At some points in the season I like to take stock of what is going well and what is underperforming. Crops that are looking particularly good right now: sweet potatoes, fall green onions, baby kale, kohlrabi, carrots, and napa cabbage. Crops that are bumming me out right now: arugula, spinach, cabbage, eggplant, and beets. Our sweet potato beds are looking great and we planted one more bed than last year, so I'm hoping for a big harvest of those roots in a few weeks. Last year we harvested close to 800 lbs of sweet potatoes from two beds!! We have four beds of fall carrots that have been nicely hand weeded and are looking fantastic. Carrots and other root vegetables will get sweeter as they mature during the cooler nights of fall. Our fall planted kohlrabi is looking really excellent as is our napa cabbage. I think we can expect good harvests of both of those crops in a month or so. Baby kale is looking good for a first harvest next week and I just seeded a second bed that should mature in early November. I'm really disappointed by our fall arugula though. We had a first partial bed that didn't germinate well and then got way too weedy so we had to mow it down. I seeded a second bed a couple of weeks ago and it came up great, but when I checked on it yesterday a bunch of the seedlings had wilted. This has been a recurring problem for us with arugula and I think it may be due to a fungal disease that rots the roots and stem of the plant. It looks like there is a cool biological control available that we may try. It is a protective bacteria that associates with the root of your crop plant to help protect against colonization by the fungus. I'm hoping that if we apply this bacteria a few times in different areas around the farm that it will survive in the soil ecology and help protect against this type of fungal damage in the future. Other crops that are disappointing (like spinach and beets) have had poor germination in the heat of late summer. I had considered getting a paperpot transplanter last year to help with these crops, but it's a fairly big investment so I held off. I'm thinking seriously about it again as I curse the erratic germination of these two delicious and popular crops. The benefit of the paperpot system is that you can germinate crops indoors in ideal conditions and then very quickly plant them out as young seedlings with the pull behind transplanter which will plant them out with perfect spacing in a few minutes. It's a pretty cool Japanese design and probably the biggest drawback is the ongoing cost of the paperpot chains each time you seed a flat.
The share this week has taken a decided turn toward fall with lots of root crops and a few unusual items. Celeriac is the first item which many of you may not have had before. It's a root vegetable with a light celery flavor, so most people enjoy it if they like celery. To prepare, you peel or cut off the skin, then chop the root into 1-inch pieces before roasting or adding to soup. The tops of the celeriac can also be used, but they are very fibrous compared to regular celery. They would be an excellent addition to a stock. The second 'weird' item this week is sweet potato greens. Although, we don't often eat these greens in our culture, many asian and african cultures love sweet potato greens (so do the deer by the way). The texture of these greens is similar to spinach and can be used as a substitute. If you google 'sweet potato greens' you'll find lots of great ideas for how to use this veggie. I really like the simple idea on this blog: https://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2012/09/sweet-potato-greens-in-coconut-cream.html. Let me know what you think of these unusual veggies this week!
Recipes from Maria:
CELERIAC & ROASTED GARLIC SOUP WITH PARSLEY OIL
1 head of garlic halved
1 large white onion finely chopped
1 celeriac/celery root, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes peeled and chopped
1 bouquet garni a mix of herbs of your choosing to infuse the soup
4 cups vegetable/chicken stock
½ cup cream
salt and pepper to taste
for the parsley oil:
large handful fresh Italian parsley
50 ml olive oil
To roast the garlic, place the halved head of garlic on a piece of foil and drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt. Wrap in the foil and place in the 350 degree oven and allow to roast for 45 minutes - 1 hour until the garlic is soft. Squeeze out of the skins and set aside.
To make the soup, fry the onion in a splash of olive oil until soft and translucent.
Add the celeriac and potato and saute for 10 minutes.
Add the roasted garlic and bouquet garni and pour in the stock.
Allow the soup to simmer gently for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
Puree the soup and add a little more stock if the soup is too thick.
Add the cream and season to taste.
To make the parsley oil, combine the parsley and oil in a small food processor then blend until the parsley is very finely chopped.
Pass the mixture through a sieve and discard the parsley.
Serve the soup with a swirl of the parsley oil.
Roasted Root Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie with Mashed Butternut Squash topping
2 medium beets, scrubbed and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 large yellow onion, peeled & cut into bite sized pieces
3 medium carrots and 3 turnips, scrubbed, scraped & cut into bite sized pieces
3 sprigs fresh sage
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
pinch red pepper flakes
1 large butternut squash, peeled
2 teaspoons butter
1/4 cup sour cream
zest from 1/2 orange
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter, divided
4 large mushrooms, cleaned and cut into bit sized pieces
1 tablespoon fresh sage, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 lb ground beef
1 cup red wine
2 cloves garlic, slivered
2 teaspoons fresh sage
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a small baking dish add the beets, onion, carrots, turnips, sage sprigs, tablespoon olive oil and season with salt, pepper and pinch of pepper flakes. Toss gently to coat and roast for 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. (leave the oven on)
Add the butternut squash halves to the oven cut side down with a little water in the pan and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until soft when pierced with a knife. Remove and allow to cool just until you are able to handle them. Put the flesh in a medium bowl and add 2 teaspoons butter, sour cream, orange zest and season with salt and pepper and mash well. Set aside.
While the vegetables are cooking, heat an oven proof skillet over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon butter and add the mushrooms, sage and season with salt and pepper. Brown the mushrooms, about 4 minutes. Remove from the skillet and add to the roasted vegetables.
In a medium bowl, add the flour, salt and pepper and toss the ground beef in the flour mixture, removing any excess flour. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the remaining butter. Add the beef in a single uncrowded layer and brown. Remove to the roasted vegetable dish.
Add the wine and deglaze the pan scraping up the browned bits in the pan, about 1 minute. Add the slivered garlic and sage and add the roasted vegetables, mushrooms and beef. Toss to coat in the red wine mixture and remove from the heat. Top with the squash mixture and bake at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown and the beef mixture is bubbling around the edges. Remove and serve immediately.