Glazed Chinese Longbeans

Glazed Chinese Long Beans (Food Network)

We always grow Chinese Longbeans, and CSA members get them several times during the summer. This strange bean is one that can stump even hard core veggie lovers. The problem is that if you don’t cook them long enough, they will have this odd texture that squeaks when you chew them. The key is to be sure they are done. You can’t be too wimpy about cooking these beans. This Food Network recipe solves the problem by having you blanch and sauté the beans. This one is really yummy and keeps the Asian theme of the beans. Enjoy!

Glazed Chinese Long Beans (Food Network)

Ingredients

• 1/2 pound Chinese long beans cut into bit sized pieces
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 tablespoons sliced scallion
• 1 tablespoon freshly minced ginger
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• Pinch red pepper flakes
• 1/2 cup chicken stock
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1 tablespoon sesame oil
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, optional

Directions

In a large pot of boiling water, blanch long beans for 2 minutes until slightly tender. Allow to cool.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add butter. Add scallions, ginger and garlic. Mix together. Add red pepper flakes and long beans. Allow to cook for a few minutes. Stir in chicken stock, honey and sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add sesame seeds, if desired. Mix together.

Eat Your Veggies,
Robin

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Cauliflower Rice with Bacon

SFC_cauliflower_labled
The cauliflower is ripe at our Rabbit Eye Ridge farm. Those of you who have gotten it in your CSA bag probably noticed that it is a strange color (an off-white color tinged with purple). This is normal. It happens when cauliflower gets stressed, and any cauliflower grown in the Carolinas is going to be stressed. Cauliflower likes to grow in rich soils and cool climates. Our soils are not bad, however, our temperatures are challenging for cauliflower. We have had temps in the upper 80’s for the past week. That did the trick. Now we have strange colored cauliflower! No worries. It tastes great! We had it for breakfast. We made cauliflower rice pilaf with eggs on top and a kale salad. We eat fairly low carb, and try to include tons of veggies in every meal. This means we avoid grains, including rice. Cauliflower rice makes a great substitute, that is delicious. Here are the basics for a delicious cauliflower rice pilaf. 

Ingredients:
One head of cauliflower (2 if they are small)
Bacon (1/2 pound)
Chopped Onions
Chopped Mushrooms
Salt and pepper 

Implement it:
Cut all the florets off  the cauliflower, and toss them in your food processor.  Process briefly until the cauliflower is in crumbles. If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate the cauliflower.  Then, chop your bacon and cook until nearly done. Add the onions and mushrooms, and cook until the bacon is done and the onions are fragrant. Don’t drain the pan. Add all the cauliflower and mix well. Then spread everything out on a baking sheet. Add some salt and pepper and place under the broiler until beginning to brown. My oven took about 15 minutes.  While this is cooking, soft fry two eggs per person. When the cauliflower pilaf is done, plate it up and put two eggs on top. This is great with a side of sliced tomatoes or kale salad.  It was so good, we forgot to take a picture, so if any of you make this, send us a pic so we can use it in this post!;)

Go to this post to see a another version of this recipe without the bacon, along with some other ideas for cauli rice.

Eat your veggies! Even if they look a little strange.

Robin

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CSA Kids’ Blueberry Picking Day 2017

Mckenzie - Blueberry Picking Day for ChildrenSave the date for Blueberry Picking Day, for kids of CSA members!
Blueberry Picking Day is the Saturday in blueberry season that our CSA members can come to our home farm and let their children under 12 years old wander through the blueberry bushes and pick and eat all they want. This is one of our favorite events. It is always wonderful to see how much joy simply picking and eating fresh blueberries brings to kids. What a great way for kids to get better connected with where food comes from.

For 2017,  our Blueberry Picking Day will be Saturday, June 17th from 9am until 11am. We will send more details as the date approaches.

If you would like to attend, kindly send us an email to bellsbestberries@gmail.com. This helps us to make sure we have refreshments for the kids and enough mimosas for the adults. Hope to hear from you CSA Members!

Josh - Blueberry Picking Day for Children

Eat your blueberries, kids!

Robin 

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Vegan Farm to Table Dinner with Chef Julia Simon, of Nourish Charlotte

2017 Vegan Farm to Table DinnerWe’re thrilled to announce that on June 17, 2017, we are hosting Chef Julia Simon and the crew from Nourish Charlotte for a vegan farm to table dinner. That’s right, vegan! They will bring you 5 delicious courses on our gorgeous farm in Monroe, NC.
They will be offering sangria, both alcoholic and non, included in your ticket price. And of course, stellar, verdant food straight from the fields surrounding you! Everything is a la Nourish, and as such, is gluten free, organic, vegan and vibrantly good for you. Live music will accompany the two-hour dinner, and you can stroll the farm before and after to see NC agriculture during peak growing season. It’ll be magical, to be sure! First course is at 7pm.
Menu sneak peek:
Macaroni et “Fromage” au Champignons de Homard 
Heirloom Tomato Fondue with Sourdough Baguette 
Salade Nicoise with Summer Fruits 
Tickets can be purchased on their menu page here. It is all the way down at the bottom of the page. Don’t wait – they go fast!

We can’t wait to see you on June 17th amongst the fireflies and summer flowers! 
Eat your veggies!
Jay and Robin

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2017 Menu for Our Farm to Table Dinner!

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Every spring we host a farm to table dinner at our farm. It is carefully prepared by Chef Craig Barbour, with Roots Good Local Food, and always highlights the delicious beauty of the farm. This year, it is planned for Saturday, May 27th. This is the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. You can sign up here. Below is the menu.why-i-eat-local

Bell’s Best Farm Dinner
May 27th, 2017
A REAL Garden Salad
A salad of fresh clipped greens, herbs, edible flours and house made soft cheese, local grist crouton, and simple vinaigrette
Grilled Free Range Local Chicken on the California Wood Fire Grill
Kafir Marinated Local Chicken with Ginger, Smoked Pimenton, and Tumeric, garnished with fresh picked basil and cilantro.
Roasted Gem Veggies
A blend of baby red potatoes, beets, and any other freshly harvested garden gems we can get tossed in a fresh herbs and homemade cultured butter
Flashed Kale
Tender kale julienned thin and tossed in molten hot caramelized fennel dressing instantly wilting the kale to perfect tenderness.
Strawberry Milk Shakes with Lemon Balm Meringue

Here are some of our past dinners:

Farm Dinner Fire2P1010460

IMG_6102IMG_0041Farm Dinner Wine3

blueberry-icecream

Farm to Table dinners are one of the best ways to get in touch with where your veggies are coming from, get some great new ideas about how to prepare them, enjoy the beautiful outdoors, meet some new people and have a great time! Chef Craig Barbour is the best at making farm foods amazing!

Eat your veggies, with us at the Farm to Table Dinner!
Robin and Jay
704-608-1154

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Chicken Breast Stuffed with Alliums and Herbs

SFC_leeks_labeledMany of the alliums that were planted in the winter get mature in the spring. Examples include leeks, garlic, and onions. Some of these are on our market table and in our CSA bags already. Here is one of my favorite ways to use them.

Onions Carrotsbaby garlic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy four bone-in chicken breasts with the skin on. Butterfly them open so you can stuff them.

Chop some onions or leeks and simmer them in real butter (organic or grass fed is best) until they are translucent and smell amazing. Add garlic, salt, and a handful of your favorite chopped herbs. This week I am going to make it using French tarragon, but you can use whatever herbs you like. Other herbs that would be great include rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, marjoram, or savory. Use any that you have or even mix them up! Let that cook a few minutes. Then add a good splash of white wine and about a quarter cup of bone broth or stock. Let that simmer until almost all the liquid is evaporated. Then turn off the heat and add a chunk of your favorite soft cheese such as goat, feta, or blue cheese. Stuff your chicken breasts with this yummy mixture. Put the stuffed breasts on a baking sheet and baste them with butter and add some more chopped herbs and salt to the top. Bake at 400 for about 20-30 minutes. Your kitchen is going to smell so good! Serve this up with a huge salad and some fresh asparagus.

Chicken Breast Stuffed with Sweet Onions and Herbs

Eat your veggies,
Robin

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Don’t Miss Our 2017 Farm to Table Dinner!

It’s that time of year again!

farmtoforkdinner
Every spring we host a farm to table dinner at the farm. It is carefully prepared by Chef Craig Barbour, with Roots Good Local Food , who never ceases to beautifully, creatively and deliciously highlight the wonderful spring produce from the farm. P1010461It is always held in the spring, so the weather is great, the flowers are blooming,  and the farm is at its fresh best. Don’t miss it! This year it is planned for Saturday, May 27th. This is the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. You can sign up here. Stay tuned for the menu in the next few weeks!IMG_6102Farm Dinner Wine3
Farm to Table dinners are one of the best ways to get in touch with where your veggies are coming from, get some great new ideas on how to prepare them, enjoy the beautiful outdoors, meet some new people and have a great time! Know your farmer! Last year we had a little rain. Even though everyone was a wonderful sport about the whole thing, we are going to have a bit of shelter this year. Lesson was learned! We look forward to see you there!Bonfire

Eat your veggies.
Robin and Jay
704 608-1154

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Great Questions to Ask Your Farmer at the Market

Farmers MarketThe Farmers’ Markets are in full swing here in the Carolinas! It seems like almost every town has at least one farmers’ market. Many towns have dozens. This “Farmers’ Market Boom” may be due to the increase in consumer demand for fresh and safe local produce, meats, milk products and even personal care products. But how can you tell if the produce you are buying really is fresh, clean, and local? Carolina Farm Stewardship Association published an article about this. Here is the link. They have some great ideas, and even created a handy list of questions you can download and take with you to the market. Some of my favorites that they listed include: Are these fruits and vegetables organic? How do you handle pests and weeds? What do you feed your chickens, pigs, lamb, goats, or cows? What is your policy on the use of antibiotics or hormones? How much access to the outdoors do your animals have? What’s the best way to stay in contact with you (Facebook, e-mail, website, Instagram)? Aside from buying your products, are there other ways I can support your farm? I LOVE the last two! Below are my thoughts on this topic based on quite a few years of being at the market.

1. Did you grow this? Many farmers markets are “producer only”, which means only the person who grew the product should be selling it. However, more and more market managers are realizing that not all local growers have the time or desire to work a farmers market, so they partner with someone who will be selling at the market. Markets that allow this type of cooperation are being defined as “local only” instead of “producer only”. This means that the product could possibly be grown by a different local grower than the grower at the booth. The benefits of “local only” are the creation of a much greater diversity in the market and the ability to support an entire community of growers. The answer you want to hear is either the farmer you are speaking to grew the produce or else another local grower he personally knows grew it. You don’t want to hear the farmer say he doesn’t know where it came from.

2. Where is the farm located? This allows you to judge if the product is local enough for your criteria. It seems that everyone defines local differently. To me, local means North Carolina, South Carolina, and even parts of Georgia or Virginia. Other people define local as within 100 miles. Some people only want produce from their state. Some people only want produce from their town. There is no right answer. Only you can determine if the farmer’s definition of local matches yours.
3. How do you manage pests? The way the farmer answers this question should give you a good idea of his/her growing practices. If the grower says he/she is pesticide free, your next question should be “How do you grow such beautiful produce with no pesticides?” To see how we manage insects without pesticides on our farm, you can click here. Other possible answers include “We manage pests with only organically approved products”. Your next question should be “what types of organic products do you use?” The reason to ask this question is “organic” doesn’t really mean pesticide free. It means that only organically approved products can be used. Some organically approved products might not be something you want to eat. For instance, copper and sulfur are organically approved products. I don’t want to eat that. Other organically approved products might be more benign, such as beneficial bacteria or plant extracts. You may also have some growers say they are conventional growers. It is important to remember that a non-organic grower doesn’t douse his/her products with chemicals as a rule. Many of these growers live and raise their children on the land they farm, so they have no interest in polluting or spraying dangerous chemicals. Many don’t even have a sprayer. Conventional to them simply means that they are using conventional fertilizer instead of compost. By asking how they manage their pests, you may find out that even your local conventional grower is growing very safe and clean produce.
Now that you know the questions to ask, head to the farmers market! Then eat your veggies,
Robin

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Keeping the Bugs at Bay (2.0)

Cabbage looper chowing down on some broccoli leaves.

Cabbage looper chowing down on some broccoli leaves.

It is important to me to not expose my family, our workers, nor our customers to toxic chemicals. For this reason, people often ask me how we manage insect pests on our farm without chemicals. The answer is pretty simple: we intercrop. We bolster the plant’s natural defenses. We encourage diverse populations of beneficial insects. We use natural products such as extracts, soaps, or natural oils, and if all else fails, we simply do not grow the crop. This year we are going a step further and planting a trap crop! The idea of a trap crop came to us via the Alabama Cooperative Extension, who spoke at the Southeast Fruit and Vegetable Conference. They suggested we plant sunflowers and sorghum near our tomatoes, to “trap” stink bugs and leaf footed bugs. We will be giving it a try this season. It seems that no single method works, but they all work together.
The idea behind a trap crop is that you plant a crop just for the pest insects, in the hopes that they will enjoy your trap crop more than they want your market crop. In the case of tomatoes, stink bugs and leaf footed bugs are two of the biggest pests and cause little yellow marks on the skin, with white marks on the internal flesh. They make the tomatoes unmarketable. This is why we grow cherry and grape tomatoes more than full sized tomatoes. Stink bugs don’t like cherry tomatoes! Next week we will plant sunflowers in the row right next to where we will put the tomatoes. Then in May, we will plant the sorghum to continue the trapping job. According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension, the pollen on sunflowers and sorghum is irresistible to these pests. Hopefully, they like them better than tomatoes!IMG_0025
Insect pests love it when they can find a big expanse of their favorite food. They get right in there and start munching away, having babies, and calling in all their buddies! Just a few caterpillars or mites can quickly turn into a zillion. One of our strategies for managing this is to confuse the pests by mixing up the crops. For example, caterpillars especially love crops in the brassica family, such as kale, broccoli, and cabbage. If you plant them all together in one big field, you will be supplying an all-you-can-eat buffet! To solve this problem, we spread these crops all around the farm. We also try to “hide” them among other crops the pests might not like. For example, we may plant 3 lines of something in the kale or cabbage family (that caterpillars love) and then switch to a few lines of something in a different family, such as lettuce or beets, that isn’t a host for that pest. The hope is that even if a pest gets into one area, it won’t easily move on to other areas.
Additionally, we try to harness the crops’ natural ability to deter pests. When plants perceive the presence of a pest, they spring into action, producing compounds that may taste bad to insects, inhibit their reproduction, or possibly make them sick. These are often phenolic compounds and antioxidants,that may even have a positive impact on human health. Plants also can produce volatile methyl jasmonate, which acts as an attractant to beneficial insects, further helping to manage the bad guys. It has been proven by a graduate student at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College that treating your crop with seaweed extract elicits one of the same pathways within the plant that is responsible for this natural resistance1. Our crops get a good weekly dose of seaweed extract. It helps them grow better, resist pests better and ultimately yield better!
There are other natural products that can also deter insects. Neem oil has been proven to deter many insects, as well as, in some cases, disrupt their life cycle. We often use a bit of that in our seaweed applications. Non-toxic soaps can kill insects because they penetrate the outer shell of soft bodied pests such as aphids or mealy bugs. Natural oils, such as orange oil, can smother insects such as mites, as well as deter insects. Some people use strong smelling botanical oils, such as cinnamon or garlic oil, that they say work well. We have not done that, but I hear good things about it.

Lady Bug
Another great strategy is to ensure there are plenty of beneficial insects around, by planting rows of herbs and flowers, where the beneficials like to live and reproduce. We intentionally leave rows of older crops to “go to flower”, as well as plant new types of flowering crops for this purpose. Keeping those older crops cleaned out can sometimes be a mistake, because it eliminates natural habitat to some of our best friends, beneficial insects. Lady bugs love to live in parsley and cilantro. They don’t harm crops, but they are voracious predators to pests such as aphids. Green lacewings are not only lovely, they also hunt and eat soft bodied insects such as aphids. Other good guys include assassin bugs, minute pirate bugs, big eyed bugs, and even different types of beetles. All these good guys need a home. Without an appropriate habitat, you will have far less beneficials, which means far more pests. Bees that pollenate the crop also need places to hide and forage. They love clusters of flowers and herbs.P1010031
Lastly, if a crop truly has so many enemies that it cannot be grown without applications of chemicals, then we simply choose not to grow it. It probably means the varieties available are not well suited to our environment, and that growing something else is a better idea. Last year, I tried to grow Amaranth. This is a specialty green that grows well in our summer heat. However, it is so prone to flea beetles, there was no way to grow it without being full of holes that ruined the appearance. I probably will not grow that one again. I have found that many types of squash are also in the same category. This last strategy is probably the best advice of all: choose crops that grow well in your area and are mostly care free. Don’t even engage in the war!

Eat your veggies,
Robin
1Extracts of the marine brown macroalga, Ascophyllum nodosum, induce jasmonic acid dependent systemic resistance in Arabidopsis thaliana against Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. Subramanian et. al. European Journal of Plant Pathology, April 2011.

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Spring/Summer CSA Menu Planning

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Our 2017 CSA started April 1st, and our members got beautiful kale, lettuce, spinach, asparagus and beets. Yum! The great thing about CSA membership is getting beautiful, fresh-from-the-local-garden veggies. For new members, the difficult part can be getting produce you are not used to eating/cooking.  Many people eat the same basic 4-5 veggies week after week, regardless of whether they are in season or not. A CSA turns that concept upside down, because each bag contains only what is in season locally, and changes as the seasons change. If you are accustomed to picking up lettuce, tomatoes, and broccoli at the store, getting a big bag of asparagus, spinach, kale, beets, sweet potatoes and onions can present some challenges! Some of you will wonder, how can you eat all that in a week? Well, it may  require some menu adjustments, but we’re here to help!
When you get your produce home, it is a great idea to wash and spin dry (and store in a big zip lock) your leafy veggies. Then, take inventory and make a plan. Here is what I would recommend with the veggies I listed above, and the specific directions are detailed below the list. See our Recipes Page for many more recipes, and see our What to Do with All Those Greens  for lots of ideas for using greens. See our Help Me Get Through this Bag post for even more inspiration! 

-Make a frittata (or egg casserole or quiche) with spinach, onions and herbs. You could even use grated sweet potatoes as the “crust”. 
-Make a breakfast hash with the sweet potatoes, onions, herbs and kale.
-Roast the sweet potatoes, along with some beets for dinner. Roasting “spiralized” sweet potatoes and beets is a fun option too.
-Wrap one or two of the beets up in tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for about 45 minutes. Chill and chop up to top salads.
-Make an arugula (or any lettuce greens), beets and goat cheese salad to go with dinner.
-Roast a chicken with olive oil, garlic and herbs (some sweet potatoes could get roasted with the chicken if you didn’t use them all in #2 or #3).
-Toss the asparagus in olive oil and sea salt. Roast on the grill (or in the oven) with a juicy steak.
-Chop up any leftover asparagus and put it in a pilaf with onions, parsley, slivered almonds, and Gouda cheese.

Details here:
Frittata: Fry out half a pound of bacon or sausage with onions. Add spinach and parsley. Add 5-6 beaten eggs. Top with grated cheese. Bake until set, about 20 min 400 degrees. 
Breakfast hash: Cut sweet potato in small cubes. Rough chop onions. Rough chop kale (stems removed). Chop up your herbs. Fry the cut sweet potatoes and onions in coconut oil (or any other oil you like) until soft. Add the chopped kale and herbs. Serve with a couple of fried eggs on top.
Roasted Root Veggies: Cut root veggies up into similar sized pieces. I like them about 1 inch square. Toss with olive oil and add salt and any herbs or spices you like. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 about 20-30 minutes or until beginning to brown.
Arugula/Beet Salad: Put some arugula in a small bowl or plate. Add sliced or chopped roasted beets. Add a spoonful of yummy goat cheese. Add some walnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Roasted Chicken: Rub an entire chicken (inside and out) with a mixture of olive oil, salt, garlic, and fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, or oregano. Cram a quartered onion in the cavity. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until done (internal temp at 160).
Asparagus and Gouda pilaf: Measure out broth and rice according to rice package directions. Put the broth on to heat in a saucepan. In a separate frying pan sauté onions or leeks in plenty of butter. When translucent, add the dry rice and sauté until beginning to brown. Add the chopped asparagus, chopped parsley, and slivered almonds. Mix well and put the mixture into the pot of simmering broth. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Finish with small chunks of Gouda cheese, sea salt and pepper, and more chopped parsley. Stir well until everything is mixed, melted, and fluffed. Serve as a lovely side dish.

Oh my, we are out of veggies and it has only been three days! What a yummy week of eating.
Eat your veggies,
Robin

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Spring Is Here And So Is The Asparagus!

SFC_asparagus_labeledThis is the earliest I have ever seen asparagus. The warm weather in February warmed up the soil, and the asparagus is already up! The cold hardly mattered. Spring is amazing because, in a matter of weeks, the produce world goes from mostly collard greens, onions, and sweet potatoes, to some of the best produce all year! Our CSA (click the big green “Join Here” button on the top right of this page to join) begins in April, and our members will get fresh spring asparagus, as well as tender spring lettuce, sweet onions, mint, and fresh pesticide-free strawberries. That’s just to mention a few of the great things! Wow, what a plethora of yumminess that all shows up in April!

Here are some things I would do with the fresh spring asparagus. Wrap it in a wet paper towel and microwave it for 2 minutes. Unwrap it, add fresh butter, add seasalt and enjoy the simple fresh flavor of just cut asparagus. Nothing else is like it!
Or try this: buy some mushrooms and green garlic or ramps at the market. Sauté the ramps or green garlic in a good chunk of butter (or ghee), and when soft, add a bunch of chopped mushrooms; when mushrooms are soft, add chopped asparagus. Finish with sea salt.asparagus and mushrooms veronica
This next recipe came from a market Dad: sauté shallots in olive oil or butter. When fragrant, add fresh washed chopped asparagus (with the water from washing still on it), sautee just a few minutes until bright, add a splash of wine vinegar and sea salt. This one really impressed me! It was so so yummy. Then I got creative and combined recipe number two with this one. I added mushrooms to the mix.
You could also try it this way: Spread asparagus on a cookie sheet and toss it with olive oil. Add coarse salt and parmesan cheese. Roast at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until the asparagus is bright green and the cheese is slightly browning. Add a little squeeze of lemon and serve it up.IMG_2504
Or grill it up along with a steak! Toss whole asparagus in olive oil. Throw it on the grill for just a few minutes, after the steak is cooked and it is resting. When the asparagus gets some grill lines on it, it is done. Finish with sea salt, or even a fancy salt like truffle salt. A squeeze of lemon is really great on grilled asparagus also.

Asparagus dinner2

Eat up those lovable veggies in your CSA bag!
Robin

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