Category Archives: Neighborhood Farms

Roasted veggies up close

Roasting Radishes: the best way to win over a radish hater

Radishes and Turnips
Some of the ingredients: salad turnips and chopped radishes.

This is the raddest radish recipe. Or should we call it a technique? Either way, roasting radishes is a fresh take on these spicy beauties.

Flavor sweetens: Roasting the radish takes some of the spice out of the radish, and some of the flavor that many radish haters hate fades. They become a little sweeter and don’t bite back as much.

Super quick: Roasting radishes takes maybe 10 – 15 minutes. So quick!

Beautiful: Mix these in with any of your favorites (last night I chose cauliflower, carrots, and salad turnips) and they will make your dish look fabulous.

The Recipe: Roasted Radishes

Roasted veggies
Just out of the oven! Gave them lots of room to crisp and cook quickly.

Ingredients:

1 bunch radishes (or more!)

Mix of other veggies, enough to fill two baking sheets (that way you have leftovers). I used 1 head of cauliflower, 5 carrots, and a bunch of salad turnips

2 tablespoons fat of your choice, I used duck fat. Make sure it is something that will cook at high heat (coconut oil, animal fat, BUTTER)

How to:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Chop your vegetables to equal sizes, about 1 – 2 inch chunks. Toss them together with melted oil, salt and pepper. Feel free to add in some spices or herbs or even a bit of lemon.

I roasted my veggies for around 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. I added the radishes and turnips in after the rest had been roasting for about 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

greens

Love Your Greens & Your Farmer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! When many greens are growing, hearts are glowing (with health and wellness that comes with eating your greens!) and loved ones are near. I know making food certainly brings more people to the table. Everyone eats, after all.

One of those people who you will be getting to know and love over the coming months is your farmer. Here at Garden City Harvest we don’t deliver your CSA for one very good reason. We want people to come to the farm, we want to see you, we want your kids to come see where their carrots and cukes are grown. We want to cultivate community in and between our shareholders. We really like you. Farming is better when you are around (and yes, I totally stole that line from Annie of the Pea Green Boat).

Farmer Greg
Photo by Erika Peterman

That said, I wanted to talk a little about Greg, who is the head farmer at River Road Farm. If you ask Greg to describe himself in 3 words, he’ll tell you: committed, organized, hardworking. He might roll his eyes at you, cause really, how can you boil someone down to 4 words?

He told me, “I try to stick with the simple things. Otherwise, you lose track of the important things.” For Greg, the simple things are food, wild places, and basketball.

When he was growing up, it was mostly him, his mom, and his brother. They moved around quite a bit, but the place Greg identifies with the most was Maryland. That’s where his grandparents lived, where he learned to fish and to hunt. He’s had a diversity of experiences throughout his life. Early in life, he joined the Air Force and was stationed in Germany. Later, he got a degree in philosophy. He started working for Garden City Harvest in 1997, and learned the art of farming as the organization grew. He has used his strong commitment and wondering mind to guide him in his life choices, “My studies in philosophy set me up especially for a kind of concentrated wondering.”

He has spent a great deal of time in the wild places of Montana. He worked for the Great Bear Foundation, alongside his work in the farm fields. I’ve seen him off to gather dandelion greens and other wild edibles for a Great Bear feast from the forest. He dreams of bringing more wild to the farm in the form of native plants, better animal and insect habitat and the like.

Greg fixes tool
Photo by Erika Peterman

He keeps stacks of wood for animals and insects to live in, he gets to know the many spiders on the farm. He’s planning to put a osprey nesting platform up at the farm in the coming year.

He has worked with the Poverello Center since he started with River Road, and grows about 5,000 annually for their soup kitchen. He also helps the chef at the Poverello understand how to use all of this food. I’ve always loved a story he told me about one of the first seasons he grew food for the Poverello. It was the fall, and Greg dropped off a load of winter squash. When he returned the next week, there was all the beautiful squash decorating the tables. Greg suggested that the squash was great decoration, but that the chef might want to cook with it, too. And they made a simple squash soup. Soon after, the soup became a staple on the fall menu. It takes more than growing the food to get it on the table. It is the simple things that make translating that squash into soup that fills your belly. The human connection.

In that spirit, I want to share some greens recipes with you. For this is a time to cherish, rather than feel overwhelmed. Also, in the spirit of knowing your farmer, ask yours what he or she likes to do with the greens. Our farmers have inspired me to try something knew so very many times.

In the coming weeks, greens are the thing. And take heart, they cook down to almost nothing. They are pretty interchangeable. And they are great for breakfast with eggs, lunch with toppings, and dinner as a side or a cooked bed for whatever else you are making. Here’s a great recipe for greens from a past blog :

Welcome, and welcome back! See you next week.

 

IMG_5077

Broth: not just for the tummy troubles

It is the dead of winter. There’s no more figgy pudding, the stored vegetable stores are starting to run low, and the light is still in short supply. I got fed up with my snow boots the last week and braved the snow in clogs. Winter be damned! Somehow, this was my rebellion against the endless layers and tense muscles that old man winter demands.

All I got was wet feet.

It’s times like this that require a little broth. There are many benefits to a cup of bone broth, including some protein,  gelatin, and glycine (the last two are good for your gut!). It’s a great thing to drink daily. Even if you don’t care a fig about the nutritional benefits, bone broth is a building block for so many recipes, that having it on hand is so handy. Buying it is expensive, and it is easy and quick to make at home. Plus, it saves you some bones! It will certainly make your day a little warmer, and that’s really saying something.

The difference between stock, broth and bone broth:

Broth — Broth cooks 45 minutes to two hours and usually uses meat, and perhaps some bones. The flavor is light, and it is generally not drunk on its own but instead used as a building block.

Stock — Stock and bone broth are similar in their ingredient lists, but differ greatly in the time they are cooked. They both always include bones, according to the definition, however a stock is typically cooked three to four hours and bone broth typically 12 – 24 hours. A note on vegetable stock: essentially, vegetable stock and vegetable broth are the same. The difference is how you use them in the end. (Will it be an ingredient of a larger dish? Stock. Will it be drunk on its own? Broth. )

Bone broth — Bone broth is always cooked with bones, and cooked for a long time (12 – 24+ hours). Some add vegetables, some do not.

Where to get bones:

Direct from the farmer (Lifeline Farm, Jamie’s Naturally Raised Grass Finished Beef, Oxbow Cattle Company, Manix Family Grass Finished Beef. . . Check out AERO’s Abundant Montana directory) — try the winter and summer farmers’ markets in Missoula, too. You can get a large amount and freeze them. You’ll need around 2 lbs of bones per 64 oz batch.

At a local natural food store –if you don’t see them on display, ask the meat department if they have any soup bones you could purchase. They’re usually very cost-effective.

You can keep a bone bag in the freezer, and put your chicken carcasses, ham hocks and other pork bones, and beef bones in there until you are ready to make some stock. A mixture of bones gives a wider flavor profile.

Make it without wasting all those veggies!

You can make bone broth without any vegetables (well, you always use the garlic). However, if you want the flavor vegetables offer, just start collecting your vegetable scraps. I’ve recently started keeping a bag in my freezer for my vegetable scraps. Any time I prepare a meal, I put the discarded ends and peelings, etc. in the bag for my next broth making venture.

Vegetables to keep — the basic aromatics are what I typically use (carrots, onions, celery) — they give a good base to work from. However, once I started staving scraps, root vegetables, stalks, leaves, tops, ends, peelings. Kale and chard stems, bell pepper cores, green beans/string beans, mushroom stems, herb stems. I put the garlic and onion skins in, though I’ve read that onions skins, along with beets, will turn your broth dark brown, so it’s more of a cosmetic thing. If you have some veggies that are about to turn (but haven’t yet) or are a bit dehydrated, this is a great use for them!

Vegetables to send packing — cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, (all from the brassica family, which has a certain odor you don’t want in your stock/broth), turnips and rutabagas (those are two roots to avoid). And of course, rotten spots and moldy veggies are also not a good idea.

How to make it

I prefer to make bone broth in my slow cooker. It is an Instant Pot so it can hold up to 64 oz, which is key for this recipe. If you are in the market, I can’t say enough about this one, it’s made of safe, stainless steel, it’s big, and can pressure cook, make yogurt, and rice. Anyway.

This makes 4 full quart sized mason jars.

Mason Jars

I got the bones (I used beef bones this time) and vegetables scraps out of the freezer, and dumped them in.

my ingredients

On top, I poured the apple cider vinegar and salt. I added a whole head of garlic, just smashing each clove between my knife and the cutting board before adding. I poured water to the max fill line in the slow cooker.

bone broth ready to boil

 

After that, all I had to do was stick the lid on, and put it on high until it came to a boil. Then, I turned it to low, and cooked it for 12 hours.

Here’s the beautiful elixir:

IMG_5077

Other notes:

set your slow cooker for 12 hours

Cooking time: Some say the vegetables will become bitter if you cook them longer than 12 hours. The longer you cook the broth, however, the better for you it gets. I often cook it for 24 hours without a problem, but if you are concerned about bitter broth, just scoop out the vegetables at the 12 hour mark and keep on cooking. Or skip the vegetables and just use water, vinegar, bones, salt and garlic (that doesn’t get bitter). You can also check doneness by taste and smell. This batch tasted perfect at 12 hours, so I didn’t have to worry. You know you’ve gotten all the nutrients out of the bones when they are starting to crumble at the edges.

Stovetop or oven: You can also do this on the stove top or in the oven. You want to bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat so that it is simmering in such a way that a tiny bubble trickles up every few seconds. Same cooking time (12 – 24 hours). For the oven, bring to a boil on the stove, then place in a 200 degree oven.

Storage: You can keep it in the fridge for 4-5 days, then it’s time to freeze. I like to either freeze in an ice cube tray or small baggies. Remember to label the baggies so you know how many cups are enclosed, and when you made it.

Roasting the bones for flavor: This is a great idea if you have time and want to bring out a richness in the bone broth, but easily skipped for simplicity. Coat the bones in a high heat oil (I usually use a solid fat like lard, bacon grease, or duck fat) and distribute them in a roasting pan. Roast at 400 degrees for around an hour.

To drink on its own: add your favorite herbs (fresh or dried), or just a little garlic and salt.

Recipe

This recipe is designed to make 64 oz of broth. Make sure your soup pot or slow cooker has the capacity. 

Ingredients:
  • Whole head of garlic, broken apart and each clove smashed (leave skin on)
  • 1.5 – 2 lbs stock bones (can use chicken, beef, or pork bones)
  • Vegetable scraps (optional)
  • Bay leaf (optional)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Water
How to:

Combine the bones, vegetable scraps, and bay leaf. Pour the salt and apple cider vinegar over the top. Add water until you reach the max fill line in your slow cooker or soup pot.

Bring the water to a boil, then cook it for 12 – 24 hours. The longer the better. Remove or skip the vegetable scraps if you cook it longer than 12 hours. Let cool and refrigerate or freeze.

If this bone broth doesn’t do it for you, then try this quick video. There are places in Alaska where they only get minutes or an hour of sunlight some parts of the year. And start garden dreaming: sign up for a community garden plot or CSA share!

 

 

Growing Up in the City Doesn’t Mean You Have to Miss Out on the Farm

Nico and DogThis week, our Orchard Gardens Farm apprentice, Nicolas Matallana (or Nico for short), has recorded a bit about his experience this summer. We are grateful to the Missoula Federal Credit Union for funding his position, enabling him to learn about farming and nonprofit operations. It also helps us grow Orchard Gardens as place where those of any income can eat fresh—whether that means bringing a prescription, a few bags to fill, or a few seeds and a caring hand. Nico originally came to Missoula to explore the mountains and learn about the ecology while pursuing a degree in Ecological Restoration, but little did he know that local food would strike his passion. Nico has been gardening and volunteering on farms since his first semester in Missoula. 

I’m going to tell you about a youngster that I got to know this summer. He lived in the Homeword housing complex, next to the Orchard Gardens Community Farm. Let’s call him Carrot.

As a five year old, he was too old for the resident play structure, but still too young for Kindergarten, so he would spend his days looking for something, anything, to let him let out his creative energy. From the field, I would often see him speed by on his bike, yelling unintelligibly, as he lapped and lapped the housing complex. It reminded me of the endless summer days of my childhood, biking or skateboarding back and forth on the curb, trying to spend an unlimited amount of energy.

Orchard Gardens Farm
Orchard Gardens Farm. Photo by Chad Harder.

He wasn’t usually allowed to come into the farm, so he would often swoop on us while we hauled our harvest across the parking lot to the barn.

“What are you doing?”

“We’re getting ready for the CSA.” One of us would respond.

“Why?”

“Because we have to get these vegetables ready” One of us would say patiently

“Why?”

And so on, he would hang around and ask questions and linger and pick up things he shouldn’t and we’d sometimes have to kick him out. But he would always be back, laughing and goofing off the next day.

My co-worker, Michelle, was the true wizard at keeping him busy. She’d see him coming towards us and immediately find something to entertain and occupy him.

“Do you want some kale?” She’d ask.

“Mmmmm… No!”

“How about some cucumber?”

“Mmmmmmmm……. Okay!”

And off he’d go munching on his cucumber to chase around the other neighborhood kids. He ate most things that came out of the field, which impressed me for his age – I certainly didn’t eat so many vegetables when I was that young. When good things were being offered, like apricots or cherries, the entire neighborhood kiddo-herd would come, flocking around us impatiently.

“What do you say first?” Michelle would remind them all.

The chorus would respond, “PLEASE!”

We knew this was a special place for Carrot. While the other kids came and went, Carrot came by consistently. When Dave was out running errands, he would ask where he was every couple minutes. If we were busy in the field, he would always ask us when CSA was, which he knew was when he could get our attention. At first, entertaining him felt like another job, but over the summer I grew to appreciate his persistence.

Nico and Campers
Nico and some summer campers at Orchard Gardens.

I wish I had grown up with a farm next door, with a Dave and Michelle to put a cucumber in my hand when I needed something to do. My neighborhood friends and I would get so bored that we would eventually end up in trouble, and over the years it just got worse. Carrot sometimes got in trouble, but handing him a vegetable would usually do the trick.

Next year he will be in Kindergarten. I’m sure he’ll come around every summer, looking for a snack or a human to talk with. And it will be the farm employees, the vegetables, and the community gardeners that will welcome him. I’m glad the farm can keep him out of trouble. Maybe he’ll even be a farm apprentice one day.

kayajudanelson-4

Tales of Pigweed

This week Kaya Juda Nelson writes about her work as an apprentice at Garden City Harvest’s Youth Farm, run in partnership with Youth Homes. After spending her freshman year at Boston University, a semester of her sophomore year in South America, and a semester of her senior year campaigning with a climate action organization in Denver, Kaya graduated from the University of Montana with high honors in Environmental Studies and a minor in Climate Change Studies. For the past year and a half, Kaya has also been part of a bluegrass band, Local Yokel, in which she plays the fiddle, banjo, writes, and sings. Here’s Kaya: 

We choose to farm because it connects us with our environment and offers a relationship to the cycles of the seasons. Farming feels great as we work our bodies and work the earth under the sun, in the rain, feeling the wind against our faces.  But even more than the connection to place and weather, this season working at the Youth Farm has affirmed my favorite relationship brought about by farming: the relationship with food.

After a morning of weeding and thinning the carrots or harvesting salad mix (a sometimes tedious and time-consuming task), a trio of young adults from various Missoula youth homes and an adult staff member (often myself) break to make the lunch for our 10-20 person crew.

We learn how to properly cook rice and lentils, what you can do with the abundance of radishes, how delicious raw kohlrabi can be, and the fact that cucumbers should never, ever, ever, under any circumstance be cooked. The first days we cook lunch I hear:

“I hate veggies”

“there’s no meat?!?”

“are we seriously eating this for lunch?”

By the end of the first meal, we have converted most of the youth into veggie lovers. I remember getting excited about having agency in the food I ate when I was in high school. Now, watching that agency develop in these adolescent faces as we make lunches each day, I relive it myself. Carrots and onions are chopped with confidence and chard is discovered to shrink when you cook it and sometimes the stir fries are too salty and sometimes the beets are horribly crunchy but the food education is palpable.

Zayne arranging CSA boxesAs you all may have read in Genevieve’s post, Zayne, one of our youth employees tells the story of discovering kale at a mobile market stand while living at the Council Groves apartments. He proudly declares himself as the kale kid, and always asks for an extra bunch to take back to the Tom Roy youth home where he lives, located adjacent to the farm. When his mother or grandmother is in town for a visit, he begs to take them a bouquet of the hearty leafy green. I see part of this as a simple fact that kale is delicious and has become nutritionally notorious both in the local and the mainstream food world, but you can also see Zayne’s pride in his cultivation of his favorite crop and his desire to share a tangible fruit of his labor.

The CSA is the other venue in which the Youth Farm employees have a chance to shine and pass along their thoughts and opinions on produce to the roughly 60 CSA members that come to collect their share each week. For a few weeks in late June, we offered pigweed in our CSA share. Yes, this is a weed that we harvest for our customers. We constantly battle pigweed as it grows rampant through the farm. When we learned from a visting Greek that it is delicious cooked in olive oil and lemon, we made lemons out of lemonade and added it to our CSA offerings.

Pigweed is amazingAs Zayne greeted the CSA customers that week with a giant box of pigweed, he spun the story of the Greek farmer into a personal tale of meeting this man and together sharing the delights of pigweed. This pitch was mostly fabricated, but Zayne encouraged our CSA customers to try this leafy weed with an unappetizing name in such a spirited and hilarious way, it didn’t matter whether it was factual. It was about a connection with this crop and with the CSA members.

We work with groups of young adults that have come from wide-ranging and diverse backgrounds, but who are all living in the Missoula Youth Homes. These teenagers are navigating the difficulties of adolescence, while living in homes that are not their own, and while I wish I could say that the farm provides a fairy tale solution, but I can’t. But when the rusty steel triangle that serves as a lunch bell is rung and the giant cast-iron pan of bok-choy is brought to the table, it is evident that change and connection are happening in ways I’m not always aware of, and the effort, joy, and learning put into the meals we share out here in the sun and rain and wind provides a sense of ownership and accomplishment for the employees of the Youth Farm.

Zayne and the Greek Farmer’s Pigweed

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb fresh pigweed
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 T olive oil  salt to taste

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a pan and add pigweed (whole, not chopped).  Add lemon juice and stir until all the pigweed is covered with oil and lemon juice. Cover the pigweed until it has wilted slightly, then uncover and cook off any liquid that has accumulated. Add salt to taste. Enjoy!

tomatoes

Tomato Pie: your savory savior for a quick fresh meal

Claire Vergobbi Clare Vergobbi is one of our apprentices this season, working at River Road Neighborhood Farm for the summer. She is an essential part of what we do there, each day, and in turn, we are teaching her many skills for her future. Simultaneously, she is studying at the University of Montana. Thanks to Missoula Federal Credit Union for making two of our apprenticeships possible. Here’s Clare on tomato pie:

There’s nothing quite like hand feeding a chicken, pulling up a handful of carrots you seeded, weeded, and hand-watered for two months, or watching the sun set over mountains while the farm is full of families picking up their vegetables for the week.

These are the simple lessons good soil, clean water, hard work, and fresh food can teach. I’ve spent the last two summers as an apprentice at River Road Neighborhood Farm, one of Garden City Harvest’s four farms, where I’ve been learning by doing. River Road grows food for over 80 households who are members of the farm, and helps stock the kitchen at the Poverello with food each week of the season.

That brings me to tomato season. At long last, it arrived—albeit about a month later than usual and much lighter than the motherlode that blessed gardens and farms around Missoula last year.

That brings me to tomato season.  At long last, it’s here—albeit a month later than usual and much lighter than the motherlode that blessed gardens and farms around Missoula last year.  I spent most of the winter and spring eating the tomato soup, sauce, salsa, and frozen fruits I preserved last fall, and most of the summer waiting for tomatoes to come back into season. Desperate for tomatoes, I  started making a list of everything I wanted to make out of them this year at the first hint of red on the vines at the beginning of August.

tomato

I work as an apprentice at River Road Neighborhood Farm. Working alongside Greg Price and

Unfortunately, it’s hard to outsmart the whims of nature and August and September have been colder and rainier than anyone would have liked—less than ideal weather for tomatoes.  Harvests of tomatoes, peppers, and other hot weather crops have been exercises in frustration at River Road for the past few months. However, harvests are finally topping out above 100 pounds and I have faith that we’ll all end up with enough tomatoes to have more than enough for preservation. The fleeting inconsistencies of this season reminded me that the best tomatoes are those enjoyed fresh off the vine, standing in the field with juice running down my fingers or starring as a primary flavor in a light dish.

sliced heirloomOne of the dishes on my tomato wish list this year is tomato pie, a recipe I came across in a few southern cooking websites last winter.  The version I made was also heavily inspired by an onion pie that my lovely coworker Samantha brought to work one day.  Tomato pie is an amazing way to showcase the deep flavors and beautiful colors of heirloom tomatoes—my favorites for this dish were Cherokee Purples and Golden Kings, but any large heirloom would be a good choice.  I opted for a slightly healthier version (minus the sour cream and mayonnaise) than the original recipes I came across; a combination of the onion pie recipe and a fantastic recipe for heirloom tomato pie I found on Dig This Chick, a local Missoula blog.

With a sunny week ahead of us, there’s still a chance to take advantage of the fresh tomatoes ripening in your gardens and on our farms.  Grab a bunch of romas for your soups and sauces and a few lumpy, beautiful heirlooms for this pie.

Heirloom Tomato Pie   tomato pie

Need:

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3-4 sliced heirloom tomatoes
  • 4 cups shredded cheese—I liked parmesan, white cheddar, and gouda
  • 1 cup milk or plain yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced or sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • ¼ cup diced fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, take a cup or so of breadcrumbs and mix with 3 tablespoons of melted butter, then press mixture firmly around the pie pan.

Caramelize onions and garlic.

Mix milk/yogurt, egg, cheese, garlic, onions, and herbs.  Pour mixture into pie crust.   Layer tomato slices to fill up remainder of pie pan, sprinkling with salt and pepper to taste as you go.

Bake for about an hour, or until the cheesy stuff is nice and bubbly and the tomatoes are juicy and squishy, but not dehydrated or burned.

When it comes out of the oven, it will still be pretty watery.  Let it sit for an hour at room temperature so it can set up, but it’ll probably taste just as good if you can’t wait that long.

Throw some extra fresh basil on top before eating to make it extra tasty.

Enjoy the remainder of glorious tomato season.  Who knows? If the frost holds off maybe we’ll have a fire sale after all.

 

The Kale Kid

Zane
Working hard at the Youth Farm.

We’ve talked a lot about how to cook the food you get from one of our gardens or farms. I wanted to talk a little about a few of the people who grow the food, starting with Cori Ash.

In the first year of the Youth Farm, farm director Cori Ash was sitting at her Mobile Market stand. Most of our Mobile Markets take food from the farm to senior housing. But this market was set up at an affordable housing complex for families.

A 10 year old boy came biking up to Cori, asking for kale. He had his allowance with him, and wanted to spend it on the kale. She was impressed, and sold him two bunches. He teetered off on his bike, a bunch under each arm.

The next week he was back, and he brought a friend. They each bought kale again, and again went away.

Mobile Market
Mobile Market in full swing.

The third week, he came alone. He suggested that maybe he could trade his labor for kale. He’d help her at the market, and take home kale in return. She was thrilled. It was often just her at the stand because of school scheduling with the teens that worked at the Youth Farm, so she really did need help unloading the boxes, making change, and talking to customers.

We stopped serving that apartment complex the next year, and lost touch with the boy.

A word about the Youth Farm. Most all of the workers save Cori, the farm assistant, Mark, and farm apprentice, Kaya, are teens living in a group home. There are anywhere from 3 to 10 youth that work 20 – 40 hours a week at the farm, plus many of the other teens at Youth Homes come by to volunteer at the farm once a week.

When one of the Youth Homes volunteer groups came, there was a familiar face in the crowd. It was this boy. Cori couldn’t place him at first, and neither could the boy. So they both took shy glances at each other until they figured it out. “You’re Captain Kale!,” Cori said.

She offered the boy a job by mid-season. He said yes.  Zayne has proven to be a hard worker — one of the teens she depends on to get things done on the farm. Because they raise food for a CSA and market stand, there are high standards and strict deadlines. These teens have to get things done efficiently and beautifully.

Zayne is still working at the farm today, as the days get cooler and the weather wetter. And he still loves kale. He makes sure the harvest doesn’t go to waste at in his group home’s kitchen.

Zayne and Kaya will be writing about their favorite times and recipes in the next few weeks. The kale only gets sweeter as the weather cools, so it is a great time to cook it up.

Youth Farm Barn
The red barn at the Youth Farm.

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3 Freezer Meals for the Cold Dark Nights Ahead

The nights are cooling off. The days are getting shorter. My little is back in school. It’s labor day weekend, again. As I put away my white pants and shoes (haha), I brush off my Carrot Cardamom Soup recipe from Michelle Tam and shine up my soup pot to make some of my favorite freezer meals for those times when we need a quick meal that reminds us summer is waiting for us in a few months. While this weekend I am heading to the Helmville Rodeo (a Montana institution), I will be making or have made many of these meals in the next few weeks.

1. The Soup: Carrot Cardamom Soup, by Michelle Tam

Austen eats carrot soup
There she is, loving on the carrots and cardamom!

I love this soup. What’s even better: my four year old Austen loves it too. It is a bowl full of carrots and apples and homemade bone broth. Nutrients abound. She has no idea. Moo ha ha ha.

When we’re talking soups and freezing them, however, what I often do while I have fresh carrots, celery, and onions, is make a mirepoix — a french term for the flavor base to many dishes — from a pan of beans to a meat skillet to a pot of soup. Because it is the base to so many dishes I make, having some frozen and on hand in the winter months saves time. So, if you don’t want to make the whole cha bang, just saute two parts onion, to one part carrots, and one part celery in a pan with your favorite cooking oil (butter is GREAT, bacon or duck fat work as do olive or coconut oil).

If I am feeling ambitious, I will cook the base, leaving out the apples and cardamom in case I get tired of this soup (it happens occasionally, but not often) and feel more like Curried Carrot Soup.

Or I’ll just go for it and make the recipe, cool it, and most importantly, put it a bag or mason jar that is the appropriate size for what my family would want in one sitting.

I once put all my carrot soup in gallon sized bags in the freezer. Two things happened: one, I put them on the door, and the bags leaned into the bar on the freezer door and froze, forever molded into place. One pinning the other in place as well. I think I had to break the bar to the the damn things out. It’s best to lay them out flat, let them freeze, and then stack them either like library books or in a big stack. Two, I had to thaw the whole bag to get about 1/3 of it for all of us to eat. Then I had to eat carrot soup for a week because I couldn’t bare to re-freeze it. Then, I didn’t want to see carrot soup for the rest of the winter. I use quart sized bags now.

2. The Main Event: Shepherd’s Pie by Elana’s Pantry

This is technically a cottage pie, because it is made with beef rather than lamb. However, it

Shepherds pie
That’s the shepherds pie I made — complete with creamy mashed cauliflower topping.

sneaks extra veggies (this one has a mirepoix base, too!) in the topping: it is made of cauliflower. You can use your lovely potatoes from this week too, if you’d prefer.

The last time I served this, we were hosting my 16 year old niece. She is a pretty typical teenager, sweet enough to eat anything I put in front of her, but only enthusiastic about a few things. This she loved. She was seen later in the evening spooning up the faux mashed potatoes and eating them all by themselves.

This makes a lot, so you could serve half and then freeze the other half. Make it soon! Cauliflower is on its way out.

3. Breakfast: Breakfast Cookies!

Seriously! Adapted by the Kitchn from 101 Cookbooks (two of my favorites)

Photo by the Kitchn
Photo by the Kitchn

These are filled with carrots and lots of other yummy dried fruits. The only sweetener is maple syrup. And they freeze beautifully. They are there for you when you are short on time and need breakfast. You can also freeze and put a cookie or two in a kid’s lunch when you are trying to stretch to the next grocery trip.

 

 

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Strawberry Fields Forever

This week we’re featuring a guest blog by Seth Swanson, who has a background in horticulture and agronomy and is the Horticulture Extension Agent with Missoula County Extension. Seth works with producers, nurseries, landowners, and community members to strengthen and improve local agriculture and plant production.  This is achieved through technical assistance and educational opportunities for commercial producers and hobbyists, as well as a variety of on-farm research. MSU Extension improves the lives of Montana citizens by providing unbiased research-based education and information that integrates learning, discovery and engagement to strengthen the social, economic and environmental well-being of individuals, families, and communities. The Extension Service provides coordination, educational outreach and training using current research-based information and resources to address the needs of the public in the areas of weed & pest management, horticulture/agriculture, youth development, family and consumer sciences, and nutrition.  The Extension’s Horticulture and Plant Clinic programs are great resources and offer help with plant care and pest management issues. Bring in samples of bugs, plants, disease problems and they will identify and give information on how to control them. They also answer questions on landscaping, gardening, soils, and related areas.


Winter is approaching Western Montana, and though the intensity may be relatively mild (for Montana), the duration can make for a challenging environment.  Yes, many of us live in this region so that we can take advantage of the seasonal outdoor opportunities, but as March comes around winter’s grasp often takes its toll.  One factor in particular that makes the winter season seem so long is not the ubiquitous gray sky, the shortened day lengths, or the perpetual ice on the trails; it is the lack of fresh local produce.  How we long for the first bits of green or small flowers that emerge from our gardens, or for the seemingly exponential weekly growth and additions of fresh goods at the farmers markets’ and grocery stores.  Once June comes, we are treated with the jewels of the summer; the strawberry.

Strawberries are indeed a symbol of summer, and are embedded in the memories of nearly everyone taking them back to u-pick farms, fresh pickings from the garden, and the cherished preserves that help ward off summer withdrawals through the long winter.  When we actually take the time to think about where our strawberries come from, it may be difficult to nail down a source.  You may have a small collection of plants in the backyard garden, or you may be lucky enough to live in a town that has a u-pick strawberry farm.  Generally speaking, Montana does not have much for strawberry production, just 13 acres for the entire state in 2012 according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.  It is not because our state is too cold to grow strawberries; Minnesota in comparison, has nearly 600 acres of strawberries in production (USDA NASS, 2012 Census of Agriculture).

Anybody who has grown strawberries in their backyard knows that despite their dainty white flowers and ruby gems, these plants can be a mess to deal with. Weeding is a bare, pest and diseases management can be a never-ending battle, and spring and fall maintenance is a hassle.  Think of the labor required to expand your ten foot garden bed of strawberries to an entire acre or ten acres!  What makes strawberries more of a challenging crop is that contrary to the efforts required for maintaining the crop, there is a small window of consolidated harvest for June-bearing plants, and smaller yields over a longer season for ever-bearing varieties.  Yet, there is a huge market opportunity for Montana producers to integrate strawberries into their existing production systems.

In 2015, with the support of funds from the Montana Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Missoula County Extension began working with producers in Western Montana, including the PEAS farm, to initiate a three-year study to investigate alternative strawberry production strategies.  In particular, we are evaluating the efficacy of annual strawberry production in high tunnels.  High tunnels are the unheated hoophouses that are employed by many small producers in our region to stretch the short growing season out on both ends.  Strawberries are perennials that are typically productive up to three to five years, but if we treat them as an annual crop we can eliminate much of the maintenance required.  Treating this crop as an annual will also allow the producer to grow the plants entirely during the productive state, and open up planting space for alternative crops once the strawberries have been removed.

Planting at the PEAS Farm.
Planting at the PEAS Farm.

So here is how it works…  Typically June-bearing strawberries are grown as a matted row system where a single row of plants is lined out in the middle of a two foot (or wider bed).  The plants are planted in the spring, and the entire first year is dedicated to establishing the beds through the stolons (runners) and no fruit is harvested.  This requires a significant amount of maintenance with no return until the second season when the plants bear fruit for a small window in early summer.  Contrary to the conventional matted-row system, the plants in the annual system will be planted in the late summer/early fall at a much higher density.  The plants will then produce fruit the following spring and the plants will be immediately removed.  Once the plants are removed, the production bed can be used for an alternative crop, thus maximizing the return on the available planting space.  Additionally, the integration of hoophouses for the annual system will likely result in an earlier harvest. Preliminary results indicate that annual high tunnel production of strawberries begins five to six weeks prior to the perennial matted row system outdoors.  That means fresh strawberries by the first week of May.

Fall high tunnel planting at the PEAS Farm.
Fall high tunnel planting at the PEAS Farm.
Early Berries3
Early berries!

This production strategy could allow for producers in our region with existing infrastructure, to add a high value crop to their production system without sacrificing the production of other crops, and to make use of the shoulder season maximizing the productivity of their high tunnels.  And more importantly (perhaps selfishly), more strawberries produced locally means more tasty gems at the grocery store for us all to consume.


 

We’ve Got the Beet (Recipe)

Dave enjoying a burger at the Farm PartyWe’ve gotten a lot of requests around here for the Farm Party recipes. And what I think that really means is GIVE US THE BEET RECIPE! It is clear from this photo that a Farm Party dinner makes a guy happy. I posted the Kamut® recipe a few weeks ago, another favorite at the party. Now, let me give you the beet.

I will also tell you the story of how our beet salad came to be.

First we got a group of about six or seven EVST Grad and undergrad students and two Youth Harvest teens who have spent their summer up at the PEAS Farm. These folks have seeded, planted, harvested and weeded and weeded (and did I mention weeding?) to bring food to the Missoula Food Bank, their faithful CSA members, and all of our Mobile Market patrons at (mostly) senior affordable housing around town. Farm Party is a way for these students to team up and show the community what they’ve been up to. It’s a proud moment.

Tuesday before the party, the interns and Youth Harvesters harvested the beets and onions (and many other ingredients). Wednesday, the Farm to School staffers whisked the beets and onions to the Missoula County Public School’s Central Kitchen, where they have fancy machines like the robot coupe that chop and slice the veggies REALLY FAST.

Then, to the UM Catering kitchen, where they are roasted in the oven to perfection.

Then, to the First Presbyterian Church commercial kitchen where they are cooled overnight (because you don’t want to melt the cheese) lovingly combined by the PEAS Farm students and Youth Harvest teens the morning of the Farm Party with a simple dressing and delicious Lifeline Farms Feta-U-Beta.

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The beet salad in action at the Farm Party!

So, without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Farm Party Beet Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sized beets (should be around 1.5 lbs or 4 cups cubed beets)
  • 1/2 a medium Walla Walla onion
  • 1/4 cup safflower oil (or any oil you enjoy, at home I would use olive, but Safflower is definitely more local, if more refined)
  • 4 oz feta (we used Feta-U-Beta from Lifeline Farms to keep it local and organic — whoop whoop!)
  • Salt to taste

How to

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash the beets and remove tops if still attached (and feel free to use for another dish!). Peel and chop beets into bite sized pieces. Chop coarsely, about the same size as the beets.

Place beets and onions on a large cooking sheet (or two, best not to crowd the veggies). Cook until fork tender, approximately 20 – 30 minutes.

Let the beets and onions cool enough so that they won’t melt the cheese when you toss it all together.

While the beets are cooling, combine the crumbled cheese, safflower oil, and salt.

Once cooled, combine all ingredients together and serve!

 

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