Farm News for the week of July 31st
Reminders & Announcements
- This week is a pickup week for all Vegetable, Fruit & Egg Share members.
- Next week is a pick-up week for weekly Vegetable and Fruit Share members, and it is the final week of Early Summer Shares.
- Week of August 14th - First week of Late Summer Shares
- Week of October 9th - First week of Fall Shares
- Update on Bulk Tomatoes: We've received a few inquiries about bulk tomato availability. Although its still early in our tomato season, we hope to offer larger quantities of tomatoes sometime late August - early September for your canning and cooking projects. We will provide an update in the coming weeks so stay tuned!
This Week's Vegetable Harvest
- Sweet Peppers
- Fresh Shallots
- Zucchini (on farm shares only this week)
- Sweet Corn (from Didier Farms in Prairie View, IL)
*Members who pick up on Tuesday at our off-farm pickup sites will receive eggplant this week. This crop is just coming in, and quantities are somewhat limited. We will distribute to different pickup sites each week until we are harvesting enough for everyone to receive the same item at one time.
This Week's Fruit Share
- Early Golden Plums
- Red Haven Peaches
Farm Photo Journal
Good morning from the field!
We hope you're enjoying our lovely July weather! We've relished working in the sunshine throughout the past week, and this morning was no exception. While our farm crew harvested fresh basil from the hoophouse (pictured above), Jeff and I went out to the farm fields to check in a few crops, specifically to assess their readiness for irrigation. Even with July's record levels of rainfall, the recent set of dry, breezy days made our eggplant ready for water once again.
We also conducted our daily "chicken check" this morning. What is a chicken check? Let me take moment to explain how raise our pretty Isa Brown laying hens and how we produce your Egg Shares.
Normally, the farm crew performs a set of daily chores with our chickens which include several tasks:
- First and foremost, we check to ensure that the chickens are healthy. We walk through their yard and house, observe their habits, watch for any signs of distress or sickness within the flock.
- When all looks good, the second step is to ensure the chickens have plenty of fresh water to get through the day. Water is extremely important for our chickens to remain healthy and to lay their consistent brown eggs.
- Thirdly, we ensure that all of their nutritional needs are met. This includes making sure they have access to our organic pasture, refilling their feed and making available stone grit (to aid in digestion) and oyster shells (to provide they with the additional calcium they need while laying eggs).
- Finally, we collect their eggs. Normally, the chickens lay their eggs in their nest boxes (pictured above). However, we find all sorts of funny things when we collect the eggs. For instance, sometimes multiple chickens (2, 3, even 4!) pile into nest boxes together. They all patiently wait for me to collect the eggs under and around them in a very full nest box!
Once the chicken chores are complete, we take the dirty eggs to be washed. The eggs are often soiled by muddy feet, feathers, bedding. We often get the question of whether we need to wash the eggs (as this does eliminate a protective coating that they are laid with). Due to our Illinois State Egg License, which is required to sell eggs in Illinois, we are required to wash the eggs.
We wash the eggs with our handy-dandy egg washing machine. Our sink-mounted egg washing machine is a large motorized brush system which gently sprays water on the eggs while bushing them clean. After going through the washer, we inspect each egg for cracks. We place those that are clean and crack-free into cartons which are marked with both the pack date and the sell by date (which in Illinois is 45 days after the pack date).
Our laying hen flock does not include a rooster so CSA Eggs will never be fertilized.
However our "family flock" does contain hens and several roosters. Our family flock live in the small red chicken coop next to our home. This flock includes about a dozen bantam chickens, a smaller breed of chickens. As they say about the bantam breed, what the bantam chickens lack in size they make up for in personality...and we find this to be very true! They are unafraid of goats, loud with their morning crows and generally a great source of entertainment for all.
This week those clever bantams surprised us. Apparently one of the hens from our family flock was hiding eggs and because we have roosters in the pen, at least two of her eggs were fertilized. On Saturday morning, we discovered a little black spot following around one of our hens! We also discovered another little chick that wasn't doing as well so we've decided to nurse him/her back to health in the house (he/she is doing great and cheeping happily). If you have a moment, please feel free to visit the newest member of the farm next to our house.
Have a great week!
~ Jen, Jeff and the farm crew
Making the most of your share
We're happy to welcome the start of sweet corn season. The sweet corn in this week's CSA shares comes from a nearby farm, Didier Farm, located in Prairie View, IL. While their sweet corn is not organic, it is local and delicious.
This week's Golden Plums are perfectly ripe and ready to eat! I'd encourage you to savor them soon. Since we're in the heart of stone fruit season, here's a list of ideas and inspiration for making the most of this week's plums:
- Sauté sliced plums and serve alongside grilled meat or poultry.
- Toss sliced plums in a salad with arugula, red onion, and crisp bacon.
- For a dessert, poach halved plums in red wine or port along with cinnamon, orange zest, sugar, and a touch of pepper.
- Add diced plums to muffins, quick breads, and pancake batter.
- Puree plums with yogurt and a little honey for a quick smoothie.
- Add diced plums to a blueberry pie recipe.
- Make a plum salsa to serve with baked tortilla chips.
- Thinly slice plums and add to a sandwich with roast turkey, romaine lettuce, and Dijon mustard on whole-grain bread.
- Make plum sauce instead of applesauce.
Late-July into Early-August is the time for harvesting shallots, onions, and other alliums to begin their curing process. Curing is simply the act placing them in a warm, dry place with plenty of air circulation for a certain period of time. Shallots and onions last quite a long time in storage once they have been cured. Shallots are closely related to onions, but often have a sweeter, richer flavor that is extremely versatile in cooking. I enjoy using shallots in risottos, homemade vinaigrettes and slowing simmering with butter to make a shallot butter glaze for summer vegetables. This week, you'll receive fresh shallots so its best to use them within a couple of weeks.
Farm Kitchen Recipes
Eggplant, Tomato & Goat Cheese Sandwiches
This is one of our favorite go-to summer dinners! The preparation is simple and very flexible. We often substitute peppers or zucchini for the eggplant.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 12-inch-long piece baguette, cut horizontally in half
1 small eggplant, cut lengthwise into six 1/2-inch-thick slices
3 medium tomatoes, cut into 10 slices total
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet)
12 fresh basil leaves
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or preheat broiler. Combine oil and garlic in small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes.
Brush cut sides of baguette and both sides of eggplant slices and tomato slices with garlic oil. Grill cut sides of baguette until toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer baguette, cut side up, to plates. Season eggplant and tomatoes with salt and pepper. Grill eggplant until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side; transfer to plate. Grill tomatoes until warmed through, about 1 minute per side; transfer to plate.
Spread goat cheese on bread, dividing equally. Overlap eggplant slices, then tomato slices on baguette halves, covering completely. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Cut each sandwich diagonally into 4 sections and serve. Serves 2.
Grilled Summer Vegetable Salad with Fresh Basil
Toss this salad with pasta and some freshly grated parmesan for a simple dinner.
2 ears of corn
2 sweet peppers
2 cups zucchini
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Preheat grill to medium-high. Toss corn, peppers and zucchini with 2 tablespoons of oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Grill the vegetables, turning often, until lightly charred and tender. Coarsely chop the peppers and zucchini into 1-inch pieces. Cut the corn kernels off the cob. Transfer all vegetables into serving dish and drilled with vinegar, remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and basil/cilantro. Serves 5.
Grilled Corn with Cilantro-Lime Butter
4 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 ears fresh corn, shucked
Before grilling the corn, soak the unshucked corn in water for 10 minutes. Grill the corn on a medium-hot grill for 10 minutes, turning occasionally. (The heat will dry the silk, which will come off when you peel off the husks. Use a paper towel to rub off any remaining corn silk.)
Combine the butter, lime juice, lime zest, sugar, salt, and cilantro in a medium bowl and mix well. Transfer the lime-cilantro butter to a serving bowl and serve with the corn. Serves 6.
Next Week's Harvest (our best guess)... cabbage, swiss chard, carrots, summer apples, tomatoes, and more!