To all our wonderful CSA Members – and newsletter subscribers, too,
First time ever we had a crop failure on the salad mix so we won’t have that this week, but the succession plantings are coming on strong. These things do happen to even the best produce farmers, but I want everyone to know that we make every effort to have that in the box. It’ll be back next week or the week after at the very latest. This week’s large box has some beautiful carrots with tops, green onions, sweet potato, kale, beet roots, radishes with tops, rainbow chard, and mustard greens.
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:
Kale. Another terrific Brassica well-known throughout the South, though, like it’s collard cousin, it grows very well in Northern climes, too. Farmer’s often say “hail to the kale” during the winter because it’s so cold-hardy, and heavy frosts only improve their flavor.
Our kale is terrific sauteed (wilted) in a big pan or stock pot with just olive oil, salt and pepper, but there are some terrific ideas HERE on the Food & Wine website. We have CSA Members doing everything from simple sautees to making kale chips! It’s an amazingly versatile green.
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.
Mustard Greens These are spicy greens in the Brassica family and a Southern favorite. When mixed with other milder brassiccas like kale, the combination boosts the health benefits of both. If you’re interested in a fascinating explanation of these health benefits, there is no better teacher than Dr. Rhonda Patrick. Check out her video HERE. I promise it’s worth it and you’ll become a fan.
If you don’t like hot greens, I suggest wilting mustard greens in a large saute pan or a big stock pot. I like to mix it with kale and/or rainbow chard. For a bit of spiciness, you can add a little bit to fresh salads. HERE is a quick link to 10 different ways to use mustard greens from Food & Wine magazine.
Green Onions (Spring Onions) This is a fun plant to grow. It’s one of the first things to go in the ground in late Winter. Onions are in the Allium family along with leeks, garlic and chives. It’s one of the few monocots we grow – the other is corn, of course.
In my opinion, the best way to enjoy these onions by themselves is by grilling them. Again, Food & Wine has a great article HERE on this method. If you want to make it simple, just use a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and set them on the edge of your grill – preferably next to a steak! – apologies to all our vegan friends.
Spring onions are also good chopped thin all the way down to the white and added to salads, soups, and anything else where you want a little fresh onion spice.
Beet Roots Beets are a Chenopod like spinach and chard – part of the Amaranth family. From the farmer’s perspective, they are a joy to grow since both the tops and the roots are sought after. Beet roots are all the rage these days and for good reason. There is a great article HERE on the health benefits of eating beets.
HERE are four easy ways to prepare beets from Jessica Gavin, but my favorite way by far is to roast them either in the oven or preferably on the grill – with you spring onions, HA!
Rainbow Carrots with tops! Ian took this picture under the light of his headlamp last night. 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.
Thanks Everyone! Don’t forget to come visit us at the Farmer’s Market at Poplar Grove every Wednesday from 8am to 1 pm. CSA Members get extra goodies when we see them.
We got quite few pictures of prepared dishes from our members this last week and I’ve posted a gallery of them below. Thanks to Jeff and Elizabeth for the pics!