Monday, July 29, 2013

CSA Week 8 and mid-summer farm updates

What's in Your Share This Week?

CARROTS!  We grow several varieties of orange carrots (long-skinny, short-fat, and everything in between), white carrots, yellow carrots, purple carrots. If you're new to rainbow carrots, you're in for a beautiful surprise.  Storage tip: as with any root veggie, remove the carrot tops  before storing in an airtight container (e.g. sealed plastic bag) in the fridge.  Since the carrot is still alive even after harvest, the leaves will still transpire moisture out of the root, resulting in rubbery carrots.  For root crops whose leaves you also eat (e.g. turnips, beets), remove leaves and store both leaves and roots separately, airtight in the fridge. Voila, everyone's happy.

Purslane, or verdolagas -- Purslane is a succulent, wild edible plant that shows up like a weed in our garden.  It's high in vitamin C and omega-3s ( ), has a lovely lemony flavor, and is incredibly versatile.  I like it in salads, stirfry, frittata, deviled eggs, smoothies, and salsa. If you have a garden, it will probably show up--  just eat it!   If you speak Spanish, google verdolagas-- there are many more recipes from Latin American cuisine than from English-language cuisine.

Sweet Onions-- We are growing three varieties of sweet onions, the bright white Sierra Blanca, and the tan-skinned, round Ailsa Craig and more flattened Walla Wallas. Can you taste the difference among varieties?  These fresh sweet onions are best stored in the fridge, since they are so high in moisture and aren't intended for long storage, unlike the yellow and red onions you'll see later in the season.

Fresh Garlic-- Last week, one of my fave farm lunch items was simple roasted veggies- whole garlic cloves (not peeled), halved tomatoes, chopped eggplant (coming soon! the farm crew got the very first sampling), sweet onion, with rosemary, salt, and pepper coarsely ground and generously sprinkled, with olive oil.  I throw garlic into just about everything this time of year- Yum!  ALSO-- if you get garlic with green stalks still attached, cut off the stalks and use as a bed for anything on the grill (kind of like you would do with fennel)-- lay a few garlic stalks on your grill, then lay grillables right on top of it for a super summer garlic infusion. Afterward, discard stalks and/or toss into any soup stock you're simmering that night. (*tip: carrot tops and trimmings, garlic skins and tops, onion skins and trimmings make excellent vegetable stock, along with some salt, pepper, thyme and bay)

Broccoli OR Napa OR Braising Mix-- see note from last week

Tomatoes -- We're still harvesting cherry tomatoes, and a few large Moskvich (Russian heirloom-- red, of course) from the hoophouse, though the field tomatoes are green and plentiful!  If this cold snap continues, it will be a while before field tomatoes ripen, but when we get warm temps back, you may float away on a sea of heirloom tomatoes...
Storage tip in preparation for tomato season: Don't you EVER store tomatoes in the refrigerator, hear?  Tomatoes should be stored at 55-68 degrees F to minimize chilling damage (mushy texture, reduced flavor, soft spots) or rot (  Exception: if you know you are going to cook your tomatoes, go ahead and store in the fridge. Otherwise, it's like freezing bananas: satisfying for smoothies or banana bread, but not much else.   The tomatoes we grow are harvested either dead ripe or 1-2 days shy of dead ripe, quite different from the tomatoes in the store, even those marketed as "vine-ripened," which usually means the vine is snipped off the plant along with the tomatoes, when they are still quite green, then ripened in CA (controlled atmosphere) with high ethylene concentrations, or in a shipping container en route to the store.  Our heirlooms are handled with great care, on the plant and off, so you get the maximum sugars produced by photosynthesis in good, rich soil, not just the maximum skin color change produced by ethylene.  Please treat them gently and store properly for maximum AMAZING flavor and texture.

Baby Salad Mix--a mix of lettuces, and often other baby greens as well.  Feedback time:  you've had both baby mix and "adult" lettuce (i.e. whole heads)-- what's your favorite form of salad?


1. Red Barn Yoga: Aug. 21 from 7-8 p.m, by donation. Farm friend and yoga teacher Amy Hubbell,
who currently teaches Yoga on the Beach, among other locations, will lead this all-levels class. Wear yoga-comfortable clothes and bring your own mat or towel (*mat or towel [or lightweight blanket] is very important here- it's an old wooden barn floor, possibly with splinters-- protect your dogs and digits).  It's the first of hopefully more to come. Q: even if you can't make it on Aug. 21, would do you come to Red Barn Yoga on another day/date?  I want to gauge interest here, so we can offer a weekly class next year!

2. Coffee from Higher Grounds available two ways:
     a) A few 1-lb bags available this week only at the sale price of $8 per lb (med-dark roast), first-come, first-served, Tues at CSA pickup. IF you pre-ordered a 1-lb OR 5-lb bag for this week, your order will be here Tuesday. Bring $ or check.
     b) Coffee Shares still available: 1 lb of whole-bean coffee per week for $10 per week, for as many weeks as you choose to sign up for.  You choose medium or dark roast, Higher Grounds will rotate varieties within your roast preference, so you can try several over the season.  (I realize it's not very tempting to pay $10 per pound while they're offering $8 per pound, but I believe the amazing sale prices are over for the season-- and $10 per lb is still a much better deal than retail).

3. Certified Organic Blueberries available SOON from Ware Farm-- details forthcoming; just wanted to make your mouth water for a minute.

4. Weeders Wanted:  Our driveway flower bed has been sadly neglected, and while the brave sunflowers and unstoppable perennials are still going strong, we can barely see them through the lambsquarters!  Volunteer a few hours of weeding, and take home a bouquet once the sunflowers are in full bloom.  Please email or call to set up a volunteer flower weeding shift -- thanks!

Field Notes

Joyful Moment: Over 3600 bulbs of garlic harvested, bunched, and hung in the barn last week-- hooray!  Thanks to our four volunteers and dedicated crew, we are rich in garlic.  We've seen a notable decrease in plant and bulb size from two years ago.  We're still planting the same varieties (and hence same genetics with same hugeness potential as ever), but environmental conditions (drought, and this year, cold & late spring, so a shortened growing season) have resulted in smaller-than-possible bulbs.  I'm still pleased with our garlic, especially when I compare it to other garlic I see at farmers' market, but I'm recognizing the importance of irrigation.  Until last year, garlic rarely required irrigation, and we've always had gorgeous bulbs, so I took for granted that we could get away without watering much, but next year I'll be sure to prioritize it in the irrigation lineup, early on, to ensure a return to a state of garlic glory.
Next steps: continue to distribute garlic in CSA shares and at market, and once the bunched stems are completely dried down (in 2-3 months) sort into seed stock (largest, best specimens) and eating stock (the rest).  End of October: Garlic Planting Party!  If it happens to fall near Hallowe'en, it'll be a costume party-- stay tuned.

Crop Update, field by field: 

Back Field:
Onions, shallots and leeks are all looking amazing.  The Birch Point crew has keep the allium field beautifully weed-free this year, and the plants are responding well, despite the hot temps.  Unlike the garlic, I kept the onions well watered, so despite the late planting date, they've sized up well, and I think we'll have a good harvest of sweet AND storage bulbs.  Leeks will be on the late side, but for being small, they still look great.  Potatoes are also looking amazing.  This is one of the few years we've both had a huge infestation of Colorado Potato Beetles AND kept up with hand-picking them!  They are still there, but in tolerable numbers, and I think those spuds will just keep growing until harvest, unlike last year (remember the leaf hopper invasion early on that decimated the potato plants? No-leafhoppers-no-leafhoppers-no-leafhoppers...)This mid-season rain, coupled with SERIOUS mulch, should keep the plants happy and tubers growing.  Peas and Fava beans are on their way out-- this mid-season cool, moist spell might set another round of flowering, but I'm not counting on it.  SQUASH is looking good, overall-- unlike most years, the transplants actually did better than the direct seeded squash.  Due to drought, we had terrible germination on a few things, namely gourds and jack-o-lanterns.  The good news is that all the edible varieties (butternut, buttercup, delicata, acorn, sweet dumpling, and more) are looking great-  lots of flowers and even several young fruits set and growing.  It doesn't hurt pollination to live right next to the honeybees! Summer squash and cucumbers haven't fared as well as winter squash, in terms of transplant vigor- we certainly have a crop, but it's tiny, and I'm going to squeeze in one more planting this week, to see how many more cukes and zukes can mature before frost.  You'll see the bulk of these things later in the season this year.  The bees are the most productive I've seen since they arrived in 2009.  Our beekeeper, Greg Griswold of Champion Hill Farm, has stacked up to six supers (honey storage chambers) on top of many of the hives, anticipating a huge honey harvest!  Farm members will have the opportunity to order pure Birch Point honey later this summer (as opposed to regular Champion Hill honey, which is blended from multiple bee yards Greg maintains around the county.

Vermont Field (adjacent to the road):
All the early brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale) except kohlrabi took their sweet time in maturing this year-- note to self: kohlrabi is a real trooper, thriving even under adverse conditions!  Cabbage is finally starting to form firm heads, while broccoli has been trickling in, with smaller-than-average heads AND little side shoots, for several weeks.  The kale in the VT field was ravaged by flea beetles early on and is just starting to outgrow the damage, so most kale you've seen in shares has come from the hoophouse.  Swiss chard has thrived this year-- as long as we keep it covered with reemay (the lightweight white fabric you see over many crops)-- to protect it from (get ready for this) goldfinches!  No joke, goldfinches are an agricultural pest, preferring chard, but settling for beet greens in a pinch (they're the same species, remember!) They perch on the tallest leaves, tearing holes with their little claws, and shredding the leaves further with their little bills... little monsters.  All the fall brassicas are finally in the ground (brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, Napa cabbage, more kohlrabi, romanesco cauliflower, more kale, and collard greens!) and looking very happy- the rain and cool temps couldn't have come at a better time to settle in these summer-planted-but-cool-temp-loving crops.

From the North Garden/Middle Earth/Rhubarb Row (three sections of the same field):
Flowers are coming on strong!  Everything we transplanted is doing great, having a head start over the direct-seeded sunflowers and second generation of zinnias.  Flower shares start this week, even though sunflowers are *just* barely starting to open-- there will just be more and more of them-- all the other flowers are blooming their heads off.  Celery and Celeriac have been invaded by a robust purslane crop-- hence the purslane in your shares this week- it is delicious and a bonus, but we will have to weed it out once you get it in shares, so that you can get celery and celeriac later.  Turnips have been a complete bust this year-- terrible germination on the first planting, followed by root maggots in those that did make it, and the second generation is still tiny.  I feel hopeful about those new little guys, but it will be several weeks, still!  Beets in this garden are just hanging out, being small. The plan was a seamless transition from hoophouse beets (what you've been eating so far) to field-grown beets, without missing a... beat... but they are stubbornly small, still.  I think one more round of thinning, combined with this rain and cool spell, will be just what they need to jump start growth.  (Late fall beets are going in the ground this week, along with more carrots, turnips, rutabaga, daikon radish, and more!). Carrots and parsnips are finally sizing up!  They, too, were just hanging out, being small (until we handweeded with a fine toothed comb); now they're happy and coming on strong.  Beans are flowering and (now) well-watered-- we should finally see some beans in the next 1-2 weeks!  Bulb fennel and the next generation of leaf lettuce (not baby salad) are coming right along-- depending on weather, it could be 3-5 weeks before we get our first fennel harvest.  Rhubarb is completely overgrown by grass-- a fall project is to dig up all the rhubarb and relocate them somewhere with less grass competition-- I know, it seems impossible that anything could overtake rhubarb, but we have some seriously healthy grass around here!

Red Barn Garden
Tomatoes are healthy and robust, just a few weeks behind where we'd like them to be at the end of July-- lots of green fruit there, so when the heat returns, we'll be rich in tomatoes! Peppers and eggplants- same story: looking good, a little behind, green fruits just starting.  Basil is also taking to the red barn garden quite well- interplanted with peppers, it's bushing out and we might get our first harvest next week, possibly the week after.  Purslane is also making a healthy appearance here, but it makes a fine living mulch under the nightshade plants, so I don't mind it much here (unlike under celery/celeriac, where it competes too much for water and nutrients; nightshades are better competitors for resources, and the spreading plant keeps water backsplash to a minimum, controlling soil-borne tomato diseases, just like any mulch).

That's it for now-  more later, and I look forward to seeing you at CSA pickup!

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