My Love of Tomatoes

Well,the tomatoes are starting to ripen. This is pretty exciting for me, because, although I raise a mix of produce, I really consider myself a tomato person. I consider it my true medium. You won’t find too many in the box this week, because the first week is always a “hunt and peck” operation where I have to search high and low just to get a half case. But once they start going, it becomes an avalanche pretty quick.
So, what’s so great about tomatoes you ask? There’s a number of things.
  • I like the huge variety of tomatoes. We grow 13-15 varieties-which seems like a lot-but it’s absolutely endless. Even the names are good: Sungold, Green Zebra, and-my favorite-Nebraska Wedding (isn’t that just a great name for a tomato?).
  • I like endless tastes of tomatoes and how they change from season to season. Tomatoes are the closest thing we have to grapes around here. Considering on the soil, climate, weather, you get different tastes…terroir for you foodsnobs out there 🙂 A real dry year produces vibrant sweet flavors. We’ve definitely had the heat, but we’ve been a bit wet, so let’s see on taste this year.
  • I like harvesting tomatoes. Things like carrots are just some you go out and harvest-there’s no allure-but tomatoes are like a gold digging expedition. I crawl around under this big canopy of foliage, prospecting for big tomatoes, colorful tomatoes, ones with crazy shapes and so on. It’s also a big harvest, which I have to approach as “hitting it hard” when the time comes, like a fisherman in high season. It’s a great feeling pulling cases upon cases into the packing shed.
So, let the season begin. I can’t think of a greater sign of high summer season!

In the box:

A smattering of tomatoes (Orange cherry ones are called Sungold, some small Taxi tomatoes)
Lettuce (Greenleaf, Redleaf, or both)
Beets (A bit on the small side, but I just couldn’t wait any longer)
Red Norland Potatoes
Small Red Marble onion(s)
Native Gem Sweet Corn
Red Express Cabbage or Stonehead Green Cabbage
Lacinato Kale aka Dino Kale
Bunch of Carrots
Kale Potato Soup
From “Simply in Season”
More of an Autumnal recipe, but would work well for this box.
1 bunch kale, chopped and steamed. Set aside.
1 T. butter
1 large onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Melt butter in soup pot. Add onion and saute until golden. Add garlic, saute another minute.
2 large potatoes, diced
2 cups hot water or broth
Add, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft. Remove half of the cooked potatoes, puree the rest with the cooking liquid and return to the soup pot. Return reserved potatoes and steamed kale to soup pot.
3 cups water or broth
1/2 t. salt or to taste
pepper to taste
Add along with additional hot water or milk to preferred consistency. Heat gently until hot.

Growing with Three Kids

Our third child, Graham (look left), was born this April with much to-do. I’m still not sure his birth fit into the growing season well or not. It was good that he came before too much fieldwork got going, but it got us off our game a bit at the beginning of the season when getting on top of things is really important.
I’m often asked how we actually operate Lida Farm with now three kids and myself with a full-time job. And the only way to explain it is teamwork. Maree and I learned a while ago that both of us trying to do work outside just makes our marriage suffer because we are always arguing about who’s “turn” it is to hold the crying baby or catch a kid before he or she drives their trike into the township road. So, we do a constant trade off. When I get home from work, Mar is often in the mood to get away from kids, so I watch them and make dinner as she works outside. Then she does the same for me on other nights and on harvest days. A definite balancing act!
In the box:
Stonehead green cabbage
Silver Rose Garlic
Small amount of braising mix (mix of greens bound with a rubber band)
Arugula (oakleaf-looking green that has a peanut-y taste)
Red Norland Potatoes
Chives (to go with the potatoes)
Yellow beans
Summer squash mix (some zucchini, some yellow)

Arugula Pesto
From How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
2 cups arugula, washed and dried
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 T. walnuts or pine nuts, lightly toasted
salt and pepper to taste
Remove any tough stems from the arugula. Place it in a food processor or blender with the garlic, nuts, salt and pepper.
Add a 1/4 cup olive oil and pulse a few times. With motor running add additional olive oil to make a creamy sauce. Use within a day. Goes well with grilled chicken or shrimp.


Seems like every year I write at least one “disaster” entry. For this season, our biggest disaster came Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. We had hail, serious rain, and a massive wind. Yes, this definately affects the plants, but, on the good side, this came at a pretty good time (if there is one). This is the time of year when tomatoes are not only small and green, but also hidden under a lot of foliage, so it will leave some pitting, but won’t leave bid open sores on the fruit. If tomatoes were orange, ripening to red, it would be terrible.
Not that there’s no issue with hail.
You will probably notice some holes in the Napa cabbage leaves and maybe some dents. The chicks in the new lean-to also got a bit wet through the whole ordeal too, so I had to carry a few under the heat lamps to get them going again.
FYI: Member workday this Sunday at 2 pm at the farm. This isn’t anything mandatory, but if you’d like to get your hands dirty a bit, see the farm, and pull some weeds, please come. I promise to find something for you to do. We’ll probably go til 4 or 5, so come for what you can.
In the box:
Napa cabbage
Cauliflower (not the best…it’s a bit purple from the heat and sun, otherwise just fine).
Summer Squash (the yellow variety called Sunburst and you’d use the same way as Zucchini)
Green Beans
Green kale
Bunch of Carrots
Greek Fennel Skillet
(from Simply in Season)
2 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
In a medium skillet saute in 2T olive oil for 1 minute
2 medium fennel bulbs (the white part of the fennel plant)
1 large onion
Add and saute until tender, 5-10 minutes
1 T lemon juice
3 medium tomatoes (chopped)
Add and cook over medium heat until part of the liquid evaporates, 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
1 1/2 cups feta cheese (crumbled) or mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup black olives (optional)
Stir in.
Mar and I gave this a try last season and really liked it. We served over crusty Italian bread, although it would work over pasta too.

Weird Produce in a CSA Box

What can I say? I strive to go long on the standard veggies, but what would a CSA be without a little surprise? You know when you open your box and find some real oddball veggie you need a botanical guide to identify.
Members often tell me this is part of what they like about CSA, although too many surprises tends to scare some people away. Still, I think you trying to hit a curveball every now and then is probably good for you…when you get that bulb of fennel in your box here in July, I hope you approach it as an adventure to reach out for that cookbook you never look at and try something new. I’m just as bad as anyone, making those dishes I’ve always done, but it’s good to get out of my rut too.
I was thinking about this today when I was out picking fava beans. I have to confess I’ve never grown these or eaten these in my life, so they are a grand experiment. We had to do a little research to get a general jist to prepare them, especially since you just have a few. A simple way to use your fava beans is to shell them, boil the beans (just a few minutes), remove skin, and toss with olive oil and lemon juice and serve with a sharp cheese like pecorino or parmesan. Otherwise, you’re on your own-good luck!

In the box:

English Peas (the ones you need to shell)
Deep Purple Scallions
Kohlrabi (these could also be added to recipe below)
Fresh Mint (stuff that look like a weed)
Fava Beans (big monster beans):
1-2 little cucumbers (just a taste, but the first of the season!)
Black Spanish Onions (see recipe below)
Salad Mix
A bit of Spinach (every week for 4 weeks…are you tired of this yet?)
Raspberries (for some)


This could also be good without the cabbage.

2-3 black Spanish radishes, scrubbed and grated
3 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup coarsely grated carrots, any color
1/2 cup thinly sliced green or red onion
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, or mint leaves

In a bowl toss together the radishes, the cabbage, the carrots, the onion, the lemon juice, the sugar, the oil, the herb, and salt and pepper to taste.

Farming in June

June’s a tough month in market gardening.

The guy I used to work for would always say, “If you have a good June, you’ll have a good season.” Sitting here in my 7th season after being an apprentice, I would have to agree.
June and into July is the only time of the year when a grower has all major activities going on at once: cultivating/weeding, planting, and harvesting. It’s a tough balancing act, because, you can get sidelined concentrating on one and do a bad job on another. So, spending too much time on pulling weeds and hoeing and you may just forget about that second planting of beans or putting in cabbage or cauliflower for the fall. Or Thursday rolls around, and, although you have potatoes that need hilling and beets in need of weeding, you have to spend half a day picking strawberries and peas. Yep, it’s a balancing act.
So, Ryan, how was June? Well, plantings are on and harvesting is going well, but those weeds are getting fierce. Good thing we have a long 4th of July weekend to do battle with them.
In the box:
Snap Peas (edible pod)
Red Oakleaf Lettuce
Deep Purple Scallions
Some get Raspberries (others are coming in the next couple weeks)
Recipe: Ginger Stir-Fried Snap Peas and Fish Maree is reading this book called the “Art of Eating in” and the author has this website where she’s posting some pretty interesting recipes.