CSA distribution # 18 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday July 30 and Thursday August 2. Are you tired of hearing about drought & heat yet? Us, too. Around 1/2 inch of rain fell here Wednesday night/Thursday morning, a nice temporary event but nearly meaningless in the long run. We suspect this is somewhat beneficial for soil life, though, as drip irrigation moistens the soil deeply, but tends to leave dust on the shoulders of the bed. We’ve still received less than an inch total throughout July. The peppers are now hitting their stride and we’ll be featuring several new varieties in this week’s shares.

Joanna took the time to stage some nicer photos of last week’s share, such as the one above. For reference and interest, we estimate that you would spend a bit over $40 to buy equivalent full-share quantities of produce (including herbs) at market retail prices. (And that is for standard amounts, not including value of extras.)

We’re going to skip a week on potatoes then return with a new variety. Please request & enjoy the okra as it’s coming on strong.

NEW! Anaheim hot peppers These dark green peppers (upper left) are mildly hot and perfect for adding flavor to salsa, sauces, and other dishes. We especially enjoy halving them lengthwise (removing seeds), stuffing them with fresh goat cheese, and roasting. Very tasty.
NEW! Mixed sweet peppers In addition to the Jimmy Nardello’s sweet peppers, we grow a number of other types that will be arriving in the shares this week or next. Clockwise above from lower left:
– Banana pepper: a yellow-orange mildly sweet pepper. This is the first year we’ve grown these, and we decided to add them in part because we thought they would be quicker to mature than some of the others. This year they’re coming on with everything else.
– Sheepnose Pimentos: thick-fleshed sweet bell
– Doe Hill Golden Bell: Joanna’s favorite, a thick-fleshed and intensely sweet pepper.
– Chervena Chushka: similar to the Jimmys but with slightly thicker flesh, good for stuffing.
Jalapeno peppers Standard small green hot pepper, great for stuffing with cheese.
Scallions One more week of these to finish off the last planting, then we’ll start on the cured onions.
Cherry tomatoes Same color mix as always. This is the first year we’ve mixed the orange Sungolds in with the heirloom cherry tomatoes. The Sungolds are the sweetest by far, but we really enjoy the subtleties of flavors of the other varieties.
Mid-sized slicer tomatoes Enjoy these sliced or roasted, they’re very versatile. To roast: Halve or quarter tomatoes; toss with oil, salt, pepper; spread on a baking sheet; roast for ~45 minutes, stirring about half-way through. Use roasted tomatoes over pasta or in infinite other ways. Roasting really intensifies the flavor. Yum!
Big ugly heirloom tomatoes
These are the extra juicy & flavorful tomatoes that are worth eating on their own.
Okra Remember that these have a relatively short storage life. Try them fried in cornmeal, or chopped into soups or curries. To preserve, toss them in a bag in the freezer (do NOT blanch) or slice and put in a food dehydrator at 120ºF for ~8-12 hours until crisp/brittle.
Cucumbers Though our first planting has basically stopped producing, the next (smaller) planting is already taking off and yielding enough fruit to supply a couple cukes per household. Looks like no cuke gap after all.
Summer squash These plants have apparently found the fountain of youth. Despite disease, intense pest pressure, heat, and more, they just won’t quit. Yields are down but still enough to supply a few squash per household; based on the surveys this is what most of you want so everyone’s happy, even the pigs who are getting the inevitable overgrowns. Really impressed with these plants.
Cured garlic: This week’s varieties will be (1) Siberian, our best-tasting cooking garlic that ran away with the title at our 2010 garlic tasting event, and (2) Samarkand, a mildly spicy garlic that works great for salsas and general cooking. For identification purposes: We’ll leave the necks long on Siberian, which also has much larger cloves than Samarkand.

Right now we have the best patch of sweet corn we’ve ever grown, forming ears with good pollination. We also continue to fight a running battle with desperate raccoons that are raiding the electric-fenced patch well before the ears are ready for human consumption. Sweet corn is best eaten ASAP after picking, so if we win the battle with the coons and manage to harvest enough for distribution, then we’re going to get it into the shares ASAP whether or not it showed up on a survey. We’re really not quite sure of the timing, having never grown sweet corn for market because it is such a stupid crop to grow economically for a farm our size (it produces less food per unit space than just about anything else). If/when you get it, drop everything and eat it that evening. Seriously. We will get a little testy if we hear about sweet corn that sat in your fridge for a week. This is a real treat as sweet corn is one of the least space-efficient crops we grow and is basically a loss, except that it’s so dang good we’re giving it a try anyway.

We’ll stick with 4 herb bundles/full share and 2/part share this week.

Thyme It is Greek Salad season, and thyme is an excellent addition to the dressing.

Lime basil 
Thai basil

Shiso: Mix of red & green varieties. Really pretty!
Green coriander: Great for salsa.
: Tarragon loves dry weather, so it is doing great.
Orange mint
Kentucky colonel mint

Due to the extreme drought, our pastures are extremely pathetic, and there just isn’t enough natural food left to support the full goat herd. Though we’ve already bought twice as much hay as usual, we still need to take drastic steps to get us through the rest of the summer, winter, and spring before there’s even a chance of pastures recovering next year. Thus we’re going to butcher the rest of the goat kids this weekend. We’re also going to  dry off the older two adult milking does, as this will reduce the food they need to consume and also help their body condition once they stop pumping energy into milk production. These steps are a serious loss to us, as we’re losing about 50% of the meat yield we’d otherwise get late this fall, and a lot of the milk we’d otherwise sell or use for our own food supplies this winter. But we no longer have a choice. We knew we needed a normal/wettish year to sustain a herd this size and took a gamble; instead we got a near-record drought.

We’ll maintain the other two milkers for our own use & for employee pay, but this is the end of milk sales. Drying off does is a gradual process, so there will be a temporary extra pulse of milk production after the kids are gone. If you want to make one more round of cheese or anything else, order milk next week because that’s the end. Also note that the October goat roast will still happen; we’ll save one of these kids in the freezer for that.

Chickens are still laying, though more slowly than spring. Unfortunately, their pasture isn’t very good either, so they’re not getting as much grass/clover as usual, and insect protein is probably down, as well. Yolks aren’t quite as gloriously orange as we’d like, though the eggs are still plenty tasty.

One of the things that keeps us going in the stress of summer is the amazing food and flavors this farm can generate. Here’s a look at some of this week’s meals for inspiration; on-farm ingredients listed in italics.

Spoonbread (fresh-ground cornmeal, eggs, milk) topped with salsa (tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, cucumber, jalapeno), Frijole Mole (pesto of green beans, boiled eggs, onion, basil, olive oil), and fresh goat chevre. Side of okra fried in home-rendered lard with fresh-ground cornmeal).

Upper left: carrots, squash, green beans, scallions, garlic, peppers, pork sauteed in lard with tomato-pepper sauce tossed with egg noodles from World Harvest. Upper right, South African vegetable curry with squash, carrots, peppers, mixed spices, homemade peach butter, organic rice, topped with peanuts.Upper left: diced potatoes fried in bacon lard (rendered fat from home-cured pancetta). Upper right: sesame-pepper salad. This dish has a story; the recipe originated with Sunny Acres Farm, one of Columbia’s earliest CSAs and one fondly remembered by many long-term locals. Joanna was a member, as were at least two of our current CSA members. This is a simple but delightful way to use fresh sweet peppers; the photo above uses every variety we grow.

Xiao’s Sensational and Simple Colored Pepper Side Salad (original name from a Sunny Acres newsletter, August 22 2001).

5-10 sweet peppers
3 Tbl balsamic vinegar
2 Tbl sugar
1/2-1 Tbl sesame oil (use sparingly to taste; this varies greatly in strength by brand)
1 Tbl chopped peanuts or almonds
salt to taste

Slice peppers as thin as possible. Those in the photo above were done by Eric; Joanna slices them even thinner. Mix vinegar, oil, and sugar and let sit a few minutes to dissolve & combine. Mix dressing with peppers and top with nuts. Enjoy.

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