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    2017 Denison Farms Newsletters

June

week 1
week 2
week 3
week 4

July

week 5
week 6
week 7
week 8

August

week 9
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 2017:  Week 16

In this box: Note: I am off the farm this week, so the newsletter was written on Sunday….We may have made some last-minute changes to the box plan after this list was printed. This was our “hopeful” list as of Sunday afternoon. 1 head Lettuce, 1 bunch Spinach, 1 Cucumber, 2# Tomatoes, 1 Red Onion, 1# Romano beans, 6 jalapeno peppers, 1 bskt Strawberries, 1 bunch Interlaken Grapes (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

Small batch strawberry jam   
       I make a lot of small batches of fruit spreads. Technically, they aren’t “jam” because I don’t add sugar or pectin, but the effect is the same, and my kids have never complained. Here’s my basic recipe for a batch of strawberry fruit spread from 1 basket of berries: Remove the hulls from 1 pint of strawberries, and cut berries in half or quarters. Place berries in a saucepan with ¼ cup of water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Then crush everything well with a potato masher. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and taste. Add sweetener if you want (though it may not be necessary). Then dissolve 2 Tbs. cornstarch in ½ cup of cold water. Add HALF of the cornstarch mixture to the hot crushed berries, while the pot is still on the stove. Stir until the cloudiness disappears, and decide if it is thick enough for spreading on pancakes or toast. It will thicken some more as it cools. Add more of the cornstarch & water if it seems too thin. Then cool, and store in the refrigerator. Use within a week.

Jalapenos: WARNING: The juice of hot peppers is very irritating to eyes & tender skin. Be careful what you touch after handling them, or wear rubber gloves.
       I’m not a huge fan of hot peppers, so a little jalapeno goes a long way in my kitchen. But I love to have roasted jalapenos in the freezer to use a little bit at a time throughout the year. You can roast jalapenos just like any other pepper (see last week’s newsletter) or (because jalapenos are small, and uniformly-shaped), you can cut them in half first, remove the skins, then char under your broiler in the oven. I suggest donning rubber gloves first before handling jalapenos, to keep the irritating juice off your skin. Then cut jalapenos in half, take out the seeds with a knife or spoon, and place pepper halves skin-side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Char them under the broiler. When cool, put on gloves again, remove skins, and seal in a freezer container, label them. Store in the freezer.

Here’s a great appetizer idea to use this week’s batch of jalapenos:
Jalapeno Poppers
1. Vegetarian version: Slice Jalapenos in half the long way. Wearing gloves, remove the seeds with a spoon, so what remains looks like a little boat.  Fill with a mixture of refried beans and cream cheese (approx. equal proportions).  Top with a slice of sharp cheddar and place in a 350-degree oven for 20 – 30 minutes. If the cheese is not yet bubbly, turn on the broiler until the cheese browns and melts a bit.  Serve warm for an exciting snack or appetizer.
2. Definitely Not Vegetarian: Follow recipe as above, filling jalapeno halves with refried beans or mashed potatoes. Wrap half a slice of bacon over the top of the filled peppers, and secure with a toothpick. Place on a wire rack above a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until the bacon is crispy, 30 – 40 minutes.
3. Savory & Sweet version: Slice jalapenos in half & scoop out the seeds as above. Then drizzle half a spoonful of maple syrup in each pepper half, fill with cream cheese (or Neufchatel cheese for a lower-fat version). Cut a strip of bacon in half, wrap around each piece of filled pepper, and secure with a toothpick. Place on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet to allow bacon to crisp on all sides. Bake at 375 degrees until bacon is crisp on all sides (30 – 40 minutes depending on the thickness of your bacon and size of the peppers).

Green Beans with Red Onion and Mustard Seed Vinaigrette—this is an all-time favorite recipe of mine for the Romano beans. The recipe can be found in this year’s newsletters, week 7, or on our recipe blog (find it from our home page at www.denisonfarms.com, then choose “Romano Beans”)
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017:  Week 15

In this box: ½# Spinach, 1 Cucumber, 1 bunch Basil, 1 ½# Sweet Girl Tomatoes, 1 bunch Chard, 1 bskt Strawberries, 6 Poblano peppers, 1 bunch Canadice Grapes, 2# Gala Apples (from Gala Springs Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

On the farm this week
       Spinach and chard are back! You may have noticed a lack of lettuce, spinach, and other “greens” this past month. That’s one of the aspects of eating what’s in season that may not be immediately obvious, and we know some of you have been missing the greens. Turns out that greens are difficult to grow in the heat of summer….. spinach seeds won’t germinate, kale gets tough and bitter, and lettuces are hard to keep from bolting in the heat. As the season turns toward fall, you should see more of the greens that are happier now that the weather is cooler.

Apples from Gala Springs Orchard
    Tom has become friends with Martin & Denise at Gala Springs Orchard because both our farms are vendors at the Beaverton Farmers Market. Tom goes to that market every Saturday from May through November. Martin & Denise grow many different varieties of apples and pears at their orchard in Boardman. For a number of years, we have collaborated with them to bring you apples and pears because we don’t have enough of those crops on our farm to serve all our members. Gala apples are one of the earliest apples to ripen. They are sweet, and make a great fresh eating apple (or fruit salad). They aren’t a great storage apple, however, so I suggest keeping them in the refrigerator, and planning to eat them up within the next few weeks. Through the rest of the season, you will see a number of other varieties of apples, and also some pears from Martin & Denise at Gala Springs.

Poblano Peppers
    Poblanos are relatively mild, as chile peppers go, but they generally have some level of heat. In my kitchen, I like to roast poblanos, then make salsa in the food processor with tomatoes, onion, garlic, and cilantro. Another favorite dish in our house is to add roasted poblanos to refried beans. One of our Harvest Box members (thanks Melinda!) suggested making rajas. I found many mouthwatering ideas online, but haven’t had time to try any of them yet. I suggest checking the Internet if you need some recipe ideas.

Roasting peppers: Roasting enhances the flavor, and also makes it easy to remove the skin. After roasting, and removing skin & seeds, you can freeze peppers for recipes throughout the winter. If you’re short on time, peppers can be frozen without blanching or roasting. For freezing, I remove the seeds first, then freeze in zip-top bags.
       Roasting can be done on the grill, or under the broiler. The basic concept is to char the skin, as evenly and thoroughly as possible (given the peppers’ irregular shapes). While the skin is charring, the flesh of the pepper softens and the flavor takes on some delicious qualities not present in raw peppers.
On the grill: Preheat grill, all burners, on high. Place peppers directly on the grill, turning approx. every 2 minutes to char all sides. After turning 3 or 4 times (6 – 8 minutes total time), either turn off the grill, close the lid, and let peppers rest for 10 minutes, or remove peppers with tongs and place in a paper bag. Close the bag to let the peppers steam a bit in residual heat. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, and remove seeds.
Under the broiler (electric ovens): Rinse peppers and place on a baking sheet with edges to catch the juices. Broil peppers until the skin bubbles up and starts to char, turning to char all sides. Keep your eye on the peppers while broiling to catch them when slightly browned on each side. If the peppers are really odd-shaped, don’t worry about evenly charring all surfaces, as long as the pepper is well-cooked overall. You can tell they’re done when they are softened, and “slump” on the pan. Turn off the oven and close the door, and let them rest for 10 minutes, or remove from oven and place in paper bag as above. When cool enough to handle, peel and remove the seeds.
Over the broiler (in a gas oven): I don’t have personal experience with gas ovens. However, my sources recommend following the directions above for “under the broiler”, with the addition of a layer of foil under the broiler to keep any dripping juices from burning on the floor of your oven.

Missing items? We have heard from some of you that occasionally the items in your box don’t match the “list” in the newsletter. We apologize for any errors. If you notice something missing from your box, please let me know. We will try to find a way to replace the missing item, by having you pick it up at the Farmers Market, or by sending it to you the following week. We did ask our packing crew to be extra attentive this week. We hope that helps!
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017:  Week 14
                Thank you for choosing to be part of our farm!

In this box: ½# Salad Mix, 1 Cucumber, 6 ears Corn, 1 bunch Celery, 1 Onion, 1# Zucchini, 1 box Red Grape Tomatoes, 1 bunch Canadice Grapes, 2# Gala Apples (from Gala Springs Orchard)  (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

On the farm this week—it’s Late Summer
       This morning, I saw my first geese of the season fly over the farm. Soon there will be hundreds of geese in the wetland below our farm, arriving from the north to spend the winter in the Willamette Valley. This morning there were less than 20. Two small chevrons honking as they passed overhead.
    Yesterday I watched a scrub jay try to bury a hazelnut in the dry ground behind my office window.
    The animals sense the seasons changing, and even though it’s still dry and HOT, we know that fall is coming. I grew up in a culture that recognizes 4 season—spring, summer, fall, and winter. However, there are some cultures whose calendars recognize 5 seasons, including an official “Late Summer” season between summer and fall. I imagine we’re in that season now. Many of you are sending kids to school this week, but that’s rather an arbitrary choice of date. Here are some other signs of “late summer” on the farm: It’s time to harvest the fruits and vegetables that take a long time to mature. Apple & pear harvest is beginning. Grapes hang heavy on the vines. We’re starting to harvest winter squash & sweet potatoes. They need to cure for a few weeks before we’ll put them in your box. Before the fall rains start, the rest of our potatoes will be dug and put into dry storage for the winter. On other farms in the Willamette Valley, nuts and grains are just about ready to harvest. Many of these “late summer” fruits and vegetables last a long time in storage. Which brings me to the next topic—Storage produce.

Storage Produce—time to order peppers for your freezer!
    Many of you have received vacation credits for missed boxes. Some of you have used your credits at the farmers market, but if you haven’t been able to get to the Farmers Market, you can now place orders for storage produce to be delivered with your Harvest Box. Starting next week, you can order a 10-pound box of “seconds” peppers for roasting or freezing. If you don’t have any vacation credits to use, you can still order a box of peppers, for $20.
    To order: send me an email (denisonfarms@peak.org) and let me know what date you want them. Our phone has been somewhat unreliable, so email is really the best way to communicate.
    Soon, we’ll have winter squash, sweet potatoes, storage onions, potatoes, and other items available. Watch the newsletter for updates, or send me an email if there’s something in particular you need.

Grapes
    You may have noticed that the grapes in your box last week and this week are not like the grapes you usually find in the grocery store. They are smaller and more intensely flavored than the common red flame or Thompson seedless grapes. Virtually all of the grapes in the stores are grown in California, Mexico, or Chile, and almost all of them are some variety of Vitus vinifera which is native to Western Asia, and the Middle East.  Many fantastic grapes belong to the species V. vinifera, like Thompson seedless, and Pinot Noir, but this species is susceptible to many diseases in our climate, so they are usually sprayed regularly with fungicides.  Vitus labrusca is the primary grape species native to North America.  The most famous example of which is the concord grape, which resists disease, and is popular for juice and jelly, but has some limitations as a table grape because of its seeds and texture. The grapes in your box this week and last are Canadice which is a cross between the vinifera, and labrusca.  Bred in Geneva NY, it is disease resistant enough for us to grow without spraying, and it’s also seedless, and has a nice texture and flavor for a table grape.  Most of the other grapes we grow like Interlaken, Thomcord, and Jupiter are also disease resistant crosses of the two species.  Most of our grapes are also smaller than typical store grapes because we do not treat them with gibberellic acid (a plant hormone) to make them larger.  Almost all commercially produced grapes and cherries in the stores have been treated with gibberellic acid creating larger, crisper fruit.  We think smaller grapes taste better, and we don’t use hormones to “pump them up.”

?Fun fact?
     The Consumers Expenditures Report states that the “average” US consumer unit (a 2.5 person household) spent $1124/year on cell phone service, and $542/year on fresh produce in 2016.
     I’m not sure if that’s remarkable, or just sad. Sure makes us appreciate you, our members, for your commitment to healthy eating!
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017:  Week 13 (the last week of August)
Thank you for choosing to be part of our farm!

In this box: 1 Cucumber, 1 bunch Carrots, 1 bunch Salad Turnips, 6 ears Corn, Nardelo or Poblano Peppers, 2# Jaqueline Lee Potatoes, 1 bunch Canadice Grapes, 1 Cantaloupe (from Groundwork Organics), ¼# Fresh Ginger! (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

Nardelo or Poblano Peppers
   We had hoped to have enough Jimmy Nardelo peppers for everyone this week, but the pepper plants didn’t cooperate with that plan. So our Salem & Albany members will get Nardelo Peppers this week, and Corvallis boxes will have Poblano peppers. We’re hoping to give the opposite next week.
   Nardelo peppers are an heirloom variety of sweet Italian peppers. Supposedly, the seeds of this pepper were brought to the US when Giuseppe Nardelo (Jimmy’s father) emigrated from Italy 130 years ago. They are a classic Italian frying pepper, and are wonderful in a saute.
   Poblano peppers are generally mild, but sometimes hot. When they are dried, they are called Ancho chiles. Poblanos can be used like any “green” peppers, as long as you are aware that they might be spicy. If you prefer your peppers on the mild side, it’s good to know that most of the heat is in the seeds and the membranes that attach the seeds to the flesh. Poblanos are delicious when roasted (on the grill or in the oven), and then added to a salsa or stirred into refried beans. After roasting, the skin is generally removed.

Fresh Young Ginger!
   Ginger is a tropical plant, and it’s not commonly grown in our temperate climate. However, Tom is always looking for things that not everyone grows, so we thought we would give it a try. Fresh young ginger is different from most of the ginger you see in the grocery stores (which is more “mature”). The young ginger has less of the stringy bits than mature ginger. As we let the plants mature into autumn, the roots will develop the same fibers. Young ginger is used to make candied ginger, and the pickled ginger that is served with sushi. It is also great chopped or grated and used for ginger tea (I’ll have some at the farm party!), or minced and used in a stir-fry as you would use mature ginger—it just lacks the stringy bits, so you can eat the minced pieces. Here’s a quick recipe for fresh ginger. There are a number of other recipes on our Recipe Blog (on our web site).
    Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce   
    ½ cup soy sauce
    ¼ cup rice vinegar or rice wine
    1 tsp. sesame oil (use red pepper sesame oil for a hot pepper kick)
    2 Tbs. finely minced fresh ginger
    1 Tbs. chopped green onion (optional)
Add all ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well. Serve as a dipping sauce for tempura, dumplings, spring rolls, or pot stickers. Or pour over sautéed turnips, adding a little cornstarch if you want a thicker sauce.

Carrots & Turnips
   Here’s a fun fact I recently heard about carrots—they taste sweeter if you grate them! Grating breaks cell walls, and releases sugars from the cells. I have been enjoying grated carrots on my salads, rolled with rice & cucumber in a sheet of nori for sushi, and mixed into hummus.
   Turnips and other members of the broccoli/cabbage family, on the other hand, taste sweetest uncut, or immediately after being cut. Plants in this family contain compounds in their cells that turn bitter on exposure to air.

Farm Party, Sunday September 3rd, from 3-6 pm
   This Sunday is your opportunity to “meet your farmer” as Tom leads our annual farm tour at 3pm, Sept 3.
The farm tour starts at 3 pm, with a potluck dinner to follow around 5 pm.
Please bring comfortable walking shoes and perhaps a shade hat for the tour, and bring your own lawn chairs or a blanket to sit on if you plan to stay for dinner.
   I will have plenty of (gluten-free, vegan-friendly) food, so don’t stress about a potluck dish if you run out of time. The “potluck” format just avoids the necessity of RSVP.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017:  Week 12 (August 22 & 23)
               
In this box: 1 cucumber, 1 Celery, 1 bunch Carrots, 1 bunch Salad Turnips, 1 Onion, 1# Italian Peppers, 1 bu Italian Parsley, 2# Yellow Potatoes, 1# Summer Squash (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

Sweet Italian Peppers
       Sweet Italian peppers are good raw or cooked (any way you would cook bell peppers), however Italian peppers are slightly less juicy than bell peppers. This makes them an excellent choice for cooking—as there is less juice to dilute the flavor of your stir-fry. Although some Italian peppers may look like hot peppers, they are sweet—and get even sweeter when they are sautéed!
       Tom first saw sweet Italian peppers in the late 1970’s when he was a student at Cornell University in upstate New York. He worked for a farmer while going to college, and sold vegetables at the farmers markets in Syracuse and Ithaca, NY.  
       There are many Americans of Italian heritage in Upstate New York, and every time Tom went to a farm sale or auction there would be someone slicing these peppers into rings, sautéing them in olive oil with onions or garlic and serving them on good crusty Italian bread with cheese or sausage. We eat plenty of Italian peppers raw, and they are one of our favorites for dipping hummus, but Tom still likes them best sautéed ‘til they are almost scorched.
 
Salad Turnips may be new to some of you. They aren’t terribly common, and are rarely available at grocery stores. They are a completely different vegetable from the “storage” turnips that are often large and strongly-flavored. Salad turnips are best uncooked, as their name implies. They are sweet and juicy, with a slight hint of stronger flavor in the skin. If you want only the sweetest bit, peel the thin skin off with a sharp knife. Salad turnips can also be cooked. They cook quickly. If you are going to cook them, they don’t need to be peeled. In addition, the turnip greens are edible. The greens on today’s turnips may be full of little holes, compliments of the ubiquitous “flea beetle”, but the beetles are long gone, leaving only the shotgun-looking holes in the leaves. One of my favorite ways to cook salad turnips is to trim the leaves off, then cut the roots into slices or chunks. Saute the roots in olive oil for about 4 minutes, then add the chopped greens to the saute pan. Continue to stir-fry until the greens are wilted (add a little water if things start to stick), then season with a splash of soy sauce and/or vinegar before serving.

Kim’s Excellent Parsley Salad (I didn’t make up the name… it’s in the cookbook from Asparagus to Zucchini)
Ingredients: fresh parsley, thinly sliced onion, chopped hard boiled eggs, cooked chickpeas or other beans, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt & pepper.
Instructions: Clean and cut up lots of parsley, as much as you would clean for lettuce in a salad. Combine with sliced onions, eggs, chickpeas or beans. Shake oil and lemon juice together (2 parts oil to 1 part lemon juice). Toss salad with dressing, salt, and lots of pepper. Makes any number of servings.

Farm Party, Sunday September 3rd , from 3-6 pm
       Now that the excitement of the Eclipse is over, it’s time to move on to the next Big Event on the farm….
Our annual Farm Party will be Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Sept 3rd from 3 – 6pm.
Tom will lead the  farm tour starting at 3 pm, with a potluck dinner to follow around 5pm.
The farm tour is different every year, but usually involves sampling whatever fruits are ripe, and you get to ask as many questions as you like! It’s your opportunity to “meet the farmer”.
This is a family-friendly event. There will be snacks and cool beverages in the shade so you can take a break when you (or your children) have had enough “touring”.
Please bring comfortable walking shoes and perhaps a shade hat for the tour, and bring your own lawn chairs or a blanket to sit on if you plan to stay for dinner.
I will have plenty of (gluten-free, vegan-friendly) food, so don’t stress about a potluck dish if you run out of time. The “potluck” format just avoids the necessity of RSVP :).
Plan to spend Sunday afternoon, Sept 3, at the farm. Farm tour at 3, potluck to follow. We hope you can come!


Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017: Week 11 (August 15)

In this box:
2 cucumbers, 1 bunch radish, 6 ears corn, 1 bunch basil, 1 garlic, 1# Romano beans, Several Zucchini, 2 eggplants (from Groundwork Organics), 5 or 6 mini bell peppers (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!


Solar Eclipse: Aug 21
We plan to follow our regular schedule next week, delivering boxes as scheduled Tuesday, August 22nd (Tuesday boxes). We plan to be “on time”, but please bear with us if the roads are really as plugged up as some are predicting.

Eggplant
    We are growing only one short row of eggplant this year, and we haven’t been able to harvest sufficient quantity for all our Harvest Boxes, so we asked our friends Gabe & Sophie if they could supply eggplant for you. They have plenty, so this week’s box has 2 eggplants! That should be enough for a recipe of baba ganouj, or ratatouille, or whatever family favorite recipe you have for eggplant.
    Here are a couple of ideas from my recipe box:
Classic Caponata (from epicurious.com)
1 large or 2 small eggplant, diced in ½ inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped,
14-oz can diced tomatoes (editorial note: or use fresh tomatoes!)
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. drained capers
1/3 cup chopped basil
Toasted pine nuts
Preparation: Heat oil in heavy, large pot over medium heat. Add eggplants, onion, and garlic cloves. Saute until eggplant is soft and brown, about 15 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and their juices, red wine vinegar, and drained capers. Cover and simmer until eggplant and onion are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Season caponata to taste with salt & pepper. Mix in fresh basil. Transfer caponata to serving bowl. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. Serve warm, or room temperature, or cold.

       Ratatouille is an incredibly variable “recipe” that nearly always includes eggplant. The exact ingredients vary tremendously from recipe to recipe, and it can be cooked on the stovetop, or in the oven. Here’s Tom’s favorite version of ratatouille casserole. The quantities of ingredients are flexible. Just use what you have. Start with a deep casserole dish or dutch oven with a lid. Pour a bit of olive oil in the bottom of the pan (about 1 Tbs). Add layers of sliced vegetables, starting with sliced eggplant, then sliced onions, then summer squash, then sliced bell peppers. Sprinkle with a handful of chopped basil, then add sliced tomatoes. Saute some cloves of garlic in olive oil, and drizzle the garlic oil over the top of everything. You can add a layer of mozzerella cheese on top, if you want. Cover with a lid, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 15 - 30 minutes until everything is tender and some of the moisture has evaporated. (Cooking time could be less if you have a shallow casserole. I made mine in a deep dutch oven). Serve with thick slices of crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Sweet Corn
Earworm alert: Since we don’t use any pesticides on our farm, there may be some earworms in the corn. The Willamette Valley is home to a moth that likes to lay its eggs in the silk at the top of young ears of corn. After hatching, the larva slowly eats it’s way down from the tip. We try not to pick ears that are hosting these larvae, but a few may have escaped our notice. Fortunately, the larva start at the top of the ear, and take a long time to eat very far. I suggest peeking at the top of the ear, and if there’s anything there you don’t want to eat, slice off the tip. The rest of the ear should be untouched.
       Do you ever have trouble getting your sweet corn cooked perfectly? Here’s a suggestion I found recently: Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Drop 6 husked ears into the boiling water, and immediately turn off the heat. Wait 10 minutes, then serve.
       We also like to cook corn on the grill: Check each ear for any earworms at the tip. If present, cut off the tips. Then place unhusked corn directly on the grill, over medium heat, for 25 minutes, turning the ears over halfway through.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017:  Week 10 (August 8)
           
In this box: 1 Romaine lettuce, 2 Cucumbers, 5 “snack” peppers, 1# Romano Beans, 1 bunch Radish, 1 bskt Grape Tomatoes, 1 sweet Red Onion, 1 bskt Blackberries, 1 bskt. Strawberries—remember to put berries into the fridge ASAP (weights are approx.)  Everything is Organic!
 

Solar Eclipse on Aug 21
      We plan to follow our regular schedule the week of the Solar Eclipse, delivering boxes as usual on Tuesday, August 22nd (Tuesday boxes) & 23rd (Weds boxes). However, there’s quite a bit of excitement in Corvallis around the eclipse, and some people are predicting complete traffic gridlock in Benton, Linn, and Polk counties for days before and after August 21st. If our crew can’t get to work, or if our trucks can’t get to your pick-up site, we will notify you of any changes by email (unless there’s no electricity….). We are hoping things go smoothly that week, but we’re also stockpiling extra drinking water, just in case.
      
Radishes
    Though I grew up thinking of radishes as a raw vegetable to put in a salad or to slice for dipping in hummus or ranch dressing, I now prefer my radishes cooked. When cooked, radishes become a completely different vegetable…. They lose their spicy hotness, but maintain a firm texture. Radish roots (sliced or quartered) are great in a stir-fry.

Snack Peppers
    Fashions come and go, in fruits & vegetables as well as other consumer goods (clothing, cars, etc.). This week’s “snack peppers” are a good example. Perhaps I’m dating myself, but I remember when green bells were the only pepper that you could find in the grocery stores. Then in the 1980’s red bell peppers started to become more common, followed by other colors of ripe bell peppers. In order to keep up with consumer desires for “the next best thing”, plant breeders continually develop new varieties—some of which catch on and become very popular. Recently, pepper breeders have brought “snack” peppers into the market. These small, sweet peppers lie somewhere on the spectrum between bell peppers (large, juicy, sweet), and Italian peppers (longer, less juicy, but still sweet). Snack peppers are part of the growing trend in the grocery world for ready-to-eat, grab-and-go foods to satisfy the current trend away from food preparation and family meals. We prefer to support the value of cooking and sharing meals at home, but we don’t mind using some of the newer varieties that have been developed with convenience in mind—if they meet our standards for excellent flavor.
    This year, we are growing a number of varieties of these “snack peppers”. Good for stuffing with goat cheese, adding to a salad, taking on a picnic, or just munching out of hand as you rush out the door. We hope you enjoy them!

Strawberries
    It’s time to resurrect my favorite dipping sauce for strawberries. This dip recipe originally came from Jan Roberts-Dominguez’s column in the Corvallis Gazette Times at least 10 years ago, but bears repeating because it’s delicious! Combine 1 cup sour cream with ¼ cup packed brown sugar. Mix well and let stand for 10 minutes. Dip individual berries, and enjoy! This would probably be good with blackberries as well, though I haven’t tried it (yet).

Farm Party  Sunday, Sept. 3, from 3 – 6 pm

    I hope you’ve marked your calendar with our Farm Party on Sunday afternoon, September 3rd.
We start the afternoon at 3pm with a farm tour (bring sunhats and walking shoes), followed by a potluck meal in our shaded front yard.
     We will provide strawberry lemonade, and a couple of gluten-free vegetarian dishes featuring farm produce.
You are invited to come at any time between 3 & 6, but come on time if you want to get the full farm tour!
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017:  Week 9 (August 1)

In this box: 1 cucumber, 1 bunch green Shallots, 1.5# Summer squash, 2# Red Potatoes, 4 yellow bell peppers, 1 ½# Roma Tomatoes, 1 bskt Blackberries, 1 bskt. Strawberries—remember to put berries into the fridge ASAP  (weights are approx.)  Everything is Organic!

Keep your cool
 
      When we look back on this summer, we may remember this week as the Week of the Heat Wave. Forecasts are frankly frightening, and we’re doing the best we can to keep our crew safe and your produce in good condition. We were able to pick everything as planned for this week’s box because the heat wave isn’t expected to be dangerous until this afternoon or tomorrow, but the rest of this week could be very interesting. We’ve encouraged our crew to find work in the shade, or to go home when it gets too hot. There may be some crops that just don’t get harvested this week because it may be too hot to work. We’re grateful that we sprayed mud on our hoop houses a month ago during the last hot spell. The mud creates shade, so it’s cooler inside the hoop houses than without the mud. But it still gets pretty darned hot! So we harvest in the early morning, and our irrigation team is keeping busy around the clock!
       We expect most crops to survive, but sometimes extreme temperatures can cause stress (to plants as well as people), and this could give us some challenges in a few weeks. When plants are stressed (from too much heat, or poor nutrition, or too little water), they are more susceptible to diseases and insect pests. The same could perhaps be said for people. You are probably healthier than most, by choosing a weekly local, organic produce box, and by bucking the trend and actually preparing meals at home. Home-cooked meals are becoming more and more rare in our culture, as fast food and prepared meals from the grocery store become common. We are grateful for your healthy choices!

      
Shallots—the gourmet cousin of the onion family
    Shallots are very closely related to onions. They can be used interchangeably in most any recipe, as long as you recognize that shallots tend to be more pungent when raw. The “hot” quality of onions (& shallots & raw garlic) comes from specific sulphur-containing molecules in the cells of plants in the onion family. When you cut an onion or shallot, this sulphur-containing molecule is released from the cut cells, and turns into sulfuric acid when it comes in contact with the water in your eyes. “Sweet onions” and leeks have lower levels of these pungent molecules, so they don’t tend to make your eyes water. However, “cooking onions”, shallots, and garlic have higher levels. This pungent eye-watering quality of raw onions & shallots is mellowed by cooking. Once you remove the hot, eye-stinging quality, you may be surprised at the sweetness. Shallots in particular are very sweet when cooked, and the longer you cook them, the sweeter they become!
   
Ripe Peppers
    All ripe peppers start out life as green peppers. Here, “green” refers to not only the color, but also to their immaturity. If left on the plant long enough, green peppers will mature into “ripe” peppers, which can be red, orange, yellow. Ripe peppers have many times more vitamin C and A than green peppers. You may have noticed that ripe peppers are quite a bit more expensive than green peppers. This is because it takes so much longer to grow peppers to maturity than to pick them green.

Recipes for the week   
    Given the heat this week, maybe it’s a good time to fire up the barbecue! Grilled zucchini, shallots, and peppers would make a nice combination. With a little potato salad on the side….. I’d call that dinner!

Please return tubs!
About this time every year, I put a little reminder in the newsletter to please return all your empty tubs. We have a dwindling supply on the farm, and we need to keep all tubs in circulation. Thanks!

Farm Party will be Sunday, Sept. 3
You are invited for a farm tour, followed by a potluck dinner from 3 – 6 pm. I will send more details as the date draws nearer.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017:  Week 8 (July 25)

In this box: 1 Lettuce, 1 bu basil, 1 head garlic, 1 cucumber, 1 bunch Carrots or Beets, 2# Yellow potatoes, 1 sweet spring onion, 1 box grape tomatoes, 1 bskt Beauty plums, 1 bskt. Strawberries—remember to put berries into the fridge ASAP
 (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

 
On the farm this week
       Sweet onions and cucumbers are back! We had a few weeks with a shortage of sweet onions on the farm, but things grow quickly this time of year, and our spring-planted sweet onions have sized-up. Our corn is in the tassel stage, so that means there will be sweet corn in a few weeks. And our Beauty plums are ripe!
    We have a small plum orchard (about 25 trees), that Tom planted about 25 years ago, shortly after he bought our farm. He planted a few trees each of a number of different varieties. We never know which ones will bear fruit in any year, because plums bloom so early in the spring that the flowers are sometimes killed by frost, or (like this year), March weather is so cold and rainy that we don’t get good pollination because honeybees don’t like to fly in the rain.
    This year, our Beauty plum trees are producing a good crop. Beauty plums get so juicy that it’s impossible to transport them when fully ripe. We pick them when still firm so they don’t burst on the way to your kitchen. They will continue to ripen and become sweeter if you leave them on your kitchen counter for a few days.
    If you wait until these Beauty plums are soft, and you like to eat them “out of hand”, use caution. Beautys are SO juicy, they have been known to make a mess of a nice shirt.
    Like many fruits, plums have both sweet and tart flavors. The balance between sweet and tart shifts as the fruits ripen—becoming less tart as they get riper. Cooking also brings out the sweetness, and mellows the tartness. There are lots of recipes for cooking plums on the internet (in jam, tarts, savory curries, and more), so search there if you don’t eat them all first!

Grape tomatoes
       Unlike Beauty plums, grape tomatoes make great lunchbox or picnic fare. Grape tomatoes have excellent shelf life, and can be fully ripe and sweet without becoming mushy. This quality of firmness also makes them easy to slice for pasta salads. Here are a couple of my favorite recipes using the bounty from today’s box:
Pasta with Herbed Goat Cheese and Cherry Tomatoes (from Cooking Light magazine, July 2002)
12 oz. uncooked angel hair pasta               
6 Tbs. (3 oz.) garlic & herb-flavored goat cheese (at room temp)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil                   
¼ tsp salt                           
¼ tsp black pepper
1 Tbs olive oil
1½ tsp. minced garlic
1 basket grape tomatoes, halved
2/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
    Cook pasta according to the package directions. While pasta cooks, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth and cook 1 minute.
       Drain pasta & return to pot. Add goat cheese, basil, salt, and pepper to pasta. Stir until well blended. Add tomato mixture to pasta/cheese/basil pot. Toss gently to combine. Serves 4.


And my favorite “10 minute/1 pot meal”, Summer Pasta Salad with Basil: Cook 1 pound pasta in boiling, salted water. While pasta cooks, slice 1 bunch of fresh basil into thin ribbons, and cut 1 pint of grape tomatoes in half. Drain pasta and return to pot. Gently stir in ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, chopped basil, and halved grape tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Membership payment due
   If you paid the first half of your membership fee at the beginning of the season, your second payment ($295) is due August 1st. Please mail your check to the farm.
   Many of you have already sent in your second payment. Thank you. Your timely payment saves us postage. Reminder notices will be mailed after August 1st to those who have not yet paid.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017:  Week 7 (July 18)


In this box:
1 Lettuce, 1 bunch Carrots, 2# All Blue potatoes, Zucchini/pattypan squash, 1# Romano Beans, 1 red onion, 1 bunch Italian Kale, 1½# Sweet Girl tomatoes, 1 bskt. Strawberries—remember to put berries into the fridge ASAP

 (weights are approx.)Everything is Organic!

Membership payments due Aug 1st.
If you paid the first half of your membership fee when you signed up, your second payment is due August 1st.
Thanks!
 
Farm Party Sunday, September 3, from 3 – 6 pm
All Harvest Box members are invited for a farm tour, followed by a potluck dinner. I will send more details as the date draws nearer. We hope you can come!
 
On the farm this week
       Strawberries are back!! It’s been a strange weather year (aren’t they all?). We do grow a lot of strawberries, but this is the first week we’ve been able to offer them to our Harvest Box members. We had a heavy harvest of strawberries in May, then the plants needed a rest for the month of June. Now they’re back, and it’s Strawberry season again!
    Our Romano beans have been going strong for several weeks now. However, we are nearing the end of our Romano bean season, so we’re offering them to you one more time this week. These might be the last Romano beans for a while.
    And we had a few weeks with nary an onion to be had. Fortunately, things grow quickly this time of year, so we can offer a red onion this week. Just in time, because one of my favorite recipes for Romano beans needs a red onion. Try this recipe if you need an idea for using this week’s Romano beans:

   
Romano Beans and Red Onion with Mustard Seed Vinaigrette
       (slightly modified from Gourmet, August 2001)
Ingredients:
4 Tbs. olive oil, divided
2 Tbs. mustard seeds (any color)
½ large red onion, thinly sliced
1 pound green Romano beans, trimmed and snapped into bite-sized pieces.
1/3 cup red-wine vinegar (you can use any other mild-flavored vinegar if you don’t
have red wine vinegar on hand. I don’t recommend Balsamic vinegar—it’s a little too strongly-flavored)
Instructions:
1. Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Cook 2 Tbs. mustard seeds, stirring, until they pop and are 1 shade darker, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Add 3 Tbs. olive oil to hot skillet, then sauté ½  sweet onion, until golden brown (8-10 minutes). Remove from heat, and combine onions with mustard seeds in large bowl. Add 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar to bowl with onions and mustard seeds.
3. Have ready a large bowl of ice and cold water. Cook 1 lb. Romano beans in a pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender (about 5 minutes). Drain and plunge into ice water, then drain well.
4. Toss beans with onion & mustard seed vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill 12-24 hours. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 8.

Purple Potatoes received a lot of attention a few weeks ago. All I want to add here is to tell you I’ve been baking these purple potatoes recently, and find they are a wonderful snack. My son has been taking them (already baked) on hiking trips as a nutritious snack.

Sweet Girl Tomatoes are great for salads, or for any dish that requires sliced or diced tomatoes. They have firm texture, which makes them easy to slice. Remember to store tomatoes on your kitchen counter. Refrigerator temperatures will cause them to taste bland.

Italian Kale goes by many names …. Lacinata Kale (referring to the botanical name), Black Kale (refers to the dark green color of the leaves), and Dinosaur Kale (Perhaps referring to the texture of the leaves and some theory about the texture of dinosaur skin??). Whatever the name, this variety of kale has become very popular in recent years. Many recipes specifically call for Italian Kale (or any of its other names). In my experience, ALL varieties of kale are interchangeable in recipes, but Italian Kale is easier to work with because it’s less likely to jump off your cutting board when you chop it. In fact, it’s easy to make neat ribbons by rolling the leaves, and slice finely on the diagonal. This is called chiffonade. There are some interesting youtube videos of making chiffonade, if you have the time…..
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017:  Week 6 (July 11)
In this box: 1 bunch Basil, 1 bunch Parsley, 1 bskt Cherry Tomatoes, Several summer squash, 1 head Garlic, 1 bu Radishes, 1# Romano Beans, 1 bskt. Black Currants, 1 bskt. Raspberries—remember to put berries into the fridge ASAP  (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

BASIL
    Check our recipe blog (get there from our home page at www.denisonfarms.com) for lots of recipes for basil—including Basic Pesto; Sautéed Zucchini, Basil, Cherry tomatoes, and Olives; and Pasta Salad with Basil.

Italian Parsley
    Need ideas for using your bunch of Italian Parsley? Parsley is an important ingredient in any number of dishes from the Mediterranean region that begin by softening  aromatics (garlic, parsley, carrots, and/or onions) in olive oil before adding tomatoes and other ingredients to the pot. Parsley also features in many versions of Tabbouleh, which is traditionally made with bulghur wheat. I avoid wheat, so I frequently substitute cooked brown rice or Quinoa for the bulghur. I think Tabbouleh is a very flexible dish, so don’t worry if you don’t have cucumbers and sweet onion this week. You can omit the mint if you don’t have a handy mint patch out your back door, and substitute Romano beans if you don’t have cucumbers. One of my current favorites is to use cooked garbanzo beans instead of the quinoa for a satisfying meal.
Quinoa Tabbouleh
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
½ tsp. salt
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup olive oil
2 small cucumbers, cut into ¼ inch dice (or use steamed Romano beans instead!)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2/3 cup parsley
½ cup fresh mint
2 Tbs. finely chopped sweet onion
    Bring quinoa, ½ tsp. salt, and 1 ¼ cup water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until quinoa is tender—about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
       Meanwhile, in the serving bowl, whisk lemon juice and garlic. Whisk in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add cucumber, tomatoes, and herbs. Toss and coat well. Add quinoa. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate.

BLACK CURRANTS may be an unfamiliar fruit to many of you. I had never eaten one until last year when we got a few from one of our friends. Then we planted some of our own. We are excited to have enough this year to offer them to you. Though relatively obscure in this country, black currants are quite popular in other parts of the world. 
       Black currants are an intensely flavored fruit, and they are quite tart. Generally they are cooked and sweetened, or made into juice (with sweetening added). You can make a nice fruit spread with today’s raspberries and black currants (recipe below). If you want to save your raspberries for another use, you can make fruit spread from just black currants, but you will probably want to add sweetening. If you prefer to make black currant juice, simmer your black currants with a little water, then press the juice through a sieve. Add some of the juice to water, lemonade, or smoothies, and sweeten to taste.
Black Currant – Raspberry fruit spread: Remove the stems from currants (you don’t need to take off the dried blossom), and place in a small saucepan with ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil, and turn down the heat to simmer. KEEP AN EYE ON THE POT (I have boiled over every batch that I have made so far). Simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Thicken as much as you wish by dissolving 2 Tbs cornstarch in ¼ cup water. While the cooked fruit is still simmering on the stove, add a little of the dissolved cornstarch at a time, stirring after each drizzle, until the desired consistency is reached. Taste, and add sugar as desired. Voila.

Black currants may be poised to be the next “superfood”. As with other dark purple fruits, they have high levels of antioxidants (anthocyanins) and Vitamin C. For more interesting Black currant facts and recipes, check out www.blackcurrantfoundation.co.uk
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017: Week 5 (July 4th)
In this box: 2# Heirloom Tomatoes, 1 bskt Cherry Tomatoes, 1 bu Cilantro, 1 bunch Kale, 1 bu Beets, 3 Zucchini, 1# Romano Beans, 2# All Blue potatoes, 1 bskt. Raspberries—remember to put berries into the fridge ASAP  (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

On the farm this week   
    We are grateful for somewhat cooler weather this week! This feels more like what we love about Oregon summers—cool evenings, warm days, lots of sun, and just enough breeze to encourage lots of outdoor activities.
    This week’s box can complement your outdoor activities. I’m thinking of potato salad and pasta salads…..


Heirloom tomatoes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. I think most boxes today have “ Cherokee purple” tomatoes. I like to serve heirloom tomatoes sliced on a platter. I think a little salt and/or a drop of balsamic vinegar really brings out the special flavor of each heirloom variety. Your Cherokee purple tomatoes would also be great cut in chunks and gently mixed with pasta for a cold (or warm) pasta salad.

Purple Potatoes!
    Technically, these potatoes are a variety called all blue, but I like to call them purple potatoes because it sounds more fun—perhaps the alliteration makes them taste even better. Purple potatoes get their color from anthocyanins which are powerful antioxidants, credited with a lots of health benefits.  Famous superfoods blueberries, pomegranates, and Okinawa sweet potatoes are other rich sources of anthocyanin.  You don’t have to tell your kids (or grandkids) these potatoes are good for them though. Many kids like them because they are purple (and tasty.) Tom started growing this variety after our kids developed a taste for blue potato chips, and these have become our favorite potato for roasting or pan-frying because they get wonderfully crisp in the pan. 
       There are so many different varieties of potatoes in the world, and they differ widely in their flavor and texture. Potatoes are often classified by their texture when cooked, because that helps you predict how they will work in a recipe. A potato’s texture is placed somewhere along a spectrum from “waxy” to “starchy”. Waxy potatoes tend to have a moist texture when cooked. Red potatoes are the classic example of a waxy texture. Yukon gold and red gold potatoes also fall on the waxy end of the spectrum. Russet potatoes are the classic example of a starchy potato. They are excellent for roasting, frying, and mashing, but have a somewhat dry texture if just boiled. You can use just about any potato for potato salad, boiled potatoes, or roasted potatoes, as long as you understand that the starchy potatoes may require more moisture in a potato salad, and the waxy potatoes may not brown as nicely in a roasting pan.
       Today’s purple potatoes are fairly starchy. They would be tasty roasted, fried, mashed, or in potato salad. However (because they are a starchy potato), if you boil them for potato salad, the chunks may fall apart. Better to boil them whole, or steam them if you’re making potato salad, and watch that you don’t overcook them.
     
       Here’s how I pan-fry potatoes: cut potatoes into ½-inch dice. Pre-heat cast iron skillet over medium heat, then add a little olive oil, the diced potatoes, and a sprinkle of salt. COVER, lower heat to just below medium, and cook (covered) for 10 minutes. Uncover, stir, and cover again for 5 minutes. Uncover, stir again, then cover for 5 minutes. Repeat, checking every 5 minutes or so until the pieces are browned on the outside & tender inside.

Kale
    Here’s an interesting recipe for a Kale dip. It’s a lot like hummus, but the main ingredient is kale (rather than garbanzo beans). This Kale dip is nice spread on slices of tomato, or in a sandwich.
The original recipe from which I take my inspiration was Collard & Pecan Pesto Bon Apetit, Oct. 2013.
1. Slice 1 large bunch of kale into ribbons. Steam for 5 minutes. Drain. Cool to room temperature.
2. Blend cooled greens in a food processor with
* ¼ cup olive oil
* ¼ cup toasted nuts or nut butter (I use salted cashew butter, but you can also use hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, or tahini)
* 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar.
3. Blend until very smooth. Taste, and add salt, pepper, or more cider vinegar as desired. 

Cilantro: check our web site, Last Year’s Newsletters, week 5 if you need ideas for using cilantro.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017: Week 4 (June 27)

In this box: 1 Lettuce, ½# Spinach, 1 head Garlic, 1 Sweet Onion, 2# Fava Beans, 1# Romano Beans, 1 bskt Cherry Tomatoes, 2 bskts. Raspberries—remember to put berries into the fridge ASAP (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!

 

On the farm this week         

I noticed a strange scene Sunday morning on the farm…. Our farm crew had full rainsuits on, and they were filling large tubs with water in the bed of our dump truck. I’ve been part of the farm for 20 years, and this was a new sight for me. Later in the day, I noticed that a number of our green houses had become shade houses, and suddenly it made perfect sense…. Last weekend’s heat wave was causing some overheating in the green houses that protect our berries and tomatoes from rain and cold weather. Tom says the pickers were noticing sunburning in the raspberries. So the crew made a mud slurry in giant plastic tubs, and sprayed this mud on the hoop houses (with a garden hose and gasoline-powered pump), driving the dump truck around the farm to get near the crops that most need the shade. A very effective, low-tech solution to the heat wave. And another opportunity for me to be grateful that our farm crew is creative, cooperative, and dedicated to the quality of your produce.

FAVA BEANS

            This is the perfect time to remind you that we have a RECIPE BLOG—find a link to it on our web site home page. We just launched our recipe blog a few months ago, with a lot of help from long-time employee Rose Holdorf (Thanks, Rose!). There are several fava bean recipes on the blog, which saves newsletter space for some additional information about this great bean.

            Fava beans are grown all over the world, and can be eaten in their fresh, green stage (like the ones in your box today), or left on the plant to mature, and eaten as a dry bean. Most recipes for fresh favas tell you to remove the beans from their pods, cook the beans, and discard the pods. However, when the pods are fresh & green like the ones in your box today, you might enjoy using your favas like a green bean. We grow a variety that has a pleasant-tasting pod, and is completely edible except for the stringy bits that run down the seams on the sides of the pod. Here’s our favorite way to prepare whole pod favas:

Mediterranean Fava Bean Sauté 

Sauté some garlic and onion in a generous amount of olive oil until soft. Snap off the stem end of the fava pod, and pull off the strings along the sides of the pod. Then cut the pods (with beans inside) into 1-inch lengths, and add to the sautéed garlic. Stir-fry for 3 minutes, then add some fresh tomatoes, or a couple Tbs. of tomato paste thinned with ¼ cup water. (Optional: add a handful of fresh, chopped, parsley if you have any). Cover and simmer about 10 minutes, cooking until the tomatoes/tomato paste melts into a thick sauce on the beans. Add salt to taste.

 

GREEN ROMANO BEANS

            The long, flat beans in your box are a variety of Green Romano Beans that we just love to grow. Though they are extra-large, they are surprisingly tender, and we think they have a superior flavor to the more common, pencil-sized green beans. Since these beans are more tender than a common green bean, you need to be careful not to overcook them. We like to steam them for just 3-5 minutes, or until they turn bright green but retain just a little crunch.

These beans get sweeter and tastier as they grow larger, but will get leathery if they get too large.  Our pickers try to pick them as large as possible without being tough.  The best way to prepare these beans for cooking is to break off the stem, then snap the bean into 4 or 5 pieces.  If a bean won’t snap, it is probably over mature, and should be discarded.

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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017: Week 3 (June 20)


In this box:
1 Lettuce, ½# Salad Mix, ½# Spinach, 2 cucumbers, 1 bunch Radish, 3 zucchini, 1 bskt Cherry Tomatoes, 1 bskt Raspberries  (weights are approx.)  Everything is Organic!


I assume you are familiar with the produce in your box today, so I can spend less newsletter space introducing new vegetables, and more space writing about other things.

Produce storagesome like cold, some like dry, some like room temperature!
In order to get the most out of your weekly box, it may be helpful to understand a few basic principles of produce storage.

Berries like it very cold:
Berries are notoriously perishable. One of the benefits of Organic Berries is that you are certain they haven’t been sprayed with fungicides. However, the down side of organic berries is that they have a tendency to develop mold if they are left at room temperature.
    On warm days like today, it’s important to get your berries into the fridge as soon as possible. Better yet, bring a cooler and ice with you when you pick up your box! If you are late to pick up your box, you should be especially quick to get your berries in the fridge or cooler, and eat them as soon as possible, checking for moldy bits as you prepare them. If you are going to rinse your berries, do it right before you plan to eat them, or they will become waterlogged.

Salad greens & lettuce like it cold:
Rinse, drain well, and store in a cold refrigerator. Gently dunk lettuce, salad mixes, or other greens in a large bowl of cold water to remove any debris. Then drain well before storing in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or sealed tub. I like to put a paper towel in the bottom of a plastic tub so the leaves on the bottom don’t sit in water. Salad mix should be eaten within a few days, whereas a head of lettuce will keep longer.

Cukes & Zucch’s prefer cool, not cold
: cucumbers and zucchini are happiest if not too cold. The ideal storage temperature for these items is about 50 degrees. Cukes and zucchs are OK in the refrigerator for a few days, but after a while, they will develop “pitting”. If you refrigerate, put them in the warmest part of the fridge. We tend to leave cukes & zucchs on our kitchen counter, so we don’t forget about them. Left on the counter, they will slowly lose moisture and become limp after several days, but they’re still fine to eat that way. Don’t close them up in a plastic bag on the counter, or they will develop mold.


Tomatoes need room temperatures:
Keep tomatoes on your kitchen counter until you eat them. Tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator.


Roots should be cold and moist. Your radishes will keep best if you cut the roots off the leaves first, then store the roots in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge.

Plastic clam reuse/recycling
There are many trade-offs in life. Ideally, we would like to pack everything in reusable or recyclable packaging. However, we also want your produce to arrive home in good condition. We use plastic “clamshell” packaging for cherry tomatoes and berries so they don’t spill and turn to sauce or jam en route to your house.
Reuse: If your clams are clean, we can reuse them, but please wash them before returning to us, as we are not set up to wash them here on the farm.
Recycle: For our Salem and Albany members, the plastic containers are recyclable in your curbside bin. Unfortunately, Republic Services in Corvallis does not accept clams at this time.

Holidays and Vacation dates: July 4th falls on a Tuesday this year, but your farmers won’t take the day off. It will be just like a regular Tuesday on the farm. We will pick/pack/and deliver Harvest Boxes as usual on July 4th. If you will be out of town that day, and would like a vacation credit for that box, please email me so we can create a vacation credit instead of packing a box that won’t get picked up. denisonfarms@peak.org arrives on the computer at my desk, so that’s the best address for any messages about your Harvest Box membership.


Farm Party Sunday, September 3
We have set the date for this year’s Farm Party on Sunday of Labor Day weekend, in the afternoon.
Our tradition is to have a farm tour in the mid-afternoon, followed by a potluck.
I will send more details as the date draws nearer.
We hope you can come!

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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017: Week 2 (June 12)

In this box:
1 Lettuce, 2 cucumbers, 1 Fresh Garlic, 1 bskt Cherry Tomatoes, 2# Red Gold Potatoes, 1 bu. Baby Turnips*, 1 bu. Beets*, 1 bu Garlic tops, 1 basket Tayberries (Salem & Albany) or Blackberries (Corvallis).  (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic! *Turnips & Beets are from Groundwork Organic Farm in Junction City.

 

When Tom & I looked around the farm last Friday, trying to plan what would go in this week’s box, we weren’t confident that we could fill everyone’s box with what we have here on the farm. So we checked with our friend Gabe, at Groundwork Organic Farm to see what he had in abundance. When he said he had turnips and beets, we jumped on the chance to put them both in your box this week. We were harvesting beets from our farm in early May, but they are all gone now. And we just didn’t get any turnips planted this year because it has been an unusually wet winter and spring. So far, we’ve had 25 more inches of rain than in an average year! It’s been difficult to prepare ground for planting, and to stay ahead of the weeds when we do get things planted.

Fortunately for you, our tomatoes were planted on time, and our berries are grown in covered hoop-houses so they have been less affected by the rains. Enjoy the first Sungold cherry tomatoes of the season!

 

White turnips are also known as “salad” turnips, because they are sweet, juicy, and mild enough to eat raw, or slice into a salad. The turnip roots are quite nice tossed into a stir-fry, but I think they are so good just eaten raw that they never seem to make it into the sauté pan in my kitchen. Turnip greens can be cooked as you would spinach—what I mean by this is that turnip greens are relatively tender, and they cook quickly. Turnip greens have a mild flavor when they are cooked, but they can also be used in a salad. Raw, they have a slightly sharp flavor, which reveals their close relationship (in a botanical sense) to mustard greens. I happen to like mustard greens, but it’s not a flavor that every palate appreciates. If they are too strong for you as a raw vegetable, know that they are MUCH milder when cooked.

 

This week, your box should have a basket of either Tayberries or Blackberries. Blackberries may be easy to recognize, but tayberries may be less familiar. The Tayberry is a cross between a blackberry and raspberry. They are the color of red wine. I like to make a quick fruit sauce with blackberries or tayberries. Berries have a different flavor when cooked. All berries have some balance of sweetness and tartness. With blackberries, cooking seems to mellow the tartness and bring out the sweetness. With tayberries, I find cooking really brings out some flavor complexities that are not there in the fresh, uncooked fruit.

To make fruit sauce: quickly rinse fruit and place in a sauce pan. Add about ¼ cup of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then use a potato-masher to crush the fruit, and sweeten if you wish. Thicken, if needed, with a little cornstarch. Cool, then spread on pancakes, French toast, crackers, yogurt, cheesecake……

 

Garlic tops—Here’s a lovely vegetable that is truly a seasonal treat. It’s available only in early June, when garlic plants are maturing and sending these edible flower stalks (technically called “scapes”) up from the center of the developing garlic bulb. After we cut off the scapes, the plant continues to mature the garlic bulb, so we get two crops from one plant! Garlic tops are generally cooked, rather than being eaten raw. They can steamed, or cut into bite-sized pieces for a stir-fry. They have a very mild garlic flavor. You can eat the entire scape, but I prefer eat no further than one bite past the bud, as the tip of the stalk gets too fibrous for me. I also suggest “snapping” the bottom ends off to make sure they’re tender. Like asparagus, if the ends won’t snap, they may be too fibrous to eat.

            Recipe of the weekGarlic Tops with Hummus: Steam whole garlic tops for 5 minutes or until tender. Cool, then dip in hummus for a perfect taste and texture combination. I had to hold myself back from eating the last bite so that I could share some with Tom. Because I enjoy finger-food, I just hold the top, and dip the bottom into hummus for each bite, eating my way up the stem and finishing with the bite that includes the bud.

In your box today, you have both a bunch of garlic tops and a head of “fresh” garlic. Your bulb of fresh garlic is still moist. You can cook with it as you would “regular” garlic, but because it’s fresh, it won’t keep in good condition more than a week or so. Typically, garlic in the grocery store has been “cured” in a well-ventilated area until it is fully dry. Store your fresh garlic on the counter, in a well-ventilated area, and use it this week if you can.

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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2017, Week 1 (June 6)

In this box: 1 lettuce, 2 cucumbers, 1 sweet onion, 1# sugar snap peas from Springhill Farm, 3# yellow potatoes, 1 bunch parsley, 2 zucchini, 1 bunch Radish or Chard, 1 bunch Fava Greens (weights are approximate). Everything is Organic!

We are excited to be starting another Harvest Box season with you. If you’ve been part of our membership in the past, we are delighted to have you back. And I want to give a hearty welcome to our new members. Welcome to the farm!
First, some logistics, and then some suggestions about how to use this week’s produce:
•    Tub care—feel free to take the tub home with you. But please bring it back next week. It’s extra nice if you rinse it out after emptying it, so it’s clean. If you prefer, you can transfer your produce to your own bags or cooler and leave the box at your pick-up site.
•    If you forget to pick up your box some week, check your confirmation letter for late pick-up options at your site.
•    We haven’t yet planned a date for our Farm Party. I will post a notice in the newsletter as soon as we get that date on the calendar.
•    If you have any questions or concerns, email me at denisonfarms@peak.org. Our office is small—usually it’s just me & Tom sitting at our respective computers, surrounded by seed packets, papers, & file folders full of farm records. I like to joke that Tom is “the farmer”, and I am “the farm wife”. We have separate responsibilities; I am in charge of the office, and he’s in charge of the planting & harvesting. We’re a good team, and we’ve been doing it for a long time—this is our 20th season of offering Harvest Boxes. Again, we thank you all for your membership with us.

Here are some ideas for using today’s produce:

Sugar Snap Peas – from Springhill Farm. I don’t expect Sugar Snap Peas to need much introduction—except to confirm that these are the kind of peas that you eat pod & all. There is a bit of a “string” along the side that you can remove when you snap off the stem end. Then you can eat the peas & pod raw or cooked. Two of my favorite ways to eat Snap Peas are to serve raw peas to dip into hummus, or to steam them lightly. They don’t need anything more fancy than that.
    We planted sugar snap peas on our farm in early February, but the bulk of our peas ripened a few weeks ago, and there aren’t many left to pick. So, we are grateful that our friend Jamie at Springhill Farm (in North Albany) has a variety of peas that ripens a few weeks later, and we could get some from him. It takes a lot of peas to fill 300 boxes! Thanks, Jamie.

Parsley—I love making a sort of “Greek” salad, of parsley, cucumbers & sweet onion, dressed with olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. To be a classic Greek salad, I should add olives and feta cheese, but I never seem to have them on hand. Instead, I add cooked garbanzo beans, and that is one of my standard summertime lunches.
Parsley is also nice in a potato salad….
Need more ideas, check out our NEW RECIPE BLOG. On our web site, choose “recipe blog” to find many of my favorite farm-based recipes. No longer will you need to search through back issues of the newsletter!

Fava Greens—Perhaps the least familiar item in the box today is the bunch of Fava Greens. We’ve grown fava beans for years, but didn’t know the leaves were edible until we saw an article in Sunset Magazine with recipes, and now we’re hooked. The Sunset Magazine article suggests they have a grassier flavor when raw, and a nuttier flavor when cooked. I think they taste faintly of peas, but the flavor is hard to describe. You just have to try them!
    As a salad, raw fava greens go well with a citrus dressing, like a lemon-poppyseed dressing.
As a cooked green, treat them like spinach. They are nice with onions and zucchini stuffed in an omelet.
Important note: we picked the fava greens in a bunch because they’re easier to handle & pack that way.
However, the stems, though sweet and pea-flavored, may be fibrous, except at the tip. If the stem snaps easily, it’s probably tender enough to eat. If not, I suggest picking the leaves off the stems before making a salad or cooking them.
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