Lida Farm Journal: Week 11

Where are the melons? If you’ve been wondering this since early august, just know that I’ve been wondering the same thing. But, finally, they have started to mature. We grew them using a plastic mulch called IRT this year for the first time. This is pretty typical on produce farms and something we did on Foxtail Farm where I used to work. IRT stands for InfraRed Transmitting, so the mulch allows in light to warm the soil and also stops weeds. This is the perfect recipe for growing melons, which love warm soil temperatures. One problem, on the other hand, is that the melons rely on irrigation lines below the mulch for moisture instead of rain. So, when you’re in charge of supplying “rain” to plants, you walk a real tightrope, balancing size and flavor. For example, if you irrigate a lot, you get big melons, but also flavorless melons. Myself, I was on the conservative side, so we ended up with small melons, but I think they have good flavor. Anyway, I’m just happy they finally made it!

We were thankful for the rain last week. It really made a difference for us. Things were really dry and I just dreaded the idea of setting up and moving drip tape to cover the whole garden. With little rains here and there, we should be fine on moisture as we move into fall…it’s hard to believe, but fall is right around the corner.

Harvest Party Invitation: Please make the trip to attend our harvest party on Sunday, September 16 from 1-4pm at our farm. It’ll be a real informal pot-luck thing, which will be a good opportunity to see where all this food comes from and mingle with other members. Details: We will supply pork and beef BBQ sandwiches and beverages. As a pot-luck, we would request you bring a salad, side, or dessert to pass. All members and your families are welcome to attend. Please RSVP at our home number (218-342-2619) or my e-mail (pesch@umn.edu) so we get some numbers of attendees. Our farm is about half-way between Vergas and Pelican Rapids right off County Highway 4.

P.S. I am still posting newsletters online at www.lidafarm.com. I also put a number of pictures there too, so you can “see” the farm.

IN THE BOX:

Tomato Mix

The little green ones are an heirloom called Green Zebra. We’ve grown them for the first time this year. Smaller than I thought they’d be, but they have good flavor.

A Couple Yellow Onions

Parsley

Fresh Thyme

If you can’t get to using it soon, just let dry in your kitchen. We’re still using the stuff we dried last fall. If dry, you can put into a ziplock bag and knock around so all the leaves fell off the stems.

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes

Roma Tomatoes

Italian Beans

You’ll notice these beans are flat. They are a variety called Romano Bush and belong to a family of beans people call Italian beans, which are typical throughout the Mediterranean. When we sold at a farmers market in Northeast Minneapolis, there was always this old Lebanese lady who was crazy for these, saying she just could never find them in the US.

Green Stuffing Peppers

A Couple Colored Peppers

Hot Peppers

The red ones are called cherry bombs—really mild when you remove the seeds and membranes.

Watermelons

The light-colored one is a yellow variety called Sunshine and the other is a red variety called Sugar Baby.

Stuffed Peppers

4 green or red bell peppers
Salt
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 lb of lean ground beef
1 1/2 cup of cooked rice
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or parsley
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 tsp of Worcestershire Sauce
Dash of Tabasco sauce


1
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cut top off peppers 1 inch from the stem end, and remove seeds. Add several generous pinches of salt to boiling water, then add peppers and boil, using a spoon to keep peppers completely submerged, until brilliant green (or red if red peppers) and their flesh slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Drain, set aside to cool.

2 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat 4 tbsp of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, add meat, rice, tomatoes, and herb, and season generously with salt and pepper. Mix well.

3 Drizzle remaining 1 tbsp. Oil inside peppers, arrange cut side up in a baking dish, then stuff peppers with filling. Combine ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and 1/4 cup of water in a small bowl, then spoon over filling. Add 1/4 cup of water to the baking dish. Place in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the internal temperature of the stuffed pepper is 150-160°F.

Serves 4.

Lida Farm Journal: Week 10

Last week Maree was telling me that I shouldn’t go off on some tangent in my newsletter all the time. Just stick to the weather and how things are growing…that’s what people want to hear about. So, this week I’m going to do just that.

Basically every season is a mixed bag. There are always crops which do really well and others which do terribly for various reasons. This year is no different. I’ve laid out the three main reasons for problem crops:

Soil Compaction: As you may have noticed, the potatoes are coming in interesting shapes—a sure-fire sign of soil compaction, which is causing the plants to be stunted and the potatoes to be small, misshapen, and few and far between. The whole issue comes back to the wet spring….We have really heavy soil, and, when you plant in less than ideal conditions, you get cement, which we have. Compaction has also made carrots a bit short this year.

Heat Stress: Some plants have been hurt by our dry conditions with lots of heat. Leeks are just barely holding on and our red kale bit the dust because it couldn’t handle the stress. Last year, for example, we had our kale plants produce right through September. Also, remember how short that spring lettuce season was? We typically can spread out a lettuce over 3-4 weeks, but late June heat destroyed that plan.

Damn Bugs: Just like last year, my main enemy is the cucumber beetle. They are small black and yellow striped bugs which love anything in the cucumber family. They crew on things, but the biggest problem is that they spread a disease called bacterial wilt. This has brought the first crop of cucumbers to an end and has taken out 15 percent of the melons. Potato bugs do injure potatoes and eggplant, but not too bad this year.

Hey, don’t let me get pessimistic…like I said, it’s always a mixed bag. I do put a number of crops on this year’s excellent list: beans, corn, tomatoes, and arugula. I also predict a good winter squash crop too, but that’s not a sure thing yet. Tomatoes just loved this summer heat and can do fine without much water. Beans seem to be giving high yields because we have a bunch of bees hives in our pasture for the first time this year. Those bees are doing their job of pollinating every flower they find! Corn I transplanted this year, which really allowed it to get a jump on weeds and produce a good canopy; corn also liked the heat…anytime you can’t sleep because it’s too muggy and hot is good corn-growing weather. The arugula turned out great this spring because we just didn’t have many flea beetles out there—they typically crew a bunch of little holes in everything.

Otherwise, a lot of the other crops are doing alright. Nothing to write home about. We still could use some rain though.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We’re having a harvest party at our farm. Mark you calendars for the afternoon of Sunday, September 16. More details to come next week.

IN THE BOX:

Tomatoes

I put in a real slug. I was thinking of this a good time to make sauce.

Onions

I put in one sweet (light colored…tear-drop shape), one red, and two yellow storage onions.

A Bunch of Carrots

Garlic

Corn

This is supposed to be a yellow variety called Bodacious, but it sat a bit too close to the bi-color and turned a bit bi-color itself. I tested it…still tastes good.

Dino Kale

Green Beans

Green Peppers

Italia Peppers

This is considered a “frying pepper” although it’s got great sweet taste raw too.

Globe Eggplant

Traditional Italian style. They come in slow, so if you didn’t receive one, you’ll get one next week.

Kennebec Potatoes

An all-white variety. Seems like it’s good for frying, but I like for mashing.

*No flowers this week

Corn Chowder

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 strip of bacon
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1/2 large carrot, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 celery stalk, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 bay leaf

3 1/2 cups milk
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 2 cups), cobs reserved

1 In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bacon strip (skip this step for vegetarian option, just add more butter) and fry until the bacon renders its fat, but doesn’t begin to brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 4 or 5 more minutes.

2 Break the corn cobs in half and add them to the saucepan. Add the milk and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer (on our stove we had to use the “warm” setting) to prevent scalding the milk on the bottom of the pan.

3 Discard the cobs, the bacon strip, and the bay leaf. Raise the heat, add the potatoes, red pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt, fresh ground pepper to taste, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are almost fork tender.

4 Raise the heat, add the corn kernels and the thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serves 4.

Lida Farm Jounal: Week 9

Earlier this week I attended an Extension training for farmers market managers in the twin cities. One of the other “hats” I wear is as president of the Lakes Area Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes, which, since we’re an all-volunteer market, makes me the market manager by default. We were there to learn how to conduct good market surveys, but I really liked talking to others and learning about their markets.

I learned that we all have the same issues, but each market is really different. Some of this comes from the types of vendors or the organization, but, really, the people give a market its personality. We were on-site of the Midtown Farmers Market on Lake Street, which really had an urban feel. Again, this personality sprung the neighborhood: Somali, Latinos, tattooed twenty-somethings, crunchy yuppie-types all mingling together. You also saw folks coming to the market by bike or light rail instead of by car. The scene was quite a bit different from our mix of lakes people, tourists, and small-town families down by the pavilion. But what’s incredible is that Midtown is quite a bit different from Mill City Market nestled amongst all those high-priced condos just a few miles away in downtown or the Kingston Market near all those cool Uptown hipsters at the other end of Lake Street.

As a vendor I often think of a farmers market as just a place people go to get food, but, really folks go there just as much for the people as the produce. If you just want a cheap tomato, go to the supermarket. But, if you want to banter with the vendors about the weather, run into some of your neighbors, and do some serious people-watching, then go to your local farmers market. It’s a place you can really celebrate your neighborhood each week.

IN THE BOX:

Heirloom Tomatoes

These are a variety called Cherokee Purple. They are totally ugly, but don’t let looks fool you, these have great taste. Best for fresh eating…don’t cook with them.

Tomatoes

These are our main crop tomatoes called Red Sun.

A few leeks

Check out the recipe below. To clean, cut lengthwise and peel back the leaves and wash.

A few onions

The yellow type is a sweet onion called Alisa Craig and the red is called Red Bull.

A Bunch of Carrots

Corn

A white variety called Silver King. First time I’ve grown it…nice size ears.

Summer Squash Mix

Red Norland Potatoes

Potato Leek Soup

4 T unsalted butter

1 large or 2 medium sliced leeks, white part only

4 cups chicken broth

4 cups potatoes, peeled and diced

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk (whole or 2%)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 T chopped parsley, optional

Clean and thinly slice leeks. Melt butter in large, heavy soup pot; add leeks and sauté slowly until glassy-do not brown. Add chicken broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until potatoes are soft, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Mash or puree. Add cream, milk, salt and pepper, and parsley. Reheat and serve-do no boil. Makes 8 servings.

Reprinted from The St. Paul Farmers Market Produce Cookbook, 1999.

Lida Farn CSA Journal: Week 8

One thing we really shoot for at our place is to make sure nothing goes to waste. Sometimes we feel like some 19th century pioneer family trying to get the most out of everything. Probably the best example at our farm is what we do with leftover produce. It’s pretty rare for us to sell absolutely everything we bring to the Saturday market in Detroit Lakes, so we will bring home a couple bushels or so of produce. So, Saturday afternoon, we usually get creative cooking whatever we have a lot of. It could be about 25 pounds of summer squash or 10 eggplant. But, still, there are limits to what we can eat too. In this case, it’s off to the goats! These creatures are great disposal units which like nearly everything from carrot peelings to whole canteloupe. We have about 12 goats on loan from our neighbors. They are short on pasture and we are pretty long, so it works out well.

Maree’s cousin was visiting this week and she was asking why we keep sheep and animals. Wool? Meat? “No.” I said, “It’s the manure. The meat and wool are just a bonus.” Produce takes a lot of fertility, and, growing organically, that means compost. It takes about two years to make good compost up behind our barn and it was be impossible without animals “doing what they do.” It’s a great example of how the farm naturally recycles nutrients. Instead of buying and transporting compost, we make it on site, saving a lot of time and money. In doing so, we also rid ourselves of some waste products like unused cabbage and feed a bunch of livestock at the same time, which can be used for both food and fiber.

IN THE BOX:
Roma tomatoes
These are a variety called Juliet, which are really good as salad tomatoes.
A few Regular Tomatoes
Early girl and the beginnings of the big main crop tomatoes.
A couple Green Peppers
A few Jalapeno Peppers
Fresh Oregano
A Bunch of Carrots
A mix. The purple one are a variety called purple haze, just to change it up a bit.
Corn
Yellow Beans
Cukes

Yukon Gold Potatoes
Beets
Garlic
Dino Kale

Balsamic Glazed Carrots

Submitted by: Harry Wetzel
Rated: 4 out of 5 by 168 members

Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Ready In: 15 Minutes
Yields: 4 servings

“Carrots are sauteed in olive oil, and then briefly tossed with balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in this deceptively simple side dish.”

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups baby carrots

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

DIRECTIONS:

1.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute carrots in oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Stir in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, mix to coat and serve.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2007 Allrecipes.com

Printed from Allrecipes.com 8/9/2007

Lida Farm Journal: Week 7

Well, high season has finally arrived to Minnesota! It has been a long wait, which is something we are pretty good at around here. And no wait seems longer than the one for tomatoes to ripen. I think it’s so frustrating because we feel like the summer is already slipping away from us and only then do the tomatoes turn red. Heck, it’s already the beginning of august, and, from experience, a mid-september frost is par for the course—sorry, I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade.

Tomatoes are funny though. Today I spent a good amount of time hunting and pecking in the tomato patch to find a couple for each box. Every time I saw another with good color, it was like finding buried treasure. Every year I go from the excitement of the first ones coming in to being completely over-whelmed by a sea of tomatoes in about 2 weeks. By the end of August I am usually completely burnt out on picking and packing tomatoes, I just can’t stand to look out our back door towards the field—I suppose this is just how it is when you have 700 plants. Still, I’m happy now to just bask in that great feeling you from finding the first of the season. And there’s nothing sweeter than that.

IN THE BOX:

Cherry Tomatoes

These are mostly Sungold (an orange variety) with a mix of standard red cherries.

A couple early Tomatoes

The yellow one is named Taxi and the red one is Early Girl.

Red Bull Onions

A couple Summer Squash

Fresh Italian Parsley

Fennel

I’m throwing you for a loop on this one. I think fennel is really one of those “left-field” vegetables for most people, so I’ve included a recipe. I also know people grill it as well and add it to Italian sauces.

Bunch of Carrots

Corn

Green Beans

Fresh Basil

Cukes

Eggplant

Braised Fennel with Parmesan

From Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

2 to 3 fennel bulbs and halfed or quartered lengthwise
2 to 3 T butter
Salt and pepper
½ cup dry white wine or water
1/3 cup grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Rub a baking dish large enough to hold the fennel in a single layer with butter. Steam the fennel for 10 minutes, then arrange in dish. Dot with butter or drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and add the wine. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the cover, baste the fennel with its juice, then add the cheese and continue baking until the fennel is completely tender, about 10 minutes more. Serve with chopped fennel greens or parsley.