Friday, August 6, 2010

And so it begins!

Talking to many farmers and gardeners amongst my friends there is a common refrain. We all agree that its nice to go out in the garden and remember why we do what we do. After last summer, this year's weather is a wonderful change. When I walk through the garden I see things growing the way they were meant to...and it's great. You'll notice a huge increase in the amount of tomatoes in your share this week. I have great fun harvesting them, bagging them for all of you and eating the ones I bring home for our family. Again, especially after last summer.
To save on plastic we bag the tomatoes all together. If anyone has any questions about what type of tomato is in the bag, please let me know. But to get into some other information pertinent to tomatoes I have posted a photo below of several stages of tomato ripeness. The front-right row is a row of tomatoes that are not yet ripe. Behind them is the same row of tomato varieties that are actually ripe. You can tell because they are lighter in color when they aren't yet ripe. Also, sometimes they have what are called 'green shoulders'. A great example of this is the fourth tomato up which is an Orange Banana Paste Tomato. You can see there is green around the top.
Tomatoes can be ripened in two very easy ways depending on your goal. When you have some that are almost ripe, you can place them on the window sill in the sun and they will ripen in a couple of days. If you ever get one from us that is mostly green (which may happen as we approach frost) you can put them into a brown paper bag in a dark drawer. They ripen in the dark. You just need to check them frequently to ensure they don't over-ripen.
Also this week is the first installment of sweet corn. For those that have heard me talk about corn before, you may want to fast-forward through this part. I'm about to go off on a bitter tangent. Our corn is planted by hand using a single-row seeder. We do not currently use machines to cultivate (keep the weeds down). We do not spray anything on the crop to keep the weeds down. All weeding is done by hand and with very simple hoes. That being said, consider the following. This year we had to break down and plant hybrid corn. Hybrid seeds are generated under laboratory-like conditions and are patented, thus making farmers dependent upon seed companies (hybrids cannot be saved because they don't come true the next year). We had to plant hybrid seeds because our output needs to be consistent to match our member's demand for sweet corn. Bottom line is that open pollinated varieties are way better tasting but cannot match hybrid vigor. So, we have to plant hybrids as much as I dislike them. Now, each of our CSA members received 5 ears of corn today. In total we harvested 187 ears from our first planting. That 187 came from a patch of ground that is 30 feet wide by about 100 feet long. That's a huge patch of ground. In the same patch of ground, the amount of other food that could be grown would blow your mind. This is especially true if you consider that some varieties of food are 'cut-and-come-again'. A corn plant, under the very best conditions, will produce 2 good ears...and then the plant is done. In order for optimum conditions to be met and for us to produce enough sweet corn to meet demand, we will have to plant way more land to corn, use tractors and large cultivating equipment, which will take fossil fuel. The long and the short of it is that I don't like planting corn. In a sustainable world, it has not place on the scale that it is currently planted. If everyone planted enough corn for their own needs it would be different because small plots of corn are easier to manage, weeds, pests and all. I hope to compile a survey of a few things at the end of the season. One of the most important questions will be whether or not you, our members, want us to grown sweet corn.
Finally, I included a photo of one of my favorite things to do with tomatoes. In the upper left hand corner of this photo is a plate full of thinly sliced tomatoes with a leaf of basil on each one. On top of that is a small square of locally produce, raw milk cheese. What an awesome treat! If you don't have any basil left from last week, you can do this next week. It is delicious.
Lastly, I want to include a bit of information about beans. I'm sure that at this point in the bean season some of you might have run into this but hopefully you haven't or if you did you got around it. The top bean (which I'm pointing to in this photo) is suffering from a mushy, mold problem. This happens when the plants get big and really close together. Air doesn't circulate around the plants as well and some of them tend to mold. Usually, we can spot them on the plant and we discard them. However, sometimes one slips by. Then, it might spread to others in the bag. All you have to do is pick out the bean. I usually just discard the whole bean. The second bean has what looks like rust on it. This is less of a problem because you can eat the rest of the bean after cutting that part off. This one tends to happen when the beans get too big. It's nature's way of telling us to pick faster...or plant fewer beans next year. Hopefully, you've all been enjoying the beans and other things and have been able to get around it if you've run into this.

Also in this week's share is:
Bull's Blood Beets/Greens
Tete Noire Cabbage
Provider Green Beans
Golden Butterwax Bush Beans
Royal Burgandy Beans (these are the beautiful, dark red beans in your bag. They are great raw and cooked but the color will fade when cooked)
Summer Squash

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