In This Week’s Beet Box:
- New Veggies: Collard Greens, Carrots, Scallions, Tayberries & Thyme
- U-Pick Tayberries and Peas!
- Strawberry Woes
In your share this week:
· Head Lettuce
· Collard Greens
This means that some pickup sites will receive it this week, others next week – or in a future week.
· Snap peas
New Veggies of the Week…
Lots of new things this week, and it’s not all greens! Carrots, heavy heads of broccoli, and scallions herald the real onset of summer!
Collard greens are beloved in the South. Closely related to kale, cabbage, turnips and the rest of the Brassica family, collards became a staple in the diet of African slaves who were brought to the southern colonies to work on plantations. Slaves were often given the scraps and leftover food from the plantation kitchen, including turnip tops, other greens, ham hocks and pig’s feet. The meals they were forced to create from these meager ingredients ultimately laid the foundation for what we now consider to be traditional southern cooking.
Greens were typically cooked down for a long time with a ham hock, and then served with cornbread to dip into the “pot likker” (the highly concentrated, vitamin-rich broth that results from the long boil of the greens). A “mess o’ greens” was enough to feed a family, so the size of your “mess” depended on the number of mouths you had to feed.
The “mess o’ greens” you can make from this week’s collards is probably enough for 2-4 people. I tend to shy away from boiling collards for a long time. They are plenty tender and delicious after a quick steam or sautee in the pan. I tried this recipe for the first time a few weeks ago, and loved it. You can use a mixture of collards and any other green (kale, chard, spinach), so if you have leftover greens from last week, here’s their chance to shine. You can substitute your scallions for the onion in the recipe:
Storage: Will hold for a week or more in a plastic bag in the fridge.
There is not much I need to say about carrots, except this: good luck getting these home. Nothing beats a freshly-harvested, homegrown carrot. Lucky for all of us, these are the earliest carrots we’ve EVER had at the farm, thanks to that warm spell of sunshine in April that enabled me to sneak in a planting 3 weeks earlier than usual. I always breathe a sigh of relief when the carrots come on – it means the beginning of summer food, more color (other than green) in the harvest baskets, and lots of good snacking in the field.
Storage: Will hold for weeks in a plastic bag in the fridge, IF you cut the green tops off. The greens tend to wilt the carrots after awhile, so if you don’t eat all your carrots in the first five minutes, store them in the fridge topless.
Also known as green onions, scallions kick off our onion season at Valley Flora. We grow eight kind of onions, 4 varieties of leeks, and two kinds of shallots on the farm. The scallions are the earliest to mature, but our purplette spring onions are close on their heels (look for them in your tote in the next couple of weeks). You can sub scallions anywhere that onions would normally be used, or dice them up for garnish.
We’ve never had such a beautiful onion patch as we do this year – thanks in part to the fact that our onion seedlings had a great start in the greenhouse this winter, and because the spring has been so incredibly lovely and warm. We’re crossing our fingers for a record-breaking harvest of all varieties…
Storage: Will hold a week or so in the fridge in a plastic bag.
If you were one of the folks who received a half pint of mystery berries in your tote last week, and had no idea what they were, here’s your answer: Tayberries. They are a cross between marionberries and raspberries, and we are just barely managing to pick enough to give everyone a taste of them (it’s a slow harvest!). But they are delectable – one of my favorite berries on the farm – and worth every long hour of picking. Eat them by the handful, or whip up some cream to sprinkle them on. Sweet heaven.
After you taste them, you might be inspired to come to the farm and pick your own. We just opened up the tayberries to upick today. The season will last another week or two, but it’s fleeting - so get ‘em while you can!
They won’t store for more than a couple of days in the fridge, so I’d suggest the instant gratification approach on this one…
Another of our perennial herbs, and quite possibly my favorite. We use thyme all the time. Summer thyme. Winter thyme. All the thyme. In marinades, in dressings, in eggs, in rice or quinoa. It’s also the easiest herb to dry and use later, so don’t be overwhelmed by the hefty little bunch you’re getting this week. Think delayed gratification on this one.
U-Pick Tayberries & Peas!
As of today, our tayberries are open for u-pick (good timing, just as the raspberries are beginning to wind down).
This Saturday, 7/6, we’ll be opening up the sugar snap pea patch for u-pick. We have 3 long rows of peas that we planted just for u-pick and they are hitting their sweet, crunchy stride. Yum.
We’ve never had such a weird year in the strawberry patch. The u-pick berries are light right now (when they would normally be booming), and the we-pick berries that we harvest for you just aren’t what they should be at the moment. People usually tell us our strawberries are the best berries in the whole world (sorry, Driscolls, I guess we have you beat), but I know that’s not true this week.
I have a few working theories. The plants set fruit extremely early this spring, during all that good April weather. That huge fruit set (which normally would come in June) was destroyed by the Memorial Day storm. Since then, production on the upick side has been light – which I think must be the normal lull in production we typically see in late July. If the season is 3-4 weeks accelerated, it leads me to hope that the berries are about to go bananas, like they usually do in August and September. Fingers crossed for all of you who are still hoping to fill your freezers with berries! Reports from u-pickers are that it’s getting better each week.
On our side of the fence, where we pick your berries each week, there’s something else going on. Thanks to our greenhouse tunnels, we managed to save most of the fruit from the past two whopper rain storms, but at a price. When we close up the tunnels during the rain, there is limited airflow across the plants, which can lead to other problems, like botrytis (grey mold) and spider mites. These things stress the plants, which reduces fruit quality. There is also phytopthora (say that three times fast!), a soil and water-borne root fungus, that is stressing a few of the rows. Two winters of flooding in the field have not helped our phytopthora situation.
Sigh. The perils of organic farming. A conventional strawberry farmer would have all kinds of chemicals at her disposal to combat these problems: insecticides, fungicides, and worst of all, methyl bromide (a soil fumigant that conventional strawberry growers use to nuke the ground before planting; it takes care of the phytopthora, and all the earthworms as well). Instead, we are brewing compost tea, culling any diseased plants, and patiently waiting for the plants to rebound.
We’re hopeful. There’s no rain in the forecast, so we took the tunnels down for the season. The strawberry plants are wild and free again, and if nothing else, Jake (all 6’4” of him) is happy about the fact that he can see the sky while he harvests now….
Thanks for your patience while this signature crop of ours experiences this hiccup in production, and my sincere apologies that your berries are not the best in the whole world this week.
The Valley Flora Crystal Ball: What MIGHT be in your share next week…
No promises, but your tote might include some of the following NEXT week:
· Head lettuce
· Arugula or spinach
· Purplette onions?
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