Blog

CSA Box #4

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The heat is back! That makes our heat-loving tomatoes and other nightshades, as well as the cucumbers very very happy. The challenge for both of our farms now is keeping everything watered.

We received so little precipitation last winter, and I’m sure everyone’s noticing dry creek beds, low water levels in local rivers and stricter water restrictions in town. Here in Merville, where I live, the Tsolum is looking like it’s late August. The dry winter is certainly affecting the availability of water. Not only did the dry winter affect Mt. Washington and the ski season, it also means there is less snowmelt water to feed our wells and ground water tables. Both of our farms rely on wells (both deep wells and shallow groundwater wells), so we feel particularly vulnerable to the drought.

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Being a farm intern isn’t always easy. We make them bathe in the ocean and rivers.

Growing veggies requires a good supply of fresh clean water, so we always have one eye trained on the water pump at this time of year. It takes a certain level of (healthy?) paranoia to make sure our water supply holds out till the end of the growing season. Pity the farm interns, who must take very short showers and bathe in rivers as much as possible! Sometimes this makes them feel a little crabby.

Work Parties – Opportunities to Get to Know Your Farms and Farmers

Thanks to all the folks who came to help us out with the Garlic Cleaning Party at Amara Farm last week!

Our next work party will be at Ripple Farm on Thursday, August 5 from 10:00AM to 1:00PM. Lunch will be provided and the work party task is TBA. Please RSVP at mervilleorganics@gmail.com.

GarlicFest Reminder

If you haven’t already, please mark your calendars for The Second Annual Comox Valley Garlic Festival on Sunday August 10! It’s a great chance to stock up on your winter supply of flavorful local garlic, sample and pick up amazing garlic creations (like garlic scape jam and garlic braids!) and enjoy some local entertainment. It’s family friendly, so bring the kids!

What’s in the Share this week?

  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes!
  • Zucchini
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Chard
  • Walla Walla Onions
  • Fresh garlic

Recipes

Zucchini

Here at Ripple. We eat zucchini for at least two meals a day! So we know lots of ways to use it. I promise we will include zucchini recipes every week that we put zucchini in your share!

This one’s just in time for the heat wave!

Chilled Zucchini Soup

Read this recipe on foodandwine.com

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 small zucchini (3 pounds), thinly sliced, plus long zucchini shavings for garnish
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded basil
  • 2 cups ice
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups purslane or baby arugula

Instructions:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the thyme and bay leaf and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sliced zucchini, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Discard the bay leaf and stir in the shredded basil.
  2. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. Transfer the zucchini puree to a large bowl. Stir in the ice. Refrigerate the zucchini soup for at least 3 hours, until thoroughly chilled.
  3. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into shallow bowls and top with a small handful of purslane and zucchini shavings. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
MAKE AHEAD The zucchini soup can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.

Chard

Swiss Chard Rolls

Read this recipe on meettheshannons.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked bulgur
  • 1 ½ cups lentils, cooked or canned
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, diced
  • ¼ cup parsley, diced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • Zest from 1 lemon

Instructions:

In a large bowl, gently mix all your roll ingredients except Swiss chard leaves being careful to not crush your tomatoes. Cover and put in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes.

While your filling chills, boil a pot of water. One at a time, dip your Swiss chard leaves into your boiling water while carefully holding onto the stem. Count to 15 and remove. Being careful to not burn your fingers, lay your leaves flat on clean dish towel to soak up extra water. Be careful not to tear your leaves as you flatten them out on the towel.

Once you’re done with all your leaves, it’s time to roll. One at a time, place your leaves flat on a cutting board with the flat – not spiny side down. Place 2-3 tablespoons of your filling in the center of the largest end of your leaf. Fold the side over your filling and then roll your largest end forward – rolling up your filling and tucking in any odd corners or edges to make a small fat cigar about the size of your hand.

Serve with some Annie’s Goddess Dressing.

Happy cooking everyone!

Moss

 

CSA Box #3

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Well, the garlic is in! We were glad to get it all harvested and hung to cure in our barns. Amara Farm grows a few kinds of garlic – softneck and hardneck varieties. Ripple Farm grows garlic too, we’re just building up our seed stock this year, but hope to grow a lot more next year for sale.

You can help clean the garlic harvest this coming Friday at Amara Farm (2641 Kirby Rd, Courtenay) at our first CSA member work party! Join us anytime between 3-6 to help us out with polishing up the garlic. We’ll have dinner at 6:00PM, so an RSVP is appreciated, drop us a line at mervilleorganics@gmail.com.

Speaking of garlic events, mark your calendars for The Second Annual Comox Valley Garlic Festival on Sunday August 10! It’s a great chance to stock up on your winter supply of flavorful local garlic, sample and pick up amazing garlic creations (like garlic scape jam and garlic gelato from Legato Gelato!) and enjoy some local entertainment. It’s family friendly, so bring the kids!

What’s in the share this week?

  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Zucchini
  • Fennel
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Dill
  • Salad Mix
  • Fresh garlic!

Recipes

Fennel

Fennel is an amazing sweet vegetable that adds a light anise flavour to any dish. You can incorporate it into almost any meal where you would start with sautéeing onions. Here’s a quick recipe for:

Carmelized Fennel & Onions

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • fennel bulb (trimmed, cored, and thinly sliced)
  • yellow onion (large, halved and thinly sliced)
  • coarse salt
  • ground pepper

Directions: In a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid, heat extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high. Add fennel and onion, and season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, add 1 tablespoon water, and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown and soft, 2 minutes.

What to do with it? You can serve this as a condiment or as a pizza topping. You might also want to try making croustini’s with a baguette or rice crackers. You could slather on a bit of goat cheese, a few greens and top with the carmelized fennel and onions. If you were feeling fancy…

Marc Vetri’s Fennel Gratin

This one looks like a hit too!

  • fennel bulb (about 2 pounds, fronds trimmed and reserved)
  • 21/2 cups olive oil
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 11/4 tsps red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (freshly)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Trim the base of the fennel and remove all dark and light green parts down to the white bulb. Slice each bulb in half lengthwise. Cut each half lengthwise into 4 wedges and remove the cores. Lay the wedges on a rimmed baking sheet and add olive oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. Sprinkle each wedge with a pinch each of salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Top each with about 1 teaspoon of Parmesan.

Bake until fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the oil until just warm.

Using a slotted metal spatula, transfer the fennel to plates and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds.

Anne’s tips about zucchini and fennel

I’m sitting at our CSA pick up station at LUSH Valley, and one of our CSA members, Anne Davis was just here and we were chatting about what she did with zucchini last week.

Anne grilled the zucchini with a bit of cilantro pesto and topped it off with some shaved parmesan. There’s a bit of inspiration for you!

She also told me she was at a conference lately where a very lovely salad was served. A bed of greens, with shaved fennel on top. There were also balsamic onions, black olives and sun dried tomatoes.

If you’ve got great ways to eat veggies, drop us a note or let us know at pick up so we can share your ideas on our weekly blog!

Have an excellent week!

Moss

 

CSA Box #2

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Sorry for the late post folks! I’m sure the Tuesday CSA members still have lots of veggies to work with.

Many of you have been asking for recipes for garlic scapes and summer squash. We know that some of the zucchinis we put in the boxes are unusual shapes and colours! Rest assured that these summer squashes can be used exactly the same way you would use a zucchini. As an added bonus, the round “Ronde De Nice” and scalloped “Yellow Patty Pans” are a great shape for cutting in half, scooping out and stuffing!

What the Heck is This Vegetable?!?

We love this website by a web developer named Krisztina Kun at Kun Studios who is a CSA member herself. The site was developed for people who open up their CSA boxes and think, “Uuuuuhm, what the heck is this thing and what do I do with it?!”

WTF

If you find yourself opening a bin and wondering what the heck to do with a vegetable, drop us a line at mervilleorganics@gmail.com, or, head on over to Krisztina’s site: wtfisthisvegetable.com

What’s in the second share?

  • Butterhead lettuce
  • Walla Walla Onion
  • Chard
  • Beets (don’t forget to eat the greens!)
  • Summer squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Parsley
  • Garlic scapes

Recipes

Garlic Scapes

Garlic can be used in so many ways! And this is the last week of them, so be sure to enjoy :) The Crisper Whisperer at the Serious Eats site has an awesome article: 7 Things to Do With Garlic Scapes! I am excited to try the Scape Compound Butter!

Patty Pan (scalloped and pancake-shaped yellow) & Ronde De Nice (round green & white) Squash

All zucchinis are great for roasting and stuffing. Here are a few easy ideas:

No matter what the shape the squash is, you can slice it in half, scoop out a bit of the seedy interior (but not too much!) and roast it up. Then you can stuff it with all manner of things!

So, grab your squashes and fire up the BBQ or oven. Cut’em in half, scoop out a bit of the seedy inside, and brush with olive oil. Roast on high heat on the BBQ, or at about 400F in the oven till they are soft and brownish on the outside. Take them out and stuff them with any of these things:

Pesto (Garlic Scape, Basil or other)

Tomatoes, peppers and onions (with cheese on top)

Mushrooms and wild rice (with cheese on top, of course)

Then pop’em back in the BBQ or oven, and roast till the cheese is melty or the filling is soft and heated.

These stuffed squashes make a great main dish for any meal, or a fabulous side!

Enjoy the bounty this week everyone!

 

 

2014 CSA Box #1

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CSA season has begun and our farms are overflowing with goodness. We’re at LUSH Valley today meeting our new CSA members and greeting familiar faces from last year. On Friday we will be at Amara Farm doling out veggies to the rest of our members :)

It’s been a good season so far. The warm weather in May and June challenged us to get the irrigation out early, but we’ve also had some great rain. Every time it rains, we sigh with relief!

What’s in the first share?

  • 1/2lb Salad mix
  • Napa cabbage
  • Walla Walla sweet onion
  • Summer squash
  • Basil
  • Baby turnips
  • Kale
  • Garlic scapes

Recipes

Every week, we try to share recipes here on our blog for the lesser known veggies in your share. Another great place to find recipes some of the more obscure veggies is “WTF is this Vegetable,” which was started by a CSA member in Victoria to help other CSA members with “mystery veggies” in their weekly boxes!

Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are really versatile. You can chop them up like garlic and sautée in place of garlic cloves. You can also steam or sautée them in larger pieces and enjoy the way you would green beans or asparagus. Scapes also make great pesto!

Check out this garlic scape & basil pesto recipe!

Baby Turnips

Last year, we posted about turnip basics. Check it out!

Napa Cabbage

At the farm, sometimes we get veggies that don’t look so pretty, or grow in funny ways. We call these “Farmer Share” veggies. And with napa cabbage, we get a lot of heads that are too small or weird looking to sell. When that happens, we make Kimchi, a delicious Korean spicy pickle – a lot like sauerkraut. This naturally-fermented pickle offers a host of probiotics that are great for the gut, and spices up your meal!

Find out how to make Kimchi here!

 

 

Hi there. We grow your vegetables. Nice to meet you!

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Our Summer 2014 CSA season and we’ll be seeing you at the pick-up locations and the farmers’ markets and in town… so we thought we’d introduce ourselves!

We have a fantastic team of farmers and dedicated farm interns this year who have been working hard to grow delicious fresh veggies and will be happy to see you each week at your CSA pick-up location.

Here we are, from left to right:

Seth Neufeld

Seth is interning at Ripple Farm this year and is single-handedly responsible for keeping the plants on a tight watering schedule! He’s originally from Red Deer, AB, but has been living on the lower mainland and in Tofino for the past few years. Seth is charming, artsy and a great farmer!

Moss Dance

Moss owns and operates Ripple Farm, one half of Merville Organics. Moss has been living in the Comox Valley for 6 years and is actively involved in the farming community with the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market board and the Vancouver Island Organic Collective. Ask Moss for a song about vegetables if you’re in the mood for some silliness.

Sticky

Sticky is the farm dog at Ripple Farm. He’s super friendly, even though he barks sometimes. Feel free to give him a pat if you see him in Moss’ blue truck or hanging around at CSA pick-up stations!

Arzeena Hamir

Arzeena owns and operates Amara Farm, the other half of Merville Organics! She is super involved in a lot of farming and food-related organizations in BC, including the Certified Organic Associations of BC board, the Comox Valley Food Roundtable the Investment Agriculture Fund, and the Vancouver Island Organic Collective. Arzeena grows the best Walla Walla onions in the world. You’ll see.

Russell Heitzmann

Many of you who were in our CSA last year will remember Russell. He interned at Ripple Farm last year, and is now a senior intern at Amara Farm. Russell’s infectious laugh, friendly smile and way-cool knowledge of local mushrooms make people like him right away! Russell’s farming skills are a huge asset to our team.

Jester

Jester is an intern at Amara Farm this year, and is hands-down the best gluten-free baker ever! He’s also friendly and hard-working, which is a bonus for us! Jester lives and gardens in Comox as well, and we love having him around.

Calliope Gazetas

Calliope (pronounced cal-ee-oh-pay) is joining us fresh outta design school in Toronto. She does amazing botanical drawings of our favourite weeds, and keeps us giggling all the time. Her keen interest and dedication to keeping Amara Farm humming along is bringing us joy!

Amina Turner (in front, doing the splits!)

Amina is Arzeena’s kid, and she is a keen CSA pick-up station ambassador. She’ll show you what the share is for the week, and sometimes, she even offers you lemonade! Amina’s a great dancer, friendship bracelet-maker and can ride a scooter really fast.

Inara Turner (not in photo)

Inara is Arzeena’s other kid who takes awesome photos, is super keen in the kitchen and is likely to host a wildly popular cooking show someday!

WE’RE ALL LOOKING FORWARD TO MEETING YOU!

Speaking up for the ALR

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was created by the Province of British Columbia forty years ago – with the passage of the Land Commission Act in 1973 – to protect 4.5-million hectares of arable land for food production purposes. The ALR was considered essential as thousands of hectares of the best farm land was being lost annually to real-estate subdivisions and other industural and commercial purposes – in a mountainous province where only 5% of the landbase for suitable for food production.

Since the creation of the ALR, land owners wishing to alter private land or put it into use for non-agricultural purposes must seek approval from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), an arms-length public agency entrusted with a mandate of agriculture.

Today, in the face of climate change, rising energy costs and growing awareness of the public health, social, and environmental benefits of local food production and consumption, the ALR and ALC are more important than ever.

~ Farmland Protection Coalition

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As a farmer, it feels important to me to write a bit to our CSA members about the ALR, and why it is so important to agriculture in our community and in our province.

I value the ALR and think it’s essential to our future in BC. Without it, we will not have land to grow our food – it’s that simple. The ALC, created in the early 70’s, was a visionary idea that politicians implemented to protect farmland for their children and grandchildren’s food supply.

In a conversation about land, and land use, I feel compelled to say that the land we now call British Columbia is first and foremost Indigenous territory, much of it unceded. As a descendent of settlers, and thus a settler myself, I understand that land in the ALR is Indigenous territory. And I acknowledge that there the consequences of policies that our government is promoting in favour of resource extraction and development have various effects on all kinds of communities within the place we now call British Columbia.

farmland-pricesWhen I was a kid, I loved farms. I grew up in southern Ontario, in Guelph, Holland Landing and Burlington. These cities are surrounded by gorgeous farmland – or, at least, they used to be. I remember my Mom and Dad would pack us into the car on a summery Sunday and drive out to local farms to buy sweet corn, fresh apples, or just to visit and look at the beautiful places. My brother and I played  in hay lofts and barns, and saw chickens, fields and cows. I remember drives through the countryside to visit my grandparents in a neighbouring community and spending the drive in silence, absorbing the scenes of barns, old farmhouses and rolling fields and hedgerows.

B821437150Z.1_20131123092138_000_G4V148HHS.2_ContentAs an adolescent, I started to notice changes in the farmscape around us. The suburb we lived in was expanding rapidly. Every month, a new farm was sold and eaten up by a new housing development. In my late teens, several hundred acres of farmland was swallowed up by the 407 toll highway. Fields full of crops and crickets were smothered by cookie cutter housing tracts and endless pavement. I still grieve for the disappearance of these farms.

When I moved to BC and found out about the ALR, I was amazed to see the way that this province had protected so much farmland. BC is the envy of the rest of what we now call Canada. 4.5 million hectares of farmland are protected in our province. While additional efforts need to be made to ensure this farmland is being actively farmed, our government is taking a step backwards. Because my heart is still broken by watching the farmland of my childhood destroyed, I take this new legislation very personally.

Taking it personally

As farmers and eaters, we should all be taking Bill 24 very personally. It’s hitting us right in the gut and crashing the party at our dinner table.

Bill 24 is being debated for the second time in the legislature this week. This bill would divide the ALR into two zones. The first zone, which includes Vancouver Island, the South Coast and the Okanagan would remain the same. Zone 2 would encompass the other 90% of protected farmland in BC and would introduce looser regulations – opening up farmland to development, and mineral and oil & gas exploration.

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While Bill 24 doesn’t specify how farmland will be able to be used for non-agricultural activities, it sets the stage for further erosion of farmland protection in the future. Bill Bennett cites minor cases of land use dispute between some of his East Kootenay constituents and the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) the regulating body for the ALR as the reason for this legislation. While I agree that ALR regulations can present challenges for farmers (the inability to build additional housing for farmers leasing land and family on ALR land is an issue for many of us), that doesn’t mean we should slacken the rules or dismantle the system. Intelligent changes can be made to the ALR through detailed public consultation that do not compromise the ability of the ALC to protect farmland.

But this legislation isn’t about improving the ALR, it’s about getting it out of the way so oil & gas, mining and development can move in.

My deepest concern is that these changes to the ALR put farmers who lease land at risk. If someone can frack or mine on ALR land and make a bunch of money, why would they continue to lease their land to farmers at a low cost?

Needless to say, farmers in the proposed “Zone 2” are pretty upset about this:

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Corky Evans, former BC Minister of Agriculture farms in the proposed “Zone 2” as well. Listen to his thoughts on CBC All Points West.

How did this happen? It all started with a shady thing called the “Core Review Committee,” which was struck to find more efficiencies in government. The public line at the time was that they were not looking at changing the ALR. Some of us actually showed up a few months ago at a web-based meeting at NIC  to talk about the ALR, and were told we could speak, but the Core Review was not about the ALR. All along the way, Bill 24 has been created in the shadows, and our voices have been kept out.

East Kootenay MLA and Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett heads up this committee, and is disingenuously spreading the rumour that Bill 24 is all about protecting farmers. He says that allowing farmers make a living from their land in non-agricultural ways will ensure that people stay in farming. He also likes to say that a lot of the land in the ALR isn’t really arable or useful for agricultural production of any kind. My question is, as Minister for Energy and Mines, what the heck does Bill Bennett know about the quality of farmland and what farmers need? Especially if he won’t talk to us.

Who else is behind this ALR-busting legislation? Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Pat Pimm, BC’s current Minister of Agriculture who’s career has been in the oil and gas sector up until now.

Stand up for the ALR

As “Zone 1” farmers and eaters, I believe we need to stand in solidarity with the rest of the farmers and eaters in BC and say no to changes in the ALR. It should be kept fully intact. If anything, we need tighter regulations to protect farmland in our province as we hurtle (most of us unwillingly) into an age of fracking, pipelines and mining.

We need farmland to feed people in our communities. We need more farmers. We need farmers to have better access to good farmland. We need more local food!

What you can do

Read up!

The Tyee – BC Loosens Restrictions on Swaths of Protected Farmland
Commons BC – BC’s Farmland Open to Fracking and Other Development? Stop Bill 24
Letter: Scrap ALR Proposal and Save Small Farmers – a Rossland Perspective

Speak up!
Write the premier, MLA Don McRae, Bill Bennett, Pat Pimm, and any other politician you like!
Print this petition and get your friends’ autographs
Check out the Farmland Protection Coalition on Facebook

CSA Week #20

WOW! Week 20?!?

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While the summer whizzed by in a blur, it’s not hard to believe it’s the last week of our CSA this year. With light morning frosts, slower plant growth and cooler soil temperatures, our farms are heading into the rest season. And we’re looking forward to a bit of rest as well.

That said, we have a goal to make as many Saturday markets as we can with abundant greens this winter! So please come visit us Saturday mornings at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market. This coming Saturday is the last outdoor market at the Exhibition grounds. Following that, we will be attending the indoor market at the Native Sons Hall.

We want to say a sincere thank-you to all of you, from the very bottom of our harvest baskets, for your support, encouragement, feedback, and heartfelt engagement with our farms this season. You’ve stuck with us through the floods and droughts, we’ve celebrated the glorious Walla Walla onions together, and you were all very kind when you had to share your bok choi with the  flea beetles! So many of you have encouraged us with your words and commitment to local farmers at the pick-up stations. You’re all fabulous CSA members, and we hope we can work with you again next year!

Inara Rocks!

Just in case you missed it at the March Against Monsanto, you’ve gotta check out Inara’s amazing speech about the dangers of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms.) Arzeena is a very very proud mom!

Some housekeeping

Wrapping up this year:

  • Creekside will receive their usual rubbermaid totes of veggies this week. Please put your totes out next Tuesday before 3PM and we will come and pick them up.
  • Tahsis: can you please make sure all the bins come back this Friday? You will receive your shares in cardboard boxes this week :)

Looking ahead to next season:

  • 2013 CSA members will have priority for next year’s share sign-up – you will hear from us in December regarding 2014 shares!
  • If you have friends who would like to sign up, please send them to our CSA page to sign up for our 2014 waiting list.

What’s in the last CSA share of 2013?

All shares:

  • Winter squash
  • Turnip greens
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Leeks

Full shares add:

  • Radishes
  • Kohlrabi
  • Cilantro
  • Jalapenos

Recipe: Grilled Winter Squash with Millet Pilaf and Coconut Chutney Sauce

Two lovely people named Bev and Darrell stopped by our booth at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market this weekend and told us all about this recipe involving winter squash AND napa cabbage! Sadly, the napa cabbage is done, but if you have last week’s cabbage hangin’ around in the fridge, have we got a recipe for you…

Sorry for the small image size! If can’t see this tiny image here, you can grab the PDF version it at this link.

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CSA Week #19

Oh my Garlic! It’s Week 19!

That means there’s only one week left of CSA, and we can’t believe it!

It’s been a great summer with all of you. We’ve enjoyed meeting you at LUSH and at Amara Farm and sending you bins of veggies to Tahsis and Creekside Commons. It has been a wonderful summer of connecting with the people who eat what we grow. We actually think about you as we’re harvesting, and it feels great to know the people that we are doing this work for!

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What’s in the shares this week?

All shares:

  • Squash
  • Garlic
  • Braising mix
  • Carrots
  • Parsley

Full shares add:

  • Beets
  • New Zealand spinach

How ’bout an organic local chicken instead of a turkey this weekend?

IMG_6805This past weekend, my friend Katie roasted us up a chicken for dinner from the Birds & the Beans. Holy doodle, was it tasty!

They have an assortment of sizes, ranging from 2.5 to 6.5 lbs, and are now vacuum packed and frozen.

If you’d like some more chicken, please contact the Birds and the Beans to arrange a time for pick-up.  Wednesday evenings or Saturdays around 2:00pm work well them, but they can certainly be flexible!

Contact info:

2641 Kirby Road (at Amara Farm)
Courtenay BC
250-871-4784
thebirdsandthebeans.blogspot.ca (edit)

 

We’re all about breaking conventions…

Here’s another wacky recipe…

Cheese Stuffed Squash! Check it out :)

 

 

CSA Week #18

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Farm Updates

As we switch gears into the fall/winter seasons, we’re looking at extending the season with greenhouses and low tunnels, planting cold hardy crops and thinking ahead to crops that will survive the winter and produce in the early spring. At Ripple, we’ve been getting ready for the impending cold snap by building lots of low tunnels over our fall and winter crops. We’ve also planted our two high poly tunnels with lettuce, spinach, scallions, arugula, mizuna and tah tsai.

The weekend storm definitely left a lot of standing water around the farm. Check out that photo of our garden path flooded out by Milman Creek! Gum boots are definitely required now.

Not surprisingly, we’ve got one eye on the current weather, and one wandering far off into next July… That means there  is one crop that is occupying our waking moments (and keeping us up at night): GARLIC.

Amara farmers are now holding fast to their remaining garlic – it will be planted for next season. You will likely see some of the Korean Red from Ripple next week or the week after. As we scramble to procure seed garlic from organic sources, we will be preparing beds with loads of compost, mulch and fish bone meal over the next few weeks. Garlic is a demanding crop, but as we all know, it’s well worth the effort!

Potluck October 11th!

Just a reminder that you are invited to Amara Farm on Friday, October 11 for a potluck from 3:00-6:00PM. We’ll be making signs for the March Against Monsanto on Saturday, October 12. We’ll have sign-making materials handy, but feel free to bring your paints, markers, boards and sticks!

The March Against Monsanto is on Saturday October 12, starting at noon for a picnic at Simm’s Park in Courtenay.

What’s in the share this week?

All shares:

  • Bok choi or Chinese cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Salad mix

Half shares only:

  • Kale

Full shares add:

  • Radishes
  • Summer squash
  • Basil
  • Jalapeno peppers

Recipe: Arzeena’s magic 10-minute noodles

Russell and I were at Arzeena’s the other night, and she made serious noodle magic in the kitchen. The kids were hungry, and there wasn’t much time for dinner as she had a meeting to attend afterwards. We watched in amazement as she whipped up this healthy dish and graciously tossed bowls of yumminess in front of everyone – this is my attempt at writing it down to share it. Let me know how it works out for you!

This recipe is a great fall and winter nourishing meal, and best of all, it’s easy and quick!

This amount should serve 2-3 adults, or 2 adults and 2 kids. Feel free to experiment with quantity.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bok choi or Chinese cabbage, shredded or sliced finely
  • 1/2 package of rice noodles or buckwheat noodles
  • 3 TBS miso paste of your choice
  • 8 cups water or broth

Optional ingredients and further noodle inspirations:

  • Sautéed mushrooms and leeks (chanterelles are amazing – available at LUSH most days)
  • Tofu – cubed and fried in sesame oil (with a dash of Bragg’s or tamari or soy sauce at the end)
  • Kimchi
  • Anything you can think of!

Delicious and easy add-ons to your bowl o’ noodles:

  • Sriracha or other hot sauce
  • Toasted sesame oil

Boil water, and cook noodles according to directions on package. Once noodles are cooked, take the pot off of the heat. Take a small amount of the water out of the pot in a small dish, and whisk in the miso with a fork, making a runny liquid that will mix into the soup more easily. Add the miso (do not boil or the enzymes will be destroyed!) Add the Chinese cabbage or choi and let sit for 1 minute. Eat immediately. Hooray for healthy and delicious fast food :)

CSA Week #17

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The Power of Working Together

Fall is in full swing, and there truly is abundance all around us. Mushrooms are sprouting in the woods, and apples, pears, plums, and more fall off the trees unpicked. (Hopefully most of them are found and distributed by LUSH valley or picked by their owners!) The plants we’ve taken care of all summer are finishing their life spans, putting the last of their energy into storing food for the winter or ripening fruit.

All the rain has been wonderful for our winter crops, and our fields are filled with happy brassicas and lettuce. We’re still trying to put more crops in the ground for winter, but not at the same frantic pace as before. As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, plants grow slower, and they’ve got to be a certain size before they’ll be ready for the winter.

This week was hard for our friends and comrades at The Birds and the Beans, as the Campbell River market, one of their outlets for their produce was rained out. They have an abundance of cucumbers and summer squash, and our plants are pretty much done, so those vegetables this week are from their productive lease at Beaver Meadows farm.

What’s in the shares this week?

All Shares:

  • Salad mix
  • Carrots
  • Bok Choi
  • Summer Squash
  • Cucumbers

Full Shares add:

  • Summer squash
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes or tomatillos
  • Cilantro

Recipes: Rockin’ the Root Veggies

Diced Roasted Vegetables

This recipe comes to us from Laura, one of our CSA customers.

Potatoes
Carrots
Kohlrabi
Tomatoes
Beets
Any other vegetables you might want to roast!

Add:

  • Olive Oil
  • Herbs and Spices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Fill a roasting pan with finely diced vegetables. Add herbs (we recommend Thyme, Oregano, or perhaps a more asian inspired mix with Coriander, Curry Powder, and Turmeric). Add enough olive oil to coat the vegetables. Roast for an hour to two hours, until all the vegetables are tender. Eat!

 

 

CSA Week #16

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Mark your calendars – Potluck at Amara Farm!

Join us on Friday, October 11 for a potluck at Amara Farm from 3:00-6:00PM. We’ll be making signs for the March Against Monsanto on Saturday, October 12. We’ll have sign-making materials handy, but feel free to bring your paints, markers, boards and sticks!

Farm Updates

We are really starting to move into the west coast second spring :) Kale and collards and kohlrabi and bok choi are all sizing up and looking happy about the rain. Arzeena, Russell and I have been doing our happy dances too since it’s been raining. At Ripple, we’ve drained another 2500gal of water (geez, it only took us one month to go through it!) and so the rain is a huge relief.

Farming takes all we’ve got, and more. That’s why we feel so much gratitude when the weather helps us out. The more I get into this way of life, the more I realize that farmers complain about the whether for a reason! It can be so frustrating when we run out of water and the heat is beating down on our tender little seedlings. But I also know it takes a deep love of this earth we live on to remember that we are never working against the forces of nature, we are working with them. Sometimes that means we have to run around throwing floating row cover on crops, or bound out into a thunderstorm to rescue tender seedlings, or scurry about with armloads of mulch to rescue wilting cabbages. Anyhow, it’s not like we want to be doing anything else. This is a good life.

What’s in the shares this week?

All Shares:

  • Salad mix
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Parsley

Full Shares add:

  • Summer squash
  • Melon
  • Cucumber
  • Tomatoes or tomatillos

Recipes: Fermenting the harvest!

Arzeena’s carrot pickles

Trim and cut carrots however you like (slices, sticks, rounds, etc.)

Stuff a mason jar of your choice of size full with carrots

Add:

  • 1 TBSP kosher or non-iodized salt (sea salt is good)
  • 1 TBSP miso (Arzeena uses Shiro Miso)
  • Optional: 1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce to make it spicy
  • Fill jar with non-chlorinated water

Cover the with the mason jar lid and shake to distribute the salt, miso and hot sauce.  Allow the jar to sit on the counter for about one week. If any of the carrots float to the top, they may develop a white film. Simply remove any of these rogue carrot slices. When the carrots start to taste sour, transfer them to the fridge. They will keep for eons!

 

 

CSA Week #15

Mizuna!

 [mi-zoo-nuh]

Mizuna (Japanese: 水菜 ‘water greens’), shui caikyonaJapanese mustardpotherb mustardJapanese greensCalifornia peppergrass, or spider mustard is a cultivated variety of Brassica rapa nipposinica. The name is also used for Brassica juncea var. japonica. (wikipedia.org)

Now that you know about the classification of mizuna, you can try it out! We’ve given tender bunches of delicious, pretty and flavourful mizuna to all shares this week. It’s great raw, or cooked, but never overcooked, so be sure to lightly sauté or steam!

Ways that we like to eat mizuna:

  • Chopped up fine and scrambled with our morning eggs
  • To add bulk to your salad
  • As a bed to serve under entrées (ie. tofu steak or fish filet on a bed of mizuna)
  • Anyway we would use spinach!

For another idea, check out this great blog post from a mystified CSA member in another land who didn’t know what to do with mizuna!

Let us know how you like to eat mizuna! Visit our Facebook page or email us at mervilleorganics@gmail.com to share your ideas!

What’s in the share this week?

All shares

  • salad mix
  • fennel bulb
  • mizuna
  • carrots
  • tomatoes

Full shares

  • cucumber
  • cabbage
  • beets

Farm Updates

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As the summer season continues to wind down, the fall/winter season is gearing up! Squash is coming off of the vines this week, and we’ll be curing them up for boxes to come. We cure the squash by setting them up in a nice warm spot for a week or two to finish ripening, away from the threat of frost.

Fall and winter greens are also sizing up nicely, and we continue to seed every week – mizuna (of course!), arugula, tah tsai, bok choi, hardy lettuces, gai lan and more.

We were all shocked to realize that there are only 5 weeks left after this week till CSA shares are finished. Folks have been asking, so for your info the last shares will be harvested on Tuesday, October 15 and Friday, October 18. However, both of our farms are looking forward to showing up with winter greens and other treats at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market as long as we can coax them out of the ground!

Mizuna Recipes

Oh wow, oh wow! At the risk of looking a little lazy, I am going to refer you to this Pinterest page full of mizuna-containing recipes. As you can see, it’s a very versatile green… and there are lots of pretty pictures.

Reminder about LUSH Valley

With the fruit tree harvest project in full swing, LUSH Valley Food Security Hub has tree fruit on offer every week. If you love canning, we suggest you drop by to see what they’ve got. Last week, they had gorgeous Italian prune plums – we made plum butter preserve! This week, they had beautiful Snow apples from Union Bay. Their dedicated team of volunteers works very hard to bring in the harvest from trees that would otherwise not be harvested. All of their offerings are by donation – come on out and support them and get some great local fruit!

Also, the Tuesday pocket market runs simultaneously with our CSA pick-up at LUSH from 3-6 on Tuesdays. This week there were wildcrafted chanterelles, tomatoes, kale, organic eggs, dried herbs and preserves for sale. LUSH also offers a fantastic member pantry full of bulk dry goods and World Community fair trade items at great prices for members. A lifetime LUSH Valley membership costs $10 and gives you access to the member’s pantry. Don’t forget to bring a little pocket change for the market if you’re a Tuesday member looking for a treat. Friday members are welcome to drop in to visit and check out the market as well!

We hope you all enjoy the bounty this week! 

CSA Week 14

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It’s so good to be back after my week off! I had a great time frolicking in the woods and re-charing my batteries with friends and community. I want to send a HUGE thank-you out to Russell, Rod, Neils, Ingrid and her three kids and Barb Toombs for helping out  at the farm this week. And of course, an enormous warm fuzzy hug to Arzeena for being my farm buddy and making life richer.

People are starting to ask when the CSA program ends. Happily, we can tell you, there are still 6 weeks left after this one! You can look forward to more tomatoes, salad greens, summer and winter squash and there are beans, potatoes, carrots and beets still growing in our fields. You’ll still find lots of weekly goodness until mid-October.

 

What’s in the box this week?

All Shares:

  • Salad mix
  • Summer squash
  • Fennel bulb
  • Tomatoes
  • Greens bunch
  • Korean Red garlic

Full Shares:

  • Watermelon!
  • Radish pods (tasty snax!)
  • Tah tsai *
  • Cucumbers

* What is tah tsai? It’s a delicious green that slightly resembles baby bok choi. It’s beautiful dark green spade shaped leaves are tender like spinach with a slight hint of mustard zing! Use it in stir fries, sautees, or raw in salads.

Potato Fennel Gratin

By Soo Kim And The Canadian Living Test Kitchen  – with Merville Organics adaptations!

(www.canadianliving.com/food/potato_fennel_gratin.php)

Portion size: 12

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
  • 4 cups (1 L) sliced (1/8 inch/3 mm thick) fennel, (about 1 lb/500 g)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced onions
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 3 lb (1.4 kg) potatoes, peeled
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chicken broth or veggie broth
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) grated romano cheese (or how about Natural Pastures Parmadammer? They’re at the market every Saturday)

Bread Crumb Mixture:

  • 2 cups (500 mL) fresh bread crumbs
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) grated romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Preparation

Bread Crumb Mixture: In small bowl, combine bread crumbs, cheese, oil and parsley; remove one-third and set aside. Stir garlic into remaining mixture in bowl.

In large skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat; cook fennel, onion and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) of the salt until softened, about 13 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, using mandoline or food processor, slice potatoes 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick. Toss with pepper and remaining salt. Overlapping, arrange one-third in greased 13- x 9-inch (3 L) oval baking dish. Arrange half of the fennel mixture then half of the bread crumb mixture over top. Repeat layers once. Arrange remaining potatoes over top, pressing lightly.

Pour chicken broth evenly over potato mixture; sprinkle with reserved bread crumb mixture. Sprinkle with Romano cheese.

Cover with foil; bake in 375°F (190°C) oven for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake until knife pierces potatoes easily, about 30 minutes. Broil until topping is browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer to rack; let stand for 10 minutes. (Make-ahead: Let cool; cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Reheat, covered, in 400°F /200°C oven for 20 minutes.)

CSA Week #13

Here’s to second plantings!

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We hope Moss is enjoying her week off. She so deserves her time away!

Meanwhile, both Russell & Arzeena are holding the fort. A big thank-you to all those who have come and are planning to head over to Ripple Farm to help Russel with the seeding, weeding & harvest.

This week you’ll see a few returning favourites – carrots and baby potatoes. Both of these were planted at the end of June so that we’d have a second harvest. Both will be very tender so no need to cook for too long.

The rain has certainly changed the pace at both of the farms. We can lay off the watering for now but with the soil evenly moist, seeding and transplanting will be happening in full force. Both farms are planting broccoli, cabbage, kale, endive, collards, radishes, turnips & lettuce. This is a great time to plant the leafy greens again so that we’ll be eating salad into October.

The Amara Farm chickens are back to laying so we have lots of eggs. You can get them at pick-up time or e-mail us and we’ll put them aside for you or in your bin. The cost is $6/dozen.

Seed Saving Time

You’ll note in one of the photos that some lettuce has gone to seed. It’s seed saving time and both Amara  & Ripple Farm do a fair amount of seed saving. Not only does it cut down on costs for seed purchasing, but it allows both farms to have a strong supply of organically-grown seed that is locally adapted.

If you are interested in seed saving, we highly recommend joining the Comox Valley Growers & Seed Savers. They host monthly meetings at Creekside Commons on the first Thursday of each month from 7-9pm. The September meeting will feature a speaker on mushrooms and wildcrafting. In addition, the CVGSS host an annual Seedy Saturday in March. Not to be missed!

Recipe

Roasted Veggies with Orange

 

  • 1/2 lb baby new potatoes
  • 1/2 lb carrots, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut into 8
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 oranges, segmented and juice reserved
  • small handful dill sprigs

Preparation

Heat the oven to 200C, 400F. Toss the new potatoes, carrots and fennel with the oil, season and roast for 40 minutes, turning occasionally, until the veg is golden and slightly caramelised. Mix with the orange segments and dill, and drizzle over 3 to 4tbsp of the reserved orange juice with a little more seasoning. Serve while warm or at room temperature.

Option: If you still have some squash left over from last week, you can add some to this recipe too! No need to peel either :-)

 

CSA Week #12

Squash it up!!

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This week’s blog post is a combined effort by Arzeena & Russell!

With all the wonderful sun that came during July and early August, the Red Kuri squash is ready for picking. We hope you enjoy this moist and flavourful winter squash. This week is also the debut of the tomatoes. They’re still a bit slow in coming due to the cool week we just had but hopefully will supply us for a bit. One neat connection – the Striped Roma tomatoes that many of you are getting came from seed that was saved by one of our CSA members, Amy Crook! Thanks so much Amy, they’re a gorgeous tomato with lots of delicious flavour.

This is also the week that both Ripple Farm and Amara Farm are ripping up some of the summer veggies and planting for fall. Out go the dill and yu choi, in comes kale, New Zealand spinach and cabbage.

A quick note from Amara Farm – our egg supply is a bit lower as we have 3 hens sitting on eggs!! Although we miss the great supply of eggs, we’re very excited to be hatching a new generation of chickens that won’t be raised by a heat lamp! Hens really do make the best mothers…

Moss will be away from Ripple Farm next week (August 26-29) and Russell would love some help! If you can spare a couple of hours, Russell would love a hand transplanting, weeding, harvesting, and more. Thursday morning (the 29th), 9-12 would especially be helpful. Please e-mail Russell to let him know if you can make it at rheitzmann (at) gmail (dot) com. or post on the Facebook event.

Here’s a recipe that Russell has made many times with a wide variety of winter squashes that he wrote about in his blog (when he was in the habit of updating it!): http://russellheitzmann.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/squashpotato-curry-spices-and-following-directions/

IMG_6805Note from Birds & Beans

Kelsey from the Birds and the Beans, here.  Just wanted to let you know that we’ve just finished raising a batch of chickens!  We’ve an assortment of sizes, ranging from 2.5 to 6.5 lbs, and are now vacuum packed.

If you’d like some more chicken, please contact us to arrange a time for pick-up.  Wednesday evenings or Saturdays around 2:00pm work well for us, but we can certainly be flexible!

The price is still $5.75/lb.  We also have another batch on the way, so if you’d like a larger number of larger or smaller birds, we can accommodate that if you let us know within the next week or so.

Hope to hear from you, and thanks for your business!

Kelsey and the Birds and the Beans
2641 Kirby Road
Courtenay BC
250-871-4784
thebirdsandthebeans.blogspot.ca

CSA Week #11

A busy week!

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It’s been a busy weekend! GarlicFest was an amazing success, raising over $2500 for Katie McNiven’s legal fees! Here’s Katie’s thank-you message:

"Lughnasadh" by medwyn mcconachy
“Lughnasadh” by medwyn mcconachy

“Wow! HUGE thanks to all who made the Garlic Festival happen today, August 11th- Arzeena Hamir, Moss Dance, all of the volunteers, the 35 contributors to our silent auction, Legato Gelato, Island Sodaworks, Twiggs bakery, and the Comox Valley Farmer’s Market, to name a few!
Preliminary estimates are that we shared the fun with 400 people, and raised approximately $2500 towards Katie’s legal fees. Thanks and blessings ♥”

We’d also like to thank everyone at Amara Farm – Arzeena’s enthusiastic family and visiting friends from Ireland, for cleaning up, setting up, braiding garlic and cleaning up again. And also to Jay and Natasha at The Birds and the Beans for lending a hand and playing some tunes. Also, a shout-out to Russell for helping out on one of his rare and precious days off as a farm apprentice! Another big thank-you goes to Medwyn, one of our CSA members, for creating and sharing prints of her amazing garlic painting “Lughnasadh.” We still have a few copies of this gorgeous print to sell, and if you are interested, you can get your own copy and contribute to Katie’s legal fees for $40-20, sliding scale. Please email us if you’d like a copy at mervilleorganics@gmail.com

What’s in the shares?

All shares:

  • Beets
  • Salad greens
  • Summer squash
  • Garlic
  • Kale or chard
  • Transparent apples (great for baked apples or sauce!)

Full shares add:

  • Baby turnips
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Cucumbers
  • Yu Choi

photo (2)Stuffed Summer Squash

  • 1 medium summer squash
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped and seeded
  • ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • optional: 4 slices bacon, fried until crisp and crumbled*
  • pinch seasoned salt
  • ⅔ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • butter (for sautéing)
  1. In large pot, cover squash with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash are tender but firm, about 8 minutes. Drain squash and cool slightly. Trim stems and cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove pulp, then chop it into small pieces. Reserve squash shells.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat, and saute onion and garlic in butter until soft. In a separate pan, saute squash pulp (about 1 cup) until soft. Combine squash pulp with onions, garlic, tomatoes, cheese, bread crumbs, bacon and seasoned salt.
  3. Place hollowed squash shells in a baking dish, and sprinkle the inside of each with kosher salt and pepper. Spoon squash mixture into each shell. Top with additional bread crumbs and drizzle top with melted butter. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until top is golden.

A word about Yu Choi…

photo (1)People often comment that they love seeing the flowers in the salad mix. Well, here’s another way to enjoy flowers in your dinner! Yu Choi is kind of like broccoli – the flowers and stems are really the best part, they are juicy and sweet!

You can use yu choi pretty much anywhere you’d use cooked broccoli – in stir fries, pasta sauce, soups (add in right at the very end of heating to avoid overcooking!)

The key with yu choi and other kinds of choi and broccoli (sprouting brassicas if you wanna get technical!) is that they are best if cooked for a very short amount of time.

Try sauteeing them for about a minute in butter or sesame oil with garlic and ginger. Or steaming them for one or two minutes. When they turn a vivid green, that’s the time to get them off of the heat, onto your plate, and into your mouth!

En-choi!

CSA Week #10

Eating more kinds of vegetables

It’s week 10! That means we’re halfway through the CSA season. None of us can believe that we’ve picked, packed and delivered 10 shares already this summer!

This week, we’re introducing some off-beat veggies to you. We’re giving the summer squashes a break (you might need a break from them too!) We’ll water them really well this week and feed them with a bit of liquid fish and hope they start producing better next week.

While our salad mix is back on track this week, it’s our last week of beans until the fall, so enjoy!

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What’s in the share this week?

All shares:

Full shares add:

  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Bulb fennel

The not-so-humble turnip

Arzeena and I have both had fun bringing off-beat veggies to market these past few weeks. Last time I was at the market, I brought a few bunches of baby turnips to try out on the public. A lot of people get iffy when they hear the word “turnip.” Maybe it’s because of unpleasant childhood dinner memories? The truth of the matter is, these Hakurei baby turnips are specialty vegetables, and I found the one person at the market who knew it!

She stopped at our booth and breathlessly exclaimed, “Are those turnips?!?”

“Yes,” I said, “Have you had them before?”

She had tried them the previous week and done some research about turnip green nutrition. From her studies, she gleaned that turnip greens pack a huge vitamin K punch. 350% of  your daily intake needs! Check out the nutritional table for cooked turnip greens on Wikipedia.

The astute turnip connoisseur bought all the turnips I had!

So I hope you enjoy them too. You can eat the roots raw on salad, like radishes, or cooked. Raw, they taste like those cinnamon heart candies. Here’s the photo gallery (with instructions!) of the way I like slice up turnip greens. See below for a recipe.

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Recipe: Sauteed turnips with greens

Take your bunch of turnips and slice them as above. Then chiffonade chop (very finely) the turnip greens. Mince a few cloves of garlic. Heat a cast iron pan (or whatever you have) on med-high heat. Toss in some oil of your choice. I really love these turnips fried up in bacon grease! Another great oil to use is toasted sesame oil. If you go the sesame oil route, you can add some grated ginger.

Cook until just tender, don’t wait too long!

Season with a bit of sea salt and serve. Sea salt actually improves the nutritional composition of the greens :)

Amaranth

AmaranteThis week, you have bunches of amaranth in your shares. Arzeena was just telling me, that in India, they don’t grow much spinach. It’s too hot, and amaranth grows everywhere. So if you’ve ever eaten saag paneer, or saag aloo in North America, it’s not quite like eating it in India! Saag (which in North America is usually spinach) is actually amaranth greens.

Amaranth (also known as pigweed) grows wild all over the world. It’s a very tenacious weed, which means it’s full of hardy nutrients, as weeds have the ability to mine minerals and nutrients that most cultivated crops can’t find with their more delicate root systems.

We’ve gotta give Amaranthus retroflexus some credit for it’s smarts.It’s figured out how to become resistant to multiple pesticides – not that  we would use any of that stuff! It works so hard so that we can enjoy it’s nutritional benefits!

Arzeena took amaranth to the market on Saturday and the smoothie makers went wild for it! Here’s a link to a great post that not only shows that amaranth and spinach are nutritionally comparable, but also has a great smoothie recipe.

We hope you enjoy this week’s off-beat veggies! See you next week!

CSA Week #9

We hope you enjoy the bounty of this week. We have some monster bok choi that really needed a home, so thanks for accepting it with an open heart! Please let us know what you do with bok choi because we love hearing about your recipes.

Arzeena noticed this week that the bok choi was getting little round holes in it. Oh no! A new pest for Amara Farm :(

The culprit is flea beetle.

Altica.lythriWhat are flea beetles? They’re small, jumping beetles of the leaf beetle family. They especially like the brassica family (arugula, mustard, bok choi, cabbage, radish, turnip, etc.) They are tiny, about the size of a head of a pin. They provide a lovely, lacy texture to the leaves of the veggies they eat.

Unfortunately, there’s very little the organic farmer can do to control flea beetle. There’s no organic spray, so instead, we have to use spun polyester cloth row cover, which makes our farms look like toilet paper farms. Sometimes farming’s not very glamourous.

If our produce was being sold through conventional markets, such as supermarket chains or distributors, this week’s gloriously delicious bok choi would’ve been rejected because of the tiny flea beetle holes. This is why the CSA model is revolutionizing the way people eat. Produce that has cosmetic damage but is still a great source of nutrition (and enjoyment!) can still be a part of the food system. We know that all of you would prefer lacy local bok choi to imported, cosmetically perfect choi any day – so the CSA model meets all of our needs. As farmers, we have a community of farm-positive folks. And you get access to the freshest local food. It’s a win-win situation!

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What’s in the share this week?

All shares

  • Head lettuce (yes, it’s meant to have freckles!)
  • Bok choi (some shares may receive substitutions of other veggies of similar value)
  • French filet beans
  • Summer squash
  • Scallions

Full shares add

  • Basil
  • Peas
  • Beets
  • Extra beans

Recipes

Simple Sesame Bean Toss

IMG_2699Remove the tops from:

  • 1/2lb beans

In a bamboo or metal steamer, steam the beans gently, just until they turn bright green. No more than 2 minutes of active steaming! Toss beans into a bowl and toss with:

  • 1/8 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 TBS toasted sesame oil
  • salt to taste

That’s it, enjoy!

What to do with all that bok choi

May we remind you of the bok choi apple slaw recipe we posted in Week #3? It’s a great raw summer recipe, guaranteed to cool you off on a hot day. Check it out!

Have a great week everyone!

Arzeena, Amina, Inara, Russell and Moss

CSA Week #8

Crop rotations

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We’ve been busy harvesting, harvesting harvesting! This is the time when our hard work in the spring, and everyone’s patience pays off. We hope you’re enjoying the increased variety in your CSA shares and finding ways to use up all the extra veggies :)

We’re really busy these past few weeks starting crops for Fall harvest and for overwintering. Kale, sprouting broccoli, cabbages, endive and other cold hardy crops are germinating in the cool shady areas of our farms. We’re also replacing rows that held potatoes, carrots and lettuce with more potatoes, carrots, lettuce and beans for the Fall.

Rotating crops is an important part of organic farming practices. Each year, we create elaborate plans to rotate plants from a variety of vegetable families through our cultivated areas. This practice reduces pest presence (it sure confuses those flea beetles and wireworms when we move the turnips and lettuce somewhere else!) and gives the soil a break. Each crop feeds differently on the soil and provides a different function.

Both Arzeena and I value weeds as part of our rotation. It may sound crazy, but sometimes we just let’em grow. Why? Because most weeds are hardy and wily in ways that cultivated crops are not. Weeds can send down deep tap roots, or wild tangled roots to gather nutrients and minerals from the soil. Ideally, before they flower and go to seed, we pull them up and we lay them down around our crops as mulch. (Well, some of them… we don’t do this with couch grass or buttercup!) After awhile, the dead weeds break down and release those accumulated nutrients and minerals in the upper layers of the soil, where they can be taken up by veggie crops.

Organic farmers work to understand the ecology of their farms and work with the valuable natural allies present all around us. Sometimes this takes more work, more time, and more resources – but for us, it’s the only way to farm, as it leaves a better legacy for future generations. And it means tastier, better quality produce for present generations!

What’s in the box this week?

All Shares:

  • Beets
  • Bok choi
  • Salad greens
  • Summer squash
  • Peas or green beans
  • Garlic

Full Shares:

  • Kale
  • Basil
  • Parsley

Big Beautiful Salad

Here’s an idea. It’s hot. It’s sticky. You don’t wanna turn the oven on. You are considering eating a popsicle for dinner…

How about a Big Beautiful Salad instead?

This week’s recipe is more of a serving suggestion than a recipe. And you only have to turn on the oven to steam the beets.

This recipe serves one. Here goes:

Grab:

  • a handful of salad and throw it on a plate
  • a few peas or green beans and slice up diagonally – throw those on your pile of greens
  • a summer squash – using a veggie peeler, peel a handful of delicious summer squash ribbons or cut tiny squash matchsticks and toss on top of the salad

Steam:

  • 2 beets

Toss the cooled steamed beets on the salad. Top with the following summery dressing:

Coconut Cilantro Lime Dressing

in Extra VeganZa by Pheonix Farm

  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 3 Tbsp tamari
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp cashew butter
  • Dash of chili or cayenne pepper, to taste.

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously until the ingredients are emulsified. Serve with Big Beautiful Salad!

 

CSA Week #7

Farming grows community

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This week’s blog post is authored by one of our CSA members, Medwyn McConachy and our second youngest farmer, Inara Turner at Amara Farm!

Why I am a CSA member…

By Medwyn McConachy

622333_3818034446998_55430521_oOne of the hidden secrets I discovered on moving to the Comox Valley is the amazing agricultural abundance here.  Last year, when Ripple Farm started a CSA box program, I was excited to become an early member. It’s great to know how much farmers’ markets have grown over the last ten years, but for me buying a CSA share takes supporting local farmers a step further and I feel so privileged to have this opportunity to support those who are working for sustainable local organic agriculture. This year with Moss and Arzeena teaming up to create Merville Organics, I already see my investment paying off, my box now has produce from two farms, I see Merville Organics at both farmers’ markets, in a small way I feel part of growing the local organic agriculture movement here.

I became passionate about local food about ten years ago when I realized that shopping at farmers’ markets was not only better for me and for the planet, but it was a way of investing in the health of the community I live in. Later I discovered that CSA shares allowed me to become a non-farming member of the farming community. Wow what a concept! First, I really know in detail what goes into growing my food; and second, I have a larger stake in the vitality of my local farming community. My farming friends in the Fraser Valley planted this seed in me, and now my farmer friends in the Comox Valley are nurturing it. I love being a CSA member, being part of the farm, knowing that by sharing the risks and benefits of farming in this way, I am a part of the essential network of community and local production that does so much to keep our valley healthy and vibrant. This is the way of the future.

My vision is to have locally supplied food sufficient for all our needs when the costs of imported food become prohibitive. Thanks Moss and Arzeena, I love you and what you do.

 

Garlic Harvesting Video

By Inara Turner

What’s in the box?

Please note that Friday’s box may be slightly different! Check back on Friday for details.

All Shares:

  • Potatoes
  • Onions / green onions
  • Summer squash
  • Korean Red garlic
  • Greens (kale or chard)
  • Salad greens

Full Shares get:

  • Extra onions, potatoes and salad
  • Peas, green beans or broccolini

Recipes

Moss’ favourite new summer potato salad

You’ll need:

  • 1.5lbs potatoes
  • 1/4 cup mayonaise (see below for the homemade mayonaise recipe!)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • fresh herbs of your choice (ie. dill, parsely, oregano)
  • 1/4 cup sauerkraut
  • 2 TBSP grainy dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup pickles (any kind of veggie, preferably lacto-fermented pickles!)
  • thinly sliced onion to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Chop potatoes into bite size chunks and boil until almost cooked. Drain and rinse. Chill in the fridge for an hour, or if you’re in a hurry (like I usually am!) soak them in several changes of cold water.

While the potatoes are chilling out, mix mayo, pickles, kraut, garlic, mustard and herbs in a bowl. Add chilled spuds. Mix. Enjoy!

Homemade Mayo

So, you might notice when it’s my turn for recipes, I don’t include very detailed instructions. I like to play it by ear in the kitchen, and mistakes are always part of the process! Mayonaise is made by feel, so don’t be discouraged if your first batch fails!

In a blender or food processor place:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 TBSP mustard (I like the grainy kind)

Whiz on high speed. Switch to the lowest speed, and while running, slowly drizzle sunflower or grapeseed oil into the blender. You will need to add a cup or two before it starts to “chug.” When it makes a coughing spluttering sound, the mayo is starting to emulsify. Do not overblend! Stop to test the mix. If it is very thick, you’re done. If it’s still thin, you might want to add and slowly, slowly blend a bit more oil in. You can even beat it in by hand. If it’s curdled, it’s overmixed and you need to try again!

Have fun!