What's In Your Basket?
- Seascape Strawberries
- Magenta Summer Crisp Lettuce
- Red Ursa Kale
- Nelson Carrots
- Purplette Onions
Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!
- At long last, the carrots! What an exercise in patience, waiting for the carrots to come on this year! Colder than average spring soil temperatures killed our first handful of plantings, which set back the first carrot harvest by a few weeks. Those that did survive the spring were spotty and stressed – not the prettiest carrots to behold. Now, the later plantings are finally maturing and digging carrots is once again yielding the abundant harvest we’re used to. We hope to send you carrots as often as we can from here on out. You’ll be eating two varieties, mainly: Nelson and Yaya, both of which are an early Nantes type with great crunch, tenderness and exceptional sweetness.
- I tend to munch my carrots raw most of the time, but they deserve an award for being one of the most versatile veggies there is, spanning the spectrum from sweet to savory. Think about it: Carrot cake. Carrot lemongrass soup. Carrot root roast. I trust you’ll find plenty of things to do with them, but if you find you can’t keep up with the carrots, not to worry: they store great in the fridge in a plastic bag for weeks. Cut the tops off to keep them from going limp, but don’t throw the tops away! As it turns out, you can even eat carrot tops and here’s one recipe to help you do it: Carrot Top Soup.
Red Ursa Kale
- The kale is so giant and pretty right now I’ve been tempted to include it in the flower bouquets! Those of you who aren’t big kale fans might consider putting it in a vase, but before you do, try our favorite standby salad, great for summer or winter: Molly's Famous Kaleslaw. It uses carrots, red cabbage (if you have any left), kale and some other goodies. The inspiration for this recipe came from my beloved friend and former housemate, Molly McHenry, who could whip up a kaleslaw in the blink of any eye, and then make you cry it was so good.
- Remember, your kale will last best in a bag in the fridge, sealed up to keep it from wilting.
- These "little purple" onions are wonderful because they are fast maturing and bulb up sooner than other varieties. They also have a delicate, mild flavor and you can eat the tops. That's right - don't toss the greens; use them like green onions. As for the bulbing part of the onion, it can be eaten raw or sauteed up like any regular onion. Last night we cut up a few purplettes into fat rings, dipped them in a beer batter (1 part beer to 1 part flour), and dropped them into a friend’s FryDaddy. Whooooo boy! The best onion rings I’ve ever made myself sick on!
- Purplettes store well in the fridge in a plastic bag.
- Just when you thought you couldn’t handle another giant head of broccoli….well, hang in there, here it comes again! Some of the heads are weighing in at 2.5 pounds right now! We're going out with a bang: broccoli season is almost over until Fall, so we hope you can relish these last couple of weeks of it.
- A Harvest Basket member sent in a wonderful recipe last week for a tantalizing Creamy Broccoli Soup with Almond Romano Pesto (from the fantastic cookbook “Rebar”), which is now posted on the recipe exchange.
- 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:
o Cut your broccoli into florets.
o Bring a pot of water to boil.
o Dunk the florets into the boiling water for a minute to blanch.
o Pull the florets out of the water and dunk into ice water.
o Put florets on cookie sheets and freeze.
o Once frozen, put the florets into a freezer ziploc and stash away for winter!
On the Farm....
We are on the cusp of the Summer Solanum Tsunami: cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, roasting peppers. Get ready, because within in a few weeks there will be a whole new plant family beginning to appear in your weekly basket, straight outta my mom’s greenhouses and the fields. Tomatoes are always a marker of “true summertime” for me, though ironically they don’t ripen here until August, once “true summertime” has been in full swing for awhile. The same is true for corn – and if we’re lucky, melons - which don’t usually come on until September for us, being as stone’s throw from the coast.
This season I’m doing some outdoor tomato and pepper trials to see what varieties will ripen in a reasonable amount of time, without the help of a greenhouse. It’s fun to see what’s possible along Floras Creek, having farmed for 3 years near Portland (where it’s 105 degrees this week), and before that in California where the mercury would regularly register in the 100s. It’s possible to grow almost all of the same crops that we did in those hotter climates, but everything takes longer. Tomatoes in September instead of July. Melons in October instead of August. Fortunately, our long glorious Indian Summers usually afford us the time to bring the slower, heat-loving crops to maturity. Last year’s sunshine lasted all the way through November – which meant we were still eating strawberries at Thanksgiving! You might just cross your fingers for a repeat this year if you’re loving the berries, although the spawning salmon didn’t appreciate it the long dry autumn…..
Growing such a diversity of crops is on one hand a livelihood for us as farmers, but I also see it as an experiment in food security. Everyone - even the oil companies themselves - agree that sooner or later there will be no more oil. When that happens, and without energy alternatives, the current industrial food system as we know it will come to a screeching halt. Why? Because the U.S. food supply is dependent on fossil fuel: The average meal travels 1500 miles from farm to plate. For every one calorie of food produced by agribusiness, it takes 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce it. Growing, harvesting, processing and shipping food sucks up about 20% of all the oil burned in America.
Given all those facts, it’s comforting to know that if and when those global supply chains freeze up, we all live in a place where it is possible to grow just about everything (save for the pineapples and avocadoes). Valley Flora produce travels no more than 40 miles to reach our most distant eaters. And with a little help from Barney and Maude, our solar horsepower, there can still be tomatoes year round – fresh in August, out of the mason jar in February. That's not to say that this kind of farm is going to be immune from the decline of cheap fossil fuel, but we might be a little better positioned to help feed the neighborhood than wheat growers in Argentina, lamb producers in New Zealand, and even lettuce growers in California.
If you are interested in learning more about the Locavore movement (the idea of eating only within 100 miles of where you live), there’s some good reading out there:
Plenty: One man, one woman, and a raucous year of eating locally by Alisa Smith & J.B. Mackinnon
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A year of food life by Barbara Kingsolver
Online, the locavore hub: http://www.locavores.com/
Also online, an interesting new report by the Post Carbon Institute about transitioning our food away from fossil fuel dependence (you are part of the solution this summer!): http://www.postcarbon.org/food