Friday, August 13, 2010

Thank you Nature.

Hi all:
I hope everyone has had a great week. It's been hot in the gardens and we could use some more rain but the thunder storms this week did dump some on us so that's good. I want to follow up my rant about corn last week by thanking the folks who offered feedback. I also wanted to let everyone know what my daughter Lizzie thinks. See below...
I think her vote is quite clearly defined.
Also, at the top of the blog is a photo of some of our garlic. You'll find a bulb in your share this week (two bulbs if you have a full share). This is the first of our garlic harvest (which is now all out of the field and curing in our greenhouse under a shade cloth). This variety is "Chet's Italian Red" and I'd like to know what everyone thinks of it, especially any garlic aficionados out there. I hope you all enjoy it. If you're looking for something to do with it, you could use some of it with the basil in this week's share to make pesto! Finally, everything is in sink to offer you pesto with both the basil and the garlic produced right here!
Pole beans are here! For those who don't know, pole beans are a long season crop in that they take a long time to come in and then - if everything goes well - they keep producing for a long time. We have several varieties in the garden and the first ones have come in. Pole beans are (in my opinion and that of many gardeners around the world) far superior to bush beans. They offer more diversity of appearance and the flavors are out of this world. Below is just one example. "Gold of Bacau" is the yellow bean in my hand. You can see how large it is and it's still tender and delicious. A bush bean that had beans inside the pod this size would be nearly inedible. This particular bean weighed 1 oz. Hey, I was curious. In the background are "Royal Burgandy Bush Beans". Don't let me give you the impression that bush beans aren't great...they have their role to fill in the garden of the sustainable Maraichere (Market Gardener). These Royal Burgandy beans are actually something I purchased as a trial this year, never intending to put them in the shares (I do this every year with several things and only grow them the next year if I like them). But they are yielding quite well and I really like them. They are excellent raw as a snack or appetizer. The beautiful color will fade when they are cooked.

The other beans in your share are these beautiful, striped pole beans. They are quite tasty and very interesting. They also produce a beautiful dry bean later in the season (if I can let any of them stay on the vine that long...they are so good).

Finally, this week's share is one that involves a lot of tomatoes. I am thanking Nature for thus far sparing us from the blight. I haven't been able to get my greenhouse up and covered as fast as I had wanted but with help from Jim, John and Brittany, we're making progress and that's something. With Nature's help we still have tomatoes and they are coming in like crazy. You'll find several varieties in your share this week. I want to take a few moments to explain some things about dealing with heirloom tomatoes. I am interested in growing mostly heirloom tomatoes as opposed to hybrids. Heirloom varieties (for all veggies not just tomatoes) are those that have been passed down through generations from one grower to another. They come true to form and thus allow farmers to save seed. Hybrids do not do this. Also, heirlooms taste far superior to any hybrid (with the exception of Sungold Cherry Tomato...which several people are trying to de-hybridize). The reason that most of these varieties aren't grown in the global, industrial food system, is that they don't survive travel and don't 'look good'. I actually disagree with this as I find them terribly fascinating and love the look of nearly all heirloom tomatoes. I prefer variety and interest to carbon copied clones devoid of flavor and nutrients. But, they do have cosmetic 'flaws' and thus make them hard to market through visual means (i.e. t.v. ads and supermarket shelves). Heirloom tomatoes are how I know small farmers will survive. You simply can't produce this variety and flavor with hybrids that are designed to be picked before ripeness and shipped around the world in boxes stacked as high as a tractor trailer truck.
My basic rule about tomatoes is this: "Before you mention the way it looks, taste it...then we'll talk". This is what tomatoes are supposed to taste like. I actually remember the day I ate my last industrial tomato. I was at the diner up the road from my house and I ordered a salad. It came to the table, the iceberg lettuce was limp and pale and the tomatoes (I have a hard time even calling them that)...were beyond description. I took one bite, put down my fork and slid the salad back to the edge of the table. That was about 3 years ago. Now, I only eat tomatoes that are fresh from the garden (mine or another local farmer's) or were processed in my home by Emily and/or I for the purpose of canning, saucing or freezing. Bite into some of our tomatoes and I think you'll see why. Once you've had an actual tomato, you'll have an hard time going back. It's worth waiting 9 months a year for the real thing...kind of like asparagus except there you wait 11 and a half months.
That all being said, there are some things you should know about heirlooms to enjoy them fully. They have, as I said, cosmetic flaws. The two pictured above are displaying what's called, 'cat-facing' (one in a spiral, the other in a web). It's very common in larger tomatoes like the yellow/orange ones in your share. It's perfectly fine, it just means the tomato was growing fast and healing itself as it stretched. Just cut that part off and eat the rest. I usually slice them from the bottom and just leave the top green part for the pigs, chickens or compost pile.
Below are some other examples of things you might see. On the left is a paste tomato with split shoulders. Again, just cut around it and eat the rest. In the middle is a 'Goldie' tomato that shows signs of vine stress (meaning it probably was growing with the left side against the vine or trellis rope and grew abnormally) and cracking. This cracking (on the bottom) is also very common in heirlooms and is particularly a bane in Brandywine varieties. Same solution...cut around it. It's easiest to slice the tomato first and then cut the parts out that you don't want. Finally, in the lower right hand corner on this other Goldie with green shoulders is a small wound in the skin. It has scarred over. Most of them do this. If you get one like that, you can probably guess what to do. Cut around the scared part and eat the rest. The one in the photo isn't quite fully ripe with the green shoulders but when it has a spot like that I pick it anyway so it won't continue to grow, thus reopening the wound.
Finally, as I mentioned, these are delicate, extremely so, tomatoes. They wouldn't survive the industrial food system. In fact, some of the ones we harvested this week were damaged in their crates on the way from the garden to the milk house. This brings me to my final point. If you get one with a fresh crack or bruise on it, you need to eat that one right away. Perhaps check your tomatoes over when you get them home and look for damage. It could even happen in the bags and coolers. Any that are freshly wounded (you'll be able to tell) should be eaten that day or at the very latest the next day after being in the refrigerator. All others can sit on your window sill and be absolutely fine for a few days. Any longer and they should all go into the fridge. I hope you all enjoy and please keep the feedback coming. I appreciate hearing from everyone that has contributed to the Parker Produce CSA through feedback. It's valuable, important and great! Happy eating!

Well, I hope everyone has had a great week.

No comments:

Post a Comment