We're heading into our third year on our gorgeous farm and our 8th (!) year of farming. Here's to hard work, progress (no matter how slow it seems at the time) and the ever-present promise that the seasons bring. Happy New Year!

This is the farm in August 2012 right before we first moved here, and here it is in August 2014.

Grilled Lettuce (Wait... What?)

We're at the Great Falls Farmer's Market again this season after a few years off. We did the market our first two years, but then kids arrived and we took a little break, focusing on selling our food through our farm shares (CSA) and wholesale to our favorite places (Mountain Front Market in Choteau, 2J's Fresh Market in Great Falls, Daisy's Deli in Great Falls and soon, Wines by Wednesday in Great Falls.)

While all that (CSA and wholesale) continues to grow, we still decided to do the market this year, mostly in an effort to support the food community in Great Falls and meet more people who might be interested in what we do and grow.

So, far, it's been slow, though. I'm trying not to feel desperate about it. My hope is that it picks up as people get to know us again. It's still early. We have a nice display (if I do say so myself), and we're trying to put all sorts of tips we've heard and found to use. So, it will pick up. I know it will.

But for now, I'm bringing home a fair bit of produce after each market. This week, I brought home more lettuce than I would like to.

We won't sell that lettuce wholesale after it's been in cooler for four hours and we won't give our CSA members anything but the freshest picked produce either.

So, that leaves it up to us to eat everything we bring home.

Kale and chard and other veggies I can freeze for winter. Or, make smoothies or make kale chips (which is how we powered through 6 bunches of kale in one day this week) or soups for the freezer.

But lettuce. You can only eat so many salads, you know?

So, I've been doing a riduculous amount of research on non-salad uses of lettuce. As it turns out, there's lots of things you can do with lettuce that don't involve chopping it up and slathering it with ranch dressing. (Who knew? Certainly not me.)

This one, so far has been my favorite.

Grilled Lettuce

Most recipes on the web call for only romaine hearts, but we thought grilled Black Seeded Simpson lettuce was DELICIOUS. The thing about the lettuce we grow is that it actually tastes good. It actually has flavor and texture -- not that lifeless stuff that's been on a truck for the last week. The charring just makes our lettuce even better, bringing out those unique flavors and characteristics.

Here's what you'll need:

1 huge head of Black Seeded Simpson (or romaine) lettuce
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper

Here's what you'll do:

1. Preheat your grill to medium high heat.
2. Trim off most of the leafy part of the lettuce head and throw that in a salad spinner to wash up and use later for a salad (dang! there's still a salad involved!) or sandwhiches or wraps or whatever.
3. Cut the head down the center of the stalk. (Here's where this gets awesome. Normally, we don't use the stalk -- especially as the season progresses and that stalk gets thicker and longer. Why don't we use it? Because it's thick and doesn't quite fit in a salad. But, grilled! Oh my!)
4. Submerge both sides into cold water for a few seconds to get it cleaned in all its crevasses.
5. Pat dry and let drain a little on a platter.
6. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a generous amount of course salt and pepper (a little minced garlic too if you're into that.)
7. Place on the hot grill and grill for 5 minutes or so a piece -- until the stalk is tender and the leaves are bit charred and crispy.
8. Top with Parmesan cheese or a creamy dressing and eat with a knife and fork, like a big beautiful green steak.

Other ideas for lettuce: 

Lettuce wraps, including tacos! (We love this awesome lentil taco filling with our black lentils.)
Lettuce soup
Lettuce smoothies

2014 Veggie Farm Share (CSA) Delivery Schedule

Great Falls:
Thursdays, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at Gibson Park
(Half Shares pick up every other week starting with the first pick up on June 5.)

Thursdays, after 4:00 p.m. at Mountain Front Market
(Half Shares pick up every other week starting with the first pick up on June 5.)

(Our long-time customer and farm friend Terri (Thanks so much Terri) will be doing the delivery this year so you'll go around back to get your share out of the white cooler. Terri will drop the cooler by no later than 4:00 every Thursday. But after you pick up, go into Mountain Front Market and buy a bunch of food from Jill too! :)

Helena (Half Shares Only)
Thursdays, from 6:00-7:00 p.m. at 705 Saddle Drive.
(First pick up is June 12.)

What to Expect
With the Prairie Heritage Farm CSA you can expect:

-To eat in season. Your first few shares will be early-season crops like lettuce, greens (kale, chard, etc), radishes and the like. Your first share will be baby greens, salad mix and greens mix. We'll ramp up as the season progresses.

-You'll get a weekly newsletter via email with information on the week's share and recipes to give you some new ideas in the kitchen. (So make sure we have the right email address for you!)

-Everything you get in your share will either be harvested that morning or, at the very longest, the night before. There's nothing like fresh-picked homegrown produce.

-To know your farmers. There are many reasons it's good to know your farmers, but one big one is that you have a direct line of communication with us. So, we hope throughout the season you'll tell us what's working for you and what could be better. If you want more of one thing and/or less of another, please let us know. We keep our CSA numbers small so we can have a direct relationship with you and can make sure this isn't a one-size-fits-all program. We understand that different families have different needs and preferences. So, let us know if we can do anything to make the program work better for you and your family.

-Please bring your own bags to pick up your produce

If You Can't Pick Up
If you are not able to pick up your share, it is your responsibility to make arrangements to have someone else pick up your share or you can choose to donate it back to the farm. Please be respectful of the time and energy it takes to harvest and put together your share and let us know -- with some advance -- if you'll need to skip a week. We
can be flexible on where and when you pick up to make it work -- we just need a heads up.

5 Reasons to Join a Farm Share (CSA) Program

The Prairie Heritage Farm Vegetable Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) is a unique way to get local, seasonal, healthy, organic vegetables to your table every week.

We offer two types of shares: A full share (delivered every week) and a half share (delivered every other week). A full share will feed a family of 3-4, or a couple who eats a lot of vegetables. A half share is great for a light-veggie-eating couple or one person.
A typical July share.

See more information here.

Now, to the 5 reasons you should join...

1. Eat local.

Eating from your “foodshed” has many benefits. The first one is easy to quantify because it's economic. Each dollar you spend with a local farmer multiplies as we send it back into our community via stores, suppliers, mechanics and the like. The next benefit is a bit more nebulous, but just as powerful: taste of place. When you eat locally, you are cultivating a taste of where you live – putting the “culture” into agriculture. And, the closer your food is, the less fuel it takes to get to you and the fresher it is. Which brings us to ...

2. Eat fresh.

And by “fresh” we mean truly fresh – as in picked that morning. Fresh food not only tastes better (and we're talking way better), it lasts longer, which means you waste less and save money.

3. Eat organic.

Organic is about more than just what a farmer doesn't do. Of course, we don't use synthetic fertilizers or chemicals of any kind. But, being certified organic doesn't stop there. It means we are caring for the whole ecosystem in which our farm operates, doing things like rotating crops to build the soil, planting trees to keep erosion down and making sure that our seeds were also developed organically, among many other things. We take the extra steps to certify ourselves because even though we have a relationship with most of  the people who eat our food, (and thus, they know how we farm) we believe that the checks and balances and education that certification offers helps the organic community at large – and that means we are supporting the promise that when you buy anything “organic” you can be certain that it lives up to that name.

4. Eat creatively.

Each week, you'll get something new in your share – maybe even something you've never had before. Eating in season means you get to be an “Iron Chef” of sorts. When you start a meal based on what's best and fresh right now, it changes the way you see food. It changes the way it tastes. It's endlessly fun to experiment and create when the food is this good and fresh. And, we all get to be creative together. We love sharing recipes from our own kitchen as well as those of our customers. Each week, you'll get lots of ideas for how to use all these veggies in our newsletter.

5. Know your farm, your farmer and your food.

Knowing your farmer means you get to create a different kind of relationship with your food. When you get to really be a part of a farm, as you are with a farm share, you get an important connection. Not only do you get an upfront look at the health and safety of your food, but you also share in both the bounty and the risk of farming. And because of that, food becomes something more than just a means to an end, more than just fuel or a commodity. It becomes personal. You start watching the weather. You start thinking differently about soil and fertility and the seasons.

Find out more and how you can join the Prairie Heritage Farm CSA here.
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