From the Farmer: Week of July 27
Dog days of summer!
It’s been hot, wet, and weedy and we have been working hard over the past week to beat back the thickets of Galinsoga, volunteer Amaranth, Pigweed, and other weeds that have cropped up in any and all vacant nooks and crannies across the farm. Amidst weeding sessions, we are adding new levels of trellis to our tomatoes to support them as they leaf out and begin to fruit, staking our eggplant and pepper plants for support for the same reason, deadheading our flowers to keep them producing healthy new stems, and harvesting three days a week for our CSA, Market and restaurant accounts. This week we are seeing first signs of young cherry tomatoes, baby bitter melons and bird peppers.
At this time of year, crop management and maintenance is the name of the game. We have transplanted out thousands of baby plants, most of that have passed adolescence and entered into maturity – ie: their harvestable stage. This means weeding to decrease competition for nutrients in the soil, and adding various types of support to the crops to ensure that they grow healthy and strong and sturdy. Leafy greens that we started back in mid-March – Kale, Collards, Chard – have been regular features in your shares and will continue to be. We encourage you to get creative and adventurous with these highly nutritious greens – try them raw in salads as well as sautéed or steamed. We hope you’ve been enjoying the cucumbers; these will also come regularly in your shares and we recommend making a batch of quick pickles if you’re tired of slicing them into your salads or onto sandwiches. While the brassicas (kales, etc.) do not require support our Cucumbers need a vertical trellis. As they grow, we train the vines by weaving them in and out of the trellis. Our tomatoes require a serious trellis apparatus: heavy T-posts (weighing up to 10 lbs a piece) are spaced and pounded into the ground every 8’, and are aided by wooden stakes spaced every 4’ between plants. Synthetic tomato twine is then woven in a figure 8 shape around the plants; this helps to support this leafy plant as it begins to fruit. We also keep up with pruning the tomatoes so that we produce a good number of large fruit, rather than a lot of small fruit (pruning back to 1 “leader” or main stem also helps prevent snapping or breaking of the stems). Finally, peppers and eggplants, also fruit-bearers, are individually staked to help the plant continue to grow straight despite the weight added during fruit bearing. As for flowers, about 70% of our flowers are trellised, to support them as they produce many blooms which add on a lot of weight to the stem, and also to train them to grow straight, which makes for easier cutting and bouquet making.
You can expect to see peppers featured in your share a bit earlier than tomatoes; generally speaking our tomato harvest season is mid to late August through October. Cherry tomatoes will come first, then the beefsteaks and heirlooms, and lastly green tomatoes for frying.
You may wonder why we don’t grow broccoli, cauliflower, corn, or potatoes …. These crops require a LOT of space, and even though we have an admirable amount of land for an urban farm, to grow any of these crops in great enough quantity for your shares would come at the expense of the diversity you get across the season. Instead we focus on what grows well and abundantly and what is possible to harvest from multiple weeks in a row – leafy greens, and tomatoes for example – and aim for a decent variety of delicious crops. On the horizon are cabbages, leeks, parsley, callalloo, long beans, and more! We won’t be seeing radish or turnips or salads for a bit due to the heat. But so many heat-loving crops are coming our way! Thank you so much for being a part of our CSA. We welcome your feedback at any time! Questions? Concerns? Requests? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you are enjoying or are curious about!
Enjoy the bounty of summer and all that’s to come!
IN YOUR VEGETABLE SHARE THIS WEEK!
- Lacinato Kale
- Swiss Chard
IN YOUR FLOWER SHARE THIS WEEK!
- Ammi Green Mist
- Ammi White Dill
- Cinnamon Basil
- Hyacinth Bean flower
FARM FRESH FLOWERS:
Strawflowers are in bloom on the farm, and despite the name, they are bursting with a wide array of colors! Native to Australia, strawflower thrives in hot, dry heat and their petals hold less water than their daisy relative. This gives the flowers a papery texture (or straw-like texture), and allows them to last much longer as a cut flower! Strawflowers are excellent specimens for drying – you can hang them upside down till the stem dries completely (away from direct sunlight), or simply cut off the stem and save the pretty flower head!
VEGGIE HIGHLIGHT: Onions
An entire bed of onions is ready. The long and daunting task of growing onions is bringing them to your table, packed with the love our farmers, apprentices, interns, and volunteers put into it. Onions are the most cultivated sister in the Allium family that also contains superstars like garlic and leeks. It’s been bred and cultivated for at least 7000 years.
The onion fascination goes far to the Bronze Age. Ancient Egyptians worshipped it believing its concentric rings symbolize eternal life. Traces in the socket of Ramses IV make us believe that it was used in burial ceremonies.
Culinary uses are almost known to every kitchen tradition. Chopped onions are used in a number of hearty warm dishes. While mainly used as an auxiliary, it comes as the main ingredient in dishes like the infamous French Onion Soup. Fresh onion is a common ingredient in the Middle Eastern Arabic salad. Red onions are usually used in fresh salads for their poignant flavor and color.
If you have gotten this far without getting your eyes watery from thinking about chopping onions, we did. To reduce eye irritation, you can cut it under running water or in a basin of water to entrap the sulfur compounds that get produced in the process of cutting an onion. The root end of the onion has a higher concentration of these compounds, so avoid cutting through it in the process. Refrigerating the onion before cutting it reduces the enzyme reaction rate in the onion and hence the subsequent eye irritation from the released gas.
RECIPE CORNER: Sage Tea
One of the simplest and most tasty usages of Sage is to flavor tea. Mohammed, one of our apprentices, shares his experience growing up with Sage:
We pretty much have tea either with mint or with sage. Mint tea is very popular and was carried far through the Moroccan tradition of tea preparation. Unlike boiling mint that can make the tea bitterer, boiling sage extracts the flavor and produces a very fragrant tea that could be mixed with black tea or separately. The smell of sage (or Marameyeh as we call it) is always present in Palestinian kitchens and kitchen closets, and might extend itself to travelers’ suitcases since it is one of the most requested items Palestinians ask travelers from home to bring with them, especially when not living in climates hospitable to its growth.
We like to drink tea sweet. Honey is an excellent sweetener alternative to table sugar if you like to enjoy your tea that way. We often drink it hot, but my grandma prefers it chilled. We often store sage for use outside the growing season, and as for a lot of herbs, it packs its flavor and fragrance well when dried out.
Enjoy your delicious new tea!
STORAGE TIPS: Garlic
At the youth farm, we are always excited to share more of our garlic as the season progresses. We hope you have enjoyed the garlic scapes, as well as the fresh garlic cuts that we had in the share earlier this season. Cured garlic differs in its storage and handling when compared to fresh garlic, or garlic scapes for that matter. Here are some tips to how to keep your garlic full of nutrition and taste:
- You are getting Hardneck Garlic, which is not your regular supermarket soft neck verity. It’s a hardier variety to grow in the Northern areas. You can thank this variety for the tasty scapes that you hopefully have enjoyed. This variety doesn’t braid while hanging to dry, sends up that tasty garlic Scape you received earlier this year and has bigger cloves. Yay, less peeling!
- We have cured the garlic long enough for you, but it doesn’t hurt if you keep it in curing conditions to extend the curing process. Keep the garlic in a dry, shady, well-ventilated, and moisture-free spot if you can.
- Garlic should be able to stay for several months. Once you start removing cloves from the bulb, the overall lifetime decreases. So plan accordingly if you can.
- A wire mesh basket or under a clay pot are ideal spots for storing garlic.
- If you peeled or minced more garlic than you need for a recipe, use a Ziploc or an airtight container to store it. This will slow the loss of the most active sulfur compound the garlic contains.