We are inching our way towards Winter Solstice. December 21st will be the shortest day (and longest night) of the year and then we are on our way back to longer days. Longer days mean faster growth for veggies in the garden. Every year I notice a slight decline in plant growth as we approach the new year and then it picks up again in the first few months of the year. After Winter Solstice I can plant sunflowers again because they need lengthier days in order to get big and tall.
The line up:
Hon Tsai Tai
Carambola aka Star Fruit
Hon Tsai Tai is a close relative of broccoli raab. It’s grown not only for the delicious leaves with crunchy purple stems, but also for it’s tender flower stalk with bright yellow petals. Your bunches this week probably wont have flowers yet, hopefully we’ll be able to harvest flower stalks for you in a couple of weeks. For now, enjoy the broccoli flavored leaves in stir fries, salads, quiches or juiced.
Ok, so here is another idea for eating radishes. Grated. I use a fancy grating attachment on my food processor (which comes in handy for many things like grating green papaya for green papaya salad as well as carrots, kohlrabi, jicama, etc.), but a hand held grater works fine too. Look at this radish noodle salad recipe from My New Roots.
What to do with zucchini, baby or not, I say grill it. Slice it in half length wise and put it face down on a skillet on high. Olive oil or butter, your choice. They don’t need to be flipped and they don’t need to be cooked to death. I like to take them off the heat when the bottoms are browned and since they are cut so thick the flesh inside stays crisp and fresh. They make a great side dish for almost any meal, even breakfast.
Cuban oregano is not a true oregano, it is a broad leaf tropical perennial also known as “leaf of life” in Jamaica because its stems and even leaves will grow roots in water or if partially buried in moist soil. The name sort of has a double meaning because they also believe that it is a medicinal “cure-all” plant. It’s a beautiful stem for a vase in the kitchen, it’s a beautiful plant in the garden and it has a strong oregano like aroma for cooking. You can make a tea with it, you can season sauces with it, you can crisp it in butter and mix it with pasta or potatoes or squash or even radishes. Endless possibilities.
Maybe you still have plantains from last week… and they are black as night, sweet as can be. Need ideas for what to do with those and the new plantains from this share? Read this great article from Huffpost Taste. They nailed it when they said, “We love plantain recipes because they vary so widely from sweet to savory. It’s rare to find an ingredient with the range and versatility of plantains”.
I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. You probably have tons of left overs and you’ve probably over done it on rich foods. The shares this week are meant to lighten things up in your kitchen with a focus on fresh greens. Enjoy!
The line up:
Burgundy Bush Beans
Choice Between Plantains or Bananas
Dried Hawaiian Chilis
Yukina Savoy is in the bok choy family and shares a very similar flavor profile. You’ll notice that each leaf has a long white stem, actually called the petiole. The petiole is yummy, crunchy and almost sweet so make sure to include it in your meal. This veggie is great raw because it isn’t bitter or spicy at all, but it’s also nice braised or steamed. If you like shrimp here’s a very simple recipe from Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center.
Probably the best thing you can do with the Pei Tsai is turn it into a fresh salad to accompany any Thanksgiving leftovers. I feel like we get sucked into the idea of always cooking everything and we forget to just eat our veggies raw sometimes. I like to make it a goal to always have at least one raw element in every meal, whether it’s a salad or just a side of sliced radishes or tomatoes.
Speaking of tomatoes, ours are not in yet (the plants are doing great despite the recent rain catastrophe), but that’s no reason not to begin enjoying the first heirlooms of the season from the other vendors at the market or even Whole Foods. Earlier this week we filmed the third episode of The Fare Field and Anastasia, the host chef and owner of Mandolin Aegean Bistro, prepared a dish called Fasolakia (Greek for green beans) with some of our first burgundy bush beans using fresh peeled tomatoes and garden herbs. Check out this Greek blog for a recipe; they added sweet potato which isn’t the way Anastasia made it, but it seems like a nice addition and I’m assuming you might have some left over from turkey day. If that idea for beans doesn’t float your boat, try this beautiful recipe from my all time favorite 101 Cookbooks.
Chili Warning: these might be small, but they are HOT. As hot as it gets. Keep them in your pantry and use them sparingly.
I hope you like dinosaur kale, also known as lacionato kale. It’s been a favorite for CSA members over the years and I certainly prefer it. As you can see from the picture, I’ve planted a lot of it so that we can enjoy it often. In it’s early stage, which is now, nothing beats eating it raw. Chop it up into big sections (or use your hands and just tear it) and toss it in a bowl with key lime juice, a little olive oil and sea salt. If you let it sit for about an hour (and/or massage it with your hands a little bit) the leaves become marinated, tender and more digestible.
It’s a real treat to have access to local bananas and plantains. For one thing they aren’t sprayed with pesticides or gassed for ripening. We’ve got an assortment of varieties growing at the farm so you’ll get to try little bananas, red bananas, square plantains and some that are good both fresh as well as cooked and they’ll each have a unique flavor and texture.
I started the day doubting whether we’d be able to shoot the third episode of The Fare Field today, but I went along with the group and later found myself thinking over and over how glad I was we had decided to stick with the plan. Even though the sky was threatening us the whole time, Anastasia Koutsioukis, the host chef and co-owner of Mandolin Aegean Bistro, kept a contagiously calm, cheerful and professional attitude. This woman knows her Greek roots, she knows what she likes and she’s good in the kitchen, especially the rustic outdoor kitchen we have to work with. She seemed to have a great time at our place and kept saying she was reminded of her grandparents home in Greece. Anastasia and her husband Ahmet Erkaya, who owns and runs Mandolin with her, are welcome to our garden anytime. Looking forward to the third episode of The Fare Field!
Let’s get into the swing of it!
It was really nice seeing all the CSA members last week at the Upper East Side Farmers Market for the first share pick up. The market seems like it’s going to be a great place to spend Saturday mornings. We started with 27 dozen eggs and a dozen loaves of Zak the Bakers sourdough bread and it was all sold out by noon. This week we’ll be stocked with eggs again and twice as much bread. We also sold out of pretty much all the veggies we brought to sell so the harvest list for this week will get a boost.
On the list for the CSA shares this week are:
Galangal Root and Leaves
Carambola aka Star Fruit
Galangal is a root in the ginger family; you’ll notice the resemblance in shape and texture, but the flavor is pretty different. You’ll be getting the leaves too because they are just as flavorful and useful as the root. Last week the host chef for the second episode of The Fare Field used both root and leaves for a light broth. The recipe is posted on that website along with the episode. To read more about this plant, how to prepare it and it’s many uses, check out this Indian website.
Hopefully you tried making tea with the Roselle pods from the first share. We’re getting them again because they are in peak season, they are beautiful and they are a staple for the holidays. With Thanksgiving around the corner you’ll want to save this second batch for the grand dinner. This time make sure to spice it up with ginger, cloves, cinnamon, lemon peels and any of the other Caribbean spices recommended in this Jamaican travel website.
These avocados are from our tree. We’re not sure what variety they are, but they are definitely good, especially for being the “big Florida style avocados”. They are best when just barely ripe; in other words, don’t let them sit for a long time, don’t wait until they turn dark, don’t wait until they are really soft. When they are ready they should feel firm to the touch, with the slightest give beneath the skin.
Mmmmm, kale. This is Red Russian kale, a unique variety you wont find at the grocery stores. It’s got a nice flavor and soft leaves with a fringe which makes it a good candidate for raw kale salads because it holds dressing in the fringe. A tip for storing kale and any greens, make sure you wrap them in a plastic bag, reusable or otherwise, in order to keep them from wilting. The goal is to keep the moisture in the leaves so anything air tight will do the trick, for example, a large tupper ware. In fact, last week at the share pick up I noticed one of you brought a bunch of those plastic tubs that baby salad mixes come in at the grocery store. Those work well and you can probably reuse them a few times, if not all season before recycling them. As far as kale recipe inspiration, all summer I’ve been obsessed with the creamy garlic raw kale at the Whole Foods salad bar. I’m not sure exactly what they put in it, but any guess that comes close would be good. Garlic, lemon, cashew butter, parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper…. in a jar and mix it up… something like that.
Frisee endive is fun. Fun texture for your salads. Add it to the kale I just mentioned. OR, try this simple, but tempting recipe from Edible Green Mountains which pairs frisee with bacon and poached eggs. Oh boy.
Carambola is an exotic fruit to the rest of the US, but in South Florida they are like apples and bananas. It might not be a common fruit to find at the grocery store, but you are likely to find them in your neighbors backyard. There are two types, sweet and sour; most people like the sweet ones better. We’ve got sweet ones in the share this week. If you’re not familiar with them I suggest you eat it fresh, just bite into it like you would an apple or a pear. They are beautiful sliced length wise into perfect stars. One of my favorite things to do is juice them; drink the pure carambola juice or mix it with ginger, pineaapple, mango, passionfruit, etc.
The sugar cane was a last minute addition to the shares this week after we did some garden maintenance. Peel it with a very sharp knife; hold the piece vertically on the board and wedge the knife behind the tough outer layer, then jam the knife downward to the bottom. You’ll notice it may get stuck at each node (the knuckles on the cane) so give a little extra push. Once it’s peeled it is easy to cut; make strips for stirring drinks or skewering shish kebobs by quartering it length wise; chop it into shorter lengths for chewing on; or dice into even smaller pieces and boil in water to make a simple syrup.
Here we go, this is it, the beginning.
As the farmer I always get a little nervous and tense just before each CSA season begins. It’s partly because I’m out of practice after a long summer and also because I’m eager to impress my members. By the time week one rolls around I’ve put in so much work getting the field ready, starting seeds and making sure crops are growing strong and healthy; it feels like all that work culminates in this first harvest.
And like most difficult things that make us nervous, once we accomplish it we feel high on life. Looking out at the field of greens we’ll be harvesting on Friday evening, deep down inside I feel really good about finally starting the CSA. We’re going to start off slow, with a few items, mostly fresh young greens, some radishes and Roselle for a touch of holiday spirit.
Baby Pac Choi
Watermelon Radishes with tops
Make a *Yin Yang salad with Pei Tsai and Arugula. Pei Tsai is technically a cabbage, but a very mild open head cabbage with velvety soft leaves, much like a butterhead lettuce. The peppery bite of this Arugula contrasts nicely with the Pei Tsai, creating a perfect salad base, good enough to eat alone with a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, lime, salt and pepper or accented with other ingredients such as avocado and tomato.
Try using our baby Pac Choi in this simple stirfry recipe on one of my favorite recipe blogs The Yellow House. They combine the greens with oyster mushrooms, which you might be lucky to find at the Urban Oasis Project booth after you pick up your shares Saturday morning.
Brace yourselves, we’ll be eating lots of radishes this season and I’ve got endless ideas of ways to prepare them. Watermelon radishes are particularly nice. They are large, with a very firm crunch. Always store your radishes (and any root veggies) with the tops cut off, but definitely save those tops. This variety is called watermelon because the colors resembles that fruit. If you cut it like a melon (first cut in half then little diagonal slices) you’ll end up with adorable tiny “watermelon slices”. Freshly cut and raw, this radish is a fun pre-dinner snack. Sliced in rounds and seared on a skillet with butter it makes a good side dish. Now, after you sear the rounds use that same skillet to braise the tops. I like to turn the heat off after taking the radishes out and then throw in the chopped up greens to wilt with the remaining heat. Toss them a bit until evenly wilted and serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of course sea salt. Try it, you’ll see, it’s the closest thing to spinach I’ve ever had from my garden.
That long stalk full of beautiful red pods is Roselle, aka Jamaican Sorrel, which refers not only to the plant, but more specifically to a drink that is made with the pods, typically during the holidays (coincidentally when this tropical beauty is in season). It is edible, but also decorative. Keep it in a vase until you’re ready to use it (without water though!). And when you are ready to use it, follow the steps in one of our old blog posts about Jamaican Sorrel.
*The Yin Yang salad was Margie’s idea, of Bee Heaven Farm. When I was an intern on her farm we used to plant these two crops together and market them as the Ying Yang salad for her CSA and the farmers markets. It’s a great idea!
The Fare Field website launched about a week ago, marking the beginning of a very beautiful and inspiring new project in Miami. It’s a web based cooking show filmed at our garden, hosted by local chefs, using all local ingredients. Yes! The first segment airs November 6th, keep an eye out for it and in the meantime visit the website and follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Vimeo for sneak peaks and deliciously styled recipes.
First and foremost I’d like to thank everyone who came to our 4th annual Heirloom Tomato Seedling Sale. It was a beautiful day and the garden was bustling with activity for hours. October has brought us ideal weather for starting seeds and raising young plants so the seedlings looked very bright. At the beginning of the month, looking at my notes from last season, which read “lots of rain, “more rain”, “fields flooded” and “are you kidding me?!”, I said to myself, “I know it’s a lot to ask for a dry October, but I’m asking”.
I got it.
*Thanks to my friend Cindy Del Marmol for the sharing these pictures with me, I was too busy all day to take any!
Anyone who missed it or anyone who wants to get more plants or planting supplies, we’ll be set up at two events next weekend. Check out details on our Events page.
Preparing of the soil for Fall planting is nearly complete. We started cutting down cover crops in September and now, after hoeing, raking and hand weeding we are adding the final touches just before planting. Arugula, a rainbow of radishes, a variety of Asian greens, bush beans, carrots and kohlrabi are among the first crops to be seeded into the fields after amendments are dusted on the soil surface. One of our staple amendments is kelp meal, a soil conditioner made from the sea plant Ascophyllum nodosom. Kelp meal contains over 50 trace minerals and an assortment of amino acids, enzymes and alginates that feed and stimulate the necessary microorganisms in the soil. It basically helps to create a healthy and active microbial population, which improves the quality and texture of the soil as well as makes nutrients available to plants. This year, by recommendation from one of the farmers at Tree Hugger Organic Farm, we also added crushed crab shells to the fields. Not only is it an excellent dry organic source of NPK, Calcium and Magnesium, but it also works to suppress nematode and fungus problems. Crab Shell is high in Chitin (Kite-en), which promotes the growth of Chitin eating bacteria in the soil. The exoskeletons of fungus and nematode eggs are high in chitin. When added to the soil crab shell helps to create a hostile environment for the fungus and nematodes by feeding the biological life that eats chitin and chitin based organisms.
We’ll have both of these products for sale at our annual Heirloom Tomato Seedling Sale Saturday October 19th and at a few other events around town in October, including the Edible Garden Festival at Fairchild Botanical Garden and the Green Day street festival in Miami Shores. Check out our Events page or visit their websites for more info on those events. Starting in November we’ll also be setting up a booth a the Upper East Side Farmers Market at Legion Park, where we’ll be selling freshly harvested veggies as well as everything you need to grow your own garden at home, from seedlings and seeds to soil amendments and garden tools. More info to come soon!
Katia Bechara, 2013 volunteer and CSA member
‘Coming from a restaurant and wine background I have always been interested in farm to table. I am currently working for a wine importer and I spend my time working with family owned wineries that come from places with personality that have stories about each wine that come from the heart. As fermented grapes from these producers are an integral part of my everyday life the food that comes to my table is too. I always wanted to be part of the local Miami farm family because it completes the circle of a community. My dream for the Miami restaurant industry is to have a small farm per restaurant that feeds with a bounty of local ingredients to their customers...and of course plenty of wine from small producers!’