Tuesday, September 8, 2020

BGF NEWS - September 8 , 2020 - VOL. XLV, NO. 15

In this week’s box:

Cabbage: Jersey Wakefield, Golden Acre or Omero
Celery: Chinese Pink
Jubilee Cherry Tomato Mix (see 7/21 newsletter for details)
Peaches: Native Iowa White
Peppers: asst. (see 8/11 newsletter for details)
Potatoes: asst.
Tomato: Slicers (see 7/28 newsletter for details)

and perhaps one of the following: (please see **NOTE  after "A Little Detail...)     
Broccoli: Gypsy
Cauliflower: Goodman
Eggplant: Orient Express
Mini Bell Peppers: bite-sized, sweet red, yellow & orange peppers
Summer Squash: see descriptions in "A little detail"

For those with the Egg option [Full & Half Shares]: one dozen free-range eggs
For those with the Herb option: Sweet basil, chives, lemon thyme

What’s up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past week: 0.55" (last night, and still raining!)

I usually start writing this portion of the weekly newsletter on Sunday. As I write this, it is 94° and quite windy. We've had no rain since the tiny shower last Tuesday and the wind is sucking every last bit of moisture out of the soil and crops. To say that I am looking forward to this week's forecast of 3 days of rain and much cooler temperatures is an understatement. That said, a 40° drop is going to be a pretty extreme shock for our warm-weather crops. They will certainly appreciate the rain (though I anticipate some exploding tomatoes) but with lows forecast in the mid 40's in a few days, we are about to witness some very grumpy tomatoes, peppers, basil and eggplants. These crops don't like anything much below 55° and especially with the tomatoes, it will affect their production and more importantly, their flavor. Cold weather tomatoes will be fine in cooked dishes, for sauces and soups but their glorious days of topping your favorite sandwich will be past. So celebrate that flavor this week for sure!  
Our fall crops are continuing to grow slowly with irrigation, but they are going to LOVE the coming week's weather! Some good rain and cooler temps are their favorite things. We might even be back in lettuce for next week's delivery if all goes well. Meanwhile, you will find the farm crew stuck in the packing barn most of the coming week, cleaning garlic and onions.

This past week marked the start of the fall fruit season for us. You got a "tiny" preview with the little Asian pears we thinned a couple of weeks ago. This past week we harvested all the Asian and Bartlett pears and started on the first of the peaches. 

We have planted a lot of different peach varieties over the years but the little native Iowa white peaches are far and away our most successful. They are small fruits and very fragile when ripe, so you will likely never see them at the store or even at farmers markets. Their flavor is a little different than the southern yellow peaches, more rich and flavorful, a little less sweet. They are highly fragrant and delicious though, a real Iowa treat.  Because we don't spray chemicals on our farm, our tree fruits are often a bit ugly but since most of it goes into our jams, it doesn't really matter. However when we have a bountiful crop, we like to share it with our members and customers and then you get to experience the delight of freshly harvested fruits with the added "character" of some random insect or weather damage. 
The peaches in today's delivery came from an old peach tree that was planted by my grandfather on hid farm (next to ours). This tree is about a week ahead of our peaches in ripening so when my cousins invited us to come harvest some of the bounty, we were pleased to have enough to share. We hope you enjoy them!

Speaking of sharing, I'm pretty sure all our members are familiar with Peace Tree Brewing Co. Our Des Moines members pick up at the DM Branch and our Marion County members know that Knoxville is the birthplace of PTBC and are familiar with their community involvement. Long time Marion Co members may even remember that the Knoxville taproom was our original pick up location for CSA & VegEmail. You might also know that PTBC owner Megan McKay is a long-time member of the CSA and a dear friend of the farm. You probably don't know that when things were at their lowest on the farm in 2012 due to a serious long-term health issue that threw everything into turmoil, the staff from Peace Tree came out to the farm and spent a day helping us catch up prepping beds for planting, they even brought lunch for themselves and our farm crew. These days they provide us a home for the DM CSA and our VegEmail sales and often help us promote both of these programs. Well, now our friends at Peace Tree need our help. With the current health crisis, business was already tough but now they are shut down again in Des Moines for anything other than to-go sales. We want this fabulous, community-minded business to survive so now it's our turn to support them. Here's the deal. We bought a $10 gift card for each of our CSA boxes. We want you to PLEASE take those cards and use them. If you are able, spend the gift card and a bit more (or a lot more). Don't drink beer? They have root beer and hard seltzer. Don't drink either of those? Buy a few 6 packs to gift to friends. Don't need anything now? Buy gift cards to use later. If we all make a small effort, it can add up to a big difference to our friends at Peace Tree. This goes for other small local businesses as well, most food & beverage establishments are hurting and if we want them around tomorrow, we have to step up today. Thanks, enjoy one (or 6) on us and pay it forward.

Meet the Crew: Indigo
Dog crew member #2 is Indigo, our 6 year old Blue Heeler. Heelers are traditionally very smart, independent working dogs with a crazy level of internal drive. Then there is Indigo. He is 98% companion dog and about 2% working dog. He loves the farm crew and is everyone's buddy.  His favorite task is supervising bean harvesting & packaging (also known as snack time). He loves to play ball and romp and tumble with Sky, but meals and treats will always trump playtime.

A little detail on your produce this week:

Broccoli & Cauliflower: Wrap loosely in a plastic bag and keep it in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator for up to a week. Immediately before cooking, soak, 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/cauliflower in salt water before storing, it will become too rubbery and too 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. Our (ok, Jill's) favorite ways to eat cabbage is either to spread a single leaf with peanut butter and roll up for a walking snack. Or for small cabbages, pull apart the leaves and sauté them in butter until wilted…divine!

Eggplant: 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.  The shape of an eggplant determines how it is best prepared. Slice a straight, narrow eggplant into rounds for grilling or broiling, and cut a rounded, bulbous eggplant into cubes for stews and stir-fries.

Leeks: Loosely wrap unwashed leeks in a plastic bag and store them in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. They will keep for at least a week. Cut the leek about 1 inch above the white part, where the leaves begin changing from dark to light green. (Save the unused greens; they’ll give great flavor to your next vegetable stock.) Fan the leaves under running water to dislodge any dirt collected there, then pat thoroughly dry. You can julienne a leek by cutting it lengthwise, or slice it crosswise.

Peaches: these little beauties are very fragile and will go from not-quite-ripe to over-ripe in a heartbeat. You can speed ripening on the countertop or slow it in the refrigerator. Their flavor is best at room temp or slightly cool, but not cold.

Peppers:  Place whole, unwashed peppers in a plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate for a week or more. Rinse peppers just before use. For sweet peppers, cut around the stem with a small knife and lift out the core. Slice down the side to open it up and then cut out the inner membranes. Store unused portions in a sealed bag or container in the refrigerator.

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.) Scrub potatoes well and cut off any sprouts or green skin. (Clean delicate new potatoes gently.) Peeling is a matter of preference. Cut potatoes according to your recipe. If baking a whole potato, be sure to prick the skin in at least two places to allow steam to escape.

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. These do not need to be peeled to use, just slice them up and go! Our varieties: 8 Ball (green,round), Golden Glory (bright yellow zucchini),  Patty Pan(scalloped white, green or yellow), Slik Pik (thin, yellow) or Zephyr (green & yellow)

Tomatoes: always store whole tomatoes at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. Once cut, store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

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 & Sky)

Indigo, Luci & Sky

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