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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Hurricane Irene update:  I just wanted to share that the farm made it through the strong winds and heavy rains without much harm.  A few of our tomato trellises fell over.  Some of our okra and popcorn fell over, but on the whole we made it through fine.  We did lose power and have yet to get it back.  (I’m sitting in the Galena library right now sending out this email.)  We were able to get out and harvest today, but we didn’t have water to wash anything, so the beets and carrots will be a little dirty today.

We hope you all made it through the hurricane this weekend without too much damage.

Expected Harvest

beans, french variety
beets
carrots
eggplant
garlic – a variety called ‘Music’
okra
onions, red
peppers -red-ripe sweet bells and some purple
potatoes – chieftan (a red-skinned, white-fleshed variety) and satina (yellow-fleshed)
scallions
tomatoes – cherry, heirloom, paste and red varieties
watermelon – Quetzali (reddish-pink interior)
winter squash – acorn

Bonus Items
basil
parsley
hot peppers: anaheim, cayenne, fish, jalapeno, and poblano

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Expected Harvest

beans, french variety
beets
carrots
eggplant
garlic – a variety called ‘Music’
lettuce mix
okra
onions, red
peppers -red-ripe sweet bells and some purple
potatoes – chieftan (a red-skinned, white-fleshed variety)
scallions
summer squash & zucchini
Swiss chard
tomatoes – cherry, heirloom, paste and red varieties
watermelon – Quetzali (reddish-pink interior)

Bonus Items
basil
dill
hot peppers: anaheim, cayenne, fish, jalapeno, and poblano

by Zoë Abram

We’ve all been to a workshop today at the Seed Farm, an incubator farm in the Lehigh Valley. We’re back and ready to rest before tomorrows harvest, full of new ideas and inspiration and having had some great conversations with other people excited about farming vegetables on a small scale. We saw some really cool equipment useful specifically at a scale similar to ours. We also heard about the Seed Farm’s model which encourages young people to start their own farms by providing a supportive structure starting with one year of training and followed with an opportunity to rent land, greenhouse and walk-in space, and equipment at low rates. I feel, as always, so grateful to be doing this work and part of a growing number of people interested in growing food for their communities using responsible, regenerative practices.

This week I wanted to share an article and a recipe with you. Both of these things, the inspiring one and the delicious one, are in my mind right now as part of how lucky I feel to be part of this work. The article is by Josh Volk, a farmer and writer in Oregon whose writing always makes me to think more deeply about growing food, especially about CSA. I find it important and helpful to check in about how other farmers are thinking about the work they do and the way they conceptualize the CSA model. This article talks about the differences Josh finds between growing for CSA and growing for market. Some of it mirrors our experience and some of it is different, but I hope it can serve as a good access point for thinking about the role this CSA plays in your lives and also gives you more information about how important it is to the grower and the way growing food happens. Here is the article: http://slowhandfarm.com/Blog/Entries/2011/7/23_Community%2C_the_first_word_in_CSA.html

This recipe is from the most recent Colchester Cooking Class, with Beth Rocca.  This was the first class I attended here, and I was so impressed! I learned a few key things that made me more confident and gave me a broader range of ideas for things to do with Colchester produce. This recipe is for a tomato vinaigrette. The dressing is that beautiful orange color that fire-roasted tomato soup turns. It feels rich but it has only tomatoes, herbs, salt, vinager and oil in it. I hope you like it as much as I do!

Tomato Vinaigrette
10-15 plum tomatoes — Quartered and seeds removed  (When we made it in cooking class we didn’t use plum, we used normal red tomatoes and it worked great!)
quarter cup salt
1 shallot
1 clove garlic.
half teaspoon pepper
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups olive oil

Place tomatoes and salt in a colander and let sit a few hours or overnight to draw out moisture and acidity. Rinse excess salt from tomatoes. tomatoes. Puree in the blender with remaining ingredients. (We also added basil to the blender, and a very small amount of onion … maybe one slice of onion. You can also add a small amount of garlic.) Strain and chill.

by Zoë Abram

Okra is a conversation starter. It often provokes strong reactions from people. Common complaints from people who aren’t enthusiastic about okra are usually about texture. Gooey? Slimy?  The pro-okra camp (of which I am a part) is full of ideas about how to enjoy the pods best. Make it fried! Stewed! Pickled! In gumbo!

Okra is in the mallow family. Looking at it‘s beautiful yellow and maroon flowers, you can see the resemblance to hibiscus and hollyhock. It is also related to cotton. Okra does well in Maryland; it does well in hot, dry summers. We had some trouble with damping off when we tried growing okra seedlings for transplant … the stems would rot right at the soil line and the plants would flop over. The small plants were too damp in the potting soil we used. On the advice of someone I’ve worked for before, we tried direct seeding a row. We’ve been comparing it to the row we planted with our last try seedlings (which we grew successfully after we changed to a different potting mix that dries out more evenly). The direct seeded plants grew much faster and bushed out much more than the seedlings, but the seedlings started producing first. Now, we’re harvesting more from the bigger, bushier, direct seeded row. It’s been interesting to see how differently the rows develop!

The damping off seedlings weren’t our only okra worry: a few weeks ago, we saw a lot of green stink bugs on the okra. They like to suck on the buds, which can abort the flowers and prevent fruit from forming. It seems that the pests aren’t affecting yield too much though, as we’ve been getting pretty consistent harvests.

The pods grow so fast that we have to pick it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with other fast-maturing fruits like squash and cucumbers. Each harvest seems small – today 9 lbs, the biggest yet was 13 lbs. And the okra can defend itself! We grow a “spineless” variety, but the plants still leave the smallest scratches you don’t notice until the harvest is over.

The best reward is when members are so happy to see it as an option in the share. I learned how exciting locally grown okra can be to customers when I worked at a farmers market in Brooklyn and people would exclaim about how green it was compared to the browning, bruised okra available at the supermarket. With our okra too, people notice how the ends snap off, a sign of freshness.

Okra is used as a thickening agent in many cuisines – one of our members shared with us the way her family prepared okra in Sudan: they dry it and create a powder to use like corn starch or potato starch to thicken soups and stews. If you are looking for ideas to cook okra, find a recipe for a chicken or shrimp gumbo. The same gooeyness people complain about serves as the thickening agent that gives gumbo it’s unique texture. If you’re looking for a treat, or for a use for okra that can’t possibly be “slimy,” try the crowd-pleasing recipe of frying sliced pods in corn meal batter. My personal favorite is pickled okra: I love how the brine sneaks inside the pods and you get a burst of it when you bite into the okra. How do you prepare your okra?

Expected Harvest

beans, french variety
beets
cucumbers – slicing
eggplant
garlic – a variety called ‘Music’
lettuce mix
melons – cantaloupe
okra
onions, red
peppers -red-ripe sweet bells and some purple
potatoes – chieftan (a red-skinned, white-fleshed variety)
purslane
scallions
summer squash & zucchini
Swiss chard
tomatoes – cherry, heirloom, paste and red varieties
watermelon – Quetzali (reddish-pink interior)

Bonus Items
basil
cilantro
hot peppers: anaheim, cayenne, fish, jalapeno, and poblano

by Zoë Abram

These weeks you’ll find different types of peppers, and also the same peppers in various stages in your share. Sweet bell peppers: first green then red or orange, and some varieties also pass through a purple stage between. Hot peppers: little yellow fish, long cayenne, smooth jalapeño, light and lean anaheims, and the poblanos, squat, dark and lobed.

I think pepper plants are the friendliest of the nightshades. Peppers are in the genus Capsicum within the nightshade family, and lots of varieties belong to the same species, Capsicum annuum, so they can cross-pollinate.  Peppers are really a perennial, but for agricultural purposes in places with frost they are mostly grown as warm-season annuals. Peppers like it hot! In spring, they need a heat pad, requiring temperatures above 80 degrees to germinate properly. And sometimes they make us wait … I haven’t yet planted peppers without worrying whether they’ll germinate at all … they always seem to take so long. But once summer comes they do well in Maryland. Even when we farm workers begin to wilt in the heat, I look over and the peppers are thriving and bushing out happily.

They are so productive, especially some of the hybrid varieties that we grow, that we need to unburden them of some of their green fruit so they can fully ripen the others to red. Even with these efforts, peppers often suffer from the same blossom-end rot that affects tomatoes, a problem caused by not enough calcium traveling through the plant. Some of our brave work shares have picked sadly through the peppers in this stage, so excited by their colors and so sad at the bad spots and the trail of rotting peppers left on the ground. But it seems now the plants have recovered and are producing the fully ripe, red peppers you see in your share and soon orange ones too.

Finding the right type of pepper makes so many dishes taste just right. An urban farm I worked for in Brooklyn chooses the varieties they grow based on their markets: the hottest varieties of scotch bonnets for people from the West Indies, Eastern European semi-sweet flavoring peppers, Thai chilies and other Southeast Asian peppers. And, conversely, almost any type of pepper can add a unique flavor to a dinner. I appreciate peppers because you can eat them raw, roasted or sautéed, in just about anything. Or preserve them: freeze them roasted or just raw, or dry the hot ones to add flavor in winter. Tell us! How will you use your peppers?

Expected Harvest

beet greens (young thinnings from our new bed of beets)
carrots
cucumbers – slicing and a few pickling
eggplant
garlic – Spanish Roja variety
lettuce mix
melons – cantaloupe and maybe a few Jenny Lind, a sweet, green-fleshed melon
okra
peppers -red-ripe sweet bells and some purple
potatoes – chieftan (a red-skinned, white-fleshed variety)
summer squash & zucchini
sweet corn – If it looks okay, we’ll bring some sweet corn.  (Stink bugs have been feeding heavily on it, leaving lots of damaged, shriveled up kernels.)
tomatillos
tomatoes – cherry, heirloom, paste and red varieties
watermelon – Quetzali (reddish-pink interior) and some Early Moonbeam (yellow interior)

Bonus Items
basil
cilantro
hot peppers: anaheim, cayenne, fish, jalapeno, and poblano