Big Leaf Farm

January 17, 2012

Winter season week#1 cast of characters

Filed under: Cast of characters,newsletter — Chris O'Brien @ 11:37 am
  • Carrots: Winter carrots take a little cleaning up, this time of year, but they are just as tasty as ever. 
  • Sweet potato: These are the last of our sweet potatoes from the 2011 harvest.  Some of these are a little on the large side which makes them take a little longer to cook.  But their culinary qualities aren’t affected, fortunately.
  • Beets: These beets are a mix of the three types we grew this year: chioggia, yellow, and the standard red beet.  Check out a nice beet stew recipe below.  I’ve been on a raw beet kick this winter, and have been enjoying our beets grated into slaw.
  • Cabbage: This green savoy cabbage makes great slaw.  This one’s called ‘wirosa’ and it’s a standout in our winter garden.
  • Garlic: Our 2011 garlic crop was devastated by fungal diseases, which is why we didn’t give any out during our main CSA season.  What you receive this week are some of the few cloves that weren’t affected.  Use them up before they sprout!
  • Chicory: We’ve been eating lots of chicory cooked this winter in risottos, and also raw by shredding a little and adding to coleslaw.  Its slight bitterness offsets a sweet mayo or yogurt-based dressing nicely.  These chicories are far milder than the ones you received last fall.  Voles love chicory far more than any human, so this is the only chance for ‘Castlefranco’ chicory this winter.
  • Dried Black Beans: This is the first chance for CSA members to benefit from our experiment growing dried beans in 2011.  This large black bean is called ‘Black Coco’, and it makes a very nice black bean soup.  Check out a recipe below.  If you aren’t a seasoned dry-bean cooker, here’s a quick run-down:  Rinse the beans in a change or two of water and pick them over for any foreign material.  Then cover with 5-6 inches of water, and allow them soak for 8-12  hours (overnight or while you are at work is a good time), stirring vigorously every now and then if you can.  They’ll plump up during this time, and once the skins are no longer wrinkled, they’re ready to cook.  Over or undersoaking won’t ruin them by any means, but it can lead to split beans when you cook them. When they are done soaking, rinse them again and add enough water to cover by an inch or two, then simmer gently for 60-90 minutes until they are tender (checking to make sure they don’t dry out).  Alternatively, you can simply cook the beans without soaking.  They’ll take longer to cook this way  (3-6 hours) and for some they’ll be harder to digest.  Some also say beans cooked this way aren’t as nutritious.  Finally, don’t add acid foods like lemon juice or tomato to uncooked beans.  The acid makes the beans take much longer to cook and toughens them a lot.  Salt does the same thing.  So add these ingredients just before the beans are fully cooked.

December 13, 2011

Week #31 Cast of Characters

Filed under: Cast of characters,newsletter — Chris O'Brien @ 12:55 pm

  • Butternut Squash: These squash are the longest storing of all the varieties we grow, and they tend to ripen and sweeten a bit while they wait to be eaten.  So we wait until the other squash are gone to give them out.  Butternut are one of the more popular squash you see in the market, probably because they are very versatile.  They make a nice puree, but are also great cut up into chunks in soups and roasted along with root vegetables. There are a couple of recipes below.
  • Leeks:
  • Kale: Kale this week is mostly Redbor (red and frilly) or Lacinato rainbow (mixed colors).  Look for the occasional aphid colony on the back of the leaves, easily removed with your finger under running water.
  • Brussels –or- Cabbage:
  • Black Spanish Radish: Use raw as a radish, pickle like a daikon, or cook into stews and soups as a turnip.  A taste test this morning revealed these have lost virtually all their heat.  If you like them raw, they are probably best shredded.
  • Asian Mustard: You’ll see one of two types of asian mustard in this week’s share: yukina savoy or purple-leaved komatsuma.  They both look somewhat like a pac choi, and in fact are cooked like such.  These are all the same species as turnips, Brassica rapa.  Go figure.
  • Carrots: This late in the year storage carrots aren’t as flawless as they were earlier in the fall.  But just as tasty.  So you might want to trim them a little.
  • Rutabaga: If you are casting about for ways to cook this root, try one of the casserole dishes below.
  • Beets: Beet chocolate cake anyone?  Check out a recipe below.

December 6, 2011

Week #30 Cast of Characters

Filed under: Cast of characters,newsletter — Chris O'Brien @ 12:20 pm

  • Turnips:  Turnip greens have stopped growing by now and the weather and slugs take their toll on them, resulting in some pretty ratty greens.  For this reason I’m sparing you from the tops this week – you’re left with the nice white globes with purple tops.  Check out a nice recipe below that utilizes this utilitarian vegetable. Otherwise, you should all be turnip-cooking experts by now.
  • Celeriac:
  • Sunshine Squash: This squash is great in both sweet and savory preparations.  I’ve mentioned these make good ‘pumpkin’ pies.  They’re also great for ‘pumpkin’ bread, and recipes are easy to find.
  • Parsnips: Not just for dinner any more!  Check out a breakfast preparation below.
  • Potatoes: German butterball are on tap this week.
  • Brussels: The freezing weather interrupted the Brussels harvest, and I wasn’t able to get them all picked.  Therefore, I’m planning on giving them out again next week.  So if you want to eat them all at once, stick these in your crisper drawer in the bag they come in (they’ll keep fine) until next week.  I’m hip to a new (to me) Brussels sprouts preparation that you might enjoy:  Trim sprouts and cut in half.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.   Place sprouts on a baking sheet cut side down and cook under the broiler until they start to get crispy on top.  Then switch off the broiler and roast the sprouts at about 400 degrees, until they soften and start to brown on the bottom.  Yum!
  • Onions:

November 29, 2011

Week #29 Cast of characters

Filed under: Cast of characters — Chris O'Brien @ 12:47 pm

  • Sunchokes: Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, this vegetable usually doesn’t make it to the top of  CSA members favorite vegetable list. My theory is that this is because sunchokes have a flavor that is uniquely their own, and it is a flavor we are not familiar with.  In general, I think we tend to dislike flavors that are foreign.  I know this is true for small children that are trying new foods, and I’ve certainly experienced it myself with veggies like Brussels sprouts.  There’s a solution though.  If this isn’t your favorite vegetable, try it in repetition, in several different preparations and you might get used to them.  This is the advice given to adults trying to convince children to try new foods, and I think it works on adults equally as well.  Most folks who are new to sunchokes feel the inclination to peel these knobby roots.  I’d like to encourage you to use them unpeeled – after all, you don’t want to build an association that these are hard to deal with in the kitchen!  You’ll find several recipes below.  If you want to try something simple, simply roast them with other root vegetables like carrots, beets and potatoes.  These will keep for a number of weeks in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer.
  • Delicata Squash: Last chance for these tasty squash.
  • Carrots:
  • Beets: These beets are a mix of golden and chiogga types.  I think they both have a milder flavor, and they certainly don’t stain everything red, which can be nice if you roast them with other root vegetables.
  • Daikon Radish: Try a simple refrigerator pickle recipe on your daikon radish, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.  A recipe follows.
  • Asian Green: Pac choi this week!
  • Chard –or- Mizuna: Remember mizuna?  If you like it’s slightly pungent flavor raw use it in salad or wilted under a hot dressing.  Always good lightly steamed or added to a stir fry too.

November 22, 2011

Week #28 Cast of Characters

Filed under: Cast of characters — Chris O'Brien @ 1:22 pm

  • Cabbage:
  • Potatoes: This week’s potatoes are an all-purpose type. 
  • Pie pumpkin: As I’ve been hearing from many of you, these make a mean pumpkin pie.  But, if you don’t need another pie for your thanksgiving meal try preparing this in a savory dish (see a recipe below)  Like all other winter squash, pumpkins store admirably, so you don’t have to use it right away.  Just don’t keep it in the frige.
  • Chicory: This week’s chicory can vary from being quite open to having a dense blanched center, a little like a cabbage or a romaine lettuce.  There are two types in the share this week: a round red version called radicchio and a longer type known as sugarloaf.  They can both be used interchangeably.  Chicory can be quite bitter for some, and although I like it raw on occasion, thinly shredded and to slaws, we usually cook it at home, which removes most or all the bitterness.  Soaking the shredded leaves in ice water also really helps if you are eating it raw.  Chicory is nice grilled, braised or broiled, and is nice added to a risotto. Check out a couple of recipes below
  • Shallots: Like the rest of our onion crop this year, shallots performed poorly.  But there’s enough for one distribution, and we thought this would be a good week to give them out.  Shallots really jazz up a nice vinaigrette (its easy to find a recipe online), and are the basis of many classic sauces.  Check out a recipe below.  As with onions, these can sit on the counter for a good long while.  If you see signs of sprouting, use them immediately!
  • Celeriac: Try slipping some celeriac into your thanksgiving mashed potatoes and see if anyone notices.
  • Kale

November 15, 2011

Week #27 Cast of Characters

Filed under: Cast of characters — Chris O'Brien @ 12:55 pm

  • Sweet potatoes: This is our second year growing sweet potatoes.  Last year the voles got them.  This year the barn cats got the voles and the CSA members get the sweet potatoes. We grow this heat-loving crop in the greenhouse. Check out a couple of recipes below.  Don’t store these in the fridge; they should be fine on the counter for a week or so.  Small share gets 2 lbs, large share twice that.
  • Brussels Sprouts: These Brussels might need a little trimming to look their best.  Just pop the sprouts from the stem and then cut across the stem end and remove the outer leaves like a miniature cabbage.  These are probably easier stored off the stem in a plastic bag in your fridge.  They are great halved and cooked cut side down in a frying pan (some like to steam them first).  Add a little apple cider right when you turn off the pan for an extra treat. They’re also great cooked under the broiler until they start to crisp up a bit.  Toss them in some oil first. 
  • Carrots:
  • Kohlrabi: I think these are the best kohlrabi I’ve ever eaten.  Too bad this is all we’ve got left…
  • Rutabegas: This looks like a giant turnip, but it’s actually a little different in flavor.  These are generally cooked; they make great unusual tasting home-fries (try tossing them in a little flour, paprika and garlic powder), or mash them in with your potatoes for some added flavor and nutrition.  
  • Leeks:
  • Chard:
  • Parsley (large share only)

November 8, 2011

Week #26 Cast of Characters

Filed under: Cast of characters — Chris O'Brien @ 3:27 pm

  • ‘Sunshine’ Squash: This kabocha type squash is by far my favorite of all we grow.  It’s great roasted or pureed in a soup.  Because of their dryer flesh they are also great in Asian soups, especially those that call for coconut milk.  They also make great pumpkin pies! Check out a couple of recipes below.
  • Romanesco –or- Broccoli: As winter descends, we’ve brought together the very last of our edible flower buds for the season.
  • Potatoes: These russet potatoes are best baked or mashed; they also make great fries, French fried or oven baked.
  • Turnips: Now these are your grand-parents turnips.  This variety ‘purple topped white globe’ is an old heirloom, at least 100 years old.  It can be eaten raw, but is traditionally cooked like, well, a turnip.  It’s great in soups and stews.  I bet these would be really good roasted too.  Don’t forget the greens!
  • Parsnips: Best by far roasted, this carrot relative is generally cooked.  You can also add it to mashed potatoes; just cook it real good first so it is soft enough to mash.  These will store a long time in the fridge if you place them dryish in a bag in your crisper drawer.
  • Collards: A traditional southern pot green.  We like to cook them with black-eyed peas.                         
  • Onions:
  • Celery: Celery is winding down.  While the frost sweetens it up quite a bit, it also starts to damage the stems, usually killing the plants by midwinter, depending on the weather.  I’ve always wanted to grow some celery in the hoophouse for cutting all winter long…

November 1, 2011

Week #25 Cast of Characters

Filed under: Cast of characters,newsletter — Chris O'Brien @ 1:38 pm

  • Delicata Squash: Unlike some of the other winter squashes, these diminutive squash are at their maximal quality between now and the end of the year.  Delicata are wonderful just split in half and baked cut side down on a sheet in the oven.  You can then just eat them out of the skin.  If you have more energy, you can prepare squash rings (see recipe below).  Unlike some other winter squash the skin is edible and tasty.
  • Kohlrabi: A visitor from last spring is back for a fall appearance.  Try a cole-slaw this week with shredded cabbage, carrot, kohlrabi and daikon radish.
  • Kale: This kale is called “Russian Hunger Gap” because it’s supposed to fill the ‘hunger gap’ of April and May with leaves and edible flower buds.  I’ve never grown it before, so only time will tell how it performs over the winter and next spring, but I have noticed that the stems are surprisingly sweet and tender right now, so you might want to include them in your cooked dish.
  • Daikon Radish:
  • Carrots:
  • Beets: Some of these beets are real lunkers.  That’s OK, because this is a winter storage type that stays tender even at a large size.  Sometimes larger beets take forever to cook when boiled, so they’re better off roasted.  Just wrap them in foil and bake them when you are using the oven for something else, and you can store them in the fridge for several days.  They can even be cut into halves or quarters first before foiling and they’ll cook faster.
  • Cabbage: I actually like the taste of standard cabbage a little better, but savoy cabbage wins the beauty pageant, hands down – especially at this time of the year, when the leaves hold frost or morning dew in a magical way.  This cabbage makes great cole-slaw, but it’s also tasty in a stir fry or soup.
  • Yukina Savoy:
  • Tomatoes and sweet peppers: I still owe farm pickup folks tomatoes, so to even out the score, here are just a few tomatoes and a couple of sweet peppers for those folks.  This is definitely the very last of the summer crops!

October 25, 2011

Week #24 Cast of Characters

Filed under: Cast of characters — Chris O'Brien @ 2:49 pm

  • Sweet Peppers: Peppers are finally winding down for the year.  This could very well be the last distribution.
  • Spaghetti Squash: I found a couple of interesting spaghetti squash recipes (see below), so I thought I’d give out this squash for our final time this week.  These don’t need to be eaten right away; in fact they’ll be very happy sitting on your counter for at least a couple of weeks.
  • Fennel: Last chance for fennel this year.  These ones are surprisingly large this week.
  • Swiss Chard: These bright red chard stems have been catching my eyes for weeks now standing in the field.  They finally persuaded me to help them into the harvest totes and out to all of you this week.
  • Romanesco: A weird if beautiful combination of broccoli and cauliflower, romanesco can be treated as either in the kitchen, although I think it lends itself a little better to cauliflower-type preparations.  If it didn’t have such a short shelf life it would make a great paperweight or display on your dining room table.
  • Broccoli: In smaller amounts this week because we’re harvesting mostly side shoots by now. 
  • Lettuce:
  • Turnips: Without their tops this week, these Hakurei turnips are as tasty as ever. 
  • Onions: Red onions in a new smaller size!  If anything these were impacted to a greater degree than our yellow storage onions from fungal diseases this spring, so they’re even a little smaller in size.  But still just as tasty!

October 18, 2011

Week #23 Cast of Characters

Filed under: Cast of characters — Chris O'Brien @ 1:34 pm
  • Sweet Peppers:
  • Pie Pumpkin: You can use these as miniature jack-o-lanterns if you like, but they were actually designed to be eaten like a winter squash.  They make a fine pie if you like to make pumpkin pie from scratch, but you can also use them as you would any other winter squash.  So bake it, roast it, or make a nice pumpkin soup.  You can use this as decoration for a few weeks before you eat it if you like; just remember that your pumpkin will resent a hard frost or being left outside in the rain.  We’ll give out these same pumpkins again later, probably in mid November.  Look for a recipe below.
  • Celeriac: For those of you not familiar with this weird looking vegetable, you can start your familiarization process by considering that it is a different version of the celery you received last week.  But this kind of celery is designed to provide a starchy succulent stem instead of a chewy crunchy stem.  Its great raw, in salads, cooked on its own (like roasted), or added to soups and stews.  Peel it first. You’ll find a couple of recipes below.  The tops can be used to flavor soup; just separate them from the bottom before storing in the fridge.
  • Arugula:
  • Spanish Black Radish: Here’s a new vegetable that might also be new to a few folks.  This is a ‘storage radish’ similar to the daikon from weeks past.  Use it like a daikon or turnip, but you’ll want to peel it first.  These store virtually forever in your crisper drawer if they aren’t too damp, as we found out last year when they got buried by other things for a couple of months.  Extracts from these radishes have quite a following on the internet, which I found out by googling “Black Spanish Radish”.  If you do the same, you’ll see what I mean.
  • Broccoli -or- Eggplant: These are two very different items to choose from.  Broccoli is growing much slower than I’d like so you can choose that or eggplant, which has slowly been ripening a very last round of fruit quietly in a corner of the greenhouse next to the peppers.  Why didn’t I notice them until yesterday?
  • Carrots: These fall carrots are really starting to sweeten up.  Right now we’re eating them much faster than the voles, so keep up your appetite!
  • Potatoes: Sara and I took advantage of a relatively nice day this weekend to harvest these potatoes, along with much of our winter squash.  Harvesting squash is just a bear, mostly because of all the lifting involved, and because we have to take many trips back and forth with the tractor, so by contrast, picking potatoes is a little more laid back.  I drive the tractor with Sara hanging off the back weighing down the digger.  Then we go back and pick up the exposed potatoes on the surface and check under the loose dirt for any buried ones.  It’s as easy as pie, especially if you just do it one row at a time like we did this weekend.  This variety is known as “Durango”
  • Tomatoes (SE Portland): Tomatoes have responded well to this sunny weather, so it looks like we’ll be able to give out one more round.  Farm pickup folks will get their turn in a week or two when more ripen up.
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