Green Beans and Sunshine

Essex Farm Note

Week 42, 2017

The leaves are still showing some color; they are at their best with the sun shining through them, as it is right now. Mark and Jane are spending ten days hiking and camping in the high peaks, and so far they have hit the weather lottery. They are lucky to have waited until now, instead of doing this trip in the summer, when we barely had three days in a row without rain. Here on the farm, we’re using this glorious time to bring in the big fall storage crops. Beets came in yesterday, filling 9 one-ton totes, which is about 8.5 more totes than we need to fulfill everyone’s beet wishes for the year. (I’m joking. You like beets. I like beets. But they do move slowly until spring, when our choices are more limited.) Today, the carrots are coming in. Next up, next week: potatoes. Get in touch if you’d like to help gather them. It takes no skill, and it’s always fun. Many thanks to the whole farm team for planning and executing these big projects without Mark here to give guidance. Special thanks to Anne Brown and Chris McConnell for shouldering so many of his responsibilities.  

This warm stretch has given us an unexpected bonus of summer-ish greens and vegetables. The lettuce is producing wildly, and we had an enormous final harvest of green beans, which are tender and delicious. They take so much labor to pick, it’ll kill me (and the pickers) if any of these go to waste, so, members, please take lots for fresh eating and for putting up. I really like canned green beans, mushy as they are, and our kids love them, so I will be pressure canning a load of them this week. (Check reliable sources for time and method.) I’m not a huge fan of frozen green beans, but some people really like them, and they are the backbone of your classic ‘merican standard, the green bean casserole. Technically, you’re supposed to blanch green beans before freezing but plenty of experienced kitchen folk say it’s ok not to. That said, we all know the most satisfying way to eat green beans is fresh, and I plan to do that several times this week. Yesterday, I googled up a recipe for Oven-Baked Green Bean Fries that I’m eager to try. You can’t go wrong with simple steamed, buttered beans. They’re also great stir fried until just blistered, with a little minced garlic added toward the end, along with a splash each of soy sauce and vinegar, and a spoon of our fermented hot sauce.

Speaking of bumper crops, we’re still rolling in beautiful heads of cauliflower. The Hub is going to process some into frozen cauliflower rice for us, which will appear in the share this winter, but please make good use of it fresh this week. I have been enjoying it cut into slices, tossed with olive oil, and roasted at 375 until slightly brown at the edges, about 30 minutes.

What else? The new compost barn will be finished today. We have only the road to complete before we can check off this giant item on the do list. We have a new Jersey heifer calf from Cream, named Ceci. And we have a recipe in the November issue of Food and Wine, which is hitting newsstands now, though ‘recipe’ is too strong a word – it’s for our favorite whole food, farm-based breakfast, which is popcorn and milk. Thanks to Food and Wine for including us. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this bright 42nd week of 2017. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Insta at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.                                               

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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Squashtastic

Essex Farm Note

Week 41, 2017

The frost harvest comes like a surprise reverse holiday: a cold forecast, then a blast of work. Every tender crop still in the field must be brought in or it will be lost. There are the solanaceous plants: shiny fat eggplants, the peppers, and the last of the tomatoes, still hard and green – all heat-loving immigrants from more temperate lands. More surprising are the winter squashes and pumpkins, whose sturdy bodies and association with fall make me think they should be tougher against the cold than they are. But frost would bite into their skins, and they’d rot instead of storing well, into mid-winter.

            This year, the frost harvest was more intense than usual, because it was an amazing year for pumpkins and squash. They grew in New Field, where the pigs were pastured last year, leaving behind richly fertilized soil. The strong vines threw forth a record number of zeppelin-shaped delicatas, yellow with green stripes; crazy carnival acorn squash, with their harlequin colors; petite, deep orange sugar pie pumpkins; curvy, feminine butternuts; and the kings of the patch, the stately jack o’ lantern pumpkins, standing bright among their spent leaves.

            I joined the harvest in the afternoon, walking barefoot across the soft and rockless soil of Blockhouse Field, which is newly drained and freshly harrowed. The sun had warmed the ridges, leaving the furrows in cool shadow. The squash was growing next to the field corn, which is mature now, and beginning to dry. The stalks at the edge have been ravaged by raccoons and crows, the ears raggedly shucked by claws and beaks so their cobs hang down bare and look like they are wearing grass skirts. All hands not busy with urgent work elsewhere on the farm were hauling squash, and had been since morning. We filled our harvest bags, and emptied each bag into an apple crate. By evening every crate on the farm was full, but one row of pumpkins remained. So as the sun disappeared we filled the truck bed, and when the bed was full, we filled the back seat. The last pumpkin had to be passed through the window, in twilight, but in it went. We harvested between 15 and 20 tons. Thank you to the whole strong crew for a long exhausting day. After all that, the night turned warmer than expected, and the frost missed us.

            To celebrate the harvest, may I suggest you eat a squash this week? All the varieties are delicious this year, but delicata is a favorite for taste and convenience. The flesh is nutty, dry and sweet. The skin is edible, so no peeling. Jane likes it best roasted: cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, dot with butter, add salt and a few pieces of sage or thyme, then roast at 450 until soft, about 30 minutes. Mark’s way to cook delicata is the speediest: halve and seed it, then cut the halves into ½  inch crescents. Steam until soft, about 12 minutes, then butter and salt.

            Please welcome Courtney Coleman to the farm, and his husband Russ to the community. Courtney brings farm skills, butchering skills, and over-the-top delicious cooking skills. His kale and root vegetable stew saved me from fainting in the field yesterday. I have more welcomes to make but am out of time and space so will save them for next week. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this squash-tastic 41st week of 2017. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday. –K&M

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Harvest Moon

Essex Farm Note

Week 40, 2017

The harvest moon is on us, fat and full. We had two frosts this week. The first one, on Saturday morning, was unpredicted, and hard enough to leave an actual skim of ice on the cows’ water, only three days after the afternoon high reached 90 degrees. Squash plants were nipped by it but the squashes themselves unharmed; the field corn was touched but it’s already mature; tomatoes were brushed, too, but still harvestable. The basil, however, is black and dead.

            The farmscape is torn apart with new projects today. I have to remind myself that it won’t look like this forever; the bare ground will soon have a soft green covering. There’s a new pond in Long Pasture, one in the low no-man’s-land west of Firehouse Field, and a giant one just west of the house. The inch of rain we got on Wednesday night – the first rain in several weeks – gave us a sense of how things will flow, and brought a little water to the bottom of the dry pond pits. Fencing for that project begins soon. Today, John Barnes is digging a water line, to bring water to Superjoy and Pine. Roofing goes onto the compost barn next week. 

             Cauliflower is having its moment of perfection this week. It was an excellent year for it, and Andrew and his team harvested a huge load of creamy white heads yesterday. I love cauliflower any way you cook it, but this week I’m obsessed with cauliflower rice. I’m a latecomer to this game -- the keto- and paleo people have been onto it for years now. It is a no-grain, low-carb substitute for rice or couscous, or just an easy, healthy, flavorful base for anything you want to top it with. To make it: cut the head into quarters, and remove the hardest part of the core. If you have a food processor, throw the pieces into it and pulse until the cauliflower is the size of rice. If you are processorless, as I am, you can do the same thing on the large side of a box grater. (It doesn’t take long, but beware: the pieces will fly all over the kitchen.) Sautee the rice-sized pieces in butter for about five minutes, salt, and serve. You can add herbs or extras as you see fit. We ate it with some sautéed mushrooms mixed in, under a beef stew. You can also freeze the chopped cauliflower in Ziploc before cooking, to use this winter. 

            What else? We have a new heifer today from Wonder the dairy cow. Wonder, who really is a wonder: Ten years old (which is old!), easy to breed and one of our strongest producers, on only three teats. Her calf, named by Emi McConnell, is Wily.

            Turkeys are getting heavy now. We should have one per household, for Thanksgiving or the winter holidays. Members please request yours this week, online or at the pavilion. We’ll fill them best we can in the order they are received. In related news, we are toward the end of our current supply of meat, and will have limited variety for a few weeks. If you have questions on how to use less familiar cuts please ask. Finally, all these fall projects have put pressure on our cash flow. Please send quarterly payments now if you haven’t already; if you pay the 2018 share price in full now you receive a 3% discount and 2017 pricing, plus lots of love from Anne Brown, who keeps the books. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this spectacular 40th week of 2017. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, 963-4613, on Instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.                                                                                            

–Kristin & Mark Kimball 

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