FARM NEWSLETTER // WEEK 8
I hope you all are having a great week! I know that our week is going well, but it’s especially B-U-S-Y!! ‘Tis the season, for everything to come into harvest all at one time!! :D
We are going to be adding tomatoes to our CSA Shares this week!! Finally!! We are just now starting to harvest tomatoes in quantities enough to add to the CSAs. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but as things start to ripen it starts in quantities of one.. two.. three.. and then 500. Lol!! That’s true of many varieties!
Tomatoes are SO SPECIAL to us in our Minnesota growing season. If you know someone with an at home garden, I’ll put money on betting there are tomatoes in their garden. Maybe you have a home garden with tomatoes?! The more, the better!!! <3 In my opinion, the reason they’re so special is because of the flavor… Sure, the ones in the grocery stores in the winter are great but you know what it’s like taking that first bite of a tomato that came straight out of the field or garden- that flavor can’t be duplicated by any hot house or green house tomatoes either. We’ll get to that another day- I have a lot to tell you!!
Here is a picture of William harvesting some peppers. He is such a little stud. He wants to harvest everything- that’s the best part of farming is sharing the fruits!! He helped me plant one of the squash fields this spring but doesn’t generally have much interest in the spring; but as soon as it’s harvest season he wants to bring in a bucket of something every night. This morning for example, he brings me in about a half dozen cucumbers (all the perfect size and right parameters to harvest) and instead of setting them on the counter, he juggled them all trying to show them to me and ended up dropping a handful of them on the ground. As parents we all have some really feel good moments and this morning was one of those that hit a soft spot for me. He wanted to hand every. single. one. of them to me. Right into my hands. Not the counter, which is right there, but in my hands. He asked if I would make refrigerator pickles for dad. Guys, this kid has never eaten or enjoyed a refrigerator pickle! #Proudmommoment
This week I have some REALLY good news! The melons are AMAZING. They are about a week, maybe two, away from harvesting. Ben went out and picked one to cut it open and try it, and it is the sweetest melon I’ve had in a VERY long time!! I am not sure if it’s true or not but there is an old wives tale about how the dryer weather will make the melons sweeter; something about the sugars being more concentrated. The only thing is that there aren’t as many huge watermelons as we’ve seen in the past. The sizes that we’re seeing out there I would consider more of a medium size- with a handful of really big ones and a handful of small ones. We’ve still got some time for them to grow ;D
GUYS, LOOK AT THE EDGE OF THE MELON PATCH!
Some of you may have noticed some weird shaped pickles and slicers this week. That is a natural occurrence as the plant ages and is “dying”, it happens when the plant is stressed out and at the end of this lifecycle. This is the same with the zucchini. They start growing in weird shapes or they have scratching or scarring on the skins; which also happens when they’re about done producing. No need to worry about this though, we do have some more coming! I know some of you may be thinking wow, we’ve gotten them for 4 weeks now (out of 8 total), which may seem like a lot. The thing about these bad boys is that they’re harvested every day. This is different from a tomato or melon in a sense that these don’t need to ripen; as soon as they’re producing they can be harvested. This week we're taking a break from both! This will mean the foodshelf will get about 800 pounds this week (of just this one variety!), in addition to the other produce we donate and also the shares that you donate!!
I have mentioned our awesome crew already this season but to shine a brighter light- one of our employees who works exclusively in the pack shed with me was out harvesting yesterday and made a comment that really resonated with me. She said that she found a new respect for the “kids” (20-somethings) that harvest everyday, all day. When I hired on one of our helpers this season I told her she was on “Team Ben” lol! I didn’t remember that until after she reminded me of it, but that’s what there is here at the farm.
It’s Team Ben who is in charge of everything outside, the harvesting, hoeing, pulling weeds by hands or whatever odds and ends there are. Then there is “Team Jodi” who is in the pack shed with me everyday. We’re in charge of washing, sorting, packing, loading and delivering CSAs. The layout of the “Teams” is because some of the folks with us have more experience either with handling produce or in the kitchen. We laugh a lot. There are a lot of buttcrack potatoes. Sorry about the potty words but in our line of work it’s always a good thing to keep the spirits high- we all work really hard and it’s exhausting. You wouldn’t believe how much "grown ups" will laugh when they put a potato like that in the harvest bucket. Partially because they know as soon as we find it we will probably bring it back to them to show them ;) A butt crack potato goes a long way…
The reason I was mentioning this is because I want to remind you that I’m the only voice you hear but Ben is a HUGE silent partner. So while you might see “Team Jodi” a lot more often, there is a whole group of people who are devoted to their jobs, which makes our farm and CSA Program a possibility!! They’re amazing and we are very lucky!!
Here is our little Anna!! She is Ben's youngest sister (he is the oldest of 6!)
She quit her job and came onto our team full time this season. She's already talking about pursuing farming, and we've got some ideas to keep her busy ;) I just adore this little lady.
That being said, we were short staffed this week because of a mandatory quarantine for one of our employees. Her brother came home from college last weekend and was not feeling well, sure enough he tested positive for covid. Luckily that was on a Friday, so none of us were exposed, Thank God!! She will be gone for another whole week; so please be patient with me while I’m behind on my emails and not posting as often to social media. If I owe you an email, please know that I have my nephew’s birthday party in a couple hours in Brainerd and will be getting back into my office tomorrow to catch up. Sorry for keeping you waiting- I know there are a lot of you!!
That brought us to thinking, what if we got covid. Ben and I, and our kiddos, have never had it. Though we’ve been sick and tested a few times throughout the past year, we never actually had covid. Again, Thank God!! The thing is, as Ben and I are trying to play through the scenarios of how we could still operate a farm while being sick; it’s not a possibility. We could try to coach everyone through the week but who is going to deliver for 20 hours a week on different routes they don’t know? The logistics of it would be impossible. Think about organizing the boxes too- we have 450 CSA Members!! One 4 different delivery routes/ days of the week, and about 30 different delivery sites.
We’ve run the numbers every way we can but it’d be impossible. That being said, we would never want to cancel a week of CSAs but if it came down to it; we would have to. I’m not happy adding this tidbit to an otherwise super positive newsletter & field report card.. but it needs to be said as the new Delta Variant is making a lot of waves. We will continue to be safe and hope that you are as well; these are uncertain times. A friendly reminder too- if you feel ill or have any symptoms please do not pick up your CSA Share at your pick up spot. We’d be happy to make special arrangements with you to provide you with your share in a safe manner which in the past has even meant getting a home delivery from yours truly. Even if you’re sick, you still have to eat 😉
THIS WEEK IN YOUR CSA SHARES: For the Jumbo & Family Shares we will have - Cabbage, Cauliflower, Bell Peppers (Green/Purple), Anaheim Peppers (spicy), Tomatoes, Basil and Onions!!
For the Single Shares we will have - Cabbage, Cauliflower, Bell Peppers (Green/Purple), Anaheim Peppers (spicy), Tomatoes, & Basil!!
Cabbage!! The way we harvest this is cutting it at the base and then slowly peeling back the layers of the cabbage head down to where it’s nice and tight and there is no bug damage. As many of you know we try our best to not apply any products to the produce we’re growing. You might see a cabbage moth, or a worm, maybe you’ve already gotten a spider on a head of broccoli for example. We do our absolute best to make sure that we don’t send any “hitch hikers” along with you, but please make sure you’re paying attention and washing your produce when it gets home with you. That’s just a good safety measure - we wash it and do our best to make sure it’s 100%, but you need to wash it too.
Straight out of the Farm to Table Storage Guide (written by yours truly), which you should have received in the spring before CSAs started:
Handling: Rinse the cabbage under cold water before use. Cut cabbage head first into quarters, then diagonally across the wedge. Be sure to remove the stem end and triangular core near the base.
To use: Green cabbage is good fixed any way: raw, in salads, cooked, steamed, braised or fried. Red cabbage has a sharper flavor and coarser texture so it needs to be cooked longer. Make raw cabbage into coleslaw or sauerkraut.... Eat raw grated cabbage in your salad... Cooking celery with cabbage helps cut the strong cooking odor of cabbage. Briefly steam slivered and rinsed cabbage for 5 minutes. Top with butter and a pinch of salt and pepper or grated cheese. For the best cabbage, stir-fry or braise it until slightly browned. Or try and use it as a wrap for grain, rice, or meat fillings in large, boiled.
Cauliflower is coming again this week! This patch did really, really well. Out of a thousand we planted, we’re going to be able to harvest about 950. That means that only about 50ish were damaged by either bugs or lack of rain, irregular shape or soft spots. I’d like to think we have some pretty high standards 😉 They do have a fragrant odor to them when they’re fresh- just like broccoli. I’m sure you already noticed though!
It does hold well as long as you put it in a plastic bag or Tupperware container right away. It should be refrigerated, even before it’s cut up.
Tomatoes!! These are super special- we’ve been waiting so long!! We grow large slicing tomatoes and also roma tomatoes. Each has it’s purpose but can also be used interchangeably. Kind of like using a slicing cucumber for refrigerator pickles, no one will know the difference unless you look at the seed cavity size. Romas are known for being a meatier tomato and slicing cucumbers are known for being a sweeter tomato. I can tell you that I will still use a roma slice on a sandwich but if I had a choice I’d use the slicing tomato. For fresh salsa, pico de gallo, I prefer romas because they hold their shape a bit better when they’re cut up (it’s the seed cavity size that makes the biggest difference with that). We will be including either/or romas or slicing tomatoes. I have a chart and will be recording who gets what and that way we can alternate the varieties for next week. We want to make sure everyone gets some of everything :D
One thing that I would like to mention because I found it so interesting when Ben explained it to me; if there is a heavy rainfall coming and you have red tomatoes on the plants you need to get them off the vines and out of the rain! For some reason they crack and pop when vine ripened tomatoes are exposed to rain. Another farm rule is that you can’t pick tomatoes when they’re wet or they’ll get soft spots, sometimes even black spots on the skin of the tomato. If you harvest tomatoes right away in the morning and there is dew on the plant, when picking the tomatoes and going from plant to plant and row to row, your plants are very susceptible to spreading diseases as well- i.e. we NEVER pick tomatoes in the morning because of dew.
To store: Do not refrigerate tomatoes; cold temperatures deplete their flavor & texture. If your tomatoes smell fragrant and yield slightly when squeezed, they are ready to use. If not, store them for a few days at room temperature out of the sun until they are ripe. My dad’s trick was always putting dry tomatoes in a brown paper bag on top of the fridge, which accelerates the ripening process.
Bell Peppers! I also record the info about the peppers and who gets what. Last time we had purple bell peppers in the CSAs they were getting so small by the end of the week that we had to not pick them anymore on Thursday for some of the CSAs. I can GUARANTEE that those of you who didn’t get them last time will get some this time. That’s the power of my notes 😉 It’s a lot to keep track of but like I said, we want to make sure everyone gets a bit of everything!!!
Store bell peppers in the fridge if you have room. Since they’re harvested everyday they’re firm and keep their shape well. If you keep them in the fridge in a plastic bag, they’ll be rock hard up to two weeks later! One thing we haven’t talked much about this season is the natural dehydration of produce kept in the fridge. It’s important that with most varieties that you keep it either in a plastic bag or a Tupperware. The fridge is constantly blowing cool air and it does dehydrate produce which is what causes it to wilt.
The Anaheim peppers are hotter this year than in previous years. The hot and dry weather has caused the peppers to hold a bit more heat than they usually do. These are the most mild peppers we grow, as far as being a “hot pepper”. They are very big compared to most seasons.. they love the heat!! One of my favorite ways to enjoy these are stuffing them. When they're baked they loose a little bit of their heat. I consider myself very mid-western when I say I like things "medium" heat. Mild is more comfortable... I'm a baby when it comes to spicy. These will be put into plastic bags again, which is something we always do with the hot peppers. That way their heat doesn't transfer to anything else.
Looking forward to harvesting and packing all these fun veggies for you this week!! While this is the halfway point of our season (HOLY CRAP THAT WENT FAST, AGAIN!), we are still looking forward to welcoming a ton of new varieties!! I’d guess every week from here on out we will be adding at least one new variety per week.
Stay well friends,
~The Farmer’s Wife