Week 6: July 12th

Week 6: July 12
What’s in your Share This Week?
Head lettuce
Sugar Snap Peas
Basil or Parsley
On Rotation:
Basil & Parsley
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
Sugar Snap Peas
I don’t think it gets any better than crunching on sugar snap peas. In part because they are such a fleeting seasonal treat. Because they’re crispy and sweet and playful. And because they’re nothing short than a labor of love.
Three years ago I actually swore I would never grow peas commercially, in spite of my love for them – because I’d have to charge an arm and a leg to make the cost of picking them pencil out. My sister used to grow them, but she axed the “extras” this season, knowing she’d have little Pippin on her back. Facing the prospect of a CSA season with no peas, I decided to bite the bullet and break my own rule this spring: I seeded 3 beds of peas starting in early April through May. (What was I thinking!)
The first bed germinated miraculously through our cold, wet spring. The second bed suffered some, but still sent up a modest tangle of vines. And the third bed came up thick. This week we were picking the first bed, which means there will be peas in your future for at least another couple weeks. And some torturously slow harvest days for us!
It took us five hours to harvest 220 feet of peas this week, picking wild and fast! But no matter how quickly your hands fly, you still creep along the row a few slow inches at a time, gleaning fat camouflaged pods from the tangle of vines. It’s a lovely, zen undertaking when there is nothing else on the to-do list, but that’s never the case in early July!
Nevertheless, we emerged from the field with 100 pounds of peas – enough to ensure that every harvest basket gets a full, happy pound this week. Hopefully enough that they aren’t all gone before you get home from your pick-up site!
Some pea factoids:

  • Peas are like corn – best eaten as soon after harvest as possible because their sugars rapidly convert to starches, reducing flavor and sweetness.
  • Peas are as ancient a food as wheat, barley and garlic. They’ve been found in excavations dating back to 10,000 BC. They’re thought to have originated in northern India and migrated west into the Mediterranean, Europe and up into the British Isles.
  • Peas are chock full of vitamins A,C, K and the Bs. Also high in iron potassium and phosphorous – over all a high protein, high carb, high fiber package!

The peas in your tote are a snap pea, not a shelling pea, so you can eat the whole thing, pod and all. They are hard to beat raw, but are also sumptuous lightly steamed or sautéed until they are lime green, no more than 2 mintues (don’t over-do it – make sure you leave a little crunch to them!). Here’s a quick recipe for a Fresh Pea Pod, Broccoli and Rice Salad.
Fennel is a fairly uncommon vegetable in the States, compared to the notoriety it enjoys in Europe. It happens to be one of my all time favorites, so much so that last season I set out on a quest to convert as many Harvest Basket members to become fennel-lovers as possible. We had some great success stories, and as far as I know, we didn’t engender any fennel-haters. 
For most folks, fennel is a mystery. What to do with the stuff!? We sent you whole fennel plants, meaning the bulb and the feathery tops. This way, you’ll know what it looks like growing in the field or garden, but you can also put both the bulb and tops to good use. The bulb takes most of the glory, but the tops are commonly used as a fresh herb for seasoning or garnish. It can replace dill (it’s cousin), and is great on baked or broiled fish with a little lemon and butter.
There are also lots of recipes on the Recipe Wizard to give you a helping hand. Here are the basics once you have your fennel on the cutting board:

  • Wash the bulb.
  • Try crunching a raw fennel stem to get a sense of the flavor. It has a subtle anise flavor.
  • Can be baked, steamed or sautéed with excellent results. You can also eat it raw, dipped into sauces or olive oil. We like to cut to tops off our fennel, slice our fennel bulbs in half from top to bottom, then cut the bulb cross-wise into thin slices. Then toss into a skillet with a little olive oil and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The fennel will start to carmelize like onions. Last night we tossed in some rainbow chard and fresh peas at the very end, salted it, and had a divine pile of veggies for dinner!
  • Store in the fridge in a plastic bag. Will keep for up to 2 weeks, or more. The tops will go limp, so we suggest cutting them off and wrapping them in a damp towel in the fridge.

And in case you ever end up on Jeopardy, some back pocket trivia:

  • Fennel grows wild around much of the world – for instance, you’ll see it along roadcuts here in Curry county. Two varieties are actually cultivated: the bulbous Florence fennel (what you have this week) and the common fennel (grown for seed and leaves).
  • It belongs to the Umbel family, along with carrots, celery, parsley, dill, and anise.
  • Fennel is best adapted to Mediterranean climates, but we manage to grow it up Floras Creek into the fall.
  • Fennel has been used for centuries as a food, medicine, herb and even insect repellent!
  • In Greek mythology, knowledge came to humans from Mt. Olympus in the form of a fiery coal held within a fennel stalk.
  • The ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans used fennel as an aid for digestion, bronchial troubles, poor eyesight and nervous conditions. Today in India, fennel seed is chewed after a meal as a breath freshener and digestive aid. Claims have been made that it’s a great weight loss agent!

On the Farm…
Summer is in evidence all around the farm these days: the hills are drying out and starting to turn their golden brown. The creek has warmed up enough for a daily dip (or for Sula, the farm dog, it’s an hourly dip). And with the help of an amazing volunteer by the name of Betty Olson, the root crops are getting a chance! Betty started coming out this week to help us weed the carrots, which with her tenacity and a little luck, might soon find their way into your harvest baskets!
Betty is a Port Orford member who has an uncanny love for hand weeding – and holy smokes is she working wonders in the root field! She tackled the first couple of beds of carrots yesterday, wrestling dock root and grass and chickweed for hours and then hauling it out of the field in a dump cart. She made multiple trips to the compost pile, and when she was done she announced she’d love to come back today and keep at it. We can’t thank her enough for the assist, just in the nick of time!
It’s a huge relief to see carrots emerging from the weeds, one row at a time – and to know that those sweet orange Nelsons and those eye-candy Rainbows will be bunchable and crunchable before the end of July (we hope!).
Thank You Betty!!!