This week your basket contains: sweet peppers, onions, broccoli, BUTTERNUT SQUASH, COLLARDS, kale, carrots, and turnips.
Having carrots in the baskets this week feels to us something of a miracle. These carrots were seeded right between the two heat events of the summer. As we always do, we germinated the seeds by moving the drip irrigation tape to lay directly on the rows of seeds. By moving the tape daily, in a normal year we can keep the three rows moist for the two weeks it takes for the seeds to germinate. This year, the lack of rain and higher than normal temperatures dried out the soil to an extent we haven’t seen before, and it seemed like the drips evaporated almost as fast as they came out of the emitters. Instead of the three rows of seeds being continuous lines of moist soil, after two weeks of moving the t-tapes we had tiny spots of moist soil every foot down the rows (this is the spacing of the emitters in the t-tape). To add insult to injury, it appeared that only weeds had germinated in those spots. We kept moving the irrigation and finally saw carrots emerge. Unfortunately, the weeds had a head start so it was hours of slow, painstaking hand weeding to free up the sparse carrot crop (THANK YOU Joe, Gorgonio & Tabitha!). So now we can enjoy the fruit of all that labor and, to us, they taste all the sweeter for effort.
Our refrigerator is decorated in part by a handwritten note from a young subscriber asking us to stop growing collards “because they are not good.” We’ve kept it there for over a year not just because it makes us smile, but because it is a reminder that we not only need to fill your baskets every week, but we also need to fill them with food you like. Collards are not a particularly popular green, but I (James) love them, and I am a bit of a collard evangelist. To that end we have been seeking out varieties that have superior flavor. This year we tried an heirloom variety we heard of through the Culinary Breeding Network. Old-timey Blue has a purplish color (you also have regular collards in your bag). If you want to separate it out of your greens to do a taste test, we would love to have your input. To help identifying the greens in your bag, the kale all has scalloped edges while the collards are generally larger and rounder. My favorite collard recipe is the one below. You can use all of your greens in it including your turnip greens.
SOUTHERN MIXED GREENS
3 lbs greens coarsely chopped
2 ham hocks
1 qt. water
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 med. onion chopped fine
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
Trim fat from ham hocks and set aside. Put ham hocks in heavy saucepan and cover with water. Add red pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Simmer for 45 minutes. Render some of the pork fat in a skillet, add onions and cook slowly until they begin to brown. Drain and add to ham hock broth. Simmer until meat begins to fall from bones. Stir in the greens, cover and cook about 30 minutes stirring and lifting the greens occasionally. Add vinegar and pepper to taste. Put meat and greens on a serving plate and serve pot liquor in separate small bowls. We use the nitrite-free ham hocks from New Seasons. We have also substituted smoked extra firm tofu for the ham hock with good results (you need to use olive oil to replace the ham fat) when we wanted a vegetarian alternative. From Winter Harvest Cookbook by Lane Morgan.
BARLEY RISOTTO WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND KALE
½ lb. kale
5 ½ c. chicken or vegetable broth
1 c. water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 ½ c. pearl barley, rinsed
2 c. peeled butternut squash, ¾ in cubes
salt and pepper to taste
¼ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ c. dry white wine
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Remove stems and thick ribs from kale leaves. Boil leaves until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess water, coarsely chop and set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat broth and water over medium heat until simmering. Keep warm. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until browned, about 7 minutes. Add barley and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it evaporates. Add ½ cup broth and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed. After 5 minutes, add squash. Continue stirring and adding broth, ½ cup at a time, as needed, until barley is tender and creamy yet still firm, 40 to 50 minutes. Stir in reserved kale and cook, stirring constantly, until heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and serve garnished with Parmesan cheese. Serves 6. From Eating Well October 1998