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    2018 Denison Farms Newsletters

June

week 1
week 2
week 3
week 4

July

week 5
week 6
week 7
week 8
week 9

August

week 10
week 11
week 12
week 13

September

week 14
week 15
week 16
week 17

October

week 18
week 19
week 20
week 21
week 22

November

week 23
week 24
week 25




Denison Farms Harvest Box 2018: week 10

In this box: 2 Cucumbers, 4 Jalapenos, 1 sweet onion, 1# mini peppers, 1 garlic, 2 Nopales pads, 2# yellow potatoes, 1.25# sweet girl tomatoes, 1 pint Strawberries, 1 half-pint Blackberries, (weights are approx.). Everything is Organic!

Nopales
    Yes, we can grow cactus in Corvallis! Prickly pear cactus actually grows well here, though it’s not very common. The Prickly pear cactus is also known as Nopal, and it has edible pads, called nopales.

Basic information about Nopales:
* When harvested, nopales have sharp spines on the pads. Our farm crew has taken the spines off for you (thanks!), leaving a “cleaned” pad that is entirely edible. Some recipes call for scraping the spines off and trimming the edges. You don’t need to do that with the nopales in your box.
* Nopales can be eaten raw or cooked (boiled, sauteed, or grilled).
* Nopales have a sour flavor, reminscent of a combination of sorrel and asparagus. They maintain some amount of crunchy texture even when cooked. I think they have a similar nature to dill pickles—sour and crunchy. They are often used in a salsa, condiment, or salad. They go well with all kids of eggs.
* When you cut them, they exude a sticky sap which dries up as they are cooked.
* If you have time, and the inclination, there are loads of web sites with recipes and more information about nopales.

Recipe suggestion: Nopales and tomato salad
I discovered this recipe on the Williams Sonoma web site, and modified it slighty to suit what’s in the box today.
1. Prepare cooked ingredients: peel and dice 1 – 2 cloves garlic. Cut 1 Nopales pad into ¼” pieces, chop ½ cup sweet onion, remove seeds and thinly slice 1 jalapeno pepper (can use more or less jalapeno to taste).
2. Heat 2 Tbs oil in a large, heavy fry pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for a minute. Then add Nopales, onion, and jalapeno. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. The cactus will give off a sticky sap, but this will dry up with longer cooking. Uncover and continue to cook for 10 – 15 minutes longer, until the pan is dry and the onions are just starting to brown.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1/8 tsp. Dijon mustard, 2 Tbs cider vinegar, 2 Tbs canola oil, 1/8 tsp. salt. Place all ingredients in a small jar with a lid, and shake.
4. Place raw ingredients in a large bowl: Cut ¾ pound salad tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Add ¼ cup minced sweet onion.
5. Combine warm, cooked nopales/onions/peppers with raw tomatoes/onions. Toss gently with dressing. Add ¼ cup minced cilantro or Italian parsley if available. Add ¼ lb queso fresco if you like cheese.

Other ideas for Nopales:
* Substitute for pickle relish in a potato salad
* Cut into ¼# pieces and stir fry with potatoes and/or zucchini (with onions and garlic, of course).

Jalapeno Peppers

    Personally, I’m not a huge fan of jalapenos, but I like to have a few on hand to  add a little spice to chili or refried beans. If you can’t use your jalapenos this week, you can cut them in half, remove the seeds, and freeze in a zip-top bag or freezer container. Then you can use them a little at a time all winter.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2018: week 9

In this box: 1 box Grape Tomatoes, 1 bunch Basil, 6 ears Corn, 1 bunch fresh Shallots, 1# Zucchini, 1 Red Bell pepper, 2# Red Gold Potatoes, 1 half-pint Black Currants, 1 half-pint Blackberries (weights are approx.). Everything is Organic!

Black currants
       For the benefit of those who didn’t read last week’s newsletter, I’ll repeat here just the most essential information about black currants--they are generally cooked and sweetened to taste: roll the berries off their stems into a saucpan. (Don’t worry about the dried flower, you won’t notice it once cooked). Add about 2 Tbs. of water to the saucepan, and bring to a boil. The water just keeps things from burning onto the pan. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, and sweeten to taste. “Sweeten to taste” varies quite a bit from person to person. If you’re new to black currants, I suggest starting with 2 Tbs. of honey, sugar, or maple syrup per basket of black currants. Taste a little bit, and see if you want to add more, adding 1 Tbs at a time until the sweet balances the tartness. Cook the berries before adding the sweetener.
       Our Corvallis Market Manager, Doug has been making black currant fruit sauce with 2 Tbs. maple syrup. Then mix the black currant syrup with yogurt, pour it on pancakes, or make a fruit fool (see last week’s newsletter for a recipe).

On the farm this week

    In addition to picking berries, tomatoes, corn, and zucchini – which need to be picked almost daily in this hot weather, our crew has been busy this week harvesting potatoes. We dig all our potatoes at one time, once their tops have dried and the potatoes have matured so their skins are dry. We haul the potatoes out of the field on trailers, and store them (unwashed) in a refrigerated cooler. They keep this way for a long time. Then when we need potatoes for our Harvest Boxes or for our Farmers Markets, we take what we need from the cooler, and wash the dirt off before sending them your way. In your kitchen, we suggest storing your potatoes in the refrigerator, and ALWAYS store them in the dark, or the skins will turn green. (Don’t eat green potatoes). The fridge is dark enough, because the light goes off when the door is closed.

Ripe bell peppers
    Fun fact: all colored bell peppers start their life as green peppers. You could say that green peppers are immature—though they are perfectly edible that way. When peppers are fully ripe, their true color is apparent, and they are sweeter, and loaded with Vitamins A & C.

Recipe idea for the week:
    Make pesto (there’s a recipe on our web site recipe blog, under basil). Cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces and steam or boil for 12 minutes, or until you can easily poke a knife into the middle of the pieces. Mix half the batch of pesto with boiled potatoes. Freeze any remaining pesto in a freezer container or zip-top plastic bag.
   
Green Shallots
    Here, the “green” refers to a fresh shallot, with the green tops still attached. The green shallot is a less mature version of the more familiar dried shallot that you find at the grocery store. Shallots can be used in the same way as a cooking onion—except you want to saute them gently, and stop short of browning them. I think shallots have an elegant nature. They are particularly nice sauteed in butter. Here’s another recipe inspiration for this week: Saute minced shallots in butter. When soft, add ¼ cup dry white wine, and reduce until the pan is nearly dry. Then add finely sliced zucchini, and stir until zucchini is tender. Add a handful of torn basil. Season with salt & pepper, and mix into a bowl of warm pasta. 
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2018: week 8

In this box:  1# Sweet Girl Tomatoes, 1# Gold Medal Heirloom Tomatoes, 5 ears Corn, 1 Eggplant, 1 Sweet Onion, 2# Zucchini, 1 handful Padron Peppers, 1 half-pint Black Currants, 1 half-pint Blackberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

Black currants
       We realize that black currants are a somewhat obscure fruit in this country, though they are familiar to many people who grew up in Russian and Eastern Europe. We think black currants are poised to become one of the new “superfoods”, because they are loaded with dark purple anthocyanins, vitamin C, and other health-promoting phytonutrients.  Since we knew we wanted to put them in our Harvest Boxes this week, we’ve been doing some fun recipe research and development. Black currants are quite tart by themselves, but adding sugar balances the tartness and really brings out their flavor. They are generally cooked (and sweetened), rather than just eaten fresh. They’re perfectly edible fresh, just VERY tart.
       I can’t remember how I stumbled on the idea of Black Currant Fool, but that’s my suggestion for using this week’s black currants. An odd name, perhaps, but I didn’t make it up. According to my 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking, “fool” is an archaic term of endearment. Maybe that’s enough explanation for the dessert name? Fruit Fool is a dessert I associate with England, because the only people I know who are familiar with Fruit Fool grew up in England. In the process of searching for recipes, I found a couple online posts by British cookbook author, Nigel Slater. I really enjoy his writings. Search “Nigel Slater Fool Recipe” for some fun reading.
       To make a Fruit Fool, sweetened fruit is just folded into whipped crea
m. It’s super simple, and (I think) an excellent way to showcase black currants.
Black Currant Fool
1) Pull stems from ½ pint black currants, and put them in a saucepan. Don’t worry about the tiny dried blossom on the other end. You’ll never notice them once cooked. Add about 2 Tbs water (just to keep them from scorching), and bring to boil, then simmer over low heat until you can easily crush the berries with a fork (about 5 minutes after they come to a boil).
2) Then add sugar to taste. We used ¼ cup honey, but you can use more or less to taste. Any kind of sweetener will do.
3) Thoroughly chill the sweetened, cooked fruit.
4) Whip 1 pint of heavy cream until the “soft peak” stage.
5) Gently fold the cream into the chilled fruit.
6) Spoon into individual dessert glasses, and chill until just before serving.
      
Padron peppers—some are hot, some are not!
       Padron peppers are interesting in a couple of different ways. Perhaps the most important thing to note is that some of them are quite spicy/hot, and some are completely mild. And there’s no way to tell which is which until you bite into them! In this way, it’s a bit of gastronomic roulette. My trick is to take a tiny bite from the tip. If it’s spicy, I hand that pepper to Tom who enjoys more heat than I.
       Also interesting is that Padrons are picked when they are very young, so you eat the whole pepper, seeds and all. The seeds are a little crunchy, but perfectly edible. You can eat everything but the stem.
    Commonly, Padrons are sautéed in olive oil with coarse salt until their skin is blistered, then (once cooled) you hold the stem and eat the entire pepper in one or two bites. I hear this is how they are traditionally served for tapas in Barcelona.
    You can also use Padrons as you would any green pepper, in a sauté of mixed vegetables with onions and other vegetables (zucchini and eggplant, perhaps). You can sauté them whole, or cut them into bite-sized pieces first.

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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2018: week 7

In this box: 1 bunch Carrots, 1 Lettuce, 1 bunch Basil, 1 head Garlic, 1# Heirloom Tomatoes, 6 ears Corn, 1 pint basket plums, 1 half-pint Raspberries, 1 half-pint Blackberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!


Hot enough for ya?
       We are relieved to see temperatures are forecast to be in the 80’s for the next few days, after a week of temps in the 90’s.  We grow a lot of crops that enjoy warm weather: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, basil, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, corn, figs, etc..  However, when temperatures excede 90 it can cause stress for the crops and the workers who tend them.  The heat challenge is compounded here because we grow many of these crops in passive solar greenhouses.  This helps them get off to a good start in our normally cool spring weather, but can push temperatures over 100 when it’s sunny and warm. Those temperatures can cause blossoms to drop off plants like tomatoes, strawberries, and peppers, reducing future harvests.  They can also trigger flowering in crops like spinach, lettuce, arugula, basil, and cilantro which stops our harvest of the leafy parts.

    Higher temperatures make everything ripen faster, so it takes our crew longer to get everything picked.  Long days picking in hotter conditions are hard for our crew.  Thankfully, many of them have been with us long enough to know this is a temporary challenge.  Like working in the rain, cold or mud, about the time we think we can’t stand any more the season has changed again.

    Hot weather can also shorten the shelf life of all produce once picked.  Greens and berries are especially vulnerable to spoilage when it’s hot, so we constantly shuttle them to our refrigerated storage as harvest progresses.  We retrieve the produce from our coolers just before we pack them into your boxes, so things may still be cool when you pick up your box.

In today’s box, tomatoes, garlic, and basil don’t need to be refrigerated. The rest of the items should go into your fridge as soon as possible. Even better, consider bringing a cooler with ice when you pick up your box on hot days and transfer things like berries, lettuce & corn directly into the cooler for the trip home.

Speaking of corn, this should be the first week of many with corn in the box. We have about 6 different plantings of corn, set to ripen successively over the next month or more. We enjoy corn husked, then boiled for 3 - 5 minutes and eaten straight (butter is, of course, optional). If I’m going to fire up the grill, I like to grill corn (with the husk on) for 25 minutes--turning the ears over after 15 minutes. Set your grill to medium, direct heat.

Heirloom Tomatoes – There are so many different varieties of tomatoes! Today’s offering is Purple Cherokee. Don’t wait for them to turn red, they are ripe when they are purple/green in color! I suggest slicing your tomatoes, and sprinkling with a dash of salt (or just a drop of balsamic vinegar) to bring out the flavor. Stored on the counter, your tomatoes should be good to eat any time over the next 4 or 5 days.

Beauty Plums
    Beauty plums are tough to transport when they are fully ripe, so if yours are firm, leave them on the counter to ripen for a few days. Once soft, however, you can store them in the fridge-unless you’re going to eat them right away.
    Beauty plums are VERY juicy! You might want to wear a bib, or at least lean over a plate if you don’t want plum juice all down the front of your shirt.

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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2018:  Week 6


In this box: 1 bunch Carrots, 1 bunch Beets, 1 cucumber, 1 bunch green shallots, 1 bunch kale, tomatoes, 1 pint Strawberries, 2 half-pints Raspberries (weights are approx.). Everything is Organic!

Memories

Elizabeth is in Vermont this week, helping her mom who just moved back into the house where she grew up, so I am writing the newsletter.  Elizabeth says it is comforting how little has changed there in 50 years.  The wallpaper, linoleum, and plumbing fixtures are the same.  The town still has no traffic lights, and only one stop sign. Jean (Elizabeth’s mom) is happy to be in the house and on the land where her father once raised blueberries and apples, and collected lilacs.  There are still 90 different lilac varieties growing there.

There was a row of very fragrant lilacs at the house outside of Ithaca NY where I spent summers until I was ten.  The smell of lilacs always reminds me of that place, and the time spent there.  We had no TV then, or any neighbors closer than half a mile so my siblings and I spent a lot of time outdoors.  My parents bought that place which had been a subsistence type farm, from the aging owners in 1957 for $3,000, I was 2 years old.  Once there had been a few cows, pigs, chickens, some corn, hay, and vegetable garden, with rutabagas for a cash crop.  Things were pretty run down by the time my folks got it, and though we always called it “the farm” my parents did not farm it. The 1830’s vintage house, was suffering from a lot of delayed maintenance.  The barn, and other outbuildings were also showing their age, but we had many adventures discovering abandoned horse drawn equipment, swinging on the trapeze my dad hung in the hay loft, climbing in the corn crib, and up on the roof of what was once the chicken house.  We helped my folks fix up the house, a little bit at a time.  I suspect we were not as much help as we thought we were, but we learned how to paint, measure, saw, and pound nails.

The fields and pastures had been farmed until they lost productivity, then neglected.  When I was there, brush and trees were in the process of turning the fields back into forest. But some apple trees, rhubarb, asparagus, red currants, and grapes were still growing, untended and feral.  My mother made apple and rhubarb pies, currant and grape jelly.  The birds had planted cherry trees, and black raspberry bushes in the hedgerows, while wild strawberries and elderberries grew in the former pastures.  We kids would sometimes pick the wild fruit.  We ate as much as we turned in to my mom, who paid us a nickel a cup before making them into shortcake, jam, or pie.  There was also a garden where we learned what really fresh corn tastes like, and that if you don’t pull the weeds, there won’t be any carrots, and that green beans cooked just long enough squeak when you bite them.

Like the lilacs, the taste of black raspberries always brings up memories for me.  One taste of the small seedy, intensely flavored fruit sends me back to barefoot summer days catching crayfish in the creek, and fireflies in the evening.

One of the best parts of my job is when food we grow triggers memories for people from long ago.  “That tomato tastes like the ones my father grew in Nebraska.”  “Those grapes are like what we had in our back yard.”  “My neighbor had a mulberry tree which we sat in, eating until our hands and faces were purple.”  “My grandmother in Ukraine would preserve those berries in vodka and store them in the cellar to fight off colds in the winter.”  “Those beans are just like the ones my mom grew.  I haven’t tasted them in years, but we used to sit on the porch and talk while we snapped them.”  “We had those peppers in Macedonia and used them to make a special kind of preserve.”

I don’t want to live in the past, but I also don’t want to forget where I came from and how I got to be here.  Tastes and smells remind me not just of the foods I used to enjoy, but also the people who ate with me, where we were, and what we were doing.  It’s nice to remember the people and experiences that have nourished me.

Tom

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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2018:  Week 5

In this box: ½# Salad Mix, 1 bunch Basil, 1 Eggplant, 1# Sweet Girl Tomatoes, 2# Potatoes, 1 Red Onion, 3 or 4 White Zucchini, 1½# Romano Beans, 1 half-pint Raspberries (weights are approx.). Everything is Organic!

Eggplant
    Eggplants are thought to have originated in India or Myanmar. From there, they traveled along trade routes, arriving in Northern Africa and the Middle East by 900 AD.
    Versatile in the kitchen, eggplant features in Baba Ganouj, Moussaka, Ratatouille, and more. Although some recipes call for peeling, the skin is edible.
    Eggplants store best on the kitchen counter. However, they will lose moisture and become softer over time. If you’re not going to use your eggplant right away, it will keep best in the perforated “salad mix” bag. Conveniently, your salad mix will keep better if you transfer it to a regular (non-perforated) plastic bag or sealed tub.
Today’s box feels very “Mediterranean”— basil, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and onions are commonly found together in many dishes in countries around the Mediterranean. Especially if you have garlic and/or parsley left from last week’s box, you have the makings for a wide variety of Mediterranean-style dishes. Ratatouille recipes are quite variable. Some use parsley, others don’t. Some Ratatouille recipes call for cooking everything in a sauté pan on the stovetop, but other versions use the same ingredients cooked in a casserole dish in the oven, or even the microwave. We find the oven-version takes less hands-on time, because you don’t need to stand at the stove and stir.
Here’s Tom’s version of Ratatouille Casserole. This is a very flexible recipe. You don’t need a specific quantity of any ingredient. Just use what you have.
Ingredients & Instructions:
Cut ½ inch thick slices of eggplant, sweet onion, zucchini, and tomatoes. (Use approx. equal amounts of each). Place a layer of each in an oiled baking dish (eggplant on the bottom, tomatoes on the top). Sprinkle liberally with chopped basil.
Cover the top with grated cheese
Sauté some garlic in olive oil, then drizzle over everything. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or longer, until eggplant is very soft (poke it with a knife), and the cheese is bubbly. Cooking time is quite variable, depending on the thickness of the slices, and how many layers you use.

Last year I discovered Caponata, a slightly sweet-sour relish that is delicious spread on bread or just eaten straight. It’s my new favorite eggplant recipe.
Classic Caponata (modified from epicurious.com)
5 Tbs. olive oil
1 eggplant, cut in ½ inch cubes (the recipe says to peel it, but I never bother)
1 medium onion, cubed
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1# tomatoes, cubed (the original recipe calls for a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, but I think fresh is always better)
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs drained capers (optional. I think the recipe works fine without them)
1/3 cup chopped basil
Toasted pine nuts (optional)
Preparation: heat oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add eggplant, onion, and garlic cloves. Sauté until eggplant is soft and brown, about 15- 20 minutes. Add diced tomatoes with juice, then red wine vinegar and drained capers. Cover and simmer until eggplant and onion are very tender, stirring occasionally (about 15- 20 additional minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in fresh basil. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2018:  Week 4

In this box: 1 Lettuce, 2 Cucumbers, 1 bunch Italian Parsley, 1 head Garlic, 3# Fava Beans, 1 pint Sungold Tomatoes, 1 pint Mixed Cherry Tomatoes, 1 pint Strawberries, 1 half-pint Raspberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

Let’s talk about Fava Beans….. They really should be more familiar, because they are versatile and tasty, but they are not commonly seen in grocery stores. They are very widely eaten in Europe and countries around the Mediterranean. In England, they are called Broad Beans. I picked up a new recipe idea this year from a Farmers Market customer who grew up in North Africa (see below). But first, some general information for people who have not cooked with fresh fava beans:

Although fava pods are edible, there are tough fibers down both sides of the pods. If you want to cook the pods with beans, pull or trim the stringy fibers off. Most recipes start by taking the beans out of the pods. You can do this either by scoring the length of the pod with a paring knife, or by snapping the pod at each bean and popping the bean out. Next, blanch the beans. Lower into boiling water for 3 minutes, then plunge into ice water to chill quickly. Then you can pop the inner bean out of the “skin”, or you can choose to use the bean with the skin on. You can taste a bean or two after blanching and see if you want to take the extra effort to pop off the outer skins.  If you do peel them, you get a milder flavor and a more tender bean, if you leave the peels on you get a more chewy texture, and the beans hold their shape better in the final dish. We have customers who swear you must take the skin off the bean and others who swear that is a waste and you should eat them, skins and all.  We think this choice should be up to you, but I will suggest my preference in the recipes below. 

Every year, I learn something new about fava beans. Just a few weeks ago, a customer at the farmers market who is from North Africa told me the way he cooks them, and it has opened a whole new perspective for me.  I had some of these fava beans for dinner last night, then put leftovers in the refrigerator for a mid-morning snack today!

North African Favas with Cumin
       I prefer to leave the skins on for this recipe—it helps the beans hold their shape and not stick to the pan, and the chewy texture makes the dish seem more hearty. First, take the beans out of the pod. Steam beans over boiling water for 3 minutes, then sauté in olive oil with salt, pepper, and cumin until slightly browned. I used a generous Tbs. of olive oil, and about ½ tsp each salt, black pepper, and ground cumin. The gentleman who shared the recipe with me wasn’t specific about the quantity of oil and spices, so feel free to adjust according to your personal taste.
      
Mediterranean Fava Bean Sauté (using fresh tomato) 
       Sauté lots of garlic (and onion if you have it) in a generous amount of olive oil until soft. Then add a handful of chopped cherry tomatoes. Add blanched fava beans (peeled or unpeeled), and a handful of chopped parsley or basil, cover and simmer until the tomato thickens into sauce, and the beans are tender (6-10 minutes, depending on the maturity of the beans). Add salt and pepper to taste.    
      
More recipe ideas for this week’s box, from our Recipe Blog (denisonfarms.tumblr.com):
* Quinoa Tabbouleh (uses cucumbers, parsley, and cherry tomatoes)
* Pasta Salad with Fava Beans (uses fava beans, cucumbers, and parsley. I suggest using peeled beans for this recipe.)
* Fava Beans with Yogurt & Lemon (Definitely use peeled fava beans for this recipe)
* And under the Parsley heading, try Salsa Verde!
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2018:  Week 3
           
In this box: 1 Romaine Lettuce, 1 Cabbage, 2# Yellow Potatoes, 2# Romano green beans, 1 bunch Cilantro, 1# specialty zucchini, 1 Sweet Spring Onion, 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, 1 half-pint Pink Raspberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
 
Today’s box has a couple of unusual varieties—including pink raspberries and specialty zucchini.

Pink Raspberries
    Yup, they’re supposed to be pink! There’s a lot more variety in the fruit & vegetable world than most of us realize. These pink raspberries are closely related to the more familiar red raspberry. They are quite delicate (which may be why they are not commonly in found in grocery stores). Please treat them gently, and refrigerate until you are ready to eat them. I find them slightly less tart than red raspberries, but they can be used in all the same ways—if you can get them home before eating them all.

Specialty zucchini
    And, in the zucchini family, there is so much more than just green…. you don’t find the full range of colors & shapes at the grocery store, but in the kitchen you can use them all like green zucchini. Some boxes today received “white” zucchini (which is pale green, and smooth-skinned), and some have a ribbed variety, called “Romanesco”.  The “white” zucchini tend to bruise, so they are not popular in commercial stores where durability is considered a virtue.

Cabbage
       One of the endearing qualities of cabbage is that it keeps for a long time. It will keep for a couple weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, so you don’t need to be stressed about using it up this week. Cabbage is versatile in the kitchen, and can be made into a salad, or used in a stir-fry. Our recipe blog (denisonfarms.tumblr.com) has a number of my favorite cabbage recipes.
   
Cilantro
    We make a lot of fresh salsa in our house with just tomatoes, sweet onion, and cilantro, and you have all those ingredients in the box today! Tom likes to add a little salt, chili powder, and a squeeze of lime juice if you have some on hand.
Some of my other favorite uses for cilantro:
1. Chop it and use a handful as a garnish on top of soup or stir-fry.
2. Chop and toss into a pan of fried rice right before serving.
3. Substitute cilantro for basil in your basic pesto recipe. This is especially nice with pistachios instead of pine nuts. Add a couple slivers of fresh jalapeno or a sprinkle of cayenne if you like.

Storage tips:
       Potatoes should always be stored in the dark. Otherwise, they will develop a green tint under the skin, which is not good to eat. Today’s potatoes are thin-skinned, so they will lose moisture unless you keep them in a plastic bag or humid fridge “crisper” drawer. We store our potatoes in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag (to keep in moisture).
    Cilantro—I just heard the most wonderful storage tip for cilantro, which keeps best in a plastic bag as long as the leaves don’t touch the bag. Here’s how to make that work: wrap your bunch of cilantro loosely in a clean towel or paper towel, then put the towel-wrapped bundle in a plastic bag or plastic tub. Then store in the refrigerator. This technique keeps the cilantro from wilting without having the leaves in direct contact with the plastic bag.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2018:  Week 2

In this box:
1 Green Lettuce, 2 Cucumbers, 1 bunch Spinach, 2# Romano green beans, 1 bunch Basil, 1 head fresh Garlic, 1 fresh Red Onion, 1 pint Strawberries, 1 half-pint Raspberries (weights are approx.)  Everything is Organic!
 
Romano Green Beans
    It seems our green beans are early this year. Green beans don’t like cold weather, so we never expect them before July. We must have been fortunate with our timing this year, because we have plenty of beans this week!
    Romano beans are also known as Italian flat beans. We like to grow them, not only because we like novel and unusual vegetables (though that is true), but because we think their flavor is superior to “regular” green beans. They also are more tender than more common green beans. This means you need to be cautious not to overcook them.
    Preparation (for all recipes) first snip or snap off the stem at one end, and cut or snap the beans into bite-sized pieces.
    Cooking suggestions: The simplest way we like to cook Romano beans is to steam them for 3 – 5 minutes, then drain off the water, and (optional) melt a little butter on them. Steamed Romano beans are good served immediately, or chilled and eaten as leftovers. Lately I’ve been using cold cooked Romano beans to dip hummus, as a healthier option than corn chips.
    Check our Recipe Blog for two more recipes: Green Romano Beans with Red Onion & Mustard Seed Vinaigrette, and Pan Fried Green Beans with Pad Thai Sauce.


Yes, we have a Recipe Blog!
    Launched last year, our recipe blog contains many of my favorite recipes from our newsletters. All the recipes are original, or adapted from a cited source to suit the particular vegetables we grow. I occasionally search in the Internet for new recipe ideas, but I want to caution you about just taking Internet information as truth. I was looking at “fresh Romano bean” recipes today, and the first one that came up said to boil the beans for 35 – 40 minutes! That’s completely inappropriate for the fresh green beans in the box today. It’s always safer to first search the recipe blog on our web site (from our home page, click on “recipe blog”, or go directly to the blog here). As with all new things, we’re still tweaking it a bit, and we appreciate your feedback. If you have difficulty finding recipes, please let me know and I will either email you a recipe, or add it to the blog.

Basil is for so much more than just pesto! For my pesto recipe, and also additional ideas about how to use basil, go to the Recipe Blog. Here are a few of my current favorite non-pesto ideas: 1) use basil leaves on a sandwich (instead of lettuce), 2) add torn basil leaves to a lettuce salad, 3) use all the ingredients of pesto, but skip the food processor. Toss freshly-chopped basil with a bowl of hot, drained pasta. Add a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle a few pine nuts on top. Cheese is optional. Add salt to taste.

Produce storage tips for the week

Basil keeps best at room temperature. The fridge is too cold, and it makes the basil turn black. However, basil is prone to wilting if you just leave it on the counter. We have good luck treating it like cut flowers; trim the ends and place stems in a jar of water. Then cover the bunch loosely with a plastic bag. Don’t close off the bottom of the bag, or it will be too humid and may get moldy. Basil can keep up to a week this way.

Cucumbers don’t like to be too cold either, but they lose moisture and get soft if just left on the counter. If you still have the perforated bag from last week’s salad mix, that is the ideal bag for keeping cucumbers crisp. In a perforated bag, your cucumbers should stay crisp on the counter for several days.

Fresh garlic: The garlic is “fresh” this week. Most garlic that is available in a grocery store has been dried after harvest. The fresh garlic today is still moist. DO NOT leave in a plastic bag, or it will get moldy. Best to store it in the refrigerator, or leave it out in the open on your kitchen counter.

Fresh red onion can be stored in the fridge, or on the counter. The green top can be used like a green onion.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2018:  Week 1 (June 5/6)
           
Welcome, and thank you for choosing to be part of our farm!

In this box:
½ pound bag Salad Mix, 1 Red Leaf Lettuce, 2 Cucumbers, 1 head Broccoli, 3 ea. Zucchini, 2# New Potatoes (Red Gold), 1 bunch Italian Kale, 1 pint Strawberries, 1 pint Cherries  (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

      
Another Harvest Box season is underway, and we are excited to have lots of variety to fill this first box. Even cherries! Everything in the box was grown on our farm, and that will be the case many weeks. Occasionally, we collaborate with a few of our friends who have Organic farms to keep the box interesting and to increase the variety of produce from week to week. But we had plenty of our own fruits and vegetables this week!
       The cherries are a variety called Early Burlat, an heirloom French variety that is one of the earliest cherries to ripen. Tom planted a small orchard of 100 cherry trees in 1990 when he moved to this farm. We got married in the cherry orchard in 1996, when the trees were still very small. They are now mature trees with gnarly trunks, as tall as a house. Every year in late May, our crew covers the entire orchard with bird netting because the birds can eat an unbelievable amount of fruit. Covering the orchard is quite a production, with our entire crew easing a huge piece of bird netting over the trees with long poles, but it’s worth it. We have successfully thwarted the birds so far this year.
      
       If you’ve had our box before, you may recognize the Red Gold potatoes. If you are not familiar with them, read on. Red Gold is a cousin (in the Botanical sense) of Yukon Gold potatoes. That means they have an intermediate texture, somewhere between “waxy” (like a red potato) and “flaky” (like a russet). This intermediate texture makes them suitable for all sorts of cooking methods and recipes. You can steam them, boil them, or roast them. They work great in potato salad. I like to cut them into chunks, and steam or boil them until tender. Then serve with a little butter. They are also nice “smashed”: boiled then mashed into a somewhat chunky mashed potato. The only thing I don’t recommend is baking them whole, because they won’t have the flaky texture that you get from a russet.
       As I look at the box contents, and wonder how I might use things, I think I would combine the Italian Kale into a “greens & potato” dish. I would slice the kale into ribbons, and steam or sauté until tender (about 5 minutes). Cut the potatoes into bite-size chunks, and steam or boil until tender. Then mix the two together, and season with salt, pepper. Now that I think about it, I would probably sauté the kale in olive oil first, so that it will have extra flavor.

Salad Mix and berries are perishable. For best quality, refrigerate them as soon as you get home. Berries will keep best if they are not rinsed until just before you eat them. The salad mix is packed in a ventilated plastic bag, with little holes. Please transfer it into a non-ventilated bag, or better yet, a sealed plastic tub, to keep it from wilting. The important thing about salad mix is to keep it humid, but not sitting in water. Some people find it best to rinse right away, and spin it in a salad spinner. Then put a paper towel or tea towel in the bottom of a plastic tub (to absorb excess water, and keep the leaves from sitting in water), and store the salad greens on top of the towel.

Box logistics:
* You can take the tub home, or transfer everything into your own bags & coolers at the pick-up site and leave the tub there. If you take the tub home, please bring it back next week, empty and rinsed.
* If you forget your box, check your confirmation letter for late pick-up options. The details about late pick-up vary depending on which pick-up location you have.
* If you have any questions, problems, or concerns, please email me at denisonfarms@peak.org.
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