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Building a Food Forest

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Building a Food Forest
This Week's Vegetable Harvest:
  • Green Oak Leaf Head Lettuce
  • Red Oak Leaf Head Lettuce
  • Overwintered Field Spinach
  • Brown Crimini Mushrooms - River Valley Ranch, Burlington, WI
  • Green Garlic
  • Salad Turnips
  • Asparagus - Mick Klug Farm, St. Joseph, MI
Farm Journal
Good morning from the farm!

A sincere thank you to all who joined us for last weekend’s farm open house and plant sale! We had a great time chatting with everyone and welcoming you to the farm. This weekend, we kickoff our farmers' market season in Oak Park on Saturday, 7am-1pm at the Pilgrim Congregational Church. We’ll bring plenty of spring produce, eggs and cooking ideas to share.
Back at the farm, we're working on a new project. We received an Illinois Speciality Crop grant to incorporate more, long-term permaculture (or agroforestry) into our farmland and teach others in the process. As farmers, we strive to add more than we take from our land, to build and regenerate soil life and health, and to steward our agriculture to draw down carbon from the atmosphere. With Jeff's knowledge of growing, planting and planning, establishing a permaculture food forest seemed to be a natural growth area for us.
Last year, we designated almost 5 acres of land that were less than ideal for growing annual vegetable crops and we planted all this land into cover crop. These cover crops were used to build and protect the soil. The lush field of legumes and grains grew so successfully that it buried our green carts!
After the cover crop died back this winter, we mowed the remaining green into planting strips. We kept the strips of cover crop as walking lanes, which are 10 feet apart with 20 feet between the trees, with berry bushes in between, will be planted. With the help of our crew and friends, we are now beginning to plant over 500 fruit and nut trees, 300 berry bushes and 3,000 asparagus plants to follow the natural land slope contours.
Aerial view of the future permaculture planting,
which overlays fields previously used for our organic vegetables
While this is a large project to accomplish during our most busy time of year, we're confident that this work will establish a strong, sustainable planting prior to next winter. We will keep you posted as this project continues to grow through this season and for years into the future!

Enjoy this week's shares!
~ Jen, Jeff and the farm crew
Notes from the Farm Kitchen
This month's shares include brown crimini mushrooms from our friends at River Valley Ranch in Burlington, Wisconsin. Mushrooms are an excellent source of B and D vitamins, riboflavin, niacin and fiber. To prepare them, wipe the caps clean with a damp paper towel and trim off the very end of the stem. Due to their moisture level, its best to use mushrooms within a week of receiving them. Or you can preserve them by briefly sautéing and freezing them in a ziplock bag for later use in pastas or soups. 
Our white salad turnip is a Japanese variety called hakurei. It is very mild and sweet and is easily mistaken for a white radish. Japanese turnips are delicious eaten raw or sautéed in a little butter and sprinkled with salt. Turnips are a good source of Vitamin C, and rich in the minerals potassium and calcium. As with all roots (e.g., radishes), make sure you remove the green tops from your turnips so the turnips remain crispy and fresh. Use the green tops as you would other cooking greens, for example mixed into a soup or sautéed with your winter spinach and green garlic.
Green garlic is the immature stage of the garlic plant. We planted our garlic in late October and harvest the bulbs in July. Most of the plants to develop bulbs, but we harvest a small portion in the spring when they look like very large green onions. You can use everything but the tough, dark green tops.  We substitute green garlic for garlic cloves in many different recipes since the flavor is similar and it's wonderful to have fresh garlic in the farm kitchen again! 
Making the most of your share: Spinach

Here in the farm kitchen, we find a great deal of joy in preserving the harvest throughout the season.  Simple freezing techniques are one of my favorite methods because freezing allows me to make good use of the abundance and enjoy fresh spinach (with preserved nutrients!) when it’s out of season.

Since this is likely the last of the winter spinach, now is a great time to preserve any of the over-wintered spinach so you have remaining. Here are two methods:

  • Wash the spinach well, dunking and swirling in a bath of water. Place small batches into a salad spinner to dry the leaves. Likewise, spinach can be placed on a large kitchen towel on your counter to dry. Leave as large leaves (although you could tear into bite-sized pieces) and place in quart size freezer bags in 2-cup portions. Large pieces of frozen spinach can be cut with kitchen shears or run a chef knife through it before cooking.
  • Spinach can also be pureed with some water in a blender. Use the same washing method above, however leave the spinach leaves wet (no need to dry).  Then, add the spinach and just enough water to get the blender going. Pureed spinach is a great way to boost nutrition in soups, smoothies, sauces, meatballs, meatloaves or burgers (it’s also sneaky nutrition for picky eaters!).  Freeze the puree in ice cubes trays or small mason jars.

Recipes from the Farm Kitchen

Stuffed Mushrooms
1 pound medium to large mushrooms
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup chopped onion
1 green garlic length (use up to where green begins), minced
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°

Remove stems from mushrooms, place cap side down in a greased casserole dish. Finely chop stems. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped stems, onions and garlic to heated oil. Sauté until lightly browned.

Combine bread crumbs, parsley, salt, pepper and oregano in a large bowl. Add sautéed mushroom mixture. Stuff mushroom caps and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender.
(from River Valley Ranch)

Simple Lemon Roasted Asparagus
1 pound medium asparagus
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 450°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the asparagus with 1 tablespoon oil, lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for about 8 minutes, until just tender and the tips begin to turn brown.

Miso Glazed Hakurei Turnips
1 tablespoons white miso
1 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided
1 pound small (1 1/2-to 2-inch) Japanese turnips with greens
1/3-1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)

Stir together miso and 2 tablespoon butter. Discard turnip stems and coarsely chop leaves. Halve turnips (leave whole if tiny) and put in a 12-inch heavy skillet along with water, mirin, remaining tablespoon butter, and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then boil, covered, 10 minutes.
Add greens by handfuls, turning and stirring with tongs and adding more as volume in skillet reduces. Cover and cook 1 minute. Uncover and continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until turnips are tender and liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 5 minutes. Stir in miso butter and cook 1 minute.

Green Garlic Tips and Recipes
Next Week's Harvest (our best guess)... salad mix, green garlic, rainbow swiss chard, asparagus and more!

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