End of the CSA Season

Wow, quite a season!  After just coming  back from the last CSA delivery, I’m always reflective.  This season was probably the hottest since I’ve been farming in Otter Tail.  It was also one of the driest.

Kids on Way to Farmers Market

This made for great crops which love the heat like melons, tomatoes, and anything in the cucurbit family like cucumbers and summer and winter squash.  The way the season ran allowed these plants to get established well with heat and moisture and then ripen under dry conditions.  It’s a good recipe for good looking produce.  Some other things, however, didn’t like this weather.  For example I always plan for  a planting of brassicas like broccoli and kohlrabi in the fall as well as the spring, but the fall set didn’t go anywhere with little fall rain.   Any which way, each season is it’s own beast and I thank each of you sharing the ride with us.  

In the box: 
Komatsuna bunch: a green with a stalk kind of like boc choy.   This is an Asian green which is good in a stir fry.  You simply chop up and add at the end until wilted a bit.  Here’s a link to a Komatsuna recipe which looks simple and quick since it’s one of those odd “crazy” greens:
Spinach: the one with dark green and round leaves.  You could use for either a salad or cooked. 
Butternut squash: big tan squash 
Celeriac: The strange-looking bulb on the end of a small stalk of celery.  You can use it in replace of celery in recipes  It has the same flavor and also keeps well in the crisper in your fridge.    
Delicata squash: yellow and green-striped squash.  This one should be baked without a water bath because the outside shell is pretty thin. 
Buttercup squash: the dark green squash with the little button the bottom
Russet potatoes
Carrot bunch 
A couple onions 
A head of garlic
A few small turnips
“Better than Nothing” beets

Hot but Still Fall

This past week felt like summer even though the tasks were fall in nature.  Typically when I think of work at the end of september/early october, I think of dunking my hands in freezing water trying to hold a brush to clean squash, but not this year.  Today we were cleaning squash outside with a slight breeze in the air and a warm sun in the sky.  It was nice.  Also I was out pulling in the turnips this morning and it didn’t seem right that I was harvesting this crop in a t-shirt.  However, it’s undoubt-ably fall because everything in the fields just doesn’t grow.  Even with warm days, the loss of sunlight and shorter days really slows things down.  I keep having high hopes that the carrots in the last bed will bulk up, but they just seem to sit there.  There’s no issue with greens bolting too soon, however, so let’s be thankful.

On Monday we had the Pelican Rapids Early Childhood classes out and it was a real blast to have that many people here.  Our quarter-mile driveway was lined with cars and I had to do three groups for the haywagon ride.  The kids got a kick out of throwing old tomatoes to the pigs, seeing the sheep and our one donkey, and finding a pumpkin to take home.  I made sure to do a little ag education when taking people on the tour, pointing out how we graze our sheep in rotation and giving the lowdown on what’s alfalfa and hay vs. straw.

In the box:
Braising mix: this is a mix of greens you can use at the end of a stir fry or as a cooked side green.  Simply start with some garlic and oil in a skillet, chop the greens, and saute until wilted a bit.
A turnip or two
An onion or two
Brussels sprouts: the big ugly stick in the box.  You don’t eat the stick, just the sprouts
Acorn Squash
Spaghetti Squash: See video below to see how to prepare as a pasta.
Long Island Cheese Squash or Kakai Pumpkin: The Long Island Cheese looks like a cheese wheel and is the color of a Butternut.  Mar and I really dig the flavor of this squash and Maree makes these pumpkin-cream cheese bars with them.  A Kakai pumpkin is dark green and orange and is supposed to be super for pumpkin seeds.

Vegetable Garden Spaghetti Squash:

Workers Matter in Agriculture

I was really struck this week when I read a short article on leaflets being left at Hugo’s groceries in the sugar aisle by union workers currently locked out of the American Crystal plants when the company left negotiations.  The leaflets were pretty basic that just asked customers to go to this website http://www.bctgm.org/ACS_Lockout.html and read up on the issue.

I grew up in East Grand Forks in a union household (my dad was a member of IBEW local 1426) and used to work at Hugo’s myself carrying out groceries, so the lockout is personal to me.  These workers aren’t “those people” I can quickly brush off, but my peers, parents of schoolmates, neighbors, and the people I went to church with.  I never got the impression that sugar beet plant workers were a bunch of overpaid lazybones as you hear on angry AM talk radio all day,  but really modest folks who had to go into work at 11 pm or do these crazy 14-hour shifts through harvest season.  

When reflecting about this and farming, I think Americans tend to overlook workers in agriculture and instead focus on farmers.  We think that agriculture begins and ends with those working the land, proud and heroic farm owner-operators who till the soil and bring in bountiful harvests in the American heartland.  We see this all the time from Chevy truck commercials to every politician talking about the farm bill.  I like that romantic imagery too.  But in that picture we paint of agriculture, every now and then we should stop looking only at the proud farmer in the center of the picture and appreciate the harvest crew or processing plant in the background.  They are just as integral a part of how food gets to the table today.  Without them, the system stops.

Reminders: Our harvest party is this saturday at 6:30.  Also the last box is Friday, Oct. 7.

In the box:
Broccoli Raab: Yes, a crazy green. See recipe.
Fresh Dill: Chop up with the potatoes and some butter or sour cream
A couple green peppers
A butternut squash
A couple Blue Bonnet squashes or a couple Carnival squashes
A pie pumpkin: bake upside down on a pan and use cooked pumpkin in replacement of any of that stuff that comes out of a can
White onion
Edamame: This is the big mess of brown sticks in the box.   You only want to use the pods on the stalk.  Simply boil in salt water for a few minutes, drain, and eat with beer…it’s good.
A mix of carrots
Russet potatoes

Recipe: Sauteed Broccoli Raab
Note: don’t use the center stem of the raab since it gets woody, but use the leaves, small stems, and florets.

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 2large garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt), or to taste

  • Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Cut off and discard 1 inch from stem ends of broccoli rabe. Cook broccoli rabe, uncovered, in 2 batches in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 3 minutes, transferring with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. Drain well in a colander.

Cook garlic in oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and cook, tossing to coat with oil, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Toss broccoli rabe with salt.

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Sauteed-Broccoli-Rabe-109539#ixzz1YpEfcDSp

A Race against Time

I always feel like I’m racing against time in early September. It has been beautiful lately but I typically can count on a September 15 first frost date, so I feel a need to take in as many of those summery veggies as possible. It is like working on the crew of a ship which you know is going to hit a big iceberg…I’m trying to get as many into the lifeboats to safety as possible but I know some will die needlessly. A pretty melodramatic vision, I know.

This week we had to irrigate for the first time this season. It’s getting just like cement out there. Especially for some of these fall crops I have planted like kohlrabi and broccoli, they need some water if they are going to get to size.

In the Box:
A couple Red Onions
Sugar Baby Watermelon
A little salad mix
Acorn squash: I figure it’s getting to be the time of year when people get in the mood for Delicata winter squash: a sweet potato squash. Winter squash gets sweeter as it’s cured, so leave in a dry sunny place until ready to eat.
Peppers: a sweet Italia pepper, a green pepper, and a semi-hot Anaheim (the small green pointy one)
Rosemary: small bunch of pine-needles

Summer’s Coming to a Close

The produce season is about where it should be this time of year.  Last week we harvested all the onions and put into the barn to cure.  The tomatoes and peppers are coming due in a big way and those melons are ripe for their annual two week window.  I was peeking at the winter squash and pumpkins and many look like they are ready to go.  Nights are getting cooler and our minds turn to autumn.

With fall upon us, one thing which should get on your schedule is our annual fall harvest party.  It will be Saturday, September 24 at the farm from 6:30 pm to whenever.  This is a time to check out the farm and meet some other interesting people who are also CSA members.   This is an appetizer/drinks/bonfire event.  We used to do a potluck dinner, but this is more relaxed and casual affair.  We provide all drinks and snacks, so just show up for a while.

Another thing you should be thinking about in fall is turkey.  I’m happy to partner with a neighbor of mind, Alex Johnson, who is raising free-range turkeys.  His family’s been in the business since 1888 which makes him a 4th generation turkey farmer who really knows what he’s talking about.  Later this fall he will have heritage-breed Bourbon Red turkeys at $2.05/pound and standard white turkeys at $1.50/pound.  I’m helping him get the word out, so please call or email us to reserve a turkey and we’ll make arrangements.  

In the box:
Celebrity slicing tomatoes
A Green pepper
A couple sweet Carmen peppers
An orange or yellow bell pepper
Cippolini onions: this is a really nice, flavorful onion from Italy.  I dig it.  I remember when I was studying in Rome, you’d see long braids of these things in the markets.  I was thinking about this today and I just have to some more next year so we can do this because it’s so cool.
A smattering of Tongue of Fire beans: this is a fresh shelling bean.  Like dried beans, you can use in a soup or other dish, but the cooking time is a lot less since they are fresh.
Daikon Radish: This is the white radish with the top.  Peel and use as you would any radish.  Since it’s an Asian radish, a typical way I like to make it up is grated with some rice vinegar and sugar.
Yellow watermelon
Athena canteloupe

Old Pictures

We just got back some pictures we thought we had lost (it’s a long story).  These are from a couple years ago and just scream “this is what’s great about summer in Minnesota”:

I like they way the farm looks from from pond:

New Tools at Lida Farm

Each year we typically add a new tool or two to the farm arsenal. This year, after breaking about 5 potato forks last year, we picked up a broadfork from Johnnys in Maine (it’s even made in Maine). As you can see from the picture it is like a potato fork but with two handles. It’s a strong steel design with about 15 tines on the bottom that even I haven’t been able to break yet. A broadfork is designed for deep tillage or aerating ground so as to break up hardpan or the area at the depth of a plow or disk where the ground is quite hard. I use it to harvest potatoes and I’ve found it to work great for harvesting carrots where I can dig a foot and a half of the row instead of the 8 inches with a traditional potato fork. Cool.

Like everybody we try to find those tools which make out life a bit easier and fit our scale. The tempation in this kind of work is to put a motor on everything. Sometimes that makes sense, but I always say “but then I have to take care of another engine…” I guarantee my broadfork will work when it’s rainy or cold or hot – more than I can say for my snowblower.

In the box:
Watermelon: Most everybody should have received a yellow variety called Sunshine, although some of you hit the jackpot and got a new variety I grew called Orange Sherbert – they look the same from the outside so it’s a surprise. Man, these are nice.
Melon: Most everybody got a white-fleshed Ananas variety called San Juan, although some got a green-fleshed Galia melon called Diplomat.
Sweet Corn
Russet Potatoes
Italia Pepper: This is the long green-red pepper…it is sweet, not hot. This first flush aren’t the prettiest, but I wanted to get some in the box, because, if you’re like me, you’re getting impatient for some colored peppers.
Islander Purple Pepper
A Roma Tomato Mix: I thought we’d switch up from the standard slicing varieties for a week. The yellow romas are nice – they are either a variety called Powers or Golden Rave. The reds are San Marzano.
Carrot Bunch: Mixed varieties again or standard orange with some Atomic Red or White Satin or Yellow Sun mixed in.
A Couple Cucumbers
Japanese or Italian Eggplant: It’s Japanese if it’s long and slender or a varity called Nadia or Zebra if standard eggplant shape. They cook and are prepared the same way.

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