As July greets the farm, many of our summer crops are showing good signs of growth. Its an exciting time year as we notice flowers setting on the peppers and eggplant, and we find the first fruit on the tomato plants.
Our farming friends at Didier Farm share similar stories of excitement. It’s been a difficult early growing season, but the good news is that the Didiers planted their sweet corn. They expect a harvest slightly later than usual, but a sweet corn harvest nonetheless! We look forward to sharing with you when ready.
Last season, we experienced a weather-based crop disease that significantly impacted our field tomato crop. Jeff then spent countless hours analyzing historical records (eg historical tomato yields based on variety, placement, soil health, and other variables) and gathered our farm manager, Tyler, and myself around a table to create a new tomato strategy for our farm. Our weather patterns are changing and thusly, our historically successful tomato planning approach needed to adapt, too.
Once a plan was in place, we spent the spring season seeding new tomato types and varieties. We did extensive research with other farmers, reading and talking with experts in the field. We increased the number of grafted hoophouse tomatoes 10 fold to take advantage of a robust, disease resistant root stock while not loosing the delicious flavor of our favorite varieties.
Then we experienced a very cold, very wet spring and early summer like none other on record. Jeff, Tyler and I met again to re-adapt tomato plans (which we've also done on 3 or 4 other crops this season as well!). We decided to place an additional tomato succession in a hoophouse instead of the field. The wet field conditions meant we only had small planting widows of time so we hand-planted some tomatoes. We also used hay mulch instead of plastic to meter moisture variation and protect the plants from disease. We implemented a "strip till" strategy where we only work the soil need to plant the tomatoes while leaving a strip of un-tilled ground to build and protect the soil. In short, we stayed flexible and creative! We believe that the combination of strategies will not only improve our soil health but will also produce a healthy, delicious tomato crop for you.
As CSA farmers, we cherish diversity in what we grow, where we grow and how we grow. We know that its this diversity that allows for resiliency in the field. Our approach to tomatoes is to embrace diversity once again in everything from seed selection to planting approaches to timing to mulching systems to fertility to ongoing care.
This week, we share the first small taste of our tomato harvest. We look forward to sharing more diversity of flavors as the season continues!
Your farmers, ~ Jen, Jeff and the farm crew
Notes from the Farm Kitchen
Kohlrabi, like broccoli and cabbage, is a member of the Brassica family and as such has a sweet and peppery flavor -- sweet like cabbage and peppery like a turnip. This week's kohlrabi is a storage variety which means that you can remove the top leaves and place the bulb into a plastic bag where it will store well for months. This variety is one of sweetest so we love to slice a piece, add kosher salt and eat for a refreshing snack!
Baby leeks are the immature version of full-grown leeks. They can be braised, roasted, or sauteed. Trim and discard about half of the fibrous green tops, just like you would on a larger leek. I tend to freeze those tops for making veggie stock in autumn.
For an easy side dish, trim the ends off the leeks and peel off the tougher outer layer. Rinse and drain. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and gently fry the leeks over a low heat for about 15 minutes, turning regularly until soft. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to the pan and allow it to thicken and coat the leeks. Remove from the heat and sprinkle on some salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Recipes from the Farm Kitchen
Zucchini-Mushroom Tacos 1 pound small mushrooms, left whole or cut in half 2 teaspoons dried oregano 2 tablespoons olive oil coarse salt and ground pepper 2-3 medium zucchini, cut into 2-by-1/2-inch sticks 4 medium baby leeks, quartered 12 (4 1/2-inch) corn tortillas 6 ounces (1 cup) Monterey Jack cheese, shredded 1/2 cup fresh salsa
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss mushrooms with 1 teaspoon oregano and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. On another rimmed baking sheet, toss zucchini and baby leeks with remaining teaspoon oregano and tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper.
Place both sheets in oven. Roast, tossing occasionally, until vegetables are browned and fork-tender, about 20 minutes (zucchini may cook faster than mushrooms).
Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium-high heat, warm tortillas according to package instructions (they should be lightly browned but still soft). Wrap loosely in a clean kitchen towel to keep warm.
To serve, fill each tortilla with mushrooms, vegetable mixture, shredded cheese, and salsa.
Blueberry Scones 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour 1 cup (120 grams) whole wheat flour Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated 3 tablespoons raw (turbinado) or light brown sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits 1 cup fresh blueberries 2/3 cup (150 ml) milk, whole is best here 1 large egg, beaten 1 tablespoon raw (tubinado) or other coarse sugar for finishing
Heat oven to 400°F (205°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine flours, zest, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add cold butter and work into the flour mixture until the biggest pieces are the size of small peas with either your fingertips or a pastry blender. Stir in blueberries, then milk, mixing only until large clumps form. Use your hands to reach inside the bowl and gently (so gently) knead the mixture into one mass. The more you knead, the wetter the dough will get as the blueberries break up, so work quickly and knead only a few times, if you can get away with it.
Transfer dough to a well-floured counter and pat into a roughly 1-inch tall disc. Cut into 8 to 10 wedges, do not fret if the blueberries are now making a mess of the dough; it will all work out in the oven. Transfer wedges to prepared baking sheet, spacing them apart. Brush the tops of each with egg, then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until scones are golden brown on top. Serve warm. I find most scones to be best the first day, but these were not bad at all on day two, gently rewarmed in the oven before eating.
If freezing: I like to freeze scones unbaked and usually hold any egg wash until I’m ready to bake them. Simply spread the wedges on a baking sheet and chill until frozen solid and will no longer stick to each other, and pack tightly into a freezer bag. You can bake them right from the freezer; you’ll only need 2 to 4 minutes extra baking time. (source: smittenkitchen.com)
Next Week's Harvest (our best guess)... sweet onions, arugula, beets, blueberries, zucchini and more!