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NOTES FROM THE FIELD: SUMMERTIME FARMING

07/21/17 — Heydon Hatcher

You might be wondering how it's possible for us to continue our roll through these sweat-soaked, sun-laden dog days of summer... so this week, we wanted to shed some light on how we slightly alter our practices so that we can farm year-round! A lot of farms will shut down during July and August because of the extreme and scorching conditions, but here at JBG, we keep truckin’ along through the depths of summertime. Let’s just say farming is not for the faint of heart. There are a handful of procedures that we adhere to in order that our employees and veggies can stay as cool as possible.

Sunrise. Photo by Scott David Gordon. Sunrise. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

One of the things that really helps is starting at daybreak. Imagine everyone rolling into the dewey and pitchblack farm, headlights on, and preparing for daily tasks in the cool morning air. We usually have the tractors running by 6 AM and are wrapping up work for the day promptly after lunch. This schedule allows us to circumvent being out in the fields during the hottest part of the day. This week alone the temperatures have been at sustained 100+! Sun protection is of utmost importance as well, lots of wide brimmed hats and long-sleeves. When rainfall is sparse, dust abounds at the farm; thus, bandanas are necessary and greatly useful. Hydration is key along with a constant supply of electrolyte packs (plus, that highly coveted ice machine at the farm to really cool things down), but what has really kept everyone going this year are the melon breaks. A Hergotz favorite is watermelon with a sprinkle of tajin. You should try it!

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Everything gets trickier in terms of keeping quality at a premium during these summer months. Once the produce is harvested, the veggies retain field heat that needs to be removed quickly so that the condition remains high and the vegetables don’t start to decay. Some crops like tomatoes need to be harvested in the early mornings, as it is integral to pluck the fruits while they are still cool from the overnight reprieve; otherwise, it tends to get too hot on the fields for those veggies to continue to thrive. Our harvest trailers have been revolutionary for summertime farming, and in this specific situation, it aids in getting the produce immediately out of the sun post-harvest and underneath a canopy for some shade. It also generally reduces the backbreaking work for our field crew as they can harvest alongside the vehicle since the arms on the vehicle reach out 5 rows wide. All of our post-harvest handling during the summer is very focused on maintaining the cool chain, which simply put means removing field heat and keeping the produce cold to ensure tip-top shape for the customer. Thus, cooler organization is very important so we can get harvest bins into the cold as quickly and efficiently as possible. The coolers are packed to the brim in the summer, and we only pull out exactly what we need so that the veggies can stay cool.

Harvest trailer. Photo by Scott David Gordon. Harvest trailer. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Harvest trailer. Photo by Scott David Gordon. Harvest trailer. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Deliveries are even affected by the change in temperatures. The ceaseless heat can make the tires blow out; so, maintaining delivery vehicle wear and tear helps prevent any scheduled delivery mishaps. It goes without saying, but air conditioning unit maintenance is crucial, too. Speaking of deliveries... CSA members, did you know that if you receive home deliveries and leave a cooler on your front porch, our delivery driver will transfer your veggies directly into the cooler! Also, those who pick up, get to your site early to make sure that those veggies aren’t baking in the box.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

WEEK 29 IN PHOTOS

07/21/17 — Heydon Hatcher

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

We are in the thick of summer, and despite the stifling heat, we've been planting collards, kale, kohlrabi, bok choy, and dandelion greens. You have to plant the transplants early in the morning so that they don't wilt in the midday scorch, but we have them successfully in the ground and couldn't be more excited. Pigs, raccoons, and deer have been coming after our melons as of late, which has been a catalyst for us to finish the fence around the periphery of the farm. We harvested our first sweet potatoes this week, thanks to our Farm Manager, Becky! This is the earliest we have ever had this crop ready to harvest!

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

GIN AND TOMATO JAM

07/20/17 — Heydon Hatcher

Recipe by Nadia Tamby

This is a uniquely spiced version of a classic "gin and jam." This cocktail gets a double hit of ginger - the fresh bite from the infused spirit and a more mellow, sweet ginger from the jam. It's a fun drink to make because you can customize it for your friends and family by adjusting the ratios and stirring the jam completely in their drink or not. After you've made the jam, it's a surprisingly simple drink to assemble. Since the simple syrup and jam will keep for a while and you'll already have infused gin on hand, you can recreate this drink pretty easily for a couple weeks afterward, too.

Photo by Rick Cortez. Photo by Rick Cortez.

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz ginger and lemongrass-infused gin (slice about 1/4 cup each of ginger root - scrubbed with skin on is fine - and white part of lemongrass stalks and place into gin bottle (1.75L), shake daily until infused to your liking)
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 0.5 -1 oz agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon yellow tomato jam*
  • Tiny spoons to serve in drinks


Yellow tomato - ginger jam:

  • 1 lb yellow tomatoes, cut into 8 pieces or small chunks
  • 1 inch ginger root, peeled and cut into very thin strips
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped in. (Save vanilla bean for another use or throw it in the pot too!)
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Jam Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil

Reduce heat and simmer until reduced and thick - it will continue to thicken a bit as it cools

Photo by Rick Cortez. Photo by Rick Cortez.

Instructions:

Stir together gin, lemon juice, and agave syrup.

Fill glasses with ice and pour vodka mixture over ice.

Spoon jam into glasses and place on top of ice so you can stir in as much jam as you like. Enjoy!

Photo by Rick Cortez. Photo by Rick Cortez.

CSA BOX CONTENTS WEEK OF JULY 17TH

07/18/17 — Scott

CSA Box Contents Week of July 17th CSA Box Contents Week of July 17th

Large Box
Beet, Red
Carrot, Orange
Celery Root / Celeriac
Eggplant, Medley
Greens, Spinach, Malabar
Leek
Melon, Farmers Choice
Okra
Onion, White
Pepper, Sweet Medley
Potato, Red
Squash, Butternut
Squash, Yellow
Medium Box
Beet, Red
Carrot, Orange
Eggplant, Medley
Melon, Farmers Choice
Okra
Onion, White
Pepper, Sweet Medley
Potato, Red
Squash, Butternut
Squash, Yellow
Small Box
Beet, Red
Eggplant, Medley
Leek
Melon, Farmers Choice
Okra
Onion, White
Pepper, Sweet Medley
Potato, Red
Individual Box
Beet, Red
Carrot, Orange
Melon, Farmers Choice
Pepper, Sweet Medley
Squash, Butternut
Squash, Yellow

A PLETHORA OF PEPPERS

07/14/17 — Heydon Hatcher

Peppers, peppers, peppers. With an endless string of nearly 100 degree days under our belt, marinating in our own sweat has become commonplace. While we are struggling to keep from going heat-crazy, our pepper crops are basking in the sunshine, and thriving in the brutal heat. Plentiful peppers abound on the farm currently! Peppers here, peppers there - we got ‘em everywhere! We pride ourselves on constantly innovating here at JBG, and just like the melons, we have had a good ole time testing the waters on a wide range of new varieties of this sweet and spicy crop. Here’s to the Capsicum genus, ranging from flaming hot to sweet as sugar, you make the dog days of summer worthwhile!

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

A Brief History

Originating in South America thousands of years ago, these members of the nightshade family’s cultivation spread to Central America soon after, and ultimately, through the Columbian Exchange (wherein Christopher Columbus kindled a massive exchange of goods between the Eastern and Western hemispheres during the 15th and 16th centuries) to Europe. Currently, peppers are utilized worldwide, enriching a plethora of different culinary traditions, from Spanish chorizo and Indian capsicum curry to the Congolese pili-pili sauce.

Peppers! Photo by Scott David Gordon. Peppers! Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Nutritional Fun Facts

  • All peppers have differing levels of capsaicin, a chemical compound that dissolves in fats and oils, in them. Bell peppers have little to none, and habaneros have some of the highest levels. This chemical causes a burning sensation on whatever tissue with which it comes into contact. This keeps mammals from eating the hotter peppers, because of the undesirable and sometimes painful side effects; whereas birds, whose receptors are largely unaffected by it, indulge in peppers and spread the seeds.
  • No wonder it burns! Capsaicin is known to aid in burning fat and boost metabolism!
  • A red, yellow, or green bell pepper has more Vitamin C than an orange, and are good sources of carotenoids, which act as antioxidants in the body as well as support ocular and epidermal health. The more they ripen, the more nutrition you get!
  • Hot or sweet, peppers have a ton of B vitamins as well, namely B6, which higher consumption of is known to quell heart disease and stroke.
Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Sweet Peppers

Yellow/Red Italian - These Italian varieties are the sweetest peppers on the farm… ‘sweet as sugar’ as our farm manager, Becky, says. When the harvest reaches the barn, folks cannot resist grabbing a handful and taking a big juicy bite. These are perfect for snacking (kids love them!) or delicious roasted, whether as a side dish or on an antipasto plate!

Bell Pepper - Looking at the bell pepper harvest is always mesmerizing. These peppers have the most stunning spectrum of colors (this year we have green, red, white, orange, chocolate, yellow, purple bells!), and are the darling of the sweet pepper category. The taste changes with the color… red being the ripest and sweetest. A JBG favorite recipe is the culturally ubiquitous stuffed bell pepper.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Bell pepper gradient. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Banana - A mild pepper known for its banana-like aesthetics. This pepper is perfect for pickling, a yummy addition to sandwiches.

Frying Peppers

Shishito - A Central Texas favorite, this mild little pepper hailing from East Asia is great for tempura, or a quick saute. Take a peek at one of our resident recipe blogger’s escapade into a blissful blistering of these green beauties. Brenton, our head farmer, loves hand-frying these peppers with some oil, garlic, and kosher salt! Watch out though, most of these peppers are on the milder side, but once in a blue moon you’ll get a kick of spicy shishito! BAM!

Shishitos. Photo by Scott David Gordon. Shishitos. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Padron - Hailing from Padron, Spain, these small peppers are perfect for frying as well. In Spain they usually blister with oil and salt to serve as a tapas dish. Ranging from a deep green to yellowish green (sometimes red!), these Spanish are mild as bell peppers with one in ten packing a very spicy punch, just like the shishitos.

Hot Peppers

Jalapeño - Smooth and green (turning red as they ripen), these peppers are milder and wider than serranos. These are sublime stuffed with cheese and wrapped with bacon or as a sauce... we’re thinking specifically of Tacodeli’s dreamy Doña sauce!

Jalapeno business. Photo by Scott David Gordon. Jalapeno business. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Serrano - Originating from the mountains in Mexico, these green, (turning red as they ripen like the jalapeño) spindly little peppers can pack a punch! Hotter when they are smaller, serranos are used frequently in a lot of salsas and sauces.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Hot pepper medley - Habaneros are the bright orange, and serranos are the green/red pepper baskets. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Habanero - This vibrant orange and wrinkly pepper, although small, packs SO. MUCH. HEAT. It is known as one of the spiciest peppers, and as such, makes for the perfect hot sauce ingredient. Dr. Stadnyk’s uses our habaneros to make their delectable hot sauce infused with carrots to subdue the amount of heat. This is our head farmer’s favorite to cook with - it adds such a distinct taste to any recipe, and that spice sure does have an intoxicating effect.

Cherry Bomb - When our head farmer, Brenton, went to Italy, he saw these everywhere! These hot peppers are tiny (about 2 inches in length), bright red, and look just like a cherry tomato. They are moderately spicy and perfect for stuffing or pickling!

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Cherry Bomb peppers. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Heirloom Peppers

Sheepnose Pimento - This sweet pepper is an Ark of Taste variety and is quite a delectable, juicy snacking pepper. It has a thick flesh and is prime for canning, or throw 'em in the oven to bake!

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Sheepnose Pimento. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Hinkelhatz - Another Ark of Taste variety, deemed Hinkelhatz because of it’s resemblance to a chicken heart (Hinkelhatz means “chicken heart” in German). Preserved by the Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite community since the late 1800s and thought to originate in Mexico, this spicy pepper is great for vinegar and pickling.

Wenk’s Yellow Hots - Waxy with a thick skin, these moderately hot yellow peppers are great for pickles!

Beaver Dam - Mildly hot, crunchy, and slightly sweet, these peppers were brought to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin by Hungarian immigrants in the early 1900s. They are long and wedge-shaped, great for pickling, stuffing, salsas or goulash.

Pequin - Hailing from Mexico, this variety is a very small pepper that is usually used as a spice. This little guy really brings the heat, throw a pinch of this into whatever dish you really want add a little sizzle to, or sprinkle it on fruit!

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Pequins. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Tabasco - Sound familiar? That’s right, this is the pepper they use to make the ubiquitous Tabasco hot sauce. It has a delicious smoky flavor, turns red when it matures, and originates from Mexico.

Jimmy Nardello - Anaheim - Living in Southern Italy, Jimmy Nardello’s mother, Angella, loved peppers to no bounds. When the Nardello’s decided to pursue a life in America in the late 1800s, Angella brought a handful of her most favorite sweet frying pepper seeds to America with her. Jimmy (their fourth child and the pepper’s namesake) inherited his mother’s love of this veggie, and cultivated this beloved frying pepper in his garden until he died. Before he passed, he shared some of his heirloom seeds with the Seeds Savers Exchange, and since they have been spreading this seed the world around! With a thin skin and a deep red hue, these peppers are perfect for frying and also for drying!

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Jimmy Nardellos. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

In the mood for some peppers yet? Visit us at markets this weekend and grab a handful! 'Til next time!

WEEK 28 IN PHOTOS

07/14/17 — Heydon Hatcher

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

For the past couple of weeks, it’s been raining peppers and eggplants on the farm… this past Monday we harvested 11 pallets of eggplants! Can you believe it? These crops are loving this scorching hot heat. Looking for a good recipe to utilize all this eggplant? Our farm manager, Becky, who grew up in China, imparted some Chinese cuisine intel with this recipe. YUM.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Photo by Scott David Gordon. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

SPICE BRAISED LENTILS AND TOMATOES WITH TOASTED COCONUT

07/13/17 — Heydon Hatcher

Recipe by Mackenzie Smith

This recipe is originally from Melissa Clark’s book Cook This Now, but it has made its way around the internet and into Kristin Miglore’s first cookbook, Genius Recipes. The crunch of the toasted mustard seed and coconut is the perfect match for the flavorful blend of lentils braised with spices and tomatoes.

Photo by Rick Cortez. Photo by Rick Cortez.

“Toast the lentils first in a melange of seasonings, then in a modest amount of flavorful sauce, so that they have no choice but to plump up with the aggressive flavors all around them.” -Kristin Miglore in Genius Recipes
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality Madras curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups green or brown lentils
  • 12 ounces ripe, juicy tomatoes, chopped (2 medium, or 2 cups canned plum tomatoes)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional to taste
  • 1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 ½ tablespoons black or brown mustard seeds
  • Salty butter, for serving
  • Plain whole milk yogurt, or serving (optional)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Photo by Rick Cortez. Photo by Rick Cortez.

1 . Melt the unsalted butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, garlic and curry powder. Cook until the mixture is golden and soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and lentils and cook until slightly caramelized, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 1¾ teaspoons salt. Add enough water to cover the mixture by ½ inch. Bring the liquid to a boil over high-heat, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 40 minutes. If the lentils begin to look dry while cooking, add more water as needed.

2. In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the coconut flakes, mustard seeds, and a large pink of salt until the coconut is golden, about 3 minutes.

3. To serve, spoon the lentils into individual bowls. Drop about 2 teaspoons salted butter into each dish. Top with Yogurt, cilantro, and the coconut mixture. Serve immediately.

Photo by Rick Cortez. Photo by Rick Cortez.
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