Our newsletter from August 18:
Dear CSA members,
The old adage “when it rains it pours” seemed just a bit too literal this past week. Of course we are grateful for the rain, but I was sloshing through puddles between the tomato rows this morning and that’s just a bit too much!
On the bright side, the rain sprouted more of the buckwheat we seeded as a cover crop and that’s off to a good start, outrunning the weeds so that we’ll have some nice clean beds to work with next spring. On the not-so-bright side, all this moisture is great for spreading pathogens around like rust in the snap beans and fungal diseases in the tomatoes. Getting so much rain all at once also caused many of the tomatoes to swell and split. We picked the best of them for you today, but it looks like we’ve got a canning project on our hands this weekend to try to use up the ugly ones. If any of you are interested in ugly tomatoes for canning, let us know. We’ll try to pick through the patch either Friday or Saturday to get the badly cracked ones off.
Yesterday I spent the day at Clay Bottom Farm in Goshen, Indiana at a workshop sponsored by the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service. Clay Bottom farmers Rachel Hershberger and Ben Hartman use “lean” principles borrowed from the Japanese automotive industry to make their farming more efficient. I was familiar with lean manufacturing, but I didn’t realize that the foundational principles actually originated with Japanese rice farmers who brought their farming ingenuity into the factories when they took manufacturing jobs.
It might seem a little odd that a person who teaches a class called “Slow Farming” (that’s my senior capstone class at Kalamazoo College) would be interested in “leaning” her farm. But I think we have a lot to learn from these principles, which involve eliminating all kinds of unnecessary waste, both in energy and materials. Ben and Rachel were super-gracious hosts and I came back with many new ideas for restructuring our operation to make better use of our time and energy. One of our goals in shortening the CSA season this year (besides preserving a little bit of my sanity when I go back to teaching) is to have some time this fall to work on some of these projects, including reorganizing storage space, reconfiguring growing and compost areas, and possibly putting up new infrastructure. If we can get some of these projects done this fall, we should be set up for a great start to next season.
In the meantime, if we manage to squeeze in some canning time this weekend, here’s one thing I’ll probably be making:
Ingredients: 1/4 bushel or about 35 medium-sized tomatoes; 1/2 dozen onions, chopped; 2 stalks celery, including leaves, diced; Chopped green pepper; 1/2 cup flour; 1/2 cup butter; 1/2 cup brown sugar (I sometimes use less); 1/8 cup salt
Blanch tomatoes, then dunk in ice water to cool. Slide off skins and chop. Cook together with the other veggies for 20 minutes at a soft boil. Stir to prevent burning. While the veggies are cooking, mix together the flour, butter, sugar, and salt. Add this to the vegetables, stir, then bring to a boil. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. Process 15 minutes in a water bath canner.
I love having a can of this ready to heat up on those winter nights when I don’t have the energy to cook. Sometimes I add different herbs like oregano or basil. Sometimes I throw pasta in too, for a heartier soup (do this when you are heating it up to serve, not before canning). You can also make this in small batches and just have it for dinner without canning it.
Here’s a nice, simple cabbage recipe you could try from http://www.quietcreekfarmcsa.com:
Butter Braised Savoy Cabbage
Ingredients: 1 savoy cabbage; 3 tbsp. butter; 3 tbsp. water, chicken broth, veg. broth, or white wine; sea salt. Optional additions: Carmelized onions, julienned or grated carrots, herbs: thyme or marjoram; spices: nutmeg, caraway seed; heavy cream, etc.)
(This recipe is a method. You can use whatever optional additions you like to make it your own.)
Cut cabbage into quarters and remove core. Slice into 1 inch thick ribbons or bite-size pieces. Melt butter (and optional spices if using) over medium heat in a large skillet. If using onions, add now and cook over low heat until very soft and just beginning to brown. Add cabbage (and optional veggies if using) and sprinkle with salt. Add braising liquid of your choice. Stir to combine. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until cabbage is tender and liquid is absorbed. If using herbs, add near the end of cooking time. If desired, you can add a few tbsp. of heavy cream at the end. Serve warm.
Wishing all of you the wonderfulest of weeks!
Amy & John