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CSA Newsletter ~ Week 2

Posted 4/25/2012 6:55am by Chris.
April has come about as close as possible to being a very average, and dare I say normal, month. After saying last week that averages result from high and low temperatures that are 20 degrees above or below the statistical average, and that normal hardly ever actually exists, we have experienced about as normal an April as possible; nothing too warm, nothing very cold, a few frosts, and lots of 50's and 60's. Most years we have a
Bok choi from above
A bok choi rosette
few days of 80+ degree temperatures in April with lots of hot wind that stresses out cool loving plants (and stresses us trying to keep everything watered). We seem to have gotten all the craziness out of the weather pattern in March.

As a result, everything is proceeding very much as we'd like, and nothing is behind or ahead of where we'd like to see it. The box this week is as typical as could be expected for the last full week of April, with four new items in the box this week compared to last. From last week you'll recognize the Vitamin Green, Red Rain mustard green, and spinach. I've always wanted to grow Vitamin Green and hope it's finding its way into you stir fries, or possibly even into a few soups or stews. The new items this week are Hakurei turnips, lettuce, Red Russian kale, and bok choi, which is fairly similar to the Vitamin Green in texture and use, with a slightly different flavor. 

For those of you who are new to us this year, the white 'salad' turnips (they're Japanese and the variety is called Hakurei) are much sweeter and lighter in texture than regular turnips. They're great for eating raw, which I highly recommend. Some people cook them, and I'm happy anytime someone finds a way they like to eat our produce, but these are so nice and tender, fruity, and sweet when eaten fresh that it seems a shame to cook them. I usually save the cooking for tougher or more fibrous or less sweet items like kale, Vitamin Green, and bok choi. So use those for a stir fry or saute (see Sheila's suggestions, left), and make a salad with the lettuce, spinach, Red Rain, and sweet turnips. It will be very pretty and have a nice, diverse flavor and several textures. When the Red Rain mustard greens get bigger/older/tougher, they're great cooked as in some of Sheila's suggestions. 

In the field, things are looking good and are moving along very well. Some of the best news is that we've established a very nice stand of spring carrots, which is not easy to do. Those of you with us last year will remember our biggest failure was not having any carrots in fall when we'd hoped to depend on them as a staple storage vegetable well into winter. We took the risk of direct seeding spring carrots (we transplant many crops, but carrots must be seeded directly into the field) during that crazy hot stretch of weather in March. Though it did eventually get much cooler and drier, we managed to keep enough water and warmth on the carrot seeds to get a very nice stand, and we're very happy to say that we'll have lots of early carrots this year, by the end of June. Garlic, which was planted last fall, is very big and way ahead of schedule thanks to our record March heat, and we should have a great crop come early July. While that is great, our strawberries are flowering super early. That might sound good, but it could be very dangerous as their blossoms can't take temperatures below 28 degrees without serious damage. 

You might notice some minor cosmetic damage on the white salad turnips. This was due to cabbage flies arriving six weeks ahead of schedule due to the extreme warmth we had last month. While we do include crops that have some cosmetic imperfections, we do not pack crops that have substantial damage that affects storage life or eating quality.  

We hope you enjoy what you've gotten so far and thank you very much for taking part in our CSA. 

Chris Covelli and 
The Tomato Mountain Team

It's a party!
Graze cover image 
Graze, Chicago's premier food-centered literary magazine--and the brainchild of CSA member Cyndi Fecher--has its first issue release party on Friday, April 27, at the Smart Museum of Art, from 8-11pm. Come for food, drinks, musical performances, and the current exhibition, Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art. Tickets are $10 and include a copy of the magazine. Click here for more details! 


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