On the home front, the crops are doing quite well, I must confess! We trellised the vibrant, hairy tomatoes for the first time this week. There’s even a few green tomatoes hanging there as a bit of a tease, just dangling like a Christmas tree ornament swaying over your presents two weeks before Christmas is even here. Next to the tomatoes, we have proud, purple eggplant plants that are looking terrific, considering we’ve never been able to grow eggplants in the past. We’re really excited about this new veggie to offer this year. Although eggplants and I aren’t exactly close friends, I’m trying really hard to like them.
We’re beginning the lengthy garlic harvest this week that usually takes weeks for me to complete. Garlic is by far my favorite crop to grow. Garlic is, technically, considered an herb. The spicy bulbs are a time consuming crop that always prove to be every bit worth all the efforts and time invested into it. The garlic crop is also an on-going project that consumes large quantities of time, all year long. After the harvest, the plants must be bundled and then hung in a dark, well-ventilated area where they are allowed to “cure” for over a month. After they are completely dried out and are ready to be taken down, they must have their tops and roots trimmed off and then sorted out. We must sort and weigh out what will be saved for seed or given to the CSA members that year. In the late fall, we plant our saved seed garlic, which are then ‘manured’ and mulched before the first snow fall. Then in the spring, the scapes must be picked and at least one hand weeding must be done before the harvest begins once again. We’ve been saving our own seed now for four growing seasons, selecting the hardiest, largest and most tasty varieties to be carried on.
All this hot, humid weather is giving the heat-loving plants exactly what they’ve been waiting for to show their true colors. Our sweet corn was definitely knee-high by the fourth of July and is looking better every day! The cucumber and summer squash plants are vining out and wanting to set their first fruits. Our peppers are already making me drool—not sweat, or cry, but salivate in anticipation for crispy, succulent vine ripened bell peppers of all colors. We’re trying a few new varieties this year consisting of purple, yellow and orange bell peppers and a wide variety of hot and mildly hot peppers. There are flowers on the plants, but I know better than to get my hopes up too early about that.
The Cole crops are quite possibly the best spring successions of cole crops we’ve ever grown. Cole crops are the broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and the like. I’ve included a few pictures of a these crops so you can see for yourself. The foliage and vibrancy of these plants are truly stunning! I can’t wait to harvest our first heads of red cabbage! The real harvest from these cole crops will come next week and the following week. What we got this week is only the beginning of what I’m presuming to be a large spring harvest of broccoli! Cauliflower is a notoriously difficult crop to grow. Although we plant cauliflower every year, it seems as though every year we get these small and scant harvests off of hundreds of plants that we transplanted. The ratio of what we actually harvest off of, to what we actually plant is traditionally disappointingly meager. We’ll be sure to send to you what we get, but don’t get too goo-goo in a cloudy dream land over cauliflower. There’s some trick to growing this white wonder, and I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I have a hunch that it’s a nutrient greedy crop, and our soil might just not have what it takes quite yet.
I don’t want to bore you with all this talk of vegetable madness, but arousing your interest in how these crops are doing is somewhat of a duty I aim to fulfill. If I could, I would make you fall as deeply in love with these vegetables as we are infatuated with them. Farming will never lose your interest once you’ve stuck your green thumb right into the middle of it, because it’s nearly impossible to master. It’s a humbling trade because sometimes no matter how hard you work and hope and pray for a good crop, your effort may or may not pay off, depending on what the cards or the weather-gods have in store for you that year. There’s also some luck involved, some skill, some timing and some passion.
Luck isn’t something we boast to have a bumper crop of, our skills we are honing, and timing is the one thing that farming is based on. But passion is something we’re rich in, and that we know how to cultivate. If by the end of the season the fiery red leaf lettuce gets you speeding on your way home because you can’t wait to make a salad, or the green beans make you want to get down on bended knee and give thanks, or the sweaty onions make you want to sharpen your knives just so you can slice them perfectly so they successfully bring tears to your eyes, then I will feel like we have done our jobs well. Go ahead, fall for them, they want you to.
So….WHAT’S in the BOX???
Garlic– Enough of those funny curly green things we called ‘scapes’, here’s the real thing, freshly plucked out of the ground after nine months of growth and slumber. The garlic will not have the papery skins around the cloves that you’re used to seeing because this garlic is freshly harvested like a new born! The bulbs will have several cloves inside. Around each clove is a thick membrane that is still alive, after curing, that membrane is what turns into the papery skins that you’re used to peeling away from the clove. Fresh garlic is not quite as hot as cured garlic. Does not need to be refrigerated. Store out of direct sunlight in a well ventilated area.
Shell Peas or Snow Peas- Shell peas are my new favorite vegetables. Shell peas are fatter and rounder and need to be broken open to extract the round, sweet peas. The snow peas are flatter and the whole pod can be eaten raw. Zucchini- Does not store wonderfully.
Lettuce– The lettuce just keeps on reeling in! The hotter weather is making the lettuce a bit more bitter. But I’m thankful that we still have it!
Basil– Basil was given to us by the gods to help us remember them. Basil will store better and will not turn black if you do not refrigerate it. You can put it in a bowl of water and treat it like fresh cut flowers. If you must refrigerate, put in a sealed plastic bag and use promptly.
Broccoli or Cauliflower- One or the other this week.
Green Onions- Green onions to help hold you over until the real deal is ready for plucking.
Kohlrabi- Either a white or purple kohlrabi. Kohlrabi is in the same family as broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower. The leaves are edible. Peel kohlrabi and use for cooking or eating raw.
Next week! A short list of items that we may have next week, but will not promise to have. Due to the unexpectedness of the season, anything could pop up or go down hill in no time.
Peas, lettuce, broccoli, kohlrabi, parsley, cauliflower, kale, green onions