Yesterday was the summer solstice — technically, I believe we reached our apex of the year’s travel around the sun sometime right around Casey and my bedtime (9:30ish). As I pulled closed our curtains at bedtime, I looked out at the very bright blue sky, still lit up by the sun, and I thought that yes I am ready for that turn toward slightly longer nights again.
It will be awhile, of course, and I’m in no rush to see the days shorten quickly. But, summer is here! The sun has been so mild this year that it still feels good on the skin (in moderation, of course). The dust and heat waves will come, too, but right now summer is just all good.
As school gets out this week for the latest schools, I am sure that many in our community are also feeling the summer joy. School is good, yes? And so is that break. I think that the breathing in and out of the year is so important for us people — to work hard and then to break. And you folks who don’t farm are lucky to get your break smack in the middle of a glorious season for travel and outdoor adventures! We do as much of that as we can, but farming is for sure the focus of our time in summer (it is of course another kind of outdoor adventure).
May you all be busy preparing for summer’s gifts of adventure! And enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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Meet this week’s vegetables:
- Fava beans — The beginning of this year’s fava harvest! If you’re new to fava beans, here’s the scoop: also called a “broad bean,” favas are one of only a few “beans” native to Europe. These are fresh favas, but they are also grown as a dried bean (which is similar to a lima bean). Fresh favas can be eaten several ways, but they are almost always cooked. The outer pod is very thick and fibrous and not suitable to eating raw, but you CAN roast or BBQ whole fava beans in the pod. This is the way we are most likely to eat them, because it’s fast, easy and delicious. Just lay fava beans in a single layer in a roasting pan with some butter/oil and roast at a high temperature until they are brown outside and cooked inside. Salt liberally. We usually pick them up with our fingers to eat. A more traditional Italian way to prepare fresh fava beans is to remove the beans from the outer husk and then peel the white skin off the innermost green beans. You can do this while they are raw, or you can blanch the inner bean and then “pop” it out of the skin. Once you have a pile of the green beans, you can cook them further — try sautéing in butter or olive oil with fresh garlic. Once cooked, you can simply add them to a pasta dish, or for the ultimate foodie treat: purée them into a fava bean paste and spread it on toast. Getting to that final point can take a lot of work, but it is such a delight.
- Broccoli — When people think of spring foods, they think of the earliest, tender fresh greens. When people think of summer foods, they think of the fruiting zucchinis, tomatoes, and peppers. But there’s a whole other category of annual vegetables that arrive in early summer, before the fruiting has begun but after the tender greens have passed away. This is when we get to finally enjoy the longer season green vegetables that we planted at the same time as those earliest quick-growing spring greens — namely, broccoli!
- Fennel bulbs
- Salad mix
- Bok choy — Bok choy is an Asian green that was relatively recently introduced to markets beyond specialty suppliers. Because it is most traditionally used in Asian cuisines, it’s safe to say that the flavors of those cuisines complement it well. I love eating it with sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. But, like all greens, its uses can range for beyond what might have been “traditional” in its original context. Just this week, we enjoyed bok choy in a wide variety of contexts: for example sautéed with butter, peas, and diced ham. At another meal we ate it seasoned with chili powder and served rock fish on top. We often end up pairing foods based on what is in season (hence the bok choy and peas) rather than sticking strictly to any kind of recipes or servings suggestions. We find this a simpler way to address the bounty of the field and field our family fresh good food on our full days. What do we have? How can we put it all together? When starting with fresh ingredients, it’s really hard to go wrong!
- Fresh garlic — Casey has begun harvesting the garlic! This is much earlier than “normal” for us because we experimented this year and planted our garlic in one of our high tunnels. We did this because one of our perennial big challenges with garlic is weeding it mid-winter. In our mild climate, there are plenty of weeds that love to grow (and even flower and set seed!) in the winter, and yet it is a very hard time to weed because the ground stays persistently wet for several months. We spent many, many winters trying to carefully liberate our little garlic plants amidst winter weeds, only to see them engulfed again soon after. It definitely affects the vigor of the garlic plants and their ability to put on big beautiful bulbs before harvest. By planting them in the high tunnel, we were able to give them more attention and weed them all winter (because the ground would have opportunities to dry out between winter irrigations). It isn’t a choice we would make if we grew lots and lots of garlic, but at this point we would rather have a small, reliably good crop than a larger, struggling crop. (In fact, I’d say that’s our mentality about many areas of the farm these days!) All that to say that this week we have some of this year’s garlic for you! It is not “cured” (i.e. dried down) yet, so you will find that the wrapper leaves are less dry than you might expect. Peel down only as necessary to get to something yummy. In this stage, the skin on each clove is likely to be fine for including when you cook. Use your judgment based on the texture.