CSA Week 1

In your share this week:

Carrots
Baby turnips (Full shares) or Radishes (Half shares)
Basil
Salad Mix
Italian Parsley (Full) or Cilantro (Half)

Full shares only:

Red Russian Kale
Zucchini

It’s finally here! I know it’s been a long wait, but that’s just part of farming at the coast, especially in a spring like this one. Remember, the first CSA shares are always the smallest, with shares getting more and more abundant as the season progresses. But I hope you enjoy these first few tastes of summer.

This is the first time in 12 years that we’ve delayed the start of the CSA. The incessant rain and cool temps have really held back our crops. When soils stay cold, the biology that makes nutrients available to plants stays dormant, making it difficult for plants to get the nutrition they need for rapid healthy growth. Add to that consistently waterlogged soils, which keep roots from getting oxygen and make it hard for us to do the soil and plant care work we need to. Needless to say it’s been a challenging spring. As a CSA member, you share the bounty and share the risk of farming in our region. Your support makes this possible and keeps us going, but sometimes we all have to wait a little longer than usual for the summer goodies we all love. I appreciate your patience!

But on to the goodies we do get to enjoy this week! Many folks will be excited to see our first carrots of the season. These are coming from our early March greenhouse sowings, which often seem to throw funny shapes our way. Future carrots will mostly be the more familiar long and slender shape, so enjoy these for today. Our carrots are typically sweet and tender, and I (and most of my customers) never bother to peel them. They are delicious eaten raw by themselves or in a salad, roasted, or cooked into soups or stir fries. Some folks also enjoy the greens, they can be added to salads or made into pesto.

In my book the prize of the week is the basil. This year’s basil crop is looking great, with huge beautiful leaves and fantastic flavor.  Oddly enough it’s outperforming many cool weather crops like salad and kale right now; the magic of greenhouses. Storing basil is always tricky; I’ve had the best luck keeping it in a closed plastic bag at room temperature.  Others trim the stems and store it in a jar of water.  I’d recommend keeping it out of the fridge.  To use basil, pinch off the leaves and tear or chop them into salads, eggs, pasta dishes, curries, or sprinkle them on hot pizza or roasted vegetables (I could go on…)  Pesto is the classic use for basil, we make a lot of it on the farm and I’ve included a recipe below.

Our salad mix is always harvested fresh, and will keep at least a week in a bag in the fridge. It contains a mix of baby lettuces, nutty greens like bok choy and tatsoi, and some spicy mustards for extra flavor. It has been rinsed in potable water so it shouldn’t have dirt or bugs on it, but some members like to give it a final wash in the kitchen. This week’s is a bit spicier than usual!

The cilantro today looks a little different than you may be used to since it’s starting to flower, but you can use it just like you would the leafier stuff. Cilantro is delicious chopped into curries, beans, tacos, and stir fries, or made into salad dressing or pesto. I always eat both the leaves and the stems. Full shares have a bunch of parsley. I prefer Italian parsley to the curly type: I think it is more tender and flavorful. It’s excellent in pasta dishes, salads, pesto, or tabouleh. You can use the leaves and the stems. Parsley is also particularly nutritious, so eat it up. Both herbs keep best in a bag in the fridge.

Full shares also have baby turnips (those aren’t white radishes!) These are a whole different animal than your grandma’s turnips: they are sweet and creamy and the greens are some of my favorites. I like the roots best raw, either sliced into a salad, eaten plain, or dipped in hummus. You can also roast, grill, or saute the roots, but I’d at least try them raw before cooking them! I typically do a light steam or saute with the greens, and they are especially good finished with a splash of white wine. They are also good in a salad, or used as a bed for a hot steak or piece of fish. Pretty much anything you would do with spinach will work with these lovelies.

Full shares also have Red Russian kale, which is my favorite kind. I find it is more sweet and tender than other kales and is best suited for salads and quicker cooking. I usually chop up the stems and include them in my cooking, but you can also strip the leaves if you prefer. Like other leafy greens, keep kale and bok choy in a bag in the fridge.


Mike’s Pesto a la Alice Waters

Mike and I love the book The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. She recommends making pesto in a mortar and pestle, which sent Mike on a year-long mission to find one big enough to use for a large batch. When he didn’t have any success, I spent a day searching all over Portland to get him one for Christmas. I finally succeeded in my quest at the Fubonn Asian Shopping Center, and Alice was right: pesto made in this way is to die for. But it is also excellent (and easier) made in the food processor. This is Mike’s adaptation of Alice Waters’ recipe. Makes about 2 cups.

Pick the leaves from:

            1 bunch basil, to yield about 2 loosely packed cups

In a mortar and pestle or food processor, grind to a paste:

1 garlic clove, peeled

            Salt

Add and continue to grind:

½ c walnuts or pinenuts, lightly toasted

Add:

            ¼ c grated parmesan cheese.

Transfer this mixture to a bowl. Coarsely chop the basil leaves and put them in the mortar. Pound the leaves to a paste. Return the pounded nut mixture to the mortar and pound the two mixtures together. Continue pounding as you gradually pour in:

            ½ c olive oil


Carrot and Radish Salad

 I made this very simple salad as a finger food appetizer.  It is particularly good with early spring radishes and carrots.  It could easily be made with more or different vegetables, including salad turnips, kohlrabi, peppers, zucchini, beets, and more.  I do not peel my carrots, as I never notice the skin to be unappetizing.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together:

            1 bunch carrots, sliced into 2 x ¼ inch matchsticks

            1 bunch radishes or baby turnips, quartered

            Juice of ½ lime

            Salt to taste

            2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Let sit for 10 minutes and serve.

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