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Archive for August, 2007

Letter from John May 21, 2007

Hello Everyone,Well, the dry conditions continue, with less than 1” of rain during the past 6 weeks. Many passing storms that promised some much needed rain have not produced enough to register on the rain gauge. Everything that I sow directly into the field must be irrigated to germinate. Much time is being spent setting up and moving sprinklers and this delays us from planting and other pressing tasks. We have finished planting the potatoes and the eggplant. About 800 tomatoes have been set out and another 1600 will be transplanted out in the next few days. We will also be planting the peppers, ground cherries, celery root, and the last of the onions this week. Last night I rode the tractor planting beans until dark, ahead of some thunderstorms, which again delivered an inconsequential amount of rain. I am having a lot of trouble with a pest of the cabbage family called the flea beetle. This is a consequence of the late planting since normally the plants have 2-3 weeks to grow before the over wintering adults emerge from the soil. We are doing our best to control this plague with the various organic treatments that are available. The problem is that these agents have a short period of effectiveness and frequent spraying is required. I have also lost several hundred broccoli and cabbage plants to animal predation-turkeys, geese and ground hogs. The peas are growing nicely and the earliest varieties have just begun to flower. This means we will start picking peas in about 3 weeks, possibly in time for the first delivery. The potatoes have sprouted and the onions and the garlic are also growing nicely. It has been a very difficult start to the season, and will probably only get worse, but we are forging ahead and dealing with each new challenge that arises. Hope to see many of you at the Farm Visit in 2 weeks! Farmer John

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Letter from John May 14, 2007

Hello Everyone,It’s been about a month since the flooding rains of April, and since that time we’ve received less than ½ an inch of new rain. While it’s too soon to start crying drought, these dry conditions combined with several very warm days for early May, have been making things a bit difficult for us. Although there is still adequate moisture a few inches down, the soil surface has become very dry. This condition makes it difficult for new transplants to take root as well as delaying the germination of the many varieties of veggies that I am currently planting directly into the field. We have planted most of the 7,000 brassica and lettuce plants. Many of these we have had to water in after planting to insure their survival. Most of the peas that were planted are up and growing nicely. Unfortunately 2 early varieties of sugar snap peas did not germinate, most likely due to bad seed. This represents about 1200 row feet that should have produced 300 lbs of peas and means that the pea season will be a bit later and shorter this year. We have planted about 1,000 lbs of seed potatoes, with another 800 to go. I have the ground ready, and I hope to finish with potatoes by the end of the week. We will also be transplanting the first 900 tomato plants and about 700 eggplants in the next week. It’s also time to begin planting beans, zucchini and other summer squash, as well as cucumbers and melons. Many thanks to those who came out for the volunteer work day this past Saturday. About 1800 tomato and celeriac plants were transplanted; we covered a greenhouse, and transplanted several hundred lettuce plants out into the field. I truly appreciate the help, and I think everyone had an enjoyable day in the country. If there is anyone who was not able to attend, but would like to come out and lend a hand over the next 2 weekends, contact me at That’s all ‘til next time! Meantime, hope, pray, or keep your fingers crossed for some rain.
–Farmer John

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Letter from John April 29, 2007

Hello Everyone,
Well the fields have finally dried out enough to be plowed, so I’ve been spending a lot time on the large tractor this past week preparing ground, some for the second time. While I waited for fields around the main farm to dry I moved the tractor to my new rented field in Andover. The soil there is very well drained so it was ready for plowing within 2 days of the heavy rain. Most of the ground at this new field has not been worked for several years and has grown a very dense sod, which will take a considerable time to break down. For this reason I have plowed 5 of the 6 acres I have use of, even though some will not be planted until July and August. I have planted most of the peas I intend to- about 6,000 row feet and 55 lbs. of seed. My workers have planted about 12,000 onion and leek plants and 1,500 lettuce plants. We have begun cutting the seed potatoes into pieces and will begin planting potatoes in the next few days. There are also about 7,000 transplants of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radicchio, and more lettuce that have been moved out of the greenhouse and are hardened off, waiting to be setout in the field. In the next week we will transplanting out these crops as well as starting more in the greenhouse and transplanting many greenhouse starts into larger cells. For anyone thinking about coming to the volunteer work day on May 12, help with greenhouse work will be one of the tasks for which I will greatly appreciate your assistance. It’s also time to plant many crops that are direct seeded into the field, such as carrots, beets, parsnips, spinach, and Swiss chard, to name just a few. It’s too early in the season to be this far behind, but the nature of farming is bound to the vagaries of the climate. Wish me luck catching up, and come out and lend a hand if you’re so inclined! –Farmer John

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Letter from John April 15, 2007

Hello everyone!In the 2 weeks since my last update we have finished cleaning up the fields and I was able to plow about 4 acres of ground. I also cultivated the garlic which is growing quite nicely. The shallots which like the garlic are planted in the fall are just beginning to come up. Unfortunately I have not been able to plant any peas yet, as the ground remains too cold. While conventional farmers, using fungicide treated seed, can plant peas without much regard for soil temperature, organic growers must be a little more careful or the seed will simply rot. The heavy rains from the Nor’easter will delay planting still further, as it will be too wet to get into most of my fields until at least the end of the week. We will also be delayed in planting onions and potatoes until next week. The good news is that there is no more rain in the forecast for the next 2 weeks and the temperatures are finally headed for the upper 50’s and 60’s!!! I have been planting lots of seeds in the greenhouse, including celery root, kohlrabi, kale, bok choy, parsley, ground cherries, and more lettuce and tomatoes. We have begun transplanting the early tomatoes into larger cell flats, which has increased the overcrowding in an already full greenhouse. As soon as the weather improves a bit we will be able to move some of the hardier plants such as the onions and cabbage family onto benches outdoors where they will be hardened off for planting out into the field. I still have a lot of greenhouse planting to do- herbs, flowers, and more lettuce and broccoli to name just a few. There are also almost 2,000 eggplant and pepper plants to be transplanted soon! So keep your fingers crossed or maybe say a little prayer for a nice stretch of warm, dry weather!–Farmer John

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Letter from John April 1, 2007

Hello Everyone!
Well the robins are arriving, the crocuses are blooming and the spring peepers are peeping, so it must be spring! March was unusually cold, at least until last week. I began planting in the greenhouse on March 10th, about a week later than I would have liked. I just couldn’t bear to turn the heat on in the greenhouse when it was still in the low teens overnight. At present there are onions, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radicchio, and tomatoes up and growing nicely. The eggplant and peppers are just beginning to germinate. In the next 2 weeks I will be planting celery and celery root, kohlrabi, kale, parsley, ground cherries and tomatillos as well as more tomatoes and lettuces in the greenhouse. In the field we have been working on cleaning up from last season- removing posts and cables used for trellising and plastic mulch and drip tape. I have not been able to start plowing yet, because the ground is still to wet from that late season snowfall. I hope to be able to start preparing ground later this week, if it doesn’t rain too much. In the next 2 weeks it will be time to plant fava beans and peas in the field. We are also busy doing maintenance and repairs on the trucks, tractors and other equipment. That’s all for now, stay tuned for the next update in 2 weeks!
— Farmer John

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Escarole, and the curly frisee that was the other choice, are members of the chicory family. Other chicories are endive and radicchio. These are hearty greens with a firm texture and slightly bitter taste.

Escarole can be eaten raw in salads, but it is best cooked. Slice into ribbons and cook quickly to retain its edge or saute low and slow with some garlic scapes to sweeten.


Escarole is famously paired with white beans in soups and casseroles. It can withstand a lot of cooking and a lot of strong flavors.

Frisee (not pictured), should be eaten raw in salds

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Radishes are eaten raw. They range in flavor from a mild spice to full-flegged heat, but a radish is always cool and crisp. They are a great way to wake up the palate on hot, humid Jersey days. True believers just rinse and eat like a carrot. The French arrange them in bowls and dip in butter and salt. The English slice them paper thin and put into tea sandwiches. They are excellent sliced into salads or grated into slaws (see kohlrabi post). They are a colorful, spicy addition to a vegetable & dip platter.

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Garlic Scapes

garlic scapes

Welcome to one of the perks of CSA membership. The garlic scape is the top of the garlic plant, sort of like a big chive, but with more garlic flavor. Scapes keep very well in the fridge. Chop them and saute them much like you would use garlic. I have cooked the whole thing slowly in olive oil and they become soft and mellow. You can throw a whole scape into pasta sauce or soup. Experiment and enjoy.

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Tatsoi is an Asian mustard green. It can be treated like any Asian green–chopped and stir fried with oil and garlic. Throw in some ginger and soy sauce if you like. You could stir fry this with some of the bok choy and garlic scapes. Don’t forget to cook the stems.

I like Asian greens quickly wilted in some oil with garlic and ginger. I throw them in a bowl and top with some dumplings, a splash of dumpling sauce and a sprinkling of flax seeds.


You can get a large assortment of frozen Chinese and Japanese dumplings at East West Market on Bellville Ave. in Bloomfield. I like the pork and leek, but the have vegetable, shrimp, chicken, etc. Head to the sauce ailse and pick up the handy dumpling sauce. Easy peasy and really good.

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Snap Peas

Also called Sugar Snap Peas, these are one of the pea varieties with an edible shell. They make a good snack and are tasty with a dip. Chop them and add to salads. I put them into a potato salad once and it was really good.

They can also be cooked. Snap off the stem and pull the string to the end. Cook with a little water and butter until bright green and tender, 2-3 minutes.

snap peas

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