Rice with Weeds

chopped radishesThe littlest farmer requested Rice with Weeds tonight. Funny, but accurate, name for a dish we had earlier in the week! A few days ago the greens in this recipe really were weeds – lambsquarter and wild mustard. Tonight the greens were radish greens (including the radish roots.) Any type of hearty green can be used in these recipes.

There are two versions of this recipe. In the first, you cook rice (our favorite is basmati) and when it is partially cooked, stir in sliced onions and lots of chopped greens. Finish cooking. This can be served as a side dish or we also use it for a meal and serve it with plain yogurt and spicy indian pickle.

rice with weedsThe second version is similar to fried rice. Here’s what we had tonight:

6 eggs

4 – 6 cups cooked rice

1 cup chopped garlic scapes

8 cups chopped greens

2 – 4 Tablespoons soy sauce

Scramble the eggs and set aside. Sauteing the garlic scapes in olive oil. Add the rice and soy sauce. Stir to warm the rice. Add the greens, stir, and cover. Light greens such as radish, lambsquarter, and baby chard will be ready in a few minutes. Tough greens, such as mature kale, need to cook longer. Once the greens are cooked, stir the eggs back into the mixture. Serve with spicy pickles, hot sauce, or peanut sauce.

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Installing Raised Beds

Are you ready to begin a garden but need a little help setting up your garden? We find that raised beds are the easiest to install and if filled with good, clean gardening soil, it will be productive AND there won’t be any weeds in it!

christine garden2Depending on your available space, 4’x4′ or 4’x8′ beds are a great place to begin. They are also modular, allowing you to install just one or two in the beginning, but then you can add on later.

Here is what you will need:

Lumber – a variety of types of wood can be used:

  • Rustic logs from trees cut down on your prperty – these are often free and will feed the soil as they decompose over several years.
  • Cedar – This does not rot, but is also quite expensive
  • Treated lumber – Not recommended for organic production because of concerns about safety.
  • Untreated pine – this is what we recommend. It is inexpensive ($6/8′ board at a local sawmill) It will rot in 5 – 8 years, but the rotting wood feeds the soil and you can easily add another round of wood when the first set no longer looks good.
  • Other creative beds- look around for what is free and will create a bed with a depth of 6″ or more. Cinder blocks and rocks are also good ideas.

Soil

  • Treat yourself and fill your bed with clean, fertile soil. One of our favorite ‘recipes’ is equal parts Compost, Vermiculite/Perlite, and Sphagnum Peat Moss. A 4’x4′ raised bed that is 6″ deep will require 8 cubic feet of soil. If you make that bed 12″ deep you will need 16 cubic feet of soil. Each year plan to add more compost.

Weed Barrier

  • Grass and weeds will find their way up through 6″ of soil, so it is best to put down weed fabric or a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard to suppress the weeds.

Location

  • Sunny location
  • Easily accessible – a few steps from the kitchen or by the door you use most frequently
  • Access to water
  • Away from wildlife
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Beginner Garden Plans

After four years of farming and even more years of talking to folks about their gardens, we’ve learned a few things about starting a successful home garden. Here are two plans, the first for a household that eats a lot of greens. The second maximizes delight and vegetable treats for kids.

Both gardens are 4’x4′ square. These beds need to be a minimum of 6″ deep. 6″ beds will need to be watered at least once a day, deeper beds can be watered less frequently.

Greens, Greens, Greens

9 Lettuce plants 9 lettuce plants 4 chard 4 chard
9 lettuce plants 9 lettuce plants 4 chard 4 chard
9 spinach plants 9 spinach plants 1 kale 1 kale
9 spinach plants 9 spinach plants 1 kale 1 kale

Notes about this garden plan:

– Chard and kale plants will grow all season. Harvest outer leaves as needed and the plant will continue to grow. The baby leaves of both of these are tender enough to eat in salad. Larger leaves can be cooked.

– Lettuce & spinach plants grow quickly and can be harvested about 1 month after you plant. You can either cut off the whole head, pull up the roots, and plant again, or harvest the outer leaves over several weeks.

– Greens require a lot of water so be sure to keep the soil moist.

– This garden gives the best financial return. The seeds are relatively inexpensive and salad greens are one of the most expensive items at the grocery store.

Kids Delight Garden Plan:

3 cucumber plants 3 cucumber plants 1 cherry tomato 1 cherry tomato
3 cucumber plants 3 cucumber plants 1 cherry tomato 1 cherry tomato
12 seeds for pea pods 12 seeds for pea pods 9 lettuce plants 9 lettuce plants
12 seeds for pea pods 12 seeds for pea pods 1 edible flower (marigold, nasturtiums, bachelors button) 1 pumpkin

Notes about this garden plan:

– It will become a jungle!

– Cucumbers & pea pods need to be trellised. A rustic teepee made of branches from the yard will do the trick.

– Tomatoes need cages or need to be tied to stakes to keep them off the ground.

– The pumpkin will vine and stretch out of the box.

– Lettuce grows quickly and can be harvested in 4 – 6 weeks. Once harvested, you can replant or let the tomatoes take over that space.

Consider all the informal science lessons that can happen in this garden. Children can help with measuring and the layout of the garden. Observe and compare the characteristics of various seeds and seedlings. Measure and record growth and harvest. Record observations on a calendar.

Most of all, enjoy your garden! Show it off to your friends! Even a modest garden may inspire someone else to begin gardening.

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5 Tips for Starting a Garden

pea pods2With the warm temperatures finally here, everyone seems to have the gardening bug. Whether you are an experienced gardener or just beginning, here are five tips to ensure success this year:

– Determine your goal – is it to produce as much food as possible? To teach your kids where food comes from? Mental relaxation? Being clear about your goal can help you determine what to plant, how much to plant, and what time of garden system will work best for you (raised beds, containers, in the ground)

– Be realistic about your time to maintain your garden. Planting is so fun and easy that many of us get carried away, failing to think about the time required to weed or who will really eat all the tomatoes off 20 plants. Excess produce brings its own stress, so best to plant a modest garden and use 100% of the produce.

– There is an adage for farmers that goes ‘only plant as much as you can weed.’ If you are planting directly into the ground, be prepared to do a lot of weeding! With that goes the advice to mark your beds and rows so you know what to look for.

garden plan– Start with a plan. Use graph paper to sketch your garden, marking out how much space plants will need when they are mature. It won’t look like much when you first put seedlings in the ground, but by August those tomato plants will likely be out of control! The plan pictured here is for a 4’x8′ bed. It includes a double row of peas down the middle and sections of lettuce, arugula, beets, kale, chard, and broccoli.

– Pick five vegetables to try your first year, then plan to add one or two more each year. It is best to be successful with a few things than be overwhelmed trying to learn how to grow many different vegetables.

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CSAs: Which one is right for me?

Farmer Elizabeth & Magali, volunteer, packing bags of veggies for FarmBucks members.  Photo by Dianne Bunis

Farmer Elizabeth & Magali, volunteer, packing bags of veggies for FarmBucks members.
Photo by Dianne Bunis

New Years resolutions for better diets coincide with the long, cold months when we crave the delicious abundance of local farms. On the dark, cold nights of January you may find yourself perusing farm websites, thinking about joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to help the farmer and to commit yourself to eating local, fresh vegetables. The choices can be overwhelming, so here are a few tips for choosing the right CSA for your family:

Convenience – Where and when do you pick up your share? Is the location convenient (on your way home from work, near your house).  Is the timing convenient? If you do a lot of food prep on the weekends, then look for pickup late in the week or over the weekend. If you cook nightly, then a pickup any day would work for you.

Value – Honestly, will you eat everything in your share? Farmers can be generous, especially with early spring greens and crops like kale. If you like these crops (or whatever is in abundance the year you join!) then you’ll be fine. If you struggle to eat one bunch of kale per week, then you might waste a lot of food.

Adventurous Palate – Do you like to try new foods? Expect a wider range of ‘normal’ in the flavors, looks, and varieties of your CSA vegetables. You may find there are vegetables you typically avoid at the grocery store but really enjoy when they are eaten fresh.

Cooking skills – Traditional CSAs do require a commitment to cooking. Depending on the condition and quantity of vegetables, you may need a few hours each week to clean and prep your vegetables. Allow time for freezing, drying, or otherwise preserving the excess.

Seasonal travels – Are you home all summer or do you spend a month at a time at a vacation home? When traveling you either forfeit your share or you can ask a friend to pick it up. If you anticipate missing 20% of the pickups, calculate that into the value of the share. Farms are also offering more diverse ‘shares,’ including fall, winter and spring shares, flexible shares that don’t require pick up each week, etc.

Connection to the Farm – Part of the fun of joining a CSA can be knowing where and how your food is grown. Some customers like to visit the farm each week to see where the food is grown, others appreciate the convenience of having the shares delivered to a nearby pickup location.

Contents – Would you like your CSA share to include just vegetables or everything you eat for the week? Few (if any) farms can provide everything you eat in a week, but there are aggregators who are buying from local farms and allowing you to choose what you want, essentially grocery shopping for you from diverse farms. You may also consider supporting several farms that offer different products. For example, you can get weekly vegetable shares most of the year, seasonal fruit shares (mostly late summer/fall), meat shares are often picked up once a month, and milk or dairy shares would offer a weekly pickup or delivery. There are even grain/bean shares that offer a years supply of grains in the late fall.

Here are a few sites that help you find local farms and CSAs:

http://www.localharvest.org/

http://theorganicfoodguide.com/

http://massnrc.org/farmlocator/map.aspx?Type=CSA

Finding a CSA that is a good fit for your lifestyle is essential to maximizing the value and enjoyment!

If you would like to join our CSA, Fat Moon FarmBucks, visit us online to learn more.

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Storing Bulk Fall Vegetables

It’s the time of year in New England to start thinking about purchasing bulk produce for storage.  In a couple months you’ll be thankful you have stored fresh produce.  Everyone will be doing different math to figure out how much to buy.

Things to consider

* typical use – amount consumed by my family each week, then  multiply by length of storage for the vegetable  i.e. we use 2# of potatoes each week, Yukon Golds store ~ 3 months:  2# x 12 weeks = 24# potatoes

* seasonal recipes – this is a great time to find new or go back to old recipes that use seasonal ingredients.  Some recipes you may make a lot during the fall or winter, which would increase how much of that product you may use.

* holidays – what am I making/bringing

* gifts – local, seasonal gift baskets are well received – you can put it together or have your friendly farmer!  (i.e. winter squash, pumpkin, maple syrup with a recipe or baking pan or dish or a potato lovers basket (potatoes with jars of different toppings – chives, bacon bits, etc)

 

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin

Nutrition Benefit: Excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Good source of potassium.

Storage: store in cool/warm (50-60oF), dark and 50-70% humidity. Keep dry. Do not store on a cold or concrete floor. Make sure air can circulate well around the squash.

Store separately from fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas i.e. apples, pears, potatoes

Do not let it freeze – if the squash freezes, it will decrease the shelf life.

Translation: try storing in a single layer (do not stack) on shelves (not on the floor) in a basement; or depending on the layout of your house, an entryway might also work.

Shelf life: 2-4 months

How much to buy? If you make 1 squash a week from November – January, you should buy 12 butternut squashes. If you use extra over the holidays, for roasting, pies, etc, add x on to that. May be a heavy load bringing it home, but you’ll be thankful you did!

previous butternut squash post with recipes

 

Acorn Squash

Nutrition Benefit: good source of vitamin C and potassium and fat free

Storage: store in cool/warm (50-55oF), dark, and 50-70% humidity. Keep dry. Do not store on a cold or concrete floor. Make sure air can circulate well around the squash.

Store separately from fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas i.e. apples, pears, potatoes

Do not let it freeze – if the squash freezes, it will decrease the shelf life.

Translation: try storing on shelves (not on the floor) in a basement; or depending on the layout of your house, an entryway might also work.

Shelf life: 1-3 months

Fun Fact: Acorn squash can come in yellow, tan, dark green and orange.

 

Potatoes

Nutrition Benefit: excellent source of vitamin C. good source of vitamin B6, potassium and fiber (if the skin is consumed).

Store: Store in cool (40-50oF), dark, well-ventilated area.

Do not store with onions or garlic.

If they start to sprout, cook asap.

Translation: Try storing in a wooden crate (clementine crates also work well and they already have holes in them!) . Can store in unheated closet, root cellar or basement.

Shelf life: 2-3 months

 

Sweet Potatoes

Nutrition Benefit: excellent source of vitamins A and C. good source of fiber.

Culinary: they are versatile as they can be used in sweet or savory applications. Sweet potatoes provide amazing color, taste and nutritional bang to meals.

Storage: Store at 50-60oF, 80-85% humidity, dark, well-ventilated area.

Translation: Store in crate or box in pantry or basement. If storing in basement, may want to cover with a plastic bag (be sure to poke plenty of holes in it for good ventilation) to help increase humidity, but make sure the potatoes stay dry.

Shelf life: 1 month

Information from University of Illinoise Extension – Storing Sweet Potatoes and Alabama Cooperative Extension

History of sweet potato including why sweet potatoes are not related to potatoes or yams!

 

Resources:

Maine Organic Farmers Association Recommended Storage Temps

University of Minnesota Extension

Oregon State Extension

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Storing Carrots

Carrots – root cellar style (with or without an actual root cellar)

Benefits: Excellent source of Vitamin A. Very good source of biotin, vitamin K, vitamin B6, dietary fiber, Vitamin C.

What you need: box/bin (a box or Rubbermaid plastic bin will work), clean sand* (not contaminated with pests, pesticides, droppings, etc) and carrots

  1. Prep Carrots
    1. Cut off carrot tops, leaving only 1 inch of green attached to the carrot
    2. Wipe off any excess dirt – you do not need to clean them until ready to use
    3. Be sure the carrots are dry
  2. Prep storage container
    1. Place 1-2 inches of moist sand on the bottom of the container.
  3. Layering carrots
    1. lay carrots in the sand, making sure they do not touch. Top with 1 inch of moist sand, then repeat layering carrots and sand.
  4. Store
    1. If using a plastic container, drill small holes in the lid to make sure the bin has adequate ventilation.  Make sure the holes are smaller than a pencil eraser (mice can fit through a hole the size of an eraser).
    2. Check occasionally – make sure the sand is moist and nothing else is consuming your carrots.

* Our volunteer Henry suggests storing carrots in sawdust.  When using sawdust make sure it is dry – do not add moisture to it.

Storage:

Store in cool (32 – 40oF, moist (90-95% humidity), dark, rodent-free place (or check carrots periodically to make sure a non-human is trying to eat your food!).

Store separately from fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas i.e. apples, pears, potatoes

Translation: root cellar or unfinished basement should work. If your basement is not humid, keep an eye on the sand and make sure it stays moist.

Shelf life: can last up to 6 months – yes, that’s most of the winter!

Other: Freezing if you know the portion of carrots you need for recipes, they can always be prepared, then frozen. i.e. my family and I are in love with carrot souffle (I usually alter the recipe slightly and use ~ ½ the sugar called for when I use fall carrots and I use lowfat yogurt instead of sour cream). So, I cooked, pureed, cooled and froze the portion of carrots needed for the recipe. I freeze them in plastic freezer ziploc bags and make sure they are frozen flat to save space. For example, I bought 10# of carrots, cooked them, pureed them, then divided the carrots in 5 portions (the recipe calls for 2# of carrots). I’m hoping that will take me through December (fingers crossed)!

Not sure what to do with the Carrot Greens, check out this Carrot Top post.

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