Wednesday, May 31, 2017

🌾 On the Farm and In the Field with Farmer Richard!
"If you tickle the earth with a hoe, she laughs with a harvest."-Douglas Jerrold

Every year is different and brings its own opportunities and challenges.  This may be the new record for the longest, coldest, most wet spring in my 40 plus years of vegetable farming.  Despite the weather challenges, our crew has done a super job of seizing each small window of dry weather to prepare fields, plant, cultivate and put row covers on crops for heat gain and to keep away the dreaded flea beetles.  We started our weekly “salad greens” plantings on April 10 and have only missed one planting due to rain.  We have kept up with weeds (it helps when everything is growing slowly!), both with hand weeding and as much mechanical cultivation as we can.  While the season has had a bit of a slow start, we’ve been enjoying the special spring greens and radishes, but change is in sight!  All of our heat loving crops are planted and ready for some warmer weather!  If you have not been checking our weekly blog, this is the week!  I took some pictures earlier this week as I made my rounds through the fields to check on crops.  Join me as I show you what’s happening here at the farm!
Sugar Snap Peas: 3 Crops Planted, No Blossoms Yet
Salad Lettuce & Greens: Next Week's Crop
Looking Great for a Full Season of Onions!
Zucchini Under Row Cover for 3 Weeks, Now It's Time for some Warm Sun☀️

Kohlrabi & Green Curly Kale, Ready to Take Off!
Celeriac, Coming Up Nicely
Green & Yellow Beans, Peaking Out for Warm Weather

Basil, STILL Undercover Waiting for Summer!

3rd Year Strawberry Field is Full & Blushing, We'll Start Picking This Week 🍓

1st Year Strawberry Field Just Planted--No Weeds!🌿
Lupines in Full Bloom by the Strawberries (I had to take a picture!)
First Planting of Tomatoes

Organic sweet potato plants from New Sprout Organics in North Carolina will arrive later this week—field is ready

Ok, so some things might not look like much, but they are in the field, rooted and ready for some warmer weather.  If we get even 75/80°F they will explode and take off.  Trust me, I’ve seen this happen for 40 years!  We are in the welcome calm before the storm of weeds, summer harvest, and for you, lots of cooking!  

So enjoy the radishes and wild greens of spring and get ready to pick some strawberries!  Hope to see you at Strawberry Day coming up on Sunday, June 18! 🍓🍓🍓

Baby White Turnips

Baby white turnips are a beautiful little vegetable….”pristine” is the word we often use to describe them.  They are classified as a salad turnip and are tender with a sweet, mild flavor.  Both the roots and the green tops are edible and may be eaten raw, lightly sautéed or stir-fried.   

We plant baby white turnips for harvest early in the season. This cool weather spring vegetable is harvested while still small and tender when the sweet flavor matches its delicate appearance.  Compared to the common purple top turnip, or other storage turnips, salad turnips are much more sweet and subtle in both flavor and texture.  The turnips we grow in the fall are meant for storage purposes and have a thicker skin compared to the thin skin of a salad turnip.  Baby white turnips also mature much faster than beets, carrots and fennel, etc so they are a very important part of our spring menus until other vegetables are ready for harvest.  To prolong the shelf life, separate the greens from the roots with a knife and store separately in plastic bags in your refrigerator.

To prepare the turnips for use, rinse the roots and greens thoroughly and trim the root end of each turnip.  Salad turnips have such a thin exterior layer, they do not need to be peeled.  They are delicious eaten raw in a salad, or just munch on them with dip or hummus.  The greens may be added to raw salads, or lightly saute' them in a little butter.  When cooking baby white turnips, remember to keep the cooking time short and the preparation simple.  Cook them just until they are fork tender. Honestly, they are tasty just simply sautéed in butter with the greens wilted on top.  You can also stir-fry or roast them and they are a nice addition to light and simple spring soups.  

A Box Deconstructed- 6/1/2017

(Lettuce Not Pictured)
Cooking with This Week’s Box!

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." 
 Virginia Woolf

Before we dive into this week’s box, I’d like to highlight the cooking and recipe resources available at NY Times Cooking,  This is an online culinary resource I’ve started using more recently and would encourage you to check it out.  They have a weekly email newsletter called “Cooking” that you can sign up for in addition to utilizing their extensive collection of recipes online.  You can set up your own “recipe box” and when you come across a recipe that looks interesting just click “save” and it will be filed in your virtual recipe box so you can easily find it.  They also have cooking guides about different topics, such as How To Make Salad,  which often include videos demonstrating techniques and recipe preparation. I’ve found this resource to be very helpful and hope you do too!
Ok, lets get cooking.  

As June rolls in, I think it’s time to fire up the grill!  Use the asparagus in this week’s box to prepare Charred Asparagus with Green Garlic Chimichurri, a recipe featured on NY Times CookingThis makes a nice accompaniment to grilled chicken and is a great way to utilize the last of the green garlic this week!  Throw some extra chicken on the grill so you’ll have some available later in the week to make the Sesame-Soy Hon Tsai Tai & Chicken Salad, a recipe we featured in a newsletter back in 2014.  This salad uses Hon Tsai Tai as the salad green base alongside sliced radishes & a few turnips if you like. 

I’ve had my eye on a recipe for Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Glaze  featured at NY Times Cooking.  This recipe will utilize the potato onions and cilantro in the box.  It calls for ground turkey, but you could substitute ground pork if you prefer.  It’s described more as an appetizer meatball dish, but makes enough to serve 4 if you eat them as a main dish.  Serve these with steamed rice and some sautéed greens to make a full meal.  This is a great place to put the radish tops to use.  Remove the greens from the radishes, wash well, dry and then chop into bite-sized pieces.  Lightly saute the radish greens along with some baby kale mix, turnip greens, hon tsai tai, or any other greens that might be hanging out in your refrigerator from a previous week’s deliveries.

The Turnip Salad with Yogurt, Herbs & Poppy Seeds (below) is on the menu this week served alongside broiled or grilled salmon which pairs nicely with the light flavors in this salad.  This is just one of many salad options you have this week!  This recipe is also featured on Dishing Up The Dirt.  Salads are a good option to take for lunches or can become a quick and easy dinner option if you don’t have much time to cook.  If you’re looking for some new inspiration to throw into your salads this week, check out the recipe collection at NY Times Cooking entitled: 9 Dressings and Vinaigrettes That Will Make You Fall in Love With Salad If you want to keep things super-simple, just make a jar of Mark Bittman’s Jar Vinaigrette.  It doesn’t get much easier than this!  Keep this jar of simple vinaigrette in the refrigerator so it’s easy to reach for when you want to toss it with a handful of salad mix or baby kale mix. 

That does it for this week’s box.  Enjoy your cooking adventures and start thinking about what you’d like to make with the strawberries coming up next week!—Chef Andrea   


Pancetta Wrapped Baby Turnips

Yield:  6 appetizer portions

1 bunch baby White Turnips
6-12 paper-thin slices pancetta

1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Place a flat wire roasting rack in a large rimmed baking sheet.

2. If the greens are still attached to the turnips, trim them off, leaving at least ½-inch of the stem intact. Reserve the greens for another use. Trim the root ends of the turnips flat so they will stand upright. If the turnips are not all the same size, cut the larger ones in half. Gently scrub the turnips under cool running water to remove any dirt from the skins and between the stems and then pat dry.

3. Wrap each piece of turnip with a slice of pancetta (or a portion of a slice if the turnips are smaller), covering the turnip and leaving the stem exposed. The pancetta should cling tightly to the turnip skins. If not, use toothpicks to secure. Arrange the turnip on the rack in the pan, spacing them at least 1 inch apart.

Photo: Shutterstock
4. Roast until the turnips are tender when pierced with a paring knife and the pancetta is crisp and golden, 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the turnips.  Remove the toothpicks if used.  Serve immediately, or let cool and serve at room temperature.

Photo Credit Roots by Diane Morgan
Recipe adapted from Roots by Diane Morgan.

Turnip Salad with Yogurt, Herbs & Poppy Seeds

Yield:  4 servings

1 bunch baby white turnips
4 green onions, trimmed (including ½ inch of the green tops), sliced on a sharp angle
½ cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek yogurt)
1 lemon, juiced
½ tsp dried red chili flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
About 1 cup lightly packed mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped (may include mint, parsley, chives or any other fresh herbs you have available)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup poppy seeds

1.       Slice the turnips lengthwise as thin as you can.  If you have a mandolin, use it;  otherwise a sharp knife and steady hand will do just fine.  Soak the sliced turnips in ice water for 15 minutes then drain them very well. (Note:  Soaking the turnips will make them very crisp.  This is a nice step to follow, but it isn’t essential if you’d prefer to skip it.)

2.       Rinse, dry and roughly chop the turnip greens.  Put them in a large bowl along with the sliced turnips and the green onions.
3.       Prepare the dressing.  In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, red chili flakes, ½ tsp salt, a bit of freshly ground black pepper and olive oil.  Stir well to combine, then add the herbs and poppy seeds.  Stir well.

4.       Just before serving, toss the vegetables with the dressing.  You may not need all of the yogurt dressing, so add some to the vegetables and toss first before adding more.  Adjust the seasoning with additional lemon juice, salt and pepper as needed.  Once the greens have been tossed with the yogurt dressing, they will not store if you have leftovers.  If you don’t think you’ll eat all of this salad at once, only dress the portion you need and save the extra vegetables and dressing for another meal.

      Note from Chef Andrea:  The method above is my adaptation of the original recipe featured on the Dishing Up the Dirt blog.  The original recipe comes from Joshua McFadden’s new book, Six Seasons of Vegetables.  The ingredients remained the same, I just simplified the method to make it easier to prepare in a home kitchen. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Into The Woods...

“Going Into The Woods Is Going Home.” -John Muir
By Farmer Richard 

I have always enjoyed being in nature, walking in the woods, observing the sounds, trees, plants and animals around me. For many years I have wanted to create walking trails through our woods and have slowly been working on doing so over the last few years.  Last fall we had time to really make some progress and were able to make trails to access parts of our woods that were previously inaccessible. All the time we were working in the woods, I kept thinking about how much I’d like for our CSA members to be able to enjoy our little corner of the world and all of the beauty and treasures within our woods. In our 2016 survey, we asked our members what farm events they would enjoy participating in and woods walks was at the top of the list! So for the past two weekends, I was able to get out into our woods with some of our CSA members and a few expert friends to help us all learn more about what is actually living and growing in the woods. On Saturday, May 13, we hosted a woods walk with a bird-watching emphasis. Kyle Lindemer was our bird expert who helped us on this walk. This past Saturday we invited Little John to join us. John Holzwart (aka Little John) is from the Sheboygan area and is very knowledgeable about foraging from the woods, identifying plants and knowing which ones are edible, medicinal, or both! We had a great time on both walks and I wanted to share a little bit about our experiences.

Lets start with our bird walk two weeks ago. The timing for our walk was perfect as it was a prime time to see birds migrating through our area. It also happened to be "Global Big Day,"  a day sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that helps to connect a network of people across the world working to understand and conserve birds needed for the health of our planet.  On this day, all around the world, individuals and groups submitted bird counts about the birds they observed in their areas.   We were thankful to have a beautiful day for the walk and set out around 9:30 am to see what we could find.  We walked the woods road to the south end of the farm.  We saw many, many birds flitting amongst the new leaves, but just a glimpse and always a song.  Kyle, the master of bird song identification, would call out, “That was an eastern towhee,” and the list went on.  Many times I would think, “Oh yes, I know that sound!”  We went down the hill to the Spring Creek and, because it was a quite warm day, the bird action was great.  Just when a flash of yellow made me think “that’s a gold finch,” Kyle’s ear confirmed “yellow warbler.” 

After lunch we decided to go down to our Hammel Lane farm to check out the bird activity along the banks of the Bad Axe River.  OK, so what about those swallow-like birds circling overhead, doing all sorts of flying tricks but ignoring us?  We were looking at a huge complex of cliff swallow houses under the bridge, but not a one would acknowledge their house by going there while we are observing!  Smart birds!  Self-preservation!  Our river excursion offered up herons, kingfishers and an eagle fishing to feed its new babies in the nest downstream.  Kyle submitted our observations for the day which included 53 different types of birds!  We had hoped to spot a few morel mushrooms along the way as well, but only found two….oh well, maybe on the next walk.

Last Saturday was not exactly the sunny, warm day we had the previous week.  We took a quick tour of the greenhouses as we waited for everyone to arrive.  A light rain was falling, but everyone had rain coats so we headed out.  We walked the road between the field and woods, stopping frequently to identify and eat plants.  We ate young basswood tree leaves, quite good and reminiscent of a green bean!  The peeled new shoots of sumac were juicy with a lemon flavor.  Creeping Charlie left a mild mint flavor and we learned that the inner bark of the Siberian elm is good for soothing a sore throat.  These are just a few of the many plants we saw!  As we walked the woods road we also spotted different types of mushrooms.  Small, brightly colored mushrooms arranged like shelves ranging from blue to dark magenta, too small to think about eating but beautiful to see on the moist, mossy tree bark.  But then some sharp eyes spotted a snow white group of polyporus mushrooms (oyster mushrooms) on a fallen log.  Identified as edible, they were soon photographed, cut and bagged.  We kept our eyes open for morel mushrooms as well, but weren’t able to find any….I think the season ended early.  Moving on, Little John was a non-stop source of information about edible and medicinal use of the plants we saw…..and the rain continued.
Spruce tree tips were young and prime.  I knew they made a tasty beer, but they are good right off the tree!  Then we reached our destination, a series of springs that are the “head waters” for the creek that runs through our farm.  John called it a “Fen,” but everyone agreed it was a magical place full of watercress and delicious Angelica shoots and strange plants like “skunk cabbage” and “Jack in the pulpit!”  

Still raining, but spirits high, we headed back for lunch. Cold and wet, we opted to eat lunch inside.  Scott built a fire in the office stove and Andrea brought dry towels and put wet clothes in the dryer while we ate our lunch.  We enjoyed the fresh oyster mushrooms fried in butter and we warmed up with a very tasty roasted acorn coffee that Little John brewed.  We were entertained by a variety of different birds visiting the bird feeder while we ate.    

 Warm and mostly dried, we decided to take another walk…still raining!  We headed into the woods to see the effigy mounds.  We snacked on more plants, found some unique ones we could not identify and pondered the question of “What did the native people who built these mounds eat?”  As we left the woods, the rain finally stopped!  Three –quarters of an inch of rain had fallen while we were on our journey, but this dedicated group had no complaints!  They all agreed that the best treat of the day was the abundant and very delicious columbine blossoms.  We all had a taste and plenty remained for the humming birds, moths and butterflies that depend on them.  Several of the group members commented, “Now that we know the farm and where to go, can we come any time?”  Yes, you can!  This was just the introduction!  Maybe we should do this again!


Hon Tsai Tai

Hon tsai tai holds an important place in our spring vegetable line-up.  It matures more quickly than other spring-planted greens and is very tasty when grown in cool spring weather.  It is in a group of plants referred to as “flowering brassicas.”  While it is related to such vegetables as mustard greens and bok choi, what sets it apart is that it has beautiful purple stems that produce a sweet, delicate, edible yellow flower.  The sweetness of the buds and flowers is the part we love the most!  While other vegetables in the brassica family also produce flowers, they do so towards the end of their life cycle and at that point there are often undesirable flavor changes in the edible portion of the plant.  Hon tsai tai is unique in that it produces the flower early in its life when all the parts of the plant still taste good.

Hon tsai tai has a mild mustard flavor.  The entire plant is edible and may be eaten raw or cooked.  The thin purple stems are more tender when the plant is young.  While still flavorful, they may become more coarse as the plant matures, so should be cut very finely at this stage.  Hon tsai tai is delicious in stir-fries or lightly steamed, but also makes a stunning and flavorful addition to raw salads.  A common preparation in Chinese cuisine is to quickly stir-fry hon tsai tai with garlic, onions, and ginger, then add oyster sauce.  Store hon tsai tai loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready for use.  

A Box Deconstructed- 5/24/2017

Cooking with This Week’s Box!
“Cooking is at once child's play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” 
 Craig Claiborne

Even though we’re only about a week away from the first day of June, it has been very chilly which makes me want to revert back to warm, comforting soup!  With this week’s box, I’ll start off by using the hon tsai tai to make a warm pot of the Asian Soup with Rice Noodles (recipe below) that is featured in this week’s newsletter.  It doesn’t take long to make and will utilize some of the potato onions and green garlic in this week’s box.  You could also make this soup using other greens such as this week’s saute mix or pea vine.  I don’t usually make two soups in one week, but this week might be the exception.  In our Facebook Group, Paul and Carol recommended a recipe for Cream of Asparagus Soup with Pea Vine that was published in an HVF newsletter back in 2004.  It calls for about 4 ounces of pea vine which is the size of the pea vine bunches this week. Thanks for reminding us to keep looking back to the oldies but goodies!

When you choose to eat seasonally and locally, that means eating a lot of greens in the spring!  Greens can be nature’s fast food since you can quickly turn them into a salad for dinner or wilt them in just a few minutes to eat alongside a piece of fish, chicken or eggs (my favorite).  My next suggestion is a Non-Recipe for a quick and easy dinner idea that I’ll call Wilted Greens with Black Beans, Eggs and all the fixins’.  There is no written recipe but I’ll tell you how to make a quick dinner that has proven to be my favorite this week.  Gently wilt the tops from your radishes along with a few handfuls of saute mix greens in a little butter and a bit of water if you need to.  Serve them with black beans, a couple fried eggs, hot sauce, sour cream and a few corn tortillas.  If you have some green onion or green garlic tops, chop them up and add them as a garnish.  If the beans are already cooked, you can have dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes!

This week Andrea Bemis from Dishing Up the Dirt sent another tasty seasonal favorite our way.  Her recipe for Green Garlic Risotto  is a great way to use the remainder of your green garlic and it also calls for a handful of mizuna or arugula.  You could use either the baby arugula or saute mix in this recipe.

Lastly, I’m going to steer you towards one of my favorite “go-to” salad dressings that I discovered last summer.  It’s featured in a blog post about CSA recipes on Alexandra Cooks.   You’ll find a lot of other tasty CSA-centric recipes as you scroll to the bottom of the blog…which is where you’ll find a recipe for a Creamy ButtermilkDressing that is part of her Simple Cabbage Slaw Recipe.  I know we don’t have cabbage this week, but I recommend you hijack the dressing part of this recipe and just follow step 1 in the directions.  I usually make a double batch and keep a jar in the refrigerator for quick and easy access.  You can add some fresh herbs if you’d like, but it’s also good in all its simplicity.  This week we can enjoy delicious salads made with the beautiful head lettuce in the box.  Top it with thin slices of crunchy radishes, maybe some grilled chicken, salmon or chickpeas for a little protein and a few slices of hard-boiled egg.  Dinner Salad…Done! If you have extra lettuce, dressings and some of the other components left over, put it all together in a wrap and call it lunch the next day!   

Eat well, be well, and have a great week! –Chef Andrea

Asian Soup with Rice Noodles
Yield:  4-6 servings

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly sliced
¼ cup minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 cloves garlic or ¼ cup minced green garlic
4 oz thin rice noodles, broken in half
10 oz firm tofu, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bunch hon tsai tai, finely chopped (stem, leaves and flowers)
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
4 tsp rice vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste (optional)
Salt, to taste

1.       In a large saucepan, combine the broth, mushrooms, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, and garlic.  Bring to a boil over medium heat. 

2.       Add the noodles and cook until almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
3.       Add the tofu and hon tsai tai.  Cook until the greens are tender, about 2 minutes

4.       Stir in the sesame oil and vinegar.  Adjust seasoning to your liking with a touch of white pepper, additional soy sauce and/or salt as needed.  Serve hot.

Recipe adapted from The Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook (2009).

Hon Tsai Tai Salad with Spicy Tahini Ginger Sauce

Yield 2-3 servings

Spicy Tahini Ginger Sauce (makes 1 ½ cups)
½ cup tahini
2 Tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
2-3 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

Salad Components
1 bunch hon tsai tai, finely chopped
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
9-12 radishes, thinly sliced
5-6 stalks asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Avocado, 1-2 each, cut into bite-sized chunks
Toasted almonds

1.       Make the sauce:  Place the tahini, ginger, tamari, maple syrup, lime juice, and ½ cup of water in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.  Set aside.

Photo Credit: Amy Pruess
2.       Prepare all of the salad components.  When you are ready to eat, build your salad by putting some of the hon tsai tai and a bit of the cilantro in a bowl along with the sliced green onions, radishes and asparagus.  Add enough sauce lightly coat the vegetables and toss to combine.  Garnish the salad with chunks of avocado and toasted almonds.

The sauce portion of this recipe was borrowed from Naturally Nourished by Sarah Britton.  It pairs well with the hon tsai tai and cilantro.