Variety Trials on the Farm

    Nathaniel and I have a slight addiction to trying new vegetable varieties. Really. We are obsessed. This year, as we sought the prettiest, most vigorous, and least breakable lettuces for the grocery store, we tried over 8 different types of butter lettuce alone (Optima and Skyphos dominated the competition). We searched high and low for heat loving crops that could mature quickly in our Mediterranean climate (so we grew 4 kinds of eggplants, 3 watermelon, 2 cantaloupe, 5 peppers, 3 corn). There was a good chance, none of these would work out, but in this atypical toasty summer of ours most worked, but Early Moonbeam watermelon, Diamond Eggplant, PMR Delicious Cantaloupe, Padrone and Carmen peppers, and Vitality corn were our big champs. We also trialed 3 chards, 5 kales, 3 fennels, 4 beets, 6 carrots, 3 basils, 4 broccolis, 7 cabbages, etc… You get the idea. We need your help. Badly! On Wednesday, September 17th from 4:30pm til 7pm we are going to determine the year’s most delicious tomato and garlic varieties. Our fields hold 5 kinds of cherry tomatoes, 8 heirlooms, 2 slicers, and 6 types of garlic that are all vying for your affection and the chance to be planted again next season. We’ll provide you a rating guide so you can be the most critical of food critics. There will be treats to cleanse your pallet between tastes and some extra activities for the young foodies in our midst. It will be a glorious celebration of a great season together. You’re welcome to come for a part or all of the party and to bring drinks and friends to the fun. We’re at 3340 Craw Road, Langley. Please drive to the very end of the driveway and park behind the big gray barn. RSVPs are ideal.

Stuffed Italian Swiss Chard Rolls with Tomatoes

15 oz ricotta cheese, well drained

1 egg

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

8 large whole Swiss chard leaves with stems,

1 small onion, diced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup finely chopped tomatoes of any kind

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the ricotta cheese, egg, 1/4 cup of the grated cheese, salt and parsley.  Set aside.

Cut away the stems from the Swiss chard and thinly slice them.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Add the whole leaves and blanch for 10 seconds. Carefully remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and allow them to cool. 

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan. When the oil is hot add the onion and stem pieces and cook them over medium heat until the stems soften. Cool the mixture slightly, then add to the bowl with the ricotta cheese mixture.

Lay each Swiss chard leaf flat and spread 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture down the center of each. Starting from the end nearest you, roll each leaf up to encase the filling, folding in the sides as you go. 

Spread 1/2 cup of the tomatoes in the base of a casserole dish.

Place the Swiss chard rolls in a single layer in the casserole dish and spread the remaining tomatoes over the tops of each. 

Sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese.

Cove the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and serve immediately.

Steamed Beans with Lemon Mint Dressing

1 pound fresh beans, trimmed

2 tbs finely chopped fresh mint leaves

1 tbs minced shallots or red onion

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp each pepper and salt

Steam beans 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Combine mint and remaining

ingredients in a large bowl, and stir with a whisk. Add green beans to bowl, and toss to

coat.

Corn! – Aug 19th

There’s corn in your share again (gasp)! We grow corn, apparently! While ears may be a dime a dozen out in the hot-summered Midwest, overflowing the fields, farm stands, and produce departments, in our mild Whidbey clime (with its notorious “June-uarys and Fog-usts”) it’s a total crapshoot whether a corn crop will mature or not. So dig in and don’t skimp on the butter because, who knows, you may not get a local ear of sweet corn again until 2017.

In your share you’ll find not only a couple ears of modern hybrid Sugary Enhanced sweet corn, but also an ear or two of good, “old-fashioned” open-pollinated (OP) sweet corn. This difference in taste and texture represents over 100 years of development in hybrid corn breeding techniques. Plant breeders began developing hybridization techniques in corn in the early 1900s, however it didn’t really start to significantly improve crop yields and uniformity until the 50s. Today, the vast majority of corn grown (I’d guess over 99%), whether it’s for animal feed, corn syrup, sweet corn or grain, is hybrid. Hybrid varieties come from two different parent lines that are purposely inbred over several years. The two lines are then crossed, resulting in F1 hybrid seed that will demonstrate hybrid vigor (enhanced uniformity and yield). Breeders have even isolated specific genes that confer sweetness (su=normal sugary, se=sugary enhanced, and others) and are breeding hybrids with those traits. You can’t save seed on hybrids and have it grow true to the type you originally planted, as it will instead revert back to one its original parent lines, looking or tasting nothing like you intended. This makes the farmer return to the seed company the next year for more hybrid seed. The fact that the identity of two parents lines are kept secret by the breeder and that the techniques used to maintain the lines are highly technical and expensive means that growing and saving your own hybrid corn seed is nearly impossible. As seed savers, we’re always searching for OP varieties (on which you CAN save seed) that are comparable in flavor, yield and uniformity to the hybrids. This can be a futile pursuit for crops such as corn, broccoli or cauliflower for which all the breeding work since the 1950s has been in developing hybrids rather than OPs. We hope you can still enjoy that good old-fashioned, OP sweet corn flavor as your grandparents did! (Please note that the Hybrid vs Open Pollinated issue has nothing to do with GMOs. Monsanto released its first GM Roundup Ready and Bt sweetcorns back in 2012 . It has since been appearing more and more in grocery stores , replacing the conventional hybrid-sweet corn. Rest assured, some of the corn in your share is hybrid, some is OP, but none of it is GM.

Super easy and delightful tomato sauce

Thanks to Donna for this glorious sauce! It doesn’t get easier than this… I’m typing this from memory (I misplaced the recipe somewhere), but it was so simple, I’m sure I’m getting it close to correct.  Adjust as you see fit. Enjoy!

Super easy and delightful tomato sauce

5 medium tomatoes (or about 35 cherry tomatoes); ½ lemon (remove the seeds); 1 teaspoon of coriander

Handful of herbs (fresh or dried) such as basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary; 2 tsp olive oil; 2+ cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste; (Add a hint of sugar if you so desire…)

Blend all ingredients in blender and let sit covered for as long as you can handle not eating it… (up to 12 hours). You may cook down to thicken or enjoy as it is. You won’t go wrong with this atop pasta, veggies or any grain.

Fresh Green bean, Corn, and Tomato Summer Salad

Coarse salt; 3 ears corn, husks and silk removed; 1  pounds green bean, stem ends snapped off; 3 cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed; 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar; 1/2 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced; 2 1/2 cups of mixed heirloom tomatoes, chopped

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove corn with tongs and set aside on a cutting board to cool. Using a strainer, remove any corn silk remaining in the pot. Steam  the green beans until very tender, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut the corn kernels off the cobs and put kernels in a large bowl. Drain the beans in a colander, shake to remove excess water, and put in bowl with corn. Add garlic and 3 tablespoons of oil. Toss well and let stand at least 15 minutes for flavors to blend; refrigerate if longer than 30 minutes. Just before serving, remove the garlic and add the remaining tablespoon of oil along with vinegar, onion, and tomatoes. Add salt to taste and serve at room temperature.

 

Tuscan Style Roasted Carrots with Fresh Oregano

Eating on the Wild Side continues to enlighten me to the healthiest vegetables to consume and the ways to prepare them to maximize their nutrition. This weekend, I made two new discoveries. 1. Colored carrots contain more antioxidants and phytonutrients that fight cancer than orange carrots. 2. It’s healthiest to eat your carrots cooked. More carrot antioxidants are available to your body if steamed, sauted or roasted.

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium bunch organic carrots
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon fresh oregano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butter and olive oil in a 9 X 13-inch baking pan to melt butter.
Cut carrots in half lengthwise. Add to pan and toss with butter and oil.
 Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano. Roast 40-50 minutes, tossing the carrots halfway through roasting time to bring the un-browned carrots to the surface to brown.