Welcome to your Winter CSA
~ Produce, Storage & Healthy Food year-round Week One
Though this is the beginning of the Winter shares, this time of year feels much more like an ending; the season slowing down, clean-up of the field, days becoming shorter and energy (human & plant) becoming more precious and scarce. After a long season of hot days and farm-work, typically this is the time when I begin to settle-in for the colder months, but this year a whole new challenge has presented itself in developing the Winter CSA and I have yet to know how it will feel to be washing, weighing, harvesting and bagging veggies through December when this is usually a time of gestation, of dreaming and planning for the next farming season... I think, though, that I have not fallen into this type of work by accident, nor does beginning the Winter CSA just mean a continuation of work in the hopes to build a viable farming career. Precisely because of the nature of the seasons here in NB, there is the need to adapt our food security plan to ensure that we can have access to healthy, local food all year round and not just at the height of the growing season. It could mean the difference between maintaining a positive attitude, healthy energy level and basic physical health throughout the Winter when many of us may experience depression and low energy. These are the meager beginnings but, I think, the beginning of something that will grow exponentially over the next few years as farmers and consumers respond to the increasing desire for real food from sustainable, local sources. The cooler that I built is pretty hap-hazard, though it seems to be staying together; I would ideally prefer multiple temperature-controlled rooms for storage - but the basement will have to do for now – and I wish that there were a few more weeks of long, light days so the salad mix could grow. But, this is where the creative interest and excitement lies in farming....that you have to start somewhere and to continue we must always be engaged, thinking and solving problems, noticing, planning and dreaming for the future.
I hope that you enjoy your selection of organic produce over the next 14 weeks. I welcome any feedback and suggestions including varieties that you might enjoy and your experiences with storing these crops in your own home. Good Health!
Blue Kale (1 bunch)
As you know, kale is choc full of nutrients, including Vitamins B6, K, C & D. This hardy little plant also provides us with dietary fibre and protein. It's super easy to grow and will last for nearly the entire season in your garden. This kale comes from a later planting that I timed to be ready for the first few weeks of November. Getting sweeter with frost, the leaves have just started to reach maturity so are still tender and juicy!
Use kale in smoothies (without the stems), in stir fry, massaged kale salad or dry slowly in the oven to make salty kale chips!
Any leafy green should be stored in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag. The dry, cool air in your fridge can cause the greens to go limp, but leaving them in a sealed plastic bags can cause condensation and rotting. Find a happy medium in your fridge crisper drawer or open plastic bag. If the leaves do wilt, you can give them a pick-me-up by putting the stems into a glass of water and leaving them on the counter for a day.
Merlin Beets ( 3 lbs )
I really love growing these beets because of their blood red colour and beautiful cylindrical shapes. This was the first year that I had any success with growing beets and I think I am endebted to all the consistant rain that we had this season and some diligent thinning work. Though beets may not be your favorite because of their earthy taste, if you have a juicer or a cookie sheet, you can still take advantage of the health benefits of these nutrient dense roots.
The red pigment of the beet is an indicator of the presence of highly concentrated phytonutrients called betalains (also found in Rhubarb and Swiss Chard). These betalains have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and remain intact in the skin and flesh of beets as long as they are not over-cooked. Keep roasting time under 1 hour and steaming time under 15 minutes. You can also experiment with recipes for chocolate beet cake, beet juice smoothies, shredded beetroot hummus or the addition of steamed or roasted beets in any of your favorite salads!
Bolero Carrots ( 3lbs )
The standard storage carrot that becomes sweeter as starched turn to sugars in long-term storage. It is one of the most common things that we hear at the farmer's market: that our oragnic carrots are unriveled in taste, crunch and juicyness! You can preserve all of these qualities by sneaking carrots into unexpected places in your menu.
You could think of carrots as preventative medicine, the fiberous pulp keeping your digestive system running smoothly, the nutrient dense juice containing phytonutrients and beta-carotene and the deep orange colour indicative of the presence of antioxidants. Similarly to the beetroot, over cooking carrots can strip away these health benefits, so keep cooking time to a minimum and try to avoid boiling. Carrots paired with squash make an amazing soup and carrot juice can be used in smoothies while the pulp can be used in cookies, breads or home-made crakers! One of my favorite ways to eat carrots are raw with hummus. Here is a great, healthy hummus recipe that will easily help you fill your daily carrot intake requirements!
Bilko Chinese Cabbage
This is my first year growing chinese cabbage and it was a great success. These juicy cabbages are loved by many insects including grasshopers and flea beetles, but they were grown late enough in the season that they weren't bothered by any hungry critters. Their quick growing, relatively care-free, cold tolerant characteristics, make the chinese cabbage a successful Fall crop. One morning, after a hard frost, I thought I had lost the whole crop: all the leaves were frozen and looked like they would turn to mush. As soon as the sun hit, they began to thaw and were as good as new.
These dense cabbages are light and juicy enough to eat raw, in salad and coleslaw, but hardy enough to hold their crunch if lightly steamed or stir frye. I've been adding chinese cabbage to my root vegetable roasts about 15 minutes before end-time, drizzled with some olive oil, sunflower seeds, cumin and turmeric. It is fantastic and very healthy!
Cortland Yellow Onions ( 2 lbs )
The standard organic storage onion is best kept in a cool, low humidity environment. I had great success bringing the onions in from the field and curing them in a room with dehumidifiers and fans. Properly cured they should last for several months. Keeping them in your kitchen cupoard might cause them to sprout, if the temperature is above 10 degrees. And, if you have trouble with a damp basement, then keep the onions out of there as well. If there is no dry, cool place in your house, then onions can be kept in the fridge where the dry air should keep them from going mouldy.
Bleu De Solaise Winter Leeks ( 3 )
These leeks have been in the ground since May! Sucking up tons of nutrients from the compost rich soil. Leeks are amazingly diverse and with their subtle flavor can be added to soups, soup stalk, stir frye, roasted vegetables, vegetable dips and chopped to be included in sauces for fish and chicken.
The entire leek can be used, from the white stalk to the upper leaves (though the leaves are better used in soup stalks). The B vitamin Folate is dispersed throughout the plant as are antioxidants and a high level of Vitamin K. Like other alliums, leeks are helpful in maintaining cardiovasular health because of their antioxidant polyphenols. Try to use at least 1 cup of chopped leeks in any recipe to receive these health benefits.
Red Kuri or Sunshine Squash ( 4-5lbs)
Squash is by far my favorite crop to grow. I am always amazed each year that such small plants can produce such enormous, colourful, nutrient dense, tasty fruits! I experiemented with several new varities this year and each trial reveals which desired characteristics make for an upstanding storage squash. This year I have a range of squash, from the soupy butternut to the meaty blue hubbard.
Sunshine squashes and Red Kuris fall somewhere in the middle between the very moist and the dry and meaty. The skin is excellent to eat once roasted and we've been roasting these bright orange squash in a shallow, uncovered pan with olive oil, chopped onion, whole garlic gloves and sunflower seeds.
Squash, though high in carbohydrates, is very low in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats. It is an excellent source of Vitamins K & B6 as well as minerals Manganese and Potassium. Several articles that I have read, confirm the anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties of squash. The fruits are high in Omegas, polysaccharides and beta-carotene, providing the body with good starches that regulate insulin levels. Enjoy!
Melford Rutabega ( 2 large )
Many folks at the farmer's market ask about the green tops on these storage turnips or rutabega. It is just a variety characteristic, though I choose to grow Melford because they get pretty enormous and tend to have less problems with being eaten by worms! That said, Rutabega si not really my favorite root vegetable and I find it hard to cook with at times. Here is a simple and easy preparation for Rutabega that is sweet and lemony.
Experimenting with Recipes
Carrot & Rutabega Honey Matchsticks
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1/4 cup plain yogurt & 2/3 cup sesame tahini
2 – 2 1/2 cups soaked and boiled chickpeas (You can soak overnight, changing the water before boiling for about 10 minutes)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt, pepper & paprika
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley or cilantro
cumin, turmeric, coriander or curry spices as you like
Blend in the food processor and enjoy!