Wednesday, July 26, 2017

July 27, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Eggplant

Cooking with this week’s box!

As we think about how to use this week’s box contents, lets start with our featured vegetable of the week….eggplant!  The Eggplant Patties (recipe below) featured in this week’s newsletter is a great way to incorporate eggplant into your meals and yields a tasty vegetarian entrée complete with Sweet Onion Yogurt sauce using the mild, sweet onions in this week’s box.  The patties also reheat well, so leftovers won’t go to waste!

I’ve had my eye on another recipe by Alexandra Stafford, the blog writer we featured last week, and I think this is the week to try it.  Her recipe for Cabbage Pad Thai with Baked Tofu is featured at  In place of pad thai noodles, you use thinly sliced cabbage along with shiitake mushrooms and marinated baked tofu with a garnish of cilantro and peanuts.  This will be a great way to use this week’s sweetheart cabbage.

Somehow I have accumulated four packages of fettuccine noodles in my pantry, so I knew I wanted to include a pasta dish in this week’s menu.  I’m going to take the zucchini and turn it into this Summer Squash Sauce with Pasta.  You take two to three medium sized zucchini and melt them down into butter and olive oil along with onions and garlic.  Toss this simple “sauce”  with hot pasta to make a main dish pasta garnished with Parmesan cheese.  

It’s been awhile since I’ve cooked anything from Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101, but I have had this recipe for Morrocan Carrot and Chickpea Salad  flagged for awhile.  The salad is dressed with a toasted cumin dressing that coats the carrots and chickpeas.  You add in dried fruit, fresh mint and then garnish the salad with almonds.  I’m going to serve this salad along with seared salmon topped with Carrot and Yogurt Sauce.  Heidi has another recipe I stumbled across that looks quite tasty.  Check out her Cashew Curry  dish that features green beans and cauliflower.  If you received broccoli instead of cauliflower this week, you could use that in place of the cauliflower.  Her recipe calls for tofu, but I may substitute chicken instead.

I stumbled across this recipe for Beet, Greens and Cheddar Crumble, a recipe featured at that was written by Melissa Clark.  Here’s Melissa’s description of this dish.   “This unusual, savory crumble is reminiscent of macaroni and cheese, but with vegetable matter (beets and beet greens) standing in for the pasta. The vegetables are bound with a rich béchamel laced with grated clothbound cheddar, and the whole thing is topped with peppery oatmeal crumbs.”  I’m intrigued by this recipe, but also like that it uses the beets and the greens in one preparation.

Last year I tried this recipe for Vegetable Quesadillas with Pistachio-Kale Pesto and really enjoyed them.  I’m going to use this week’s kale to make this pesto and use it to make these quesadillas.  I can prep them in advance and then just warm them up for our lunches in the toaster oven or in a cast iron skillet on the stove top.

Lastly, I think I’ll do another stir-fry this week and am turning to this recipe for Chicken Stir-Fry with Peppers. This will make use of the Italian frying peppers or green bell peppers in this week’s box.  The recipe calls for one pound of peppers, but since we only have a few peppers this week I’ll add any remaining green beans, broccoli stems, random carrots, etc that might still be lingering in the refrigerator to bulk out this meal.

I can’t believe we’re in the last week of July already!  Looking ahead, I’m starting to set aside recipes for edamame, sweet corn and fresh tomatoes!  Next week we’ll have more cucumbers too (hopefully), which is good because I found an interesting recipe for a cucumber and citrus mocktail as well as several recipes for dishes where you stir-fry or cook cucumbers (not something I’ve done before).  See you back here next week for more delicious seasonal cooking!—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Eggplant

Eggplant is one of the most beautiful crops we grow.  The plants grow several feet tall and, in their peak, are loaded with beautiful glossy fruit hanging heavy on the plant.  There are many varieties of eggplant ranging in size from small round eggplant the size of a golf ball to large globe eggplant weighing over a pound.  They come in a variety of colors ranging from various shades of purple to black, green, lavender, white and orange.  We have narrowed our lineup of eggplant to our four favorite varieties including Lilac Bride, Purple Dancer, Listada and the traditional Black eggplant.  

Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and must be cooked.  While it is thought to have originated in the area around India and Pakistan, it has now been spread around the world.  Since eggplant is part of so many cultures, there are a lot of ways you can use eggplant in your cooking.  It is often incorporated into curry and stir-fry dishes in Indian, Thai, and Chinese cuisine.  Sicilians are famous for eggplant caponata while Middle Eastern dishes include baba ganoush.  The French put their mark on eggplant with the traditional Provencal dish, ratatouille.  Eggplant has a mild flavor and soft texture when cooked. Many resources will tell you to salt eggplant before cooking it to remove bitterness.  While some older varieties were bitter, the new varieties we grow have been selected because they are not bitter, thus you can skip the salting step.  Most of our varieties of eggplant have skin that is tender enough to eat, thus you do not need to peel them.  

Eggplant does not store terribly well, so it is best to use it soon after getting it.  It is best stored at a temperature of about 45-50°F, but your home refrigerator should be colder than this.  Thus, we recommend storing your eggplant on the kitchen counter and use it within 2-4 days.  

We encourage you to refer to our blog post from last year which includes pictures and descriptions of each of the eggplant varieties we grow and will help you identify the eggplant in your box this week. 

Eggplant and Chickpea Patties

Yield: 6 - 8 patties

Yogurt Sauce with Onions:
¾ cup Greek yogurt
⅓ cup finely minced onion
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
Pinch cayenne pepper

Eggplant Patties:
4 cups eggplant, small dice 
3 Tbsp sunflower oil, divided
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup finely minced onion (if using green onions, save some green top for garnish)
¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup panko bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten

  1. Make the yogurt sauce:  In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Make eggplant patties:  In a large skillet, combine 2 Tbsp sunflower oil along with the eggplant and garlic.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until eggplant is tender;  remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Add garbanzo beans to a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.  Add to a large bowl.
  4. Add eggplant, onions, cilantro, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to bowl with garbanzo beans;  mix well.
  5. Add panko and eggs;  mix well.  
  6. Preheat a cast-iron griddle or pan over medium-low heat.  Once the griddle or pan is hot, brush the pan with the remaining sunflower oil.  Form mixture into patties (about ½ cup each so you have a total of 6-8 patties) and slide them one at a time into the hot pan.  The mixture may be fairly wet, so it may be easiest to form the patties on a large serving spoon that you can slide them off of when putting them in the pan.  
  7. Cook on each side for about 6 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from the pan and serve warm with yogurt sauce.

 This recipe was adapted from one featured in Mary Janes Farm Magazine

"How's the Weather?"

by Farmer Richard

This is a continuation of our series of newsletters on the subject of “the future of our food” as we discuss what kind of food system we want going into the future.  This week I’d like to discuss a topic that’s always on our minds, but even more so over the past week….WEATHER.

Weather has been with us forever!  In my case I only have 60 years of weather memory.  Starting on the South Dakota plains, with winter blizzards when we went to the neighbors’ house a mile away with Smoky and Barney pulling the bob sled for a Saturday night taco and card game evening.  A night when only a team of horses could have made the trip.  And then there was the ice storm of ’59 when a heavy buildup of ice snapped off power poles for miles.  We were without electricity for two weeks.  My brother Dennis, my Mom and I milked our cows by hand while Dad was off helping the electric linemen put in new poles.  I know something about weather, I’ve farmed around weather for most of a lifetime.  Sometimes it is too wet and sometimes too dry.  We have learned to farm around it.  We watch weather forecasts day and night and plan accordingly!  We make the absolute most of dry days to keep planting schedules and do our weed control.

Early spring onion field on raised beds
Twenty five years ago we converted to farming with a system of raised beds so excess moisture immediately drains to the wheel tracks and off the fields.  We watched the water run during rain storms so we could observe how it moved and then made ditches and berms to protect fields and drain off excess water.  We built high organic matter in the soil that allows it to be more resilient, absorbing  water and at the same time draining well so it can be worked very soon after a rain.  When it was dry, we irrigated.  We learned to use a variety of different irrigation methods including buried drip irrigation lines to efficiently deliver water and nutrients to plant roots without watering the soil surface and germinating new weeds. 
Last year we built a new dike to help prevent rising waters.

We are very good farmers and have consistently raised good to excellent crops through a variety of weather variations that we considered “normal.”  But over the past ten years, that has changed for the worst!  For example, lets look at the history of the Bad Axe River watershed we live and farm in.  Human beings have lived and survived here for 10,000 years, but farmed for only the last 1,500 years.  European settlers have farmed here for less than 200 years.  The Bad Axe River would periodically flood over its banks and damage the rich valley farmland.  So starting in the 50’s a series of dams were built on the North and South forks of the Bad Axe River to hold excess water and prevent flooding.  The dam that is 5 miles above our farm is the Runge Hollow Dam.  It successfully ended flood events until 2007 when we had what was called a “100 year flood,” with an unprecedented 18 inches of rainfall in 24 hours that overflowed the dam and flooded our valley crops. We survived life and limb and came through economically with the help of many friends and customers.  Then it happened again ten months later.  We had another “100 year flood.”  We survived again and went on to have several good years, got out of debt, and then had another “100 year flood” last fall, September 2016.  We really needed a good year to recover from the losses of that last event, but here we go again just 10 months later! 

A fallen tree on our landlord's storage shed!
 Is our climate changing?  Absolutely!!  We have experienced four “100 year” weather events in less than 10 years!  The overall average temperature has risen a few degrees, ie “global warming” has brought us some late, warm falls and some earlier springs which were welcomed by us.  However, those few degrees in the ocean leads to melting the polar ice caps and may not be welcomed by coastal dwellers in the future.  But what we are struggling with now is the extreme, more intense storm events and weather patterns!  What does that look like for us? 

Cleaning up fallen trees & branches
on field roads Thursday morning
Good, healthy soil can absorb up to one inch of rain in an hour with minimal run-off.  We have recently witnessed three inches of steady rain over a six hour period with minimal problems.  But our recent four inches of rain that fell in less than an hour followed by another four inches just six hours later caused huge problems!  Eight inches of rain on every square foot of field at a rate of two or more inches per hour is “intense.”  Our raised beds with five rows of crop, lost the outside two rows!  The water could not drain away fast enough and fields looked like a “lake” for a time because our valley drainage systems were overwhelmed with the huge amounts of water and debris running from the surrounding woods and hillsides.  When I wrote last week’s newsletter about making choices and considering your impact downstream, I had no idea what we were in for before last week was over. In last week’s newsletter I wrote “Sometimes we are the person being impacted downstream and other times we are the one with the ability to impact what’s happening downstream.  Yes our choices do matter and the farming practices you choose to support can make a significant impact on our local health and environment as well as the health and environment downstream.  At the end of the day, we are all a community and we all have choices.”  Unfortunately, last week we were the downstream recipients who paid for the poor choices and irresponsible actions of a farmer on the ridge above us who chose to clear steep hillsides so he could plant corn.  

Farmer Richard making use of his bulldozer to
clean silt and debris off a field.
When the rains came, there was significant erosion off those hillsides that washed down into one of the dry wash ditches that is supposed to direct water from the hillsides and carry it to the river.  The rocks, silt, soil and sand that washed off the ridge top came down fast with the momentum of the water driving it.  It clogged up the dry wash and came close to taking out our neighbor’s solar panels and house basement.  The debris covered Newton road with silt, soil and debris that was one foot deep.  Because the water and debris didn’t follow the intended path, it spilled over the road and onto one of the fields we farm covering half of a field of small beets intended for fall harvest.  In other places, the erosion and volume of water running off the hillsides took out our five fences that contain our animals and cross our small creek.  After the first 4 inches of rain, our crew put back fences to contain the pigs, working well until after dark only to do it all over again in the morning.  There were numerous trees that fell and broke off throughout the valley as a result of the high winds including a large one on our neighbor’s property that took down a power line.  Wednesday evening Juan, Andrea and I got two generators in place and running so we could generate our own power to run the essentials until power was restored 24 hours later.  We kept greenhouses inflated so they were rigid enough to withstand the high winds of the second storm that came through in the middle of the night.  We were also able to keep our coolers and ice machines running as well as the water pump so we could continue to wash and pack vegetables on Thursday as we tried to fill our wholesale orders and prepare to pack CSA boxes on Friday.  Did we say intense and violent storms? 

The goats really like the fallen trees!
In the days that have followed, we have had six skillful young men working full-time replacing fences, cutting downed trees, clearing silt from river crossings and fields. We lost many hundreds of trees, snapped off from tornado like winds.  We can salvage some firewood and maybe hopefully sell some wood products to help contribute towards the cost to clean all this up!  The wind driven rain and the hail the storm brought with it has shredded the leaves on many crops, leaving them vulnerable for leaf disease.  The water-logged soils  have already led to some plants dying.  Brassicas in particular (kale, collards, broccoli, etc) do not like “wet feet,” meaning their root system cannot stand in water for extended periods of time.  We’ve seen many of these sensitive plants wilt, die and add to our losses.  In our past experience we find that waterlogged plants and crops that go through wet, humid days may look fine, but the shelf life may be shorter and they may suddenly start to rot or break down.  So, please be patient, observant and understanding.  Please do your part to store your vegetables properly, keep your eye on them and eat them in a timely manner so you don’t lose them.  We will never intentionally pack a poor quality vegetable, but what may look fine when it goes in the box may not look fine when you take it out or go to use it several days later. 
Replacing fencing panels washed out by the swift current.

What’s next?  We keep talking.  Brainstorming.  We need solutions to these issues, we need changes to policy, we need to figure out the course our future will take.  We’re back to the “future of our food.”  I, once again, encourage you to be part of these conversations so we, as a community, can proactively decide our future.  There are many things that could be done!  But, they take money, direction, leadership, “political will,” regulation, incentives and education.  Firstly, we need understanding, cooperation and the right attitude.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

We Do Have A Choice…And It Matters!

 By Farmer Richard

We make many, many choices daily.  We choose the food we eat, the body care products we use, the clothes we wear, the energy we use for transportation, heating, and cooling.  We make choices about our personal living space and how we treat our family and the extended community that we interact with.  When we make healthy, positive choices for ourselves and our family, we affect the larger “market place.”  When there is consumer demand for healthy products and services, the result is that more healthy choices become available for all of us.  In many cases, our healthy choices can mean less synthetic chemicals are used to produce our food, etc resulting in less chemical residues entering our bodies and less goes into our environment, the air, the water.  That’s the air we breathe and the water that we drink as well as the environment all living creatures depend on for survival.  Whether we realize it or not, we are all connected.

Ducklings in our creek!
Over the past several months, The Country Today newspaper has reported on the experiences of Midwest farmers participating in a cultural exchange with Louisiana fishers, shrimpers and crabbers.  The Country Today editor traveled to Louisiana this spring along with Wisconsin farmers, Dick and Kim Cates. This exchange was made possible with assistance from the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and was funded by a grant received through Wisconsin’s Producer-Led Watershed Protection Program.  The purpose of this exchange was to connect Midwest farmers doing something to keep their water clean and Gulf of Mexico fishermen affected by Midwest farming practices.  It is an undisputed fact that excess synthetic agricultural fertilizer, animal manure and soil from Midwest farm fields are washing down the many watershed creeks and rivers, into the Mississippi River and ending up in the Gulf of Mexico.  This nutrient and chemical pollution has created a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where there is not enough oxygen to support aquatic life.  In 2016, the dead zone was estimated to be an area documented to be the size of the state of Connecticut. 

So just how do our choices and practices in the Midwest affect the fishermen in Lousiana?  While the Gulf of Mexico is quite a distance from the Midwest, we cannot forget that those who live downstream are real people with families and the right to live and work in a healthy environment.  Our Midwestern waste flowing down into their waters directly impacts their health and, in the case of the fishermen, their livelihood.  Diversified farming practices, grass-based grazing, the use of cover crop to prevent erosion and build soil are all practices that can positively impact those downstream by reducing pollution and these practices can make all the difference!  Wisconsin is losing family dairy farms rapidly, yet overall milk production is up due to large mega dairies that have too many animals and too much manure in one place with little to no grass for their animals.  Large-scale meat production is the same.  The animals are fed grain in huge confinement lots, no grass, too much manure which is running off and entering our water.  Yes, our public officials, even universities, have not done their job for the “public good,” but that is another newsletter.

Early Spring Creek water flowing down stream!
You may be thinking, “Ok, but I am not a farmer and I don’t do these things.”  No, but you vote when you make your purchases.  Have you ever wondered why when you drive through the Midwest country side you see mostly corn and soybean fields?  It wasn’t always that way!  Not so long ago, all farms had animals as well as crops and all farms had grass and pastures for these animals to graze in.  When the animals go to huge confinement lots, the more highly erodible land that once produced grass for animals becomes highly erosive corn and soy bean fields to produce grain to feed these animals.  This is just one example from our food system to demonstrate how your vote to purchase grass-fed meat and dairy can make a difference for your own health, but also will impact the whole ecosystem from here to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.    

Dead zones do not only exist in the Gulf of Mexico.  John Rybski, a gentleman who lives in rural northeast Wisconsin, wrote an opinion essay that was published in the June 2017 issue of Acres U.S.A.  In his article he stated the following:  “The accumulation of individual acts to farm “my land” and maximize tillable acres and provide the best, short-term return for “my labor” has turned our streams and rivers in Kewaunee County into open agricultural sewers and the bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan into enormous sewage-holding pods.  The documented dead zones….are clear evidence of the nutrient pollution generated by agriculture destroying these water bodies.”  He also commented that “industrial agriculture is not farming.  Farming is living with the land.  Farming is working with living soils.  Farming is working with a natural cycle where energy from the sun and nutrients provided by the microbial community in the soil is converted by plants into fiber, carbohydrates and proteins to feed animal life.  Sustainable farming is a cycle of addition and subtraction in balance:  neither adding more than is taken nor taking more than is added.  Farming is stewardship.  Industrial agriculture on the other hand is exploitation.  An inch of soil that takes years of forest growth to build can be wind-stripped from fall-plowed bare fields in just five winters.  The long-term results of industrial agriculture are the same in the countryside as the results of industrial manufacturing in urban places--air pollution, water pollution, deteriorating human health and the destruction of the natural environment and all its critters , including, and perhaps rightfully, us.”  Rybski goes on to say “We should be worried, and we must act together;  farmer and consumer, dairyman and neighbor, country-dweller and urban-dweller.” 

Sometimes we are the person being impacted downstream and other times we are the one with the ability to impact what’s happening downstream.  Yes our choices do matter and the farming practices you choose to support can make a significant impact on our local health and environment as well as the health and environment downstream.  At the end of the day, we are all a community and we all have choices.

July 20, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweetheart Cabbage

Cooking with this week’s box……

This week I want to introduce you to Alexandra Stafford, the blog writer behind  Alexandra lives in Upstate New York with her husband and four kids.  She stays busy cooking with the vegetables from her own CSA share and shares her recipes on her blog.  She also writes for and recently published a cookbook about bread.  Both of the recipes featured in this week’s newsletter come from her blog.  So lets dive into the box and talk about this week’s featured vegetable first, Sweetheart Cabbage! 

The first recipe in this week’s newsletter is Alexandra’s Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken. (See Below) It makes a nice main dish salad as it is light enough for a hot summer evening but filling enough to satisfy you.  In addition to the cabbage, this slaw also uses carrots, snow peas and the green tops from the Cipollini onions as well as sliced onion.  This recipe does make about 8 cups of slaw, so if you are a smaller household you will have leftovers or may want to cut the recipe in half.  The slaw is delicious to eat as it is the next day, or repurpose it into spring rolls!  They are pretty quick and easy to make and transport well if you want to take them for your lunch.  If you’ve never worked with rice spring roll wrappers, be patient with yourself.  Your first few will likely tear, but that happens to everyone and you can usually stick them back together.  The other recipe option to consider using your cabbage for this week is The Simplest Slaw, (See Below) which is also featured in the newsletter.  As the name indicates…it is a very simple recipe!  It will leave you with a bowl of creamy cabbage slaw that will make a nice accompaniment to a grilled burger, pan-fried fish, or a barbecued pulled pork sandwich.

Alexandra has some other interesting vegetable focused recipes I’d like to highlight.  You know those bushy carrot tops I’m always encouraging you to eat?  Well you can always fall back on pesto or chimichurri, but here’s another idea to try.  Alexandra has a recipe for Fried Greens Meatless Balls.  This recipe calls for a lot of greens, so you could use the carrot tops along with chard if you like, or any beet tops, amaranth or other greens you might have remaining from last week’s delivery.  There are some good ideas for variations in the comments listed below the recipe, so you might want to peruse them to see what other people have tried.  These Fried Greens Meatless Balls would pair nicely with Alexandra’s New Potatoes with Green HarissaThese tasty potatoes will make good use of basil and any other herbs you have available from your herb garden.  The recipe calls for 1 pound of potatoes, but you have 2 pounds in your box.  You can either double the recipe if you’re feeding more people, or use the other pound of potatoes to make Crushed Potatoes with Cream and Garlic.  This is a recipe from Nigel Slater’s cookbook that we featured in a previous newsletter.  They are an excellent accompaniment to steak or roasted chicken.

The red chard this week is one of my favorite box contents!  I’ve had my eye on Alexandra’s Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon,Parmesan and Breadcrumbs for awhile now.  Chard is usually eaten cooked, but it is tender enough to eat raw if you slice it thinly.  This could easily become a main dish salad by adding some protein such as chicken, tuna or some chickpeas or white beans. 

During the summer we often have sandwiches, good for dinner and easy to make again for lunch the next day.  This week I’m going to use the baby arugula to make Skirt Steak Sandwiches with Herbed Mayonnaise and Arugula. You’ll need to pick a few more herbs from your herb garden to make the mayonnaise.  Serve these sandwiches with Alexandra’s Cucumber and Feta Salad.  This recipe is part of another recipe, so scroll all the way to the bottom of the blog post and you’ll find it. 

What shall we do with the zucchini this week?  Well, I haven’t made zucchini fritters yet this year, so I think it’s time.  Check out Alexandra’s recipe for Zucchini Fritters with Tzatziki.  Her Tzatziki doesn’t call for cucumbers, but I think I’ll dice some up and add it in. 

Lastly, we need to use the broccoli!  I’m saving some of the broccoli to make this Summer Breakfast Strata.  It calls for a small head of broccoli and some zucchini.  I may substitute more broccoli for some or all of the squash and might even add some mushrooms.  Her recipe calls for garlic scapes, but the fresh Italian garlic will be a great substitute.  We’ll enjoy this for Sunday brunch along with a few pieces of bacon and fresh fruit. 

Lastly, before next week’s box rolls around I’ll pull out all the odds and ends of vegetables remaining and turn them into stir-fry.  I’m going to use Alexandra’s Stir-Fried Veggies and Tofu recipe that has a simple 5-ingredient sauce to put on the stir-fry.  Richard isn’t a big fan of tofu, so I’ll probably substitute chicken instead. 

There you have it…this week’s box is all used up.  Thank you Alexandra for helping us find a use for everything in the box!  Now it’s time to start planning what to do with the tomatoes, eggplant and peppers that we’ll be picking very soon!  Have a great week and have fun cooking!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  Sweetheart Cabbage

Sweetheart cabbage is a unique cabbage both in appearance as well as other characteristics.  We plant most of our cabbage for harvest in the fall as cabbage thrives and tastes better when it is grown in more cool temperatures.  One of the unique attributes of sweetheart cabbage is that it does fare well as an early-season cabbage.  It is known as a “salad cabbage” because the leaves are tender enough to be eaten raw in salads and the flavor is mild and well-balanced.  Another reason we grow this variety for summer harvest is that it gives us another option for a “salad green” during the part of the season where salad mix and lettuce are not available.  You can recognize sweetheart cabbage by its pointy head with tightly wrapped leaves. 

Sweetheart cabbage may be eaten raw or lightly cooked.  I recommend slicing it thinly or shredding it for use in vegetable slaws or other raw salads.  It can also be used to make spring rolls (see this week’s recipe) or you may use the leaves as a wrap in place of tortillas or bread.  If you choose to cook it, I’d recommend a quick cooking method such as stir-frying or grilling and be careful not to overcook it!   

Store your sweetheart cabbage loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  Lightly rinse the outer leaves before using.  If you don’t use the entire cabbage for one preparation, wrap the remaining portion of cabbage and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  One cabbage typically yields 6-8 cups of shredded cabbage.

Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken 

Yield: 6 servings
2 chicken breasts, about 1 lb., (optional)
6-8 cups shredded cabbage
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup thinly sliced snow or sugar snap peas*
2 to 3 carrots, thinly sliced or shredded
6 scallions, thinly sliced (May substitute the green onion tops in this week’s box)
1 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped to yield about 1 cup
1 small red onion or purple cipollini onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice and the zest of 2 limes
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 ½ Tbsp sugar 
½ tsp Sriracha, plus more to taste

*Note from Chef Andrea:  The original recipe called for red peppers, but the author encourages you to substitute whatever vegetables you have in season.  I chose to use snow peas in place of the peppers.
  1. If you are using the chicken, bring a small pot of water to a boil and salt the water as if you were going to boil pasta.  Drop in the chicken breasts. Cover the pot. Remove pot from heat. Let stand 15 minutes. Uncover. Remove breasts. Let cool briefly. Pull/shred into pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the cabbage in quarters and remove the core. Thinly slice the cabbage and place in a large bowl. Pour in the oil. Sprinkle evenly with the salt. Massage the cabbage with your hands. Really squeeze it firmly until it shrinks in size and becomes more saturated in hue.
  3. To the bowl of cabbage, add the peas*, carrots, scallions, cilantro, and red onion. Add the chicken, if using.
  4. Make the dressing: Stir together the lime juice, lime zest, fish sauce, sugar, and Sriracha. Pour over the bowl of vegetables. Toss to coat evenly. Taste. Adjust with more salt or Sriracha as needed.

Chef Andrea’s Variations:  This recipe was written by Alexandra Stafford and was featured on her blog,  The actual recipe may be found at  It is delicious as it was originally written, however here are a few variations you might want to consider trying.  
Chef Andrea's Spring Rolls with a Basil leaf added!
  • In addition to the cilantro, add fresh basil and/or mint to the slaw.
  • Consider garnishing the slaw with chopped roasted peanuts or cashews
  • If you have any leftover slaw, repurpose it the next day to make fresh spring rolls using rice paper wrappers.  Simply soak the rice wrappers in water for 20-30 seconds to soften them, then put some of the slaw in the middle of the wrapper and roll it tightly like a burrito.  If you plan to do this with the leftovers, I’d recommend saving about ¼ to ⅓ of the dressing to use as a dipping sauce with the spring rolls. 

Simplest Cabbage Slaw

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

½ cup sour cream
½ cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 small head cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

  1. Whisk together the sour cream, buttermilk, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Taste. For more bite, add another teaspoon of vinegar. Stir and taste again. Adjust with more salt if necessary.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage and onion. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Taste. Adjust with more salt if needed.
This recipe was written by Alexandra Stafford and may be found on her blog,  This is a simple, basic slaw recipe that you can tweek to your liking.  Add some shredded carrots or chopped fresh herbs if you’d like.  Or, just keep it simple.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Garlic Harvest 2017 - It All Depends on the Weather!

By Farmer Richard

I’ve been growing garlic since 1975.  When I first started farming, I didn’t have the ability to do a “google search” to find an answer to a farming question or learn about how to grow different vegetables.  I had to search for my own answers.  So when it came to growing garlic, I tapped another farmer on the shoulder to try to learn more about it.  That farmer was Dave Frattalone, an experienced grower who sold vegetables at the St. Paul farmers’ market.  At the time, Dave was planting a soft neck garlic variety in the spring.  His yield was slim and the bulbs were small, but he had the monopoly on that market because no one else knew how to grow garlic any better!  When I asked Dave for some garlic education, he made it very clear to me that I was on my own to figure this one out.  So, I did my own research and found a grower in Canada who was growing a hard neck type of garlic that he planted in the fall.  So I bought some hard neck garlic seed, planted it in the fall, and the following summer I brought some beautiful garlic bulbs to market to show Dave Frattalone.  While he didn’t say it in words, I could tell that I had earned Dave’s respect with this garlic.  He asked me how I had grown such big, beautiful garlic and I willingly shared the secret with him….plant it in the fall!  This was an important moment in my farming career.  I still had a lot to learn about other vegetables and Dave was one of the old-timers that knew a lot of the information I needed to learn, such as when to plant cauliflower for fall harvest.  Garlic was the key to open the door to this wealth of experience and knowledge.

The crew cracking garlic last fall for planting

While I did buy seed stock in my early years, I quickly learned that garlic seed sold as “disease free” was rarely ever really disease free.  Fusarium basal rot is a common disease in garlic.  Garlic “seed” is actually the cloves on a bulb of garlic.  If you have disease on the bulb, you will likely spread the disease from one year into the next.  In an effort to prevent fusarium basal rot in my garlic, I decided it might be a better idea to raise our own seed stock.  So for the past 30 years we’ve maintained our own seed for two major varieties of hard neck garlic and every year we take the best, biggest, nicest garlic bulbs and plant them for the next year’s crop.

Garlic is not a crop we grow for the wholesale market.  Gilroy, California used to be the “Garlic Capitol of the World,” but now most of the garlic is produced in China and South America, organic included.  Unfortunately the price you can get for garlic is pretty cheap, but the cost to produce garlic is high.  Nonetheless, we still consider garlic to be an important part of our CSA season as well as our own diets!  So we continue to grow garlic and after all these years, I’m still learning how to grow the best garlic!

2016 Fall planting
Mulched garlic field ready for the winter!
This year’s crop was planted last October.  The bulbs were cracked and the individual cloves were separated.  The nice, big cloves that came off of good quality bulbs were set aside to plant for full-sized garlic. If there were any small cloves on a bulb, those cloves were saved to be planted as green garlic.  It’s important for the garlic roots to become well-established before the ground freezes for the winter.  The mulch is important to the survival of garlic over the winter because it protects the garlic from extreme temperature changes and excessive freezing and thawing.  However, you have to get the mulch off the garlic in the spring so the new growth can push through!  Unfortunately, our field crew hadn’t arrived yet when this needed to be done this spring.  As soon as they arrived, one of the first missions they had was to pull back some of the tight-packed mulch.  As a result, we may have lost a few plants that just couldn’t push through the mulch.  But that’s the life of farming, there are no guarantees.  The remaining plants looked really good and have produced some very nice garlic this year!

This year we tried a new method for watering the garlic.  We buried drip tape in the beds so we could easily irrigate and had a means of delivering nutrients through the drip lines at some critical stages of their growth.  After all the garlic scapes were removed from the plants, we watched them closely for signs of maturity and watched the weather closely because, even though we stopped irrigating weeks ago, a heavy rain could make harvest difficult and increase the potential for disease. 

I often use the phrase “it all depends on the weather.” Well, garlic harvest is no different and it is always dependent on the weather.  I’ve been closely watching the garlic as it matures over the past few weeks, while also keeping close watch on the weather forecast.  We deemed this week as the major push to harvest our 1.5 acre field of garlic.  This is no small task and requires a significant amount of crew and time to complete the harvest.  We still have to keep up with our regular harvest schedule while trying to tackle the garlic, so it has proven to be an “All Hands On Deck” kind of week!  To add an element of urgency, they were predicting rain and thunderstorms to move into the area Tuesday night with predictions of over one inch of rainfall.  Yikes!  That could ruin a garlic crop overnight!
Garlic in the greenhouse starting to dry.

So we have been running full throttle since the beginning of the day on Monday and anyone who was available to help with the harvest has joined the fun.  We made pretty good progress in two days and estimated that we’d have about 75% of the crop harvested by the end of the work day on Tuesday.  I asked some field crew members to go to the garlic field after their harvest was complete on Tuesday evening.  We needed help picking up the garlic that had already been dug.  I only intended for them to help get things picked up.  I didn’t anticipate that they decided that they were so close to being finished, we might as well work late, dig the remainder and be done for the year!  We worked until after 8 pm, but at the end of the night every piece of garlic was in the greenhouse.  I must say, it was a good way to end the day and I feel very blessed to be able to work with such a loyal, dedicated, “get the job done” kind of a crew.  They did it…and Tuesday night the weather forecast came true.  We got 1.5 inches of rain overnight.  Good job guys.  Job well done.    
Final harvest sheet records for garlic this year!

July 13, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring New Potatoes

July 13th CSA box contents!

Cooking with this week's box!

Well, it’s been an exciting week here at the farm.  The theme of the first part of the week was “Dig It!”  Thankfully we were able to get all of the garlic dug this week and we dug our first round of potatoes on Monday….ahead of the rainstorm thank goodness!  So we’re going to kick off this week’s “Cooking with the Box” with one of the newsletter recipes this week, Summer Farmer Skillet Dinner (see below).  This is a dish I make throughout the year, varying the ingredients with the season.  This week I made it with the new potatoes, freshly dug carrots, green beans, zucchini and the amaranth greens.  I developed this dish out of necessity.  It’s the end of the day, we’re hungry and I don’t have a plan for dinner.  I start cooking some ground meat, add some onions and garlic….all the while not really knowing where I’m going with this.  I started pulling vegetables out of the refrigerator and adding them in layers, basically until the pan was full.  I needed some kind of a “sauce,” so I added some cream.  Of course everything is better with cheese on top, so that was the finishing touch.  When we sat down to eat, Richard asked “And what’s this dish called?”  My response at that time was simply “Dinner.”  I’ve since refined the meal a bit, but it’s still a simple dish that you can vary with the seasons.  You can also get a pretty significant vegetable count with this dish as well and it’s a good way to use up remainders of vegetables before your next CSA delivery.  Sorry it isn’t anything fancy, it’s just simple farmer food.

There have been some good suggestions for recipes on our facebook group this week.  I’m going to use some of this week’s zucchini to make the Lemon Zucchini Bread recipe one member suggested.  There was also mention of a Zucchini and Garlic Soup recipe.  There isn’t enough zucchini in this week’s box to make both of these, but I’m going to hang on to the soup recipe for a future week. 

There is a good sized portion of broccoli in the box this week.  One recipe I came across was for Skillet Macaroni and Broccoli and Mushrooms and Cheese .Whew, that’s a mouthful to say, but it looks like a pretty good main dish recipe that I think will appeal to children of all ages.  If there’s some broccoli remaining after this dish, I’d like to make Sauteed Broccoli with Toasted Garlic, Orange and Sesame.This looks like a simple recipe that will be delicious with the fresh garlic in this week’s box and will make use of some of the Valencia orange peeling from this week’s fruit share.  This will go nicely alongside grilled teriyaki chicken breasts and a side of steamed rice. 

We have mangoes in this week’s fruit share, so I’m going to try this recipe for a Tropical Cucumber Salad. This fruity salad will make a simple dinner along with broiled salmon. 

Don’t forget to use the carrot tops!  I’m voting for another batch of Carrot Top Pesto that I will toss with cooked pasta and any other bits and pieces of vegetables remaining at the end of the week.  This could become a hot pasta dish, or I might opt to turn it into a cold salad and add some salty olives and freshly grated cheese to finish it off. 

We’ll use a few carrots for the Summer Farmer Skillet Dinner (recipe below), but the remainder will get chopped up in the food processor to make vegetable cream cheese.  I like to chop the raw carrot finely and then fold it into softened cream cheese along with finely sliced onion green tops and fresh herbs from the garden.  This  will becomes a spread for a sandwich or a wrap and will likely make it onto my morning toast as well. 

I think we’ve used just about everything in this week’s box….so I’ll give you a glimpse into what will be coming our way pretty soon.  Richard reported this morning that there are baby eggplant and peppers set on the plants.  The tomato plants have also set on fruit, so it won’t be long before we’re making traditional ratatouille and tomato sandwiches!  Have a great week!

-Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature:  New Potatoes

Harvest starting earlier this week!
The potatoes in your box this week are a variety called Red Norland.  They are an early variety red-skinned potato with creamy white flesh and this week they are classified as a “new potato.” The difference between a new potato and other potatoes we’ll deliver this season is not the variety or the size, but the way they are harvested.  New potatoes are classified as such if they are harvested off of a plant that still has green leaves on it.  With latter varieties, we’ll mow down the potato vine about a week in advance of harvest.  In the week between mowing down the vines and actually harvesting the potatoes, changes take place in the potatoes that help to set the skins and make them better for storage.  They are also easier to handle without damaging the skin. 
New potatoes have a thinner, more tender and delicate skin.  They need to be handled with care so as not to disturb the skin and expose the flesh.  Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place, but not in the refrigerator.  It’s important that they are not exposed to light or they will turn green and be bitter.  In general, potatoes will store for a few weeks at room temperature in a brown paper bag.  However new potatoes will not store as well and are best eaten within one week. Do not store potatoes in a plastic bag or in the refrigerator.

Wagon load of potatoes ready for  CSA boxes!
New potatoes are, in my opinion, the “best of the best” potatoes of the season.  They are tender & creamy with a fresh, pure potato flavor.  This week’s variety is a “waxy” variety.  They lend themselves well to basic boiling, roasting or pan-frying.  You could make “smashed” potatoes with them, but I’d discourage you from making mashed potatoes out of them as waxy potatoes have a tendency to become sticky when mashed.  We still have several more varieties to dig.  Make sure you check the newsletter each week to find out more information about each variety and the best ways to prepare them.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt 

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

2 ½ pounds small waxy potatoes
Fine sea salt
1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
2 Tbsp minced dill
2 Tbsp minced parsley
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh lemon juice and ½ tsp grated lemon zest
½ tsp honey 
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh herbs for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover them with water.  Sprinkle a few pinches of salt into the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the potatoes are tender (but not falling apart).  Test the potatoes by inserting a knife into the center.
  3. While the potatoes cook, prepare the yogurt sauce.  In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, dill, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and zest, honey, oil, and a healthy pinch each of salt and pepper;  whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  4. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them cool for 8 to 10 minutes.  Spread the potatoes out over the baking sheet and use a spatula to lightly press down on each one until it is mostly flattened.  (Some may fall apart a bit, but that’s okay!)
  5. Drizzle each potato with a teaspoon or so of olive oil and roast for 30 minutes or until they are golden brown and crisp on the bottom.  The timing will vary depending on the size and variety of your potatoes.
  6. Serve them with the garlic herb yogurt sauce and a sprinkling of chopped herbs.

This is another tasty recipe from Dishing Up the Dirt, written by farmer Andrea Bemis.