I usually do the deliveries to La Crosse, Onalaska and West Salem on Fridays, but this past Friday I did the deliveries to Dubuque and Galena so I could stop and see some close friends of mine who just returned from living in Hawaii for about 8 months. So when I was back in Dubuque last weekend, I also had the opportunity to see a few other friends and took a few moments to catch up with their lives. They all had the same question for me, as most friends will usually ask after a large gap in time from seeing one another; “So, what’s new with you?” I had a funny realization as I answered the repeated question; I’m not a typical 25-year-old. As Stacie Earle would say; I’m a ‘Simple Gearle’. But, I answered in all earnest just the same.
“What’s new with me? Well, the peas are starting to come on and the tomatoes are really looking good this year. Oh, and we’re growing some new things we’ve never tried this year like Romanesque cauliflower, black radishes, and purple potatoes. Oh, yeah! And our sweet corn really is looking great, too! What’s new with me? Well, we put up a new greenhouse and we’re raising Berkshire pigs this year and our first batch of chickens are almost ready for harvesting! Yeah, we survived the flooding well. In fact, we’re doing much better than our neighboring valley farmers who lost much more than we did. I’ve read a few really good books lately too, and I’m taking an interest in songbirds now! (All told to a few graciously suppressed yawns.)
The things that are new with me usually don’t seem to genuinely interest most folks; especially ‘folks’ my age. I feel more like I’m giving progress reports than I am making wow-full impressions on my old city-dweller friends. But, I’m OK with that. I love my life and who I am.
So, I don’t mind that my life is simple in this way. I feel that my appreciation for little things like the flowering on the pepper plants and the coming in season of strawberries and basil helps me to appreciate even more a cold beer, a night off the farm, or a visit with an old friend. Some of the things that are normal, every-day happenings of my city friends are an even richer experience for me because I am abstinent from them for so much longer. After all, absence does make the heart grow fonder, right?
Now, to change the subject a little, I wanted to speak briefly on the cleaning of your vegetables. I’ve had a few folks e-mail wondering how much they should prioritize cleaning their vegetables. First of all, we’re high on the ridge and have had no ill-effects from flooding run off or contaminated wells so we’ll get that assurance out if the way. Just good ol’ dirt and a few small critters are all you should have to contend with.
Because we grow our vegetables using organic methods, we are not using any kind of insecticide, pesticide or fungicide. We don’t even use organically approved insecticide’s, pesticides or fungicides. You don’t have to worry about washing off any kind of residue from any kind of synthetic or natural chemicals. The only thing you might want to watch out for is some dirt—and a few bugs here and there.
There are some vegetables that are more prone to having bugs on them than others. The main crops that are really difficult to avoid finding bugs on would be broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and sweet corn. I’ll apologize ahead of time if you do find bugs on any of these crops, it’s simply organic farming, and it’s hard to avoid. If we were to begin using some kind of organically approved insecticide, we could maybe cut back on this problem or completely eliminate it. There’s a chance that you will go all season and not find a single bug on any of your produce. I’m not guaranteeing that you’ll find bugs, but you might. I hope that you’re not so squeamish about the thought of bugs that it ruins your appetite. Please understand that this is organic farming and it’s nothing that a little water can’t wash away.
Dirt is something you’ll likely find. Because we’re busy farmers and try to get everything to you fresh as possible, we have lots and lots and LOTS of vegetables to harvest, wash, pack and deliver, so we don’t wash everything as carefully as you would wash it in your own kitchen sink. It’s safe to say that we rinse a large quantity of our vegetables, but I encourage you to clean them further to your personal likings. However, we are not saying that you must clean everything. We’re leaving it up to you. There are some crops that we do not wash at all for reasons that if they were to get wet and then be put in plastic bags for delivery, they may rot quicker. Items that we do not wash are things like peas, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers. The reason we do not wash them is because it would be an extra expense of our time and extra handling of the very large quantities of these vegetables; extra handling that may also bruise or damage the perishable vegetables in the process. We have also been known to dig potatoes, bag them and deliver them with dirt and all! It is also worth stating that after heavy rainfall, vegetables may be dirtier than normal because the rain often splashes dirt up onto leaves that sometimes makes them even more difficult to clean.
So, if I haven’t thoroughly grossed you out with all this talk of bugs and dirt, I hope we can move forward in peace. This is home grown style! This is back to the garden, as fresh as it gets! This is good old fashioned vine-ripened goodness delivered right to you. By the end of the season, we may have you so broken in that when you go the grocery store to buy vegetables again, you might even wonder to yourself where all the dirt and bugs are on all of those vegetables. Think of it all as a reminder of where they came from; the rich, bountiful, nourishing earth! (Give peas a chance….)
So….WHAT’S in the BOX???
Ruby Red or Rainbow Swiss Chard– If this is a new on you, don’t be shy! No, it’s not rhubarb, it’s a leafy green. The stalks are edible. It’s in the same family as spinach and beets. A nice earthy flavor, usually used for cooking and wilting in with other favorite veggies.
– It’s about time! Best stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Garlic Scapes– These are shoots off of the garlic growing in the field. A scape is actually the garlic plant making an effort to put out seed for re-production. But garlic growers snap them off so the plant knows to put it’s energy into making a larger garlic bulb, rather than putting it’s energy into making seeds. These yummy scapes are perfectly edible. Use like you would use garlic in any, your eggs, soups or stir fries.
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. Most full shares received shell and half shares received snow.
Zucchini- Does not store wonderfully. Zucchini is a soft summer squash that can be grated, chopped or diced into a very wide variety of dishes.
Lettuce– YES, more lettuce! It’s really picking up now. Plenty to go around! There will be just as much next week so be sure to eat it all up!
Dill Weed– I believe this is our first annual herb to be harvested. It’s hard to mistake this aroma with anything else.
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, basil, cauliflower?