Wednesday, May 27, 2020

May 28, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Baby White Turnips!

Cooking With This Week's Box

Baby Spinach: Spinach & Filo Feta Bundt Cake; Bright Spring Salad; Mini Ham & Cheese Spinach Breakfast Pies

Egyptian Walking Onions: Miso Butter Brothy Beans with Scallions; Korean Spicy Green Onion Salad

Green Garlic: Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy-Pickled Eggs (see below); Radiant Bok Choy Soup; Korean Spicy Green Onion Salad

Asparagus: Bright Spring Salad; Asparagus Ribbon Salad

Red Radishes and/or Diana Radishes: Bright Spring Salad; Buttered Radish Tartines

Baby Arugula: Bright Spring Salad; Asparagus Ribbon Salad; Arugula Gimlet

Hon Tsai Tai: Radiant Bok Choy Soup; Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce

Little Gem Head Lettuce OR Baby Bok Choi: Bright Spring Salad; Radiant Bok Choy Soup

Saute Mix: Bright Spring Salad; Mini Ham & Cheese Spinach Breakfast Pies

Baby White Turnips: Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy-Pickled Eggs (see below); Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza

Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza
A little rain and some heat means things are happening fast around here!  You can almost see the radishes and asparagus growing as you watch them!   This week we have another hearty box of greens to enjoy along with gorgeous little baby white turnips!  So lets get started cooking!  This week’s featured recipe comes from Andrea Bemis’ Dishing Up The Dirt blog.  If you haven’t checked out Andrea’s blog, you really should.  Her recipe collection is an awesome resource for finding seasonal recipes you can make from a CSA box.  She herself is a farmer and grows vegetables for CSA and market customers.  She gets it!  This week’s recipe for Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy-Pickled Eggs (see below) is very easy to make and full of flavor.  Soy-Pickled Eggs might seem a little odd, but I’m telling you they are delicious.  Really, it’s the combination of the soup, the egg and a little kim chi that makes this soup a keeper.  Several years ago I featured Andrea’s recipe for Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza.  That’s right, use the greens to make a pesto which is the sauce for the crust.  It’s delicious!

Arugula Gimlet, photo by Alex Lau for
Once again, I’m excited to see so much great interaction in our Facebook group!  Way to find some good uses for our greens!  This Spinach & Filo Feta Bundt Cake is a masterpiece that will blow you away, both in appearance and taste.  Someone also shared this recipe for an Arugula Gimlet.  Arugula in a cocktail?  Why not?!

We’ve seen pretty hearty harvest numbers for asparagus this week, so enjoy the big bunch!  I have two asparagus salad recipes to share this week.  The first is from and is called Bright Spring Salad.  Take your pick as to what you want to use for the base of the salad.  Baby arugula, lettuce, saute mix or spinach would all work.  Top it off with asparagus, radishes, roasted chickpeas and a light vinaigrette.  The other asparagus salad I want to recommend is this Asparagus Ribbon Salad.  This is a creation by Sarah Britton from My New Roots blog.  She uses baby arugula tossed with light honey lemon vinaigrette as the base and tops it off with shavings of asparagus spears, pecorino cheese and toasted hazelnuts!

Mini Ham & Cheese Spinach Breakfast Pies
photo from
I like to work as many vegetables into breakfast as I can.  I also like things that are easy to eat on the go, such as these Mini Ham & Cheese Spinach Breakfast Pies.  This recipe calls for shallot and garlic cloves, but you can sub in green onions and green garlic.  You can also use saute mix or spinach as the green.

This week we are sending one of our favorite spring specialty greens, hon tsai tai.  This green is related to bok choi, so you can really substitute it for bok choi in any recipe.  I came across this recipe for Radiant Bok Choy Soup.  There is a lot of nutritious goodness in a bowl of this soup!  The broth is based on coconut milk flavored with garlic, ginger, onions and turmeric.  You can also add mushrooms and tofu if you like.  If you’re looking for a fun weekend cooking project, consider making Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce featured in last year’s newsletter!

This week we’re harvesting overwintered Egyptian Walking onions as well as Potato Onions.  Both of these are multiplier onions that we plant in the fall when we plant garlic.  You can use them as you would any other green onion, but do notice their unique flavors.  Both of these onions have a very distinct oniony flavor and are very savory.  I like this simple recipe for MisoButter Brothy Beans with Scallions which really lets the onion stand out.  I also like this recipe for Korean Spicy Green Onion Salad.  Serve this as a little condiment or side salad alongside grilled meats or other barbecued items.

Do you have any radishes hanging out in the refrigerator?  If so, you’re lucky!  Use them to make these simple, but very tasty, Buttered Radish Tartines.  There is nothing like the combination of butter, salt and fresh radishes in the spring!

That brings us to the bottom of another box!  As we take a glimpse into the next week, it looks like we’re going to start harvesting rhubarb and likely salad mix!

Have a good week—

Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Baby White Turnips

By Chef Andrea

We call them Baby White Turnips, but they are also often referred to as Hakurei or salad turnips.  Every year I gravitate back to the same adjectives to describe this vegetable.  Simply put, they are pristine with their bright white roots and contrasting green tops.  You’ll find these turnips to be mild flavored, tender & slightly sweet.  The edible greens have a mild mustard flavor and are delectable, so make sure you get your money’s worth and put them to use!  Both the greens and the turnips are tender enough to either eat raw or just lightly cook them.

Baby white turnips thrive in the cool of spring and again later in the fall.  If you think you don’t like turnips, I encourage you to give these a try.  Likely your opinion was based on improperly cooked storage turnips.  Compared to the common purple top turnip, or other storage turnips, salad turnips are much more mild and subtle in both flavor and texture.  The storage turnips we grow in the fall are meant for storage purposes and thus have a thicker skin compared to a salad turnip.  Baby white turnips also mature much faster and are ready ahead of other early season root crops such as beets and carrots. 
To prepare the turnips for use, wash both the roots and greens well to remove any dirt.  You can prolong the shelf life by storing the greens separate from the roots.  These turnips have such a thin exterior layer, there is no need to peel them.  They are delicious eaten raw in a salad, or just munch on them with dip or a little salt.  You can also cook them, but remember to keep the cooking time short and the preparation simple.  One of our favorite ways to eat them in the spring is simply sautéed or steamed in butter with the greens wilted on top.  They are also delicious stir-fried or roasted.  The greens may be added to raw salads, turned into pesto, or lightly sautéed, steamed or wilted.

Creamy Turnips, Grits & Greens
Baby white turnips have become more popular in recent years, so the likelihood of finding some interesting recipes is greater now than when I was first introduced to them over 10 years ago!  For starters, check out our recipe archives where you’ll find other recipes such as Creamy Turnips, Grits & Greens; White Turnip Salad with Miso Ginger Vinaigrette and Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza.  If you’ve been with us in past years you may know these are amongst my favorite things to make with these turnips!  Another great place to find more recipes is Andrea Bemis’s blog, Dishing Up the Dirt .  I’ve sourced recipes from Andrea’s blog for several years and keep going back because she has a lot of good ones!  She’s also a vegetable farmer who develops seasonal recipes for her own family and her CSA members.  She just might have the largest original collection of recipes using baby white turnips on the internet!  I popped over to her blog last week looking for a specific recipe only to find she recently posted a new recipe featuring baby white turnips!  I couldn’t resist, so one of this week’s featured recipes is Andrea’s Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy-Pickled Eggs.  Whatever you end up making, I hope you enjoy these pretty little beauties as much as I do!

Spicy Pork & Turnip Soup with Soy Pickled Eggs

Yield:  6 servings

1 pound ground pork
2 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
¾ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½ tsp ground cumin
Hefty pinch of salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 stalks green garlic, finely chopped (white and green parts), or garlic cloves
1 bunch baby white turnips, with greens
4 cups water
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce + additional to taste
1 tsp fish sauce

Optional (But highly Recommended) Toppings:
1-2 Tbsp kimchi
1 Tbsp fermented chili paste

Soy Pickled Eggs:
6 eggs
2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole OR 1 stalk green garlic cut into ½” pieces
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¾ cup low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  1. Gently lower eggs into a large saucepan of boiling water.  Cook 7 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water and let cool until you can easily handle them.  Peel the eggs and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, bring garlic, pepper flakes, soy sauce, rice vinegar and 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium size saucepan.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the eggs.  Let the eggs marinate in the mixture for at least one hour or in the fridge overnight.
  3. Prepare the turnips by separating the green tops from the turnips.  Wash both well, then cut the turnips into ½-inch chunks.  Roughly chop the greens into bite-sized pieces.  Set both aside.
  4. Mix the pork, ginger, red pepper flakes, cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl until combined.  Set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat.  Add the green garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring often.  Add the pork and use a wooden spoon to break up the meat a bit.  Cook until lightly browned and no longer pink.  About 5-7 minutes.  Add the water, turnips (reserving the greens for later) and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the turnips are fork tender, about 10 minutes.  
  6. Add the turnip greens, soy sauce and fish sauce and give the pot a good stir.  Simmer for about 5 minutes longer to let the flavors meld.  Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.
  7. Cut the soy pickled eggs in half.  Portion the soup into bowls and serve with the quick pickled eggs and fermented chili paste and/or kimchi.  
Recipe borrowed from, a blog by Andrea Bemis!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

May 21, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Greens!

Cooking With This Week's Box

Overwintered Spinach: Easy Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie (see below); Evergreen Salad in Sunflower Thyme Marinade

Chives: Easy Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie (see below); Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus (see below); Chive and Cheese Breadsticks; Radishes with Chive Butter

Green Garlic: Easy Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie (see below); Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus (see below)

Asparagus: Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus (see below); Cheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus; Canal House Shaved Asparagus & Arugula Salad

Baby Arugula: Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus (see below); Evergreen Salad in Sunflower Thyme Marinade

Saute Mix: Easy Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie (see below); Evergreen Salad in Sunflower Thyme Marinade

Welcome back for our third week of “Cooking With the Box!”  I hope you’re enjoying delicious meals and having fun with these spring vegetables.  Based on the activity in our private Facebook group, it looks like things are happening in your kitchens!  If you haven’t yet joined our Facebook group, I’d really encourage you to do so.  There has already been a lot of great interaction amongst members, including some first-year members who are tackling & conquering nettles, ramps and other unfamiliar foods they’ve never prepared before!  I also have to say I’m very proud of one of our CSA kiddos who made gluten-free parsnip, lemon & poppyseed muffins!  One of the reasons we love growing for CSA is because it gives members a chance to not only prepare their own healthy meals, but also because it gives families a chance to cook together.  I loved cooking with my mom when I was a kid and have a lot of great memories of laughing with her while we prepared meals and baked.  So, I’m challenging you this week to involve all members of the household in helping to cook through this week’s box!

This week’s box is filled with beautiful leafy greens!  This is the season for greens and they all look so fresh and beautiful!  In this week’s vegetable feature we aren’t featuring any one vegetable, but rather are talking about “greens” in general terms as they can be used interchangeably in recipes.  One of our featured recipes this week is for Easy Crustless Spinach & Feta Pie (see below).  This recipe was shared in our Facebook group several times, so I figured it must be a good one!  It uses up to a pound of greens!  While the original recipe calls for spinach, you can use a mix of spinach along with saute mix, arugula and/or radish tops if you like.  The second recipe is for Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus (see below).  This is a nutrient packed salad that may be eaten at room temperature or cold.  It features not only asparagus and arugula, but also green garlic and chives.  It’s dressed with a light citrus vinaigrette to bring it all together.

Chicken Taco Lettuce Wraps
photo from
We also have a cute little head of Little Gem lettuce in the box this week.  You can use it as a salad item and combine it with other greens in the box such as the baby arugula and/or saute mix.  I have been looking forward to these little heads because I like to use the leaves as wrappers for chicken or egg salad, black bean “tacos” and other fillings such as this recipe for Chicken Taco Lettuce Wraps.  We’ll likely be sending more of these little head lettuces next week, so if you have extra filling leftover save it to eat next week!

I was looking back at some of our archived recipes and came across this one for Evergreen Salad in Sunflower Thyme Marinade.  This is a tasty salad that would actually be good made with this week’s Spinach, Saute Mix and/or Little Gem Lettuce.

If you’re joining us for the first time this week, I want to refer you to our blog post last week where we featured Sorrel.  We featured several recipes including a Strawberry-Orange Sorrel Smoothie that I’ve made several times over the past week!  I also made a batch of my favorite Sorrel Hummus, but this week I want to make Poached Fish in Sorrel Coconut Sauce.  There are only 4-6 ounces of sorrel in this week’s box, so I’ll halve the recipe and make it for 2 people.

Roasted Radishes with Chive Butter
photo from
The radishes in this week’s box are so beautiful!  We’ve included two different varieties including the standard red radishes everyone is familiar with and Diana radishes.  The Diana radishes are the purple and white ones.  Radishes grown at this time of year are generally more well-balanced in flavor.  I seldom get past dipping them in salt and butter and popping them in my mouth.  If you want to actually use them in a recipe I highly recommend this Dal with Radish Raita.  This dish makes a great vegetarian main dinner dish.  Of course I would be slacking on my job if I let you get away without eating your radish tops too!  Check out this recipe for Radish Top Pasta with Chickpeas and Parsley.  Are you one of those individuals who doesn’t care for radishes, regardless of the season?  If so, consider eating them cooked!  This is a tasty looking recipe for Roasted Radishes with Chive Butter.  When you cook radishes, the sharpness in the flavor mellows and radishes are actually very tender, mild and often slightly sweet.

Canal House Shaved Asparagus & Arugula Salad
photo from
What are you going to do with the bunch of precious asparagus!  This recipe for Cheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus looks pretty delicious!  Another good suggestion is to make this Canal House Shaved Asparagus & Arugula Salad, especially since we have both arugula and asparagus in the box this week.  This was posted on by one of my favorite bloggers, Alexandra Stafford.  She actually took this quick and easy salad and turned it into a meal by spreading it out on a pre-baked flatbread/tortilla or other flat bread like item.

Last but not least, it’s time to make Chive and Cheese Breadsticks!  This recipe offers a shortcut of using frozen bread dough, which helps to cut back on prep time.  These would make a delicious accompaniment to a big, fresh salad!

I hope you have a great week and make sure you “Eat Your Greens!”  Next week we’re hoping to harvest sweet little baby white turnips along with some overwintered onions.  We’ll also likely harvest our first crop of spring-planted spinach and maybe even some salad mix!  Have a great week!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Look at All These Greens!

By Chef Andrea

“Food is the most intimate connection we have with our Earth, as we literally become the food that we eat…..It is not a coincidence that certain foods give us what we need during specific times of the year:  high-water-content foods in summer, such as crispy cucumbers and tomatoes cool us down;  sweetly rich, starchy, calorie-dense foods like pumpkins and beets to fuel us through the winter.  By taking our cues from nature we align ourselves with the rhythms of the Earth, and consequently our bodies’ needs, meanwhile sensually tuning in to the exquisite yet fleeting deliciousness of each cycle.”—Sarah Britton from My New Roots.

This is the time of the year when leafy greens are abundant and make up a large portion of a seasonal Midwestern diet.  As we come out of winter, you may find your body craving green vegetables.  Thankfully, nature’s design provides us with nutrient rich greens bursting with vitality to bring us out of our winter dormancy.  Some greens, such as nettles and sorrel, are perennial or wild crops that just come up in the spring on their own.  Then there’s the overwintered spinach that was planted last fall, spent the winter under a cover in the field, and now we’re harvesting the new growth this spring.  These crops help us get a jump start on the season providing fresh vegetables ahead of other crops that we have to plant and wait for in the spring.  However, some crops such as the baby arugula, saute greens and mini heads of lettuce in this week’s box grow to harvestable size in just 4-6 weeks.  These crops are also more cold hardy and thrive in cooler temperatures.  All of these greens are an important part of our spring diet both because they are available but also because they have valuable vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that benefit our bodies in many ways, especially in the spring!

Saute Mix
So this week we’re not going to talk about a specific vegetable, but rather a more generalized approach to embracing this class of vegetables we’re going to simply refer to as “greens.”  For starters, lets embrace the fact that greens are nature’s fast foods! They are tender enough to eat raw, but may also be lightly steamed or sautéed.  Either way, they can become a meal in a very short period of minutes!  Toss the greens with a light vinaigrette and you have the base for a salad.  It could be just a simple salad of greens and vinaigrette or you can add anything you want to turn it into more of a substantial salad that could serve as your entire meal.  Raw or cooked vegetables such as asparagus, radishes, carrots, etc along with dried or fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, croutons, hard-boiled eggs, grilled beef, shredded chicken, fish or cooked beans.  The combinations of ways you can build a salad are limitless and the greens serve as the base upon which to build your masterpiece!

Wilting Amaranth Greens in saute pan
Cooked greens can be very simple or may be incorporated into a wide variety of other dishes and preparations.  You don’t really need a recipe to cook greens.  Basically, put them in a pan with either a little bit of oil and/or a little liquid.  The liquid could be a little bit of water, fruit juice, wine, broth, cream or milk, or even just a splash of soy sauce.  You just need to create some steam with heat and liquid.  Put a lid on the pan for a minute or two just until the greens wilt down.  Once wilted, take the lid off and you’re done.  Eat them on their own or incorporate them into a wide variety of things including quesadillas, grain dishes, pasta, eggs, casseroles, smoothies, soups—so many options.  The other thing about cooking greens is that they go from a big fluffy pile that looks like a lot, maybe even too much for you to ever eat your way through, to a pile that will fit in the palm of your hand once they are cooked.  You’ll go from saying “What am I going to do with all these greens” to “Where did all my greens go?  As I’ve said so many times before, don’t be intimated by a vegetable, especially a bountiful pile of leafy greens!

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Arugula & Citrus

Yield:  4 servings as a light meal or more as a side

2 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup green garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 cup quinoa
12 ounces asparagus, woody ends trimmed, sliced into 1-inch lengths
Finely grated zest of ½ large orange 
½ cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup finely chopped chives
1 cup roughly chopped baby arugula
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Citrus Dressing
Juice of ½ large orange  
Juice of 1 lemon 
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Begin by boiling about 2 cups of water in a kettle.  Heat remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan, add green garlic and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until translucent.  Add sesame seeds and quinoa and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring often until lightly toasted.  Add 1 ½ cups boiling water, reduce to a gentle simmer, cover pan, and cook for 10-12 minutes until all the water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender.  Remove from heat.  Leaving the lid on, set aside to steam for another 5 minutes before fluffing up with a fork.  Cool to room temperature.  
  2. Meanwhile, blanch asparagus in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 1-2 mintues or until just tender.  Drain and refresh in cold water.
  3. To make the citrus dressing, simmer orange and lemon juice in a small saucepan until reduced by half.  Remove from the heat, add honey or maple syrup, then pour in olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to form a lovely emulsified dressing.  Taste and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
  4. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and stir in orange zest, almonds, chives, asparagus, arugula, feta cheese and the dressing.  Toss well and adjust seasoning if needed. 
Recipe adapted from Emma Galloway’s book, My Darling Lemon Thyme.

Easy Crust-less Spinach and Feta Pie

Yield:  4-6 servings

photo from
1 pound fresh spinach and/or other leafy greens (10 oz frozen spinach or greens)
½ cup chopped green onions, chives or green garlic
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
½ cup crumbled feta
2 Tbsp grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
⅔ cup milk
1 tsp olive oil
2 large eggs, beaten
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Lightly grease a pie pan with oil.
  3. If using fresh spinach and/or greens, you need to cook them first.  Heat a medium size pan over medium heat.  Add a few tablespoons of water and the greens.  Cover the pan and simmer for a few minutes or until the greens are wilted.  Put the greens in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Once cooled, squeeze the excess water out of the greens and roughly chop them with a knife.
  4. Mix the spinach and/or other greens along with the green onion, dill, parsley, and feta cheese.  Spoon the mixture into the pie dish.  
  5. Bake for 28-33 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the pie stand for at least 5 minutes before serving.
This recipe was adapted from and was shared by a member in our private Facebook group this year as well as in previous years.  I figured a recipe that makes a return appearance in the group is worth sharing with others!  It’s also a great recipe for using a large quantity of greens.  Don’t be afraid to mix and match whatever leafy greens you have available.

The Future of Harmony Valley Farm: Introducing Rafael Morales Peralta!

Interviewed by:  Andrea Yoder

Rafael Morales Peralta
This week we’d like to introduce you to Rafael Morales Peralta, the most recent addition to the Harmony Valley Farm, LLC partnership along with me and Richard.  Rafael set out to write this article himself, and while his English is quite good, we knew he had more to share with all of you than his knowledge of English words would allow.  So, Rafael and I sat down and had a long chat about who he is and what he’d like to share with you about his life’s journey.  I’ll do my best to convey his thoughts and hope that one day in the future you will have the opportunity to talk with Rafael yourself!  Before we go any further, Richard has a few introductory thoughts he’d like to share.

Rafael operating the ASA lift root crop harvestor, October 2019
“Harmony Valley Farm is my life’s work and it is my desire to see it continue indefinitely into the future.  My own biological son, Ari, was raised on the farm and understands the challenges, but is pursuing a career as an environmental lawyer and does not wish to be “stuck with having to manage the farm” when I retire.  Thus, I’ve sought out individuals to bring into the business as co-owners and partners to carry Harmony Valley Farm into the future.  Andrea has definitely proven her mastery of organization, food safety, sales, greenhouse and packing shed management, and so much more.  With help from Simon, Kelly, Gwen and Amy, they are a team that is managing the details well through very challenging times.  But then there is the additional challenge of field planning, machine maintenance, planting crops, managing irrigation, weed control, coordinating the harvests, cover crops, fertility, and so much more.  It is too much for Andrea or any one person to manage it all.  Thus, for the last 15 years, I have been looking for an individual who has the potential to fill this role.  There have been a few promising people, but for a variety of reasons it was clear that our need was not in alignment with their path in life.  

When Rafael started working here, it was clear he had an intense interest and desire to learn.  He was always there to help whenever there was a need.  He rose in the rank of possibility as he mastered every task presented to him and continued to look for more responsibilities and thrived on learning new skills.  He also started to contribute in greater ways by starting to suggest improvements to the way we do things.  So that led me to make the decision to sponsor Rafael for a permanent visa to facilitate the opportunity for him to become an owner in the business.  After a long process spanning nearly four years, Rafael finally received his permanent residency status last year and is in the process of getting visas for his family so they may join him.  We are hopeful that we’ll see them before school starts this fall.  

Despite Rafael’s limited formal education, he has demonstrated a desire to continue to learn and he is a very intelligent individual.  He has mastered the internet and uses it to research new cultivating methods on You Tube, locates parts diagrams for old and specialty equipment and orders parts that are difficult to find.  He has been well-received by our local suppliers and is earning their respect.  I continue to help out with the difficult agronomy, fertility, pest scouting, setting priorities, etc, but Rafael now handles the majority of the daily questions, problems and needs that come up.  The crew now calls Rafael and Andrea first because they don’t want to risk waking me from my mid-day nap!  I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with Rafael and feel confident he’ll carry the farm into the future.”—Richard de Wilde, Harmony Valley Farm’s Founding Farmer

August 2012, Rafael Harvesting Sweet Corn
Rafael comes to us from a small community in Mexico called San Miguel de Allende which is located in the state of Guanajato.  He was born and raised in this community, and this is where his family still lives.   He comes from a very loving, tightly-knit family.  There are 8 children, four boys and four girls.  Rafael is the youngest of the boys.  His brothers, Manuel, Alvaro and Alejandro also work at HVF and it is clear that they were raised by very good parents!  I asked Rafael if he respects his parents and he answered immediately with a very strong “Yes, absolutely.”  His parents struggled to overcome during very challenging economic times while he was growing up.  While they may not have had an abundance of financial resources to buy them “things,” they always pushed their children to do the right thing and continue to strive to be good people and have a better future.  From his humble beginnings, Rafael was taught the value of working hard from an early age.  He shared with me that his grandfather had 1 hectare (2.2 acres) of land that he grew corn, beans and squash on.  Rafael and his brothers remember helping his grandfather work the land and care for the crops.  Most of the food they grew went to their large extended family, but the squash was a cash crop.  Actually, he didn’t sell the squash but rather the seeds.  Rafael remembers having to scrape the squash seeds out of the squash.  He also remembers how sore his fingers were after doing this all day!  Once the seeds were extracted his grandfather would lay them out to dry before putting them in big bags to take to town and sell.  On the days Rafael and his brothers helped him he would send a little extra food home with them.  Even before they could bring home a paycheck, this was their way of contributing to their family’s needs. 

Rafael doing precision cultivating of 5-row cilantro crop
Rafael and his brothers went to school, but Alvaro and Alejandro were the only ones who completed high school.  Manuel, the oldest son, left school after the third grade so he could work with his father to provide for the family.  His father was a hard worker, but the problem was that things were not good in Mexico at that time and people worked hard but received very little pay in return.  With eight mouths to feed, it was hard to make ends meet.  As Rafael got older and began to understand his family’s situation more clearly, he really wanted to help his parents.  He made the decision to quit school after his second year of high school so he could work.  While Rafael doesn’t regret leaving school to help his family, he always had a desire to continue learning.  He worked for awhile on a large broccoli farm and later had the opportunity to come to the United States on a H2A visa to work with race horses in Kentucky.  He did this work for about three years and then the opportunity fell through due to some unfortunate circumstances.  While the pay was better, working with horses was not something he really enjoyed, especially after one bit him on the arm!

Spending time with guests in the sweet potato
field, Harvest Party 2019
In 2004 Rafael married his beautiful wife, Adriana.  It is very clear that Rafael and Adriana have a very strong relationship.  Rafael describes his wife as “a great woman.”  I asked him to tell me what makes her “great.”  She is a strong woman who has always stood by his side as they have created goals and dreams together for their family.  They function as a team and she has committed to working just as hard as Rafael to create a better future for their family.  They both understand this means making sacrifices sometimes.  While they would like for their family to be together, they realize the opportunities for working in the United States afford their family more resources to build their future.  So, while Rafael is working here, Adriana has done her part to manage their household, raise their children, take care of her parents and continue to help others in their community who are in need.  She also started a small business selling kitchen supplies in order to earn some extra money.  Rafael has a tremendous amount of respect for his wife and further describes her as a very caring individual who is willing to help anyone.  Together they have three children.  Jimena, is 14 years old.  She does very well in school and wants to study medicine and become a doctor.  She is a tremendous help to her mother.  His oldest son, Adrian, is 13 years old.  He’s a quiet child and is interested in becoming a mechanic.  Their baby is Mateo.  He is 4 years old and is totally different from their two older children!  He is very outgoing and isn’t afraid to talk to anyone.  He keeps everyone entertained and laughing!
Rafael is happiest on a tractor!
 October, 2010
Rafael’s brother, Manuel, came to work at HVF in 2009.  After his first year, Rafael asked him if there might be an opportunity for him to work here as well.  Manuel asked us and we said “yes!”  At that time, Rafael and Adriana were looking for an opportunity that would move them closer towards their dreams for a better life.  They were working very hard seven days a week.  Rafael was working construction Monday through Friday and on Saturday and Sunday he would work with Adriana at their own little business.  They rented a grill and sold taquitos from their own little food cart.  Rafael describes the opportunity to come and work at HVF as the first step on his journey to achieving his dreams.  He didn’t know it at the time, but the opportunities would continue to stack up over time and the fact that he was present and willing to take risks and step outside of his comfort zone put him in a good position for a better life.  Rafael remembers calling Richard on the radio on only his second day of work!  He didn’t even know how to speak English, but he heard how others were talking on the radio.  He was working with Manuel doing irrigation and they had a problem with a hose and needed Richard’s help.  He called to Richard using the limited words he had, and the end result?  “It worked!  He understood me and showed up in the field to help us!”  Little by little over time, Rafael’s confidence was built.

One time he was clearing brush with Vicente. Vicente, an experienced equipment operator, was running the skidsteer with the brush puller on it.  Rafael asked him if he could try.  Vicente wasn’t so sure it was a good idea because Richard hadn’t given him permission, but he let Rafael have a chance at it.  No more than three minutes after Rafael got in the skidsteer, Richard pulled up in his truck.  “Oh man, I’m in trouble” was the thought that rolled through Rafael’s mind.
Making guajillo salsa to serve with goat
carnitas at our crew harvest party!
He stopped the machine and started to get out.  Richard motioned for him to get back in the skidsteer and continue.  He wanted to see what Rafael could do!  There was another similar incident where Rafael, Vicente and Manuel were clearing a wooded area with the bulldozer.  Rafael did not have any experience operating the bulldozer, but he had been carefully watching Vicente, Manuel and Richard.  They had a tricky situation where they were trying to move a large stump to a pile to be burned.  Vicente, Manuel and Richard all gave it their best shot, but none of them could make it happen.  Richard left and Vicente and Manuel resigned themselves to the fact that it couldn’t be done.  Rafael on the other hand had been watching all the tactics that were not working and devised a different plan for how to move the stump.  After Richard left he asked Vicente if he could try.  While very hesitant, Vicente agreed to let him try after saying “Come on Man, you’ve watched all of us try and it can’t be done.”  Rafael tried his plan and within five minutes he was able to move the stump to the desired location.  When Richard returned and saw what had been done he asked “Who moved that stump to the pile?”  Rafael was very nervous.  He knew they had to tell him, but he also knew he might get in trouble since Richard had not given him direct permission to operate the bulldozer.  They told Richard Rafael did it and to Rafael’s surprise, Richard looked at him and gave him a big “Thumbs Up” and a smile.  Yes, this was certainly another huge boost in confidence for Rafael!

Rafael preparing to kill weeds with the Flame Weeder
Over time Rafael continued to seek out more “missions” and willingly accepted more responsibilities.  He continued to align himself with opportunities to learn more from Richard and other experienced crew members.  He reached out to Vicente who spoke very good English.  Vicente became his teacher helping him learn more English so he could better communicate with us independently.  Now, Rafael recognizes how his hard work and perseverance are paying off.  He loves his job and wants to continue to work here into the future.  He also loves his family and wants them to be together.  Going back and forth to Mexico year after year is hard.  It’s hard having to leave his family every year.  They all want to be together and hopefully, they are close to realizing that part of the dream.  As Rafael continues to build his career here, he realizes how much his work has become a big part of his life.  He knew very little about organic agriculture when he first came here, but over time he’s come to value this method of farming and the benefits it has to the people growing and eating the food as well as the environment.

Always optimistic, Strawberry Day, 2019

We continue to learn from each other.  Farming is not easy and we get a lot of curveballs thrown at us every year, but the three of us continue to push forward.  While we all come from slightly different backgrounds, Richard, Rafael and I all come from humble beginnings.  We all understand the value of working hard and have a desire and passion to carry this farm into the future.  Richard and I appreciate Rafael’s energy, enthusiasm, positive outlook and drive.  We are happy to have him as our partner and want you to know we are doing the best job we can to grow vegetables for you and your family.  We also look forward to meeting Rafael’s family.  Even though they are in Mexico, they too have greatly contributed to the future of Harmony Valley Farm with through their love and support.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

May 14, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sorrel!

Cooking With This Week's Box

Sorrel: Pasta with Sorrel Butter & Nettles (see below); Strawberry-Orange Sorrel Smoothie (see below); Frosty Sorrel & Banana SmoothieSpring Greens Soup

Chives: Pasta with Sorrel Butter & Nettles (see below); Spring Greens Soup

Welcome to our second week of “Cooking With the Box!”  For those of you who are joining us for the first time, I am Chef/Farmer Andrea and every week I meet you here to walk you through the box.  I offer recipe suggestions and links for every item in the box in hopes that something will strike your fancy or inspire you to make your own creation.  Lets not forget that cooking and eating can be a lot of fun, so dive in and try some new recipes!

Frosty Sorrel & Banana Smoothie
Lets start off with our featured vegetable, sorrel.  Sorrel is most commonly used in soups and sauces for fish, which are quite tasty but certainly not the only thing you can do with sorrel!  One of this week’s featured recipes is Pasta with Sorrel Butter & Nettles (see below).  This recipe starts with making sorrel butter.  If you have extra remaining, you can either use it in your morning scramble, spread it on a piece of toast, or freeze it to use another day!  This recipe includes chicken (optional) and nettles and comes together pretty quickly.  When you serve it, be sure to garnish the dish with freshly grated Parmesan and chopped chives.  The second featured recipe is for a Strawberry-Orange Sorrel Smoothie (see below).  I love putting sorrel into smoothies.  It just seems to be an invigorating way to start the day and sorrel pairs well with berries, bananas and other fruits.  This is a sister recipe to my Frosty Sorrel & Banana Smoothie from 2017.

I was recently reminded of a recipe I created several years ago for Spring Greens Soup.  This is a powerhouse soup that uses sorrel, ramps, sunchokes, nettles & chives!  This is the week to make this recipe while you have all of the vegetables.  Nettles are often used in soups such as the Spring Greens Soup, but there are a lot of other options for using this vegetable as well.  There were some great suggestions from members in our private Facebook Group over the past week.  I had forgotten about this recipe for Coconut Chicken & Chickpea Curry with Nettles.  We published this recipe in 2018 and it features not only nettles but sunchokes as well.  Another member shared this link for a Vegan Nettle & Ramp Pesto.  It’s nice to have a jar of pesto in the refrigerator as it may be used in a wide variety of ways to create a quick meal.  I also have two suggestions for less traditional ways to use nettles.  I’ve mentioned the Lemon and Stinging Nettle Cupcakes before, but I’m telling you they are delicious!  I also came across this recipe for Nettle, Sorghum and Bourbon Cocktail.  Surely you can find something to do with your nettles!!

Absurdly Addictive Asparagus, photo by Rocky Luten for
Can we ever get our fill of asparagus this time of year?  I want to try this recipe for Absurdly Addictive Asparagus.  With a name like this, how can we not try this!?  The recipe calls for leeks and garlic.  I would suggest substituting ramps and green garlic.  You really can’t go wrong with asparagus and eggs.  I’d suggest trying Andrea Bemis’ recipe for Spring Vegetable Quiche with Cashew Herb Crust.  It’s a nice gluten free alternative to a regular pie crust.

This recipe for Parsnip Gratin with Gruyere and Thyme was another recipe from the Facebook Group.  It calls for 2 ¼-2 ½ pounds of parsnips.  Last week and this week’s boxes each have about 1.5 pounds each.  I also like this recipe for Spicy Honey-Glazed Parsnips.  It’s basically roasted parsnips kicked up a few notches!

Rustic Ramp Tart, photo from
This is our final week of ramps, so make sure you select your recipes carefully—it will be a full year before we see these again!  I’m going to make Chef Boni’s Ramp Deviled Eggs.  I also want to make this Rustic Ramp Tart.

I love the flavor of overwintered spinach when it’s cooked.  This week I want to make Sauteed Mushrooms & Spinach with Spicy Garlic Sauce, using green garlic of course!  It’s an easy dinner to make served with a side of rice.  I also have my eye on this Indian-Style Creamed Spinach made with coconut milk.

That does it for this week’s box.  We’re crossing our fingers that we see a few warm days and a touch of rain this week.  We have a few crops coming up soon, but they’re still a little small.  We’re hoping to have baby arugula and some fresh radishes next week.  We also have some cute little mini-romaine lettuce growing in our tunnel greenhouse.  I think they’re going to make it and if they do, lettuce wraps will be on the menu!  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Sorrel

By Chef Andrea

Eating with the seasons can be an exciting, yet sometimes challenging adventure in the spring.  For many people, some early spring vegetables may be less familiar and come with a bit of a learning curve.  Most of the early spring vegetables are perennial plants that are either wild harvested, such as ramps and nettles, or are crops we planted in a previous year that start poking through on their own early in the spring.  Some of these vegetables include sorrel, chives, rhubarb and asparagus.  They play an important role in nourishing our bodies and have unique nutritive properties that help us transition from winter into a new season.  If you are not familiar with these vegetables, they might be a little intimidating at first.  However, don’t let a vegetable intimidate you, just dive in and start learning how to enjoy something new!  Don’t worry, we’ll help guide you along the way!

This week we are featuring sorrel, a unique perennial plant that is amongst the first greens of the season.  Sorrel leaves have a pointy, arrow shape and are thick in texture and bright green in color.  You’ll recognize sorrel by its tart and citrus-like flavor if you nibble on a raw leaf.  It has a bright flavor that will call your taste buds to attention.  It is a very nutritious green that contains antioxidants as well as vitamin C, fiber, iron, magnesium and zinc.

Sorrel Hummus
Sorrel may be used in a wide variety of preparations and may be eaten either raw or cooked.  Raw sorrel can brighten any salad and is excellent when blended into cold sauces, vinaigrettes, dressings, dips or smoothies.  Because of its bold, tart, invigorating flavor, it is often treated more like an herb when used raw and will give the end product a bright, cheery green color.  When cooked, sorrel behaves in a very interesting way.  First, its color changes from bright green to a drab olive green almost immediately.  Don’t worry, this happens to everyone and it’s just the way it is with sorrel!  The other unusual thing about sorrel is how it “melts” when added to hot liquids.  The leaves will almost immediately change color and start to soften.  The longer it’s cooked, the more the leaves break apart and you can stir it into a coarse sauce.  This is one of the reasons it’s often used in soups and sauces.

The acidity of sorrel makes it a natural companion to rich foods such as cream, butter, sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, duck, and fatty fish (salmon & mackerel).  Additionally, it pairs well with more “earthy” foods such as lentils, rice, buckwheat, mushrooms and potatoes.  As with many other spring vegetables, it pairs well with eggs and is often used in quiche, scrambled eggs, custard etc.  Don’t be afraid to think “outside of the box” and explore some other interesting ways to use sorrel such as in desserts including sorbet, ice cream and panna cotta or beverages including smoothies and cocktails!  Sorrel also pairs well with citrus fruits and berries.

Spiced Lentils with Nettles & Sorrel Yogurt Sauce
We have featured a wide variety of sorrel recipes in past newsletters and I encourage you to take a look at the searchable recipe database on our website.  I have a few favorites that I mention every year because they are easy, delicious and have been well-received by other members over the year.  Sorrel Hummus, Sorrel-Lime Cooler and my Frosty Sorrel & Banana Smoothie rank as my top three.

If you’re looking for a vegetarian main dish, the recipe for Spiced Lentils with Nettles & Sorrel Yogurt Sauce is excellent.  There is also a recipe for Spring Greens Soup that uses not only sorrel but four other vegetables from this week’s box!

We hope your spring is off to a good start and you are enjoying these early boxes.  Don’t forget we have an awesome Facebook Group available to all CSA members.  This is another great resource to find recipe suggestions and talk to other members about vegetables!

Strawberry-Orange Sorrel Smoothie

Yield: 2 servings

1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup milk (dairy or dairy-free alternative)
¾ cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups frozen strawberries
2 ounces sorrel
¼ cup maple syrup
6-10 ice cubes

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Put the lid on and blend on high speed until all ingredients are thoroughly blended and the mixture is smooth.

2. Serve immediately.

Recipe by Chef Andrea 

Pasta with Sorrel Butter & Nettles

Yield:  3-4 servings

Sorrel Butter:
2 ounces sorrel leaves, roughly chopped
1 stick butter, softened
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

9-10 oz dried pasta (bow ties, shells, fettucine or pappardelle)
1 Tbsp olive oil
12 ounces (2 each) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 cups loosely packed nettle leaves (1 bunch)
6-8 Tbsp sorrel butter
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½-⅔ cup chives, minced
Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. First, prepare the sorrel butter.  Put roughly chopped sorrel in the bowl of a food processor and blend briefly until coarsely chopped.  Add the butter, lemon juice and black pepper.  Blend until all ingredients are well combined.  Set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package instructions or about 5 minutes until al dente.  Drain the water and set the pasta aside.

3. While the pasta is cooking, heat a medium saucepan on the stove top over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and once the oil shimmers, add the chicken.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Cook until browned on one side, then flip the pieces over.

4. Add the nettle leaves to the pan along with the chicken and season with salt and pepper.  Put a lid on the pan and continue to cook the nettles and chicken for 2-3 minutes or until the nettles are wilted.  Remove the lid from the pan and cook until nearly all the moisture in the pan has evaporated.

5. Add the sorrel butter to the pan.  Once melted, add the pasta and gently toss to combine all ingredients and thoroughly coat the pasta with the butter.

6. Once the pasta is fully heated through, remove the pan from the heat.  Adjust seasoning to your liking with salt and black pepper.

7. Serve garnished with freshly grated Parmesan and chives.

Recipe by Chef Andrea