Farm Newsletter July 18, 2016

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Farm Newsletter July 18, 2016

Farm News       Crop Forecast

U-Pick              Recipes               Nuts and Bolts

Greetings Friends!

The mild weather has been great for growing, and most plants on the farm are looking green and lush, flowering or vining out or doing just what we want them to do right now.  The heavy rains have been setbacks to some things, but that’s one of the perks of growing so many crops — damage and loss rarely happens to everything at once.

The downpours a few weeks ago ripped holes in the tender lettuce, and last week the rotting of those leaves finally became an issue.  Hopefully you haven’t had much loss of lettuce in your fridges.  The greens –arugula, totsoi, etc — were safely under row covers, so didn’t get damaged at all.  Due to the rotten leaves making a couple plantings un-pickable, and the downpours also delaying planting on a couple subsequent seedings — we’ll be short of or out of lettuce for 1-2 weeks.

Somehow, knock on a wooden cutting board, the tomato plants have stayed unusually healthy through all the storms.  Getting soil splashed on them, and bouncing around in the high winds, plus cool nights and heavy dews  — all this usually adds up to plants with 1 or 2 or 3 different fungal pathogens making the plants yellow and the leaves die from the ground up.  But right now it’s a dense jungle in the tomato rows and they are looking fabulous.

These kinds of ups and downs are normal for farming, and are one of the main reasons CSA was invented as a model of farmer-eater relationship.  In all other farm arrangements, farmers bear the risk until the crop is harvested and delivered in acceptable quality.  Farmers do all the steps of tilling, adding compost and/or fertilizer, planting, weeding, weeding again, often watering, harvesting, storing and handling just right, and then delivering.   If any of the million wacko, totally normal hiccups of producing food happens to break up that nice plan, and a quality product isn’t delivered, the farmer takes the hit.  “The hit” is either no income for all that work and investment, or if one’s lucky, there’s an insurance that works for your farm and crops.

Farming’s a gamble.  One of the only legal kinds!

So when the red, pink and purple show up on the radar, we get nervous, but we’re very fortunate to know that you’ve got our backs.   Thanks to you, our income for the veggies we’ve planted for you is already made.  That’s a very, very big deal.

We’ve always known how great this mutual commitment and support is, for both farmers and eaters.  We do wholesale about 1/2 of the produce from the farm now, and so we deal a little more with that uncertainty.  By choice — it’s a gamble, which can pay off or cost, and every storm that rings true in our minds.  There’s a new federal crop insurance designed in part for small, diverse farms like ours, and we’re looking into it — it’s not perfect but it’s very good to know that policymakers are getting the point about the benefits of diverse ag in the community and the country, enough to put a few pennies towards keeping our “organatic” and “funny farms” afloat.

CSA members and farmers figured out a stellar solution to this age-old problem a long time ago!  Thanks for being part of the solution!

These high times of summer make our hearts sing.  The blue skies and flavorful foods, bouquets walking by the barn in your hands, green beans overflowing from your bags, colors (even some red!) shining up off the barn tables.  May your eating bring you great health and happiness!

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Crop Forecast

Eggplant should size up and be ready to go this week.  These are an Asian eggplant — the skins are very tender and good to eat, so do not peel them like you might a big globe eggplant.  They’re super stir-fried, roasted or grilled, and with plenty of sauce to soak up.  Tomatoes are starting to trickle in, and in 3 or 4 weeks it looks like we’ll be swimming in them.  Peppers are 2-3 weeks away, and melons are 3-4 weeks from ready.  They all look super and primed for a beautiful harvest!

More carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, summer squash and zucchini, sweet onions, cabbage, beets and finally, for real, baby leeks.

Heat can cause weird things to happen in vegetables, as we’ve written about before in this newsletter.  Highs in the 80s are the best, a few days in the 90s can push things along, but a week or two with highs in the 90s and lows in the 70s can really sock it to yields of several crops.  Peppers and tomatoes have already set a lot of fruit but are still flowering and “trying” to set more for September eating; they’re self-pollinated and their pollen can get so sticky it doesn’t move around enough to do the trick.  Anything inclined to bolt to flower is that much more likely to do so — basil, cilantro, lettuce, to name a few.  Any plant can get stressed, even with enough water, and fungal pathogens can set in, reducing yields and/or quality.

So we hope, for the veggies’ and for peoples’ sake, the heat doesn’t stay for too long!

We managed to sneak the garlic harvest in between rains — we mulch it with straw which helps it survive the winter, and retain moisture in the spring.  Which also means the soil around the bulbs dries out slowly in a rainy period!  But it’s in and drying on racks, looking stunning.  That’s part of the harvest on the back of the truck in this week’s picture.  We expect to have it in the share in three weeks, once it’s good and dry — one head per share per week for 6 weeks.

Fennel in 1-2 weeks.  Remember you can use both the bulb and the leaves / fronds.  See our recipe page for fennel ideas — raw in salads, fronds chopped in salad dressing, slices roasted with chicken or fish, it’s a nice flavor to add in the mix.

The kohlrabi gets the medal for surviving tough circumstances — it’s not the sweetest or juiciest we’ve ever grown but the fact that it’s alive and growing is remarkable.

We’ll be short on or fully out of lettuce for the next 1-2 weeks.  The rain damage took away the plantings that were large enough, plus delayed planting from those storms means the incoming plantings are smaller than usual. So the bag size on the salad table may be 1/2 bag or lower.  We plant lettuce and greens 20 +/- times throughout the spring and summer though, so we always get back into salad abundance sooner or later.

Thank you for understanding, and riding the ups and downs with us!

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What’s for U-Pick?

Flowers and Green Beans!

We try to have a good flower selection from now until fro–.  Same for beans, really.  The more you pick the more they will both produce, so it’s better for everyone if you keep on picking.

Plus cilantro, dill, lemon balm, mint, thai basil, parsley, oregano and thyme.

Please always check the U-pick board when you’re here to confirm what’s available and picking amounts.  Please bring your own scissors for U-pick.  If you don’t have them with you, ask Erin or Ben or one of the crew and we can loan them. 

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Nuts and Bolts

Next newsletter will be 3 weeks from now, not our usual bi-weekly newsletter — we’re skipping town!                             The crew — Aaron Ray, Ali King, Anna Reed, and Brynna Mering, plus our super pinch-hitters Jesse Fearing and Karl Sames — will be running the place the week of July 25th.  We’re headed east to hang out with Ben’s family, and some salt water.  We will be reachable by email, once every couple days, to handle pickup day changes, bulk orders and whatever else you need.  We’ll probably send out an email update in the meantime, since our harvests and U-pick can change significantly in this time frame.  This is our first ever week off/away in the summer since we started working on farms 14+ years ago — winter vacations are great, but summer is its own thing and we’re grateful to have a chance to sit around in it a little bit.  The crew is awesome and knows the ropes quite well, we’re sure they’ll bring you a super harvest of the best the farm has to offer.   They’re patient and kind, too — so go ahead and give them a hard time for anything you’d like! 🙂

Bulk Produce for You — Check here each newsletter for what we have available for extra purchase.

You might know that while a lot of the produce we grow goes to you, some of what we grow is sold to wholesale accounts.  We deliver 2-3 times a week to Just Food Co-op, St. Olaf College, Carleton College; and during the school year, a little to the Northfield Public Schools and a lot to the Minneapolis Public Schools.  And to The Food Group (formerly The Emergency Foodshelf Network) in New Hope, MN — a warehouse serving food shelves around the state, and using donations to purchase fresh produce from local organic farmers to distribute to people in need.  And a handful of other places that we’re developing relationships with, mostly for fall and winter roots and kale.

We like to offer you the same produce beyond what you get in your share, at or very near our wholesale prices, to use for parties, special events, serving guests, or just filling your family’s bellies each week.

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 : Carrots, Beets, Zucchini, Summer Squash for $1 / lb, Green Cabbage for 60 cents/lb.

BLUEBERRIES!  Certified Organic!  Next Door!  Holy Smokes!  Little Hill Berry Farm, Molly McGovern and Aaron Wills, old friends and OH farm members.  U-pick is open this week, next door on 320th Street — sign up here to see the days and hours, and to sign up for their picking updates email list.

NEW — Pre-picked blueberries may be available at your share pickup here.  Place orders to Aaron and Molly at info@littlehillberryfarm.com, and they’ll have pricing and instructions for payment.

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 —Children are everywhere.

Thanks for joining us in the fresh food adventure,

Your farmers,

Erin and Ben, with Allia, Aaron Ray, Ali, Anna, and sometimes Brynna, Jesse and Karl

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RECIPES

 Brinjal Curry (Eggplant Curry)

From Fire & Spice: The Cuisine of Sri Lanka by H. Balasuriya and K. Winegar

1 pound (2 cups) eggplant

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

1 ½ teaspoons salt

vegetable oil for deep frying, about 2 cups

2 green chilies

2 small onions, chopped

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

10 curry leaves

1 two-inch piece of cinnamon stick

1 cup milk

1 ½ teaspoons salt

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 ½ teaspoons ground mustard

2 teaspoons sugar

1 two-inch piece rampa (optional)

Slice the eggplant into thin, two-inch-long pieces. Sprinkle with turmeric and salt, and fry in hot vegetable oil until golden brown. Combine the remaining ingredients in a sauce pan with the milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the fried eggplant, and simmer until the juices are thick.

Stir-Fried Cabbage with South Indian Spices

From Indian Home Cooking

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon yellow split peas

1 tablespoon black mustard seeds (optional)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3 whole dried red chiles

½ fresh hot green chile, minced, with seeds

1/8 teaspoon asafetida (optional)

12 fresh or 15 frozen curry leaves, torn into pieces (optional)

2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)

½ small head green cabbage, cored and finely chopped (about 4 cups)

½ small head red cabbage, cored and finely chopped (about 4 cups)

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Juice of ½ lime

Combine the oil, yellow split peas, and mustard seeds, if using, in a large wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. (Cover the pan if using mustard seeds-they pop and splatter-and cook until you hear them crackle.)

Add the cumin; red and green chiles; asafetida, curry leaves; and coconut, if using, and cook uncovered, stirring, until the cumin and/or the legumes turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. (Stand back if using curry leaves; they split when they hit the oil.)

Add the cabbages and cook, stirring, until warmed through and barely wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the salt. Transfer to a serving dish and squeeze the lime over. Serve hot or cold.

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