Veggie Lovers’ Club Week 8

Welcome to Week 8, the mid-way point of the Veggie Lovers’ Club!

13615482_1191782290852731_4870555651036034772_nI’m going to share with you why we call it the Veggie Lovers’ Club and not a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.  The difference is minute and really only important to us!  For all intents and purposes, you are part of a CSA Program, which can be found world-wide.  CSA programs are an alternative marketing approach which work by connecting the farmer with the consumer and providing a predictable market (the CSA customers) and guaranteed income over the season.  It is usually mandatory to pay in advance of delivery, which provides the farmer with a cash injection at the leanest time of year (spring planting, when there are the most expenses and the least income).  The consumer also often takes on some risk associated with the program (for instance, if there were total crop failure, many CSAs stipulate that money paid is non-refundable as it has already been spent on growing the crops).

The reason we rarely/never refer to the Veggie Lovers’ Club as a CSA is because we don’t believe in our customers taking on the risk of farming, and we also don’t operate the business in a way that we rely on you to pre-pay in order for us to be able to afford to grow the crops.  I have seen many a CSA program wait until the next year’s pre-payments came in the mail in order to stay out of the BSP_kiddosred for the previous season.  Operating that way means you’ll always be a year behind until you can somehow get ahead, which can be nearly impossible with the tight margins in farming.  We’re not rolling in money by any means, Mom and I take very meager salaries in order to make sure we have enough to operate the business each year (if you add both of our salaries together they are comparable to one year-round lowly paid 40-hour/week job with no benefits).  We do lots of planning and projections and make purchase decisions very carefully, and leave room ($) in the business to expect the unexpected (this year we had to scramble to get a tractor when mine & Jon’s buildings burned down at our farm and we lost 2 tractors in the fire– it will be paid off over the next few years and means that meager farm salary will be supplemented by off-farm employment for a number of years to come).

As far as our customers taking on the risk of our growing: IMG_4294Heck no!  The only risk you take on is that we may have certain crops do better than others, so we make no guarantee that you will get carrots in case they don’t grow.  In the event of a single crop failure, we would substitute with other items, and in a partial loss (like this year’s hail storm), we will still deliver produce, though explain that it is not quite perfect but still totally delicious.  You’re our best customers and you understand in a different way than the average market customer, and we’re grateful for that!  In the event of a total crop failure or loss, we would return any money for undelivered produce and go find jobs!  You don’t buy a shirt, wait 6 months to get it and then the factory has a problem and you get nothing.  How outraged would you be if that happened??!

It’s one thing to suspend norms and push for alternatives that work better locally, it’s another thing to put all your trust in someone who is not deserving of it.  Just like every occupation, there are good farmers and there are bad farmers, and we don’t think you would ever have enough information as the consumer to be able to discern the difference – you don’t usually get to look into the accounting to see how things are run before signing up.  We take the trust you put in us very seriously, and are honored that you are willing to commit to buying veggies from us for 16 consecutive weeks. IMG_0583 Your commitment does not extend to supporting a poorly run business.  We think that is an unfair burden to put on the consumer, and one of the most important things to us at our farm is running a good business, one that is sustainable and can continue into the future.

So, endless thanks for your commitment to being a part of local agriculture and a program that makes it easier for us to deliver stunning local produce into your homes and your bellies.  This season has been a great success despite numerous hurdles that have come our way.  Knowing that you are a part of our farm makes us very, very proud, and able to continue to do what we love into the forseeable future.


**SPOILER ALERT** If you want to keep the contents a surprise, stop reading NOW!

In your Veggie Lovers’ Club Bag this week:

Specialty Beans (Filet and Dragon Tongue)
Pea Shoots
Slicing Cucumbers
Gold Beets

Teri’s musings, recipes, and more info about the veggies in your Veggie Lovers’ Club Bag this week:

That’s ED-A-MAM-EH, not “Ed-Ah-May” as half of our market customers call them!  These are immature soybeans, which are still green and in the pods.  They are absolutely DELICIOUS, and very simple to serve.  Steam or boil 6 – 8 minutes, salt, and serve.  You use your teeth to pull the beans from the fuzzy pods, and the beans are deliciously nutty and creamy.  Edamame is a popular appetizer in Japanese restaurants, where they tend to boil them in salted water rather than adding salt after.  Use the best sea salt you have on hand for the optimal result!

DSC01772If you have soy sensitivity: This is soy!!  This is where tofu comes from.  Once on a farm he worked on in BC, Jon made his own tofu.  I keep begging him to make some again.  We start with non-GMO seed, but as there is soybeans grown in the area we can’t guarantee that they don’t mingle with the large scale ones.  If you can’t have soy and want to substitute for something else this week, please talk to me at the pickup.

You can also remove the beans from the pods (shell them) and cook them separately, & add them into soups, stir-fries, or salads.  Make sure you cook them so they are heated through!  4 years ago in Nova Scotia, I picked some fresh shelling beans (Jacob’s Cattle – so, while the pods were green and the beans we formed but not fully mature or dried) and added them into a stuffed acorn squash I served for lunch.  The beans were warm, but not heated through, which I soon found out was a mistake.  That afternoon, everyone on the farm got a bellyache and vomited.  Uncooked shelling beans are poisonous!  So, if you are shelling the edamame, make sure to steam, boil, or stir-fry until they are fully cooked (6 – 8 minutes).

Blanched & bagged for the freezer, 2015

Storage Tips:  Edamame are fairly hardy, but for best flavour eat sooner rather than later.  Store in the fridge in the bag we send them in.  They will keep at least a week, but once they start to degrade (turn yellow or brown), they will go quickly.  You can also blanch and freeze Edamame for winter enjoyment.

We have had to hold (not sell any) Kale for 2 whole weeks in order to make sure you got some.  Last year we had some at both farms and so picked on alternate weeks which meant there was more kale around.  We neglected to think of that in our planning this winter and so we were a little short all summer until now when we’ve given our first planting some time to regrow and now our second planting is ready also.  Oh, the many things that can affect availability!

You can do so many things with kale: Add it to your smoothie, saute it, add it to stir-fries, steam it, and have it as a salad.

Fullscreen capture 2016-08-21 94905 AM

If you DO make a salad, I highly, strongly recommend you massage it first!  Otherwise you will feel like a rabbit, chewing and chewing and chewing something that doesn’t showcase the best of kale.  If you’ve had kale in the past and didn’t enjoy it, it may just be that you didn’t prepare it quite right.  The recipe on the right was instrumental in me learning to LOVE this healthy green.

Storage Tips: Kale needs to be stored completely covered in a plastic bag.  It will wilt very quickly when exposed to the dehydrating air inside your fridge.  You can also store it upright in a glass of water in the fridge, covered by a plastic bag.  Consume as soon as possible for maximum health benefit– after veggies are harvested, their nutrition degrades a little more each day, which is especially true of fresh greens.

Specialty Beans: Dragon Tongue AND French Filet

Last night’s supper!

We didn’t have enough to give you all the same type 2 weeks ago, so this is your chance to try the other type!   We have lots of beans right now and wanted to share them with you, as the season is so short.

Sick of beans?  You may be by now, and that’s okay.  If you simply blanch them (add to boiling water and bring it back to a boil, then dunk in an ice bath, put in a freezer bag [and you can take the extra step of letting them dry first so they are individually frozen]), I promise no matter how sick you are of beans, they will be a welcome sight in your freezer come winter!  Aunty Jayne freezes lots of beans for us for winter and they help cure the root vegetable blues: Potatoes and Carrots and Beets get dull eventually.

For more info about the two types of beans, please Click Here to review the info about them from the Week 6 posting.

Storage Tips: Store beans in the fridge in the bag they come in for up to 1 week.  We try to pick them with the top stem part attached, which keeps them fresher for longer.  If the bag is full of condensation, as it often is when they are transported, switch into a dry bag which will greatly extend the shelf life of your beans.  Discard any beans that show signs of brown rot (mushy) or mold due to being wet in the bag.  Rust, on the other hand, is not a big deal – brown spots on the beans that are superficial and not mushy.  It can happen from condensation or even from wind damage in the field.  We do not pick beans when the plants are wet in order to avoid excessive rust.

Pea Shoots!
Andrea tells me that Pea Shoots have finally hit all the culinary magazines and are becoming more widely known.  We already have a 4 year history with this crop.  Jon and I first learned about Pea Shoots from our friends David and Cindy at Pleasant Hill Farm near Caledonia, Nova Scotia.  They grew them in the winter so that they would have fresh greens at the Lunenburg Farmer’s Market year-round.  Our first year in Nova Scotia, Cindy and David became great mentors for us and taught us things like how to properly construct greenhouses, how to use fertigation, how to push tomatoes to be ready in June (it involves getting a lot less sleep in February than I’m willing to, stoking greenhouse fires all night and day!), and how to grow these delicious, healthful, and beautiful pea shoots.  They taught us a lot more than we learned on the farm we were working on, so we were grateful for their advice, teaching, and mentoring!

DSC01421After one season farming near David and Cindy, we moved to the Annapolis Valley to work on another farm.  It’s hard enough to find work on a farm, never mind a Certified Organic one, and year-round jobs are rare.  There was a spot for me, but in order for both of us to be hired on full-time beginning in December, Josh and Patricia at TapRoot Farms had to think creatively of how to use Jon on the farm.  Since we had seen the success of David and Cindy’s Pea Shoots on the South Shore, and only after checking with them first and determining that we were serving different markets, we suggested it as a way that Jon could add some winter variety and income to the farm.  He began growing about 100 lbs a week of these for the farm’s large CSA and sister farm’s winter markets.

Farmer Jon has a unique aptitude for growing pea shoots, and over the space of 4 years he has mostly “perfected” the art, which requires meticulous attention to detail and very consistent scheduling.  However, as he always says, “It’s easy until it’s not”, as there are many factors that can affect the process, and he’s experienced many of them and consulted with various experts to sort out issues.  To learn more about how they’re grown, read this historical blog post from an old blog that I kept while we were in NS.  Mom began growing them the second year we did, after visiting and learning more about the process over the phone.  They are now an integral part of our farm, and we supply them year-round!

Storage Tips: Pea shoots will keep for a long time in the fridge in the bag they come in – up to 3 weeks, but don’t wait that long to eat them!  Enjoy them raw as a snack, in stir-fries, or our favourite way: washed, chopped, and added on top of a hot bowl of soup!  We eat home made soup every day at lunch and usually have pea shoots on top.

Slicing Cucumbers!
Until now, you have received what we call “Salad Cucumbers”, larger pickling cukes that are our best selling cucumber.  The slicers take a bit longer to grow, but they have come on fast and furious!  We have lots, and so will share lots with you this week.

We have a few different varieties of slicers, some have thin skins, some have thicker ones (field cukes), and it seems that every person at the market has a different idea of what the best cucumber is in terms of type and size.  My personal favourite are the small thin-skinned Katrina that we grow in the tunnel.  They are prolific and were meant for our home consumption, but have been so productive they have been hitting the markets, too.  No matter what cucumber you get, they are all juicy and sweet and taste like summer.  If you didn’t try Andrea’s Creamy Cucumber Salad recipe last time, here’s the link.

Storage Tips: Store in the fridge in a plastic bag or container.  Sometimes I slice them up and store them in a bowl of vinegar in the fridge for an easy meal accompaniment.  Jon says that was his Dad’s go-to salad.  I never got to meet Jon’s parents as they passed away when he was young, but I always think of that as “Darryl’s Salad”.  He taught Jon how to dig clams and devour them raw on the beach, he grew a large garden for the family and was the catalyst of Jon’s passion for growing vegetables, so even though I never met him he touched my life through his son Jon.

Gold Beets!13669560_1206350652729228_1398535835329289551_n
Christine, who looks after the greenhouse when we are at market on Saturdays and helps out on harvest days, gave me a good line for explaining the gold beets: They are “sweeter and less earthy” than the red beets.  I only just discovered a love for beets this summer, when Lydia shared her salad: roast beets, mix with goat cheese and fresh dill, served atop greens with Lady of the Lake’s Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing.  It’s now a staple food in our house!

We never boil beets, because it makes a mess!  Roasting them brings out their sweetness and keeps your kitchen from looking like someone was murdered in it.  The gold beets bleed a lot less than the red ones, but are still most easily managed by sticking them (skins on) into a casserole dish with a lid and about an inch of water for 60 – 90 minutes, until they are cooked through.  Once they cool a bit, the skins just slide off, and then you can add them to salads, BBQ them a couple minutes to add a smoky flavour, serve them as a side dish or simply go wherever your creative cooking spirit takes you!

I use gold beets to dupe numerous people into eating borscht, or “vegetable soup”.  In my opinion, people who claim not to like certain vegetables just haven’t found the right recipe, the freshest produce, or the openness of mind required in order to like them!  Other than cases of allergy, I don’t accept “I don’t eat ___” as an excuse.  Like I said, I was not a beet lover (which in my case doesn’t mean I didn’t eat them, it just means I ate them grudgingly) until I discovered Lydia’s beet salad recipe.  Now I crave them: The power of farm fresh veggies and the right recipe!

Storage Tips: Beets will keep for a long time in your crisper, they are best stored away from the direct air of the fridge so a plastic bag or container may be necessary.  If your beets go rubbery like playdough, soak them in a sink of tepid water for a few hours, and then return to the fridge in a bag to crisp up.  Most times you can bring them back from the dead, but eat them soon after reviving them as they will not keep as long.  They require humidity to store properly, and so your fridge may dehydrate them– every crisper is different, mine has a humid side and a dry side.  Washed beets like these ones are not suitable for winter root storage, root veggies generally store best unwashed.  We will have large bags of unwashed beets available in fall for your winter storage.

That’s all for this week, we have 2400 heads of garlic to get out of the ground and I am hoping we will catch it in time!  Our harvest should have happened a week ago but we were busy taking down a greenhouse.  Not everything on the farm can always happen when the time is ideal, given all the other considerations and projects.

Mulching garlic that we planted last fall, which we are harvesting today!  That’s the mulch monster!

We are also in the process of rebuilding, putting up a pole shed so we have somewhere at least to store the tractor for winter snow-clearing.  Eventually we will add a veggie prep area & cooler and possibly a growing space.  My dad Paul has been busy all summer getting the fire damage cleaned up and is just completing a gravel pad for the new building today.  We have to upgrade the power to our farm in order to do this, as well as the power to the house so that we can get an electric furnace to replace the oil one.  This is a huge project and not what we planned to be doing this summer, but one thing that 2016 has taught me is that a farm is an ever-changing and evolving organism, and you can’t count on things staying the same or going smoothly as planned for very long at all!

This is all part of the larger picture of Brown Sugar Produce’s succession.  Eventually Mom will retire and the business will move to Jon and I.  We plan to work together in some capacity for the forseeable future, and so there will be lots of exciting changes in the coming years as we figure out the best way to continue.

Have a great week, see you Wednesday!

Teri 🙂

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