Tuesday, July 11, 2017

BGF News - July 11, 2017-Vol. XXXIII, No.5

In this week’s box:

Beans: Carson (yellow) with a few Provider (green) beans tossed in
Cabbage: Golden Acre (round) or Wakefield (cone-shaped)
Cucumber: Diva/Marketmore (green Euro.), Suyo Long (long, green Asian), Lemon (round, yellow)
Head Lettuce Bouquets
Summer Squash
Sweet Onions: Ailsa Craig
Turnips: Hakurei (a little rough on the outside, but sweet and delicious)
...and perhaps one of the following:
Broccoli: Belstar (a bit small and off-color from the heat but still tasty)
Eggplant: Orient Express
For those with the Egg option [full & half shares]: one dozen free-range eggs (assorted colors)
For those with the Herb option: Sweet basil, fennel, par-cel
A bounty of nearly-ripe beans

Beautiful, sweet Ailsa Craig onions
Featured Recipes:  ** indicates a BGF favorite 
Grilled Cabbage Steaks 
Roasted Parmesan Summer Squash
Turnip & Onion Gratin
BGF Tangy Cucumbers and Sweet Onions** (recipe below)


What’s up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past week:  trace (time to get out your rain dancing shoes)
I was about to write "it has been a hot dry week here on the farm," and it has, but I nearly forgot it has been two weeks since our last delivery and the weather was downright delightful for part of that earlier week. However, the dry part holds true. Time and time again we have watched storms form all around us, then part and pass us by. It happened again this morning, I woke up around 3AM to a severe weather notification on my phone. Ran out in my pajamas to close up the high tunnels and the barn and then just a sprinkle. Sigh. Ah well, at least it isn't flooding. NOAA recently classified our area as being in a moderate drought. For us, this translates to working on and running the irrigation system nearly non-stop. While the irrigation isn't a rain replacement, it does keep things from dying due to the lack of rain. Besides irrigating, the crew has spent a lot of time recently pruning and trellising tomatoes in the high tunnels and in the field. We are growing around 800 tomato plants and each one must be pruned and trellised. That makes for a lot of post pounding, twine weaving and leaf trimming. Despite the field tomatoes tough early start with the deer, they seem to be pushing through and starting to set fruit. The high tunnel tomatoes are doing quite nicely and some are already more than six feet tall and the fruits are just starting to show a bit of color. We've also been transplanting more head lettuce, sowing additional beans and edamame and doing lots of cultivating and weeding.

While it's hard to imagine, this is the time of year we start thinking about fall crops. Just this past Sunday we filled the sunroom with dozens and dozens of flats destined to become the future cool weather crops. Included on the seeding list were: broccoli, cauliflower, European cabbage, Napa cabbage, chard, kale and head lettuce. I just noticed that I forgot to start fennel. Will have to do that later this week. The real challenge to these crops is that it is too warm for them to germinate in this weather, so after sowing in flats they spend one night in the warm sunroom then are transported across the farm to the cabin where they will stay in the nice cool basement until they start to grow. This will take anywhere from 2 days to a week. Then they move back out to the high tunnel to grow until they are big enough to be transplanted into the fields.

 We were pleased to harvest some nice cabbages this week. They have started sizing up and even though there is some cosmetic insect damage on the outer leaves, the heads themselves are really lovely. Cabbage is one of those great flexible vegetables that goes effortlessly from the salad plate to the skillet, grill or roasting pan. Jill's all time favorite cabbage recipe goes back to her days working at an area summer camp where "walking salad" was often a snack option. Individual cabbage leaves are spread with peanut butter and rolled up like a burrito. End of recipe. They are quick, healthy and delicious and this farmer thinks it tastes far superior to the celery version. We hope you'll give it a try!

Box return reminder: This is your friendly reminder to please make an effort to remember to return your empty box each week. I know it can be a challenge and nearly everyone forgets at least once. That said, it saves us a great deal of time when packing boxes if we don't have to make up temporary boxes for a number of members. If you would like to eliminate the worry of "the empty box" you are welcome to take a cue from some of our other members. Simply bring along a bag (or a small cooler) into which you unload your items and we will take your empty box back to the farm with us, then you don't have to worry about returning it the following week. We are hoping that we can get through the whole season this year without every having to deploy "The Box of Shame!" (This terrifying specter makes an appearance whenever a member is at risk of becoming a serial box forgetter. Please save us all the horror and remember to return your box.

*Team Blue Gate-Market Opportunity*
Want to see another side of your farm? Join Team Blue Gate,  our group of volunteers who join Jill in the BGF tent during the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market season. We ask that interested individuals commit to at least 2 market dates over the course of the season and to be there for set-up, selling and tear down (basically 6am-12:30 or so). In appreciation for their time and efforts, volunteers earn a BGF T-shirt and a $30 credit at the booth that day. We have an awesome group and everyone seems to enjoy it, but we do have some open dates coming up. If you are interested in joining us this year, you can go to the online calendar (http://signup.com/go/XpWdQM)  and sign up for whenever works with your schedule.

Save the Date: CSA member Ice Cream Social- Sunday, July 23rd from 2 – 5pm at the farm. Come on out for an afternoon filled with fresh country air, homemade ice cream and farm-fresh desserts. We will send out an e-invitation next week, so keep your eyes open for it. We hope everyone can join us!

A little detail on your produce this week: 

Broccoli: Wrap broccoli loosely in a plastic bag and keep it in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator for up to a week. Immediately before cooking, soak broccoli, head down, in cold, salted water (1 teaspoon salt to a 8 cups of water) for 5 minutes. Any [organic] critters will float to the top where you can rescue them or allow them to suffer a salty death. (Note: If you soak broccoli in salt water before storing, it will become too rubbery and wilted to enjoy.) Slice the juicy, edible stems and use them wherever florets are called for. Peel particularly thick skin before using.

Cabbage: Store dry, unwashed cabbage in the refrigerator, preferably in the vegetable bin. The outer leaves may eventually get floppy or yellowish, but you can remove and discard them to reveal fresh inner leaves. Cabbage can keep for more than a month. Once it’s cut, seal it in a plastic bag and continue to refrigerate for several weeks. Rinse the cabbage under cold running water just before use. Peel away a few of the outer leaves, then cut the cabbage according to your needs with a big, sharp knife, and then chop, sliver, or grate.

 Eggplant prefers to be kept at about 50° F, which is warmer than most refrigerators and cooler than most kitchen counters. Wrap unwashed eggplant in a towel (not in plastic) to absorb any moisture and keep it in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. Used within a week, it should still be fresh and mild. Many people like to peel, salt, and drain their eggplant to draw out any bitter flavor; however, bitterness develops only in eggplant that has been stored for a while, so with farm-fresh specimens this is generally not necessary. Many recipes call for salting in order to make the vegetable less watery and more absorbent—much like draining tofu. Salting is not an essential step, but it can greatly enhance the taste and texture of your dish and is well worth the extra effort.

Green top onions: not the pencil-thin scallions, but nearly grown (though not-yet-cured) onions are an early summer treat. Keep sweet mild onions in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a week or two, but beware the fatal moisture accumulation that causes them to spoil. To prolong their storage, wrap in a paper or cloth towel before storing in plastic.

Summer Squash/Zucchini: Refrigerate unwashed zucchini and summer squash for up to a week

and a half in a perforated plastic bag or in a sealed plastic container lined with a kitchen towel.

Turnips: keep best if separated from their greens.  Greens are stored in a plastic bag and can be cooked like mustard or collard greens (you can add them in with your Braising Greens Mix).  Trimmed roots can go into a lidded container or zip-close bag. These aren't your grandma's turnips. These are a sweet, Japanese salad variety that is particularly tasty for fresh eating. They will still work great in cooked dishes, but we love to eat them raw, often right out of hand, like an apple. One of the farm crew's favorite mid-field snacks.

A few other details: All of 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.  

* NOTE: You will notice over the course of the season that some box contents listed above say "Perhaps one of the following..."  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 or see pictures of the farm?  Follow us on Facebook at Blue Gate Farm and/or share your recipes, experiences and questions with other BGF members at Blue Gate Farm Community.
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 & Indigo)
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