Green winter

Dottie walks through the very green cover crop at the north end of our fields on today’s rainy winter afternoon.

The CSA begins again tomorrow (Thursday, January 18)! Welcome back to all our returning members, and welcome to our new members too! We are so glad to have you all join us for our thirteenth growing season, our “farmer’s dozen,” as we’re calling it.

We’re starting again smack in the middle of winter, as we always do. But, so far, this winter has been very different from last year’s, which was marked by extremely cold weather and lots and lots of snow! That was “fun” in its own way, but as farmers we’ve enjoyed the moderate weather we’ve had so far this fall and winter. There’s been plenty of sunlight to keep our over-wintered plants like kale and chard happy.

We’ll see what the rest of the winter and early spring bring, but right now it feels like a very green winter. Our cover crop is lush and actively growing on the sunnier days. I always find it remarkable how the colors in the fields flip spots on the far ends of the year. In winter, thanks to our consistent cover crop habit, we look out upon green fields backed by the brown/gray branches of bare deciduous trees (mostly Oregon ash and cottonwoods). Then, in spring, the whole world fills with glorious green as the leaves return. Until finally in summer, we arrive at the opposite configuration as much of our fields (and for sure the grassy wild edges around our fields) turn brown from summer drought or from active cultivation (revealing the rich brown of good soil) while the leaves remain green in the trees. Winter = green below and brown above. Summer = brown below and green above.

Obviously summer is more diverse than that as fruiting plants bring orbs of red, yellow, green, orange, and purple into our landscape. But if I squint my eyes, I swear I could tell the season just from the predominant horizontal bands of color shaping the Willamette Valley landscape.

And, the beginning of the CSA marks another kind of landmark in our winter season as we return to our weekly routines more firmly than we do during our break. Our “break” is a varied experience comprised of project-based farm work, family time, and usually a special trip or two (we just got back from an epic tour of NW Washington where we reconnected with many friends on Whidbey Island and in Bellingham). Overall, the defining factor of these weeks “off” is primarily their flexibility — I can take several hours to work on end-of-year paperwork while Casey hangs with the kids. Or Casey can spend two days working on building a fence without interrupting harvest routines. But now we’ll be getting back into our rhythms, which feels good too. There’s a helpful kind of momentum built into the farm rhythms we’ve established over the last decade, with days built in for harvesting and days built in for field work. Casey has already begun sowing seeds in flats for later transplanting and has direct sown the earliest crops in our high tunnels. It’s hard to believe, but spring will be here before we know it. The daffodils are even beginning to pop up in our yard (as enthusiastically pointed out by Rusty this week)!

We are looking forward to sharing the best of winter’s bounty with you over the coming weeks. At times we’ve thought we’re crazy to operate a winter CSA (shouldn’t we just go to Costa Rica for the winter or some such thing?), except that it is such a delicious time of year and it would be a real shame for all of us to miss out on the unique food experiences that can be enjoyed even when the sky is dark with incessant Oregon winter rains. In fact, we believe that the winter foods brighten those days significantly, bringing their sweetness and nutrition to our bodies at a time of year when we appreciate it so.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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Paid yet? If you haven’t mailed us a check for your first CSA payment, please bring a check or cash to pick-up this week! Please let me know if you have any questions about your balance due. Thank you!

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Meet this week’s vegetables: Each week I share the list of our harvest, along with preparation ideas. Winter is always a time when folks can use a little extra help, since sometimes the vegetables are less familiar (or in less familiar forms) than summer harvests. So, over the following weeks I’ll aim to share our favorite tried-and-true ways of preparing the vegetables in your share, focusing on the basic and simple methods that are staples in our kitchen. You can always ask Casey and me for more clarification or ideas at pick-up too!

  • Apples
  • Seasonal salad mix — A mix of the unique tender greens that we grow in our fields in the winter. We love winter salads. They have more texture and flavor than summer lettuce, which can be an adjustment. But they are our favorite, in part because they can really handle a lot of dressing without wilting. We like to make mayonaise-like dressings (egg + vinegar + lots of oil) and tossing the finely chopped salad greens by hand so that all the leaves are coated. Add some extra toppings and it’s a salad fit for a meal. We recommend any of the following toppings (but maybe not all at once!): dried fruit, chunks of tuna or chicken, nuts, chopped bacon, slices of good sausage, cubed sharp cheddar cheese, or crumbled goat cheese.
  • Cabbage — In the winter, we almost exclusively eat our cabbage cooked. It becomes a simple base for many of our meals (sort of a pasta-substitute!). I chop the cabbage very thin while meanwhile heating up butter with chopped garlic in a big deep pan. If you’re familiar with our household’s cooking, you’ll know that we really like butter and use a lot of it. If I am cooking a whole cabbage at once (which I usually do), I might put a whole stick of butter in the pan to melt. Yes, really! Then I add the cabbage, put on the lid and turn the temperature to medium-high, stirring regularly to avoid sticking. This initial high temperature cooking will begin the cabbage wilting. Eventually it will start to stick, which is often a sign that it’s being caramelized and the sugars are starting to burn (yum!). At this point, I remove the lid and reduce the temperature to medium-low to finish the cooking. I like to cook the cabbage until it is very tender and caramelized, which also reduces its total mass so a whole cabbage can easily be eaten in one meal. The result has the savory comfort-food goodness of mac-and-cheese (but in vegetable form!). I’ll often turn cooked cabbage into a main dish by adding other things into it as it finishes cooking. A staple version of this dish (which I cook once almost every week) is made by adding tuna and tumeric. We garnish this dish with plain yogurt and whatever kind of good fermented thing we have in the house (a spicy kimchi or fermented sriracha is our favorite!).
  • Kale
  • Delicata winter squash
  • Pie pumpkins
  • “Sunshine” kabocha squash
  • Carrots
  • Sunchokes — What are these funny looking things? They are also called “Jerusalem artichokes” but have no relation to either Jerusalem or artichokes, so we prefer the name “sunchokes.” They are the tuber that grows at the base of a native sunflower (a beautiful tall one!), and they can be eaten cooked or raw. For cooking, we recommend first chopping into one-inch pieces (trimming off any extra ugly bits along the way) — no need to peel. Then roast in a deep pan with butter, stirring to prevent burning, until they are caramelized outside and tender inside. I’ll share more ideas for raw preparations next time we have them.
  • Beets
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