The topic on everyone's mind this week is the heat, I'm sure! I hope each of you is enjoying the heat or, at least, finding ways to keep comfortable. While I'm pretty used to working in a least a little heat, there are a still a few changes I make when the weather gets this warm. Early mornings and evenings are the best to time accomplish fieldwork and I leave the mid-afternoon for office work and other cooler jobs.
The warm season vegetables such as squash, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and beans are loving the heat and growing at a fast pace. The cool weather loving crops such as lettuce, greens, cabbage, and kale are a little less happy but as long as we keep them well watered they generally do OK.
Since the heat is making the lettuce want to bolt (send up a flower stalk), everyone is getting extra lettuce in their share this week. Better in your bellies than in our compost pile! And since the heat looks like it will continue, I imagine everyone is living off of salads and other foods that don't require much cooking. Everyone will also be receiving plenty of snap peas again this week. I hope we can squeeze another week of harvest from the plants, but the hot weather can stop peas from flowering so time will tell.
I had hoped to include zucchini in everyone's share this week but I don't think there will be enough decent size zucchini yet. But hopefully the extra peas and lettuce makes up for this omission. Definitely expect zucchini next week!
This week, and most weeks going forward, you will now also receive one or two fresh herbs in your shares. As in previous years, herbs are considered 'bonus' items, which just means I don't calculate their value in the total value of your shares. For this reason, and because their value is less than most other items you receive, herbs are not trade-able. If you have your own at home or don't use many fresh herbs, just leave them behind for someone else. There are two things I am doing differently this year: bunching the herbs and listing a recommended quantity to take (ie. take up to 2 bunches of herbs). In previous years I have just put bulk herbs on the table and encouraged people to take what they could use. Often, I went home with plenty of leftovers. I think this is because people feel shy taking much when there is no recommended amount listed. After a few weeks, let me know what you think of this new system!
On the subject of herbs, I thought I would profile the various herbs we grow on the farm.
I love cooking with and growing herbs and hope to increase the herb selection each year. Refer back to this post whenever you want some ideas of inspiration on how to use a particular herb.
Basil doesn't need much introduction and I know it is a favourite of many share members. Classically used in pesto, fresh basil is also lovely in pasta, homemade ranch-style dips, thinly sliced on salads, and tossed with grains. I also like garnishing some soups with fresh basil. To keep basil fresh, don't refrigerate and instead put the stalks in a glass of water on your countertop.
Another farm favourite, we grow both flat leaf and curly parsley. Much more than a garnish, parsley is great used very similarly to basil. It also makes a great additions to smoothies and juices. Chimichurri is similar to pesto but with parsley as a base. Traditionally spooned over grilled meats of all kinds, I like to always keep a jar on hand to spoon over eggs, mix with cooked grains or roasted vegetables, or use as a salad dressing.
You either love or hate cilantro. Apparently, it's a genetic predisposition that some people think cilantro tastes like soap and others think it tastes wonderful. Thankfully, I am in the group that thinks it's wonderful! Cilantro is one herb I would like to grow more of but it has a very short harvest window before bolting so sometimes it can be hard to stay on top of. Try this cilantro vinaigrette drizzled on anything you want to give a Mexican flair.
It's hard for me to choose a favourite, but dill is very high on my list of favourite herbs. I often mix with mayonnaise and garlic to make an addictive dip for salmon cakes, roasted potato wedges, or artichoke hearts. Dill is almost always in my salads and, of course, features prominently in potato salad and egg salad.
Summer savory is the more delicately flavoured cousin of winter savory. The classic use for summer savory is any sort of bean dish. Minestrone, white bean soup, and others will all benefit from fresh summer savory thrown in at the very end of cooking. And I love tossing fresh green and yellow beans, butter, garlic, salt, and summer savory together for a quick and easy side dish. Use summer savory anywhere you would typically use thyme, oregano, or marjoram.
I use very little thyme throughout the summer months, but once fall arrives and root vegetables are the norm, I begin using thyme regularly. Soup, chicken, fish, stews, and root vegetable medleys all benefit from thyme.
Like thyme, I tend to use sage most in fall and winter. Many thanksgiving dishes just wouldn't be the same without sage! Or, for the true sage lover, you could try battering and frying whole sage leaves.