Farm Newsletter August 4, 2014
Farm News Crop Forecast U-Pick
Bulk Produce for You Nuts and Bolts Recipes
Jesse and Daniel, our very own dynamic duo, came back from a hoeing project in the watermelons saying there were cucumber beetles in the melons. That’s ok, we seem some in there every year. Jesse looks at my face and says, no, this is different — they were swarming us, covering us, as he gestures all over his body. I know this feeling, it happens occasionally on this bug-filled farm. It’s like being swarmed by mosquitoes but usually no biting, more crawling, and with their wings spread out and round beetle shape they seem bigger than their actual wheatberry size.
Erin and I look at each other, and Jesse knows it too– they’re done for. So we are sad to report, in our little farm melodrama show, the chances of a decent watermelon harvest are now about 10%. We will be able to pick some watermelons, but no where near what we are used to. As with any crop failure we’ve seen, there is no one single factor to pin it on, and it’s a mixture of weather, soil conditions and farming lessons for the humans in the picture. Too cool in June, and July, a missed irrigation opportunity, a field new to us that has not yet grown a bountiful crop in the curcubit family (melons, squash, cucumbers etc) and where other crops have sometimes struggled, and a fungus/bacteria or virus that we’re still trying to identify. The bugs are the final warning that the plants are stressed, the opportunistic herbivores pouncing on plants that can’t fight back with their usual immue-style response. The watermelon plants stopped growing vigorously twice so far this summer – never a good sign — first three to four weeks ago when the broccoli, beets and carrots were stalled, and then again last week. Until the bug infestation, I had hopes that they could pull through and still make more fruit, and size up the few fruit they had made. Uh-uh.
It’s strange to not be able to find anything else to write about. There are so many things going and growing very, very well on this little patch of earth. Colors, flavors, bounty, friendships and family. But after Jesse told us about the melons I had a cloud inside me and had to look back through the ten conversations of the past twenty minutes to figure which one had something that bothered me. I have been grieving them for over a day now.
It makes me laugh too. It’s such a small trouble to have. But it’s my trouble today. Watermelons bring you so much joy, and health, and that’s a big part of why we do what we do. So to not be able to supply them is sad for us. Canteloupes are looking very good though, so while they’re not the same as having both types of melons, it helps heal the wound. And so many other crops are too, so it looks like we will all eat well from the farm in the coming months. Despite my little grief there is a sun’s worth of bright light and many tons of sunshiney food out there coming your way.
This is yet another moment we are glad to be CSA farmers. If we were growing just for wholesale or farmers market, that crop failure would equate directly to lost income, but with you all sharing the risk of low yields, and the joy of bounty, and everything in between, that loss is spread out — we all can mourn (or not) the dearth of watermelons from this farm. And the diversity of crops on this CSA farm helps ensure that when something doesn’t do well, there are five to ten crops that are thriving, and ready to feed us all. Thanks for softening the blow of some of the hard knocks of farming by being a part of a CSA farm!
It’s very nice to be picking tomatoes, and beautiful ones at that. This week we hope to have the beginnings of peppers too. Both will get bigger in the next couple weeks — the early tomato varieties are generally smaller, being bred to ripen early instead of getting big and ripening later, and the peppers coming first are mostly cubanelles, a lighter green and pointy pepper that’s sweet and mild, a whiff of the bigger bells and sweet red peppers the plants are working on for you.
Cucumbers — our first planting was shocked by the cold and wet in late may, and has never thrived. We’re moving into a new planting this week and next week and hope to see more coming. Also better-looking ones — most of what we’ve given out would normally not make it pass Quality Control around here. Summer squash and zucchini have also been barely producing, but still enough to go around.
Globe or Italian eggplants are starting to come in nicely alongside the Asian ones. There’s also a few of a bright purple globe called “Dancer” — it is certainly gorgeous but we have no idea how it tastes, so if you get one of the trial ones let us know.
Sweet onions are another summer favorite, they sure add great dimensions to the flavor of everything (ok, maybe not ice cream…though a caramelized sweet onion ice cream might be worth a shot).
Broccoli is coming in now, and we hope to have a steady supply from here until that cold snowy season comes, along with cabbage, carrots and beets. Cauliflower does better for us in the reliably cool temps of fall, so it should be ready in September sometime.
We harvested garlic last week, and while it got a late start this spring and is one of our smallest harvests ever, there are enough good-sized ones for everyone, and they’ll be dry and in the share in a week or two. Canteloupe should be coming by then too!
After last year’s cool (but warmer than this year’s) summer, a long warm fall ripened up all the fruits of the various crops. We’d love to see a little more heat, no need for anything over 90, just more of these over-80 days would do wonders, and something similar to last fall would be icing on the zucchini bread. (Which, by the way, we’ve never tried but it sounds good.) For now we’re enjoying the cool chance to sit around outside with no mosquitoes!
What’s for U-Pick?
Peas are done. It was a less productive season for them, but we think the long picking time (thanks to the cool weather) made up for the lower germination rate. Hopefully cherry tomatoes will be more abundant. So far the cherries are ripening nicely, and usually after a week or less of the “4 tomato” limit there are more ready. But there are fruits down low which you’ve been picking, and the next ones are actually a couple feet higher on the plant — it’s like we’re missing a set of them, or a “tier” as we sometimes call it. At that same time when the broccoli and watermelon stalled out, these cherries were growing but not flowering. Perhaps the common denominator involved is temperature – since then they’ve grown and flowered more,and it’s only been warmer, but only by a few degrees. Maybe that unusually cool time was enough to make a difference.
At any rate, looks like we’ll have to keep the low limit on cherry tomatoes at least another week before they give us enough to raise it to a pint or more.
We think every year you become more voracious green bean eaters and more thorough pickers! Green beans are looking good, with more flowers and beans coming, though at the moment it’s hard to open them up to unlimited picking. We’ve been watering them regularly but a little more heat would help them produce more too. We planted lots more this year and we’ve already made note to add a few rows next year so there are plenty of these popular favorites.
Herbs – Cilantro, Dill, and Basil. Plus lemon basil, thai basil,thyme, oregano, parsley, and cutting celery (use like celery leaves). And mint, lemon balm, and anise hyssop are down the hill near the perennial flowers. And the lovely flowers by the greenhouse.
Always check the U-pick board when you’re here to see what’s available and picking amounts, and feel free to come anytime dawn to dusk to pick, and enjoy the farm.
Bulk Produce for You
To place a bulk order, simply call or email us at least 2 days ahead of the day you’d like to pick it up. Orders can be picked up at the farm during our regular pickup hours, but it doesn’t have to be your share pickup day.
This week’s selection is : Lettuce Mix for $5 / lb, Carrots and Beets for $1/lb, Kale for $3.50 / lb , and hopefully Summer squash and Zucchini for $1/ lb, Asian Eggplant $1.50 / lb, Fennel $1.50 / bulb.
Nuts and Bolts
Reminder — New Swingset is Off Limits — We are happy to have a swingset for Allia , but we are sorry to say it is off limits and not open to farm members during pickups or U-picking visits. This is to keep some privacy in our backyard, prevent injuries as we cannot commit to staffing it, and to keep the children’s eyes on the yummy food and farm while they’re here. This is not an easy line for us to draw, but we appreciate your help in keeping your kids away from it. Most kids won’t even see it — it’s tucked in our wooded (and buggy) backyard — but for their safety it makes it doubly important to know where your children are at all times. Please make this clear to your children. Thank you!
Share Pickup Hours
Monday, Wednesday Friday 2:00-6:00pm. You can U-Pick any time (when U-pick crops are in season.)
Please Drive Carefully and Slowly on the Driveway —Children are everywhere. On the note of children, please know where yours are at all times.
Thank you so much for your sharing in the realities of growing food!!
Erin and Ben, with Allia, Jesse, Daniel, Els and Kelly
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Tomato Basil Salad with Shaved Parmesan and Balsamic Reduction
from Farmer John’s cookbook
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey
¼ tsp mined garlic
¼ tsp minced shallot
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
4 medium tomatoes, cored, cut crosswise into ½ inch slices
8 large fresh basil leaves, sliced very finely
freshly ground black pepper
red onion, to taste, sliced as thinly as possible
1-2 ounces Parmesan Cheese, very thinly sliced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil or more to taste
- Put the balsamic vinegar in a stainless steel or ceramic-coated pot over medium-high heat. Add the honey, garlic, shallot, and rosemary sprig. Bring the ingredients to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Gently simmer the mixture, uncovered, until it has reduced to about 1/3 cup and is the consistency of syrup, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and set it aside to cool. Strain if desired.
- Arrange the tomato slices on individual plates. Scatter the basil evenly over the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with onion to taste.
- Drizzle 1 ½ tsp of the balsamic reduction over each serving. (Don’t drench the plates; the reduction is concentrated and very flavorful—a little goes a long way.) Top each serving with Parmesan slices and drizzle with about 1 Tbsp oil, or more if you desire. Serve immediately.
Instead of another recipe, we are adding this excerpt from a Star Tribune article by Joyce White about fennel:
“…my eye fell on a mound of fresh fennel, the fragrant bulb with the
feathery green fronds that is also touted as an aid to digestion. And in
some parts of the world fennel is simmered with water for a refreshing
But I love the licorice-like flavor of fennel, which imparts an elegant note
to baked or grilled fish or to shrimp, salmon or trout. And fennel is also
a lovely seasoning for Sunday roast chicken.
When I cook with fennel, I season the seafood or chicken with salt and
pepper, a sprinkling of oil and a little garlic. I then top the fish with
slivers of the fennel bulb, some chopped fronds, and bake. For roast
chicken, I also stuff the cavity of the chicken with chunks of the bulb and
a few fronds, perfuming the kitchen with an enticing aroma.”