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The Farmer’s 7 Step Guide for Growing the Best Fruit You’ve Ever Tasted: Planting Fruit Trees & Blueberry Plants in Your Own Backyard

Posted by: on Apr 27, 2017 | No Comments

Photo Source: District Blue Valley

While in this day and age we are treated to having fruit of any kind available year round, fruit grown locally in season is incomparable in deliciousness! You can grow it in your backyard to enjoy for years to come.  Farmer Ryan Voiland is very passionate about local fruit, and particular about the varieties that taste the best for what we can grow in New England.

In spring at our two farm stores, you can now find his selection of favorite apple and blueberry plants, with blueberry varieties we have tested in our fields, as well as favorite apples from our taste tests.

We want to pass what we’ve learned on to you, giving you the chance to grow the healthiest and most delicious crops of fruit in your own garden. Read on for farmer Ryan’s planting guide:

1) Location, location, location!

Planting your fruit trees in the right place is critical! Water and sun saturation level, soil content, and slope of the ground are all factors that will affect how healthy your tree or bush will grow.

Fruit trees and bushes need soil that has good drainage, so avoid areas where water puddles after rainstorms or from winter snowmelt. Also avoid locations that are shaded by trees or buildings, as these plants need full sun.

Also avoid soils that have a high clay content, or that are too rocky. Trees can grow around some rocks without a problem, but large boulders or ledges must be avoided. Sandy loam soils are ideal.

Trees and bushes can grow on sloping areas, but make sure it is not too steep to mow and work around the trees. Be aware of the expected mature size of the tree or bush variety that you are planting, and space accordingly. Remember that for apple trees, the health of the rootstock will make a big difference on how large the mature tree will grow!

2) Get the pH right

Apple, peach, and pear trees all need a soil that has a pH that is in the range of 6-7. Many New England soils have a naturally lower pH, so adding limestone is often needed to raise the pH.

Photo Source: Fast Growing Trees

You can take a soil test to figure out how much lime to add, which UMass offers. Their “Routine Soil Analysis” for Home Grounds and Gardens, currently $15, is a great basic test for home gardens and will give you recommended rates for how much fertilizer and lime to apply by testing your soil’s pH and nutrient ratios.

Blueberries are an exception and require a low pH of 4-5.5 in order to grow well. If your pH is too high, then elemental sulfur can be used to lower the pH.

Elemental sulfur takes up to one year to fully react with the soil and cause the pH to drop, so in the short term, if planting a blueberry plant consider using a high percent of peat moss mixed into the planting hole. Peat moss has a naturally low pH and will help blueberry plants thrive. A soil test can also aid you in figuring out how much elemental sulfur to use prior to planting.

Photo Source: Liberty for Captives

3) Keep weeds out!

Making sure weeds are eliminated both before and after planting is critical. In fact, being able to prepare the planting area a year in advance is ideal!

Use tillage or mulch (cardboard with straw or leaves on top works well), in order to make sure sod grass and other weeds are killed in the planting area prior to planting. If planting into a lawn or grass area, make sure to dig out and remove the grass chunks prior to planting in at least a three-foot circle or strip from where the tree will be planted.

Probably the best organic approach to managing weeds around new trees and bushes is to mulch them after planting. Use shredded leaves, straw or hay to make a layer that weeds can’t penetrate.

Try to keep at least a three-foot area around the plants weed free. In the absence of mulch (or if any weeds break through) you must hoe or pull those out promptly so that they don’t compete with the young tree or bush! During winter it is a good idea to pull mulch back away from the tree trunk area (in order to discourage mice and voles from chewing on the bark.) Wire mouse guards are a good idea to protect the young trunks.

4) Plant at the right time of year

April, May, and early June are the best times of year to plant trees in MA, though potted plants can be safely planted until mid-summer if well watered.

Photo Source: Gardenality

5) Settle it into the ground with good food

Dig the planting hole at least 25 percent larger than the pot or root ball. Mix quality compost, rotted manure (or for blueberries use

peat moss) in a ratio of 1/3 compost and 2/3 topsoil, and use this mix at the bottom of the hole, and to backfill around the tree roots.

If the tree roots are densely spiraled in their pot, scruff them up a bit on the surface prior to planting, as this helps the roots find the new soil as they start to grow.

Backfill around the root ball with the topsoil/compost mix, tamping firmly in order to avoid air pockets around the roots.

Photo Source: UNM Extension

For apples and pears, make sure that the graft union is two or three inches above the soil level in order to assure that the scion does not try to grow roots!

For blueberry plants, be careful not to plant roots too deep. They should not be planted any deeper than they are growing in their pot! Arrange a ring around the tree that will help keep water soaking into the root area and not running off.

6) Water according to rain levels

Newly transplanted trees and bushes need lots of water right after they are transplanted. Water liberally with 5 gallons of water so that the entire root zone is well moistened. Going forward, if it does not rain one inch or more per week, continue to water new trees on the drier weeks with 5 gallons of water per tree per dry week throughout the summer.

Photo Source: Love to Know

7) Fertilize like a pro 

In soils that have good natural fertility, it may not be necessary to use additional fertilizers beyond the compost at planting, up until the trees begin yielding some fruit after two or three years.

On sandier soils, using some additional fertilizer may be helpful starting a few weeks after planting. I recommend organic fertilizer sources, which release their nutrients to the plants slowly over time.

Dehydrated chicken manure fertilizers with an analysis such as 5-4-3 are good for apples, peaches and pears using 1-2 lbs. per tree sprinkled in a ring under the drip line of the tree.

For blueberries, avoid manure-based fertilizers, and instead use organic fertilizers derived from blood meal, soy or cottonseed meals, rock phosphate, sulfate of potash among others (these organic fertilizer materials are also fine to use on fruit trees).

Fertilizers should be applied only in spring or early summer. Never apply nitrogen fertilizers after early July as this may lead to weak growth that is not hardy enough to tolerate winter cold.

Ideally, make fertilizing decisions based on soil tests or tissue analysis of growing leaves.

Observe how much new growth occurs on trees each year. In general there should be 8-12 inches of new shoot growth per year, so if there is less than that on your tree, it may need more fertilizer.

With these steps of care, your tree or bush should be off to a good start.

By Ryan Voiland

Making delicious recipes from your trees and your Red Fire Farm fruit share is easy and fun! See below for some tasty things you can make.

Baked Apples

Kale n’ Apples

Blueberry Crumb Coffee Cake

Warm Fruit Sauce

Roasted Corn and Peach Salsa

The Winter Squash Guide – Tips, Tricks and Types

Posted by: on Oct 11, 2015 | 2 Comments

   With so many varieties of Winter Squash in abundance at this time of year, it can be hard to decide which one to take home. It is very worth getting off the beaten path of the most commonly known Butternut and Acorn Squashes to try the delicious Delicata, Kabocha, and many other types we grow. Savory or sweet, squash is very versatile for fall and winter cooking needs, and winter squash hot out of the oven is one of the best comfort foods to warm up with. This guide will provide tips and tricks for picking the right squash for your recipe.

If you are not sure what your favorite kinds are yet, we recommend having a tasting with your friends. Choose a selection of winter squash to taste. Then you can halve them, put cut-side-down on a baking sheet, and bake at 375 until soft to the tines of a fork. Spooning the seeds out after they bake is very easy. Then cut each person a piece of each type and talk about it over dinner. Dress simply with olive oil or butter and salt and pepper so the flavors of each are easy to taste. We do this many times each fall and it is good clean fun.

Read on for…

  • How to Store Winter Squash
  • Variety Descriptions with Photos
  • Recipes to Try – click the links in the descriptions!

You can find our seasonal selection of Winter Squash at our farmers’ markets and produce stands in the fall and into winter, and through Bulk Order online too for good deals for parties and stocking up for winter.

Quality Control and Storage Tips

It’s ok for your squash to be bumpy! Minor surface blemishes won’t affect the quality of the squash. Squash can get scrapes and such when growing which heal over. Squash with soft spots, holes, or fresh/unhealed gouges should be eaten right away and not stored – just cut away any soft spots and use the rest. If you have ordered in bulk and are keeping a bunch of squash, it helps to check them periodically for the start of any soft spots, and to use those squash then if you find them.

Winter Squash, a tropical crop with origins in Mesoamerica, doesn’t like cold, despite its wintery name. It stores best at about 55 degrees. Below 50 degrees will cause chilling damage and reduce its storage life, so warmer than 55 is better if that is all you have. The old stories say that farmers stored their butternuts under their beds, as farmhouse bedrooms stayed pretty cool, right around 55 degrees. You can likely find a creative spot in your household where they will be happy.

Don’t scrub your squash until right before use as that could scrape the surface and introduce germs to spoil the squash more quickly. Do wash them just before cooking to get off any dirt, and especially if you are going to eat the skins (which are all edible).

Preparing Squash and Pumpkins – Tricks for your treats

A few tricks can make preparing Winter Squash much easier!

  • Use a large chef’s knife, not a serrated knife or one that is too small. You can knock the stem off with a few whacks with the dull side of your knife.
  • If you want to peel for a recipe, do it with either a knife or vegetable peeler, depending on the shape of the squash, thickness of skin, and how well you are able to grip it.
  • If the squash has a rounded bottom that won’t sit straight on your cutting board, trim off the stem end or slice in half once so that it rests flat first before peeling or chopping.
  • If the squash is too dense to cut through, bake it for 10 minutes at 375 or microwave briefly to let if soften before trying to cut it again.
  • Don’t forget to save the seeds for roasting!
  • If you need the baked flesh for a recipe, baking it and scooping it out of the skins when soft is easier than peeling and chopping when raw.
  • You can de-seed squash after baking a little faster than when raw, so just slice in half and bake with the seeds inside, then scoop them out.

Butternut 

This popular winter squash type was originally developed in Massachusetts in the 1940’s! From a cross between the giant flavorful Hubbard squash and the Gooseneck squash, came what is now known as Butternut, raised by a chap named Charles Leggett in Stow, Massachusetts.

It is delicious roasted, in soups, mashed, in lasagna… the possibilities are endless. Put the halves face down in a baking pan with half an inch of water, or cut all the flesh into inch-size cubes and toss with olive oil and herbs. Blend the best of fall with this creamy Apple and Butternut Bisque, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, or Golden Autumn Soup. This is an excellent storage squash – typically the longest lasting of all of our squashes.

The Oh She Glows Butternut Mac ‘n Cheeze is excellent too. I don’t see the need for peeling the squash in this recipe though, just bake in the skin and scoop out the flesh after for an easier life.

Delicata

Oblong, with pale yellow skin and green stripes, Delicata is a delicious early winter squash. It doesn’t store as long as other heartier varieties, so eat this one while you can! Its thin skin is edible– simply slice the whole squash in half, de-seed, and then slice the halves into half-moons. Roast, saute or steam and dress with salt, pepper, and herbs and you’ll be surprised at how flavorful Delicata is. Delicata is fun to roast because it makes such a great little boat and the skins hold everything together. Try it stuffed with goat cheese, walnuts, and rice.

 

Kabocha

Also known as Japanese pumpkin, this variety is sweet and starchy with very thick flesh that can get almost flaky when baked. The rind is edible, although it gets a bit tough when baked. It is popular in soups, tempura, and sometimes desserts. Try making pumpkin pie with it! We grow two varieties: traditional kabocha is dark green, while sunshine kabocha is a bright orange. The flesh is similar to Buttercup but a little more dry (which is why it holds up so well when fried).

Spaghetti Squash

   This oblong, sunny yellow squash seems like a miracle among vegetables. By slicing it open raw, you wouldn’t know that its texture when cooked will completely change into delicious, noodle-y strands. After baking, simply run your fork horizontally across the squash’s interior flesh and it will split into the “spaghetti” that it’s named after.

Try it with fresh tomato sauce while tomatoes last! Or use them like rice vermicelli and try this Pad Thai recipe.

Acorn

Acorn squash are especially fun to stuff because of their size and edible skin. Their nutty flavor pairs well with quinoa or other hearty grains, and their creamy texture mixes well in a quesadilla. For an especially sweet treat, bake with butter and maple syrup. Also a great pie squash! Try baking stuffed with chopped apples, cinnamon and a little butter and honey or maple syrup.

Buttercup

This squat, dark green squash with a little cap on the blossom end has thick, creamy orange insides. The texture of the flesh, when cooked, is melty without much of the soft fibers or strings you find in other squash types. You can use it in the same ways as the Kabochas, which are very similar.

 

 

 

 

Pie Pumpkin

These are culinary pumpkins that have been selected and developed for the best taste for cooking uses. Making pumpkin pie from scratch is well worth the reward! Roasted and pureed with cinnamon, cloves, and cream, this doesn’t taste like anything out of a can. For a savory alternative, try Afghan Sweet Pumpkin Kadu  with spices and garlic yogurt sauce!

Sweet Dumpling

Another great squash for roasting, stuffing, or soups. These are little with golden flesh, and are perfectly sized to make pretty single servings of baked and stuffed halves of squash. Their striations and cuteness make them great for decorating too – with the perk that you can eat them later.

 

 

 

Honeynut Squash

Honeynut look like mini butternuts. They have a similar texture but higher sugar content, perfect for dessert! Try adding a Honeynut to a mixed squash soup or baked into a pie along with pie pumpkins or acorn squash. Or dare to serve it baked hot and topped with a bit of vanilla or maple ice cream…

 

 

Jack ‘o’ lantern

Big and bright, jack o’ lantern pumpkins are the ones you want to carve and display. Be sure to save the large seeds for toasting! They’re the perfect snack to accompany an afternoon of pumpkin fun.

Jack ‘o’ lantern pumpkin flesh is watery – these guys are bred for size, not flavor. It is edible, but not very tasty.

 

 

Decorative Gourds and Pumpkins

Although not recommended for eating, decorative gourds can add great color to a fall or winter landscape. Use them to dress your table, peek off of window ledges, on the front stoop, in door wreaths, and other displays. Kids love to paint them and put on googly eyes!

 

A Couple More Recipes

These are with Butternut, but you can use any other squash too.

Butternut Squash and Rutabaga Puree

Hearty Autumn Stew

And lest baking should be forgotten, as you can make all kinds of baked goods with winter squash puree, here is a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. And then some pie…

Please let us know  at recipes@redfirefarm.com if you have questions or favorite ways that you like to cook them that others might appreciate trying.

8 Ways to Enjoy Fresh Herbs

Posted by: on Jul 20, 2015 | No Comments

Garlic, onion, and parsley.. this looks like the start of something delicious! Read on for a green sauce recipe.

Out in the fields and in our gardens we have an amazing local resource of flavor that can elevate snacks and meals to a whole ‘nother level! Culinary herbs are so fun to use and they open up worlds of new combinations of tastes. Come read on and learn eight different ways to enjoy and make use of them.

If you have a CSA farm share with us, we have plenty of herbs in the Pick Your Own Patch that you can harvest for your personal use, fresh cooking and drying or other preserves. We also stock these fresh herbs at our farmers’ markets and produce stands to pick up along with your produce. Get a bunch and use some fresh, then dry the rest for winter!

Beyond the pleasures of cooking, many of the classic culinary herbs also have medicinal uses that you can explore more and incorporate into your cooking for health benefit.

Herbed Butters, Oils & Spreads

Herb butters, also called compound butters, are a deliciously easy way to preserve fresh herbs as well as quickly add flavor to whichever dish you’re making. The basics of herb butter involve combining softened butter with a small handful of finely chopped herbs as well as some salt and pepper. When thoroughly mixed, scoop out onto waxed paper and tie up the ends, or pack the butter into a lidded container. It should last for about a week in the fridge, or several times longer when well-wrapped in the freezer.

Use on hot bread or biscuits, steamed veggies, scrambled eggs, or grilled meats and fish. Virtually any herb can be used to make a compound butter, with popular recipes including rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, chives or dill.

I still remember the first time I went to an Italian restaurant that served hot bread with an herbed olive oil. Dipping fresh bread into a tasty flavored oil was so fun and just perfect for when you are waiting for a meal. If you can rip the bread, even more fun in my experience. This is very easy to make at home, and works well with both fresh chopped or dried herbs. Combine your desired herbs with about as much oil as you think you will eat up for that meal in a pretty little bowl that makes room to reach your bread in. If you have leftovers you can cook with it later. I use about a quarter cup of oil and a tablespoon of fresh herbs or quite a bit less if dried herbs. One combination I like is basil, garlic, oregano and hot pepper flakes. Sprinkle a little coarse salt in there and mix that in too to help pull out the flavor when you eat it. Make your oil as the first step of making dinner so it has time to infuse. Chopping the herbs small and crushing dried ones a little in your hand before adding will help release the flavors.

A quick herbed spread can be perfect party food with veggies, or a simple dinner when paired with good bread and a hearty green salad. Try this creamy spinach and herb dip shared by CSA member Amy Eichorn. Thank you Amy! She recommends refrigerating overnight so that the flavors can mix, and then serving on toasted, crusty bread.

Green garlic is the young garlic plant. You can use it like a scallion all the way up to the green tops. The white part is most tender raw. Green better for cooking. Use it anywhere you want garlic flavor.

Creamy Spinach and Garlic Spread

8 oz cream cheese softened

Splash milk

1 Tbsp butter

1 green garlic shoot chopped (or 2-3 cloves of garlic)

6 – 8 oz spinach chopped (or Swiss Chard without the ribs)

In sauté pan, place last 3 ingredients and over low heat, soften until garlic is cooked and spinach is wilted. Add all ingredients together and mix well. Chill overnight in the refrigerator to let flavors combine, if you have time.

From CSA member Amy Eichorn, 2015.

 

Sauces with Herbs

Make sauces ahead of time and keep in the fridge or freezer for ease in cooking later on. If making a stovetop sauce, add herbs a minute or two before serving– delicate herbs like basil and dill are at their most aromatic when just warmed.

I like to listen to podcasts, and I often play the weekly episode from NPR’s Splendid Table while cooking dinner. (As well as America’s Test Kitchen, which is made in Massachusetts!) I heard a few recipe tips for a fresh herb sauces while listening, and they are very adaptable to other herbs too.

Fresh Oregano Sauce from an episode of Splendid Table is wonderful for lamb, eggplant, sliced tomato salad, and more! Pulse these ingredients in a food processor until well mixed and chopped: a bunch worth of oregano leaves, a little bit of capers, a couple cloves garlic, some lemon zest, a good bit of olive oil, and salt to taste.

Green Herb Sauce from the South of France
This is also from that Splendid Table episode, though I have been making a variation on this for a while. Take capers, fresh mint, parsley, oregano, basil, a little garlic, olive oil, almonds (opt), anchovies (opt), and pulse in a food processor until chopped and mixed. Salt and more olive oil, to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice right before serving. Use this on roasted potatoes, grilled vegetables, anywhere.

I like to make that sauce in the mortar and pestle with the garlic and salt in there first, then adding the capers, then chopping the herbs up small and putting them in, with olive oil last. Being as I love parsley I often do it with just parsley. I also sometimes put in some chopped onion or shallot, which is especially nice if it sat in some red or white wine vinegar for a few minutes.

Fresh Dill Cream Sauce
That there Splendid Table just tossed out a bunch of fun ideas in a matter of seconds and I have yet to try this one. Chop up your fresh dill fronds, mix with some dijon mustard add a bit of heavy cream to get to a sauce consistency, add a little chopped shallot or onion. This sounds like it would be awesome on anything from the grill.

Try this recipe too for Cilantro Peanut Sauce:

This green herb sauce was made using what’s on hand– we advocate for flexible recipes that use what’s seasonal and available.

1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey (or other sweetener)
3 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs cider or rice vinegar (or other light vinegar)
2 tbs lemon or lime juice
2-4 tbs olive oil
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tbs sesame oil (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional) – or green garlic
1 tbs minced fresh ginger (optional, or a little ginger powder)
a little of your favorite spicing agent (cayenne powder, chili flakes)

    Mix everything together. You can mix it in a pouring container or the container you’ll store leftovers in later. Add a little water to get desired consistency. Salt to taste.

Also try Scallion-Cilantro Chutney or Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde.

 

Salad Dressings  

Winter Savory is an excellent seasoning for beans. Try it in a bean salad with sweet onions and green pepper.

A simple vinaigrette can do wonders to a salad of greens, grains, or pasta. The best part is that just about any herb can find a home in a salad dressing! Whether you’ve got fennel or oregano, there’s a blend of oil and vinegar that will match the flavors of your herbs.

The classic rule of thumb for a vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part acid (lemon juice or vinegar), but this all depends on taste. Adding fresh herbs, shallots, garlic, strawberries, or extra citrus zest will change the balance of your dressing, so be sure to sample often.

Here is a tasty Fresh Dill Dressing: take the fronds from a bunch of dill and puree with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 3-4 cloves of garlic, and salt to taste.

Try any of these four seasonal dressings: Herb Vinaigrette, Rosemary Vinaigrette, Strawberry Vinaigrette, or Creamy Roasted Tomato Dressing.

 

Marinades 

Here are some of our fresh herbs at the Montague farm stand!

Whether for vegetables or meat, a marinade can add subtle flavors to enhance the dish. Acids in the marinade will help break down and tenderize your ingredients, and oil prevents drying out during cooking time as well as gets seasonings to stick.

Try a basic marinade with equal part oil and vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, a few minced cloves of garlic, and a heaping handful of minced rosemary, thyme, and parsley.

For eggplant and summer squash, we love to add soy sauce, olive oil, the spice blend garam masala, garlic, cilantro and parsley to marinades before cooking. Maybe some cayenne pepper flakes for heat.

It’s not quite a marinade, but adding sprigs of rosemary under the skin of chicken before roasting is phenomenal.

Try Lemon Herb TofuGrilled Chive Chicken, or Cilantro Lime Marinade.

 

Pesto

Pestos are probably the first thing that come to mind when thinking about what to do with a fresh bunch of basil, but have you ever tried making pestos with other types of herbs? In addition to mixing up the type of nuts (walnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, cashews) or cheese that you might use, different herbs and greens can bring a variety of flavors and colors to your pestos.

For example, using one part minced rosemary to three parts parsley in a pesto will result in a bright green, robust flavor with just the right amount of rosemary. Add parsley to your basil pesto to keep it green, or mix with radish tops for a spicier take on a traditional sweet basil pesto. Even blending hearty greens like kale with a handful of herbs can make a simple smooth pesto.

 

Classic Basil Pesto:

Basil growing in the field.

 

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1 cup parsley sprigs

1/3  cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese

1/3  cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts

3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put it all in a food processor and blend until you like the consistency. Sometimes it is nice to stop before everything is completely pureed to get little chunks of texture and flavor.

If you love pesto and like to have it often, you can freeze pesto for the winter. During July and as long as the Basil season lasts we offer basil in bulk orders from the farm.

Pesto is very forgiving and can easily be vegan. I must admit that I never buy pine nuts any more because they are so expensive. I have found that sunflower seeds and cashews make great pesto, and I usually don’t add cheese either. Enough olive oil, garlic and salt make it so good. Sometimes a touch of lemon juice is really good too. It is a great place to use up pretty much any type of green you have from spinach to kale to arugula to garlic chives to mustard greens.

Also try Green Garlic Pesto in season. Not sure what else to do with a fridge overflowing with pesto of all kinds? The Kitchn has tips for creatively using pesto in a variety of dishes.

Teas

Fennel fronds make a delicious tea that’s soothing for indigestion.

Herbal teas can be a great way to warm up on a chilly day, as a natural supplement to your diet, or for medicinal purposes. Drying your own herbs is the best way to save seasonal flavors for later on in the year. A typical ratio for brewing tea is 1 teaspoon of herbs per 6 ounces of water, but this is dependent on the freshness of the herbs and how strong you’d like to brew it.

I am very fond of thyme tea on cooler summer mornings and all fall and winter. For this tea, put a good sprig of thyme (one with 4 or so little branches on it) per mug of tea into water and then boil for a few minutes. The taste is warm and aromatic. You can add honey if you like. Word on the street is that thyme has immune boosting properties and is great to help out right as you start to feel sick. Though I enjoy it at any time.

Mint and Fennel Tea

Chamomile Tea

 

Cocktails with Herb Simple Syrups and More

Flowering thyme can be processed in a liqueur.

Farm to Table drinks can be a fun way to enjoy fresh produce with a variety of delicious combinations. A simple syrup is an effective way to flavor beverages: mix equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, along with your herb of choice, until the sugar dissolves. If you don’t want want any particulates in the syrup, bundle the herbs with food-safe twine or place herbs in a linen re-usable teabag.

Blueberry Basil Infused Vodka

Flowering Thyme Liqueur

Sage Brush Cocktail

Five Cocktails with Basil

 

Preserving Herbs

Having access to fresh herbs year-round can be a challenge, and buying bunches of herbs when they’re in season will ensure that you get the highest quality product at peak flavor. Drying or freezing your own herbs is easy and rewarding! For more information, read our blog post on Drying Herbs.

You can save them to enjoy all year-round! Another great way to save herbs is to chop them up, mix with olive oil, pack them in ice cube trays, and freeze. Once frozen take them out of the cube tray and put into freezer storage bags to store in the freezer. Then they are ready to pop into the pan to start flavoring anything when the snow is on the ground.

 

Do you have any favorite recipes that feature herbs or good ideas for using them? Let us know in the comments or at recipes@redfirefarm.com. Enjoy the season of fresh herbs!

Meet Your Farmers: Haley and Aina

Posted by: on Jul 6, 2015 | No Comments

We’ve got quite the crew here at Red Fire Farm: at peak season there are between 60-100 people in total working at our Granby and Montague locations on any given day.

We’ve created this ongoing series of Meet the Farmer posts as a way to share a little bit about some of our crew who help sow, grow, and harvest the food that goes out to our farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and CSA sites around Massachusetts. These folks do a great job and are keeping local farming alive!

Haley Norris

Crew Leader

Haley does some heavy lifting around the farm. This time of year we are putting away the protective row covers that kept bugs like flea beetles from devouring new brassica transplants this spring.

On the Farm:
Haley first started farming eight years ago in New Hampshire, and has now worked at Red Fire Farm for three seasons. She is currently a crew leader, which means that she manages a small group of crew members as they all harvest produce, control weeds, and make sure that fields are in good condition.

Here’s one of her favorite times on the farm:
“I just remembered my favorite farm memory! We were picking beets in the Mitchell field and some neighboring corn farmers who were all Hispanic and barely speaking English started whistling and tossing us corn. The Somali women got so excited that they ran over with a bunch of beets and we all traded. It was a really beautiful moment to see so much culture in one spot all together because of farming.”

Favorite Vegetable:
Her favorite vegetable to harvest and to eat is eggplant. Their shiny purple color brightens up the harvest. Haley likes to eat it roasted it with tomatoes, Turkish style.

Try these other recipes when they come in season for Thai Eggplant Stir Fry, Ginger Garlic Eggplant, or Garlic and Herb Ratatouille.

Off the Farm:
When she’s not out in the fields, Haley enjoys a well-deserved rest and a cold craft beer. Since she’s from eastern New Hampshire, she’s likely as not to be drinking Smuttynose Finestkind IPA.

Aina Sullivan

Field Crew

This is Aina’s first season on the farm.

On the Farm:
Aina started farming because of her experience WWOOFing in Iceland last year. She also wants to homestead her own land one day.

As a field crew member in Montague, most of her day is spent harvesting produce, loading crates, weeding, hoeing, and performing crop-specific tasks like staking tomato plants.

Vegetable Favorites:
Her favorite vegetable is asparagus, which she likes to eat baked in the oven.

Off the Farm:
Aina also goes to massage school and makes art in her spare time.

 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned to hear from more folks about their time on and off the farm.

 

 

3 Ways to Get in a Pickle, and More Pickling Tips

Posted by: on Jul 2, 2015 | 2 Comments

Sarah Voiland and Steve Munn making pickles. Having a pickling party can make time fly by! Be sure to swap recipes, too.

Welcome to the wonderful world of pickling! Whether you’re a vinegary veteran or just learning about pickling, we hope this page has some new and interesting information for you. This page includes a couple basic pickling tips, a breakdown of 3 different types of pickling – from canned pickles to refrigerator quickles to lactofermented foods – plus a few recipes, and resources.

Order in Bulk for Preserving
If you’re planning on pickling in large batches, you can place a Bulk Order with the farm. Please place your order by 3 pm two days before your preferred pickup date. Check our bulk order page for new kinds of produce available as the season progresses!

 

Basics of Pickling

–Always use the freshest quality produce possible.

–Do not use any produce that is discolored or rotting. Pare down to the good parts only.

–Sanitize your equipment and jars as required by each recipe, and maintain a clean workspace.

–Recipes and ratios are important. Never alter the vinegar/salt/water/produce ratio of a pickling recipe for canning. This is what keeps the pickle preserved, and a weaker brine could result in harmful bacteria growth. Only use canning recipes for canning, as Quickles recipes will likely not be strong enough. Salt to vegetable ratio is key for ferments, so make sure you attend to your salt when lacto-fermenting.

–Pickle new things! Bet you never thought about pickling snap peas, rhubarb, peaches, mustard greens, or garlic scapes, did you? Don’t forget about foraged wild foods too– ramps and fiddleheads in spring make popular pickles as well.

Here’s a rundown on some basic pickling facts and a few recipes from Colorado State University.

A Couple Good Tips:

The blossom end of a cucumber contains enzymes that will make your pickles less crunchy, so cut 1/8 inch off that end. It usually has a teeny brown spot, and the other end has the stem. If you don’t know which end it is, do both ends 🙂 True for all three types of pickles!

You can save the brine from favorite vinegar pickles (yours or store bought), boil it, and pour it hot over more vegetables to make quickles with very similar flavors. Store in the fridge. This can make one feel like a kitchen wizard.

A word on types of cucumbers. While you can pickle any type of cuke, pickling cucumbers (aka kirby) are built for it. They have thinner skin that is more permeable to flavor and smaller fruit size for fitting into jars. They also strike me as a little less juicy, which is good for retaining structure. Slicing or salad cucumbers are okay for pickling, but better for salads and such. Also of note, some grocery store cucumbers may be sealed in a little wax, so it is better to get yours at a farmers market or to ask and make sure you are not getting waxed fruit at the grocers.

What to Pickle

Garlic scapes make a lovely, spicy pickle! Though when packing they always want to e-scape the jar.

Cucumbers, carrots, beets, green beans, garlic scapes, radishes, sweet or hot peppers, snap or snow peas, summer squash, zucchini, asparagus, cabbage, parsnips, turnips, green tomatoes, mustard greens, shallots, daikon, melon, onion, okra, apples, peaches, rhubarb, basil, and more!

Pickling flavor combinations:

While you can’t alter the ratios of vinegar/salt/water/produce in canned pickles, you can alter the spicing of pickles to be what you like!

For dill flavor on any produce, cukes, green beans or other: Dill, white vinegar (for vinegar recipes), salt, garlic, peppercorns. Add celery seed and mustard seed for more flavors. Dill seed can be used in the winter season when fresh dill is unavailable.

For spiced sweet pickles: Cider vinegar (for vinegar recipes), sugar, salt, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric. Add ground cloves, peppercorns, cayenne for more flavors.

Add kick to any pickles with crushed red peppers, cayenne powder, or a whole fresh hot pepper or so in the jar. Whole peppers make your jars good-looking too.

More spice ideas to play with: cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, coriander, fennel seeds, whole cloves, allspice, anise, curry powder, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, fresh oregano, thyme, savory, tarragon, basil. You get the notion 🙂

 

Ways to Pickle….

Quickles or Refrigerator Pickles

Quickles made with red radish and kohlrabi. You can see the pickling spices there on top!

Quick pickles don’t need to be canned– you just mix them up and put them in the refrigerator. They are good in the fridge for a week or a few months, depending on the recipe. These are a great way to start making pickles. While some people say to wait x long in their recipes, you can always start tasting them right away and know that the flavors will keep developing.

Upsides to quickles:

  • They are very quick and easy.
  • You don’t need to be as concerned with your brine recipe–while you should always be careful in preparing your recipes and using the correct amounts of salt and vinegar to preserve the product, refrigeration will help keep quickles preserved.
  • Because you can make them in small batches, quickles can be a good way to test out different flavor combinations before undertaking a larger canning project.

Downsides to quickles:

  • They take up valuable fridge space.
  • They won’t last nearly as long as a well-canned pickle.

Try some of these Recipes:

Dill Quickles from Red Fire Farm

Pickled Sugar Snap Peas from Smitten Kitchen

Easy Japanese Pickled Cucumbers from The Kitchn

You can also use any canned pickle recipe you find for quickle making, and just put it in the fridge instead of canning it.

 

Canning Pickles

Bread & Butter Pickles, canned. These things take any sandwich to the next level.

At least one summer day spent over a hot, humid stove is a small sacrifice to make for a stocked pantry of homemade preserves and pickles. Be on the lookout for recipes that only make small batches or single jars, of which there are many in The Pickled Pantry book listed below. This way, it will be a lot easier to whip up a patch of pickles when you don’t have much time, want to try a new recipe, or are working with a limited amount of produce.

On the other hand, I like to plan big days of pickling to get things dirty once and come out with a lot of pickles for eating and presents. If you are doing this method, here are some steps to plan your day:

  1. Set a date in the season of the produce you want to preserve, invite friends if you like
  2. Choose your recipes and figure out where you will get your ingredients ahead of time, aiming to get your produce as fresh as possible
  3. Inventory your equipment and jars a week beforehand so you can get more of anything
  4. Set up your kitchen the night before, imagine where you will put things, and plan for an easy lunch the next day
  5. Start early on your designated day, because I can’t count the numbers of times I took longer than I thought 🙂

If you are new to canning, I recommend finding a friend who has done it before, or a local group, to can with, as the process has many little steps, and it will just be more fun to learn in person than by reading a book. That said this Complete Guide to Home Canning by the USDA is a pretty good resource for learning, as are the books in the section below.

Make sure you use a recipe designed for canning, as getting the right vinegar/salt/produce/water ratio is key for safe preservation. Also make sure to use vinegar that has a measured acidity of 5% labeled on the bottle, as that is the acidity expected for canning recipes.

Recipes to Try:

Classic bread and butter sweet pickles from Red Fire Farm

Fiddlehead Pickles from the University of Maine

Basic Pickled Jalapeno Peppers from Food in Jars

Here’s another great resource for canning recipes and methods: The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Lacto-fermented Pickles

Lacto-fermenting cucumbers with garlic scapes and a couple wild harvested grape leaves to help keep them crunchy. You can see my methods here for keeping the cukes under the brine :)… Another canning jar full of water on top and a plastic bag rubber-banded over all to limit air flow.

These are easy and really good for you. Fermentation preserves foods without cooking out the beneficial enzymes and probiotics. When you boil your jars in canning, that’s just a simple way of pasteurizing the contents. However, as you boil away potentially harmful bacteria, you also lose some of the really helpful microbes that your body needs to function and digest.

You can create a context for those beneficial bacteria to thrive, one that is also safe to eat. Thats how lactofermentation works. By submerging vegetables in a salty brine, you create anaerobic conditions that make wonderful, flavorful foods!

For more information on the health benefits of fermented foods, check out this page from Greenfield’s own Real Pickles. And there is new news that fermented foods may help reduce anxiety, which is lovely.

How to make them:

Wash and prep your vegetables to whatever size you like for eating. Weigh them out, and then weigh out salt at 2.5% of your vegetable weight. So for 1 lb of vegetables you would weigh out .025 lb of salt. Massage the vegetables with salt and pack into a very clean non-metal food-safe container, like a quart glass ball jar. Mash down with a weight of some kind, cover to prevent flies or dirt getting in (the less airflow the better), and let sit a few hours to bring out juices. If juices do not submerge the vegetables, add a little water until vegetables are fully submerged. This liquid is called brine. Let sit covered and weighted in a cool spot out of the sun for 3 weeks or so checking every couple days to skim mold off the top of the brine. You can taste them as they go and stop the ferment at any time you like it by putting it in the fridge. Read more details in the recipes and books below.

I have also had good success making a brine of about 2 Tbs salt per quart of vegetables and water, mixing the 2 Tbs into some water and pouring that over cut vegetables in a quart jar, then filling with water to cover the vegetables. This method is less exact. Half-gallon ball jars are pretty great containers for doing a batch for my family of three and a little baby.

Basic Tips:

  • Use only sea salts or kosher salts that do not contain iodine or caking agents that could mess with your bacteria.
  • Use non-chlorinated water.
  • Keep vegetables submerged in brine at all times.
  • You can ferment pretty much all produce and combining is fun, as is adding various spices and herbs.
  • Add a few grape leaves, oak leaves, or horseradish leaves to your cucumber ferments to provide some tannins to help keep them crunchy.

Fun with your Brine:

Use your leftover brine, after eating your ferments, in mixed drinks and other food. Probiotic dirty martinis anybody 😉 Also great for adding to salad dressings, and anywhere else you can think of.

Fermenting Recipes:

Daikon Ginger Pickle from Red Fire Farm

Homemade Sauerkraut from Nourishing Kitchen

Fermented Sour Pickles from Wild Fermentation

Fermented Nettle Kimchi from The Fermentista’s Kitchen

Books We Like

Consider supporting your local book store if you purchase these titles! Most allow you to pre-order for pickup.

The Pickled Pantry: from Apples to Zucchini, 150 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, Chutneys & More by Andrea Chesman

Asian Pickles: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Preserves by Karen Solomon

Put ‘Em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Wild Fermentation: the Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz

Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes, and Pastes by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey

 

It can get rather silly in the kitchen.

Happy pickling! We’d love to see photos of your final products and swap recipes: send them to recipes@redfirefarm.com, or share on our farm Facebook or Instagram.

You can get ingredients for preserves by ordering in Bulk from the farm. We update our bulk order page frequently to reflect what’s seasonal and available. Or visit our farmers’ markets and produce stands for daily selections of organic produce. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you around the farm!

Holiday Recipes with Local Produce

Posted by: on Nov 14, 2013 | No Comments

The fall crops are rolling in. Read below for many recipes to try for local feasts and winter dinners. You can order produce in bulk right now for storage and parties – visit our Bulk Order page for the list of seasonal produce.

Carrots in fall gain a most wonderful sweetness from the cold. This fall they are almost like candy. With a little local maple syrup, mmm. Try this easy recipe below….

Carrots right out of the ground

 

Maple Glazed Carrots

An easy side to sweeten up any cold winter meal. 

Ingredients

10 or so medium Carrots, Sliced
4 Tbsp Butter (Can use coconut oil also)
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Ground Ginger

Chop carrots into 2 inch long sticks or slice them into disks. Steam for 15-20 minutes. In a saucepan on low mix together a 1/2 stick of butter a ¼ cup of maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of ground ginger. Once the butter has melted and the spices have mixed in, drizzle it over the top the carrots and serve.  You can keep a little boat of the sauce around for those who like it sweet!

 

More Seasonal Recipes from the Farm Collection

Roasted Watermelon Radishes – Surprisingly sweet, tasty, and so pretty.
Kohlrabi and Potato Gratin
– Rich and creamy
Raw Parsnip Winter Salad – Sarah makes this for fall and winter feasts. Parsnips are amazing raw.
Mashed Potatoes with Shallots – Shallots give a really nice flavor to the potatoes.
Daikon-Apple Salad – Refreshing and light.
Caramelized Leeks and Apples – A sweet and savory side dish.
Turnip Puff – A really fun way to serve turnips.
Maple-Glazed Sesame Sweet Potatoes – yum.
Rosemary Vinaigrette – A nice way to use this aromatic herb.
Warm Maple Dressing with Shallots – Great flavor to warm up a salad, or for slightly wilting spinach or other greens.
Beet and Winter Squash Strudel
– Appetizer or main dish.
Kale ‘n’ Apples – Stellar fall/winter combo.
Butternut Squash and Rutabaga Puree – Smooth and creamy.
Butternut Apple Bisque
Curried Carrot Dip
German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage – Tangy and sweet, and a gorgeous purple color.
Gilfeather Turnip Puree – Featuring Gilfeather turnips from the Slow Food Ark of Taste. They are so flavorful!
Stuffed Delicata Winter Squash – You can use this recipe with other types of winter squash too.
Coconut-Rutabaga-Carrot Mash
Baked Apples– Very easy, personal-sized, and delicious dessert.
Sweet Potato Pie – Sweet potatoes make a really amazing pie. Most say it’s better than pumpkin.

Visit our Bulk Orders page to see what is in season now. Happy cooking!

Keeping Your Produce Fresh: Storage Tips for Summer

Posted by: on Jul 22, 2013 | 16 Comments

When you come home from the market or CSA, you may have a big load of the season’s bounty on your hands. With such a variety of crops, it’s typically not best to open up the bottom drawer of the fridge and let everything get cozy together. In this article, we aim to give some tips for quickly organizing longer, more vibrant lives for your produce. Just a little more time/thought upfront, and you can get days more life.

If conditions are sound, vegetables will surprise you with their last-ability. For example, carrots will store for 3-5 months or more in the right cold, humid climate.

General Tips

  • Perishability – Use the most perishable things first, and the hardier stuff later.
  • Dream On. Look at your goods and dream up ways to use them when you get them. Something strange? Look it up on the internet for recipes and use that one early on, to prevent it sitting for a long while…
  • Smoothies Rule. Try vegetables in smoothies or juices – very easy to make and drink!
  • Stock it Up! – Make soup stock with your vegetable trimmings and anything you don’t think you’ll get to using. Cover trimmings with water and simmer covered for hours, then strain and store in fridge or freezer. Look up nice herbs to add. I like bay leaf and thyme.

Refrigeration is Your Friend

Here at the farm we have 3 large geothermal coolers and a root cellar to store our produce post-harvest. Cooling dramatically slows respiration and break-down processes in produce. Most of your produce would love to be refrigerated.

We make sure to lay thick sheets of plastic over all of the cooler-kept vegetables like salad greens and roots to keep them from drying out from the cool winds. Your refrigerator has cool winds too. Good for getting things cool, but protect your veggies from the wilting and drying effects.

When packing away your vegetables remember these tips:

  • Bag it Up. Never store produce directly in the refrigerator. Keep items like greens, cucumbers, beets, broccoli, all roots, peppers, even corn*, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.
    *Keep corn wrapped in its protective husk.
  • Bunched items. Cut the edible greens from crops like beets, radishes, carrots, and kohlrabi, before storing. The greens will drain moisture from the roots if left attached.
  • Remove rubber bands, twisty ties, and other fasteners from vegetables for better circulation.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables separate. Apples, apricots, avocados, ripening bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, citrus fruit (not grapefruit), cranberries, figs, guavas, grapes, green onions, honeydew, ripe kiwi fruit, mangoes, melons, mushrooms, nectarines, okra, papayas, passion fruit, peaches, pears, peppers, persimmons, pineapple, plantains, plums, prunes, quinces, tomatoes and watermelon all release ethylene gas which will cause your remaining produce to spoil and change in flavor in proximity, especially sensitive greens. Try one of those ethylene “eggs” and report back to us.
  • Try not to wash or chop vegetables before storing. The extra water will create conditions that are too damp and not ideal for crisp, tasty vegetables. If washing before storing, make sure to dry produce as well as possible and store in the company of a dry paper towel.
  • On the other hand, Prep for Easy Use. Wash your lettuce leaves for salad and spin them nice and dry when you receive them, it will make it easy and quick later, and you’re more likely to make the salads! Same for other things you want to use soon washed.
  • Wilted from rough travels? If your greens or other items had a rough ride home in a warm car, say, or a 90 degree day at the CSA, you can perk them up with a soak in a bowl of cold water before drying and putting them away.
The gardening department at Cornell University has assembled a useful reserve of storage guidelines.  Check out this link to learn ideal temperatures and how long each crop can stay fresh in storage. 

Don’t Refrigerate These

Some crops, such as basil and tomatoes, need to be kept out of the refrigerator to maintain
optimum freshness. Basil leaves will quickly turn shriveled and brown if stored bare in the refrigerator. The best way to store a bunch of basil is on the countertop in a container of water like
flowers. You can also cover the basil “bouquet” loosely with a plastic bag to contain moisture. Tomatoes lose flavor and texture when chilled, so only refrigerate if you want to stop them from imminent death.

Sweet potatoes also are a tropical tuber and they get chilling injury if stored below 50 degrees, so keep them in a paper bag or basket.

Winter Squash – also gets chilling injury if stored below 50 degrees. Around 55 degrees is ideal. Though a kitchen will do just fine as long as you use it in a few weeks.

Okay for Room Temperature Storage

Tomatoes, Basil (in vase), Melons, dry Onions without green tops, Winter Squash, Potatoes (though keep them in the DARK, and for long storage refrigerate), Garlic, Shallots, Sweet Potatoes.

Freezing Makes for a Delicious Winter

Vegetable season in New England is short. But freezing some of your CSA bounty will let you taste summer when sunlight is fleeting and vegetables are from far away. Many items like tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, peppers, greens, zucchini, and the like, can all be stored in the freezer. Everything can be frozen direct, but some things will have longer, better freezer life if blanched.

For example, extra kale can be frozen and easily added to soups in the winter, try blanching the kale (or spinach or chard or basil etc.). Remove the bottom of the stems, wash the greens, and then follow the blanching steps below.

Blanching is a method to deactivate enzymes that reduce the storage life of frozen produce. Steam or boil produce in water for 2-3 minutes (time varies by produce, do a web search for how long to blanch your item). Then quickly plunge produce into cold water (ice in water is good) to prevent over-cooking (let soak for same amount of time you blanched to cool), and then drain and pat dry, bag in freezer bags, and label.
Save your blanching water for soups! I blanched snow peas and the water tasted like peas. Yum.

To blanch or not?
From what I can tell, blanching preserves the vitamins and nutrients in frozen vegetables, and color and texture. Blanching also kills some bacteria. Without blanching you will lose some nutritional value, not sure how much. Blanching also causes some nutritional loss itself (thus use your water as stock for soups!). You can freeze everything without blanching. Some fruits and vegetables have high enough acid that they don’t need to be blanched for nutritional preservation. Blanching takes time, so if you have no time, then just freeze direct and use earlier.

Blanching times and methods at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Cook more corn-on-the-cob than you can eat one night? It’s blanched already 🙂 Cut the corn off the cob and freeze it!

 

Some things you can freeze straight up… 

  • Tomatoes can be frozen as is, whole. Their skin will peel off when thawed. Core or chop if desired.
  • Peppers can be cut into large pieces and frozen directly.
  • Onions can be frozen directly.
  • Freezing herbs in water in ice-cube trays, chopped leaves or pureed, makes cubes that are perfect for adding to soups. You can also freeze them loose in a bag and take ’em out to chop up later.
  • Berries are great to freeze because they make deliciously thick smoothies! Pare them first to remove inedible pieces like stems and pits. Freeze on trays, then transfer to bags, or freeze in serving-size bags.

Most importantly, make sure you freeze your produce as soon as possible while it is lively.

Keeping Your Mushrooms Fresh…

  • Store your mushrooms in a paper bag in the fridge. The paper allows the mushrooms to breath slightly without dehydrating quickly.
  • Avoid storing mushrooms in plastic bags! Plastic restricts the mushroom’s ability to breathe, causing accelerated molding.
  • If you don’t have time to use your mushrooms, or simply forget about them, you can rehydrate your mushrooms by placing them in warm water for 20 minutes. After they’re rehydrated you can add them to soups or sautés! After rehydrating your mushrooms, you can use the water you used for rehydrating to add a mushroom-like flavor to stock or grains like rice.

 

Other sources:

Quality Control in Frozen Vegetables – overall article about commercial scale freezing considerations.

Other Ways to Preserve

Jamming – check out our blog post
Drying Herbs – blog post with herb ID photos
How to Store Winter Vegetables – tips for long-keeping and root cellaring

We don’t have a post on it, but you can dehydrate things too! Lactofermentation is another great way to preserve things for longer.

If you have more tips from your experience, please share them here!

~Thanks for reading!

PDF of this post to print, includes edits and comments through 8-4-2013.

The Flower Crew & How to Care for Your Bouquets

Posted by: on Jul 8, 2013 | No Comments

Whether you are getting our Flower Share or enjoying bouquets from the farmers’ market or stand, we wanted to share some tips about care for flowers.

Meet Jess, Julia, and Alana! Our 2015 flower crew did a tip-top job keeping our blooms healthy and happy.

Our Flower team gets up the earliest of all the crew, to pick the blooms when the day is coolest, starting at 5:30 am. They harvest in the morning for freshness, then they arrange bouquets later in the geothermally-cooled root cellar.

The flowers at Red Fire are grown organically, so feel free to stick your nose down into them to get the best of the scents. Not all the flowers we grow are fragrant, but many are, and we also often include fragrant herbs in bouquets to help take care of your nose as well as your eyes.

 Tips for Keeping Your Flowers Fresh:

Flower stems are like pipes bringing water up to the bloom. You want to keep the pipes clean of any bacteria that may grow in the vase in order to have longer lasting flowers. Here are a few methods:

  • Keep your vase as clean as your dinner dishes, changing the water often.
  • Re-cut stems about 2 inches above the tip when you get home.
  • Any foliage that ends up below the water line of the vase will quickly gum up the water, so strip off any leaves that might get wet.
  • Keep your flowers in a relatively cool spot, ideally out of the sun.
  • Remove individual elements of the bouquet as they wilt. Some flowers have longer vase lives than others and removing the delicate ones will help keep the water clean and the bouquet looking fresh.

Home-Made Flower Food

Asiatic Lilies are the natural fireworks of July!

Try a recipe of these flower preservatives to fill your vase.

Cut Flower Preservative Recipe #1
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach or 1 crushed aspirin tablet
1 quart warm water

Cut Flower Preservative Recipe #2
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach or 1 crushed aspirin tablet
1 quart warm water

Did you know we also do flowers for special events like weddings?

Sarah Voiland’s bridal bouquet.

You can order arrangements of various sizes, as well as DIY buckets of flowers. Organic, local and very beautiful. Contact us at flowers@redfirefarm.com to set up a time talk to us about your design ideas and what’s in season for your event.

Some event options:

  • Pick Your Own flowers with your bridal party
  • DIY buckets of flowers by color or variety to arrange your own bouquets
  • Arrangements to-order designed by our Flower Grower
  • Have your favorite florist order organic flowers from us to have local flowers for your event

 

Enjoy a gorgeous season!

 

Passion for Parsnips

Posted by: on Apr 11, 2013 | One Comment

Almost all roots we harvest in the fall for storage to eat and sell as long through the winter as we can. Except parsnips. Well, we harvest some in the fall to enjoy all winter. But we save some. We save them in the ground. They freeze in there with the dirt all winter. And now, this time of year, we dig them up.

Why? The long freeze of winter brings out in them a wonderful sweetness of flavor, beyond that of those harvested in the fall. It’s a spring treasure. A little hoard we had hidden away.

A truckload of spring dug parsnips

We had to be patient this year and wait until the late snows melted and the ground came unfrozen. We waited and here they are – the Spring Dug Parsnips! We love them here at the farm.

Early on, when I was falling for my farmer husband Ryan, I wrote a little song for him for his birthday. The refrain goes like this…

“Passion for parsnips and radio listenin’,
fresh salad in a muddy kitchen,
raw lips from too much kissin’,
O, no, there’s nothin missin!”

You should have tasted the excellent breakfast parsnips Ryan made that inspired that one. Maple syrup, walnuts, raisins, parsnips all in a skillet.

For little Wally, I now make parsnip puree. We boil the parsnips until soft, then put them in the food processor with a little of the boiling water, some butter and a pinch of salt. Puree and eat! One bite for me and one bite for Wally is how they go down.

Roasted Spring-Dug Parsnips

Spring-dug parsnips are a seasonal delicacy, gaining in sweetness from the cold winter in the ground.
Chop into sticks, coat with olive oil and a little soy sauce, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 400. Stir after a half hour. When cooked-through and lightly browned, remove and serve.

A few more recipe links….
Raw Parsnip Winter Salad
Parsnip Coconut Rice

You can find our Spring Dug Parsnips at the Winter Farmers Markets on Saturdays. Though not listed on our website, we are at the Northampton Winter Market on April 13 and April 20th. We may have some also for sale when the Granby and Montague Farm Stands open on April 27th, 2013.

Thanks for reading!

~Sarah Voiland
Red Fire Farm

 

Deep Winter Recipes

Posted by: on Nov 5, 2012 | No Comments

Here are a selection of tasty recipes with winter produce that you can try for your winter feasts, or other meals this time of year.  Great for Thanksgiving dishes!

You can get ingredients for these recipes, for your celebrations and storage, from our farm at our bulk ordering page.

Roasted Watermelon Radishes – Surprisingly sweet, tasty, and so pretty.
Kohlrabi and Potato Gratin
– Rich and creamy
Raw Parsnip Winter Salad – Sarah makes this for fall and winter feasts. Parsnips are amazing raw.
Mashed Potatoes with Shallots – Shallots give a really nice flavor to the potatoes.
Daikon-Apple Salad – Refreshing and light.
Caramelized Leeks and Apples – A sweet and savory side dish.
Turnip Puff – A really fun way to serve turnips.
Maple-Glazed Sesame Sweet Potatoes – yum.
Rosemary Vinaigrette – A nice way to use this aromatic herb.
Warm Maple Dressing with Shallots – Great flavor to warm up a salad, or for slightly wilting spinach or other greens.

Parsnip “Fries” – A good appetizer

Beet and Winter Squash Strudel – Appetizer or main dish.
Kale ‘n’ Apples – Stellar fall/winter combo.
Butternut Squash and Rutabaga Puree – Smooth and creamy.
Butternut Apple Bisque
Curried Carrot Dip
German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage – Tangy and sweet, and a gorgeous purple color.
Gilfeather Turnip Puree – Featuring Gilfeather turnips from the Slow Food Ark of Taste. They are so flavorful!
Stuffed Delicata Winter Squash – You can use this recipe with other types of winter squash too.
Coconut-Rutabaga-Carrot Mash
Baked Apples– Very easy, personal-sized, and delicious dessert.
Sweet Potato Pie – Sweet potatoes make a really amazing pie. Most say it’s better than pumpkin.

Visit our bulk order page to see what is in season now. Happy cooking!