Monday, July 30, 2012

Seynab's giant cabbage

Seynab Ali had a very rough start to her season. With the torrential rains of late May and June, she lost many crops and many other crops were stunted or very slow growing. Most of that rain-damaged field has been harvested or simply plowed in and planted again with a new succession of crops for fall harvest. Last week as she was walking through this field assessing her crops, she stumbled upon a GIANT cabbage that somehow survived the rains and thrived in the heat of July. This cabbage was not only enormous, it leaves were still soft and tender, like a young spring cabbage. It weighed in at nearly 8 pounds! Seynab was proud to include her giant cabbage in a wholesale order to a women's shelter in Portland.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spotlight on Farmers: Khadija Hilowle

Khadija Hilowle has been farming with NASAP since 2007.  She moved to Maine from Somalia and did not know that there were farming possibilities here. When she found out that her friends were farming, she quickly sought an opportunity to get back into her life long passion. Farming has been with her family for generations, though the things she grew in Somalia would not thrive here- mangoes, bananas etc, she has learned to grow and love carrots, kale, tomatoes, mustard greens, okra, beans beets, and cabbage.  Khadija knows that farming is hard, and that the markets require her to learn English and make quick change. “Nothing is easy,” she remarks, but joy and a generous sense of fun seem to follow Khadija wherever she goes. “No matter where I go,” she says, “life will be different. It is ok that my children are not training to be farmers. They are doing something different. But we grow and eat fresh vegetables without any sprays, just like in Africa.” Khadija says that the civil war in Somalia is never far from her mind, even as she rebuilds her life here. Of her farm, she proudly states, “You will see my farm, it is neat and the rows are straight and organized.”

Where to Meet Khadija

Come and meet Khadija and sample some of her delicious in season vegetables! Khadija will be at the WEST END farm stand in Portland on Tuesdays from 2-5pm at the corner of Brackett and Pine! She will also be at the Lewiston Bates Mill Farmers' Market on Sundays from 11:30-2pm.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The season of greens!

For those of you following along who are now in the 3rd week of the Fresh Start Farms CSA, you've no doubt noticed the weekly parade of greens coming your way.  The greens are coming in a diverse array of different shapes and forms -- bok choi, kale, collard greens, and swiss chard.

Early summer fields are full of delicious greens waiting for the dinner table.

No doubt, some of you have been thrilled to get such a steady supply of cooking greens, while others of you may be feeling the squeeze.  It's true that many of us are unused to greens being a major part of our diet. Part of eating seasonally and locally is learning to use what's in season, and even in July, most Maine farms are still waiting for the bounty of summer to come pouring in with its cucumbers, zucchini, green beans and tomatoes.  In adidition, for those of us sweating out the heat of the past week, it's hard to remember what a cool and rainy June we had -- but the plants absolutely remember, and are still a few weeks behind from the setbacks of the late spring this year.  Rest assured that those wonderful crops are just a week or two away, as they soak in all this heat and nighttime rain!

Batula harvests rainbow chard for her farmers' market and CSA shares.

Greens are one of those vegetables that take some CSA members time to get used to at first, but often become a regular staple of members' family meals. Greens are interchangeable in a lot of recipes, and there are some tricks of the trade that apply to any green that you’re planning to cook.   You'll find that if you are eating seasonally from the farm, that greens will become a staple part of the CSA share -- so you may as well get comfortable with them! The good news is that they are surprisingly versatile and their range of flavors is a major benefit of the discoveries associated with the share.

Let’s start with flavor. Greens range from mild (spinach, swiss chard, collards, beet greens, and kale) to spicy (turnip, mustard, arugula, and radish). If you're not sure what you have, be sure you are taking advantage of our produce guide that we've made available just for that purpose.

And for the preparation…

When it comes to cooking, with greens simplicity rules! Cooked greens don’t need to be messed with very much but they do need to be cooked properly. Try these guidelines, but the most important thing is to watch for their color to brighten – when they turn bright green they’re properly cooked. And wash thoroughly before cooking!

Cooking times:
2-4 minutes to boil
5-8 minutes to steam
2-5 minutes when added to stir-fry

Most greens won't need more than a little bit of olive oil and garlic to become a side dish that can stand on its own.  If you're not sure how to use your greens, just go simple, and let their flavor speak for itself!

You can also consider trying greens with:
• your favorite vinaigrette
• with red wine vinegar, oil, and salt
• with toasted sesame seeds, soy sauce, and rice vinegar
• with parmesan cheese and butter

You'll soon find that greens can add color and diversity to the dinner table with a minimum of time and effort.  If you want to get more ambitious, check out this website for an amazing best-of compilation of tons of recipes using greens (246 to be exact):

And did you know that all of this information is at your fingertips on our recipes page? We've got more detailed cooking ideas there AND on our produce guide, so be sure to take some time to explore this site!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The CSA season begins!

This Monday marked a major turning point in the season - the first big CSA delivery of the year!  The very first CSA shares were delivered yesterday, available for pick up directly at the Scarborough Farmers' Market.  But today was our first big delivery, with seven participating farmers delivering about 55 shares to four different work sites and farm stands throughout the day.  Here's a few photos of the action:

Hussein is furiously packing boxes for his first delivery before moving on to help other farmers meet their deadlines.

Esperanza and her daughter are packing shares that will be available at the Whole Foods farm stand, one of five locations where Cultivating Community focuses its food access work.

The boxes are getting close. . . 

A close-up of some nearly finished shares before the lids are closed.

Boxes pile up in the wash station, while in the background Mohamed finishes his harvest.

And that's not all that happened today -- our wholesale accounts are now in full swing, too!  Today, farmers delivered produce to Portland-area food pantries as part of our partnership with the Maine Hunger Initiative and also contributed produce to Cultivating Community's Youth Growers program, the roots and backbone of Cultivating Community's food systems work.  

What a day -- here's hoping our deliveries catch you in the mix sometime soon!