Big Leaf Farm

February 28, 2012

Winter Week #6 Cast of Characters

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris O'Brien @ 3:20 pm

  • Potatoes:  These potatoes should be an old friend by now: They’re “German Butterball”.
  • Purple sprouting broccoli:  In England, standard broccoli is called ‘Calabrese’, and the word ‘broccoli’ is reserved for this vegetable, one that’s grown through the summer and over the winter and harvested in the spring.  The whole thing is edible, small broccoli flower head, tender stem and associated leaves.  Chop it all and use in any recipe calling for broccoli or broccoli raab.  We’ve grown this vegetable every year for the last four here on the farm, but this is the first time there’s been good enough survival through the winter to have enough to give out to members.  Normally this vegetable crops later; this is an early variety called ‘Rudolph’ that took advantage of the frost free weather we’ve had lately.  I took advantage of this weather window as well and hurried to harvest it before forecast freezing temperatures (which damages tender flower sprouts) came.   The freezing temps didn’t come, but I got it harvested and too you all the same!
  • Choi rapini:  This tender sweet rapini is from ‘Yukina Savoy’ that some of you have already tasted once this winter.  It’s my favorite of all the rapinis.
  • Black coco dried beans: If you’ve forgotten how to use these, or your earlier distribution is still sitting around, check out the week #2 newsletter.  You can find it on the blog.
  • Rutabega:  Try a recipe everyone is talking about: Rutabega flat omelet!  You’ll find it below.
  • Carrots:  These are the very last of our carrot crop that were seeded last summer.  More than one CSA member has mentioned to me that store-bought carrots are hardly worth buying because their taste is so inferior.  We’ve noticed this too, and we like our own carrots so much, we just wait until the next crop comes around.  We miss them when they’re gone and then love them when they come back, in this case not until mid-May.  One of the joys of seasonal eating!
  • Leeks:
  • Radishes:  These Easter-egg radishes are great on a salad, but they are also great cooked right along with their greens.  Check out a recipe idea below.

Winter week #6 Recipes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris O'Brien @ 3:20 pm

Pasta with rapini

This works equally well with the sprouting broccoli or your bunch of choi rapini from your share this week.  Garbanzo beans or canned white beans make a nice addition if you want a little more protein.  Add them to the frying pan along with the greens


Sprouting broccoli or 1 bunch of rapinin

2 T extra virgin olive oil (or more to suit)

~1 T chopped garlic

1 lb penne, ziti, or other cut pasta

salt and pepper to taste

parmesan cheese


Bring a pot of water to boil.  Pick over the greens and then wash and chop coarsely.  Drop the greens into the boiling water and cook until tender (5-10 minutes).  Then heat the oil in the pan and fry the garlic.  Remove the greens from the water with a slotted spoon and fry with the garlic until it is hot and starting to brown.  Meanwhile, add the pasta to the water and cook until al dente.  When done, strain, except for retaining 1 cup of the liquid.  Then add the pasta to the greens in the pan.  Mix everything, add the salt and pepper and a tablespoon or two of the liquid (to keep the pasta from drying out) and heat through.  Serve with a dusting of parmesan cheese.

Adapted from “How to cook everything vegetarian” by Mark Bittman


Flat omelet with Rutabega

1 rutabega

3 t extra virgin olive oil

1 leek, minced

1 clove minced garlic

salt and pepper

4-5 eggs

parmesan and parsley for garnish (both optional)


Cut the rutabaga into small flat pieces and fry them until just starting to soften.  Then add the garlic and leek and cook everything until soft.  Turn the heat to low, then beat the eggs with a little salt and pepper and pour them into the pan over the veggies.  Cook undisturbed, 5-10 minutes, until the eggs are just set on top.  You can cover the pan for a minute or two if you like your eggs more evenly cooked through.  Garnish and serve!


Adapted from “How to cook everything vegetarian” by Mark Bittman



Radish greens roasted with their roots

This recipe is probably more worthwhile if you scale it up to 2 or 3 bunches.  Great too if you only have only one bunch, but just a little more work relative to the volume of food you get.


1-2 bunches small radishes

1-2  T extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


Put the oven on to 500 degrees.  Then remove the greens from the radishes and pat or spin dry.  Then heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet.  Wash the radish roots, then cut them in half and fry them in the skillet, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cook them until they just start to brown, then transfer the skillet to the oven and roast them for 15 minutes or so, until they start to get crispy.  Then put the skillet back on the stove-top, stir in the butter, and add the greens, cooking over moderate heat until the greens are just wilted.  This should only take a couple of minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the lemon juice, and serve immediately!

Adapted from a recipe at

February 21, 2012

Winter week #5 Farm news

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris O'Brien @ 1:17 pm

It’s been quiet, at least for adults this week at the farm.  I wish I could say the same for smaller family members!

Short newsletter this week…  I hope everyone has a great one and enjoys their veggies!

Winter Week #5 Cast of characters

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris O'Brien @ 1:17 pm

  • Winter Squash:  Our butternut squash in storage is till going strong.  By this time of year, this squash is at its peak, having sweetened up in storage for almost four months now.  Use it up soon before it goes bad, as it won’t last forever.  The first sign is usually up by the stem, so if you see any discoloration their, whack off the bad part and cook the rest!
  •  Onions:  These are the very last of our very small onions from 2011.  I just started onion seed for 2012, and already I’m dreaming of lunkers.  Did anyone ever say that farmers aren’t optimists at heart?
  • Beets:  These storage beets are a mix of standard red, chioggia and golden types.
  • Kale:  These small bunches are the result of new tender growth in our kale plantings.  These new leaves are unusually tender for kale, and make a great addition to a salad (chopped finely) along with carrots and cabbage.  Otherwise, great cooked as any standard kale.  The stems are very tender, so in my opinion you can toss them in with the leaves when you cook them.
  • Swiss chard: This week’s chard is a testament to the mild winter we’ve been experiencing.  Normally, by this time of year, our chard planting would be mostly dead to the ground.  You’ll see either red or green chard in your share this week.  FYI: These chard stems aren’t the tender stems of last fall, so you might want to remove them before using the leaves.
  • Parsnips:
  • Parsley:  A small bunch of parsley for everyone this week!

Winter week #5 Recipes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris O'Brien @ 1:14 pm

Italian stew with winter squash and chickpeas

Serve over quinoa, brown rice, millet, or polenta.

3 cups chopped onion

1 ½ t salt

2 T olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

½ t ground coriander

½ t dried thyme

¼ t ground black pepper

2 cups water

2 cups diced peeled butternut squash

1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

1 cup diced carrots or parsnip

5 cups chopped kale

2 T chopped parsley (optional)

2 t red wine vinegar



Cook the onions and salt in a soup pot with the oil until they start to caramelize, about 12 minutes.  Then add the garlic, coriander, thyme and black pepper and cook the spices briefly.  Then add the water, squash, chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots/parsnips, cover and simmer until everything is tender, 15-30 minutes.  Then stir in the chopped kale and simmer until it is cooked, another 5-10 minutes.  Finally stir in the parsley and vinegar.

Adapted from “Moosewood restaurant cooking for your health” by the Moosewood Collective.


Creamy parsnip gratin with vanilla bean


1 ½ to 2 lbs parsnips, cut into ¼ inch slices

2-3 cups cream, half and half or milk

1 vanilla bean, or a dash of extract

½ to 1 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts.

A pat or two of butter


Preheat the oven to 375, and peel, trim and slice the parsnips, then arrange them in an 8” square baking dish.  Heat the cream or milk to just below boiling, then scrape the vanilla bean into the milk, along with the bean pod (or add a dash of vanilla extract).  Pour the milk over the parsnips until it comes up ½ to 2/3 of the way up the side of the pan.  Roast the hazelnuts under the broiler and then chop and sprinkle over the top of the gratin.  Add a pat of butter or two on top, then cover with foil and bake until the parsnips are tender and the liquid is reduced, 20-40 minutes.  If the parsnips are tender but there is still remaining liquid, remove the foil to evaporate the liquid faster and brown the top a little.

From “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Mark Bittman

February 14, 2012

Winter week #4 Farm News

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris O'Brien @ 2:40 pm


Nature versus nurture.  There are many things that make our farm successful, that is the vegetable growing part.  However, when I reflect on all the things that go into raising a vegetable that, in the words of one plant breeder ‘smiles back at you’, I think genetics trumps everything else.  That is the genetics of the vegetable, not the farmer.

 All of the vegetables that you receive in your weekly share are the product of breeding by farmers and plant breeders for hundreds, even thousands of years.  Wild plants have been manipulated genetically to produce tastier more succulent roots, tubers, stems, leaves or fuits.  They’ve also been altered to grow in new and very different climates and on different soils, and to be resistant to new pests.  This was done for millennia without farmers understanding the nuts and bolts of evolution, but in the last century and a half or so plant breeding has become much more sophisticated as scientists discover the underlying mechanisms of heredity which make getting certain traits into vegetable varieties easier, and more common.

This history of plant breeding usually isn’t evident by looking at the vegetable itself.  For example, consider the tomato.  Humans have a love affair with tomatoes, and this is evident in the almost 10,000 varieties available today.  Each variety is the result of an individual human selecting a certain type of tomato for a particular reason.  When this tomato gets sent out into the world and is grown by others, it’s often not clear what conditions that tomato needs to flourish.  It’s for this reason that I’m skeptical whenever anyone says they have the “best” tomato variety.  Best for where?  Best for who?

Finding the right variety then becomes a matter of exploration, of trial and error, by the farmer.  Someone skilled at their craft could perhaps coax a crop from any variety of tomato anywhere, but in my mind it’s worth first discovering which tomato does well in one’s own back yard, and then optimizing the growing conditions further to perfect the harvest.

Home gardeners fall prey to the nature of variety genetics when they buy, for example, generic eggplant seed from a rack in the hardware or grocery store.  National seed suppliers of these packets usually provide varieties that are so widely adapted that they don’t excel in any particular climate, especially one with nights that are so cool, like here in the Pacific Northwest.  The saying “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” was created to describe this situation.

The wise gardener or farmer would do better to purchase a variety that has been tested in our climate by one of the regional seed companies. Either that, or grow out 10 or 20 eggplant varieties, and then choose the very best one or two varieties.  We do a little of both, and our own variety trials really exhibit how some varieties are more suited to Big Leaf Farm growing conditions than others.

Have a great week and ♥ your veggies!


P.S. What, no mention of baby?  Actually it was baby that got me thinking about this week’s topic.  The nature versus nurture debate pertaining to human development is an old and venerable one, and one I’m sure many parents have considered over the years.  With kids, it’s a little different than with veggies, though.  With a tiny human, we’re stuck with the genetics (we can’t just get rid of this one and try another, can we?), so we have to rely on nurturing to the extent that we can! If you’re interested in another baby picture, scroll down…

Winter Week #4 Cast of Characters

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris O'Brien @ 2:27 pm

  • Molly Frances O’Brien: Born Feb 1, 2012.  9lb, 3 oz.  She still has some growing to do, so you won’t see her in your share just yet!
  • Potatoes:  This week’s red potatoes are mighty fine roasted.  They’re called ‘Durango’.
  • Scallions:  Our scallion planting noticed the sun and warmer temperatures in recent weeks along with the rest of us.  They (the scallions) responded with an amazing amount of growth.  One more way for CSA members to benefit from winter sun!
  • Cabbage:  Cabbage has formed the backbone of our winter salads of late, that is until the mizuna and arugula (see below) arrived.  Cabbage is also great shredded and added as a crunchy topping to Mexican dishes and even on top of soups.
  • Celeriac: 
  • Winter salad mix:  These salad greens were seeded in our large greenhouse after we pulled out sweet potatoes and peppers last fall.  They germinated in November, and then grew very slowly in December and early January.  With the increasing days (and sunny weather), they’ve grown rapidly in the last couple of weeks.  You’ll find mizuna and arugula leaves in here, as well as Mache (added last on the top of each bag), which is a small rosette of dark green leaves.  If you aren’t familiar with mache, give it a taste on its own to familiarize yourself.  It has a unique flavor.  Mache (also known as “corn salad” and a variety of other names) was originally a weed that grew in the grain fields of Europe and Asia in the winter-time, and was foraged by peasants.  It was introduced to everyone else at the turn of the 17th century by the gardener of King Louis XIV of France.  We’ve been enjoying this mix chopped with a nice Asian-ginger dressing, but the greens would also make a great wilted salad.  You could also try mixing them with grated apple and celeriac and adding some currants, minced scallion and a dressing of your choice.  There’s another recipe option below.
  • Rapini:  This is the tender stems, leaves and flower buds of overwintering biennial vegetables.  You’ll see quite a bit more of this in weeks to come; you’ll see either mustard or kale rapini in your share this week. You can treat these as greens, broccoli, or broccoli raab in recipes calling for those items.  A splash of lemon juice can add brightness to their flavor, no matter how you prepare them. Vinegar can do the same thing.
  • Carrots:

Winter week #4 Recipes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris O'Brien @ 2:26 pm

Here are three recipes adapted from a great new cookbook: “Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for health” by the Moosewood Collective.


Rapini and beans

1 15 oz can butter beans

1 15 oz can red beans

1 bunch rapini

1 T olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

salt and pepper to taste


Rinse the beans in a colander and then separate the rapini bunch and wash them.  Remove the woody (very lowest) part of the stem (if appropriate.  This is more necessary with the kale, less so with the mustards) then chop the greens.  Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the rapini (larger pieces with stems first) and cook for a few minutes.  Add the garlic and the rest of the rapini and cook until everything is wilted.  Stir in the beans and cook until hot, then season with salt and pepper and enjoy!


Pasta with Rapini and Beans


8 ounces chunky shape pasta (whole-grain preferably)

1 bunch rapini

2 T olive oil

2 or more garlic cloves, minced

¼ t red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

1 15 ounce can pinto or white beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup pitted and chopped oil-cured black olives, like kalamata


Boil a pot of water and cook the pasta to your desired level of doneness.  Then wash, pick over and chop the rapini and warm the oil in a soup pot.  Cook the garlic and pepper flakes for a minute, then add the rapini and salt and cook until the greens are tender.  Remove this from the heat and add the olives and beans.  Serve the dish by adding a bed of pasta to the bowl, then cover with a helping of the beans/greens mixture.  A little dusting of parmesan cheese wouldn’t hurt anyone.


Winter greens with mandarin oranges,

walnuts and dried figs


For the salad:

6-8 cups chopped salad greens

12 mandarin orange wedges (from the can)

8 dried figs

½ cup chopped toasted walnuts


For the dressing:

1 T red wine vinegar

1 T Balsamic vinegar

2 t Dijon mustard

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Slice the figs into rounds and open the can of mandarin oranges.  Wash and dry the salad greens, then chop them and add the greens to a bowl, then toss with figs and the oranges.  Lightly toast some chopped walnuts in a dry skillet or under the broiler (briefly) and then top the salad with them.  Prepare the dressing and shake or mix vigorously, and either toss the salad with the dressing, or dress each individual serving.

February 13, 2012

CSA back on!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris O'Brien @ 10:28 am

The babymoon is over!  Here’s a note that CSA distribution will resume this week.  As usual, pick up your share after 4:00pm at the farm or from 5-6:30 in SE portland on Tuesday.  See you then!



February 5, 2012

Pickup cancelled on account of baby!

Filed under: Farm updates — Chris O'Brien @ 8:01 pm

CSA pickup for Feb. 7th is canceled, due to the arrival of Molly Frances O’Brien.

We’ll be back on our regular schedule next week, with pickup on Feb. 14th occuring as normal.

See you all then!


« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress