A hot week on the farm but that is to be expected in July, and the weekend storms broke the humidity a bit. The crew spent most of the Fourth picking berries, which I suppose is as good a way to celebrate our independence as anything else. Blueberries are a North American fruit, at least; they were only introduced intoEuropein the 1930s, according to Wikipedia. Their sweet taste, mid-July production, and beautiful foliage make me like them better as a “national berry” then their close relatives, the cranberries, which seem to have a lock on Thanksgiving celebrations. Our other early July berry, the blackberry, has a certain “Don’t Tread on Me”-style independent streak that the early settlers would have appreciated, with its nasty and menacing thorns, but it seems blackberries are not at all an American original. In fact, the archaeological evidence (i.e., Wikipedia again) shows that Europeans have been eating blackberries for at least 2500 years (and who can blame them). Do we even have a national berry? I was unable to find anything online, so I suppose a good nomination would get any one of them the nod. Several countries do have national fruits, including Armenia’s apricots,Mexico’s avocados, and the fruit-loving citizens of Pakistan, who have taken the trouble to name both a national fruit of summer (mango) and one for the winter (guava). But here in America we have bigger things on our mind, I suppose, and would rather not associate ourselves with such benign specks of sweetness as berries, or favor one fruit industry over another. One point for optimism: the fifth hit on a search for national berry on Google is a lecture by Wendell Berry, noted Kentuckyfarmer-poet and berry lover. Hopefully as we all try to live more locally and seasonally, we’ll have more time to spend contemplating both berries and Mr.Berry. - Dave
Produce and Cooking Notes
Lettuce – Today’s lettuce may be a little small; we’re picking them a bit earlier before the heat of the summer gets to them as much.
Basil – Basil is such a versatile ingredient! If you can’t find a use for it, you can always stick it in your pockets as an inexpensive perfume.
Carrots – Our spring carrot plantings are starting to come in, having survived all sorts of crazy weather in the meantime.
Cucumbers – Cucumbers make a great and easy addition to salads and sandwiches, or don’t be afraid to quick-pickle small batches.
Zucchini – The second planting of zucchini is starting to come in, so hopefully the declining first patch can bow out gracefully.
Hot Peppers – Our greenhouse plantings of hot peppers seem to be doing well, and you might get one of three types today– the cute purplish Czech Blacks, the small green jalapenos, and the long yellow-green Hungarian Hot Waxes. The first two are comparable in strength; the latter are our mildest hot pepper and are similar to a spicy banana pepper – too hot to eat out of hand, but good for slicing into sandwiches or salads.
Sungolds – These tasty cherry tomatoes, good on their own or in salads, are starting to really fruit well now.
Eggplant – A big weekend for the eggplant left us with enough for everyone.
Blueberries – These berries are from a local farm and are unsprayed, although not certified organic. They make a tasty topping for dessert or you can just eat them out of hand.
Tomatillos – These Mexican staples are most commonly used in green salsas, but they have a wide range of uses and the ripest ones (those in yellow husks) can even be tasty raw.
Summer Squash Quesadilla Stacks
– adapted from Simply in Season
• ½ onion or ¼ c. sliced scallions
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 clove minced garlic or a few tbsp. chopped garlic scapes
• 1-2 zucchini, cut into matchsticks
• 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
• a few large handfuls of chopped greens
• a few sliced mushrooms (optional)
• 12 corn tortillas
• 1½ c. grated cheese
• slivers of basil
Saute onion for a minute in olive oil. Add the rest of the veggies and sauté 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Assemble four stacks simultaneously: start with a tortilla, top with a spoonful of veggies, some grated cheese and basil slivers and then another tortilla. Repeat layers, ending with a third tortilla, so you have four stacks. Bake at 400 for 10-15 min. Serve with salsa, sour cream and chopped, fresh cilantro.
from From Asparagus to Zucchini
• 1 pound husked tomatillos
• 1 pound poblano chiles
• 1 yellow onion
• 8 serrano chiles, stemmed
• 6 garlic cloves
• 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
• 1 ½ tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
• 1 tsp sherry vinegar
• 1 tsp molasses
Heat a gas grill or prepare coals for a charcoal grill. Grill tomatillos until soft and skins are slightly blackened (a dry, very hot cast iron pan also do this for you). Grill poblanos until skins are evenly charred. Place in a plastic bag and seal. Set aside. Peel onion and slice into thick rounds. Grill until soft and slightly blackened. Peel grilled chiles. Place all ingredients in food processor; pulse until salsa is mostly smooth but still a bit chunky. Serve with tortilla chips or as part of a Mexican meal. Makes 4 cups.
Camp-Style Sunny-Side-Up Eggs with Sungolds
from From Asparagus to Zucchini
1 ½ tbsp butter
8 large eggs
12-16 quartered Sungold tomatoes
2-3 tsp chopped tarragon
2-3 tbsp chopped green onions
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Melt butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Carefully crack eggs and add one at a time to cover bottom of pan. Cover and cook until nearly set, about 5 minutes. Scatter quartered tomatoes, tarragon, and green onions around the setting yolks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, straight from the pan. Makes 4-6 servings.
Fingerling Potato Salad with Sherry-Mustard Vinaigrette
from Bon Appetit (Sept ’06)
• 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
• 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
• ¼ cup canola oil
• 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
• ½ tsp chopped fresh tarragon
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
• 2 cups coarse sea salt
• 2 pounds fingerling potatoes
• 2 ¼-inch thick slices smoked bacon, cut crosswise into ¼” thick strips
• 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
• 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled & chopped
• 2 green onions, thinly sliced
For vinaigrette, combine mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk in oil, then herbs. Season with salt and pepper.
For potatoes, preheat oven to 400 F. Spread sea salt in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet; arrange potatoes over salt, spacing slightly apart. Cover sheet with foil and bake until potatoes are tender, about 1 hour. Remove from oven, uncover, and cool to lukewarm.
Meanwhile, cook bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Peel potatoes, cut in half lengthwise. Place warm potatoes in a medium bowl. Add bacon, shallots, eggs, onions, and vinaigrette. Toss well and serve warm.
July.... when did that sneak up on us. Probably while transplanting at 0.8 mph placing leeks that have waited their turn...and waited some more. They waited until some even achieved the desirable pencil size diameter that Roy said was optimal but we all thought impossible. Then some became marker size and things got serious. So they sun came out, the thunderstorms missed us, and they got planted. I'm thankful for fewer seedlings to water, but i'll miss my daily companions that I, or someone else on the farm, or the rain, has watered for the past 2 months. I'm hoping now they have more soil they will grow a little faster in their second half of their life despite a bit of a delayed graduation.
Other farm vegetables have far less restraint. A month ago the daily harvest switched from asparagus to zucchini and cucumbers. There is something quite amazing in the rate those vegetables can grow. We try to keep the zucchinis on the smaller side, sometimes a little too much. However, by hiding for one day they can become the large club easily seen protruding from the plant.
The first watermelon and cantaloupe plantings, photo below, are coming along nicely, particularly the ones that got hay mulch between the plastic beds. A weed free sight for sore eyes. Some of the cantaloupes are showing signs of bacterial wilt transmitted by cucumber beetles, but we are hopeful most plants will make it until we can harvest them.