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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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3carrotsAt this busy time of year I really appreciate the members of our dedicated, hardworking, and seasoned crew. As the years go by I find my role on the farm changing as I pass along many of the responsibilities that used to be mine. It’s taken time for me to realize that, when properly trained, certain employees are capable of doing things just as well, and in some cases better, than I could. This shift was partially necessitated by the fact that I simply don’t have the strength and stamina I once had, but also by a realization that our crew finds the work much more engaging and rewarding when they are given added responsibility.

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blueberry u-pickersWow! We had the highest turnout ever for a u-pick in our Blueberry patch on Saturday. Fortunately the berry bushes were loaded with fruit and there was plenty for everyone to pick. It was great to see a lot of old and new faces of CSA members and others from our community out in the berry patch! We’re planning another u-pick for Saturday, June 4th.

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This dressing is to with the Arugula, Dried Apricots, and Pistachio salad, but it can be used with other components as well. Try with Butterleaf or oak leaf lettuces with plenty of sprouts.

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This is a Provençal inspired recipe with a twist. Some people find that summer squash has a subtly bitter flavor, which is unpleasant for them. This recipe plays that flavor up, and also counters it, by using caramelized sugar on the surface of the cuts on the squash. Caramelized sugar has both a bitter quality and sweetness, as do the squash. Costata Romanesco, Cousa, and tromboncini squash (look for this unusual squash at markets) all have firmer flesh than zucchini or crookneck, and can be seared and browned without getting mushy as quickly the latter. If using a mélange of these, add the zucchini and crooknecks later than the rest. These squash also pick up an almond-like nutty flavor when caramelized.

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This salad originated as a substitute for the salad that goes on Elephant Ears (see recipe on site), but has found its way onto grilled chicken, crisp multi-grain or mochi waffles, toast, mixed with seared scallops, and used as a side salad. Switch to hazelnuts and use hazelnut oil, do the same with almonds. Use fresh apricots when you find some that are fragrant, flavorful, but still a little firm.

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For this recipe you will need to find a Japanese market or a good fish market. In the Santa Cruz/Watsonville area you can find what you need at Yamashita Market in Watsonville. As the tuna is served raw, be careful in your selection. This recipe is a contrast of crunches and a synthesis of flavors. The tobiko pop, the cucumber crunches, and the tuna sort of melts and has a little chew to it at the same time. The clean wet taste of cucumber harmonizes with the briny roe while acting as a foil to the saltiness. The sweet, slightly oily, and umami flavors of the tuna are set off by the other elements. The dressing is used sparingly, as a surprise accent that pops up as a little jolt of bass-line to the rest of the salads higher notes of flavor. This is an appetizer, or part of a string of dishes. The recipe is written as a small appetizer-just a few bites, as in 3-4. If you wish a bit more, double the volume.

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I was having lunch out where a piece of steamed broccoli on the plate had gotten into the sauce from my chicken. An inspiring accident. I played with the idea a bit and landed here.

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This is a further experiment in the “vegetable as sauce” category, and takes salsa verde and pesto as inspiration, along the idea of Moroccan “salads”. Use this on fish, chicken or meats, spread on sandwiches, use as a side or in a salad.

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Westernized variations of traditional Japanese dips and sauces. For the Tuna Tobiko Cucumber dish, use sparingly. You can use this for sashimi, as a noodle dip, or on a salad.

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Allis Chalmers G cultivatingI was listening to the radio recently and heard a brief he-said-she-said “debate” between a supporter of conventional agriculture and a supporter of organic agriculture. The conventional agriculture supporter’s main argument was that organic growers use pesticides too, just organic ones. The organic supporter (not a farmer) wasn’t able to address this point but talked about wanting to eat vegetables without pesticides on them. Her support for organic ended up sounding a bit simplistic, while the conventional supporter made it sound like organic and conventional agriculture are practically the same thing. It was not an enlightened or enlightening debate.

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This salad of sharp and/or bitter greens is cut with a sweet-ish dressing made with port wine as part of the base, along with roasted almond oil to link to the nuts and the microgreens. If you can’t find the broccoli greens, use some others, but the broccoli micros from New Natives have a wonderful sweet and nutty flavor cut with a bit of sharpness that is perfect here. This salad would be good with rich foods or simple dishes such as a roast chicken cooked with little other than salt and pepper, some oil or butter rubbed on and maybe thyme. It will also play well with roast winter squash dishes.

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Use port you are drinking, or buy a mid-range port if you wish. Don’t buy a great vintage just for this dressing, but don’t buy something really cheap, and NEVER buy “cooking” port or wine. Typically, any wine product labelled “cooking” will have salt in it. This was to discourage chefs of old from drinking the wine, but it was also made with inferior wine You could use hazel nuts and hazel nut oil if you wish as well.

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This is a riff on a recipe from NoMAd by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara. I like how the dish explores the different textures of broccoli and different flavors based on temperature. The recipe takes a little bit of work, but no more than most people lavish on a meat course for a weekend dinner. So why not spend that attention on vegetables? Much of this work can be done ahead of time, with the cutting and fricco being done the day before, along with the steaming of the florets. You want broccoli with long stems for this recipe.

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transplantsIt’s a busy time on the farm. Last week we finished planting out a round of tomatoes and basil in the high tunnels as well as new successions of lettuces, radishes, cilantro, beets, green onions and mustard greens outside. This week we planted a large block of broccoli and are preparing the fields where we will plant our winter squash and pumpkins into—yes it is that time of year again. We may think of them as fall/winter crops but they do most of their growing through the summer months.

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This is a simpler version of a sauce from my sushi bar that was known as Venus sauce. Its origins lie in an old traditional Japanese fair dish known as “dengaku”, where it was painted onto tofu and vegetables and grilled over coals. Use this in a similar fashion, but use the broiler as it is less messy. Try it on marinated firm tofu, blanched vegetables, and fish.

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This dish will work perfectly with Tokyo or Harukei turnips as well as the scarlet turnips, although I would be less sanguine about success with full-sized red-topped or white turnips. If the greens are present and tender, you should add them to the dish. This dish is sort of a 2 for 1-the roasted turnips for 1, the sautéed  greens for 2.

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A salad with some substance, and a good amount of crunch. If you can grill over wood, the salad will taste even better with a bit of smokiness. Be sure not to cook the squash and lettuce through. Your Little Gems just want some charring, and the squash wants only to be cooked until no longer raw and a bit charred outside. This salad could be a starter, part of a mezze/antipasti table, or buffed up with some other vegetables and some proteins to make for a light dinner.

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alyssum with broccoli 3I’ve always liked sweet alyssum flowers. We planted them back in our San Francisco community garden plot before we moved out of the city to start farming, and they made a lovely delicate ground cover that attracted the most beautiful little crab spiders. The spiders are experts at camouflage, and can turn different colors depending on the color of flower they are on. The ones on the white alyssum would be white, but those on yellow flowers would be a bright yellow instead. They were welcome predators in the garden plot.

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Here a Middle East staple is given an American Southwest treatment, although the flavors really are standard for the Mid-East as well.  Look for bulghur in bulk bins instead of boxes. It is usually fresher and tends to be a slightly larger grain which I prefer.

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Simple, basic, and full of flavors. Eat this as a salad off a plate or pile it onto very hot crostini so the heat can melt the cheese a little and wilt the arugula. Use using oil with a soft bite but big fruity flavor is a good idea here so it softens the bite of the arugula and doesn’t mask the nuttiness of the favas.

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This is a riff on a classic of Italian cuisine, only it has kale in it, because, y’know, it’s kale, and besides being good for you, it tastes good raw. As long as it is fairly tender and young. I find that crumpling kale leaves seems to result in a reaction that makes the leaves sweeter, so be vigorous while prepping the kale here. This is a salad that can be done quickly, especially if you are practiced at stripping the stems out of kale with your fingers, and your favas are already done or you skip them.

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Sweet Anne March 1When we first started farming we rented an old craftsman house in downtown Watsonville and I made the daily five mile commute to the field we were leasing on the outskirts of La Selva Beach. My route passed right by a large conventional field being managed by a company that was bought out by Dole Foods. Passing by two or more times a day, I learned a lot about their practices. Specifically, I learned that they sprayed—a lot. One of the basic tenets of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is to scout your field assiduously and apply pesticides only when and where they are really needed.

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When you want the refinement and acid of sherry vinegar, but want a little sweetness too, this is the dressing.

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A riff on what seems to me a natural combination of flavors. The orange chases the beets chases the avocado chases the lettuces chases…The dressing sets everything off as well as ties all the flavors together gently.

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A bit of a fusion combing some Western technique and Japanese, and pretty much all traditional Japanese flavors.

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brassica field with alyssumAs always at this time of year, rainfall brings with it the good and the bad. The good far outweighs the bad in many ways, the most obvious being that we are still in a time of drought and the less irrigating we have to do the better. It helps in other ways as well. Most of the fields that were in over-wintering cover crops have been mowed down and tilled and are, in a way, like large, shallow compost piles. The addition of moisture can greatly speed up residue breakdown. This is especially helpful at our Lewis Road site with its sandy soils which dry out quickly. Moist soils also produce less dust making for healthier conditions when we resume working up beds next week.

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The sweet here comes from the combination of the onions, bacon fat, and the wine, and the sour from the red wine vinegar. Slow cooking is a key part of this.

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Quick and easy, the sauce is actually made with starchy pasta water and a little butter, the way they do it in Italian restaurants when not using cream, or tomatoes. See bottom for variations using meats/chili flakes/nuts.

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The cress and quickles have a sharp quality the acts as a foil to the richness of the fish, and the sweetness of the quickles adds extra depth to the flavors. Crunch from the pine nuts and the creaminess they possess rounds everything out and talks with the butter used on the fish to link the two together.

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eagle closeupOne of the perks of farming where we do is that we live in a birder’s paradise. Our home farm is on a hill perched above Harkins Slough, a freshwater wetland that is host to copious waterfowl. We regularly see great blue herons, egrets, terns, ducks, geese, coots, grebes, white pelicans, marsh wrens, kingfishers, and night herons. Add to these the hawks, kites, owls, falcons, grackles, swallows, phoebes, meadowlarks, hummingbirds, and songbirds that populate the uplands, and we could spend all our days just watching birds.

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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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