Dear CSA members,
I don’t know about you all, but we are feeling really grateful for the cooler temperatures this week! We had a beautiful inch of rain Sunday night which the plants loved after being cooked dry last week. We would have loved it more if the corn and buckwheat seed we’d intended to plant Monday morning had already been in the ground, but we’ll probably have a chance to plant them later in the week. Last week we made the decision to give up on our first crop of sweet corn, which never really recovered from being buried in sand during the early summer floods. We’ve tilled it under and will plant again in hopes of getting a fall crop.
We’re planting buckwheat in several of our growing areas as a means of soil improvement. Buckwheat grows fast, out-competes weeds, and produces a lot of plant material that can be tilled back into the soil. Having a good balance of organic material in your soil is a critical component of an organic growing system. Decayed and decaying plant material (whether it’s in the form of a compost crop such as buckwheat, a mulch like the old hay we’re spreading around our plants, compost, or rotten manure) improves the soil’s texture, making it light and fluffy so that plant roots can grow through it easily. It improves the ability of sandy soils to hold water, but because it loosens clay soils, it helps them drain better. Most importantly, organic matter feeds the organisms (bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, earthworms and other creepy crawlies) that live symbiotically in the soil with your vegetable plants. There’s still a lot we have to learn about the relationship between plants and the creatures they share the soil with, but it’s clear to me that a healthy soil ecosystem produces healthier plants. And healthier plants means better food for you.
Speaking of food, I’m excited that we finally have beets for you this week! Before I started growing beets, my only (infrequent) encounters with them were sliced, pickled, and in a can. I can’t believe that I lived more than half my life without knowing the delights of roasted beets:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut tops and tails off beets. Place them in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then wrap in a foil packet and place on a baking sheet. Bake until a fork slides in easily (the time that this takes will vary based on the size of the beet). Once they’re cooled a bit, you can rub their skins off with your fingers or a strong paper towel if you don’t want to eat the skins, which are less sweet than the beet flesh underneath. (The skins are edible, though, and I’m often too lazy to remove them.)
Once your beets are roasted, you add them to salads, pastas, or other dishes. Or you can make them into hummus. If you like hummus, but haven’t tried beet hummus, you must make this!
Beet Hummus (adapted from simplyrecipes.com)
Ingredients: 3-4 beets, roasted, peeled, and chopped; 1 Tbsp ground cumin (or to taste); 2 Tbsp tahini sesame seed paste; salt (to taste); 2-4 Tbsp lemon juice (to taste); freshly ground pepper (optional, to taste); 1 small clove garlic, chopped
Place all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust quantities of seasonings to your preferences. I omitted the garlic altogether and went heavy on the cumin and lemon juice. If you want to add more protein to your meal, you can blend in some chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans). I’ve tried it both ways and I prefer it with just the beets. I think the chickpeas dull the sweet flavor of the beets a bit. Garnish with scallions, mint, or cilantro. Eat as a dip with pita chips, flatbread, veggies, whatever you like.
Beet greens are tasty too and you can use them in just about any recipe that calls for greens. This is what I made for lunch on Monday:
Roasted-Beet Salad with Blue Cheese
Ingredients: beets with greens; toasted pecans, coarsely chopped; olive oil; gorgonzola or blue cheese; white balsamic vinegar; thinly-sliced garlic (optional)
Cut tops and tails off beets and roast as described above. While the beets are cooling, cut beet leaves from their stems, chop, wash, and pat or spin dry. When beets are cool enough to handle, rub off skins and chop into bite sized chunks. Place in serving bowl. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. If you are using garlic, place it in the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Then add in beet greens and cook, stirring, until wilted. Add greens to serving bowl with beets, then toss in the cheese and pecans. Stir to combine, then sprinkle with vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and serve warm.
It’s summer squash and zucchini season! Here’s one of my favorite recipes from last year. You can do all kinds of variations on this. I’ve used couscous instead of quinoa, extra basil instead of parsley, and home canned tomatoes instead of marinara sauce and broth. It’s all good.
Zucchini-Quinoa Lasagna (serves 6)
Ingredients: 2 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into twelve ¼ inch thick slices; 1 tsp dried oregano; 1 tsp salt; ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped; 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth; ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped; 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained; 2 Tbsp cream cheese, optional; ½ cup tomato sauce; 1 25oz jar marinara sauce; ½ cup shredded cheese (I use more than this!); ¼ cup finely chopped onion
Preheat oven to 400 F. Place zucchini slices on bed of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt, cover with paper towels, and let stand to release moisture while preparing quinoa. Bring broth, quinoa, tomato sauce, onion and oregano to boil in saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, and stir in basil, parsley, and cream cheese (if using).
Spoon 1/3 cup marinara sauce over bottom of 8-inch square baking dish. Blot remaining moisture and salt from zucchini slices, and lay 4 zucchini slices over marinara sauce in pan. Spoon half of quinoa over zucchini, and cover with 1/3 cup marinara. (Sprinkle a little extra cheese in here if you like.) Repeat with 4 more zucchini slices, remaining quinoa, and 1/3 cup marinara. (Again with the cheese if you’re a cheese lover.) Top with remaining 4 zucchini slices, remaining marinara and cheese. Bake lasagna 30 minutes, or until zucchini is tender and top is bubbly.
Wishing you a wonderful week! Amy
Week 8 Thursday update:
With the variable weather this year, I sometimes feel like I should write a whole different newsletter for our end-of-week distribution, since our farm experiences and even share contents are so weather-dependent. The mid-week cold snap brought summer squash fruiting to a screeching halt, so we put carrots and scallions into Thursday shares instead. I also included in the Thursday newsletter the following recipe from CSA member Dalee Camp, who generously shared her batch of basil biscuits with me. They were delicious!
Ingredients: 3 cups self rising flour; 2 handfuls shortening (lard, Crisco, butter or bacon grease), about 1 cup; ½ cup sugar; 1 cup buttermilk; chopped basil
Mix chopped basil into flour. Add shortening and sugar, then use your hands or a pastry cutter to work the shortening into the flour (squeezing or cutting) until it forms crumbs about the size of large peas. You may need to add more shortening or flour as you do this to get the consistency right, so that the crumbs hold together but aren’t too sticky. Then stir in the buttermilk with a fork until the mixture leaves the sides of the bowl and forms a soft, moist dough. Add more flour or buttermilk until the dough is slightly sticky but holds its shape. Form into balls with your hands, dust with additional flour, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F or until the tops and edges are browned.