Monday, July 30, 2012

Organic heirloom tomatoes

It's tomato time. Local farmer's markets, CSAs, grocery stores, and home gardens are filled with them. So now's the time to stock up -- so you don't have to eat those Florida-grown-tasteless-picked-green-and-hard-so-called-tomatoes between the months of October to June.

We've got a lot of heirloom tomatoes on the vines: Brandywine, Cherokee purple, Cherokee green, Black Krim, Valencia, Amish paste, Speckled Roman, Juliet, Moskvich, Martha Washington, Pruden's purple, Honeydrop cherry, Peacevine cherry and Black cherry. We also have some Argentinian varieties (we brought home seeds when we came back in 2011): a yellow slicer and a yellow cherry.

Freshly picked seasonal tomatoes are so superior in taste to the ones you might buy in the off-season. But they are not superior in durability. Please be careful with them - store them gently. Don't toss them around. Don't store other things on top of them. If one has a bruise or a crack, just cut away the part you don't want to eat and enjoy the rest. If you have some that are not perfectly ripe, leave them on your counter until they are.

Caring for our tomatoes on the vine is also quite a chore. We have to be sure they are trellised and supported, correctly fertilized, mulched and have the right amount of water.

And water has been an issue this year. Tomato plants need consistent watering - not too little, not too much. So when there is an unplanned downpour of rain - as there has been the past few weeks - the ripening fruit on the vine soaks up all that excess water and tends to burst through its skin. This excess water is what causes cracks in your tomatoes (and sometimes those water-logged fruits). Some tomatoes heal their cracks and others can not.

Excessive heat can also compromise a tomato crop - it can cause "green shoulders." And while some heirloom varieties actually have green tops, many do not. It's best to provide some shade to the tomatoes in these cases, using the foliage of the plant if possible.

When we know a rain storm or heat wave are coming, we harvest tomatoes that are just barely ripening and let them finish the process off of the vine. This doesn't change the taste and helps prevent cracks, soggy flesh and green shoulders.

Hopefully we'll have a huge harvest again this year so you can process jars of tomatoes for use in your sauces, soups and stews over the winter.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Recipe with corn

Corn and radish salad

Ingredients: corn, radish, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, olive oil, s+p

Preparing: Cut the corn off the cob. Slice radishes thinly. Toss both with cilantro leaves, diced jalapeno, lime juice, olive oil and s+p.

Eating: A great salad with grilled meats.

Dish history: We first had this as a warm winter salad, using butter instead of olive oil. But with fresh corn and radishes, it is a great summer salad, too.

Storing vegetables

Receiving just-picked vegetables is exciting - and enjoying as much as you can on the day of harvest is the best way to use them. But we also have to store some. Here's a how-to on the best way to store farm-fresh produce.

In general, all produce stores better when dry. Wetness encourages decay. That said, we cold-water-rinse all leafy greens after we harvest them to prevent wilting. So when you receive them and they are wet, drying them before storage is important. All other vegetables will do best if you do NOT wash them before storage.

Basil, cilantro, parsley: If the leaves are wet, dry them (wet leaves turn black easily). Fill a glass with cold water, remove the rubber band holding the bunch together and place the bunch in the water (as you would cut flowers). Change your water every day. Keep the jar of herbs away from the stove so they stay cool (you can also store them in your refrigerator in a glass of water).

Lettuce: You can store lettuce 2 ways: (1) Spin your lettuce in your salad spinner and store directly in the spinner in your fridge; (2) Spin your lettuce and place in a plastic bag with some breathability (e.g., leave it open, it can have a few holes) and store in your fridge.

Kale, chard, spinach, collards, mustard greens, beet greens, bok choy, tatsoi, arugula, and other greens: Put an inch or so of water in a bowl, vase or cooler and put the stems in as you would cut flowers. Your greens will last the longest with this method. Or, store as lettuce above.

Beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, parsnips and other root vegetables: Cut off the greens, leaving less than an inch of stem (the leaves will continue to draw water from the root, making the root soften quickly), and store in your refrigerator. For long-term storage of carrots, beets, turnips and parsnips (but not radishes), see this post on root cellars.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes: Store in a cool, dark place in paper or cardboard (NOT plastic bags) and be sure they are not wet when you store them.

Tomatoes: Store on the counter top, in a bowl, in a basket... anywhere but your refrigerator! Best position is shoulder side down.

Corn: Don't ever store it! Eat it as soon as you get it.

Onions and garlic: Store in a cool, dark place for long-term storage. If you plan on using them in the next few weeks, they can be exposed to light. Store anywhere but your refrigerator!

Chives and scallions: Store as herbs and greens above or in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.

Cucumbers, summer squash, eggplant, peppers, broccoli, fennel, Brussels sprouts, cabbage: All do best if dry and refrigerated.

Winter squash and pumpkins: Store in a cool, dark place (not in your refrigerator).

Friday, July 27, 2012

Week 9 CSA basket

This week we've got two of your summertime favorites... sweet corn and tomatoes!

Expect the following this week:
Tomatoes, corn, green beans, beets, onions, summer squash, cucumbers, hot peppers, basil, parsley, scallions, kale or chard or collards.

We'll harvest the corn in the afternoon so you can enjoy it as fresh as can be. We cook sweet corn as soon as we get it (it's best immediately off of the stalk - once it's picked, the sugars begin to turn to starch). Boil a pot of water; once it boils turn off the heat and throw the shucked corn in for 5 minutes.

Thanks very much to the Davoren/Farley family who have farmed some nearby land and have a delicious and bountiful crop of sweet corn that they are sharing with us! 

Another note: this is the last of the cucumbers. The cucumber beetle has taken its toll on our crop and the plants are wilting away.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Recipe with fennel

Roasted fennel w/ garlic, kalamata olives and hot pepper

Ingredients: fennel, olive oil, kalamata olives, garlic, hot pepper flakes

Preparing: Cut off most of the tops of your fennel bulb (and reserve for soup stocks or fennel frond pesto). Quarter the fennel bulb, leaving some of the root end in place to hold the leaves together (but the root end is tough even after roasting, so cut out as much as you can). Sprinkle generously with olive oil. Toss on pitted, halved kalamata olives, hot pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Roast at 400F for 30 minutes. Add chopped garlic and roast another 15 minutes, or until fennel is browned and tender.

Eating: The roasting brings out the sweetness of the fennel. Be sure to add the garlic only at the end of the roasting so it doesn't burn.

Dish history: Had this many years ago at a family Thanksgiving meal. Goes well with roast chicken, too.

Recipe with carrot tops

Carrot top pesto

I haven't tried this one either, but it was passed on to me by a CSA member.

1 large bunch carrot greens
1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP walnut pieces
1 1/2 TBSP olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
1 TBSP nutritional yeast OR parmesan cheese
1/2 TBSP lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor or blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE: if you leave your stems on, your pesto will have a slightly stringy quality.

Recipe with fennel

Fennel frond pesto

Fennel comes with a LOT of fronds. This pesto tastes just like pesto - a good way to make a tastey treat and use all parts of the vegetable.


1 small fennel bulb with lots of bushy fronds
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons pine nuts or sliced or slivered almonds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Chop off fennel fronds and coarsely chop. Put the chopped fronds in a food processor or blender. Add the garlic, nuts, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a generous pinch of pepper to the food processor and process until finely chopped. Add 4 tablespoons of the oil and cheese continue to process until the mixture looks like pesto. Season with more salt to taste.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Week 8 CSA basket

We are in pre-tomato, summer bounty mode... a few cherry tomatoes are ripening, and in a week or 2 we will be able to start giving out that most popular summer item.

Expect the following this week:

Lettuce, fingerling potatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, eggplant, big bunch of basil, fennel, scallions, onions, carrots, cilantro, parsley, hot peppers, kale or chard.

We have so much beautiful basil, and although we want to be sure to preserve some for tomato-time, we're going to give a big bunch out today for all you pesto-lovers. Make your own favorite recipe, or try this one that is nut-free (use pepitas instead).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Recipe with summer vegetables


Ingredients: tomatoes (fresh or canned), onion, garlic, zucchini, radish, cucumber, carrots, cilantro, any other crunchy vegetable

Preparing: Saute the garlic and some of the onions, add tomatoes (we used some of our canned tomatoes because the fresh ones are just beginning to ripen) and salt to taste. We add some of the zucchini to cook it for a few minutes, too. Blend this concoction with ice cubes for a quick cool (if you have more time to chill the soup, you can just add water or broth). Dice all the rest of the ingredients and throw in the gazpacho.

Eating: You can make the soup as chunky as you want it, adding as many diced vegetables as you choose. Serve with some crusty bread.

Dish history: With the summer bounty of vegetables and a heat wave across the Hudson Valley, we didn't want to get the kitchen too hot. This gazpacho preserves the freshness of all of the vegetables.

Recipe with carrots

Carrot soup

Ingredients: carrots, onions, garlic, orange zest, orange juice, ginger. Garnishes: cilantro or chives, sour cream, honey, ground ginger, cayenne

Preparing: Saute diced onions and garlic in butter. Add chopped carrots and cook for about 10 minutes. Add water (or broth;  about 6 cups of broth per 2 lbs of carrots) and simmer until carrots are tender. Puree the soup. Add orange zest, ginger (I zest it, too), and some orange juice.

Eating: Can be served warm, room temperature, or chilled. Top with cilantro leaves or chives and a dollop of the sour cream/honey/ginger/cayenne.

Dish history: We had a bunch of "for-us" carrots (veggies that are not perfect that we keep for ourselves instead of giving to our CSA members) and made a huge batch to freeze. Carrot soup is delicious anytime of year. And so versatile. Instead of orange and ginger, try curry or cumin.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Week 7 CSA basket

Here's what you'll receive this week:

Lettuce, arugula, green beans, cucumbers, basil, cilantro, scallions, carrots, fennel, hot peppers, new potatoes, zucchini, radishes, kale.

Fennel is fun. Slice it very finely and add it to a salad or a slaw. This really might be the last-of-the-lettuce, although we are sowing more now for the late August/early September harvest.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Harvesting garlic

It's garlic harvest time. There is an art to it... an art we have not yet mastered. The timing counts, the pulling counts, the curing counts, and we've got one great book we're using this year to get us through the process. Since temperatures have been so high, you want to be sure your garlic has not been cooked underground (if air temps are about 100, soil temps at the surface can be near 120 - it's a good thing we still have a thick mulch layer on them). You also want to be sure they are not too wet (no problem there, since it hasn't rained in weeks). And you want at least 4-6 green leaves left (the rest have browned and are drying out) so that your garlic stores well once it is cured.

We pulled a few yesterday to see how they were doing - the heads themselves are not as big as we wanted them, but the cloves are huge and perfect, about 6-8 per head, one layer around, the size of a grape tomato.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Recipe with kale

Kale Caesar Salad

Ingredients: kale, olive oil, egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, dash of hot sauce, s+p, parmesan cheese

Preparing: De-stem kale and wash and pat dry. Slice kale to desired size. Toss with olive oil, s+p. Quickly saute or steam kale so it is bright green, cooked a bit, but not too chewy. Mix the remaining ingredients together for the dressing (3 egg yolks, 2-3 garlic cloves, 2 T lemon juice, 1 T mustard, 1.5 t Worcestershire, hot sauce, s+p), slowly adding olive oil to desired taste and consistency. Add grated parmesan cheese, croutons if you desire, and toss with the kale.

Eating: Should be served room temperature.

Dish history: Courtesy of our neighbor, Melissa P. Thanks!

Week 6 CSA basket

Summer's here! You might be sad to see the end of the lettuce (this heat is making the plants bolt), but you will be happy to enjoy the rest of early summer's bounty... expect the following:

Last-of-the-lettuce, arugula, chard (regular and golden), green beans (regular, haricot vert, burgundy), cucumbers, zucchini (jackpot and zephyr), radishes, carrots, basil, cilantro, parsley, green onions.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer's here...

Seneca napping while dad works

Seneca's 1st swim
Wow. The green beans are everywhere, there are huge, sweet, delicious summer squashes, hot peppers have emerged, and the cucumbers are vine-ripened. Next come the tomatoes... summer is certainly here. We still are working hard but are trying to find some time to play and relax in this heat wave...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Proud farmers

We are officially proudest of our carrots so far this season. With some of the rockiest soil around, we worked hard to make the carrot beds the finest tilthed land. And even though these carrots are early, they are already huge and uniform and straight... an organic farmer's dream.