November was ushered in with our first freeze of the year. Most folks are a bit surprised at how many vegetables can tolerate freezing temperatures. All of our root crops (carrots, turnips, radishes) are fairly well protected since they are close to the warmer soil and because they have built up sugars that keep them from freezing solid until the temps get much colder. Many of the greens can tolerate freezing too. Spinach is the beast when it comes to cold weather. Our fall planting unfortunately didn't come up well and so we have just a bit of this crop available, but what we do have looks perfect, totally uncovered after multiple nights of freezing. The only rule you have to follow with these cold-weather crops, is that you must wait until they thaw to harvest the leaves. Spinach, kale, cabbage are fine without any cover. Many lettuces, asian greens, the turnip and radish greens can tolerate temperatures down to 26-28 degrees if they are under a lightweight, woven row cover. That being said, it looks like our lows may dip lower than that later this week. So we are in full-on harvest mode for the next few days, getting in as much veg as we can store well in the cooler for the next couple of weeks. It seems just a bit earlier for these sub-26 degree temps than the past couple of years. Last year we didn't even get our first frost until November. You certainly can't predict exactly what will happen with weather, but we can typically be fairly confident that we can have enough awesome stuff for shares until mid-November.
When the weather finally closes us down for the season there is always a mixture of sadness and relief for me. The slow down of the late fall and winter is certainly much needed so that we can rejuvenate for the busy months to come next spring and summer. But I will miss harvesting fresh crops. We have a lot in storage and preserved for ourselves so there isn't much in the way of veggies that we need to buy from the store during winter. I would really love to be able to provide more of these storage crops mixed in with some greens from our hoophouses to other folks too. In fact, I'm tossing around the idea of offering a limited winter CSA next winter (2020/2021). If I get my plan together we should have enough unheated hoophouse space along with plenty of root and storage crops to do 8 weeks of shares over the winter. These would all be traditional, every-other-week shares due to the limited nature of crops available at that time. Let me know what you think and if you may be interested in something like this.
This is a major root crop share this week. All of these crops (except sweet potatoes) can store for a month or longer in your fridge, so don't feel too overwhelmed by them all. The sweet potatoes store better at basement temperatures and those can keep for a very long time. For crops with the greens attached, remove the greens and use those up within if you like to cook with them or compost them if you don't. Then store roots in a sealed container or bag in your crisper drawer. We've cooked with turnips that were stored for several months this way. The scarlet turnips are a new crop for you this week. These are a beautiful storage turnip with bright pink skin, similar to a radish. Also radish-like is a mild spicy heat from the skin. They can be eaten raw if sliced thinly, but the texture isn't quite as lovely as the salad turnips. Tossing these in with a mix of other roots veggies for roasting would be beautiful. Or you could save them and mix them with thinly sliced watermelon radishes (coming next week again) for pickling. Maria has some great ideas for using all of the roots in the share this week. For the stew recipe, you can definitely substitute turnips or radishes or more carrots for the rutabaga and parsnip. Hope you all have a great week!
Recipes from Maria:
Turnip Shepherd’s Pie
2 large turnips, peeled and chopped (~4 cups chopped)
In a large pot, cover turnips with water at least covering by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes or until fork tender.
Remove from heat, strain turnips and return turnips back to the pot, add milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt and mash with a fork or a potato masher until one consistent texture.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat, add onions and carrots and saute for 3 minutes or until onions begin to become translucent. Add meat and saute until pink is almost gone, add garlic and mushrooms, saute for 2-3 minutes until mushrooms start to sweat.
Add tomato paste, salt and pepper until well combined.
Remove from heat and transfer meat base to an 8"x8" baking dish, top evenly with turnip topping and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
French Beef Stew with Root Vegetables
For the Marinade:
2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 cups full-bodied red wine (eg, Bordeaux like cabernet sauvignon or merlot)
¾ cup red wine vinegar
1 bunch chopped parsley
1tsp ground thyme
2 bay leaves
For the Stew:
3 tablespoons oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 ounce can plain tomato sauce
4 whole cloves
2 medium carrots, cut into bite-sized chunks
3 turnips, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 medium rutabagas, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 medium parsnips, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cut up the meat into 1-inch chunks. The meat is going to simmer for two hours, so that will be enough to tenderize it, but generally you want to cut it against the grains for optimal tenderness.
Place the beef in the dutch oven with the onions and carrots and and herbs.
Add red wine and the red wine vinegar. Cover and let marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.
After it has fully marinated, remove the beef and pat it with paper towels to remove the excess moisture. This will enable it to brown properly and get that brown crust that is essential for the flavor of the stew.
Heat the oil in the dutch oven over medium-high heat once the oil is hot add the beef, a few pieces at a time. Be sure not to overcrowd the pot otherwise the beef won't brown, it will simply steam. Generously brown the pieces on all sides. Transfer them to a plate and set aside.
The browned crust that develops on the bottom of you pot - keep it! Don't throw it out, that's going to make your stew taste heavenly. Later when you add the liquid you’re going to do what's known as "deglazing" the pot. That's when you scrape up those luscious browned bits and incorporate them into the stew.
Add the onions and cook until golden brown. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
Strain the contents of the marinade into a sieve over the dutch oven. You want all of the original marinade in the dutch oven. Discard the onions and carrots from the marinade.
Return the beef to the Dutch oven with the whole cloves. (Note: You can choose to wrap the cloves in a bit of cheesecloth or muslin so that you don't have to fish them out later from the serving on your plate.) Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Towards the end of the hour, chop up the vegetables. For contrast and variety, I like to chop each of the vegetables into different shapes and sizes.
Add the vegetables along with the tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Stir a bit to combine.
Return everything to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for another hour or until vegetables are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. *If you think the beef can handle further cooking without falling apart, go ahead and simmer it for another 30 or more minutes, it will only get better!
Serve with some crusty bread.
This stew is even better the next day after the flavors have had time to meld.