Thursday, April 28, 2011

CSA - Contents for April 28, 2011


This weeks CSA Farm Share packages include:

Beets (Red) and/or Beets (Golden)
Radishes (Red)
Chard (Variety)
Turnips (White)
Green Beans

Cucumber (Burpless)
Green Garlic and/or Green Leaf Lettuce
Fava Beans
Mustard Greens
Large boxes saw:

Tomatoes (Roma)

Item Origins: Maciel Family Farms (Bonsall, CA), Bonsall Farms (Vista, CA)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

CSA - Contents for April 21, 2011


This weeks CSA Farm Share packages include:

Beets (Red)
and/or Beets (Golden)
Radishes (Red)
Chard (Variety)
Green Garlic or Leeks

Green Beans
Flower bundle (Stock)

Medium boxes saw:
Green Leaf Lettuce

Item Origins: Maciel Family Farms (Bonsall, CA), Bonsall Farms (Vista, CA)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mushroom Party! Those Eryngiis and Maitakies know what's up.

Saturday night we had ourselves a little mushroom party. Well, really we were just experimenting with mushrooms, but why not make it into a party too? We have a smoker and we use it quite often to cook all kinds of amazing cuts of meat. I have to say that although meat is quite grand, one of my favorite things to put on the smoker is vegetables. Smoked corn on the cob, peppers and even onions have an amazing taste when thrown in and left to absorb the sweet and smoky flavors of hickory, cherry, mesquite and the like. Since we were already smoking ribs Saturday it was the perfect time to try smoked mushrooms.
I had an assortment of Eryngii (King Oyster), Maitake (Hen of the Woods), Portobello, Crimini, and White Button mushrooms that really needed to get used up.
To prepare them I cut them all about a third of an inch thick.
Mushroom amazingness!
We don't have any fancy attachments to our smoker, like a grill basket, so we had to make do. With some of the larger portobello and eryngii slices it was easy to lay them on the grill top, but for some of the smaller pieces that wouldn't work. A little handmade foil tray worked perfectly and was easy to clean up.
For our mushrooms we decided that all we wanted to use was olive oil, salt and a little pepper. We wanted to really be able to taste the mushrooms so we didn't use anything that would take away from their natural taste.
A quick basting with olive oil and we closed the lid to the smoker.
My mouth is watering...
We took them off as soon as they started to turn golden brown. And the results? AMAZING. The mushrooms were tender and juicy with a incredible flavor brought out by the mesquite. This was an insanely easy way to prepare mushrooms and I certainly think we did it in a way that allowed the mushrooms true taste to take the spotlight. We will definitely do this again!

We had leftover mushrooms after Saturday nights feast and decided that a great way to use up the leftovers was mushroom burgers. We diced up what we had left over and mixed it up with our hamburger meat, which made for one of my favorite homemade hamburgers to date. Delicious!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Shields Date Garden, Indio, CA

Last weekend we took a trip out to Palm Springs for the weekend. We went just for fun, but if you know us you'd know that we will often try to find a farm or at least something interesting about food wherever we are. Near Palm Springs is farm town called Indio, which is a major growing region for warm weather crops, namely citrus and dates. A quick drive from Palm Springs to Indio took us to Shields Date Gardens where we learned about the farm, date production and how ridiculously long it takes to grow a producing date palms. I had no idea how valuable dates were!
We were a little disappointed when we got there because they didn't actually let us go out into the groves, but what we could see from behind the fence it was enough and we learned quite a bit about these incredible little fruits while we were there. Mr. Shield and his wife showed up in Indio in 1924 and decided that was the place for them, and for their date farm. The gardens had a short movie you could watch which educated consumers about how dates are grown and harvested. Date palms take a long time to grow - like 7-10 years until commercial production can begin. I remember the video saying some take closer to 30 years which is insane.
The dates at the Shields farm are pollinated by hand, which means the farmers have to climb to the top of each palm and pollinate it (see the ladders?). This ensures a good fruit onset, and since you get one harvest a year, doing it right the first time is not taken lightly. When the dates ripen they do not ripen all at once and because of this date pickers will pick the tree 6 to 8 times a season. You can see in the image below that the fruit bearing sections of the tree are covered by a canvas material. We learned that the dates have to stay as dry as they can to avoid the fruit falling off or becoming damaged. Rain is actually quite an enemy to the fruit for these reasons. The palm groves are irrigated by flooding them, which is traditional to their origins middle east origins, and at the same time removes the damage threat over head water poses. Here in Indio as well as the rest of the Coachella Valley dates are picked in the fall - late September through December. 
The little store at the gardens was packed with all kind of varieties of dates and date products. When kept properly dates can last months. I decided that trying the date shake they sold was the best idea, and it was amazing!
If you would like to read more about dates I found a great article here, which is from the Ag Dept at Purdue University.

Shields Date Gardens
80-225 U.S. Highway 111
Indio, CA  92201

Thursday, April 14, 2011

CSA - Contents for April 14, 2011


This weeks CSA Farm Share packages include:

Beets (Red)
Radishes (Red)
Radishes (French Breakfast)
Purple Cabbage
Green Garlic
Blood Oranges
Mushrooms (may include Bunapi, Bunashimeji, Maitake, and/or Eryngii)

Large boxes also saw:
Golden Beets
Spinach (instead of Kale)

Item Origins: Maciel Family Farms (Bonsall, CA) Bonsall Farms (Vista, CA), Woodson Family Farms (Fallbrook, CA)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

French Breakfast Radishes :: Spicy Little Things!

Les radis petit déjeuner... in English: Breakfast radishes. I've read that French Breakfast radishes are not near as spicy as some. I guess I haven't tried very many really spicy varieties because these ones had quite a kick in my opinion - more like that feeling that hollow stinging sensation that wasabi gives your sinuses, rather than a hot sauce that just gets your tongue. The French often eat them halved and raw, with butter and salt. Their crispy texture lend nicely to salads too, or eaten as themselves. Radishes are beautiful, especially the two toned varieties such as these - it's like a paint brush has gently dabbed the ends.
I think its worth noting that when seeking uses for special items such as French Breakfast radishes looking to other cultures for guidance is important. It is likely that my view of lovely vegetables such as these has been tainted by my long time American "super market" mindset. The first thing that comes to mind when I see the word "radish" is "salad." Radishes in salads are really quite nice, but you will do a mighty injustice to this fantastic root if that is all they are used for. I've read that goat cheese is quite nice spread over halved radishes, sprinkled with bits of black olive. Slices layered atop bread, butter sea salt and parsley are also a fantastic way to have these.
I can just imagine strolling along a European marketplace in the spring, bunches of radishes overflowing from market stands. It will be lovely to experiment with breakfast, given the addition of these wonderful little roots.
Les beaux petits chéris...
Nutrition: Radishes are rich in ascorbic acid, folic acid, and potassium and are a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and calcium. We need to eat more of these! The greens are also completely edible and actually have a sweet flavor with a nice texture and crunch. Tops should be eaten in the first day or so, before they wilt.