First Harvest of 2017 at Lida Farm

Life can throw people curveballs, and so can Minnesota weather. Weren’t we all just sweating in a dry heat about a week ago? This morning I put on a sweatshirt to pick radishes in a light rain because it’s 50 degrees out. 

Our wild weather ride provides me intersting growing challenges. So far I’ve really been striking out getting carrrots to germinate well. With the sun beating down day after day through May (when we typically seed carrots), the top of the ground just dries out too quickly and carrot seed is planted very shallow. On the other hand, hot and dry weather also keeps weed seeds from germinating, so we were able to get a fair amount of cultivating and hoeing done in May and early June. I suppose it balances itself out. 

Kohlrabi Harvest at Lida Farm

Yesterday, pulling kohrabi for the box, I hit a wonderful ‘harvest flow.’ Brand new harvest knife, LCD Soundsystem on my iPod and a beautiful evening…all was right with the world and harvesting was coming easy. This time of year I get excited about pulling veggies out of the ground and getting a new season rolling. There’s nothing finer than getting something in your hand which took months of work. Let’s just hope it’s not just a flash in the pan and I can keep the energy up for the whole season. 

In the box:

  • Napa Cabbage: Big item on bottom of box. See reciple below.
  • Green Onions aka Scallions
  • Westlander Kale
  • Small Bunch of Arugula: Oakleaf-shaped green with rubber band 
  • Kohlrabi 
  • Lettuce: This is a mix of types coming in, so people received green butterhead, greenleaf, or red butterhead. We doubled up small heads. 
  • Two Bunches of Radishes: Everybody received standard red radishes and some french breakfast radishes. 
  • Snap Peas
  • Fresh Mint

Napa Cabbage Salad from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 head napa cabbage
  • 1 bunch minced green onions
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 (3 ounce) package ramen noodles, broken
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions

  1. Finely shred the head of cabbage; do not chop. Combine the green onions and cabbage in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  3. Make the crunchies: Melt the butter in a pot. Mix the ramen noodles, sesame seeds and almonds into the pot with the melted butter. Spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake the crunchies in the preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven, turning often to make sure they do not burn. When they are browned remove them from the oven.
  4. Make the dressing: In a small saucepan, heat vinegar, oil, sugar, and soy sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, let boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from heat and let cool.
  5. Combine dressing, crunchies, and cabbage immediately before serving. Serve right away or the crunchies will get soggy.

Cultivation: Fighting Weeds one Pass of the Tractor at a Time

Lately I’ve talked to people about getting out to cultivate and they have this look like “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  Certainly before the popularity of chemical herbicides in agriculture, more people would know exactly what I’m talking because you could drive down many a county road and see a tractor moving slowly through a corn or soybean field tilling the soil between the plants.  In the organic world, cultivating is still our an important practice.

The timing of cultivating is really important.  The trick is to go out when the weeds are still in the white thread stage (just after germination but before popping through the soil) or while still very young.  If you wait too long (or a big rain keeps you out of the field), you will drag a bunch of big weeds through a field and not do a great job.  For us at Lida Farm, I always talk about the hierarchy of weed killing: cultivate, wheel hoe, hand hoe, hand weeding.  As you can imagine with four acres of veggies if we had to take out weeds exclusively by hand, we’d be sunk!

In the box:
‘Farao’ Cabbage
Kohlrabi: When in doubt, just peel, slice and serve with salt
Dino Kale: Big bunch with blue band.  See recipe from one of our members in Detroit Lakes that he likes to do with kale.  If you have a recipe you’d like to share, please send to lidafarmer@gmail.com…this makes my life easy and you’re probably tired on my recipes 🙂
Green Leaf Lettuce
Garlic Scapes: Use where ever you use garlic…
Snap Peas: Edible pod so don’t shell.  Last week, we just sauteed in butter with salt and pepper – great.
Cilantro bunch
Basil

Kale w/Roasted Peppers & Olives 
2 large bunches kale 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
2 teaspoons sugar 
1 teaspoon salt 
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped 
1 4-ounce jar roasted red peppers 
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar 
Cut the kale into bite-size pieces, removing any tough stems. Rinse and shake dry.
Warm the oil and garlic in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Remove the garlic as soon as it browns (don’t let it burn). Add the kale and stir-fry 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water, cover, and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Uncover and add the sugar, salt, olives, and peppers. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid has evaporated.
Spoon into a serving dish; scatter the garlic over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Spring to Summer at Lida Farm

Officially we hit summer this week (the 20th on my calendar).  It’s exciting to leave one season behind and start a new one, but, on a vegetable farm, this transition gets pretty wild.

The big challenge is that this section of time through June and a bit into July is when we have to simultaneously harvest and weed while squeezing in new plantings.  Weeds just explode this time of year as you all probably well know.  Think about battling weeds over four acres…crazy.  

At the same time we’re really excited to see summer crops get growing.  I just saw blossoms on cucumber and zucchini plants a few days ago, so I know they are just around the corner.  cherry tomatoes are blossoming too.  I also get the feel that members also can’t wait for these summer crops to appear.  Sure, a spring box full is greens is OK, but a summer box with some substantial heft is much appreciated.  
In the box: 
  • Green Onions
  • Parsley 
  • Basil 
  • Green Leaf Lettuce 
  • Red Lettuce
  • Radishes 
  • Bok Choy: See video below for recipe
  • Spinach: Definitely not as pretty as I’d like after last week’s hail.
  • Garlic Scapes: Green curled things…these are the tops of the hardneck garlic.  Chop or mince and use where ever you’d use garlic.  It’s a bit more mild than garlic cloves.
  • Westlander Kale: Big bunch with blue band.  This could also be used in a frittata
  • Snap Peas: Yes, you eat the pod. 
Lida Farm Frittata
Finished frittata – cut into slices and serve

Ingredients: 

  • 6 eggs 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt/Pepper 
  • About 2 cups of Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, Garlic Scapes, Spinach 
Basic Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Chop veggie or mix of veggies of your choice and saute in frying pan over medium heat until crisp-tender or wilted.  Beat 6 eggs together with Parmesan in bowl.  Add veggies to mix and add to another ovenproof frying pan over medium-low  heat.  Drop temperature to low and let cook undistubed for 5-10 minutes until bottom is firm.   Next, transfer frying pan to oven and bake until top is dry/not runny.  You can garnish with parsley or green onions.

In the Saddle Again

Another CSA season is starting, marking the beginning of our 11th season delivering produce to members’ doorsteps.  The passage of time has compressed the interval between the end of the season and the beginning.  When I was a younger man, it seemed like the nine months jn the “off season” between October and June took a long time.  This past nine months since the last box in October, 2015 zoomed past me as quickly as Christmas break in high school.  Instead of lamenting time under the bridge, however, I absolutely celebrate a new beginning and a new season.  It often brings not just new growing experiences, but also a re-connection with CSA members and farmers market customers.  

The season so far is shaping up well.  We have planted crops in good time and cultivated a number of crops 2-3 times already.  We had a challenge with the soil being really dry through May which had us moving irrigation around (a first for us since I rarely irrigate and I’ve never had to do so in May).  A lot of crops are looking pretty good; I’m especially excited about the peas and potatoes so far.  
I’m sitting in the kitchen writing this blog right now because of the morning’s rain.  We were hit with a little hail even which I’m sure put a few holes in the Romaine lettuce.  
In the CSA box: 
  1. Broccoli: A variety called Packman, this came in earlier than we wanted due to the cold temps in May which caused the plants to set a head prematurely, which makes for small heads.
  2. Swiss Chard: This is great with eggs in the morning (saute and include them), but, hey, chard is even better with bacon!  See recipe below. 
  3. Mizuna: A mild Asian green.  This can be eaten in a salad and used as a cooking green in such dishes as pho or many other Asian dishes. 
  4. Radishes
  5. Green Onions 
  6. Arugula: The green with a band with oakleaf-shaped leaves
  7. Romaine Lettuce 
  8. Red Leaf Lettuce
  9. Spinach: Loose greens in the box.  
  10. Parsley Bunch
Sauteed Swiss Shard with Bacon 

Ingredients
Olive oil, for pan
1 cup bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths, leaves cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Kosher salt

Directions
Coat a large saute pan lightly with olive oil and add the diced bacon, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Bring the pan to medium-high heat. When the garlic has turned a lovely golden brown, remove from the pan and discard. At this point the bacon should start to become brown and crispy. Add the Swiss chard stems and the stock and cook until the stock has mostly evaporated. Add the Swiss chard leaves and saute until they are wilted. Season with salt.
Recipe courtesy of Anne Burrell

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-burrell/sauteed-swiss-chard-with-bacon-recipe.html?oc=linkback

How to Deal with Produce

Sometimes I’ve found that people sign up for a CSA or take stuff home from a farmers market and it ends up going bad on them, not necessarily because the veggies weren’t fresh, but because they didn’t know how best to store the food.

We grow a lot of variety of produce.  With all that diversity, you learn that different plants like different conditions.  Not everything likes to sit in your crisper drawer in your refrigerator.  One such a plant is basil  I get a lot of questions about to keep basil from turning black.  Bottom line: Don’t Put into the Fridge….it will go black.  I made this video to explain a couple ways to store basil in this weeks box:

Also find this week’s farmcast where I explain about different produce in the box:

In the Box:

  • Bunch of Beets: Greens are looking good, so try cooking these up.  This one looks good…hey it uses bacon: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/beet_greens/
  • Kohlrabi
  • Green Cabbage 
  • Summer Squash (maybe a zucchini, maybe yellow summer squash)
  • Green Onions 
  • Small Head of Lettuce: Either a Red Butterhead type or Greenleaf type
  • Basil 

Solstice for Dads

This year Fathers Day and the summer solstice co-incide, but I don’t put any kind of great significance behind it (after all, my favorite stat is that Father’s Day was the #1 day for collect calls, back when we had collect calls).  But, as a grower, I always pay attention to the summer solstice since it holds some sway over the growing season.

It’s kind of a love-hate relationship.  It’s depressing to think that all days after this point get shorter and we’re on the slow decline back into winter – terrible thought, I know.  However, I love getting on the other side of the solstice since plants become easier to deal  In the CSA box this week you’ll find a lot of greens that have their birth in spring.  Pretty much all of them are light sensitive so they like to bolt as we approach the longest day of the year – a really difficulty for me as a grower!  You may have been perplexed when observing your own garden that something like a radish or lettuce or even a broccoli looked great one day and was trying to bolt and go to seed  the next.  That’s the solstice for ya.  Few people believe me when I sing the praises of fall lettuces and cole crops because everybody thinks these are spring crops, but, due to the shorter days after the solstice, they mature much better from here on out, making me a little less anxious and farming just a bit easier.  
In the CSA box (Check out farmcast about the box): 
  • ‘Rover’ Radishes
  • Brasing Mix
  • ‘Two Star’ Green Head Lettuce
  • Arugula: Green with band in oak-leaf shape
  • Mizuna: Light green with jagged leaves
  • Swiss Chard: Stuff that looks like muli-colored rhubarb
  • Cilantro
  • Spinach: Loose, unbunched leaves

Simple Sauteed Braising Mix Recipe from Full Circle, a huge CSA on the west coast.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: Serves 2-4


INGREDIENTS
  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 medium white onion or shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ pound Braising mix (or make your own)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup stock or water
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a large, high-sided sauté pan, heat oil over medium high heat.
  2. When shimmering add onions and cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and sauté briefly, stirring quickly to avoid browning, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add in braising mix, tossing to mix.
  5. Sprinkle with paprika and add stock, covering and reducing heat to low. Cook until lightly wilted, about another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and sprinkle with lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Tomatoes in the Ground!

Last week was way colder than anybody wanted, including our tomato plants.  Despite being covered by the greenhouse, we discovered black basil and frost-damaged tomato, eggplant, and pepper plants Tuesday morning.  Yikes!  Aside from the damaged leaves and a little more stress, I expect these plants to do fine.   
It was a great relief this Memorial Day weekend when we got these plants in the ground with no more frost in sight.  The planting crew (yes, the kids did help) dove in Saturday evening and all day Sunday to put in nearly 3,000 tomato plants and about 600 pepper plants.  Let the summer growing season begin – Game on. 
Lida Farm planting crew with Holland Transplanter (Sylvia, Willem, Argo, Maree, and Ryan)