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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
2nd Harvest Week, Season 13
April 14th - 20th, 2008

In this issue
--Greetings from Farmer Tom
--What's Up in the Fields
--What's Up in the Farm Office
--Pictures around the farm
--What's in the box this week
--Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
--Calendar of Events
--Contact Information

" We live as caretakers; our relationship with other creatures is symbiotic and ownership is illusory... no matter how much we feed them."

~ Farmer Tom

Greetings from Farmer Tom

strawberry blossomIf crops were actors and the farm had seasonal Oscar nominations, I think strawberries would be the perennial superstars. In Spring they are the first to raise the curtains for fruit season, and more impressively, they will keep growing all season long, without interruption, until late November. No fruit crop I know of, except maybe tropical bananas, comes close to giving such a stellar performance every season. In late March, when the first berries start ripening, I make it a habit to walk up and down the rows. My main concern is checking for Two-spotted Spider Mites which, once the weather gets warmer, can multiply explosively and are difficult to keep in check. My other (and more rewarding) motivation for walking the rows is to pick the first fully ripened sun-warmed strawberry. By the end of winter, I yearn for that characteristically rich, tangy, sweet, juicy flavor. Savoring that "perfect" first fruit triggers in me a child-like joy, especially when accompanied by my 3 1/2 year old daughter Elisa. However, this seemingly simple, almost elemental pleasure also brings a deeper appreciation of the fruit’s complexity.

Growing strawberries organically has many challenges. Every part of the plant, from its root tips to its leaves and berries, is vulnerable to being eaten or damaged by something. It's a formidable odyssey for a strawberry to end up in your hand unblemished.

We grow four different varieties: Seascape, Camarosa, Dulce, and Albion. As with most living organisms, much about strawberries is determined by their genetic make-up; most of the fruit and vegetables varieties we eat, for that matter, are the result of decades, if not centuries, of careful selection and breeding. Over the course of the season you will likely receive berries from each variety, and have the opportunity to experience their differences in flavor, shape, texture, and storability. Some have an early start, others spread their production over the entire season; some are firm, others are juicier and softer; and for us, the farmers, we like to see that they are resistant to pests and diseases and vigorous under different soil and climate conditions.

Not all aspects of strawberries are determined by genetics, especially when it comes to what is ultimately most important to us... flavor and taste. The subtleties of coaxing the best flavor out of a particular fruit or vegetable has a lot to do with a farm's specific soil and weather conditions. But equally important is how each farmer applies his or her experience implementing specific growing practices focused on enhancing flavor rather than yield. Last week's strawberry teaser was just a preview performance, with only enough strawberries for the Family shares. This week, however, with the warm weather we had, I am willing to stick my neck out and say everyone will get at least one basket.

rosebudAs I walked out of the house this morning to take pictures for the newsletter, I spotted a beautiful rosebush with its first buds starting to open. While taking a close-up shot, I noticed how similar the flower petals are to those of the strawberry, and was reminded that so many of our favorite fruit – Apples, Pears, Blackberries, Raspberries, Plums, and Quince – are related; they all belong to the same mighty Rose or Rosacea family.

Our relationship to food has been shaped over eons by our ancestors. It seems we as farmers and gardeners have an opportunity to revive and appreciate that seemingly lost connection.

Rosacea family comparison

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What's Up in the Fields

Field chores and activities... the list is never ending! This week we are busy getting everything ready to transplant our Pepper, Eggplant, and Tomato seedlings from greenhouse to field. We are busy repairing and installing all of our water and irrigation systems to give all the young tender seedlings a strong and healthy start. Last week I was still concerned about frost; this past weekend we experienced a record heat wave and everything needed watering. Most of our water is pumped from wells through an arterial network of pipes to each field where it is then directed to sprinkle or drip-irrigate any dry and thirsty crops. We are starting to be busy with weeding, especially our direct sown crops, and a big block of summer squash. The apricots are thinned and sizing up fast and most of our pears have set a good crop. Now we are waiting for the apples to finish flowering before deciding whether to thin or not. Potatoes are all pushing through the ground and soon we'll need to keep a hawk’s eye on the gophers, who will be searching for a free lunch by following the moist and freshly loosened soil down the rows. The carrots in last week’s boxes were from our winter planting, but we are running out of them (the spring planting is not sized up yet) already! Fortunately Andy over at Mariquita Farm (one of the farms in Two Small Farms CSA -- our 'coopetition') says he has a bumper crop, and so the Chantenay carrots in this week's boxes are from his farm.

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What's Up in the Farm Office

It’s so easy to forget, in this Silicon Valley world of 24/7 customer service and instant response time, that on the farm we do not have a staff of operators standing by to deal immediately with changes to your share or questions you may have. There is just me (Debbie), and I am generally on the farm, in the office Tues/Weds/Fri. Mondays I’m home preparing the newsletter, and if my remote internet connection is working (it’s been spotty all spring), I try to check emails as well; Thursdays when I can, I check phone messages from home and respond to emails too. But I process the brunt of messages and calls on Tues/Weds/Fri.

This past week was an exception, as I was out of town Thursday through the weekend, only getting back Sunday afternoon (death in the family). Consequently I will be a bit behind in responding to any emails or calls you may have sent during that time. Please bear with me; I should be able to get to them all this week.

Under normal circumstances though, many of you already know I work hard to keep my responses current and take care of you all as promptly as possible. But there are some things which I need a little lead time to handle:

Donating your share or changing your pickup site: please call or email me at the farm no later than Tuesday morning 9am, so that I can see that the change gets into the reports for that week. Later than that, and I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to make the change on time (though you know I’ll try if I can).
Bigger changes - vacation or cancellation: please contact me at least three weeks ahead of time if you want to stop your share (for four or more weeks) or cancel. [Our policies regarding refunds are stated on our website.]

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Pictures around the farm
strawberry variety comparison
From left to right: Albions, Camarosas, Seascapes and Seascape again (Tom's camera battery died before he could get a picture of the Dulces!). The Camarosas, top left, tend to be broad and flattish, with a square tip. Seeds are deeply indented in flesh. Flavor/texture is tangier/crunchier. The Seascapes are rounder in girth, usually pointier tips with a bit of a 'waistline' and seeds are more on the surface. They are red through and through. Their flavor will vary over the season, though generally sweet, and the berries get progressively smaller later in the season. Lower left are the Albions; usually sweeter, straightforward round girth and conical shape, seeds deeply indented. Albions will still be whitish inside even when fully ripe. Dulce (not pictured) is a new variant we are trying this year; similar to Camarosa, but supposed to be even sweeter. Berry production proportions on the farm is roughly: 50% Seascapes, 25% Camarosas, 15% Albions and 10% Dulces.

driptaped beds; tractor with driptape spools
Recently shaped beds which have been newly set with driptape. Inset: tractor with driptape spools; tractor wheels straddle two beds so that two lines of tape can be laid at one time.

sprinkler irrigation repair and operation Sprinkler repair in-situ; thirsty seedlings getting a drink.

Tomato seedlings in th egreenhouse, waiting to be planted out
Here are the tomato (and other) seedlings ready and waiting to be planted out into the fields this week.

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What's in the box this week
Content differences between Family and Small Shares are in red; items with a “+” in Family Shares are more in quantity than in Small; anticipated quantities, if any, are in parentheses. Occasionally content will differ from this list (typically we will make a substitution), but we do our best to give you an accurate projection.

Family Share:
White beets, topped and bagged
Broccoli [Lakeside Organic Farm] (2 - 3 stalks)
Chantenay carrots, topped and bagged [Mariquita Farm]
Fava Beans +
Green garlic
Lettuce +
Mei Qing Choi (6)
Young Onions (3)
Strawberries (1 or 2 baskets)

Small Share:
Broccoli [Lakeside Organic Farm] (1 - 2 stalks)
Chantenay carrots, topped and bagged [Mariquita Farm]
Fava Beans
Green garlic
Mei Qing Choi (3)
Young Onions (2)
Strawberries (1 basket)

Extra Fruit Option:
(doesn't start until May)

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Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
Click here to go to recipe database

Mei Qing Choi
This is the new kid on the block this week! Tom tends to call it ‘bok choi’ but technically this variety is called Mei Qing choi. The two are totally interchangeable in recipes, so don’t be thrown off by the exotic-sounding name. The flavor is quite similar (actually I’d have to do a blind taste test to see if I could even tell them apart); most of the difference is in appearance: bok choi has longer, whiter stems and dark green leaves (below left); mei qing choi has pale green stems and round or oval, only slightly darker green leaves (below right).
Bok Choi to Mei Qing Choi comparison
I discovered last year that I really love chopping and using mei qing choi raw in tuna salad (or chicken salad or similar) in place of celery; the choi is more tender than celery, but still provides crunch... a more delicate crunch, easier to eat in a sandwich! And go ahead and chop up the leaves and throw them into the mix too, or use the leaves instead of ‘lettuce’ when you assemble your sandwich! Below is the chicken salad recipe I made up last year, to give you an idea, but even in your basic can-o-tuna-plus-mayo, it is a great addition!

For that matter, try substituting mei qing choi in any recipe where you normally would use celery. Variation on a theme!

Debbie’s Chicken Salad with Mei Qing (or Bok) Choi
diced or shredded cooked chicken
diced choi
diced green onion (the tender, juicy green stems on the onions in your shares can be used like scallions)
toasted chopped walnuts
bleu cheese (a little bit, crumbled)
plumped dried cranberries (soak ‘em in boiling water a few min.)

dressing (I’ll try to give you proportions; they’re not exact measurements!):
a combo of walnut oil and flaxseed oil (or a plain canola if you don’t have either of these) ~ 2 tbsp.
orange zest/oil* - zest from ½ to a whole orange, depending on how big it is
dab of honey ~ ¼ to ½ tsp.
dab or Dijon mustard ~ ¼ to ½ tsp.
balsamic vinegar ~ 1 tbsp.
some mayonnaise ~ 1 ½ tbsp.
salt and pepper to taste

bed of lettuce or arugula for serving

Combine dressing ingredients. Toss chicken, choi, nuts, cheese and cranberries with dressing, then serve individually, on beds of lettuce or arugula, or make into a sandwich!

*here’s a trick: before making the dressing, zest the orange over the cup you are going to make the dressing in. Point the orange/zester in such a way that the orange oil that sprays out when you do the zesting is captured by the cup along with the zest. Remove zest from cup, mince up, and return to cup; add oils and swirl to mix – the orange oil will then commingle with the other oils and enhance the overall flavor!

Fava Beans, continued
I talked about young favas last week, but of course over time the pods will get bigger, as will the beans inside, so you’ll want some sort of gauge for when to eat them pods and all, and when to switch to shucking the pods and only eating the beans inside. A rule of thumb (finger?) is that, when they are still roughly the diameter of your finger and bright, vibrant green, definitely eat them pods and all. As they get bigger, if the pods are still bright and the beans within fairly small still, you can kind of go either way. Once the pods and inner beans get big, the pods are tough. It’s best at this point to shuck them and only use the beans. Some weeks you’ll get bags with big and small pods inside; just sort them and use them accordingly. [Click here to see the comparative photos that are in the recipe database.]

Now there’s another optional step when working with the beans inside: removing the pale green skin. This is easily done, although it can be somewhat labor intensive. Simply drop the beans into boiling water for a minute or so, then lift them out with a slotted spoon (or drain them); the skin will have loosened. Now just pinch the skin on one end of the bean, and give it a squeeze on the other. The bean will squirt out through the pinched opening (have a bowl handy to receive!).

There’s no requirement to peel the inner bean though (unless your making a mash or spread with them); taste them both ways and see. If you don’t mind the skins, just leave ‘em on!

My favorite thing to do with the beans right after they’re peeled and still warm, is to simply salt them and eat them like edamame, but there are also several ways to cook with them at this point. They will be in our boxes for a few weeks yet so I’ll have more recipes accordingly. Here’s one that sounds fancy but the preparation is pretty simple.

Sliced Filet Mignon with Fava Beans, Radishes, and Mustard Dressing
adapted from a Bon Appetit clipping, April 2006
[photo credit: Tina Rupp, Bon Appetit Magazine]
Serves 4

4 small filet mignon steaks [I’m aware that the economy is not such that many of us can afford filet mignon; I’d substitute any decent grassfed beef steak, it doesn’t have to be filet mignon!]
1 tbsp. ea. butter and canola oil

3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ C extra-virgin olive oil

2 C [more or less] cooked, peeled fava beans [see above]
10 medium radishes, very thinly sliced
¼ C chopped fresh herbs (such as tarragon, basil, thyme and parsley)

1/3 C crumbled feta cheese

recipe photoWhisk vinegar and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine beans, radishes, herbs and dressing; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Let salad stand at room temperature at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper. Melt butter with oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add steaks to skillet and cook to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. [Alternatively you could grill your steaks.] Transfer to a cutting board and slice.

Divide salad among 4 plates. Arrange sliced steak atop salads. Sprinkle cheese over each and serve.

Carrot Salad with Creamy Lemon, Yogurt and Chive Dressing
Another Bon Appetit clipping
4 to 6 servings

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice [juice from about half a lemon]
1 tsp. honey
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
¾ C plain whole-milk yogurt (preferably Greek-style) [that means thick]
3 C coarsely grated peeled carrots
¼ C chopped fresh chives
¼ C sliced almonds, toasted

Whisk lemon juice and honey in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in oil, then yogurt. Mix in carrots and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. Stir before serving. Sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds before serving.

Quelites (Greens with Pinto Beans)
from Great American Vegetarian, by Nava Atlas
serves 4 to 6

From the cookbook: “Originally, the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest made this dish with wild greens. More contemporary recipes call for spinach or chard instead. The dark greens look very appealing with the pink beans, and the more garlicky you make it, the better.”

1 lb. Chard or spinach
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
2 or 3 garlic cloves [or one to two whole stalks of green garlic!]
3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped [again, the fresh young onions, the pale and medium green parts of the stems, can be chopped and used just like you would scallions]
1 to 1 ½ C cooked or canned pinto beans
1 tsp. chili powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Stem and wash the greens and coarsely chop the leaves. If you’re using chard, trim away the thick midribs and thinly slice them. Steam with a very small amount of water in a large, tightly covered soup pot until wilted. The spinach will be done as soon as it wilts; the chard needs to steam a bit longer. It will be done when it turns a deep green. Drain the greens and finely chop them.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and sauté over low heat until it just begins to turn golden. Add the scallions and sauté just until they soften a bit. Stir in the greens, beans, and seasonings. Cook, covered, over low heat for 5 minutes, or just until everything is heated through.

Roasted Broccoli with Asiago
undated clipping; magazine unknown
serves 4

“Roasting broccoli brings out its earthy sweetness, and sprinkling it with cheese will guarantee that the kids clean their plates,” says the opening line.

1 ½ lbs. broccoli (about 1 lg. bunch), stalks trimmed to 2 inches below the crowns [don’t chuck the fat stalks! you can peel them and cut them into segments, then lengthwise into pieces]
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 C grated Asiago cheese [a different hard-grating cheese will substitute just fine I’m sure]

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut each crown of broccoli lengthwise into 4 spears. Place broccoli in a large bowl; toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer broccoli to a large rimmed baking sheet. Add grated Asiago to same bowl. Roast broccoli until crisp-tender and stalks begin to brown, about 25 minutes. Return broccoli to bowl with cheese. Using tongs, toss to coat.

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2008 Calendar of Events
For details on events listed below, please Click here to go to the calendar page on our website.

Santa Cruz Permaculture Design course - one weekend/month for 6 months, Feb-July

Spring "Six Thursdays" Mataganza Garden Internship
- every Thursday from May 1st through June 5th in the Mataganza Garden Sanctuary at Live Earth Farm.

Herbalism Classes at Live Earth Farm:
<>Herbal First Aid
- March 15-16
<>Medicine Making - May 10-11
<> Cooking with Herbs - July 19-20

Summer Solstice Celebration - Saturday June 21st

Children's Mini-Camp - July 11th - 13th (Friday evening thorugh Sunday noon)

Fall Equinox Cob Building Workshop and Campout - Sept. 20 and 21

Fine Farm Feast - Oct 4th

Fall Harvest Celebration - later in October (date TBA)

Contact Information
email Debbie at the farm (for any farm or CSA share-related business): farmers@cruzio.com
email Debbie at home (with newsletter input or recipes): deb@writerguy.com
farm phone: 831.763.2448
website: http://www.liveearthfarm.net