Friday, October 15, 2010


Hello All! About a month ago in our fruit share we had black misson figs from Maywood Farms in Corning, CA. I was so excited! I love figs! I made fig jam, fig cake, figs with maple whipped cream, figs and blue cheese with arugula, baked figs with pork, dried figs, and on and on. I couldn't get enough of them. The most tasty fig dish I made though was Fig and Grape Salad with Pancetta Crostini from Alice Waters Fruit Cookbook. The recipe can be found on HVF website in the September 9th Fruit Newsletter. It was not only delicious, but a very sexy salad. If you are at the store and they happen to have figs, grapes, and pancetta; get them and make this salad. You will be very happy! Happy Cooking Katie

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sweet Potato Harvest

This is the second part of the sweet potato harvest.  Before we can get in and actually dig and pick up the potatoes (which is what you'll see here), the vines need to be cut and the plastic mulch removed.  It's a big job!  We'll see if Kelly (our bookkeeper & in house videographer) can send us that footage as well.

In a nutshell:  The tractor pulls the harvester which loosens the potatoes from the ground, with a little human help.  They go up the belt, which helps shake off some of the dirt.  At the top of the belt, the guys are sorting the potatoes from the biggest clumps of dirt and putting them into wooden crates.  When the crates are full, they go onto a pallet on a wagon.  Once we get a full wagon, we drive back to the farm and unload the pallets into the nursery greenhouse (see the previous post).  They need to "cure" for a couple days to make them sweet.  Then they'll be washed, trimmed and sorted by size and quality.  Then into your CSA box, then dinner or pie!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sweet Potato

  The sweet potato harvest is about half way through.  Here's what we had in the nursery greenhouse this morning.  We keep it nice and warm for 4-5 days to "cure" the potatoes and sweeten them up.  Then they will soon go in CSA boxes & then your belly.  Kelly the bookkeeper is out in the field with her video camera - maybe she can post some raw footage of the harvest! 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

So far so good

It rained all night (4 inches), with more in the forecast.  The creek and river swelled up again.  The ground is just so saturated, the water runs down the hills and follows any valley or crevice it can, including low points in the fields.  I haven't had a chance to talk to Richard about how they look, but I'm hopeful that we didn't suffer much damage this time through.  I just spoke to Andrea and she's a little hopped up about the crew having to slog around in the mud to harvest what we can access.  No parsnips or celeriac today because we can't get across the river to them.

The last blog posting (fishing for compliments) worked almost exactly as planned.  Only one backfire - not a complaint about the CSA boxes, but a complaint about my complaint about CSA member complaints in the blog post.  Whew. 

But here's the good stuff, to keep it positive. I've shared these notes with everyone here at the farm - it did my heart good to see Richard's face light up as he read them,especially on such a dismal, wet day like today (a good day for listening to Mazzy Star and Leonard Cohen).

Subject line:  YOU ARE AWESOME!

Hello to all at Harmony Valley Farm CSA -
My family (including the dog) look forward to the bountiful boxes we receive every other week from your farm - and are always grateful for whatever is included.  So often people are motivated to criticize before appreciate - and this is unfortunate.  Well, we do appreciate everything you and your crew do - we also love the recipes.   After seeing the struggles you have faced this year - it is nothing short of a miracle that you have been able to fill the boxes week after week and year after year.  

We send you our respect, love and peace.

Subject line: nice things
Lill and I have been happy here in our third year with HVF. Highlights:

lots of edamame this year

lots of peppers

new things like lemongrass

choice items feel like surprise presents

the excitement at the pickup site where everyone's friendly and excited for their veggies and fruits

some great recipes to try with tips for new veggies

informative and polished columns in the newsletters

Thanks for all you do!

Subject line: love my farm!
I just had to write to offer my words of encouragement. I've been a member of the farm for 4 seasons. I took a break last year because I was unsure if I would still be living in the midwest following grad school and thus missed the boat on signing up with HVF. Let me say that this was the best possible way for me to realize HVF was the farm for me.
I must appreciate the time taken to send the most quality produce. To give me a variety of produce in each box, and enough to split a share between households which I have done each year I've shared a share. Working with another farm I was given a beet the size of a babies head as well as quantities of produce I was unable to split between households. 
I've appreciated the care the farm has taken to hire a chef each year who provides recipes that inspire me to use all of my vegetables.
Lastly I don't think my mother would have told you 15 years ago that I would like vegetables as much as I do today. I am a recovering picky eater who strives to like more foods. Without being a member of this CSA I wouldn't know how much I love summer squash or rhubarb. Nor any number of other vegetables and fruits I haven't eaten prior to joining the farm. 
So thank you. Thank you for inspiring me to try new foods. Thank you for growing good food. Thank you for providing me week after week with produce that I'm proud to cook into my meals and serve to my family and friends.

Subject line: You guys are awesome!
Hey Harmony Valley Folk,

I had your veggie share last summer and it was phenomenal! I recommend you to everyone because the quality and the variety of the vegetables was amazing. This summer I have the fruit share and it is also excellent. I think the mini peaches crisis from earlier this summer was blown way out of proportion and I definitely plan on continuing in the future. You guys do great work and I appreciate it! In fact, I'm sure the majority of people appreciate it but the grumpies are just more vocal. 

Chin up!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fishing Expedition

I need some fan letters so this here is a fishing expedition.

For perspective, I need to remember that we pack over 1,000 CSA boxes each week so a couple complaints shouldn't bother me so much. But boy are they vehement sometimes.

So if you are pleased with your farm and your CSA experience this season, if you understand the ebb and flow of a CSA season (and the differences you see season after season), if you are following along with our newsletters and our weather, and if you recognize the challenges your farmers face, please send me a note to share with Richard, Andrea and the crew. We could use your positive energy!
CSA (at) harmonyvalleyfarm (dot) com

Thank you for your support, from the bottom of our hearts! We know we couldn't do it without you and we do endeavor to send you the best boxes possible that are full of clean, tasty, varied and high quality produce.

(no more complaints this week okay? I'm feeling a little fragile. My thick skin will be complete next week and then I can take it all on again)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Autumn Arrives

Sorry to leave you hanging for so long! The waters did recede - do a compare and contrast to the last post's raging waters to the pictures I took today. It didn't take a whole month to go down - the waters went down almost as quickly as they rose, I just didn't get around to showing you the proof. That's the good news. It's not all bad news, but we did have quite a bit of crop & plantings damage. Read all about it in the post-rain event newsletter here.

Sad but true, no leeks this year:

Too much rain has continued to fall, but recent plantings have not washed out, so that too is good news.

It's been a bit of a struggle, but we've continued to pack beautiful boxes for our CSA this month:

Looking forward, we're leaving the summer season and transitioning to the fall crops - look at the lovely squashes!
We're going to have an awesome Harvest Party this Sunday - no puerco quemado this year, either. Angel, Rafa & Chef Katie have a plan for cooking a pig that will not involve overwhelming flames. The guys built a beautiful horno/underground oven that we can use for roasting (and check out Angel's kickin' yellow galoshes):Hope to see you at the farm this weekend!

Friday, August 13, 2010

3 inches in 2 hours

As Mike from Driftless said earlier this summer, "you've got to be f*&$ing kidding me!"
This is just the view of our "creek" which is now a raging rapids. Water is flowing through the tomatoes & melons (into the rapids). The fences & stream bank repair we did just yesterday are destroyed. It's still raining.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tomatillo Salsa Pack Salsa Verde recipe

The tomatillo salsa packs are here! We've just started harvesting tomatillos (and tomatoes) in earnest, so here's the recipe everyone asks for, also available to pick up at your CSA delivery site:
Salsa Verde - Yields about 1.5 cups
6-10 Tomatillos
1-2 small onions
1 jalapeño, use as much as desired for heat*
1 small bunch cilantro
1-2 cloves garlic (optional)
Salt & ground pepper, to taste
-In a small saucepan, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse the fruit. Boil tomatillos for about 5 minutes or just until softened.
-In the bowl of a food processor or in a blender, combine tomatillos with remaining ingredients. Set tomatillo cooking water aside and use to thin salsa if necessary. Blend until the mixture is a coarse puree.
-Refrigerate for 1-2 hours to allow flavors to meld & get acquainted. Adjust seasoning and serve with tortilla chips, tacos, or enchiladas.
*For a medium heat salsa, use about 1/2 of the jalapeño with seeds. Adjust the amount of jalapeño to your liking.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Mike Rhytilahti has worked for Harmony Valley Farm fora number of years. He was telling me about a chocolate zucchini cake that his wife, Erika, had made. I was curious and made it the other day for lunch. It was melt in your mouth delicious!! Everyone loved it so much I thought I should put it on the blog.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 tsp lemon juice)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cup flour
4T cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup walnuts
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13 inch pan. Mix all ingredients. Stir in zucchini. Pour in pan and sprinkle topping mixture over top. Bake for 40 minutes.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday Night Dinners

Over the last few weeks, I have really enjoyed Thursday night dinners! Cooking dinner for Richard, Andrea, Terri, myself, and a few guests here and there have been a blast. It's been a great way to play with recipes for the newsletters.

Seared Jack Fish that Richard and Andrea caught in Costa Rica with scallopini squash, green beans, tomatoes, and salsa verde. On the side, a cucumber, carrot, arugula, and beet salad with grilled bread. And of course some wine :)

Smoked trout with beet, potato, zucchini pancake, clonboo cheese, veggies, and creamy dill sauce. We also had peach gazpacho. Andrea and Tom getting excited to eat!!!

"Katie's Window in the Morning" What a view!!! Notice the hummingbird. I'm a lucky gal!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Beautylicious Food

Chef Katie, have I told you lately how much I love you?

This is the salad we had for lunch the other day - I almost couldn't eat it it was so beautiful! The contrast between the flower blossoms, the green greens and the pink red radishes was quite photogenic. The crew gobbled it up, along with the delicious Sweet & Sour Chuck Roast with Bok Choi, Yukina Savoy, Green Garlic & Potato Onions on Brown Rice.

Presentation, presentation, presentation!
Then for dinner that night, we started with her Asparagus & Oyster Ravioli, adapted from Sarma Melngailis' RAW FOOD real world cookbook:

For the asparagus & porcini filling:
1 small bunch thin asparagus
1/2 pound cleaned wild mushroom (Katie used Oyster, but porcini, chanterelle, shitaki or a combination of them will work)
3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
3 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP fresh thyme
1 TBSP minced fresh rosemary
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
-Cut the asparagus into 1/2 inch lengths, on a bias, discarding the woody ends. Cut the mushrooms into small pieces. In a medium bowl, toss the asparagus and mushrooms with the olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, and rosemary. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Spread out on a dehydrator sheet and dehydrate at 115 F for 2-3 hours, or until they are tender and taste like they've been sautéed.

For the lemon cream:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours or more (Katie used hazelnuts)
1 cup water
3 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP raw honey
1 TBSP lemon zest
(Katie added 2 TBSP coconut oil to this part, since she subbed Kohlrabi for the coconut meat coming up later in the recipe, but still wanted the coconut taste)
Sea salt
-In a Vita-Mix or high-speed blender, puree the cashews, water, lemon juice, honey, and lemon zest (& coconut oil) until smooth. Season to taste with salt. Transfer the sauce to a bowl or covered container.

To make the balsamic-fig puree:

4-5 large fresh black mission figs, or rehydrated dried figs
1/2 cup high quality aged balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
-In a Vita-Mix of high-speed blender, puree the figs and the balsamic vinegar until completely smooth. Season with salt and transfer to a squeeze bottle or covered container and set aside. Refrigerate if not using right away, for up to a few days.
For the assembly:
4 young coconuts (more or less depending on their yield) ***Katie subbed Kohlrabi for this ingredient. She used one of each color & had leftovers, so one will do.
1 small handful chopped raw almonds, preferably soaked & rehydrated
2 teaspoons almond oil or other cold-pressed oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Baby chervil or other fine herbs for garnish (optional)
1)With a cleaver, chop the top off the young coconuts. Reserve or drink the coconut water. Using the back of a spoon, carefully remove the meat from the top and the inside of the coconut, trying to keep the meat in large pieces as much as possible when removing it (it the meat is too soft, use it for a shake, and try your luck with the next coconut!) Cut the meat into 2-inch squares and slice the squares lengthwise as thinly as possible with a very sharp filleting knife. You should have 24 squares. Save any coconut meat scraps for shakes. Set the coconut squares aside, or refrigerate if using right away.
**Katie's step #1) Thinly slice the kohlrabi

2)Dip the coconut (or kohlrabi) ravioli squares in the lemon cream to coat well, and place three on each of 4 plates, at three points. Sauce the plates with the balsamic-fig puree so that some of the sauce will end up inside the raviolis. Top each coconut (or kohlrabi) square with about a tablespoon of the mushroom and asparagus mixture and cover with another coconut (or kohlrabi) square, also dipped in the sauce. Spoon a bit of the remaining lemon sauce over each ravioli. Top again with a bit of the mushroom and asparagus mixture.

3)In a small bowl, toss the chopped almonds with almond oil and season with coarse sea salt. Sprinkle each ravioli with the chopped almond mixture. Sprinkle with black pepper, and garnish with herbs, if desired.

yum. She served that delight with the recipe from this week's CSA newsletter, Grilled Spring Vegetables with Peanut Sauce, served over millet. We also got to try the stalks of the Egyptian Walking Onions, stuffed with Butler Farms' Herbed Tome cheese. OMG yum.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

There's No Cure, There Might Be an Answer

This week's CSA newsletter features highlights and recommendations from the recently released "Presidential Cancer Panel" report.  You can check out the report in it's entirety online.

Here's one recommendation direct from your government's advisers, believe it or not!  While it doesn't specifically endorse organics, it gets pretty darn close - which is causing quite the uproar in the
Big/Industrial/Conventional Ag community.

From the report:
"Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers and washing conventionally grown produce to remove residues.  Similarly, exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications if it is available."

Remember - don't panic, it's organic!  Don't act so strange, it's free range! 

Speaking of the CSA, we are packing the 4th box of the season as I write.  We've made it through this first month & have sent out some really beautiful boxes.  The deliveries have gone really well, really smooth so far this year - only a dozen or so calls/emails from people who had no idea where to go or what to do to get their boxes or when they would have a delivery. 

With such a large CSA, those calls can be very tiresome. So we are recruiting "good" CSA members & "training" them on how to have a great season.  We at the farm are scheduling the deliveries correctly and disseminating the information the people need to have a successful CSA experience.

Thankfully, I've had far more fan letters come in this year than complaints or confusion.  Chef Katie's recipes are pretty popular and people are letting us know!  Happily, we have adventurous souls who give everything in the box a try, even things they've never heard of before like sunchokes, nettles or salad burnet.  It's also good to hear about people giving things another try.  You don't know how many times I've heard tell of an aversion to radishes until someone decided to try ours!

Our CSA delivery drivers (Jerry, Andy & Matt in MN, Jeroen & Rachel locally, José Manuel & Rogelio in Madtown)  are doing an amazing job getting the boxes to the right places. 
Out in the field, we're getting ready for strawberries!  I've picked a couple pints this week from the north end of the Early Glow beds. Don't worry, we'll still have plenty for you on Strawberry Day (June 20).

CSA Box contents for May:
Overwintered Parsnips
Overwintered Spinach
Sauté Mix
French Breakfast Radish
Red Russian Kale
Spring planted spinach

Salad Mix
Red radish
Hon Tsai Tai
Green Garlic
Garden Herb Packs
Baby White Turnips
Salad Burnet

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ramps! Ramps! Ramps!

As the ramp season is winding down, we all can't wait to bite into our first piece of ramp cheese. Andrea and I spent about 7 hours processing 200 pounds of ramps this last week. We sent the ramps off to Otter Creek Organic Dairy to be made into cheese. We first cut the roots off and then blanched and shocked them. We next took turns chopping the ramps and then pureeing them with a touch of oil. Even though we were very happy to see the last batch being pureed, we both agreed that the wonderful ramps still smelled and tasted as good as ever.

The "Mother" Ramp

Never Leave A Ramp Behind!

Andrea with the ramps