Beautiful things are happening at Blue Sky. Before you know it, CSA bags will be back, and your kitchen will be filled with fresh produce.
Last Sunday, Blue Sky Organic Farms hosted an employee and family brunch in our beautiful kitchen and dining area. Some of the featured fare included fresh duck and chicken eggs from our own birds.
The small event was coordinated in conjunction with FeedProjects.com and World Food Day (October 16). Blue Sky employees alone raised enough money for 1,454 meals for the hungry of the world. In total, FeedProjects.com donated 1.6 million meals!
Our man in charge of the brunch was RJ who catered every dish to the guest’s specific taste. “I added pan fried pancetta to coddled eggs and copious amounts of bacon to the frittata,” he said. “Canadian bacon went into the Eggs Benedict, using duck eggs.”
When RJ cooks, he usually starts with a basic recipe and then improvises based on what’s available and after assessing the guests’ likes and dislikes. He said, “I don’t stop until I think things are just right.”
Next year, Blue Sky hopes to make this a much bigger event in order to raise more for World Food Day … and of course, to showcase the talents of our chef!
Water is a necessary component to farming, yes, but what happens when you get too much? We’ve had an incredibly active monsoon season in the Valley of the Sun this year. Monsoon season officially ended Tuesday, September 30, but it has been recorded as the seventh wettest in history—thanks in particular to two massive storms that drowned Phoenix in recent weeks.
We live in a desert, so you must wonder: how could rain be a bad thing? Well, there are several reasons:
- Too much rain can crush the beds the plants are in. Rain, in large quantities, erodes the fields and flattens beds. Plants can literally be pulled out of the ground, especially if the plants are new and without an established root.
- Too much rain causes flooding, which means tractors cannot safely travel down field furrows (the areas where the tires go). Tractors can’t be used at all, because the added weight compacts the furrows and creates divots—which, in the future, can cause plants to be ripped from their beds.
- Heavy rain (monsoon rain) causes soil compaction on top of the beds. New seeds that have yet to germinate will then have trouble getting through to the top layer of the bed. In certain cases, new seeds never have the chance to see the sun!
- Flooding can cause anaerobic conditions (lacking in oxygen) around the root balls of established plants, which causes pathogens to thrive and can make plants sick.
- Plants needs nitrogen, and although the air is 79% nitrogen, plants can’t use it in that form. They get nitrogen through the ground, but too much rain causes leaching in which water-soluble plant nutrients from the soil are washed away.
All of these different components can push back the harvest date, which means the farm loses money. These conditions also impact the crop yields, which again impacts Blue Sky’s bottom line. Some plants might not perform as well as they should.
This isn’t just an Arizona thing. Too much rain can cause havoc on farms nationwide. Such a surprise: Who would have guessed water could be bad? A light, gentle rain is good, but monsoons can ruin farms. Despite this wild weather, Blue Sky customers are not to worry! We’re doing our best to be ready for the fall season start of November 1st, so your CSAs will be ready, fresh, and delicious.
We’ll do whatever it takes to keep our chickens healthy at Blue Sky. You’ll never believe what happened last week to the chicken we now call “Matilda.”
Michelle told the following story: “When I was doing my afternoon rounds in the chicken yard, I saw a Barred Rock hen having a hard time standing up on her own. She appeared extremely fatigued. I immediately took her out and isolated her to observe her behavior and condition. I have been working with chickens for a while, and have unfortunately seen many pass.
“With my gained knowledge of chicken health (from working at Blue Sky) I concluded she wouldn’t live another day. Within two hours after I found her, she could no longer stand, drink, or eat on her own. She had labored breathing, a rattle in her lungs, and did not respond to outside stimuli. I made her as comfortable as possible and left her to sleep in the office.”
The story could end here, badly, but miraculously, the chicken continued to fight for life. She lasted through the night and into the following morning when the rest of the staff arrived. Sara has been a long time supporter of the ancient usage of acupuncture as a form of medical treatment, in which the body heals itself. Each of her dogs gets acupuncture for different sets of symptoms, and the process is tailored to each one. Luckily, the day of Matilda’s illness, Dr. Scott was on site treating the pups. The farm staff decided: why not try the same treatment on the ailing hen?
Matilda was an excellent patient. Dr. Scott used several needles and placed them at various places along the bird’s wing line, both sides of her neck, and at the back of her knees. Matilda sat still for the entire process, even as the pins were removed and Dr. Scott headed to the next animal in need.
Matilda got better each day after her treatment. She stayed at Michelle’s house at night for about 5 days, but during the day, Michelle brought the hen to the farm where Matilda would spend some time in the office and some of the day outside getting fresh air. On the sixth night, Matilda was healthy enough to go back into the coops with the flock.
Michelle said, “We are amazed at how far she came from what seemed like a hopeless state!”
Walking into the Blue Sky greenhouse feels like walking on a beach in Florida, but it smells like a forest after rain. Built over the summer, from May to July, the greenhouse is now fully functional and has become a huge part of the organic farm-to-table process.
This time of year in Arizona is too hot for putting seed into the ground. In years past, Blue Sky has sent seed to a nursery in California where they started the plants and them shipped them back once the desert cooled down. That way, plants are four to six weeks old when they go into the ground, making us that much further ahead.
Although this has been a successful process over the years, the plants can get stressed out on the long trip from California. Having a greenhouse on site allows us to keep an eye on our plants from germination to harvest, ensuring a high quality product for our customers. (Plus, most nurseries don’t use compost in their tray mixes, but we do. We want to get a healthier plant right off the bat.)
The greenhouse was also built so we could grow delicate items like cucumbers, tomatoes, and basil that might not make it through the colder Arizona months. We are experimenting with greenhouse growing. There’s always something new to learn on the farm!
Farmer Jake spends at least an hour or two in the greenhouse every day. Although we do have an automatic water system, Jake makes sure each tiny plant gets adequate hydration. He keeps an eye out for diseased plants and fertilizes with micronutrients at least once a week.
We’re thrilled to add “Greenhouse Guardians” to our repertoire!
I am still getting a ton of questions about our CSA and CSAs in general; here is a brief outline of what it is…
Please feel free to call me or email me with any questions you may have ~Rj
WHAT IS A CSA?
CSA Stands for Community Supported Agriculture
Blue Sky Organic Farms CSA allows valley residents to have direct access to high quality, fresh, organic produce grown right here in the valley on the oldest certified organic farm.
CSA members pay for a full season or half season of produce, at a discounted rate, upfront. This early bulk payment enables us to plan for the season, purchase seed, equipment repairs and much more. (We have added a weekly bank account deduction option this year as well)
Our Full shares include enough produce for a family of 2-3 people, and our half shares are perfect for smaller households or busy families who frequently eat out.
One of the many improvements this season is that for a few extra dollars a week, in addition to your vegetables, you can add more produce, bread, eggs, and other items from the store to your box. Later in the season we should also have the options for you to add fruit, meat, and even flowers to your order.
If you follow our blog, every week I provide you with several new recipes to prepare with your CSA share for the week
Please check out the CSA page of our website and sign-up today!
Again if you have any question please call Rj at 623-266-4031 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are in the process of scheduling classes for the upcoming season…
Here is a short list of what we are planning so far, if there are other subjects you would like us to cover please let us know! If you are interested in teaching classes please let us know as well. We want the farm kitchen to become a place for like minded people to gather and share information, ideas and passions!
We are also interested in when you would like theses classes to occur… during the day while the kids are in school, afterwork, weekends?
(12, 2, 5, 6 etc… )
Please call me at 623.266.4031 or e-mail me at email@example.com
One Dish Meals
Cooking with Greens
Using Herbs and Spices
Canning and Preserving
I have been getting a ton of question of late regarding what I do with our duck eggs and from people just looking for new ideas. Duck eggs are getting more and more popular everyday and there is a ton of info out there on the internet, but as I always say stick with websites and blogs you trust, these days anyone with a computer and a stove has a cooking blog. Duck eggs are great for frying, amazing for baking and will help you create the richest custard you have ever had. Also if you are doing the gluten free thing nothing better for helping to hold ingredients together than a duck egg. Here are some great recipes from around the web… enjoy ~Rj
Great Duck eggs dishes:
Raw duck yolks are thick, rich, and custardy. Many pastry chefs feel that because of that the duck eggs are superior when making cream and custard fillings. They tend to be higher in albumen and fat than a chicken egg. This means that your baked goods will have a richer texture, stay moist longer, and rise higher than you ever imagined.
Here’s a tip – when baking gluten free use duck eggs. The added protein in the whites will help bind the gluten free ingredients better and cause the texture to be lighter, fluffier, and more like wheat based cakes and other baked goods.
Things to Keep in Mind
A duck egg is heavier and larger than a hen’s egg and therefore needs more cooking time. Duck eggs are also more suitable for certain recipes than other egg types because they have a richer taste and a higher fat content in the yolk. And while duck eggs work well in baked products where they are thoroughly cooked, they may have a ‘rubbery’ texture when hard boiled, scrambled or thoroughly fried. But because duck eggs must be fully cooked so that both the yolk and white are solid (to avoid possible Salmonella infection), it is essential only to use them in dishes that can be thoroughly cooked. And while the temptation is great, don’t taste (or let your children taste) raw baking mixes or lick spoons!
You should not assume that lightly poached or lightly cooked duck eggs are safe to eat. Duck eggs are also not suitable as ingredients for lightly cooked recipes like tiramisu, icing, homemade mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce. What also sets duck eggs apart is that their shells are harder than those of hen’s eggs. Any dirt, ‘tint’ or staining on the shell could well get into the cooking with the egg, so it’s essential that the finished dish is fully cooked through. And it’s just as important to remember that your hands should be thoroughly washed with warm water and soap and dried completely before you touch any other food or utensils.
Here is a run down of the melons we are growing this season… Several of these specialty melons will only be available to our Farm store and Farmers market customers on a limited basis.
Yellow Honeydew Melons
Yellow honeydew melons have yellow /gold skin and green flesh, and have less sugar than the white honeydew making them ideal for savoury cooking.
Honey Dew Melons will not ripen further after picking, and should be stored at room temperature until cut – then covered and stored in the fridge.
Honeydew melons are a good source of vitamin C, B6, Folate and potassium.
Store honeydew melons in the fridge and they will last 3 to 4 days longer. Cover the cut surfaces of the melons to prevent them drying out or deteriorating.
Honeydew melons are great in salads, desserts and there are many recipes available online to inspire you.
White Honeydew Melons
White honeydew melons are the sweeter variety and have smooth white skin with a pale to medium green coloured sweet flesh. In Australia they are available all year round.
Honey Dew Melons will not ripen further after picking, and should be stored at room temperature until cut – then covered and stored in the fridge.
Honeydew melons are a good source of vitamin C, B6, Folate and potassium.
Snow Leopard Melons
Snow leopard melons have such a pretty and unusual variegated exterior, but for all their showy green on creamy white patterns, they are, simply, a delicious petite honeydew variety. They’re sweet but the white flesh has a firmer texture than a regular green-flesh honeydew. I think they’re lovely eaten simply with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, wrapped with prosciutto, or on a fruit salad skewer.
The sweetest French melon: Unsurpassed eating quality. The small, 2 lb. melons are of the classic Charentais type: faintly ribbed, with a smooth gray-green rind and dark green sutures. Sweet and aromatic, deep orange flesh.
The Arava melon is the name of a variety of Galia melons. Other common marketing names are Middle Eastern melon, Passport, Mediterranean or Israeli melons. Galia melons are a hybrid melon and member of the Cucurbitaceae family, a wide ranging important food plant family of traveling vines, including cucumbers, pumpkins and squashes.
Arava melons are distinguished by their textured thin netted pale cornflower gold rind and their high sugar content. The pale glacial green flesh is perfumed with tropical fruit and floral aromatics, its texture tender firm and extremely juicy. When perfectly ripe the fruit’s flesh produces juice with a nectarous consistency which contributes to its sweet tropical flavors. The fruit bears a small loose central seed cavity. The average weight of the melons are two to four pounds. Arava melons will continue to ripen when removed from the plant and because of their intense aromatics, will permeate neighboring foods.
Diplomat is an excellent flavoured Galia melon with sweet aromatic green flesh. Galia melons are much more juicy and flavoursome than honeydews. Galia melons are ripe when the skin becomes yellowish and the fruit gives off an aromatic fragrance.
San Juan Canary
The Canary melon is a non-netted Casaba type variety also known as Spanish melon, Juan Canary, Jaune des Canaries and Amarillo.
The Canary melon is oval-shaped, with a smooth skin. When the melon is ripe, its hard rind turns bright yellow, it develops a corrugated look and a slightly waxy feel and its flesh will be pale ivory in color. The texture of the flesh is notably succulent, almost wet and semi firm, similar to a ripe pear. Within the flesh, the fruit bears a dry salmon-orange seed cavity. The melon possesses flavors both tangy and mildly sweet. Its aromatics linger with nuances of banana and pineapple and a slightly musky finish.
a large, bright-yellow melon with a pale green to white inner flesh. This melon has a distinctively sweet flavor that is slightly tangier than a honeydew melon. The flesh looks like that of a pear but is softer and tastes a little like a cantaloupe. When ripe, the rind has a slightly waxy feel. The name comes from its bright yellow color, which resembles that of the canary. This melon is often marketed as the Juan Canary melon or “variety melons
Asian ‘Sun Jewel’
Sun Jewel is a Korean bred melon producing long, oblong, yellow skinned fruits which have a sweet, crisp, white flesh.
Lemon yellow with shallow white sutures, the Sun Jewels (Cucumis melo)
closely related to the squash family. In taste, the Sun Jewel falls
into its own category, tasting neither like neither cantaloupe nor
musk, but has its own sweet and subtle flavor.
The Sun Jewel’s delicate flavor brings up many definitions.
“I normally describe them as an Asian melon, because while they get sweeter with time they stay crisp like
an Asian pear (vs. a regular pear). “As the Sun Jewels age
the rind will split on the outside, ideal time to eat them is when
there are numerous small splits down the rind.” That being said you needn’t wait – they are delicious now.
This melon is rich in Vitamin C & A, so enjoy
this healthy, flavorful treat at breakfast or as an afternoon snack.
Cut up Sun Jewels into a fruit salad or try a tropical melon soup by
puréeing one with coconut milk.
A truly flavorful Cantaloupe is quite special for those of us who are Melon Lovers. The fruit is simply impressive! The firm, yet smoothly textured flesh was juicy and exquisitely sweet. That rich flavor will make you want to eat more and more.
Tuscan-style Cantaloupes can be identified by their deep, green colored ribs between straw colored netted skin. The rind of this melon variety is thin and the seed cavity is tight – giving you lots of melon flesh for the money. These are not cheapest Cantaloupes, but are some of the best for snacking, salads, desserts and appetizers. The fruit will be sweet and ready to cut as soon as you buy it, but you can condition it to your liking.
Here are the stages of ripening for Tuscan-style Cantaloupes:
- Dark green ribs = sweet.
- Light green ribs = very sweet.
- Straw colored webbing + fragrant aroma + almost no green ribs = Full-flavor, extra juicy sweetness.
Lilly Crenshaw Melon
A Crenshaw melon is a hybrid melon with very sweet, juicy orange flesh. Crenshaws are among the sweetest of melons. When ripe, Crenshaw melons are roughly ovoid, with a greenish-yellow, slightly ribbed skin. Inside, the melons are a rich salmon pink, with a large seeded area in the center portion of the melon. Keep the melon under refrigeration for up to three days before using.
The melons were bred by crossing casaba melons with Persian melons, also sometimes called muskmelons. The favorable traits of both melon varieties successfully manifested in the cross breed, and it quickly became one of the more popular melons on the market. The melons can be eaten plain as a snack food, mixed in with fruit salads, or wrapped in prosciutto for a twist on the classic prosciutto wrapped melon appetizer. Crenshaw melon sorbet is also a great summer treat, and some people like to pickle slightly green Crenshaws to eat year-round.
ENJOY THE SEASON… Share with us what you like to do with these juicy bombs of flavor!
First off I would like to thank everyone that braved the heat to spend some time with us at our last Open Farm Day of the year. We have had a blast this season sharing or farm with all of you, and we cannot tell you how much it means to us that you come out every month and bring friends and family to share our little farm with them as well. We have big plans for next season to make farm day an even more exciting, family friendly and educational experience for everyone. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any ideas you may have to make the day even better.
Next I want to say how thrilled I was that everyone loved the food, and to think I didn’t use any meat or pork fat (didn’t know I had it in me)
Here are the recipes as I remember them, you know I just start throwing stuff in a pan… never quite sure whats gonna happen.
So look these over and put your spin on them, add the flavors of summer that you love. Try adding cilantro, flour tortillas, different peppers, different squash, stew your tomatoes first, different onions, different cheeses etc… Things as easy as chopping the onion or slicing the onion, chopping the zucchini into cubes or slices all change the dish, textures and surface area when your cooking with vegetables make significant changes to a dish. So as I always say “… start playing with your food again…”
Thank you all,
Rj’s Rip on Calabacitas con Elote
|2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound zucchini, sliced
3 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
1 fresh poblano chile pepper – seeded,
deveined, and chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese
|1.||Place the corn in a saucepan with enough water to cover; bring to a boil. Place a cover on the saucepan, reduce heat to medium, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.|
|2.||Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; cook and stir the onion and garlic in the hot oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Mix the zucchini and tomato into the onion and garlic; cook together 5 minutes. Stir the corn kernels into the mixture; add the poblano pepper. Season with salt and pepper; stir. Cover the skillet with a lid and cook until the zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the cotija cheese to serve.|
|1 tablespoon Olive oil1/2 small white onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 (14 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
salt to taste
1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese
|1.||Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat; cook the onion and garlic in the hot oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini slices and stewed tomatoes and stir gently. Cover and cook until the zucchini is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt, and add the Cheddar cheese; allow to sit until the cheese has melted.|