Every week continues to be filled up with events here at Orchard Hill Farm. On Wednesday, July 17th we had a Ecological Farmers of Ontario Field Day to demonstrate how Draft Horses can be successfully used for a small vegetable operation. It was an interesting day for participants despite the intense heat! Bill raked the wheat straw at the same time and we were able to get it into the barn the next day without any rain on it! The apprentices enjoyed throwing around straw after the heavier hay of the week before.
When we come round to mulching strawberries for the CSA it really feels like we have come full circle in the farm year. We were discussing today whether it was the last job of the previous season or the first job of the new season. I guess that this year it is the first job of the new season since it is January 3rd. It’s hard to believe that three days ago we were planting garlic! The weather is so changeable. However, I am happy for the draft horses to have the snow to exercise in. What a mess the winter has been so far with all the mud!
We hitched up two of our Suffolk Punch horses, Sassy and Gwen and loaded up the straw to take down to the field to mulch the strawberries with. We were waiting for the ground to freeze before we did this job, but we weren’t expecting to have so much snow over night. It was hard to see where the strawberry rows were! Caesar enjoyed coming along especially if he got to ride on the sleigh.
On another note we have been picking fresh kale from the garden, it just gets sweeter with the frost and tastes so good as a green vegetable. Kale chips are good too. The following recipe was given to me by two different CSA members and it is very tasty.
KALE CHIPS with Cashews
Blend together in food processor:
1 Red Pepper (I use frozen ones from the summer).
1 Cup Cashews
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Tamari Sauce (you can use soy sauce)
2 Cloves Garlic (crushed first)
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast (optional)
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
6 Cups of firmly packed Kale (tare bit size pieces of kale off of the center stem and discard stem).
Massage the above mixture onto the kale.
Spread on a 2 cookie sheets and dry in a slow oven until crisp. You can even turn the oven off after it has warmed up and then turn it on again every hour just enough to warm up. You don’t want to cook the kale, just dehydrate it. I use my dehydrator, but not everyone has one.
Ken and Andy took a bit of a holiday and went to Horse Progress Days in Pennsylvania at the beginning of the month. The Mules caught their eye. Many of the Amish use mules further south because they do better in the heat. However Ken isn’t ready to switch to mule power yet! Gena’s Suffolk foal has been named “Eli” and he continues to grow well.
It always seems like the garden is really producing when we have our first zucchini and broccoli and they have started. We have said good-bye to the peas and strawberries and the string beans are about to begin.
Our working shares continue to give us a boost with the garden harvest and washing of vegetables. It’s a great way to get to know new members and renew our connection with old members. Children benefit from being part of the work that goes into the produce they take home each week and it helps them realize where the food they eat really originates! We believe it adds to the richness of their CSA experience.
We have lots of Swiss Chard that we will be putting in our CSA “Extras” each week. In the winter I visited our daughter, Ellen, in Portland, Oregon. She was graduating from a Chef’s Studio course taught by Robert Reynolds. Robert gave me a book he wrote inspired by recipes of his French friend and mentor, Josephine Araldo. From a Breton Garden by Josephine Araldo and Robert Reynolds has lots of recipes for vegetables that Josephine’s grandmother used and we grow. I thought that it would be good to share some of the recipes with the CSA and I am finally getting around to it! (We must be caught up in the garden!) They use both parts of the chard like it is two different vegetables. My mother did the same thing when I was growing up.
CREAMED SWISS CHARD WITH CHEESE
Swiss Chard and cream is a combination that allows for limitless possibilities; the cream could be replaced by walnuts, quatre epies, or whole grains of mustard. The vegetable can always accompany a roast duck and sauteed potatoes, and a wine such as Cahors or Madiran.
2 bunches Swiss Chard
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion
1/2 cup bechamel (white sauce made with 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon flour cooked together over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes and then 1/2 cup milk added and stirred until it is thick, cook over very low heat for several minutes).
1/3 cup grated cheese
1/3 cup cream
Salt, freshly ground pepper, and nutmeg
Prepare the chard by removing the center stalks. Reserve for another use. Blanch the green in boiling salted water until limp. The cooking time depends on the tenderness of the greens. If they are young plants, cook only a minute or two; if they are older and more fibrous, they may require more time to blanch. When they are done, remove to a colander and flush them under cold water to stop their cooking. Remove to a cutting board and chop coursely. In a dry skillet, dry saute until the leaves render their water, set aside.
In the same skillet, melt 1 to 2 tablespoons butter and saute the onion for a minute or two. Add the chard, which should be well drained. Stir in the bechamel and cheese; toss well to coat with the sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
Combine the egg and cream and stir into the chard mixture. Once the egg is added, do not cook. It can be warmed, but if subjected to too much heat, the eggs will hard cook. Adjust the seasonings and serve hot.
Note: The recipe calls for both bechamel and an egg and cream liaison. One or the other can be used alone, or both can be replaced by heavy cream reduced until it coats a spoon.
An alternative to cream or bechamel is a flavorful oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil,hazelnut oil, or colza oil.
SWISS CHARD GRATIN
This gratin goes well with a roast of pork accompanied by sauteed apples and a white wine from Savoie, an Apremont or a Crepy.
INGREDIENTS Serves 4 to 6
1 or 2 bunches Swiss chard with ribs
1 cup white sauce ( see recipe below)
1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
4 tablespoons melted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the Swiss chard stems from the greens and save the greens for another use. Remove the tough outer fiber of the stalks by slipping a knife under the cut end of the stalk and peeling it away. Cut the stalks into 1/2 -inch pieces on the diagonal. Blanch the stalks in boiling salted water until done, about 4 to 6 minutes. Darin in a non-aluminum colander and flush in cold water. The vegetable water from cooking can be saved and used for a flovorful stack.
In a bowl, season the chard stalks with salt and pepper, and then mix with the white sauce; set in an oven-proof casserole. Sprinkle the surface with cheese. Dribble the melted butter over the top and brown the gratin in a preheated oven. The gratin can also be place under the broiler provided the mixture has been warmed before being put into the gratin dish.
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and then the heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper. Allow the sauce to simmer (over a very low heat) 20 minutes; reserve and keep warm.