From the Field
Hope everyone had a nice Easter weekend! We celebrated at the farm with a much-needed rain shower - our thirsty crops enjoyed receiving over an inch of water. Many of our leafy green plants sprung back to life with new growth, and the eggplants and tomatoes absorbed water like balloons. At the same time the guinea grass and weeds took the opportunity to germinate, so they are flourishing along with the vegetable crops.
This week you'll find a bunch of beets with their greens in your CSA box - they're nothing like the canned beets many of us grew up hating (though my father still swears by them). Beets and Swiss Chard are actually the same species, Beta vulgaris, just different subspecies that have been traditionally bred over time to favor production of either the greens or the roots. Beet greens can be prepared like Chard, and the roots can be roasted, boiled or pickled, among other preparations - try the recipe below for Balsamic Beets and Beet Greens.
We harvested Chaya for you this week, a highly nutritious green from the Yucatan in Mexico - read the What's That Food? section for more information on this plant, and try out some of the recipes below. Be sure to note that Chaya should not be eaten raw, and must be boiled for about 10 minutes before further preparation, in order to remove naturally-occurring hydrocyanic glycosides.
Thank you for your continued support!
Enjoy the harvest,
Claudia Seixas & the crew at Ridge to Reef Farm
Pictured above: Traci, Matt and Kalyn transplanting onions in the CSA field.
What's that Food? Chaya
Chaya (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).
After the initial boiling, Chaya is often strained, then prepared and seasoned just like cooked spinach in meals like lasagna, pizza, eggs and burritos. Previously boiled and drained chaya can also be fried or sautéed in oil with onion and tomatoes. 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.
Try one of the recipes below!
SAUTÉED YUCATECAN GREENS
• 2 Tbs. (45 ml) olive oil
• 4 oz. (114g) slab bacon, cut into large dice (optional)
• 1 large red onion
• 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
• 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
• 8 cups (2 liters) chaya leaves, thick stems removed and coarsely chopped (Substitute: spinach, Swiss chard, kale)
• Salt and pepper, to taste
IN A LARGE SKILLET, heat olive oil and bacon until bacon is cooked. Remove bacon and set aside to drain. Reduce heat and add onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook until softened. Add chaya and cover. Cook 20-25 minutes or until chaya is tender, stirring occasionally. Return bacon to skillet and toss to incorporate. Check seasonings and serve.
Recipe courtesy Los-Dos cooking school
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")
3 cups chopped and cooked chaya
4 tbsp chopped onion
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
½ cup bread crumbs or ground bread
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
Mix together the chaya, onion, salt and pepper; stir the eggs into the milk and add to the chaya mixture and place in a greased glass casserole, sprinkle the top with the bread crumbs and butter. Bake at 220 degrees for 15 minutes.
Recipe courtesy Urban Harvest
ARROZ CON CHAYA
1 cup water
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp vegetable stock granules
½ cup long-grain rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb chaya, steamed and chopped
In saucepan, combine water, onion, garlic, oregano, chicken stock, and pepper. Bring to a boil; stir in rice, reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cooked chaya. Cover and cook 5-10 minutes more until the rice is tender. Stir lightly with a fork and mix in lime juice. May be served hot or cold.
Recipe courtesy Vegetarian Recipes of the Yucatan
BALSAMIC BEETS AND BEET GREENS
¼ cup toasted walnuts
1-2 bunches beets with greens (about 6 medium beets)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea Salt or vegetable seasoning salt to taste
1 onion, sliced into thin half-moons
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread walnuts in a baking dish and toast in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes. Coarsely chop and set aside.
Cut off the beets, then separate the leaves from the stems at the base of the leaf. Discard the stems. Wash greens and cut into strips about ½ inch wide. Set aside.
Scrub beets and place unpeeled in a steamer and cook until tender. (The recipe recommends 30 minutes, but mine cooked quicker. Roasting beets is also a very good idea). Peel beets by running them under cold water while slipping off skins. Cut beets into quarters, and cut each quarter into ¼ inch thick slices. Place in a medium-size bowl and toss with the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and salt. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for 3 minutes. Add sliced greens and cook, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes until wilted. Just before serving, add beets to the beet greens and heat through (1 to 2 minutes). Place greens and beets on a platter and garnish with toasted walnuts.
Recipe courtesy Something Good! CSA
This Week's Harvest
Eggplant - Asian or Italian
Beets - roots & leaves
Basil - Genovese
Parsley - Italian flat leaf
Chaya - Mayan spinach
Moringa - leaves
Tomatoes - heirloom & slicing
Ridge to Reef Farm serves the US Virgin Islands with certified organic produce grown with sustainable permaculture practices (and a lot of love).