Monday, August 31, 2009

Kennebec Potatoes

What exactly is a KENNEBEC POTATO?Kennebec Pictures

The Kennebec potato is making quite an imprint on the culinary world... potato-wise. The days of 'just use any old potato' for french fries are gone, and finer restaurants are switching over to the Kennebec for a variety of reasons and for many kinds of dishes. Why?
As with all basic food items, the qualities of that particular food are important to how it is cooked by itself and how it is used with other ingredients in recipes. The Kennebec has great potato qualities and, though this strain of potato has been around for over 50 years, it's just beginning to get its due and being noticed by better restauranteurs.
The Kennebec is a large potato, and it looks very pretty with its light tan skin, nice uniform appearance (it usually doesn't have large 'holes' like many other potatoes), and attractive white fleshy insides. The skin is thin so it peels quickly (and is fine to use even unpeeled), and it's a nice oval potato so it is more attractive on the plate than some other irregularly-shaped ones. It is an easily-grown main crop potato, the plant has a high and dependable yield of large potatoes, it resists blight and other diseases well, and the potatoes winter very well for a long storage time.
But all that is just the growing, storage and appearance benefits; what about cooking and taste?

They are GOOD. It tastes very much like a potato; this statement only makes sense when you really try to decide what a potato tastes like. Some have a very weak, diluted potato taste, some have sweeter or starchier or 'dirt' tastes, but the Kennebec tastes balanced, just right. The balance of tastes seems like the perfect potato. They perhaps have a subtle 'nutty' tint to the flavor.

These potatoes 'hold together' well when cooked. Some potatoes seem to keep too much firmness after cooking, some potatoes get all mushy right away, but the Kennebec maintains a stable integrity... you pick up those fries and they like to hold together, you bake the potato and it's a nice consistency. Mashed, scalloped, potato strings, potato salad, roasted, baked, hashbrowns and french fries, you have only to search for 'kennebec potato' and you'll see what restaurants, fish and chip cafes, and chefs are saying about the Kennebec.

It is still rare to find this potato type in grocery stores. It is more common for restaurants to buy them through suppliers as it is becoming a well-known restaurant potato.

Garlic in your box today / Tomato blight

Is Elephant garlic that got stressed (cold winter?) and made 1 big bulb instead of cloves. It's a mild garlic, very juicy and can be chopped and used like any garlic.

Tomato blight is widespread. I heard today - Baldwin, Traverse City, East Lansing Student Organic Farm. Everyone is bummed. MSU says they don't think it carries over in the soil, tho. The University specialists have tried to save about 1/3 of the organic farm crop there. Jeremy also said they are picking all their green tomatoes and seeing what ripens, so maybe we will try that.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Veggies this past week

It's raining, again. I have a spare moment out of it to let you know about some surprises in your box!

A few people got Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers (an heirloom, long pointy and wrinkly) and a few got Mild Jalapenos (they look like regular jalapenos, only they have no heat). We still have no sign of red or yellow sweet peppers, and feel lucky the green ones are finally getting a little larger. I'm not sure what the 4 days of temps in the 60s / 40s will do to them, or the other heat-loving crops.

Hot peppers are sparse. Any in your box will be in a ziplock bag marked HOT. I try to have some extra at the Market or set out for CSA people here. I got a report of a very hot jalapeno!

The tomatoes are getting worse and worse. All the tomatoes put in your boxes this week were sorted through for blemishes or blight and all looked good going in. However, some of the large ones I had set aside for shares picked up on Friday and Saturday started deteriorating overnight. I'm sorry if yours has. It is absolutely the worst tomato crop ever, in 38 years of growing them. And that's the word from just about everyone. Even people with nice looking tomatoes (no blight) say the flavor is not good. Tomatoes need heat and dry weather to develop the best taste, concentrate the natural sugars. Commercial growers are having to spray spray spray to keep some of their crop.

Here's more on Jimmy Nardello:

Jimmy Nardello's Sweet Italian Frying pepper

  • This variety of pepper was originally from Basilicata, a southern region of Italy. It takes its name from seed saver Jimmy Nardello, who brought the seeds from Italy while immigrating to Connecticut in 1887. The Jimmy Nardello's pepper is sweet and light when eaten raw. It is considered one of the very best frying peppers as its fruity raw flavor becomes perfectly creamy and soft when fried.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My favorite ways to eat eggplant

  • Cube it into fairly large chunks (1/2 inch slices cut in half) with summer squashes, onions, green peppers. Toss in olive oil and roast in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes.
  • Cut into 3/4 inch slices lengthwise. Brush with oil and grill till it's browned. It will soften as it cools.
  • Eggplant Parmesan!
  • Saute and add to any tomato sauce.


It seems that all over the world, at some point along the way, many cultures met and fell in love with the lovely appearance and creamy-smooth flesh of this surprisingly versatile vegetable.


Eggplant prefers to be kept at about 50°F, which is warmer than most refrigerators and cooler than most kitchen counters. Wrap unwashed eggplant in a towel (not in plastic) to absorb any moisture and keep it in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. Used within a week, it should still be fresh and mild.


Many people like to peel, salt, and drain their eggplant to draw out any bitter flavor; however, bitterness develops only in eggplant that has been stored for a while, so with farm-fresh specimens this is generally not necessary. Many recipes call for salting in order to make the vegetable less watery and more absorbent—much like draining tofu. Salting is not an essential step, but it can greatly enhance the taste and texture of your dish and is well worth the extra effort. The shape of an eggplant determines how it is best prepared. Slice a straight, narrow eggplant into rounds for grilling or broiling, and cut a rounded, bulbous eggplant into cubes for stews and stir-fries.

Baba Ghanouj

This is a traditional Middle Eastern recipe for baba ghanouj, a thick but light spread that is delicious as a dip for pita bread or vegetables or as a filling in a sandwich. Its distinct, nutty flavor comes from tahini, a sesame paste that is widely available in specialty stores and many supermarkets.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 medium eggplants

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4–1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1–11/2 large lemons)

1/3 cup tahini

1–2 cloves garlic, minced (1/2–1 teaspoon)

1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Rub 1 tablespoon of the oil over both whole eggplants and place them on a baking sheet. Roast, turning once or twice, until very soft, 30 to 45 minutes depending on size. Let cool.

3. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat until they start to brown in spots and become fragrant. (Be careful not to overtoast them, as they will burn very quickly once toasted.) Immediately transfer the nuts to a dish to cool.

4. Cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the flesh. Purée the eggplant flesh in a food processor or finely chop it on a cutting board. Transfer to a bowl.

5. Add the lemon juice, tahini, garlic, cumin, salt, cayenne, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix until well combined.

6. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro or parsley and toasted pine nuts.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bad News About Tomatoes

Our tomato patch is succumbing to the Tomato / Potato Blight that is sweeping the Northeast and moving into the Midwest. The cause is cool, damp weather combined with spores of Phytophthora infestans. This has been blamed on plants sold at 'big box' stores for home gardeners, but we grew all our plants from seed - all 600+ of them. It's the weather that is to blame - too cool and too wet too early in the season. I saw the first affected plants on Saturday and now it's evident through most of the patch. Some spores tend to stay in the soil, but are usually dormant till September when most of the fruit has ripened. We will have to destroy all diseased plants and not grow tomatoes in our driveway garden for years to come.

Commercial growers are losing 25-50% of their crop and organic farmers are being wiped out because the controls of the fungus can't be used. We have sprayed with copper, kelp and fish emulsion hoping for plant vigor in the remaining plants so they can resist the disease.

Please rest assured we will not spray poisons on your veggies. We will pass on any decent edible tomatoes to CSA members. Cherry tomatoes are most resistant, so that may be the bulk of what you get.

I laid awake a couple of hours last night lamenting the loss of this wondrous vital crop. We depend on our tomatoes for nourishment and income, and you depended on us to grow them for you. We are so sorry.

Monday, August 17, 2009

today's veggies

I'm off to a birth - am doing a quick post here. We are going to try to send a half dozen ears of corn with each share! They were not quite ripe a couple of days ago (we ate them anyhow). The peppers are still kind of small and misshapen - the plants are loaded and sometimes peppers get caught in the middle. They will break the plant as they grow so have to be harvested smaller and they are usually strange shapes because of the crowding.

Please return the containers, plastic and wooden, pints, quarts and odd sizes. We like to keep them in circulation. Boxes, too!

Enjoy! More posting later.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sweet Corn!

We ate not-quite-ripe sweet corn for dinner last night! Soon....

And we picked nearly a dozen large tomatoes, an Italian Heirloom variety started from seed by Amanda, Mike's wife. Yay! The hot crops are loving the weather the past week. NOW it feels like summer in Michigan!
love your farmers market contest - help your market win $5,000 - vote today!

Friday, August 14, 2009


Michigan: where folks are wondering which will be turning red first; the leaves or the tomatoes! : /

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

8 Excellent Reasons To Plant Cover Crops

You will notice when crops are harvested and the ground worked up, we usually plant buckwheat or rye, oats or wheat as a green manure cover crop. Here's all the good reasons why. Thanks to Peaceful Valley for the article!

1. To provide erosion control.

2. To build the soil's organic matter & humus content and improve soil structure.

3. Increase the microbial activity and biomass in the topsoil and provide food for the soil microbes and earthworms which are vital to plant health.

4. To provide competition to weed growth.

5. To increase water infiltration from rainfall and irrigation. Your soil gets more water, distributed more evenly.

6. To increase nutrient availability: cover crops extract nutrients from the subsoil and deposit them in the topsoil.

7. To provide habitat, prey, nectar and pollen for beneficial insects.

8. To break up the subsoil, clay layers and plowsoles for increased water and air penetration.

Summer Squash recipes

These are from Peaceful Valley, an organic farm seed and supply catalogue:

Simple Sauté

Dice an onion and slice few zucchini. Warm a few table spoons of olive oil in a frying pan and add the onions, then zucchini a couple minutes later. Add some Italian seasoning and fresh cracked pepper. Other welcome additions could include minced garlic, diced red pepper, summer squash. Put the lid on the pan to let the squash simmer and soften. Enjoy with rice.


Summer Omelette

Whisk 4 eggs with a touch of milk and pour them over sauté vegetables (see above). Use a spatula around the edges of the pan to encourage the uncooked eggs to find their way to the frying pan surface. When the eggs are nearly done, add some cheddar cheese to the top and put a lid on it. Turn off the burner and let the cheese melt. Fold in half (or not) and enjoy!


Summer Squash Soup

In a tablespoon of olive oil, sauté a diced yellow onion or two, some minced garlic, and (optional) sliced celery and carrots. After a couple minutes, add several sliced summer squashes, stir and sauté for about 5 minutes. When the squash is soft, add enough chicken (or vegetable) broth to cover the vegetables and simmer for 5 minutes. Blend the soup in a blender in batches. Stir in a 1/4 cup of cream (optional) and serve with a decorative drizzle of creme fraich or sour cream (optional). *Make this a curry squash soup by adding a table spoon of curry powder when you sauté the onions.


Stuffed Zucchini

When you find yourself with a zucchini the size of a bowling ball pin, slice it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and set it aside. Sauté some onions, garlic, more squash (of course), other garden veggies, and optionally some beef or Italian sausage. Add some tomato sauce (optional). Mix in bread crumbs or cooked rice or cooked barley. Add some mozzarella or parmesan cheese (optional). Re-fill the zucchini shells with the stuffing and place them in a glass baking dish with a 1/2" of water in the bottom and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.  (Let us know if you want some larger squash - we usually feed them to the chickens).


Squash Parmesan

Slice any kind of squash you have on hand. Toss with some olive oil and minced garlic. Fill a glass baking dish with the squash and cover the top with a generous layer of a mixture of breadcrumbs, parmesan, and italian herbs. Bake for 30-45 minutes. This makes a great side dish for chicken.


Summer Squash Garlic Grill Marinade

Mince 4 cloves of garlic and mix it with a pinch of fine salt. Allow it to sit for a minute (the salt will help bring out the garlic flavor). Mix with1/4 cup of olive oil and add any other herbs you enjoy grilling with. Slice zucchinis, yellow summer squashes, and patty pan squashes into broad 1/4" slices. Brush both sides with the garlic marinade, grill for about 3 minutes on each side and enjoy.  (I usually also add tamari soy sauce.)

I also like to roast squash and other vegetables:  slice in uniform-sized pieces.  Toss with a good olive oil.  Spread 1 layer deep on a cookie sheet and roast in a 375-425 oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring 1-2 times.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Finally - Hot Weather!

It was warm enough to jump in Lake Michigan yesterday and is supposed to be really hot all week! Maybe we'll start getting some real tomatoes soon. The Sweet Peppers, Cukes and Squashes are coming on really strong, and we ate the first cantaloupe today for lunch!

Enjoy your veggies this week.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Next week's (#11) veggies

Looks like we will have leeks, garlic, sweet peppers, maybe some hot peppers, eggplant, fingerling potatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, lettuce, beans, and more!

A note about potatoes

Do not leave them out on your counter. The fingerlings especially will begin to turn green right away. They need to be kept in a cool, dark place. We have to be extra careful about hilling and mulching the fingerling potatoes when they are still growing so there will be no sun exposure.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Time off

Bill and I just had 5 days away from the Farm. Our niece got married in Oregon so we flew out with lots of other family, had hot hot hot weather while in Portland, spent a few cooler days on the Coast. The family & friend time, hiking, seafood (gosh I wish we could grow that fresh here!), Pinot Noir, wedding, were all great!

It's so nice to have capable and consistent help here on the Farm so we could do that. Thanks, Mike, and everyone else!

Now to catch up...