An Interns Perspective on the Farm...
I’m not one to use a lot of four letter words, but with Friday night’s blue moon and the faint cloud of my own breath visible in the air this morning, it seems like fall
is settling back in out here in the valley. Resistance to fall is futile. Luckily, as participants of agriculture, we know that fall is a time for celebrating and it should be welcomed back with wide open arms.
This fall is especially exciting to me as an intern out here at Oxbow, as it will be the first fall I have lived outside my motherland of Wisconsin. For the year and a half prior to my arrival in the Snoqualmie Valley, I was urban farming in Milwaukee. Though I did a little bit of everything from feeding goats and chickens to vermicomposting to delivering produce, I was primarily a hoop-house site manager at one of our 12 production spaces in the Milwaukee area. At the time, the site had 16 handmade hoophouses each with four raised beds of compost, in total about a mile’s worth of raised bed where we were growing lettuces, chard, tomatoes, kale, mustard greens, amaranth, okra, peppers, and a host of other vegetables depending on the season. It was an incredible experience, but after a year and a half in the big city I was ready for a return to rural life. In mid-April I hopped on the Empire Builder and came west.
Oxbow has been exactly the rural prescription that I needed. For many folks, working and living in the same place seems overwhelming, but for me it has been an awakening experience. My sense of hearing has heightened as I got to know the stillness and at times deafening quiet of the farm after dark. My sense of sight has been tuned to acknowledge the subtleties of crop progression such as the onset of true leaves or inflorescence drops and fruit sets. My nose can detect the release of corn pollen and catches the scent of blackberry wafting on warm afternoons. My hands are gaining experience in knowing soil conditions as they work furiously to transplant, weed or harvest. Finally, my sense of taste has been tantalized endlessly as vegetable varieties and combinations I’ve never met before make their way into my farm fresh meals and field snacks.
It has sincerely been a pleasure to have arrived and to be working on such a beautiful farm. From the mountain views down to the chard forests and beds of green beans Oxbow offers a plethora of stimulants for the senses. I can only imagine what this shift of seasons will bring onto the sensory radar. Many days pass too quickly, but as many of the farmers I have worked with have taught me, you can’t wish for longer days and extended summers. As a farmer you must adapt, regroup, keep an eye on the sky and a nose in the dirt and most of all, rest assured that whatever the weather or whatever the season, your to do list is always too long. Thankfully, we always have tomorrow, so take your time to enjoy today.
Written by 2012 intern Amy Wallner
Luke, Adam, Sarah, Megan, Yolanda, Tino, Valentin, Julio Cesar, Mariana, Mike, Alice, Bjorn, Siobhan, Amy, Nate, Linda, Dana, Sarah, Deb, Shira, Pearl, Sweet-Cheeked Emuna & soon-to-be Summersault!
The Skinny on your Veg
Tropea Onions aka "Cipolla Rossa di Tropea"
This lovely red onion is a variety from Calabria in southern Italy; they are sweeter and juicier than other red onions. The ones you are receiving this week are fresh onions and all parts can be eaten - bulb and greens. Because they are fresh onions, they don't have their thick cured skins that storage onions have. Store them in the fridge in a loose plastic bag, I like to wrap them with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture, which can make them spoil faster.
I love grilling these little beauties -- I trim off the top of the greens, leaving 3-4", drizzle them with a little olive oil and grill over medium heat for about 10 minutes, letting them get just a little charred. Or, for a little more work/reward, let them get good and charred all over, then peel off the outer charred layer and enjoy super sweet, smoky onions. Delicioso!
While some will tell you that these are a cross between an apple & a pear, they are not… They are a pear species native to China, Japan & Korea. Asian pears are crisp like an apple with a delicate, somewhat floral sweetness, like a pear. They are best eaten raw… as you put away your veggies. They also add lovely crunch & flavor to a simple green salad. Enjoy.
This Week's Recipes
QUICK REFRIGERATOR PICKLES
From my kitchen
This is a recipe I look to when I can no longer close my crisper drawers. I have pickled carrots, beets, onions, beans, fennel, garlic, lettuce, cabbage... The recipe below will give you the proportions for vinegar, sugar and salt – this is the basis of pickling. The flavors are determined by your whim, imagination, or simply what you have on hand.
Vegetable of choice
2 C white Vinegar
1 C Sugar
2 T kosher, canning or other non-iodized Salt
Spices and herbs, see note below
Prepare your veg and cut into the bite-sized pieces of your choosing. For carrots I like matchsticks; for beets I like thin half-moon slices, approx. 1/8”, or small wedges; for lettuce or cabbage separate each leaf. For most vegetables I don’t cook them in the brine – my rule of thumb is that if I’ll eat it raw I don’t bother cooking it.
Pack the vegetables and any additional flavorings (such as fresh herbs, onions, garlic or peppers) into a canning or other heat-proof jar. Bring the vinegar, sugar, salt and dried spices to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes to make sure the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour the vinegar mixture into your jar with vegetables. Cool, then refrigerate, and eat within two weeks for best flavor.
Note on spices, herbs & other flavorings:
I will use what I have on hand. For a basic savory pickle try mustard seed, coriander and dill (fresh dill is amazing)... this is great for carrots, fennel or green beans. Hot chili flakes or fresh jalapeño slices add great flavor and kick as well. For something a little sweeter try cloves, cinnamon and allspice - great for beets or fennel or onions. But, really there is no wrong flavor, so have fun experimenting!
Basic spice mixture:
CARROT-COCONUT MILK SOUP
From Urban Pantry by our good friend Amy Pennington
I typically have a back-log of carrots about this time in the season. This is a fabulous recipe for carrots that have spent a little too much time in your fridge, as the final soup is forgiving and will mask any woodiness or limpness the carrots might have taken on with age.
1 T Mustard seed
2 tsp black Peppercorns
2 tsp Coriander seeds
1/2 stick Cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp Allspice berries
2 T olive oil
1 medium shallot (about 1/2 C), sliced thin
2 hearty pinches of salt
4 carrots (peeled if they are dried out), roughly chopped
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
1 C water or vegetable or chicken stock
Salt & pepper
In a medium-sized saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. When heated, add the shallot and one pinch of salt, stirring until soft but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and stir occasionally, letting them sit still and brown a bit (the shallot will start caramelizing as well), about 8-10 minutes. Pour in the coconut mild and water or stock and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the carrots are soft and cooked through, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat.
Carefully add the soup, in batches, to a blender (remember to leave room in the blender as liquids expand when heated). Puree until smooth, adding a bit of water if you’d like a thinner consistency. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Garnish with a spoonful of yogurt, fi desired and serve immediately.
Pantry notes: Add new flavor components to this soup by trying out different spices. A few shakes of curry, some fennel and nutmeg, or a little cinnamon and fresh ginger work very well! Left over soup can be frozen in an airtight container and kept for 4-6 months. Leftovers may also be used as a “sauce” base w/ sautéed scallops or fish. Simply cook down and reduce until thick and serve under fish that have been simply seared or grilled. Yum!
Adapted from the Winter Harvest Cookbook by Lane Morgan
1 bu Swiss chard
2 cloves garlic
1/4 C olive oil
1 T lemon or lime juice
3 T soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
Chop greens roughly. Cut stems into bit-sized pieces. Heat oil in a large skillet, add garlic, and sauté until it turns golden. Add greens, sauté briefly, and then add lemon or lime juice, soy sauce and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add pepper and serve immediately.