Week 15: September 7 - 12

What's In Your Basket?

Caroline Raspberries
King Richard Leeks
Slicing Tomatoes
Desiree Potatoes
Nelson Carrots
Ruby Perfection Red Cabbage
Zucchini & Summer Squash
Head Lettuce

On Rotation
Cherry Tomatoes

Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!

Red Cabbage
Ruby Perfection is my favorite red cabbage variety, producing good-sized tight heads with the most beautiful, vibrant purple color imaginable. When you cut into one of these orbs, you are in for a visual and tastebud treat: the tight labyrinthine folds of purple on white should be named the 8th wonder of the world, a gold medal winner for edible art.

As you probably know from the cabbage you got earlier this summer, this is a vegetable that holds up well in your fridge in a plastic bag, so don’t be overwhelmed if it seems like a lot of food in one volleyball-sized package!

Desiree Potatoes
I just read that “a diet of potatoes and milk will supply all the nutrients the human body needs.” It reminds me of an adventure I took to Bolivia where I spent time in a homestay on a remote island in Lake Titicaca (Isla Amántani). All that my host family fed me – and all they ate themselves - was potatoes, three meals a day. I had never craved salad and green veggies more than I did there – but I certainly didn’t go hungry!

This red potato variety was one of the stand-outs in last summer’s trials, so we’ve grown it again this year. Some of the potatoes are huge, weighing in at close to 2 pounds! Unfortunately, the list of plant diseases that plague potatoes is about 5 pages long – from blight to harmless scab to hollow heart – so not every one of these organic potatoes is going to be perfect. We sort the potatoes and make an effort to send the ones whose defects might only be skin deep. If you do encounter any cosmetic blemishes on your spuds, remember that most of the time it can be taken care of with a quick swipe of the paring knife.

Many people ask about the green skin you occasionally see on potatoes. Potatoes exposed to bright light develop these green patches. It’s more common in varieties that tend to push upwards out of the potato hills, instead of multiplying laterally (our fingerling potatoes do this, much to our frustration). This green skin contains a toxin called solanine, which in high doses can cause cramps, headache, diarrhea, and fever. But the solution is simple: don't eat the green skin, simply remove it. The solanine is only present in the green skin and any discoloration underneath it - the rest of the potato is completely safe to eat.

My sister, Abby, is Valley Flora’s intrepid melon grower. Most people wouldn’t attempt to grow melons where we are, a scant 5 miles from the ocean, because melons are heat-loving cucurbits (from the same family as cucumbers, winter squash, summer squash, etc.). They thrive in hot climates (think Hermiston Watermelons, California Honeydews, etc…..). But Abby has figured out how to grow them here by planting greenhouse starts on the leeward side of her corn patch (the ears from which are coming soon to a Harvest Basket near you!). There, they are tucked out of the wind where the heat can settle on the melon vines and ripen bonafide cantaloupes and honeydews. She also selects varieties that are better suited to our climate. Those two factors are adding up to September melons for you this year!

Some of the melons are petite, others fairly large – depending on the variety. They are ripening over time, so if you didn’t get yours melon collection this week, look for them in the coming weeks. There are great recipes out there for melon sorbet, melon soup, and other elaborate concoctions, but right now my favorite way to put these down is in their pure form: cut in half and eaten with a spoon, one juicy bite at a time!

If your melons come to you dead-ripe and you’re not ready to eat them, put them in the fridge. Otherwise, melons do fine on the counter where they will continue to ripen.

On the Farm....

As it turns out, I’m not on the farm at all right now; I’m writing this week’s newsletter three thousand miles distant, in Washington, D.C. I bee-lined it to the airport on Tuesday night after harvest and caught the red-eye across the country. I’m here, about five blocks from the White House, wearing my other hat as a national Food & Society Fellow (http://www.foodandsocietyfellows.org). It’s a crazy time to be away from the farm, with the harvest as heavy as it gets and the daylight shrinking, but this is a critical week in D.C. when lawmakers are back on the Hill after the August recess and getting back to work on critical issues like health care, child nutrition, and Farm Bill implementation. Even Michelle Obama is in the fray, having recently proposed the opening of a new farmer’s market in front of the White House.

There are about two dozen of us Fellows from around the country who have all converged here together this week. Each of us brings our own priorities, from farm-to-school, to food safety, to improving food access for low-income communities of color. My own fellowship work over the past two years has centered around beginning farmers – both the need to cultivate a next generation of farmers in this country (where there are now more federal prison inmates than there are farmers) and overcoming the huge obstacles beginning farmers face, including access to: affordable credit, good farmland, vibrant markets, training and education, mentorship, and mainstream cultural support.

While we’re in D.C. we’ll be meeting with various key policy-makers, taking a tour of the White House garden, sitting down with the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan, and hosting a reception with lawmakers to present some “fresh new food policy ideas from the Fellows.” It’s going to be an action-packed few days, a world away from my universe of carrots and cabbage.

Let’s just hope I can scrub some of the dirt out of my fingernails today in time for our first soiree inside the Beltway.