Saturday, October 24, 2015

CSA Newsletter for October 24, 2015

Farm Update
We've covered this planting
of winter spinach with plastic
so it can overwinter and be
ready to eat in the spring.

Hello everyone!  This will be the last of the weekly newsletters for the year, and after this you can look for them on a monthly basis until the CSA kicks off again next year!  We've wrapped up the Midland and East Lansing drop-offs for the season, and Alma and Mt. Pleasant still have one drop-off left, so we'll see those folks this week.  The weather is also signalling the end of the season; we've had several more frosts, and many of the crops are winding down for the year.  We should continue to have a few things (lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots) for a few weeks, so if you experience veggie withdrawal, you'll be able to find some of our produce at Greentree Co-Op in Mt. Pleasant or at ELFCO in East Lansing for another month or so.   It's been another great season, and we just want to thank all of you for being a part of it!  We hope to see you again next year!

What to Expect in Your Share This Week

This lovely Little Gem head lettuce
will be part of the shares this week.

At the regular drop-offs:
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli or beets
  • Brussels sprouts or surprise veggie
  • Kale, cabbage, or broccoli leaf
  • Celery root, parsley, or Little Gem head lettuce

For home/workplace delivery:

A Share:                    B Share:
Potatoes                     Potatoes
Carrots                      Carrots
Lettuce                      Lettuce
Broccoli                    Beets
Brussels sprouts       Surprise veggie
Kale                          Cabbage
Celery root               Parsley


There is nothing like a good stew for a chilly fall day!  This Beef and Cabbage Stew is a perfect comfort food that also happens to be full of veggie goodness.  If you get a celery root in your share this week (or if you still have one in your fridge from a few weeks ago), you can substitute that for the celery called for in the recipe.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

CSA Newsletter for October 17, 2015

Farm Update

Look at this lovely planting of lettuce, which will be in the
shares this week!
Hello everyone!  We hope everyone is staying warm during this chilly weekend!  Don’t be surprised if there are a few minor changes to the CSA options this week as we see the effects of the freezing temperatures over the weekend.  We are hopeful that most cold-hardy crops will do well through the freeze since things have had several weeks to acclimate, but nothing is for sure.   This last week has been mostly about harvesting and preparing for freezing weather.  Fred covered one of our main broccoli plantings that we hope to have for next week, and he also prepped the small greenhouse for being heated once again.  The workload has started slow down, but it has also been a little harder as the cold makes working outside less productive than in warmer weeks.  Looking out at the farm, it is easy to see that things are winding down as the main green areas are our cover crops and the few plantings that are still producing veggies for the next few weeks. The ever-present frogs and snakes have also started to leave us, and the grass and areas that surround the farm are turning browner.  We have a really nice planting of lettuce in the coldframes right now, which is where almost all of the lettuce is likely to come from this week. 

For those of you in the Lansing and Midland drop-offs and delivery routes, this will be your last week of veggies for the 2015 season.  For those of you in the Alma and Mt. Pleasant areas, you still have this upcoming week and the following week since you started a week later in June. We have really enjoyed working with all of you in the CSA this year, and if you have any feedback or suggestions that will help make your share or CSA experience better, we would love to hear from you as we will quickly enter the planning stage for 2016 soon.  Also, if you are interested in signing up for next year, just let us know and we’ll get you set up for the 2016 season!

What to Expect in Your Share This Week

At the regular drop-offs:

  • Sweet potatoes or potatoes
  • Spinach, winter squash, or Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli or beets
  • Kale or cabbage
  • Onion or shallot

For home/workplace delivery:

A Share:                    B Share:
Sweet potatoes          Potatoes
Winter squash           Spinach
Carrots                      Carrots
Lettuce                      Lettuce
Beets                         Broccoli
Kale                          Cabbage
Shallot                      Onion

Veggie Spotlight:  Spinach

Back in the spring, we uncovered last fall's planting of
spinach to find it waiting for us, ready to eat!
Though referenced a bit earlier in Persian writings, one of the earliest recorded accounts of spinach being cultivated was in the 7th century, when the King of Nepal gave it to the Chinese as a gift. During the Moorish empire, spinach first entered Europe through Spain by Arab agronomists who developed the spinach we think of today. There it grew immensely in popularity and was famously loved by Catherine de Medici, who requested that she have it for every meal. Even though spinach is now popular here in the United States, by far most of the world’s spinach is still consumed in Asia. In fact, even though the US is the world’s second leading producer at 3%, China actually produces 85% of the world’s spinach (though this data is almost 10 years old). Spinach has been an outstanding crop for northern small farms like ours, because our cooler climate helps it to be darker, thicker, and more flavorful than California spinach. It has a unique ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures (well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit) as long as it does not get exposed to too much wind while frozen. This cold hardiness comes from its origins back in Persia where it would sprout in the fall, withstand the cold of winter, and flower in the spring.

We actually grow more spinach at the farm than many folks in the CSA realize, because it is most abundant at our farm earlier and later than the normal CSA season.  This spring especially, our overwintered spinach did extremely well for a good mid-to-late May crop.  It is always one of the last and first crops we seed every season.  Currently, spinach at the farm is seeded using our field seeder, which can be modified to seed our coldframes as well. Spinach is seeded in early to mid-March in the coldframes and is able to germinate at low temps. When it is up it is usually very frost hardy. The first field seeding of spinach was early this year (on March 30th), and we immediately covered it with our clear perforated plastic tunnels, which act like mini-coldframes.  Spinach takes a lot of fertility, so we always put down extra manure pellets before planting.  This year we grew two varieties: the traditional Tyee and a new variety called Ashley.  The spinach you can get in your share this week is the Ashley type, and we have been impressed with the dark green leaves and nutrient-density of this new variety.  We have started talking to some seed companies to see what other new varieties might be coming out that have the nice dark leaves, but also display better heat tolerance than current varieties.  Better breeding work will be required to get more weeks of spinach into the shares as breeders adapt new varieties to deal with heat stress, which is the main limitation we face trying to grow spinach in the summer.  Growing the Ashley variety we were able to get two more week of spinach this season than we would have had with just the old Tyee variety.

Here is a planting of spinach under a covering of clear plastic.
The plastic will help insulate the spinach through the long
winter so we can eat it early in the spring.
One thing that makes spinach unique compared with other veggies we grow is that we seed it in the fall for a crop next spring. When Fred grew spinach in Ohio he could reliably count on the spinach planted in the fall to come back for a great early spring crop, but with harsher temps and longer winters here in central Michigan we have to cover it to get it to survive reliably. In winters with lots of snow cover, the spinach comes back very well regardless of low temperatures, because the snow actually has an insulating effect on the plants beneath it.

Spinach is considered a superfood because it is absolutely packed with vitamins and nutrients, ranking just behind things like kale for its nutrient content. We are glad to have it in the shares and our table again, and hope you enjoy this unique and tasty green this week as well!


If you are like me, you are now totally excited to get some yummy spinach meals on the table!  Here is a recipe for Garlic Parmesan Chicken (with lots of sauteed spinach!) to get you started.  Totally delicious, fast, and so easy even I can do it! :-)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

CSA Newsletter for October 10, 2015

Farm Update

We harvested the last of
the sweet potatoes on
Friday, just in time for the
light frost we had this morning!
Hello everyone!  Even with the weather cooling down, we’ve still had fairly pleasant working conditions at the farm so far.  We had our first very light frost this morning but any crops that would be affected are already in storage or done for the season.  We got the rest of the sweet potatoes dug up from the field on Friday evening, so now they are all curing in the greenhouse.  Because sweet potatoes are actually a tropical plant, they need a lot of heat to get as big as we sometimes see them.  It was a pretty cool summer in general, so the sweet potato harvest wasn’t large, but there are still plenty for the remaining weeks for the CSA.  The fields are starting to look significantly emptier and large swaths of the field are now planted with cover crop.  The tomatoes vines are on their way out after the huge influx of tomatoes we had a few weeks ago, and the cooler weather has also started to take its toll on the health of the plants. The plantings of carrots are still looking very robust and healthy. The yield and quality on the last planting were some of the best we have ever had on the farm.  At home we have definitely transitioned to the hearty fall comfort foods, cooking a lot with the Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and other root veggies.  Fred is already starting to look at ideas for next season, including a new system for our tomatoes and how to improve a few areas of the farm that struggled this year.  On Thursday we had our final food safety inspection for our farm, which went very well.  It looks like the Group GAP food safety program we were involved with (where several farms work together to become GAP certified, thus minimizing the expense to each individual farm) is a template that will be used increasingly around the state in coming years.  It was a success for some small farms in the U.P. last year and again this year with a small group of farms (including ours) here in the Lower Peninsula.  We are hoping that being involved with this program will eventually open up more markets, help us be ready for the implementation of the federal government’s Food Safety Modernization Act (read more about that here), and aid in the original goal of better ensuring the safety of the great veggies we produce.

What to Expect in Your Share This Week

At the regular drop-offs:
Our purple kale, aside from being
yummy, as also gorgeous to look
at!  Its intense color and lovely
frills make it a favorite in
ornamental gardens and on the

  • Choice of sweet potatoes and beets
  • Choice of Brussels sprouts, spinach, or lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Choice of broccoli or cabbage
  • Choice of winter squash or kale
  • Choice of parsley, cilantro, chives, or celery root
  • Choice of onion, shallot, or leeks

For home/workplace delivery:

A Share:                    B Share:
Sweet potatoes          Beets
Lettuce                      Spinach
Carrots                      Carrots
Broccoli                    Cabbage
Kale                          Winter squash
Cilantro                     Parsley
Onion                        Leeks


Fall is here for real, and with it comes warm comfort foods!  Try out this recipe for creamy, chock-full-of-veggies Autumn Chowder.  It's one of those meals that takes very little time to prep, and if you don't finish it all, it freezes and rewarms really well for a busy evening when you don't have time to cook.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

CSA Newsletter for October 3, 2015

Farm Update

This is the time of year for beets,
which do really well in the fall!
Hello Everyone!  This week turned into fall in a hurry, and you will see that reflected in the veggies in the share this week.  Even though it has gotten colder, fortunately we have not had any frost at the farm yet, although the wind has made working out there less than pleasant.  This weekend we have been digging up the sweet potatoes and slowly working our way through them.  This last week we were also able to seed our second round of cover crop into the land where we plowed under some of our old plantings of different veggies.  We had our organic inspector out at the farm last Sunday and the inspection went very well. This always involves a lot of paperwork since we have so many varieties, so we are glad to have the inspection off our list and done.  Our tomatoes have slowed down in a big way as the temps have gotten lower and the vines are starting to die back.  Everything in the field has slowed down bit, and the fields are slowly becoming emptier as we near the end of the season.  Now that we have just a few weeks left, it is a good time to sign up for next season if you're interested!  The cost for a half share will be $290 for the 2016 season, and a full share will be $540.  So if you're interested in signing up, just let me know, and I'll put you on the list.  We expect sign-up to be strong again next year, so it's a good idea to sign up sooner rather than later so you're assured your spot in the CSA for 2016.  It also helps us out, because if you put down a full or partial payment before the new year, that allows us to have some working capital in December and January, which is when we incur most of our farm expenses.  Even though we're still very much in the thick of the 2015 season, we're already starting to plan for 2016, and we'd love for you to be a part of it!

What to Expect in Your Share This Week

At the regular drop-offs:
In the shares this week, you'll have options for two broccoli
variations:  regular broccoli, and broccoli leaf (the one on the
right).  This is a standard part of our cooking greens mix, and
you can sautee it up like you'd do with kale or chard.

  • Choice of Brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes
  • Choice of winter squash, broccoli, or beets
  • Choice of carrots or Swiss chard
  • Choice of lettuce, tomatoes, or snap beans
  • Choice of cabbage, kale, or broccoli leaf
  • Choice of leeks, celery root, or frisee
  • Choice onion or shallot

For home/workplace delivery:

A Share:                    B Share:
Brussels sprouts        Sweet potatoes
Winter squash           Broccoli
Carrots                      Carrots
Lettuce                      Tomatoes
Cabbage                    Kale
Leeks                        Frisee
Onion                       Shallot

Veggie Spotlight:  The Onion Family

These are the onions and shallots we have in season right now.
From left to right, we have red onion, red shallot, Copra
onion, and yellow shallot.
Onions are one of the earliest and most widely eaten vegetables in the world, dating back to 5000 BC. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians were two peoples known to use onions, and in the Middle Ages the onion was very prominent in the peasant diet.  Even when Europeans first came to the Americas, the Native Americans were found widely using wild onions as well.  Part of this long history is due to the long storage life of bulbing onions.  Even when other foods were unavailable in the winter, onions could be kept for a long time, making them especially popular and prominent in winter meals.  

In your shares this season you have seen several members of the onion family, including yellow shallots, red shallots, red onions, yellow Copra onions, white pearl onions (little white round onions we had in the spring), green onions, chives, and leeks.  All of these onions have slightly different flavors and textures, so they are suitable for different uses in the kitchen.  Fred's personal favorite is the red shallot, and I love the bright springy flavor of green onions.

Even though onions can be a pain to weed (especially in a year like this one) our onion family crops grow exceptionally well because our soil is naturally suited to them.  Our back field is black sand that is high in organic matter, and it is almost spongy when you walk on it.  It is a little more moist than our front fields, which is perfect for onions.  Our onions also take a lot of nutrients and are one of the heaviest feeders on the farm, especially since we cram as many as we possibly can into the field.  Each type grows a little differently.  Our chives are a perennial that come back each year.  Our green onions and pearl onions are seeded into greenhouse flats in the early spring, with several seeds planted together and then transplanted into the field.  There they grow in clumps of several onions together. For our bulbing onions and leeks, we buy plants that come in the mail from an organic nursery out in Delaware, and plant them directly into the field in mid-April.  Our shallots are seeded thickly into greenhouse flats, then trimmed to only about 3 inches tall and separated individually and transplanted into the field in early May.  After the shallots and bulbing onions start to die back in the field, we pull of them out and dry them on racks in the greenhouse.

So what is the difference between leeks, shallots, and onions in the kitchen?  Leeks and shallots both have milder, more complex flavors than the otherwise harsher flavor of raw bulbing onions.  We had often noticed that many good recipes called for shallots rather than onions, but we were skeptical at first that they would really be all that different.   Now after growing and using them, we are shallot converts!  Now we save some red shallots every season to use throughout the winter, and barely use bulb onions. There certainly are great times to use bulb onions, especially when a more prominent onion flavor is desired (often with heavier dishes that include red meat). If onions are just a little too oniony for you, the shallots can be used instead, as they are milder and the size of the rings is smaller.  In the same vein, we personally love to use leeks chopped into small rings for omelets and in our winter venison stews, as it add more flavor without overpowering other more subtle flavors.  We like to use the shallots this time of year in our Brussels sprout/winter squash/bacon fry, as well as our roasted root vegetable mix.  The shallots are also great fresh in salads, as they do not overpower the flavor of the greens and other ingredients.

Our onion crops are becoming more prominent on our farm as folks (and especially the higher-end restaurants we supply) recognize and appreciate their excellent flavor.  We certainly appreciate them at home as well, especially as we get into the richer foods of fall and winter.  We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!


My guess is that you already know what to do with your onions and shallots, but you are probably wondering about the mysterious celery root that is available in the shares this week.  Celery root (also called celeriac) is a root vegetable with a distinct celery flavor.  It is knobby and kind of weird-looking, but it was traditionally a winter staple in the days before refrigeration.  It cooks like a potato but tastes like celery, so it is commonly used in fall and winter soups and stews.  Also, don't worry if you don't get to it right away; it will last forever in the fridge.  (I've used five-month old celeriac before, and it still tasted great.)  So here are some recipe ideas for this probably unfamiliar veggie:

Simple as That Celeriac:  This aptly-named hash is super easy to make, and requires just a few ingredients to make a really great side dish.  Or for something a little fancier, try this Potato and Celery Root Gratin with Gruyere.  Rich and creamy, this gratin also calls for some shallot goodness, so if you've never played around with shallots before, here's your chance!