Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What to Do With Your Share---Week 16

Fall is starting to make an appearance as the cool crops of autumn continue to try to beat the heat. Things are greening up in the field and we are starting to get our first taste. Collards and kale leaves are being plucked to fill your share and keep the plant producing. The radishes are sizing up and we don’t want to wait to pick them. Good in a salad, or better yet a sandwich.

This hot weather crop has been producing at a peak rate lately. As the plants get larger, the sideshoots of the plant also produce pods, increasing their harvest. Okra is very flavorful, extremely nutritious and good for your digestive system. It has high levels of fiber, as well as vitamins A, C and K.

As Jan Glauberman mentioned in last year’s week 15 blog, water is okra’s enemy, as it will make it slimy. Dry heat cooking, as described in her recipe Wok Fried Okra, gives it some crispness. We prepared it tonight using some ancho chili powder instead of Indian spices to flavor it. Any dry rub that you prefer will work well.

In the Share - Week 16

lettuce newly transplanted

CARROTS (F/P) Last out of cold storage. The pesky heat this summer kept 3 plantings from sprouting, so this is it for the year.

ONIONS (F/P) It was a good year for onions. Dry weather during their critical dry-down time meant less loss in the field and in storage. This week, we are handing out Prince, our best keeper.

SWEET PEPPERS (F) Not many this week, we are trying to restrain ourselves from picking all the green fruit that still has a chance of ripening. At the first warning of frost we’ll have to pick them all, but until then there’s still time for some more sweet reds and yellows.

OKRA OR HOT PEPPERS (P) The okra is at its peak right now. As soon as the weather cools so will it’s production.

TOMATOES (P) It the partial shares turn for the few remaining tomatoes after a glorious run.

PINK BEAUTY RADISHES (F) The first of the fall plantings of radishes, young and tender. By next week they should be full grown and ready for everyone.

KALE OR COLLARDS OR OKRA OR ANAHEIM PEPPERS (F) And the first picking of the fall kale and collards. We grow Toscano and White Russian kales as fall crops.

GREEN BEANS (F/P) Finally the beans are back for a quick run before their season is done. We are picking off of 3 different plantings that stalled over the hot summer: Rattlesnake pole beans, Jade green beans and yellow wax.

HERBS (F/P) Basil, parsley, thyme, summer savory or a dried herb.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Parker Farms shares, Pierce’s fruit shares

NEXT WEEK: More radishes, kale and collards, okra and peppers. A few more tomatoes. Arugula and broccoli raab (rapini). Potatoes and garlic.

mowing down the cover crop

Anyone who has been out to the farm lately can’t help but notice our 8 feet tall cover crop of sorghum sudan grass and cowpeas. The sorghum sudan looks a lot like corn, so many have asked if that is our sweet corn crop. Sorry to disappoint you all, but we are very happy with our healthy cover crops. Cover crops are grown to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil prior to planting our vegetables. The huge amount of biomass produced keeps our soil life active and including both a grass and a legume gives a balance of both carbon and nitrogen to the subsequent crop. In this case, the sorghum sudan and cowpeas will decompose through the fall and will provide a good foundation for the fall planting of garlic and our spring plantings next year. The cowpeas like growing with the grass because it can climb up the tall stalks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In the Share - Week 15

potato harvest

POTATOES (F/P) Desiree and Bintje varieties, both yellow-fleshed and great for steaming, frying and salad. Full shares get two shares worth this week, partial shares get the normal amount.

GARLIC (F/P) Is our garlic piling up on you? Try roasting a whole head for a change. Spread the roasted garlic on toast or add to your favorite recipe for a bump in flavor.
SWEET PEPPERS (F/P) The sweet pepper harvest is in a lull right now as a lot of the ripe fruit has been picked. There are a lot of green fruit on the plants however, and more still forming, so the harvest should have several more rounds going right up to the first frost.

OKRA OR HOT PEPPERS (F) The okra really kicked in this week. I hope you all have found that excellent and oh, so simple recipe from the blog from last year. No deep-frying needed and no slime neither!

SWEET POTATO GREENS (F/P) A novel idea in this part of the world, but in others sweet potato greens are the go-to-dish. They grow abundantly in hot weather and trimming the plant back a bit does nothing to diminish the production of the sweet roots. See Tom’s post for a quick recipe with another everyday food from the tropics, peanut sauce.

TOMATOES (?) We’re not quite sure what we are doing with the few tomatoes we have this week. There aren’t enough for everyone to even get one. We’ll know what we have to share once the cherry tomatoes are picked tomorrow.

HERB CHOICE (F/P) More luscious basil and aromatic summer savory

ALSO THIS WEEK: Bread of Life Bakery shares

NEXT WEEK: More sweet peppers, tomatoes, okra and hot peppers. I know I keep saying this, but maybe finally some beans. Carrots and onions.

Finally on Monday morning the farm received a good soaker of a rain and for that we are grateful. Summer is winding down and after the brutal summer we are happy to say, “Good riddance!” The crops are all responding to the cooler temperatures and beneficial moisture. You can almost see the plants growing new leaves and fresh fruit right before your eyes. The peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and beans have set a brand new batch of little green fruit. The okra is reaching for the sky and the sweet potatoes continue their quest to cover the field with their vines. We are keeping a close watch on the radishes, arugula, hakurei turnips and lettuces that we planted in the middle of the hot summer, watered and weeded until now. In another few weeks they will be returning to the shares and it can’t happen quick enough.

I don’t know that it has been noticed much in your households what with school starting and perhaps the last of the summer vacations, but the farmers are a bit nervous about how light the shares are right now. The full shares are getting an extra box of potatoes this week to compensate but still we would love to have more peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and gosh a cucumber or a zucchini or some green beans would be really nice!
We attribute the lack of much to harvest right now to the after effects of a very hot and dry summer. We lost a lot of crops during the nasty weather, most regrettably the entire Cucurbitae family which seemed to fail due to healthy crop of heat-loving squash bugs than to the heat per se. Others have simply been shy about setting fruit until now.

We believe we will be through the worst of the lull in another couple of weeks once all these green fruit start ripening and the first of the fall crops start coming in. Until then, we hope you understand the difficulties that we face out here and know that we are doing our very best to feed your family well.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 15

We are sorry that the pickin’s have gotten a little slim lately. The heat wave of July put many of the plants in the field into a somewhat dormant mode. For many fruiting plants, such as tomatoes, tomatillos and eggplants all the blossoms of July were burnt by the heat, keeping them from setting fruit for later (now!). Our later plantings of cucurbits were likewise affected and even with irrigation, the plants were severely stressed and then overrun by squash bugs. The beans have been totally confused, blossoming over three weeks ago but barely forming a bean. We hope that they may still produce.

For now though, we do have some delicious vegetables. The potatoes did well this year and we are handing out a double share to the fulls this week. The sweet potato plants are tropical by nature, and with a generous supply of irrigation water have thrived. We plan on digging some this week for inclusion in the shares soon.

This week we will be handing out the delicious and nutritious sweet potato greens. A regular staple in many parts of the world, they are a nice change from all of the fruits of summer. To spice them up we recommend that you mix the cooked greens with some tasty peanut sauce.

Sweet Potato Greens with Peanut Sauce
To cook the sweet potato greens simply cut off the lower half of the leaf stem and rinse the leaves. Put ¼ cup of water in a saucepan, add the greens and cook until tender. You can also add a tablespoon of red or white wine vinegar for flavor and a little salt. Mix or top the greens with peanut sauce.

Sauce Ingredients
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp water
pinch of salt

Stir all of the ingredients together. I also recommend the Cooking with Amy blog. She gives a very good summary of how to make peanut sauce to suit your personal taste.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In the Share - Week 14

Carmen sweet peppers

TOMATOES (F/P) From now on we will be lucky to have one or two per share each week.

ROMA TOMATOES (F) Also called paste tomatoes for the thick sauce they make.

SWEET PEPPERS (F/P) The sweet peppers continue their late summer run.

CARROTS (F/P) From our cold storage, a sweet taste of spring.

OKRA, EGGPLANT, HOT PEPPERS OR BEETS (F/P) The last of the spring beets out of cold storage or choose from an assortment of summer fruits.

RED ONIONS (F/P) Read Tom’s post for more on our red onion varieties.

YELLOW ONIONS (F) The onions did well this year and we are sharing the bounty. These are our best keepers so you don’t need to use them right away.

HERB CHOICE (F) Basil, summer savory, dried herbs

ALSO THIS WEEK: Parker Farms shares

NEXT WEEK: More peppers, okra and eggplant. Potatoes and garlic. Maybe green beans?

It really does feel like late summer on the farm with the cooler weather and finally we are getting caught up on the rain. After a few years of paying attention to the seasons you start to recognize the signs that mark the shift from one season to the next. One evening taking Rocky for a walk there was a family of crows overhead. The crickets are noisy with their chirping now and the goldenrod is getting ready to bloom. Last week we were presented with a new way to mark the change of the seasons – our first fruit share from the Pierce family at Of the Earth Farm.

The first share included Gravenstein and Redfree apples, Asian pears and luscious peaches. Tom and I tend to not eat much fruit since vegetables are right at hand and free for the taking, so it feels luxurious to gorge ourselves on all their delicious fruits. With another share arriving tomorrow, we are starting to contemplate applesauce or pies in the near future.

I don’t know if everyone knows how lucky we are to have the Pierce’s join our little community. If you have ever looked for it, you would know that local, organic tree fruit is very hard to find around here. Our humid, buggy summers make it a real challenge to produce organic tree fruit that is edible, much less as beautiful and tasty as the Pierce’s. This is why we were so thrilled when the Pierce’s contacted us last winter with the idea to offer fruit shares to the membership. They recently transitioned their orchard to only using organic methods and we are so glad to have them join us. We sincerely appreciate their willingness to take the leap and congratulate them on their delicious success.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 14

Some of this week’s harvest started over 3 weeks ago. The onions were pulled and set in the upper barn to cure. This year is a very good crop. These latest onions have cured well and are all unique. Below is a photo of the four varieties in the barn: Prince, Cabernet, Rosa di Milano, and Tropea.

As a storage onion, Prince is the strongest flavored by far. The Cabernet are very round and very juicy, with a nice sweetness and flavor. The Rosa di Milano have a top that flattens out. They are sweet, pungent and somewhat fine. They have many thin layers with a nice color. The Tropea onions are perhaps the mildest of the four, and are perfect for raw eating, while sweetening when cooked.

We are currently spend much time cultivating the fall planting. Knowing how the hours of sunlight is dwindling makes a farmer anxious. We are rooting for some very healthy looking fall crops to come out of the heat wave and grow for fall.

Last Thursday our good friend Liz Graznak brought her farm crew and helped us get a lot of work done. One was weeding leeks. To make sure their effort stuck we then mulched them with the help of the self-monikered "Team Awesome" on Saturday morning. The farm crew, including our pictured new apprentice Danni Hurst, finished them off on Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In the Share - Week 13

beautiful basil

TOMATOES (F/P) Tomatoes are winding down now. We’ll have a few for a few more weeks thanks to a late planting of “heat setting” types that will set fruit even in hot temperatures.
FINGERLING POTATOES (F/P) See Tom’s post for more on these dainty delicacies.
GARLIC (F/P) no meal is complete without the lovely allium.
SALSA PACK (F/P) the tomatillos won’t be around much longer so enjoy them while you can or freeze your salsa to enjoy later.
SWEET PEPPERS (F/P) Should be more of these sweet babies for awhile.
OKRA OR HOT PEPPERS (F) Nothing says late summer like okra and peppers.
HERBS (F/P) The basil (see above) just keeps coming this year thanks to a heavy layer of mulch.
ALSO THIS WEEK: Bread of Life Bakery shares
NEXT WEEK: Tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers and okra. Carrots and onions. Hopefully the beans will be back.

The break in the weather has cheered up farmer and plant alike at the farm. The cooler temperatures are so very appreciated after such a long stretch of nasty heat. Even changing our schedule to avoid the heat of the day just barely kept the farm crew from overheating. Most of the crops (if you don’t count the entire Cucurbitae family – cukes, squash, melons, pumpkins – all goners) survived the heat but just by the skin of their teeth. Now with those days behind us, all of us survivors hope to limp towards fall growing stronger as the days grow shorter.
While the temperatures have moderated, we still are very dry. The irrigation system continues to keep the plants alive and growing, but we could really use a good soaker. We’ve received perhaps an inch total these past two weeks from four different rain events that looked really promising but didn’t quite deliver. Here’s the scene from one morning last week when we thought we’d definitely get a good downpour.

During the boiling heat we were trying our darndest to get some lettuce seedlings started for the fall. Finally we made room indoors for our dear lettuce and sure enough the cooler temps. provided by our little window AC unit did the trick.

Today we saw the first sprouts pushing up through the potting soil so we quickly moved them to a sunnier location down at the shade house. If all goes well we should be eating lettuce by the end of September.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 13

The shares are expected to enter a lull for a little while, as the summer crops recover from the heat wave, and the fall crops set down their roots. But there is still some delicious harvesting to be done, as we have over 4 beds of potatoes to dig yet.

This week Kipfel fingerling potatoes are in the share. As I write the blog we have not dug the bed, so I do not know how the harvest will be, but we did dig some the other day to try out.

The first two varieties of potatoes you received (Caribe and Kennebec) are mealy in texture and are good for baking and mashing. The Kipfel and remaining varieties this year are more of a waxy texture that makes them well suited for frying and boiling. The recipe below is a simple and delicious. The shape of the fingerlings make them easy to cut into bite-size rounds.

Fried Fingerling Potatoes
Fingerling potatoes
Olive oil
Summer savory (optional)
Salt and pepper

1. Cut the potatoes cross-wise to form little rounds.
2. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a heavy skillet. Add the potatoes. Let cook for a minute on high heat and then stir so that all of the potatoes are covered in oil. Turn heat down to medium, add salt, pepper and herbs and cook 2 more minutes.
3. Add some water, enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Cover and cook 10 minutes.
4. Uncover, stir, and cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through and browned.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bulk List----Week 12

Paste tomatoes (firsts) - $3.00/lb; $2.50/lb over 10 lbs
Tomato seconds (heirloom and hybrids) - $2.50/lb; $2.00/lb over 10 lbs
Drying tomatoes: $4.00/qt
Tomatillos: $2.00/lb
Salsa Packs: $2.50/pack
Jalapenos: $2.50/pint
Herbs (summer savory): $2.50/bunch

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What To Do With Your Share---Week 12

While we are struggling to keep crops going and start plants for the fall, the tomato crop continues to be a bumper. The harvest of the last two weeks has been record-breaking. So we continue to suggest that you make sure to find a way to eat or preserve all of your tomatoes.

One thing that may be helpful, as we noted last week, is to freeze your extra tomatoes. To do that you need to first blanch and peel them. Rather than take photos and show you how, we can take advantage of this well done Youtube video showing the process. .

Another is to make a quick sauce. It isn’t often that the combination of fresh tomatoes and beautiful onions is at hand. Especially when some of them are the “torpedo –shaped” Tropea onions. We like their flavor and shape and would like to know what you think. One way to try them out is the recipe below.

Fresh Tomato Sauce
Jalapeno (optional)
Oregano and/or summer savory
Olive oil

The quantities are up to you and is dependent on the amount of tomatoes you have. Six or seven medium tomatoes would call for one large onion. If you like onions, add more.

With a paring knife, core out the tomato and remove any bad spots. Cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Chop tomatoes into 1 inch chunks. Chop the onions and sauté in olive oil. Add the pepper and oregano, cook 2 more minutes. Add the tomatoes. Stir, cover and bring to boil. Remove lid and simmer for 20 minutes or so, until tomatoes are breaking down.

Take half of the sauce and puree it in a food processor, or run it through the food mill. Return the pureed sauce to the pot. Stir and cook 5 minutes. Serve over pasta with basil garnish.

In organic farming, when certain plants crop up on their own in your fields, you don’t immediately define them as a weed and kill them. What grows well in your soil is an indication of its condition. It is known that if the plant purslane grows, you have a healthy and rich soil.

We have noticed a great abundance of it in our fall crop beds. So, as organic farmers our logical next step is to eat it. We learned to like it several places in our internships in NY and Indiana, and enjoy its flavor and texture. A great source of omega-3 fatty acids and other vitamins and minerals, it is especially nutritious.

We made a simple salad with it on Sunday and really enjoyed it. We picked the leaves off the stems and tossed them with some oil and vinegar. Next we topped it all with pickled beets. Large chunks of tomato would also be a good combination. We hope you try it and enjoy it.

In the Share - Week 12

TOMATOES (F/P) It is “deliously hot” at the farm according to one of our recent guests. Nothing tastes better than a ripe heirloom tomato grown in a hot, dry Midwestern summer.

CHERRY TOMATOES (F/P) We don’t wash any of our tomatoes on the farm. It keeps them tasty and healthy. Wait until you are ready to eat them and give them a quick rinse.

SALSA PACK (F/P) The tomatillos are putting out the fruit right now. Que rica la salsa!

CARROTS (F/P) More big orange ones from the last harvest.

PURSLANE (F/P) What’s that, you say? Isn’t it a weed? Actually purslane is quite tasty and full of Omega 3s. Read Tom’s post for more info.

TROPEA and WALLA WALLA ONIONS (F/P) See Tom’s post for a great onion and tomato sauce recipe. I’m eating it right now and it is divine!

OKRA, SWEET PEPPERS AND EGGPLANT (F) Hopefully soon we’ll have enough sweet peppers for everyone. They are starting to ripen in large quantities. The damaged ones always ripen first, so there will be a crate of “seconds” to take what you want.

HERBS (F) Basil and summer savory

ALSO THIS WEEK: Parker Farms shares

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, salsa packs, okra and peppers. Potatoes and garlic.

Here we are at the mid-season mark. Week 12 of 24 has arrived. Now is a good time to pause for a moment and assess the weeks behind us and look to the weeks ahead. Overall, Tom and I were really pleased with the spring and early summer shares. Despite a shortened strawberry season, the shares were hefty thanks to some big lettuces and spring turnips, among others.

The summer started out pretty good with a nice carrot and beet harvest. The summer squashes, cucumbers and beans started out promising but the later plantings have fizzled in the hot, dry conditions.
Right now we are thrilled, if a bit daunted, by the tomato harvest. Last week alone we picked 1,600 lbs. of heirloom, hybrid, paste, drying and cherry tomatoes. Currently, the overabundance of tomatoes is making up for the lack of many of the other summer fruits that have withered in the heat. As CSA farmers our first priority is to fill the shares by minimizing our risk of crop loss. That’s why one of our big investments on the farm is a reliable irrigation system. The system is working very well right now, but it has it’s limits. We have a lot of field to cover, including full-grown summer crops that need a deep drink and newly planted fall crops that need steady moisture. We have had a difficult time getting some of the fall crops established. When the temperatures are extreme some seeds refuse to sprout and flowers drop without forming fruit.
Not all crops are faring poorly. The heat-loving sweet potatoes and okra are thriving. We also have a good crop of onions, garlic, potatoes and carrots that will keep us in staples for a good while. The winter squash and melons bit the dust early on due to the dry weather. A few winter squash may go in the shares next week. For the fall there are rows upon rows of newly transplanted cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli that will hopefully fill our bellies in October if we can keep them alive until then. But really there’s only one constant when it comes to Missouri weather, it’s bound to change soon. Just last weekend we got a nice break and a little rain shower during the Saturday harvest. We managed to squeeze everyone in the packing room until it stopped.