May 17, 2008

Week 37

On the fruit farm, what we’ve experienced weather wise this year has been text book perfect. Plenty of chilling in the winter. Plenty of rain through mid February to get deep moisture. Then like a switch was thrown, the rain stopped right at bloom time to give us a disease free fruit set. Since then, we’ve had consistent cool weather so our sizing is excellent. Now we’re getting the heat we need to put some sugar in the stuff. My guess is that we get a year like this about every 15. Truth is, I’ve got a great memory, it’s just not very long but I can’t remember a year like this ever. In any 15 years, you’re going to have 4 with hail damage from slight to total. 5 with inadequate chilling. 5 with a wet bloom. And I haven’t mentioned frost and wind damage. Labor shortages…..
BUT on any of the other 14, we would call this normal. NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! Normal is frost, and wind and rain. We describe perfect as normal and any deviation from that as abnormal. It carries over into our every day lives. You get the picture I’m sure. We really need to be rejoicing when our families’ all healthy, the bills are mostly paid, there’s groceries in the pantry and the car starts in the morning. Folks, an attitude of gratitude is the basis of a healthy life every bit as much as Organic nutrient dense produce. Let’s start celebrating what every-body else calls normal and accepting deviations from perfection as the NORMAL challenges of life.
Well, we’re in the thick of the early harvest. 4 in the morning ‘til midnight next few weeks and then we’ll go to just ½ days (12 hours is half a day isn’t it?) Part of my original spiel was NO stickers. What I want to do is just a field run bunch of Organic fruit for you guys. A range of sizes the way they come off the tree. Right now, Organic fruit is really valuable but I still want to give you an abundant amount so what we’re going to do for a bit is focus on the cosmetically challenged stuff. Great to eat but with a slight blemish. I can give you 3X the amount and you’re not selling it you’re eating it. Down side, there’ll be some stickers for a bit, but it’s what our family eats. My own dad in the middle of the orchard would hand me the “split pit” to eat and say “these are the best”.
Next week you’re going to get Ginger Balakian’s squash. She grows 27 different kinds, so who knows which kind will be in your box, but you’ll be tempted to just leave it on the counter or paint a picture of it it’s so pretty.
Lots of the veg guys were frozen out a month ago and that’s contributing to the very tight supplies. That should ease over the next couple weeks as the new plantings come on line.
On the web, you’ll see Seasonal #2 stone fruit at a really incredibly cheap price. I want you to have all you want for smoothies and Ice Cream and just sharing with your friends and co-workers. I believe this will be one of the truly great benefits of being part of this. It’s what I do and you’re now insiders. Wait for Zee Lady’s July 5th for canning. I’ll let you know the week before. EAT HEALTHY!!

This will be old news to some of you but we have many new subscribers so this week we are including some information about your tools on the website. It will be a good refresher for everyone.
If you are going to be out of town or simply do not want to receive your produce on any given week you have the ability to place yourself on vacation. When you do so you will not be scheduled for delivery that week. The requirement on vacation stops is that they must be set a minimum of 10 days prior to the scheduled delivery. That means the delivery day does not count in the 10 days. When you login and select Set Your Vacation Weeks it will be immediately obvious to you whether or not you can still set a date for vacation because if you can it will be available on the list of delivery dates shown to you. This view will give you dates going out a full year so as soon as you know you are going to be gone get that vacation scheduled.
We do not have the ability to schedule your vacations for you, only you can do it. Once you are inside that 10 day window your order will be charged and processed. If you find out at the last minute that you are going to be gone you may have someone else pick up your order for you.
Many subscribers use the vacation system to schedule delivery on an every other week basis. If you have vacation scheduled, and decide you want your delivery, simply go to “Edit This Week” before 9:00 on Monday and make the change.

You may see other subscribers picking up eggs, chicken, extra fruit, etc. at the delivery site and wonder how you can too. Once again, login and look at the right hand side of your screen. You will see your “Subscription Dashboard” and the date of your upcoming delivery. Under that you will find a bar that is titled “EDIT THIS WEEK/ADDONS”. When you select that you will be taken to a page that will show you the items that you may purchase in addition to your box of produce. We are in the process of making improvements to this area of the site so the look may change but the function is the same. Simply enter the quantity you would like to purchase and Add to This Week’s Delivery. The cost of those items will be added to your charges on Monday morning and we will deliver them with your produce that week.
Your account page is your private area. No one else can view it, change it, or cancel your subscription. Not even us. Take some time to login and look at all of the different areas available to you. If you ever have questions don’t hesitate to ask.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Green Leaf Lettuce*
Grimway Farms, Bakersfield
Hans Wilgenburg, Dinuba
-Crookneck Squash*
-French Breakfast Radishes
-Red Spring Onions
-Bloomsdale Spinach
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.

Don’t forget about us when your credit/debit card expires and you get a new one. Login and find the EDIT button under your User’s billing information. Select EDIT and enter the new expiration date.
In the same vein, if your card is canceled because it has been lost or stolen you must enter your new card number. Thank you, in advance, for keeping your card information updated.

Oatmeal Cookie-Fruit Pizza Preheat Oven to 350º
Cookie Crust
2 Tbsp butter ¼ cup honey
½ cup light brown sugar 1 egg white
1/3 cup applesauce 2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour 1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt 1 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ cup old fashioned oats 1/3 cup nuts (optional)
Cream the butter, honey, and brown sugar together in a mixing bowl. Add egg white and combine. Mix in the applesauce and vanilla. Mix together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to sugar mixture stirring just to combine. Gently stir in oats and nuts. Spray a 12 inch pizza pan with Pam or cover with parchment paper. Spread the batter on the pan and bake until lightly browned, 30-35 minutes. Let cool.

8 ounces cream cheese 1 cup powdered sugar
Cream together until smooth. Spread on cooled cookie crust leaving a ½ inch border around the rim.

Slice seasonal fruit (peaches, nectarines, apricots, etc.). Place on top of cream, in pattern or randomly.

2/3 cup sugar 3 Tbsp cornstarch ¼ cup waterBring above ingredients to a boil and cook until clear. Drizzle on top of fruit to give a shine to the pizza. A cup of mashed fruit may be added to the glaze for color and flavor. Chill. Slice into wedges and serve.

May 10, 2008

Week 36

So what in the world’s an APRIUM any how? Well, to look at it you’d call it an apricot, kind of like a pluot looks like a plum. An industry hero named Floyd Zeiger up in Modesto makes around 150,000 crosses of various fruits and nuts a year. He replicates each one 15 times, keeps track of the parents, plants the resulting seeds in a nursery, grows the tree and evaluates the fruit resulting eventually in a dozen new varieties a year of peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, almonds, and all the jazzy stuff like donut peaches and nectarines, pluots, apriums and you name it. Floyd’s got to be up in his seventies and still going strong. I saw him last week receiving the national peach council’s award of accomp-lishment. After a 15 minute introduction by a guy who flew in from Carolina, Floyd walked up, received the plaque, bent over to the mic and said “Thanks” and went back and sat down to thunderous applause. When you’re the top dog, you don’t need to say much.

Anyway, an Aprium is basically an apricot with a little plum bred into it. A Pluot is a plum with a little apricot in it. Floyd would call it an “interspecific” cross. A side note, if you’re up at Floyd’s around noon time, his wife will feed you lunch topped off with Pluot pie. You’ll be eating with farmers from Spain and Italy, Georgia and the Carolinas who’ve come to see the latest.
A given variety of stone fruit harvests over about a 10 day period. Therefore, in order to have peaches say from May through September, takes a minimum of 15 different varieties with precise harvest dates. When we’re looking at new varieties, we’re comparing them in our minds to what is currently available in that time slot. We’re looking for:
1. appearance
2. size
3. ship-ability (durability)
4. flavor
Sadly, in that order. In 33 years and millions of boxes, I have yet to be slammed (not paid) due to poor flavor. I’m regularly slammed because of excess flavor (ripe)

The reason is simple. Commercially we don’t sell fruit to people who eat it, we sell fruit to people who sell it to other people, and the producer consumer connection is lost. When I get rewarded for 1-3 and punished for 4, guess which traits are emphasized. Secondly, the higher the flavor, the more difficult and delicate they generally are to handle and the greater the likelihood of getting slammed. This Tasty Rich in your box took me literally three X’s the effort to handle today as another apricot, but there’s no comparison in the flavor. ENJOY.
We get a year like this about every 15. Harvest has been going about a week now and what a joy! The fruit is just great. Could use a little more heat to bring the flavor along, but who’s complaining.
If you want to make some apricot jam or can some, I’d wait for the Pattersens in mid June. We’ll have peaches and nectarines next week and maybe a few more Apriums. Pace yourselves now. It takes a bit to build up capacity.
EAT HEALTHY!!!! Vernon

What we term as a spring onion resembles a green onion but has a slightly more rounded and defined bulb and is typically larger. The flavor of a spring onion is a bit hotter and has a little more bite than a green onion but they can be used in much the same way. Just remember, since they can be stronger less may be better.
Spring onions also resemble leeks but are smaller and milder in taste. The red spring onions offer bright color to green salads and are ideal for potato salad and other uncooked uses. You may also use them as an accent in soups, stir-fries and casseroles. The tops of spring onions have a stronger flavor than chives but milder than onion. They can be used in pretty much any dish that calls for chives or onion flavored ingredients. Try adding the sliced green tops to fried rice. When the rice is done, turn off the heat and stir in the onion tops. The heat in the rice is enough to cook them. Use them to top your baked potato, or added to omelets.
Spring onions are great sliced very thin and sautéed with fresh spring and summer vegetables. Add them to sautéed mushrooms with about 30 seconds to go.
Since the spring onion is fresh and not dried, like most of the onions purchased in this country, they must be properly stored to maintain their freshness. The onions should be placed in a plastic bag in the crisper of your refrigerator until you are ready to use them.

This week we have Apriums and in future weeks we will have other varieties of apricots so let’s learn a little bit about them. As with most fruits the apricot is soft to the touch and juicy when it is fully ripe. They should be eaten as soon as possible once they become ripe.
You should keep apricots cool to prevent over ripening. Place them in a bag in the refrigerator crisper and they may keep for up to a week. For the best flavor, let the apricots warm to room temperature before eating them. Wash the fruit only when you are ready to eat it. If you have hard apricots they can be easily ripened by placing them in a paper bag for a day or two. Be sure to check on their progress so they do not over ripen.
Apricots are well suited to freezing for future use. To freeze fresh apricots, simply half the fruit, remove the stone, and place on a baking sheet in the freezer until they are frozen. You can then pack them in a plastic freezer bag and use them as needed.
Apricots are not just for jam or desserts; try them in green salad or in cooked dishes too.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Aprium Apricots
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Russet Potatoes
Grimway Farms, Bakersfield
-Red Leaf Lettuce*
-Romaine Lettuce
-Bloomsdale Spinach
-English Garden Peas
-Red Spring Onions
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.

Ever been in the “doghouse”? Starting next week, if you forget your empty box, that is where you will have to go; or your name at least. When you forget to bring your box to the delivery you will be asked to complete an “In the Doghouse” form which will be kept by your host until the box is returned. Some of the empty boxes seem to have a problem making it back to the site and this will help us keep track of where they are.

Fruit Cobbler Preheat Oven to 375º
This recipe can be used for any fruit, or mixture of fruits, and will make an
8 x 8 cobbler. It can be doubled for a 9 X 13.

Cut enough fruit, of your choice, to fit in your baking dish and mix with the following:
3-4 Tbsp flour ¾ cup sugar

Lightly butter baking dish and place the pre-cooked fruit in dish.
Mix the following for topping:
¼ cup brown sugar ¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup butter softened almost to melt ¼ cup oatmeal
½ cup flour

Mixture will be chunky. Sprinkle over top and bake for 20 minutes or until fruit is bubbly. Cool and enjoy with some homemade ice cream.

Honey Dijon Salad Dressing

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar 3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp sour cream 1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup light salad oil
Whisk ingredients together for a delicious salad dressing.
Compliments of Sarah Jackson

Fresh Apricot Basil Salad Dressing
1 fresh ripe apricot, pitted 1 Tbsp white vinegar
½ Tbsp sugar 2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil
Combine pitted apricot, vinegar and sugar in blender, and whirl until blended. With blender running, slowly add vegetable oil until thick and smooth. Stir in basil.

California Fresh Apricot Council

May 6, 2008

Week 35

Paradox* I’ve been thinking a lot this week about some of the paradoxes we have in our society right now and how they pertain to this Abundant Harvest adventure.
Paradox 1* Americans spent an all time record 11 billion dollars on kitchen remodels in 2007 while simultaneously breaking all records for restaurant sales.
Paradox 2* Around 70% of Americans say they eat Organic frequently but only 2% of our food production is Organic.
Paradox 3* Farmers rank right up there with the clergy in polls of what profession do you trust while Agribusiness (carried out by farmers) is near the bottom of businesses that we trust.
Paradox 4* Most of us trace our lineage with pride back to poor immigrants who came to America with nothing but desire, took the most menial jobs and worked their way up so the kids (us) could have a better life yet for over 25 years we’ve not provided a legal way for immigrants with only entry level skills to come and do the jobs we’ve risen above.
*Resolving the paradoxes*
1* I’m thinking that while we want to value eating and entertaining at home, it would take some sort of really special service that could source varied and exciting produce items and combine them with great recipes to keep cooking at home from becoming boring and eating at home with family and friends exciting. What so many folks have had pointed out in their lives by this subscription is how little we actually eat at home. But with our budgets being stretched so thin, if we swapped one meal a week out, for a home cooked meal, and if that meal were fresh Organic, we’d save a ton on restaurants and be healthier to boot. We all hate to pay for what we don’t use so kind of like a gym membership, if you ponied up for more produce, I’ll bet you’d enjoy staying home to eat it or invite some friends over and share it. Either way we’d be richer in so many ways!
2* I’m thinking that while folks want to eat Organic, they don’t because of cost, quality and availability. We’ve got that licked.
3* I’m thinking there’s no face to conventional agriculture and the folks profiting from it don’t even want “country of origin” much less consumer knowledge of the farmer. What’s needed is a “who grew this” attached to all produce we eat.
4* Maybe some other time. I’m thinking for a start though it would be helpful if we had a place on the website for you to meet the hard working immigrants who’ve come here with nothing but desire who are doing the real yeomen’s work of producing your food. Hard to ignore real folks who picked the strawberries this week.
Hey! I got to be in Bakersfield and Tehachapi last week for the deliveries as well as share your Earth Day events. What a Blast. It was most gratifying to watch you all hanging out and visiting and hear such positive 1st hand reports of the impact this is having. From the bottom of our hearts:
Thank you for Eating Healthy

This week’s featured vegetable is chock full of good things from flavor, crunch, and healthy fiber to vitamins and minerals. They are high in carbohydrates, but, fortunately, rather low in calories. It is the English garden pea, probably the most familiar pea to most of us.
The garden pea as we know it today was developed in England; thus the name English pea. Peas, however, have been cultivated for centuries. No one knows exactly when people began cultivating them, but records indicate that by 3000 BC some variety of peas was part of the diet.
Perhaps your experience with peas has been the frozen variety. Or, perhaps you have memories of helping shell peas as a child. No matter your experience most of us have eaten peas. Luckily, since they are grown only during the cooler months, English peas lend themselves well to freezing. To freeze English peas, shell them; discard the pods; then blanch the peas for one to two minutes in boiling water, drain and dip in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain them again and store in plastic bags or containers in the freezer. Freshly frozen peas should be eaten within six to seven months.
If you are going to eat your peas fresh; shell them when you are ready to prepare them, not in advance. Shelling is simply opening the pod and removing the peas. To store fresh peas place them, pod and all, in a moisture proof bag, and refrigerate them for up to 5 days.

We have always said that one of the goals of Abundant Harvest Organics is to encourage the building of “community”. We continue to see that happening at the delivery sites as you spend time visiting with each other and sharing ideas.
Here’s a great idea to take it a step further. You may look at the add-on list and think “I would love to have more of that great spinach, but I would never use six pounds of it”. Or maybe, “25 pounds of peas! That’s a lot of frozen peas.” How about if you get together with other families and share the cost and the bounty?
As fruits and vegetable are in season, we will try to offer as many of them as possible as an add-on so that you will have the opportunity to purchase them in larger quantities. They will be offered in the quantity sold to us by the farmer. Unless you are into canning, freezing or making jam these quantities may be more than can be used by one family so here is your perfect opportunity to build a form of community with one, or more, of the subscribers in your area.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-W. Murcott Mandarin Oranges
Rick Schellenburg, Kingsburg
-Valencia Oranges*
Marie Ishida & Lynn Takamoto,
Hans Wilgenburg, Dinuba
-Russet Potatoes
Grimway Farms, Bakersfield
-Red Butterhead Lettuce*
-Redleaf Lettuce
-Bloomsdale Spinach
-Bunched Red Spring Onions
-English Garden Peas
-Fresh Dill*
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Abundant Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on date of delivery.

Yes, sadly it is time to say goodbye to the oranges and mandarins for this year. The good news is that it is the start of a new season. As Vernon has been sharing the fruit trees are heavy laden with delicious varieties of stone fruit. As they ripen they will be harvested and delivered to you fresh and tasty.

Sweet Pea and Potato Pasta
12 ounces fettuccine 6 Tbsp olive oil
½ lb potatoes, peeled, cut into 1” pieces Salt and pepper
1 lb garden peas in their pod, or 2 cups shelled ½ cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup spring onions, chopped including green top

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and toss with 4 Tbsp of olive oil. While the pasta cooks, place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a simmer. Add 1 Tbsp salt and cook until tender, about 12 minutes. Shell the peas. When the potatoes have 2 minutes left to cook, add the peas to the potatoes. Drain the vegetables and transfer to the pot with the pasta. Stir in spring onions, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, the remaining olive oil, ¾ tsp. salt, and ½ tsp pepper. Place in bowl and top with remaining cheese. Can be served cold with a salad dressing applied.

Cheese and Spinach Lasagna Preheat Oven to 350º
1 lb cooked spinach Salt and pepper
1 lb ricotta cheese 8 lasagna noodles (cooked)
2 cups strained tomatoes 8 oz mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Squeeze out any excess water from spinach. Put half in the bottom of an oven proof dish and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread half the ricotta over the spinach, cover with half the lasagna noodles, then spoon over half the strained tomatoes. Arrange half the mozzarella cheese slices on top. Repeat the layers and finally sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until top is brown and bubbling.Serve with fresh green salad.