Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blue Gate Farm News 6/5/12

In this week’s box:
Baby Beets: Chioggia (red/white striped) & Golden (yellow)
Garlic Scapes: asst varieties (the green curly things)
Pac Choi: “Win-Win”
Radishes: Easter Egg & Cherryette (pink, red, purple and white, round roots)
Tapestry Salad Mix
Snow Peas or Sugar Snap Peas (1st group in alphabetical order)
Basil trimmings: asst. varieties
For those with the Cheese option: Classic Feta & Roasted Red Pepper Chevre
For those with the Egg option [full or half]: one dozen free-range eggs (assorted colors)
For those with the Herb option: Herb share will begin in a couple of weeks
For those with the Honey option: Deliveries will start in July

Featured Recipe(s) (see below):   
Luna Circle Farm Garlic Scape Pesto 
Choi with Garlic and Ginger 
Roasted Baby Beets

Precipitation in the past month:  1.3”

What’s up on the farm?

Welcome to the first delivery of the 2012 season and the start of weekly newsletters!  The CSA boxes are a little light at this time of the season and you will notice the abundance of greens.  This is part of the joy of eating fresh, seasonal foods.  As the season continues the weight and variety of the contents will increase with the arrival of heavier crops including beans, tomatoes, potatoes and squash.  One thing that does remain somewhat consistent is the presence of some cosmetic damage caused by our local insects.  This is another of the indications that we are truly a chemical-free farm.  We try to keep the insect population under control, but they are simply a fact of life in a naturally grown system.  We hope you can overlook some minor leaf damage and we will do our best to keep it to a minimum.  Also we do our best to provide you with clean produce, but you may find a little dirt here and there or, yikes, possibly an insect.  We do wash the produce and sort it to the best of our ability, but we are processing a significant volume and it is possible that at some point you will find a little “nature” in your box.  If and when it happens to you, we apologize ahead of time and hope you will forgive the oversight.  Remember, while we do clean the produce, it is always good practice to wash your vegetables before using.

A big thank you to our pick-up site hosts: Ritual Café in Des Moines and The Next Chapter in Knoxville.  Over the course of the season please consider supporting these independent, local businesses.

The seasonal chores around the farm continue.  We finally got some much needed rain, but the irrigation work continues as our long-term forecast continues on the dry side.  Weeding chores have begun in earnest and the crew just finished the last of the five onion/allium beds yesterday.  They are the best looking onion/leek/shallot crops we've ever had, which is very exciting.  About half of the potato beds are hilled and a number of these are looking really wonderful as well.  The tomatoes are growing nicely, as are most of the other crops.  We are seeing a significant number of garden pests already, particularly obnoxious are the cucumber beetles and the flea beetles. The cuke bugs are eliminated by hand which is tedious and a bit gross, but as we are chemical free, it is our only defense against them.

Health-wise, things are improving.  Sean's surgery went exactly as planned and his progress was so impressive that he was discharged home a full week early.  He is now back to his duties as the farm business manager and concentrating on therapies and healing.

A little detail on your produce this week:
There might be a few unfamiliar items in your box this week, especially if you are new to the CSA.  Most people know what peas are, but maybe not the types that we are growing.  We have snow peas (flat pod with little bumps showing immature peas inside) and sugar snap peas (rounded pods with mature peas inside).  Both have edible pods and can be used interchangeably in recipes.  They are particularly good in stir-fries and salads, though we tend to eat them fresh as a snack.  Peas keep best in their plastic bag in the produce drawer of your refrigerator.

Basil: The tops of young basil plants are often "pinched" out to help the plants grow better. The little taste of basil that some are receiving today is from this process. Basil is very sensitive to cold, so short bits of basil like this are best stored in a plastic bag, then placed in a small paper bag and stored in the door (or warmest part) of your refrigerator. If the leaves start turning black, they can still be used for some applications, but that is the sign of cold damage.

Baby Beets: These little beauties are one of our favorite early treats.  Sweet and mild they can be used raw in salads or cooked and we like to use the whole plant for a full taste treat.  Store them whole in a loosely wrapped plastic bag in your produce drawer.  If you aren't using them for a few days, remove leaves from bulbs and store in separate bags.

Garlic Scapes: We are accustomed to harvesting them in the first couple weeks of the CSA, but this year they came on a full three weeks early.  So what is this curly green vegetable?  It is actually the edible flowering stalk of hardneck garlic.  It is has a crisp, fresh garlic flavor that is delicious as a replacement for regular garlic in nearly any recipe.  We particularly like them in pesto and on pasta, eggs and pizza.  This is one of our favorite crops of the whole season, but it is a very short season crop, usually about 2 weeks, so be sure to enjoy them while you can.  Store in a plastic bag in the produce drawer.

Pac Choi (a.k.a. - bok choy or pok choy) is the large, structural-looking vegetable.  It is a member of the cabbage family and is a traditional Asian stir-fry vegetable.  Both the stems and leaves of choi can be used and are especially tasty in cooked recipes.  If cooking them, separate the leaves and stems, and begin cooking stems first to avoid overcooking the more tender greens. You can also use the leaves like any green-leafy vegetable and the stems like celery.  We tend to use choi leaves as a sandwich wrap, or just roughly chop the whole thing and sauté with garlic and/or onion.  Cook until stems are tender and dress with a little seasoned rice vinegar. Store choi loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in your produce drawer.

Radishes keep best if separated from their greens.  Greens are stored in a plastic bag and can be cooked like mustard or collard greens.  Trimmed roots can go into a lidded container or zip-close bag. 

A few other details: Your greens will keep best if stored in a plastic bag, with the top folded over and placed in the produce drawer of your refrigerator.  For those of you who are new to our salad mix, yes you can eat the flowers. 

You will notice that some of the box contents listed above say something about the first group, second group, ect.  These are items that we can’t harvest in sufficient quantities for the whole CSA to receive at one time.  We do track who gets what and we will do our best to ensure that everyone eventually receives each item.  On some items this may take several weeks, so please be patient.

Is a weekly newsletter not enough for you and you want to read more about our daily adventures?  Follow us at our blog at and on Facebook (just search Blue Gate Farm) and “Like” us.

That’s about it this week, if you have any questions or comments be sure to let us know. 

Best from the farm,
Jill & Sean (and Blue & Luci)

Luna Circle Farm Garlic Scape Pesto
1 cup tender scapes, cut into 1" pieces, then processed in a food processor until finely chopped
Add the following and process until well blended:
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped pine nuts (at BGF, we use sunflower seeds)

This can be served now or frozen for future use. I freeze it in the small, 1/2-cup Gladware containers.

Source: Karen Delahaut, vegetable specialist at the University of Wisconsin.

Choi with Garlic & Ginger
1 large choi, 2 med. or a bunch of baby choi (Trim the root end if needed, and cut the bigger ones in half length-wise.)
3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
4 cloves garlic (or garlic scapes), minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
chili flakes, optional

Boil a pot of water and add just a pinch of salt.
Blanch the bok choy for about a minute or two, until it’s a little wilted and turn bright green.
Add about 3 tablespoons oil to a hot wok or large pan.
Add the minced garlic and ginger.
Let the garlic and ginger sizzle in the pan so the flavors infuse the oil, but don't let it brown.
Add the blanched choy.
Add a pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper. Chili flakes are good in here, too, if you like heat.
Toss with two spoons to coat the greens quickly.
You want to do it in a minute or so, so the greens don't cook much further.

Adapted from:

Roasted Baby Beets
2 pounds trimmed red and/or yellow baby beets or small beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large orange
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot (or garlic scapes)
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. If using small beets, cut them into 1- to 1-1/2-inch wedges. Place beets in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Cover with foil and roast for 25 minutes. Uncover and roast about 15 minutes more or until beets are tender; cool. If using small beets, peel the beets. (Baby beets do not need to be peeled.)
2. Meanwhile, using a small sharp knife or citrus tool, remove long shreds of peel from the orange, taking care not to remove the white pith; measure 2 tablespoons peel. Squeeze juice from orange; measure 1/3 cup juice.
3. In a glass dish, whisk together the 1/3 cup orange juice, the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar, shallot, and Dijon mustard. Add beets and orange peel; toss gently to combine. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours. Makes 8 servings.
Recipe Source:

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