Farm Newsletter September 5, 2016
A few weeks ago, after a much needed couple of dry days, Ben started to get into the farmer’s neuroses that it would be too dry for the next few months. Even to the point of making a mental plan to water any over-wintering crops through the fall and going into winter — strawberries, garlic, asparagus, yup, ready to go. Then we got a half inch that left the already saturated soil soaked for a few days, and then another half inch, before the skies finally dried out long enough to drive a tractor in the field without mud sticking to the tires.
Last week’s sunshine and dry breezes were such a welcome balm. We decided — as if it matters — that we’d rather enter a drought than be deluged and/or soggy all fall. The mosquitoes were tough (and seem to be less prolific right now) but for us they were nothing compared to a farmer’s concerns about all the trouble constant wetness can cause in fall-harvested crops. We had seen this coming week’s forecast for a chance of rain or heavy rain every day, and knew that while it still might mean enough dry weather to get our work done, we mostly were bracing for the no-fun that wetness would mean. Then Ben called Wayne — the buyer we work with at St Olaf’s Bon Appetit foodservice, and also a farmer (with lots of hay yet to cut) — who grumpily asked “why did you order such a crappy forecast for the next 15 days?” And there went Ben, right back into another round of farmer’s neuroses. Funny because as it’s turning out there is still lots of bounty to harvest and share. So goes the long walk of peace and even-mindedness.
Alright, that’s enough about rain. I’ll try to write the rest without using that four-letter word. Sometimes four-letter words are so wonderful, but all of them except one (that I can think of at least) are subject to excess. See “Nuts and Bolts” for that “answer.”
Crops — are looking good overall. Early September is transition time for the vegetable harvest, like in so much of our lives. It’s not really summer anymore, but it’s not fully fall either. Maybe it’s “fummer.” If we steer clear of fro–, we’ll probably be lucky enough to have tomatoes and peppers for another month, at least a taste of each. That helps keep the volume of veggies in the share up through the transition.
But then there’s spinach coming– who cares what else happens if there’s spinach in the room?! We might be able to harvest this week, and it seems definite for next week.
With the broccoli harvest being spotty (due to”black rot”), cucumbers slowing down and melons being done, and winter squash not quite ready yet — the share size might decease a tiny bit this week. We plan and plant to have plenty of crops coming through this transition of seasons, but sometimes it doesn’t come together that way. We may harvest celeriac or some new purple daikon radishes for a week or two to help keep the table stocked.
Broccoli — has been struggling with that bacterial disease called “black rot.” More and more florets have been showing signs, too, please let us know if they’ve been rotting in your fridge. Interestingly, we know a farmer whose farm has been a breeding site for cabbage for 20+ years, selecting for resistance against disease and insect pests. She told us this is the first year she has had black rot in her plot for many years. (That made us feel better, for ourselves at least.) The inoculum of the bacteria can live a long time in the soil, and if we understood right, she said the pounding rains, and the soil with inoculum splashing up onto the broccoli leaves, literally push their way into the tissues of the plants. From there the bacteria weakens the plant, and especially in wet conditions, doesn’t leave much that’s worth harvesting. We’ll see, the rest of this fall’s plants could pull through, or might rot in place. We hope for sun and pulling through!
Melons — Though they looked sick and small a month ago, the watermelons and cantelopes did pull through to give us a decent harvest. Often the same number of plants produces enough for 2 melons per share for a couple weeks, but not this year. They surprised us with five weeks of pretty good to excellent quality and size — which for a year like this, is, well, pretty good. We hope you enjoyed them and got enough to feel satiated.
Winter Squash — hopefully next week Spaghetti Squash will be ready. We always wish it to be ready right after the last watermelons, but sometimes there’s a gap like this. We hope to harvest all the winter squash in the next 1-2 weeks, and then cure them in the greenhouse until their full flavor is developed. We don’t like giving you winter squash that isn’t flavorful, it’s just not as fun to eat. First the Spaghetti squash ripens, followed soon after by delicata, acorn, and carnival, then ambercup, buttercup and butternut. The smaller squashes tend to beready earlier and not store as long, and the bigger varieties ripen later and store longer.
Peppers — Are mostly sick and losing leaves, which is not normal, but they’re still producing. A friend whose peppers are doing the same thing called them “deciduous peppers.” The harvest looks good though — those amazing colors should keep on coming.
Tomatoes — have turned out really well, despite showing symptoms of a couple different diseases at the beginning of harvest. They’re staying healthy enough and we should have a modest harvest for 2-3 more weeks, and hopefully at least a trickle into October.
Garlic!! will be in the share for two more weeks. Extras are for sale in the barn, for $1 / head, now until the end of the season.
We will also have great carrots, globe eggplant, a few cucumbers and summer squash , cabbage, beets + golden beets, onions, celery, kohlrabi.
Thank you for being flexible with us in the ups and downs of growing food!
What’s for U-Pick?
WE ARE ALMOST OUT OF U-PICK CONTAINERS! PLEASE BRING ANY CLEAN CONTAINERS YOU CAN SPARE. THANKS!
Basil — Has downy mildew, but you can still find some good leaves out there.
Cherry Tomatoes – the Sungolds (the orange ones) still have the honor of being the sickest, and worst-looking, plants on the farm right now. That’s pretty impressive given how the broccoli looks. But the other varieties are pulling through nicely.
Tomatillos — Pick on the east side of the jungle, there are lots hiding in there.
Flowers and Green Beans — Still going strong despite the weeds.
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.
Nuts and Bolts
“Answer” to the four-letter word quiz in the crop forecast — Love.
Mark your calendars and RSVP to the Paperless Post email invitation you should have received —
Bulk Produce for You — Check here each newsletter for what we have available for extra purchase.
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 : Tomato Boxes! Seconds 12 lb for $20, Firsts 12 lb for $24. Tomato boxes should be available about 2 more weeks. Plus — Lettuce Mix for $5 / lb,Carrots, Beets, Golden Beets for $1 / lb, Green and Red Cabbage for 60 cents/lb, Eggplant (Globe) for $1.50 / lb. Plus Garlic for $1 / head — available in the barn, no need to pre-order garlic.
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.
We hope you enjoy the harvest,
Erin and Ben, with Allia, Aaron Ray, Ali, Anna, and sometimes Brynna, Jesse and Karl
Easy Pasta Fresca
from Recipes from America’s Small Farms by Joanne Lamb Hayes & Lori Stein
4 small eggplants, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 or more large garlic cloves, peeled
2 to 3 large beefsteak tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
8 servings hot cooked pasta or rice
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the eggplant, peppers, onion, and garlic with enough olive oil to coat. Spread in an oiled shallow baking dish and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until nicely caramelized.
Mash together the tomatoes, basil, parsley, roasted garlic cloves, and balsamic vinegar; fold into the remaining roasted vegetables. Do not cook; taste, and add salt and pepper.
Serve at room temperature, or slightly warmed, over pasta or rice, or use as a pizza topping. Sprinkle with your favorite cheese (parmesan or feta is excellent).
Golden Beet Risotto
from Recipes from America’s Small Farms by Joanne Lamb Hayes & Lori Stein
Shiitake Mushroom Relish (recipe follows)
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
2 cups arborio rice
½ pound baby golden or red beets, or large beets, quartered
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper
4 ounces goat cheese or 2 ounces parmesan cheese
Prepare the Shiitake Mushroom Relish. Bring the stock to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low and hold the stock at a simmer.
Heat the oil in a 4-quart sauce pot; add the shallots and saute until translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add about 2 cups of the stock and cook, stirring frequently, until the stock has been absorbed. Repeat, adding 2 cups of stock at a time, until the rice is just tender and all the stock has been incorporated, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, blanch and peel the baby beets. When the risotto is ready, stir in the beets, butter, if using, chives, and parmesan; season to taste with salt and cracked peppercorns. Divide the mixture among 8 warm soup plates; divide the Shiitake Mushroom Relish among the centers of the plates and garnish with crumbled goat cheese or shaved parmesan.