CSA Newsletter: Week 12

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IN YOUR BOX THIS WEEK

Cantaloupe (or Watermelon for a few half shares) // Store in the fridge. Once cut open, store leftover melon in the fridge wrapped with a  plastic wrap. The flesh will dry out if left exposed. Use them quickly. 

Celery // Celery releases a gas known as ethylene. It therefore should not be stored in plastic — This will trap the gas and cause quick spoilage. For best storage, wrap in aluminum foil and store in the fridge.

Heirloom & Slicer Tomatoes // Store at room temperature for up to a week. Do not refrigerate. Use heirlooms or blemished tomatoes much more quickly, within a day or two if you can.

Cherry Tomatoes // Most tomatoes should be kept out on the counter at room temperature, but cherry tomatoes need to be stored in the fridge or they over-ripen quickly.

Cucumbers // Store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Try to use within one week.

Summer Squash // Summer squash spoil most quickly in very warm or very cool temperatures. They can be stored in the crisper drawer of your fridge, but try to use within a week as they will get soggy quickly in there.

Eggplant (most full shares; those who did not receive eggplant received extra cherry tomatoes) // Eggplant is absolutely best fresh and very perishable. Use quickly or definitely within the week. Many people recommend not storing in the fridge because it will get soggy quickly.

Shishitos (half shares only) & Jalapenos // Hot peppers keep well in the fridge, especially in the crisper drawer. I often keep hot peppers in a plastic bag so that they don’t spread their heat or flavor to other fridge items.

Colored Bell or Italian Frying Pepper // Refrigerate peppers, unwashed, in the vegetable drawer. Moisture makes them spoil faster so don’t store in a plastic bag.

Carrots // Refrigerate carrots in a plastic bag. They will easily keep for 2-4 weeks this way.

Yellow Onions // Fresh onions, which are freshly harvested and have not been cured, should be stored in the crisper drawer of your fridge until ready to use. They will last a couple weeks in there.

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Our tomato crop began gently this season. For the second year in a row, we were plagued early on by significant disease and the presence of the dreaded armyworm despite our best efforts at crop rotation and utilizing organic sprays at the correct times. This led to a lot of damage to our tomatoes early on. The tomatoes have been trickling in since early August but because of the pest and disease issues, the harvests were small.

A crate or two here, a few buckets of cherry tomatoes there. It actually felt nice. The cucurbit harvests were waning but still heavy, the melons had reached full intensity and the tomatoes were only taking a few hours to harvest each week. Though frustrated by the slow start of an important and profitable crop, this rhythm worked for us. It allowed us to get all the onions into the greenhouse and curing by August 14th—a record for us by several weeks. And we recognized that the pattern of early disease and pest infestation resembled last year. In fact, it was worse last year, and things turned out just fine.

Then came the rains. In the past two weeks we have had two sizeable storms that poured several inches on our fields in the span of a few hours. For reference, most vegetable crops want an inch of water each week. That’s pretty typical rainfall for Wisconsin and definitely typical for this time of year. On Monday, there were reports of 9 inches in some areas. We don’t know exactly how much we got but we’re guessing between 2-4 inches.

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Simply put, this is just too much water for most crops. It’s especially detrimental to all those beautiful tomatoes that are finally ripening. Already plagued by disease and pest issues, the tomato plants have been stressed. They just began putting mass energy into ripening green tomatoes to red. They ripened quickly, preparing for their end. Tomatoes produce for several weeks after the plants have died (or begun to die) so again we weren’t too worried.

The tomatoes began to peak last week, a time of real abundance that usually lasts for a few weeks before trickling off. But sadly these ill-timed rains have caused the beautiful red fruits to rot and split on the vine. There are good tomatoes out there too. Tons. But an unbelievable number of tomatoes, both red and green, are splitting before they even stand a chance of being harvested. We’re devastated by the 2000 feet of beautiful production potential out there that is likely going to be squandered due to poor timing of excessive rains.

This is, in essence, a CSA learning moment. This is after all what CSA is about. CSA is centered on the premise of supporting your farmers in good times and bad. It is a model of shared risk and shared bounty and a food system that is healthier for it.

The tomato season may look different than in years past. It may be many weeks shorter than usual with a huge heavy burst here in the middle that wanes into much smaller quantities. (Of course, the rain could subside and we could be surprised by how the plants bounce back. I’m not going to bank on that or even suggest that as a significant possibility. Plants are resilient. But diseased, peaking tomato plants are quite possibly the most susceptible crop there is when it comes to damage by excess moisture).

In a lot of ways, this tomato harvest is perfect for you to experience. It reflects the season honestly: a season that has been tumultuous and rainy packed full of extreme weather that confused our plants just as much as it exhausted your farmers. It’s the same season that led to five or six weeks straight of melons, excessive quantities of cucumbers, beautiful large onions, and radiant spring greens (and no doubt radiant fall ones as well); it’s a season of color and bounty and the most perfect sweet corn we’ve ever grown. It’s also the first season we ever had so much early summer rain that large patches of broccoli and cabbage rotted in the field. And the first season we lost so many successions of roots to wash out and excessive rain.

A good CSA farmer has a great diversity of crops to keep their members satiated through thick and thin. Every season looks different because every season is different. It’s both what I love and find stressful about CSA farming. Kyle and I both yearn for predictability and order in our fields. We hold tight to systems, plans and spreadsheets willing mother nature to oblige. It’s never that way. By late August, we’ve lost all illusion of control. The fields do the talking and we just try to keep up. It’s a delicate dance and a hard one at that.

All we can say following up on such dramatic storms is that we’re sorry about the likely bummer of a tomato crop and we thank you immensely for joining us on this journey.  

-L&K

P.S. Stay tuned for some potential weeding days as we assess how all this rain is affecting the fall crops. 

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VEGGIE ID: SHISHITO PEPPERS ↓

Shishito peppers are a relatively new variety to us. We grew them for the first time last year and fell absolutely in love with them. These peppers are a Japanese variety that became real trendy a few years back, but over time have proved they have staying power. The peppers are thin-skinned, crunchy and sweet, but the best thing about them is that they don't take much work. You don't need to seed them or even cut them at all.

I think these peppers are made for a vegetable skewer with some beef and onions,  but most folks swear by just tossing them in a pan until blistered. Here is a great link that teaches you how to blister them and also shares a few great recipes. If you aren't feeling too creative or like learning a new veggie, don't distress, you can also chop them up and throw them in anything that calls for green peppers or mild chile peppers.

We don't grow a ton of these peppers (because if we did you'd wind up getting them every single week) so instead these beauties will be rotated through your CSA boxes until everyone gets some!

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IN YOUR BOX NEXT WEEK

You can expect 10-12 of these items in your box next week

Melons

Cherry Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Beans

Cucumbers

Summer Squash

Eggplant

Sweet Pepper

Hot Pepper

Kohlrabi

Beets

Carrots

Celery

Potatoes

Yellow Onions

Garlic

Mixed Herbs (Mint, Parsley, Basil)

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KATHY'S RECIPE CORNER

Early on, Lauren's mom instilled in her a great love of cooking. She's always had a garden and knows what to do with abundant produce better than anyone. We hope you enjoy her classic Wisconsin preparations of summer abundance. 

Marinated Tomato Salad // Tomatoes, Peppers, Onion

6 ripe tomatoes, cut into large chunks or wedges (or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved)
3 bell or sweet peppers, any color, diced
1 onion, diced
1 cup (or so) pitted whole black olives

Dressing:
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil, loosely chopped
1/4 cup minced shallot
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

  1. Place all sliced vegetables in a large bowl. Add olives.
  2. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over vegetables. Refrigerate 3-4 hours before serving.

box inspiration:

Every week I'll share the links to some of my favorite recipes for the produce in your box from my own blog as well as my favorite bloggers and chefs. I am a master recipe substituter so be sure to read my notes before clicking through to see what vegetables I am swapping for others and how I adapt favorite recipes time and time again with whatever is in season! Though some of the recipes I share may look complicated, I also love sharing tips for streamlining or suggesting other preparation suggestions in the notes of the recipes.

 photo by: Bon Appetit

photo by: Bon Appetit

Summer Gazpacho // Cucumber, Colored Pepper, Tomatoes, Sub Onion for the Shallots (unless you still have a Shallot lying around), Cherry Tomatoes, add Cantaloupe // Gazpacho used to seem weird to me. Cold pureed vegetable soup? Sure, it used half of the CSA veggies in one recipe but still a bit odd. THEN I began adding cantaloupe and watermelon to my gazpacho and it change everything. Make this recipe exactly as written but then add 3-4 cups of cubed, seeded cantaloupe. It will change everything.

Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free

 photo by: Molly Yeh

photo by: Molly Yeh

A Savory Yogurt + Egg Breakfast Situation // Cucumber, Cherry Tomatoes, Herbs if you've got 'em // As soon as tomatoes come into season I switch gears from my usual (boring) bagel and butter and turn towards this much healthier (and more fun!) breakfast. Greek yogurt, some raw veggies and an egg may sound like an odd choice but I promise it works and will have you moving this into your morning routine!

Vegetarian, Gluten-Free

 photo by: Smitten Kitchen

photo by: Smitten Kitchen

Carrot Cake with Cider & Olive Oil // Carrots // Since we are finally receiving the first of the cider in our apple shares this week AND the first of the carrots (and I'm patiently willing fall into being), I thought this cake might be a lovely treat for your household. I'm all for summer abundance and non-stop simple tomato dishes, but I love to balance them with something fun and silly like a giant loaf of carrot cake!

Vegetarian

 photo by: Smitten Kitchen

photo by: Smitten Kitchen

Eggplant Parmesan Melts // Eggplant, sub Tomatoes or Heirloom Tomatoes or Cherry Tomatoes and Onion for packaged tomato sauce // I know only some of you got eggplant this week, but I have this feeling that you all may still have some lying around in your fridge from earlier weeks, and if that is true, here is what you should be doing with it. Thanks site host Erin for reminding me how much I love this simple eggplant parm recipe. It had somehow gotten lost from my memory.

Vegetarian

 photo by: Bon Appetit

photo by: Bon Appetit

Pork Chops with Celery & Almond Salad // Celery, sub Celery leaves for parsley, sub Onion for Shallot // In case you can't tell just by looking at it, fresh celery is NOTHING like store bought celery. The stems are thinner, the leaves are bigger, the green is more vibrant. Fresh, local celery doesn't need to be buried in soups or stocks (though I do use it for soup in the next recipe). It is worthy of starring as the main event on your dinner table. This simple salad from Bon Appetit is lovely and tender and delicate. It feels a little like fall thanks to the dried cranberries, but with the great cool weather we're having today, I'm feeling like fall anyways.

Vegetarian (if just making the salad), Gluten-Free

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Tomato Soup with Carrots & Celery // Tomatoes, Carrots, Celery, Onion // I know this lovely cool spell likely won't last long so I'm relishing in it eating all the delicious hearty, tomato-y soups I can. And I'm thinking to the future with them too! I actually just made a bunch of this tomato soup and froze the majority of it in freezer-safe mason jars. I can't wait to pull a jar of soup out of the freezer on a busy fall or winter day when I don't know what to bring for lunch and be met with amazing summer flavors!

Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free

 photo by: Heather Christo

photo by: Heather Christo

Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons // Tomatoes // SCALLOPED TOMATOES WITH CROUTONS?! This is essentially one of my favorite winter Midwest recipes (scalloped potatoes) lightened up and made fresh with tomatoes instead of potatoes, basil instead of the usual pounds of cheese and a beautiful array of freshly=made breadcrumbs. This dish is tasty. Make it now and serve it up with poached eggs. 

Vegetarian

 photo by: Minimalist Baker

photo by: Minimalist Baker

Summer Tomato & Cantaloupe Salad // Cantaloupe, Cucumber, Cherry Tomato, sub Yellow Onion for red onion // Whenever you get sick of cantaloupe and cucumbers, which I must admit I really almost never do, throwing them into a light, bright salad is a great solution. This little salad uses so many of the box ingredients beautifully and makes a great meal if paired with a side of tomato toast (see below). 

Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free

 photo by: Bon Appetit

photo by: Bon Appetit

Grilled Chicken Wings with Shishitos & Herbs // Shishitos, skip the Shallot in the marinade and use an Onion instead // This is the number one thing I'm excited to eat right now. I wouldn't have buried it so far down in the newsletter if everyone was receiving shishitos, but I felt like I had to bury it a bit so all the half shares didn't get jealous. Grilled shishitos + crispy chicken wings + herbs. Yes please. I would like the rest of my summer to look just like this. Full shares, you best make this this week!

Gluten-Free

 photo by: Bon Appetit

photo by: Bon Appetit

Tomato Toast with Chives & Sesame Seeds // Tomatoes (heirlooms are the best here) // Keep it simple my friends and eat tomato toast any meal of the day. Your welcome. 

Vegetarian, Vegan (with the right mayo)

 photo by: Food Network

photo by: Food Network

Blistered Shishito Peppers with Browned Butter, Lemon & Parmesan // Shishito Peppers // I love shishitos pretty much any which way, but this was the first recipe I ever made with shishito peppers and it introduced me to their complexity and delicate flavor. They have been a favorite ever since. Thanks Food Network for encouraging me to toss my vegetables in butter and cheese.

Vegetarian, Gluten-Free