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Week 17(b) CSA – 18th September 2017

We’re continuing our themed newsletter series this week by featuring Michelle who is originally from Ireland but has lived in North Carolina for most of her life, so she feels like she’s grown up in two different countries, with different perspectives on agriculture.

We hope that you enjoy this glimpse, and look forward to hearing your stories, too. Stay tuned next week to learn more about Stacy!

– Ezra, Michelle Stacy and Greg

(p.s. Please “like” and share our Facebook and Instagram pages with your friends and family, and remember to tag us in your posts @WindingStairFarm!)

Rush Co. Dublin

I moved with my parents and brother to Raleigh, NC from Rush Co. Dublin, Ireland, when I was seven years old. Dutch and Belgian families – including my own (Ruigrok) – brought their horticultural traditions and practices to that area in the 1930s. My dad grew up tending to his family’s fields of daffodils and, being the self-driven man that he is, also grew potatoes to sell in markets across Ireland with his brother Noel. Sometimes, he would bring Andrew and I to the big warehouses and cold glasshouses behind Granda Ruigrok’s house, and now I associate both the smell of diesel and of chilled fresh flowers with those memories.

Mammy grew up working in glasshouses and fields. She and her sister Helen each have green thumbs. During summers, I remember Nana going through notes from Helen (living in Australia) about things she needed to take care of in her garden. One summer Nana told me she had taken a video of the garden and mailed it to Helen. I still don’t know if she was pulling my leg. Whenever we were in Ireland, mammy was always outside gardening with Nana, mowing the grass for Granda, coaxing cuttings of plants to grow with a little help from a magic powder sprinkled on the stem to make the plant grow roots (I am no horticulturist).

The summers when Helen was there with us were the best. Helen and mammy would cook with Nana and argue and giggle and throw horse poop at each other on walks around Rush, while we and our cousins tried to get away from those two crazy women.

In the car, Nana Byrne always joked about robbing a cow from the fields. I really thought we could fit a baby cow in the back of the car and bring it to her house. On longer drives into sheep country, the teasing switched to how many sheep we could cram into the boot of the car.

Back in America, mammy’s cooking nourished us with the love and care she poured into those meals, and forged the connection in my head between good food and good health. Daddy makes a mean shepherd’s pie (“Aladdin’s Pie” when we were kids), and I would have flashbacks to Nana’s kitchen when we had potatoes (often), roasts, cabbage, or a big breakfast (every Sunday).

I romanticize elements of my parents’ youth. Of their times robbing apples from orchards out of boredom, driving too fast down narrow lanes, working in glass houses or fields to make a bit of money. Ireland was not an easy place to grow up in back then. I’ve had the luxury of choosing what I don’t want to have in this life, in large part because my parents built a good life for Andrew and I in America, but there’s a bit of irony in me wanting to go back to Ireland when so many people left that country for a better life.

The southern Appalachians have a feel to them that I sometimes mistake for Ireland. A life like this is exciting and terrifying, at the mercy of the landscape and the weather and pests. Working with the land under rules you can’t control. Mammy used to take Andrew and me to the wildest parts of Ireland, and could even turn the task of finding a B&B for the night into an adventure. I am not a city girl, and I think Linda Ruigrok is to blame.

Leek & Potato Soup

Potato soap is incredibly versatile – from the base you can add leeks, onions, or just parsley or lovage. My dad’s eyes light up when he talks about leeks. Both of my parents use the word “fabulous” when they talk about leeks – fabulous with butter; they look fabulous; they are fabulous braised slowly in herbed butter with a little bit of lemon, and cream if you want a richer taste.

Potato and leek soup is simple, hearty, meaty, earthy, lovely, fabulous.

Mammy never follows recipes, so if the woman I watched cooking growing up doesn’t follow recipes, it means I’m even worse at it. I don’t have a potato and leek recipe but it always tastes wonderful because it’s simple (especially if you have good ingredients), so here goes:

  • Two medium leeks
  • Three medium white potatoes, washed and diced (I don’t peel potatoes but you can if you want to; new potatoes make a starchy soup that’s not as nice as what you get with a fluffy potato)
  • One medium onion (optional)
  • Four cups of chicken or vegetable stock (or enough to cover the ingredients in the pot)
  • Meaty ham bone (optional but recommended)
  • Parsley (optional)
  • Lots of butter
  • Cream or whole milk (optional but recommended)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and give them a good wash in cold water before slicing. Most people chop off the green end but I still use a bit of it for the color. On medium to medium high heat, sweat the leaks and onion in a good bit of butter. Use more butter than you think you need because you’ll add the potatoes to the pot just before the onions and leek begin to brown. Mix everything well and stir for a few minutes. Add the stock, bring to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are tender. If you have a meaty ham bone (which I HIGHLY recommend), add it to the pot when you put the stock in.

As with many soups, you can blend all or part of the soup for a creamy texture. I tend to only blend about half of it as I like the chunks of creamy potatoes and slices of leek. Remove the ham bone before you blend.

Leek and potato soup is wonderful with something creamy added at the end. I usually use whole milk. Add it to the blended soup and turn the stovetop on low to bring the soup back to the temperature that you want. For this recipe, I might add a cup of whole milk, but the soup is lovely even without any dairy. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread.

– Michelle

This Week’s Harvest

‘Autumn Giant’ Leek (Allium ampeloprasum)
Mixed Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)
‘Ragged Jack’, ‘Scarlet’ and ‘Blue Scotch’ Kale (Brassica olaracea)
‘Speckled Trout’ Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Cutting Celery (Apium graveolens)
‘Oda’ Sweet Peppers (Capsicum spp.)
‘Chiogga’ and ‘Detroit Red’ Beets (Beta vulgaris)
Daikon Radishes (Raphanus sativus)

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

May 23 – October 9

Franklin Pick-Up: Saturday mornings at the Franklin Farmer’s Market
Highlands Pick-Up: Monday between 12pm and 1pm at Founder’s Park
Keep it out of the landfill
We strive to keep our footprint as small as possible, and we’d love your help:
  • Bring a bag with you each week
  • Save egg cartons and zip loc bags (we’ll even take egg cartons from your friends)
  • If you don’t compost then you can help us feed our chickens. Keep in your fridge until the next CSA pick up: kale/collard ribs, lettuce hearts, herb stems, egg shells (but please, no onions or garlic)
Sharing recipes
Did you use ingredients from your CSA to make a particularly delicious meal? Send us a photograph and the recipe, and we’ll share it with other CSA members.

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