Solstice for Dads

This year Fathers Day and the summer solstice co-incide, but I don’t put any kind of great significance behind it (after all, my favorite stat is that Father’s Day was the #1 day for collect calls, back when we had collect calls).  But, as a grower, I always pay attention to the summer solstice since it holds some sway over the growing season.

It’s kind of a love-hate relationship.  It’s depressing to think that all days after this point get shorter and we’re on the slow decline back into winter – terrible thought, I know.  However, I love getting on the other side of the solstice since plants become easier to deal  In the CSA box this week you’ll find a lot of greens that have their birth in spring.  Pretty much all of them are light sensitive so they like to bolt as we approach the longest day of the year – a really difficulty for me as a grower!  You may have been perplexed when observing your own garden that something like a radish or lettuce or even a broccoli looked great one day and was trying to bolt and go to seed  the next.  That’s the solstice for ya.  Few people believe me when I sing the praises of fall lettuces and cole crops because everybody thinks these are spring crops, but, due to the shorter days after the solstice, they mature much better from here on out, making me a little less anxious and farming just a bit easier.  
In the CSA box (Check out farmcast about the box): 
  • ‘Rover’ Radishes
  • Brasing Mix
  • ‘Two Star’ Green Head Lettuce
  • Arugula: Green with band in oak-leaf shape
  • Mizuna: Light green with jagged leaves
  • Swiss Chard: Stuff that looks like muli-colored rhubarb
  • Cilantro
  • Spinach: Loose, unbunched leaves

Simple Sauteed Braising Mix Recipe from Full Circle, a huge CSA on the west coast.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: Serves 2-4


INGREDIENTS
  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 medium white onion or shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ pound Braising mix (or make your own)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup stock or water
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a large, high-sided sauté pan, heat oil over medium high heat.
  2. When shimmering add onions and cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and sauté briefly, stirring quickly to avoid browning, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add in braising mix, tossing to mix.
  5. Sprinkle with paprika and add stock, covering and reducing heat to low. Cook until lightly wilted, about another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and sprinkle with lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Tomatoes in the Ground!

Last week was way colder than anybody wanted, including our tomato plants.  Despite being covered by the greenhouse, we discovered black basil and frost-damaged tomato, eggplant, and pepper plants Tuesday morning.  Yikes!  Aside from the damaged leaves and a little more stress, I expect these plants to do fine.   
It was a great relief this Memorial Day weekend when we got these plants in the ground with no more frost in sight.  The planting crew (yes, the kids did help) dove in Saturday evening and all day Sunday to put in nearly 3,000 tomato plants and about 600 pepper plants.  Let the summer growing season begin – Game on. 
Lida Farm planting crew with Holland Transplanter (Sylvia, Willem, Argo, Maree, and Ryan)

Monarchs in Minnesota

Much has been said and written about monarch butterflies as of late.  Like others, we have not seen many monarchs this year, however, today, Maree had a nice surprise to find a monarch chrysalis attached to a black cherry tomato when picking today.  It’s tough to see in the picture, but, when up close, you can see the orange color of the monarch’s wings.  

High Season Extravaganza

A member favorite: cherry tomato mix

Walking around the garden this week, I stumbled upon a sight of high season I just adore: ripe melons!  They just kind of crept up on me.  I’ve been keeping an eye on them since July growing in the vines, but it seemed like it would still be a while.  I couldn’t believe these guys were ready.  I immediately walked in my house and looked at the calendar: August 20!  Really? 

I tell this story not as evidence of my being out of touch, but to illustrate how I’m just as taken aback as anybody by how quickly summer comes and goes around here.  I’m just guessing that you feel the same.  I swear we were just setting plants in the ground a few weeks ago, but here we are with the end of the growing season in sight (we almost always have a frost in mid-Sept).
Even though time is flying by, this is still an exciting time on the farm – a time of the year when we are just running to keep up.  All of the high season crops are in: tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, potatoes.  Each day we go out to the fields and spend hours simply harvesting, pulling in thousands of pounds of ripe produce.  It’s a great feeling to see that abundance!  This is also the time of year when we start preparing for next year, mowing down fields which are way too overgrown with weeds.  Boy, that is probably the most satisfying feeling ever for me.  Things go from a terrible mess to a clean field in a matter of minutes.  
In the CSA box: 
Sweet Corn: most of it is a yellow variety called “Bodacious” but there is some “Silver King” white corn, and some bi-color “Luscious” variety mixed in. 
Mix of Cherry Tomatoes: I love the look and taste of these new “Artisan” variety you’ll see mixed in with cherry types.  They are oblong and have tiger stripes.  They also really pretty up the pint. 
A Couple Red Slicing Tomatoes: This is a traditional “Celebrity” variety, my old stand by. 
“Cherokee Purple” Heirloom Tomato: This is a great tomato for fresh eating, just slice and eat with salt.  Certainly don’t cook with this guy, it would be a shame. 
“Norland” Red Potatoes
Carrots 
“Red Wing” Red Onion
“Fastbreak” Canteloupe: We were a little short, so a select few of you got a variety called “Sun Jewel” which is a white-fleshed Asian variety – a real nice melon with good sweetness but really firm. 
“New Orchid” Watermelon: This is a orange flesh variety, really nice. 
“Bianca” Peppers: Yes, they are white, but have the taste and work like a green. 
Small “Stonehead” Cabbage
Cabbage Succotash
from the St. Paul Farmers Market Produce Cookbook
3 ears fresh sweet corn, peeled
3 cups green cabbage, chopped
2 cups lima beans, cooked (you can certainly substitute some other bean)
2 T butter
1 medium onion, chopped 
1 1/2 t balsamic vinegar
1 t salt 
1/4 t pepper
In a large pot, cook corn in boiling water until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes.  Cut kernels off the cobs with a sharp knife. 
Steam cabbage until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes.  In a large skillet, heat butter and saute onion until soft.  Add the cooked corn kernels, cabbage, balsamic vinegar, and mix well.  Salt and pepper to taste.   

Late Spring

Here at the beginning of May it is only now starting to feel more like spring than winter.  At Lida Farm we feel the produce season is well on its way.  

Picture of Lida Farm Emerging from Winter
Although there’s not a single seed in the ground yet-with heavy soil we have to be patient and wait for the ground to dry and warm up-we have signs of life in the greenhouse for sure.  Tomatoes and peppers are still in seedling stage, but cool-season crops like onions, broccoli, and cabbages are ready to go and waiting for the opportunity to get planted outside.  
This time of year is also when we try to get those time-intensive spring chores out of the way before the summer ramps up like shoveling out of the barn, building new animal housing, and repairing the greenhouses.  We know the heat is right around the corner, and, if you’re anything like me, you’re looking forward to the change after this long, cold winter!