Wednesday 3-6pm: It’s a Gourd, It’s a Pumpkin, It’s…

img_2145…IT’S A MELON!!!!!

These crazy, sweet and beautiful looking tiger-stripy Kajari melons were meticulously collected in an eight-year epic quest by melonhead seed collectors who travelled to Punjab, India in search of heat-tolerant specimens. This one Luca trialled, part of the Year Of Experimentation, seems happily adjusted to our Crucian climate and is astoundingly sweet and delicious, honeydew-like in its color but with a softer consistency and a sweeter, stronger flavor than the typical bland green crunchy melon chunks found at the salad bar. We only have half a dozen of these little beauties this week, so be an early early bird to try it, and save the seeds!

Wednesday’s farmstand, 3-6pm down the South Shore Road, due south of Canegata Ball Park as the trushie bird flies: Sweet salad mix, baby arugula, baby spicy salad mix, bunched arugula, a few bunches of kale, cherry tomatoes, small slicer and heirloom tomatoes, a rainbow of bright bell peppers, Trini seasoning peppers, serrano peppers, Indian chilies, recao, Italian basil, parsley, garlic chives, mint, lemongrass, rosemary, freshly harvested ginger root, passionfruit, loads of beautiful sweet papayas, Punjabi honeydew melons, loads of zinnia cut flowers, a few sunny sunflowers! Make someone’s day – why not your own?

From our partner Fiddlewood Farm we have a fresh batch of delicate goat cheese – no labels this week but new ones soon come. Dr. Bradford was excited to share the great news that a new baby doe (girl) goat kid arrived this week! There is nothing cuter or bouncier… Congrats to the new mama! Photos soon!

What Do We Do With All This Zucchini?

Okay, a few customers were asking for ideas on what to make with zucchini and summer squash. Well, the volume of culinary creativity can just about meet the volume produced by our giant Hugel-bed-fueled squash vines. Here are a few of our faves:

Zoodles

Gluten-free products abound in the grocery store, but they can be really expensive compared to their wheat-based inspirations. $6 for a 1lb. box of GF corn and rice pasta? How about an alternative that has all the nutrition of the mighty ZOOK?

Basically, everything but the seedy core of a zucchini or summer squash can be cut into quite narrow pasta-like noodles, lightly baked and then stored in a ziptop bag in the fridge for 5-7 days. You can get a $25 bulky, entertaining kitchen gadget called a spiralizer to make hilarious fifty-foot continuous noodles from a zucchini while spitting out the core, or just use a mandolin or other handheld julienne-inducing type of potato cutter along the length of the squash for zoodles. Check YouTube for lots of videos of happy people, mostly moms, making zoodles.

Zucchini releases a lot of liquid when cooked, so unless you’re going to put them directly into soup broth, it’s a good idea after slicing up your zoodles to place them on a cookie sheet on clean (non-fuzzy) dishcloths or paper towels, salt-an-pepa them and toss a bit, and bake them in a very low oven for about 15 minutes. Then gently squeeze them out in another dry dishtowel to remove more of the liquids.

To cook, just make your favorite spaghetti sauce – and about 5-7 minutes before it’s done, throw the appropriate amount of zoodles in the pan with the sauce to warm up a bit and cook just a little. If you’re not feeling saucy, just sauté them in butter and crushed garlic until tender, 5 minutes or so. Try throwing them on the grill! Who knows what will happen! It’s crazy! Experiment!!

We find these yummy and very filling. Plan about 1 medium sized squash per person. Makes nice re-heated leftovers, too. And if you really get tired of them, bake them into zucchini bread, see below.

Stuffed Zucchini Ideas

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We love seeing what you do with our produce! Here is a stuffed zucchini with a side salad! Thanks Isabel Cerni & family!

So, this isn’t so much a recipe as it is a brainstorm. A brief survey of stuffed veggie recipes shows the basic options of what to put in the cavity of the zucchini or summer squash after scooping out the seeds:

  • Stuffing, as in American Thanksgiving type with breadcrumbs, carrots and celery, and some kind of soup
  • A meatloaf-like mixture for meat lovers
  • A greek version with feta and cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil
  • A pizza-like option with grated parmesean cheese, sauteed veggies, mushrooms, tomatoes and the like, topped with mozzarella and basil.

All of these fillings do well with some sautéed onion, salt and pepper to taste, some fresh herbs (experiment!) and some of the zucchini chopped finely, mixed in. You can add any cooked grains: breadcrumbs, polenta, wild rice, quinoa, amaranth! Go nuts and add some crunchy seeds and nuts! Stir an egg into the mix for more protein!

Some recipes recommend pre-baking or grilling the zuc-canoes before filling, others don’t.

After assembly, bake the zu-boats in a baking pan so you catch any errant juices. Depending on the filling and how big your zukes are, they’ll probably bake for 20-40 minutes. Poke ‘em with a fork to see if the squash is tender. Check a real recipe if you’re wanting more guidance.

This is the kind of recipe you really can’t do wrong (especially if you pre-brown any meats/sausage), so go freestyle! Let your kids load up these little pirate veggie boats! Ahoy!

Zucchini Bread

Oh the GLORY of this semi-guiltless snack! Spread it with butter or cream cheese, nosh it toasted or right out of the fridge… Form it into muffins, loaves, mini cupcakes… Makes a great travel companion and gift. Our new favorite recipe is a gluten-free version cribbed from several cookbooks…

This sweet snack bread can be made with zucchini plus a fibrous fruit to sweeten it. The sweetening fruit could be a banana, a soursop or sugar apple seeded, it could be a stateside apple or pear, whatever is on hand and longing to leave your fridge. (Citrus would probably be too wet, so you would need to adjust the recipe, or go with a mealy-fleshed fruit.)

Ingredients (one loaf for you and one for a friend or the freezer)

2 cups shredded zucchini, (gently wrung out in a dish towel to remove excess moisture)

1 cup shredded or mashed sweet fruit (apple, sugar apple, soursop, banana etc.

3-4 cups almond flour (if you’re a little short, you can substitute another gluten-free flour or some coconut flour)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

6 eggs

Spices to taste: 4 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon nutmeg or slightly less of cloves, 1 teaspoon ground (or fresh) ginger.

Sweetener to taste: half a cup of honey or coconut sugar or whatever sweetener you like. If it’s very liquidy, like maple syrup, adjust the recipe accordingly so you don’t wind up with too runny of a batter. Depending on what fruit you added, you may need less sugar. The sugar adds to the texture. We like using a super brown sugar like the coconut sugar or muscavado because it is less sweet tasting. You could try molasses, too!

Directions

Preheat the oven to medium temp, 350-375 or so. Using a little butter or coconut oil, grease up two loaf pans and then line them with parchment paper. I usually butter the parchment paper if it overlaps so it sticks to the pan really well.

Grate the zucchini onto the center of a dish towel. About two big zucchinis will make 2 cups of shredded zucchini. Gather up the corners of the dishtowel and squeeze out all the juice over the sink or — over a jar and reserve for veggie broth or to feed your dog etc.

Mash or grate your fruit item,  removing inedible core/seeds/peel.

Beat together the eggs, sweetener and (mashed or grated) sweet fruit until well combined and frothy. Add in your grated zucchini and toss again until everything is nicely coated.

Place the dry ingredients (almond flour, spices, baking soda) in a mixing bowl and toss them together until they’re well incorporated without clumps. About a third of the bowl at a time, add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until wet.

Divide the batter into the two loaf pans and even them out a bit with a spoon.

Bake loaves for about 40 minutes until the top looks dry and a toothpick comes out clean. If you do this as muffins they will bake faster. Remove them from the pans after they’ve cooled a bit.

Zucchini Miscellani

There are many, many more uses for squash.

  • Sliced lengthwise they are gorgeous on the grill and take well to a marinade and a smoky flavor. Then you can roll them up and make some kind of fancy canapé or add to a shish kebab, Yum!
  • Anywhere you might have used carrots, broccoli or string beans, use zucchini squash.
  • They make a fantastic gluten free replacement for lasagna noodles in a veggie lasagna. (Slice on a mandolin, and prepare as zoodles above to remove some of the moisture beforehand)
  • They make a very elegant and colorful layered veggie side dish. Use a combination of green zucchini and yellow summer squash, layered with some goat cheese and pinenuts or pumpkin seeds in a glass casserole dish with salt and pepper. A little rosemary or tarragon is great in there, or perhaps a curry flavor? Vegans could probably go with babaghanouj in between…Cover and bake for 20–40 minutes depending on how big of a casserole dish, how thick you sliced him, and how soft you like ’em.
  • Use them as bowling pins, doorstops and throw toys for your dogs if you still have too many zucchini.

Farm ON!! reOPEN today, Saturday Dec. 12, 10AM – 12 noon!

The ARTfarm is back after our ridiculously long “summer break.” (If mangoes are out of season, why not us?) We have some green goodness for you! THANK YOU for waiting…

Early Saturday morning...

Early Saturday morning…

We’ve got beautiful sweet green zucchinis and round yellow summer squashes! Big beautiful bunches of tender, dark green Ethiopian kale plus two other kinds of kale. Dandelion greens. We’ve also got wild gherkins – these are pasture cucumbers, spiny but delicious as a quick (or slower) pickle. Quick pickle recipe below.

Salads are back! Come early and dig into the farmstand coolers: we’ll have sweet salad mix, baby spicy mix, baby arugula, and green oak leaf lettuce heads.

Early birds may spot one or two pints of our yellow super sweet cherry tomatoes, passionfruits, and fresh figs. (Late birds will still get Ethiopian kale and zucchini!)

Freshly early-this-morning-harvested herbs: thyme, Thai basil, Italian basil, holy basil, lemongrass, garlic chives, recao. Some green (red hot) chili peppers.

Say hi to Santa at the Christmas Boat Parade tonight, and tell him we’ve been really really good at the ARTfarm and we want a pony. No, make that lots and lots more rain.

Wild pasture cucumbers: salty, crunchy, earthy. A bit spiny to the touch - just rub the little points off with a dishcloth when rinsing!

Wild pasture cucumbers: salty, crunchy, earthy. A bit spiny to the touch – just rub the little points off with a dishcloth when rinsing!

Farmer Luca’s Wild & Quick Pickle Recipe*

Eating these weedy little cucumbers is a bit like those early childhood experiments where you’d find something outdoors and decide to “make a snack”. Sometimes when we are working in the pastures and run out of water to drink, these juicy little bite-sized cucurbits are just the thing! Nature’s little oasis. This quick pickle is delicious served as a crunchy little side anywhere you’d want a bit of relish.

3 c. tiny wild pasture cucumbers, cut in half
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon unrefined sugar (muscovado or coconut sugar)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/8 c. chopped fresh herbs; tarragon, or whatever is handy, to taste

Briefly dry roast the cumin seed in a saucepan. Add the liquids, sugar and salt and bring to a simmer.

Toss the cucumbers, onion and fresh herbs in a bowl and pack loosely into canning jars.

Pour hot liquid over chopped cucumber mixture to cover. Allow it to sit until just warm, then cover. Eat as soon as cool and/or refrigerate.

Will settle in flavor and taste even better the next day.

*This is a rough, down and dirty farmer recipe, the percentage of all ingredients can be increased or decreased to taste

Grateful to Reopen Next Sat. Dec. 12th!

Thanks to the many customers and supporters who have called and checked in with us on our website and Facebook page, wondering when we would reopen the farmstand. We will see you all at 10 AM till noon on Saturday, December 12! We love that you love our food! Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and are looking forward to this month’s festivities!

A pile of yellow summer squash, one with a blossom still on the end of the fruit.

Yellow summer squash and zucchini have been growing beautifully!

It has been quite a tumultuous year for farm planning. The severe drought that started last winter was the driest season Estate Longford has seen in nine years. (Amazingly enough, other places on St. Croix, including the East end, apparently got more rain than usual during that period.) The pastures and surrounding hills near us dried out and turned gray, and we experienced severe and intense brushfires across the east end of the ARTfarm and neighboring pastures in May, 2015, well attended by the VI Fire Service (thank you!!!).

At this time last year, all of our catchment ponds were topped off with rain. Currently, we are at less than one third of our rainwater catchment capacity.

All of this major rearrangement of weather patterns has meant that we have delayed planting in order to reserve our irrigation water, and hesitated to invest in the season.

But, we finally bit the bullet a few weeks ago and began planting for 2015-2016. We have designed a smaller amount of growing space this year, so we will have perhaps a little less on offer in terms of quantity. We are experimenting with a few new crops, and even some new growing techniques that are going to conserve even more water. We have created a few new areas of permaculture techniques, including some giant Hugel beds, and so far the productivity seems high, although insect activity is higher than we’ve ever seen it all over the farm — we and many other farmers on the island are struggling with record numbers of aphids, caterpillars and other garden pests. We are also not alone in experiencing overwhelming growth rates of noxious weeds, which survived even when more desirable grasses and forbs perished in the drought.

A pasture is full of piles of weeds, pulled up by hand.

Kiko has been painstakingly handweeding the toxic physic nut in the pastures for weeks to try to prevent further spread. There are literally thousands of these growing, and they are poisonous to livestock.

We gratefully welcome our new employee, Katie, who is fitting right in with the crew and learning quickly!

We are waiting another week and a half before opening so that we can have salad greens for your holidays. We’ll reopen Saturday, December 12, 10 AM – 12 noon, (Christmas Boat Parade Day). We’ll have herbs, veggies, salad greens and fruit! See you in ten days!

Love, ARTfarm

ARTfarm Q&A Wednesday! 3-6pm

Today at ARTfarm down the south shore we’ll offer a fairly small selection of items: Pineapples, a few tomatoes, sweet salad mix, microgreens, basil, chives, and a few cucumbers.

The lignum vitae is an important food source for honey bees in drought times.

The lignum vitae is an important food source for honey bees in drought times.

Q: What do you farmers do when it is so dry? What can grow in this extreme drought condition?

A: Not too much! We do our best to conserve water when conditions are this severe.

One plant that remains green and healthy with no watering in this dry weather is the highly drought tolerant lignum vitae tree. Slow and steady is how lignum vitae grows, rain or no rain. This tree species will probably outlast all the other trees that we have planted over the years. Most of the 30+ lignum vitae trees established at ARTfarm came from Kai and Irene Lawaetz at Little Lagrange. Kai was always a champion of the lignum vitae for its beauty and ability to withstand drought times and there are many prime individuals of the species on the Lawaetz Museum grounds.

Even in drought times when most vegetation is brown, the lignum vitae tree's evergreen leaves remain deep green and provide dense shade.

Even in drought times when most vegetation is brown, the lignum vitae tree’s evergreen leaves remain deep green and provide dense shade.

While it does not produce any edible products, the lignum vitae is a beautiful dense shade and ornamental tree and a food source for honeybees, particularly when nothing else is flowering. The wood of lignum vitae trees is so dense that it has traditionally been used to make ship pulleys.

The light purplish blue blooms and showy red and orange fruit are unique mainly because of their color. There are not too many blue colored flowers in the tropics. The tree sheds very little leaf litter and its leathery paired leaves remain a beautiful deep green year round.

ARTfarm Monday Q&A: Never the Same Salad Twice

It’s dry out here! Today’s pungent harvest: Sweet salad mix, baby arugula, baby and regular spicy salad mixes, arugula, onions, scallions, cilantro, Italian basil, lots of tomatoes, slicers and heirlooms, cherry tomatoes, and the last of the figs for a while.

Q: Why aren’t your salad greens as sweet this week as they were last week? Why are the stems larger/smaller? Why isn’t  the spicy as spicy as it was last time? etc. etc….?

A: While one could chalk this up to simple nostalgia, it’s more likely that variations are due to two main reasons:

(1) Mother nature’s treatment of our crops is the primary source of this shift in taste from week to week. Even as our recipes remain unchanged, small changes in the weather can affect the taste of our salad mix.

When temperatures are hotter during a portion of the growth cycle of the lettuce heads in our fields, they respond as many living beings do under stress: they attempt to defend themselves from being eaten as they try to propagate. Lettuce will tend to take on a more bitter flavor in hot weather as it accelerates toward the bolting and seeding cycle of its life (as it would during hot late summer months in the cooler parts of the world). If we encounter cooler and rainier weather, the lettuce will be sweeter. Even a brief few days of intense heat can alter the taste of plants. And variations in weather now can affect the salad flavor two or three weeks from now, as the plants are in their growth cycle.

Spicy greens become more peppery when the weather is very hot and dry, and will taste milder when we’ve had a lot of wet weather. Our formulas for the types of greens and their quantities in the various mixes stays consistent from harvest to harvest, but the weather can change the flavors in the bag of salad you take home.

Occasionally we do have to change the formulation of a salad mix because seed is not available for some of the tasty baby greens that add so much flavor to our mixes. We find a substitution that is similar, but this can also change the taste of our salad mixes over the course of the season.

(2) The other factor that comes into play in the consistency of ARTfarm salad greens from bag to bag is what we like to call the Jackson Pollock effect.

When we make the salad mix we use a very large sanitized stainless surface and mix in many different baby mesclun greens with multiple large chopped lettuce varieties.

When creating his splatter paint pop art creations of the 1960s, Jackson Pollock employed a similar technique. He would toss different colors in random patterns throughout his large canvases.

What we do next at ARTfarm is essentially like taking that large amazing Jackson Pollock painting and cutting it up into many small pieces. Each portion of the canvas represents a bag of ARTfarm salad mix. Some bags will have more large pieces of stem from the base of the lettuce head; other bags will contain a little bit more of the baby mesclun greens; others will be a perfect blend of all the different ingredients that we put into the salad mix. Every bag is a little different because they’re all prepared by hand, and the weather, the secret intentions of mother nature, and the randomness of our process ensure that your experience will always be fresh!

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We know that our customers seek us out because they want real produce that tastes like the place it was grown. We know you can handle a little variety. But, if you ever purchase a bag of salad greens from ARTfarm that you find inedible, please bring it back to us. We’d always like to hear from our customers, good or bad, how you feel about our products, and if we’ve goofed and a product is not up to our normal level of quality, we would be happy to replace it with something you find tastier.

We grow this stuff for you, after all!

Sheep & Cowpeas at ARTfarm

Over the sleepy summer and fall break, we grew some cover crops in the gardens at ARTfarm to help improve the soil for next year’s crops. Climbing up the golden dried stalks of harvested sweet corn were some large and very happy cowpea vines (Vigna unguiculata) replete with big green bean pods.

There is almost nothing in this world that our sheep enjoy more than fresh cowpea vines and beans. Friday afternoon we removed the upper part of the cowpea plants and offered them to all three groups of ovines. OMM NOM NOM NOM!

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Cowpeas are a forage that is high in protein, helping the sheep to grow and put on weight. The roots of the cowpea plants fix nitrogen into the soil.

Your ARTfarmers are busy planning next year’s season and preparing garden areas to receive young seedlings. We have been blessed with some beautiful rainfall in September. We look forward to seeing all of you in just a few more weeks when the farmstand reopens. Watch this space!

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