I remember sitting at home around this time a year ago, planning the upcoming Farm season. In the past, I've worked three seasons on two different farms. I learned so much about plants, pests, machinery, irrigation, soil composition, on and on and on. I quickly found how much I was lacking in decision making and leadership. I am great at completing tasks given to me by someone else. However, deciding on my own what to do, when to do it, and being solely responsible for the consequences is entirely different!
For those of you who have not been to the Farm, getting a sense of the layout will help me explain some experiences last year. Our property is 5 acres total, almost all open field, from the street to the tree line. It is only 200 and some odd feet wide with a straight run. Our back yard is fenced in with the farm located in the field beyond the fence. Inside the fence is a chicken coop with our senior chickens, Pickle and Pepper (RIP Penny), our cold frame for seedlings in the spring, and a small garden. Around this garden within the fence is yet another fence to prevent Lucy and Ducky (our dogs) from eating just about everything. I used this garden for our family, to help supplement the CSA, and also to experiment with plants and techniques that could be used in the field the next year.
One of the biggest things I learned about was the culinary preferences of my dear, dear friend, Marmota Monax. Who's that you ask? The groundhog.... Perhaps next year I'll start screaming "Marmota Monax!" instead of the less family friendly nicknames I used last year since Liam repeats basically everything now. I can tell you his favorite foods first hand. They include, but are not limited to, peas, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, and probably many other crops I'm drawing a blank on right now. Our experience with the groundhogs taught us a lot for next year! The garden in the fence was pest proof, minus a few birds, bugs, Liam's, etc. I greatly expanded the size of this protected garden for next season and will grow lots of those tasty crops in safety for the CSA and the market.
Other new changes for next year include: improving soil quality and the irritation system, planting more fruits and berries for the future, increasing the variety in shares, and providing more customized shares.
For current and new members: send a quick email/text with anything you specifically want grown next year, what you want more of, less of or none at all! I'll jot it down and make it happen whenever possible. Any other suggestions or comments would also be appreciated.
Fennel is another one of our favorites! And yet again, something I was completely unfamiliar with until John started farming. Fennel has a delicate sweet flavor that adds interest to many different dishes. Roasted fennel is our favorite way to enjoy this vegetable, but it can be used many different ways. It goes nicely raw in salads or cooked into a sauce as well.
Fennel not only has a history of being used in the kitchen, but for various medicinal purposes as well. Concentrated oils from fennel have been used as a digestive aide in various cultures throughout the world. Like many other vegetables, fennel is high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. It is great for heart health, the immune system, and brain function.
Beets were yet another vegetable that took us some time to learn to love. We tried beets so many different ways before finally finding things we not only liked, but actually loved. We thought beets were just something we would never enjoy, but the health benefits were just to great to pass up.
Beets are high in fiber, B vitamins, vitamin A, and antioxidants. As a general rule, the more vibrant the color of your fruits and vegetables, the higher the antioxidant content. Beets are also one of the few vegetables with iron, making them a good choice for those who are anemic. Beets are good for heart health, eye health, and energy levels. Recent research has even shown increased oxygen uptake in athletes who drink beet juice, which may improve performance.
After much trial and error, we compiled a list of our favorite ways to enjoy beets. Even if you have never liked beets, a few of these recipes might just change your mind!
Zucchini is one of our most requested vegetables, and for good reason! Zucchini is very versatile, cooking well in both sweet and savory dishes. It grows quickly and has the most flavor when picked smaller. Overgrown zucchini is best used for baking. We harvest zucchini daily as it is a very productive plant.
Zucchini is high in vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin A making it great for eye and heart health. It is also high in fiber, making it very filling and great for weight loss. It also helps reduce overall inflammation caused by chronic disease. The skin of the zucchini contains most of the nutrients.
We often have to get a little creative to use the zucchini quickly because of the rate it grows. It can be grilled, made into noodles, or shredded for baked goods. For long term storage, shredded zucchini freezes well. Below are a few of our favorite recipes!
Green beans (also known as string beans) are full of vitamins and minerals. They are high in fiber, vitamin A, and B-vitamins, all of which provide excellent health benefits. They cook well in a variety of dishes, including stir-fry and curry dishes. They also make a great side dish and can be prepared by steaming, roasting, or frying. Here are a few recipes we found for some green bean inspiration!
The last few weeks have brought plenty of fresh basil. Basil, an annual herb, has a strong flavor that pairs well with both savory and sweet foods. Like green vegetables, it is high in vitamin A, C, magnesium, and calcium. Basil is high in antioxidants, making it anti-inflammatory.
Basil is easy to grow and maintain. It will continue to produce throughout the season if cared for properly and can also be maintained in the home throughout the winter. There are endless uses for fresh basil! It makes a fun addition to cocktails, can be used for a variety of pestos, and is even great in desserts. If you wish to preserve your basil, it can be dried, made into herb butter, or frozen as pesto. We had some fun gathering recipes this week!
So far June brought many great changes and new vegetables! Our well was finally completed and has electricity, which allowed John to set up a drip irrigation system. In the near future John will not have to spend 16 hours a day rotating a sprinkler around the farm. The radishes, turnip, kale, and basil came in full force this month. Our beets, carrots, and a variety of squash are growing beautifully and will be ready in the near future!
Kale has become one of our absolute favorite vegetables over the years! And rightly so with a combination of lots of flavor and high nutrient content. First we will talk a little bit about kale and how it is grown. Then onto the recipes.
Kale is another vegetable from the brassica family, along with radishes and arugula. Spring and fall are full of brassicas as they prefer cooler weather. Kale is packed full of minerals and vitamins making it increasingly in demand over the last several years. It is high in vitamins A, C, and K as well as calcium and iron. These nutrients make kale great for heart health, diabetes prevention, and lowering cholesterol levels.
Kale is one of the most versatile leafy greens to cook with and enjoy! Like other leafy greens, it blends well into smoothies with citrus to cut the bitterness. It also steps up the nutrient factor of salads and cooks well with eggs. And of course, kale chips are our favorite way to eat kale. Kale chips are easy to make and also make a great pizza topping!
Kale Salad Inspiration
Kale Chip Ideas
I must admit, turnips were one of the most difficult vegetables for us to learn to cook with. However, we quickly learned to love them when we realized how many ways they can be used! They cook and taste just like other root vegetables. Turnips can be easily blended into mashed potatoes and cooked into soups or stews. Our favorite way to eat them is roasted.
Turnips are part of the brassica family, along with broccoli and kale. They are a purplish root vegetable with a sweet, nutty flavor when harvested smaller. Turnips can be grown and harvested both in the spring and fall. The flavor is similar to cabbage, but with the consistency of a starchy vegetable like potatoes. Larger turnips tend to taste a little bitter. Like other root vegetables, you can use the greens as well.
We could not be more excited our arugula and radishes were ready for harvest this week. Both are part of the brassica family, vegetables that grow in cooler seasons.
Arugula is a spicy green, related to mustard greens, and adds a little interest to salads. Like other leafy greens, arugula is high in vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin C, iron, and phytochemicals making it great for eye health, immune system function, and improved metabolism.
Radishes belong to the same family as arugula but are a root crop. This colorful root vegetable comes in shades of white, red, and purple. They are high in fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, and the flavonoid anthocyanin. Anthocyanin is great for heart health and is also anti-inflammatory. Raw radishes make a great addition to salads. Other ways to prepare radishes include roasting (our favorite way to have them) or pickling. Radish greens have a peppery taste and can be used just like any other leafy green!
We gathered some of our favorite recipes as inspiration for these vegetables.
Instead of serving protein with rice or pasta, opt to serve your meals over a bed of greens for a healthier option. This is one of our favorite recipes served over a bed of arugula.
The produce has finally started to arrive and is quickly picking up pace! The farm shows new signs of growth every day. Our first CSA shares went out last week and we can hardly wait to share what will be coming throughout the rest of the season.
The Dearborn Farmer's Market started on Friday, May 19th. There may not have been any vegetables yet to sell, but that certainly did not stop us from setting up our stand to meet customers and other vendors. The market is open from 9am-2pm throughout the summer and is full of nearly 40 other great vendors. If you are in the Dearborn area, stop by to say hi!
Below are a few pictures of the busy last few weeks.
The first harvests of spring involve an abundance of leafy greens. One of the first to grow is spinach. Spinach is direct seeded into the ground after the threat of frost is over. It is ready for harvest about a month after planting and will continue to produce throughout the season as long as it is well cared for.
Spinach, like other leafy greens, packs a punch in terms of nutritional value, high in both vitamin A and K, iron, and calcium. It has a mild taste compared to other greens and is easily incorporated into many different recipes. Spinach is also high in fiber, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and promotes eye health. Spinach contains a high amount of chlorophyll, which has well documented health benefits.
When you get your spinach, rinse under cold water to clean. It can be dried either between layers of towels or with a salad spinner. Store in your refrigerator after washing. If spinach becomes wilted, it can be soaked for an hour or so in a bowl with cold water to perk it back up.
Tips for using spinach:
Blend a handful into a smoothie. This is a great way to increase intake of any greens, and the taste of spinach is well hidden. One of our favorite ways to "hide" spinach from our toddler.
Green Smoothie 101: Our favorite resources for everything you ever wanted to know about making green smoothies. We highly recommend trying their 7 days of smoothie experience. We have loved every recipe we tried off of this site (and our toddler does too)!
Incorporate a handful of spinach in pesto. Another one of our favorite ways to sneak in a little extra greens, and another way our toddler loves them.
Spinach is one of the best greens for a nutritious salad. It is also very easy to whip up a healthy salad dressing using ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen.
Throw a handful of spinach into scrambled eggs, an omelet, or a frittata to add some green to your breakfast.
Storage Tips: If you have more spinach than you can use that week, a great way to store it for later use is freezing the spinach into ice cubes. To do this, bring a pot of water to a boil and add spinach for 2-3 minutes to blanche quickly. Remove from boiling water and immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water. Roughly chop the spinach and pack in ice cube trays. Cover with a little bit of water and place in the freezer. This is a very simple process and extends the life of your CSA share beyond the end of the season. This method can be used for other greens as well. Grab a few cubes of spinach out of the freezer later to use for cooking or smoothies!
April was a busy month! So far most of the work revolved around the greenhouse with some time spent getting the field reading. Your farmer has been working hard getting a variety of vegetables growing for CSA members as well as farmer's market. Here is a sneak peek at what has been going on so far.
Prepping soil blocks for seeding, which are made entirely from compost.
A few of the vegetables that will be showing up in CSA shares and at farmer's market throughout the season.
Our assistant farmer watches the field being prepped.
Some vegetables are seeded directly into the ground rather than in the greenhouse, like peas, spinach, and carrots.
Our chickens, Pickle and Pepper exploring the outdoors. These ladies are older hens that were donated to us. They are basically pets that lay eggs when they feel like it. About 50% of their food intake comes from grass, bugs, and compost.
The vegetables coming along nicely in the greenhouse, pictured above are okra, brocolli, and cabbage.
Our assistant farmer Liam loves to be involved.
The peas have grown large enough for stringing.
A beautiful row of turnips.