FARM NEWSLETTER // WEEK 10

Greetings All!


Anyone else seeing the school supplies creeping back into the stores? Did you see the Halloween candy too? Because that's taking it a little too far!! :P


It's that time of year. I've even heard the mumblings of pumpkin spice... we all love the Fall but cool your jets already!! It's been so hot and dry this summer that it seems like we've rolled all the way into Fall already. Not quite so fast--- we still have a lot of summer varieties left for you!!! Don't turn the page on us already ;)


Here is a picture from http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

This tool is actually for the whole Nation so if you want to check out other states just click the link above and it'll direct you to the regions and states. As you can see, this is accurate as of yesterday.


I'm sure no one needed to tell you, but we're in a "Extreme Drought", level D3. Every year farming has it's different highs and lows, but this season the lows aren't nearly as low as what I thought they would be..

As many of you know, Ben is in charge of all field operations here at Brown Family Farm. He has done the seemingly impossible- keeping thousands and thousands of plants alive through the worst drought that we have ever seen. To age ourselves... we weren't even born yet for the drought of '88 that everyone talks about.


I'll stay on target here and tell you what this drought is doing to the fields...

Our pumpkins are ripening! YES. William brought me in a huge orange pumpkin the other day and has since then colored on it with sharpie (knowing that cutting it now, it wouldn't be good later, haha). But the problem with this is that the heat has been stressing these plants so much that the vines are dying. Once the vines die and the squash are exposed to the sun, they can actually spoil fairly quickly. With a bit of moisture and some cooler weather we might be able to help these squash hold onto the vines until their time comes.


We haven't filled a single pickle order this year. We usually have a couple dozen CSA Members get pickles from us every year, but this stress is too much for these plants and they're using their energy to stay alive, not produce pickles.


The weeds are taking over but we can't cultivate because 1. the vining crops are too wide now and we would damage them and 2. if we cultivate and pull the weeds between rows, it allows the tiny amount of moisture that's in the soil to evaporate. We can't break the surface right now.


This is the not-so-pretty side to farming... but I don't want you to think we're in despair because that's not true at all. Ben is bringing all of his experience to the table to make sure we have produce for your Shares every week. He is looking at the crop maps and planned Shares, subbing varieties out where we need to and introducing some a little earlier than normal. Your CSA Shares are a reflection of his skills, thank God for Farmer Ben!! It still amazes me all these years later, what he can do with seeds and water.


He is feeling better and his back is less tight but he still wakes up sore every once in a while. He will keep going to the chiropractor this summer and has a lot of stretches to do. We will keep monitoring him and making sure that he uses tools and equipment and isn't carrying as much heavy weight anymore. Overall, he is doing good and is in good spirits!


One silver lining to the drought is that- we don't have ANY MOSQUITOS. Harvesting in the summertime usually comes with a ton of bug bites from gnats and skeeters. Part of the job, we all just brush it off and get over it- nothing we can do about it (it's not even note worthy!). I spend SO much time outside and I bet I haven't been bitten even a dozen times this season. Now that, my friends, is noteworthy!!

The melons are as sweet as they've ever been. I have had so many of our CSA Members reach out and let me know that the flavor is phenomenal! I have to say, I agree!! There is science behind the flavor too- this hot dry weather is making for the best melons!

Ben's melons were too big to fit into the boxes this week as I'm sure you saw, so they were on the outside, bagged up for you to grab. I hope that everyone enjoyed their melons! We also have red seedless and yellow seedless melons ahead of us ;)


We are just now starting to pick muskmelons!! There are SO MANY OUT THERE. Great news too, they have so many sets on there that some melons are ripening while others are netting and others are just starting to form from the flower.


A little more about muskmelons if you care to know, as they start out and grow, they're totally smooth. Once they get closer to ripening, they'll start to "net" which is just saying they form that texture on the outside. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about if you've ever had a muskmelon (some people call them cantaloupes).


At that part of the development they are large, netted and dark green. Want to know when to harvest them? They turn yellow, literally overnight!!! When it's muskmelon season we start every morning with a walk through the patch to grab the ripe ones. Like many other varieties these start with one, two, three... a thousand! When they start ripening they'll really start coming in.

Check out this plant, I chose to take a picture of this one because it shows the different stages of development pretty good :)

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN CANNING TOMATOES AND PROCESSING VEGGIES FOR THIS FALL/WINTER?

You're in the right place. We have a lot of tomatoes, we have a lot of peppers, quite a few onions, everything you need for sauces, salsas, freezing larger quantities of peppers or anything else. As the weeks go on, I'll continue to offer extra produce here but if you're interested in anything special don't hesitate to reach out!

As a CSA Member you get a discount on any additional produce you might buy throughout the season. That applies to everything as small as a peck of beans, or as large as 100# of tomatoes. We've got your back!! ;)


Prices:

*Tomatoes are $26 a basket for CSA Members

*A bushel of sweet peppers are $25

*A half bushel of sweet peppers is $14

*A half bushel of hot peppers is $22

*A peck is $12.

*The onions aren't dried so we're not selling them by the bushel right now, but we still have plenty for you! We usually sell them at the stand for $3 a bunch but we'll obviously cut you a deal on those too- so if you need them let me know.


The easiest way to place an order is to start out with a new email (not a return email on an existing thread please).

More about tomatoes:

The baskets (half bushels) are $26 a piece- for the regular tomatoes that's about 25# of 'maters; for the romas that's about 27# of 'maters. The weights are a little different because romas are smaller tomatoes so there isn't as much space between them. Personally, I prefer romas for salsa and sauces because they're meatier so I don't have to cook them down as long. We will be packing your tomatoes in the 5/9th bushel boxes, which is the same as the "Family Share" size CSA box.

Peppers: I added the prices for peppers above as well because I know that many of you will need to get hot peppers and sweet peppers for your canning adventures. Or freezing adventures! Sweet Peppers that we grow: bells, banana, gypsy, and purple bells. Hot Peppers: Jalapenos, Hungarian Hot Wax, Anaheim. When you order a bushel, etc. of peppers, we will want to know do you want one variety or a mix of all of them? You could even say something like "10 Jalapenos and the rest Bell Peppers, half bushel size". We really do like all the details because that ensures we're getting you what you want ;)


For all of your orders, I'll be delivering it alongside your CSA Share this week unless you specify a different date. So make sure to note that if you'd like to wait a week or two for the tomatoes. I expect to have tomatoes to sell as canners for at least a couple weeks.


In your email order please include: *How many boxes of tomatoes you'd like, and what kind

*If you're getting peppers, make sure to tell me hot or sweet, a combo of all the peppers, (or even specifics like I mentioned above- we aren't going to charge you more to get a few hot peppers in a half bushel of sweet peppers)

*You can get just peppers if you want to freeze those, without getting tomatoes just FYI

*How do you want to pay? Are you able to send a check in the mail? Or do you want me to send you an online invoice?


In a couple of weeks you'll hear me talking more about processing and freezing squash and other varieties. We have lots of prep for winter coming and if you're interested in it, I'll tell you all about it in the coming weeks :)


THIS WEEK IN YOUR CSA SHARE:

For the Jumbo & Family Shares you can expect: Yellow Watermelon/ Muskmelons! Cabbage, Eggplant, Green Beans, Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers, & Tomatoes!


For the Single Share you can expect: Yellow Watermelon/ Muskmelons! Cabbage, Broccoli, Green Beans, Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers, & Tomatoes!


Let's start with the first variety on the list for everyone. Yellow watermelons and muskmelons. YES, they really are YELLOW. They have a yellow flesh, so when you cut into them don't be alarmed, it's like that on purpose! Some people swear they're sweeter than their red counterparts, but personally I like them the same. I think the coolest part is the aesthetics- there is no better potluck addition than a tray of watermelon triangles alternating yellow and red. I don't have a picture of it but did find a photo online- it's so pretty!!

The list says either yellow watermelons or muskmelons. The reason we're doing it this way is because we're trying to make sure that we're using the melons in the most efficient way. As you know, they don't all ripen at once. Muskmelons are actually notorious for having a terrible holding capability. **NOTE TO SELF: If you get a muskmelon, enjoy it within a day or two but make sure you're storing it in the fridge.


Muskmelons on a commercial level are harvested before they are ripe, that way they hold so much better for their trip cross country in the back of a semi. If those were all ripe melons they'd be goo by the time they got where they were going. Ever wonder where the term "vine ripened tomato" comes from or why it's so desirable? Flavor, baby! Same concept with melons; when they're ripened on the vine they have so much more flavor but not a very good holding capacity. Back to the alternating melons, haha..


Ben's idea was that we can record the melons just like the other varieties we offer you. Giving you either a muskmelon or a yellow melon this week, and then the opposite next week (or the week after that, it can change at any point, but we hope to offer these back to back!). This will help you get more melons this season because we don't have to wait for the waterfall, we're able to include them as they ripen!! Ben is confident that the yellow melons are the right size to actually fit inside your CSA boxes, so those will be the first things we pack when we set up your boxes next week. Just like the tomatoes- I know who has gotten what varieties ;)


Speaking to my record keeping- Broccoli is just starting to come into harvest again with the next patch. Since last time around the Single Shares didn't get it when the J & F Shares did, we're reserving the Broccoli for the Single Shares. Broccoli in particular seems to attract small green worms hiding in its depths. We soak the broccoli to remove the worms (if there are any), but suggest that you do it too. Remember, we could be using harmful pesticides, but we know you’re on board with us and would rather soak it twice.


On a smaller scale, in our own kitchen, we will soak the head upside down in cold salted water (1 teaspoon salt to 8 cups of water) for 30 minutes to remove any hidden field worms. After cutting off the florets, don’t discard the stem. Sliced stems are juicy, crunchy, and perfectly edible. If the skin is thick, you can remove it with a knife or peeler before adding the stem to them to your dish. Try adding your thinly sliced broccoli stems to a veggie platter.

Eggplant!! The Jumbo & Family Shares will be getting Eggplant this week, the first we've had all season!! In this picture you can see the beautiful flowers and also the eggplant hiding towards the bottom of the picture. Just in case you're not super familiar with it, I copied and pasted this right from my Farm to Table Storage Guide! -----


Eggplant is a close relative of tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. They are smooth-skinned, oval to elongated, and range in color from purple to black (and others, but we grow the classic variety). Eggplant requires the right kind of preparation; otherwise it can be unpleasantly bitter, rubbery, or watery.


To store: Wrap unwashed eggplant in a towel (not plastic) to absorb any moisture, and keep it in the veggie drawer of your refrigerator. Or store unrefrigerated at a cool room temperature. Use within a week and it should still be fresh and mild.


Handling: Eggplant is usually peeled. The flesh will brown when exposed to air. To prevent browning, coat in lemon juice or keep submerged in water.

Rinse eggplant in cool water and cut off the stem. The shape of the eggplant determines how to prepare it: cut straight narrow eggplant into strips for grilling or broiling, and cut a rounded bulbous eggplant into cubes for stews and stir- fries. To remove bitter flavors and excess moisture, lightly salt slices of eggplant and allow them to sit in a colander for 10-15 minutes. Gently squeeze out any liquid. Eggplant will now soak up less oil and need less salt in preparation.


To use: Stir-fry or sauté 1-inch cubed eggplant in a very hot sauté pan with peanut oil until the eggplant has released much of its water and is very soft. Or brush 1/2-inch to 1-inch slices of eggplant with olive oil or melted butter and broil or grill until brown. You can also pierce a whole eggplant in a few places with a knife, lightly coat with olive oil, and bake at 375 degrees until the eggplant is very soft and collapsed, 30-60 minutes. (There are also instructions to freeze eggplant in the guide but I didn't include that here).


Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers- these are a step down from the jalapenos- but a bit more heat than the Anaheims. If you're a fan of heat, more power to you!! I know some of you out there could eat these like an apple!! For those of us who don't, one great way to cut the heat is cooking with them. You could also chop them into little bits to stir fry them, and add them to cream cheese with some different kinds of textures to make a really good "hot" cheese ball!


**Remember- these look identical to the sweet banana peppers from last week. So whatever you do, don't mix them in the crisper drawer! Another way to keep them straight is that if we're sending a hot pepper with your CSA, it will always be in a plastic bag to prevent the transfer of heat to your other veggies.


Peppers are one of the easiest varieties to freeze. All you need to do is chop them into whatever size pieces you'd like and pop them into a freezer bag. Voila! That's it! Some varieties of produce require blanching and even some more intensive freezing techniques. Storing peppers will be one of the easiest things you can store all season ;)


WRAPPING IT UP I PROMISE:

We were supposed to get some rain yesterday.. I know those to the south and those to the north got it. I actually have a screen shot of our weather app that shows the only break in the system, coming right over the top of us basically. Less than 20 minutes south they have over an inch! Here, our gauge says less than a half inch. You might think we're crazy but we actually sat outside on the deck last night in the "rain". I guess it was hopeful thinking that we would have to run inside to escape a heavy rainfall but we never had to get up out of our chairs. This week looks like we might have some more rain coming in, hopefully this time it doesn't miss us! We could sure use it!!!!


Thank you for reading all of our vegetable tales here- it's really flattering knowing that so many of you are interested in being so involved. This is what the future of food looks like!! Educated consumers who make choices based on experience. I hope we're helping with that by showing you the inside scoop with small scale vegetable production! And of course the most important part- we hope you're enjoying your veggies in your CSA along the way <3


Stay well friends,

~The Farmer's Wife

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