We've harvested some new greens for you today! Komatsuna is a delciously mild Asian green that can be chopped and eaten raw in salads, substituted for lettuce, or cooked lightly like spinach. Versatile and nutritious, komatsuna is a wonderful addition to any meal.
Chaya is one of my favorite green leafy vegetables. It has a delicious, meaty texture and considerable substance for a green. Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, also called Mayan Spinach, Tree Spinach and Mexican Spinach, is a perrenial tropical shrub native to the Mexico, and a proflific producer of nutrient-dense green leaves. It has been used in the traditional cuisine of Central America and southern Mexico since pre-Columbian times, and is still consumed widely today. Chaya is high in protein, calcium, iron, beta carotene and vitamins A, B and C - significantly more so than most other green leaf vegetables.
The leaves should be chopped and boiled for about 10 minutes prior to eating due to the presence of hydrocyanic glycosides, which are removed by cooking (HCN boils off as a gas, making the broth and leaves suitable for consumption). Try the recipe below for Chaya Hummus from CSA member Kathy Guidi!
After the initial boiling, Chaya is often strained, then prepared and seasoned just like cooked spinach in meals like pasta, lasagna, pizza, eggs and burritos. Boiled and drained chaya can also be fried or sautéed in oil with onion and tomatoes. It is delicious puréed into dips and spreads, or sautéed with olive oil and garlic. Some traditional preparation include Dzotobilchay (Chaya Tamales), Pibxcatic (stuffed chilies) and tacos filled with boiled, fried chaya, cooked with tomato and chilies then rolled in roasted pumpkin seeds.
You'll find another bunch of Maxixe ("muh-shee-sh") in your share this week. Also called "bush cucumber", it can be cooked like summer squash, or eaten raw just like cucumbers. It is unnecessary to peel them, although some recipes may call for it. Cut it in halves orquarters, boil 10-15 minutes or until it reaches your desired consistency, then season with olive oil and salt or add to any dish. It also goes well with okra - try them chopped, sautéed together and seasoned with onion, garlic, paprika and tamari soy sauce. More information on Maxixe can be found at the World Crops website.
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum), also called Tulsi Basil or Sacred Basil, is a relative ofbasil in the mint family. It is commonly cultivated in South Asia for medicinal and religious purposes, and is often grown around temples and homes. Holy Basil is used in Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogen, to reduce cellular sensitivity to stress. It can be used as a seasoning similar to basil in Thai cooking, or it can be taken as an herbal tea - more reminiscent of mint than basil tea. You can place the stems in a vase or jar of water like a flower bouquet, or store the bunch in a plastic bag in the fridge.
Our burgundy okra plants are growing phenomenally well, and some are over 8 feet tall! Try using this week's hearty helping to make a batch of fried okra for a farm-fresh appetizer. You could also try okra baked roasted, grilled, stir-fried, or used in a soup or gumbo -- okra is an excellent thickener!
Cranberry Hibiscus is in your share today - try this burgundy leaf in a salad, or cook it briefly like spinach either alone or mixed with other greens. You can also make a tea with the leaves - try it mixed with the Holy Basil for a pleasing and nourishing blend.
We have more eggplant for you -you'll find a pleasing selection of heirlooms like Listada di Gandia and Rosa Bianca (purple and white colored eggplants) in addition to Snowy, a slender all-white variety, and Traviata, a deep purple violetta-type. We've seen several eggplant converts since we started farming, so if you're usually not eggplant's greatest fan, give these sweet organic fruits a shot.
Claudia and the crew at Ridge to Reef Farm
Photo above: Bananas, eggplant and hot peppers in the CSA fields
Chaya 'Hummus' Dip (or spread)
Here's a really yummy recipe from CSA member Kathy Guidi in St. John! It’s a terrific way to use this healthy green, and it’s similar to a spinach dip (sans the mayo).
1. Boil one bunch chaya leaves in plenty of water for 10-15 minutes. Drain and chill till ready to make the spread.
2. Use a food processer to chop/mince the chaya leaves (about 2 cups) realy fine.
3. Add to the chaya:
- 4 tbsp tahini, 2 tbsp oilve oil
- juice of one lemon (or 2 key limes)
- 1 tsp cumin and approx 1/2 cup greek yogurt.
4. Mix well and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.
* It's really nice as a spread or as a dip with cucumbers.
* For dinner, stuff a pita with sliced bush cucumber, greens and chaya hummus!
Prize Winning Pickles
(Maxixe pickled in brine)
1 quart apple cider vinegar
1 quart water
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup salt
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp each brown and yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
5 dill fronds
Wash maxixe and slice in large chunks
Combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a large saucepan
Place spices in cheesecloth and add to vinegar mixture
Simmer for 15 minutes
Clean and heat 6 pint jars and lids
One at a time:
Pack cucumbers into hot jar leaving ¼ inch headspace
Ladle hot vinegar mixture over cucumbers or tomatoes
Remove air bubbles
Seal jar with two piece cap
When all jars are filled, process for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner
Rest jars for 24 hours and then check seals
Store in a cool dry place
Note: You can add other vegetables to the mix, like okra.
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped,
1-2 pounds maxixe, peeled and sliced thin
Optional: additional vegetables (like okra), chopped.
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
1. Wash and prepare vegetables and herbs.
2. Heat skillet with oil.
3. Add onion, parsley, maxixe and other vegetables if desired.
4. Sautee until the vegetables are tender but firm, and serve.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
Holy Basil Tea
Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Pour over 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of Holy Basil leaves and flowers. Let steep 10 minutes, covered. Enjoy hot or iced.
- Add lemongrass, mint, cranberry hibiscus or other herbs with the basil.
- Sweeten with honey or agave, if desired.
For the dough:
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons chilled butter or vegetable shortening
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
5 to 6 tablespoons cold water
For the topping:
2 cups milk or cream
1 cup shredded cheese
1 onion, chopped in cubes
bunch of Chaya (boiled for 15 minutes), cut in slices
salt, paprika, nutmeg
Mix the ingredients for the dough and spread it out in a buttered pie dish. Make sure that you have dough standing out on the sides so the liquid topping will stay inside. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 F.
Beat the eggs and mix with milk and the seasoning.
Get the dough out of the oven and put the egg-milk mixture on top. Add the chopped onion, the sliced Chaya and the shredded cheese.
Put back in the oven for about 30 more minutes. Check on it when it starts to smell good. Serve warm or cold. Enjoy.
Recipe by Nadja Hofmann, former apprentice (based on the "Joy of Cooking")
Classic Iron Skillet Fried Okra
Toss the okra to coat evenly and transfer to the skillet using a large slotted spoon to shake off excess. Cook in batches, allowing to fry on one side until lightly browned, then begin to stir fry, moving the okra around the skillet and scraping the bottom of the skillet to avoid burning.
Transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt, to taste. Prepare next batch, adding additional oil to skillet as needed between batches. Serve hot.
Okra Gumbo With Chickpeas & Kidney Beans
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup flour
1 medium sized onion, diced large
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch maxixe, diced
2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned is fine)
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
8 springs fresh thyme (or other herbs- basil, parsley, etc)
2 1/2 to 3 cups vegetable broth at room temperature
2 cups okra (about 10 oz) sliced 1/4 inch thick or so
1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans (a 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans (a 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Rice for serving
First we’re going to make a roux, but it has a little less fat than a traditional roux, which means it doesn’t get as goopy. If you’d like a more traditional roux, just add 3 more tablespoons of vegetable oil. Okay, so, let’s proceed.
Preheat a large, heavy bottom pot over medium-low heat. The wider the pot the better, so that you have lots of surface area to make your roux.
Add the oil and sprinkle in the flour. Use a wooden spatula to toss the flour in the oil, and stir pretty consistently for 3 to 4 minutes, until the flour is clumpy and toasty.
Add the onion and salt, and toss to coat the onions completely in the flour mixture. As the onions release moisture, they will coat more and more. Cook this way for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds or so.
Add the tomatoes and cook down for about 10 more minutes. As the tomatoes break down, the mixture should become thick and pasty.
Season with fresh black pepper, add bay leaves, smoked paprika and thyme and mix well.
Stream in the 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth, stirring constantly to prevent clumping. Add the okra, maxixe and beans, then turn the heat up and cover to bring to a boil. Stir occasionally.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stew is nicely thickened and the okra is tender. If it’s too thick, thin with up to 1/2 cup vegetable broth. If it’s not as thick as you like, just cook it a bit longer.
Add the lime juice, and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems (if you can see them) then serve in a big, wide bowl, topped with a scoop of rice and garnished with fresh thyme.
Recipe adapted from Post Punk Kitchen
This Week's Harvest
Maxixe - "Bush Cucumber"
Komatsuna - Asian Greens
Tusli Basil - Holy Basil
Ridge to Reef Farm serves the US Virgin Islands with certified organic produce grown with sustainable permaculture practices (and a lot of love).