CSA distribution #26 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday September 24 and Thursday September 27. The continued glorious, cool weather is starting to mean threats of light frost in our valley, and so we’re beginning to plan for the end of summer crops and the transition to fall produce. Our first real chance of frost is this Saturday evening, and we’ll be holding an open work day for CSA members who wish to come help us get ahead (more below). Members will start to see the reduction or end of many items over the next few weeks, though many new fall crops are growing and will hopefully be ready soon.

MANAGING EARLY FROSTS
This is the time of year we start thinking about frosts. While mid-October is the average first frost date for central Missouri, down in this protected valley we usually start seeing mild frosts around mid-September. Any calm, clear night forecast for the low 40s can and usually does produce a light frost on low-lying areas that can damage or kill sensitive summer crops like tomatoes, beans, basil, zucchini, okra, peppers, and more. On nights like this, we need to cover any sensitive plantings with fabrics to hold in heat and keep frost off; often these fabrics freeze while protecting the plants beneath. Thus one of the stresses of fall is juggling nightly frost protection with our normal workload; every post-frost morning these covers need to be taken off or the sun will roast what’s underneath during the day.

In addition, once a harder killing frost threatens (likely sometime in the next 3-4 weeks) there is always a huge pulse of work involved in harvesting all the remaining fruit (beans, tomatoes, peppers, etc) that will otherwise be damaged as the plants die, then storing and trying to sell/distribute that mass of produce while lots of other farmers are doing the same thing. All this happens in addition to the normal routine of managing and harvesting all the growing fall crops (greens, cabbages, root crops, squash, etc.) that are usually going strong in the cool weather they prefer. So mid-September through early November can be an especially crazy time for us.

SATURDAY PRE-FROST PARTY
With Saturday night forecast for 40ºF, there’s a good chance (based on repeated experience) of the light frost in our protected valley. Previous years, we’ve worked hard to protect everything and try to extend the harvest season of summer crops as long as possible, to maximize our market income. This time, given how productive the season has been, and how busy fall can be, we’re going to intentionally start cutting back summer produce early to try and spread out both the fall workload and the inevitable huge fall pulse of post-frost vegetables.

Thus we’re going to spend Saturday covering some beds while doing a final harvest/rip-out of others. In an email earlier this week, we offered the possibility of CSA members coming out to help on this busy day, which should have glorious weather and a good chance to take part in and learn more about farm management at this time of year. Any attending helpers will get to take home a nice pulse of pre-frost produce like green tomatoes, which will also start showing up in shares next week. We like the idea of getting ahead on such harvests, to spread out these items over many weeks instead of one intense pulse. It’ll also likely lower our blood pressure in a few weeks when harder frosts arrive and we don’t have to deal with everything at once. This decision makes a lot more sense under a CSA system than a market system, where in the latter we’d want to squeeze every last penny of income out of each bed rather than accepting that we’ve achieved our goals for the year and can back off early. There’s enough fall produce coming on that we don’t expect people to be too disappointed at losing a few weeks of okra or cherry tomatoes.

THIS WEEK’S PRODUCE
NEW! Green tomatoes
We love green tomatoes sliced & pan-fried in cornmeal and salt, but they also make very good chutneys, pie fillings, and more. Read more about using green tomatoes in this blog post from last year.
NEW! Winter squash (Pie Pumpkin OR Delicata) Our apologies, but we’ve since taste-tested the Delicatas and were not at all happy with them. We don’t have enough pumpkins for everyone so haven’t yet decided what to do. This hasn’t been a great year for a variety of cucurbits, winter squash included, and yields are disappointing. We don’t have enough pie pumpkins for everyone (not even for all full shares), so will give out either one pie pumpkin or two delicata squash to the full shares; part shares will hopefully get one delicata each. If you have a strong preference, leave a comment on your survey.
Swiss chard Holding steady as a good cooking green. Try it in calzones or on pizza.
Green beans (maybe?)
Probably near the end of their season, maybe through next week? Partly depends on frost over the weekend.
Cherry tomatoes These will be ripped out on Saturday. Monday shares will get some, Thursday possibly depending on harvest (if so, eat them right away as they’ll be older than usual).
Slicer/sauce tomatoes
We’ll be ripping out the earlier slicer/saladette planting on Saturday, leaving the later planting of slicer/saladette/sauce until a true killing frost. Thus the proportion of sauce tomatoes in shares will continue to increase. This is a good time to start canning and/or freezing sauce or even just roasted tomatoes.
Okra
This, too, is slated to be ripped out on Saturday, meaning Monday will be the last distribution day as it won’t store until Thursday. It’s been a good okra year and everyone who’s asked has gotten several rounds of bulk okra, so we don’t feel bad cutting this off at all. Like cherry tomatoes, any Thursday people who come out to help on Saturday will probably get some if desired.
Sweet pepper mix
We’ll definitely be protecting these, as they’re still loaded with fruit and we love peppers. We’ll keep them going as long as we can.
Hot peppers
After two weeks of intense harvest on all varieties, we’re going to back off again and let quantities rebuild. We’ll likely return to the take-it-or-leave-it combination of Jalapenos, Anaheims, and a few Thai/Cayennes.
Garlic: 
Bogatyr (long stem) is a good general-purpose hardneck. Lorz (short stem) is another softneck of uncertain quality, like last week’s Tochliavri.
Summer squash
Cool weather means these are growing slowly, but should stick around a bit longer. We’ll cover these on Saturday night.

HERBS
We’ll stick with 4 herb bundles/full share and 2/part share this week. Almost certainly the last week for basil, if it even makes it through this week. Basil does not like cold. There’s some cilantro growing that we hope will be ready for harvest before the tomatoes get zapped by cold.

Thyme
Oregano
Sage
Tarragon

Garlic chives
Chives
Orange mint
Lemon balm
Parsley
Basil
Maybe? Depends on frost situation.
Thai basil Maybe? Depends on frost situation.
Lime basil Maybe? Depends on frost situation.
Dill leaf (limited quantity)

COMING SOON
Crops close to readiness include baby greens mix & pac choi. Crops growing for fall/winter shares include cabbage, mustard greens, radishes, turnips, leeks, lettuce, parsnips, beets, carrots, spinach, cilantro, dill, and more. Sweet potatoes and the remaining winter squash are also nearly ready for harvest. Something to look forward to if you’re tiring of the same mix of summer produce.

MEET THE NEIGHBORHOOD OWL
In the last week, an especially friendly Barred Owl has been hanging around our smaller growing area nearly constantly, perching on various fence posts and allowing us to get quite close. This is something we love to see; a natural predator of problematic pests like rabbits and voles, finding a comfortable home on the farm. We’re about ready to name it, and are half-wondering if it’s the young one we observed back in April.

FEEDING FARM ANIMALS ON SALVAGED CROPS
Fall is a great season for increasing the percentage of on-farm food our animals eat. The pigs in particular will happily eat most things (other than okra & peppers), such as the half-ripe watermelon above left. We’re ripping out bean plants as they lose production, but before they die (above right), creating large pulses of healthy legume greenery that both pigs and goats love. Sweet potato greens, green tomatoes, unripe (or overripe) tomatillos, and more are all fair game for healthy and nearly free animal feed (as long as we don’t sell the pigs).

MAKING ROASTED SAUCES
Various roasted sauces are a real staple of our diet this time of year. It’s so easy to cut up a few trays of mixed items such as tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, garlic, and onions, roast them, then blend into tasty sauces. Above is a large batch of roasted tomatillo sauce, from the last harvest for this year. I roasted three full sheets of halved tomatillos, plus two mixed sheets (like above left) of Anaheims, Poblanos, Jalapenos,  a large red onion, and a full head of German Extra Hardy garlic. All were tossed with olive oil before being spread on the sheets and roasted at 450ºF for 25 minutes. I then used a food processor to blend them into a rich, tasty sauce with salt added to taste, and some chopped fresh cilantro. This produced about 5 quarts, some of which was frozen for later use (such as at the Fall Fiesta/Goat Roast in October), while some was kept for fresh use on fried eggs, roasted potatoes, rice, and much more. The exact same method works with tomatoes and doesn’t need any additional spices or flavorings if using good farm-fresh ingredients whose flavor speaks for itself.

6 thoughts on “CSA distribution #26 & newsletter

  1. Following nearly the exact same procedure I make no shortage of variations of this sauce (salsa) and our freezer is brimming full with them. Make great bases for dressing (especially for a lentil, potato or grain salad) as well as a base for soup (great with corn, including frozen, as a soup) and also as a braising liquid (add water or stock and you’re good to go. also holds up well to the addition of things like tahini to braise with). It’s our staple sauce the way tomato is for so many Italians. (Although I also make some tomato-based sauces like this too, my favourite this year probably was with just the right amount of habaneros to have real heat, but amazing flavour).

    Although if I could get my hands on your poblanos I’d probably leave them out of the sauce because I’d be too busy stuffing them with cheese (and maybe sausage), frying or grilling, and then topping with the sauce. mmmmm

  2. Can you not get poblanos in Toronto? I like the suggestion of using roasted sauces for dressings, haven’t tried that before. Otherwise I agree, the basic roasted sauce has become a staple food for us at least during this time of year (and we make a similar version often in winter with dried peppers). We use it a lot on roasted potatoes, too.

  3. The original inspiration for sauce-as-dressing-base was from Rick Bayless’s book Mexican Everyday, which probably anybody reading this blog would be well served to pick up. Lots of great Mexican flavours and dishes but with loads of substitution ideas and veggie friendly options.

    Another great use of a suace like this is to season guacamole. It’s my go-to option for guacamole in winter, when fresh ingredients are hard to find (dried tomatoes also are a great choice, and adding radishes or eating with them is nice too).

    Speaking of Rick Bayless, this Roasted Beet, Red Onion, Lime, Cilantro salad recipe caught my eye as being a great use of a number of your current veggies. I’d sub out the Worcestershire but my brain isn’t immediately coming up with the alternative. http://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/view?recipeID=281

    As for poblanos, the challenge is that Mexican food is one of the most underserved segments of the culinary landscape in Toronto. It’s a bit easier to find them outside of town, as the fairly large migrant worker (and to lesser extent immigrant) population snaps them up, and in general there seems to be a bit more appetite for them. But they’re rarely organic. Most of the farmers at the markets we attend regularly don’t grow them, and I’ve prioritized having a “network” tomatillo growers! Poblanos should be next as they may well be my favourite pepper. I tried to solve the problem by growing them myself this year, but despite healthy looking plants and then flowers I didn’t start seeing any fruit until maybe 2 weeks ago, so I’m not optimistic about having any.

  4. Thanks for letting us come out and play, I mean, help! It was a lovely morning.

    I’ve been looking over your green tomato ideas – the canned pie filling recipe (which is all over the internet by now) has one atypically unclear item. Did you go with fresh or candied peel? Fresh citron is rather uncommon, and fresh peel of any kind isn’t usually listed as ‘minced’, so I was leaning candied, but figured I’d ask what you chose.

  5. Fae,

    We use fresh lemon peel (partly because that is the easiest to find organic citrus most of the time). I made a note in the cookbook that I sliced off the zest with a little bit of white inner peel (but didn’t use the whole thickness of the peel, since I don’t like bitterness & the inner peel tends to be bitter). We’ve found that 2-3 lemons is generally enough to generate a 1/4 cup using that method.

    A couple of other notes that I wrote in the margins:
    1 quart of chopped green tomatoes is approx. 1.25 lbs of whole tomatoes.
    1 lb of raisins is roughly 3 cups. I’m not sure that I have ever encountered a white raisin, so we usually just do normal raisins for the whole amount. (Last year we had some goldens, so may have used those in place of the whites then.)

    Thanks so much for coming out to help!

  6. renée is known to candy her own citrus peels. this epicurious recipe is as good as any, but The Martha has one too, as do others.
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Candied-Lemon-Peels-232352

    Basically you boil 3 times to eliminate the bitterness and then boil in a 1:1 water:sugar mix. Once syrup-y it’s done, and then it keeps a very, very long time in the fridge.

    btw, ironically the day after making the comment about poblanos, my csa farmer had some! holding out on me, i think!