In The Box 6: Local Delivery and Farm Pickup
We find ourselves this week in a transition between summer crops and fall. Some things are petering out (cucumbers), others are just getting rolling (eggplant), many are peaking (tomatoes) and a few are just barely starting to produce in these surprisingly harsh warm days (lettuce). This is one of the few times of year you can pick everything you need for a recipe (ratatouille) or salad (cukes and salad greens). Enjoy it while you can! These are mighty heavy boxes what with tomatoes, melons and squash all jammed in there.
The tomatoes are at their crazy peak right now. We could pick twice a day and still miss some that exploded on the vine, especially after a rain. But the vines are being consumed from the bottom up by blight and won’t give us the long season we always hope to have. The trellises are already collapsing, though, under the weight of the lush plants.
Here’s what’s in the box, in order of what is most likely to perish first.
Basil â€“ Freeze this while you can â€“ basil will suffer if the nights drop into the 50s, and it’ll definitely die if Sunday is really 45. Store in a cool place, but not the fridge if you can help it. Whip up a pitcher of “Limoncello Basil Cooler”:http://nestleusa.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/pitcher-drinks-cool-summer-sips-cocktails/ to celebrate the end of the summer heat!
Eggplant â€“ We donâ€™t really enjoy bitter-skinned big eggplant, so we strive to bring you milder varieties and pick them young enough that the skins can be used. Enjoy these long purple, purple/white striped, orange and green varieties in all the same recipes, like the ratatouille below! Use quickly!
Melons â€“ Boy, these special heirloom melons are ready to eat! Super fresh and picked ripe, they should be succulent, sweet and juicy. Eat in a day or two or store in the fridge. The small orange balls are Tigger Melons. The small white teardrops are Rich Sweetness. The yellow ovals are Golden Sweet. All Asian melons. The small green striped ones I have no idea what they are!
Tomatoes â€“ Oh, it is good to finally be in the midst of tomato season! We are picking these juicy fruits every day to make sure to catch them at their peak of ripeness. Nevertheless, we try to include for you a variety of stages. Use the softest ones first and save the firmer ones for later. Let us know if they come to you in good condition. Weâ€™ve been working on our storage and delivery system and trying to improve. Unfortunately, one thing we have no control over is the â€œcatfacingâ€ youâ€™ll see on these heirloom varieties â€“ cracks due to the rapid uptake of water in the recent big rains. Just cut them out and enjoy! You could have Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Yellow Brandywine or Red Brandywine slicers. And then a clamshell of odd heirlooms and cherries. PLEASE RETURN THE CLAMSHELLS to us and we’ll wash and reuse. Thanks!
Aronia Berries â€“ Have you heard of these antioxidant-packed black berries? They are 2/3 higher in antioxidant compounds than blueberries, which they look and taste a bit like. They are a bit more astringent in your mouth, so they really arenâ€™t best eaten straight. We had them in a smoothie this morning and it was yummy. Our good friends and neighbors at Barham Gardens are growing aronia bushes and hoping to build a following for the fruit. We are able to share these small samples with you, and hope youâ€™ll give us some feedback for them on your experience. For more info and additional recipes, see the “Midwest Aronia”:http://www.midwestaronia.org/members-recipes.html page.
Yellow Summer Squash â€“ We see that our plants are beginning to suffer from an infestation of shield bugs, otherwise known as stink beetles. These could be the last in the boxes, so enjoy!
Cucumbers â€“ These plants are being decimated by cucumber beetles and squash bugs. Could be the last harvest, as well.
Circle M Fall Salad Mix â€“ Yay! Everything spring is back again! We are working on getting some spinach to germinate in the shade, but itâ€™s still spotty as spinach needs the days to be under 80 to sprout. Soon, though. In the meantime, weâ€™ve got some gorgeous fresh shade-grown greens for you. Youâ€™ll notice the top level of the salad is rounded Nasturtium Leaves and Flowers. You already know how we love edible flowers! These fabulous peppery flowers and leaves are a wonderful addition to salad, great decorations for soup and salads, or terrific used as the base for salmon/cream cheese appetizers. So leave them in or pull them out to use otherwise.
Arugula â€“ We know that some of you have been waiting for this all year! We love it, too. Unfortunately, our spring crop bolted in those crazy few 90 degree days in May, but this batch should make it til after the first few frosts. Enjoy fresh in salad, or sautÃ© with garlic and serve over pasta. I love arugula on pizza. If you put it over the cheese, it will crisp up.
Okra â€“ Folks clearly have divided opinions on this humble African vegetable, but Iâ€™m a huge fan! Mostly because I get to eat very fresh-from-the-field okra, as do you, this week! Try these sliced (discard the top and the tail) in any curry recipe, or add to any soup, gumbo or ratatouille recipe. Try the fried cayenne curry below! Visit “SpicyTasty.com”:http://www.spicytasty.com/veggie-entrees-sides/bhindi-masala-okra-curry/ for a great Okra Curry as well as other fabulous Indian dishes.
Sweet Peppers â€“ Still no red peppers in our fields yet, but weâ€™ve brought you these very ripe yellow Flavorburst Peppers this week. Pepper flavor with a citrus bite!
Hot Peppers â€“ Hungarian Hot Wax (yellow) and Jalapenos (green). Be careful cutting and using these. A friend was cutting Hungarians over here for sauteeing and she suddenly had to blow her nose. Even through the tissue, the pepper oils got on her skin and burned her nose all night!
Onion â€“ These petite Australian Brown onions are quite flavorful! You donâ€™t need much to make a recipe pop with these.
Apple Aronia Crisp
Now is a great time to get to a local orchard and pick some apples. Try Larryâ€™s Cucumber Tree Farm out here in Blanchardville for some lovely varieties.
1 cup flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
Â½ cup butter softened
Â¾ cup of rolled oats
Cut butter into all ingredients until combined. In 9â€ square baking pan, dump 4 cups of apples mixed with 1 cup of sugar, 1 tsp of vanilla and one tsp of cinnamon (more to taste). Add one cup of aronia berries. Carefully fold together. Sprinkle topping evenly over apple/aronia mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm.
Cayenne Fried Okra
5 to 10 okra pods
1/2 C flour
1/2 C cornmeal
1 C buttermilk (or yogurt watered down slightly with water)
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper powder, depending on your appetite for spicy
Salt and pepper
Canola or other oil suitable for frying on high heat
Heat 1/2 inch of oil in skillet or wok on medium high heat. Mix flour, cornmeal, chili powder, cayenne and salt and pepper (to taste) in a pie plate. Wash okra and discard tips and stems. Slice into rounds diagonally so you have long oval slices. Dip slices in buttermilk, then in flour mixture. Lay in a single layer in hot oil. Fry 5 minutes or so on each side until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve salted.
Now that you’ve been through half of your CSA season, we’d like you to give us some feedback on your experience so far. Click here to take survey and we’ll give you $5 off a meat or wool order this year.