Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Less Hot is Good

Hey folks!  A little relief...finally!...has come our way this week.  Those blistering hot temps in the 90's and higher were really wearying us.  We've been enjoying the drop back into the normal summer 80 degree weather, and these cooler nights that have been adding onto our relief.  Now if we could only get some more rain!

We were a little worried what this would mean for our crops, some of them have already been affected a bit adversely.  There have been some plant deaths, as well as weird, wonky illnesses and diseases as a result of the intense dryness and subsequent intense waterings.  The newly-planted rows of asparagus we put a lot of effort into getting started this year have felt it pretty hard, and many of our new plants may have even died as a result of this intense heat wave.  Our broccoli crowns my have the tendency towards being more yellow than usual, although from some member's reports, they still taste delicious.  Some of our zucchini plants are dying at random.  Perhaps it's those squash bugs that bore into their roots, or some form of root rot, or not enough water, too much heat...or a combination of these.  It is hard to tell.  Either way, they are stressed out.  As a result we have less zucchini than expected, but still a lot of Yellow Zephyr squashes.  Some of the fruits they have produced are rather odd-shaped, but not in any way affecting their flavor.  Our kale varieties have been experiencing some strange rot issues and, of course, the average pest problems, which we have been working diligently to avoid the worst consequences.  In fact, we are reaping a plentiful harvest nonetheless.  We pull in and sell dozens of bunches that look beautiful and taste delicious on our order days, so despite these problems, nothing to worry about yet!  Less intense watering and cutting off kale leaves too close to the ground are great ways to remedy this, which we have been doing so far.   

If you receive produce from us that seems more lackluster than usual, has a strange shape, color, or constitution, please bear with us!  In general, the aesthetic appearance of vegetables (holes, spots, strange shapes, etc) has little to do with their flavor and nutrient content, with some major exceptions, of course. This is one of the facets of organic produce that some people don't understand (we deeply appreciate those of you who do).  No, we cannot procure the most flawless looking produce we can grow, like most vegetables you see in the produce section at the store.  Growing a bunch of kale completely free of holes is near to impossible.  Growing absolutely perfect-looking beets is also a challenge, unless we had those unnatural tools to eliminate those completely natural stress factors plants experience.  We sure don't kill what may effect or feed upon our vegetables naturally with the use of harmful chemicals, and we sure as heck don't grow from genetically modified seed and plants to somehow alter and "perfect" the appearance or "perishability" of our vegetables!  That's what being organic is all about.  And despite the obstacles, we find that the majority of what we harvest turns out looking gorgeous and tasting great. 

We can only do so much to prevent the scores of diseases and pests that are way more prevalent this year as a result of this past mild winter.  Sure, mild winters can be great, but the cold and icy winters typical to Iowa are one of our greatest helpers in keeping pest control down.  Subzero temperatures prevent the usual pests from reproducing in such high numbers by destroying some of their eggs, or disallowing them to reproduce as often altogether.  We are seeing abnormally high numbers of them this season, and we've been doing all we can to keep the worst at bay, as well as minimizing any damage we have experienced.  Such is the fight and plight of the organic farmer, lacking the aid of pesticides (yuck!)  We make this statement in the hopes that you understand what it means to be a CSA member, and to support an organic vegetable CSA in both times of bounty, as well as periods of struggle.  Additionally, we thank you for your patronage and support to make this business possible!  We will continue to do the best we can do to bring our produce successfully (and unscathed!) to your table!  We ask for your understanding in return.

Now, onto more positive things.  The past weekend's Garlic Party was successful and very fun!  A few people showed up, a lot of garlic was pulled and processed, and in fact we got through an entire field!  About an acre of garlic!  We thank all those who attended and helped.  Some folks camped right out here on the property in their tents, and woke up with us for a lovely waffle breakfast.  It was a hot couple of days, but very productive and fun.  In the evening after, delicious food was cooked by farmer Derek featuring our farm's produce, we had tasty desserts that featured the amazing amount of black raspberries that have been ripening out by our woods!  We have the high numbers of bees on our property this year to thank for this.  (Note: if you would ever like to come out and pick black raspberries, you are more than welcome!  We'll have a U-pick arrangement available, and the cost of picking and keeping will be very cheap, plus the berries are super delicious!)

Last week we may have surprised you with our first harvest of potatoes we planted in Spring!  They will be in the CSA box this week as well, and you can expect them from now on throughout the season.  We hope you enjoy(ed) them!

Thank you to those who read and follow us.  That's all in the Echollective's news this week.  Hope to see you at market!

On the table this week:
  • Potatoes
  • Kale (bunch)
  • Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
  • Yellow Zephyr Squash
  • Garlic
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Broccoli
  • Basil

Recipes

Sungold Tomato Nuggets (www.fourgreenacres.com)

Halve Sungold tomatoes (or another flavorful cherry tomato). Scoop out the seeds (and feed the seedy slurry to the chickens...)

Place the tomato halves cut side up on a baking tray.
 
For two quarter-sheet trays of tomatoes (or one regular cookie sheet), mix together a fluid paste of:
  • 3/4 cup good olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons of grated parmigiana cheese
  • 2 (or more, to taste) cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
  • fresh thyme leaves stripped off the stems (or oregano if that's more to your liking)
  • sea salt
  • ground pepper
With a little spoon, dribble the paste into each of the tomato cups.
 
Bake in a 250 or 300 degree Fahrenheit oven. Use your judgment. You want it to be a slow heat that will slowly caramelize the tomatoes into something like a tomato raisin -- a tomato raisin, that is, with an additional little explosion of juicy, savory olive oil.
 
 Freeze them in jars and keep them in an easily accessible bit of the freezer because you'll want to grab a few now and then to give a flavorful lilt to toast with ricotta cheese or a broiled slab of French feta or zucchini pizza or... The possibilities are truly endless.

Broccoli with Black Bean-Garlic Sauce (www.huffingtonpost.com)

Ingredients
Directions
 
1. Toast sesame seeds in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
2. Mix 1/4 cup water, vinegar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add black bean sauce and stir until smooth.
3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or stir-fry pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broccoli and stir to coat. Add the remaining 1/4 cup water; cover and steam just until the broccoli is tender-crisp, 1 to 3 minutes. Push broccoli to the sides and pour the sauce mixture in the center. Stir until the sauce begins to thicken, about 1 minute. Stir in the broccoli to coat. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the sesame seeds.

Ingredient Note: Black bean-garlic sauce, made from pureed salted and fermented black soybeans, is a widely used condiment in Chinese cooking and can be found with the Asian food in most supermarkets.
 
 
Roasted Zephyr Squash Medley with Fresh Basil Pesto (robotheartrecipes.tumblr.com)
 
INGREDIENTS

Pesto
  • 2 1/2 cups basil leaves
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Veggies
  • 2 large zephyr squashes, cut into medium pieces
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into large wedges
  • 6 large cremini mushrooms, cut into fourths
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • shaved Parmesan for serving (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Step One: For the pesto, add basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined well and smooth in texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate at least one hour prior to using, preferably overnight.
Step Two: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place vegetables into a roasting pan; spread evenly. Toss with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast. Stir after 12 minutes. Return to oven and roast an additional 10-12 minutes, or until vegetables are golden brown and tender.
Step Three: Gently toss pesto into vegetable mixture. Serve topped with shaved Parmesan if desired.

Source: A Robot Heart Recipes Original.

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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!


1 comment:

laura said...

No complaints about the quality here--everything I've had so far has been great! (She said, salivating over going home to leftover zucchini and garlic and basil.)