Category Archives: River Road Neighborhood Farm

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.

 

Flirting with Tatsoi: 5 recipes for one hot little green

tatsoiWe’re just getting to know one another, tatsoi and I, and this green is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Crisp with a slight heat, and just a touch of bitterness — it is one interesting character.

Tatsoi is considered a cold weather green, a member of the brassica family (cousin to broccoli and cabbage), and many recipes that include tatsoi are called winter salads. That’s because it likes the cold, and will sustain temperatures of -10 degrees Fahrenheit (gardeners, take note!). So Montana is a great place to grow it, and a good reason it is showing up in the earliest batches of your CSAs and farmers’ market runs.

chalkboard

Listen to the chalkboard: “embrace spring greens!” It is that time of year. And there’s a whole world of greens out there to rub shoulders (or should I say tastebuds?) with.  The basics with these greens: don’t cook ’em too much, just add a little ginger, sesame oil, tahini and rice vinegar, and you’ve got yourself a great side. Add chicken, tofu, or scramble in an egg or two and you’ve got yourself a mean stir fry.

If you want to go a bit further, Googling this critter is a bit tricky, because it is not as well known as many other greens–in fact my autocorrect really wants to change the word tatsoi to tats. Hmmm. If you have favorite recipes that include arugula and/or mustard greens, try tatsoi as an alternative. Both of these greens have a little spice to them, and cook for similar times.

A lot of the spring/winter greens are interchangeable or can be mixed with one another (pak choy, mizuna, bok choy, and tatsoi are great combos). These early and quite tender spring greens are great raw in salads, and hearty enough for stir fry. Tatsoi and its cousin bok choy are often recommended for stir fries.

If you want to get more creative, here are my top five recipes to mix up your tatsoi repertoire. All of them are something that you could make on a weeknight — several of them with many staples in your pantry.

ONE: TATSOI & MUSTARD GREEN SALAD WITH GINGER HONEY VINAIGRETTE

An easy, raw salad from Sunday Suppers. And if you want a little more complicated salad, here’s one that made my mouth water. . .I’ve just never been one to follow recipes when it comes to salad.

TWO: GRILLED HALIBUT WITH SPICEY THAI CHILES

A main dish with simple ingredients. Many who reviewed this recipe coated the halibut with panko bread crumbs and pan fried it.

THREE: WHOLE WHEAT SHELLS WITH ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

Wilt your greens in with pasta! Love and Lemons is a gorgeous food blog with lots of solid recipes. This one has lots of alternatives and would be pretty kid friendly and simple.

FOUR: QUICK BRAISED CHICKEN WITH BEANS & GREENS 

This is a great one pot dinner loaded with nutrients.

FIVE: TOFU & WILTED GREENS

This is pretty much the recipe that the PEAS Farm chalkboard recommends, if you want more instructions and proportions from I Can Cook That.

May you embrace your spring greens and have a very happy Father’s Day. Maybe even try cooking some of your tatsoi for a Father’s Day feast? Let us know what recipes you love!

A delicious (and quick!) way to make your garlic scapes

Just as I was about to buy my first garlic head at the grocery, garlic scapes are ready to harvest – hallelujah! Hardneck garlic plants all over Missoula are sending up what we call garlic scapes — a curling stem ending in a bud. Here’s a pile of them after our harvest:

freshly trimmed garlic scapes

I was out with the Community Garden team on Thursday, and we harvested scapes. Garlic scapes siphon needed energy from the garlic bulb, and put it into the blossom. So, we cut the buds and their associated stems, right above the first leaf and took them home for dinner. Here’s Patrick and Emy, my co-workers, at the Providence Garden — just after we finished harvesting scapes. They’ve moved on to thinning carrots. It’s a great way to start the day: gardening with good people.
Community Gardens Staff thinning carrots
What to do with scapes? You can really use them anywhere. You can straight up grill them, you can add them to a stir fry or your mashed potatoes. They make a mean pesto (many of my favorite cooks say scapes make the best pesto, but you are using it raw, so it is gonna be strong, and make you and your breath smell like garlic). This pesto recipe includes a seasonal green, too: chard! You can also store them and pickle them.
Scapes have a mildly garlicky, slightly sweet flavor. When cooked, their texture resembles asparagus. I wanted to have a little fun with both scapes AND asparagus, since they are both in season, and chose Sesame Ginger Scapes and Asparagus, from Montana Public Radio‘s site, written by T. Susan Chang for this week’s recipe. It’s easy, quick, and delicious. You could fry an egg, shovel it on top with a little spritz of Tamari and call it a meal, especially if you are eating alone. Otherwise, it makes a lovely side. It’s actually good cold, too.

Here’s how I prepared it:

I got out all the ingredients. It’s a stir fry, thus everything happens SO FAST.
Ingredients
I chopped the asparagus and scapes into 2 inch pieces. Grated the ginger. (Side note: I keep a few fingers of ginger in my freezer and it has changed my life. Or at least, made cooking many Asian dishes at the last minute possible because I can keep fresh ginger on hand.)
Chopped veggies
I didn’t have soy sauce or tamari on hand, so I used coconut aminos instead. I didn’t have any mirin (a sweet rice wine often used in Asian cooking) either, so as per these guidelines I used Marsala wine instead. I added about a quarter teaspoon of fish sauce to bring the salty back , and balance out the sweet Marsala and coconut aminos.
Coconut oil seemed the best choice of vegetable oils since this is such a high heat operation. I think you could use unrefined, but I used refined because I didn’t want to change the flavors too much.
Heated the oil hot! in my wok. Because my cast iron skillet was crusted in egg from breakfast.
wok and oil
Added the scapes for 2 minutes, till they got a little darker.
cooking scapes
Added the asparagus and ginger (stir like crazy so the ginger doesn’t stick to the side of the pan right off the bat — try to get the flavor distributed before the inevitable sticking happens), for another minute or so (you can cook it a bit more after you add the sauce if needed).
scapes and asparagus
I did my best to push the veggies to the side as Chang suggests, and added the sauce mixture. It took about 4-5 minutes to reduce it to a syrup — it will vary depending on what you are using for sauce.
After it looked a bit like syrup, I removed it from the heat, and tossed all the contents together with the toasted sesame oil. As a finishing touch, I toasted the sesame seeds because I wanted to boost their flavor (and, they’ve been in my cupboard a long time).
finished product
I also broke the buds open and sprinkled their contents on the top of the finished dish. This is a great addition to a salad or something that needs a little garlicy kick.
garlic sprinkles

Recipe (adapted from T. Susan Chang’s)

4 servings 
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 1 dozen garlic scapes chopped into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 small bunch of thin asparagus, chopped into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 1-inch ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon coconut amino sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • About 1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds to finish the dish

See above for preparation instructions, or check out the original.

Happy scaping! See you next Sunday on the Real Dirt.

Save

Save

Veggie train is leaving the station — all aboard!

The Blog

This blog is all about seasonal recipes, great places to get new ideas,  and a bit about the flavor (forgive the pun) of each farm.  That’s this one. We’ll email you a link each week on Sunday mornings to let you know it’s up.

We write this blog mainly for our CSA subscribers/members, but anyone who lives in colder climates with similar seasonality to us in lil’ ol’ Missoula, Montana is welcome to join in the fun. It’s about how to cook and store food that is growing nearby, in your backyard, and in your CSA.

It is also about sharing information. If you have a recipe that floored you, or that you made up, PLEASE SHARE! We want to hear from you. Comment away. Or get in touch. I’ll put it in the following week’s posting!

The details for your first pickup

Bring a few bags to pack up your bounty. We don’t provide boxes (but don’t worry, at most farms we do have extra bags around if you need them.)

If you can’t pick up your CSA please ask your friend, neighbor, auntie, coworker, anyone you can think of to pick up your share for you. (You can repay the favor with some cucumbers…)

If you can’t find someone to help let us know at least 24 hours in advance (or the Friday before if you are a Monday pickup). We’ll be happy to reschedule you. If left at the end of the pickup, your fresh produce will be taken to the Missoula Food Bank or Poverello Center.

Greens are coming. . .

If you want to read up on greens — the bulk of what you will see in CSA shares these first few weeks — give this blog a gander.

The Farms

Garden City Harvest has four farms in Missoula — The PEAS Farm, River Road, Orchard Gardens, and Youth Farm. Each farm has its own personality, some depend more on volunteers, some on students, some on teens learning the ins and outs of farming, running a farm stand, and basic job skills. They all grow food for agencies like the Missoula Food Bank, Poverello Center, and Youth Homes along with food for their CSA subscribers. The farmers provide a network of support for each other, from ordering seeds and rotating crops to creating a seed saving program for the farms. It is amazing what you can do with many hands. It does help the work load feel lighter.

Here are the faces of the people who head each of these beautiful, food-filled places:

Josh SlotnickPEAS Farm – Josh Slotnick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave VictorOrchard Gardens Neighborhood Farm – Dave Victor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greg PriceRiver Road Neighborhood Farm – Greg Price (photo by Erick Greene)

 

 

 

 

Cori AshYouth Farm – Cori Ash

Make sure to say hi to your farmer. We can’t wait to meet you, and see you for 18 weeks this summer. After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

 

Bad goat equals good dust

Molly BradfordHere’s a final post on putting up food for the winter from Molly Bradford, one of our dedicated winter share members, who knows how to put food up like a champ!

I’ve been putting up food for nearly a decade with produce from the winter share through Garden City Harvest’s River Road, also called the grubshed. In my last guest post for this blog, I touched a little bit on using some grubshedder techniques for your summer CSA. In this post I’ll talk about best practices for storing onions, garlic, shallots, squash, and root vegetables: carrots, celeriac, parsnips, beets and potatoes.

I’ve tried numerous techniques over the years for preserving my food, for as many months of the winter as possible, with the least amount of effort as possible. After many years blanching and chopping and drying and vacuum sealing and freezing things like carrots, I’ve come to realize that most root vegetables are easily preserved in damp sawdust.

Fun at Bad Goat Good Wood picking up sawdust for vegetable storage.
Fun at Bad Goat Good Wood picking up sawdust for vegetable storage.

This week my son and I visited Mark Vandermeer at Bad Goat Good Wood products here in Missoula’s Northside. He generously gave us as much sawdust as we wanted. It was actually pretty fun to hang out near the train tracks and scoop up handfuls of these wonderfully scented curly Q shavings, some already damp from the rain.

sawdust
Loading up the bags of sawdust for home.

The first thing I do is add water, a little bit at a time, to the shavings until they are damp but not swimming in it. I don’t want it to be so wet that when squeezed a bunch of water comes out. The next thing that I do is find some crates: milk crates, metal crates, doesn’t really matter. If the holes are pretty big, this is better for aeration. I either line the crates with screen, which I buy by the roll at Ace, or with cardboard that I’ve poked a bunch of holes in.

It’s a pretty quick and easy process:

  • Couple inch base layer of damp dust
  • Single, packed layer of root veggie
  • Enough dust in next layer to cover and protect first layer
  • Another layer of veggies
  • Repeat until crate is full, veggies are gone, or you’re out of dust

The raw veggies, ready to go:

before storage

Then, the potatoes getting covered in sawdust:

sawdust and potatoes

I always reserve a large handful of carrots for my fridge to start, as I go through those the fastest.  I’ll also keep out a little of the rest to cook this first few weeks: 6 beets, a couple parsnips, one celeriac, and a few potatoes.

I do get about 3 or 4 different kinds of potatoes in my grubshed. To keep them sorted, I like to divide one of my larger crates with pieces of cardboard horizontally so that I can create two or three little “bin” areas within my crate. Then I just layer each one of those areas individually after I line the crate with screen. I top each area with a little sticky note, so I know what kind of potatoes are in each “bin.”

Potatoes and sawdust in sections
Purple potatoes organized for the winter.

Don’t forget to check how to dried out your sawdust is getting throughout the winter. You can just use a spray bottle to mist the sawdust on the outside to keep it damp. The stuff on the inside is going to be wetter than the stuff on the outside naturally. Usually when I’m peeling back sawdust to get out some more potatoes or carrots, I take this opportunity to mist from the top and the side.

Luckily the garlic and shallots we get from Garden City Harvest already come dried or cured. But the process that they used to do this really isn’t much different than what I end up doing with my onions. As as recommended by Greg at the River Road farm, get a long piece of twine about arms with, fold in half and knot it at the end. Start laying the onions with the green stems through the twine. After you lay one onion through, twist the twine two or three times in one direction and pull the stem through as far as you can so the twine is tight and as close to the onion is possible. Then layer the next onion in the opposite direction. Twist 2 or 3 times. Then lay an onion in the opposite direction, twist again. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Hang up the onion braids in a cool, dark, dry place so they are not touching. When the onion greens are completely dried out, you can snip the onions off and put them in the big crate with large openings for good air circulation. I store my garlic and shallots the same way as my onions; in crates or metal bins with good air circulation.

Braided onions
Onions hanging in the garage.

If you have a lot of squash, like we get with the winter grubshed, you first need to make sure that you harden them off inside. I usually spread them apart on a towel or a cardboard box and make sure that none of the skins are touching. I let them hang out for a week or so.

We have figured out a storage technique that seems to work pretty well. I rip pieces of cardboard from packing boxes. Because you don’t want any of the edges of squash touching, I use the strips of cardboard as barriers between my squash. The parts that touch can make soft spots quite quickly and cause mold.

The basic technique goes like this. Line the bottom of a crate with some cardboard. Put some squash in the bottom. Put some cardboard barriers between the squash that are taller than the squash. Put another horizontal layer of cardboard. Set some more squash on top. Put some more strips of cardboard between them to make a barrier. Repeat this until you have filled your crate.   I check my squash once in awhile to for mold or soft spots. The lucky thing with squash is, if you get a soft spot, you can just cut that part out and then cook up the rest of the squash and you’re good to go.

Tidbit on last years harvest: this year we ate our last squash in about April, and we had onions, garlic and a few root veggies til May!

Squash
Squash, separated with cardboard. If the squash comes in contact with another squash, it is much more likely to start to get mushy or mold.

This weekend, in addition to packing vegetables in damp sawdust, we’ve been unpacking vacuum sealed fruit that we picked at the peak of summer season like apricots, raspberries, and flathead cherries. Can you guess what we’re making? Fruit leather!  This year’s flavors include apricot almond spice, flathead cherry raspberry rhubarb with vanilla, and sweet asian plum with sour pie cherry, maple syrup and cloves.

Next up we’ll be making a huge batch of that sweet apple cider kraut I talked about in my last post, while my husband is turning all the hot peppers into an apricot hot sauce.

Hot peppers
Turning hot peppers into sauce. . . Apricot hot sauce.

Happy grubshedding!

Curing onions by Jacinda Davis

How to: putting up veggies for the winter

The changing weather signals that it is time for putting up food for the coming winter months. Since each crop prefers different storage conditions, I wanted to share some storage information that has helped me to stretch my local food long into winter (and even spring!).

The Crop Run Down

Potatoes

  • The key to good potato storage is to keep them away from light, at temperatures around 42- 55°F, with a relatively high humidity.
  • Try storing your potatoes in places like an unheated entrance, spare room, attic, basement or garage. Choose a place that is insulated to protect the potatoes from freezing temperatures.
  • Since potatoes like a bit of humidity store them in a perforated plastic bag, but do not tightly seal the bag — air flow is crucial to preventing mold and decay.   Bringing home the goods.

Winter squash and pumpkins

  • This crop stores best at 50 -60°F with a low humidity.
  • Good places to keep your squash are similar to potatoes (see above) with a bit less humidity. Just think cool and dry.
  • Winter Squash and pumpkins are a relatively easy storage crop. That said, their typical storage life is anywhere between 8-12 weeks. Hubbard and spaghetti varieties store a bit longer, acorns a bit shorter.
Pumpkins in the Youth Farm fields by Jacinda Davis
Pumpkins ready to be picked in the Youth Farm fields. Photo by Jacinda Davis.

Onions, Shallots, and Garlic

  • The important factors of good storage for onions, garlic, and shallots are low humidity, good air circulation, and cool temperatures.
  • The mesh bags you took these crops home in are great for storage. Try hanging the bags in a closet, or in an unheated room of your house.  It is as easy as that, and you will have these jewels to spice up your meals all winter long.   A few more storage tips…
  • Be sure to check your vegetables frequently and remove any crops that are starting to go bad.
  • Always protect your crops from freezing temperatures.

Carrots, Beets, Cabbage, Kale and Kohlrabi

  • Carrots, beets, kale, and the monster kohlrabi do best with near freezing temperatures, a.k.a. the refrigerator.
  • High humidity is also critical for long term storage of these crops, so keep them in a perforated bag. Watch humidity, if the bag is full of condensation open it up a bit to let some moisture out. If your crops are drying out close the bag up tight.
  • If you are willing and able to give up some space in your refrigerator for these winter crops they will easily last you till the spring!
Greens by Jacinda Davis
Chard, collard greens and curly kale. Photo by Jacinda Davis.

 

 

Experiment with storage locations, new recipes, and most importantly enjoy!

To Share or Not To Share, Is that the Question?

Molly Bradford This week we have a guest blog from Molly Bradford – a grubshed winter share member at River Road Farm and a master food preserver.  This woman knows how to keep eating locally all winter long. She also is the co-owner of GatherBoard, one of the makers of MissoulaEvents.net and Missoula Indoor Ads. She is a connector of people, products and ideas and a self-taught marketer who finds inspiration where art and business intersect. In her spare time, Molly is an avid yet amateur gardener, cook, skier, and hunter. Oh, yeah… add: busy mom and wife.

This summer is my first CSA.  For those of you who know me, this might seem unbelievable.

The fact is, I’ve had a winter share, or Grubshed, at Garden City Harvest’s River Road Farm since our oldest was an infant.  However, this summer is indeed my first weekly summer CSA.  As with our Grubshed, we share our share with another family. Both this sharing of shares, and the amount of food preservation I’ve learned over the past 9-years has made this a fairly fun summer CSA.

I’ll admit it, though, there have been times this summer where I have been intimidated by the amount of food I was getting on my “on” weeks.  And sometimes I’ve shared my share of the share with a neighbor or used it as an excuse to invite friends for dinner.  Mostly we’ve had more mornings of the best green smoothies ever, my kids (now 2 and 9) have eaten more vegetables both hidden and obvious than ever before, and my toddler’s garden variety identification and vocabulary are certainly voracious.

By looking at my Summer Share with Grubshed glasses, things quickly became less intimidating and more manageable.  Last week Genevieve shared about soup, stew, bone broth, aromatics, and mirepoix.  She must have had Grubshed lenses in her onion glasses when she told you about cooking up a bunch of mirepoix, letting it cool to room temp and freezing in ice cube trays for later. This is where you and I are going – preserving summer’s share for winter.  Get out your vacuum sealers, clear some space in your freezer and start your stove top.  What follows are the most common things I do to freeze summer.

In most cases I find a recipe I like, and then I start substituting with items from my CSA or Grubshed that seem similar, sound good, or just have to get used up STAT.

BLANCHING

I really like blanching.  It’s not nearly as time or resource consuming as canning.  And it tends to start happening when the days are a bit cooler and shorter, so having a pot of boiling water going for a while doesn’t seem oppressive. Don’t get me wrong, this mama likes to can and pickle like a mad-woman. But sometimes I prefer a quicker option for food preservation with what I have on hand.

The basic concept of blanching is to plunge fresh vegetables into boiling water, scalding them for a short period of time, then shock them in a bath of ice water until cool. It stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture.  The length of time is key – under-blanching doesn’t stop the enzyme.  Over-blanching causes loss of color, flavor and texture.  A simple internet search for “vegetable blanching chart” will bring up many great sites from home food preservation to extension services.   (NOTE: as I’ve learned about putting up mass quantities of food for winter, I always read two or three sites through to determine consistency of message and technique before I begin.  And to make sure I have all the equipment on hand.)

Before you begin, make sure you have at least a few big bags of cubed ice – you’re going to need it. (Thankfully this can be attained at nearly any hour from a gas station.) Also, some sort of blanching set up is preferred to scooping veggies from boiling water with a slotted spoon or wire basket spoon.  For water blanching I do large batches with my pasta insert in my stock pot. For steam blanching I go with smaller batches with a metal colander balanced over my stock pot.

Here are the basics:

Chop stuff up into manageable pieces. (Corn is the exception, I keep it on the cob.)  I normally err on the side of mid-chunky, assuming I’ll be cooking them into stew, soup, potpie, pizza topping, pureeing, quiche, etc… later in winter.

Get water boiling.  Follow the blanching chart from above.  Blanch.  Ice bath.  Spin dry in a salad spinner or roll in an absorbent towel (wet veggies = freezer burn).

After they are dry enough, I like to seal my veggies with the vacuum sealer in 2 to 4-serving sized pouches.  Too small, waste of plastic.  Too big, won’t use them after I thaw them, what a waste.

Veggies I like to water blanch and freeze:

  • Corn on the cob
  • Beans – like string, wax, green
  • Greens – hearty types like kale, chard, collards
  • Peas – in edible pods

BUTTER BLANCHING

I’m not sure if this is even a real term… basically, it’s the same technique Genevieve used with the mirepoix. (After a quick internet search for “butter blanching,” I could not find anything of the sort. I learned this term and technique from an old foodie friend, Chef Boy Ari.)

The goal is the same as water blanching: stop the enzymatic process of breaking down the food so it will last longer – and preserve some color and texture in the process – but with butter! (I’m sure you could substitute an oil of your choice that stands up to sauteing – canola, olive, coconut.)

Here are the basics: chop up the stuff you want to butter blanch into bite sized pieces.  Melt some butter in a pan until the foaming subsides.  Add in some onion and saute at least until translucent — I like a deeper flavor and go for golden and starting to caramelize. Add in the things you want to preserve.  Saute until al dente – not mushy, a little under cooked.

Transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet to cool more quickly.

Then freeze in one of these options:

  • ice cube trays – pop frozen cubes in a ziplock – suck the air out before finishing sealing;
  • little reusable plastic baggies – suck the air out before sealing; make tiny vacuum sealed pouches;
  • I like to freeze on the cookie sheet – break or cut into cubes – put in ziplock – suck air out.

When you’re ready to make soup or quiche or pizza or stew, pull out a few cubes, let stand on the counter to thaw or throw in the pan to thaw, and go!  No chopping and sauteing needed.

Foods I like to butter blanch:

  • Morel mushrooms with onion, garlic and sage
  • Mushroom mixes w/ herbs, onion, garlic
  • Mixed bell peppers
  • Mirepoix Caramelized onions
  • Shredded potatoes (potato pancakes- yum!)

FREEZER PESTO

One of the easiest and most satisfying things to do with excessive greens is make pesto or a pesto alternative. The basic pesto recipe calls for basil, olive oil, salt & pepper, pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan cheese.

The substitution possibilities here are endless.  Want a smear for sandwiches, substitute butter for oil.  Looking for more of a spicy, green herb type sauce, think chimichurri.  Not sure about pine nuts? Try toasted walnuts, pecans or cashews.  Allergic to nuts? Go with seeds like sunflower or pumpkin, or skip it.  Same for cheese – Parm, Asiago, and Romano are the Italian trio but any hard cheese will do.  Experiment with oils, herbs, seasonings.

My mother-in-law recommended adding a little lemon juice and grated lemon peel to classic pesto to preserve the green color and fresh flavor.  Since I like to freeze mine in blocks, this was an especially great step.

Just tonight our toddler and I picked the leaves from 2-huge basil bushes from our Grubshed. Right now the leaves are plumping in a bath of cold water over night.  Tomorrow, after I dry the leaves, we’ll make pesto.  We have about 8-cups of leaves, so I expect to have about 10-cups of pesto when it’s all said and done.

Pesto kids -- these are my two kiddos after last year's pesto making extraveganza.
Pesto kids — these are my two kiddos after last year’s pesto making extravaganza.

For large batches I go with tried and true recipes like the one I linked to above, plus the aforementioned lemon addition.  After it’s done I’ll line a brownie pan with parchment in both directions and pour in all the pesto.  Set it in the freezer overnight with another sheet pressed on top. The next day, pull out the parchment sling or flip over the pan.  If you let it sit a moment the oil on the sides will loosen up and it slides out.  Moving quickly, cut this big slab into small cubes – about 2” by 2” by the height of your slab.  Put all the cubes in a ziplock freezer bag, seal 90% of the way, suck out the air and finish sealing.  Making pasta, pizza, soup, quiche, sandwiches, dip, etc… pull out a cube per 2-servings.  Yum.

SALSAS, SLAWS & KRAUT

Have just a few too many tomatoes, tomatillos and jimmy nardello peppers? Or what about that third head of cabbage, those huge carrots and another round of brightly colored cauliflower? Bottom line on salsa: it can be with tomatoes, tomatillos, fruits, beans, corn, onion, garlic, cilantro, peppers sweet and spicy, citrus, zucchini, cucumber, etc… And slaw is great with cabbage, kale, chard, leeks, shredded carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers sweet and spicy, citrus, apples, pear, onion, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, cucumber, etc…

Wait just a second – most of the items on both lists are the same – how can that be?  It’s all in the sauce.  Find a recipe you like, get the basics of the seasonings/sauce down, and then completely mix it up with the fruits and veggies. But for me, the finale is the sauerkraut, or in my case, it’s more of a süβkraut – a sweet apple cider braised cabbage.  This time of year I make a huge batch from this recipe my mom gave me a decade ago.  I expand it enough to accommodate 3-5 heads of cabbage, and I use green and purple for color.

After braising all afternoon, we put some in a separate put to enjoy with delicious sausages — the recipe calls for Knockwurst.  The rest I put in sterilized jars and give a 15-min water bath.  Your mouth will say Danke all winter long.

———

By thinking ahead just a bit, trial and error, and a little bit of reckless abandon corralled with a recipe here and there for good measure, managing the weekly CSA and/or a Grubshed are not just doable, they are edible all winter long.  Freezing tomatoes, braiding onions, packing root vegetables in damp sawdust… I’ll get to that another time.  For now – pick a few things that taste so much better now than they do in January and prepare them for a revival in winter. Then share.

Refrigerator Stews & Soups: their love don’t cost a thing

Stews and soups are a flexible dish, and a great place to start to play with ingredients.  Start with your fridge: what’s in there?  For me last night around 9 pm, it was onions, carrots, mushrooms, cauliflower, and some stew meat.  Stew time!

I got out the slow cooker and got to chopping.

Beef Stew

I modified this recipe for my stew. I didn’t have celery or frozen peas.  But when do I ever have every single ingredient? I used the called for carrots (more than what the author suggested), a big ol’ onion, extra garlic (cause I love it, and so does my 3 year old), and mushrooms.

Chopping veggies

I also added some cauliflower and roasted tomatoes to make up for the lack of celery and peas. All this I chopped the night before.

Onion goggles
That’s me, in my onion goggles. A present from my husband, bless him. If you don’t have a pair, you can always use ski goggles to keep the tears at bay.

This morning, I browned a bit of stew meat (Oxbow stew meat is on sale at the Good Food Store right now, $1 off — perfect!)

After browning the meat, I added it and the herbs (I used fresh parsley and everything else was dried), broth and tomato paste.  I used chicken broth instead of beef — it’s what I had in the fridge and I needed to get rid of it. And set it on low, cooking it for 10 hours.

When we cracked open the slow cooker at dinner time, the meat was tender and veggies perfectly soft but not falling apart.  Yum!

Cracking open the stew pot
The stew cooking.

Substitutions

Soups and stews are some of the most versatile things on the planet — they beg you to SUBSTITUTE and play!  That sweet stew of mine, as long as I had the stew meat, I could have put almost any veggie in there.  Potatoes, kale, broccoli, winter squash. . . So many of these vegetables soak up flavor and will withstand being slow cooked.

Soup is even more versatile. Here is a great universal recipe for how to make soup from almost any vegetable.  The lesson here: as long as you like the vegetable, you can make soup from it. If you are cooking a soup on the stove, then the main consideration is cook time, and adding the vegetables at the right time so they cook long enough to release their flavors and short enough to not be squishy.

Here’s another great primer on creamy vegetable soup from almost any vegetable.

Aromatics are key in making soup — and easily grown here in Montana and stored for the winter. Onions and garlic in your basement.  Parsley dried and stored in an airtight container. Carrots in your fridge. These are the base to almost any soup or stew.  Saute your aromatics first, until they are fragrant, then add the broth.

You can saute this and freeze it in ice cube trays to start most any soup easily, and you can feel French while you are at it — you’ve made a Mirepoix! Then, you’ve got your base ready to (as my 3 year old would say) rock and roll.

A note on kale: is a wonderful soup ingredient.  It gets milder in flavor, and holds up well.  And, of course, is full of nutrients.  Plus — kale the cooler nights add a sweetness to kale.

Two Words: Bone Broth

Bone broth is one of the easiest, cheapest healthy things you can make. Yes, this is your grandmother’s stock — it is really good for you. Read more about some of the health benefits here. It is true, chicken soup is a healing food. No, I’m not going to tell you it will make your bones stronger, but it does have a lot of good stuff for your gut and your body in it.

Use your vegetable scraps and left over bones.  I have a bone bag in my freezer — the fact that it says “bone bag” on it in florescent duct tape grosses my husband out. Or maybe it is the fact that there’s a bag of bones, literally, in our freezer.

In any case, I put chicken carcasses in there, pork chop bones, whatever scraps I can come by. In the winter, every other weekend I fire up the slow cooker and make broth.  I add some carrots and celery if I have it, or scraps of veggies — especially aromatic ones, to give it some flavor.  Definitely some garlic. And a little apple cider vinegar.  This recipe is a great base.  I don’t cook my broth more than 24 hours as this recipe suggests you might, the vegetables can get pretty bitter if you keep cooking them — I usually stick to between 12 and 24.  24 is great because I do it at night when I have a few calm moments, and don’t have to mess with it until the next night, after our 3 year old is asleep, and I have another calm moment.

I hope you will share a few tips and tricks you have for your soups and stews.  Next week, we will have guest blogger Molly Bradford to tell you about how she puts up her winter share. Until then, eat well!

UPDATE:  I just got a question about making vegetarian stews, and how to best do them in a slow cooker — great question.  I had to research, and found that sauteing the base (onions, garlic, potatoes, etc.) and then adding it all to the slow cooker is the key.  Here are two recipes that sound delicious — one for the stove top and one for the slow cooker.  Both sound hearty and delish.

Beeting the heat

Yes, the title of this blog post is a horrible food pun. Please keep reading.

Beet MountainIf you’re a backyard or community gardener, CSA member, farmer’s market-goer, or volunteer, you’re probably aware that it’s beet season. One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve helped out at the River Road Farm CSA is that some people are weary of beets– I see people picking through the selection trying to find the smallest ones. The hesitancy is understandable; until recently, I could only think of two basic uses for beets: raw in salads and roasted in salads. I wasn’t thinking very creatively.

Beets have a deep, rich flavor reminiscent of the soil they grow and mature in. We grow three varieties at River Road: the classic, deeply colored Detroit Dark Red, the sunny orange Golden, and the red and pink striped Chioggias. You might be growing these in your garden, or seeing them in your CSA at one of our other farms. In any case, all have that classic, rich flavor, but the Golden beets are slightly lighter and more delicate than the other two varieties. Another common characteristic is their slightly sweet flavor, which is one of the reasons beets are such a great addition to salads and other savory dishes.

three beet typesBut, let’s face it– no one wants to turn on their oven in the middle of summer to roast all their beets, and eventually the salad route gets old. And, with the sheer numbers of beets maturing and ready for harvest this time of year, some imagination is called for.

As I was eating a beet the other day, I started thinking about utilizing their sweet flavor. It was one of those terribly hot days and the thing I was craving more than anything else was Big Dipper’s pomegranate sorbet. But, alas, I didn’t have that pomegranate sorbet. All I had was a salad with beets, slightly warm from sitting in my backpack for four hours. I wondered if it was possible to enhance the natural sweetness of beets, and use the flavor as a sweetener, perhaps (a ha!) in a sorbet. You can even harness their power in other sweet recipes. Here are a few ideas from our friends at The Kitchn, plus one more way you can enjoy beets for dessert.

Sure enough, the recipe exists and it’s incredibly simple. It does, however, require a food processor. If you’re an ill-prepared college student like me, you may have to borrow one from your landlords.

Beet Sorbet

Ingredients

  • 2 cups beet puree (3 large beets, 4 medium beets, or 6 small beets)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

What to dochioggia chop

  1. Wash and quarter the beets. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then let simmer for about 30 minutes, until the beets are soft enough to stick  a fork into.
  2. Pour the beets and their cooking juices into a food processor and blend until you have a fairly smooth puree. Chill the puree in the fridge for about an hour.
  3. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring so the sugar dissolves. Once at a boil, immediately remove from heat and chill in the fridge for about an hour.
  4. Once both components are chilled, mix them together along with the lemon juice in the saucepan.
  5. This is the step where having an ice cream maker would be super handy: if you have one, pour the mixture in and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sorbet. If you’re like me and you don’t have one, put the saucepan of sorbet in the freezer for 20-30 minutes and stir thoroughly. Make sure to blend all of the frozen bits. You’ll need to keep repeating this step every 30 minutes or so, until you get the desired texture: evenly frozen, not too chunky. 5 times or so should do the tbeet sorbetrick.
  6. Freeze the sorbet for 4-5 hours before serving.
  7. You can add lots of fun ingredients to enhance the flavor! I liked lemon and ginger (I chopped up some crystallized ginger and mixed it in during step 4). I’ve also heard honey is a good addition, as is orange juice instead of lemon juice.

 

A word from the PEAS Farm

Josh Slotnick, co-founder of Garden City Harvest and Director of the GCH/EVST PEAS Farm shares his perspective on the unseasonable weather we’ve been experiencing as of late. His candid explanation paints a picture of your farmers’ experience in adapting to changing climate conditions, and why its challenging to predict exactly what will end up in your weekly veggie share:

“Extreme heat mixed up the months for us at the PEAS farm. We had July in June, and basically no May at all. For the CSA, this has meant some summer treats early– we recently were able to give out eggplants and peppers, an unheard of offering in mid-July. Now, in actual July, we appear to be getting June, so all those warm weather plants put on their brakes, so to speak.

The early heat made the weeds go crazy, but we are getting caught up as our numbers are high. Climate change, thy name is volatility! It appears, unfortunately, we are slower to adapt than climate is to change. All in all, the season is unfolding well, and like everyone else, we are grateful for what looks like a reduction in fire danger. Working in the smoke pleases no one, and Cajun smoked zucchini has never been a big hit. We’ll settle for slower growing tomatoes.”

 

Rolling with the farmies

Garden City Harvest has four farms in our fair city of Missoula: Orchard Gardens, PEAS Farm, River Road and the Youth Farm. Each farm has its own flavor (forgive the pun), created by the farmer, Mother Nature and specific programs that might happen at the farm (like community gardens or youth development).  It is cooler up the Rattlesnake at the PEAS Farm. Scattered showers can hit harder on one part of the city than another.  Hail might ding one farm and not another.

This, my friends, is why we aren’t able to offer a complete list of vegetables for each of our four farms.  Instead, we look at what the farms have on the horizon, and the basics that everyone has now.

So, what’s up this week?

tractoring
The PEAS Farm caretaker, Samantha, working the rows.

Beets

These keep, so bag ’em and put ’em in your fridge if you aren’t ready to deal.  If you are. . . go simple (basil beet salad, using ingredients that will be this week or soon after in your CSA), or go big (beet caviar). Or go breakfast.

Cabbage

We’ve had cabbage for a week or so now. . . Might it be time for sauerkraut?  Packed with probiotics along with the vitamins cabbage carries with it, raw sauerkraut is awesome.  And it extends the life of your lovely cabbage.  My favorite sauerkraut recipe is by Diane Sanfilippo.

Cabbage is also a great topping for tacos, a great bed for salads, and yummy roasted in the oven.

Basil

Oh, basil.  A great Italian herb, and SO MUCH MORE.  Basil got me in trouble last weekend, when my friend made Moscow Mules with basil. (This one uses a basil syrup — not necessary!  Just muddle the stuff – the ginger beer has plenty of sweetness.)  There are so many cocktails that taste so good with a little basil involved.

Now that summer squash and zucchini are in the mix, basil tastes great sauteed with them and a little Parmesan.  Add eggplant and tomatoes when they come on and you’ve got yourself an amazing ratatouille.

PEAS summer school students with GARLIC!
PEAS summer school students with GARLIC!

Garlic

Garlic keeps. And makes almost anything tastes better.  So I am guessing you know what to do. (CHEER!)

Kale

Kale is all over the internet, so I am guessing you can find some great recipes.  Kale chips will almost assuredly be a hit at the kid table.  If you find a recipe that tells you to roast at anything higher than 325, keep looking!

This is just a lovely meatless meal — beans and kale on toast.

And the Smitten Kitchen just does kale right. Check out their Kale Files.

In the Crystal Ball:

I see cauliflower

Cauliflower is great roasted, in stir fry, etc. etc. But have you tried making it into rice or faux-tatoes?  A great way to mix up your rice dishes and add nutrition to your meal.  This cauli-mash sounds cauli-awesome (yup, as usual, bacon included!).

I see cucumbers

Great to add to fresh salads, sandwiches, cocktails with basil. . . I love this Cucumber Radish Gazpacho. And a few ideas from the Kitchn.

A few reminders. . .

  • Eat veggies for breakfast! With eggs, in a hash, in a smoothie.
  • Use your cabbage and collards for sandwich lettuce wraps
  • Salads are a great veggie dump! Here’s some inspiration from Love and Lemons.
  • Feel no guilt if you have to compost or toss some of your veggies. This is about fun and exploration.  It’s bound to happen.

 

An EVST student and his freshly harvested carrots (you'll likely be seeing them this week, too)
An PEAS student intern and his freshly harvested carrots (you’ll likely be seeing them this week, too)