Fern Creek CSA Newsletter #1

newsletter with photo
This week begins our 5th season at Fern Creek and for the first time we’ve had something that feels like a normal Oregon spring. Rather than unexpected late rain, or too much rain, or too much cold and rain, our biggest challenges have been birds, squirrels, cabbage maggots, and slugs. We’ve discovered row covers help a lot with most of those, except slugs, which love the added protection of a row cover! And we’ve been working to catch and then release elsewhere, the pea and lettuce-lovin’ squirrels. Still, all that to say, the produce is looking lovely and abundant.squirrel

Liz and Kara have joined us for the season as our apprentices, and you’ll be introduced to them more in the next newsletter. Those of your who read Preserving Life at Fern Creek regularly but are not in our CSA, the newsletters give you a glimpse of what goes on at Fern Creek throughout the growing season. If you don’t belong to a CSA, maybe you’ll be inspired to try one out, and if you do, here’s a snapshot of another one.
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In the Market

Several vegetables may be new to you, so here’s an explanation of some of the less familiar ones in the Market this week.

A day of sun for the kale...because...

Young kale…

Kale is a leafy vegetable in the broccoli family, and like broccoli, contains lots of great nutrients: Vit. K, A, and C, some antioxidants and more.  We’re growing four varieties this year, and this week you’ll get an assortment to try. Here’s one of our favorite ways to use kale, though kale chips is a favorite of ours, and a good number of our members. You’ll see that recipe and others in weeks to come.  Kale is worth experimenting with on lots of levels.

Collards are another leafy vegetable in the broccoli family, and better known and loved in the south. I had some fantastic collards a couple years ago and decided to add them to our “braising green” collection last year. Braising greens simply means cooking them on medium heat with some fat (e.g. bacon grease, butter, or canola oil) and maybe some onion, or leeks (or leek scapes) and garlic, and maybe some hot pepper, and then cooking them on low for anywhere from 8-40 minutes. The longer greens are cooked, the softer they become, and collards from the south are served soft and usually cooked with bacon.

Leek Scapes, like garlic scapes, are a delicacy that comes just once a year. They come from over-wintered leeks, and are the flowering stalk the leek puts out in the spring.  The taste blends a chive/green onion flavor with the texture and a hint of asparagus–yet still distinctively leek. Cut them on a diagonal, saute them in butter or oil and use them to top eggs, roasted new red potatoes, to toss into salads, or over pizza, or in pasta dishes.

Bok Choy is in the cabbage family. This spring vegetable is also chock-full of nutrients and can be steamed, stir-fried, sautéed, or boiled. I’ve included a stir-fry recipe for this week that uses both Bok Choy and leek scapes.

Rhubarb is a vegetable, but because we tend to eat it sweetened with sugar, it’s sometimes treated as a fruit. The leaves are toxic when eaten, so when we harvest we remove the leaves and leave them at the base of the plant to decompose. The tart red/pink stalks have a wonderful flavor when baked in cobblers, pies, or made into a sauce for ice cream or to eat like applesauce.
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Anticipated in The Market

Strawberries!

Strawberries!

Varieties of Head Lettuces
Spinach
Strawberries (Hoods)
Snow Peas
Baby Red Potatoes
Cherry Radish
Green Onions
Leek Scapes
Kale (Dinosaur, Curly, Red Russian & Siberian)
Collards
Bok Choy
Cortland Onions from 2013 harvest
Herbs (Chives, Mint)

And Pick Two…

Gourmet Baby Greens
Mustard Greens
Rhubarb
Broccoli
Pullet eggs 1/2 dozen (small eggs)
More Kale & Strawberries

To help first year members make the most of their crates we include From Asparagus to Zucchini, a  cookbook and resource guide, with your first pick-up. Nearly every vegetable we plant is listed in there, along with how to store it to maintain freshness, how to cook with it, and some recipes. To thank second year members for returning we include our book, Dirt and the Good Life, Stories of Fern Creek for your reading pleasure. Third year members and beyond are deeply appreciated, even if a hearty “thank you for coming back and entrusting us with your farm fresh produce for yet another season” is what you get instead of a book!

We will be carrying local organic butter, local hazelnuts, and extra eggs in The Market again this year, along with fair trade organic chocolate. We have a passion for fair trade chocolate, and like to make it easy for folks to acquire good, fairly traded chocolate–baking cocoa, Theo and Divine chocolate bars, drinking cocoas, and semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips.

Local folks who are not part of the CSA are welcome to come visit and tour Fern Creek and/or purchase butter, hazelnuts, extra eggs, or other items when we are open for pick-ups, which are Mondays and Thursdays from 2-5.
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Farmer Hint of the Week–Eggs: To Wash or Not to Wash?eggs

If you have purchased eggs from Fern Creek hens, you’ve likely heard this before–but it bears reminding for all your sakes.

We wash dirty eggs both because you are used to getting clean ones from the store, and clean eggs look more attractive in the cartons than dirty ones! Eggs are laid with a “bloom,” a protective coating that allows eggs to last up to six months if kept in a cool place, like a refrigerator or a cool cellar. When we wash eggs we wash away the bloom, which makes the shell permeable to air (and potentially germs) that can penetrate the shell, resulting in eggs that last 2-3 months if kept in a cool place instead of 5-6. Since we expect you eat your eggs in less than 2-3 months we choose to wash the dirty ones, although they get mixed in with the unwashed ones, and you won’t be able to tell the difference.

If you want eggs for boiling, save some in your fridge for a few weeks and let them age. Store bought eggs peel better than fresh eggs because store-bought ones are, well, less fresh. The albumin (egg white) pulls away from the shell over time, making eggs easier to peel after boiling. Some of you will be getting eggs in the first two weeks that are already 3 weeks old since we started accumulating a build up once the pullets kicked in.  If you want boiled eggs now, these early ones should peel pretty well without having to wait.

The Ameracaunas lay the light blue and green eggs and we’ll try to get one of these into every dozen.  You’ll notice lots of variety in egg color, size, and shape, which reflects the diversity in our flock. Sameness is valued in the egg industry, but we prefer the variety represented by our flock’s diversity.
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Recipes of the WeekBok choy ginger tofu stir-fry

Ginger Bok Choy Stir-Fry w/ Tofu
Serves 3-4.

We made this for our Welcome Dinner the day Kara arrived, and I’ve posted the recipe on the blog. You can substitute chicken for the tofu, and toss in your snow peas if you’d like.

 

Rhubarb Pudding Cake—adapted from Southern Foods. Serves 8
This is our first year to harvest rhubarb, and we hope to have some in the Pick 2 section of the Market occasionally throughout the season. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with it this spring, and this is my absolute favorite way to eat it because it includes both rhubarb sauce (yum!) with a cobbler-like crust. I use the lesser amount of sugar listed, partly because I serve it with a good size dollop of ice cream. Even if you don’t think you like rhubarb, this is worth a try…

Preheat oven to 375˚.

Combine 5 c. diced rhubarb with ¼ c. sugar in a 9×9 baking dish or a large pie pan.

In a separate bowl combine:
1 ¾ c. whole wheat flour (or a combination of whole wheat and white)
¾-1 c. sugar
1 rounded tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. chopped hazelnuts or pecans

Stir in ¾ c. milk and ¼ c. melted butter
Spread batter over rhubarb

In a small bowl combine 1-1 1/4 c. sugar with 1 tbsp. cornstarch
Add 1 ¼ c. boiling water and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Pour over the batter and bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the top crust comes out clean. Cover with foil, if necessary, to keep the top from over-browning.

Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream or all by itself.
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Mark and I look forward to greeting returning members this week and next, and to meeting new ones!

Til Monday or Thursday,

Your Farmers,

Lisa and Mark

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