Week 5

Already it feels like the season is just flying by!  This week the peas are really in full production mode, we have the first full-size romaine lettuce, first taste of beets, radishes make a return, and more.  In the share:

  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Snow Peas
  • Walla Walla sweet onions
  • Beet green thinnings, with roots
  • Kale (Monday folks are getting “Nash’s Green Kale” while Thursday will have a different variety)
  • Hakurei salad turnips
  • Radishes – Most Monday folks got “pink beauty” while Thursday folks will get “D’avignon” (pictured)
  • Romaine lettuce

The snow peas could be good with the onions in a stir fry or saute, maybe with rice.  The braising greens this week are turnip greens, radish greens, beet greens, and kale.  The kale will take the longest of all to cook.  The other three are probably pretty tender and you could potentially mix them and cook them together.  These more tender greens would probably be cooked in 1-4 minutes of saute’ing or braising depending on how done you like your greens.

The beet bunch is mostly for the delicious greens at this point, which are very similar to chard but a bit more tender.  We direct seed our beets and need to thin them out in order for them to have enough room to grow larger roots.  We are sending the beet thinnings to the CSA members this week.  Since beets are going to be fairly common throughout the share and this is the first week of them in the share, I thought I’d include some info on beets from the “Bounty From the Box” cookbook at the bottom of this post.

Many of you have been asking, “When are the carrots going to be ready?”  Good question!  I’m just as eager as you all for farm-fresh carrots.  At this point I’m guessing about 3-4 weeks until the first carrots, but it’s a really rough guess.  Our first seedings had a rough time germinating in this spring’s spotty weather, so we had to re-seed them.  They are definitely later than hoped but now seem to be moving along.

We started tying up our cucumbers onto trellises in the field.  For this we’re using old fencing rolls and panels tied to T-posts.  The cuke vines get clipped onto the fencing with re-usable plastic clips and then weaved in and out as they grow up.

We hope you enjoy this week’s bounty!  -Matt & the CNF crew.

From Bounty from the Box: The CSA Farm Cookbook, by Mi Ae Lipe

Beets:

Beets are a bargain vegetable, because they are actually two in one: the delicious roots that everyone knows, and also the beet tops or greens, which are extremely nutritious and a wonderful spring treat. Unfortunately, too many adults dislike beets, having eaten (or been forced to eat) poorly prepared specimens as children.

Beets are biennials, meaning that they take two years to grow to maturity. In their first year they develop their familiar swollen roots, and during the second year they flower and seed.

Selection

Avoid beets that are overly large; they may be old and woody. The smaller beets are, the sweeter they tend to be. The roots should be firm, with no soft or flabby areas, and their tops (if attached) fresh and unwilted.

Storage

If you are lucky enough to acquire beets with their greens still attached, cut all but 2 inches of the greens and stems from the roots, so they do not pull moisture away from the roots. Store the unwashed greens in a separate perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator vegetable crisper, where they will keep for about 4 days.

The beetroots should be placed in the coldest place possible. Beets that are unwashed in the refrigerator vegetable crisper will keep for about 3 weeks. Beets also keep quite well in a basement, root cellar, or other place with the proper cool temperature and lack of humidity.

Trimming and Cleaning

Like spinach, beet greens must be very thoroughly washed and rinsed several times, as they usually harbor lots of sand and debris.

To clean the roots, scrub their necks gently with a soft vegetable brush to work off any clinging dirt, but be careful not to break the skin, which will cause them to “bleed.” Rinse under cold running water.

To prepare the greens, fill a big sink or bowl full of water, cut the leaves from the roots, and completely submerge them, swishing vigorously. Then rinse them under cold running water, and repeat if necessary. To dry, use a salad spinner or gently pat the leaves dry between a couple of clean dish towels.

Steaming and Boiling

Boiling cooks beets quickly, but it tends to leach out nutrients and some color (although red beets usually have plenty of pigment to spare).

To prevent bleeding in red beets when boiling, leave them whole with their root ends and 1 inch of stem attached. Boil for 25 to 30 minutes for small beets; 45 to 50 minutes for medium beets, or until they are tender. Test by piercing them with a knife. Once the beets are cool enough to touch, peel them by rubbing the skins, which should slide off like a glove.

Chioggia beets (the ones with concentric red and white circles) do not bleed. When cooked, their rings will turn orange or rose, or they may fade altogether.

Stir-Frying and Sautéing

Beet greens adapt well to stir-fries, but add them only during the last 1 to 2 minutes of cooking to preserve their vibrant color and fresh flavor.

Because the roots can be dense and fibrous, they should be parboiled before getting tossed into the wok. You can also julienne them (but cook them separately and add at the very end so they don’t bleed all over the rest of the ingredients). If the beets are thinly sliced, stir-fry them for only 2 to 4 minutes.

Beets headed for a sauté should also be thinly sliced (into ⅛- to ¼-inch rounds) and cooked on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes.

Serving Suggestions

  • Because of their dense texture and sweet flavor, beets go best with rich meats like pork, beef brisket, duck, and ham, as well as oilier fish like salmon and swordfish.
  • Baking and oven-roasting are wonderful ways to accentuate the natural sweetness of beets, because these cooking methods caramelize their sugars.
  • Shred beets and carrots for an airy, colorful salad. Toss with raisins and some lemon juice, vinegar, or nut oil.
  • Beets can be juiced for beverages, but be sure to use this juice sparingly (or you will have a sugar high unlike any other).
  • Beet soup, or borscht, is a perennial Eastern European favorite. Top it with sour cream and serve with pork tenderloin, a green salad, and a dark bread like rye or pumpernickel.
  • Don’t forget beet greens—they are incredibly healthful and tasty when sautéed with garlic and a nice olive oil. Try them in stir-fries and soups, or eat them raw in salads. Older beet greens are more flavorful and slightly bitter, which make them a perfect foil for goat cheese, rich soups, stews, meats, and hearty sausages.
  • Beets have a special affinity for citrus. Sprinkle cooked beets with the grated zest or juice of lemons or oranges.
  • Bake whole beets along with new potatoes in the oven until tender. They are delicious with salt and pepper and served with steak or corned beef.

Complementary Herbs, Seasonings, and Foods

Allspice, apples, bacon, beef, brown sugar, butter, cheese, chestnuts, cilantro, cinnamon, citrus, cloves, cream, cucumber, curry, dill, eggs, fennel, hazelnuts, honey, horseradish, lamb, lemon, lemon basil, mustard, nutmeg, onions, oranges, parsley, pine nuts, pork, potatoes, pumpkin seeds, sherry vinegar, smoked fish, sour cream, tarragon, vinaigrette, walnuts, walnut oil, wine vinegars.

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