Monday, June 28, 2010

week four

More greens this week... man oh man are we going to be a healthy bunch! You received head lettuces, two kinds of kale, french breakfast radish, a big bunch of cilantro, and a mix of dill, chives, and lemon & lime basil. I'm loading you up with recipes this week (thanks mostly to intern Danielle M.) so you can use up all these greens by the time we return on July 11 - remember there is no CSA pick up on July 4th.

Try a Swiss Chard and Leek Tart ( Danielle points out that you can use any combo of dark greens (insert kale here), and since leeks aren't in season just substitute bunching onions or garlic scapes.
And I haven't tried these but I think they sound fantastic - Creamed Chard with Spring Onions ( and Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts (

And what to do with all those herbs? The answer is - pretty much anything. Even though we're growing cilantro all season, there never seems to be enough when the tomatoes and peppers come rolling in and everyone wants to make salsa. Like dill, cilantro freezes very well and that's a excellent way to preserve it - just chop it up and store it in a jar in the freezer. I use herbs all winter that way. I think cilantro leaves tossed in a salad gives it a great zingy flavor, especially if you chop a bit up with some of your lemon and lime basil and a few chives to mix with oil, white vinegar, salt, pepper, honey or sugar and a bit of lemon or lime juice for dressing. Another way I use herbs is for a little something I call "emergency dinner," when I don't have time or energy to really cook. I grab a big heap of whatever herbs are closest, chop them up, give them a quick saute in butter and mix with pasta. Sometimes I also saute onions and garlic, add some lemon zest, or add some cream and parmesan cheese for a heavier sauce. The options are endless - yay herbs!

And don't forget about those radish sandwiches, which are perfect in this hot weather. Check the blog posts from last spring for more ideas.

Monday, June 21, 2010

week three

Aside from some spring bugs and setbacks with those crops, things are going very well with the summer crops - we just have to get there! In fact, we had a small unexpected harvest of some hot peppers and strawberries this week - which was way more exciting than it should have been. I've been pinching off the strawberry flowers to let the plants establish for their first year, but I'll let the everbearing variety fruit now that the first round of flowering is over. I don't expect a significant amount this year but you never know. And speaking of berries, the hot weather has speeded up the flowering of the raspberry plants and they're already starting to set fruit. Expect them to come a little earlier, probably starting in about three weeks and continuing into September.
Danielle transplanting melons
The summer squash and melons are finally in the ground and the winter squash is seeded! The new field behind the barn is plowed, dug and planted - better late than never. The potatoes are kicking ass as well.... when we were hilling them this past week we caught a glimpse of a few nice sized potatoes already, so hopefully we'll have new potatoes in a few weeks.
potatoes, and lots of them

This was a very light week, but that gives many of you a chance to catch up on the leftover produce of the last two weeks. And finish up that lettuce, because it's returning next week. This week you received pac choy (slightly nibbled), more chard, herbs (chives, garlic chives, thyme, sage, oregano and savory) and garlic scapes. We ran out of bunching onions so only full shares received those, but we have large second and third crops of those that will be ready in a few weeks. Thanks for being so understanding about the spring issues.

I emailed about the garlic scapes so I think you all have an idea of what to do with those. You want to use the soft, flexy part (not the part of the stem that's rigid) and chop and saute in any recipe that calls for garlic. We made an easy chard, garlic scape and parmesan cheese scramble by essentially chopping the ingredients and frying them along with some of our eggs. Tonight I'm going to saute some more scapes and add them to a pizza. And some of you are wondering what to do with all the herbs, specifically the savory. They're are so flavorful and versatile, you can use them to add amazing flavor to almost any dish. Tarragon is wonderful with eggs, savory is frequently used in chicken and fish dishes, etc. If I have a bunch of random herbs I need to use right away, I just chop them all up and toss them in pasta with butter. I also mix some them in with salad greens. You'll be receiving a lot of herbs this summer, so preserving them is also a good idea. Oregano is, in fact, more flavorful when it's dried, and I chop and freeze things like chives, cilantro, parsley and tarragon and use them all winter. Making herb butter is also a great way to preserve herbs - just chop them up (individually for flavor-specific butter or mix and match) and mix them into room-temperature butter with a bit of lemon zest. Form into rolls, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate (or freeze, for long-term storage).
Members at farm pick up have been telling me about some great recipes they've tried or invented using our produce - I encourage everyone to share these, either by commenting on blog posts or on the Churchview Farm Facebook page (!/pages/Pittsburgh-PA/Churchview-Farm/111380458885761?ref=ts&ajaxpipe=1&__a=12).

Monday, June 14, 2010

State of the Crops - spring 2010

I try to keep members updated about the general goings-on at the farm, but things have been so hectic I haven't had time this year. The wet weather has really set us back - we're just now getting the potatoes hilled (and those of you doing farm pick up probably saw my parents and I working on this Sunday afternoon). Though we have flats of summer squash started and doing well, ready to flower in fact, we haven't been able to get them in the ground yet. In addition to the new 6,000-ish square feet for the potato/onion/shallot field we also plowed about 8,000 square feet behind the main barn. This area is for all our winter and summer squash, melons, and second and third cucumber plantings... Though we'll only plant about 5,000 sq feet this year and cover crop the rest. A twice-broken tractor (recently repaired) and wet weather really set this project behind, but it should be ready to plant on Wednesday - as long as we don't get a soaking before then. About an inch of rain per week is all we need and as you know it's been well over that. So we definitely anticipate tons of our great varieties of summer squash and melons, they just might be a few weeks later.

This weather also makes for perfect conditions for many diseases to thrive and spread - including the late blight which has unfortunately already been reported in the area. I am staying ahead of the game this year and treated the tomatoes with an organic copper solution last week, and we plan to schedule this or similar treatments regularly through the season. Treatment essentially involves carefully misting each leaf of the plant, giving all surfaces even coverage. It's certainly labor intensive but I am determined to do everything I can to (safely) avoid the heartbreak and disappointment we experienced last year as a result of this blight. The blight can impact other crops in the nightshade family, so we will treat the potatoes as well.

As you've noticed on some of the greens, we're having a few insect issues this spring. They really did a number on the chard and tatsoi, and started in on the pak choy as well. We're treating mainly by using row covers, hand-picking and applying diatomaceous earth - a chemical-free mechanical pest control. We're also hoping to cut down on this pest population by not planting any more of these susceptible crops until the fall. Instead of seeding or cutting more of these dark greens for early summer harvest, we will tear them out and seed things like more carrots, beets and eventually turnips and parsnips. Insect control and our IPM (integrated pest management) plan is a big part of why we practice crop rotation - the same crops won't be planted in these beds or fields for at least 3 years, not only to give the soil a rest but to thwart these insects.

You also probably noticed that your bunches of spinach were on the small side this week. We had very poor germination with our spinach crops and by the time the problem was apparent it was too late to seed more. Look for more spinach in the fall, and in the meantime you can substitute the tatsoi and chard! You would have carrots in your shares by now but our entire first seeding failed and we're still not sure why. The successive seedings of carrots (three as of today) are doing well, so that's certainly good news. You will see carrots throughout the season since we continue these successive seedings through fall. Another crop you'll see a lot of, but a bit later than usual, are bush beans. The wet weather a few weeks ago rotted off the newly emerged seedlings of all three of our bean varieties. This isn't a huge setback, since we reseeded right away and those seem to be doing well, so that only puts us about two weeks behind. We'll do a second seeding of these soon for a late summer crop. In addition to bush beans, this year for the first time we're trying pole beans - a delicious, sweet-right-off-the-vine variety called Rattlesnake.

In brighter news, the transplants are doing well. Tomatoes, sweet basils, peppers, eggplant and husk cherries are all off to a good start. The first seeding of cucumbers are up and you'll start to see those in shares in mid July. The cabbages look good, and I'm hoping the first round of beets and carrots will be ready soon. And it won't be long until we can dig up some new potatoes! Hang in there and enjoy those greens while you can ;)

week two

Keep those salads coming! This week in CSA everyone received a bunch of French breakfast and cherry belle radish, several heads of lettuce (oakleaf and/or butterhead varieties), a bunch of redbor and winterbor kale, a bunch of tatsoi, and a small bundle of spinach. We planned to include a variety of herbs as well but ran out of time on Sunday morning - look for those in the next CSA.

members Maeve and new mommy Chris
Most of you (aside from 2009 members) may be unfamiliar with tatsoi. I find it very similar to spinach and use the two interchangeably. Raw in salads, cooked in soups or stir fries, or just wilted in a hot skillet with olive oil, garlic and lemon zest - it's pretty delicious any way you use it. Last year some members used it to make "spinach" lasagna, and I just found a great recipe for a very simple browned butter pasta with tatsoi ( I've only ever grown tatsoi in the fall, which (as with most crops) is much easier because there are essentially no insect pests to worry about. It also grows differently in the fall, in a low rosette, whereas in the spring it's more upright. I planned to trim the plants in order to let them regrow for a second spring harvest but the wet weather and other conditions have encouraged such a high pest population for us that it would be a waste of time to try this crop again before fall.
qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqEmma, Charley and Amy with shiny new member Sam
And since we're on the dark greens let's talk about kale! It's a member of the brassica family - just like tatsoi, broccoli, collard greens, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Like many brassicas kale is incredibly nutritious, packed with vitamins and antioxidants galore, and is rich in beta carotene and calcium. I also find it generally delightful. You can use it in many of the ways you use chard and spinach, but unlike those greens it should be cooked and the center rib removed. Kale is excellent in classic "beans and greens": chop & saute the kale in olive oil with garlic and onions, toss with black-eyed peas and sprinkle with grated or shredded parm. This is one of Todd's all-time favorite dishes, but he adds a twist - he fries bacon and sautes the ingredients in the bacon grease instead of olive oil, then adds the chopped bacon. I must admit it's pretty tasty. Another fun way to use kale that I've heard a lot of people talking about this year (including member Rachel Kottler, who suggested the recipe) is kale chips. You can find a few recipes to choose from here:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

move over basil, hello chard!

Danielle, one of the wonderful CV Farm interns, passed along this recipe. I haven't tried it yet but it sounds amazing.... so much so that I think it deserves its own post (other week one recipe suggestions posted below). What a tasty and creative use for chard, which members will be receiving all spring. And while it is both versatile and delightful, it's never too early to get creative. This is also a great way to preserve it.

Swiss Chard and Toasted Pecan Pesto
Use chard in place of basil and toasted pecans in place of the toasted pine nuts. All other ingredients remain the same.
4 cups packed fresh Swiss Chard leaves, torn
1/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons Extra virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup of Toasted Pecans, chopped
2 large Garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmagiano Cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Splash of Lemon Juice, optional
Either use a mortar and pestle and grind all the ingredients together or use a blender/food processor and puree all the ingredients until a paste forms. Some folks like a chunkier pesto while others like a more smooth pesto consistency. Use a little more liquid (this is where the lemon juice works well) and blend longer for the smoother version. This particular pesto is excellent smeared on a baguette with fresh goat cheese and topped with sprouts. It is also fantastic tossed with pasta. I use it on sandwiches, in salad dressings and even on grilled meats. By far, a crowd pleaser and my favorite summertime pesto.

Note: Pesto may be stored in the freezer. Just portion into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen solid, pop out the cubes and place in a freezer bag. Also, just like regular pesto, this pesto will blacken (oxidize) once exposed to air. To prevent this, top off your pesto with olive oil before recapping to seal out the air. Always store your pesto in the refrigerator, unless you freeze it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

week one! welcome 2010 members

Yesterday was the first pick up of our 2010 season and marked the start of our second year hosting a Community Supported Agriculture program! It was a great start to the season... spring shares full of leafy goodness, meeting new members at the farm, and the chickens were reminded how much they love CSA pick up days after eating an obscene amount of cracked corn and other treats provided by all the enthusiastic kids.

Julie, my mom, and Todd and I were up early bright and early on Sunday morning harvesting all the produce for week one. This week everyone received heads of oakleaf and/or butterhead lettuces, deep purple and hardy white scallions, arugula, french breakfast radish, and some combination of bright lights, perpetual spinach and bionda chard. I mentioned that June is heavy on greens so it will pretty much be the Month Of Salads, but for variety's sake you might try using some of those salad ingredients to make a radish, lettuce and spring onion sandwich. I eat these quick & refreshing sandwiches all spring - butter two slices of bread, spread sliced radish (lightly salted) sprinkled with sliced spring onions on one half and and lettuce on the other. Sometimes instead of butter I'll spread fresh goat cheese on the bread. Sound disgusting? Trust me, it's amazing.

Lots of you had questions about the chard. Essentially, chard can be used in place of spinach in any recipe. Some members told me they were making a chard lasagna, some were making chard quiche or omelets, a friend of mine simply sautes it with garlic and mixes it with quinoa. It's wonderful in stir fries or sauteed with garlic and lemon zest as a side dish. Julie makes a standard stuffed pepper stuffing and wraps & bakes it in the chard leaves instead of peppers. Unlike kale, you can chop the ribs of (fresh) chard and use them along with the leaves. The options are endless! Get creative and post your recipes on the blog.
As far as storage suggestions - it's always best to use the ingredients when they're as fresh as possible but the chard will store pretty well in the crisper drawer of the fridge, rinsed and wrapped in a damp towel in an unsealed plastic bag. The same goes for lettuce storage; it keeps for a surprisingly long time treated the same way.

new members explore the chicken coop, and Todd pawns off a weeding job on returning member Elliot Morris