Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes

Way back in October, Farmer Tanaka lamented that, when the weather turns cold, tomatoes will remain green forever.  I wrote him that I want to find green tomatoes in my box this winter.  He obliged and subscribers received some in our boxes today.

All recipes has a recipe for Best Fried Green Tomatoes.  It's very similar to Crazy Aunt Purl's Fried Green Tomatoes.  But I prefer the CAP link because she provides step by step photos.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More about helping Japanese Farmers

Back in June, the Orange County Optimist club youth organized the Walk the Farm fundraiser to help Japanese farmers affected by the earthquake and tsunami last April. See the post publicizing this. I stopped by the OCO website for further news about the project.  They have met and identified two groups that they would like to help. 

This is Takao's strawberry greenhouse after the tsunami.  Of his original cooperative of 28 small family farmers, four were killed, 19 are missing and presumed dead, and the remaining five have reconstituted their coop.  They plan to farm again, when they are able.  Right now, much of the farmland is covered in salty water and the money will be used for living expenses until they get back on their feet.

They are also considering helping a cooperative of peach growers that cannot sell their fruit due to radiation concerns.  If they don't continue to water and take care of the mature peach trees, they will die.  It takes electricity to run the water pumps and electricity takes money.  Moreover, the farmers need to cover their living expenses while waiting until it is safe to sell their peaches again.

It's not too late to donate to OCO.  They are a US-based non-profit and all donations are tax-deductible.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Science of Cooking

The Harvard Series on Science of Cooking lectures are now available online.
Visit the lecture series website for links to the series on both iTunes U and YouTube.

Who knew that the pressure cooker is a spinoff from Boyle's experiments with vacuum?  Although, I guess it shouldn't have been too much of a surprise. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vegetable Music!?

So you get your CSA box, and much as you love them in theory, you really can't face another root vegetable. It happens. But who says you have to eat it? Some of the items in season this time of year can be carved into a small jack-o-lantern; or sketched as part of a still life; or become an edible musical instrument.

What now?

Sure, edible musical instruments. Daikon ocarinas. Carrot panpipes. Check it out:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stuffed Pattypan Squash

The little green UFOs in the CSA box two weeks ago? Pattypan squash. They're lovely, but we got a lot of them, and one of the best ways to use a lot of something is to stuff them. It's easy, and it's pretty (if you're a visual eater). The stuffing can be almost anything you like or have handy. I'll show you how I made this batch:

1. Wash the squash.

2. Cut the stem end of the squash so it's flat to sit on the baking pan. Then hollow out the other side; don't worry about the hollow being pretty, it'll be hidden. Keep the pieces that come from the hollow space! If you cut through the bottom, don't worry, just replace the piece that fits in the space best.
3. When you have them all hollowed out, place on a cookie sheet:

4. Now make the stuffing. This time I combined leftover rice, 2 chopped jalapenos, cream cheese, shredded cheddar, four small CSA tomatoes, cumin, some garden herbs, and the chopped bits of squash that came from the hollowing out step. But you can stuff them with anything, really! Look around online, there are plenty of ideas. Mix up the stuffing, and scoop it generously into the squash on the cookie sheet:
Bake the stuffed squash in a 350 oven until the squash is tender and the filling is warm through and melty--probably 20-25 minutes for this version. I broiled a little at the end to get a little hint of browning on top...

If you have leftover stuffing (I did), it works just as well to stuff a zucchini or a bell pepper. I had two of these with a bread roll for a very happy lunch today, and the rest we'll have tonight at dinnertime.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

CSA Day October 8

Dear CSA subscribers,
 In appreciation for your support, CSA members and their immediate families are invited to join us at Tanaka Farms on Sat. Oct . 8th for our Fall CSA Day.

We'll have some of our grilled veggies for you to sample. Also that afternoon there will be complimentary wagon rides around the farm and petting zoo admission for our CSA members.

For more details and to RSVP for the event , please go to

We hope to see you soon!

The Tanaka Farm Family

Tanaka Farms
5380 3/4 University Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
This is also a good time to pick out your Halloween pumpkin.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What to do with basil

A subscriber asked for some suggestions on how to use the basil that came in last Thursday's box. 
  • You can use it in sauces and soups.
  • Snip off the end of the stem, put the cut ends in a cup of water and store them in the refrigerator with a plastic bag over the leaves, just as you would store cilantro.
Here are a few recipe suggestions.

Tomato-cucumber salad:
  • chop some tomatoes* and cucumbers*
  • dice some sweet onions*
  • chop some basil leaves*
  • (optional) add minced garlic 
  • (optional) add cubed mozzarella aka home-style cheese (the kind you buy in a ball)
  • season with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
  • * all items contained in last Thursday's box! 
  • I would have added a photo of this salad, but our family already demolished it.
  • pre-warm oven on the broil setting
  • set a rack right under the broiler element (or use a BBQ)
  • chop tomatoes, onion and basil leaves
  • mince garlic 
  • add olive oil
  • mix
  • season mixture with salt and pepper and let steep for 10 minutes
  • brush sliced bread with olive oil
  • put bread under the broiler for 1-2 minutes
  • remove bread from the oven
  • cut bread into serving-size pieces (if needed)
  • top with tomato-basil mixture
Antipasto platter:
  • slice beefsteak tomatoes and mozzarella
  • arrange on platter with (optional) salami or proscuitto
  • top with chopped basil
  • drizzle olive oil over platter
White bean spread (especially fast with a food processor):
  • process a few garlic cloves
  • add basil leaves and pulse
  • add cooked white/canneloni beans and olive oil and pulse
  • stir in salt and pepper to taste
  • serve over bread

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nature's packing material

A subscriber asked Farmer Tanaka, "Why so much kale?"
Because it is a perfect packing material that is nutritious and yummy to boot!  Whenever the boxes have many objects that roll around or need cushioning, Tanaka Farms adds leaves of washed kale to keep everything in good shape. 

Consider using the kale in kale and white bean soup or in sauteed southern greens.   You can add the turnip greens, too!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Adams CSA FAQ 2011

UPDATE:  As of September 2014, we have a different pickup location (Panelas Brazil Cuisine).  The parts of this FAQ that mention Neighborhood Grinds may be inaccurate for our new arrangement. The rest of the FAQ still applies.

This FAQ supercedes the 2010 FAQ because there have been so many changes to the ordering system.

Large box on the right, small box on the left.

Boxes of local (So Cal) produce, ~75% from Tanaka Farms (TF) of Irvine. All of the produce is unsprayed; some are certified organic, others are grown using organic methods but not certified. Small boxes typically contain ~8 different types of produce and the large boxes contain ~12 types. There may be multiples. E.g. a type of item may be one head of lettuce or half a dozen apples. Each box contains produce with at least $20/$30 retail value.

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's closing time of 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. There is a $3 per box delivery fee for all pick-up locations other than directly at the farm in Irvine.

Why should I pick up at Neighborhood Grinds instead of Whole Foods?
You pay the same whether you select the Adams PTSA/Neighborhood Grinds location or Whole Foods. However, if you order select the Adams PTSA option, the PTSA receives 10% of the box price to help us fund valuable school programs.

Moreover, Neighborhood Grinds offers the most flexible hours, allowing pick ups of up to 10 PM for those who work late hours. You'll be supporting local schools and independent businesses at the same time.

Automated reminders go out the day before delivery (on Wednesdays for Thursday deliveries). Often, NG will send out emails announcing box arrivals. Boxes can be picked up any time between that announcement (typically 11 AM to 1:30 PM) 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.

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.

How do I sign up?
Tanaka Farms has switched to a new online ordering system developed by Farmigo. Simply visit the Tanaka Farms CSA information page, click on the red tab to read the CSA Policies, then click on the green "New Subscribers Join Here" button at the right.

Select the Adams Middle School/Neighborhood Grinds pick up location. Then click "Next Step" on the green button at the top.

Select large or small boxes, weekly or every other week (EOW) options. To save on shipping, many families order a large box every other week. Select EOWA or EOWB and look in the right column for the date of the next delivery for that schedule. Although the sign ups are for a recurring schedule, vacation holds and changes are quick and easy (see changing options section below).

Click "Next Step" and enter your payment information for debit upon receipt. Although you can pay by either credit card, or electronic payment through your checking account, keep in mind that farming is a very low margin business and Farmer Tanaka can use the 2% fee more than the credit card companies. ;-)

Once you are a subscriber, your account page will look something like this. It will contain your options, order history and payment history. Note that boxes are charged AFTER the delivery. There are no refunds should you forget to pick up your box so don't forget!

Changing your order option
Life happens; you go on vacation or go through a period when you cook less often at home. Farmigo and Tanaka Farms have thought of that.
  • You can put a temporary vacation stop on your orders. Click on the "Vacations" tab on your member screen, and enter the days you will be on vacation. Box delivery will automatically be suspended during those days and you will NOT be charged for the time away.

  • You can change your subscription option by selecting "Change Subscription" under the summary on the right column. From the following screen, you can change box sizes, quantities, or schedules.

  • If you want to put your account on indefinite hold, contact the Tanaka Farms CSA program managers, at so they can put your account on indefinite hold status. While you are on indefinite hold, you will not receive boxes or be charged. They can also delete your account if you choose.

  • You can make on line changes to your account on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. (On line orders can not be changed 4 days before delivery; our deliveries are on Thursdays, which means changes to your account are not allowed M-Th.)

    If you need to must changes on M-Th, please contact or 949-283-0487 so that they can make the change for you. Remember, they cannot change orders at the last minute, but they can change your options and put you on vacation hold while the website is locked down.
What is this and how do I use it?
Part of the fun of the CSA program is the unusual varieties of produce that the boxes contain. We get heirloom or specialty produce not normally seen at grocery stores.
  • Check Farmer Tanaka's weekly blog page for what might be in your box that week.

  • Find recipe ideas through your web engine of choice, from the Tanaka Farms recipe page, or the Adams School CSA recipe pages.

  • If you don't know what an item is or how to use it, email and ask.

  • Cook improvisationally. If you have a recipe that calls for leaves from one member of the Brassica family (Kale, Swiss Chard, Beet Greens), you can successfully substitute another.

  • Save scraps. Don't forget to use the tops of root vegetables. Turnip greens, beet greens and onion tops are nutritious and tasty in soups or sautes. Carrot tops are too bitter to eat, but they make wonderful centerpiece fillers (see below).

    Trimmed pieces of veggies can be saved in a container in the refrigerator or freezer along with bones and meat and cheese trimmings. When the container is full, make broth!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Swiss Chard

Check out designer Poppy Gall's fantastic photographs and the color palette she designed using rainbow Swiss chard for inspiration.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sweet and Savory

Take the small melon from the CSA box (left). Add another melon from Trader Joe's (right).
Cut open the CSA melon for a colorful surprise. Cut both into cubes.
Put them on a bed of lettuce, add chopped red onions (also from the box). Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and you have a sweet and savory summer salad.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hey, yellow watermelon!

One of the fun things about the CSA box is that we get to see unusual varieties of familiar produce. Take this week's large box. We got a nice watermelon, about the size of a school globe but much heavier. Cut into it, and.....


Yes, watermelon comes in many colors besides the usual familiar pinkish red. We seem to have a Yellow Crimson watermelon this week. Does it taste any different from the ordinary color? I'm looking forward to finding out. Might be fun to make a granita with, for example.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Zucchini Season!

We've been seeing a lot of zucchini in the boxes lately--want a recipe for using a lot of them at a time? We make zucchini bread, of course, but here's a savory casserole that's great for brunches, or make it as a light summer dinner with salad.As I've said, I'm not a recipe person in general, and everytime I make this it's a little different, but this is the basic idea:

You have three layers--crust, cheese, and zucchini. The crust layer can be made with a tart dough, or puff pastry squares, or even canned crescent rolls for convenience. Whatever you choose, press that into the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish.

The cheese layer is based on ricotta. I use about a cup of ricotta, and mix it with sauteed onions and garlic (from the CSA box!), garden herbs (right now we've got an abundance of sage, rosemary, some oregano and some thyme), maybe a tablespoon of dijon mustard if it's handy; add an egg if you want. (Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't--it's a heartier dish with a little egg.) Maybe add some grated cheese, maybe add some citrus zest, as you like. Spread your cheese mixture over the crust layer.

The top layer is zucchini. I usually slice up several at a time with the food processor, so I'm not sure exactly how many were used here--probably two is about right. Sliced thin, layered all across the cheese layer. The one pictured above has about a cup of cheddar and some paprika sprinkled over the zucchini, but you can also just sprinkle with a little olive oil or parmesan.

Bake about half an hour, until it looks like the crust is cooked, the egg is cooked, the cheese is melted and a little browned. Serves well warm or chilled.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The true cost of tomatoes

Don't miss Mark Bittman's opinionator column about the true cost of tomatoes.

He's writing about Florida tomatoes, not the kind that are in our CSA boxes from Irvine, CA.
A third of our [nation's] tomatoes are grown in Florida, and much of that production is concentrated around Immokalee (rhymes with “broccoli”), a town that sits near the edge of the great “river of grass,” or the Everglades, the draining of which began in the late 19th century, thus setting the stage for industrial agriculture. [snip]
The tomato fields of Immokalee are vast and surreal. An unplanted field looks like a lousy beach: the “soil,” which is white sand, contains little in the way of nutrients and won’t hold any water. To grow tomatoes there requires mind-boggling amounts of fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides (on roughly the same acreage of tomatoes, Florida uses about eight times as many chemicals as California). The tomatoes are, in effect, grown hydroponically, and the sand seems useful mostly as a medium for holding stakes in place.
Organic tomatoes require much, much fewer chemicals. As I have written before, a plant-based insect repellent, neem oil, is sometimes used. Mostly, Tanaka Farms relies on inter-planting onions to repel insects.

They also factor in a 25-30% crop loss to critters in their plans. BTW, organic farmers lose an average of 30% of their crop to critters (including insects). Conventional farmers lose 25%, despite using vast amounts of pesticides and herbicides.
Tomatoes with any color other than green are too ripe to ship, and left to rot; I’ve posted a couple of pictures I took of those on my blog. The green tomatoes are gassed — “de-greened” is the chosen euphemism — to “ripen” them; the plants themselves are often killed with an herbicide to hasten their demise and get ready for the next crop.
Those of you who have visited Tanaka Farms on CSA days know that everything that can be composted is composted on site and tilled back into the soil. Crop rotation includes lots of legumes (the beans you see in your boxes) to replenish nitrogen in the soil. The ground is never sprayed with herbicides between crops. It is simply tilled. Sometimes, volunteers from the last crop spring up amid the new.

Workers on the farm have worked alongside the Tanaka family for years, often decades. They are not treated as disposable people. Workers at TF are never sprayed with pesticides or herbicides, or sent into recently sprayed fields, because the fields are not sprayed in the first place.

Enjoy your ripe and guilt-free tomatoes this summer. Sign up online for summer CSA boxes to support Adams Middle School.

Friday, June 10, 2011

CSA Day June 11-12, 2011

Sorry about the late notice.  I just found out from the flyer in yesterday's CSA box.

This is free and open to all current CSA (you've ordered Mar-June, 2011) members.
Members will take a guided wagon ride around the farm.  You'll try some of the different vegetables and fruits grown on the farm.  After the tour, you'll pick and eat strawberries in the berry patch.

For $5, get a basket; you'll be able to pick and take home some of our yummy strawberries.

Please visit to register for either Sat. or Sun.  Please register for times between 9:30 AM-2:00 PM.  Tours leave every half hour.  The tour is approx. 1 hr and 15 min.

Also, please note if you wish to purchase future CSA boxes for July, please go to, click on CSA Program and register as a new subscriber.  We are ending our relationship with Farm2table Connect at the end of June and switching over to a different order placing system, Farmigo.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at

We hope to see you this weekend!
The Tanaka Family

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Afterschool Strawberry Specials

Farmer Tanaka passes this on:
Strawberries are sweet right now and we have an abundance of them so we are having a U-Pick Special!!!

When: 3pm Everyday Monday June 6th- Friday June10th
Don't be late, wagon will be leaving promptly at 3pm

No Reservations are needed. Please arrive at least 15minutes early.

Where: Tanaka Farms
5380 3/4 University Dr
Irvine, ca 92612

Cost: $5 per person ages 2 and under free
Includes: Wagon ride to Strawberry Patch and 1 one pound basket of strawberries to take home. You may purchase additional baskets for $5 each.

Thank you and see you at the farm,

The Tanaka Family

Friday, June 3, 2011

CSA Changes

Starting in July 2011, Tanaka Farms will charge $3/box for delivery.  The good news is that, at the same time, the 10-box minimum order required for delivery to a site also goes away.  As a bonus, June 2011 will have no minimum and no delivery fee.

Farmers have been hit hard by rising commodity prices, especially for gas.  The cost of delivery has pushed the Tanaka Farms CSA program back into the red.  After much thought, the Tanaka family has decided to hold the prices of the boxes steady, but charge for delivery.

If you have been sitting on the fence due to uncertainty, I will extend the June sign-up deadline until Monday, June 6.  Get it into the Adams PTSA mailbox at the school by 7:45 AM or Neighborhood Grinds by 8:00 AM on June 6, and you can still have a box June 9 or 23.  Download the June form here.

Beginning in July, we will shift to online ordering.  I will write a separate post as soon as that is set up for the Adams MS group.

Our group will be migrating to TF's online ordering system
through in July.

Eileen, the TF CSA coordinator, will be setting up our group soon and I will forward the registration info as soon as I receive it.

All accounts are set up on a recurring basis so subscribers have 6 choices.
  1. indefinite hold
  2. short-term vacation hold with an end date
  3. S box weekly
  4. S box biweekly
  5. L box weekly
  6. L box biweekly
You can change your account setting at any time, as often as you like. The only caveat is that the setting 4 days before our delivery day is the one that is honored.  We get deliveries on Thursday, so the setting you have on Sunday holds for that week.

Your credit card will be charged the day of delivery, usually in the early evening.

Farmigo will automatically generate email reminders to everyone who has signed up for a box that week.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is vegan sugar?

My daughter asked me why we buy the two pound bag of organic vegan sugar that costs the same as a five pound bag of regular sugar. What makes sugar vegan?

She was too small to remember, but we took a vacation to Australia in 2003. On the shuttle through Queensland, we drove past many sugar cane fields. A blur of a fast-moving animal caught my eye as it crossed the road and ran into the sugar cane.

I asked the driver what kind of animal lives in the cane. He replied that quite a few animals live in the cane fields.

Then we passed some cane that had been cut by a mechanical harvester.

"What happens to the animals when the cane is cut?"

"They become animal by-catch."

I told him that I just went off sugar.

Then he said that there were more reasons to go off sugar. He told us about all the chemicals that are sprayed on the sugar cane. Then the cane is cut, crushed, and the juices collected--chemicals, animal by-catch and all*.

Vegan sugar is made from hand-cut sugar cane, which gives the animals a chance to get away.

We've been buying organic vegan sugar ever since. The cost is revenue-neutral because I was looking for an excuse to cut down on our family's sugar intake anyway.

* In theory, the animal blood and guts are removed in the sugar refining steps. Our family does not eat vegan, but we didn't like the idea of "regular" sugar after we learned how it is made.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Walk the farm to help Japanese farmers

Looking for another opportunity to help?

Farmer Glenn Tanaka is an active volunteer with the Orange Coast Optimist (youth) club.  The kids were deeply affected by the earthquake in Japan and the plight of farmers that lost their crops due to the tsunami and radioactive contamination (or the perception of contamination).

They wanted to raise money to help those farmers and they will be hosting a special Walk the Farm fundraiser on June 18, 2011 at Tanaka Farms. 
Your $20 donation to "Walk the Farm" includes:

- Scenic view as you "Walk the Farm"
- Bottled water
- Sampling of fruits and vegetables from around the farm
- Shaved ice
- Hot Dog/Hamburger lunch
- The knowledge that you are helping a community to rebuild their farms

- T-shirts are available for $10 and can be ordered when registering.
Normally, the cookout tour costs $24/20 (adults/kids).  On this occasion, the cost is a mere $20.  Moreover, it is 100% tax-deductible because 100% of the proceeds will go to the OCO club, a 503(c) non-profit organization, which will funnel the money to Japanese farmers.

Become a gleaner

Image of Jean Fran├žois Millet's painting, the Gleaners, courtesy of USC.

Gleaning is the practice of salvaging food after the commercial harvesters are done.  For instance, my high school biology class took a field trip to a vineyard to glean grapes left on the vine after the mechanical harvesting was done.  We used the grapes to ferment some wine for our microbiology unit.  In Millet's day, peasants used to glean to stave off starvation.

Today, farmer Glenn Tanaka donates his leftover harvest to the food banks fun by South County Outreach and Families Forward in Irvine.  Together, they provide fresh produce to up to 350 families in need.

Do you want to help farmer Glenn help hungry families?  Sign up to glean on a Monday or Wednesday afternoon this summer.  This is a great way to teach your kids where their food comes from, and to be mindful of others who may not otherwise have access to clean and healthy food.

Find out more about gleaning at Tanaka Farms.  Up to 25 helpers are needed for
  • Wednesday, June 1, 3:30 pm
  • Monday, June 6, 3:30 pm
  • Wednesday, June 8, 3:30 pm
  • Monday, June 13, 3:30 pm
  • Wednesday, June 15, 3:30 pm  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where the money goes

I would like to thank all of the participants in the Adams CSA program.  The money raised by your participation in the program helps us fill in school funding gaps.  My daughter was a beneficiary of this largess last week.

Adams Middle School is a Title 1 school.  40% of Adams students are considered high-risk either because of their parents' educational background or because of their family income. 

[Many people are surprised that there are pockets of need, even within the Beach Cities.  But Adams is special because their students of all backgrounds statistically outperform other kids that come from similar backgrounds.  In contrast, other middle schools with higher mean test scores in the Beach Cities underperform relative to their economic peers.]

The school drama club is putting on Beauty and the Beast this May*.  The drama teacher wanted to take the kids to the Pantages to see a professional production.  The district policy is to not let money be a barrier to a quality education for all students.  But there was no way the school district could come up with the $4,000 for the entire drama club to go.

We found a way to make it happen.

We got a discounted group rate from the Pantages box office.  The PTSA paid for the rental of a school bus to transport the students.  Most parents paid $47 (vs the $60 box office list price).  Kids from families that couldn't afford $47 (and could substantiate financial need) were given a 50% subsidy from the school's educational enrichment fund. 

Everyone who wanted to go was able to go.  The kids had a great time.

Thanks all around.

* Contact me if you are interested in getting tickets to the Adams' performance of Beauty and the Beast.  Or if you want to help with the costumes or sets.  ;-)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

CSA Day March 13, 2011

Like the flyer says, RSVP to your school CSA coordinator if you would like to attend. It's free for all regular CSA subscribers.

This is the most popular CSA day at Tanaka Farms. The strawberries are ripe and the veggies are in the ground (and recognizable!). Come join us.

So far, I have collected 6 sign-ups for March for the Adams CSA program. Download the March Adams sign-up form and turn it in to Neighborhood Grinds before 8 AM Friday March 4. Let me know when you drop off your form or if you want to attend CSA day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Golden Beets!

Did you get golden beets in your box this week? I did, a nice bunch of them. Even if you're not a fan of red beets, try to goldens--their flavor isn't as strong, and the color is more friendly to visual eaters. I've learned to like red beets, even love them, but the intense magenta kept me away from them for a very long time--it just didn't seem like a savory food color.

Last time I got golden beets in my box, I just fried them up in a little butter (shown above) and sprinkled them with salt and pepper--so simple. Even the picky child in my house enjoyed them--they looked enough like fried potatoes, I guess. Another visual eater!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CSA Soup

This is what we make with the vegetables we don't love from the CSA box; or maybe we love them, but we don't need so much; or maybe, we love them but our schedule doesn't allow us to eat them before they're gone. We make CSA Soup: the one above contains kohlrabi, carrots, celery, Chinese broccoli, and cauliflower. Chop them all up. Put them in a soup pot with stock and water to barely cover. Add spices to taste (salt and pepper are fine; a basic curry blend also works well). Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the veggies are soft. Blenderize in batches. Stir back together. Serve with nice bread. Even if you don't love the individual components of this soup, they'll generally work together as a blended soup.

Other things we did with our CSA goodies this week: cooked down the bunch of chard to make some saucy Indian takeout more substantial; added much of the Chinese broccoli and another bunch of chard to a favorite cheesy tuna-noodle casserole; had a strawberry-chai milkshake for Valentine's Day (so pink!).

Now What?

Are you sitting on the fence about signing up for a CSA box?

Or have you already signed up and feel guilty about the decaying veggies in the bottom of the produce drawer?

Want to see my method for prepping and storing the produce when I get it home?

Want to learn some new recipes for preparing the seasonal produce in the latest boxes?

Meet your CSA coordinator, Grace Peng, at Neighborhood Grinds at 5:30 PM on Thursday February 24 where I will walk you through the pickup process.

Then go to my (nearby) kitchen where I will show you some techniques to store and prepare the produce from the box. We should be done by 6:15 or earlier.

Make eating real food really easy!

Neighborhood Grinds
2315 Artesia Blvd., Unit 1 (NW corner with MacKay)
Redondo Beach, CA 90278

5:30 PM (sharp!) February 24, 2011

RSVP to let me know how many to expect.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chinese Broccoli

Ever wonder how they make that delicious Chinese broccoli dish served in dim sum tea rooms?  Make some tonight with the Chinese broccoli that came in today's box.

Bring a large pot of water to boil while you wash and trim the broccoli.  Then blanch the broccoli in the boiling water for 5 minutes, or until it is tender-crisp (the leaves are tender and the thickest part of the stem is just slightly crisp).  Drain the broccoli and put it on a serving dish.

You can drizzle oyster sauce* directly on the broccoli.  If you worry about the sodium, thin the oyster sauce with up to 50% hot water or broth before pouring it on top of the greens.

It's that easy.

* I buy oyster sauce from 99 Ranch Supermarket in Gardena.  But you can also find it at any Asian market or larger general supermarkets.  If you make the trek out to 99 Ranch, check out the fresh noodle aisle.  You can buy blocks of turnip cakes to round out your dim sum feast at home.  Slice the turnip cake into 1/2" thin slices, pan fry to brown on each side, then serve with soy sauce, vinegar and chili sauce.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Not Roundup Ready

One of the main reasons to join a CSA is to get to know your food supply. When you visit your food, you learn how it is grown and by whom. A small organic farm is fundamentally different than the highly-automated large-scale monoculture (single crop) farms where most conventionally grown food originate. TF, like many small farms, is messy. You will see weeds and volunteers (veggies from the last crop) everywhere.

Tanaka Farms (TF) holds several CSA Family days a year--usually in the Spring, Fall and Christmas. Strawberries and the green veggies star in the Spring visit. Kids pick and wash their own veggies. Then the Tanaka Farms staff grill them up so you can eat them for lunch right there. Afterwards, everyone is sent out to the strawberry patch to pick dessert.

When things wind down in the fall, TF tours focus on the pumpkins and the corn maize. Each December, TF also holds a Christmas party for CSA members where they also sell Christmas trees for another local farmer.

I took these pictures at the September 2010 Fall tour. See the broad-leaved weeds amid the corn? These are definitely not Roundup Ready corn--corn that has been genetically engineered to withstand direct spraying of the glyphosate-based herbicide sold by Monsanto as Roundup. In fact, genetically-modified crops cannot be sold as organic under current labeling laws.

Do you see the insect holes on the radish greens below? Some people are turned off from organic food because it is typical to see moderate amounts of insect damage. You can see the insect holes, but you can't see the insecticides that are sprayed on conventional produce to make them look so perfect. Common organophosphate insecticides have been linked to ADHD in children, particularly genetically susceptible children and/or children who were exposed in-utero. Other insecticides, endosulfan and dicofol, were linked with autism.

Instead of spraying herbicides, they pull the weeds by hand. Sometimes, they get behind and the vegetable beds look a bit messy. If you visit the farm and see a weed, give them a hand and pull it out.

This is Farmer Tanaka, aka Glenn Tanaka. He learned to farm from his father. His son, Kenny, works with him along with a cadre of farm staff that has worked with the family for decades. They are all family.

Glenn says that he sprays Neem tree oil instead of insecticides to repel insects. The oil doesn't kill the insects; insects simply don't like the taste (or smell) of the oil and stay away. Neem tree oil is very expensive compared to synthetic (but toxic) insecticides. Moreover, neem tree oil needs to be resprayed every two weeks in order to repel subsequent waves of insects. This is why organic food costs more than conventional food.

It's expensive to grow food that doesn't contain stuff that is invisible to the naked eye.

Get to know your farmer. Get to know your food. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Adams CSA Important News for 2011

Update as of Feb 1, 2011
We met the 10-box minimum for both Feb 10 and 24. There is still time to sign up. Get your orders in by 8AM Friday Feb 4 to Neighborhood Grinds (NG) for delivery on Feb 10. Get your orders in by 8AM Friday Feb 18 for delivery on Feb 24. Download the February form and turn it in at NG.

The original entry
I buried the lead in the last post, so I am reiterating the programmatic part here.

Due to problems with the Farm2TableConnect system, both Lincoln and Adams are reverting back to the old paper ordering system through June 2011.

In reviewing his expenses last year, Farmer Tanaka realized that CSA delivery costs were putting the CSA program in the red. In 2011, he needs to strictly enforce his 10 box minimum in order to maintain delivery to a group.

The Adams/Neighborhood Grinds group had previously enjoyed weekly deliveries, but we fell short of the 10 box minimum on most weeks by a few boxes. If we can have the same number of orders per month, and move everyone to delivery on the same biweekly schedule, we should be able to meet the minimum.

If you used to order weekly small boxes, consider getting a large box on a biweekly basis. Our family of three finds that the large box lasts us about 1.5 weeks. We sometimes do supplemental shopping at the El Segundo farmers' market (Thursdays 3-7 on Main street) on our off weeks.

If we get our subscriber count up, we may be able to offer weekly deliveries in the future. So recruit your friends and tell them about the strawberries.

Adams and Lincoln will both offer biweekly deliveries, on the same Thursdays of each month. That will help keep the farm expenses to a sustainable level and reduce the carbon input of your food.

If we don't make the 10 box minimum, then we all don't get our strawberries. :-(

Don't delay, download the February order form now.

Winter Strawberries 2011

It's time to rehash a post from January 2010. Here's what I wrote then:
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.
Last Fall, Glenn Tanaka had difficulty finding strawberry starts. I would link to his blog posts from that time period about that, but his blog appears to keep only recent entries. The delay in finding strawberry starts and the October rains meant that he planted a month late this year. Shift the time scale from the 2010 story back a month.

That means the strawberry plants has started to bear fruit, but not in CSA quantities, in January. CSA subscribers will start getting strawberries in their boxes in February.

In reviewing his expenses last year, Farmer Tanaka realized that CSA delivery costs were putting him in the red. In 2011, he needs to strictly enforce his 10 box minimum in order to maintain delivery to a group.

Adams and Lincoln will both offer biweekly deliveries, on the same Thursdays of each month. That will help keep the farm expenses to a sustainable level and reduce the carbon input of your food.

Due to problems with the Farm2TableConnect system, both Lincoln and Adams are moving back to the old paper ordering system. If we don't make the 10 box minimum, then we all don't get our strawberries. :-(

Don't delay, download the February order form now.