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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
11th Harvest Week, Season 12
June 11th - 17th, 2007

(click here for a pdf of the paper version of this newsletter)

In this issue
--Greetings from Farmer Tom
--Summer Solstice Celebration!
--Tom's favorite crop: Potatoes
--Return of the 'Mystery Item'
--Live Earth Farm Kids
--Pictures around the farm
--What's in the box this week
--Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
--Contact Information

" To live is not enough, we must take part and celebrate. "

~ Pablo Casals

Greetings from Farmer Tom

You might think I was dreaming: I am sitting in the middle of our fields at a long, white, linen-draped table, enjoying an exquisite dinner prepared mostly with farm grown ingredients. This wonderful experience was no dream, however. Last Saturday, more than a 100 guests, many Live Earth CSA members among them, enjoyed our third hosting of "Outstanding in the Field". Jim Denevan, former Chef of Gabriella's Cafe in Santa Cruz, is the founder of these farm dinners, and together with Katy Oursler, director and organizer, they have succeeded in taking the meaning of local and seasonal cuisine to an inspiring new level. The idea behind Outstanding in the Field is to reconnect diners to the land and the origins of their food, honoring the local farmer and food artisans who cultivate it. As Jim says, “Senses are heightened in the fresh air. And it's not every day you get to sit next to the person who planted the beans, raised the lamb and shaped the cheese on your plate." The wines accompanying the five course meal were made using mostly locally grown grapes, the cheese was made by Bernadette, right here on the farm, who as many of you know milks and cares for our small herd of goats. The fresh whipping cream came from Claravale Dairy just down the road, and you can imagine how delighted Elisa was as she used her finger to savor the desert made of freshly whipped cream and strawberry mousse.Bernie with goat and a plate of her cheeseI love when people celebrate and food is the principal thread that links us all together. It is what brings meaning to Community Supported Agriculture.

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Summer Solstice Celebration!

Spring is almost behind us, and to honor the arrival of summer I want to invite everyone to join us here on the farm to celebrate the change in seasons. For many, especially our children, it means a time to take a vacation; here on the farm, summer solstice represents a moment of hard earned leisure – a short breather between all the hard work already put in and the big harvest months ahead. So mark your calendars and join us for our Summer Solstice Celebration on Saturday, June 23rd.

The day will be filled with activities, from learning about honey bees and extracting honey with Steve Demkowski (Steve has 10 hives right here on the farm), to strawberry and blackberry picking (we’ll have chocolate on hand for dipping!), to milking the goats and cheese making with Bernadette, to face painting, to bread baking and pumpkin seed planting. Tom will of course be giving his usual farm tour, Kuzanga Marimba will again color the air around us with their beautiful marimba music, we’ll light our traditional bonfire at dusk, and last but never least, there will be food, lots of food!

Summer Solstice is actually a time of light and of fire, a time to reflect upon the growth of the season: the seeds that have been planted in the earth and those planted in our own lives. Remember to bring a dish to contribute to the potluck it 's a reminder of what nourishes us, and a small offering acknowledging the change of the season. Hope to see you all here at the farm.

Solstice Celebration – the nitty gritty
<> how do I get there? (click here for directions)
***save gas and the environment and carpool if you can! Try the Friends of LEF Yahoo Group for finding carpool buddies if you don’t know other members in your area***
<> when should I get there? Activities will happen between 2 and 5pm, Kuzanga begins playing around 5, then we break for our traditional potluck around 6pm. After the potluck, Kuzanga continues to play, and then we light the bonfire at dusk.
<> do I need to make a reservation, or let you know I’m coming? No.
<> what is the cost? There is no cost; all we ask is that you bring food to share in our potluck.
<> what else should I bring? We encourage you to bring your own picnic plates and utensils in order to minimize unrecyclable garbage. We will have a washing station, where you can rinse them when you are through eating. Also, bring a blanket to picnic on, and it gets cool in the evening so don’t forget sweaters and jackets.
<> can I bring someone who is not a member of the CSA? Yes, certainly! All friends of the farm are welcome! Just remember to bring food to share in the potluck!!

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Tom's favorite crop: Potatoes

Every year, upon the arrival of the first potatoes of the season in the CSA shares, I like to take the opportunity to write about this fascinating crop. Some of this will be excerpts from previous years’ newsletters. Oh, and don't think we were too lazy to clean the potatoes; the reason they will come with a little soil attached and not look spanking clean is because the skin is so thin, we're trying to avoid bruising them before they get to you (that’s how fresh they are!). This year we are growing four different types of potatoes, two red (Red Pontiac and Red La Soda) and two yellow (Yellow Finn and Yukon Gold).
the potato harvest
Slipping your hand under the loose soil and pulling up the first new potatoes is like finding a buried treasure. Do you know that the so-called "Irish" potato actually comes from the highlands of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, where it has been cultivated for over 5000 years? Potatoes were the staple of the Incas, who grew and ate hundreds of varieties. The Irish were the first to grow the potato extensively since it yielded 4 to 5 times more calories per acre than any of the traditionally grown cereal grains. By changing their diet, it allowed the Irish to survive without having to depend on the English grown grains. In war-torn Europe peasants planted potatoes as a kind of insurance, since potatoes could be left in the ground through the winter and dug only as needed for daily consumption. This would allow peasants to survive the raids of soldiers during wartime: soldiers usually could not take the time to dig the field to get their food, and certainly they would not do so if grains were stored in neighboring barns. However in 1845-46, the year of the devastating Irish Potato Famine, late blight (Phytophtora Infestans), a common fungal disease that thrives under cool and wet conditions (i.e. Irish weather) wiped out most of the Irish potato crop. Hundreds of thousands died before public relief could be organized, and scores of thousands who survived emigrated to America. The harsh lesson of this famine was the importance of maintaining a diversified farming system, i.e. don't rely solely on one type of crop (monocropping).

Although potatoes grow underground they are not really roots. They are the swollen ends of skinny underground stems called rhizomes. To stimulate their growth, about a quarter to a third of the plant has to be covered with soil, or ‘hilled up’ to stimulate the formation of ‘tubers.’ Today heirloom potatoes are making a comeback, with hundreds of varieties now available in unique shapes/colors, from purple, to knobby fingerlings, to round, red-skinned boilers, to oval, brown-skinned boilers.

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Return of the 'Mystery Item'

Mystery Items are those special extra somethings that show up in your share but are not on the veggie list. Why the mystery? Often we don’t know how much we’ll have of something, or we’ll be cleaning fields of different crops, so there’s not enough of anything to give everybody the same thing, but enough different things to give everybody something. So, it’s not so much a “Mystery” as it is a “Bonus” item!

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Live Earth Farm Kids

Okay, it was bound to happen. Kids enjoying Live Earth Farm goodies + parents with digital cameras = a new photo section in the newsletter! Email your favorite “LEF Kid” pictures along with short story or caption to deb@writerguy.com. If I don’t get inundated by submissions, I should be able to run a few each week! ;-) Debbie

First, from new member Cynthia Neuendorffer, who sent me this shot of her "two year old happily digging into our first share."
toddler with napa cabbage

And this one from another new member, Ashton Treadway, who said, "This is JT, our 2+-year old son enjoying a strawberry that he helped himself to right out of the fridge." And a little later "he got hold of a zucchini..."
toddler with strawberry, and noshing on a zucchini

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Pictures around the farm

A little gopher snake Tom rescued from the potato patch so it wouldn't get chopped up by the tractor!
gopher snake and potato

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What's in the box this week

(Content differences between Family and Small Shares are underlined and italicized; items with a “+” in Family Shares are more in quantity than in Small; anticipated quantities are in parentheses. Sometimes the content of your share will differ from what's on this list, but we do our best to give you an accurate projection. It's Mother Nature that throws us the occasional curve ball!)

Family Share:
Lettuce +
Mei qing choi +
Potatoes +
Summer squash
Mystery item
Strawberries (2 baskets)

Small Share:
Chard or Kale
Mei qing choi
Summer squash
Mystery item
Strawberries (2 baskets)

Extra Fruit Option:
5 baskets of strawberries (this option should start getting different fruit next week!)

"Strawberry Bounty" Option:
5 baskets of strawberries

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Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
(Click here to go to my extensive recipe database, spanning nearly 10 years of CSA recipes and alphabetized by key ingredient. Includes photos of most farm veggies; helpful for ID-ing things in your box!)

What I’d do with this week’s box:
I’d try to use the basil as soon as possible, while it is still very fresh, but here’s what I did last week, and it kept well for a couple days before I got around to using it: I put the basil in a tall drinking glass with about an inch of water in the bottom, much like a vase of flowers (size the glass to your basil bunch; if it is short and squatty, use a shorter glass. Last week mine was tall and leggy, so I used a tall glass). Also like flowers, I snipped off the ends of the stems just before immersing them (so they are more likely to take up a little water and stay fresh). If the bottom few leaves will be submerged, I just remove them (they’d get waterlogged and just be unusable anyway). Unlike flowers though, if there are blooms on the end of the basil, I nip them off with my fingers just above the last pair of leaves (sorta like Morticia Adams and her roses, only I don’t invert the stems after deflowering them!). Next, I slip a plastic bag over the basil and it’s glass, then secure it to the glass with a rubberband so the air around the basil will hold its humidity (refrigerators tend to dry things out). Then stick this in a door shelf of your refrigerator (Julia of Mariquita Farm taught me this; the door tends to be less cold, and this is good, in this case). Be sure the basil is not wet before you do this; wet leafy things rot quicker. Humidity = good, wet = bad. If you have to, let the basil air dry for awhile before storing it this way.

Okay, that’s how I’d store the basil, but how would I use it? I think it would be great in a fresh potato salad. I’d boil up some of those potatoes (whole, skin on!) then while still warm, cut them into pieces, dress them with a simple vinaigrette and toss in slivered basil leaves. (Be sure not to overcook the potatoes or they fall apart.) Instead of celery, I’d slice thinly or dice up some of the mei qing choi and add them. I did that before with both tuna salad and chicken salad, and loved the texture and flavor it added! I expect the results will be similarly delightful in potato salad. The broccoli or broccolini I’d just steam until tender, and then while still warm, drizzle it with good olive oil (the warm veggies release a delicious waft of the olive oil’s fragrance) then squeeze on a little lemon juice, and sprinkle with sea salt. And if it gets hot this week (like it’s supposed to), I think I’ll make a cold cucumber soup. The rest of the box items are covered nicely by the recipes below, sent in by various members:

Member Christi Carew sent this first recipe, and just in time for our first potatoes!
Cheese, Chard, And Potato Casserole
Christi says, “This is a great recipe for using a lot of greens. Sometimes I just end up having a lot at once and want an easy way to use them all at once. I think you could also layer the greens/egg mixture with the potatoes rather than mixing it all together, but I haven't had time to try that yet. I've adapted it from a recipe I found online.”

1 lb. chard (or other greens - I used kale the first time. Second time I used some kale, spinach, arugula, and mustard greens)
4 medium potatoes
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
6 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 C milk
2 or more cloves of garlic, crushed, minced, or finely chopped
salt to taste
1 tsp. each thyme and marjoram
1/2 or more chopped onion
3/4 C grated Parmesan cheese

Wash and dry chard (or greens), and chop into thin strips, 1/4 inch wide or thinner. Wash potatoes and cut into 1/8-inch slices (this should make 6-7 cups). Set aside 1 1/4 cups of potatoes. Add the olive oil to the greens and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk, garlic salt, herbs, onion, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Add egg mixture to greens and mix well. Add the big portion of potatoes (NOT the 1 1/4 cups you set aside) to the greens and mix well. Pour into a greased, 9x13 baking dish. Place remaining potato slices on top. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F until potatoes in center are done (about 50 minutes). Uncover and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Continue baking until cheese is golden, about 10 minutes.

Member Lauren Thompson, frequent recipe contributor to the Friends of LEF yahoo group, sent this recipe last week:

Noah Thompson’s Zucchini Fritters
Two nights ago my husband Noah made these amazing 'Zucchini Fritters'... we actually made them with the summer squash. Even though we had tasty balsamic glazed kale and onions on the side, these fritters really stole the show. Somehow, despite the simple ingredient list, these fritters really become something more than the sum of their parts. We only wished we had twice as many. The squeeze of lemon from the wedges really makes the recipe, so don't omit the garnish!

1 pound zucchini
1 large garlic clove, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large egg
1/2 C all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges

1. Trim the ends from the zucchini. Shred the zucchini using the large hole of a box grater or the shredding disc of a food processor. Wrap the shredded zucchini in several layers of paper towels or in a kitchen towel and squeeze gently. Continue squeezing, using new towels if necessary, until the zucchini is dry.

2. Place the shredded and squeezed zucchini in a large bowl. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, and egg and mix well. Stir in the flour.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Fill a 1/4 cup measure with the zucchini batter. Turn the batter into the hot pan and use the back of the spoon to shape the batter into a 2-3 inch patty (Much like pancake batter, it will spread, but since the batter is quite thick, it's best to help it along.) Quickly repeat until the pan is full but not crowded. Sauté until the fritters are nicely browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes longer. transfer the fritters to a platter lined with a paper towel to drain. Keep hot.

4. Briefly heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the empty skillet. Add the remaining batter as directed in step 3 to make more fritters. Cook the fritters until browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve the fritters hot with the lemon wedges.

And member Catherine Barale says, “Last week I made strawberry jam. You can make it traditionally and can it or use the new freezer pectin if you don't want to go through the effort of canning. Fabulous. This week I made strawberry cobbler. Here’s the recipe.”

Strawberry Cobbler
from Fields of Greens, by Annie Sommerville

Toss together:
5 C strawberries washed, hulled, and cut into halves if large
1/3 C sugar
2 tbsp. flour
Chopped zest of one orange

Place into a greased 8x8 inch baking dish

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 C heavy cream
Combine dry ingredients and cut butter into it until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the cream and mix lightly, just until dry ingredients are moistened. Cover the fruit with the topping one tablespoon at a time until it's all used. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes.

Catherine sent me this next recipe too, saying she used it to marinate beets and then served them on a bed of arugula. Since we don’t have arugula this week, try it simply on a bed of lettuce, or, steam some chard or kale until tender and toss it in a little of the vinaigrette too, then serve the beets on top!

Moroccan Vinaigrette
from Greens at Home, also by Annie Sommerville

2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 tbsp. champagne vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. olive oil  
pinch cayenne pepper
Marinate cooked beets in vinaigrette and serve at room temp over a bed of greens.


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Calendar of Events
(see calendar on website for more info)

<> Sat. Jun 23 Summer Solstice Celebration

<> July 10-14 Teen Adventure Camp <cancelled>

<> Aug 24-26 ChildrenÂ’s Mini-Camp

<> Sat. Oct 20 Fall Harvest Celebration

<> Farm Work Days: Last Friday of each month, starting in June and running through October. Actual dates are: June 29th, July 2th, August 31st, September 28th, and October 26th. See here for details!

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Contact Information
email Debbie at the farm: farmers@cruzio.com
email Debbie at home (with newsletter input or recipes): deb@writerguy.com
phone: 831.763.2448
web: http://www.liveearthfarm.net