Oh what a year - ..... bone dry Spring, Torrential Summer Rains, Historic Floods, Hordes of blood-sucking mosquitos, Apocalyptic weed pressure, 117 Deg Heat Indexes...
As I sit and ponder the nature of this year - this farmer just has to shake his head in wonder that we survived this season with our mental capacities intact. (Well, I assume we have!) I suspect many of you wonder what it is that calls one to be a farmer under such soul-wrenching challenges to one's Psyche. While I certainly cannot speak on behalf of all farmers - for this particular one, it comes down to a Calling from the Land itself. A Calling passed down from generation to generation in an unbroken chain of farming ancestors reaching back across the Great Pond (aka.. the Atlantic). Good ol' German resilience and perseverance can get one through much of Nature's worst.
But for me, it is also the inner vision of restoring health, vitality & diversity to not only an individual parcel of land, but also to the ecosystem within which it is embedded. However, it is not merely about restoring the land, and working to make it more productive for all species involved, but to restore the backbone of rural communities. Small-scale farms are what made small towns scattered throughout this land dynamic and rewarding places to live and raise families. As we moved into much larger, more mechanized farms, with fewer farmers working the land, we witnessed the decay and dissolution of rural communities. I firmly believe we absolutely need to reverse this trend, and to recognize that "efficiency" cannot be the sole driver in our food production system. Resiliency and community integrity must also weigh into the calculation. Consider the implication of one farm family working thousands of acres, vs dozens of farm families working the same thousands of acres. What impact does that have on a community? Food for thought over the Winter....
A fond farewell from some of the farm denizens...
Hasta la pasta, homies! These piggers will see you on flip side.
Wait, what?! Who said you could go anywhere?? And what's up with this Winter thing? Not happy...
Okay, let's talk crop storage...
So in this weeks share, both the onions and winter squash are great storage crops. And they require much the same conditions for optimal storage.
Things to consider for storing winter squash/onions:
Wash your winter squash prior to storage. We did not have the time to wash them all, so cleaning off all the dirt and wiping them down help to remove soil bacteria really help to extend storage shelf-life. Some sources even suggest sanitizing them, but that is your call.
Ideal conditions are in a dark room, around 50 - 60 deg (an unheated room in the house or a garage that is partially heated, down in the basement, or anywhere in the house you typically don't like to hang out because it's hard to keep warm)
Store the crops in a paper bag (ie.. a grocery bag) or a cardboard box with a lid. The most important thing is that the crops are allowed to "breathe".
Every week or two, go through them to check for soft spots or look for signs of mold. If you find such, don't throw them out, just use them right away. If you are doing this on a weekly basis, then you will catch them before significant damage and they are still just fine to use.
IMPORTANT: Make sure to set your squash on an old towel or mat if the box will be sitting on a carpet or nice wooden floor... just in case you don't keep an eye on them and one starts to spoil, they will leak a watery juice at this point and can definitely stain what lays below.
A brief chat on Winter Squash...
This season we offered 5 different types of winter squash for your culinary delights. Below I'll identify them and talk briefly about them.
From Top Left, Clockwise
Along with some Leaves scattered around for dramatic effect...
What it looks like: Pumpkins for cooking and baking are smaller than the field pumpkins used for decoration. They're round with a firm exterior that can range in color from pale to bright reddish-orange, with vibrant orange flesh.
Storing: When stored properly, can last about 1-2 months.
Flavor: Sugar pumpkins have a sweet, earthy taste.
How to use it: You can use pie pumpkins just as you would other varieties of winter squash — bake, roast, or purée them. Pumpkin is ideal for soup, curries, and of course, pies!
Sweet Mama (Kabocha Squash)
What it looks like: Kabocha squash is squat and round, and similar in size and shape to buttercup squash, though the base points out. It has a dull finish with dark green skin that sometimes has small lumps, and bright yellow-orange flesh.
Storing: Store it in a cool, dry place for 1 -2 months.
Flavor: Kabocha squash is remarkably sweet with a nice nutty flavor, and texture that's similar to a blend of sweet potato and pumpkin.
How to use it: Kabocha squash is very versatile and can be used as a substitute for any other winter squash. It can be roasted or steamed, added to soup, or used for a pie filling. (Excellent for making Curry!!)
What it looks like: Acorn squash is small in size, typically weighing between one and two pounds, with orange-yellow flesh and thick, dark green and orange skin.
Storing: Store them in a cool, dry place and they will keep for at least one month.
Flavor: Acorn squash has a mild, subtly sweet and nutty flavor. This skin is also edible, though sometimes a bit tough.
How to use it: Like most varieties of winter squash, acorn squash is really versatile. It can be baked, roasted, steamed, sautéed, or even cooked in the microwave.
What it looks like: Also known as sweet potato squash, this small cylindrical squash has thin cream- to yellow-colored skin with green stripes, and orange-yellow flesh. Though technically a summer squash (like zuchinni), it is cooked like a winter squash.
Storing: Delicata can be stored for 2-3 months
Flavor: Delicata has creamy flesh with a mild flavor akin to sweet potatoes.
How to use it: The skin on this small squash is edible, so don't worry about cutting it off. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then you can either bake it as is, or cut it into slices which can be roasted, sautéed, or steamed. Delicata squash is also ideal for stuffing.
What it looks like: This pear-shaped squash has a smooth, cream-colored exterior with bright orange flesh and comparatively few seeds.
Storing: One of the longest lasting, has been said to store up to 6 months. So use these last (unless one is developing a soft spot)..
Flavor: This is the sweetest variety of winter squash.
How to use it: Butternut squash is extremely versatile. It's perfect for roasting and sautéing, or making a smooth purée or soup.
A quick revisit to the sautee green.. and freezing them.
Click on the image to link to a great blog post on freezing kale (also works for collards) and instead of smoothies, I would personally use these in soups.
One of the true beauties of sautee' greens though, is that they freeze very well. This is a great way to quickly put up sautee greens like kale, collards, chard, spinach, and some asian greens, and then can be used in a wide variety of dishes over the winter (think soups!!). It is a simple process, and once you practice it a few times, you will find you can do it in a few minutes.
This is especially important if you know you will have a hard time using your sautee greens for the week due to vacations, work schedule, etc. I suggest you make time to do this real quick within the first couple days after receiving your CSA Share as it best to freeze these greens when they are as fresh as possible.
The basic process is to blanch the greens in boiling water very briefly, throw them into ice water, then pack them and freeze them. I personally like to pack the greens into recipe sized units, so I don't have to thaw out a large bag at once. I do this with muffin tins which I pack the greens into, let them freeze, then pop them out as ½ cup portion sizes.
Here is a link that describes the process very succinctly. They don't use muffin tins, rather form them into fist-sized shaped balls... whichever way works!
... and finally, a few recipes to tempt the palette.
Today I will simply provide you with some links to recipes to use some of the different items you have brought home this fine week. Just click the recipe below to link to the website. Good Eats and Happy Treats... !!