Winter Share Contents 10/24

It’s a fantastic fall harvest, certainly welcome after a summer full of what seemed to us more than the usual challenges! We’re especially pleased with the onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, fall greens and leeks – all very nice. Enjoy the harvest!

Here’s a list of what is in your share from Picadilly Farm:
Celery, a bunch. We picked it last week, as it would have died in the 25 degree nights, even with double row cover. It is tasty, though will not store for too much longer. Our celery tends to be less watery, more fibrous, and stronger flavored than supermarket celery. Best for cooking, less ideal for juicing.

Kohlrabi, a piece. What?! I joined a CSA and now they are giving me kohlrabi?! This is the softball-like item in your box, unsuspectingly full of vitamins A & C, calcium and potassium… If you’ve haven’t tried it yet, prepare for a mild flavor, much like the stem of broccoli with a little turnip tossed in. Peel off the outer layer, use it all at once or just a bit at a time – it will keep well partial or whole in your fridge. My favorite use so far has marinating and grilling slices – takes a little longer than most veggies, takes on the flavor of your marinade, and retains a nice crunch. Recipe: Shredded Root Salad.

Leeks, a bunch. Not just for potato leek soup, though delicious if you go there. Leeks can be easily frozen – just wash, dice and put in sealed bag in the freezer.

Potatoes, 6 pounds of “Sangre” reds.  Good yields this season, with more blemishes on the red potatoes than usual. We usually don’t wash potatoes, since they store better unwashed. We washed these for better sorting, and included six pounds instead of five, to account for any “bad spots” that we didn’t/couldn’t see. Store them in a cool and dark place, out of the plastic bag, and they’ll be best used within the month.

Onions, 2 pounds of reds and 2 pounds of yellows. A bumper crop of nice onions this season, our best ever. The rain in June and July was great for sizing them up.Then the warm and hot for those three short weeks in August was just right for harvest and curing time. Store onions in a cool, dry-ish place, and they will keep for months.

Beets, 2 pounds. A smaller harvest than usual, with sweet flavor following a few hard frosts. Store in the fridge.

Winter squash, 2 delicatas and two acorns. Enjoy these more perishable winter squash in the next month or so. They are best stored at about 50-55 degrees, not much colder – a cool place in your kitchen can work well. Watch for small bruises or rot spots – the squash will deteriorate quickly once they appear. Any winter squash seeds are great for roasting: rinse them well, and let them dry. Oil the pan slightly, and roast in a thin layer. Roast at a low temperature, 300-325, as the seeds can go from brown to burnt quickly. Stir occasionally. Try seasoning halfway through roasting with sugar and cinnamon – yum!

Pie pumpkin, a good sized “New England pie”. If you plan to cook with it (which I hope you do!), then don’t let it freeze while it adorns your porch for Halloween. To cook: cut off the top, quarter, and roast just until tender. Remove the skin, puree and use as you like. Pumpkin puree can be frozen – put 1 cup portions into small plastic bags or containers.

Savoy cabbage, one. A versatile, tasty cabbage, this will store in your fridge for a month or so.

Salad turnips, a bunch. A radish-like turnip, which can be used raw or cooked. Cooked, it is more watery and milder flavored than a big fall turnip – try it stir-fried rather than roasted or souped.

Parsley, a bunch. One of the most cold-hardy fresh herbs. Store it with the stems in a glass of water, in or out of the fridge; or wash and dry the leaves and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Sweet potatoes, 4 1/2 pounds. A beautiful crop of sweet potatoes this year, great flavor and texture in all shapes and sizes! Who knew that a tropical crop could thrive in New England with virtual no summer… The plants did well in our sandiest field, and the tubers are sweetening up in storage. Keep them in a cool place in your kitchen – they’ll last for months if you have a 50-55 degree spot, with good ventilation. Recipe: Sweet Potato Oven Fries.

Daikon, a bunch. This mild Japanese radish is the most common vegetable grown in Japan, and has many uses there. It will store in a plastic bag your hydrator drawer for a long time (I used my last one from last November’s harvest in April!). So, plenty of time to figure out your favorite ways to use it. Try pickling it, grating in to salad (or as a salad with carrots and beets), or in a stir fry. Recipe: Japanese Radish Salad

Fennel, a bulb or two. A versatile seasoning. Use raw with dips, add to soups or to Italian-inspired dishes. Store in a plastic bag in your fridge for up to 2 weeks. 

Sweet peppers, a handful. We picked out the peppers before the hard freeze (along with the celery). They store well, and it’s nice to have a “summer” food in October. Three “italias”, which are pointy and red, or partially red – these partially red ones may ripen more if you leave them in your fruit bowl for a day or two before eating. And four green bell peppers. Peppers freeze easily and well, for cooking later – chop and put them in a container.

Hot peppers, take what you’d like. We are not including them in the boxes, but you can take a handful if you are a fan. Mostly hungarian hot wax, green serranos and jalapenos.

From Riverland Farm:

Lettuce, two heads of Summer Crisp variety “Magenta”. The foundation of a nice salad or two …. add carrots, hakurei turnips, a red pepper and a little parsley.

Kale, a bunch of winterbor, a green curly kale that’s been sweetened up by the frost. This would make great kale and sausage soup, or if you’re not in the mood for soup try kale sauteed with garlic and olive oil, with some of Baer’s Best beans thrown in.

Carrots, 4 pounds. This variety of fall carrot, Bolero, has a loyal following among shareholders and farmers. Excellent for eating raw, makes a great carrot soup, or mix up a batch of carrot muffins. This will store well in your fridge.

Broccoli and/or Cauliflower, 2 heads.

You’ll also find a pound of Baer’s Best Beans in your share (Jacob’s Cattle, Otebo or Calypso). Ten pounds of apples from Cider Hill Farm are also included this month. Apples varieties include Empire, Mutsu, Melrouge, Carosel, Braeburn, Gala and Jonagold.

Brookwood Farm’s On-Farm Market

The farm I’m working at this season is having it’s first end-of-season on-farm market. Although it’s been a tough growing season, we’ve an abundance of cool weather crops in our fields. We will be harvesting everything for our farmstand sale on Saturday, October 31. What isn’t sold will be donated to local hunger relief organizations.

What:  Local, organically-grown vegetables!!!

Who: Brookwood Community Farm growers Judy, Gretta, Simca & Jason, will be present throughout the market to answer questions, chat about our growing practices and share our favorite recipes.

When:  Saturday, October 31 from 9:30 AM – 2:00 PM. Rain or shine.

Where:  Brookwood Community Farm, 11 Blue Hill River Rd. Milton, MA

With a little cooperation from mother nature we expect to have Brookwood-grown garlic, shallots, leeks, scallions, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, cabbage, leaf broccoli, lettuce, escarole, cilantro, parsley, and more. Organic potatoes and sweet potatoes from Picadilly Farm will be available on a pre-order basis and IPM apples from Autumn Hill Orchard will also be for sale.

Directions & Information about Brookwood & On-Farm Market updates

What’s in the share?

I wrote this for this week’s Brookwood Community Farm newsletter. Thought I’d get a little extra mileage out of it by posting it here. It certainly applies to winter share contents. It feels like there are fewer surprises with fall and winter CSA shares, though perhaps the surprises are just of a different nature: walk-in coolers that go on the fitz, rodents who discover the sweet potatoes, frozen ground that makes securing row cover impossible.

“What’s in our CSA share next week?” This is a common question from shareholders excited about local vegetables, folks putting together a shopping list for the week’s menus or lining up new recipes to try out. We, your growers, ask this question, too. There is considerable anxiety behind this question for most growers. Spring and summer are the seasons when I worry the most about having grown enough vegetables and enough variety, to satisfy eaters who have a taste for really good food. The innocent question, “what’s in the share?” sets my teeth on edge early in the growing season. I have been unpleasantly surprised by the appetites of woodchuck, stunned by the quick devastation caused by plant pests, and this season, dumbstruck by late blight on our tomatoes. So, I’ve learned to not make predictions about what’s in the CSA share next week. But now, in October, with just three CSA distributions left, I’m feeling a little more confident that there’s both the quantity and variety of veggies to satisfy our discerning eaters. So I thought it time to explain how certain types and quantities of veggies come to be in the CSA share.

It all starts in October. Almost eight months before the first CSA share is distributed, the planning process begins as we evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the current season’s crops and markets. Following this assessment, a Crop Production Plan is created. This provides a “big picture” of which crops and how much of each crop we want to grow in the coming season, and how much space each particular crop will need. This plan is dependent on how many CSA shares are offered, what other markets will be served (e.g., farmers’ markets, hunger relief), the vegetable preferences of customers, what grows well on the land, the length of the growing season, the presence of soil-born diseases. The last variable I’ll mention, but certainly not least important in designing a Production Plan, is economic value.

A word about economic value. When we sell you a $375 CSA share, we want to make darn sure you get at least $375 worth of fantastic-tasting, nutritious vegetables. When we create the Production Plan, it includes way more than $375/CSA share of veggies. We know we’re going to be feeding some rabbits and woodchucks, and that a bug or a fungal disease or some other as-yet unimagined interlopers will claim their share of the harvest. So we plan for crop losses and challenges by planting more than we’ve sold. I like to choose varieties that are productive and resist diseases that are present on the farm. We limit the field space devoted to low value, low yield and/or harder-to-grow crops. We build enough wiggle room into the Production Plan that, even in a bad year, we can realistically hope to provide you with 10% more value than you paid for.

The Crop Production Plan is a vision of the perfect combination of crops. This lovely vision first meets the constraints of reality when we try to fit it onto a map of the farm fields. I have observed that farmers never, never, never have enough room to grow everything we want to grow, in the manner we want to grow it. Never. The creation of a Field Map is a complex juggling act: part intuition, part experience and part common sense, but always fueled by large amounts of caffeine. It involves making compromises and much debate: “Maybe we don’t really need carrots, beets, alliums and lettuce every single week, do we? Perhaps we could cut back on these crops and add a little more variety by planting a bed of edamame, fava beans, radicchio, kohlrabi, fennel.” “No one likes radicchio, no one knows what edamame is and fava beans are a low-value crop that gives some folks indigestion.” “Most folks didn’t really like the celery last year, let’s just cut that out.” “Celery! This land was meant to grow celery! It’s perfectly suited for it, plus celery is a heritage crop … something all the old farmers used to grow. We must have celery!” And on and on it goes until, early in January. By then the decisions have been made, fields mapped and seed and supply orders sent in. Why so early? Suppliers often offer discounts for early purchase of seeds and supplies. Plus, there’s still so much work to be done to prepare for the coming season, including a little time off for the farmer.

Greenhouse and field planting schedules are generated from the Field Map. After all that careful planning, we are now in possession of tidy spreadsheets that help to frame and guide the season’s work. The first planting of peas, carrots, cilantro and dill go into the ground the first week in April. Alliums and celeriac are the first seeds sown in the greenhouse, usually in late February.

Back to the question, “What’s in the CSA share?” The day before a harvest we walk the fields and check on the stored crops (garlic, onions, winter squash). We make a list of what’s ready for harvest. We sometimes narrow the list by asking what recipes we, and our shareholders, might enjoy cooking this week. We try to include something new in the week’s share, along with some of the standard veggies we know shareholders want to see each week. At Brookwood, we aim for an average weekly share value of $20.00.

Then we head to the field for the harvest. If we did a thorough job assessing crops ready for harvest, it’s straightforward from this point. We just follow the plan. But occasionally we’re surprised to find that the lettuce, which from a distance looked great, up close has rotted or bolted; or the carrots or turnips have been the site of a wire worm reunion and feast; or the winter squash which looked lovely sitting on a bench in the hoop house, dissolves into an unpleasant mush when we touch it. You get the picture. We don’t really know what’s going to be in the CSA share until we’ve finished the harvest.

That said, here’s what we’re hoping will be in your Brookwood CSA shares this coming week: lettuce or salad mix, escarole, spinach, winter squash, broccoli (or purple top turnips if the broccoli hasn’t headed up), onions or leeks, and a choice of one bunch of chard, kale, collards or bok choi.

Enjoy the harvest!

Nourish

I’ve not yet figured out how to cook for myself as much as I’d like during the growing season. I’m surrounded by all those lovely vegetables day-in and day-out, but just can’t find the time or energy to cook much. It doesn’t help that since I’ve begun farming I’ve become a bit of a food snob. So, not just any restaurant will do.

Big Fresh in Framingham and Kitchen on Common in Belmont are restaurants that I love. They serve good food, locally-sourced when possible and the owners are sincere in their commitment to sustainable agriculture. Big Fresh has been the site of many farmer lunch meetings. Kitchen on Common a place where CSA shareholders have gathered to learn about preparing their seasonal veggies. Both are affordable on a farmer’s income.

I just discovered Nourish, a new restaurant in Lexington. Nourish serves the kind of food I’d cook for myself. The first time I visited Nourish I had the quesdilla appetizer (heavenly) followed by pan-seared tempeh (so good!). Saturday night I had delicious black bean soup, a Caesar salad and a side order of collard greens that were out-of-this-world tasty. Husband had cod cakes that he’s still talking about. Nourish meets my farmer income criteria AND it isn’t even a mile from my house.

So, maybe I don’t need to find more time to cook. Truth be told, I’m not really a very good cook. It’s probably best that I spend my time planting, weeding and harvesting vegetables, preferably while driving some kind of tractor 🙂

Sweet Potatoes

Bruce and Jenny at Picadilly Farm report a bumper crop of sweet potatoes this year. Mmmm … sweet potato fries, sweet potato puree, potato & sweet potato gratin, sweet potatoes, apples and braising greens, and just plain old sweet potatoes with a bit of butter, cinnamon and maple syrup.

We’re planning to have 4 pounds of sweeties in each Winter share. I think I’ll be able to arrange for extra sweet potatoes (~16 pound boxes of them) to be available for purchase during the second CSA distributions.

Did I mention that I like sweet potatoes?