Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer CSA Week 5

The boxes are in! For photos of this week's box, head over to MidSouthMoma's blog. Mid South Moma is one of our CSA members, and she maintains a wonderful photo-and-text blog. Now, on to the box:

The drought continues to stunt our growth, but thanks to diligent watering, strategic replanting, and some help from our friends at Oleo Acres Farm, we have an almost full box this week. We'll keep doing everything we can to make those boxes as full as they can be--without just giving you 15lbs of okra. (Though, if you really want extra okra you should let us know.) In this week's box:

  • Pears: These heirloom pears were planted by my grandparents, and their flavor is full of memories. We like to eat them like apples, but they are also great cooked. Try them roasted or even grilled (pear and shrimp kabobs?) to bring out the sweetness.
  • Okra! Surprise! Ok; maybe it isn't a surprise any more, but our Okra is thriving in the hot, dry summer. If you are looking for some other way to prepare it, why not take it back to its African roots with this African Okra Soup recipe?
  • Peppers (hot and sweet): Our hot peppers love the heat; the bell peppers, not so much. We included one tiny bell pepper in the box this week--not enough for a meal, but enough to add to something else you cook. If you don't eat that much hot food, you can use a needle and some heavy thread to string these together and hang them as a ristra for later (this works even better if you have a dehydrator, or a very low oven).
  • Beans! Not exactly a bean feast, this is the small First Picking off our second, replanted, bean patch. Look for more green beans next week!
  • Basil: Oh, basil! How do I love thee? In pesto, salsa, soup, salad, sauce, or just on a sandwich. (And, I'll confess, sometimes just raw by itself.)
  • Garlic: This is the last of the garlic; what we have left will be replanted in September for next year's crop. The cured braid should keep for several months; just hang it somewhere cool and dry out of direct sunlight and pull a head loose when you need it.
  • Lambs quarters (Chenopodium): And now for something completely different. This spinach relative is delicious cooked like spinach or raw in salads. It is also high in vitamin C and other essentials--even moreso than cultivated spinach. This is Chenopodium alba; close relatives of this plant were cultivated for seed by Native Americans along the East coast. Another relative is epazote, used as a seasoning in beans in Mexican cooking.
  • Sweet potatoes: These are from our friends next door at Oleo Acres, and are the first of this year's batch. If you like them, check out their farm-to-table dinner on September 15 (tickets on sale now) in conjunction with L'Ecole Culinare
  • Mustard greens: Also from Oleo Acres, these are fresh and delicious--an early taste of fall! Cook these like turnip greens, or just sautee them with a little garlic, salt, and pepper and add a touch of vinegar to finish them. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Big Plans: Summer CSA Week 3

Hi, Farm Friends! Ellie here with the latest installation of our Summer CSA deliveries.

Oak Hill is taking off, and we're working at full throttle just to keep up! Unfortunately, the garden isn't taking off as well as some of our other ventures. The six weeks we had without rain seriously hindered our harvest and completely killed off a few of our selections (squash and kohlrabi, to name a couple). Even now, our volume isn't where we'd like it to be--but we're working extra hard to make sure our CSA members are still happy with their boxes each week!

Summer CSA Week 3 (from top left): Basil, pears,
bread and butter pickles (free gift), okra,tomatoes,  jalepenos, cayennes,
Helen Heaven Crab Apple Butter (free gift) and purple hull peas.
Not Pictured: Chevre (goat cheese).
This week's boxes contain (drumroll, please...):
  • Tomatoes: While these still aren't yielding quite as well as we'd like, they did survive! We've had enough to put a tomato or two in every box. These are a mix of Brandywine (round, with uneven coloration typical of the variety); Mortage Lifter (big and slightly enlongated, also with typically uneven coloring; and Cherokee Purple (enlongated, with a deeper red verging on purple). All have more character than their supermarket cousins, and (we think) far more flavor than the perfect round beauties you find at the store.
  • Okra: Our okra are a hardy dwarf variety that's growing sturdily despite the lack of rain. Even in poor conditions, you can count on okra to be prolific--we're picking it almost every single day! We encourage you to try it roasted in olive oil with a little salt and pepper for a surprising summer flavor that will give you a new opinion of this old southern favorite.
  • Purple Hull Peas: These classic southern field peas have a flavor similar to that of black-eyed peas, but with more delicate overtones. Hull them by pulling both sides of the pod apart and letting the peas inside drop into a bowl. We like to cook them in classic southern style--boiled with a little water, pork, salt, pepper, and spices of your choice. They don't have to be cooked all day, contrary to what our grandparents thought. Boil 'til they're just tender and they'll have more flavor and nutritive value.
  • Pears: Our ancient pear tree, like our figs, has seemed quite happy with the dry heat. These are some of the most flavorful pears to come off of it in years! As one of our volunteers this week put it, "now that's the way a pear should be--more like a pear-flavored apple." These aren't the soft, often overripe variety you'll see at the store. They're lightly sweet, great in pies and preserves or eaten fresh. 
  • Basil: Again with the basil. What can we say--we love it! Go for tomato-basil-goat cheese sandwiches: slather some soft cheese on your favorite bread, add slices of tomatoes and whole basil leaves, and crown it all with a little pesto if you're feeling fancy (or just eat it as-is) for a farm-fresh treat.
  • Hot Peppers: Our mixed red cayennes and jalapenos are at the height of their flavor and pack a little punch, so look out! We love to make pepper jelly, use them in stir fries, or collect them over several weeks (hang cayennes to dry; lay jalapenos out in a dehydrator, warm oven, or sunlight to dry) and create our famous hot sauce.
Free Gifts for Our CSA Shareholders!

This week we've also added several FREE GIFTS to the mix. These are straight from our kitchen to you. No frills, no fuss, just farm-fresh goodness in all its glory:
  • Chevre: This classic goat milk farmer's cheese is soft and slightly salty, delicious in salads or on sandwiches (or crackers, for that matter). We get the pasteurized milk from a homestead up the road, usually on the same day it comes out of the goat. It's a two-day process to make the cheese--not necessarily labor-intensive, but it does involve a lot of patience!
  • Helen Heaven Crab Apple Butter: Our crab apples are just as happy as our other fruits, but we didn't think you'd appreciate a box full of crab apples! This little delight is a new recipe whipped up with Oleo Acres Sorghum and some classy spices. A little side note: Coincidentally, both our grandmothers were named Helen. My grandmother Helen always had an apple butter in season that I've never been able to match--until I tasted this recipe! And Ted's grandmother Helen planted the crab apple trees whose bounty you're tasting now. Both our beloved Helens have passed on, so we've dubbed this one Helen Heaven. (Say it out loud to see why it's punny, too.)
  • Bread and Butter Pickles: We're sharing the bounty by passing on one of our favorites, my bread and butter pickles. These sweet, crunchy goodies go great on sandwiches or can be food-processed into a relish. We've even been known to eat them as a side dish! Our cukes are perking up again (they've died back and now are putting on some fresh flowers), so we should be able to replace our stores before frost strikes--but probably not before the Summer CSA is complete. So, we're offering you the preserved version as a crunch-tastic alternative. Enjoy!
Many thanks to all of you for sticking with us through a tough first summer. We're grateful that we had such a bountiful spring and are blessed with enough goodies to keep the boxes coming. 

REMINDERS: We've had great response to our upcoming events and projects. Here are three to remember:

(1) The GARMACY Festival is coming up on August 25. Come out and sell your handcrafted items, barter or trade your yard-sale-ables, and enjoy garlic tastings plus some down-home farm fun. Check out our GARMACY Festival Page for all the details!

(2) We're offering hog shares! Buy in now, pay as you go over the next several months, and receive the meat from half a hog or a whole hog in January or February. If you're worried about not having the freezer space, feel free to go in with a friend or two on the half-hog purchase. Check out our Pig Share Page for more info.

(3) Local culinary school L'ecole Culinaire is partnering with our sister farm Oleo Acres for the First Annual "Salt of the Earth" Farm-to-Table fundraiser! Six local chefs will be supplied with fresh, local ingredients (including garlic and pork from Oak Hill!) to bring you haute cuisine, farm-style. Come out to dine under the stars at Oleo Acres and meet your local food producers. Get your tickets now! Limited supplies, $50 a head to have some of the finest local chefs treat you to the freshest foods available.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Summer CSA Week 2

This week's CSA share doesn't come with a photo... but head over to Mid South Moma's blog to see her photos. She's one of our new shareholders this summer!

We're still struggling to get back on track after our weeks without rain, so our boxes aren't quite as full as we'd like. If the trend continues, we'll add a seventh week to the summer series to make sure that our customers get their money's worth.

Here's what our shareholders received this week:

  • Tomatoes: We have three tomato varieties this year: Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, and Mortgage Lifters. The ones in your box this week are a mix of Mortgage Lifters and Brandywines. Some of the Mortgage Lifters are ours, some were supplemented by our friends at Oleo Acres
  • Hot Peppers: These are a mix of jalapenos (the red ones this week are the mature version of the green jalapenos you saw last week--with more kick, too!) and cayenne peppers. Both can be dried in a food dehydrator, the oven, or the sun and saved for crushed red pepper, or added fresh to a variety of dishes. 
  • Garlic: Our cured garlic should last into the winter months if you hang it in a cool, dry place. Use a clove at a time, or amp things up and create a dish that lets the flavor of our garlic sing for the GARMACY Festival Garlic Cookoff on August 25!
  • Basil: Hands down, our favorite thing to do with a bunch of basil is making pesto. To preserve whole fresh basil leaves without drying, try this recipe for freezing herbs in oil, and enjoy fresh basil all winter long.
  • Figs: Our fig trees seemed to love the spell of dry heat and are producing so. many. figs. They're wonderful fresh, as a complement to pork, roasted with honey and served over ice cream, or even canned (whole, as preserves, or jellied).
  • Okra: This reliable summer favorite is coming along so prodigiously we literally have to harvest every day. You can almost watch them grow. Roast them, fry them, stick them in a stew... or freeze them. Cut them cross-wise or in long, green bean style strips, lay them out on a cookie sheet, and pop it in the freezer. Once the individual pieces are frozen, they can be consolidated into a freezer bag without resulting in a slimy mess.
  • Eggs: Even the chickens are on strike in the heat... egg production has gone down. We've given each of our CSA members six eggs in addition to the vegetable share to supplement our offerings this week.
  • Canned Goods: Your free gift this week is twofold--a jar of fig jelly and a half-size jelly jar of our famous fig preserves. Let us know what you think! We'll have more for sale as long as the figs hold out!

Thanks to our shareholders for sticking with us during an unpredictable summer. We have more variety ripening on the vine within the next few weeks if the weather is with us. We'll get by with a little help from our friends!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

First Summer CSA box!

Well, it took a little longer than we hoped, but the first summer CSA box is here! 

Clockwise from left: Okra, Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, hot peppers
(jalapeƱo and cayenne), eggplant, basil, EGGS, sweet potatoes,
zucchini, figs, and rosemary. Also: garlic (not in photo.)

The drought has hit everyone, and our veggie patch has suffered from lack of water and encroachment of weeds. Luckily our friends next door at Oleo Acres Farm came through to supplement this week's box (tomatoes, zucchini, and sweet potatoes.) Also, we had a very helpful wwoofer in mid-July who helped get the weeds at least somewhat under control. Thank her for the peppers and basil. Of course it rained yesterday (when we were planning to bale hay), and we are looking forward to a great veggie season. 

For those of you who were in our spring CSA, you can expect a different set of veggies. Greens are mostly out in the hot summer months, but tomatoes, peppers, and okra will be fairly standard. As usual, we'll provide some ideas for working with the vegetables--things like chile verde with a whole load of jalapeƱos but minimal spiciness, and a way to cook okra without frying that eliminates the slime that some people hate. Now: on to the veggies!

This week:
  • Mortgage Lifter tomatoes! These heirlooms have a great story behind them, and an even better flavor. The fact that some of them have uneven ripeness actually signifies better flavor! In the summer time, our favorite way to eat these is raw, maybe with just a little salt or mayonnaise. Also, try them on a sandwich with fresh basil and mozzarella cheese. 
  • Sweet potatoes: These are storage potatoes from the last of the harvest last season--Tim at Oleo Acres guarantees them good, or he will replace them when the new crop comes in this fall. They look great to us, and would be amazing sliced thin and grilled to bring out the sweetness.
  • Zucchini: Everyone's favorite long, green, Italian squash--also great grilled!
  • Okra: OK, not to sound like a broken record, but have you ever grilled okra? All southerners know about fried okra, but try this: cut off the ends and slice the okra, either into bite-sized chunks crosswise or lengthwise into stringbean-sized strips. Toss them with a little olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper and place them on a grill pan or aluminum foil on the grill. (You can also do this in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 425 degree oven.) Turn them when the edges start to brown. You will have non-slimy, sweet, crunchy, and delicious okra without the fried mess. This is now our Favorite Way to do okra.
  • Basil: however you like it, fresher is better with basil. This was picked this morning, and the whole house smells like basil. Make pesto, or combine with the eggs and tomato to make this amazing crustless quiche
  • Hot peppers! Ok, some like it hot--others, not so much. Remember that the heat is located in the seeds and, mostly, in the white ribs. Cut the peppers in half and scrape out all of that pith (I use a spoon) under running water, and what you are left with is mild and sweet. As for the cayenne, you could do the same thing (in theory) but they are so tiny and spicy they are best left as seasoning. Hint: leave the cayenne on the counter and they will dry, then you can crush them into flakes for use in cooking.
  • Figs! Woohoo! The humble fig! When all our other crops wilt, the figs just keep going. We included two trays of 12 figs in the box, with a sprig of rosemary in one tray for extra measure. Try this: Take one pork tenderloin, cut a deep groove through the center and lay in the entire uncut rosemary sprig. Add in a few cut figs, then close the cut and tie the tenderloin with butcher twine. Voila! Fig and rosemary stuffed tenderloin! A little salt and pepper, garlic if you want it, throw some bacon on top if you want, just have fun--bake it, pull out the rosemary once it is done, and enjoy.
  • Eggplant: The first of many, we hope. You can make a great Italian dish using thin eggplant slices (dipped in egg, coated in breadcrumbs, and baked in the oven until the crumbs brown) like lasagna noodles and layering other ingredients around them. 
  • EGGS! A special bonus in the box this week. Break a few to make an omelet, scramble them, boil them, etc.

Enjoy--and don't forget to share any fun recipe ideas that you have here or over on our FaceBook page.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Box 6: Last of the spring!

What a great spring! We have loved filling up the boxes every week; there is something very satisfying about planting seeds, seeing plants grow to maturity, and then assembling everything into boxes. Not quite as satisfying as cooking the veggies, but still...  We have learned a lot in the process, and our first-season CSAers were wonderful to help us in the process. Thanks!

Clockwise from top: Swiss chard, kale, kohlrabi,
 basil, cucumbers, green onions, cabbage.

The Last Box of Spring!

  • Swiss Chard: any way you cook it, chard is a treat. Try it in a salad, or sauteed with garlic in a little olive oil.
  • Kale: it's back! We weren't sure the kale would last until this week, but our unusually cool June is your gain.
  • Kohlrabi: We had never grown this one before. We tried a variation of kohlrabi mashed potatoes this week, and it was a hit. Note: the peeled lower stem is crunchy and good in a salad.
  • Basil: We love basil. Seriously. Add it to anything. Try a leaf or three on a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Instead of chocolate sauce, drizzle a balsamic vinegar reduction over the top.
  • Cucumbers: It is a shame that our tomatoes aren't ready, or we would share our favorite gazpacho recipe. The cukes are still going strong: watch this space and our Facebook page; Ellie will be hosting a pickle making workshop later in June.
  • Green onions!
  • Cabbage: These are tiny, but they try so hard. Stuffed cabbage? Cabbage soup? Maybe just slaw: shred the cabbage; in a pot heat equal amounts of sugar and white vinegar (for one small head, maybe half to 3/4 cup each) and a teaspoon (or less) of celery seed. Heat just to simmer and dissolve the sugar. Pour over the cabbage, toss once, leave to cool. Serve with a side of pulled pork.
Look for the summer CSA email coming soon!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

CSA Week 5: The Boxes are In!

Can you believe we are in week 5 of the CSA already? We will be sending out a survey to members in the next week or so asking you how we did, what you liked best, and what you would change for next Spring. We are also planning our Summer CSA! The summer session will start after a break, and will include things like beans, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and assorted squash. Look for signup information soon!

Now, onto this week's box.

This week's offering includes an herb bundle from our backyard herb garden: sage, rosemary, and oregano. The sage and oregano may take root if you place them in damp sand or potting soil; otherwise, use these as fresh herbs, or hang them to dry and use later.
Sage, rosemary, and oregano (left to right)

We also have another great set of veggies:
  • Garlic! This time it is a garlic braid: hang this somewhere dry and out of direct sunlight, and you will have garlic for the next few months (less if you really love garlic.)
  • Kohlrabi: Ok, we are willing to be that this is a new one for some of you. You can eat the bulb-like stems and leaves raw, chop and sautee them, or roast the fleshy part in the oven. OR, you can try this recipe for kohlrabi puree that uses the whole plant. Think mashed potatoes, but less potato-y. 
  • Cucumbers! We were serious when we said that if any of you want bulk cukes for pickling, you should let us know... 
  • Carrots! Ok, these are not as big as last week's--and this is about it for the carrots. 
  • Swiss Chard: No beets this week, but we do have this beet cousin that is all about greens. Try it sauteed with lemon and Parmesan cheese. Don't forget to share recipes here or on FaceBook if you have a favorite! 
  • Pak Choi (Bok Choy); Well, that about does it for our Asian friend. We tried it sauteed, grilled, and steamed. How about using some of that garlic to make a spicy stir fry?
  • Basil: The bundle of herbs was just the tip of the iceberg. This is enough basil for a small batch of pesto, or a really good tomato sauce. Or, enough to make tomato, mozzarella, and basil sandwiches for your friends (note to self: keep that idea around for summer when the tomatoes come in.)
  • Onions! We still have spring onions coming in... we aren't done yet!
Next week is our last scheduled week for spring; we have had an amazing season, and can't thank you all enough for being part of our first shot at a CSA.

Oh! One last thing! EGGS! That is the egg carton in the center of the picture, above. Technically eggs don't grow in the garden, but they do come from our happy chickens--and the chickens did escape into the garden just today. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

CSA Week 4! With special guest veggies!

The whole idea of a totally self-sufficient farmstead with all of its own produce, animals, etc. is something of a myth. Here, I mean "myth" in both senses: in that it probably never existed as such and that the idea of a completely closed farm system is a powerful story. What is undoubtedly true is that most farmers are parts of tight farm communities. You bale my hay, I help you with threshing the grain--that kind of thing. When you sign on for the Oak Hill Farm CSA, you get our produce--but you also get linked to our farm community.

Our farm has been in operation since before the civil war. Back in the day, the spread was much larger and the north edge of the property included what is now Oleo Acres Farm. Tim of Oleo Acres worked for my grandfather in the 70s and 80s when this was a working dairy. Now, he and his wife Betty focus on "old time farming"--complete with a mule, two draft horses, and loads of heirloom vegetables. This week we are including 3 items from Oleo Acres in the box (beans, potatoes, and Stevia) . Oleo Acres uses the same chemical-free practices that we do, and they are right up the road from us. And, we like to give them a plug when we can.

Clockwise from upper left: Carrots, beans, cilantro, potatoes, cucumbers,
 kale, beets, pak choi, Stevia in the center.

In the box:

  • Kale! We had kale in the box last week, and it is still growing strong. Some people like this raw; we like it sauteed with garlic until it is nice and wilty. As always, feel free to share your recipes!
  • Carrots: The humble carrot. Carrot ginger soup, anyone?
  • Beets. Ok, so by now you are thinking: did these guys corner the market on beet seeds? Our beets did unusually well this year, but we love beets and beet greens so we aren't complaining. If you are looking for something different, try a Moroccan Carrot and Beet Salad.
  • Cilantro: We've heard from some of you that you hate cilantro. We've heard from others that you love cilantro. This week looks like the last of the cilantro for Spring, so enjoy it while you can! If you like it but can't use it now, you can always hang it in a dark, dry space to dry it--then you can use it all season.
  • Pak Choi (Bok Choy): Another familiar plant to CSA members--did you know you can grill it? Olive oil, salt and pepper, on a grill with relatively low heat... that's what I'm talking about.
  • Cucumbers! New for this week. And so it begins. Cucumbers just keep coming once they start. They are super versitile; try our friend Claire's recipe for 30-minute refrigerator pickles. SPECIAL NOTE: if you like making serious pickles and would like a box of just cucumbers (as an addition) later in the season, contact us.
  • Potatoes: From Oleo Acres. New potatoes are delicious, and these just came out of the ground yesterday. We rinsed them, but you probably should give them a soak and scrub before eating them. These are great roasted: cut potatoes into bite-size chunks, toss in a roasting pan with salt, pepper, olive oil, rosemary, and garlic, bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes, until they cut easily with a fork.
  • Green beans: From Oleo Acres. If you grew up eating beans from a can, these are the real deal. Wash, snap off the ends, and cook as you please. We like these steamed, but however you like your beans these will be delicious!
  • Stevia: From Oleo Acres. OK; this is a tiny bag with just a few leaves. It doesn't take much. Stevia leaves are sweet (as in 300X sweeter than sugar), and there are recipes all over the internet. If you are over 21 and enjoy an occasional cocktail, try 2 Stevia leaves in a glass with the juice of half a lemon and a shot of vodka. Add ice and shake to bruise the leaves.