Wednesday, October 16, 2019

October 17, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Red Cabbage!

Cooking With This Week's Box




Broccoli OR Cauliflower: Lemony Cauliflower and Carrot Soup; Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce

Peter Wilcox Potatoes: Swiss Chard and Potatoes


Orange Carrots: Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below); Italian Wedding Soup; Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce; Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread


Calibra Yellow Onions: Warm Red Cabbage Salad (see below); White Bean and Escarole Pizza; Utica Greens; Lemony Cauliflower and Carrot Soup; Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic


Baby Beets: Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread; Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic


Red Chard or Red Mustard: Creamy Penne Pasta with Greens and Parmesan; Swiss Chard and Potatoes


Escarole: White Bean and Escarole Pizza; Italian Wedding Soup; Utica Greens


Red Cabbage: Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below); Warm Red Cabbage Salad (see below); Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread 


Salad Mix: Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic


Spinach or Baby Arugula: Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheeseand Honey Balsamic; Creamy Penne Pasta with Greens and Parmesan; Swiss Chard and Potatoes


This week we have another beautiful vegetable to feature, red cabbage!  We love to eat and grow vegetables with a variety of colors.  Of course you know that color also equals flavor and nutrients!  It’s win win on all fronts!  This week I’ve shared a recipe for Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below).  I’ve been making this recipe for years and it comes from Lorna Sass.  Her book was one of the first vegetarian cookbooks in my collection and I still reference recipes in it frequently.  This is a very simple recipe to make and goes well as a side along with a bowl of soup.  The second recipe in this week’s feature is also a salad, Warm Red Cabbage Salad (see below).  This recipe comes from one of my other favorite vegetarian cookbook authors, Deborah Madison.  You could add pancetta or bacon to this recipe if you like.


Utica Greens, photo from homeinthefingerlakes.com
Last week our featured vegetable was Escarole.  We featured two recipes using this delicious fall green.  If you didn’t have a chance to make the White Bean and Escarole Pizza  or the Italian Wedding Soup, take some time to try one of these recipes this week.  I’m not sure how I missed this in my research, but a friendly market customer this past weekend told me about a traditional recipe using escarole called Utica Greens.  It’s very simple and includes prosciutto, wilted escarole and hot pickled cherry peppers with a crumb topping of herbs, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  I’m going to have to try this one!

If you don’t use all your garlic when cooking the escarole, turn it into Roasted Garlic Butter.  You can use this on bread and sandwiches, or put a dollop on top of grilled steak or roasted winter squash.


Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce
Photo from gimmesomeoven.com
One of my favorite parts about the farmers’ market is talking to customers about the dishes they make with our vegetables.  In addition to the recipe for Utica Greens, I got a tip on this Melissa Clarke recipe for Lemony Cauliflower and Carrot Soup.  I haven’t tried this yet myself, but some of our longtime CSA members tell me this is a super simple soup to make and there’s no dairy in this.  The creaminess of the soup comes from pureeing the vegetables and the addition of lemon brightens all the flavors in your mouth.  If you receive broccoli instead of cauliflower, consider this recipe for an Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce.  This recipe calls for edamame.  If you don’t have any in the freezer, I’d suggest that you substitute some chopped sweet peppers or carrots in their place.

Looking for a quick lunch option?  This is a great week to make Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread.  Instead of shredding the carrots and using them as part of the vegetable filling, they go into making a flavorful, healthy spread for the wrap.  You can stuff these with the toppings of your choosing, but the recipe suggests shredded red cabbage and beets.  What a perfect recipe for this week!

The other thing I want to use the baby beets for is a simple roasted beet salad.  The baby beets we’re delivering this week are perfect for roasting whole and then using them to make a delicious salad with any of this week’s greens as a base.  This simple Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic can stand alone or serve it as a side dish to a meal.


Swiss Chard and Potatoes, photo from italianfoodforever.com
There are a lot of greens in this week’s box, so I wanted to share the link to this recipe for Creamy Penne Pasta with Greens and Parmesan.  We featured this recipe in a newsletter back in 2007.  You could use chard, mustard or spinach to make this recipe.  It’s simple to make and you can add chicken or sausage to it if you so desire.  Here’s another recipe for a simple greens based recipe, Swiss Chard and Potatoes.  You could use this week’s Peter Wilcox potatoes for this recipe.

I believe we’ve cooked our way to the bottom of another box.  Before I close, I just want to let you know the sweet potatoes are  about half way through their curing process.  It looks like we’ll be able to start washing them for CSA boxes as early as next week!  Start pulling out all of your favorite sweet potato recipes and get ready!  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Red Cabbage


By Chef Andrea

We call it red cabbage, but others may refer to it as purple cabbage.  Perhaps it’s splitting hairs to debate whether it’s red or purple when the bottom line is that it is simply gorgeous!  Red cabbage is different from our green cabbage in several ways.  First, it’s obviously much different in color which means it also has a bit of a different nutrient profile.  Purple and red pigments in vegetables indicate the presence of chemical plant compounds called anthocyanins.  We talked about these several weeks ago when we delivered the black nebula carrots.  Anthocyanins have many health benefits including being antioxidants that combat free radical damage in our bodies.  Thus, they play a role in cancer prevention as well as enhance cardiac health and boost our immunity, amongst a long list of other benefits.  In addition to the benefits from anthocyanins, red cabbage also offers all the similar benefits of other vegetables in the Brassica family including phytonutrients called glucosinolates and sulfuraphane.  These two nutrients are important for reducing the potential for carcinogens to damage our tissues while also assisting the liver with detoxifying the body.  Red cabbage heads are also more dense and the leaves are thicker in comparison to green savoy cabbage or the sweetheart salad cabbages we delivered earlier in the season.

Red cabbage may be eaten both raw and cooked.  One of the simplest ways to use it is to just slice it very thinly and mix it in with salad greens or other vegetables when making vegetable salads or slaws.  It can also stand alone to make beautiful and tasty slaws and salads which may be served either cold or warm.  This week I’ve included a recipe for a simple Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below) that I’ve been making for many years.  Red cabbage is also often used to make braised red cabbage, a more common part of German and northern European cuisine.  Recipes for braised red cabbage will often include apples, juniper berries, caraway seeds and either red wine or red wine vinegar.  This is a good place to talk about how to retain that bright purple color when cooking red cabbage.  When you cook red cabbage, you can retain the bright purple color by adding an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or lemon juice.  If you don’t add acid and cook it for any period of time with the lid on the pan, the cabbage will turn to more of a blue-green-gray color.  This is kind of a fun kitchen experiment to do with kids so they can see how the color pigments change when in an acidic versus basic environment.

Beyond braised red cabbage and slaw, there are a lot of other ways to use this cabbage.  While I don’t have any experience using red cabbage in Indian cuisine, I did find some interesting recipes using Indian spices.  I also found a recipe that used the red cabbage to make Purple Cabbage Paratha, an Indian flatbread.  You can also use raw cabbage in spring rolls and wraps such as this Winter Veggie Wrap with Carrot-Miso Spread that we featured several years ago.  It’s also a great stir-fry vegetable, however I’d recommend using a sauce that has some citrus in it to help retain the bright purple color.

Some other foods that are complementary and are often used with red cabbage include the following:  apples, oranges, lemons, currants, onions, shallots, caraway, juniper, clove, star anise, red wine, vinegar, carrots, beets, blue cheese and goat cheese.  Red cabbage stores well, so don’t feel like you have to use it all right away.  It’s best to store red cabbage in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  You’ll be surprised by how much you will get out of a head once you start slicing it!  If you don’t use all of the head, simply wrap up the remainder and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it again.

Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple Mustard Dressing


Yield: 6 servings

“The compliments will start pouring in for this tasty, gorgeous salad, which you’ve thrown together in about 5 minutes….Don’t be tempted to leave out the juniper berries: They are the secret ingredient that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.”

1 tsp coarsely ground juniper berries
½ to ¾ cup Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below)
1 ½ lb red cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrot, grated
⅓ cup tightly packed minced fresh parsley
Sea salt to taste (optional; you may not need it)

  1. Stir the juniper berries into the maple-mustard dressing and, if time permits, let set for an hour.
  2. Just before serving, toss the cabbage, carrot, and parsley in a salad bowl.
  3. Toss in just enough dressing to coat the salad.  Add salt to taste if desired.

Recipe borrowed from Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen.

Maple-Mustard Dressing


½ cup sunflower oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp dry mustard
Pinch of salt
  1. In a small jar, combine all of the ingredients and shake well.
  2. Use immediately or refrigerate in a tightly sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe borrowed from Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen.

Warm Red Cabbage Salad


Yield: 4 to 6 servings

The cabbage is cooked just enough to soften it, then tossed with apples, goat cheese and roasted walnuts.  This is a very nice salad for fall when both walnuts and apples are newly harvested.  For variation in flavor and color, mix the cabbage with other greens, such as spinach or curly endive.

15 to 20 walnuts, enough to make ¾ cup shelled
2 tsp walnut oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 small red cabbage 
1 crisp red apple
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 ½ Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 to 4 oz goat cheese, broken into large pieces
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
½ tsp marjoram, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Crack the walnuts, leave the meats in large pieces, and toss them with the walnut oil and some salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Toast them in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they begin to smell nutty.  Then remove them from the oven and let them cool.
  2. Quarter the cabbage and remove the core.  Cut the wedges into thin pieces, 2 to 3 inches long, and set them aside.
  3. Cut the apple lengthwise into sixths, cut out the core, then slice the pieces thinly, crosswise.
  4. Put the garlic, vinegar, and oil in a wide sauté pan over a medium-high flame.  As soon as they are hot, add the onion and sauté for 30 seconds.  Next add the cabbage and continue to cook, stirring it with a pair of tongs for approximately 2 minutes, or until just wilted.  The leaves will begin to soften and the color will change from bright purple-red to pink.  Season with salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and more vinegar, if necessary, to sharpen the flavors.  Add the goat cheese, apple slices, herbs, and walnuts.  Toss briefly and carefully before serving.
Recipe borrowed from The Greens Cookbook, by Deborah Madison with Edward Espé Brown.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

October 10, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Escarole!

Cooking With This Week's Box


Italian Garlic: White Bean & Escarole Pizza (see below); Italian Wedding Soup (See below)





Cauliflower or Broccoli Romanesco: Hot Bacon VinaigretteCauliflower Pizza Bake 

Broccoli or Broccoli Romanesco: Hot Bacon VinaigretteParmesan Roasted Broccoli



Orange Carrots: Italian Wedding Soup (see below); Carrot,Feta and Almond Salad

Purple Majesty Potatoes: Breakfast Potato Nachos

Yellow Onions: White Bean & Escarole Pizza (see below); Italian Wedding Soup (see below); Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion

Escarole: White Bean & Escarole Pizza (see below); Italian Wedding Soup (see below)

Our nights are getting colder and warm hats have become part of my daily attire again.  We haven’t had a frost yet, but we may see one before the end of the week.  These cool nights are great for sweetening crops, such as the escarole in this week’s box.  This is an interesting vegetable that is delicious both raw and cooked, however I think it’s at its best when cooked.  A traditional, simple way to cook escarole is to saute it in plenty of olive oil along with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes.  The Italian way is to cook it until it’s very soft, silky and tender. While this makes a delicious side dish on its own, you can also take this base preparation and put it on a pizza.  One of this week’s recipes is for a White Bean & Escarole Pizza (see below).  In this recipe you use a flavorful white bean puree as a base to spread on the crust and then top it off with the cooked escarole and parmesan cheese.  Of course, you can add meat if you like.  The second recipe featuring escarole this week is for Italian Wedding Soup (see below).  This is a classic way to use escarole and it’s a super simple soup.  Get the kids to help you form the meatballs and the rest will come together quickly.  The escarole will become silky and soft when cooked in the broth and is a nice complement to the fattiness of the pork.

Honey Lime Jalapeno Vinaigrette
photo from barefeetinthekitchen.com
Sadly, we’re nearly finished picking peppers and if we do get a frost this weekend that will officially mark the end of pepper season.  This week we’ve packed three more little jalapenos, which could be used to make this Honey Lime Jalapeno Vinaigrette.  Use it as a salad dressing or as a marinade for fish or chicken.

While we’re talking salad dressing, I want to share this recipe for Hot Bacon Vinaigrette.  You can use this vinaigrette to make a wilted spinach or chard salad, but it can also be tossed with roasted cauliflower/Romanesco, mini sweet peppers or potatoes right after you take them out of the oven.

Back in August we featured this recipe for Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion.  We received a lot of positive comments about this recipe.  If you didn’t have a chance to try it, consider making it this week using the last of our poblano peppers along with spinach or chard and turnip greens.  You could also use the poblano peppers to make the Squash and Poblano Quesadilla with Pickled Jalapenos and Chipotle Crema that was featured in a September newsletter.

photo from iwashyoudry.com
Fall is the time of year when brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc really thrive.  You don’t have to do anything fancy with them and sometimes the simplest recipes are the best.  Try this Parmesan Roasted Broccoli.  You can make this with broccoli and/or Romanesco.  As for the cauliflower this week, last week I found this recipe for Cauliflower Pizza Bake.  This is basically a combination of roasted cauliflower with pizza toppings!  I have a feeling this recipe might become a family favorite!

This week’s purple majesty potatoes are a great variety to use in this recipe for Breakfast Potato Nachos.  This is a recipe we featured in a previous newsletter.  In this recipe the potatoes are sliced and baked to make a chip that takes the place of a traditional nacho corn chip.  Top off the potatoes with beans, sour cream, jalapenos, and all the traditional nacho toppings!

While carrots can make their way into many dishes as a base flavoring ingredient, you can really make them shine when they are the main ingredient, such as in this recipe for Carrot, Feta and Almond Salad.  I love carrot salads because they are super easy, but also tasty and convenient to make.

Here we are at the bottom of another CSA box.  Wish us luck as we continue to dance around the weather and try to get root crops harvested in between the rains!  Even though we’re approaching the end of our season, we still have more delicious vegetables for you including Brussels sprouts, Black Futsu squash, tat soi and more!  Have a good week—Chef Andrea


Vegetable Feature: Escarole

By Chef Andrea


This week’s featured vegetable is escarole.  Many people mistake escarole for a head of green leaf lettuce.  While they do look very similar, they have some differences.  For starters, escarole is in the chicory family and is considered to be a bitter green.  Escarole is a frost tolerant green, which is why we plant them as a late season crop.  Cool temperatures result in a more balanced flavor in this vegetable.  If you eat a little bit of the leaf when raw, you will notice it has a mild bitterness.  While escarole may be eaten raw, I think this vegetable shines at its best when cooked.  When you cook escarole, the green wilts down into a smooth, silky green and the flavor mellows out  so it is more balanced, slightly sweet and less bitter.  The center leaves are sometimes light green or slightly yellow and the outer leaves are more broad and a bit more thick when compared to leaf lettuce.  If you are going to use escarole raw, I recommend using the center leaves for raw preparations as they are often more tender.

Escarole is a popular green in Italian cuisine.  There’s a classic preparation for escarole that some Italian cooks call Scarola Affogata, which means “smothered escarole.”  In this dish, garlic is sautéed in olive oil until golden, then chopped escarole, salt, red pepper flakes and seasoning are added to the pan.  The greens are cooked until they are soft and tender.  This is then served as side dish, or you can use the greens for another purpose, such as on top of a pizza as we’ve done in this week’s recipe, White Bean and Escarole Pizza.

Escarole is also often used in winter soups along with white beans and other vegetables.  This week one of our featured recipes is for a classic Italian Wedding Soup.  This soup actually has nothing to do with weddings.  It has its origins as a peasant soup made to make use of meat scraps, stale bread and basic vegetables all cooked in a flavorful broth.  One thing that makes this soup unique and kind of fun is that it includes mini meatballs which are traditionally made with pork, but you could also use ground chicken or turkey if you prefer. 


Escarole pairs well with other fall vegetables and fruits such as apples, pears, persimmons, lemons, oranges, garlic, onions, beets, potatoes and butternut squash.  It is also often included in dishes with white beans and lentils.  Additionally, it pairs well with hazelnuts and walnuts as well as butter, prosciutto, bacon, cheese (including blue cheese, Parmesan, and gruyere). 


Store escarole in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use.  You will need to wash the leaves well in the same way you would wash head lettuce.  The heads we’re delivering this week weigh on average between 0.75-1.0 pounds each.

Italian Wedding Soup

Yield:  8 servings

Meatballs:

1 small onion, finely chopped
⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 large egg
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 slice fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound ground pork
Freshly ground black pepper


Soup:

12 cups chicken broth
2 cups carrots, small dice
1 pound escarole, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. To make the meatballs:  Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend.  Stir in the cheese, pork and pepper.  Using 1 ½ tsp for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch diameter meatballs.  Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven until lightly browned.  
  2. To make the soup:  Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add the meatballs, carrots and escarole and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the escarole is tender, about 8-12 minutes.  
  3. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend.  Stir the soup in a circular motion.  Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin strands of egg, about 1 minute.  Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.  Finish soup with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’s recipe found at www.foodnetwork.com.

White Bean & Escarole Pizza

Yield:  4 servings

Bean Puree:
2-3 cloves garlic
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp dried parsley
½ tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Escarole:

1 ½ Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
½ of a large head of escarole (8 oz)
1-2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pizza:

Pizza Dough, enough to make a 12-14 inch crust
Olive oil, additional as needed for the crust and finishing
2-3 oz pepperoni or salami (optional)
3 oz shredded Parmesan cheese


  1. While you make the toppings for the pizza, preheat the oven to 400°F.  
  2. First make the bean puree.  Place garlic cloves in a food processor and blend until the garlic is finely chopped.  Add the beans, olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano and lemon juice.  Blend until the beans are smooth and all the ingredients are well combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors develop, then taste the beans and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding salt, pepper, vinegar and/or lemon juice as needed.  The consistency of the beans should be smooth and spreadable. Thin with a few tablespoons of water or a little more olive oil if needed.
  3. Next, prepare the escarole.  Heat 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil in a medium sautè pan over medium heat.  When the oil shimmers, add the onions and garlic.  Sautè until the vegetables are softened, then add the escarole.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle in the red pepper flakes.  Stir to combine and continue to stir periodically as the escarole wilts down.  Once the escarole is wilted, add the red wine vinegar and continue to cook until nearly all the liquid is reduced. Adjust the seasoning to your liking.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Shape the dough and place it on a preheated pizza stone or pizza pan.  Brush the crust with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes.  
  5. Remove the par-baked crust from the oven.  Spread the bean puree evenly on the crust.  Depending on the size of your pizza, you may not need all of the bean puree.  Save any unused portion and use it elsewhere.  If you are using pepperoni or salami, lay it out on top of the bean puree.  Evenly distribute the escarole on top of the crust.  Top off the pizza by spreading shredded Parmesan over the whole pizza.
  6. Return the pizza to the oven and bake it an additional 15-20 minutes or until the crust and cheese are golden brown.
  7. Cut into 8 pieces and serve hot.

Recipe by Chef Andrea, Harmony Valley Farm.

Regenerative Agriculture & Cover Crops

Whtie Dutch Clover sharing space with our melon crop.
Year after year we are reminded, and more so in recent years, just how important cover crops are to our farming and ecosystem.  Throughout the season, we’ve made reference to cover crops.  Earlier this year Richard gave us a glimpse into his new strategy of inter-seeding cover crops in the spaces between our raised beds for the purpose of keeping the soil in place should we get hard, fast, pounding rains that have washed our soil off fields in recent years.  We’ve learned some things about this strategy and will be evaluating improvements we can make next year.  Every year we are once again amazed at the benefits cover crops offer. Plants have a powerful ability to hold our fields together and offer many other benefits to our farming and ecosystems.  They have always been a priority at Harmony Valley Farm and we’ve known for a long time that they are beneficial.  Nonetheless, we continue to learn more about these amazing plants and what they can do for all of us.  So, for those of you who have been with our farm for many years, this week’s article is not totally new.  For those who are recently new to our farm, we want to give you an opportunity to gain insight into how we employ cover crops and why they are important.  Not all food is created equal and it’s up to you to make an informed decision as to what type of farming practices you want your food purchases to support. 


In recent years the term “Regenerative Agriculture” has been introduced in the context of finding solutions to mitigate climate change and steer our future in a more positive direction.  We’ve mentioned this term in previous articles, but here’s the specific definition of this term taken from the definition paper available in full text at regenerationinternational.org:


“ ‘Regenerative Agriculture’ describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity—resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. 
Specifically, Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.  Regenerative agriculture improves soil health, primarily through the practices that increase soil organic matter.  This not only aids in increasing soil biota diversity and health, but increases biodiversity both above and below the soil surface, while increasing both water holding capacity and sequestering carbon at greater depths, thus drawing down climate-damaging levels of atmospheric CO2, and improving soil structure to reverse civilization –threatening human-caused soil loss.”

The following is an excerpt from a newsletter article Richard wrote in 2017 along with a few updates that he has added (in italics).  While we utilize and plant cover crops throughout the season, we are currently in the height of cover crop planting time as we race to get crops off the fields and plant cover crops so they can put down roots and maximize their growth potential before winter sets in.  This will continue to be a topic we keep at the forefront and it’s an important one for all of us to continue to learn about.  It’s going to take both more farmers adopting these practices as well as consumers who support these practices to drive positive change in our current climate predicament.

Cover Crops 101: Keep It Covered!


By Richard deWilde
A well-established cover crop planting in late fall
We’ve been using cover crops for over 40 years, mainly as a means of enhancing soil quality.  Only recently have we learned that cover crops are an important tool we can use to help mitigate climate change, both by reducing excessive atmospheric carbon as well as their role in making our soils more resilient to erratic weather conditions.  We know that soils with high organic matter hold water better in drought conditions and are able to drain better in times of excess moisture.  There are many benefits to including cover crops in farming systems and, from a farmer’s perspective, I can’t understand why every farmer wouldn’t want to plant them!Cover crops are crops we plant in our fields before and after our vegetable cash crops.  While we plant vegetable crops with the intention of harvesting them for sale, we seldom ever sell a cover crop.  There are other reasons why we plant cover crops.  Our farming system developed from the work of Rudolf Steiner, JI Rodale, and William Albrecht, early advocates of using cover crops in organic systems as a means of keeping the ground covered at all times. In theory, this is a basic principle of nature that allows us to use plants to capture solar energy from the sun to enrich the soil and prevent erosion.  We don’t like to have bare ground over the winter as it is very vulnerable to winter winds, etc and we don’t want to lose our precious topsoil!  Cover crops, in certain locations, also help to filter and purify water to keep our waterways clean, and enhance and encourage biodiversity of soil microorganisms that help us increase the organic matter in our soil as well as hold nutrients in place so they are available for the next vegetable crop that will go in that field.  While this all makes sense in theory, in practice it all comes down to management! 

Side by side cover crops planted one week apart

Many of our long term crew members understand our goals with regards to planting cover crops, but in the heat of the busy late summer and fall harvest season when we need all available hands on deck to harvest, it’s easy to put planting cover crops on the backburner to plant another day when harvest is done.  However, our crew members understand planting cover crops is a priority and work diligently to make sure they get planted as soon as possible.  As soon as we finish harvesting a crop and are done with it for the season, we prepare the ground and plant the cover crop even if it’s just two beds out of the entire field!  Time is of the essence in the fall and our goal is to give the cover crop as many growing days as possible to get established before the temperatures drop and winter sets in.  Cover crops may also be planted into a standing vegetable crop at the time of last cultivation.  This allows us to have a soil-improving cover crop already growing in the shade of a cash crop, ready to take over as soon as the cash crop is done and any remaining portion of the plants are chopped!  We use this method in crops such as asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb.  We have also expanded this practice to include our fall broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.  All of these already have an established cover of small clovers and grass. In these scenarios, the cover crop not only enhances the soil by increasing organic matter, but the cover crop also helps to compete with weeds and forms a mulch of sorts when the cover crop plant “winter kills.” 



Crimson clover cover crop
We have two main cover crop mixes we plant.  One mix includes plants that will “winter kill.”  Even though we may get some frosty nights and cold temperatures late in the fall, the plants in this mix continue to grow, albeit slowly.  Once the ground freezes solid their growth stops.  This mix includes Japanese millet, oats, field peas, crimson clover and a few other clover varieties. The benefit to planting a cover crop that winter kills is that the plants will not grow again in the spring and we can prepare that ground early in the spring to plant vegetable crops since the cover crop residue will work into the soil very easy without a lot of green crop plant matter to get in the way. 



Richard evaluating biodiversity in this multi-species planting
Our second mix consists of plants that can go dormant during the winter, and then resume growing again in the spring.  We plant this mix in fields that we won’t need to plant very early in the spring.  This allows us to leave the cover crop in the spring so it can grow and we can maximize its benefits.  We usually cut or chop the cover crop just before it goes to seed.  This mix consists of cereal rye, rye grass, mammoth red clover, hairy vetch as well as Alice clover and red clover.  In addition to serving as a sponge to take up available nutrients and hold them in place for next year’s crop, the rye also makes a good mulch that we cut and bale.  We take the bales off of one field and put them on another field to mulch in between beds of vegetable crops such as strawberries, tomatoes and garlic.  The clovers and vetch are able to take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil, which means we don’t have to apply fertilizer!  If we have excess rye grass beyond our needs for mulch, we may choose to bale some to use as feed for our cattle and goats through the winter or sometimes we just chop the crop back onto the field and work it into the soil.  This is referred to as a “green manure” crop.

Onions on raised beds with inter-seeded cover crops
We have embraced this practice and are always looking for ways to improve the system.  Over the past few years we’ve increased the diversity of plants in our cover crop mixes.  While it is more complicated to make these mixes, we appreciate the plant diversity and the different beneficial attributes each plant brings to the mix.  Each variety also supports its own unique microbes that interact with the plant at the root level.  We are also learning that there is also a synergy between organisms that multiplies the benefits exponentially.  Little is known about this interaction, but it is believed that the microbes communicate and function as a larger, very complex organism that can move water and nutrients across the field to plants in need.  How cool is that!  We will continue to invest both time and resources into planting cover crops as the benefits of doing so far outweigh any management challenges we may juggle.  Maintaining and improving the health and resilience of our soils is crucial to our ability to continue to produce vegetables with maximum nutrient quality.  We also want to do our part to maintain clean waterways, prevent soil erosion and maximize CO2 capture through our practices to do our part to mitigate climate change. 

Australian peas, with nitrogen capturing nodes on their roots.
As we continue our conversation about the future of our food system and what we want it to be, we feel it is important for you, the eater, to understand the growing system and practices we employ.  Not all food is created equal and it’s up to you to make an informed decision as to what type of farming practices you want your food purchases to support.  There are some conventional, chemical farmers who are trying to improve their soil quality with cover crops and are taking advantage of the assistance and incentives offered by the NRCS (Natural Resources and Conservation Services).  While this is good, it’s hard to make much positive headway when the cash crops being planted require chemical inputs that damage and degrade soil as well as cause other problems to the ecosystem and environment around them. 

We hope you too can appreciate the benefits of cover crops in an organic farming system and will continue to learn along with us as we learn more about their role in our future.  We also hope you will choose to support local producers who prioritize integrating cover crops into their agricultural systems.  We’ll do our part, but we need the support of consumers to turn the tide and shape our food system into the future. 

Closing Note:  If you’re interested in learning more about Regenerative Agriculture and the work being done worldwide to promote these practices, visit www.regenerationinternational.org.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

October 3, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Black Nebula Carrots!

Cooking With This Week's Box







Broccoli Romanesco: One-Pot Vegetable Curry



Black Nebula Carrots: Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils (see below); Carrot and Parsley Salad (see below)


Red & Yellow Onions: Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils (see below); Carrot and Parsley Salad (see below); One-Pot Vegetable Curry


This week we have a fun, new vegetable to cook with!  Yes, I know
Black Nebula Carrots
carrots are not a new vegetable, but the Black Nebula Carrots are a new type of carrot and they are super-cool!  I’ve never cooked with a carrot that has this much intense color.  I’m not usually a fan of carrot soup as I find it to be kind of boring and it isn’t a very filling soup.  When I started researching this purple carrot, I was in awe at the beautiful purple color I was seeing in pictures of purple carrot soup.  Would the color really be that vibrant?  I have never eaten purple soup, so I had to give it a try.  This week’s recipe for
Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils  (see below) is not your typical, boring carrot soup.  This is a simple soup, but it has a lot of flavor.  When I tested the recipe, I took my first bite and said out loud to myself (I was the only one in the kitchen), “Wow! That is delicious!”  I spiced up the lentils with one finely chopped Korean pepper that gave it just the right amount of heat without being too hot.  I really like coconut milk, so I added a little more instead of water.  This soup is sweet, flavorful, smooth and just downright beautiful!

The second recipe is for a very simple Carrot and Parsley Salad (see below).  I’ve made this before with orange carrots, but I have to say it is quite striking with the black nebula carrots.  When you look at the recipe you might think, “there’s not much happening in this salad.”  I thought the same thing the first time I made it.  I can’t explain it, but the simplicity of this salad is what makes it so delicious.  Of course that is assuming you have delicious carrots and fresh parsley!  Serve this as a side dish with a sandwich, roasted or grilled meat, fish, etc.  Leftovers are also good for a few days.

One-Pot Vegetable Curry
This week we’re finishing off the last of our jicama.  Use it to make this light, creamy Jicama Apple Slaw that we featured in our newsletter several years ago, or check out last week’s vegetable feature article and the recipe for Baked Jicama Chips.  When the jicama is gone, we’ll finish off the packing by substituting potatoes.  Use them to make this One-Pot Vegetable Curry.  I love this recipe because you can vary the ingredients depending on what you have available.  In addition to a little potato, I’d recommend including either broccoli Romanesco and/or cauliflower along with sweet peppers!

We’re in the midst of salad season and have a lot of options to choose from with salad greens this week.  I want to try this version of a creamy Greek vinaigrette.  The creaminess comes from including Greek yogurt.  Use it to make a Tossed Salad with Greek Vinaigrette.  You can choose what to put in/on the salad.  My recommendation is to use either the head lettuce or salad mix as the base of the salad.  Top it off with slices of sweet peppers, thinly sliced red onions, olives, and feta cheese.  Before we’re finished with sweet peppers, make this recipe for Creamy Roasted Sweet Pepper Dressing.  This would be another good dressing to use on salads this week!

Squash & Poblano Quesadilla
with Pickled Jaoapenos and Chipotle Creama
A few weeks ago I made pickled jalapenos to go along with this tasty recipe for Squash & Poblano Quesadilla with Pickled Jalapenos and Chipotle Crema.  I had some left and pulled them out earlier this week to use some on our breakfast burritos.  I forgot how much I like pickled jalapenos, but now that I’m reminded I want to make another little jar.  Even two jalapenos makes a decent amount since you don’t need much to get the flavor!  This time I want to try this recipe for Quick, 10-Minute Pickled Jalapenos.

I’m going to wrap up this week’s chat with a few of my favorites from past newsletters.  Every year I make this Spaghetti Squash and Leek Skillet Gratin.  If you have a few leeks still hanging out in your refrigerator, put them to use in this simple yet hearty gratin.  I like this recipe because it’s another one of those transition recipes featuring sweet peppers as the last of the summer veg paired with leeks and spaghetti squash representing fall.  My other two favorites will make use of the baby white turnips.  If you want to use them in a cooked dish, consider this recipe for Creamy Turnip Grits and Greens that we featured earlier this year.  The finishing touch on this dish that brings it altogether is the hot sauce vinaigrette at the very end.  Don’t skip this step—it’s what brings it altogether!  Lastly, I wrote this recipe for White Turnip Salad with Miso Ginger Vinaigrette several years ago and I still like to make it.  It’s simple, fresh, light and flavorful.

Ok, that wraps up this week’s box.  Before I go I’d like to thank everyone who came to our Harvest Party last weekend.  Even though the crowd was small, we all had a good time and I had a lot of fun making the 20 Vegetable Harvest Chili!  Several of you asked for the recipe.  I need a little time to scale down my adaptation to a reasonable batch size.  In the meantime, here’s the original recipe for Chili Con Carne that I fashioned my recipe off of.  It’s a recipe I used as a basis to make chili for the crew when I was cooking as the Seasonal Farm Chef back in 2007!  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Black Nebula Carrots


By Chef Andrea

We have a fun vegetable to feature this week—Black Nebula Carrots!  They are such a dark purple color they really do look almost black! This is the first year we’ve grown this variety.  Many purple carrots are disappointing because the purple color is only on the skin and once peeled, the purple is gone and you basically have a yellow or orange carrot.  When we saw this variety, we were enticed because it was touted to have really good color.  Little did we know we had stumbled on a really fun and interesting carrot!

While black carrots are new to us, they are actually the original type of carrot first recorded and thought to have originated in the middle East, specifically Afghanistan.  Orange carrots are actually a newer carrot that is the result of horticulturists’ efforts to hybridize older varieties.  The original carrots were actually purple/black and yellow.  When I first saw this carrot come off the wash line, I have to admit my first thought was “oohh, these are not so beautiful.”  We’re accustomed to seeing more refined carrots with uniform shapes, smoother skin, etc.  This carrot has a different look that I would describe as being similar to how I would describe an old turtle.  This carrot looks ancient and weathered.  These carrots are less refined with some odd twists and bumps that make every carrot unique.  They also have more root hairs that grow in clumps and don’t come off with washing, giving them kind of a crusty, old look.  As I started working with this carrot though, I came to realize its natural beauty and I couldn’t help but think that it also contains an ancient wisdom that will benefit all of us.

There are some things you should understand about this carrot before you use it.  For starters, I’d recommend you peel it.  This isn’t my typical line, but I do think the finished carrot product benefits from peeling first.  You’ll notice the color permeates throughout, right down to the core!  The deep, rich color comes from a group of plant compounds called anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins give fruits and vegetables purple, blue and dark red colors and are found in foods such as beets and blueberries.  They are powerful plant compounds that benefit our bodies in a variety of ways.  They help prevent cancer, are cardio-protective, anti-inflammatory, and may even benefit our neurological health.  The previous sentence doesn’t do justice to the health benefits we reap from eating anthocyanins, which is why it’s so important to include a variety of plants in your diet!  The color compounds in these carrots are so rich, some people actually use them as a natural dye for textiles, Easter eggs, etc.  Yes, they will stain your hands, possibly your cutting board, and your clothes.  I can tell you that the discoloration on your hands will go away in a day or two, especially if you hand wash a few dishes.  The stain on my cutting board also faded quickly.

Salgam, photo from thespruceeats.com
You can eat these carrots both raw and cooked.  The purple coloring will spread to other ingredients, just as when making things with red beets.  They are delicious roasted, but will also retain their color nicely when stir-fried, boiled and steamed.  They also make a beautiful and nutrient dense juice.  I didn’t try this myself, but I found several references that say adding an acidic ingredient to the juice, such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, will turn the juice bright pink!  There are a few traditional preparations from the Middle East that utilize black carrots.  The first is called Carrot Kanji.  This is a fermented black carrot juice drink that is part of northern Indian culture.  It also includes mustard powder and chili powder with the purpose of keeping the body warm in the winter.  In Turkey they make Salgam which is another fermented vegetable drink.

As I’m still learning how to use and appreciate this carrot, I decided to start with some simple preparations that would highlight the innate beauty of this unique carrot.  So this week’s featured recipes include one simple soup and a salad.  Don’t be fooled by their simplicity, they really have a lot of delicious flavor in them and you just feel good knowing you are giving your body such a powerhouse of nutrients!  Let me know how you use your carrots and have fun!

Carrot Parsley Salad


Yield:  3-4 cups
4 cups peeled and shredded purple
   or orange carrots (1-1.25#)
1 cup chopped parsley
1 medium red onion, small diced
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 to 4 Tbsp cold pressed flax oil or extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
3 Tbsp toasted unhulled sesame seeds, optional
  1. Place shredded carrots in a medium bowl and add the parsley and onion.  
  2. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, oil and ¼ tsp salt.  Whisk to combine and then pour the dressing over the vegetables.
  3. Mix well and let rest for 5-10 minutes.  Take a little taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking with additional salt, lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar.  If using, stir in the toasted sesame seeds.
  4. The salad tastes best when served immediately, but any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a few days.
Recipe adapted from Amy Chaplins’ book:  At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen.

Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils


Yield:  3-4 servings as a main or 4-6 servings as a side dish

SOUP:
1.25# purple carrots (3-4 carrots), peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp coconut oil or vegetable oil (divided)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 medium onion, small dice
2-4 cups water or vegetable stock
1 to 1 ⅔ cups coconut milk
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

LENTILS:
1 Tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp minced fresh Korean chili or ¼ tsp dried cayenne pepper
¾ cup brown or green lentils
1 ½-2 ½ cups water
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing
Cilantro, chopped, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Put the carrot pieces in a medium bowl, drizzle with 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil or vegetable oil and sprinkle in 1 tsp salt.  Toss to combine and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  
  2. Roast the carrots for 30-40 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking.  You want the carrots to be tender and just starting to get crispy.  Once done, remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. While the carrots are roasting, prepare the remainder of the soup and the lentils.  In a medium saucepot, melt 2 tsp coconut oil.  When the oil is hot, add ginger and onion and saute until the onions are translucent.  Add 2 cups water or vegetable stock and 1 cup coconut milk.  Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Cover to keep it warm.
  4. To prepare the lentils, first melt 1 Tbsp oil in a small saucepot.  When the oil is hot, add the cumin, coriander, turmeric and fresh or dried chili.  Stir to combine and cook briefly until the spices are aromatic.  
  5. Stir in the lentils along with 1 ½ cups water.  Bring the lentils to a simmer, then adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.  Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes.  You may need to add additional water and cook the lentils for an additional 10-20 minutes.  You want them to be soft and tender with just a small amount of liquid remaining in the pan.  As they start to soften, stir in ½ tsp salt.  Once finished, remove from heat and keep warm.
  6. Now it’s time to assemble the soup.  Put the roasted carrots in a blender along with the gingered coconut milk mixture.  Blend until well combined and very smooth.  Taste a little bit.  At this point you will likely need to add more liquid to get the soup to the consistency you desire.  You can add either more coconut milk, water, or stock.  If you add coconut milk the soup will be a little more rich and sweet.  Adjust the seasoning to your liking with salt and freshly ground black pepper as well.
  7. Return the soup to the pan and bring it to an appropriate serving temperature.
  8. Ladle the soup into a bowl and top with the curried lentils and fresh cilantro.
Recipe adapted from www.nourishdeliciously.com.