Tomorrow marks the first day of our 2018 CSA season! It also happens to be the New Moon in the sign of Gemini! Look out - Small Feat is getting witchy! The New Moon is the best time of the month to start a new mini-chapter: set new intentions, implement new ideas, re/start routines...The energy in the air is perfect for "seeding" new endeavors as the moon begins to grow toward full. And this New Moon is in the sign of Gemini - the master of new ideas and networking! It seems fitting to begin CSA pick-ups on this day as we'll all be starting a new weekly routine and creating community by sharing in the Earth's bounty together.
It has been a whirlwind spring! If you haven't read our last blog post, scroll down to catch up on some of the major changes happening at the farm this season - it's all very exciting! This past weekend we celebrated Caswell Farm's 10 Year Anniversary of hosting beautiful weddings on the property. A big crowd came out on Sunday evening to see the barn's new deck, survey the farm and landscaping, and enjoy the first-ever pizzas to come out of the new brick oven! It was a blast and we were so relieved to have completed all the major projects before everyone arrived ;)
This week is the final push to move the last few trays of plants from the greenhouse into the ground. We will be headed out of town next week, so we are aiming to have everything planted and heavily watered before we take off and leave the farm under the watchful eye of some friends. The new and improved flower garden (complete with a very adorable "flower bed") was created by Joanna this spring with a brick patio and brick paths for guests to meander on. This was a really fun project that adds a lot of aesthetic charm to the property. Additionally, we've planted a number of perennial bushes and trees, and are excited to see if we harvest any berries or fruit this year! Even if we don't , it feels good to put some more permanent things in the soil and look at the farm with a longer timeframe in mind.
The weather has been strange - as is the new normal in Maine. April was very cold and May was incredibly warm and dry. We are mildly concerned about a drought this year, but we ask you all to join in a rain dance every once in a while to keep the fields fertile! The flea beetles (little black beetles that LOVE to eat leafy greens and brassicas) were a major problem when we planted our kale, broccoli, cabbage, salad mix, and pac choi a number of weeks ago. We struggled with what to do and tried many things. Finally, this past week, we hit the nail on the head with a dose of diatomaceous earth (a chalky-like substance made from crushed sea creature fossils). This substance irritates the bugs' exoskeletons and they move on to more agreeable pastures. Some of our greens took quite a beating, but from now on, they should be producing healthy, lush leaves!
Week #1 Veggies, Herbs, and Suggestions for Preparation and Storage
Salad Greens - This is our favorite mix called "Elegance Greens" from Johnny's Seed Company. It is a mixture of red mustard, mizuna, leaf broccoli, and pac choi. It has a bit of a bite when eaten raw and holds up well when wilted. This mix is the perfect base for a salad! Add scallions, an avocado, raisins, nuts and seeds, and dress with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a crack of black pepper. For some additional protein, add sardines to the salad and/or build the salad over a warm bed of quinoa - the greens will wilt slightly and balance the texture perfectly. Greens should be left in a produce bag, loosely sealed, in the refrigerator. Open the bag once a day to bring in some fresh air, but don't let the greens dry out by keeping the bag open. If things get a little icky toward the end of the week, rinse the greens in a colander and pull out any mushy pieces. Spin or pat dry and put the remaining greens back in a dry produce bag.
Arugula - A bright springtime classic! This leafy green is simultaneously sweet, spicy, and sour and adds the perfect pop to any dish. Lately, we've been enjoying arugula with avocado and olive oil on top of a rice cake for breakfast - topped with pumpkin and flax seeds. Arugula can also be enjoyed as a salad base, added to tacos in lieu of lettuce, or chopped finely and mixed with cream cheese and garlic for a savory bagel spread. Stores similarly to greens.
Scallions - The Summer's first Allium! Scallions are very versatile: grill them whole to enjoy with a BBQ'd steak; chop them roughly and add to a stir fry; or chop them finely and add them to a salad or that arugula-cream cheese spread mentioned above! Basically, they can be added to anything that needs a little crunch. Scallions can be stored in a produce bag, like the greens, or you can put them root-down in a cup of water in the fridge.
Pac Choi - This is a very popular Asian green. The texture is like a cross between celery and lettuce, and the taste is fresh and slightly bitter. Like the scallions, pac choi can be grilled whole or chopped up and added to a stir fry, soup, or salad. If you are going to stir fry or add pac choi to a soup, do it toward the end of cooking time so it doesn't loose too much of it's crunch! Pac choi is wonderfully complemented by peanuts and balsamic or black vinegar. Try making a slaw with pac choi, scallions, carrots, and purple cabbage by chopping all the veggies into thin ribbons and dressing with vinegar, sesame oil, salt, pepper, ground ginger, and peanuts. Let sit in fridge for at a least a few hours before serving. Store pac choi similarly to greens.
Oregano - A classic Mediterranean culinary herb. You'll be getting a big bundle so we recommend finding a place in your home that is dry and warm (like by a window) and hanging the bundle upside-down until the leaves are completely dry. This may take a week or so (or you can use a dehydrator and be done in a couple hours). Then, you can strip the leaves off the stems, grind them in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, and store in a glass jar - voila! Oregano for the summer! You can also cook with fresh oregano by adding it to any rice or pasta dish along with other spices. If you want to keep oregano fresh for a while, we recommend trimming the ends of the stems and placing the bundle in a glass of water on the counter.
Lemon Balm - Nature's nerve relaxant. Lemon balm soothes the nervous system, calms the mind, and is the perfect addition to any afternoon beverage. You can dry the lemon balm similarly to the oregano and grind it to use as a tea. One of my favorite ways to use fresh lemon balm is to muddle it into the bottom of a glass with frozen mixed berries and a splash or lemon or lime juice, then add seltzer water and ice. If you like booze, you can substitute lemon balm for mint in a julep or mojito - just be weary that lemon balm has a calming effect on the body and may make you especially drowsy if consumed with alcohol. You could also make a delicious raspberry lemon balm shrub by combining 2 parts raspberries, 1 part sugar, and 1/2 part chopped lemon balm in a mixing bowl - mashing the berries. Let mixture sit in fridge for 12-48 hours, strain out berries and leaves. Add 1 part apple cider vinegar and mix thoroughly. This shrub can be used in cocktails, added to seltzer water, or drank on its own!