Thursday, June 5, 2014

On Your Mark...Get Set...

Greetings From Colvin Family Farm!

     We're well into our spring season here on the farm, and God is blessing on every hand. We're harvesting arugula, collards, radish, strawberries, SEVERAL varieties of lettuce, spinach, sweet turnips, green onions, and even tiny yellow Sun Gold tomatoes are ripening! We're excited about the CSA season that is just ahead...Are you ready

Look for this tent and the Colvin Family Farm banner
when you go to pick up  your shares at a farmer's market!
(Except Dixie Lee...look for the checked table cloths:)

     As we look ahead a little over a week I am all ready anticipating the phone calls and emails with pleas for help. Those new to eating local, and fresh will be in for a nice big surprise when they arrive at one of our markets or drop-offs and see just what a share really holds each week. This is our first year with a "one-size-fits-all" share, so I can't really tell you yet what will be in your first share, but I do have an idea...and it's time to get your kitchen and schedule ready for the start of a great CSA season!

#1 It's time to clean out your refrigerator. I mean, REALLY clean it out...think of it as a spring clean. Look at all those jars of condiments...tiny peppers that were too hot to eat, salad dressings that have sat for weeks, (maybe months) and those leftovers that no one ate and got lost in the refrigerator ruthless and CLEAN IT OUT. Keep what you will use and "compost" the rest. Try and devote a shelf plus a drawer if possible to vegetables. Wipe the whole thing down well, and plan on doing it each week as you store your vegetables. 

#2 It's time to think through how you handle the fresh vegetables you now use. If you regularly pull out partial bags of mushy greens, shriveled peppers and hairy carrots, you need to rethink your eating habits and how you store your fresh vegetables.

     Does your family eat fresh salads daily like mine? How do you store the lettuce and other greens that you've bought over the winter? If what you buy comes in a nice little resealable plastic bag or container it's time to think through how you'll store the beautiful whole heads of lettuce and open bags of greens you'll receive in your share. You can have the same convenience you've grown accustomed to, but it will take a bit of pre-planning. Take a good look at your refrigerator and measure your shelves from front to back, and side to side. Have these measurements in hand when you research containers that will hold the greens that will be in your weekly share. I've found a container that works JUST RIGHT  for the tender greens like lettuce, spinach, and arugula in my refrigerator..maybe it will work for you too.
Believe it or not I found it it at Walmart years 

ago, (and they still carry them) and we're in our 3rd year of using them. They fit exactly from front to back and are a great space saver. I use 2-gallon Ziploc bags to hold my steaming/smoothie greens like kale, Swiss Chard, Collards, and Mustard Greens as they are tougher and can take being packed tightly and stand straight up on my tallest shelf. I use a Sharpie permanent marker to label the bags so they will not be thrown out when emptied.  When they get empty I simply squirt some dish soap in them and fill part way with hot water. Then I zip them and slosh them around a bit. After rinsing well with more hot water I hang them over a tall utensil in my rack to dry. They do not have to dry completely because when you empty your dish rack they will still be wet in places. I fold them and store them in my produce drawer of the refrigerator until I need them again. I wash and spin my greens, then pack them without paper towels in these containers and  they will last over a week IF we don't eat them. (A rarity.) 
    I use plastic bins/baskets to hold the turnip, kohlrabi, beets, or carrots, and other root crops that seem to either build up in my drawer or tumble around on a shelf. These can be found cheaply at Dollar Tree type stores or online. If you keep your vegetables visible, you're more likely to use them.
   When bundles of green onions make their way into the farm kitchen I re-cut the bottom of the onion and place them in a jar of water, ready to pull out for a quick meal.

#3  It's time to start planning NOW how to use your share of our harvest!  Start to educate yourself on the ENDLESS ways to use fresh seasonal vegetables that will part of your weekly share of our harvest. On Pintrest I have a board you can follow that I put alllllll kinds of ideas on. Explore the endless possibilities and plan to use part of your share each day. Then you'll be more than ready to pick up your next share without guilt. Also on our website there is a forum where you can see what other shareholders are making with their shares. I'll also announce and post a link to this blog each week (prayerfully) there. This is a great way to get to know your farm, and your farmer's family.

#4 It's time to adjust your schedule. One more adjustment you'll need to make to be a successful shareholder is to take time when you get home from EACH market to prep your vegetables for quick use.  By washing, trimming, and storing your vegetables immediately you will be more likely to use the vegetables and will enjoy the convenience you have grown accustomed to all winter If you have a busy family as I have, make it a family affair. Little ones love to swirl greens in a clean sink of cool water, and my boys love to "twirl" the salad spinner. I also snip the beet greens off the beets about an inch above the bulb and store them either separately or with the chard for quick stir fries. I keep a special basket for the new potatoes on a shelf in my pantry as I hate to mix them with the last of my store bought ones. I also keep a special basket on my counter of tomatoes latter in the summer as they should never be refrigerated. Squash, cucumbers, and carrots are delegated to the crisper drawer. By having everything stored clean and ready to use, I am more likely to use them when pulling a quick meal together. As the season progresses, I'll give more tips on how to store your bounty. 

I'd like encouraged you to think "outside the box" when using your shares. When you get this week's share it will have have some interesting greens in it like kale and mustard greens. You may be at a loss on how to use them. I'd like to share two ways to use them, with ideas on how to "tuck" them into your family favorite meals.
Tonight I made supper for the first time in 7 1/2 weeks! I'm so glad to be feeling some better. (Eight weeks ago I fell here on the farm and got a concussion.) It was a joy to pull ingredients together and whip up a supper to fill my farmer boy's stomachs! I found a new recipe to use some spicy sausage I got on SUPER sale. 

                            Spicy Sausage Casserole

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. smoked sausage (I used crumbled Hot Italian Sausage)
1 1/2 Cups diced onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth (I used bouillon in a pinch.)
1 (10 oz. can Ro-Tell tomatoes and green chilies (Latter on in the season simply chop tomatoes and chili peppers up to fulfill these amounts.)
1/2 Cup heavy cream (I used 1/2 and 1/2)
8 oz. Pasta (The recipe calls for penne, I used spirals, and could see it being made out of flat egg noodles.)
1/2 teasp. salt and pepper, each
1 Cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded (I used what I had on hand, shredded cheddar.)
4 leaves Swiss Chard/Collards/Kale Greens, etc. thinly sliced

     Begin by browning your sliced sausage in an oven-safe skillet over medium high heat. Stir the sausage for about 3 minutes. Next add your thinly sliced greens, onions, and garlic. Continue stirring until onions are slightly brown and the greens are limp.
     Next, add your broth, tomatoes, cream, pasta, salt, and pepper. Stir to blend. As the liquid reaches a slight boil, cover the skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.  
P.S. If there doesn't seem to be enough liquid to cook the pasta simply add a bit more broth and cream till  you can see the liquid up near the'll cook fine. Also, if you are using HOT sausage, you may want to use just regular tomatoes as ours was SPICY...but yummy!
     Now to help you see how I incorporated greens into just about any recipe, visualize the above recipe without greens. That is how it was originally written. I think it really gives it a burst of color too with the red and green! I've used this method for a lot of our family favorite recipes. This spring  as what we call the last cool snap of the season, Blackberry Winter was chilling the boys in the field I added thinly sliced greens to Chicken 'N Dumplings that gave the winter comfort food a springy lift! It was yummy! The dull looking meal was given a visual face lift!  Lasagna also takes on a gourmet touch with sauteed spinach or Swiss Chard tucked between the pasta. Pizza also becomes an upscale health food when you layer sauteed spinach, onions and mushrooms on top of a white sauce. The only green I really have a hard time incorporating is mustard greens...they have a distinctive flavor that is great steamed, or even partnered with other greens but not in my other dishes. Experiment and have fun!
                                     Steamed Greens

     To prepare your greens (kale, Swiss Chard, turnip, collards, kale, or a combination of each) wash them in cool water. I then lay mine on a tea towel, no need to spin them dry. To chop them I roll a few leaves together (large leaf on the outside and smaller leaves inside) and slice down towards the stem. I continue to cut right down to the tips and throw out the last 1/4".  My next cut is to cut the whole outer leaf in half lengthwise and then in quarters lengthwise. I'm frugal to the core..I even use the stems that so many people throw out. They steam tender and contain so much fiber, minerals and vitamins. Why waste them?
     In a large pot, place your greens along with a minimal amount of water or broth. Some folks like to add a spoonful of bacon drippings...and we like this on occasion too. My daughter likes to sprinkle beef bouillon on her greens to season. There are many ways, experiment to see how ya'll like them. Below is a time-table for cooking...use it as a starting point. (These times are for leaf only. If ya'll are like us and want all we can get out of our $$ then add a few minutes or saute them with olive oil and onions on the stove top. :)

Beet Greens 3-4 minutes
Broccoli Raab 3 minutes
Collards 10-20 minutes
Dandelion 1-3 minutes
Kale 5-10 minutes
Mustard Greens 2-5 minutes
Swiss Chard 1-2 minutes
Turnip Greens 4 minutes

I've been enjoying the first tastes of summer.
They are only coming in by the handful
now, but look for them shortly.
     There is a great summer bounty growing in our fields right now...tomatoes are ripening, cucumbers are sending out their first fruits, and green beans are blooming, rows of colorful lettuce are a work of art! It's time to get ready.
Fresh bundles of garlic!

I also want to be ready for Christ's imminent return. 
Are you ready? With the uncertainty of the world around us, the signs of His appearing are everywhere! You cannot guarantee that you will go to heaven by being a good person, being a member of your church, or because you give to the needy. There is only one way, through Jesus Christ's free gift of salvation. You can't earn salvation or eternal life...IT IS A FREE GIFT!
Are you truly ready? 

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast."
Ephesians 2:8,9

Abundant Blessings,
"The Farmer's Wife"
Val Colvin

P.S. I'm looking forward to getting to know ya'll ! Subscribe to the blog so you won't miss this weekly letter from the farmhouse.