Welcome to the 4th week of the Pitchfork & Crow Winter CSA!
Here’s what’s in the share:
- Cipollini Onions – small Italian onions great for carmelizing
- Sunchokes – These are roots of a sunflower variety. We’ve been enjoying them shredded and sauteed but they’re good roasted and in soups too. Please note that they contain high levels of a carbohydrate inulin, which is difficult for some folks to digest.
- Red Thumb Fingerling Potatoes – Red skins and pink inside, these tasty potatoes are best roasted.
- Black Futzu Winter Squash – These rare Japanese squash ripen from a dark green to a lovely chestnut in storage and taste a bit like hazelnuts.
- Rouge vif d’Etampes Pumpkin – We’ve cut up these large sweet heirloom pumpkins so as not to overwhelm you, but that means you’ll want to use them up soon. Great for pie or soup!
- Dried Apples – We grew them, we dried them, we hope you like them!
- Belgian Endive with bonus Chicory Roots! – This specialty crop is an endeavor of our friend Marco at Sunset Lane Farm in Brownsville. Read the post below for further details.
You should have all seen the email we sent out just after the last pick-up. It was a difficult message to send, but it seemed like the right choice to let you all know exactly where this season stood. Please let us know if you’re a current CSA member and didn’t get the email from January 5th and we’ll be sure to be in touch.
Here’s a quote that resonated with us from a podcast we’ve recently been enjoying called “A Way To Garden“:
“…gardeners throughout the nation have recently suffered some of the coldest weather in recent memory and I’m sure you’re wondering just as I am what the impact to certain plants will be. So, I don’t mean to be flip at all when I say we have to let the worrying go. You really must. Because there’s simply nothing we can do about it now except wait to see. And also just remember that it’s not your fault. I actually think of gardening as sort of a life practice that builds two kinds of fortitude in particular. One is the ability to be patient and the second is the ability to let go. Winter always tests the first one with all the waiting through the dark days. And this winter seems to want to test the latter too.”
(On a side note, the recent episodes of this podcast have included interviews of some friends who have small seed companies. Take a listen if you’re interested in seedy topics like locally-adapted vegetable varieties!)
We’ve been focused on planning for the upcoming season this past week. Our marathon winter planning session is always an intense mix of excitement and overwhelming. Choosing the right vegetable varieties from the best seed sources in quantities that will fit our future needs is always a challenge. But a challenge we enjoy. We’ll be glad to finish it up soon and move on to other things.
We met up with our friend Marco at Sunset Lane Farm on Tuesday to procure the Belgian endive in this week’s share. This is a specialty crop that takes many steps to produce the lovely blanched heads. Here’s a synopsis:
- Witloof chicory is planted out in the field in June.
- The dandelion like greens of the plant are mowed in September or October.
- The roots are dug by hand, cut to 8″ in length, and stored at nearly freezing for two weeks to trick them into thinking they’ve gone through winter.
- The roots are removed from cold storage and buried in storage beds filled with a loose soil mix. The temperature is kept at 60 degrees and all light is excluded from the storage beds to force the roots to produce heads.
- After 3-4 weeks the heads are dug by hand and snapped from the root, cleaned, and sent out to be enjoyed.
We’re lucky to be able to share this crop with you. Marco lost quite a number of roots in the field during the big December freeze. Greens are hard to come by on local farms just now, but these were already in the cold storage/storage bed process. We’re thankful Marco was willing to share his product with us, given how much time and work he’s put into it this season.
Belgian endive plants produce a small tasty head of greens atop an impressively large root. Luckily the roots can be roasted and then ground in a coffee grinder for a lovely coffee-like beverage. Cut up the root and roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 90 minutes before grinding. We like to cut coffee beans with 1/3 roasted chicory for a New Orleans-style chicory coffee.
Well, despite the harsh weather in December and the fact that it’s mid-January we think the share is pretty interesting and fun this week. We hope you agree!
Enjoy the vegetables and we’ll see you in two weeks!
Jeff Bramlett and Carri Heisler
Here are a few recipes to get you inspired:
Belgian Endive Salad
2 heads Belgian endive, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 pear, cored and cubed
2-3 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
2-3 tablespoons toasted and chopped pecans
Combine these ingredients in a medium sized bowl and toss with a vinaigrette.
(combine apple cider vinegar, oil, dijon mustard, honey, and salt/pepper to taste for a delicious and easy vinaigrette)
From Sunset Lane Farm, http://www.sunsetlanefarm.com/Belgian-Endive.html
2 to 3 large sunchokes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves removed
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Scrub the sunchokes under cold running water and slice 1/4-inch thick. Add the sunchokes and garlic to a roasting pan or baking sheet and toss with the olive oil so the bottom of the pan and the sunchokes are lightly coated. Add more olive oil a tablespoon at a time if you don’t feel like the vegetables are coated enough, but not too much; you don’t want them swimming in olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and rosemary. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sunchokes are tender inside, like a potato.
From The Kitchn, by Kathryn Hill, http://www.thekitchn.com/try-this-roasted-sunchokes-105348
- One 2 1/2-pound Buttercup, Perfection, or other dense winter squash, rinsed
- 3 ripe but firm pears, any variety, quartered, seeds and stems removed
- 1 chunk fresh ginger, about 2 inches long, thinly sliced
- Sunflower seed or olive oil for the squash
- Sea salt
- 2 tablespoons butter or sunflower seed oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds, then cut each half into thirds. Put the pieces in a large baking dish or roasting pan with the pears and all but a few slices of the ginger. Brush with oil, season with salt, and bake until fragrant and tender, about 1 hour. Turn the pieces once or twice so that they have a chance to caramelize on more than one surface. If the squash seems very dry (some varieties are), add 1 cup water to the pan to create steam and cover with foil. When the squash is tender, transfer everything from the pan to a cutting board, add 1 cup water to the pan, and scrape to dissolve the juices, reserving the liquid. Scrape the flesh of the squash away from the skins. You should have about 2 cups.
2. To make a stock, bring 6 cups water to a boil and add the seeds and, eventually,the squash skins, the remaining ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a soup pot. Add the onion, give it a stir, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown a bit and is fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the pears, ginger, and squash, then the reserved deglazing water. Strain the stock into the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. Cool briefly, then puree until smooth and pass through a food mill or strainer to ensure a silky texture. Serve as is or swirl in the crème fraîche.
From Epicurious, via Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, by Deborah Madison, http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Deborah-Madisons-Roasted-Squash-Pear-and-Ginger-Soup-355879