July 23, 2012
July 23, 2012
It sure is a hot summer... and it sure is dry....
It wasn't always this hot & dry. At some point, the dry spell became a drought.... and then it became hot... then hotter... and now this drought & this heat are something else entirely, something of epic proportions, something experienced once a generation.
The point is... we don't need to remind you of how hot, or how dry, it is. The soil is cracked & dusty. Outside temperatures are beyond the limits of safety. Precautions are required for any activity outdoors.
And, yet, we must keep on. The farm continues.... and the harvests continue! As bad as it can get, we know we'll get through this, that it WILL rain again, that temperatures WILL become safe again. And, in the meantime, there is work to do.
In terms of work at the farm... when temperatures soar into dangerous heights, we focus on getting as much work done in the morning as possible, and then we make sure to take plenty of water breaks out of the sun. It's a long season, and we all want long careers. So, it's imperative that we care for ourselves, and the land, during conditions that could damage both.
In the meantime, let's enjoy the harvests at hand! There is cantaloupe for everyone this week, and eggplant! (Please let us know if, for some reason, your cantaloupe is not ripe. We do our best to insure full ripeness, but we cannot "look inside", so a few might pass through that are less ripe.)
Here's what you should expect in your share this week:
Cherry and/or Salad Tomatoes
Cherry and/or Salad Tomatoes
- We set very high quality standards.... but we may occasionally allow a few blemishes into your share IF an item is mostly good otherwise. We want you to get as much food from the farm as is reasonable, and since the drought & heat create increasingly stressed conditions, some crops may be a bit blemished.
- Harvests are still very nice, but please note that the full effect of the drought & heat won't be experienced until 2-4 weeks AFTER the drought & heat, since we have been hampered in our efforts to plant, sow, or maintain late summer crops.
- Your feedback on the share is ALWAYS appreciated. Of course, we cannot control conditions and suffer from extreme weather like any farm, but there are often hundreds of decisions we make throughout the season regarding items that we have but leave out, due to a desire to offer a variety of vegetables and not overwhelm you with any one item. OR... we may add an item EVERY WEEK which is simply too much for you. This kind of feedback really helps us improve the CSA.
- Thank you for returning boxes to your pick-up spot! The ability to re-use boxes all season goes a long way to keeping costs down, and making CSA work.... Thanks!
- With all the pint containers in your share, remember that pint containers can be re-used! If it's not too complicated, please return pint containers so that we can use them again & again. This is one of the many ways we're able to keep costs down.... Thanks!
Recipes for the Week
Basic Roasted Eggplant w/ 3 Salad Ideas
This is from Everyday Food "a Martha Stewart Magazine" special issue, on shelves til 8/29/11. Highly recommended!
- Basic Roasted Eggplant:
Preheat oven to 475. Cut 3 medium eggplants (about 3 lbs total) into 1-inch pieces.
Divide between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over eggplant and season w/ coarse salt and ground pepper; Toss to coat and arrange in a single layer.
Roast until golden and tender, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once. let cool on sheets.
- 3 Roasted Eggplant Salad Ideas:
Eggplant Salad w/ Tomatoes and Basil
In a large bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; season w/ coarse salt and ground pepper. Add 1 recipe of Basic Roasted Eggplant, 1 pint of halved grape tomatoes (or whatever you have) and 1 cup torn fresh basil leaves. Toss to Combine.
Eggplant Salad w/ Chickpeas and Feta
In a large bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons) add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, season w/ coarse salt and ground pepper. Add 1 recipe of Basic Roasted Eggplant, 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained, 4 ounces of feta, crumbled (about 1 cup) and 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves. Toss to combine.
Curried Eggplant Salad w/ Peas and Cashews
Cook 1 package of frozen peas according to package instructions, rinse under cool water and drain. In a large bowl whisk together 3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (from 2 limes), 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (christy says organic canola), and 1 teaspoon curry powder, season w/ coarse salt and ground pepper. Add 1 recipe of Basic Roasted Eggplant, peas, 1/2 cup of chopped roasted cashews, and 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro. Toss to Combine.
from Jeff Cox, The Organic Cook’s Bible, 2006
½ lb. eggplant, your choice of type
½ lb. very young zucchini
3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more if needed
1 ½ cups thinly sliced onions
1 cup red, yellow, or green bell peppers slices
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups peeled, quartered, and seeded tomatoes
3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1. Peel the eggplant, unless it is a very thin-skinned type. Slice lengthwise into ½-inch slices, and cut these into about 1-inch-wide strips. If the eggplant is watery, sprinkle with salt, set aside for 30 minutes, press, rinse, drain, and pat dry. Cut the zucchini to strips about the same size.
2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant strips and sauté for 1 minute on each side. Repeat with the zucchini. Set aside both vegetables.
3. In the same pan, add the onions and peppers, adding a little more oil if necessary, and cook for about 10 minutes, until they’re softened but not browned. Stir in the garlic, and add salt and pepper to taste. Cut the tomato quarters into ½-inch-wide strips and place them on top of the onions and peppers. Cover the pan and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes, until the tomato juice starts to run.
4. Remove the lid and spoon some of the pan juices over the tomatoes, then turn up the heat to medium and let the juice reduce until it’s almost all gone, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5. Spoon about one-third of the tomato-onion-pepper mixture into a flameproof casserole, and sprinkle 1 Tbsp of the parsley over it. Cover this with half the zucchini and eggplant strips. Spoon half the remaining amount of tomato mixture over the strips and sprinkle another Tbsp of parsley on top. Top with the remaining zucchini and eggplant strips. Finish with the last of the tomato mixture on top and the last Tbsp of parsley.
6. Cover the casserole and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and spoon the juices over the vegetables, then cook uncovered on medium-low heat for another 15 minutes. Correct the seasoning. Spoon the juice over the vegetables several more times until it is almost entirely gone, but be careful not to let it all evaporate or the vegetables might scorch.
Versatile Green Bean Salad
from Cooking from the Garden, edited by Ruth Lively, 2010
1 pound green beans
1 Tbsp best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Put a pot of water on to boil. Trim the stems from the beans, and boil until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain well. Spread the hot beans on a shallow serving dish or platter, and immediately drizzle with the olive oil to coat. Using your hands or two serving forks, turn the beans gently until they are thoroughly coated with oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. At this point, the beans are ready to eat. If you want, add some extra ingredients noted at right, toss gently to mix, and adjust seasoning.
The list of optional extra ingredients for this dish is almost limitless. Some good ones include toasted nuts of almost any kind; toasted sesame seeds; cherry tomatoes; sun-dried tomato strips; roasted pepper strips; thinly sliced red or sweet onion; sliced scallions; grilled or boiled corn, cut from the cob; currants; diced dried apricots; and minced herbs.
Cherry Tomato Guacamole
from Vegan Family Meals by Ann Gentry, 2011
1 (4 oz.) basket cherry tomatoes, halved if small, quarted if large
½ small white onion, finely diced
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
¾ tsp fine sea salt, plus more as needed
¼ tsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 firm but ripe avocados (about 1 ¾ lbs. total), peeled, pitted, and coarsely diced
Toss the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice, the ¾ tsp salt, cumin, and garlic in a medium bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
Mash one-half of the diced avocados in a large bowl. Gently stir the mashed avocados and the remaining diced avocados into the tomato mixture, keeping the diced avocados intact. Season the guacamole to taste with more salt, if desired.
About Last Week at the Farm
Drought or no drought... heat or no heat... the work must continue. Above, farm apprentice John is weeding a bed of scallions, one of many crops receiving regular rotations of drip irrigation.
Irrigation is absolutely critical during periods like this, when soil moisture is entirely absent, and temperatures exceed a plants ability to cool itself or function properly. However, when land is irrigated, weeds will grow, which means we must maintain regular weeding schedules to stay ahead.
We hope this work, this hot, steamy, dusty work, leads to great harvests to come. Below, John is rinsing another early harvest of sweet peppers.
We prefer harvesting sweet peppers only when they are fully red & ripe. Stressful conditions, however, have made it imperative that peppers be harvested BEFORE the stresses get the best of them. The photo on the right shows just what happens when peppers get too much exposure to the sun.... they get burned just like we do.
Good farming means that you work with the weather, with the soil, with conditions as they are. That said, in order to prepare for August & September, new crops need to get into the ground. Without any possibility of tilling new land (since all unirrigated land is cracked and dusty), we must be creative and find loose soil whereever it exists.
Below, Bailey is transplanting summer squash into the same ground where cabbages grew in the spring. When these cabbages succumbed to heat & weeds back in June, we tilled them under. Since then, this soil has sat undisturbed by rain... it is dusty, but loose, just loose enough for us to squeeze in a new planting. And, this new planting, of course, IMMEDIATELY receives irrigation through drip lines.
In the meantime, summer crops are loving the heat! ... to a certain extent, as long as they were able to set fruit under cooler, moister conditions. Below, we're harvesting cantaloupe, and will continue to do so as it ripens. Cantaloupe harvest is fun, and requires lots of hand-eye coordinatin (and teamwork!) to get the fruits off the field.
It is imperative that we take care of ourselves, of course. As much work as there is, the most important priority these days is to make sure we take enough water, and shade, breaks to stay fully hydrated, rested, & cool. Temperatures have been soaring to levels that are outright dangerous, and it is amazing how fast it can get can get to you. In order to sustain this kind of farming for many, many years, we must respect. that.
It is equally imperative that we prepare for late summer & fall. Harvests DURING this heat wave have been wonderful, but the heat & drought have precluded most of our efforts to ensure consistent harvests (and variety) from now into the late summer & fall.
The full impact of the current weather will be felt in the coming weeks & months, especially if it continues unabated. That said, we must prepare for the worst AND the best. If we begin losing production due to the heat (which is very likely), then we want to be prepared to hit Fall hard with increased plantings & sowings of your favorite crops.
Below, you can see our 'greenhouse' filling up. Note that our 'greenhouse' is actually the great outdoors. Temperatures INSIDE the cold frame you see are well above 130 degrees during the day, or higher! The tables are strategically placed where they will get plenty of shade during the day, so as to avoid the scorching rays of the summer sun.
Excessive heat looks like it will continue into this week... and indefinitely. Among the challenges of weather like this is not being able to fully do our jobs, since temperatures are well beyond what most crops can reasonably handle. Although we're irrigating 24 hours a day (up to 400,000 gallons/month!), there's a limit to how much heat different crops can handle, and it's becoming common to lose at least one crop, or one bed, each week. A couple weeks ago we lost celery & brussels sprouts. Last week we lost a lot of our beets & summer lettuce. This week we're concerned about next year's strawberries as well as our new plantings of lettuce & scallions.
We keep our spirits up, though, knowing that this, too, will pass, and that we will continue to make the necessary adjustments so that the next time this happens we will be even more prepared. We gain confidence by the fact that our production continues to increase year-to-year BECAUSE of the adjustments we've made after going through similar conditions the past two years. Ultimately, it our jobs (ours as farmers, yours as eaters!) to use these experiences to forge an agriculture that FITS this place and this climate.
Harvests are still looking great, though! A lot of this is due to the cooler weather preceding the heat wave, when crops had plenty of time to blossom & set fruit, and we've been reaping the benefit for a few weeks now. The growing concern is for harvests to come. The full effect of the drought and heat won't be felt unto 2-4 weeks AFTER this has passed. In the meantime, we will enjoy and appreciate what we have....
Hope everyone is enjoying the harvests! If you have any questions, or if any problems come up, we're always here.... The quickest way to reach us these days is to call.... we're at 618-444-0567.
Until Next Time,
Kris, Stacey, Jacob & Anna,
and everyone else at Riverbend Roots Farm