Natural Hazards

storm

Well, it has happened again. Almost one year to the day after last year’s devastating hail, even larger stones came pelting down upon our gardens yesterday evening. We saw the clouds rushing in from the west, felt the winds whipping across our faces, headed for shelter, and then, just as we sat down to eat, heard the hailstones descend.

hail

Some of the effects will not materialize for some time. Last year, we found that the onions began to regrow after the hail and therefore did not cure properly. Our tomato yield was drastically reduced and many of the squash were pock-marked. That said, having lived through this experience last year, I am feeling less devastated now than I did then. I know that the garden grows on, and that our plants were particularly strong and healthy going into this assault.

Still, I am eminently grateful that the storm came after we had harvested this week’s wedding flowers. It was our first wedding, and the blooms were glorious (in spite of having been rained on then too). Fortunately, the plants should have plenty of time to recover before the next wedding (and even before the next market, where the bouquets have begun to sell).

wedding flowers

Taller plants have been particularly hard hit by the storm. The sweet pea blossoms and sunflower stems strewn across the garden soil are plain to see. But overall, it will take some time to determine the true impact of the storm. At the moment, some plants look virtually unscathed, while others are severely battered. We have had to postpone today’s pick-up (more because of the mud and wind than the hail), and when you do get your vegetables this week, they will not be as beautiful as they have been, nor will they keep as well due to the bruising caused by hail impact.

Still, your bags will be bursting with the flavours of the season. We have one final week of shelling peas, along with the first abundant harvests of green, wax, and purple beans. We still have broad beans, and the zucchini are hitting their stride. Salad and cooking greens are a little tattered, but still present, as are a wide array of herbs (parsley, basil, dill, cilantro, summer savory, mint, and the tail end of the arugula and cress). The cucumbers have begun to produce — slicers for the orders and pickling cukes available for ordering. The beets will likely be sent leafless (though some leaves in the centres of the rows may be intact enough to be worth sending), and carrots and potatoes will continue through the rest of the season provided it is dry enough to dig them. Even with last night’s unwelcome icy visitors, the vegetable bags will be an array almost as colourful as the flowers above.

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Endings and New Beginnings

sweet peas

It seems like the summer has only just begun, but already several vegetables have passed out of season. It began with the asparagus, followed by the orach, sorrel, and spinach. Now the edible pod peas are taking their exit. The Chinese Giant have finished already, and this will probably be the last week for Cascadia. The plants are still producing, but the peas are getting to be so speckled we figure it is best to move on.

But they have certainly not left a vacuum. With each passing week, several new vegetables are coming into production. We started with some carrots last week, and have added potatoes, zucchini, and broad beans today. Next week will be green beans and possibly summer turnips, and the cucumbers and cherry tomatoes are not far behind. Such bounty!

There are also some new beginnings of another nature taking place in our community. Judy and Tom’s newest grandchild, Catherine, entered the world last week. Many congratulations to Josephine, Brody, and big sister Maria.

And we have two weddings coming up in our Saskatoon member circle, the first of which will take place next weekend. This is not only a new beginning in the happy couples’ lives, but also for our farm, as they have asked us to grow flowers for the weddings. With some trepidation, we have been enjoying the beauty of the blossoms as we prepare for the big day (the day when we cut and ship the flowers, of course!). I have been experimenting with cutting and arranging the flowers, and never would have guessed how much I would enjoy having a home filled with bouquets. We hope the wedding guests get as much pleasure out of them as we have, and invite anyone else interested in brightening their home with flowers to let us know.

bouquet

This week’s vegetable orders include new potatoes, carrots, beets, zucchini, and onion thinnings at the bottom of your bags, along with shelling peas and broad beans. For those unfamiliar with the latter, they need to be shelled and then boiled or steamed. Some people then peel each individual bean, though this is too much work for my liking! Broad beans are often used in Middle Eastern cooking and go well with lemon juice, parsley, garlic and onion. I will include a favourite recipe from Middle Eastern Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead below.

In a separate bag are your bulky greens – Swiss chard, kale, and lettuce. We are back to small lettuce heads, as the first two seedings are now finished and the third and fourth are ready for thinning. The kale you have received so far is also thinnings; soon we will be on to larger leaves. Unfortunately, our perpetual spinach did not come up this year, but we will start sending some extra chard soon to compensate.

Finally, you have a bag with edible pod peas (a mixture of Oregon Giant and Cascadia sugar snap) and a growing collection of herbs: arugula, cress, dill, parsley (flat leaved and curly), basil, purple basil, mint, and summer savory. Bon appetit!

Broad Bean Salad (Salatat Fool)

1 lb. Shelled broad beans, cooked

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

4 Tbsp chopped green onions

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients well, then place on a platter and serve.

 

Peas, peas, and more peas

edible pod peas

Peas are the name of the game this week; we picked five different varieties for today’s order! Here’s how to keep them straight: the shelling peas (Knight) are in the bottom of your main cloth vegetable bag. The sugar snaps (a combination of Cascadia and Sugar Ann — shown above to the right) are mixed with the Oregon Giants (shown above to the left) at the bottom of your herb bag. These all taste great either raw or lightly cooked. Finally, the Chinese Giants are tucked in with your lettuce. These look similar to the Oregon Giants, but are less palatable raw. They are best stir-fried or added to soup just before serving. We hope you enjoy both the variety and the abundance!

The other new items this week are a tease of Swiss chard and baby kale (included in your herb bags, alongside the above-mentioned peas, arugula, cress, dill, parsley, mint, and basil) and the first of the season’s beets. Rounding out the orders are rhubarb, multiplier onions, and a generous portion of our Prizehead lettuce. Bon appetit!

Precocious Peas

We are absolutely delighted (and still somewhat astounded) to have had peas ready for picking prior to the first of July! And not only are they ready, they are also abundant. Our earliest varieties are Sugar Ann (sugar snap peas) and Knight (shelling peas). We get them into the ground as early as we can, but often germination is not great. We tend to limp along, harvesting from the broken rows until the next varieties are ready.

Not this year! Rather than strolling through solitary plants, we actually had to untangle pea vines to harvest those succulent pods. We sold out of Sugar Anns at market on Friday and were able to send a remarkable half gallon to each full share on Monday. Please keep in mind that these are edible pod peas; we wouldn’t want you to be composting all those sweet pods for nothing!

We will be starting to harvest the shelling peas (Knights) tomorrow, and should have some for the coming week’s vegetable shares, and maybe even a few for market. The Cascadia (sugar snap) and Oregon Giant (sugar snap/snow pea) are not far behind. We have been harvesting a few for ourselves, and should be able to begin a larger harvest later this week. What a gift!

The other new items in this week’s CSA shares are cress and arugula. These are both in your herb bags, along with the peas, dill, parsley, coriander, basil, mint, and purple basil.

Cress has tightly curled leaves and is popular in potato salads.

Cress

Arugula is great on pizza, minced into green salads (in relatively small quantities), or as a salad green paired with a strong cheese dressing.

Arugula

Both cress and arugula have a bit of a bite, so if they are new to you, I recommend using them in small quantities at first, diluted with other greens or strong flavours.

This week’s order also features rhubarb, young multiplier onions, an abundance of lettuce, and, sadly, the last of the spinach and asparagus. We hope you are enjoying the flavours of spring as much as we are!

 

Rain, Sweet Rain!

June 16

After a week of unsettled weather and disappointingly brief showers, the clouds have at long last released their much-needed moisture upon our farm. We took advantage of the dry spell to get all our transplants out of the greenhouse and into the garden, conduct regular cutworm patrols (who knew that cutworms in the beet patch ooze blood-like liquid when squeezed, whereas those in the onions smell oniony?!), pull the larger weeds that did not look like promising cutworm bait, push cultivate, and set out new seeds in hopes of enough moisture to germinate them. We kept dry long enough to participate in our first farmer’s market in North Battleford on Friday – just long enough, in fact, to put away all our gear on Saturday morning. And then the rain (and hail!) began.

Fortunately, the hail did not last long, and did not do much damage. And the rain? Well, we wait in anticipation of the world of good it will do for our already thriving plants and all the new seedlings we hope it will bring into being.

Even prior to the rain, we have been thrilled with the success of our early garden. The asparagus is abundant, the garlic and onions are looking great (though we did purchase more onion sets this week to compensate for those munched by the cutworms), the early peas are in bloom (!) as are the broad beans, our interns have been introduced to the wonders of magic lettuce (the more you thin now the more you get next week), and our second seeding of spinach is coming along fine. (The first did not germinate, but Saskatoon members will be receiving some of our volunteer spinach this week and Battlefords folks will get theirs next week once the second seeding is fully mature.)

lettuce

Fortunately, the rain was moderate enough to allow us to go ahead with this morning’s pick-ups. We were able to harvest through the drizzle in areas that had been well mulched and therefore should not suffer too much from our footsteps. We weren’t able to get at as much dill as we might have hoped (as the larger patches were in less protected areas), but you can look forward to enjoying more in weeks to come.

This week’s orders are abundant with spring greens. You have lots of orach (if it’s too much for you to eat at once, we recommend blanching and freezing it for a taste of spring next winter), lettuce for salads, sorrel, dill, cilantro, and mint as well as your spring staples of asparagus and rhubarb.

If you are looking for ideas for how to use your mint, tea is always a good option. We tend to make a pot each morning (by placing a couple of sprigs in our teapot and filling with boiling water) and refresh ourselves with it throughout the day. Another favourite in our family is a minted potatoes recipe from Arab Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead:

2 lbs potatoes

6 Tbsp olive oil (we use lard, and probably a bit less!)

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint

4 Tbsp vinegar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Peel (I don’t bother) and dice potatoes into 1/2” cubes. Heat oil in a frying pan, then saute potato cubes over medium/low heat until they turn light brown, stirring a few times. Sprinkle with remaining ingredients, then thoroughly combine and serve. Delicious!

The Summer Season Begins

Today marks the beginning of the summer vegetable season, and we are pleased to be sending out a lovely ensemble of perennial and volunteer vegetables. Late to get started this year, our asparagus patch has been loving the heat of this past week, giving us a full two pounds to send with each full share. Rhubarb is also coming along, and by pulling the multiple flower stalks that have formed, we should be able to keep up the harvest for another month or so.

Dutch chives

The Dutch chives are starting to peak, so we figured it was worth sending them as well. We are thinking the best way of presenting them to you is to send them whole before the tops die back, so that you can enjoy both the green tops and the bulbs, and they hold together better in your bags than cuttings.

sorrel

Sorrel is another early-producing perennial, and one that is relatively new to us here at Largo. We have been enjoying its leaves in salads, stir fries, and teas this spring. Judy has found that the acidity of the sorrel nicely balances out the orach to make a very pleasant salad, and has been combining them in roughly equal quantities. I have also been experimenting with teas, and have found that rhubarb and sorrel make a lovely combination. On Wednesday, I chopped up a few cups of rhubarb and a medium bunch of sorrel and placed them in a gallon jar along with boiled water, a touch of mint, and a dollop of honey. I placed the jar in the sun for the afternoon, left it out overnight to chill, then transferred it to the cellar and strained it. Refreshing!

orach

The bulk of today’s order is our star spring volunteer: orach. This domesticated version of lamb’s quarters is rather challenging to start from seed, but once a patch is established, it produces abundantly for as long as you allow it to go to seed (and probably then some!). We have to mercilessly thin our spring volunteers to prevent them from crowding themselves out, but we are now getting some delightfully large (and quick to harvest!) leaves. Use these however you best enjoy eating spinach: raw in salads, steamed, stir-fried, in casseroles etc. If you do not expect to be able to use all your orach this week, you can also blanch and freeze it to enjoy next winter.

dill

As we made our way from the sorrel to the chives this morning, we stumbled across a beautiful patch of volunteer dill along the garden’s edge. Since the edge needs cultivating, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to send some early dill. Enjoy!

 

New Beginnings

Just as some people make a distinction between autumn and fall, this year I am particularly conscious that there are two (or more!) phases of spring. Several weeks ago, around the time of North Battleford’s Seedy Saturday, spring was definitely in the air. The days were growing longer, the meltwater creek was flowing past our driveway, we were no longer needing to light as many fires to keep warm, and we had to get creative to find enough places to store all the eggs our hens were laying. Spring had sprung.

But this week, the gardening phase of spring has launched. Judy has been out push cultivating the garden, preparing the soil for early seeding. This afternoon, she and Tom spread manure, which we will be planting garlic into early next week. I got my hands dirty digging and pulling the kale we had left in the garden for late fall eating, pruning back last year’s sorrel stems, and uncovering our strawberries. Chives, sorrel, and orach are all providing glimpses of green, and the first rhubarb buds are up.

Greenhouse season has also begun. Several days ago, a crew put new plastic on Betty’s greenhouse. I transplanted the celery and rudbeckias Betty had started for us and sowed basil, parsley, summer savory, bell peppers, Hot Hungarian Wax peppers, and a multitude of flowers.

The flowers are one of the new beginnings this season brings for us. I have grown a few flowers over the past few years, mostly for sheer pleasure. But this year, two of our community shared agriculture members are getting married and asked if we would grow flowers for their weddings. We are honoured to be able to do so. I have consulted with more experienced flower growers (both in person and through their writing) and have started our first batch of greenhouse seeds – rudbeckia, snapdragons, marigolds, and cosmos. Next week we should be able to get sweet peas and bachelor’s buttons into the ground, with more flowers to follow. We are hoping to have enough not only for the weddings, but also to brighten our homes and to sell some bouquets to interested CSA members and to the Battlefords public at a farmer’s market.

The market is another new initiative this year. It was motivated by a disappointment: after being fully subscribed with CSA shares last year, this year our membership has dropped by nearly half. There are a variety of reasons why people have discontinued (for the time being, anyways), and I am learning that this is part of a regular cycle. Since I have been here, we have been fully subscribed three times, and each time the number of members has dropped considerably the following year, risen higher in the second year, and been back to full on the third. Still, it is scary when the drop happens and it gets us thinking about what we can do to keep the farm viable if the numbers don’t rebound. So we have decided to try our hand at a market.

Starting these new projects while Judy is working at retiring might not seem like the wisest of plans, but fortunately, this spring has brought another new beginning: we have a couple of interns who will be joining us for the summer! We are so pleased that Serena and Matthew are making Largo Farm part of their learning and discerning process as they explore their future in agriculture, and are hoping that our members will have the opportunity to meet them at our spring organizational meetings.

Meanwhile, the cellar continues to empty of last season’s vegetables. CSA shares this month included potatoes, carrots (somewhat less than the past months, but considering the crop failure we experienced last year, we are very pleased with how many we have been able to send!), beets, and onions. There aren’t many beets left for next month, but we are hoping to have some garlic leftover from our seeding that can help get you through the next few months.

Potatoes are definitely the mainstay of our late winter meals, so I was delighted to discover two new potato recipes last week. Our family has been touring the world with Dave Ternier (Judy’s nephew)’s Country of the Week program, and we recently “visited” Lituania. I always try to make some recipes from the countries we visit, and, fortunately for us, potatoes feature prominently in the Lithuanian diet. We first tried potato pancakes filled with meat:

7 Belgian potatoes

1 egg

3 Tbsp flour

1/2 tsp salt

Boil and peel the potatoes, then mince (I think I will try just mashing next time – less work) and add egg, flour, and salt.

Fry 300g minced meat (I used leftover roast beef) with 1 small onion, chopped. Season with salt and pepper.

Place a flattened ball of mashed potato in the palm of your hand, fill with meat mixture, then close the ball around the meat and fry until golden brown on both sides.

These are normally served with a sour cream sauce, but we enjoyed them just as they are!

We also tried a potato kugelis:

1/2 lb. chopped bacon

1 large onion, minced

5 large eggs, beaten

1 1/4 cups milk

7 oz. evaporated milk

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup flour

5 lbs potatoes, peeled and grated

Saute bacon and onion until lightly browned and caramelized. Do not drain the fat. Set the pan aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combing eggs, milk, evaporated milk, salt, and flour. Add the bacon-onion mixture and drippings. Stir until well combined. Add the grated and squeezed potatoes. Mix well.

Pour into a greased 9 x 13” pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350, until the top is quite brown and the interior is solid but still moist. Let sit 5 minutes before cutting into squares.

Perhaps your families will also enjoy some new potato recipes while we await the spring greens!

Community Shared Agriculture: Come Join the Dance!

I am told that the Japanese term for community shared agriculture means “food with the farmer’s face on it.” So here you have it, the long overdue update to our farm family photo (with thanks to Annette for taking the shot and Johnny for editing it).

largo_farm_2019

Frightening as we both may find the image of our members staring into my face each time they pull a potato from the cupboard, I like the concept. At the time that community shared agriculture developed in Japan, women were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the toxic substances their families were ingesting on their food. They did not feel they could trust the quality of commercial food. So they formed direct relationships with farmers, gaining the comfort of knowing exactly where their food was coming from.

Our situation is not so different. Though the food industry has responded to concerns about prevalent food allergies by conscientiously labelling their products, the same cannot be said for pesticides or genetic modification. And what about other ecological concerns around food production? Do we know how many fossil fuels were used to produce commercial foods? Or how much water was drained from shrinking rivers? How much do we really know about the foods we consume?

Community shared agriculture provides the assurance that you do indeed know where your food is coming from and how it is produced. Here at Largo Farm, we encourage all our members to come out to the farm several times a year so they can see how their food is grown, harvested, and stored, and can also participate in it. They have a relationship with both food and farmers. They know that we do not use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides, that we very seldom irrigate, that the primary energy going into our food is solar or metabolic (human or horse-power), and that we rely primarily on Mother Nature to provide our cold storage. The more curious among them know that most of our seed is home-saved and that we start our own bedding plants in a shared wood-heated greenhouse. And they all know (I hope!) that they are free to ask any other questions they might have.

They also know that by being a part of the Largo Farm Community Shared Agriculture community, they are helping us to keep this farmland clean and undeveloped and to live a cherished lifestyle. Our way of living is not perfect, nor is it for everyone, but we find it immensely satisfying. We live off-grid with wood heat, limited solar power, water hauled from the lake, and significant daily interaction with the community of life that sustains us. Being able to earn some cash through community shared agriculture enables us to live our lives in place to a greater extent than would be possible if we had to seek that income off-farm, and provides us with a stimulating social network.

Sound ideal? We think so, and we hope others will as well. Getting vegetables from the farm is less straightforward than picking them up at the grocery store, but we and our members believe it is worth the effort. Community shared agriculture offers a very special relationship which joins farmers, eaters, and the natural world in a twirling dance of reciprocity.

And this is the time of year when we invite new partners into the dance. Vegetable shares for the 2019 growing season are now available at our lowest price of the year, and we are seeking new members in both our Saskatoon and our Battlefords groups. You can find full details on the community shared agriculture tab of this blog. Please join us, and help spread the word to anyone who might be interested!

For our current members, the February vegetables shares go out this week loaded with those winter roots: potatoes, carrots, beets, and onions. This month’s onions are particularly colourful, as we have a mix of purple onions, yellow cooking onions, and multipliers. And the carrots continue as delicious as always, and are keeping fabulously this year. Hooray!

I don’t know about you, but we are always happy to find a new way to enjoy potatoes. Over the past month we have been learning about a new country each week and we recently covered Uganda. I found this scrumptious recipe for Ugandan potatoes, a simple way to spice up the humble spud:

1 kg potatoes, peeled and parboiled

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp coriander

1 tsp tomato puree

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp oil

Heat the oil and saute the onions until golden, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add all the ground spices and stir fry for about 1 minute, then add tomato puree, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Cut the parboiled potatoes into 1/2” pieces and add to the rest of the ingredients. Stir well. Add 3/4 cup water and cook for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and the sauce reduced. Add extra water if needed. Bon appetit!

Snowing and Blowing

shadow

The reports came in while we were enjoying our final day of holidays with Shawn’s parents in Yorkton: there was snow at home. Lots of it. I like snow. I like skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing. The more snow, the merrier I am. It was not until we were loading the car the next morning that it hit me: we might not make it home. We didn’t see even a flake of fresh snow between Yorkton and Saskatoon, but the reports of deep snow at home haunted our thoughts. Our communication with neighbours was of little assistance. Nobody had been out yet; nobody knew what condition our road was in. Eventually we got word that a friend had been through, so we decided to forego our afternoon movie plans and head straight home before the forecasted high winds buried our road in sculpted snow banks.

It proved to be a wise decision. Two CSA members braved the roads in large vehicles on Sunday, only to find themselves in the ditch on their way out. Fortunately, nobody was there long. Upon word of the second slide, we cancelled the final pick-up of the day and hunkered down into our toasty warm homes. We were snowed in until Tuesday afternoon, when the RM snowplough made its way through. Wednesday saw more blowing snow and the road plugged up again! We were very grateful the Battlefords pick-up had been successfully executed during the window of opportunity Tuesday evening.

One of the things I appreciate about our life on the farm is the way in which we are intimately connected with the natural world. My days begin and end with a trip to the outhouse. When the sun shines and the days are long, we have lots of electricity; when we have a long stretch of cloudy winter days, we have to decide how to prioritize our use of power. When the summer rains descend in a flood, we cancel any gardening plans for a day or two. And when a winter storm blows in, our vegetable pick-up schedule has to be altered.

It’s not always easy to be flexible. I like planning and organization (at least) as much as the next person. I tend to start each day with a list of what I hope to accomplish and start to stress when the incomplete items get carried over too many days. I am not yet fully accustomed to relinquishing control to the elements. But what I find even more challenging is when the weather impacts our Community Shared Agriculture members. I know that when we have to postpone a vegetable pick-up, the chaos of the skies is unleashed onto multiple other families.

And that’s where I really come to appreciate the dedication of our members. When you signed up for the CSA, they may have realized that your eating patterns would be affected by weather conditions but you may not have anticipated how much scheduling flexibility might sometimes be required. Both the Battlefords and the Saskatoon members whose plans were affected by last weekend’s snow also had their summer pick-up times postponed due to unfavourable weather! There are certainly times when I am conscious of how much we are asking of people.

On the flip side, I suppose we are also offering the opportunity to be more deeply connected to the natural world around us, both in ways that are readily embraced – such as fresh food grown without chemicals on an off-grid farm – and in ways that can be more frustrating – such as postponed deliveries. We certainly hope the positive outweighs the negative!

We also hope that you are still finding ways to enjoy the vegetables of the season. We are getting down to the nitty gritty: potatoes and carrots with a side of beets. (There are some onions yet to come as well, but they too are snowed in! We have them stored at Judy’s sister’s place and have not been able to get a vehicle through to pick them up.)

My family enjoys carrots (and often potatoes too) in nearly every soup we make. Carrot sticks are also a common feature of our meals – though there often aren’t any left on the table by the time the meal actually begins. As we seek ways to reduce the amount of off-farm food we eat, I have tended to replace most pasta (though we do sometimes make or buy it) and rice with potatoes. If a recipe suggests serving over pasta or rice, I serve it over boiled or mashed potatoes. It doesn’t always work, but I am surprised how often it does — and how many root vegetables we consume over the course of the winter!

This week, we tried a new beet salad recipe from Simply in Season which, amazingly, received a thumb’s up from at least one of the kids.

Shredded Beet Salad

2 cups red beets, cooked, peeled, and shredded (I used white beets, cooked and julienned)

1/2 cup fresh parsley (omitted due to the season!)

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp onion, chopped

1 Tbsp sugar (I used 1/2 Tbsp honey)

1/2 tsp salt

pepper to taste

Mix together and chill. To serve, place the red beet mixture in the middle of a dish.

1 cup carrots, shredded

1 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

green olives, optional

Arrange around the beets. (I only used the carrots and julienned them rather than shredding because some of my family doesn’t like shredded vegetables. I feared the texture of cooked beets with raw carrots might be odd when they weren’t shredded, but it seemed to work ok. I will certainly make the dish again.)

Bon appetit!

Solstice greetings!

How has it come about so quickly that the sun has hit its lowest point on the horizon and will soon begin ascending the sky and gracing us with longer days? The early part of this winter has been full of bean cleaning and butchering, along with our regular daily chores, winter homeschooling in our household, and a bit more time than usual for rest and reading.

Two weeks from now, the winter vegetable season will hit its mid-point and already, I am afraid to say, it has begun its decline (at least in terms of variety). We will continue to have potatoes, carrots, and beets in abundance, as well as some onions (predominantly red onions and the smaller multipliers from here on in, as unfortunately our bumper crop of cooking onions did not cure properly and has nearly all been eaten either by humans (us and our members) or, in the case of those too far gone for human consumption, by our chickens. We are sorry that we humans were not able to get all the benefits from the abundance of onions, but we are benefitting indirectly through enhanced egg production. Though there has been some degree of winter slowdown with the hens, we continue to be impressed by the number of eggs we are able to bring in every day. The cellar is filling up nicely in anticipation of our January orders going out.

Your December vegetables also included what will be your only rutabagas of the season. They were small this year due to late seeding, and while the quality turned out to be quite good, the quantity left something to be desired. Next year!

Those of you who are particularly fond of parsnips will have one more opportunity to enjoy them this winter – they will be available by request with January orders. After that we will have to wait until spring, and see if the weather cooperates with a spring digging for one final taste of those sweet roots before next year.

I have been learning a bit about our microbiome lately (all the multitudes of other organisms that make their homes inside of us and contribute to the proper functioning, or lack thereof, of our bodily systems). Fascinating stuff! One of the shows I watched highlighted the importance of root vegetables to proper gut health – so enjoy those potatoes, carrots, and beets!

For recipes this month, I’m going to share a couple targeted towards those of you who still have pumpkins and parsnips waiting to be used. Christa D. shared a recipe for a classic comfort-food pumpkin soup:

Cut a 2.4 lb pumpkin into 3” slices. Cut the skin off, scrape the seeds out, and cut into chunks. Place in a pot with 1 sliced onion, 2 whole peeled garlic cloves, 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, uncovered, then reduce heat and let simmer rapidly until pumpkin is tender.

Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in 1/2 to 3/4 cup cream or milk.

I have also come across the following Spicy Parsnip Soup recipe that I am looking forward to trying. (It is in The Three Sisters Quick and Easy Indian Cookbook and the other recipes I have tried have been fantastic!)

Melt 1 1/2 Tbsp oil and 1 Tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 onion, chopped, and fry for about 5 minutes. Add 1 inch fresh ginger, grated; 3 garlic cloves, crushed; 1/2 tsp turmeric; a pinch of chili, and a pinch of cumin. Stir for 1 minute, then add 1 lb. parsnips, peeled and grated, and 800 mL vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until parsnips are tender. Blend until smooth, then reheat with 100 mL milk and 50 mL cream. Season with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, and either coriander or parsley leaves (or a pinch of roasted and ground cumin seeds).

Or if you’d like a recipe that includes both pumpkin and parsnip, I highly recommend the Tunisian Pumpkin Soup recipe I shared on this blog in November 2017. Bon appetit!