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Newsletter
Summer Share #12  
August 17 - 23, 2015

 

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After harvesting in the rain - our version of the famous painting "American Gothic".

Table of Contents 
 (Click on the links to go directly to an item or scroll down.)


 

Calendar & Reminders

1. We have broiler chickens available for sale. We raise them on moveable pens in our alfalfa pasture and supplement them with organic, soy-free grain. They weigh 3 to 4 lbs each and cost $15.50 each. Call or email me if you'd like to purchase one or more. And if you are a MES or Yearly member and are ready for more chicken - be sure to let me know.

2. Current CSA Members should have received a mid-season survey via email. Please complete with any comments, thoughts, insights you have regarding your share and return it. We appreciate your input. If you didn't receive one, please let me know.

3. Box Pickup -  Please take the box with your name on it and return it the next week.

4. Sunday, September 20 - Bike the Barns Event. 
http://www.csacoalition.org/news/2015-bike-the-barns/

5. We rinse your produce however we recommend washing the produce in your box before eating it. 


6. Previous editions of our newsletter are on our Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Fine-Homestead/145013635612327

3 smaller New Girl slicer tomatoes in front of 3 heirloom Rose tomatoes.

This Week's Box

Please note: This is the produce we harvested and packed for Thursday's shares. The Saturday and Monday boxes will be similar but may change depending on produce availability.
 

Full Share:  (Black Plastic or Brown Wax Box - take the one with your name)

Celery- 1 bunch
Tomatoes -  1 Rose heirloom & 4 or 5 slicers & 1 or 2 heirloom paste
Cherry Tomatoes - 3/4's of a quart (see recipe in newsletter)
Eggplant - 1 See See Vegetable Spotlight

Green Bell Pepper - 1
Summer Squashes (Zucchini, Yellow)  - 1 See recipe in this newsletter. This is probably the last week for summer squashes in your box.
Watermelon - 1 small red or yellow These melons are small but very flavorful. We are still learning the art of picking them when ripe - if yours isn't, please let me know!
Kale or Chard - 1 bunch of either
Broccoli - 1 lb
Caraflex Cabbage - 1 Pointed mini cabbage. Inner leaves are tender, crunchy, and have an excellent, sweet and mild cabbage flavor. Perfect for summer salads, slaws or cooked dishes.

Green Onions or Scallions - 1 bunch
Garlic - 1 (EOW members only)

Parsley - 1 bunch See recipe in this newsletter.
 

Half Share: (White Wax Box - take the one with your name)
 

Celery- 1 bunch
Tomatoes -  1 Rose heirloom & 3 or 4 slicers 

Cherry Tomatoes - 1 pint (see recipe in newsletter)
Summer Squashes (Zucchini, Yellow)  - 1 See recipe in this newsletter. This is probably the last week for summer squashes in your box.
Watermelon - 1 small red or yellow These melons are small but very flavorful. We are still learning the art of picking them when ripe - if yours isn't, please let me know!
Caraflex Cabbage - 1 Pointed mini cabbage. Inner leaves are tender, crunchy, and have an excellent, sweet and mild cabbage flavor. Perfect for summer salads, slaws or cooked dishes.
Green Onions or Scallions - 1 bunch
Garlic - 1 (EOW Members only)

Parsley - 1 bunch See recipe in this newsletter.

Contact us with any questions on the contents of your box or for ideas of what to do with them. We are always happy to talk "food" with you!

On the Farm . . . what's happening this week in words and pictures.

The farm has received 1 1/2 inches of much needed rain in the last two days. Before that our pump was running almost around the clock to water all the produce. While the cold weather yesterday felt weird, we are very thankful for the front that gave us rain. I wonder if the plants are thankful. Probably not, but new research is questioning whether or not plants have memory, sensory abilities and even to some degree - intelligence.

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food among others, wrote a interesting piece for the New Yorker in the December 23, 2013 issue called The Intelligent Plant. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/12/23/the-intelligent-plant and was interviewed for Public Radio http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-01-09/new-research-plant-intelligence-may-forever-change-how-you-think-about-plants .

In it he says a controversial 2006 article in Trends in Plant Science proposed "a new field of inquiry that the authors, perhaps somewhat recklessly, elected to call “plant neurobiology.” The six authors—among them Eric D. Brenner, an American plant molecular biologist; Stefano Mancuso, an Italian plant physiologist; František Baluška, a Slovak cell biologist; and Elizabeth Van Volkenburgh, an American plant biologist—argued that the sophisticated behaviors observed in plants cannot at present be completely explained by familiar genetic and biochemical mechanisms. Plants are able to sense and optimally respond to so many environmental variables—light, water, gravity, temperature, soil structure, nutrients, toxins, microbes, herbivores, chemical signals from other plants—that there may exist some brainlike information-processing system to integrate the data and coördinate a plant’s behavioral response. The authors pointed out that electrical and chemical signalling systems have been identified in plants which are homologous to those found in the nervous systems of animals. They also noted that neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate have been found in plants, though their role remains unclear."

The article is too long to share everything but some of the interesting points follow:

 

  • Pollan says "Plants can do incredible things. They do seem to remember stresses and events . . . They do have the ability to respond to 15 to 20 environmental variables," Pollan says. "The issue is, is it right to call it learning? Is that the right word? Is it right to call it intelligence? Is it right, even, to call what they are conscious. Some of these plant neurobiologists believe that plants are conscious — not self-conscious, but conscious in the sense they know where they are in space ... and react appropriately to their position in space."  He also says that really freaks people out — "that the line between plants and animals might be a little softer than we traditionally think of it as." He suggests that plants may be able to teach humans a thing or two, such as how to process information without a central command post like a brain.
  • Several species, including corn and lima beans, emit a chemical distress call when attacked by caterpillars. Parasitic wasps some distance away lock in on that scent, follow it to the afflicted plant, and proceed to slowly destroy the caterpillars. Some are hopeful studying plant distress signals could help prime plant defenses reducing dependence on pesticides.
  • Stefano Mancuso, one of the aforementioned authors, is working on a dictionary of each plant species’ entire chemical vocabulary. He estimates that a plant has three thousand chemicals in its vocabulary compared with an average student’s seven hundred words.
  • “I agree that humans are special,” Mancuso says. “We are the first species able to argue about what intelligence is. But it’s the quantity, not the quality” of intelligence that sets us apart. We exist on a continuum with the acacia, the radish, and the bacterium. “Intelligence is a property of life,” he says. I asked him why he thinks people have an easier time granting intelligence to computers than to plants. (Fred Sack told me that he can abide the term “artificial intelligence,” because the intelligence in this case is modified by the word “artificial,” but not “plant intelligence.” He offered no argument, except to say, “I’m in the majority in saying it’s a little weird.”) Mancuso thinks we’re willing to accept artificial intelligence because computers are our creations, and so reflect our own intelligence back at us. They are also our dependents, unlike plants: “If we were to vanish tomorrow, the plants would be fine, but if the plants vanished . . .” Our dependence on plants breeds a contempt for them, Mancuso believes. In his somewhat topsy-turvy view, plants “remind us of our weakness.”
  • There is also a video of a bean plant using time-lapse photography that shows a bean plant reaching for a metal pole is seems to be focused on climbing without wasting any time “looking” for anything else to climb, maybe utilizing echolocation. It seems to be exhibiting intention.

This is fascinating to me, and given all that I learned reading these articles, I’m sure our eggplants have been screaming - ok, emitting volatile chemicals, signals to other leaves as well as nearby eavesdropping plants to mount a defense. They may have even been sharing information obtained from the taste of the flea beetles that are chewing up their leaves hindering their ability to photosynthesize.

A few days ago we had noticed a couple of the plants on the end of the row didn't look quite as robust as the others. They had some flea beetle holes in their leaves as all the eggplants typically do being favorites of flea beetles. We always have some flea beetle damage but at low levels that don't affect the plant's health. The beneficial microbes we've applied to the soil kept them in check past seasons. Bill thought the plants hadn't received enough water due to their location, and because it was windy the day he had the sprinklers on them so he watered them again. But the problem got worse, and we now know the culprit is indeed flea beetles.

 

A new batch must have hatched and for whatever reason our beneficial microbes didn’t mount a satisfactory defense (next year we plan to apply more often and utilize row cover).  After harvesting the fruits yesterday, we squished millions of normally very nimble but now cold and lethargic flea beetles on the leaves while reassuring the plants (yes, we are a little kooky) and feeling no sympathy for the marauding insects. We are hopeful we eliminated enough to not only save the plants but also in a timely fashion so they can produce more of the beautiful, dark purple globes.

And while I can’t actually hear our plants out in the field, I’m imagining they are very quiet and happily quenched of their thirst for now.

Have a great week,

Stacey

 

Vegetable Spotlight on
EGGPLANT


 

Eggplants are considered "fruits" in the sense that they like bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and squash grow from the plant's ovary and surround its seeds with fleshy walls. Most cooks (and the Supreme Court), however, prefer to categorize produce by how it is used, rather that botanically, so they consider these "fruits" to be vegetables. It's helpful to keep the botanical definition in mind as a reminder that all members of this group have similar characteristics. As well as having seeds and fleshy walls, they are typically sweet, juicy and mild.
 

In the 1800's European settlers brought small, round, mostly white ornamental varieties of eggplant to the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada; their resemblance to goose or hen eggs inspiring the name "eggplant."

All eggplants have spongy flesh consisting of many air pockets between the cells. When cooked, the air pockets collapse and the flesh becomes pleasantly dense: creamy in some, meaty in others. In general, long, thin eggplants, usually called Chinese or Japanese, are mild in flavor and hold their form better than others after cooking. Green-skinned versions are usually sweet; small, green Thai eggplants are unique in that they are dense, not airy, with mild, crunchy, sesame-like seeds. White eggplants come in all shapes and sizes. In general, they have thick skin that may need to be peeled. Large, dark purple eggplants, the most common type sold in conventional markets, tend to have thicker skin and when cooked, an especially meaty texture.

Eggplants like cucumbers and summer squash are best stored at 55 degrees F, so choose the coolest part of the kitchen or the warmest part of the refrigerator, and wrap them loosely in a paper bag or kitchen towel.

Do not eat eggplant raw because it contains solanine which can cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Peel eggplants based on personal preference and the thickness of a particular vegetable's skin. Eggplants similar to summer squash, cucumbers and tomatoes can be pre-salted to remove moisture for recipes in which extra water will be detrimental, such as salsa, fried foods and doughs. To pre-salt, cut or shred the eggplant as desired, sprinkle with coarse salt and let stand on an absorbent material such as paper towels or in a strainer for thirty minutes. Rinse (unless you are pre-salting tomatoes), pat away excess moisture or squeeze gently and proceed with the recipe. Pre-salting increases the firmness of cooked eggplant and reduces the amount of oil it absorbs in fried preparations. Eggplants can be pickled, steamed, braised, grilled, roasted, sautéed or fried.

Slow Cooker Ratatouille
(Farm-Fresh and Fast)

8 c chopped eggplant, zucchini, onion, or any other in-season vegetable
1/2 c water or broth
2 T olive oil
1 T dried Italian seasonings
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t crushed red pepper
salt and ground black pepper to taste
chopped fresh herbs (optional)

Place the vegetables in a 4-qt slow cooker. Add the water or broth, oil, Italian seasoning, garlic and crushed red pepper and stir well. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herbs (if desired).


 

Vegetable Spotlight on
CELERY


 

A member of the parsley family, celery has been around for thousands of years. This crunchy stalk vegetable is a thick stem that supports leaves and flowers while the plant grows. Crisp by nature, these stems are made of strong, fibrous cells and have structures that carry water and nutrients from leaves to roots. Celery, a popular staple both raw and cooked, is more well-known in North America while celeriac, also called celery root is used more in Europe. Celery can be pickled, froze, dehydrated, braised, sautéed, marinated, grilled or eaten raw.  Along with onions and carrots, celery makes a great flavor base for soups, stews and sauces.

Use a paring knife or peeler to remove the toughest outer strings from the stalks. The leaves are edible, too, although the flavor is very strong so use them in moderation and taste as you go. They can be 
delicious in salads or used as an herb.

While a challenge to grow as it needs a consistent supply of moisture throughout the season, it is worth it as celery has had the distinction of being one of the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Dirty Dozen, produce with the highest pesticide loads, for years. The complete list for 2015 includes apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

Store celery loosely wrapped in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator or upright in water to be kept crisp. If kept between 32 - 36 degrees F it will keep for anywhere from 2 weeks up to 7 weeks. 

One stalk of celery contains only about 10 calories, while a cup of chopped celery contains about 16. It also contains dietary fiber (1.6 grams per cup), which helps curb cravings because it absorbs water in the digestive tract, making you feel fuller longer. According to Megan Ware, a registered dietician nutritionist in Orlando, Florida, “Since celery is mostly made of water (almost 95 percent), it is not particularly high in any vitamin or mineral.” Nevertheless, celery is a good source of vitamin K, with one cup containing about 30 percent of the recommended daily intake, according to the U.S. Food and Drug  Administration (FDA). Celery can also help you get enough folate, potassium, fiber and molybdenum. It contains small amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A and some B vitamins. Its seeds are a natural diuretic, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center “Celery is naturally low in calories, carbohydrates, fat and cholesterol,” added Ware. 

Celery is also rich in phytonutrient antioxidants that contain anti-inflammatory properties, can help prevent dehydration since it is mostly water, is an old folk remedy for heartburn and AARP recommends it for its low acidity. 

 

Zucchini Chips

INGREDIENTS
1 large zucchini
olive oil, approximately 2 tablespoons
Salt, pepper, paprika or grated parmesan, if desired

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Spray baking pan with olive oil
Slice zucchini and place slices on baking pan
Spray or drizzle with olive oil
Top chips with salt, pepper, paprika or grated parmesan, if desired
Bake until brown and crisp, about 20-30 minutes
 


 

Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Herbs
(Outpost Co-op magazine)
 
Makes 60 tomato bites, enough for hors d’oeuvres for 15 people
 
30 cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed or minced
2 tsp fresh majoram, thyme or oregano, finely chopped
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt
 
Preheat oven to 300-degrees. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise and gently squeeze seeds out of each half. Brush a baking dish large enough to hold the tomatoes in a single layer with a thin coating of olive oil. Arrange tomatoes, flat side up in the dish. Crush garlic with the flat side of a large chef’s knife on a cutting board until it’s a smooth paste or mince very finely. In a small bowl, combine garlic with remaining olive oil, herbs and Parmesan. Using a small spoon, drizzle oil mixture into each tomato. Sprinkle with salt and back for one and a half to two hours.The tomatoes will be shriveled and lightly browned around the edges. They will have the intense flavor of sundried tomatoes with a bright fresh taste and texture. Leftover tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Simply place tomatoes in a glass jar or container and fill with olive oil until just covered.
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