harvest of the month

Harvest of the Month: Kale

November's Harvest of the Month is kale. Harvest of the Month is an initiative of Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s Farm to School program. A different local farm product is served in school meals at area schools each month and we are helping to promote these locally available farm products.

Now, to introduce our November Harvest of the Month… KALE!
By Kathryn B., Farm to School Manager

Most of you have probably heard of this superfood but would you believe it is a favorite among the students we work with?!? Every time we do a cafeteria taste test or have a new student join our after school program they delight us with their memories of coming to the farm and having the spectacular Kale Salad! They love harvesting it, massaging it and adding it to a delicious medley of veggies. Our Harvest of the Month initiative is all about sharing new recipes featuring local farm produce with local kids, so we decided to share a few of our favorite kid-approved Kale recipes and fun resources here.

Thankfully, you can enjoy kale all winter long because it just gets sweeter during the colder months. So even though it’s the November Harvest of the Month, you can count on seeing it at the CSA year round!

Educational Downloads

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Green Thumb Smoothie

This green thumb smoothie is a great way to introduce new people to this awesome green! It’s packed with essential nutrients and is still a fruity, sweet treat for any time of day.

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Autumn Kale Salad

Try out this autumn kale salad recipe - perfect for the end of the season as we head into winter. Combining this superfood with other favourite autumn produce like butternut squash and apples is just one of many ways we serve up kale salad here at the farm. Experiment with other fruit, nuts, beans and veggies to find your favorite combo!

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Oh, Kale Yeah! – Benefits of Kale

It seems impossible that one food could have so many benefits, that’s why we call kale a superfood. Not only is it nutrient rich, it’s delicious too! Try some of our suggested recipes to add kale to your diet!

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Kale Coloring Sheet

Check out this cool “kale-oring” sheet. A perfect introduction to a tasty vegetable for the children in your life!

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Kale Tipsheet from Just Food

Check out this handout to learn tips about storing and preparing kale, including some delicious recipes!

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Kale Newsletter from Western NY Farm to School

Our friends in Western NY created this great newsletter with info on how to grow kale, how to prepare it, and more kid-friendly ideas and recipes!

PFP Kale Blog Post from 2017
Former education intern, Elyse Canty, explained a bit about kale, the varieties we grow and how we like to prepare it when working with children.

Harvest of the Month: Tomatoes

September's Harvest of the Month is tomatoes. Harvest of the Month is an initiative of Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s Farm to School program. A different local farm product is served in school meals at area schools each month and we are helping to promote these locally available farm products.

Tomatoes – An Educator’s Favorite “Fruit-Vegetable”
By Chris Gavin, Garden Educator

As summer draws to a close, families around our community are busy preparing for the start of a new school year.  For parents and care-givers it means gathering school supplies, for teachers it means readying classrooms and lesson plans, for kids it means getting the most out of the last hot days of vacation.  And for me, a farm and garden educator at the PFP, September means TOMATOES! One of the tricky things about doing garden education in schools is that students are on summer break when the growing season is at its peak.  BUT when September rolls around and kids are heading back to school, our farm and gardens are still churning out juicy and delicious tomatoes of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

One of our goals as a teaching team is to facilitate joyful and engaging experiences around the eating and growing of healthy foods.  And from the perspective of an educator, tomatoes are the perfect crop to introduce at the start of the school year. Tomatoes are accessible – what kid hasn’t at least heard of them?!  They are beautiful – tomatoes can be virtually every color of the rainbow.  They are great for school gardens – you can grow enough cherry tomatoes to feed a whole class in a small amount of space. They are versatile – you can prepare them in so many ways that every kid is bound to find a recipe that appeals to them.  And, of course, tomatoes are abundant at the farm right now, so September is a great time to highlight them in local school cafeterias. 

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I don’t need to spend time extoling the benefits of farm and garden-based education, I’m sure anyone reading this knows how impactful our work is on the next generation of eaters.  And since kids are already familiar with tomatoes they make a great point of entry into the subject of growing and eating healthy foods.  Here are a few talking points from a veteran garden educator to spark a kid’s interest (or fun facts to share at your next dinner party as you serve up a dish featuring PFP tomatoes!):

  • The domestication of tomatoes can be traced back to 500 BC in Central America.  The word tomato comes from the Aztec word tomatl meaning “swelling fruit”.  The first tomatoes were small like cherry tomatoes and are thought to have been yellow in color. 
  • In 1893 the Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes should be categorized as a vegetable and not a fruit because of their use in savory cooking (we eat them for dinner, not dessert!).
  • Tomatoes are part of the plant family called nightshades, they are “plant cousins” to potatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, and peppers. 
  • The leaves and stems of the plant are toxic if eaten in large quantities. 
  • Tomatoes have many “friends” known as companion plants that help one another grow.  You can grow strongly scented plants such as onions, garlic, or mint near your tomatoes to naturally repel pests. 
  • Tomatoes are high in lycopene, a phytonutrient found in red fruits and vegetables that is thought to have a positive effect on cardiovascular health. 
  • The tomato horn worm is a bright green caterpillar that can devastate tomato crops by eating the unripe fruit. Some growers use a biological control to limit damage, they release parasitic wasps that lays eggs inside the worm!
  • There are approximately 7,500 varieties of tomato worldwide, and the PFP grows dozens right here in Poughkeepsie – including many heirloom tomatoes that have more variation in color, texture, and flavor. 

In case you are still doubting the educational power of the humble tomato, here’s an anecdote from a family cooking workshop we offered this year.  While brainstorming a list of the 5  food groups, I asked if a tomato was considered a fruit or a vegetable.  Kids who appeared unengaged quickly got pulled into a heated debate on the topic.  And in case you are pondering this same question, tomatoes are botanically classified as a fruit because they grow from a pollinated flower and have seeds inside (this category refers to the part on a plant).  In terms of food groups, they are classified as a vegetable because of how we use them in the kitchen and because of their nutritional content.   Here’s a simple kid-friendly answer: if you are a chef you call the tomato a vegetable, if you are a scientist you call it a fruit.  And one elementary school group resolved this debate with a compromise, coining a new term that I use all the time in teaching now – tomatoes are a fruit-vegetable! And as an educator, they are one of my favorite fall teaching tools.

I know this may sound over the top, but tomatoes can be like a magical gateway to healthy eating for young people.  I can’t count the times I’ve had a student tell me they hate vegetables but will gobble down cherry tomatoes by the handful on a farm visit or in a school garden.  And they especially go wild for them if they had a hand in growing, harvesting, or cooking them.  So next time you are picking cherry tomatoes for your CSA share or dicing them up for a fresh salsa, invite a young person in your life to join you.  You might just convert them to being a vegetable lover! 

Pass the Potatoes

March’s Harvest of the Month is potatoes. Harvest of the Month is an initiative of Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s Farm to School program. A different local farm product is served in school meals at area schools each month and we are helping to promote these locally available farm products.

Pass the Potatoes

By Allison Herries, Dietetic Intern, The Sage Graduate School

Potatoes! We love them mashed, fried, baked, smashed, boiled, and roasted.  So how did these humble tubers become one of the most popular vegetables in the world?

Potatoes are the most consumed vegetable in the United States.  The average American eats about 48 pounds of potatoes per year, but mostly in the form of fatty French fries or potato chips.  This has led to potatoes getting a bad rap as a food that is expanding our waistlines and contributing to the obesity epidemic.  However, potatoes are naturally fat free and chock full of nutrients that are good for our bodies.  They are also an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium when consumed with the skin intact.  One medium baked potato with the skin contains about 620 mg of potassium or about 20% of the daily requirement.  This is more potassium than a banana which only has about 420 mg! Research suggests that diets high in potassium and low in sodium may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. By limiting fried foods in our diets, such as French fries and potato chips, and focusing on healthy cooking techniques, potatoes make an excellent addition to a balanced diet.  

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White potatoes make up most of the potatoes eaten in the United States.  But did you know that potatoes come in almost every color, including white, yellow, orange, red, and purple?  Different varieties of potatoes boast different nutrition contents.  For example, sweet potatoes are known for their beta-carotene (aka vitamin A) and fiber.  In fact, beta-carotene gives the sweet potato its vibrant orange coloring.  However, no one type of potato is best for health.  Focus instead on including a variety of different types of potatoes in your diet. 

Fun fact: Potatoes originated in South America thousands of years ago! The Spanish imperialists returned to Europe with the potato crop which flourished and eventually became a staple in many European cultures.  Today, there are still about 4,000 varieties of potatoes that grow in the Andes Mountains of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile.   

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Here at our farm, we grow a variety of potatoes including whites/yellows, reds, and blues.  Each variety has its own differences and strengths, but in general, they are all good for soups, roasting, boiling, and mashing.  Our potatoes are planted in the spring at the end of April.  Fun fact- some say that potatoes should be planted when the first spring dandelions start to bloom. Each potato plant starts from a single seed potato.  What exactly is a seed potato? A seed potato is a piece of a potato leftover from the previous growing season.  A new potato plant sprouts from the eyes of the potato seeds.  You may have noticed this process occurring if you ever left a potato on the counter too long and it started to grow another plant!  Since potatoes are highly susceptible to disease, it is important to choose a reliable seed potato.  Look for “certified seed potatoes” when planting potatoes in your own garden.  We get our seed potatoes from Sparrow Arc Farm in Copake, NY.

The potatoes are harvested once the plants start to die in the fall, usually at the beginning of September through October.  Since it is the tubers that we are interested in eating, the potatoes are collected by digging them out of the ground.  Digging potatoes is a favorite activity of many of our CSA shareholders!  We also invested in a new potato digger last season which makes harvesting potatoes faster and safer.  Potatoes can last a long time when stored under the proper conditions.  This allows us to distribute our potatoes throughout the fall and winter months. 

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At the PFP we love roasted potatoes for their wonderful flavor and nutrient content.  Roasted potatoes also make a great comfort food, which is great for these last few weeks of winter!  Furthermore, it couldn’t be easier to make roasted potatoes.  Simply begin by preheating the oven to 450˚F.  Cut potatoes into cubes and toss with oil (we prefer olive oil for heart health!), pepper, rosemary (preferably fresh), and a pinch of salt. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasional.  You can also experiment with a variety of different spices and herbs, making roasted potatoes a versatile dish that can accompany any meal.  Enjoy!

And potatoes are never boring.  With so many varieties and colors to choose from, there is a potato for every occasion. Not feeling like roasted potatoes tonight? Check out these additional recipes for another of our favorite vegetables, sweet potatoes, instead!

Sources:
https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistics-charting-the-essentials/food-availability-and-consumption/
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-berardi-phd/potatoes-health-benefits_b_7010712.html
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/02/types-of-potatoes_n_4877050.html
http://www.grandstreetcsa.org/2010/07/just-foods-veggie-tip-sheets.html

Harvest of the Month: Ode to Onions

February’s Harvest of the Month is onions. Harvest of the Month is an initiative of Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s Farm to School program. A different local farm product is served in school meals at area schools each month and we are helping to promote these locally available farm products.

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Ode to Onions
By Allison Herries, Dietetic Intern, The Sage Graduate School

Onions are an ancient crop that has been grown by civilizations for at least 5,000 years.  The onion is part of the genus Allium and is related to other popular vegetables including garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives.  There are over 300 different varieties of onions that vary in shape, size, taste, and smell making this vegetable a versatile addition to almost any dish. 

Did you know that onions are the third most popular vegetable in the United States?  As a nation, we ate around 7.7 pounds of onions per person in 2015.  That’s a lot of onions!  And it is no wonder that we love onions so much when you consider the sweet and savory flavors that they bring to a dish.  However, an onion is so much more than just a delicious addition to any meal.  Onions are also high in vitamin C and fiber, and have only 45 calories per serving.  This means that onions can add tons of flavor to a meal without the additional fat and calories.  Onions are also rich in the antioxidant, quercetin.  This is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect our bodies from free radical damage.  Research suggests that quercetin may help protect against diseases including cancer and heart disease.

Having trouble cutting your onions through all the tears?  Slicing onions makes us cry because of the release of sulfuric acids from the cut onion.  These gases are a natural defense mechanism of the onion used to ward if hungry pests in nature.  When sulfuric acid interacts with the moisture in our eyes, it results in tears. One way to avoid this reaction is to chill the onion in the refrigerator before cutting into it. Another solution is to slice the onion under running water or while the onion is submerged in water.  These approaches will lessen the release of sulfuric acid.  No more tears!

Fun fact:  Onions held a sacred place in the ancient Egyptian culture. Ancient Egyptians believed that the many concentric layers of the onion represented eternity.  In fact, archaeologists have found evidence of onions being placed in the tombs of pharaohs because they were believed to bring luck in the afterlife.

Irrigating the onion crop

Irrigating the onion crop

Mini-onion harvest!

Mini-onion harvest!

Here at PFP, we grow a variety of both yellow and red onions.  We start our onions in the greenhouse around the first week of March and transplant them to the fields at the end of April.  Onions are harvested in the months of July and August, cured (the process where the outer layers are dried out into the papery layers), and then stored for use throughout the fall and winter months. The onions we are eating now are actually from this August’s harvest!

One of our favorite ways to enjoy onions is to caramelize them.  Here at PFP we think that caramelized onions make a flavorful addition to almost any dish.  Caramelizing or “browning” the onions takes away the sharp, raw flavor of the onions and replaces it with a savory, sweet taste.  All you need for this recipe is onions, a knife and frying pan, oil (we prefer olive oil for heart health), and salt to taste.  No added sugar necessary! The secret to great caramelized onions is to cook them slowly over low heat.  Remember low and slow is the way to go! Begin by washing your hands and all equipment.  Thinly slice onions, making sure to separate the layers.  You can make the onions as thin as you would like.  Heat the olive oil over low heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the sliced onions and cook uncovered on low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Adjust the heat as needed so that the onions don’t burn.  Finally, add salt to taste.  Try adding caramelized onions to sandwiches, salads, and sides for a flavorful addition!

Sources:
http://www.foodnetwork.ca/fun-with-food/photos/cool-facts-about-onions/
https://www.onions-usa.org/all-about-onions/nutritional-facts-vegetables
https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/gallery/chart-detail/?chartId=58340
https://www.onions-usa.org/all-about-onions/onion-health-research

Harvest of the Month: Apples

January’s Harvest of the Month is apples. Harvest of the Month is an initiative of Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s Farm to School program. A different local farm product is served in school meals at area schools every month and we are helping to promote these locally available farm products.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. A ½ cup of sliced apples is an easy way to add fiber to your diet everyday. Pro tip: apples are best when eaten with the peel, as that is where most of the fiber and antioxidants are found. A ½ cup of apples a day may sound like a lot but, one of the amazing things about apples is that they can be eaten in a variety of ways - as whole (fresh!) apples, unsweetened applesauce, dried apples, or in my personal favorite: apple pie.

At PFP, the apples we distribute through our fruit share during the regular CSA season come from Glorie Farm in Marlboro. Their low-spray apples (and other fruits) also make their way to our educational programs.  Not only are apples good for you, they are a great educational tool for kids. We like to use apples to teach students about pollination, the plant life cycle, and how trees produce the fruits we love to eat. Apples are also also a great addition to many vegetable recipes we use in our cooking workshops from smoothies to salads.

Fun fact: Domestic or table apples are of the species Malus pumila and are one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits across the world. There are over 7,000 varieties of apples (that’s a lot of apple pie) the oldest originating from the mountains of Central Asia. Apples were first introduced to the U.S by European settlers during 1600s to share their cultivation and traditions.

We can’t talk about North America’s history with apples without mentioning one of our fondest folk heroes: Johnny Appleseed. Johnny Appleseed was a pioneer apple farmer in the 1800’s and his dream was to grow so many apples that no one would ever go hungry. Unlike most legends Johnny Appleseed was a real person named John Chapman. In his lifetime  Chapman planted over 1200 acres of apple orchards.

Contrary to common belief, Chapman’s apples wouldn’t be recognizable as the conventional apples we are accustomed to in the grocery store. Chapman grew apples that were very small and tart - nicknamed “spitters” because that’s probably what you would do if you took a bite out of one. However, “spitters” were perfect for hard cider and applejack which was valued more than edible apples. Fun Fact: until the 1920s, most apples in the U.S were used for making cider. Especially in rural areas, cider replaced water because the water often wasn’t safe to drink. The cider they were drinking was what we would not call hard cider.

In the spirit of the true story of Johnny appleseed here is an easy apple cider recipe. This cider may not be what Johnny Appleseed used to drink but it’s non-alcoholic and quick to make and enjoy with kids. All you need is about 6 cups of apple juice or enough to fill a large saucepan, ½ teaspoon whole cloves, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg and 3 cinnamon sticks. Place everything in the large saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Once it begins to boil reduce heat and let it simmer uncovered 10 minutes. Pro tip: Heating the mixture brings out the flavors of the spices. The longer you let cider simmer the more fragrant it will become.

Happy Holidays! - PFP

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Resources:
Johnny Appleseed Story
http://mentalfloss.com/article/62113/9-facts-tell-true-story-johnny-appleseed
https://bestapples.com/resources-teachers-corner/johnny-appleseed/

Apple cider recipe
https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/hot-spiced-cider/d3493337-14c1-4afb-bf8e-f1793d615405

Harvest of the Month: Nosh on Squash!

Nosh on Squash!
December’s Harvest of the Month is Winter Squash.
By Elyse Canty, Education Intern

Winter squash are an annual vegetable that signals the end of our summer/spring crops: the tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and okra, and welcomes the beginning of our lovely fall greens and winter roots. You can distinguish winter squash from summer squash because winter squash is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage meaning the seeds have aged and the skin has hardened into a tough rind which makes it the perfect winter crop. Luckily, for us the winter squash family comes in many different colors, shapes and sizes from a vivid yellow, watermelon-shaped spaghetti squash to a bright orange, round pumpkin that Charlie Brown would approve of.

Pumpkins, acorn or butternut squash have become symbols for the changing seasons. You know fall hasn’t officially started yet until you’ve had your first pumpkin spice latte. However, there’s much more to pumpkins and winter squashes than fall-themed lattes. Winter squash are great sources of beta-carotene which will help your immune system stay healthy and fortified to fight off any colds that may be headed your way this flu season. Pro tip: beta-carotenes are found in red-orange colored food. Pick a squash with dark coloring. The darker the orange flesh, the more nutritious the squash is.

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Fun fact: squash got its name from the Native American word askutasquash, (try saying that three times fast) which means “a green thing eaten raw.” Now, I wouldn’t recommend eating your winter squash raw. However, winter squash very is delicious when it’s roasted. Roasted squash is very tender and roasting brings out it’s natural sugars so it’s very sweet.

At Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) we grow several different varieties of winter squash including butternut, delicata, acorn, spaghetti squash. The farm crew’s favorite squash is delicate because it is easy to cut into rings and roast; it is delicious and you don’t even have to peel it because the skin becomes tender when you roast it.

One of our favorite ways to prepare winter squash is roasted butternut squash with children is by making it into hummus. Our butternut squash hummus is an easy recipe and fun to make with kids. In fact, it’s a fan favorite in many of our elementary school cooking workshops. This recipe doesn’t have exact measurements it all depends on how much you want to make and how you like your hummus. We like to tell our students that every time we make our butternut squash hummus, it’s special because it will be a little different each time.

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Beforehand, roast the butternut squash until tender. Once cooled scoop the squash into a big bowl. The base of the hummus is roasted butternut squash, chickpeas and a dash of olive oil. The more chickpeas you add the thicker the hummus will be. You can add spices and seasonings for flavor such as paprika, tahini, garlic powder and lemon juice. Now, you can throw everything into the food processor or you can blend it the old-fashioned way which we prefer with a potato masher. You can pass the bowl around and give everyone a turn with the masher. Once the ingredients are blended together, the hummus pairs well with carrots or tortilla chips.

Even though winter is coming, we’ve got you covered! Sign up for a winter CSA share for PFP-grown butternut squash (and other tasty produce!) throughout the cold season.

Harvest of the Month: Kale

By Elyse Canty, Education Intern

Alyssa and Rodnisha glean kale for Feeding the Hudson Valley.

Alyssa and Rodnisha glean kale for Feeding the Hudson Valley.

Kale is a leafy green from the Brassica family that has been cultivated since ancient Greek and Roman times. Kale is known for being a hardy crop that is easy to grow and can withstand low temperatures. It’s the perfect vegetable for a beginner gardener to grow especially in cold New York winters. In fact, kale is sometimes nicknamed the “hungry gap” because some varieties can grow in the winter when most crops can’t be harvested.

You may be wondering what makes kale different from lettuce or collard greens. Well, kale is actually the sweeter cousin of collards and can take on many different flavors ranging from slightly sweet to somewhat bitter depending on when it is harvested. During the cooler months of spring and early summer, kale is milder. When the weather starts to get warmer kale develops a bitter taste. Pro tip: if you like sweet kale, wait to harvest your kale until after the first fall frost; that’s when it’s the most delicious.

At Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) we grow kale year-round. There are three different types of kale that call PFP home: Winterbor, Lacinato and Scarlet. Winterbor is very robust kale which has finely curled, thick, blue-green leaves. Lacinato, also known as dinosaur kale, has long leaves that people say resemble rough and bumpy dinosaur skin. Last but not least, Scarlet kale has beautiful, purple-red, curly leaves that will add beautiful color to any garden or salad.

We love growing kale because it’s easy to grow and easy to eat but what we love most about kale is sharing it. PFP harvests about 4,000 pounds of kale each year and we donate over 400 pounds to emergency food providers in the Poughkeepsie community.

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Kale is packed with many essential vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Omega fatty acids. Fun fact: one cup of cooked kale contains 10 percent of daily fiber needs. This leafy green can be helpful for those managing diabetes as well!

However, despite all of Kale’s amazing qualities it can be difficult to get young children (and sometimes adults) to eat kale. At PFP we offer farm tours geared towards children where we feature kale and allow the kids to taste small samples. Gaining exposure to new foods like kale helps it become less “weird and gross” and more “yummy and tasty.”

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Also, we recommend preparing kale with your little one so they have time to become more familiar with kale and they will be more likely to eat something they helped make. An easy and tasty way to prepare kale with children is a kale salad. Apples or berries make a nice addition to a kale salad because they help sweeten the bitterness of the kale. You can use raw kale which will make a really crunchy salad or you could lightly sauté the kale which may help sweeten it. We like to massage the raw kale with some olive oil and salt to tenderize it. Then we add our toppings and some apple cider or balsamic vinegar. Whichever salad dressing you normally use at home: ranch, Italian, Cesar, etc. would also work.

Happy Kale Munching! 

Students on a field trip to PFP explain how they made the kale blueberry salad they are enjoying.