FARM NEWSLETTER / / WEEK 1
This is our first Farm Newsletter together!! We are so excited to get started on Monday. You should have received the reminder email by now, which includes your Member Handbook and the Farm to Table Veggie Guide! I hope that provides you with great resources about the produce we will be enjoying together this season! :)
Since this is our first weekly newsletter together this season, I’m going to break it down a little farther. We always start with an update from the field, we talk about the produce varieties we will be including this upcoming week, along with recipes and storage info. Please note that I will be including a lot of info from the handbook into our blog for easy reference, but you’ll also find tips and tricks here that I didn’t include in the Farm to Table Storage Guide. Then we talk about the Variety of the Week and check out some recipes that I picked out for you.
Let’s start with the fields! Well as you know, we got more rain on the 4th of July. We had several hours of continuous rain and ended up with more standing water in the peppers. We had some standing water last week too, but I didn’t even announce because I figured it would be dried or drained by now. Well as usual it seems, it won’t stop raining! These plants are stressed out, you can tell because of the leaf discoloration. They’re on black mulch, which is supposed to retain more heat in the roots overnight (something that these peppers desperately need) & reduce weeds competing/ growing right next to the peppers.
We have gotten 3 inches of rain in the last week. In a normal summer it would take us a month to get that much rain. I was just thinking about the excessive amount of moisture this spring and then started reflecting on this past winter too… our kiddos got 6 days off of school!! I can’t remember having a single ‘snow day’ for years. Now this year the MN state legislature actually had to make an amendment that said the schools didn’t need to make up all those days. I.e. To protect the school funding they basically waived the make-up school days.
It seems like so long ago, but our water tables are still high from a higher than average amount of winter precipitation too. We’re praying for no more rain!!
The peppers are sad.
That's a lot of water. but this is just one portion of this field that is cause for concern. The other fields don’t have any or as much standing water as these pictures. We do need these peppers to dry out so they’ll keep growing; with excessive rainfall the plants are expending energy trying to keep themselves alive, shifting all the energy away from their growth.
On a more positive note, there is a lot to be excited for! We have finally had our first picking of pickles and zucchini. LOL Ben sent me these pictures this morning, we were just cracking up. He says look, we have a couple!! Well, we have hundreds of each of these kinds of plants (and in some cases, thousands) in the ground, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s just funny because we’re excited about a handful, when during other seasons at this time we were harvesting hundreds of pounds! We are hoping that the zucchini and pickles will start producing more flowers with this heat today and tomorrow. If so, they will certainly be in your CSA Shares!
Farmer Ben said the herbs are looking really good. We’ve been keeping very close attention to those little guys because with this cool weather, they’re not at the height they usually are. And that means that the weeds surrounding them will overshadow the herbs. Hence the reason we’ve hoed them twice as often this season- so they can ‘win’ against the darn weeds! Basil will be included within the next couple of weeks he said, it’s looking really great!
The tomatoes are looking really good, and they’re almost big enough for us to start staking them. Instead of using the round cages around each tomato plant (we grow about 5K plants if you include all the varieties), we use a stake and tie method. We use 4 foot long 1X2s and a stake pounder to pound them into the ground every two plants. Then, using twine we ‘tie’ the tomatoes by looping back and forth gently around the outside of the plants pulling them tighter into the middle. That provides support while they’re growing. They are tied several times in the beginning of the summer because one row of tying won’t support the tomato plants enough when they start to have loads of heavy tomatoes. If a branch isn’t supported and it breaks, it is also exposing the plant and its neighbors to disease transfer. We will start staking this upcoming weekend!
The produce varieties we will be including this week: Yukon Gold Potatoes, Romaine Lettuce, Radishes, Bok Choy, Kale & Strawberries! Hopefully either zucchini or pickles too.
Yukon gold potatoes are included in the medium starch category for potatoes. I have the different types of potato and starch levels broken down under the Potato section in the Farm to Table Storage Guide. New potatoes in particular have a very thin skin, you can tell they’re “new” by rubbing your fingernail lightly against the skin. If the skin falls off easily, it is a very freshly dug potato. If the skin doesn’t come right off that implies you that it wasn’t dug as recently, or it could be because some potato varieties (russets for example) have a naturally thicker skin than the reds & golds for example. Those thicker skinned potatoes are almost always the ones that over-winter better and have a much longer storage ability.
These are my absolute favorite type of potato! They’ve got a rich buttery taste. All we do is cut them into quarters or pieces and boil the potatoes until they’re fork tender (the fork will easily slide through the potato signaling that it’s done). Just smash the potato with the bottom side of your fork and sprinkle some salt on top; we don’t add butter because it really doesn’t even need it they have such wonderful flavor!
Romaine Lettuce is the one of the most frequently grown lettuce varieties in the U.S. We really enjoy this lettuce because of the texture, it has a great crunch and lasts a fairly long time in the fridge under proper conditions. When you get any sort of lettuce or green in your CSA Share this season, please get it out of the box and washed right away. Keep in mind that these are also very delicate in the heat, which is why we grow them in the earliest portion of our season. In normal seasons, we’d be almost done harvesting lettuces completely. Make sure to get these out of your box and cooled down right away!
If you wash and prep the lettuces right way it’s easier for you to go back and use it when you’re ready to top a burger, make a salad, or even a “boat”. That new trend is just using the romaine leaf to substitute for the carbs in a meal (we all know how popular the whole no-carb thing is right now). For example, on taco night get all the fixings and seasoned meat ready, and then replace your tortilla with the lettuce leaf for a twist on a classic.
Let’s be honest Radishes can be a love-hate relationship. Some people love them and some people hate them. If you’re not a fan- try a couple of the suggestions I have here or reference the Storage guide to see how you can decrease the spice they have. You could slice them into matchsticks and use them to top a salad, or even on top of a burger or in a chicken wrap. Slicing our veggies into new shapes such as matchsticks or angled wedges just adds a little jazz to the ordinary. If you don’t like the heat, try grating your radishes or slicing them very thin with a vegetable peeler.
We purchase your Strawberries come from our neighbors farm. As many of you know Ben & I don’t own the property that we farm, we are renting. So one day we would like to invest in perennial berries but we need to wait until we settle on our own property to do so. Strawberries are such an important treat to our short Minnesota growing season that we absolutely needed to add them! Our neighbors told us that the harvest was really good for the past couple of weeks, but if you’re in the metro area we will likely be seeing the end of strawberries by this upcoming weekend they said.
Make sure you wash your strawberries (even though I know it’s hard to wait to eat them!). They will be packaged in the normal blue quart sized box and then we will put them into a plastic produce bag to keep them from falling through the bottom of the boxes, just as a precaution.
We’re so happy to be offering these, our berry weeks are so exciting!! We were just in contact with our blueberry farmers too and they said that we should expect to have them within a couple weeks! (We’re hoping for Week 2 shares!).
Pickles and Zucchini! They’re just getting started, literally we got a handful of each picked today (Saturday) and we’re hoping they’ll really start producing this upcoming week. If so, we will be including one or the other in your CSA Shares. We won’t have enough to give everyone both, but we’re hoping to get at least one or the other included in your shares. I have a special chart where I track all of those additions. So for instance you got zucchini this week, you’d be first on the list for pickles the next week and vice versa. Just know- we’re tracking who is getting what and hoping to provide you with the best variety throughout the season <3
The variety of the week is BOK CHOY!
This variety is a weird one for us, one that we don’t often see because of our growing season. Bok Choy is a cool weather crop, so you’ll only see it during the spring and fall. If it’s growing through the middle of the summer heat, it will “bolt” which is something you’ll hear me talk about frequently. Bolting is the production of a flowering stem in some crops in a natural attempt to produce seeds and reproduce. Bolting is triggered by the weather, excessive heat pushes these varieties to bolt even faster!
Ben wanted me to mention that they’re a little smaller than what we’re used to. If we waited until next week to include them, they would likely bolt which would change the flavor and texture. The same thing can happen with broccoli, cilantro, cauliflower, lettuces, and many more varieties.
Bok Choy is a variety that I would say the majority of our CSA Members haven’t seen before- you’re not alone!! I have devoted an entire page in the Storage Guide including pictures and ideas for how to use it. It is the classic Asian stir fry vegetable and has very mild flavor so it goes well in most dishes. It’s like two vegetables in one- the stalks are more like celery and the leaves are more like a spinach, they’re thicker leaves and can also be used in a stir fry. They cook really fast, so if you add the leaves right away with the stems of the bok choy, they’ll be soggy by the time it’s done. Make sure to separate the stems and the leaves before cooking, because you’ll want to add the leaves right before the dish is done.
I hope that you all have a wonderful week & enjoy your produce!!
Thank you!! ~The Farmer's Wife