Mesclun Salad Mix
Bibb & Butterhead Lettuce
Spring Beets or Carrots
It is finally here, the first CSA share for 2023. We are so glad you decided to join us and partake in the bounty that this season will offer. This is our 12th CSA season, so for many of you, our early Spring offerings will be more or less similar to past years, with perhaps slight alterations to the vegetable pairings week by week. Farming is complicated and always changing, especially with the acceleration of our current climate crisis and its very real effects on our seasons and extreme shifts. In contrast to so many business fields and our culture in general we are not looking for new and different things to add each year, to wow our customers and keep ourselves “relevant”. In fact we have done quite the opposite, we have simplified and focused. At year 3 and 4 we began simplifying our crop plan and decided not to expand to growing on more acreage, but rather to spend our time focusing on crops that we wanted to eat and thought we could manage in this climate (even if they may not love it). Radicchio and chicories for example were something we loved eating; but naturally they are wild and variable crops not easily suited to Virginia’s often erratic and slightly too warm summer temperatures. Growing them has provided some challenges; but we kept on, with more success year after year. We still have so much to learn of course, especially in growing 18 different varieties; but the satisfaction of getting more familiar with this family of crops is exemplified in how they grow. In the field once they have grown massive leaves and began heading, they literally look like rotten mush and there is this fine line between that rotten mush having a perfect, strikingly beautiful and bitterly delicious head underneath and a few weeks later it might actually just be rot; but when you find it and unearth it, it is exquisite. In less dramatic fashion this is the joy of digging potatoes by hand or pulling carrots, or watching a 2 lb tomato ripen, or a perfect looking lettuce in early May. By late May usually the lettuce is damaged by pests, or trying to bolt (go to flower), or not heading correctly, or a myriad of things. But those perfect times are always worth it.
Back to the simplifying versus changing it up year after year. Farming is a strange occupation as there are a lot of factors thrown at you constantly and some are completely out of your control, so it can be a hectic and chaotic job at times; but it is also a slow process overall, with lots of moments of quiet and reflection. When crops fail, it will take an entire year to run that experiment again or to trial different methods and even the following year, the conditions are never exactly the same. So much of the actual work of growing is done by the sun, rain, and soil, all things we can aid or support but not control. To learn and acquire knowledge as a farmer is a slow game. After over a decade in this we are both still learning so much and often the changes we make year to year seem very small from the outside but there is a lot of complexity on our end and the satisfaction of beginning to understand a crop or a family of crops needs, variability, and that sweet spot where they thrive is quite exciting in a very quiet, small, and detailed way.
So as we step into this season with our fingers crossed for lots of abundance, we will flex and shift based on what is thrown at us. But right now we are happy to report that the fava beans are thriving, the lettuce is spectacular, the garlic is still young with some sweetness although it is beginning to bulb and clove, and our early spring beet planting is lovely and happy, so all is good. Please check out the short article about Fava Beans if you are new to them (you do not have to peel the outer layer from the bean). Use all of the garlic, tops and all, not just the white part. If it seems a bit fibrous cook it longer (like a leek). Lastly have fun making lots of salads, it is the time of year to eat lettuce. Check out the recipes below and enjoy the share…..Autumn & Brian
Smashed Fava Beans, Pecorino, and Mint on Toast Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden
This is a loose pesto of fava beans and mint, with plenty of olive oil. Use it as a pasta sauce or as a dip for vegetables, spoon it over crushed new potatoes, or spread some on toasted country bread.
1 ¼ lb Fava Beans in their pods
1 stalk green garlic roughly chopped
4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
salt & pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 – ½” thick slices bread
Shell the fava beans. Blanch beans for about 30 seconds in boiling salted water and then rinse well with very cold water. If desired, make a small slit on the bean, gently squeeze out two halves of the bean and peel off the membrane skin (it can be a little tough).
Put the green garlic and a pinch of salt into a food processor and pulse a few times. Add half the mint leaves and pulse a few more times so the garlic is fairly fine. Add the peeled favas and 1 Tbls olive oil and pulse again. Your goal is to bash up the favas but not completely puree them. You may need to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl between pulses.
Scrape the mixture into a bowl, season with some pepper, and stir in 1/8 cup grated pecorino cheese and the lemon juice, and adjust the consistency with olive oil so that its loose and luscious. Brush the bread on one side with olive oil and grill or broil until crisp. Arrange on plates, top with the fava mixture and the rest of the mint leaves, torn if their big, and finish with a nice shower of grated pecorino and a drizzle of oil.
Roz bel Ful Ahdar (Rice with Fava Beans) the New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
In Egypt this is prepared in the Spring, when fava beans are very young and tender. It is served hot as an accompaniment to meat, or cold with yogurt and a salad. Egyptians do not remove the skins of the beans.
1 pound fresh fava beans, shelled
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic or 1 green garlic stalk, minced white & greens
1 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 1/2 cups basmati or long-grain rice (wash)
2 ¼ cup water
Boil the beans in salted water for a few minutes, until they are tender, then drain. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan and fry the onion until soft and golden. Add the garlic and stir for a minute or two. Then add the drained beans and sauté a little, stirring and turning them over. Add the rice, and stir until transparent. Add the salt, pepper, and chopped dill and pour in the water. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat, covered, for about 20 minutes, until the rice is tender.
Sauteed Greens with Olives (Misticanza) from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden
The key to this dish is to cook it quickly at high heat so that you can taste each green in your mix.
extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (use cloves and stalk of fresh garlic)
¼ tsp dried chiles flakes
10 cups lightly packed torn mixed greens (such as kale, escarole, turnip greens, beet greens, chard)
kosher salt & black pepper
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted & halved
2 Tbls lemon juice
Heat a glug of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes – don’t let it burn! Add the chile flakes and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the greens a handful at a time, tossing until wilted between additions (if you can, start with the tougher greens such as kale or escarole). Season generously with salt and black pepper and cook until all greens are wilted and softened, about 3 minutes more after your last addition.
add the olives and 2 tablespoons lemon juice and toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more chile flakes, salt or lemon juice. Finish with a nice drizzle of olive oil.