CSA distribution #21 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday August 20 and Thursday August 23. What a glorious week this has been. Temperatures mostly normal, nights cool enough to want long sleeves first thing…this along with our Tuesday day off has really benefited us. After last week’s realization that the latest water bill wasn’t as bad as expected, we got more good news this week in that the latest electricity bills aren’t either, which is surprising given the amount of A/C we’ve needed to use in the house, as well as the extra cooling power needed by the walk-in cooler & produce fridges. Then to cap things off, we officially heard that Trey Bistro is about to open (after anticipating it for weeks), receiving our first produce order for the weekend’s soft opening, along with an invitation to the soft opening itself. We attended Thursday night and were very  impressed with the quality of the food, especially for an opening night of a new restaurant. We’ll write a more thorough review soon, but this is a very nice development for Columbia. While we still desperately need rain, this is as happy as we’ve been in months.

THIS WEEK’S PRODUCE
NEW! Tomatillos
For the last few years, tomatillos have been an unreliable crop for us, but we’ll have enough this week to get a quart to full shares and pint to partial shares. These green fruits make excellent Mexican sauces & salsas. We highly recommend cooking them first; they respond especially well to roasting. Just halve them, toss with olive oil & salt, and spread on a tray possibly with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and anything else you want. Roast at 400 for 30ish minutes, then blend. They’ll produce a rich green sauce with a sour touch that you might want to buffer with something sweet to taste. Also, be aware that some may have small worms inside; you’ll know when you cut them open. The worms are annoying, but they’re a fact of life in organic tomatillos for us.
Cherry tomatoes These are dropping off fast at the moment, so quantities will be small.
Slicer/sauce tomatoes
You’ll start getting some sauce tomatoes this week, generally tubular tomatoes that may have green shoulders. These are meatier than slicers and are meant to be used in thick sauces or other settings where you don’t want a lot of juice. As the season progresses, these will become more and more prominent because our later tomato planting is dominated by them. Hopefully they’ll produce well and allow some late-season preservation.
Onions
Okra 
Same as last week
Sweet pepper mix
Same as last week
Hot pepper mix
Same as last week; for those unsure about Cayennes, we’ve found that cooking (especially roasting) mitigates their heat somewhat. Try including one or two (deseeded) on a tray of roasted peppers. We also used them on a nice hot-pepper pizza this week, minced & sauteed in advance.
Garlic:
Russian Giant and Siberian this week. Russian Giant is fiery-hot when raw and richly flavored when cooked. Big cloves and big heads make it a joy for garlic lovers. You’ve had Siberian before; it’s the best-flavored when cooked and featured on its own, such as in garlic butter. Russian Giant will have longer stems this week.
Summer squash

Cucumbers

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

Thyme
Sage
Tarragon

Garlic chives
Orange mint

Basil

Parsley
Shiso
Coriander
These plants need to come out soon, partly to prevent them from becoming too much of a future weed problem when the seed drops, and partly to make way for next spring’s strawberry plants. Anyone who remotely expresses interest is likely to get some.
Dill heads

TASTING EVENT RECAP

Four households were able to attend the August tasting event, and we thank them for making it a nice afternoon. We set out platters of most tomato & pepper varieties we grow, along with four varieties of roasted garlic, allowing folks to compare varieties side-by-side and learn more about what they’ve been getting in shares. We explored the farm and answered questions, and just generally had a relaxing and informative time. We’re hoping to post more detailed identification photos of the various varieties one of these days.

UPCOMING EVENTS
Don’t forget the next two events, the September potluck and October goat roast, at which we hope to have good attendance. We’re thinking about shifting the potluck forward by a few hours to be a lunch event; please let us know if there are any objections. We would like the potluck to be friendly to all members’ food preferences & needs, such as vegetarian, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan. Not every dish needs to meet all of those criteria, but we’ll likely encourage labeling so everyone knows what is what. We’ll provide more details closer to the event.

CROP FAILURE: EDAMAME
There haven’t been many crop failures this year, but edamame is one. Burrowing rodents just devastated our plantings this year, repeatedly gobbling up seeds as soon as they went into the ground. The rodents just follow the seeding trench, made all the more attractive by the necessary drip irrigation lines, and devour the seeds like a Pacman villain. The few plants that germinated and grew aren’t enough to supply meaningful amounts of pods to members, but will still allow us a small personal supply for preservation. We served some at the August tasting event last weekend, so at least those members attending were able to enjoy a taste. If we’re lucky, there might be some at the Sept. potluck. Above left photo shows the sparse edamame plants, in contrast to the lush & loaded cowpea field above right.

PREPARING FOR FALL

This time of year involves lots of work getting fall & winter crops seeded, transplanted, and maintained. Above left, Joanna is spreading compost on young leeks. Above right, row cover fabric over new cabbage transplants.

THE DROUGHT CONTINUES

This has been a nicer week, but we’re still in a brutal drought, now officially classified as “Exceptional” (the most extreme category) by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Two months have passed since we’ve had 1″ of rain within a week’s time. Above left is a pasture the goats recently finished grazing. Above right is one they’ll be moving onto in the next week or two. Not much of a difference, really; both photos were taken 8/16/12. Compare to the photos below, showing the goats in roughly the same area on 8/14/09 (left) and 9/5/10 (right).

We can irrigate intensively managed vegetables, but not acres of pasture. This is why we butchered all the kids and dried off all but our personal-use milkers. On the bright side, the vegetable fields are looking rather nice & weed free (by our standards, at least), because weeds just haven’t had much of a chance to germinate in this weather. And for months we haven’t even had to think about weed-whacking the aisles of the vegetable fields (one of Joanna’s most-hated jobs). But the problem of rodents burrowing under irrigation lines may be a major challenge for getting fall plantings established. Direct-seeded carrots and transplanted cabbages are both experiencing that problem currently.

ON-FARM FOOD THIS WEEK
A few interesting meals we had this week; on-farm ingredients listed in italics. We’ve been making numerous roasted pepper sauces for use as flavorings in various dishes; the basic concept is simply to halve & seed any combination of sweet & hot peppers, roast a few minutes under a hot broiler, peel, then blend with other ingredients like garlic, tomatoes, onions, and/or broth to make a thick flavorful sauce. Apologies for the color balance in many of these; as the days shorten we go back to eating dinner after dark, and the lighting in our kitchen is terrible for photography.
We butchered a set of young chickens recently, freezing most and eating two fresh. Above left: fresh chicken & squash simmered in organic coconut milk and roasted pepper sauce, served with noodles & basil. Above right: chicken legs & wings baked in roasted pepper sauce with potatoes.

Above left: simple treat of boiled edamame & sweet corn. Above right: Eric’s mother sent us a treat from her recent trip to Maine; several slabs of fresh-smoked Atlantic salmon. We used the first round as above, making fresh hush-puppy fritters from fresh-ground cornmeal, eggs, milk, flour, salt and topping them with the salmon and/or roasted pepper sauce.

7 thoughts on “CSA distribution #21 & newsletter

  1. We set & posted the year’s calendar of CSA events back in February, based on the farm’s internal weekly & monthly schedule for the year and our best estimates as to what times and days of the week would be most accessible to people (including feedback from early member surveys). Two weeks beforehand we’ll be taking our first night(s?) away from the farm since January, to celebrate our anniversary, and that will already affect our workload for the following weeks. We have family coming in to visit as well, tied to wanting to attend that evening.

    We’re offering a very nice, unique event for CSA members on a day that works best for our very busy and tired selves, set & announced far in advance. Though we personally don’t care at all about college football, we realize that Columbia always has lots of things going on, and not everyone will choose to make it to our events. Those who value this event highly will find a way to come; others will make other choices and that’s life.

  2. I feel a need to point out that anybody looking for inspiration for use of tomatillos would do themselves a favor to check out Rick Bayless. Any (or all, like me) of his books and of course his website have no shortage of ways to make delicious salsas out of tomatillos.
    http://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/category?categoryID=7
    (The above links to his salsas/sauces recipes page)

    And it’s well worth noting that tomatillos can be preserved simply by canning. I don’t have a handy link for a recipe, but it’s not hard and the canned tomatillos are *perfect* for slow roasting with pork (and other winter/preserved/stored things). After roasting the remaining chunks of tomatillo can be blended together with the juices to make a rich, wonderful sauce. Bayless has recipes.

    renée made a watermelon/mint/feta salad (think it also had red onion) recently that was lovely. Inspired by a neighbour who made one for a pot luck last year (slightly different, but all I remember was being dumfounded by the brilliance of a watermelon salad I too would never have thought of).

    btw, still have the note/pictures you sent on our chalkboard following your January visit. So glad you made one of your rare off-farm overnights our place. Max has been in nature ‘camp’ in High Park this week. He’s learned to use his ‘fox ears,’ collect bugs and much more. I’m sure he’d love to explore your farm… particularly if you found a snake…

  3. Joshua,

    Yes, I’m delinquent in mentioning those points. We, too, learned tomatillo use from Bayless and canned a bunch last year. Not sure CSA members will ever get enough at once to can, and no one else at market seems to have them this year according to a former customer of ours. But yes, those we canned were fantastic for easy winter sauces.

    It’s been a decent snake year, there’s a pretty good chance we could find Max one in most years. Depends on how late in the season you come, though, by October as the weather cools down they get less active. There’s a place on the Missouri River, though, where we know the location of a hibernaculum and spring/fall you can see lots of snakes in one place. We can’t wait to return the delightful favor of hosting…

  4. As long as the hibernaculum isn’t in the bedroom, we’re in good shape. Max added “owl ears” today, so he’s in good shape. Also turns out High Park has a very rare black oak savannah he got to explore today. The specialness of that may have been lost on him, as it’s hard to make tangible to a 3 year old that there are hardly any black oak savannahs in the world that have that anymore!

    Apparently the city used to mow it to create more usable park space and then somebody realized what they were doing and now they fence it off, maintain it with controlled burns etc, and it’s something I think Torontonians should be proud of!

    As for tomatillos, I figured that may be the case re quantity, but it’s always good to keep in the back pocket. Also on my mind because it turns out our CSA farmer has tomatillos… they were given some plants and didn’t really know anything about them (they’re South Asian) and I first discovered them when I visited the farm to do an advance pickup. I got to pick all I wanted and then they brought as part of my share a flat of them and apparently when I’m there tomorrow I’m to pick whatever I can. I told them to sell some, but in a generally good year and with a lot of work on the planned stuff, they’re happy these have a home. Since I’ve made a ton of salsa already tomorrow’s crop is likely all headed to the canning jars (although knowing me I won’t be able to resist another small salsa batch, playing with the flavours somehow or another).