Friday, July 29, 2011

High Summer is here!

Good-bye peas. Hello other stuff. As of today, you'll notice a marked shift in the types of things coming out of the garden and into your share bag. Spring crops are gone with the last of the snap peas and lettuce out today. Radishes are going to seed in the garden and the spinach is long gone. But the heat of summer brings another transition in the yearly progression of the earth.

Along with zucchini, the last of the Sugar Snap Peas and the last of the Australe Lettuce (hopefully until fall) you'll find your first installment of Sun Gold Tomatoes!!! We're very excited this year to have planted twice as many as last season and to have had them do so well in the greenhouse! They're a bit earlier than usual for us and they are coming in heavy. It's actually almost time for me to lower the vines. I can hardly believe I had them in my short greenhouse (The Quonset Hut) last year. This season I put them in my 'Cathedral' and they're already nearly to the rafters! One word of caution, DON'T SUN GOLD AND DRIVE. It can be dangerous to be snacking on something so tasty and operating a motor vehicle. Yes, Sun golds are that good. Mmmm.

Here is a shot of me harvesting them last night in the dark. One of the biggest challenges we face in agriculture, at least in the northern part of the northern hemisphere (and the southern part of the southern) is that just when the garden puts forth the majority of its bounty, the days begin to dramatically shorten. August 1st is the big date for sudden and serious loss of altitude for the sun. That means working in the dark more and more. Soon, it will mean working in the cold too, but for now the cherry tomatoes are keeping me warm.

This shot is just to show that some of the Sun Golds in your share may need to ripen. I picked twice this week (once last night) and you have to pick them if they're even close to ripe or they'll get by you! From left to right is the progression or ripeness. The one on the left is one that actually fell off when I brushed by a plant. Not one I would have picked. But the next one is. The one I'm pointing to is pretty much perfect and the one all the way to the right is screaming 'enjoy me now before I get soft or split!'.

Here they are in close-up. The lighting wasn't great today (though the cool weather and clouds make for an awesome harvest day!) but you can sort of see how the one on the right is a very dark orange.

Also in the Cathedral, climbing the inverted cedar tops as I discussed in a previous post, is a crop of Tasty Jade Cucumbers. This is the first year I've grown these and frankly, I wonder where they've been all my life. Please don't mistake them for over sized regular cucumbers. These are supposed to get that long and large and they are still great! No jelly filled, over sized seed chambers here. Wonderful.

Also this week we have another installment of Provider Green Beans and the first Golden Butterwax Bush Beans. These are my favorite string beans. They are a beautiful color and they are so tender, even if you let them get by you, which I almost did. Luckily, Brittany did some weeding this week and exposed how ready they were to be picked. Thanks Brittany!!! Don't forget to check out our Recipes page at the right. I plan to make dilly beans with both colors.

You also have another bunch of basil and a bunch of chard in the share this week. Harvesting basil is one of my favorite things to do in the summer garden. I grow it in the greenhouse at the base of our trellised tomatoes. The greenhouse is a nice warm place at 4:30 on a cool, wet summer morning and the greenhouse effect works for smell too. Cutting the basil and disturbing the leaves is enough to create a wonderful 'smell bubble'. I love the scent of basil.

And finally, a little teaser. Also in the dark last night, I harvested the first of the large red type tomatoes. This year's winner of first to ripen is New Girl (a hybrid that I tried for greenhouse production). I had one for lunch today. Delicious. I think by next week we'll have enough to put into the shares. Until then, enjoy the rest of what your local food chain, your local farm and your local farmer have to offer.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Eight Weeks!

Hi all:
I'm going to try to make this quick because the garden exploded and your share bags reflect that. This means we finished bagging and packing right at 3 today, which is when our first members come to pick up and the absolute latest we can be packing. Usually I don't hit that deadline until well into August! A good problem to have!
Here is a shot I couldn't resist this morning. I'm so happy to finally have grapes after planting these two years ago. I didn't think the plants were going to make it as I planted them on a marginal piece of the garden where I can't plant row crops (too hilly/rocky). They've finally come into their own! Can't wait for fall...ok, just the grapes, lets not rush summer, it just got here.
Here's another quick shot of our washing station. Yes, those are my shoes. Yes, I garden in bare feet. I'm sure this is some sort of 'no-no' on the FDA list of horrible things. Luckily, our CSA members understand how silly something like that is. Gardening in bare feet is one of life's great pleasures. If you have a garden, take your shoes off. You'll never want to put them on again.

Here is a teaser. I harvested these sungold tomatoes this morning to jump start the plants. This is what I got out of 60 feet. We pick this first initial planting and there isn't enough to put in the shares. But this tells the plants to kick it into high gear. Remember that a plant's purpose is not to feed humans, but to produce little baby plants to carry on the gene pool. Picking the tomatoes makes the plant think it has to produce more 'offspring' before winter and it goes into high gear. Almost all plants that fruit are like this.

Filling the rinsing station at 4 am.

New this week, Provider Green Beans! Wahoo! Harvesting last night I was eating the breakage. (That's my name for the ones that don't come off clean.) And I started thinking that green beans are yet another example of how local, fresh, beyond organic food is just better. I pity anyone who has to purchase green beans from the store. There is no comparison in taste (or nutrients but that's more amorphous to your brain). Check out our recipe page (link at the right) for ideas on preparation. In our house we just saute them lightly with some scapes and olive oil or butter and then sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper. That's assuming they make it to the house and pan without being eaten raw.

Here is a shot of goings on at the farm. John is raking hay in this photo to get ready to bale. You know it's the height of summer when you can rake hay at 8:30 in the morning and find it's already pretty much dry. Usually, you have to wait until the dew evaporates, rake at about 10 and then wait a few hours to let it dry further, then bale. Not so today. 80 degrees at 5am.

Here is a shot of our herb garden in all it's freshly weeded and mulched glory. So nice to harvest in this section of the garden. Weeds make harvesting a pain.

And here is what came out of the herb garden. Sage! Never had luck with Sage before but focused on it this year and it turned out well. If you have no ideas for using sage, perform a google search for 'sage' and 'insert other ingredients from your share bag here'. Also, you could just do what I'm going to do and bunch it and hang it in your kitchen to dry with some butcher's twine. The smell is worth sacrificing the taste for now. There will be more later in the summer.

We've also come into our own with zucchini in the garden this week. Everyone got some and I've been able to stay ahead of it size-wise so it's still nice and tender.

Last week I showed a picture of our inverted cedar trees trellis in the greenhouse. These Tasty Jade Cucumbers were hanging from them in all their glory this morning. I couldn't resist picking them. You'll have some in your share soon! The little white cuke in front is a Dragon's Egg Cucumber.

Also this week you'll find more of the long red radishes, the last of the winter planted carrots, two heads of lettuce, another bunch of basil, a bunch of chard, snap peas and if you're one of our bread share members, a loaf of bread. If you're an egg share member, please be careful with your bag. They are heavy and the eggs are in there. If you drop the full bag, you can bet your eggs are toast...

Enjoy and have a good weekend. Stay cool!

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Stuff!!!

Greetings friends and members of Parker Produce, local food and alternative agriculture. I hope you're having a great time in this wonderful summer weather. Before we delve into what's been going on at the farm and what's in this week's Produce Share, I want to take a moment to remind everyone to take a look at MPBN's Maine Watch television program for this week. I was asked to be a guest on the show to discuss food sovereignty and our right to eat real food with the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture which is promoting big, industrial agriculture at the expense of small family farms and the health of Maine's population. You can watch the show tonight at 8:30 or Sunday at 5pm. You can also view the show at
Now, onto this week at the farm!
Here is a pre-dawn shot of some beet greens with the hay field and the moon in the background. Beet Greens are among the new items in this week's share!
Plus, here's the newest vegetable lover at the farm. Martin is starting to get his fine motor skills down. I gave him this to hold and the next thing I new he had it in his mouth. 'At a Boy!!!

Something about the 'dog days' of summer doesn't sit well with Brinkley. He thought the shade of the Sugar Snap Pea vines was a good place to hang out in the 86 degree heat of the other day. He was right!!!

Also, this isn't about the share this week but will be soon. This is one of the reasons we need to support small scale, local, alternative agriculture. What are we going to do when petroleum is not longer an option? Lots of farmers (including organic and alternative farmers) use plastic trellis material that is thrown away after one year's use. At Parker Produce we're constantly looking for alternatives to, well, pretty much everything. Here you can see some cucumbers climbing up some inverted cedar tree tops. We cut, and mill most of our own lumber here at the farm. Most of the time the tops of the trees are wasted or sent to the chipper. But what if we could use them for something? It works quite well!

Now, onto this week's harvest. Among the many new items you might find in this week's share is Cauliflower. We're quite happy with how this year's cauliflower season is turning out. I say, might find, because not all plants mature at the same time. So, we put certain items on a rotation. This is one of them. If you didn't get cauliflower in your share this week, sorry. But you're on the list to receive it next time or the time after that. You will get some! I can almost promise (I cannot account for acts of nature ;-).

There are lots of options for preparation on cauliflower. But my favorite has always been one of the simplest, the way my mother used to make it. Steam lightly and then smother in a cheesy/creamy sauce and some butter! My mouth just watered.

Also this week, the first basil harvest is here!!! This is one of my favorite things in the summer garden. Harvesting basil is a real treat because it fills the greenhouse with its aroma! Plus, we absolutely love basil in the Parker household. Lizzie is a huge help in processing for pesto! Don't forget you can use your garlic scapes for pesto. There's that mouth watering again. One note, Basil DOES NOT GO IN THE FRIDGE!!! The cold of the refrigerator will ruin your basil and turn it into a slimy, black mess. When you get home, cut the basil stem tips like you would a dozen roses. Then place the bouquet into a glass of water on the windowsill and cover the whole thing with the open plastic bag. If you left it long enough it would actually send out roots...but why would you want to do that with basil?!

Also on rotation, zucchini! When they're small like this they are so tender and delicious you can eat them raw. I don't but you can. These beauties would be perfect grilled just as they are! Gourmet chefs use the flowers when these are purchased fresh at markets. I've never tried but it sounds interesting.

Also new this week is a bunch of Hakurei Salad Turnips. Don't like turnips. That's fairly common. Please try these. I bet you'll like them. These aren't your run of the mill turnips. They are delicious just like this. I eat them like small apples in the garden. But they're also good sliced thinly and put into a salad.

And finally, something that's new even to me. I try new varieties in great number each year. Some you never see, others I like and grow again. This will be one of those. Cincinnati Market Radish. No, they aren't carrots. These radishes are truly amazing, beautiful and prolific. Enjoy with your Astrale Lettuce and the Hakurei Turnips and you've got yourself a good little meal!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Just made it!

The title of this blog might confuse some folks. But at Parker Produce our thoughts are with Brittany as she went home with an illness today. Her work ethic is beyond compare and it pained her to go on a harvest day. But we want her to get well and we also want her to know I finished bagging and packing at exactly 3pm. Just in time!!! No worries. Hope you feel better Brittany!!!
And to speed your recovery, here's a picture worthy of a hallmark get well card. We had a severe thunderstorm at the farm the other day and this is one of the good things that came of it. It was amazing and neither this picture, nor any of the others I took, do it justice.

I've been hard at work this week trying to keep from getting overwhelmed (too late!!!) by weeds. Here is a row of beet greens amidst Royal Burgundy Bush Beans. This is just prior to cultivating.

And here is the same row after I used the stir-up hoe. I love simple but effective tools.
Also, our new baby laying hens arrived this week. This one is cute...but suspicious.

Here are a couple of shots of me on Tuesday trying to stay ahead of the Sugar Snap Peas. They're so big that they are starting to manipulate the trellis. They're so yummy but sometimes a pain. As you check out the next couple of pictures keep in mind I'm about 6'2" tall. These plants are serious. They'll grow to 8 feet or more in a season.

Here I am at just after dawn. Still chilly.Only a few minutes later it's very, very hot. What a week of weather we've had.

In this week's share you'll find another round of Chard. I'm pretty happy with the Chard this year. I finally got the planting quantity correct so we have no trouble giving everyone a full bunch. Below is an idea for what to do with Chard (or other things). Tempura. I made up this recipe but it's a fairly common idea so you could google the word for recipes or you might already have one. We liked the Chard the best of all the things on this plate, including spinach, scapes and snow peas. I dipped the chard into a plate of scrambled egg and coated the whole leaf (but not the stem as it makes a convenient handle). Then I dipped it into a mixture of all purpose flour and quick cooking oats. Then I set it into a very hot frying pan which was holding rendered fat (from bacon). If you're vegetarian, vegan or just don't save your renderings, you could probably use vegetable or olive oil. Just be careful because they ignite at lower temperatures and off-gas some nasty things when too hot. Once they were fried up I salted them liberally with sea salt and enjoyed them. A great meal for a hot afternoon. Disregard the charred spinach in the middle of this photo. My first attempt was during the same time Martin decided he was suddenly really, really hungry and needed a bottle NOW DADDY!!!

Here's a shot of something I set out for the 4th party we had. Carrots (in your share again today!!!) Sugar Snaps and Chard stems. Chard stems are a great substitute for Celery. I don't grow celery. Too hard, never had luck, gave up. Chard is more interesting anyway!

Here is a shot of the bags just after packing prior to them going into the coolers. The very best problem a CSA farmer has is not having enough room in the bags at the beginning of July! What a season so far.

Ok, Shell Peas are here! We should have more next week when we can get in a full day's harvest. I consider Thursday night part of a full day's harvest. I was at a farmstead tour at the home of John Bunker (the Fedco Trees guy) in Palermo yesterday into the evening and didn't get a chance to get a jump on the harvest. So I had to harvest your carrots and radishes today. Usually root crops are good to hit the night before because they weather the process well. More peas next week! But this 1/2lb in your share should be enjoyable. Caselode is the variety and they are delicious.

Here is a little video of me explaining how to open the peas. Not everyone was as fortunate as I to grow up in a home where the kids helped with the food storage. Shelling peas, cleaning blueberries, crushing blackberries are all memories I have of childhood. I didn't know it at the time but I really was fortunate to be learning how to accomplish these tasks. Now, as we attempt to 'put by' as much food as possible for our family, Emily and I can pass these traditions onto Lizzie (and Martin when he is old enough). Luckily, Lizzie is young enough to love helping with these things. Anyway, if you don't know how to open and shell the peas, hope this helps.

Also this week, a red romaine lettuce called Eruption. An apt name. It really does erupt and we nearly missed our harvest window before it bolted. I only lost one head. The trouble with lettuce is that it can't be harvested early and if you blink you missed it. I got pretty lucky because this is a beautiful lettuce. Enjoy.

I was harvesting your Tango Lettuce today and heard quite a noise. I looked up to find this hen on top of the old hen-mobile. I was once told chickens don't fly very well. I disagree.

Hope everyone is enjoying their vegetable, egg and bread shares. Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback. Until next week, enjoy.

Friday, July 1, 2011

July is here!!!

And that means things are going crazy in the garden! But before we get to that I figured I'd post a couple of photos of goings on at the farm. I was cultivating and 'hilling' more potatoes the other day in the amazingly high heat and humidity, sweating buckets even without a shirt on and I looked over to see Indy lounging placidly in his wallow. I though it deserved a photo.

And this morning when I was trying to feed and water the pigs I couldn't find one. I was worried until I noticed a set of hams sticking up out of a gargantuan hole in the ground. Pigs are so entertaining!

Also, here are a couple of shots of things to come. Look at the basil plants lining the walkways in the greenhouse like emergency lights in an airplane. Much more satisfying though. We love Basil in the Parker household so this is always a welcome sight. Especially since last night I dropped a freshly seeded tray of fall basil and dumped out the whole thing! I had to come look at this in the greenhouse after that to calm down...

And beside the basil, another welcome and warm sight. A future tomato harvest in the making. Hopefully this makes your mouth water as much as mine.

And now onto today's harvest. Last night we actually began the harvest by pulling off the Sugar Snap Peas for the first time. These are an amazing pea, not just for their flavor and thirst quenching, crisp texture, which by itself is worthy of praise, but also for the sheer quantity of biomass these things can create. It is truly amazing how fast and much these plants grow. They will get to be nearly 7 or 8 feet tall before they are done and I'm quite sure they could keep going if I didn't pull them off the trellis to start another crop. At this point we've mixed them in with the Sugar Ann's you've been getting but soon those will be done and it will be straight Sugar Snaps.

I also harvested another installment of Crunchy Royale Radishes. The crop is doing so well I just love to pull the row cover off and take a look. Here is the before shot.

And here is the after. This is how we bunch them in the field as it helps keep track and is easier to count, wash, pack, etc. Last week you received the radishes that were thinned from this row. This week, you're receiving a more uniform radish bunch in your share and don't forget you can use the greens if you wish. See our blog from last week's harvest to view a link.

The radishes would go nicely in a salad with the Tango Lettuce you're receiving in this week's share. We went with only the green since the Red Salad Bowl has bolted. I'll have to replant for a later crop. You might also consider including some of the Carrots in a salad but more on those later.

You may find that the lettuce is too wet in the bag. If so, open the bag and place a quartered paper towel on top of the lettuce. Place the bag, still open, in the crisper of your fridge. After about a day, remove the towel. It will have wicked all the excess water from the lettuce and will cause the harvest to last much longer in your fridge.

This shot is only to show how we do things on harvest day. We pick, cut, rinse, pack and bring everything from the garden into the cool of the milk house. Then we do what you see below, that is cover the crates and buckets with plastic bags to retain moisture. Respiration is one of the leading causes of loss on harvest day and can lead to limp, lifeless, vegetables. We don't want that after working so hard to produce them in the first place.

And now, to the masterpiece of the week. As you'll see from the picture in the header of the blog, we have carrots, full sized, ready to go, delicious, beautiful carrots! Brittany and I were chatting in the garden when we were harvesting these and frankly, I'm going to fore go humility for a moment. The fact that you have carrots in your share this week is nothing short of amazing. These carrots were planted in our mobile greenhouse on March 6th when there was still 3 feet of snow just the other side of a six mil piece of plastic. I then spent 3 weeks carrying 10 gallons of water to a trip out to the greenhouse from the house to get them to germinate and then water them after they had. Then, in April, Brittany weeded the majority of them and I got the rest (she really did most of that).

In short, I am very, very proud of these carrots and very happy to be able to provide our CSA members with carrots this early in the season. This says nothing of how they came out. Frankly, they're amazing. I had one for lunch and they are delicious. I hope you enjoy them and if you have friends that might participate in other CSA's, feel free to eat your carrots in front of them.


I wrote at the beginning of this post about things going crazy in the garden. There is a reason the ancients used to celebrate the Summer Solstice! It's like a light switch for the plant world. 'Oh yes, the days just started getting shorter...we'd better hurry up before winter is here."

One thing that makes its appearance at this time of year is the Garlic Scape. Below is a series of photos related to this little wonder. I call it that because Garlic Scapes are nature's answer to us just about running out of stored garlic from the last year. You can use these as a substitute for garlic cloves. I suggest this week our members use these and the Scarlet Nantes Carrot tops from the share to make Carrot Top Pesto. Delicious and healthy! Carrots are wonderful as a nutrient pump. That means they reach way down into the topsoil and bring up nutrients that other plants cannot get. Carrot tops are high in calcium and potassium and the don't forget chlorophyll will naturally detoxify your body.

Here is Brittany, waist deep in the garlic patch, harvesting all those wonderful scapes.

I truly hope everyone enjoys this week's share, and all the season's harvests. Please don't forget that I love to hear feedback from everyone to help me improve the CSA. Until next week, be well and thank you for your participation in our local food chain.