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: 

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!

 

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 15 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Head Lettuce
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Hot Peppers
  • New Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes

On Rotation:

  • Green Beans
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Red Onions

Spud Magic

If you've been a CSA member in year's past, you might be wondering why you're getting new potatoes in your share rather than the usual cured potatoes we typically give out. New potatoes are smaller, have fragile skins, need to be refrigerated and don't hold up in long-term storage like cured potatoes. AND they are delicate and tender and delectable! Most people associate them with early summer, when you "rob" your potatoes of their first tubers just when the plants begin to flower.

This year on the farm, in addition to our usual storage potato crop, we're growing successions of new potatoes intentionally and strategically as an offensive tactic against symphylans. Symphylans are a dreaded soil-dwelling pest that feeds on root hairs and can do extensive damage to certain crops. They are a major mystery to researchers and farmers alike and hard to control. The one thing that has shown promising results in organic systems is potatoes: if you grow potatoes in symphylans-infested soil, you can usually get one to three good years of symphylans-free crop production from that ground. No one knows why. We used that information last year when we discovered we had a major symphylans problem in the early spring. We lost all of our early brassicas in one zone, forcing us to do a quick juggle of our crop rotation. We replanted the spring brassicas elsewhere and put potatoes where the symphs were rearing their head. We had a great potato year from that ground (the symphs don't damage or reduce yields in spuds). This summer we planted our fall and overwintering brassicas there - crops that are very susceptible to symphs - and they are thriving! It was nerve-wracking to commit our entire fall and winter brassical field to a spot where brassicas bit the dust a year earlier, and amazing to see how healthy and vibrant the plants are right now. Quasi-miraculous. I wish we understood WHY the potatoes supress the symphylans, but thus far no one knows.

A researcher and friend at OSU, Nick Andrews, has been doing trials with new potatoes and has found that even 4-6 weeks of new potatoes in the ground can achieve this result. Which is great news because it means we can use quick crops of new potatoes to spot-treat other zones in the field. The benefit of this approach is that we don't have to commit the ground to a full season of potato production, and it means we're all eating yummy new potatoes in September! Meanwhile, we've been pulling major tonnage of our storage potatoes out of the field with the help of the horses, so no matter what there are lots of spuds in your future this fall and winter. Hopefully the sum total of all this potato effort is a significant reduction in the symphylans population and more healthy, productive plants in every corner of the farm.

Newsletter: 

Week 14 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Cucumers
  • Eggplant
  • Curly Parsley
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Red Slicing Tomatoes
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers

On Rotation:

  • Green Beans
  • Sweet Corn
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Red Long of Tropea Onions
  • Cantaloupe
  • Head Lettuce

Happy September everyone! Late summer - this moment right now - is pretty much the most abuandant, diverse and colorful moment of the season, when it's nearly impossible for us NOT to stuff the whole rainbow into your Harvest Basket each week. There is a lot getting picked on the farm these days, and all of it - save for those lofty bunches of parsley - is heavy. We had actually intended to put potatoes in your share this week, but when suddenly the melons were ripe and the first sweet peppers turned color and the eggplant harvest broke all records and the totes started buckling under all that weight, well then we decided to hold off on the spuds until next week. 

It IS eggplant season - typically the time of year when one or two of our new CSA members decide they won't be signing up again next year. Alas, it's true: I think we have lost more CSA members over the years because of too much eggplant in September than any other reason for attrition. We've been trying to manage this problem for years using various strategies.

Strategy numero uno has been to provide encouragement, recipes and eggplant inspiration to help you love eggplant and embrace the myriad ways you can use it for this fleeting, very abundant moment while it's in season (broiled! grilled! in pasta sauce! eggplant parmesan! thai curry! plus any number of asian-inspired recipes!). Or preserve it for later (fill your freezer with baba ganoush or ratatouille, or prep and freeze slabs of breaded eggplant for a winter eggplant parmesan, or make eggplant chips). We're your number one eggplant cheerleading squad when it comes to making the most of eggplant season (which - if you're counting the days until it's over - lasts through September).

Strategy numero dos for keeping the eggplant situation under control has been repeatedly scaling back our planting, which we did yet again this year. But alas, the eggplants are really, really happy where we planted them. We have big, tall, bushy robust plants that are making a LOT of babies. We could have easily put 5 eggplants in your share instead of 3 this week, but we decided to donate 100 lbs to the Common Good Foodbank in Port Orford instead, in hopes that everyone would be happier for it - you and the foodbank alike. That's the goal after all: to do whatever we can to boost Gross National Happiness a little bit, one (or three) eggplant at a time.

Have a great first week of September.

Newsletter: 

Week 13 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Red Slicer Tomatoes
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Hot Peppers - Serrano & Jalapeno
  • Cipollini Onions - Gold and Red - a flattened Italian onion that's very pungent raw (get ready to cry!) and incredibly sweet when cooked (wonderful caramelized atop homemade grilled pizza!)

Onion Harvest!

The past few weeks we've been pulling our onions out of the field, variety by variety, as the tops start to dry down and flop over. We pulled our last variety on Monday and wow: what a beautiful onion year! Our yields are up so much that we quickly ran out of drying space on the greenhouse tables and have been scavenging pallets to create more room on the floor. We used to dry our onions in the field: we'd pull them and then lay them down in a windrow with the tops covering the bulbs. You have to let the leaves dry down until they're crispy, like a dessicated umbelical cord, before you can trim the tops for storage. One too many times we got caught unawares by a surprise August rain while our onions were drying in the field, which was the motivation to start hauling them straight to the greenhouse for safe curing. Once they're all under cover, THEN we start hoping for a rainy day or two (or three) so we can settle in for the many hours of indoor scissor work ahead of us trimming tops and roots, sorting by size and recording yields for each variety. Loading cured onions into the barn is the first act in filling our treasure chest of storage crops for the fall and winter to come. It's a good feeling.

In the coming months we'll be sharing the full porftolio of onion varieties with you, including a couple different types of red storage onions, our long-keeping yellow storage onion, and shallots. 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 12 from Valley Flora!

  • Beets - Red and Chioggia
  • Eggplant
  • Cilantro
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Heirlooms

On Rotation

  • Sweet Corn

For anyone who read last week's newsletter and tried to u-pick on Saturday, I hope you had a good laugh when you discovered we were closed. After all the expounding I did in last week's newsletter about how much I don't know when it comes to farming, with the huge ALL CAPS EXCEPTION that there's one thing I DO KNOW, which is that AUGUST IS THE BEST MONTH FOR U-PICK, well, then we had to call it off this past weekend because the berries didn't ripen due to all the smoke/haze last week. I am truly sorry if anyone drove all the way out to the farm only to find the gate closed (we did put out a post on social media, but I wholeheartedly understand and applaud you if you don't pay attention to that realm). I personally found it perfectly ironic and like all things farming, ever-humbling. Further proof that there's no point in pretending to know, especially in this day and age of climate-in-crisis.

Honestly, in the grand scheme of catastrophic headlines, having to shut the u-pick down for a day probably shouldn't even make the back page of the Capital Press, but it is a sobering/terrifying/devastating reminder of what's afoot just over those hills to our east. All of us who live here - hugging the edge of the giant Pacific, waking up to fog, bundling up against the howling north wind - are largely spared the smoke. The heat. The anxiety of living in a crispy-dry tinderbox ready to explode at even the suggestion of a spark. But it is mere miles away from us, and directly affecting more and more people I know. Dear friends in the Applegate Valley who have grown organic seed crops for 23 years on their land just emailed me to say they've come to the heartwrenching conclusion that they cannot continue to farm there. There's no longer enough water. The heat and the smoke are oppressive and getting worse. Do I know of any pieces of ground on the coast with water rights where they could relocate? Wherever they go they'll be leaving the place that they've homesteaded and farmed for a lifetime, saying goodbye to the hand-built house where their babies were born. Another organic seed farm in Talent - Chickadee Farm - had their irrigation ditch turned off completely this season and without water they had to throw in the towel. They're currently scraping by on GoFundMe donations while they look for new land to the north in the Willamette Valley. My friends, my fellow farmers, are becoming climate refugees. Not in 2050, but now. 

My seed rep at High Mowing Organics told me on the phone the other day that all of this is going to affect seed supply this year and in years to come. There will be shortages and plenty of "out of stock" varieties. It means that even if the sky is blue today - almost blue enough that you could turn your back and pretend it's all fine - the affects of climate change will trickle down all the way to my home office this winter, where crop planning and ordering seeds has become a semi-panic stricken ordeal the past few years as I try to source the many different vegetable varieties that fill your Harvest Basket throughout the season. 

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued their latest report this week, calling it "code red for humanity." Maybe you don't believe in science. Maybe you think it's all alarmist politics. But I bet you like strawberries on a Saturday in August. I bet you like blue sky. I bet you like the idea of your grandkids thriving on a livable planet. I do, too. I still believe the little things count: If you can bike to your CSA pickup instead of driving today, please do! If you can hang your clothes on the line outside instead of using the dryer, take advantage of that north wind! If you can eat more vegetables and less meat, it will make a difference. And the big things count extra: Governments and companies signing on to binding commitments, investing in renewables, incentivizing the shift away from fossil fuels. We only get this one planet. Maybe, quite possibly, the human presence on Earth will be short-lived. The dinosaurs didn't last forever, either. But I love this place so much I'm not willing to go down without doing what tiny little bit I can. And if everyone did that, tiny + tiny + tiny  x  a few billion = real change.

Newsletter: 

Week 11 from Valley Flora!

  • Rainbow Chard
  • Rainbow Carrots
  • Sweet Corn - the first pick of the season! This is a slightly diminuitive but extremely tender and sweet organic variety called "Sweetness," which ripens first in our sweet corn line-up. We grow five successive plantings of corn each year, the last four all being a variety called "Allure." Allure makes big, fat bicolor ears and huge towering plants, which become an essential feedstock in our compost production in the fall after we're done harvesting all the ears. This week's share is a little teaser of what's to come in the corn universe over the next 6 weeks :)
  • Cucumbers
  • Red Long of Tropea Onions
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Heirloom Tomato
  • Serrano Pepper

On Rotation:

  • Green Beans - Folks are receiving either French filets (long and squiggly) or Romanos (wide and flat). Both delicious lightly steamed or sauteed.
  • Head Lettuce - Every year in August we experience a marked slowdown in lettuce growth until it regains its stride for fall. We might have enough heads for everyone this week, but if not it will be on rotation this week and next.
  • Fennel

August + Strawberries = Yum

Mostly as a farmer I feel like I don't know things. All kinds of things. Why the chard is taller than me this year, and how those pesky symphylans made their way into that one field, and if we're going to have an early fall, and which of the overwintering onion varieties will bolt and why. But there is one thing that I think I reliably know: our strawberries taste the best in August. Why? I don't know. But I could wager a Male Answer Syndrome kind of guess: Warmer days, cooler nights, fully-mature well-established plants that can support the whole-hearted production of berries with higher brix levels? Whatever the reason, they are really good right now. A little fragile on Tuesdays when we go to pick because they're dead ripe after a warm weekend of ripening, but loaded with extra sugars. Incidentally, we also see more bug damage in August. Why? Maybe the invertebrate population knows a good thing when it tastes it. Once again, pure conjecture. But I'm good with all this unknowing; it keeps a person perpetually humble and in awe of the many forces at work in the natural world that are much, much smarter and more amazing than us. Or at least me.

The point is, the moment has come to u-pick! The crowds have thinned out (we are no longer getting picked out within 45 minutes of opening the gates) and the berries are abundant, so please come revel in the glory of bountiful red, glossy, super-sweet strawberries in a more relaxed setting (I need to re-brand them as "August-bearers" to try to quell a little bit of that early season strawberry hype).

Also, if you are a CSA member and are on the list for a special order flat, we will get to you this month! We failed at filling any special orders for today because we are down one person on the crew this week, but hope to start sending out more flats again next week (and maybe even this Saturday for all you Bandon and Port Orford members who are patiently waiting).

If you are not on our special order strawberry list and would like to be, email us you name, pickup location, a cell number we can text to (if possible) and the quantity of flats you'd like. We'll try to take care of as many orders for CSA members as possible between now and the end of the berry season (which is usually mid-late September).

Enjoy the August food! It doesn't get much better.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 10 from Valley Flora!

  • Cucumbers
  • Basil
  • Tomatoes! Red slicers and an heirloom. Heads up that some of you are receiving a pink heirloom, which looks sorta like an under-ripe red tomato, but less uniform in shape. Yum!
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Eggplant!
  • Red Long of Tropea torpedo onions
  • Strawberries

August!

This might be the most dramatic switcheroo of harvest basket produce I've ever witnessed from one week to the next. We've been crusing along filling totes up with all kinds of green stuff: peas, broccoli, lettuce, bunch greens, zucchini, parsley, etc. and then wham! August arrives and it's suddenly all about tomatoes and eggplant. With horses you're supposed to gradually transition their feed when you make a change to their diet, but fortunately the human gut is a little more forgiving, which is good news for all of you who are suddenly confronted with a pile of Solanums in your tote this week. So begins our journey into late summer, perhaps the best time of year for eating seasonally. Few people can argue against the idea of a vine-ripe homegrown tomato, fresh-picked sweet corn, and juicy sweet peppers (both of those last two things coming soon!). And a lot of you longtime CSA members have learned to love eggplant, even when it shows up in your tote in catastrophically abundant quantities, like a summer monsoon. Can you really have too much baba ganoush in your freezer, giving you that awesome superpower of whipping out a mediterranean mezze plate in January and outsmarting winter?

Please Mask Up!

Given the recent surge in COVID cases in Coos and Curry counties, we are reinstating our mask policy on the farm and at CSA pickups. PLEASE mask up at your CSA pickup location and at our farmstand and u-pick, whether you are vaccinated or not. We want to be part of the public health solution in our small community and masks and vaccines can help stop the spread!

And to Close, a Little Levity...

Last spring I was approached by the Port Orford Library kids program to participate in their Local Heroes and Helpers project. They collected profiles and headshots of various people in the community and then young artists painted portraits of each person for a public art exhibit in town. The display just went up in the front window of Uptown Frames in Port Orford and can be viewed on the Port Orford Library Facebook page. I'm always out of the social media loop and haven't been to town in weeks, so a friend forwarded me some of the images yesterday. They are fabulous. Here's a sampling, which includes some of our very own CSA members, neighbors, and fellow sustainable food system movers and shakers:

And then, there's yours truly:

P.S. if you haven't met me in person yet, I DO have a face-splitting grin that stretches earlobe to earlobe, but my eyes are brown not blue. 

Newsletter: 

Week 9 from Valley Flora!

  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Italian Parsley
  • Lettuce
  • Walla Walla Sweets
  • Strawberries
  • Kale
  • Red Potatoes - the potatoes we're harvesting this week are "new," meaning their skins haven't cured and set yet. New potatoes are extra tender, juicy and appealing, wonderful for potato salad or steamed and dressed simply with olive oil, parsley (any fresh herb will do the trick!) and salt.
  • Broccoli - the last of the summer harvest. You'll see it again in the fall.

Trinity Alps Spectacular

I made it home (just barely) from my Trinity Alps horsepacking trip: rolled up the driveway at 1 am on Tuesday morning, unloaded the horses, caught 3.5 hours of sleep and then pulled on my Xtratufs for our big Tuesday harvest. Fortunately I was still "riding" the mountain high of the past five days of alpine horseback sublimity, at least until 2 pm yesterday when the yerba mate wore off and I found myself stumbling around the barn ineffectually, a total liability to the rest of the crew as everyone tried to fill orders and pack CSA totes without making mistakes. I slept like a rock last night. 

It was the trip of a lifetime. The horses showed bottomless heart and courage and try. They climbed huge granite steps on the way to hanging cirques cupping emerald green lakes. They scaled three high alpine passes, picking their way through talus and scree at the top of the world like champion mountain goats. They came face to face with a very healthy bear and didn't bolt for Langlois. They ate a whole new diet of high alpine grasses and forbes and drank from countless lakes and bubbling brooks. They chiseled new muscles under the weight of their saddlebags, only threw one shoe, and accepted their new environs and the daily rituals of camping as if they were old hats at the whole thing. I'll let a sampling of the trip photo album fill in the rest of the 10,000 words I could gush onto the page. But first: another huge round of thanks to the entire farm team for helping make this happen. They did such a stellar job in my absence it seems like I'm pretty much superfluous around here, which means I might as well re-supply and head back to the mountains for the rest of the summer...right guys?

Newsletter: 

Week 8 of the CSA Season!

What's in the Harvest Basket for the Week of July 19th:

  • Rainbow chard: the chard is at its ultimate apogee on the farm right now - luxuriously abundant, glossy, colorful and succulent. We love this variety, "Bright Lights," because of the infinite diversity of sunset colors that streak the stems.
  • Carrots
  • Head Lettuce
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Dill
  • Beets

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Red Long of Tropea torpedo onions

If you're looking for cooking inspiration to help you use your veggies each week, I stumbled upon this online site and app when I googled "chard and dill recipes:" https://www.supercook.com/search/dill-and-chard/?page=1. Supercook.com trawls the internet for word matches and finds relevant recipes. I can't vouch that they'd all be awesome, but it's not a bad place to start when you're staring into your fridge trying to figure out how to use up your harvest basket.

 

An Adventure 35 Years in the Making

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved horses. She played with toy horses, she dreamt of horses, she hung on gates and gazed at other people's horses. She longed for her own real, live horse but her mom was allergic and her sister was afraid. So she continued to arrange and rearrange the plastic figurines on the shelf in her bedroom and fantasized about horses and unicorns and pegasi. But when she turned 9, a real horse came into her life - a rescue with lots of neurotic tics - but a horse nonetheless. She threw herself into loving that horse, waking up at 5:30 every school day to muck the barn and feed the mare, sprinting back at 4 each day as soon as the schoolbus dropped her at the bottom of the driveway. She rode all over her little valley, exploring old logging roads and finding hidden meadows up in the hills. She longed to explore farther afield, but with no truck and trailer she would clip-clop the five miles down the county road to the beach and ride wild and free by the ocean until sundown. She would coax her mare into the lake, nudging her forward until the bottom dropped away and then they would be swimming together. Her friend, who's family was all cowboy, took a horsepacking trip to Montana one summer. She envied them. Someday, she thought.

The little girl eventually grew up and moved away. When her old mare was dying, she drove back home and laid with her out in the pasture under a brilliant star-studded winter sky. When the mare sighed her final exhale, a quiet moment passed and then a huge shooting star streaked across the valley from one ridgetop to the other. She lived out in the world without horses for a decade, a small hole in the corner of her soul. But finally her compass needle turned her back towards the little valley so she could farm with her family. She had learned how to drive workhorses in Montana by then and she brought a team of big Belgian drafts home with her. She knew farming would be all-consuming, so best to figure out a way to feather horses into her workday. 

All-consuming it was, along with having two daughters and an old house to fix up. When her gelding died of colic, the excavator dug a massive hole in the westernmost reach of the pasture. Eventually she started farming in that spot and to this day that field still grows the biggest heads of broccoli. Once again it was just her and an old mare, who she worked single in the fields with her babies on her back. Eventually two more horses arrived on the farm, a team of Belgian/Morgan crossbreds who were broke to harness and the saddle. The girl was longing to ride again, to feel that freedom, to not always have it be about work. And so she found a saddle big enough, and she saved money for a horse trailer, and little by little her old dream came back into focus: to ride into the wilderness astride a beloved horse and disappear into the mountains for a week. Or two.

This week the girl's dream comes true: she's leaving in an hour for a five day horsepacking trip in the Trinity Alps with her friend, Laura (another organic vegetable horse farmer who, similarly, has been burning the candle at both ends the past week gearing up to leave her farm in late July). The Belgian/Morgan team is geared up for the mountains with saddlebags and sturdy shoes. The girl is full of gratitude for the entire farm team that's keeping the farm running for the rest of the week; for her husband, who spent half his day getting her truck fixed yesterday when it decided to break down in the 11th hour before her trip; and for her mom, who got her that first horse in spite of being allergic so that a dream could come true. Little tears are spattering the girl's keyboard right now.

P.S. if you need to reach the girl this week, she will be completely out of cell and email range through Monday 7/26. Her mom will be checking the farm email, but the girl's phone will be turned off. Remember, good things are always worth waiting for, even if it takes 35 years.

Newsletter: 

Week 7 of the CSA Season!

  • Fennel
  • Fresh Thyme - a good sized bunch. If you don't use it all fresh, dry it for later use!
  • Red Cabbage
  • Lettuce
  • Zucchini
  • Strawberries
  • Carrots - We've gone to bulk carrots for the rest of the season due to the fact that the green tops become weaker in the summer and bunching becomes painstaking. Rest assured we still dig fresh carrots for you every week; they are not from storage.
  • English Cucumbers
  • Sugar Snap Peas - bonus week! We usually only put them in the Harvest Basket for three weeks, but the pea patch is still yielding so we're sharing the bounty!

On Rotation

  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Red Long of Tropea Torpedo Onions
  • Broccoli

Strawberries and the Big Picture at Valley Flora: Cultivars, Crop Rotation, Diversity, Year-Round Food, and the Plastic Problem

At this time of year when people are in the fevered delerium of strawberry lust - when u-pickers are stripping the berry patch clean within 45 minutes and we're struggling each week to fill all the strawberry orders - we get asked one question all the time: "Why don't you plant more strawberries?" 

It's a great question. We could probably plant the whole farm to strawberries and for a few weeks in June and July sell every last berry. We'd pump a barrel-full of fructose into the collective veins of Coos and Curry counties and for a brief moment in time give people exactly what they wanted. 

But what would that look like for the farm? Inevitably as the strawberry zeal fades a little and the blueberries come on to divert u-pickers' attention, we find ourselves sitting on a big field of underpicked strawberries (ask my crew: none of us want to pick more strawberries than we currently do :)...). Solution: plant June-bearing varieties!? We've trialed many different June-bearing varieties to try to boost our production at the start of the season to meet the demand, but have never found an ideal cultivar that meets all of our criteria: it needs to hold up to the inevitable May/June rainstorm, be easy to pick, not be mushy, and have great flavor. Time and time again we come back to our standby variety, Seascape, a day neutral that yields steadily all summer long, is red all the way through, and flavorful. But it's a slow burn with Seascapes. A June-bearing strawberry plant will produce the same amount of fruit in one month as a Seascape plant will produce all summer. It's this unusual characteristic of Seascapes that has put us in the position of trying to re-educate the public about strawberry season on our farm: it lasts all summer, come in August! The fruit gets sweeter and more abundant! (For all of you on my special order list right now, late July/August is probably when you'll start getting your flats.) But it's proven challenging to re-program sugar-crazed humans who associate strawberries with early summer.

But let's just say we did decide to plant more strawberries. We have limited space on the farm, so planting more strawbs means less space for all the hundreds of other things we grow to feed folks year-round: greens, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, potatoes, fennel, cilantro, tomatoes, overwintering cauliflower, and scores of other things - not to mention all the cover crops we grow to feed our soil so that our soil in return can feed us. It would throw our careful crop rotation out of balance and the farm would become less diverse. In losing diversity the farm would also lose resiliency. It's because we grow hundreds of different crops that we can grow hundreds of different crops. That diversity creates mini-ecosystems on the farm that support complex biology above and below ground so our plants can thrive.

There is another dirty reason we don't plant more strawberries. They are the only crop on the farm that relies on plasticulture. We shape beds in September, lay down drip tape, and then wrap them in 1 mil agricultural black plastic. We then plant new crowns through the plastic in November and the plants slowly establish over the course of the winter until they start fruiting in May/June. We get a summer of production and then tear them out in October. The plastic goes to the dump (and for this I will surely be condemned to one of the nine levels of Dante's hell....perhaps the one full of organic farmers who are being tortured with hot melting plastic). Tragically, there is no longer an agricultural plastic recycling option in Oregon. There are some corn-based bio-plastic mulches on the market now, but they don't hold up for more than 6 months, which isn't long enough for the life cycle of strawberries. We've tried many times to grow strawberries without plastic, but we lose to the weeds every time. So here we are, part of the global plastic problem. I've capped our production at 20 beds, no matter how indignant our u-pickers get, because I can't bear to throw out more plastic each year when it's already too much.

So if you are among those clamoring for more strawberries from Valley Flora in early July, you have to stop and ask yourself: do I want them so much that I would forego the winter CSA or farmstand? At the expense of those sweet carrots? Would I sacrifice the diversity in this week's Harvest Basket? Do I want the farm to send more plastic to landfill each year? Or, might I in fact be able to have it all if I trust that there will be ample berries into September and I plan to fill my freezer in August instead of June (yes! fill your freezer in August!). I know we're pushing against some ancient biological hard-wiring (the human lust for sugar), and that as a species we aren't particularly prone to patience or delayed gratification, but if our customers practiced those two traits in the context of strawberries, it would help our farm maintain it's balance, it's complexity, and year-round abundance - and allow us to make the most of of the 20 beds of berries we put in the ground each year at the peril of my soul. 

Enjoy your VEGETABLES this week, and also that little pint of berries. :)

 

Newsletter: 

Week 6 of the CSA!

  • Purplette mini onions
  • Fava Beans (more on the favas below)
  • Zucchini
  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Snap Peas - a big ol' heap of em!
  • Strawberries

On Rotation:

  • Cucumbers - the cukes that have been on rotation the past two weeks are a trial variety we planted in our field tunnels in early April - an early Persian type. They are delicious and the cucumber beetles agree! Our first month of production was hobbled by the cuke beetles, who were voracioulsy sampling every single cuke on the vine, leaving them scarred, contorted, and unsaleable (i.e. we ate a lot of ugly cucumbers in June :)....).The plants seem to be finally growing through it and we're getting some nice smooth cukes now, but some of them still show minor signs of scarring. They're unaffected inside so just peel them to reveal the sweet, nearly seedless cucumber within. Persian types are sought after by chefs for their sweet flavor, firm texture, few seeds, and lack of watery-ness. I'd say this greenhouse experiement has indeed yielded the tastiest, ugliest little cukes I've ever had!

Fava Beans

Chances are, if you haven't been a CSA member before you've likely never eaten (or prepared) fresh fava beans. You're in for a real treat, but a quick word of wisdom from one busy working parent to another: you might want to make this a weekend project. Even better if you can invite some friends over for a fava fest because many hands will help. Your favas are showing up in the pod, but unlike the sugar snap peas in your share, you don't want to eat the pod. The beans are nestled in a downy mattress inside, but wait! The beans themselves have an outer skin that, while edible, is a litlte tough and dingy and diminishes the culinary exquisitness of a bright green, peeled, fresh fava bean. SO, here's how you get to fava nirvana:

  1. Shuck the beans out of the pod and discard the pods
  2. Drop beans into boiling water and blanch for 1 minute
  3. Drain the beans and shock them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process
  4. Squeeze the beans out of their skin, using your fingernail to open a slit in the skin. Just like making blanched almonds. Kids love the squeezing part, especially if you don't mind fava beans shooting all over your kitchen.

Here's an illustrated how-to: https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/how-to-prepare-fava-beans-gallery

They say that one pound of beans in the pod will yield about one cup of shelled favas. You're getting 3 pounds in the pod this week, so it should give you an ample amount to do something fun with. Epicurious has a mouth-watering gallery of recipes worthy of a glance: https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/fava-bean-recipes-gallery. I want to eat every single one of them. 

But if, like me, you might not have time to shell favas to make a gorgeous recipe - even on a weekend - you could consider this excellent alternative: grill your favas in the pod. This is my favorite utilitarian way to eat them, especially at a backyard BBQ with friends. You put the whole pod on the grill and cook them until they're charred. Then you open up the steaming pod - careful, HOT! - and your beans will be perfectly cooked within. You can nip the skin of the bean with your teeth and then squeeze them straight into your mouth. It turns favas into a fun community feast instead of a dinner party chore and they are deeeeeelish! Have a salt shaker on hand if you love NaCl as much as I do :)

Bulk Green Beans by Special Order

Were on a leguminous riff this week: snap peas! favas! green beans!

We have a limited planting of early green beans happening right now and can fill a few speical orders for CSA members who want to double down on canning dilly-beans or putting some in the freezer. It'll be a brief season - a few weeks max - so email us if you'd like to order for delivery to your CSA site. Five pound bulk bags are $25. We need your name, pickup location, a daytime or cell number, and the quantity of green beans you'd like in 5 pound increments. We can't guarantee we'll be able to fill all orders, but we'll try!

Newsletter: 

Week 5 CSA from Valley Flora!

  • Dill
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini

On Rotation:

  • Dazzling Blue Lacinato Kale
  • Collards
  • Broccolini

This is the final week of Abby's "spring" greens in the Harvest Basket. All those lovely bags of baby spinach, arugula and braising mix that you've gotten in your share the past month have been thanks to Abby's meticulous hard work. Never was there a farmer who grew such beautiful baby greens as my sister, who is wholly dedicated to the unswerving pursuit of perfection. I feel obliged to tell you that many a week in June she was out in the field past dark (you know how late that is in June, near the summer solstice!) harvesting with a headlamp in order to fill the CSA totes. For every leaf to be so perfect, so beautiful, it all has to be hand cut with special attention to stem length and leaf quality, which takes hours, and hours, and hours. And hours. Then, she'd bring the harvest up to the barn and wash all those greens until one in the morning. Just another eighteen hour day making the best salad on earth....:). So enjoy that spinach knowing it is truly a labor of love (or, as I diagnosed it this week: compulsive masochistic farming syndrome). Lucky for the rest of us, we get to enjoy the results of it all: the finest greens to be had. Thanks Ab!

CSA Member Exclusive: Strawberry Flats Available by Special Order!

In case you missed it in last week's newsletter: If you are a Harvest Basket or Salad Share member at any of our four pickup locations, strawberry flats are now available by special order. Flats contain 12 dry pints of ripe Grade A strawberries and are $45 apiece. We will fill requests in the order received as surplus berries become available throughout the summer. To order, email us your name, pickup location, daytime/cell phone number (ideally a number we can text to), and the quantity of flats you would like to order. Please note we may not be able to fill your order immediately, depending on how many orders we have ahead of you and how abundant the berries are each week.

If you are not a CSA member but would like to order strawberry flats, you can do so through our online farmstand ordering system. If you have never place a farmstand order, go to https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/shopthefarmstand to learn how to set up an account. It's quick and easy and will give you full access to all of our fruit and produce for the season.

Have a Happy 4th of July weekend!

Newsletter: 

Week 4 of the CSA from Valley Flora!

  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Carrots
  • Head Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Arugula
  • Fennel
  • Green Cabbage

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Collards
  • Tatsoi
  • Zucchini

Strawberry U-Pick Opens This Week!

As of today, the berry patch is open for u-pick - every Wednesday and Saturday from 11:30 to 2:30 during our regular farmstand hours! There are lots of big, red, ripe berries out there today, and lots more to come all summer. When you arrive to u-pick, please check in at the farmstand before heading out to the berry patch. Line up on the left side at our farmstand gate for u-pick (the line on the right side is for folks picking up produce). Our u-pick manager, Sarah, will set you up with harvest buckets and give you the lay of the land. After picking you'll return to the farmstand to weigh your fruit and pay. Please bring your own containers to carry your berries home in. We grow a strawberry variety called Seascape that produces ALL SUMMER LONG, into September! The fruit only gets sweeter and more abundant as the summer goes on, so there is ample time to get your fill.

A few important ground rules when you come to u-pick:

  • No pets
  • Do not cross the white rope fence in the strawberry patch; please stay on the north side of the patch.
  • Do not touch or feed the horses that are pastured nearby.
  • Stay in the paths; please don't walk on top of the strawberry beds.
  • If you're coming with kids, please keep a close eye on them so everyone stays safe.
  • U-Pick is at your own risk. Heat, sun, stinging insects, valve boxes and uneven ground are all part of the farm experience, so know your own limits and stay within your comfort zone.

CSA Member Exclusive: Strawberry Flats Available by Special Order!

If you are a Harvest Basket or Salad Share member at any of our four pickup locations, strawberry flats are now available by special order. Flats contain 12 dry pints of ripe Grade A strawberries and are $45 apiece. We will fill requests in the order received as surplus berries become available throughout the summer. To order, email us your name, pickup location, daytime/cell phone number (ideally a number we can text to), and the quantity of flats you would like to order. Please note we may not be able to fill your order immediately, depending on how many orders we have ahead of you.

If you are not a CSA member but would like to order strawberry flats, you can do so through our online farmstand ordering system. If you have never place a farmstand order, go to https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/node/19576 to learn how to set up an account. It's quick and easy and will give you full access to all of our fruit and produce for the season.

Fennel, How I Love Thee....

For some of you, fennel might be your challenge vegetable this week. I'm head over heels for fennel, so it's always hard for me to understand what's not to love. But if you haven't found your groove with it yet, here are some ideas:

  1. Slice it thinly and put it in salad. Simple. Quick. Delicious.
  2. Take a gander at our collection of fennel recipes: https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/recipe_search/results/fennel. Cooking fennel reduces the anise flavor, if that's something you're averse to. This is one of my all-time favorites: https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/content/caramelized-fennel-honey-lemon-z.... Almost dessert, really.
  3. Check out Bon Apetit's recipe collection. Impressive. 

I'll leave you with this lovely image from our first pea harvest on Monday:

Newsletter: 

Week 3 of the CSA!

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Braising Mix - the bagged mix of baby Asian greens, great in salads or steamed/sauteed/stir-fried
  • Kohlrabi
  • Head Lettuce
  • Zucchini
  • Hakurei Turnips

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini

Rain, Sweet Rain!

Never in my whole entire life have I been more grateful for water falling from the sky as I was this weekend. Almost 4"!!! And such a sweet, warm, steady, succulent rain, preceded by a day so sultry and tropical I experienced some geographic disorientation: Am I on the east coast? The tropics? My t-shirt is sticking to my back two miles from the beach on the Oregon coast. Has that ever happened before? Then, by Saturday afternoon the unusual sound of fat, heavy raindrops hitting soft green leaves - a sound we're not as attuned to in Oregon, where most of our rain falls on conifers and bare-branched deciduous trees during our rainy winters. It was glorious. Wondrous. It lasted all night and all day. The creek rose, moss turned neon green, the dry knobs on the hills softened, temporarily unparched. Some latent pagan instinct made me want to throw my face skyward and let it soak me to the bone, then make some offering to the rain gods.

The sacrificial lamb - and well worth the sacrifice - was the strawberry patch. A half inch of rain is enough to do some damage, so 3.7 inches pretty much sealed the deal for a sloppy clean-up harvest yesterday. We fed the compost pile well with 150+ pounds of mush-ball, rotting berries, but we got the patch back in order which means we should be back on our berry feet by next week. It means no strawbs in your Harvest Basket this week, but I hope you'll agree that forfeiting a pint of strawberries is a small price to pay for desperately-needed precip.

We're anticipating a week of explosive growth on the farm - on the heels of so much rain, with fifteen+ hours of sun a day as we near the summer solstice. It's a good week to be a plant. And not such a bad week to be a human who eats plants...

Beets this week! Try loving them! They are not the canned beets of your childhood nightmares, or the sicky-corn syrup pickled beets from the Sizzler salad bar. They are earthy and sweet. Roast them! Grate them raw onto a pile of salad. Steam them and toss them with a little salt, pepper, vinegar and olive oil. Fancy it up even more by throwing some fresh herbs and goat cheese on top. Get down with beets this week. They want to get down with you.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 2 of the Valley Flora CSA!

What's in the Harvest Basket this Week:

  • Purple Kohlrabi
  • Purple Onion
  • Broccolini
  • Head Lettuce
  • Bunch Carrots
  • Radish Micro Mix - a colorful confetti mix of mildly spicy radish microgreens (great on tacos!)
  • Strawberries

On Rotation:

  • Baby Spinach
  • Braising Mix
  • Collards 
  • Rainbow Chard

Hooray for a little rain! Hopefully it'll help us hold onto those green hills a little longer and stave off fire season. 

The Dream Team

Usually when I talk about my "dream team" I'm referring to my Morgan/Belgian draft horses, Jack and Lily (who, by the way, are 100% dreamy). Exibit A (taken while we were cultivating and hilling the potatoes last week):

That's a ton and a half of harnessed muscle and heart, two horses that fill my chest to bursting every week as they quietly go about a mountain of work on the farm: mowing, discing, harrowing, cultivating, hilling, seeding, spreading. 

But there's another dream team hustling about the farm as well, and that's our crew. I feel beyond lucky to have a rock solid seasoned crew this year: Roberto, who's been part of VF since 2010 (11 glorious years! applause!!!); Jen and Allen who joined us full-time a year ago and are knocking my socks off with all their ever-expanding farming prowess (they've learned so much! they've gotten so much faster! stronger! efficient-er! I wish I drove a mini-van so I could have a bumper sticker that reads "Proud Parent of some Bad-Ass Farmers!); Sarah, hitched to Allen, who wears a plethora of indispensable hats on the farm (childcare! harvest! farmstand! packout! what would we do without her!?); Donna and Maggie, who handle the farmstand hustle with good-natured grace and humor (stampeding crowds! strawberry fever! signs that don't get read!). The nature of seasonal work often means that farms like ours see high employee turnover, which is why we are SO INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL to our crew for sticking with us over the years.

I wish I had a photo of all of us together (it's an incredibly good-looking lot), but alas, the electrons zing too quickly around the farm and I'm pretty sure there has never, ever been a moment when all of us were standing still in the same place. So just imagine strapping, vital, sun-tanned, muscular (did I mention fashionable?) lads and lassies making light work of heavy things, day in and day out, and give thanks - as I do - for their unflagging commitment to the weekly delivery of your high fiber VF vittles.

Have a gang of fun with that kohlrabi this week! Pro tip: I like it best peeled and sliced up raw in some form. Kohlrabi caesar is awesome: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/kohlrabi-caesar-salad. And if that's not your schtick, here are 10 other recipe ideas to get you started: https://www.thekitchn.com/5-tasty-ways-to-prepare-kohlrabi-60321.

Newsletter: 

Week 1 of the Valley Flora CSA!

Hello CSA Members!

This is our kickoff week for the 2021 CSA Season! We'll be delivering lots of food to our CSA Members this week, so be sure to pick up your Harvest Basket and/or Salad Share! 

(If you need a refresher on the when/where/how of your pickup, all that info is always on our website at https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/content/valley-flora-pick-locations. Scroll down for specifics on each site.)

What's in the Harvest Basket this week?

  • Artichokes
  • Kale 
  • Arugula - 1/2 lb bagged
  • Head Lettuce
  • Spring Onions
  • Tokyo Bekana Mustard Greens - lime green heads with white ribs, deliciously mild and lettucey (not a spicy mustard)
  • Pea Shoots - great on salads, lightly sauteed, or tossed into smoothies
  • Spring turnips
  • Zucchini
  • Cherry Tomato Plant 

On Rotation (this means that some locations will receive it this week and others next week):

  • Radishes

Cherry Tomato Plants!

If you're a Harvest Basket member, you'll be taking a cherry tomato plant home this week in addition to your produce! We don't grow cherry tomatoes for the CSA, but we provide you with our all-time favorite variety, SunOrange, to grow in your own garden or pot. It's an improved Sungold the produces tons of tangerine-orange fruits from August through the fall. The flavor is exquisite - tropical/tangy/sweet. For best results, plant your tomato as deep as possible in a warm, protected location (it's ok to bury the stem and some of the bottom leaves; the plant will sprout new roots underground and add to it's root mass). If you're planting it in a pot, use at least a 5 gallon container. Give it a balanced organic fertilizer (Nutririch 4-3-2 is great at the recommended rate) and water deeply. You'll need to provide some kind of trellis or support because this variet is an indeterminate, which means it'll climb, and climb, and climb. Prune excess leaves as it grows, leaving all fruiting/flowering stems. With a litte TLC it should be yielding fruit for you by August. These little cherry bombs are fantastic snackers, are awesome sliced up in salads, and also make the best dried tomatoes I've ever eaten - like little candies.

Too Much Sun!

That's a rare thing for a farmer to say, but this spring it's been true. We would gladly trade some of these sunny days for more rain, and some of our crops agree. It has been a tricky spring for certain cool season veggies that we typically rely on in our early crop mix. In the past month we've lost whole plantings of radishes, turnips and pac choi due to excess heat, we had to till under a bed of greenhouse carrots because they bolted prematurely, and we're seeing more flea beetle damage on things like this week's Tokyo Bekana, the kale and our broccoli plants. Flea beetles show up on the farm once it gets warm and dry and they love to feast on Brassicas, pocking them up with lots of tiny holes. Normally we don't see them until later in May but they arrived in April this year. Our artichoke season was also abrupt - it started late and ended early - because of the weather.

Climate change poses some interesting challenges for us farmers. For instance, should we be planning for this kind of spring from now on and change our planting dates and crop mix accordingly? Or is that a bad strategy, since next spring could be crazy cold and wet? We've all learned that what's going on is not just "global warming," but "global weirding." And "weirding" is a lot harder to cope with when your whole gig relies on the weather and some ability to predict that weather...

As always, I'm grateful for our diversity, which has been the backbone survival strategy on our farm since the get-go: grow a little bit of everything, so that if something croaks there's still plenty of food to fill those Harvest Baskets. I hope you enjoy your first taste of the 2021 CSA season this week!

 

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