2016 Austin Area Farm Share CSA with Home Delivery

Blessing Falls LLC grows natural, safe, healthy vegetables and fruit using organic methods and practices and delivers the harvest throughout the greater Austin area. Our family farm was established in 2010, each year adding more garden space and different varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, berries, and animals. For 2016 we’ve enhanced our garden soil with several truckloads of compost and we hope to have plenty of harvest to share with the greater Austin area. Partner with us and enjoy the health and taste of natural produce in your weekly farm share conveniently delivered to your home or workplace. Grass fed beef and pasture-raised eggs from organically fed hens are also available with your weekly order.

“Community Supported Agriculture”, or CSA, means farmers and supporters partnering together for the sake of healthy, nutritious food. Supporters join as members, paying the farm expenses early in the season when costs are highest. As the crops mature, all members enjoy sharing in the harvest. This community of farmer and members benefits everyone – costs and risks are shared and none of the harvest is wasted but goes directly to waiting members as soon as it’s harvested. You may think of it as a subscription to fresh, natural food. Costs are paid early and the bounty is enjoyed every week. Click here to join our CSA now or continue reading for all the details.

Season Schedules

In the greater Austin area throughout 2016 we plan 3 seasons:
Spring: 10 weeks March 28 – June 4
Summer: 10 weeks June 6 – August 13
Fall: 10 weeks September 12 – November 19

Note there is a 4 week break between Summer and Fall. By late July, we’ll have an idea of what harvest is available during this hottest part of summer and hope to offer 2016 CSA members a ‘mini-season’ during this period.

We’re planning a Winter season past November 19 and will have details on that during the Fall. It’s our intention to offer weekly shares year-round throughout winter and early spring in 2016/2017.

Weekly Shares

Members decide if they want a full share or just a half. The full share works well for 3 to 6 adults/teens, while the half share works best for couples and families with only young children. To give you an idea, here are four full shares from our CSA last year…

CSA Full shares from 2015, clockwise from upper left - Spring, Summer, Early Fall, Late Fall

CSA Full shares from 2015, top: Spring, Summer; bottom: Early Fall, Late Fall

For more examples, see our 2015 “CSA at a Glance” showing shares from every week of harvest.  Note these are all Full size shares, with Half size shares generally having half as much produce each week.

The harvest varies throughout each season. Here’s what we’re planning this year:

Spring: asparagus, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, radish, Chinese cabbage, micro greens, sunflower sprouts, red and green cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, mizuna, spinach, carrots, turnips, cilantro, peas, beets, onions, dill, cucumbers, yellow squash, blackberries, tomatoes, garlic, zucchini, green beans, blackberries
Summer: onions, dill, cucumbers, Swiss chard, Malabar spinach, yellow squash, tomatoes, garlic, cabbage, zucchini, green beans, cantaloupe, jalapeños, Italian peppers, basil, various squash varieties (spaghetti, lemon, scallop, acorn), eggplant, watermelon, sweet corn, pears, black eyed peas, okra, bell peppers, Thai peppers, sweet potato leaves, butternut squash,
Fall: pumpkins, several varieties of summer and winter squashes, dill, tomatoes, eggplant, beans, sweet peppers, jalapeños, popcorn, okra, melons, Chinese cabbage, lettuce mix, mizuna, sweet potatoes and sweet potato leaves, radishes, greens, cucumbers.

Delivery/Pickup

We’ll deliver your weekly share to your home or workplace in the greater Austin area – From Downtown Austin to Georgetown; Westlake to Elgin; Taylor to Liberty Hill and points between we’ve got you covered. This year we’re expanding deliveries to include Killeen and Harker Heights.  No need to meet us at a specific time and you do not need to be home. If you won’t be home or don’t want to be interrupted just leave an ice chest and we’ll deliver your produce between noon and 5:00pm on your scheduled day. If you’d prefer to pick up your share, Svantes Restaurant is partnering with us as a pick-up location where you can pick up from 4pm until 10pm Wednesdays or Saturdays. Corrective Chiropractic on Bee Cave Rd near 71W hosts a Wednesday afternoon pick-up.  You can also pick up at the farm or Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Most items you’ll receive will have been harvested within the previous 24 hours. Some are harvested the same morning we deliver so your share is as fresh as possible.

Cost

No price increase from 2015 – our costs are the same as last year.  Weekly cost for a full share is $36 and a half share is $24. Home/workplace delivery is $4 per week and there’s no charge for picking up at any of the regular sites. We offer discounts when you sign up for more than one season and also for early payment. You can mail us your check or go online and pay with your PayPal account or any credit card.
We offer substantial ‘early bird’ discounts for those who sign up well before the Spring and help with our pre-season expenses – up to $100 off for those who join and pay by February 15.  The CSA sign up page is updated weekly to reflect the remaining weeks in the season and available discounts.

Ready to Join Us?

Simply fill out this form and we’ll get right back to you with a confirmation and details on how to make your payment.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Where exactly can you deliver?
The map shows our general delivery area – click here for a detailed interactive map. The north (green) section shows Wednesday deliveries, the south (blue) shows Saturday’s routes.  Areas include:
Austin – downtown, Riverside, Rollingwood, South Congress, UT, Hyde Park, Tarrytown, Mueller, Allandale, etc.
Westlake, Aboretum, Domain, Wells Branch, Anderson Mill
Pflugerville, Hutto, Coupland, Taylor, Thrall
Manor, Elgin
Round Rock, Georgetown
Cedar Park, Leander, Liberty Hill
Lakeway, Bee Cave
– Free pick-up near 71w & Bee Cave Rd, at Corrective Chiropractic
Killeen, Harker Heights (not shown on the map – these are Wednesday)
Areas on the map are approximate – if you’re near these, contact us and we’ll probably be able to work something out.

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2016 Austin CSA Delivery Areas – Blessing Falls Farm – click for detail

Our current pick up sites are the farm (located between Thrall and Elgin), Svantes restaurant in downtown Round Rock, Corrective Chiropractic on Bee Cave Rd, and Redeemer Presbyterian Church near the UT campus. More may be added depending on the locations and schedules of members who join.

Am I guaranteed plenty of produce each week? What if crops fail?
Our goal is to deliver an abundance each week, so that you have plenty and even some left to share with friends and neighbors. However, the harvest can vary according to weather, insect pressure, etc. It could even fail due to a hailstorm or other uncontrollable events. In our 6 year history we have not experienced a large crop failure but it’s always possible. If the harvest is low on a given week, it will usually bounce back the next. A cold front or storms can affect the harvest but it usually comes back strong. If harvest lags significantly, we’ll supplement shares with healthy, safe, natural produce we’ll buy from other local farmers we know and trust. If we were to have a ruinous failure affecting the whole season such that we are unable to continue harvesting, we will credit your undelivered shares toward the next season.

Can I pick and choose what I receive in my weekly share?
Members do not choose specific varieties for their share but will receive an assortment of whatever is ripe for harvest during the week. We’ll make sure you have enough of a particular variety so you can prepare a whole dish with it. We focus on growing the usual, typical, mainstay vegetables and also some that may be unfamiliar. We publish recipe ideas each week and have more ideas from previous seasons. We trust you’ll enjoy the adventure of trying a few new things each season. In the rare event that you receive something you don’t like or can’t use, please share those with friends.

What other farm products are available?
We have farm eggs and grass fed beef that you can add to your weekly produce share. We offer baked goods and honey on some weeks and are planning to raise holiday turkeys to be ready in November. Our members will be notified when these extra items are available. Simply mail your payment, pay online, or leave it with your delivery cooler to cover the cost and we’ll deliver these when we bring your weekly share.

Can I visit the farm?
Certainly! As a valued member and partner you are welcome to come see your produce as it grows, along with the farm cattle, chickens, and turkeys. The 2nd Tuesday morning of every month we are open for members to come out and help with weeding, planting, and general garden chores – or just watch and learn if you prefer. You’re welcome on other days too – just contact us first so we can be sure we’re on the farm that day. You can always come pick up your share at the farm Wednesdays at 1pm, even if you are normally receiving deliveries, and have a look around while you’re here.

What if I’m not home to receive my delivery?
20150122_184519_resizedSimply leave an ice chest near your front door or some other designated shady spot. A medium sized 48 quart chest with a couple freezer packs or frozen water bottles will hold a full share, eggs, and beef and keep it cool all afternoon and possibly even overnight.

If I am out of town for a week, can I skip my delivery or pickup?
Since the produce harvest keeps coming and cannot be stored more than several days, we cannot skip or defer CSA produce shares. We will gladly deliver your share to an alternative address within our delivery area. Your share could be a welcome gift to a local friend or you could have them pay you for it. We can also donate your produce share to a community food pantry.
Since eggs and beef are more easily stored and preserved, we can defer delivery of these. For example, if your weekly order includes a full share of produce, 2 dozen eggs, and 2 pounds ground beef then we could deliver the produce to a friend and keep the eggs and beef. When you return the following week you’d get 4 dozen eggs and 4 pounds of ground beef. So you would not lose any eggs or beef you’ve paid for. Of course, you can have us deliver the eggs and beef to your friend – your choice.

How do members and the farm stay in touch?
In addition to the farm website and Facebook page, we’ll email our members weekly reminders. The email will remind you of your day of delivery and give more details on the items in that week’s share. To contact us you can simply reply to these emails or contact us through the website or call the phone number we make available to all our members.

More questions? Just let us know. When you’re ready to join us, simply fill out this form and we’ll get right back to you with a confirmation and details on how to make your payment.

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2016 CSA Coming Soon

2016 CSA details will be posted soon!

2016 CSA details have been published!

Thanks!

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2016 Garden Officially Begins!

While field preparation is ongoing and one season overlaps the next with the planting of cover crops, soil tests, and so on, the season is kicked off by planting the crop.  We start many of our vegetables in a greenhouse.  About 6 weeks later, the small plants are planted in the main garden.  The first step in the planting is preparing the soil mix for starting seeds.

There are many good start mixes you can buy, such as Jiffy Seed Start Mix.  We’re starting about 3500 plants total for 2016.  This will require about 85 trays of plants.  Each tray uses about 1 gallon of starter mix.  So we’ll need 85 gallons of mix, or about 11 cubic feet. Making our own seed start mix saves money and allows us to add special ingredients unique to our farm.

Our seed start mix is 3 parts peat moss, 1 part plain compost, 1 part native forest floor soil, plus a light sprinkling of soft rock phosphate.  The forest soil is the secret ingredient.  We get it beneath the large hardwood trees that grow native on the farm.  Think about it – these trees have grown successfully for generations in the same conditions our garden will face.  They drop leaves every year which contain the minerals the trees have taken up from deep within the soil.  These leaves decompose and form a rich home for various fungi, soil microbes, worms, etc.  Mixing a little of this soil into our seed start mix adds these minerals and other wonders of the soil to our garden.  Over the years, our garden soil should become more like the surrounding forest – which has grown fine, withstood pests, and stayed healthy for centuries with no one intervening.

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1) Main Ingredients – Peat Moss and Compost. I don’t recommend this brand of compost. It was very clodded so had to be screened before using.

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2) Mix peat and compost, lightly sprinkle with soft rock phosphate. Bone meal is a good substitute.

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3) Forest soil, screened with hardware cloth

4) Mix all in large wheel barrow

4) Mix all in large wheel barrow

Now we’re ready to plant.  Here are the first seeds just arrived for 2016.  Other varieties are on the way.

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The Market Gardener – Book Review

Having farmed on a small scale for over 5 years, I recommend The Market Gardener as the best book for beginning gardeners and farmers. Even if you only have a backyard garden, you’ll learn so much from experienced farmer and author Jean-Martin Fortier.  You’ll be inspired and encouraged when you see how much you can grow in a small garden. If you’ve been gardening a while, this book will give you many new ideas and help set a direction for excellence. If you love to garden but lament that it could never be a full time occupation, this is the book for you. A couple on just over an acre, with some part time help can make a comfortable income with these methods. It won’t be easy or immediate but it’s definitely possible.

This book explains the whole process – finding a market for your produce, selecting and preparing your site, minimizing costs, fertilizing, dealing with pest and weeds, harvesting, storage, and so on. We will adopt the book’s methods little by little over the seasons. You can do the same. Even starting with a small plot and hand tools, you can plan your way forward to more production, better soil, more nutritious produce, and a larger market. The world needs many more local, sustainable, profitable small farms and this book will be a great help to anyone interested in the field.  Our farm received a free review copy of the book from the publisher.  So impressed with the book, we bought another copy to give to a young, aspiring farmer who helps with our market garden.

More details and reviews on The Market Gardener

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2015 CSA Season Review

Here’s the “year at a glance” of the 34 weeks of the 2015 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program we recently completed.  We had three seasons – 12 weeks of Spring, 10 weeks of Summer, 12 weeks of Fall.  Click on any photo for a better look.  Click here for more details week-by-week .

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Thanksgiving Turkey Preparation – Smoke, Roast, Bake

This heritage turkey, hatched and raised on our farm, weighed just over 11 pounds after cleaning.  The turkey was wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator for a day before we started the preparation process.  Many will soak turkey in a brine for 24 hours.  We decided to rub the bird with moderate amounts of kosher salt and leave it unwrapped in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day we set it on the counter several hours before cooking, so it could come up toward room temperature.  We then lightly basted it with vegetable oil and rubbed in a mixture of 1/3 Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, 1/3 Adam’s Dry Rub, 1/6 kosher salt, 1/6 black pepper.  Again, moderate amounts, not caked on, applied just 30 minutes before going on the smoker.  For our 11 pound turkey, we used 6 teaspoons total of the rub mix.  We stuffed it about half full with quartered onion, apple, and some garlic.

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Next day, rub with kosher salt 24 hours before smoking. The salt will dry the skin and make the coloring irregular. This is normal – it will still be very tender and moist after smoking and roasting.

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Day of smoking, rub with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, Adam’s Dry Rub, Black Pepper and a little more Kosher salt. Moderate amounts of seasoning, you can see the bird is not coated heavily. Stuff with quartered large onion, apple, and 10 segments of garlic. Leave room in cavity for air. Note the darker color on the drumstick – this is from the 24 hours of salting and is completely normal.

Before applying the rub, start the fire in your smoker.  We use post oak in the offset fire box, letting it burn down to white coals which should give you a grill temperature of around 250 degrees.  After the bird is on the grill, baste it lightly again with vegetable oil.  As it smokes, watch the temperature and add wood when the temperature gets to 200.  That should get it back up to around 250.  Our temp fluctuated within this range, as we added wood every 15 minutes or so.  The changing temperature was OK, as the bird turned out golden brown, juicy, and very tender yet not mushy.

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The smoker is at 300, with fire in the offset firebox. Temp will drop to 240 when bird is put on. Will keep it between 200 and 250 for 2 hours, only opening the lid if the temp gets near 300 to let some heat out.

Here’s the result 2 hours later.  The internal temperature was 135.  We put it in a roasting pan and covered with foil and baked it in the kitchen oven, 325 degrees.

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After 2 hours on the smoker, a perfect golden brown

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After 2 hours on the smoker, stuffing has cooked down some.

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In the roasting pan, just before going to the oven.

 

After 90 minutes in the oven, the internal temperature was 155.  We left the thermometer in and put the bird back in the oven.  About 20 minutes later, it reached 165 we turned off the oven.  After another 20 minutes we took it out, checked the temp in various places and found it at 170.  (165 is the USDA recommended minimum internal temperature.)

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Fully smoked and roasted, ready to carve

An electric knife works great for carving.  Started with the thigh/leg, moved to the breast. This was plenty for our meal.   After the meal, we took the time to get the rest of the meat from harder to reach places.  This turkey fed 14 adults and teens with plenty for another 6 to 8 meals as leftovers.  That works out to 1/2 pound of turkey per adult meal.  We saved all the bones for making bone broth the next day.

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Thigh and leg dark meat. Very tender, great flavor, so juicy!

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Adding white meat breast to the collection. Also very tender, juicy, not dry. Best I’ve ever had.

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On the table along with sweet potatoes from the farm.

A great experience and meal.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s a video on carving your turkey.  If your turkey is as dry as the one in the video, it’s not a heritage turkey from Blessing Falls Farm!

 

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Austin Fall CSA – Week 12

This is the final week of our CSA program for 2015.  We’ve had continuous harvests and deliveries for 34 straight weeks!  With Austin area nightly temperatures forecast in the low 40’s we know the harvest will slow dramatically.  Most of the harvest will end with freezing temperatures typical to early December, though we expect some of the greens will continue for a while past that.

Planting Garlic at Blessing Falls Family Farm

Planting Garlic at Blessing Falls Family Farm

We’re still at work preparing fields for spring planting, planning/ordering seeds, and getting organized to start seeds in the greenhouse in early January.  This week the field dried out enough to plant garlic.  Late due to the heavy rains that kept the tractor out of the field the last several weeks, but we should still have a good garlic harvest next June.

Thanks again to all our CSA members – spring, summer, fall – who supported us this year.  It’s been a delight to work for you and with you.  Your encouragement, comments, and financial investments helped us improve our quality and quantity of produce this year.  We’re excited about next year and we hope to continue to improve the farm and continue to serve you and new members.  We will soon announce details of our CSA program for 2016, along with opportunities for members to join early at a discount, so stay tuned for that.  Please sign up for our newsletter if you’re not already a subscriber and you’ll get all the news and updates every few weeks as we announce plans.

Here’s our expected harvest this week:

Full share: Cucumbers, Squash, Basil, Beans or Eggplant, Chard, Winter squash, Broccoli, Spaghetti squash, Kale, Mizuna, Sweet potatoes (double portion), 2 lbs. Green tomatoes

Half share: Cucumbers, Squash, Basil, Broccoli, Spaghetti squash, Kale, Mizuna, Sweet potatoes

Mid-Season share: Cucumbers, Squash, Basil, Chard, Winter squash, Broccoli, Spaghetti squash, Kale, Mizuna, Sweet potatoes, 2 lbs. Green tomatoes

Broccoli and Spaghetti Squash are from our friends at Bernhardt’s farm.  Sweet potatoes and Green Tomatoes are from our friends at Skinny Lane Farm.

Fall CSA - Week12 Share at Blessing falls Farm

Fall CSA – Week12 Share at Blessing falls Farm

Here’s a recipe for Baked Sweet Potato with Swiss Chard.

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Austin Fall CSA – Week 11

As the end of the Fall CSA season nears, some of the varieties we had way back in early spring make an encore appearance.  Chinese Cabbage and Swiss Chard are back in season.  These are not the same plants from spring – those did not survive the blazing summer.  These are new plants that we started in the greenhouse back in August, transplanted in September/October and are now ready for your family table.  The mild fall weather is similar to early April, when our Spring CSA harvest began.  The days will soon turn colder and the hours of daylight continue to decrease, meaning the harvest will soon end.  Until then, enjoy the fresh greens and other mild-weather loving varieties.

Here’s this week’s expected harvest:

Full Share: Kale , Mizuna, 2 Spaghetti squash, Romanesco greens, Cucumbers and/or Summer Squash, Chinese cabbage, Swiss chard, 2 lbs. Green Tomatoes*, Beans or Eggplant, Winter Squash or Pumpkin

Half Share: Kale(double portion), Mizuna, Spaghetti squash, Romanesco greens, Cucumbers and/or Summer Squash, Chinese cabbage

Mid-Season Share:  Kale(double portion), Mizuna, Spaghetti squash, Romanesco greens, Cucumbers and/or Summer Squash, Chinese cabbage, Swiss chard, 2 lbs. Green Tomatoes*, Pumpkin

*You can use the green tomatoes in recipes or set them on the counter/window sill and they will eventually ripen.  It may take a few weeks and they won’t be as flavorful as summer tomatoes, but should still be a lot better than grocery store tomatoes in winter.

Some of the produce this week comes from our friends at Bernhardt’s Farm and Skinny Lane Farm, both in Elgin.

Blessing Falls Farm - Fall CSA Season Farm Share, week 11.  Clockwise from top left: Romanesco greens, rainbow chard, Mizuna, Portuguese kale, curly kale, green tomatoes, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, scallop squash, beans, Chinese cabbage, pie pumpkin

Blessing Falls Farm – Fall CSA Season Farm Share, week 11. Clockwise from top left: Romanesco greens, rainbow chard, Mizuna, Portuguese kale, curly kale, green tomatoes, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, scallop squash, beans, Chinese cabbage, pie pumpkin

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The Lean Farm – Book Review

Author Ben Hartman applies modern manufacturing benchmarking and efficiency methodology to small farms. Written in a warm, friendly style, The Lean Farm is neither a boring textbook on efficiency and waste nor a rambling tale of personal anecdotes. It’s an encouraging guide to turning a hobby or break-even family farm into a sustainable, profitable, enjoyable business. Hartman’s goal is not sterile “factory” farms but productive farms where waste is minimized and the harvest is maximized. Efficiency gives the farming family time for a balanced lifestyle and frees up time and resources for expanding into other farming endeavors.

The main target audience is experienced farmers. Those who have farmed for several seasons will be challenged to examine their routines and practices, looking for ways to cut waste, reduce time spent on tasks, and improve the quality of the harvest they provide for their communities. In considerable detail, it covers the whole spectrum of farm tasks, from planning plantings to and the marketing and sale of the harvest. New farmers and those at the hobby scale may find many of the details beyond the scope of their experience. However, any who aspire to full time farming will benefit from increased awareness of the many ways that waste can creep in to ‘simple’ farm tasks. The book will encourage all readers to look beyond the first ‘simple’ way to get things done and consider several ways to accomplish goals, being mindful of waste and the time costs.

The last chapters apply specifically to Hartman’s farm and will be the most helpful for starting farmers. Ben and his wife farm less than one acre, yet are able to comfortably support their family. An inside look at how they work and apply the ‘lean’ principles will inspire every farmer.

More details and reviews at Amazon

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Austin Fall CSA – Week 10

Another 8 inches of rain last weekend has not seriously harmed the garden so far.  And it may spark the summer garden into yielding a few more eggplant and peppers.

Here’s the expected harvest this week:

Full Share: Squash, Cucumbers, Kale (double portion), Mizuna (double portion), Spaghetti squash, Lg. Black Futsu or odd pumpkin, 2 mini pumpkins, Large Pumpkin, Eggplant, Rosemary

Half Share: Squash, Cucumbers, Kale (double portion), Mizuna, Spaghetti squash, Black Futsu Pumpkin, Rosemary

Mid-season Share: Squash, Cucumbers, Winter squash, Kale (double portion), Mizuna (double portion), Spaghetti squash, Black Futsu Pumpkin, Rosemary

Remember your pumpkins and winter squashes will store well for several weeks.  Enjoy them now as decorations now and later in your meals.  Large pumpkins can easily yield several pies for the holidays – see the link below.

Fall CSA Week 10 - Full Share, Blessing Falls Farm

Fall CSA Week 10 – Full Share, Blessing Falls Farm

For recipe ideas, see these recent Fall Feast photos and recipes.

 

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