We flipped the calendar to fall on Monday, but the first day of leaf season came on the heels of a late-season heat wave. The warm dry weather (and lots of timely irrigation) has juiced the growth of our fall crops, and we have some really great late season lettuce and cooking greens this week. We’ve binned up the butternut squash and given them a little sauna treatment to bump up the sugar content. They are ready this week, along with the Carnival acorn squash and some very pretty and tasty pie pumpkins (of the variety “Cinnamon Girl,” which has me humming a lot of old Neil Young tunes these days). We brought in all the fingerling potatoes and will tool up the digger for our next big project, lifting up the sweet potatoes. We hope to get them out of the ground and sweetening in the warm greenhouse this week, which means they should be on the menu in mid-October.
The dry weather has made putting the fields to bed for winter a little more difficult. We are busy mowing down old corn and broccoli patches, disking in the crop residue, and sowing cover crops to scavenge left over nutrients, and to keep living roots growing in our soil as much as possible. It’s been so dry we had to drag the big gun out to irrigate the cover crops, especially the small seeded clovers, which we were forced to plant in very dry ground last week.
Generally, folks don’t pay much attention to what goes on underground (out of sight, out of mind?) but that’s really where a lot of the action is on an organic farm. Green plants have the amazing ability to turn atmospheric carbon dioxide into sugars, amino acids, and a host of other compounds they need to build leaves, flowers, fruit, and seeds, and also to defend themselves against pests and diseases. What’s not as well known is that they move a lot of those goodies into the root zone to feed the bacteria and fungi in the soil, increasing the store of organic carbon in the soil and producing fertile, productive soils (and helping to drag down greenhouse gas levels in the bargain).
You can see this interaction in your own yard. Next time you are weeding, check out the roots of the weeds and you will see a biologically active sheath of soil stuck to each root that is so firmly attached, it stays stuck to the root even after you yanked the weed out of the ground. The plants feed the microbes because they help solubilize the mineral nutrients in the soil, and in return the plants feed them sugars and other compounds as energy sources. And the whole concert of sun, rain, soil microbes, and plants is the little miracle that puts food on our plates.
We hope you enjoy the farm and the harvest,
Paul, Rebecca, and Lauren for the Fort Hill Farm crew
Featured this week:
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 if you must). Or peel and cube, toss in olive oil, and roast in the oven with other fall roots. Don’t forget to roast the seeds! It should store for many weeks in a dry place between 55F and 65F.
Brussels sprouts greens: we break the tops off our Brussels sprouts to encourage the sprouts to swell, and lucky for us, they taste something like Brussels’ sprouts-meet-tender baby collard greens. These are great used in place of kale or collards, but have a hint of unique Brussels’ flavor. Some folks have become fast devotees and ask about them all year.
salad mix, arugula, pea shoots, head lettuce, curly green and lacinato kale, rainbow chard, fresh herbs, Chinese Cabbage, savoy cabbage, garlic, red, gold, and chioggia beets, limited amounts of Classic Italian, Rosa Bianca, and Asian eggplant, leeks, sweet Italian orange and red peppers, mixed sweet bell peppers, yellow and red storage onions, jalapeño, cayenne, Serrano, shishito, and poblano hot peppers, Dark Red Norland potatoes, Fingerling potatoes, German Butterball potatoes, Satina Gold potatoes, Kennebec potatoes, fresh baby ginger, baby boy choy, limited amounts of salad turnips and radishes, escarole, celeriac, fennel, sungold cherry tomatoes, and heirloom and beefsteak tomatoes
Pick Your Own:
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes are done for PYO this year. You can still find these sweet treats in the barn.
Flowers 🌸 … I can’t believe the beauties still blooming in the late patch. And they’re STILL ON SALE!
Fresh herbs: parsley, thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram, chives, cilantro.
*** Just like last year, CSA members may take a small (mixed or not) PYO herb bunch for free, one bunch per share per week! Please see sample sizes in the barn.
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
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
Recipe by Ina Garten
1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and 3/4- inch) diced
Good olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry 1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon
salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.
3. While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
4. Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Brussels Sprout Leaves with Cheesy Polenta and Crispy Fried Eggs
By Analiese Paik via the Fairfield Green Food Guide
10 fresh Brussels sprout leaves, washed well, stacked, and then cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup cornmeal/corn grits for polenta (not instant)
3 cups water
2/3 cup ricotta, preferably fresh and local or organic (optional)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup whole milk (optional)
eggs (at least one per person)
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a 1 quart lidded pot, then add 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt. Add cornmeal and stir well with a wooden spoon, then lower heat to a simmer and cook uncovered. Stir occasionally until cooked through, about 10-20 minutes, being careful to avoid being splatter as it bubbles up in the pan. Always taste test to see if the cornmeal is tender. When cooked to your liking, add ricotta (optional) and Parmesan and stir well. Cover and hold on the stove at the lowest setting until ready to serve. If it gets too thick, stir in some milk before serving.
Heat a 12” sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add red onion and sauté until it starts to become translucent, about 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add sliced Brussels sprout leaves and stir well with tongs. Do not raise the heat too high or you will scorch the leaves. Add 2 tablespoon of water, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover with a lid to wilt the greens. Lift the lid and toss the greens with tongs every few minutes until they’re limp and tender, but have not lost their color, about 10-12 minutes. If there is a still liquid in the pan, keep the lid off so it evaporates.
Heat 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat in a heavy 12″skillet. When oil shimmers, crack and add eggs one by one, adjacent to one another. Your pan may only hold 3-4 eggs, requiring you to work in batches, or add a second skillet if you’re serving more than 4. Salt and pepper the eggs and cook until the whites are solid and crispy on the edges and the yolks are still liquid. Remove from the heat and cover briefly with the skillet lid if you’d like the centers to set up some more.
Assemble the dishes by spooning some polenta onto each plate or bowl, adding a mound of sautéed Brussels sprout leaves, and topping with an egg. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately. Encourage everyone to break the yolk and use it as a sauce. Leftover polenta and greens can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated. Serves 4, double to serve more (leftovers can be reheated, except for eggs).