September 6, 2008

Week 53

Welcome to the 1st annual STATE OF THE HARVEST newsletter. This week marks the start of our second year of this incredible adventure and the big story is YOU our co-producers who have invested not only your grocery money, but rearranged your weekly schedules to support this dream we’re pursuing together. We call you co-producers because that’s what you are. You’ve partnered with our merry little band of Organic farmers in an interdependent quest to change the way food is produced and distributed. All we can say is THANK YOU!!!
Some brief HISTORY. We started talking seriously and specifically about 26 months ago. We wrote the first check to the web guys 20 months ago. Kathy joined our team 14 months ago which really confirmed this was supposed to happen. 1 year ago, about 50 families stuck their necks out and subscribed sight unseen. We delivered to Kingsburg, Bakersfield and Tehachapi, and made some great new friends. 7 months ago we ceased hemorrhaging financially! Today there are over 1300 co-producers investing in their families’ health, our communities’ health, and the earth’s health in this most tasteful endeavor. From here it’s somewhat surreal that so many would grab on. We’ve really never had numeric goals, we just all want to do a great job each week and not let you guys down ever, but sometimes we do and it’s kinda like a kid being sent to the garden and not coming back with what mom wanted. Your overwhelming appreciation of what does come from the garden most of the time is so gratifying to all of our farmers that we want to always do even better next week.
MOTIVATION Why are we doing this anyway? Lot’s of reasons really.
1) All I was hearing was “I really want to eat Organic, but it costs too much, and the qualitie’s not too good.”
2) My neighbors were going broke one by one producing the very stuff consumers really wanted. **neither group was being served by the existing system. **
We’re here today as a result of asking “What would a system look like if it really valued both families equally?” “What’s essential to delivering it fresh, safe & efficient?” and then ruthlessly eliminating everything else.
FUTURE. One of the essential things is connectedness between the farm & co-producers & back. Videos help but farm tours I think will be key as we move forward. I have no idea how to do that but to try, fail, correct and try again. (Kinda like everything else.)
People, we’ve GOT to start eating grass finished, pastured everything. I mean beef, eggs, milk… It’s just got to happen. I’ve got to figure out how to get it to you affordably, it’s gonna cost more, but less when you factor in the doctor bills. More later, but this just has to happen for the sake of everything right and so, its going to be a high priority. You’ll see new products every few months this year as we can convince and recruit ranchers to participate. I know your family’s going to be healthier and that’s the whole deal.
The main point here is our gratitude to each one of you, our co-producers for joining, encouraging, supporting, promoting and enjoying the dream.

We have a vegetable this week that we know will be new to some of you and a long time favorite of others. It is okra, a vegetable that is at its prime during the hot summer months. Okra is said to have originated in regions of Africa. It made its journey to other parts of the world, during the 17th, 18th and 19th century. It is particularly popular in the south and is the key ingredient in gumbo.
When described by some the flavor of okra is compared to being between that of asparagus and eggplant. Others say that you cannot make a comparison. They characterize okra, when cooked, as having a delicate flavor with seeds that add a delightful quality with a soft unusual texture all its own.
The okra pods are ribbed inside and are filled with edible seeds. They also contain a gummy liquid that works as a thickener in many recipes including soups and gumbo. Keeping okra whole when you cook it will keep this liquid from oozing out.
Okra can be served raw, marinated in salads, or cooked. Okra goes well with tomatoes, corn, eggplant, peppers and onion. Whole pods also make excellent pickles. Fried okra is a staple of southern cooking.
Okra is an excellent source of fiber, protein, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, C and folate. It also provides potassium and calcium. Fresh okra should be stored in the refrigerator either in a paper bag or wrapped in a paper towel in a perforated bag. If stored longer than 2-3 days okra will start to lose its freshness, flavor and nutrients. Cooked okra can be stored tightly covered in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
When you are ready to use your okra it should be washed under cold running water and if it is fuzzy the fuzz can be removed with a paper towel. After it has been washed pat it dry. If you are going to cook them whole this is all of the preparation required. You may slice off the stem end, or remove the cap if you prefer but don’t break the surface of the okra.
If you are going to use the okra sliced, cut off the stem end and slice crosswise to your desired length. If you are going to fry them toss them in cornmeal, if you want to add them to a salad try marinating them with onion, garlic, and tomato in your favorite vinaigrette salad dressing. Add them to your favorite soup and take advantage of their natural thickening ability. Combine them in your stew with your other vegetables
To freeze okra for future use blanch the whole okra pods for 2 minutes and then package for freezing. Prepared this way okra can be kept in the freezer for up to 12 months.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-October Sun Plums
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Sweet Corn
Don Warkentine, Kingsburg
-Clip Top Carrots
-Green Onion
-Romaine Lettuce*
-Italian Parsley
California Organic, Lamont
-Red Leaf Lettuce
-Crookneck Squash
T & D Willey, Madera
Family Farm Organics, Madera
-Acorn Squash*
Ginger Balakian, Reedley
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

Shallots look like onions but have bulbs like garlic. They should be stored at room temperature away from heat sources like the stove. They should last several weeks if stored in this manner.

2 Tbsp oil 2 chopped onions
2 crushed cloves peeled garlic 3 tsp grated or finely minced fresh ginger
½ tsp chili powder ½ tsp ground turmeric
1 ½ tsp ground coriander 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
4 peeled, seeded, & chopped fresh 1 pound fresh okra, ends trimmed*
tomatoes Chopped fresh cilantro or mint for garnish

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the chopped onions. Cook over medium/high heat, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Toss in the crushed garlic and ginger and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring. Add the chili powder, turmeric, coriander, cumin and tomatoes, stir together and then add okra. Season to taste with salt and cover. Cook over gentle low heat for about 20 minutes. Uncover periodically and stir. Add a little water if it is sticking to pan. Check seasoning and serve warm with cilantro or mint sprinkled on top.
*Just cut the ends & keep okra whole. Cutting pods will make the okra ooze.Compliments of Chef Deb from A Cook’s Bible Seasonal Table, 2007

1/3 cup olive oil 1 tsp pomegranate juice
½ lb Okra, ½ inch slices ½ tsp honey
½ small onion, finely sliced 2 Tbsp lemon juice
10 cloves garlic, peeled 4 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped 2 Tbsp water

Heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat until smoking. Make sure the okra is patted dry before adding to hot oil. Cook until okra is golden crispy on all sides, 3-4 min. Remove okra with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Reduce heat to medium. In the same oil cook onion and 7-8 cloves garlic until soft, 8-10 min, stirring. Stir in cooked okra, tomatoes, both juices, honey and a bit of salt. Cook covered, until at a hard boil, 8-10 min. Meanwhile, in a mortar or food processor combine remaining garlic, cilantro and 1 tsp salt to form a pesto. Stir this into the okra with the water, reduce heat to low and simmer, without stirring until mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Serve at room temperature with couscous.
Compliments of Denesse Willey adapted from Clifford A. Wright’s Mediterranean Vegetables

September 4, 2008

Week 52

******* Happy Birthday Abundant Harvest Organics! ******

This is the intuitive response of Americans to whatever the food scare du jour happens to be. Look at what we’ve heard just this summer. “Tomatoes are killing people,” “Tomatoes with the green calyx attached are okay but watch out for the regular ones,” “It’s probably just tomatoes from Mexico.” “It’s Peppers.” The public is confused and scared, yet not protected. When any commodity is mentioned, that industry is killed for at least the rest of the season. All the expense of producing that crop is lost. The families counting on harvesting those crops have to look for another job, yet a definitive source of the contamination just can’t seem to be identified. It’s like hunting with Dick Cheney, you just don’t know if your product is going to be next.
Every box of produce is labeled as to the producer and 99 out of 100 are labeled as to the exact field they came from so as to isolate the source, but it’s all for naught if that source can’t be isolated. In addition to our extensive daily sanitation, Lydia spends half her time filling out logs showing we did the sanitation. That same level of protection & paperwork is extending to the field, even though there’s never been a reported case of food bourn illness from stone fruit or table grapes.
Retailers are using these mountains of paperwork to build protection around themselves, yet doing nothing to address their own responsibilities. How about sneeze guards over the tomato display? How about consumers sanitizing their hands before they sort through the tomatoes?
FDA has the authority to yell fire in a crowded theater, but not the responsibility for all the people that get trampled.
Okay, so what’s a responsible consumer to do? I think like usual, it’s just common sense.
1) Processed produce (bagged salad, peeled, sliced etc.) accounts for some 97% of the reported problem, and for good reason. The exterior cell walls of whole produce protect them naturally from pathogenic invaders. When these are removed or violated, that protection is lost. The bagged salads are washed with chlorinated recycled water and sometimes the load is just too much for their chlorine.
2) If you buy your produce from a place where the public is allowed to handle it, it would be prudent to wash it before you serve it.
3) Know what country your produce came from. That wouldn’t have been an issue 20 years ago, because we fed ourselves and a good chunk of the world. We’re now a net food importing country and most of what we’re importing is fresh produce due to our significant labor cost and availability disadvantage. I don’t think it’s biased to say that U.S. farmers do a cleaner job.
4) Your gut instinct that Organic is safer is generally correct. Organic nutrition means stronger cell walls. The Organic certification process has a mandatory food safety component that isn’t always there conventionally.
5) Know your farmer’s heart.
6) Enjoy life with your family and be thankful. There’s just so many other things that are way more important. EAT HEALTHY!!!

Do you have a favorite recipe that, at times, you think you would like to give just a little extra boost? Have you ever thought about changing the herbs called for in the recipe, or even being so daring as to use a combination of herbs or “herb bouquet”? The French are known for cooking with a blend of herbs. The herbs you use in a dish will give it a subtle but distinct flavor. The key is to find the right combination so that one particular herb isn’t so dominant that the flavors of the others don’t come through.
We hope that one of the things you enjoy about Abundant Harvest Organics is the opportunity to try new things in new ways. In your box today is a combination of several herbs giving you just such a chance.
Whether you select certain herbs and bundled them together using a piece of cooking string, add them while you are cooking and remove them before serving, or mince them and use them in recipes we hope you will try something new.
Herbs are divided into groups of either mild or robust. The mild herbs are basil, bay leaf, dill, and marjoram. These herbs become milder when cooked and go well with other herbs. The robust herbs include rosemary, garlic, oregano, tarragon, thyme, sorrel, and sage. These herbs can be combined with mild herbs and are often used for braised, grilled, or roasted meats. They are also a tasty addition to soups and stews. Because herbs add flavor to your food they are great for helping cut back on salt, sugar and fat.
When using fresh herbs a general rule of thumb is to use 3 times as much as you would of a dried herb. Add fresh herbs at the end of the cooking process. Add the delicate herbs like basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley, marjoram and mint just a minute or two before cooking is finished, or sprinkle them on the cooked food. With the heartier herbs like dill seed, oregano, rosemary, tarragon and thyme, add them the last 20 minutes of cooking time.
Store fresh herbs in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and wash them only when you are ready to use them. You may also trim the ends of the stems diagonally and put them in a glass with about an inch of water, cover them loosely and put them in the refrigerator. Change the water daily and this may keep them fresh longer.
Different combinations of fresh herbs make wonderful flavored oil or vinegar. If you have more herbs than you can eat try using them throughout your house with other flowers and enjoy the aroma.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Flame Grapes
Bob & Mona Warren, Kingsburg
-Herb Bouquet
-Arugula & Sorrel*
-Daikon Radishes
-Cherry Tomatoes#
-Italian Frying Peppers
Kyle & Michele Reynolds,
-Green Onions*
-Clip Top Carrots*
California Organic, Lamont
-Yukon Gold Potatoes
-Crookneck Squash
-Slicing Tomatoes
-Cherry Tomatoes*
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
#Denotes Small Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

Daikon is a large white Asian radish that can be eaten both raw and cooked. This radish will combine beautifully with other root vegetables like carrots, beets, celery root and green onions. Julienne a combination of these vegetables, add dressing and serve as a new and different salad.

Gingered Vegetable Stir-Fry Serves 6
3 Tbsp chicken broth
2 Tbsp rice wine or medium-dry Sherry
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
¼ pound fresh shitake mushrooms, no stems, sliced 1/8” thick
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
½ pound carrots cut into julienne strips
½ pound daikon radish, cut into julienne strips (about 2 cups)
½ pound Napa cabbage, sliced thin (about 4 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, minced2 tsp minced peeled fresh gingerroot
In a bowl stir together broth, rice wine or Sherry, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until combined well. Set aside

Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat until hot. Add oil and heat until it just begins to smoke. Stir-fry carrots for about 3 minutes. Add daikon radish and stir-fry an additional 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, cabbage, garlic and gingerroot and stir fry for about 2 more minutes or until carrots are crisp tender. Stir broth mixture and add to the vegetables. Stir-fry for 1 minute.

August 27, 2008

Week 51

We’ve got a family of Canadian geese that have decided they like our farm in the summer. There are about 18 of ‘em and they spend the night down here on the river, then fly a quarter mile up to the pasture where they graze with the cows and goats for a couple hours every morning. They fly off somewhere else during the day, but come honking back home every evening towards dusk. Canadian geese around here at least is a recent development of the last say 15 years in the winter, but now in the summer as well? I am hoping some of you could write & get me up to speed about what’s up.
Regardless, it’s sure cool to see ‘em coming through in their Vee, honking encouragement, or grazing together with always a few sentries keeping watch. It makes me contemplate the unforced rhythm and simplicity and order of their community and ask the question, “Who’s the bird brain here anyway?” You guys probably have life wired, but around here, we’ve got crews spread all over Christmas from March through January and February’s spent nursing blooms and bees through the rain. Chickens run year round and now we’ve started this year round subscription box of Organic produce you might have heard about.
The enemy of the best is the good and our life is really all about constantly identifying the best so we can ruthlessly say no to the good. It’s easier said than done because the good is so good. It’s just not the best.
And then there’s the tyranny of the urgent. Eisenhower said “The urgent is seldom important, and the important is seldom urgent” and he planned D day. Wow how my life gets run by the urgent and usually it’s somebody else’s urgent! Yet, we’ve got to have a servant’s heart…
While I don’t yet understand what Canadian geese are doing in Kingsburg in August, I do understand brown orbed spiders. These beautiful guys have a body the size of a dime or so and spin the most perfect Charlotte’s web type web you ever saw often spanning 10 feet between rows and a really powerful web at that. They are really the canary in the coal mine around here. They’re prolific in the Organic orchards and vineyards that I walk and nonexistent in the conventional. I don’t know how many bugs these guys must eat to get that big, but they’re sure impressive.
Another critter that’s made a huge comeback around here is the quail. There are literally dozens on every 10 acre Organic block because we’ve got cover (weeds) for ‘em to hide from predators. You just don’t see quail in a conventional field.
Lastly, the song birds. All of our farming is Organic, but half the fruit we pack for our neighbors is conventional. (A chunk of the Organic is packed as conventional as well just because despite all the hype, the market isn’t there yet, but that’s another newsletter) When I walk the conventional fields in the morning, it’s just business. How many, how big, when? Same job in the organic patches, but what a sensory explosion. First you’ve got crickets exulting in the dew of the new day. Songbirds exulting in their good fortune of either all of my fruit they want to eat, or all the crickets, and I can’t help but just stop and thankfully marvel. EAT HEALTHY

You see the term “seasonal” a lot on our website and in this newsletter. Some of you have asked what that means. First what is “seasonal” at any given time is related to where in the state, country, or world you live. Even in the state of California you will find various crops available at different times of the year, depending on location. The seasons for a crop are very much dictated by the climate and temperatures in an area. If you live in Southern California you may see produce available at a farmer’s market that is not available in Central or Northern California at that time of year.
Because of global trade the average shopper has become much less aware of what is actually in season in their area of the world. Almost any day of the year you can walk into a supermarket and purchase melon, tomatoes, and numerous green vegetables. We become so accustom to having almost everything available all year long that some of the anticipation of our “seasonal” favorites is gone.
When you eat “seasonally”, or with the harvest, you are eating and enjoying the produce that is being harvested locally throughout the year. How much better to anticipate and savor the taste of those grapes that are your summer time favorite when they are locally in season than to have them available all year, and become bored with them. They won’t have been picked two weeks ago and shipped thousands of miles either. The Abundant Harvest standard for local is the Central Valley of California. There may be times, during the winter months, that we will reach out as far as the Coachella Valley in order to provide variety.
There is not room in this issue of the newsletter to address all of the fruits and vegetables, or even all of the seasons but we will try to do so as we move from season to season. Right now the tree fruit is winding down and the grape harvest has begun. You will not notice much change in the vegetables until we are into the cooler months and then there should be some old favorites like green beans, broccoli and cauliflower coming along.
Every season is an adventure and every year the adventure can change because we cannot control the wind, the rain, the heat, or the cold. All of which have a hand in determining how well a particular crop, that the farmer has invested not only money, but hours and days and months into, will develop. The availability of a crop can change in a matter of hours that is why we let you know that the contents of your box may change up until the day it is packed.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Sweet Corn
Don Warkentine, Kingsburg
-Clip Top Carrots
California Organic, Lamont
-Hot Chilis
-Summer Squash*
-Mixed Cherry Tomatoes
-Red Onion*
Michele Reynolds, Kingsburg
-Red Leaf Lettuce*
-Yukon Gold Potatoes
-Crookneck Squash
T & D Willey, Madera
* Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

What makes a chili hot is the capsaicin found in the ribs. To make a chili less hot remove the seeds and ribs, but it is suggested you wear gloves when doing so. If you eat a chili that is too hot don’t drink water that will only make it worse. Try drinking milk or eating some bread.

Savory Squash Casserole
4-5 summer squash 2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup evaporated milk 1/3 cup crumbled soda crackers
1 medium onion, chopped 2 Tbsp diced pepper, any color
½ cup grated cheddar cheese 1 tsp salt
1 hot chili pepper, diced or halved

Wash and slice squash. Cook covered until tender with not too much water. Drain and mash. Mix with other ingredients. Pour into a greased casserole. Bake at 350º for 25 minutes. Serves 8-10

Summer Squash Bread
3 eggs 1 cup oil
2 cups sugar 2 cups grated squash
3 tsp vanilla 1 cup chopped nuts
2 cups flour ¼ tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda 1 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
Beat eggs, oil, sugar, and squash. Sift dry ingredients and add. Add vanilla and nuts. Bake at 350º for 50-60 minutes in two small loaf pans or one large loaf pan. Freezes well.

Hint: Chop or dice your vegetables and herbs and store them in separate containers or bags in the refrigerator. They will be ready to use in stir-fry, salad, or to make a hearty omelet with fried potatoes.

August 17, 2008

Week 50

One of my favorite publications is “The Stockman Grass Farmer”
It’s a little, homey newspaper that comes once a month with the purpose of sharing proven perspectives on raising and finishing livestock using only the grass from your own ranch. It comes with financial and marketing advice for cattlemen and while much of it is livestock specific, a lot is applicable to what we’re doing and would like to do.
As an example, we’re working hard to offer you Organically produced, grass finished beef that’s consistently enjoyable and affordable. Right now, you’re enjoying fresh Organically produced chicken and eggs that have the advantage of healthier birds without the antibiotics. I’d love to figure out how to offer pastured poultry & eggs with all the balanced nutrition that would bring you, but we’ve proven with our offering of the Heritage chicken, that regardless of the ideology, if it’s not affordable, even within this sophisticated clientele, it’s not going to sell. How do we bring efficiency of production, processing and distribution to a product that by nature, (now there’s a play on words) isn’t efficient? These are the sorts of challenges I enjoy putting my mind and experience to and the “Grass Farmer” helps encourage the process.
One of the regular contributors over the years has been Joel Salatin, a fellow who’s reached some notoriety recently by being profiled in “Omnivore’s Dilemma” as well as “Crunchy Con” as a man who’s taking on the above challenge successfully. The way he’s doing it with his pastured poultry however is by using conventional feed in addition to what the birds get out of the pasture. He cuts his grain bill in half, which makes his pastured product as affordable as organic. More nutritious pasture, less nutritious conventional grain, affordable, and just another real world example of the challenges of this whole thing. Joel is going to be speaking 9/01 from 2-4pm in Turlock. Just this week, I came within inches of offering you all grass finished beef from a rancher who does a good job EXCEPT : when he needs to he uses antibiotics, and he uses Ivomek to worm ‘em and when the flies get bad he nukes ‘em with pesticides and yeah, it’s grass finished & good and affordable with the omega 3 & 6 ratios right, but how can we put our name on that?
This is real life application here folks. You guys know who your farmers are. You can see the integrity by name and it’s not just a bar code on the bottom of a clam shell. It’s real folks, waging real cultural battle on your behalf with real world ethical decisions to be made everyday while still being held accountable by the bottom line! Okay Vernon, calm down now.
Hey, Shukhrat’s jumped right in here & put the first videos up. Just click the video button and you can see what’s going on over here. I think you’re going to dig it and our hope is to further close the gap of connectedness between our farms and you all. That coupled with chef Deb (who’ll be videoed also) is making August an incredible month,

Even if you have seen the recent Disney film you may not know that ratatouille is a popular dish that originated in the Provence area of France. It was a dish commonly prepared during the summer months using the variety of fresh summer vegetables that are available.
Ratatouille may be served as a side dish, or as a main meal accompanied, perhaps, by rice. There are as many variations to ratatouille as there are cooks who prepare it. No matter the cook you will find that the key ingredients are tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers and herbs. The debate usually revolves around how the ingredients are prepared and assembled. You will find chefs who will serve the ratatouille, after being simmered in the pot, as described in today’s recipe. Others will make a sauce of the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and bell pepper and layer it in a casserole with the eggplant and zucchini, then warming it in the oven.
However you cook it ratatouille is one of those dishes that the flavor increases after the first day. If you allow the liquid to reduce, ratatouille is a delicious filling for omelets and crepes. Try it at room temperature, or cold, with toasted baguette or sliced French bread.
If your eggplant is large be sure you peel it, slice it, and sprinkle it generously with salt. Let it sit for about an hour and then rinse it well in cold water and squeeze it dry. Pat dry with paper towels and then prepare as directed in your recipe. The salt helps pull out moisture and bitterness.

This week we bring you another variety of grapes from Bob and Mona Warren. This variety of grape was developed in California and is the result of a cross between the ever popular Thompson and other grape varieties. Flames, in addition to the Thompson, have become one of the most popular varieties. They are seedless, crunchy and have a sweet-tart flavor.
One acre of Bob and Mona’s land is devoted to several varieties of grapes including the Summer Royal variety you got last week and this week’s flames.
This year’s flames aren’t coloring well but the crunch and sweetness are definitely there and we know you are going to enjoy them.
In a couple of weeks, as the grape harvest picks up, we will be making grapes available as an add-on. The grape harvest goes into the fall months and will include several different varieties.
Keep your grapes unwashed in a plastic bag in your refrigerator. When you are ready to use them just rinse in cold water and serve them, or add them to recipes.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Flame Grapes
Bob & Mona Warren, Kingsburg
Family Farm Organics, Madera
-Red Bell Peppers
Troy Huckabay, Kingsburg
-Clip Top Carrots
-Italian Parsley*
California Organic, Lamont
-Juliet Tomatoes
-Torpedo Onion
Michele Reynolds, Kingsburg
-Yellow Spanish Pepper
-Roma Tomatoes
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

By now you have seen the new, sturdier, small box. Yes, they do fold. On the ends of the box you will see “PUSH”. The end panels push in and then the box collapses.

Ratatouille 3-4 Servings Recipe courtesy of Craig Claiborne
1/3 cup olive oil
2 or more garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
2 cups (1 large) sliced onions
3 cups (2 medium) sliced zucchini
4 cups (1 small) cubed, peeled eggplant
2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips *any peppers will do fine
1 ½ cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Optional: 1 tablespoon capers
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet, add the garlic and onions and sauté until the onions are transparent. Meanwhile, slice the squash and peel and cube the eggplant. Add squash, eggplant and peppers to the skillet, cover and cook slowly about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and capers and simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold.
Note: Eggplant may be grilled. If eggplant is large it should be salted, rinsed and then squeezed dry.

Red Pepper Salsa
2 red bell peppers, sliced 1 medium cucumber, chopped
2 small onions or 1 large, chopped 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 small hot pepper, minced
Mix together and chill allowing flavors to blend

August 9, 2008

Week 49

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I believe that’s a general Patton quote but it’s really true which ever general said it. Our stone fruit harvest of course is seasonal so we have the “it’s harvest season” mentality which is; whatever it takes, as long as it takes, we’ve got to get it done because if we don’t, the work that was done all year to prepare for today’s harvest will be lost and that’s just unacceptable whatever your position on the team. My cell message is “tell me what you need, team Peterson will get it done.”
If you’re a harvester in the field and it’s 105 degrees, you’ve been going since 5:30 AM and your crew’s still 45 minutes from the end of the row, you pound some more water, pour some down your neck and you get the job done because otherwise, that fruit will be lost.
If you’re a shed worker who started at 8:00 AM and it’s now 11:00 PM, you just work harder so you can get done, get some sleep and do it again tomorrow. Regardless your position, from irrigators and harvesters, right on through to cold storage shippers and marketing staff, we all just get it done. Our industry is full of the finest people you’ll ever meet who face inevitable difficulty with admirable resolve and ingenuity:
I’m fond of saying May through July, “there’s no whining until August” because come August, everybody just lacks the psychic energy to deal with other than routine challenges. You can put it on the calendar, and circle August 1st and there will be a mass choir of whining that somehow would be humorous if these weren’t your comrades in arms who’ve suffered the slings and arrows right along with you 18+ hours a day for the last 90 days, and there’s still another 90 to go if you count grapes. Mercifully, the intensity drops way off mid August and everybody somehow recovers and forgets and does it again next year “a little bit louder, a little bit worse” One definition of insanity is “to keep doing what you’ve been doing, the way you’ve been doing it and expecting the outcome to be different.” Another good piece of advice is to never make major decisions at a low psychic level. Therefore, the best thing for any of us to do when we’re in the midst of a crisis is to just pound some water, pour some down our necks and get to the end of the row, then meet in November and decide what changes need to be made so we don’t get in this mess again next year.

Announcing the addition of Chef Deb to team Abundant Harvest. Chef Deb is passionate about seasonal cooking and sharing that passion with you all. She will be accompanying the delivery truck and putting on the Chef Deb show during the regular pick-up time. She will be teaching us how to prepare the less familiar (What do I do with thiiis?) seasonal goodies that come along with a sparkle and verve you’re just going to love. Our hope is that we can get her or someone to each delivery site about once a month and thus add to our horizons her joy of seasonal cooking. EAT HEALTHY!

If your tomato knowledge is limited to what you see at the market you may not realize that there are over 1,000 different varieties of tomatoes. These varieties vary in shape, size and color. There are tomatoes that are red, yellow, orange, green, purple or brown. They can be very tiny or quite large, and have very different tastes.
Nothing says summer like vine ripened tomatoes. Although with today’s growing practices, and the import of vegetables from other countries, you can get tomatoes all year long the very best are the fresh summer tomatoes that are available from July to September.
By definition a tomato is a fruit. Rather than the sweetness found in what we commonly refer to as fruit tomatoes have a subtle sweetness, and have become more familiar as a vegetable ingredient in recipes and salads. The tomato has become one of the top selling “vegetables” in this country. Although tomatoes are native to South America and were first cultivated in Mexico, it was centuries before it became an acceptable food product in this country. If you have ever smelled the strong odor of the leaves and stems of the tomato plant, you may be able to understand why all parts of the plant were first considered to be poisonous. Tomatoes were originally grown only as an ornamental garden plant. With time it was discovered that the leaves of the tomato plant contain toxic alkaloids but not the fruit. The Italians are said to be the first to grow and eat the tomato in about 1550. The first records of tomato production in this country indicate that in 1781 a “progressive” Virginia farmer by the name of Thomas Jefferson planted and harvested them.
The health benefits of tomatoes, and the lycopene contained in them, have made headlines in recent years. Adding to those health benefits are the fact that tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, A, and K, and a very good source of many other vitamins and minerals.
Tomatoes are sensitive to cold and should be stored at room temperature out of exposure to direct sunlight. Depending on how ripe they are they will keep for up to a week at room temperature. If the tomatoes become overripe and you are not ready to use them put them in the refrigerator. HINT: If there is room put them in the butter com-partment, which is the warmest area of your refrigerator.
When you are going to use your refrigerated tomatoes remove them about 30 minutes before you are going to use them. This will help restore their maximum flavor and juiciness.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box?
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Summer Royal Grapes
Bob & Mona Warren, Kingsburg
-Red Bell Peppers
Troy Huckabay, Kingsburg
California Organic, Lamont
-Russet Roasting Potatoes
Family Farm Organics, Madera
-Summer Squash*
-Early Girl Tomatoes*
-Cherry Tomatoes
-Red Onion*
Kyle Reynolds, Kingsburg
-Mediterranean Cucumbers
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

As it seems is the case with many things these days, we have been notified of a price increase on chicken. All orders placed by 9:00 Monday, August 11, 2008, will be at the current price. The increase will take effect after that time.

Squash Pizza Preheat Oven to 400º
2 green zucchini quartered lengthwise
2 yellow squash quartered lengthwise
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 tomato, diced
1 onion, diced
Leaves from 4 fresh thyme, chopped, or ½ tsp dried thyme
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, washed, dried and chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Oil an oven proof baking dish. Alternate zucchini and yellow squash, cut side up, in the dish. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle tomato, onion, thyme and basil over the zucchini and squash; top with cheese.

Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until cheese is melted & veggies softened.

Asian Stir Fried Veggies
¼ cup thinly sliced onions 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp Asian chili sauce 2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp light brown sugar 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium zucchini cut into 1 inch pieces, or matchsticks
1 each red, yellow, and green bell pepper cut into pieces
Other veggies such as mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, etc. may be added

Combine onion, garlic, and chili sauce in a cup. Combine ¼ cup water with soy sauce, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar in another cup, set both aside.

Heat large, heavy skillet or stir fry pan. Add 2 Tbsp oil and swirl to coat pan. Reduce heat to medium. When the oil sizzles, add the onion mixture. Stir gently for about 30 seconds, adjusting the heat so ingredients don’t burn. Add all other veggies, cook stirring until they are just beginning to turn tender, adding more oil if necessary. Stir soy sauce mixture and add to pan; toss well. Bring liquid to simmer, cover pan, and simmer until most of liquid is absorbed about 2-3 minutes. Serve with rice

August 5, 2008

Week 48

At first glance, this abundant harvest thing is a bunch of fresh Organic produce at a fair price. If you can get past the weekly produce appointment hassle, it works out pretty cool. Kind of a farmers market run by Costco and delivered by FedEx.
But what are we really harvesting and delivering here anyhow? I’d say for our family, it’s a tremendously expanded menu experience that we’re just jazzed about. I mean come on. Most people have never even tried parsnips, much less know all the ways you can incorporate them into a meal! (You folks who joined since winter will just have to wait til next soup season) Who, other than Rachel Ray or Emeril has a vase of fresh basil on their kitchen table? And remarkably fresh basil leads to all sorts of remarkably fresh menu ideas--don’t stop me I’m on a roll here—Remarkably fresh menu presentations facilitate the bedrock of family life which is everybody sitting down together for dinner. That thought all by itself is enough to keep team Abundant Harvest going.
We’re also harvesting a connectedness between eaters and farmers. Those peaches you got for $0.53 / lb is below most u-pick, but paid Paul Muradian 40% more than his normal best price for Organic freezer peaches.
My Mariposa plums, (those green ones with the red flesh you‘ve enjoyed the last few weeks) are an heirloom’s heirloom. They were ancient when your granny was a little girl and a total surprising delight. The video on the website is in the Mariposa patch which is the largest planting outside mainland China. A whopping 4 acres! They’re called Nam Wha Le there. It took me 9 years to figure out how to set the crazy things and then for the last 8, nobody could sell em. They’re not very big and real hard to handle and go soft fast. The only salvation is they just eat great which is first on your list but third on the retailers. So, for 17 disappointing years, we’ve persevered with that plum because our heart said it should be valuable and now, you finally got the benefit. (Any question as to my sanity or the lengths I’m willing to go when I think I’m right, should now be removed.) That story, combined with the pleasurable eating experience will now remain in your memory banks until next summer and it’s just something you don’t get with “Organic Plums $3.99” Shukrat is interning with our farm from Uzbekistan for the next year and his first job is to do the “what’s going on on the farm this week” video to expand on this connectedness that we’re very serious about. There are a couple other things up our sleeves, but we won’t let the cat out of the bag just yet.
Last week, Kyle came up short on his Armenian cukes and Erik decided to only put cucumbers in the small box. Long story short, the big box got ripped. Big box gets more this week by that amount and problem solved except for 1) folks who vacationed out this week did get ripped-off. & 2) Big box folks who were vacationed out last week or just joined are getting more than they paid for. In Agriculture, 2+2 sometimes = 1 and other times = 7. We’re supposed to be professionals but 32 harvests later still leave a lot for me to learn. My uncle’s fancy packing shed has the 3 parking spaces next to the entry labeled “grower” “grower” & “best grower”. In the 100 times I’ve been there, the “best grower” spot is always empty and any farmer who did park there wouldn’t do it his 2nd year farming. It’s a perpetually humbling & learning and adapting experience. One thing I hope all of you know by now is that if it’s not right, we’ll do all we can to make it so and we so appreciate your support.

Maybe you have seen it in the market and passed it by because you didn’t know what it was or how to cook it. Crookneck squash is a “summer squash” like zucchini, globe, pattypan, and scallopini, which we had earlier in the season. Unlike winter squash you can eat summer squash rind, seeds and all. Although the summer squashes vary in size shape and color, one can easily be used in the place of another in your recipes.
In days past the names summer and winter squash were indicative of their growing season. With today’s growing practices you can find either most any time of the year. Now days the term “summer squash” generally refers to varieties that do not store for long periods of time as opposed to the varieties that are referred to as “winter squash” and can be stored for months.
Crookneck is a mild squash and herbs such as dill, pepper, basil, marjoram, chives and mint are great enhancements to its flavor.
Serve your crookneck raw on a vegetable platter with dips, in salads; grilled, steamed, fried, baked, well you get the idea. This squash can be cooked almost any way you can think of and will add color, flavor and texture to main dishes and pasta sauces. Several of the items in your box this week compliment crookneck squash. Get creative and use it in combination with onion, pepper and tomato. Cook it soft or keep it crisp. Let your family be the judge of how they like it best.
Store your squash in a perforated bag in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. Squash can be frozen but the flesh will soften so it will be best used in casseroles or other dishes where crispness is not a factor. To freeze your squash cut it up and blanch it for 2 minutes. Place it in storage containers or plastic bags in the freezer for up to 4 months. If your preferred use for squash is in breads you may freeze the squash raw, either whole or grated.

Fresh dill has feathery green leaves. Dill leaves usually droop very quickly after being picked so even if the dill looks a little wilted it is still acceptable.
Store fresh dill either wrapped in a damp paper towel or with its stems placed in a container of water in the refrigerator. Fresh dill can be frozen, either whole or chopped, in airtight containers for future use. You may also freeze dill leaves in ice cube trays covered with water or stock for use in soups and stews.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Bell Pepper
Troy Huckabay, Kingsburg
-Russet Potatoes
Family Farm Organics, Madera
-Armenian Cucumber*
Kyle Reynolds, Kingsburg
-Heirloom Tomato*
Ginger Balakian, Reedley
California Organic, Lamont
-Crookneck Squash
-Mediterranean Cucumber*
-Red Spanish Pepper
-Yellow Spanish Pepper
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

Peel and half the peach, sprinkle lightly with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Place the peach on the grill while preparing your meat and leave it just long enough to heat through. Watch it closely so it does not burn.

Mushroom & Spinach Stuffed Peppers Preheat Oven to 350º
4 bell peppers (any color) tops sliced off, seeds removed
1 Tbsp salt, plus more to taste, and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup butter, divided
1 large onion, minced (about 1 cup), divided
1 ½ cup uncooked long grain white rice or brown rice
½ pound mushrooms chopped
1 cup finely diced celery (optional)
¼ cup finely diced carrots
¼ cup fresh or frozen corn
1 large handful spinach, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Dash cayenne pepper, or diced other peppers
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, diced
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large soup pot
Add the peppers and 1 Tbsp salt
Cook the peppers until they are almost soft, 3-4 min

Remove peppers from water and set in a colander to drain (reserve cooking water). Transfer the peppers to a rack, cut-sides up, and let cool.

Heat 2 Tbsp of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add half the onions, sauté until translucent and soft, about 5 min. Add the rice and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the rice begins to turn golden, about 10 min. Add 3 cups of reserved cooking water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until liquid is completely absorbed, 12-15 min.

Melt remaining butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add remaining onions, mushrooms, celery, corn, spinach, garlic, and cayenne pepper (or other small peppers); sauté until vegetables are tender, about 10 min. Add salt to taste.

Combine rice and sautéed vegetables in a large bowl. Stir in tomato and half the Parmesan cheese. Season with pepper to taste.

Fill each pepper case with the filling and arrange them in a 9 inch square baking dish. Garnish with the remaining cheese. Spread any extra filling around the peppers. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

July 27, 2008

Week 47

Can you believe how fast this summer’s screaming past? We’re already in Zee Lady’s for crying out loud, the last hill before the coast to the finish. For us, this is the peak and the best (and consequently the cheapest) of the season. Our crew set a new record Saturday, banging out over 12,000 boxes of Sweet Dream, Elegant Lady, Zee Lady and Snow Princess. Only dumped the cull truck twice and we were done by 9:00 pm. I felt like the conductor of a glorious symphony where each player knows and executes their part brilliantly. Our harvest runs every day but Sunday, May-September and about 3 days a week in October with a few persimmons in November. While the volume won’t let up for a couple more months, thankfully, the intensity does. In May, you’d best be there the right ½ of the right day or you’ll lose ‘em. These later varieties are on a more relaxed time schedule that let’s us float the harvest schedule a day or so. It has to do with the number of days from bloom to harvest and thus the ripening intensity of a given variety. I’ll start grapes next week, but I won’t put ‘em in your box for a couple so they can get a little sweeter.
Carbon footprint
(No doubt a term Al Gore made-up right after inventing the internet)
Okay, this is pretty cool, but you’re going to have to follow the math for a second.
1) Our big 18 wheeled truck that makes the Saturday, Bakersfield to Lancaster deliveries gets 7 miles per gallon.
2) If you filled it ¾ full, you’d have 1500 boxes on board.
3) There are 128 ounces in a gallon.
4) 300 miles away is a 600 mile round trip
5) A Prius gets about 45 miles per gallon
That said, our truck using the above formula could deliver your box from Kingsburg to San Diego and back with 7.32 ounces of diesel. (Per box) If you lived in San Diego 1 ½ miles from this hypothetical delivery site and drove a Prius there and back to pick up your box, you used 8.55 ounces of fuel.
On a per box basis, we can deliver produce from the farm to you using miniscule amounts of fuel once we reach certain volumes. Even when you count what it takes to get it from the various farmers to our assembly site, since the average farm is only about 12 miles away, we’re still able to go from our farms to your hands in a most responsible manner and I think that’s an additional level of satisfaction you can derive from your produce each week.
Speaking of satisfaction, this week’s box is shaping up to just be killer. All of our farmers have a very tired look of satisfaction on their faces from a job well done, and they’ll continue doing it week after week, knowing the joy this Abundant Harvest of Organic produce is adding to your lives.
Kathy’s on vacation this week, so if there’s a spot on one of your tomatoes that we just have to know about, give her til Tuesday to respond.

As you may have discovered as a subscriber of Abundant Harvest Organics, there are many varieties of peaches and nectarines. There are two major types: yellow and white flesh. In addition to many varieties there are freestone, semi-freestone and clingstone. Just as these terms imply in the clingstone varieties the flesh “clings” to the stone, or pit, and with freestone the flesh easily separates from the pit. In semi-freestone the flesh easily separates when the fruit is fully ripe.
Generally the early season peaches and nectarines are clingstone, and during the peak season they are freestone. The late season peaches are generally freestone and the late season nectarines are once again clingstone.
The white varieties of peaches and nectarines are naturally less tart and can be ready to eat when they are still firm and crunchy. They also ripen faster than the yellow varieties. Peaches originally came from China and were cultivated over 3,000 years ago. The peach probably spread to Russia and Persia by way of the traders traveling the Silk Road from China and dropping peach pits along the way. Throughout the centuries peaches spread all over Europe. Peaches were brought to America by the Spanish during the 1500’s as they explored Florida. From there peaches spread all across North America. The first peaches arrived in California with the Spanish missionaries in the 1700’s. Isn’t it interesting to know that these delicious fruits have been with us for so many years and yet remain a favorite today?
Nectarines probably originated from a natural variation in peach seeds. They are very close relatives and originally nectarines were described as “fuzzless peaches”. In fact peach trees will sometimes produce a few nectarines and nectarine trees will sometimes produce a few peaches.
These fruits are a source of vitamins A and C and they are a good source of fiber especially with the peel. Peaches are also a good source of potassium and contain some calcium, folate, magnesium and phosphorus.

Don’t take those green peppers for granted. Brightly colored peppers are a rich source of some of the best nutrients available.
Peppers are a colorful addition to many dishes. They can be eaten raw or cooked and are great sautéed with other vegetables. Try steaming cored bell peppers for five minutes and stuffing them with your favorite rice or meat mixture. Bake at 350˚.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Sweet Corn#
Don Warkentine, Kingsburg
-Heirloom Tomatoes
Ginger Balakian, Reedley
-Bell Peppers
Troy Huckabay, Kingsburg
-Mediterranean Cucumbers*
T & D Willey, Madera
-Armenian Cucumbers
-Hot Chilies*
Kyle Reynolds, Kingsburg
Family Farm Organics, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
#Denotes Small Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

The Armenian cucumber is crisp, thin-skinned, and has a mild flavor. It does not need to be peeled or seeded before eating and is one of the best cucumbers for slicing.

Sweet Peach Barbecue Sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, peeled, sliced thin
3 peaches, pitted, cut into medium sized cubes
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 medium ripe tomatoes cut into medium sized cubes
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup orange juice
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground allspice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat the oil until hot, but not smoking. Add the onions and cook stirring occasionally, until golden brown about 11-13 minutes. Add the peaches, ginger, and tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, orange juice, sugar, allspice, salt and pepper to, taste. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture is reduced by about half and thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then transfer to blender or food processor and pulsate to desired consistency. Use to baste chicken, pork chops or steak. Place remaining sauce in a bowl for use on the side of meat.

Peaches and Cream Pops
½ cup peeled, chopped peaches ½ cup peeled, pureed peaches
2/3 cup vanilla yogurt 1-2 Tbsp honey added to yogurt, before swirling, for added sweetness
Lightly swirl all ingredients together in a small bowl. Spoon into 4 popsicle molds or small plastic cups and insert handle or popsicle stick. Freeze for at least 4 hours. Enjoy in the hot weather.

July 19, 2008

Week 46

When I was 21, my father got a really fast growing type of cancer that took his life 7 months later. I was a junior at Fresno State with an Agri-business major but dropped out the middle of that second semester to go run the farm.
So there I am with a mountain of doctor bills, our benevolent government expects you to repurchase the farm you own through inheritance tax and while I knew HOW to do all the cultural and equipment stuff because I’ve been driving tractor since I was 5, I just didn’t know WHEN or WHY.
At this point, I’ve got a very teachable attitude. I seek out my Uncle Dave and ask a very embarrassing question; “How do you know when its time to irrigate?” The Fresno State answer would have been “Install Tensiometers at 6”, 18” & 36” and maintain them between 12 & 18 milibars of draw” so I was anticipating a similar response. He looked as though he wondered whether I’d been paying attention the last couple decades but responded with “Well, you’ve just got to stay ahead of your crop.” That statement has been a guiding principle in so many areas. You’ve just got to stay ahead of your crop.
The tree or the vine or the chicken for that matter will do what it’s supposed to do and reward us with its production if we just stay ahead of it. The trick is to observe with at least our five senses where it’s at in its cycle and make sure it has the resources available to do what it needs to do.
One of the best scientific tools ever developed to aid this observation process is a 5 gallon bucket. Its light weight & portable. You take it with you into the field or flock, turn it over and sit on it. What you thought you were seeing as you walked changes dramatically when you sit. You’ll not only notice your crop, but it’s interaction with weeds and bugs and birds. You’ll observe turgor at the tips (rigidity because it’s got plenty of water) or not, but the main thing is, you recalibrate yourself to what’s going on so you can anticipate, not just react. There’s a ton of ramifications here for daily life and all of you are so sharp you’ve already drawn them. Main thing, we need to take the time to stop & recalibrate ourselves to the needs of what’s going on around us so we can be pro-active, not just reactive. (Believe me I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else.) We’re often so busy, we can’t get anything done. Unless something’s on fire, the solution is usually to walk into the middle of the challenge with a 5 gallon bucket, flip it over and observe to the point of understanding.
Zee Lady’s for home canning or freezing. Next week’s the week. We might have ‘em the week after but next week will be best. 30 pounds of Vernon or Paul’s Organic Zee Lady’s for $16.00. They’re freestones so Carol just peels & slices ‘em into a Zip Lock bag and puts ‘em in the freezer til later. Her ice cream recipe is literally award winning and you can taste summer all winter in peach pies and cobblers!

Would you guess that the eggplant is related to the tomato, sweet peppers and potato? Most people would not. There are many varieties of eggplant and each varies slightly in texture and taste. The best description of eggplant is that it has a pleasantly bitter taste and a spongy texture. It is this unique taste and texture, and its deep purple glossy beauty that has made the eggplant a vegetable that is enjoyed the world over. In many recipes the eggplant serves as a complementary ingredient that balances the flavors of other ingredients that have a more pronounced flavor.
You may see eggplant that ranges in color from lavender, jade green, orange, and yellow-white to the most common purple. Eggplant comes in sizes and shapes that range from that of a small tomato to a large zucchini.
Eggplant is very perishable and is sensitive to both heat and cold. Ideally it should be stored at around 50ºF. Do not cut eggplant before you store it. Once the skin has been cut or punctured and the inner flesh exposed it will perish quickly. Place your uncut, unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag in the crisper of your refrigerator and it will keep for a few days. Use a stainless steel knife when cutting your eggplant as carbon steel will cause it to turn black. You can tenderize the flesh and reduce some of the natural bitterness by sweating the eggplant with salt. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process pulls out some of the water content and will make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking. After you have completed the sweating process rinse the eggplant to remove the salt.
Whether you eat the skin of the eggplant or not is really a matter of preference. Larger eggplant and those with a white skin color tend to have a tougher skin which may not be palatable. If you wish to remove the skin you may do so before it is cooked or if you are going to bake the eggplant you can scoop the flesh out after it has been cooked. Try eggplant baked, roasted in the oven or grilled. One word of warning, if you are baking or grilling the eggplant whole be sure to pierce the eggplant several times with a fork to allow steam to escape or you may have a purple mess. Eggplant is also great stuffed and of course who has ever gone to a good Italian restaurant that did not have Eggplant Parmesan on the menu?
Don’t ever say you don’t like something until you have given it a try. You may be surprised!

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
John France, Porterville
-Sweet Corn
Don Warkentine, Kingsburg
-Italian Curly Long Peppers
-Italian Sweet Red Onion
Kyle Reynolds, Kingsburg
-Sweet Green Peppers
-Yukon Gold Potatoes*
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.

Here is a suggestion for barbecue season. The Olson Organics fruit/pepper sauces make great barbecue sauces. Use them to marinate your meat or brush one of them on while you are grilling. They will give your meat just a little sweetness and zip. They come in Pepper/Peach, Pepper/Plum and Pepper/Apricot.

Italian Fresh Vegetable Salad (Great for barbecues)
A combination of any, or all, of the following vegetables:
Red Onion Tomatoes Cucumbers
Bell Peppers Sweet Peppers Avocado
Radishes Carrots

Wash vegetables and cut into bite size pieces and place in a bowl with a tight fitting lid.

1 ½ cups wine vinegar 2/3 cup oil
¾ cup sugar Salt and pepper
Pour dressing over vegetables and cover. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 ½ hours, rotating bowl so all vegetables have been covered. Drain and serve or serve with a slotted spoon. This dressing can be saved, added to, and reused. This dressing is also good for 5 bean salad.

Grilled Meat with Fresh Stone Fruit
Fresh stone fruit is a great addition to grilled kabobs. It is best to use firm fruit.
Remove pits from your choice of nectarines, peaches and plums and cut into large pieces. In a bowl toss the fruit with melted butter, salt and pepper.
Soak bamboo skewers in water until ready to use. Thread alternating pieces of fruit and prepared pieces of your choice of meat onto the skewers. Place skewers on the grill and cook until meat is cooked through, turning at least once. The natural juice from the fruit will caramelize while cooking. Remove from grill and place on a platter to serve.

July 13, 2008

Week 45

Roll out those lazy hazy crazy days of summer! Well, at least the hazy and crazy part’s right. 110 today, 112 tomorrow. We’re buying Gatorade by the pallet but still can’t work much past noon in the field. The good news is that fruit trees shut down in this weather and actually slows the ripening process. Fruit ripens fastest on the tree at 80 degrees which happens to be great weather to work a long day.
Our heavy chickens on the other hand don’t do well in the heat and without an elaborate cooling system we’d be sunk. But elaborate we’ve got. A computer controlled environment that basically creates a wind tunnel. The houses close up at 74 degrees; huge fans start kicking on as the temperature rises, drawing the air through 6 inch thick 5 foot tall 80 foot long cool cells. Fog banks down the house help even more and when it’s all running harmoniously, we can drop the temperature a good 20 degrees plus a 5 mph wind chill exchanging the air in a 20,000 square foot house every 40 seconds. Still, we can only do so much. We’re in control up to about 100-103. After that, another degree outside is another degree inside and you’re just hoping all the motors and pumps and back-up generators hold together.
I use the same technology in the fruit packing shed so it’s remarkably comfortable. Yester-day, to lighten things up I went up on the pack line with a garden hose and started squirting the girls who grabbed theirs and returned the favor. Work stopped for a few minutes, but we had fun and some of us got cooler than others.
You know, there’s a way to deal with whatever life throws at us and a little spontaneous good humor goes a long ways in most cases. “We can’t control the storm” I think the saying goes, “but we can trim the sails.” My greeting on these days is “Hey, you don’t need a coat today, and your fingers aren’t cold!” Each of us can do our little thing to brighten the day of the folks around us. I know many of you do already. It’s an abundance mentality that we either have or we don’t. People either see the world through an abundant or a scarce lens. Those who choose to see it as scarce, live small and/or selfish. Those who realize that the resources around them are only limited by sunlight broaden their capacity to enjoy whatever life delivers. Do what you can today to bring an abundance mentality to your corner of the world!

I’m sure you’re not surprised that we are going to have to raise our prices. Frankly, I’m surprised we made it this long. Probably too much Abundance mentality for my own good. Starting the week of the 21st for delivery the 25th and 26th we’ll be at $19.80 for the small and $33.80 for the large. Deposit for new folks will be $22.00 but doesn’t affect any of you. The cost of plastic made out of oil is the reason. Still better than wasting $1.50 on cardboard each week. Our new small boxes will be here in a few weeks, and they’re way cool!
Hey, you don’t need a coat today! Enjoy the produce EAT HEALTHY

Do you need to make changes to your account? As time goes by you may need to make some changes in the information that you provided when you signed up with us. You have the ability to change any of the information that you set up in your account
If you would like to change your order, say from a small box to a large, for one week only use the Edit This Week option found on your Subscription Dashboard. If you would like to make a long term change you will use the My Subscription Info button and make the change there.
You may order add-ons up until 9:00 am on the Monday morning before the scheduled delivery. We are unable to add to or delete from the current week’s order after 9:00 on Monday morning so be sure you plan ahead.
Remember that if you wish to place a vacation stop or cancel your subscription you must do so a minimum of 10 days prior to the affected delivery date. A vacation stop is put in place using the Set Your Vacation Weeks button. The current vacation calendar extends through May, 2009 so you can plan well in advance.
You may cancel your subscription, or make it inactive by going to My Subscription Info. There you will see a Cancel Subscription button. Or you may put “0” in the Quantity boxes on this page and your deliveries will be suspended until you log in again and change the information
If your credit/debit card expires don’t forget to login and change the date in your account.

We may have another first for some of you. It is an orange flesh melon. Orange flesh melon is actually a cross between a honeydew and a cantaloupe. But wait, this melon apparently has another name. It is often called a Temptation Melon. With a name like that it must be good.
The flesh of this melon is very similar to the cantaloupe, but with a bit more delicate flavor, like the honeydew. When you cut it open you will see the similarity it bears to the cantaloupe and you will prepare it in the same manner by removing the netting and seeds before serving it. This melon actually shares the taste qualities of both melons. The orange flesh melons will turn a pale orange shade when they are fully ripe.
These melons make a perfect addition to breakfast served alone or with yogurt. Try adding a sprinkle of ginger, salt or a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to kick up the flavor of this sweet juicy treat.
This melon is best served chilled and is a great addition to a fruit salad, or to a refreshing drink, such as fruit punch.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Orange Flesh Melon
John France, Porterville
-Sweet Corn
Don Warkentine, Kingsburg
-Clip Top Carrots
California Organic, Lamont
-Yellow Crookneck Squash
-Mediterranean Cucumbers*
-Red Roasting Potatoes
T & D Willey, Madera
Kyle Reynolds, Kingsburg
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.

If you are having a problem removing the corn silk here are a couple of hints. Use a wet paper towel and run it down the cob. The silk will stick to the towel. Another option is an unused tooth brush. Use the brush gently and brush down the cob. This will remove silk from between the kernels.

Grilled Tex-Mex Salad
4-6 ears of corn, husked with the silk removed
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (with the seeds if you like it hot)
1 chopped pepper (color is cook’s choice)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or full size tomatoes cut into pieces
Place the corn on the grill and roast, turning often, until golden brown on the outside. (You may boil the corn instead) When corn cools, cut the kernels off into a bowl. Add the onions, beans, jalapeno, peppers, and tomatoes, set aside.

2 Tbsp lime juice 4 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp mild chili powder ½ tsp cumin
Salt and pepper

Combine in a small bowl and pour over the corn mixture and toss. Let sit in the refrigerator for an hour, or overnight, before serving.

Black Bean Salsa
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups of corn
1-2 tomatoes seeded and diced
½ cup diced onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded (leave the seeds if you enjoy the heat)
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. Cover and chill overnight. Taste and add salt and pepper, or more lime juice as necessary. Serve with tortilla chips or with grilled chicken breast as a side.

Week 44

First off, THANK YOU so much! Because of you and your patience, and encouragement, and enthusiasm, we’ve grown from just under 50 families to over 1,000 in less than 10 months. It’s humbling to think of all your families gathered around the dinner table enjoying what our families have produced. It’s that theater of the mind that motivates us all week to try to keep things exciting and interesting, fresh and tasty.
Besides the Organic, our fundamental premise is to unite the family that grew it with the family that’s going to eat it in the simplest manner feasible. The “system” should serve those two basic entities. Many people call this sort of endeavor a “CSA” or Community Supported Agri-culture. I’d prefer to call it an “ACC” or Agriculture Creating Community. That community is most evident at the larger delivery sites where folks are standing around visiting. It’s evident from many e-mails that talk about families enjoying meals together again. And it’s evident you’ve been spreading the word in your own communities. Everyone told us these things die in the summer because of vacations and gardens and fruit stands on every corner, and while we’ve had plenty of that, new folks continue to join, and all we can say is THANK YOU!
Speaking of “systems”, the Organic Santa Rosa Plums in your box this week from Paul are a prime example of a system that serves the system rather than families. This is the quintessential plum. If an American knows only one variety of plum, he knows the praise worthy little Santa Rosa. Most of you, when you eat ‘em, are gonna say “Yeah baby, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.” Wait til they’re a bit soft, chill (the fruit not you) then go out side or lean over the sink and enjoy!
Okay, my point is that this is the plum you want, but not the plum you’ll find in even an Organic store. Fact is, Steve’s got a couple acres of ‘em Organic we didn’t even pick while Paul’s that were a couple sizes larger were packed conventional because Organic demands an even larger size which the heritage Santa Rosa just can’t deliver. Oh, we packed plenty of Organic plums this week, and they were large and pretty and had better legs (ability to make it to town) but they just weren’t Santa Rosa. The system serves the system while both families miss out. It’s not something we’re going to whine about, it’s something we intend to change.
I bought a video camera and directed the web guys to start making a way for us to have a “this week on the farm” button that I can upload to. I’m looking forward to whipping the thing out during the day and introducing you to the farmers and crops and farm workers and farms that make this thing tick.
We also asked them to take you straight to the “rate the produce screen” when you log-on, in hopes that you’ll take a minute and let us know what you like and don’t like. These types of things are intended to be community creators or at least enhancers. Again, the theme of this weeks letter is THANK YOU! Did I mention Thank you? By the way, Thank You & EAT HEALTHY!

One of summer’s most refreshing treats is a nice cold piece of melon. Last week you had Galia melon. Today it is cantaloupe.
You don’t have to wait until the last minute to prepare this fruit. You can do it today and enjoy it for several days to come. Because they were looking for a way to keep pre-sliced ready-to-eat cantaloupe fresh longer, the scientist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service discovered that this can be achieved by cutting up the fruit while holding it under water.
Just as with other melons, bacteria can grow on the outside surface of cantaloupe so it is important to wash the outside of your melon before you cut it. This will prevent bacteria from being transferred to the edible flesh from the outside skin. To prepare cantaloupe; simply wash it and then slice it into pieces of desired thickness and scoop out the seeds and netting. If you are not going to eat your melon right away it should be refrigerated immediately after it has been cut.
Cantaloupe is not just a garnish. Cantaloupe can be a quick and refreshing dessert, or a fast snack. For a satisfying and cooling drink in the warm summer months try adding sparkling water to fresh squeezed cantaloupe juice. Serve it sliced topped with yogurt and chopped mint, cut it in half and use it as a bowl for a mixed fruit salad, or just cut it in slices and put a “smile” on your plates. It makes a perfect compliment to breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Everyone loves fresh fruit salad and the combinations are endless. So why don’t we enjoy more fruit salad? Perhaps it is because people have been under the misconception that the fruit will lose some of its nutritional value if it is prepared ahead of time. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that cutting of fruit does not significantly affect its nutritional content even after 6, and up to 9 days.
What this means is you can prepare a large bowl of fruit salad on the weekend, keep it in the refrigerator, and enjoy it all week long. You will receive basically the same nutritional value as if it had just been prepared. The lead researcher in this study, Maria Gil, wrote “fresh-cut fruits visually spoil before any significant nutrient loss occurs.”
Get creative and mix it up. Make it ahead of time and offer it to the kids as a snack during the day. After dinner some night add a spoonful of yogurt or whipped cream and top it off with nuts or granola for a healthy dessert.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Santa Rosa Plums
Paul Muradian, Kingsburg
John France, Porterville
-White Kernel Corn
Don Warkentine, Kingsburg
-Clip Top Carrots
California Organic, Lamont
-Jalapeno Peppers*
-Mediterranean Cucumbers*
-Red Leaf Lettuce
-Red Roasting Potatoes*
T & D Willey, Madera
-Green Pepper
-Red Onion
Kyle Reynolds, Kingsburg
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.

Here is another hint to try in the sticker battle. Chill your fruit and then place a piece of duct tape over the sticker and rub to insure adhesion. Pull off the duct tape and in many cases the sticker will come off with it, without removing any of the skin from the fruit.

Grilled Eggplant
1 eggplant 3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 pinch of dried thyme, basil, dill and oregano. Fresh may be used if available
Salt and pepper

Slice eggplant about ½” thick and set aside. Whisk together other ingredients. Eggplant may be marinated in olive oil mixture for about 10 minutes, or the olive oil mixture may be brushed on both sides of the eggplant before cooking. Heat grill and place on grill alone or while grilling meat. Grill for about 15-20 minutes, turning once.

Mediterranean Summer Salad
½ cup bulgur (cracked wheat) ½ cup cold water
Combine bulgur and water in a medium size bowl. Let stand for 40 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

6 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
6 green onions (white and green parts), finely chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Add vegetables to bulgur
½ cup extra virgin olive oil Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp salt
Mix well and pour over salad. Stir to blend. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. Add cucumbers or summer squash as an option.

Week 43

So hows about those Fresno State Bulldogs anyhow?! Ranked 58th in the country & come back to win the whole schmere. Lose the opening game. Lose the 1st of the final 3 and are down 5 zip in the third inning of the second game. Baseball’s way too boring for me but that was exciting. Little ol’ Fresno state, National Champs!! Yee Haaaw!!
Okay, you got this in a box of produce, not a box of Wheaties so back to business. Last Saturday (yeah, the one that was 108 degrees) Carol and I were invited to participate in an Organic Stone fruit festival to benefit Slow Food Madera. There were 8 of us farmers, and several hundred folks came out and sampled the fruit. Very Educational for me as I observed the people and took mental notes.
We had a traditional, complex, ripe peach, a slightly tarter crunchy peach. A non acid Nectarine and a traditional nectarine. A mild plum and a tart plum. And some Apricots. All stuff from our farm last week and we were amazed at the diversity of tastes in the crowd. Crunchers vs. leaners were 40-40% with about 20% in the middle. Older folks tended to be leaners (no pun) younger tended towards tart and crunchy. Every single variety had fans as well as detractors and really pointed up for me the challenges of presenting the perfect fruit. Speaking of perfect, my favorite melon is the Galia. John had a bunch so I couldn’t resist. May not get ‘em in the box, but we’ll figure something out. Another favorite is the Kingsburg Gold cherry tomato.
Warning!! If you try them, you’ll have to add them on every week ‘til frost. There’s not 1 in 100 who can resist. It would be an act of sheer will power if they even make it to a salad. We’ve put some of Abe’s black berries on the add on list. After last week’s embarrassment, we’re expecting great things from Don’s corn. Now this is Organic corn so just deal with the corn worms and rejoice. That’s the Organic signature and we don’t charge extra for ‘em. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of folks to trade with if it’s a personal challenge to get past for some folks.
I love it when a plan comes together, and at least from this Wednesday evening vantage point, it looks like an Abundant one!. Eat Healthy!

Did you know that there are over 600 varieties of peaches, plums and nectarines grown in the state of California? Each one is harvested for only 10 days to 2 weeks. The great number of varieties developed is what allows us to have fresh stone fruit all summer long. The varieties have been bred to allow for fruit to ripen successively so there is a steady supply. Because of that the varieties change from week to week and are not the same through out the season. These different varieties have different characteristics. Nectarines, for example, may all be called by the same name and look alike but you may notice a difference in the firmness, flesh color and ease of separation from the pit. Unfortunately if you find one you really like it probably won’t be around for long.
If stone fruit is too soft when it is packed it will become easily bruised and damaged. If you wish to ripen stone fruit it can be placed in a fruit bowl or a paper bag with the top folded over, at room temperature, out of direct light. Check it at least once a day. When the fruit is ripe, to your liking, either use it or place it in the refrigerator to stop the ripening process. Direct sunlight and high heat can cause fruit to dry and shrivel rather than ripen. If you want to freeze your fresh stone fruit it is best to freeze it in a sweet liquid like peach, white grape or apple juice. You can also use a light sugar syrup that can be made by using one part sugar to three parts water. Heat the water, add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Let the syrup cool and then add to the fruit. To prepare the fruit wash it, peel it if desired, and cut it into preferred size pieces. Mix some lemon juice with the fruit to prevent discoloring. Put the fruit in a plastic bag or freezer container and add one cup of liquid for each four cups of fruit. Be sure all of your fruit is covered by liquid. This fruit should keep for about 6 months.

Peaches, especially when they are soft, are not easy to peel. If you want to peel your peaches before using them in a recipe, or slicing them up to eat, the easiest method is to blanch them.
Fill a pot with enough water to cover the peach completely and bring the water to a boil. Using a slotted spoon submerge the peach in the boiling water for 30-45 seconds and then immediately place it in an ice water bath, which will stop any cooking process. The ice water bath must be deep enough to cover the entire peach. After following this process you will be able to easily remove the skin. You may wish to first cut an “X” in the bottom of the fruit to give yourself a place to start.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Galia Melons
John France, Porterville
-Kingsburg Gold Cherry Tomatoes
KMK, Kingsburg
Troy Huckabay, Kingsburg
-White Kernel Corn
Don Warkentine, Kingsburg
-Red Onion*
Ginger Balakian, Reedly
-Crookneck Squash*
-Red Irish Potatoes
-Jalapeno Peppers
-Mediterranean Cucumbers
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery

To maintain the quantity those pesky stickers are a necessary evil. Here are a couple of hints for removing them. First the stickers will remove more easily if the fruit is cold so remove the sticker after the fruit has been refrigerated. The edge of a small paring knife will help you lift it. The other method suggested is to put a small piece of transparent tape over the sticker and when you lift it off, the sticker, or at least most of it should come off.

Stuffed Zucchini
3-5 Zucchini 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, chopped ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½-1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (any cheese combo is great)
Olive oil or dots of butter (Optional)

Trim ends of squash and slice lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and put in bowl. Mix the seeds with the other ingredients. Stuff squash with mixture. You may drizzle with a little olive oil, or place pats of butter over the tops and sprinkle with extra mozzarella cheese.
Place in a baking dish and bake in a 350º oven for 30 minutes, or place on foil and cook it on the grill.

Corn on the Cob with Smoked Butter
1 Tbsp butter, melted 1 tsp grated lemon rind (Optional)
1 tsp minced shallots 1 tsp honey
½ tsp salt ½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp smoked paprika 6 ears shucked corn

Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Cook corn in boiling water for 5 minutes or until crisp tender. Brush butter mixture evenly over corn; serve immediately.
Corn may also be grilled for 10 minutes or until lightly browned, or wrapped in wax paper and cooked in microwave for 2 minutes per ear.

June 22, 2008

Week 42

We at Abundant Harvest Organics hold this truth to be self evident that not all carrots (or most any other produce item) are created equal, but the best have been endowed by their creator with certain incomparable delights amongst which are crispy, carroty sweetness not found in their peers. How come you may ask? Partly, it’s the biological fertility we’ve talked about before. Partly, it’s the fact they were just picked by a farmer who knows what he’s doing. And partly, it’s the variety. These Nantes carrots aren’t machine harvestable and have to be handled by hand. Therefore, they’re twice as valuable as the other machine harvestable type most Americans are used to. Denesse tells us this will be the last of these carrots for a while & that gives us something to look forward to next fall. We’re giving you a little teaser on this first sweet corn this week. If Don and I calculated right, there will be about 3-4 for the small & 6-8 in the big, but we won’t know ‘til Friday morning at 5 AM. Next week with this heat, we’ll have plenty and probably start putting it up as an add-on as well.
Ginger says her heirloom tomatoes are week after next and then we’ll know summer’s here in all it’s splendor. Sweet corn, tomatoes and squash with peaches and plums. MY MY MY MY MY! Slap your granny that’s the best.
OK. If you’re wanting to put up some peaches, the best of the season come end of July, 1st of August. They’re called Zee Lady from myself or Paul and we’ll have a great deal on field run. They’re so sweet, you hardly need sugar. Carol slices ‘em up in Zip locks and pulls ‘em out whenever all winter. They’re great for canning as well. We’ll let you know when they’re getting close.
“Are you a cruncher, a leaner or an in-betweener?” That’s an ad campaign our stone fruit industry is running right now. The result of a surprising study we ran that showed about 1/3 of customers didn’t like juicy ripe fruit and wouldn’t buy it unless it was hard. Another 1/3 (which includes me and every other farmer I know) like to lean over so the juice doesn’t run down your shirt and the last 1/3 were somewhere in between. With this in mind, I’ve been trying to give you some fruit that’s ready today and others that would ripen over the week. This week, I’m going a little riper with some of the nectarines. See what you think.
Finally, knock on wood, we seem to be getting the logistics and the add-ons pretty squared away. Everything is at least double checked and signed off by two people. This is our third week of using the High School and Jr. High kids (mostly the children of our regular employees) to put this thing together for you. I’ll get a video together showing the happy crew and post it to the web. We hope to make a “what’s happening on the farm this week” a dynamic regularly updated video part of the web-site and your AH experience.
Well, no profound thoughts this week, but I hope this chat filled in a few gaps in the communication process.

June 15, 2008

Week 41

There are certain rules and principles in nature and business that, like gravity, we ignore to our own peril. Nature really doesn’t care if we like the rule of gravity or not. You jump out of a tree, and the gravitational force is going to pull you towards an eventual sudden stop which is gonna hurt. “Work expands to fill time allotted” and it’s companion “nothing happens without a deadline” (which is why I’m scrambling to get my front page over to Kathy) are a couple that I grudgingly have to acknowledge regularly on a personal level and meticulously require on a professional level.
“Every solution creates it’s own problem” is one I discovered and perfected myself, and someday maybe I’ll relate some of the stories. The most benign improvements create unexpected problems in areas you’d never expect. We see it almost weekly with this adventure. It’s a symptom of life and growth.
Now here’s the one that drives me crazy! “As idealism approaches reality, the cost becomes prohibitive.” That one has bugged me for the last 20 years, and I still hate it. We could use this space for the next 10 years just on that subject and not exhaust the ramifications, but here’s a couple of examples from the last couple days here on the farm.
My friend Fred was down, interested in being the host for El Dorado County. For the last several years, he’s worked as the field rep for one of our plant breeders. He handed me a little white apricot with a twinkle in his eye. OH MY GOODNESS! Brixed (a measure of sweetness) off the chart + a load of apricotty flavor. It would never sell, because it’s too small, and it was too delicate to ship well. Kind of like the Tasty Rich Aprium a month ago, but you guys would just love it. So I start thinking “how many of you all might there be in 4 years so I could grow it just for you, and how much could we put in a box… We’re hoping to break the rule and not land too hard.
I mentioned a couple months back, that we were experimenting with a probiotic (good micro-organisms) with our Organic chickens. The results were astounding from every angle. Growth, litter quality, uniformity all improved just because we put the right beneficial microorganisms in their drinking water. Now we’re going to start doing it with all the houses. Several of you have told me you do the same with your families. Anyway, as I’m showing the results to the company vet, the nutritionist as well as the owner of Mary’s free range, I pointed out that I was pretty proud of what we’re doing with the Organic chickens until the last couple weeks when they just get too crowded to feel good about. I’m proud of the fact that thousands of acres of corn & grain are being farmed Organically to provide the feed for the birds. I’m proud that the nutrition for our fruit trees come from Organic birds on our own farm. I’m proud of the fact that no antibiotics are ever used so folks are eating healthier meat. But I’m embarrassed frankly about the over crowding at the end of the flock. The owner reminded me that we’re in a very competitive business and pointed out that he offers at least three types of chicken for folks to pick from. Conventional, Organic and Heritage. Conventional gets .7 feet / bird, with no outdoor access. Organic gets 1 foot / bird inside and 1 outside. Heritage get 2 inside, and 3 outside, with perches inside and out as well as dust baths and grass cover. They take 12 weeks to mature instead of 8 and have a whole different taste and texture. While most Americans would opt for the latter, less than 1/10th of 1% of our chicken is produced this way. As idealism approaches reality… In a perfect world, the chickens would be scratching in the orchard and enjoying its shade. Give us some time and

So you open the paper on your box and are greeted by a waft of fragrance, and then you see it. It is a bunch of fresh basil. Great smell and pretty to look at but what do you do with it? Well, yes there is pesto, but what else?
First let’s learn a little bit about basil. Basil may look a lot like peppermint to you and the reason is that basil and peppermint are related. There are over 60 varieties of basil, and they all differ in appearance and taste. You can buy several basils that have very unique tastes. They are lemon basil, anise basil, and cinnamon basil. You can guess what their flavor subtly will remind you of by their names. The basil in our box this week is Basilico Genovese which is the most popular basil and has strong scent and flavor.
Basil was revered in many ancient cultures and was thought of as very noble and sacred. In Italy it was a symbol of love and in India it is symbol of hospitality. What may surprise you are the health benefits of basil. It is considered an excellent source of vitamin K, and a very good source of iron, calcium and vitamin A. Basil also provides a good source of dietary fiber, and nutrients like manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium. Store fresh basil wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel in the refrigerator. You can freeze it, whole or chopped, in air tight containers, or in ice cube trays covered with water or stock. These can be added to soups or stews when you don’t have fresh available. Dried basil will keep for about 6 months if it is stored in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark, dry place.
The oils in basil are highly volatile and to preserve its maximum essence and flavor it should be added near the end of the cooking process.

Serving Ideas

Combine fresh chopped basil with garlic and olive oil to make a dairy free pesto and use it to top pasta, salmon or whole wheat brushetta.
  • Layer fresh basil leaves over mozzarella cheese & tomato slices to make a colorful and delicious salad.
  • Adding basil to stir fry will give it a new and interesting flavor
  • Use a food processor or blender to puree basil, olive oil & onion. Add it to tomato soups
  • Enjoy a cup of basil tea by infusing chopped basil leaves in boiling water for eight minutes.
  • If you put basil in a glass of water it will stay fresh a very long time and will sprout roots. You can then transplant it to your garden.

    Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
    -Seasonal Stone Fruit
    The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
    Hans Wilgenberg, Dinuba
    -Green Beans
    -Red Lettuce
    -Nantes Carrots
    -Mediterranean Cucumbers
    -Irish Red Potatoes
    T & D Willey, Madera
    *Denotes Large Box Only
    Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

    Several of you have asked for some way of being able to give a box of produce as a gift without having to pay an extra box deposit, or be concerned with getting the re-usable box back from the “giftee”. If you check out the add-ons you will see that you now have the ability to purchase a large or small box that will be packed in a disposable box. The contents of the box will be identical to the contents of the large or small box distributed to subscribers on that week’s delivery. What a great way to say “I wish you well”.

    Blueberry Coffee Cake Preheat Oven to 425º
    1 ½ cups flour ½ cup sugar
    1 Tbsp baking powder 1 tsp cinnamon
    ½ tsp salt
    Combine in a large mixing bowl
    Gently fold in 1 ½ cup blueberries
    1 egg ½ cup milk
    ¼ cup butter, melted (or oil) Whisk together in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture and stir carefully. Batter will be very stiff. Spread into a greased 8 x 8 inch pan or 2 loaf pans.

    1/3 cup sugar 1/3 cup flour
    1/3 cup nuts, chopped 2 Tbsp butter
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    Mix together until crumbly and sprinkle over batter. Bake in preheated oven until top is light golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temp. Double for a 9 x 13 pan

    Green Beans
    1 pound green beans cut into 1-2 inch pieces
    Cook in a small amount of water until crisp tender, 5-10 minutes.
    Drain. In 1 Tbsp oil sauté ¼ cup minced onion and 1 clove minced garlic. Add 2 Tbsp minced fresh basil; 1 cup chopped tomatoes and cooked green beans. Cover and cook about 5 min. Season to taste.