The Valley Flora Beetbox

Valley Flora's newsletter, sharing news from the farm, seasonal updates, and more!

Week 2 of Winter CSA!

  • Mixed kale
  • Carrots (they are juice grade again; this is our final harvest)
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Rossa di Milano Onions
  • Beets
  • Mini Daikon Mix
  • Radish Microgreens
  • Bunched "Wild" Arugula
  • Bunched Mustard Greens
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Celeriac

Winter Foraging on the Farm, and an Italian Reverie...

One of the things I like about the Winter CSA is that it affords us the opportunity to make the most of a plant's life cycle. Kale for instance: all season long we harvest kale for its leafy greens, but as the days stretch longer some varieties will start to bolt, sending up delicious tender shoots of spring raab (unopened flower buds). Some might call it bolting, but to the Winter CSA it's good eating. Same thing this week with the mustard greens: these were harvested from Abby's 2021 salad greens beds, the late-planted ones that get left to overwinter because there isn't time to get a cover crop seeded in their wake. Normally one of Abby's salad beds is only harvested for baby greens and is in the ground for a short month before getting turned under and reseeded. But a dozen or so winter beds get to grow to full maturity and then bolt, creating essential early nectar for the bees -  and this week, beautiful mustard bunches for the CSA. I feel like an excited dumpster diver when I'm out there bunching Abby's leftover mustards: one farmer's trash becoming another farmer's winter treasure. I get a thrill from the intrinsic efficiency of maximizing the potential of one seed for mulitple uses and meals. 

It was when I was foraging for those mustards in the sublime sunshine of Monday afternoon that I wandered west and came across the arugula: about 50 feet of it planted at the end of each bed, all of it gangly and tall and budding up. I nibbled a finely-lobed leaf and my taste buds lit up. Now THAT tastes like arugula! All at once it was 1989, August, I am nine years old, in Italy with my family for a month. A friend of my mom's did an international house trade and swapped her place in Marin for a villa in Sasso Marconi, a little village outside of Bologna named after the inventor of the radio. It was a sprawling place in semi-disrepair with grapes growing wild and a spooky ruin of a mini-castle built into a limestone cliff out back. With the house came Maria, the old woman who lived nearby who checked in on us daily and brought us things from her garden. In my mind she is missing her top teeth (possibly untrue), she is wearing a sack-like house dress with an apron, and she is sporting thick-soled, brown old lady loafers. She doesn't speak a word of English (our collective Italian isn't much better) and she is utterly delightful.

Except every day she brings us fistfuls of this weedy green and earnestly, urgently, thrusts it at us shouting "Rucola! Rucola!"

And we smile and nod and accept the armload of weeds, faking our way through it over and over every single day. The first morning it was genuine, until we tasted the stuff: Horrible! Bitter! It dawned on us that this was the same plant that the Italians insisted on putting on their pizza, and that we would diligently pick off every time we got a pie, which was often because we were in Italy. What was their obsession with this gross ditch weed?!

After Maria left each morning there would be a new, hushed confab about how in the hell we were going to get ride of this latest batch of rucola: we couldn't put it in the compost, she might see it! We couldn't flush it, the pipes might clog. We couldn't burn it, it was too green. So we took to burying it, or tearing it into pieces small enough to longer be incriminating and then tossed it into the bushes in the backyard. But then a new day would dawn and Maria would be back, proudly foisting rucola into our arms with the loud, insistent "Rucola! Rucola!" As if saying to us, this plant is a part of me, of my people, of my culture, of my country. The most important part. And then we would promptly bury/stomp/dismember it as soon as she left.

That was a great trip, albeit hot and sticky, with an un-ending radio soundtrack of accordian polkas, daily gelato, and shops that sold only pasta (a mind-blowing array of it, including 50 lb bags of dry pasta for dogs, and a super-long, corkscrew spaghetti with a hole down the center that you could suck wine through like a 5' straw). 

We returned home to life on the creek, where it took quite a few years before rucola found us again. When it did it was called "rocket" or "arugula" and it was all the craze in the foodie scene. Everyone had to be seen eating it.

Fast forward a couple more decades, and arugula is very much the foundation of Abby's Greens. Baby arugula. It wasn't until this week though, when I nibbled that mature leaf, that Maria came flooding back into my memory in such vivid detail. I'm not wearing a house dress, I still have my top teeth, and I don't yet own a pair of squishy granny shoes (though they might be a great idea for those long days standing on concrete in the barn), but here I am thrusting a bunch of wire-stemmed arugula at you, imploring earnestly, "Rucola! Rucola!" 

Thank you, Maria. 

(p.s. I suggest dismembering your arugula and then EATING IT: pluck the arugula leaves from the stems for the most refined eating experience. The stems are edible as well, but will be woodier lower down. And I will know, intuitively, if you bury, flush, burn, or stomp your rucola. I will feel it as as deep pain in my soul.)

 

Newsletter: 

How to Shop our Farmstand this Season!

The Valley Flora Farmstand will open for our winter season on January 12th! Hours are 11:30 to 2:30. We will be open every other Wednesday through May. 

Our farmstand is primarily pre-order, with the occasional odds and ends available for drop-in shopping. We use a web platform called Local Line that allows you to place your order from our webstore. We then custom harvest and pack your order and have it waiting for you on your farmstand pickup day. 

If you’d like to shop with us and haven’t registered an account with Local Line, it’s quick and easy. Simply go to https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/shopthefarmstand and follow the instructions to set up your account. Once you do that you will begin to receive our availability emails with a link to our “store.”

You can also go directly to our Local Line store to check it out: https://www.localline.ca/valley-flora

Thanks for eating locally and supporting small family farms!

 

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 16 from Valley Flora!

Please note this is NOT our farmstand availability email. This is our weekly CSA newlsetter primarily intended for our subscribed Harvest Basket members who receive a weekly box of produce from the farm from June through December. You cannot order farmstand produce from this email or directly from our website. Rather, farmstand availability emails are sent out on Thursday and Monday mornings to folks who have signed up for Wednesday or Saturday pickup, respectively. To learn more or sign up for a farmstand pickup day, click here.

  • Napa Cabbage - the foundational ingredient in kimchi, but also wonderful shredded into light slaw or salad. At this time of year when we have sweet peppers and apples, I like to make a napa/apple/pepper/carrot slaw with a rice-vinegar vinaigrette.
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Lettuce
  • Yellow Onion
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Beets - Red, Gold and Chioggia
  • Strawberries - we are stunned by the strawberries right now. Abundant, beautiful, better than ever! Normally there wouldn't be strawberries in the Harvest Basket at this point in the season, but they just keep giving! U-pick is going to be FANTASTIC today (Wednesday)!
  • Cucumbers

On Rotation:

  • Eggplant

I can't believe it, but yes, still strawberries! We are a bit baffled by this late season run in the berry patch - we haven't seen anything like this in years! If we get our much-hoped-for rain later this week it might start to slow them down, but right now they are phenomenal. Come upick today, starting at 11 am! And if you want a special order flat, let me know and we'll see if the weather cooperates: name, pickup location, number of flats and phone number.

Peppers Peaking: Now's the time to order up a few bags of red Italian roasters or assorted colored bells. Peppers are available in 5 pound bags for $22. To order, email Bets your name, pickup location, type and quantity of peppers you want, and a phone number. 

Help Support Farmworkers and Immigrants Impacted by the Devastating Wildfires: The wildfires have affected us all, but many of us are lucky enough to still have a home to go to. That's not the case for many immigrant Oregonians who tend to be most impacted by the smoke, have lost everything and don't have a safety net to fall into. In recognition of the devastating effects that wildfires have had on immigrant Oregonians, the Oregon Worker Relief Fund Coalition is pivoting to raise and distribute funds to impacted individuals and families. You can donate to their effort through CAUSA, Oregon's immigrant rights organization.

Strength and safekeeping to everyone in the terrifying path of fire right now, and to all those coping with hazardous air quality. We give thanks for clear air overhead today, temporary as it might be. Come on rain!

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 15 from Valley Flora

Please note this is NOT our farmstand availability email. This is our weekly CSA newlsetter primarily intended for our subscribed Harvest Basket members who receive a weekly box of produce from the farm from June through December. You cannot order farmstand produce from this email or directly from our website. Rather, farmstand availability emails are sent out on Thursday and Monday mornings to folks who have signed up for Wednesday or Saturday pickup, respectively. To learn more or sign up for a farmstand pickup day, click here.

  • Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Head Lettuce
  • Red Onions
  • Hot Peppers - Jalapeño & Serranos (1 red serrano & 1 green serrano)
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries

On Rotation:

  • Collard Greens
  • Lacinato Kale
  • Sweet Corn
  • Zucchin

Bulk Sweet Peppers Available by Special Order!

It's that happy time of year when the sweet peppers are coming out of the greenhouse by the bucketload! Now's the time to order up a few bags of red Italian roasters or assorted colored bells. Peppers are available in 5 pound bags for $22. To order, email Bets your name, pickup location, type and quantity of peppers you want, and a phone number. If you can manage to not eat them all raw, you can preserve peppers in a myriad of ways, listed here from easiest to most advanced:

  • Chop and freeze. No blanching necessary. Just cut 'em up and throw 'em in a freezer bag. Adds color and great flavor to soups, stir-fries and other dishes come winter.
  • Roast, peel and freeze. A great addition to soups, quiches, pasta, pizza, sandwiches and more all winter. Here's a quick tutorial on three different ways to roast peppers: https://toriavey.com/how-to/roasted-bell-peppers/
  • Roast, peel and pickle: https://www.freshpreserving.com/blog/pickled-roasted-peppers
    • I make pickled roasted peppers every year but use a brine recipe that doesn't call for much sugar or other spices: For 3.5 pounds of peppers (roated, peeled, cored and seeded), mix 1.75 cups white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar, 1Tbs sugar, 2 Tbs pickling salt, 1 garlic clove chopped. Simmer all together for 10 minutes before pouring over packed peppers in sterilized canning jars. Leave 1/2" headspace, close jars with hot canning lids and rings, and process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

It feels awkward to be talking about fire-roasted peppers on this apocalyptic day, when I woke up to the heavy news of so many Oregon, Washington and California towns and forests burned to the ground. Never has fire threat - and climate change - felt so close to home. Temperatures reached over 100 degrees on the farm yesterday, and we were cloaked in low heavy smoke. There was a fire scare up Floras Creek yesterday morning, attended by a bunch of Coos Forest Patrol trucks zooming up the road first thing. Fortunately it was a false alarm. But numerous friends had to evacuate their homes, from the North Bank of the Coquille to the Santiam to Ashland. Our hearts are big and broken thinking about the devastation that is sweeping through our state, and for our neighbors north and south of our state borders.

Yesterday as we labored through harvest under the suffocating skies, I felt a level of disappointment in our species like never before. This is our only planet, our only home, our only chance to be human, and yet we can't quite seem to turn the ship. We watch while the "house" burns down. What does it take for something as big as climate change to finally hit home for enough people that we reach a critical mass to change behavior, shift policy and foment change, and to do it fast? When you live here on the southcoast where the temperatures are amicable, the cool, damp fog is just off-shore, the forests are green, it's easy to think climate change is something that's happening somewhere else. It's hard to imagine our corner of the world engulfed in flames. But yesterday I could imagine it, and east of Bandon some of it was. 

Food and agriculture are major drivers of climate change and I applaud all of you for making the choice to eat locally and to eat lots of veggies (that are grown mostly with solar power, thanks to the 12 kW PV system on the roof of our barn). Twenty years ago my concern about the environment and climate change was one of the motivating factors that led me into organic, regenerative farming: I wanted to do something that was positive for the planet and good for my community. It's great that something delicious can make a difference, but at this point it's going to take more than a local salad to double down on atmospheric carbon. Yes, pile your plates high with plants grown close to home and start your car as little as possible, but also elect leaders who take the climate crisis seriously. And most importantly, hold on to stubborn, purposeful optimism. Because we won't turn the ship unless we believe we can, and will.

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 14 from Valley Flora!

Please note this is NOT our farmstand availability email. This is our weekly CSA newlsetter primarily intended for our subscribed Harvest Basket members who receive a weekly box of produce from the farm from June through December. You cannot order farmstand produce from this email or directly from our website. Rather, farmstand availability emails are sent out on Thursday and Monday mornings to folks who have signed up for Wednesday or Saturday pickup, respectively. To learn more or sign up for a farmstand pickup day, click here.

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Red Onion
  • Sweet Peppers - all the peppers in your share are sweet Italian types this week; no hot peppers....:)
  • Red Potatoes - the first dig of the season. I have a love-hate relationship with potatoes. I love growing them (it's something we do almost entirely with horses, from planting, to cultivating, to harvest, so therefore I wish we could grow 20 acres of potatoes!). But I hate all the sorting. When you grow potatoes, especially organically, there are a LOT of impefect ones - cracks, holes, scurf, funny knobs, insect damage, greening here and there. So many ugly little tubers that are pefectly fine on the inside but don't meet my produce beauty standards on the outside. I realize that I am perpetuating the supermodel myth of beauty, and that we all know it's what's on the inside that counts, but it's hard to liberate myself from my own vegetable pageant standards. It means we dump bin-fulls of the ugliest spuds, we donate a lot to the foodbank, and finally we try to skim the cream for you. That said, even some of the not-so-pretty ones get by us in the hustle of wash and pack. If that's the case with some of your potatoes this week, I am going to try to not apologize right now and instead encourage you to get out your veg peeler. If any of your spuds have a green spot, it's safe to cut or peel away that spot and still eat the potato. You wouldn't want to eat 5 lbs of greened potatoes in a sitting, but if you're cutting off a spot here and there you'll be fine (greening indicates the presence of solanine, a natural but toxic compound that develops in potatoes when exposed to the sun). You'll see potatoes in your share every few weeks now for the rest of the season. Which, by the way, is halfway over! This is week 14 of 28!
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Parsley

On Rotation:

  • Melon - We surprised our Bandon and Port Orford members last Saturday with a melon (and in fact, stumped one member who emailed me to say: "There's something in my share I don't recognize...it's round, dense, tan, and looks like a melon..."). Her hunch was right, this is "Sarah's Choice," a delicious cantaloupe-type melon that Abby grows for us. Supremely sweet and aromatic, we look forward to these all year!
  • Corn
  • Lettuce

Strawberries Still Peaking!

I can't believe I get to say this, but the strawberries are still pumping! What an amazing, quasi-miraculous late season we're having. Usually by now they're slowing down and We the Farmers are glad for it. But yesterday's harvest might just have been the best of the year. When the fruit is that beautiful and abundant it's hard to resent all the crawling on your knees ("oh please sir, can't I pick another row?). That being the case, I'm putting out the call (probably the last time) for special order flats. If you want some, give a holler via email with your name, pickup location, number of flats you want, and your phone number. Flats are $45 apiece delivered to your pickup site.

OR, come u-pick! The u-pick crowd has thinned out because no one thinks of September as strawberry season, but here at Valley Flora it's better than ever! Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11am to 2:30pm.

 

Pickling Cukes on the Horizon

Our late planting of pickling cukes has just begun to produce. I dont know what kind of yield to expect, but if you're interested in pickling, email me your name, pickup location, quantity (in 10# increments), and your phone number. If we have plenty we'll be offering 10 pound bulk bags for $30. They are a small, European-style gherkin, great for pickles or fresh eating.

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 13 from Valley Flora!

  • Rainbow Chard
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Serrano & Jalapeño Peppers
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Corn

On Rotation:

  • Green Beans
  • Head Lettuce

All of this bounty at our fingertips all day long, and then there's this....

The Dirty Secrets of Organic Farmers (a new segment in your weekly CSA newsletter!)

Last week, my mom was deep into her 12th hour of a 14 hour workday, buried in tomatoes, her brain on the fritz from not eating all day, and she dug this gourmet gem of a lunch out of the freezer (left by a houseguest at least a year prior, nicely freezer-burned around the edges...). I walked into the barn at 7 pm for the final stretch of packout and had to take the picture.

Whatever you might imagine about organic farmers sitting around a big lunch table leisurely eating beautiful family-style meals bursting with seasonal produce, yeah, you can pretty much scrub that from your mental imagery. It's leftovers from the night before when you're lucky enough to have cooked plenty of extra quinoa, or it's quick quesadillas and some salad, or in this case, when things get really dark, it's freezer-burned pre-fab pizza that not even the dogs will try to steal off the table. 

We have often mused about the irony that attends this time of year, when we're buried in beautiful produce but don't have any time to cook with it (much less eat it): wouldn't it be great if some chef or inspired cook wanted to take a sabbatical, come camp out at the farm for a summer and make the crew a meal once a day with whatever was ripe in the field? Or in the very least, if we could just get a taco truck to pull up to the barn around 2 pm each day.....Meals on Wheels for farmers!

Ah well, in the meantime, we'll get by with the sweet pepper eaten at a trot in the farmroad while hustling to get the cilantro harvested before the heat of the day presses in. That, and of course, quesadillas.

Split Screen - What our CSA members are doing with their produce:

Bravo!!!!!!

 

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 12 from Valley Flora!

  • Strawberries
  • Carrots
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Red Cabbage
  • Sweet Corn!!!!! - Corn season kicks off this week! We have five successive plantings in the field, so expect to see sweet corn in your share pretty often for the next month+! I don't think you'll have too much trouble eating this much corn fresh in a week (or a day) - steamed, grilled, raw! - but if it's too much for you I suggest freezing it. You can either cut it off the cob and freeze it raw, or blanch it for a minute in boiling water and then cut if off and freeze it. I like to spread the cut corn out on cookie sheets and freeze it, then put it into freezer bags (so it's not a solid frozen block when you go to use it in the winter). 
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Cilantro

On Rotation:

  • Eggplant
  • Green Beans
  • Lettuce - Not everyone will get a head of lettuce this week. As the days shorten dramatically in August, our lettuce slows down and we usually have to hit pause for a week or two in order for our successive plantings to catch up. Once it resumes we should have weekly lettuce for you again well into November.

 

Onion Harvest!

This week we completed the harvest of our 2020 onion crop, a process that involves pulling them out of the ground, loading them into the trailer, hauling them to the greenhouse, and finally laying them out on our propagation tables to dry and cure. It was a beautiful year for onions! They got a great start this spring thanks to weekly rainfall in May and early June and ideal growing temps. Every square inch of greenhouse space that isn't dedicated to seedlings and starts is covered in onions now. Once the onion tops are crispy-dry, we'll start cleaning them: snipping off the tops and roots, sorting them by size into bins, and stowing them in our dry storage room. It's the first crop that begins to fill our fall/winter treasure chest of storage crops: onions, winter squash, potatoes. Look for some new varieties of onions in your Havest Basket soon: Cipollinis, yellow onions and red onions coming your way!

Have a great week! Thanks for eating VF produce!

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 11 from Valley Flora!

In This Week's Harvest Basket:

  • Romano Green Beans - flat and wide and tender and deeeeeeelicious! Give them a light steam or sautee for maximal enjoyment (don't overcook!).
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Lettuce
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli - monster heads!!!! And probably the last of the summer harvest, so enjoy. Until fall, Señor Broccoli! (Although this week's heads are so big you might still be gnawing away at yours come September...)

On Rotation:

  • Eggpant

Pickling Cucumber Update, Plus Beans, Plus Strawberries...

I've been getting lots of inquiries about pickling cukes this summer. We had a banner year in 2019, so it goes without saying that we would have a complete crop failure this summer. There are none to offer at the moment, HOWEVER, we replanted and with slightly better luck should have an abundance starting in September. I know that's probably later than many of you usually make pickles but if you're willing to wait we should have lots in about a month. That gives you plenty of time to round up your dill seed and pickling salt and crocks and canning jars. 

Green Beans are pumping and are available by special order in 10# bags at our wholesale price of $50. 'Tis the time for dilly beans, canned beans, frozen beans, or just eating a heap of beans. To order, email us your name, pickup location, the number of 10# bags you want and a phone number.

Strawberries are so lovely and abundant right now it's hard to stop picking on Tuesday and Friday! We're almost caught up with our special order list, so if you'd like to order some by the flat we can probably take care of you this month. Flats are $45 each. Email us your name, pickup location, the number of flats you'd like and a phone number.

A reminder to everyone to check labels carefully on special orders and on salad shares before you take them home. There have been some mix-ups in the past few weeks that could have been easily prevented by taking a few seconds to double check labels. Thanks for your help!

Enjoy the August abundance!

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 10 from Valley Flora!

Week 10!

  • Onions
  • Fennel - at last! Our first planting intended for the CSA baskets in June succumbed to some weird foliar disease, so the fennel has been a long time coming this season. I'm a huge fan of fennel - which I know not to be true of every human on the planet - but it's one of my top ten favorite veggies. It has a mild anise flavor, wonderful cooked down or sliced thinly and eaten raw. The fat, juicy bulb is the main part of the plant we eat, but you can also use the ferny tops as an herb. This week you have all the farm ingredients you need to make finocchioa wonderful summer dish built around fennel, tomatoes, onions and basil. It stands alone, or you can eat it atop pasta, fish, polenta and more. We have a pretty broad collection of fennel recipes on our website if you want to branch out further.
  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli/Broccolini
  • Eggplant - Just starting to yield in the field! 
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Green Beans

Beautiful Flowers and Handsome Roosters!

Zinnias, dahlias, statice, strawflowers, sunflowers, black-eyed susans and more! The flowers are in full bloom on the farm and open for u-pick on Wednesdays and Saturdays starting at 11 am while the strawberry u-pick is open. If you come to u-pick, you might even get to enjoy the company of our oh-so-social resident farm rooster, Robinson (aka Ricky Bobby). He's really more like a dog than a chicken: he follows at your heels, comes when called and likes to share your lunch. He showed up out of the blue at the farm in June and has stuck around, making himself comfy in our equipment shed. I hate to admit just how fond I've become of a rooster, but really, what's not to love about a chicken that likes to ride in the car, socialize over lunch, and look handsome in the moments in between...

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 9 from Valley Flora!

Please note to all our customers who are receiving this newsletter: this is NOT the list of available farmstand produce for the week. This weekly BeetBox newsletter is primarily aimed at our CSA Harvest Basket members who receive a weekly pre-paid tote of produce for our 28-week CSA season. There has been some confusion among folks who are trying to order farmstand produce from this email. Our weekly farmstand availability emails get sent out separately to everyone who has signed up for a farmstand drive-thru pickup day on our website. All that info - in case you want to source farmstand produce - is here. Thank you!

In the Harvest Basket this Week:

  • Broccoli
  • Chard
  • Carrots - Your carrots will likely be coming loose by the pound from now on. At a certain point in the season bunching gets slow and difficult because the carrot tops get weak. We dig fresh poundage for you every week and leave the tops in the field to feed the soil microbiota.
  • Cucumbers
  • Italian Parsley
  • Head Lettuce
  • Red Long of Tropea Torpedo Onions - a specialty onion from Italy that doesn't cure or store well, but is wonderful fresh! If you had a handful more of them you could set them up as bowling pins....:)
  • Strawberries - they're back!
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes - It's on in the tomatoes! Bets, mi madre, is the tomato farmer (she also grows your zukes, cukes, parsley, basil and peppers) and she is now officially neck deep in her busiest, heaviest season. By the way, a sidenote about my mom: she is a badass! She's in the second half of her seventh decade of life and she's still farming full bore, lugging heavy buckets of stunner produce out of the field all week. Thanks, Ma, for adding some bling to the CSA share this week!

On Rotation:

  • Cauliflower
  • Heirloom Tomatoes

Strawberry Update: Best Week Yet!

It's shaping up to be our best week of strawberries so far this season, with lots more on the way in the coming weeks. We're seeing an incredible flush of flowers and new fruit, which bodes well for abundant u-pick in August. We opened up more beds on the u-pick side of the patch this week, and anticipate being able to give even more over to u-pick soon. I wholeheartedly recommend making time to fill your freezer in the next few weeks while the picking is at its peak! The patch opens at 11 am, Wednesdays and Saturdays. If you're coming a long distance with high hopes of bringing home a big haul of berries, aim to arrive when we open.

 

The horses have been throwing their weight around in the field every week, doing their part to keep our crops well-cultivated and weed-free. We worked Jack single this week to get into some tight crops that are just about to close in - Brussels sprouts pictured here, as well as asparagus, artichokes, leeks, kale, chard, and more. Jack is a Belgian/Morgan crossbred, and hands-down the best horse I've ever had. He works beautifully in harness and is also just as willing to saddle up and hit the trail. He's a handsome devil, all heart, with a sense of humor to boot.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 8 CSA Newsletter!

In the Harvest Basket this Week:

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Dill
  • Lettuce
  • Red Onions
  • Zucchini
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli or Broccolini

On Rotation:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower

Flower U-Pick Opens this Week!

The flowers are coming into full bloom on the farm: dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias, statice, strawflowers and more! The public is welcome to u-pick on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the same hours we're open for strawberry u-pick (11 am until 3 pm, or until the strawberry patch is picked out). We have clippers available, but encourage you to bring your own buckets to keep your flowers fresh on the trip home. Check in with Sarah at the strawberry u-pick for clippers and to get directions to the flower patch.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 7 CSA from Valley Flora!

In the Harvest Basket this Week:

  • Dazzling Blue Lacinato Kale
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions - big, juicy and sweet!
  • Zucchini
  • Kohlrabi - the last of it until late fall...
  • Cilantro
  • English Cucumbers

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Cauliflower - purple or neon green

Strawberries on Pause this Week

Qué lástima (what a pity), our strawberries are having a minor hiccup right now. We're in the midst of an episode of Type III bronzing in some of our Seascapes: some of the fruit is rough, leathery and seedy, which renders it unmarketable. Type III bronzing is thought to occur after fruit exposure to environmental stress in the form of high heat (over 85 degrees), extreme solar radiation, and low humidity. We're seeing it in our youngest plants primarily, where the leafy canopy is not fully developed yet. It happens every year to some extent, but is particularly bad this week. I'm guessing the culprit was the week of hot weather we had in mid-June. It takes strawberries 4 to 6 weeks to transform from blossom to fruit, so the fruit that was just forming in mid-June is maturing into ugly seedy berries right now. Bummer. It means no strawberries in the share this week, but fingers crossed for a return to beautiful harvests in the coming weeks.

There isn't a lot of research on bronzing, and actually some controversy over whether it is caused by environmental factors or a pest called thrips. I have a call and an email in to the UC organic strawberry expert in Santa Cruz in hopes of shedding some more light on the issue. We did make an interesting observation yesterday during harvest, which was that the June-bearers, which have a huge leafy, protective canopy, show no sign of bronzing, and our most mature Seascapes have very little bronzing. However, the side of the strawberry patch that was planted latest last fall has the worst of it. It suggests that the timing of planting in the fall could make all the difference. We typically start planting our new strawberry crowns in November and finish up by mid-December. If getting them in the ground in November can prevent bronzing episodes the following summer, it argues for dedicating more labor to planting strawberries as early as possible in November. 

The good news is that the strawberry u-pick, which includes our June-bearing varieties and our most mature Seascapes, is mostly unscathed. So if you're desperate for some berries this week, venture out and experience strawberry harvest first-hand. The beds are somewhat limited right now, so plan to get there at 11 am if you have your heart set on filling a bunch of buckets.

Here's a quote I have always appreciated, as someone who has crawled countless miles picking strawberries in this lifetime:

Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones bruise at even too heavy a human touch. It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten - every piece of fruit - had been picked by calloused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone's knees, someone's aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before.  -- Alison Luterman, What We Came For

 

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 6 CSA from Valley Flora!

In the CSA Harvest Basket this Week!

  • Chard
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Purplette Onions
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Hakurei Turnips

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Mini Cucumbers

Want More Food?!

If you're getting through your Harvest Basket each week and still wanting for more, remember there are a couple ways to source more produce directly from the farm:

  1. Strawberry U-Pick! Open every Wednesday and Saturday starting at 11 am at the farm. The berries are sweet and red now that our summer weather has arrived. Keep in mind we have some new u-pick systems in place this season due to COVID-19, so be sure to read up about the u-pick before you come.
  2. The Farmstand Drive-ThruDue to COVID, this spring we pivoted to a new pre-order, online farmstand system with drive-thru pick-up at our barn. We're using a customer-friendly online platform called Cropolis designed for small farms selling to local markets. There is no open-air, drop-in shopping this season. Instead you sign up for a farmstand drive-thru day - Wednesday and/or Saturday - on our website. Once you do that, you'll automatically start receiving our weekly farmstand availability emails and be able to place an order for drive-thru pickup. In addition to our produce, hot sauce and jam, you can also purchase Aguirre Farms local organic eggs, Farmstead Bread and Langlois Creamery sheep milk through our new system.

And, if it's too far for you to come to the farm, you can also find our produce at the Port Orford Community Co-op, the Langlois Market, Mother's Natural Grocery and Coos Head Food Co-op each week.

Thanks for eating locally!

Newsletter: 

Week 5 from Valley Flora!

In your Harvest Basket this week:

  • Carrots
  • Dill
  • Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mini cukes
  • Beets - some members will get sweet red beets, others will get Chioggia beets (pink skin with a pink and white bulls-eye interior)

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Zucchini
  • Arugula
  • Mizuna - mizuna is a mild, light green, serrated Asian green - wonderful as a salad or alongside a slab of fish

A few quick notes about storing your produce and keeping it perky for as long as possible:

  1. Any leafy vegetable, like lettuce, herbs, bunch greens and baby greens, do best in the fridge in a sealed up plastic bag. They like it between 34 and 40 degrees with high humidity. Broccoli, broccolini and cauliflower are the same way. Best used in the first week.
  2. Root veggies like carrots and beets, and dense veggies like kohlrabi, store the longest if you take the tops off and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. They'll keep for months without tops, but won't taste as good 3 weeks from now as they do today. 
  3. Zucchini and cukes prefer life at around 50 degrees with some humidity, but who has their fridge set to 50?! Nobody, I hope! They'll go soft on the counter, so your best bet is to put them in the fridge in a plastic bag but use them within the week before they get slimy.
  4. Strawberries will last on your counter for a day or two, and will continue ripening as they sit there. However, you can get a lot more life out of them if you keep them in a tupperware in your fridge. Not that anyone is actually making it home with a full pint of strawberries....If you are, you probably don't have kids in the backseat :)

Farm Updates

  • NEW laminated checksheets are going out to all pickup locations this week! Please mark yourself off each week with the dry erase pen!
  • BULK BASIL by SPECIAL ORDER! Primo tops, no stem, $18/pound. Pesto-lovers rejoice! To order, email Bets your:
    • Name
    • Pickup location
    • How many pounds you want
    • Daytime phone number

Farming Improv

I have one regret about college and it's that I didn't take an improv class. At the time I had my schedule packed with other classes: fiction writing workshops, sustainable development in Latin America, ecological forest management, biology, econ, statistics...

The thing I've heard over and over from friends who did enroll in improv is that it was the most valuable class they took. My friend the labor organizer, my friend the OSU farm advisor, they swear that improv has served them in life more than any other course. Darn, I guess I really blew it in undergrad.

But good news, my Stanford alumni magazine came in the mail last month and had a whole spread about the "8 Life Lessons You Can Learn from Improv: How to apply just-go-with-it wisdom to your career, realtionships and well-being." The funny thing is, some of the guiding principles of improv have been guiding the management of the farm without me realizing they had anything to do with improv. Even better news: I didn't have to pay an arm and a leg for the college credits!

  1. Pay Attention: Yup, keen observation is by far the most important skill for keeping a highly diversified farm like ours humming, and for averting occasional disaster. Everyday I'm paying attention to every detail, with eyes, ears and nose cocked to all the sensory information the farm is throwing at us - why is that row of cauliflower an imperceptibly lighter shade of green - is there fertility stress? Why is the pump cycling so often - do we have a leak somewhere in the mainline? How big are the newly budding broccoli crowns and what's the weather forecast and should we pick them today or will they hold until Friday?
  2. Don't Go it Alone: It's all about working together - one giant spontaneous choreography each day to get all the work done between dawn and dusk on the farm. We're all leaning on each other to pull off a successful season, and the energy of every single person on our crew is essential.
  3. Trust that the Scene Will Evolve: Things are in constant flux on the farm, so extremely seasonal is our model of production. It helps to remember that one setback - like symphylans in the spring Brassicas - will give way to some other success, like beautiful June carrots. We are never stuck in one failure for too long, the failures teach us how to be better farmers, and in the end the diversity of the farm carries us through. 
  4. Stay Positive: It's easy to think it's the end of the world, but it never is. The glass-half-full mindset is the place where we proactively solve problems on the farm. The pressure tank exploded? OK, I guess that means it's time to replace it, build a better pumphouse, and plumb the system smarter than we did the first time.
  5. Accept the Offer: Saying "yes" to whatever is going on at the farm lubricates the wheels of creative innovation. COVID-19 means we can't run our farmstand? OK, Coronavirus, we'll turn it into a drive-thru!
  6. The Journey is the Thing: "what makes improvisers so good at creating something out of nothing isn't as much about what they do as it is about how they do it..." We farm because we love this place, we love working together as a family, we love to eat well, and we believe in organic, regenerative agriculture and it's ability to transform communities - from the living community in our gut microbiome all the way up to how humanity interacts with this planet. Yeah, it's about growing carrots, but it's also about a whole lot more.

My advice to you this week: say yes to beets! Accept the offer (even if you are sure you don't like beets), stay positive (they really might taste good!), don't go it alone (share them with friends), trust that the scene will evolve (i.e. you won't get beets next week!), and know that the journey is the thing (you tried them and confirmed for yourself that you really still do not like beets so you decided to carve them into stamps for your kids and you made really cool vegetable art).

A+!!!

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 4 from Valley Flora!

Happy official summer! It arrived with a bang this week, with temps in the mid-eighties at the farm the past couple of days - dreamy weather for all the eggplant and squash and corn and beans and tomatoes and melons; a little less dreamy for all the sweaty farmers. Grateful to have legs that can march me down to the creek and throw me into the drink late-afternoon!

In your share this week:

  • Red Ursa Kale - at last! Our new plantings of kale and chard are hitting full stride now, which means we can finally leave the bitter taste of spring symphylans crop failure behind us. Red Ursa is an heirloom variety that I love for it's beautiful colors and tender leaves, and it's a great variety to use for kale chips. One of our farmstand customers is a kale chip fiend and she shared her recipe, below, with me. If you don't have a food dehydrator, you can also make kale chips in your oven on low heat: https://minimalistbaker.com/how-to-make-kale-chips/
  • Bunch Carrots
  • Mini Cucumbers - a little sampler of our favorite early mini-cuke. Not enough to make a dish, but enough to get you excited about cucumber season to come!
  • Abby's Spinach
  • Basil
  • Head Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Radishes
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Fava Beans - the big, fat green pods in your tote are fresh favas. This is one of the not-so-common things we grow for you and the season is fleeting. You'll likely only see favas this week and maybe next week. They're a delightful fresh bean but they take a little effort to prepare, which is why I consider them a "weekend" food - one of those things that I'll cook when I have the luxury of a little more time. Ideally it's also one of those things you dig into with a bunch of friends - sit around and shell favas and talk story - but that might not be in the cards this COVID season. So....maybe shell favas while visiting friends on Zoom...? That's how I got 40 pounds of artichoke hearts preserved earlier this spring, in the Zoom company of college buddies around the country. If you're new to favas here's how to prepare them: https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/how-to-prepare-fava-beans-gallery

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Snap Peas

 

Cory's Kale Chips

2 bunches kale

Dressing:

  • 3/4 cup tahini 
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or 3/4 if you're a salt fiend like me)

Remove all main stalks from the kale and cut leaves into large pieces. Wash and dry the pieces in a salad spinner so they're fully dry. Make sure they're fully dry.

Whisk all dressing ingredients together.

If you don't have a mixing bowl big enough for all the kale pieces, use a stock pot to toss them with the dressing until all the pieces are evenly coated. This process takes several minutes, using both hands.

Lay out the coated leaves on the food dehydrator trays and set to 135 degrees. For really crispy kale chips, eave them in for 18-24 hours, but best to check on them after 8 hours and play it by ear from there. 

 

The 2020 Valley Flora Crew!

It's high time you met the team that's growing, packing and delivering your food this season! Pictured left to right:

Sarah Snow and Allen Williams joined us this season after 7 years farming in Idaho and Hawaii. Sarah has the hardest job on the farm: keeping track of all four of our kids during the week, along with helping with harvest and running the U-Pick. Allen is a core part of of our harvest and field crew and is in charge of Saturday deliveries. He is also regularly called upon to reach for anything stored up in the stratosphere. We feel so lucky to have these two in our midst!

Bets, Cleo, Zoë, Abby, Jules, Pippin, Uma & Roberto in a not-so-social-distanced clump in the middle. Yes, that's Cleo stuffing her face with homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie. The kids got really into baking during "homeschool" this past spring, which is paying sweet dividends on Fridays now - they've been baking Friday treat for the whole crew. In this picture, taken last Friday, we were celebrating Roberto's birthday! Roberto has been part of Valley Flora since 2010, and what beautiful decade it's been! Roberto has thrown himself into the farm heart and soul and helped make Valley Flora what it is today. 

Jen Faraci on the far right, sporting the latest Valley Flora washline fashion (you wouldn't believe how that neon orange brings out the green in her eyes!). Jen joined us this spring and wears multiple essential hats at the farm: greenhouse manager, field and harvest crew, Wednesday deliveries. She says she's wanted to work for Valley Flora for years so she could get a free VF baseball hat. Mission accomplished. Might have to get some new merch made so we can bribe her to stay forever.

Not pictured is Donna Smith, who is running the farmstand drive-thru this season. Hats off to Donna for taking on a brand new, logistically complicated system and making it run smoothly - with a smile! A round of applause!

This little farm wouldn't chug along without this team working together. And speaking of teams, there are a two more members of the crew who pull a lot of weight around here:

Enjoy the food, have a great week!

Zoë

Newsletter: 

CSA Week 3 from Valley Flora!

In your share this week!

  • Strawberries
  • Kohlrabi - a green one and a purple one. If you're new to kohlrabi, it's the bulbous thing with the up-do of leaves. Cut the tops off and then peel the bulb with a sharp knife or good veggie peeler. It's juicy and crunchy inside, a little bit like jicama. I prefer it raw, but you can also add it to stir fries and other dishes. My five year old goes nuts for it cut up into veggie sticks. Douse it with chili and lime if you like it ala Mexicana!
  • Head lettuce
  • Bunch carrots
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Hakurei Turnips - the white roots that look like big radishes. These are a Japanese salad turnip, and pretty much the only turnip I grow because they're so dang good. Munch them like apples, or slice up on your salad. Buttery and tender. If you want an even more refined flavor, peel them.
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow onion

On Rotation:

  • Red mustards greens, bunched - lacey maroon leaves, eat raw or cooked - has a little kick!
  • Tatsoi, bunched - dark green spoon-shaped leaves, eat raw or cooked.
  • Braising mix, bagged - a mix of Abby's baby kale and mustard greens
  • Spinach, bagged - Abby's succulent baby spinach

The Color of Food

Tucked up Floras Creek it's easy to feel far removed from the headlines, from COVID hotspots and urban riots. It's easy to feel like race is not a pressing topic in our quiet, rural (mostly white) community. But this week I found myself really giving that more thought. I recently got my stimulus check in the mail and wanted to donate it to an organization doing good work on racial justice, ideally somewhere close to home. But what I realized is that there aren't any organizations that I know of to give that money to right here in Curry County. Is that because race is "not an issue," or rather is it because race has been such an issue - for so long - that we haven't even gotten to the point of addressing race constructively in our little corner of Oregon? 

I learned for the first time this year about Oregon's Exclusion Law of 1844: a law that banned Black people from living in Oregon. Another black exclusion law was enacted in 1849 that made it illegal for Blacks to to enter or reside in Oregon territory. It meant that when Oregon became a state in 1859 it was the ony state in the Union with a black exclusion law on the books, which was expanded to prohibit Black people from owning property and making contracts. These laws remained in place until 1926. Even though the same racist sentiment pervaded all of the U.S., Oregon was the only place bold enough to write it down. That wasn't part of my Oregon history class in high school.

My mom has an old letter written by a Civil War veteran who moved here in 1885, Samuel T. Malehorn. He settled on Floras Creek and started a fruit farm and nursery on the land where Valley Flora now sits. In 1896 he sent a letter to a friend and fellow war vet, encouraging him to move to the area:

"It is all timber, light and heavy, rolling land, well watered, productive, all of it adaptive to good fruit. I am 4 miles from the beach, which is about right, 15 miles north of Port Orford. There are still good choices for homesteaders near me...Deeded lands can be bought from $5 to $40 per acre now. 40 acres is enough for a family to live on. You can build your houses with one cedar tree by hand. Fish and game everywhere. There is no poisonous reptiles or insects, you can lay out under a tree anywhere safely. It is blessed and glorious country, the best in the U.S."

I've always loved that letter - such an affirmation of this place where we live and farm - but this week I realized another significance of that letter. Samuel Malehorn was a white man, inviting a fellow white comrade of the 29th Regiment to come to Oregon. He could live here - and so could his white friend - because they were white. They had access to cheap homesteads - and therefore land and the means of production - where Black people didn't. Oregon's historic racist exclusion laws set us on a course that put property ownership - and power - into the hands of white folks only. 

This history is no doubt part of the reason that your farmers here at Valley Flora are white, not black - why my family "owns" this land, not a Native American family or an African American family or a Chinese family or Latino family. We are standing on and supported by the very big, broad shoulders of institutionalized, systemic racism.

That's uncomfortable. And it's high time to be uncomfortable, since most of us probably don't have a clue what it's like to be really uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable, as in not able to breathe because a cop is kneeling on your neck because your skin is not white.

It's hard to know what to proactively do with this heavy realization, especially in June when most of my bandwidth is occupied with beating back the weeds, harvesting peas, and planting seeds left and right. But this morning I did something that felt really good. At the recommendation of a friend who has worked on racial justice issues for decades, I donated my $1200 stimulus check to the Movement for Black Lives Fund, a coalition that's made up of over 150 organizations that are working to coordinate actions, messages and campaigns for the Black Lives Matter Movement nationwide, and to funnel resources to frontline organizing efforts where they're needed most: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/movement-4-black-lives-1

Martin Luther Kind, Jr. said, "Everything we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see." It's time to see what's behind the shadow.

Newsletter: 

Week 1 of Winter CSA from Valley Flora!

  • Parsley
  • Rainbow chard
  • Celery
  • Leeks
  • Chioggia Radicchio
  • Delicata Squash
  • Purple Moon Potatoes
  • Leeks
  • Mixed Mini Daikon Radish
  • Carrots

Happy 2022! We're off to a colorful start with the first harvest of the year (I LOVE those vibrant mini-daikons!). The change in weather was well-timed this week - we were able to whiz through harvest on Monday and Tuesday without our hands turning into useless numb claws. The problem was more to do with overheating than losing feeling in our extremities! A couple of quick notes on your first winter share (aka, the "why some of your food is not as pretty as we wish" disclaimer):

  1. Carrots: you'll notice that most of your carrots have the tips cut off. It's been such a wet fall and winter thus far that our candy carrots are rotting at the tip in the field. Tragic, because they are the best tasting carrots of the year. Rather than withholding carrots from the CSA altogether, we bit the bullet and decided to give you imperfect, juice grade carrots this week. They are still great eating, but don't meet our usual cosmetic standard. We hope you understand and enjoy them nonetheless!
  2. Purple Moon Potatoes: this is our best storage potato, holding well into the spring in the cooler without sprouting. It's also usually very pretty with dark purple outer skin and a yellow interior. Unfortunately, this variety came out of the field with more skin blemishes than usual this season (we're not sure why, given that our yellow storage variety was nearly flawless this year). You'll probably want to peel the roughest of your spuds, unless you don't mind the bumps.
  3. Celery & Chard & Radicchio: bonus! Somehow our celery and chard made it through the vicious winter lashing of the past month. We've never been able to harvest these two crops in January before, so it was fun to be able to include them in this first winter share. We were also delighted to discover that our ongoing trials with diferent radicchio varieties paid off for this harvest. Rubro, the variety in your share this week, performed amazingly well through this late season winter slot and allowed us to put a beautiful little head in your tote this week. I don't know about you, but I've been eating the Insalata Nostrana at least three times a week since November and will be crushed when we pick the last radicchio from the field. Our household has burned through a half case of anchovies and a few fat wedges of pecorino making that addictive dressing! In case you lost that recipe, here it is again (I vow to make radicchio lovers out of all of you....that and fennel, my two most potent life goals as a farmer :)......):

Happy winter eating, and mark your calendars for your next CSA delivery on January 26th!

Newsletter: 

Week 28 from Valley Flora - Our Final CSA Delivery of 2021!

  • Red and Gold Beets
  • Red Cabbage
  • Shallots
  • Autumn Frost Winter Squash - a wonderful specialty butternut with excellent flavor and incredible storage potential (until April/May for us last year)
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Parsnips: my crew has been raving about this parsnip loaf recipe, from Six Seasons cookbook, which I gave to my team last year as an end-of-season gift. Make it!
  • Winter Crisp Lettuce (we made it all the way to the end with head lettuce this year! No hard frosts yet, so we're still harvesting outdoors from the field!)
  • Costarossa Radicchio - a "Verona" type, often used in cooking. I made a riff on this risotto this week using a head of Costarossa and Delicata squash. Of course I made six times the amount so we'd have leftovers, and I did it in the instant pot cuz it only takes 6 minutes. The pressure cooker risotto formula I use is from "Cooking Under Pressure" (the perfect title for a cookbook in my kitchen, where making dinner often doesn't even get started until 8 pm or later for much of the year....). It's basically 1.5 cups of arborio rice to 3.5 cups of stock. If you know that ratio, you can make any kind of risotto any time of the year in about 10 minutes. I tend to throw in whatever's on hand and in season: I usually start by sauteeing leeks, onions or shallots in a combo of butter and olive oil; add the rice and stir it around in the fat; throw in whatever veggies I'm adding (in this case, winter squash and radicchio, but sometimes it's olives and sundried tomatoes and frozen artichoke hearts, or celeriac and rosemary, or wild mushrooms - anything! If it's something I don't want to overcook, like greens or broccoli or cauliflower, I add those after I've released the pressure at the end of cooking.) Add your stock (I used mushroom stock this time) and white wine. Lock the lid in place, cook at high pressure for 6 minutes, do a rapid release of pressure, then stir in your parmesan/pecorino and any tender ingredients (greens, broccolini, etc) and cook a few minutes longer while stirring. It's our version of fast food around here. Plus, at the end of the night all you have to clean up is a single cutting board, a knife and one pot. I always feel pretty pleased with myself when that's the sum total of the evening's kitchen destruction.

Thank you All for your CSA Support this Season!!!

Here we are in Week 28 - your final CSA tote for the season! Looking back, it's been a great season overall: no major catastrophes, an all-star seasoned crew, good-to-great yields in most crops, and a not-too-hot summer (even if it was scary dry here and apocalyptically hot elsewhere). All told, when we take into account every item we put into a Harvest Basket this year, the total value of a share added up to $1006.86 - about 15% more value than the $865 we charged for, or a bonus month's worth of produce. That's often one of the perks of being a CSA member - quite a bit of free food! :)

Every year - for the past 13 years of doing the CSA - I've strived to fine tune and improve the CSA share to make it as diverse, colorful and abundant as possible for our members. It's a great challenge, and it's fun to look back at photos of the CSA shares we've put out over the past decade and see how things have changed and evolved. We are definitely farming better than we were in 2008 and the farm is more diverse than it's ever been. The main focus of my crop planning this year is Brassica reduction: trying to cut back wherever we can on the number of beds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, romanesco, kohlrabi, kale, etc. that we grow. It's a tricky task, because these are the crops that thrive in the cooler weather of winter, spring and fall, and carry us through the shoulder seasons. We need them in the mix, without a doubt.

But I've also started to consider a theory, based on some fascinating things I've learned about soil biology this year, that Brassicas are connected to our relatively new problem with symphylans (those little soil-dwelling arthropods that feed on root hairs and stunt seedlings, usually causing partial or complete crop failure). Most plants on planet earth have a mutualistic association with mycorrhizal fungi: plants provide food (sugars and carbohydrates) to the soil fungus, and in exchange the fungus gathers water, minerals and nutrients for the plant using its network of threadlike hyphae. Research is slowly helping us understand that most plants could not survive without this symbiotic relationship with beneficial soil fungi.

One of the few exceptions in the plant world is Brassicas. They do not have a symbiotic association with mycorrhizal fungi, and in fact Brassicas produce certain chemicals that can be toxic to soil fungi.  

So what's all this have to do with symphylans? Well, it turns out that symphylans like to eat soil fungi. It's their primary food source. But in the absence of fungi, they will munch on root hairs instead. Therefore, if we're growing too many Brassicas we might be inhibiting the population of soil fungi and inadvertently driving the symphylans to eat the roots of our crops instead. That could be why we experienced an almost complete crop failure in our early spring Brassicas at the start of 2020, and why we are seeing symphylans pressure in various parts of our field. We have been "treating" the problem by growing potatotes in the afflicted areas. Potatoes mysteriously "clean up" the symphylans problem for a few years, proof of which we saw in our fall Brassicas this year. Where we had the 2020 spring Brassica crop failure, we planted potatoes last year. Then this season, we crossed our fingers and planted our entire fall and winter Brassica field there (a scary gamble, given how important those crops are to our fall production and our winter CSA). It ended up being the most vibrant, beautiful field of Brassicas we've grown in years, suggesting that the potatoes worked their magic, at least temporarily. 

Even if we have the potato trick up our sleeve, I'm still interested in bringing the farm into better balance below ground, which is why some of our Brassica beds are getting the axe. I doubt you will notice a huge difference in the CSA next year, but we might not have as much extra to sell into our other market channels, like the farmstand or wholesale.

This is what my desk looks like right now, and will continue to look for the next month or so as I work through our massive crop planning spreadsheet - some crops getting deleted from the mix, and other new ones being added. It's that time of year when I'm farming a little more with my brain and a little less with my brawn.

I hope you'll join us next season (sign-ups for the 2022 season will likely begin sometime in late January or early February)! And if you're a winter CSA member this year, we'll see you in January!

Thanks again for your support this season, and happy solstice and holidays to all!

Zoë

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 27 of 28 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Leeks
  • Winter Crisp Lettuce
  • Delicata Winter Squash
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Rosalba Radicchio
  • Kohlrabi - some of the bulbs this week have small black spots on the skin, which can develop in the field under wet, late season conditions. Just peel the outer skin as usual and you'll find crunchy white kohlrabi beneath.

I'm feeling a little self-conscious about all my waxing-on about radicchio (if you haven't grocked my love for it by now, you haven't been reading the weekly newsletter of late), but you must permit me at least a tiny mention of the PINK BRIDESMAID WONDER in your tote this week. Even if you aren't sure you like eating radicchio yet, can you still not appreciate the unbelievable frufru pink-ness of this vegetable? I especially like the juxtaposition of it in a tote with the very masculine, very Germanic, somewhat ugly Kossack kohlrabi.

Harvesting Rosalba feels a little indecent on an early December morning. I cut the heads at the base and then have to strip all the outer leaves that have been hammered by the elements, revealing a shock of pink within. It's like rummaging through the petticoats of some 15-year-old's quinceañera dress, Exhibits A through D below:

If you haven't tried it yet, this is a great week to make the Insalata Nostrana recipe that I put into the newsletter two weeks ago. When was the last time you ate a pink salad?!?

CSA Delivery Schedule Back to Normal for Last Two Weeks of the Season

This week we resume our regular Wednesday/Saturday CSA delivery schedule, for the remaining two weeks of the season. Next week will be our 28th and final week of the season (the last Wednesday CSA pickup is December 8th; last Saturday CSA pickup is December 11th). Enjoy your final two weeks of produce!

 

Newsletter: 

Happy Thanksgiving! Week 26 from Valley Flora!

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Rosemary
  • Shallots
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Winter Crisp Lettuce
  • Kabocha Winter Squash

REMINDER: All Harvest Baskets are being delivered TODAY! There is no CSA delivery this Saturday.

  • Bandon Pick-up hours today: 10:30 to 5 pm
  • Port Orford Pick-up hours today: 8:30 to 5 pm (please try to pick up before 11 am or after 3 pm to avoid congestion on the loading dock at POCC)

I love this holiday above all others: a day that boils down to the simple basics of food, family, love, gratitude. This year I am especially excited because we are reuniting (after a round of nose-swabbing COVID tests today) with my Dad's side of the family, most of whom have traveled from Chicago, Boston and the Bay Area to spend the week in Bandon. It's been 7 years since I've been seated around a Thanksgiving table with all of them - enough years ago that they have never met Uma, my 6 year old (she was a taut 8-month basketball in my belly the last time we were in Chicago together), nor have they met Jules, Abby's 5 year old. Blame it on a too-big country, spreading ourselves amongst multiple families during the holidays, juggling the baby and toddler years, and then COVID.

But aside from not knowing our kids, perhaps the worse travesty of so many years apart is all the missed meals together. My aunts and uncles and cousins love cooking and they love eating and they love food. Better put, LOVE (all caps, underline, bold, italics). We've had an elaborate family email thread going for the past three weeks in anticipation of this reunion and the entire thing has been about the menu - not just for Thanksgiving day, but for the whole week. Thanksgiving will be quasi-traditional tomorrow, but all the meals before and after are what really make me hungry: Catalan fish stew, seafood thai curry, goat cheese Delicata enchiladas, lots of salad (radicchio!!! Abby's Greens! Slaw!), and much more.

That epic family email thread was transformed into an equally epic excel spreadsheet listing all the ingredients we needed for every single meal, which was then further distilled into a produce order that we harvested and packed this week on the farm. I am immensely proud to say that my family stood toe to toe with our largest wholesale buyers this week, ordering as much produce as Coos Head or the Port Orford Co-op. That's what I mean about loving food. We have our work cut out for us the next five days: lots of chopping, lots of chewing.

I hope you have the opportunity to celebrate food and family and friends this week, too, and are reminded of all there is to be thankful for. I felt a wave of gratitude for so many things while I was bent over harvesting those petite little heads of winter crisp lettuce for you on Monday morning. The first sensation was: thank you for this sunshine! It's been a beautiful, easy week of farming - no hellacious Thanksgiving storms like those that have challenged us in year's past. Sure, it's those years of driving rain and gale force winds that make for the best storytelling now, but I was just fine with sunny skies this time around.  

As I continued cutting and counting lettuce heads with the sun warming my back, the next thing I thought of was all of you - the reason we bother planting and harvesting all this lettuce. Thank you dear CSA members for your commitment to the farm, for riding out the whole season with us, and for rising to the challenge that a weekly Harvest Basket can present.

Then, a wave of gratitude for my crew - Allen, Jen and Roberto - who were simultaneously bent over other crops in the field that morning. There are times when I don't know why they come to work day after day when they could certainly earn more money and benefits doing something else. But they do: they show up early and they stay late, and they throw themselves into it with a dedication that leaves me humbled and thankful. They also make me laugh and feel bouyed by the strength of a team. I could not do this alone, and would not want to.

For Sarah and Donna and Maggie for their smiling faces at the farmstand, and so much more. For Evan for shuttling empty CSA totes back to the farm each week in trade for strawberries and onions :). For Charlie for all his greenhouse and irrigation expertise and volunteerism. Sondra who raises such beautiful eggs and shows us so much love and generosity; for Farmstead Bread who bakes such beautiful bread for us; for our CSA hosts - the Port Orford Co-op, Coos Head Food Co-Op, and Well Within Acupuncture - for welcoming us and our CSA circus to their space each year. For all of our customers - u-pick, farmstand, and wholesale alike - who keep this place humming.

Gratitude for my mom and my sister who have built this farm up from its earliest inception and are so part of my life they are like external organs or limbs. For my loyal dog, Juno, sitting zen-like while sniffing the morning air. For my big shaggy ponies grazing across the road and all they do for the farm - all the hours of labor they save us by virtue of their quiet willingness to work in harness all season. For the creek that waters this farm, flowing fast and filling with salmon right now. For the soil itself and the 7 billion microbes teeming in each teaspoonful. Mycelium, wow! For the other farmers who grow my seeds, for the ladies at B&B feed store and the guys at Western Growers Supply and the crew at Coos Curry Supply who keep us supplied with so many essentials. For all the people who support the farm in various capacities (scientists! the Small Farms team at Oregon State University!). My step-dad, who saves the day by making quesadillas for my hungry kids all the time and gives them music lessons and makes a mean margarita on Friday night. My husband, who keeps loving his wife in spite of the extreme hours she puts in at the farm all season.

Sometimes when you turn the gratitude spigot on, it barely drips at first. But if you leave it on, eventually the drip becomes a trickle, becomes a gush. And it's one of those things where less is not more. More the better. I felt so good, so full, but the time I got to 250 heads of lettuce on Monday morning that I was practically floating. Cup runneth over.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

(And remember, this is not the end of the season! There are two more weeks of CSA deliveries post-Thanksgiving: the week of Nov 29th and the week of Dec 6th.)

 

Newsletter: 

Week 25 from Valley Flora

  • Beets
  • Green Cabbage
  • Celeriac
  • Yellow Onions
  • Butternut Squash
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Head Lettuce
  • Radicchio - Chioggia type (variegated or classic red)

I think the overwhelming theme of this week's harvest basket is "food that stores forever." Or, almost forever. Pretty much the only things that need to be eaten this week are the radicchio and the lettuce, and even the radicchio will keep for a couple weeks in your fridge. As for the rest of it, no worries if you're not hungry! Cut the tops off your turnips and store them refrigerated in a plastic bag for weeks. Same goes for the celeriac - you might find it in the back of your fridge in February and it'll be the perfect thing for an impromptu winter soup. The green cabbage is a storage type that'll hold for a couple months in the fridge, no problemo. And the butternut and onions have a great shelf life on your counter, unrefrigerated.

If you're wondering what in the world to do with celeriac (the hairy, knobby, round root in your tote this week), check out this eclectic collection of recipes: https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/15-best-celeriac-recipes-article

If you don't want to get fancy, celeriac is always a wonderful base note in soup, any soup.

And this week is your second chance to fall in love with radicchio. This is the recipe - from a restaurant called Nostrana in Portland - that made me happy to bid lettuce farewell in November and start filling my salad bowl enthusiastically with radicchio each night instead:

Remember, if you're averse to anything bitter but want to make salad with it, the trick is to soak your radicchio in cold water for 10 minutes. Cut it up into ribbons or wedges and submerge it in a bowl of cold water while you're prepping other things in the kitchen. Spin dry and voila, you probably couldn't tell the difference between the radicchio and lettuce in a blind taste test. I have a farmer friend near Portland who sells radicchio at the farmers market. Sales were slow at first, but then he started calling it "winter lettuce" and people couldn't get enough of it. Paradigm shift? Savvy marketing ploy? Whatever, it worked :)

Also, a quick note on the recipe above. I make my own croutons with the butt ends of Farmstead Bread, but I don't bother with the butter and herbs in this recipe because it's often one too many steps on a busy weeknight. Instead, I just toss my cubed bread with some olive oil, salt and pepper, spread them on a small tray and pop into the toaster oven at 375 until lightly browned. 

Send me your stories of falling in love with radicchio if you have any. There's nothing like a good love story, especially when it involves vegetables.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 24 from Valley Flora!

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Savoy Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Head Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Delicata
  • Mini Daikon Radishes: I had a Daikon pickle party with a couple friends this weekend and I highly encourage you to try this recipe for Do Chua (Vietnamese Pickled Carrot and Daikon). It's delicious on just about anything, but is a classic garnish for banh mi sandwiches. There are lots of recipes out there for Do Chua, and you can play with the recipes to taste - for instance, change the ratio of radishes and carrots (you're getting 2 lb daikon and 1 pound carrot this week, which would make a nice balanced pickle). A lot of the recipes call for equal parts carrot and daikon, which will make it sweeter. In Vietnam it's often made with 100% daikon instead because carrots are more expensive than radish there (the opposite is true here in the States). You can also use less sugar and more vinegar or vice versa, depending on your preference. We shredded our radish and carrot in a cuisinart (using the shredder blade, not the chopping blade) instead of using a mandolin slicer, but we were processing about 30 lbs of daikon not 2 lbs :). Have fun with it!

On Rotation

  • Parsley

Thanksgiving CSA Schedule - Mark Your Calendars!

Thanksgiving is two weeks away - time to alert you to our Thanksgiving delivery schedule! 

The week of Thanksgiving we will deliver ALL Harvest Baskets to ALL pickup locations on Wednesday, November 24th. We do this for two reasons:

  1. To ensure that everyone has their Thanksgiving veggies before Thanksgiving, and
  2. To give everyone on the farm a Thanksgiving holiday break.

That means that if you are a Port Orford or Bandon member, your pickup will be on WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 24th instead of Saturday, November 27th. There will be no pickup on Saturday, November 27th. Pickup hours will be the same as usual.

For Farm and Coos Bay members, there is no change to the pickup schedule: Wednesday as usual, same time, same place.

Mark your calendars now to avoid any confusion!

For menu-planning purposes, you can expect to see the following in your Thanksgiving share: Brussels sprouts, Carrots, Celery, Rosemary, Shallots, Parsnips, Potatoes, and Kabocha Squash.

Have a great week!

Newsletter: 

Week 23 from Valley Flora!

  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Yellow Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Treviso Radicchio
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Cauliflower - white or purple

On Rotation

  • Parsley

On harvest mornings, everyone on the crew has their first thing. Roberto's first thing is carrots: he heads straight for Molly, the field where all the carrots and beets are planted this year, and begins to dig (aside: all of our fields are named after our maternal grandmothers: Molly, Santos, Lorraine, Ida and Helen). Allen jumps straight into bunch greens. Jen starts the morning by combing throught the beds of broccoi and cauliflower. And I head for the lettuce. We do this all season long, so each of us develops an intimate relationship with those crops as the year goes by. Right now, Roberto's job is getting muddier as he yards fat carrots out of our rain-soaked soil. Allen's job is getting harder as growth slows down, as the kale becomes less leafy and abundant, and as the aphids move in. Jen is buried right now as our fall brassicas peak in a flurry of cauliflower, romanesco, broccoli, broccolini, kohlrabi, cabbage, turnips and daikon. Her job has been made harder by wet conditions that invite in the slugs and rain rot.

In my lettuce world things are winding down with only a couple more outdoor beds remaining plus a few greenhouse beds. The heads are getting smaller and you might notice that this week the lettuce is bedecked with sprouting cover crop seed. While broadcast seeding our cover crops in September and October, some of the seed flew into the neighboring beds of juvenile lettuce. Ample rains created perfect little germination pockets, which is why you might encounter sprouted oats, clover, vetch and/or peas when you wash your lettuce this week.

I'm always sad to see the lettuce go, but my consolation is the radicchio. I got to harvest our first variety yesterday, a dense, upright, wine-colored treviso type. Over the past five years I've fallen in love with chicories (escarole, radicchio, etc), more and more each year. From a production standpoint, I love how hardy they are, thriving through the difficult weather of late fall and winter. From an aesthetic standpoint, I love the beauty of them all: so many deep, vibrant colors in myriad shapes and forms. And from a culinary perspective, I love eating them. I've included a recipe for one of my favorite radicchio salads below.

I get that they can be a challenge for the uninitiated, due to their bitterness. But that can be overcome by cooking, or by cutting them up raw and soaking in cold water for 10 minutes. The treviso type you're getting this week lends itself well to braising, grilling, or other applications of heat, but you can just as easily use it raw in salad. Choose from any recipe in this collection and you can't go wrong: https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/13-ways-to-love-radicchio-gallery

Or make what I'm making tonight: a radicchio salad that a friend turned me onto from a restaurant in Portland: https://food52.com/recipes/15806-tasty-radicchio-salad

I think I ate that salad every week all of last fall and winter, a meal unto itself.

There's another radicchio salad that I love that originates with yet another Portland restaurant, but I'll save that one for next time.

You'll see a few other radicchio varieties before the season is over, so use this first opportunity to get on good terms with it, and maybe like me, learn to love it...

Newsletter: 

Week 22 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Head Lettuce
  • Red Onion
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Butternut Winter Squash
  • Purple Cauliflower
  • Broccoli

We finally got brave and decided to try to harvest some of our celery this week. I mentioned a few weeks ago that we've been avoiding it and giving it the stink-eye cuz it's been a dud year: the stalks have been spongy and stringy and the hearts had tip burn all summer. The hope was that the shift into fall weather - cool and wet - would help it bounce back and get juicy before a hard frost knocks it down for good. The wishful thinking played out, enough so that you're getting a small juicy heart this week - juicy enough that you might even consider it a vegetable instead of a cooking herb :). Celery has always been tricky for us. It requires crazy amounts of water - at least twice as much as anything else on the farm - and we always struggle to grow that picture-perfect store-bought head of blanched, mild, crunchy, juicy, California-esque celery. The one thing ours does have going for it is FLAVOR, so I always encourage our members to cook with it: soup base, stock, etc.

Also this week, I'm thrilled about the purple cauliflower. Our spring cauliflower got knocked out by cabbage root maggot, so it was deeply satisfying to fill up dozens of bins with big, neon purple heads of fall cauliflower from the field yesterday. This variety holds most of it's color when cooked, but it will be brightest and most vibrant if you eat it raw.

Butternut squash! Soup it up! I made this recipe last week and it tasted like I had roasted the squash next to a chicken and mixed all the drippings in, ala Thanksgiving. I think the rosemary and sage were key for that savory effect, and I skipped the ginger - so good! https://www.loveandlemons.com/butternut-squash-soup/

And our beloved Hakurei turnips are back for fall! The mildest, juiciest, tenderest turnip on earth. They played a central role in the wooing of my husband 16 years ago, so don't underestimate their magic.

Have a great week with your fall veggies!

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 21 from Valley Flora!

  • Fennel - I love fennel all the time, but especially in the fall when the bulbs get extra juicy, fat and sweet. This is the last fennel you'll see this season - sniff - so enjoy it to the max, or if you haven't learned to love it yet give it to someone who has!
  • Beets - Mixed Red, Gold and Chioggia
  • Kohlrabi - This is our giant fall variety, and the best tasting of all our kohlrabi. Their huge size can be intimidating, but underneath that tough skin it's tender, crisp and sweet. I prefer eating kohlrabi raw as crudites or in salad form like this: https://www.loveandlemons.com/kohlrabi-slaw/. Kohlrabi will store, topped, for months in the fridge. Remember, you can also use the leafy tops like kale if you want to aim for zero veggie waste in your kitchen.
  • Leeks
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Mini Daikon Radishes - I'm extra excited about sharing these daikons with you this week. We trialed them last year and loved them: great flavor, striking colors, awesome size, and they store (topped) in the fridge for months. For years I've been disappointed by regular radishes and have been looking for a subsitute to put in the fall Harvest Baskets. I tried growing regular daikons a few times but they were always too inconsistent and variable to be practical for the CSA. There are three varieties in your bunch this week: red with white interior - the mildest of them all; hot pink with fuschia interior - awesome color with some spicy kick; and purple with a puple-starburst interior - similar in spice to the pink ones and extra juicy. If you don't like spice, peel them cuz all the heat is in the outer skin. We've been eating them raw, sliced up in rounds to showcase their beautiful insides. Daikons are also the cornerstone of traditional Korean kimchi; if you want to pickle them you might start with this simple recipe: https://www.adayinthekitchen.com/pickled-daikon/
  • Sugar Pie Pumpkins: This is a pie pumpkin with superpowers: it makes great pie, but it is also filled with hull-less seeds that you can roast into delicious pepitas! Every other pumpkin variety in the world only does one or the other: pie or seeds. Either way, you end up tossing the seeds out or you toss the meat out. We hate waste on the farm, so when I learned that this variety does both, and does them both well, I was sold. To roast your seeds, scoop them out, rinse them off, pat them semi-dry, toss them with a little salt (and olive oil if you want, but not necessary), and roast at 300 in the oven until lightly browned, stirring now and then. And you could be baking your pumpkin at the same time to make that homemade pie.....

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce

A Big Shift

If you've been paying attention to the weather forecast, you might imagine that life is starting to look a little different for us on the farm. The produce this week is full-on Fall: radishes! leeks! pumpkins! kohlrabi!. But our to-do list is shifting radically as well, paring down to the essentials of harvest, packout and delivery, with far fewer tasks to attend to in the field. The crew switches to a four-day work schedule this week, something we all celebrate after so many months of full on, more than full-time farm hustle. We have a few big projects still ahead of us - like planting all 10,000 strawberry crowns for next year's berry patch - but for the most part the farm is tucked in, cover cropped, and ready for the change of seasons. It's great to be able to take a deep breath and feel it ease up, knowing that many of the seeds we sowed and tended over the season are still to yield all kinds of seasonal bounty between now and December. In the coming 7 weeks you'll see purple cauliflower, neon green romanesco, green and purple brussels sprouts, hakurei turnips, three kinds of cabbages, lots of potatoes, four more kinds of winter squash, fat white parsnips, alien-looking celeriac and hopefully some celery (it's been misbehaving this season and I'm hoping the cool, wet weather will snap it out of its hissy fit). Plus, maybe even a few other surprises that we're trialing in the field this fall. Stay tuned and keep on picking up your produce each week. This last chapter is one of the tastiest, weirdest, and most fun of the CSA season. 

Enjoy the real Oregon rain!

Newsletter: 

Week 20 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Eggplant - winding down for the season. This might be the last of it, unless we get one more bonus harvest next week. I made a yummy Korean-inspired recipe this week that I recommend: Eggplant Bulgogi. I found it to be on the almost-too-salty side, so you might omit the salt in the marinade.
  • Yellow Onions
  • Crimson Potatoes - pink inside! This variety is on the starchier side of the spectrum, which makes it great for potato salad or fries. I made a potato salad a few weeks ago with our crimson and yellow potatoes and then added in all the veggies I had on hand: carrots, peppers, celery and fresh herbs, plus olives, capers and hard-boiled eggs. I'd never seen such colorful potato salad - the full rainbow!
  • Scarlet Queen Turnips
  • Scarlet Kabocha Winter Squash - a wonderful squash that will do it all: peel (or not), cube/slice, and roast; steam and mash; pie! It has sweet, semi-tropical flavor. It's not the best keeper in our squash line-up, so better to eat it sooner than later.
  • Thyme

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Romanesco

THIS IS THE FINAL WEEK OF ABBY'S GREENS SALAD SHARES!

If you are a Salad Share member, this week will be your final delivery of Abby's Greens for the season. Salad Shares operate on a 20 week season, whereas the Harvest Basket season goes for 28 weeks. Hats off to Abby for another year of beautiful salad! As long as the weather allows, Abby's Greens will continue to be available at the Wednesday and Saturday farmstand by pre-order (if you haven't ordered farmstand produce but would like to, here's all the info: https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/shopthefarmstand). They will also be available at the Langlois Market, Port Orford Co-Op, Mothers, Coos Head Food Co-Op, and McKay's, as well as at a number of restaurants (Barnacle Bistro, Redfish, The Nest Cafe, Lord Bennett's, Edgewaters, and sometimes 7 Devils Brewery). 

Remember, if you are a Harvest Basket member, there are still 8 MORE WEEKS to go, so don't forget to pick up your tote of veggies each week, through the week of December 6th! There's still lots of fun fall bounty to come!

 

Newsletter: 

Week 19 from Valley Flora!

  • Violet Queen Turnips
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Sixteen Apples
  • Delicata Winter Squash 
  • Eggplant
  • Rossa di Milano Red Onions
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Nijiseiki Asian Pears

On Rotation

  • Romanesco Cauliflower
  • Head Lettuce

Two of my all-time fall favorites are coming into season this week: romanesco cauliflower and Delicata winter squash. The romanesco will be on rotation for the next month+, so you should see it once or twice in your tote this fall. It has wonderful, nutty, cauliflower flavor - great roasted, but also steamed or raw. The only problem with romanesco is bringing yourself to actually eat it! Many a CSA member has opted to gaze at it instead, celebrating the visual feast of neon green spiral fractals.

We're kicking off our fall winter squash line-up with Delicata this week. If ever there was the perfect "gateway" winter squash, this is it: incredibly sweet, easy to cook, and palate-pleasing for anyone who can manage soft foods (6 months to 120!). :-) Delicata have always been my favorite, and seem to be the most popular among our customers in general. Here are a few tips and tricks to Delicatas, and winter squash in general (which you'll see in your tote every week for the rest of the season, until mid-December. This is week 19 of 28, for anyone who's wondering how much longer the CSA will go....):

  • Delicatas have thin skin by winter squash standards, and it's edible. If you don't feel like peeling them, no need to bother. Personally, I like to leave the skin on if I'm cutting them in half and baking them. To bake: cut in half the long way, scoop out the seeds, place face down on a baking pan with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, and bake at 400 until soft. Then, fill the piping hot squash boats with butter, watch it melt into a delectable pool, and dive in with a spoon! If I'm cutting them up into smiles or cubes to roast, I like to peel them first: grab a veggie peeler to remove the skin, cut ends off, then cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 until soft and crispy-brown on the edges.
  • The rest of the winter squash you'll see this fall can be slightly more hazardous to work with in the kitchen, due to their large size, round shape, and/or tougher skins. Knife safety is paramount. If you are timid with knives and have a microwave, you might consider poking a few holes through the skin with a the tip of a sharp knife and then popping your whole squash in the microwave just long enough to soften it a bit. Then proceed with cutting it in half or into pieces. If you don't have a microwave like me, I am strategic about using my heavy duty pointy-tipped chef's knife when I tackle a squash. I insert the tip into the squash (careful to not let the squash roll to the side and cause your knife to slip), then carefully work the blade around the circumference of the squash until it's cleaved in two. Some varieties, like butternut and various kabochas, lend themselve to peeling. Other types, like spaghetti and acorn, have hard outer shells that I always leave in place (acorns have such a hard shell they double as a great soup bowl).
  • All of the winter squash are shelf-stable and will keep on your countertop for weeks, if not months. No need to refrigerate.

Have a great week and enjoy the new fall flavors!

 

Newsletter: 

Week 18 from Valley Flora!

  • Eggplant
  • Yellow Onion
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Hot Peppers
  • Potatoes - These are our yellow storage potatoes, a great variety called "Nicola." We're giving them out right on the heels of last week's new potatoes because we've had mind-boggling high yields on this variety this year. A "good" potato year would be about 500 pounds per bed, but we've been pulling upwards of 800 pounds of Nicola per bed. It means we're currently buried in potatoes. Our walk-in cooler is stacked floor to ceiling with spuds, which makes packout days a black diamond Tetris challenge. We still have two more beds in the field to dig, so we need to offload some spuds and make room for the final harvest. All to say, we thank you for helping draw down our potato stores a little this week! They are an excellent keeper, so if you still have plenty of new potatoes from last year, just bag up your Nicola and keep them in the fridge. They'll hold for months. 
  • Tomatoes
  • Chojuro Asian Pear - This is my favorite Asian pear. It's the one with the deep bronze skin. Dense, deeply-flavorful, with big hints of butterscotch when they're fully ripe. We have four different Asian pear varieties in our orchard, all of them distinct. If you were to compare them all to beer, Chojuro is the porter.
  • Nijiseiki Asian Pear - This is Uma's favorite. It's the yellow-skinned variety, super juicy, mild, light, bright. Think, Pacifico or Corona. 

On Rotation

  • Kale
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Italian Parsley
  • Curly Parsley
  • Lettuce

The horses and I put ourselves to the task of seeding the first wave of fall cover crops on Saturday in hopes of taking advantage of all the free irrigation that fell from the sky Sunday and Monday. September and October bear a lot of resemblance to spring on the farm: a big time of transition that requires hawkish attention to the weather forecast and a constant dance with sun and rain. It's the time of year when we hope for rain every week, but not too much. The perfect week gives us an inch or two on one side of the week or the other, and then 4 or 5 sunny days to get back into the field, seed more cover crops, get caught up on fieldwork, and then revel in the next rain. 

In the spring we're making the shift from overwintered cover crops to our seasonal cash crops. In the fall, it's the reverse: cash crops come out to be replaced by cover crops. So what's a cover crop? It's a mix of species - typically grains and legumes - that we grow to nourish and replenish our soil, to add organic matter to the field, to provide erosion protection during the winter, and to provide habitat for beneficial organisms that are part of our farm ecosystem. Cover crops are the backbone of our soil health, and also happen to be my favorite thing to plant and grow. We use different mixes of cover crop species depending on what cash crop is rotating into that space the next year: early crops get cover crops that either winter-kill (die back in a frost) or are easy to incorporate in the cool, wet conditions of early spring - things like Sudan grass, field peas, clover. Late-season cash crops are preceded by cover crops that we can mow and re-grow to generate maximum biomass into early summer, and/or by species like crimson clover that don't bloom until May but are gorgeous and provide ample food for the bees when they do. There are all kinds of considerations that go into the cover crop planning and it's always a fun puzzle to solve as we map out the cash crop rotation and subsequent cover crop plan at this time of year.

The mix I seeded on Saturday was our standby combo of Saia oats, red clover and common vetch. The oats grow taller than me by spring and provide a fanastic amount of organic matter to the soil. The vetch provides nitrogen to the field. The clover hangs out in the understory until we mow the oats, at which point the clover either gets turned in with the oats and vetch or is to left to become the dominant species in the mix. Red clover will persist as a perennial and can be mowed and grow back over and over to provide ample nitrogen and organic matter. It makes for super-yummy soil, especially when it can work its magic over the course of 9 months to a year, or longer.

I love cover cropping because it's the moment we give back to the soil, after a summer of taking. And I love it because it involves working my horses on these beautiful fall days, quiet and steady.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 17 from Valley Flora

  • Napa Cabbage
  • Rainbow Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Rossa di Milano red onions - an open-pollinated Italian variety with high sugar and pungency, great for cooking. Excellent keepers - should store for months in cool, dry conditions.
  • Sweet Peppers
  • New Potatoes - the last dig from the field, a mix of Harvest Moon, Painted Purple, Red Gold and Yellow
  • Tomatoes
  • Beets

On Rotation:

  • Sweet Corn

Fall, Officially!

The autumnal equinox takes place at 12:21 pm today, making it official: the next of my favorite seasons is here. I'm pretty sure they're all my favorite, but the arrival of fall is something I relish especially - in particular when it's attended by 3" of wondrous rain, like we had this past weekend. I think for all of us on the farm it feels like a much-needed change from the knock-down, drag-out final round of summer, when we are all feeling our dustiest and most tired. Our final week of summer was a squirrel-scurry ahead of the rain: everyone on the crew teamed up to get all the winter squash out of the field (by far, our heaviest endeavor), to get the dry beans harvested, and to get our final variety of onions cleaned and stored safely under cover. We were all ready to go home on Friday and take it slow while the rain came drumming down on Saturday (I got my tomatoes canned, and some cherry bomb peppers, too). It was well worth the scramble, though: the barn and greenhouse are bulging at the seams now with squash, onions and potatoes and we've used up every last storage bin and box on the property. All that, and there are still four beds of potatoes to dig and put somewhere...

It's startling how quickly dry grass goes green on the heels of that first rain. There's humidity in the air and every now and then during this warm week I've gotten little wafts of east coast - some hard-to-pinpoint combination of leaf moulder, steamy soil, September air, which spin me back momentarily - just a flit of the synapses - to my early college days in Massachusetts. I love the tilt of the earth, all 23.5 degrees of it. This occurred to me this morning when my kids and I were talking about the equinox and balancing eggs (turns out that's a myth, BTW; you can balance an egg any old day of the year if you practice enough): but what if we were spinning straight up and down on our axis and the seasons never changed?! 

That'd be terrible! I'm so glad our planet went wobbling out into orbit partially tipped over, all cattywampus and perfect.

Newsletter: 

Week 16 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Chard
  • Leeks
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Fennel
  • Zucchini

On Rotation:

  • Cucumbers

Real Rain!

We've been peering around the corner of every 7-day forecast for the past couple of weeks, wondering when that first rain would show up. Finally here it comes: one to two wonderful inches over the weekend. I'm thrilled we're going to get some much-needed precip and am relishing the idea of a cozy Saturday in my kitchen, canning tomatoes and savoring the downpour. Maybe a pot of soup will even get made...

The imminent rain puts the squeeze on our to-do list this week: our focus is almost 100% on getting all our winter squash harvested and under cover. It's looking like a bumper squash year. Since Monday we've been hauling in some of the biggest squash specimens we've ever grown at VF. It bodes well for a happy winter of butternut soup, roasted delicatas, and acorn squash big enough to double as soup tureens. Also on the pre-rain list: bringing in the dry beans; getting the rest of our onions cleaned and safely stored; and maybe with a lot of luck, digging the last few beds of potatoes. It's all about the storage crops right now.

Some of our summer mainstays might take a little beating this weekend, namely the outdoor tomatoes and the strawberries. The strawberry u-pick will be closed this Saturday, September 18th, due to the weather. We hope the berries will rebound after the weekend rain so that we can re-open it for the last couple weeks of September. We'll be tearing out the berry patch in early October to make way for winter cover crop, so get your berries while you still can! 

The farmstand will be open as usual on Saturday, but we recommend bringing an umbrella in case you find yourself waiting in the queue for your produce.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

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