Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Our Health, Our Hope

By Andrea Yoder

The beauty of Spring Creek at Harmony Valley Farm
As humans, we often see ourselves as removed from nature—as if we are looking down on it or walking amongst it yet separate.  We try to control it, but that seldom works out.  In reality, we are nature and our amazing bodies were designed to live in and work in synchronization with the natural world which was designed to work!  So when your mother told you to “Eat your vegetables,” did you ever wonder why?  Yes, the basic answer is “because they are good for you.”  But why are they good for you?  Vegetables and fruits are nature’s medicine, the building blocks and tools we need to detoxify, repair and build our body.  They contain valuable and important nutrients and compounds we need to keep our body functioning optimally.  It’s our job to care for our vessel and give it the fuel and resources it needs to achieve this state.  One way we do this is by consuming nutrient-dense foods.  When our physical state is optimized, we feel good.  We not only survive, but we thrive, have energy and vitality that allows us to fully live, experience and participate in our lives!  It impacts all aspects of our being including clear thinking, emotional stability, conscious living and an overall increased quality of life.  It helps us show up in a bigger way allowing us to contribute in positive ways in the world.  None of us knows our time on Earth, but we each have the choice every day to maximize our personal potential and impact while we’re here.

Doing our part to social distance and cover our faces!

It’s obvious our world is shifting, changing, and in many ways revealing the weaknesses in our society, food systems, political structures, etc.  COVID-19 has affected us all in major ways that go beyond having to wear a mask and social distance in public.  Our work lives have been disrupted and there may be some in our membership who have even lost their jobs.  School will look much different this fall for our students and despite the fact that we all long for COVID to make an exit, it’s clear the impact of this virus will continue.  For how long?  I’m not sure anyone knows the answer to this question.  How do we stop it?  Where do we find solutions?  There are many factors seemingly outside the realm of what we can control and impact.  This pandemic joins the ranks of so many other big issues of concern in our world today including topics like climate change, factory farming, the use of agrochemicals and the impact all these things have on human and ecological health as well as our economy.  Money seemingly buys power, but when that power is used in self-serving ways instead of for the greater good of our society we seem to move backwards, negatively impacting people and our planet.  To think about this can be pretty overwhelming and may at times leave us feeling helpless and anxious about our future.  But that’s not ok.  We are not helpless and we do have a future.  Unless we choose to give our power away, we all still have a say in all of this through the personal choices we make every day.  How do we choose to show up in the world?  From where do we draw our energy and where will we turn our attention?  What do our choices represent and support?  So lets start with something so very basic to our existence--our physical body and the strength we have as we exercise our right to make choices that positively impact our personal health and well-being.

And to think beautiful food like this Red Pepper, Lentil
and Tomato Salad can be our "medicine!"
COVID has brought forth a collection of public health messages encouraging everyone to maintain their distance, wear masks, wash your hands, etc.  On August 14, 2020 an article entitled “Why aren’t we promoting health to combat COVID-19?” was posted by Dr. Mercola.  In this article there are references to research from the scientific literature identifying lifestyle-related health conditions including obesity, diabetes, metabolic disorders, and hypertension as modifiable risk factors that make an individual more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 if exposed and may lead to more severe disease and higher risk for a more unfavorable outcome in individuals presenting with these disease conditions.  If you’re interested in reading more of the specifics about these studies, I encourage you to reference the original articles cited at the end of Dr. Mercola’s article.  While I like evidence to support practices, I think it’s already pretty well-established that our lifestyle choices are directly related to our health and wellness whether we’re in a pandemic or not!

Anthocyanins, carotenoids and so many other valuable
nutrients in vegetables such as these gorgeous beets!
For those of you who don’t know this already, my first career path was as a dietitian.  I remember sitting in one of my early nutrition classes listening to a lecture about magnesium that left me amazed that a simple mineral could impact the human body as a cofactor in literally hundreds of biochemical reactions in the human body.  Yes, we can take magnesium supplements, but we can also get magnesium from a wide variety of plant and animal foods including leafy greens.  I also remember learning about anthocyanins, a group of antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables that are the pigment that gives some foods red, blue and purple colors.  The fact that I can identify a nutrient compound in a food by its color was a pretty cool thing to learn, but the fact that they also protect our bodies in many ways through their role in scavenging free radicals that can damage our cells was even more impressive.  Yes, I was a bit of a nutrition science geek, and still to this day am completely amazed by the power of our food to impact our physical health by building our immunity, preventing the development of cancer, detoxifying our cells and so much more.  So when we say we strive to grow nutrient-dense food, this is why!  We need all of these nutrients to build our bodies up and when we eat a variety of plant foods every day the cumulative effects of all of these beneficial plant compounds become our health insurance policy!

The Nash Family, one of our awesome CSA families!
Read more about their experience here!
So in the midst of this pandemic, I applaud all of you for prioritizing organic vegetables as an important part of your diet.  When we take care of our body, our body will take care of us.  When we give our body the nutrients it needs to have a fully functioning immune system, we’ll have better outcomes should we be exposed to COVID-19, influenza or any other potentially pathogenic virus or bacteria in our environment.  Of course we also believe there are many ways we benefit our health by being connected to each other and the source of our food, spending time in nature, and participating in activities that nurture both our body and our souls such as gardening or preparing meals for ourselves.  We have many longtime members who have been eating from CSA boxes for 15-20 years, or in some cases more than 30 years!  They have experienced firsthand the health & lifestyle benefits of choosing to eat organic vegetables from a CSA box.  Many of these families also have adult children who grew up as “CSA kids,” a subset of our membership that I will forever be lovingly jealous of! These people are doing great things in this world as engaged members of our society.  This year we also have many members who are new to our farm.  Some of you have participated in CSA before while others are experiencing this way of sourcing your food for the first time.  We hope you are seeing, feeling and experiencing the positive benefits from something as simple as eating fresh food rich in nutrients.

Mother Nature never ceases to amaze us with her
expressions of beauty.
What does the future hold?  The answer to that question actually falls upon all of us starting with ourselves.  As the bounty of the summer harvest floods our kitchens, we can’t help but feel nurtured by Mother Nature who continues to feed us regardless of a pandemic or any other seemingly insurmountable life situations.  So keep eating your vegetables, cook, enjoy, be nourished and thrive.  Our society needs each one of us to contribute and be fully present to the unfolding hope of tomorrow.

August 27, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Poblano Peppers!

Cooking With This Week's Box

Monastrell Red Onions: Quick Red Enchilada Sauce; Egg Tacos with Roasted Poblano, Onion, and Corn Salsa (see below); Rajas Con Crema (Creamy Roasted Poblano Peppers) (see below)

Green and/or Italian Zucchini: Lemon Thyme Zucchini Muffins; Roasted Ratatouille

Chocolate Sprinkles, Yellow Grape or SunOrange Tomatoes: Cucumber, Tomato Salad with Olives and Feta; Roasted Ratatouille

Jalapeño Pepper: Quick Red Enchilada Sauce

Sun Jewel Melon OR French Orange OR Sweet Sarah: Cucumber Melon Salad

Red Seedless Watermelon: Watermelon Frose

Poblano Peppers: Egg Tacos with Roasted Poblano, Onion, and Corn Salsa (see below); Rajas Con Crema (Creamy Roasted Poblano Peppers) (see below)

Green Bell Peppers: Roasted Ratatouille

Sweet Corn: Egg Tacos with Roasted Poblano, Onion, and Corn Salsa (see below); Rajas Con Crema (Creamy Roasted Poblano Peppers) (see below)

Orange Carrots: Simple Tomato Sauce

The peak of summer is an exciting time as those things we’ve been waiting for all year FINALLY come in!  Watermelons, melons, tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn—the box is so full we have to plan strategically to make it all fit!  We’re coming up on that point in the season where summer and fall collide.  We’ll still be picking tomatoes and melons while we start harvesting butternut squash and leeks!  This is also the time of year when we can keep meals simple, and with that in mind, lets dive into this week’s box.  This week we’re featuring one of my favorite peppers—poblanos!  If you haven’t read this week’s vegetable feature article about this vegetable, check it out.  I included a short list of my favorite recipes utilizing poblanos that we have featured in past newsletters.  I also have two more very simple recipes to share with you this week.  The first is for Egg Tacos with Roasted Poblano, Onion, and Corn Salsa (see below).  You can make the salsa in advance and just cook the eggs and assemble when you’re ready to eat.  This could easily be breakfast, lunch or dinner!  The second recipe is for Rajas Con Crema which means Creamy Roasted Poblano Peppers (see below).  This is a traditional way people prepare poblano peppers in some parts of Mexico.  As I was looking at different recipes for this, each one had a little different twist, which leads me to believe the “right” way to make these is whatever way your grandmother prepares them!  I chose this version because it has corn and onions in it.  Serve this in tortillas as a taco or as a side dish to accompany rice and beans or grilled steak or chicken.

Quick Red Enchilada Sauce
photo from
As long as we’re keeping it simple, I want to suggest this recipe for Quick Red Enchilada Sauce.  This recipe is credited to Alexandra from  She has many good recipes, so when I was looking for a simple enchilada sauce I turned to her.  This is the one step that I get hung up on with many enchilada recipes that look good.  The recipe calls for a jar of enchilada sauce, which I don’t have!  I do however have tomatoes, onions, garlic and a jalapeño which are the main ingredients needed for this sauce.  Once it’s made you can store it in the refrigerator for a few days or freeze it.  This is on my list of recipes to make now and freeze so I can pull together a pan of enchiladas quickly the next time they cross my radar!

Lets make the most of this year’s tomato season with another quick and easy recipe.  This recipe for Simple Tomato Sauce is very simple to make and consists of carrots, onions, garlic and tomatoes.  The carrots add a bit of depth and sweetness to the sauce which can help tone down the acidity of the tomatoes.  This recipe calls for canned tomatoes, but you can easily substitute fresh tomatoes.  Once it’s made, toss it with pasta for a quick dinner.

Roasted Ratatouille, photo from
Last year I made my version of this Roasted Ratatouille and put some in the freezer.  I really encourage you to make some this year as it is such a great way to preserve all these lovely summer flavors and I guarantee you’ll appreciate having it in the winter!  The traditional way to make ratatouille is on the stovetop using tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onions and garlic.  This version is much more hands off and tastes just as good, or maybe even better!  Use this recipe as your guide, but don’t be afraid to vary the ingredients.  If you don’t have eggplant, add more zucchini, etc.  When you pull this out of the freezer to use it, there are many different things you can do with it.  I used it as the base “sauce” for pizza which made assembling pizza super easy.  I also heated it up and tossed it with pasta, mixed it into polenta, added it to scrambled eggs, and mixed it into rice.

Quick-Pickled Refrigerated Green Beans
photo from
We’re getting close to the end of green bean season, so now’s the time to make your favorite green bean recipes.  My friend, Dawn, was the one who got me to try pickled green beans.  I have to admit, they are kind of addictive!  I don’t have plans to break out the canner to make a big batch of pickled green beans, but I can make a small batch of these Quick-Pickled Refrigerated Green Beans!  They are a nice accompaniment to sandwiches, salads, etc.

If you don’t use all your zucchini to make the Roasted Ratatouille, consider making these Lemon Thyme Zucchini Muffins.  I like adding herbs into baked goods like this and have never tried this combo.  If you make them before I get a chance to try this recipe, post in the Facebook group and let us all know how they turn out!

Cucumber season won’t last forever and I’m always sad when it’s finished.  Cucumbers and tomatoes are such a classic combo, as is this simple Cucumber, Tomato Salad with Olives and Feta.  Make sure you get good olives as that is a dominant flavor in this salad.  Cucumbers also pair nicely with melon, so don’t be afraid to put the two together in this Cucumber Melon Salad!

Watermelon is typically not something that needs a recipe as the vast majority of our membership simply cuts the watermelon up and eats it.  The end.  If you do want to turn it into something, consider making this Watermelon Frose!  Rose wine, watermelon, lime juice, and basil come together to make a refreshing, frosty adult beverage!

Well, I hope these recipes have sparked some simple, creative uses for this week’s box contents.  Honestly, you can make a very delicious and simple summer dinner without much hassle.  Simply slice a fresh tomato, steam some green beans, boil a few ears of corn, and slice up a melon.  Who needs anything else? –Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Poblano Peppers

By Chef Andrea

Poblano peppers are, in my opinion, a standout pepper when it comes to hot peppers for one simple reason—Flavor!  Some peppers are just hot, and then there are a few that balance their heat with flavor making the whole eating experience more enjoyable.  Poblano peppers are dark green with wide shoulders and a pointy bottom.  They have a thinner wall than bell peppers, but thick enough that they hold up to roasting very well.  In fact, roasting is the process that amplifies and develops the flavor of a poblano.  As I mentioned, poblanos are a hot pepper with a mild to medium level of heat.

Poblano peppers may be eaten raw, sautéed, grilled, or roasted.  Roasting peppers is very easy and can be done over a direct, open flame or in the oven.  If you have a gas stovetop, roast the poblanos directly on your burners over a high flame.  If you have a small rack, you can put that over the burner.  The other direct flame method is to roast them on a grill.  If you want to use an oven, it’s best to roast them under a broiler.  You want to roast them until most of the skin is blackened.  You’ll have to turn them periodically to blacken all sides evenly.  Stay close and don’t walk away because sometimes this happens quickly, especially under a broiler.  Once the skin is charred, put the peppers in a covered bowl or a paper bag so they can steam and cool slightly for about 10 minutes.  Once cool enough to handle, use the back of a knife to scrape away the skin.  Remove the stem and scrape away all the seeds from the inside of the pepper.  Now you’re ready to add roasted poblano peppers to whatever dish you’re preparing!

Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Poblanos & Corn
Chiles Rellenos is a classic dish based on roasted poblano peppers that are filled with cheese, coated in a batter, and fried.  While the shape of poblano peppers makes them a good candidate for stuffing with a filling, there are many other ways to use them.  They pair well with summer & fall vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet corn, sweet peppers, potatoes, zucchini, winter squash, sweet potatoes and dried beans.  They also pair well with cream, cheese, sour cream and dairy in general which is a nice complement to their heat.  Creamy poblano sauce can be used to make potato gratin, pasta dishes, or as a sauce to top off enchiladas or grilled chicken or beef.  If you don’t have a recipe in mind already, I would recommend you take a look at the recipes we’ve included in past newsletters.  Many of the recipes in this list have received excellent member feedback and are probably the reason I love this pepper so much!

Egg Tacos with Roasted Poblano, Onions and Corn Salsa

photo from
Yield:  2-4 servings

For the Salsa:
2 to 3 poblano peppers, halved, cored, and chopped
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
1 ear of corn, shucked, kernels stripped from cob
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
1 lime, halved
½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped, or more to taste
1 avocado, diced, optional
Hot sauce or red pepper flakes, optional

For the Egg Tacos (for 2 small tacos):
2 small tortillas
Dab of butter
2 eggs, well beaten
Queso fresco, crumbled, or other cheese, optional

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.  
  2. Place diced poblanos, red onions, and corn in a large bowl.  Drizzle in the tablespoon of olive oil.  Season generously with kosher salt.  Toss to combine then spread on a large sheet pan, lined with parchment for easy cleaning.  (Reserve the bowl.)  Roast until vegetables are beginning to char, 15 to 20 minutes.  Let the vegetables cool briefly, then transfer to the reserved bowl.
  3. Squeeze a little lime over the vegetables.  Add in the cilantro, and toss.  Taste.  Adjust with more lime, salt, and cilantro to taste.  Add the avocado, if using.  If you want some heat, add a splash of hot sauce or a pinch of pepper flakes.  Mix and taste again.  Set salsa aside
  4. Heat an 8-inch nonstick pan over medium-high heat.  Add the dab of butter and immediately pour the eggs into it as it melts.  Season with a pinch of salt.  Let eggs set for 15 seconds or so, then turn heat to low, and, using a spatula, stir the eggs constantly till they’re done.  They will likely be cooked in less than a minute.  
  5. Warm tortillas, then divide the scrambled eggs between the two.  Spoon the salsa over the top.  Finish with cheese if desired.
Recipe borrowed from

Rajas Con Crema (Creamy Roasted Poblanos)

photo from
Yield:  4 servings

3  large Roasted Poblano Peppers cut into strips
2 Tbsp butter
½ large onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh corn kernels
½ tsp black pepper
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
1 cup shredded melting chesse (Mozzarella or Monterey Jack)
  1. In a medium saucepan or skillet, add the butter and onions over medum-high heat.  Sauté until onion starts to soften.  Add the garlic and roasted poblano strips.  Cook for two minutes, stirring often. 
  2. Add the corn and pepper, mix well.
  3. Lower the heat to medium, add the cream cheese and Mexican crema or sour cream.  Mix well.  
  4. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the cream starts to bubble.  
  5. Finally, add the shredded cheese, cover the pot and turn off the heat.  Let it set covered until the cheese has melted.  Serve warm with tortillas, grilled steak, chicken or shrimp.  Alternatively, serve this dish as a side along with rice and beans.
Recipe adapted slightly from

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

August 20, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Tomatoes!

Cooking With This Week's Box

Italian Garlic: Garlic Scented Tomato Salad (see below); Spiced Braised Lentils & Tomatoes with Toasted Coconut (see below); Fried Rice with Edamame & Corn

Red Thumb Fingerling Potatoes: Bombay Potatoes; The Best Pan-Roasted Potatoes

Chocolate Sprinkles, Valentine Red Grape or SunOrange Tomatoes: Cucumber Tomato Salad

Mixed Variety of Tomatoes: Garlic Scented Tomato Salad (see below); Spiced Braised Lentils & Tomatoes with Toasted Coconut (see below)

Green and/or Italian Zucchini: Zucchini Cream Pie; Savory Italian Zucchini Pie

Cucumber Tomato Salad
photo from
This week we’re talking tomatoes!  August is definitely characterized by two of summer’s possibly most favored favored vegetables—Tomatoes and Sweet Corn!  While there are many different ways you can use tomatoes, I have two simple, tasty recipes to share with you this week.  Both of these are featured in Food52’s cookbook, Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore.  The first recipe is Garlic Scented Tomato Salad (see below) that originated with Marcella Hazan, an Italian-born food writer and recipe creator.  This recipe is so simple that when I read it I was like “Ok, drizzle vinegar on tomatoes with oil and basil, what’s the big deal?”  Well, I don’t know but something magical must happen when you steep crushed garlic cloves in red wine vinegar with salt and drizzle the seasoned vinegar over fresh, juicy tomatoes and basil.  This salad is seriously delicious.  The second recipe was created by food writer and cookbook author Melissa Clark.  Her recipe for Spiced Braised Lentils & Tomatoes with Toasted Coconut (see below) is so fragrant and delicious.  Aside from the time it takes to simmer the lentils, it really doesn’t take much time to bring this dish together.  Whatever you do, don’t skip the simple step of toasting coconut with mustard seeds. This is a key component to the dish along with that last pat of butter you put on top of the hot lentils.  Before we move on from the topic of tomatoes, lets talk about that little pint of tomatoes in this week’s box.  This week I want to use them to make this simple Cucumber Tomato Salad featuring the small tomatoes in your box along with cucumbers, red onion, green bell peppers and fresh herbs.  So simple, but perfect for this week’s box!

Sweet Corn Scramble
photo from
This week’s sweet corn variety is Awesome (as in that is really the name as well as the adjective we can use to describe the flavor!).  I’ve never put sweet corn in my scrambled eggs before, but I started doing it last week and it is so delicious!  Here’s a basic recipe for Sweet Corn Scramble, but feel free to improvise by adding sautéed onion, garlic, green bell peppers and/or fresh herbs.  I also like to stir in a few dollops of cream cheese just as the egg starts to set up.  Richard likes a little browned, crumbled breakfast sausage in his sweet corn scramble as well.  The other thing I like to make every year when edamame and sweet corn overlap is Fried Rice with Edamame & Corn.  Fried rice is a great way to pack a lot of vegetables into one pan.  You can vary the vegetables depending on what you have available, but this version includes garlic, onion, corn, edamame and carrots.  Before we move on from edamame, I thought I’d highlight this recipe for Sushi Salad with Brown Rice, Edamame, Nori and Miso Dressing that was featured in a past newsletter.  It’s simple, refreshing and nourishing!

The zucchini challenge continues!  Why didn’t I think of pie before?  Sweet, savory, or both—we have options!  If you want to go the sweet route, try this Zucchini Cream Pie.  If you want to go with more of a main dish option, try this recipe for Savory Italian Zucchini Pie.

Bombay Potatoes
photo from
I am no expert on Indian food, but I think I can handle this recipe for Bombay Potatoes which should work great with this week’s Red Thumb fingerlings.  This is a spicy dish and the recipe calls for a green chile, for which this week’s jalapeno will work perfectly.  Serve these spicy potatoes with a cooling Cucumber Indian Raita.  If you don’t use this week’s potatoes for Bombay Potatoes, then consider using them to make The Best Pan-Roasted Potatoes!  I tried this recipe last year and these simple potatoes are excellent!  The only thing you need aside from oil, potatoes and salt is a little patience.  Aside from that, follow the recipe!

Looking for something spicy to enjoy on the side of tacos, rice & beans, sandwiches, etc?  Why not use this week’s carrots and jalapenos to make Authentic Mexican Pickled Carrots?  While we’re talking spicy, check out this recipe for Spicy Jalapeno Gimlets!  Using jalapenos to make a cocktail has never crossed my mind before, but this might be fun to try.  If you’re interested in a non-alcoholic drink option, you could also try this recipe for Jalapeno-Cucumber Fizz Mocktail

We’re down to nearly the bottom of the box.  What about the melon?!  One option is to use melon in more of a savory way such as in this recipe for Grilled Salmon with Spicy Melon Salsa.  The other recipe I would like to try is Melon Ice Cream.  You don’t have to have an ice cream maker for this recipe, so anyone can make it!

Ok, that’s a wrap for this week.  I think Richard’s going to pull the trigger on picking watermelons this weekend, so we’ll have to make some room in next week’s box for a sweet, juicy seedless watermelon!  Our preliminary taste tests have been quite tasty and we’re excited to share them with you!  Have a great week and I’ll see you next time!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Tomatoes

By Chef Andrea

While technically a fruit, tomatoes are likely one of the most well-known “vegetables.”  They find their way into so many different uses ranging from condiments such as ketchup, salsa and chili sauce to salads, soups, sauces and as a base flavor in meat dishes, stocks and more.  One sentence is not enough room to describe the vast array of ways tomatoes can be used, so even if you aren’t a tomato lover, I’m sure there are a few ways you can put these to use in your kitchen!

There are literally hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, so deciding which ones to plant can be pretty overwhelming!  Over the years we’ve trialed many different varieties of tomatoes, which are not exactly the easiest crop to grow in our valley.  One of the most important characteristics we look for is disease resistance.  If we have a wet year, leaf disease can be a very big problem and if the plant dies due to disease, it doesn’t matter how good the tomato may have been—we’ll never be able to harvest them!  We use a stake-and-tie method for our tomatoes where we weave twine around the main stem and vines as the plants grow in order to keep the tomato plant upright and the fruit off the ground.  It’s a pretty labor intensive system, but it helps the foliage dry out faster to help with disease prevention.

Tomato field before the tomatoes ripened
The next important characteristic we look for is flavor.  We look for varieties that have a good balance of acidity and sweetness as well as good tomato flavor.  If you’re wondering what “good tomato flavor” is, consider those tomatoes you get on sandwiches and salads in the middle of winter that are shipped in from the other side of the country.  Those tomatoes are bred to withstand shipping, but if you really evaluate their flavor you’ll find they really don’t have any flavor!  So yes, we look for tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes!  Many people are drawn to heirloom tomato varieties, however many of the heirlooms we’ve trialed just don’t have the disease resistance we need.  We do appreciate the flavor of many heirlooms, so we’ve sought out improved heirloom varieties as well as more disease resistant hybrids that feature the heirloom flavor with more modern hybrid characteristics which make them more appropriate for our growing situation.

It’s important to store tomatoes properly and keep a watchful eye on them.  If they are a little on the green side and need time to fully ripen, it’s best to store them at room temperature.  Check them daily and, if you see any spots or other signs of deterioration, eat them sooner than later taking care to remove the affected area of the tomato.  Once fully ripe, it’s best to eat them or store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.  The flavor of a tomato will be at its best eaten at room temperature.  While a day or two in a cold environment will likely not impact the tomato, longer storage in the refrigerator at temperatures less than 45-50°F may negatively impact both flavor and texture.

Young tomato plants staked and tied to prevent disease
Aside from eating them fresh, there are many ways to preserve tomatoes for later use.  One of the easiest things you can do is freeze them in their raw state.  Just wash them, remove the stem, then either freeze them whole, diced, or pureed.  If you freeze them with the skin on, the skin will separate from the flesh of the tomato once thawed.  You can either remove the skin at that time, or puree the skin and the flesh in a blender so you capture all the nutritive value of the tomato.  You can also turn tomatoes into tomato sauce or salsa and can them.  These are just a few of the many suggestions for preserving tomatoes.

This year we have two very nice crops of tomatoes, perhaps the best we’ve seen in recent years. In the information that follows we’ve included some pictures and descriptions of the tomatoes we’ll be picking this year.  We hope you’ll use this as a resource to help you identify which tomatoes you receive in your share and to understand their different attributes.  

Keep your fingers crossed that we have a plentiful tomato harvest this year, and if we do, get ready as we’ll fit as many in your box as we can!  If you’re interested in tackling a larger tomato preservation project, watch for our Produce Plus offer for 25# boxes of Roma tomatoes which will be coming very soon!  Do the work now to preserve the summer’s bounty and you’ll reap the benefits this winter!

SunOrange: If you know and love the Sungold tomato, you just might love this one even more!  SunOrange is an improved sungold featuring an intense, sweet, fruity flavor that is really unlike any other tomato we’ve tasted.  This variety has been bred to have a little thicker skin so it doesn’t crack and split as easily.  You’ll find it is hard to stop eating SunOrange tomatoes, but if you can practice some restraint, use them either fresh or cook them.  Their flavor and sweetness intensifies when cooked, especially when roasted.

Chocolate Sprinkles: This is a large tear-dropped shaped grape tomato with dark red skin that has green stripes.  You know they are ripe when the red color deepens.  We like this variety because it is sweet, flavorful and juicy.

Valentine Red Grape: This tomato “marries the best of wild-type tomato genetics with flavorful high-performing strains.”  It was actually bred for its high lycopene content which is a powerful antioxidant that gives this tomato its intense red color.  We actually participated in trialing this tomato before seed was available commercially and were impressed by its sweet flavor, intense color and disease resistance.

Romas: Roma tomatoes are also referred to as “plum” or “paste” tomatoes.  This type of tomato is more fleshy and less juicy which makes them a good choice for making sauce or other preparations where you’ll be cooking them.  They are also good for fresh use in salsas and salads.

Black Velvet: The seed catalog describes this tomato as “sleek rosy-mahogany colored fruit with a sweet and tangy flavor.”  You’ll notice this tomato has green shoulders (meaning green on the stem end of the tomato).  Even when fully ripe, this green coloring will remain, so use the lower portion of the tomato as an indicator of ripeness.  As it ripens it will turn more of that rosy-mahogany color.  The other thing to note about this tomato is that it is very fleshy and will always feel more firm to the touch, even when fully ripe.  So squeezing this tomato is not a good indicator of ripeness.  This is an excellent tomato to use in salads and on sandwiches.  It has excellent flavor and texture, but is not quite as juicy which means it won’t make the bread on your sandwich soggy!

Marmalade Orange: We selected this variety for its deep golden color and excellent flavor.  Orange tomatoes often have less acidity which can sometimes mean they have a bland flavor.  This variety has been developed to have good flavor and sweetness.  While you can cook this tomato, it’s also an excellent choice for using raw in salads, sandwiches, etc.

Japanese Pink: We’ve long been a fan of Japanese pink tomatoes which have a reputation for being juicy, flavorful tomatoes.  If you want to do a little experiment, carefully remove a piece of the skin from one of these tomatoes and hold it up to the light.  You’ll see the skin is actually transparent, which means the color of this tomato is the actual color of the flesh.  Now do the same thing with a red tomato.  You’ll find the skin on a red tomato has pigment, but if you look at the flesh color in many cases it will look similar to the pink tomato.  Red tomatoes look red because of the pigments in the skin!  Just a little fun science observation.  This is best used for fresh eating, but may also be cooked.

Marsalato: We trialed this tomato for the first time last year and it has quickly become one of our favorites!  It is a “Marmande-type” tomato.  Marmande is a region in France, and this type of tomato descends from a French heirloom variety.  We love this tomato for several reasons.  First, it has a beautiful color and attractive ruffled shape.  The other reason we like this tomato is for its excellent flavor, sweetness and smooth texture that is both more firm and juicy at the same time.  This is our top choice for a tomato to use for sliced tomato salads such as a Caprese Salad.  This tomato is also an excellent choice for using to make sauce because of its texture and flavor.

Cherokee Carbon: This is a trial variety this year.  It caught our eye both because it has a unique appearance, but also because this variety was developed by crossing two of the tastiest heirlooms, Cherokee Purple and Carbon.  The seed catalog says “….this tomato provides for the greatest tomato sandwich you have ever had.”

Red Slicers: We have several different varieties in both our first and second plantings that fall into this category.  These tomatoes offer a nice balance of acidity, sweetness and flavor making them versatile in their use.  They are tasty eaten raw, but may also be used in cooking.

Spiced Braised Lentils & Tomatoes with Toasted Coconut

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced OR 1 medium onion, small dice

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbsp good-quality Madras curry powder

1 Tbsp tomato paste

2 cups green or brown lentils

12 oz ripe, juicy tomatoes, chopped (2 medium) OR 2 cups canned plum tomatoes, drained 

1 ¾ tsp salt, plus additional to taste

1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut flakes

1 ½ Tbsp black or brown mustard seeds

Salty butter, for serving

Plain whole milk yogurt, for serving (optional)

Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  1. Melt the unsalted butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the scallions or onions, garlic and curry powder.  Cook until the mixture is golden and soft, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and lentils and cook until slightly caramelized, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and 1 ¾ tsp salt.  Add enough water to cover the mixture by ½ inch.  Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 40 minutes.  If the lentils begin to look dry while cooking, add more water as needed.
  2. In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the coconut flakes, mustard seeds, and a large pinch of salt until the coconut is golden, about 3 minutes.
  3. To serve, spoon the lentils into individual bowls.  Drop about 2 tsp salted butter into each dish.  Top with yogurt, cilantro, and the coconut mixture.  Serve immediately.
This recipe was created by Melissa Clark and was featured in FOOD52’s book Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore.

Garlic-Scented Tomato Salad

“Steeping alliums in vinegar is a good trick for improving any salad dressing, but here is one variation you shouldn’t miss when tomatoes are in season.  Of this stripped down salad, Marcella Hazan wrote on her Facebook page in 2012, ‘It has the potential to eclipse every other experience of tomatoes you may have had.’”

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

4 to 5 garlic cloves

1 to 2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 pounds round or plum tomatoes

12 basil leaves

Olive oil, for serving
  1. Peel and smash garlic cloves. Steep them with 1 to 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar in a bowl for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Slice tomatoes with a serrated knife, skinning them beforehand if you wish.  Spread them in a deep serving platter.
  3. Just before serving, tear the basil leaves and scatter them on the tomatoes.  Holding back the garlic, pour the vinegar over the tomatoes and dress with good, fruity olive oil.  Taste and correct, if needed, with additional salt and vinegar.
This recipe is Kristen Miglore’s adaptation of Marcella Hazan’s original recipe, as featured in FOOD52’s book Genius Recipes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

August 13, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Edamame!

Cooking With This Week's Box

Italian Garlic: Chinese Spice-Infused Fresh Soybeans (see below): Edamame Sesame Quinoa Salad (see below); Spaghetti with Collard Greens and TomatoesGolden Beet GazpachoOven Roasted Potatoes and MushroomsCucumber & Tomato Salsa

Green and/or Italian Zucchini: Sweet & Spicy Zucchini RelishZucchini Spice Cake

Peter Wilcox or Molli Gold Potatoes: Oven Roasted Potatoes and Mushrooms

SunOrange, Chocolate Sprinkles or Red Valentine TomatoesSpaghetti with Collard Greens and TomatoesCaprese SkewersCaprese Breakfast Casserole

Sun Jewel Melons and/or Sweet Sarah and/or French Orange Melons: Wine Punch with Melon Ice Cubes Cantaloupe and Cucumber SaladPork Cutlets with Cantaloupe Salad

Edamame: Chinese Spice-Infused Fresh Soybeans (see below); Edamame Sesame Quinoa Salad (see below)

Welcome back to another week of cooking out of your CSA box!  This week marks the halfway point in our CSA season and fall will be here before we know it!  But for this week, lets continue to embrace summer and all of its goodness including this week’s featured vegetable—Edamame!  Edamame, also known as fresh soybeans, makes a great snack.  Take a little culinary trip to the Sichuan region of China this week by making Chinese Spice-Infused Fresh Soybeans (see below).  Make sure you take time to cut the tips off of the edamame pods with kitchen shears before cooking them.  This step ensures the spice-infused liquid will fully flavor the beans.  The second recipe we’re featuring this week is a simple Edamame Sesame Quinoa Salad (see below).  The beauty of this salad is its simplicity and it makes a great portable salad to take to work for lunch or on a picnic!

Sweet & Spicy Zucchini Relish
photo from
This week both the zucchini and cucumbers are really producing!  We’re packing over two pounds of each in your boxes, so it’s time to get creative!  This week you have enough zucchini to make Sweet & Spicy Zucchini Relish.  This is a great condiment to use on hamburgers and hot dogs.  You can also add it to deviled eggs, potato salad, tuna salad or sloppy joes.  This recipe not only uses zucchini from your box, but also the onions and jalapeno.  It yields 8 cups of relish, but doesn’t call for canning.  Thus, it should be stored in the refrigerator where it will keep for several weeks.  While you’re extending the shelf life of your vegetables with short-term preservation methods, you might as well make these Quick & Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles.  The recipe calls for 2 pounds of cucumbers to yield 2 quart jars of pickles.  Store them in the refrigerator and use them within about a month.

Tomatoes and basil are a natural combination, so you can’t go wrong with something as simple as an Open-Faced Bagel with Cream Cheese, Tomato, Onion and Fresh Basil to start off your day.  You could also make these simple Caprese Skewers using the pint of small tomatoes in this week’s box.  These are a great item to serve as an appetizer at a party, but since there aren’t too many gatherings taking place perhaps you could turn dinner into your own cocktail hour.  In addition to these skewers, serve Beet Bruschetta with Goat Cheese or Golden Beet Gazpacho.  Add a bowl of Cucumber & Tomato Salsa to serve with tortilla chips and wash it all down with Wine Punch with Melon Ice Cubes using this week’s Sun Jewel melons!

Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salad
photo by Alex Lau for
Speaking of melons, I can’t say that I’ve used melons in a savory way very much.  This week I challenged myself to find some savory ways to use melons and came upon this recipe for Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salad.  This salad utilizes not only the melons in this week’s box, but also cucumbers and a little heat from a jalapeno.  The fruit is drizzled with a light, spicy vinaigrette and is garnished with cilantro, mint and pumpkin seeds.  The other savory recipe I found is for Pork Cutlets with Cantaloupe Salad.  This recipe has kind of a Vietnamese influence and uses the melon in a marinade for the pork as well as in a salad to serve with the pork.  The salad has lime juice, chiles, cilantro, fish sauce and is garnished with crushed peanuts.
Spaghetti with Collard Greens and Tomatoes
photo from

Farmer Richard says “Eat Your Greens,” so this week we’re sending collard greens your way!  While collards are typically prepared with some kind of a pork product, there are many other non-pork ways to prepare collards.  Check out this simple recipe for Spaghetti with Collard Greens and Tomatoes which uses garlic and small tomatoes to make a delicious, simple pasta dish.

Before we reach the bottom of the box, lets figure out what we’re going to make for Sunday brunch!  I vote for Oven Roasted Potatoes and Mushrooms served with Caprese Breakfast Casserole.  I know I’ve already suggested several other recipes using basil, but that’s because it’s summer and we should be using fresh basil in season!  And lastly, to finish off this week’s Sunday brunch, why not make this Zucchini Spice Cake?  Breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner….this cake is perfect for any time of the day.

That’s it!  We’ve reached the bottom of another box.  Next week we should have more sweet corn and hopefully watermelons!  Of course there will also be more tomatoes and hopefully we’ll have more peppers to send your way as well.  Take care and have an awesome week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Edamame

By Chef Andrea

Fresh edamame pods
This week we’re featuring edamame, also known as fresh soybeans.  If you’ve been in the midwest for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve seen a soybean field or two along your travels.  While our soybean plants resemble the plants in those huge fields you may have passed by, our soybeans are much different.  Fresh edamame are a special summer treat and, while they may be found in the frozen vegetable section at the grocery store, it is rare to find them in the fresh produce section.  So consider yourself part of the lucky few who get to enjoy this special treat as part of your HVF CSA experience!  

Edamame have been part of Japanese and Chinese cuisine for a long time, but have only recently become more popular in this country.  True edamame intended for fresh eating is quite different than oil-seed soybeans and tofu beans most often grown to make tofu and other processed soy products.  Richard specifically searched for the preferred edamame varieties grown for fresh eating in Japan and China because they produce a sweet bean that doesn’t have a “beany” aftertaste.  Seed varieties for tofu beans are typically much less expensive than varieties for fresh eating, thus in this country the edamame found in the frozen section, either in the pod or shelled, is likely a tofu bean with that “beany” aftertaste.  We actually save our own seed, which still comes at a cost, but allows us to grow our preferred, clean tasting varieties.  

Shelled Edamame
Edamame resembles a small lima bean encased in a pod.  The beans are sweet and tender and best eaten lightly cooked. Unlike sugar snap peas, edamame pods are not edible and should be discarded.  Edamame is hard to shell when it’s raw.  It is easiest to cook edamame in its pod first and then you can pop the beans from the pod.   To cook edamame, rinse the pods thoroughly with cold water. Bring a pot of heavily salted water (salty like the sea) to a boil.  Add the edamame and boil for about 3-4 minutes.  You should see the pods change to a bright green color.  Remove the edamame from the boiling water and immediately put them in ice water or run cold water over them to quickly cool them.   After the beans are cooked you can easily squeeze the pod to pop the beans out, either into a bowl or directly into your mouth!  Once you’ve removed them from the pods, they are ready to incorporate into a recipe or eat as a snack.

You can also roast edamame in their pods.  There’s a basic recipe on our website, but basically you toss the edamame pods with oil and seasonings of your choice.  Serve the beans whole with their pods still on.  While you won’t eat the pod, you can use your teeth to pull the edamame out of the pod and in the process you’ll pick up the seasoning on the outside of the pod!

Fried Rice with Edamame and Corn (top) &
Roasted Edamame with Salt (bottom)
From year to year, the basic information about vegetables that needs to be included in a feature article doesn’t really change (ie what part is edible, to peel or not to peel, etc), but each year I push myself to dig a little deeper to learn something new about many vegetables I now consider familiar.  This year through my research about edamame I learned an interesting tidbit that I had never come across.  “Edamame” is actually the name for fresh soy beans in Japan.  In Japanese culture edamame are typically prepared very simply by either boiling or steaming them and then serving them in the pod with a little salt.  This year I learned that in China fresh soybeans are called “Mao Dou” and are prepared a little differently.  The fresh soybeans are boiled in a spice-infused liquid and a small amount of the pods are trimmed off of each end of the soybean to allow the cooking liquid to bathe the beans while they are cooking.  One source,, encouraged readers to get creative with the ingredients used in the cooking liquid.  You may choose to use dried chili peppers, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, white or black peppercorns, cumin seeds, scallions or star anise.

Cole Peanut-Sesame Noodles with Edamame and Cucumber
You can store fresh or cooked edamame for up to a week in the refrigerator, but it is best to eat them soon for the sweetest flavor and best texture.  If you are want to preserve edamame for later use, simply follow the cooking procedure above, then freeze the beans either in their pods or remove them and freeze just the bean. It’s fun to pull something green out of the freezer in the winter to enjoy as a snack or incorporate into a winter stir-fry or pan of fried rice.

Edamame is often eaten as a simple snack, but you can also incorporate it into vegetable or grain salads, stir-fry, fried rice, steamed dumplings or pot stickers to name just a few suggestions.  They pair well with any combination of traditional Asian ingredients such as sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger.  They are also a nice, bright addition to brothy soups such as a miso soup.  If you follow the suggested method for boiling edamame before shelling them, the bean will already be fully cooked, so if you are adding edamame to a hot dish or recipe, do so at the end of the cooking.  

Edamame Sesame Quinoa Salad

Photo from
Yield:  6 servings (about 4 cups)

2 Tbsp black sesame seeds
½ cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup shredded carrots
½ cup chopped onions
2 cups shelled edamame
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup
¼ tsp ground ginger
2 tsp Sriracha
  1. In a medium pot, add sesame seeds over medium high heat.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sesame seeds are starting to toast and become fragrant.  Add quinoa and stir for 2-3 minutes until toasted.  Then, carefully add 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until quinoa has absorbed all moisture and is tender, about 20 minutes.  (Note:  if the quinoa is not tender when all the moisture has been absorbed, you may need to add a little more water to the pan) Remove from heat immediately, and spread over a baking sheet evenly to cool.      
  2. Next, to a large bowl, add shredded carrots, onions and edamame.
  3. In a small bowl, add garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, ginger and Sriracha.  Stir with a whisk and transfer to the large bowl with vegetables.  Add the cooled quinoa and stir.  Serve.
Recipe borrowed from Christin McKamey at

Chinese Spice Infused Fresh Soybeans--"Edamame Beans, Our Way"

Photo from
Yield:  4 servings

1 pound fresh or frozen edamame
3-4 cups water or enough to fully cover edamame in the cooking pot
1-½ Tbsp salt (to taste)
3 pieces star anise
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp whole peppercorns
3 cloves garlic
  1. Prepare the edamame by trimming away both ends with kitchen shears.  Take care not to cut the beans themselves.  This step will allow the flavor to get inside the pods.
  2. In a small pot, boil 3-4 cups water along with the salt, star anise, soy sauce, peppercorns and garlic.  Once the water boils, turn down the heat to the lowest setting and let simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. After 15 minutes, turn up the heat, adding the edamame into the pot.  Boil for 5-6 minutes without the lid.  Drain and serve!  These will keep well in the fridge in a Ziploc bag or covered bowl for about a week.
Recipe sourced from  Don’t be afraid to customize the ingredients you use to infuse the cooking liquid.  You may choose to add fresh ginger, dried chilies, cumin seeds, or any other spice of your choosing!