Tuesday, June 28, 2011

CSA Harvest! And, a visit to Doe Bay

The end of June is bringing more and more produce of substance to the garden... strawberries, beets, artichokes, the first peas.  I ate a tender young carrot the other day.  Here's what today's harvest looked like:

1/2 lb. salad greens
1 bunch kale
1 bunch beets - finally sized up after a few thinning harvests
1/2 lb. broccoli sideshoots (tender stems that grow after cutting the crown)
1 bunch garlic scapes
1 pint Seascape strawberries

Garlic scapes are the attempt at flowers that hardneck garlic makes mid-summer.  Snapping off the green stem means energy is not diverted from the bulb up into seed production.  Lucky for us, these tasty green stalks are fantastic when drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grilled.  I also will pickle these whole; the consistency and texture are somewhat similar to a bean or asparagus.  The scapes have a mild garlic flavor and can also be stir-fried whole or in cut diagonal pieces.  A unique, one-time crop!

In the afternoon I took a field trip with my helper Serena and our 4-year-old friend to the east side of the island to deliver broccoli and a few pounds of scapes to Doe Bay Cafe.  This restaurant is supported by an amazing on-site garden and also serves local produce from various farms around the island.  Their commitment to local agriculture is strong and the food is awesome; a few weeks back I ate one of those meals that makes you think, "This will be remembered as one of the best ever."  I am glad to contribute to that continued awesomeness.
A mile up the road lives one of my dear friends and farming inspirations, George of Orcas Farm.  I always love visiting this farm.  George's use of interplanting and cover crops is just incredible, the beds are beautifully formed and maintained, and his produce is lovely.  At the end of the day we drove home quiet and tired, bellies full of berries and waiting for the rain.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CSA Harvest! And, happy Summer Solstice.

I celebrated the longest day of the year with this week's beautiful CSA harvest.  Happy Solstice!

1 head Red Sails or Red Butterhead lettuce
1 bunch kale
1/2 lb. spinach
1 bunch broccoli
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch chives AND a handful of onion scapes
1 pint Seascape strawberries

The past couple weeks of sunshine are resulting in a great beginning strawberry harvest.  Feels so good to eat fruit from the garden!  Unfortunately, heat or stress or both mean my Copra onions are pushing "scapes."  These flowering tops are not a good sign on a storage onion, but I am snapping them off and hoping the bulbs will grow to a good size.  At least the scapes have a sweet, mild onion flavor.  They were a nice addition to yesterday's cabbage slaw.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CSA Harvest! And, Tilth Farmwalk adventures

I headed off-island yesterday with my friend and fellow farmworker Jay for a Tilth-sponsored "Farmwalk" tour of the WSU research station in Mt. Vernon and a trip to Viva Farms, a farm incubation project.  Both were exciting and inspiring, but more on that in a moment.  First, a visual tour of this week's produce:

1/2 lb. salad greens
1/2 lb. spinach
1/2 lb. braising mix

Lately, my favorite way to prepare cooking greens (kale, chard, collards, or mustard greens) is by sauteeing half an onion until soft and translucent and then throwing in handfuls of roughly-chopped greens.  Some advise removing the stems from the leafy foliage and either composting or cooking them first, but personally this is a step I find time-consuming and unnecessary.  Leave everything.  Still tastes good.   Increase the heat, stir, then add a splash of water and cover the pan to steam-soften the greens.  After a minute or two remove the pan lid, cook off any remaining water (you don't need to add much to begin with) and turn off the heat.  I add a few shakes of sesame oil, tamari or soy sauce, grated ginger, and sesame seeds.  Delicious.

When I stopped in town today to drop off CSA bags my friend and CSA member Jenny asked excitedly, "What is there today?"  I adore Jenny for many reasons: she owns a great local business (Darvill's bookstore), grows her own garden AND supports local farmers, and is always enthusiastic about her weekly delivery.  When I reported that this week meant more leafy greens, we chattted for a few minutes about the lack of vegetables with "substance" that are coming from the garden.  I love cooking and fresh-eating greens, but this spring has had a dearth of vegetables that pack a crunch.  Peas are late, beets are slow, and I had to pull all my radishes last week due to pest damage.  I will always enjoy salad and cooking greens, but look forward to harvesting something from the garden that I can actually bite into...

In other news, the Tilth event was a welcome and encouraging change from my usual Monday fieldwork.  I find myself in great appreciation of the state of Washington and the WSU extension services for dedicating so much support and research to organic farming.  We walked the grounds of the research center and I was impressed by how many plots were managed organically, with researchers studying everything from organic wine grapes to no-till cover crops to alternatives to plastic mulch.  Thank you, WSU.  In the afternoon we visited Viva Farms, a nearby 33-acre plot of land that is currently "incubating" ten farmers by providing access to land, equipment and markets, low-interest loans, and technical support.  I encourage a visit to their website at http://vivafarms.blogspot.com.  I could write for a long time about how inspiring these farmers, the director of the program, and the program itself are, but I think the site speaks for itself.  Plus, I have a chicken waiting to be roasted in the oven.

Exciting things are happening in my own garden and in the farming community around me: strawberries blush deeper red each day, peas set their flowers, a researcher develops a new organic management practice, young people and immigrants gain access to land to farm.  I consider myself a tired and lucky girl to be a part of this movement.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

CSA Harvest! And, how I wash lettuce

The harvest station!  I soak salad greens in a large cooler before spinning them dry in an old honey centerfuge.  Note how the centerfuge is mounted on an repurposed pressure-washing cart, which gives it an eerie resemblance to R2D2.  I give thanks to Casey McKenzie, Ruthie Dougherty, and Vern Coffelt for making this contraption a reality.  I must note that rinsing greens like this, since not done in a commercial kitchen, does not make them technically ready-to-eat.

 Looking down into the basket of the centerfuge.

Today's harvest: 
1/2 lb salad greens
1/2 lb large-leaf spinach - tear up for salad or cook whole
1 bunch kale or swiss chard
1 bunch amethyst radish
1 bunch chives
1 green garlic