The carrots are here! Orange, sweet, and so unlike grocery store carrots. Every year I look forward to them with a special anticipation, and once they have finally fattened up to a harvestable size, a sense of calm relief comes over me. They mark a turn in our farming season, towards heavier, more substantial foods. More roots; more heft in your tote each week; more color to offset all the green; a reliable, universally-appreciated crop that sees us all the way through December and beyond.
Most likely there will be carrots in your share from now until you get your last Harvest Basket. For me, it’s great to have a staple vegetable that I can count on like that – and one that few people tire of. The task of deciding what should go into your Harvest Baskets each week is somewhat of a juggling act: I do a fieldwalk to decide what to harvest for your share, and hopefully what’s ready on the farm will come together in the totes with a reasonable balance of greens, roots, berries, herbs, and seasonal showcase veggies like tomatoes (in a few weeks), or this week’s neon cauliflower. In the first six weeks of the season, the share is always heavier on the greens, which mature more quickly than slow-growing roots. Beets are one of the root crops that come on fairly early, but I’ve learned over the years that I can’t give those out every week unless I want to incite a veggie revolt. So, we wait patiently for carrots.
Each spring I optimistically sow them outdoors in the field, starting in April and planting a new bed every two weeks. And each spring, despite elaborate attempts to cover them with row cover and nurse them along, all of my early plantings fail completely due to a combo of cold soil temperatures and voracious slugs. It’s not until about mid-may when finally the soil temperature is warm enough to get good germination, and perhaps by then the slugs are distracted by all the other crops in the ground. For four years now, I have hoped for mid-July carrots, but it seems we never really have them until early August. But once we have them, we have them in spades, week after week. They become a base note in the Harvest Basket, attended by other ever-changing produce that comes and goes on the farm throughout the year.
I hope you enjoy your inaugural carrot share. There will be plenty more to come.
A couple CSA members have sent me some of their tried and true recipes over the past week, which I’ve posted on the recipe exchange: http://www.valleyflorafarm.com/forum/4
In your share this week:
- Head Lettuce
- Purplette Onions
- Very Colorful Cauliflower!
Please note: all of our produce is field-rinsed, not washed. We recommend you wash all of your produce before eating it.
You got these last week, and hopefully you figured out how to eat them in the absence of any newsletter pointers. They are a wonderful, pretty, spring onion. We harvest them fresh with still-green tops, before they have cured. Normally when you buy onions, they are not in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle, they don’t have green tops, and they have a papery skin. That’s a “cured” onion, meaning it will store for quite awhile unrefrigerated. The purplettes, on the other hand, need refrigeration. They are mild and juicy and you can use the green top like a green onion. Use the bulb raw in salads, or sautéed in any dish.
Storage: Plastic bag, fridge. The bulb will hold longer than the green tops – many weeks – so top them and store separately if you don’t use them within a week.
Cauliflower, with Pizazz
Last year I trialed three cauliflowers: a white, a purple, and an orange. Usually the fancy-pants varieties (i.e. the purple and orange) don’t do as well as your good ol’ reliable plain jane varieties. But not so with these cauliflowers. The orange and purple (named Cheddar and Graffiti, respectively), outperformed the white (ironically named “Amazing”). As a result, there’s no white cauliflower on the farm this year; only 80’s neon colors. You should get one or the other in the next couple of weeks as they mature.
The flavor is much the same as regular cauliflower. If you get a Cheddar head, the orange color becomes even brighter when lightly cooked. The purple will also hold its color when cooked, but is bolder when raw. Makes a lovely splash on a platter of raw veggies and dip.
Storage: Will last a week or more in a plastic bag in the fridge.
Farm Fact of the Week:
All of the food you are enjoying now is the product of a full month of in-depth wintertime planning. I spend almost all of January in front of my computer, tweaking a huge complex of excel spreadsheets in order to craft a crop plan that will deliver cauliflower on the week of August 8th (right on time this year!), potatoes every 3 weeks starting in July, and enough broccoli to feed an army (or in this case 106 Harvest Basket members) in the summer and fall. By the end of January, I have multiple spreadsheets that constitute the blueprint for the season – one for greenhouse seeding; one for field tillage; one for direct seeding and transplanting; one for the projected CSA share; and a slew of field maps. From that point on, we use them to make up our weekly to-do lists. It’s a huge help to do most of the thinking and planning in the quiet winter months, so that once the frenzy of the growing season is upon us we can mostly “do” instead of stopping to figure out what we should do.