Friday, July 29, 2011

Fun with Flowers

It is a deep honor and pleasure to be growing and arranging the flowers for Kate and Matt's wedding. Everything is in, cleaned up, and ready for the final arrangements tomorrow morning. The bride's and her ladies' bouquets are done-- it has been SO fun playing with the designs and having access to high quality flowers grown in our local southern Vermont region. Playland for flowers. Ah! The colors! Textures! Shapes!

Big thanks to Anna Blooms (E. Dorset) and Wheeler Farm (Danby) for growing some stellar flowers and greens.

The lovely Anna in the workshop-turned-jungle of flowers

Playing with size, scale, and balance

Alternate designs, and a gorgeous model

Heavy rain this afternoon/evening is not so great for harvest, but lends itself to some killer light for photos!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sneak Peak

at some designs for bouts and corsages for Kate and Matt's this Saturday....

What fun!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cucumber Peanut Salad

Also adapted from Moosewood's New Classics. Serves 4. Prep time: 20 mins, Marinating time: 20 mins.

"This simple snappy salad with fennel seeds and roasted peanuts can be made as spicy as you like by adding a few more chiles.

3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/4"-thick crescents (about 4 cups)
2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 to 2 tsp seeded, minced fresh chile (or more to taste)
1/2 cup crushed roasted peanuts, or more to taste (crush peanuts using a food processor, or put them in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin. About 2/3 cup whole peanuts will yield 1/2 cup crushed.)

Stir together the cukes and salt, place in colander, and drain for 10-15 minutes. Rinse the cukes well and drain again.

Meanwhile, in a small jar, mix together the brown sugar, lemon juice, and vinegar until the sugar has dissolved.

When the cukes have drained, heat the oil in a small saucepan. When it's hot, add the fennel seeds and the chile. Lift the pan off the heat to avoid scorching, and swirl the pan for about 30 seconds. Continue to cook on low heat for another minute, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and set aside.

Transfer the drained cukes to a large shallow serving bowl and pour the hot seasoned oil over them, tossing well. Stir in the vinegar mixture. Set aside at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Top with the crushed peanuts just before serving.

Cucumber Salad with Sushi Dressing

This is a favorite of Jane's and mine. Serves 4-6, total time: 20 mins. Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant's New Classics.

3 cups cucumber crescents: peel 3 medium cukes, halve them lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice crosswise in to 1/2 inch-thick crescents.

Sushi Dressing:
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp wasabi powder
2 tsp sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2-3 teaspoons minced pickled ginger
1/2 sheet toasted nori (toast it by waving briefly over a flame until the color deepens to a bright sheen-- also available pre-toasted.)

Place the sliced cucumbers in a large bowl.
In a small jar with a lid, stir together the vinegar, wasabi powder, sugar, and soy sauce. Add the pickled ginger. Using scissors, cut the nori into long 1-inch wide ribbons. Bundle the ribbons of nori and hold them over the bowl. Snip them into tiny squares and stir into the dressing. Pour the dressing over the cukes and serve immediately. Yum!

CSA 2011 - Week 5

In your share this week:
summer squash & zukes
slicing and pickling cukes
bunch chard
small bunch carrots
green beans
lemon basil
2 lbs new potatoes - Adirondack Red
1 head garlic
2-3 shallots
sugar snap peas
snow peas
lettuce mix
Herbs (l-r): coriander, sage, chamomile, dill, thyme. Lemon basil is included in your share.

Flowers: zinnias and calendula

The bushel baskets are almost full! A few notes about your share...

lemon basil has a nice citrus scent to it, and can be used any way you'd use basil... I've been adding lots to egg salad for a nice changeup. Try it for pesto, or as a garnish with hummus!

The green beans in your share are really shelling beans moonlighting as filet beans this week. Next week you will have true haricot verts-- the small, super tender, crisp beans that you'll be tempted to eat fresh. These in your share, a variety called Jacob's Cattle, will take a little extra steaming as they are slightly tougher.

Be prepared for the continuation of a steady flow of cukes and zukes/summer squash. I'll post recipes here for more ideas to help inspire you to deal with the bounty-- stay tuned!

Tomatoes and peppers are behind schedule,and we are looking at about two-three weeks before they are ready. The plants are healthy and cranking away in the hoophouse, but got a slower start as the first set of seedlings fried in the early, early heat of the spring. These are the second wave.

Snow and snap peas are tapering off despite being eight feet tall and having doubled over on their trellis! You should see another week-two from them, but if you're sick of eating them fresh by this point, blanche and freeze them for December!

Flowers tapered off in your share a bit this week as the farm is doing the growing and arranging for CSA members, Kate and Matt, this Saturday to help celebrate their wedding. BIG congratulations to them! We'll be back to usual next week, and you can expect lots and lots of sunflowers to grace your homes soon. As always, please pass along any recipes or inspirations that you've got, and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fiori di Zucca Ripieni - Stuffed Squash Blossoms

This morning I had the pleasure of a lovely visit from Eleanore-- Eleanore of stuffed squash blossom fame. She has been so kind as to not only share the full dining experience with her friends and me for a lovely luncheon, but also the recipe, which follows, annotated with some of Eleanore's tips. It's not for the faint of heart, and takes some advanced planning-- but man, are they worth it!

If you're interested in giving it a shot, just let me know and we'll gather some squash blossoms for you. They are best/only harvested in the mornings while the pollinators are busy and the flowers are bright and open. The heat of the day tends to melt them, thus they're not included in your shares.

Fiori di Zucca Ripieni

18 squash flowers

8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

White Sauce made (see below)


ground white pepper

olive or other vegetable oil for frying [Eleanore reccomends grapeseed oil]

batter for frying vegetables (see below)

*[Make filling the day before and refrigerate-- this makes it much easier to stuff the blossoms.]

Combine the cheese with the white sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to mix. [Let sit overnight to set.]

Remove pistils and trim flower stems. Fill each flower with this mixture (one heaping tablespoon per flower). Carefully twist flower ends shut.

In a medium-sized frying pan heat 1 to 1 1/2 cups of oil to 375 degrees on a deep frying thermometer. Delicately dip each stuffed flower in the batter and fry until golden and crisp on both sides. Drain on paper towel and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Salsa Besciamella - white sauce

6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups hot milk

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture acquires a light-brown color. Add the milk all at once and stir vigorously to avoid lumps. Cook slowly for 5 minutes.

Pastella per Fritti di Verdura - Batter for frying Vegetables

1 cup unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons olive oil
ground white pepper

Sift together the three dry ingredients. Gradually add the cold water and the oil, stirring just until a smooth batter is formed. Add pepper to taste and mix. Use as directed. Yields about 1 1/2 cups.

BIG thanks to Eleanore for sharing her recipe and tips and big heart.

I should also tell you that she once delivered to the house a half dozen tidily-wrapped, hot blossoms when I couldn't make it to lunch one afternoon... We were up on the roof bolting in solar hot water panels-- what a treat!!

CSA 2011 - Week 4

In your share this week:
bunch baby carrots
fresh shallot
2 lbs new potatoes
1.3 lbs sugar snaps
summer squash and zukes
bunch swiss chard
slicing and pickling cukes
bag lettuce mix

Flowers: (L-R) sunflowers!!, copper and red amaranth (copper pictured above), opened shallot blossoms. Not pictured: zinnia, rudebeckia, calendula

Herbs: thai basil, dill, cilantro, summer savory, mint

Broccoli and carrots are ready, hooray! Carrots will get sweeter as they continue to size up. The best way to store carrots is to lop the tops off before sticking them in the fridge.

Toss the tops-- unless you've got a mind to make veggie stock to save for a cold winter's day soup base. Save the water from boiled potatoes, toss in the carrot tops and some chopped cloves of garlic, boil low for 20 minutes, and voila! Homemade veggie stock! Strain and store it in the freezer until you're ready again for soup, or use it as the base to cook whole grains for an extra flavor kick.

Basil was in your share in a small pint container. Thai basil was in the free-choice herb section. Thai basil has a distinct anise-like flavor, and holds its flavor much better during cooking compared to its Italian relative. Next week, we'll add in lemon basil, just for kicks!

I'm wild about these new potatoes. Your share has all Adirondack Reds this week, which are red outside and in. The color holds during cooking, which means fun pink mashed taters!

Potluck Thursday, 6:30-- hope to see folks here. Bring a dish to share; kids, musical instruments, and lawn games are encouraged!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Garden Update for Mid-July

Fill'er up. Peas are the tall buddies on the furthest left.And this is the pea trellis May 28. What a difference a six weeks can make!Sugar snaps are over seven feet tall, doubling over themselves, sunflowers are coming on, and squash and cukes are pumping away.

Dry beans are flowering up abundantly, green beans plants are nice and healthy and a few days from flower, which means we'll have green, purple, and striped baby beans (or should I say haricot verts...) in the coming week or two.

Red and green cabbage is starting to head up, and we should have broccoli at the end of this week. The first round of baby carrots should be good for this week, too, replacing radishes which will make an appearance again at the end of summer.

Speaking of radishes, yesterday I planted two of my personal favorite crops: daikon radish, a long, white, cylindrical Japanese radish that is one of the bases for Korean kimchi, and also Misato Rose-- what I think is by far the best tasting radish around. It's sort of like a cross in flavor/texture between kohlrabi, apple, and radish. It's gorgeous on a cheese plate, and pairs beautifully with a good sharp VT cheddar. Come fall, we'll be back rolling in radishes!

Tomatoes and peppers are wildly flowering away, and the first green fruits are in. They got a bit of a late start due to "figuring out" temperature control in the new hoophouse-- the first several flats of tomato starts FRIED early on in a spat of hot, sunny days, so this is round deux.

Basil will be in your shares this week-- we've got three main types: genovese (regular), lemon basil, and thai basil. Mmm, summer.

My first beet crop failed this summer. Spotty germination combined with something that they didn't like in the soil means the direct seed crop went to wasted space. Boo. I've got more transplants ready to go out this week, so we will have beets in a month or so.

Humble kale is coming along, was transplanted out early last week and will be a nice late summer/fall crop, in case anyone is wondering about the good old faithful.

All of the garlic has been pulled from the field, and will be doled out in your shares as we head through the rest of the season. I'm steadily building seed stock, so some of the cloves that you see in your share might be a little less than perfect (smaller head size, small toe/clove size.)

Herbs are coming along: dill is growing wildly and ought to be flowering up for pickling toward the end of this week. Parsely is slow growing to get established, but it's still coming along. Cilantro is thriving hiding in the shade of the peas-- and some volunteer cilantro is rapidly on its way to becoming Coriander (the seed balls formed on the umbels of the flower)-- same plant, different parts/stages thus different names. I have lots of thyme transplants that somehow did well-- if ayone would like a few for their home gardens, do let me know. Fennel bulbs and scallions have germinated up and will soon be ready for a late summer transplant, both thriving in the cooler weather.

That's about all the news from Green Peak Farm at this point-- thanks for reading and hope everyone is off to a great start of the weekend!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Parks in Focus

A tip of the hat to Parks in Focus, an organization established through the Udall Foundation whose mission is to use photography to connect under-served middle schoolers to nature. It's outdoor ed with a human, story-telling component, and you can check out trips' progress and awesome photos here:

Like what you see? Sign up to receive daily updates on the right-hand side of the blog, add your comments and reactions to the mix to help create an interactive viewing experience, or make a donation to Parks in Focus.

Big thanks to Brian, former Silverton farm colleague, NYC Public School teacher, and PIF trip leader for passing this info along. Show some love!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

CSA 2011 - Week 3

In your share this week:

CUKES!! (3 kinds)

sugar snap peas (1.5#)

snow peas

summer squash (pattypan, yellow crookneck, costata romanesco)

new potatoes (baby yukon gold, baby adirondack red)

bunch chard

bunch radishes

garlic head

lettuce mix

Flowers: rudebeckia (black-eyed susans), monarda (bee balm), lysimachia (gooseneck loosestrife), and calendula

herbs: summer savory, cilantro, oregano, dill

Cukes are here! Cucumbers love the farm's soil-- there is some mysterious and wonderful symbiosis here-- magic, really. There are two types of cukes in your share: slicers and picklers. Between the two types of cukes, there are four varieties.

The two varieties of slicers are notably different. One is a "beit alpha" type and has a smooth, delicate skin and distinctly sweet flavor. These are the earliest of the cukes. The other is a classic English cucumber style. The English slicers are slower growing, and thus you may not have one this week. Slicing cukes are generally longer and thinner, and are great eaten fresh (with a sprinkling of salt, they are my go-to summer snack.) Or add a few thin slices to your water (gin, vodka), toss in a sprig of mint, and you're good to go.

There are two varieties of picklers, as well. Pickling cucumbers are distinct not only for their smaller, gherkin-style shape, but also for their thicker skins and interior walls that hold up well during cooking. I'll post a recipe for icebox pickles soon, which require no cooking, but brine in the fridge for several days to get a sweet and salty flavor.

Did you know all cucumbers (except the beit alpha types) have little spines on them? If they didn't get rubbed off during harvest, wipe them down with a dish towel before serving.

If you're getting tired of eating sugar snap/snow peas, but think you might not be tired of them in December, blanche them and put them in the freezer. To do it: Prepare a large stainless bowl of ice water that's large enough to hold the veggies and ice. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil (if you've got a pot with a steamer/blancher basket, use it!) and let boil for 2-3 minutes, stirring to ensure equal cooking throughout. Remove veggies from boiling water and immediately soak them in bowl of ice water. Once the cooked veggies have rapidly cooled, spread them out on a towel to dry, then place in a ziploc bag in a thin layer (so they freeze evenly.) Don't forget to write the date on the bags-- peas will last upwards of 4 months in the freezer!

The Fresh Herb Index - Issue 2

Two more additions to help with IDs...Summer savory is closely related to thyme, and falls into the french herb category. Combined with a touch of mint, it's been taking my egg salad to new heights lately...

There is no replacement for fresh cilantro. Cilantro is important to ethnic food around the world, from Mexican to Thai cuisine. Anyone know the connection here...? It begs a bit of research. Use cilantro fresh, adding it to dishes at the last minute as the flavor disappears rapidly with cooking.

As always, let me know about any recipes or sparks of inspiration you'd like to share!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Game Changer

First round of GPF Chicken harvest today. Today's star? The mighty Whale-I'll-Be, She-dunnit Pluck-O-Matic, featuring the one and only JANE! Here's a photo of the completed plucker, democratically hand-crafted here in Rupert, Vermont for about a hunnert bucks...

And one of Jane in action this morning, scalding the bird to loosen feathers for plucking.
In the past, I have hand-plucked birds, which takes about ten to fifteen minutes per bird, depending on how fast you can move. With Jane's machine, we got it down to about two minutes per bird, seriously speeding up the process. This enabled us to get all thirty birds in done in one batch, which saves hours in cleanup/setup time. BIG THANKS to Jane, Jimmy, Doug, Axel, and John (for bearing witness!) for their hard work, creativity, and general awesomeness.

CSA members, some notes about your birds:

These chickens are somewhat smaller than in previous years. They're averaging about 4.5 lbs each, which is smaller than in the past CSA years. For smaller families, this is a more manageable size-- if you'd like a larger bird (there are a few) please don't hesitate to ask.

Your next (and final) set of birds will be ready for pickup in about three weeks (beginning of August); stay tuned for more details as we get closer.

For cooking, there are tons of options and recipes to float around-- the easiest is to simply roast your chicken, Thanksgiving-style, but some delicious ideas include Beer-can chicken done on the grill, slow-cooking/smoking in the woodstove (once the weather turns again!), brining your chicken before cooking using lots of french herbs, or cilantro, lime and cayenne pepper, or to simply section your chicken up before freezing.

If you're interested in butchering your whole chicken into pieces/cuts, I am happy to share a photocopy of some instructions and tips, just let me know. I'll see if I can scan the info I do have, and post it here.

I did not include the neck with your bird; if you'd like some, please let me know. I've got bags in the freezer-- they're great for making stock, which can be frozen and makes everything taste better. I've started using chicken stock to make rice instead of water... yum.

CSA veggie pickups continue as normal, so I'll see most of you twice this week. It's cucumber time on the farm (my favorite crop!) so pass along any good pickle recipes, and I hope you enjoy your birds!

Friday, July 8, 2011

From Maurice Manning's collection, Bucolics


boss of the grassy green
boss of the silver puddle
how happy is my lot
to tend the green to catch
the water when it rains
to do the doing Boss
the way the sun wakes up
the leaves they yawn a bit
each day a little more
for a tiny reason then
when the leaves outgrow their green
the wind unwinds them Boss
that's the way you go around
if you loose me like a leaf
if you unburden me
if I untaste the taste
of being bossed by you
don't boss me down to dust
may I become a flower
when my blossom Boss is full
boss a bee to my blue lips
that one drop of my bloom
would softly drop into
your sweetness once again
if I go round that way
I'll know the doing means
to you what it means to me
a word before all words

This is the first poem of a lovey collection. I will be sure to post more-- or make your way to Northshire Bookstore and pick up a copy for your pocket as you're out in the field this summer!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

CSA 2011 - Week 2

Summer is HERE! I hope you all had a relaxing and happy Fourth of July weekend.
This weekend was such a great reminder of how much I appreciate Vermont's small towns and their individual senses of identity. Bristol's got the outhouse races-- outhouses on wheels-- racing down Main Street. Dunmore had the longest fireworks celebration (almost 40 minutes!) I've seen. There were at least two movie screenings in barns in Landgrove and Middletown Springs of which I'm aware-- one a Miyasaki film; the other a documentary about the history of the ukelele. Manchester with its Vermont Symphony Orchestra picnic-concert, and sales at the outlet stores. A Red, White and Blues Festival in Ludlow. Londonderry was packed to the gills with the West River Farmer's Market and roadside grillin'. Glory.

In your share this week:

summer squash
lettuce mix
new potatoes
garlic scapes
green garlic
sugar snap peas
snow peas
radish bunch
bunch swiss chard

herbs: dill, lavender, oregano, summer and winter savory, mint.

New potatoes were freshly dug this morning. After some stellar help planting from my advisees at school, the plants are big, happy, and spudding right up. You'll notice your new potatoes are rather dirty-- the skins are super delicate and will rub off under gentle pressure. I bit into one raw this morning, and had a sudden realization why the french call them pomme de terre-- earth apples. They've got killer crisp! New potatoes are used just like regular potatoes. Remember to store them in the dark (a paper bag works great.)
Lettuce mix is a blend of four types of lettuce and nasturtium leaves for some peppery zing and nice color. If your lettuce looks flat before serving, you can always soak it in a bowl of the coldest tap water you've got. LOTS of garlic scapes this week-- the end! We're at the end of the season for scapes, so they need a bit more cooking to soften them up. I'll suggest again making garlic scape pesto as it holds beautifully in the fridge and is outstanding with a cheese plate. Like basil pesto, it freezes well. Scape pesto just substitutes scapes for the basil; I also only use half the amount of pine nuts that the recipe calls for, as they're a little pricey. For the other half I substitute in sunflower seeds.

Your summer squash is the first harvest of the season. Three types: pattypan (shaped like flying saucers/sunbursts), yellow crookneck, and costata romanesco zucchini. They're all harvested small before the seeds fully develop to keep the flavor potent, and flesh firm. I think the costata romanesco (green) has the most squashy/blossomy/sunny/summery aroma and flavor-- what are your thoughts?

I love cutting the pattypan laterally so the slices maintain the pinked edges... and are awesome baked on a greased tray with a dollop of scape pesto on top.

So many sugar snap peas (full-sized shares get 1.25 lbs!) They are awesome to have in excess since they're just oh-so-snackable. I'm a big fan of the Soy Vey teriyaki marinade as a dipping sauce (available at our very own Shaw's) or as a base for stir fry. It's got a very potent flavor, and it's magic for making fresh peas disappear... You can also blanche and freeze peas by boiling for a few minutes then rapid-cooling them by dunking into ice-cold water. You can, of course, shell the fattier pods for little sugar-bomb, naked peas. This especially great if you've got little people (or relatives in town for the holiday) who need a task!

Swiss chard is great cooked, steamed, or chopped and added raw to your salad mix!

I've been making lots of omlettes-- which open up the category of entirely-local food. We used to do breakfast for dinner as a family a lot when I was a kid, and I'm having fun bringing that back, especially using lots of fresh herbs (dill, the savories, thyme...)

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Raymond Carver - The Fields

The worms crawl in,
the worms crawl out.
The worms play pinochle
in your snout.
-- childhood ditty

I was nearsighted and had to get up close
so I could see it in the first place: the earth
that'd been torn with a disk or plow.
But I could smell it, and I didn't like it.
To me it was gruesome, suggesting death
and the grave. I was running once and fell
and came up with a mouthful. That
was enough to make me want to keep my distance
from fields just after they'd been sliced open
to expose whatever lay teeming underneath.
And I never cared anything for gardens, either.
Those over-ripe flowers in summer bloom.
Or spuds lying just under the surface
with only part of their faces showing.
Those places I shied away from, too. Even today
I can do without a garden. But something's changed.

There's nothing I like better now than to walk into
a freshly turned field and kneel and let the soft dirt
slide through my fingers. I'm lucky to live
close to the fields I'm talking about.
I've even made friends with some of the farmers.
The same men who used to strike me
as unfriendly and sinister.
So what if the worms come sooner or later?
And what's it matter if the winter snow piles up
higher than fences, then melts and rains away
deep into the earth to water what's left of us?
It's okay. Quite a lot was accomplished here, after all.
I gambled and lost, sure. Then gamble some more,
and won. My eyesight is failing. But if I move
up close and look carefully, I can see all kings of life
in the earth. Not just worms, but beetles, ants, ladybugs.
Things like that. I'm gladdened, not concerned with the sight.
It's nice to walk out into a field any day
that I want and not feel afraid. I love to reach
down and bring a handful of dirt right up to my nose.
And I can push with my feet and feel the earth give
under my shoes. I can stand there quietly
under the great balanced sky, motionless.
With this impulse to take off my shoes. But just an impulse. More important,
this not moving. And then
Amazing! to walk that opened field--
and keep walking.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Fresh Herb Index - Issue 1

Alright, here's episode 1 from what will be an ongoing series of posts to help you ID the herbs offered in your CSA share, as per special request!

lavender - aromatic, calming; infuse for a soothing tea
garlic scapes are the flowering heads/stalks of garlic plants, and have a mellow garlicky flavor
"green" garlic is fresh, juicy, uncured garlic that is best stored in the fridge.
mint is great used fresh in cold salads, juleps, or iced tea, and it has long been used as a stomach soother-- just infuse in hot water for 3-5 mins.
dill is easy to mistake for fennel tops (same family) but remarkable for its scent. Another palliative stomach easer.
chamomile is generally harvested for the flower buds/heads, and is a key component in Sleepytime tea
curly parsely is easier to identify than its sibling, flat-leaved parsely (coming in a few weeks.) The curly structure makes it a much better cold-winter survivor.
green onion/scallion -use fresh and add to soups, salads
greek oregano has soft leaves, with a distinctly opposite leaf arrangement. Classic pizza/italian herb. And, it grows wild-- it's all over the landing up on Green Peak! thyme contains the compound thymol, which has known antibacterial and antifungal properties, and was used to preserve mummies in ancient days. It's also part of why chicken soup is so good for colds!

Most of our common cooking herbs are in the mint family-- an enormous grouping of related plants, including thyme, sage, rosemary, lavender, oregano, basil, sage, and bee balm. More installments to come as the herb garden keeps growing! Thanks for reading.

Weeds, and a good moral

A great little op-ed about our wonderful, accursed friends: weeds. We can't forget that most of them we brought upon ourselves!