This week’s shares have a lot of different items than previous week’s. I hope you enjoy the variations!
Expect the following in your shares this week:
*Please note the asterisk by the shelling peas! We might not have enough this week for everyone to get a good amount, so it might just be a tasting.
We get a lot of questions from week to week, many of them are quite similar. Here are a couple I thought I might share in case anyone else might need the same information:
We had a good question at the Tuesday distribution:
“I prepped the kale how you described the first week, but after a couple of days in the fridge, the leaves start to turn yellow. Is there anything I can do about that?”
Well, I had to brainstorm a bit on this one, but try de-stemming the kale before you bag it. My theory is that the stem pulls nutrients out of the leaves and causes them to turn yellow. I hope this helps anyone else who might have had the same problem.
Another issue that comes up, that isn’t a question per se, is the issue of prepping vegetables. I think sometimes, understandably, having a CSA share can be a bit overwhelming. Here are my tips for making the most of your vegetables:
Take the time to prep the vegetables when you get home. I know this seems like a lot, but it will make your vegetables last longer. Plus, throughout the week, it will make your meals a lot faster too it everything is ready to go.
1. We do our best to cool all vegetables down in a cold water bath, but we do not wash them. You will always find bits of dirt and straw in the bunches. Take the time to unwrap the bunches, de-stem if necessary and rinse each leaf off in a cold water bath, either in the sink or a large bowl. Towel dry large leaves, spin smaller ones in a salad spinner, and store in plastic bags are reusable sealed containers.
2. If you do not have time to prep your vegetables as above, at least keep everything in bags in the fridge. Once the vegetables are cut, they are prone to dehydration. Placing greens on the shelf will keep them cool, but the air will draw all the moisture out of the leaves, causing them to yellow and wilt.
3. Use fragile items first, sturdy ones last. Use the lettuces, arugula, basil and other highly perishable items within the first day or two. Use other greens such as kale, chard and mustard in the next few days and save cabbages and roots for the last few days. This ensures that that all the vegetables with be fresh and firm when you eat them.
About the Vegetables
Mustard Greens Notorious among CSA shares, some people just don’t like them. But I ask you to give them a try. Mustard greens are excellent in simply flavored dishes, mainly because they have such a strong flavor all on their own. My favorite way to eat mustard greens is cooked and chopped finely over a bowl of brown rice with garlic, chili and soy sauce. There are many other flavor pairings though: cumin, curry, citrus, and earthy flavors such as mushrooms. I read once to use the mustard greens like an herb, adding a tablespoon, chopped and raw, to sauces or dips or even egg salad. Two ways to cook mustard are to remove the stems, blanch, drain and chop it, then add to the dish or continue cooking it in oil, or simply remove the stems, chop it, and saute it in oil and spices. Either way, let me know how your mustard adventures turn out this week. After all, we love mustard because it actually does quite nicely in the heat of the summer, which is not true for any of the other greens we grow.
Fennel The fennel in the shares this week is an Italian heirloom variety called Florence. It does well for us, finicky as fennel is. It is not the same as the fennel in the store because the bulbs do not get as big. Therefore, you will receive several fennel bulbs in your shares this week. You will receive the bulb and the fronds. The fronds should be used like an herb, therefore, you might expect to compost some of them. (We will have a bucket for items such as this and the carrot tops for those of you who do not have a compost pile at home.) Fennel is like celery in texture, though not as stringy, has a licorice flavor, and is sweet. It pairs well with tomatoes, dijon mustard, orange, olives, and stronger flavored vegetables such as radishes and turnips (in a raw salad or as crudites). Or try this week’s recipe, Beet and Fennel Salad.
Chard I am not going into detail about the chard, because most of you are familiar with it. Chard, spinach and beet greens can be used quite interchangably. The nice thing about chard is that the leaves are so big that you always get a good amount, unlike the spinach. In France, the leaves and stems are almost considered different vegetables. When you get home with your share, prep the chard by removing the stems, but keep them also, intact. You can marinate them and grill them, they are delicious. I enjoy chard and giant white beans (which I order from this company) with generous amounts of olive oil, herbs and garlic. For dishes such as that, I use the entire leaf, stem and all. I simply chop the stem into thin strips to even out the required cooking time.
Shelling Peas Full disclosure: we didn’t have enough space to plant a good amount of pea plants this spring, so I am not sure how many peas everyone will receive. And, the peas have suffered in the heat, so it might be a short season. We decided to plant shelling peas this year, since we have never grown them before. I guess all this begs the question, what do I do with just a few peas? Well, first, shell them (which is an easier task with a small amount!). You can eat them raw, so add them as a salad topping one night, or in a pasta dish with sauteed chard and herbs. You can also add them to a grain based salad with diced carrots and diced, roasted beets. Peas pair well with mint, cream sauce, and pesto.
Mint I included the mint this week mainly because it makes such a lovely iced tea beverage. You can make mint sun tea by placing a few springs of mint per quart of water in a clear glass jar with a lid outside in a sunny spot for several hours. Strain out the mint when it has reached the desired minty strength and add a teaspoon of honey per quart while still warm for a touch of sweetness.
Beet and Fennel Salad Recipe
This is a good way to use up left over beets, as some of you have told me you have. If you do not have leftover beets, you can certainly modify this for a smaller amount of salad.
6-8 beets, washed and peeled
2-3 heads fennel, trimmed
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS white wine vinegar
scant TBS honey or sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
pinch of ground anise seeds
salt and pepper to taste
Slice beets into wedges, into sixths or eighths. Toss with olive oil on a sheet pan and season with salt and pepper. If using different varieties, keep them separate. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 350 for 25 minutes, turning once.
Meanwhile, slice the fennel bulbs paper thin and arrange arrange on a platter or in a shallow bowl.
Whisk remaining ingredients together.
When beets are done, let cool a bit. Toss with dressing and arrange on top of the fennel. Sprinkle with a few fennel fronds. Serve room temperature.