Friday, April 17, 2015

April Spring Update!

By Andrea Yoder

Spring is always an exciting time in our valley and this year is no different.  While we’re grateful for the bounty of fall root crops which nourish us through the winter months, we always breathe a sigh of relief when we finally have something fresh and green to eat again!  Last week we pulled the row cover off the overwintered spinach and were happy to see a sea of green leaves!  Couple that with the pretty little ramps growing in the woods and thus marks the start of our spring season.
Manuel and Juan Pablo planting the first Salad mix crop!

 Every year we anxiously await the transition from winter to spring.  It seems like nothing is happening and then suddenly everything is happening!  We’re excited to be attending our first farmer’s market in Madison this weekend and our first CSA delivery is only 3 weeks away.  This week we’re harvesting the first of our overwintered spinach and the first ramps of the season!  Soon the asparagus will be poking through the ground and before we know it May will roll into June and we’ll start picking strawberries!  Here’s a little snippet of just a few things happening on the farm.

Field of overwintered Spinach

First ramp harvest of the year!

       Last week our first group of field crew members returned after spending a few months in Mexico with their families.  The pace and energy of the farm changed overnight and we’re thankful that everyone made it back to Wisconsin safely.  Juan has been staying busy managing repairs in the shop.  Rafael got right to work spreading minerals on fields.  Jose Ramon wasted no time subsoiling
Jose Alejandro taking a turn at correctly putting out a fire!
some of the fields that were still a little wet so they’d dry out faster.  Rogelio has split his time between helping Juan with repairs in the shop and spreading compost on the dry days.  We've also taken advantage of these first few weeks of spring to put fresh coats of paint on our harvest wagons and to some of the rooms in our employee housing.  We managed to squeeze in a few safety trainings including how to use a fire extinguisher and an entire day devoted to chainsaw safety.
Benjamin helping to unload a bin of overwintered sunchokes.

       Chef Martin Clark, our summer farm chef for the 2015 season, joined our team this week.  The crew is anxious for him to start preparing lunch next week.  We’re excited to share all of our wonderful vegetables with Martin to see what kinds of creative things he can make with them!
The greenhouses are quickly filling up.  This week we’re transplanting celeriac and pepper plants into larger trays.  The jicama just started poking through & I’m happy to say the ginger plants are the healthiest looking sprouts I've ever seen!  Within the next several weeks we’ll be planting the herb packs so they are ready to send to CSA members in May!
Overwintered parsnip crew!
While we were able to plant some things last week, the rain held us back from doing very much.  We’re anxious to get some important plantings done this week.  Beets, carrots, peas, chard and even onion transplants are on the list for Friday and Saturday.  The guys have been busy preparing the fields and we have our fingers crossed that the rain will hold off until we can get some more seeds into the ground.

Juan Pablo with new baby goat!
Earlier this week the harvest crew finished the overwintered sunchoke harvest and quickly moved onto planting potatoes.  The packing shed crew has been diligently moving through each of our packing areas as they do our annual spring cleaning. Every corner gets cleaned, equipment is being repaired, and we’re getting everything ready to start a new season.  There’s nothing that makes me happier than a clean, neat and organized packing shed!
As for the pasture update, we’re happy to announce the birth of our first little baby goat of the spring.  He’s a healthy little guy who had enough strength to walk to himself from the pasture where he was born to his cozy little goat house!  Juan Pablo & Angel are back as our resident animal care-takers.  The chickens were so happy to see Juan Pablo that they laid 17 eggs one day last week!

       Needless to say we’re staying busy.  We’re happy to be back in the swing of farming and are looking forward to the growing season.  Thank you for your continued support of our farm and we look forward to growing delicious food for you this season!

Creamed Ramps and Overwintered Spinach

Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm

Serves 4
2 bunches ramps,  ½ lb.
4 oz spinach
3-4 quarts water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pint cream
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
½ tsp salt, or to taste
¼ tsp ground black pepper, or to taste

  1. Bring 3-4 quarts of water to a boil.  Cut ramps into 1-2” pieces keeping the  bulbs separate from the leaves.  Blanch the ramp leaves by boiling just until wilted and bright green.  Remove from water and put in a colander.  Rinse with cold water and squeeze off excess water.  Repeat the same procedure with the spinach.
  2. In an 8-inch oven proof skillet, heat oil.  Saute ramp bulbs just until slightly tender.  Remove from heat and top with ramp leaves.  Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and a pinch of black pepper.  Layer spinach on top of ramps and season with ¼ teaspoon salt and pinch of black pepper.  Pour cream over vegetables and top with cheese.  
  3. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20-30 minutes or until cream is bubbling and has thickened, and the top is golden brown.

Ramp Butter

Chef Andrea Yoder, Harmony Valley Farm
Ramp butter on bread served with soup!
Yield ½ cup

1 stick unsalted butter, softened 
½ bunch ramps
  1. Soften butter to room temperature.  
  2. Clean ramps and remove the root end.  Roughly chop the ramps (white bulb and green tops) into 1-inch pieces.  Place ramps in the bowl of a food processor and process until they are finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add the butter to the ramps and process just long enough to evenly incorporate the ramps into the butter.
  4. Put into a covered bowl and refrigerate until ready for use. Will store for about 1 week in the refrigerator, or put some in the freezer to enjoy this winter!
  5. This is a super simple, yet delicious way to enjoy the flavor of ramps and can be used in a lot of different ways.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Melt ramp butter in a saute pan and cook your morning eggs in it.
  • Put a pat of ramp butter on top of a grilled steak.
  • Spread ramp butter on bread and bake it in the oven until the bread is toasted. Serve it as a side with your favorite soup!
  • Melt ramp butter on grilled asparagus spears.
  • Stir ramp butter into warm rice or pasta.

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