Happy Solstice! (a few days later)

(CSA Newsletter: Spring Week 6)

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Fava beans — If you’ve never eaten favas before, we highly recommend reading our special fava bean info before preparing (see below). They’re an oddly time intensive vegetable, but we think the results are worth the effort. We hope you enjoy this end of the spring season treat! (We’ve given out 3 lbs, which may initially seem like a lot, but trust us—this is about the appropriate quantity for a meal’s worth.)
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Lettuce — Sorry it’s a bit bedraggled this week. I (Katie) accidentally left our cooler on too long after harvesting, and the lettuces got a little frost burnt.
  • Sweet onion
  • Kale OR Collard greens
  • Carrots
  • Summer squash — The beginning of the zucchini harvest is always both exciting and daunting. We love this vegetable; its abundance makes it an easy favorite in the garden. But it gets hard to keep up sometimes too. So far, it’s been cool and the plants aren’t out of control. But it’s just the beginning … ! A few suggestions for summer squash: the smaller squashes can be sliced straight onto a salad; for larger squashes we recommend cooking. You can add them to stir fry dishes. Or slice lengthwise; briefly marinate in oil, vinegar, salt & pepper; and then grill!
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbge — Your choice of red or green. We recommend using either one fresh: shred & add to a Big Green Salad or make a slaw with shredded carrots & sweet onion.
  • I suppose that summer ‘officially’ started this last week, although as we’ve mentioned before it feels like summer started weeks ago—and yet this is still the final week of the spring share, and our weather certainly has been cooler than one would expect from summer (especially compared to this time last year). All in all, time has been a jumble for us out here lately. We can never decide whether it’s moving quickly or slowly. It all depends on whether we finished our ‘to do’ list for the day, I suppose.

    We have been enjoying the cooler weather though. It feels like a reprieve after last summer, which felt like one big long fever to us. I’ve been kind of cringing all spring, knowing that the heat would arrive eventually. And I’m sure it still will, but we’re not sorry for the cool nights right now. Everything in the fields seems to be progressing and growing regardless. We have our first summer squash this week, so apparently some good things from summer can arrive, even without the heat!

    Other things are growing around here too. We mentioned two weeks ago about our new farm residents—the chicks and the kittens. They are all growing incredibly quickly! It’s hard to even believe how short they’ve been around! We’re really enjoying the company of our new animal friends. While we love growing vegetables most of all, they’re not very cute or cuddly.

    Also growing in the fields these days: weeds. Lots of them. A farmer neighbor of ours here on the island has said many times something along the lines of: ‘Yes, pretty much everything grows well here. Including the weeds.’ And how correct he is. We are grateful that we invested early on in a cultivating tractor, because I think we would be easily overwhelmed by the weed pressure in our fields. As it is, we feel ok about how well we’re keeping up. There are some plantings that have more than weeds than others (the paths between the peas are covered with weeds), but overall it looks pretty good out there.

    And just for fun this week, I checked out Weeds of the West from the library. We wanted to know more about the weeds in our fields, so we’re learning all of their names (some of which we knew before, but others we had misidentified for years), their growth cycles, etc. I learned that the enormous ‘wild carrot’ I dug out two weeks ago was actually poison hemlock! And we learned that the sweet smelling weed in our pea planting is called ‘pineapple weed’—so named for its scent. The world of weeds is as diverse and interesting as vegetables! But not nearly as tasty.

    And, as always, while we pay attention to the present, we’re also thinking about the next step. To that end, we’ve begun working on the fall garden. The way we plan and plant, we have two big pushes for planting each year: the spring push and the mid-summer push, which is for fall and winter growing, Today we planted celeriac and sowed parsnips. And this weekend, we’ll begin sowing our fall brassicas, especially our long season cabbages (the ones that will hold beautifully in the field until it begins to warm up again next March).

    But of course—despite all my jumping around—it is still the final week of the spring season, meaning that it is very early summer. Since it is the last week of the season, we hope that everyone enjoyed this first six weeks of the 2007 CSA. We’re looking forward to many more weeks of fresh, seasonal vegetables this year. If you haven’t signed up yet for summer (but would like to), call us ASAP to reserve your spot for next week: 503-474-7661.

    Until then, thanks for joining us in this ever-growing eating adventure! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

    Your farmers,

    Katie & Casey Kulla
    Oakhill Organics


    Fava beans 101

    Fava beans, also known as ‘broad beans,’ were the only bean in Europe before the introduction of beans from the Americas. (Have you ever pondered the European diet before European exploration of the Americas? So many common veggies have their origins here: all squashes, beans, corn, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant!!!!!) Favas continue to have a solid place in Italian cooking but are rare in the United States. We only recently began eating them and have completely fallen in love with their sweet tender flavor. Fortunately, they are worth the extra time to prepare.

    To enjoy fava beans, you must first shuck the bean from the outer shell, much like shelling peas. However, unlike peas, there is a second step as well. Each bean has a slightly bitter skin that should be removed for best flavor and texture. We do this by quickly blanching the shelled beans in boiling water (about one minute), then cooling them by dunking in cold water and draining. They should more or less ‘pop’ or slide out of the skin.

    Once you have only the inner beans (which are a delightful bright green), you’re ready to include favas in your meal. They should be partially cooked already from the blanching, but we recommend cooking them further in order to achieve a tender texture. You can boil them for 5-10 minutes or add them to another baked/sautéed dish. Before deciding what to do with your favas, we recommend trying them plain. You may be inspired to serve them in a simple preparation, such as salted on pasta. Or, you may prefer to mash them and spread on toasted baguette slices for a tasty appetizer.

    Or, try our dinner from Sunday night: we sautéed a sweet onion in oil, then added chopped carrot and diced ham. After they had cooked for a few minutes we added our shelled favas and let them simmer with the other flavors to finish cooking. Finally, after adding a little salt & pepper, we tossed the delicious spring vegetables with buttered pasta. Delicious!

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