CSA Update: Halfway Through 2017 Season

Hello! Want to share a quick update on where the CSA is. We are about halfway through the season and getting a great variety of things. Recently we have had some amazing corn and tomatoes, lots of different kinds of peppers, green and wax beans, kale and, new this week, melon.

CSA week 8 2017 KaleAndAle.com

Week 8 of our 2017 CSA. Lots of good variety of foods!

As usual, my favorite thing is to eat the veggies fresh at their peak, but I’ve been making a lot of veggie burgers or freezing vegetables. I really want to consume them fresh, but then in the winter, it’s so hard to eat store-bought vegetables, so I’ve been doing a better job of preserving them to enjoy later in the year.

RELATED: Ways to preserve food to enjoy all year long.

The garden (not pictured) is growing well, but ALL the tomatoes get big and green and aren’t turning red. It’s like it reaches a certain point and stops. Have you ever experienced that? Is it the soil? Did some weather event occur that has stunted growth? The herbs are alive and well, and really that’s where the best growth is coming from this year.

What fresh local food can’t you get enough of right now?

Garden and CSA update: June 2017

It’s an exciting time in Minnesota, as the days have gotten longer (and now shorter again already) and things are in bloom. That includes our garden and now our CSA!

CSA week 1 2017 | Kale and Ale

CSA 2017 Week 1

Regarding the CSA, week one started. Although it’s small, I know the amount of food will grow soon, and I’m excited for nice greens and radishes. Next week peas will be added to the mix. I probably say this every year, but I just love when I don’t need to rely on the grocery store for all my produce, but can get most or soon all of it from the farm. It also makes menu planning so less stressful, as I have food given to me and I have to use it in the next week.

Related: Garden and CSA 101-Getting Started

June 2017 garden | Kale and Ale

June 2017 garden growing update

A few weeks ago we got hail, and the garden took a little bit of a beating but, except for the broccoli, it’s doing OK now. Broccoli was our “new to us this year” food we are growing, so we have no idea what to expect, which is a bit of a risk and part of the fun. (If you have any hot broccoli growing tips, send them my way!) Otherwise, carrots are starting to come up, a few tomatoes and peppers are beginning to show and the chives are growing as strong as ever. I highly recommend them!

What are you growing this year, and how’s it going? Let me know in the comments below.

FOLLOW ALONG: To see how my garden is doing and what I’m getting in my CSA, be sure to follow Kale and Ale on Instagram and Facebook.

5 Things Being Vegetarian Taught Me

5 things being vegetarian taught me | Kale and AleToday marks 20 years I’ve been a vegetarian, and there are five things I’ve learned from it. I was 15 when I became a vegetarian, so I couldn’t even think 20 years into the future. I started with a plan to be vegetarian for one week, and 1,040 weeks later I’m still hanging on, with no plans to ever stop.

I became a vegetarian for ethical reasons. Growing up in Iowa, I could see cows at the edge of my development from my kitchen. I was surrounded by cornfields and understood the process food takes to get to our plate, and it didn’t sit right that animals were sacrificed for us. I have always understood and respected that it’s a personal journey and decision as to what one eats, and for me that means keeping animal products off my plate.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum kale | KaleAndAle.com

Happy place: Within the kale at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

What has been a growing and learning experience goes beyond food, shaping me into who and how I am today. These are the five things being vegetarian has taught me.

Compassion

In a way this was already a trait, as it’s the reason I became vegetarian. But like I said, I was 15 at the time, so my world scope was pretty narrow. Being vegetarian and attuned to the needs and rights of animals has made me more aware of others suffering. There really is so much suffering, and I try to always look and think of others needs ahead of my own—not to be confused with at my own expense.

Do I need this extra fancy coffee or can I donate 5 or 10 more dollars to the charity I’m giving to now? I won’t enjoy that coffee as much as someone suffering. I love giving and receiving gifts that have a story behind them or the money goes to an artist or organization. I tend to think about things like this.

Creativity

Being vegetarian often means being the odd one out or minority. Going to restaurants or events, you have to request something and often get creative with the menu: Can you substitute/leave off this? Does this contain this hidden ingredient? How large are the sides so I can make a meal?

Even at home, I like to replicate dishes I’ve had or seen, vegetarian or otherwise. The entire reason for this blog was built on my creativity: I wanted to show others they too can lead a minimally processed life without sacrificing time or money. I enjoy recipe creation, thinking of new ways to make classic dishes and coming up with new flavor and texture combinations.

Adventure

Both in eating and life, I’ve learned to say yes more, in both food and life. I used to make sure I knew how things would turn out or what to expect, but now I jump in more. I don’t want to miss opportunities just because I don’t know the answer or outcome beforehand. This has always worked out in my favor, and related to food, I’ve gotten to try and love many foods that people who eat meat don’t seem to eat often, or go to vegetarian/vegan/raw food restaurants in neighborhoods I would otherwise not visit.

Education

Education is always needed when a vegetarian. Staying on top of what is in foods is never-ending: Prepared foods and restaurants can change recipes at any time and it’s important to know what is in your food. Views on a healthy diet have changed a lot in the 20 years I became a vegetarian; in 1996 people thought complete proteins needed to be eaten together for the most benefit and now we know that isn’t true and fad diets have come, went and sometimes come again. Keeping up and staying educated is important.

Patience

I’m not a patient person by nature, and it’s something I’m always trying to get better at, but being a vegetarian presents many opportunities to practice my patience. Many people ask a lot of questions that, to me, seem obvious or straightforward, but I put on a smile and use it as an opportunity to explain explain my stance and beliefs, and why I stand where I do regarding animals.

More information

It’s never been easier to be a vegetarian than it is now. It’s very common for people to not be vegetarian and eat less meat for health, there are so many resources, celebrity chefs are making meatless cool and menus in restaurants are often clearly marked as to what kind of diet can have that meal, among other things.

To learn more and get started, some good websites for more information include:

RECIPE: Get started with this simple chickpea patty recipe, the first recipe I made as a vegetarian and still one of my favorites.

RELATED: A real vegetarian’s view on fake meat

 

Produce Preservation Tips

How to preserve produce | KaleAndAle.comYou have a lot of produce one way or another. It could be that all the tomatoes in your garden got ripe at once, corn was a crazy good deal and at its peak at the farmer’s market, or zucchini was in season this week in your CSA. No matter the reason, you just can’t eat it all and want to preserve it.

No matter how many times a coworker brings in food from a home garden or tree, or whatever is the “it” food of the week at the CSA, I pride myself on not being wasteful, and extending the produce of the season into the off season.

I know others have these same issues, and I’ve been so crazy busy the past week preserving food and know I will be as we sprint toward the first frost here in the Twin Cities, that I wanted to share my tips with you, and I want to hear your tips on how to preserve food.

My favorite ways to preserve food include:

Canning

I tried this for the first time last week. Not going to lie, it was a lot of work but the early tastes are delicious and it was fun to make and see the science of it. I got a lot of tips and recipes from the Ball jar website.

I will have salsa for a very long time to come. Someone who cans suggested tomato sauce and I love that idea because I will know what’s going in it and it can be canned in one- or two-meal can sizes, as I just don’t go through a jar from the store quickly.

Canning salsa | KaleAndAle.com

Canning salsa verde

Freezing

This has long been my go-to method. Freezing is easy and quick, and you have food stocked in your fridge for the off-season. It’s important to note that food that has been frozen won’t have the same texture or consistency once it’s defrosted, but what you freeze will be great in smoothies, soups, casseroles, things of that nature. And think come a cold winter day how great it will be to have food in your freezer you don’t need to buy that is home-grown!

In the photo below I have a vegan squash soup that I froze because it made a lot. If you aren’t sure how something already made will work in the freezer and through being defrosted, put one serving in the freezer and try it out to know for next time. Also, when freezing some foods need to be blanched, and use the right items to freeze it (freezer bags, tin foil to prevent frostbite, etc.). I like to label and date things so I quickly know what it is and how long it’s been in there.

Read more on the USDA freezing and food safety website.

Freeze produce | KaleAndAle.com

Freezing broth, veggies and soup

Quick pickle

Simply put, prepare what you want to pickle, put it in an airtight jar, and put vinegar and flavors over it. It’s a great way to add flavor and preserve something you can’t eat quick enough but want to enjoy. I especially like to quick pickle cucumbers, green beans and beets. I eat them straight, and on salads and sandwiches. I’ve made this flavorful beet recipe a few times. See the Serious Eats guide to quick pickling to get started.

Dehydrate

A dehydrator is large and can be a big initial investment, but if you have a lot of food to preserve or like the taste of dehydrated foods, it’s worth it. Dehydrated foods have so many uses, from fruit as quick, sweet snacks to raw crackers and granola to veggies so they don’t take up as much space or spoil before they are added to soups later. Read my post here about what I bought when I got a dehydrator.

Make broth

As noted on the left in the freezer picture is cubes of broth. Homemade broth is great because you know what’s (not) in it and you can use all the scraps from carrots, onions, potatoes and other veggies (and meat if you eat it) for the broth. So to me that’s win-win! And I love putting it in ice cube trays because I know how much broth they hold, so when a recipes calls for a certain amount I grab the right number of cubes. Read how I make my own broth here.

Give away

Gain favor of family, friends and coworkers in the easiest way: Give them extras of food you already have! This is a tried and true method, and at my last job it was very common and the best way to make new best friends.

What is your solution when you have too much produce?

First-time Garden Tips

Buying garden plants | KaleAndAle.com

Picking out plants for the garden.

For many years I’ve known when I owned a home I would have a garden. I became a homeowner a year (and one week, but who’s counting?!?) ago, just in time to rake a crazy amount of leaves. As soon as the snow was off the ground this spring, I began to plan my garden and once frost was over, I dug in, but early fall is the perfect time to start planning your garden for next year. Start today by seeing how and when the sun is in your yard to decide what types of plants might work best, and thinking about what you would want to grow to eat this time next year. See the “Gardening Tips” bullet points below for more tips and the USDA website for more info.

Previously I have tried container gardening with no success, as in figuring out the exact moment the basil plant won’t survive and taking off all the leaves to break even on the plant. I know the soil is better in the upper Midwest than it would be in the sandy ground of Florida, but I didn’t know what to expect. What I ended up with is an embarrassment of riches. It’s getting to the point that I keep watching the weather and I know I’m going to run out of time (typical plant hardiness zone 4B issues, I tell ya!) before it starts to frost and I’ll still have green tomatoes and other plants producing.

Garden just planted | KaleAndAle.com

The garden early on.

Garden end of season | KaleAndAle.com

The garden last week, near the end of the season.

Very soon I’ll be picking a lot of green tomatoes and grabbing the potted herbs and bringing them all indoors to salvage what I can. Check back Monday as I give tips on what to do with a large bounty at the end (or anytime) during the season when the produce is coming faster than can be consumed and to preserve for the colder months.

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Gardening Tips

Planning

  • Once you figure out what you want to grow, find out how much space to leave and how big the plant will get.
  • See what amount of sunlight each plant needs and if your garden will provide it
  • Once you know these two things, see if what you want to grow is still realistic with the size and location of your garden.

Preparation

  • Build what you need. Fencing that animals can’t get through is good. Next year I’m going to add a trellis on one side for the yellow pear tomatoes that are up to 10 feet tall.
  • Build your garden in a way that you can still reach the ground to weed and pick produce. I’m going to add a paved path in the middle of my garden next year to walk through the middle.
  • Add dirt, if needed, and till the garden to make it easier to plant and for the roots to grow.
  • Buy any supplies you might need (tools; fencing; watering items; fertilizer; twine, cages or poles for growing; etc.).
  • Plant in pots what can—or should—be kept on its own, especially plants that spread and creep, are made to be hanging plants, or would be better to be oved to more/less sunlight.

Growing

  • I was told by a longtime gardener it’s not really worth starting from seedlings because the space/time/items needed aren’t often worth the return.
  • Rotate crops year to year to maintain the soil.
  • Trim back/prune branches as they begin to grow so they don’t get out of control and to get healthy, bountiful produce.
  • Water and drain as recommended for the plant
  • If a plant is on its last leg, give it some love with water and plant food. One tomato plant came back that way.

As mentioned above, my next post will be about what to do with all the harvest.

If you have gardened, what tips would you pass along to first-timers?

If you want to have your first garden, what else would you like to know about?