We still are in awe at the lack of mosquitoes and cool temperatures. We’ve never enjoyed our wooded yard so much! Great meals, playtimes and just sitting around, we hope you’ve had a great summer too. We wish you the best as summer turns into fall, and all the transitions that may bring in your life!
Around here it’s harvest time most of the time, but on Saturday, along with over 250,000 other people we got to spend some time at the state fair. Highlights for us included the giant sandbox, the merry-go-round, and the flowers in the middle of the Horticultural building — Allia said luxuriously, “I could stay here all day.”
We were also excited to see a whole wing of the Horticultural building dedicated to organic farms and local food systems! The wing was labeled “The Common Table” and featured a beautifully designed wood structure with pictures and info about a handful of MN organic farms and local food restaurants. What a huge step for organic food, farming and healthy eating, to have a prime space available for reaching and inspiring thousands of people about what we do, how we can all eat, and what the future of farming can look like!! It was the least crowded part of the fair we saw….but we are very proud that the fair made this happen. We aren’t the most thorough fair devotees, but up to now we haven’t seen any organic farming presence in the ag exhibits. Way over in the Eco-Experience building is a great activity and education area focused on local and organic food and farms, including cooking demos, which we’ve always been happy to see and which touches lots of people. But what an opportunity and sign of progress to have a wing in the Hort Building! To be more centrally located in the fairgrounds, and another symbol of acceptance of organic into the MN farming community. We’re obviously excited and hope it turns into a destination that connects more and more people to organic food in their lives.
And now, on to more organic food in your life — keep those knives sharp cuz there’s more coming!
It’s Spinach and Red Pepper time!! The sweet crunchy peppers and the silky heartiness of spinach have started to define for us this transition time between summer and fall. As summer squash, zucchini and cucumbers slow down with the cooler shorter days, these two take over our menu planning, and combined with broccoli and kale they add bulk, crunch and flavor to a dish like few other veggie combos do. Soon we’ll have winter squash and sweet potatoes to prepare our bodies for winter, but now we eat like summer!
Tomatoes are still coming in heavy, and tasty. There are more heirlooms now too, as they take longer to mature — large pink and yellow brandywines and striped germans (sorry no norwegian tomatoes we know of – we’ll grow them if you can find one for us), and the smaller green and red zebras, to name a few. We should have the same or more this week, and maybe next; after that they will be ripening slower but we should have some into October. A fr-st would change all this, of course. If the temperature does start to drop like that we can usually sneak through it a couple times (or more) by covering tomatoes and peppers with large blankets called row cover. Warm Septembers are much more fun though, with sunny days and long harvests!
We might have a small gap in broccoli, despite our best planning. There is more to come, these later plantings are just growing a little slower. We may be wrong though–hopefully we are! We finally have big cabbage, almost too big, but there are enough small ones to fit in the bags, and we’ll try to keep giving you a choice of a bigger cabbage next to melons or squash. Without broccoli, zucchini or cukes, we might find ourselves in the odd position of making mix-and-match bag size smaller, in a big harvest time of year. We might be able to make up for their absence with more volume of the other crops, and these warm weekend days were good for growing, so we’ll see.
Melons…might be done for the year. Normally we’d still have enough for at least one per share, often two….but even in a very good year it seems like something has to teach us a lesson. There are some remaining out there, but with declining plants and cool wet weather they may or may not be very good, so we’ll have to see.
Winter squash is on its way! Soon you’ll see the bins line the driveway or fill the greenhouse. First will come spaghetti squash, maybe in two weeks, then acorn, carnival, butternut, buttercup, ambercup, pie pumpkins and jack-O-lanterns. In short, they all look amazing right now. Nothing is certain until it’s in the bin, and really until it’s in your belly! but all signs right now point to a stellar squash harvest. Big pumpkins and pie pumpkins are turning orange, so you’ll get one or both of those in the next few weeks. Once they’re harvested, some of the squashes take longer than others to ripen and reach their best flavors — we work hard to ripen and test and give them to you at their best. Butternut (the big tan one) is usually last to ripen to its best, so you won’t see much of that til late this month or October, but the others will gradually appear in your share this month.
This last week or ten days has been a little more cool, wet and humid than ideal for your crops — the drizzly days and evening rains have been good conditions for fungus to grow in the fields, most notably what looks like “damping off” in the spinach. There are a few others in smaller amounts, but this one is testing our ability to let go. Most of the spinach looks super, which we’re excited about after this spring and last fall’s crops spinach harvests being so mediocre. We researched and asked a mentor farmer for help, and made a couple smart changes to growing this fall’s crop, so seeing a problem in there it has become the first thing that crosses our minds when we see or hear raindrops lately. (Then we remember to get up and close the windows!) Finger crossed for spinach bounty!
Onions are now storage onions — but they aren’t 100% cured so eat these in the next month or so. By next week they should be better cured and will last well into the winter if needed.
Hot Peppers are somewhat mysterious this year. We expected very little heat since the days and nights have been so cool. The jalapenos we’ve tried are very mild, but wow, the anaheims still pack a punch! This was the year Ben said he’d nibble on a habanero, just to say he’d done it, but not now! So it should be assumed the hot peppers have their usual heat until proven otherwise.
What’s for U-Pick?
Raspberries are looking good even with that pesky fruit fly. The fruit fly is getting some of the berries. If we get grossed out by it, we just freeze the berries or make jam out of them. If those upper rows of raspberries were producing we’d be swimming in berries, but with the half that are producing we’re still doing ok. A couple more weeks of good berry picking seems likely.
Cherry tomatoes should keep up with you now. We are considering adding more ground cherries next year – what do you think?
Green beans are still going strong. In addition to the big bean patch, there are two short rows west of the driveway, next to the flowers, that will be ready this week.
Herbs – Cilantro, Dill, and Basil. Plus lemon basil, thai basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, and cutting celery (use like celery leaves). And mint, lemon balm, and anise hyssop are down the hill near the perennial flowers. And the lovely flowers by the greenhouse. The basil seems to be pulling out of its sickness, so we hope you enjoy some delightful meals with it, pesto or otherwise!
Always check the U-pick board when you’re here to see what’s available and picking amounts, and feel free to come anytime dawn to dusk to pick, and enjoy the farm.
Bulk Produce for You
To place a bulk order, simply call or email us at least 2 days ahead of the day you’d like to pick it up. Orders can be picked up at the farm during our regular pickup hours, but it doesn’t have to be your share pickup day.
This week’s selection is : Lettuce Mix and/or other Salad Greens for $5 / lb, Carrots and Beets for $1/lb, Kale for $3.50 / lb, Globe Eggplant $1.50 / lb, Cabbage for $0.60 / lb (the big heads are about 4 lbs each), Green Bell Peppers or Red Peppers, $2 / lb, Garlic $1 / head.
And TOMATOES! 12 lb for $20, for about 2 more weeks.
Nuts and Bolts
Thank you for U-pick containers — and Keep Them Coming!
Share Pickup Hours
Monday, Wednesday Friday 2:00-6:00pm. You can U-Pick any time (when U-pick crops are in season.)
Please Drive Carefully and Slowly on the Driveway —Children are everywhere. On the note of children, please know where yours are at all times.
Thank you so much for eating in the ups and downs of what we can harvest on this growing farm!!
Erin and Ben, with Allia, Jesse, Daniel, Els and Kelly
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Summer’s Bounty Enchilada Casserole (Bell Pepper)
From Fair Share Coalition’s Farm-Fresh and Fast cookbook
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 jalepeño, seeded and finely diced
1 banana pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 medium tomato, diced
2 cups enchilada sauce, divided
½ cup minced fresh cilantro
2/3 cup crumbled feta
Salt and ground pepper black pepper to taste
18 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
Sour cream and salsa
Preheat an oven to 450°. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and banana pepper and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes more. Stir in the black beans, rice, and tomato and cook until warm.
Transfer the pepper-zucchini mixture to a large mixing bowl. Mix in ½ cup of the enchilada sauce, the cilantro, and the feta. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the casserole, spread ½ cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Lay 6 tortillas over the sauce and trim to fit as needed (you may have to cut some of them in half, depending on the shape of your dish). Spread half of the filling over the tortillas. Repeat with another layer of 6 tortillas and rest of the filling. Add one more layer of tortillas on top. Spread the remaining cup of enchilada sauce over the casserole. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with sour cream and salsa. Serves 8-10.
Tomatillo Salsa, aka Salsa Verde
from Benn, a friend of Open Hands Farm
Hot peppers to taste
4 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of cilantro
2 tsp salt
2 pinches of cumin
Remove husk from tomatillos. Boil tomatillos & hot peppers until they are dull green and soft (15 to 20 min.) OR you can roast the tomatillos and peppers in the oven until tender. Put all ingredients in the food processor and pulse until blended. If too thick, add water.
Makes roughly one pint. Freezes great, we put it in a bag and break off chunks as needed.