Joi Choi is a cousin to Bok Choy or Bok Choi. Our mature Joi Choi (on the left) has thick, roundish, medium green leaves with a mild green leaves with a mild flavor on a juicy ten-inch long, thick stalk. The leaves can be used on sandwiches or in on sandwiches or in salads. The white stalks work on a vegetable tray as a celery substitute for dipping. We use them as a celery substitute. Also, we like to braise this somewhat spicy green.
ESCAROLE AND ENDIVE
Two items in our Spring Greens line up that not in the Asian family are shown above. On the left is Escarole and on the right is Endive. Both are excellent in your first spring salad mixtures.
Black Summer is another of the choy or choi family which we gown. Black Summer has a spoon shaped based and the leaves are a bit darker green in color than the other Asian choi varieties. We think they are lovely in a Spring salad mixture. Or, they can be sauteed or used in a stir fry, if you prefer.
This Asian Green has thick spoon-shaped dark green leaves on a lighter green stem all in a compact rosette shape. It has a mild taste. Tatsoi is excellent in a raw salad mix or for Oriental cooking. And if ever you get too many, make a smoothie and they will disappear quickly!
Tender tops can be chopped and used in green salad mixes for a spicy addition. Consider the early ones “babies.” There may be a hint of a turnip on the end or none at all. With time the “turnip root” will grow in size. We grow some turnip varieties simply for their long, lush green tops. Of course, they are not so long when they are babies. Other varieties are grown for their turnip root. More later on turnips!
This Asian Green is the dwarf cousin of the Joi Choi. Ching Chang has smooth medium green leaves which are spoon-shaped at the base. It has a sweet, mild flavor. Some chefs braise or stir fry this green; however, we ALWAYS chop and eat ours raw because it so deliciously tender!
Admittedly, we are late comers to collard greens; but if the insects like them, they must be good! Note the roundish-shaped leaves. We are growing two different varieties of the tender, baby collards which make a tasty addition to any spring salad mix. Or they can be sauteed slightly in EVOO. Add some diced spring, onions, if you wish!
This European Green has long, dark green, broad arrow-shaped or serrated leaves and will be in a loose bunch perhaps tied with a “twisty.” Its addition to your green salad mix will give a slightly spicy, peppery taste. It can also be steamed and served as a side dish or as a “bed” for just about any protein.
In the garden it first resembles a line of “green or purple golf balls with leaves” coming out all over it! By the time it appears in your CSA Box, the kohlrabi will weigh 1 – 1.5 pounds. It can be peeled like an apple (to remove all of the green, leaving a white ball) and cooked like a turnip or sliced or shredded and eaten raw in a salad! Or sliced thin and used in place of lettuce on a sandwich to switch up the flavor.
This purple choi is one of our purple Asian greens varieties. The leaves are really smooth and rather hard compared to the jagged leaf variety. As with all purple vegetables, the color will be lost once cooked. If you want to keep the purple color, eat them raw in salads!
Escarole will come along with the lettuces. I am sure you have found it in those bags of spring green mixes. It has a harder leaf and a slightly bitter taste to my way of tasting.
The entire fennel plant is used in cooking—the bulb, foliage, seed, and even the pollen! Like the asparagus plant, it comes from the Mediterranean region.
The swollen, bulb-like base is a crisp vegetable that can be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled, or eaten raw in a salad or pasta dish. Dried fennel seed is an aromatic, anise-flavored spice used in breads, meatballs, and Italian sausages. The leaves are delicately flavored and similar in shape to those of dill.
Fennel seeds are sometimes confused with those of anise, which are similar in taste.
The easiest way to utilize the entire fennel plant is to chop the bulb and stalks and use as a tasty salad addition. Mix the foliage into sour cream for a tasty dip to use with just about anything from raw carrots and kohlrabi to joi choi stalks!
SWEET WHITE TURNIPS
These are the pretty turnips. Some will be smaller; some will be larger. Of course, the first ones are smaller and they get larger the longer they are in the garden growing. The taste is still sweet! Their tops can be braised and eaten alone or mixed in with the “ugly turnip” greens or any other green! We trust our sweet, baby turnips will impress even “declared turnip haters!” And, just so you do not confuse the baby turnips with the radishes—our radishes will be red! Then again, sometimes the turnips are red, too!
Or, in a really wet year, the turnips can get quite large rather quickly when the farmer is not looking —or is busy harvesting some other rapidly growing veggie. In such a year, there will be no confusing them with radishes. Do not worry! They still have the same sweet taste—it’s a combination of the gourmet seed and the soil, you know. If you have never liked a turnip in your life, be sure to give these a try.
Still don’t think you like turnips? Ever tried a turnip smoothie? You just might be surprised.
Radishes are delicious tossed over salad or added to soups or stews. Or mix shredded radishes into potato or macaroni salads. And, the tender tops of these red radishes can be mixed into your raw salads for an unexpected flavor!! Remember: Our radishes are red; our turnips are white!
Use your imagination when it comes to making fresh, garden salads. The varieties with the more hearty textures will last longer (if not stored with apples or pears or any fruit which gives off ethylene gas in the refrigerator drawer). The hearty lettuces stand up well when served with grilled meats, also. We grow more of the hearty lettuces such as our family’s heirloom and a variety of Romaines.
These mustard greens have furled edges and are the darkest green in color. With some practice, you will be able to distinguish a faint mustard smell and taste! They are not to be confused with the turnip greens which have flat leaves, are a lighter green and have a turnip taste! We plant a reddish mustard green, too!
This barrel-shaped head of Chinese Cabbage is becoming more popular on salad bars. It can also be used in a stir fry or braised! Make a meal with toppings of sautéed beef tips, grilled chicken, cooked shrimp, or for a Southwestern flair, ground turkey or sirloin mixed with taco sauce! Or, use the big, outer leaves for taco wraps!
GARDEN PEAS & SNOW PEAS
There may be some Garden Peas (on the left) and some Snow Peas (on the right). Garden Peas must be hauled to get to the sweet peas inside the pod. Snow peas are flatter and are to be eaten entirely. Please wash both first! Sugar Snap peas are a delightful cross between the two. When available, they have a pea inside AND you can eat the outer shell! Peas are one of the first vegetables in a typical spring garden and perhaps the vegetable of the shortest duration. Anyone who can grow them considers it a blessing of nature when they survive the late cold snaps, droughts or floods. We call peas “the farmer’s candy!”
Sometimes the season is wonderful for growing heads of broccoli that are as “pretty as a picture” and the size of steering wheels! Other seasons, the heads are small from the beginning–almost like florets from the start. It all depends on the weather conditions at that critical time in their growth. We wish they could all be huge; alas, some years they are not. However, they always taste sweet and that is what really matters.
These Broccoli Florets resemble “baby” heads of broccoli. Earlier in the spring we have a different variety which is longer and mostly stem as shown in the next photo. For best results, soak these in cold water the same as a head of broccoli before eating!
Need I say why this cold water soaking is recommended? The shock of the cold water will cause any transient part of nature (green worms!) to fall to the bottom of the sink. Some days, weeks, years are better or worse than others. But don’t let your family members see this if you expect them to ever eat broccoli again! It does cause one to wonder what kind of chemicals they use on the broccoli in the grocery store!
PATTY PAN SUMMER SQUASH
Our summer squash include various patty pans with fun names including: sunburst, starship, papaya, and flying saucers—among others! Look them over carefully to note their individual features! Large ones are good for stuffing, but we harvest them small since our members prefer to have several small ones versus one or two big ones! You can steam these summer squash whole if you want. If you slice them, consider doing it horizontally to retain the unique shapes.
The Italian Zucchini are green and have distinct vertical ridges. They have a firmer texture, but the taste is similar to a traditional green zucchini.
We grow traditional green zucchini, a deep yellow zucchini, an Italian zucchini. Since their textures are similar, we often steam or sauté all of the summer squash patty pans and zucchini together treating them all the same! If you do not have a steamer, now is the time to purchase one. The oblong shape is the best for asparagus and corn on the cob. A steamer is an excellent way to cook new potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squashes, and zucchini!
GOURMET RED KALE
Gourmet Red and Green Kale are relatively new veggies for us to grow on our CSA Farm. That may sound odd, but with all of the Asian greens we have been experimenting with with just overlooked kale! But it has become a new favorite for your farmers! Simply sautéed and served atop steamed rice is a recipe idea recommended by someone in the know! Red Kale is loaded in vitamins, and much prettier than its green cousin, in our opinion!
Note the size and freshness of our gourmet kale . . . we do not grow any of our vegetables just for “weight” to fill up your farm share boxes!
FLAT HEAD CABBAGE FOR STUFFING
In the middle of this lug you see a big, flat head cabbage. Because these leaves are so big and, well, flat, they are perfect for making cabbage rolls stuffed with your favorite meat or veggie combo! Of course, you can use them in cabbage recipe; but we grow them especially to make cabbage rolls. And cabbage rolls and casseroles will freeze, too!
Cabbage offers numerous health benefits which are well documented.
ROUND HEAD CABBAGE
Besides making coleslaw, try adding cabbage to salads and soups. Leaves of cabbage are also good on sandwiches!
Savoy, the crinkly leaf cabbage, is a favorite among discerning chefs because of its unique texture. The taste is not that different, however. I think the Savoy Cabbage is the prettiest head of cabbage we grow!
POINTY HEAD CABBAGE
We grow a variety of cabbages which mature at different times throughout the season. And they come in a variety of shapes! Try shredding cabbage onto traditional Mexican foods like tostadas and tacos. Or, simply shredded the cabbage head and topped it with your favorite salad dressing!
This is so pretty when mixed with green cabbage in a coleslaw! And we love to steam the red cabbage and then mix in a couple of tablespoons of butter and Orange Marmalade!
Most carrots are orange, but keep on the look out for yellow and red ones that seem to appear each year without warning! Some stray seeds mixed into the package, no doubt. If the tops are nice, we will include them. The green tops can be diced for an interesting salad ingredient or added to soups or “green drinks!”
Spring onions are shown to the right of this basket photo. We do not try to keep many onions until the fall. This is one of those things we found out we were not very good at doing.
Green basil is one of our favorite fresh herbs. The slugs and snails like it, too. Container gardening is not a challenge to these pests! They go right up the side of the pot and have a feast. All herbs can be frozen and added to soups and stews in the winter. Put one tablespoon of chopped herb into an ice cube tray with a little olive oil and freeze. This way you will know how much of the herb you have in each “cube.” You can grow your own herbs on your patio or on your kitchen counter top!
The purple basil has the same shaped leaves and smell as green basil but much prettier and add a nice look to certain dishes, for example, orange tomatoes!
Cilantro, also called Chinese Parsley, is widely used in Asian, Mexican, and Caribbean cooking. The Cilantro leaves look very similar to flat Italian parsley, but if you look closely, you can see the leaves are more rounded. Cilantro has a very pungent odor. I will admit I have a hard time getting beyond this particular scent trait. However, I absolutely love to cook with the dried Cilantro seeds—ie Coriander! Pollen taken from the Cilantro herb is highly prized by upscale chefs.
We like the flat Italian parsley variety. These leaves are angular and not curly like the common parsley. We experimented with large herb gardening, but have found that potted containers work just as well for our family. If you want to experiment with herbs, get a couple of pots for your patio or window sill. Growing herbs is really quite easy.
We grow sunflowers for the wildlife! What a beautiful sight to see waving in the wind when one looks up from the tending of the garden. They attract gold finches and cardinals by the hundreds or perhaps thousands each year! This is all a part of the melodic scenic backdrop to our farmstead . . . and something that makes the hours in the gardens more enjoyable!