Below are current issues of The Weekly Dig Newsletter, from Jillian Varney, owner of the Small Family Farm. Stay up to date on what's happening on the farm!
Week 3, 2013
Strong to the finich because you eat your spinach!
For the first time in what feels like a very, very long time, it is starting to feel a bit like summer. The warm breeze blows against the sweat on our brow and makes us feel cool, the sound of the neighbors mowing their lawn, the lightening bugs, and the thunderstorms. With the first day of Summer coming up this Friday, I think I’m finally convinced that winter is gone and that Summer has the strong hold. Monday morning crew ready for harvest!
With the Midwestern growing season now in full swing, we have much to be thankful for. While we still have plenty of time to wait for our tomatoes to grow taller and begin to blossom and bear fruit. It will feel like centuries before our peppers will grow fruit and turn colors and still several weeks before the sweet corn begins to tassel. Even the potatoes are just now emerging from beneath the mulch. And what will we eat when there aren’t even green beans yet?
The rainy, lush, and now warm Spring is offering plenty of greens. Yes, I said GREENS! You know you signed up for a CSA share because you wanted to eat more greens, feel healthier and try new foods. Here is your big chance! This box is loaded with greens! Spring is a time for cleansing out and cleaning up after all those starchy and heavy foods you ate this winter. I did just a little research to inspire you to eat your greens and feel good about it, so I don’t sound so much like your mother scolding you to eat your greens!
From THIS website. Greens are nature’s scrub brushes, cleaning out toxins, loosening up mucus and cleansing our blood and respiratory systems. They are arguably one of the most important foods we can eat for good health. Unfortunately, they're also the most common food missing from the American diet.
“Dark, leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses,” says Joshua Rosenthal, MScED and founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. “They deliver high amounts of immune-boosting vitamins, skin-glowing minerals and cancer-fighting phytonutrients, not to mention fiber and even protein.”
Some of the proven and apparent benefits of consuming dark leafy greens include:
Reduced lung and chest congestion
Strengthened immune system
Healthy intestinal flora
“What a lot of people don’t know is the vitamins in leafy green vegetables are fat-soluble. To avoid missing out on all the valuable vitamins and nutrients they should be eaten with a healthy fat source,” says Elizabeth Finch, holistic health coach. “Try olive oil, coconut oil or avocado.” Greens come in just about every flavor, from sweet to bitter and peppery to earthy, which means there is a powerful leafy green out there for every set of taste buds.Weeding onions on Thursday morning
Sooo, What's in the Box????
French Breakfast Radish: We were wondering if the French really eat these for Breakfast? What do you think? One of Worker Shares, Joe, thinks "Probably not on a regular basis".
Cherry Bell Radish: These are the rosy red, round balls that look like clown noses. Remember that the greens on your radishes are edible!
Curly Green Kale: Such perfect looking gale this week! This is some of the healthiest stuff we will ship you this summer. Learn to love kale if you can. I promise a long and rewarding relationship. Kale keeps best in a plastic bag in the fridge. Have you ever had Kale chips? See the recipe below!
Collards: A southern cooking green that grows wonderfully in the cool, midwestern north. Collards are in the same family as kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. A mild flavored and nutritious green! Keeps best in a plastic bag in the fridge.
Cilantro: Beautiful and fragrant! The cilantro is looking spectacular this week with no blemishes or yellow leaves. Taco salad anyone?
Spinach: One last giving of spinach before this cool weather loving green goes out of season until fall. We all love spinach with everything, but we'll have to embrace our other greens until the cool weather returns in September and October.
Lettuce X 2: It is high tide for lettuce on the farm. The lettuce is still very tender and wonderful this time of year. We were harvesting green and red buttercups, green romaines and your regular red-leaf lettuce. So much wonderful lettuce. Keeps best in a plastic bag in the fridge. A little extra cleaning effort is needed to clean the lettuce leaf by leaf once you've cut the end off.
Arugula: One last giving of the peppery arugula as well this Spring. The leaves are looking a little more rough now that the warm weather is here. They're still wonderful incorporated into a large salad or wilted down into your favorite greens dishes. Arugula and feta cheese go really well togehter some walnuts and your favorite balsamic dressing.
Broccoli Florettes: Our broccoli this Spring is a sorry excuse for a broccoli harvest. Our broccoli plants were all starting to bolt long before they were supposed to. We think this happened because right after they were transplanted out, they were hit with a few hard frosts just shortly after transplant. Also, they sat in very cold soil after transplant, needing to wait until warmer weather came around before they could resume growth. The added stress after transplant caused them to bolt. So we're just harveting small florettes off of them now. We're so sorry to see this happen. We have 3 more successions of broccoli coming on this Spring/Summer that we have much higher hopes for. We're sorry for the small giving of florettes, but this is the best we have for now.
We find ourselves in another wet week on the farm with more rain in the forecast. We’re a little more hopeful this week because warmer temperatures will remain steady throughout the week providing our plants with the warm, humid and moist weather they will thrive in. We’re getting a little behind on our tractor work because it has been so difficult getting the tractors into the fields when it is so muddy. We have been pushing our limits a little this Spring and have been doing tractor work in soil conditions that are much more moist than what we would normally prefer. We have even resorted to planting some of our winter squash by hand, which we have not done in several years. Covering all the squash with row cover or remay to protect it from the bugs and encourage growth.
We are feeling nearly caught up on planting so far. We have all of our warm-weather loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini and melons planted and growing strong. We were even able to get the last of our sweet corn transplanted last week as it was beginning to rain on us while we were finishing the job. So far we have just been thankful for no erosion or damaging storms. Plenty of rain and moisture (and a little more than we need) are leaving us with muddy and mucky field conditions. The workers leave the fields with boots full of mud, mud on their faces from scratching their noses or wiping their brows, and the knees of their pants caked in mud. I suppose that if we stay too clean, we aren’t having enough fun out there.
The weeds are fighting a good battle this year. With so much rain, we are noticing that the weeds are growing a little faster as well. The fields still look pretty sharp, but this week we plan to do a lot of weeding!
It can be difficult for me to go back in time to one of the first times I began eating food fresh out of a garden, any garden really. I have a hard time recalling one of the first times I purchased local or seasonal food from a Farmer’s Market or Co-op. But something that I have forgotten is what that food looks like to a new pair of eyes.
I wanted to say that the produce you will receive from our farm this summer may look different from the produce you are accustomed to buying at the grocery store. We will grow new varieties of many of these vegetables that you have never seen before. Also, now with so much rain and moisture, even as we do our best to wash all of the vegetables thoroughly, there may be more soil splashed on the leaves of the produce than what you are used to seeing. We are trying our best to get everything very clean, but with so much rain splashing soil into the heads of the lettuce and onto the leaves of the arugula and spinach, you may have to do a little extra washing in the kitchen this week.
I have certainly noticed that the rain and cooler weather makes for very succulent, tender and juicy vegetables! The heat and dry weather can make the crops more pungent and sharp in flavor and can cause the leaves to become tougher. We will see a little of this in our summer successions of lettuce. I challenge you to embrace this CSA experience for all that it is. Surely these vegetables will encourage you to grow in your culinary experience and also in your personal expectations of what fresh produce should look and taste like. Rock on!
Sooo, What's in the Box???
Asparagus- The final giving of the most amazing Spring vegetable ever. Asparagus loves to be stored standing in a little water in the fridge. Or you could wrap a moist paper towel around the ends of it to keep it fresh if you won't use it right away. Asparagus likes to drink a little to stay fresh.
Overwintered Shallots- The final giving of these overwintered shallots as well. These little guys have been in storage in our root cellar since last September. Use them up soon, or store them in your refrigerator in a cool and dark place to keep them from sprouting. Shallots are great in sauces and dressings, or just use them like you would an onion.
Cherry Bell Radish- These are the red, round radishes. You can cut the tops off the radishes and float them in a small amount of water in the fridge to keep them fresh, or for snacking. Save the greens for one of your favorite greens cooking dishes.
French Breakfast Radish- These are the radishes with the white bottoms and the red tops or shoulders. Use the greens in salads or for cooking!
Pac Choi- The final giving of our Spring Pac Choi. The leaves are a little holey again, but this is the nature of organic Pac Choi in the Spring time. We will attempt to grow it again in the fall when the flea beetle pressure has gone away.
Spinach- A modest giving of fresh spinach, but young, tender leaves none the less. This is another Spring gem! Use Spinach fresh in salads or use it in cooking or on top of home-made pizza.
Swiss Chard- This is the colorful leafy green bunch with the stems that look like rhubarb. Swiss Chard is in the same family as spinach and can be used in cooking much the same way as spinach. The stems are edible as well. We will be giving swiss chard many times this summer, so I encourage you to make friends with cooking greens. Many families find that receiving cooking greens each week is a wonderful part of belonging to a CSA farm. Try some of our recipes that we share with you. Harvesting Arugula
Lettuce Heads- We shipped a wide variety of lettuce this week. Some folks received a crunchy green romaine, some received the classic red leaf lettuce, and some received a red or green buttercrunch lettuce. All of the lettuce varieties this week are so tender and wonderful. Remember that you may have to do a bit extra washing, leaf by leaf, of your lettuce this week because a little more soil may have splashed onto the leaves.
Thyme Plant- This is the same thyme that you would use as an herb in your cooking. This is a perennial plant (meaning it will come back year after year) if you have a sunny place to plant it outside and can give it a permanent home. Or, you could put it in a pot with plenty of your favorite organic soil mix to feed it and grow it in the house. The paper pot we shipped the plants in are biodegradable. You can just plant your little plant right into the soil-pot and all! Thyme needs plenty of sunlight and water to grow.
Arugula- Thisi is the bunch of greens with a red rubber band around it. Arugual is a unique flavor of a green. It is wonderful when mixed in with salad greens to make a salad, or it is great wilted and served on top of hot pizza, with hot potatoes and sausage, or with a hot sweet and sour dressing. Arugula is a favorite for many! Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.
Welcome to the Summer Share deliveries of 2013. We are excited about our 8th year running our little Small Family CSA Farm. We enter this growing season with fresh enthusiasm for life and all things that grow and live. Still, even after "all these years" it is exciting for me to watch all the little hopeful carrot seeds push away the hard clay soil, through the wet mud or dry crust and spread their limbs toward the sun. The little baby beets and dill and cilantro and parsnips. They all stand like soldiers in long straight rows, so proud and perky and perfect looking. It's enough to make you move in your seat just thinking about it. Many hands make light work!
For those of you who don't know us, we're the Small Family Farmers. Adam and Jillian and our 19 month old daughter, Ayla, steward this land. We bought the farm in the Spring of 2007 with 60 faithful CSA members who had so trustingly invested in our farm. What we lacked in knowlege or equipment, we made up for in our optimism and extremely hard-working character. I had half a dozen years experience working as a farm hand on various organic farms in the country and my husband, Adam, had been fostering a long-time dream to become a farmer. Adam was also armed with an impressive memory that I insist plays a key role in our success today. Together we were young, dreamy-eyed and boiling over with passion and dreams to change the world...or at least one small part of it.
My mother, Momma Jane, also played a key role in us getting onto our feet. She moved on the farm with us and started mowing lawn, canning tomatoes, doing load after load of our dirty farm jeans, and has been cooking up some of the most amazing, gourmet, home-cooked meals a young farm family could ever imagine. She has been a loyal hand to the farm and is always, I mean always, there when we need her. As of lately, it has been more in terms of babysitting duty so we can get our tractorwork done. Now we call her Gramma Jane, instead of Momma Jane, or Bakka. Conveniently enough, she now lives 400 feet away in her own home that she is almost finished building. We love that we get to keep her so close.
The years just keep passing by and occasionally we stop to notice our growth and improvement. We see that our ridgetop, clay soil has taken a darker shade of brown and now crumbles with lively ease. We see our shed fill up with the needed equipment to run our farm in an effecient way. We see the fruit trees we planted several years ago now with fruit hanging from their limbs. We see increased yields in crops that we had previously found difficult to grow. We see our daughter running around who is a real, live, visual of the passing of time. We see returning CSA members from year to year, a small handful of who have been with us since our first year starting out. Jillian and Ayla in the garden on Eatin'
We are armed with a spectacular and truly impressive community of supporters. Spiritually, we are rich and thankful for everything we have. However, we are not insulated from nature herself. Truly, we are raw and exposed to her whim. The gamble of farming is real and humbling. No matter how much knowlege or community support we have, we cannot stop a hail storm. But we can survive it. We come together under this beautiful, colorful CSA umbrella and we learn more about sharing. We learn more about sharing the bounty of the food that is grown here and the inherent risk in growing it. So thank you for your support of or Small Family Farm in all the ways you give it!
Sooo... What's in the Box???
Asparagus- So fresh! Picked Tuesday morning. This is one item that we do buy from a neighboring organic farmer for the boxes to help fill out these earlier boxes. Asparagus prefers to stand in a little water, or stand on a moist towlette to continue "drinking" to keep it crisp and moist.
Radish X 2- Radishes love the cooler, more moist weather! Hot and dry weather will turn radishes spicy and tough. These radishes are crunch, crispy and mild in their spicyness. The greens are also wonderful for cooking. Use them in salads, stir-fry or in any dish that calls for 'cooking greens'.
Overwintered Shallots- These are in the onion family, found in the small paper bag. Shallots have fantastic storage ability. Keep them in the refrigerator to keep them from wanting to sprout. Shallots are commonly used in sauces, dressings and marrinades to add a mild oinon flavor. Or just have fun with them and use them however you fancy!
Pac Choi- Please understand that pac choi is very difficult to grow in the Spring time due to insect damage. We covered these with Remay (or floating row cover) to keep the bugs off them, but asian vegetables are hard to grow in the spring time when the insect pressure is strong. But they still taste the same even with a few holes in them. This is organic pac choi in the Springtime in Wisconsin!
Lettuce- The heads were a touch on the small side this week. The cooler weather was making them grow a bit slower. Exceptional flavor and tenderness in these early spring greens! We are also able to grow some fancy buttercrunch varieties and oakleaf varieits we have never tried before. You may have recieved a red or green leaf lettuce. We also shipped some romaine lettuce.
Basil Plant- These little guys can be potted in your favorite organic potting soil mix in a pot in the house near a sunny window or somewhere in the yard with good fertility that gets good sunlight. Basil loves sun and warmth! Pick fresh basil leaves for any dish all summer long. Pinch off any seed heads if you see the plant wanting to make seed.
Arugula-The first time we've ever had spring Arugula! Covered under row cover, they were able to grow protected from the flea beetles. Still a few holes, but a nice, distinctive, mild arugula flavor.
Spinach- A modest first picking of Spinach, but there will be more to come! There is enough here to do something with for sure. Oh, how all winter long I missed the taste of fresh, Spring spinach. Now it's here!