Spring on the Farm

Peppers and eggplants germinating in March

Peppers and eggplants germinating in March

Winter certainly has been hanging on this spring. I think it is time to just get into the greenhouses and celebrate GREEN! Despite the mounds of snow outside, we keep planting so we will be ready to go when the weather breaks . . .

Luckily we have our greenhouses to give us a little more buffer against a late spring. Planning, seeding, transplanting . . . the activities of spring.

CSA Signup Time

Putting together our CSA posters

Putting together our CSA posters

Thinking toward the warmer months . . . Are you interested in getting a weekly share of Luna Bleu Farm Organic Vegetables?

Well, now is the time to signup for our 2014-15 CSA Shares. Read more about our shares or go straight to downloading our Shares Signup Form.

We are planting the seeds now for our CSA harvest . . . let us know if we should plant for you. Find out more about our CSA options here. And don’t forget our Winter CSA. You can eat local organic all year long with us!

The babies of spring

First calf of 2014

First calf of 2014

Spring is also the time for farm babies! Our first calf arrived at the end of March.

Chicks!

Chicks!

And soon we will have our first batch of chicks. These guys come in the mail . . . always a fun moment here on the farm.

And not long after that, three or four young organic piglets will arrive from our friends at Full Moon Farm.

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[Recipe!] Sautéed Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins

This recipe, from simplerecipes.com, is great because it’s extremely simple, yet elevates sautéed greens, which can often be limp and bland. Here, the pine nuts and raisins add a nice contrast of sweet and nutty to the bitterness of the greens, and the garlic rounds it out.

Ingredients

1/4 c. pine nuts
2 Tbsp olive oil

Greens!!

Greens!!

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup golden raisins

1 bunch kale, chard, collards, or turnip greens, etc., tough stem centers removed (if any) and discarded, greens chopped
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Roughly 1/2 cup dry white wine or water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Toast pine nuts in large sautée pan, over medium heat, until they are fragrant and begin to brown. Give them a toss or stir so they don’t burn. Once toasted, set aside.
2. Add the olive oil to the pan and coat pan. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds; then add back the pine nuts, raisins and the greens and mix well. Sauté, stirring often, until the greens wilt and begin to give up some of their water, anywhere from 1-2 minutes for spinach to 4-5 minutes for collards or kale.
3. Sprinkle a little salt and red pepper flakes on the greens. Add the white wine or water—use a little more wine if you are cooking collards, a little less if you are cooking spinach. Toss to combine and let the liquid boil away. Once the liquid boils off, remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2, and is easily doubled or tripled.

 

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[Recipe!] Roman Egg Drop Soup (Stracciatella alla Romana)

This is another very simple meal that is perfect for spring. It’s warm and broth-y to keep away the chill on those inevitable spring nights, but not too heavy, and can be whipped up in 10 minutes. If you can make your own chicken broth, it’s worth it, since this dish revolves around the broth.

Ingredients

(adapted from nytimes.com)

Fresh eggs really make this meal.

Fresh eggs really make this meal.

12 cups homemade chicken broth
Salt
6 large eggs
Nutmeg, for grating
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan for grating
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

1. In a soup pot over high heat, bring chicken broth to a boil. Season to taste with salt and reduce heat to a simmer.
2. Crack eggs into a medium-size bowl and beat lightly with a wire whisk. Whisk in about 1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg, the lemon zest, a large pinch of salt, several twists of the pepper mill and 1 3/4 ounces grated Parmesan.
3. Pour egg mixture into simmering chicken broth and stir gently until mixture forms “little rags.” Simmer for another minute or so.
4. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and sprinkle parsley over each serving. Pass more grated Parmesan separately. Serves 6.

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[Recipe!] Sautéed Kohlrabi with Cheese

I know what you’re thinking. Sautéed shredded kohlrabi? With cheese? Trust me, when we saw this recipe in Farm Fresh and Fast, we felt the same way too. Confused, but intrigued. Kohlrabi is wonderful but it’s also very brassica-y (think cabbage and broccoli); we weren’t sure if it was going to fly. But we shredded it up, tossed in some butter and left it to sautée while we ate lunch (just in case it was terrible we still had something to eat). And wouldn’t you know…it was delicious. The long sautée sweetens it considerably and mellows the cabbage-y flavor, and the butter and cheese–yum. The really awesome thing about this dish is it’s wonderful on it’s own, but it would also be great with macaroni and cheese…or on a burger…or in salad…it’s just that good.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 kohlrabi (approx. 3/4 pound), peeled and shredded
3-4 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

mmm cheese

mmm cheese

1. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Add kohlrabi and cook, stirring frequently, until the moisture evaporates and kohlrabi starts to brown.

3. Add cheese, salt and pepper, continuing to stir and cook until cheese melts. Serves 2-4.

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Tomatoes are mad science

Carefully connect two stems

Carefully connect two stems

Even though we now grow spinach and other greens in our unheated greenhouses all winter long, it is still an event when we fire up the propagation greenhouse in the beginning of February. The first thing we seed is our tomatoes. This officially signals the beginning of the next growing season!

We have to start our tomato plants about a month earlier than we would otherwise because we graft them. Here’s how that works: we grow a special rootstock for its robustness and we also grow our favorite varieties of hybrid and heirloom tomatoes selected for their delicious flavored fruits.

After about a month, we take the rootstock plants and chop off their heads! Then we take our favorite heirloom varieties, lop off their roots, and very carefully match the little top guy up with the cut stem of the rootstock. We clip them together and over time they heal and just keep growing. We aren’t really reenacting Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts, although I do sometimes shout,  “Off with their heads!”, as I imagine the Queen would. I made it sound much more dramatic than it really is . . . In fact, grafting is really a rather delicate process that we do carefully one by one. Once the new top is clipped to the rootstock, we put the plants under a plastic dome to keep them in a high humidity environment so they can heal and fuse together.

Off with their heads!

Off with their heads!

Winter Greenhouse Woes……

This February has been unusually cold and it is hard to think about the increased amount of propane we are using to keep our greenhouse warm.

A few weeks ago, we received a delivery of propane. It was a sunny day so the heater didn’t need to run. I happened to be out of town visiting my mother and Tim went that evening to Tunbridge to call the numbers for Bingo. When he returned he found that the regulator on the propane take was frozen up and so there was no heat in the greenhouse.

The heater fan still was running and just blowing frigid air onto the plants. Tim put a back-up heater into the greenhouse but it was too late for most of our tomato plants that were destined to be the tops on our grafted plants . . .

Clipped together and growing

Clipped together and growin

The rootstock was okay because it was in a warmer spot . . . but rootstock is no good without tops . . . Everything else is the greenhouse was fine because nothing else was so sensitive to cold for a short period of time.

We have reseeded and also ordered some organic grafted plants from California so we won’t lose too much time getting ripe tomatoes . . . it will just be costing us twice as much . . . or more.

Ah farming . . .

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Major construction on new winter storage rooms this winter

Delivery for new winter storage rooms

Delivery for new winter storage rooms

New winter storage rooms — halfway there

New winter storage rooms — halfway there

The amazing spray foam technology!

The amazing spray foam technology!

At Luna Bleu Farm we are building several insulated rooms in the middle of our barn to better store the crops for our winter CSA and winter farmers’ markets.

Since we store a wide diversity of crops, we need different rooms that can provide optimal temperature and humidity for different vegetables . . .

  • carrots like it cold and humid, onions like it cold and dry
  • winter squash likes it warm and dry
  • sweet potatoes need a warm but humid environment . . . and
  • potatoes are best somewhere in between . . .

In February, Butch Howe, Tim, and Lucas got everything framed up and ready for spray foam installers. Brrrr . . . it was pretty cold work. On one slightly warmer day, the foam spray guys came and did their work.

Since then we’ve been finishing the walls, painting, running in the electricity . . . and on other fronts, planting the seeds, growing the crops, harvesting, storing, and getting ready to eat lots of good local food next winter. Full circle!

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REAL Baby Carrots and Tips on Nutrients in Carrots

I know they are popular, but I must admit, I really do not like those little packages labeled “baby carrots” that you find in the store.

These are actually just regular ol’ carrots that are misshapen or broken or just don’t make the grade to be sold as a whole carrot. They get run through a big machine that whittles off their outer layers leaving only the inner core in a that so very uniform shape and size.

Unfortunately, all this whittling takes away up to a third of the carrot’s nutrients since, like many fruits and vegetables, most of the nutrients are concentrated in the skin or the layers just below the skin.

This is why I just don’t like those packaged “baby carrots” — not only is their name misleading, they sacrifice nutrition just for a marketing gimmick.

Real baby carrots

Real baby carrots

This year at Luna Bleu we do have many small (ok, BABY) carrots. These carrots are just small because they grew that way. They are still the whole carrot with the whole of their nutrient package! They have a nice sweet flavor and crunch and I have discovered they are the best for roasting!

One thing I learned about carrot nutrition from Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robbins is that carrots are actually better for you when they have been cooked rather than eaten raw.

Furthermore, when you cook carrots whole they retain even more nutrients and sweetness. Typically large carrots cooked whole can take some time . . . not so with these  real baby carrots . . . they cook pretty quickly and will have more beta-carotene and other antioxidants (good cancer fighting nutrients!) than if you cut them up before cooking.

So our little carrots will make it easy to get the most carrot nutrition out of your carrots. I have a whole new appreciation for these little carrots that took so long to harvest!

One more nutrition tip . . . beta-carotene is fat-soluble — for your body to absorb it most effectively, your carrots should be prepared with or served with some sort of fat or oil. I usually toss the carrots in some olive oil before roasting or you could just put a dollop of butter on before you eat them.

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[Review] Eating on the Wild Side

Suzanne reviews Eating on the Wild Side

Suzanne reviews Eating on the Wild Side

CSA Member Rick Otto gave us the book: Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson. This book delves into some of the recent research in phytochemicals (phyto=plant) and their role in human nutrition. In many instances, as we have developed our cultivated crops through the millennia, we have inadvertently bred out some of the valuable plant chemicals that contribute to healthy nutrition.

It is a very interesting book packed with useful information. There are lists of vegetable varieties that tend to have retained more beneficial nutrients and there are simple tips for maintaining or enhancing the nutrients you can get from your fruits and vegetables.

You may see things like purple carrots in your CSA shares and at the Luna Bleu farmstand this year and I will scatter interesting tips in our newsletters!

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