Our next CSA distribution will be Monday September 10 and Thursday September 13. We’ve arrived at our theoretical target for the minimum number of distributions for the year, so everything after this is gravy. One thing this year has taught us is that we can comfortably expect to produce more distributions than 24, a useful conclusion as we start to plan for next year. Isaac produced much-needed rainfall, but did indeed cause lots of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes to split. The past week has had everything from wonderful cool rain to intensely muggy days (quite rare this year), and we’ve had the rare experience of trying to fit harvest & work in around multiple rounds of storms. This coming week will be especially busy for us, as we host a CSA potluck on Saturday, visit a similar gathering at a friend’s farm on Sunday, then host a family visit Monday-Wednesday.
Hot peppers take the spotlight this week. We’ll be offering several new varieties, and giving you individual choices among all five types. This will help us assess overall interest in specific varieties and give members a chance to explore pepper diversity and possibly do some preservation. Those who ask for extras may get significant quantities, particularly of the small hot Cayennes & Red Thais, which are especially easy to hang-dry for winter use (string them up with a needle & thread and hang anywhere with airflow, i.e. not a closet).
From left to right: Habanero (orange), Thai hot (tiny red), red & green Ancho/Poblano, red & green Anaheim, red & green Jalapeno (top), Cayenne (bottom).
USING HOT PEPPERS
Removing seeds from all these peppers will lower their heat quotient significantly. Poblanos, jalapenos, and anaheims are all very good roasted, either stuffed with cheese or on their own for use in sauces. We simply halve/seed peppers, toss with olive oil, place under a hot broiler for a few minutes per side until blistered, then blend with any other ingredients we want. They’re also quite useful as a general-purpose chopped pepper in soups, sauces, stir-fries, curries, or anywhere else you want a rich pepper flavor with a bit of heat. Cayennes, too, roast well: we halved and deseeded an entire baking tray, roasted them in olive oil, then blended them with some onion and tomatoes to make a very nice hot sauce.
Habaneros have an excellent and unique fruity aroma and flavor that takes the right recipe to bring out; if you just want raw heat, use a Cayenne or Thai hot instead. Many good habanero recipes come from Rick Bayless’ website. We’re particularly intrigued to try the Chocolate Habanero sauce (without the corn syrup). An easy starter would be this simmered tomato-habanero sauce. Habaneros can also be frozen whole for later use.
All these peppers dry well if you have a food dehydrator; the results store a long time and can be chopped or blended into excellent winter spice mixes. Eric makes a very good pepper sausage from our pork ground with a complex blend of dried sweet and hot peppers.
THIS WEEK’S PRODUCE
SURPRISE! Shiitake mushrooms Isaac’s rain produced a large flush of these mid-week, giving Thursday a nice surprise. We’re hoping they’ll keep producing for Monday; otherwise we’ll store some and let Monday know to use theirs fairly promptly.
NEW! Swiss chard We expect to start harvesting chard again, a useful cooking green.
BACK! Onions Given the featured hot peppers, we wanted to make sure members have everything necessary for some good sauces, so will give out some onions. These will be storage variety onions, yellow &/or red, not as sweet as the previous varieties but plenty tasty.
Green beans Producing abundantly.
Tomatillos We could only get a few to people last week, but hope they were enjoyed. Definitely done for the year.
Cherry tomatoes Should produce for a few more weeks.
Slicer/sauce tomatoes Should keep chugging along.
Okra As abundant as ever. Some of the plants are now tall enough that we have to bend them down in order to pick them. Okra loves heat, so this has certainly been a great year for okra.
Sweet pepper mix Same as previous weeks.
Hot peppers 5-6 varieties discussed above.
Garlic: Shvelisi (general purpose hardneck) & Chet’s Italian Red (softneck). Because we’re on a trajectory to have more distributions than expected, and because the softneck garlic is iffy this year, we’re going to stretch the garlic supply by doing a few weeks of distribution that include a good hardneck and a seconds-quality softneck. The Chet’s heads definitely qualify as seconds, and we can’t promise that there will be much useful in any given head, but they’re not going to get any better by hanging in the barn. We’ll be interested to know what you find.
Summer squash Same as last week.
We’ll stick with 4 herb bundles/full share and 2/part share this week. Parsley is going to take a week off to recover from heavy harvests. It has been sparse all year, primarily because the first (main) planting failed and the second (smaller) planting has had to try to keep up with demand on its own.
Kentucky colonel mint
A gentle reminder of the CSA potluck tomorrow, next Friday’s happy hour at Trey (9/14, 4pm-6ish), and the 10/27 goat roast party. We’d really appreciate having RSVPs (yes or no) for the goat roast by the beginning of October.
We’re already looking ahead to 2013 and discussing/planning any changes we’ll make to the CSA structure. We’ll follow the same full-year model starting with a January share, so would like to finalize our membership by December, meaning we need to set next year’s plans, structure, and policies by late fall so we have time to recruit new members. Thus, we’ll soon be sending out a special survey to current members asking their opinions on some questions regarding the CSA and its structure/price/value. This isn’t aimed at full feedback, we’ll do a more comprehensive survey toward the real end of season when you’ve experienced the rest of the fall crops, but will get us started on necessary planning. Your participation will be very appreciated.
What a difference a week makes. We’ve had multiple rounds of rain, for a total of about 3.5″ as of Thursday night (with more forecast through Friday). The response of plants and critters has been pretty dramatic. We’ve started seeing many animals that had started to seem scarce: snakes, box turtles, frogs, toads, and more. The continuous moisture for a week has brought soil critters back to life and/or back to the surface, as well; worms are again common near the surface, and the nutrient cycling that is happening with the increased activity of a whole lot of smaller critters is probably contributing to a growth spurt that we’re seeing in many plants. Pastures are actually greening up (a bit), many crops are perking up and putting on fresh growth, and weeds are germinating in dramatic numbers. The chickweed is particularly noticeable; it was such a terrible weed this spring that it caused us to break rule #1 of weed management: Don’t let the weeds go to seed. We noticed a bit of germination about a week before the rain, and the rain has brought up dense stands of the stuff. Oh, well, there’s always a downside, but we’re really grateful for the moisture and the associated burst of ecosystem activity.
ON-FARM FOOD THIS WEEK
Haven’t done this in a few weeks, just keep forgetting to take photos. Ingredients sourced on-farm listed in italics. Potatoes feature in several of these though we’re not currently distributing. These are largely damaged seconds that we’re eating up before they go bad; there are more stored for later distribution when other fresh crops taper off. A friend also brought us some wild rice from a trip to Minnesota, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Above left, vegetable curry with potatoes: onion, garlic, okra, squash, tomatoes, sweet & hot peppers, green beans sauteed in lard, mixed organic spices with side of potatoes mashed with Goatsbeard cheese (replacing cream in the Indian recipe). Above right, roasted potatoes topped with fried eggs & roasted pepper sauce. Side of pan-fried okra.
Above left: goat leg marinated & slow-baked in Missouri red wine marinade; fermented vegetables; wild rice cooked with onion, mushroom, pepper. Above right: calzone of homemade dough, tomato/garlic/onion/basil sauce, fresh goat ricotta, egg, sweet pepper, Swiss chard, garlic.