Week 19: October 11th

Week 19: October 11th
What’s in your Share This Week?
Copra Yellow Onions
Romanesco Cauliflower
Curly Parsley
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Cherry Tomatoes
The New Stuff: How to chop it, cook it and keep it…
Copra Yellow Onions
Copras are a fantastic storage onion. We’ve let these cure, so you can safely leave them on your counter to store, or if you prefer you can keep them in the fridge. They are a great all-around, all-purpose onion.
Romanesco Cauliflower
This might just be the most-anticipated vegetable we grow for many Harvest Basket members. At the farm this morning, one of our members opened her tote and exclaimed “at last, it’s here!” She held up her neon green, minaret head of romanesco with a huge grin on her face. “I LOVE this stuff.”
I’ve learned that emotions run high around the romanesco not only because it tastes great (likened to the nutty taste of an artichoke heart by one member), but perhaps more because of it’s looks. We had one member confess that she never ate hers last year because she couldn’t bear to cut into it; it just sat and sat on her counter – a feast for the eyes.
As I explained to folks last year, romanesco is a mathematician’s dream vegetable because it’s a perfect natural example of fractals. A fractal is essentially a pattern that repeats itself infinitely. If you look at your romanesco, you’ll see that every Dr. Seuss-ish green spire is studded with a whole bunch of identical mini-spires, which in turn are made up of even tinier spires – all of which mimic the whole. Infinity is a hard concept to grasp, but this here veggie might help you see it.
When I was harvesting, I noticed that some of the heads had hollow cores – a sign that they may have grown too quickly and cracked up the center. It shouldn’t be a problem in the kitchen, as you tend to cut off individual florets/spires to prep and eat it – as opposed to carving up the whole head.
As for preparing your romanesco, it’s a lot like cauliflower. There are a few recipes on the Recipe Exchange/Recipe Wizard, or look up some new ones on Epicurious.com. We love it steamed, or even better, roasted with some salt and olive oil in the oven.
Keep it in the fridge in a plastic bag – it’ll store much longer than if you leave it on the counter as a new kitchen art piece.
On the Farm…
This week feels like a true turn towards fall, with Brassicas such as broccoli, romanesco cauliflower, and radishes sitting shoulder to shoulder in your totes with yellow storage onions and peppers. We’ll admit that we’re relieved that last week’s produce climax is behind us; as of this week your Harvest Baskets are starting to look (and feel!) a little more sane. There are still summer crops to enjoy – the last of the tomatoes, and next week, one more batch of corn. But those flavors are slowly being edged out by the forward march of our Fall crops. After five months of harvest(!), the strawberries are pretty much done for the season, and next week you’ll see the first of the winter squash, which will become a new staple in your totes until Thanksgiving.
Not that our dwindling summer produce signifies any slow-down in the work schedule on the farm. Fall is actually one of the busiest times for us. We are immersed in our usual daily harvest, but are also diligently digging potatoes; pulling, curing and cleaning storage onions; clipping and curing our winter squash; planting our garlic crop (Yes, we are experimenting with garlic this year - cross your fingers!); and perhaps most importantly, seeding our winter cover crops.
This Fall’s to-do list has been particularly frenetic due to the fact that we are headed to Italy in a week for the Slow Food Terra Madre gathering and we’ve had to compress all of our fall projects into three short weeks before we leave. Fortunately, the weather has cooperated beautifully, allowing us entire weeks of sunshine to dry onions and cure squash – and just enough rain to bring up our recently-seeded peas, oats, clover and vetch that will serve as soil-building cover crops through the winter. A farmer couldn’t ask for a more perfect October so far!
As abundant and beautiful a time as it is, Fall does does bring up a few new challenges for us on the farm. Cooler, wetter weather sets the stage for rot and certain plant diseases to set in. For instance, carrot tops become very weak, rendering our carrots un-bunchable. Beet leaves surrender to a couple of different diseases, also making them un-bunchable.
Many of our root crops fall prey to various critters. Beets are a favorite snack for field mice, who love to nibble one or two bites from the shoulder of every beet – which is our cue to pull them, top them, and store them safely in the cooler (one of our Big Dig projects this weekend!). The same thing often happens to our celeriac. Meanwhile in the carrots and parsnips, wireworms and rust fly start having a heyday, tracking up our beautiful carrots. We do our best to sort out any damaged carrots, but they sometimes slip through the wash line. If you encounter a carrot that has a small dark spot, just cut around it. Usually, 99% of the carrot is perfect, except for the one place where a wireworm wriggled in to chow down. I suppose you can’t blame them – those Nelson carrots ARE good!
Also, next time you get kale, you might encounter a few aphids on the underside of the leaves. They often try to proliferate in the Fall. We do our best to pick around them and exclude them from your kale bunches – but if you do get a few, they are easily washed off under the tap.
All in all, Fall is a time to enjoy the hearty foods of the season (spuds, squash, shallots, beets, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, heavy heads of broccoli…) – and to be surprised at just how sweet and flavorful those foods can be when harvested in season, at their peak. There’s always a tinge of sadness in me to see the strawberries and tomatoes go, but it’s usually right around the time that I start craving kaleslaw and winter squash instead. Unlike the supermarket, everything has its time on the farm - and after enough years of eating from the field instead of the produce aisle, your body let’s you know when it’s time to embrace a new season and bid farewell to another.
I hope you enjoy the flavors of Fall.