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I can remember back to a time that I just didn’t get the appeal of fennel. This course, stringy, strongly scented vegetable didn’t seem worth the trouble to cook. But now I can honestly say that it is among my very favorite vegetables. I fully realize that there are many of our CSA members who still don’t “get” fennel, and if you are among these, you simply must try Jeanne’s recipe for roast fennel and onions.

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kale-lacinato

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Kale is a type of cabbage that does not form a head from the central leaves.We grow three varieties of kale, green curly leaf or Scotch kale, Lacinato or Dinosaur kale, and Red Russian kale.  Kale is high in beta carotene, vitamin K and vitamin C and calcium.

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kohlrabiKohlrabi is an odd vegetable that I think is often bought more for appearance than for the desire to eat it. Looking like something from a science-fiction movie, they come in lovely deep purple or jade green, and the leaves come up from all over what seems to be the root.

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Lettuce Rows

Lettuce Rows

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Lettuces grow exceptionally well here at our home farm near the coast. They love the cool foggy summer weather. We grow Red Leaf, Green Leaf, Butter Lettuces, Little Gem, and Romaine varieties and offer a mix of baby salad greens in our early spring boxes.

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Think of how often a dish starts with a sauté of onions, carrots, and celery. In Italy this combination is called soffritto. In France it is cooked with butter and called mirepoix, but for general purposes I like it cooked with a light flavored olive oil or even grapeseed oil, which is neutrally flavored, so I call it by the Italian name. I like to make this in larger batches, removing some when it is still pale, or blond, then cooking the remaining amount until it is a darker shade of amber, giving it a caramelized flavor. I sometimes even let some go until it is quite dark, like tobacco, for a very deep flavor. I then freeze it in batches. I use large zip bags and flatten out the soffritto in the bags, making it easier to stack and easier to simply break off the amount I wish to use. Some people freeze it in ice trays as you might pesto. However you store it, having this in the freezer is like having a time machine. It can make having good tasting food on the table much quicker, or if you have several pans going at once it is quite helpful as well as it is easy to burn smaller amounts of onions.

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Vinaigrettes are usually thought of as oil and vinegar dressing. In actuality, vinaigrettes can be used as a sauce, especially for fish and poultry, on sandwiches, as a marinade, or even as a pasta sauce. Vinaigrettes are great poured over roasted vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips, and beets, while still warm so the flavors are absorbed. This makes an excellent salad, and is, in fact, how German potato salad is made.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch of beets
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of water
1-2 tablespoons vinegar such as white balsamic or sherry

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owl box 2016On the evening of July 4th, I walked out to the conservation easement to check on the goats and horses we have grazing there to make sure they weren’t too freaked out by the fireworks. As I approached the oak trees I was suddenly aware of a multitude of barn owls. They were making their hissing shrieks and flying back and forth over my head. I counted at least six owls. I figured they were mostly young ones newly fledged. It was clear that I wasn’t wanted there, so I backed off and took a different route.

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This is pretty much just what it says, a typical pico de gallo salsa, but made with summer squash rather than cucumbers, and scallions stand in for white or yellow onions, and mild sweet Gypsy peppers replace the typical jalapeño. Basil and lemon replace the cilantro and lime, making this an “alternate dimension” salsa fresca. If you like it hot, add a spicy chili or two or scatter some pizza-house chili flakes in.

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Quite simple, but quite good. This is a versatile combination-cut the squash into different shapes, grill it just enough to cook through and chill it and dress it with cold dressing for a salad tossed with some romaine or Little Gem lettuce. Use mint instead of basil, and go Mid-East.

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Here’s a riff on the more forward flavored Charred Scallion Vinaigrette. The yogurt softens the “charred” flavor, and the basil combines with the charred scallion to yield a flavor reminiscent of a wood-fired pizza with a thin crust nicely charred in spots. Use for drizzling on grilled summer squash, or dipping crudité or hot grilled or cold steamed shrimp.

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Gypsy peppers fried in oil that you fried basil leaves in. The crisp leaves form a garnish to the peppers and scallions with garlic which bottom notes. Eat this on toasts, pizzas with fresh mozzarella, serve with simple grilled fish or with pasta.

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by Amber Sciligo, Guest Contributor

blueberry u-pick Amber2

A colleague whose parents are CSA members told me about the blueberry u-pick event at High Ground Organics. I was very excited to attend because: 1) I adore blueberry picking: My husband Jeremy and I used to regularly pick blueberries during the short season in Christchurch, New Zealand, where we lived for many years. And 2) As a postdoc at UC Berkeley, I’ve been working with Steve and Jeanne since 2011, conducting strawberry pollination research on their farm at the old Redman house and more recently, at their home ranch. I was excited to support them and their operation, especially if it meant I’d get to eat blueberries.

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You don’t really need anything else with this sandwich, except maybe some chips, and a beer or some iced tea. You have meat, a couple vegetables, starch, it’s all there. If you take the time to fry chicken, it is always good to make extras as it is the perfect leftover to start another meal with.

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This came about to go into a sandwich with a coleslaw done for the CSA box. Nothing too fancy, no brining or soaking, just dip, shake, and fry.

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This was made to go on a fried chicken sandwich, but is great as is. Using a Ben-Riner or other fixed blade slicer (or even a food processor) makes this a quick-fix dish.

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Use this for South West inflected slaw, for a dip for vegetables or chips, or however. This was made for a slaw to go on a fried chicken sandwich.

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Another dish in the “I love to sauce vegetables with vegetables” category. Here, the earthy funky qualities of leeks and collards are counterbalanced with the sweetness of carrots. The carrots are cooked and milled to a consistency that is not quite a pureé, not quite chunky, but a good match for the silky leek and collards. Although the recipe seems long, the time to make is not, and it is a simple dish to prepare. The sauce goes well with other items such as cauliflower, grilled squash, chicken, pork, or fish.

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Sometimes simple is best. If you want to add a little more dimension to this, New Natives grows broccoli microgreens which perfectly straddle the line between arugula and almond, and will add loft to the salad. Gorgonzola Dolce is a sweeter version of Gorgonzola, but if you cannot find it, just use Gorgonzola.

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strawberry u-pick 2 2016The u-picks have really been a nice opportunity to connect with a lot of you in person. Thank you for coming out! The next strawberry u-pick will be Saturday, July 23rd. The strawberries continue to come in strong and delicious, but blueberries are pretty much done after this week. If you haven’t yet made it out for a u-pick, this might be the time to plan that summer jam-making party.

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Crunchy topped vegetable studded gooey goodness. What’s not to like? And if you have carnivores to deal with, add in crumbled Italian sausage, bacon, or ham and you will make them quite happy.

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This is a dressing based on a sauce posted before. The trick is to char, not to burn the scallions. This flavor strikes some as odd at first, but there is something about it, maybe the primal fire-pit thing makes b.b.q. irresistible, which makes this dressing very appealing. It goes well with bold and earthy flavors, such as the radish escarole salad, or with a grass-fed beef steak salad. Keep it handy for dipping vegetables into or anointing sandwiches with, or drizzling on firm fleshed fish, shrimp, and eggs.

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This salad is a contrast of textures and flavor elements. Soft butter lettuce and crunchy radish. Bright clean flavors of radish and lettuce against the smoky charred notes of earthy funk laden scallions. This is nice with a big slab of well toasted country rye bread with plenty of really good butter on it flecked with large crystal salt such as Murray River or Sel de Guerande.

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romanesco croppedI can always tell who the engineers are at the Mountain View–Nerd Central–Farmers Market by how excited they get when they realize that the spiral pattern at the heart of a head of the Romanesco sitting on my table is a fractal. I could probably sell more if I re-named it “fractalflower” but I guess I am too much of a traditionalist for that. The same pattern can often be seen, more subtly, on cauliflower as well. (I am a self-proclaimed farm nerd, so the above is in no way meant to be an insult.)

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Use this as is for a side dish, or cook some pasta such as orecchiette, cavatelli, or casarecce (or whatever) and use this as a sauce. Don’t forget to add 4-6 ounces of the pasta water to the dish to help form the sauce. It may seem odd to use salami here, but it is not uncommon in Italy, and the right salami can bring a lot of flavor to a dish. The Toscano called for here is typically flavorful and fairly easy to find.  For this dish, larger fat grains are good, and a fine deep flavor with some spice is good.

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It seems the majority of people I tell about sautéing cucumbers balk at the idea, yet never think twice about eating sautéed zucchini. Bearing in mind that summer squash are a New World import, all those Chinese dishes with zucchini in them probably used cucumber originally. When cooked well, cucumber has a pleasantly mild flavor that plays well with other flavors, and can retain its pleasing crunch while softening up at the same time. Some partners to consider are King Oyster and regular oyster mushrooms, snap and snow peas, chicken, sweet carrots, fish or scallops, or mild soft greens such as spinach. The version here is kept very simple to showcase the cucumber flavor and lovely marriage with the basil. Consider this as a bed for poached or baked chicken, or fish or sautéed scallops, or gently sautéed pork chops.

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Sweet and hot, with normally crunchy carrots cooked tender and sauced with whole grain mustard which adds pop and crunch texture to the dish, along with a little heat and sweetness, as well as depth from the fig. Serve with kasha, pork chops or chicken, or greens. This is a dish that is quite simple, and is easy to gussy up.

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Another recipe for the Quickles file. Romanesco lends itself beautifully to quickling-it maintains it crisp texture yet no longer tastes raw. This iteration was made for a Sicilian influenced salad, but it is easy enough to change your destination by changing your herbs and spices. Use these in the salad recipe or serve with plates of salami and charcuterie, burgers, or braises. Good with grilled salmon as well. If you just want these as a snack, see notes about adding lemon.

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Here’s a nice crunchy salad with some tang to spark the appetite when it is hot. This salad would be good as a foil to fatty grilled meats.

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Although a simple dish, there is plenty of subtle flavor, and this is a great side for spicy or boldly flavored dishes.

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woodchipped field closerFor me, one of the most gratifying parts of life on the farm is watching the land change over the years in positive ways. When we first arrived here at our home site along Harkins Slough sixteen years ago, the upper portion of the property was almost completely devoid of vegetation around the farm fields. In the first few years we planted hedgerows around most of the periphery of the farm, as well as riparian buffer strips and landscaping around the house and outbuildings. As the trees and shrubs that we planted over the years have matured, the number of birds that visit the farm has increased dramatically. There is something very special about seeing a black-shouldered kite perch on a tree that you planted. But some of the less obvious changes on the farm are arguably even more significant—such as the improvement in soil quality.

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Allis Chalmers G cultivatingWhen I give farm tours people often seem surprised when I say that organic farmers are at more of a disadvantage, compared to their conventional counterparts, in the area of weed control versus pest and disease pressure. Conventional growers commonly use pre-emergence herbicides at planting time that prevent weeds from germinating in the strip of soil where their crop seeds are sown. Selective, post-emergence herbicides, which kill most of the surrounding weeds but leave the crops unscathed, are also used for many crops. Conventional strawberry growers in our area fumigate at planting time with materials that kill most of the weed seeds in the soil.

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Strawberries have enough tartness to stand out in a salad. The ones you want are the ones that have a little firmness to them still, not the really soft ones.

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This dressing is for a salad of soft lettuces and strawberries, but would go with cold pasta salad with tomato and cucumber, with cold chicken for a hot summer day, poached salmon hot or cold, or something with cabbage or kales, as well as salads made up of Romaine or Little Gems.

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Carrots and mint, carrots and basil, these seem a natural combo. Adding the caramelized Tokyo turnips adds just a touch of bitter to the mix which contrasts nicely with the sweet carrots. If using purple carrots, keep the turnips separate until serving so the color of the carrots doesn’t make the turnips look smudgy. As bunches of everything vary, you want an equal amount, or slightly more carrots than turnips.

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pumpkin greenThis week we finished planting all the winter squashes and pumpkins. We’re doing more delicatas this year since we ran out too early last year. All told there are 12 varieties of squash and pumpkins planted–delicata, carnival, spaghetti, Blue Ballet hubbard, orange and green kabocha, butternut, Marina di Chioggia, and blue kuri squashes. The pumpkin patch has winter luxury pie pumpkins, rouge vif d’etampes (Cinderellas), and Jack O’Lantern pumpkins.

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Here in California, we have so many things to be thankful for when it comes to fresh food. Avocados are certainly one of those things, and they are in prime time right now. Given that California produces 95% of the avocados in the USA this is not surprising. Of those, the Haas is the most widely grown, as it is worldwide. Overall, the Haas accounts for 80% of avocados grown. However, at one time in California there was something like 100 varieties grown, with the majority of them in the Santa Barbara/Ventura area and further south.

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SIGN UP FOR CSA PROGRAM

When you join our CSA, you sign up with the farm to receive a share of the harvest during our 36 week season from mid-March to mid-November. In return, you get a weekly box of organic vegetables and fruit (and optional flowers) delivered straight from our farm to a pick-up site in your neighborhood.

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View our CSA Members Page

This is where you can go to find out what's coming in your box each week, find recipes, identify your vegetables with pictures, and view or print the current and past newsletters. Check here for the information you need to use your box to the fullest.

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