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The Art of Preserving: Canning, Pickling, and Freezing Your CSA Harvest

June 26, 2024

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The Art of Preserving: Canning, Pickling, and Freezing Your CSA Harvest

Harvesting the Bounty: A Farmer’s Journey

Take a moment to think about all the time, energy, aching muscles, and sweat and tears it takes to run a small diversified farm. Now, imagine that in addition to the responsibilities of being a full-time farmer, you have to find the time to write and photograph a full-fledged cookbook. Impossible, right? Well, not for rockstar farmer and newly minted cookbook writer Andrea Bemis.

Andrea and her husband Taylor own and operate Thornappple CSA in Oregon, and she’s the brains behind the wildly popular blog and now cookbook called Dishing Up the Dirt. I’ve had the pleasure of following Andrea’s journey for the past few years, and if anyone knows what it means to “eat like a farmer,” it’s this badass lady.

This week, Andrea’s cookbook hits bookshelves everywhere, and I’m encouraging everyone I know to snag a copy. Andrea’s recipes are vibrant, nourishing, seasonal, and refreshingly straightforward. And with spring just around the corner, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to get some farm-to-table inspiration and get cookin’ good lookin’. I can’t think of a better person to feature for this month’s “Eat Like a Farmer” interview, and I’m so excited for you all to get a glimpse into Andrea’s daily life at Thornappple CSA.

The Rhythm of Farm Life

Our schedule changes depending on what time of the year it is. In spring and summer, we’re up just before dawn, fueling up with plenty of coffee. We usually make a veggie-egg scramble before heading out the door for chores. Depending on the season, we’ll spend anywhere between 8-12 hours a day out in the fields.

In spring, it’s all about seeding in the greenhouses, transplanting, tilling, prepping beds, weeding, watering – rinse and repeat. By the time summer comes rolling around, we’re in full-blown harvest mode, and our CSA, restaurant accounts, and farmers markets are in full swing. Between deliveries and selling at the markets, we really have to make the most of our time in the fields. We love interacting with customers and selling our produce, but our hearts are always at the farm, and we cherish the days that we don’t have deliveries so we can catch up on chores and keep up with irrigating.

Depending on the time of year, our meals are always changing. However, one thing that stays the same is that I whip up a double batch of salad dressing or a good sauce so that lunch, in particular, can be easy. We’ll eat a hearty salad or grain bowl most days and load them with whatever veggies we’re harvesting that week. Lunch is typically rushed, but dinner is a slow meal, and is where we find our peace. We’ll kick back with a few beers and either fire up the grill or make pizza. Pizza is our favorite farm meal because you can load up every pie with whatever veggies are available – you really can’t go wrong.

The Beet Goes On

My old farm crew back where we began, Hutchins Farm, declared that beets were my spirit vegetable. I didn’t know you could have a spirit vegetable, but as it turns out – it’s a thing. I love their sweet, earthy flavor, and darn, they’re stunning. With that being said, thinning beets is one of my least favorite farm chores, but it’s always worth it.

I’ll fantasize about all the great meals I’ll whip up when they’re ready for harvest as I’m down on my hands and knees thinning. I’ll take my beets raw, roasted, steamed, mashed, or pickled. However, one of my favorite meals to prepare with this lovely root is “Beetza” – beet pizza, which is a recipe in my cookbook. Beets are cooked and pureed with a few spices and stand in for traditional tomato sauce. It’s a go-to recipe at our farm, and I hope you all give it a try.

Preserving the Harvest

As our farm grows and the demands of everyday chores increase, the time to spend canning has quickly diminished. I usually dedicate one or two days for canning tomatoes and pickles with my neighbors every season, but I wish I could dedicate more time. However, we’re big fans of our chest freezer, and we’ll freeze a TON of fruits and veggies to fuel us through the winter.

We write a newsletter every week for our CSA members that includes a list of what is in their share. Along with that, we’ll pass along recipe suggestions and cooking methods for particular veggies that may seem a little exotic or foreign to our customers. I always encourage people to taste-test as they’re cooking and to have fun and not take it so seriously. It’s amazing what a little oil, salt, and pepper can do to liven up a simple vegetable. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to cook and eat well – simple is best.

The Heart of the Farm

I’ve always loved the saying, “it takes a village.” Our farm would not be successful if it wasn’t for the amazing folks who put their faith and money into our farm. We do everything we can to grow the best damn food we know how to grow in order to feed our community and loved ones with nourishing ingredients. We love when CSA members send us photos of their dinner plates with food grown by us turned into a beautiful meal for their family. Those emails always put an extra spring in our step and keep us going when the going gets tough.

So, without further ado, here’s a favorite recipe from me to you – a simple, straight-from-the-farm dish that I’m craving this spring:

Prep Time Cook Time Serves
15 Minutes 15 Minutes 1 Pizza

Beetza (Beet Pizza)

For the Pesto:

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Pizza:

  • 1 pre-baked pizza crust
  • 1 cup pureed roasted beets
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Make the pesto: In a food processor, combine the basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Spread the beet puree evenly over the pizza crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with the mozzarella slices.
4. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.
5. Top the hot pizza with dollops of the basil pesto and fresh basil leaves.
6. Slice and serve immediately.

This simple yet delicious pizza is the perfect way to highlight the natural sweetness of beets. The earthy beet puree acts as the “sauce,” while the creamy mozzarella and fragrant pesto balance it out beautifully. It’s a seasonal showstopper that’s sure to delight your taste buds and impress your guests. So what are you waiting for? Get to your local Thornappple CSA, grab some beets, and start preheating that oven!

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Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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