I just returned from a blissful week in Kauai! The beaches were beautiful but the plant life was amazing! Coffee plantations, cocoa plantations, tropical orchards, reclaimed cane fields and lush state parks - so many things to see. I even found my perfect golf course - a mini golf course that wound through a tropical botanical garden!
On this tiny paradise, you can go to a different farmer's market every day of the week! And it wasn't just pineapple, papaya and coconuts...fresh greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, sweet potatoes and beets could all be found. Restaurants proudly listed the farmers that produced their food on their menus. What an amazing farming and food culture.
On Monday, I bravely took the boys into Twin to refill our refrigerator at the grocery store. While I have access to wonderful food from these stores, it just isn't the same as shopping in a farmer's market. This time of year I long to be able to walk out into a garden and pick fresh produce that hasn't been stored or shipped hundreds of miles. We are blessed to live in beautiful Idaho, but it does have some challenges for year-round gardening. My solution is preserving the harvest. This week I have pulled canned beans, pickled beets, frozen corn, applesauce, salsa and canned tomatoes from the pantry to put nutritious meals on the table. While it isn't "fresh", I know exactly what ingredients went into each jar and that each vegetable was picked at its peak.
Ask us about canning shares and what vegetables we recommend that can get you started. Canning can be intimidating at first glance with all of the warnings of food borne illness. I grew up canning with my mom and had a pretty good handle on the basics. But, I still took a class! My good friend, Grace, teaches food preservation classes through the University of Idaho that gives you all of the details as well as a hands-on experience. Her next class is in May....
There are countless blogs on the internet written by farmers and farmer’s wives about why or why not they are organic. Here is OUR blog on the topic.
In my limited experience over the last year, the organic question is asked even more often when you are marketing fresh locally grown produce versus growing agricultural commodities in the Magic Valley. We are asked often “Are you organic?” or sometimes it is assumed “It is so great that there are organic producers leading the way in our area!” Either way, it opens a conversation that I am more than willing to have.
No. We are not certified organic. The answer could be as simple as we are organic producers we simply don’t complete the documentation and go through the inspections to get the stamp for our produce. It is not that simple.
My response brings on one of two responses: 1) “Good for you!” or 2) “Oh, well I really feel that organic produce is better.” These responses bring a variety of thoughts to mind. The first – “Have you personally been hurt by an organic producer?” “Why the excitement to assume the last few decades of agriculture should be the status quo?” The second – “Nutritionally?” “Environmentally?” “Because of the news?” Either way, I think “Why the bias?”
Let’s talk The Country Gardens philosophy. To us, it boils down to a couple issues: The Chemicals, Our Natural Resources and GMO’s.
1. The Chemicals
It is a complicated issue that can’t be simplified as good guy vs bad guy, organic pesticide vs synthetic pesticide. A pesticide, organic or synthetic, by definition is meant to kill or disrupt an organism’s lifecycle – they are all bad guys! That doesn’t mean that pesticides don’t have a purpose in agricultural production.
Don’t make your decision to buy organic because they don’t use pesticides. Organic pesticides can be and are used in organic production. Organic pest control is an industry by itself and the major chemical companies are bigger players than you would think. Don’t also assume that organic pesticides are safe: nature holds the power to poison, mutate and kill. On the flip side, don’t assume that synthetic pesticides are safe or unsafe.
OUR PHILOSOPHY ON PESTICIDES: Using any pesticide limits our ability to safely work and let our children play in the gardens. However there are instances when, even with other preventative measures, pests exceed limits and we risk losing current and future crops. In these cases, we do use the best pesticide based on current scientific knowledge to control issues in our gardens. While we do look at organic pesticides, we are not philosophically opposed to using a synthetic pesticide if it is the best tool for a specific circumstance.
All pesticide applications (organic or synthetic) will always be disclosed to our members. This is one of the many benefits of being a CSA member – you know the production practices that are used to grow your food!
2. Our Natural Resources
I haven’t met a single farmer with the goal of destroying the environment and putting themselves out of a job! I can only think of a few other professions that work day in and day out with the land. Most farmers have invested decades of their lives in a single piece of land (big or small). Their land is their most expensive and greatest asset.
Each individual grower’s production practices are a result of so many factors: available equipment, government program enrollment, personal philosophies, market availability, previous owner’s decisions, labor issues, crop contracts, financial considerations…
The number of combinations is limitless in how you manage a piece of land. The pros and cons are also limitless. Each management decision has an effect on future decisions – some seen in the same growing season or some a decade or more down the road. It is impossible to discuss these in such a brief forum and I am by no means an expert that will pretend to understand the repercussions of each decision.
OUR PHILOSOPHY ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Our gardens allow us to build a business doing something we love. Our management of these resources will affect how successful we are today and in the future. We truly believe that nutritional quality of produce is not a direct factor of organic vs non-organic production but is a reflection of soil nutrition and health. Tillage can have some negative impacts on the soil but is necessary for other crops. Cover crops are great ways to build soil but can increase weed issues in the garden. Compost can build the structure and fertility of our soils but can also be slow to provide benefits. Fertilizers can be a seasonal solution that increases plant vigor and prevents damage caused by diseases and pests.
Management of natural resources is a balancing act and it is also an active pursuit. We have interrupted nature’s balance to produce food for our family and yours. We will forever be involved in amending, controlling and balancing while we are in production on this small patch of land. Another benefit of being a CSA member – come and see exactly what is happening around your vegetables as they grow. Enjoy the sunshine and pull a few weeds while you are here!
You are talking to 2 women who have worked in public and private plant breeding programs. We have been involved in the research and even planted and harvested GMO crops! It isn’t all science fiction and frankenplants. Are they good, bad or necessary? I think it depends on each individual situation.
I have sat in a boardroom with some of the best minds in agriculture and discussed the challenges we anticipate agriculture encountering in 10, 20 and 50 years. Reality is that GMO’s are not all about chemical resistant plants (Roundup Ready) or insect protection (Bt). Droughts, disease, soil salinity and limited nutrient resources are serious issues that our current crop varieties are not going to overcome. Traditional methods may get us where we need to be but I’m not going to ignore the technology that has the potential to get us the better answer sooner. Most of us wouldn’t trade our cell phone for a land line, our car for a horse and wagon or our vaccinations for blood letting.
OUR PHILOSOPHY ON GMOS: We can’t embrace a production system that removes a technology that has the potential for reducing water use, improving nutrient utilization or preventing disease. Our husband’s farms do grow GMO crops and this technology has allowed them to limit pesticide use and incorporate more cover crops into their rotations – both organically minded pursuits.
Reality – most garden crops do not have GMO varieties commercially available and not in the small quantities that we grow in our CSA.
Confused where we stand? I have given you our philosophy but what is the answer bottom line in regards to organic production at The Country Gardens?
In 2015, we were 95% organic within the bounds of the gardens. Why weren’t we 100%?
What is our plan for 2016? Continue on the same path. Our weed populations are dropping and we will be expanding the use of mulch because of the benefits we observed in 2015. Pray that this cold weather is dramatically decreasing vole populations!
Traditional and organic producers have often placed themselves as enemies rather than as farmers with a common goal of producing nutritious food for the consumer. Maybe we are able to see a slightly clearer picture of both sides because we are wives of farmers who fall on the traditional side while we lean more toward the organic side in our gardens. Traditional and organic are not mutually exclusive – both have tools that are beneficial.
More than anything, we want our members to understand where their produce comes from and we want the public to understand how food is produced. Read, ask and think about agricultural production. You are surrounded by it in the Magic Valley. Find a farmer and chat. Even if you grew up in Twin Falls, you might be surprised at the issues that are worrying farmers in 2016 and you might come away with a better understanding of exactly what is happening in the field.
A Side Note:
Remember that the “Organic” label is administered by the federal government. Definitions, exemptions and guidelines are all available for the public online. We encourage everyone to read and understand about labels on their food!
We get lots of questions about what is actually in each basket and what to expect. I also know people wonder if they are getting a good value for the price. Here is the answer!
Check out what a Full Share Member received by week in 2015.
See some vegetables on the list you aren’t sure about? Check out our Recipe page for the complete set of recipes that we handed out last year. We already have a list of NEW recipes for 2016. These are targeted at the vegetables we know are less common or a little scary to cook with. All of the recipes that we put out have been eaten by our own families and are part of our recipe boxes.
Click here for the 2015 CSA Weekly Basket Content and Value.
Some astute readers will notice that the 2016 season has been shortened by 2 weeks. Do not despair – the fall harvest of winter squash and root vegetables will still be yours. The last few weeks of harvest will be ABUNDANT and include these seasonal favorites!
I grew up on the farm, worked on the farm, got a degree in agriculture, and married a farmer. I’ve always thought I had a good grasp on where my food came from, probably better than most. And I might, but I have learned some things about our food chain this past year; some that have surprised me and some that have down right shocked me. I wanted to start sharing some of these things but it has been very difficult to decide where to start. Bear with me as I try to stay focused and only elaborate on a few things at a time.
Why am I qualified to explain these things and why should you believe anything I say? Well, I’m not really qualified. I don’t have a degree in food science or food law or anything like that. I’ve never lobbied for anything or have done anything government involved. However, 2015 was a new start for me. The start of the Country Gardens and the start of a part time job close to home to keep the bills paid and health insurance for my family. I work part time for a food processing plant as the Quality Assurance Document Specialist. Quite the mouth full and really what the hell does that even mean? Usually when you think of Quality Assurance (QA) you might think of the lab technicians. They are ensuring that all of the outgoing product meets specifications and is safe for consumption. That means, for example, that the fat, salt, protein is correct (someone didn’t dump in the wrong ingredient) and that there isn’t any salmonella or other yucky things growing in there.
What I do comes before the product is made. I have to collect and verify multiple documents for each ingredient prior to being used. Probably something you never thought about. I never had. I verify that the ingredient meets specification for our product; that the allergen and nutritional information is correct, etc. On top of that, I also verify the vendor we are purchasing the product from. These documents include verification that they are in compliance with federal laws, their plant has the proper safety protocols in place, etc. All in all there are around 20 documents to collect and verify. In short, I make sure that the company and ingredients we are purchasing aren’t coming from your neighbors’ dirty garage. I also conduct in plant audits and participate when a customer, USDA, or ISDA does a third party audit of the plant. The FDA is constantly updating, changing, and creating new regulations. So I spend A LOT of time reading laws, dockets, and proposals. So this may not make me an expert but I have spent a fair amount of time making sure that I understand regulations so the company doesn’t get in trouble.
So here’s my disclaimer: I am NOT an expert on any of the topics to follow. I have included web addresses so you can do your own homework. I will try my best to be as unbiased as possible.
Some recent regulation changes in the food world include:
-Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs). These must be removed from all products; in 2013 the FDA decided that these were no longer Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for human consumption. In 2015, they made the final ruling that they must be removed. There are several years for companies to become compliant and believe me there will be plenty of exemptions.
-Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FSMA was signed by President Obama in 2011 and most of it is now finalized. This one is huge, all about food safety and prevention over reaction. There are several different parts of this law: rules for food for human consumption, animal consumption, produce safety, foreign supplier verification etc. It was finalized in September of 2015 and companies are still trying to read it.
*Krista and I are trying very hard to find trainings and information about the Produce Safety Rule in order to ensure we are completely compliant with the new federal and state regulations. These rules are extremely complex and trainings are just beginning to be offered for local farmers. We will be attending a few this spring. We take food safety VERY seriously.
-2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. USDA and US Dept. of Health and Human Services released the new dietary guidelines. These are revisited every 5 years and are revised based on current available nutrition science. This guideline is essentially telling the American people what and how we should be eating. Our kid’s school lunch programs, welfare programs, etc. are based directly off of these suggestions. Essentially, this revision says eat more fruits, veggies, and whole grains and cut out as much added sugar as possible. There is of course controversy about certain parts of it (red meat recommendations and big business influence).
What’s coming in 2016? I have a few things that I am closely watching and am very curious to see how they turn out. In the last few years the food industry has started to see some changes. Big business isn’t doing as well against the smaller mom and pop. Studies show that consumers have an increasing interest to know more about what they are eating and where it is coming from. They are interested in fresher more nutritious food. Isn’t that why you are a member of the Country Gardens CSA? Some big business is trying to lead the way to keep consumers. For example, you moms like me that buy Go-Gurt Simple may have noticed that it is no longer pink and purple and every other color but is now white. General Mills promised to remove artificial colors and flavors and reduce the sugar by 30% at the beginning of 2016. I wish I would have taken a picture of the labels when I realized I had purchased the new version of Go-Gurt. I can attest that the sugar went from 9g per go-gurt to 6g. They have also made similar promises in their cereal department. Keep in mind the things to watch for in 2016 are now just proposals. The FDA has most of the topics available on the website and encourage people to leave comments and suggestions.
-Nutritional Label. While in the proposal stage now, I anticipate that it will become finalized in 2016. Some of the changes to look for – required Vitamin D and Potassium levels, new easy-to-read format, added sugar vs natural sugar.
-Defining “natural”. Use of the word “natural” is currently defined, but very loosely and definitely not the way that you probably think. Simply put, natural means no artificial or synthetic ingredients. It DOES NOT take into account farming practices or processing methods. The FDA recently extended the comment period for this topic.
-GMO Labeling. This is a big fight and will continue into 2016. Several states have passed laws requiring GMO labels on products containing GMOs that will go into effect mid-2016. There is concern that if the federal government doesn’t create a nation-wide requirement the information for consumers and processors will become extremely convoluted and inconsistent as states pass their own laws. So, the pressure’s on to make some decisions. Big business has a huge hand in this, afraid that people will stop buying products once they are labeled as containing GMOs. In answer to consumers requests without having the government require labeling, several big businesses have started what is called the “Smart Initiative”. By the end of 2016 you will be able to download an app on your phone and scan an item in the store. Information will be brought up to help you make more informed decisions about what you are buying. I’m not going to comment on this, except to say that you should Google “Smart Initiative” to find some news articles highlighting different pros and cons.
So this is a little bit of information about several topics. And believe me, there are a lot more topics. If you want more referencing material on any of these or other topics please let me know. I will do my best to keep updates throughout the year as these proposals unfold.
I feel that the food industry is going to make giant strides in the next few years in transparency for American consumers as the demand for answers and information continues to grow. Come visit us, we’ll show you where your food is coming from. Thanks for supporting the Country Gardens as we try to grow and lead the way in the Magic Valley.
I am known in my circle for having a list or spreadsheet for everything! I have a spreadsheet checklist for my bulk pantry items, a spreadsheet with recipes and ingredients for making freezer meals, a shopping list, house cleaning lists, garden lists, a project list… I even have an app on my phone specifically for lists that I want always with me! One of my favorite lists is the list of things we “need” for The Country Gardens – such a great one to just look at over a cup of coffee.
Late last summer, Bonnie and I started to prioritize that list and the number one priority was a permanent growing structure in the Hazelton garden! YEAH! WOOHOO! SWEET!
I have lusted over Bonnie’s front porch where she starts our seedlings and her big greenhouse that grew our amazing tomatoes last year. My temporary hoop house worked in the spring to get us some great early veggies but I spent hours repairing wind damage and sleepless nights peering out my window wondering if it would survive the night. A sturdy structure – a dream come true!
Why did a physical structure beat out dripline irrigation, better tillage equipment, permanent washing stations and automated harvesting equipment? All of these items would make our labors in the garden significantly easier – A permanent structure minimizes our risk and gives us more flexibility in providing our CSA members with diversity early in the season and late in the season. That is something that no amount of extra work can accomplish without the unique environment that season extension structures can provide.
The first zucchinis, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, peppers and tomatoes in our CSA shares all come out of some sort of season extension system. The same is true of the diversity that we protect from cool and freezing temperatures on the other end of the season. This can be as simple as row cover that lets sun through but keeps temperatures about 4 degrees warmer than outside temperature. The difference seems small but a big deal when nighttime temperatures dip to the 30’s. Simple plastic row covers using PVC structures heat up the growing climate in the spring to push early growth allowing plants to be flowering by early May and in fruit production by June. The true greenhouse with full ability to heat and cool and with lights to hit optimum day length is the Holy Grail of controlling climate to produce food.
We aren’t in need of the Holy Grail. We just need a place that we can walk into in the spring and be greeted by calm winds and 80 degree temps. This gives us all we need to extend the Idaho growing season while exploring new ways to expand our production and push the limits. Right before Christmas, we toured a structure where carrots and spinach were still in full production. No artificial heat, no grow lights and fresh homegrown veggies on the table at Christmas dinner!
So, we went to the catalogs and internet to pick out the perfect structure. Quickly over-whelmed by all of the options we gave up and sought help from a local couple who have been perfecting a structure that can withstand our spring windstorms but not break the bank. Right now they are working on designing us a custom base structure that our men can install and complete!!!
It will not be fancy but a simple design that we can upgrade if/when our needs change. Here is a look at how the 2015 temporary structure and 2016 permanent structure stack up:
PVC spans Steel spans
Greenhouse plastic anchored with dirt Greenhouse plastic anchored with wiggle wire system
Climb in access Real doors
Rope and digger link anchors Steel anchors
Less than 5’ high at center 7’+ high at center
No base walls Pressurized wood base walls
Greenhouses are one of my favorite places to spend an hour or five. A favorite drink and freedom to walk in a warm green place is good for my soul. Stay tuned for picture and updates of our progress.
Goal: Planting ready by March 1!!!
This year Krista had the brilliant idea to divide and conquer seed/variety selection. This allowed each of us to focus on the crops that we may have more expertise in or enjoy growing more than others. Or we allow the other person to select the varieties for a crop that we like a lot in an effort to not end up with 18 varieties (like the 2015 tomato production or Krista’s cucumber selections). When looking through 5 or 6 catalogs to compare varieties, prices, etc, any simplification is appreciated.
I felt really good like I was getting this task accomplished after quickly selecting broccoli, cauliflower and carrot varieties with little difficulty. Cucumbers also should have been simple: early variety, slicing variety, pickling variety. But, I came across a variety in the Rare Seed catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds that sent me on a tangent. There were a few terms in the description that I didn’t recognize and didn’t require a pollinator to set fruit. Well, this sounded like great news so I started doing some research.
Quick biology lesson. Plants have male and female flowers (of course there are exceptions). The male flowers produce pollen, die, shrivel and fall off of the plant. The female flowers receive the pollen and then produce fruit which contains the seeds (plant babies).
Most cucumbers naturally have female and male flowers (monoecious) on each plant. This way the plant can pollinate itself. Usually the first flowers are male followed by any combination of male and female flowers. The crazy thing is that it is usually the same flower pattern of male and female flowers on each vine of the plant. However, most plants tend to be heavily male. It can be as much as 70% male flowers to 30% female flower. This drastically reduces yields as there are few flowers left on the plant to produce cucumbers.
Another crazy thing… the sex of cucumbers is inherited but environmental factors can have an effect on how that is expressed. What does this mean? For cucumbers this means that higher temperatures and longer days can increase the chance of more male flowers while lower temps and shorter days favor more female flowers. This occurrence is due to changing hormone levels within the plant.
Over the years plant breeders have developed varieties that are primarily female flowers (seriously, one male flower can pollinate A LOT of flowers). But you also need a good crew of pollinators to move the pollen from flower to flower. Bees are the primary pollinator for cucumbers. So their absence is often to blame when issues arise. Inadequate pollen can result in under developed and misshapen cucumbers. Or no cucumbers at all.
Parthenocarpic is the term that started my research. Parthenocarpic cucumbers can produce fruit without any pollination. How does that work? Turns out it’s a genetic disorder that is pretty favorable for at least one reasons we would all probably agree on. Seedless fruit: including oranges, grapes and cucumbers. (There are other reasons for seedless fruit but that can wait for another day). So great news, we can all just plant parthenocarpic cucumbers and we bypass all of the issues previously discussed. Sounds good.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work quite that easily. If parthenocarpic cucumbers get pollinated it can cause seeded cucumbers and misshapen fruit. This can also result in decreased growth and halt further flowering. So this production method is probably not the end all solution after a season of poor yielding cucumbers. It is highly specialized requiring a greenhouse or other enclosure to keep bees (and other pollinators) out. I do appreciate the effort because I love those long English cucumbers individually wrapped (most likely parthenocarpic).
*After reading all of this about parthenocarpy, I noticed that a large percentage of varieties in the seed catalogs are parthenocarpic. So, while the literature says it is specialized blah blah blah, my best advice is to try a couple plants. You never know how things will grow in your area unless you try. Plus, if you aren’t growing for market, who cares if the cucumbers grow crooked.
So how do we choose and grow cucumbers? For many people who have never had issues growing cucumbers all of this might seem irrelevant, but one bad year (especially for market growers) and we need to figure out what’s going on. We know that it is a favorite in our shares the whole season. What is our answer to growing a successful crop of cucumbers?
So, now I know a lot more about cucumbers. This information will get added to the current list of criteria that I use to make selections. I look for early, commonly known, pickling, slicing, yield, cold tolerant (it’s always a plus if you find varieties that were bred for northern/short season climates), growth habit, disease resistant (luckily we don’t have to worry too much about disease with Idaho’s dry climate), drought/stress tolerant, and most importantly something new and fun. This may seem overwhelming but remember there is no “one size fits all”. That’s why I ended up with the following 5 varieties for 2016:
More science stuff…
Monoecious: female and male flowers on the same plant
Gynoecious: only female flowers on the plant
Parthenocarpic: genetic mutation in which female flowers produce fruit without pollination
Cucumbers are in the same plant family as watermelons (Cucerbitacea), so much of the information can also be applied to growing watermelons.
Most of this information came from World Vegetables (a college text book that is frequently referenced at my house).
Also check out http://masteringhorticulture.blogspot.com/.
The last couple days have been FREEZING! The kind of day when you don't leave the house and keep a pot of coffee or cup of tea close by all day long.
But, we did have an amazing fall with warm, sunny days. The gardens have continued to produce for our own families into the beginning of November. It lulled us into such happiness that we were scrambling to get garlic planted at Halloween before rain storms.
So, now what? The next couple months can be as exciting as the actual growing season. I have seed catalogs with pages dog-eared, notes scribbled in the margins. My garden day planner has been getting as much use now as during planting -- checking comments on flavor, vigor, harvest timing and seed quantity from the past season. I am building a 2016 spreadsheet to finalize a planting plan. Drawing out garden plans to maximize production in our gardens while reducing labor. Researching structure designs for a permanent high tunnel/hoop house at the Hazelton location. Seeking out educational opportunities to expand our knowledge or production and business. Discussing growth opportunities and dreaming about where we will be in 2020!
Exciting things are happening at The Country Gardens.
I randomly read a post on Facebook last week that got me riled up and I am still thinking about it. I wish I had the forethought to save the link but you just get my thoughts.
The food industry is full of amazing discoveries, creative technologies and fascinating ideas. During graduate school I was close friends with several students conducting research in the food science field: stabilizers, coloring, films to protect vegetables, preservatives to extend shelf life. It is really impressive what you can do to manufacture food. And I always thought that you cooked food.
One of the hottest topics in the food industry is the shift away from artificial colorings to natural colorings. I like the sound of that, so I read on. Someone is working on a way to take the smell and flavor out of paprika so that children can have the right shade of orange drink. My question is “How orange does an orange flavored drink need to be to taste like orange???”. Someone out there actually knows the answer to this question!!! Why not just give the kid an actual orange?
My kids don’t get a lot of manufactured foods. I make lasagna, macaroni and cheese, oatmeal bars, sloppy joes, cookies, finger steaks and dinner in a dish (our form of Hamburger Helper) all from scratch. I do use natural coloring and flavors – real meat, real vegetables and real fruit. It takes some planning but not much more time. Making freezer meals with a friend can get you a freezer full of the same meals you buy at the supermarket…yours will be cooked not manufactured.
Delicious, healthy foods come in many different forms. Some may be in a cellophane wrapper full of the latest advances in the food science field. I would argue that most delicious healthy foods are found in the fresh fruit and vegetable section and in the refrigerated meat and dairy sections. The food that isn’t already put together with preservatives and flavorings, but the food that is waiting for you to season to your preference.
I don’t want to put that paprika farmer who is eagerly anticipating a new market out of business. I want that farmer to sell delicious paprika for grill rubs and fresh deviled eggs. I want the next generation to understand that bright orange, blue and red foods don’t taste better than their mom’s (or dad’s) homemade lasagna. I want their favorite cookies to come from a family recipe not Keebler. I want them to know how to cook a steak, chicken and roast.
I want them to appreciate and understand that food is cooked – from natural ingredients: meats, vegetables, herbs and spices. Ingredients that are grown or produced on the land not manufactured in a factory.
Prior to 2015 I had never planted a garden before June 1. This year not only did I have everything planted by the middle of May but I also planted a lot of things that I had not only never planted but have never eaten. One of these things I discovered this week. And it will be added to my list of favorites. I’m so excited about this that I had to share…
Chinese (Napa) Cabbage- This particular variety-China Star you will receive for the first time in Week 3. There will be more weeks of it to come so there is chance for experimenting. When I cook the first time is just to figure out how I can tweak the recipe to make it better for the next time. My husband doesn’t prefer this method of cooking ;) Back to the cabbage… I made fresh cole slaw with home-made dressing. It is awesome. The first time even. To prep it I just cut the bottom, maybe an inch or so just enough to get the leaves separated. I then put it in a cold bath in my sink. Doing this immediately after harvest cools the produce and helps it store better. (It will also drown any earwigs that are crawling around inside) Then I started at the bottom and sliced it very thin then chopped it into smaller pieces. I wasn’t sure about the thick mid rib but it is delicious so don’t leave it out! It was super fast and easy I also added carrots thinly sliced and chopped up peas because I had them, other produce to add could be cucumbers, bean sprouts, onions etc.
I have the book Well Dressed ; salad dressings by Jeff Keys. He owns Vintage Restaurant in Sun Valley. I looked up slaw dressings and found two that I really was curious about. The one for my cole slaw was just the basic (included below) and the other was for Asian slaw (also included below). I tried the latter immediately and ate the entire bowl.
Poppy Seed Slaw Dressing
1 ½ C Mayonnaise
½ C real apple cider vinegar
1/3 C Sugar
Pinch of cayenne (optional
1TBSP Poppy seeds (optional)
1/8 tsp black pepper (optional)
Whisk together and pour on slaw mixture.
Asian Slaw Dressing
Add each a little at a time and taste until you love it! It is so good.
A few other ideas for cabbage
-use large leaves to wrap up stir fry or fried rice (can also be done with lettuce leaves)
-Kimchee (next on my list to try)