Farm Newsletter 2/20/17

Brookford Farm CSA Newsletter (2/20/17)

Hello again Brookford Farm CSA subscribers! In case we’re not yet acquainted, my name is Matt Murphy, and I was the farm’s Harvest Manager for the 2015 season and the beginning of the 2016 season. I had then initiated and did my best to regularly keep up with a CSA newsletter from the Vegetable crew to pass on our current and upcoming events, choice photos, and occasional recipes suggestions for challenging and less familiar crops. My wife and I bought a house here in Canterbury in late 2015, and as my to-do list quickly filled up with home maintenance projects (apparently everything breaks right after you move in?), our ambitious homesteading goals, and the beginning of a business venture of my own, it quickly became apparent that I was going to need more flexibility in my schedule than would befit my role at the farm. So I reluctantly left the farm, returning to my older, less preferred, but much more flexible trades of carpentry and painting. I had a great first year as a homeowner and homesteader, but even our large garden couldn’t keep me from missing the farm. Brookford’s tremendous diversity of crops, critters, and products make for an exceptionally engaging work environment, and attract incredibly hard-working and passionate people from a myriad of backgrounds; there was a lot to miss. Happily, some of you fine folks expressed to the farm that my newsletter was also missed, and as a result Luke and Catarina reached out to me about starting it up again, this time focusing on not just the Veggie Department but the whole farm. I gleefully accepted, and here we are.

Now on to the news! I had a lot to catch up on, so this will likely be longer than the typical newsletter moving forward...

I first caught up with Nick, the newest member of the animal crew, who was all smiles and already looked comfy operating the array of equipment necessary to work the silo. In the background you might have noticed a greenhouse due for a recovering, a spring task that will be a first for some of the Veggie crew’s newer members--a great, challenging experience. Let’s all hope the weather treats them to at least one wind-free day, unlike the covering of the greenhouse we put up shortly after I first started on the farm--yikes.

Next I dropped into the packhouse/shop, to find it cleaner, more organized, and more functional than I’d ever seen it before. With an incredible variety of work taking place in this space, requiring a huge array of equipment and machines, it’s tough to convey just how much of an achievement it is to keep the place in tidy order--huge kudos to the Veggie and Maintenance crews!

Before ascending several tons of sweet potatoes to snap this photo, Jen and Greg were catching me up on some of the successes and failures of this extremely dry and challenging 2016 season, as well as what they were looking forward to in the coming season. They were happily anticipating a reduction in the overall production acreage, a welcome adjustment of the balance of quality and quantity. Their tales of the overwhelming weed pressure in the potatoes and elsewhere gave me a quick pang of something akin to a PTSD flashback. Additionally, they were excited to begin the planning stages of their response to your customer survey feedback--eager to determine how much they would be able to expand the farm’s fruit and herb production in particular, and possibly even cut flowers in addition! Greg and his dad will be setting up bee hives on the farm this season, so the more nectar and pollen the better.

On my way to catch up with the Livestock crew I briefly stopped for a chat with Magic, who must be one of the prettiest nurse cows in all the land. What a face!

While the Livestock crew wrapped up a meeting, I dropped into the creamery to happily find Marie right where I left her, and her accent thinner than ever--she must be getting lots of linguistic practice training the new hands I found with her. Jana was in her first week in the creamery, and Nolan (who happens to be a neighbor I hadn’t yet met) was feeling like he was now really getting the hang of things after two and a half months aboard. He admitted to being a smoked cheese fiend, so it’s a good thing Brookford’s smoked cheddar, our mutual favorite cheese style, is easily the best we’ve had anywhere. Nolan didn’t sound like he missed his previous career as a professional driver one iota.

When the Livestock crew meeting ended I was able to catch up with Nicole about the herd. With two calves born so far this year, and a relatively light load of 43 cows milking, the dairy crew is preparing for things to get much more busy soon.

Additionally, they are pushing to get the herd certified organic this year, a lengthy process that first requires the certification of the pasture, and then requires all of the cattle to have been born on the farm. Since Brookford moved to Canterbury with a large productive herd in tow, this process has taken several years so as to avoid necessitating a very large cull of the original herd. It also seems that last year and this year brought an atypically large influx of new cattle in anticipation of the certification process, which provided an opportunity to retool the breed makeup of the herd as well. The Jerseys are now taking a back seat to the Normande breed, which, as Nicole explained to me, offers superior feed efficiency, as well as being a meatier, more balanced dual-purpose breed.

The Livestock crew’s meeting was focused on beginning to reimagine their chicken setup for this coming season, to reduce the stress on both the birds and their caretakers. While their ranging chicken trailers are relatively idyllic as far as poultry living conditions go, they are not without some pitfalls. Difficult fencing, regular visits from loud scary tractors, as well as predator pressure (there is a beautiful pair of bald eagles nesting about a mile downriver from the farm) were some of the areas of concern shared with me. I’m looking forward to hearing what they come up with and passing it along to you.

On my way to bend Luke and Catarina’s ears for a few minutes I bumped into Tim Meeh of North Family Farm, the remarkable operation behind the syrup share that Brookford offers. He shared that their operation is by no means exempt from the wild ride that this winter has made for. It warmed up enough for them to get all of their trees tapped, but then promptly snapped cold enough to freeze their lines solid. This past weekend they will have enjoyed weather warm enough to thaw the lines so that they can find and patch any leaks, and fully begin their sugaring season. In addition to their syrup being certified organic, and produced with the most sustainable methods I can imagine, it is the finest tasting maple syrup I’ve yet encountered. If you like syrup and aren’t already subscribed, I strongly suggest you acquire a bottle to try. And if you don’t think you consume enough syrup to justify a subscription, I suggest you take a look at the maple syrup health benefits detailed on the North Family Farm website and consider substituting maple syrup for your regular sweeteners.

When I reached Luke and Catarina, they confirmed that their eldest son, Oliver, had been regularly on the schedule for some of the dairy work including milking and letting the cows out at night. As far as I’m concerned, this marks the beginning of Brookford’s status as a multi-generation family farm, which I find to be an exciting semantic distinction! Luke explained that the farm has been enjoying the Somerville Winter Farmers Market on Saturdays, and that it has also enabled CSA distribution to the Boston Area. If you know folks in the Boston area that might be interested, the farm would greatly appreciate you spreading the good word. Looking forward to this coming season, Luke and Catarina also reminded me that the asparagus we planted towards the beginning of my time on the farm was going to be in its third year now, the first year viable for harvest. The large asparagus crop is a wonderful example of the kind of long term investment that your subscriptions allow the farm to undertake, as they provide far more predictable and less seasonally volatile revenue, which makes for more accurate accounting and thus much less risky reinvestment.

Finally, a quick note on some upcoming staff changes. Two very familiar faces on the farm will be leaving their positions soon. Brady, who was the Vegetable Field Manager during my time on the farm and subsequently shifted his focus to Livestock and Farmers Markets, has accepted a job at a relatively small vegetable farm in the Hudson River Valley. Hillary, who has been primarily responsible for the farm store’s improved layout and stocking procedures, as well as maintaining the farm’s wholesale accounts and delivery routes and attending farmers markets, is also moving on --though she will remain with the farm on a part-time basis for events and promotional activities. Both will be missed, and if you have the opportunity to see them at the farm, your local pickup location, or farmers market, feel free to give a hug goodbye and a fare thee well, they’re both sweeties!

~~~

I look forward to continuing this newsletter on a weekly basis, it’s such a treat being back on the farm to soak up and share notable happenings. Looking forward I plan to include more recipe suggestions and share some insight into my household’s successes and challenges as avid cooks and locavores. Please feel free to reach out if there are any particular subjects you would like to see me focus on.

On behalf of the whole farm, thank you so much for your business, and the values that brought it to us.

Peas and lub,

Matt

Drought

As most everyone in the northeast is aware, 2016 was a year of exceptional drought for the region. Even today, sitting under several feet of snow in mid-February, our part of the state is still classified in a “severe” drought category. As anyone who has ever even dabbled in farming will be well aware, a drought is just one of many factors that can drastically influence the outcomes for a farm - and like many of these factors, drought is one of those circumstances that can ruin a harvest despite a farmer’s best efforts and planning. I’ve been curious to talk to Luke and Catarina about the drought we’ve been experiencing, and now that we’re well into winter and things on the farm are slower than in the thick of summer, we finally had a chance. It was a sobering conversation, and one that I thought important to share with other Brookford customers.

In many ways, Brookford was well prepared for the drought, although it’s next to impossible to ever be fully prepared for such drastic circumstances. Since moving to the Canterbury land, Luke and Catarina have worked diligently to improve the irrigation systems for the fields. This irrigation system was both a saving grace and a cause of many headaches as the drought developed. As the nearby river dried up, the dropping water levels caused the system’s pump to break and need replacement. The pump was replaced only to promptly break again and yet again as water levels continued to drop. Luke tells me that a silver lining to this frustration is that the constant irrigation system challenges left the farm with little choice but to continue to develop and refine the systems, which means that as we head into another potential spring and summer of drought, the farm is now even better prepared.

One of the challenges of sudden infrastructure demands such as irrigation equipment is that it funnels resources away from other parts of the farm. Not addressing issues with the irrigation system could mean crop failure and a huge loss of income, yet updating and maintaining these systems is also expensive. Along with these direct challenges and costs, a drought brings myriad secondary effects. While the farm’s organic farming methods include such safeguards as crop rotation to address weed and pest life cycles, a drought is particularly hard on cultivated plants. Weeds have an advantage over crops because weeds are native to the land, which helps them better adapt to their surroundings. The same goes for pests, which know how to survive - thrive even - in times of drought. As weeds and pests descend upon drought stressed crops, the plants become more susceptible to disease and scar tissue. These factors increase the risk of crop failure as well as rising the labor demands for the farm.

For Brookford, these effects played out most dramatically for the potato crop, with both quantity and quality severely impacted. Luckily for CSA customers, Brookford has a large wholesale business, which serves as a buffer for the vegetable shares. The farm is able to route crop failures or near failures through the wholesale portion of the business, directing the best of limited quantities directly to CSA customers. Still, this past season’s drought was severe enough that after giving out the best of the potatoes through CSA shares, the farm did not have enough to supply to customers over the course of the winter in fall/winter veggie shares. With potatoes being a staple crop for seasonal eating during cold months, the farm chose to purchase organic potatoes from another farm in order to ensure that CSA customers would be provided with the quality and quantity they’ve come to depend upon.

Unfortunately, potatoes weren’t the only crops impacted in this way. The lack of rain meant that the quantity of hay harvested throughout the season was not sufficient to get the farm through this winter, making it necessary for the farm to buy $40k worth of hay to sustain the animals. In addition to these large scale crop issues, the drought meant challenges for crops on a smaller scale, as well. In hot dry weather, delicate crops such a lettuce tend to bolt and become bitter, often rendering them unusable. Once again, having the buffer of wholesale means that CSA customers are insulated from the worst effects of these troubles, but for a farmer, the combination of increased equipment and labor needs, failed crops, and a decrease in products to sell to the wholesale market can make for a stressful season.

These hurdles, although frustrating, aren’t unexpected; seasoned farmers know that nature and weather will always be unpredictable. I asked Luke and Catarina how they keep spirits up during challenging times like this. I was heartened to hear them tell me that despite this past summer’s difficulties, the season also brought some of the best Friday evenings in the farm’s history. The weeks would draw to a close over beer and barbecue, and probably some shared exhaustion. Both Catarina and Luke are committed to an environment that focuses on relationship building, communication, and being understanding of the mistakes that come with learning and growth.

As a long-time customer, I’m pretty hard-core in my passion for supporting my local farm. I remember several years ago, hearing Luke talk about how the food produced by the farm is really just an edible by-product of nurturing the land. This philosophy is part of why I am not only devoted to supporting local farms, but to supporting Brookford Farm specifically. I view my role as a customer in similar fashion. I give the farm my financial support, and the food I receive in return is a delicious by-product of that support. But regardless of the outcome, regardless of the by-products, the farm would still have my support. Because family farms - especially diversified, organic farms like Brookford - make a difference. Supporting these farms means supporting local jobs and the local economy. It means protecting open space and preserving our state’s agricultural heritage. Support for Brookford  means less pollution, fewer chemicals, and decreased use of pesticides, and these things mean cleaner air and water right here at home. Support for Brookford also means protecting heirloom vegetables, non GMO seeds, and biodiversity for the future. These are all things that I would support regardless of whether I were to receive food in return. Clean air and water, open space, our local economy, biodiversity...these are all things that I’m invested in protecting not only for my own quality of life, but for my children’s quality of life, and the quality of life for others in our community.

It is because of this steadfast belief in the importance of local farms that I feel tremendous compassion and gratitude when I talk with Luke and Catarina about the implications of the drought. Without a doubt, the drought has been a challenge for most of us throughout the state. But I can’t think of many others as directly affected as our hard working organic farms. I am so grateful that we have dedicated farmers who are willing to shoulder the stress and burden of nature’s unpredictability so that we all can benefit. Undoubtedly, customers may have noticed that shares were impacted by the extreme conditions of this past summer. But for many of us customers, we are also supporters - and in that role, I’m so appreciative of the quiet heroism and selflessness of the farmers who absorb the brunt of the cost when nature doesn’t cooperate.

As I sit here writing on this February morning, I have a freezer stocked full of organic frozen tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, peppers, corn, and cauliflower. The carefully vacuum sealed packets offer a pop of color every time I open the freezer - vibrant red, lush green, soft yellow. It makes me smile to see summer frozen in time in this way. I feel incredibly thankful for a farm that knows their customers might just need a little color in the wintertime, and thus invests the time and resources to make it so. And so despite it all - despite the water pump and the pests, despite the weeds and the long hours on hot, dry days, I will make a locally sourced summer ragout for dinner this evening. We will eat it and celebrate seasons past, seasons to come, and all of the dedication, love, and effort that persevered.

Celeriac

I know I often talk about my favorite vegetables, and this constant chatter of favorites is eventually going to betray the fact that I have at least a dozen *favorite* vegetables, and depending upon which season we’re in, I’m likely to proclaim that at least half a dozen of those are actually my “most favorite, favorite.” And I think it’s entirely possible to be both 100% honest AND to have several favorites. I just do.

A few weeks ago the weekly veggie list showed up with one of my *favorite* favorites on it: celeriac. Poor celeriac that never gets a fair shake. Also known as celery root, it looks a bit like a bizarre potato, nubby and brown, and completely nothing to write home about. A sniff of this humble vegetable, however, starts to reveal something of its magic. Earthy and nutty, it immediately makes me want to slice it in half and start warming some butter.

If I could be accused of professing my undying love for more than one or two vegetables, I can ALSO be accused of waxing poetic far too often about the beautiful versatility of more than a handful of old standbys and a few lesser known characters as well. But there’s just something so irresistibly satisfying to me about vegetables that like to shape shift in my kitchen.

Here are ten reasons why I was thrilled to find celeriac in my veggie box again this past week:

  1. Shaved celeriac salad. Try combining it with cubes of cold roasted winter squash, crumbled blue cheese, and shaved radishes. A drizzle of olive oil, a spritz of lemon juice, and a sprinkling of maldon salt on top….

  2. Celeriac chips. Slice thinly, toss with olive oil and salt, and roast at 350 until browned.

  3. Celeriac soup. Whether you mix it with potatoes, turnips, bacon, leeks, or all of the above, you will not be disappointed.

  4. Shaved celeriac, apples, and cheddar. Slice an apple, add a slice of Brookford cheddar (smoked, clothbound, or raw all go very well!), and add a few pieces of shaved celeriac on top.

  5. Root vegetable galette. You CAN make this without celeriac, but why would you want to?

  6. Braising. Try browning celeriac in butter, adding a few splashes of cooking sherry, the same amount of chicken stock, and salt to taste. Braise until softened.

  7. Fermented celeriac remoulade. You won’t be disappointed.

  8. Gratin. Earthy, rich, and indulgent. Something you definitely want to eat before “stick to your ribs” season is over.

  9. Celeriac and rutabaga mash. I’m pretty certain that it’s the swirled pool of melted butter shown in the picture that first convinced me to try this recipe, but it’s the nutty satisfaction of the smooth celeriac that keeps me in love with this recipe. I make it every Thanksgiving.  

  10. Eggs baked in celeriac puree. Whir cooked celeriac in the food processor along with cream, butter, and salt to taste. Transfer the celeriac to a greased oven proof dish. Make 4-6 indents in the celeriac, and gently crack an egg into each indent. Add a sprinkling of salt and small pat of butter over each egg, and cook in an oven preheated to 375 degrees until cooked through (about 15 minutes). Sunday morning, reinvented!

Farm Stories - About that Flour

I want to tell you a story about flour.

 

Remember a year or so ago, when you could purchase a flour share from the farm?

 

That was amazing.

 

As someone who’s more than a little enthusiastic about sourcing as much food locally as possible, flour from a NH farm was a game changer. I was recently talking with Luke about current events at the farm, and the subject of flour came up. “Hey,” I asked him, “whatever happened to the flour?” I was expecting somewhat of a routine answer. Perhaps the equipment needed replacing, or they had run out of space to store it. I assumed it was something simple and not all that exciting. But the answer he gave me, ah. What a refreshing reminder of the intricacies of farm life, of harmony, and of the careful balance that gives way to nourishment for us all to eat.

 

After Luke and Catarina moved the farm from Rollinsford to Canterbury, the cow herd began to grow. This increase in cows meant that the need for fresh green grass in summer and hay during the winter was quickly rising. Although the farm was now sitting on 600 acres, optimizing those acres in a way that would both nourish the land and keep up with customer demands was an ongoing and active responsibility. Land can produce many things, and when stewarded carefully, it can produce an amazing abundance, but there is still the reality of competing needs and limited resources for grain vs. pasture vs. vegetables vs. hay. Each time that the grain was ready to be harvested, the farm would scramble to fill the void, as it was a task that required Luke’s full attention for the better part of a month. At the same time, the increasing need for pasture and hay posed a real problem. There were 100 acres of land that would make prime pasture land if cleared of trees, but with the limited nature of time and hands, it remained wooded and unusable.

 

The solution lay in reallocating resources. By taking a break from producing flour, the farm was able to regain a month of Luke’s time during which he worked with staff and a local logger to clear all 100 acres. Although the logger’s time and equipment helped ease the burden of the work, each stump had to be pulled up by hand, one by one. Once this was accomplished, they were able to turn the land into pasture - all 100 acres. It is on this land where the entire beef herd grazed last summer.

 

Maybe I’m overly sentimental, but I can’t help but treasure this mental image: The farm stopped producing flour (temporarily) to instead produce pasture. Which then produced beef. Which then nourished families. The pasture is now there to stay. The green grass will grow each spring and will continue to support the beef herds, which in turn will nourish the land with their manure while their grazing keeps the pasture open and managed. This is balance. This is harmony. This is the cycle that we are all a part of when we eat Brookford beef or drink Brookford milk or bake (someday, again!) with Brookford flour. It is all intertwined. Delicately and roughly.

 

Farming is not easy work, nor simple work. It is work that requires sacrifice in a hundred different forms, and it is work that is very literally dependent on the participation, engagement, and love - yes love - of community.


Very soon, we will be sharing an upcoming project with the community. It’s a project that stems from that same place of balancing growth and resources with land stewardship and future infrastructure. We’re excited to share it with you. Stay tuned.

Batch Cooking Squash

Sometimes, with a winter CSA, things can get a little dicey in the squash department. One or two weeks without using your squash, and suddenly it seems that the butternuts are multiplying on their own in the pantry. I run into this at different times and with different vegetables. Some years it’s potatoes, some it’s parsnips. The cool thing about this is that it’s an easy problem to solve...especially with squash. Winter squash is surprisingly versatile and easy to process. Here’s how I keep up.

 

Step 1: Cook and cool the squash

Once per week, I batch cook all my squash at once. I heat the oven to 350 degrees, cut each squash in half, and put the squash cut side down in a pan. I don’t peel the squash or remove the seeds at this point. I add water to the pan (about half an inch) and then pop it in the oven. After about an hour, I begin checking on the squash every 15-20 minutes. When I can pierce it easily with a knife, it’s done. I remove the pans from the oven, let the squash cool, and then move on to the next step.

 

Step 2: Prep for storage and use

If I plan to make any salads during the week, I carefully remove the skin and seeds from one of the firmer squashes and cut it into bite sized pieces before putting it in the fridge to store. Now it’s ready and waiting when I am ready to make a recipe like one of these:

Kale salad with roasted butternut squash

Roasted butternut squash salad with warm cider vinaigrette

Roasted beet and squash salad with nuts

Simple roasted butternut squash salad

Tips:

You can always spread the cubed squash on an oiled pan and roast for a bit before using if you want to get some caramelized pieces in there.

Most winter squash can stand in easily for any other winter squash - don’t sweat it if the recipe calls for butternut and you only have kabocha. Use what’s on hand.

 

If I plan to make pretty much anything else with my squash, I’m going to puree it. I scoop the squash out of the cooled skin, carefully remove the seeds (though they’re edible, and since I’m pureeing, I don’t sweat it too much if a few are missed). I give it a whir in the blender or food processor, and then transfer it into a bowl to keep in the fridge until I’m ready to use it. Here are a few of the ways I am able to easily use it up:

Pasta sauce

Butternut mac and cheese

Squash muffins

Pancakes (sweet)

Pancakes (savory)

Butternut bisque

Smoky squash soup

Curried squash soup

Whipped winter squash

 

I could really go on and on listing options for incorporating winter squash into meals - if none of these speak to you, try imagining up your own squash creations. If you can dream it, chances are, google can too! (Need to see it to believe it? Try searching: squash brownies!)

(And remember...cooked and pureed squash freezes really well! If you can't use it all at once, freeze some for later!)

 

Cleansing Recipes

In my last post, I talked about using this time of year to reevaluate and renew our commitments to food. How do we choose to eat? And why do we make the choices that we do? If you haven’t ever been through this process of reflection before, it can be a fun and enlightening exercise.

 

But what if you’re just looking for a good January cleanse? A little post-holiday detoxing? You don’t have to go wild tracking down obscure ingredients from every corner of the earth. Your local, seasonal CSA offers plenty of nourishing, cleansing ingredients to work with. Try one of these three recipes for a quick boost!

 

Cleansing Kale and Apple Smoothie

⅓ cup water

⅓ cup raw milk

⅔ cup ice

1 ½ cups of chopped kale

1 stalk of chopped celery

1 tsp maple syrup

1 tbsp raw squash seeds (from any winter squash, or substitute sunflower or pumpkin seeds)

 

Blend until smooth and enjoy!

 

Detoxifying Curried Cabbage Stew

1 small head of cabbage, shredded

5 small carrots

3 cups of bone broth

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2 T lard, bacon fat, or butter

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 T grated ginger

2 T curry powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

In a soup pot, melt the lard over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 7-8 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, ginger, and curry powder, and saute for another minute. Add the bone broth, cabbage, and carrots, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour until all veggies are softened. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

 

Cleansing Carrot Soup

1 T coconut oil

1 onion, diced

2 lbs of organic carrots, washed and chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 T minced ginger

½ t coriander

½ t nutmeg

7 cups bone broth

Sea salt, to taste


In a soup pot, heat the coconut oil over medium and saute the onions until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the carrots, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 15 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Add the bone broth and bring to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes until the carrots are fully softened. Add the nutmeg and coriander, and then puree the soup using an immersion blender, food processor, or high speed blender. Taste for salt and adjust seasonings as needed before giving one final whir with the blender. Serve warm.

A January Renewal

 

Every January, I like to sit down and reflect on life. It’s not so much about resolutions as it is about being mindful and purposeful in my choices. I typically make a renewed commitment to my yoga practice, daily meditation, journaling, gratitude, and mindfulness with food. Some years the food piece takes the form of a cleanse, others as a short period of fasting. It depends on where I am in life and what feels right. It’s never about dieting or deprivation, rather, it is a slowing down period to mindfully reflect on how I choose to nourish my body (not to mention how grateful I am to have as much choice as I do in this matter).

Here are a few things that I’m reflecting on and renewing my commitment to this month:

 

Healthy, local fats: When we think about local eating, it’s easy to make some assumptions about what we can reasonably source close to home. Coffee and bananas aren’t ever likely to be sourced within a reasonable distance for us New Englanders, however, not all items are as elusive as may seem at first glance.  There was a time when I assumed that my cooking fats would always have to travel far distances to make it to my kitchen. While that may be true for the coconut and olive oils that I love, I have also changed the way that I cook to incorporate more leaf lard, bacon fat, and grass fed butter. Not only does this help decrease my carbon footprint while keeping money in our local economy, it also has helped my health. Recent research and wisdom has pointed us back in the direction of healthy animal fats like butter and lard because in addition to being sustainable and economical, they are full of important vitamins and the healthy, protective cholesterol we need to survive. I use butter, lard, and bacon fat for almost all of my baking and cooking.  I do still use olive oil and coconut oil, but butter and lard work well for me because I like to avoid heating olive oil and use it only for salad dressing and drizzling over a finished dish.

You can get pasture-raised, cultured butter as well as leaf lard directly from the farm. Or, buy Brookford cream and experience the fun of making your own butter!

 

Eating locally: If you’re a CSA member, chances are good that you’re already pretty committed to local eating. However, one of the most common reasons people cite for leaving their CSA is that they aren’t able to eat all of the food. Fortunately, this is a problem that is easily fixed. I don’t think it can be overstated that switching to eating locally produced, seasonal, whole foods is a lifestyle change that takes some time to perfect. To help with the learning curve, it’s an important practice to regularly consider how you’re planning your meals, what you’re buying to supplement from the store, and whether or not you can make some simple substitutions to keep it local and seasonal. For example, my family is really big on salad. This is all well and good in summer when fresh vegetables are in abundance, but in winter, well, this could seem like a challenge. In reality, it’s not that difficult. Rather than buying lettuce from the grocery store all winter, we make some changes to our salad composition during winter. Finely chopped cabbage and kale take the place of lettuce. Chopped carrots add brightness, while thinly sliced onions and slivers of radishes and turnips add zest and texture. Roasted and cooled vegetables including squash and brussels sprouts help keep things interesting and varied. The addition of nuts, seeds, cheeses, fermented vegetables, and dried fruits helps to create as much variation as we might find in a July garden. By re-committing to sourcing your food locally, you can help make sure you use what you get in your CSA share, and don’t supplement at the grocery store unnecessarily.

 

Eating seasonally: I have a theory that it only takes a year of mindful seasonal eating to convince your body to never turn back to the typical American diet. When you’ve gorged yourself on an entire August’s worth of fresh tomatoes, you might find that you don’t need tomatoes again for a while. Likewise, by the time it’s parsnip and potato season, you may find yourself so deeply immersed in their starchy goodness that you hardly notice when they’re replaced by spring’s tender green shoots. For thousands of years, humans survived winters without eating bell peppers flown in from halfway around the world. I’m a firm believer that not only can we survive on a local diet, we can thrive on it, and find greater enjoyment in the process.

 

Gut health/Immune system: Seeing as though we’re in the thick of cold and flu season, I find it apropos that my annual period of reflection on my eating habits falls now. Nourishing bone broths are a great way to keep your immune system strong, because they reduce inflammation, contain important amino acids, heal the gut (where 80% of your immune system is located!), and support detoxification through healthy digestion. Complementary to the healing benefits of bone broth are the probiotic benefits and greater enzyme bioavailability of fermented vegetables. I’m making bone broth with fermented vegetables a staple of my winter diet. It’s a quick nourishing meal that will help keep my immune system strong all winter long.

You can purchase pastured bones for broth from the farm, in addition to delicious fermented vegetables! Learning to ferment vegetables at home is also fun and easy!

 

Vegetables for snacks and breakfast: I try to keep vegetables a mainstay in our diet at all meals and snacks. But somehow the holidays, and abundant carbohydrates, seem to happen, and I find myself staring into a pantry full of twelve different types of bread products, four onions, and a few boxes of pasta. January always feels like the right time to recommitting to food that has fiber in it and grows up out of the earth. Roasted vegetables are just as happy on your breakfast plate as they are your dinner plate. Kale chips and smashed potato skins make a great Sunday afternoon snack. A commitment to more vegetables, more often, means that those veggie shares disappear before you have a chance to wonder what to do with that darned squash...

 

How do you celebrate and renew your relationship with food? We want to hear your ideas!

 

Winter Solstice

From out of the darkness and cold, the light...and hope return. -Unknown

Winter is here. I always find it a bit confusing to reconcile the fact that the solstice opens a new season with a foreshadowing of what’s to come. Our second day of winter is unfolding with a quiet and peaceful snowfall as we brace ourselves for the unknown days of winter weather ahead. Yet, at the same time, the sunlight will be creeping in, slowly lengthening our days until we find ourselves at the dewy threshold of spring. Just as summer welcomes us with a warm breeze and we relax into the sun’s embrace, the solstice will once again remind us that as a new season of warmth unfolds, the light will be waning little by little.

I think we tend to picture change as a homogeneous process of gradual movement in one direction, but the reality is really quite different. Change is so often a complex and layered evolution of movement in many directions at once. While the daylight swims upstream through the current of winter, I wonder if it might be nature’s way of giving a nod to the farmers who must also practice a mindful incongruence with the season - planning for summer while trekking through winter, each season demanding attention before the last has finished its business.

While the non-farmers among us may be sledding and skiing and cozying up by the fire, it is the farmers who will toil with ice where water is needed, who will brace against the frigid wind to provide food, water, and warm shelter to the animals who sustain us all. In between the constant demands that are necessary for winter survival, farmers will be selecting seeds and making decisions about varieties of crops for the summer. They’ll be planning how the abundance of milk will be used once the grass is lush and green, predicting what the markets will demand and how to keep customers happy. I’ve had only a small taste of winter farming, but from that experience, I’ve come to believe that these necessary bits of tending to summer during winter probably are what helps keep the farmer moving forward day to day. It is in this space that I am reminded that things are not always what they seem, that time is fluid, and that perhaps we are all living a little bit of everything all at once.

Fittingly, it is through this recognition that CSA programs were born -- as a means of providing farmers with funds to buy seeds and supplies when they’re needed most -- a season or two before those seeds and supplies will bring to fruition products that generate income. It’s not only a practical innovation, it’s also a beautiful practice of trust, faith, and goodwill between farmer and customer; a recognition of the interdependence of the many critical factors hanging in the tenuous balance that is farming.  

In these coming days of both increasing cold and increasing sunlight, we invite you to join us in awe and appreciation of the complexities of nature and time.


In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. -Albert Camus

Holiday Gift Packages

I'm excited to be writing this post, to share with you something that we've been working on for a few weeks...holiday gift packages!

Our gift packages are an awesome way to support local business during the holidays. As a farm, winter can be a difficult season of hard work in cold weather, where markets are less busy and the days are short and demanding. These gift packages are your chance to show us your love while sharing the gift of wholesome, delicious, nutrient-dense food with the people you care about.

These packages are ideal for teachers, bosses, neighbors, food loving friends, family, Yankee Swaps, and work great as a host/hostess gift. They're the perfect way to bring something delicious to share without having to do any of the work!  

To order a package, simply email us at brookfordfarm.csa@gmail.com and let us know which one you'd like. We'll be in touch to take care of payment and to set up a pickup location.

 

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Brussels Sprouts Kimchi

 

I’ve been delighted with the awesome brussels sprouts that have been showing up in veggie boxes this session. I have loved brussels sprouts for as long as I can remember; even when I was a kid and we ate frozen brussels sprouts warmed in the microwave and covered in processed cheese sauce. Somehow I can’t see my kids going for that. I love brussels sprouts for their uniquely nutty, sweet, and pungent flavor, somewhere between broccoli and cabbage but with a twist. They’re also really good for you -- so much so that even if you’re not a huge fan, you might want to find a way to become one. I have a theory that most people who don’t like brussels sprouts probably haven’t had them cooked right...perhaps they also grew up eating them from the microwave and found the results less than satisfying. But brussels sprouts aren’t a one trick pony. You may look at them and think, “huh. Not many options…” when in reality, brussels sprouts can do ANYTHING! Well, not anything. But just about. Brussels sprouts can be roasted, sauteed, steamed, shredded and used as a crunchy salad base, made into creamy soup, made into non-creamy soup, and fermented. It’s the fermented action I want to talk about today, since last week’s veggie share provided us with not one but two of the main ingredients for this easy and delicious kimchi.

 

This is a great, delicious, and fun fermentation recipe. The spiciness can easily be adjusted for a more mild or more intense kimchi.  

 

Brussels Sprout Kimchi

(Recipe Adapted from Fermentationrecipes.com)

 

2 1/2 lbs brussels sprouts

1 medium daikon radish, cut into disks

Brine of 3T unrefined sea salt and 4 cups of filtered water

1 1/2 T diced ginger

1T diced garlic

4T red pepper (use less for a mild kimchi, more for a very spicy version)

1T fish sauce or shrimp sauce

Directions:

  1. Rinse and gently clean the brussel sprouts, daikon, and ginger

  2. Slice the brussels sprouts in half lengthwise

  3. Cut the daikon into disks, approx 1/8″ thick.  If you daikon is particularly fat, cut in half lengthwise first

  4. Dissolve the salt into the water to make a brine

  5. Place the brussels sprouts and daikon into the brine and let it soak for a few hours or overnight if you prefer.  Do your best to compress the veggies to get as many of them under the liquid as possible.

  6. Drain the brine and reserve it for later

  7. Finely dice the ginger and garlic

  8. In a large bowl, mix the ginger and garlic with the drained vegetables, chili powder, and fish or shrimp sauce,  and toss to combine

  9. Place everything in a wide-mouth glass jar or other fermenting vessel.  Put some pressure on it with your clean fist to encourage compaction. Unlike cabbage ferments there will not be sufficient liquid in the veggies to fully cover the veggies.

  10. Add back in some (or perhaps all) of the reserved brine so that under pressure, the brine covers the veggies.

  11. Place a weight on the veggies to keep pressure on them and to encourage the liquid level to rise above the veggies. A clear plastic produce bag filled with brine works well for this.  It’s important when sealing the bag to leave some looseness in the bag rather than filling it tightly with air.  The looseness will allow the bag to settle and conform to the shape of the fermenting vessel, thus making a perfect seal which keeps air out but allows gasses to escape as needed.

  12. Cover with a towel

  13. Let it sit for 2-3 weeks, tasting regularly as you go to get a feel for how the flavor changes.

  14. Jar it up and refrigerate when you like it in order to significantly slow the fermentation

 

Enjoy!

 

Dudley's Dance and Queso Fresco

It’s always a cause for celebration when the farm comes out with new cheese options. When I first joined the CSA, the cheese they were making was delicious, but there were far fewer varieties than are available today. I’ve watched and delighted as smoked cheddar, smoked feta, clothbound cheddar, maasdam, mozzarella, gouda, and jalapeno cheddar have become fast favorites among Brookford fans. This variety helps customers source more food locally while increasing the options for what we can do in our kitchens. I didn’t really think it was possible to get even more excited about the cheeses that are available to me each week, and then the farm went and created a queso fresco and Dudley’s Dance. These two new cheeses are seriously delicious, and I’m immediately wondering how we ever survived without them. If you haven’t tried them yet, here’s what they’re all about:

Dudley's Dance

About: Dudley's Dance is a semi-hard cheese with the sweet taste of Swiss and the thick creaminess we have all come to love in Brookford cheeses. Named after Dudley, a well-known, 80 year old Contra dance caller and Brookford Farm Milker who has an unwavering love for Brookford Farm.

Flavor and texture profile: This is an incredibly smooth and velvety cheese. The heavenly texture can’t be overstated; it is irresistible. It is thick and creamy, with a well balanced sharpness in the finish.

How to enjoy: Dudley’s Dance is wonderful on it’s own or as part of a cheese platter. It pairs very nicely with sliced apples and pears, and is decadent melted on garlic toast. It’s a great match for white wine or any crisp beer.

 

Queso Fresco:

About: Queso Fresco is a fresh, bright cheese with a mild milky taste. Perfect over nachos or you can replace feta with Queso Fresco in your favorite recipes for a lighter, creamier texture.

Flavor and texture profile: This is an excellent and versatile cheese. It is wonderfully mild with a bright but gentle saltiness. The texture is delicate and light, with an unmistakable freshness.

How to enjoy: Queso fresco can be crumbled over enchiladas, used as stuffing for chile rellenos, or made into a decadent dipping sauce. The gentle nature of this cheese makes it an excellent counterpart for all spicy dishes.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is upon us. It doesn’t seem possible that an entire year has passed by since I last posted at Thanksgiving time. A lot has happened in just a year. 2016 seems to have been a fight for many of us. A fight against weather, dry and uncooperative; a fight between politicians and individuals and the very direction of our country. And yet, here we are.

I’ve always loved the CSA for many reasons, but perhaps the biggest reason is how connected to my world I feel when I support the CSA and eat locally produced food. It feels like a daily way to acknowledge, “I am here. I am a citizen of this planet. I am conscious and intentional in my actions.” Sometimes we need to strip life down to the bare bones of it all. Let go of the big picture and see the forest for the trees. Perhaps we cannot all agree on the way forward, but I think we can all agree that we are here in this life wanting what we feel is best. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I think that ultimately, 99.9% of the world is coming from a place of love. Perhaps fear comes in, or anger at not being understood, or feelings of unfairness or heartbreak, but if we boil the human condition down to the purest of forms, I think we just find love. And love can cause us to do some crazy things. Sometimes we need to stop, and breathe, and recenter ourselves to remember what we’re really all about.

When I open my CSA box this week, I’ll see brussels sprouts, rutabagas, garlic, leeks and more. But the physical form of these vegetables is perhaps deceptive. A leek is never just a leek. These vegetables are an important and tangible reminder of the efforts of a ferociously dedicated group of people from around the world working tenaciously to feed their community. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.  

Our CSA order will be brought to my door by Adil, here from the Sudan, who chats with me and my children about life across the world as I check over the dairy order. Once he leaves,  I’ll unpack our beautiful vegetables and admire their robust vibrance, feeling gratitude for the many individuals who worked so hard to sew the seeds and tend the crops. Many of the harvest crew have traveled to our little state from Burundi, Senegal, Ethiopa, and the Sudan. I will next put away our dairy, and spend a moment thinking of Sadiqi from Ethiopia who helps bottle the milk, and Marie from Burundi who makes delicious cheese. As I transfer chickens to the cooler, I’ll think of Irena from Russia who has harvested them by hand, and then of her son Vladimir who, like Adil, goes door to door making sure that all of these labors of love arrive on time and in excellent shape. Finally, I’ll think of Luke and Catarina, who started Brookford Farm together after they met and fell in love while working at a biodynamic farm in Russia. I will never know all of the intricacies and stories of all of these intertwined lives, but each day when I cook for my family, I depend on their relentless dedication, and for this I have immeasurable gratitude. Their work is directly life sustaining; it is the very food that nourishes the bodies and souls of my children. It is love.

We may live in an imperfect world, but every moment still holds hope for love to prevail. Whether you spend Thanksgiving with friends, with family, in quiet solitude, or helping strangers, it is a day that provides us all with the opportunity to exercise gratitude for the love that sustains us. Whether love is huddled close around you in the form of family, or whether it makes its way into your life in the form of organic carrots and raw cream, it is there awaiting discovery. Our interconnected humanity is evidenced in virtually all elements of our lives, if we know how to look for it.

I’m no expert on the meaning of life, but I like to believe that the celebration of love is key to our existence. This week, as you open your CSA box, we invite you to join us in celebrating the love that produced its contents, just as we celebrate the love from our customers that allows us to continue in our work. Together, we sustain this farm. Together, we make a difference. Together, we change the world.

Thank you.

Breakfast

I recently read a very interesting article about breakfast in America. It was a quick and eye-opening read, and I highly suggest checking it out. However, if you don’t have time, here’s the important takeaway: most American breakfast has as much sugar as dessert, sometimes even more. This is a pretty big deal, not only because sugar is addictive and inflammatory for the body, but because those people who try to keep their sugar intake low may not even have breakfast on their radar.

The good news is that nourishing breakfasts that are low in sugar are really easy to come by, and can be made ahead for busy mornings or prepped on the spot. Here’s a list of my favorite low-sugar breakfasts using my Brookford ingredients:

 

Sliced hard-boiled eggs topped with fermented vegetables

A great source of choline and probiotics for a healthy gut! Easy to make in advance!

 

Eggs fried in cultured butter, topped with sauteed greens

Healthy fats, antioxidants, and iron!

 

Plain, whole fat yogurt with dried or fresh fruit stirred in

Fast, probiotic, filling, and a boost of calcium and healthy fat!

 

Soup of all varieties

Hearty, warming, and easy for a morning on the run...just warm it and transfer it to a travel mug!

 

Cold beets drizzled with olive oil and vinegar and sprinkled with feta and sunflower seeds

Nutrient packed, satisfying, zesty, and easy to grab and go if you prep in advance!

 

Toast slathered in cultured butter, topped with a fried egg, cheese, and fermented vegetables

There are hundreds of variations for this awesome open faced breakfast sandwich!

 

Egg muffins

Easy to make in advance to grab and go - full of protein and endless possibilities!

 

Kefir smoothies - my favorite is 1 cup kefir, 1 banana, 3 T peanut butter, 1 tsp vanilla, a handful of greens, and 3 medjool dates

Nutrient and probiotic packed, not to mention filling!

 

Bone broth with fermented veggies, egg, and sour cream

Try cracking an egg into very hot broth and stirring briskly. Once the broth has cooled a bit, stir in some fermented veggies and a dollop of sour cream

 

Bacon and eggs

Of course!

 

What’s your favorite Brookford breakfast?

One morning; four meals

When the days are short, cooking dinner can sometimes seem like an impossible feat. Day seems to morph into night without warning. The gentle buffer zone of twilight where we shed the day and slow ourselves down seems to be over before it’s really even begun. It is in the hush of this dark season where I find myself waking early on Saturdays to cook in batches, whole meals that will require no more than some gentle warming in the evening to nourish and comfort. Days and weeks where dinner is made before we’ve finished breakfast feel like gifts, and make a Saturday morning in the kitchen well worth it. Some music, comfy shoes, and a warm cup of tea, and I’m ready to go. This method not only makes the evenings more indulgent, but it helps me make sure I’m using up all my CSA produce, especially the stuff that takes a little longer to prepare and might be neglected on a weeknight. Here’s what I made ahead this week:

 

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup with Naan

Shepard’s Pie

Roasted Vegetables with Orzo

Kale, Swiss Chard, and White Bean Soup with Beet Salad and Sourdough

 

My trick for batch cooking is to prep all of one kind of ingredient only once. Here’s the how I did it:

 

You will need:

1 lb of white beans

6 white potatoes

5 sweet potatoes

14 cloves of garlic

6 beets

6 onions

14 carrots

2 cups of chopped tomatoes (fresh, frozen, or canned)

6 cups of bell peppers

20 ounces of frozen (or fresh) peas and corn

½ lb swiss chard

½ lb kale

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground pork

1 tsp of dried thyme

1 lb butter

7 cups of bone broth

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp worcestershire sauce

½ cup of sherry

1 tsp fennel seeds

Salt and black pepper

1 cup of milk or cream

vinegar of your choosing

olive oil

1 bay leaf

1 tsp of herbs de provence

2 tsp coconut oil

3 tbsp of red curry paste

2 cans of organic, full fat coconut milk

lime juice

 

Add 1 lb of white beans to a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. When the water boils, turn off the heat, and allow the beans to sit, uncovered, for an hour. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is heating, peel and cut into large chunks 6 white potatoes and 5 sweet potatoes. Peel 14 cloves of garlic. When the water boils, add the white potatoes and two cloves of garlic to the boiling water. Trim the root and stem ends from 6 beets and rinse well under water. Add the beets to a steamer filled with a few inches of water, cover, and turn on high.

Trim, peel, and chop 6 onions. Move 1/6 of the onions off to the side, and split the remaining onions into three equal groups. Finely chop the remaining 12 cloves of garlic. Trim, wash, and chop 14 carrots. Check the beets and white potatoes, and when they can be easily pierced through with a knife, remove from the heat and set aside. Empty the water from the potato pot, and set the pot aside.

In a large dutch oven, heat 2T butter until melted and sizzling. Add one of the three larger piles of onions to the pan, and saute for five minutes. Add 2 cups of the sliced carrots to the pan, and stir and cook for five minutes more. Add 1 lb ground beef and 1 lb ground pork to the pan, and stir and cook until browned. To this pan, add 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp of dried thyme, 2 cups of bone broth, 1 cup of canned tomatoes, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp worcestershire sauce,  and ½ cup of sherry. Simmer this mixture for 20 minutes.

While the shepard’s pie is simmering, trim and chop six cups of bell peppers. Add the bell peppers to a large bowl, and stir in one of the larger piles of onions, and add 1 cup of chopped tomatoes (fresh, frozen, or canned). In a small bowl, mix together ¼ cup of olive oil, ⅓ of the chopped garlic, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 2 tsps of salt, and 1 tsp black pepper. Pour the oil mixture over the vegetables, and toss to mix well. Move the oil and vegetable mixture into a freezer-safe container, and put it in the freezer. (These are the vegetables for your roasted vegetables with orzo).

Transfer the potatoes back into the pot they were cooked in, add ½ cup butter, 1 cup of milk or cream, and 2 tsp salt. Mash well.

Slip the skins off the beets and set the skins aside for compost. Slice the beets into bite sized pieces, and add them to the bowl where you mixed the vegetables and oil. Drizzle the beets with vinegar, olive oil, and salt to taste. Toss well, then cover and refrigerate. (These are for the beet salad)

Stir 20 ounces of frozen (or fresh) peas and corn into the meat mixture on the stove. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat mixture, dot the potatoes with several pats of fresh butter, cover, and refrigerate. (This is your shepard’s pie)

Rinse and dry the pot used for the mashed potatoes, then add 2 tbsp butter and melt it over medium heat. Add the last large pile of onions to the pot, and cook, stirring often, until softened. Add half of the remaining chopped garlic to the pan, and stir for one minute. Add five cups of bone broth, 1 quart of water, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of herbs de provence, and 2 tsps salt. Drain and rinse the beans, and add them to the pot as well. Simmer for one hour or until beans are cooked through.

While the bean soup is simmering, use another of the now empty pots to melt 2 tsp coconut oil. Add the final and smallest pile of onions to the pan and cook gently over low heat for ten minutes, then add the last of the garlic and stir for one minute. Add ½ salt and ¼ tsp pepper along with 3 tbsp of red curry paste. Add the chopped sweet potatoes to the pan, stir well, and then stir in 2 cans of organic, full fat coconut milk. Bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring now and again, for 25 minutes.

While the sweet potato soup is cooking, wash and finely chop ½ lb swiss chard and ½ lb kale. Add the greens to a container with a cover along with the remaining carrots, and move this into the refrigerator. (These veggies will be added to the white bean soup before serving) When the white beans are cooked through, remove the soup from the stove and allow to cool.

When the sweet potatoes are soft, use an immersion blender to puree the soup until it is smooth and silky. Add lime juice and salt to taste. Transfer both soups into fridge/freezer safe containers, and either freeze or refrigerate.

Now you find someone else to wash the dishes!

 

Ingredients You’ll Need for Serving:

All pre-prepped items

Fresh chopped parsley

Fresh torn basil

1 lb orzo

Feta cheese

Two loaves of crusty bread or 1 loaf bread and 1 batch of naan

 

Shepard’s Pie - preheat the oven to 425. Add the covered dutch oven to the warmed oven, and warm for 20 minutes. Remove the cover, sprinkle the potatoes with chopped parsley, and cook for 15-20 minutes longer until the mixture is bubbling and slightly golden. Serve and enjoy!

Kale, Swiss Chard, and White Bean Soup with Beet Salad- transfer the soup to a pot and bring to a simmer. Add the chopped carrots and greens that you’ve stored in your fridge. Simmer until the carrots are soft. Remove the beets from the fridge, toss them with some fresh chopped parsley and feta cheese. Serve the soup along with the beet salad and some crusty bread!

Roasted Vegetables and Orzo - the night before serving this, move the container of oil coated vegetables from the freezer and put it in the refrigerator. To serve, heat the oven to 400, spread the vegetables on a roasting pan, and cook for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes. While the vegetables are roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the orzo. In the last ten minutes of cooking, stir in some fresh torn basil into the roasted vegetables. When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Add the roasted vegetables to the cooked pasta, toss well, and top with some crumbled feta. Serve and enjoy!

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup - warm gently in a large soup pot until heated through. Serve with crusty bread or naan and butter.

November

Well hello, November. Here you are. This weekend, we’ll set the clocks back and settle into days that get sleepy before we do. The fading daylight will be our cue to cozy up with a good book, a cup of tea, and a worn blanket. Where in summer I’d start thinking about what we should have for dinner in the pre-twilight hour of 8pm, these days I find myself prepping ingredients at 3pm, or if I’m running behind, maybe 4pm. I’m a nester, and these days beckon my nesting instinct in an almost spiritual way. This is what I love about seasonal eating in the fall. Having fully absorbed all of summer’s carefree ease and languid evenings, I feel ready to hunker down, sheltered from the increasing chill, and immerse myself in this new season of sunshine and sweet decay. We take lots of hikes to smell the earthy air and feel the bite of wind on our cheeks. We stretch our limbs in the out of doors knowing that we’ll soon be in more often than out. The brisk weather finds us back home in the evenings, ready for something warm and soothing.

This is where seasonal eating is about so much more than food. Seasonal eating is the bridge to a seasonal life. It’s what helps us to embrace each new season in a mindful celebration. It’s what slows us down, brings us back to the moment at hand, and what helps us to honor the world around us. I’m ready for fall because I loved every minute of summer. And when fall fades into the starkness of winter, I hope to embrace it knowing that we saturated our beings with every morsel of fresh air and savory indulgence that we could muster.

A few years ago, I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. In a large family, hosting is an honor that one must fight for, and I wanted to do something special. It was our first year hosting a CSA site at our home, and I was inspired. I decided to make an “all local/all seasonal” dinner, sourcing our dairy and vegetables from the farm and buying a hand raised organic turkey from a friend. On top of the items we received in our share, I made a special order of vegetables from the farm. Squash, celeriac, potatoes, brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, carrots, turnips, beets...everything I wanted and would have bought from the store, I was able to buy directly from farmers I knew and trusted. I used Brookford cream to make homemade butter, and served a platter of Brookford cheeses. Using all local ingredients provided a beautiful opportunity to truly appreciate the goodness and bounty all around us. I was worried that my local Thanksgiving would cost a fortune, but given the environmental damage it would prevent, and the opportunity to support a local farm going into the challenging winter months, I was willing. My check to Brookford farm for that Thanksgiving was $70. Less than it would cost me to walk my cart through two aisles at Whole Foods.

As we quickly approach this day of gratitude, I encourage you to consider sourcing your food thoughtfully. Whether you choose to spring for an entirely local meal, or simply prepare the best local mashed potatoes you can, sourcing from the season and land around us is a gesture of gratitude and appreciation that enriches the local economy and offers nourishment in myriad ways.

To put in a special order of produce, meat, or dairy, contact Jodie at brookfordfarm.csa@gmail.com.

Prepping and Storing Fall and Winter Vegetables

The fall and winter CSA session is upon us! For those new to the CSA, welcome! This weekly blog is full of information to help you make the most of your CSA experience. It includes recipes, information about the food -- how to cook it, what to do with it, why you’ll love it -- and inspiration for developing a deep love for local and seasonal eating. For those new to the CSA, and as a reminder to those who have been with us a while, I thought I’d start this season with some helpful tips and tricks for making the most of those beautiful veggie boxes.

 

Unpacking

When you bring your vegetables home, try to put them away when you can carve out thirty minutes or so to do a little bit of prep. This will help you to have faster access to your ingredients as you cook throughout the week. When deciding how much advance prep to do, it’s helpful to consider the amount of time you’ll have available during the week for cooking. The more limited your weekly cooking time, the more advance prep will pay off. Prep can include washing and trimming as well as pre-chopping vegetables for snacks or meals. Save time and money by saving trimmings such as celery leaves and carrot ends for stock. I keep a “stock bag” in my freezer and add trimmings as they accumulate.

 

Meal planning

I find it’s easiest to plan how I’ll use each vegetable by taking notes as I unpack my veggie box. Some people plan using the vegetable list in the weekly newsletter, but I like to see, feel, and touch the vegetables to find my inspiration. Writing my ideas down on paper goes a long way in making sure nothing gets wasted. For me, mental lists often end up buried or forgotten until I find that the daikons I had planned to ferment are now molding at the bottom of my crisper. Keep your veggie list close to the refrigerator, and make notes/cross things off as you change plans or use items. In time, this habit will help make it much easier to plan and cook meals based on what’s available. For many people, meal planning in our society means first listing the dishes one plans to cook in a week, and then listing and procuring the ingredients. Eating seasonally and locally works best when using a system that first lists the available ingredients, and then considers what meals could take shape from those items. It’s a significantly helpful shift to make, and one that gets easier with practice.

 

Storing

Because CSA food doesn’t have to travel far distances or wait around on store shelves, it tends to last much longer than food bought in the grocery store. Knowing the proper way to store food will help ensure that it lasts even longer. Although each vegetable is unique, there are some general guidelines that are helpful to know.

Leafy greens - If your crisper space is limited, you’ll want to give a priority spot to lettuces, kale, chard, spinach, etc. These are the items that will wilt most easily in the regular refrigerator environment. If you wash and chop these items when you unpack your CSA box, you’ll want to plan to use them within a few days, as leafy greens will spoil more quickly once they’re no longer fully intact.

Onions and Potatoes - Onions and potatoes need to be stored in a cool, dry place moderately far away from each other. Air circulation is important to avoid early rotting, so never store these vegetables in plastic or a tightly enclosed space. Do not wash potatoes before storing, as the introduction of moisture will lead them to mold and rot more quickly.   

Root vegetables - Store items like carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips in the refrigerator, in the crisper drawer if space allows. If you have no crisper space available, enclose them in an airtight container lined with a paper towel until you free up some crisper space. The danger of storing root vegetables outside of the crisper is that they may become soft; if this happens, try cutting off one end and soaking them for several hours in a bowl of ice water placed in the refrigerator.

Squash - Store squash in a cool, dry place. The refrigerator environment is too moist for squash and will cause it to lose shelf-life.

    

 

On Seasonal Eating

It’s hard to believe the summer session is over. The beginning of each session feels like infinity and excitement - twenty whole weeks to savor and celebrate the season. In the past five months, we’ve weathered a severe drought, contentious politics, the start and end of summer, and most recently, that annual burst of colorful vibrancy on the trees,  never ceasing to awe and humble.

I find it soothing to think about the coming session, twenty weeks that will carry us through the last of autumn, into the holidays, through the bitter cold of winter, and into March, where hope and life begin to stir deep within the earth. I’m already planning the soups, stews, gratins, and roasts that will keep us warm as we cozy into the season.

Winter is the time when seasonal eating becomes more challenging for lots of New Englanders. We’ve become so accustomed to continuous supply of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and watermelon at the grocery store, it’s hard to believe that one hundred years ago, seasonal eating was what kept people alive. Embracing seasonal eating during the cold months can take practice and a certain level of unlearning, but it’s a journey that is so well worth it. Waiting to enjoy seasonal treasures while they’re naturally available means that your taste buds get to reawaken each time the season changes, welcoming back familiar tastes while discovering nuances that can get missed with repetitive exposure.

Whatever it is that draws one to eat seasonally, I always find it rewarding to explore the benefits that extend into our larger world. I recently happened upon this list, compiled by Vern Grubinger of The University of Vermont Extension, and thought it was worth sharing.

 

Ten Reasons to Buy Local Food

by Vern Grubinger

Vegetable and Berry Specialist

University of Vermont Extension

Adapted from 'Growing For Market' newsletter article.

Vermont has a wide variety of farms. While known for our dairy production, there also many farms that raise fruits and vegetables, flowers and herbs, and animal products of all kinds. Our farmers are dedicated to stewardship and committed to quality. And while they love what they do, they aren't doing it for entertainment. They need to make a living. Consumers that value fresh food and a working landscape should support local farmers by buying their products. Here are ten reasons why.

1)  Locally grown food tastes and looks better. The crops are picked at their peak, and farmstead products like cheeses and are hand-crafted for best flavor. Livestock products are processed in nearby facilities and typically the farmer has direct relationship with processors, overseeing quality - unlike animals processed in large industrial facilities.

2) Local food is better for you. The shorter the time between the farm and your table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost from fresh food. Food imported from far away is older and has traveled on trucks or planes, and sat in warehouses before it gets to you.

3) Local food preserves genetic diversity. In the modern agricultural system, plant varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen uniformly, withstand harvesting, survive packing and last a long time on the shelf, so there is limited genetic diversity in large-scale production. Smaller local farms, in contrast, often grow many different varieties of crops to provide a long harvest season, an array of colors, and the best flavors. Livestock diversity is also higher where there are many small farms rather than few large farms.

4) Local food is safe. There's a unique kind of assurance that comes from looking a farmer in the eye at farmers' market or driving by the fields where your food comes from. Local farmers aren't anonymous and they take their responsibility to the consumer seriously.

5) Local food supports local families. The wholesale prices that farmers get for their products are low, often near the cost of production. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food - which helps farm families stay on the land.

6) Local food builds community. When you buy direct from a farmer, you're engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower. Knowing farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the land, and your food. In many cases, it gives you access to a place where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture.

7) Local food preserves open space. When farmers get paid more for their products by marketing locally, they're less likely to sell farmland for development. When you buy locally grown food, you're doing something proactive to preserve our working landscape. That landscape is an essential ingredient to other economic activity in the state, such as tourism and recreation.

8)  Local food keeps taxes down. According to several studies by the American Farmland Trust, farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas most development contributes less in taxes than the cost of required services. Cows don’t go to school, tomatoes don’t dial 911.

9) Local food benefits the environment and wildlife. Well-managed farms provide ecosystem services: they conserve fertile soil, protect water sources, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. The farm environment is a patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings that provide habitat for wildlife in our communities.

10) Local food is an investment in the future. By supporting local farmers today, you are helping to ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow. That is a matter of importance for food security, especially in light of an uncertain energy future and our current reliance on fossil fuels to produce, package, distribute and store food.

Salad Turnips

As Autumn’s chill settles in all around us, I find myself excited about all of the cruciferous vegetables coming our way. I adore the pungent sweetness of these cool weather varieties; cabbage, turnips, radishes, kale, bok choy, kohlrabi...I love them all. I love them because of their flavor, their high nutritional content, the crisp crunchiness they offer, and their incredible versatility in the kitchen.

Studies have shown that when eaten regularly, cruciferous vegetables help lower our risk of cancer by introducing anti-cancer phytochemicals into the body, and by helping rid the body of free radicals. Additionally, they help protect against heart disease, reduce inflammation within the body, and are abundant in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

It’s almost impossible for me to choose one particular favorite, but if I had to, salad turnips would be a top contender. Their arrival in our CSA box reliably initiates a heated debate over who gets first dibs, typically resulting in their being gobbled before we’ve even unpacked the rest of the box. My kids discovered a deep love for these sweet and crunchy turnips several years ago on a visit to the farm. One of the women working in the greenhouse offered one to each of them. They brushed off the dirt and ate them whole, like apples. To this day, we call them “apple turnips” in my house, and this is how they are most often devoured. If we can exercise enough restraint to actually add them to a dish, another favorite is to slice them thinly and add the crunchy pieces to salad. Our middle ground, between eating them like apples and adding them to salads, is to slice them into rounds, sprinkle with salt, and eat them after they’ve had a few minutes to sit and the salt has started to draw out the water. It’s a delectable, simple, indulgently delicious way to savor them. But that’s it. We don’t get fussy over our salad turnips around here, because they’re so GOOD we can’t bear to meddle.

However, not everyone is a crazed, raw-turnip loving enthusiast. Whether you’re an avid fan or feeling a bit tentative about these somewhat uncommon vegetables, rest assured that there are many wonderful things you can do with them.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Cook the greens - use them the same way you’d use chard or kale, they’re delicious!

Gently saute them in butter (this link will show that my house isn’t the only place likening these gems to apples, either!)

Make them into zesty quick pickles (no canning required!)

Ferment them….they are SO good this way!

Roast them into golden perfection

Use them in place of regular turnips in this delicate soup

Add them to stir fries, noodle/rice bowls, or fried rice (either diced and raw for a fantastic crunch, or cooked with the rest of the ingredients for a softer touch)

 

What will you be doing with yours?

 

 

Daikon and New Favorites

Are you familiar with daikon radishes? They’re the lovely, robust, carrot shaped white radishes that made their way into kitchens around the state a week or so back in Brookford CSA boxes. Is it just me, or are we New Englanders a bit skittish about our vegetables? I think we’re really comfortable with the staples we grew up eating. Squash, spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, onions...you get the idea. But what about the lesser known beauties gracing farmers markets and CSA boxes? Fennel, daikon, celeriac, kohlrabi. Delicata, black radishes, watermelon radishes. These things that many have never before seen, let alone cooked with or eaten, tend to intimidate.

I think most CSA customers enjoy trying new vegetables and stepping outside of our culinary comfort zones, but I often think about how that translates back into our habits. If you make a supplemental run to the store, would you seek out those rare treasures you discovered through the CSA? When you’re thinking about what you’d like to cook, do you include newer-to-you vegetables in the running? I think that there’s a process to transitioning newly discovered vegetables from something we enjoy dabbling with to something we consider a serious and desireable option.

For me, this process is best completed when I work to learn lots of ways to use a vegetable. I have to think outside the box, challenge myself to try a different approach, and get creative. The payoff is a richer appreciation of those box contents, the ability to welcome back seasonal favorites like old friends, and to greet new arrivals as friends in the making. Over the next month or so, I’ll be highlighting some of the lesser known vegetables that arrive in the CSA boxes, with the hope of transitioning those sometimes intimidating, sometimes celebrated varieties into the realm of habit and tradition. New favorites await!

 

A few reasons to love daikon radishes:

A rich source of vitamins A, C, E, and B-6 as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron, daikons help detoxify the body by aiding kidney function and supporting healthy digestion. They have anti-viral, anti-cancer, and anti-bacterial properties.

 

Step out of your comfort zone! You can do a lot with daikon. Try:

Adding to fried rice and stir fries

Making daikon mochi cakes

Serving raw, with dip or peanut butter

Making radish chips

Using them in place of carrots in recipes

Making this soup

Using them in place of other radishes in recipes

Making them into noodles - super yummy!

Fermenting them for a healthy and delicious treat

Adding a quarter cup of sliced daikon to a fruit smoothie for a well-hidden vitamin C boost

Using them in a salad, (try this fresh and zesty recipe)

Roasting them

Shredding and using in place of cabbage in a cole slaw

Making them into these spicy fries

 

Autumn

It’s weird to think that just a few weeks ago, our daily temperatures called for shorts and short sleeves. Some years it feels as though fall creeps in so quietly; a clear day in the seventies calmly slipping in between the humid mid-eighties, a handful of sixty degree days peppered through weeks of the seventies. Before we know it, we’ve seamlessly slid into autumn. This year has felt different. Summer’s heat and humidity burned long and hard, well into this month of September, before finally shrugging its shoulders and turning to go home. One day the northeast awoke to temperatures that call for sweaters, soft kisses of frost on the ground, and September’s velvety green fading into soft oranges, reds, and yellows. Driving through the back roads of our sleepy little state, I see wood smoke curling out of chimneys, unfolding into the morning air.

 

As our earth gently pivots us further away from the sun, my senses drink it in greedily. The smell of leaves, a richly beautiful decomposition of the season, the unusual yet expected transition of leaves, jumping around the color wheel as though there’s no rhyme or reason, the rustling of trees against the wind, visually showing evidence of an invisible force. Crackling fires, the hum of groggy furnaces, kitchens that smell of cozy comfort foods, hot mugs of warmth cupped in cold hands, blankets and sleeping weather and the return of a favorite knitted hat. Suddenly we find ourselves sprinkling cinnamon on this and that, no need to excuse or explain ourselves.

 

It is in these increasingly shorter days where I find myself most longingly drawn into the kitchen. Pumpkin pancakes seem to appear out of thin air. Dishes of all things cheesy, gooey, savory and warming suddenly show up on our dinner table. With that same baited anticipation that has me craving green things in March and tomatoes in July, I find myself opening my CSA boxes with excited hopes of leeks, potatoes, turnips, and squash. Basil and cilantro are increasingly forgotten as my hands wrap themselves around little glass bottles of sage and rosemary.

 

As a mindful seasonal eater, I am grateful for the abundance of summer that has nourished us through the season. Salted tomatoes, crisp peppers, refreshing cucumbers. I’ll dutifully use the last of summer’s offerings, sprinkling in touches of fall, saying goodbye to one season as we welcome another. In this way, that seamless transition of seasons will take shape in my own kitchen, knitting us closer to the natural world around us, nourishing our bodies with the rhythm of space and time.

 

With just a handful of weeks left in summer session CSA, I invite you to join me in hungrily planning your fall and winter fare. There are still shares left - how will you embrace the nourishment this season offers?