I wanted to send everyone a CSA Members only post here, because I really like our website and the way it functions “under the hood” so to speak. July was one seriously tough month on the farm; hot, buggy, did I mention hot? and very long work days. So long, in fact, that it’s been impossible for me to catch up with the CSA blogposts – much less anything extra like recipes, chef interviews, TFF history, crop info, etc.
First things first. As you know, the CSA is a seasonal offering, but, I have been remiss in providing some important information about this time of year. From the early-middle of July to about the second week of August is by far the most difficult time to grow and harvest crops in this locale. In fact, most crops don’t even set fruit at these high temperatures, or at least in the normal quantities. Some things do better than others like the squashes, zucchinis, eggplants, and the storage items like Irish potatoes. Real, locally grown tomatoes are all very rough this time of year. They get sunburned (yes,really,) bug bitten, and they just cook on the vine unless you harvest them very green. We have been putting the few in the boxes that we are able to harvest as a courtesy to the CSA Members, but I’m afraid we broke Jim Letendre’s golden rule – Don’t sell “seconds.” This is especially true since I failed to explain to you what we were doing. Ian asked me over a week ago to mention to everyone that the tomatoes are rough but will come out of their slump here shortly (have you noticed the cooler nights?) and we are planting indeterminates in the River Bluffs greenhouse for a Fall crop that takes us to December. We are having a tough time with weed and fertility problems at the River Bluffs location but John Lennon is helping with a compost source and greenhouse improvements. If you’re interested in how we grow our tomatoes, check out this old post.
All that said, August 1 is the planting date here in the Coastal Plain for a wide variety of Fall crops, some of which we have “seeded out” weeks ago in our greens unit. Just a few of these items are basil, beans, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collards, cucs, eggplant, kale, kholrabi, lettuces, mustard, okra, onions, parsley, parsnips, garden peas, southern peas, peppers, radishes, rutabagas, spinich, summer squashes, tomatoes, and more. By the way, this is just the early Fall list. By September 1, there will be a new even larger list of items to plant. We call these bountiful seasons “shoulder seasons” and we use high tunnels and caterpillar tunnels (see our partnership with Williamson Greenhouses HERE) and low tunnels to “extend” these seasons. I guess the point I’m making is that the CSA box is going to be much more dynamic with high quality produce as we come out of this most difficult few weeks on our crops (and the farmers, too!)
So, about yesterday’s CSA box. There’s some re-hashing below on agricultural and culinary information on the produce for the produce, but we got some great ideas from Members, too.
Yellow Squash – This Southern mainstay has a long run in the field during the summer and we plant several successions during that time. It is in the Cucurbitaceae family along with many, many of it’s cousins – see Zucchini below.
Culinarily speaking, it’s an outstanding complement to any dish and is more nutritious and healthful than people realize. There’s a great article here on the health benefits.
<<<Since we all know what yellow squash looks like, I used a picture from one of our CSA Members who has a Spiralizer that makes those wonderful zuchinni/squash noodles. I’ll have to ask him if he added pasta sauce to this. Man, I bet that would be terrific, especially with some of our tomatoes.
Tomatoes – You know it’s getting to be Summer because we start seeing plants in the Solanacaea family (aka Nightshades) like Eggplant, Peppers, Tomatoes, Tomatillos, and, yes, Irish Potatoes. After June 21st, we depend on determinate varieties like Sunrise Sauce and Skyway, but we will be moving into the high tunnel this Fall with varieties like Pink Berkeley Tie Die, Trust, Cherokee Purple, and Edox.
In this picture you can see Ian coaxing these along in the heat and trellising with a modified Florida weave. The tomatoes will recover from this heat and start looking much better for our CSA Members. We have had some complaints about them as I mentioned above – legitimate complaints – but I think we are going to still add them in. Right now, the ones going in the box are a large slicer called Skyway, and an orange Roma called Sunrise Sauce. Until it starts cooling off, they will not store more than a day or two so eat them right away, or add them to a roasting pan. Here’s an idea from Chef Alexis Fouros. Feta Stuffed Tomatoes from an earlier post.
Fingerling Red Potatoes and Yukon Gold – All potatoes are in the nightshade, or Solenacaea family. They are closely related to tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. In fact, if you let potatoes go to flower-fruit, you will see tiny tomato looking fruit. Don’t eat them; they are toxic. By the way, “Irish” potatoes like these are completely unrelated to Sweet potatoes which are a type of morning glory – of all things.
<Pictured here is my dinner after doing deliveries. I roasted chicken thighs, removed them, and then put my quartered red and gold potatoes in the hot, seasoned chicken fat. I leave the oven at 350° until they are al dente and then I carmelize them quickly at the end under broil. I never leave the kitchen when the oven is broiling. It’s just too easy to ruin the whole panful -or worse.
Zucchini – Or if you grew up in the region, “green squash.” Zucchini is in the large Cucurbitaceae family which includes both summer and winter squashes, pumpkins, and all melons. Like the Brassicas, it’s such a large crop family that it can be difficult to fit into a proper crop rotation.
Culinarily speaking, well, it’s a mainstay of so many side dishes. Check out our CSA Member, Dr. Cahn’s, sautee mix that includes almost everything we have; carrots, yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash, collards and even our purple potatoes. Glen has cleverly chopped and sliced each item so that it cooks properly – note the thin sliced potatoes which would be the longest to finish if not sliced the way he did. The same goes for the butternut squash, nice small strips. The other way to go about this is to add the items in sequence, but Dr. Cahn has outmaneuvered that method using his knife. Awesome!!!
Butternut Winter Squash This is a Waltham Butternut squash. I don’t put the huge ones in the box but take them home instead. These cucurbits are related to all squashed and melons. People may not know that Winter Squashes can be planted at the same time as the Summer Squashes. The difference is the long time to maturity, and the fact that they can be cured and stored, and, in some cases are actually better tasting after some storage time.
Culinarily speaking, these butternuts can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. The bulbous end in where the seeds are so the Butternut is meatier than some of the other Winter Squashes like Acorn and Spaghetti. Carefully cut the long top right above the bulb seedpod, then cut the stem top off. I peel these with a big chef’s knife but a peeler will do as well. Dice or slice this at whatever size and shape you prefer. I often add the diced pieces to the potatoes pictured above after waiting just a few minutes since the Butternut cooks a bit faster. For a sweet preparation, I was reminded of a really tasty, simple dessert we did a post on last winter. Swap out Butternut for the carrots in the bisque, and slice them thin and swap them for the white sweet potatoes in the Bourbon Maple Casserole. If bourbon is too “wintery,” maybe use a nice dark rum and a mint garnish. Oh man, that sounds good!!
Collards. Related to all the kales and cabbages, this famous Southern brassica is a hearty green in both the heat and the cold. The ones we are putting in the box now are different from the big giant “cabbage collard” that you will see sold as whole heads around Thanksgiving and into Christmas.
There is no need to boil or steam these, just slice them up and sautee them. Pictured to the left, I added them to the chicken fat and fond in the roasting pan. I happened to have last week’s green and lacinato kales to mix them with, plus a bit of purple cabbage. A quick roast and they were good to go. Another way to prepare these is to use them whole as a wrap. I haven’t done this yet, but it must be the new thing because I hear people at the farmer’s market talk about it.
Peppers Another nightshade or Solenacaea like tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes. Our current variety is called “Ace” and, though it has that conical shape, it is considered a bell pepper – not hot.
Hey, I got finished before midnight! It’ll be a long day of deliveries tomorrow but I very much look forward to it. Thanks everyone. 🙂
P.S. Some miscellaneous pics from the week.
Last thing. Some of you may know that we have brought in partner farmer, Michael Torbett of Terra Vita Farms, to the River Bluffs Farm location. Michael is well known by all the local chefs as he specializes in salads, mushrooms, and microgreens. We look forward to working with him and sharing knowledge together. Regarding salads, our salad mix will be back within the month, and our famous brassica salad mix will follow shortly after.
See you soon and call me or Ian anytime. 910-714-8432.