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!