Friday, December 17, 2010

Keep forgetting to sign up? This is your reminder!

Tanaka Farms is instituting a new system for CSA signups, which should make it much easier to plan ahead and pay for your boxes. Here's what you need to do:
2. In the lefthand column on that page, click the first link, "Farm 2 Table Connect."
3. Set up an account for yourself (userid, password, contact info).
4. Sign in and sign up for the January boxes. There will be a slider menu asking which group you're affiliated with (I ticked "Lincoln Elementary").
5. Pay online with a credit card, and your boxes will be paid and reserved.
Delivery is still in the usual place and time. If you pick up your boxes at Neighborhood Grinds, tick the "Adams MS" box in the slider menu.

Your school coordinator is still your school coordinator. She just won't be juggling forms and checks so much.

Schools need a certain minimum to use this service, so please encourage first-timers or even your neighbors to join the program--current happy customers are the best advertising.

IMPORTANT: Your January boxes MUST be paid for by DECEMBER 27.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Another bowl of CSA goodness

So here's something easy and satisfying to do with some of your CSA veggies, especially as the weather cools down...

Chop up some cabbage, carrots, and green onions, and anything else you like in soup. Put them in the crockpot with a few tablespoons of green curry paste and enough broth to cover. Crockpot all day (or overnight). When the veggies are tender, add a little coconut milk if you like (or not), and salt if you like (or not). Cube some firm tofu (or meat if you want) and fry in a pan with a Tbsp or two of olive oil. Serve soup over rice, and top with the fried tofu.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What's in the box? And how do I use it?

We picked up some new subscribers this month and the most common concerns are, "What's in the box and how will I use it?"

We prefer to be surprised. But people who are better organized than our household may look ahead at Farmer (Glenn) Tanaka's blog. He posts a weekly entry about doings on the farm and updates the list of what MIGHT be in your box this week. If you follow the blog regularly, you notice that weather and insects sometimes change his plans at the last minute.
This is what might be in your CSA box for the week of November 1, 2010:
SMall box might have: Carrots, Baby Maui Onions, Potatoes****, Broccoli or Squash or Cherry Tomatoes, Lettuce or Salad Mix, Fuji Apples***, Fuyu Persimmons*.
Large Box might additionally have: Sweet White Corn, Chinese Cabbage (Napa), Grapefruit**.

This is what might be in your CSA box for the week of October 25, 2010:
Small box might have: Green Beans, Carrots, Sweet White Corn, Romaine Lettuce, Broccoli or Spinach, Our Strawberry Jam (prepared with our strawberries by Kerry at Julian Jams in Julian, California) and Sweet, Juicy Fuji Apples***.
Large box might additionally have: Napa Chinese Cabbage, Red Beets or Roma Tomatoes or Green Zucchini and Valencia Oranges*.
This is what my family received in our large box last week:
  • jar of strawberry jam
  • Fuji apples
  • Valencia oranges
  • corn on the cob
  • 4 beets with beet tops
  • bok choy
  • quart of green beans
  • bunch of medium carrots with tops
  • bunch of spinach
  • head of Romaine lettuce
  • head of Napa cabbage
You've got your veggies. Now what do you do?

Read my prior post, The locavore's dilemma. Don't let From Farm to Fridge to Garbage Can describe your kitchen. is another great resource. Just type your ingredient into the green search box and the search engine will reply with recipes that use it.

That sounds very good in theory. After all, who wants to waste food? But how did our family do in the 6 days since we got our large box?
  • The jam went into the pantry (we have 2 open jars in the fridge that need to be used first).
  • We ate the corn, apples, and half the oranges.
  • BTW, you can juice the oranges and freeze them for later use. I have a stack of ziploc pint containers of orange juice, squeezed from a gift of backyard fruit from my father in law.
  • The beets were scrubbed and put in a pan with water to boil. I burned them and had to throw the out. If I had paid more attention, we would have eaten them in salads all week.
  • The beet tops, the outer leaves of the Napa cabbage and 3 carrots went into a vat of kale(less) and white bean soup. We ladled the soup into pint and quart size containers, and put some in the freezer and some in the fridge. They make great lunches at work with a small sandwich.
  • BTW, we use kale, mustard greens, beet and turnip tops and Swiss chard interchangeably in our house. They are all from the brassica family. If a recipe calls for one thing, and we have another member of the brassica family in the box, we use that instead.
  • The inner Napa cabbage leaves will be cooked this upcoming weekend into wontons and potstickers (some eaten fresh, some put up in the freezer for quick weekday dinners).
  • BTW, as you wrap the wontons or potstickers, put them on a metal backing sheet. Put them in the freezer when you fill up a sheet. By the time you have the next batch on a full sheet, the first batch will be firm enough to store in a ziploc bag without turning into a single block of ice.
  • We haven't cooked the bok choy yet, but I will be making a stir-fry of bok choy and oyster mushrooms with them.
  • My husband will stir-fry the green beans with almond slivers. He might reserve some beans to blanche and use for salad Nicoise.
  • My husband will stir-fry the spinach with garlic.
  • We've used about half the Romaine for salads and sandwiches so far.
It looks like we have 3 more stir-fry suppers in the next week and we will easily have used our veggies all up before our next biweekly big box.

BTW, we use our rice cooker with a timer a lot. If you set the rice cooker so that the rice finishes when you get home, and you pre-wash and chop your veggies on the weekend, dinner will be ready 10-15 minutes after you walk in the door.

When I drop my daughter off for choir practice on Saturday morning, I need to swing by 99 Ranch (the mother of all Asian supermarkets) to buy wonton and potsticker skins; pork shoulder and/or shrimp, ginger, and green onions for the filling; fried tofu cubes to throw into the stir-fry and baked tofu for snacking. We stock dried Shitake mushrooms and canned Oyster mushrooms as pantry staples.

Anyone want a recipe for a salad based on the tofu strips that look like noodles?

Click on the links for recipes. If I mentioned a recipe w/o a link, and you want me to post the recipe, leave a comment.

Also leave a comment if you are interested in a CSA field trip to local ethnic markets. 99 Ranch, Marukai and Market World (Taiwanese, Japanese and Korean) supermarkets, can be bewildering to the uninitiated. But they are great local food stores for vegetarians and flexatarians. Marukai promises that all of their meat is antibiotic-free, and their prices are much lower than Whole Foods.

Lastly, if you would like to learn how to wrap wontons and potstickers this weekend, leave a comment.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No more soggy cilantro

Cilantro, like many cut plants, wilts over time.  The cure for this is to trim the cut ends and plunge them into a vase of water.  Use enough water to cover most of the stem, but not the leaves.
 Then place a loose plastic bag over the cilantro and put it in the refrigerator.
When you want to use a bit of cilantro, just take out the small amount that you need and put the rest back in the refrigerator.  Cilantro can stay fresh over 2 weeks in the refrigerator this way.

Celery also benefits from this treatment.
To the CSA box celery, we added some carrot flowers from our garden and a stalk of artichoke from Trader Joe's to make an edible bouquet.

Most people don't eat the carrot tops that come with the CSA carrots, but they are really pretty when put in a vase with some flowers from the garden or store.

You can use a glass instead of a vase, but a vase has a more stable base.  You can also put it in a plastic juice pitcher, but then we don't see the cilantro and forget about it.  Oops.

The science behind this:
When you trim (1/2" to 1") off the ends of the cilantro, you open up the small tubes that draw water from the bottom of the plant to the leaves.  It's lack of water up at the leaves (not an excess of it) that makes the leaves wilt.

If you place the vase of cilantro out at room temperature, you can watch the water in the vase disappear through evapotranspiration out through the leaves. 

How does the speed of the evapotranspiration vary with the temperature in the room?  The humidity?  The level of water?

The water in the vase can also breed bacteria.  After you are done with this experiment, rinse the cilantro and vase to reduce the bacteria, refill the vase, and put the cilantro back into the vase.  You may want to trim about 1/2" off the stems again.

If you don't use the plastic bag, the cilantro will evapotranspirate water into the refrigerator, which is not good for some of the other food in there.  That's why you want to use the bag.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Adams CSA Program FAQ

What? Boxes of local (So Cal) produce, ~75% from Tanaka Farms of Irvine.  All of the produce is unsprayed; some are certified organic, others are grown using organic methods but not certified.

Where and When? Boxes are delivered every Thursday, typically between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM, to Neighborhood Grinds (NG) at 2315 Artesia Blvd, Unit 1 (the northwest corner of Mackay and Artesia).  NG usually sends out an email announcement when the boxes arrive.  Boxes can be picked up any time before NG closing time at 10:00 PM.  If you don’t have access to email during those hours, you may call Neighborhood Grinds at (310) 371-0900 to check if the boxes have arrived.

How much does it cost?  $30 for a large box, $20 for a small box, paid in advance.  Make checks out to Adams PTSA.  There is no minimum order size.  You need not order the same size each week or on a regular schedule.

How do I sign up?  Email the Adams CSA coordinator for the current monthly sign-up form.  You can also download the form from the Adams PTSA CSA webpage (look on the right hand side, under Resources).  You can also download the November 2010 form on Google Docs.  Fill out the form and drop it off with payment at Neighborhood Grinds (NG).  Make checks out to “Adams PTSA”.  If you can’t make it over to NG in person, just drop it in the mail.
Neighborhood Grinds
2315 Artesia Blvd., Unit 1
Redondo Beach, CA 90278
Attn: Adams CSA

When’s the deadline?  Orders are due the last Friday of each month for the following month.  
E.g. orders for November 2010 are due by 8 AM October 29, 2010.  You select the size box you want and the weeks you want them.  Orders and payment can be left either at the Adams MS office or at NG. Orders are due at 7:45 AM at the Adams MS office or at 8:00 AM at NG. 

Who? Because we distribute the boxes off campus, anyone--not just Adams families--can join the Adams CSA program.  Tell your friends, families, neighbors, and coworkers…

Logistics:  We email confirmations of orders received.  We usually send an email reminder the day before delivery to that week’s subscriber list. When the boxes arrive at NG (usually between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM), NG sends out a “reply to all” announcing their arrival. Boxes can be picked up any time between that announcement and 10 PM NG closing time.  To save yourself a trip to return the cardboard box to NG, leave the box there; bring your own bags to carry your produce home.  It’s also a good time to drop off sign-up forms and payment for the following month.

Why?  To teach our kids what grows seasonally in our region.  To increase the economic viability of small family farms amid suburban development.  To economically buy organic and unusual produce.  To save time and money.  To lower the chemical input into our soil, our water table and our bodies (both the consumers’ and the agricultural workers’).   To lower the carbon footprint of your food.  And, of course, to raise money for the Adams PTSA.

Announcing the Adams School CSA Program!

Effective November 2010, Grace Peng will be running the Adams Middle School CSA program.  You can email her at adamschoolcsa@gmail.comEmail the Adams CSA coordinator for the current monthly sign-up form or download the latest form from the Adams PTSA CSA website (on the right hand side, under Resources) or download the November 2010 form on Google Docs.

Deliveries continue to occur on Thursdays.  When Thursday falls on a holiday, delivery will be on Tuesday.

UPDATE 10/22/10
Madison PTA is looking for another volunteer to coordinate their CSA program after October, 2010.  Do you want to help out Madison PTA?  This is your chance!

The Madison School CSA program will continue under the direction of Aisha Qaasim.  You can email her at

You can subscribe to either program* and pick up at Neighborhood Grinds.  Just be sure that, when you drop off your sign-up form and check, you let the NG staff know which program you are in so they put it in the correct envelope.  Make checks payable to Adams or Madison PTSA.

Lincoln subscribers continue to drop off their forms at the Lincoln school office and pick up their boxes at the school.

* While the status of the Madison program is in flux, you won't miss a single week if you sign up for the Adams program.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A CSA Party!

Here's a trick to using up your CSA box--schedule a party the day after it arrives! I used much of last week's box contents--tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, squash, onion, basil, grapefruit, orange, and apple--in making these dishes, as it was my turn to host bunco last Friday night. Tarts aren't difficult, and salads are even easier--it's mostly just chopping when you're starting with such fresh ingredients.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dinosaur Egg, or Melon?

In today's box...Pretty sure it's a melon--but if it IS a live dinosaur egg, our blog will have a pretty impressive scoop, eh?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Just about perfect in every way"

The online local news site Redondo Beach Patch has a story about the Madison/Lincoln Tanaka Farms CSA programs this weekend. Reporter Joe Galliani interviewed Philip Jun at Neighborhood Grinds, and took photos of a box's contents, and explained how the program works and how others can join in. "As much as I love and use our local Farmers Market, this mutually supportive relationship between the farm and elementary schools is just about perfect in every way," Galliani declares.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Inventory and recipe idea for July 15

Penny wrote that her large box contained, "kale, eggplant, tomatoes, basil, oranges, grapefruit, lettuce, carrots, green beans, avocados, and four cobs of corn."

Sounds like it is time to make baba ganoush, a middle-eastern eggplant dip.  Here's a recipe and you can  buy tahini at both of the middle eastern markets near Neighborhood Grinds (the NE and SW corners of McKay and Artesia).

Backyard Garden CSA

Don't miss this article about a 14-year old Michigan teen, Alexandra Reau.
last year, she asked her dad to dig up a half acre of their lawn in rural Petersburg, Mich., so she could farm. Now in its second season, her Garden to Go C.S.A. (community-supported agriculture) grows for 14 members, who pay $100 to $175 for two months of just-picked vegetables and herbs.
While attending a party in north Berkeley in the mid 1980s, I noticed the extremely lush vegetable garden in the backyard. When I asked which roommate had the green thumb, the host explained that the yard was leased to Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. Her staff gardened yards all over the neighborhood; the chefs came over to harvest produce right before cooking!

I am tempted to rip out my front lawn and put in a veggie garden.  The 4'x8' raised bed in the backyard is not enough.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Squash bread with grapefruit zest

What I did with the squash in last week's CSA box...
Pretty much used this recipe, but I never really follow directions to the letter. It turned out very moist and delicious!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The locavore's dilemma

Catherine Price explores The Locavore's Dilemma: What to do with the kale, turnips, and parsley that overwhelm your CSA bin in Slate.

I left a comment there because those are the issues I am trying to address with this blog. 
For turnips, try this Taiwanese soup.

Cilantro will keep for a month if you trim off the ends and put it in a glass of water. Put a plastic bag over the top because the leaves transpire a lot of moisture. See the picture here (but imagine a bag over it).
We use a few springs here and there, just like Mark Bittman suggests. It's gone before it rots.

For cabbage, my mom sautes it with a bit of pork, or we make dumplings. The potsticker/wonton/dumpling recipe is here:  
Apples and cabbage both ripen in cool weather. You think that is why German omas braise cabbage and apples together?

We've got recipes for kohlrabi and other 'problem' vegetables.
Don't be discouraged when you start because it takes a while to get into the rhythm of using up your box.  We get deliveries Thursday afternoons.  When I get the box home, I trim and put away the produce right away.  If any of it looks wilted, I will trim off the ends and put it in a pitcher of water, cut side down, like the cilantro example above.

On Thursday, think about how you want to cook that week's contents.  Then shop on Friday for ingredients you need to complete the recipe.

[Aside: If you are clueless, post a comment on this blog or email Penny and myself.  We will post something for you.  This isn't a test a la "Iron Chef".  We are here to help you figure out what to do with your "surprise box of goodies".

Don't forget to check the Tanaka Farms compilation of recipes

Or type the vegetable into your favorite search engine + recipe.  E.g. type "kohlrabi + recipe".]

A couple of hours investment once a week goes a long way.

On Friday night or Saturday, I wash and chop all the vegetables from the box. We rinse lettuce, slice cucumbers, shred carrots and radishes etc for salads.  I make a small blender jar of salad dressing and boil some eggs.  I make a vat of seasonal vegetable soup and then put them into 1-2 serving containers.  I put some in the fridge and some in the freezer.  Then I move a different soup from the freezer to the fridge.  This gives me more variety.

On Sunday night, we also make a bunch of sandwiches and cut up fruit.  That way, we have everything we need to easily assemble lunches during the week.

(If I can, on Monday, I also take some pre-made soups and salads in to a friend/coworker who is caring for two terminally ill parents while working more than full-time.  I used to swap home-made soup for home-baked bread with a neighbor.  Home cooked food is one of the nicest things you can give someone.)

On weeknights, we can heat up some soup, assemble a salad or roast or steam some precut veggies.  With our rice cooker on a timer, dinner is on the table in minutes.

Friday, June 4, 2010

And let's not forget the huge onion

In addition to the broccoli and onion, we also received:
  • a bunch of ~12 carrots with attached tops (perfect for a bouquet)
  • a bunch of beets with attached greens
  • kale
  • green beans
  • a head of Romaine lettuce
  • 2 grapefruits
  • 3 avocadoes
  • 8 green UFO-shaped squash
  • and a huge container of sweet ripe strawberries

Thursday, June 3, 2010

This week's mystery guest is ROMANESCO BROCCOLI

What's that?
Romanesco Broccoli. Lovely name, and what a shape! Treat it like its more traditional cousins broccoli and cauliflower. Or just admire it. (Bonus points if anyone uses it as alien landscape in a video.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kohlrabi! Squash! Grapefruit!

Plenty of new items in today's boxes--you can definitely tell the seasons are changing. Looking around for recipe ideas, I found this one for kohlrabi-squash empanadas--hey, that's two of the box ingredients right there!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

CSA Day June 5

The next Tanaka Farms CSA day will be June 5, 2010. Please RSVP to your school CSA coordinator before 5pm June 1. Tell us how many are in your party and whether you want to join the 10 AM or noon group.  Read about past CSA days.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

They were shelling peas.

If you tried to eat the packet of peas last week as if they were sugar snap peas, you probably noticed that they weren't... they were shelling peas, explains the Tanaka Farms blog. Fun for even young children to prepare--no knives required. (Bowl above are my CSA peas, before we sauteed them and added them to a casserole.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

CSA Comfort Foods...

Sometimes, I want a bowl of grains, with some sauteed/steamed/wilted greens and maybe some sauce or nuts on top. And it's the perfect way to make a nice bowl of comfort food from a CSA box brimming with cabbage, chard, spinach, lettuce...

Comfort Bowl #1
: Cheesy Risotto (from a box), sauteed chard and cabbage, and pine nuts:

Comfort Bowl #2: Couscous with chopped cilantro, sauteed chard and onions, and peanut sauce:
What's your go-to CSA comfort food?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Small and Large Box Comparison

In case you did not get a chance to stop by on 22 April to see the sample small box, Alison took some photos of the small and large boxes side by side for comparison.  The smaller box is on the left and is about 2/3 as tall as the regular large box.

That week, the small box contained:
  • 5 oranges
  • 2 avocadoes
  • 3 mandarin (tangerines)
  • 1 bunch of carrots
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 1 head of Boston lettuce
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 head of cabbage
The large box contained everything in the small box PLUS:
  • 1 bunch of Maui onions
  • 1 bunch of spinach
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard
  • additional oranges (8 total)
  • additional mandarns (9-10 total)
In summary, the small boxes cost 2/3 as much as the large boxes ($20/$30), and contain about 2/3 of the produce.  Pick the size that works for you.  We will offer both.

Email me to get the May/June order form that includes both sizes.  The deadline for orders for the 6 May delivery has been extended to 8 AM on Monday 3 May 2010.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Come by to See the Small Box

Tanaka Farms (TF) is now offering a smaller box option. They will continue to offer the familiar large box for $30 ($25/$5 TF/PTA split); the smaller box will be $20 ($18/$2 TF/PTA split).

The smaller boxes will contain produce staples. The larger boxes will contain staples plus specialty veggies. People who like to be surprised by unusual and heirloom varieties of produce may want to continue getting the larger boxes every other week.

But, we want to know if some of you will order more often if the smaller box option was offered.

TF is delivering a sample small box April 22. Come by Neighborhood Grinds that afternoon, Earth Day, April 22, to check out and compare the contents of the large and small boxes. (But please be gentle with the contents of my personal large box.)

Leave a comment and let me know if you would like our CSA program to offer a choice of box sizes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

In this week's Lincoln box...

CSA Box, 3/8/10

Some of the beautiful contents from this week's box as delivered to Lincoln school. We got a lot of small, juicy, easy-to-peel citrus, and more avocados and strawberries, and green cauliflower and cilantro. There were also several kinds of greens, a box of snap peas, and apples and carrots.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kale and White Bean Soup

Alternatively, you can use the greens in a soup. 

Our family loves this Kale and White Bean Soup recipe.  We use carrots and greens from the CSA box, home-made chicken broth, cook dry beans in a rice cooker and chicken & cheese sausages from  Costco.  It's way more economical than the Whole Foods version and incredibly tasty.

We cook about 2-3 times the amount of beans required for this recipe at a time.  We store the excess beans in the freezer (after they have cooled to room temperature).  A few nights before we want to make this recipe again, we move the beans and chicken broth from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw. 

This is very energy efficient.  A full freezer uses less energy than an empty one.  Every time you open the freezer, you let out cold air and replace it with warm air.  A full freezer will have less air exchange.

When you thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, your refrigerator becomes an icebox! You recapture the energy used to freeze the food. 

Southern Greens

I've fielded a few inquiries about what to do with the kale and Swiss chard. Here is a delightfully simple and delicious way to prepare them. You can use both the stems and the leaves.

Wash and chop the greens (kale, Swiss chard, beet green tops) into 1" long pieces
Chop the stems into 3/4" pieces and keep those separately
  1. (Opt) Saute 2 strips of bacon, cut into 3/4" pieces, or bits of ham in olive oil over medium-high heat
  2. Add a chopped onion and (opt) smashed garlic cloves, saute until translucent
  3. Add 1-2 (washed, peeled) carrots, diced into 1/2" pieces, saute a couple of minutes
  4. Add the chopped stems and saute a couple of more minutes
  5. Add the chopped greens, stir, turn down the heat and cover for 5 minutes
  6. Add 1/4 Cup milk and stir, leaving lid off
  7. Let the milk evaporate until the sauce is thickened (1-2 minutes)
  8. Serve over rice
This has a sweet and savory flavor. You can make it vegetarian with vegetable stock instead of bacon/ham and milk. Try throwing in some nuts for protein.

Smaller Size Boxes

Tanaka Farms has introduced smaller sized boxes for smaller families.  They will cost $20 ($18 to TF, $2 to the PTA).  We've been getting the larger boxes ($25/$5 split).  The smaller boxes will contain produce staples.  The larger boxes will contain everything in the little boxes, plus specialty produce (Kohrabi anyone?).

In order to gauge interest, Tanaka Farms will deliver a sample small box with our regular delivery on April 22, 2010.  Come by Neighborhood Grinds on Earth Day, April 22, to check out the boxes.  If there is enough interest, I can accept orders for the smaller boxes starting in May.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Guest Post on the Tanaka Farms Family Day

Lincoln CSA member Lisa Bennett filed this report about her rainy but delicious morning at Tanaka Farms:

We got an invitation from Tanaka Farms to come visit on Community Supported Agriculture Day. So we started out at 9 am Saturday morning and rain was in the forecast. Half way there it was pouring, but we kept going, hoping for a break in the weather... or maybe it wasn't raining in Irvine?

Turns out it wasn't just yet. So after being greeted and accounted for by staff, we got out to the field at 10:00 and picked radishes, onions, sugar snap peas, cilantro and bok choy for our lunch. The rain started in a gentle sprinkle as we walked up the slope to the picnic area. Everything there was under cover and it was a good thing because it then started pouring.

There was a long high table fitted with overhead water spigots where we washed our veggies, then we went to the cutting station and chopped and seasoned our harvest. We added some tofu and oil to the mix and wrapped everything up in foil packets. Big barbques were ready to roast our creations. And we made some raw salads too. They had some beets and onions already roasted to sample. Oh my goodness were those golden beets good! That was really a tasty lunch. There's nothing like veggies fresh from the field.

Farmers Tanaka (husband and wife) walked around and chatted with everyone. They were very gracious hosts. Right about when we were done eating, the rain stopped and we were able to go pick some strawberries for dessert. It was a perfect morning.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 CSA Day, Strawberry Edition

Join us Saturday, March 6 at Tanaka Farms in Irvine.  This event is free for Tanaka Farms CSA subscribers and their families.  The Spring CSA Day is our family favorite because of the strawberries.   See pictures and a description of the strawberry tour in April 2009.

Families are greeted with a map of the farm, where things are planted and a list of produce they can pick.  Begin by taking a self-guided walk through the farm.  (There are lots of friendly staff working in the field to guide and help visitors!)  Then it is on to the washing station to scrub the soil off the veggies.  After that, visit the chop and season station, add some tofu and spices, and wrap those veggies in a foil package, ready for the grill.  Enjoy a cool drink while you wait for your veggies.  You deserve the break.

After munching on a lunch provided by Tanaka Farms and the veggies, stroll down to the strawberry patch to pick dessert!  Strawberry fields forever....

If you subscribe through Lincoln Elementary, RSVP to Kelly.  If you subscribe through Madison Elementary (Neighborhood Grinds pickup), then RSVP to Grace.  You must RSVP by 5 PM Thursday, March 4th.  Thanks.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Make potstickers with your Napa Cabbage

Potstickers and dumplings are a Lunar New Year tradition in many Asian cultures. Tanaka Farms has thoughtfully provided Napa Cabbage for us this week.

This filling can be used to make won tons (square skins), potstickers and boiled dumplings (round skins).
  1. Dice the napa cabbage and cook it in a pot on medium heat.  Let the cabbage 'sweat' out some of its water.  (Some people add salt to fascilitate this.)  Set aside and let cool.
  2. (Opt) Put some dried shitake mushrooms in warm water to rehydrate
  3. In a large bowl, mash 1/2 pound of ground pork (Pork is traditional, but ground turkey or chicken also works.  For extra special occasions, use a mixture of ground pork and shrimp.)
  4. Add an egg
  5. 1 bunch of chopped scallions/green onions
  6. Mince some ginger (I use a lot, ~1/4 C).  Reserve half for the sauce, and throw the rest of the minced ginger into the filling mixture.
  7. If you have some shitake mushrooms, drain and mince them.  Add to the mix.
  8. Strain the water out of the napa cabbage as much as you can and add to the mix.
  9. Add salt, pepper and toasted sesame oil to taste
  10. Mix thoroughly and you are ready to wrap the dumplings!
  11. Cook the dumplings in your desired style.
  12. Combine soy sauce, white vinegar, minced ginger and hot oil to make the sauce
There are lots of resources on the web showing how to wrap dumplings.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lincoln Box contents, 11 February

Here it is, all unpacked and basking on the dining room table:
What you see is what we got: avocados, carrots, apples, cilantro, broccoli, green onions, cauliflower, spinach, radicchio (the dark reddish lettuce-like item), napa cabbage (the huge and heavy head of greens at the back), and another head of light-green lettuce.

Napa cabbage is the stuff often found in kimchi, btw. So it's quite sturdy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Magenta Heart!

Welcome February with a bright magenta heart, using CSA box ingredients...Four ingredients: shredded beets (from the CSA box), chopped red cabbage (from the CSA box), garlic powder (wish I had some real garlic around but I didn't), and a little mayonnaise. There are many, many variations of this traditional Russian dish online; some include nuts, or citrus or onions; some include horseradish and a vinegar-based dressing; some use ranch dressing in place of mayo. It's all good.

I did not like beets until this year. Yeah for the CSA experience! And thanks to my friend Rubi, for suggesting I try this--she was right.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The 1/28/10 Lincoln Box

Early dismissal meant we got to have our boxes a little earlier today...
Beautiful colors as always. We have lemons, oranges, red cabbage, mixed greens, cilantro, parsley, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, carrots, bok choy, and two kinds of lettuce.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jan 21 Box

Our box was crammed to the gills today. I was worried about the effect of the large amount of rain we have received this week upon this week's produce. We needn't have worried. They were amazingly moist and crisp today.

I had to move the gigantic head of Romaine lettuce out of the way to show you the rest.
  • 1 head of Romaine 
  • 1 head of butter lettuce
  • 1 bunch of swiss chard
  • 2 pints of strawberries
  • 1 pint of tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 2 bunches of carrots
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • 1 bunch of Chinese broccoli
  • 1 bunch of spinach
  • 2 purple kohlrabis
What's a kohlrabi? It's another member of the brassical family.

Doesn't it look like a purple UFO? I am saving the radish, carrot and kohlrabi tops for a hearty winter soup with beans, sausage, onions and potatoes. I have never eaten a kohlrabi before, but I have read about them.  Last summer, Mark Bittman wrote that he eats chopped kohlrabi raw in a summer salad, much as he would eat a chopped radish.  (Read his 101 simple salads of the season.) 

Simply Recipes has a bunch of links to kohlrabi recipes.  So does The braised kohlrabi recipe at recipe tips sounds (and looks) really good.  The related recipe they offer on the right side for beet greens will also work for the kohlrabi greens.

Leave a comment to tell me how you cooked yours.  I'd like to know.

Last week, I worried about the effect of this week's rain upon the strawberries.  Sure enough, we found our strawberries this week not as uniformly sweet as last week's batch.  Some were just as sweet, but others were just OK.  How did you find your strawberries?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Winter Strawberries

True winter strawberries (rather than those imported from a warmer clime) are a rare and precious commodity. They look pretty ordinary, but they are the most amazingly sweet strawberries we have ever tasted.

When we took the Tanaka Farms CSA family day tour, Glenn Tanaka told us that the first crop of strawberries in the season are his favorite.  They plant strawberries in October/November.  By the end of December, the first strawberries ripen.  Winter berries are the smallest and sweetest strawberries the plant will ever produce.

They mature more slowly due to the cold weather and shorter days.  There are only a few, not enough for commercial harvest. Glenn says he and the rest of the TF family love to walk the fields then, searching for strawberries under the leaves and eating them right away.

By January, there are a bit more--enough to share with the CSA families.  Last week, we received two pints of these ambrosial berries in our CSA box.  In February-March, when the days get warmer and longer, the plants go into full-scale production.  They can pick the plants every few days because the berries grow and ripen so quickly.  They will also be bigger, but they will never be as sweet and precious as those early season jewels.

Sadly, the heavy rains this week may damage the strawberry plants.  They need just the right amount of rain and this may be too much.  Mildew can set in on strawberry plants if there isn't sufficient sunshine and wind to dry the plants out between waterings.

We hope for more winter strawberries in this week's box, but we are prepared to be disappointed.  The ones from South America or greenhouses sold in the supermarkets are not the same.

The contents of the January 14 box:
  • 2 pints of unbelievably sweet strawberries
  • 1 head of butter lettuce
  • 1 bunch of carrots
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 bunch of broccoli
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 bunch of beets
  • 1 bag of small yellow onions

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 CSA Update

I hope you all had a wonderful winter break.

The CSA program resumes this week.  Madison and Lincoln deliveries begin Thursday, 14 January 2010.

On , 31 December 2009, Tanaka Farms officially announced the 2010 prices.  Boxes are now $30 with $25 going to TF and $5 going to the PTA.  (At the December Family Day down on the farm, Farmer Tanaka gave a heads up to some of the tractor ride tour groups.)

Part of the reason for the price increase is because of lower than expected volumes per delivery site.  Madison is one of the low participation schools (5-10 boxes per week).  We hope to grow our program, despite the price increase.  Even at $30 per box, this is still about $15 lower than another CSA program that serves our area.

Remember that CSA members are invited to CSA Family Days on the farm.  Tanaka Farms normally charges as much as $13 per person for these fun and educational tours.  Recent subscriber families can attend FREE.  There are ~4 tours per year, one for each season.

Early Spring means strawberries!  See the post about the 2009 strawberry tour for photos.
Summer means watermelons.  Fall brings pumpkins and the winter tour is a festive holiday party.  In the spring and summer, kids go into the fields to pick their own produce.  They can cook it up right there on the farm, and/or take some home.