Friday, August 24, 2012

If you are anything like us here working in farm/produce land, you sometimes find yourself slightly overwhelmed about how to keep your CSA veggies fresh until you have time to make that recipe you have been looking forward to, or to use up the lettuce in a big family salad or use it all week in lunch time sandwiches. Its a good problem to have (produce abundance), but it can still be a problem and we are here to help!

Just as all vegetables look, feel and taste different, each one also benefits from individualized storing habits. In addition to good storage practices, check out the blog post earlier on about some great preservation ideas for real longevity. In the meantime, lets go over a few tips and ideas:
Lets say your share looks something like this:
Carrots, peas, potatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, parsley, Kale, Scallions and Salad mix.

All fresh greens can be stored in the fridge. Lettuce, Kale, Swiss Chard, Mustard Greens, Collards etc. last much longer in a plastic bag. If you wash it beforehand, dry it well or wrap the greens in a paper towel before putting them in the plastic bag to avoid too much dampness.

POTATOES and other root vegetables
Now that we are coming into autumn, you can begin to think about storing potatoes and sweet potatoes for the coming winter months. New potatoes are best eaten as soon as you can, but the potatoes that are coming out now can be kept dry in a paper bad in a dark dry place. They keep best with a little of their original dirt still on them!

ONION and GARLIC are another item you can store into the winter if you would like. We are almost done with spring onions for the season (onions with their green stalks still attached) and you may soon be getting storage onions (dried onions). You can keep these in a dark dry spot as well and they should last into the winter!
TOMATOES are best kept out of the fridge! Unless you are an avid canner and plan on tomato sauce, these are best eaten as soon as you can get to it! If the tomato is a little hard or orange/yellow/green still you can keep it on a sunny dry windowsill.
WINTER SQUASH is one of the best vegetables for storage. Many of them grow sweeter and ripen the longer they sit around! if you have a pantry, and can simply sit them on a shelf, not touching each other, and use them as you need them throughout the winter! 

Broccoli, zucchini and green beans can be kept in the crisper, preferably not touching too many other vegetables (in separate plastic bags) and should be eaten sooner than others. Herbs can be hung up (in bunches) on a string in a very dry place to dry! (this works best with parsley and dill).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Summer slips into Fall

Summer in Maine enthralls me. So many months of anticipation proceed it and yet, no one can ever quite put a finger on when summer has truly begun.  As a farmer, I am more apt to celebrate the first day of summer as the day when I plant my tomatoes rather than the Summer Equinox, which falls a full three weeks later.  I have heard people half-jokingly refer to August as Maine’s only bonafide month of summer.  Whatever day one decides is the true start to summer, the slip into fall is never far behind.

In the hills and mountains of Western Maine a few brave and beautiful leaves have begun their metamorphosis into the bold colors of fall. Kids and parents are gearing up to return to school and the tourists are filling the south-bound lanes of the interstate. Farmers all across New England are picking their first tomatoes and preparing for fall all in the same breath.  Summer is so very short in Maine – short but magnificent.

Fresh Start Farms’ 8-week Summer CSA is in its final week.  We sincerely hope that you have enjoyed the bounty of the season from the early weeks overflowing with sweet tender greens and herbs to the first tastes of quintessential summer veggies like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and green beans.
Next week is the beginning of the 8-week Fall CSA. Many of you are already signed up for the next 8 weeks and some of you are deciding whether or not another 8 weeks makes sense for you. For those of you who are already signed up, I would like to give you a glimpse into the delectable harvest to come and for those of who have not yet decided, I would like to unabashedly attempt to lure you in to the culinary delights that could be yours.

Sweet, sweet juicy ears of corn will begin to appear in CSA bags during the next two weeks as well an abundance of tomatoes, a rainbow of peppers, and varieties of heirloom eggplants originally from all corners of the world.  As temperatures cool, you will once again find ruffled heads of lettuce and bags full of salad mix, mesclun mix, and arugula – all greens that have a harsh bitter flavor when temperatures soar, but mellow into a crisp sweetness as the air cools. Many farmers planted sugar snap peas for harvesting in September and early October when cool temperatures ensure maximum sweetness. Many of the farmers also planted extra garlic and onions to give to CSA members as a year-end thank you.  In September and October, your bags will be full of ingredients for potato leek soup, pumpkin ravioli, sweet potato pancakes, tomatillo salsa, caldo verde, curried butternut squash soup, sauerkraut, pesto, tomato sauce, French onion soup, gourmet salads, and so much more.

The farmers of Fresh Start Farms all send their sincere thanks for supporting them as members of their CSA and invite you to return for a delicious and bountiful fall season.

Friday, August 10, 2012

NASAP in the Norway News!

Refugee Farmers Cultivate Community!

This week, we are grateful to be featured in the Advertiser Democrat, a newspaper in Norway, Maine where Fresh Start Farms grower Mekhan Mumin sells produce at the Farmers' Market.

Check out the article here:

And be sure to come visit Mekhan every Thursday from 2-6pm in Norway in the parking lot behind Fair Share Market on Main Street!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rosy Ontiveros' beautiful Thursday farm stand at an artist's bi-weekly
open house on River Road in Brunswick
Summer is in full swing and there are summer vegetables to prove it! Tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers were finally harvested for the first time in the last few days. The farm is a beautiful, calm, and abundant place right now. All of the chaos of springtime planting and weeding has come and gone, and the seemingly empty fields are quite literally overflowing with produce. Melons are the size of softballs, I feel like I could become lost in the verdant green mazes of corn that tower over my head, and the brussel sprouts that were started from seed in the greenhouse in April are just beginning to form sprouts.

 There is something so reassuring about August on a farm in Maine. August is what every farmer waits for - the month when all of his or her hard work and financial investment finally begins to pay back. August is also the month when a farmer suddenly stops feeling like the farming season has just begun and begins to feel like the farming season will soon be winding down.

August is also my favorite time of year for preserving food for the winter for two reasons: the ability to capture the flavor and memory of summer for consumption in the middle of February and the sheer abundance of produce to choose from!  Here is an abbreviated list of food I preserve every summer:
        *tomatoes- frozen, dehydrated, and canned
        *eggplant and peppers- roasted with salt and olive oil then frozen
        *kale, chard, and collard greens- blanched and frozen
        *cucumbers - pickled in vinegar and fermented in crocks
        *green beans - made into dilly beans!
        *cabbage - packed into jars and crocks as sauerkraut
        * basil - dehydrated or made into pesto and frozen
        *zucchini/summer squash - seasoned with various spices and dehydrated into chips
If you or anyone you know would like to purchase produce in bulk for preserving, please let us know! We will happily deliver to Portland. This week we have a particularly abundant harvest of kale and chard, green beans, summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. We do not have any pickling cucumbers ready, but I have always had good success with pickling slicing cucumbers. One of the 25 farmers at the farm harvested 200 pounds of cucumbers yesterday! Who wants 'em?!?