May 17th, 2022
What’s in this Week’s VEGGIE BOX: Beets, Carrots, Chard, Lettuce, Snap Peas, Peppermint& Lemon verbena Tea Bunch, and Green garlic
Bread this week: Jalapeno Cheddar OR Sourdough Baguette your choice of one
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This week on the farm
Annie and I stopped by at the Winters apricot orchard this morning to get a look at their ripening. This orchard has been a part of our lives three times during our farming career, and each time it has been a revisit to other times. There is still something about those old apricot trees on a hillside above Putah Creek as it exits the Monticello Canyon. As young farmers, Annie and I first saw this orchard in about 1977 compliments of the relationship between its owner and our then partner, Henry. For its new owner, for Henry, and for us, it was part of the farming dream to be harvesting one of the most iconic of California fruits. Annie and I were in love with the historic notion of California farming, and that was exemplified by this orchard of ancient Blenheim apricot trees. The Blenheim Royal apricot had been the mainstay of both the fresh eating market and the canning industry in the Santa Clara Valley. From that most perfect of all growing regions for these golden blushed apricots with the distinctive full flavor and juiciness at full ripeness, they had crossed America as fresh fruit and returned to their European, and even earlier Himalayan roots as canned fruit.
Our lives always seemed to be intertwined with this fruit. I grew up traveling with my Dad, a fruit buyer for California Packing Corporation, to the orchards around Patterson in the northern San Joaquin. Annie traveled with her parents to u-pick the world-famous Brentwood Blenheims. We both fell in love with the special look of an apricot tree in full summer finery, with the rough seamed bark, with the spreading branches so reminiscent of old oaks, with leaves of an aspen shape and delicate shade of green that brought comfort and peace to our eyes. But of course the crowning glory came as the golden fruit ripened in the early days of June, dotting these trees with the golden color of the first ripening fruit of the summer in California.
In our first years as farmers we helped start the Farmer’s Market in Davis, and rented a couple of orchards of apricots one of which was this one on the side of Putah Creek. Through the Market we came into contact with Ed and Virginia Looney, who through the next 15 years became our mentors in the fresh fruit and vegetable business. They had spent their lives growing and selling food for people, and most importantly, Ed had a wealth of information about his days as a grower of Blenheim apricots in both the Santa Clara Valley and Brentwood. The best thing for this young organic farmer, is that rather than judging the value of organics, he supported Annie and I with his tales of growing apricots in his youth in the 1920’s and 30’s among the old varieties, the old fruit business and the old methods of coaxing fruit from the trees. What a great gift he gave us. He and I used to walk this old orchard and talk about old man Sackett, who planted the first trees on this place in the 1800’s, which ones might be survivors of that first planting, and the boxcar loads traveling eastward of the first apricots ripe in California that came from this orchard.
As time went on, the orchard passed from us to another, then came back to us again, only to cause me great frustration because I couldn’t take care of it as the ancient nature and it’s isolated location demanded. We planted some beautiful Blenheim apricots at our home 20acres, and it was all we could do to keep up with the demands of those trees. But for the last two years, as Annie3 and I are in the late years of our career, we have come back to those same trees. The same owner, now an older owner, has been pleased to give this old farming couple another chance at caring for his trees. Finding the perfect young man, the son of our compadre Francisco, has sealed the deal. So these Royal Blenheim apricots will come to you next week with all that California sunshine, human cultivation and care, and the wisdom of the ages can bring. We will do our best to do justice to them, to bring them to you ripe, just a little soft, with the little green shoulder that is typical of the variety, and the ability to ripen to perfection in your kitchen. Remember next week, Jeff
Veggie Top Pesto
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 clove garlic
1 cup carrot fronds
1/2 cup beet greens
1/2 cup celery leaves
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a food processor, combine the nuts and garlic and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the carrot fronds, beet greens, celery leaves and Parmesan and pulse until finely ground. With the food processor running, add the oil and red pepper flakes. Taste, then season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a resalable container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (or freeze for up to 3 months).
Cavatelli with Beets and Swiss Chard
5 or 6 good-quality slices white bread
2 tablespoons chopped plus 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
8 ounce chilled fresh goat cheese, cut into 8 rounds
2 pounds beets, greens removed
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 pound red Swiss chard
1 pound dried cavatelli, or orechiette
6 to 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Remove and discard crust from bread, and pulse bread in food processor into soft, small crumbs. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Combine breadcrumbs and rosemary in a small bowl. Pour 3 tablespoons olive oil onto a plate or a shallow bowl. Coat each round of goat cheese in olive oil, and dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Arrange cheese on the prepared parchment-lined pan or on a large plate, and place in the refrigerator to chill until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut beets in half, and toss with 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Arrange beets in one layer on aluminum foil, cut side down, and place rosemary sprig on top of the beets. Cover beets with another piece of aluminum foil, and seal the edges all around, creating a rectangular packet. Bake on the lowest shelf of the oven until beets are fork tender, about 30 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Peel beets; cut the larger ones in half, and set aside. Strip chard leaves from stems. Discard stems, or sauté for later use. Rinse and drain the leaves. Do not dry them. Place chard leaves in a large pot over medium heat, and sprinkle them with 2 teaspoons salt. Cover pot, and cook over medium heat, opening the lid only to stir, until just wilted. Remove from the heat, return to the colander, and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking. Using your hands, gently squeeze any excess water from chard, and coarsely chop; you should have about 2 cups. Set chard aside, but leave the pot on stove. Meanwhile, fill a pasta pot with water, and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, add 1 tablespoon salt, and stir in pasta. Let cook until pasta is al dente, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain in a colander, and set aside. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in the chard pot over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook slowly until garlic is just toasted, stirring often. Add chard, remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and saute until chard is wilted, about 3 minutes. Add pasta, toss, and cook just until hot. Adjust seasoning to taste with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and transfer pasta to a large serving platter. Arrange beets over pasta. Bake cheese in the oven until very soft to the touch, heated through, and golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from oven, arrange hot cheese around platter of pasta, and serve immediately.
Roasted Beetroot, Sugar Snap Peas & Fetta Cheese Salad
½ cup pearl barley
150 g sugar snap peas
½ red onion
1 clove garlic
1 tin lentils
1 block fetta cheese
1 tsp Cumin
3 cup water
1 tbs olive oil
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. To prepare the ingredients, rinse the pearl barley well, and drain and rinse the lentils. Trim the sugar snap peas. Wash the beetroot and cut it into wedges. Finely chop the red onion and peel and crush the garlic. Crumble the fetta cheese and juice the lemon. Place the pearl barley and the water in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30-35 minutes or until tender. Add the sugar snap peas in the last 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl Place the beetroot wedges on a lined oven tray and toss in half of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or until the beetroot is tender. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a medium frying pan. Add the red onion and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic and the cumin and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the lentils and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until heated through. Transfer to the bowl with the pearl barley. Add the roasted beetroot to the pearl barley mixture. Gently stir through the fetta cheese and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Divide between plates and enjoy!
Sugar Snap Pea and Mushroom Sauté
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
10 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed (about 3 cups)
3 large scallions, white and light green parts, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
Crushed red pepper for garnish, optional
Warm oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms, snap peas and scallions and cook, stirring constantly, until snap peas are bright green and mushrooms have released their liquid, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add soy sauce and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more, stirring, until snap peas are crisp-tender. Sprinkle with red pepper, if desired. Serve.