When we hear the words “sustainable farming” or “regenerative farming” we may have different ideas of what that looks like in practice. Or, we may have no idea at all. In reality, the quintessential picture of the diversified family farm from days long past is basically what many farmers who are striving for sustainable and regenerative practices are shooting for. The ultimate goal is to establish symbiotic relationships between crops, livestock and insects so that outside inputs can be lowered and soil can be rebuilt, and even improved over time. Pasturing livestock and rotating their grazing areas spreads fertility to those grazing areas in the form of manure, keeps the animals healthier, sequesters carbon by keeping plants in the soil year round, and – especially if done strategically – helps keep pests and weeds under control.
Lots of folks are using chicken tractors these days as a way to increase grazing areas for chickens, add fertility to soil and control pest populations. Chickens eat lots of greens and weed seeds and their manure is high in nitrogen, which is essential for healthy plants. Chickens also love to eat bugs, which provide much-needed protein. Their soil scratching behavior turns up grubs and other insects that may damage our precious crops, reducing the pest pressure and nourishing the chicken. Other livestock can provide valuable pest control measures as well, especially as climate change provides more opportunities for pests to survive. (Example: Milder winters in the upper midwest reduces the winter kill of voracious pests, enabling dramatic increases in their populations).
Hogs are another great use of livestock to control pests and add fertility. Rachel and Anton of Mary Dirty Face Farm in Downsville, WI manage a certified organic orchard, growing a variety of fruits including berries, apples, pears and plums. Many stone fruits are notoriously susceptible to a pest called Plum Curculio which is very difficult to control without the use of chemicals. However; by strategically grazing hogs under their trees, the fallen fruits that harbor the larvae are cleaned up by happy hogs. In this way, Rachel and Anton have managed to organically control plum curculio on their farm and bring beautiful and delicious plums to Local Choice CSA and the Fulton Farmer’s Market in Minneapolis, which recently published a great article on Mary Dirty Face Farm and their success in using managed grazing techniques to control pests and weeds. I invite you to read more about their success here:
Week 14 CSA
Bifrost Farms – Plain Chevre
Essence Homestead – Hot peppers and bell peppers
Hexagon Projects Farm – Cucumbers, carrots, rainbow chard, melon, salad tomatoes and arugula
Mary Dirty Face Farm – Plums
Valley Pasture Farm – Potatoes and nine piece cut chicken
Towering Heights Farm – Round steak
This week’s meal plans are provided by Nick Rigger of Hexagon Projects Farm
Roasted Chicken with Plums (adapted from the New York Times) with Arugula Salad
Roasted Chicken with Plums:
9 Piece Chicken
2 t Salt
1 t Pepper
½ t Cinnamon
½ t Allspice
2 T Olive OIl
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
1T Honey or Maple Syrup
1 T Olive Oil
¼ t Salt
Pinch of Allspice
¼ t Cinnamon
- Grate the zest from the lemons and place in a small bowl. Set aside the zested lemons.
- Stir salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice into the lemon zest. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the garlic. The mixture should feel like wet sand. Rub it all over the chicken.
- Place chicken on a roasting rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, and let marinate, uncovered, in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
- When ready to roast, let chicken come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large roasting pan, toss together plums, shallots, honey, oil, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and 1 tablespoon water. Spread out plum mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place chicken on the rack over the plums in the pan. Roast for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, squeeze 1 tablespoon juice from reserved lemon and mix it with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Drizzle this over the chicken, then continue to roast for another 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked.
- Let chicken rest, covered lightly with foil, for 10 minutes. Serve with the plums.
Salad Tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 Cucumber, diced
- On a plate, add a small amount of arugula and top with halved tomatoes and diced cucumber. Add optional chevre and dressing of your choice. Enjoy with your delicious plum chicken!
Stuffed Peppers with Rainbow Chard (adapted from Killing Thyme) & Mini Plum Galettes
Stuffed Peppers with Rainbow Chard:
3 Bell Peppers, cut in half and gutted
1T Olive Oil
3 cloves of Garlic, minced
½ cup Onion, minced
1 ½ cups packed Chard, chopped
½ cup Carrots, finely diced
6-7 small tomatoes, diced
1t Black Pepper
2 cups cooked Rice (or you can swap out for Lentils)
1 ½ cups tomato sauce
1 cup of Cheddar or Mozzarella, shredded and divided (optional)
- Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Cut the peppers in half, gut them, and set them on a baking tray face down.
- Place the peppers in the oven and roast them for 15-20 minutes or until they start to blister. Remove and set aside to cool. (While the peppers roast, proceed with the next step.)
- In a large skillet, heat oil over moderate heat. Add the garlic and onions, and sauté until the garlic is fragrant and the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Stirring often.
- Add carrots, chard, and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes.
- Finally, add rice, tomato sauce, and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Stir well, bring the heat to low, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Set the broiler to high, and set oven rack one space higher than the middle (this can depend on your oven, so use your best judgement).
- Remove the skillet from the heat and, with a large spoon, ladle the stuffing into the open roasted peppers. Stuffing them to the brim!
- Sprinkle each pepper with the remaining cheese.
- Place the peppers in the oven and broil until the cheese starts to melt and turn a nice light golden color (approx. 3-5 minutes, but it depends on your oven, so keep a close eye on it.)
- When done, remove the peppers from the oven.
1 ½ cups Flour (all purpose)
1 stick Butter (unsalted), cut into small cubes
4 T ice Water
½ t salt
1 ½ cups Plums, sliced into thin wedges
¼ cup Sugar
2 T Turbinado Sugar (for sprinkling)
1 egg, beaten
- In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, incorporate the butter into the flour mixture. You want to rub the flour and butter together until the butter clumps are about the size of peas.
- Make a well in the middle of mixture and add ice water, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time. Mix everything together until a clumpy dough forms, adding more ice water as needed.
- Gather all the clumps of dough together and shape it into a ball. The dough should feel moist but not watery on the outside. Place it in a bowl and cover with a towel or plastic film and refrigerate for an hour.
- In a medium size bowl, toss the plum wedges with the ¼ cup sugar until they’re evenly coated.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk the egg and set aside.
- Lightly flour a work surface and place your dough on top. Divide the ball dough in half and then divide each half again, until you have 4 equal sized balls of dough.
- Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball of dough to 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Make sure to turn your dough as you’re rolling it out to prevent dough from sticking on the counter. Turning the dough also allows you to form rough circles.
- Place fruit filling in the center of each dough circle. Leave about an inch of space around the perimeter of the circle. Fold the dough towards the center and create pleats around the edge.
- Brush egg wash over the folded dough and sprinkle turbinado sugar on top.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Plums, Melons and Round Steak with Johnne Smalley of Towering Heights Farm
Plums are relatively low in calories, but contain a fair
amount of important vitamins and minerals. One plum contains the
- Calories: 30.
- Carbs: 8 grams.
- Fiber: 1 gram.
- Sugars: 7 grams.
- Vitamin A: 5% of the RDI.
- Vitamin C: 10% of the RDI.
- Vitamin K: 5% of the RDI.
- Potassium: 3% of the RDI.
Plums are loaded with minerals and are a great source of potassium. They are also rich in antioxidants, protecting the body against cell-damaging free radicals. They low in calories and hence will not increase your blood sugar levels. Here is a list of health benefits of this super fruit.
1. Improves the health of your heart
Rich in antioxidants, plum improves and maintains the health of your heart. The antioxidants fight the free radicals, preventing heart diseases and stroke scares. Antioxidants prevent oxidation of cholesterol and help in maintaining the health of the heart.
2. Relieves constipation
Plums contain isatin and sorbitol, which help relieve constipation and improve digestion. It also keeps the bowel healthy. You can have plums or dried plums, which are known as prunes, to get relief from constipation and other digestive issues.
3. Protects against cancer
The reddish blue color of the skin of the plum is due to the pigment, anthocyanins, which also fights free radicals. Plums also protect against breast and oral cancer.
4. Improves blood and circulation
Plums improve the body’s ability to absorb iron. The fruit also contains iron, which is required for the production of blood cells. Eating plums will improve the circulation of blood.
5. Lowers cholesterol levels
The fruit contains soluble fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol levels and inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver. The soluble fiber soaks up the bile, which is produced using cholesterol. So, when the bile is soaked up by the soluble fiber in the fruit, the liver uses cholesterol stored in the body, thereby lowering the cholesterol levels.
6. Good for your skin
Consuming plum firms your skin and clears your skin texture. The fruit reduces wrinkles and rejuvenates your skin. Drink plum juice for younger looking skin.
7. Good for your bones
According to several studies, consuming plums improves bone health. Plums contain boron, which is important for preservation of bone density and maintaining bone health. The fruit is also rich in flavonoids and phenolic compounds, which reverse the loss of bone.
8. Reduces the appearance of scars
Plums increase the blood circulation to the scar, helping development of new skin and reducing the appearance of the scar. It helps the skin to heal faster and replace damaged skin with new skin. Consuming plums also improve skin texture and elasticity. It also reduces the appearance of dark spots, freckles and treats other skin conditions.
9. Treats hair fall and promotes hair growth
Plums stop hair fall by reversing the adrenal gland fatigue. It also promotes hair growth as it has high content of iron and it improves blood circulation. Eat plums if you want to have thicker and stronger hair.
10. Improves immunity
Eating plums will keep cold and flu at bay by improving your immunity. The fruit boosts your immunity and promotes development of healthy tissues.
There are few fruits that come in such a panorama of colors as the juicy sweet tasting plum. Plums belong to the Prunus genus of plants and are relatives of the peach, nectarine and almond. They are all considered “drupes,” fruits that have a hard stone pit surrounding their seeds.
Prunes are the dried version of European plums. In the United States, through, you may not see the term “prunes” used as frequently as before, as this fruit items recently had its name officially changed to “dried plum.”
With the large number of plums available, it is not surprising that the various types have different heritages and places of origin. The European plum is thought to have been discovered around two thousand years ago, originating in the area near the Caspian Sea. Even in ancient Roman times, there were already over 300 varieties of European plums. European plums made their way across the Atlantic Ocean with the pilgrims, who introduced them into the United States in the 17th century.
Plums that are not yet ripe can be left at room temperature. As this fruit tends to mature quickly, check on them in the next day or two to ensure that they do not become overripe. Once they are ripe, plums can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. While plums can be frozen, to ensure maximum taste remove their stone pits before placing them in the freezer.
Tips for Preparing Plums
Plums are delicious eaten as is. If the plums have been in the refrigerator, allow them to approach room temperature before eating them as this will help them attain the maximum juiciness and sweetness. If you want to first remove the pit before eating or cooking, cut the plum in half lengthwise, gently twist the halves in opposite directions and then carefully take out the pit.
Plums can also be used in a variety of recipes and are usually baked or poached. If you want to remove the skin, this process can be made easier by first blanching the plum in boiling water for 30 seconds. Once you remove the fruits from the water, quickly run them under cold water before peeling to stop the blanching process and allow for easier handling.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Make pizza with a twist by broiling sliced plums, goat cheese, walnuts and sage on top of a whole wheat pita bread or pizza crust.
- For a delightful dessert, poach plums in a red wine and serve with lemon zest.
- Bake pitted plum halves in a 200°F(93°C) oven until they are wrinkled. Then mix them into a rye bread recipe for a scrumptiously sweet and hardy bread.
- Blend stewed plums and combine with yogurt and honey for wonderful cold soup.
- Add plum slices to cold cereal.
Serve stewed plums with rosemary-scented braised lamb and enjoy this Middle Eastern inspired meal
People have their favorites when it comes to melon, and each variety of melon contains some great nutritional properties. Let’s focus on melons people are most familiar with: cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon.
A one-cup serving of cantaloupe has only 53 calories, but it contains 106 percent of the vitamin A daily value and 95 percent of vitamin C. It’s also a good source of potassium and folate. A cup of honeydew has 60 calories, 51 percent vitamin C daily value and 11 percent of potassium. Honeydew also contains some fiber, folate and vitamin B6. Watermelon contains the least amount of calories, coming in at 46 calories per one-cup serving. However, it’s loaded with the antioxidant lycopene, which is linked to decreased risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related eye disorders, and contains a good amount of vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium.
Because melons have such a high water content and also contain potassium, they’re great choices for helping maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
Cantaloupe and honeydew melons belong to the muskmelon family. These melons first grew in the Middle East., and there are many different varieties. Watermelon originated in Africa and has over 1,200 different varieties.
You can store uncut melons at room temperature, but once you cut them, you should store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. If you’re wondering about different uses for melons besides eating them raw, here are some suggestions:
- Make frozen pops out of melon by pureeing with a little sugar and a splash of lime juice. Pour into molds and freeze.
- Use melons to infuse water. Infused water serves as a delicious summertime beverage that contains no added sugar.
- Make kabobs using grapes, melon and cheese cubes for a great summer snack. Keep them cool until they’re ready for eating.
- Take firmer melons (cantaloupe and honeydew slices) and put on a hot grill for one to two minutes on each side, which brings out their sweet flavor.
- Create a melon smoothie. Since their flavor is mild, they make a great smoothie and pair nicely with other fruits.
Unlike well-marbled steaks, round steaks are lean and have less loss when cooked. They come from the “round” or rear leg of the cow. The muscles in this area are used for movement, so the beef is tastier but less tender. The lack of fat and marbling makes the meat dry out when cooked with dry-heat cooking methods like roasting or grilling. Round steaks take well to tenderizing marinades and moist-heat methods including flavorful slow braises.
Here are some ways to enjoy the great flavor of a round steak.
- Round steaks are some of the best choices for the slow cooker. Cooked low and slow for many hours, the collagen in these cuts breaks up, leaving you with shreds of tender, flavorful, juicy meat.
- We season meat with salt for more than just flavor — with tougher cuts, like choice steaks and roasts, it helps break down the proteins for a more tender texture. Instead of seasoning meat just before cooking, give it a generous coating of salt about an hour before you’re ready to get started. Then rinse the meat under cool water, pat dry, and cook.
- For thin cut steaks like the one in your share, consider an acidic marinade for more tender results (and more surface flavor!). For a marinade to work its magic, it needs to contain acidic ingredients like vinegar, citrus juice, wine, yogurt, buttermilk, or even soda to break down the lean muscle fibers on the surface meat. This is best reserved for thinner cuts since only salt has the ability to fully penetrate meat. To prevent the meat from becoming too mushy, do not marinate for more than two hours.
- This just might sound a little out there, but it works. Kiwi (along with papaya, pineapple, and Asian pears) contain enzymes that have a tenderizing effect on tough meat. Kiwi in particular is a good choice since it has the most neutral taste. A little goes a long way, so plan on up to two tablespoons per cup of marinade, and don’t marinate for too long or you’ll end up with mushy meat. Just like any other marinade, this works best with thinner cuts.
- Pounding softens and tenderizes meat, making it easier to cut and eat. A meat hammer is the tool of choice, but there are plenty of other items, like rolling pins, saucepans, and skillets, that can get the job done.
- By making shallow cuts against the grain in one direction, then another set of cuts the other way, some of the long muscle fibers are severed, leaving the meat with a more tender bite. But keep your expectations in check, because scoring a round steak certainly isn’t going to turn it into filet mignon.
Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy another great week of local eating!