Farm News 6/28/16


Important Announcements & Reminders

  • This is a pickup week for members registered for weekly and biweekly vegetable shares.
  • This week we are also delivering meat, eggs and dairy to neighborhood pickup sites as well as to home delivery members.
  • If you registered for a full (weekly) fruit share, your first pickup will be the week of July 4th. If you registered for a half (biweekly) fruit share, your first pickup will be the week of July 11th. Next week's fruit harvest will likely include blueberries, sweet cherries, raspberries and apricots.
  • Register today for a frozen produce share and enjoy Sandhill veggies and fruit this winter. If you think you'd like to participate, please consider registering soon so we know how much produce to process and freeze. You can find more details here.

Temperatures have been slightly above normal this month, and it really shows in many of our vegetable fields. Crops planted last month are growing like crazy. In the photo above you can see a couple of fields as they looked in mid-May. At that time, we had just put down plastic mulch in preparation for planting tomatoes.

Less than six weeks later, those itty bitty tomato plants have become giants! It's been a number of years since we've seen a tomato crop looking this nice. It seems that we've all got a big tomato harvest to look forward to. Get those canning recipes ready!

This Week's Vegetable Share

  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Basil
  • Zucchini (only on-farm pickup this week)
  • Head Lettuce
  • Green Onions
  • Fennel
  • Kohlrabi


Vegetable Notes: Making the Most of Your Farm Share

This week's share contains the first broccoli of the season. This first harvest is coming from the second planting because the first planting didn't amount to much. This was not entirely unexpected. Planting broccoli in April for harvest in June can be a bit of a gamble. A few days of hot weather at the wrong time can cause an entire planting to bolt, resulting thousands of little stunted heads that never reach maturity.

That's precisely what happened to our first planting, but the second planting did beautifully. This is one illustration of why the strategy of relying on smaller staggered plantings rather than fewer big plantings is such an important part of our crop planning.

We're also harvesting basil for the first time this season. Basil plants don't do well in chilly temperatures, so we get a jump start by planting it in one of our hoophouses where it's a little warmer. We'll continue to harvest basil from these plants for another 4 to 6 weeks. Fresh basil is somewhat fragile and is best used within about 5 days. Refrigerator temperature is too cold for basil (it will develop black spots), so we recommend treating your basil bunch like a bouquet and placing it in a glass of water on the counter.

There are two main types of fennel--the kind that is grown for its leaves and its seeds and the kind that produces a nice bulb at the base. Here at Sandhill, we grow the latter type. Several weeks ago, members received baby fennel bulbs. This week's bulbs are significantly bigger and are a little more versatile. In addition to the suggestions we offered in our May 25th newsletter, we also recommend braising and grilling the bulbs.

If you've never tried grilled fennel, then you are in for a real treat. Seriously. Here's how to do it. Slice the fronds off, leaving about 3 inches attached to the bulb. Reserve fronds for another recipe. Slice bulbs in half so that you end up with 2 "patties". Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill slowly over indirect heat until the fennel is a little bit charred around the edges. Remove from grill and sprinkle with lemon juice and grated parmesan. Bon Appetit!

This Week's Dairy Share:

  • Summer Butter from Nordic Creamery
  • Vanilla Yogurt from Sugar River Dairy
  • Smoked Gouda Cheese from Nordic Creamery
  • Parmesan Cheese from Nordic Creamery
    (Home delivery members who registered for the Dairy and Egg Combo will receive 2 dozen eggs, plain Greek yogurt, summer butter, smoked Gouda cheese and Gran Queso, a manchego-style cheese from Roth Kase.)
Egg production continues to rise slowly but steadily. Many of the 600 hens in our current flock are still relatively young and are just beginning to lay, while some haven't even started yet.

Right now the hens are producing about 150 dozen a week, enough to provide for the current number of egg shares. We expect that the hens will be laying significantly more eggs by the end of July. If you missed out on registering for an egg share and are still interested, please stay tuned. We may be able to offer more shares at that time.

In other livestock news, we visited Nordic creamery the other day to pick up this week's butter and cheese. 

Out in the rolling green hills of Wisconsin's driftless region, life is pretty good for a pasture-raised cow. Big Bertha and her bovine companions didn't have too much to complain about on the day we visited.

The Meat Share:

Our adventures in pastured poultry continue to go well. We are currently raising our third batch of 500 broiler chickens. They are still in the brooder where they will spend another week or two before moving out to the pasture. Here's a shot of some of them enjoying their breakfast.

This week you'll receive bone-in chicken breasts and chicken leg quarters. Each quarter consists of a leg and a thigh. Bone-in breasts and leg quarters come two to a package. In addition to the chicken, your share will contain ground beef, bratwurst, and either pork chops or a roast.

Recipes from the Farm Kitchen

Basil Broccoli Sitr Fry
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic minced (or subsitute garlic scapes from last week)
½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
juice from one lime
2 teaspoons canola or olive oil
bunch green onions, white and light green parts cut into 2-inch lengths
4 cups chopped broccoli
1 large handful of fresh basil, washed and chopped
chopped cashews (optional)
crushed red pepper (optional)

Combine ginger, garlic, broth, soy sauce and lime juice in a small bowl. Set aside. Heat oil in large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Saute green onions onions for 2 minutes. Add broccoli and continue to saute for 5 more minutes. Stir frequently. Add sauce mixture from step 1 to the pan with the vegetables. Reduce to medium heat and continue to cook the mixture until sauce slightly reduces (about 3-4 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in basil. Top with cashews and crushed red pepper if you are using them.

Shaved Fennel and Parmesan Salad
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
4 bulbs fresh fennel
1 head lettuce
8 ounces Parmesan cheese

In a salad bowl, combine the lemon juice with the salt and pepper and whisk in the olive oil. Using a sharp knife or the slicing attachment on a food processor, slice the fennel bulbs wafer-thin, cutting from the base to the tip to make fanlike slices. Place the fennel in the lemon vinaigrette and toss. Tear the lettuce leaves into bite-size pieces and toss with the fennel. Divide between 4 salad plates. Then, using a vegetable peeler, shave the Parmesan cheese into thin sheets, sprinkle on each plate and serve.

Braised Fennel and Carrots
6 medium carrots, peeled
1 large or 2 medium fennel bulbs
1 bunch green onions,
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Slice the carrots on an angle. Quarter the fennel bulbs lengthwise. Cut into bulb to remove core and thinly slice. Reserve 1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds. Cut the white and light green parts of the green onions into 3-inch lengths. Chop enough of the green tops to make 1/3 cup and reserve for garnish. 

Fill a skillet with 1/4-inch water. Add carrots, fennel and green onions. Sprinkle with sugar and salt and add the butter. Simmer covered 20 minutes, and uncovered for 5 minutes and adjust salt. Garnish with fennel fronds and chopped green onions.

Next Week's Harvest (our best guess)... beets, kale, zucchini, broccoli, garlic, lettuce, green beans, sweet onions, cucumbers, cherries, apricots and more!

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  • Margaret Sheaffer