Our newsletter from July 26:
Dear CSA members,
What a lovely harvest morning this has been, with sunny skies and a cool breeze ruffling through the plant leaves. We had lovely weather for camping last week as well. We enjoyed four days away from the farm camping along the northern shore of Lake Michigan and exploring the dune and swale ecosystem around Big Knob State Forest Campground. What amazing resilience dune plants must possess! They get periodically drowned or buried in shifting sand, endure extreme onslaughts of wind coming off the lake, and must handle both frigid winters and beating sun in the summer. You would think such conditions wouldn’t be so hospitable to life, but we saw an incredible diversity of plants and animals, from silvery grey pitcher’s thistles to jewel-green leopard frogs to bald eagles fishing the shoreline. One of our favorite hikes found us bush-whacking up and over some low dunes, where we found a sheltered hollow full of milkweed in bloom and wild gooseberries in fruit. The milkweed plants were covered with dozens of Monarch butterflies! Some of them were brightly colored, as if they had just hatched from their cocoons. Others were duller and a bit tattered, as if they’d been cruising the beach in a stiff wind for a day or two. Several were mating and we found lots of stripe-y Monarch caterpillars snacking on the Milkweed plants as well. I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled milkweed flowers, but they are as sweet as perfume and the hollow was filled with their scent. I had never eaten a gooseberry before, so I sampled a few of the wild ones. Super yummy! I suspect gooseberry bushes are going to go on our planting “wish list” for next year!
Speaking of yummy things, we’ve got a few for you today. We came back to the farm pleased to see that it had finally rained while we were away, which helped the plants recover from the extreme heat of a couple of weeks ago. Of course, there is a flip side to everything—wet weather favors disease pathogens such as tomato early blight and downy mildew in cucumbers. I do see a few signs of downy mildew showing up in the cucumber vines, but overall the plants still look pretty darn good. Weather depending, I predict that ripe tomatoes are a couple of weeks off, but the plants have a really nice set of green fruits right now. I did notice that “someone” had left some teeth marks in a few of the lower hanging cherry tomatoes, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that.
I love these Red Norland potatoes. They are so tender and flavorful that we like them prepared really simply. Here’s one of our favorite ways to fix them:
Red Potatoes with Parsley
Ingredients: Red potatoes, Parsley, Butter or Coconut Oil. Optional: Garlic, minced.
Cut potatoes into chunks and steam or boil them. While they are cooking, chop parsley. When potatoes are tender, drain them thoroughly. Heat butter or coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. If you are using minced garlic, add that and cook briefly, then add potatoes and toss to coat. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, mix in parsley and serve. Salt & pepper to taste.
Last summer we traveled to Ithaca, New York, to visit some of John’s friends. While we were there, we ate at the famous Moosewood Restaurant. We own several of their cookbooks and often turn to them for inspiration for seasonal meals. Here are a couple of their suggestions for using your abundance of cucumbers.
Ingredients: 2 medium cucumbers; 1/4 c cider vinegar; 1 Tbsp sugar; 1/2 tsp salt; 2 tsp chopped fresh herbs; 2 Tbsp finely sliced scallions or chives; Ground black pepper to taste
Slice cucumbers into 1/8 or 1/4 rounds or half moons. Put in bowl with chopped scallions. Whisk together all other ingredients in a separate bowl, then pour over cucumbers and scallions. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.
Ingredients: ½ pound linguine, or soba or udon noodles; 1 cucumber seeded, peeled, seeded and sliced into thin crescents; ½ cup finely chopped scallions; Mung bean sprouts (optional)
For the peanut dressing: 1/3 cup peanut butter; 1/3 cup warm water; 2 tablespoons soy sauce; 3 tablespoons vinegar (rice, cider or white); 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil; 1 teaspoon Chinese chili paste with garlic (or substitute a minced garlic clove and cayenne pepper to taste)
To cook the linguine, bring a large covered pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the cucumber and scallions. In a small bowl, stir together the dressing ingredients. When the water boils, cook the noodles until al dente. (If you think it’s easier to eat, break linguine in half before cooking it.) Drain the pasta and toss it with the dressing, cucumbers and scallions. Garnish with mung bean sprouts, if you wish. Serve warm or chilled. The noodles absorb the dressing over time, so if you made the noodles ahead, or are serving leftovers, taste them and stir in a little water, and maybe more vinegar, soy sauce and chili paste as needed.
Enjoy! Amy & John