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.