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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
16th Harvest Week, Season 12
July 16th - 22nd, 2007

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

In this issue
--Basil bounty - Free Basil!!
--Greetings from Farmer Tom
--Notes from the Field
--Mataganza Garden Sanctuary Internship Program
--Pictures around the farm
--What's in the box this week
--Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
--Contact Information

" As farmers, we are emotionally involved, personally engaged and spiritually invested ... surviving as both art and business ... we perform despite limited economic incentives because we offer gifts to the world. "

~ David Mas Masumoto, from "Four Seasons in Five Senses"

Basil Bounty - FREE BASIL!!

At each pick-up site this week there will be a box with loose basil in it, free for the taking. Please take as much as you want! We have a bumper crop of basil right now, and in order to keep the plants healthy and prevent them from bolting, they need to be picked. But rather than throw it on the ground to compost between the rows, we are going to harvest and collect it, and offer it to you. The basil will not be bunched, it will simply be loose, in one of the plastic bag liners, inside a waxed box at your pick-up site. We will leave the box open, but the bag may be closed over the top of the basil to help keep it fresh. Take as much as you like, then close the bag up again to keep it fresh for the next member. Debbie will give you extra recipes and ideas for using it.

Greetings from Farmer Tom

Eating locally and seasonally by joining our CSA is, in my eyes, a fairly radical if not revolutionary step – one that affects both eating habits and lifestyle. When you first signed up to join, you took a bold step, choosing to participate in the seasonal journey of this particular farm. If it’s your first time as a CSA member, it can be difficult to anticipate what you where getting yourself into. By now, for instance, summer is in full swing, and you’re probably wondering when you'll be getting tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers; and hoping that the chard, kale, arugula or never ending supply of beets and carrots will slow down.

Getting a box of vegetables every week, all from the same farm, can be challenging. Diversity doesn't appear overnight, but happens gradually over the course of an entire season. Sometimes this requires learning to cook with more unusual vegetables, such as mizuna, Chinese cabbage or fava beans; other times it means coming up with creative culinary ways to prepare the same vegetable a couple weeks in a row. If you lived here where the farm is – the central Coast, where cauliflower, broccoli, leafy greens and lettuces are year ‘round staples – you’d understand that it’s our cool foggy summer days that delay the ripening of the popular heat-loving crops. I know that by the time our cucumbers and tomatoes are ripe and in your shares, you’ve already seen them piled high in stores and at farmers markets for weeks. But the green beans and cherry tomatoes now appearing in your shares are a sign that the summer veggies are imminent.

Each farm is different, defined by its climate, soil conditions, size, market, and most importantly, the people who live on and work the land. Still, the feedback and stories we get from you are also important. Many members have expressed to us over the years that getting a share is like getting a surprise box, or like ‘Christmas every week.’ On the other hand, last week a member commented about the "holey" arugula, which, with its many little holes, resembled Swiss cheese. Unhappy with its appearance, he threw it out. True, if you went shopping in a store this ‘holey’ arugula would probably never make it into your shopping basket. But in this case, appearance is deceiving, since the taste is unaffected. And unlike the blemish-free store product, it tells a story... in this case, it is story about the life cycle of a common little beetle, the flea beetle, which loves to munch on mustard greens, and happened to peak at the same time our arugula started sprouting. Normally in this situation we like to cover the crop with a light, gauze-like blanket commonly known as ‘row cover’, to reduce the flea beetle damage. Sweet Alyssum and sunflowersThis time, however, we had to leave the blankets off due to the higher temperatures from a couple of short heat waves we experienced in the last three weeks. The veggies you get from us will always have a story to tell, about the complexity, the cycles and character of this farm. As a member, you will not necessarily be eating what is easiest and most convenient for you. Sometimes you are asked to be more flexible, to be open to trying new things and discovering the flavors, textures and characters of food that can be grown at the time and place where you are now. - Tom

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(at left, sweet alyssum and sunflowers are planted between crop rows to attract beneficial insects for natural pest control)

Notes from the Field

The seasonal diversity is becoming more apparent with the content of this week’s share. The dry-farmed tomatoes in the Family Share should be in all the shares by next week. Cherry tomatoes will be more abundant in both shares for the next 4 to 5 weeks. Broccoli is back for a couple of weeks, and the arugula – don't be turned off by the holes; they’re just the pock-marks of our little jumpy friends the flea beetles – is perfectly tasty tossed in salads, or sautéed. Soon to come are peppers and eggplant. Bell peppers (still green) and our yellow Hungarian wax peppers Also, I would say in the next 2-3 weeks we should be getting the delicious Armenian cukes, also known as snake cucumbers. Our biggest challenge right now is aphids which are quite abundant right now, so if you do find them it's because they got past our scanning eyes during harvest. A strong stream of water or a quick boil will get rid of most of them (Debbie has a few suggestions too).

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(at left, upcoming peppers: green bell and yellow Hungarian wax)

Mataganza Garden Sanctuary Internship Program

Hi everyone, my name is Brian Barth; I live here on Live Earth Farm, and teach permaculture in the Mataganza Garden Sanctuary. (If you missed seeing the Garden when you were here for the Solstice, be sure to stop by during the Fall Harvest Festival. It is a beautiful spot.)

Thank you to those that made our Spring internship program a great success. We got almost the entire garden mulched, did lots of planting, some propagation work, worked on hand-made plant labels, and made a medicinal tincture from herbs in the garden.

Starting again in August, we'll host a six week program for people wanting to get hands-on experience in ecological gardening techniques, appropriate horticulture, natural building, permaculture design, and other topics. Our special focus for this session will be on harvesting and processing plants from the garden for medicine, food, natural dyes, and teas, etc. It will happen on six Fridays, from 10am to 6pm each day. The dates are August 10, 17, 24, 31 and September 7 and 14. There will be a $150 fee collected as a contribution towards the materials needed for our work in the garden. Each day will include hands-on instruction relevant to the projects at hand, to be determined by the needs of the garden, and will serve to tie theory and practice together.

For more info or to sign up, for please contact me –
by phone, at 831-566-3336 or
by email at edenfruits2002@yahoo.com

Hope your enjoying the bounty of Summer,

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Pictures around the farm

Sunrise as opposed to fog in the morning means a hot day is imminent.
Sunrise over the greenhouse

The Concord grapes are coming along nicely!
Immature Concord Grapes

A spread of our early summer bounty!
summer crop diversity

The diversity in the plantscape on the farm includes more than the crops we grow: yellow mullein from the Mataganza Garden Sanctuary, weeds and volunteers (in this case, a stalk of corn!) growing amongst the row crops... and a beautiful rose hip from the house garden.
flower and weed diversity

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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:
Holey arugula
Beets (golden or chiogga)
Broccoli (Lakeside or LEF) +
Green beans
Lettuce +
Spinach +
Summer squash +
Sungold cherry tomatoes
Dry-farmed tomatoes
Strawberries (1 basket)

Small Share:
Broccoli (Lakeside or LEF)
Green beans

Summer squash
Sungold cherry tomatoes
Strawberries (1 basket)

Extra Fruit Option:
Plums, blackberries, strawberries, and
(Weds) apricots, or
(Thurs) raspberries

"Strawberry Bounty" Option:
4 baskets of strawberries

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Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
Click here to go to my extensive recipe database, spanning 10 years of CSA recipes and alphabetized by key ingredient. Includes photos of most farm veggies; helpful for ID-ing things in your box! Also, FYI, as a rule, I put my own comments within recipes that are not my own inside square brackets [like this] to distinguish them from the voice of the recipe-writer. - Debbie

What I’d do with this week’s box
There’s a wonderful recipe for beets with pasta, sour cream garlic and parsley that I haven’t made in a while. That was good. Alternatively, since we’re getting the golden and chiogga beets this week (and if you’re like me, you probably still have other beets in your crisper from prior weeks), I’d make a colorful beet salad – take advantage of the different colors! In a nutshell, you simply cook the beets, peel, dice, and dress them separately, then serve them in little piles on a bed of that holey arugula. No need to dress the arugula; the dressing from the beets will dribble down over it and take care of that. Another good use for parsley is to include some of it in your pesto. The value of doing this is it helps preserve the bright green color.  Green beans, cherry tomatoes and potatoes are great in various combinations; sometimes I’ll make a potato-green bean salad with cherry tomatoes; ooohhh, I almost forgot! A really yummy way to prepare green beans is like roasted oven garlic fries, sometimes called ‘Ugly Green Beans’ because they’re all brown and blistered, but boy are they good! Children love them. Spinach again? Oh, everybody has there favorite way to use it so I hardly have to give you ideas, but I am running out of spinach-potato gnocchi so I’ll probably make some more. Member Laurel Pavesi made a great suggestion: mince up fresh herbs and add to your gnocchi dough. I’m going to have to try that! Summer squash? Grill it (baste w/olive oil, salt, pepper), chop it up, and toss it into some cooked penne or similar pasta along with some halved cherry tomatoes and... pesto, of course! Good hot, room temp, or cold. Carrots I often just dip in peanut butter and eat for lunch! Radishes... yes you can cook them, or slice them into salads, or put them into a stir-fry, but my favorite way to eat them is still in a radish sandwich – thinly sliced and piled onto buttered sweet French baguette. Be sure to click on the link to this recipe in order to get the sweet story behind it. Ever since I learned this, it’s been my favorite way to eat ‘em.

What to do with all that basil??
In addition to making fresh pesto, did you know you can freeze pesto, freeze the basil leaves, or even dry them? I’ll talk about each in succession.

First: refrigerating pesto. Although it’s great to use it the day you make it, it actually lasts a few weeks in the fridge when stored properly. When I make a batch of pesto, I put it in a glass jar, then carefully press a piece of plastic wrap down against the surface of the pesto inside the jar before closing the lid. This helps minimize the amount of surface area exposed to the air (which causes oxidation). It’ll keep this way two weeks or more (I think – I’ve never not used it up before then, but two weeks out, still good). Some people like to pour a quarter inch of olive oil over the top to protect it, which is also fine. Just keep in mind that the oil coagulates and gets cloudy when refrigerated (but comes back to liquid form at room temperature). If you open the jar to take some out, be sure to smooth out the surface of the pesto again and re-cover with plastic or oil.

Freezing Pesto. I’ve heard that when freezing pesto you should leave out the cheese (adding it later when you’ve thawed it for use), but I don’t think that is a problem. Granted frozen pesto may not be the same as fresh, but if you make it now, you can enjoy the taste of summer all through the winter! (Well, at least until your pesto runs out.)

A fellow on the internet had a great suggestion: put the pesto you want to freeze into a ziploc bag, cut off one corner (about ½”), then squeeze the pesto into ice cube trays (don’t overfill them, or you’ll have a mess). To prevent oxidation while freezing, lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of each tray and gently press down against the surface of the pesto. Stick trays in the freezer until frozen, then remove plastic wrap (if it sticks, a cloth dipped in warm water and wiped across the surface should briefly thaw the very surface of the pesto, freeing the wrap), decant the cubes into another ziploc bag (or if you have a vacuum sealer, even better), suck out as much air as you can then close the bag and stick back in the freezer. To use, you can either just toss a few cubes into hot food and stir until it melts, or put some in a dish on your counter (quicker) or in your fridge (slower) until thawed, then use normally. I would avoid quick-thawing in the microwave, because it’s too easy to get hot spots and ‘cook’ the pesto.

Freezing fresh basil. Similar to the above technique, if you have lots of basil you’d like to freeze and save for later, just chop up the leaves, put them into ice cube trays, cover with water (try to push them down so the water covers them), freeze, decant cubes into ziploc bags and store in your freezer. When you go to cook with it, just toss the cubes into whatever you’re cooking. The amount of water is negligible and will not affect your sauce or dish.

Drying fresh basil. This I’ve done before, and it works just fine. People will ask, ‘why dry it when you can use it fresh?’ Listen, if I could use it all up when it was fresh, I would, but since I use dry basil when cooking in the ‘off season’ I’d just as soon use the basil I dried myself; I know where it came from and how recently it’d been dried.

To dry it, simply pick the leaves off the stems, discard stems, and lay leaves out on some flat surface (do not overlap them; spread them out so air can circulate) – a plate, a tray, a wooden cutting board, a wire rack on a pan; or be creative and stretch some cheesecloth out and tack it to, say, the back side of an old wooden picture frame or something (i.e. a wooden rectangle. Do take the picture and glass out first!). Place basil somewhere out of direct sunlight. Check it every day, and when the leaves are thoroughly dry, you can either pack them whole into an old spice jar, or crumble them into a bowl, then with a funnel, fill your spice jar. Store the jar out of the light (you should do this with all your herbs and spices!) and use like you would any dried herb.

Fortunately, prescient member Lori Wilkinson Rella sent me this wonderful recipe for basil also, so here’s a fun way to use the basil fresh as well. Lori says this is her favorite way to use a bunch:

Basil Shrimp
(originally from barbequerecipe.com; written here how Lori prepares it)

3 lbs. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
3 tbsp. country-style prepared mustard [I don’t know what ‘country-style’ is, but I imagine most prepared mustards would do]
¼ C butter, melted
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch fresh basil, stems removed
juice of 1 ½ lemons
ground white pepper

Add olive oil to melted butter, then add everything but the shrimp. Mix all together. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

They recommend skewering the shrimp, then grilling over high heat for about 2 minutes per side. We've also used it as a pasta sauce: Boil some water for pasta, and while the pasta is cooking, sauté the shrimp in the marinade until the shrimp are cooked. Then toss the shrimp with the pasta and you're done. It's delicious either way!

Removing aphids from broccoli

Granted we’re all happier when they aren’t present, but sometimes the little buggers are there, and if they are, there are ways to get rid of them other than throwing out the veggies they’re in! This is not an excuse for giving you aphid-y broccoli; we will always do our best to weed out the buggy ones, but sometimes they slip by the eyes of the harvesters and into our shares anyway.

Broccoli is the toughest veggie to get ‘em out of, because they’ll hide up in the florettes. I have a habit of inspecting my broccoli before cooking, so I know if I need to do any ‘aphid control’. If they’re present, they tend to appear most often inside the topmost florette, the one on the lead or main shaft, as that’s the one that’s been around longest.

If I see I have some aphids, here’s what I do. The idea is to immerse the head upside down in a pot of boiling salted water for a minute or two, so that the aphids dislodge and float to the surface. Use a pair of tongs and be sure your hand is in a protective mitt so you don’t get burned by the steam as you hold it in there. After a minute or two, turn off the heat and, keeping the broccoli immersed, carefully carry the pot and broccoli over to and set down in your sink. Run the hot tap into the pot, still holding the broccoli under, until the water overflows and the aphids floating on top pour over the sides. Shake the broccoli around a bit to see if there are any more still to come out, and overflow/rinse to your satisfaction. Then cut up your broccoli and use as you would normally. It’s already partially cooked at this point, so remember to take this into consideration in your recipe.

If the aphids are in broccolini instead of broccoli, I’ll hold them under the boiling water with a potato masher or something, anything to keep them below the surface until they give up the ghost and float to the top. Then do the sink/rinse procedure as described above.

Apricot-Plum Pie redux
Well folks I followed through on last week’s idea – to modify that apricot pie recipe and make it half apricots, half plums (only I did about two-thirds apricots, one-third plums) – and it was unbelievably good!! Still is, as a matter of fact (we’ve got half the pie left in the fridge; we love fruit pie for breakfast)! So all I can say is, don’t hesitate to try this! No other changes to the recipe, just substitute some plums for some of the apricots. Why didn't I think of this before??? MMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmm..........


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

<> Sat. Jun 23 Summer Solstice Celebration (click here for a wonderful movie of this year's celebration!)

<>Friday Aug 10, 17, 24, 31, Sept 7 and 14 Mataganza Garden Sanctuary Internship Program

<> Aug 24-26 ChildrenÂ’s Mini-Camp sold out!

<> 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