Tuesday, July 17, 2018

BGF News - July 17, 2018-Vol. XL, No.7

In this week’s box:

Broccoli: Belstar
Choi: Vivid (leafy bundle with pink/purple stems) and/or Joi (dk green leaves, white stems)
Cucumber: Diva/Marketmore  (green, English), Suyo Long (long green, Asian)
                     or Lemon (round, yellow)
Garlic: Northern White
Head Lettuce: Kiribati (bright green), Muir (dk green) or Magenta (red)
Potatoes: Red Gold  
Summer Squash: Slik Pik (yellow), Zephyr (yellow & green), Golden Glory (yellow zucchini), 
                                Patty Pan (saucer-shaped, green/yellow/white) or 8 Ball (round, green)

and at least one of the following:
Bean Mix: Carson (yellow) & Empress (green)
Cherry Tomato Mix
Eggplant: Orient Express (dk purple), Orient Charm (lavendar) or Listada (striped)
Okra: Bowling Red & Candle Fire
Peppers: Ace (red)
Snow Peas: Oregon Giant

For those with the Egg option [full & half shares]: one dozen free-range eggs (asst. colors)
For those with the Herb option: Sweet basil, lemon thyme, chives 

What’s up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past week: Trace

Coming to a CSA box near you!
It's hard to believe with all the crazy rains in the past month, that there are parts of Iowa still in drought conditions. Our area is rated "Abnormally Dry" which is just below the first "Drought" level. We are running the irrigation system in a near constant rotation to try and keep everything going. The greatest challenge is with newly transplanted crops and germinating seed. We also have crops that are "offended" by the high temperatures. Plants like beans will drop their blooms in high heat because the pollen isn't viable. No bloom means no bean. Now that the temperatures have moderated we are starting to see new bud set on the plants so there are many more beans to come, but our harvest this week is greatly decreased so beans are back on the "possible" list for today's delivery.

There are some crops that aren't nearly as "irritated" by the heat. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and okra are growing along steadily. We are starting to see our first ripening fruits on the smaller variety tomatoes and peppers so we'll be sending out the first tastes of those this week. Don't worry, if you don't see any in your box this week, there are many, many more to come!

Speaking of the heat and tomatoes, we decided to take advantage of this past week's hot, dry weather to finally get the rest of the tomato trellis posts put in. It takes a long time to pound posts in 95° weather, as frequent shade and water breaks are required, but we got it done. Now we are working to get the plants all pruned and trellised. It is a long task and we are late in getting it done, so the plants are much larger than normal.

The warm dry conditions were perfect for finishing off the garlic this week as well. The whole plot was pulled, bundled and hung in the barn to cure. Once it is dry (in a few weeks) we will trim and bag it for long term storage.

Collecting garlic bundles from the field
One of six loads headed to the barn for curing

We finished off this week with our annual CSA Member Ice Cream Social. It'a always fun to have members out to the farm and everyone seems to enjoy the afternoon, especially the dogs, who got lots of great attention! We played games, ate tasty treats and enjoyed some nice chats in the shade.

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.

Choi (a.k.a. - pac choi, bok choy or pok choy) 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.

Cucumber: Store unwashed cucumbers in a sealed plastic bag in the vegetable crisper bin for about a week. Keep cucumbers tucked far away from tomatoes, apples, and citrus—these give off ethylene gas that accelerates cucumber deterioration. You can do a lot of fancy things to the skin of a cucumber, but when it is young, fresh (and unwaxed), it really only needs to be thoroughly washed. However, if the skin seems tough or bitter you can remove it; if the seeds are bulky, slice the cucumber lengthwise and scoop them out.

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, then place in a plastic bag 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.

Garlic: This is now partially cured, so just store on the counter for short term and in a dark place with good air circulation for long term storage. Keeps for 3-5 months.

Okra: These lovely, dark red, horn-shaped vegetables are a warm weather treat. Extremely cold sensitive, store in their plastic bag in the warmest part of your fridge, or place the plastic bag in a small paper sack and store in the crisper drawer and use within the week. Traditional southerners will cut into rounds, bread in cornmeal and fry, but our favorite version is our dear friend Annie's method, "All I do is rinse off the pods and lay them in a saucepan with a little water in the bottom. Ten to fifteen minutes is all it takes...twenty if the pods are really big and "woody" feeling. I put salt on them and eat as finger food. It reminds me of young sweet corn."

Potatoes: Keep unwashed potatoes in a cool, dark, dry place, such as a loosely closed paper bag in a cupboard. They will keep for weeks at room temperature, longer if you can provide their ideal temperature of 40 to 50 degrees. Beware: the low temperature of your refrigerator will convert the starch to sugars. Moisture causes potatoes to spoil, light turns them green, and proximity to onions causes them to sprout. (You can still use a potato that has sprouted, however; simply cut off the “eyes” before use.) Potatoes store best if they haven't been washed, so we send them out in their "dust jackets". Just before using, scrub potatoes well and cut off any sprouts or green skin. (Clean delicate new potatoes gently.) Peeling is a matter of preference.

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.

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 Luci & Indigo)

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