The little bunch of herbs in your tote this week is fresh thyme, the first harvest from our new perennial herb patch. I decided to invest in perennial herbs after a number of Harvest Basket members expressed a desire for a wider diversity of herbs in their share. We sacrificed two of our three beds of dahlias and turned the space over to thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, chives, summer savory, and sweet marjoram.
After a couple months of tending the slow-growing seedlings in the greenhouse this spring, we planted out thousands of new starts and have been nurturing them into bushiness all summer. The thyme has been the first to offer itself up for harvest. You’ll probably also see oregano, summer savory, and sage this season; the rosemary and chives will take another year before they’re ready to be cut.
The bundle of thyme in your tote may be too much to use up fresh, but don’t let it go to waste. All herbs – including the dill you got last week – dry beautifully for later use. Simply hang them upside down in a dark, dry place until they are dry. OR, if you have a food dehydrator, you can dry them quickly on the low heat setting. Once dry, strip or crumble the leaves off the stem and store in an airtight container.
It looks like we may get a momentary reprieve in the broccoli onslaught next week (our next planting is a new variety that is maturing more slowly), but there is plenty to go around this week. If you are overwhelmed by it, consider freezing some for later. To freeze:
- Trim your broccoli heads into neat florets, whatever size you like to eat.
- Bring a pot of salter water to boil.
- Prepare a big bowl of ice water and have ready in the sink.
- Drop your broccoli into the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes (don’t overcook it!).
- Immediately drain and dunk broccoli into the ice water for at least 3 minutes.
- Lay broccoli on a cookie sheet and freeze.
- Once frozen, put florets in a Ziploc and store in the freezer.
The basil plants are bushing up fast and furious, so now’s the time to order if you want to make pesto, or dry it, or stuff your pillow with it and revel in the smell of peak summertime! It’s available by the pound, $14/pound. To order, email us your name, pickup location, the quantity you want, and your phone number.
It seems like our berry patch just got cranking, but the end-of-july slowdown is already upon us. Our variety, Seascape, will bear fruit all season but it has a marked decline in production for a few weeks at the end of July and the beginning of August. We seem to be headed into that berry lull right now. There should be plenty (we hope) to put a pint in your tote each week, but we might be hard-pressed to fill special orders for full flats for the time being.
The good news is that the berries usually have a strong comeback in late August and September, so if you haven’t filled your freezer yet there will be more opportunities later in the summer.
We planted a couple rows of marionberries last year and they are just now coming into their first fruit. We will most likely be opening them up to u-pick starting this SATURDAY. No ironclad guarantees, but that’s what it’s looking like right now…
Here’s some interesting marionberry factoids, courtesy of oregonencyclopedia.org:
The blackberry cultivar, Marion, often called "marionberry" by consumers and marketers, is the most widely planted trailing blackberry in the world. More than 90 percent of the worldwide acreage of Marion is located in Oregon. In 2007, almost 30 million pounds were harvested from 4,500 acres in the state, with farm sales over $11 million.
Originally bred by George Waldo, USDA-ARS plant breeder, Marion was released in 1956 through the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. The name Marion was chosen in recognition of Marion County, where it was tested extensively. The largest share of acreage today is still in Marion County, where the climate and soils of the Willamette Valley are ideal.
The pedigree of Marion is rather complex. It contains 44 percent Rubus ursinus (the only truly native blackberry in Oregon, characterized by its outstanding flavor), 25 percent R. armeniacus (the Himalaya, a weed introduced from Europe in the late 1800s), and 6 percent R. idaeus (the red raspberry). In 1948, Waldo selected Marion from a cross of the cultivars Chehalem and Olallie.
Marion is a vigorous, thorny plant that is typically trained to a two-wire trellis. The plants are sensitive to winter cold, and production may vary from year to year depending on the severity of the weather. Marion is usually harvested in July by machines that gently shake ripe fruit off the plants. Over 95 percent of Marion is processed as frozen fruit, puree, and juice. Jams, ice cream, and other products made with marionberries are popular in Oregon and are sold throughout North America.
In your share this week:
- Head Lettuce
- Baby Carrots
This means that some pickup locations will receive it this week, others next week – or in a future week.
Introducing another of the controversial vegetables we grow…Foeniculum vulgaris, or fennel.
In the first couple years of Harvest Baskets, I was on a crusade to turn as many people as I could into fennel aficionados. I myself love fennel. What I learned, however, is that lots of folks like fennel, but just as many don’t – and never will. And no matter how many times I put it in your totes in a season, they fennel-haters aren’t going to change their mind. They are just going to keep feeding it to their cows, or their compost bins.
I wouldn’t say I’ve given up on converting people into adoring fennel-ites, but I have perhaps become more realistic in my expectations. Instead of five fennel plantings, we only do three, and instead of getting two bulbs this week, you’re only getting one (ok, maybe two if they’re small…).
If it’s your first encounter with fennel, you can expect a mildly licorice-like flavor and a celery-like texture. You can eat fennel raw, sliced thinly into salads, or you can cook it. Steaming it is the simplest way, but it’s also great chopped into pasta sauce, added to soup, or braised and served alongside fish. The Italians love this stuff; it's as common in their grocery stores as iceberg lettuce is in ours and it’s one of the cheapest veggies on the shelf over there (compared to here where I recently saw it for $5.99 a pound in the store!).
Here’s a simple soup that calls for both fennel and zucchini: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Fennel-and-Zucchini-Soup-wi...
To prepare: Cut it lengthwise, then cut it into slices cross-wise. Work around the woody core that resembles a cabbage core. Enjoy the lacy tops as a dill substitute for a little added herbal zest.
Storage: Top the bulbs and they will last in a plastic bag in the fridge for weeks. The greens will last up to a week in a plastic bag in the fridge.
When I was a kid, cucumbers were my favorite food. Hands down. So when my mom’s greenhouses start pumping out the cukes, it’s as if I am a kid again and the farm is my candystore (if only she didn’t sell them all before I could get my hands on one!). Hopefully we’ll have better luck in the cucumber department this year than we did last year (most of the crop was wiped out by moles and disease). To help ensure that, Bets has planted both an indoor and outdoor crop. Not only will the cucumber season go longer (we hope), she might just outsmart some of those pesky rodents and pathogens that took their toll last year.
Storage: up to a week in the fridge in a bag.
Please note: all of our produce is field-rinsed, not washed. We recommend you wash all of your produce before eating it.
For recipes and ideas, check out these links:
Our own collection of recipes that you can contribute to
Our website’s recipe “search engine,” where you can hunt down recipes by ingredient
A vast collection of recipes, searchable by one or multiple ingredients
A storehouse of recipes, searchable by ingredient
A Washington farm that has a good collection of seasonal recipes