Our guest columnist this week is Tom Willey who, with his wife Denesse, provides many of the beautiful vegetables we enjoy. Together they own and operate the T & D Willey Farm in Madera.
TOM WILLEY WRITES
The gift for which I’m most grateful these holidays is the belated start of a wet season we pray adds up to something near normal, come spring. It’s time to hold the annual “yard stick” up to our soil building program but I’m not going to pull samples just yet in hopes of more rain soon. Salt management on our arid, irrigated soil depends on adequate winter precipitation to refresh and revive, driving accumulated sodium and other potentially harmful elements below the root zone. Salts, actually earth metals in solution, are also the very elements of fertility, enriching soil’s ability to nourish plant life when present in adequate quantities and in proper balance with each other. The same potassium, sodium, magnesium or calcium in excess or improper ratio can become toxic to our crops. When we receive less than the average eight inches of winter rain, sodium and potassium begin to creep above desirable levels. At the time we acquired this farm, a dozen years ago, magnesium was characteristically in excess, sealing the soil, impeding water penetration and reducing oxygen to the detriment of soil microbes and plant roots. Copious applications of calcium in the form of limestone, over several years drove enough magnesium out, finally achieving the near perfect balance of major minerals we sought. San Joaquin Valley soils owe their parentage to a previous, more ancient Sierra Nevada’s eroded granites spread out from the east in stream deposited alluvial fans. More coarse materials sorted out earlier, laying down the sandy soils nearer foothills, fine silts and clays were carried farther towards the valley’s trough or center. Finer soils are naturally more fertile but sand tills easily and blended loams are near the ideal. Our fine sandy loam, profiting from additions of quality compost and building humus, tests nearly twice as fertile (as measured by Cat-ion Exchange Capacity, CEC) as it did twelve years ago.
I am sobered, reading Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” and understanding how the success and failure of past societies hinged mightily on the care or neglect paid to soil resources. The annual soil sampling ritual on the eight plots representing our farm is an eagerly and nervously awaited measure of my stewardship.
Recipes are now available on the website. We hope, as we continue to add recipes, this will be a helpful tool. Check it out!
It is no surprise that Brussels sprouts look like mini cabbages, they are closely related. Although the butt of many jokes, this little vegetable packs quite a punch. They contain high quantities of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folic acid just to name a few of their highly beneficial attributes. Brussels sprouts are also high in fiber. A cup of Brussels sprouts contains more than 4 grams of fiber and soluble and insoluble fiber are present in roughly equal amounts.
Perhaps the reason many people say they do not like Brussels sprouts is because they have been served over-cooked. Over cooking releases sulphur compounds in the vegetables that give it a smell that is often found unpleasant. If properly cooked the unpleasant smell is avoided and the vegetable will have a delicate nutty flavor. The typical method of cooking this vegetable is to boil or steam it, but try it roasted, stir fried, or even micro-waved for different tastes.
Unwashed and untrimmed Brussels sprouts should be kept in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. Stored in a plastic bag they can be kept for about 10 days. If you want to freeze your sprouts they should be blanched first for between three to five minutes. They will keep in the freezer for up to one year.
Before washing your sprouts, cut off the base with the remaining stem and then peel away the surface leaves that are loosened by this cut. Wash them under running water or soak them in a bowl of water to remove any insects that may have taken up residence there. When cooking the Brussels sprouts whole cut an “X” in the bottom of the stem area. This will allow the heat to permeate throughout all of the leaves to ensure even texture.
You will now find, as an add-on, Organic Hard Red Winter Wheat. The Hard Red Winter Wheat is available in 2 pound and 5 pound bags. This is only the beginning and in coming weeks you can look forward to Hard White and Soft White Wheat, Rolled Oats, Long Grain Brown Rice, Black Beans and Pinto Beans, Green and Red Lentils, and Green and Yellow Split Peas. All Organic and all delivered to you with your box of fresh produce. We will keep you updated.
Robert Jackson, whose family is packaging these products, has provided another website to peak your interest in freshly ground flour. This write-up is found at:
WHO GREW THIS?
Here is what you will find in this week’s box
-Satsuma Mandarin Oranges
M & K, Caruthers
Ridder & Son, Watsonville
John Fagundes, Hanford
Troy Huckabay, Kingsburg
Family Farm, Madera
Christopher Ranch, Gilroy
John Tobias, Hollister
-Red Butterhead Lettuce
-Red Oakleaf Lettuce*
T & D Willey, Madera
* Denotes Abundant Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.
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Rustic Winter Vegetable Tarts
7 ½ cups of winter vegetables (such as Brussel Sprouts, Carrots, Turnips, Red Onion, Sweet Potatoes, Rutabegas, Leeks, Butternut Squash)
4 slices of bacon 3 Tbsp olive oil 2 Tbsp thyme
1 pkg refrigerated (15 oz) unbaked pie crust, or make your own
1 cup crumbled goat cheese (4 oz) 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced Rosemary (optional)Peel and seed your vegetables as necessary and cut into bite size chunks. Toss prepared vegetables with bacon, olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Spread evenly on 15 x 10 x 1 baking pan. Roast vegetables at 425º for about 35 minutes. Roll out each pie crust and divide into four individual squares. Remove vegetables from oven and stir in ¾ cup of the goat cheese, the vinegar and garlic. Set aside. Divide vegetable mixture among dough squares leaving enough of a border to form edge for tart. Sprinkle veges with remaining goat cheese. Bake 20 minutes at 375º or until tarts are golden brown.
Beets and Red Onions
½ cup cider vinegar ¼ cup sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon 1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 large red onion cut in wedges ¼ cup water
½ tsp salt 4-8 small beets
Cut tops off of beets, wash and steam the beets until tender. After they have cooled the skins will slide right off. If beets are small they may be left whole, or slice and quarter. Place in a bowl that can be sealed. In saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, water and remaining spices. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. Stir in onion. Return to a boil, reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes or until tender. Pour onion mixture over beets and let stand covered for 30 minutes. Seal bowl and refrigerate overnight before serving. Can be sliced and served over salad or by itself with feta cheese sprinkled on top.