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Posted 11/9/2017 9:22am by Cherry Valley Organics.

The term "super-food" gets thrown around a lot these days, but do you know what it actually means? A super-food is any food item that's especially nutrient dense or has a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, heart-healthy fats, or some other benefit to our health. While blueberries, kale, and salmon have sat squarely on the list of super-foods since the term was first coined, there are lots of other super-foods that are far less famous. Today, we'd like to introduce you to one of our farm's favorite super-foods: Broccoli leaves. Yes. That's right. Broccoli leaves.  

Wait... Are Broccoli Leaves Edible?  

Most people are already aware of how healthy broccoli florets are, but we're guessing that those same people don't even know that broccoli leaves are edible, let alone how delicious they are. When we bring bunches of broccoli leaves to the farmers market or offer them in our Farm Share boxes, our customers aren't quite sure what to do with them. As it turns out, you can enjoy these yummy greens in all kinds of ways. Their flavor is reminiscent of collard greens, but with a burst of broccoli flavor and a more succulent texture. Before we get to our favorite broccoli leaves recipe, we'd like to tell you a little more about how to grow and harvest these nutritious greens.

Broccoli leaves  

How to Grow Broccoli Leaves

Broccoli is one of the most-valuable crops here at our organic farm because it's one of those rare crops that offers several harvests from each plant. First, we harvest the main head of broccoli about 65 days after the plants go into the field in early spring. After harvesting the main head, we leave the plants intact and just a few weeks later, they begin to produce many side shoots. These tender little mini-heads of broccoli are truly a gourmet delight.  

Are broccoli leaves edible?

The plants continue to produce side shoots through the summer and into the fall, and we harvest as frequently as we can to keep new side shoots coming. But, when fall arrives, it's time to switch gears and start focusing on harvesting the leaves.  

How to Harvest Broccoli Leaves

To harvest broccoli leaves, we head out to the field after the plants have been subjected to a few light frosts. When cold-tolerant vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and many root crops, are exposed to freezing temperatures, they begin to convert the starches in their leaves into sugars; it's their own version of "antifreeze" and it prepares them for colder temperatures. Growers make the most of this phenomenon and harvest the sweetest veggies possible by delaying their broccoli leaf harvest until this time.  

To harvest broccoli leaves, we use a sharp knife to cut the leaf stems from the main stalk. Selecting the healthiest and most succulent leaves results in the best flavor.  

Broccoli leaves recipe

How to Cook Broccoli Leaves  

Once the broccoli leaves are in the kitchen, it's time to get cooking. Prepare the leaves by removing their central mid-rib first. This rib is often tough and fibrous, so toss it into the compost pile instead of into your recipe. Rinse and pat the leaf blades dry before cooking them.  

cooking broccoli leaves

There are may ways to cook broccoli leaves in the kitchen. They're excellent chopped and sautéed in olive oil with fresh minced garlic, sea salt, and cracked pepper. You can also add them to your favorite vegetable lasagna recipe. But, our favorite broccoli leaves recipe involves your Thanksgiving leftovers! This is an excellent seasonal dish that doesn't take long to make and allows you to enjoy the texture, flavor, and health benefits of broccoli leaves. Oh, and if you don't have any leftover Thanksgiving turkey, you can substitute cooked chicken or even a pre-made rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  

Broccoli Leaves Recipe from Cherry Valley Organics Farm  

Potato, Turkey, and Broccoli Leaves Casserole  

8 small potatoes, unpeeled and sliced into thin rounds (about 4 cups)

2 cups leftover cooked and cubed Thanksgiving turkey (or cooked chicken)

5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

8 scallions, white and green parts chopped

6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

8-10 large broccoli leaves, ribs removed, and coarsely chopped (about 2 loosely packed cups)

1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Salt to taste

Fresh ground pepper  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread half of the potato rounds over the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, overlapping them. Grind pepper over them generously. Distribute half of the feta over the potatoes. Slowly pour 3/4 cup of the cream over the top. Spread half of the cooked turkey over the top and sprinkle with half of the scallions, half of the parsley, and half of the chopped broccoli leaves.  

Repeat a second layer of potatoes, feta, cream, turkey, scallions, parsley, and broccoli leaves.  

Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese uniformly over the top. Cover the baking dish loosely with aluminum foil so steam can escape. Bake for 40 minutes.   Remove the foil and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until Parmesan is lightly browned and most of the cream has been absorbed. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.  

Enjoy!

The Cherry Valley Organics Family

Broccoli Leaves: How to grow, harvest, and cook this super-food

Posted 10/31/2017 9:53am by Cherry Valley Organics.

What are ground cherries? Don't worry, if you can't answer that question, you aren't alone. In fact, we hear the question a lot. A whole lot. When people see a basket of this unusual fruit sitting on our market table, they're stymied. Ground cherries are seldom found in the grocery store produce aisle, and their papery husks hide their beauty and flavor. But once you've tasted the subtly sweet, flavorful pop of ground cherries, you'll never have to ask the question again. As it turns out, once you've tried them, ground cherries are pretty hard to forget.  

best ground cherry recipes

An answer to the question: What are ground cherries?  

Ground cherries (Physalis pruinosa), also called cape gooseberries, are a fruit native to the Americas. They're in the same botanical family as their more-popular cousins tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and tomatillos. Though some members of this plant family are poisonous (hello, nightshade and mandrake, we're talking to you!), the fruits of ground cherries are decidedly not. In fact, the ground cherry is a very nutritious fruit, filled with Vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, potassium, and many other nutrients.  

Just like their tomatillo kin, with whom the ground cherry shares a genus, each ground cherry fruit is covered in a thin, papery sheath. The fruits measure one-half to three-quarters of an inch across, and their taste is a subtly sweet mixture of tomato and pineapple. Their flavor is best when the fruits are fully ripe. You'll know they're ripe when you peel back the papery sheath and the fruit beneath it is a soft orange color. Ground cherries fall from the plants just before they're fully ripe. All you have to do is collect the husk-covered fruits off the ground for the perfect harvest.  

what are ground cherries

How to grow ground cherries  

We sell delicious ground cherries at the peak of ripeness from late summer through fall via our Farm Share Subscription Service and at our farm market table, but you should also consider growing ground cherries of your own. It's easy to start ground cherry seeds indoors under grow lights about six to eight weeks before your last expected spring frost. Here at our Pennsylvania farm, we start ground cherry seeds in mid March. If you don't want to start your own plants from seed, we sell starter plants every spring both at the May Mart at Phipps and The Sewickley Farm Market on Saturday mornings in Sewickley, PA.  

Because the plants are frost sensitive, ground cherries are a warm-season crop that's best planted out into the garden after the danger of frost has passed. Once the transplants are moved outdoors, they'll grow quickly, with each plant reaching at least two feet high and three feet across. You can stake the plants to keep them upright, if you'd like, but we prefer to let them ramble across the soil. A fruit is produced at nearly every leaf juncture, so bigger plants mean bigger yields.  

Ripe ground cherries will begin to fall from the plants about 70-75 days after planting the seeds, and harvests will continue for many weeks thereafter.  

ground cherry plant

How to eat ground cherries  

Fresh, ripe ground cherries are difficult to resist, and many times the fruits don't even make it into the kitchen. To enjoy them fresh, simply push the fruit out of its husk and pop it into your mouth. If you have a lot of ground cherries, there are also many wonderful ways you can cook with them.  

Here are a few great ground cherry recipes you can use to make the most of your harvest:

Ground cherry pie  

Ground cherry jam

Ground cherry chutney

Ground cherry crisp  

ground cherry recipes 

How to store ground cherries  

The best way to store these small fruits is in their husks at room temperature. While some varieties last longer than others, you can expect ground cherries with their sheaths intact to retain their crisp texture and sweet flavor for up to three months after harvest.  

Now, if you ever hear someone ask "What are ground cherries?" you'll have an excellent answer!   

The Cherry Valley Organics Family

What are ground cherries and how to grow, harvest, and enjoy them.

Posted 10/23/2017 11:40am by Cherry Valley Organics.

Delicata Squash Soup - A Cherry Valley Organics Favorite  

Of all the winter squash varieties we grow here at the farm, Delicata squash are a favorite among both our staff and our customers. The orange flesh of this variety is creamy and delicious. Plus, the unique exterior of the Delicata squash also sets it apart from other more-common winter squash types, such as Acorn and Butternut. Yes, you can roast or steam Delicata squash just like other winter squash varieties, but we find the best way to prepare this tasty squash is to turn it into a spectacular Delicata squash soup.  

Below, we share our favorite Delicata squash soup recipe, but before we dive into how to eat this yummy squash, we'd like to tell you a bit more about why this squash is one of our favorites and how you can enjoy its flavor all winter long.  

delicata squash

What is a Delicata squash?  

Delicata is a specific variety of a North American native squash known botanically as Cucurbita pepo. Several other types of squash are also members of the same species, including zucchini, crooknecks, and patty pans, along with several types of pumpkins. Needless to say, it's a very diverse species!  

As you can see in the photo above, Delicata squash are elongated with a creamy yellow rind that's striped with green. The edible orange interior is full of fiber and potassium, along with several important vitamins and minerals, making this squash as good for you as it is delicious.  

There are several named cultivars of Delicata squash, each of which can be made into the Delicata squash soup we share below. Like many other squashes, the vines of Delicata squash can grow quite large and take up a lot of room, but to save space, you can grow a cultivar called 'Bush Delicata'. It has a bushier growth habit and shorter stems, making it possible to grow more plants in a smaller area.  

how to store delicata squash

How to store Delicata squash  

Whether you grow your own Delicata squash or purchase them through our Farm Share program or at one of our Pittsburgh-area farm market locations, know that these delicious squash will last for months, if stored properly. That means you can make Delicata squash soup all winter long from squash fruits that are harvested in September and October.  

Delicata squash, along with other winter squash varieties, are best stored under certain conditions. But in order to prolong their storage, the squash fruits need to be harvested at the ideal stage. Here at the farm, we make sure each squash is picked when it's perfectly ripe. Delicata squash turn from light green to creamy yellow and the stripes become a deep, rich green when the fruit is ripe. The rind also hardens at peak ripeness; when you press a fingernail into the skin of a ripe squash, it should be difficult to puncture. The vines also die back as the fruits ripen, and the fruit stems turn hard and brown. All Delicata squash are best harvested before a hard frost, and an inch or so of the stem needs to remain attached to the fruit to prevent rot.  

Delicata squash

For maximum shelf-life, ripe Delicata squash should be stored in a cool room (about 50-55 degrees F) at a relative humidity of about 75 - 80%. Put them on a shelf in a cool basement or garage, but do not stack them on top of each other in a bin or crate because if one develops rot, the infection will quickly spread from one squash to another. The average shelf-life for properly stored Delicata squash is three to four months.  

Now that you know everything there is to know about this amazing squash, it's time to get cooking! Here's our favorite Delicata squash soup recipe. It's quick to prepare, easy to freeze, and oh so comforting on a chilly winter day! Enjoy.  

delicata squash soup recipe

Delicata Squash Soup from Cherry Valley Organics

Yield: 6 to 8 servings  

Ingredients for Delicata squash soup:

4 tablespoons butter

1 pound finely chopped yellow onions

5 tablespoons coarsely chopped peeled garlic

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped peeled fresh ginger

4-5 Delicata squash

4 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream for garnish

Pepitas for garnish  

Directions to prepare Delicata squash soup:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  

Cut each Delicata squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves cut side up on a baking sheet and bake until soft, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool, then scrape the flesh out of the rind. Discard the rinds.  

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and ginger, and sauté until the onion is translucent and tender. Remove from heat.  

In small batches, combine a portion of the squash with some of the onion mixture and a portion of chicken stock in a blender or food processor. Blend each batch until smooth, then pour all of the batches together into a large stockpot and bring to a simmer. Slowly stir in the coconut milk and milk and heat through, but do not allow to boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of pepitas.  

If desired, you can also add three tablespoons of yellow curry powder to the soup for an added kick of flavor. Also, if you like your Delicata squash soup a little thicker, reduce the amount of chicken stock in the recipe.  

The Cherry Valley Organics Family

Delicata Squash Soup recipe Pinterest