From the Farmer

Week 16 – 8/27/2013

In Your Box (and at the Stand)

We’ve had beautiful weather the last week: our first rain in several weeks, kind temperatures, and only a couple of days of humidity.  In the field we’re seeing our melons slow down (our own watermelon are now gone, but we’ll do our best to find some for the farm stand), but we hope to have another week or so of cantaloupe.  Cape Gooseberries and Cherry Tomatoes are slowing, too but they will be available for a while yet.  The Cape Gooseberries won’t be in shares unless we have enough to go around but will be available at the stand for you to take.  On the upside, our peppers are turning red and it looks like the okra may be about to pop.  Until there’s enough to go around, the okra is at the farm stand – it’s tender and freshly harvested.  Fry it up!

We’ve also started our winter squash harvest.  More precisely, our fall squash harvest.  This week you have Delicata squash in your share.  Like Acorn squash, Delicata is a mature (as opposed to summer squash, which is picked immature and therefore does not store through winter) fall squash, meaning it does not have the same curing requirements of winter squash like Kuri, Butternut and Buttercup.  Point being, they’re good to go.  I like to slice them long-ways and bake them at 350 F.  They’re flesh is sweet enough to bake as is, but a little butter and brown sugar will light them up.  You can eat their skins, too!  If you want.

There are also apples in your share to try this week.  These are some of the year’s first fresh apples and life is good when there are fresh apples.  Try them and let us know what you think – they should be available at the farm stand from here out.  No mealy apples here, we’ll have what’s ready for picking any given week.  This week’s variety: Ginger Gold.  Ginger Gold is for fresh eating – it’s crisp, sweet and at the same time just a little tart.  They also seem to not go brown as quickly as other varieties, so they’re good for slicing and looking at a while.  I like them for snacking, but with that little tartness Bonnie thinks it will make a great jam – see her recipe below.

Summer greens this week: Molokhia or Egyptian Spinach

We’ve written before about summer greens and why we grow newfangled things for leafy nutrition this time of year – bugs, heat, bitterness… the Mid-Atlantic is no place for Popeye Spinach in summer.  Another reason to like these summer greens, though, is that they are tasty and nutritious.  Malabar spinach, sweet potato greens, Egyptian spinach (Molokhia) – these plants have been feeding generations of people living in tropical, subtropical, and arid regions for hundreds of years, at least.  Culinary traditions have been built around them, just as they have been around the European greens. 

Egyptian spinach (Corchorus olitorius) is a green of the Middle East, Africa, and India.  It is not truly spinach, or even related.  In fact, it’s a cousin of jute – cloth and paper can be made from its fiber, but eat it, don’t make rope out of it!  Jute twine is made from Corchorous capsularis.

It is a beautiful, tall plant with a pleasant taste.  In the Middle East it is called Melokheya or Mullokhiyah, which means “The Food of Kings” because it was a favorite of the Pharaohs in Egypt.  Like amaranth, it’s a highly nutritious (far more so than common spinach) vitamin alphabet, rich in B vitamins as well as A, C, E and K, and high in beta-carotene and iron and calcium.  In markets from the Middle East to tropical African vendors, they sell branches, the leaves of which people strip when they get home.  I love the process of taking leaves from the stalk, it feels like something we primates have been doing for millennia.  Use Egyptian spinach as you would any other pot herb – while the young leaves can be eaten raw, I recommend cooking with it.  Traditionally leaves are added as soup finishes cooking.  Like a lot of greens, I like using it in eggs and wilted with other veggies and meat or tofu over a grain.

A number of you have recipes for using Molokhia. Many of you have shared yours with me, as well, and they are excellent.  Will you share these with everyone on the Farm’s recipe page or on Facebook?  This is an unusual ingredient so I’m going to add a recipe, below. 

In Tunisia dried leaves are used to thicken meat sauce, and in Lebanon it’s often used in broth with onions, cilantro, shredded chicken and lime, over rice.  The latter sounds especially good.  Here’s an Egyptian take on that recipe, which came to me via friends from a past farm and which I share to add to this farms’ body of Molokhia-knowledge.  This can be served as a soup or over feta or rice.  When serving rice on the side, they like to garnish it with hashoe (fried onions and raisins):

Egyptian Mullokhiyah – Chicken and Greens Soup

1 medium onion diced
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
3-4 cardamom pods
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1⁄2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 tbsp. ground coriander
1 chicken, washed
1 quart water
1 garlic head, unpeeled
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 bunch mullokhiyah
4 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1⁄2 tbsp. vinegar
6 garlic cloves pressed
salt

Sauté onion in 1 tablespoon of the oil with cardamom, cinnamon, pepper and 1 tbsp. of coriander for 5 minutes in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the chicken & cook for 10 min. Add water & whole head of garlic with the chicken cube. Boil for 1 hour. over med. heat until the chicken is done. Meanwhile, remove the leaves from the stems of the mullokhiyah. Wash them very well and pat them dry. (This can be done the night before.) Then, using a large chopping block and knife, mince the leaves until they are very fine. The result will be thick and sticky. Set aside. Remove the chicken from the broth, place it in a roasting pan, brush with butter and lemon juice & brown it in the oven for a few minutes on (400° F). Set aside & serve the chicken separately. Add minced mullokhiyah to the still boiling broth & stir well. Fry the pressed garlic in the remaining tablespoon of oil until it changes color. Add the vinegar & remaining 2 tbsp. of coriander. Stir well for about 1 minute. Add the garlic mixture to the broth while it is still hot & stir all very well. Boil for 15 min. This may be served as a soup or over rice.

Share or Trade Box

Great idea!  There will be a crate next to the shares for sharing or trading items you don’t use.  Don’t like Swiss chard?  Put it in the box.  Like radishes?  Take the ones John left. 

“Back of the Stand” Open: Egg Shares, Freezer Foods, and Pantry Items

It feels like we’re outgrowing the farm stand already, so we’ve conquered and annexed the back room of the stand and made it into a safe haven for things frozen, refrigerated and pantried.  Egg Shares now live in the refrigerator in this room.  You’ll also find meat (beef, chicken, lamb and pork) and ice cream in the freezers there.  On the shelves next to the freezers you’ll find chutney, pepper jelly and honey.  There’s also new signage to make it easier to navigate – the laminating machine might be the best thing we’ve bought all year.  Don’t be shy, the room is open.

Thanksgiving Turkeys

I know it’s early to be thinking about "do you know where you’ll be for Thanksgiving this year?" but this is the time to start ordering Thanksgiving Turkeys.  They’re available from Whiffletree Farm in Warrenton and we’ll have them here at the Farm Stand fresh the couple of Saturdays before the big day.  They come in various sizes. First come, first served: 12-17 lbs. and 18-26 lbs.  They cost $4.50/lb. and require a $35 deposit.  

Happy Gardening Hour Note from Deb

Thank you for all your help and enthusiasm! The Farm Garden would not be the beautiful and interactive space that it has become if it weren’t for our loyal happy gardeners, volunteers and the TLC everyone has brought to the plants and wildlife every week.

This summer, we’ve released several Monarch butterflies who have left more than a dozen eggs in the butterfly bed alone. We’ve managed to stay on top of the weeds and pest insects, harvest and enjoy pints upon quarts of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, keep the flower beds blooming, label and experiment with herbs and seed saving, and discover a wide variety of wildlife including assassin bugs, hummingbird moths, bluebirds, goldfinches, Promethea moths and more.

A few folks have asked if we will be continuing HGH as the school year starts. The answer is: Yes! We love having the energy of the local community in the garden each week. There is always work to be done – be it weeding, dead-heading, planting, harvesting, building or integrated pest management – and we truly want to encourage folks to enjoy the space.

The last hour (6:00 – 7:00pm) of each Thursday is for visiting the chickens and goats at the farm. Please note that while we strive to have a creative activity each week, these are primarily volunteer hours and time and space set aside to facilitate interest in farming and gardening, contribute to the maintenance of the Farm Garden, and to visit the farm animals.

-Deb

I want to recognize what’s happening at the garden, too.  The garden looks great this year and all thanks to the work done by Deb and all of you who spend time at the garden on Thursdays.  It feels like it is becoming a true community space.

That’s all for this week.  Have a good week and be great,

Mike

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