Everywhere you look this past week, the landscape just screamed “New England fall.” Bright fall foliage (mostly), clear skies, crisp apples, and butternut squash and pumpkins. Meanwhile, the lack of a hard frost means that the fall crops keep trucking along, with peppers, broccoli, some crazy nice lettuce and salad mix, and even tomatoes in great abundance. The sweet potatoes are dug, sweetened up in a warm greenhouse, and ready for roasting. And jack o’lantern pumpkins and butternut squash are on sale this week in the spirit of the season.
For us peak foliage is a reminder that its compost making time, because as pretty as it is right now, by the end of the month the leaves come down, and the leaf peeper show is over. We work with local landscapers and take all the yard leaves they can bring us. We make a huge leaf pile in November, and then the following October we put a lot of human and tractor energy into transforming the mess into compost. We feed the decaying leaves and old veggie trimmings through a manure spreader to make some beautiful black leaf compost, which forms the basis of our fertility program for long term crops like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, garlic, strawberries, broccoli, cucumbers, and squash.
Compost adds some nutrients, but more importantly it provides foods for the microbes so critical to a healthy soil. Each application acts as a sponge, helping to increase the water holding capacity of our sandy soil, and its benefits extend to future crops. It’s one of my favorite cycles on the farm.
Farming with compost is very labor intensive, which is why “Big Organic” eschews this process in favor of more soluble forms of nutrients, and “Big Hydroponic pseudo Organic” skips soil all together. But compost, cover crops, and raw rock minerals combine to do some great magic in soil, and you can taste the difference. We still farm this way, and given a little push from some favorable weather, hope that our soil, fields, muscles, and ingenuity bring peak flavor to our crops.
We hope you enjoy the farm and the harvest,
Paul, Rebecca, and Lauren for the Fort Hill Farm crew
Featured this week:
Radicchio: While radicchio is one of those vegetables people either love or hate (with most folks falling into the latter category), this is Luca’s and my go-to salad. We drizzle his with a sweet, reduced balsamic and mine with a mildly sweet white balsamic, sometimes sprinkled with apples (see the fancier recipe below). The outer, bitter maroon leaves are matched with a crunchy sweetness of the white parts. Luca actually asked me if we could bring plain radicchio leaves as a snack for his class!!! I tried to leave the issue vague but hinted that some kids might not like it. Like all of the bitters, radicchio is an incredibly healthful green. It also gets the award for being the most misspelled vegetable, hands down (and mispronounced too: ra-ˈdē-kē-ō). Store in the fridge like you would a head of lettuce. A somewhat difficult crop to grow, we are thrilled to see these beauties in their autumn glory.
Red and French Breakfast Radishes: A beautiful fall crop, with the warm weather giving them quite a kick. Slice, chop, or shred into your salads. Radishes are wonderful in Asian slaws! They are also tasty cooked (see recipe below). And the greens can be sautéed just like any mustard green.
salad mix, arugula, baby red kale, pea shoots, head lettuce, curly green and lacinato kale, rainbow chard, collards, spinach, fresh herbs, Chinese and green cabbage, garlic, red, gold, and chioggia beets, limited amounts of Classic Italian, Rosa Bianca, and Asian eggplant, leeks, sweet Italian orange and red peppers, limited amounts of mixed sweet bell peppers, 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 and fresh turmeric, baby boy choy, salad turnips, escarole, celeriac, fennel, parsnips, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, sungold cherry tomatoes, and heirloom and beefsteak tomatoes
Brussels sprouts, rutabagas
Pick Your Own:
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes are done for PYO this year. You can still find these sweet treats in the barn.
Flowers: there are still some beautiful blooms out there
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
Radicchio and Apple Salad with Parmesan Crisps
From Christopher Testani via Bon Appetit
6 ounces Parmesan, finely grated, divided
2 tablespoons honey
½ small shallot, finely chopped
⅓ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium heads of radicchio, leaves separated, torn in half if large
1 bunch medium arugula, tough stems removed
1 large Pink Lady apple, thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
Preheat oven to 350°. On a silicone mat–lined baking sheet, divide 4 oz. grated Parmesan into 8 mounds. (Alternatively, line with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray.) Press with your fingers to flatten. Bake until cheese is golden and melted, 6–8 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool; break crisps into coarse pieces.
Heat honey in a small skillet over medium heat until warmed through. Whisk honey, shallot, oil, vinegar, and mustard in a large bowl; season with kosher salt and pepper.
Add radicchio, arugula, apple, and remaining grated Parmesan to vinaigrette; toss to coat. Season with sea salt and pepper. Serve topped with crisps.
DO AHEAD: Vinaigrette and Parmesan crisps (do not break) can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill vinaigrette. Keep crisps airtight at room temperature. Reheat until sizzling, if needed, to recrisp. Serves 8.
We think of radishes as refreshing, crunchy, and colorful little orbs for spicing up salads…well, they get nice and sweet when sautéed, roasted, etc.
1 tablespoon butter
20 radishes, ends trimmed and radishes cut in half
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Heat butter in a skillet over low heat; arrange radishes, cut side-down, in the melted butter. Season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until radishes are browned and softened, about 10 minutes.