From the Farmer

Week 8 – 7/4/2016
In Your Share
This is the last week or two of spring scallions and baby leeks.  We’ve begun harvesting onions and we expect onions and garlic to hold down the Allium fort for many of the coming weeks, until we head back into Fall.  Turns out we have a last, pretty, and Hulked-out crop of pac choi as we move full on into summer.  Love and eat it tenderly and wax nostalgic as you make a smoothie out of it, you’ll see a little of it in fall and winter, but we generally grow pac choi as an early season veggie.  Also this week, cucumbers are starting to come in.  
 
Cukes and squash are one of the crops on which we cooperate with other farmers.  We generally grow early and late plantings and we have our favorite varieties like Yellow Crookneck, Tromboncino, Diva, and General Lee.  David Giusti at Second Spring Farm grows our main season crops.  David rented land here several years ago and now has a more stable land-lease in Wheatland, near Purcellville.  David grows much like we do, using cover crops, organic soil amendments, and good, ecological cultural practices.  It’s been a good partnership, as there’s sort of this Tyranny of CSA where market gardeners feel like we have to grow all 1,357 kinds of vegetables in quantity and duration enough to feed 300 and growing families all summer long.  I like squash and cukes like the next guy, but growing eight successions of them through the season?  I’ve really come to enjoy feeling like I can let go of some things, to focus on crops that I like growing rather than crops Growing for Market says I should.  We thank David every week that we don’t pick squash for three months.

Oh, that feathery looking leaf that smells like licorice?  Leaf fennel.  One of the finest herbs in existence.  Clip it into a salad, add it to a burger, or nibble the stem between meals.  It’s refreshing, and goes well with fish and meat – try it on a filet of salmon instead of dill, or stuff it in the cavity of a whole chicken and roast it all.  When you take it out of your box, put it in a jar of water, in the fridge.  If you cut it up, it should keep all week in an air-tight container, also in the fridge.

 
New this week: eggplant and a surprise guest solanum (you’ll see first green peppers or new potatoes, depending on the weather at harvest).  We grow two kinds of eggplant here, Asian and Italian types.  They’re one of the more stunning vegetables no matter where they come from.   There are a wide variety of Asian eggplants, from small, round green or white ones to little skinny purple and black ones to long, skinny and deep purple.   Italian types tend to be rounder, larger, and a dark midnight black-purple, though some show edges of white or are a purple-white bicolor.  Our first planting is almost entirely Asian types with names like Orient Express, Fairytale, Machiaw, and Orient Charm.  Our Godfather planting is young and small yet, and filled with varieties like Rosa Bianca, Barbarella, and Traviata.  
 
We wrote a little about eggplant last year, which you can read here, and see the All About below.  Here are a few highlights:
  • Eggplant is pleasantly bitter and has a spongy texture, and it balances the flavors of other ingredients well.  The trick is to prepare them correctly.  (Or to fry them deeply).  Here are a few tips:
  • Eggplant don’t like to be too cold nor too hot.  Ideal storage for eggplant is 50°F.  Do not slice before you store it – it doesn’t keep well!  Do not wash it either – if you need to put it in the refrigerator, put it in the crisper or a plastic bag to keep it humid.  Careful not to damage it, it is fragile.
  • Use a stainless steel knife, as carbon steel reacts with an eggplant’s biochemistry.  Wash and cut off the ends.
  • You can sweat the eggplant to tenderize and to remove some of its natural bitterness.  Cut into pieces and sprinkle with salt on your countertop.  Let these sit for half an hour.  
  • Rinse with water after sweating.  
  • Viola, you can bake, roast or steam

You can also bake eggplant whole (try 350° F for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on size).  Pierce it with a fork several times if you bake it whole.

My take: try baking these as a side dish, or slice into rounds and add to a versatile dish like stir-fry, vegetable casserole, risotto…

 
At the Farm
Speaking of summer, we’ve moved on already.  While we have summer crops beginning to bear, we use Solstice as our celestial landmark and turn our attention to the future.  We begin harvesting our first long-term crops like onions, garlic and potatoes.  We begin seeding fall crops like broccoli, cabbage and greens in the greenhouse.  And we begin preparing ground.  As early spring crops and thick over-wintered cover crops are harvested or turned under, we prepare beds with compost and mineral amendments, and then we allow rain to germinate the weeds that are undoubtedly in the “seed bank.”  Make that withdrawal, weeds, make our day.  We will harrow you until it’s time to plant in August.  In other cases, we’ll sow a short term cover crop of buckwheat to feed the soil for a month, then turn that under and plant the second wave of fall crops in September. 
 
We’re also looking further down the line.  This is fun stuff. Some fields we’re thinking about what cover crop to plant in anticipation of the earliest spring plantings (ooh ooh, daikon radish).  Others we’re readying a long-term cover crop for next year’s chickens to feed on.  And some we experiment with: cover crops for rolling and no-till seeding, for strip tilling, and for planting perennials. 
 
All About Vegetables and Cooking Techniques – Archives Now Online
Want to know more about kohlrabi or summer squash?  How to store cabbage?  Or maybe you want to know what Braising means and how the heck you do it. Each week we bring you an All About section in the newsletter.  In All About we highlight a vegetable or cooking technique, and include general information, what to look for when shopping for an item, how to store it, how to prepare it, and what it goes well with.  Each newsletter also has one or more recipes.
 
Chef Bonnie Moore has written many All Abouts the last several years.  We have a fantastic partnership with Chef Bonnie, who has been part of Willowsford from the very beginning – before the farm even.  We are happy to finally have all of these articles in one place.
 
The All Abouts are now all easily searchable on our website.  Check it out!
 
There you’ll find an index with Veggies on one side, and Techniques on the other.  Each link will take you to the full newsletter that includes the All About at
bottom.
 
You can also find newsletters archived by date here. Our recipe database (please add you own) is here
 
Be great,
 
Mike, Deb, Al, Lex, Jennifer, Anya, James, Kay, Sonya, Julia and Kelly, Radish and Bella, Goats x 12, Camilla x 494, dinner chicks x 999 in the freezer, Roscoe RIP and Popcorn, seen leaving the EU last week

 

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