Flat Leaf Parsley
Celebrity or Red Pear Tomatoes
Sweet Italian & Green Seyrek Peppers
Crimson Spineless Okra or Romano Beans
Crimson Sweet Watermelon or Halona Cantaloupe
Happy Solar Eclipse everyone. We hope you can take some time out on Monday to partake in this rare natural phenomenon. With our crazy non-stop schedule it is rare that we get to partake in holidays or midnight lunar eclipses or what have you; but this phenomenon is perfect for us; it’s in the middle of the day, outside and we luckily have a big open space to view the sun. Sometimes farming pays off. Being that its mid-August we are in the midst of our busiest time. We have long harvest days now that the eggplant, okra, long beans, peppers, and chiles are producing at full blast. We are working as fast as we can each week to keep up with our fall and winter planting, which requires seeding and transplanting on a very tight schedule. Every 2-3 days off schedule now can mean 10-14 days off harvesting especially for our long crops such as carrots, broccoli, or spinach. We also have to look for windows of opportunity when the weather will be a bit cooler to get appropriate germination and as always try to keep all our crops (summer, fall, and winter) properly hydrated for good growth. To get all this planting done also means getting rid of old crops quickly so Brian can prepare land for the next round. Between June and September we have to flip about 1/3 of our crop fields a little less than one acre, in order to have enough space for all the things we want to grow. It’s like a Tetris game trying to appropriately rotate certain crops, finding the right conditions for particular crops (light enough soil, good drainage, not too windy in the Winter), and keep blocks of crops together 4-6 months from now for irrigation and cold protection purposes. So while we harvest, plant, manage crops, week by week; we are also quickly clearing those things that need to be done (such as Sungold cherry tomatoes) to make room for the new.
A reminder, we are taking our annual week off the CSA shares next week August 28th – September 3rd. So no shares next week; but this week we have a great big share highlighting the Summer bounty in Virginia. With peppers ripening we can finally get you all some sweet peppers along with a few Turkish Seyrek peppers that are long thin light green delicious peppers, with no heat, but a fresh green, bright flavor. The last of the melons will be doled out this week. We hope you have enjoyed them as thoroughly as we have. We are finally bringing you all okra and/or beans, which have been slim this season up until now. These two crops pair nicely with onion, tomato, green peppers, and carrots to make some delicious bayou food. And then there is the illustrious ever-bountiful eggplant. We imagine that some of you might get your fill of eggplant long before the season quits and for this reason we try to be reasonable about how much we dole out to our CSA members. A funny thing is that since our second year we have never increased our eggplant plot size, growing the same number of plants on the same square footage; but every year the eggplant crop produces larger numbers of fruit and we take this as a positive sign of our slow baby steps towards learning to be better farmers. We hope that we can help those of you who are not in love with eggplant learn to appreciate it a bit more each year with recipe suggestions and diversity of varietals, as it is a truly abundant crop in Virginia. Likely it is one of the few crops that actually makes us a good profit when we can sell it. The plants truly love the humidity, the bouts of drought, the deluge of rain, and the heat. So this is the 4th week of 7 with eggplant and in September and October there will likely be at least 3 more times it is in the share; we hope you can revel in its bounty. Check some ideas below for using this amazing hearty fruit. Enjoy the share…..Brian and Autumn
All photos are generously provided by Alexis Courtney
Suyo Long, Marketmore, or Diva Cucumbers
Red Noodle or Oriental Wonder Long Beans
Asian Long and Thai Round Eggplant
Cantaloupe or Crimson Sweet Watermelon
Eggplant with Thai Basil
1 lb eggplant, cut into ½-inch slices
4-5 cloves garlic
1-2 medium sized fresh red or green chilies (or sweet bell pepper for the meek)
1 Tbsp light soy sauce or tamari
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp palm sugar or dark brown sugar
1 bunch Thai basil
Slice the eggplant into ½ inch rounds and fry them over medium high in a wide skillet with ¼ inch of canola or other frying oil. When things get going, the eggplant slices will absorb the oil and you will gradually see it penetrate through to the top. Make sure that they don’t get too brown on the bottom before this happens. If the eggplant slices absorb all the oil and still don’t look wet, you must add more—but don’t worry, because they will release much of it as they cook. When they look like they have absorbed enough oil and they start to get nice and brown on the bottom, flip them over and brown them on the other side. If the pan is dry at this point, don’t add more oil because the slices have absorbed enough to fry themselves. When they’re done, drain the slices on paper towels
Meanwhile, cut the garlic into slices and the chilies into diagonal rings. When the eggplant is ready, remove it and add 2 Tbsp of fresh oil to the pan, add the garlic and half the chilies, and stir-fry until the garlic is golden. Add the soy sauces and sugar, stir for about 30 seconds until the sugar starts to bubble, and return the eggplant to the pan. Add torn basil leaves, stir and serve, garnished with the rest of the chilies (if you dare!)
Ali Baba or Crimson Sweet Watermelon
Anaheim & Poblano Peppers
Serrano & Jalapeno Chiles
German White Garlic
Cut Greens (Arugula or Taglio Chard)
Fall planting began this past week and although it was hot and dry, we managed to get cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, kales, collards, and spigariello transplanted. We direct seeded cut greens, mustard greens, broccoli raab, radishes, salad turnips, and daikon radish as well. So currently we are on schedule. The first fall carrots and herbs get seeded today, anticipating the slightly cooling weather and hopefully a little rain, fingers crossed. This coming week includes huge plantings too. All our fall Swiss chard, red mustard greens, and fennel get transplanted, along with a succession of beets, the first round of fall lettuce, escarole, frisee, 12 types of radicchio, and chinese cabbage. Two weeks ago we were happy to welcome two new interns, Magena and Tyler, to the farm. As you all know we have been extremely understaffed all season. In early July as we were slipping further behind and trying to plan for a reduced Winter season, this pair seeked us out and applied for the job. We are happy to say that within just a few weeks we are beginning to catch up and have more manageable harvest days. It also means we can stay on schedule for our fall/winter plantings which is imperative in getting crops to their full potential, as well as give them the proper management necessary to help them thrive. In addition to being on farm, Magena and Tyler will be working occasional Saturday markets at South of the James, so keep an eye out for them. We are looking forward to our first fall with proper staffing needs in place.
In this week’s share we have the first of our Anaheim and Poblano peppers, a personal favorite. They are great for stuffing; but can also be simply used in a multitude of combinations with eggs, making fajitas, seasoning beans, for pico de gallo, and much more. The Anaheim has thick and crunchy flesh with a green fresh flavor, while the Poblano is thinner skinned, with a complex and earthy flavor. Both have a small amount of heat; but deseeding definitely makes them milder. This is the first appearance of watermelon in the share. We began harvesting this past week and have been enjoying them in the field on these hot days. We always need to do a little quality control to make sure they taste great. August is the month for watermelon and cantaloupe here at Tomten Farm, so this is just the beginning. We are surprised to be including another round of cut greens, the arugula from a few weeks ago grew back more abundantly than expected and we have some baby green chard as well. Check out the recipes below and enjoy the share…..Autumn and Brian
Cubanelle or Shishito Peppers
Heirloom and Sauce Tomatoes
Italian & Turkish Eggplant
Highlander Yellow Onions
Zephyr Summer Squash
Zaalouk (Spicy Eggplant Salad) The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
1 ½ lb eggplant, peeled and cubed
5 cloves garlic, peeled
3 large tomatoes (about 1 ½ lbs)
4 Tbls argan oil or mild extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbls wine vinegar
½ tsp harissa or a mixture paprika &ground chili pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Boil the eggplants with the garlic in plenty of salted water, in a pan covered with a lid, for about 30 minutes or until they are very soft. Drain and chop the eggplants and garlic in a colander, then mash them with a fork, pressing all the water out.
Put the tomatoes in the emptied pan and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until reduced to a thick sauce, stirring occasionally. Mix with the mashed eggplants and the rest of the ingredients and add salt.
Variation: Add the juice of 1 lemon (instead of the vinegar) and 1 tsp ground caraway or coriander.
Baked Shrimp with Tomatillos – Simply Recipes
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
1-2 jalapeno chiles, seeded, minced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lb tomatillos, chopped
1/2 cup clam juice OR 1/4 cup water*
1 lb shrimp, cleaned, deveined
1 cup Cotija queso seco cheese (can substitute feta)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
An oven-proof sauté pan or cast iron pan
*One time we made this we used tequila instead of clam juice, it was good too!
1 Heat oil in the pan you will use for baking. Add the onions and jalapeños, cook for 5 minutes on medium high until the onions begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the tomatillos, reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, until the tomatillos are cooked through, but still hold their shape. Sprinkle salt over the tomatillos as they are cooking.
2 If using clam juice, add to pan, turn up the heat and reduce by half. If using water, just add the 1/4 cup of water without reducing.
3 Add the cheese and shrimp. Cook in a preheated 425°F oven for 10 minutes.
4 Remove pan from the oven. If using a pan with a handle, such as a cast iron frying pan, I recommend cooling the handle with ice for safety; it’s so easy to forget that pan has just come out of the oven, and you grab the hot handle by mistake. Right before serving, mix in the cilantro and sprinkle with lime juice and freshly ground black pepper.
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager
Cubanelle or Shishito Peppers
Heirloom or Sungold Tomatoes
Lettuce or Arugula
This week’s share includes our Sangre potatoes, a bright pink potato with a waxy interior, meaning it holds shape well, making it a very good all purpose potato variety. We like using it for salad, soup, skillet potatoes or gratins. It is rare that we have dill this late into July, so we are happy to include it as it pairs well with so many items this week. Potatoes, cucumbers, and beets make delicious salads with a little dill added in. We are also happy to have a mid-summer appearance of arugula and salad to tide you over for the coming month. Cubanelle peppers are a mild yellow-green pepper with a good crunch and a little sweetness. They can be used raw, such as in a shepard salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and herbs or cooked in eggs, with onions, or as pat of a pasta sauce. The shishito peppers are a young green pepper which can be simply charred or sautéed in olive oil, salted and eaten whole or they can be added into a dish as a component. Check out the seven recipes below for more ideas of how to use them. Pepper time is just beginning. Enjoy the share…. Brian and Autumn
all photos are generously provided courtesy of Alexis Courtney
Romano Green Beans
Zephyr Summer Squash
Suyo Long & Marketmore Cucumbers
Salsa Box: jalapeno, onion, garlic, cilantro
Salad or Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
Busy week! It’s Brian’s Birthday this week; which usually marks the busiest part of our season as we begin really intense weekly harvests of all the summer crops and when they are ready, 2-3 times per week, we have to get them out of the field, or they split, get tough, get eaten, and most importantly slow down future flower and hence fruit production. In addition mid July is when we are bulk harvesting and storing potatoes, beets, and carrots, while also getting all the cured onions and garlic out of the barn and into long term storage. The greenhouse is getting full with seedlings for the fall and winter and in these uninviting conditions, they need lots of attention and care to grow strong. We are also racing to get our crop fields in condition for fall plantings that will begin in two weeks, while managing current summer crops; which include trellising and tying, pest control, weeding, and more. Most importantly we are watering non-stop in an effort to get the plants enough water in these hot and humid conditions. Right now the farm is so dry, the ground radiates heat from late morning till after the sun goes down. In addition to all the regular happenings, we are counting the days until we get our new well dug and can begin implementing our new irrigation system; which should happen in about a month. This could change many things for the better as it will mean we can get our plants significantly more water, hopefully what they need to thrive, not just survive, with a lot less labor on our end. Making our farm a little bit more manageable.
This week we finally have green beans on the list. We grow romano beans, a flat-podded Italian green bean. It is tender with some juicy and meaty quality. They are great raw, slightly blanched for a salad, sautéed, or slowly braised till soft and succulent. This will be the last of our Spring cabbage, so enjoy it. For the next few weeks we will be very flush with summer squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers as they are enjoying the heat and producing nicely, so we have included a few new recipes for ideas to keep them interesting. Salsa fixings are also included, as we have the narrow window when we still have cilantro (late May is the last reliable time to germinate cilantro, before it gets too hot) and have begun harvesting hot peppers. Cilantro will be back in September if we are lucky.
Enjoy the share……Autumn and Brian
Romano Beans with Red Onion, Oil & Vinegar –recipe from Kitchen Garden Farm
1 lb or so beans
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
salt & pepper
This is a very simple, delicious way to prepare any type of string bean, and it makes a great summer salad or cold vegetable side dish. When Tim was working at a farm in Tuscany, this dish was on the table every single day, and everyone would add the oil and vinegar to their own liking. Simply wash and trim the beans (cut into bite sized pieces if you wish) and boil in heavily salted water for 5-10 minutes. They should be fully cooked but not disintegrating. Drain the beans and immediately plunge into cold water to arrest the cooking. Drain and toss with the red onion, salt & pepper, oil and vinegar. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Celebrity & Orange Blossom Tomatoes
Italian & Middle Eastern Eggplant
Zephyr & Magda Squash
Red Creole Onions
Basil & Flat Leaf Parsley
Summer Crisp & Butterhead Lettuce
I am trying to write a bit more of a farm update this week, as we have been relatively quiet for the past month. As you all know we have been extremely under staffed this season, meaning less time or opportunity for communications. As we mentioned last month, the heavy rains in late May postponed some of our transplanting of crops; but here they are now as we head into the middle of July, all coming on at once. Over the past 10 days we have seen a true shift into Summer on the farm. We have cleared a majority of our Spring crops out of the fields, except for carrots, beets, swiss chard, and a small patch of summer lettuce. All the spring crop areas are getting prepped or cover cropped, so they will be ready for our fall and winter crops; which will go into the ground beginning in August and continuing through September. All of our Summer crop successions are in the ground now, except for a final bean, cucumber, and summer squash planting; which we will plant this coming week.
This has been a very strange season, overall pretty problem free, yet our early summer crop successions, specifically summer squash and tomatoes have produced fruit very slowly and irregularly. We speculate that this had to do with the cold snap in early May (we got down to 36 degrees) and the ensuing mild temperatures through most of month. For the squash this manifested in lower yields and a lot of irregular fruit development. For the tomatoes it has meant extremely slow ripening and blossom production; which has been compounded by early blight weakening the plants, likely coming from the intense rains we received in late May. We are currently curing all of our garlic and storage onions in the upstairs of our big barn. The storage onions were all grown in our high tunnel, so we could regulate irrigation and keep the greens dry, an attempt to keep them from getting black mold or neck rot diseases which affect our outdoor onions once in storage. The onion crop looks amazing and we are proud that this year we will be able to have onions for you all into the fall months. Over the next two weeks we will be harvesting all of our potatoes, beets, and carrots so they can be stored and we can get the land ready for fall crops. We like storing carrots and beets to add some roots to our August and September shares for a bit more diversity.
This week’s share screams summer, with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, eggplant, squash, and more. It’s the earliest we have ever given the share eggplant, which we are excited about. This year’s crop looks very healthy and productive. This will be the last of the swiss chard until Fall as the plants seem a bit tired, so enjoy the last of the bunching greens for a few months. Swiss chard braised with eggplant, onions, and tomatoes makes for a delicious dish paired with pasta or on its own. We have also included a Italian swiss chard salad recipe. If you like frittatas, think about a zucchini, basil, and onion frittata. The cucumbers are some of the best we have grown. Tender skins and sweet in flavor, they would be delicious with a little salt, or paired with some fresh tomatoes. Check out all the recipes below and enjoy the share…..Brian and Autumn
Eggplant Caviar – The New Book of Middle Eastern Cooking by Claudia Roden
¾ lb Eggplant
2 Tbls Olive Oil
Juice of 1/4lemon, or more to taste
Broil the eggplant: prick the eggplants in a few places with a pointed knife. Turn them under a broiler until the skin is black and blistered and they feel very soft. When cool enough to handle, peel, letting the pieces fall into a colander with tiny holes, then chop with a pointed knife and mash to a puree with a fork or a wooden spoon, so that the juices escape through the holes of the colander.
Transfer the eggplant to a bowl and beat in the oil and lemon juice and some salt.
Syrian – mix in 1 Tbls pomegranate molasses instead of lemon juice, 1 crushed garlic clove and 2 Tbls chopped flat-leaf parsley.
Moroccan – 1 crushed galic clove, ¼ tsp harissa or a pinch of cayenne, and a ¼ tsp paprika, ¼ tsp ground cumin, and a ½ Tbls chopped cilantro
Eggplant Salad – add 2 Tbls chopped parsley, 1 chopped tomato, 2 chopped scallions, and a 1/2finely chopped chile pepper.
Eggplant in a Spicy Honey Sauce –The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
The sauce is a splendid example of the hot, spicy, and sweet combinations; which are a thrilling feature of North African cooking. Serve it cold with bread.
2 medium-large eggplants
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 inches fresh gingerroot, grated, or cut into pieces
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
large pinch cayenne or ground chili pepper, to taste
4-6 Tbls honey
juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup water
Cut the eggplants into rounds about 1/3” thick. Do not peel them. Dip them in olive oil, turning them over, and cook on a griddle or under a broiler, turning them over once, until they are lightly browned. They do not need to be soft, as they will cook further in the sauce. In a wide saucepan or skillet, fry the garlic in 2 Tbls of the oil for seconds only, stirring, then take off the heat. Add the ginger, cumin, and cayenne or gorund chili pepper, honey, lemon juice, and water. Put in the eggplant slices and cook over low heat –either in batches, so they are in one layer, or together, rearranging them so that each slice gets some time in the sauce –for about 10 minutes, or until the slices are soft and have absorbed the sauce. Add a little water if necessary.
Salata Horiatiki (Greek Country Salad) –The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
1 head summer crisp lettuce, cut into ribbons
2 large firm ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 cucumber, peeled, split in half through its length, and cut into thick slices
1 green pepper, cut into thin rings
1 large mild onion, thinly slices, the rings separated
8 oz feta cheese, cut into small squares or broken into coarse pieces
1 dozen or more black Kalamata olives
For the dressing
A good bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
6 Tbls extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper
Put all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Just before serving, mix the dressing, pour over the salad, and toss.
Boiled Swiss Chard Salad – The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan
1 bunch Swiss chard leaves
1 or more Tbls lemon juice
Pull the leaves from the stalks (reserving the stems for another use, such as Swiss Chard stalks with Parmesan Cheese) and wash in a basin of cold water, changing the water frequently until it shows no trace of soil.
Put the chard in a pan with whatever water clings to the leaves. Add 1/2 tsp salt, cover, and cook over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes from the time the liquid starts to bubble.
Drain in a pasta colander and gently press some of the water out of the chard with the back of a fork. Place in a salad bowl.
Serve cool (not refrigerated) or lukewarm, seasoning with salt, oil, and lemon only when ready to serve.