Missing the Sweet Corn Craze

There’s probably no other occasion in the Midwest produce season quite like the beginning of the sweet corn crop.  So you can understand my frustration, when, everywhere I turn, I see some guy (or usually kid) at the side of the road selling sweet corn, and I find my own to be a few days short of ripe.  People have been asking me about sweet corn easily for the last 4 weeks even though it would take some kind of magic corn to be ripe at the beginning of July.  I keep thinking these “fake roadside stands” that simply truck in corn from Iowa and Nebraska really early are messing with people’s sense of season and sense of what we can actually grow in Minnesota, especially when they put sweet corn next to some peaches next to cherries in mid-July.  Still, when actual local growers are at the side of the road, I have no excuse.

Sweet Corn on Lida Farm

Raising produce commercially is often a huge juggle where each year one crop or another under or over-performs.  I’m always out in the fields telling myself “That should have gotten in the ground 10 days earlier” or “Man, I should have weeded that patch earlier.”  Throw in some interesting weather-a little hail here and there-and I really should be amazed that any crops come at all.  The trick in what we do is to keep as many of those balls in the air as possible and keep all of them moving forward and growing.  I commonly work through 5-7 different tasks a day in June and July (maybe starting with cultivating on the tractor, hand weeding a few crops, then moving to wheel hoe a couple other beds, etc). If I get stuck too long on any one crop or job, I can easily miss the window to take care of another crop, and, yes, sometimes a crop just gets written off.  So, in the context of all this juggling of 60+ different crops, sweet corn appearing a bit late shouldn’t be the end of the world, but I still feel a bit like a professional musician who missed hitting a C chord on stage.

In the box:
Norland Red Potatoes
Bunch of Carrots
Green Beans
Fresh Oregano: Tiny fragrant bunch of greens with a red band
Fennel: The frawns (greens) has a pretty strong anise flavor, but the bulb itself is more mild (see recipe below)
Peppers: One Islander (purple) and a couple green

Fennel goes especially well with chicken and fish.  Here’s a simple recipe using chicken: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/dining/313lrex.html

Coming into High Season

As you’ll see from the delivery this week, we’re starting to get into high season.  Green beans have come into season and we were able to get a couple peppers for everybody this week too.  No tomatoes or sweet corn yet, but they are just around the corner.  

Reminder: We’re having our open house at Lida Farm this Sunday, July 22 from 2-4 pm.  Come on out, have a little drink and a snack, and check out how the crops are growing.  This is open for member and non-members alike, so feel free to bring a friend.

In the box:

  • Savoy Cabbage: I promise not to give you any more cabbage for some time…I think it’s been 4 weeks now. But cabbage keeps forever in a refrigerator and this stuff was just so beautiful I just had to put it in the box. 
  • French Breakfast Radishes
  • Braising Mix: These are the frilly, purple and green bunch of greens. These are cooking greens. 
  • Fresh Thyme: The little tiny bunch of fragrant herbs.  If you’ve never cooked with fresh herbs, this is your chance.  I’m sure you’ll taste a difference. 
  • Bunch of Beets: These are a mix of Chiogga and Red Ace. The Red Ace are your standard beet and Chiogga are a brighter red and striped red/white on inside.  You prepare as you would any beet. 
  • Contender Green Beans 
  • A couple Sweet Onions: There’s a red torpedo onion and an Alisa Craig.  Th big Alisa Craig is more mile if preparing things with fresh onion.  
  • A couple Cucumbers
  • A couple Summer Squash: We had a mix of yellow straightneck, zucchini, and yellow zucchini
  • A Purple Islander Pepper and an Ace Green Pepper
  • A Japanese Eggplant: These guys have just started to come into season along with peppers, so some a pretty small.   Here’s Bobby Flay giving you some ideas on how to grill these guys: 

Two Season Crops

We’ll the spring brassicas (cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli) are working their way past the finish line; I have the flail mower on the tractor and ready to mow them down.  This allows us to clean up the field as well as make room for a new crop.  But even while I eye the spring brassicas, I took an hour yesterday and planted the fall brassicas, including broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.  The nice think about fall brassicas is that they typically do better than their spring brethren since they have a long cool fall to mature.  I’ve given up trying to raise cauliflower in the spring which simply gets purple and ugly due to stress in the summer heat.

This two season cropping is also common with other veggies on the farm.  We also have a spring and fall crop of spinach, cool-season greens, and head lettuce makes a comeback as well.  So, if you’re a cool-season veggie-eater yourself, don’t despair; just wait a couple months.

In the box:
Green Cabbage
Red Ace Beets
Summer Squash – we mostly had zucchini but there are some yellow zucchini and yellow staightneck squash too.
Red Basil
Fresh or “green” garlic – this is uncured garlic which is a bit stronger tasting than cured.  You can simply leave on your kitchen counter for a week and I’ll dry down if you’d like to cure yourself.
Purple Kohlrabi – I know, you’re sick of kohlrabi, but at least this one’s a different color!
Dino Kale – the dark green which is all crinkly (see recipe below)
Frisee – the frilly green also called curly endive.  This is in the endive family, so has a nutty flavor.  It’s typically mixed in a lot of salad mixes you would buy.
Green onions

Note – check out our facebook page where we’ve been posting a picture of the box each week with each veggie labeled.

Ryan’s Never Fail Greens Recipe 
1 bunch greens (collards, kale, chard)
2-3 slices of bacon
1 small onion

Dice onions, bacon, and greens.  Fry bacon in skillet together with the onion or garlic.  When the onion gets translucent, throw in greens until wilted and season with some salt.  Done.  If you like heat, add red pepper flakes.

Dealing with Bad Weather on the Farm

I swear I spend half of my time complaining about weather on this website, but this week I have good reason. 
Monday night we got some serious hail.  Typically we experience 30-45 seconds of hail when the weather front first comes through, but this time it just kept coming down for a good ten minutes.  You’ll see evidence of this on the produce like white blotches on the peas where they took a hailstone or greens with healed over holes. 
Some of the best advice I got from my mentor on whose farm I apprenticed was “if you get hail, don’t even look at the plants for a couple days.”  Even though hail inflicts a lot of damage, it’s amazing how quickly the plants recover. 
Now, today, I’m sitting in our kitchen writing this because our power’s out after a major streak of lightening tried hitting our house while a rain poured on my head out picking peas.  I can’t even fill the tanks to harvest and wash produce.  But desperate times call for desperate measures, so I fired up the PTO generator just to make some coffee. 
In the box:
  • Snap peas: fatter peas, which are edible pod, so don’t try shelling.  You’ll see these white marks where hail hit, but I’ve been eating a bunch in the field and I think they are fine.
  • Snow peas: the flat ones
  • Kohlrabi: see recipe below
  • Red Sails red leaf lettuce: the leafy red green
  • Radicchio: the small round red green.  It is often mixed into a mix of other greens in a salad.  It’s got a pretty strong nutty, bitter flavor, so it’s not for everybody.  
  • Small Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Green cabbage
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • A couple sweet onions (Alisa Craig variety)
  • First cucumber of the year
Honey-Mustard Kohlrabi from St. Paul Farmers Market Cookbook
2 cups kohlrabi, peeled and sliced
2 T olive oil
2 T honey
1-2 T Dijon mustard
Steam kohlrabi until tender, about 10 minutes.  In a bowl, mix together oil, honey, and mustard.  Taste and adjust for flavor.  Toss with cooked kohlrabi.  Makes 4 servings.