Monday, October 19, 2009

3rd Week of October

Notes from Your Farm
It is a chilly harvest today, as it becomes evident that winter is not far away. Signs of the season are all around, with a lot of corn fields being harvested this week around the county. Frost was predicted for Tuesday night, so we harvested all of the sweet peppers and eggplants that were mature. Oddly enough we didn't get frost. As it gets good and cold, we are getting into some of the final crops of the season. New crops that we are harvesting include daikon and parsnips. Parsnips look like big white carrots, and are related to carrots, but have an enjoyable flavor all their own. They are used in cooking and have a nice starchy texture that is excellent roasted or added to soups and stews. Parsnips complement other root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and turnips. We found an early bird cauliflower this week, a harbinger of the cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts that are yet to come. We seeded a lot of the empty field areas to oats and triticale yesterday to give them a winter coat until next season, and there are few things more glorious to a farmer than rain falling on just planted fields.

The final harvest will be on Nov 12, 13 & 14--self harvest opportunities will follow for those of you who wish to glean the fields for remaining crops.

Fall Fun with Plants (avoiding the dark days blahs)
Seeds and planting them have universal appeal and are a great activity for children or grownup in the fall and winter. Here are some ideas for some unusual houseplants to start from things that you find at the grocery store:

Mango: carefully cut just the edge of the big flat husk open and pull out the large lima bean-like seed out. It should look tan and plump, and not black. If tan, bury one inch deep in a small pot of potting soil and keep moist but not soggy. Mangoes like warm sunny locations above 60 degrees.
Pineapple: cut the top off of your pineapple leaving about one inch of a fruit "shoulder" on it. Bury the "shoulder" up to the base of the green spiky top in potting soil and water well but allow to dry a bit between watering.
Citrus: plant the seeds in potting soil, water and keep moist, not wet, until they germinate. Seedling citrus may take many years to bear fruit, like 15 years! If you want a bearing citrus tree, check out for grafted plants that will bear immediately.
Avocado: despite complicated instructions that are passed around for avocado, I've had success with simply burying the unadulterated seed in potting soil and keeping moist, not wet.

About Daikon
It’s not quite a parsnip nor a great white carrot, but the daikon is a mild-flavored radish that wintertime locavores are probably quite familiar with. High in fiber, vitamin C, digestive enzymes and magnesium, daikon’s not a bad addition to your wintertime meals. The name daikon comes from a Japanese word simply meaning “great” or “large root,” and some varieties grow up to 3 feet long!

Although daikon is best known as a root crop, the leaves are also delicious and contain more nutrients per serving than the root. You’ll find twice as much potassium and 10 times as much calcium in the leaves, as well as folic acid and vitamin K. So shop for the freshest daikon you can find and use every part of it.

Common in Asian cuisine, daikon root makes a great addition to soups and veggie broth, and can also be grated into salads. The highly nutritious leaves also make a great soup or salad green.
You may have also come across pickled daikon in your Asian food ventures, and you’ll be delighted to know you can make your own daikon pickles with this easy, overnight recipe. If you enjoy making your own sauerkraut, daikon is a great veggie for it. Although daikon is most heavily consumed in Japan (the majority of Japan’s cultivated land is used to grow this veggie), it actually originated in the Mediterranean and arrived in Japan by way of China a few thousand years ago. And for those of you who like to indulge in sake, take note: a cupful of grated daikon is said to be a great hangover remedy.

If daikon isn’t part of your regular diet, make it so! Low in calories and rich in nutrients, it’s such a versatile veggie and you might as well give it a try.
Pick Your Own Field Highlights
Most of the crops are finished in the PYO field, but there are a few survivors out there:
  • Hot Peppers: signs are posted in the row
  • Black-eyed Susan flowers: these are beautiful in the kitchen or elsewhere
  • Cut flowers: snapdragons, celosia
  • Edible flowers: Nasturtiums are still going strong

About Some of the Characters

  • Parsnip: roast with other root vegetables, add to stews and soups, beef stew etc.
  • Collards: a nutritional phytonutrient powerhouse and loaded with calcium. De-stem, chop and sauté with oil and garlic and serve as a side and see recipe below.
  • Arugula: a nutty, sort of spicy green--great addition to any salad and see Arugula Pesto recipe below
  • Asian and Italian type eggplants: going, going, soon to be gone, the slender Japanese type eggplants are said to be sweeter and milder than the classic Italian types. Coating slices with oil and soy sauce and grilling them is quick and delicious.
  • Bell Peppers: soon to be gone, these are the most nutritious when raw, and the long Carmen variety is the new favorite here
  • Greens: discard the stems or ribs, and use the leaves sautéed with olive oil, garlic, onion, soy sauce etc.

Roasted Parsnips and carrots with Thyme

3 parsnips, peeled
1/2 lb baby carrots
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1-2 Tbsp fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar to the pan. Stir to combine just until sugar melts. Remove from heat.

Quarter the peeled parsnips lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces, roughly the size of the carrots. Place the carrots and parsnips on a baking sheet and drizzle with the buttery glaze. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss the vegetables until evenly coated with the butter.
Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the thyme over the vegetables, stir to combine, and return them to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. The parsnips should be caramelized and tender. Serve warm.

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