FARM NEWSLETTER // WEEK 2
I hope you all enjoyed your first week of CSA Shares with us this season!! I know we did. This is such an exciting time of year!
Part of the reason it's so fun is of course because it's the first of everything. This is the first time we've harvested anything all spring! We've been preparing for this week for a long time. I mentioned this last week- it's great to plan and all, but you can't plan for everything. One of the things I didn't plan for is that we couldn't fit all of our CSA Shares on Tuesday into our van. Literally, could not fit them. So last minute we ended up driving a second delivery route! We're used to making on-the-fly decisions when necessary; it's not a rarity in this line of work.
Another reason that this time of season is so fun is because it's the only time for certain varieties. One of the benefits of having a CSA Share is being in touch with the seasons and knowing what's in harvest and when. This can be a new concept to some because at the grocery store everything is available all the time, or seems to be at least. In the field I always say we're eating seasonally, because that's true down to the very smallest detail.
At certain times of the year certain produce grows better than others; and certain types of produce are only harvestable at certain times of the year. You'll never be picking pumpkins in the spring, right? Just like you won't be regularly harvesting heads of lettuce in the fall. Some varieties of produce can withstand a slight frost, whereas other produce varieties wilt and die at the slightest hint of frost, or anywhere under 35 degrees (yes I know that's not "freezing", but it still kills some plants). This time of year provides us with a special appreciation for certain varieties :) Garlic scapes are a great example! You won't find them in your CSA again this season because it's only harvested one time (they don't grow back), and it's only available in the spring when garlic is going to flower.
Let's look at the 'mater patch together here. Notice anything?!?
These plants are bigger than they've been in the past at this time!! We use stakes to support the tomato plants. We pound literally every. single. one. of them into the ground every spring. We cultivate the plants with the tractor equipment (flipping weeds and killing them as they go) until the plants are too tall. About the same time that the plants are too big for the cultivator is when we start pounding stakes. There are two tomato plants between each stake. Once all the stakes are pounded we can start tying!
We use twine and tie the tomatoes for support. We tie them multiple times a season. You start on one end and tie back and forth, adding another loop around each stake so that it's tight and doesn't slip once the plants get really heavy. After we give them a couple weeks to grow, we tie them again. Lifting the branches as we go and supporting them so when they're full of fruit they won't bend or crack. Bending and cracking exposes the plants to disease which is a HUGE no-no with tomatoes.
You can also see the water lines here that run along each row. It's called t-tape & it's got pin pricks every few inches so that it leaks water slowly which is easier for the plants to actually absorb it and it also prevents run off. We have some small 'maters on the plants already!! :D
We have used almost 60,000 feet of irrigation line this year and we're not done yet. For comparison- that is TEN MILES OF IRRIGATION. Yes, it is reusable but not for the produce that's planted over the mulch. We have to hook up a new roll for that because it's laid the length of the rows right down the center of the mulch layer. For the produce that's direct seeded like beans and potatoes we're able to reuse the water lines from previous seasons.
LOOK!!! It's our first baby zucchini of the season!! The plants are doing great and actually growing consistently which is a surprise given the weather. Look at the soil here, pretty rough!!
Complete side note: When we were looking at this property a year and a half ago it was the middle of the winter. We looked at the fields, the buildings, our cute little farmhouse, and most importantly if you ask farmer Ben, we looked at the soil. Ben went out and started digging. Not kidding guys. Imagine this big tough guy digging in the snow looking for dirt. Now imagine it was really really hard because you know, it's frozen. So he grabs an axe that was by the firepit and went to town banging away. Literally got enough dirt to fill a shot glass basically- and that dirt is still in the cupboard here.
The first week of CSA Share pick ups went great! Margot (pictured below) went along with her friend Amy to go pick up her CSA Share box in Robbinsdale this week. If you're wondering if I like to see your pictures, the answer is always yes. ;) Please share!
We harvested, washed, packed and delivered four days out of the week and I was very thankful it went as smoothly as it did!! A bit of housekeeping business is necessary this week as well because we're all just getting to know each other :)
There is a CSA Share pick up time frame at all of our residential pick up sites, the time frame starts shortly after I have delivered (3 or 4ish) and ends in the evening after supper (often times 7 or 8). If your share isn't picked up within that time window on that day of the week it is considered forfeited. Your CSA Share is not guaranteed to be there after the pick up time frame is over but you're welcome to drive by and see if it is. If you're looking for the exact time frame of your pick up site go to your email from me with the member handbook and look at the top of page 2, it's in the first couple sentences. It's different for every site.
We ask that everyone collapse their boxes after they pick up their CSA Share. The boxes are specially made produce boxes, they're coated in wax so that they're strong and can hold heavy produce through multiple uses. They don't collapse like a normal box. If you flip it upside down and are looking at the bottom of the box- the two shortest flaps fold first. Grab onto the two short sides with your hand and pinch your thumb to your pointer finger, it'll fold up. Once those two short flaps are pinched up, the rest of the box will fold nicely.
One not-so-great piece of news is that we have run into problems sourcing strawberries, again. In the past it was because the quantity we requested couldn't be provided by any of the local strawberry farms. We need over 100 quarts per day! That's a lot of berries, from a really big field, from a farm that has to have a really big crew to harvest. It's a long list of specs to look for and unfortunately there isn't anywhere we've found in MN that can satisfy our need.
Last year, it was because of covid. Every farm we contacted had so many people coming out to pick strawberries that there wasn't any reason for them to pay their employees to go pick them and sell them to us. We literally couldn't pay enough to make it worth it- we tried. This year it's the weather. We contacted Afton Berries in Hastings and had it lined up for this week; numbers and quantities already determined. Then I got the email that she didn't want to sell them to us because they were undersized because of the heat, and also ripening super fast, and over ripening even faster. She literally told me that she didn't want to sell them to us because she didn't think you'd like them- they're the size of dimes and overripe before they're even picked basically. I got permission from her to share this with you, btw.
What can we do now? Well- we can replace the berries with some other kind of sweet treat for you. We already buy blueberries every season from J&Q fruit farm in Princeton :) which you'll see in a few weeks! So my thought is that I'd like to explore what kinds of apples we can buy for our shares and add another type of apples for this fall. I'm sorry that getting strawberries this year won't work out again. I'll be taking it off the list in our CSA offerings for next year and if it works out then it'll just be an extra surprise for you.
One really cool surprise that I can share with you is that corn will be ready earlier than I think it's ever been before! We will have corn for next week (not week 2, but week 3). We might even have corn before we have cukes, depending on how those grow. It's incredible how much of a difference the weather makes. I'm so excited for FRESH sweet corn!! Looking forward to that next week!!
WHAT'S IN YOUR CSA THIS WEEK?!
This week in your Jumbo & Family Shares you can expect: kohlrabi, green romaine lettuce, buttercrunch lettuce (could be either red or green), kale, red onions and basil!
This week in your Single Shares you can expect: kohlrabi, green romaine lettuce, buttercrunch lettuce (could be either red or green), kale, red onions and basil!
You'll notice the lists for this week are actually the same. As opposed to last week, each variety can be split evenly this week. Last week our Single Shares didn't get kohlrabi because we were using that space for extra rhubarb. We try to make sure that we're giving you enough of each variety of produce in your CSA Share box to satisfy the number of people your share is intended for. The balance of not too little or too much can be challenging but I think we've done a good job over the years fine tuning the quantities.
Remember that the Farm to Table Storage Guide was provided to you at the beginning of the season in an email from yours truly. I wrote down every single thing I could think of for all the produce varieties we grow!! Kohlrabi for example, has a great section that's detailed and tells you how to use the bulb and also the leaves. Did you know- kohlrabi leaves are actually super high in vitamin B6! If you want to use the kohlrabi leaves as part of your salad, make sure to wash them really well and then remove the center rib because that can have a tart taste. The leaves are flavorful but enjoyable!
One thing I have to make sure to tell you about your basil- it CAN'T go in the fridge. If it's in the fridge it will turn black and wilt. It's dead at that point and can't be used in any cuisine. For storage we recommend putting the leaves in a dry paper towel inside of a plastic bag and leaving it on the counter. Keeping it in the plastic bag will reduce the air flow and ultimately keep it fresh for longer. Remember that this is harvested in the morning that your CSA is being delivered.
Here is the green romaine for this week! You'll notice it doesn't grow in one neat narrow head like you see at the grocery store. It grows out as well, so the plant is actually much wider than you'd imagine when you pick up those 3 packs of romaine heads at the store. Romaine is a classic because it's got the fresh taste but also has amazing texture. Make sure when you're cleaning it that you remove all the leaves from the head first and then run your fingers up and down the center rib to remove all the hidden specs. There is nothing worse than finding dirt in your salad. Just kidding- finding a hair in your salad is worse but dirt is still pretty bad :P
KALE! Some of you use it every day in shakes and smoothies and some of you haven't ever tried it at all. We all come from different places when we're talking about being comfortable with eating out of the garden. Kale is notorious for "those healthy people" for a good reason. It's loaded with nutrients and was considered the "super food" for several years- everyone flocked to it. We're past that phase but we can still greatly appreciate it! It can be added to your fresh salads or baked and sautéed like the swiss chard. Personally I never liked kale chips but that was because I didn't know how to make them properly. Tossing the kale with oil isn't good enough. I literally use my fingers to massage the oil into the crevices on the leaves. By massaging the oil into the little spaces it allows for it to actually be evenly crispy!
This picture is from last season but it's dark and I didn't get a chance to pull any onions for pics tonight. The red onions are pretty small still, more of a shallot size. These can be used in fresh salads or you can cook with them. The red onions are a little more mild than their yellow counterpart. Some people would call them sweet, even.
You can use the greens too! Chop them up and add them to your salad or add them to a little bit of sweet mustard to top off your chicken breast next time you grill for supper. Personally, I always add the red onions to my Italian salads alongside the pepperoncini peppers when I'm feeling adventurous. I'm not super big into spicy foods but to me the red onions are more flavorful than spicy to me. I try to get more spices into the kitchen but I have to admit I have very midwestern taste buds.
I think that's all for tonight folks! I'm sorry this is coming out so late in the evening. I have to tell you, I do try to make sure it comes out every Friday. This week being the first week of CSAs I had extra stuff on the to-do list for today than usual. Sometimes the blog post will come out on Saturday instead, though like I said I plan for Fridays.
We hope you enjoyed your first week of the CSA this season together!! Looking forward to many more!!
Stay well friends,
~ The Farmer's Wife