We’re retiring the tiller… for now.

2015 was our 6th season on the farm. Back in 2010, we started with a whopping 10 shares, which still felt like 9 too many for a couple of novice organic gardeners. Each year, with growing interest and support from the community, we expanded little by little. By partnering with Beth Smith in 2015, we were able to grow, harvest and distribute nearly 50 shares to families across Washington and the South Hills.

While 2015 was a landmark year in the garden, it was also a year of difficult transitions. My father passed away in May after a long illness. It was his condition, in fact, that brought us back to the Pittsburgh area in 2009 to be closer to my parents.

Our return to PA in 2009 coincided with a nagging desire to get our hands dirty and grow something. Preferably something delicious. We were immensely fortunate to meet Margie and Joe Pagliarulo, who made us an offer we couldn’t pass up — to plant an organic vegetable garden on their gorgeous, historic farmstead in Avella.
And that’s what we’ve done for the past six years, spending quality time with my mom, helping with my dad’s care when possible, working our day jobs, raising our kids, and looking forward to each spring, when it was finally time again to plant the garden.
Which brings us to the sad part of the story. After much reflection and consideration, we have decided not to continue farming in 2016. We expect that this coming year will bring even more changes in our lives, and we simply cannot commit to the timeline of a full growing season. I know, it stinks.
While this news is disappointing, it also opens up an opportunity. Margie and Joe at Manchester-Farms would love to hear from anyone who might be interested in taking our place. If you or anyone you know wants to try their hand at small-scale vegetable growing, this is a tremendous opportunity — take it from someone with no previous gardening experience. If you want to know more, please email me or call (412-496-2805) and I can fill you in.
I can’t thank you enough for your support and encouragement. This has been such a rewarding adventure for our family, and has resulted in friendships and memories that we will cherish forever. Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking a leap of faith with us. We hope you enjoyed eating your vegetables half as much as we did growing them.
Take care and please don’t hesitate to reach out,
Farmer Dave
A final harvest before the frost.

A final harvest before the frost.

In the share this week:

  • green head lettuce
  • arugula
  • beets and beet greens
  • kale
  • broccoli
  • sweet potatoes
  • fennel
  • celeriac
  • parsley
  • garlic
  • 3 to 4 types of winter squash, including pie pumpkins, Red Kuri, Blue Confection and spaghetti squash


And Just Like That, It’s Over

This season flew by particularly fast. I’m starting to think that gardening is a lot like parenting. The first couple of years seem interminable, bogged down with sleepless nights and the steep learning curve of total newness. But then you get into a rhythm. You figure out what medical problems are true emergencies, and what kinds of fevers and stomach aches can wait until the morning. You stop worrying over their every step and stumble and let them explore, bruises and all. Eventually you start to relax. Everything, despite your best/worst efforts, is probably going to be OK.

We’re six years into this growing vegetables thing and I feel like we’re finally hitting our stride. Gone are the anxious nights of my newbie years, when I would lay awake fretting over my non-germinating carrots or my soggy garlic. I’ve come to realize that there are certain things that are under your control when growing food organically, and a whole lot that isn’t. All you can do is stick to the plan, adjust as best as you can, and leave the rest up to the garden gods.

The smartest thing I did this season was to partner with Beth. Not only did she provide gorgeous produce week after week, but she kept careful records of what went into each share so we can plan better for future seasons. Since we are both equally afraid of lightweight shares, we ended up generating some truly mammoth CSA deliveries. I hope you weren’t overwhelmed. And if you were, get ready for one more!

Thank You!

Beth and I could never have pulled this season off without the help of a loyal and intrepid crew of harvest day helpers. Picking, sorting and packing up 45 shares a week proved to be a daunting task. We’d still be working our way through Week 3 if not for our beloved Wednesday volunteers: Arlene “Dave’s Mom” Roos, Leslie “Math Whiz” Goodnight, Jared “Mushroom Man” White, and Dan “Sunshine” Downing. And special thanks to the Dale family and their hardworking kiddos.

tomato tornado

digging out from a tomato tornado

that's not a leek. that's a small palm tree.

news flash: “local farmer bludgeoned by overworked volunteer”

A Final CSA Stumper: What the Heck is Celeriac?

Celeriac, also known as celery root, is exactly what it sounds like — it’s a variety of celery that produces a baseball-size root at the soil surface. Here’s what it looks like when it’s freshly yanked from the ground:

Not a pineapple... it's celeriac!

Not a hairy pineapple… it’s celeriac!

And here’s what it looks like after you’ve cut away the celery-like stalks (a little bitter to eat raw, but great for adding flavor to a chicken or vegetable broth) and trimmed off the thin skin:

celeriac is like a potato that tastes like celery

celeriac is like a potato that tastes like celery

How to Cook Celeriac

We’ll get to some classic celeriac recipes in a second, but if you’re looking for a simple and delicious preparation, go with our tried-and-true method of oven-roasting root vegetables: chop up celeriac, sweet potato, fennel, onion/leek and an apple (yes, an apple!), and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a fresh herb like rosemary or sage. Roast in a baking dish at 400F for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until veggies are fork tender and fragrant. Here’s what it looks like as a side with oven-baked fish:

that's a bed of arugula tossed with lemon and olive oil. that was a good day

that’s a bed of arugula tossed with lemon and olive oil. that was a good day

More Celeriac Recipes:

Which Squash is Which?

Even farmers get confused. A few weeks ago, I posted the wrong picture with the wrong winter squash. Tomorrow you’re getting a whole mess of beautiful winter squash, so let me see if I can get it straight this time:

Red Kuri, great for soups, stews and desserts

Red Kuri, great for soups, stews and desserts


Blue Confection, another sweet-fleshed squash for pies and puddings

pie pumpkins, perfect for... oh right, pies!

pie pumpkins, perfect for… oh right, pies!

Pumpkin for Breakfast

Who says pumpkin is only for dessert? Beth dug up some delicious pumpkin breakfast ideas. All you’ll need is a few cups of pumpkin puree. Check out the previous CSA post for instructions (and a video) on how to roast and puree pumpkin for baking.

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, with more for topping
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • maple syrup
  • chopped pecans (optional)
  1. preheat oven to 350F and grease an 8-inch square baking dish
  2. spread oats on an ungreased baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring once. Remove to a medium bowl and let cool slightly
  3. in a large bowl, beat milk, pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla until well-mixed.
  4. add the dried cranberries, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking powder to the toasted oats
  5. add oat mixture to the pumpkin mix, blending well
  6. scrape the whole mess into the greased baking dish and bake in the oven for 45 minutes until knife inserted into the center comes out almost clean
  7. serve with maple syrup and chopped pecans (cream doesn’t hurt either…)

Pumpkin Spice Banana Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1 tsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • dash of ground nutmeg
  1. put everything into the blender and blend until smooth
With one last head of lettuce, the season comes full circle.

With one last head of lettuce, the season comes full circle.

Perfect Fall Salad

I love that the last share of the season is an echo of the first. Just as we started the spring with a big, fresh salad, let’s do the same thing for the last share. For the greens, mix together torn up leaves of lettuce, arugula, beet greens and some of the smaller and more delicate kale. Roast and skin the beets, let them cool and add them to the salad with some crumbled goat cheese and toasted pecans or walnuts. Good stuff.

Fennel Love

right back at ya, fennel

right back at ya, fennel

How Was the CSA Season? Let Us Know!

Leave a comment below and let us know what you thought about the 2015 CSA.

sweet flesh from the kabocha squash makes the best pumpkin pie filling

sweet flesh from the kabocha squash makes the best pumpkin pie filling

In the share this week:

  • arugula
  • fennel
  • hydroponic lettuce
  • slicing and paste tomatoes
  • fingerling and baking potatoes
  • leeks
  • white and red onions
  • butternut squash
  • buttercup or kabocha squash
  • bell peppers: red, orange, yellow and green
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • kale mix

The Fall Garden


frilly fennel on the right, kale in the middle and early Brussels sprouts on the left

With gardening, you’re always planning and planting for the next season. You start spring lettuce in the dead of winter. You transplant summer tomatoes in the middle of spring. And you start fall favorites like butternut squash and cauliflower in the heat of July. So even though it’s not technically fall yet, it feels like fall in the garden.

I love this time of year. The daylight hours are short and the temperatures are low, which means the weeds are finally (!) going to sleep. And yet the cool-loving plants thrive: kale, broccoli, lettuce, arugula and more. Protected under a bed of straw, the slow-growing Brussels sprouts are inching upward, putting on layers of stubby leaves cradling the tiny buds of cabbage-like sprouts. Every few days we check the heart of the cauliflower plant for the first signs of a miniature white head, which will swell in just weeks into a full-grown snowy globe.

This week you’ll be getting a hefty sampling of a few of these fall delicacies: fennel, arugula, fingerling potatoes and more terrific winter squash. We’ll likely be pausing a week or two to give time for some of the later fall crops to mature, but we’ll fill you in on the details once the schedule is confirmed. Brussels sprouts, after all, get their best flavor after the first frost.

Fun with Fennel

attack of fennel boy!

attack of fennel boy!

If you’ve never cooked with fennel before, you’re in for a treat. When caramelized with onions, roasted with skin-on chicken, or braised in a stew, fennel delivers a sweet, onion-like flavor that ever-so-slightly resembles licorice. Fennel adds subtle depth to savory dishes and pairs supremely well with rich flavors like sausage, roasted chicken and seafood (click links for recipes).

To get you started, here’s a helpful video on how to trim and prepare fennel for cooking. Notice the tips for saving the fennel stems for soup stock and using the frilly leaves as herbs.

When you’re ready to cook, try these recipes that incorporate other ingredients from this week’s share:

Everything is Better with Arugula

don't call it a salad! It might be the best pizza on earth

don’t call it a salad! It might be the best pizza on earth

The peppery bite of arugula can breathe life into a boring salad or give a spicy kick to a a turkey sandwich. When arugula is growing in the garden, we use it in pretty much everything, including our very favorite pizza recipe. Here are some other easy ways to make the most of this spicy fall treat:

Squash Pie

buttercup squash — pictured here — and orange kabocha squash are excellent in pies

buttercup squash — pictured here — and orange kabocha squash are excellent in pies

We tend to think of pumpkin pie and pumpkin pudding and pumpkin bread and pumpkin ice cream as being made of, well, pumpkin. But you can make an excellent “pumpkin” dessert out of a whole assortment of winter squashes. Kabocha and buttercut squashes have sweet, dense flesh that roasts into a nicely caramelized, gushy base for your favorite fall treat.

Here’s an easy way to roast any winter squash, including pumpkins, to make a pie-ready puree:

Once you have the fresh puree, you’re ready to start baking:

Your Dinner Pics

butternut squash risotto with roasted beets and pesto

butternut squash risotto with roasted beets and pesto

Here’s a nice roasted butternut squash risotto recipe (with arugula!)

"Wild Left Bower Stew" with venison and foraged mushrooms

“Wild Left Bower Stew” with venison and foraged mushrooms

a post-soccer snack in the corn field

a post-soccer snack in the corn field

In the share this week:

  • sweet potatoes
  • butternut squash
  • acorn squash
  • mixed dark greens: Ethiopian mustard kale and regular kale
  • “bull’s blood” beets & beet greens
  • sweet corn
  • slicing and paste tomatoes
  • bell peppers: red, orange, green and yellow
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • onions
  • garlic
  • thyme

Season of Plenty

Last week was a three-bagger. For the first time all season, there was no possible way to squeeze all of the week’s veggies into two grocery bags without squeezing the life out of those juicy tomatoes. If you charted the course of the season by the weight of the CSA share, you would see an exponential growth curve. Looking back, the first shares of the spring seem almost quaint, with their heads of light and leafy lettuce and a few green onions for crunch. The shares we handed out the past few weeks resemble the farmer’s market haul of a hungry person shopping for a family of 10 vegetarians.

If you’ve been a little overwhelmed by the quantity of veggies you’ve received recently, I have some good news and some bad news. First, the bad news. By sheer weight, you will be getting more vegetables tomorrow than ever. The good news: you don’t have to eat it all right now. Phew!

Continuing our culinary tour of winter squashes, you’ll be getting two new specimens tomorrow: acorn squash and butternut squash. Butternut is my absolutely favorite of the winter squashes because it is so darn versatile, but more on that later. Winter squashes are built for long-term storage, so you can keep them in a cool dark place for months. If you can wait that long.

But the most exciting news this week is the return of sweet potatoes. Beth has harvested a record quantity of these flavorful, versatile, super-healthy spuds, which are also an excellent storage item for the fall.

red-skinned, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are sometimes called "yams" in the USA

red-skinned, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are sometimes called “yams” in the USA

Daddy, Where Do Sweet Potatoes Come From?

We tend to think of sweet potatoes as a Southern crop, but it turns out that you can grow big and beautiful orange-fleshed sweet potatoes up North, too. Sweet potatoes are not from the same family as regular potatoes. Regular potatoes are nightshades, which includes tomatoes, peppers and tobacco. Sweet potatoes, it turns out, are more closely related to flowers like morning glories. Sweet potato plants, which look like thick vines, are also nothing like the tomato-like potato bushes, which need to be hilled over with soil to produce spuds.

Here’s a sweet potato harvesting primer so you can answer your kids’ annoying (er, brilliantly curious) questions about where the heck they come from:

row of sweet potato plants, ready to harvest

row of sweet potato plants, ready to harvest

Sweet potatoes are planted in the mid-spring as “slips,” which are leaf cuttings from the previous year’s vines. Over the course of the season, the slips extend outward as slow-growing vines with dark-green leaves.

sweet potato plants after a fall haircut

sweet potato plants after a fall haircut

The first step to harvesting sweet potatoes is to cut away and remove the sprawling vines, exposing the top of each root mass.

lookie there — sweet potatoes!

lookie there — sweet potatoes!

When you pull aside the plastic mulch and shake away the loose dirt, you see the first subterranean sweet potatoes. The spuds are really just the swollen roots of the sweet potato vine. A single plant, grown under the right conditions, can yield 5 or 6 good-sized sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Recipes

First, the basics. One of the simplest and tastiest ways to enjoy sweet potatoes is oven-roasting them. Sure, you can bake them whole like baked potatoes, but that doesn’t draw out the full flavor. We suggest peeling and cubing the sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil, slices of onion, some whole garlic cloves, and lots of salt and pepper and roast in a 400F oven for 30 mins, turning occasionally until nicely browned on the outside and sweetly soft on the inside. If you have regular potatoes, cube those up, too, and add them to the mix.

Next the classics. There are some tried-and-true favorite sweet potato recipes that are all-stars at holiday gatherings and fall potlucks. Try some of these:

Then, the international dishes. Sweet potatoes are a staple in cuisines the world over. Take your taste buds on a journey with these easy recipes:

Acorn & Butternut Squash

The deep orange flesh of butternut squash plays well with both sweet and savory dishes

The deep orange flesh of butternut squash plays well with both sweet and savory dishes

Winter squashes play a similar role in recipes as sweet potatoes. They both have a starchy sweetness that’s accentuated by a slow roast in the oven or long simmer in a stew. If you haven’t cooked with butternuts very much, the first step is to cut up the darn thing. Here’s a helpful video from Good Housekeeping:

Butternut Squash Recipes:

acorn squashes are the small, dark "acorn"-shaped variety

acorn squashes are the small, dark “acorn”-shaped variety

The skin of a raw acorn squash is harder to peel off, so people usually bake it skin on and remove the peel when it’s soft and pliable. Here are some tempting recipe ideas to get you going:

More Sweet Corn

discs of sweet corn brighten up a fall beef stew

discs of sweet corn brighten up a fall beef stew

Late-summer sweet corn is like a farewell celebration to the flavors of summer. Beth harvested the last of her sweet corn last week and I’m picking all of mine tomorrow. As can be expected this time of year, the corn was visited by the corn earworm, what one food blog calls the unavoidable surprise of organic corn. The corn earworm is unsightly, but it only messes with the very tip of the cobs. To save you the unsavory job of picking off the stowaways, we’ll go ahead and trim the tops from tomorrow’s corn. If you still find a little green visitor, please don’t throw away the cob. Just cut off any damaged area and enjoy. After all, it’s the last fresh corn of the season!

The striped ones are thin-skinned delicata squash.

The striped ones are thin-skinned delicata squash.

 In the share this week: 

  • sweet corn
  • delicata squash
  • tomatillos
  • kale
  • heirloom slicing tomatoes
  • grape tomatoes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • sweet peppers — green, red, yellow and orange
  • jalapeño peppers
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • eggplant
  • celery
  • onion
  • garlic
  • sage
a sampling of last week's harvest — one for the record books

a sampling of last week’s harvest — one for the record books

Easy Summer Stews

The weather is hot again, but that doesn’t mean you can’t serve up a batch of something warm and comforting for dinner, like these simple and flavorful summer stews that use lots of veggies:

Squash & Sage

This is the season for sage. Sage pairs beautifully with winter squash in all sorts of delicious fall dishes. This week you’re getting delicata squash, a thin-skinned variety that’s only available this time of year. Unlike most winter squashes, you can actually eat the skin of the delicata, just like a summer squash. (Of course, you can still peel it if you prefer.) Try some of these delicata & sage recipes as a savory side dish this week:

Salsa Kit

The makings of salsa verde, ready for roasting

The makings of salsa verde, ready for roasting

You’re getting tomatillos (toe-ma-TEE-yos) this week, the Mexican cousin to the tomato that’s the main ingredient in salsa verde, aka green salsa. Pro tip: remove the papery husk and wash the tomatillos before cooking. We strongly encourage you to try the roasted green salsa recipe below, which goes great with chicken, pork, or simply a big bag of chips. If you don’t like things too spicy, remove the seeds from the jalapeño before roasting, or ditch the jalapeño altogether. I won’t tell.

Roasted Green Salsa (salsa verde)

This smoky salsa goes great with chips and in tacos and burritos, but it’s even better as the base for the sauce in the next recipe. Melissa Clark of the NYTimes makes her tomatillo salsa on the grill and serves alongside a chili-rubbed flank steak. Drool…


  • 5-6 tomatillos, papery husks removed
  • 1-2 jalapeños depending on your spice threshold
  • 2 garlic cloves, not peeled
  • half a white onion, sliced thickly
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • pinch of salt
  • handful of chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Grease a glass baking dish with 2 TB vegetable oil
  3. Add the tomatillos, jalapeños, garlic and onions to the pan, tossing to coat lightly in oil
  4. Roast the veggies for 30 minutes, stirring and turning once, until tomatillos and chilis are soft and charred in places
  5. Remove stems from jalapeño, squeeze roasted garlic from its skin, and slide everything from the pan, including juices, into a blender or food processor.
  6. Add water, salt and cilantro and pulse the mixture until it’s thoroughly mixed, but still slightly chunky
  7. Cool for a few hours in the fridge and serve with chips or as a taco topping. Goes great with chicken, pork and fish

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas with Green Salsa (enchiladas suizas)


  • Green salsa (from previous recipe)
  • 2 cups of chicken or veggie broth
  • Salt to taste
  • Meat from one roasted chicken, shredded
  • Grilled or sautéed mixed veggies — peppers, eggplant, squash, etc. — chopped into small pieces
  • 10-12 medium-size flour tortillas
  • Shredded mozzarella or Mexican melting cheese like Chihuahua
  • Chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. In a saucepan, mix green salsa with the broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower heat and let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes. It should be slightly reduced, but still more like soup than salsa. Add salt to taste.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together chicken and chopped cooked veggies. Add 3/4 of the green sauce and mix to coat everything.
  4. Spray a 9×13 casserole pan with vegetable oil
  5. Roll the chicken mixture in the flour tortillas. Line up the rolled tortillas side by side in the casserole. Crowding is OK.
  6. Drizzle the remaining green salsa over the top of the tortillas, then top with a few generous handfuls of shredded cheese
  7. Bake for 25 minutes covered with tin foil.
  8. Remove foil, turn on the top broiler, and position the enchiladas 3 inches from the broil and cook until cheese is nicely browned — 2 minutes or less, so keep your eye on it!
  9. Serve with chopped cilantro

Green Chicken Chili

I’m not going to give a full recipe for this one, but the idea is simple. Take some shredded chicken, two cans of cooked beans, some chopped veggies, and some frozen greens like spinach or kale and toss in a large pot with a serving of the green salsa and enough chicken broth to give it the desired chili consistency. Simmer for 30 minutes until everything is hot and cooked through. To serve, ladle into large bowls, top with chopped cilantro, shredded cabbage or lettuce, and a dollop of sour cream. Tortilla chips don’t hurt, either.

Corny Pizza

I’ve noticed a recipe trend lately: putting corn on pizza. Why not? If you still have some leeks from last week, try this intriguing recipe for Leek-Jam and Midsummer Corn Pizza. Or gather up some of those cherry tomatoes and try Grilled Cherry Tomato, Corn & Goat Cheese Pizza.

And if your pasta is getting jealous, try this Fresh Corn Carbonara.

Storing Your Celery

take a tip from Beth and keep your celery's "toes" in the water

take a tip from Beth and keep your celery’s “toes” in the water

Celery is a thirsty plant. To keep your celery from going limp in the fridge, cut off the very bottom of the stalks and set them in a large cup or yogurt container filled halfway with water. After you set it carefully in the fridge, drape a plastic grocery bag over the stalks to trap in the humidity. And don’t throw away those celery tops. Stick them in a freezer bag and use them in the winter when you’re making a chicken or beef broth. They add great celery flavor and can easily be “fished out” of the final product.

Roasted Tomato-Veggie Sauce

Yes, we are aware that we’ve been giving out some monstrous shares recently. If you still have peppers and tomatoes left over from last week, try this easy mid-week meal. Preheat the oven to 400F. In a large glass roasting pan, toss in roughly chopped sweet peppers, zucchini, onions (or leeks), eggplant, lots of chopped fresh tomatoes, and lots of garlic. Drizzle the whole thing generously with olive oil and toss with your hands to coat everything. Crank in some fresh-ground salt, pepper and maybe some dry Italian herbs.

Roast the veggies for 30 to 40 minutes, until tomatoes are nicely softened and veggies are fork tender. Carefully transfer the roasted veggies into a food processor or blender and process lightly so the sauce is still kind of chunky.

Serve as a pasta sauce with lots of shredded parmesan, as a bed for a meaty fish or chicken, or as a mushy mess atop garlicky toast.

potatoes and leeks, the first flavors of the fall garden

potatoes and leeks, the first flavors of the fall garden

In the share this week:

  • edamame (soybeans)
  • fall potatoes
  • leeks
  • spaghetti squash
  • kale
  • large heirloom tomatoes
  • medium globe tomatoes
  • grape and cherry tomatoes
  • paste tomatoes
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • red, green, orange and yellow sweet peppers
  • onion
  • garlic
  • basil

‘Tis the Season(s)

September is a confusing month in Western PA. This week it’s been in the 90s, hotter than just about every week of summer, and yet the kids are back in school and our thoughts are slowly turning to fall.

This week’s CSA share has a split personality. We still have the bright and fruity flavors of summer — tomatoes, peppers and basil — but we’re slowly introducing the soul-warming tastes of fall: creamy tomatoes, hardy kale and starchy-sweet spaghetti squash.

Thankfully the heat will let up soon, giving us a cool, wet weekend to cook up something warm and rich. Maybe a stew. Maybe a cheesy casserole. Maybe a big pot of minestrone with the entire CSA share in it. I’m not ready to say that I’m excited for summer to be over, but I welcome the cozy chill of fall weather, if for no other reason than I won’t have to sweat so much in the kitchen.

Protein Bean

edamame is a power-packed snack that kids love

edamame is a power-packed snack that kids love

Don’t ask me why, but kids love edamame. Maybe it’s because the Japanese soybean snack encourages them to play with their food, popping the smooth beans out of their fuzzy shells one by one. Or maybe it’s just the taste, a mellow buttery-green with a salty kick. Whatever it is, it’s the healthiest thing your family will every fight over. A single cup of edamame (155g) contains:

  • 17g of protein – 34% of daily value
  • 8g of dietary fiber – 32% of daily value
  • 676mg of potassium – 19% of daily value
  • 24% of your magnesium
  • 19% of your iron
  • 15% of your vitamin C
  • 12% of daily fat, mainly poly- and monounsaturated
  • 10% of your vitamin B-6

Basic Edamame Recipe

  1. Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil
  2. Rinse edamame pods in a colander and add to boiling water
  3. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the first few pods start to burst open at the seams
  4. Strain in a colander and let cool a few minutes
  5. Sprinkle with sea salt, pop out the smooth green beans and enjoy!

Edamame is great by itself as a snack, but if you’re looking to spice things up, try these ideas:

Spaghetti Squash

because it sounded better than wriggling worm squash

because it sounded better than wriggling worm squash

Spaghetti squash is another family favorite. Cooking it is like performing a culinary magic trick. Bake this thing that looks like an oversized banana, run a fork over its softened orange flesh, and — walla! — you’ve got spaghetti! OK, fine, it’s not remotely spaghetti, but it beats the heck out of a run-of-the-mill pumpkin in terms of presentation.

Just like actual spaghetti, spaghetti squash goes great with a simple marinara sauce made with this week’s ripe tomatoes. Or you can try some of these inventive concotions:

Potato + Leek = Soup

Don’t try to fight it, just make Potato Leek Soup this week. It couldn’t be easier and you have precisely the right ingredients. Throw in some bacon to take it over the top.

Your Dinner Pics

"Labor Day salad: roasted zucchini, celery, onion, garlic, eggplant, and peppers from Left Bower Farm with herbs, olives and Havarti in a lemon-basil dressing"

“Labor Day salad: roasted zucchini, celery, onion, garlic, eggplant, and peppers from Left Bower Farm with herbs, olives and Havarti in a lemon-basil dressing”

"Poblano peppers stuffed with local sausage, oven roasted garlic, tomatoes, and onions (all from the farm). With salsa verde made from our CSA goodies. And of course, watermelon juice:)"

“Poblano peppers stuffed with local sausage, oven roasted garlic, tomatoes, and onions (all from the farm). With salsa verde made from our CSA goodies. And of course, watermelon juice:)”

How can so much flavor come in such a small package?

How can so much flavor come in such a small package?

In the share this week:

  • heirloom slicing tomatoes: brandywine, cherokee purple, striped German
  • red and orange globe tomatoes
  • red grape, striped grape and Sungold cherry tomatoes
  • paste tomatoes
  • green, red, orange and yellow sweet peppers
  • ancho/poblano and jalapeño chili peppers
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • celery
  • chard/kale mixed greens
  • onion
  • garlic
  • green beans (for those who didn’t get them last week)

Scuba Diving in the Arctic

We have had an exceptionally good tomato season. Those who have been with us for a few years might remember some past tomato harvests that were cut short by early-arriving blight or unseasonably cold summer weather. Not this year. After the deluge of June, we were blessed with hot, sunny skies and surprisingly little rain — perfect tomato-ripening weather.

Luck — both good and bad — plays a huge role in growing food. And I’d be foolish not to recognize the lucky hand we’ve been dealt this season in terms of weather. But there’s also a heck of a lot of work involved. If you’ve come out to the farm to help transplant corn or beets or cucumbers, or to pick green beans and basil, then you know that gardening on a large scale is labor-intensive. As a part-timer myself, I’m continually impressed by Beth, who puts in hours and hours every day making sure that she’s growing and delivering the highest-quality product.

It reminds me of a lesson that Mandy has been trying to teach the kids — and her husband — about the value of hard work. It’s called the Iceberg of Success, and it goes something like this:


When we see an athlete win the big game or a musician give an amazing concert, we revel in the moment of success, but often overlook the dedication, discipline, sacrifice and failure it took to get there.

When I hold a big, beautiful tomato in my hand, I marvel at its shape, color and flavor, but even I can quickly forget the time and effort required to bring that lovely monster to life. Let’s take a peek under the icy waters to see what a tomato timeline looks like:

  • Last spring (2014), we seeded a cover crop designed to “fix” nitrogen into the soil in the section of the field where we next planned on planting tomatoes
  • Last fall, we tilled in the spring cover crop and seeded a cover crop of winter rye to loosen the soil and add organic matter
  • This March, we tilled in the rye grass to keep it from going to seed
  • On May 2, we seeded the trays of tomatoes in the greenhouse
  • Three weeks later, we took the tiny tomato seedlings and “potted them up” into larger cell trays so the plants grow bulky and strong before transplanting
  • Since tomatoes are planted later in the season, we had to till the tomato section of the field again in late May because the weeds had grown in so thickly
  • In early June, with help of farm friends, we laid down drip irrigation tape covered with black plastic mulch over the tomato rows
  • A week before the tomatoes are to be transplanted into the field, we set them outside of the greenhouse to “harden off” and acclimate to the outside world
  • June 13, with lots of help, we transplant the nearly 300 tomato seedlings into the field. Each plant requires a deep hole, a scoop of compost, a TB of bone meal, and a deep watering with “fish juice,” an organic fertilizer made of nothing but blended up fish
  • Two weeks later, we pounded 6-foot wooden stakes along the tomato rows, one for every 2 or 3 plants
  • Using tomato twine, we use a technique called the Florida weave to keep the growing tomato plants upright. New rows of twine must be added every two weeks
  • As the plants grow, we continuously prune them to reduce excess foliage, maximize fruit production and slow the spread of disease
  • By early August, we had a 150-foot double row of tomato plants that looked like this:


It’s not my intention to pat myself on the back or impress you with my “passionate dedication” — believe me, I still find time to be lazy. But I think it’s a useful exercise to recognize that anything worth achieving — from a rewarding job to a fat tomato to inner peace — requires sincere effort and some measure of grit in the face of setbacks.

Meanwhile, the tomato blight has finally arrived, so enjoy those tomatoes while they last!

Don’t Toss that Tomato — Freeze It!

Mandy reminded me of the simplest way to save a super-ripe tomato from the compost heap — freeze it! No boiling or roasting required. Simply wash the tomato, cut off any rotten parts and stick it in a freezer bag. You can chop it up first, but that’s not even necessary. When defrosted, the tomato will be soft, but you can use it just like you would canned tomatoes, as the base of a simmered stew or sauce.

Or Make This!

Melissa Clark’s Tomato Sandwich from The New York Times. Yummm…

Pro Tip: Blistered Peppers

You’re getting more of those dark-green ancho/poblano chili peppers this week. One of our favorite ways to prepare these mildly hot peppers — as well as sweet peppers — is to fire-roast them on a gas range. Once the skin is fully blackened, you wrap the blistered peppers in a towel and let the steam heat loosen the skin. Once the peppers cool off, you can easily peel off the charred skin, leaving only the smoky-steamed flesh underneath. Sliced thinly, fire-roasted peppers are an excellent topping to pita wraps, pizza, burritos, salads and more. Here’s a helpful instructional video from The Chopping Block:

When It’s Hot, Go ‘One Pot’

The freshest ingredients of late summer — tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, garlic, basil — scream for Italian food, which we’ve been making a lot of lately. When the temperature rises, like the heat wave we’re getting this week, no one feels like cooking a complicated meal. That’s where one-pot pastas come in.

Epicurious posted a great slideshow of “no cook” summer pastas where the only cooking happens in the boiling pasta water. Toss in some green beans, chopped kale or even an egg for a bright and fresh one-pot summer meal.

Martha Stewart even has a one-pan pasta recipe in which you cook your sauce — tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil — in the same pan as the dry pasta, stirring and simmering until the pasta is al dente and the sauce is thick and delicious, only 9 minutes! Try it and let me know if it works.