Each year we typically add a new tool or two to the farm arsenal. This year, after breaking about 5 potato forks last year, we picked up a broadfork from Johnnys in Maine (it’s even made in Maine). As you can see from the picture it is like a potato fork but with two handles. It’s a strong steel design with about 15 tines on the bottom that even I haven’t been able to break yet. A broadfork is designed for deep tillage or aerating ground so as to break up hardpan or the area at the depth of a plow or disk where the ground is quite hard. I use it to harvest potatoes and I’ve found it to work great for harvesting carrots where I can dig a foot and a half of the row instead of the 8 inches with a traditional potato fork. Cool.
Like everybody we try to find those tools which make out life a bit easier and fit our scale. The tempation in this kind of work is to put a motor on everything. Sometimes that makes sense, but I always say “but then I have to take care of another engine…” I guarantee my broadfork will work when it’s rainy or cold or hot – more than I can say for my snowblower.
In the box:
Watermelon: Most everybody should have received a yellow variety called Sunshine, although some of you hit the jackpot and got a new variety I grew called Orange Sherbert – they look the same from the outside so it’s a surprise. Man, these are nice.
Melon: Most everybody got a white-fleshed Ananas variety called San Juan, although some got a green-fleshed Galia melon called Diplomat.
Italia Pepper: This is the long green-red pepper…it is sweet, not hot. This first flush aren’t the prettiest, but I wanted to get some in the box, because, if you’re like me, you’re getting impatient for some colored peppers.
Islander Purple Pepper
A Roma Tomato Mix: I thought we’d switch up from the standard slicing varieties for a week. The yellow romas are nice – they are either a variety called Powers or Golden Rave. The reds are San Marzano.
Carrot Bunch: Mixed varieties again or standard orange with some Atomic Red or White Satin or Yellow Sun mixed in.
A Couple Cucumbers
Japanese or Italian Eggplant: It’s Japanese if it’s long and slender or a varity called Nadia or Zebra if standard eggplant shape. They cook and are prepared the same way.
Well, here we are in mid-August and the bounty of the season is coming in: tomatoes, melons, sweet corn. It’s always a nice time on the farm for me. We hit a rhythm where we catch up on weeds Sunday through Wednesday and harvest Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Since we started getting cool nights like this past week, those weeds which were like a unrelenting horde of barbarians in June and July slow down in a big way and I can turn the tide of war. We’ve spent some beautiful evenings this past week uncovering pepper plants or tomatoes stuck in a jungle of junegrass. We also managed to plant some fall greens this past Sunday: salad mix, head lettuce, spinach, and some Asian greens.
In the box:
Cherokee Purple Tomatoes: The ugly dark purple/green tomatoes. These are really good for fresh slicing. I have a plate of slices on our dinner table right now with only some salt on top.
Regular Earlygirl or Celebrity Tomatoes: Use for a sauce or slicing.
Cherry Tomato Mix: We’ve got the entire tomato family covered this week.
Sweet Corn: If it’s bi-color, it’s a variety called Seneca Dancer…if it’s white, it’s a variety called Silver King.
A couple green peppers
A mix of carrots
A melon: There is a real mix of melons here just because they are just starting to come in. You may find a red watermelon, Galia green-fleshed melon, Canary yellow melon, or a traditional canteloupe.
A couple shallots
You’ll see these bigger cherry tomatoes in your box which is a swirled mix of colors. It’s an heirloom variety from Seed Savers called Isis which sometimes produces a yellow fruit, sometimes a red fruit, sometimes a swirl. Sometimes the tomato has a pear shape, although it’s usually round. Anyway, it’s this kind of inconsistency you’ll find with heirlooms that I love because there’s a real beauty to the mix of colors and shapes, but it is also the reason these varieties are not widespread commercial varieties If you’re growing 40 acres of tomatoes, you’re bound to go with a standard hybrid. These varieties are consistent in size, shape, and texture, which is just what you need if you’re promising a buyers at the terminal market in Chicago you’ll ship him a semi of tomatoes. At our scale, we can play around with a wide mix of varieties and ones which are a bit more adventurous.
In the box:
Cherry tomato mix
A dozen corn (mainly a yellow variety called Bodacious)
A mix of Summer Squash
A couple Sweet Onions
Basil Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoes
From The St. Paul Farmers Market Produce Cookbook
I know I’ve included this recipe in the past, but it’s perfect for this week’s box.
2 cups green beans, steamed
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 T. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t. salt
ground black pepper to taste
1 T. fresh basil, finely chopped
Cut steamed beans into 1 inch pieces. In a large bowl, combine cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add hot beans along with the basil. Mix well. Makes 4 servings.
We’ve opened the farm stand for the season (open now through October).
The tomatoes are starting to come in as well as the corn. It’s not as bountiful yet as the picture from last year, but we do have cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet onions, and potatoes with more variety in the weeks to come.
The stand is open 7 days a week and self-serve at the end of our driveway on the farm.
Every year we generally see the same kinds of bugs, however, every year brings new variations and the 2011 season is no different.
The big change this season that I have never seen before is grubworms in the potatoes. Yes, the same ugly white grubs that you may find in your sod when you tear up your lawn. A potato or two may have gotten past me and into your box where a crater is eaten into the side…that’s the grub’s signature handiwork. My neighbor of 70-plus years has never seen this, so it makes me wonder what’s going on. Is it just the hot soil temps which cause them to thrive?
The potato bugs are worse than usual, but cucumber beetles are just not to be seen. This is a situation I can live with since the cucumber beetles are very tough on a large family of produce from melons to winter squash. Slugs, on the other hand, have been taking their toll. It’s strange though, since this is the first year I’ve ever seen them. They messed with the strawberry crop a bit and I see them in the tomatoes too, but nothing we can’t manage. I hope it stays that way.
News: We’ll be hosting a work day for members this Sunday afternoon (anytime between 1-4 – weather permitting). This is by no means mandatory, but a chance to visit the farm and get your hands dirty. Come if you can.
In the Box:
Purple pepper: always the first pepper for some reason.
Sweet corn: not a dozen yet, but it was typical “hunt and peck” exercise when a crop first comes in. I always think there’s more there than there actually is.
Cherry tomatoes: most are an orange variety I really like called “sungold,” but there are also some Isis ans traditional red cherry tomatoes in the mix too.