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.