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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
2nd Harvest Week, Winter Season 2008/2009
Weds. Dec 10, 2008
in this issue
What's in the box this week
Peak Water - Is our "Cadillac" Desert Running Dry?
Pictures from around the Farm
Not getting a winter share but still want good produce?
Notes from Debbie's Kitchen [Recipes!]
"If water is the blood of Mother Earth and the soil the placenta, river courses are veins, oceans are compartments of the heart and the atmosphere is a giant aorta."

In the words of aquatic ecologist Jack Vallentyne taken from David Suzuki's book -The Sacred Balance
What's in the box this week

During the winter season there are no 'Family' or 'Small' sized shares - everybody gets the same size box! As usual though, content can sometimes differ from this list (typically we will make a substitution), but we do our best to give you an accurate projection.

[go to recipe database]

Winter Share
Fuji apples (about 10)
Beets, red
Brussels sprouts (yay!)
Cabbage, green
Cauliflower, Romanesco
Collard greens
Kale, Lacinato
Kale, red Russian
Meyer lemons
Heirloom tomato preserves* (from our tomatoes; canned by Happy Girl Kitchens - contains simply tomatoes and a little salt)

Bread Option
This week's loaf should be multi-seeded whole wheat

*check your tomatoes for a proper seal; if you notice the lid on the jar is slightly bulging instead of sucked down nice and flat, it means the jar did not seal properly and should not be used. Call us. [This should NOT happen; Happy Girl checked the jars, and we will check them when packing, but there is always a remote chance that a bad jar could slip through so please double-check to be safe!]

Peak Water - Is our "Cadillac Desert" Running Dry?

It is the middle of December and we are still waiting for the rainy season to start. Although the thirsty landscape needs all the replenishing moisture it can get, we are "secretly" enjoying the extended dry-spell as we harvest for this week's shares, planting and mulching strawberries, and placing a new roof on the remodeled barn. But it's time we get some much needed rain. The latest weather forecast  looks promising predicting a cold and, we are all hoping, wet weather front, expected to reach us by this weekend. Being a farmer I am a weather news junkie. Not so long ago, before I knew how to surf the net, my favorite radio station was KCBS with their traffic and weather updates aired every 10 minutes. Now, with a click of a button, I get detailed long-term weather forecasts for our specific geographic region.  Although weather predictions can be inaccurate, they help prioritize and time many of our farm activities. Now is the time of year I pay close attention to approaching storm systems. Most of the farm's winter preparations have to be completed by the end of October to mid November. This year with the heavy apple harvest we fell behind schedule, but thanks to the dry weather, we are now caught up and for the most part, winter-ready.  Covercrops are blanketing the sloping fields , trenches to catch, slow, and divert water are in place, and many of our fields have straw or woodchips spread around their perimeter to act as filterstrips to stop water from washing soil away.  I am always a little nervous before the first winter storms arrive, after 9 months of no rain I only have a faint memory what last season's storms were like. Sometimes I use my journal to see if I am missing anything I should have prepared for. Most farmers in the world are used to live with the unpredicatability of the weather, however, here in California we are accustomed to perfect summer weather and the technology to create our own rain through irrigation.
The fact that for 8 or 9 months out of the year the farm relies on pumped groundwater, gives a false sense of  security.  I remember a couple of years ago when in the middle of the season our wellpump stopped working.  I panicked  as if my best friend had a heart attack. I was lucky, Maggiorra Bros, a local well drilling company was able to attend to the problem immediately. It was the first time I experienced just how fragile farming in this semi-arid environment really is. If history is our guide, few desert civilizations have survived uninterrupted into modern times. Maybe with the exception of Egypt, most attempts to control water to tame and populate the worlds deserts have failed. It remains to be seen whether today's grand attempts to tame this country's arid West can be sustained.  It's only been 150 years when the first Mormon settlers arrived at a drying desert sea and started digging ditches, building dams, and flooding the dessert floor to grow food. Today, an estimated population the size of Italy, around 60 million people, have settled in the western arid states, a region in which if nature were to be left alone could probably only support a population of a few thousand, at best. I believe that the demand for water in this part of the country will far outweigh the need for fuel and energy. Unpredictable and more erratic weather patterns will dictate water supply and the farming sector using more than 80% of it, faces an uphill battle justifying the use of subsidized water for crops that compete with thirsty and fast growing urban populations. With reservoirs reaching alarmingly low levels and groundwater aquifers continuously being overdrafted, PEAK WATER may be more imminent than the much touted Peak Oil phenomena. Both need our attention, only like air, water is essential to our survival. Oil is not. By now I was hoping the frogs to be serenading me to sleep, however with the delay in rains so is their mating cycle. Winter hasn't oficially started yet, there is still time to hope for an abundant and replenishing rain this winter.

Pictures from around the Farm

Well established Winter Covercrop with a filterstrip of straw-mulch on a sloping field.

Filterstrip with late emerging covercrop

Apricot and Apple orchard with undersown covercrop

Afternoon sunlight shining on a lush and slow maturing cauliflower(Romanesco) crop.

First CSA harvest of Meyer lemons from 3 year-old trees

Rebuilt and remodeled barn ready to be roofed. The barn is the new site where we expect to move our washing, packing and storage operation next year.

With the passing of the full moon, let's hope for some rain!!!
Not getting a winter share but still want good produce?
For people who are members during the regular season but not over the winter, member Kirsten Nelson had a good suggestion: why not post our Farmers Market schedule in the newsletter? There's no reason you can't continue to get good healthy fresh produce from us (or other local organic farmers) in the interim!

We are at three farmers markets year-round:

Los Gatos (Montebello Way and Broadway Extension - adjacent to Town Park Plaza), Sundays, Apr-Dec 8am-noon; Jan-Mar 9am-noon.

Downtown Santa Cruz (Lincoln and Cedar St.), Wednesdays 2:30 - 6:30pm.

Westside Santa Cruz (Wrigley Bldg. parking lot, 2801 Mission St - near Western Dr.), Saturdays 9am - 1pm

[We are also at the Felton Farmers market, but that's only May-Nov.]

If none of these locales are near to you, use the Local Harvest website/search engine, click the 'Farmers Market' radio button, enter your zip code, and voila! Should come up with several choices for you. Be sure to confirm their seasonality (not all markets are year-round).

· ALL winter CSA deliveries are on WEDNESDAYS, so if you're used to picking up on Thursdays, you have to make the mental switch!

· Pick-up schedule is NOT every week. Here's a repeat of the dates all winter share members got in an email (these dates are also on our website):

12/3/08 (already passed)
<3 week break over holidays>
<no share 1/21>
<no share 2/4>
<no share 2/18>
<no share 3/4>
3/11/09 = last winter share!

<2 week break>

Weds/Thurs April 1st/2nd = 1st delivery week of the regular season!
Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
Click here to go to recipe database.

I'm just gonna jump right into recipes this week! :-) Debbie

Great use for left-over roasted veggies!
If you ever make a roasted veggie mix, like Mark and Mary's (Excellent!) Paprika Roasted Veggies, be sure to make LOTS, not only because it is so good the first time around, but so that you have left overs. Why? The left-overs are fabulous in a 'wrap'-style sandwich the next day! Just spread them on a baking sheet and re-heat at 350 degrees about 5 minutes (I use my toaster oven), then tuck them into warmed tortillas with some lettuce (or spinach or arugula; any salad-like green) and some goat cheese. YUMMO!!

Here's a great trick for heating tortillas I use all the time, by the way (note that I have a gas-burning stove): lay each tortilla directly on the burner over the flame and, using a pair of tongs, flip often, for just a minute or two, until it starts to puff, and brown a bit here and there. That's it!

Freezing extra veggies
Member Susan Fagan sent in a cauliflower-spinach recipe (which I'll save until we get spinach!) but included a great suggestion - if you don't think you're going to get to all your veggies, consider freezing them for later use (she was referring to the cauliflower, for this recipe, but I expanded the thought, especially since after next week we're going on a 3-week hiatus over the holidays before starting up again). I did a little research into blanching though, as my spidey sense told me I ought to. Glad I did!

Turns out that blanching before freezing is indeed recommended for most vegetables. I had no idea, but apparently the enzymes which ripen veggies will continue (though slower) even when frozen! There are no risks like food-borne illnesses from freezing unblanched veggies, it's just a matter of preservation of color and nutrients, etc, or as stated in one article, "If the enzyme action is not stopped before freezing, the vegetables may develop off-flavors, discolor, or toughen so that they may be unappetizing in a few weeks." [A funny aside; I've always frozen peppers - and talked about it in the newsletter even - without blanching, and to no ill effect. Lucky me! It turns out peppers and onions don't need to be blanched before freezing!]

Here's one of the better explanations I found online from the University of Missouri Extension. Note the bit I called out in red though:

"Blanching, or scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short period of time, is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen except onions and green peppers. It slows or stops the action of enzymes. Up until harvest time, enzymes cause vegetables to grow and mature. If vegetables are not blanched, or not blanched long enough, the enzymes continue to be active during frozen storage causing off-colors, off-flavors and toughening.

In addition, blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and spoilage organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. It also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack.

Blanching time is crucial and varies with the vegetable and size of the pieces to be frozen. Under-blanching speeds up the activity of enzymes and is worse than no blanching. Over-blanching causes loss of flavor, color, vitamins and minerals. Follow recommended blanching times for specific vegetables."

Here's the link to the full article with thorough, detailed instructions and blanching times for many different veggies.

Of course another thing to keep in mind is to simply freeze prepared dishes like lasagna and such. If anyone has any good freezing stories or suggestions that I can share with the rest of us please email me (see bottom of newsletter)!

Your fresh rosemary
We're getting a bunch of fresh rosemary, and since it is such a strong herb, it is not likely you'll use it all in one sitting! Fortunately, you have a couple options.

First of all, rosemary dries quite easily. You can either dry it on the stalk and then remove and store the leaves (hang the bunch in your kitchen somewhere out of direct sunlight until dry, pull or break off leaves into a jar and store), or remove the leaves from the stem and spread on a flat pan or dish of some sort and allow to dry, then store.

Alternatively, if you want to keep it around fresh for a little while (not forever), cut the bottom of the stems and stick in water like you would with fresh flowers. Check/replenish the water periodically; if it's starting to look icky, dump it out, trim stem ends again and put into fresh water. I think they'll keep a couple weeks fresh this way.

Crispy Kale Redux
If you haven't tried this yet, I recommend you do! They're a terrific snack or appetizer. Kids will love these too if they love crispy, salty chips (potato chips, corn chips etc). I originally learned about this (via a member) from Michael Pollan's book, 'The Omnivore's Dilemma', but added my own technique. In the original recipe, it says to spray the kale leaves with a misto-type olive oil sprayer. Well, I don't have one of those, but what I came up with works really well: pour a little olive oil into the palm of your hand (wash hands first of course) then rub your hands together, then massage the leaves with your oily hands. This gives them a nice light coating of oil. Then spread them out on an ungreased baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes (as the original recipe states 'being watchful so they don't char). Another thing I do is cut out the thick stem (before cooking), and use just the leaves. Try to get the leaves in more-or-less a single layer on the baking sheet; you can crowd them a little, that's fine, but don't layer them on top of one another.

Stack the crisped leaves (cut them in pieces if you like with a kitchen scissors) on a plate and watch them disappear. Once you start noshing on them it is really hard to stop!

Stuffed Collards
Okay, this is how I think: I was cleaning and putting away last week's veggies, and marveling at the beautiful, ginormous collard leaves, and I thought, gee, it's a bit of work to boil your whole head of cabbage in order to get leaves for stuffing (they're difficult to peel off in one piece, hence the boiling), and here are these collards, already smooth and flat and round... why not use collard leaves for stuffed cabbage? I think I would still boil them in salted water for a minute or two just to make them supple, then substitute them in place of cabbage or any other stuffed-leaf type dish!

Walnut Brussels Sprouts
from 'Recipes from Farm Fresh to You', Feb 1999
serves 6

½ lb. Brussels sprouts
½ tsp salt
¼ C walnut pieces
½ tsp. dried marjoram
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. pepper
½ red onion, cut into ¼-inch slices
1/3 C white wine
1 clove garlic, minced

Steam Brussels sprouts until almost tender, about 8 minutes [I don't think they take that long; I'd check 'em at 5 minutes!]. Set aside. In a nonstick skillet over high heat, cook the walnuts, shaking skillet occasionally, until lightly toasted, 1-2 minutes [I'd use cast-iron or stainless steel; not so keen on heating a non-stick skillet that high. You can also toast nuts in a toaster oven]. Remove from skillet and set aside. In same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, salt, marjoram and pepper. Cook until onion just softens, 2 minutes. Add reserved sprouts; cook, stirring occasionally, 6 minutes. Add wine; reduce heat to medium. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, until sprouts are tender, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl; toss with reserved walnuts.

Middle-Eastern "Sleek"
This was sent me a few years back by member Carol Locke.

Strip kale from stems, tear into pieces, and cook in a small amount of water with 1 whole onion, chopped. When tender, drain, and dress with olive oil to coat greens well, fresh lemon juice, and a generous amount of salt. Add cooked and drained black-eyed peas, in proportion [I think she means roughly equal in volume to the greens] and a sprinkling of cayenne (optional).

Carol says, "I've found kidney beans - red or white - to be a good substitute for black-eyed peas. Chick peas (garbanzos) would probably be good as well."

Here are two great cauliflower recipes from a several-years-old newspaper clipping I unearthed today! Although they call for white cauliflower, the Romanesco should substitute just fine:

Cauliflower apple puree
(no credit) serves 4

1 medium apple
1 tsp. olive oil
Salt (preferably coarse sea salt)
1 ½ lb. (one medium head) cauliflower, trimmed and cut into large chunks
3 tbsp. butter, more if desired

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slash apple in several spots and place in a small baking dish. Sprinkle oil on top. Bake until apple is very tender and wilted, 30-40 minutes. Cool, peel and core, reserving flesh.

Cook cauliflower in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, 5-7 minutes. Drain and transfer to a food processor. Add half the apple and 3 tbsp. butter; process for 3-4 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides with a spatula; puree should get smoother and silkier the longer it processes.

Adjust seasoning, adding more apple, butter or salt as desired; there should be just a hint of sweetness from the apple. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot. [I bet this would be great food for your baby... just not served too hot! ;-)]

Cauliflower with almonds and brown butter
(adapted from James Beard's "American Cookery") serves 4

1 ½ lbs cauliflower, trimmed into olive-size florets
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
Salt (again, preferably coarse sea salt)
1/3 C slivered almonds

Steam cauliflower until tender but still slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove from steamer and pour into a large serving bowl.

In a small pan melt butter with a large pinch of salt over medium-low heat. When foam has subsided and butter has simmered for a minute or two, add almonds and continue cooking until butter begins to smell nutty and toasty and almonds are golden brown. Pour nuts and butter over cauliflower and toss to coat. Season with salt and toss again. Serve.

Contact Information
farm phone: (831) 763.2448