Our newsletter from July 28:
Dear CSA members,
We had a wonderful vacation full of rivers, waterfalls, pine trees, and some magnificent oaks. One of the hardest sacrifices for me in farming has been giving up so many summer camping opportunities, since living outdoors in nature feeds my soul so deeply. But as I waded down the Ocqueoc River the evening before our departure from that beautiful place, stubbing my toes on the sharp rocks, I felt enormous gratitude that the work I was about to return to also feeds my spirit in a deep way. Increasingly, I’ve been thinking about this farm as an experiment in what conservationist Aldo Leopold described as his “land ethic,” which “changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it” and what botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer calls “being naturalized to place . . . to live as if this is the land that feeds you.”
This is the land that feeds me, quite literally. And feeds you too, at least in part. What I do to its body, I do to my body. And to your bodies, too. Farming challenges me to be continually aware that I live within an ecosystem; I don’t just visit one when I go camping. And the question that pesters me is how I can farm (and live) in a way that enriches the beauty and well-being of my ecosystem without depleting ecosystems in other parts of the world. It’s a hard standard to live up to and I do it imperfectly almost all of the time. But I’m grateful that I get to spend my days engaged in work that feels so meaningful—even though some of those days have been awfully hot this summer! So thanks again for supporting us in this work.
The only casualties of our vacation were the purple eggplants which were severely “pruned” by an eggplant-loving woodchuck. We found his trail and have been trying to live trap him for the past few days so that we can make him a relocation offer (move or die), but so far he’s outsmarted us. Darn wildlife! I suppose the woodchuck thinks he has a right to live in this ecosystem too. Hmmm . . . but not the right to eat my eggplants, not if I have anything to say about it!
If the eggplant plants are looking a little puny right now, the zucchini plants looking oppositely. I gave them an extra dose of compost this spring and they’ve responded by growing as big as shrubs. So far, we haven’t lost any to vine borers, though I did see a borer moth flying around a few weeks ago. In any case, they are in their glory right now, so we’re loading you up with them!
There are lots of zucchini casserole recipes out there. This is one of my favorites. You can make it vegetarian by substituting mushrooms for the meat. If you dice them finely and brown them, they take on a satisfyingly chewy texture.
Zucchini Pizza Casserole
Ingredients: 4 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 2 eggs; 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese; 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided; 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided; 1 pound ground turkey or beef (or portabella mushrooms, finely minced);1/2 cup chopped onion; 1 can (15 ounces) Italian tomato sauce; 1 medium green pepper, chopped
Place zucchini in strainer; sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 10 minutes. Squeeze out moisture. Combine zucchini with the eggs, Parmesan and half of the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Press into greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook beef (or mushrooms) and onion over medium heat until browned; drain. Add tomato sauce; spoon over zucchini mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses; add green pepper. Bake 20 minutes longer or until heated through.
Also while we were gone, the cucumbers and tomatoes started to ripen. There are just a few this week, but there should be more in future weeks. The tomato crop looks good at the moment; cucumbers not so hot. There’s some kind of scarring on some of the skins—I need to do a little research to see if I can figure out what’s causing that. Anyway, here’s one of my favorite summer salads that uses both:
Tomato, Cucumber, and Feta Salad
Ingredients: Tomato; Chopped Fresh Basil; Cucumber; Feta Cheese. Optional: Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Salt.
Chop cucumber and tomato into bite-sized pieces. Mix together in bowl with crumbled feta cheese and basil. Eat plain or drizzle with olive oil and vinegar and salt to taste. Especially good if chilled a bit before eating.
If you find you aren’t using up all of your vegetables during the week between distributions, you might consider starting a “broth bag” in your refrigerator or freezer. I started making my own vegetable broth last year. It was such a treat this past winter to be able to heat up a cup of homemade broth on cold evenings and to have our own supply to use in soup. I collect vegetable trimmings (onion tops, carrot and potato peelings, zucchini ends, tomato cores, herb stems, etc.) and chunked vegetables (like zucchini) that I know I’m not going to use otherwise until I have a pot-full, then I do this:
Throw vegetable scraps in a pot (fill about one half to two thirds of the pot), fill the pot with water, and then bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and let simmer for a few hours until it tastes good. Turn off the heat and let it cool for a few more hours.
Freeze in ice-cube trays, then transfer to freezer bags for a quick thaw or pour directly into a freezer container. Experiment with different combinations of vegetables until you find the flavors that you like the best. I find that a little bit of potato in the broth-pot adds a richness that I especially enjoy.
Have a great week, everyone! Stay safe and cool. Amy & John