Sunday, August 16, 2015

CSA offerings: week 12

 Hard to believe, but it's already the second half of the CSA season! Although it feels like the golden moment has arrived, with tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, summer squash, and cucumbers all coming in, there is still much to look forward to in the second half of the season. Potato plants are starting to die back, as are the winter squash. As the plants dry up, they pull the last nutrients from the soil and store them away in their fruits. (They think they are storing energy for the next generation, but instead they are saving up to feed us! Ha!) Also growing fast are the purple top turnips, daikon radish, cabbage, escarole, and radicchio that underscore the bitter-sweet taste of winter. Garlic is already hanging in the rafters and well on its way to cured. I'm not saying that I'm done with summer; only that the world will go on without it, and we will keep eating well!

OK, now back to the present. We'll give the kale and chard a break for the week and let them regrow a bit. (The garden spiders have taken a liking to them, incidentally. I have now found 4 of those big mamas in the kale and chard beds, and I've started to name them in the hopes that familiarity will ward off the nightmares. Let me know if you'd ever like to meet Sophie, Sylvia, Daphne, or Sam!)

Tomatoes are getting revved up, and I realized I haven't introduced you yet to the varieties! Aside from the romas, which are dependable hybrids I sell mostly for canning, all the tomatoes I'm growing are heirlooms. Paul Robeson is a fantastic tomato named for the hugely talented African-American actor/singer/dancer of the early 20th century. It's generally big, juicy, and oh-so-sweet. Anna Russian is an often smaller, sometimes heart-shaped pink tomato with a bit more acidity than Paul, but still lots of sweetness. Both of the Russian families who farm adjacent to my plot grow tomatoes that look a lot like Anna. Along with those two slicing tomatoes, I'm also growing a small number of Sheboygan plants. Sheboygan is an heirloom sauce tomato that has such a rich flavor I had to keep growing it despite the fact that it's difficult to sell in bulk because it squishes so easily, and it's too small to substitute for a slicer. (But it makes the most amazing tomato candy!) I haven't figured out the proper commercial niche for this one yet, but in the meantime I am saving the seed from year to year in the hopes of improving it for this climate.

I found this abandoned nest up in one of the tomato plants when I started harvesting last week.
Peppers are also abundant now and becoming more so by the day. Poblanos, anaheims, and green bells return to your share list, and soon we should have some delicious Italian sweets; they're just starting to blush red. This might be the last week of lettuce for a couple weeks, so get it now if you want it. The last-standing variety (for now) is a mild, sweet crisphead called Sierra.

To celebrate the nightshades that are so flamboyant right now, I thought I'd share a recipe from my former coworker Christy. We farmed together at Backyard Gardens in Joseph, Oregon, and she made this once for our crew lunch. She'd learned it from her Iranian brother-in-law, and I'm sure the subtleties are lost in committing this recipe to paper (or computer), but hopefully it'll still tickle your taste buds!

For those of you who aren't offered eggplant this week (or who aren't eggplant lovers) I'm also including one of my favorite recipes for the season when tomatoes and peppers are abundant. Romesco is a Catalonian sauce originally made to serve on top of fish, but its uses go far beyond that. I love it with potatoes or eggs. Other suggestions include adding it to soups or stews, using it as a condiment on sandwiches, or tossing it with roasted vegetables. I've tried a number of different romesco recipes, but this one from Culinate is my favorite. I like to add some smoked paprika too. (Feel free to substitute roasted fresh peppers for the dried ones. Just start with step 2 then add the vinegar and roasted peppers along with everything else in step 3. Either sweet or hot peppers are great!)
beautiful eggplant: Diamond, Orient Express, and Rosita

Eggplant Stew

(very liberal--and vegetarian--adaptation of bademjan)
recipe from Christy Tao

1 onion, diced

2-5 cloves garlic, minced

1 eggplant (or 3- whatever you’ve got), diced (doesn’t have to be peeled)

at least 3 tomatoes (and you can put in 6 or more too!)

a can’s worth of chickpeas (you can use canned, or cook the dried ones, just make sure they’re cooked before using them)



lemon juice


cilantro or parsley, finely chopped

In a large pot, saute onions and garlic in oil until onions start to brown. Stir in turmeric, coriander, and cumin.  Add tomatoes, eggplant and chickpeas, 2 tsp of salt, and dash of pepper.  Stir until mixed and let it come to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer.  Let it simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and the tomatoes and eggplants have cooked down.  Taste and adjust salt as necessary.  Add 1-2 tbsp of lemon to finish after removing from heat.  Serve hot and garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley.  I like to add a dollop of plain yogurt too.  Serve with a starch, such as rice, naan, or potatoes.

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