Welcome to the Summer CSA!
Today marks the first CSA share of the season at Ridge to Reef Farm! This week your share is packed with fresh organic produce that we've been growing for you here on St. Croix for the last few months.
You'll find one of several varieties of winter squash in your box, either butternut, delicata, acorn or red kuri (also known as Japanese pumpkin). All of these are known for their sweet, decadent flesh. Roast them halved or quartered in the oven, or cut them into cubes for roasting or cooking on the stovetop.
Your greens this week include arugula, which can be eaten raw or cooked - we recommend wilting it in a pan with sauteed garlic and olive oil. There is also a bag of our specialty salad mix, a unique blend of mostly mild, gourmet asian greens.
The peppers in your box are an Italian heirloom variety of sweet pepper called a "Corno di Toro" or bullhorn-type pepper. They are excellent sauteéd, roasted and stuffed. The eggplant variety you have this week is best peeled and salted before cooking.
You'll find either turnips or radishes in your box this week. These versatile, mild Japanese turnips can be used like radishes and eaten raw in a salad - or treat them like beets and roast them in the oven until sweet and slightly browned.
We always like to give our members fresh herbs - this week, your box has a bag of Genovese Basil. This basil is delicious blended into pesto, or chopped and added to salads or at the end of any cooked dish.
You're getting some delicious fruits this week in addition to your fill of veggies. The mangoes from our orchards are excellent for fresh eating, but can also be pureed into a smoothie or simmered into a savory chutney. The bananas in your box are fully mature but still green - they should take 7-14 days to ripen. Your organic bananas take slightly longer to ripen than conventional bananas, because they are not treated with ethylene gas, a chemical that hastens ripening.
We look forward to this season of growing with you!
Claudia & the crew at Ridge to Reef Farm
Pictured above: Bok Choy seedlings in our propagation area
Notes From the Field
We are in the middle of planting out our fields for the current CSA season, and the farm terraces are bursting with fresh new growth from bountiful late spring rains. One of the greatest gifts this rain brings is a reprieve from watering duties. It also presents certain opportunities for growing crops to feed the soil.
One of the most important aspects of organic agriculture is caring for the health of the soil. We do this in many ways. On the small garden scale, we utilize mulch and vegetable compost to create intensives yields from a small area. In the fields, we take advantage of the rains to grow so-called cover crops. These are crops that we do not harvest or eat, but are rather grown to maturity only to be mowed and turned back into the soil.
As the cover crop residues break down in the soil, they provide food for a complex web of soil-dwelling organisms. As the nutrients from the cover crop pass through this food web – from bacteria and fungi, to small detritivores and predators – they become increasingly available for plants to absorb. The most important process that occurs during and after this breakdown is the mineralization of nitrogen compounds into ammonium, the most important nutrient for green, leafy growth,
We grow a tropical legume called Sunn Hemp (Crotolaria juncea) for a cover crop. Sunn hemp has the advantage of growing quickly, smothering out weeds and suppressing soil-dwelling pests. Being a legume, Sunn hemp forms a symbiotic relationship with soil-dwelling bacteria. The bacteria live in special organs call nodules on the plants’ roots. These bacteria have the remarkable ability to capture nitrogen from the air and bring it to the plants’ roots. The sunn hemp makes its own fertilizer, and after we incorporate it into the soil that fertilizer becomes available for subsequent crops.
This is one of the most important natural processes we utilize as organic farmers. Rather than spending money on chemically produced fertilizer, we grow our own! This not only helps us save money on expensive fertilizers, it has a much smaller environmental impact than chemical fertilizers, which are produced using fossil fuels. Chemical nitrogen is also notorious for leaching into the ground water and contaminating waterways. As farmers on an island with an already damaged reef system, we feel that utilizing cover crops for all our fertility needs is an essential part of healing our reefs.
The sunn hemp will be ready to incorporate mid-July, and that field will be planted in early August. We expect some excellent crops from tilling in this healthy stand of cover crop.
Enjoy the harvest,
Jim Marzluff & the crew at Ridge to Reef Farm
Red Kuri Squash Soup
1 1/2 pounds red kuri or other squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (3 cups)
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 medium fennel bulb, cored and cut into thin wedges
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Chopped toasted pecans and small marjoram leaves, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large saucepan, combine the cubed squash with the chopped onion, bay leaf and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, on a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the fennel wedges with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Roast for about 25 minutes, until the fennel is tender and starting to brown.
Discard the bay leaf from the soup. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender. Return the soup to the saucepan and warm over low heat. Stir in the butter and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the roasted fennel, pecans, marjoram leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
MAKE AHEAD: The soup can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.
Adapted from Alice Waters via Food & Wine
Sauteed Hakurei Turnips and Greens
1 bunch Hakurei turnips with greens
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Trim the stems and root ends from the turnips. Rinse and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside. Trim most of the stems from the greens; discard. Wash the leafy greens, drain, and cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Set aside.
In a saute pan over high heat, add the butter or oil. Add the turnips, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook without stirring for 2 minutes, until lightly browned on 1 side. Turn and cook on another side for 2 more minutes, without stirring, until lightly browned. Turn again and cook 1 more minute. Add the greens and cook, stirring, until wilted and bright green, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
This Week's Harvest
Radishes or Hakurei Turnips
Sweet Peppers - red and green
Salad Mix - blend of asian greens
Basil - genovese
Winter Squash - red kuri, butternut, delicata or acorn
THANK YOU HOSTS!
Gifft Hill School
St. John 3:30 - 5:30 pm Thursday
Havensight, St. Thomas 11 am -1 pm Thursday
The Pickled Greek
Christiansted, St. Croix 3-5 pm Saturday
Frederiksted, St. Croix 2-4 pm Saturday to edit.
Ridge to Reef Farm serves the US Virgin Islands with certified organic produce grown with sustainable permaculture practices (and a lot of love).