Week 12: August 23rd

Week 12: August 23rd
What’s in Your Share This Week?
Head lettuce
Summer Squash
Walla Walla Sweet Onions
Sweet and/or Hot Peppers
On Rotation:
Baby Carrots
I was particularly excited that the fennel, tomatoes, basil and Walla Wallas all came on at the same time this week. Why? Because it means you have all of the farm-fresh ingredients to make one of our all-time favorite summertime dishes: Finocchio! This is the dish that tends to convert fennel skeptics into wild enthusiasts. Give it a try.
The recipe is available at: http://www.valleyflorafarm.com/content/finocchio
It calls for two big fennel bulbs, but we suggest using one fennel bulb plus one or two of your Walla Walla Sweet onions to substitute. Oh yum.
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
Peppers – Sweet & Hot!
We sometimes play a game on the farm that goes something like this: “If you could only eat three vegetables for the rest of your life, what would they be?” It’s a painful, traitorous exercise of choosing favorites and there’s a lot of hand-wringing that goes on. “I couldn’t live without salad, but then again, if I had to have either lettuce or kale, maybe I’d want the kale because it grows year-round and is chock full of good juju and it’s really versatile and…hmmm...And what about tomatoes…maybe we can classify those as a fruit and keep them out of this game…” And so on.
Nevertheless, the one vegetable (er, fruit actually) that always, ALWAYS makes my Top Three List is peppers. Sweet, sweet peppers. Which means that this week marks the beginning of produce bliss for me. The sweet and hot peppers are beginning to pour out of Betsy’s greenhouses in a vibrant parade of color: reds, yellows, oranges, whites, purples, greens, blocky bells, Italians, stuffing peppers, roasting peppers, hot peppers, sweet peppers. Over the coming weeks, you’ll see a smattering of the various colors, shapes and flavors that she’s growing this season. And the extra good news is that she’s growing more peppers than ever, thanks to a new hoop-house we constructed this spring specifically for pepper production.
This week in your totes you’ll encounter the first of the harvest, which will likely include a sweet Italian red roasting pepper (that you can enjoy raw or sautéed or roasted) and possibly an Anaheim-type hot pepper (not too hot), which are great for spicing up any dish, roasting, stuffing (think chile rellenos), etc.
Peppers can be stored on the counter at room temperature (out of the sun), or in the fridge. In fact, the way peppers are typically colored up is to pick them when they’re approximately 40-50% colored (as in turning from green to red) and then to leave them at 65 degrees out of the sun to complete their coloring.
If you want to save your peppers for winter, they are actually one of the easiest foods to freeze: simply cut them into bite-size pieces and toss them into a freezer bag: no blanching or cooking needed. They’ll soften when you thaw them out, but they make a wonderful, colorful addition to soups and stir-fries in the dead of winter. We also make a point of roasting a bunch of peppers in the fall and either freezing them or canning them for later.
Peppers are chock full of vitamins A, C and E as well as iron and potassium.
On the Farm…
We are on the cusp of a full-on feeding frenzy on the farm: that delectable, fleeting window when almost every food we grow is available at the same time. Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes (soon!), peppers, sweet corn (soon!), potatoes, chard & kale, lettuce, berries (the late summer raspberries are about to EXPLODE!), leeks, onions, shallots, carrots, beets, spinach, zucchini, fennel, herbs…you name it. I wish I had a bottomless, ever-expanding stomach and the time and endurance to eat non-stop right now.
Certain crops have staggered a little along the way - like our carrots, which have been slow to size up this summer (the reason that they are on rotation this week), and more recently, our strawberries - which have been significantly slowed down by overall cooler temperatures over the past four weeks. But overall, given what a shoddy start we had to the season, it feels like the farm is doing pretty well. Having such a wide diversity of crops makes a big difference. Boy, would it have been a bummer to have put all our eggs in the cauliflower basket this year, or the Italian plum basket (two crops that have been unimpressive in 2010).
That’s the beauty of the community-support agriculture (CSA) model that you are all a part of as Harvest Basket members: your commitment to the farm creates an imperative for us to grow lots of different crops, and in doing so, spreads the overall risk of farming out amongst 100s of different varieties, dozens of different plant families, and many successive weeks of planting. With that kind of farming approach, something – and hopefully many things – are bound to grow well.
August has been a challenging month on the farm, what with all the labor tumult of the past three+ weeks. We are taking a deep breath now that we have Tiffany, Roberto and Roxy on board - and it feels like I can finally look up, look around, and smile at the abundance that is starting to manifest all around. Enjoy the harvest this week, and thanks for sticking with us through thick and thin!