Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Perspectives on Irrigation Practices At Harmony Valley Farm

By Richard de Wilde

Welcome to Harmony Valley Farm!
I am writing this article in hopes of communicating with a wide audience that includes our CSA members with whom we communicate on a regular basis.  While many of our CSA members are very familiar with who we are and have been with our farm for many years, we recognize we also have  newer members who are still getting to know us.  However, I also am writing this article for the purpose of sharing some information about our farm and our practices with members of our community who may not be familiar with who we are, specifically as it relates to the recent comments submitted by some in response to our pending irrigation permit application with the DNR.  Before I address some of the specific concerns raised, I’d like to provide a little background to bring us all together on the same page.

Uncovering our garlic field ahead of schedule
this past March due to an unseasonably warm spring! 
Nearly every conversation related to farming in some way also relates to weather, so lets start there!  This year we have seen a little bit of everything starting with a warm and dry spring followed by a late May frost.  After that cold snap, the weather pattern shifted and it got very hot!  The El Niño drought cycle that started last August and persisted most of the winter hit us hard!  We had planted our first carrots, beets and all of the parsnips on fields that we could not irrigate.  The moisture dissipated in an unusually hot April and seeds sat there for weeks before a light rain provided enough moisture to germinate some of them.  Thankfully, those carrots made it and we have been harvesting them this month!  We did not get a full stand of parsnips, but we will have some for harvest this fall.

A natural spring that
feeds the creek on
our land



This year has been a challenge for us as well as other farmers in the Midwest.  We have, thankfully, had some rain which has definitely helped and we are very grateful to have received it.  However, we have also gone for long stretches of time without rain, which makes it difficult to germinate seeds and establish crops.  Some crops also have higher water needs to keep them productive and thriving.  One of the challenges we face is that we are limited on land we have the ability to irrigate, which can often help bridge the gap until the next rain.  Access to irrigation can, in situations such as these, be the difference between having a crop or not.

Unlike some growing regions in the west, our area of southwest Wisconsin is typically blessed with an abundance of moisture from rains, natural springs and small to large creeks and rivers.  The Bad Axe River, which runs through our property as well as land we lease and farm, and our spring fed creeks are able to hold their water levels well, even in a drought.  We know this is true because we monitor water levels regularly when we are pumping water for irrigation.  Our last severe drought was in 2012, and we remember it well.  Our current El Niño drought event started last year and despite a couple of timely rains this spring and summer, overall still continues.

Sweet corn setting on ears
If you have driven through the countryside recently you may have seen corn and soybean fields that  look pretty good.  Our beans and edamame (edible soybeans) crops also look pretty good, despite the fact that we have not irrigated them.  These crops have large seeds that can be planted up to 2 inches deep to get enough moisture to germinate and send down a root as deep as needed to find moisture.  This is a good attribute to have in a drought year when you are trying to get seeds into enough moisture to germinate.   However, we raise a wide variety of vegetables and many have very small seeds that are shallow rooted (e.g. carrots, red radishes and rutabagas).  Seeds for crops such as these can only be planted ¼- ½ inch deep and if that top portion of the soil is dry, we need to either time the planting just before a rain or we have to add moisture to the soil to get the seed to germinate.

Irrigation has made a huge difference and, thankfully, our crops look quite good this year overall.  While we have manageable options to irrigate on most of the land we use to produce crops, irrigating from waterways requires a permit from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and we are not permitted to irrigate on some of the land we are currently farming.  Some may ask, “Why don’t you just drill a well?”  Well, we do have two low capacity wells on land that we own, but we farm many small fields spread out over six miles.  Many of our fields are on leased land where this is not an option due to the permanency of the structure, need for electrical access to run the pump, and the significant financial investment.  So, our more practical option is to pump surface water from a nearby waterway using equipment that can be moved and used only when necessary.

This is the time of year when we are planting some of our fall storage crops, but we are running out of land with access to irrigation and it is proving to be a challenge to get these crops to germinate, let alone take them to harvest should we continue to experience extended periods of dry conditions with only intermittent rain.  We currently have an irrigation permit application pending with the DNR for access to irrigation on a piece of land we lease on the North Fork of the Bad Axe River.  We actually started the process in March 2020 by asking for an amendment to our existing permits, but the process was held up due to the pandemic.   We tried again in March of this year, but we were told we cannot amend our current permit and needed to start the application process from the beginning.  The permit process is quite lengthy and involved.  We have had irrigation permits with the DNR since the drought of 1988.  These permits are very specific as to the pumping rate, dates and total season capacity.  We record each time we pump, including calculating the gallons per minute (GPM) that we are using.  Every year we are then required to report our annual totals pumped for each permit.  This information is then made available to the public.

Blanding's Turtle passing through one of our 
vegetable fields!
As part of the DNR permit process, they post a notice allowing the public to comment on the application for the permit before they make their final decision.  The public comment period for our application is now closed, however we had the opportunity to read the public comments that were submitted to the DNR, as well as some of the informal comments individuals made regarding our application through a variety of social media outlets.  We realize some individuals and conservation organizations are concerned about the environmental impact associated with withdrawing water for the purposes of irrigation.  Specifically we are aware of the concern for a negative impact on trout populations and endangered and rare species of wildlife including cricket frogs and Blanding’s turtles.  We have actually found both cricket frogs and Blanding’s turtles on our farm and fully understand and respect their fragile state.  Our entire application for this irrigation permit is accessible on the Wisconsin DNR website, so anyone who wishes to review the documents we were required to submit is welcome to do so.  There is some irrigation jargon that we use that may be difficult to put into context if you are not familiar with the terms and volumes we are representing.  Additionally, it is difficult within the application to fully represent “the big picture” of how we manage irrigation activities in the context of our entire farming operation along with our own values and conservation efforts.  Thus, I thought it may be helpful to provide the public and those who are not as familiar with Harmony Valley Farm with some basic background information.

An irrigation pump and sand filter
at an irrigation site
First of all, the proposed rate of water withdrawal for the property we are requesting a permit for is 150 gallons per minute (GPM) from the North Fork of the Bad Axe River.  On June 8, 2021, a team of ten DNR staff members came out to take a look at our operation and the land represented in our application.  Based on the volume of flow they measured on June 8, 2021, our withdrawal of 150 GPM represents 0.53% of the water volume.  This is clearly not enough to negatively impact any wildlife, including trout or other game fish. The DNR staff was very thorough in their assessment and they spent several hours examining the pumping site, the equipment we use, location of the pipes we would lay and the surrounding wetland areas.  They measured the river flow at our requested pumping site.  They looked at our pumps that are double screened to prevent any small fish or tadpoles from getting sucked into the system.  I would like to comment that the DNR staff deserves credit, not criticism, for the thorough job they do with reviewing irrigation applications.

Hooded Merganser mother duck and her babies
spotted swimming on the Bad Axe River!
While 150 GPM may seem like a lot of water, it is important to put this volume into context.  When we  look back at our overall water usage for irrigation, our annual withdrawal amounts always come in well under the maximum volume we are allowed to pump based on our existing permits for other land we farm.  In fact, I looked back to see what our overall annual water usage was for irrigation in 2012, our last official drought year.  We actually only used one-third of the allowable volume of water we were permitted to withdraw, and that was in a drought year!  Another point I’d like to make is that our current permit includes irrigation access for land we are no longer farming.  Over the past several years, and with repeated flood events, we have stopped farming some land that is too prone to flooding, have transitioned some to pasture, and have sought other options on land that is less vulnerable.  If our pending irrigation application is approved, we would not be increasing the overall water we are withdrawing from the Bad Axe River.  Rather, we are only requesting to withdraw in a different location.

A planting of native wildflowers in full bloom 
on our farm this summer
 
Some of the public comments expressed concern with maintaining the waterways and surrounding ecosystems.  These concerns are valid and ones we also share.  It is for this reason that we employ practices that allow us to do the best we can to deliver water efficiently and only as needed.  Based on my more than 40 years of organic farming experience, it is evident that soil that is cared for with annual applications of cover crops and compost is rich in organic matter which helps absorb rainwater and increases water-holding capacity.  This means the soil is more resilient and is able to more efficiently utilize water, thus requiring less irrigation volume.  We have been managing some parcels of land we farm for 15-30 years and continue to utilize these same farming practices, investing in nutritive inputs on land we own as well as land we lease with the intention of building soils that are resilient.  We also use moisture sensors, as well as observation, to help us make decisions about when to water and how much water a crop needs.  Excessive water use is not only unnecessary, but it is also not good for plants.  Additionally, over the past few years we have transitioned to more extensive use of underground drip irrigation which is a much more efficient way to deliver water than by using overhead irrigation (e.g. sprinklers) where more moisture is lost due to evaporation.  We do still use overhead irrigation in some situations, but only when that is our only option.  So yes, we do irrigate, but we do so in the most responsible manner and the nature of how we are utilizing irrigation is much different than in some areas such as a “Central Sands” pivot system where they are irrigating crops on sandy soil which is not able to hold moisture well.

Blanchard's Cricket Frog found 
hanging out in the pumpkin field!
(photo by Kyle Lindemer)
In the public comments, several individuals also questioned the validity of self-reporting.  We have had a “public interest benchmark” from the beginning when we received our first irrigation permit in 1988.  I personally have dropped a measuring tape off the bridge deck where this benchmark is measured many hundreds of times to check the depth of the water.  Even in the worst drought the water level has stayed well above the benchmark.  When measured on June 8, 2021 by DNR staff after 6 months of drought, we were still more than six inches above the benchmark and it has not dropped since then.  The DNR staff confirmed the same observation we have made over the years which is that the creeks and rivers in this area, being mostly spring fed, are very stable year round.  Is the public interest benchmark enforceable?  Yes, the DNR could come out and measure at any time.  If the water level drops below the benchmark we would not be able to irrigate.  Aside from a visit from the DNR, it is up to the permit holder to be honest and do the right thing.  As I mentioned before, our historical water usage, even in a drought year, is well below the maximum volumes we are permitted to withdraw.  We accurately report each and every hour that we pump and record these volumes both for the purpose of reporting to the DNR, but also because we need to have a record of this information to help us make decisions related to managing crops.  We have absolutely no reason to under report as our actual usage is well under what we are permitted to withdraw.

Creek bank erosion caused by the flood of 2007

I, along with my partners, am very clear about our intention which is to produce wholesome, nutrient dense, certified organic food for thousands of people in our region.  I chose to be an organic farmer in the early 70’s because I felt it was the responsible way to grow food, both for the impact on human health as well as for the environment.  There were very few who thought I would succeed, and in fact the extension agent in my area told me “it cannot be done.”  I have always had an appreciation for nature and the preservation of our land, waterways, pollinator populations, wildlife and ecosystem as a whole as these are all integral components to a healthy organic farming system and a healthy community.  We have been irrigating out of the Bad Axe River with a permit for more than thirty years.  We are still the only irrigator on the Bad Axe River and in those thirty years there has been no detriment to the fish populations as a result of our activities.  In fact, we have invested a lot of time, effort and resources into improving the waterways and try to be good stewards of the land we own and manage.  Every time we have heavy rainfall or a “100 Year Flood,” there is cleanup that has to be done in the aftermath.  We have spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars riprapping eroded stream banks, cleaning up debris washed down the river that is blocking the flow of water as well as plugging up culverts and blocking bridges.  Yes, we benefit from these efforts, but so do others downstream as well as those who enjoy these areas for fishing every summer.  We value biodiversity on our own land as well as in the areas surrounding our fields.  We have planted acres of pollinator habitat, establishing beautiful stands of native wildflowers and grasses as well as fruit and nut trees which provide nesting habitat and food for our pollinating creatures and wildlife.  In some areas we have cleared nearby woods of invasive species.  We make significant contributions to the local economy in wages as well as through our support of other local businesses with our purchases.  Additionally, over the last five years we have donated on average 20,000 pounds of produce from our farm annually to Community Hunger Solutions for distribution to food pantries in our local area who serve community members in need.

Clover cover crop established in between rows
of kale late in the fall
As certified organic farmers, we do not utilize genetically modified (GMO) seeds or the chemicals, such as glyphosate and neonicotinoids, that are used in conjunction with these crops.  If you are interested in learning more about the impact GMOs and the aforementioned chemicals have on human and environmental health, I encourage you to read a series of six articles we published on our blog in May-August 2015. These articles were entitled “The Silent Spring” series and are complete with citations for sources referenced.  The use of these chemicals is directly related to human health concerns as well as the single biggest reason for the decline of bird, bat and pollinator populations.  Additionally, we do not apply raw manure to our fields for fertilizer, thus we never present the problem of raw manure runoff into waterways.  We also use grass filter strips along waterways and stream buffers along with extensive use of cover crops to prevent erosion.

Lastly, I’d like to address one individual who expressed concerns about the impact water diversion for the purpose of irrigation may have on the preservation of archeological sites in our county.  I have been aware of the cultural significance of the effigy mounds in Vernon County and the Driftless region for quite some time.  In fact, I had the privilege of learning more about the Mound Builders who inhabited this area some 1500 years ago when we discovered effigy mounds on our land.  I was able to work with a local archeologist who confirmed our discovery and helped us register our mounds so they may be preserved into the future. If you’re interested in reading more about my interest in preserving this archaeological site, I encourage you to read an article entitled “Our Ancestors…Who Walked This Land Before Us?”  This is an article we published on our blog shortly after this discovery. We have a great deal of respect for the Mound Builders as well as the native inhabitants of this region who cared for this land for thousands of years before us.  We consider it a privilege to now be caretakers of this land, including doing our part to preserve the mounds they built here.

In closing, I think many of the concerns expressed by those in the community are ones we share as well.  I believe it is possible to responsibly utilize the Bad Axe River for the purpose of irrigating vegetable crops without causing disturbance or detriment to the ecosystem, cultural treasures or others downstream.  For many of the reasons laid out in this article, anything we can do to keep good, organic farmers on the land is a win-win situation for all.  To those of you who were kind enough to read this entire article, I thank you for listening.  If you should have any further questions, I would be happy to converse with you and welcome you to reach out to me.

July 29, 2021 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Eggplant!

 

Cooking With This Week's Box


Easy Roasted Carrot Curry
photo from veggiedesserts.com
Holy cow, we’re closing out another month this week!  While I don’t want summer to slip through my fingers, August will mean more tomatoes, melons, watermelons and sweet peppers so bring it on!  This week we’re featuring eggplant.  I have to say, this year’s crop of eggplant is one of the most beautiful and productive crops we’ve had in quite awhile.  Despite the fact that we’ve been harvesting pretty substantial quantities, we’ve barely even made a dent in the crop!  I realize eggplant is one of those vegetables that some love and others are still learning to like.  If you’re on the latter end of the spectrum, I encourage you to keep an open mind and give it a try.  This week I’ve included two simple recipes utilizing eggplant.  First, Andrea Bemis’s recipe for Roasted Garlic, Eggplant & Miso Dip (See Below) is somewhat of a riff on the concept of a traditional Baba Ganoush which is a classic roasted eggplant dip.  Andrea varies this concept by adding miso and seasoning it with rice vinegar.  The vinegar is a key ingredient that helps to “wake it up.”  This is a simple dip to serve with carrot or pepper sticks, or spread it on bread, pita, or crackers for a quick snack.  The other recipe, Zucchini Lemon Orzo with Eggplant & Lemon (See Below) is for a simple pasta dish where the eggplant, along with zucchini, is grilled and then tossed with lemon, onions and orzo pasta.  If you aren’t familiar with orzo pasta, you can find it in the pasta section at your grocery store or you can substitute any other small pasta variety.

Slow Cooker Chipotle Corn Chowder
photo from karalydon.com
Is anyone else excited to have fresh sweet corn in the box this week?!  During sweet corn season we eat fresh corn nearly every day.  Sometimes just as buttery corn on the cob, but often I cut it off the cob and slip it into other recipes.  This week I’ve included a recipe for Melissa Clark’s Creamy (No Cream!) Corn Pasta with Basil and Slow Cooker Chipotle Corn Chowder.  You might also enjoy checking out this collection of 25 Fresh Corn Recipes.

If you missed last week’s Thai Basil Vegetable Feature,
I encourage you to check it out.  If you’re looking for a simple, refreshing way to use this herb, consider making our featured recipe for Thai Basil Lemonade.  It is so delicious and very easy to make.  If you can let it set for 24 hours before straining it, the flavor is even better!

As I wrap up this week’s Cooking With the Box, I’ll give you a little glimpse into what’s coming up next.   Our second crop of cucumbers are just starting to produce, so they’ll be more crispy cucumbers coming your way.  Our first crop of edamame is filling out and it looks like we’ll be picking them next week!  Richard has been checking in on the melon and watermelon crops.  Nothing is ready yet, but it won’t be long!  We also have our eyes on the jalapeno peppers and have our fingers crossed for more ripe tomatoes very soon!

Enjoy your week, eat well, and enjoy summer while you can! —Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Eggplant

By:  Chef Andrea Yoder

Description: Eggplant, a member of the nightshade family, is one of the most beautiful crops we grow.  The plants grow several feet tall and, in their peak, are loaded with beautiful, glossy fruit hanging heavy on the plant.  There are many varieties of eggplant ranging in size from small round eggplant the size of a golf ball to large globe eggplant weighing over a pound.  They come in a variety of colors ranging from various shades of purple to black, green, lavender, white and orange.  We have narrowed our lineup of eggplant to our four favorite varieties including Lilac Bride, Purple Dancer, Listada and the traditional Black eggplant.  Each variety has slightly different characteristics which may impact your decision as to how you want to prepare them.  
  • Black Globe Eggplant: This is the most familiar variety of eggplant. It is characterized by a dark purple skin that looks black. It is best used in dishes like Eggplant Parmesan or to make dips, etc. This variety will also hold up on the grill or if roasted.
  • Lilac Bride Eggplant: Lilac bride eggplant is long and slender with lavender to dark purple skin and white flesh. It is best used in Thai curry dishes, stews or any other preparation where you want the eggplant to hold its shape better. The skin is tender enough you don’t need to peel it.
  • Listada Eggplant: Listada is characterized by a small globe shape with dark purple/ magenta skin streaked with white stripes. It has dense “meaty” flesh that holds up very well with grilling or roasting. 
  • Purple Dancer Eggplant: This superb variety is characterized by an elongated tear drop shape and a bright purple skin. Purple Dancer eggplant is an all-purpose eggplant that has creamy, white flesh. It is firm enough that it keeps its shape if you grill it or use it in curries, soups or stews. The flesh is also soft enough when cooked to use in dips, etc.
Chocolate Eggplant Torte
Preparation & Use: Eggplant should be cooked before eating it.  In fact, this is one vegetable that you may want to slightly overcook to ensure the flesh is very soft and silky as this is when it is the best.  You can pan-fry, bake, grill or roast eggplant.  Many resources will tell you to salt eggplant before cooking it to remove bitterness.  While some older varieties were bitter, the new varieties we grow have been selected because they are not bitter, thus you can skip the salting step for that reason.  You may still choose to salt eggplant to soften the flesh so it doesn’t absorb too much oil.  Most of our varieties of eggplant have skin that is tender enough to eat, thus you do not need to peel them.

Since eggplant is part of so many cultures, there are a lot of ways you can use eggplant in your cooking.  It is often incorporated into curry and stir-fry dishes in Indian, Thai, and Chinese cuisine.  Sicilians are famous for eggplant caponata while Middle Eastern dishes include baba ganoush.  The French put their mark on eggplant with the traditional Provencal dish, ratatouille.

Salerno-Style Marinated Grilled Eggplant
Eggplant has a mild flavor and soft, silky texture when cooked, which is what makes it unique.  While it isn’t a predominant flavor, it has a texture such that it is able to absorb other flavors and pairs well with other vegetables including tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, potatoes and chickpeas.  It also goes well with flavorful olive oil, tahini, herbs such as basil and parsley and spices including cumin, coriander, sumac, and cinnamon.  It also goes well with dairy products including yogurt, cheese (feta, Parmesan and mozzarella), and cream and fruits including lemons and pomegranate.

Storage: Eggplant does not store terribly well, so it is best to use it soon after getting it.  It is best stored at a temperature of about 45-50°F, but your home refrigerator should be colder than this.  Thus, we recommend storing your eggplant on the kitchen counter and use it within 2-4 days.

Roasted Garlic, Eggplant and Miso Dip


photo from dishingupthedirt.com
Yield:  6-8 servings

1 head of garlic, cloves broken up but kept in their skins
5 cups peeled and diced eggplant      (1-inch chunks)
Cooking fat for roasting (ghee, olive oil, or oil of choice)
3 Tbsp white miso
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Salt and black pepper, to taste
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Toss the eggplant and garlic cloves with oil.  Place them on a sheet pan or two and roast in the oven until deeply golden brown and completely soft, about 35-40 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.  Squeeze the garlic out of its skins and put it in the bowl of a food processor along with the roasted eggplant, miso, rice vinegar, pepper flakes and parsley.  Process until smooth.  With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until you reach your desired consistency.  Taste and add salt, pepper and/or more vinegar as needed.
Recommendations for serving: “(This dip) is great for spreading onto a slice of toasted bread, pita, or naan for a sandwich or simply served with crackers and raw veggies for dipping.”

Recipe borrowed from Andrea Bemis at dishingupthedirt.com.

Note From Chef Andrea Yoder: If you are not familiar with miso, you can find it in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.  It’s typically near the tofu, tempeh, eggroll wrappers, etc.  It is usually in a glass jar or a plastic tub.  There are different varieties of miso, but white miso is generally the most mild flavored and is sometimes called “sweet white miso.”  If you can’t find that exact kind, use another mild flavored miso.  Miso stores for a long time in the refrigerator, so it’s worth the investment to get a container even if you only need 3 Tbsp for this recipe!  I have some miso in my refrigerator that I purchased over a year ago and it’s still good and usable!

Zucchini & Eggplant Lemon Orzo Pasta


photo from loveandlemons.com
Yield:  4 servings

½ cup dry, uncooked orzo pasta
½ cup finely diced scallions or onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tsp sherry vinegar*
1 tsp herbs de Provence*
Juice and zest of 1 lemon, plus 4 small wedges for serving
2 medium eggplants, sliced into ½-inch thick rounds
2 small zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 cups loose-packed fresh herbs (Italian or Thai basil, mint, etc)
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
½ tsp salt, divided, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the scallions or onions, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar, herbs de Provence and ¼ tsp of salt.
  2. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare the orzo pasta according to the instructions on the package, cooking until al dente.  Drain and immediately add the hot orzo to the bowl.  Stir in the lemon zest and set aside.
  3. Preheat a grill to high heat.
  4. Drizzle the eggplant and zucchini with olive oil on all sides, and sprinkle with ¼ tsp of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  5. Grill the eggplant for 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until tender, charred and fully cooked.  Grill the zucchini for about 4 minutes per side, or until nice char marks form.  Let cool slightly, then chop into bite-sized pieces and add to the large bowl.  Add the lemon juice and toss.  Stir in the feta, fresh herbs, and pine nuts, reserving a bit of each for garnish.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  6. Portion into 4 serving bowls and top with the breadcrumbs and remaining feta, herbs and pine nuts.  Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Recipe created by Jeanine Donofrio and featured on her blog, Loveandlemons.com.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

July 22, 2021 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Thai Basil!

 

Cooking With This Week's Box

Porcelain Garlic:
Homemade Garlic Butter Rolls
Creamy Garlic Herb Chicken

Sweet White Onions:
Onion Sandwich
Cucumber Sweet Onion Salsa

Zucchini and/or Sunburst Scallopini Squash:
Savory Zucchini Pies: 5 Easy Recipes
Cinnamon Sugar Zucchini Coffee Cake

Broccoli:
Instant Pot Broccoli Cheddar Soup (made summer style with zucchini & carrots)
Sicilian Broccoli & Cauliflower Pasta

White Cauliflower:
Pesto Roasted Cauliflower
Cauliflower Risotto

Green Top Carrots:
Carrot Salad with Thai Basil, Lime and Toasted Sesame Oil
Easy Carrot Fritters

New Red Potatoes:
Crispy Garlic Butter Parmesan Smashed Potatoes
Sheet Pan Garlic Herb Butter Chicken & Potatoes

Thai Basil:
Thai Basil Lemonade (See Below)
Thai Basil Pesto with Peanuts (See Below)

Yellow OR Green Beans:
Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms
Yellow Beans with Garlic, Dill and Parsley

Eggplant:
20 Eggplant Recipes for the Weekend
Eggplant Caviar on Grilled Bread

Green Top Red Beets:
Peach and Beet Salad
Roasted Salmon, Beets & Potatoes with Horseradish Cream

Hello Everyone!

The contents of the box are shifting to some of our peak summer selections including beans and eggplant this week.  The tomatoes are just starting to ripen alongside the tomatillos that are starting to fill out their husks.  A hop, skip and a jump down the field we have some nice bell peppers set on.  Within the next couple of weeks you’ll start seeing these items in your box along with sweet corn!  That’s just a little glimpse of what’s to come, but this week we’re excited to be featuring a unique summer herb, Thai Basil!

Carrot Salad with Thai Basil, Lime and Roasted Sesame Oil
photo from plantydelights.com
In our end of season survey last year some members requested that we grow different varieties of basil in addition to the traditional Italian basil.  So, in response to that request we added Thai basil to our planting plan this year.  I’ve included two simple recipes using Thai basil.  The first, Thai Basil Lemonade (See Below), is a fun way to enjoy the subtle, yet complex flavor of Thai basil.  The second recipe for Thai Basil Pesto with Peanuts (See below) is a bit more of a bold recipe, but it’s so delicious!  The recipe is scaled for the quantity of Thai basil in your box this week and will yield about ½ cup of pesto.  This is plenty to toss with noodles for 3-4 servings, or you can serve it as a condiment with grilled fish, chicken or steak.  It would also be delicious tossed with roasted cauliflower or carrots.  If you need a larger quantity of pesto, you could double the recipe and use cilantro, Italian basil, mint or any combination of these along with the Thai basil to complete the quantity.  All of these herbs are complementary and are often used together in recipes coming from southeast Asian cuisine.  If you aren’t interested in either of these recipes, take a look at this week’s vegetable feature article where I’ve included more recipe links!

Pasta alla Norma, photo from lacucinaitaliana.com
Eggplant is making it’s entrance this week and I wish you could see this field!  The plants are big, beautiful and healthy with vibrant blossoms in a variety of shades of purple.  The fruit is gorgeous and glossy in appearance right now making it a stunning crop to walk through.  The key to eggplant is making sure you cook, bake or roast it until it’s not just tender, but silky and smooth.  To get you started, take a look at this article for “20 Eggplant Recipes for the Weekend."  You could also make this super simple recipe for Eggplant Caviaron Grilled Bread, a recipe concept credited to Alice Waters and Chez Panisse Restaurant.

photo from azestybite.com
This past week I whipped up a batch of pesto with the bag of Italian basil from last week’s box.  It had been sitting on my counter for a few days and was starting to get pretty wilted.  You would never have known what it looked like after I turned it into the most delicious pesto along with a lot of fresh garlic!  I’ve used the pesto in a variety of ways including as a spread on chicken sandwiches and as a snack on crackers topped with a piece of gouda and a sliver of salami.  Earlier this week we needed a quick dinner so I decided to toss cauliflower florets with some oil and a few spoonfuls of pesto and popped it in the oven to roast it.  After Richard and I finished off the entire head of cauliflower for dinner we found ourselves wishing there were more!  Why haven’t I done this before!?  Trust me, it’s simple and delicious and thankfully someone else thought about doing it too so I’ve included their recipe for Pesto Roasted Cauliflower to guide you!

Savory Zucchini Pie with Stracchino
photo from lacucinaitaliana.com
Our second crop of zucchini is kicking into production this week.  Hang on as we ride the second wave of zucchini!  If you think you’ve made everything you can possibly make with zucchini, think again!  This week I’ve included a link to an article featuring “Savory Zucchini Pies:  5 Easy Recipes."  If you’re feeling more like something on the sweet side of the fence, check out this recipe for Cinnamon Sugar Zucchini Coffee Cake.

Ok, I’m going to wrap it up for this week.  I hope you enjoy working with the Thai basil this week.  We hope to include it in another box, possibly even next week if there’s some remaining after this week’s harvest.  If you find more than one or two recipes you’d like to try with the basil, tuck them away and make them with the next round.  Have a great week and I’ll see you back here next week!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Thai Basil

By:  Chef Andrea Yoder

Description: Thai basil is a unique herb that is actually a member of the mint family.  It’s characterized by thin, slender, pointy green leaves that grow on dark purple stems.  The plants also have purple flowers which are edible and usable when they are young and tender.  Thai basil has a flavor that is kind of a combination of basil along with a subtle anise or licorice flavor.

Preparation & Use: To use Thai basil, pluck the leaves and tender flowers off the stem.  The stems are not very fragrant, so you can discard the stems.  Thai basil is often used in the cuisine of southeast Asian countries including recipes and dishes from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.  You’ll often see it used along with a variety of other herbs including cilantro, sweet basil, and mint.  Whole or roughly torn leaves are often used in fresh vegetable salads, but are also used in spring rolls or added at the end of cooking to stir-fries and curries.  You may also add it to dishes such as a traditional Vietnamese Pho as well as soup, noodle or rice dishes.  You can also use it to make fragrant beverages such as lemonade, hot or cold tea or cocktails.

Thai Basil Chicken Stir Fry
photo from recipetineats.com
In addition to the herbs listed previously, Thai basil also pairs well with garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chiles, limes, coconut, curry, eggplant, winter and summer squash, peppers, cucumbers, peanuts and cashews to name just a few ingredients.

This week’s box contains a 1 ½ ounce portion which will yield about 1 cup of loosely packed leaves.

Storage: Thai basil is a more perishable vegetable once it is harvested.  For best results, use it within a few days after receiving it.  For optimal storage, put the cut end of the stems in a glass of fresh water and store it at room temperature until you are ready to use it.

If this herb is new to you, here are 15 Thai Basil Recipe ideas to get you started!

Thai Basil Pesto with Peanuts


Yield:  ½ cup

2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp dry roasted peanuts
1 cup Thai basil leaves, lightly packed
1 ½ Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 tsp maple syrup
½ to 1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp lime juice
Salt, to taste
  1. Place the garlic and peanuts in the bowl of a food processor and process briefly to coarsely chop the garlic and peanuts.  Add the Thai basil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, maple syrup, ½ tsp soy sauce and lime juice.
  2. Process until it is mostly smooth, or to your preferred consistency.  Taste and adjust to your preferences by adding salt, additional soy sauce and/or rice vinegar as needed.
  3. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready for use.
Serving Suggestions:
  • Toss with cooked rice noodles, soba noodles, ramen or egg noodles.
  • Serve as a condiment with grilled steak, fish or chicken.
  • Toss with vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots and/or mushrooms and roast until tender.
  • Add a spoonful to stir-fried vegetables and serve with rice.
Recipe adapted slightly from Jordan Kenna’s recipe featured at tasty.co

Thai Basil Lemonade


Yield: 6 servings

6 large lemons
¾-1 cup sugar
½-⅔ cup loosely packed Thai basil leaves
6-8 cups of water 
Ice

1. First cut two of the lemons into quarters and remove the seeds.  Place the quartered lemons in a large bowl along with the sugar and basil.  If you like really sweet lemonade, use one cup of sugar.  If you prefer a more tart lemonade, start with ¾ cup of sugar.  Use a muddler or a wooden spoon to smash the sugar, basil and lemons together until the mixture becomes fragrant and the sugar starts to dissolve in the juices extracted from the lemons, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Once muddled, put the basil mixture in a large jar or pitcher.


Before Muddling

After Muddling

2. Juice the remaining 4 lemons.  You will need 1 cup of lemon juice.  If your lemons do not yield one cup, juice more lemons until you have a cup of juice.

3. Add the cup of lemon juice to the jar or pitcher along with 6 cups of water.  Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of two hours or overnight.  

4. Strain the lemonade into a pitcher and taste it.  If it is too concentrated, add 1-2 cups more water.  Serve chilled over ice.

Recipe adapted from rachaelraymag.com

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

July 15, 2021 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring New Potatoes!

 


Cooking With This Week's Box

Fresh Porcelain Garlic:
New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter
White Garlic Pizza Sauce

Sierra Blanca Onions:
Crispy Baked Onion Rings 
Caramelized Onion Cheeseburgers 

Zucchini and/or Sunburst Scallopini Squash:
35 Recipes Using Zucchini 
Herb Garden Zucchini Pizza
Basil Zucchini Soup

Green and/or Silver Slicer Cucumbers:
Cucumber and Black Bean Salad
Cucumber Satay Crunch Salad

Broccoli:
Broccoli Quinoa Cakes
Broccoli Manicotti with Burrata Cheese

White Cauliflower:
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Stir-Fry
Sicilian Cauliflower Salad

Green Top Carrots:
Carrot Top Pesto
Green Top Carrot Soup
Tempura

New Red Potatoes:
Broccoli & New Potato Gribiche (See Below)
Frittata with New Potatoes and Summer Vegetables (See Below)

Italian Basil:
Asian Cabbage Slaw with Basil-Ginger Dressing
Chicken with Lemon Basil Sauce

Rainbow Chard:
Summer Farmer Skillet Dinner
How To Freeze Swiss Chard

Tiara or Sweetheart Cabbage:
Eggroll In a Bowl
Beef & Cabbage Stir-Fry

BONUS LINK:
Farm Share Newsletter from Alexandra Stafford of alexandracooks.com

Hello Everyone!

Photo from Mostly Homemade Mom
We’re really excited to be delivering the first potatoes of the season this week!  We were really pleased with the yield we got from our first digging and I hope you’re pleased with how delicious they are!  If you aren’t familiar with what makes “New Potatoes” special, then take a few moments to read more about them in this week’s vegetable feature article.  This week’s featured recipes come from Heidi Swanson’s cookbook, Super Natural Every Day.  She is also the author behind the blog 101cookbooks.com.  I’ve followed Heidi’s blog for quite awhile and I have to admit, I own three of her four cookbooks.  She is a very talented photographer, in addition to her culinary talents, which makes her cookbooks even more appealing.  The first recipe is for Broccoli & New Potato Gribiche (See Below).  Gribiche sauce is a classical French sauce made with hardboiled eggs, capers, etc.  It’s a simple sauce often used to dress up fresh vegetables.  This is kind of like a warm salad.  The second recipe is for Frittata with New Potatoes and Summer Vegetables (See Below).  In this recipe, Heidi employs a slightly different method for making this frittata, so even if you’ve made frittatas before, you may want to check out her version.

This week we also have fresh, green top carrots for the first time!  Just a reminder that the tops are edible too, so don’t throw away the value they contain!  Use them to make a simple Carrot Top Pesto or Green Top Carrot Soup.  You could also use the green tops when making broth to use in soups and stews.

This week’s “greens” include the gorgeous Rainbow Chard and Spring-Planted cabbages.  If you feel like you have a lot of vegetables to conquer this week and you’d like to preserve some of this week’s box for future use, consider freezing the Rainbow chard.  There’s a great step-by-step explanation for how to freeze chard at Rootsandboots.com.  If you have a collection of cabbage in your refrigerator now, check out our Facebook Group where members did an excellent job of sharing some really good ideas for how to use cabbage.  Two favorite recipe ideas include Eggroll In a Bowl and Beef & Cabbage Stir-Fry.
Photo from Budget Bytes

Before I close out this week’s discussion, I want to share a bonus link with you to Alexandra Stafford’s weekly Farm Share Newsletter”.  I’ve been following Alexandra’s blog for quite awhile and this year she started putting together this weekly newsletter to highlight some of her recipes for items she’s receiving in her personal CSA box!  She is in a different part of the country, but the contents of the CSA boxes she’s receiving are often quite similar to our seasons.  Each week she highlights recipes using each of the items, so if you like her style you might like to sign up for her newsletter!


Ok, that’s a wrap for this week.  I’ll see you back next week with more potatoes and hopefully some yellow beans to start cooking with!  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea



Vegetable Feature: New Potatoes

By:  Chef Andrea Yoder

Description:  Potatoes are a vegetable everyone’s familiar with, but not all are created equally and this week’s potatoes are, in our opinion, very special.  If you’ve been with us for previous CSA seasons you know we draw attention to this point every year because frankly, we just don’t want you to miss out on this experience!  There is a short period of time early in the summer when we have the opportunity to eat “New Potatoes.”  New potatoes are not a variety, but rather a term used to describe potatoes that are harvested off of a plant that still has green leaves on it.  Our usual practice is to mow down the potato vines about a week in advance of harvest.  In the week between mowing down the vines and actually harvesting the potatoes, changes take place in the plant that help to set the skins and make them easier to handle without damaging the skin.  It also gives them a more durable skin to protect the flesh and make them better for storage.  These potatoes were dug earlier this week from plants with green vines.  Freshly dug new potatoes have a flavor and texture unlike other potatoes throughout the season.  It is a fresh, pure potato flavor and the skin is tender and delicate.  When you cut them you’ll notice they are very crispy and sometimes a little brittle because they have retained all their juiciness!  Once cooked, the flesh is moist, creamy and smooth with a distinctive flavor that’s hard to describe.  Trust me, when you taste it you’ll know what I mean! 

Preparation & Use: 
Tomas with New Potatoes
The new potatoes in your box this week are a variety called Red Norland.  They are an early red-skinned potato with creamy white flesh.  They need to be handled with care so as not to disturb the skin and expose the flesh.  We’ve given them the “white glove treatment” through the harvest and washing processes, but we encourage you to handle them with care as well.  Wash them just before use and just give them a gentle scrub if needed. There is no need to peel them, so my recommendation is to just skip that step.

I encourage you to slow down and really savor the flavor of these new potatoes as these first few weeks will be the only time during the season you’ll be able to have this taste experience of freshly dug potatoes.  You really don’t need to do much to them and, in fact, I’d encourage you to do as little as possible!  Honestly, most often I simply boil or roast them with fresh garlic and top them off with butter, salt, pepper and sometimes fresh herbs.    This week’s featured recipes are also good options.  These recipes are a little more involved, but the flavors and ingredients are still very simple so the potatoes will still shine in all of their fresh-flavor glory!

Storage:  Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place, but not in the refrigerator.  We store our potatoes in a warmer cooler at about 48-50°F which is most ideal.  If potatoes are stored in colder temperatures (such as your home refrigerator), the starches will convert to sugars which is not what we want in a potato (save that characteristic for sweet potatoes!)  So in a home setting, it’s best to store them in a cool, dry location outside of the refrigerator where they will not be exposed to light which can cause the potatoes to turn green and bitter.  If the potatoes have set their skins, in general they will store for a few weeks at room temperature in a brown paper bag (never in a plastic bag).  However, because new potatoes are so fresh and we have not allowed them to set their skins, they will not store as well and are best eaten within one week.

Additional Information:  As we progress through the season, you will be receiving more varieties of potatoes.  It’s important to know that some potatoes are classified as “waxy” while others are classified as “starchy,” or possibly a mix of the two classifications which we label “all-purpose.”  These classifications are assigned based on the type of starch that comprises the flesh of the potato and it’s important to choose the appropriate cooking method for each type.  Waxy potatoes are generally more moist and hold together better.  They are best used for roasting, boiling or steaming, and are a good choice for soups and potato salad.  I do not recommend mashing them because they usually become sticky and pasty.  This week’s variety is a waxy potato.  Starchy potatoes tend to be more dry and fluffy.  This is a variety of potato appropriate for mashing as well as for making roasted potatoes, pan frying, etc.  Starchy potatoes are also useful in soups, but they’ll likely fall apart which is actually good for thickening.  As we progress throughout the season, make sure you read the “What’s In the Box” portion of the newsletter each week as we’ll give you information about the specific potato varieties as we deliver them so you’ll know the best ways to prepare and enjoy them.  In the meantime, enjoy the fresh flavor and creamy texture of these freshly dug new potatoes!


Frittata with New Potatoes & Summer Vegetables

Photo from Heidi Swanson's
Super Natural Every Day
Yield:  8 servings

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or melted clarified butter, plus more for drizzling
2 small onions, chopped 
8 oz new potatoes, unpeeled, sliced into paper thin rounds
2 shallots, chopped
Fine-grain sea salt, to taste
8 oz seasonal vegetables, such as summer squash or broccoli, cut into ½-inch pieces
10 large eggs, well beaten
¼ cup crumbled goat or feta cheese
Small bunch of chives, chopped

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Stir in the onions, potatoes, half of the shallots, and two big pinches of salt.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are just cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the seasonal vegetables and cook for another minute or two, until they soften up a bit.  Set aside half of this mixture on a plate.
  2. Whisk ½ tsp salt into the eggs and pour the eggs into the skillet.  Cook over medium-low heat until the eggs are just set and there isn’t a lot of liquid in the pan, about 5 minutes.  To facilitate this, run a spatula underneath the perimeter of the frittata and tilt the pan so the uncooked eggs run to the underside.  The key is to avoid browning on the bottom.  Top with the reserved vegetable mixture and sprinkle with the cheese and the remaining shallot. 
  3. Place under a broiler (a low setting will give you more control, if you have that option) for a couple minutes, or just until the top or the frittata is puffed up and set.  Resist the urge to walk away---the frittata can go from perfect to burned in just a few seconds.  Remove from the broiler and let sit for a minute or two.  Sprinkle with the chives, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and serve warm or at room temperature, right out of the pan.

Recipe borrowed from Heid Swanson’s book, Super Natural Every Day.

Note from Heidi Swanson:  “Frittatas.  For years I started them on the stovetop, then finished in a hot oven—a perfectly acceptable approach.  But it wasn’t until I began to finish my frittatas under the broiler that they became exceptional.  The eggs puff up and stay light and the toppings brown and crisp perfectly, while the frittata bottom escapes scorching.  An added bonus is this approach takes less time.”


Broccoli & New Potato Gribiche

Yield:  6 servings
Photo from Heidi Swanson's
Super Natural Every Day

Sauce Gribiche is a classic French sauce consisting of a thin mayonnaise like base accented with capers and sometimes cornichons along with fresh herbs.  It may be served with a variety of dishes and foods, but is often used to dress fresh vegetables such as steamed green beans or new potatoes.  In this recipe, Heidi adapts this classic sauce just a bit and uses it to dress roasted new potatoes and broccoli.

1 ½ pounds new potatoes, unpeeled
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Fine-grain sea salt, to taste
12 oz broccoli florets
4 large eggs, hard cooked and peeled
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1 Tbsp capers, chopped
2 shallots, minced*
3 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs including parsley, chervil, chives and/or tarragon

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F with two racks in the top and middle of the oven.
  2. If the potatoes are small, you can leave them whole, otherwise cut into pieces no larger than your thumb.  Use your hands to toss the potatoes with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, sprinkle with a big pinch of salt, and turn out onto a baking sheet.  Roast until they are cooked through and starting to brown, about 30 minutes.  About 15 minutes before you think the potatoes are done, toss the broccoli with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, sprinkle with salt, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven as well.  You are aiming to have the potatoes and broccoli finish cooking at (roughly) the same time.   
  3. To made the dressing, mash just the yolk of one of the hard-cooked eggs in a medium bowl.  Very, very slowly add the remaining ½ cup olive oil, beating constantly;  the dressing should look smooth and glossy.  Whisk in the vinegar, then the mustard.  Stir in the capers, shallots, herbs, and ¼ tsp salt.
  4. Coarsely chop the remaining eggs and egg white, and fold them into the dressing.  Put the warm potatoes and broccoli in a large bowl and gently toss with three-quarters of the dressing.  Taste, adjust the flavors, and add more dressing, if needed.  Serve turned out onto a platter or in a bowl.

*May substitute any other onion variety for the shallots.

Recipe borrowed from Heidi Swanson’s book, Super Natural Every Day.