Cooler Nights = New Crops
I hope everyone had a nice week and are enjoying the cooler weather, although it warmed up a bit the last couple days. Now that things are getting a little bit easier weather-wise, I am going to start offering memberships to more people again and doing a little marketing. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you, my core group of members – and this includes the non-active ones. As I always tell everyone, once a Member always a Member to me.
A Little Bit of Farm News
Well, it’s finally cooling off a bit, especially at night. We are planting all kinds of Fall crops pretty much non-stop. This year there was a bit of lag into September as well with the temps staying up. The heat, the weeds and the bugs all conspire to reduce the quantity and quality of the offerings. Next year we are going to employ more shade cloth, intermittent misting, and a few other tricks – plus we will be growing lettuce hydroponically again next year to keep the salad mix going.
I was not satisfied with last week’s box and considered running out mid-week with a supplemental box, but field prep and planting got in the way. I’m sorry to say that I’ve had a crop failure with the Sunshine winter squash. The bugs (caterpillar worms) got into them without me realizing. I’ll know next year to just go ahead and spray them. The most effective remedy is an organic (OMRI approved) one, so no worries there. We do have other more standard winter squashes to take the place of the Sunshines. This week’s box is going to be a doozy that includes some things we’ve had for a good while now, plus some really cool new crops like kale, arugula, and sweet potatoes.
By the way, if anybody needs any crop in quantity, just let me know. Beets, sweet potatoes, and (we still have) the Red Thumb potatoes are all good for storage, but don’t forget that other things can be preserved, too. I still highly recommend The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest which was in turn recommended to me by fellow CSA member Cyndie —-who also gave us those terrific natural scrubbies. I use mine every day! She had a great idea making hot pepper jelly a few weeks back as well, and I think that’s a terrific idea for CSA box goodies down the road. There’s a little more information about the book HERE in a previous post.
This Week’s CSA Box – New Stuff!!!
Red Thumb Potatoes
Okay, this is a new favorite and I plan on planting a bunch of it next February. I love the way the all-blue potatoes look, but these are just as attractive and taste much better. Cousins of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, all potatoes are in the nightshade family – Solanacaea.
Culinarily speaking, well, I’d just roast (bake) them with olive oil and S&P. You can roast them whole, but I like to cut them so they are similarly sized and have more exposed interior surface area for browning. Add in your favorite herbs, dried or fresh, like parsley, dill, tarragon, or chives. You can certainly use the spring onions in combination with these potatoes.
Another preparation that I really like is to make a skin-on, crispy smashed potatoes like the ones in this post from cookieandkate.com.
We call this “green squash” on the farm 🙂 They are in another large, well-represented plant family, Cucurbitaceae, which includes summer squashes, winter squashes, and melons. This variety is called Green Machine. We are still harvesting these as long as the plants are still producing and I’m including them in the box along with the newer Fall crops.
There are myriad ways to prepare zucchini. The most basic of which, and one that would work very well with this week’s CSA Box, is to simply cut them in rounds with the yellow squash, and saute them in olive oil, S&P. Slice up those spring onions and add them in too for extra flavor.
Something you might try is getting a spiralizer and making your own “noodles” with these zucchini. They work with a lot of different vegetables as well. My neighbor used this one to make the mixed “noodles” below.
Obviously yellow squash is the very close cousin of the zucchini and is another Cucurbit. We plant them in the same succession with the Zucchini. Notice that our Multipik has a yellow (not green) stem which is a dead giveaway to it’s variety name.
On the table, 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.
Believe it or not, squash and zucchini are really good canned (conserved in quart jars.) There’s a simple recipe/instructions in the previously mentioned book, The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying, and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables.
Beets are in the amaranth family along with chard and spinach. The greens, especially the baby greens, are out of this world.
This week’s beets are roots only. The roots can be roasted and cooled, then sliced and added to a salad, lightly roasted whole or halved, or just sauteed in butter. Just for fun, try roasting them whole. If done properly, they have a terrific texture and taste.
A nice glaze would work really well, too, and I bet I can pick Chef Dean’s brain on that next week as he is partial to glazed root vegetables, especially with fish. I’ll do my best to keep this in succession for as long as the season, and season extension methods, will allow. Top notch crop in every way.
All the Kales are in the Brassica family with the turnips, mustards, and cabbages. This old standard variety of green kale is my second favorite full-size kale – my favorite is lacinato. It’s extremely hardy, both heat and cold tolerant, and bug and disease resistant. It’s also easy to harvest. Even when it bolts (goes to flower) the flowers are great tasting in a salad or even a wilt.
This time of year I would generally use this kale in a wilt – like cooking spinach – just don’t overdo it. It’s still pretty good raw, but will get better for raw eating as we get into colder temps.
Another top notch crop. If you’re interested in the exceptional nutritional properties of our brassicas, Dr. Rhonda Patrick is always fascinating. Check out her explanation here.
Sweet potatoes are the main edible plant in the Convolulacaea (Morning Glory) family. The other is an Asian Water Spinach, aka “Swamp Cabbage” that I think is probably left in that distant hemisphere. Next year we will be growing some specialty white and red sweet potatoes.
One of the easiest and best ways to prepare sweet potatoes is to cook them in the microwave before finishing them in the oven until they are roughly 200 degrees on the inside, then move to a 425 degree oven to bake for an hour. Seems like a lot I know. I got this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated magazine/website and I consider them the best resource for all things culinary. THIS POST HERE is EXCELLENT. I promise it’s worth reading. If you’re like me, you want to understand the “why,” and Cook’s always gives you the best information.
I promise. You’ll never forget this preparation and you’ll make the best sweet potatoes you’ve ever had every time from then on.
Arugula is another wonderful brassica. It is one of the varieties in the baby leaf greens mix we grow, but I like to grow it as a stand-alone, separate crop, too. This is the first crop of the Fall season so it should be the spiciest. Like most brassicas, the flavor mellows with cooler weather and I expect this crop to do the same over the next several successions.
Culinarily speaking, you can’t go wrong with a sweet (ish) dressing. You cannot go wrong with a simple honey dijon like this Tyler Florence recipe.
This week’s radishes are the standard red radish with which we are all familiar. Radishes are another member of the Brassica family (Cruciferacaea.) We will have these for several weeks before they are joined by their close cousins, the daikon radishes.
I’d like to explain something that not everyone may know about radish greens. It’s standard practice to ice them after harvest because the greens tend to dry out or wilt from the heat. This becomes less of a concern as it gets colder, and the daikon radishes greens are less fragile. That said, because we grow them organically you can, and should, eat the greens. They go great in a fresh salad or added to any wilt (kales in particular.) I wrote a very enthusiastic blogpost a couple years back entitled Yes! Eat Our Radish Greens! and I promise it’s worth a scan.
Acorn squash is in the Cucurbit family and is a wonderful addition to the CSA box in the Fall. I like Winter Squashes so much that I’m considering planting them as early as possible next year – possible even the last week of March. To me they are much more interesting culinarily than the Summer Squashes, though more difficult to process.
Here’s an idea. Take my awesome (no, really, it is) Carrot Bisque recipe, swap out the carrots for diced Acorn Squash. Then take the second Acorn Squash, cut it in half, de-seed it, and roast the halves at 350° but don’t over-roast it. To serve, cut a flat spot on the bottom of each half, set each in a shallow bowl, and pour the bisque into the halves. Garnish with something green… 🙂
I bet that would be crazy good and look great on the plate as well. I’ll be sure to put extra Acorns in the boxes so everyone has enough. They store up to 3 months without losing flavor if kept cool.
Thanks Again, Everyone!