Siena Farms Blog
With Thanksgiving two and a half weeks away, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to round out your Turkey-centric meal. We thought we’d give you a countdown, from now until T-Day of the best ways to make use of your Siena Farms treasures. Enjoy our countdown and check back each day for a new tasty tidbit for your recipe box!
#13 Baked Sweet Potato Casserole
Everyone has a favorite recipe, but don’t get stuck in the same rut every year!
- How about this recipe, with toasted coconut, oats, and brown sugar on top?
- Or a Caribbean twist with chickpeas, lime, and cilantro?
- Try stuffing your Siena Farms’ beauties to enjoy a filling instead of a topping.
- What about something non-sweet all together? Sweet potatoes in a gratin are wonderful!
We recently received some fan mail from an adoring CSA member and thought we would share it on the blog, especially because it includes a great carrot recipe! Enjoy.
Hi Siena Farms,
First, a long overdue fan letter. I’ve really, really enjoyed my weekly “treasure boxes.” Trying new veggies (fava beans, green garlic, watermelon radishes), new varieties of old favorites (the fairy tale eggplant, which I usually roast at high temp with meaty grape tomatoes and thick-sliced onions, then season with urfa pepper and parsley, converted my daughter, not an eggplant fan), and freshly harvested beets, potatoes, carrots, etc.
Everyone knows about the superiority of fresh-picked corn, or tomatoes, or garden peas. But even the more prosaic veggies, like carrots and cabbage, are a surprise and a delight when fresh from the field. I was especially pleased to get the cabbage while I still had fresh basil, so I could make my favorite summer slaw of cabbage, sliced fennel and celery, seasoned with lots of fennel fronds, celery leaves and basil, and tossed with an olive oil-champagne vinegar dressing, with just a touch of sugar. I’m looking forward to more delicious surprises in the weeks to come!
I did want to share one recipe that I have enjoyed recently. This makes use of the abundance of sweet, fresh carrots. It’s adapted from a recipe in one of my old standbys, The Victory Garden Cookbook. My biggest change was the addition of ras el hanout, which added a North African touch).
2 pounds carrots
1 tablespoon lemon juice, divided
4 tablespoons butter
2 c sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout
1 cup chicken broth
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 8 pieces
¼ c dry French vermouth
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Peel and julienne carrots. Bring ½ cup water, ½ tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon butter and pinch salt to boil. Add mushrooms, cover and cook 2–3 minutes. Drain, set aside.
Heat remaining butter in large sauté pan. Add carrots and shallots, cook over medium heat for a few minutes, then sprinkle with Ras el Hanout and sauté another minute. Stir in flour and cook for a few minutes. Gradually stir in broth, then add chicken, and stir, adding salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 6–8 minutes. Remove chicken and carrots to warm plate with slotted spoon. Add vermouth and cook rapidly to reduce slightly. Stir in heavy cream and boil rapidly to thicken slightly. Return chicken, carrots, and mushrooms to pan, stir and heat gently to warm. Taste and adjust seasoning. Top with chopped parsley to serve.
We lucked out again with perfect weather for our second CSA Farm Tour last Saturday. It seems that every year our wonderful CSA members turn out in larger and larger numbers to spend an afternoon at the farm. Everyone gathered to enjoy drinks and Sofra treats before we took a walk down to our greenhouse and then out to the fields to see a our last big greens seeding, as well as our fall carrots and brussels sprouts. As the temperature cooled, we all headed back to the farm to warm up with a big pot Chef Ana’s delicious carrot soup, as well as grilled hot dogs and sausages. As the daylight faded, Farm Managers Max and Avi built a bonfire to warm the crowds and slowly everyone trickled home. Thank you to everyone who came out for the tour!
And now, the recipe for Chef Ana’s Carrot Soup:
Oleana’s Carrot Soup
makes 6 cups
4 cups of peeled and roughly cut carrots
1 onion, or leek or 2 shallots, peeled and roughly cut
2 tablespoons olive oil + 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup of milk
1 bulb of fennel, roughly cut
4 cups of water
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of ras el hannout (or, I used one of my favorite blends that we sell at Sofra called Izak)
1 teaspoon of harissa or great chile flakes like aleppo pepper
1-2 tablespoon of honey
Squeeze of lemon
Salt to taste
Urfa pepper to garnish
Sofra’s Hot Pepper Labne to garnish
In a large sauce or soup pot, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat and add the carrots, onion, leek or shallots, fennel and cook until they begin to soften about 8 minutes. Add milk, water, bay leaf, ras el hannout and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes or more. The carrots should be very soft when squeezed with a pair of tongs.
Season with salt to taste. Stir in the honey, lemon, harissa and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Using a good blender or even better, a Vitamix– carefully puree the soup in batches until it is extremely smooth and velvety. If the soup is hot, you need to be very, very careful not to create suction in the blender which is why I love the Vitamix because you can start it on low speed.
Serve hot sprinkled with urfa pepper and a dollop of labne or hot pepper labne.
For an even more authentic and Moroccan flavor, blend in a tablespoon of argan oil at the end.
Written by Max Morningstar, Farm Manager
Winter Squash is a summer plant, like cucumbers and summer squash and melons. It thrives in high heat and long days. It hates the cold and dislikes heavy rain, preferring the slow, consistent drip from irrigation lines that nurtures commanding vines and heavy fruit.
The lead up to the Winter Squash harvest, one of the most rewarding and whimsically New England fall activities, begins in our greenhouse just as we start to see our first spring crops mature in the field. In mid May, we seed into trays, and within three weeks the plants are large and forming good roots. They are planted into the field in mid June, far before we can imagine the shorter days and cool nights to come.
We prefer transplanting our squash to direct seeding it into the ground. In 2011, we experimented with planting Winter Squash into the same biodegradable “plastic” mulch that we use for all of our heat-loving crops (summer squash, tomatoes, etc.) and we were very impressed with the results. By increasing the soil temperature and allowing us to avoid damaging the plants through mechanical cultivation, planting into plastic gave us incredible growth and fruit set. The plants were some of the healthiest we have ever seen on any organic farm.
Once we have transplanted the squash, and after cultivating the edges of the mulch-covered beds several times, the next step is to watch and wait.
This is harder than you might think.
You must be attentive and aware while you walk and scout your growing crop, and it is easy to lose sleep over every bug, leaf spot. and animal track you see. And there are times when action is required, but Winter Squash is strong and methodical, and it is best to remember that and get back to sleep.
After almost 150 days of watching our plants grow, flower, and set fruit, we see the vines die back in mid September to expose the crop. And then, when the stem is corky, the color of the squash’s flesh and skin is right, and the weather is good, it is time to start the harvest.
This is the fun part.
We cut the fruit and carefully collect it into windrows, taking care not to bruise it. We then leave it in the field to cure. Curing is the time when the fruit’s skin becomes hard and its stem seals, ensuring storage quality over the coming months. The curing process will go on for up to a week if the weather is dry and there is no risk of frost. Frost will leave the fruit unmarketable.
When curing is complete, or weather (such as hurricane Irene last season) forces it, we begin to collect the squash. We load the squash by hand into bulk bins, which are carried on the pallet forks of the tractor, again taking care not to bruise it. Then we load the bins onto trucks and hay wagons, and drive them back to the farm. There we unload the squash, which will finish it’s curing in the place where it started its growth: tucked into warm corners of the greenhouse, keeping until it is eaten.
For the next five months, the Winter Squash will remind us that though it is winter, and it is too cold to remember its summer growth, soon again there will be spring seedlings, growing when the days are too long to focus on the fall.
We had our first CSA farm tour of the season a couple weeks ago and it was a great success! Tons of our incredible CSA members came out with their family and friends to check out the fields and enjoy drinks, BLTs, and grilled vegetables and burgers out in Sudbury. Farmer Chris, and the Siena Farms crew, as well as Chef Ana, and Siena herself led everyone through our big new greenhouse where we are currently storing the winter squash and then out to one of our several sets of fields. Everyone got to see our last major greens planting just starting to come up, as well as our giant fall carrot patch. We came back to the farm for social hour to enjoy drinks and good food in the beautiful weather. Thanks to everyone who came out! We look forward to seeing some of you again, as well as many new CSA member faces at our next CSA farm tour on October 13th!
By Max Morningstar
Photos by Eero Ruuttila
Last fall we lost our 2011 Brussels Sprout crop to a fungal disease. Soil born fungal diseases are an extreme challenge for the organic grower, as conventional soil fumigation is not an option.
We found a cover crop called Caliente 199, a mustard crop bred specifically to deal with soil born pathogens and nematodes. It is a truly amazing plant.
Caliente 199 is bred to be high in glucosinolates, which are the chemicals that give certain mustard family plants — like radishes — their spicy flavor.
This fumigation is proving to be extremely effective against destructive fungus, bacteria, and nematodes, some of which — like phytophthora capsici — are hard even for conventional growers to control with chemicals.
The plants grow for 100 days, and reach a height of five feet. Two weeks after the full flower bloom, it is time to incorporate.
The mustard is mowed and harrowed, which ruptures the cell walls and buries the plant matter, and allows the glucosinolates in the plant to mix with water in the soil and create isothiocyanate gas, which is a naturally occurring bio-fumigant.
The incorporation process was a challenge, but a fun one. The crop must be mowed, turned in, and packed down within fifteen minutes, as the fumigation starts immediately and must happen underground to be effective.
We had three tractors and four operators working in tandem. It was very exciting, calling back memories of bailing hay ahead of a summer storm.
It was fascinating and fun to treat a problem that normally calls for a chemical application simply by growing a plant, a very cool plant.
Oregano is everywhere. At the farm this time of year, our oregano patch is taking off. Fresh or dried, it is a delicious flavor that goes well with so many vegetables and meats. While it is native to the Mediterranean, it can be used in a variety of cuisines. It is often paired with tomatoes. Chef Ana Sortun of Oleana Restaurant tells us it goes great with bold flavored foods like lamb, garlic, and feta cheese. When tomatoes are in season Chef Ana likes to use it on fresh tomato salads or with fried green tomatoes baked with Parmesan cheese.
Check out the following NYTimes article in the archives from 1998 with some incredible recipes with oregano, including grilled vegetables with oregano dressing. Yum! http://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/06/nyregion/food-oregano-from-garden-excess-to-essential-ingredient.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
Fresh oregano is delicious but if you find yourself with too much at once, lay it out on paper for 5-7 days or until it is completely dry. It will store indefinitely like this and adds great flavor even when it is dried. Read more about dried oregano at The Culinary Taste http://theculinarytaste.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/from-garden-to-kitchen-home-made-dried-oregano/
Comment here or on our Siena Farms facebook page and let us know how you’re using your oregano!
By Eero Ruuttila
June at the farm comes with the final run of more daylight, warming soils & fragrant midsummer nights. Farm fields & the farm’s suddenly crowded cooler are flush w/late spring salad & braising greens. Recently arrived summer crew members are being trained & coached by Siena’s experienced “ultra full-time” staff. Tractors & farm trucks are in constant movement between & among the farm’s patchwork of Sudbury & Concord fields. I will not jinx future days by saying the weather has been perfect; instead, let’s just say it’s been “good enough.”
Good enough for significant acreage now established w/most of summer’s crops: tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, onions, shallots, potatoes, leeks, parsnips, peppers, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, peas, fava & string beans, broccoli, head lettuce, cucumbers, summer squash, basil, sunflowers, & many, many successive plantings of salad & braising greens mixes.
New seedings continue in the greenhouse (as they will for a couple of more months), but our new greenhouse is no longer brimming w/plants. For the 1st time since early March there are actually gaps on the plant benches.
Prepping in the fields continues for the weekly succession of direct seedings, transplants, &/or cover crops. It will continue all the way into mid-September, but the pace of putting crops in slows as primary tasks shift towards field crop maintenance & harvests. Irrigation, insect & disease prevention (or control), weed cultivation & hoeing, and near daily harvests extend 12-hour work- days for full 7-day weeks. Fortunately the farm’s crew members are permitted off days each week.
In appearance & practice Siena Farms is a busy place!
What is less apparent is the detailed planning & research that precedes what is initiated out in the fields & displayed via Siena’s public markets or CSA membership.
For a peek at the details of how one crop is nurtured prior to its 1st pollinated blossom & way before its ripening fruit is ready for hand-picking, I’ve collated some notes & field-action photos to demonstrate Siena’s sustainable farming practices.
Exhibit A: Siena Farms tomatoes
2011 soil tests & review of cropping history on detailed farm maps provides appropriate field placement & soil amendment calculations for 2012 tomatoes. Tomatoes at Siena employ a 3-year rotation before returning to a previous tomato field.
Each year Siena Farms adds to its inventory of tractors & tractor implements. Field manager Max does national computer searches during the winter for new & used farm implements. This year four newly purchased (actually new-used) implements were utilized for the 2012 tomato fields: a New Holland drop spreader, a Rain-Flo transplanter, a front-end mount Brillion cultipacker & a Williams-system flex tine blind cultivator.
Soil tests determined that 2012 tomato fields required hi-calcium lime, greensand, & Bone Char + Siena’s standard general natural fertilizer, Pro-Gro. Once soil amendments were spread, they were harrowed in prior to covering tomato beds w/a biodegradable cornstarch derived plastic. During the winter, harvest crew manager Anya created an amazing spreadsheet for all of the farm fields w/appropriate soil amendment calculations for each crop. Office manager Jess ordered farm vegetable & flower seed & created a weekly greenhouse-seeding plan.
Tomatoes transplanted into a plastic mulch are provided a weed free environment, where soil moisture & soil organic matter are conserved, & efficient water & plant fertigation can be provided via drip lines under the plastic. Tomato rows are placed 12 feet apart to provide adequate ventilation to lessen tomato diseases, to facilitate hand-pick harvests as well as space for spraying via tractor & finally to establish a living mulch of red clover in an area of considerable farm traffic during the tomato production cycle. The clover will overwinter & provide considerable organic matter & root zone “fixed nitrogen” for 2013 crops following late spring plow down.
Spring has sprung on the heels of a mild (non?) winter and we’ve taken to the fields earlier than ever, plowing weeks early and harvesting some early greens. Last weeks’ cold snap may have damaged some of our early experimental plantings but it has not affected our summery attitudes! We are operating full-steam ahead as the first market quickly approaches. This year, the Copley Market will begin on Tuesday, May 15th at 11AM sharp.
We are celebrating the new season and the beginning of another promising market year on Sunday, May 6th at our Farm Store (106 Waltham St. in the South End) between 12 and 5pm. Come and meet Farmer Chris and the rest of our motley crew as we enjoy our last weekend before the season gets underway! Come and enjoy Sofra goodies, meet our crew and learn about our CSA program, which begins in June. Not to mention load up on the best that the early spring has to offer in our store!
The days are getting colder as winter has finally decided to descend upon New England. That doesn’t mean you have to go without fresh veggies and fruit. Come visit our one-month-old farm store in the South End. We are located at 106 Waltham St; right off Tremont (sandwiched in between Stir and the Butcher Shop). We are carrying a wide variety of New England products. We have local cheeses, eggs, veggies, greens, mushrooms, chocolates, coffee, Sofra goodies, apples, cider, fresh greenhouse lillies and much much more. We are open 12pm-8pm Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays). Come by and say hi. You can even use your market card at Siena Farms South End!