Thursday, June 28, 2012

People & Planet CSA June 28, 2012

Lettuce and Greens...just about all harvested

What's in the box 

Early Garlic from Poland,  Huazontle (Red Aztec Spinach),  First Potatoes of the season, last of the  Beets,   Dried Leeks,  Portuguese Stuffing Cabbage, strawberries, a little vase of herbs, Beurre de Rocquencourt green beans and lettuce.

This week's special gift:  Straw Ginger Marmalade  (Strawberry, Ginger, Lime, Lemon & Blood Orange).  Try getting that all on one label.

or Sunshine Cocktail Mix

Leo recommends this.  Mix 1 jar to 4 jars of water, pour over ice and serve.  We added Gin and it was wonderful.  Just the thing for Saturday after chores.  All we needed was a hammock built for two or two hammocks and a cabana boy to bring another pitcher.
Corn on the left, dry beans on the right, squash in the back

In Holly's Kitchen
In my kitchen I always keep basil in a vase in the window.  I have tried all kinds of ways to keep basil fresh, but once it's out of the garden, this is it.  I keep picking leaves off of mine until it's gone, then I run out and pick another.  What I love best about summer is basil.   This is the first of the season, so there's just enough there to herb up some eggs.  So where are the tomatoes to go with it?  Well, they're still sleeping.  There were enough at the stage that we could have all had fried green tomatoes, but then I wouldn't know which variety made the first ripe tomatoes this year.  I tell you it's neck and neck out there.  I've offered a bonus to the tomato plant with the first ripe tomatoes and I'm guessing that after the 4th we'll have them.  Last year we had tomatoes on July 14, and I have asked the tomatoes to beat that record by three days. 

Beurre de Rocquencourt (I originally wrote about these on August 3, 2011).  I liked these French beans so much that we have them again this year.   It's likely that we'll have a bumper crop of beans this year.  The French Filets, and Ilanz are coming along.  Behind them a bit are the Romano's and lots of new ones.  So I'm going to try and give you a new Green Bean Recipe every week for a few weeks.  These yellow wax beans stay crisp after you cook them so they are perfect in stir fry or Zack's favorite, Tempura!

Giraffes were here, pruning
Tempura Green Beans
  • It's good to use cold/ice water for the batter. This is important to prevent the batter from absorbing too much oil.
  • Preparing the batter ahead of time is not recommended. It's good to make the batter right before frying tempura. Try not to over mix the batter and not to coat ingredients with the batter too much.
  • If you are frying both seafood and vegetables, try to fry vegetables first, then fry seafood.
  • It's said that the right temperature to fry tempura is around 340-360 degree F. To check the temperature of frying oil, drop a little bit of batter into the oil. If the batter comes up right away instead of sinking to the bottom of the pan, it's higher than 370 degrees F. If the batter goes halfway to the bottom and comes up, it's about 340-360 degrees F.   Use a high heat oil (Sunflower, Corn, Peanut, or Vegetable Oil).
1 Cup of flour
1 T. of cornstarch
1 1/2 C. Selzer Water

Mix these together, dip your green beans and fry.  Yes you can use regular water, but the bubbles seem to make the batter lighter.  Leo dips the veges in flour and then the batter and then fries.  Everyone has their own ideas and gets underfoot when tempura is being made.

Huazontle (Red Aztec Spinach)  Think of this as Wild Spinach
High in vitamin C and rich in riboflavin, one cup of cooked wild spinach provides an excellent source of vitamin A, folate, magnesium, potassium, vitamins E, B6, and thiamine. Wild spinach actually contains substantially more nutrients than cultivated spinach.

Lamb's quarters (wild spinach) is a delicate, leafy green and may be used as a substitute for baby spinach, though is best in cooked preparations. Used widely in Latin cuisine it is often paired with fresh cheeses and chile sauces. Pair with fresh citrus and berries, nuts, strong cheeses, spring vegetables such as peas and asparagus, eggs and potatoes; toss with hot pasta or grains until barely wilted. Lamb's quarters (wild spinach) has a more mild, less metallic flavor than mature spinach and is complimented by vinaigrette, fresh herbs, garlic, toasted bread and beans. Keep baby spinach cool and dry until ready to use.   It's great in quiche, or scrambled eggs.  Remove all the stems when you prepare it and just use the leaves.  You can even use wild spinach to make pesto!
View from the chicken beans!

Huazontle and Beans
1 pound fresh lambsquarters or Huazontle, leaves only!
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
A bit of dried leeks (crumble them smaller), I used a handful
1 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse greens several times to make sure that all sand and grit are removed. Steam greens in tightly covered pot until wilted. Drain greens and finely chop them. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic/leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until leeks are soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in greens, beans and chili powder. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and serve. Makes 6 servings.
Feel free to add pasta to this dish and serve with a side of garlic bread.  

Wild Squash
What's coming:  Tomatoes, corn, and zukes .  I saw the first 2 zukes this morning.   

Have a great 4th. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

SCVWD CSA, June 20, 2012

Zukes, Cukes.Squash, Peppers and Eggplant all thriving

What's in the box 

Early Garlic from Poland,  Huazontle (Red Aztec Spinach),  First Potatoes of the season , last of the cauliflower and broccoli and leeks,  Beets,  Salad Mix with Purslane,  Dried Leeks,  Portuguese Stuffing Cabbage, Epazote, strawberries or green beans and eggs.

No Boxes the week of July 4th
As usual, the farm will close for the week of the 4th and Leo and I will go on holiday.  Nothing like a wee break to put some magic back in the routine. 

Beans corn and beans and corn
It's been so hot that the spring veges have all put keeled over.  I suspect they hold on, just to not disappoint me.  The summer veges aren't here.  Well, there's only so many things you can tell a tomato, one just must wait.

So while we wait, we might as well go on a trip.  This will give all of you who have more than one box malingering at your house, to get them in along with vases, herb jars and canning jars.

Canning Jars
Grapes contemplating their jelliness
Please send them back with the lids!  They roll around and when the tops get chipped, I can no longer use them for canning.  Remember if you give gifts to your friends of things that are in canning jars, you must buy new jars for me.

Leo has positively forbidden me to buy any more canning jars.  In the last 3 years I have purchased some 36 cases of jars.  Last year 6 cases came back, and one of our lovely lovely beautiful and stunning CSA members sent me a whole new case!  So basically jam season is just starting, you want it?  Send home the jars.  Pints and half pints are especially useful.

Thanks to one of the very best Senior Ops at the District we were gifted several cases of quarts, so we will have spaghetti sauce, tomatoes willing.

Have a glorious 4th.  When I see you next, there will be corn!  Yeah!  We'll see you July 11th.

Monday, June 18, 2012

How many

People could I feed on my farm?

The farm seen from on top of the haystack

A bit ago, someone asked me how many people I could feed on my farm.  I automatically said 20 families, because with our family and all of yours, that's how many people I feed.  But is it really true?  Sadly no.

Yes, we are 20 families strong, but none of us live on entirely what we get out of the box.  At most it's a supplement of what we buy at the store.  Is it possible to feed you all from the farm?  Sadly no.  Let's look at why.  First of all, keep in mind that I only have 5 acres (of which we are farming about 1 acre currently).

Here's my computations:


1 acre of wheat yields approximately 42 bushels of wheat.  Each bushel yields about 60 pounds of whole wheat flour. Each of those bushels would yield 90 one pound loaves of bread.  So that's about 3780 loaves of whole wheat bread.  That would give each family 189 loaves of bread, or about 3.5 loaves of bread a week.   Some of that wheat would have to go to the chickens and now we've used one acre of land...4 left.  (Of course we've only planted enough wheat to seed that acre....sometime in the future).  So, you wouldn't have any bread.
Gathering up the old hens and one old rooster


1 acre of pasture can support 50 chickens.  It all comes down to the amount of manure the land can handle, and the geometry of chicken yards. A permanent pasture can handle about four tons of chicken manure per year. That's the output of 80 chickens. So, unless you want to kill off the grass and pollute the area with runoff, you can't have more than 80 outdoor chickens per acre.

What's worse is that the manure is never evenly distributed across the yard. It's concentrated near the chicken house. This would kill off all plant life near the chicken house even if the chickens didn't scratch all the pasture to pieces, but they do this as well. A more sustainable number is 50 hens per acre.

Fifty hens per acre is about 800 square feet per hen. That's a lot of area. Hens also don't like to travel long distances. They'll go 100-200 yards from the hen houses, in reasonably good weather,  if properly encouraged by outdoor feeders and waterers.  That's why we have to have moveable hen houses.    Logistics dictates that we raise only 25 chickens a year.  13 new this year, 12 from last year and the acre has to be rotated to things for them to eat, so 1/2 is seeded while they are eating the other half.  It seems that chickens don't like to be irrigated.  The chickens want to be on the part that is not irrigated.

A highly productive hen will lay 5 eggs a week or 250 a year.  Our chickens since they are young and old, average about 4 a week.  So, I'm getting about 8 cartons a week, which is why you only get eggs once a month.  See Leo, I told you those old hens must go! 

Where do the old chickens go?  Well, we don't eat them and you don't eat them, but we do trade them for supplements like oyster shell and sunflower seeds.
Flour & Flint Corn


It's not a secret that we only deliver vegetables from March through November.  The spring is full of green leafy things, big on nutrients, not so big on calories.  About 1/4 acre is taken up with green leafy things.

The summer is better because that's when we start getting things like corn.  Leaving aside the sweet corn that we all love, there is the practical flour and flint corn that pack a lot, but not all the nutrition you need.  There's B vitamins missing in that corn unless you are processing it with lye.  One acre of corn yields about 130 bushels, one bushel is = to 56 pounds.  So putting in a 1/4 acre of corn yields about 1800 pounds of corn.  That would be 80 pounds per family.  Keeping back some for those hungry chickens and planting for next year.

Finally comes Autumn and then there's beans, your real powerhouse of nutrition from the farm.  An acre of dry beans can yield about 2000 pounds.  Once again, we have only about 1/4 acre in dry beans, so more like 500 pounds, which is about 20 pounds to you (less what we had to keep back to plant for next and future years).

Then there's tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, onions, herbs, tomatillos, artichokes, asparagus, melons, and squash.  All of these are taking up room and being packed weekly.  More or less this is what people join the CSA for.   Some folks tell me that there is too many vegetables in the box.

But as you can see, I haven't given you any calories from dairy, meat, or fish.  So, even if you were all vegan vegetarians I could not provide you and your family with everything you would need to eat. 

What would it take to feed all of you, everything you need?  

About 200 acres and someone one a lot younger... make that a lot of someones. 

How many families could I feed on the five acres, everything they would need to survive?

With my family of 3, we could feed 2 more people.  And let me tell you, all 5 of us would be either planting, harvesting or preserving 365 days a year and we'd be eating a lot more potatoes and squash.

more squash

Thursday, June 14, 2012

People & Planet, June 14, 2012 CSA

Freshly harvested wheat

What's in the box

Early Garlic from Poland,  Huazontle (Red Aztec Spinach),  First Potatoes of the season and boy are they yummy,  Nutribud Broccoli & Calabrese Broccoli,  Violetto Cauliflower,  Paris Carrots, Beets, Turnips,  Purslane, Baby Bell Peppers,  Corn Meal, Portuguese Stuffing Cabbage, Epazote, eggs, and flowers.

This week's special gifts:   Dijon Mustard from Paicines, and grape jelly or pickles.

Purslane has more beta-carotene than spinach*, as well as high levels of magnesium and potassium. Historically it has been used as a remedy for arthritis and inflammation by European cultures. Chinese herbalists found similar benefits, using it in respiratory and circulatory function. 

Recently, it's been found that purslane has alpha linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Researchers see evidence that these substances lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as make the blood less likely to form clots. And, purslane has only 15 calories per 100 g portion. 

Corn coming right along
Several ancient cultures have included purslane as a part of their cuisine, including those of Greece and Central America. Russians dry and can it for the winter. In Mexico it is called verdolaga and is a favorite comfort food. There, it is eaten in omelets, as a side dish, rolled in tortillas, or dropped by handfuls into soups and stews.   Hey, we're lazy, so we just put them in salad.

Huazontle and or Turnip Greens...  Both of these are a little more bitter than we are used to, so to fix bitter, use vinegar.

Hey try this:

Typically Huazontle is stuffed with cheese, very much like making rellenos.
Try them like this.  boil the leaves in a little vinegar and drain.  Top with sauteed garlic and onions.
Of course, if any of you make rellenos with them, I want to come to dinner.

Melons waiting to be planted
Portuguese Stuffing Cabbage
Back in the blog, I gave you guys a recipe for this (June 16, 2011), since then I found this:

I love Smitten Kitchen.  Coming soon...Smitten Kitchen strawberry biscuits.   Maybe in 2 weeks.

This is the last week for these early spring veges.  Hopefully, the summer veges will come along shortly.  I can see green tomatoes, and little leetle leeetle green beans coming along.

In the meantime, Emily found a plum tree for me, so I'm going to pick plums and make jam.

Epazote is an herb well-known to Mexican and Caribbean cooking. The name comes from the Aztec (Nahuatl) epazotl.  It is most commonly used in black bean recipes to ward off some of the "negative" side affects of eating beans. Much like cilantro, it is referred to as an "acquired taste". The herb is quite pungent so take it easy when you first try it.

Epazote (chenopodium ambrosioides) was brought to Europe in the 17th century from Mexico and used in various traditional medicines. The herb was used by the Aztecs as a medicine as well as a culinary herb.
One teaspoon of dried epazote leaves is equivalent to about one branch, or 7 fresh leaves. Fresh epazote leaves can be placed in a plastic bag and stored for up to 1 week. You can air-dry the fresh leaves and store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. 

On the farm
Marathon planting going on here.  We are harvesting wheat and favas to be able to get  the melons in.  Okra, lentils, Tresimenos, Flax,  NZ Spinach, more carrots, and melons are all being planted.  Look for melons in late August.  Back to work!  Have a great week.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

SCVWD CSA June 6, 2012

Tomatoes, Potatoes and Onions,  Rice in the foreground

What's in the box

Early Garlic from Poland,  Lieven's Belgium Leeks, Amaranth Greens,  Nutribud Broccoli & Calabrese Broccoli,  Violetto Cauliflower, Snow and Snap Peas,  Paris Carrots, Beets, Turnips,  Rhubarb (finally!) Corn Flour, Mint and flowers.
Wheat almost ready to harvest

And this week's special gift:  Strawberry Jam, please refrigerate after opening.  I got an e-mail from an undisclosed source who states, "I got home and ate the whole jar with a spoon.   I normally eat mine with toast or pancakes, but with a spoon is perfectly legal.  Speaking of pancakes....

Greens & Hot peppers
Corn Flour is freshly ground and contains all of the bran, germ and endosperm. Add it to your favorite pancake, waffle, biscuit or bread recipe for added flavor and nutrition. Try making your favorite cornbread recipe with part or all corn flour instead of cornmeal. Your cornbread will be richer and less crumbly when made this way.  Please refrigerate it and use it with a couple of weeks, or place it in the freezer for longer storage.  There's only a few more weeks of corn meal and corn flour left, and then we will have to wait a long time for the next least November!   The pancake/waffle eaters at our house will sure be grumpy.  The next time you make chili at home, try taking a cup of corn MEAL (not flour) and making a paste out of it by adding water and stirring it together.  Add it to your chili with the tomatoes and it will instantly thicken and give it a yummy yummy flavor.

This is the last week for peas.  Hopefully the beans will be coming along.  Every day I plant more beans.  Of course I planted the green beans first, but now the lentils have been planted, some of the fagiolini from Tresimeno (vignas), and all of the Italian Heirloom bean trial as well as 4 kinds of corn have been planted.  Still to go we have bush beans both green and dry and of course more pole beans and runner beans.  We will stay on the spring schedule of every other week until the tomatoes or the green beans arrive. 

This is the last week of broccoli and cauliflower.  I guess spring is over.   Summer coming soon.

If you have joined our CSA this month, welcome.  If this all seems confusing, try reading older posts from the same season last year.

Coming soon, potatoes!   We got them out of the field and now they need to be bagged up, so next time...fresh taties.

Now that the taties are out, it's time to plant the melons!

Have a great week.