September 11, 2007

Cycle, Re-cycle

What’s in Upic?……
Herbs            Flowers
Snap Beans        Cherry Tomatoes

This week, as we dive into signing you all up again for next year’s shares, I have also been talking to lots of new folks interested in joining the farm. As you would expect they have a lot of questions about vegetable varieties, amounts, harvest days, “how does the whole thing work?” etc. and at some point most will ask about our animals. Generally they want to know what kinds of animals we have, if they are kid friendly, and if they can see them on pick-up days. Some want to know if they can buy meat or eggs from us but that is for the most part where the questions stop. I’m always tempted to go into a big explanation of the larger role that our livestock plays on the farm, but stop myself short, knowing this is almost always more info than a perspective CSA member may want to hear.  I realized the other day that most of you reading these newsletters probably haven’t heard this big explanation and being as you are already members of the CSA I don’t need to spare you any boring details of how this farm works.
After farming organically for over ten years I can say definitively that livestock are vital to the health of any sustainable farm. Animals, and especially ruminants (the sheep in our case), have the unique ability of being able to digest the complex energy found in plants and convert it into protein and carbohydrates. This obviously supports the growth of the animal, but because up to 70% of the plant matter also comes out the back end of the animal, there is a great benefit for our vegetables. The digestion process breaks the plant matter down into “simple” elements that can be easily absorbed again by the plants and the soil they grow in. On a farm scale this process is so important because vegetables take so much out of the soil to grow. On this farm we have applied over 1000 cubic yards of animal manure (mostly as compost) to the fields in the past four seasons. The majority of this manure has come from sources off of the farm and has made it possible for us to expect good yields for all of your shares. As we learn more about our livestock and further explore crop rotations that include our animals we hope to be able to reach a point where we can minimize or eliminate the need for off farm sources of manure. We envision being able to run sheep and or chickens through vegetable crops after harvest, allowing the animals to graze off the leftover plants while leaving behind manure. The nutrients in the manure is then absorbed by cover crops we plant after the animals leave. Once the cover crop is put down and worked into the soil it releases the nutrients it absorbed from the manure, making them available to the next vegetable crop. I’ll write more on this subject next week, including  some of the hurdles small organic farms are facing in the marketplace as they try to maintain these systems of sustainability.
2008 CSA sign-up begins this week. We will be taking deposits ($100) for your 2008 shares starting this week. This is a great time to sign up as you can space your payments out over the winter. These deposits also help the farm budget through the winter months as well. We will begin opening up shares to our waiting list starting art the end of the month so if you would like a share for next year please don’t delay.
Pork Pre-orders this week. Talk to Spencer at pick-up about pre-ordering pork cuts from the pigs he and Jill raised at the farm this year.
Apples this week. We’ll have apples from Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus this week for sale at Friday pick-up. Paula Reds will be the first variety followed by Macs and Galas in the weeks to follow. Some of their great cider will be coming soon too.

Making and Freezing Roasted Peppers

Peppers can be roasted whole or halved, on an open flame or oven. Brush them with olive oil and lay them on the grill or on a cookie sheet in a 500 degree oven until the skin begins to darken and pull away from the flesh of the pepper. At this point turn them and repeat the blackening on another side. Once the pepper is roasted all around put it immediately into a paper bag for 10 minutes, this steams the pepper further and make removing the blackened skin easier. Remove from the bag to a bowl of very cold water and remove the skin.
Roasted peppers can be laid out flat and stacked with waxed paper between each layer. Once you have 5-10 peppers slide them into a zip lock and freeze for the winter.

Roasted Celeriac

2 Celery roots, scrubbed with small roots removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 table spoons olive oil or butter
2 springs of Thyme
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper

Pat dry the roots and rub them with olive oil, setting them in a small baking dish and then into the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes or until they are completely soft. Turn them about halfway through.

While these are baking warm the olive oil/butter into a small pan and add the thyme sprigs and garlic, cooking and turning often until the garlic softens. Remove from heat and set aside, take out the thyme sprigs.

Halve the cooked celery root and drizzle with oil/butter garlic mixture. Finish with salt and pepper to taste.

Italian Dijon Green Beans

1 Pound of fresh beans washed and stemmed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons country-style Dijon
1 sprigs each of thyme, oregano, and marjoram
3-4 Basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds

Steam beans for 3-4 minutes over boiling water until bright green but still crisp. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the beans and toss for a couple minutes and remove from heat. Mix together mustard and basil along with thyme, oregano and marjoram, leaves removed from the stems. Add the beans and toss until coated with the mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, salt and pepper and serve

Maple and Vinegar Glazed Parsnips

2 pounds parsnips
One and a half tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon salt
half cup water
2 tablespoons maple syrup
one and a half tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Heat oven to 400. Wash parsnips and peel off rough parts. Cut a few inches off the thick end and half or quarter this so that all the pieces are roughly the same size. In an heavy oven proof pan toss parsnips in oil and salt and heat on top of the stove, adding water once the pan has begun to warm. Bring to a simmer and move the dish into the oven, continuing to cook until parsnips are tender, about 45 minutes. Turn them every 15 minutes and add water if needed. Once tender, drain remaining water and toss parsnips with maple and both vinegars to coat and return to the oven until golden brown.

This is a great recipe for carrots as well.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

1 washed sweet, skins on.
1 teaspoon olive oil, butter, peanut oil, or bacon grease
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Slather sweet potato in oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until soft all the way through, about an hour. Simple pleasures.

Sautéed Spinach and Pea Shoots

1 Tablespoon oil
½ pound spinach, chopped coarsely
¼ pound pea shoot, chopped finely
Dash of sea salt and fresh pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok on high until almost smoking. Add spinach and toss quickly until it starts to wilt, 15-30 seconds. Add the pea shoot and toss for another 15 second. Remove from heat to a serving dish and top with salt and pepper. Toasted sesame seeds are nice on top as well.

Enjoy the pea shoots chopped raw on salads too!

Grilled Leeks, Peppers, and Eggplant

Here are a few hints for grilling vegetables…

First start with a hot fire. Then marinate them a bit in olive oil, fresh herbs, and or balsamic vinegar.

Trim away roots and greens from the leek, leaving the white shaft. About 1 inch above the root end, cut through the leek lengthwise so that the root end is the only part holding the two halves together. Wash any soil from between the leaves and then cut the leek completely in half. If your leeks are more than three quarters of on inch in diameter, boil some water and blanch them in it for one minute. Smaller leeks generally don’t need blanching. Brush with olive oil and lay right on the grill for at least 4-5 minutes a side. Some blackening is ok as the heat will release the sugars in the leek.

Peppers can be done whole or halved with the seeds and veins removed. Either should be brushed with olive oil and put on high heat. To really roast peppers leave them on each side until the skin blackens and separates from the flesh. After the pepper is blackened all the way around put it immediately into a paper bag for 10 minutes, this steams the peppers further and make removing the blackened skin easier.

Eggplant can be cut into large rounds half an inch thick and oiled or roasted whole like the peppers. If you like baba ganouge (a middle eastern mixture of roasted eggplant, tahini, garlic and lemon) roasting eggplant like this is the way to make your own! Whether roasting or grilling the slices, be liberal with the olive oil and make the fire hot. Like the leek and the peppers, don’t be afraid of some blackening, the sweet richness of the vegetables will be complimented by the smokiness.

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes and Celeriac

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes and Celeriac

1 lb. celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lb. potatoes (peeled or unpeeled, your choice) cut into chunks
1 bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup heavy cream
4 Tb. Butter
2 tsp. horseradish
salt and pepper to taste

Combine celeriac, potatoes, bay leaf, and garlic with water to cover; boil until just tender (about 20 minutes). Drain, remove bay leaf, and return vegetables to pot. Add cream, butter, and horseradish. Mash and season with salt and pepper. Makes 4-6 servings.

Creamy Leek, Potato, and Sour Cream Chive Soup

3 Tb. butter
2-3 leeks, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 tsp. dill
1 lb. potatoes, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup sour cream
4 Tb. chopped fresh chives, divided
salt and pepper

Melt butter in pot over medium-low flame. Add leeks and dill; cover and cook slowly, 15-20 minutes. Add potatoes and stock; bring to simmer, cover, and cook until tender, 10-15 minutes. Puree mixture. Return puree to pot; stir in sour cream and 2 tablespoons chives. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle each serving with additional chives. Makes 6 servings.