Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blue Gate Farm News 6/19/12

In this week’s box:
Basil: asst varieties
Scallions (green onions): "Evergreen"
Head Lettuce: asst.
Pac Choi: “Win-Win”
"Wild Things" Greens Mix: Amaranth, Lambsquarter, Sorrel, Purslane
            and ONE of the following:
Squash Blossoms, Eggplant: Orient Express (long, thin, purple), Summer Squash : Patty Pan (fluted), 8-Ball (round), or Sebring (long, yellow) or Baby Kale: small bundle of purple/green ruffled leaves

For those with the Cheese option: Chive Chevre & Classic Feta
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 next week

Featured Recipe(s) (see below): Baked Squash Blossoms
Asian Amaranth Greens
Cold Sesame Noodles with Greens

Precipitation in the past week:  1.9”

What’s up on the farm?

Around here, when rain is desperately needed, and it finally comes in adequate quantities, farmers call it a "million-dollar rain." The rain last Saturday and Sunday were definitely million dollar rains. While we do irrigate, there is nothing like natural, unadulterated rain from the sky. I swear the pole beans grew 8-10" overnight!  Otherwise things are just moving forward at a steady, not quite frantic, pace. Second and third sowings of most crops are in and weeding continues ad infinitum. Its hard to believe, but this past week we also sowed the first of the fall transplants in the sunroom, mostly cool-weather crops like Brussels sprouts and storage cabbages, although we also threw in some cucumbers to make up for those that are struggling. So now we have reached that time in the season where the early crops have finished (2-3 weeks ahead of schedule, thank you very much) and the mid-season crops aren't on yet. So begins the challenge of what to put into the boxes until crops like beans, tomatoes and peppers are ready? The summer squashes, kale and high tunnel eggplant have just started to produce, but not enough for everyone so here we are back at a stagger schedule. Barring some catastrophe, we do anticipate everyone will get eggplant, kale and squash, but just not all at once, at least in the beginning. The squash blossoms are a special treat that we try to get into everyone's box once, so that may stretch out for a few weeks, depending on the bloom production in the gardens.  However the "produce adventure" that everyone will get to experience this week is the Wild Things mix. We like to do this once a season as well, and with the recent rains, the wilds are at their peak. There are real nutrient powerhouses that are revered in many cultures as basic food sources, while here in the US, we tend to consider them weeds and they are featured mostly on the labels for herbicide sprays. Since we are "smarter than the average food consumer", we know enough to enjoy them, at least once during the season. Several years ago, one of our CSA members referred to them as a "Euell Gibbons Forage Retrospective" which we think is just perfect!

Just a gentle reminder to be sure to bring your empty box along with you to the weekly delivery. We were missing nearly 1/4 of the boxes last week and it does make our jobs more challenging to pack into boxes that we have to find replacements for. If you DO get to the delivery without your box, you are welcome to unpack your box into a bag (if you happen to have one with you) and leave the box with us, a number of members do this as a matter of course and it works quite nicely for them.

A little detail on your produce this week:
Basil: Basil is a special case, and should not be stored in the refrigerator, as it will turn black.  We like to keep ours in a vase of fresh water on the kitchen counter.  For some, a loose plastic bag on the counter works well for a couple of days; otherwise, put basil in a plastic bag inside a paper bag for insulation, and store in the warmest part of the refrigerator (usually the door).

Scallions (green onions): Remove ties and store scallions unwashed, wrapped in a paper towel and then in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week or upright in a glass or jar in about 1" of water in the fridge with a plastic bag over the whole thing.

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.
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.  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.

Squash Blossoms: Squash blossoms are very perishable.  Arrange them on paper towel lined tray, refrigerate and use within one day.  Blossoms will keep for 1 week at 50ºF (10°C) and 2 to 4 days at 40ºF (4°C).  Chilling injury will occur if held for several days at temperatures below 50ºF (10°C). You can also freeze, can, pickle, or dry squash blossoms.  If cooked, blossoms will store in the freezer for 6 to 8 months.  Open and inspect squash blossoms for insects before using them.  Pull off and discard the green calyxes surrounding the bottom of the blossom.  Clean blossoms by gently swishing them in a bowl of cold water.  Shake them dry.  Trim or snip out the anthers or style.  A few suggested uses for the squash blossoms:  as a garnish raw on crêpes, green salads, fruit salads, soups, and quesadillas; stuff blossoms with rice or minced meat and fry in batter; stuff blossoms with soft cheese, cooked and crumbled sausage, then bread and fry or bake; dip blossoms in a flour and cornstarch batter and fry until brown and crunchy; chop them up and add to quiche.

Wild Things Greens Mix: Keep these like other greens stored in a plastic bag, with the top folded over and placed in the produce drawer of your refrigerator and use within a week. They can replace any hearty greens in a recipe and are wonderful juiced, if you are into that sort of thing. We especially like them in egg dishes. Amaranth (smooth green leaf in Wild Things Mix) is loaded with vitamin K. Amaranth greens are also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, calcium, potassium, and iron. Lambsquarters are very high in Vitamin A, high in Vitamin C, moderate in calcium and low in iron. They're also high in fiber but low in calories and fats. Lambsquarters contain known anti-inflammatory nutrients, including Beta Carotene and Vitamin K. Common lambsquarters also contain carbohydrates, which may increase blood sugar levels. Common lambsquarters are low in protein percentages but high in many amino acids. Just a heads up, if a person is on blood thinners, they need to consult their health care provider concerning foods high in vitamin K. Vitamin K is a blood coagulator.

Summer Squash: Refrigerate unwashed 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.

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 at Blue Gate Farm.

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)

Baked Squash Blossoms
Squash blossoms, stamens removed from inside
Fresh Chevre (goat cheese) plain or flavored
Olive Oil

Carefully open each blossom and place 1 – 2 teaspoons of chevre into the blossom. Fold or twist blossom closed. Place on a jelly roll pan, not touching one another. Drizzle in olive oil sprinkle with a smidgen of salt.
Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until they were slightly brown and crispy. 
Serve warm and savor the crispy, yet soft sensation in your mouth.

Recipe Source:

Asian Amaranth Greens
serves 2
4 cups amaranth leaves (or Wild Things Mix), chopped into bite-sized pieces, tough stems removed.
2 teaspoon white rice vinegar
2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Put the leaves, white rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a large sauté pan.
Cook on high heat for just a few minutes, turning frequently with tongs.
Top with sesame seeds.

Recipe Source:

Cold Sesame Noodles with Greens
2 lbs Chinese noodles, such as chow mein, usually found in the produce section (you can use vermicelli if you don’t have a resource for Chinese noodles)
1 bunch mustard (or other hearty greens,) trimmed and sliced into ribbons
3 carrots, sliced thinly on the bias
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
6 green onions, sliced thinly on the bias
1 cooked chicken breast, sliced into small pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)
5 Tbsp grapeseed or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Sambal Olek
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
Mix together the dressing ingredients (grapeseed oil through peanut butter) and set aside.
Put on a large pot of water to boil.
In the meantime, heat a skillet over high heat. Saute the yellow onion and carrot together just until it begins to soften. Add the mustard greens and season with salt. Cook until the greens are wilted and cooked through. Add most of the green onions, reserving a few for garnish. Turn off the heat and let cool.
When the water boils, add the noodles and cook for just a few minutes until the noodles are done. Remove, drain and rinse with cold water. Toss noodles with vegetables, sliced chicken, sesame seeds and sauce. Top with the remaining green onions.
Recipe Source:

Blue Gate Farm News 6/12/12

In this week’s box:
Chard: Bright Lights mix (large green leaves with bright colored stems)
Garlic Scapes: asst varieties (the green curly things)
Oregano: Greek
Purslane (small, succulent green leaves on short pink stems)
Senposai (large green leaves with green stems, a cabbage/mustard cross)
Spinruts: Hakurei (white) & Scarlet Queen (red) (small, round, roots with green leaves)
Tapestry Salad Mix
Snow Peas or Sugar Snap Peas (remaining group)
For those with the Egg option [full]: one dozen free-range eggs (assorted colors)
For those with the Herb option: Herb share will begin in week or so
For those with the Honey option: Deliveries will start in July

Featured Recipe(s) (see below):         BGF Easy Black Beans and Rice
Great Chard E'scape

Precipitation this week:  .3”

What’s up on the farm?

This week we finally got a bit of much needed rain, but much of the past week's focus was again on irrigation installation.  Weeding also topped the list as it will for much of the season.  We also got in second sowings of beans, lettuce, edamame, beets and broom corn before the rain.  Most of the crops are looking really good, despite our lack of rain.  There are a few exceptions, mostly due to the early, extra warm temps.  Vegetables that we normally get into the first few deliveries that we will not have this year include asparagus (which finished three weeks ago) and spinach which crashed and burned two weeks ago).  The salad mix is struggling with the early onset of summer-like weather as well.  We cut it back hard for today's delivery and are hoping it will rally, but depending on the weather, this may be the last of it until early fall.  Never fear, we do have head lettuce coming on, so you won't be without summer salad options.  Not to leave on a down note, the tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic and basil look fabulous and we have high hopes for their upcoming productivity.

We have been seeing quite a number of Cedar Waxwings (Jill's favorite bird) on the farm in the past several weeks and just this week we spotted one pair's nest in one of our peach trees.  We look forward to seeing the fledglings make their way out into the farm and hope they will continue to return year after year.

A little detail on your produce this week:
 Spinruts: 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 You are probably also wondering what the story is with the Spinruts?  Well, “spinrut” is just the word turnip spelled backwards and we borrowed this from a larger CSA in northern Iowa.  They decided that people have some pre-conceived notions about turnips and many of them are not very nice.  But most people have also only experienced the old stand-by “purple-top turnip” and these glowing white orbs that we are growing are a totally different eating experience.  This is a Japanese spring (or salad) turnip.  It is sweet, crisp and juicy and our favorite way to eat them is straight out of hand, or maybe chilled with a quick sprinkle of sea salt.  It is tasty sliced or grated into salads and even thin-sliced on sandwiches.  Of course you can also use them in any turnip recipe, but fresh is when they really shine.

Purslane: Considered an invasive weed in many gardens, purslane is a valued green in many parts of the world.
The plant is rich in vitamin E, vitamin C and beta carotene, and quite high in protein.  Most noteworthy of all, it is considered a better source of essential omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy plant.  Enjoy raw or cooked in any recipe calling for greens.  Store in a paper towel-lined plastic bag in your crisper drawer and use within a week.

Greens: As last week, 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.  The insects have been really hard on the greens during the dry spell, we hope you can overlook their cosmetic shortcomings.

Oregano: wrap in a damp paper towel and then in a plastic bag in your refrigerator for 10-14 days.

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)

BGF Easy Black Beans and Rice
Serves 6.

1 cup uncooked white rice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 cloves minced garlic
2 16-ounce cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
A few dashes of Sriracha sauce or Tabasco or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 heaping Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 handful of purslane, in bite size pieces (or other hearty greens like mustard, senposai and turnip greens)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional Lime wedges for garnish

Cook rice according to package instructions. White rice usually takes 15 minutes to cook once the water is simmering, and 10 minutes to sit.

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high. Sauté onions and bell peppers for 3-4 minutes, until just beginning to soften, then add garlic and sauté a minute more. Add the black beans, vinegar and Tabasco or cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in rice and oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place purslane on plate and top with beans & rice mixture

Recipe Source: adapted from a recipe at

The Great Chard E’Scape
½ lb Swiss chard
1 tbs olive oil
5-6 fresh garlic scapes (or more to taste) or 1-3 cloves minced garlic
Sea salt

Cut garlic scapes into 1” chunks. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic scapes. Trim large stems from chard leaves. Cut stems into 1” pieces. Add stems to skillet. Stack chard leaves and roll into a tube. Cut into ½” strips. As scapes and stems just begin to soften, add leaves to skillet. Cook until leaves wilt. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
Great served over pasta with a red sauce or as a side dish. Leftovers area tasty in eggs the next day.

Recipe Source: Blue Gate Farm

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: