Week 14: August 31-September 5

What's In Your Basket?

Seascape Strawberries
Bonilla Shallots
Slicing Tomatoes
Green Beans
Nelson Carrots
Red Ace Beets
Thyme & Sage
Zucchini & Summer Squash

On Rotation
Sugar Snap Peas
Cherry Tomatoes

Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!
Bonilla Shallots - Allium ascalonicum
Shallots are often thought to be another variety of onion, but they are in fact of species of their own. Shallots were first introduced to Europeans during the 12th Century by crusaders who brought them home as prized treasure from the ancient Palestinian city of Ashkelon. Like garlic, shallots grow in clusters with a head composed of multiple “cloves” – albeit jumbo cloves! Their skin color can vary from golden brown to gray to rose red, depending on the variety, and their off-white flesh is usually tinged with green or magenta. Chefs tend to love them for their firm texture and sweet, aromatic, pungent, flavor.  They’re often used in dressings, sautéed or caramelized, or used in any place where you might want the rich flavor of an onion. There are lots of new shallot-inspired recipes posted this week.

The shallots in your share this week are fresh-harvested, not cured. You’ll need to keep them in your fridge. Later in the fall, once we’ve pulled all of the onions and shallots out of the field and hung them in the barn, we’ll be sending out cured shallots which will keep up to 6 months on the countertop.

Thyme & Sage
Abby set about establishing a perennial herb field this spring and the first harvest is upon us! She has packed up a sampler of fresh thyme (thin, wiry stems with tiny leaves) and sage (grey-green, soft lance-shaped leaves) for you this week. Sage tends to be a strong herb commonly paired with meat, but it is also a wonderful companion to white beans, winter squash, and potatoes. Thyme is extremely versatile and appears in a number of the recipes on the Recipe Exchange this week.

Both will store best in the fridge for fresh use, however, you can also dry your herbs and use them later. Simply bundle them with string and hang them to dry. Once crispy-dry, strip the leaves from the stems and crumble them into a glass jar.

Cherry Tomatoes – Solanum lycopersicum
The cherry tomatoes, unlike the rest of the solanums, grow outside in the field. They are just beginning to come on in profusion and we will be sending them your way as the harvest picks up. We’re growing a few different varieties:
Sweet Millions: a classic, sweet red cherry, on the larger side
Sungold: my all-time favorite tomato, period. Yellow-orange with a tropical, unbelievably sweet flavor
Red Grape: aptly named, they are a longer, oval shaped cherry tomato with a thicker wall – like a tiny cousin to a sauce tomato
Peacevine: yet another red variety that we’re trialing, bred by Alan Kapuler of Corvallis, Oregon.
All tomatoes are best stored on the counter, not in the fridge.

On the Farm....

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

                                -Alison Luterman
                                “What They Came For”

In the big scheme of things, it is rare for Americans to know the hands that grew and harvested their food. Most of it is sown, weeded, picked, sorted and packed by farmworkers, many of them immigrant, many of them migrant, and many of them made invisible to the consumer. One of the unique things about getting your food locally, from a nearby farm, is the opportunity to know first-hand the people behind the produce.

Our small farm is eight hands and 8 hooves strong most of the time – Betsy, Abby, Blake and I, plus Barney and Maude. On berry harvest days, our beloved friend and farm member, Cora, lends a hand in the field. And recently, the workforce has swelled with the arrival of a farm angel (aka, a volunteer) named Robin, and a dear farming friend from my Sauvie Island Organics days, Marisa.

Robin volunteers with us twice a week, commuting all the way down from Coos Bay to cheerfully put in three stooped hours in the strawberry field. She is a bright spot in our week, and has become a berry picking pro in short order. She’s also saved us from the ache of 16-hour days by helping us get through the strawberries more quickly as the berry harvest – and all the other harvest - has ramped up again.

Marisa has come all the way from Hilo, Hawaii, where she was born and raised. We worked and lived together for two years in Portland, where we put in our time bunching kale side by side at Sauvie Island Organics. This month she wiggled free of her job in Hilo as an occupational therapist to come help us on the farm. It seems a little sadistic, but her very first day in the strawberry patch this week ended up being a record-breaking harvest that made all of us – even me and Blake whose bodies were broken in and hardened up by the strawberries months ago – a little sore.

Picking strawberries is an exercise in thoroughness, and endurance. Every plant is pushed aside, eyes scanning for perfect red – not white, not pink, not almost-red, not scarred, not mushy; both hands working at once to nimbly roll red berries into the palm of the hand and twist them off with one fluid spin of the wrist; gently placing them in the flat while the eyes are already at work scanning the next plant, pushing aside leaves, sorting As from Bs, tossing culls out of the field, one knee at your chest, the other tucked underneath your butt, creeping down the 220-foot rows. It’s not a job for the impatient, or the inflexible. But it is satisfying to pull flat after flat out of the field, into the shade of the truck, knowing that every berry is headed for some local belly, or freezer, or blender, or shortcake…

We usually emerge a bit crooked, a little stiff, and always berry-stained – and relieved for the few days until we do it all over again.