From the greenhouse to your dinner table

I’ve always been intimidated by kale.

I know I should eat it. I’ve been picking it up at the grocery store with good intentions to find some clever way to prepare this leafy green, but sadly it often sits in my refrigerator for days on end, getting passed over again and again.

So when I went to visit long-time organic farmer Jim Bruns at Solomon’s Porch in Kingfield recently, my ears perked up when he started talking about a simple way to prepare kale with soy sauce and sesame seeds (see sidebar for recipe).

Bruns is passionate about his veggies, cooking and connecting others with fresh organic produce. He grew up on a dairy farm in western Minnesota and has been operating Hay River Farm in Prairie Farm, Wis., for nearly two decades. He started one of the first CSAs — Community Supported Agriculture — in the Upper Midwest 18 years ago.

Before he started his organic vegetable farm, he lived in North Minneapolis and was one of the first community garden organizers in the city.

Bruns said there are many benefits to getting involved in a CSA.

“It allows you to get the freshest possible best tasting vegetables, and vegetables for the most part, will lose 30 percent of their nutritional value after three to four days of harvest,” he said. “It gives you a benchmark in your eating habits. If you eat the CSA box of vegetables every week, you’re eating healthy.”

Solomon’s Porch, 100 W. 46th St., is Bruns’ main drop-off site. He’s been a member of the church for two years. He also has a site at the Golden Fig in St. Paul.

Those that purchase a full share get a box of 10 to 15 pounds of vegetables, which feeds a family of four, for 16 to 18 weeks, beginning the first week of July through the middle of October. A full share costs $450 and a half share, $250.

Bruns grows 35 types of vegetables and herbs, including eight types of squash.

Shares are lighter earlier in the season and get heavier later in the summer.

“It expands your diet,” Bruns said of his CSA. “If gives you an opportunity to try different vegetable types that you might not otherwise try.”

He pointed to kohlrabi (a turnip shaped vegetable that belongs to the cabbage family), leeks and fennel as some of the more interesting vegetables that might be new to people.

Each box comes with a recipe to give people an idea of how to prepare their vegetables, too. Bruns also holds informal cooking demos at Solomon’s Porch throughout the summer to chat with folks and share ideas.

He said knowing the people involved in his CSA program has become a meaningful experience.

“The biggest thing is that knowing the people I grow the food for, meeting their children, getting these little notes talking about how special it is to know the person that grows their food, just really means a lot to me,” he said. “I think about the people I’m growing for all the time while I’m working in the greenhouse, while I’m harvesting. It makes it very special for me as a farmer.”

For more information on Jim Bruns’ CSA, visit www.hayriverfarm.com.

Farmer Jim’s Kale
Recipe by Jim Bruns

• De-stem and chop one bunch of kale.
• Chop a thumb size piece of fresh ginger and two large cloves of garlic into pretty fine pieces.
• Add to about 1/8 cup oil and some toasted sesame in a pan or wok and lightly sauté.
• When the smell of cooking ginger and garlic reaches your nose add a dash of tamari or soy and the kale.
• Lightly toss as you cook and add dashes of soy to keep it moist.
• Cover for a little while to finish; sesame seeds are a nice finishing touch.

Hint: Kale will turn bright green at first then start getting darker. I like to cover right when it starts to get darker but be sure and taste to make sure it’s tender but not overcooked and the soy levels are where you like them. Trust your palate! It’s the only one that counts.