Small Family Farm CSA

We Dig Vegetables

 

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

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?