Cabbage Harvest Story and Sauerkraut Recipe

Brassica oleracea capitata. Latin for cabbage. From a wild cabbage, through centuries of breeding and selection, came many food crops in the brassica family that we eat today… broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cauliflower, bok choy. This family is very important on our farm, as many of the crops are hardy to the cold and help us extend the season of local food.

hamida with giant cabbage

Hamida found this giant cabbage in the field. It would make a great batch of kraut!

 

This time of year, hopefully before we get weather in the low teens or below, we are harvesting the cabbage for winter storage.  When the big fall cabbages start rolling in, it’s also the time we start to make sauerkraut in earnest at our house. You can make it too. You can find our organic cabbage at our winter farmers’ markets, with Bulk Order for pickup around Massachusetts, and in our CSA farm shares.

filling bins of cabbage

First we harvest the cabbage into rows. Then it goes air-born. Zeinab catches cabbage to fill up the pallet bins.

Sauerkraut is German for “sour cabbage.” Though I would describe the flavor as tangy instead – likely from the high vitamin C content. Sauerkraut is lacto-fermented, meaning the food is made with the help of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria that create a lactic acid environment. Eating this live food is good for your health, because of the live cultures, increased nutrient availability, and beneficial compounds. Read more about the health benefits from some of our local kraut makers – Real Pickles. And more on wikipedia.

It’s one of my goals over time to weave the making of sauerkraut and fermented foods into my life year round. The flavors and health aspects are so compelling. I’ve found sauerkraut makes a good place to start, as it is simple, and very worthwhile.

How to Make Sauerkraut

  1. chopping cabbageChop cabbage to desired size for eating
  2. Salt to taste, and then squeeze or pound to get the water moving out of the cabbage. You can mix in flavorings at this point. See below for ideas!
  3. Pack cabbage tightly into a clean non-reactive container, pushing it down so that liquid rises above the vegetables. You can add water if needed. We usually weigh down the kraut in our glass jar with another smaller glass jar filled with water that nestles inside the mouth of the main jar, then cover the whole setup with a cloth or napkin to keep dust and bugs out of the opening.
  4. Let sit out on a counter, and taste often until you like the flavor, then put in the fridge to slow the ferment. Skim off any mold that forms on the surface (it’s okay, just remove it). Make sure the liquid level is above the vegetables when you check it, as you want to keep the process anaerobic. You can add more brine (2 tbs salt per quart water works). If the top layer gets exposed to air and looks bad, remove a layer, often it is perfect and smelling good underneath. Don’t put in direct sun like these photos, as UV rays kill your beneficial bacteria.

    sauerkraut fermenting

    Red cabbage sauerkraut.

I find I usually like how the sauerkraut tastes after about 3-5 days in our kitchen. I like the freshness and crunch of the cabbage at this stage. You can have cabbage ferment at a much slower pace in a cooler environment – this is how lacto-fermentation was used as long term storage for many foods to help people get through the winter. That is essentially what you are doing when you put it into the fridge as well, slowing down the ferment. But it keeps going and stays alive, and will hold a very long time in your refrigerator.

Salting
For the amount of salt, Ryan just wings it. Fermentation master Sandor Katz says, “In most ferments, including vegetables, salting can be done to taste, without any need for measuring.” He also says that commercial sauerkraut makers use 1.5-2 tsp salt for each pound of chopped cabbage. You can ferment without salt, though salt helps keep vegetables crunchy, brings water out, and makes a more secure environment for lactic acid bacteria (ones you want!).

sauerkraut with caraway

Sauerkraut with caraway seeds. The weight jar is covered by a napkin and the cover is secured below the rim of the large jar in case of dust or bugs. Kinda makeshift.

 

If you’d like to flavor your sauerkraut…
Lately we are fond of caraway seeds, they add such dimension to the taste of sauerkraut, nuttiness and aromas. Some other fun options… juniper berries, dill seeds, celery seeds, ginger, hot pepper flakes, turmeric, apples, cranberries, sweet white wine, oregano, other vegetables. Go exploring!

Another way to go is to make Kimchi, which tends to be cabbage with a mix of vegetables and includes some hot pepper. Here’s a kimchi recipe from Amy, one of our members.

 

 

How to Eat It

sauerkraut snack

Sauerkraut snack.

This time of year we are starting new batches soon after one finishes, and eating them right quick. You are likely to see me eating sauerkraut or something lacto-fermented at any meal of the day now that we are in the groove. Wally likes to snack on it! I am fond of putting it out with a bit of other snacks like carrots and cheese as a finger food or lunch. Raw is best as you get the probiotics. It tops salads, goes along with any meal on the side, and dresses up sandwiches. Great with breakfast eggs and toast. And on bagels with cream cheese. Basically you can eat it anywhere is what I’m saying here. More versatile than ketchup! And it will save you from scurvy.

Further Reading
If you want to delve deeper into the fascinations of lactofermentation I recommend Sandor Katz’s books, Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. If you have read any other good ones, please share in the comments!

Here is a larger batch sauerkraut recipe on Sandor Katz’s website.

bucket sauerkraut

Ryan tasting some of his bucket batch of kraut.

Water
If you add water at some point to keep your liquid level up, beware of chlorine. Chlorinated water can cause problems for fermentation, as chlorine kills your beneficial bacteria. If you have chlorinated water, you can boil it in an open pot to evaporate the chlorine, then cool it to room temperature (so hot water doesn’t kill desired microbes). You can also let it sit in an open container for a few days, and the chlorine will evaporate. Or you can filter it with charcoal filters.

Containers
Glass jars are a good container as they are non-reactive. I got some larger half gallon Ball jars that fit right into the fridge after fermenting on the counter. You can use quart jars or whatever you have. We also do bigger batches in food-safe plastic buckets.

I read recently in Katz’s book about a woman who uses the old style canning jars with glass lids and rubber seals to ferment – she says that she can close the jar and the gases of fermentation escape through the seal when the pressure builds, but it is sealed, so nothing gets in, and she has no incidence of mold. Sounds worth trying.

 

max pulls in cabbage

 Bringing in the Harvest

There’s Max pulling in a bin of cabbage. After harvest, we bring the bins in and store some in our root cellar for the winter. Storage varieties of cabbage will last months in the right conditions. We have a good amount of it this year! Please take some off our hands and make sauerkraut!

Cheers,

Sarah

Bulk Order Online

Winter CSA Sign Up

Winter Farmers’ Market details

What’s Cooking – Our Farmers Share Their Thanksgiving Recipes

Around the farm we’re all thinking about the best dishes we can make for our families with the abundance of organic vegetables we’ve been helping to grow all season. It’s fun and satisfying to make an original dish for our families and friends with the vegetables we have so lovingly planted, tended, harvested, stored and washed.

You can find our produce right now at the Winter Farmers’ Markets, in our Winter CSA, and as Bulk Orders for parties or storage.

Let’s see what’s cooking … 

Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Leila harvesting thyme on a beautiful November day.

 

Leila, our Georgia native, will be flying back home with a bag of Brussels sprouts this Friday so she can make bacon Brussels sprouts for her family. How she does it? First she fries bacon in a pan, she then removes the bacon and cuts it into bits. Next she sautés the Brussels sprouts in the bacon grease. Last, she adds the bacon bits to the plate of cooked Brussels. Simple, easy, and delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

Beet Rosti 

Christina and Kristi enjoy their lunch break in front of our House fields.

Kristi, our Wholesale and Logistics Manager, recommends trying beet rosti as an appetizer this holiday. “The rosemary is a really nice light flavor with the deep dark flavor of the beet” she says.

Ingredients
4-6 red beets (peeled and grated)
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
1/2 cup flour
2 tbs butter

Grate beets and toss with rosemary and 1/4 cup flour. Toss thoroughly and then add the remaining flour. Heat butter at medium/high heat until golden brown in skillet. Add beet mixture to skillet and press firmly with spatula. Cook for 8-10 minutes. To Flip: remove patty from pan with spatula and slide onto new plate. Put an additional plate on top of patty and turn over so that the patty falls cooked side up onto new plate. Use spatula to slide patty off plate and back onto pan. Cook remaining 10 minutes or until brown. Can be served hot or cold.

Caramelized Shallots 

Kristi will also be featuring caramelized shallots on her Thanksgiving table this year. In fact, they were the first to come to her mind when thinking about holiday dishes.

Saute shallots and a few tablespoons sugar on medium heat in unsalted butter. Add a bit of red wine vinegar and salt, cook until brown. Then place sauté pan in the oven and roast until juicy and tender.

9″ Butternut Squash Pie

Packing Supervisor Rich with a purple cauliflower.

Our Packing Supervisor, Rich, says he’s excited to try a variation of the pumpkin pie this year, using butternut squash.

Ingredients
1 9” pie plate
2 cups of butternut squash puree
1 ½ cups of creamy coconut milk, some people use a 12 oz can of evaporated milk
¾ cup of sweetener, sugar molasses, honey, whichever
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
2 large eggs or egg substitute (my favorite is soaked flax seeds 1 tablespoon of ground seeds to 3 tablespoons of water soak until gelatinous.)
1 pie crust (unbaked)

Mix spices and salt together in a bowl then add the eggs (or substitute) and pumpkin puree, mix thoroughly and fill the (unbaked) pie crust. Cook at 400 for 15 minutes then turn down the temperature to 350 for 40 to 50 minutes, until you can stick a toothpick into the pies center without it coming out covered in gelatinous pumpkin mixture. Cool on a rack. Serve. With whipped cream. And other pies.

See more seasonal recipes on the blog.

We hope everyone has a delicious holiday filled with fresh and tasty New England vegetables!

Holiday Recipes with Local Produce

The fall crops are rolling in. Read below for many recipes to try for local feasts and winter dinners. You can order produce in bulk right now for storage and parties – visit our Bulk Order page for the list of seasonal produce.

Carrots in fall gain a most wonderful sweetness from the cold. This fall they are almost like candy. With a little local maple syrup, mmm. Try this easy recipe below….

Carrots right out of the ground

 

Maple Glazed Carrots

An easy side to sweeten up any cold winter meal. 

Ingredients

10 or so medium Carrots, Sliced
4 Tbsp Butter (Can use coconut oil also)
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Ground Ginger

Chop carrots into 2 inch long sticks or slice them into disks. Steam for 15-20 minutes. In a saucepan on low mix together a 1/2 stick of butter a ¼ cup of maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of ground ginger. Once the butter has melted and the spices have mixed in, drizzle it over the top the carrots and serve.  You can keep a little boat of the sauce around for those who like it sweet!

 

More Seasonal Recipes from the Farm Collection

Roasted Watermelon Radishes – Surprisingly sweet, tasty, and so pretty.
Kohlrabi and Potato Gratin
– Rich and creamy
Raw Parsnip Winter Salad - Sarah makes this for fall and winter feasts. Parsnips are amazing raw.
Mashed Potatoes with Shallots – Shallots give a really nice flavor to the potatoes.
Daikon-Apple Salad – Refreshing and light.
Caramelized Leeks and Apples – A sweet and savory side dish.
Turnip Puff – A really fun way to serve turnips.
Maple-Glazed Sesame Sweet Potatoes - yum.
Rosemary Vinaigrette – A nice way to use this aromatic herb.
Warm Maple Dressing with Shallots – Great flavor to warm up a salad, or for slightly wilting spinach or other greens.
Parsnip “Fries”
– A good appetizer
Beet and Winter Squash Strudel
– Appetizer or main dish.
Kale ‘n’ Apples – Stellar fall/winter combo.
Butternut Squash and Rutabaga Puree – Smooth and creamy.
Butternut Apple Bisque
Curried Carrot Dip
German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage - Tangy and sweet, and a gorgeous purple color.
Gilfeather Turnip Puree - Featuring Gilfeather turnips from the Slow Food Ark of Taste. They are so flavorful!
Stuffed Delicata Winter Squash – You can use this recipe with other types of winter squash too.
Coconut-Rutabaga-Carrot Mash
Baked Apples- Very easy, personal-sized, and delicious dessert.
Sweet Potato Pie – Sweet potatoes make a really amazing pie. Most say it’s better than pumpkin.

Visit our Bulk Orders page to see what is in season now. Happy cooking!

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes


What you might read about here below….

Lovely Tomato Recipes…. including ways to preserve tomatoes (Bulk Order Tomatoes Here)

Tomato Tasting Results from the Tomato Festival. The votes are in…

Tomato Trot Race Results.

…Read on

tomato festival

The festival scene, and on the left our wonderful Event Organizer Maria Lane who made it all happen.

We just wrapped on Tomato Festival 2013. Thank you to all who came out – we had over 2,000 guests! Though the fest has passed, we are still swimming in tomatoes – it’s the peak of the season! Our farmstands and markets now have tons of heirloom, red, cherry, and paste types for you to try. And you can also order heirlooms, slicers and pastes in bulk for preserving.

What happened at the Festival? Check out the photos on Facebook.

Tomato Recipes for the Peak Season

We all have favorite tomato recipes. Here are some of ours. Click the links to read the recipes.

ratatouille

Ratatouille in the pan.

Roasted Tomato Basil Salad Dressing
Fresh Tomato-Corn Salsa
Tomato Basil Salad  
Panzanella: Tomato and Bread Salad 
Dekal’s Tomato Bean Soup
Gazpacho
Husk Cherry and Cherry Tomato Salsa
Ratatouille Outside the Box
Garlic and Herb Ratatouille

Recipes for Preserving Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Tomato Sauce Farmer-Style – the recipe Sarah Voiland did for the Tomato Canning Demo at the fest.
Canned Plum Tomatoes

We have half bushels of heirlooms, reds, or paste tomatoes that you can order for pickup in the Boston area and around Western MA at our farmstands, markets and CSA pickups. Everyone is welcome to order.

The Famous Tomato Tasting  ~ Results 2013

tomato tasting

Tomato Tasting at the Tomato Festival, 2013.

There they were – the many many varieties of tomatoes, ready to taste. We laid them out in the tasting barn in sections by type with the categories of Cherry, Paste, Heirloom type, and Red Slicer. Unbeknownst to many there is also another category in our farmer minds – the Cocktail Tomato (which we break out in the results). What is a cocktail tomato… not quite a regular tomato, not quite a cherry tomato, a little bigger than a bite.

If you came to the tasting at the Tomato Festival, you received six stickers to assign to your favorite tomatoes (3 stickers to first favorite, 2 to second, and 1 to third). As the tasting goes along you can see which ones are working it by the collection of stickers on their card. I wonder if we had the votes hidden if it would affect the winners. It is hard to taste all the varieties laid out there anyway, so the outcome is skewed by which tomatoes people choose to taste more. Cherry tomatoes anybody? And I would say the tasting also favors those tomatoes with fresh eating qualities, as opposed to cooking or saucing qualities.

The votes are in. The public has spoken.

Overall Top 20 – Type, Variety Name, Total Votes

Cherry Sungold 130
Cherry Matt’s Wild 113
Cherry Lucia 87
Cherry Black Cherry 79
Cherry Jasper 67
Cherry Esterina 52
Cherry Supersweet 100 49
Cocktail Tomatoes Indigo Rose 49
Cherry Sunpeach 37
Heirloom Type Watermelon Beefsteak 37
Cherry Coyote 34
Heirloom Type Juane Flamme 32
Heirloom Type Striped German 31
Red Slicer Hybrids Mountain Merit 29
Cherry Golden Sweet 28
Heirloom Type Pink Beauty 28
Heirloom Type White Tomesol 28
Heirloom Type Paul Robeson 27
Heirloom Type Anna Russian 26
Cherry Sakura 24
Heirloom Type Hog Heart 23

Thanks very much to our many tomato chopping volunteers, especially Alicia and the Malek family, and very especially Matt and Linda Soffen – who help organize the tasting. Thanks Micky McKinley, Stephanie Clay, Dot Moore, Marilee Booth, Les Gagne, and our other very helpful volunteers!

Top Tomatoes in Each Category

sungold

Sungolds in the sun.

Sungold won best of Cherry Tomatoes – shocking, I know.
Indigo Rose won in the Cocktail Tomato category.
Watermelon Beefsteak took top honors for Heirloom style tomato. What a name – wouldn’t have thought watermelon steak would be so tasty.
Mountain Merit proved most meritorious in the Red Slicing category.
And a three-way tie for the Paste Title, between Gilberte, Granadero, and San Marzano. Albeit with only four votes each. Something tells me they taste better as sauce.

There were some previously reigning champions missing from the tasting table this year, either due to lack of ripeness from the cool weather or other factors involved in harvesting thousands of tomatoes. For example, Federle won the overall tasting one year, despite being a paste tomato. Come taste them next year! And you may well taste them this year if you order paste tomatoes in bulk as they are now ripening like crazy.

If you would like to see the full results from the tasting, click to see the PDF of Tomato Tasting 2013 – All Results.

Tomato Trot 5K Race Results

race

John McCarthy takes first place for men in Tomato Trot 2013.

Congratulations to John McCarthy for first place in the men’s category and Samantha Presnal for first place in the women’s category! A cross-country style trail race through farm fields. Did you run the race and want to see your time? Click here to see the race results.

Trot race photos on Red Fire’s Facebook.

Lots of race photos by Northeast Race Photo.

Congratulations to all runners for a great race!

 

Thanks to all for a great festival! It will happen again next year, round the same time, when the tomatoes start to weigh heavy and ripe on the vines.

Stay tuned for more recipes, stories, coupons and events from the farm with our e-news – you can sign up here.

stand stock

Steve keeps the farmstand stocked with many cherry tomatoes during the festival.

~ Sarah Voiland

Melon Harvest Time at the Farm

It’s melon season on the farm! Check out the photos below to see how we harvest them.

We grow a whole bunch of types of melons. Muskmelons (like cantaloupes) of different sizes, Honeydew, French style melons, Watermelons of many varieties, like Peace the awesome yellow-fleshed watermelon, and Little Baby Flower, the sweetest little melon ever. These melon varieties are superior in flavor to the large commercial types of melons – give them a taste and you will know.

You can now find the melons at our farmstands and markets!

piling melons

First, we pick and collect the ripe melons into “nests” organized up and down the field.

piling closer up

Here’s a closer up photo. Elly, the Granby Harvest and Packing Manager, piles muskmelons in the field.

tossing melons

Then the truck pulls up and the crew tosses melons up to the truck, where Elly catches them and puts them into pallet bins. Precision throwing. Gentle catching.

bin filling

Incoming!

melon tasting

Taste-test subjects.

muskmelons

Muskmelons are easy to tell ripeness, as they blush golden.

searching for watermelon

Watermelons are trickier. You have to search for the brown tendril across from the stem, check the yellow spot under the melon, tap it for a ripe round sound… Ryan searches for ripe watermelons.

ripe

Success!

wally taste

Wally approves the first watermelon harvest!

Sarah holding watermelons

The best part is taking some home to eat! Sarah carries out some of the harvest. Plus a camera full of these pictures!

Keeping Your Produce Fresh – Storage Tips for Summer

early season share

An early season CSA share. Photo by Micah Schneider.

When you come home from the market or CSA you may have a big load of the season’s bounty on your hands. With such a variety of crops, it’s typically not best to open up the bottom drawer of the fridge and let everything get cozy together. In this article, we aim to give some tips for quickly organizing longer, more vibrant lives for your produce. Just a little more time/thought upfront, and you can get days more life.

If conditions are sound, vegetables will surprise you with their last-ability. For example, carrots will store for 3-5 months or more in the right cold, humid climate.

General Tips

  • Perishability – Use the most perishable things first, and the hardier stuff later.
  • Dream On. Look at your goods and dream up ways to use them when you get them. Something strange? Look it up on the internet for recipes and use that one early on, to prevent it sitting for a long while…
  • Smoothies Rule. Try vegetables in smoothies or juices – very easy to make and drink!
  • Stock it Up! – Make soup stock with your vegetable trimmings and anything you don’t think you’ll get to using. Cover trimmings with water and simmer covered for hours, then strain and store in fridge or freezer. Look up nice herbs to add. I like bay leaf and thyme.

Refrigeration is Your Friend

Here at the farm we have 3 large geothermal coolers and a root cellar to store our produce post-harvest. Cooling dramatically slows respiration and break-down processes in produce. Most of your produce would love to be refrigerated.

We make sure to lay thick sheets of plastic over all of the cooler-kept vegetables like salad greens and roots to keep them from drying out from the cool winds. Your refrigerator has cool winds too. Good for getting things cool, but protect your veggies from the wilting and drying effects.

bagged greens with Sarah

Bag up lettuce, greens, pretty much all refrigerated produce when putting away to preserve moisture. There’s Sarah with lots of bags of greens for delivery!

When packing away your vegetables remember these tips:

  • Bag it Up. Never store produce directly in the refrigerator. Keep items like greens, cucumbers, beets, broccoli, all roots, peppers, even corn*, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.
    *Keep corn wrapped in its protective husk.
  • Bunched items. Cut the edible greens from crops like beets, radishes, carrots, and kohlrabi, before storing. The greens will drain moisture from the roots if left attached.
  • Remove rubber bands, twisty ties, and other fasteners from vegetables for better circulation.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables separate. Apples, apricots, avocados, ripening bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, citrus fruit (not grapefruit), cranberries, figs, guavas, grapes, green onions, honeydew, ripe kiwi fruit, mangoes, melons, mushrooms, nectarines, okra, papayas, passion fruit, peaches, pears, peppers, persimmons, pineapple, plantains, plums, prunes, quinces, tomatoes and watermelon all release ethylene gas which will cause your remaining produce to spoil and change in flavor in proximity, especially sensitive greens. Try one of those ethylene “eggs” and report back to us.
  • Try not to wash or chop vegetables before storing. The extra water will create conditions that are too damp and not ideal for crisp, tasty vegetables. If washing before storing, make sure to dry produce as well as possible and store in the company of a dry paper towel.

    carrots and beets

    Cut the roots from the greens when you put away bunched crops to preserve the moisture in the roots. You can put them all in the same bag.

  • On the other hand, Prep for Easy Use. Wash your lettuce leaves for salad and spin them nice and dry when you receive them, it will make it easy and quick later, and you’re more likely to make the salads! Same for other things you want to use soon washed.
  • Wilted from rough travels? If your greens or other items had a rough ride home in a warm car, say, or a 90 degree day at the CSA, you can perk them up with a soak in a bowl of cold water before drying and putting them away.
The gardening department at Cornell University has assembled a useful reserve of storage guidelines.  Check out this link to learn ideal temperatures and how long each crop can stay fresh in storage. 

Don’t Refrigerate These!

tomatoes in wooden boxes

Keep tomatoes at room temperature for best flavor and texture.

Some crops, such as basil and tomatoes, need to be kept out of the refrigerator to maintain optimum freshness. Basil leaves will quickly turn shriveled and brown if stored bare in the refrigerator. The best way to store a bunch of basil is on the countertop in a container of water like flowers. You can also cover the basil “bouquet” loosely with a plastic bag to contain moisture. Tomatoes lose flavor and texture when chilled, so only refrigerate if you want to stop them from imminent death.

Sweet potatoes also are a tropical tuber and they get chilling injury if stored below 50 degrees, so keep them in a paper bag or basket.

Winter Squash – also gets chilling injury if stored below 50 degrees. Around 55 degrees is ideal. Though a kitchen will do just fine as long as you use it in a few weeks.

Okay for Room Temperature Storage

Tomatoes, Basil (in vase), Melons, dry Onions without green tops, Winter Squash, Potatoes (though keep them in the DARK, and for long storage refrigerate), Garlic, Shallots, Sweet Potatoes.

Freezing Makes for a Delicious Winter

Vegetable season in New England is short. But freezing some of your CSA bounty will let you taste summer when sunlight is fleeting and vegetables are from far away. Many items like tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, peppers, greens, zucchini, and the like, can all be stored in the freezer. Everything can be frozen direct, but some things will have longer, better freezer life if blanched.

For example, extra kale can be frozen and easily added to soups in the winter, try blanching the kale (or spinach or chard or basil etc.). Remove the bottom of the stems, wash the greens, and then follow the blanching steps below.

Blanching is a method to deactivate enzymes that reduce the storage life of frozen produce. Steam or boil produce in water for 2-3 minutes (time varies by produce, do a web search for how long to blanch your item). Then quickly plunge produce into cold water (ice in water is good) to prevent over-cooking (let soak for same amount of time you blanched to cool), and then drain and pat dry, bag in freezer bags, and label.
Save your blanching water for soups! I blanched snow peas and the water tasted like peas. Yum.

To blanch or not?
From what I can tell, blanching preserves the vitamins and nutrients in frozen vegetables, and color and texture. Blanching also kills some bacteria. Without blanching you will lose some nutritional value, not sure how much. Blanching also causes some nutritional loss itself (thus use your water as stock for soups!). You can freeze everything without blanching. Some fruits and vegetables have high enough acid that they don’t need to be blanched for nutritional preservation. Blanching takes time, so if you have no time, then just freeze direct and use earlier.

Blanching times and methods at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Cook more corn-on-the-cob than you can eat one night? It’s blanched already :) Cut the corn off the cob and freeze it!

freezing blueberries

Blueberries filling a tray for freezing.

Some things you can freeze straight up

  • Tomatoes can be frozen as is, whole. Their skin will peel off when thawed. Core or chop if desired.
  • Peppers can be cut into large pieces and frozen directly.
  • Onions can be frozen directly.
  • Freezing herbs in water in ice-cube trays, chopped leaves or pureed, makes cubes that are perfect for adding to soups. You can also freeze them loose in a bag and take ‘em out to chop up later.
  • Berries are great to freeze because they make deliciously thick smoothies! Pare them first to remove inedible pieces like stems and pits. Freeze on trays, then transfer to bags, or freeze in serving-size bags.
freezing strawberries

Bagging up frozen berries for storage.

Most importantly, make sure you freeze your produce as soon as possible while it is lively.

Other sources:

Quality Control in Frozen Vegetables – overall article about commercial scale freezing considerations.

Other Ways to Preserve

Jamming – check out our blog post
Drying Herbs – blog post with herb ID photos
How to Store Winter Vegetables – tips for long-keeping and root cellaring
Preserving Recipes on our website, like Bread and Butter Pickles, Pesto, and more.

We don’t have a post on it, but you can dehydrate things too! Some of our crew are having success using hot cars in the sun to dry crops for storage.
And lactofermentation is another great way to preserve things for longer, stay tuned for a post on that later in the fall.

If you have more tips from your experience, please share them here!

~Thanks for reading!

PDF of this post to print, includes edits and comments through 8-4-2013.

The Flower Crew & How to Care for Your Bouquets

Whether you are getting our Flower Share or enjoying bouquets from the farmers’ market or stand, we wanted to share some tips about care for flowers. And tell you a little bit about the crew that grows and arranges flowers at the farm….

flower crew with organic arrangements

Flower Grower Autumn McFarland (left) and Flower Intern Kiersten Wulf (right) and a whole bunch of July bouquets.

Our Flower Grower, Autumn McFarland has been with us since 2012. Last year she trained under Andrew Lacasse as the Flower Intern – and now she is taking over the production and management of flowers at the farm. This year she is working with Flower Intern Kiersten Wulf.

These gals get up the earliest of all the crew, to pick the blooms when the day is coolest, starting at 5:30 am. They harvest in the morning for freshness. Then they arrange bouquets later in the geothermally cooled root cellar.

The flowers at Red Fire are grown organically, so feel free to stick your nose down into them to get the best of the scents. Not all the flowers we grow are fragrant, but many are, and we also often include fragrant herbs in bouquets to help take care of your nose as well as your eyes.

Autumn is very passionate about bringing beauty into people’s lives. You will know that if you meet her, or hear her laugh! She’s found flower growing and selling to be a great way to accomplish that. Come meet her at the flower booth at the Tomato Festival in August!

 Tips for Keeping Your Flowers Fresh:

Flower stems are like pipes bringing water up to the bloom. You want to keep the pipes clean of any bacteria that may grow in the vase in order to have longer lasting flowers. Here are a few methods:

  • Keep your vase as clean as your dinner dishes, changing the water often.
  • Re-cut stems about 2 inches above the tip when you get home.
  • Any foliage that ends up below the water line of the vase will quickly gum up the water, so strip off any leaves that might get wet.
  • Keep your flowers in a relatively cool spot, ideally out of the sun.
  • Remove individual elements of the bouquet as they wilt. Some flowers have longer vase lives than others and removing the delicate ones will help keep the water clean and the bouquet looking fresh.

Home-Made Flower Food

asiatic lilies

Asiatic Lilies are the natural fireworks of July!

Try a recipe of these flower preservatives to fill your vase.

Cut Flower Preservative Recipe #1
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach or 1 crushed aspirin tablet
1 quart warm water

Cut Flower Preservative Recipe #2
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach or 1 crushed aspirin tablet
1 quart warm water

Did you know we also do flowers for special events like weddings?

wedding bouquet of flowers

Sarah Voiland’s bridal bouquet.

You can order arrangements of various sizes, as well as DIY buckets of flowers. Organic, local and very beautiful. Contact us at flowers@redfirefarm.com to set up a time talk to us about your design ideas and what’s in season for your event.

Some event options:

  • Pick Your Own flowers with your bridal party
  • DIY buckets of flowers by color or variety to arrange your own bouquets
  • Arrangements to-order designed by our Flower Grower
  • Have your favorite florist order organic flowers from us to have local flowers for your event

 

Check out our Flowers page for some photos and seasonal lists of local flowers.

Enjoy a gorgeous season!

 

Some Spring Greens on the Farm

 

greens varieties

A drawing of some of the greens varieties we grow at the farm.


Getting to know all of our greens turns making a salad into a craft. My grandmother always surprises me with her salads, adding strawberries or sunflower seeds and pairing them with homemade dressings. I always want more and they prepare me for the delicious meal to follow.

Check out some of the featured dressing recipes on our website.
http://redfirefarm.com/recipes/salads.html#rosemary

Arugula Brassicaceae

Also called roquette, is a tender, dark green leaf and is faintly peppery or spicy. Larger, older leaves tend to be hotter than small, young leaves, but the flavor is variable. We feature arugula in our salad and braising mixes. And also sell it on its own. Tastes delicious in a sandwich with pear and Havarti cheese.     

Mizuna Brassica Rapa 

This Japanese spider mustard adds wonderful textural variety to salads. It is colorful and has thin jagged edges that make it stand out from all other greens. The flavor is unquestionably spicy. We feature mizuna in our salad and braising mixes, but be warned that it shrinks when cooked!

Tatsoi Brassica Rapa

This Asian green has thin white or light green stalks and round, dark green leaves. It is a delicate green that can be cooked like bok choi. It has a mild mustard flavor and is featured in our salad and braising mixes.

Sorrel Polygonaceae

Sorrel is my favorite salad green. We grow a red veined variety, (Rumex Sanguineus in latin). It is typically harvested as a tiny leaf, about an inch to an inch and a half long. And has red veins shooting through which makes it interesting to see and taste. The flavor is tangy, almost lemony. We mix sorrel into our braising and salad mixes. But pluck out one of the tiny red streaked leaves and experience the flavor all on its own.

Spinach Amaranthaceae

Spinach is one of the healthiest greens out there. Super nutrient dense, spinach can be eaten raw in salads or cooked. Try spinach in a simple salad, or lightly braised or sautéed with garlic or green garlic as a side or part of a main dish. You can also try a long, slow cook for spinach, and add butter and cream for a creamed spinach dish.

Lettuce Asteraceae

We grow many types of lettuce in our fields. Right now in the very beginnings of summer, lettuce is thriving with cool mornings and evenings that keep their sensitive leaves moist. Currently we’re harvesting Romaine, Butterhead, Red Oak, Green Oak, Red Leaf, Green Leaf, and Cherokee. Each one makes its own unique salad giving a different texture and taste.

Enjoy!

Wally celebrating the spring greens

  

Article written by Lauren McMullen.

 

Pick Your Own 2013

Note: PYO is only available to Red Fire Farm CSA and Farmstand members.

Not open to the public.

   

Now open for 2013!

As part of your Vegetable CSA membership, you have access to our Pick Your Own patches.  The farm is family-friendly, so bring your little ones and check out our land. PYO includes herbs, flowers, berries, peas, tomatoes, tomatillos, hot peppers, and more (changes with the season).

Late July, August and September are great months to come for pick your own, as by then we’re brimming with crops like cherry tomatoes, basil, tomatillos, hot peppers, green beans, herbs, flowers, and ground cherries.

Pick Your Own is a perk for members that can make it out – we still aim to give all members the value of their share in harvested and delivered vegetables :) . But of course we want you to come out to visit.

Check back here for weekly updates on what’s available!

WHERE TO PICK, GRANBY OR MONTAGUE?
Do your picking in either Granby or Montague based on your pickup location. Details for each location are below. There are sometimes differences in picking limits based on availability in the fields.

     If you are traveling to the farm for over 1 hour to do the picking (Boston area and Worcester members), then you probably will come for picking only once during the early summer season.  This means that when you are here you can pick a lot at once, once the limits have gone up.
If you are a member from Franklin, Hampshire or Hampden County and you can easily make it to the farm each week, then we ask that you pick weekly but not as much each time.  This is why there are different limits posted for each crop depending on where you are coming from.
Farm Stand Members ($300 level) can pick a lot at once if desired, but you must pay as you go (by using credit from your card).  Prices are posted for each PYO crop on the board. There are usually limits on crops for Farm Stand Members also.

What to Bring
Come ready for outdoor weather. Also please bring containers to take your pickings home in, and leave the quart and pint containers for reuse if possible.

Getting to the Farm
If you have a car, share a ride! Meet some other local food loving people. You can post on our facebook seeking rides.

GRANBY FARM PICK YOUR OWN
Open to CSA and Farm stand Members from Granby, Springfield, Worcester and the Boston area.

Pick Your Own details are inside the farm stand in the center of the barn at 7 Carver St., including a map of field areas and a list of picking limits, and often containers for harvesting. You can come to pick any day, hours are 9am – 8pm.
From Tuesday through Sunday, we usually have someone working the farm stand from 9-8pm. Otherwise it’s all self-serve. There’s extra parking in the Brown-Ellison Park next door if needed.

Husk Cherries:
Golden fruits inside paper husks – ripe when fallen to the ground. Remove husk to eat.

CSA Members: Up to 1 pint per week.  Pick extra @ 2.50 half pint or $5 pint.

Farm Stand Members: Up to 1 pint per week. 2.50 half pint or $5 pint

Cherry Tomatoes:
Explore up and down the rows for multiple varieties!

Check the board for notes about when to pick, as we will be spraying the plants once per week with copper to protect them from late blight (the devastating disease of 2009, which we don’t have so far but has been found in CT), and you can’t go in there for 24 hrs after spraying. Even though the copper is relatively safe, there is some chance of it causing eye irritation in some people after it is freshly applied. There is a possibility you will see some of the green residue of this spray on the tomato fruits, and if you do you should wash the fruits before eating.  Copper in this form has a very low toxicity to humans and animals, but it is important to wash it off the fruit.

CSA Members: Pick as needed.

Farm Stand Members: Pick as needed

Tomatillos:
CSA Members: 1 pint per share per week.

Farm Stand Members: Pick up to 1 pint per week @ $3 per pint.

Raspberries:
A few left for the season!

CSA Members: 1/2 pint per member per week.

Farm Stand Members: can pick up to 1/2 pint per week @ $3.50 per half pint.

Herbs:
Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Lemon Balm, Chives, Basil, Parsley and more can be picked as much as needed. 

CSA Members: Pick as needed.

Farm Stand Members: Pick as needed.  

Green and Yellow Beans:
New succession ready for picking!

CSA Members:  2 quarts per member per week or 5 quarts for the season.

        Farm Stand Members: As needed @ $3.00 per quart.

Hot Peppers: Jalapeno, cherry bomb, anaheim, cayenne, and others.
CSA Members: Pick as needed.     

Farm Stand Members: Pick as needed.

Sweet Mini Peppers:
CSA Members: Up to 5 fruits per week for now.       

Farm Stand Members: Up to 5 fruits per week for now @ $.25 per fruit.

Flowers:
CSA Members: 20 stems per member per week. And up to 7 sunflowers!

Farm Stand Members: 15 stems per member per week. And up to 5 Sunflowers!

MONTAGUE FARM PICK YOUR OWN

We now have a patch in Montague! The field is at 184 Meadow Road, in front of the large greenhouse. This section is small, so it’s got capacity for Montague, Amherst and Northampton area members only! 

Please park on the grass along Meadow Road, not blocking any thruways or driveways. Also at head of driveway up to large greenhouse, not blocking the driveway.

Pick Your Own information is at the large old tobacco barn next to Meadow Road near the red hand-painted Red Fire Farm hanging sign. Pick Your Own details will be there, including an informational map attached to the side of the barn facing the road, a list of picking limits, and often containers for harvesting and measuring. Bring containers to take things home!

Self-serve. You can come to pick any day 9am – 8pm. There will be a log book, so you can keep track of your picking if you are at the $300 Farm stand member level, as those members pay half of retail price for PYO items. Please tally your purchases as you go, and we will process them periodically at the office. PYO for CSA level members is free up to limits provided.

Husk Cherries:
Golden fruits inside paper husks – ripe when fallen to the ground. Remove husk to eat.

CSA Members: 1/2 pint per member per week. Up to 2 pints for the season for one-time pickers. Pick more @ $2.50 per half pint.

Farm Stand Members: 1/2 pints @ $2.50 per half pint.

       Cherry Tomatoes:
      Explore up and down the rows for multiple varieties!

     Check the board for notes about when to pick, as we will be spraying the plants once per week with copper to protect them from late blight (the devastating disease of 2009, which we don’t have so far but has been found in CT), and you can’t go in there for 24 hrs after spraying. Even though the copper is relatively safe, there is some chance of it causing eye irritation in some people after it is freshly applied. There is a possibility you will see some of the green residue of this spray on the tomato fruits, and if you do you should wash the fruits before eating.  Copper in this form has a very low toxicity to humans and animals, but it is important to wash it off the fruit.

All sorts of fun and delicious shapes, sizes and varieties! 

CSA Members: Pick as needed.

Farm Stand Members: Pick as needed.

Tomatillos: 

CSA Members: 1 pint per share per week.

Farm Stand Members: Pick up to 1 pint per week @ $3 per pint.

Herbs: Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Lemon Balm, Tarragon, Chives,  basil and parsley can be picked by all members as much can be used.

Hot Peppers: Jalapeno, habanero, serrano, super chile, cayenne, and others.

CSA Members: Pick as needed.

Farm Stand Members: Pick as needed @ $.25 per fruit. 

Sweet Mini Peppers: 
CSA Members: Up to 5 fruits per week for now.       

Farm Stand Members: Up to 5 fruits per week for now @ $.25 per fruit.

Flowers:
CSA Members: 20 stems per member per week including up to 7 sunflowers.

Farm Stand Members: 20 stems per member per week including up to 7 sunflowers.

Fun things to do in Montague:

map to stand

Ryan’s handwritten map to the farm stand in Montague. Also features the Bookmill – great place for snacks and beer. And books.

  • Visit our Old Depot Gardens farm stand at 504 Turners Falls Road in Montague, very cute, with our produce and tasty local products.~ 2 miles from the farm.
  • Check out the Bookmill, cafe with waterfall, used bookstore, cd shop, art gallery, beer. 1/4 mile from the farm stand.

Enjoy the season and the fields!

Spring on the Farm

Now that we have passed almost an entire month since the Spring equinox, the farm has been buzzing with activity! We are beginning to get many of our seasonal vegetables transplanted into the fields for the major harvest season, preparing for the opening of Red Fire farmstands in Granby and Montague on Saturday April 27, and spreading news of Red Fire’s various CSA share plan offerings.

A new greenhouse is being built, spring harvests continue, seeding flies along in the greenhouse and field, and the first flowers are beginning to bloom. Read on to see pictures. We can’t wait for the summer months while we keep you all updated on what we’re planting, growing, and sharing here!

Sign up for a Red Fire Farm CSA Share today!

1) Did you know that when you sign up for our Farm Stand Membership, you receive an immediate 10% discount on all our products & all our local friends’ products?

Now you do! Whether you want to stop in Granby, Montague, or visit us at a local farmer’s market- a Farm Stand Membership is a great way to choose your own seasonal fresh veggies and fruit or various other local provisions we sell at the stands – on your schedule.

2) True or False: there are over 15 Red Fire Farm CSA pick-up location options throughout the week for our Farm Share members?

True, of course! From downtown Boston to Springfield, MA and cities in between- enjoy Red Fire Farm’s organic vegetables and fruit on a weekly basis. If you can’t pick it up, inquire within [info@redfirefarm.com] about our home delivery options. Not only do you receive a weekly batch of our locally-grown goodies but you’re also able to have a Pick-Your-Own adventure at either farm and a weekly newsletter with farm news & updates.

3) Is it possible to brighten up your kitchen with the many beautiful flowers grown at Red Fire Farm? Want a CSA fruit share with strawberries, blueberries, apples, plums, etc? Maybe you want to eat eggs from a local certified organic farm in a weekly CSA offering?

Yes- to all of these options! We have various CSA plans for interested folks and are deeply invested in making healthy and nutritious eating options available to as wide an audience as possible. You can review all of these offerings at our main site here.

farmers market

Evan shows off the wares at market.

Spring Crop highlights

Kale

spring kale in tunnel

A rip in the row cover lets us see the over-wintered kale growing inside.

A growing favorite amongst our CSA members, this brassica is growing in our overwintered tunnels and will continue to grow in abundance throughout the approaching seasons.

This time of year you can find kale in our Braising Mix of cooking greens. Later in the summer, as bunches that come by variety, Red Curly, Lacinato, Red Russian and more.

Kale is high in Vitamins C and K, rich in calcium, and has many nutrients which are connected to fighting cancer. There are tons of ways to produce this flavorful- sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet- leafy green but one favorite would be a massaged kale and avocado salad.

Strawberries

Who’s excited about the first strawberries of the season?

wally in the strawberries

The strawberry plants are now uncovered, and Wally can play in them! He doesn’t know yet about the delicious berries to come. The suspense.

Whether you want to make preserves or the family’s strawberry shortcake recipe, this crop first bears fruit beginning in late May or early June. This year, Red Fire Farm’s Strawberry Soiree will be on June 22nd when our strawberries are in peak abundance.

Lettuce

Mark drives the transplanting tractor with Joanna and Max on the back planting the rows.

Lettuce will soon be ready! Red Fire grows different lettuce varieties such as green and red butterhead, romaine, oak leaf, and green leaf. The lettuce is currently maturing in the greenhouse before being transplanted into our field where it is then harvested for your table. Our organic lettuce is a great local alternative to the lettuce you can buy in the big-box grocers.

Asparagus

asparagus field after harrowing

The asparagus field in April.

A little later on in May, we shall see the stalks of asparagus rising from the rows in this field above. Then we pick them quick as can be to sell in the farmstands and markets.

Tomatoes – Plants for Your Garden!

Tomatoes! Even though our annual Tomato Festival is at the end of August (the 24th), nearly 100 different types are grown on our farm starting in the Spring and continuing throughout the Summer. Find our favorite varieties for sale as plants at the farmstands this spring for your garden!

Whether you enjoy them with fresh mozzarella and basil or mixed among some lettuce, tomatoes are a delicious treat that we love sharing. Learn more about growing tomatoes in our earlier blog post.

Farmstands Opening in Montague and Granby

penny mix pansies
Join us as our farmstands open in Granby and Montague! Both stands will open on Saturday April 27th. Open 7 days a week.

The early bird catches the worm! It’s a perfect time to pick up bedding plants for your garden. Choose from perennial herbs and early flower varieties like snapdragons, pansies, and petunias. We’ll also have early season organic produce available! Expect to see salad mix, spinach, black radishes, early greens, green garlic, and some others.

As it gets closer toward the middle of May, we’ll begin carrying more tender plants like tomato and pepper starts for your gardening needs. Of course, some of our favorite local products will be in stock too like eggs, sauerkraut, maple syrup, and milk on opening day.

Learn about our Farmstand Membership, our CSA, and what we’ll have at the stand this year. Help us welcome in spring and support our local economy! Both stands open 7 days a week from April 27th through October.

Gardening Party and Samples at the Stands on Saturday May 25th. Come and visit!

Red Fire Farmstand: 7 Carver St., Granby, MA.

Old Depot Gardens Farmstand: 504 Turners Falls Rd., Montague, MA (¼ mile up road from The Bookmill).

Farmers’ Markets Open This Spring in Amherst, Springfield and Boston! Market times and dates on the stand and market page.

Thank you for reading, and Happy Spring!

~ The crew at Red Fire Farm.