There are some impressive farm dogs out there. I’ve seen border collies herd ducks through hoops while simultaneously keeping a group of 6 sheep from moving. I’ve heard of guard dogs staying out in all weather extremes to protect the flock. I know plenty of normal dogs that just turn out to be good at hunting mice and keeping the fields free of deer. Dogs can be an integral and valuable component of a farm, and have been for hundreds of years. Oliver, however, is not a prime example. Seemingly noseless and always eager to find something that was never there at all, our dog doesn’t even like to get his feet wet. No, we don’t have a bijon frise. He’s just a pansy.
This past Saturday, though, Oliver started to earn his keep on the farm. As I was bringing a trash barrel down to the barn, Oliver spotted something in the broccoli patch and started to leap up and down and bark. Because he is endlessly guilty of crying wolf, I normally would not have paid any attention at all. I knew a ground hog had been snacking on some broccoli leaves lately, though, so I rushed over just in time to see a ground hog dart out of field, dodging Oliver and coming straight at me. As luck would have it, I still had that garbage can in my hand and was able to throw it over the top of the little devil before it could scamper away. I congratulated Oliver on his contribution to organic pest control, and was even more pleased when he helped trap another ground hog later that day! He might still curl up on a burlap sack in the greenhouse when we make him get out of bed too early, but Oliver is on his way to being a true farm dog. Check out our facebook page to see a video of Oliver playing with our new piglet, Chester. It’s pretty cute.
Alright, on to the vegetables! Here’s what you can expect in your share this week:
Arugula (bag of light green leaves)
Spring Mix (bag of lettuce and mustard greens, all mixed up) Our classic salad mix, maybe a little heavier on the mustard greens at this time of year. If it’s too
spicy for you, mix in the arugula or spinach, or cut up your head lettuce. See below for another salad dressing recipe.
Spinach (bag of darker green leaves)
Swiss Chard (bunch of rainbow stemmed leaves) Swiss chard is actually the same species as beets, but it’s bred for extra tasty greens and a not-so
beet-like root. I’ve never actually tried to eat the root, but it doesn’t look appealing. The greens can be cooked like spinach. They are best wilted, steamed, or sauted, and make an excellent addition to quiches, gratins, or other baked savory foods. See recipe below.
I cannot believe we have cauliflower this early. I also cannot believe how ugly our cauliflower is. Both are the result of the same thing: early spring heat. Members of the broccoli family (brassicas), especially those that form heads like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, need a consistent, cool climate to grow well. When it gets hot unexpectedly, the growth rates shoots up and the heads become less uniform. Many people grow cauliflower only in the fall, when the weather is more consistently cool and predictable, and the days are shorter. We tried some now so we could put something not green in your share. Some of the heads are a little off-white, which is just from exposure to the sun. We break aleaf and drape it over each plant to shield it, but some UV got through to some of the heads, which makes it look like it was not bought in the store. Though it’s not the prettiest, it will taste fine, and bring some good variation to your leaf-dominated produce bags.
Head Lettuce (small head of reddish green leaves) Pac choi (two small, green, vaselike shaped heads of greens)
I would chop and add these to your salads, or saute with eggs or other veggies.
Napa cabbage (aka Chinese cabbage, LARGE head, neon green with white stalks) Probably most famous as the main ingredient in kimchee, a kind of sauerkraut like mixture that
is the national dish of South Korea. Email me if you want info on lacto-fermenting any of your veggies, or check out Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Katz. The best uses for Napa are slaws and stuffed cabbage (see recipe below).
Kohlrabi (round fist-sized bulbs, green or purple) Shred in a slaw with the napa cabbage
Salad Turnips (white roots) Joining a CSA means sharing the ups and down of the farm season with the farmer. If a crop fails this year, you won’t get as much of it. If a crop booms, you’ll get a lot of it. This is the case with salad turnips this spring. We planted these a lot when we lived in Alaska, where there’s a huge issue with root maggots. These nasty critters got around all of our organic control methods and wiped out about half of our crop of turnips every year. Expecting a similar situation here, we planted a similar amount. While New York has about 13,000 more agricultural pests than Alaska, we have so far not seen a root maggot. Which means we have a lot of turnips. Again, these are very sweet and juicy, good to add to salads. I even put them through the juicer last week with great success. A turnip gratin isn’t a bad idea, nor is a shredded relish or slaw.
Sugar Snap Peas (bag of green pods) Eat ’em raw ***Golden Drum and Park Slope only, don’t work Curious and Nathan Love, you’ll get yours next week)
Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin
adapted from www.smittenkitchen.com
Serves 6 2 T butter 1 bunch of Swiss chard, leaves and stems separated and both cut into 1-inch pieces 1 small onion, finely chopped Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg 1 cup heavy cream or whole milk 1 garlic clove, minced 1 tablespoons flour 1 pound medium red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme Fine sea salt Freshly ground black pepper
3⁄4 cup (about 3 ounces) coarsely grated Gruyére cheese
Prep greens: Cook onion in 1 tablespoons butter in a wide 8-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add chard stems, pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender but not browned, about 8 minutes. Increase heat to moderately high and add chard leaves by large handfuls, stirring, until all greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper then transfer greens to a colander to drain well and press out liquid with back of a large spoon.
Make sauce: Combine cream or milk and garlic in small saucepan; bring to simmer; keep warm. Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, whisking, one minute, then slowly whisk in warm cream/milk and boil, whisking, one minute. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
Assemble gratin: Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter deep 9×13 baking dish. Spread half of sweet potatoes in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, a quarter of the herbs and a 1/4 cup of the cheese. Distribute half of the greens mixture over the cheese, then sprinkle salt, pepper, a quarter of the herbs and 1/4 cup of the cheese over it. Pour half of bechamel sauce over the first two layers then continue with the remaining sweet potatoes, more salt, pepper, herbs and cheese and then the remaining greens, salt, pepper and herbs. Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the gratin, pressing the vegetables slightly to ensure that they are as submerged as possible. Sprinkle with the last 1/4 cup of cheese.
Bake gratin for about 1 hour until golden and bubbly, and most of the liquid is absorbed. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
(also adapted from www.smittenkitchen.com. She’s good.)
1 head napa cabbage 1 pound ground beef 1 small to medium onion, chopped small 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 carrot, shredded 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced 1 parsnip, shredded (optional) 1/2 cup uncooked rice 1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste 3 to 4 cups of your favorite simple tomato sauce, tomato juice or V8
Tear the leaves from the napa cabbage and place in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the leaves to wilt them.
Cook the onions until they are soft, add the carrot, celery and parsnip and saute them for a couple extra minutes — until they are also soft. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, transfer it to a bowl and let it cool a bit. Mix in the meat, rice and tomato paste and season again with salt and pepper.
Drain the the cabbage. Roll about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of filling in each leaf (depending on the size of your leaf) and arrange in a large, wide pot. Pour in enough juice or sauce to cover the rolls. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat, letting them simmer covered on the stove on low for about 45 minutes. Serve
immediately. If sauce has thinned a bit, you can heat up any additional sauce you didn’t use and pour it over as you serve the rolls.
The Greens Cookbook Deborah Madison
1 T of sherry vinegar 1⁄4 teaspoon salt 1 shallot, finely diced 4 T of virgin olive oil 1 t walnut oil, or more, to taste
Combine vinegar, shallot and salt in a bowl, and stir to dissolve the salt. Whisk in the oils. Taste, and adjust the ingredients if necessary.