Here's what happened. Last Sunday, the rains began. The tomatoes soaked up the new moisture, and, as their skins didn't expand with the rain, they split--some from stem to blossom end, some in a circle around their waists, some both ways. This reduced the number of tomatoes available by almost half. There are still a lot of tomatoes on the vine, but this may be the last week for regular deliveries of tomatoes. Here's what I propose: I will pick as many tomatoes as I can for next week's delivery, but I will make them available at each pickup site in bulk bins. People can take as much out of these bins as they want, so, first come, first served. It would help, if you're interested in large quantities, to let us know either by return email or by text. This way, we can distribute the tomatoes to each site in proportion to the anticipated desire. Remember, again, that these will be tomatoes for cooking and processing, and that there will be splits, bruises, some not fully-ripe fruits, and (particularly in the case of the Brandywines) mis-shaped fruits that you will need to cut down, so there will be waste. But there will also be a lot of good tomato flavor.
...is the green beans in your basket this week. I had been in the field on Sunday, moving the onion harvest from the beds where they were drying into the greenhouse to get them out of the rain, when I took a walk around the rest of the field, seeing how things were coming along. My last planting of beans was showing some that were almost harvest-sized, but a lot of small ones and a lot of blossoms as well. I figured I had until at least next week to get these picked and out to you. And then the rains came. By the time I got back into the field yesterday, I had two rows of very meaty, mature green beans. These are Provider, a larger and more uniform variety than the Caprice that you got earlier this year. And, as they are somewhat mature, these are not for stir-fries or other almost-raw preparations. I would either steam or boil them, even if you are then going to further cook them in a casserole or other mixed dish. In fact, Michael and I made a test batch last night and ate them all with relish. We found that steaming them for about five minutes renders them tender, and they have a hearty, beany flavor, one that a white sauce (with mushrooms?) or a cheese sauce would certainly complement.
Once again, greetings from Ffynnon Farm. It has been a week of maintenance and organization out here on the farm, with a lot of the beds finishing up for the season. We haven't quite gotten to the point of "putting the gardens to bed" for the winter, but we are heading rapidly in that direction. Of course, the gardens are never truly asleep. we'll be planting alliums soon for next year's crops, looking for ways to expand our variety as well as to bring your favorites in earlier in the season. Some brassicas, like kale, will get the same treatment.
The Tomato Apocalypse that I have been warning you about will definitely be taking place next week, and possibly extending into the week after that. Again, we'll be sending a separate email to explain how to sign up for the bounty. Be aware, though, that these tomatoes may not be exactly pretty. There will be some splits, some bruises, and certainly some strange shapes and green shoulders among your tomatoes. These are intended for processing and cooking, and will necessarily have a higher percentage of waste than the ones we put in your regular baskets.
Your baskets this week are definitely trending toward the fall. Our first winter squash of the season are here, "Tuffy" acorn or Danish squash. The potatoes are Red Norland, and the kale is our standard Nash's Green. Another first this week is the bell peppers, which are of three different varieties that ripen red, orange, and yellow. We have enough still on the plants that we should be able to get at least one round of ripe peppers to you. Rounding out your baskets this week, of course, are the tomatoes, which are exclusively Oregon Spring this time around.
If you're looking to combine several of your vegetables into one meal, I'd do it with a potato and kale soup. Dice up your potatoes and your pepper to about 1/2 inch on a side, along with an onion or two and two cloves of garlic. Set a large pot over a medium flame, add some olive oil, and dump the diced veggies into it, seasoning with salt and pepper. When the onions are translucent, add two quarts of any stock or broth and bring the pot to a simmer. Wash, drain, and finely chop the kale, then add it to the pot, covering with a lid to help reduce the kale in volume. Simmer until the potatoes are done and the kale is as tender as you want it. Season with thyme or oregano (or both). You can make this a cream soup with a little heavy cream or half and half right at the end, or "de-veganize" it by adding Italian or other sausage with the potatoes and peppers. This kind of soup is always better the second day, if you can make it last that long.
One more housekeeping item: please make sure you are taking the basket with your name on it. Also, if you are sending someone else to pick up your basket, make sure they know the CSA etiquette, as well.
Until next week and the Tomato Deluge,
Farmer Joel, Michael, Neal and Tasha
Greetings from Ffynnon Farm, everybody! This is going to be a very quick post, with no recipes, and very little small talk. I want to get on the road as quickly as possible to make sure your veggies aren't held up by, you know, evacuation traffic. Please be careful out there, everybody, especially our far East Side members. I have been in the Northwest for twenty-one years and have never seen the fires quite so close, or impacting Portland quite so much.
Your baskets today are kind of brimming with whole plants. First there's basil, which we've been nursing along and pinching back, but now it's trying to flower no matter what we do. If you like herbal teas, you can use the flowers fresh or dried in your blend after you make a batch of pesto with the leaves. Then, of course, there's the onions, which are mostly Walla Wallas. I would use the bulbs raw, and then use the green tops in a long-cooking stew or braise. As a matter of fact, that's what I'm going to do tonight.
The peppers in your baskets are mainly Joe Parker NuMex, a New Mexican (surprise, surprise) Hatch-type chile. Check with shareholder and New Mexico native Kristin Wright for roasting instructions. Full share members will also receive some Hungarian hot wax peppers. Beets and green chard are also on the list, as well as tomatoes. This time around, they are mostly Oregon Spring, with an occasional Brandywine or Cherokee Purple in the mix.
Speaking of tomatoes: the ripening has begun, and we will let you know, by a separate email, how to get in on the Bulk Bounty Harvest Shares of tomatoes. Nothing, including the price, is set in stone yet, but we know that the onslaught will probably begin with next week's delivery, or maybe the week after. We will probably distribute them as full baskets (the same size your half shares come in) of tomatoes, with all our different varieties represented. Again, look for the email from us very soon.
And with that, it is past time to get the show on the road.
Stay safe, everybody.
Joel, Michael, Neal, and Tasha
It's an absolutely beautiful morning out here on the farm. There was even a little bit of misty rain as I was out cutting your kale this morning, which felt heaven-sent. Of course the sky had cleared by the time I was done (and by the time Michael was done with the arugula, which is in a different garden plot) but still, the little reminder that it's not always baking heat and wildfire danger was refreshing and timely.
It's the start of the Labor Day weekend, and we hope your plans include using some of our produce from your baskets in your celebrations. We have, of course, some tomatoes for you, as well as another basket of strawberries. These berries tend to be a bit smaller than your supermarket varieties, but we think the flavor is well worth the small extra effort required to de-stem that many berries. Since we also included some arugula today, you could toss them both into a colorful and flavorful salad. Our first peppers of the season came in today as well, so maybe slice a jalapeno or two into that salad. Another first in your baskets is the Yukon Gold potatoes. These are, of course, freshly harvested and not "cured," so both their water content and their sugar content is relatively high. These should lend themselves well to roasting or pan-frying. If you pan-fry them, you might want to dry them on a dish towel after you chop them to absorb a little bit of that moisture. This helps along the Maillard reaction, which is the magical transformation of some of those sugars to that caramelized char.
We've also include a big bunch of kale in your baskets this week. We mentioned the last time we did this that you could turn them into kale chips, but we didn't tell you how to do it. Here's that recipe:
The relatively cool weather is supposed to stay with us over the weekend; this would be a good time to crank up the chips and not heat up your house. At the low oven temperature, though, this shouldn't be too much of a problem.
It feels a little strange that we're already on Week 10 of your shares, with another ten weeks to go. Of course, we started planning this year's garden, and your baskets, about a year ago, and the preparation of the beds and such started in February. Market gardening is certainly a marathon, not a sprint. We have some treats to look forward to on the downhill slope, such as peppers, winter squashes, the bulk of the onions (you've received barely half of what you're going to get), and a variety of fall brassicas and greens.
Greetings once again from Ffynnon Farm. We don't know how many of you are heading down into the Path of Totality, but if you do, why don't you take us along? Pop some tomatoes and strawberries into your cooler and enjoy a fresh treat while the sun goes dark.
Things are settling into the late summer routine out here on the farm. There's still some planting to do for your fall vegetables, and we're already preparing some of the beds for over-wintering produce and cover crops, but a lot of the work has devolved to maintenance and harvesting. The tomato plants are getting a trim; we still have to take out suckers and side shoots to help the existing fruits to ripen. We also are going through all the tomato plants to remove any current blossoms for the same reason: there are already plenty of fruits and we want the plants to put all their energy into ripening those. Of course, there's also weeding, cultivating, fertilizing, and irrigating to be done on a daily basis; these are the things that make up the Zen of a farmer.
Sometimes times gets away from us. We know you know what we mean. We started picking berries and pulling arugula before sunrise yesterday and then all of the sudden, it was time for deliveries! So, belatedly, here goes:
Yep, and we feel pretty darn good about it. One of the farming groups that I do some work with did a survey of CSA members, and they found that strawberries and tomatoes are the two items that they most look forward to in their baskets. (Rutabagas came in dead last, so I didn't plant any this year; then one of our members said how much he and his mother were craving them. Ah, so it goes.) Anyhow, the heat has certainly been supporting the growth and ripening of the tomatoes, and the strawberries kicked into gear after last week's picking. If you didn't get strawberries last week, you got a double serving this week; full share members also got more of the broccoli. We think there will probably be at least two more deliveries of strawberries from our late but very hard working little patch.
Especially for our full-share members. We recommend doing an arugula/strawberry salad, maybe with thinly-shaved red onion, if you still have some from last week. Or, of course, you could get out the food processor and whip up some pesto, but remember, an assertive cheese in the mix might render it a little too...aromatic is a good word, I guess. We did a nice chimichurri sauce, which is the national condiment of Argentina; usually it's made with parsley, but arugula gives it a punch.
Greetings from Ffynnon Farm! The high temperatures and smoky haze have affected just about every aspect of life in the area, and your CSA is no exception. Here's a rundown of what changes we're making to adapt to the situation, and some of the benefits of the heat:
It's just a little bit too warm for us to guarantee that spinach or lettuce won't turn into a wilted prom corsage before you pick it up, and what we have in the field looks like it can benefit from watering and will hold out until next week, so we're just going to leave the salad greens where they are this time around.
The heat, and particularly the overnight retention of heat, has brought on the tomatoes like there's no tomorrow. While we can't guarantee that there will be tomatoes in every basket from here on out, things are looking good right now. Every member gets at least two tomatoes this week, and possibly more if the harvest is heavier than we expected.
And so we have more in your baskets. These are still technically thinnings, but they are bigger than normal thinnings and also a bit more mature and drier, which means they'll last a bit longer. The red ones are Red Hawk, and the yellow ones are a mix of Cortland, New York Early, and Zoey.
We apologize to everyone that we did not get a post out last week, particularly since some of you didn't know what those round yellow things were that showed up in your basket last week. Yes, they were golden beets, of the Touchstone Gold variety, one of our favorites out here on the farm. Suffice it to say that our internet connection went down in a manner completely typical of living in the forest: a log truck took out some overhead wires, and the resultant power surge blew out all the fiber optic modems in a wide area around us. It took our provider a week to replace them all, and somehow we ended up last on the list to get our service back. We are grateful to be back in communication, however, which leads us to:
Well, the bright yellow things that look like a flying saucer from the planet Amarillo are patty pan summer squash. For those of you who have not cooked with these before, these are exactly the same genus as zucchini and yellow crookneck squash, and you can use them in exactly the same way: slice them into a vegetable casserole; grate them for use in bread or as fritters or pancakes, or simply cut them up and put them on a veggie tray with your favorite dip. They are also perfect for stuffing: cut off the stem end, scoop out the meat to within about a half inch of the skin, mix the meat with anything you want (bread crumbs or croutons, other grated vegetables, any kind of cheese, even cooked sausage, with an egg as binder), and stuff it back into the shell. Bake at 350 degrees until everything is heated through and the shells are soft and saggy, and you've got an easy side dish or even an entrée.
The long red things are, of course, rhubarb. This is one my favorite vegetables masquerading as fruit. If you haven't cooked with rhubarb before, I think you're in for a treat. Again, this is a very simple process: chop the rhubarb into one-inch chunks and place them in a small saucepan with just a little bit of water. Add sugar or other sweetener and cook the mixture on low until the chunks are soft. Taste and adjust for sweetness. You can use this compote as you would any other fruit sauce: on pancakes or ice cream, on your breakfast cereal, or with pound cake and whipped cream. Or, look up "Rhubarb Fool" on the internet; it's a parfait made with yogurt and whipped cream. One word of advice: if, when you are chopping the rhubarb, the skin seems to be stringy like tough celery, peel that outer layer of skin. You can do it with your fingernail, but a sharp paring knife works as well.
You can also make pickled rhubarb almost as quickly and easily:
1 bunch rhubarb stalks, trimmed to fit 2 8-ounce or 1 pint resealable jar
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cups cider vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
Tightly arrange the trimmed rhubarb stalks upright in the jars. In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Boil for one minute. Pour the vinegar-water mixture over the rhubarb, leaving a half-inch headspace at the top of the jars. Seal the jars and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
You can add spices of your choice to the pickling liquid; cinnamon, star anise, mustard seeds and allspice all have their fans. Just remember to take the more potent flavorings (like star anise) out of the liquid before you store the jars, or you'll end up with flavors that mask the rhubarb rather than enhance it. These pickles are great with cheeses and pate; or they make a great garnish for cocktails, especially ones made with floral liqueurs. When you're finished with the pickles, use the pickle juice in your cocktails, topped with club soda.
Rounding out the baskets this week are Bergam's Green leaf lettuce and some lovely white salad onions. As you can tell, these onions are extremely fresh, with no outer skin--they have not been "cured." This means they need to be used quickly and should probably be refrigerated until you are ready to use them. We think they would be great minced into the stuffing of your Patty Pan squash.
Greetings from the farm! It has been a busy week for us here at Ffynnon, but then again, aren't they all? The ground space left by last week's harvest has already been completely cleaned and replanted in fall vegetables and rapid-maturing crops like arugula and radishes. Those fast crops may fail if it stays hot, but we'll take that chance. We are also breaking new ground for some of the late summer and fall crops, and Neal and Michael have been going like gangbusters on that project. We are assembling the last components of our drip irrigation system as well. We had started on this last year, but still had some corners of the farm that needed to be hand-watered. Soon, all our plants will benefit from drip tape irrigation, which is better for the produce, saves about 70% of our water, and saves us hours of time per week.
This week's vegetables are still of the green variety, but we think you'll be all right with that. First is a big bag of spinach, a smooth-leaf variety. It's a little bit rustic, untrimmed and unwashed, but we know if you're juicing you can use the whole plant. Please remember, though, that no matter how clean or rinsed or trimmed any produce looks, always wash it before preparing and serving it. Members also receive both zucchini and cucumber this week, along with the first of the cabbage. Rounding out the baskets is a big handful of sage.
Michael is bagging up the sage as I'm typing this, and I'm getting a little bit hungry and kind of salivating for a recipe (using that handful of sage) that I'd had a couple of times before seeing it in the New York Times magazine section a couple of weeks ago. I highly encourage you to check it out: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018737-jamie-olivers-chicken-in-milk. It's a recipe that sounds like it could be disastrous, but it's actually both simple and easy--and in cooking as in life, those two words do not always mean the same thing. Serve it with a salad made from the other items in your basket, soak up the juices with some crusty bread, and please, invite us. You could also use your sage in biscuits or scones (mince some into the dry ingredients, then press a whole leaf into the top of each one before baking) or in the world's easiest pasta dish: toss spaghetti with melted butter or olive oil, some of the sage leaves sliced thinly, and a few shavings of pecorino-romano cheese. Wonderful and satisfying when you want something warm, even on a hot day.
We've been reminded over the past week, by the way, that you can put just about anything into a cold salad and make it work. We had the last of the arugula hanging around (the same batch you got last week), some thawed cocktail shrimp that we had to use up, and some bacon. Tossed it with some cold macaroni, a little cheese, and a dollop of mayo, and it was a salad you'd have paid $14 for anyplace downtown.
I know that most of you have been looking for some color other than green in your baskets, and believe me, we've been wanting to oblige you. Take heart; things are beginning to get a little more vibrant. The tomatoes are showing their first blush, and all the different varieties we have look healthy and promise to be productive. Last year we were plagued by blossom-end rot and catface, neither of which seem to be problems this year. The first variety that will be ready will be Oregon Spring. We have more than two tomato plants per share member this year, so we hope we can share a big bounty with you. The same goes for our strawberries, which are an everbearing variety. The first flush of berries was small and nearly useless, but we think that may have been due to cold weather, among other things. Things are looking up, and we should be able to get you some berries in a few weeks.
Eat well. Be well.
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56965 Pebble Creek Rd
Vernonia, Oregon 97064