NEWS AND VIEWS
A Good Vintage
At the farm, when we say harvest, we mean the daily harvest of summer squash, cucumbers, strawberries, lettuce, etc. However, the term harvest in Sonoma County quite often refers to THE harvest - grapes.
The 2014 grape harvest is coming early this year. Soon, the roads will be filled with trucks loaded with bins of picked grapes, harvest equipment will be cleaned and rolled out for the 2014 crush, and the smell of fermenting grapes will flavor the air. The varieties of wine grapes grown at Shone Farm are syrah, pinot noir, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc. Winemaker, Chris Wills, projects that our grapes will start coming in within the next two weeks, starting with sauvignon blanc.
He also said that things are moving along well. This year's cool summer has been pretty ideal growing weather. People think that grapes need hot weather to ripen, but once temperatures rise above 95 degrees, photosynthesis starts breaking down. Grapes no longer produce sugar, but instead begin losing acid. A hot summer actually slows things down. We are ahead this year because of the cool summer.
A cool summer also means that the grapes have a high acid level, which is ideal. It contributes lots of flavor and aroma to the wine. Plus, the grapes can gradually increase their sugar levels on the vine. Chris said that he's very excited to work with this year's crop. So, despite the drought, and its effect on many aspects, the cool climate is working with us to make 2014 a good vintage.
So, as a nod to the winery heritage of Sonoma County, this week's box has grapes in it! It's funny to think that we've never included grapes in our CSA box before, and you rarely see grapes sold at the farmer's markets. I guess when you live in the midst of wine country, grapes tend to mean wine, but they're just as good to eat as to drink, and a lot more kid friendly!
TIPS & TIDBITS...
Relative of the beet, chard comes in almost every color of the rainbow - white, yellow, orange, and dark pinkish red. Rainbow chard is very nutritious; it's packed with Vitamin A & C, potassium, calcium, and magnesium and is very popular among Mediterranean cooks. The first varieties have been traced back to Sicily
To store your chard, place in a plastic bag and store it in the fridge up to 1 week - the fresher you eat it, the better.
The thick, colorful stems take longer to cook than the tender green leaves, but both are edible. If you plan to use both in the same dish, cook the stalks for a few minutes before adding the leaves, which wilt very quickly.
Chard is a great addition to soups, pastas, and stir fries, as well as a side dish by itself.
Try adding raw chard to smoothies or finely chop the leaves and add to salads. Raw chard is great combined with something sweet and/or acidic like raisins, nuts, goat cheese, apples or lemons.
Many people have never heard of gypsy peppers. Gypsies are one of the first "heirloom" sweet varietals to come onto the late-summer, early-fall pepper scene. Though actually a hybrid, they are mostly grown by small organic farms and are only available at farmers' markets and a few produce stores.
Gypsy peppers are a sweet variety that starts out greenish yellow and ripens to orange, and then eventually turns red. They can be eaten in all stages, with the sweetness increasing with color.
They have thinner walls and skin than grocery-variety bell peppers, making them great for eating raw in salads, salsa, or sandwiches, pickling, stuffing, roasting or grilling. Like most peppers, gypsy peppers are high in vitamin A and C, as well as fiber.
THE RECIPE CORNER
This is light, delicate, buttery, and sweet.
2 Tbs butter
1 med onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 med potatoes, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 -2 peppers diced
5 c chicken or vegetable stock
3 c milk
1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 Tbsp fresh
1 tsp dried basil, or 1 Tbsp fresh
1 tsp dried tarragon, or 1 Tbsp fresh
1 ½ c frozen peas
About 3 ears of sweet corn, cut from the cob
1 large fillet of red snapper or cod (optional)
In a large soup pot, melt the butter over low heat. Saute the onions about 3 minutes. Then add the carrots, potatoes, celery, peppers, and herbs. Cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the stock, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to med and allow the soup to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the milk and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
At the very end, stir in the corn and peas. Taste and add salt and pepper, or more herbs to taste. If you are adding the fish, add it right at the end, too. It will cook in just a few minutes and will be flaky enough to distribute throughout the chowder.
3 ears of corn
2 - 3 gypsy peppers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 bunch chard
Salt & Pepper
Husk and cut the corn from the cob. Chop the onion and peppers into large chunks. Finely chop the parsley. Rinse the chard and remove the leaves from the stem. Chop the stem and tear the leaves into about 2" pieces. Keep leaves and stems separate.
Add the chard stems to a little sauce pot, along with a little water. Bring to a boil and cover for a few minutes. Then add the leaves. Cook for about 2 more minutes until the chard is nice and wilted. Remove from heat. Drain the water and add a little balsamic vinegar and salt to the chard.
Next, heat a little olive oil in a pan over med-high heat. Then add the onion and peppers. Sautee for a few minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add the corn, parsley, and a little salt and pepper. Continue stirring until the veggies are tender and beginning to brown.
When the veggies are ready, put a pile of chard on a plate. Top with sautéed veggies and a little blue cheese.
Salad of the week
Try this combo in a salad this week:
Lettuce, finely chopped chard, gypsy peppers, raw corn, cucumbers, grapes, pine nuts or slivered almonds, feta, fontina, or Havarti cheese, and grilled or shredded chicken (optional)