Hello CSA Members,
New in your share this week
Thursday’s pickup saw a marked reduction in the quantity of tomatoes – summer has slowed down awfully sudden, and our boxes don’t have so much of the summer in them in anymore. That is well and good, because it’s already October and there are reports that some of you have had your fill of tomatoes. So there are new vegetables in your share this week.
Kubocha winter squash. Man, winter squash! Kubocha has a sweet orange flesh and is a very fine squash for baking as well as for pies. In fact, I think it makes a better pumpkin pie than pumpkins. Should be just enough for a pie, or give it the usual winter squash treatment: slice, add butter and brown sugar, bake. If you’re enjoying your fling with Delicata (thanks to DQ for the metaphor), you can still find them at the farm stand.
Sweet Salad Turnips. Turnips are not radishes! Related, yes, but turnips are sweeter than their cousins. This week we are harvesting young salad turnips. If you are not a turnip fan, plug into one of these – they are turnip conversion machines. No bitterness, not spicy, great texture, and wicked nutritious like their cousins in the brassica (broccoli) family – eat them raw, slice in salad, roast them, bake them, add them to a root crop medley or soup, or cook them whole, unpeeled and with their greens attached.
They can be cooked without water, and love to be cooked over medium heat with butter and a little salt. I also like to drizzle olive oil and bake them. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, Alice Waters (The Art of Simple Food) suggests mashing them at this point, or to cook them over high heat to carmelize them. Just don’t overdo the high heat – they may become bitter.
Herbs. Herbs are available in the Farm Garden for pick-your-own cutting. The herb beds are to your right as you enter the garden. Available at this time: thyme, oregano, mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, and hyssop; basil (purple and green), nasturtium flowers, Mexican bush sage, and hot peppers. Ask a farmer for scissors and to answer any questions or show you the way.
Love and Garlic, part I
You know that feeling when you fall in love and you feel like your heart is three feet out in front of you, and you’re in a bubble of a smile. The farm has a little bit of that today. Or maybe it’s a little more like the cloud of dirt that surrounds Pigpen from the Peanuts comic strip. Regardless, it’s not my aura you’re looking at. One day removed from the 2012 Great Garlic Tasting and we’re all wearing a thick parka of garlic.
Where I learned to farm in California we had a relationship with a garlic maven named Chester Aaron. Aaron – Dachau liberator, medical technician, labor activist, college professor, writer (his books include “Garlic is Life”) and garlic farmer – grows 93 different varieties of garlic, all with different shapes, colors, textures, and tastes. I had no idea.
But garlic is old. We’re not talking like Roman old. We’re talking a good 8-10 thousand years old. This had become a staple crop in a civilization (Ebla, in what is now Syria) over six thousand years ago, far, far from its wild origins in the foothills of the Kopet Dgh, Pamir, and Tien Shan mountains. That Garlic Crescent in Central Asia is right smack in the middle of the Silk Road, and garlic hitched a ride on many a caravan East to China, South Asia, and Southeast Asia and throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Southern Europe, and eventually, centuries later, to the Americas to the West. It’s no wonder there are so many varieties, each one selected to the preferences of a given region, town, or soil.
Most of what you’ve received this year is a porcelain type small scale garlic farmers like us love – German White, with a robust taste, good keeping qualities, large, easy to peel cloves, and great versatility in the kitchen. German White is a great garlic for growing and even better for eating.
This year, in the spirit of Chester Aaron, we’re trying a few new ones. Our garlic “seed” arrived recently and we will plant in the coming weeks. More on that in Love and Garlic, Part II.
Much like garlic harvest (or garlic mulching, garlic weeding or even garlic distribution), no garlic planting is complete without a taste test. Ah, the things bachelors can do. Steeling ourselves with an occasional pepper or swig of water (milk, actually, is the best for neutralizing garlic), Farm Team 2012 took note of five raw samples.
The baseline – or basement – of the comparison was a generic supermarket garlic. You know the one, bland taste and soft, almost mealy texture. This one left a silly taste in the mouth. I tried this one last and actually ate more fresh stuff to get the taste out.
There was a wide range of responses to particular varieties. Jen and Deb both liked Xi’an, a Turban type garlic. This one has smaller cloves. “Not too spicy – mild – yummy”. First place for Jen, who gave it a smiley face, too. Deb said, “Fresh, earthy, mild” and gave it the star. Us menfolk on the other hand were a little less verbose, both of us offering a simple, underwhelming, “mild.” But that’s what friends are about, right.
So it went. You can see that each of us has our own set of taste buds. Persian Star, a Purple Stripe type, was described alternately as, “moderately spicy, good taste, not overwhelming at all,” “slow to start then it burns,” “sharp, hot but passes,” and “not spicy at first – then medium spicy – lingered a little.”
There was some agreement, too. We have two varieties from the Republic of Georgia. Georgian Fire is In Your Face Hot. I mean, this thing is a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the taste buds. But it’s an honest heat, no passive aggressive behavior; it slaps you in the face once, and the storm is over. Metechi on the other hand is spicy and Woo-Hot!, and just in case you didn’t notice that right away, you will remember it for a good while afterwards. It’s like it’s got a grudge like a hot pepper. "It’s not going away…!”
This year’s harvest of German White scored the best all around. It really is a strong well-rounded garlic: full garlic taste, a bit of kick, and not too much aftertaste. The cloves are big and easy to peel. It is really good for almost any use: cooking, roasting, even raw, say, in a salad dressing (try this: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, garlic chopped fine, and sea salt and pepper to taste).
The takeaway is garlic is not garlic is not garlic. And that different garlics can be great for different uses – some, like Georgian Fire, make a great salsa, others, like Persian Star, add flavor to baked dishes. No matter what you do with it, love it.
Have a good week and be great,