Lower garden filling up early this year. Those are bee boxes way in the background.
I want to thank everyone for filling out the farm questionnaire. We finally combed through the survey last week. I am so glad we did this. We learned an awful lot more than I had ever expected. It will take a little while to unpack and create action steps for each part of the survey, but it is going to be so worth it to make some of the suggested changes where possible.
For today, I will mention a few standouts that I intend to start working on right away.
One of those are mushrooms and asparagus. These two came up more than any other items on the customer wish list of items. If you have been with us for over a year, you know that we used to get shitake mushrooms from an indoor grower in Ramona. He has shut down. But seeing the interest, I will be looking into connecting again with a local grower. As far as asparagus goes, well, we look into finding a source for this as well. Also We might look into some planting this spring. I prefer to grow as much of our food as we can. But when it comes to specialty items like these. It is almost more cost effective to source them from a reputable local grower. If anyone know a local organic mushroom or asparagus grower. Please put us in touch with them.
Another real standout was the desire by many for a recipe page on the website. This was something we were already slowly working on. Now we have kicked it into to high gear. Thanks to Harmony and all her hard work in helping the CSA run smoother, The recipe page might be a reality in the near future.
What are bok choy thinnings? When we seed directly into the garden rows, we intentionally sew more seed than needed. Once the seedlings start getting crowded, we "thin" out the row so that there is space for as many plants can grow to maturity as possible. Once you have thinned a row, you end up with a bin full of small veggies who have sacrificed themselves for the sake of a larger more uniform crop. Some farms might throw these on the ground or they might till them in with a cultivator. If there is enough, I would rather rinse them and put them in the csa box. Even if it comes out to a very small amount per box.
This we have something special in the box. As I have mentioned before, Allyson works a lot of behind the scenes magic for the csa. This week, she used her family connection with Futterman Farm in Indio, CA to secure a bag of dates for each one of us this week.
Image from Futterman farm
Here is a write up from Allyson on the dates in this weeks box.
The dates you received this month are from Futterman Farm in Indio,
CA, the “City of Festivals”. Art and Gale Futterman have been growing
dates together on their property since 1994, but Art has been involved
with date farming one way or another since the ‘70’s. The soft dates
like Barhi, Amir Hajj, and to a certain extent Medjool, require more TLC
than the dryer dates like Deglet Noor, Halawy and Zahidi, which can be
cut as an entire bunch and lowered or even dropped to the ground on a
tarp. Softer dates are picked by hand one by one or cut strand by
strand. Before they get to your table, their natural, sustainably
grown, pesticide free dates are “graded”, each one checked for tears in
the skins or “intruders” (discerning bugs that like dates!).
The harder dates require going up the palm 5 times, Medjool 7
times, and Barhi 9 – de-thorning, pollination 2-4 times [search “date
palm pollination” or go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=L27bMQirY60
to see Art demonstrating this process], tie down (each bunch of dates
is tied to a frond to support weight), bagging (to protect dates from
pests, birds, rain), and at harvest for Barhi, a minimum of three times.
Dates are high-fiber, low glycemic, and have at least 26
anti-oxidants, two of which are found only in dates. They contain iron,
magnesium, calcium, zinc , and more potassium than bananas.
Dates are a healthy sweet, as they include the minerals and fiber
that help the sugar to be well utilized. They are good in a number of
dishes besides the Yam Date one you received on the back of their label,
including muffins, salads, oatmeal, vegan piecrust pressed together
with nuts, and they even are really good in chicken enchiladas – who
would have known?! The graders especially enjoy dipping them in almond
butter! A newer discovery about the value of dates is that for women,
sucking on the date pits helps with a number of hormonal imbalances and
have been known to chase away PMS and menopausal symptoms like night
Starting a CSA was not that difficult. It started in 2010. Up until then, I had been growing and selling food at farmers markets. Toward the end of those farmers market days, Blue Sky Produce was attending the Mission Valley, Lakeside, Julian and Santee farmers markets. Those events were hard work. After a few years of driving my wears all around San Diego, I got weary of setting up just so that I could break down my joint like some sort of carny. Everyone loved our produce. That was not a problem. The face to face interaction with customers is the part I miss most. The instant feedback was priceless. We really needed people to start coming to us though. The thing was, in order to break even doing markets, you really needed to be at a market every day. At the time, I was pretty much a one man show. So you can see the dilemma. Who's going to grow the food?
Three and a half years ago, Google was not nearly as efficient at bringing everything we would ever like to know about a subject to our computer screen, but after some research, I guessed that I knew enough to write up a contract that would fit who we were and what we had to offer as a CSA farm. We started this little blog and opened up an add in Local Harvest. We signed up like three or five new members in the first week. Caroline and Thomas Hootman from were technically our first customers. I do not think they even know that. They are still members, so they do now. Happy almost 4 years anniversary with us you two! What a learning experience that first year was. People use to show up at the main house and knock on the door. Then we would fetch their box for them.
What got me thinking about the CSA and how it got started is a recent realization I had about how different I go about my life now then before the CSA started. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. This local, sustainable community supported model of doing business would become a major influence on how I began to experience and interact with my world. See, at first, CSA was just a clever way for me to get people to come pick up their food. Once you have played the game for a while, it starts to rub off on you though. Before you know it, It starts to make sense to have a local and personal relationship with as many of your product and service needs as possible. Everything just works better when you can connect to the person behind the thing. I am nowhere near 100 percent, but everything from my soap to my greeting cards to my healthcare to my insurance are based on genuine personal relationships. Some of my strongest friendships have blossomed from my search for an authentic individual to provide a product or service that I needed. It becomes a habit. I am always looking for and contemplating the person behind the thing. Sometimes it is not possible. Sometimes you just need something and there is no practical way to know the owner. Sometimes companies that we have to do business with do not want you to know the owner. It is ok. This is where fruit comes in.
When dealing with employees of large companies or organizations who are used to being treated like dirt by the public, a handful of fruit and a smile is your key to satisfaction. It will also make them remember you forever. There is something so human about a gift of food, that even the rigid veneer of an overworked DMV supervisor can be melted in seconds with a golden nugget tangerine. They don't expect it. No one can defend against the kindness of an apple. Sounds like a meta thought but it is also true. The goal is to treat everyone like a neighbor. Somehow, by osmosis, this CSA thing is teaching us how to be better neighbors. I am not sure who to thank for this. I guess I will just have to be grateful.
Here is the list
bag of spring mix
a few pounds of fairytale pumpkin
bunch of chard
head of broccoli
Ok. About the mixed peppers. There are anaheim and jalapeno peppers loose in the box. Anaheim... long, skinny, a little hotter than a bell pepper. Jalapeno...short. blunt, a bit hotter than anaheim
There is also a brown bag labeled "Hot"
Its contents are...Habanero....Really hot Fresno...Really Hot
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1 cup quinoa
1 garlic clove, pounded to a smooth paste with a pinch of salt
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
3 and 1/2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice, plus more as needed
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium pepper, halved, seeded, and finely diced
1 small- to medium-sized cucumber, peeled and seeded, if necessary, and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus sprigs for garnish
2 to 3 ripe avocados, sliced
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and
season generously with salt. Rinse quinoa under cool running water,
lightly rubbing it between your fingers for a few seconds. Add it to the
boiling water and cook until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the quinoa
well and spread out on a baking sheet to cool. 2. Put the garlic, shallot, jalapeño, and lime juice in a
small bowl. Season with salt and stir to combine. Let sit for 5 to 10
minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and whisk to combine. Taste; add more
salt or lime, if necessary. 3. Put quinoa, red pepper, cucumber, and chopped cilantro in a
medium bowl. Drizzle about half the vinaigrette into the bowl and
gently fold to combine. Taste; add more salt, vinaigrette, or lime
juice, if needed. 4. Arrange the sliced avocado on a platter or individual
serving plates. Season the avocado with salt and drizzle the remaining
vinaigrette on top. Spoon the quinoa salad on and around the avocado.
Garnish with cilantro, and serve immediately.
Braised Chard With Cilantro
2 large bunches chard, about 2 pounds, leaves sliced into 1 inch wide
1 1/2 cups of the chard stems, trimmed and diced
1 onion, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp Paprika
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
Place all ingredients in a wide, heavy pot with a
few pinches of salt. Add 1/4 cup water, cover tightly and cook over low
heat for 45 minutes. Check once or twice to make sure there is enough
moisture. If anything is sticking, add a few tablespoons of water. When
done, taste for salt and season with pepper. The chard should be silky
and very fragrant.
The taste is worth the long cooking time. Also
yummy is your fresh dill in place of cilantro.
1 bunch kale leaves, center ribs and stems removed
2 fuyu persimmon, hulled, peeled and chopped
1 pomegranate, deseeded
2 tbsp extra light olive oil
2 tbsp pomegranate juice
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
salt & pepper, to taste
Tear kale into pieces and place in a large bowl, Add persimmon and pomegranate and mix to combine.
Add dressing ingredients to a bowl and whisk to emulsify. Pour over salad before serving.
VARIATION: If persimmon are not in season, you may substitute with mango or peaches.
TIP: I have read that massaging the kale helps to get rid of it’s bitter aftertaste.
zucchini avocado pomegranate salsa with fresh oregano
2 zucchini, trimmed and cut into ½
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh
½ teaspoon each coarse salt and
freshly ground pepper
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled,
and cut into ¼ inch dice (about 1 cup)
½ cup pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Preheat oven to 425°. Toss zucchini
with oil, oregano, salt, and pepper and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast, tossing once, for about 25 minutes. Once zucchini has cooled completely, add
remaining ingredients and gently stir to combine. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving. Serve with either pita chips, toasted pita,
or tortilla chips.