On the farm, we’re feeling the shift towards autumn, even if the weather is still full of mid-summer heat and humidity. Farmers are tilling under their crops that have gone by and putting in cover crops. Cover crops are plants that are specifically planted to help build soil fertility. Often, they are planted in combinations- such as rye and vetch, or oats and cow peas. The idea is to find different plants that contribute distinct nutrients or organic matter to the soil (vetch contributes nitrogen, for example). Because we are limited with the amount of land we have on the farm, it is very important to do what we can to rebuild the soil, as vegetable production takes a lot of the nutrients out of the soil.
The farmers are finishing up their high tunnels this week just in time, as we starting to see some 40 degree nights. The high tunnels will help them extend their season. New Roots will have at least 5 high tunnels built by the end of the fall season, which will allow us to start our CSA early and finish late. A high tunnel is a plastic-covered structure that is used to grow crops. It can be temporary or set in place. A lot of crops are usually grown in the ground within the high tunnel, and it’s usually unheated.
With the fall comes African Corn season! The corn stalks are towering above the farmers and the corn is ready. Since you will be getting both sweet corn and African corn in your CSA, we’ll make sure we tell you what you have.
The New Roots farmers grow a variety of corn that is a bit starchier and tougher than the sweet corn most of us grew up eating in the United States. It is softer than dent corn, or other corn varieties used for cornmeal, but takes longer to cook than sweet corn. It’s worth the wait- I promise!
Below is a traditional dish that the farmers would like to share with you. It is a simple mild dish that you can spice up to your liking. I like it because it is something you can put on the stove top and then ignore while you are cooking the rest of your meal or taking care of the kids, etc.
You want to start off with equal parts corn and dry beans. Depending on how much corn you have, this could be a side dish or a main dish. I like to cook this dish with a black or small brown beans.
Start by shucking your corn and cutting the kernels off the cob. Cut carefully, using a sharp knife, and try to keep as much of the kernels intact as you can. Put the corn in a soup pot and cover with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil.
Boil the corn for 10 minutes, and then add the beans (washed) to the pot. Boil for another 40 minutes uncovered. You may need to add more water, but you want the boil all the water away by the end of the 50 minutes.
Once the water has boiled off, take it off the heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. The Somali farmers like to add generous amounts of salt and a tiny pinch of sugar to it, but you can spice it up however you like. This dish is also a great base for making a bean salad that you can add tomatoes, peppers, greens, and other veggies too. We’ve mixed it up at the farm with cherry tomatoes, avocado, and sweet pepper chopped up in it!
I do some version of this at home on nights I want a quick dinner. I like to add oregano and some other Italian seasonings, either fresh or dried. Add fresh herbs at the end of the cooking time, but add dried herbs towards the beginning. You can have fun with this recipe and try it with kale, amaranth, or collard greens too.
Rinse and drain the Swiss chard stems and leaves separately.
While the chard is cooking, in a kettle of salted boiling water, boil the penne until it is al dente and drain in a colander.
In a separate large heavy skillet cook the red pepper flakes and garlic in the oil over moderate heat, stirring, until garlic is pale golden.
Add the chard stems and any tomato juice you can recover. If you don’t have about 1/4 cup of liquid, add some water. Cover and cook the mixture for 5 minutes or until the stems are just tender.
Stir in the tomatoes and chard leaves and cook the mixture, covered, for 3 minutes, or until the leaves are tender.
In a large bowl toss the penne with the chard mixture and ¼ cup of the Parmesan and serve with additional Parmesan.
This takes about 20 minutes of prep time and then I like to simmer it for about 40 minutes. It depends on your stove’s version of “simmer” and how well you want your vegetables cooked down.
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large), large dice
Salt and pepper to taste
3 zucchini or summer squash (3 to 4 medium squash), large dice
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme (substitute 1 tsp. dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
1 pound tomatoes (3 to 4 medium), large dice
1 large bell pepper, large dice
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, plus more for serving (can substitute dried, but only add 1 heaping tablespoon dried)
*Flavor extras: For something different, try adding a tablespoon of smoked paprika, Italian seasonings, a pinch of red pepper flakes, 1/4 cup of red wine, or a splash of vinegar to the ratatouille.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to the pot. Add the zucchini, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the eggplant.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and bell peppers. Add the reserved eggplant and zucchini and gently stir to combine.
Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 1/2 hours. A shorter cooking time will leave the vegetables in larger, more distinct pieces; longer cooking times will break the vegetables down into a silky stew.
Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Just before serving, stir in the basil. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve, sprinkling each serving with more basil and drizzling with more olive oil.
Making a larger batch: This recipe can be doubled and adapted to use whatever vegetables you have. Recipe from https://www.thekitchn.com/one-pot-recipe-easy-french-ratatouille-recipes-from-the-kitchn-106669