Friday, January 25, 2019

January Farm Update: What’s in store for our 2019 CSA Season and more!


Hello from Harmony Valley Farm! As I write this, the snow has blanketed our valley in bright white!  While our fields are resting peacefully, we are reminded that our growing season officially starts in about 3 weeks with our first greenhouse planting AND we’re only 15 weeks from the first CSA delivery week!  Yikes…we better keep moving! 

We’ve been hard at work preparing for the upcoming season, but wanted to take a moment to connect with you and share a little glimpse into our winter world.  We also want to tell you about some of the exciting things we’re looking forward to for the 2019 CSA season.  Before we jump into 2019, lets take a brief look back at our 2018 CSA year.

First CSA box of 2018, with 2 bunches of ramps!
Last year set the record for being the latest first planting date in the history of Harmony Valley Farm!  After getting a foot of snow on April 18th, we were relieved to watch it melt quickly allowing us to finally get into the fields to start planting just one week later on April 25th.   It took focused determination and a lot of team work to get caught up, but we were able to pull it off and get back on track pretty quickly.  One of the benefits to a late spring is that the ramp harvest season was also several weeks behind, but just in time for our first week of CSA deliveries!  We were able to pack not one but TWO bunches of ramps in each of the first three boxes of the season. We also had an awesome asparagus season that started the second week of CSA deliveries.  Our new fields produced very well and we were able to pack generous amounts of asparagus for 5 weeks!  Despite the spring challenges, Mother Nature came through for us and we were still able to deliver very nice spring boxes with good value.

Last CSA box of 2018
Every year of farming has its own set of challenges, most often related to the weather.  That’s just something you sign up for when you choose to be a farmer!  After pushing through the late spring, we reached our weather climax with two big rain events late in August/early September that proved to be our biggest weather challenge of the year.  Nonetheless, we stayed in the game and were still able to pack beautiful, plentiful CSA boxes for our full 30 weeks of deliveries!  Over the course of the season we delivered about 64 different types of vegetables, and that doesn’t include the multiple different varieties of some vegetables such as seven different varieties of winter squash, three colors of beets, etc. 

As we look back, we are also reminded of some of our 2018 farming victories including a delicious 4-week strawberry season, 9 weeks of potatoes, and 7 weeks of sweet & beautiful sweet potatoes!  We try to include some of the more staple vegetables more frequently over the course of our 30 week season.  Last year we delivered some type of onion & garlic in EVERY CSA box ranging from chives, overwintered onions and green garlic in the spring to delicious white Spanish onions mid-summer and a plentiful supply of red & yellow storage onions as well as shallots and red cipollini onions to wrap up the season.  Two-thirds of the boxes included carrots and about one-third of the boxes included broccoli.  We also had a nice 10-week run on tomatoes starting late July and running through the end of September!  All in all, I’d have to say it was a pretty amazing season!

Black Futsu Pumpkin
photo from High Mowing Organic Seeds
So what’s in store for 2019?  First, we have a pretty new radish called “Diana.”  Diana is a fresh radish that’s round and has purple shoulders and a white bottom.  They are described to be “crunchy and sweet with just the right amount of spicy.”   I’m also excited to try the “Black Futsu” winter squash (also referred to as a pumpkin) which is a Japanese vegetable with “unique black, warty skin and nutty, fresh flavor.”  One source describes it to have “very smooth, fine grained flesh and a fruity flavor at harvest that lends itself to thinly sliced raw or pickled preparations…With its very edible thin skin, it doesn’t require peeling.”  We have a few more new winter squash varieties to trial including two new personal-sized butternuts called “Butterbaby” and “Brulee,” thought to be as delicious as our beloved Honeynut Butternut, but with better yields and longer storage potential.  We are also interested in trying “Tetsukabuto” which is described to be “the squash of choice for the Apocalypse!”  The word means “steel helmet” in Japanese.  With a name like that, it sparked our interest and I guess whomever is left after the Apocalypse can enjoy this “sweet and nutty” squash that is “versatile in the kitchen” and has “exceptionally long storage.”

Last June's celtuce harvest
We’re also looking forward to refining our techniques for growing some crops we’re less familiar with or would like to improve upon.  Last year was our second attempt at growing celtuce.  It was a lot of fun, but we learned a few things and think we can do a better this year.  Even after 40 plus years of growing sweet corn, Farmer Richard continues to set his standards high for growing the most delicious sweet corn.  We’ve secured our preferred varieties and Richard and the crew have refined their strategy to protect the crop from pests.  Last year was a pretty good year of sweet corn, but we hope this year will be even better!

Of course we continue to consider more ways we can develop greater resilience to the erratic weather patterns we fear are our new norm.  We have watched our soil and fertility end up in the creek bottom or road ditches after heavy downpours of rain that come too fast for the moisture to be absorbed.  We think about this a lot—what else can we do to keep our soil in place and prevent erosion?  We have tried a new approach of planting permanent short grass and clover in between beds of vegetables and pathways around and within fields where water drains off the fields.  We had some success with this last year and are planning to expand this practice this year.

Farmer Richard & CSA kids at the Harvest Party 2018
While we realize CSA may not be for everyone, we believe it can be a good fit for many and is intended to be a different model that goes beyond the act of just buying food.  Rather, the whole point of CSA is to connect an eater to the source of their food and a greater community.  This can become a much deeper and more meaningful experience for both the consumer and the farmer with values and benefits that far exceed that of a simple dollar.   We are excited to have the opportunity to continue growing for our CSA members as it really is the most meaningful part of our business.  We know there are values and benefits associated with participating in CSA that are hard to measure, but include health benefits of having a wide variety of plant foods in your diet, learning more about how and where your food is grown, visiting the farm and connecting with both the place and people, participating in the act of preparing your own food and doing so as a family.  These are just a few of the additional benefits CSA members have shared with us about their experiences, but I’m sure there are more. 

We are curious how our CSA boxes compare to shopping at a retail grocery store.  Every year we ask a CSA member to be our “Secret Shopper.”  Each week this individual compares the contents of the vegetable box we deliver to three different types of retail grocery stores which include a local food co-op, a larger natural foods grocery and a traditional grocery store.  We took a look at these reports as well as our own data from last year and wanted to share some of the results with you.

CSA box #19 from 2018 included 3 items not found in
grocery stores: fresh edamame, broccoli Romanesco, and
orange Italian frying peppers
Lets talk about dollar value first.  Our weekly CSA vegetable share costs $1050 and includes all 30 weeks of deliveries.  The average cost of a box is $35, although some boxes may have a value a little less than that while others might have much greater value.  If you were to have purchased everything that was delivered over the course of the season at one of these other retail outlets, you would have paid approximately $1300 at the food co-op and traditional grocery store or about $1200 at the larger natural foods grocery store.  Additionally, if you had purchased all of the box contents at our market stand you would’ve paid $1315.  The take home message here?  CSA members receive a value of 14-25% above the actual dollars paid for the share and would have to pay the higher price if they were to make the same purchases at a retail store.  

Sun Jewel Melons ready to be packed in CSA boxes
We also found that 13% of all items sourced at the large natural foods store were not organic and at the traditional grocery store 28% of the items were not available organic.  The food co-op was the only store where someone would be able to purchase all organic.   There were also items included in our CSA shares that were not available at any of the comparison stores.  This rate was lowest at the food co-op, but we still found that 22% of the items were not available.  At the other two locations about 30% of the items were not available at all.  Some of these items include some of our seasonal favorites like green garlic, sweetheart cabbage, sun jewel melons, French Orange melons, fresh edamame, purple beans, orange Italian frying peppers, broccoli Romanesco and colored cauliflower. We strive to provide a wide variety of vegetables over the course of the season to keep things interesting and fun, but also because it’s important to eat a wide variety of foods for their nutrients.

As the first month of this new year comes to a close, we thank you for being part of our community.  If you have already made the decision to sign up for a CSA share for this year, thank you!  If you are still in the contemplative stage, we want to remind you that we have an Early Bird Sign Up offer available until February 14.  

We also have two new sites in the Twin Cities area and are still working on refining our new Thursday route into Madison.  Some of our new sites for this route have been confirmed, so check out our sign-up form for these locations.  Be well and enjoy this winter season!---Farmers Richard and Andrea

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What’s in store for 2019? Retiring Fruit & Coffee Shares AND Adding Thursday delivery to the Madison Area!


Dear Members,

Packing CSA Vegetable shares
This week we’ll be packing and delivering the final CSA box of the 2018 season.  I (Andrea) still remember sitting at my desk on the night of April 19.  It had snowed over 10 inches that day and I was having a hard time imagining just what we were going to pack in our first CSA box that was just two weeks away.  Fast forward through ramps, asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, melons, peppers, leeks, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and here we are in December, wrapping up another bountiful season of delicious vegetables.  Richard and I would like to thank each one of you for allowing us to be your farmers and grow food for you and your families this year.  Growing vegetables for our CSA families is the most meaningful part of what we do and we consider you, our CSA members, to be a very  important part of our farm.

As we look ahead to 2019, we have some updates to share with you about next year.  It’s no secret that CSA memberships, across the country, have been declining over the past 8-9 years.  This has been true for our farm as well, but we do not believe that CSA is a dying model.  Rather, we believe CSA is a very valuable model, for farmers, individuals, and our community.  CSA is unique, it’s not for every farmer and it’s not for every eater.  We’re thankful for our longtime members who have shown us just how important CSA has been in their lives.  We feel privileged to be able to watch so many beautiful CSA kids grow into bigger CSA kids as they become intelligent, beautiful individuals who are having and will have a positive impact in this world.  Over the past twenty-five years we’ve seen the results that come from “eating out of the box.”  Children that learn how to cook and feed themselves.  Adventurous eaters who are willing to try new things and enjoy eating a diverse diet.  Members who visit the farm and form a connection with where their food is grown.  Families who take the time to eat meals together, even in the midst of their busy lives.  Individuals who regain and maintain their health simply by eating more vegetables out of the box.  These are just some of the ways we know CSA can change and impact lives in a positive way.  We’re not giving up on CSA, rather we’re holding on to what we believe is a good thing and we’ll do our best to continue growing for our CSA families, making whatever positive impact we can in our little corner of the world.

Andrea with grower Mas Masumoto, Rick & Kathie (Co-Op Partners)
One of the difficult decisions we have made for the 2019 season is to discontinue offering Fruit & Coffee shares.  Those of you who have enjoyed these shares may be saying “WHAT!!!”  We are grateful for the partnerships we’ve formed with other producers that have allowed us to offer these shares for many years, however as we look at the “big picture” of our business we feel it’s time to retire these shares and focus on what we love the most and do the best, grow vegetables.  Producing fruit is not an easy job and we have a great respect for the excellent growers we’ve had the opportunity to work with.  Farmer Al at Frog Hollow Farms, Mas Masumoto, Gena Nonini at Marian Farms, Rich Johansen, Reusch Century Farm, and the list goes on.  Rick Christianson, our friend and buyer at Co-Op Partners’ Warehouse in Minneapolis, has been our conduit to these many excellent fruit growers.  He’s sourced fruit for us that is special, unique and sometimes in limited supply.  He’s connected us with these growers so we can have personal conversations with them and then pass their stories onto our members.   His job has not been easy and in many ways it continues to become more and more challenging as he deals with changes in the marketplace, challenges with transportation to get the fruit to us, etc.  Fruit is a delicate commodity and maintaining quality can be challenging.  We face quality issues with our own vegetables, that’s the life of farming.  The difference is we have more control over quality with our own products than we do with products we source elsewhere.  We hope our current and past members will continue to support our awesome, talented, skillful fruit producers when you see their fruit at your local co-op or maybe even do a special purchase on line…you know, for those extra special Warren pears.

TJ & Caleb,  Kickapoo Coffee owners.
We’ve also enjoyed our relationship with Kickapoo Coffee and are excited to see their business grow and flourish while they hold tight to their foundational beliefs.  They not only source some of the best quality coffee in the world, but they do it with integrity, fairness and respect for the producers.  They also happen to be pretty darn good at roasting it to perfection.  We’ll certainly continue to start our day with a delicious, rich cup of Kickapoo coffee and we hope you’ll consider doing the same (if you’re a coffee drinker).  They have an awesome subscription service too, so sign up for that and they’ll deliver it right to your door! 

Now that we have that announcement behind us, lets get back to vegetables!  At the end of the day, growing vegetables is what we love to do and we want to continue to invest our time, energy and resources in doing the best job that we can while continuing to learn and improve each year.  We will be offering a similar line-up of vegetable share options for the 2019 growing season and have decided to hold our pricing steady with our 2018 prices for next year. 

We are also excited to have room in our week to offer a weekday delivery option for the Madison area.  This is something we’ve been considering doing for the past few years, but it just hasn’t felt right and honestly, we just weren’t sure where or how we’d squeeze it into the week!  Our decision to discontinue packing fruit shares has opened up more labor hours and space in the packing shed on Wednesdays to allow us to pack boxes for a Thursday delivery into Madison.  This Thursday delivery route will hopefully open up some opportunities we haven’t previously been able to explore with our Saturday route.  In particular we’re hoping to add some business and workplace delivery locations.  This route is still under construction, and we’d value your input!  If you have a suggestion for a business location we might be a good fit for, please let us know as soon as possible so we can reach out to them.  We’ll also be offering several residential delivery sites.  If you’re interested in the possibility of hosting a CSA pick up site, please let us know so we can consider your location as we put together the route. 


In closing, we want to wish everyone a joyful and peaceful winter season.  We will be working with focused determination to prepare for another growing season and we look forward to being your farmers in 2019!

Sincerely,

Richard & Andrea


December 13, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Cipollini Onions


Cooking With This Week's Box



Covington Sweet Potatoes: Breakfast Hot Dish; Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie





Red Savoy Cabbage: Cabbage & Mushroom Lasagna
  
  

Red Cipollini Onions: Balsamic Roasted Cipollini Onions (see below)


This is it, our final box of the season.  This week’s box is packed full of storage vegetables that will keep well into the next month.  Take a moment to read this week’s newsletter to find out how to best store each item.  Lets start this week’s cooking with the Red Cipollini Onions which are this week’s featured vegetable.  This is a special onion that is at its best, in my opinion, when roasted.  My simple recipe for Balsamic Roasted Cipollini Onions (see below) is my favorite way to prepare these onions and is a great dish to serve alongside buttered noodles, grilled steak or roast chicken.  I featured this recipe way back in 2007, but it’s still a keeper!

I found this recipe for Pasta Salad with Roasted Carrots and Sunflower Seed DressingIt’s simple, but interesting and will be good for a light lunch or a holiday potluck.

Celeriac and Apple Soup with Tarragon
photo by Linda Xiao, food52
On the same website, Smitten Kitchen, I found this recipe for Cabbage & Mushroom Lasagna.  The recipe uses thin slices of potato as the “lasagna” noodle layer.  I’m going to substitute thin slices of celeriac instead.  If you don’t use all your celeriac for this recipe, consider making this simple Celeriac and Apple Soup with Tarragon.
 
I love finding interesting ways to eat root vegetables throughout the winter, including ideas for salads.  I’m excited to try this recipe for Spiced Beet Salad with Citrus Ginger Dressing.  In this recipe the beets are tossed in a citrus vinaigrette that is seasoned with coriander, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes and turmeric.  Once roasted, the beets are served topped with a dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of the dressing, mint and pistachios.

Buy a few extra pistachios so you can try this recipe for Simple Kohlrabi with Pistachios and Sage.  This kohlrabi tastes so sweet and delicious when roasted and this simple recipe will be easy to pull off with little time to invest.  Serve it with rice or alongside poached salmon or even just a simple fried egg.

If you’re looking for a recipe that can handle variations in ingredients and still be delicious, this recipe for Sesame Noodles with Seasonal Variations is a good one to try.  I featured this recipe in the newsletter several years ago and it’s a good one.  The recipe is written to include storage turnips as well as carrots, but you could also include beauty heart radishes and/or kohlrabi if that’s what you have available.

If you didn’t have a chance to make the recipe for Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping that we featured in our last newsletter, be sure to save it and give it a try this winter.  It’s a great way to incorporate a lot of different root vegetables into a meal including turnips, celeriac, carrots, and any other root you want to include!

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
This week some boxes will receive butternut squash and others will receive festival squash.  If you receive the butternut squash, or have some remaining from a previous delivery, consider making this Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette.  We featured this recipe on our blog last winter.  You’ll have to scroll to the bottom of the blog post.  This is a delicious creation that takes a little time to make, but is really quite easy.  If you receive the festival squash, consider making this recipe for Vegan Stuffed Acorn (sub Festival) Squash.  The squash are filled with a mixture of quinoa, cranberries, apples and pecans. 

We’re one vegetable away from cooking everything in this week’s box.  We’re down to sweet potatoes and I have one sweet and one savory suggestion.  I couldn’t resist this recipe for Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie and for all you Midwesterners…Breakfast Hot Dish featuring sweet potatoes!

Friends, I’m signing off for a little winter rest.  I hope you have fun cooking up creative winter meals and I look forward to meeting you back here in this space again next spring as we start another season of delicious, seasonal eating!  Happy Holidays! –Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Red Cipollini Onions

As you unpack the contents of this week’s box, don’t think the beautiful red onions packed in a brown paper bag are just another red onion.  These are a special onion that have a more flattened shape and are known for their higher natural sugar content in comparison to other storage onions.  Cipollini onions are at their best when slowly roasted to develop these natural sugars, leaving them silky, soft and so sweet they’ll melt in your mouth. 

This is not an onion you want to chop up— it’s one to be featured whole in soups, side dishes, roasted alongside beef, pork or chicken, or on kebobs. Roasted cipollini onions can be served as a side dish on their own— flavored with balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, marinade, or simply tossed with olive oil or butter and salt and pepper. While I think this onion is best roasted, you can also boil or braise them. They add flavor and color when braised in the cooking liquid of pot roast or pork roast along with other root vegetables. Smaller cipollini onions can also be added to soups or stews.

As with any other onion, the papery skin needs to be removed prior to cooking.  They are kind of challenging to peel by hand without peeling off an outer layer of onion flesh.  There is a trick to making them easier to peel. The first step is to trim the stem and root ends with a paring knife. Next, pour boiling water over them and let them set for 5-10 minutes. This helps loosen the skin and you should be able to slip it off easily. Now the onions are ready to be used as you wish. 

Balsamic Roasted Cipollini Onions


Yield:  4-6 servings


1 pound cipollini onions
¼ cup balsamic vinegar, or as needed
2 tbsp butter
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
  1.  Preheat oven to 375°-400° F. 
  2. Prepare onions by trimming both ends and removing the skin.  In a baking dish, toss onions with vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and put in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until start to become tender. 
  3. Remove cover and add butter.  Allow the butter to melt, then toss it in with the onions and bake, uncovered, until onions are tender and the liquid has reduced.  You may need to add more vinegar if the liquid has reduced and the onions are not yet done baking.  Serve hot.


Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Health is Our Wealth


By Andrea Yoder

“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.”—Wendell Berry

Since the 1990’s our food supply has changed dramatically.  When I was a kid Cheerios were pretty safe to eat, but now they are laced with glyphosate residues.  Now foods made from GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops are widespread within our food system and until recently we had no way of knowing if a food contained GMOs or not.  Some products are now labeled, but there is still a big void for most consumers about the negative impact GMO crops and their production system are having on both human and environmental health.  The six main GMO crops being produced now are corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets and alfalfa.  Additionally, GMO salmon, papaya, potatoes, apples, sweet corn, zucchini and yellow squash are also being produced but in lesser amounts. 

Jeffery Smith is the founder of The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) which has become “a world leader in educating policy makers and the public about genetically modified (GM) foods and crops.”  Mr. Smith recently released a film entitled Secret Ingredients that is now available to the public.  Richard and I had the opportunity to watch the movie earlier this week and would like to share a little glimpse of the movie as well as encourage everyone to take the time to watch it. 

Kathleen DiChiara (photo from her website)
The goal of the movie was to bring greater awareness to the public about the relationship between foods containing GMOs and toxic chemicals, such as glyphosate, and the vast array of chronic illnesses and health problems that are on the rise in our country including obesity, infertility, cancer, digestive disorders, autism, brain fog, skin disorders, gluten sensitivity, allergies, chronic fatigue, asthma, anxiety and many more.  The movie starts off with the story of Kathleen DiChiara  and her family including three young sons.  Kathleen was a well-educated person, a loving mother, an athlete attentive to health and thought she was eating a healthy diet.  Then the health of her family started to unravel.  She herself experienced an array of debilitating symptoms leading to a surgery that left her with paralysis as well as chronic pain in addition to the other symptoms she was experiencing including irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, rashes and more.  She went from participating in triathlons to being in a wheelchair and lost her job due to her disabilities.  At the same time she was trying to raise a young family, but was challenged by caring for her oldest son who was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, an autism spectrum disorder.  She also had a son struggling with asthma as well as a third son who had extensive and painful skin rashes covering his body.  Altogether, their family of 5 had 21 chronic health disorders.  As she and her husband struggled to figure out how to heal their family, her research led her to their food.  She didn’t realize the food she was eating and feeding her children was what was making them so sick.  When their family committed to eating an organic and GMO-free diet, their bodies healed and they were able to regain their health.  Their story is both heartbreaking as well as full of joy as they now living strong, vibrant lives they can enjoy.  In the movie, Kathleen made the statement “I chose to take my family out of this human experiment.” 

This movie also included interviews with physicians including Dr. Michelle Perro, author of “What’s Making Our Children Sick?” and Dr. David Perlmutter, renowned neurologist and author of multiple books including his most recent entitled “Grain Brain.”  Both of these physicians have years of clinical experience and have seen the dramatic improvements on health in patients who remove GMO foods from their diet and eat only organic food.  They speak extensively in the movie about the gut microbiome.  The healthy bacteria in our bodies are the gate keepers for our system, keeping our digestive tract intact and preventing foreign proteins, toxins, and allergens from entering our system.  They regulate inflammation in our bodies and have an extensive role in our brain chemistry.  The problem is that the chemical glyphosate, which is used extensively in conjunction with GMO plants, relies on a pathway to kill plants (weeds) called the shikimate pathway.  Humans don’t utilize this pathway, thus it has been said that GMO crops and glyphosate are safe for humans.  Unfortunately, this is a lie.  The bacteria in our gut are impacted by this pathway and exposure to GMO crops and glyphosate can cause extensive damage to our gut microbiome, leaving our systems vulnerable to attack from all the things these bacteria are meant to protect us from. 

There is much more depth of information in the movie than I can present here, but I do encourage you to take the time to watch the movie and see it for yourself.  Throughout the movie, it becomes clear that organic and non-GMO food is no longer just a lifestyle, but rather can be a life saver.  They also acknowledged that food can be deceiving.  If you put organic food and GMO foods side by side you likely won’t be able to tell the difference.  You can’t see the pesticides and herbicides they contain and you can’t see the allergens or novel proteins that can harm you.  Food is supposed to be our life force and bring vitality, not disease and destruction to our bodies.  Kathleen made an interesting point that it can be “Socially Inconvenient” to eat organic.  It’s hard to eat out and it’s hard to eat on the go or when you are traveling.  However, for those who are committed to eating this way, there are ways to overcome these challenges.  Kathleen and her family are very intentional about their diet.  They eat before they go out or pack snacks to take with them.  If going to a birthday party or the like, they take their own dessert made with organic ingredients.  They’ve also made friends with other families who are like-minded and they have dinner parties together.  They have experienced first-hand the impact high quality, nutrient dense food that is free from chemicals and GMOs can have on their health and ability to enjoy their lives, and that isn’t’ something they’re about to trade for a little bit of convenience.

I’m going to close with a few lines from a song that was played at the end of the movie.  The lyrics are simple, but powerful.  “Health is wealth, it’s the gift we give ourselves.  Health is wealth, don’t leave it to no one else….Give me food that’s grown on farms with butterflies & bees.”

November 29, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Storage Turnips


Cooking With This Week's Box


Italian Garlic: Roasted Garlic Hummus



Spaghetti Squash: Spaghetti Squash Fritters







Scarlet Turnips:  Chicken Pot Pie (see below);  Cornish Pasty (Meat Hand-Pies) (see below)

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Did you stick with the familiar traditional foods or did you try some new recipes? We’re entering into our final month of the year, the cold has set in and the snow is flying.  Doesn’t it make you want to hunker down and cook comfort food?! 

Lets kick off this week’s cooking adventure with two traditional recipes for winter comfort food that will make use of the sweet scarlet turnips which are this week’s featured vegetable.  The first recipe is my version of a Chicken Pot Pie (see below).  While I usually make pot pie with chicken, you could also turn this into a vegetarian dish by omitting the chicken and using vegetable stock.  Pot pies usually have a pie crust topping, but I’ve never been a fan of that so I always make mine with a crispy biscuit topping that includes a little cheddar cheese.  This is hearty enough for a full meal, so we generally just eat it for dinner with a little bit of cranberry jelly on the side to complement the rich, creamy gravy.  The second featured recipe this week is for Cornish Pasties (pronounced past-E) (see below).  These are kind of like the original hot pocket and are a traditional food of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula thanks to the Cornish miners who immigrated there in the 1800’s.  Pasties are one of their national dishes and they took them with them for lunch when they were working down in the mines.  They generally consist of some kind of beef and/or pork along with potatoes, rutabagas or turnips, carrots, onions and in modern versions there may be some dried herb and garlic.  They have a flaky, crispy, buttery pastry that encloses a hearty filling.  They are sturdy enough that you can hold them in your hand and they reheat well.  In one source, I read that they would sometimes cut the initials into each one of the person who was intended to eat it so they didn’t get them confused!  In the original recipes, the pasties are quite large which makes sense for a hardworking man.  In the recipe below, I offer the suggestion to make them half of the original size, which I find to be a more manageable size for those with a smaller appetite.

Roasted Black Radishes with Brown Butter & Rice
Moving on, I’m going to tackle the mysterious black Spanish radishes next.  Earlier in the spring I featured a recipe for Roasted Black Radishes with Brown Butter & Rice.  My original recipe was written for spring cooking and included chives.  You can omit them since they are out of season!  If you taste the black Spanish radish raw and think it’s too strong for your tastes, give this recipe a try.  The black radish will mellow out when it is roasted. 

Chili-Lime Sunchoke Salsa with Pan-Roasted Salmon
This week we have another root vegetable that may be less familiar to some and may be mistaken for a piece of ginger.  This vegetable is the sunchoke, otherwise known as a Jerusalem artichoke.  I will forewarn you if you’re trying them for the first time, they contain inulin.  Inulin is a non-digestible fiber that is really good for our bodies as they feed prebiotic bacteria in our colon and help to maintain our digestive health.  It is best to eat them in small quantities at first as some may have a bit of digestive discomfort if they eat too much.  I recommend making this Chili-Lime Sunchoke Salsa which is great on pan-roasted salmon or as a topping for tacos.  Another great recipe that is fitting for this week’s box is this Cabbage & Sunchoke Pizza.

You should be able to get possibly several meals out of the head of cabbage in your box.  In addition to the pizza, use some of your cabbage to make this simple Kohlrabi & Cabbage Slaw or try this recipe for Cabbage Pad Thai with Tofu.

Festival Squash with Kale & Sausage
Photo from epicurious.com
This recipe for Festival Squash with Kale & Sausage was shared by a member in our Facebook group.  If you don’t have any kale or collards hiding in your refrigerator, try substituting green savoy cabbage for the kale.  The original recipe calls for acorn squash, but the festival squash in this week’s box is an acceptable substitute.  Some boxes this week will also receive spaghetti squash.  I want to try this recipe for Spaghetti Squash Fritters.  As with most fritters, we’ll probably eat them with a little scoop of sour cream and they’ll probably go with either a quick seared pork chop or maybe a burger!

I love roasted garlic and am anxious to try this recipe for Roasted Garlic Hummus. This will make for a quick lunch spread on a piece of toast or a bagel or simply served with slices of raw carrot and kohlrabi.

We’re going to give onions center stage this week with this recipe for Jamie Oliver’s World’s Best Baked Onions or this creamier recipe for Creamed Onion Gratin.   Either recipe could serve as a side dish along with roast beef or chicken or make it a main dish with a salad on the side.

Quick Kohlrabi Kim Chi Salad
Photo from JeanettesHealthyLiving.com
As with your cabbage, you’ll also likely get several meals from the kohlrabi.  In addition to the Kohlrabi & Cabbage Slaw mentioned above, you could use kohlrabi to make this Quick Kohlrabi Kim Chi Salad or try cooking kohlrabi with this recipe for Cider-Braised Kohlrabi.

This week is the last week we’ll be including parsnips in the share.  I always tend to keep it simple when preparing parsnips and roasting is my favorite method, such as in this recipe for Roast Parsnips with Chili Maple Butter.

I’ve saved the orange vegetables for last and am anxious to try this recipe for Thai Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup with Curry Roasted CashewsI also want to try this recipe for  Raw Carrot Pasta with Ginger Lime Peanut Sauce.   If you have a spiralizer, you can use it to make carrot noodles, or you can just simply make long ribbons of carrot with a vegetable peeler. 

That’s it for this week.  Stay warm and I’ll see you back here in two weeks for our final box of the 2018 CSA season!

Featured Vegetable: Storage Turnips

Scarlet Turnips
Friends, it’s that time of year.  We’ll be ushering in the first day of December before the week is finished.  We are officially done harvesting vegetables, but this week’s box is still brimming with abundance as we pull from our stores of roots, cabbage, alliums, squash, etc.  We plan for this time of year and make sure we have plenty of vegetables stashed away when the snow starts to fly.  This is a new season of local fare and this week I want to turn our attention to the humble storage turnip.  Some vegetables seem to scream “Look at me!” while others, such as turnips, seem to hang out in the shadows.  But turnips are an important part of our winter diet and deserve a mention.  They are much different from the tender, mild baby white salad turnips we grow in the spring and early fall.  Storage turnips are much more dense and have a stronger flavor.  They also have the ability to store for months (literally!) in cold storage.  We grow three different colors of storage turnips including the classic and familiar purple top turnips, golden turnips, and the hot pink sweet scarlet turnips included in this week’s box. Purple top turnips have the strongest turnip flavor while golden and sweet scarlet turnips are more mild.  Golden & sweet scarlet turnips are our two preferred varieties, which is why we’ve chosen them for your last two boxes of the season!

Yes, we realize turnips are sometimes a challenging vegetable for CSA members to embrace.  I’ve heard longtime members say “I can conquer everything in the box, but those late season turnips are a challenge for me!”  Most likely this stems from a bad experience early in life.  Perhaps overcooked turnips or canned turnips.  Turnips are part of the Brassica family and, like many other vegetables in this family, it’s important not to overcook them thereby releasing those strong sulfur compounds that can be strong and unpleasant.  I hope you’ll approach turnips with an open mind this year as they have a lot of great health and culinary qualities and can be used in a wide variety of ways throughout the winter. 

Turnips are seldom a featured vegetable in a meal, rather they play their greatest role by hanging out in the shadows of your culinary creations.  If you’re still learning how to use and appreciate turnips, use them in recipes where they are combined with other ingredients as opposed to being cooked on their own.  Turnips pair well with apples, cheese, cider, cream, garlic, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and lemon as well as other root vegetables, bacon, ham and roast beef.  They make a delicious addition to winter soups, stews, root vegetable gratins, root mash and pot pies.  Turnips are also a great vegetable to use in a winter stir-fry, or pickle them and use them as a condiment for sandwiches or alongside rich meats, etc. 

Apple & Turnip Quiche
If you’re looking for a recipe and not sure where to start, I’d like to suggest the recipe in this week’s newsletter for Chicken Pot Pie (see below--may also be adapted to be vegetarian).  My other all-time favorite recipe utilizing turnips is the Birchwood CafĂ©’s recipe for Apple & Turnip Quiche.  I serve this frequently during the winter.  Richard also likes this simple one-pan recipe for Pan Seared Pork Chops with Turnips, Apples & Cider Cream Sauce and if you really like the flavor of turnips and want to give it more of the center-stage, try Roasted Turnip Ganoush

Turnips should be stored in a plastic bag or container in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.  I seldom peel turnips, however if you find their flavor to be more pungent than your liking, peeling may help decrease some of the characteristic turnip bite.  Also, with extended time in storage you may find some turnips may develop some browning due to oxidation or some surface scarring, which is sometimes a reason to peel the turnip.  The defect is often only on the surface and the rest of the turnip is totally usable.  If your turnips start to dehydrate a little bit in storage, either re-hydrate them in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator or cut them up and put them in a stew or soup.

We hope you’ll choose to embrace turnips this year and try some new and different ways to prepare them!


Cornish Pasties (Meat Hand Pies)

Yield:  6 large or 12 small pasties

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
1 cup butter or shortening
Salt, to taste
1 cup cold ice water
12 ounces ground beef (uncooked)
½ cup carrot, small dice
½ cup turnip or rutabaga, small dice
½ cup parsnips, small dice
½ cup potato, small dice
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper
1 large egg, beaten
  1. For the pastry:  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  Cut in the butter or shortening using a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add half the water and stir gently with a fork.  Add the remaining water and bring together the dough into a large ball.  Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large bowl, combine beef, small diced vegetables, thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Thoroughly  mix to combine and set aside.
  3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 6 even pieces (if making large pasties), or 12 pieces (if making small pasties).  Flour a work surface and roll out each ball of dough into an 8-inch circle (for large pasties).  Put about ¾ cup filling on one side of the circle of dough.  Fold the dough over to cover the mixture and crimp the edges to seal the pasty.  You may flute or gently roll the edges for a decorative touch.  Carefully lift the pasty onto a baking sheet (lined with parchment for convenience if you wish).  Repeat with remaining pasties.
  4. Brush the pasties with the egg wash using a pastry brush.  Cut 3 small slits in the top of each pastry to prevent steam from building up and splitting the dough.  Bake for 1 hour until the crust is golden brown and flaky and the filling is firm and thoroughly cooked.  Serve warm, with ketchup or brown gravy if you like.
  5. If you have leftovers, wrap in foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months.  You can reheat these in a 350°F oven.

This recipe was adapted from a recipe for Michigan Pasty found at cookingchanneltv.com and a recipe for Cornish Pasties found at kingarthurflour.com.


Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping


Yield:  4 servings



½ cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 pints chicken stock
½ tsp dried thyme
2 ½ cups root vegetables (turnip, carrot, parsnip, celeriac, rutabaga), medium dice
8 ounces cooked chicken, diced
Sea Salt, to taste
Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Biscuit Topping (See Recipe Below)

  1. In a small sauce pot, melt 2 Tbsp of butter.  Sweat onion and garlic in butter until softened.  Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter and melt.  Stir in whole wheat pastry flour to make a roux.  Gradually add chicken stock, stirring constantly to combine.  Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently to keep from scorching the bottom of the pot.
  2. Add thyme, diced vegetables and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.  Stir in chicken and pour into an 8 x 8 inch baking dish.  Drop spoonfuls of biscuit dough evenly on top of filling.  Bake in a 400°F oven for 35-40 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.


Biscuit Topping
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 Tbsp unsalted cold butter
½ cup buttermilk
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper.  Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.  
  2. Add cheese and toss to coat.  Add buttermilk and stir to combine.  Mixture should be stiff.
Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm