Spring CSA

Garlic Scapes

Opening our veggie box each Tuesday has become a simple little ritual in mindfulness. Even though I typically know in advance what’s in there, I can’t help but get excited as I carry our box into my kitchen. I wait until my kids are busy and I have a quiet moment to lift the lid and peek inside. It’s the way that the ordinary is transformed into little treasures, as though the box itself imparts some quaint magic upon its contents. I love discovering the sights and scents that are tucked here and there - a little bunch of parsley, the earthy smell of parsnips, the hopeful package of mixed lettuces. And while simply being in the veggie box makes any produce special, there are some treasures that I covet more than others. Sometimes it’s seeing a first: the first cucumber or jewel toned eggplant of the season; and sometimes it’s seeing treasure itself: for me that’s any tomato, kohlrabi, celeriac, or garlic scapes.

Over the past month, I’ve been pretty ecstatic on the few occasions where I’ve opened our foil pouch of frozen goodness to find carefully nestled garlic scapes inside. I wait with patiently frenzied hope for the day when I will lift the lid of our CSA box and be greeted by a tumble of fresh garlic scapes springing up to greet me. I watch my own garden daily, quietly urging those scapes to form. The thing is, a lot of people aren’t all that familiar with garlic scapes.

Sometimes we’re wary of vegetables we haven’t used before, and this wariness can trick us into thinking there’s something weird, lesser, scary, or difficult about those vegetables. Yet when we start broadening our view, we wonder how we ever lived without these ingredients. This is very true for garlic scapes.

Garlic scapes are the stalks that grow from the bulb of hardneck garlic (which you will see from time to time in your veggie share). The scapes are removed to prevent the plant from diverting growth and energy away from the bulb; their removal helps the bulb to thicken and develop. Garlic scapes taste like garlic, but are often more mild. Not only are the delicious, but they are incredibly versatile. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and work well fresh or frozen (if you’re using frozen scapes, you’ll probably want to cook them). Rather than talking about the many ways you can use garlic scapes, it’s probably easier to talk about the ways you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t use them to top a pecan pie, for starters. They might not work well added to a batch of granola. You probably don’t want to use them to top your yogurt. Well, unless you’re making a savory yogurt dip, in which case you totally want to add them to your yogurt.

Truly, garlic scapes can be added to almost any savory dish you’re making. When fresh, they’re great on top of salads, sprinkled over eggs, folded into dips, tucked into sandwiches, even pickled. Both fresh and frozen are delicious in any cooked egg dish, in stir fries, sauteed, in risotto, grilled, over pasta, added to soups, or in a crispy pancake. They aren’t a fussy ingredient that requires a special recipe. If your recipe would appreciate garlic, your recipe will appreciate garlic scapes. For dramatic flair, grill or roast them and leave them whole. For convenience, chop them as you would scallions. And while you don’t NEED a recipe to incorporate them into your life, there are so many good ones that I can’t help but throw them out there.

First up...ten great ways to enjoy garlic scapes, per Bon Appetit. And then...

Garlic scape and parsley risotto …because garlic and parsley!

Garlic scape soup (if you’re a lover of recipes, or garlic, you’ll want to drink this one up.)

Garlic scape pancakes, for when you’re feeling fancy.

Garlic scape and arugula flatbreads, because YUM,

Seven more ways to use garlic scapes here…

Grilled garlic scapes, for the beauty of it.

Garlic scape dip, which I’m making immediately.

And if you don’t like any of those ideas, you must not like garlic. (Is that a thing? Does that happen?). Happy eating!



How to Cook a Stewing Hen (and why you should!)

The first time I ever cooked a stewing hen, I grabbed it out of the freezer thinking it was a broiler. I prepped it in my usual way and tucked it into the oven. When dinnertime came, I was confused and disappointed. Our typical tender, juicy chicken was nowhere to be found. Instead, we had a sad looking bird, covered in tough, dry meat that was reminiscent of rubbery cardboard. Once I realized what had happened, it all made sense.



Treating a stewing hen the same as you would a broiler will almost always lead to disastrous results - yet it can seem like a tempting option if you’ve never experienced the end product. Stewing hens are far less expensive than their younger counterparts, and they don’t look all that different to the untrained eye. For novice cooks especially, it’s easy to convince oneself that with just the right touch, a roasted stewing hen just might work. Let me be clear: it won’t. It really, really won’t.


The thing is, stewing hens are an amazing ingredient to work with, and they deserve their own rightful spotlight fully separated from the accolades of their roasting pan-worthy counterparts. It’s a matter of knowing what you’re working with, why it’s important, and how to treat one. Let’s take a look.


The WHAT: A stewing hen is a retired egg layer. Stewing hens are an important component for honoring the life cycle of a farm. After several happy years eating grass and bugs, a hen’s egg laying ability naturally slows down, and she’s no longer a productive member of the flock. In order to keep up with the demand for eggs, farms must cull these older hens in order to make space for new layers. Butchering and selling these hens provides a revenue source for farms and allows the hen to continue to provide nourishment, this time in the form of high quality, pastured meat.


The WHY: At Brookford Farm, the diets of egg laying hens are supplemented with organic, soy-free food. This food, paired with the green pasture grasses and insects that the hens naturally forage on, creates a bird that has lived a full life of optimum nutrition. Unlike broilers that are raised for meat and fattened relatively quickly, stewing hens have the opportunity to develop very strong bones, and strong, lean muscles. These bones are incredibly mineral rich, and the fat from these hens is full of fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients. Because of their rich nutritional content, stewing hens make excellent stock. A stewing hen’s lean meat contains a high level of connective tissue, which works wonderfully for slow cooked dishes such as stew, soup, and chicken and dumplings.


The HOW: Stewing hens are very lean and contain a lot of connective tissue which must be broken down through low, slow cooking. You can cook a stewing hen on the stovetop in a large pot of simmering water for several hours, or, as many cooks prefer, you can use the crockpot. The main difference between methods is that the stovetop will create a more concentrated stock, as the water evaporates out during cooking. The crockpot will typically create a large batch of less concentrated stock. Because it is easier to control the temperature and maintain a low simmer in a crockpot, many cooks prefer that option. It also provides a safer option for cooking your stewing hen for extended periods of time, such as overnight, or times when you may be out of the house during the day.


For either method, you begin by placing the stewing hen in the pot along with vegetables and herbs of your choosing. Whenever possible, I use vegetable scraps for this, rather than vegetables I might otherwise want to eat (they will be discarded at the end). Good vegetable scraps to use are carrot tops and peelings, celery leaves and trimmings, onion, leek, scallion, or garlic trimmings, parsley leaves and stems - really the sky's the limit. For herbs and spices, I like to add two bay leaves, several peppercorns, and a little thyme. Add about two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and fill the pot with water. (The vinegar helps to release the minerals from the bones.) Turn the heat to low and slowly bring to a simmer. Maintain the simmer for as long as needed. After a while, the meat will tenderize and begin to fall off the bones. Generally, 4 hours is the minimum simmer time, and 24 hours is the max.


Remove the chicken carcass and attached meat from the pot and set it in a bowl to cool. Strain the broth into a bowl or other container(s) for storage. (It’s typically easier to do this once it has had some time to cool). If you’ve simmered your hen for a very long time, you will likely have a good deal of meat in the strainer - pick that out and save it to use. Once the carcass has cooled, remove all of the meat for use in stews, soups, tacos, casseroles, chicken salad...really anything that you would use cooked and shredded chicken for. Some people save the carcass to add to their next batch of stock. You can keep recycling bones in this way until they crumble; you will have better results with this if you always add some “new” bones along with the old. Note that the cooled broth will likely develop a layer of bright yellow fat on top. This will solidify when refrigerated. Don’t throw this fat away! As a solid layer over the broth, it will help it to keep for longer in the fridge. It is also full of healthy vitamins and nutrients that you want to eat. You can choose to mix it into the broth when eating it, or scoop it off to use in the same way you would use any other cooking oil or fat.

It’s really a very easy and rewarding process, and one that is definitely worth learning. While stewing hens are decidedly NOT for roasting, they are a wonderful way to honor the life of an animal by using the whole body: the meat, the broth, the fat, and the bones.


A couple weeks ago, I posted some ideas for snacking using ingredients from your CSA share. This week, I wanted to continue on that thread by focusing on the ever versatile dip. Many of the dairy choices offered by Brookford Farm make fantastic bases for dips both sweet and savory: kefir, yogurt, Greek yogurt, and sour cream will all work. Dips are a great way to get kids to eat vegetables they might otherwise shy away from. Toddlers, in particular, often love dippers and might surprise you by their willingness to eat all things crunchy when given the opportunity.

There are lots of recipes out there for all kinds of dairy based dips. Here, I’ll share some general guidelines to help you become a pro.


  • Generally speaking, Greek yogurt and sour cream can be used “as is.” Kefir and regular yogurt benefit from thickening before use in dips. This is really very easy. It requires a fine mesh strainer and a coffee filter or thin piece of fabric. Place the strainer over a bowl, and place the coffee filter or fabric in the strainer. Pour the kefir or yogurt into the lined strainer, and place the bowl (with strainer inside) into the fridge. The whey will drip into the bowl, leaving you with a thicker product in the strainer. Leave the bowl in the fridge as long as it takes to reach the desired consistency (typically anywhere from 3-12 hours).
  • For most dip recipes, yogurt, greek yogurt, and kefir can be used interchangeably. It’s the add in ingredients that will determine the flavor of your final product, so it’s okay to use what’s on hand.

  • Get creative with dippers. Raw fruit and veggies are great for dipping. Crackers, meat cubes, breadsticks, chips, homemade veggie chips, and toast also work really well.

  • Feel free to be adventurous with add-ins. Beans, herbs, many fruits and vegetables, and several cheeses are very, very happy to mix with yogurt (or kefir, or sour cream) and become dip. A few recipes to get you started: this yogurt and chickpea dip, and this avocado and cumin dip.

  • Remember that herbs and spices are the ticket to versatility. Try cumin and chili powder, sauteed garlic with dill, cinnamon and nutmeg, or lemon and oregano. (For starters).

  • Know that you CAN make your favorites. Don’t believe me? Try this onion dip, this ranch dip, or this horseradish dip, and then we’ll talk! ;)


Finding Harmony - gardening when you have a CSA share

It’s seed starting time. For those who love to garden as much as I do, you can appreciate how exciting this is. IT’S REALLY EXCITING! All those seed catalogs that whispered of spring from my coffee table all winter, with their heirloom offerings and non-GMO, organic, rainbow of variety - this is when it all comes to fruition. From that frosty morning in late February when I finally sat down to narrow my selections; a necessary task because $400 in seeds is probably not necessary or prudent...fast forward to these March days where my dining room table finds itself covered in soft, dark soil, seed trays, and packet after packet of edible potential. Every year I set up a rather heinous greenhouse smack in the middle of my living room, and the children and I peek in daily to spritz and rotate and generally love on those pale green shoots emerging within. It has somehow become a rather sophisticated yet grassroots operation of love and gardening. It is our early spring ritual that feeds our imaginations and our souls.

But why? We host a CSA pickup site at OUR HOUSE. We sometimes buy two veggie shares to get us through the summer. Why, oh why, oh why the greenhouse and the seeds and the garden too?

Because? Because.

Because love of things that grow. Because interacting with that process of growth and life and nourishment feels as essential as breath itself. Because teaching my children that we are intimately connected to our food feels more important to me than anything they could ever learn at school. Because the rhythm of the seasons plays that much more beautifully when we join in and become part of the music. Because hope is a seed and proof is watching that seed unfold. Because I can’t help but want to feel life in as many ways as I can. Because I want to stretch into time rather than fight against it.


So we garden. Out of love for life and a passionate sense of obligation to drive roots into the earth. It’s not only for the food - not even necessarily for the food. It’s more about survival in a hundred different ways.

Whether or not to garden can be a tricky point to ponder for CSA customers. To this, I offer forth the idea that a garden and a CSA share are not mutually exclusive. We can donate the food, freeze it, can it, share it with neighbors and the elderly. Gardening is art. Do art for the process of doing art. For how it feeds the soul. Garden because humans need to feel dirt in their hands and definitely between their toes. And because the fruits of that labor make the world a better place - and how better to share love than to share the result of this process?

There are some simple ways to create a garden that harmonizes with your CSA share rather than conspires against it. Here are the strategies that I’ve adopted over the years:


  • Grow flowers, because the world can use more beauty.

  • Grow crops to donate. Most food pantries will accept produce from home gardens to give to families in need. Considering that canned and processed foods are the typical staples that families receive from food pantries, fresh produce is really valuable here.

  • Plant more herbs! Herbs are easy to dry, freeze, or use fresh. Having an abundance of fresh herbs will help make your summer CSA share that much more delicious.

  • Remember the elderly. The elderly population is the most underserved when it comes to accessing food assistance - often because they are too ashamed to ask for help. Those who do receive assistance are often afraid to spend it on fresh produce for fear it will spoil.

  • Plant things you can freeze. If you loved the frozen items included in this winter’s CSA share, think how great it would be to go into the winter months with a freezer stocked full! Freezing your own vegetables is a great way to plan ahead for the cooler, more sparse months.

  • Plant things you can ferment. Same idea as the things you can plant to freeze. I grow many, many turnips for this reason.

  • Plant vegetables that can be preserved through canning. 

  • Plant things you can dehydrate. So, you’re getting the idea. But think broadly on this one. You can dehydrate tomatoes, peppers, vegetables for soups and stews...whether you're fermenting, canning, freezing, or dehydrating, the summer garden is your opportunity to help ensure variety during the winter. 

  • Grow the things you can’t get enough of. In my family, it’s greens and tomatoes. When in season, we eat greens at least three times a day. They go into salads, smoothies, eggs, soups, stews, sandwiches - often they are sauteed with garlic and serve as the base for other delicious toppings. Tomatoes get eaten like apples or chopped up and tossed into salsa which is then put on EVERYTHING.

  • Eat more vegetables when they’re in season. If you’re striving to eat seasonally, this makes a lot of sense from a health and nutrition standpoint. What items in your diet could you handle less of? Less grain? Less sugar? Less processed food? Less meat? Having a lot of vegetables around gives you the push to replace some of those less nutritionally dense foods with the rich offerings of summer’s variety. For example, when my family has a barbecue, we don’t serve a bunch of chips and grain based side dishes. We grill some meat, and then loads and loads of vegetables brushed with olive oil and salt.

  • Share with neighbors and family. I make “garden boxes” all summer long to surprise friends and family.

  • Take up juicing during the summer months, using vegetables from your garden and CSA share. Juicing is a great way to get extra vitamins in your diet. Compost or bake with the pulp to make sure none of the goodness goes to waste.

  • Grow medicinal crops. Two of my favorite things to grow are chamomile and calendula, and I have two entire garden beds reserved for this purpose. They are beautiful to grow, fun to harvest, and beneficial for the whole family.

  • Add vegetables to your smoothies. Beets, carrots, and greens can all hide very well in smoothies. Choose just one to add to a smoothie every day, and you’ll find your demand for vegetables suddenly goes way up!


A February Love Letter to Spring

We’re just about a month away from the start of the spring CSA session. Somehow. Always somehow, time just rolls (races?) along. Because last year’s spring session sold out quickly, I wanted to spend a little bit of time focusing on it before time gets away from us once more. As I look ahead to tomorrow’s forecasted high of four degrees, I can hardly contain my joy and sense of relief that while I’m hunkering down near the fire, the fact that I’m writing this very post is proof positive that the earth will soon begin to wake up and shake off the last frosty traces of winter. We’ll hike through the melty snow on warm days and drink in the smell of thawing earth. Mud season will happen. I’ll watch anxiously for pale green buds to form on the trees. The birds will return to their posts and resume their habit of waking me before the sun. For the lover of seasons, the spring CSA session is just special. It’s the time when we work through the last of winter’s starchy offerings, hopefully savoring them before they fade away, replaced by all things green. It’s when many of us begin preparing our own gardens, with anxious hopes of bountiful harvests full of all the color and flavor we yearn for during winter. It’s when delicate green leaves unfold and make their way to our kitchens, delicately packed in CSA boxes and bursting with goodness. Spring is all tender shoots and soft crunch. Maybe not all. But those are the qualities that stand out in my mind when I think about those first mild days where the air smells like mud and each day stretches out just a little bit longer than the one before. The spring CSA is both an offering of mindfulness and hope in a bowl.

Apart from my sentimental love of spring is the very practical convenience that comes from the relatively short span of the spring session. With both the winter and summer sessions spanning twenty weeks, the spring CSA session is a great opportunity to try out new Brookford products and new eating habits. If you’ve wondered what it would be like trying to do the majority of your eating from a whole diet share, the twelve weeks of the spring session provide a nice window to give it a try. The shorter time span means less financial commitment and an easier mental shift. With the sad state of our country’s current food supply system, the reality is that the vast majority of us, no matter how committed we are to sustainable eating practices, can probably make some improvements. Eating habits are so ingrained and ritualistic that it can be really challenging to step out of our comfort zones. It’s easy to take our habits for granted, to excuse them based on time or money or convenience, and to assume that the way that we do things now is the way it has to be. Yet our long term well being needs us to make a change.

As we look ahead to the inevitable thawing that will happen over the next six or so weeks, consider whether this may be the time to experiment with trimming your environmental footprint while rejuvenating your health. Perhaps this spring, you commit to twelve weeks of pastured, soy-free eggs. Maybe it’s time to try sourcing your meats locally. You could make it the spring of artisan bread...or cheese. And maybe you, like me, cannot resist the lovely offerings that burst through the topsoil as it warms - the garlic scapes and early carrots and tender greens. If that's the case, you'll need a veggie share too. Perhaps you've heard that raw milk changes as the herd heads back out to green grass. Perhaps you'll need to try the milk and cream yourself, just to say that once in your life you drank sunshine. There are endless ways to make a difference in your health, our economy, and the environment - simply by purchasing your food directly from a farm and the real people who work there. 

And speaking of the real people who work there, stay tuned over the next week for an interview with Matt, Brookford’s Harvest Manager. Because knowing who’s helping to grow your food matters...and it’s pretty cool.

The spring CSA registration is open now - sign up before it sells out!