Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem Artichokes) - from Harmony Valley Farm, Viroqua, WI
Brown Crimini Mushroom 'Taster' - to take advantage of the fresh mushrooms available this week from River Valley Ranch and Kitchens, Burlington, WI, we're sharing a taster of mushrooms to whet your appetite for more to come.
Mini Cucumbers -Ikonix members will receive this week. Members who do not receive this week will receive in upcoming weeks.
What's New at the Farm Stand
Asparagus is at its peak! With the past week of heat, we're harvesting beautiful, flavorful asparagus. Make sure to stock up while the harvest is bountiful and delicious.
Also, does your garden still have holes to fill? We still have organic plants for you! The Farm Stand and Garden Center are open daily, 7am-7pm.
As we've described in previous newsletters here and here, we're taking part in a three-year study of pests and insect pressures within hoophouse growing with farmers and researchers across the nation. One of the hopes for farmers' participating in this study is to better understand our collective pest pressures and the timing of these pressures, we all can better plan and make decisions for growing better crops.
This spring, we received some results from the entomologists' studies of our hoophouse growing throughout the 2022 season and we found them thought-provoking and helpful our future planning. So we thought we'd share them with you, too!
First, the researchers compared the insect collection samples from four farms within northern Illinois and charted their findings. The researchers are grouping regional growers (e.g., east coast growers are compared to other east coast growers) so farmers can have a point of reference for their pest populations within their particular growing climate.
However, with the regional comparisons, we don't know whether our northern Illinois farmer counterparts are growing organically, nor do we know what sets of crops they were growing and when (compared to our own). However, we do see that we all have similar pests in our hoophouses!
Researchers found our hoophouses share four primary pests, pictured above. The differences appear in the time of year and quantity in which the pests appear. Prairie Wind's populations are in green in the following charts.
The researchers found a particular infestation of whiteflies and potato leafhoppers in our hoophouses, when compared to others, and we correlated that to the peak growth of one of their favorite crops (tomatoes). This is to be expected as we have higher pest pressures when crops are growing and fruiting, and less pressure when crops are removed. The data confirmed our suspicions that we and our team need to place extra efforts on preventative protection for our hoophouse tomatoes against pests prior to August. Knowing the timing of the pests' arrival also helps us to better plan beneficial predator releases to offset some of those destructive pest populations in the future.
Pests are all around us, and we tend to live with them unless they negatively impact the harvest. In other words, we only make steps to eliminate pest pressures if they impact the quality of our crops. Even despite the pressure, we still have healthy crops. So in cases where we can live side-by-side with pests, we opt for a longer-term approach to managing them.
One key long-term strategy is to remove the plastic from hoophouses to expose the soil and natural processes (i.e., predators, direct sunlight, rain, and additional wind) to control populations naturally. By giving the soil time between crops, we provide the pests with less food and habitat, likely lessening their populations.
Aha, a silver lining to our hoophouse plastic coming off! We know quite well the number of benefits of removing plastic, although these benefits are often necessarily outweighed by the costs and timelines of replacement. Since the storm made the decision to remove the plastic for us, our soils are beginning to reap the benefits of additional exposure to the elements and we hope this will also decrease the pest populations for future crops.
We will learn more as we begin to collect data from our rebuilt structures. This may also inform a different decision-making model for us in the future, so we're grateful to have this research to help us farm.
As we learn more, we'll share more, too. In the meantime, wishing you a great, pest-free spring week!
Warmly, ~ Jen, Jeff, Cleto, David, Anacleto, Miguel, and Riley
Notes from the Farm Kitchen
This is final week of baby bok choy until autumn! Enjoy the final harvest of this cool weather crop, which will return in our planting cycles when the weather cools down once again this fall. Like last week's bok choy, this variety is known for its tender leaves, easy-to-use size, and its greens have a wonderful, olive-green color. We've found it is delicious eaten raw in a salad, or gently sautéed or steamed.
Our white salad turnip is a Japanese variety called hakurei. It is very mild, sweet, and may be easily mistaken for a white radish. Japanese turnips are delicious eaten raw or sautéed in a little butter and sprinkled with salt. Turnips are a good Vitamin C source, rich in the minerals potassium and calcium. As with all roots (e.g., radishes), make sure you remove the green tops from your turnips so the turnips remain crispy and fresh. Even with some level of holes, you can use the green tops as you would other cooking greens.
Again this week, we're sharing a winter storage crop known asSunchokes or Jerusalem Artichokes.Sunchokes are a versatile, knobby-looking root vegetable that's grown underground and harvested like a potato. Similar to a potato in other ways, it's earthly flavor and root texture are perfect for roasting, frying, boiling, steaming and grilling. We generally combine them with other root vegetables for a nice vegetable puree or roasted vegetable medley to use on top of salads.