CSA Newsletter: Week 1

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IN YOUR BOX THIS WEEK

Romaine Lettuce // Store loosely in a plastic bag (ideally) or in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Keep unused leaves on the head. Use within a week, but likely will store up to two weeks.

Bok Choy // Store unwashed in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Use within a couple days for best texture. Greens will wilt relatively quickly. Stems will retain firmness a while longer.

Spinach (Full Shares & Some Half Shares) // Store in plastic bag in fridge. Plastic bag will help spinach retain moisture which keeps it fresh for longer. Try to use it within a week. If it gets limp or wilted, you can still use in recipes that call for cooked or wilted spinach.

Arugula (Full Shares & Half Shares who do not receive Spinach) // Store in plastic bag in fridge. Plastic bag will help arugula retain moisture which keeps it fresh for longer. Try to use it within a week. If it gets limp or wilted, you can still use in recipes that call for cooked or wilted greens.

Lettuce Mix // Store loosely in a plastic bag until ready to use. Should last up to a week.

Asparagus** // Of all your spring goodies this week, be sure to use the asparagus first! Asparagus has a short shelf life (less than a week). Keep it banded and up-right in about an inch of water for best long-term storage. Large mason jars work well for this. Don't bother with this step if you plan to use within a couple days.

Rhubarb // Store in your fridge and use within a week. Store in a plastic bag wrapped loosely in a damp paper towel for longest life.

French Breakfast Radishes // Store for up to 2 weeks in a plastic bag in the fridge for longest storage. Store greens separately, ideally gently wrapped in a damp paper towel. Use the greens as quickly as possible.

Green Garlic // Green garlic is similar to a scallion or green onion and can be stored similarly. Place in the crisper drawer of your fridge and use within 5-7 days. For best storage, wrap bulbs (the white part) in a damp paper towel.

**The asparagus you’ll be receiving from us this year is certified organic from Little Heathen’s Farm north of Stoughton. Though we did put an asparagus patch in last year, it takes a couple years to really begin producing so for now we’ll be buying in from our friends.

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Hello and welcome to the Raleigh’s Hillside Farm CSA! I know we have said it before—probably a couple times—but we are so thrilled to have you as part of our little farm family. About half of you are new this year so I just wanted a couple minutes to begin our season together by introducing Kyle and I and the business to you all.

Raleigh’s Hillside Farm CSA was starting in the spring of 2013 though the dream began in 2011 when Kyle and I were both attending UW-Madison. We were falling in love while learning about the state of the world (Kyle and I both have Environmental Studies certificates and classes like Energy Resources, Wildlife Ecology, and Environmental Geography taught us that Climate Change was real, agriculture was changing, and our food system was beyond broken), and we both knew when we graduated we had to do something big, something that would have real impact and something that we could really sink our hearts and bodies into. For a combination of reasons, CSA farming felt like the best fit for our skills and interests—Kyle has a Soil Science degree and dreamed of working outside for most of his life; I have a Community & Environmental Sociology degree and dreamed of healing people and communities in Wisconsin.

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We talked to my parents, who live on 180 acres in southern Wisconsin, about our vision and asked if we could begin leasing land from them to start a small CSA operation. Always being incredibly supportive of my dreams, they said yes immediately, definitely not understanding the infrastructure needed or the growth we may encounter while on their land. Honestly, even if they would have known, they probably would have said yes anyways, but perhaps not so quickly. We have had to communicate with them a lot over the years as we have grown our operation to make sure it’s still working for everyone and no one is crossing over any lines.

We still farm on land leased from my parents (now 7 acres instead of that initial 2) and have worked really hard to create boundaries and infrastructure that respects their space. We built a pack shed last season and are using it for the first time this week! It’s a big project that really takes us out of our parents’ space. Prior to this year, all of our irrigation was running from their home and all of our vegetables were washed and packed on a cement slab connected to their walk-out basement.

As for Kyle and I and our roles in this business, you will most often be hearing from me, Lauren, and seeing lots of pictures of my husband because we have a real farm partnership with each of us taking leadership in different areas and letting each other flourish in the spaces we enjoy and find meaning (while still always being available to help when needed).

I am obsessed with the CSA model as a whole and do a lot of that work for our farm—selling the shares, setting up the systems, arranging delivery, communicating about the boxes, sharing cooking resources, planning our events, etc—as well as our overall business planning and managing our finances. Kyle is the grower and leads everything that has to do with that—creating field plans and seeding calendars, greenhouse work, soil and nutrient management, planting, weeding, leading harvests, setting up irrigation, watching for pest and disease and creating a plan as necessary, etc —as well as managing our crew and upkeeping/building our infrastructure (everything from tractors to new walk-in coolers). Essentially, I’m Admin & Marketing. Kyle is Production & Infrastructure. It’s obviously a lot for two people to do but our roles become better defined and more systematized each year.

We also have three incredible crew members alongside us to help! Zoe, Emily and Rebecca are tremendous assets to our farm team and we are so grateful to have them. They all come with great and varied farming experience-- I’ll definitely introduce them in more detail later. We also have seven worker shares who work 60 hours a season in exchange for their CSA share. Last year, we began outsourcing delivery to an amazing local guy named David. We have always farmed with a pretty lean crew and having someone else do our delivery has felt tremendous and really helped open some space in our week.

As for the business and where we are today, this year the CSA makes up the largest portion of our income at about 75% of our projected sales. The other 25% is veggies sold through wholesale accounts—mainly restaurants. This year, we added our first grocery store—the Willy Street Co-op!!!—and we are thrilled to be selling case after case of Lacinato kale to them throughout the season. We haven’t done a farmers’ market since year one and probably never will again (though we have great respect for all our friends how do!). We really love CSA as a model and the opportunity in provides to deeply connect and feed a family throughout a full growing season. Restaurants and a few big wholesale accounts are a perfect complement to that. We are able to really only grow produce we know is already sold. We care a lot about food waste and because of the ways we market our food, we are able to waste essentially nothing each week.

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Because of our deep love of CSA, it has grown a lot over the past seven seasons from eight members to 293 members this year (up from around 200 last year). We went from offering one CSA option in year one to offering eleven different options this year, and as we continue to offer more variety and lots of smaller share options, our membership began to grow quite quickly to accommodate our income goals. We can’t believe there are 293 families eating from our fields this year and we truly never imaged our CSA growing so large but we continue to realize year after year that it is the best way for us to have impact in this world.

We are honored to grow good, clean, certified organic food as sustainably and with as little footprint as possible. And we love to do so for you. We love growing for a community. We love sharing resources and helping you learn to cook and feel confident in your kitchen. We love helping you all understand what eating local really looks like and connecting you with other amazing producers.

So, we just want to start this season by saying thank you. Thank you for getting it and for caring and for allowing us to do what we do. Thank you for being a part of this farm family. Thank you for spending your summer and fall with us. And thank you, from the bottom of our hearts for caring about our food system, connecting with a farmer, and doing your part to create a better food system. It’s going to be a delicious season!!!

Much love,
L&K

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VEGGIE ID: Bok Choy ↑

Be not afraid of that leafy green vegetable with white almost celery-looking stalks in your box this week. Bok Choy is one of the vegetables I had never heard of before we began farming that I have grown to have a deep love for. It is a member of the brassica family (I'll mention the brassica family a lot; it includes lots of popular veggies like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts as well as some odd ducks like kohlrabi, bok choy and rutabaga).

It sometimes also referred to a pac choi or Chinese cabbage. This green is mild and sweet with an almost silky texture. A lot of dark leafy greens can be bitter or harsh, but bok choy is the complete opposite. The leaves are light and tender. The stalk is crunchy and crisp.

So how do I use it?

The first step is getting it clean. We washed the field dirt off the bok choy, but dirt still likes to hide between the layers. I fill my sink with cold water, rip off as many leaves as I plan to use and then soak them for 5-10 minutes. I rub my fingers over any dirty parts of the stem after they soak and then swish them through the water before use.

Then all that's left to do is cut it up. This will vary a little bit based on what recipe you are using, but I like to cut the stems from the leaves. I usually roughly chop the leaves and slice the stems.

What is the best way to prepare bok choy?

Because the leafy greens are so tender and the stalks so crispy, I love to eat bok choy raw in salads. There is an amazing salad recipe below that calls for bok choy as well as one that turns bok choy and radishes into a simple slaw. My friend Sarah loves to grill bok choy because it stands up well to the heat. Lots of folks stir fry it or add it to soups. You can also make a quick ferment or kimchi out of it. I've also simmered it in coconut milk (ala creamed spinach, but vegan and so much better!) and that was one of my favorite simple preparation. And as always, never forget that you can roast literally anything. The sky is the limit with this leafy green so be not afraid. You too will learn to love it!

 

VEGGIE ID: Green garlic ↓

Doesn’t need much work! Just trim the ends and the dark green portion (much like you would a leek), chop, slice or dice and use as you would use regular garlic. I love it in salad dressings and other raw preparations that really let the flavors sing.

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IN YOUR BOX NEXT WEEK

You can expect 8-9 of these items in your box next week

Red Leaf Lettuce

Bok Choy

Kale

Asparagus

Rhubarb

Radishes

Turnips

Scallions

Garlic Scapes

Chives

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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. 

Easy Rhubarb Cake

1 box regular-size yellow cake mix + ingredients on package (eggs, oil, water)

4 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1-1/2 cups sugar

1 cup heavy cream or half-n-half (or whole milk)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Mix cake according to the directions on the box.

  3. Pour into greased 9x12 baking pan.

  4. Sprinkle rhubarb evenly over cake batter. Then sprinkle sugar evenly over the rhubarb. Pour cream over top of all. DO NOT STIR.

  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, but check after 30. If it’s browning too much, turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

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: Smitten Kitchen

photo by: Smitten Kitchen

Shaved Asparagus Pizza // uses Asparagus, sub Green Garlic for Scallions // No question, this is our favorite spring pizza of all time. We make this 3-5 times a season and are always happy we did. If you got arugula in your box this week, feel free to check out my blog’s version of the pizza (which adds arugula green garlic pesto and spinach).

Vegetarian, Gluten-Free with the right crust

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Alison Roman Inspired Wedge // uses Romaine, Radishes, Green Garlic // I love doing plays on classic Wedge Salads this time of year when Romaine is at it's absolute loveliest. Inspired by the incredible Dining In Cookbook by Alison Roman of the New York Times, this is my current favorite wedge. Recipe below.

First I slice my Radishes and a couple Green Garlics real thin (use a mandoline for the radishes if you've got one!) and combine them in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to quickly pickle them while I prep the rest of the meal. I cook up 10, yes 10, slices of thick-cut bacon (preferably the peppered stuff) either in a skillet if I'm real hungry or in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes if I'm feeling a little more patient, and then pat the browned and crispy slices with paper towels to get the grease off. In another bowl, I quickly whisk together 1 cup Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons olive oil and another 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon until smooth and then spread it evenly onto two (if doing entree salads) or four (if doing side salads) plates. I cut my washed and dried romaine into quarters, putting one (if serving four) or two (if serving two) onto each plate. I sprinkle the whole thing with radishes and green garlic being sure to get some of the vinegar right on the lettuce and I follow that up with a bunch of that bacon. I drizzle it all with a little olive oil and devour immediately using a steak knife and fork. Voila. The perfect spring Wedge.

Gluten-Free, skip the Bacon for Vegetarian salad

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Rhubarb Margaritas // uses Rhubarb // These margaritas were quite the conversation starter on a recent WPR show and it's for good reason! I love a good rhubarb dessert (which is why I listed two- one above and one below- for you to try), but every once and a while you just want to go in a different direction. Enjoy these rhubarb margaritas once you tire of rhubarb sweets.

Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free

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Midwest Bok Choy Ramen Salad // uses Bok Choy, feel free to substitute julienned Radishes for the scallions and add minced Green Garlic to the dressing // I’m not sure if everyone else grew up with ramen noodle salad aka “Chinese Coleslaw” but this is a Kathy Wells (my mother) classic. It’s usually made with that bagged coleslaw mix but I wanted to play around with some spring veggies and it brings me back to my childhood while feeling a bit healthier. I did keep the ramen noodles because that’s such a key component of the original. I know it’s silly but dang it’s tasty. Oh and yes, the ramen noodles do go in raw. You want that crunch.

Vegetarian with the right ramen packet

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Spring Harvest Grain Salad // uses Spinach, Arugula, Asparagus, Green Garlic, feel free to use 2 cups of whatever greens you like (spinach, arugula, kale, lettuce mix), leave out the Scallions and scale up the Asparagus if you want to use it all in this recipe // My favorite spring salad. This baby is packed full of veggies, totally healthy and still so so filling. Make this salad (and riffs on this salad) all season long!

Vegetarian (if you sub mushroom broth), Vegan (if you sub mushroom broth and leave out butter), Gluten-Free

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Shaved Asparagus, Spinach & Mushroom Quiche // uses Asparagus, Spinach, feel free to add Green Garlic and/or substitute Arugula for the spinach // I make a ridiculous amount of quiche this time of year. It's partially because it's quick, easy and heats up well, but it's also because as much as a I love salads, I too get overwhelmed by fresh greens. Cooked greens wilt down and feel so much more manageable and I love the way they pair with creamy eggs.

Vegetarian

photo by: Dishing up the Dirt

photo by: Dishing up the Dirt

Chicken Tacos with Bok Choy & Radish Slaw // uses Bok Choy, Radish // When life throws a lot of veggies at you, always make tacos. You’d be surprised how many fresh veggies you can turn into a simple slaw and serve over zesty chicken or beef and wrap into a corn tortilla. This recipe makes using up your Bok Choy and radishes super simple! 

photo by: Half Baked Harvest

photo by: Half Baked Harvest

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Honey Butter Biscuits // uses Rhubarb // I would usually never give you a rhubarb dessert recipe that also calls for strawberries when we don’t have any strawberries and there so many great rhubarb recipes out there (see here, here and my mom's recipe above) but this one is just too damn good to pass up and is what we’ll be making this weekend! 

Vegetarian

photo by : Smitten Kitchen

photo by : Smitten Kitchen

Chicken Caesar Salad // uses Romaine, throw some Green Garlic in the dressing, add some sliced Radish // Sometimes with a beauty like romaine it’s best to just keep it simple and here’s no going wrong with a beautiful Caesar salad. Here smitten kitchen makes her own croutons and salad dressing but you wouldn’t necessarily have to do either. In a pitch, store bought croutons and dressing with tender chicken, a hefty head of romaine (recipe calls for two but with the size of these this week you will certainly only need one!) and some Parmesan will make a real winner of a dinner.