Thursday, December 17, 2015

Our Ancestors...Who Walked This Land Before Us?

by Richard de Wilde

Richard's collection of artifacts
As a boy growing up on our South Dakota prairie farm, I had a fascination for the early people who had lived there. We found evidence of their existence in the form of arrowheads, spear points and stone hammers as we picked rocks from our cultivated fields.  The South Dakota farm of my youth had been scoured by an ancient glacier and left many rocks to be removed.  Every year my four siblings and I picked rock from 300 acres of farm land.  Two on each side of the rock wagon and the youngest driving the tractor.  With time spent nearly every day after school and Saturdays picking rock, we had ample opportunity to find ancient stone tools and to contemplate how their owners lived and survived on the prairie.

As a youth, I was an avid hunter, trapper and went fishing whenever we could take a little time before and after our farm work.  We would hunt ducks and geese on the prairie potholes every morning before school.  “Mom, ducks in the garage!  We’re off to school.”  I’m sure that Mom got tired of processing our success, but wild game was a large part of our diet and we were poor farmers and a young family struggling to make ends meet.  And all the time, I am thinking, “How did the early people do it without guns and trucks and electricity and chainsaws or even steel handsaws to cut the wood to build with and keep warm?”  The answer seemed simple in my young mind.  Of course… they had more time, because they didn’t have to go to school!  Nonetheless, I tried to fashion handles to stone hammers and made spears and bows and arrows.  I often wondered if maybe I had been a Native American in a past life?

Wherever I have been since my childhood farm in northeast South Dakota, I have looked for signs of earlier inhabitants.  My college years in western South Dakota introduced me to the Black Hills and the Badlands of western South Dakota.  My college buddies in archeology were uncovering rich finds of prehistoric bones of giant mastodons and other interesting prehistoric creatures that used to live in the Badlands.  It was during this time that I was also introduced to Native Americans from the Rosebud reservation and was fascinated to learn about their rituals and practices.

So it comes with no surprise that when I moved to southwest Wisconsin to our present farm that I continued, as time permitted, to explore the earlier inhabitants of our farm and region. I find the best time to look for artifacts is just after a rain, when the ground is dark and small stones are washed and visible.  For years I have collected chips and pieces of stone & rock that look as if they had been worked with the intention of becoming a tool of some sort.  Sometimes they look like a characteristic arrowhead while it is less evident what others may be.

Recently I met Jim Theler, a neighbor and retired archeologist who has devoted his life to studying ancient people of this area through his work with the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse.  This past year Jim showed us burial mounds on property adjacent to our farm.  These mounds are called effigy mounds and are raised piles of earth built in shapes, which are often animals. Because we work in the woods, harvesting ramps & trees, we wanted to be able to identify these mounds so as not to disturb them with logging & harvesting….just in case we might have some as well!  We feel it is important to continue to show respect for the people who struggled, lived and farmed this land before us.  Building a logging road through the heart of a burial mound just doesn’t seem like a respectful thing to do.

It's hard to see, but Richard swears when you're standing there
you can see a 40 foot bear-shaped effigy mound!
Shortly before meeting Jim, one of our landlords found out he had effigy mounds on his land and he
was kind enough to take us out to see them.  While it is hard to identify them, I began to notice and study the subtle changes in the landscape that make up the mounds.  I also started thinking more about where the mound builders might choose to live and build their burial mounds.  Most of the mounds have been found on hillsides facing south and west and located above springs and water sources.  My intrigue continued to grow and I started looking at some parts of our land that seemed to fit the criteria and may be a good location for a mound.  I had an inkling we too may have some mounds on our land.  Recently, I asked Jim to come to our farm and look at our land and the artifacts I have found over the past 25 years.  I showed Jim my display of artifacts….ok, I dumped them out of a few cans I had stored them in.  He sorted through my findings and was able to separate the different arrowheads and pieces of tools, etc. based on the time period in history they came from.  Some of the pieces likely date back as many as 10,000 years ago!  Interestingly, the mound builders who built the effigy mounds in this area were here much more recently—just a mere 1,500 years ago!  I find it very interesting to think about the fact that people lived and survived on this land as many as 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.  It makes our 30 years on this farm and the 200 years that European settlers have been in the area seem like such a small blip on the radar.  It also makes me think we must try to tread lightly to preserve the land for those who will live here long after we are gone.

Jim will be coming back to our farm to continue helping us in our explorations.  I’ll be writing more about this topic and the findings on our own land in January.  If you’re interested in this topic, I’d like to recommend Jim Theler’s book, Twelve Millenia...but you can’t have my signed copy :)

Vegetable Feature: Storage Turnips

by Sarah Janes Ugoretz
Scarlet Turnips in the field
Let’s face it—“exciting” isn’t an adjective that people typically use when they talk about turnips. Quite honestly, the way in which turnips are most often prepared—boiled and mashed—leaves a bit to be desired.  Like Brussels sprouts, overcooking them leaves you with a bitter, off-putting flavor. Recognizing this for the tragedy it is, we at Harmony Valley Farm want to set you and your turnips up for success during this winter season.

Turnips are a highly versatile culinary ingredient and an important part of a Midwestern seasonal diet. Storage turnips are hearty vegetables that are in it for the long haul. Place them in a plastic bag and they’ll hang out in your refrigerator for months on end…thus providing sustenance through the long winter months.  Purple top turnips are the traditional variety of turnips most people are familiar with. They have a distinct turnip flavor with crisp white flesh.  In the last vegetable box you received golden turnips.  These are a bit milder in flavor with gold skin and flesh.  This week we’re delivering our favorite storage turnip, sweet scarlet turnips.  They have a magenta-colored skin with white flesh often flecked with pink.  They are the mildest in turnip flavor and the sweetest.  The flavor of all storage turnips becomes milder, balanced and sweet when they are harvested later in the fall when the temperatures are colder and we’ve had some frost.  If you’ve had early harvested turnips….we can’t blame you for taking a pass on them, but please don’t write them off based on that one experience.

Scarlet & Purple Top Turnips
Turnips can be used in a variety of ways.  They can be included with a mix of root vegetables to make a delicious roasted vegetable medley or root mash.  Sweet scarlet turnips are a beautiful addition to a winter stir-fry or are mild enough to be eaten raw with a simple dip.  Turnips can also be added to soups, stews and winter chowder.  Quite honestly, one of our favorite ways to eat them is often simply sautéed with butter.  If you want to take them a little further, you can also pickle them and ferment them making delicious and interesting condiments for winter fare.  We’ve included a few enticing recipes in this week’s newsletter, but if you’re searching for even more inspiration, check out TheKitchn’s Seasonal Cooking series on “Interesting Things to do with Turnips.”

You may not believe me when I tell you this, but turnips rival kale and Swiss chard in terms of the amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they offer the eater. So, abandon the boil and mash mentality and start getting better acquainted with your turnips this winter!

Roasted Turnip Ghanoush

Yield:  4 cups
2 lb. turnips
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup water
½ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
⅓ cup roasted tahini
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp minced garlic
Smoked paprika, 2-3 pinches*
2 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pita bread, baked pita chips or crudités for serving
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving*

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F.  Place the unpeeled turnips on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until very soft, 30 to 45 minutes. Transfer them to a heatproof bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let cool. The steam will make them easier to peel.
  2. While the turnips are roasting, in a small saucepan, combine the dates and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the dates have softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and process until pureed. Set aside to cool. Measure ⅓ cup puree to use for the recipe. (Cover and refrigerate the remaining puree for another use. It will keep for up to 1 month.)
  3. When the turnips are cool enough to handle, peel them and transfer to a food processor. Add the yogurt, date puree, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, a few pinches of paprika, salt and pepper and process until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil & the parsley. Serve immediately with pita bread, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (The dip can be prepared up to 1 day in advance, covered and refrigerated.)

Recipe borrowed from Roots by Diane Morgan.  The ingredients marked with an * were Andrea’s adaptations to the original recipe.  This recipe & cookbook were recommended by some longtime CSA members.  I was intrigued by the idea of using turnips to make a dip, and found this to be a quite tasty way to use a turnip!

Turnip and Carrot Kraut with Caraway

Yield:  2 ½ cups
1 lb. turnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 oz. carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 ½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp caraway seeds, toasted

  1. Using the coarse holes on a box grater or food processor fitted with the coarse shredding disk, grate the turnips and carrots. Transfer the grated vegetables to a large glass container with straight sides, such as a 1 qt. glass measuring cup. Add the salt and toasted caraway seeds and toss to combine thoroughly. Place a glass or china plate on top of the mixture and press down firmly. Place a weight, such as a closed container filled with water, on top of the plate and press down to squeeze out the moisture that is released by the vegetables. Cover the container with a clean kitchen towel and place in a cool, dark place to ferment for 1 week.
  2. Every day, press down on the plate to make sure the vegetables are submerged. The salt will continue to draw out moisture from the vegetables during fermentation, and pressing on the plate helps to extract the brine. The vegetables must be completely submerged for fermentation to occur and to avoid mold from developing on the surface. If mold does form, skim it off and discard it. (Don’t worry, the kraut is still safe to eat!)
  3. After 1 week, the kraut will be tangy and ready to eat. If left to ferment for 2 weeks or more, it will continue to develop complex flavor. When you think the kraut has fermented long enough, you can store it in a covered container in the refrigerator and enjoy it for several weeks.

Recipe borrowed from Roots by Diane Morgan.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Vegetable Feature: Beauty Heart Radishes

By Sarah Janes Ugoretz
This week, we’re focusing our attention on the aesthetically pleasing and oh-so-delicious beauty heart radish! Also called watermelon, Chinese red meat or misato radishes, beauty hearts are an Asian variety that offer a vibrant splash of color that stays with us as the long days of winter set in and—depending on whether you’re a winter person—drone on.

A member of the mustard family, Raphanus sativus are one of the oldest cultivated foods. Today, radishes can be, and often are, classified by season. Beauty hearts are typically included in the winter radish bunch and are excellent for storing, their light green skin concealing their captivating magenta-colored interior and mildly spicy flesh.

Beauty Heart Radish
For those who shy away from radishes, beauty hearts are most definitely deserving of your attention. While more straightforward varieties may be regarded as pungent, spicy and bitter, beauty hearts have more of a delicate flavor and lack an in-your-face bite. This, along with their versatility, lends them to a variety of preparations. Slice them thinly and serve raw—plain, as a garnish or on salads. Beauty hearts also make an excellent addition to stir fries or Asian soups. If you opt for heated preparations, be sure to cook these radishes lightly so as to preserve their color and pleasant crunch.

An admirer of these unique radishes, I decided to make them the star of my Thanksgiving contribution. I decided to keep things simple by following Edible Madison’s Beauty Heart Radish and Sesame Seed Salad (see recipe below). I’ll admit that I was certain many of my extended family members would take a pass on this dish but, to my delight, they proved me wrong. This is all to say that beauty heart radishes are a unique and exciting crowd pleaser!

Radishes in general are valued as a digestive aid, as well as a detoxifier and blood cleanser. Beauty hearts provide a solid source of vitamins B, C and K, along with folate and essential minerals like manganese, calcium and iron. Store them in a sealed plastic bag in your refrigerator and resist the urge to peel them when you’re preparing them. There’s no need!

Beauty Heart Radish & Sesame Seed Salad

Yield:  4 servings
1 large beauty heart radish
1 Tbsp roasted tahini
½ tsp stone ground mustard
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp mirin (sweet rice cooking wine)
½ tsp tamari
2 tsp black sesame seeds, toasted
Parsley for garnish (optional)

  1. Wash and cut beauty heart radish in half lengthwise (do not peel), then carefully cut each half into very thin half-moon slices.  Array the slices prettily on a platter.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together tahini, mustard, rice vinegar, mirin and tamari with a fork until well-combined.
  3. Drizzle over beauty hearts and sprinkle with sesame seeds and thinly sliced parsley, if you wish.

PREPARATION NOTE:  If you’re looking for a slightly less fancy version of this salad, try this approach.  Cut the beauty heart radish into thin matchstick sized strips.  Double the ingredients for the dressing.  Toss the radish strips in the dressing to make more of a slaw.  Mix in the fresh parsley & some cilantro if you like (highly recommended).  Finish the slaw by adding the sesame seeds.

**This recipe was created by our friend, Dani Lind.  Her recipe was published in Edible Madison magazine and can be found on their website along with her feature article all about beauty heart radishes.

Mushroom & Miso Soup with Beauty Heart Radishes

by Chef Andrea Yoder
Yield:  4-5 Servings
6 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 oz dried mushrooms
¼ tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 small carrot, diced very small
Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste
White Pepper, to taste
1 large beauty heart radish, diced very small
4 Tbsp miso
  1. Put chicken stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Heat the chicken stock until the liquid is just hot.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, onion, dried mushrooms and red pepper flakes.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, then add the carrot as well as the black and white pepper.  Simmer an additional 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  You want to add just enough white pepper so you get just a hint of its flavor and enough black pepper that it tickles your tongue and brightens up the soup.
  4. Put about 2-3 Tbsp of beauty heart radishes in each person’s soup bowl.  Ladle the hot soup over the radishes and serve each bowl of soup with 1 Tbsp of miso (any variety you choose will work) to stir into the warm soup.

2016 CSA Sign-Up Form Coming Soon... Looking Ahead to 2016!

by Farmers Richard & Andrea
Late summer CSA vegetable box
Winter isn’t joking with us anymore….it’s officially here and with it, the transition to yet another season.  Winter is the time of the year when we dance between two growing seasons.  While we still have a lot of work wrapped up in washing and packing the 2015 crops we have in storage and completing this year’s deliveries, we are already looking ahead to the next growing season.  We’ll receive 17 pallets of potting soil this week for next year’s greenhouse plantings and the seed catalogs have started coming. Richard and I have already started our planning conversations about next year’s crops as we need to start ordering some hard-to-get seeds before Christmas.  We’re also thinking about our plans for the 2016 CSA season.  Our 2016 CSA Sign-Up form will be ready very soon, so we wanted to share with you some of our thoughts related to next year.

First, let’s talk about price.  We are happy to announce there will not be any major pricing changes this year.  We will be holding our prices for all of our main shares including Vegetables, Fruit & Coffee.  As in year’s past, we are offering an “Early Bird” coupon for those who sign up before February 14, 2016.  This is a great way to earn as much as $40.00 towards a future HVF purchase, simply by sending your sign-up form in early!  If you pay for your shares with monthly electronic debit, please watch for the “Rollover” email that will be coming to you within the next 7-10 days.  If we do not hear back from you before January 3, 2016, we’ll roll you over into the next season, sign you up for the same shares you received this year and start monthly withdrawals for these shares starting in January.  Easy!  If you’d like to continue to do the electronic withdrawals, but would like to change your shares, you will need to reply to that email to let us know what changes you’d like to make so we can adjust the amount of your January withdrawal.

Next, let’s talk cheese.  This year we reduced our cheese share to a 6-delivery Winter Cheese share. Over the past few years we’ve lost some of our very important cheese producers as life & business circumstances have changed for them.  This, in conjunction with a few late springs and some tricky logistics, has presented us with some cheese challenges. We have chosen to stick to our founding criteria for our share and continue to source certified organic cheese from producers practicing rotational grazing on mineral-rich pastures.  Yes, we’ve all been spoiled with some very delicious cheese.  We had hoped to identify some new producers we might work with in order to keep some variety in the share, but we just haven’t found anyone who meets our criteria.  In an effort to focus on what we do best (vegetables), we have officially decided to discontinue our cheese share in its entirety for the 2016 season.

The Bounty of a Summer Fruit Share
For many years, we have continued CSA deliveries into January.  Years ago, with influences from Madison chef Odessa Piper, we decided we wanted to provide food for those choosing to eat a year-round seasonal Midwestern diet.  Long before “eating local” was the campaign, we were encouraging our members to embrace the bounty available to us in the Midwest during the winter.  While we are no longer harvesting, we do have the ability to store many crops making them available to us throughout the winter. This includes a wide variety of root crops, cabbage, dried peppers & beans, onions, garlic, winter squash, etc.  For many years, we had a very good response to our Extended Season Vegetable shares in January. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a steady decline in interest for this share over the past few years.  This year we’re delivering about half the amount of vegetable shares in January as we did just several years ago.  This has really made us stop to think about those January deliveries, especially since they are not easy deliveries to make.  We never know what kind of weather January will hold and it’s challenging to run a truck and delivery route in very cold temperatures, snow storms, etc.  In order for this to work, there needs to be enough interest to make the economics of these trips even out.  This has brought us to the decision to discontinue January deliveries for the 2016-2017 CSA season.  Yes, we will still do our deliveries this coming January (January 2016) and follow through on our commitments for the Extended Season shares, Fruit, Cheese & Coffee shares some of you have signed up to receive. However, this will be our final January CSA delivery.  Our main season vegetable shares will continue as they are, starting in May and extending through December with our final delivery shortly before Christmas.  We will continue to offer a Full Fruit share including 10 Summer fruit deliveries from June through October followed by an Autumn Fruit share which will include 4 deliveries in November & December.  Currently, our fruit shares include two additional deliveries in January.  Since we will not be doing deliveries in January for the upcoming season, our overall Fruit share offering will be decreased by two deliveries for a total of 14 Full Fruit deliveries instead of 16.

Kickapoo Coffee owners TJ Semanchin & Caleb Nicholes
in front of their new solar panels!
We’re excited to be able to continue working with the folks at Kickapoo Coffee Roasters and we’ll be offering the same coffee share options as we offered this year, minus the two January deliveries.  They continue to produce consistently awesome coffee and are doing some really exciting things in their business.  They recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary and are now running almost completely on solar energy! They also continue to work directly with some excellent coffee growers, not only purchasing coffee from them, but also working with some growers to help them develop new processes for post-harvest handling of their beans, make needed equipment purchases and support them in their efforts to suppress pests and disease on a coffee plant while maintaining organic integrity. A minor change to the coffee share this year is no steel storage canister with the first delivery.  They have phased this out and are no longer offering it.  Since we will no longer be offering January deliveries, our full Coffee share will have a total of 17 deliveries, and our once a month coffee share will have a total of 9 deliveries.

Capt. Jack enjoying a winter day
checking the fields.
We will be doing an end-of-season survey again this year and plan to send that out by the end of December.  We value your thoughts and suggestions regarding your CSA experience and find this information very helpful as we refine our plans for the upcoming season.  For those of you who have taken advantage of the January vegetable deliveries offer, please take a few minutes to brainstorm some other ways we can still provide you with storage vegetables for the winter.  We’ll include a question or two on this topic in the survey and we’re hoping someone might have a creative idea for us!  Richard really enjoys reading your individualized comments, so please give thoughtful consideration to your survey responses.

While we’re looking forward to a time of rest and rejuvenation this winter, we’re also very excited to start planning for the next CSA season and a new season of farming.  With each new year we learn new things about farming.  Yes, even after 40 plus years of farming, we still find we have a lot to learn about growing vegetables!  We’re always looking for ways to improve our practices and grow the best crops we can.  We appreciate your support of our farm and hope you’ll join us for another season!