IMG_2710The Spring Fair was wonderful! Thanks all who came out. Here is a little something about fermentation and a few recipes to go with the demonstration today.

I lived on the West Coast for over a decade, so of course I’ve heard of the benefits of naturally fermented vegetables – it’s like a right of passage – you have your first European style cappuccino, and then a tempeh reuben with sauerkraut that was made in the sandwich guy’s basement. And I always thought that I should be fermenting vegetables, but aside from a few batches of pickles, and some fermenting at the restaurant I worked at, I didn’t do much at home. Until now! Now I’m at the farm, surrounded by all these vegetables…and it seems like every other week there’s another study out, linking our gut health with a healthy immune system, mental health or digestive prowess. Fermenting increases the availability of vitamins and aids in digestion. There’s a reason that almost every culture on the planet has some version of fermented food as a traditional food staple – think yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchee, kefir, miso…

I won’t go into much more detail – y’all can look it up on your own, or you’re like me and you already know that you should be eating more fermented foods, but they’re too expensive or they seem too daunting. But it’s so easy and fun. I love pickles, but the standard pickles are just vinegar and salt and cooked vegetables and they’re doing nothing for you. So I’ve got a recipe here for Garlicky Dill Carrots that are crunchy, salty and perfect with a sandwich. But I also think it’s really convenient to have something in the fridge that’s a little bit like a pickle and a little bit like a salad. I’ve been known to throw together the Curried Kraut with some celery, leafy greens and some tuna…et voila – hippy Nicoise! Enjoy. And bring me some of your fermented creations to try – that’s the thing, once you make a good one, you’re hooked and you can’t wait to share them.

Fermentation ‘Recipe’

I always thought that it was annoying that all these fermentation people didn’t just have a good recipe – it was always so loose-y goose-y it seemed like a joke. And now here I am, trying to write a recipe – but the thing is that it’s hard because there are sooo many things you can do, as long as you work within the basic rules. Don’t worry – there are recipes below!

The basic premise with lacto-fermentation is that you’re creating the perfect environment for only the bacteria that you’re interested in – not the mold, not the nasties, just the lactobacilli (that’s why it’s called lacto-fermentation, nothing to do with milk, just the particular family of bacteria). As the sugars in the vegetables are broken down by the bacteria into lactic acid, the taste becomes less sweet, and more tart – hence the vinegar-esque flavor. The longer the ferment, the more tart it will be – because of the increase in lactic acid. The texture of the vegetables will also be affected – if it’s too long, they will get mushy. Around 2 weeks is good for most of the vegetables that I’ve used. The flavor is more developed and the vegetables are still crisp.

Here are the rules:

  1. Keep oxygen out (anaerobic fermentation) – some may argue that this is not necessary, but it makes it a lot easier and takes the guess work out of it. So use an airlock or a crock with a water moat (google it!). Harvest Pantry – upstairs at the Western Fair Market in London – sells some lovely, simple gallon jars with an airlock that are perfect for about $16. Keep in mind that every time you open your fermentation jar, you’re allowing oxygen in. Not a big deal if you do it once at the 10 day mark, but you don’t want to open it every day.
  2. Salt – the less salt you use, the greater the chance that another bacteria is going to take up residence, and it also helps to create the pickle/kraut flavor and texture. Too much and it’s inedible. Use a nice sea salt, not factory salt. Himalayan pink salt, Real Salt, or grey salt are all great. Not Kosher salt, not shaker salt.
  3. Keep it long sleeve t-shirt temperature – most of the time, a cool room temperature is good for fermenting – around 68˚F. A little warmer makes things happen faster, a little cooler makes things take a little bit longer.
  4. Basic cleanliness – wash your hands, wash your fermenting things, keep clean cutting boards clean, don’t get any meat/dairy juices in there, etc.
  5. Use good water if you’re making a brine (i.e. not chlorinated water). At the farm we have well water, which is great. If you live in the city, use bottled water.
  6. Good vegetables! I almost forgot this one because it’s a given, right? Organic, local, fresh.
  7. Keep it in the dark(ish). It doesn’t have to be a blackout, but keeping it in a cupboard or wrapped in a towel is a good idea.
  8. Keep the vegetables submerged in your liquid. Use a plate, boiled rocks, or a clean mason jar to keep the veggies submerged. Cabbage leaves are really handy for this too – use the big ones from the outside of the head to wrap around the surface and push the veg beneath the liquid.

Some people think that a little mold on the top is no big deal, but I say no! Aim higher! Who wants mold in their food? Unless it’s cheese, of course. I don’t like mold – I feel like most of the time, you can taste it, and if you have a proper set up (air-lock, good vegetables, good salt, etc), there really is no reason that it should become moldy. Cloudiness, and a sort of a white, silty look is normal and desirable. Any mold, sliminess or discoloration is a chance to start again!

Garlicky Dill Carrots

8 cups water

4 Tablespoons sea salt

3-5 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half

2 medium hand-sized dill fronds

around 4 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into sticks

Place the dill fronds and garlic in the bottom of the fermentation jar. Layer (or toss) the carrot sticks in on top. If you get strategic at the top, you might be able to layer them so that they won’t float when you add the brine.

Dissolve the salt in the water by putting them in a bowl and stirring, or whisking. If you’re using a salt that it is tough to dissolve (large chunks, etc), throw it in the blender on low while you’re prepping the rest of the vegetables.

Pour the brine over the carrots until it covers them by 2”. You will probably have some left over brine, which can be saved in the fridge for your next fermentation project. Use a small plate, clean, boiled rocks, or a clean pint sized mason jar to weigh down the carrots in the brine.

Put on the lid, and put the jar in a dark corner (a cupboard, behind a book shelf, etc). Wrap it in a towel and make a note to check it in a week. After a week, don’t open it, but check that the vegetables are submerged and that it there isn’t any mold or weirdness. Taste it at the 2 week mark (or 10 days if you’re antsy).

Harvest your ferment by moving it into smaller, labelled jars to put in the fridge. Use long tongs and a wide mouth funnel to move the vegetables into mason jars. Remove the dill and garlic as you come across them.


Curried Kraut

4 cups water (non-chlorinated, room temperature)

2 Tablespoons sea salt

1-2 small shallots, sliced thinly (or 3 cloves garlic)

3 small thumb sized pieces of ginger, peeled

3 Tablespoons mild curry powder

1 jalepeno or serrano pepper, de-seeded & minced (optional)

12 cups shredded vegetables:

2-3 medium golden beets, peeled and grated

8 medium carrots, peeled and grated

½ cabbage, shredded

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets (use the stalk too!)

other ideas:

1-2 small green or red meat radish

2 small kohlrabi (or, like an 1/8 of the giant storage kohlrabi)

1 rutabaga

5 small hakurei turnip

  • A note on the vegetables – it doesn’t really matter what vegetables you use (see note below in the FAQs section), but using a range of different colours is nice, and the more cruciferous vegetables (kohlrabi, cabbage, cauliflower), the more stinky it will be – stinky in a good way ;).

If you’re using a cabbage – save 4-5 outer leaves for wrapping before cutting it up. Grate or cut up the vegetables – on a box grater, with a mandolin, or with the grating attachment of a food processor. I usually use a combination – I generally hand slice the cabbage, shallot and cauliflower, and use the food processor to grate all the root vegetables. In a large bowl, toss together the vegetables to mix them well and sprinkle on the curry powder.

Dissolve the salt in the water by putting them in a bowl and stirring, or whisking. If you’re using a salt that it is tough to dissolve (large chunks, etc), throw it in the blender on low while you’re prepping the rest of the vegetables.

Pack the vegetables into your fermentation jar. Press on it to compress it. Use some of the large cabbage leaves to layer on the top of the grated vegetables to help keep them submerged below the surface of the brine. Pour the brine over until it comes 2“ above the surface of the veg.

Use a small plate, clean boiled rocks, or a clean pint sized mason jar to weigh down the vegetables in the brine.

Put on the lid, and put the jar in a dark corner (a cupboard, behind a book shelf, etc). Wrap it in a towel and make a note to check it in a week. After a week, don’t open it, but check that the vegetables are submerged and that it there isn’t any mold or weirdness. Taste it at the 2 week mark (or 10 days if you’re antsy).

Harvest your ferment by moving it into smaller, labelled jars to put in the fridge. Use long tongs and a wide mouth funnel to move the vegetables into mason jars. Remove the big chunks of ginger as you find them. Or don’t worry about it and watch your friends find them as they chew them!


Beet Kraut with Lime and Ginger

½ tsp lime zest

4 – 1 inch chunks of ginger, peeled

10 Cups beets, peeled and shredded (around 6 medium)

1 ½ Tablespoons sea salt

1 Cup brine (same brine as above – or 1 Cup water to 1 ½ tsp salt)

Toss the grated beets with the zest, ginger and salt. Pack it into your fermentation jar, and top with brine to bring the brine 2” above the beets. Use boiled, clean rocks to weigh down the grated beets. A few will float to the top, skim off some if there are a lot, but if you’re using an airlock, it will probably be ok. Taste it after a week (the ferment we tasted today at the demonstration was a week old), but keep it going for a little longer if you’d like.


What vegetables are good for fermenting?

Most of them. Texture is the only hiccup. If you’re going to ferment leafy greens or eggplant, you’d have to have a pretty high tolerance for soft, mushy savory things! But carrot, cabbage, any kind of radish, turnip, snap peas, asparagus, green beans, kohlrabi, celery root, beets, onions, garlic, shallot…all delicious.

How long is it good for?

Once you taste the ferment and decide it’s where you’d like it, throw it in the fridge and munch away til it’s gone. After a couple of months, the texture might start to degrade a bit. But if it’s a good one, I’ll bet you eat it before it’s gone. It’s a great way to use up some of those extra vegetables in your fridge and keep them around for another month or two.

Can I ferment a smaller quantity? Why are your recipes so big?

The path to success is paved with gallon jars. The bigger the jar, the more consistent the results. Sure, you could go to the trouble of making a quart of something. But then you sit it in your cupboard for 2 weeks, and it could be gone in a week. Make a little bit more and give it away to your friends!

Mosquito in the greenhouse
Mosquito in the greenhouse

The cats – Mosquito and Courgette – love greenhouse season because they get to lounge around on warm stones and pretend they’re indoor cats. They like to place themselves conveniently at petting level…but then they get kicked out for laying on top of the onions!

What looked like an early spring had us all excited to work the garden and plant…and now we’re back to a week of winter. But there’s still work to be done while it’s cold – last week two of the season’s three interns arrived – Bryan and Heidi. They had an introduction to working with the horses – although Bryan has quite a bit of experience, because last year he worked with draft horses at Meeting Place Farm, another organic vegetable & livestock farm near Lucknow. We have been planting in the greenhouse, and transplanted some pok choi into one of the hoophouses – protected with row cover too, but still – the poor pok choi!

We still have some shares available for the 2016 season, and we have lots of eggs in the cooler – the hens think it’s spring, even if it’s snowing.

Heidi driving during intern  draft horse workshop.
Heidi driving during intern draft horse workshop.

This week we will be pruning the fruit trees and grapes, putting up a swing for Della (she picked out pink rope at the store with her dad), mulching the rhubarb – which is just starting to come up, and planting a bunch of seeds in the greenhouse. As well as stoking the fire to keep the little plants warm in this below freezing weather, and setting up the rest of the hoop houses for planting and transplanting.

Garlic just beginning to grow....this was planted just a few weeks ago, into a hoophouse, under row cover.
Garlic just beginning to grow….this was planted just a few weeks ago, into a hoophouse, under row cover.

Firewood Ready for Splitting
Firewood Ready for Splitting

We are experiencing an early spring this year! However, we still need to wait for the land to dry out and there is rain in the forecast for next week. Ken has been itching to get starting on spring planting. He is trying to reduce the amount of ploughing and is more convinced than ever that cover crops and no-till are the way to go. Hauling out firewood and logs for sawing with the horses helps to get them into shape for spring work. This year Aaron helped with the logging and firewood hauling and began working with the draft horses at the same time. Our next winter firewood is ready for splitting and we have an increasing pile of lumber to mill. Hopefully we will be able to fit those jobs in around our spring work.

The greenhouse wood stove lit and little plants are springing up. It was fun to have four generations of my family seeding together when my mother showed up one afternoon for a visit. Having Della and Frances here certainly adds another dimension to activities around the farm.

Della Jane and Great-grandmother Jane Planting Sage
Della Jane and Great-grandmother Jane Planting Sage
Della Sifting Potting Soil
Della Sifting Potting Soil
Pac Choi Coming Up
Pac Choi Coming Up
Aaron Pulling out a Bunch of Fire Logs photo credit Jim Conrad
Aaron Pulling out a Bunch of Fire Logs photo credit Jim Conrad
Aaron Driving New Sleigh with Suffolk Punch Horses
Aaron Driving New Sleigh with Suffolk Punch Horses photo credit Jim Conrad
Aaron logging with Buttons and New Queen
Aaron logging with Buttons and New Queen photo credit Jim Conrad
Gwen pulling out a Log
Gwen pulling out a Log photo credit Jim Conrad
Gwen moving into position to pull Log; photo credit Jim Conrad
Gwen moving into position to pull Log; photo credit Jim Conrad

Snow Drops Announcing the End of Winter!
Snow Drops Announcing the End of Winter!
Greenhouse View February 2016
Greenhouse View February 2016
Greenhouse with Snow and Ice Receding February 2015
Greenhouse View February 2015

Snow Drops are starting to bloom – a sure sign that spring is on the way! We are ready to start up the greenhouse next week. What a difference from last year at this time when we still had many feet of snow. I love the surge of energy that I feel with the coming of spring and the longer day lengths. I am excited to start the new plants, always with the challenge of improving on the last season. Greenhouse work is such a joy, when we can get a jump on the season and feel the energy of the sun as it warms up the space. I look forward to working with my daughter, Ellen, again this year. We have come a long way from our first CSA season in 1997 when she and I started the CSA to make money for her to attend Trent University. I expect her three year old daughter, Della will be helping this year too. What fun that is for me!

Free Range Laying Hens
Free Range Laying Hens

The free range laying hens are truly free range in the winter because we take down their pasture fence to keep it from being damaged by a snow load. The hens are certainly enjoying the lack of snow this week and are scratching up everything they can looking for tasty morsels. I will have to restrict them soon or they will scratch too many roots on my blueberry plants.

Seth and Ken Heading out to Cut Firewood
Seth and Ken Heading out to Cut Firewood

Ken, Aaron and Seth have been starting the annual firewood work for heating the house, greenhouse and wood fired oven. Aaron has been learning to drive the Suffolk Punch Horses as he skids logs out of the woods.

Caesar is Eagerly Awaiting the Start of the CSA Season
Caesar is Eagerly Awaiting the Start of the CSA Season

Ken, Aaron and Frances having a Farm Discussion
Ken, Aaron and Frances having a Farm Discussion
Ken's Farm Manufactured Wheelhoe
Ken’s Farm Manufactured Wheelhoe

We are off to a good start on the new year ahead. Our Daughter, Ellen, and her husband, Aaron, and two girls, Della – 3 1/2 years and Frances – 2 months are going to stay and work on the farm for the season. This is exciting for us as we plan ahead for the future. Ellen and Martha are busy mapping the CSA garden for next year and ordering seeds. Ken has had a lot of speaking engagements this year at various conferences and has given a variety of workshops on cover crops, no-till and soil health. Now he is getting ready for the Guelph Organic Conference where he will be selling his farm manufactured wheel hoes. He is also giving an Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario  – Soils Workshop on the Friday of the weekend. We will also be having a booth on the lower level of the Conference to sell our wheelhoes and advertise our farm internships as well as our son, Grayden’s, One Day Draft Horse Workshops. Grayden is on a panel for a workshop on Saturday of the Conference – Reflections of Growing up on an Organic Farm. Aaron and Ellen will be attending workshops as well.

Replacing the House Windows
Replacing the House Windows

One of the jobs we were able to do this winter with the help of CSA member, Jim Conrad, was to replace the last six windows in our house. With the use of scaffolding the job went well and it is good to have that one off the list. The inside trim still needs to be installed and we are debating when that will actually happen with all the other demands that are starting to fill up our days…

Introducing Sadie our new Suffolk Punch Filly
Introducing Sadie our new Suffolk Punch Filly

In December a new Suffolk horse arrived. Sadie was born in May and will be a partner for, Flynn, our 2015 foal. She is a calm natured filly and hopefully they will become a good team in the future.


Garlic Field Cover Crop before Planting
Garlic Field Cover Crop before Planting
Della Planting Garlic
Della Planting Garlic
Planting Garlic
Planting Garlic

We have arrived at the last and 21st week of CSA pick-ups. After the last CSA pick-up our remaining interns will move on to other pursuits. We are very grateful for all their young energy and enthusiasm and wish them well with their future endeavours. One of the final jobs to tackle before our interns leave is the planting of garlic for the following year. For the past few years we have been no-till planting garlic into a cover crop of oats that will continue to grow into the fall and then winter kill. This year we added some daikon radish into the mix. The cover crop is a bit smaller because it was so dry in August/September, but we hope that it will have time to grow into the fall. To no-till plant the garlic, our draft horses open up a shallow trench with a riding cultivator and we drop in the cloves. Afterwards the riding cultivator closes in the the trench with discs and covers over the garlic. I realized when I was watching our granddaughter, Della, planting garlic that she is the eighth generation of my family to be working this land. I grew up listening to stories from my grandmother about how much she enjoyed farming here with horses. As I remember the story, after their children were grown my grandfather went to work for the railroad loading coal in Aylmer and my grandmother stayed home and farmed with a hired man. My Aunt Betty did all the cooking and my grandmother had the time of her life farming…My grandmother’s Haight ancestors cleared this land in the 1820’s.

Covering Over Garlic
Naomi Filling in the Trench and Covering Over Garlic
Ginger Grown in the Hoop House
Ginger Grown in the Hoop House

I have heard about people planting ginger and growing it in hoop houses in the north and this year I decided to give it a try. In April when I bought the tubers to start in the greenhouse I also got some turmeric. Both grew fairly well and it was fun to dig up the plants and see what was there. I’m not sure about growing enough for the CSA, but I will enjoy using what I have grown this season.

All the fall grains and cover crops have come up well since the rain has returned. Ken tried a new experiment planting barley into a switch grass field. He removed the switch grass and no-tilled winter barley directly into the field. He is hoping that the barley will come off in time for the switch grass to grow again next year. Stay tuned to find out how that goes.

Digging Turmeric
Naomi and Della Digging Turmeric

Pumpkin Honey

10 cups cooked strained mashed pumpkin
8 cups white sugar
1/2 pound butter
grated rind and juice of 4 lemons

Simmer all together 20 minutes or until thick – do not boil

Pour into hot sterile jam jars and seal . (I cover the jars with an inch of boiling water in a large pot and bring to a boil for 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from water and make sure the lids are tight.)

The old fashioned way is to boil the pumpkin in lightly salted water, drain and mash. You can microwave it and put it in the food processor if you wish. ( I just poke the pumpkin to break the skin and bake it whole in the oven until it is soft. I then let it cool, cut it open, remove the seeds, scoop out the pumpkin flesh and puree it in the food processor. Long Pie pumpkins work well for this recipe.)

Great on toast, biscuits and in tarts.

The end of our CSA season is fast approaching. Our last CSA pick-ups are Tuesday, October 6 and Saturday, October 10. Our applications for the 2016 season are available now. Orchard Hill Farm application 2016

Kossak Kohlrabi
Kossak Kohlrabi
This year we have succeeded in growing a variety of winter storage kohlrabi called Kossak. It is as big as a cabbage, but the great thing is that it still remains tender and crisp inside and stores very well! I have added a recipe below for Kohlrabi Fritters. Here are some other ideas:
dip in Hummus;
grate into coleslaw (add some red meat winter radish);
shave into salad;
throw into soup;
roast with other root vegetables.

Kohlrabi Fritters from the kitchen of Ellen Laing
1/2 lb. kohlrabi, grated
1 carrot or sweet potato, grated
1 egg
1 T. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne
1/2 cup grape seed oil or canola oil

Squeeze the liquid from the kohlrabi and carrot/sweet potato with your hands or put in a tea towel and squeeze. Mix in a bowl with eggs, cornstarch, salt and Cayenne. Heat oil in a large skillet and drop large spoonfuls of Fritters into oil, fry until golden brown on each side.

We are about to start digging parsnips. For those of you who don’t know what to do with parsnips, I have reposted my parsnip cake recipe.

Parsnip Cake Recipe for 8 x 8 inch pan from the kitchen of Martha Laing
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
3/4 cup sunflower oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups grated parsnips
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger; beat in oil until mixture is light in colour, about 3 minutes.
Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating for about 30 seconds after each addition. Add parsnips, mixing thoroughly.
Spread in well-greased and floured 8 x 8 inch baking dish. Bake for 50 – 55 minutes or until tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan before spreading with Cream Cheese Frosting.
* Recipe can be doubled for a 9 x 13 inch pan recipe. It can also be doubled and divided between 3 – 9 inch round cake pans for a layered cake. For a fancy cake, I put caramelized apples between the layers and add crystallized ginger pieces to the cream cheese icing.
Cream Cheese Icing for 8 x8 inch pan
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
In mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter, add enough milk to make fluffy spreadable consistency. Double recipe for layer cake.
Caramelized Apples for filling between layers of fancy cake
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 pounds Golden Delicious or Honey Crisp apples(or other firm apple variety), peeled cored, cut into 1/2 inch slices.
2/3 cup whipping cream
Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; cover with sugar. Stir until sugar begins to melt, about 1 minute. Add apples. Cook until apples are brown and tender and juices form, about 10 – 15 minutes. Add cream and simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Cool before assembling cake.

Bunching Asparagus for the First CSA Pick-Up of the Season
Bunching Asparagus for the First CSA Pick-Up of the Season

The CSA pick-ups are under way. We have asparagus to start the season and I have posted a couple of recipes at the end of this blog entry to give some new ideas for using it. Our CSA gardens are growing and the early seedings have come up and have been weeded. We are waiting to transplant the tender plants until tonight’s possible frost has past. Hopefully, it will warm up and stay warm after that. The ground has dried out without rain and we have irrigated the garden to keep plants growing. There is rain in the forecast for next week and hopefully it won’t miss us.

Insulation around Chimney In Place
Insulation around Chimney In Place

Forging Brackets for Wood Fired Oven Chimney
Forging Brackets for Wood Fired Oven Chimney
The wood fired oven is finishing up. The insulation has been put all around and the damper has been made. Today Ken is forge-bending some brackets to brace the chimney before it is installed. He will then make some insulated doors and Seth will build a brick face on the oven and it will be ready to light the first fire. The plan is to heat it slowly with a small fire so the bricks can dry slowly before the first hot firing. The idea with the oven is to have a lot of insulated thermal mass that will absorb the heat from the fire and then gradually release it while baking bread. Seth intends to have a fire for 6 hours then rake out the ashes and close it up to absorb the heat for 6 hours. He hopes it will retain enough heat to bake 5 batches of bread of 25 loaves each from one firing! It will take a while to get to know the oven, but it is exciting to see it all come together. The new stone flour mill has been tested and is ready to start grinding flour with the horse powered treadmill.

Introducing Utah our new Jersey Cow
Introducing Utah our new Jersey Cow

We have added a jersey milk cow to the farm family. She is very hip with a nose ring, ear tattoo and the name “Utah”! Our second year intern, Charlotte, has returned to the farm this year and asked if she could have a cow project…Charlotte is finding her way with getting to know Utah, learning how to milk and then learning how to make butter, yogurt, and fresh cheese. Rose is making kefir and adding it to our shakes at breakfast. The next step is to try and make some hard cheese. It feels good to have a cow again and it certainly adds a bounty to the table at meal time. When Utah is cooperative enough to come in for milking on her own, the nose ring may have to go. She earns a lot of brownie points for standing well to be milked, but she is still getting used to her new surroundings and our routines. You can read between the lines on that one…Fortunately, after sourcing some replacement parts our little milking machine still works.

Sent to me by CSA member, Catherine Burr, Adapted from: Four Seasons – A year of Italian Food by Manuela Darling-Gansser

Asparagus with Melted Butter and Parmigiano

1 bunch of asparagus

50 g freshly grated parmigiano

30 g unsalted butter

sea salt and ground black pepper

Cook the asparagus until the stalks are still a bit crunchy. Do not overcook. Drain the asparagus and arrange on a heated serving dish.

Sprinkle the parmigiano on the tips of the asparagus. Melt the butter and, as soon as it is foaming, pour it over the parmigiano. (The heat of the butter will melt the cheese and make a delicious crust.) Add a little salt and pepper. Serve at once with some crunchy Italian ciabatta bread.


For a more substantial meal you can fry 2 organic eggs per person and serve them on the plate with asparagus. Make sure the yolks are still very runny.

This is a recipe from a cookbook written by our daughter, Ellen Laing.

Asparagus White Bean Salad
Asparagus White Bean Salad

Asparagus White Bean Salad 

1 bunch asparagus cut in pieces about twice the size of the beans

2 Cups cooked white beans (canned would be fine, drained & rinsed)

1/3 Cup cubed cotija cheese (You can also use feta)

Zest of one lemon, minced

Juice of at least half of a lemon (more if you like)

1 small shallot, minced (you can use a green onion)

¼ cup parsley

1 Tablespoons mint, chopped

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

salt & pepper

Boil some water to blanch the asparagus. Salt the water so that the asparagus comes out tasty. Throw the asparagus in there, and cook just so that the raw flavour goes away –just keep fishing them out and tasting them. Try to keep them bright green and crunchy. Usually this happens before the water comes back to a boil. Drain and cool the asparagus.

Toss everything in a bowl & adjust the seasoning if necessary. It is best to refrigerate for several hours before serving so the flavours can blend.

Planting Onions with Transplanter
Planting Onions with Transplanter

May is always a big month of planting. We do direct seeding as well as transplanting both outdoors and inside of our hoop houses. Some plants are more cold hardy and can go out before the danger of frost has past. Our onions and leeks are transplanted already. The hoop house tomatoes and cucumbers have also been planted, because they are inside the hoop house and protected. The hoop house pac choi and head lettuce are growing well and after they are harvested the tomatoes and cucumbers will grow on. We have early cabbage and broccoli that are waiting to be transplanted. The roots need to be well established for the transplants to work well with our horse drawn transplanter. There is also a long list of fennel, celery, celeriac, kale, kohlrabi, radicchio, green onions and head lettuce that are waiting to be transplanted.  We have started our outdoor annual cutting flowers, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes in the greenhouse that have to wait until after the danger of frost has past before they can be planted. Needless to say, our greenhouse is bursting at the seams as we shuffle plants around to make room for more. In the meantime, we have planted the strawberries for 2016  and the potatoes for this year. Another succession planting of direct seeded beets, carrots, peas, leaf lettuce, radishes and spinach have been planted in the main garden and covered with row cover to bring them along quickly. The 2016 main CSA garden has also been worked up and planted to an oat/barley/pea cover crop.

Jeanne Tremblay Intern from Quebec
Jeanne Tremblay Intern from Quebec

Jeanne Tremblay has come from Quebec to intern with us for the remainder of the season. Jeanne comes with teamster skills. She interned at another CRAFT farm in Ontario two years ago.She has also just completed an agricultural business course at Victoriaville  in Quebec. She hopes to return to Quebec and start an organic vegetable and flower CSA in the future. I look forward to having an intern with a special interest in cut flower production. We have ordered some additional flowers to try this season for our CSA cutting garden in the side yard.

Seth and Jim at Work Building Arch on the Wood Fired Oven
Seth and Jim at Work Building Arch on the Wood Fired Oven

Seth has been working hard on the wood fired oven with good help from Jim. He is learning as he goes and doing a careful job. The process is quite involved with one stage completed before the next can be started. The foundation support and the sides of the oven have been built. The floor of the oven with volcanic insulation under it, to keep the heat in, has been laid. The lintel over the door with small metal shards incorporated for strength is finished. Today Seth and Jim are setting the arch fire brick in place. The arch is supported with special wooden framing that will be removed once the mortar between the arch bricks sets.

We have set the start dates for our CSA season as follows:

Queen and Ned Opening up the Furrows for Seed Potatoes in No-Till Section of Field
Queen and Ned Opening up the Furrows for Seed Potatoes in No-Till Section of Field
Alina and Caesar Waiting to Plant Potatoes
Alina and Caesar Waiting to Plant Potatoes
Rose and Jeanne Planting Potatoes
Rose and Jeanne Planting Potatoes
Start of the Arch from Above
Start of the Arch from Above
Wooden Supports for Arch in Wood Fired Oven to be Removed after the Fire Bricks are in Place
Wooden Supports for Arch in Wood Fired Oven to be Removed after the Fire Bricks are in Place
Jeanne and Alina Weeding Flower Gardens
Jeanne and Alina Weeding Flower Gardens
Garlic is Growing!
Garlic is Growing!
Jeanne Weeding Pach Choi and Lettuce in Hoop House
Jeanne Weeding Pac Choi and Lettuce in Hoop House
Caesar and Mosquito Waiting for a Wagon Ride
Caesar and Mosquito Waiting for a Wagon Ride