Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Welcome to Week 11.  Happy Labor Day!

Week 11 means we are half way through the 2014 CSA.  Week 11 means we have lots of veggies still coming your way!

So, my plans were to start this newsletter talking about the changing of the seasons and how I have been observing the signs of fall everywhere I look.  BUT, then a mini heat wave hit!  So instead, maybe I should be talking about the return of summer; the return of humidity, the return of gnats and bugs swarming me every time I step off the back porch!  This heat and humidity, although not very welcoming to our 2 and 4 legged farm inhabitants, is welcoming to some of our crops.  We are hoping this week of heat will help push along our large eggplant and pepper plantings.

Ah yes, so the saga of the peppers.  Where are Dancing Hen Farm's peppers anyway?  Sadly our peppers got a late start in life, due to seeding and germination problems.  This put them behind in maturity.  Then these beautiful mild temperatures we have all be enjoying this summer have kept them behind.  We do have a few more hot peppers coming on and we have our fingers crossed for our sweet peppers.  We will keep you posted.

I want to take a moment to talk about a couple of crops being harvested right now that everyone may not be familiar with.

Escarole and loose leaf radicchio.  These are both Italian greens and like their cousin endive they are a member of the chicory family.  They both have a slightly bitter taste and the radicchio we are harvesting is a green loose leaf variety.  Both of these greens can be used in the standard sauted greens recipe of greens, olive oil and garlic.  Escarole is really good used in a basic "greens and beans" recipe.  I generally don't use a recipe, I just add cannellini beans to greens sauted with garlic in olive oil with garlic.  Serve greens and beans by itself or as a topping to pasta or rice.  If you eat sausage, sausage is  a really great addition to the beans and greens saute.  Escarole is also the green in Italian Wedding Soup, one of Farmer Don's specialties, but in all honesty soup is probably a better idea when I talk about fall being in the air!  The loose leaf radicchio is similar to dandelion greens and can be eaten raw in salads or sauted with olive oil and garlic.  Traditionally, Italian salads of this type of chicory are dressed with an anchovy vinaigrette.   Being of Pennsylvania Dutch, rather than Italian, I tend to dress salads of both chicory and escarole with hot bacon dressing!  My family uses egg in their hot bacon dressing and no flour.  Here is a blog I found with many hot bacon dressing recipes (by the way the blog has no ties to the Joan you may be thinking of, just a coincidence!).  The first recipe is the closest to how I (and my family) make hot bacon Dressing.  If bacon and eggs are not part of your diet, these greens are also good served with a balsamic vinaigrette.  I cannot say enough about how the warm dressings wilt the greens ever so slightly, so personally I suggested using a warm balsamic dressing.

I also really need to spend a bit of time talking about apples as well.  The apples we are putting in share boxes currently are apples harvested off of our own trees.  This farm we are calling ours, once had a substantial apple orchard.  By talking with our neighbors we have learned the last the trees were tended was probably close to 40 years ago.  So, yes they truly are no spray apples!  For this reason they are small and irregular and may be a bit knotty or wormy.  We have no idea what variety they are but everyone who has tasted them agrees the taste is amazing.  So, please try and overlook their not so beautiful appearance and give them a try.  However, like our tomatoes, they are not perfect fruit, so if you are uncomfortable with apples which are not perfect, please do not choose apples at this time.  Later in the fall we may buy in some apples and we will let you know how those appear as well.

On farm we are busy, as usual.  Recently we have been trying to take time to cook.  We both love to cook and create in the kitchen and unfortunately when the farm's bounty is the greatest is when our time is most limited!  Sunday night Farmer Don stuffed a chicken with all sorts of herbs, including fennel, and roasted it on the grill.  Grilled fennel bulbs and potatoes completed the meal.  I can honestly say it was all delicious!  He based the recipe on a essay and recipe he found in the book "A Tale of 12 Kitchens". 

Before I forget!  We are adding items to our buying club.  Right now these items are available online to CSA members who have signed up for the buying club option.  If you are not a CSA member or if you did not pre-pay for the CSA buying club, you can still order these products and pick them up from us at the Dallas Farmer's Market.  Please send us an email about what you would like and we will be sure to bring the items along.  Eventually these items will be on our off season buying club, which we will get rolling when the Dallas Market ends.  Thanks for your patience as we work on the logistics of markets, csa and buying clubs!  Many of you will recognize the items, as they are available from vendors at many of our regions farmer's markets.  We are really trying to make local products more easily available to the Dancing Hen Farm community. 

Items we are adding include:  Raw unfiltered honey from Perry Apiaries -The Beekeeper's Daughter.  Currently we have wild flower and orange blossom honey.  Both honeys are produced from their own bees.  We are also adding wild caught salmon products from our friends at Wild for Salmon right here in Bloomsburg.  And lastly we will be adding mixed herb products from our friends and neighbors at The Farm at Stonybrook.  Lisa's dried herb mixes are a favorite in our kitchen!  We are still working out the details on some log grown shitake mushrooms, garlic products and more.  Stay tuned as we expand this part of our business.

I am trying to keep posting recipes to the farm's pinterest page (  Funny, I started this page to share recipe ideas, but I now find myself going there for favorite recipes, rather than digging through my expandable folder to find a fading, stained printed version!  While I am on the computer and social media topic.  The farm also has a facebook page ( and a blog (  Both are a nice way to keep up with farm happenings. 

Our schedule this Saturday includes the Back Mountain Library Market in Dallas.  As always, if you come to market please stop by and say hello.

So, I think I have covered everything and I only mentioned tomatoes, once this week, I think!?  In closing, in Farmer Don's words:  "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies"

Sunday Morning Kitchen Chores

Herbs prepped and ready for drying.

Tomatoes all washed and ready to be processed.

A canner full.

The finished product.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Welcome to Week 10!

Tomatoes, yes, we are still talking tomatoes.  Last week we painted the gloom and doom of late blight, a fungus lethal to tomatoes.  This week we will paint a slightly brighter picture.  Yes, our field tomatoes are blighted and many of our plants are dead and dying in our fields, but we do have some plants which are still showing some life and we are harvesting from these tomatoes.  Our sungolds and a variety of other tomatoes in our greenhouse seem to also be producing nicely.  We will continue to harvest what we can and get these tomatoes out to members.  You may still get some blemished tomatoes and you may also get some more green or not quite ripe tomatoes.  For these greenish tomatoes, please allow them a few days on your kitchen counter for them to ripen.

Some of you who ordered red potatoes this week received white potatoes.  Sorry for the confusion.  We thought we had another bed of red potatoes to dig, but when we started to harvest on Monday, we found white potatoes!  Beautiful white skinned new potatoes, but unfortunately not red as we expected.  We should continue to have white potatoes available, with possibly some reds becoming available again in a few weeks.

Hasn't this weather been crazy.  Beautiful fall weather, the middle of August?  Perfect weather for lettuce!  And a great crop of lettuce we have available right now.  Beautiful red and green leaf varieties available as head lettuce and some of our best salad mixes of the season are going out in boxes right now.  Here on farm we are ready to transition from cucumber salads nightly to green salads! 

This week we are featuring basil.  We have several varieties of basils available at this time.  Most everyone is familiar with sweet basil.  We grow two varieties of sweet basil.  The traditional smooth leaved and an Italian sweet or Genovese basil, with a larger frilly leaf.  These sweet basils are a favorite for pesto and pair well with tomatoes.  Another sweet basil we grow is Red Opal basil.  This basil has distinctive deep red leaves and can be used in place of sweet basil in most recipes.  Red basil pairs well with salmon and here on farm we often add it to the foil packets of salmon we cook on the grill.  Speaking of salmon, another basil which pairs well with fish is Mrs Burns Lemon Basil.  This heirloom basil has a distinctive lemony scent and pale green leaves.  I love the aroma of lemon basil and use it in salads and with fish.  Lemon basil also makes a great simple syrup for use in lemonades, iced tea or fruit popsicles.  I recently came across a recipe for a lemon basil pound cake which I will cut and paste below. I haven't tried it yet, so if anyone does, please send some feedback our way.  The final basil we grow is Thai Basil.  Thai basil with it distinctive purple stems, holds up a bit better to cooking than sweet basils so is a good addition to soups, stir frys and curries.  Here is a website from a farm in California with some really good recipes.   If you need larger quantities of basil, please contact us for availability. 

This time of year is filled with good-byes here on farm as our summer interns return to school.  Last week was Lydia's last week.  Many of you who shop at the Back Mountain Library market know Lydia as she helped out at this market for the last 2 years.  Lydia will be returning to Mansfield University for her last semester.  Good luck Lydia and thank you for all of your help this summer.  Our other farm intern, Ellen, will be working a few more days and then heading to California for graduate school.  Ellen has worked on and off for us over the last 4 or 5 years and we wish her good luck with her next educational challenge!  Thank you Ellen for your continued dedication to our little slice of sustainability.

This Saturday is the second Saturday of August, so Forks Farm will be hosting their farm market from 10 am to 2 pm.  We will also once again be at the Back Mountain Memorial Library market on Saturday.  If you come to either market, please be sure to stop by our table and say hello.  Often the highlight of market for us is meeting and chatting with CSA members.

Another gentle reminder to please return our wax share boxes each week.  Boxes can be left at your pick up site, returned to the farm or given to us at market.  If you receive home delivery, simply leave your empty box on your porch and we will take it with us each week. 

Let's see, market reminders, box reminders, both complete, must be time to wrap up things up.  As always in Farmer Don's words:  "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".

And here is the lemon basil pound cake recipe:
Lemon Basil Poundcake

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
2 cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 cup lemon basil leaves, measured then finely minced

Preheat oven to 275°F. Grease and flour a tube or bundt pan. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add flour and mix just until incorporated. Add lemon extract and fresh basil and fold in thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for approximately one hour and 15 minutes. The top of the cake should be well-browned but the center should remain moist. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August Morning.....


Queen Ann's Lace tucked in by the herb garden.

Onions curing in the high tunnel.

Greenhouse full of fall crops waiting to be planted in the fields.

Chickens on grass.

Sungolds doing well in the greenhouse.

Late blight in our tomato fields.

Farmer Neil's ground cherries.

Artisan tomatoes showing some late blight resistance.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Welcome to Week 9!

It seems crazy that we are almost half way through August already.  We should be in the middle of our tomato harvest, but as you already know, sadly, we are not.  We are now considering our tomatoes a crop failure, as our plants hang dying in the field.  Late blight in Pennsylvania seems to be morphing into a much earlier disease than its name indicates.  We are in our seventh year of production here at Dancing Hen Farm is this is the third year, including last year, when  we have lost all of our tomatoes to this disease.  Financially for us this is a large burden.  We count on our heirloom tomatoes to not only fill our CSA boxes, but to also boost our income through farm market and restaurant sales.  We aren't ready to throw in the towel or even stop planting tomatoes, but, we will be re-thinking how we grow tomatoes.  In the future we will be simply planting fewer tomatoes, using more organically approved fungicides before the disease is even in the area, and looking to plant more varieties with some natural resistance to this nasty disease.

So what does all this mean to our CSA members?  Simply stated there will be a very limited number of tomatoes available this season.  We are desperately harvesting what we can salvage out of our fields, but many of the tomatoes you receive in your boxes will be blemished.  These tomatoes are perfectly safe to eat, simply cut out the bad part and be aware they will not store as long as unblemished tomatoes.  If you prefer to only receive perfect tomatoes, please do not order tomatoes this season.  Thanks to each of you for your understanding!

On to a happier note.  Some members were surprised with a few ears of sweet corn this week.  This is certified organic corn from our friend Titus Martin in Turbotville.  We are hoping to source more from Titus for next week's pack.  Please watch the availability for this seasonal treat!

In our fields.  We are happy to say our winter squash is looking really good.  Delicata and Spaghetti squash should be ready for harvest first, followed by acorns and butternut.  Summer squash, on the other hand, are coming to an end.  The planting we are currently harvesting from is finished, with this coming week being the last harvested from this planting.  We have a final summer squash planting started, but there will be lapse in summer squash availability, as these plants reach maturity and begin to produce.  We have had some of our best cucumbers this year and have decided not to put another panting in, so cucumbers will be coming to an end soon, as well.  Salad greens are looking really good right now and our cooking greens are coming along nicely. 

Something new for us this year are ground cherries.  Ground cherries are related to both tomatillos and tomatoes and have a very unique sweet taste.   Some people, and seed catalogs, describe them as a small cherry tomato injected with pineapple and mango.  No matter how you try and describe the flavor, they are sweet and a real treat.  To use, remove the paper husk, rinse the fruit, and enjoy!  Here on farm we generally eat them raw as a sweet treat, but they can be made into a jelly or added to salsa.  I have also heard people put them in pancake and muffin batter.  Maybe this weekend we will try ground cherry pancakes!  Stay tuned for how they turn out.

This week we will be at Back Mountain Memorial Library Farm Market on Saturday.  Stop by, say hello and pick up some veggies, eggs or chicken.  Speaking of chicken, we also have broilers and stew hens available for sale on farm and through the buying club.  If you are interested in purchasing chicken and cannot make it to market, please contact the farm.

So, the sun is up, the workers are busy harvesting our onions for drying and storage.  That means time to wrap up this newsletter, print it and have Farmer Don proof read give it before I send it out to our members.  Yes, as many of you have already surmised, Farmer Don has willingly turned over his newsletter writing duties for the season.  I will try and convince him to, at the very least, be a guest writer as the season moves forward. 

To close in Farmer Don's words "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Welcome to Week 8!  and August!

We continue with our weather saga.  Last week we talked about a perfect storm for plant disease. This storm continues with  cooler temperatures, daily rain storms and heavy morning fog and dew.  The forecast is for a break in the pattern this week as a drier weather pattern is to move in by the end of this week.  Unfortunately this drier pattern is arriving a bit late for our tomatoes.  We have been desperately applying organically approved fungicides to our plants, be we see the disease getting the upper hand.  What this means to our farm and our CSA is a diminished tomato harvest.  We will do our best to harvest what we can from the field.  The good news is our high tunnel.  At this time, the tomatoes in our greenhouse are not showing disease symptoms, so we will have a small harvest available from this location.  We will also start putting green tomatoes on choice next week.  Try these as traditional fried green tomatoes ( or maybe curried? (  After some farm lunches of fried green tomatoes, here on farm, we may try pickling some or turning them into chutney.

On a very positive note, our plantings of salad and cooking greens are looking good, so watch for these items to appear on choice soon.  We have a nice planting of chard which will be available soon and our newest planting of Asian greens are also looking good.  Our latest lettuce planting is sizing up nicely and we will hopefully have some heads of leaf lettuce for boxes soon.  Green beans and yellow beans are being harvested now and this harvest should continue for the next few weeks.  We have a planting of yellow and purple Dragon Beans coming on as well.  These beans take a bit longer to reach maturity, but should appear in boxes in two or three weeks.

Around the farm we are back in planting mode as we push to get our fall plantings in.  With day length shortening, plant growth slows and plants take longer to reach maturity.  This means our window for getting plants started and planted is quickly closing.  We will spend the next week getting our final plantings started in the seed house and then our seed house will be closed down until next spring.  Our fields are and will continue to fill up with fall crops of greens and root crops.  Hard to believe we are not even half way through our CSA deliveries and we are already talking about final plantings for the season!

Basil if the herb of choice this week.  Why not try some pesto?  A simple ratio of approximately one cup of basil, one quarter cup of olive oil and a scant quarter cup of fresh grated parmesan cheese works well.  A couple of tablespoons of pine nuts, a dash of salt and some garlic completes the recipe.  A food processor works well for mixing, but you can also use a blender or even a mortar and pestle.  Pesto freezes well, but best to omit the cheese if you plan to freeze it.  Try freezing your excess in ice cube trays.

As long as we are on the subject of herbs, this is a good time to talk about storage.  Most herbs and especially basil, will store best in a glass of water on your kitchen counter.  Trim the end of the stems a bit before you place them in the water.  Excess herbs can be dried for later use this winter.  You can dry herbs in the oven at a low temperature (175 F or lower).  Spread them on a cookie sheet and place them in the oven with the door ajar.  Check them after 15 mins and then every 15 mins until they are dry.  Drying time can vary from 15 or 20 mins to several hours.  Herbs can also be frozen.  The best method for freezing is again ice cube trays.  Roughly chop the herbs and add them to either olive oil or water filled trays.  Once frozen, pop the cubes out of the tray and store in the freezer in a zip lock bag. 

We really want to put a shout out and thank you to our farm volunteers.  Thanks to CSA members Jason and Amanda who volunteer their time every week to help our on farm.  Also thanks to farm friend Noah who has recently helped us with our garlic harvest and our weekly CSA harvest.  These volunteers bring a wonderful upbeat energy and enthusiasm to the farm.  We cannot thank you enough!!!!

We will be at two markets this Saturday.  Farmer Don and Lydia will again be at the Back Mountain Market  in Dallas from 9 am to 2 pm.  Joan will be at Forks Farm Market from 10 am to 2 pm.  If you stop by Forks Farm, don't forget that this Saturday they will be hosting a Yoga festival in their campground across from the farm.  And as always, if you come to either market, please stop by our table and say hello! 

Market announcements means the wrap up of this week's newsletter!  So, be safe, be well and enjoy the veggies.