carrots. There are myriad great recipes online for radish greens preparation. Here are some of my favorites (with links) below:
Collards. Another terrific Brassica well-known throughout the South, though, like it’s kale cousin, it grows very well in Northern climes, too. It’s an interesting plant from a farmer’s standpoint because it can be harvested at many different stages from baby leaves, to mid-size leaves like the ones we grow, and all the way up to large heads. They also make a great microgreen.
As far as cooking these particular collards. If you want to try something most people wouldn’t think of, just par-boil the larger leaves quickly and make wraps out of them like this. For a unique hot preparation, I say go with our (CSA member) Elizabeth Crawford’s Coconut Curried Collards from our own TFF blogpost 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, Hercules 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.
Arugula Also known as “Roquette,” is in the Brassica family but has a character all it’s own – as well as a genus to itself as far as I know – Eruca (sativa.) From the farmer’s perspective, it’s a short season, cool season crop. It can be grown in the warmer months but it bolts quickly and with the flowers comes a lot of spicy heat. We get several cuttings of baby-ish size leaves throughout the spring, fall and even winter under low tunnels.
From a culinary perspective, arugula is nutty and spicy at the same time. It can be wilted (very briefly) like spinach, but I think it’s better in salad mixes or as a stand-alone salad with a slightly sweet dressing like this one Tyler Florence recommends. I really like this one myself. Simple is always better in dressings.
Purple Top White GlobeTurnip Roots Another Brassica but in this case we are just talking about the root. Turnips are interesting from a grower’s standpoint in that they are self-thinning in the row, meaning, it’s nearly impossible to plant them too close together. That’s a good thing because the seeds are tiny, though, our Jang Seeder singulates them very well. We will have more later on Asian salad turnips as they come into harvest.
I know people that will eat our fresh turnips like an apple, but most people roast (bake) them after cutting them into half inch cubes. I’ve been known to add turnips and carrots to my rustic mashed potatoes. Here’s a whole slew of good ways to use turnip roots from allrecipes.com.
Salanova Salad Mix This is new to the CSA box but something that we have grown for a long time. We use both red and green varieties in rosette heads and frilly-incised heads. This mix gives a variety of colors, shapes and textures. In the warmer months, we like to add amaranths, buckwheat leaves, and even young sweet potato shoots for a TFF signature mix. From time to time, we will also offer these lettuces in full size heads.
Different from our brassica mix, these are true lettuces. My chef buddy, Alexis Fouros, likes to lightly grill lettuces and frisees. I don’t know. I’m pretty adventurous, but with the Salanova mix, I think I’d stick to whatever nice salad dressing you like and go with a traditional salad. I’ll try the grilling/wilting soon and I’ll be your canary in a coal mine on that one. 🙂