Dry Spell

7:23 PM Adrian 0 Comments

Hello everyone!  Hope everybody is doing well.  To our CSA members: hope you enjoyed your first box!   We apologize that what actually turned up in them may have been a bit different than what appeared on our list...turns out we didn't have as much pac choi as we thought, and nowhere near enough cilantro.  We will try to be more true to our list next time!

Also, seems like we missed quite a few of you on Saturday!  That is our fault.  While we caught most of you on Wednesday (seems like only a couple people couldn't make it), we failed to sufficiently get a hold of all our Saturday pickup folks (more specifically, we failed to call you), and a lot of you didn't show up...we are sorry!  Before next Saturday we will make a renewed effort to make sure everybody knows our Summer CSA season has already begun.

In farm news: it...is...DRY.  Really, really dry.  The thunderstorm we were hoping for this past Sunday did not come through, although we we were told there would be a 50% chance of precipitation.  Dryness and drought, as you can figure out quickly, is quite an obstacle for farmers.  We must water constantly, diligently, and be highly observant.  This takes up a great deal of our time and energy, and pulls many of our farmers off of other important tasks like weeding, harvesting, and packing produce simply to watch plants and keep them alive.  Mind you, all this watering is simply to keep plants from dying....we do not experience much accelerated growth at all, and our harvests slip into a bit of a bottleneck!  We'd like you all to know that as a result, we are struggling and will try our best to keep the good stuff coming.  We have lots of stuff in the ground, but the harvests will be slower and fewer.  We are going to hold back on having a lot of produce at Farmer's Market, and prioritize the CSA shares.  We want to make sure you get the full benefit and variety of what we have at the moment, and hopefully the weather will improve!  Just letting you all know.  We hope you understand what we have to go through during these hot, hot summers to bring all this food to your table, and we want you to be informed of the reason why there is less of something or lack of certain things completely during this time.  In the meantime...pray for rain!  Or do a little rain dance!

On the plus side...you will be experiencing the beginnings of our first beet and turnip crop this week!

For those of you who were with us during early Spring CSA and even earlier, you may have encountered some of those helpings of stinging nettles.  Some of you may or may not know how to cook or eat this vegetable (yes, it is indeed a "wild" vegetable), and even more of you may simply be intimidated or freaked out by the concept of eating, let alone touching, stinging nettles.  So let us tell you a bit more about them!  For those of you who are concerned about handling this vegetable, we can assure you that typically a few days after they are picked, most of their histamine-emitting hair-like needles on their leaves and stems have dried and fallen off.  I'll warn you that very few can still remain here and there, but even if you do have a brush-in with a sting, the intensity of histamine the plant gives out when it is picked is a whole lot more diminished.  At the very worst, a nettle sting feels just like a mild bee or wasp sting.  In my book, that ain't nothing to cry about.  If you notice a lot of hairs still there, or the plant still seems really fresh...to be safe, you can choose to wear gloves so you don't encounter any, or you can always handle the plant by the very base of the stem or stalk, right above the roots, where there aren't any stingers.  For the tough-skinned and adventurous, go ahead and grab them!  I do it all the time, any stings I rarely encounter are mild and hardly anything to worry about (but that's just me, I am apt to roll around in patches of stinging nettle just for kicks.  J/k.).  Additionally, once you boil, steam, or dry out stinging nettles (say for storing or medicinal purposes), the histamine needles completely dissolve, 100% guaranteed.

Stinging nettles are one of those foods that I am surprised hasn't become a super-food!  Nettles have amazingly abundant amounts of iron, vitamin C & A, potassium, manganese, and calcium.  These plants taste a lot like spinach when cooked and are twice as good for you!  Stinging nettles are also fantastic medicine, helping with ailments such as allergies, rheumatism, menstruation, anemia, fatigue, and to help mother's breastfeed.  Featured at the end of our newsletter will be some recipes to help you get acquainted with this excellent wild vegetable!

Some of you got some of our CSA oyster mushroom special last week!  We hope you enjoyed it.  Any feedback on that would be lovely.  If you didn't receive one and would like one this upcoming week at your pickup, please let us know!

We also had a bit of a kitty mishap the other day, right in the middle of Friday, our busiest packing day when we are trying to get Co-op & restaurant orders, CSA boxes, and Farmer's Market produce out the door by Saturday morning.  Poor Survivor hurt her leg!  Between taking care of vegetables and cat injuries, we were all a bit frantic!  Although she seemed to be recovering pretty well, hobbling about but still trying to have fun, she made a visit to the vet yesterday just to make sure.  We thought her leg may have been broken, but turns out her ankle is only slightly dislocated, and will heal naturally in time with supervision.  She is being given lotsa bed-rest, love, and healthy space....we think it is very apparent she loathed her veterinary appointment, although she really took it in stride and behaved spectacularly.  But she clearly doesn't want to be messed around with anymore!  We are glad she is doing ok...and that she'll be able to keep her leg!  She definitely is a Survivor.

Last Saturday was also our first day selling at the 8th Ave. Cedar Rapids Farmer's Market!  Quite a success.  One of our workers Mike signed up to do the vending, and he was complimented by the market staff for being quite the dynamic salesman.  Coincidentally we did really, really well.  If you buy your produce from us out in Cedar Rapids, you'll be seeing a whole lot of Mike on those busy Saturdays!

It sure has been a bit of a stressful week, getting Summer CSA off the ground and dealing with kitty, amongst other things.  But though it may be a lot of toil and time for us, we all try to remember to have fun...and hey, we also eat well and stay fit!  Come share in the healthiness sometime...we love our Work-Traders and we love to see folks come out to volunteer!

Enjoy the beginnings of summer!

What's on your plate next week:
  • Braising Mix
  • Salad Mix
  • Spinach (bag)
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Asparagus
  • Nettles
  • Radishes
  • Pac choi
  • Head lettuce

Recipes (here is a group of recipes so you can get a "grasp" on stinging nettles!)

Nettle Ravioli Recipe (honest-food.net)
 Makes 35-40 ravioli.
  • 5 ounces all-purpose flour, a heaping cup
  • 5 ounces rye flour, also a heaping cup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 2 roasted Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes
  • 4 ounces mascarpone
  • 4 ounces blanched stinging nettles, a little less than a cup
  • Salt and pepper
  1. You will need two or three big tong-fulls of fresh nettles to get your 4 ounces. I say tong-fulls because you do not want to pick up fresh nettles, as they will sting you. Thus the name. Get a huge pot of water boiling and add a handful of salt.
  2. Grab the nettles with tongs and put them into the boiling water. Stir around and boil for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Fish them out with a skimmer or the tongs and immediately dump them into a big bowl with ice water in it. Once they are cool, put them in a colander to strain.
  4. Get a cloth towel, like a tea towel, and put the nettles in it. Wrap one end of the towel one way, then the other end of the towel the other and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
  5. Chop the nettles finely — don’t use a food processor or you will get a mush.
  6. In a bowl, mash the potatoes, mascarpone and nettles into a cohesive paste. Again, not food processor! Do this by hand, as it is important for the texture. Taste it and add salt and pepper to your liking.
  7. To make the pasta, mix the rye and wheat flours and the pinch of salt and whisk or sift to combine.
  8. Make a well in the center and add the egg and the water, then with a fork whisk the two together, gradually incorporating the flour until you get a shaggy mass.
  9. Start folding the dough over itself until it comes together, then begin kneading. This is a hard dough, so you’ll need to work it hard. Knead for 5-8 minutes.
  10. Cover the dough with a thin film of olive oil and wrap in plastic. Let it sit for an hour.
  11. Cut off a piece of the dough and roll it out in a pasta machine. How thick? Your choice. I normally like thin ravioli, but the green in the filling shows through clearly on thinly made ravioli, so I go only to No. 6 on my Atlas — this is 3 clicks from the thinnest setting.
  12. Lay out your pasta on a board or table, then cut it in half.
  13. Put a teaspoon of filling every 2 inches or so and get a little bowl of water. Dip your finger in and run it along the pasta all around your filling. Just a little water, here, not too much.
  14. Lay the second piece of pasta over the first and seal off the ravioli, starting from the edges nearest the filling. Try to push out as much air as possible.
  15. With a knife or a pizza cutter, cut out the individual ravioli.
  16. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.
  17. You can freeze the ravioli at this point by putting them side by side — not overlapping! — on a cookie sheet in the freezer until they are solid, then into a plastic bag or better yet a vacuum sealed bag. Vacuum sealed they will last up to 4 months.
  18. If you are eating them fresh, boil in lots of salty water until they float, and then for another minute or two. Serve at once.

Nettle Pesto (pesto d'urtica) honest-food.net
This makes a little more than 1/2 cup of very green, very pretty pesto. Store any unused pesto in the fridge, topped with some olive oil to keep the air out.

You must first blanch the nettles before making this pesto. This is how:
  1. You will need two or three big tong-fulls of fresh nettles for this recipe. I say tong-fulls because you do not want to pick up fresh nettles, as they will sting you. Thus the name. Get a huge pot of water boiling and add a handful of salt.
  2. Grab the nettles with tongs and put them into the boiling water. Stir around and boil for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Fish them out with a skimmer or the tongs and immediately dump them into a big bowl with ice water in it. Once they are cool, put them in a colander to strain.
  4. Get a cloth towel, like a tea towel, and put the nettles in it. Wrap one end of the towel one way, then the other end of the towel the other and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
 Now for the pesto:
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons grated cheese (any hard cheese will do)
  • 6-8 tablespoons blanched, chopped nettles
  • Salt
  • Olive oil (use the good stuff)
  1. Pesto is best made with a mortar and pestle, thus the name, which means “pound.’ You can make this in a food processor, but it will not be the same. First add the pine nuts and crush lightly — as they are roundish, they will jump out of your mortar if you get too vigorous.
  2. Roughly chop the garlic and add it to the mortar, then pound a little.
  3. Add the salt, cheese and the nettles and commence pounding. Mash everything together, stirring with the pestle and mashing well so it is all fairly uniform.
  4. Start adding olive oil. How much? Depends on how you are using your pesto. If you are making a spread, maybe 2 tablespoons. If a pasta sauce, double that or more. Either way, you add 1 tablespoon at a time, pounding and stirring to incorporate it.
  5. Serve as a spread on bread, as an additive to a minestrone (like this one), as a pasta sauce or as a dollop on fish or poultry.

Spring Lasagna with Asparagus, Peas, and Stinging Nettles (www.thebittenword.com)
Serves 6-8.
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 5 cups loose stinging nettle leaves (see note); baby spinach can be substituted
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen peas
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces mild goat cheese
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lemons, very thinly sliced
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles

Note on preparing stinging nettles: Wearing gloves, place fresh nettles on a cutting board. Separate the leaves from the stalk. You can use the stems and leaves from the top 6 or 8 leaves on each stalk. You can also use the lower leaves, but discard the thicker stems as well as the main stalk, as they will be too thick and reedy to eat.


-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare stinging nettle leaves (see note above), and prepare asparagus: Cut the tips off of each asparagus spear and reserve them. Then cut asparagus spears into 1/2-inch pieces and set aside.
-In a large saucepan over medium high heat, cook sausage, breaking up pieces, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to paper towel-lined plate.
-Into same saucepan, add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, then the pieces of asparagus spears. Sauté asparagus until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
-Add remaining olive oil to pan, then add diced onion and sauté until just softened and beginning to turn golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add stinging nettle leaves and sauté until wilted and cooked through, about 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
-Cover lemon slices with cold water by 3 inches in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon.
-Make the roux: Melt butter in a different saucepan over high heat. Stir in flour; cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat. Simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in Parmesan and goat cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
-Spread 1/4 cup of the roux in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, then top with a layer of noodles. Top with sautéed asparagus, half the sausage, one third of the remaining roux, and another layer of noodles. Top that with sautéed nettles and onions, peas, half the remaining roux, half the lemon slices, the remaining sausage and another layer of noodles. Arrange the remaining lemon slices and the reserved asparagus tips on the top layer, then pour on the remaining roux.
-Cover dish with parchment-lined aluminum foil and bake 28 minutes, until top is golden and bubbly. (You may want to finish it under a broiler for 2 minutes.) Let stand 10 minutes.

Please tell us if you can't identify something on the market table, don't know what to do with a particular item, have a food allergy we should know about, or if you have other questions or comments. We love to hear from you!

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