In this week’s box: Summer Squash and Zucchini
Cucumber (first of the season…more to come!)
Tomato (first of the season…lots more to come!) Candy Onions
Red and Green Leaf Lettuce
Bell Peppers (first of the season…more to come!)
Jalapeño Pepper (short, green pepper)
Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper (long, pale yellow mild hot pepper)
Fruit share: blueberries from Berryhill in Xenia, blackberries coming soon!
We are often asked what we do during the winter. And we always tell people that we catch up on all the office work and farm and vehicle maintenance that doesn’t stand a chance of getting done during the season. Another task that always gets done in January or February is making up the seeding chart. We have every week mapped out with what seeds need to be started in the greenhouse that week. This way we have one less thing to think about during the crazy days of the summer.
When we printed out the seeding chart for last week we were a bit surprised to see that we are already doing our first round of fall brassica seeding! I have to admit that we went back and double checked with previous year’s records to confirm that we actually wanted to start them. Sure enough it was time to begin preparing for fall veggies.
Speaking of fall veggies we are also transplanting winter squash into the field this week. We start the winter squash crop late in order to avoid the first generation of the squash vine borer which can destroy an entire planting of squash and for which there really isn’t an organic control. When we plant out the squash we cover it with row cover and by the time the squash is established and the row cover needs to be removed the threat of the vine borer is generally past. So, even though we know that this is the time that we want to plant our squash we still don’t like planting when it is this hot and sunny, but we’ll keep water on it and all should be fine!
This spring our cabbage did not make it into the ground. Fortunately we were able to trade veggies with our friend Michael Malone of Hungry Toad Farm so that we could get some cabbage this week. We are starting our fall cabbage this week, but that won’t be ready for a couple of months.
As everyone is well aware it has been awhile since we’ve had a good rain and unfortunately it looks like it will be a while until we get another good soaking. This complicates things around the farm. The most obvious consequence of dry weather is the amount of time that we spend setting up and running irrigation, but we right now we are more concerned with the effect that dry weather is having on cultivation and tillage.
This time of the year we are constantly cultivating the fields with hand hoes (don’t really know why the drought doesn’t effect weeds!?!). Hoeing is usually not a difficult task, but when the soil is too wet or too dry hoeing can become almost impossible. When it is wet the hoe just picks up dirt and quickly becomes useless. On the other hand when the soil is too dry as it is now it can feel like we are hoeing in a rock garden. It is impossible to hoe ground that has not been recently irrigated.
Tillage is also negatively effected by the dry weather because the ground has become so hard that our chisel plow and tiller don’t work like they are supposed to. With the chisel plow we can’t cut into the ground as deeply as we would like. And the tiller doesn’t work the soil to the fine texture that we need to direct seed some of the fall crops.
So, we’ll wait for rain and rush out into the fields as soon as it comes!
Swiss Chard is a green that has a variety of stem colors including white, red, pink, yellow and orange. We grow ‘Rainbow Chard’ which features all colors and ‘Fordhook Giant’, which is the white stem variety. Chard is related to beets, but has been breed for the leaves, not the root. Like all greens, Swiss chard is loaded with nutrients, making it one of the healthiest vegetables. The entire plant, stem and all, can be used in your cooking. Swiss chard makes a great substitute for spinach and is especially good in quiches and casseroles.
The sweet onion that we usually grow is a variety called Candy. Sweet onions are different from regular onions in taste and culture. Culture-wise, sweet onions are a fresh onion, that is they are harvested and consumed right away, whereas other onions are cured and stored for some time (developing those onion skins). As far as taste goes, we think little beats the sweet onion. It is milder then regular onions but still has great onion flavor and has a touch of sweetness that allows you to enjoy them raw. We love to make sandwiches that feature sweet onions and whatever else is fresh from the garden. A simple sandwich of sweet onions, cucumbers and mayo is something we look forward to ever summer. Try them in lettuce salads or dice them into your egg or tuna salad. And of course they can be used in anything you cook and are especially wonderful when caramelized.
1. Fruit share: blueberries from Berryhill outside of Xenia!
2. Flowers share begins this week and will run for ten weeks.
3. It’s hot! We do everything that we can to make sure that your veggies will be fresh when you pick them up, but if you find that some of the greens are a bit wilted you can shock them back to life using the following method. Submerge the greens fully in ice water for 3-4 minutes. Remove and shake dry, then store wrapped loosely in a plastic bag ideally in the crisper portion of your refrigerator.
It’s a cliche and in our experience a reality that farming is very cyclical. Sometime this past week we settled into our main season routine. Monday and Friday are harvest days. Tuesday we make CSA boxes and deliver them and Saturday we are at market. Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday are left for farm work (planting, cultivating and general maintenance). Also since we are now getting into flower season at the market Emily is cutting sunflowers every day of the week and cutting other flowers for most of the day on Thursday.
Additionally at this point in the season we have also gotten most of the spring/early summer projects out of the way. The garlic is harvested and hanging in the barn. The tomatoes and peppers are planted and tying the tomatoes has begun. Remay (lightweight row covers that we use on many spring crops) is getting cleaned up and we are replanting where some spring crops are finished. Large scale tillage with the tractor-mounted rototiller has been replaced by precision cultivation with wheel hoes (which is exactly what it sounds like – a hoe with a wheel in front to make it easier to hoe long rows and larger areas) and the walk behind tiller.
Of course soon enough there will be the main season projects: pulling onions and setting them up to cure in the barn and digging all of the potatoes…but, thankfully we have a couple of weeks to get caught up on our weekly chores before we have to begin doing that work.
We are growing four different varieties of summer squash this season. The light green zucchini shaped squash with stripes is an heirloom variety called Costata Romanecsa, and is widely recognized as one of the “best tasting” summer squashes. We are also growing a standard green squash for those who prefer squash of the dark green variety! The third type of squash we grow is our favorite of the yellow squash variety. It is called Zephyr and has a light yellow color with a small green portion on the blossom end. Finally we are growing the yellow patty pan squash Sunburst. We harvest squash three days a week to try to keep them from getting too large and tough. With young squash it best to cook them just until they are tender, and to be careful not to overcook them. If you find yourself with more than enough summer squash you can always make zucchini bread, cake or fritters with all types of summer squash.
We like the texture and taste of flat leaf parsley better than curly parsley. The two varieties of parsley can be used interchangeably. Try adding freshly chopped parsley to meatballs, meatloaf, falafel or toubouleh. Like other herbs fresh parsley may be chopped and frozen in an ice cube tray. The parsley cubes can then be thrown into soups or stews at a later time.
Fennel is a common herb with a flavor similar to anise, but the kind we grow has a swollen bulb-like stem that is used as a vegetable. It can be sautéed, braised, roasted, or eaten raw as can the dill like fronds.
Beets have been maligned for years but are experiencing a recent renaissance as people have discovered there are lots of ways to prepare fresh beets. Memories of beets from a can have given way to roasted beet salad and beet gratin. We love beets here at Mile Creek Farm. They are so flavorful, both earthy and sweet and it’s a 2 for 1 vegetable as you can eat both the roots and the greens! We grow traditional red beets (really purple in color), golden beets and an Italian heirloom, Chiogga, which have a red and white bullseye center. Beets are easiest to prepare by cutting off the tops and root tips and boiling for 30 to 40 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the beet. After they have cooled, the skin will peel right off. You can also roast beet halves with salt, pepper and olive oil in a 425 oven for 40 or so minutes. Again, the skin will peel off when cooled. Beets can then be sliced and eaten plain or with butter, but we like to add beets to things. Beets go well with strongly flavored cheeses, mustard, dill, mushrooms, and sour cream. A simple salad with roasted walnuts, goat cheese and beets is wonderful or you can try these more complex recipes and see if we can’t make a beet lover out of you.
1. The fruit share will resume next week with blueberries!
2. We are now including the farm notes in the same blog post as the veggie list. All CSA newsletters can be easily located by clicking the “CSA: In this week’s box” link under the categories menu on the right side of our homepage.
3. In more exciting news this week we have moved from garlic scapes to fresh garlic! Plus we started harvesting our first successful spring broccoli crop which worked this year because we finally had dry enough fields to get it planted at the appropriate time. Every other year broccoli has always been much more reliable for us in the fall, though it often peaks after our CSA season ends.
Early June on the farm is a time of unrealistic expectations. We wake up each morning with a to do list that could fill a week and have come up with an additional month’s worth of work by the end of the day. After five years of doing this we figure that that is just the way it is always going to be. Most crops get planted, most crops get harvested and life goes on.
The last two years early June has been filled with anxiety because the fields were so wet that we weren’t able to get crops planted at the appropriate time. We watched the seedlings to be planted accumulate outside the greenhouse and wondered if we would ever get to plant all of them. And, we watched the weeds take off while our crops languished not knowing whether or not to use the days when the fields were dry enough to work to plant or to weed what we had managed to get in the ground.
On the other hand, this year it has been so warm and dry that we have been on top of planting for the most part, and with a few exceptions the weeds are a bit more under control too. In fact we have so many different crops in the ground already that it feels like we are in July, not June (of course the weather also feels more like July than June too!).