Thursday, May 28, 2015

Vegetable Feature: Pea Vine

by Andrea Yoder

Pea vine is actually just an immature pea plant that we harvest before it starts to make blossoms. As an immature plant its greens are edible and have a delicious, mild sweet pea flavor.  Pea vine can be eaten raw as a salad ingredient or can be lightly sautéed, wilted into soups or stir-fried. While the tendrils and leaves are tender, the main stem can sometimes get tough depending on how big the plant is at harvest.  Unfortunately, Richard and I disagree every year as to when the pea vine should be harvested.  I argue that we should harvest it when the stems are short & tender.  Richard argues that we should let it get a little bit bigger and if some of the lower stems start to get a little bit tough and woody, just sort them out.  Well, I agree that I prefer a generous bunch of pea vine, but I really don’t enjoy sorting out the tough stems.
This year I did some more careful evaluation and I actually have to admit that I’ve finally found a reason to agree with Richard that we should let the pea vine get a bit more mature.  The flavor is actually better when the plant is a bit more mature!  Flavor almost always wins out in my book, so now I just have to figure out how to work with the plant so the stems don’t drive me crazy!  My solution has been to find ways to incorporate pea vine into dishes that can be blended.  This way you can add the entire plant and chop it up finely to extract all the delicious flavor!  You can leave the blended pea vine in whatever dish you are preparing if you don’t mind a little fiber and the fact that it will slightly thicken your dish.  If you prefer something smooth, you could also strain it out.  Using this method, you can make very tasty soups, sauces, or pea vine pesto.
So this year, Richard and I have finally come to an agreement as to when we will harvest the pea vine.  If you haven’t been a fan of pea vine previously, I’d encourage you to give it a try with the blender by your side to assist.  It’s worth the little bit of effort to be able to enjoy the delicious pea flavor packed in this green!

Fettuccine with Pea Vine Cream Sauce
by Andrea Yoder
Serves 4-6
12 ounces fettuccine noodles
1 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 pieces green garlic, green top & bulb minced (about ⅓ cup)
3-4 green onions, green top & bulb minced (about ⅔ cup)
½ cup white wine
2 ½ cups half & half
4-6 cups (1 bunch) pea vine, roughly chopped
¼ pound asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces or smaller
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Prepare a pot of salted boiling water and cook the fettuccine according to the package instructions.  Drain the fettuccine into a colander, reserving about 1-2 cups of the cooking liquid.  Set aside the cooking liquid and fettuccine until you are ready to add it to the sauce.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add green garlic & onion and sauté for about 1 minute.  Add the white wine and simmer until nearly all the wine is gone.   Add the half & half and reduce the total volume by half by simmering over medium-low heat.  Do not let the mixture boil or it will separate and curdle. If this does happen, don’t despair.  You can usually whisk the lumps out, or you’ll take care of them when you blend the sauce. Season the cream mixture with salt and black pepper.
  3. While the cream mixture is reducing, prepare the pea vine.  Sort out any damaged leaves and trim off the bottom ½-1 inch of the stem.  Rough chop the pea vine into about 1-inch pieces.  Once the cream mixture has reduced by half, add the pea vine, cover and allow the pea vine to wilt into the cream, which will only take a few minutes.  
  4. Once the pea vine is wilted, remove the sauce from the heat.  Carefully transfer the sauce to a blender and puree the mixture until the pea vine is completely chopped up.  Carefully pour the cream mixture back into the pan and return it to the stove top over medium-low heat.
  5. Add the asparagus and lemon zest and simmer just until the asparagus is starting to get tender but is not completely cooked.  Add the fettuccine to the pan and stir to combine.  You want the sauce to lightly coat the pasta.  If the sauce is a little too thin, continue to cook the pasta in the sauce for a few more minutes.  If the sauce is too thick, thin it out by adding a little bit of the pasta liquid until the sauce is the desired consistency.  Taste the pasta and sauce and add salt and pepper to your liking.  
  6. Serve hot.  While it’s delicious just as it is, you could also serve it with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan on top or a sprinkle of crumbled cooked bacon.  This dish is also delicious when served with grilled shrimp or chicken on top or with a piece of sautéed fish.  

*Note:  If you want a completely smooth sauce, you can strain the sauce before returning it to the pan.  However, if you have a good blender, you should be able to blend the pea vine into very small pieces that will actually thicken the sauce.  I do not enjoy cleaning the strainer and prefer to keep the fiber in the food, thus I usually do not strain the sauce.

Silent Spring: Part 1

by Sarah Janes Ugoretz

Bee & Strawberry Blossom
     On May 19, the White House released the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, a move that has been regarded by many as a groundbreaking step towards acknowledging and mobilizing action around rapidly declining pollinator populations within North America. The importance of setting a national strategy to guide the protection, restoration, and enhancement of pollinator habitats is largely undisputed among scientists and others operating within conservation circles. However, critics have drawn attention to a selection of key considerations that appear to have been left out of the national plan. Primarily, questions surrounding pesticide use—including that of glyphosate (more commonly known as Roundup) and systemic insecticides like neonicotinoids, which have been directly linked to the decline of bee and other wildlife populations—and pesticide mitigation strategies remain untouched.
     This week marks the beginning of a new series in which we will consider the implications that these and other agricultural inputs have had on our environment and the life it supports, examining not only the plight of our crucial pollinator populations, but also that of a variety of other beneficial members of our ecosystem, such as songbirds, moths, butterflies, and insects. Along the way, we will also consider what these inputs mean for human health. In this first article, we begin by looking at pollinators and other “beneficials,” exploring their services and ultimately addressing why we should be concerned about their imperilment. The second and third articles will consider wildlife habitats and the implications wrought by the use of neonicotinoids and glyphosate. Throughout this discussion, we will bring in existing research on these inputs--focusing on a selection of both American and European-led studies. Safety trials and testing will be the focus of the fourth article. After considering the U.S.’s tendency to forego basing its actions on the precautionary principle, we’ll also discuss the extent to which the environmental and health implications of neonicotinoids and glyphosate have been scrutinized. Lastly, in the fifth and final article, we’ll bring everything together and consider the numerous short- and long-term obstacles our North American pollinator and other wildlife populations are facing, as well as examples of localized action (such as Portland’s City Council’s recent success in passing an ordinance banning the use of neonicotinoids) aimed at protecting these vital members of the earth’s environment. By the end of this series, it is our hope that we will have contributed in some way to your understanding of this most pressing issue.
Butterfly & Bee with Echinacea Flower
     The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation recognizes pollinators as “an essential part of both productive agriculture and a healthy environment,” and researchers have consistently estimated that two-thirds of the world’s crops depend upon animals for pollination services. Following their initial undertakings in the 1980s (see Southwick and Southwick), efforts aimed at measuring the economic value attached to pollinators have advanced tremendously, resulting in the development of dynamic, highly sophisticated models. Though estimates vary from source to source, researchers largely agree that the annual economic contribution of pollination services measures in the billions. According to the Office of Science and Technology, for example, pollination services provided by honey bees alone contribute an average of US$15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. Earlier research by Roubik, however, who examined the pollinators of 1,509 cultivated plant species, found that while bees were involved in the pollination of 72.2% of those plant species surveyed, the honey bee only contributed pollination services to 15.5%. This finding suggests that taking into account the pollination services provided by the entire population of native and non-native bees—not just honey bees—would yield a number much larger than US $15 billion.
     In addition to pollination, bees and other wildlife provide an array of beneficial services to the environment and, by extension, to humans. As Nabhan and Buchmann have noted, over the course of any given day these members of our ecosystem “collect and redistribute foodstuffs, then scatter their nitrogen-rich waste products” over the landscape. Insects in particular play a critical role in the biogeochemical cycling of these and other nutrients--aerating the soil, improving tilth, and enhancing water retention capacities. Dung beetles, for instance, have been introduced into agricultural landscapes across parts of Hawaii, Australia, and the southern U.S. due to their valuable contributions to manure decomposition. Meanwhile, bats and birds provide seed dispersal services while also acting as population regulators, consuming multitudes of insects that are often considered pests. Bats in particular have gained an increasing amount of recognition for these services, as interesting research has emerged from the University of Michigan detailing the huge benefit they have had on organic coffee reservations in Mexico. Taking advantage of what is essentially a free service, Harmony Valley Farm maintains a woody barrier of willows in between many of our fields. These willows provide—among other things—a habitat for birds, which then assist us in managing flea beetles and other common agricultural pests. The Xerces Society reports that such integrated pest management techniques have been given a combined value of US $4.5 billion per year. And finally (but by no means exhaustively) these animals also serve as integral parts of various cultures, work to control erosion and regulate climate, and offer myriad opportunities for recreational activities (see Wojcik).
Bee enjoying a melon flower
     While we could write volumes about the importance of these beneficial creatures, this should serve as a basic outline of their crucial role within our food system and within the environment more broadly. As Moisset and Buchmann so poignantly remark, the world we know would cease to exist if it weren’t for the services pollinators and other animals provide. However, many of these invaluable members of the earth’s ecosystem are facing threats at an increasing and expanding rate. Last year alone, beekeepers throughout the U.S. reported losing approximately 40% of their colonies, and in the last 20 years, the North American monarch population has declined by 90%. As Nabham and Buchmann caution, without critically examining and changing our management practices, “we will lose both economically...and ecologically valuable interactions between plants and animals, some of which have taken millennia to develop.” In our next article, we will begin to unpack a few of these management practices that are referred to above—beginning with the emergence, application, and subsequent implications of neonicotinoids on the environment and on wildlife habitat specifically.

Part 2 of the series can be found here:

Sources Used
Code, A. (2015, April 1). Portland bans insecticides linked with pollinator declines. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Retrieved from

Holdren, J.P. (2015, May 19). Announcing new steps to promote pollinator health. Office of Science and Technology. Retrieved from /

Jepsen, S., Schweitzer, D.F., Young, B., Sears, N., Ormes, M., & Hoffman Black, S. (2015, March). Conservation Status and Ecology of the Monarch Butterfly in the United States. Retrieved from

Moisset, B., & Buchmann, S. (2011, March). Bee basics: An Introduction to Our Native bees. Retrieved from /

Nabhan, G.P., & Buchmann, S.L. (1997). Services provided by pollinators. In G.C. Daily (Ed.), Nature’s services: Societal dependence on natural ecosystems (pp. 133-150). Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Southwick, E.E., & Southwick, L. (1989). Estimating the economic value of honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) as agricultural pollinators in the United States. Economic Entomology, 85(3), 621-633.

University of Michigan. (2008, April 7). Bats play a major role in plant protection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from

Wojcik, V. (2013). Pollinators 101. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vegetable Feature: Rhubarb & Parsnips

Parsnip & Ginger Meatballs with Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce
by Andrea Yoder
Yield:  12-14 Meatballs

1 Tbsp sunflower oil
½ cup minced green onion (bulb & green tops)
⅓ cup minced green garlic (bulb & green tops
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
½ cup finely shredded parsnips
1# ground pork
1 egg, beaten slightly
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce (see recipe below)

Heat oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat.  When the pan is hot, add the green onion, green garlic & ginger.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and fragrant.  Remove from heat and stir in the shredded parsnips.  Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine ground pork, egg, Worcestershire sauce, salt and black pepper.  Add the cooled vegetable mixture and mix to distribute all the ingredients evenly.
Form the mixture into meatballs approximately 1 ½ inches in diameter.  You should be able to make 12 to 14 meatballs.
Place the meatballs in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes at 375°F. Remove from the oven and transfer the meatballs to an 8 x 8 inch pan or another smaller baking dish that will fit the meatballs in a single layer.  Pour the rhubarb sauce over the top of the meatballs and make sure all the meat is covered.  Put the meatballs back in the oven and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and has more of a baked appearance.  Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce
1 lb rhubarb, approximately 3 cups diced
⅔  cup orange juice
2-3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauté pan.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer until the rhubarb is soft and falling apart and the liquid has reduced by about half.
Remove from heat and blend the sauce in a food processor or blender.  The sauce should be the consistency of applesauce.  If it is too thin, return the sauce to the pan and simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens.  If the sauce is too thick, thin it out with a little bit of orange juice or water.
Set aside at room temperature until you are ready to add it to the meatballs.

Parsnip Pie
Yield:  9-inch pie
1- 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
2# parsnips, peeled & diced (approximately 6 cups)
½ cup water
2 Tbsp butter, softened
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp honey 
2 Tbsp orange zest
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp mace
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp powdered cloves
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Put the parsnips and water in a medium saucepan, cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Cook the parsnips until soft & tender.  Remove from the heat and pour off the cooking liquid into a separate bowl.  Reserve the liquid.  Let the parsnips cool to lukewarm in the pan for about 10 minutes.
While the parsnips are cooking, preheat the oven to 425°F.  Prick the bottom of the pastry dough all over and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove the crust from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 375°F.   
When the parsnips are cooled, puree them in a food processor until smooth.  The puree should be thick, but you can add a little bit of the cooking liquid if needed to obtain a smooth consistency.  You should have 3 cups of parsnip puree for the filling.  
In a medium mixing bowl, combine 3 cups of parsnip puree with the remaining ingredients.  Beat all the other ingredients together until smooth, reserving the 2 additional tablespoons of honey.  Pour the parsnip filling into the partially baked shell and drizzle the remaining honey over the top.  Bake 50-60 minutes or until the filling is firm in the center.  
Serve with a pitcher of heavy cream or a bowl of lightly whipped cream after the pie has cooled to room temperature.                                                                          

One of our faithful farmer’s market customers shared this recipe with us this spring.   This recipe was adapted from The Fannie Farmer Baking Cookbook by Marion Cunningham.  If you have been stockpiling parsnips, this is a good way to put them to use!

Parsnips & Rhubarb: The Odd Couple

by Andrea Yoder

This week we’d like to feature two very different vegetables that are part of our early spring boxes.  While parsnips and rhubarb are an unlikely match, they actually have a lot more in common than we may realize and complement each other quite nicely.  Which one is for the pie?  Good question, and perhaps the answer is “Both of them!” Rhubarb is not just for pies and parsnips are not just for roasting.  In this week’s newsletter we hope to challenge you to explore some different ways for preparing both of these vegetables beyond their most common and popular uses.
Rhubarb is an interesting vegetable that is often thought of as a fruit.  It is a perennial crop that grows from gnarly looking crowns.  It thrives well in cold climates, and is thought to have originated in Asia in the areas of present-day China, Russia and Mongolia.  It was originally used for the medicinal properties found in the roots, which have also been used to make bitters.  It was also consumed for its detoxifying properties.   Rhubarb has a tart, sour flavor that will certainly make you pucker.  It was for this reason that rhubarb didn’t gain much popularity until sugar became more readily available and it was used to balance the tartness.  It is now commonly used for making pies and over time rhubarb has become known as “The Pie Plant.” It takes about three years to establish a rhubarb plant.  In those first three years you are discouraged from harvesting any rhubarb so that there is more plant to gather and generate energy to put towards developing the crown.  There are different varieties of rhubarb ranging from all green to deep red.  We grow a variety that produces beautiful bright red stalks.
Rhubarb is typically cooked before it is eaten.  When cooked in a small amount of liquid, the rhubarb stalks will melt into the cooking liquid and the fiber and weight of the plant will act as a thickener.   While rhubarb pie is one of my favorite spring desserts, there is a lot more potential for rhubarb that goes beyond pie.  It pairs well with lemons, oranges, honey, strawberries, lavender, apples, and warm spices such as cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cardamom.  Because of its tartness, rhubarb pairs well with rich, fatty foods such as duck, poultry, pork and some creamy, sharp cheese varities.  You can use rhubarb as the base for tart dipping sauces, chutney, barbecue sauce, stir-frys and stir-fry sauces.  It adds a nice tartness and background flavor to braising or cooking liquids for things such as pork shoulder or ham.   It is also good in other sweet preparations such as Mexican Rhubarb Chocolate Chunk Brownies (featured on the Food Network), cakes, cookies, muffins, pancakes, etc.  Rhubarb is also a fun ingredient to include in drinks.  We have a recipe on our website in our recipe archives for rhubarb syrup that can be added to sparkling water or cocktails.  Rhubarb is also super easy to preserve.  Just wash it, dice it and stick it in a freezer bag in the freezer.  When you’re ready to use it, just remove it from the freezer and thaw it prior to use.
Parsnips are much different from rhubarb in appearance and flavor.  Parsnips have a distinct flavor that some people love and others are still learning to appreciate.  They are a very challenging crop to grow and have a long growing season.  We plant the seeds early in the spring when the soil is still cold.  It can take as long as two to three weeks for the seeds to germinate and push through the soil.  Unfortunately the weeds never have a problem growing, which is one of the challenges we have over the course of their long season.  We invest a lot of time cultivating and hand weeding our parsnip crop so we can have a healthy crop to harvest in the fall.  We start harvesting parsnips late in September or the first part of October.  While we harvest the majority of our crop in the fall, we also leave a small amount in the ground every fall.  How crazy are we to leave a high dollar crop in the field to get buried under snow!  Parsnips are amazing and can survive in the frozen ground over the winter.  We dig them early in the spring as soon as the ground thaws and dries out.
Overwintered parsnips are much sweeter than our fall-harvested parsnips.  Over the course of the winter starches are converted to sugars and sometimes they’re so sweet they taste like candy.  So what does one do with a parsnip?  One of the easiest things to do is slice them up and sauté them in butter or toss them with olive oil and roast them until they are golden brown.  But if you’re still learning to appreciate the flavor of parsnips, you might find their flavor a bit too parsnip-y for your liking.  There are many other things you can do with a parsnip.  Small amounts added to soups and stews add a nice background flavor.  Farmer Richard likes to add parsnips to his signature pot of split pea soup.  In this week’s featured recipe for parsnip-ginger meatballs, the parsnips add moisture to the meat and their sweetness balances the tartness of the rhubarb barbecue sauce.  You can also try to maximize their characteristic sweetness and use them in sweet preparations such as muffins, cakes, and even pie!  While a parsnip is not just a “white carrot,” you can substitute parsnips for carrots in baked goods such as carrot cake, cookies or muffins.  They add not only sweetness, but moisture to baked goods.  The sweet, earthy flavor of parsnips pairs well with maple syrup, Dijon mustard, apples, oranges, onions, parsley, chives, raisins, ginger and warm spices such as coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Parsnips are more common in Europe, but are gaining popularity in the U.S.  In the Middle Ages parsnips were a staple vegetable in Central and Northern Europe because they could be used as a starch and a sweetener.  In the 19th century, the English & Irish folks used parsnips to make a wine which turned out similar to sweet Madeira.  They even made parsnip beer in Northern Ireland!
 Both parsnips and rhubarb have an important place in our Midwestern spring diets.  I never really considered using them together in the same dish until I stopped and thought about their similarities and differences.  They both pair well with some of the same ingredients such as spices and fruit.  While one is tart and the other is sweet, their differences balance each other out.  I hope you’ll try some different ways of preparing these vegetables this spring and if you stumble upon an unusual recipe or way to prepare this odd couple, let us know so we can try it as well!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Spring Farm Update!

By Farmer Richard and his sidekicks Andrea & Captain Jack the Dog

Spring is different every year and as we write this update temperature is on our minds.  We were happy to see the snow melt away towards the end of March…..and then woke up to a winter wonderland on March 23!  Once the snow melted again and things dried out, we were able to dig overwintered parsnips and sunchokes….just before it rained!  After some rainy, cold days, we were thankful for warm days in April which allowed us to get some field work done.  We planted all the parsnips as well as the first beets, carrots & peas.  The transplanting team worked hard to plant all the onions and then moved right into transplanting the first crop of head lettuce, fennel, basil, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kohlrabi.  They also managed to get the parsley and Brussels sprouts in the ground!  Thankfully everything was in place before the next wave of rain.  This past week has been cool and wet.  In fact, it’s downright chilly today and there is a chance of frost!  Don’t worry….the crew covered the strawberries yesterday to protect the blossoms so there should be plenty of strawberries to pick on June 21 at Strawberry Day!  (Mark your calendars!)

Weather talk aside, we’ve had a pretty good spring and have a lot of good field updates.  First, our asparagus and rhubarb crops are producing beyond our expectations!  Both of these perennial crops take about 3 years to establish before we can do any substantial harvests off them.  Over the past few years we’ve put in new rhubarb and asparagus plantings.  Richard & Jack have been waiting patiently (Andrea not so patiently) for our new fields to become established and this is the first year we can harvest from all of these fields!   Despite the cool weather we’re still seeing some impressive asparagus harvests.  The rhubarb field is also producing well and the bright red stalks are gorgeous!
As we look ahead to June, we should mention that our first two pea plantings are in and looking good.  Sugar snap and snow peas should be ready for the first to middle part of June.  The pea vine looks like it might be ready as early as next week.  The strawberry field is blossoming and the plants look healthy.  We do watch the weather closely though (that darn weather topic again).  The blossoms can’t take the frost, so we’ve covered the field with our giant field blankets to get them through the week…just in case Jack Frost pays our valley a visit.
Anyone interested in garlic?  We’re happy to report the garlic crop appears to have overwintered nicely with about a 99% survival rate!  We’re planning to harvest green garlic next week….and before we know it we’ll be enjoying garlic scapes and fresh, juicy bulb garlic.
Our pastures are lush and green and the cattle love their days grazing the hillsides.  Our goat pasture is full of young energy with nine new kids and more on the way!  We’re also happy to report we have pigs roaming our pastures again!  Last week we got 15 piglets.  It took them a few days to acclimate to their new home, but it looks like they’ve adapted well.  They’ve also grown accustomed to the nightly deliveries of compost from the packing shed. Just like us, they are enjoying many spinach salads for dinner.  The chickens moved to the pasture with the pigs. They’re a little more vulnerable to pesky predators, but are learning to defend and protect themselves. Manuel and Juan Pablo have done five plantings  of “salad greens.” This is our first week of harvest from our spring-planted salad greens.  We should have salad mix, baby kale and more baby arugula coming soon!  We’re also learning how to use a new vacuum seeder we got this spring. We’ll use it to plant our cilantro, dill, bunched arugula, baby bok choi and radishes.  It was fun having a shiny, new piece of equipment.  It’s dirty now, but seems to be working well and we’re thankful to have it as it will help us fine-tune the plantings for greater precision.
Jack is happy to have the field crew back from Mexico so he can play ball at lunch time.  Richard has been hunting for morel mushrooms in his spare time and Andrea is having fun cooking them along with asparagus, spinach, ramps and all of the other tasty green things available now!
Kelly & Beth have been busy in the office preparing for the start of deliveries.  Lately they’ve been working on processing orders for maple syrup.  Our friend and neighbor, Alvin Miller, had another pretty good year for making maple syrup.  If you haven’t taken advantage of this offer yet, don’t wait. We’ve extended our deadline until May 20th, but that’s the absolute last day for orders!  Alvin needs time to bottle the syrup, so make sure you send your order in as soon as possible so Alvin knows how many bottles to fill!   We’re happy to have another season of CSA underway. While farming isn’t easy, we are blessed with great customers and a great crew!  Our crew has been practicing flexibility for the past several weeks.  On warm, sunny days they stay late to get the work done.  On rainy and cold days they help in the packing shed and greenhouses doing whatever needs to be done.  Without a hard-working crew, we couldn’t be the farm we are today.  We’re glad that you’ll be sharing with us in the bounty of this year’s harvest.  Rest assured we have a lot of delicious food coming your way!

Vegetable Feature: Sorrel

Sorrel is a perennial plant we look forward to every spring and is among the first greens of the season.  It is actually in the same family of vegetables as rhubarb!  Sorrel leaves have a pointy, arrow shape and are thick in texture and bright green in color.  You’ll recognize sorrel by its tart and citrus-like flavor.  It has a bright flavor that will call your taste buds to attention.
Sorrel can be eaten both raw and cooked.  Raw sorrel can brighten any salad and is excellent when blended into cold sauces, vinaigrettes, dressings or dips.  Because of its bold flavor, it is often treated more like an herb when used raw.  When cooked, sorrel behaves in a very interesting way.  First, its color changes from bright green to a drab olive green almost immediately.  Don’t worry, this happens to everyone and it’s just the way it is with sorrel!  The other interesting thing about sorrel is how it “melts” when added to hot liquids.  The leaves will almost immediately change color and then start to soften.  The longer it’s cooked, the more the leaves break apart and you can stir it into a coarse sauce. This is one of the reasons it’s often used in soups and sauces.
The acidity of sorrel makes it a natural companion to more rich foods such as cream, butter, sour cream, yogurt, duck, and fatty fish (salmon & mackerel).  Additionally, it pairs well with more “earthy” foods such as lentils, rice, buckwheat, mushrooms and potatoes.
If you are interested in preserving sorrel to use during the winter, here’s an interesting idea from Deborah Madison’s book, Vegetable Literacy.  She recommends making a sorrel puree to freeze.
“Drop stemmed leaves into a skillet with a little butter and cook until the leaves dissolve into a rough puree, which takes only a few minutes.  Cool, then freeze flat in a ziplock bag….Just a dab will add spirit to the quiet flavors of winter foods:  break off chunks to stir into lentil soups, mushroom sauces or ragouts, or an omelet filling.”

Spiced Lentils with Nettles & Sorrel Yogurt Sauce

Serves 2-3 as a main dish or 3-4 as a side dish
Spiced Lentils
1 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup ramp bulbs or green onion bulbs, sliced thinly
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup beluga lentils
2 ½ cups water
1 cup blanched, roughly chopped nettle leaves
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup thinly sliced chives or green onion tops

Sorrel Yogurt Sauce
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
¾ cup sorrel leaves, sliced into ribbons
Zest of one lemon
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Blend until the sorrel leaves are well-incorporated.
Let the mixture set for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.  Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with additional salt as needed.

Store any extra sauce in the refrigerator.

  1. Heat olive oil in a 10-12 inch sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced ramp or green onion bulbs and sauté until softened, about 1-2 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt and black pepper.  Stir to combine the spices with the oil and onions.  Continue to stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. 
  2. Add the lentils and water and stir to combine.  Bring the lentils to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly to maintain a gentle simmer.  Partially cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are just tender.  
  3. Remove the lid from the pan and stir in the nettles and lemon juice.  Continue to cook for another 5-6 minutes.  If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan, cook uncovered.  If there is a small amount of liquid remaining, put the lid back on the pan to finish cooking.  You want a small amount of liquid remaining when the dish is done, but it should not be soupy.
  4. Turn off the heat and season with additional salt and black pepper if needed.  Stir in the chives or green onion tops.  Serve warm or at room temperature with 1-2 Tbsp of Sorrel Yogurt Sauce.

Sorrel Hummus

Yield:  1 ½ cups
2 garlic cloves
1 ½ oz sorrel leaves, roughly chopped (approximately 1 cup)
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (one-15 oz can)
¼ cup tahini
Grated zest of 1 organic lemon
1 ½ Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt, plus more if desired
1 ½ tsp raw honey or pure maple syrup
¼ cup water
Cold-pressed olive oil, for serving*

  1. Put the garlic in a food processor and pulse to mince.  Add the sorrel, chickpeas, tahini, lemon zest and juice, salt, honey, and ¼ cup water, and blend on the highest setting until smooth.  Season with more salt if needed.  
  2. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl, drizzle olive oil over the top, and serve.  Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.

*Note:  If you are using the hummus as a spread, add 1 ½ tsp olive oil to the food processor and blend it into the hummus.

Serving Suggestions:  This sorrel hummus is delicious served with pita bread, corn chips or fresh vegetables as an appetizer or snack.  You can also use it as a spread for sandwiches, flat bread or wraps.  When we tested this recipe, we chose to spread the sorrel hummus on a tortilla and stuffed it with fresh spinach and diced raw asparagus tossed with a little drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.  The hummus is bright and lemony and in Farmer Richard’s words.... “also rich & creamy.  I like the contrast of the crispy asparagus with the creamy hummus.” This spread goes well with any spring vegetable including radishes, green onions, blanched nettles, baby white turnips and more!

Recipe Source: This recipe was borrowed from Sarah Britton’s beautiful new cookbook, My New Roots.  This book was just released this spring and it’s packed full of nourishing plant-based recipes organized by the season.  Sarah also has a blog by the same name, My New Roots (  Her recipes are vegetarian and often vegan friendly, although they are also adaptable to include in meals for meat-eaters as well.  Another bonus of both her book and her blog…..the gorgeous pictures!  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Vegetable Feature: Nettles & Ramps

Vegetable Feature: Ramps
We’re so thankful that ramp season overlapped with the start of this year’s CSA deliveries!  Ramps are a special spring treat that are available for only 3-4 weeks on average.  They are a wild-foraged vegetable that we harvest from north-facing hillsides in the woods.  We take care to sustainably harvest them to ensure they’ll continue to grow in our valley for years to come.  Our harvest crew treads lightly as they walk the woods and only takes half of any bunch of ramps growing in an area, taking care to leave the remainder undisturbed.
You can use the ramp bulb and leaves, simply trim away the root end.  The flavor resembles garlic & onions, but it really has its own distinctive “rampy” flavor.  Ramps are excellent in any egg dish from simple scrambled eggs to fancy quiche.  They are also often used in risotto, pasta dishes and baked goods such as biscuits or cornbread.  You can use the leaves to make a tasty pesto or try the chimichurri recipe in this week’s newsletter.
 If you’re looking to preserve the delicious ramp flavor to enjoy later in the year, consider freezing ramp pesto or ramp butter.  We featured a simple recipe for ramp butter in our May 9-10, 2014 newsletter.  This recipe is archived on our website in our searchable recipe database.
Ramps are a delicate vegetable, so I’d encourage you to use them within several days.  Store them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.  To preserve the delicate greens, wrap them gently in a moist paper towel or cloth.

Vegetable Feature: Nettles (yes, the stinging kind-please read this for more information)
We look forward to nettles every spring as they are one of the most nutrient-dense spring greens we have available early in the season.  Please be forewarned that these nettles are the “stinging nettles” many might consider a weed.  They have little fibers on the stems that contain formic acid which will give you a “stinging” sensation if you brush up against them before they’ve been washed or try to harvest them with bare hands.  Washing the nettles will remove most of the stinging fibers and there is no sting remaining after they are cooked.  We have vigorously washed the nettles in your box and put them in a bag to make handling easier for you.  Even though we’ve washed them, I would still recommend you handle  them carefully and avoid touching them with your bare hands prior to cooking them.  With a flavor similar to spinach, they contain a whole host of nutrients including protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, boron, carotenoids and iron.  They are also reported to relieve eczema and seasonal allergies.
 Nettles should always be cooked prior to eating them.  Here are a few guidelines for handling them in your kitchen.  First, put some cold water in your kitchen sink and empty the bag of nettles into the sink.  Use either a pair of kitchen tongs, kitchen gloves, or a plastic bag inverted over your hand to handle the nettles until they are cooked.  Swish the nettles around in the sink.  Remove the nettles from the cold water in the sink using your tongs or gloved hand and put them directly into a pot of boiling water.  You should boil them for about 1 minute.  You’ll notice their color will intensify to a beautiful deep emerald green and the water will turn the same color.  After one minute, remove the nettles from the boiling water, put them in a strainer, and rinse with cold water until they are cooled. The stinging factor is no longer a concern after cooking, so you can use your bare hands to squeeze all the excess water out of them and remove the leaves from the thicker stems.  If the stems are small, there’s no need to sort them out.  Now your nettle greens are ready for use.
Nettle leaves are perishable, so it is best to cook them shortly after you receive them.  Even if you don’t want to eat them right away, it is better to store them in their cooked form for a few days until you are ready to use them.  The cooking water actually makes a beautiful tea, so don’t discard it.  You can drink the tea either hot or cold and mixed with honey and lemon.  It’s delicious and makes the cooking process dual purpose.  Nettles originated in Europe and Asia, so are a familiar vegetable in many of the cuisines from these regions.  They are often used to make soups, but you can also use the nettles in a pesto, to top off a pizza, or incorporated into a risotto or pasta dishes.  Nettle puree may be used in pasta or gnocchi dough to make a stunning appearance, or the nettles can be used in a ravioli filling.  Nettles pair well with cheese, cream, mushrooms and other spring greens.

Sesame Nettles & Rice
By Andrea Yoder

Serves 2-4
1 bunch nettles
1 to 1 ½ Tbsp sunflower oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic cloves or ramp bulbs
1 cup cooked rice
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 ½ tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp red pepper flakes or to taste
Salt & Black pepper, to taste
Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

  1. Bring 4-5 quarts water to a boil in a small to medium stockpot.  Using gloves, tongs or an inverted plastic bag on your hand, remove the twist tie from the bunch of nettles and vigorously wash them in a sink or bowl of clean, cold water.  Once the water is boiling, add the nettles.  Cook for approximately 1-2 minutes.  Immediately remove the nettles from the boiling water and put them in a strainer or colander.  Rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle.
  2. Remove the leaves and thin stems from the thick main stem.  Discard the main stem.  Roughly chop the nettle leaves into coarse pieces.
  3. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat the sunflower oil.  Once the oil is hot, add the garlic cloves or ramp bulbs.  Sauté until golden, then add the rice & nettles and stir.  Immediately add the vinegar and put a lid on the pan.  Simmer for about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the lid from the pan, reduce the heat and add the sesame oil, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper.  Stir to combine and remove from heat.
  5. Serve with toasted sesame seeds to garnish.

Ramp Chimichurri 
Yield:  about 1/2 cup
1 bunch ramps
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
Dash of pepper

  1. Clean the ramps;  if necessary, remove the roots.  Chop the bulbs off the stems and into some rough pieces.   Chop the leaves into rough pieces.
  2. Place just the bulbs into a food processor or blender and process until minced.  Then add the leaves, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes.  Blend until smooth.

This recipe was borrowed from a Couple Cooks blog.  They feature it on their blog as a topping for a cheese omelet.  Chimichurri is traditionally made with parsley and garlic, but the ramp bulbs and leaves adapt nicely to this preparation.  You can use this as a topping for grilled or roasted fish, chicken or steak.  It is also a nice accompaniment to eggs and sandwiches. You could also try a recipe for Ramp Chimichurri Bread with Lemon Thyme Butter featured at (check out the amazing pictures of this tasty loaf of bread!)

Welcome to Another Great CSA Season!

Welcome to the 2015 CSA season!  We’re excited to have fresh, green food again after a long winter. We hope you enjoy the fresh spring flavors in this week’s box.  You may be less familiar with some of the vegetables this week, but rest assured we’re here to help you enjoy them!  Please take the time to read this week’s vegetable features in the newsletter to learn more about ramps & nettles.  If you’re looking for more recipe ideas or suggestions for how to use some of the other things in your box, consider checking out our website.  We have a searchable recipe database that archives all the recipes we’ve featured in our past newsletters.  It’s a great resource to get you started as you’re learning about vegetables with which you may not have much experience.

This week we’ve also sent a special “Choice” item—Decorative Willow Bunches.  These are not intended to be eaten, but they do make a beautiful adornment to your home or patio.  This is just a little something extra that we’d like to share with you.  While we specialize in growing food crops, we include some of these “decorative” plants as part of our production system.  We plant curly willow, dogwood, and a variety of pussy willows in our field hedgerows to provide habitats for beneficial insects and birds.  These creatures are an important part of how we manage pest insects and promote pollination for our vegetable crops.  Every winter we trim these hedgerows to keep them from becoming overgrown.  Our winter crew takes the time to trim and bundle the cuttings to turn them into beautiful arrangements that can be enjoyed throughout the year.  You can trim your bundle to the size you would like it to be and you don’t need to add water.  Over time the branches will dry out and the color may fade, but they will last for years!  We hope you enjoy this little piece of our farm as a reminder of the place where your food is grown!

Thank you for being a part of our farm!
Farmers Richard, Andrea and the Entire HVF Crew