Anticipating Abundance

It’s rather chilly today. Currently 1 degree. Fahrenheit. Not like 1 degree C – for my Swedish friends, which would be just above freezing. No, we are quite far below freezing here today. So I decided I needed to spend a little time reflecting on how hot things were last summer. For example, here’s the delivery from July 1st. It’s a great example of the early season: lots of greens and a few earlier roots – turnips, beets, radishes – and my personal favorite: kohlrabi.

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Then there’s the fall delivery – this one’s from October, and was exceptionally bountiful. The farms that I worked with (Wild Woods Farm and ZJ Farm) did an every-other-week delivery in the fall, so the picture below is 2 weeks’ worth.  Carrots, squash, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, kale, chard, eggplant, garlic, broccoli, turnips, rutabaga, radish, and even – gasp! – a watermelon!

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(photo credit to Kate Edwards)

Now that I’m sufficiently inspired (not really warmed up as I’d hoped, but at least inspired!), I can go back to the seeding plan in anticipation of the abundance of the growing season.

 

Food Cost vs. Food Value

This image:

FoodCosts

and the statement:

A few weeks ago, my kids and I saw a billboard for a famous fast-food restaurant boasting $5 meals. While five dollars sounds like a reasonable amount to spend, dinner would be over $20 for a family of four. That’s a lot of money to spend on a “cheap” meal! I usually spend $8-10 on a nice home-cooked meal. With $20, I can go all-out!

from http://deliciouslyorganic.net/much-real-food-really-cost/, got me thinking this morning. I’m not sure they’re really comparing apples-to-apples (doritos??), but it definitely is food for thought. Ha. 🙂

I also like that it’s not only about cost – the article also discusses nutrients and time – arguing that in all three cases, “real food” can often win out over “fast food”. I think I like the article because it reminds me of the research I was doing in product development in Sweden, which focused on developing products with consideration of their full life cycle costs (both monetarily for the manufacturer, but also for customers during use of the product and for disposing of the product at the end of its useful life). While in much of the manufacturing world, the race is to the bottom: cost reduction. We (my friends at BTH!) were a step ahead of that, emphasizing cost reduction while acknowledging that any value equation considers both costs as well as benefits. This article is stepping into the same conversation regarding food: it’s not only about producing cheap calories! It’s also about:

  • nutrition, and the long-term implications for our health
  • time, and whether we would rather spend time sitting/standing in line at Mickey-D’s, or sharing time with family/friends in our kitchen
  • food source, and whether we would rather be supporting big industry or local farmer
  • food production methods, and whether we would rather support producers that use practices that improve or degrade soil and water
  • taste!
  • safety, and whether the food that we eat is handled and prepared in safe ways

…and probably a host of others that are not on the top of my mind at this particular moment. I wrote a few things about “share value” – actually with an emphasis on comparing costs of a CSA share with costs of purchasing food at a retailer. I trust that you will keep in mind that value is more about reduction of costs – it also needs to include all of the benefits.

Potato Types

Russets

Characterized by their rough brown skin and white flesh, varieties such as Butte fall into the dry/mealy end of the texture spectrum. When baked, the thick skin crisps up to create a perfect “jacket” for the fluffy interior. They’re easy to mash and ideal for frying and roasting. However, they’ll disintegrate in soups and stews.

White Potatoes

Compared to russets, white potatoes, such as Onaway and Elba have smoother, thinner and lighter-colored skin. Considered all-purpose potatoes, they are creamy when baked yet hold their texture when boiled. If you don’t know what potatoes to use in a recipe, you’ll be safe with white potatoes.

Waxy Potatoes

Made familiar by the popular Yukon Gold variety, these potatoes have fine-grained, dense flesh that holds its shape when cooked. They’re ideal for potato salad, soups and stews, but can also be roasted and baked. Carola potatoes also fall into this category.

Colorful Potatoes

Potatoes with red/pink or purple/blue flesh are as easy to grow in your garden as any other potato and, if you ask me, way more fun to harvest, cook and eat. All-Blue has dark, purple-blue skin and lighter blue flesh. It is somewhat mealy, making it good for baking. All-Blues keep their color best when baked, microwaved or fried; when boiled, the flesh fades to a grayish blue. Some people think it has a subtle nutty flavor. Cranberry Red, also known as All-Red, has red skin and pink flesh (sometimes swirled with white) with a dense texture that holds its shape, making it ideal for boiling and sauteing. Red Cloud is a red-skinned potato with dry, white flesh that’s perfect for baking.

Fingerling Potatoes

Like the name implies, fingerling potatoes, such as Russian Banana, are shaped like fingers — small and elongated. They have thin, tender skin (thankfully, because they’d be difficult to peel) and are fantastic roasted. Because they’re so small, you can boil them whole, skin intact, so they don’t absorb as much water as potato chunks, making them great for potato salad, too.

New Potatoes

Immature potatoes that are harvested in early summer before they are fully mature (before the vines die back) are called “new potatoes.” They can be any variety. Their skin is thin and tender, and they’re often boiled whole and tossed with butter and fresh parsley. They have a shorter shelf life than mature potatoes.

 

From http://www.gardeners.com/Potato-Varieties/7556,default,pg.html which also has other interesting potato tidbits.

December soup

I was hungry last night, and realized that we had some kale that had been in the refrigerator for about a month. It was a BIG bag of kale – large garbage bag size that we had rapidly hurried to harvest for the last delivery of last season with the expectation of freezing what was left for our own use throughout the winter. The freezing part just had not happened yet.

So. I had kale and leftover ham from a Christmas dinner. Sounded like time for soup! I took a big pot and filled it 1/3 of the way with water, and put it on the stove to get hot. Then I chopped up several potatoes – enough that I was sure I could feed three people dinner and still have leftovers. I put the potatoes in the pot, then moved on to onions. I chopped up a few small yellow onions and two bigger red onions. The yellow onions I sautéd in a frying pan to sweeten them up, then put them in the soup pot. The red ones I put directly in with the potatoes. Next I pulled kale off the stem by folding the leaves over (the long way) and pulling 1-2 inch strips off the stem. This way I had a nice size to go into the soup, and I could quality check the kale and easily put bad parts of leaves into the compost bucket. Then I chopped up the ham and added it. I went ahead and added a 1/4 teaspoon (t.) salt and maybe 1/2 t. oregano. Then let it sit for about 45 minutes – until the potatoes were soft – and started eating!

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Getting underway

I’ve been thinking about farming for a few years now. After a summer of intensive, hands-on learning and working with other vegetable farmers to further evaluate if this is something I *really* want to do… it seems that I’m ready to go for it. I’ve got a business plan. I’ve got support from Practical Farmers of Iowa through their Savings Incentive Program. I’ve got support from family – including providing access to land. I’ve used some of my savings to buy equipment to get that land prepared for next spring. I even have a farm name! The next step is connecting with people who want support local, healthy food.

Your efforts to help with this – either by signing up for a weekly share yourself, or by sharing this information with friends and family – are much appreciated!

Cutting boards: wood or plastic?

I found this fascinating – saying that wood cutting boards are better than plastic/acrylic cutting boards, and that the best way to kill any residual bacteria on the board is to microwave it for a few minutes each week: www.rodalenews.com/cutting-boards-and-bacteria

The thing is, there is still plenty of advice out there to use plastic or acrylic. Like this: culinaryarts.about.com/od/culinarytools/p/cuttingboards.htm.
Either way, it’s a reminder to take what has become “conventional wisdom” with a grain of salt.

cuttingboard

Kohlrabi Fries

From http://www.jrorganicsfarm.com/blog/recipes/baked-kohlrabi-fries/

Recipe by Michelle Davis | Photo by Matthew Holloway

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds of kohlrabi, skinned and cut into matchsticks no larger than a finger
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons brown rice flour or white flour
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

 

Directions
  1. Warm the oven 425 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
  2. Mix together the flour, spices, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Toss together the lemon juice, soy sauce, and olive in a large bowl and add the kohlrabi.
  4. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the kohlrabi and mix until everything is all well coated.
  5. Spread the kohlrabi over the baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, turning half way through, or until the fries are golden and slightly crispy.
  6. Serve warm and with your favorite dipping sauce.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Cream of Asparagus Soup

This is a great recipe for a rainy spring day… after the asparagus has started popping, but when it’s a little chilly or rainy and the comfort of a hot soup still feels good.

2 c. water or stock
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
6 Tbs butter
6 Tbs flour
1 1/2 lbs fresh asparagus
4 cups scalded milk
1 tsp. salt
white pepper

optional flavor-adders:
dash of tamari
few pinches of dill

Break off the tough asparagus bottoms and put them in your compost bin. Then break off the asparagus tips and set them aside. Chop what remains of the stalks, then saute them together with the onions in the butter and a touch of salt for 8-10 minutes until onions are clear.

Then sprinkle in the flour. Continue to cook over lowest possible heat 5-8 minutes. Add water or stock.

Cook another 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it thickens.

Purée the sauce and milk bit-by-bit in a blender, blending until smooth. Return the purée to a kettle, and add flavors (salt, pepper, dill, tamari). Heat the soup very gently! Don’t boil it. As the soup is heating, sauté the asparagus tips in a little butter until tender, but still very green. And these (whole) to the soup.

Serve immediately.

Note: the first time I made this, I used a cast iron skillet (frying pan) for the first several steps. Then after blending, I poured into a cast iron kettle to finish heating up the soup. They worked great! When using cast iron, you have to be extra careful not to get the pots too hot – it takes them a long time to cool down. But for that reason they are perfect for this soup – because you can heat them slowly so the soup gets hot (without boiling), and the soup will stay warm for quite a while after taking it off the stove.