2016 CSA Week 7

We are so happy with the amount of rainfall we've gotten this year, including another 3/4” last week. We love seeing water easily absorbing into the garden with no run-off or standing water. This is a sign of good planning for the direction and slope of our permanent raised beds, and also testament to the value of mulching, incorporating hay, and adding compost over the years to boost the organic matter in the soil.

We do most of our farm projects in the 'shoulder season' when the ground thaws out in March, or just up until the ground freezes solid some time in late November. We try not to do any building, fencing, or other infrastructure work during the weeks of market. Despite best intentions, we added an infrastructure project last week: moving some fence and breaking ground for beds that will go into production two years from now. Two years may seem like a bit of overkill on pre-planning. But, we are just now starting to understand how to build soil fertility without working ourselves to death.

Generally, we follow a type of minimal tillage, intensive, vegetable farming practice using permanent raised beds. It's pretty far down the rabbit-hole of sustainable agriculture and is certainly not the only way to grow a sustainable farm; there are MANY ways to have a sustainable farm! To really get a sense of what we are doing, we will have a Farm Tour later in the season, but in short, we put a lot into the garden beds and once they are established we only work the top two inches of soil. This approach creates beds that are fertile, full of microbial life, and incredibly productive.

Last week we broke ground for 50 new- 30 inch wide by 100 foot long beds. These will be cultivated for the rest of the season. Tillage will kill quack grass by exposing the roots to the coming warm, dry days. This fall, the beds will be covered with tarps so we don't leave them bare through the winter. In the spring they will be cultivated a few more times to get remaining quack grass, and then seeded for the whole season to a cover crop, which will be flail-mowed in early fall, covered with tarps again to let the earthworms do their work of reincorporating the crop residue into the soil, the tarp will be removed and we will shape the permanent raised beds, add compost, and finally plant in 2018! If you see Jay this week, give him a gentle pat on the shoulder for a job well done. He moved a bunch of fence in the last week!

Partial Share 
Carrots - Partial Bundle
Salad Mix - Partial Bag
Rainbow Chard - Partial bundle
Bulb Fennel - 1 Small
Dark Red Beets - Partial Bundle 
Mini Onions - Partial Bundle 
Cauliflower OR Broccoli - Small Head 
Sugar Snap Peas - Just a few 

Full Share
Carrots - Bundle
Salad Mix - Bag
Rainbow Chard - Bundle
Bulb Fennel - 1
Dark Red Beets - Bundle
Mini Onions - Bundle
Cauliflower OR Broccoli - 1 Head
Sugar Snap Peas - Just a few more

Everything this week is probably pretty familiar – except the bulb fennel.
Fennel Tops
The tops of your fennel can be used as an herb. The stems aren't good for eating but can be saved and added to soup stock. All those frothy tops are a yummy addition (1-2 tsp) to a dressing, drip, sauce, or topping for chicken, fish, or soup. If you have too much to go through this week, you can zap it in olive oil and freeze it in ice cube trays to add to soups/stews/casseroles later.

The bulb
(YUM!) is lovely raw, sauteed, roasted, or grilled. These are so good, I'm kicking myself for not planting more of them this spring. I just seeded some for fall and hope to have enough for full shares to get a large bundle of 4-5 so you can make a roast fennel casserole. With this amount (which I know, is small, especially for a family to split) It's best just to cut the bulb in half and lightly saute the bulb of your fennel in a pan or on the grill and maybe everyone in your family can have a bit on top of their burger, with some of those baby red onions and some good blue cheese...mmmm….BURGER BLISS!

Or if you are roasting your beets you can split the fennel into a few pieces and roast it along with them.
I LOVE the anise flavor of fennel and it would be SO good lightly sauteed with your cauliflower or broccoli. However, if you aren't sure you will like the flavor you should cook it separately, as it will give an anise/licorice flavor to anything it's cooked with.

Oh! And don't forget if you are running out of vegetable inspiration to check out that AMAZING vegetable guide at earlymorningfarm.com. The Beet & Fennel soup looks especially good! 

Next week is looking like we are entering summer squash and zucchini season! Also we will have yellow beets and cabbage, and hopefully more than just a handful of sugar snaps for everyone.