Farm News for the week of April 30th Important Reminders
- This week is a pickup week for members registered for weekly and every other week Spring Vegetable Shares and Spring Egg Shares.
- Please check our Farm Events page. There you can find details on the upcoming May events like our Annual Organic Plant Sale & Farm Open House, Pizza Night on the Farm and the first Oak Park Farmers Market. Check back to find more events this summer. We hope to see you soon!
This Week's Vegetable Harvest:
- Baby Bok Choy
- Red Radishes
- Overwintered Spinach
- Russet Potatoes - from Igl Farms
- Wintered Carrots
- Yellow Popcorn
Welcome to the start of our 12th outdoor growing season!
We wanted to take a moment to welcome everyone to this year's Farm Share CSA program. Many of you are returning members to this farm, and we want you to know how much we value your commitment to our farm. We’d also like to warmly welcome those who are new members. For those who are not yet members, we hope you'll consider joining the farm.
As a result of your upfront commitment to our farm, we started this season off on solid footing. We purchased (and sowed!) thousands of vegetable and cover crop seeds, and we now joined by a flock of 400 young hens resting comfortably in their newly rebuilt home on the pasture. We also welcomed back a seasoned, passionate farming crew with some new faces joining the team.
As mentioned in an earlier newsletter, we and our fellow farmers in Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois tend to agree that we’re at least one to two weeks behind of what we typically see at this time of year. This spring is dry and chilly, meaning that plants are slow in their growth and they need well-timed watering so their tender leaves have time to dry before the nightly low temps. That all said, we had plenty of crops ready for our first spring harvest this week, and its been rewarding to harvest them in the sunshine and cool breeze.
Finally, I enjoyed a nice conversation recently with a member who shared her CSA experience with me, and I've paraphrased to share with you. In this member's first year receiving the farm share, she worked hard to include vegetables her family meals and not let anything go to waste, but alas, some did. In her second year with the shares, she really started to realize and internalize the rhythm of the farming season. She had a sense of how the weather would shape her food and as she received the produce, she prepared and shared ideas and tips with her fellow CSA members. She was not only better able to use her produce this year, but she began to store some for winter. In her third year of the farm share, she felt confident in her kitchen, welcomed the diversity of produce into her kitchen and wanted to teach others who didn't eat within season to do the same. She told me encourages others to "stick with the farm share program, because changing your food preparation routines and your health takes time, but its worth it." I love her realistic advice!
We realize eating seasonally is a commitment that takes time and thought, and we welcome you on this journey with us. We hope you enjoy the healthy diversity of local vegetables, fruit and eggs that we planned for you this season. We are thrilled to be your farmers, sharing the bounty of the farm, your farm, with you and those around your dinner table.
Happy spring eating!
~ Jen, Jeff and the farm crew
Notes from the Farm Kitchen
Chives are a perennial crop that forms purple flowers as they mature. Chive flower buds are not only pretty, they are also very tasty. Try sprinkling chopped chives into potato salads, egg dishes, salad dressings, marinades and our kids favorite: on baked potatoes with cheddar cheese and bacon.
This week's russet potatoes come to us from friend-of-the-farm, Brian Igl, an organic potato grower near Antigo, WI. We spoke to Brian for this winter and learned about his long-standing family farming traditions, as he farms with his brother and father to produce the wide variety of potatoes they grow. These potatoes were harvested last fall and have been in storage all winter. Now that they are out of storage, they are going to want to sprout up on us, so store them in a cool, dark place and using them in the next week or so.
Spring arugula, has a mild kick but is not bitter. This arugula was harvested from the hoophouse so its leaves are delicate, so we love to feature on whatever we’re cooking. We eat arugula on sandwiches in place of lettuce, within salads and as a pizza topping. Its also great gently cooked with olive oil and garlic, and used as bed for fish.
Overwintered spinach has thicker and sweeter leaves than spring-planted spinach because it gets planted in October and grows throughout the winter. Because of its thick leaves, it is best used in cooked dishes rather than eaten raw in salads. You may notice it’s a bit more textured and that's a good thing! This means that the spinach won’t cook down as much as late spring or fall spinach.
We’re particularly happy about of a new variety of baby bok choy we're growing this season called Mei Qing Choi that we grew in our hoophouse this spring. This variety is known for a study base and tender leaves, and it has a wonderful, olive green color. We've found its delicious eaten raw within a salad, or gently sautéed or steamed.
Each year we harvest our popcorn crop just before Thanksgiving. It has been stored since this harvest, and the kernels are now dry enough to pop. (You should store the ears in a cupboard or other dry place.) We realizing making popcorn on the stovetop is a little more work than the microwave version, but the kids that hang out at house can attest -- the results are well worth the effort! Cover the bottom of a pot with vegetable oil. Add one layer of kernels to the bottom of the pot and cover with a lid. Place the pot over medium heat. Remove from heat as soon as the popping stops. Add salt to taste.
Tips for Spring Produce Storage
Most spring vegetables must be refrigerated in a plastic bag. Keeping these items in plastic helps prevent wilting. If arugula or another tender vegetable appears droopy, soak it in cold water for a few minutes, shake off the excess water, and refrigerate in a plastic bag until it perks up. Also, we rinse all the vegetables here at the farm, but you should always wash them thoroughly prior to eating.
Recipes from the Farm Kitchen
Radish Butter on Toasted Baguette - We made this weekend and since the spring radishes are sweet, this pairs perfectly with spicy pork chops. Substitute chives for radishes, and you can make another delicious spring compound butter.
1 bunch radishes, cleaned, root ends trimmed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 baguette, lightly toasted
Grate radishes on the small holes of a box grater; place on paper towels, and squeeze out excess liquid. Combine radishes and butter in a small bowl; mix well.
Slice baguette in half lengthwise, and place under broiler in oven; toast until crisp and browned. Remove from oven, and cool slightly. Spread radish mixture on toasted baguette; season with salt and pepper. Slice each half into four pieces, and serve. Serves 4.
(adapted from Martha Stewart)
Winter Spinach Lasagna - This is one of my go-to lasagna recipes from Mark Bittman because its so flexible. I tend to sprinkle in any leftover winter vegetables I have still in freezer like roasted broccoli, roasted garlic and bell peppers.
12 to 16 dried or fresh lasagna noodles
3 to 4 cups good tomato sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups cooked winter spinach, squeezed dry and chopped (about 1 1/2 pounds fresh)
1 ½ cups ricotta
1 ½ cups coarsely grated mozzarella
2 cups grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
If you're using dried pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. If you're using fresh pasta sheets, cut them into long wide noodles approximately 3 inches by 13 inches, or a size that will fit into your lasagna dish. Cook the noodles (6 at a time for dried noodles) until they are tender but still underdone (they will finish cooking as the lasagna bakes); fresh pasta will take only a minute. Drain and then lay the noodles flat on a towel so they won't stick.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a rectangular baking dish with the olive oil, add a large dollop of tomato sauce and spread it around. Put a layer of noodles (use four) in the dish, trimming any overhanging edges; top with a layer of tomato sauce, one-third of the spinach, and one-fourth of the ricotta (use your fingers to spread it evenly), the mozzarella and the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
Repeat the layers twice, and top with the remaining noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan; the top should be covered with cheese; add more ricotta and Parmesan as needed. (The lasagna may be made ahead to this point, wrapped tightly and refrigerated for up to a day or frozen. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)
Bake until the lasagna is bubbling and the cheese is melted and lightly browned on top, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest a few minutes before serving, or cool completely, cover well, and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze. Serves 6.
(source: New York Times)
Baby Bok Choy with Warm Miso Ginger Dressing
2-1/2 Tbs. peanut oil
1-1/2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1/2 Tbs. minced garlic
1/4 cup mirin
1-1/2 Tbs. white miso
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1/4 tsp. Sriracha
1 Tbs. Asian sesame oil
2 lg or 3 medium baby bok choy, quartered or halved lengthwise
Heat 1/2 Tbs. of the peanut oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the mirin, miso, lime juice, vinegar, and Sriracha, and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in the sesame oil, transfer to a heatproof bowl, and keep warm.
Wipe out the skillet. Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. peanut oil over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the bok choy, toss gently, and then cover and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp-tender and browned on some edges, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter, drizzle with the dressing, and serve. Serve with rice. Serves 4-6.
(source: Fine Cooking)
Next Week's Harvest (our best guess)... head lettuce, garlic chives, swiss chard, carrots, and more!