Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sweet Potato 2018

By Farmer Richard

Sweet Potato Harvest, 2017
Every year is different.  How was this year’s crop?  Well, considering we had a cold, wet spring followed by a wet late summer which continued into fall, what would you expect for a tropical, hot and dry loving plant?  Maybe a crop failure?  Surprise!  From the 16,000 slips, planted on 1.5 acres of sandy river bottom ground we brought in a surprising 33,300 pounds of very nice sweet potatoes!  Less than the average yield from North Carolina or California, the leading sweet potato producers in the US, but our unique production system of planting into raised beds covered with green plastic really surprised us!  Even though it was far too wet when we harvested them the excess water had drained off between the beds, so under the raised plastic beds, the soil was only moist and the sweet potatoes had happily produced a nice “banana bunch” like cluster.  We only used our buried irrigation lines to deliver a bit of fertilizer and a new organic product to deter the worms that had previously produced deep holes in the developing sweet potatoes.  Well, something worked!  You’ll notice there are almost no holes this year!  Thanks to Kyle’s feedback (Madison CSA member) about the holes on some of our sweet potatoes last year, we tried to address the problem and appear to have succeeded!  We listen, we try. 

Last year we did a more extensive trial of new varieties and asked for feedback on your favorites.  Based on last year’s trials and your feedback, we chose two varieties, “Burgundy” and “Covington,” both available from our certified organic friends at New Sprout Farms.  We also added a small amount of the Japanese white fleshed variety “Murasaki” on Andrea’s insistence.  They produced only ⅓ of the volume of the best two, but they are so “unbelievably sweet” even before they were cured.  Despite the meager yield, this is by far the best yield we’ve ever seen on this potato and they actually produced sizeable potatoes this year!  We hope to pack a few in your boxes this fall.

Sweet potatoes "curing."
After last year’s variety trials, which you can read about on our blog, we find that our refractometer reading for “Brix” does not always reflect the eating experience.  The fact that different varieties have different levels of the 3 sugars, sucrose, fructose, and maltose actually plays into the eating experience.  The Brix measurement we get only reflects overall sugars, but does not give us an indicator of the overall sensation of sweetness.  So while we do still measure brix levels, we’re really left with just cooking them and eating them to see how they taste!  We did “cure” them for a full 10 days at 85°F and 90% humidity.  We burned up a bunch of wood and some propane in the process, but we think it was worth the wait!

Look forward to an abundance of sweet potatoes in all remaining boxes and feel free to order extras for winter.  We’ll offer them as a produce plus item before Thanksgiving and again in December.  We plan to eat them until spring.  Of course, we always appreciate your feedback, so let us know what you think! 

One little side note in closing, our sweet Captain Jack, “The Dog,” has developed a very strong liking for dried sweet potato slices when we tried to find healthy chew treats for him.  So with Jack as tester, I have developed the precise method of slicing, baking, and drying for a shelf stable, healthy organic treat for special dog friends.  Of course, made from the “not so pretty” sweet potatoes, but just a tasty.  If you have a four-legged friend that might be interested in trying these, watch for this offering from me & Captain Jack later in the season.

October 11, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweet Potatoes

Cooking With This Week's Box

Yellow & Red Onions: Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below); Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below); Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo SalsaSheet Pan Chicken & Broccoli; Mizuna Quinoa Salad with Lemon Scallion Vinaigrette

Garlic: Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below)

Broccoli or Broccoli Romanesco: Sheet Pan Chicken &Broccoli  

White or Yellow Cauliflower: Cauliflower Tots

Sugar Dumpling Squash: Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo Salsa
Honeynut Butternut Squash: Chai Spiced Bread

Baby Spinach: Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below)  

Salad Mix: Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below)
Burgundy Sweet Potatoes: Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below); Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below)

The moment we’ve all been waiting for…SWEET POTATOES!  After we lost our entire crop two years ago, we all hold our breath until we know for sure the sweet potatoes are harvested and stored away safely in our greenhouse.  If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read Farmer Richard’s article this week.  We have a great crop this year and we’re excited to start sharing them with you this week.  Our featured recipes this week give you two options to start your sweet potato cooking season.  The first is a delicious, and simple, recipe for Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below).  In this recipe you roast the sweet potatoes before adding them to the soup which adds a little extra layer of sweetness and flavor.  The other recipe is for Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below).  I think this is a great recipe for this week with our fall spinach or salad mix.  You could even add a little crumbled bacon if you like. 

Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo Salsa
photo from Smitten Kitchen
I continue to collect winter squash recipes and appreciate this recipe for Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo Salsa that was shared by a member in our Facebook Group.  Of course we don’t grow acorn squash, but you can use the sweet and delicious sugar dumpling squash in this week’s box in place of it.  This is a perfect recipe this week to wrap up our season with peppers and tomatillos.  You can use both in this recipe along with a jalapeno or the Korean chili peppers. 

The other winter squash selection in this week’s box is the beloved little honeynut butternut squash.  This is another one of our sweet specialty squash varieties that is really quite good just baked and enjoyed with a little salt and a pat of butter.  Of course, you could bake it and use the flesh to make this delicious Chai Spiced Bread, a recipe that a member shared with us several years ago.  I’m warning you…it’s delicious!
I’ve really been enjoying the carrots this summer and fall and I think the thing I appreciate the most about them is how easy it is to prepare a delicious, simple dish because the carrots themselves are so good!  This week I am into roasting and want to try this recipe for Honey-Maple Roasted Carrots.  Enjoy these as a simple side dish to make a meal as simple as a seared pork chop, the carrots and a salad made with this week’s salad mix.

Sheet Pan Chicken & Broccoli
photo from Overtime Cook
I’ve seen recipes for Cauliflower “tater” tots before, but they always seem complicated. This recipe for Cauliflower Tots actually seems pretty manageable, so I’m going to give them a try this week!  Serve these with a burger or grilled cheese sandwich for an All-American meal!  As for this week’s broccoli or broccoli Romanesco, these will be used to make a simple dinner of Sheet Pan Chicken & Broccoli.  Serve this with steamed rice for an easy dinner.

This is the time of year when some of our Asian greens that are a little spicy taste the best.  This week’s boxes include mizuna, either green or red.  Check out Early Morning Farm’s list of 7 Ways to Use Mizuna including this recipe for Mizuna Quinoa Salad with Lemon Scallion Vinaigrette.  Of course we don’t have scallions now, but red onions would work as well. 

What should we do with the last of the sweet peppers?  Check out The Food Network’s “10 Ways to Use Sweet Mini Peppers”
and you’ll find tasty recipes including one for Sweet Pepper Poppers!

We did it!  Another week of delicious, nutritious and tasty meals.  Do you ever just stop to consider how many different vegetables you’ve consumed over the course of the season?  This is our 24th week of deliveries.  If anyone goes back and counts how many different things we’ve had to cook with, please let me know what number you come up with!  We still have more delicious vegetable tricks up our sleeves as we finish out the season.  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Sweet Potatoes

This week we’re excited to be packing sweet potatoes in your boxes!  Sweet potatoes, which are actually a tropical vegetable, are an important part of our fall and winter diets.  If stored properly you can eat sweet potatoes all winter! The ideal storage temperature for sweet potatoes is 55-65°F.  They can get chill injury if stored at temperatures below 55°F, so if you don’t have the perfect location to store them at their ideal temperature, it’s better to store them on your countertop in your kitchen instead of putting them in the refrigerator.

Straight out of the field, our sweet potatoes tasted pretty good, but not good enough to eat.  That’s right, we have a rule around here that you don’t really eat sweet potatoes for at least two weeks after they are harvested.  When they are first harvested the potatoes are starchy, not very sweet or tasty, and the skins are very tender requiring careful handling.  Sweet potatoes aren’t truly sweet potatoes until we “cure them.”  Curing is a process by which we hold the sweet potatoes at high heat and high humidity for 7-10 days, basically it’s kind of like a sauna for sweet potatoes!  During this time the starches in the potatoes are converted to sugars and the skins become more stable for long term storage. 

Sweet potatoes are less starchy and more sweet and moist than a regular potato and have a wide variety of uses.  You can simply bake them whole until fork tender and eat the flesh right out of the skin.  They are also delicious cut into bite-sized pieces and roasted or cut them into wedges or thin slices and make roasted fries or chips.  If you’re going to do this, it’s best to put the wedges or slices of sweet potatoes on a rack in a pan.  If you do this, the air and heat from the oven can better circulate on all sides of the sweet potato making it more crispy and less soggy.  Sweet potatoes also make delicious, hearty soups and stews, may be added to chili, shredded and fried like hash browns, or just simply cook and mash or puree them. 

Sweet potatoes can also be incorporated into baking.  Sweet potato pie is a decadent way to eat a vegetable.  If you’re going to make pie, consider this Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping featured at  It’s delicious served with Bourbon Whipped Cream.  You can also use sweet potatoes to make biscuits, rolls, quick breads, cookies, bars, cheesecake and more! 

Sweet potatoes pair well with a wide variety of ingredients, which makes them so versatile in their use.  They pair very well with apples and pears as well as other root vegetables, bitter fall greens, dried beans and greens such as kales.  They also go very well with coconut, ginger, chiles, butter, cream, citrus and nuts of any kind.

If you haven’t read Farmer Richard’s main article for this week, please take a minute to do so as it will help you understand more about what it takes to actually grow this tropical vegetable in a northern climate! 

Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad

Yield: 6 side salads

Roasted Vegetables:
2 cups ½ inch cubed sweet potato
2 cups ½ inch cubed red onion
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh sage
1 tsp kosher salt
A couple cracks of black pepper

Crushed Croutons:
1 Tbsp salted butter
½ cup panko

1 ½ Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp pure maple syrup
Pinch of kosher salt
A couple cracks of black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil

5 oz spinach (or substitute salad mix)
½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
¼ cup dried cranberries or tart cherries
¼ cup goat cheese or crumbled feta
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)
  1. Prepare the roasted vegetables.  Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the prepared potatoes and onion on the baking sheet.  Add all the remaining roasted vegetable ingredients to the pan; toss to coat.   Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly charred, stirring halfway through.
  2. Make the crushed croutons.  In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the panko and toast until golden, about 3 minutes.  Set aside.
  3. Make the dressing.  In a serving bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until emulsified (until the oil and vinegar become one).  This can be made 3 weeks in advance and stored at room temperature.
  4. Assemble the salad.  Add all the greens ingredients into the salad bowl along with the roasted vegetables (including the crispy herbs) and crushed croutons.  Toss to combine.  Serve immediately.

Recipe borrowed from Melissa Coleman’s book, The Minimalist Kitchen.

Sweet Potato Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

Yield:  4 servings

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small pieces (about 5 cups)

2 ½ Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1 (15-oz) can coconut milk
1 ½ Tbsp red curry paste
1 (15-oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup red or yellow lentils
Salt, to taste
Lime juice, to taste
Cilantro, chopped, for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Toss sweet potatoes with 1 ½ Tbsp of olive oil and roast for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown and tender. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  Sauté the ginger, onion, and garlic in oil until softened.  Add the coconut milk, red curry paste, tomatoes and red lentils.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  Add roasted sweet potatoes and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Use an immersion blender or regular blender to blend until smooth or to desired consistency.  Thin with additional water if needed.  Season with salt and the juice of one lime.  Stir to combine.  Adjust seasoning to your liking with more salt and/or lime juice as needed.
  4. Serve hot, garnished with chopped cilantro.

Recipe adapted from Elizabeth Stein’s book, Eating Purely.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Local Thirty..30 days, 200 miles

By Andrea Yoder

For those of you who have been members with our farm for awhile and read the newsletter pretty regularly, you may already know that I first came to the farm back in 2007 as the summer farm chef.  I knew very little, much less than I realized at the time.  I came because my two favorite things to cook were fish and vegetables, the latter being the focus of my attention when I accepted the position.  I didn’t know much about what it meant to be certified organic or why I would come to value eating certified organic food, but I was eager to learn and accepted the challenge.  I don’t recall Richard every telling me that all the food I purchased and prepared for the crew had to be 100% certified organic, but it seemed a bit contradictory for it to be any other way.  So I raised the bar and strived to achieve it with each menu I planned and each purchase I made. 

Chef Andrea getting ready to process beets.
But that wasn’t the only thing I had to figure out.  There was this thing called ‘seasonal eating’ that also factored into my cooking.  It snowed the first week I was here, so there wasn’t much coming out of the fields.  No worries, there was a pallet of “extras” waiting for me in the cooler.  Carrots, sunchokes, black radishes, beets….notice I didn’t mention potatoes.  That’s right, I cooked for several months without a single potato.  As I kicked off the season, I quickly learned that I really enjoyed the challenge of seasonal cooking and worked really hard to incorporate as many of the vegetables we were growing into the meals I was preparing for the crew.  Sourcing certified organic ingredients wasn’t too hard, but it did mean that there were some ingredients that just weren’t available for me to use.  Somewhere along the way I also began to value sourcing ingredients locally.  Maybe it was the fun of trading with other vendors at the farmers’ market.  Maybe it was the experience of going over to our friends’ farm, Jim & Phyllis, to help them catch the chickens they had raised for us and then helping Elizabeth butcher them.  I valued each and every chicken that I prepared that summer and not a morsel went to waste.  Along the way Richard challenged me to take the concept of a CSA Cheese Share and turn it into a reality.  I called a lot of cheese producers, asked them a lot of questions and was finally able to narrow down the list of farmers that met our qualifications.  Of course I wanted to make sure we knew what we were distributing, so I visited each producer so I could see for myself that they were the real thing….and they were.  Over the course of time my diet and outlook on food has changed.  I can’t say that I know the origin of every single ingredient in my kitchen, but I can usually identify the majority of what we eat and I continue to challenge myself to keep searching. 

Andrea Bemis, from her website
Andrea Bemis is a vegetable farmer, along with her husband Taylor, at their small farm in Oregon.  She also has a food blog and a cookbook, both titled Dishing Up the Dirt.  I follow her blog regularly and have adapted, referenced and shared quite a few of her vegetable-centric, simple recipes over the past several years.  Earlier this year she announced a challenge that she called “The Local Thirty.”  For the month of September Andrea and Taylor challenged themselves to source all their food within 200 miles for 30 days.  She did allow herself 10 “cheat items,” partly because there are some very enjoyable foods that were part of her diet that can’t be sourced locally (like coffee and chocolate) and because the challenge wasn’t about deprivation as much as it was becoming more informed about the foods she was consuming.  She identified “three pillars” that are the most important considerations when choosing food.  These include wellness (Is it good for the body?), sustainability (Is it good for the planet?) and community (Is it good for other people?)  The closer you are to the source of your food, the more opportunity you have to know more about the people who are producing and/or distributing the food as well as the intricacies related to how it’s being produced.  At the end of her announcement about her personal challenge, she stated “For the 30 days of September I’m going to source all of my ingredients from a 200 mile radius of where I live.  I’m hoping that in doing so I will find a more grounded sense of place and a community of folks that I never knew existed.”

Well, the month of September is officially over and so is Andrea’s challenge.  I applaud her for keeping up with this project in the midst of the growing season, but she did it and managed to document her experiences intermittently on her blog as well as more frequently on Instagram.  In one post she commented "As we navigate through finding local resources for some of our favorite ingredients I'm learning that this month isn't going to be perfect. But that's okay. We are meeting so many amazing folks who are making our community a better place. And the community is reaching farther than our tiny corner of the world as I get to be a part of so many of your local journeys as well." She recently posted on her blog about her experience of getting to go tuna fishing.  In this post she commented “When I began really exploring where my food comes from, I started to realize that this is not so much about the ingredients for me anymore.  It’s about these people (most often strangers) and how little pieces of their world make up mine.”  Her comment struck me.  She’s totally right.

Our Dane County Farmers' Market crew!
There are many reasons to eat locally, we’ve all heard the lingo.  “Keep your food dollars local.”  “Know your farmer, know your food.”  If you’re curious about your food and your community, or if you really just want to have a source for the best tasting food, local is the way to go.  In this region we are so blessed with a rich supply of really great food!  If we take a little time to look around, it’s easy to find some awesome people making some really great food that is special.  Special because it’s made with care, passion and sincerity.  Special because you get to connect with the people behind it.  At our recent Harvest Party I had a conversation with a member about the beauty of an egg laid by a happy chicken on pasture.  Grocery store eggs, even most organic ones, are not the same.  She asked me “how do I get these eggs.”  My simple answer, “You need a supplier.  You have to talk to farmers, find someone who’s doing it right and get on their list.” 

When we sit down to eat, we really enjoy eating chicken from our friend Gretchen, roasted vegetables from our farm tossed with sunflower oil produced by our friends at Driftless Organics.  We enjoy Castle Rock cream from the Kostka family in our morning cup of coffee, roasted locally by our friends at Kickapoo Coffee.  I’m not trying to be high and mighty here, just agreeing with Andrea B. that it’s really cool to be able to identify where my food comes from and to think about and appreciate the people who work hard to bring it to my table.  It’s much more satisfying than opening a package from afar and not knowing much if anything about what I’m putting into my body.  If we do choose to eat food grown outside our local area, there's opportunities to source these things carefully as well.  For instance, Frog Hollow Farm in California, one of our fruit share producer partners, also makes olive oil with the olives they produce on their farm.  Marian Farms, also in California, is my source for raisins and almonds.  While these foods can't be sourced locally, I appreciate the opportunity to at least purchase them directly from the producers, especially because I have had the chance to talk to them personally and want to support what they're doing!  Food is personal, at least I think it should be.

While Andrea didn’t intend to do this in the beginning, she actually connected with some filmmaker friends who traveled with her and documented some of her experiences associated with her challenge.  She’s turning it into a documentary that will hopefully be done before the end of the year!  I look forward to hearing more about her experiences, reflections, etc.  In the meantime, I encourage each of you to take a look in your backyard and see what you can find.  You might be surprised by what you find. If you already have some sources for awesome local foods, share them with your friends and neighbors so they too can support these local producers and together we can do our best to build a strong community and a strong food system!  Of course, along the way you'll glean nourishment for your soul and some really great meals!

October 4, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Winter Squash

Cooking With This Week's Box

Carrots:  Curried Spaghetti Squash & Chickpea Toasts (see below)
Sweet Yellow & Red Onions:  Curried Spaghetti Squash & Chickpea Toasts (see below);  Stuffed Winter Squash (see below);  Pasta with Braised Onion SauceApple, Pecan Arugula SaladWine Braised Beets with Garlic Mashed (smashed) Potatoes
Orange Italian Peppers:  Cheesy Fajita Chicken Bake
Poblano Peppers:  Cheesy Fajita Chicken Bake
Broccoli or Broccoli Romanesco:  Romanesco Cacio e Pepe
White or Yellow Cauliflower:  Cauliflower Patties.
Masquerade or Harvest Moon Potatoes:  Wine Braised Beets with Garlic Mashed (smashed) Potatoes
Sugar Dumpling Squash:  Stuffed Winter Squash (see below)
Spaghetti Squash:  Curried Spaghetti Squash & Chickpea Toasts (see below)
Baby White turnips:  Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza

While we managed to skirt the first potential frost last weekend, we do find ourselves in the first week of October!  Fall is here and summer vegetables are nearly gone while fall crops are filling their void.  Sweet potatoes should be ready for delivery next week!  This week though, our focus is on winter squash.  Lets kick off our cooking escapades with the two featured recipes.  Spaghetti squash is often used in casseroles or other preparations as a substitute for pasta.  I appreciated this recipe for Curried Spaghetti Squash & Chickpea Toasts (see below) because it is something different!  You could make these to serve as an appetizer, snack, a light dinner with a salad, or even breakfast with a fried egg!  The other squash recipe featured this week is most appropriate to make with the sugar dumpling squash.  Alana Chernila’s recipe for Stuffed Winter Squash (see below) is pretty easy to assemble once you have prepped the filling ingredients and have cooked the squash.  This would be an easy recipe to prep at the beginning of the week and then just assemble some night during the week when you need to pull together dinner quickly. 

I love onions and can’t imagine having too many, but sometimes they start to pile up which means it’s time to choose a recipe where they can take the center stage.  So this week, clean up your extra onions with this recipe for Pasta with Braised Onion Sauce.  Also on Food52, I found this recipe for Cauliflower Patties.  I’m going to make these for dinner and serve them along with this Apple, Pecan Arugula Salad using the Honeycrisp Apples that are in our fruit share this week from our local Hoch orchard.

For my next recipe suggestion, I turn to Andrea Bemis’s blog, Dishing Up the Dirt.  If you haven’t read this week’s main newsletter article, please do.  I talk about Andrea’s Local Thirty challenge and her experiences with sourcing more of her food from local sources.  This is her recipe for Wine Braised Beets with Garlic Mashed (smashed) Potatoes.  Serve this on its own or Andrea recommends serving it with meat (such as a grilled steak) or lentils.  Mash the potatoes gently as this week’s potato varieties are more on the waxy side which means the potatoes may get sticky if you work them too much.  Unless you still have potatoes and/or baby beets from last week, you may need to scale the recipe back a bit as the quantities she calls for potatoes and beets are a little more than is in your box this week.  The beets are small enough that they can be braised whole. 

We’re happy to have the baby white turnips back for their fall appearance!  If you didn’t have a chance to try this recipe for Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza that we featured earlier in the spring, now’s your chance!  Of course these pretty little things are also delicious when simply steamed along with their greens and served with butter. 

So sad to see pepper season end, but before they’re gone I want to try this recipe for Cheesy Fajita Chicken Bake.  The recipe calls for bell peppers, but we can use this week’s sweet Orange Italian Frying peppers and poblano peppers.  Serve this with Spanish rice or even some simple roasted potatoes.

Every week needs a quick pasta dish and this week’s is Romanesco Cacio e Pepe, a fancy Italian way of saying simple pasta dish with cheese and black pepper!  Of course the real star of this dish is the cool Broccoli Romanesco, which is described as the “Lady Gaga of Broccoli” in the article featuring this recipe. 

And once again we’ve cooked our way to the bottom of another CSA box.  Have a great week, eat well, and get your sweet potato recipes ready for next week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Winter Squash

Fall is definitely in the air, nights are cool and the trees are starting to show signs of turning.  That means it’s time for us to get serious about fall vegetables...including winter squash!   We are thankful to have had a bountiful harvest this year and our greenhouse where we store them is filled with a colorful array of different varieties.  Before we go any further with delivering winter squash I want to pause and talk a little bit about general tips and info for storing and using winter squash, as well as a little more information about the varieties in this week’s box. 

First of all, lets talk about storage.  The ideal temperature for long term storage of squash is between 45 and 55°F in a dry location. This is a bit more chilly than most of your homes, so know that it’s ok to store them on your kitchen counter at a warmer temperature as long as you keep your eye on them.  You do not want to store squash in the refrigerator or in an uninsulated garage where the temperatures could dip below 45°F once winter sets in.  At temperatures less than 45°F squash is vulnerable to chill injury.  What does it mean to “keep your eye on the squash?”  If you notice any sort of a spot starting to form or any signs of deterioration, you need to intervene immediately.  A small spot doesn’t mean the squash is bad or needs to be composted, rather it means you need to eat it right away!  Just cut away the bad spot and use the rest.  If you leave it unattended, the spot will continue to grow and consume your squash….which is what we do not want to happen!  Even if you are not quite ready to eat the squash, I encourage you to cook it anyway.  Winter squash is a great vegetable to cook in advance and freeze.  It’s super quick and easy to pull precooked squash out of the freezer in the middle of the winter and heat it up to eat as a side dish or incorporate it into baked goods or other dishes.  The main thing is, don’t let it go to waste!  If I have a pile of squash on my counter, I like to bake a lot at one time….the oven is already hot and if you’re going to make a mess it’s better to clean up just once!

There are certain varieties of winter squash that store better than others.  In general, varieties with a thinner skin and higher sugar content are going to be the most perishable.  You’ll want to eat these sooner than later, usually within a few weeks of receiving them.  Some of the varieties that fit this description include this week’s sugar dumpling as well as the orange kabocha squash we delivered previously.  Soon you’ll be receiving honeynut butternut squash in your boxes, and this is another one to eat soon.  Regular butternut squash, butterkin and festival squash are usually the ones that last the longest, so these are the ones you might choose to store into winter.  You’ll notice I didn’t mention spaghetti squash.  This squash is not the sweetest variety and the skin isn’t terribly thin, however our experience is that this squash may not store as long as the butternut and festival.  While you may have a little more time, I wouldn’t recommend planning to store this one into the winter months.

Winter squash is easy to cook.  The method I employ most frequently is to simply cut the squash in half and scrape out the seed cavity.  I place it, cut side down, in a baking dish and add a little bit of water to the pan, enough to cover the bottom of the pan and come up about ¼-½ an inch on the squash.  I bake it in the oven at about 350°F until it is tender when poked with a fork.  Once tender, I remove them from the oven and flip them over so the cut side is up.  I allow them to rest until they are cool enough to handle, then scoop out the flesh.  When you scoop the seed cavity out, remember that the seeds are edible as well.  Squash that have smaller seeds that are more tender may be rinsed, dried and then toasted.  

Spaghetti Squash
There are other methods of cooking squash including roasting or steaming it.  Depending on the end result you may choose to peel the squash first.   Roasted squash is a sweet treat and can be made just as you would roast any other vegetable.  You may also choose to peel the squash and cut the flesh into pieces to add to soups, stews, curries, etc. 

This week we’re delivering spaghetti squash and sugar dumpling squash.  We grow a variety of spaghetti squash that is smaller than the ones you generally see in the store, thus it’s a bit more manageable to use and consume!  Spaghetti squash differs from other squash in that the flesh can be scraped away from the skin in strands that look like spaghetti, hence the name.  It has a very mild flavor and goes well in many savory preparations. 

Sugar Dumpling Squash
The other squash in this week’s box is sugar dumpling squash.  This is one of our sweetest most flavorful varieties.  This one is delicious just baked and served with salt, pepper and butter!  It’s also a good one for stuffing, and is a good one to use in this week’s recipe for Stuffed Winter Squash. 

There are so many different ways to incorporate winter squash into your diet this fall and winter, so we encourage you to get creative and try some new recipes.  Soups, stews, curries, simple purees, gratin, root and squash mashes, roasted, incorporated into ravioli, pasta dishes, baked goods, pies and desserts.  The list could go on.  If you find some recipes you like, we always appreciate it when you share them with us!

Stuffed Winter Squash

Yield: 4 Servings

2 sugar dumpling or festival squash, cut in half through the stem and seeded
2 tsp olive oil, plus more for rubbing the squash and oiling the dish
¾ tsp kosher salt
6 oz chorizo, sweet sausage, or bacon crumbled or cut into small pieces
1 medium red onion
1 cup chopped apple (1 to 2 apples)
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups sliced tender greens (spinach, tat soi, kale, Swiss chard), cut into ribbons
4 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked millet, rice, or quinoa
½ cup grated Cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Rub the flesh of each squash half with olive oil, and oil an ovenproof dish or baking sheet.  Sprinkle the whole baking dish with ½ tsp of the salt.  Lay the squash flesh side down in the dish and bake until it is very tender when pricked with a fork, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove the squash from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 425° F.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the meat and fry until browned.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Add the onions to the hot oil and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add the apple, remaining ¼ tsp salt, and pepper, and cook for another minute.  Add the greens, sage, cooked grains, and reserved meat.  Cook for another minute, stirring to combine, and remove from heat.  Taste, and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.
  3. Turn the cooked squash over in the baking dish so it is flesh side up.  (Be careful, as steam will escape when you turn it.)  Scoop the filling into the cavity of each squash half, piling it into a mountain so that it holds as much as possible.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake until the cheese melts, about 10 minutes.
Recipe borrowed from Alana Chernila’s book, The Homemade Kitchen.

Curried Spaghetti Squash and Chickpea Toasts

Yield: 6 servings

1 spaghetti squash (2-3 if small) (about 2.5# pounds), halved and seeded

¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp finely grated orange zest
1 ½ tsp Madras curry powder
One 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
½ cup water
½ cup chopped cilantro
Grilled peasant bread (Italian or French Bread)
Toasted pumpkin or squash seeds, for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Place the halved spaghetti squash cut side up on a baking sheet and brush the cut side with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Roast the spaghetti squash for about 45 minutes, until the flesh is tender and lightly browned in spots.  Let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil.  Add the chopped onion and carrot and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until they are just softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the coriander, cumin, crushed red pepper, grated orange zest and curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the drained chickpeas and the water and simmer until the vegetables are very tender and the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  3. Using a fork, rake the squash into strands; you should have about 2-2 ½ cups of squash.  Add the cilantro and squash to the curry and season with salt.  Serve the curried squash over grilled bread, garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds.
Recipe by Jonathon Sawyer as published in Food & Wine annual cookbook 2012.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Harvest Party 2018—What a Fun Day!

By Farmers Richard & Andrea

Fall is one of our favorite times of the year and we were happy to have been able to share a beautiful fall day with some of our CSA members last Sunday at our Harvest Party.  Saturday night and Sunday morning were on the cool side, but the sun came out and shone bright all day giving us just enough warmth to make for a comfortable, beautiful day for the festivities!  For all of us, this is a special last party of the season.  No, we are not done harvesting for the year, we actually have quite a lot of vegetables still to harvest and we’re still working on our storm clean-up projects.  Nonetheless, it’s always nice to take a pause in the midst of the fall harvest to spend a special day with you, our members.  The energy and encouragement we gain from spending time with you will keep us strong as we finish out the season.

"Jack the Dog" waiting for someone to play "stick" with him.
We want to thank all of the members who took time to attend the party.  It was great to meet new members who were visiting the farm for the first time and we were happy to see some of our longtime members who make an effort to visit the farm every year.  It’s the people that make this party special to us and in many ways it’s like having a homecoming! Their excitement is contagious as they eagerly ask questions such as, “Where are the pumpkins this year?” and “Can we dig sweet potatoes?”    One of our younger members (2 years old) was at our Strawberry Day event back in June and came back for another visit this fall.  She came camping with her mother and they arrived at the farm late Saturday afternoon.  When her mother took her out of the car, she took a look around and it was super-cool for Andrea to see the excitement wash over her face.  Her eyes were twinkling and a smile quickly formed on her face followed by excited chatter when she realized where she was.  She squealed “Farm” and “Jack the Dog.”  We went up to the office where Jack was still taking his afternoon nap.  He woke up quickly and greeted our sweet, young member with kisses while she gave him lots of pets.

We kicked off our party on Sunday with our annual potluck.  Angel, one of our longtime crew members, is responsible for preparing the delicious roasted pork we enjoyed in tacos.  The pork was raised on our pastures and Angel slow-roasted it in our underground brick oven which he lined with cactus leaves.  On Saturday afternoon he prepared the pork by seasoning the pieces with salt, pepper, garlic and onion and then slathering it with a mild guajillo sauce he made.  The pork was then wrapped in packets and lowered into the oven which was tightly covered for the night.  The next morning Angel, with the help of his visiting cousin Francisco, opened up the oven and pulled the packets out.  When we opened them up we were pleased to see tender, juicy meat!  We served the meat with a simple cabbage slaw on tortillas with a choice of three different sauces featuring our tomatillos and Korean peppers (that was the hot one).  The table was filled with so many delicious dishes members brought including some very interesting things like gorgeous raw butternut salad!  It truly was a “Feast for Kings.”  While we ate we enjoyed the gentle, mellow music of Sonic Love Child.  Dave, Shirley & Nicole have been with us for several years, sharing their musical talents with us which really changes the ambiance of the party and has become a signature part of our fall event.  We appreciate their willingness to make the journey to the farm every year to be part of this special day.

Farmer Richard and Manuel M teaching children how to dig
sweet potatoes.
Once our bellies were full, we were off to the fields!  Sweet potatoes were our first stop.  As much as we love seeing our adult friends, the sweet potato field is where the kids take center stage.  They take turns helping us dig clusters of sweet potatoes, which we refer to as “Wisconsin Bananas.”  They love pulling the clusters out of the soil, grasping the moist sweet potatoes and shaking away the dirt to see just how big it really is!  Each potato is different, each finding a welcome hand to pull them from the moist earth.  It looks like a very, very nice crop which we finished harvesting on Monday afternoon.  They are in the greenhouse, also known as the “Sweet Potato Sauna House,” where we’ll “cure” them for the next 7-10 days at 85°F and high humidity.  This helps set their skins and develop the starches into sugar.

Vicente helping some children cut their pumpkins from the vine
Before we left the sweet potato field area we pulled a few celeriac, cut a celery and harvested a little bit of kale.  Then we loaded up the wagons and headed to the carrot and chard fields.  “Dig this one for me!”  “Wow, this carrot is big!”  “This one is crooked!”  “This one is purple!”  “How do you pick chard?  It is so pretty!”  Wait, let us show you how to twist off one stem at a time, don’t pull up the whole plant!  It was so awesome to hear all the questions, see the excitement and watch everyone enjoy being in the fields and being able to harvest things for themselves.  We also had some very observant members who found a few artifacts in the field.  “What is this rock?”  “Farmer Richard says it is a ‘chip’ from a stone tool maker who lived here a thousand years ago!”  This area is now our pumpkin field which was filled with some very nice pumpkins!  There were big Jack-O-Lanterns with fat handles, many warty “Knucklehead” pumpkins and the silky “Winter Luxury” pie pumpkins that many sought out with visions of pie in their heads.  There were plenty for all and we still have a lot remaining!

Butternut Squash Cupcakes with Chai Buttercream frosting
from Bloom Bakeshop
We made our way back to the farm, the kids now tired from lugging their pumpkins out of the fields, pulling sweet potatoes, stomping in mud puddles and running through the soft, muddy parts of the fields.  There’s something special about playing in the mud and the farm is one place it’s ok to do that!  Back at the farm we enjoyed more music while we ate our afternoon treat which was Butternut Squash Cupcakes topped with Chai Buttercream frosting.  These were made special for our party by our friend Annemarie and her crew at Bloom Bakeshop in Madison.  They even used our own HVF butterscotch butternut squash to make them!  We washed them down with iced maple latte featuring Kickapoo Coffee.  We also enjoyed kombucha made with HVF Sweet Sarah melons.  The kids spent more time with Captain Jack playing his favorite game of “stick.”  Some members meandered around the farm, picking Concord grapes, checking out the pile of sweet potatoes in the greenhouse, walking through the bins of winter squash and admiring the gorgeous green cover crop now growing in the cold frame greenhouse.

We also played a little game of “Guess the weight of the Vegetables.”  We made a beautiful display of some of the vegetables we’re harvesting now, but carefully selected either really big ones or really small ones.  We told you we’d announce the winner of the game in this week’s newsletter, so here you go.  Briana Burton from Madison, Wisconsin was the member who got the most answers correct without going over.  For those of you who are wondering, here are the actual weights and counts of the vegetables we had on display:

Listada Eggplant:  2.38#

Red Savoy Cabbage:  5#

Kabocha Squash:  5.92#

Butternut Squash:  5.26#

Burgundy Sweet Potato:  3.6#

There were 183 red grape tomatoes in the one pound jar.

There were 41 Mexican heirloom tomatillos in the one pound jar.

Briana nailed the tomatillo count with an exact match!  Nice job Briana!  Watch the mail for your $10 HVF Gift Certificate!

 Richard & Andrea chatting with members in the pumpkin field
We truly had a great day and enjoyed spending time with some really awesome people.  As we reflected on the day while we ate dinner Sunday evening, we both had to agree that we have some really great members. There were several families who enjoyed our Hammel Lane campsite Saturday night and everyone seemed to have a pretty good night’s rest as they were lulled to sleep by the owls.  Of course, we have a special place in our hearts for the children and time and time again we’re blown away by CSA kids.  They are intelligent, pleasant to talk with and so very insightful!  From the smallest ones exploring the farm and all its wonders for the first time to the older kids who have been coming to the farm for several years, or most of their lives in some cases!  They aren’t afraid to try new things, embrace new experiences with zeal, and are very aware of their surroundings as they take it all in.  Richard had an opportunity to talk with one of our super-awesome CSA kids who’s been eating our vegetables his whole life.  As he reflected on the farm, he made an effort to seek out Richard and share his thoughts.  He thanked me (Richard) sincerely for the opportunity to visit and expressed that the day “put him in a zone,” a good zone that he needed.  In touch with the fields of vegetables, the sky, the trees, a good “zone” to be in.  Healthy, intelligent kids who are alive and aware.  We’re grateful for them as well as their parents who have chosen to make organic food a priority in their households and carve out time in their busy schedules to visit the farm and allow us the opportunity to form long lasting connections.  We truly believe these kids are going to grow up and do great things in this world to change it for the better.  We’re really proud of them and look forward to feeding them and following their journeys for many years to come!