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.

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