Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What to Do With Your Share---Week 13

Well we're not on the brink of exhaustion, but we can see it from here. Mid-Summer is as busy as it gets. While there are problems to deal with, and Fall plants to get in the ground, it is a good thing for the harvest to keep you busy too. Some of the crops seem to see the brink too though, so we will have to see how smoothly our transition from Summer to Fall crops turns out.

One of the items in this week's share is a favorite of mine, the Tropea onion aka Cipolla Rossa Lunga di Tropea. The genetics of this onion go back millennia. The website Naturalmente Italiano gives  the whole story of this wonderful allium. Known as a sweet onion, it is a bit more spicy when grown in Missouri soils rather than those of Calabria. It is good, nonetheless, both raw and cooked.

Last Sunday Emily Akins and I taught a class on pressure canning at Bad Seed. One recipe we prepared was Spicy Tomato Soup from The Ball Blue Book. We both really liked the soup, and so I am in the process of making a double batch for Rebecca and me. There is no need to can this recipe, just make the soup and eat it.

Spiced Tomato Soup
4 quarts chopped, peeled, cored tomatoes
3 ½ cups chopped onions
2 ½ cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped sweet red peppers
1 cup sliced carrots
7 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon whole cloves
1 clove garlic
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt

Combine all ingredients except sugar and salt in a large saucepan. Simmer until tender. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Return to saucepot. Add sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat 15 minutes. Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Adjust caps. Process 20 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a steam pressure canner.
There was a sight in the field on Monday morning that greeted us with a feeling of awe. A giant, full rainbow filled the western sky as the sun came up in the east, and rain threated from the west. Magnificent.

In the Share - Week 13

TOMATOES (F/P) A combination of heirloom, hybrid and paste tomatoes. The crop is slowing now but we should have some for a few more weeks.

CHERRY TOMATOES (F/P) We should have pints for everyone this week.

YELLOW WATERMELON (F) What a crazy crop to be harvesting in the middle of a drought. There are literally hundreds of pounds of water leaving the farm this week in the form of a tasty little yellow watermelon.

CANTALOUPE (P) Ditto on the cantaloupe. Not a huge melon fan? Make a simple lemon juice and honey dressing to add a little zing.

EGGPLANT (F) There are more recipes for eggplant than any other vegetable so if you haven't found one you like, keep looking.

SWEET PEPPERS (F) OKRA, SALSA PACK OR HOT PEPPERS (F) The okra is growing well as it is one of the few vegetables that we raise that prefer the heat.

COLORFUL CARROTS (F/P) While the orange ones are still our favorites, we like the purples and yellows for their robust flavors and cool colors.

RED ONIONS (F/P) A mix of red varieties including the torpedo-shaped, Rossa Lunga di Tropea.

HERB CHOICE (F) Basil, parsley, thyme or a dried herb.

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, okra, salsa packs and melons. Potaotoes and garlic. 


It is becoming difficult to come up with new ways to describe the weather. Blow torch or blast furnace? I think I’ve used them both. Either would be accurate although the last two days have been more like a steam pit. Only a few drops of rain fell but the humidity is in full force.  The clouds made for a spectacular sunrise this morning in the melon patch.

 Miraculously we are pulling sweet and perfect watermelon and cantaloupe out of the field right now. Melons are only 50% successful for us, but when they come in as beautiful and flavorful as this it makes all the effort worth it. We hope you enjoy them for the short time they are here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In the Share - Week 12

TOMATOES (F/P) Hope you all are ready for more tomatoes because we have quite a few yet. If they are piling up on you, pop them in the freezer for a wintery day.

CHERRY TOMATOES (F) Hope you all are enjoying the cherries. Partial shares will get them next week.

POTATOES (F/P) Most likely Desiree, a pink-skinned, yellow-fleshed potato. We will dig them tomorrow morning.


SALSA PACK (F) Tomatillos grow well for us ever since we started saving our own seed.



SWEET PEPPERS (F/P) One benefit of the heat, the sweet peppers are beginning to turn.

HOT PEPPERS OR HERBS (F/P) Basil, summer savory or a choice of peppers: jalapeno, Hungarian wax or Anaheim. Anaheims are the type that is traditionally roasted by the bucket in the Southwest. The Hungarians are a bit hotter but not as hot as the jalapenos. I use a knife to scrape out their seeds and veins under running water to reduce a bit of the bite.

YELLOW WATERMELON (P) Yes, your melon should be yellow inside. Everyone should get at least a cantaloupe or watermelon over the course of the next 2 weeks. Full shares should get theirs next week.  The second planting of red watermelon and more cantaloupe is only now beginning to set their baby fruit, so we’ll see if we can pump enough water to them for a good ripening.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Parker Farms CSA shares

NEXT WEEK: More tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and salsa packs. Carrots and red onions.


I had planned to spend more time on this post, but tonight our refrigerator decided it was a good time to give up the fight.

All in all, the farm is in decent shape in spite of the conditions.  We have an amazing farm crew this year that we cannot thank enough.  The cabbage that we planted two weeks ago is growing well.

Yesterday we got a bunch of broccoli and cauliflower planted in the same fashion. Water from the old pond is being pumped continuously  into the new pond replacing the water that we are pumping out to the fields. Even with irrigation, the drought is affecting the fruiting plants, but so far the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos and okra are hanging in there. A new planting of cucumbers, squash and beans are just beginning to sprout, so it will be awhile without them.  The harvest should be good for a few more weeks before we hit a lull between the end of summer and the start of fall.  Although isn't it fall if the leaves are drying up and falling off the trees?

What to Do WithYour Share---Week 12

Week 12 and we are in the middle of the hottest, driest start to a season we have had in 10 years. In all my years I have never lived through such persistent waves of heat. We hope we can acclimate to such conditions, and are happy with the harvest so far. But relief would be nice.

One crop that seems well acclimated to conditions this year is watermelon. The yellow-fleshed Peace watermelons are ripening. The first two harvests have yielded enough for the partial shares. These melons are quite sweet and juicy, and aren't too seedy.

Picking at the right ripeness is tricky, so if yours is not ripe let us know and we will attempt to get you a replacement.

Peace watermelon

Sorry there is not more tonight, but our fridge stopped working and we had an unscheduled evening task. On the bright side, it was nice to clean out the fridge, and we have adequate freezing and cooling facilities on the farm for temporary storage.

Rocky hangin' in the shade

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What to Do With Your Share---Week 11

The thing about weather, you learn as a farmer, is that it is often associated with the word “pattern.” We listen to the forecasts that modern meteorologist give and they see that the Earth’s air masses are moving in such a pattern that cool and wet air is not heading towards us.

I remember our first year at the farm in 2003 it was quite hot and dry. Not having grown up here, I did not know how common such a brutal stretch could be. That year July and August were about like now. From August 1 to 30th less than an inch of rain fell, and beginning in the middle of the month the temps ran for 10 days at 100, 104, 105, 104, 102, 106, 98, 96, 100, 104, 102, and then 95 and below. That may be our next 10 days too.

Sorting tomatoes

Despite it all, this hot and dry weather is one of the reasons this year's harvest has been so plentiful. Thrive is another word you learn as a farmer. Sometimes you mollycoddle a plant and it produces little. Other times, you provide good fertility, irrigation and care and the high quality vegetables keep flowing. The dryness and heat are a combo that the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant thrive in, and it is nice to watch.

In thinking of ways to suggest you enjoy your tomatoes, I searched for Tom's Tomato Sauce and found it in our August 3, 2005 newsletter. The entire second page is exactly what I was thinking all day of putting in the blog. I suggest reading the entire newsletter and look back at how things were 7 years ago.

Blanched and skinned tomatoes ready for the freezer

In the Share - Week 11

the harvest:  carrots, beets and onions

TOMATOES x2 (F/P) Last week CSA members on average received about 10 lbs. of tomatoes and this week it is looking to be about the same. Please don’t get too used to this excess. It is a freak of nature and it will only last a while longer. Last week we literally harvested over a ton.

CHERRY TOMATOES (F/P) That ton also included these beauties. We think we’ll have another round of quarts for everyone this week.

CARROTS (F/P) We dug these a while back and stored them in the cooler. We think they taste even better after a stint in the cold slammer.

WALLA WALLA ONIONS (F/P) The onions are a bit smaller than other years, but we have almost no culls thanks to the dry weather. Soon we’ll move on the red onions after the sweet Wallas are gone.

BEETS, SUMMER SQUASH OR SALSA PACK (F) This will most likely be the last of the beets until fall. We should have some for the partial shares next week.

PEPPERS: SWEET AND HOT (F) Another small taste of peppers. We are letting most of them stay on the plants to ripen.

EGGPLANT (F/P) The “plant” is rocking right now and will be for the next few weeks. It is so good simply broiled until it is brown and marinated in olive oil and spices. Partial shares get a choice of beets or eggplant.

HERB CHOICE (F/P) Basil, summer savory or a dried herb.


As CSA farmers we advertise membership in our farm as relationship based on shared risk but also shared bounties. Well, right now we are looking at extremes of both. We’ve got a ridiculously huge bumper crop of tomatoes and a drought of epic proportions. The tomato harvest threatens to consume all of our hours of all of our days.

 The farm crew of four: Tom, me, and our awesome farm apprentices Dani Hurst and Ryan Stubby do little else but harvest, sort, count and weigh tomatoes. Add 2 one-day-a-week volunteers (Thank you, M for Monday crew!!) and we still struggle to find time to plant for fall, tinker with the irrigation system and weed the sweet potatoes.  The CSA members bi-weekly visits keep our heads above water by assisting in the retrieval of the other crops from the field.

Saturday carrot harvest

And then there’s the heat and drought ... Tom and I are increasingly concerned about the long-term effect on the crops. So far most everything is staying alive BUT we expect a lull in the harvest a few weeks from now.  Stay tuned for more on that as experience what may be the hottest, driest year on record.  Meanwhile, enjoy the bumper crop and think about putting up a little summer sunshine for later.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In the Share - Week 10

TOMATOES (F/P) Holy tomato, Batman!  The farm is full of tomatoes of all sizes, colors and flavors.  It took us all day plus some to get the harvest in and sorted. We definitely hit a new record at 1,300 + lbs. just today.

MORE TOMATOES (F/P)  Everyone will be getting a double share this week. We are holding back many less ripe ones, for future shares. The cave is keeping them nicely.  We are giving you ripe ones and many that are two or three days away from being ripe.  If you can wait, they are best when they are soft and fleshy.

CHERRY TOMATOES (F/P)  If Saturday is any indication, we should have plenty for all.

POTATOES (F/P)  It wasn’t an Irish Spring for sure and so we aren’t getting a great potato crop. They are small but very tasty. We will be digging several varieties this week as we clear the highest and driest area first, which includes the French Fingerling, the Bintje and the Kennebec.

CUCUMBERS AND SUMMER SQUASH (F/P) We are handing out small cucumbers this week out of the pickling cucumber patch. They are great for fresh eating too. The summer squash is not producing a lot but we are spreading them out to everyone as best we can.

GARLIC (F/P) Garlic is fully cured and ready for eating.  Offered will be more Musik, a hardneck type.

EGGPLANT (F/P) Today we also harvested a big crop of eggplant. We pick them young when they are at their most tender and mild. No need to soak these babies.

SALSA PACK (F/P) Partial shares get a choice with the eggplant.

HERB CHOICE (F/P) Thai basil, thyme, or parsley. Partial shares get a smaller bunch and a smaller garlic.


What to say? We are in the thick of summer and barely have time to put this together. The drought continues for us. We missed most of the rain that was all around us on Sunday. For a short while the rain was a very lovely sight.

In the end, one-tenth of an inch is all that fell. We spent some time this weekend to get a close approximation of what water we have. Here I am having a lovely swim to measure the deepest point in the pond.

It reads about 7.5 feet, which from our calculations means about half of the volume of the pond has been used or evaporated. The question then becomes, “Is the pond half-full or half-empty?” We like to stay positive, so are looking ahead to the prospect of possibly pumping water from the old pond that we used in 2003 during our first season on the farm. Hopefully it won’t come to that but we like to have it as an option just the same.

In the midst of all this the planting schedule must be kept and on Monday we transplanted the first of the fall crops.

The cabbage looks good under a thick layer of mulch and with plenty of water. We are hoping to plant all of the fall brassica (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage) this way into hay mulch to conserve moisture.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 10

My oh my, what a day. It was like being in a tomato dream---our most outstanding harvest yet. This is the bounty we speak of in CSA farming. It was a record day, and while we didn't load 16 tons, we feel like it.

Half the harvest July 10, 2012

So enjoy the tomatos by themselves, or in conjunction with the other veggies in your share. They are at their peak flavor right now. Last year we gave a variety of ideas for using your tomato share. I think the simpler the better and enjoy them by themselves, cut into chunks with olive oil, salt and vinegar.

Principe Borghese and Jaune Flamue drying tomatoes (see bulk list)

Rebecca has been making tahbouleh lately and we are finding it is a cool summer dish. You constitute the bulgar wheat with room temperature water, so there is no need for the stove. This recipe is adapted from The New Basics.

1 heaping cup of bulgar
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 large ripe tomato, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 large cucumber and 1 medium squash, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice

  1. Combine the bulgur, water, lemon juice, and 1/3 cup of the olive oil in a large bowl. Mix well, and set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature. Then fluff the mixture with a fork.
  2. Add the parsley, onion, garlic, pepper, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Toss well with a fork.
  3. Add the tomatoes squash, and cucumber, and toss again. Adjust the seasonings if necessary, and allow to stand, loosley covered, for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to come out.
Herbs this Week
Lastly, a little on this week's herbs. The Thai basil is that basil looking herb with the purple tinge and a bit of licorice aroma. Great if you make an Asian style dish. The thyme is perfectly matched to the potatoes. Simply boil or steam your potatoes, and toss with some salt, butter and thyme leaves and you will have the best fresh potatoes ever. The tabbouhleh recipe above calls for even more parsley than we note, so double the amount if it suits you.

Monday, July 2, 2012

In the Share - Week 9

CARROTS (F/P) We are harvesting the carrots in bulk this week for future weeks out to cold storage. Carrots will be topped from now until the heat is gone.

TOMATOES F/P) We are getting record harvests of gorgeously voluptuous fruit. The heirlooms are winning over the red hybrids right now but we’ll see who wins in the end.

CHERRY TOMATOES (F/P) All the partial shares will get these this week. Full shares will get them too if we have enough or we will fill in with more slicers.

GREEN BEANS (F) Just a bit this week with hopefully much more on the way.

SUMMER SQUASH (F) The end of the first planting is near, but the round zucchinis and pattypans are beginning to coming in. Partial shares will get them next week.

CUCUMBERS (F) Ditto on cucumbers. In the shares will be a combo of the least bug-nibbled slicers and the best of the big pickling cucumbers. The second planting is flowering right now, so more are coming if it all pans out.

EGGPLANT AND PEPPERS (P)  One or two of each.

SALSA PACK (F/P) If you are new to the CSA you may not be familiar with tomatillos. They make a heavenly salsa either fresh or roasted. We give you everything you need including the garlic, onion and jalapeno. Add a tomato from your share and voila, our nation’s most popular condiment.

SWISS CHARD OR CABBAGE (F) In an effort to conserve moisture on the farm we are clear-cutting the leafy greens. The chard should grow back in time for cooler weather when that ever comes.

HERB CHOICE (F) Parsley, summer savory, thyme or a dried herb.

HOT PEPPERS (F/P) Just a couple to spice up your summer salads. Jalapenos and Hot Hungarian Wax peppers will be offered.

Oh, boy it is hot and dry. We have shifted our schedule so that we start at 6 am and get out of the fields by mid-day.  Afternoons bring work in the packing room or the shady greenhouse.  The plants however get no relief and are sucking up as much moisture as they can get.

Tom and I are always excited when we identify a new species of of wildlife on the farm. We’ve seen foxes, ducks, all sorts of frogs and toads, even the occasional snake. Our latest addition to the list is this beautiful but brutal agricultural pest, the Japanese beetle.

So far we have found 2 adults on the farm. It has taken them countless generations to get to this part of the country but here they be. Once they fully inhabit an area, swarms of them often defoliate their favorite plants: grapes, beans, roses. Some say the healthier the soil, the less the little buggers are attracted to the plant.  We shall see soon enough.
Speaking of beans, the harvest has gotten a slow start but we have some beans from the first planting for this week. The second planting of bush beans look much better and the pole beans are beginning to vine up the fence that was put up in the nick of time by the CSA crew on Saturday.

Up go the 100 ft. sections. 

Tie to the posts and your done.

As they say, many hands make light work.

What to Do With Your Share---Week 9

We don’t know what to think this year, the next 7 days are going to be a strain to all the living things out here. We are about to learn about pond water management.

The crops say late-July in the harvest. We are mighty busy right now, so the recipe suggestions are going to be slim but concise. Eggplant is great as long as it is cooked to the texture of a cooked mushroom. They are excellent cut into large strips and broiled or grilled. Tomatoes, summer squash, garlic, peppers, cherry tomatoes, and onions are great broiled, as they don’t fall through the grill.

We are happy to be able to give you a good batch of tomatoes this early, and assume you know what to do with them. We hope you feel they are the real deal, and they meet that urge for a “home-grown” tomato.

It has been a treat so far this year picking these fruits with our apprentices, Dani and Ryan; and a volunteer group of Marlene Reuter and Mark Flynn. And when that's done, the crew wipes them down and gently sorts them so they will arrive at distribution in good shape.
Rebecca harvesting

Dani sorting