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Chuck harvesting the honey from the hives next to the garden. 

The bounty is upon us – this week the share includes potatoes, melons and sweet corn. As well as some of the things that you’ve been getting for a week or two (beans, broccoli, summer squash). The eggplant, tomatoes and peppers are just starting. This might be my favourite cooking season – although when there are so many delicious vegetables and fruits abound, not very many things require cooking!

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The garlic harvest

This week we harvested all the garlic that we planted last fall. It looks beautiful! It has turned into the ‘Orchard Hill Blend’ of garlic varieties – a few that we got from other farmers years ago, one smuggled from Italy by a garden member (not condoned!). Each year we save the very best heads of garlic to divide into cloves and plant in the fall. In this way, we have tailored the garlic that grows best in our particular micro region, and have produced some really lovely heads of garlic. We gather it in bundles and hang it in the eaves of the barn to dry and cure before cleaning it. When it is thoroughly dry, we can braid it or cut it off and store it for the winter. The garlic that you got in your share last week was fresh, meaning it wasn’t cured, and won’t store for months like the cured ones.

We have what might be the most beautiful watermelon harvest ever (per Martha) – they loved that hot dry weather that we had earlier in the season! You’ll notice that the watermelons that we grow are smaller than the ones you’ll typically find in the big grocery stores, but that’s purposeful because then they are the perfect size for a couple of people, rather than having a huge melon that sits in your fridge. You’ll also find that the melons are all different colours inside – yellow, pink, and orange. In the next few weeks you’ll receive a few different types of melons.

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Here’s the ‘before’ picture of the mid season brassicas – possibly the worst, weediest EVER.

Florence the orphan calf is doing well – but she’s a fence breaker! She won’t stay in the electric fence. We tried putting her in with the chickens, but she tried to escape from there too. So she’s stuck in the green round pen. Each night Bryan takes her for a walk on a rope. Last night he took her down to the other end of the farm to try and make friends with the runaway beef cow (nicknamed Houdini). Some of you may remember that Houdini escaped from the pasture at the other end of the farm on the day of the very first pick up – we thought that she would get eaten by coyotes and we searched and searched for her – but she’s still alive! She’s just a wild cow that we can’t catch – she’s bigger now, too big to tackle. She hangs out in the swamp and we see her every once and a while, and try to corral her into the pasture, but then she just jumps through the fence again! The theme of the summer is weeds and runaway cattle.

Here are a few notes and recipes for some of the vegetables that you’ve been getting!

Eggplant

What a versatile vegetable! It goes Asian, Italian, or French, it melds beautifully with almost any flavor that you can throw at it. A lot of recipes call for salting slices of eggplant (slicing it, sprinkling it with salt, letting it sit and drying it off) – this serves two purposes – 1. Drawing out excess moisture so that it won’t have as much water and 2. Helping to mitigate the ‘bitter’ flavor. In my experience, if your eggplant is fresh, not over-mature, and cooked properly, bitterness isn’t a problem. And if they’re eggplant from your share – you don’t have to worry about it. It’s also easy to cook because you can’t overcook it! It tastes most delicious (in my opinion) when it’s charred on the outside.

Simple Roasted Eggplant

1 eggplant

2 Tablespoon olive oil

½ tsp salt

White pepper (or black), ground

Preheat the oven to 400˚

Pierce the outside of a whole eggplant with a fork.

Throw it in the oven on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or an hour, until the skin is blistered and it looks shriveled and completely soft.

Take it out of the oven and let it cool 10 min. Cut it in half and scoop the soft innards out of the skin into a bowl. Add the olive oil, salt and a little pepper and mix well.

Serve on toast, toss with pasta (add some garlic and chopped tomatoes), or throw it in a burrito.

Baba ganoush variation – add a clove of crushed garlic, 1-2 Tablespoons tahini and 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice.

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Blackened Eggplant

Simple Grilled (Blackened) Eggplant

1 eggplant

2 Tablespoons olive oil

½ tsp salt

Black pepper, ground

Slice the eggplant in inch thick slices, lay out on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil on one side. Sprinkle that same side with salt and pepper.

Preheat the grill on high heat for 10 minutes.

Throw the eggplant on, oiled side down, and don’t move it or fuss with it. Cook for 10 minutes on high with the lid closed. Don’t turn it over, cook it just on one side. When it’s done, you should be able to see the top side bubbling a little bit and the bottom will be almost black. Use tongs or a metal spatula to take the eggplant off the grill. Don’t worry! It’s not burned, it’s ‘blackened’! And it’s the most delicious thing ever – the eggplant is earthy and smoky, suddenly more than just a vegetable.

Blitz it in the food processor to use for the baba ganoush (above), use in an eggplant parmesan recipe, or eat it as is!

 

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

This recipe is from the cookbook ‘Plenty’ – it’s an incredible vegetable cookery book with tons of interesting combinations of flavours, leaning in the middle-eastern direction. There are a lot of eggplant recipes. This one sounds crazy, but it’s actually really, really good.

Serves 6

½ C rice vinegar

3 Tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ fresh chile, seeds removed, finely chopped

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

grated zest and juice of one lime

2 eggplants – cooked (follow Blackened Eggplant recipe, above) and chopped

8-9 oz buckwheat soba noodles

1 large mango, cut into ½ inch dice

1 C basil or thai basil leaves, chopped

2 C cilantro leaves, chopped

½ red onion, very thinly sliced

 

In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chile pepper and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

Cook the soba noodles in plenty of salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5-8 min to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.

In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1-2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

 

Parsley

We have more than a row (320 ft!) of Italian flat leaf parsley this year, because I love it! I.must.always.have.parsley. It’s one of my staples – in the winter it substitutes for salad greens when all the things in the grocery store are flaccid things from California, and in summer it gets chopped up in almost every grain, bean or vegetable salad. But it seems to be languishing in the pickup room. I think flat parsley is far superior to curly parsley because it doesn’t tickle my mouth. I could come up with a few more reasons – it doesn’t hold the dirt so stubbornly, it looks more elegant when finely chopped, and I think the flavor is less bitter and more fragrant than curly parsley. All that being said, they are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.

It’s also a nutritional powerhouse! It’s packed full of all kinds of things I’ve barley heard of (volatile compounds) as well as Vitamin K, C, and A.

Parsley is best fresh or barely cooked, and will store well for a week or more, if stored loose in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

 

Parsley Pesto

1 C flat leaf parsley leaves (from one big bunch)

2 cloves garlic

1 cup olive oil

large pinch salt

6-8 turns of white pepper (or black)

Remove the leaves from the stem of the parsley – you don’t have to be too picky because it’s going to be blended up, but too many stems won’t make a nice pesto. Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree until it’s a texture that you like. Taste and adjust as necessary. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week. Shake or stir well before using.

Brush on bread before toasting for a crostini (aka bruschetta), add to any soup just before serving, use in a pasta sauce at the last minute. Also great tossed with any grilled vegetable hot off the grill (i.e. peppers, zucchini, eggplant, carrots).

 

Green Gazpacho

Another one from ‘Plenty’ – it’s a chilled soup, super fast and easy to make, fantastic on a hot day, and a great way to use up some of those cucumbers. It’s great served with croutons and a drizzle of olive oil. Serves 6

2 stalks celery (leaves too)

2 small green peppers, seeded

1 ¼ lbs cucumber (6 small or 2-3 large)

3 slices stale white bread, no crusts

1 fresh green chile (like jalapeno)

4 garlic cloves

1 tsp sugar

1 ½ C walnuts, lightly toasted

6 C baby spinach (or 4 C swiss chard)

1 C basil leaves

2 Tbsp chopped parsley

4 Tbsp sherry vinegar (red wine vin in a pinch)

1 C olive oil

3 Tbsp greek yogurt

about 2 C water

1 C ice cubes

2 tsp salt

white pepper

Roughly chop the celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, bread, chile and garlic. Place in a blender and add the sugar, walnuts, spinach, basil, parsley, vinegar, oil, yogurt, most of the water, half the ice cubes, the salt and some white pepper.  Blend the soup until smooth. Add more water if needed to get your preferred consistency. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. Lastly, add the remaining ice and pulse once or twice, just to crush it a little. Serve at once.

 

 

Heidi cultimulchingAn introductory, housekeeping item – it’s Ellen behind the keyboard here. I have taken over managing the blog, facebook page and instagram account. Martha will occasionally post something, but we thought that you might like to know who you’re reading.

One of things I love about farming and living a life that is so seasonal is that patterns start to emerge between events, plants and animals, sometimes seemingly otherwise unrelated. The other day I mentioned that Home County Music Festival was coming up to my mom and she said ‘oh, that means we need to put the electric fence up around the sweet corn’ (to keep the raccoons out), because she remembers the past few years, rushing around to get that done before going to the music festival.

2016 is shaping up to be the year of the weeds! Some combination of no-till cover crops, lack of rain, and who knows what has created the highest weed pressure of any year that my parents can remember. Upside – you get to feel like a superhero, swooping in to save the poor plants from certain doom in the pigweed jungle. Every 2 weeks. Downside – it feels like there’s no time to do anything but weed. It has such an effect that we have decided to change the location of the 2017 garden – there were so many weeds coming up in the field destined for vegetables that we have switched it up and it will now be planted to buckwheat (and a few more cover crops).

The garlic should be ready to harvest in the next week or two and it looks glorious! The heads are big and IMG_4562beautiful. The cucumbers are getting off to a slow start because Martha went to a seminar this winter and came away with recommendations for cucumber varieties, and also the idea that cucumbers shouldn’t be transplanted because it sets them back too much – best to just get them in the soil sooner (in a hoop house). Sounds great! However, only 5-10% of the expensive, special cucumber seed germinated. So we replanted and those plants are coming along and we will have lots of cucumbers in a month or so….and in other good news, tomatoes, peppers and melons love all this hot dry weather, so they should be bountiful.

0I6A2662-editFlorence the calf is doing well. She guzzles her milk each day, three times a day. Bryan takes her for a walk most evenings and she loves to suck on fingers (or hands, or baby feet!). We have brought in almost all the first cut hay now – it’s been great haying weather!

The multigenerational family farm operation is going well so far – it’s a challenge to get as much done as you think you will with small children in the mix (or it looms large from my perspective perhaps). But it’s very special to me to see the relationship develop between my parents and my children – and their relationship with my grandmother! She’s come a few times to help keep an eye on the children while we keep on top of stocking the pick up room. But it’s also interesting and heart tugging to see Della develop a relationship with the plants and animals that I spent so much time with when I was a child – making flower crowns with spring beauties, following toads, making forts for worms. Della in the blueberry bushesOr picking blueberries for everyone for dinner! Ken and Martha are starting to plan for a renovation of the bunkhouse – adding a kitchen and bathroom, and probably replacing all the walls – that’s all! They shall start their (semi) retirement in style next year.

Here are a few recipes from garden members –

Spinach Pesto & Artichoke Pasta Salad

From Vicki Coughlin (at Telegraph House in Port Stanley) –

I didn’t have the artichokes (omitted them) and used this recipe hot as a side dish for dinner, and thought it was a brilliant way to use fresh organic spinach from Orchard Hill! (farmer note – it would also be delicious with swiss chard!)

250 g fusilli

1 garlic clove

2 cups packed spinach

1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

1/4 cup parmesan

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup 2% plain yogurt

398 -ml can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped.

 

  1. Cook pasta following package directions, but omitting salt, until tender. (Drain & rinse with cold water if making salad)
  1. Whirl garlic clove with spinach, almonds, parmesan, lemon juice and salt in a food processor until finely chopped.  Gradually whirl in oil until smooth.
  1. Combine pesto with yogurt in a large bowl.  Stir in pasta and artichokes if using.

Chia Fruit Jam

From Jackie Martens –

This is very quick and easy to make and I have made this with Mulberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, and Strawberries with Rhubarb.

1 cup fresh or frozen fruit, cut up small

3 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsp organic maple syrup (or other sweetener like honey or agave)

4 tbsp water

(If using Rhubarb, I soften it a bit first by boiling it in the 4 tbsp of water.)

Mix together all ingredients.
Transfer the mixture into a saucepan and cook on med-low heat for 4-5 minutes until jam sets.
Transfer to a jam jar and enjoy on yogurt, toast, crackers, with salad or use as a topping for scones or other slices.
Store in the fridge for up to 7 days.