Sunday, June 29, 2014

CSA Newsletter for June 29, 2014

Farm Update

Here are some of the green beans that Fred and the guys planted
last week, which are likely to be ready in about a month.
Hi everyone!  Well, we've been crazy busy this last week at the farm, but we've reached the apex of insane workload, and we'll shortly begin our descent back into just the regular amount of crazy.  Everything is growing quickly at the farm, including the weeds, so keeping up with them has been tricky.  The blueberry patch looks healthy, and there are a lot of berries developing now that will be ready in a few weeks.  In the orchard, there are also a lot of apples developing on the trees, so we should have a lot of them in the fall!  However, we have had quite a bit of insect pressure on the apples, so we might be making them into cider due to the blemishes.  The pigs are happy and growing, and they have been digging up their pasture quite a bit.  The chickens are also doing well, and as far as we can tell, we haven't lost any more since the run-in with our neighbor's dog a few weeks ago.  We've also been seeing a huge amount of garter snakes out at the farm lately, too!  The snakes are actually great to have around, because they take care of the mice and other small animals that might otherwise be a problem.  And we'll take organic pest control helpers in whatever form they come, whether the four-legged kind (like our dog, Josie) or the non-legged kind.

These lovely beets will be a
 choice in this week's share!
What to Expect in This Week's Share

  • Choice of regular cabbage or Napa cabbage
  • Choice of beets or bok choy
  • Choice of strawberries or snap peas
  • Choice of spinach, broccoli, or a surprise veggie
  • Choice of cilantro, dill, frisee, or kohlrabi
  • Choice of kale, chard, or radishes
  • Choice of salad mix or head lettuce

Veggie Spotlight:  Cabbage

          Cabbage has been recorded as being eaten since 1000 BC, but like many vegetables, it has changed quite a bit over that time. The first cabbage plants were thought to have originated in the cooler northern parts of Europe. These first early cabbages were actually very loose and leafy, more similar to kale, and were mentioned frequently in Roman writings.  It was possibly as early as 200 BC that the heading types started to appear, but this is still unclear. In medieval times, the cabbage was more associated with the European peasants, who often used cabbage as one of their main foods. Because cabbage is generally hardier than most other crops, European peasants could count on there being cabbage to eat even when weather events caused other crops to fail.  The first recorded account of Savoy cabbage was from when Catherine di Medici married Henri II of France and brought Savoy cabbage to France with her.  In the next couple of centuries, cabbage started to become more prominent on long voyages as sauerkraut.  This was because of the ability to preserve the vitamin C in the cabbage, which would prevent scurvy.
These are the four types of cabbage we grow
(clockwise from left):  Napa (also known as
 Chinese) cabbage, green cabbage, red cabbage,
 and Savoy cabbage.
        At our farm we grow red, Savoy, Napa, and green cabbage.  We start the plants by seeding them in flats in the greenhouse, where they grow for four or five weeks before we transplant them into the soil.  In the spring, we mostly raise them on plastic beds to help ward off soil-borne diseases by keeping the leaves cleaner.  The plastic also warms the cool spring soil to get the plants growing faster.  These cabbage plants are heavy feeders and require a lot of soil fertility.  We give them slightly less fertility than recommended so we can keep the heads more of a reasonable size for the average household.  Cabbages can get pretty huge under the right conditions; the record in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest cabbage is 127 pounds!  
Under the right conditions, some cabbages
can get to be gigantic!
          Harvesting cabbage is a lot less complicated than many other crops.  We just cut the head off with a knife after the head is nice and firm, and then trim off some of the outer leaves.  The worst thing about this otherwise easy harvest is just lifting so many heavy crates of cabbage!
          At home our favorite cabbage dish is fried cabbage with bacon and tomato, with a little cheese, onion, and cayenne pepper. We sometimes also make sauerkraut by adding salt and letting the cabbage and salt ferment.  This traditional method of making sauerkraut is a much healthier way than the vinegar method most common today.   The salt preserves the vitamin C, and also leaves a beneficial salt-tolerant bacteria that is very helpful in digestion.
          This week in the shares you folks will be getting Savoy, green, and Napa cabbage, and eventually we will also have red as well.  There are a lot of delicious things to do with cabbage, so if you need ideas, check out the recipes below!


Try out these Roast Chicken Soft Tacos, which include
the cabbage, cilantro, and radishes in your share!
Now that you're a cabbage expert, the only question you probably still have is, "So what can I make with it besides corned beef and cabbage, or cabbage soup?"  To help answer that question, here are 23 Easy Cabbage Recipes from  It includes everything from coleslaw for your 4th of July cookout, to Roast Chicken Soft Tacos that include lots of cabbage , to Buffalo Burgers with Red Cabbage Slaw, and of course, plenty of recipes for Cabbage Soup.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

CSA Newsletter for June 22, 2014

Farm Update

The pigs are growing quickly, and they are really enjoying
 running around on their pasture!
Hi everyone!  Things have been going well around the farm; we've been getting a lot of rain lately, which has helped push along several crops.  The leafy green veggies are really liking the weather lately, and the beets and other cool season crops have really benefited from the cooler temperatures. The rain has also decreased our insect pressure because most of the bugs are moving back out into the adjacent pasture now that everything is a little more lush.  All the cool, wet weather has given us some concern for the strawberries, because this is just the type of weather that can cause strawberry rot, so we are really keeping our fingers crossed that they keep their quality over the next week.  Weeds are also becoming more of an issue too (because the weather that pushes along the plants we like also pushes along the plants we don't like), so we are going to be battling them over the next few weeks.  In other news, we have recently added another mini drop-off!  Our friend Ryan Jankoska is starting up a food hub in Bay City, and part of what he does is pick up several prepacked CSA shares at our farm and take them to Bay City, to some people who have signed up through him for our CSA.  So for all the Bay City folks, welcome to the program!  

What to Expect in This Week's Share

  • Choice between broccoli, beets, and spinach
    Keegan and Joe planting some gold turnips for later in the season.
  • Snap peas for everyone!
  • Strawberries for everyone (seriously, keep your fingers crossed!)
  • Choice between salad mix and head lettuce
  • Choice between radishes, gold turnips, and fennel
  • Choice between bok choy, kale, and chard
  • Choice between baby leeks, kohlrabi, and frisee

Menu Planning for All Your Veggies

CSAs are great for many reasons, but one thing that does become trickier if you're in a CSA is menu planning, because you don't know what ingredients you're going to have to work with each week.  Admittedly, we don't do much menu planning around our house; Fred is the main cook around here, and he has an amazing knack for opening up the fridge, seeing what's in there, and putting an amazing meal on the table within half an hour.  I don't have that talent.  When he's out in the field and I have to make lunch for myself and our little ones, I usually open up the fridge, draw a blank, and make veggie pasta again.  But if you're the menu planning type, you can take a break from it (kind of), because I've done it for you this week!  Here are five weeknight dinner ideas that use most of the veggies in this week's share!  I also looked for recipes that don't call for a bunch of crazy ingredients or take the whole evening to make.  Enjoy!

Day 1: I'm thinking breakfast for dinner tonight!  Try out these Peppery Turnips and Spinach along with eggs and fresh strawberries!
Swiss Chard and Beet Tacos with Vegan Crema
Day 2: Beef, Snap Pea, and Broccoli Stir-Fry.  As always, feel free to switch out the beef for chicken, tofu, or whatever you like best.
Day 3: Swiss Chard and Beet Tacos with Vegan Crema.  Or for the non-vegans, just use regular sour cream with a little Siracha or paprika mixed in instead of the vegan crema.  And if you don't end up with chard in your share, use kale instead.
Day 4: Leek and Fennel Soup.  The recipe includes celery, but you could also used finely sliced kohlrabi or bok choy stems instead.  It also calls for vegetable bouillon, but if you're feeling ambitious, you could make a stock out of whatever veggies you have left over from last week.  Then freeze the leftover stock in an ice cube tray and pull out the cubes whenever you need them!
Strawberry and Radish Salad with Balsamic Vinegar
Day 5:  Strawberry and Radish Salad with Balsamic Vinegar.  This looks totally delicious with the parsley called for in the recipe, but if you don't have fresh parsley on hand, you can always use your head lettuce or salad mix instead for kind of a different take on the recipe.  This would also be awesome with some avocado slices mixed in!

So hopefully that will take care of the "What's for dinner?" question for at least a few nights this week!  If you make any of the recipes, let me know how it turns out! :-)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

CSA Newsletter for June 15, 2014

Farm Update

The very first drop-off of the season, last Monday in Alma.
Hi everyone!  Well, the first week of drop-offs went really well, and now we are officially entering the busiest weeks of the season.  Usually the second half of June is about as crazy as it's going to get, and it tapers off gradually throughout July.  We also finally got some really good rain, and it is amazing how everything at the farm perked right back up.  We also planted the strawberry plants this week that will start bearing fruit next year.  Speaking of strawberries, we started harvesting them Friday, and everyone will be getting some in the shares this week.  We also had some bad news; our neighbor's dog killed about a dozen of our chickens a few days ago, so we won't have quite as many eggs until we can get some new chickens to replace the ones we lost.  But on the upside, our field crew is back together again!  Charlie just got back from his trip to Zambia, so we'll be starting out this week with all of our guys, which will make all the craziness of the next few weeks a little less crazy.  

What to Expect in Your Share This Week

  • Choice of bok choy or kale
    We don't have blueberries this week, but they are starting to ripen,
    so it will be soon!
  • Strawberries
  • Choice of broccoli or spinach
  • Choice of radishes or green onions
  • Choice of salad mix or head lettuce
  • Choice of Kohlrabi or dill
  • Choice of garlic scapes, frisee, or chard

Fruit and Veggie Spotlight:  Strawberries

          Strawberries are not around for very long during the season, but when they are, they are one of the best tasting fruits of the season. The strawberry has been cultivated and eaten for centuries in both Europe and the Americas well before Columbus.  However, it was in Bretagne, France in that the modern day strawberry was born in the 1750s by breeding North American and European varieties.  This yielded larger fruit, as most of the berries before more closely resembled the small berries often seen in wild pasture areas.  We are really glad to be growing them in this day and age, because we can't imagine picking all of those pea-sized berries!

          The strawberries we have here at the farm start their lives as dormant plants shipped to us from another grower in Dowagiac, MI. We plant them in the spring and they grow for a full season with no fruit being harvested the first year.  This first year, they produce a few little fruits but the focus is on developing the plant’s vegetative growth for the next year.  As the plants get into their dormant period towards the fall, we spread straw over the plants to ensure better winter survival.  In the spring, as the plants begin to come back, we push this straw back and it acts like a mulch around the plant.  This mulch helps the berries stay cleaner later in the season.  Then a few weeks after pushing the straw back, the plants get flower clusters and the fruit begins to develop, ripening sometime in June.  There are many risks to strawberry production here in Michigan.  Last year we lost half of our fruit because of a late frost that killed many of the developing flowers.  Also, heavy rains during the harvest period can cause berries to rot or lose quality in other ways.  However, this year seems to be shaping up to be a good strawberry season for us, and we are very excited to get our first fruits of the season here at the farm.  This last Friday we started picking some and they are fantastic! We hope you enjoy them as well!


Strawberry salsa!  I can't wait to try this!
Just in case you're at a loss to do with the strawberries in your share this week, here are 10 Surprising Things to Do with Strawberries, courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens.  

Frisee Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Also, last week at the drop-off, one of the most common questions I was asked is "What do you do with frisee?"  So here is a delicious recipe for Frisee Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette.  It calls for chives, but you can use your green onions instead.  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

CSA Newsletter for June 7, 2014

Farm Update

During this dry weather, we irrigate
 our plants using a drip line system.
  Little perforated hoses run along
the base of the plants, putting water
only where it is needed.  This saves
water, and also keeps the plants'
foliage dry, which helps prevent
plant diseases.
Hello everyone!  The CSA is officially kicking off this week, and we really look forward to seeing you at the drop-offs, and meeting you for the first time if you're a newbie!  Things at the farm are coming along; the dry weather has caused most of the veggies to grow more slowly than we'd like, but we've been irrigating a lot so they're still hanging in there.  We've had a little more insect pressure than usual too, also due to the lack of rain.  When everything gets dry, the bugs start looking around for the juiciest things they can find, and right now, that happens to be our veggies because we've been irrigating so much.  But the upside is that there have been virtually no plant diseases trying to take hold in the field, because plant diseases thrive in moist weather.  So you win some, you lose some.  Fred has also been planting a lot this week.  He and the field crew put in 3,000 sweet potato plants on Thursday, and they have been really pushing to get everything in the ground before we get really busy next week.  The orchard is also coming along really well.  We've also gotten a few loose ends tied up; our cultivator is back up and running, and we've finally gotten our new well in the blueberry patch!  That made me breath a huge sigh of relief, because it means that no amount of dry weather can mess up our wonderful blueberries, which was a huge disappointment last year.  But this year we are ready to roll, and especially ready to get the CSA started!

What to Expect in Your Share This Week

We'll have lots of gorgeous head lettuce 
in the shares this week, including red 
head lettuce like this, and also some green 
head lettuce.
Here are your choices in this week's share!  If you have a half share, you'll choose one in each group, and if you have a full share, you'll choose two in each group.  If you're unfamiliar with something in the share, just click on the name to see a picture of it.  Also, we'll have some recipes below that feature these spring veggies!

The Best Way to Store your Spring Produce so it Will Last a Really Long Time

The most common question I get asked at CSA drop-offs (aside from "So what exactly do you do with kohlrabi?") is "How do I make this last a while?"  So here is your guide to answer exactly that question, so all of your veggies will last long past when you thought you'd be throwing them on the compost pile.

The first rule of thumb with all of the lovely leafy goodness that spring gives us is to keep it wrapped up, preferably in the bag it came in (in the case of salad mix, cooking greens, or spinach), or in a grocery bag.  Leafy things have a tendency to get wilted really quickly if they are left uncovered in the refrigerator.  And that brings me to the next point:  Put them in the refrigerator, not on the counter.  There are a lot of late summer items (such as tomatoes and peppers) that are better left out at room temperature, but the green leafy veggies are not in that category.  They are best kept cool.

Also in this week's share will be some
of this great bok choy!  If you're not
sure how to prepare it when you get
it home, check out the recipe
suggestions below!
Another thing to know is that you should be cautious about rewashing your salad mix.  Once a CSA member asked me how to store it so it would last longer, because hers started to go bad less than a week after the drop-off.  That really surprised me, because I've known ours to still look really good three weeks later.  After asking her more about it, we figured out that it was because she was rewashing it once she got it home, and the moisture was getting trapped in the bag.  Legally we can't call our salad mix pre-washed because we don't have a licensed processing facility.  But I can tell you this: we rinse it really thoroughly several times at the farm, and when we bring bags of it home, we eat it straight out of the bag without rewashing it.  Hopefully that will save you some time, and also help your salad mix last longer!

Besides that, the only other thing that you'll want to know is about the bok choy.  Both the stem and the leaves are great to eat, and if you think you're going to have it for a while, it's a good idea to separate the leaves from the stem.  If you use it up within a week or so, then don't worry about separating them; they'll be just fine and delicious the way they are.  But if it gets to be more than a week after you got it, it's a good idea to remove the leaves, because that helps the stems stay good for way longer.

I hope this helps!  If you ever run into something that's not lasting very long once you get it home, let me know, and we'll see if there is a better way you could store it to make it last longer.  Chances are, it will already last a lot longer than veggies you get at the grocery store since most things you get in your CSA share are harvested the very same day, whereas veggies you get at the store have usually been out of the field for more than a week.  We want you to get the most use possible out of all your veggie goodness, and this should help!


A lot of people ask me what's the best way to cook bok choy, and there are actually several really excellent ways to make a delicious meal out of it.  Check out this feature from Williams-Sonoma, 5 Ways with Bok Choy, for ideas.  We have used all of these methods in our kitchen, and they are all great!

And here is a recipe for Colcannon, which is a traditional Irish dish made with potatoes, greens, and green onions.  It also has the added benefit of being very kid friendly, so if your little ones usually object to eating their greens, try this out!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

CSA Newsletter for June 1, 2014

Farm Update

These chickens are the friendliest
birds I've ever met!  As soon as
we step outside, they all run to
greet us!
Well, we have an official start date for the CSA program this year!  We will be kicking things off the second week of June, so mark your calendars for either the 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th of June, depending on what drop-off you're signed up for.  There are a lot of really nice veggies coming out of the fields right now, but it will be during the second week of June that we'll finally have enough variety to give you a really good CSA share.  Around the farm, we've been irrigating a lot, and we are really looking forward to the rain we are likely to get tomorrow.  The chickens and pigs are also doing well.  The chickens are so friendly, and they like to follow us wherever we go as soon as we step outside!  They even chased my car down the driveway the other day!  The pigs are getting used to their new home, and they've been spending a lot of time under their shelter, trying to stay out of the sun.  I think everyone around the farm (people, animals, and plants) will be really glad when this heat breaks, so let's all hope for rain tomorrow!

What to Expect at Your First CSA Drop-Off

As we approach the start of the CSA season, it occurs to me that we have a lot of new people who have never been to a CSA drop-off to pick up their veggies.  So for those of you who are newbies, here's how it works:

These nasturtiums have edible leaves and flowers,
which are delicious and very pretty on salads.
The first step is simply to come to the drop-off location between 5 and 6 PM on the appointed drop-off day!  For the Alma folks, that's Mondays in the parking lot of His Place, right downtown on Superior St.  The Mt. Pleasant folks will have their drop-off on Tuesdays in the parking lot of Herbs, Etc. on Broadway.  Midland's drop-off will be Wednesdays in the back pavilion at the Eagle Ridge Church of God at 2808 Waldo.  (Midland also has a mini drop-off at the hospital for people who work within the hospital system, where we simply pre-pack the shares and leave them in the seating area behind the Center for Women's Health.  Before you get your hopes up about possibly being able to pick up your share there, I'm going to have to let you down.  The hospital has regulations that prevent anyone not affiliated with them from picking up their produce there, so unless you work for the hospital, you'll just have to come to the drop-off at Eagle Ridge and see us lovely people each week!)  And last but not least, our East Lansing drop-off is going to be in the conference
room space at ELFCO, which is on Northwind Dr, off Grand River a little bit east of MSU campus.  So now that you've arrived at the drop-off, now is the fun part!

The blueberry plants are in full
bloom, and should start producing
tiny berries soon.
At the drop-off, you'll see two big long tables set up, loaded down with lots of veggie goodness.  You'll want to hop in line and chat with people until you get up to the tables.  Once you get to the front of the line, it doesn't really matter which table you go to, because they both have the same stuff.  We just have two tables to keep the line moving quickly.  At each table will be about eight different "stations".  At each station, there will be choices of a few different kinds of vegetables and fruits, and there will be a sign telling you what your choices are and how many to take.  Usually, if you have a half share, you get to choose one item at each station, and if you have a full share, you choose two items at each station.  For example, at the first station you might have a choice between salad greens or spinach.  At the second station, you might have a choice between carrots and broccoli.  Then you go on down the line, choosing the appropriate number of veggies at each station.  Then, down at the end, we have our trading table.  At the trading table we'll have a few extra
veggies, and if you want to trade veggies that you picked up at any of the other stations for something that's on the trade table, you can.  That way, if you don't really want either of the options at a particular station (say, you have a bunch of carrots left from last week and you don't really like broccoli), you can trade for something you like better. 
The Swiss chard has really been growing quickly
with all this heat!

Then, once you've made all your choices, you are all set!  Most weeks we'll also have some additional stuff for sale, like our yummy free-range eggs, or perhaps extra blueberries, strawberries, or cherry tomatoes.  A lot of times, we have so much coming out of the fields that it is more than enough for the CSA, and who doesn't love extra strawberries?

Then, the final step is to take home all your goodies and make something delicious!  If you're stuck for ideas, you can check out the recipe in the newsletter.  I always try to pick a recipe that includes a lot of the things in the share and that doesn't call for a ton of additional ingredients.  Also, if you make something really great with your veggies, feel free to share the recipe on the blog, or
email it to me so that I can include it in a future newsletter!

Also, if there is a week where you forget to come to the drop-off and you wake up the next morning slapping your forehead, just let me know.  We can't harvest an extra share for you the next week if we didn't have advance notice that you'd be gone, but we can still try to get you some extra stuff.  Inevitably, there is usually at least one person who forgets to come to the drop-off, so we often have an extra share or two left at the end.  If you accidentally miss a week, feel free to come by at the end of the drop-off the following week and pick out some items that are left over.  This is kind of a win-win.  There is less waste, and you still get to make up the veggies you missed.

So this is how a drop-off works!  If you have any questions, just let me know.  We look forward to seeing you the second week of June at the first drop-off!


Greens are definitely the stars of the show in late spring and early summer, so here is a recipe featuring one of my favorites, Swiss chard.  The recipe is for Sausage, Chard, and Lemon Lasagna, and it comes from Martha Stewart Home.  Check it out here!
Sausage, Chard, and Lemon Lasagna!
Doesn't that look awesome?