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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
7th Harvest Week, Winter Season 2008/2009
Weds. February 25th, 2009
in this issue
What's in the box this week
Of Cravings and Uncertainties
Please pay your balance due for the coming CSA season
Has your email address changed?
Bountiful Beans
Notes from Debbie's Kitchen [Recipes!]
2009 Calendar

"Be what nature intended you for and you will succeed"
-Sydney Smith
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
Apples, Fuji
Beets, golden
Beets, red
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage, green
Collard greens
Kale (2 bunches!)
Lettuce (Lakeside Organics)
Preserved heirloom tomatoes (LEF tomatoes, prepared by Happy Girl Kitchens)

Bread Option
This week's loaf will be whole wheat with sesame seeds

Of Cravings and Uncertainties

For me the challenge to farm sustainably is to figure out how to minimize the level of control being exert on the natural environment by maximizing natural processes to dictate the farm's growing practices. I am no different from most farmers, I always hope for the ideal proportions of nature's life-giving ingredients to be bestowed on us.  Rain should come in just the right amount and frequency, temperatures are to be favorable for plant growth, of course I want fertile and well drained soils, and always the right balance between bugs to keep crop pests to a minimum. So, in a perfect world, the rains should stop now as apricot and plum tress are blooming and thousands of seedlings in our greenhouse are ready to be transplanted. Since it is only an illusion to think one can control things to create the ideal farming conditions, my strategy has always been to diversify.  I can only guess what is going to be in our shares in early April, but I know that among the diversity of crops we grow there will most likely be a number of them adapted to a range of unpredictable conditions.
The flowerbuds on the apricots and plums are opening, it means winter dormancy is coming to an end, the roots are releasing and pushing nutrients back into the trunk and branches in anticipation of more light and warmth. The first bloom in our orchard awakens a craving for the coming of Spring. I get this familiar itch inside me, anticipating the beginning of a new lifecycle on the farm. Letting go of one phase without yet having reached the next is always filled with uncertainties. Transitions between seasons are always the most unpredictable, especially between Winter and Spring, life on the farm feels the most fragile.  The tender flowers on the apricot trees being pounded by these last rains, feels like my dreams of last years bountiful apricot harvest may all be washed away. I hope that we get some dry weather and I am glad we have so many other fruit crops that will benefit from warmer and drier weather to come. Our early strawberry varieties already have green berries growing, blackberries and raspberries will start blooming in 3-4 weeks, and the pears and apples know better than their fellow stonefruits to wake up this early, they will probably not  break dormancy until the end of March.
 The resilience of the farm depends on the interconnected and supportive diversity of all its members, not only plants and animals but also the people, you as members who are pledging your financial support for the upcoming season and the entire family of workers who are committed to steward the land.   As a Community Supported Farm the hopes and expectations for the upcoming season I am sure will turn into a celebration of nourishing food for all.

Please pay your balance due for the coming CSA season
Debbie here. There are still almost 300 members who signed up and paid a deposit, but have not yet sent in their balance due for the coming season. If you are one of those people, please do not delay; send it in now. I need to receive and record everyone's payments by the middle of March so that I have time to make final preparations for the start of the season April 1st.

If you did NOT receive your 'balance due email' (which was sent out end of January/1st week of February), please let me know so I can re-send it to you.

Thanks to the rest of you who have already paid ~ you're all set!! Of course you already know this because you've received my 'paid in full' confirmation email. ;-)

Has your email address changed?
Debbie again. Because I do virtually all of my member communication via email, it is critically important that I have an accurate and current email address for you in my database. [Note that the email address at which you receive this newsletter comes from a completely separate e-list.]

So please try to remember: if you ever change email addresses, be sure to let me know at the farm. If you are ever concerned about possibly missing important emails from me, keep in mind that I can email you in more than one place (work and home, say). If you'd like to include additional email addresses in your member record in the database, let me know.

Bountiful Beans
Some of you may remember our farm intern, Amy Kaplan, from the year before last... anyway, Amy loves to grow seeds and beans of all types (organically, of course), but in particular she loves to grow heirloom shell beans, the kind of beans which are dried and stored for later use.

Last year Amy and her pal Jonathan Pilch planted a field of Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans, and thanks to favorable conditions, they had a bountiful harvest and so have extra to sell, if you are interested! (see below)

Amy gave me [Debbie] some beans to play with, and I will talk about cooking with them in the recipe section below (they are indeed really delicious... even plain!), but in the meantime, here's a little more info about them from Amy:

HIdatsa Shield Figure Beans"Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans are a Native American dry bean variety traditionally grown by the Hidatsa Indians of North Dakota.  This rich, deeply flavorful bean has been added to the Slow Food 'Ark of Taste,' a project that identifies "delicious foods in danger of extinction." These beautiful beans soak up lots of liquid-they'll double in size when cooked!  They're nothing like the withered, wimpy beans you get at the supermarket...this is a whole new bean eating experience.

"These beans were grown in Watsonville.  Beans are satisfying to grow - they grow quickly, so a newly-planted field can go from bare to dense green in a matter of a few weeks.  The growing is the fun part.  The tricky part comes in October, when we dry and thresh the beans. Once the bean pods have begun to dry, but before they begin to shatter, we pull the whole stalks out of the ground, and pile them up on tarps to dry.  Packing the SharesBecause of our foggy Watsonville mornings and nights, the beans need to be covered each evening and uncovered every morning. Drying takes about two weeks.  

"After drying comes threshing, which means separating the beans from the rest of the plant.  Without a machine, that means stomping up and down, banging on the bean pile with sticks, turning up the music loud and dancing on top of the stacks of beans.  What remains at the bottom of the pile are beans and finely crushed bits of bean pods.  This we then run through screens and in front of a fan, and end up with clean, lovely beans, ready for cooking or to save for next year's crop."

So if you are still reading and want to order some beans from Amy, please email her at barndanceseeds@gmail.com - she will be happy to oblige!

Meanwhile, this brings up an interesting point... at times in the past, Farmer Tom has thought about including dry shell beans such as this in the winter shares (much like the canned LEF tomatoes and apricot jam). What do you think? Should we lobby Tom to put dry beans into next year's winter shares?

<> 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 for winter 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)
12/10/08 (already passed)
12/17/08 (already passed)
<3 week break over holidays>
1/14/09 (already passed)
<no share 1/21>
1/28/09 (already passed)
<no share 2/4>
2/11/09 (already passed)
<no share 2/18>
2/25/09 <---this week!
<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.

New in this week's box: leeks! I think we'll be getting them for a while yet, so if you have a favorite leek recipe, do let me know. - Debbie

Sautéed Leeks and Apples
2 large or 3 medium leeks, white parts only [I use the light green parts too]
2 tbsp. butter
2 large, tart apples [if apples are not so tart, add a squeeze of lemon juice near the end of cooking]
salt and pepper to taste

Split leeks in half lengthwise and trim the bottoms, leaving a little of the root end intact so that they stay together. Wash well to remove all grit. Cut lengthwise into thin strips, about 2 inches long.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp. of the butter. Add the leeks and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, melt the remaining butter and add the apple slices. Turn the heat to high and cook until the apples are lightly browned and softened, about 3 minutes.
Return the leeks to the pan and toss together to combine. Serve immediately. [This would go great with pork, or if not a meat eater, it would go great with some of Amy's beans!]

Preparing Amy's Dried Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans
from Amy Kaplan

First, soak the dry beans 12-24 hours.  The beans will soak up lots of water, so cover them with several inches of water when soaking.   Drain, rinse, and cook the beans until soft and tender in chicken stock, vegetable stock, or salted water. The beans are great just like this, as a simple, healthy side dish.  They can also be added to minestrone, chili, bean salads...

To make a bean soup, use more liquid when cooking, and add a few bay leaves and a chipotle chili or two.  While the beans are cooking, toast some spices like cumin seeds, ground cumin, and coriander in a dry skillet.  Add some cooking oil, and sauté a lot of onions into the mix.  Add this to the bean mixture.  Remove some of the mixture to puree, and then add back into the pot for a hearty, delicately-spiced soup.  Serve with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice, and maybe some grated cheddar cheese.  

For a creamier soup: cook the beans in plenty of chicken stock.  While the beans are cooking, sauté onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes in a generous amount of olive oil or butter.  Add this to the beans.  Once cooked, mash the mixture with a potato masher, or puree in a blender. Garnish each bowl with finely-chopped parsley.

Debbie's bean-prep notes:
I experimented with a small quantity of beans, and found that these cook up much quicker than conventional dry beans; probably because they are so much fresher! Anyway, referring to an old cookbook of mine 'Dried Bean and Grains', I soaked them as Amy described above, then drained and boiled them simply in salted water, because I wanted to see how they tasted all by themselves.

According to 'Dried Bean and Grains' it is important to boil the beans 10 minutes to destroy the lectins. "Lectins are toxins which can cause stomach cramps nausea and diarrhea. Peas and lentils are low in lectins; most beans are high. Only boiling destroys lectins; lower temperatures do not. Most beans must be boiled for 10 minutes."

So I boiled the beans, and then dropped the temperature to a simmer, covered them, and it was at this point I learned how much quicker these beans cook: 'Dried Beans and Grains' indicate beans need to be cooked 1 to 1 ½ hours... but I knew fresher 'dry' beans would take less time, so I set the timer for 30 minutes and checked on them. By that time they were already beginning to fall apart! The next time I tried it, I simmered them only 10 minutes (after the 10 minute boil). They remained whole, and were more al-dente. The 30-minute-simmer beans were much creamier. The flavor of both was wonderful!! So my conclusion is that there is a spectrum of cooking times you can work with, and so feel free to find out which way you like them best.

I found I just wanted to snack on them as is (kind of like that old 'salted peanuts' adage). I ate some that way, but also the next day, I took some that I had refrigerated after cooking and drizzled them with a bit of balsamic vinegar and topped them with some minced cilantro. That was good too!

If you get some of Amy's beans, have fun with them, and then be sure to let me know how it goes!!

Here's a really interesting recipe sent in by my friend Alie:

Sweet Kale Salad
3 bunches of kale, stems removed
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C raw unheated honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 C raisins (golden preferred)
2 tbsp. pine nuts
In a salad bowl, combine all ingredients. Use clean hands and massage everything for 5 minutes.  By doing this, the kale softens and the flavors blend together. (Alie says it gets darker green and softer! Magic!)
Alie's cooking notes: It's just the 2 of us, so I used about half of a bunch of kale and reduced the oil and honey to about 1 heaping tablespoon each. We love garlic, so I went with a whole clove, and I also added some salt.  Next time I will use more Kale as we devoured this batch. As you massage, it reduces down, much like steaming, so use as much as you would if you were cooking it.

Brussels, plain.
I know this may seem like a no-brainer, but have you ever thought of not trying to do a fancy recipe and just cooking them and eating them plain? I did, and in doing so, proved to myself yet again that flavor is all about the quality and freshness of the ingredients! I just trimmed the bottoms off the sprouts, peeled off any outer unsightly leaves (made sure there were no aphids), cut them in half, and steamed them for just barely 5 minutes. Put them on a plate and sprinkled with a little salt - that's it! Folks it just doesn't get better than this: nutty, sprouty, a hint of sweetness... so good!! Anyone who thinks they don't like Brussels sprouts has to have had overcooked or old sprouts. There is no comparison.

Orzo Soup with Chard
from a food blog "www.101cookbooks.com" by Heidi Swanson, sent to me by member Nicole Lezin
Makes 4-6 servings

I like Heidi's lead in description, so I'll include it here: "This soup is known by a few names around here - lil' noodle soup, aspirational noodle soup, and too-lazy-to-wait-for -a-pot-of-rice-to-cook noodle soup. It's made with orzo, a good broth, and whatever I can rummage from my pantry. For those of you unfamiliar with orzo, it is pasta shaped like a chubby grain of rice. It even comes in a whole wheat version, which is what I use. Orzo plays the lead role in this simple soup made with the petite pasta swimming in an egg drop soup style broth that has been boosted with flecks of chard and topped with vibrant, fire-roasted tomatoes. It's finished with an all-important thread of golden olive oil and a flurry of grated cheese. All in all a quick and vibrant bowl of not-too-heavy sustenance.

A couple tips - use a great broth, with just a few ingredients in this recipe, it's key. Before serving be sure to adjust your salt, if the soup tastes flat, add more a pinch or two at a time until all the flavors pop. Vegans, or those not too keen on eggs, no worries - skip them altogether. It's just as good. Different, but still good."

Now... on to the recipe!

For some added flavor, or to take this soup in another direction [this is still Heidi talking, not me], toss the tomatoes with somewhere between a teaspoon + of adobo sauce (from can of chipotles)... more or less depending on how spicy you like your food.

7 C vegetable broth
1 ½ C whole wheat orzo (or other small pasta i.e. pastina)
2 C chard or spinach, chopped
1 14-oz. can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, well drained
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
good quality extra virgin olive oil
3 egg whites
fine grain sea salt

some grated Parmesan cheese (to finish)

Bring the broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the orzo and cook until just tender - about ten minutes. Stir in the chopped chard.

In the meantime, heat the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and a splash of extra virgin olive oil in a separate saucepan. Taste, and salt a bit if needed.

Just before serving, Slowly pour the egg whites into the soup, stirring quickly with a whisk. The whites should take on a raggy appearance. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve the soup in individual bowls, with each serving topped with a generous spoonful of tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, and dusting of cheese.

Golden Beet Soup with Creme Fraiche
from an undated SF Chronicle clipping
serves 6

1 ½ lbs. golden beets
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 C thinly sliced leeks, white and pale green part only
1 clove garlic, minced
Approximately 5 ½ C chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 to ½ C creme fraiche [see my note, below]
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
[the author also says "a pinch of ground fennel seed is a nice addition"]
Thinly sliced chives for garnish [This is where having an herb garden in your yard or on your windowsill comes in handy! Chives are very easy to grow.]

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Put beets in a baking dish with about ¼ inch of water. Cover and bake until tender when pierced, 45 minutes to 1 hour [or see "Beets in the pressure cooker" from a newsletter last year]. Cool, then peel, taking care to remove every trace of peel or the soup may have an earthy taste. Quarter beets.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over moderate heat. Add the leeks and sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté briefly to release its fragrance, then add the beets and 4 cups of the stock. Bring to a simmer. Cover and adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook 10 minutes to blend the flavors.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender. Return to a clean saucepan and reheat. Thin to desired consistency with additional stock. Whisk in creme fraiche to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Divide soup among warm bowls, garnishing each portion with chives.

Debbie's note about creme fraiche: when I make my beet kvass, one of the ingredients needed is whey. One of the ways to get whey is to put whole milk plain yogurt in cheesecloth in a strainer over a bowl or pot and let it slowly seep out. What you have left behind is a much thickened yogurt... somewhere between the consistency of sour cream and cream cheese. I love using this like creme fraiche! It's thick, sour and creamy.

Tom and Constance have finally had a moment to look ahead and set dates for the year's events. They have also made some changes. Here is the current schedule, and we will update the calendar here in the newsletter regularly. Meanwhile, mark your calendar for the following:

NEW!! Farm Workshops/Lectures
this is an idea that is still forming...
Possible subjects to include Permaculture, Fermented Foods, Farming with the Wild... stay tuned!

NEW!! Community Farm Days
Every 4th Saturday of the month from May through October, 9am - 4pm
Participants are welcome to arrive Friday evening and camp out overnight to Saturday. Please leave your dogs at home, thanks! The intent of Community Farm Days is to increase the opportunity for members and their families to experience and enjoy a slice of "life on the farm" at different times of the year - kind of like our old Mini Camp, but for members of all ages! Each month will have a different activity focus, and will be announced in advance here in the newsletter.

Apricot U-Pick Days
two Sundays: July 5th and July 12th
Bring your own bags.

"Start of Summer" Celebration
Saturday June 27th
(Same as our old 'Solstice' Celebration, just not on the Solstice weekend!)

*** Children's Mini-Camp has been discontinued, and is being replaced with the above-mentioned Community Farm Days. ***

Fall Harvest Celebration
Saturday October 24th

Contact Information
farm phone: (831) 763.2448