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Archive for June, 2009

Kale and other greens

Kale’s a tough one sometimes, at least for me. Lettuce, I know what to do with.  Chard and spinach, same thing.  Kale and other bitter greens, I think I’ve finally figured them out.

I wash them well (I wash them twice to get all the grit out of the curly leaves).  Then I heat some olive oil up in a large saute pan over low heat, and dump in a ton of sliced garlic–like 3-4 cloves of it minimum.  While that’s heating up, I strip the stems out, rough chop the leaves, throw them in the pan with a couple of pinches of salt, turn up the heat a bit and saute them until very wilted.  Throw a few grinds of pepper over top and eat!

I used to leave the stems in, or chop them as well, like I do with chard, but it finally dawned on me that those were the most bitter part and to strip them out first.  That made all the difference!

Here’s a great step-by-step how to on freezing kale from (a great site if you haven’t seen it). Plus, her tip on how to stripping the stems and chop the leaves is a great one!

How do you all prepare the bitter greens?

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Farm Update #5 Week 3, June 30th delivery

Hi Folks,

Well it seems that we are in for another week of scattered thunderstorms.  Hopefully it won’t be quite as bad as this past month has been.

We were caught out in the field several times this past week as strong storms rolled through unexpectedly. They always seem to come at the most inopportune times, such as in the middle of transplanting or with me on the tractor in one field and my workers scattered around in others and needing to be picked up.

We were finally able to transplant the melons this past week and a few thousand lettuce plants.  We were interrupted  by one of the storms while planting the lettuce and a dozen or so flats had to be left  in the barn out of sun (sun? what sun?) for several days because they had already been pulled from their cells. We were finally able to finish the job on Saturday evening; working around a couple of passing showers and plodding through the mud.

In spite of the difficult weather many crops are doing great and have recovered fairly well from the hail damage.  The carrot crop looks good and we should have them in the share in another 2 or 3 weeks. The beets are coming along and should start sizing up soon as well. The Chinese (napa) cabbage is heading up and should be ready in 2 weeks. In the meantime there’s lots of broccoli coming on and it should be in the shares for the next several weeks.

The share for this week will be: Radishes, mustard greens, broccoli, peas, red leaf lettuce, choice of escarole or endive, bok choy, and choice of cilantro or dill.

Farmer John

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Farm Update #4 Week 2, June 23rd delivery

Hello Everyone,

The cool wet weather continues to make life difficult here on the farm. Unfortunately I have an even worse weather phenomenon to report. On Monday evening the Andover farm was hit by a quite severe hailstorm. Virtually all of the crops in these fields were damaged. The plants with softer leaves, such as lettuce, spinach, and other greens suffered the worst damage. About 20% of the tomato plants were damaged beyond recovery. The peppers which were flowering and beginning to set fruit, had all the flowers and fruit ripped off.  The pea plants were flattened and the peas are pockmarked with white spots.  The bok choy, which looked beautiful and which I expected to deliver in the share this week, has had most of the outside leaf destroyed. The summer squash which was just beginning to fruit has lost all of the large outer leaves and the young fruit are riddled with holes.

What this means for the CSA members is that greens will be rather scarce for the next 2 or 3 weeks. Lettuces, cauliflower and broccoli will be smaller than usual. It also means that the warm weather crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant will be delayed by at least 2 weeks from their normal start date of late July.

It was truly heartbreaking to see the damage to so many crops that were growing so beautifully and that we have worked so hard to plant and maintain.  I confess that I am quite discouraged and disheartened, but I don’t give up easily.  We will forge ahead, make the best of what is left, and replant those crops which we are able.

In last weeks update I mentioned spraying, which prompted an inquiry from one of the members. Since I imagine there are others who may be concerned about this issue, I thought I should address it. I have at times heard conventional farmers say that one of their crops is organic. When asked to explain they say that since there was no need to spray that crop it became organic. In the same way that simply not spraying a crop does not make it organic, spraying a crop does not preclude it from being organic. Almost all organic farmers use sprays to control insects and disease, as well as for foliar feeding.

As a certified organic farm we are allowed to use various products which are approved for organic production by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and reviewed and evaluated by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute). These products may be elemental, such as copper or sulfur, which are fungicidal or biological such as bacillus thuringensis (Bt) which affect only Lepidoptera family insects (caterpillars).  They may also be natural insecticides derived from plants such as pyrethrum, which is derived from a chrysanthemum, or neem oil from the seeds of the Neem tree.

All of these products breakdown quickly, are not persistent in the environment, and have low toxicity to humans and other animals. One of my favorite products as a fungicide is called Sporan which contains essential oils of clove, rosemary and wintergreen. It works well and it smells great too! While there are cultural methods employed to minimize pest problems such as crop rotation, there are still times when pests can do sufficient damage to seriously reduce yields or render a crop unmarketable. Timely spraying, done when pests first arrive or emerge (many overwinter in the soil) can do much to control the problem before populations explode out of control. While I have spoken to a few organic farmers who say that they don’t spray, I believe that what they are guaranteeing their customers is produce laced with holes and worms in their broccoli or cabbage. I have also spoken to the members of one of these farms and been told about all the crops they don’t receive.

I strictly adhere to the rules governing what is allowed in organic production and do not spray any crop that is close to being harvested.

The share for this week will be: Escarole, Red leaf lettuce, broccoli, baby salad turnips (edible tops) and peas.


Farmer John

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Farm Update #3. Week 1. June 16th Delivery

Hi Everyone,

We’ve arrived at the week you’ve all been waiting for- the week of the first delivery. As usual there won’t be a large number of items in this first share, but what we have I think you will enjoy. I was hoping to have broccoli for the first share, as the early crop was beginning to head up last week, but it seems that it will need another week.

I guess it isn’t necessary to tell you it’s been raining a lot. These wet conditions for the past 2 weeks have made it very difficult to keep up with the planting schedule. The greenhouse is full of plants ready to be transplanted, but I can’t prepare the beds, because the ground is too wet to work. There are many seeds that need to go in now as well, and even though I have ground ready, the seeder won’t work properly if the soil is too wet. And there’s keeping up with the weeds in the already growing crops. When I am able to cultivate with the tractor in a timely manner a lot of hand cultivation can be avoided, but weeds disturbed by a cultivator easily re-root in wet soil.

Sometimes people think that all the rain is good for the crops, but what’s really needed is a balance between rain and sunshine. Prolonged dampness can create ideal conditions for fungal diseases and frequent rain makes it difficult to spray for insect pests. I am always mindful of the maxim: Be careful what you wish for, in these circumstances. At anytime now the rain might stop and we could head into a long drought. For now I’m just hoping for a few days of sun before the next round of showers and thunderstorms rolls in.

The share for this week will be: English (shell) peas, Red leaf lettuce, endive, garlic scapes, radishes, kale, red stemmed spinach, and a choice of oregano or mint.


Farmer John

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The first pickup of the season!

Hi everyone and welcome to the new season!  I’m Jen Bonnell, and I’ve been a member of the CSA for three years now. This is my first post on the blog, which we hope to become a more vital part of our communications this season. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be working on how best to use the site to serve everyone, share recipes, and all that fun stuff.  (And feel free to email me with suggestions, questions, etc!)

Today is the first pickup of the season! The share for this week will be English (shell) peas, red leaf lettuce, endive, garlic scapes, radishes, kale, red-stemmed spinach, and a choice of oregano or mint.

Don’t forget to check out Ken’s eggs and poultry from Havenwood Farms, if you haven’t already. Seriously, these eggs are like NOTHING you’ve ever tasted, and the yolks are so bright and vivid!  The chickens, too, are just amazing and well worth it.

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