Waltham Fields Community Farm promotes local agriculture and food access through our farming operations and educational programs, using practices that are socially, ecologically, and economically sustainable. We encourage healthy relationships between people, their food supply, and the land from which it grows. Check out our website for more information.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Arugula Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette


The end of New England's strawberry season has come, but I still had more than a few berries kicking around my refrigerator last night. A hot house meant a no-cook dinner was in store, and this fresh strawberry vinaigrette I recently enjoyed seemed the perfect compliment to a bunch of arugula I had on hand. With some fresh mint chiffonade, crumbled goat cheese or feta, and chopped berries (maybe a sprinkle of sliced almonds or sunflower seeds, too), this beautiful and tasty summer salad is ready in minutes. Try substituting fresh raspberries for strawberries if you don't have any fresh or frozen.


Strawberry Vinaigrette
makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz of strawberries (about 10-16 berries)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic (or scapes), minced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. If you do not have a food processor, chop and mash the berries before whisking with vinegar, lemon juice, garlic (scape), honey, salt, and pepper; continue whisking as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil.


Rebekah

Image by Rebekah Carter (2011). Recipe adapted from Hannaford Supermarket.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Freezing Berries


Don't let family vacations stop you from loading up on the delicate and delicious berries of summer. With a bit of freezer rearrangement, you can enjoy summer's bounty of raw strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and more all the way into the cool days of autumn (if they last that long
).

Freezing Berries


1. After purchasing or picking berries, thoroughly sort through them to remove any damaged, overripe/rotten, or immature fruits.
2. If working with strawberries, hull them (remove the calyx, that green, star-shaped "hat" that sits atop the berry); gently transfer the berries to a colander and rinse under cold running water.
3. If working with strawberries, you may wish to slice them at this point; otherwise, gently spread the berries onto a clean baking sheet in a single layer and place in the freezer.
4. Remove the berries from the freezer as soon as they are frozen in order to avoid freezer burn; quickly transfer to plastic freezer bags or containers and return to the freezer for long-term storage.

Berries can be safely stored for 8-12 months in a freezer kept at 0 degrees F.

My Two Cents:

Some argue that berries should be treated with simple syrup or sugar when being frozen. Although this does help maintain the texture, color, and flavor of berries frozen for several months, it is not necessary as freezing is the method of preservation. Many also pat their berries dry and line their baking sheet with parchment paper, but I do not find either of these steps necessary (however, I do make sure to not put sopping-wet berries straight in the freezer).

While the focus of this post was berries, freezing is an excellent way to preserve many local fruits and vegetables with little to no processing. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation's website for specific instructions according to crops of interest.

Rebekah

Images by Rebekah Carter (2011). Instructions for freezing berries referenced from
the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pickled Chard Stems

Swiss chard is almost too beautiful to eat. A food crop first and foremost, it's brightly-hued ribs practically make it an ornamental with which to decorate the yard, never mind the vegetable garden. It's abundance at New England farm stands and markets means we've got to get creative with our use of chard. Put those pretty stems to work in this simple overnight pickle recipe seasoned with garlic scapes and Sriracha.

Pickled Chard Stems

Makes one 12-oz jar

Ingredients:
  • Swiss chard stems, cleaned & sliced to fit jar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used agave nectar)
  • 2-3 garlic scapes, slit (kept whole) & chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Sriracha
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed

Instructions:

Mix vinegar, sugar, Sriracha, and celery seeds; set aside. Place whole garlic scapes in jar, then chard stems; fill the center with any small bits of stem and chopped scapes. Pour vinegar mixture over stems, seal, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours for flavor saturation. Enjoy as a cool snack or BBQ accompaniment!

Rebekah

Images by Rebekah Carter (2011). Recipe adapted from bon app├ętit.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Notes from the Field: Introducing the Farm Crew

Farmers are never satisfied with the weather. This gets boring, actually, and so even though I could tell you this week about how schizophrenic it feels to be partly hoping that it DOES rain for the thirsty greens at our Lyman Estate field and partly hoping that it DOESN'T rain while the strawberries are still ripening - I won't. Instead, I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to some of the folks who grow the food here at Waltham Fields Community Farm. Some of us have been at WFCF for years, while others are new to the farm this month. Some of us are likely in farming for the long haul, while others may leave it for more predictable, lucrative, or climate-controlled employment. But all of us share a commitment to this little farm for this growing season.


Many of you know some of our farmers. Andy Scherer, who managed the farm expertly last season, is perhaps the most Yankee of all of us, despite his roots in Pennsylvania. Andy is responsible for coordinating our produce donation - a $50,000 goal this year, including the 900 pounds of lettuce that we sent to the Greater Boston Food Bank earlier this month. In his five seasons with WFCF, he's helped the farm become more efficient and more sustainable through the addition of the weed and field crews, the purchase of (often extremely cheap) appropriate equipment, and a continual commitment to controlling costs. He is also a stickler for organization and neatness on the farm, and even though it's taken five years, his efforts are finally starting to pay off.


Erinn Roberts, now in her fourth season with WFCF, is originally from New Jersey but finally has a working knowledge of ice hockey. She is both one of the funniest people you will ever meet and one of the most diligent and hardworking. She manages our greenhouses and seedling sales, and selects all the delicious products from other farms that we offer to our shareholders each week. Erinn is also one of the most thoughtful and observant farmers I know. The farm benefits from her wisdom, her intelligence, her constant self-education, her intense attention to detail, and her unerring sense of style.


Dan Roberts, who came along with Erinn when she arrived at WFCF and has made himself indispensable to the farm, is often on a cultivating tractor these days. You can sometimes hear him singing over the sound of the engine. He has taught himself a great deal about the equipment on the farm, often with the help of YouTube videos, and has helped us make wise equipment purchases in the past couple of years - including the brand new walk-in cooler that will hopefully make an appearance on the farm this week. He is the fearless leader of the weed crew, an exceptional pizza maker, and a learned musician whose beautiful songs you can find on our farm CD. He also continually amazes me with his ability to be reasonably conversant about just about any topic.


Another set of critical people on the farm is our weed crew, without whom there would be no carrots, lettuce, fresh herbs, fall root crops - or just about anything on the farm. These three (soon to be four) hard-working women are in the fields five mornings a week to do gentle battle with our galinsoga, amaranth, lamb's quarter and all the other weeds that enjoy the rich soil of our fields. Their cheerful faces lift my spirits every time I see them in the lettuce with hoes in their hands or crawling the carrots on a rainy morning. Laura, Shira, and Rachel are also highly educated and well-traveled, and are a joy to weed with if you have an hour to spare. If you happen to be on the farm in the morning, greet them warmly with a wave or a blueberry muffin. They like brownies, too.


Next week: less weather. More Lauren, Larisa, and the farm work shares. Until then, enjoy the harvest season.


Amanda, for Andy, Erinn, Dan, Larisa, and Lauren

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cooking with Greens


It's official: the CSA and farmers market season in Massachusetts is finally here! With New England's summer bounty finally making its way out of fertile plots and into the hands (and reusable bags) of northeastern residents, one question remains: what do I do with all these greens? Well, quite simply, many things! Sauteed or stir-fried, baked or raw, there are endless possibilities when it comes to consuming your greens. Below are some ideas about how to include more of these super-nutritious leafy vegetables in your diet.

Breakfast:

Greens in the morning? Why not! I'm a big fan of sauteing hearty greens like kale or the more tender Swiss chard with fresh garlic or onions, some olive oil or butter, and a splash of a lemon juice or vinegar (white, cider, red wine, balsamic... they all work well depending on the flavor you are trying to achieve). Boost the flavor by adding some cumin seeds or powder and a sprinkle of red pepper flake for a touch of heat. Or fold in some Parmesan cheese as a final step in your sauteed creation. Serve it with some eggs and pan-fried potatoes (bake potato, sliced + garlic powder + paprika) and you have a complete meal. Ribbon-sliced spinach and chard make wonderful additions to any omelet or quiche; saute them first in order to draw out water, thereby preventing your egg dish from being soupy.

Lunch:

Raw greens, in a salad with freshly-picked radishes, salad turnips, and scallions, make for a light and local midday meal. Late spring and early summer are "the salad days," as they say, so enjoy those tender lettuces, spinach, and arugula with a light vinaigrette made from whisked olive oil, lemon juice, and finely-chopped garlic scapes (VERY limited season so get 'em now!) or scallions with salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste. If lemons aren't your favorite, use balsamic or red wine vinegar instead; keep in mind that a basic vinaigrette calls for 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil (I add a little dab of Dijon mustard, too). Add roasted beets, apple or pear slices, nuts, seeds, and goat cheese to really bulk things up!

Dinner:

Stir frying your greens with fresh veggies is another quick and simple way to increase the nutrient content of your meals. Asian greens, such as bok choy, tatsoi, and mustard greens, mixed with thickly-sliced mushrooms, celery, peppers, julienne carrots and alliums, can be hit with some soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a light drizzle of sesame oil, making for a delicious supper (I finish with the sesame for flavor but initially use another cooking oil, such as olive or canola oil, for the actual stir-frying). Another favorite of mine: replace the sesame oil with red curry paste, basil (Thai if available), and red pepper flake for some southeast Asian flavor; a generous splash of coconut milk and a touch of lime juice take it to the next level.


Go Mediterranean style with your kale, Swiss chard, and spinach by sauteing these greens with garlic or onion, fresh herbs like marjoram, thyme, and basil, thinly-sliced fennel, and mushrooms with a splash of vinegar or lemon juice. Tomatoes, whether fresh, sundried, or canned, and shaved Parmesan make excellent additions as well. Finely-chopped greens folded into tomato sauce is another way to feed even the pickiest of eaters a healthy dose of these nutrient-rich vegetables.

Snack:

Kale chips can be a big hit even with picky eaters who tend to pass on greens. Heat your oven to 400 degrees F; wash, dry, and de-stem a bunch of kale (or Swiss chard) and cut or tear into large pieces. Drizzle about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl and add the kale; toss so that the greens become lightly coated. Transfer greens to cookie sheets (single layer of kale or chard to ensure proper roasting) and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 10 minutes or until the pieces are crisp. Feel free to try other seasonings like garlic or onion powder, cumin, smoked paprika, vinegar, or sesame oil.

Why are greens so good for me?

Your diet should include all colors of the rainbow; eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, both raw and cooked, every day is key to achieving optimal health. Leafy greens are extra special, though, as they are packed with many essential vitamins (A, C, K, folate) and minerals (calcium, potassium, iron), fiber (soluble and insoluble for cholesterol reduction and regularity), and antioxidants that help repair and prevent damage caused by free radicals that promote aging and chronic disease.

Rebekah

Images by Rebekah Carter (2011).

For additional advice on cooking greens or other vegetables, leave a comment on this post, contact Rebekah, or check out suggestions by Waltham Fields.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Notes from the Field: Spring in New England

Even by the standards of spring in New England, this has been a wild one. Instead of writing this week's Notes, I seriously considered just including a link to the first Brookfield Farm CSA newsletter, where their longtime farmer, Dan Kaplan, brilliantly recounts the ups and downs of the weather and their effect on crops, with the simple caption "what he said." But when it comes to producing forty different crops, every organic farm has its own story, ever so slightly different from any other. So here is ours.

This spring began for us in the greenhouse, where Erinn nurtured thousands of tiny seedlings to maturity while we watched the thick blanket of snow on the fields slowly melt away. We seeded cover crops in March on fields that were deceptively dry - until the cold, wet weather of April settled in to stay. With the help of many volunteer hands, we dodged rainstorms to plant onions, leeks, lettuce and spinach on schedule. These crops promptly hunkered down in the cold, damp soil and did absolutely no growing at all.

Then, in early May, the hot weather hit. It seemed to go from March to July in a matter of days. Sunscreen and ice cream replaced sweaters and hot coffee in the farm office. Early season transplanted crops, already stressed out by the cold, wet weeks, now experienced a drastic swing to the opposite conditions. Crops that we seeded directly in the ground did not germinate in the abruptly powdery, superheated soil. Spinach and lettuce threatened to bolt if we didn't get irrigation on them immediately - not usually a priority at this time of the year. Even heat-loving transplanted crops like the cucumbers, sweet potatoes and summer squash that we transplanted were traumatized by the ferocious wind and dry soil. But we kept up on the weeding and managed to get our strawberry planting almost clean just in time for the plants to bloom.

Then, another spell of rain and cold (sweaters, transplanting, weeds growing, inside doing tractor maintenance), followed by temperatures that soared into the 90s and tumultuous thunderstorms that brought brief hail and spectacular lightning (more ice cream, this time accompanied by the first of the strawberries). The morning after these storms is always a little nerve-wracking - walking the fields to see what survived the night is not anyone's idea of a great way to start the day. So far we have been fortunate where hail is concerned. The fluctuations in temperature and moisture, though, have definitely made our spring crops confused and a little bit cranky - most are a little smaller than we would like (lettuce), some are a little later (napa cabbage), and some have been attacked by flea beetles or cabbage root maggot while they suffered from drought stress (bok choy).

All of us are happy to have the spring behind us and the bounty of the summer just ahead. We look forward to connecting and reconnecting with volunteers, shareholders, program participants, and other visitors throughout the season. Thank you for supporting us and the work that we are fortunate to do - even when the weather tries to thwart us!

Amanda, for Andy, Erinn, Dan, Larisa and Lauren

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Notes from the Learning Garden: Little Sprouts Family Program




It’s been five weeks of our Little Sprouts farm classes here at WFCF. Each week we have focused on a particular theme (seeds, birds, worms), focused on a garden task (they are great weeders!), looked at a book relating to that theme and had something healthy to snack on.








In our third week we saw the sun after previous classes held in the rain, but no matter the weather we have been having a wonderful time and learning a lot. We have been listening to the killdeer make their distinctive call, splashing in puddles, feeding the hens raisins, flying like a bird to the distribution shelter to see the nesting barn swallows, watching ants, feeding the worms in our compost bin, planting, and eating radishes, lettuce and spinach straight from the garden! We also ate rhubarb pudding!




We’ve been learning about the farm, how plants grow and how to follow the garden path. We love when Farmer Erinn or Farmer Dan drive by in the red tractor! Last week, we walked out to the compost pile with the compost the families have been saving all week and looked for compost critters.







Today, we discovered that there is a whole rainbow of colors in the garden: yellow sunflowers, green leaves, and even purple cabbage!


By Paula Jordan, Farm Educator, WFCF

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rhubarb Chutney


When I hear "rhubarb," a little voice inside of my head always follows with "strawberries!" For the greater part of my life, rhubarb found its way into my belly via one route only: strawberry rhubarb pie. Delicious as it may be, I wanted to try something a little different this rhubarb season, maybe even something beyond the realm of dessert fare. Then along came this recipe for a spiced rhubarb chutney. Though I'm sure it works fabulously as a glaze for pork (I'm thinking chops or ribs) or salmon, it makes for a wonderful last-minute appetizer; add goat cheese, nuts, and toasted baguette slices to the equation and POOF! You've got yourself a delicious hors d'oeuvre. Just don't forget the plate and utensils, if you feel like being fancy about it.



Rhubarb Chutney

(makes 3 half pints)

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups sliced rhubarb
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 cups brown sugar (I used maple syrup & white sugar)
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoons ginger (I used freshly grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (optional)


Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a heavy pot (do not use cast iron as the vinegar will strip your seasoning; enamel-lined dutch oven works well) and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer gently until slightly thickened (45 minutes is suggested but decrease simmering time if you want to maintain some rhubarb shape and texture). Be sure to stir frequently as to avoid sticking and scorching. When you are satisfied with the texture, pour into clean pint jars.

If canning, process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

My Two Cents:

I did not can my batch nor had brown sugar on hand, so I substituted with a combination of pure maple syrup and white sugar. If you are canning this recipe but want to replace the refined sugar with something like maple syrup or honey, be sure to check with your local extension office first to ensure food safety! From what I've read, mild-flavored honey can safely replace up to half and maple syrup up to a quarter of the sugar called for in a canning recipe. I love using agave nectar whenever possible, but I am not aware of any recommendations on using it as a refined sugar substitute for canning.

Rebekah

Recipe from The New York Times Heritage Cook Book (page 547) by Jean Hewitt via Food in Jars. Images by Rebekah Carter (2011).