Tag Archives: farm

Pinehold Gardens – CSA

Hi Everyone. Sorry I’ve been absent for the past few weeks – July ended up being ridiculously busy, and it completely got away from me. How is it possible an entire month can escape you?

But alas, the wait for the next post was worth it. Yesterday I had a chance to visit with Sandy and David at Pinehold Gardens – a little organic CSA farm located 15 minutes south of Downtown Milwaukee. While I’m not an official CSA member with their farm, I have been purchasing their produce over the past four – years. I started visiting their South Shore Farmer’s market stand a few years ago, then last year started visiting their road-side farmers stand located at….their farm. How convenient. It’s actually a 5 minute drive to their farm vs. the 20 minute rigamaroo drive to the South Shore Farmers Market. You have no idea how big of deal that is. Last weekend I ran to their farm stand at 9 am, stopped at the house to bag and store the produce, and was on the road at 9:30 am to photograph a wedding starting at 10 am. There’s no way I could do that if I had to run to South Shore.

So… with that, I’ve been eating their “Juicy Garlic” for the past few years. …and actually, David coined the term “Juicy Garlic” last July when I asked him if I should hang the garlic and let it cure. He said, “Nope.It’s perfect right now – I like my garlic juicy”. He wasn’t kidding. And they have baskets upon baskets of garlic in their storage shed. I have four heads hanging in my pot rack, and will be buying more this weekend.

With their fabulous garlic comes the best garlicscapes you’ve ever eaten. I have three pounds of garlicscape pesto in the freezer so I can have all winter long. I plan on adding to that batch next week, as one of my summer lunch staples is garlicscape pesto crostini topped with sliced cherry tomatoes and shaved caesar blend cheese. It’s so simple and SO good. …Hmmmm. Recipe to come. <<<

Wait! Did someone say “Tomatoes”? OH! Pinehold tomatoes. They are sweet juicy heavenly delights. You can’t find tomatoes like this anywhere else. Last year I started buying their Sungold cherry tomatoes, and my 18 month old got hooked on them. Now he LOVES tomatoes, and that makes a parent VERY happy. The problem with Sungold tomatoes is, the split easily. Which is why you won’t find these kinds of tomatoes in the grocery store. You either need to grow your own, which I’m trying this year. Or find a farmer who grows them, and buy directly from them. …Remember, get to know your farmers and learn where your food comes from.

This year I bought PHG’s larger red cherry tomatoes for the first time, and they’re equally delicious. I have 4 quarts on order for pick-up this Saturday. I can’t wait to make a fresh simple pasta sauce with these sweet tomatoes and their fresh garlic. It’s going to be fabulous.

My wife and I also became PHG winter squash junkies. We ate their Carnival, Delicata, Acorn, Buttercup, Fairy, and Butternut squash on a weekly basis well into March. Sometimes 2 or 3 times a week in December and January. Baked squash + butter + brown sugar is winter eating nirvana. It just warms the soul.

And did you know they have REAL free range chickens delivering the delicious multicolored eggs to their CSA members? No. You can’t eggs like this at the supermarket. Cagefree chickens just don’t have it this good. This little flock actually gets to eat organic produce all year round – and that translates to ridiculously rich delicious eggs. Another little kiddo favorite.

One of the best things I love about Pinehold Gardens is their commitment to sustainability. They harness the power of the sun with their solar panels, they don’t spray their produce with chemical pesticides, and they don’t spread chemical fertilizers on the ground. And that’s why Pinehold continually produces some of the best freshest produce you can find anywhere, and the Milwaukee area is so lucky to have David and Sandy.

Better yet – yes it gets even better – you can find their produce at local restaurants. And the one Sandy and David have built a wonderful Farmer to Chef relationship with is La Merenda. And ironically, that’s easily one my favorite restaurants in all of Wisconsin.

Here’s a little photo tour of their small organic farm
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Trust me, their garlic is MUCh bigger than this. 
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This is their giant solar panel
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Pinehold Gardens fields just after sunrise – their hoop houses off in the distance
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Seedlings ready for transplanting

Luscious fresh Kale, Rainbow Chard, Onions, and so much more…
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Hoop house Cukes 

…and those delicious juicy tomatoes…

The field tomatoes have quite a ways to go, but these hoop house cherry tomatoes are ripening well
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Freckled lettuce and endive

Winter squash – I so can’t wait for October…

The chickens have it so good. SO good…

Did I mention I photographed this entire day with manual focus lenses? …Even the chickens. OUCH!
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And here it is. The garlic. LOTS AND LOTS of garlic. 
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ARM = Armenian garlic. They also have Bavarian, Italian Red and other varieties. I’m partial to the Armenian.

And here’s the washing station so their CSA members get fresh clean produce
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If you’re on the fence about joining Pinehold Gardens CSA, you can always drive up and purchase their produce at their Saturday morning farm stand – what a great way to trial their wonderful product before you dive in. And even if you prefer to be a farmers market kinda buyer, I can’t recommend Pinehold Garden’s Saturday morning roadside stand enough.

Please visit their website for more info: Pinehold Gardens 

…I’ll see you there on Saturday.

Much love, happy eats, and I welcome comments,


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CSA Delivery: June 19, 2014

For me, Thursday nights from late spring through nearly the rest of the year are like Christmas – even on a cloudy dreary Thursday like today. It’s the day I go pick up my family’s new box of fresh produce delivered from HighCross Farm.

This week’s delivery was a bit lighter than last week. Wisconsin is getting nailed with rain this week, so getting into the fields to transplant seedlings and harvest some of the crops has been difficult. …That’s not a terrible problem to have, as it was only a few years ago we in the middle of a drought.


In today’s large share:
Large Share:
Lettuce – 2 varieties: Red Butterhead and a Green Summercrisp
Spinach – another 1 pound bag of the most gigantic tender leaves you’ve ever seen
Rainbow Swiss Chard – 2 big leaves – gotta try a 
Turnip Greens – harvested a few weeks ago
Garlic Chives – a generous bunch, and thankfully so. I love this stuff. 
Oregano – Trust me when I say, you will NEVER see or smell oregano like this at the supermarket.

With the size of those AWESOME Chard leaves, I’m going have to try this Swiss Chard Wraps recipe by Stephanie Eusebi.

Remember last week when I didn’t receive my chives? I contacted the farmer about not receiving those chives, and in this week’s share….there they were. I nice big freshly cut bunch. I even received a nice little gift of fresh sage, including the fresh fragrant sage blossoms.

Here are some pics from this week’s share:


Check out his Oregano. The leaves are HUGE and amazingly fragrant.


Here’s a close up of the velvety tender red butterhead lettuce. So awesome. 

And check out this sage. Again, you won’t find this in any supermarket —
and you definitely won’t get the blossoms.

So no. This share certainly wasn’t as big as last week’s. But I’m cool with that.
1) It’s still technically still spring, so the heavy fall harvest items are barely showing fruit.
2) It was a wildly wet week
3) We still had a LOT of produce left over from last week, so we gave it to a neighbor. We try not to waste overage, but even if it has to go to compost pile or feed it to the rabbits out back.

Here is a quick note about last week’s produce; It was still as crisp and velvety as when we received it, so it was easy to give it away. Two big keys to keeping your produce fresh.
1) The produce wasn’t shipped in from 2,000 miles away – it was local. So it already had at LEAST one week of freshness on that strip mined stuff from California.
2) The greens were stored in big ziploc freezer bags, kept partially open, and in the coldest part of the fridge – not the freezer. We learned this from our CSA. If you join a CSA, they will (or should) teach you how to store your produce.

So. What did I make last night from our CSA pull? 

After picking up our box around 6 PM, then spending a little time photographing it, then washing it, and bagging it, I don’t have a lot of time for cooking before it’s time to put our two year old to bed, so I keep things especially stoopid easy. This Thursday was another pasta dinner. This time we used a Giovanni Rana Pasta. Jonas loves picking the cheese out of the center – kinda like he’s eating an Oreo. LOL

Sautéed spinach and cherry tomatoes over spinach ricotta ravioli.


• Ravioli Spinaci e Ricotta – Metro Market
• Fresh Spinach (torn into big pieces) – HighCross Farm CSA
• Fresh Garlic Chives (minced) – HighCross Farm CSA
• Organic Cherry Tomatoes (quartered) – Metro Market
• Olive Oil
• Fresh Ground Black Pepper
• Kosher Flake Salt
• Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil, and heat some olive oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. I used a #8 cast iron Griswold skillet – which is about 10″. Again, I don’t like things overly salty, so I did’t add salt to the water, since the pasta is already full pre-seasoned. …no sense in over doing it.

Gently sauté the spinach in olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Use more spinach than you think, as it wilts down quite a bit. Season with a pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper as it steams itself, and be careful not to over-cook. It only takes a few minutes, so get your fresh pasta going too.

While the spinach is cooking, cook the pasta per the instruction on the package. Even if the pasta is frozen, it only takes about 4 minutes – so it also cooks very quickly. If you time it well, both the pasta and spinach will be done about the same time. Drain pasta when it’s done cooking.

Plate the pasta, top with cooked spinach and quartered cherry tomatoes, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with the minced garlic chives, more fresh ground black pepper and grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Serve hot.

So simple. So quick. So good.

A couple of notes:
Not everything we eat is from our CSA – we definitely need to buy other items – in this case the pasta and the tomatoes – and this is where a good grocery store like the Metro Market in Milwaukee comes in handy – your CSA and a good grocery store should support your nutritional needs harmoniously. 

If you don’t have fresh organic spinach from a CSA or farmer’s market, buy a bunch from your local grocery. If they don’t have a fresh bunch, you can usually get a plastic container of organic baby spinach. Yes, that’ll work – but use it up quickly. 

If you are a member of a CSA, and you didn’t receive spinach, you can use whatever firm dark greens they have (but not lettuce). Try Arugula, Chard, Bok Choy, Mizuna, Turnip Greens, Beet Greens, etc. 

If you don’t have garlic chives, use regular chives, parsley, oregano, or some other fresh herb. No biggie – make it your own. The cool thing about a CSA is, no two weeks are exactly alike, so usually you’re dinners are going to have a little variety by default. 

You can also add browned chicken or italian sausage if you’re a carnivore. 

Thanks for reading – and please leave a comment.


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CSA Delivery: June 12, 2014

So summer is officially here. Well, not calendorically (snigglet), but because our first summer share CSA box was delivered last night. OH! The giddiness I’ll be feeling every Thursday over the next 20 weeks. And that takes us (my family) right up until October 30. …Wow! We’re going to get a Halloween share. LOL

So here’s our first delivery – June 12, 2014jg_061214_001

One thing to keep in mind if you’re pondering about joining a CSA, the early summer boxes, at least in the upper midwest, are generally kinda light. As the summer wears on, and you get into the fall harvest season, the boxes get much heavier when you start adding eggplant, onions, potatoes, cabbage, and OH! that amazing winter squash.

In today’s Large Share CSA box:

Lettuce – 3 varieties: Red Oak Leaf, Green Butterhead and Romaine
Spinach –
Arugula with blossoms (spicy salad green)
Red Russian Kale
Rainbow Swiss Chard – small bag
Carrots from winter storage
Several Red Radishes
Fresh Herb -Lovage – Has a strong celery flavor

In the back there are a few potted herbs I bought from my CSA: two pineapple sage plants and four Italian parsley plants – all potted in the same organic potting mix they use on the farm in their hoop house.

First impressions: The lettuce is HUGE! and velvety. Around here, in the Milwaukee area, I never see lettuce heads this big in the grocery store. The Spinach leaves are the biggest I’ve ever seen. The carrots we get in stores around here simply don’t taste like this — and these are winter storage carrots. The radishes are so vibrant, and the green tops are excellent in salads. I didn’t receive chives – more on this later.

Then there’s Lovage. This is possibly my all-time favorite herb. I have to write a separate blog post or even dedicate an article to this phenomenal culinary herb we never hear about in the US.

The one thing I’ve learned about vegetables and herbs through our CSA, there is barely a part of the plant you don’t eat. You really don’t waste anything, and the radishes and lovage are a good example. With radishes, many people would throw away the leaves – me included a few years ago. The lovage? People would probably ignore the stems – but there is some seriously intense flavor in those stems. I mince them up like stalks of celery. Speaking of celery, how many people eat celery leaves? Um! Do it! They’re fabulous – even as a simple garnish in soup.

One thing I didn’t show in this post are my online store purchased items – the farm fresh eggs grown right on our CSA farm. Again, the store bought eggs, not even the organic cage free eggs, have anything on these. So fresh, so delicious. My two year old LOVES these eggs.

Here are some more pics from this week’s share:


Wanna wax nostalgia? Eat one of these carrots. If you grew up in a home with a vegetable garden, and you grew carrots, and you used to pull them out of the ground, rinsed them off and took a bite without even peeling the carrot…. do you remember that sweet fresh flavor? It’s hard to imagine after all of these years until you’ve had that taste again. …and that’s right here. The first bite of my CSA carrots from last year spun me back to my childhood. It’s a flavor you just can’t get from any carrots (fresh or bagged) from the grocery store. 


OMG! Look at this spinach…jg_061214_005


…and how velvety this butterhead lettuce is….jg_061214_009

Have you ever eaten arugula blossoms? Me neither, and I can’t wait. Apparently they taste like…..wait for it…..arugula. Surprise! Surprise! Last year must not have been a good growing season for arugula at our CSA, as I barely remember getting any – and certainly not entire plants like this, blossoms and all. We did receive a full plant in one of our springs share boxes, but I never got around to noshing on the blossoms. I won’t miss it this time. jg_061214_011

So onto those missing chives. Is it a big deal? No, it isn’t. When you get home, take everything out of the box, take inventory on what you received, compare it to the list that was being delivered. If it’s all there, you’re good to go. If something is missing, shoot the farmer an email and let them know an item is missing from your box. They want to know if there are mistakes, or an item wasn’t of good quality. They likely won’t be able to deliver the missing item that week, but they typically add it to the next week’s box. If that item is unavailable for the next delivery, they may offer a substitute.

So. What did I make last night from our CSA pull? 

I have no idea what to call it, yet. I kinda made it up from some left over pasta and asparagus. How about “Fresh Thursday Night leftovers”?jg_061214_012

• Pasta – cooked and leftover from the fridge (we had enough leftover pasta for three people).
• Asparagus – Harmony Valley Farm via Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks
• Green Garlic (stems minced) – Harmony Valley Farm via Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks
• Arugula (roughly chopped) – Harmony Valley Farm via Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks

• Carrots (sliced) – Highcross Farm – my CSA
• Lovage stems (minced) – Highcross Farm – my CSA
• Olive Oil
• Shaved Parmesan Cheese
• Sea Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

I used an old 1890’s Griswold Erie #8 cast iron skillet – my favorite stovetop cooking vessel. This well seasoned thing is slicker than any teflon pan from Calphalon. And the heat retention and distribution is ridiculous. Low heat in this old CI is practically medium heat on an aluminum pan – so I have to chose my words carefully. …I’ll have to do a post about my small collection of cast iron.

Sauté carrots, green garlic and lovage in olive oil over medium heat for a 3-4 minutes. Season with a pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper.

Add cooked pasta and asparagus, drizzle with more olive oil, season with a little more salt and pepper, and cook until warm. I let the pasta get browned here and there. …and this is where using leftover cooked pasta from the fridge works best – it’s not all starchy and doesn’t stick to the bottom of the skillet. Give it a taste and re-season to taste. I don’t like my food overly salty, so I’m wildly conservative when it comes to salt. But black pepper? Get outta here. LOL

When everything is good and hot and plate up the pasta on a small salad plate or in a bowl, sprinkle with the arugula, shaved parmesan, drizzle with a little more olive oil. You can even add pinch of salt to the top of the plating.

A couple of notes:
I could have used the arugula from our Highcross Farm CSA delivery, but we had some from Fresh Picks that needed to be used up. Feel free to substitute any fresh Allium: onion, garlic, chives, green onions, leeks, whatever. I used what was available in the fridge. If you don’t like arugula, try spinach, mizuna, or some other green. You can do whatever you want.

As the season goes on, you’ll be seeing more and more veggies used from my CSA or my home garden, as I have a LOT of herbs and tomato plants growing, and less and less from third party sources – except maybe Pinehold Gardens. I hit their farmer stand every Saturday morning I have available.

Thanks for reading, and I welcome comments,



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HighCross Farm – My CSA

This was originally a test post as I learned how to use WordPress.com and started building this blog from scratch – I needed something to look at while I was picking through all the templates. Don’t be shocked if it changes sometime down the road.

While technically this was my first post, it feels like my third as I’m going to re-write it after I wrote my second. Huh?!? …I’ve been pondering what I should write for the past few days, as I finished up processing last weekend’s wedding. Meh! Why not go with the obvious? Since my blog is about Local, Sustainable, Farm Fresh Food, and it’s a photographic journey, why not start with what inspired me to start this blog – my CSA.

After jumping into the CSA thingy last year, I’m officially a HUGE advocate of this organically grown and locally delivered gift. The food is incredibly fresh, therefore it’s also incredibly nutritious. Some of the food we had delivered last night was picked from the fields and hoop house that same morning. The rest was picked the day before. Does it get any more fresh than that? Well….yes. If you grow your own – which I do have a small garden. But there is no way I can get this kind of variety grown in my garden. The photo below (taken last summer) is a great example of the variety we get from our CSA, HighCross Farm. I think about the size of the garden it would take just to grow the produce that was delivered in the photo below. We’d need a garden at least five times our current size. It would likely have to be larger if we wanted it to produce weekly, for a family of four, from early June through the end of October – and maybe into early November.


In the photo above there are Roma tomatoes, a giant heirloom tomato (no idea, I’ve never seen this kind of coloring before), cherry tomatoes, red norland potatoes, summer squash (patty pan, yellow and zucchini), eggplant (purple and rosa bianca), jalapeños, green peppers, yellow Hungarian peppers, red oak leaf lettuce, napa cabbage, some long green salsa chiles, purple pole beans, broccoli, fresh basil, and a few cukes. Holy cow, that’s a HAUL. If you read the post CSA Delivery: June 12, 2014, you’ll notice it’s much heavier than the first delivery of the year.
Those norland red potatoes are SO SO good. Cube ’em up, boil until tender, add butter and sprinkle of salt and black pepper. So simple. So good.

One of the big reasons we joined this particular CSA was the option to buy their Spring Share – two deliveries in May, and their winter share – three heavy deliveries from mid-November through late December. The fact they delivered 3 miles from our house as was fabulous perk.

We also liked their online store where you can buy farm fresh eggs right from their personal henhouse. The chickens are free roaming and get to bugs and organic veggies from the farm. The yolks are unbelievably creamy and colorful – such a bright deep orange. Not that sick pale yellow you get from grocery store. Even the cage-free organic eggs don’t compare to those plucked and delivered directly from an organic farm.

As the summer progresses, you can purchase extra farm items. I love spinach and kale, so all summer I loaded up. I was buying an extra 1-2 pounds of spinach and kale a week. I blended kale into Jonas’ (our little one year old) organic yogurt shake with a banana and strawberries. He sucked that stuff down like no one’s business. …Jeez, I even liked it. LOL

As fall hit, I started stocking up on winter squash – we had delicata and hearts of gold squash all the way into March. I can honestly say, I never got sick of it. …and I used to HATE winter squash when I was growing up. Not surprisingly, my Jonas isn’t a fan – yet.

A few other perks for why we chose HighCross Farm. They have host a family day twice a year, and invite their CSA members out to the farm to tour the farm, take a hayride, meet the animals, meet the staff, watch a cooking demonstration by their resident chef, and enjoy a potluck dinner to finish the night. Here’s a few pics from last year’s event. Please note, we never made it to the dinner. Jonas started getting a little cranky after a LONG warm afternoon.




I can’t even begin to explain how difficult it is to capture the eyes of a chicken in perfect focus with a 35mm f/1.4 lens…@ f/1.4. I will be the first to admit this  capture had a LOT to do good luck. But, as Edna Mode suggests, “Luck fa-vuhs da’ pruhpared”. highcross_024

A hoop house full of seedlings getting ready to be transplanted into their fields. highcross_028



Chef Bernie doing a cooking demonstration. Man, that grilled giant zucchini was incredible….highcross_039



….as was this Caprese Salad snacketizer. Tomato slice, fresh mozza, a basil leaf, and a squeeze of balsamic vinegar reduction. highcross_054

So that’s a little photo tour of HighCross Farm during family day.

If you’re in the Milwaukee area, and you’re on the fence about joining a CSA, or even which one to try, I can’t recommend HighCross Farm enough. Check out their website, shoot them an email, ask them questions – and tell them Craig sent ya’.

Thanks for reading, and I welcome comments,



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