Last Saturday, Jon and I spent a night camping at Luna Field Farm with our friends Lydia and Wian. Lydia took this photo of Jon, Wian and I in the sheep pasture. We had never seen their beautiful farm in summer, and it was an amazing experience. They use guardian dogs and herding dogs to help manage their sheep flock, and I think the most impressive part was seeing what a difference a working dog can make when handling sheep. Jon and I have had less than wonderful experiences with sheep in the past, but seeing Wian work with the dogs to bring in some loose rams was incredible. We also waded through waist-high gorgeous, lush grass and alfalfa and saw the difference that animal fertility and their careful land management is making on their pasture. And, in true farmer-style, we dined like kings on amazing farm food!
That was our less-than-24 hour break from what becomes “the vegetable madness” this time of year! The rest of the week flew by, filled with bean picking, weeding, washing, packing, harvesting, and more bean picking… and there are still more to pick. For some reason, us and other farmers are seeing a decrease in bean sales this year over every other year. I am wondering why? Beans are my favourite summer vegetable, and they’re SO good when they’re fresh. We hope you are enjoying them, and if you know of any reason why anyone wouldn’t want to devour gorgeous fresh beans, please fill me in!
Auntie Jayne, Mom’s sister, is coming out for her annual pickling marathon at the farm this week. She loves to make pickles, and so her and Mom will be pickling beans, carrots, jalapenos, and cucumbers on Monday. Last year they made hundreds upon hundreds of jars, and we were sold out of most items by Christmas. There are less and less people in the world making their own, but all seem to appreciate ours! We only use produce WE grow to make them, and believe that freshness is the key to making excellent preserves, so we try to pickle the same day things are picked. It is A LOT of work, and highly unprofitable, but Mom has so many customers hooked on her pickles that she wants to keep doing it, and so we carry on.
Recipe Cards: Karen wrote to let me know that the recipe cards are often wet/dirty when she gets her bag. I go out of my way to make sure they’re printed on my laser printer so the ink doesn’t run, and most of the time you should be able to carefully extract your recipe and let it dry – but in the event that you can’t, you should know that the recipes are also posted each week on our website under “Recipes”: https://brownsugarproduce.wordpress.com/recipes/
I will also make sure to bring extra copies with me to the pickup in case you want some. It adds too much time & cost to the program to put the cards in plastic bags, but we do want to make sure you get a great recipe with your weekly veggies!
**SPOILER ALERT** If you want to keep the contents a surprise, stop reading NOW!
In your Veggie Lovers’ Club Bag this week:
Lettuce (1 head)
Specialty Beans (Dragon Tongue OR French Filet)
Snack Pack (Carrots, Celery, Snap Peas, Kohlrabi)
Teri’s musings, recipes, and more info about the veggies in your Veggie Lovers’ Club Bag this week:
You’re getting some cucumbers again, because they’re in season and absolutely delicious right now! They are so versatile– you can take them for a snack or as part of your lunch, make a quick salad like the Creamy Cucumber Salad we shared in your bag last week, or serve them Jon’s favourite way- swimming in a bowl of white vinegar. I often slice them and leave them in the fridge this way so we can just put the bowl out and help ourselves with dinner. Soon the tomatoes will be ready and you’ll be able to have tomato, basil, cucumber salad– one of my favs!
Storage tips: Cucumbers should be eaten asap. If you have any left in the fridge from last week, eat them! They get bitter with age and wilt easily. Make sure you store in an airtight container or a plastic bag. To save costs and plastic, we will send them loose in your bag, unwashed. They should be washed just before you eat them, as they degrade quickly after washing.
The saying goes, When visiting a farm in zucchini season, make sure to lock your car doors! I have been known to sneak zucchini into people’s vehicles, so WATCH OUT this week at the pickup!
Zucchini is an abundant crop, but luckily there are so many things you can do with it. Zucchini muffins or cake is a very common one, but our favourite way to enjoy it is in Zucchini Bake (which will be your printed recipe card this week). Seriously– I had it 3 times last week! I have a confession: I am not much of a recipe follower. I use them to get an idea, and then use my culinary instinct to make it work with what I’ve got on hand. So, one of our customers followed the recipe to the letter once, didn’t have good results, and let us know– Mom and I both admitted that we had never followed it exactly as printed. We have done multiple test batches since and have now come up with the best version of the recipe. You can increase the amount of zucchini, experiment with different amounts of oil and different types of cheese, add other veggies, add more eggs to make it more frittata-like– basically, feel free to modify to your taste. The sign of a good cook is one that can take a basic recipe and own it!
Zucchini is a great addition to soups, and it’s EXCELLENT on the BBQ. You can slice it and cook in a BBQ wok, or grill large slices and top with cheese.
Storage Tips: Zucchini will store well in the crisper and can hold a few days not in a plastic bag. We are still experiencing some pock marks on it due to the hail storm.
We’re giving you a bit of parsley this week, because the Zucchini Bake recipe calls for it. Fresh parsley is severely underrated: it’s SO GOOD chopped and added on top of many dishes, including salads. It adds a freshness to any dish, and also cuts the breath-spoiling properties of onions and garlic.
Storage Tips: Keep your parsley in a plastic bag in the fridge, or trim the ends and stand the bunch up in a glass of water in the fridge.
For some reason, lots of people insist on calling Chard “Swiss Shard”. I find this endlessly amusing and tend to laugh inside rather than correct customers… maybe the English major in me! We also hear “Garlic Scrapes” (Scapes) a lot. Scrapes and Shard go well together! I don’t care what you call the veggies, as long as you enjoy them!
Chard is great sauteed in oil or butter with garlic – cut the stems off first and saute for a couple minutes longer than the greens. Our favourite accompaniment with Chard is rice– the two flavours go great together, and you can even make Chard Rolls, which are like Cabbage Rolls but use Chard instead. There are so many possible variations of this recipe if you don’t like the traditional rice & tomato cabbage rolls – Google “Chard Rolls” for many great ideas! I highly recommend the traditional version, there’s something magical that happens when you combine rice, chard, and tomato sauce.
Storage Tips: Store your Chard in the fridge completely covered in a plastic bag. Eat asap as fresh greens always taste best and have the highest nutritional content when consumed quickly after harvest.
The lettuce crop has finally recovered from the hail, and so we have some nice heads for you this week. You’ll get one small head of lettuce, which when you cut the core out will fall apart into bite-sized leaves, enough for a couple side salads or one meal salad. We know lots of you love salad but not everyone, so at the very least you can use the leaves on your burger or sandwich.
Lettuce is hard to grow in the summer, so I have been very busy lately with irrigation, which runs most days now that we have hit the heat of mid-summer in Manitoba. We use drip irrigation from the creek that runs by the farm. The drip lines target the water to the roots of the crop which is better for managing disease and food safety as well as keeping the water where it is a maximum benefit to the crop. Also, we can still weed and harvest, even when the irrigation is running (as opposed to a wasteful sprinkler system). Without irrigation, our lettuce crop would dry up and become bitter in the baking sun.
Storage Tips: Make sure you wash your lettuce! We will give it a rinse for the purposes of hydro cooling it to remove the field heat and make it last longer, but the heads do collect dirt inside and so it will need to be washed before eating. Store your lettuce in a plastic bag in the fridge and wash just prior to eating it. It will keep longer than Salad Mix as it is still attached to the core – up to a week or so.
We grow 2 varieties of specialty snap beans at the farm – Dragon Tongue and French Filet. This week we had planned to give you all one variety, but the beans had different plans and so we are giving both types in the bags (the pickings didn’t yield enough for everyone to get the same kind, so you will get one or the other, and we’ll do it again sometime so you can try the other kind!).
Farmer Jon’s favourite bean, the Dragon Tongue Bean! They are cream colored flat & wide snap beans (like green beans) which have purple streaks on the pods. I call those your “cooking indicator”: the beans are fully cooked when the purple fades away and the beans become a soft yellow color. Don’t overcook them! Taste frequently while cooking to make sure you maintain the “squeak” that you should hear and feel while eating them.
These beans can be fun for kids who may not love green beans: let them see the beans before cooking, and then the transformation as they steam and lose their purple. Even the name is fun: The beans are indeed wavy like a tongue and if I had to imagine what a dragon’s tongue actually looked like, this is a good start! Bonus points if you email me a photo of your kids pretending to be dragons with these beans sticking out of their mouths this week!
French Filet Beans are MY favourite bean. We grow three colours, and each bag contains all the colors – Purple, Green, and Yellow. The purple turn green when they cook, so that’s an easy way to tell when they’re done. I like mine squeaky, and so wait until there’s still just a tinge on purple left. French Filet beans are skinny and tender: think gourmet! People always ask how they taste: my standard answer is “Like any other bean, only a bit better!”
Another option you can do with beans is to cook them to perfection and then immediately immerse in an ice bath. Then you can add them to salads like this Nicoise Salad Recipe that Andrea got ready for you. I used to hate salads because I didn’t know what I was doing– I would load them with fresh raw veggies and nothing fun like cheese, nuts, fruit, boiled eggs, herbs, etc. The additions to salad make all the difference. There is a vendor at the Brandon Farmers’ Market (Prairie Quinoa/River Valley Specialty Farms) who sells hemp hearts which are my current favourite salad addition. They are nutty and have lots of protein, and I haven’t found a salad yet that didn’t benefit from their addition!
Storage Tips: Store beans in the fridge in a plastic bag with a few holes poked in it so the condensation can escape. You can also freeze beans for later use: blanch for a couple of minutes first. I froze lots of Dragon Tongue beans last summer and we enjoyed them all winter!
We are preparing a special snack pack for you this week, which will consist of cut and ready-to-eat celery, carrots, snap peas, and kohlrabi. The kohlrabi will be the white sticks, and it is in the cabbage family and tastes like a cross between cabbage and turnip, and is crunchy like a carrot. I prefer to eat it raw just like we are sending it to you. We didn’t grow much kohlrabi this year and so wanted you to at least have a taste of this beautiful veggie. We don’t find it popular enough to be a staple crop for us, but those who like it tend to like it a lot!
Our carrots are SO sweet, and the celery is AMAZING. You’ll be getting another head of celery soon, and enjoy this crop while it lasts as it’s a short season. The snap peas are nearly finished, but we will have enough so that you get one last taste. If you don’t want to snack on the pack, you can stir-fry it! I made a stir fry last week with these very veggies: sauteed ground pork from Luna Field Farm mixed with cooked Quinoa from Prairie Quinoa, mixed with veggies and served atop egg noodles (Rede-Made, the local Winkler-made ones that you can get at Co-Op, my fav!). Meals where I can look at the plate and identify all the producers are the best ones!
A disclaimer that we are preparing the snack packs in a clean home kitchen and not a commercial one. Thanks to the arrangement with the Veggie Lovers’ Club we are able to do this, but could not do these packs and sell them at the farmers’ market due to market regulations about commercial kitchens. When you trust and know your farmer, so much more is possible! I am expecting Andrea will have a large role in preparing the packs because she has kitchen and prepping experience, and is likely our best chopper! Her culinary arts diploma from George Brown adds so much to the farm– just the other day she introduced Sam to Leeks while they were harvesting, and Sam was so excited that she went home with 3 Leeks and our Potato Leek Soup recipe! Andrea is full of ideas and recipes, and so we often chat about what info I should share with the Veggie Lovers’ each week. We share a love of good food and I thoroughly enjoy introducing her to new veggies and learning more about preparations from her!
Storage Tips: Cut veggies should be consumed within 3-4 days, luckily these are totally ready to eat and so it shouldn’t be a problem!
That’s your bag for this week. Sunday mornings for me consist of multiple french press coffees while I write to you about all the lovely things you’re getting this week! It’s one of my favourite weekly tasks.
This afternoon, Jon and I are cleaning grain out of bins that we want to rent this fall, weeding garlic, drying herbs, harvesting sunflowers for cut flowers, attempting to deter whomever is eating our corn (likely raccoons, possibly deer), mowing the lawn, doing laundry, and getting caught up on housework. I am still away from home from dawn until at least 9 pm most nights, and so having Jon to support our household is critical for me. He works full time and comes home and works until dark every night looking after the crops he has at our place and keeping things running smoothly so I can work my hectic schedule and not have to worry. It’s his birthday on Tuesday, and though I try hard to appreciate him all the time, he’ll get his annual carrot cake and more appreciation than usual this week as he celebrates his 35th!
If you want to know more about Jon and I and our property, follow our blog at jonandteri.com or our Facebook feed: facebook.com/jonandteri
Have a great week and see you Wednesday!