Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 17
In this box: 2 Zucchini, 1 bunch French Radishes, 6 ears Corn, 2# Potatoes, 1.5# Sweet Girl Tomatoes, 2 Red Bell Peppers, 1 piece Fresh Ginger Root, 1 box French Plums or Grapes or Strawberries, 2# Abate Fetel Pears (from Gala Springs Orchard) (weights are approx.)Everything is Organic!
[Note: This newsletter was posted early, as I will be out of town this week. The list may not exactly reflect what is in your box this week, as sometimes we need to make last-minute substitutions depending on what is available to pick.
Abate Fetel Pears
I am repeatedly surprised by the incredible variety of fruit that we don't usually see in the grocery store. According to some sources, abate fetel is the most popular pear variety in Italy, but I had not heard of this pear before we got some from our friends Martin & Denise at Gala Springs Orchard. Your pears should be about ready to eat when you get them, but they will continue to ripen if you leave them on the counter. This variety is still crisp when "ripe", and the skin doesn't get very yellow. Try the one with the lightest color skin, and then decide if you will ripen them further, or put them in the fridge to keep. If you're cooking your pears (poached pears, pear chunks fried in butter, or pear crisp), they can be less ripe than if you want to just cut them up & eat them.
A few years ago, during apple & pear season, our family discovered a new breakfast habit that has become a regular feature at our house. We've been serving apple or pear crisp almost daily for at least 3 years, and it's still a favorite for breakfast, after school snack, or after dinner treat. It's an incredibly versatile basic recipe that can be cooked in the evening, and is ready-to-eat for a quick & nutritious breakfast, or an instant after-school snack. It is adaptable to whatever fruit you have available. This week, I made a pear/apple/plum crisp that was very popular. Nutritionally, I appreciate the balance of carbohydrate (oats), sugar (fruit), protein (nuts), and slow-burning fats (nuts & butter). Many traditional fruit crisp recipes use sugar, both with the fruit, and in the topping. I think that is unneccessary, but you can if you really need to. You could even make it more nutritious by using vegetable oil or coconut oil instead of butter, but we usually use butter. I can't guarantee the results if you use oil, but it would probably be delicious.
Elizabeth's Pear Crisp
1 1/2 cups nuts (hazelnuts or walnuts are local, and work well; pecans are delicious; cashews or almonds also work well)
6 Tbs. cold, salted butter, cut into small cubes
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
(optional: 1/4 cup coconut flour)
1 large pear (or apple or mixed fruit to cover bottom of baking dish. Can use more fruit, but then it might take longer to bake)
Cut fruit into small chunks to cover the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Place nuts & cold, cubed butter in food processor, and pulse to chop nuts and incorporate the butter. Then add rolled oats, cinnamon, and (optional) coconut flour. Pulse a few more times to mix, but stop before the oats are completely ground to flour. Pour the topping over the fruit. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve warm or cool, with milk or rice milk.
We are excited to have Fresh Young Ginger, grown on our farm, for your box this week! Young Ginger does not have the fibers and thick skin found in mature ginger, so it does not need to be peeled, just gently scrubbed clean of any dirt. Then you can slice or mince the whole root. Add fresh ginger to a stir-fry or a batch of molasses cookies. Slivers of fresh ginger can be tucked into a pear crisp.
If you aren't going to use your whole piece of ginger this week, you can freeze it whole, then grate it or slice thinly as needed while still frozen.
Quick Candied Ginger Syrup: Stir 1/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, and 2 Tbs crushed & minced fresh ginger in a saucepan over low heat until sugar melts. Cool mixture. Serve over ice cream, mix with plain yogurt, spread on a cheesecake, mix with sliced strawberries, or pour over poached pears. Recipe can be doubled.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 16
In this box: 1 Green Lettuce (from Groundwork Organics), 5 ears Corn, 2# All Blue Potatoes, 1 Onion, 1.5# Roma or Sweet Girl Tomatoes, 2# Carrots, 2 Red Bell Peppers, 1 box Italian Prune Plums, 2# Gala Apples (from Gala Springs Orchard)
(weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Italian Prune Plums
Before bananas, oranges, and other tropical fruit became commonly available year-round in northern grocery stores, local dried fruit like raisins and prunes, and apples and pears, which store well, were the fruits people ate in winter. The Willamette valley was once a major producer of dried prunes. Local farmers grew acres of prune plums that were dried so they could be stored until needed. There are still a few of the old prune drying buildings around, but most of the orchards are gone.
Prune plums have a high sugar content, and are not particularly juicy (compared with other plums). They usually have a free-stone pit which makes them easy and energy-efficient to dry. The Italian Prune plum was the most popular variety in Oregon. It has enough sugar, acid, and flavor to be excellent for fresh eating, and also for cooking, canning, and drying. Although commercially dried prunes are usually dried whole, people who dry their own can get a superior result by cutting them in half and removing the pit. Prunes have an unfortunate image problem, being associated with constipated old people. It's too bad because the fruit is as delicious as it is healthy. The California prune growers successfully lobbied to be allowed to label their prunes as "dried Plums" in hopes of overcoming this stigma.
Italian plums are delicious right out of your Harvest Box, but something remarkable happens to the flavor when it's cooked (or dried). I don't understand all the chemistry involved, but the sweetness is enhanced, and any tartness is mellowed. Try this Plum Kuchen, from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison (slightly modified):
1 cup plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 Tbs cold (salted) butter
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
approx. 1/4 cup milk
Topping: 6-8 Fresh Italian Plums
2 Tbs melted (salted) butter
zest from 1/2 lemon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour & sugar in a bowl, then cut in the butter to make fine crumbs. Beat egg and egg yolk with vanilla, then add enough milk to make 1/2 cup liquid. Add liquid to the flour, mixing just enough to make the dough stick together. Don't overmix, or your kuchen will be tough.
Press dough into a pie dish, pushing up the edges just a bit.
Slice plums in half and remove the pit. Arrange plum halves, cut side up, on the kuchen dough. Overlapping is fine, or let a little dough show between the plums.
Drizzle with melted butter, then dust with lemon zest. Bake until the crust is golden and the fruit is soft, about 35 minutes. Serve warm, but don't forget to save some for the next day's lunchboxes.
All Blue Potatoes
This is a favorite potato at our house, both for flavor, and versatility. All Blue's make a moist, somewhat sticky, mashed potato, so leftovers are good for fried mashed potato pancakes. I enjoy them cut up, then boiled, and served with butter. And a pan of roasted All Blue's is a favorite after-school snack for my boys. This is the potato that is used commercially for "blue" potato chips.
Here are a couple of ideas using onions:
1. Make Caramelized onions: See this year's newsletters, Week 11. Step 1 of the Roasted Onion & Tomato Salad recipe gives instructions for making caramelized onions.
2. Make French Onion Soup
3. Pull your old deep fat fryer out of storage, and make onion rings (not very healthy, but oh, so delicious)!
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 15
In this box: 1 bunch Chard (from Groundwork Organics), 1# Orange or Yellow Sweet Italian Peppers, 1 box Red Cherry or Red Grape Tomatoes, 5 ears Corn, 2# Yellow Potatoes, 1 head Garlic, 1.5# Roma or Sweet Girl Tomatoes, 1 box French Petite or Italian Plums, 2# Concord Pears (from Gala Springs Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
There are over a thousand different varieties of pears in the world, though most of them do not find their way into commerce in this country. Most commercial pears here are varieties that have been grown for hundreds of years. Bartlet, d'Anjou, Comice, and Bosc are classics. The Concord pears in today's box are a relatively new introduction. The parents of this pear are Comice, which is widely grown in the Medford area of Oregon, and Conference, which is currently the most popular pear in France. One of the things we like best about Concord is that it can be enjoyed over a larger range of ripeness than most pears. Pears that are soft, buttery, and juicy are fantastic, but since they bruise easily at that stage, they can't be transported or handled like that. Concords can sit in a bowl on your table or counter until they reach that stage, but they are also very nice while still firm, or even crisp. They will keep for weeks in the fridge, but we like to leave them out so we don't forget about them. Try one tonight, and if it's too crisp for you, let the rest of them sit on the counter for a few more days.
Dried Roma or Sweet Girl Tomatoes
While you could make a quick batch of salsa, gazpacho, tomato sauce, or tomato salad from this week's Roma or Sweet Girl tomatoes, you could also try oven-drying them for a sweet treat. Any time I have a bowl of dried tomatoes on the countertop, they never seem to stay around very long.
Even though I have a food dehydrator, I have had better success drying tomatoes in the oven, as our dehydrator isn't quite warm enough to prevent mold from developing. Here's my technique for oven-dried tomatoes: rinse tomatoes and cut in half. Place cut-side up on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Since tomatoes are acidic, don't put them directly onto a metal baking sheet, as the tomatoes will corrode the metal. Even with this, my pans tend to get a little rusty under the parchment paper, so you don't want to use your best pans. Sprinkle very lightly with salt, and place in a very low oven-I use 190 - 210 degrees-for 12 to 18 hours. Check after 12 hours, and remove individual pieces as they become as dry as you want. It's OK to turn the oven off overnight, leaving the tomatoes in the oven. Then turn the oven on again in the morning. I've had some batches get too dry when I've left the oven on overnight. If you take them out of the oven when they are still a little moist and "squishy", they are great cut up into a pesto or mixed with roasted potatoes. At this stage, you will need to store them in the fridge, and use them within a week or two. If you leave them until they are more dry, but not quite crispy, they are a wonderful snack.
We are occasionally asked about genetically modified organisms (GMO's) in the food supply. In case you are not aware, organic farmers are not allowed to use genetically modified seeds, plants, animals or other organisms. So you don't need to worry about GMOs in anything from our farm. But because GMOs are in the news, and have become a political issue, we thought you might be interested in hearing our perspective of the bigger issue.
In the 1970's when Tom was studying vegetables at Cornell University, genetic engineering of crops was new, exciting, and receiving lots of funding. Proponents predicted that genetically modified crops would eliminate the need for nitrogen fertilizer, improve the nutritional value of crops, and eliminate famine by dramatically increasing yields. The promised yield increases over traditionally bred crops has not been achieved.
Much of the research since the 1970's has taken a different direction. Now, 35 years later, 2 kinds of modifications account for 90% of GMO crops. One allows crops to survive when sprayed with herbicides. The use of GMO herbicide-tolerant crops reduces weeding labor, but has greatly increased the amount of herbicides in the environment. The other modification took a gene from a bacterium that produces a defensive toxin, and incorporated that gene into the DNA of corn and potato plants. Now the corn and potatoes make this toxin in each cell so insects die from feeding on the leaves or roots.
The first GMO vegetable was the "flavor saver" tomato. Engineered to not soften when ripe, they could be imported from distant places with warm climates and cheap labor. After years of development and millions of dollars invested, the project was abandoned. Consumers would not buy the tomatoes that they knew had been genetically engineered.
Today, most non-organic processed foods contain some ingredients produced from GMO corn, soy, canola, potato, or cotton. We think that's a good reason to eat less processed food, and choose organic when possible.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 14
In this box: 2# Carrots, 1 bunch Kale, 3 Sweet Italian Peppers, 1 box Cherry Tomatoes, 1 box Grape Tomatoes, 1 Sweet Onion, 8 ears Corn, 1# Grapes, 2# Gala Apples (from Gala Springs Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Organic, seedless table grapes
We hope you have been enjoying the grapes in your box the past few weeks. Grapes are a fairly new crop for us, and we are happy to have plenty for our Harvest Box members this year! Grapes, olives, and figs are some of the oldest cultivated crops in the world. All of these food crops can be propagated by taking a branch from an established tree or vine, and planting it in a new place. This means that early civilizations in the Mediterranean region could take food crops with them when they moved to new areas, and these three crops are widely used in cuisine of many cultures.
You may notice that our grapes are smaller than what you typically find in the grocery store. Most commercial grapes, even organic grapes in the supermarket, are sprayed with a plant hormone to make them plump. We don't do that, preferring to have all the flavor concentrated in a smaller package.
Since we don't spray pesticides for the corn earworm, and we wouldn't dream of using genetically modified corn that has introduced pesticide genes into the corn seed, some of your corn may have earworms. Fortunately, corn earworms start at the tip of the ear, and grow slowly. If you peel back the tip of the husks, and see something you don't want to cook, you can cut off the tip and most of the edible portion of the ear remains untouched.
Cherry & Grape Tomatoes
This is a good week to appreciate the wide variety of colors, flavors, and textures of small tomatoes. We grow just a few of the hundreds of varieties of cherry and grape tomatoes that are available. Your box today should have a box of cherry tomatoes (our "jelly bean mix"), and a box of grape tomatoes in a variety of colors. Cherry tomatoes are more round than grape tomatoes, and tend to be juicier, whereas grape tomatoes are meatier, and also more durable. Yes, durable is an interesting word to describe a fruit, but for practical purposes, it's good to know that grape tomatoes hold up better in a lunchbox without splitting and becoming messy. Grape tomatoes are wonderful in a quick sauté, or skewered & cooked on the grill.
We find that taste is a very personal thing, so I can't tell you which color or variety you will like best. But I can tell you that they are all a little different-sample them all, and let us know your favorite!
Recipe ideas for Carrots:
Honey Glazed Carrots with fresh Mint (from Madison Area CSA Coalition: From Asparagus to Zucchini)
1-2 pounds carrots Salt & pepper
2 Tbs. butter 1-2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 Tbs. honey
Peel carrots and cut into evenly-sized rounds or sticks. Combine carrots, butter, honey, and 1/2 cup water in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to simmer and cook until carrots are tender and most of the liquid has reduced to a glaze, 10 - 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Sprinkle with mint and serve.
And a similar recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison that is a favorite with my kids:
Glazed Carrots with Mustard and Honey
1-2 lbs carrots, scrubbed or peeled
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs honey or light brown sugar
2 tsp. Stone Ground or Dijon mustard
Salt & freshly milled pepper
Cut carrots into disks or sticks, all similar size so they will cook evenly. Steam or boil until tender. In a medium skillet, melt the butter with the honey, then stir in the mustard and carrots and season with salt and plenty of pepper. Cook over medium heat for several minutes, until well coated and bubbling, then toss with chopped parsley and serve.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 13
In this box: 1 sweet onion, 1 bunch Italian Parsley, 1/2# Jimmy Nardelo Sweet Italian Peppers, 1# Heirloom Tomatoes, 2# potatoes, 6 ears Corn, 2# Carrots, 1 Eggplant (from Springhill Farm), 1 basket Grapes, (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Sweet Italian Peppers
The peppers in your box may look like hot peppers, but they're not! Sweet Italian Peppers come in many colors and sizes, but they are all long, and pointed on the end. Sweet Italian Peppers can be used raw or cooked, any way you would use a bell pepper. However, Italian Peppers tend to be somewhat less juicy, so (in my opinion) they are better than bell peppers in a saute. A traditional way to eat Italian Peppers is to cut them into rings and fry them in olive oil with a sweet onion until everything is caramelized. Then make a sandwich with the fried peppers & onions, a slice of Provolone cheese, and serve on crusty Italian bread.
Jimmy Nardelo Italian Peppers are an heirloom variety. The story goes that Jimmy Nardelo's mother brought seeds of this pepper with her from the Basilicata region of Southern Italy when she immigrated to Connecticut in the 1887. We continue the tradition by saving our own seed from the best fruits each year to plant the following season.
Eggplants are in the same botanical family as tomatoes and peppers. We aren't growing any eggplants on our farm this year, but Jamie at Springhill Organic Farm in Albany is, so we grabbed the opportunity to put eggplants in the box just this once. Wouldn't really feel like summer without eggplants at least once! Here is an eggplant idea (slightly modified) from Bon Appetit, July 2010: Grilled Summer Vegetables
Heat barbecue grill on high. Pour 2 Tbs. olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Slice eggplant (and any summer squash that you have on hand) into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Place eggplant or summer squash rounds on the oiled baking sheet, turning to coat both sides. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill vegetables until charred in spots and tender in the center, turning occasionally (about 10 minutes). Return grilled vegetables to the oiled baking sheet to cool. Dressing: combine 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp. salt. Toss grilled vegetables with dressing.
As long as you have the grill hot, here's my favorite way to cook corn: Preheat barbecue on high. Turn burners down to medium. Place whole ears of corn, with the husks still on, on the grill for 20 minutes, turning over after 10 minutes. ***Because we don't use any pesticides, corn earworms are occasionally found at the top of the ear. Peel back a bit of the husk, and cut the tip off before cooking if there's anything there that you don't want to eat.
Salsa Verde- the best thing you could do to a bunch of Italian Parsley (according to Steve)
Steve has helped us at the Corvallis Farmers Markets for years. He is a real fan of Parslty. Here is his variation of a recipe for Salsa Verde from Alice Waters. Steve says, "I don't measure - so these amounts are approximate or can be adapted to your tastes. The final Salsa Verde is intense stuff, garlicky, salty, oily, and yummy. It is great on crusty bread, fish, potatoes (grilled, roasted or mashed), etc..... This makes enough for 4 people as a condiment."
Ingredients: 1 Bunch Italian Parsley, just the top 4-8 inches, finely chopped.
1/2 bulb of garlic pounded or pressed into a pulp.
about 1/2 tsp coarse salt (more or less to taste)
About 1/2 cup good olive oil.
Fresh pepper to taste.
Optional additions: Anchovy Paste, smashed anchovy, or fish sauce.
Lemon zest and or a little lemon juice
What to do: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, or food processor. Mix well, and taste for salt. Let sauce sit for a while to develop the flavors.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 12
In this box: 1 head lettuce, 1 bunch Basil, 1 head Garlic, 6 Italian Peppers-the perfect size for dipping hummus or filling with creamy goat cheese!, 6 ears Corn!!!, 1# Heirloom Tomatoes, 1 basket cherry or grape tomatoes, 1 basket Blackberries
OR Strawberries, 1 basket Grapes (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
On the farm this week
There's a bit of a quieter pace on the farm now that August has arrived. The days are noticeably shorter than they were in June (we're nearly 2 months past the solstice), and the frantic harvesting of berries and tomatoes has actually slowed down. We target the early season for the peak of our tomato harvest, so that we can get a jump ahead of the abundance of home garden produce, and offer our Harvest Box members something other than greens in the early weeks of the season.
Now, though we're still harvesting tomatoes every day, the peak of our tomatoes has passed. Our crew has been putting in relentlessly long days, so we're all a little relieved when darkness comes earlier, and we just have to quit for the day.
On the farm, our harvesting focus has shifted from tomatoes to ripe peppers. We grow a wide variety of peppers, mostly sweet bell peppers and sweet Italian peppers; plus a few varieties of hot peppers. Today, your box has orange sweet Italian peppers. Enjoy them raw or cooked-they're great either way.
This week, another late summer task was removing the bird netting from the cherry orchard. This is a huge undertaking, as our cherry trees are about 20 feet high, and one huge net covers the entire acre of orchard. It's a delicate operation, to remove the bird netting without damaging the trees, or the netting. We hope to re-use the same netting for several years, as without bird netting, we wouldn't get a cherry crop-the birds always seem to get to the cherries just before we consider them ripe enough to pick.
Seedless Table Grapes
Today some of you will get Thomcord (blue) grapes, some will get Jupiter (blue) and some will get Canadice (pink) grapes. Thomcord was bred in California by crossing Thompson Seedless (Vitis vinifera) with Concord (Vitis labrusca). Canadice was bred in Geneva, NY, and also has both species in its ancestry, and Jupiter was developed at the Univ of Arkansas. V. vinifera grapes are what they grow in France, and California. V. labrusca grapes are native American grapes-the best known of which is Concord. When the two species are crossed the resulting grapevine has more disease resistance than the parents. Because we don't use any pesticides, Tom planted mostly this kind of disease-resistant grapes. And, we planted mostly seedless table grapes because it's so nice to just pop them into your mouth and not worry about seeds!
I'm always thrilled when a Harvest Box member or Farmers Market customer shares a favorite recipe, especially when it's simple, and uses mostly ingredients that we have here on the farm (and in your box this week). Here's a recipe from John & Pamela. They say it's very popular with their kids:
1 box cherry or grape tomatoes,
1 bunch basil,
1 - 2 cloves minced garlic,
1 pound pasta, cooked al dente
1. Rinse & cut tomatoes into halves or quarters, depending on size. Place in a large serving bowl.
2. Coarsely chop 1 bunch basil and add to bowl, along with a fair amount of olive oil.
3. Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a pan. Add minced garlic. Warm the garlic for a minute to take the edge off.
4. Toss everything together. Add a little salt and pepper to taste, and enough olive oil until things seem well sauced, and scoop over al dente thin spaghetti.
This dish can be eaten at a range of temperatures (room temp to hot) depending on weather/mood.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 11
In this box: 1/2# Salad Mix, 1# Carrots, 2# Sweet Girl Tomatoes, 2# Red Gold potatoes (great for potato salad!), 1 sweet onion, 1# Summer Squash (Try thin sliced zucchini on pizza), 1 bunch Kale, 1 large basket Blackberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Please put your salad mix directly in the fridge, and eat it in the next day or two. Salad mix doesn't keep nearly as long as a head of lettuce. And, though we rinse our lettuce & salad mix before we pack it for you, always good to rinse again before eating.
Sweet girl Tomatoes
The rest of the newsletter will be devoted to a couple of recipes that I can't stop making with our Sweet Girl tomatoes. You don't need to pay too much attention to quantities, or even oven temperatures-both recipes are very forgiving, and cooking times will just be longer at lower oven temp. In the first recipe, the onions are roasted; the tomatoes are raw. The second recipe features roasted tomatoes.
Roasted Onion and Tomato Salad (inspired by Cooking with Caprial)
1. Roast a sweet onion: Melt2 Tbs butter or olive oil in a large oven-proof sauté pan. Add a large sweet onion, sliced thinly. Stir to coat with oil. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions start to brown. Then add 1 Tbs. red wine or cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper. Stir well. Then place sauté pan (uncovered) in a 375-degree oven for 20 - 30 minutes until the onions start to turn a little brown, and the juices have evaporated. (If you have an extra onion in the house, feel free to double this recipe. Caramelized onions are a delicious treat all by themselves if you have more than you need for the tomato salad)
2. Cut 2# tomatoes into wedges and place a large bowl. Add cooled, caramelized onions.
3. Combine 2 Tbs. red wine or balsamic vinegar with 6 Tbs. olive oil. Toss with onions and tomatoes.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.
Again, I find myself turning on the oven during the hottest part of the summer-but roasted tomatoes are so worth it! I just station a fan at the entrance to my kitchen, and keep the air moving as I work. It's not so bad, and at least we only get occasional days in the high 90's.
Sweet Girl tomatoes are such a delightful size for roasting, and their flavor develops into something extraordinary with a little time in the oven. Here's the basic recipe for roasting tomatoes, and a few of my favorite variations-one as an appetizer (or side dish), the second for a sauce.
Baked tomatoes with pesto (or cheese)
Cut sweet girl tomatoes in half and place, cut side up, in a large, deep roasting pan. You can crowd them, because they will shrink as they cook, but keep it to one layer. Pour 2 Tbs. olive oil into the pan, on top of and between the tomatoes, and shake to distribute. Roast tomatoes in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes, then remove pan. Add a spoonful of pesto or a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese to the top of each tomato half, and return to oven for another 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have slumped, and most of the juice has evaporated.
Roasted Tomatoes for sauce
To transform sweet girl tomatoes into a richly flavored tomato sauce, cut tomatoes in half and place, cut side down, in a deep roasting pan. Cook in a moderate oven until they are slumped, and the juices have caramelized. You want to take them out just before the juices burn onto the pan. This could take 1 hour or longer at 375 degrees, or 2-3 hours at 250 degrees. At the lower temperature, you have more flexibility in the right moment to pull them out before the caramelized juices burn onto your pan. Then scrape all the tomatoes & caramelized juices into your food processor, and process until smooth. Add salt to taste. This makes a most amazing pasta sauce or spread for toast!
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 10
In this box: 1 basket Red Cherry tomatoes, 1 red onion, 1.5# Sweet Girl tomatoes, 1 bunch Basil, *Sweet Tomato-Basil Sauce: simmer sweet girl tomatoes until soft. Pass through a food mill to get rid of skins. Return to stovetop, add 1 tsp salt, 2 Tbs olive oil, and 1 bunch chopped basil. Continue to simmer until sauce has thickened. , 1# Tomatillos, 1 handful Jalapeno peppers, 1 bunch Radish, 1 basket Blackberries, 1 basket Strawberries (weights are approx.)Everything is Organic!
Salsa is not part of my food heritage. I grew up in Central Ohio in the 1970’s; my mother’s family is from Vemont, and spicy foods just never appeared on our table. I never even saw an avocado until I was in my late teens. I have learned a lot about the versatility and wonderful variety of salsas in years since I met Tom & became totally committed to eating a local, seasonal diet.
Tomatillos have the advantage of being edible over a wide range of ripeness. Your bag of tomatillos may have some that are very green, and some that are starting to turn yellow. You can make a wonderful salsa out of any or all of them. The more yellowish ones have a slightly sweeter flavor, but the green ones are ready to eat as well.
Important note: remove the papery husk before cooking with tomatillos. The husk is not edible.
Celia, who grew up in Michoacan, Mexico, has worked on our farm for the past 20 years. She’s my favorite resource for all kinds of salsa recipes. She says her favorite tomatillo salsa starts by toasting whole tomatillos in a dry skillet, then chopping them finely, adding a little finely minced jalapeno pepper, a little minced raw garlic, and a bit of salt. I tried it, and can verify—simple, and delicious. I used a dry, cast iron skillet on medium heat to toast the tomatillos. It was a little tricky to toast them evenly, because they kept rolling in the skillet. Next time, I might fire up the grill, & put the tomatillos on skewers so I could toast them evenly around all sides. I don’t think it really matters if your tomatillos are toasted unevenly, just get them a little browned on several sides—any amount of toasting really brings out the flavor. After they are cool, chop finely, and add jalapeno, garlic, and salt to taste. Serve with chips, or over fish, or over rice, or in a taco, or….
Jalapenos: WARNING: The juice of hot peppers is very irritating to eyes & tender skin. Be careful what you touch after handling them, or wear rubber gloves.
I’m not a huge fan of hot peppers, so a little jalapeno goes a long way in my kitchen. But I love to have roasted jalapenos in the freezer to use a little bit at a time throughout the year. First put on rubber gloves, then cut peppers in half, take out the seeds, and place pepper halves skin-side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Char them under the broiler. When cool, put on gloves again, remove skins, and seal in a freezer container, label them. Store in the freezer.
Here’s our favorite recipe when we have a lot of jalapenos:
1. Vegetarian version: Slice Jalapenos in half the long way. Wearing gloves, remove the seeds with a spoon, so what remains looks like a little boat. Fill with a mixture of refried beans and cream cheese. Top with a slice of sharp cheddar and place in a 350-degree oven for 20 – 30 minutes. If the cheese is not yet bubbly, turn on the broiler until the cheese browns and melts a bit. Serve warm for an exciting snack or appetizer.
2. Definitely Not Vegetarian: Follow recipe as above, filling jalapeno halves with refried beans (or mashed potatoes). Wrap half a slice of bacon over the top of the filled peppers, and secure with a toothpick. Place on a wire rack above a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until the bacon is crispy, 30 – 40 minutes.
3. Savory & Sweet version: Slice jalapenos in half & scoop out the seeds as above. Then drizzle half a spoonful of maple syrup in each pepper half, fill with cream cheese (or Neufchatel cheese for a lower-fat version). Cut a strip of bacon in half, wrap around each piece of filled pepper, and secure with a toothpick. Place on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet to allow bacon to crisp on all sides. Bake at 375 degrees until bacon is crisp on all sides (30 – 40 minutes depending on the thickness of your bacon and size of the peppers).
Second payment due
If you paid half of the membership fee at the beginning of the season, your second payment was due August 1st.
At the end of this week, we will mail reminders to anyone who hasn’t yet paid.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014 Week 9
In this box: 1 bu Carrots, 1 bunch Italian Parsley (Need a parsley idea? Look up recipes for chimichurri on the Internet), 1 head Garlic, 1 bx Red Cherry Tomatoes, 1 bx Cherry Tomato Mix, 3/4# Romano Green Beans OR 1# Summer Squash, 2# Butterball Potatoes- these are wonderful for roasting, hashed browns, or mashing, 1 basket Blackberries, 1 basket Strawberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Plans and flexibility
In past years, this would have been the week to find fresh figs in your harvest box. However, our fig orchard nearly died last December when the temperatures dropped to 2-degrees on our farm. In the 36 years since Tom started farming in Corvallis, that's the coldest it's ever been here. We crossed our fingers, and waited for spring to see if the fig trees would leaf out. But all the buds that should have produced green leaves and this year's figs are dead.
Fortunately, our blackberries and strawberries survived the cold winter, so we still have fruit for you this week. And, due to the amazing resilience of fig trees, many of the trees that looked dead have sprouted new branches from the roots. We can hope for figs again next year.
Romano Green Beans
Our members in Salem and Albany will find Romano Green Beans in today's box. We hope to have beans for our Corvallis members next week. In my dreams, we would have picked enough Romano beans for all the boxes, but the plants just aren't cooperating this week. We even tried to get some Romano beans from Groundwork Organic Farm, but Gabe's bean harvest was small as well-so we are practicing flexibility, and will put summer squash in our Corvallis boxes today.
Here's what you should know about Romano green beans: They can be used any way you would use a standard green bean, but they are more tender (and we think have much better flavor) than regular green beans. Since they are more tender, you want to be careful not to overcook them. We suggest steaming them for just 2-3 minutes, then serve with a little butter. As you prepare them for the steamer, snap (don't cut) each bean into bite-sized pieces. Occasionally you will come across a bean that doesn't snap because it's too mature. Toss those few in the compost (or juicer, or soup stock pot), as that one will be tough and stringy.
I've been eating a lot of parsley this week-I like to fill my salad bowl with chopped parsley, add a bunch of sliced tomatoes, & maybe some thin slices of sweet onion, top it with a big spoonful of hummus, and then drizzle with extra olive oil to turn the hummus into the consistency of dressing (rather than a dip). Add some leftover cooked rice or other cooked grain for a complete meal.
Here's a recipe for a vegan, gluten-free dinner salad:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
Bring quinoa, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 1/4 cup water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 more minutes. Fluff with a fork. Meanwhile, in the serving bowl, whisk lemon juice and garlic. Whisk in olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add parsley, and sweet onion. Toss gently. Add quinoa. Mix thoroughly, & chill.
Second payment due
If you paid half of the membership fee at the beginning of the season, your second payment is due August 1st.
Since most people remember to send their payment in without a formal reminder, we usually wait until after August 1st to send invoices to those who still have a balance due.
If you can't remember whether or not you have a balance due on your membership, please drop me an email, and I can check whether or not you have paid in full. For those of you joining at the beginning of the season, your balance due is probably $286. Some members who started after the first box may have a different payment amount. Send me an email, and I can look it up.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014 Week 8
In this box: 1 Romaine Lettuce, 1 bu Carrots, 1 bunch Kale, 1 Sweet Onion, 1 box Artisan Tomatoes, 2# Sweet Girl Tomatoes, 2# Purple Potatoes, 1 basket Blueberries (from Groundwork Organic Farm), 1 basket Beauty Plums OR 1 basket Blackberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Today you will be getting some unusual cherry or mini roma tomatoes in your box. Tom is always looking for great vegetables or fruits that might grow well for us. Last winter he discovered the Artisan Tomato series from Artisan Seeds. Artisan Seeds is a branch of Baia Nicchia Farm in Sunol California. This series of cherry and mini roma tomatoes all look like they were tie-dyed, and taste very good. The seeds for these tomatoes are not hybrids, (and definitely not GMO), but were produced via traditional breeding methods. A grower could plant the seeds from these tomatoes and they will breed true. We have enjoyed eating the different kinds, and they have been popular at our farmers markets, so we are happy to have enough yield to put some in our harvest boxes this week. We have several kinds from this series, so you won't all get the same thing, but likely will get a chance to taste them all before the season is over.
Here's the recipe that was such a hit at our Harvest Box Farm party. It's a delicious dip for crackers or carrot sticks, delicious spread on slices of tomato, or in a sandwich. The secret ingredient? Kale.
The original recipe from which I take my inspiration was Collard & Pecan Pesto Bon Apetit, Oct. 2013.
1. Slice 1 large bunch of kale (or collards) into ribbons. Steam for 5 minutes. Drain. Cool to room temperature.
2. Blend cooled greens in a food processor with:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup toasted nuts or nut butter (I used salted cashew butter, but you can also use hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, or sesame tahini)
- 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar.
My other favorite recipe for Kale: Hot & Sour Greens (adapted from Andrew Weil, 8 Weeks to Optimum Health)
1 bunch greens (chard, collards, kale, bok choy, or any other greens)
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash of red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar (optional)
Rinse and slice greens in 1/2 inch shreds. Heat oil, stir-fry garlic and pepper flakes 1 minute.
Add greens and mustard powder. Stir to coat greens with garlic and oil. Combine rice vinegar, soy sauce, and (optional) sugar. Add to skillet. Cook, covered, over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
And, last but not least, my recommendation for Purple Viking Potatoes.... Definitely some kind of potato salad. You can scroll down to find my favorite recipe in this year's Week 3 newsletter: Simple Potato Salad.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 7
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 1 bu Basil, 1 bu Carrots, 1 or 2 Cucumbers, 1 box Grape Tomatoes, 1 bx Cherry Tomatoes, 2# Butterball Potatoes, 1.5# Zucchini, 1 basket Beauty Plums (weights are approx.)
Everything is Organic!
When Tom moved to this farm in 1990, there were no orchards, as the farm had been growing hay and row crops. That first year, he planted a small cherry orchard-the fruits of which you tasted a few weeks ago. I met Tom in 1995, and that year we planted about 30 plum trees. The following spring, we were married in the plum orchard when the trees were in bloom. Our plums always taste a little extra sweet to me because of that association. These plums are a variety called "Beauty". They are very juicy!
One of the fun things about being a farmer is the challenge to cook with whatever Tom brings into the kitchen. Sometimes I read cooking magazines for inspiration, and occasionally I sit at the computer and scan food blogs. Last week, I found myself reading deeper and deeper into foodloveswriting.com. I got there by searching for something to do with a bunch of tarragon. I was inspired by the suggestion to make pesto with a little more olive oil than usual, and use it for a most delicious salad dressing (foodloveswriting.com/2013/03/26/lemon-tarragon-pesto-dressing/). More recently, a friend sent me searching through peachesplease.com for the recipe for chilled tomato soup with Tabasco granita. Caution, reading food blogs can be addictive!
Tom's vote for his favorite food blog is cookingwithrosetta.com. The author is a native of the Calabria region in Italy, who has been living and teaching her cuisine in Oakland, CA for years. There are some mouthwatering recipes for zucchini, tomatoes, basil, and more esoteric ingredients on her blog. Makes me feel like I'm in Italy-I guess that's a new version of armchair travel.
More ways to use Basil
1. Layer basil leaves instead of lettuce on a sandwich,
2. Make pesto (see Newsletter Week 5), and add to mashed potatoes,
3. Spread pesto on pizza crust before baking,
4. Make extra pesto, and freeze in an old ice cube tray for single-serving portions all winter.
5. Add pesto to soup, stew, or spaghetti sauce all year long. Especially nice with a potato, zucchini, and white bean soup. STart with 1/4 cup pesto, and add more to taste.
Grape Tomates & Cherry Tomatoes
Today's box has both grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes-in a variety of colors. We affectionately call the mixed cherry tomatoes our "jelly bean" mix. Cherry tomatoes tend to be juicier, and grape tomatoes more "meaty". This makes grape tomatoes more durable if you're packing a lunchbox. Grape tomatoes are my first choice on shish kebob skewers or in a sauté-for example they would be ideal for the recipe in last week's newsletter: Sautéed Zucchini, Basil, Cherry Tomatoes, and Olives.
Ideas for using the jelly bean cherry tomatoes? I suggest sitting in the shade, and eating one after the other to discover your favorite variety!
German Butterball Potatoes-these are great for baking, roasting, mashing, or hash browns! Really, a great potato for so many things. The only caution I have is don't cut them up and boil them, or they will fall apart.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 6
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 1 Sweet Onion, 1 or 2 Cucumbers, 1# Salad (small) Tomatoes, 1 bx Cherry Tomatoes, 2# Red Potatoes, 2 or 3 Zucchini, 1 basket Blackberries, 1 basket Strawberries OR Beauty Plums (weights are approx.)
Everything is Organic!
In the early 80's Tom grew a LOT of zucchini. The farm was less diverse then, and zucchini was one of his primary crops. Back then, there were lots of local family-owned grocery stores (now all extinct). Tom would load up his old 1964 Chevrolet flat-bed truck, and deliver boxes of zucchini to individual grocery stores between Eugene and Portland. We've since sold the '64 Chevy in favor of more reliable transportation.
Zucchini are famous for growing quickly. The only way to have small, uniform-sized zucchini is to harvest 7 days a week. Zucchini plants have a very strong drive to reproduce. If you pick every day, when the zucchini are small, the plant will continually set more and more fruits-from June through September. However, if you miss one zucchini, it will quickly grow to the size of your leg (and if left long enough, will develop a hard shell and mature seeds and start to look like an oblong pumpkin). As the seeds in this behemoth squash mature, they send a signal to the rest of the plant, and it stops producing more fruits. We pick our zucchini every day, so that the plants will keep setting more fruit through the summer.
There are many different varieties of summer squash-green zucchini being the most common. All the different varieties are interchangeable in the kitchen, whether you slice & eat yours raw in a salad, drizzle with marinade & toss on the grill, or throw it in a sauté pan. In your box today, you may have the classic green zucchini, or "white" (really pale green) zucchini, gold-skinned zucchini, or the delightful patty pan squash, shaped like a flying saucer.
Here's a new recipe from Maggie (our Corvallis Harvest Box driver, and friendly face at the Salem Wednesday Market). She says: "I've eaten this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.... Anyone I've shared it with has raved at how the combination of tastes are so distinguishable yet blend in a way that is pleasing to the palate". I call it Maggie's Summer Squash Scramble:
Ingredients: Zucchini, Onion, Basil, Garlic, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper, Cheese (I prefer Parmesan for this but have used several other kinds and they all taste great in this dish!)
Instructions: Cut zucchini the long way into thin strips. Dice the onion. Have the basil ready to be cut (with scissors) as the dish cooks. Grate the cheese. Chop garlic or use garlic press.
In a skillet brown the onion and garlic. Add zukes to the pan and let them brown as well. When you notice the zukes are getting tender and semi soft, use the scissors and cut the basil over the pan. I usually cut about half the bunch each time I make this dish. Once the basil has been added and you've cooked everything to your desired texture, turn off the heat, add the cheese and place a lid on the skillet to let the cheese melt. Then you're ready to serve it!
And, another great recipe:
Sauteed Zucchini, Basil, Cherry Tomatoes, and Olives
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1/2 -inch thick slices
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups small cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup halved pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add zucchini, garlic, and rosemary. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Saute until zucchini is just tender, about 5 min.Add tomatoes and olives. Saute until tomatoes just begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
Mix in basil and vinegar. Season vegetables to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl.
Makes 6 servings. From Bon Appetit, September 2007.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 5
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 1 bunch Italian Parsley, 1 bunch Basil, 1 Cabbage (from Groundwork Farm), 1 head garlic, 1# Salad (small) Tomatoes, 1 bx Red Grape Tomatoes, 1 basket Raspberries, 1 basket Strawberries OR Gold Raspberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Storage Tip: Cherry and Grape Tomatoes
Don’t rinse cherry tomatoes until just before you eat them, or the skins will crack.
Grape tomatoes are a little meatier than cherry tomatoes (less juicy). They travel better in a lunchbox, and are less perishable.
Today’s cabbage is from our friends, Gabe & Sophie, at Groundwork Organic Farm. Gabe worked on our farm for a number of years before starting his own farm in Junction City. There were some slugs around the bottom of the head I cooked today. You can get rid of them by cutting off the bottom, and removing the first few outer leaves.
One of my favorite ways to cook cabbage is in a stir-fry, with a soy sauce/rice vinegar flavoring. Here’s a quick recipe (loosely adapted from Andrew Weil’s book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, with inspiration from Molly’s Mu Shu Cabbage recipe (see Last Year’s Newsletters Week 23)
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
(optional ½ tsp. toasted sesame oil)
Shred ½ small head of cabbage. Heat oil in a large skillet, stir-fry garlic 1 minute. Add shredded cabbage, and stir-fry for 3 minutes on medium-high heat. Combine rice vinegar, soy sauce, and (optional) sesame oil. Add to skillet. Cover, and cook over medium heat for about 3 more minutes. Top with ribbons of fried egg for a complete meal.
Revered by ancient Romans, Italian Parsley has been used as a vegetable in the Mediterranean regions for centuries. Nutritionally, it is very high in vitamins A & C, and iron. Parsley is an essential ingredient in Tabbouleh (a summer salad of parsley, tomatoes, olive oil, & lemon juice). Traditional tabbouleh is made with bulgur wheat, but I find Quinoa is an excellent substitute for gluten-free diets. Last Year’s Newsletters, Week 1 has a recipe for Quinoa Summer Salad if you would like specific quantities for the ingredients & dressing.
Parsley is also a great addition to pesto--
The most important note about basil is Don’t store it in the refrigerator! Most refrigerators are way too cold for basil, and the leaves will turn black. Best to store it on the counter, loosely covered with a plastic bag. Or, better yet, turn it into pesto for a quick dinner tonight or tomorrow.
Blend in a food processor or blender until finely chopped:
1 clove garlic (mince it first for best results)
1/2 tsp salt
1 bunch basil leaves and tender stems (no need to waste the stems!) OR 1 bu Basil & ½ bunch Parsley
(chop first for best results, then add to blender or processor)
Blend until everything is finely chopped, then add:
½ cup nuts (pine nuts are so expensive, but we’ve had excellent results using sunflower seeds, cashews, or walnuts. It’s extra nice if the nuts are toasted first)
Process until well blended. Then while the blender or processor is on, slowly add:
1/2-2/3 cup olive oil, until you hear a change in the tone of the motor and the pesto turns creamy.
Fold in ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Mix gently into 1 pound of hot cooked pasta. (If you want a vegan version, omit the cheese and use a little more salt and nuts).
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 4
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 1 bunch Radish, 1 bunch Spinach, 1 bunch Green Kale, 2# German Butterball Potatoes, 1 Cucumber, 1 box Sungold Tomatoes, 1 basket Raspberries, 1 basket Strawberries OR Gold Raspberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Notes from the Farm: Box Shortage Alert
Please return your empty Harvest Box tub every week. We have a severe box shortage in the packing shed, and need to keep all our boxes in circulation. Thank you.
Kale is closely related to broccoli, cabbage, radishes, and collards. Twenty years ago, the largest consumer of kale was Pizza Hut Restaurants, who used it to decorate their salad bar. Times have certainly changed, and Kale is no longer just used as decoration. It has always been one of the most nutritious vegetables, but recently has been enjoying such an increase in popularity that seed shortages plagued gardeners and farmers this season. The rapid increase in kale consumption has frightened the broccoli lobby into attacking kale with humorous adds with statements like "Broccoli, it's 50% less pretentious than Kale." Kale sales at the farmers markets are running 3 or 4 times higher than they were a couple of years ago. So what is driving all this kale consumption? While food fashions come and go, ample evidence exists that diets containing fresh leafy greens like kale help ward off many health problems.
There are lots of different ways to use kale. Last night, Tom took a bunch of coarsely chopped kale, and steamed it for dinner: put chopped kale into a large pot with about 1/2" of salted water in the bottom. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once steam starts escaping strongly from under the lid, turn off the heat, and leave the pot on the hot burner for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, serve kale by itself, drizzle with a vinaigrette salad dressing, or top with a dollop of hummus. Although our boys sometimes eat kale cooked this way, they always eat it chopped very finely and hidden in slow-cooked chili or spaghetti sauce.
Part of the increasing popularity of kale is the rise of Kale Chips as a "healthy" snack food. We sell thousands of pounds of kale to Pacific Northwest Kale Chips in Portland. They season it and dehydrate it into several different tasty flavors, then distribute their product to grocery stores throughout the Northwest. If you want to try kale chips, we (of course) recommend Pacific Northwest Kale Chips, because they use our kale.
Radishes can be eaten either raw or cooked. Cooking will tone down their spicy hotness. Try them in a sauté! I start with olive oil in a hot pan, then stir-fry sliced radishes for 3 minutes, season with a hearty dash of tamari (soy sauce), then continue to stir-fry until the tamari becomes slightly caramelized.
Member's Day on the Farm
This Sunday, June 29th
From 2-6 pm
Farm tour at 3, Potluck at 5
Come for all or part of the afternoon
Bring walking shoes for the farm tour, and a blanket or lawn chair for relaxing. If you're staying for the potluck, please bring a dish to share, and it's helpful if you bring your own plates & cutlery.
We will provide berry soda again this year.
You are welcome to drop in at any time between 2 & 6 pm to see the farm,
or just sit in the shade and enjoy the good company of other Harvest Box members.
Directions to the farm: Our address is 1835 NE Steele Ave. Steele Avenue is on Hwy 20, 4 miles north of Corvallis (and 7 miles south of Albany). Turn onto Steele across from the Children's Farm Home, and follow Steele to the end of the road.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 3
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 3-4 Cucumbers, 1 bunch Carrots, 1 bunch Basil, 1 Sweet onion, 2# New Potatoes, 1# Zucchini, 1 basket Raspberries, 1 basket Strawberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Just so you know, we don’t use any pesticides on our farm. The Environmental Working Group has published a list of “conventionally grown” fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues. Strawberries, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes are all on their “dirty dozen list”. Lettuce was ranked #15.
Thank you for choosing Organic. We think it’s better for you, and better for the planet.
Cucumbers (and also tomatoes and zucchini) don’t like to be cold. In the spring, they must be either protected from freezing weather or planted only after the risk of frost has passed. On our farm, we plant cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes in hoop houses to protect them from frost, and so that we can harvest them as early as possible in the season. I’m thrilled when the first cucumbers come into my kitchen—because cucumbers are one of the things I only eat when they are in season and local.
These same crops don’t like to be stored in the refrigerator—it’s way too cold in there! Cucumbers & zucchini are happiest above 50 degrees. Tomatoes store best at room temperature—the refrigerator ruins their flavor. However, cucumbers have thin skin, and lose moisture if they sit on the countertop. Losing just a little bit of moisture through their thin skins makes cucumbers soft. For this reason nearly all cucumbers in the grocery store (even organic ones) get coated with a wax before they are shipped to keep them from losing moisture. English cucumbers are generally wrapped in plastic for the same reason.
We store our cucumbers on the counter, where they get a little soft, but they taste great. I suggest eating your cucumbers within a day or two, or cover loosely with a plastic bag on the counter to keep the moisture in. You can store cucumbers in the fridge, if they will be eaten immediately after they come out of refrigeration, but they won’t taste as good as ones that have never been in the fridge.
Purple Viking potatoes
Potatoes come in such a wide variety of textures, flavors, and colors. We can’t promise a new variety every week, but so far this season, we’ve given you a different kind each week. This week’s potato is Purple Viking. It has vibrant purple skin and creamy white flesh. Purple Viking is my favorite kind for potato salad, and also makes delicious mashed potatoes, especially if you like your mashed potatoes moist & creamy. Here’s my favorite potato salad recipe.
Simple Potato Salad
1. Finely chop ½ a mild onion, place in bowl.
2. Cover with good olive oil and rice vinegar (use about twice as much olive oil as vinegar). Add 1 Tbs. capers (optional), or ½ tsp mustard.
3. Scrub, but don’t peel 2 lbs. new potatoes. Cut into bite-sized chunks.
4. Cover potatoes with water, add 1 tsp. salt. Boil for 10 minutes or until soft.
5. Drain potatoes and add to onions. Stir gently. Cool 10 minutes. Serve warm or chilled.
When Tom was in college, studying vegetable production, one assignment was to calculate the nutritional content of a diet that consisted of 12-pounds per day of potatoes—which is what most people in Ireland, and many people in the rest of Europe were eating before the potato famine. Incredible as it may seem, a person could get nearly all their nutritional, protein & caloric needs met (except for Vitamin A & B12) with this diet. The Irish obtained the rest of the necessary nutrients (including Vitamin A) from dairy products, and they fed their cows the cull potatoes. Wow, I have a new respect for potatoes!
Rain or Shine, this year’s Member’s Day on the Farm
Sunday, June 29th
From 2-6 pm
Farm tour at 3, Potluck at 5
Come for all or part of the afternoon
Bring walking shoes, and a blanket or lawn chair for relaxing. If you’re staying for the potluck, please bring a dish to share, and your own plates & cutlery.
We will make berry soda again this year.
(Directions to the farm in next week’s newsletter)
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014: Week 2
In this box: , 1/2# Spinach, 1 bunch Carrots, ¾# Broccoli, 1 Fresh Garlic, 2# New Potatoes (Gold), 1 bunch Garlic tops, 1.5# Fava Beans, 1 basket Raspberries, 1 basket Cherries, (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Correction to last week’s newsletter: Potato Storage
I forgot to mention that new potatoes should be stored in a plastic bag inside a paper bag.
New potatoes keep best in the refrigerator; and don’t forget to write the date & kind of potato
on the bag.
The date has been chosen: This year’s Member’s Day on the Farm
Sunday, June 29th, From 2-6 pm
Farm tour at 3, Potluck at 5
Come for all or part of the afternoon
Broccoli should never be overcooked.
Harvest Box member, Pamela, suggests blanching for reliably good results.
To blanch, lower broccoli into boiling water, or place in a steamer over boiling water for just 3 minutes. You want to catch it when the color turns from dull green to bright green. Then plunge into ice water to halt the cooking process. Cooked this way, the broccoli stays crisp.
The ground got a little dry, so some of our potatoes didn't clean up in our root washer. Soak in a bowl of water for 10 minutes, then scrub to clean them.
Garlic tops can be cooked any way you might cook asparagus. The texture is similar to asparagus, but the flavor tastes mildly of garlic. We like to snap them into bite-sized pieces, then stir-fry in olive oil until they are soft, or slightly browned. Garlic tops can also be steamed until tender, and served with a touch of butter.
Most recipes start by taking the beans out of the pods. This is easily done by snapping the pod at each bean and popping the beans out. Either toss the pods in your compost, or see below for a recipe that uses them.
Next, blanch the beans for 3 minutes. Plunge into ice water to chill quickly. Many recipes instruct you to pop the inner bean out of its skin after blanching, then add the inner bean to a soup or sauté. This step, however, is not essential. If you don’t mind a little extra texture in your diet, there is really no need to take the outer skin off the bean. You can taste a bean or two after blanching and see if you want to take the extra effort to pop off the outer skins. If you do peel them, you get a milder flavor and more tender bean, if you leave the peels on, you get a more chewy texture, but the beans hold their shape better in the final dish. Note: this information is relevant only for favas from Denison Farms. There are many different varieties of fava beans, and some other farms grow varieties with tough, bitter skin.
Edamame-style Fava Beans: Blanch, but don’t remove skins. Serve blanched fava beans in a small dish, with a touch of salt. Take one bean at a time, and pop it out of the skin directly into your mouth. Discard the skin. This presentation is especially popular with my youngest son.
Fava Beans with Yogurt and Lemon
1. Heat 2 Tbs olive oil over moderate heat in a frypan until the oil shimmers.
2. Add 1 cup blanched, peeled fava beans and 1 clove garlic, sliced. Sauté for 3 minutes.
3. Prepare dressing: whisk together 1 Tbs olive oil, zest and juice from ½ lemon, and a pinch of salt.
4. Toss sautéed favas with lemon dressing and cool for 5 minutes.
5. Gently fold in ¼ cup yogurt and a generous handful of fresh dill, basil, or parsley.
Using Fava pods: The fava pods in your box today are also nice cooked—either by themselves (because you used the beans already), or use the whole pod with beans inside—just break off & strip away the strings on the sides of the pod. Please note: We grow a fava bean that has a nice tasting pod. Don’t assume favas from the grocery store will taste as good. Here’s our favorite way to prepare fava pods:
Mediterranean Fava Bean Sauté
Sauté lots of garlic (and onion if you have it) in a generous amount of olive oil until soft. Snap off the top, and pull strings off fava pods. Cut into ¼” inch lengths, and add to the sautéed garlic. Stir-fry for 3 minutes, then add 6 oz. tomato paste, ½ cup water, and ¼ tsp. salt. [Optional: add a handful of dill, parsley, or basil, if available]. Cover and simmer until the beans are tender (about 10 minutes) and the sauce thickens.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2014 Week 1
In this box: 1/2# spinach, 1 bunch carrots, 1 sweet onion, 1 fresh garlic, 2# new red potatoes, 1# zucchini, 1# sugar snap peas, 1 basket raspberries, 1 basket cherries (weights are approximate) Everything is Certified Organic!
Welcome to this season of Harvest Boxes! We look forward to being your farmers for the next 6 months.
Meet this week’s fruits & vegetables
Let’s start right in with the fruit—the first of the season’s raspberries! If you can’t eat your raspberries tonight, please get them into a cold refrigerator AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. In fact, many experienced Harvest Box members bring a cooler when they pick up their weekly box, and transfer the most perishable items right into the cooler. Things like fruit, carrots, peas, and spinach will keep much better if they stay cool.
Cherries: When Tom first moved to this farm (24 years ago), one of the first things he did was plant about 125 cherry trees. Those trees have grown into a lovely mature orchard. Our farm crew has been spending dozens of hours up on ladders picking cherries for the past few days. The cherry season is short, but sweet.
This week’s cherries are a variety called Early Burlat. This is an heirloom French variety that ripens very early in the season.
Now for the vegetables—Fresh Garlic: Most garlic in a grocery store has matured in the field, and is dried, so it keeps for months. However, we’re just too impatient to wait that long! We harvest some of our garlic as soon as the bulbs have developed, and then it is called “fresh” garlic. Since fresh garlic hasn’t completely dried, it won’t keep very long. Best to use it this week, and store it in the refrigerator, or you can store it on the counter—but NOT in a plastic bag. Fresh garlic can get moldy if it’s not in a well-ventilated place. Our main-season garlic will be harvested in early July, dried in the shade, and available for all your culinary needs through summer and into the fall.
This early red-skinned garlic is one of our milder-tasting varieties. Later in the summer, we will have some garlic that is hotter. This mild garlic would be excellent stir-fried with zucchini, or minced & simmered gently in butter then poured over boiled new potatoes.
Sweet Onion: Sweet onions can be used either raw or cooked, and the green tops can be used just like a green onion. If you only want to use part of your onion, store the unused portion wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator.
New Potatoes: Potatoes will keep best in the refrigerator, especially early in the season when they have just been harvested, and the skins are thin. I suggest storing your new potatoes in the refrigerator in a brown paper bag labeled with the date and variety of potato. Always store potatoes in the dark. They will turn green when exposed to light, and the green parts are not good to eat.
Sugar Snap Peas: When we planned this box, we were hopeful that we would have enough sugar snap peas of our own for all the boxes. Unfortunately, our peas are not producing very well, so we asked our friend, Jamie at Springhill Farm in Albany if he would share some of his peas with us. We’re happy to offer Jamie’s peas in this week’s box. Sugar Snap peas, also called “edible pod” peas, can be enjoyed raw, steamed, or sautéed.
And one final, quick note about carrots: Carrots keep best if you remove the tops when you get home. I like to scrub the roots before storing in the refrigerator, so they’re clean and ready to eat when the kids get home from school.