Saturday, August 27, 2016

Eating in Season: Keeping it Simple

The number one reason members do not stick with a CSA is what I call food guilt - there's too much stuff and they don't get through it all.  I've found that folks feel quite differntly about produce that comes through a CSA than they get at the grocery store.  We always have a portion of produce form the store go bad, but we still keep buying stuff there - for example, we've maybe eaten about 50% of the avocados we've puchased at the store in our lifetime before they went bad.

At the farm, to minimize this sitution where members may find themselves overwhelmed with produce they can't eat in time, we carefully think through the box each week.  We try to give a variety in good-sized proportions - enough of each crop so you can use it in a recipe, but not so much that it's a burden.  On variety we also try to do about 80% of staple crops like onions and tomatoes and only 20% "different" things like fennel or Asian greens.  Part of the excitement of the CSA is receive something you haven't eaten before, but too much bok choy makes somes members think this whole CSA deal is crazy.  It's always hard to know which crops will push people over the edge.  I've had members ask for about ten times the amount of fennel is a season and others give me a look like "are you kidding me...I eat this bulb which smells like licorice?"  A tough balancing act at times.

The real key to making CSA work, however, is getting into the groove of eating in season and being a flexible cook.  Everybody cooks differently, sure, but if you're searching for a magic recipe which uses a bunch of the crops in the box, you could drive yourself nuts.  Instead, I always go off script and think of ways of preparing the veggie as simply as possible.  Especially in the summer, dressing veggies with vinegar and oil to eat raw or grilling/sauteeing veggies with just salt and pepper seasoning makes for great grazing in the evening.

In the box:

  • Melon: Most get a canteloupe, but I had to substitute in a watermelon in some boxes. 
  • Yellow Onions: These are not sweet like we've done in the box to date, but cooking onions.
  • Italian Eggplant: See eggplant stacks recipe below
  • Hakurai Summer Turnips: Yes, they look like racquet-ball sized radishes, but these are turnips.  Really sweet and smooth.  Simply peel and slice these and eat with some salt.  You could shred with carrots or cabbage and make a slaw - add sugar and rice vinegar. 
  • Roma Tomatoes 
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Red and Green Peppers
  • Cucumber 
  • Celery 
  • Red Cherry Tomatoes 
  • A Little Basil: I included this if you want to do the eggplan recipe in the video.
Epplant Stacks

There are a bunch of recipes like this.  We find this a verstatile dish which lends itself to combining the eggplant with a lot of other veggies in season.  
Ingredients
Eggplant: sliced in rounds 
Panko crumbs or breadcrumbs
Salt 
3 eggs 
Fresh Mozzarella
Basil 
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Sprinkle both sides of eggplant rounds generously with salt; place on baking sheet for 15 minutes to draw out moisture. Use paper towels to blot moisture from each side of the eggplant slices. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Whisk eggs in a shallow bowl. Place panko bread crumbs in a second bowl. Dip each side of the eggplant slices in the whisked eggs, then press into the panko crumbs to coat each side. Place slices on a cooling rack on a baking sheet.
  4. Spray the tops of eggplant generously with cooking spray. Bake 8 minutes in preheated oven. Turn each slice, and spray the other side with cooking spray. Bake an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  5. Make stacks by putting slice of mozzarella and leaf of basil between eggplant.  You can put a slice of tomato in your stack too, or cover with spaghetti sauce and top with some olive oil...whatever you're in the mood for.  We typically serve a stack with three eggplant slices for each person. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Baby Cows!

I haven't written yet about the new member of the family since she was born about six weeks ago now.  Meet Juneberry the heifer calf.

Years ago this farm saw many a calf born each year when the Kratzke family (who we bought the farm from) ran a dairy operation.  But that was a long time ago now.  To the best of my knowledge this is the first calf born here since the 1970's....that's pretty exciting after such a long stretch.



In the box:

  • Japanese Eggplant 
  • Sweet Corn
  • Leeks '
  • Oranos Pepper and Anaheim: The orange one is sweet, the green anaheim is hot.  
  • Yellow Potatoes
  • Lemon Balm: Yes, this is the weed-looking thing on the top of the box.  Think of using in your lemonade or suntea - also nice laid over a baked chicken or fish.
  • Yellow Summer Sqush 
  • Mix of Tomatoes: The heirlooms are cracked and ugly-looking, but good for fresh eating.  I included a few romas, which are best for a sauce or cooking.  Types included German Pink (pink), Golden Rave (yellow roma), Margold (blush red/yellow), Green Zebra (green with stripes)
  • Watermelon: Some got a yellow variety, some an orange variety. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Veggie Treadmill

It all feels a little out of control this time of year.  Besides the CSA and my full-time dayjob, we just keep running to keep up with thre farm stands (one at Essentia in Detroit Lakes and Falls Baking Co in Fergus Falls plus the 24/7 one at then end our our driveway) and supplying the farmers market on Saturdays.  It's kind of constant harvesting.

From the outside it might seem kind of simple.  After all, many have experience gardening and that's pretty chill.  But once a person gets to packing 55 boxes a week with a whole mix of produce, it takes an investment of time and effort.  For the 47 boxes we packed this Friday, for example, this is how it happened:

  • Thursday evening: Maree, Ryan, and Kelsey picked yellow beans, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and pulled red onions (3 hours)
  • Friday Morning: Maree and Ryan pick corn, tomatoes, eggplant, carrots (4.5 hours).  
  • Friday Afternoon: Mix cherry tomatoes, wash produce and pack boxes (3 hours).  Ryan and Maree deliver boxes to members (2.5 hours each). 
  • After getting home, we start on farmers market (6 pm - 11:30)....wake up and go again.

In the box:
Silver King (white) and Trinity (bi-color) Corn
Red Onion 
Cucumber
Garlic 
Mix of Tomatoes (some heirloom, some slicers)
Cherry Tomatoes
Yellow Wax Beans
Carrots: Wow, this has not been my year on carrots....Maree and I scrounged around the bed for a few hours to get these.
Eggplant: Certainly this time of year ratatouille is great.  It uses eggplant and pretty much anything else you feel like adding in.  This recipe gives you the idea, but feel free to change with the produce you have on hand: http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/ratatouille



Saturday, August 06, 2016

We're in a Video

Earlier this summer we had one day's experience of reality TV stars when a camera crew followed us around the farm while we went about our business.  West Central Initiative is doing this regional marketing campaign about West Central Minnesota and wanted to have a farm featured which was incolved in local food production.  I think it turned out great.  Check it out:

 
Live Wide Open - Lida Farm from H2M on Vimeo.

Now that we're in August, we love how nice the fields look in the video.  In June the weeds were under control, whereas, today, you'd find a big mess.  We're also impressed with how these shots done with a drone make the farm look huge.  My overall impression is "Hey, that place is beautiful...I'd like to live there!....Oh, ya, I do."

In the box:
Sweet Corn: A mix of the Trinity bi-color which is coming in and the early yellow Sugarbuns which is going out of season.
Fennel: Green stalk thing on top of the box. Check out this recipe from the Spendid Table http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/roasted-beet-fennel-and-citrus-salad  You will have to adjust a bit since there's a single fennel bulb.
Cucumber
Pepper
Satina Yellow Potatoes
Beets
Mixed Cherry Tomatoes
Mix of Regular Tomatoes: There's getting to be a fair amount of ripening out there. Everybody got some red tomatoes plus some yellow romas or orange blossom for some color.
Red Onion
Fresh Garlic 



Saturday, July 30, 2016

An Apprentice's View

I've been privileged to live and work out at Lida Farm for three years and I am still in awe every single day of the landscape, the critters, the veggies, and the family that call this place home. 

Most of our CSA members have had the opportunity to come out to the farm a time or two so you probably have an idea of what I'm taking about. 

With my 7 year old flip-phone, I try to capture some of those quiet moments where a person can feel the simple poetry of every day life.

I'm not able to catch even a quarter of them, but here are a few. - Kelsey Wulf, Lida Farm Apprentice 

Argo Surveying East
Bea's Kiss for Bruce Stringsteer

Misty Morning - Front Field

Pirate Pete the Cat in Milkhouse

Queen Bea

Kid's Treehouse

Kelsey and Bea the Milk Cow

In the box: 
  • Early Sweet Corn: The small yellow variety is Sugar Buns (I hate this name) and the bi-color is Trinity
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Sweet Onion
  • Green Beans 
  • Westlander Kale
  • Zucchini
  • Satina Yellow Potatoes
  • Basil: Please don't refrigerate basil...it's a sensitive herb and will go black.  Best to treat like a cut flower: trim bottom and put ends into vase with water.   
  • Fresh Oregano: Small bunch with band.  You can let dry on your counter for a 3-4 days to get dried oregano if you don't get to it.  


Friday, July 22, 2016

Beating the Heat in the Lakes

Man, it's been hot and stormy lately.  Every night I go to bed, I'm kind of anxious because it's become so common for about a 60 mph wind blow in yet another inch of rain or two or three.  What has the dewpoint been around here lately anyway?  80 degrees?
Thundercloud over Lake Lida
Our one saving grace lately has been the lake.  We're lucky to have a little public beach on Lake Crystal just  4 minutes from our house.  For the last two nights we did a few hours of farmwork just to get good and hot enough so the lake felt that much better.  It's an age-old tradition in farm life (at least around here), which, as I was talking to grain operator yesterday, is maybe becoming a rarity as most production is now done in an air-conditioned cab.  At least of few of us dirt farmer will carry on.
In the box:
Carrots
Norland Red Potatoes
Arugula: Oakleaf-shaped green with band
Red Torpedo Onion
Two Summer Squash
Two Peppers: Everybody got at least one purple pepper...some got one green and one purple.  The purples are a bit tricky since they taste like a green one.  I suggest using in a salad and not cooking as they loose their color when cooked.
Green Beans
Cauliflower


Bunch of arugula, washed, dried, and torn
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a serving bowl, drizzle the arugula with the oil, squeeze in the lemon juice, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss until well mixed and taste for seasoning. Use a vegetable peeler to shave thin pieces of Parmigiano over the top.

Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence
© 2016 Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Artisan?

ar·ti·san
ˈärdəzən/

noun
  1. a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
    • (of food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients.
      "local artisan cheeses"

This is now also one of the food industry's most abused marketing terms.  I read not too long ago about Tostitos introducing a line of "artisan" corn chips.  What?  Does Fritolay actually think there is any validity to this claim?  Do people buying them think so?  It all seems kind of silly. 

As one who actually fit the definition a lot of days, I sometimes wish I were a little less artisan.  I do walk out into a field with a broadfork in hand to dig carrots and wheel a Vermont Cart across a field to pull in cucumbers.  Sometimes my kids are by my side helping me...it's all very artisan.  Today, however, digging potatoes by hand, I really hated the whole experience.  With six inches of rain in the last week, this was a dreadful process, kind of like trying to fish heavy rocks out of wet cement.  

All told, however, I understand the desire to buy artisan in this very mass produced, plastic culture we live in.  Scale matters.  We actually do have some basic equipment such as a potato digger and undercutter we use (in much drier conditions) for harvest.  These are powerful implements which help us with the heaviest crops, but are also very small scale in comparison to typical farm equipment to suit our 6-foot wide beds.  

The power of small scale is all about quality.  A mechanized bean picker pulls in all beans of all sizes and snaps some in half in harvest.  It's 100 times faster, but when we pick by hand we can taste and sort out beans as we harvest into half-bushel baskets.  There is a difference in quality because of this attention to detail, so don't let some food conglomerate or big farm operation tell you otherwise and certainly don't let them pawn off their stuff as artisan.  

In the box: 
  • Artisan Norland Potatoes - yes, by hand today :)
  • Green Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Bunch of Beets: Check out recipe below
  • Alisa Craig Sweet Onion
  • Cucumber 
  • Summer Squash: Everybody should have one Zuccchini, but most also got a yellow straightneck summer squash (use the same as you would zucchini).
  • Green Leaf Lettuce or Red Butterhead Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Fresh Mint
Borscht Salad 
From Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matix

Peel and grate 1/2 lb beets.  Make a vinaigrette with minced shallot or onion, 2 t Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup sour cream and some chopped or dry dill.  Add about 2 cups shredded cabbage and a chopped hard-boiled egg.  Toss with the beet, garnish with fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper as you see fit.  

Note: I really like this Bittman book for its veggie recipes.  This book is all about flexible cooking and changing up recipes to use the ingredients you have on hand.  Check it out.