Sogn Valley Farm CSA Newsletter Fall Week 3 | Oct 23-24, 2018
What's In The Box
Red potatoes: These come from Driftless Organics in western Wisconsin, like the gold potatoes did last week. We like cubing and roasting these or using them in a frittata.
Sweet potatoes: This week's sweet potatoes are the new variety I referred to in an earlier newsletter - Burgundy.' Nice, deep-orange flesh that retains its color well when cooked. The flavor was also rated best of the three varieties we grew this year, according to a highly non-scientific poll of Sam, Liz, and I each trying all three side by side. The skins didn't set very well in curing, so although we washed them very gently, some of them have a few patches of scuffed skin. If you have other plans for this week's butternut, sweet potato would work well as a substitute in the recipe for chicken and wild rice casserole.
Butternut squash: We like peeling, cubing, and either roasting or boiling with other veggies before puréeing into a soup. Or for a simpler approach, just trim the stem end, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and bake overturned in a pan with a little water in it. Use in this week's recipe.
Pie pumpkin: To prepare for making pie, halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Then cut into large chunks and either roast or steam them until tender. This will also make a nice Halloween-y splash of orange on your counter until you cook it.
Carrots: I'm always amazed at how much better carrots and other root crops get in the fall. These are probably the sweetest we've had all year. Use these in soups, stews, salads, and stir-fries, or maybe just eat them raw?
Parsley: This is a wonderful fall herb, called for in many soup recipes and pairing well with potatoes and other roasted veggies. This may be the last of the fresh herbs for the season, except for possibly another bunch of parsley near Thanksgiving, if weather is mild and regrowth is sufficient.
Red or green cabbage: This will likely be the only cabbage you receive in fall shares this year. Our fall cabbage crop was a near total failure due to the disease issues discussed in previous newsletters.
Garlic: This week you have 'Majestic' garlic.
Red and yellow onions: Use in this week's recipe.
Each week, we’ll give some hints about what new items may show up CSA shares in the next 1 -2 weeks. Please note, this is not a guarantee, but our attempt to give you an idea of what’s coming up.
Fennel — Acorn squash — Turnips
We're back to seasonally normal temperatures, with perhaps even above-average nighttime lows, and are appreciating it.
This week, we are finally getting around to planting garlic. It's actually right on schedule, in that this is the week of the year we've planted garlic the last three years, and it's always worked out fine.
However, I had been hoping to try out a different approach this season, which would have involved planting 3- 4 weeks earlier and not mulching with straw. But alas, the soil was far too wet to plant for several weeks during that time.
Here's some background: hardneck garlic is very cold-hardy, so is generally unscathed by low temperatures in the dead of winter, particularly when there is snow cover to insulate it a bit. The period with potential to cause damage is late winter/early spring, when freeze-thaw cycles can cause cloves to heave out of the ground. I have seen this firsthand when working on another farm.
The theory behind the early-planting approach is to give the cloves extra time to grow in the fall and form deeper root systems. They will also grow more leaves, which will dieback during winter cold. However, the thought is that a deeper, more developed root system resulting from a mid-September rather than a mid- October planting date, should better anchor each clove in the ground and prevent frost heaving.
Why would I be interested in this approach? It's certainly not because I want one more thing to do in September - we're busy enough as it is with all the CSA/farmers' market crops, plus the height of wholesale pepper harvest. The reason is I'd like to avoid the need to mulch the field with straw. Why? Because straw mulch is expensive to buy, time-consuming to apply, and is typically full of seeds (both weeds and grain, such as oats or wheat). The weeds that grow from these seeds cannot be mechanically cultivated, since straw physically obstructs that process. So they need to be hand-pulled.
Secondly, the mulch needs to be removed from the beds in the spring in order to allow the soil to warm up. (Insulation works both ways — keeping the soil warmth in over the winter, and the warm air out in the spring.) This is another laborious task that I'd rather avoid.
Thirdly, the presence of straw is an obstruction to a number of field operations aside from cultivation. It prevents us from sidedressing fertilizer in the spring, as is recommended by most universities for optimum nutrient utilization. The heavy pathway straw also makes it challenging to use our undercutter to lift the garlic out of the ground for easier harvest, since the shanks build up mounds of straw as they travel down the field. And lastly, there is sometimes so much straw at the end of the season that it's difficult to till into the soil, and can delay subsequent planting of other crops into that field.
I feel a little sheepish disparaging straw mulch like this. If clean of seeds, it is a great way to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture, particularly at the garden scale. And, certainly, straw can contribute large amounts of organic matter to the soil, something I have regularly promoted as critical to soil health and sustainable agriculture. But we have other ways to build organic matter, namely in growing cover crops. In fact, we're planning to seed about three acres of them this week!
That's your dose of “farmer's mind” for the week. Have a good one!
Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash and Cranberries(Serves 4-6 )
1 cup uncooked wild rice (3 cups cooked)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 small butternut squash, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 5 cups cubes)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus additional for garnish
3/4 cup dried cranberries (I prefer the ones with reduced sugar)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided (about 2 ounces)
Cook the rice according to package directions. Drain off any excess cooking liquid and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced chicken and sauté until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink on the inside, about 6 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
With a paper towel, carefully wipe the skillet clean. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium. Add the diced squash, onions, salt, and pepper. Sauté until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender but still retains some chew, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the thyme, cranberries, reserved chicken, rice, and 1/4 cup Parmesan.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake 5 additional minutes, until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with additional chopped fresh thyme and serve warm
Recipe source: https://www.wellplated.com/chicken-and-wild-rice-casserole/