Farm News, October 2, 2018

Farm News

Last week was a whirlwind of downpours, harvesting, late-season weeding, and the last of the season’s field plantings.  On Tuesday we had one event that brought down over 2 inches of rain in an afternoon. That kind of moisture makes it difficult for us to keep the last of the late fall plantings on track, takes us out of roots digging mode for at least a few days, and makes compost production almost impossible.  I was talking to long time CSA member Hillary Stern on Saturday, and she asked me what was worse, the dry years or the wet ones.  I thought about it for a minute, and replied that the dry years make you tired (from all the extra work around irrigating crops), but the wet years leave you a bit depressed.  There’s just really nothing to do but keep forging ahead, planting, weeding, and harvesting what does make it.

Lauren demonstrates cover cropping for our local CRAFT farming apprentice group.

And luckily, we continue to be able to pull some nice crops out of the field this soggy season. We had a nice big plastic roof over our tomatoes, so we were able to get a good crop this year, and our sweet corn didn’t mind the wet weather either. We’ve also had a great potato year, and we currently have 8 varieties to choose from!  Sweet potatoes did well too, and we got the digger out a little earlier this year and have the first batch cured and ready to go this week.  Sitting next to the sweet potatoes in the warm greenhouse are four bins of butternut squash, and they will debut this week as well, all sweetened up and ready to cook.

All hands were on deck for sweet potato digging yesterday.

Now that October is here, we are nearly done planting in the field, except for the big patch of garlic we will plant towards the end of the month.  The greenhouses are another story, and we’ll clean the tomato vines out and plant spinach and lettuce for harvest in late fall and winter.  We are also busy putting in the last of our cover crops. These plants will grow until about mid-November, fixing much-needed nitrogen for next year’s crops, and producing leaves and roots which will protect the soil from wind and rain in winter and early spring.

It’s pulling the vines from the roots that’s the tough part!


The tinges of red and yellow foliage on the hillsides reminds us that it’s time to start thinking about compost.  We’ve got a mountain of leaves to process into leaf compost, as we make room for the next “crop” of raked up leaves due to arrive in November.  And it also reminds us to take time to enjoy the last weeks of warmish weather and the fleeting fall before winter sets in.

We hope you enjoy the farm and the harvest,

Paul and Rebecca, for Elliott and the Fort Hill Farm crew

Michael captures the dramatic sky that accompanies the transition of seasons. Photo by Michael Baker

Featured this week:

Sweet potatoes: we have a lot of trouble growing some crops (onions,); others are hit and miss (broccoli), and with some crops we have a good track record (tomatoes and lettuce).  But then there are sweet potatoes.  Our little sandy shelf above the river was just made to grow these things, and this year has been a great harvest. Sweet potatoes will store for many months at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.  Just hold off washing them until you are ready to use, and NEVER expose them to temperatures below 55F.  We have held these beauties in a warm greenhouse for a couple of weeks, so they should be sweet and ready to eat.  Try them baked whole, cubed and roasted, mashed, or my favorite, sweet potato pie (see recipe below).


Butternut squash:  A New England classic and a shareholder favorite.  Like all winter squash, prepare by cutting in half, scooping out the seeds, oiling the cut edges, and putting face down in a baking pan with a quarter inch of water in it. Bake at 375F until a fork slides in easily, let cool a bit,and enjoy. Serve with butter and maple syrup. Or peel and cube, toss in olive oil, and roast in the oven with other fall roots. Also, check out the soup recipe below for a gingery-turmeric treat. Lastly, DON’T FORGET to roast the seeds too (best part of the squash for some of us): Oil and salt a bit and roast, but watch carefully, as they toast up quickly. The squash should store for many weeks in a dry place between 55F and 65F.

Fresh young turmeric: This symbol of health and the tropics is a challenge to grow for us, because of the long, long growing season it requires. Although we start the growing process in February, the shoots don’t emerge until July, and we barely get a crop by the first frost in October! It’s not a big money-maker for us in CT, but it sure does keep things interesting. Aside from healthful teas, elixirs, and turmeric milk, folks love to grate it into yogurt, shave onto baked fish, and add to sautés and light sauces. Check out the soup recipe below. Stores in the fridge in a waxed paper bag or a plastic container for 10 days.  For longer storage freeze whole in a freezer bag. (Do not thaw entire piece, but rather, shave frozen and return piece to the freezer asap.)


Also available:

arugula, salad mix, tatsoi, pea shoots, sunflower sprouts, microgreens, head lettuce, garlic, chioggia and red beets, carrots, rainbow chard, basil and other fresh herbs, curly green and lacinato kale, Brussels sprouts’ greens, eggplant (limited amounts), sweet peppers, cayenne, jalapeño, poblano, shishito, and Serrano hot peppers, Blue Gold, Red Gold, Satina Gold, Kennebec, La Ratte fingerling, Magic Molly blue fingerlings, and Dark Red Norland potatoes, celeriac, leeks, radishes, salad turnips, escarole, and our fresh baby ginger! 

Coming Soon:


Pick Your Own:

Flowers – STILL going towards the back of the patch. Pick up a Flower Ring in the barn for bunch size.

Fresh Herbs: Italian and curly parsley, thyme, sage, oregano, and cilantro. Feel free to mix and match for your bunch. Some herbs are available in the barn, others are available for PYO only. Pick up an Herb Ring in the barn for bunch size. Please pick only the herbs with signs directly in front of them, as some young herbs are still growing! …

… and NEW for 2018: CSA members may pick 1 small PYO bunch of herbs (mixed or not) each week for FREE! One bunch per share. PYO only. Please see samples in the barn for bunch size.

PYO begins 30 before and goes 30 minutes beyond barn hours.

Recipes, suggested by Rebecca Batchie. For more recipes, check out the Fort Hill Farm Recipe Database


The angel and devil on my shoulders have equal airtime this week, as evidenced by the dual pie recipes below. (Still, I will never touch stevia with a 10-foot pole!)

Maple Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie

By Karen Barker via the Foodnetwork


2 large or 3 medium sized sweet potatoes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 egg yolk

3/4 cup cream

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup bourbon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

A few grinds black pepper


Basic Pie Crust:

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon sugar

4 ounces (8 tablespoons) chilled butter, cut into pieces

4 ounces (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons) chilled vegetable shortening, cut until pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water, as needed


When it comes to fall vegetable-based pies, some individuals fancy pumpkin, while others (like me) are die-hard sweet potato fans. Both are autumnal, both marry well with the flavors of maple, spirits, and spice; but using sweet potatoes results in a denser, creamier texture. Originally created for an article in Fine Cooking magazine, this dessert is always one of my Thanksgiving pie offerings. I can’t tell you how many people have said as they down the last crumb, “and I thought I didn’t like sweet potato pie.”

This is like a sweet potato custard, and you will want to take care not to overbake the filling. Check it frequently as it nears the end of its baking time and remember that it will set up a bit as it cools.

Serve this pie with some lightly whipped cream or, for a slightly twisted take on a tried-and-true Thanksgiving combo, garnish with some marshmallow fluff.

1 (9-inch) basic pie crust, baked blind, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Pierce the sweet potatoes at each end with a fork and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until the potatoes are soft, about 1 hour, turning them over halfway through the baking time. Cool, peel, and put the flesh through a food mill or mash smoothly with a potato masher. You should have 2 cups of puree.

Turn oven down to 375 degrees F.

Combine the puree with all the remaining ingredients for the filling. Whisk until well combined and smooth. Pour the filling into the partially baked pie shell. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, until the filling is just barely set. When the rim of the pie plate is nudged, the very center of the filling should barely move.

Cool the pie to room temperature. It can be made several hours or up to 1 day in advance.

Basic Pie Crust:

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor with a steel blade. Pulse to combine.

Add the chilled butter and shortening; pulse until the fat is evenly cut in and the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Working quickly, gradually add enough cold water, while tossing and stirring with a fork, until the dough just begins to come together. Divide the dough into 2 even portions, flatten into rounds, wrap in plastic, and chill for a few hours or overnight.

Roll out 1 portion and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Crimp edges. Reserve remaining portion for another use. Line shell with foil or parchment paper and fill with dry rice or beans. Blind bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans before filling.


Healthy Sweet Potato Pie

From chocolatecoveredkatie


15 oz sweet potato puree

1 3/4 cup milk of choice (really good with canned coconut milk)

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 tbsp oil OR more milk of choice

1/4 cup sugar or xylitol – Or you can decrease the milk by 1/4 cup and use pure maple syrup

pinch uncut stevia OR 2 additional tbsp sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cloves

1 1/2 tbsp rolled oats

1 1/2 tbsp ground flax

1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 400 F, and prepare a pie crust in a 9-inch pan (I list a crust recipe below that you can use if desired). Blend all pie ingredients until completely smooth – or you can use oat flour instead of oats and stir by hand. Pour the filling into the crust, then bake 30 minutes on the center rack. Don’t open the oven door, but turn off the heat and leave in the closed oven another 30 minutes. Take out the still-underbaked pie, and let it cool. Then transfer the pie uncovered or very loosely covered to the fridge, where it will firm up after 5-8 hours or overnight.


Optional Crust Recipe– Or you can use your favorite pie crust instead of the one below:

1 1/2 cups ww pastry or all-purpose flour (Many readers have said gf all-purpose flour also works)

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup sugar of choice or xylitol

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil (80g)

2-4 tbsp water (I used 3)

Preheat oven to 200 F. In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add the oil, and stir. Add water as needed until it just sticks together but is not yet gummy. Press evenly into a 9-inch pie pan. Put the crust in the oven and immediately increase the temperature to 350 F. The crust will rise, so either use pie weights during baking or just press the pie crust back down after baking. Bake 15 minutes. Let cool. Then use in the above sweet potato pie recipe.


Ginger Turmeric Butternut Squash Soup

Adapted from Elizabeth Lindemann of bowlofdelicious

1 large butternut squash, cooked (see notes)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger, peeled

1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil or butter)

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 can coconut milk

salt and pepper, to taste

1 heaping teaspoon turmeric (or 1.5 T grated fresh turmeric)

roasted squash or pumpkin seeds and fresh cilantro, for serving (optional)



In a large pot, saute the ginger and onion in oil over medium heat until softened (about 3 minutes)

Add the stock, bring to a boil.

Add the cooked butternut squash.

Stir in the coconut milk.

Season with salt, pepper, and turmeric.

Use an immersion blender to blend to a smooth puree (alternatively, you can use a standing blender in batches). Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve topped with roasted seeds and/or fresh cilantro, if desired.



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