Farm News (5/10/16)

Important Announcements & Reminders
  • This week we will be delivering spring vegetable shares.
  • Next week we will deliver spring vegetables, dairy, eggs and lamb. 
  • A limited number of pasture-raised lamb shares are available for purchase on our website. Scroll down for more information.
  • Registration for summer shares is in full swing. Shares are available for home delivery and neighborhood pickup, but they are going fast. Visit our website for more information. 

This Week's Vegetable Share:
  • Red & Green Lettuce Heads
  • Asparagus 
  • Green Garlic
  • Winter Spinach
  • Fresh Oregano
  • Bok Choy
  • Crimini or Shiitake Mushrooms from River Valley Ranch
  • Parsnips from Harmony Valley Farm

May Farm Journal
After the excitement of preparing for the first week of deliveries, we have returned to the business of growing plants and caring for animals. At our Grayslake farm, we've planted broccoli, cabbage, parsley, green onions, kohlrabi and lettuce seedlings in the last few days. We've also direct-seeded spinach, dill, radishes, hakureis, carrots, beets, parsnips and green beans.  In addition to all of the planting, we've been busy cultivating and weeding in the fields and in our hoophouses. Here's a shot of your (mostly) weed-free head lettuce earlier this week.

Fortunately we got caught up on planting and weeding just in time for some nice gentle rain. The Grayslake crew stayed warm and dry in the barn this morning packing your vegetable shares.

At the Brodhead farm we worked like crazy on Friday and Monday to get tens of thousands of onion seedlings planted.

Each onion plant started out as a tiny black seed.

Seeds that had been planted in greenhouse trays in late February began to germinate within 10 days.

By late April the seedlings were ready to plant. This size of this year's planting is similar to last year's-- about 25,000 plants!

Vegetable Notes: Making the Most of your Farm Share
Bok Choy has a mild, sweet flavor when cooked. Like many members of the Brassica family, its growing season is limited to the cool spring
and fall. Nutritionally speaking, bok choy is loaded with vitamins. When cooking with bok choy, use the entire plant, both green leaves and white stems. It's also fantastic eaten raw. The mild, crunchy stalks are a particularly welcome addition to salads dressed with Asian-inspired dressings.

Your mushrooms were grown by our friend, Eric Rose. His farm, River Valley Ranch, is a short drive from our old farm in East Troy. For over twenty years he has been growing mushrooms without the aid of aerosols, fungicides, or chemical fertilizers, practices that are common among conventional mushroom growers. Your share this week will contain a pound of either shiitakes (left) or criminis (right) .

Green garlic stalks are the immature stalks of the garlic plant. We plant garlic cloves about 8 inches apart in October, and we harvest the mature bulbs in July. We allow most of our plants to develop bulbs, but a small portion are harvested at this time of year when they look like We allow most of our plants to develop bulbs, but a small portion are harvested at this time of year when they look like very large green onions. The cloves that we know we'll harvest for green garlic are planted only an inch apart. This results in smaller stalks like the ones on tvery large green onions. When cooking with green garlic, use everything but the fibrous ends of the dark green leaves. In the farm kitchen we substitute garlic stalks for garlic cloves in many different recipes since the flavor and pungency are very similar.

Spinach is a very cold-hardy crop. We plant spinach at various time of the year, including late fall. Spinach planted in the late fall is calledwinter spinach. It will develop strong roots and then go dormant through the cold winter. When spring comes, the plant begins to grow again and we are able to harvest the leaves. In contrast to the delicate leaves of spring-sown spinach, these leaves are thick, deeply creased and super-sweet. Winter spinach is the ultimate type of cooking spinach (as opposed to salad spinach) because it really stands up to the heat of cooking.

Parsnips are closely related to carrots. In fact, they sort of look like big yellowish-white carrots. Like carrots, they can be harvested in the fall, but they are much sweeter when left in the ground all winter and then dug in the spring. These spring-dug parsnips come from Harmony Valley Farm. Although they can be eaten raw, their fibrous texture makes them better suited for cooking. They are sweet and nutty and are particularly well suited to roasting and mashing. I also use them in place of carrots when making carrot cake.

Fresh oregano is a staple herb of Italian, Greek and Mexican cuisine. Use it to flavor pasta dishes, vinaigrettes, pizza, white beans, dinner rolls and Greek-inspired salads. Store oregano in a loosely folded plastic bag in the refrigerator.

This Week's Featured Recipes

Spicy Shrimp and Bok Choy Noodle Bowl

3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes 
2 stalks green garlic, chopped
2 inches ginger root, peeled and cut into very thin matchsticks or grated 
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced 
1 medium bok choy, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces, then cut into sticks lengthwise 
Salt and pepper 
1 quart chicken broth 
1 cup seafood stock or 1 cup clam juice 
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound vermicelli (thin spaghetti)
Heat a medium soup pot over medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil, crushed red pepper flakes, green garlic, ginger, mushrooms and bok choy, then season with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth and seafood stock or clam juice. Put a lid on the pot and bring soup to a boil. Add shrimp and noodles and cook for three minutes. Adjust salt to taste and serve.

Garlic Mushroom Bok Choy
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
1 stalk green garlic, chopped
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 medium bok choy, white and green parts chopped
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

Heat up a wok or pan on high heat. Add the oil until heated, then add the green garlic and stir-fry until aromatic. Add the mushrooms and do a few quick stirs before adding the bok choy. Add salt and continue to stir fry until the leaves are wilted but the stems remain crisp. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.

Buttered Parsnips & Carrots with Fresh Oregano
5 large Carrots, peeled
4 large Parsnips, peeled
1 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon butter, melted
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the carrots and parsnips diagonally, 1/2″ thick, and place them in a bowl. Add the butter and oregano and season with salt and pepper as desired. Mix well to coat the vegetables. Add the vegetables to a baking pan and bake until tender; turning after the first 10 minutes.

Lamb Shares are Available for Pickup Next Week

Our sheep are raised at our Brodhead farm and are fed on pasture grass, hay, and a small amount of barley and oats. A share weighs 20 pounds and is equivalent to approximately half a lamb. The share costs $195 and includes an assortment of loin chops, shoulder roasts, shanks, leg, and ground lamb. You may pick up your order at your regular pickup site next week, the week of May 16th.  More info here.


Next Week's Harvest (our best guess)... asparagus, head lettuce, swiss chard, baby salad turnips, garlic chives, rhubarb and more!

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  • Margaret Sheaffer