Essex Farm Note

Week 51, 2017

When we were in our twenties, my friend P used to talk about how much he liked the second pass women – not the stunning ones that you couldn’t miss as soon as you walked into a party, but the ones you noticed on the next round around the room. Less obviously beautiful, they were the interesting, odd, and satisfying ones, the ones you really ought to date because you might fall in love. I was thinking about that this week, as I walked around the cooler, picking out the vegetables for our family. Without as much summer and fall produce available, I’m suddenly giving a lot of attention to the second pass vegetables. They are less obviously attractive, but interesting, odd and satisfying. This week, I came home with beets, carnival squash, and kohlrabi. We had the beets steamed in the pressure cooker for ten minutes, then skinned, sliced and dressed with cumin, yogurt, olive oil, toasted walnuts, and a squeeze of fresh orange juice. The carnival squash was a new variety for us this year, and I’d overlooked it until now, suspecting, I think, that it was one of those showy varieties that was meant to sell well on display at farmer’s market, but nothing special in the taste department. I was quite wrong. We ate it simply steamed, in the pressure cooker again – 4 minutes, cut side down, in the basket, with a cup of water – with salt and pepper and a little butter, and found it nutty, dense and sweeter even than this year’s delicatas.  The first night it was a side dish, and the next day, the leftovers became cream of squash soup. Finally, the kohlrabi. I’m not afraid to butcher a full grown animal but the thought of cutting into a hard, giant ball of kohlrabi intimidates me. So again, I’d ignored this vegetable for the better part of a year. It was a very nice reunion, and the butchering was not nearly as difficult as it had been in my imagination. You can cook kohlrabi (roasted, or sliced thin and boiled and topped with a cream sauce, German style), but I think its natural crunchy complex sweetness is its best quality, and requires only that you peel it and cut it into batons and serve it cold and raw, with your favorite dip. That’s what the kids had for after school snack this week and the whole giant ball of it disappeared. So here’s to the second pass vegetables coming into their own this time of year, satisfying and delicious.

            Meanwhile, the season of rich feasting is squarely upon us. We are celebrating at team dinner tonight, eating smoked ham, hasselback potatoes gratin, roasted carrots with herbed mustard butter, and broiled grapefruit for dessert. Maybe some biscuits, too, and a pot of mulled wine if we can get to the store in this fast-falling snow. I may need hydraulic assistance to get out of bed in the morning. I’m so grateful for the bounty that keeps us so well-fed, even in this darkest week of winter. We wish all of you a blessed, delicious holiday. And finally, the short news: We got the parsnips out of the ground on Tuesday, before the deep freeze and the snow. We had our first skate on one of the new ponds last night, in the solstice sunset. And we said a sad goodbye to one of the draft horses, Brandy, who died suddenly this week. Rest in peace, big girl. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this yultide 51st 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.                                                                                  

-Kristin & Mark Kimball           

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