In This Week’s Beet Box:
- New Produce of the Week: Escarole
- Produce Smugglers and Roadkill Tomatoes: A Delivery Escapade
In your share this week:
- Yellow Onions
- Yellow Finn Potatoes
- Sweet Peppers
- Rainbow chard
This means that some pickup sites will receive it this week; others next week or in a future week.
NEW PRODUCE OF THE WEEK
Escarole: It looks like lettuce, but it’s actually a member of the chicory family (lumped in there with radicchio, endive, friseé, dandelions, and other such bitter greens). And yes, unadulterated, it is mildly bitter, which will probably please some of you more than others. But if you are suspicious of bitter foods, don’t toss your escarole out just yet. It’s a versatile green and there are lots of ways to prepare it that won’t make you pucker up. Here are some good options:
Salads: Wash your escarole well (it tends to collect dirt more than lettuce), cut it into ribbons, and then let it soak for 10 minutes in water. This tends to leach out any trace of the bitterness. You can then use it raw just like lettuce. I like to pair escarole in salads with sweet ingredients like dried cranberries, diced apple, pomegranate seeds, and candied nuts. Add some goat cheese or parmesean and you have a gourmet salad. It’s also good with avocado and citrus. I usually make up a honeyed-lemony vinaigrette of some sort to go with it.
Cooked: Escarole is more durable than lettuce and it holds up well to cooking. Check out this long list of escarole recipes on epicurious.com: http://www.epicurious.com/tools/searchresults?search=escarole&x=0&y=0
Your escarole will store for a week or so in the fridge in a plastic bag. Note that last week’s rain did some damage to the heads, causing some exterior leaf rot. I tried to clean them up as much as possible, but you might encounter a small amount of rot on some of the outer leaf margins. Just cut or tear those sections out; the majority of the head should be perfectly fine. But you might want to eat it sooner than later. Thanks for understanding!
Produce Smugglers and Roadkill Tomatoes: A Delivery Escapade
Last week I was sitting here at my desk, working away at the newsletter, when the phone range. It was Roxy, our delivery driver, and she was on the side of the road on Beaver Hill with some bad news. Frank (our white delivery van) was acting up: the oil light was on and the oil pressure gauge was bobbing wildly, in spite of the fact that I had just topped off the oil the day before. Frank was, as he always is on a Wednesday morning, packed to the gills with the Coos Bay Harvest Baskets, coolers, and boxes of produce for Coos Head. All of us on the farm had already-impossibly full days ahead of us, between office work, fieldwork and juggling our kids.
The dilemma: keep driving the van and hope it didn’t blow up (the Coos Bay CSA pickup was scheduled to start in 45 minutes), or go to Roxy’s rescue. My mechanic is currently out of town for 6 months, so we decided to err on the side of caution. I told Roxy to stay put and we mobilized. Better to sacrifice a day than have to buy a new van.
My mom and I raced north in the little green farm pickup and her old Volvo station wagon. When we reached Roxy, she told us that a cop had been there. He wanted to know what she was up to. She explained that she delivered for Valley Flora, but he insisted on searching the van. She opened the back doors for him and showed him the tower of Harvest Baskets.
“What’s in the totes?” he asked suspiciously.
“I need you to open one up for me, ma’am.”
It dawned on Roxy at that moment that he thought she was smuggling drugs.
“Now mmmmm-mm, doesn’t that look good?” Roxy said with just the tiniest trace of sass as she popped the lid off a tote and brandished a full October Harvest Basket.
By the time we reached Roxy, we were overdue at the Coos Bay CSA site by almost an hour. We hustled all the CSA totes into the pickup, tied them down hastily, and crammed the rest of the Coos Head boxes into the Volvo. I sped off up Beaver Hill, the speedometer reading 70, and looked in the mirror just in time to see my mom pulling a U-ey in the middle of 101. I pulled the pickup over and got out. A lid had blown off one of the Harvest Baskets, but all of the produce was still there. A few minutes later my mom pulled up with the lid, we re-tied the ropes and added a bungey net in hopes of keeping everything in place. My stomach was strung tight with urgency. It was already 1 o’clock.
Off we went again at break-neck speed, but it was only moments before I saw a flash in the mirror and watched in horror as, slow motion, a red lid followed by a red tote cartwheeled through the air and crashed onto the highway, catapulting produce in every direction. Ripe tomatoes exploded, purple beets skidded, lettuce shredded, brittle carrots snapped, and a bunch of parsley bounced twice before coming to rest on the white line. I’m pretty sure I said something that looked like this: #@$%@!! And then my mom and I started laughing. Was this really happening? The very thing that I have hoped for six years would never happen?
If there was a scenario-meter to measure situations from best to worst, I quickly realized that although we were rapidly plummeting towards “worst,” we weren’t there yet. Jolene, the site host in Coos Bay, is not only an awesome human being, she is also a CSA member (those two things seem to go hand in hand) and I quickly realized that I could bring her a replacement tote the next day. So long as we didn’t lose another harvest basket off the back of the truck, we might still be able to pull this mission off. We re-tied the load yet again and set off at a mild-mannered 50mph.
Over an hour late and belching white exhaust (the green farm pickup has some issues right now, too…oi vei!), we arrived at the CSA site and off-loaded all the totes, with a promise to Jolene that we’d bring her a new one the next day. (A big thank you to all the Coos Bay members for their patience, and to Paul, the CSA site organizer, for his help!).
As for Frank, the long and short of it is that we’re pretty sure now that his problem is nothing but a faulty oil gauge. Which means that the entirety of last week’s escapade was a fire drill, no more. That, and fodder for some newsletter story-telling. Roxy and Frank made it home from Coos Bay today without a hitch, and hopefully the oil gauge will only be dancing for another week. The mechanic made room for us next Monday.
The Valley Flora Crystal Ball: What MIGHT be in your share NEXT week…
No promises, but your tote might include some of the following:
- Savoy cabbage
- Winter squash
Please note: all of our produce is field-rinsed, not washed. We recommend you wash all of your produce before eating it.
For recipes and ideas, check out these links:
Our own collection of recipes, where you can contribute and share your favorites
Our website’s recipe “search engine,” where you can hunt down recipes by ingredient
A vast collection of recipes, searchable by one or multiple ingredients
A storehouse of recipes, searchable by ingredient
A Washington farm that has a good collection of seasonal recipes