What's In Your Basket?
- Tillamook and/or Seascape Strawberries
- Romaine Lettuce
- Braising Mix
- Baby Carrots (Nelson and Rainbow)
Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!
- At last, the carrots are here! They are a few weeks later than we'd hoped, due to the fact that the cold, wet weather of April stymied our first few plantings. Now that they're starting to size up, you should expect to see carrots in your basket on a regular basis for the rest of the season.
- We grow a few different varieties of carrots: Nelson and Yaya, which are sweet, early Nantes varieties with great crunch and tenderness. We also grow Rainbow carrots, which true to their name, come in a dazzling array of colors: white, red, purple, yellow, orange. They are not as sweet as the Nelsons or Yayas, but beautiful to behold and tasty nonetheless.
- Bunched carrots will store best if you cut the tops off and put the roots in a plastic bag. Like other root crops, the tops transpire and suck all of the moisture out of the root in the refrigerator, leaving you with sad, limp carrots. We know a number of people who put the tops to use as pet food: there are a handful of local dogs, lizards, iguanas, birds and goats who eat Valley Flora carrot tops every week.....
- We are growing a few different varieties of cucumbers on the farm: English (the long, skinny kind you usually see shrink-wrapped in plastic at the store), slicing (your typical cucumber), and pickling (small cukes that we grow to stock the pantry with). You'll be getting English and slicing cukes throughout the season.
- Cukes store best in the fridge, in a plastic bag. They don't stay perky forever, though, so try to eat them up within a week.
- The broccoli has hit its stride! We planted 5 successions of broccoli this spring, so you will be seeing it in your share for at least a few more weeks, through July. If you're feeling overwhelmed by what to do with it all, remember that you can freeze it for winter and enjoy the Valley Flora bounty during those cold, dark months on the other side of the calendar. It's easy:
- Cut your broccoli into florets.
- Bring a pot of water to boil.
- Dunk the florets into the boiling water for a minute to blanch.
- Pull the florets out of the water and dunk into ice water.
- Put florets on cookie sheets and freeze.
- Once frozen, put the florets into a freezer ziploc and stash away for winter!
- Stores best in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag.
- If you're not in the mood to squirrel away your broccoli for later, here's an unusual recipe that will use up all of this week's broccoli: Braised Broccoli with Olives.
- Zukes store for about a week in a plastic bag in the fridge. Wonderful sauteed with a little butter, thyme, salt and pepper.
- This is a colorful combo of baby kale, mustard, tatsoi and other asian greens. If you like it spicy, you can just eat your braising mix raw like a salad. Otherwise, it's great stir-fried, sauteed or steamed. At home we often just steam them, then douse them with good olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a dash of either ume plum vinegar or cider vinegar. Yum!
- Store in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag.
- There isn't a more alien-looking vegetable to be found on the farm than kohlrabi! This white-fleshed variety is called "winner." We'll be growing a purple-skinned variety in the fall as well. If you've never seen, touched or eaten kohlrabi, you're in for a treat! It is one of those under-appreciated veggies that deserves some more kudos for its crunchy, juicy yumminess.
- Kohlrabi is a sturdy vegetable, but will hold up best in your fridge in a plastic bag.
- My mom says her favorite way to eat kohlrabi is straight up: peeled, sliced and munched! Here's a recipe for you if you want to jazz it up a little more: Kohlrabi and Apple Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette.
- We are just beginning to harvest the june-bearing raspberries, a variety called Cascade Dawn. We will be distributing them on rotation to each pick-up site over the next couple of weeks. We also grow an ever-bearing variety called Caroline that will be coming on later in the summer, so hopefully raspberries will make frequent appearances in your baskets this season.
- What's the difference between a june-bearing and an ever-bearing raspberry? June-bearers are what they call "floricane" varieties, meaing they fruit on second year wood. Ever-bearers are called "primocanes" and they fruit on first year wood. What this means is that the june-bearers produce new canes every year, which we carefully select and tie up onto the trellis. Those canes overwinter and the following June begin to produce masses of fruit. Their season is short, however - less than 4 weeks. The fruit you're eating this week was produced by canes that shot up last spring, in 2008. Ever-bearers on the other hand, produce fruit on this year's canes. They are growing fast right now, and will probably start producing sometime in July. The benefit of ever-bearers is that you can mow them down each fall instead of trellising them, which makes maintenance a lot easier - but you also have to wait longer to get your first raspberry! We grow both kinds in order to extend our raspberry season to its utmost!
- Raspberries are fragile, poor-keepers. Best to eat them within a couple of days. Whipped cream is always a good comrade to raspberries.
On the Farm....
With the flurry of May and June starting to ease, I had a chance to get Maude and Barney back in harness this week. We spent all of Monday working up the fallow half of the farm: discing, harrowing, seeding a buckwheat cover crop, and then cultipacking (rolling) in the seed. Early July is when we tend to plant cover crops like buckwheat, in order to provide soil cover and erosion control through the summer, to add organic matter to the soil, and to provide habitat and food for beneficial insects on the farm.
Buckwheat is an especially amazing cover crop. It's the same buckwheat the you make pancakes with, but we don't grow it for seed to make flour with. Instead, we grow it for the leafy biomass it produces in short order over the summer. It matures in about two months, going from seed to a 3 foot high, succulent, leafy lime green plant. It provides great weed control by shading out any other competitors. It's drought-tolerant; we water it once at the time of seeding and then it grows vigorously with no water for the rest of the summer. It draws up phosporous from the soil and makes it plant availalbe. AND, to top it all off, it sets beautiful, fragrant white flowers that provide wonderful food for beneficial insects like bees. It frost kills, so we only get to grow it in the summertime - which gives buckwheat a very special niche on the farm.
And here's my confession: I actually love growing cover crops more than cash crops. Yes, it's true. I do relish growing those carrots and beets for you, but the satisfaction of growing a good stand of buckwheat - and knowing I'm doing right by the soil - is hard to beat.
We'll be plowing up the fallow half of the new orchard with the horses this month and planting buckwheat there as well. By September, the fallow ares of the farm should be a sea of luscious green, humming with pollinators. The canvas is ever-changing on the farm, and for us it's a heap of fun to paint by the acre....