Monday, June 24, 2013

Locavores CSA 6/24/2013

What's in the box?
Zukes and Cukes Oh My!

Purple Majesty Potatoes, Rossa Lunga di Firenze Torpedo Onions, Garlic of Kazakhstan, Paris Market Carrots, Beets,  Zukes - the pale one is Romanesco and the 2 tone one is Jade Numbat, the curly one is Trombone, Portuguese Leaf Stuffing Cabbage, Marche de Genevieve Green Beans, basil, NZ Spinach.  If you have a box, you got eggs.  IF you have something that looks like a fuzzy cuke in your box, it's a rare Italian cucumber.

This week's special gift:  assorted jams  -

Remember to cut 1/4 off the ends of the cukes to keep from eating the "bitter end".  The bitter compound is likely to be more concentrated in the stem end than in the blossom end of the cucumber. It is also more prevalent in the peel and in the light green area just beneath the peel – and less likely to be found in the deeper interior of the fruit.  Remember to rinse your knife after peeling.  Over the years we have trialed cukes to try and never plant any of the really bitter ones.  And oh my heck have we tried some bitter ones.  The white cukes this week are White Wonders.  Burpee introduced this now classic cucumber in 1893, after receiving it from a customer in western New York State.  I picked a huge amount of these this week, and will get to pickles, shortly.  We have a real shortage of dill this year,  the gophers decided that they would harvest 90% of the dill.  So, looks like bread and butter pickles, here we come.  The fuzzy Italian cuke is a Carosella.  Really cute no?  There's also some Kaiser Alexander cukes out there and of course there's some Delikatesse, one of my favorites (white and green). 

Refrigerator pickles are really fun to make.  If you start to get too many cukes in your bag or box, here's how to tame them.

Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles

Makes 3 pints 2 or 3 big cucumbers
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
6 garlic cloves, peeled (2 per jar)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper per jar (3/4 teaspoons total)
1 teaspoon dill seed per jar (3 teaspoons total)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns per jar (1 1/2 teaspoons total)

Wash and slice the cucumbers.
In a large saucepot, combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a simmer.

Arrange jars on counter and dole out the spices to each. Pack the cucumber slices firmly into the jars. You don't want to damage the cukes, but you do want them packed tight. Pour the brine into the jar, leaving approximately ½ inch head space.  Stick a knife in the jar on the edge to dislodge bubbles.
Apply lids and let jars cool. When they've returned to room temperature, place jars in refrigerator. Let them sit for at least 48 hours before eating.

How fun is that.

Oi Muchim (Spicy Korean Cucumber Salad)

Serves 2 to 4 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoos pepper flakes 
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2-3 T. of chopped red onion
2  cucumbers, sliced 1/8-inch thick
Combine all ingredients except cucumbers in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired.
Add cucumber slices and toss to coat (wear gloves and use your hands, or use tongs).
Serve room temperature or chilled.

Thank you!
Making Kimchi
No, I haven't made it yet.  I started my tutorial on home fermenting with Sauerkraut.  There is just so much healthful pro-biotics in fermented veges that now we are hooked.  Today one of our fabulous members brought me a Korean onggi.  This is like the German vessel for making kraut, except very cool in a beautiful aesthetic Asian sense.  (The German vessel is gorgeous too, but it's BIG and expensive.)  Where as the beautiful onggi I received is just right for my counter top!   I can't wait to get started.  Oh, but wait, I have to finish making BBQ sauce and canning peaches.  Well, I'm not doing anything between midnight and six, so Kimchi here I come. 

Kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, the same process that creates sauerkraut and traditional dill pickles. In the first stage, the cabbage is soaked in a salty brine that kills off harmful bacteria.

In the second stage, the remaining Lactobacillus bacteria (the good guys!) convert sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables and gives them that wonderful, tangy flavor. (If you want to learn more about fermentation, I highly recommend The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz.)  Otherwise, if you want to try some, drop me a note and I'll give you a wee jar in your box/bag.

Also, I want to thank those of you who've even been sending extra jars my way!  Hooray!

Have a great week!  See you the week after the 4th.  Remember, no veges the week of the 4th!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CSA June 19, 2013 Mer Folk

What's in the box?
French Filet Beans

Purple Majesty Potatoes, Rossa Lunga di Firenze Torpedo Onions, Garlic of Kazakhstan, Paris Market Carrots, Zukes - the pale one is Romanesco and the 2 tone one is Jade Numbat, Harris Model Parsnips, Portuguese Leaf Stuffing Cabbage, Marche de Genevieve Green Beans and Epazote. If you have a box, you got eggs and NZ Spinach and Korean Mint.  If you have a bag, you got artichokes.  Epazote smells like diesel, but when dried or cooked is much more like oregano.  I have simply tied them for easy drying.

This week's special gift:  Strawberry Balsamic Jam (I barely pried this away from Leo).

This jam is not only great on toast, but it also makes a great salad dressing:

Strawberry Balsamic Dressing
1 T of Jam
1 T of Balsamic Vinegar
1 t. of mustard
1 T of olive oil

Mix and slather.  The jar won't last long.  We used up one in a week on just salad.

From a distance, you can't see the weeds
Baked Purple Smashers
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound purple new potatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, smashed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup half and half
1 cup  shredded pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, divided
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Coat the bottom and sides of an 8 by 8-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter. Set aside.

Boil potatoes, garlic and a hefty pinch of salt.   Cook until a fork is easily inserted, but the potatoes still hold their form, about 20 minutes. Strain in a colander and place back over the empty pot, allowing the remaining heat to evaporate some of the moisture from the potatoes and garlic, just a few minutes. Mash the contents of the pot well, and then add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the heavy cream. Mash until  chunky.  Then stir in 1 cup pepper jack cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Spoon into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Stir together the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, 2 tablespoons jack cheese and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the potatoes. Bake in the oven  on 375 until the top is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Corn coming soon,  Rocky is hunting gopher

In the fields
Sweet corn will be ready in about a week.  There's lots of cukes coming, and after a week or so of giving you all zukes, I'll make some relish.  I know we've been out of it for a month and sandwiches are just not the same without relish.

Jade Numbat
This is an interesting South and East breeding program.  To bring this Zuke right along, Ray of Oz and Tim of NY have been each working on this.  Because their winters are opposite, Ray and Tim have been able to work on this continually, where as if either of them had been working on it alone, it would have taken 3 years to get this far!

Portuguese Stuffing Cabbage
Many of you know that this is my favorite cabbage.  Wash the leaves, remove the large mid ribs and lightly steam them.    I stuff them with pepper jack, cooked rice and cooked burger and roll them up like a burrito.  I then bake them in a beef broth for 45 minutes at 350.  These are so delicious that I won't let Leo take them for lunch, because I want them!  I have had them at other destinations stuffed with rice, grapes and feta and cooked in a vege broth.  I have even had them stuffed with pasta and cheese and cooked in tomato sauce.

Have a great week.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Jun 10, 2013 - Locavores

Okay, I smashed my elbow and can't type.  So this will be very short.
Gad zukes.

The herb this week is Epazote.  It can be dried and used all season.  I helps relieve bean farts.

Black Beans

  • 1lb uncooked black beans
  • 6 cups hot water
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 sprig of epazote, finely chopped
  • 1/2 of an onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt to taste  Do not add until beans are soft.

Rinse beans and discard any debris. Soak over night.   Place beans in the bottom of the pot and cover with the hot water. Bring beans to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer and cover. Simmer for about 2 hours. Add in additional ingredients and simmer for another hour, or until beans are soft and a broth has formed. 
Serve beans with a slotted spoon for a side dish. Or, serve in a bowl with the broth and add in some cooked, cubed chicken and some salsa for a main dish.

Have a nice week.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Merfolk June 5, 2013 CSA

What's in the box
Nanook discovers there's catnip started in pots

Lettuce,  Bok Choi, Amaranth, broccoli and peas if you have a box, turnips if you have a bag, Carrots, parsnips,  fresh garlic, onions,  and artichokes.  This week's herb is basil. If you get a box, there's also flowers.

I just finished making Strawberry Balsamic Jam.  Leo says that no one should eat this.   I didn't have a chance to get it labeled because I finished it at 10 pm so hopefully you'll see this soon.  (If I can get it by Leo).

Parsnip Haystacks
This is my favorite way to eat parsnips.  Wash and peel your parsnips.  Put a skillet on the stove with butter in it.  While the skillet heats, use your peeler to make parsnip shreds.  Divide them into 4 batches and saute them.  I serve these for breakfast and man I can hardly wait for Sunday!  I use them just like hash browns.  Parsnips are also good roasted.  There's some good recipes at Food Network.
Yeah Catnip
On the farm
Peas and turnips are done.  I don't think we'll see broccoli again till fall.  However, it looks like zucchini will be here in a couple of weeks, hopefully along with corn and more potatoes.  This week's onions are Lunga de Firenze — Long of Florence.  This is the best "spring" planted torpedo onion we have ever grown.  We should have these for 2 weeks.  They don't keep, so you can't store them.  They make fantastic grilled onions if you happen to be using the bbq.

Amaranth and Pasta Shells Recipe

1 pound whole wheat pasta shells
Bouquet of Amaranth leaves, stemmed and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leaves, garlic, and red pepper flakes; saute for 5 minutes or until the garlic turns light gold. Add cooked pasta and mix well.

Season with salt and parmesan. Serve. This is great with leftover BBQ or roasted chicken.

Well, someone better go finish picking and packing.

Have a great week.

Monday, June 3, 2013

2012 Spring Onion Trial

2012 Spring Onion Trial
On March 19, 2012, the Spring Onion trial was seeded to flats.  Each cell tray was irrigated and then endomychorrizae was added and fish emulsion applied.  On May 5, 2012 the onions were field planted.  The soil in the field was amended for calcium deficiency.  Oyster shell and lime were added and the field was composted prior to planting.  The onions were harvested between July 17 and August 17, 2012.  The onions were sampled and sorted and the best were set aside for replanting for seed.  Our biggest ongoing challenge to onion losses are pocket gophers.   Foothill Farm operates using organic principles, seeds from this trial are available at no charge to other farmers upon request. 
Two torpedo onions were trialed, one from Franchi Seeds and one from a New Zealand seed saver.  Over 2 seasons we discovered that the Franchi torpedo is best planted in the Spring and the NZ is a better overwintered onion.  These onions look and taste almost exactly alike, when their photos are compared Spring to Summer.  Without labels we couldn’t tell them apart. 

The only onions that did well both seasons were Mill Creek, PI 546118 & 546119 and Joseph’s Onion.  Although the overwintered onions were much smaller than the ones harvested during the summer.  These onions produced and did not bolt.

The really big surprise of the entire trial were the Spanish onions.  All of the Spanish onions did poorly when overwintered.  Most bolted as soon as the weather warmed up.  Planted in the Spring, these onions were terrific.  They resulted in huge bulbs.  These are onions A-2 through A-8, #22, and #1. 
Spring Planted Colorado de Conservar

PI 264316 is Colorado de Conservar.  This is an onion that we have high hopes for.  It is rated as a long storage type.  It has good color and flavor.  You can seed the marked difference in it’s bulbing habit between Winter and Summer.  (On the left are the ones planted in spring and harvested in summer and on the right are the ones overwintered and harvested in Spring.Rossa Savonese when planted in winter did not bulb up and looked more like a big red leek, but this onion bulbed beautifully when planted in the spring.
Overwintered Colorado de Conservar

Had we not done these trials, we would never have discovered onions that are better by season. We would like to thank the USDA GRIN program, especially Dr. Larry Robertson for his assistance, Joseph Lofthouse of Utah and Cesar Zapata of New Zealand for their seed contributions to this trial.  All commercial seed was paid for by Foothill Farm.
We started trialing onions in 2011 in the Winter.  I will post those results here as well.  

There are too few public onion breeding programs in the United States and none in California.  There are many private seed companies focused on hybrid seed varieties for agribusiness.  Most commercial fresh market bulb onions are now hybrids.  As a small farm what we need are open pollinated onions that can be grown seed to seed using standard organic methods.

Over the last several years we have seen the seed and plant quality of onions that we grow on the farm from commercial sources diminish.  Although last year, the exceptionally rainy spring may have contributed to problems, some of the seed that we received from seed savers out performed our hybrid and open pollinated commercial seed. 

This led us to suspect that perhaps the problem lies within how the seed is raised.  Is it possible that commercially raised seed with easy access to pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers are at the base of our problem?  Is the problem that all of the open pollinated, organic seeds are virtually all the same variety?  Have they lost so much diversity that they can’t adapt to the environment?  Have they been babied so much that they can’t live under real life field conditions?

As a small organic farm, we have good soil fertility, which we add to each year with compost and cover crops.  We have good pollinators.  We have done field trials and continue every year to experiment and enhance what we know about a crop and how to improve it.  In the last few years we have worked in potatoes, tomatoes, squash, melons and this year we are working on a corn/bean trial.  Of course, no one told us that this would go on forever as this year’s trial leads to next years.  There’s always so much to learn.

Onions are the “B.O” word....Biennial Outcrossers.  So this makes them doubly scary to take on as project.  

What are we looking for?
 A field of onions that will take what life throws at it, monsoon, (don’t laugh we had 4 inches of rain followed by an inch of snow last year), sunstroke (105) in August or like the last two weeks, one week it was 82 degrees and the following week it was 42.
Taste!  (Don’t make me cry)
Yield.  (200 seeds planted, 100 plants, 30 finally made it to the field....this is not good).  
Storability.  I don’t care if the plants all come out of the field in one day,  if they come out over several weeks, hooray.  But please, can they at least last at 40-50 degrees for 3 months?
No early bolting.  This is not a race to get to see who gets to make seeds. 
Needs to do well at latitude 37.

Yes we would settle for a no-name onion grex, we’ll accept all colors and sizes.
So where are we with this project? 

Right now the gophers are working the trial very hard.  I'm losing an onion a day.  The onions are in full to partial flower and the bees are working them.  We discovered two things in this trial.  Onions that we left in the field multiplied.  We divided them and replanted them in the row above.  Right are the onions that we stored in the barn and planted as they began to bolt.  Only some of these divided.  The rest stayed as individual bulbs and flowered.  Our biggest concern at this moment is Cytoplasmic Male Sterility (CMS).

Modern commercial seeds are commonly grown using plants with cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS). Male sterile plants reduce the labor required to make hybrids, but they can cause problems for seed savers because the plants are male sterile in all succeeding generations.  All hybrid onions are male sterile and many open pollinated populations of onions are severely contaminated. The vast majority of commercial onions are male sterile. Onion sterility is due to an interaction between cytoplasmic DNA and nuclear DNA, so it can be reversed with the use of proper pollen donors. 

Since it has taken us almost 3 seasons to get to seed production we are now anxiously inspecting the onions in flower.

 There are several forms of CMS in onion: The flowers look normal, but there is no pollen on the anthers. The flower heads may contain bulbils which is abnormal. Drying seed-heads contain low percentage of pollinated flowers. One form of male sterility in onions is composed of a cytoplasmic factor and a recessive nuclear gene. The sterility can be reversed by pollinating the male sterile plant with a male-fertile plant. Then (some of) the F1 will shed pollen that can be used to pollinate plants with normal cytoplasm. Since onion sterility is subject to Mendelian inheritance as well as maternal inheritance they will undergo routine mass selection to eliminate plants that don't shed pollen, and also to eliminate any flower heads with low seed set or with bulbils.  (Italic text was taken from Joseph Lofthouse at who is a darn fine plant breeder and has provided seed and advice during this trial.