Beets

Big. Bold. Beautiful. Beets are robust root veg that have deep red and purple colors and equally deep flavor. They are packed with strong earthiness and surprising sweetness making them a truly unique tasting vegetable. If you normally avoid beets I encourage you to try them once or twice. The earthy flavor gives beets that comfort food feel, but as a veg they leave you feeling fresh and healthy.

Be sure to use both the beet root and the beet leaves. Beets are the same species as swiss chard, but beets are grown to have large roots, where chard is grown for the leaves. This means you can use the beet leaves just like swiss chard. I find the beet greens can have a milder flavor compared to swiss chard so there is no reason to avoid eating them.

Preparation

Start with separating the beet root from the leaves leaving about half a quarter of an inch of stem still attached to the beet. The beet and leaves are prepared separately and the beet will last longer in your fridge if it is not connected to leaves.

Give the beets a good wash in running cold water and leave them to dry. You should trim the beets more than what is shown in the photo as you will get more stalks to eat later.

Wash the leaves in cold water and give them some time to dry.

For the greens, just treat them as you would swiss chard. Simply remove the stems, cut the greens down to bite sized pieces and saute with you favorite seasonings.

For soups and slaws, you will want to trim the beet stem and little tail then peel the whole thing.

For roasting you could leave all the parts attached and remove them once the beets have finished roasting. When I am roasting beets I wrap them in foil and save some of the cooked beets in my fridge. If you are cooking for a family you can really use any covered cooking vessel. Using foil or a lidded vessel allows for steam to build up which is what helps make the skins so easy to remove from the beets. I have the beets trimmed in the photo because I hadn’t decide how I was going to cook with them, but feel free to leave the tail and tops on as I mentioned.

Cooking

Depending on the method you use to cook a beet, the flavor profile will be slightly different. Raw and boiled beet have a similar flavor; forward sweetness and hearty earthy notes. Roasted beet is still sweet but the earthy flavors are more intense.

If you are looking for the dead easy approach then roast your beets. Cover the beets either with a lid or foil and roast them at 375F (40min – 1hour+). You will know they are done if your knife slides easily into the beet. You could eat them with the skin on, but when you roast the beets covered, the skin literally just slides off.

Once roasted, the beets become beautiful and glossy. They are great finished with some form of dressing or with some other vegetables. I wouldn’t bother seasoning the beets before roasting because you will be peeling off all the seasoning. Wait until you have removed the skin then season your beets.

I normally just have the roasted beet as a side with some meat and greens. However, beets have a strong flavor so you can make them the centerpiece of a meal. I have enjoyed roasted beet on whipped goat cheese with dill and vinaigrette.

For the greens just cook them quick and easy. I have cooked them with some rendered bacon and a little onion and garlic. I wouldn’t over complicate the greens, just enjoy them sauteed with some basics seasonings.

Lastly beets have a strong physical structure so they are excellent for soups and pickling. If rainy weather ever gets you in the mood for some soup I would suggest finding a borscht recipe online. Top borscht with some sour cream and dill and you will have a bowl of soup that satisfies the stomach and soul. For pickling there are about a thousand different recipes online. I suggest following a simple recipe , then change some ratios once you have given them a try.

Kohlrabi

What is a Kohlrabi?

Kohlrabi: fun to say and delicious to eat. These bulbous veg are part of the infamous Brassica oleracea species, which includes broccoli, collard greens, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Kohlrabi is basically two vegetables packed into one. The bulb is like a big juicy broccoli stem and the leaves are like a bundle of collard greens. The whole kohlrabi plant has an unusual appearance that may dissuade the unfamiliar home cook from trying them. With the right know how, kohlrabi can be cleaned and eaten in just a few minutes.

Flavor Profile

The flavors of the kohlrabi bulb and kohlrabi leaves are polar opposites. The bulb has a delicate taste with earthy notes, similar to the tender flesh of a broccoli stem. The leaves have a strong flavor and are full of green bitterness. I recommend seasoning each part like they taste; the bulb seasoned lightly so you don’t hide its delicate flavor and the leaves seasoned aggressively to enhance their strong flavor.

Cleaning and Preparation

It is much easier to work with leaves and the bulbs after they have been separated. Trim the leaf stems at the base of each bulb and continue with cleaning and preparation separately.

Bulbs

To clean the bulbs, wash them under running cold water and leave them in a colander to dry.

To prepare the bulbs, start with peeling the skin. This should be done with a paring knife;  if you are particularly strong willed and stubborn then you could use a peeler. Once the bulbs are naked, slice yourself a thin disc and give it a taste before deciding how you wish to eat the rest of the bulbs. Your desired preparation will determine how you should cut the bulb. You could grate them for use in a slaw, cut them into small sticks for a salad or cut them into wedges for roasting. The world is your kohlrabi; try eating the bulb using different methods to find your favorite.

Leaves

Just as you cleaned the bulbs, kohlrub the leaves free of dirt under running cold water. Leave them to dry before continuing.

The leaves of kohlrabi can be prepared just like collard greens. Separate the thin stem from the leaves. Keeping the stems and leaves separate, cut them both into smaller pieces to make them easier to cook with. Once cut down, you are ready to get cooking.

Cooking Kohlrabi

Roasted kohlrabi bulb on sauteed kohlrabi leaves

The easiest method for cooking kohlrabi bulb is don’t. Roasted kohlrabi bulb is good, but the bulb is superb when eaten raw, thinly sliced, and seasoned with some salt. If you must cook the bulb, coat wedges or thick discs with oil, salt and pepper. Roast them in your oven until they are golden brown. If you have a newish oven I recommend roasting them at 450F. I find older ovens tend to run hot so I would recommend cooking them at about 425F if your oven has seen better years.

The kohlrabi leaves and their stems can be sautéed with any seasonings you see fit. Just add oil to a hot pan, cook the stems for a few minutes first then add the leaves. Add seasonings as you cook and be sure to taste the leaves. You may be surprised at the amount of seasoning you will need to add, so tasting as you cook will let you know how to adjust your flavors. I recommend frying some garlic before adding the leaves and squeezing lemon juice on the leafs once they are done cooking. The lightly fried garlic will add sweetness and the lemon juice adds a sharp tang that will go well with the bitterness of the leaves. If aren’t satisfied with the leaves try reducing some cut up bacon pieces in a pan; add the leaves to the cooked bacon meat and reduced bacon fat. Bacon will add both sweet and salty flavors that balance perfectly with the strongly flavored leaves.

Garlic Scapes

Garlic scape season has officially begun. This is the perfect time to get your garlic fix before garlic bulbs are available later this season. If you are unfamiliar with garlic scapes, don’t let that stop you from picking up a bunch or two this summer. We have created an easy preparation guide and listed cooking tips to help get you started with your scapes. Don’t be afraid to ask for recipes when you are visiting the farm stand; someone working there or more likely someone picking up scapes for themselves, will be willing to share their preferred method for enjoying these seasonal treats.

What is a Garlic Scape?

Garlic scapes are the flowering stem of the garlic plant. They resemble a small garden snake, long, green, swirly, and packed with a strong bite. The small, yellowish bud seen on one end of the scape nests the garlic’s flower. The scape is harvested so the garlic plant can use it’s energy for growing the bulb rather than blooming the flower. Once the final scape is harvested they wont be available until next year. I suggest picking up a few bunches to enjoy right away and getting some extra bunches to enjoy after the season is finished.

How To Prepare Garlic Scapes

Regardless of how scapes are cooked, they should always be cleaned and trimmed down. Start with handwashing the whole scapes in your sink with running cold water. Leave them in a colander for a few minutes to dry before continuing preparation.

Once drained, remove the pointy part that extends out of the bud. This part has a chewy, stringy texture and will not be enjoyable to eat.

After your scapes have been cleaned and trimmed, you can use them for any recipe you wish. I suggest you cut a small slice off one scape to get a taste for their raw flavor. The raw scape will excite your taste buds and your nose with a pungent garlic aroma. I wouldn’t advise you to eat the entire scape raw, unless you happen to enjoy garlic breath or know a particularly annoying vampire. It is always good to know exactly how “garlicky” your scapes taste before you begin cooking them. If your scapes are particularly mild, you might enjoy having them raw and thinly sliced on top of a baked potato or mixed into a chimichurri. Unlike raw scapes, cooked scapes taste quite sweet and earthy, faintly tasting of toasted green beans.

How to Cook Garlic Scapes

There are many ways in which a garlic scape can be cooked. You could sauté, roast, grill, pickle or ferment them. You can really use scapes in any recipe you would normally use garlic cloves. When replacing garlic cloves, be sure to use more scapes than what the recipe calls for, as the scape is much more mild in flavor. If you haven’t cooked garlic scapes before then I suggest you start with a sauté. The produce from the stand is amazingly fresh and packed with flavor that can be enjoyed with just some oil, salt and pepper. This will allow you to get a good understanding of the scape flavor profile and it is the simplest method for cooking them. After trying some of your sautéed scapes, feel free to start experimenting with other cooking methods.

To sauté your garlic scapes, set a pan over medium-high heat and cook them with some oil, salt, and pepper. The skin of the scape will blister and the room should start to fill with a warm, sweet roasted garlic aroma. Be careful not to burn them; just like burnt garlic cloves, burnt scapes become quite bitter and will leave your mouth feeling a little dry. When cooked properly, the garlic scapes will become sweet and tender. It’s a great idea to sauté the scapes when you have guests over. The smell of cooking scapes is absolutely intoxicating and many people have never tried scapes before, making your scapes the best they will have ever had. Be sure to give your guests some of the flower buds as well; the flavor is the same as the rest of the scape, but the texture is much more tender.

If you are someone who likes to enjoy seasonal vegetables out of season, a salt fermentation is a great way to extend the life of your scapes. The scapes will stay crunchy and garlicky and can add a lot of zest to any sandwich or charcuterie board. You can always play around with the seasonings and concentration of salt in your fermentation brine, perhaps making some sweeter, some spicier or some packed with herbs. While you could freeze scapes, I prefer to ferment them. Unlike freezing, fermenting scapes will build a deeper, more complex flavor profile the longer you leave them. Either way, enjoy them fresh while they are still in season and be sure to preserve as many as you can to enjoy them all year round.

2020

Another year in review from Charles’ Iphone

 

 

New Farm, Same Farmers

2018 was a game changer. We bought our own farm – 100 acres located just south of Lyndhurst, or about 35 minutes north east of Kingston in Leeds and the Thousand Islands Twp.

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The barn in Sweets Corners – Salt of the Earth’s new HQ!

Two major reasons precipitated this move. First, to have our own piece of this beautiful land to call our own; where we can make permanent long-term investments, like planting perennials and building structures. Second, because our land at Hwy 2 had an amazing location for marketing, but very challenging soil for growing vegetables. The soil around Kingston is heavy clay, and at our location it was very depleted in terms of nutrients and structure from years of neglect as a farm (the last real farmers there probably stopped farming shortly after WWII). As anyone who even has the smallest garden will know, soil is crucial!

We continue to be blessed with the opportunity to steward the land at the Hwy 2 farm, and we’ll continue to run our farmstand there as well as keep our cattle and firewood business focussed there, which are the two activities that that land is really suited best for. Pasture land is a healthy and productive landscape, and with responsible grazing and the sustainable harvest of woodlots, we’ll continue to cultivate this farm and make the most of its potential.

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Ploughing up land for the garden.

The new farm at Sweets Corners is set right in the Frontenac Arch, a geologic anomaly where Canadian shield granite juts out of gorgeous former lake bottom clay loam. The farm we found has about 40 acres of cleared hay fields and about 60 acres of woods on steep granite outcrops. The land had been stewarded for the last twenty years by lovely folks who invested in building up the soil and managed the woodlot to be highly productive.

This land is our forever home, and we intend to farm here as long as our faculties allow us. This fall Charles ploughed up around 6 acres for our 2019 veggie garden. The hay fields are rich fodder, plump with alfalfa and orchard grass, for our cattle and chickens, and the woodlot is an amazing renewable resource for our selectively harvested firewood and specialty hardwood slabs. The sugar bush is still young, but in a couple years it will be producing that sweet magic, aka maple syrup.

We are full of gratitude to all of our customers for helping us make this huge change this year. We simply couldn’t have made this step forward without the supportive, positive and generous support of our community. We are looking to the future with optimism and we look forward to serving our old friends and new faces in either Kingston or Sweets Corners. Please come visit us!

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The ancient mountains of the Frontenac Arch.

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The cave with Morgan for scale.

Morgan’s Tips for CSA Success

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Sometimes we hear concerns from folks that the CSA will be too much food for their family or that they couldn’t possibly eat all produce that every week. We also sometimes hear that “oh, we don’t spend that much at the grocery store every week”…  and to that I say, “I bet you spend a lot more than you think if you actually tracked it!”

Don’t get me wrong, the CSA is not be the right fit for everyone – and maybe the Flexible Farmstand option makes the most sense for you. That said, we do have customers who do the whole Traditional CSA for just themselves or for a household of two – it’s a matter of priorities and diet. If the CSA sounds like something you’d like to try and you are new to a CSA program, you might find that you have to approach your kitchen in a new way in order to make the most of your basket. But, make no mistake, you can do it! Here are some of the major points I make to new customers:

  1. Plan Ahead – Congratulations, you’ve brought your first CSA basket home – a big basket of the freshest bounty our neck of the woods can offer! Take stock – what can be eaten right away, what are you going to throw on the BBQ Friday night, and what should be prepared to eat later? Some things (e.g. lettuce, green onions) are best to eat right away, which others are going to be just fine (eg. Beets). Do some simple meal planning to make the most of your CSA.
  2. Make a Point to Eat Seasonally – Despite what the grocery store would have you believe, very few produce items grow year round. Each vegetable has its own personality, tuned to sun, heat, and wet. The garden is a symphony – not a steam engine – and when the ground thaws we get cool-loving lettuces, leafy greens, radishes, spring onions, which give way to tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in the hot days of summer, which yield to squash, pumpkins, brassicas and root veggies as days shorten and cool. The first frost will toast any last tomatoes, but it will make parsnips and Brussels sprouts sweeter than ever.

IMG_20160827_150914The CSA means you are eating the freshest food at its best. Don’t expect tomatoes in June or corn in October. Make appropriate substitutions to make the most of your CSA – use garlic scapes in the early summer before the garlic is ready, use kale or swiss chard in a salad when it’s too hot for lettuce in August.

  1. Store It Right – People often ask me the best way to store their veggies. Following on point #1 – maybe you’ve decided to hang on to those radishes for a couple days, or you know you aren’t going to eat those beets this week. Generally, most things are going to do really well in your fridge (consider that it was picked the day you picked it up – that’s fresh!). Simply wrap in plastic, and store in your crisper. Potatoes, sweet potatoes garlic, and onions should be kept in a cool, dark, dry place, and winter squash will keep fine on your counter. If the item you want to store has tops (like carrots, radishes, or beets), remove them before putting in the fridge. That’ll keep the item from losing moisture. Kale and swiss chard can be resuscitated by lopping off a bit of stem and putting them in water to get back their turgidity. Don’t put tomatoes in the fridge – they get mealy! Keep those heat-loving veggies, like peppers and summer squash, on your counter.

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  2. Make Soup! – Consider buying a deep freeze if you don’t already have one – for the cost of the freezer and the electricity, you’ll be making up for it with delicious, fresh, and nutritious meals all year long with food you already paid for. I think pretty much any vegetable can be turned into soup – even lettuce (try it!). Make two portions when you cook, and throw half in the freezer. That carrot ginger soup or those stewed tomatoes with eggplant and zucchini is going to taste like pure sunshine come January.
  3. Good Ol’ Home Cooking – This one’s very simple: make a point to eat at home. Instead of a restaurant, invite friends over. Throw some veggies on the grill in the summer (or roast them in the oven for a fall get together). Maybe you have some pastured beef or pork for the BBQ (or the slow cooker) – then all of a sudden you have a beautiful meal, with almost no dishes, no muss, no fuss, that is just as good (nay, better!) than any take out or restaurant dining.
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  4. Put It Up – Here in Canada, we have a beautiful summer… and then 6-8 months of winter. Our growing season is bountiful, but short. Any way you look at it, CSA is a great value for your dollar, but if you can make the absolute most of it and extend the season beyond October, you are practically making money! Herbs and hot peppers can be dried, brassica family (broccoli family) do well blanched and frozen, basil and other herbs can be process,ed into pesto, radishes become fermets, beans and beets are winter pickles, then there are tomato jams, corn relish, zucchini bread, carrot cake, homemade hot sauce, kimchi, sauerkraut, onion chutney… the list is infinite! Extending the season doesn’t have to mean getting into days of canning if that sounds intimating; your fridge and freezer, salt and sugar, and some creativity are your best tools.

A Random Assortment of CSA Shares

We’re often asked, “What does an average CSA share look like?”  Well, each one is different, depending on the time of year, the growing season, and the varietals we chose.

A picture’s worth a thousand words, so here’s a mishmash of shots from our lovely customers over the past few years (thanks for all the photos!)

2017

2017 was just as tricky a year as 2016 – except instead of endless sun and heat, it was endless grey and rain.  Back to back record breaking years, and equally challenging…

We don’t have a ton of pics from 2017, especially early in the year, apparently because Morgan gave birth to our daughter Caledonia on June 8th and we were busy taking pictures of our little girl instead of the farm!

2016

A peek back on the challenging drought year of 2016.  Never want to see it again – will never forget the lessons!

2015

A gallery of 2015…