Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fall is Here!

We started harvesting sunchokes earlier this week
This Friday marks the official transition from summer to fall and on Sunday, September 24th, we’ll celebrate this year’s harvests with our annual Harvest Party shin-dig.  We’ve been talking about this seasonal transition now for several weeks as things have started to change in our fields.  This week however we are feeling it more than ever.  We’re harvesting purple top and sweet scarlet turnips, sunchokes, daikon radish, fall carrots and we will be packing Soup Mix before the week is finished!  The leaves are starting to change colors, hickory nuts are dropping to the ground, and we know it’s just a matter of time before we get our first chilly, frosty night.  We hope you are planning to attend the party this weekend so you can see our valley and fall crops for yourself!

Honeynut butternut squash curing in the greenhouse
A lot has been happening in our fields over the past few weeks, so we wanted to catch you up on our activities with a field report.  We said goodbye to watermelons, melons, zucchini and cucumbers over the past few weeks, but there were more crops entering the stage as these summer favorites dwindled.  We are nearly done with winter squash harvest.  We have harvested and cured most of our winter squash and will go back to harvest the last few loads remaining in the field before the end of the week.  We’re planning to start packing winter squash in your boxes possibly as early as next week.

Our first planting of tomatoes is nearly finished, but the second planting still looks pretty good and continues to produce.  We have been having pretty cool days and nights, so the tomatoes have been ripening slowly.  We’ll keep picking right up until the first frost.  We’ve also been hitting our pepper field pretty hard with harvests.  There isn’t a whole lot remaining at this point.  Our orange Ukraine plants are pretty much done.  They produced a lot for us, but there isn’t much remaining on them.  The Orange Italian Frying peppers are still producing and we’ll be able to pick for this week and next, but I’m not sure how much will remain beyond that.  We’re planning to deliver mini-sweet peppers in next week’s box, but these plants don’t have a lot of fruit remaining on them. 
Celeriac with green tops freshly washed!

This week’s featured vegetable, celeriac, comes to you with its green top still on.  This is another sign of the transition point in the season.  While we’re still harvesting them as green top, we’ve already started to mechanically harvest these roots for storage.  They’ll all need to be harvested within the next few weeks as they will not tolerate more than a touch of a frost.  This marks our transition in cooking as well.  Soon we’ll all be enjoying more root-focused soups, stews and braised dishes to warm us up on the cold days. 

 Scarlet & Purple Top Turnips harvested last Saturday
There are some vegetables that make their appearance in the spring and then return in the fall.  Fall is a special time in many ways for some of these crops as the cool fall days and nights help to intensify the colors of vegetables and the flavors of some things mellow out and are sweeter.  We’re harvesting a beautiful crop of fall fennel right now and just started harvesting our fall crop of baby white turnips.  Next week we’ll be resuming baby spinach and salad mix harvest.  The color on these crops is always very impressive this time of year.  The green colors of spinach are more intense and the red lettuces are stunningly gorgeous! 

At the farmers’ market we’ve already been getting inquiries of “When will Brussels sprouts be ready?” Well, they are making sprouts and looking pretty good, but this is one of the brassica crops that benefits from a few frosty nights before harvesting.  All brassicas undergo changes in flavor in cold weather.  Their flavor becomes more sweet and well-balanced.  So the best estimate I can give you for when we’ll harvest them is after it frosts.  We also have our eye on the sweet potatoes and will be harvesting those before too long.  We’ll have to do a sample dig at the party this weekend to check the progress in growth and gauge just how much longer it will be before we’re ready to pull the trigger and do the big harvest! 

Jicama, sweet potatoes, squash and more coming soon!

Newly planted escarole and radicchio plants
Next week we’ll be delivering jicama in the boxes.  It’s in the process of being cured right now to set the tender skins.  This year’s crop looks pretty good!  We’re still learning how to grow jicama but I think we’re making progress!  We did harvest some that don’t look so pretty.  If you come to the party on Saturday, we’ll share those with you.  They don’t look good but they are still good to eat!  We also have a crop of tat soi slated for a late season harvest and we’re trying a new growing method for some late season chicories.  This week Scott, Simon and Jose Antonio finished planting escarole and radicchio transplants in our cold frame greenhouse.  We did a pretty good job of growing head lettuce in the cold frame greenhouse this spring and delivered it in the May boxes.  We’ve never grown escarole and radicchio in a greenhouse, but thought we’d give it a try and hopefully they’ll be ready for some of the last boxes of the season in November and December.  They are more cold hardy greens that can take cold weather and frosty nights and their flavor actually improves in cold weather.  In the field they can sometimes get damaged when the nights get really cold, so we’re hoping the more protected environment of the greenhouse will allow us to get the benefit of the cold weather but gain the protection from deep frosts.  Wish us luck!

In addition to harvesting crops,  we’ve also managed to stay on top of planting cover crops.  As we finish harvesting a field, we move right into preparing it for  winter and includes establishing a cover crop.  Did you read last week’s newsletter regarding the importance of regenerative farming methods related to mitigating climate change?  Well, we’re trying to do our part by getting cover crops on bare ground so they can capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil.  How cool is that?!  We’ve also finished putting up stored hay for our animals to eat this winter and we’ve returned to some of our woods management projects.  The high winds we had in July along with the rains took the tops off of a lot of our trees in the woods. We’ve been scouting the woods identifying where the damaged and downed trees are.  We’ll focus on salvaging what we can this fall.

Despite the challenges of the July weather event, we’re gearing up for a bountiful fall harvest and we’re hoping Mother Nature will be cooperative!  There are still a lot of delicious vegetables remaining to experience this season as we continue our journey in our seasonal eating adventure.  I’m already starting to look forward to some favorite winter dishes such as Turnip-apple quiche, sweet potato casserole and rutabaga mash!  We hope to see you at the party this weekend and hope you enjoy the last few months of vegetables!

September 21, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Celeriac

Cooking With This Week's Box

As we dive into this week’s box, we’ll start with our featured vegetable of the week which is green top celeriac!  This week’s newsletter features two different types of ways you can use your celeriac, one is raw and the other is cooked.  The Sesame Chicken Celeriac Salad (see below) is a main entrée salad that is very easy to make and will travel well for lunch the next day if you have leftovers.  If you’d prefer to make something warm, you might want to consider making the Celeriac, Potato and Apple Puree (see below).  This wasn’t my original plan for a recipe, however we had the opportunity to dine at Harvest Restaurant in Madison, WI last Sunday at their special 17th Anniversary Dinner. Chef Jon served a delicious celeriac and potato mash.  I had stumbled over this recipe over the weekend and once I sampled some of the apple from this week’s fruit box I decided the combination of celeriac, russet potatoes and apples was on the list for this week.  This puree will make a delicious accompaniment to any pork dish, grilled beef, duck or roasted chicken.

If you choose to make the Sesame Chicken Celeriac Salad, the recipe calls for chicken breasts.  If you are making the salad this week, you might as well use a whole chicken.  You can take the breasts off and cook them for the salad and then use the thighs and legs to make Jamie Oliver’s Tender and Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes & Basil. The recipe calls for 4 chicken quarters to serve 4 people.  If you’re using just one chicken you’ll have to cut the recipe in half and your yield will be for just 2-3 servings.  This recipe can be made with some of the tomatoes in this week’s box as well as garlic and basil from your herb garden.  Serve this with cannellini beans, mashed potatoes or pasta.

At the dinner last Sunday, we had another delicious course that included halved grape tomatoes served with an herbed buerre blanc sauce.  While I’m not going to get that fancy this week, I was inspired to take make this recipe for Marinated Cherry Tomato Salad.  Of course we’ll use the grape tomatoes, cut them in half and marinate them in vinegar, herbs and oil.  This can be served as a salad on its own or use it as a condiment to top off seared salmon, grilled steak or serve it on top of a bowl of lentils or cannellini beans. 

Well, sweet corn season is coming to a close but we still have a few ears to enjoy!  This week I’m going to cut the kernels off the cob and use them, along with one of the tomatoes, to make this Tomato, Basil & Corn Pizza.   The recipe calls for baking it in the oven, but you could put this on the grill too for a little extra smoky flavor.  I always like peppers on my pizza, so I’ll thinly slice the green bell pepper and add it along with the corn.  The orange Italian Frying Peppers are going to go on a tossed salad made with either the red Boston or red Batavia lettuce.  I’m going to toss the salad with this Creamy Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette and garnish it with some thinly sliced onions, croutons and some canned water-packed tuna for an entrée salad to eat at lunch. Any extra orange Italian frying peppers left over this week are going straight into the freezer so I have some to use on pizzas during the winter.  If I have time I’ll slice the peppers before freezing, but if time is short they can go into the freezer whole and I’ll deal with cutting them in February!

The remainder of the potatoes as well as this week’s leeks are going to be used to make Potato Leek Soup with Poblanos and Crispy Bacon.  I tried this recipe last fall and it is delicious!  I never would’ve thought to pair the gentle leek with a hot pepper, but the combination works and this combination is actually very good.  The recipe calls for Yukon Gold potatoes, but this week’s russet potatoes will work just fine. 

For some reason I have Mac & Cheese on my mind this week, so some of the broccoli is going towards making Macaroni & Cheese with Broccoli.  The remainder of the broccoli will end up in a frittata for Sunday brunch.

The gorgeous red chard in this week’s box is going to be used to make vegetarian Tacos with Black Beans and ChardI’ll serve this with Green Rice with Jalapeño, Garlic and Lime.  We have limes in this week’s CSA fruit share, so that’s one less thing I’ll have to pick up at the grocery store!

Well, that brings us to the bottom of another CSA Box.  Next week we’re hoping the Jicama is ready to go in boxes.  So, pull out those jicama slaw recipes and get ready!  If you’ve never had jicama, you have something new to look forward to!  
—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Celeriac

Celeriac, or celery root as it is also known, can be a bit intimidating if you’re encountering it for the first time.  However, as with all vegetables, there’s really no need to be intimidated…it’s just a vegetable!  Celeriac is in the same family as celery.  The difference is that celeriac is grown for its root and celery is grown for its stalks.  The stalks on celeriac resemble celery and have a lot of delicious flavor in them, however they are more tough and fibrous than celery and are not usually eaten as you would eat a celery stalk.  Don’t throw them away though!  Their flavor can add depth to a pot of stock or soup.  If you aren’t going to use them all now, put them in the freezer and use them later this fall or winter.

Now for the root bulb.  First, scrub the exterior of the root the best you can.  Next, thinly slice away the top and bottom of the root so there is a flat side on the top and the bottom.  You’ll probably need to take a little more off the bottom to get past the majority of the roots and get into the more usable bulb portion of the root.  At this point, I usually cut the root in half or into quarters so it is easier to handle.  Using a paring knife, carefully trim away the outer skin.  Once you’ve removed the outer skin, rinse the remaining piece of celeriac and clean your cutting board if there’s any residual dirt.  The inner portion of the root is white, solid and entirely edible. 

Celeriac has a subtle celery flavor that provides a background to soups, stews, and root mashes.  It also makes a delicious soup or gratin on its own or combined with potatoes or other root vegetables.  It can also be eaten raw in salads and slaws paired with other fall fruits and vegetables and s simple creamy dressing.  I’ve noticed more “paleo” recipes are encouraging the use of celeriac as a substitute for starchy potatoes, noodles, etc.  If you have a spiralizer, you can even make celeriac noodles (do we call them celoodles?)

Celeriac stores quite well, thus it is an important part of our seasonal winter diets.  It can actually be stored for up to 6 months!  Keep it in your refrigerator loosely wrapped in plastic or in the crisper drawer until you are ready to use it.  

Sesame Chicken Celeriac Root Salad

Photo credit from
Serves 4

2 large carrots, peeled
1 large celeriac, peeled
3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (see Recipe Note)
½  cup chopped fresh basil, or cilantro
1 small clove garlic, peeled and grated with a microplane, or finely minced
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp dark pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 ½ tsp grated fresh ginger root
½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper
  1. Shred carrots and celeriac on a box grater or with the grating attachment of a food processor.
  2. Combine the carrots, celeroac, chicken, and basil (or cilantro) in a large salad bowl.
  3. Combine garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, maple syrup, tamari, sesame seeds, ginger, salt, and pepper in a jar and shake to combine. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
  4. Divide among 4 large plates to serve.

Recipe Notes: 
To cook chicken: Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add ½ tsp salt and stir to dissolve. Add 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts and return to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, turning occasionally to make sure it cooks evenly, until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool, at least 20 minutes before shredding.

This recipe was adapted from

Celeriac, Potato and Apple Puree

Yield:  3-4 servings

1/2  pound potatoes, peeled and cut in half*
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 small to medium tart apple, such as a Granny Smith, peeled, cored and quartered
¼ cup, approximately, warm milk or broth from the celeriac.
1 Tbsp butter or walnut oil, plus more to taste
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Place the potatoes in one saucepan and the celeriac and apples in another.  Barely cover each pan with water and add salt to each pan as well, about ¼- ½ tsp per pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Turn off the burner that the potatoes are on and remove the pan.  Drain the potatoes, and return the pot to the burner (do not turn the burner back on).  Leave the lid off and allow the potatoes to set for 5-10 minutes to steam and dry out. 
  3. Drain the celeriac and apples through a strainer set over a bowl to catch the cooking liquid. 
  4. Puree all of the celeriac and apple mixture as well as the potatoes in a food mill or a potato ricer.  (If you don’t have either of these tools, you can also use a food processor and process the potatoes separate from the celeriac/apple mixture.  The other option is to just mash the vegetables by hand with a potato masher.  The end result will be more chunky, but will taste just fine). 
  5. Combine the potato puree along with the celeriac and apple puree in a bowl.  Whisk in the milk or broth until the mixture is fluffy.  Add the butter or walnut oil to the hot puree, stir until the butter melts, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

*Chef Andrea Note:  The original recipe calls for Yukon gold potatoes.  I would recommend using our russet potatoes for this recipe as it will yield a lighter, fluffier mash.
Recipe adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe featured on

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 14, 2017 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Leeks

Cooking With This Week's Box

It is definitely starting to look and feel a bit more like fall.  The leaves are just starting to change and this week we’re harvesting leeks, which for us is part of that transition from summer to fall.  We included russet potatoes in this week’s box, so if you have a tradition of making Leek & Potato Soup with the first leeks of the season, go for it.  If you’re looking to try something new, check out the recipe for Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon & Bacon featured in this week’s newsletter (See below).  I adapted this recipe from the original one posted at  I added sweet corn and the orange Ukraine sweet peppers to Alexandra’s recipe because, well I like vegetables and color!  If you’re looking for a more simplified and/or vegetarian version of this recipe, she has another similar recipe on her blog for One-Pan Bucatini with Leeks and Lemon.

Back to those potatoes, russet potatoes are a starchier potato which means you could turn them into mashed potatoes if you’d like.  There’s a recipe in our archives for Leek & Cheese Mash which uses leftover mashed potatoes.  However, my favorite thing to do with these potatoes is to roast them whole.  In fact I have some in the oven right now!  Just rub the outside with oil and sprinkle them generously with salt and some ground black pepper.  Bake them on a cookie sheet until they are tender, then slice them in half and top with butter and sour cream or whatever baked potato toppings you like!  This can become a meal on its own or eat it alongside meatloaf for a nice homey meal. 

This week’s red Boston lettuce is so tender and delicious, I can’t wait to turn it into a beautiful salad.  I think I’ll cook the beets and dice them into bite-sized pieces for the salad.  Make this simple Balsamic Vinaigrette featured at The Kitchn to dress the lettuce and then finish off the salad with a little bit of fresh grated Parmesan and these Quick Stovetop Candied Pecans! Now that is a salad!  Hold on to the beet greens, they are far too tasty to toss in the compost.  It’s been awhile since I’ve made one of Richard’s favorites, Creamed Beets with Greens.  Whatever beets are remaining after the salad will go in here along with all of the beet greens.  This would be an excellent dish to serve with those baked russet potatoes and a nice grilled T-bone steak!

I came across this recipe for Southwestern Quinoa Salad at  This will make use of the grape tomatoes and an ear or two of this week’s sweet corn.  The recipe calls for scallions and poblanos, but I’m going to substitute thinly sliced red onions and orange Italian frying peppers instead.  For a little heat, I’ll include maybe half of a jalapeno.  This salad also contains black beans and feta, so it has enough body to it to stand on its own as a main dish salad to take for lunch or to have on hand for a quick dinner.  It could also be a nice accompaniment to grilled salmon or fish.

I’ve said it before, but I really enjoy the flavor of Yukina Savoy.  It has remained pretty mild in flavor with the cool days and nights we’ve had.  I’m going to adapt this recipe for Skillet Chicken with Bok Choi to include the yukina savoy.  Served with rice, this will become a quick and easy dinner.  If you have any sweet peppers remaining, add those in with the yukina savoy for a little extra color.

I’ve never made tomato pie, but have wanted to for several years and have heard several people talking about it at market over the past few weeks.  This week I’m going to use the larger tomatoes to try this Tomato Cheddar Pie.  This looks like a good dish to serve for Sunday brunch with a slice of bacon on the side. 

We’ve almost used every item in the box, except for the broccoli or cauliflower.  These two items are interchangeable in this recipe for Broccoli Salad with Sunflower Seeds & Cranberries.  This recipe calls for bacon, but I think I’ll opt to leave that out of this recipe and just enjoy the sweetness of the cranberries and the crunch of the sunflower seeds alongside the raw broccoli or cauliflower lightly dressed with a simple mayonnaise dressing.   This is another easy salad to take along for lunch and eat with a simple sandwich. 

Well, that brings us to the end of another delicious week of cooking.  Looking ahead to next week, it looks like we’ll have another fun fall vegetable coming our way to go along with the leeks and potatoes.  Can you guess what it might be?  See you next week!
—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Leeks

We’ve been enjoying a variety of vegetables in the onion/allium family since our first box all the way back in May.  From ramps and chives to overwintered spring onions, scallions and most recently sweet onions.  This week we’ll add leeks to the list.  Leeks are a favorite fall allium that, as Chef Deborah Madison says, “add more of a whisper and less of a shout.”  Leeks have a more delicate, mild onion flavor and are cooked using more delicate cooking methods to yield a soft, silky finished product.  They have fewer sugars than onions, so they will not caramelize in the same way as an onion.

Leeks have a long white shank that turns to more of a bluish green color as you reach the top of the leek.  The shank is made of many thin layers and is the portion of the leek most often used.  However, the green portion on top is equally edible and at the very least should be added to stock for flavor.  Throughout the growing process, dirt is hilled up on the leeks to cover and blanch the shank.  As a result, dirt may get between the layers.  While you need to take care to carefully clean the entire leek, the upper portion may have a bit more dirt between the layers and may need a little more attention.  I find it easiest to wash the exterior of the leek and then slice them.  Place the chopped leeks in a sink of clean, cold water and swish them around to remove any dirt.  Remove the leeks from the water and place in a colander to drain.  If there isn’t much dirt between the layers, you may also just place the sliced leeks in a colander and rinse them.

Leeks pair well with many fall vegetables including potatoes, celeriac, and fennel.  They are often incorporated into cream soups, gratins and egg dishes such as quiche.  A traditional use for leeks is to make Leek & Potato Soup, of which there are many variations.  It is best to take your time and cook leeks more gently and slowly over medium heat. Saute them over low heat to just sweat them until softened. When cooked in this manner, leeks become creamy and have a silk-like texture.  They pair well with white wine, lemon, cream, cheese, apples, walnuts, chicken, bacon, fish and fresh herbs to name just a few ingredients.

Store leeks loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.  

Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon & Bacon

Yield:  4 servings

Coarse salt and ground pepper, to taste
6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
3 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light-green parts only, rinsed well
1 cup fresh sweet corn kernels (from 1-2 ears of corn)
1 cup thinly sliced sweet peppers
½  to ¾ pound bucatini or spaghetti
2 large eggs
¼ cup (heaping) grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving (optional)
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice, plus more as needed
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)

1.       Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving excess fat in pan—you should have about 2 tablespoons.  If you do not have that much, add a little olive oil to the pan.   Add leeks, sweet corn and sweet peppers to the hot pan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring often, over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
2.       Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid before draining the cooked pasta.
3.       In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice. Whisk ¼ cup pasta water into egg mixture.
4.       Once the egg mixture has been combined, immediately add the hot, drained pasta to the egg mixture, along with bacon, vegetables, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. If necessary, add more of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to get the desired sauce consistency and adjust the seasoning to your liking with additional salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed.  If you’d like to put the pasta back in the pan and warm it up before serving, do so over low heat so the eggs don’t curdle.  The sauce on this pasta will be light, but creamy.  Serve immediately with more cheese on top.
This recipe was adapted from an original one posted at Alexandra’s Kitchen.  There is another similar recipe on her website, One Pan Bucatini with Leeks and Lemon that is a simplified, vegetarian version of this recipe.

Soil…Our Hope for a Climate Solution

By Richard de Wilde & Andrea Yoder

In this week’s newsletter we’d like to return to our series of articles pointing to “the future of our food.”  The question on our minds this week is “Can we feed the world…without destroying it first?”  While we didn’t intend to write an article about climate change, here we are once again being faced with issues of climate change as it directly relates to this question.  Food First is an organization dedicated to ending the injustices that cause hunger and helping communities to take back control of their food systems.  Their work is centered around research, education and action.  This organization was founded by Frances Moore Lappé who, back in 1971, wrote Diet for a Small Planet.  Lappé laid out the evidence at that time representing several key points including the fact that there was 1 ½ times more than enough food to feed everyone on Earth, hunger is due to poverty and not scarcity, and the way the developed world produces and consumes food is damaging the planet.  Here we are over forty years later and the fact still remains the same that we still have enough food to feed the world and our corporate, industrial food system continues to damage the planet.  In Food First’s Summer 2017 “News & Views” publication, they stated “…the corporate food system contributes up to ⅓ of the world’s greenhouse gases, making industrial agriculture one of the main forces behind climate change.”2 In this week’s article we want to face this topic of climate change and look at how we can turn the tide, quickly, so we have a future.

Asparagus field with a well established
cover crop including a variety of clovers.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that “Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally.” The Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University released Climate Policy Brief No. 4 in April 2017 entitled, Hope Below Our Feet, Soil as a Climate Solution.1 In their report they quote climate scientist James Hansen who, in 1988, warned that:  “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that.”  They follow his quote with the fact that atmospheric CO2 levels today exceed 400 ppm and are still on the rise.  Carbon is not the culprit here, it is essential to our existence.  Climate change is happening because there is too much carbon in the atmosphere and the reason it’s there is largely due to human activities.  Carbon cycles in nature between five pools where carbon is stored.  Those five places include the atmosphere, oceans, fossils, soil and our biosphere.  The carbon cycle was in balance for many, many years cycling between these pools in a way that was beneficial to all life forms.  The problems started when we figured out how to extract carbon from fossils and use it as fuel, etc.  We disrupted the cycle and threw off the balance by putting more carbon into the atmosphere than the oceans, plants and biosphere could cycle.  The opening paragraph in the GDAE Climate Policy Brief1 mentioned above reads as follows: 

“A major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is clearly needed, but there is increasing scientific consensus that even if achieved, this will not be enough.  In addition to a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, carbon must be removed from the atmosphere.  An important solution is beneath our feet—the massive capacity of the earth’s soils to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere.” 

This field is ready for winter with a
young cover crop of rye in place.
The problem is the lack of balance.  Soil, which holds about three times more carbon than the atmosphere, offers us hope for restoring this balance of carbon in nature that humans have disrupted.    As farmers, this excites us and truly gives us hope.  Why?  Because we understand firsthand how resilient and beneficial soil can be when properly cared for and many of these strategies to store carbon in the soil are things we’ve been practicing on our farm for many years now!  Over 40 years ago I (Richard) was inspired by the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner who taught me about the value of capturing solar energy and putting it into the soil.  Through the process of photosynthesis, plants have the ability to take CO2 from the atmosphere along with water and sunlight to turn it into nutrients for the plant that develop root structures and carry these nutrients into the soil.  The nutrients feed the biological life in the soil and deposit carbon.  Carbon rich soil with high biodiversity is healthy, resilient soil.  I quickly learned the value of cover crops and we still make it a priority to plant a cover crop in a field as soon as we take our main crop off.  Cover crops fix nitrogen in the soil, hold soil in place and, in the end, break down and become part of the soil and build organic matter.  When I started planting cover crops, I did so for benefits including increasing soil fertility and tilth and increasing organic matter in the soil thereby increasing the resilience of the soil to hold water in a time of drought and drain water in times of excess moisture.  I never imagined we’d be in the position we are in now where planting cover crops and other basic, natural agricultural practices could be the key we need to regenerate and heal our broken cycle and reverse something as big as climate change!  In contrast, “Intensive forms of farming using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, are a leading cause of degradation of soils worldwide, as are destructive grazing practices in pasturelands.  But through appropriate practices that would enhance carbon pools in soils and biota, the potential terrestrial carbon sink capacity could be restored, essentially reversing its historic depletion, in what has been called the ‘recarbonization’ of the biosphere.”1  

Our young piglets enjoy romping
around in the lush pasture grasses.
Our grass-fed Red Angus beef cattle are
rotationally grazed on our nutrient rich pastures.
There are several approaches we can take to regenerate our soils and enhance the natural functioning of ecosystems to rebuild what we’ve lost.  The GDAE report outlines some important regenerative strategies to increase the ability of soils to store carbon.  In cultivated soils, strategies include things such as the use of cover crops, planting trees and legumes to fix atmospheric nitrogen, feeding the soil with manure and compost, decreasing erosion and soil loss from sloping soils through terracing, and increasing soil microbiology with fungi and other microorganisms.  Pasture management in animal production systems is another important factor.  Sustainable pasture management includes planned rotational grazing which can have a remarkable impact on regenerating pasture grasses, increasing soil fertility, and reversing and preventing desertification of soils.   We also need to consider forested soils.  There have been astounding acres of valuable forest lands cleared for industrial farming and agricultural purposes.  We need to stop deforestation and be promoting reforestation to regenerate degraded forest ecosystems.  All of these efforts have the net benefit of supporting the movement of excess carbon out of the atmosphere through the use of plants and putting it back into the soil.  While it’s pretty remarkable to be able to use plants to combat climate change in this way, there is a twofold benefit from regenerating soils.  More plants on the land and more carbon returning to the soil results in not only decreasing atmospheric carbon, but also leads to increased soil fertility which also can have a significant impact on production and yield as well as the quality of food.  This will also help us continue to produce food more reliably in the face of weather extremes which is our current reality.  However, remember that hunger is not caused by scarcity but rather poverty.  “What causes hunger is not lack of food, but lack of access to decent land and work.  Most of the chronically hungry in the world are marginalized farmers and rural workers.  It is not how much we produce that is important, but who produces it, how, and who profits.  With 70% employment in agriculture in many parts of the world, simply producing more food in countries like Kenya, Uganda, or India will not solve hunger if there are no decent and stable livelihoods in the countryside.  Industrial farming displaces workers—so many we would need unrealistically fast economic growth, evenly spread around the globe to create enough jobs to employ all the world’s peasant farmers.  To end hunger, we don’t need to produce more crops per se—we need to produce more decent livelihoods.”5  We need to turn food production back over to small farmers, thereby giving them food security by giving them their jobs back and allowing them to preserve their cultural heritage and feed their own local markets and be part of their local economy.  In this manner human needs are met in a way that restores ecosystems and communities instead of degrading them.  It’s an obvious win-win situation!  We’d encourage you to read the GDAE’s policy brief for yourself as there are more details and benefits from employing these strategies than we can fully report on here and truly does offer us hope.  We need to face the realities that industrial agriculture has no place in the future of our food system.  Eliminating this form of agriculture would gain us great strides in combating climate change, but furthermore if it were traded for regenerative farming practices we would actually be able to make some headway.  The answer to our original question is “Yes, we can feed the world without destroying it.”  The question now is “Will we?” 

If you’d like to learn more about how the soil can lead us in regenerative efforts to combat climate change as well as see some examples of how other countries are implementing action and incentives for this purpose, we’d like to suggest the following resources:
  • "The Soil Story", a video by Kiss the Ground that clearly summarizes the carbon cycle and the role of regenerative agriculture in less than 4 minutes!  If you do nothing else, watch this short video.
  •  Soil 4 Climate is a nonprofit organization that is an advocate for soil restoration as a climate solution.  They have a lot of informative resources available on their website for both education as well as action. 
  •  Global Development & Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University offers expertise in the areas of economics, policy, science and technology as they relate to global development and issues related to the environment.  They have numerous publications available on their website including the Climate Policy Brief we cited above, Hope Below Our Feet. 

  1.  Codur, A.M., S. Itzkan, W. Moomaw, K. Thidemann, and J. Harris.  2017.  Hope Below Our Feet, Soil As a Climate Solution.  
  2. Holt-Gimenez, Eric.  2017.  The Politics of Food:  The More Things Stay the Same, the More They Change.  Food First News & Views. Volume 39. 
  3. IPCC 2013.  Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report, Summary For Policy Makers.  
  4. Kruzic, Ahna and Holt-Gimenez, Eric.  2017.  The Politics of Food:  Feeding the World Without Destroying It.  Food First News & Views. Volume 39. 
  5. Shattuck, Annie.  2017.   Food, Climate, and the Myths that Keep our Planet Hot.  Food First Backgrounder, Volume 23.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Fall Herb Preservation

by Jean Schneider, Herbalist at Nativa Medica & HVF CSA Member

How did your spring herb packs do in your garden or pots this year?  If yours are like mine, the sage did pretty well if you could keep it dry enough this year!  Who knows when the frost will come, so it's time to preserve your herbs before it’s too late.  All of the herbs in our packs are Mediterranean herbs.  As a group, these herbs are pungent, aromatic, warming and many are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral.  Sounds like the perfect thing for fall and winter right?

As an herbalist I like to recommend herbs that are inexpensive and easy to find.  I am not very prone to colds, viruses and flu but those around me are!  My husband gets a few colds and viruses every winter, partly from all the time he spends in our public schools getting exposed.  Over the years, adding more consistent use of culinary herbs seems to have helped reduce the number and severity of illnesses he suffers each winter.  Every soup I make in the winter has a good amount of thyme in it and we regularly use sage honey in our cooking and make lavender honey tea.

There are two uses we will preserve herbs for from our herb packs; culinary and medicinal.  All of the herbs in the packs are culinary herbs and several of them are powerful medicinal herbs too.  Let’s start with preserving some of the herbs specifically for medicinal uses for colds, flu and viruses.  My two favorite herbs from the pack for this are thyme and sage. 

Medicinal Herbs

Thyme Preservation

I prefer to gently dry thyme.  Cut the thyme off about an inch above the ground.  Make sure the herb is dry already (not after a rain or with dew on it).  Either tie the stems into small bundles with string, or separate the stems and lay them out on your dehydrator racks.  Slowly and gently dry at low, low temperatures and monitor closely if in the dehydrator.  Using temperatures that are too high or drying for too long will cause the volatile oils that are important in the medicine of the plant to be lost.  If you tied the bundles with string, hang them in an area that gets good air flow (not your basement).  I hang mine on my kitchen cabinet knobs or on a coat rack in my entryway that I am not using.  Leave them for a week or so.  Once dry, remove leaves from the stems using clean hands by gently rubbing them off.  Store in an air tight container, like a Mason jar.

To Use Thyme as Medicine
       As a face steam for cough or plugged sinuses - put 1” of water in a pot, bring to low simmer so it is steaming.  Add a tablespoon of dried thyme leaves, put a towel over your head and lean over the pot.  Be careful as you first do this so your face doesn’t get too hot.  Move your face away or closer based on temperature.  Breathe in the steam and feel the loosening and draining begin.  Do this up to 3-4 times per day, as needed.
       As a tea - 1-2 teaspoons dried leaves per cup boiling water, steep 10 minutes, covered.

Use Thyme For:
      dry or wet coughs
      congestion of sinuses or lungs
      intestinal spasms and general gastrointestinal problems
Properties of Thyme
       stimulates immune system
       relaxes tissue
       penetrates and loosens thick stuck mucus in sinuses and lungs
       anti-spasmodic (for coughs and gastrointestinal)

Sage Preservation

Sage is a really fun herb to preserve for the winter and may be dried using the methods described for thyme preservation.  Additionally, you can use sage to make infused honey.

Fine mesh strainer and bowl used
to strain the herbs from the honey.
Sage as Infused Honey 
and Leaves for Tea
       sage leaves (no stems)
       honey from farmer’s market
       clean and dry Mason jar and two-piece lid
       fine mesh strainer
       large light weight bowl

First, get some good quality honey from the farmer’s market and have a clean and dry Mason jar ready.  Cut your sage off about an inch above the ground, making sure you harvest when the herb is dry (no rain or dew).  Remove the leaves from the stems and compost the stems.  Put the fresh leaves in the jar, press them down and fill to about half full.  Choose the size of the jar based on how much leaves you have.  Cover the leaves with honey and stir well.  Once the leaves are coated in honey, fill the rest of the jar with honey, leaving about an inch of air space between the lid and honey.  Make sure the lid is on tight and place in a sunny window or countertop and flip the jar once or more a day.  Kids love to be in charge of this!  Flipping the jar upside down allows the herbs to mix into the honey.  The herbs will slowly rise to the top, and the jar can be flipped again helping it mix.  The sunny window helps keep the honey warm, but a countertop will do just fine too.  I let this go for about a month, then pour into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and let gravity and stirring do the work of separating the honey from the sage leaves.  Do this in batches if necessary until done.  Store the infused honey at room temperature or in a warm place.  You can also keep it near your tea kettle so you don’t forget about it.  The honey is good indefinitely.  The leaves that are left will still have honey stuck to them, this is good as the honey will preserve the leaves.  Put the leaves back into the jar and then into the refrigerator where they will keep several months.
Herbs infusing with the honey. 
To Use Sage as Medicine
       sage infused honey - eat a spoonful or use in hot water as tea
       sage leaves coated in honey - use to make sage tea by adding several leaves per cup with hot water and steep for 10 minutes covered.

Use Sage For:
       sore throats
       runny noses
       wet coughs

Properties of Sage:
       dries moisture and brings up oil, soothing tissue
       a caution to nursing mothers - sage can dry up milk production
       not for use in pregnancy

Finished jar of herb infused honey!

Preservation of Tender Culinary Herbs

For the more tender herbs like basil, parsley and chervil this will be the best preservation method since they lose their flavor when you dry them.  You can use this method for the oregano and savory too, but both of those will dry well using either the hanging or dehydrator method from the thyme section. 

Easy Ice-cube Tray Preserved Herbs

       ice cube tray
       herb of your choice, stems removed, leaves chopped
       organic extra virgin olive oil

Place chopped herb leaves into a bowl, cover generously with olive oil and stir.  Place into as many ice cube compartments as needed.  Freeze until solid, pop out of the ice cube tray and put into labeled plastic bags in the freezer.  The herbs are already chopped and ready to use in any recipe.

I like to use these cubes in a variety of ways all winter long.  There is no need to thaw them out in advance as they take only a minute or two to melt in a pan or pot.  Most of the time I forget to add the herbs until the dish is almost cooked and I am looking for more flavor to add.  When sautéing veggies for scrambled eggs add the herb cube in.  For soups and stews you can either add the herb cube while you are sautéing veggies, or add it during the simmering time.  For Shepard’s pie or pot pies, add the herb cube in while the filling is simmering.

Don’t forget to use your dried thyme leaves in your cooking too.  Even though the medicinal uses are so important with thyme, you will get similar benefits from using thyme regularly throughout the winter.  Every soup, stew and roast I make gets a tablespoon or more of thyme added into it in addition to any other spices the recipe calls for.  I grow some in my herb garden, but it is never enough, so I buy it by the pound to make sure we have enough for the entire winter!

Using culinary herbs regularly gives our bodies and health a continual boost and support system.  I have always wondered if the main reason why the Mediterranean diet has resulted in healthy people actually has as much to do with regular use of culinary herbs (all the herbs from our packs are Mediterranean herbs)  as it does with fresh food.  The people of this area cook with fresh food and an abundance of herbs throughout the year.  Let’s follow their example.

It’s a great time to ask your friends if they have any herbs to spare from their gardens too.  Having a winter store of herbs to use not only makes our food more tasty in the winter, but also helps support our health.

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