Summer Labors

Has anybody noticed that it’s hot outside?  I don’t know about you but it’s tough to get things done outside in this kind of weather.  This is a real challenge on a vegetable farm at this time of year because lots of heavy crops are coming due.  I find myself on any given day of the week lugging 50 lb crates in 90+ degree heat.  It’s tough work, but it’s also rewarding.  I get the pleasure of creating a tangible product, which is often not the case today.  Many of us have jobs with titles like “project manager” or “process engineer” where our work consists of moving pixels on a computer screen, attending meetings, and talking to people on a phone.  My dayjob is like that, and, although it’s good and rewarding in it’s own way, there’s no end product you can see, feel, or taste.  
So, as we approach Labor Day, I typically reflect on labor history since I was raised in a Union family and I work in a traditional industry with lots of heritage and labor issues.  Being part of the farmer class and being at the state fair last weekend, I feel real kinsmanship with my fellow growers.  Although there are different camps (dairy people, commodity production, organic, veggie growers), we are all in the same boat in my mind since we all care for the land and generally have the same hard-working lifestyle.  Still, we’re not the ones who are really deserving of attention on this labor day – this isn’t our day.  As one who toils in heat and cold spring rains, I know what it takes to bring in a crop, but I also reap any rewards which come from that crop.  Those who are the overlooked people in our food system are agricultural workers and they deserve more than they get.  Workers in the tomato fields of Florida  ( receive about 2 cents a pound for the tomatoes you and I eat on a Taco Bell burrito.  But they are not the only ones…there are millions who work along the food supply chain in this country who receive low wages, few benefits, and the threat of deportation in return for their long hours of hard labor.  Some would argue that this is the American way and people will work their way up in time.  Maybe I’m sympathetic since my grandfather worked three jobs as an agricultural worker his whole life, but I think folks need a better shake through unionization just like past immigrants did to find dignity in their own work lives.   
So, as we approach Labor Day, let us at least put a face to the workers behind our food.  And, if you’re so inspired, take a step to help make change for a group of people in this country who need some.  

In the box:

‘Sarah’s Choice’ Canteloupe
A Dozen Corn 
A Big Onion
A Couple Cucumbers
A Couple Yellow Zucchini
A Bunch of Beets 
A Little Basil 
A Big Slicing Tomato 
Some Yellow ‘Taxi’ Variety 

Corn’s Size Determined Early in Life

Don’t we all look back in life and see how we became the person we are today after making certain decisions when we were young?  Maybe it was taking that English class instead of Organic Chemistry or that time you caved to peer pressure, made a bad decision, and got onto a bad track.  It’s certainly not as emotional or complex as us humans, but corn is like that too.

The potential size of any cob of corn is determined early in its life.  If it was planted in a soil with low fertility or negative soil conditions like bad tilth or saturated ground, it will never reach the potential you would have hoped for no matter how much you babysit it later in its lifecycle.  This is why you’ll see these good-tasting, but scrunty ears in the box.  We’re still being haunted by the monsoon season we had in May and June when it rained every 3 hours.  When we planted corn with the tractor we literally sank about a foot and a half into the ground, leaving these huge ruts which I’m sure will be there still next year.  Still, after waiting til mid-June, we knew we had to just get things into the ground or they would never get planted.  When planting anything into goop like that, plants get stressed because their roots have no oxygen (they are basically drowning in water).  All told, however, the season has turned around like it always does and now we’re moving irrigation like crazy!  
Sorry I didn’t write an entry last week.  A couple things which may have confused people was the frilly bunch of greens, which was mizuna, a Asian green commonly used in stir-frys or mixed into a salad mix.  The other things which looked like red beets were actually turnips.  
In the box: 
‘Sarah’s Choice’ Canteloupe
A dozen ears of corn: A real mix of types….the big white variety is called ‘Silver King.’  
A couple green peppers
A couple red onions
A mix of Carrots: White ones are called ‘Satin,’ the yellow ones are ‘Yellow Sun,” and the others are ‘Scarlet Nantes’ an orange standard.  
Tomatoes: A number of the slicers are still Early Girls, but there are a number of ‘Black Cherry’ mixed in. 
Turnips: Everyone receive some standard ‘Purple Top’ with a couple ‘Scarlet Queen’ mixed in.  I pasted in a few ideas to get you going with the turnips – see below.  

4 Quick Turnip Recipes from

Rooting around for an in-season vegetable with inspiring possibilities? Turn to the turnip.

by Sue Li


Levi Brown
Sautéed Turnips and Greens
Cook peeled and cut-up turnips and sliced garlic in olive oil in a large skillet until tender. Add the turnip greens and cook until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Roasted Turnips With Ginger
Peel and cut turnips into wedges. Toss with sliced fresh ginger, canola oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with honey and roast at 400° F until tender.

Mashed Turnips With Crispy Bacon
Simmer peeled and cut-up turnips in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and mash with butter, salt, and pepper. Fold in crumbled cooked bacon and chopped chives; top with shaved Parmesan.

Snakes in the Garden!

Let me start by saying I am deathly afraid of snakes!  I don’t care if they are gardner snakes or king cobras – I kind of lose it when I see one.   So I have mixed feelings about a gardener snake that took up residence in the peppers near our driveway.

On the bad side, I did my usual jumping and yelling fit when I first ran into the snake.  Also, I’m just waiting for the day when I’m out picking peppers close to sundown and reach down only to feel something scaly – nightmare.  My son, like any 6 year old boy, suggested we go out and kill it.  When I told him no, he asked the typical “why?”  That made me push aside my fears and think about the good side of the snake.  First and foremost for an organic grower, any signs of reptiles or amphibians on the farm are good.  Since creatures like snakes and frogs have permeable skin, toxins in the environment will soak right into their bodies.  So when we see them around the farm we know the environment we helped create is healthy.  Also, getting a little mystical here, snakes are lucky.  As an undergraduate I was a Classics major (you know, Greek, Latin…that kind of stuff). Going all the way back to Ancient Greece, snakes were revered as a holy animal and were a associated with Asclepius, the God of Healing.  This is where we got that snake wrapped around a staff which represents the medical profession.  It’s interesting that in an environmental way the snake again is filling the same role as symbol of health and healing.

The weather has been frustrating as of late.  Many of those summer crops like corn, tomatoes, and melons are just not ripening in such cold weather….pray for heat!

Some of the chickens will be processed this Sunday…please see email for details.

In the box:
Shunkyo radishes: The bright-red and long radishes with greens on top.  These are traditionally grown in Korea, but you eat and prepare as you would any other radish.
A mix of tomatoes
A couple sweet onions
A couple cucumbers: Yes, we finally got cukes in the box…I’ve been waiting a while.
Mint: The little green bunch that smells like mint.  It seems like we use it most in mojitos…lime, sugar, rum, and this mint and you’re in business.
A good sized basil bunch: This should be enough to make some pesto.  We’re cheap, so we skip the pine nuts and use walnuts instead (
Arugula: The darker green bunch of leaves shaped like a long oak leaves
A couple little heads of lettuce (romaine, green leaf, or red leaf): It’s tough to get a big head of lettuce in the middle of summer, so I cut small…they are cute.
Sweet corn?  I was hunting as best as I could to find ripe sweet corn this morning, but only found a couple dozen.  Our cool temps are keeping ears from maturing.  I’m staking my reputation on getting corn in the box and on the farm stand next week!

Turkish-Style Cucumber Salad
I used to teach English in Trabzon, Turkey and this is their most common salad, pretty much using things right out of the box.  
A couple cucumbers, peeled and diced
A couple tomatoes, diced
Half a sweet onion, diced 
Fresh mint from one sprig, minced 
2 T olive oil 
1 T vinegar 
Mix ingredients in a bowl, let sit a bit to marinate, then serve. 

Digging Potatoes by Tractor

Today was the first day we used our new potato digger – an implement which connects to the 3-point behind the tractor with a furrower that digs into the ground just below the spuds  This may not sound like a big deal, but I assure you this is like reaching the 21st century for us.  Until this point digging potatoes was a medieval endeavor where I jumped as high as I could on a 5-tine potato fork and then throw my back into popping potato plants out of hard August ground.  As I wrenched on the potato fork (2 years ago I broke 4 of them), Mar burrowed through the dirt behind me like a badger.  This was always the job that we never really wanted to do.  On a harvest day, we typically only tackled the job after having a few cups of coffee and it typically took us about 2 hours to get a bin by hand.

Today was quite a difference.  We still had to burrow through the ground searching for potatoes, but digging with the tractor took a grand total of about 10 minutes.

In the Box:

Cherry Tomatoes: It’s luck of the draw if you got ‘Sakura’ Grape tomatoes, ‘Sungold’ cherry tomatoes, or ‘black cherry’ tomatoes. 
Red Cabbage: See recipe below. 
Green Onions
Summer Squash: Everyone has a zucchini plus either a straightneck summer squash or yellow zucchini – you can use straightneck the same as zucchini.  Try as a fritter (grated squash with a couple eggs – fry in a pan).
Purple Kohlrabi
Greens: Most people got swiss chard, but some got collards 
Italian Parsley 
Yellow ‘Elfy’ Potatoes: I’m impressed with these potatoes as the first time growing them…we simply boiled them and found them to be really creamy.  
‘Provider’ Green Beans  

Spicy Mexican Slaw with Lime and Cilantro from

(Makes about 4 servings, recipe can be easily doubled. Recipe adapted slightly from Fine Cooking Annual 2008.)

4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
(You can use all green or all red cabbage.)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or more)
4 T mayo
3 T fresh lime juice (more or less to taste)
hot sauce to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp. green Tabasco sauce)
salt to taste (I used Vege-Sal)

Thinly slice cabbage, using a mandoline or food processor if desired. Slice green onions, and wash, dry and chop cilantro. (I use a Mini salad spinner to wash herbs and spin them dry.) Combine cabbage, green onions and cilantro in large salad bowl.

In small bowl, whisk together, mayo, lime juice, and hot sauce. (You may want to start with less than the full amount of lime juice and hot sauce and keep adding until you have the desired blend of sour/hot flavor.)

Use a wooden spoon to mix dressing into cabbage mixture. Season to taste with salt and serve immediately, or chill for a few hours.

This salad will keep well overnight in the refrigerator, but the lime juice will cause the red cabbage to bleed color and turn the salad slightly pink. If you’re making extra you might want to use all green cabbage, although I didn’t mind the pink color at all when I ate the leftovers!