From the Farmer

Week 3 – 6/3/2015

If you haven’t seen them, fireflies have returned to the neighborhood.  Last night we were here until late and got to enjoy them in the field and at the field’s edge.  Maybe they’re lighting up behind your houses?  I’ll have to take a drive through Willowsford streets.  If they are not, come take a walk around the Farm Loop one evening.  Last year was a spectacular year for them here, in number and behavior.  I thought that perhaps it was a special year for them, but they’ve been nice so far this summer if not quite numerous yet.  I wonder how cyclical these things are – we think of cicadas as being on cycles, and boom and bust populations of rabbits and foxes, and trees have irregular mast years.  Last year was a Black Eyed Susan year to be sure, and this year I’ve seen none.  Regardless, we have bug lightning and you should take a walk and see it.


Strawberry Jam, What’s In Your Share

In your share this week, more of spring: lettuce (buttercrunch, love it), bok choi, cooking greens, strawberries (if you don’t think you’ll eat them, freeze them for winter waffles).  Special this week:

Garlic scapes: all alliums, from chives to leeks, to globe Allium send up a globe-like flower stalk as they mature.  Garlic does this now, just a few weeks before Solstice. These flower stalks make for good eating.  Alice says, Make pesto out of it (our basil is coming along!  We have some from TOG at the farm stand this week).  I says chop it up, add olive oil and sea salt and bake it a few minutes in the toaster oven.  It looks funny, but you can eat all of it, except for any tough or fibrous stalk at the bottom of the stem.  Along with the rest of the plant, scapes are my favorite part of garlic.

Strawberry jam: so we talk about a good diet, which is summed up thus:

Eat whole foods, mostly plants. Eat different kinds and parts of plants.  If you’re going eat bread let it be sourdough and yummy, and make PBJ out of it.  PBJ is one of the basic food groups.

We’ve been working with Bonnie and Steph in the Kitchen to make stuff out of our produce.  Last year we began making soup, romesco and pesto (which is available at the Farm Stand).  This year we’re starting with strawberry jam, because PBJ is nature’s most perfect thing and Mike likes raising strawberries.  And because the crew likes picking them so much.

Couple notes about the jam that’s in your share this week.  It is not your Smuckers jam.  Just our strawberries, sugar and lemon juice.  While I did successfully make a PB with a knife, Bonnie recommends a spoon.  I like it on toast and one of these days will make waffles to act as a syrup-jam vessel.  And get this – there’s over a quart of berries in each jar!

This first batch is a “refrigerator batch” meaning it it’s not shelf stable and you should eat within the next three weeks.  It was made on 5/27/2015.  It is for CSA tryin’ – will you let us know what you think?  We’re really excited to be making it.  The next batch will be shelf-stable and will be for sale at the Farm Stand.


Washing, Storing and Handling

A few people have asked about storing produce.  We have a couple of resources for you.  We try to give tips each week in the newsletter.  We also have Storage Tips on our website: Storage Tips.

Past newsletters also have an All About section for many of our vegetables, and these contain storage and use tips as well.  We’re working on a more easily searchable listing and will let you know when it is online: Newsletter Archives.  

The fundamentals are temperature and humidity.  Different veggies want different temperatures (lettuce and carrots at 32 F, tomatoes and sweet potatoes at 45-55 F) and also different humidity levels.  Most want things very humid, as humid as possible so they don’t wilt or get rubbery.

Handling produce.  Treat your veggies gently.  You may not always see it, but veggies bruise easily, and then will not keep as long as they would otherwise.  We are careful when harvesting and packing to be as gentle as possible with produce and recommend you do the same.  Bruised lettuce is the worst, right?  Bruising, bouncing, overheating… these things reduce keeping and eating qualities.

Handling poultry products.  Poultry products – chicken, eggs, turkey, etc – should always be well cooked to 165 F internal temperature.  They should be kept refrigerated or frozen.  Thaw them in the fridge or microwave.  Keep hot foods hot.  Refrigerate leftovers immediately or discard.  Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods.  Be careful of contaminating your kitchen and working surfaces – wash working surfaces (including cutting boards), utensils, and hands after touching raw meat or poultry.

You can learn more about our eggs here: All About Eggs.

Lastly, this is a good time to remind that it is always good practice to wash your produce before using it.  We grow without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and we think that makes our produce healthy and natural than that which you might get at a store.  There’s also a much shorter food chain between the living breathing plant and your dinner plate.  But it’s always good to keep in mind basic food safety practices.

We have different washing procedures for different crops, and some we don’t wash altogether.  Fresh green things are all washed, some twice or thrice.  This includes most roots and all greens.  Other crops may not be washed, though, as they store well that way: potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash are examples.  Tomatoes and strawberries also are generally not washed.

Our tip is to wash veggies and fruit only just before you plan to use them.  They will generally keep much better this way.  If you are going to wash fruit like tomatoes or melons, it is advisable to use water that is warmer than the produce itself.


Flower Shares, Chicken Shares, Flower-Chicken Shares

Yesterday we processed our second batch of chickens.  We found one stout warrior bird that would not allow us to process him, thus earning his freedom.  He is an honorable Gallus.  He is no flower-chicken but we think he would fall for a long-skirt wearing hippie hen.

Flower shares begin this week.  Barbara and Dennis at Greenstone Fields grow beautiful flowers.  Most weeks we get extras to sell at the Farm Stand.  Try one; if you like sign up for a share and we’ll have a bouquet for you every week.  We recommend keeping them out of direct sunlight and refreshing their water as necessary; they should last all week.  You can be sure they have been grow as we grow our veggies, no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, just good soil and plant husbandry practices.

Chicken shares.  You are in for a treat these first weeks.  Our first two batches grew like weeds after a summer thunderstorm.  Our largest weighed in at close to eight pounds and is on a new WWF team, Nuggets and Mother Plucker. Watch out for their People’s Wing move.

They are really nice looking and tasting birds, though.  Because you’ve essentially paid a flat $16/week, you’ll be getting more value for your share.  Birds are well over four, even five pounds in these first two batches.

Here’s an All About Chicken from Bonnie: All About Chicken.

And a tried and true chicken story:

Preheat oven and pan at 450°F, rub bird with oil and seasonings, put bird in preheated pan, close the oven door. cook for 35 mins (or 40 mins for a big bird). Turn oven off.  Leave in oven an additional 35 mins. Take out of oven. Carve. Eat. Sigh. That is it and it is amazing. Easiest thing I've cooked and the most delicious chicken ever, (and I quote Donna Quinn using Joan Baker’s recipe).

I, myself use this method with a twist (only difference being a trick I learned from Alice Waters in "The Art of Simple Food." I turned the chicken over after 20 minutes or so, then back over at 40) and I must’ve done something right because I did something right.  A baked chicken is easy and economical to prepare, can be done up fancy or simple, and can be fun for kids to help with. 


That’s all this week.  Congratulations on making it through this week’s installment.  Be great,


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41025 Willowsford Lane, Aldie, VA 20105

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