Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2007 Belmont CSA photos

Laura, aka farmer in the bel, took a lot of great farm photos in 2007. Here's a link to them -- Belmont CSA 2007 photos.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Zucchini Bread

3 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 cup raisins (plump in hot water and drain before adding)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar (white or brown)
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini
1 cup canola oil

In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, zucchini and raisins. In another bowl beat eggs and oil. Pour over flour mixture and stir until combined.

Turn into 2 greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Cool in pan 10 minutes and invert on cooling rack. Turn top side up and cool completely.

Recipe shared by Amy's mom, Jeanne Wagenfeld.

I returned to the farm yesterday morning for a busman’s holiday of sorts, after meeting Gretta for breakfast and a recap of the latest farm news.

I looked to see if there was any sign of my fateful foray into the celeriac (a faint depression perhaps, or my outline discretely marked in yellow crime scene tape), but the plants seemed fine. Mehitabel (the tractor) was standing idle nearby, looking benign.

The thing that caught my eye as I walked around was the watermelons -- specifically, the different patterns in their skin. Probably not what comes to mind when most people think of watermelons, but quite a wonderful visual treat.

Oh, and speaking of treats: my compliments (and thanks!) to Amy’s mom, Jeanne Wagenfeld for sharing her recipe for Zucchini Bread, which I came across in the barn. It's a winner.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Beets and Caramelized Onions with Feta

I've been meaning to post a recipe that I found on Epicurious.com a few weeks ago. The recipe calls for canned beets, but I used freshly harvested beets from Gretta's field that I baked in foil (See easy instructions below). No muss. No fuss. Very tasty.

Beets Baked in Foil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Wash the beets, wrap them in foil, and place on a baking sheet.
If you have different sized beets that will cook at different rates, wrap them separately so that you can remove each group when it's done.
Cook for 45 - 90 minutes until you can pierce the beets easily with a knife.

Peel and serve the beets, or remove, cool, and refrigerate until you're ready to peel and use them.

Beets and Caramelized Onions with Feta

2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (preferably whole-grain or coarse-grain)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb onions (2 medium), quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
2 (15-oz) cans small whole beets, drained and quartered (or halved if very small)
3 oz crumbled feta (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup pine nuts (1 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, then add 3 tablespoons oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well.

Cook onions with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.

Add onions to dressing, then add beets and cheese, stirring gently to combine. Serve sprinkled with pine nuts.

Makes 4 first-course or side-dish servings

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It was an accident waiting to happen.

One second I was standing on the tractor trying to fish out the seat belt, the next second I was on my butt in a bed of celeriac, clasping my wrist. I can see the lurid headline now: Farm accident claims technical writer.

Long story short (because I am typing with one hand): One of the things I like about working for Gretta is that I get to do pretty much what I feel like doing. Yesterday I weeded the watermelons and humongous squash plants. And then there was the anticipated pleasure of driving the tractor with the wind whipping through my hair (someone with transplantor experience may recognize this as a slight exaggeration).

I don’t remember thinking that the afternoon would be incomplete without a trip to the emergency room (although the on-call doctor backing up my primary care physician was right about there being NO WAIT at the Faulkner Hospital ER. Good to know.)

That said, I offer my personal take on the top 10 risks to avoid on the farm:

10. Inhaling chicken fertilizer
9. Choking on dust
8. Weeding squash beds without the protection of a hazmat suit
7. Encountering overly friendly woodchucks
6. Changing clothes in the hoop house when older men (of the Italian farmer persuasion) may be passing by
5. Seeding too much broccoli rabe
4. Seeding too little broccoli rabe
3. Farming in the nude close to moving machinery parts
2. Walking too close to the straw mulch while holding a lit flame weeder
1. Anything involving tractors

Having broken my other wrist 10 years ago on the day that I was packing for a long awaited trip to new Zealand, I know that things could be worse. This time, it’s not my dominant hand, and I don’t have to worry about fitting a sleeve over the cast. Six weeks of one-armed showers will pass.

It’s almost worth the trouble to see the look I get in return when I explain that I fell off a tractor.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The sunflowers that we seeded awhile back for the farmers market have started to bloom at the end of the field and there are several hundred pounds of fall-share onions "curing" in the hoop house.

This morning, we walked the farm to see how things looked and to check for signs of critter damage to the crops -- something had been snacking away on the lettuce, but overall, it seemed relatively contained and limited to the green lettuce; the red Oscarde was untouched. There were also small tracks in a tilled bed so we know the foxes are still around, although I like to imagine they're smart enough to lie low when the heat and humidity are at their worst.

The tomatillos are starting to ripen. When I first noticed them a few weeks ago, they looked like tiny pale green paper lanterns, but when Gretta handed me one this morning, it had a surprising heft to it, with green fruit inside the papery husk.

I felt the need to weed today, so Gretta let me have my way with the pigweed and lambs quarters, restoring order to the parsley, sage, and marjoram. When you're working close to the ground, after awhile, everything tends to blend together; it's only when you step back for a moment that you realize that some weeds have managed to pass themselves off as something they're not, a living lesson in evolution.

The morning ended (too soon) with tomato taste testing in the barn, exploring subtle differences between Pruden's Purple, Cherokee Purple, striped Green Zebra, and classic Big Beef. I definitely think we need to include mozzarella, basil, and olive oil in the next round of testing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Basil Risotto

1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup packed fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago (about 1 1/2 ounces)
5 1/2 cups chicken broth (44 fluid ounces)
2 medium onions
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine

In a food processor, mince basil and sage with grated cheese. In a saucepan bring broth to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer.

Finely chop onions. In a 4- to 5-quart heavy kettle, cook onions in 1/4 cup oil, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add rice and cook, uncovered, over low heat, stirring, 10 minutes. Increase heat to moderate and add wine. Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until wine is absorbed. Stir in 1 cup simmering broth and cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, and cooking mixture at a strong simmer, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes total. (There may be broth left over.)

Remove kettle from heat and stir in herb mixture, remaining tablespoon oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately. Serves 4.

From: http://www.jacobsfarm.com/basil.asp

I was nearing the end of my exercise session on the treadmill when the glamour shot of the kolhrabi caught my eye. Hey -- I know that vegetable! It had turned out recently that I only needed a little encouragement from Justin to get over the hurdle of "What is that and what do you do with it?" to become an outright fan.
But back to the kohlrabi, and what was it doing on the treadmill? Imagine my surprise when, in the midst of browsing through the July 11-31 issue of The Improper Bostonian, I turned to page 142 and found myself reading about the Belmont Farm at 34 Glen Road. Hey, I know that farm!
I was so excited to see the piece that it put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. Yay Gretta!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer in New England has barely started and the season's already flying by. The snap peas are gone, the squash plants are huge (and scratchy), and we're starting to seed winter crops.

Last weekend I brought home tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, basil, sage, baby carrots, tiny purple onions, and leaf lettuce. It still amazes me that all of this beautiful produce comes out of a field in Belmont.

I made a mental note about the early tomato variety (Glacier) in this week's share -- it's a good one to know about. The name also brings back memories of seeding tomatoes in the Curro greenhouse one particularly bone-chilling day last March. Five or six women showed up to help seed that day and the company had warmth, even if the greenhouse didn't. That sense of community is part of what appeals to me about working on the farm.

Getting to do my weekly vegetable shopping in the barn or walking out into the field to harvest it myself isn't so bad either. I know that Gretta appreciates my help, but really, sometimes I think I have the sweeter deal.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The pigweed is scary this year.

Normally, I like the instant gratification of hand-weeding -- being able to step back and appreciate the difference between the before and after. Yesterday morning we weeded a smallish area that looked like it should have taken all of 15 minutes to clear, but the pigweed was incredibly tenacious in its refusal to budge. Gretta said if you can't manage to pull the root out, you can clip it below the ground and the pigweed will rot and die. I don't know though, clippers may be a little too polite. I was thinking dynamite.

After wrestling with the pigweed, it felt good to switch to the comparatively contemplative task of seeding. I set myself up with the seed trays and packets, and improvised a chair from a couple of cinderblocks in the shade outside the hoop house. When Gretta saw me seeding with the tray in my lap, she brought over a plastic crate to use as a work table and instantly improved the ergonomics. Farming during the growing season is physical work, so you learn to look for ways to minimize the effort, limit discomfort, and give your body a break.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Seed packet humor

Yesterday got off to a somewhat inauspicious start.

Setting up the next round of scheduled seeding, I took a look at the spreadsheet, did some mental math, and started prepping 128's for broccoli, escarole, kale, and (yes, more) lettuce. This time, I remembered to double-check the "seeds per cell" column, determined not to make that particular mistake a second time.

Sometimes it's a challenge to find the required seeds in the plastic storage box. Despite the superior organization afforded by homemade cardboard dividers, rubber bands, and zip-lock bags, I'm convinced that the seed packets can and do render themselves invisible -- their idea of a little bit of farm humor at the volunteer helper's expense. Yesterday, I delegated the task to Justin's unsuspecting friend, Jill, warning her that I sometimes wonder if this could be a bizarre form of farm hazing.

Who knew that the seed packet labeled Broccoli Sessantina Grossa was actually broccoli rabe? Okay, who besides Gretta knew? If it's broccoli rabe, shouldn't it say so? I like broccoli rabe. And what's wrong with seeding enough broccoli rabe to feed the entire population of Belmont and Arlington?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Finally, my little video of the fox kits playing on our row cover. They are amazingly cute!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lettuce play

By mid-week (if not sooner), I look forward to spending time outside, leaving urban sights and sounds behind, washing away the residual electronic clean that accumulates after spending the week in front of a computer.

The farm is a short drive from where I live in Cambridge, just over the Belmont line. Close to civilization and yet hidden away, it's unexpected and kind of magical -- a place where something that sounds like a cell phone is actually a bird.

As I walked in from the road yesterday, I could smell dill, although it was several hundred feet away. Gretta was in the midst of orienting a couple of new volunteers, so she encouraged me to take a walk around the fields to bring myself uptodate. I was surprised to see lettuce -- not just heads of full-grown red and green leaf lettuce ready to be harvested, but also beds freshly planted with a new generation of seedlings.

This is good -- I haven't had my season's fill of the leafy stuff yet, so I was happy to learn that it's just the greenhouse that's too warm for lettuce, and not the fields outside. I may feel differently after eating my way through the seven heads of lettuce now in my refrigerator, but I doubt it.

Got parsley?

After this week's distribution, I'm pretty sure that you do.

Check out the tasty-sounding recipes that I just got from Gretta -- just click the recipes link below or look under What's for dinner?

Cannellini Bean Salad with Parsley Pesto

2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans
3 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced yellow onions
3 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
1/3 cup very finely grated Parmesan, or crumbled goat cheese
1 1/2 cups fresh parsley leaves

Place the beans in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the drained beans, 4 teaspoons of the lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, the black pepper and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until softened and warmed through, 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and transfer to a decorative platter. Sprinkle with the Parmesan.

In a blender or bowl of a small food processor, combine the parsley, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a blender or small food processor. Process on high speed for 30 seconds. Add the remaining 1/3 cup oil with the motor running and process until smooth. Adjust seasoning, to taste. Drizzle the parsley pesto over the beans and serve.

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse, 2001