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Letter from Farmer John: June 17th, 2008

Hi Everyone,

We have finally arrived at the week you have all been waiting for- the first delivery. It will be a small one as the first delivery usually is, but there’s lots of good stuff on the horizon.

We have begun picking peas, both English (shell) and sugar snaps. The broccoli has begun to head up, but unfortunately the plants are still rather small and hence will produce small heads. The quality looks good though, and it just means that we will need to put 4 or 5 in a bunch instead of 2 or 3. This was caused by 2 very cold nights (25 degrees) in early May that burned the outer leaves of the plant and set back it’s growth. Extreme cold stresses plants and stress induces flowering. I am having a similar problem with the escarole and the red spinach.

I was delayed in writing this update because I wanted to address the issue of the current salmonella out break in tomatoes, and have been doing some reading on the subject to be better informed on the mechanism of the contamination. Unfortunately the FDA and the CDC don’t seem to have a very good handle on this subject at this point, even though these outbreaks have been occurring since the early 90’s and there was a serious outbreak in 2004. I just received a letter from the NJ Dept. of Ag. stating that NJ has been added to the list of “safe” states. However since they have not been able to pinpoint the source of the contamination the concept of determining safe states or regions seems rather dubious and contrary to the norms of epidemiological investigation.

From what I have learned so far it seems probable that the source of the contamination is in the post harvest end of the industrial food chain. Large wash tanks that are used in the packing houses may be implicated in cross contamination of the tomatoes. I don’t expect to begin delivering tomatoes for another 6 or 7 weeks, so hopefully there will be better information available by then. I will plan to write more on this subject when we begin the tomato harvest.

The share for this week will be Red lettuce, choice of Sugar snap peas or English peas, broccoli, broccoli leaf, red spinach, garlic scapes, and choice of oregano or cilantro. The broccoli leaf can be used the same as Kale, steamed or sautéed, and also makes a great base for cream of broccoli soup. (Sauté the leaf with onion adding some water at the end to finish cooking, then put into a blender with milk or cream) The garlic scapes can be grilled or chopped finely and sautéed to add garlic flavor to a dish, such as the spinach or broccoli. They keep a very long time in the fridge, so don’t feel like you need to use them up quickly.

Enjoy! Farmer John

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