CSA2015 Week 12: Time for Tomatoes

IMG_20150826_141405046If there is one crop that is the queen of the garden, it is the tomato. These are the fruits you wait so long for, care for, pamper, boast about or get anxious about.  How you are as a gardener often is reflected on your tomatoes.  Gardeners strive to have the biggest, prettiest, sweetest, and most productive tomatoes.  All this enthusiasm is well justified.  These versatile red globes find their way into family secret sauce, flaming salsa and mouth watering BLTs.  So when it becomes tomato time, there are usually quire a few happy people.

I love the varieties of tomatoes that available today.  Hybrids, Heirlooms, open pollinated, determinate, indeterminate, cheery, pear, beefsteak, heart shaped, red, pink, yellow, orange, white, ribbed smooth, paste and the list goes on an on.  It can be daunting picking out varieties to try each year.

This weeks share has tomatoes.  Both small snacking cherry and some larger beefsteak plus extras if you desire.  The cherries are a mix of brown berry, bumble bee, and Juliet.  In addition there are a couple garden peach and Japanese Trifle Black in the bag.  For the larger ones, there is a mix.  The beautiful orange ones are Kellogg’s Breakfast.  There might be a pink Soldacki, brownish Chocolate Striped, an Aunt Ruby’s Green or some purple ones named Carbon.  While some varieties tent to be more flavorful than others, I really think each year a different tomato comes out on top.   Years ago my Yellow Mortgage lifter were the best tasting tomato ever, last year, not so much.  Usually Kellogg’s breakfast is good and this year is no exception.  The Japanese Black  are excellent this year but two years ago they never developed any flavor.  I guess that is why I plant so many.  You never know what is going to be better on any particular year so I always try to have a variety.

Also included into the box is a bundle of kale, flat leaf parsley, beets, carrots, garlic, onions, a bell pepper, fennel bulbs, watermelon radishes, potatoes, cucumbers (Marketmore 76 and Russian Sikkim).

The next few days will filled with the start of the State Fair the start of the Fair.  While it is a busy time it is a fun time and I always enjoy the change of pace and the the opportunity to tour around the Horticulture building.

CSA2015 Week 11: Rain Makes Grain… and Weeds.

CSA2015 week 11Ample rain and two weeks away bring on quite the changes.  Tomatoes overgrow their cages, beans grow feet, carrots thicken, potatoes dry off, corn goes from 0 to 60 and the weeds, well, they have been running amok.  It is not all bad, yes they can put down some crazy number of seeds for the next years but I suppose if mowed and mulched they should add some good organic matter for the following years.

The tomatoes have begun to roll in.  Always a welcomed sight.  However the rain has been a little hard on the quality but as things dry out they should get better.  Eggplants and peppers are also getting into the groove of things.

Also included are some red gold potatoes,  – good for pretty much everything, a mix of carrots, some beets, a few slicer cucumbers, purple beans, and some garlic.

New this week is a bundle of parsnips, celery, a rutabaga, few little pears, corn and zucchini if you so desire, and eggplant. You might find the onions a little soft in the neck.  I should have pulled them before I left but I thought they would make it. However the wet conditions were not anticipated.  Only the yellow Alisa Craig bulbs were affected and the other varieties should dry off well for storage.

In the coming week it is off with the heads of cabbage as another frenzy of kraut making takes place.   Hopefully some potatoes will be unearthed and some clean up of the spend plants and weeds will take place.

Hope the week of eating is great!

CSA2015 Week 7: Time for Cukes and Zukes!

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One of the great things about eating seasonally, once you start to get sick of something, it often goes away and something new comes into play.  Gone are the days of greens an peas (although those are hard to get sick of) and now we are in the season of cucumbers and zucchini.  While the first planting of zucchini mysteriously didn’t germinate well at all, the replant sure did and caught up amazingly fast to the first planting.  When I head to the zucchini patch, I feel like I am entering the amazon as the plants are pretty much chest high.  We will see how long they look this amazing until the squash bugs attack.  They are so big I doubt I will be able to effectively pick them off.  You received a mix of zucchini.. a few small ones great for the grill and a couple of bigger ones that could be used in this amazing Zucchini Quiche or Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

The first cucumbers are also beginning to come in.  A few small slicers and a basket of small Edmundson Whites. While they are a pickling cucumber, I have them, they are fine to use as in a salad, or in dilled cucumber dip and so you get them!  Next week you probably can expect a large amount of slicers as there are loads coming in.

Rounding out the box is another beautiful head of broccoli, some purple beans, Viking potatoes, a bunch of kale, some dill, basil, a few onions, a mix of pretty carrots, cylindrica beets, and some Italian Soft Neck Garlic.

Speaking of garlic, the next few days I’ll be thick in it as it is garlic harvest time!  Digging, cleaning, sorting, and curing will all be taking place.  This year we have 13 different varieties growing  – mostly hardneck and a few softneck which I will talk about more next week, although I must admit, I rarely keep track of what I am eating, only growing so knowing differences about their looks and growth, but not so much taste.  Maybe a garlic tasting party is in order?

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Other doings…  been working on some goat fencing which allows kids more access to some pasture.  They love it although it takes little time to eat all down.  The last of the broilers have been cleaned.  This is always a relief as it eliminates the daily chore of feeding and moving them.  There are peppers coming, tomatoes forming and I spied the first few Blacktail Mountain Watermelons in the patch.  It also looks as though I will need to start makin’ kraut next week as the cabbages are getting pretty darn big. AND the county fair is next week.  Busy but fun times are ahead!

CSA2015 Week 6: Timing is Everything.

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Something great about this year… I only turned on the water 3 times. Once when I planted the cabbage, once when I planted the tomatoes and peppers and once just after planting some seeds in front of a forecast hot, dry spell. The timeliness of the rains has been amazing.  We have pretty much caught an inch each week. This gives adequate moisture, time to dry out and till and plant, and moisture to help pull weeds.  Rain also keeps many bugs away as it can literally wash them off the plants and just isn’t as favorable for some insect growths.  It does increase some disease issues,  but nothing too terrible quite yet.

When it comes to harvesting crops and filling up the crop box timing also goes into what is ready when.  Will that broccoli make is another week before flowering?  Do I have to pick cabbage too?  Will these beets get too big?  So sometimes you might get something a bit more than desired other times not what you are hoping for.  The cabbage is rolling on its 3rd week – but that should be it for a while.  But the broccoli made it the week like I hoped and you should have received some beautiful heads of it.  Also new this week were some zucchini.  Some are little – great for grilling and frying up and there is a big one or two for bread or muffins.

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The golden beets are still going strong and onions are bulbing nicely.  Within the next week all the garlic will be pulled and hung for curing, so you can anticipate some each week.  If you ever want a larger amount of garlic, just say the word and more can be available if you have the need.

With the kale there is some beautiful ferny leafed stuff called fennel. Typically it’s let go a bit longer and the bulbs get larger as that is used more commonly, but I thought I would throw some as you know to dabble with a bit.  It has a strong anise flavor, which calls for some unique recipe ideas. A quick google search brings up a few ideas from Martha Stewart and  the Huffington Post.  A little bit roasted with beets and root vegetables. If you don’t like it, throw it in a vase with some flowers.  It still looks pretty.

The potatoes are the patriotic red, white and blue assortment.  The purple ones are called Magic Molly, the red ones are called Adirondack Red and the white are German Butterball.

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The yellow wax beans and green beans are still coming in strong. A great way to use them, and the potatoes, is in Vomacka Soup. This recipe is from the famous Schumacher Restaurant in New Prague.

The bees have been busy in the cucumber patch, so get ready for those and I am headed into the Black Currant patch this week.  Just a few insights to what is ahead.

CSA2015 Week 5: A Trio of Alliums

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Week 5 Share

Sometimes I think the Brassica family is my favorite, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Kale and even Rutabagas are easily grown, always tasty and since they grow so fast early in the year they make things exciting.  Other times I think that the Solanaceous family is great.  The grandeur of a great tomato or functionality of a potato is obvious.   But this week our sites are set on the Allium family.  The garlic is to the point that it can be yanked out of the ground.  Onions are bulging nicely and the shallots are beginning dry off.  Often overlooked, there is rarely a dish that doesn’t call for at least one volunteer from the Allium family to add great depth of flavor.

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Garlic Scape

This week there is fresh garlic.  Unlike cured garlic that can sit on the counter till you need it, fresh garlic should be used quickly and kept in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.  It has its roots intact to tell it apart.  The onions are, well, white onions and the shallots are the smaller yellow ion looking things.  Shallots are mild tasting onions. Some recipes call for them specifically, but usually they can be substituted for onions.

We are switching it up this week with the long, dark red, cylindria beets. While golden beets are great, I find the dark red beets have more of that beet flavor.  If you like beets, I think these are better.  The small cabbage is called Premier.  The first time grown,  I didn’t really look at the size estimates.  I let it go thinking it would get bigger but it just cracked.  But I learned that Premier is a great variety.  Super thin, tender leaves, good sweet taste and useful size make it a great pick.

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Cylindrica Beets

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Red Lasota and Purple Viking Potato

There is some spinach and snow peas, probably the last for a while. More are planted for later but I think a break is fine.  We have another round of radishes coming in.  There is also a small bundle of herbs including French Tarragon and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley.  The parsley could go well with the potatoes – Purple Viking and Red LaSota.

The beans are really starting to come in.  Velour is this weeks variety. Purple beans are always wonderful to eat – great sweet taste, fun hyper-color change in the water from purple to green, and they are PURPLE! But the difficulty comes in growing.  They are often less productive, short, and scabby.  But not this year.  It has been a very good year for beans and these are the longest, most beautiful purple beans I have had ever.  While steamed beans are great, perhaps pairing them with the shallots would be pleasing.  Ina Garten always has top notch recipes, String Beans with Shallots is no exception.

Optionally there are tart cherries to pick from.  Typical sweet cherries are not real hardy

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Sour Cherries

for Minnesota, but tart pie cherries sure are.  This variety is Bali.  Maybe it was the spring, maybe the honeybees housed on the property, but we had a tremendous crop of cherries.  They are best when cooked and sweetened up a bit.  We made this Yeasted Sour Cherry Coffee Cake. It was pretty good. and doesn’t require a huge amount like many recipes.

Rounding out the box is a small helping of raspberries.  Enjoy!

CSA2015 Week 4. Gaining Weight

While most are not really excited about gaining weight, when the box gains weight I am delighted!.  That means we are moving on from the season of leaves to things a bit more substantial.  Today’s CSA share has some familiar faces…Onions, Lettuce,Arugula, Garlic Scapes Golden & Chioggia Beets, Sugar Snap Peas and Snow Peas.  The box also contains a few newcomers including Potatoes, Green Beans,  Kale and Cabbage.

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As you head out to prepare for the 4th of July, hopefully amidst hot dogs and s’mores you can find some interesting ways to use up this weeks box.  Cabbage is great in slaw, but really sweetens up when cooked or braised a bit.  It can be wrapped in foil with butter and grilled, boiled on the stove or attempt this great oven roasted version with bacon.

You were provided with a pretty generous bag of Sugar Snap Peas with this box.  Of course eating them raw is always a treat. But steaming or sauteing them also really brings out the sweetness. You may notice a few pods have white splotches, that is thanks inpart to the brief hail we had earlier in the week.  It doesn’t hut them in the long haul; it is just cosmetic.

The lettuce has moved on from leaves to full blown heads.  Speckled Trout is the variety of choice this week.   It was not really washed as that extra water held in the heads only shortens the shelf life so it will need to be washed well before using.

I am glad for these long days this time of the year as it helps in getting all the various chores done.  We have been butchering chickens, hatching new layers, prepping goats for show, baling hay, planting some later crops and weeding, weeding weeding.  Luckily we have not needed to water much.Bellini Mora 20154

The melons and cucumbers are making vines and flowering well.  Late cabbage is forming nice heads and we are near the time to harvest the garlic!

Hopefully this weekend I will find some quiet time to dive into the three new reads I picked up.  The Grafter’s Handbook is all about grafting which I might actually save fore winter reading.  I am hoping the Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher spawns some creative ways to use some excess goat milk and maybe I will pick up a new trick or two from Will Bonsail’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening.

I hope you enjoy this weeks share and Happy 4th of July!

CSA2015 -Week 3, Brought to You by the Letter ‘P’

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When you buy seeds, almost all are labeled with a number of days till you can expect to harvest.  This is helpful in planning a succession of crops throughout the growing season.  What is doesn’t always take into consideration is the difference in weather.  Sometimes the weather speeds things up, sometimes it slows it down.  Sometimes crops planted 2 weeks apart still are ready for harvest the same time as seeds may sit in the soil due to insufficient moisture or get a slow start due to cold temperature.

Such is the cases with peas.  While they were planned to be more spread out(15 days according to the packet and planting date) they were all ready the same time.  So this week the share had Swiss Giant Snow Peas.  These flat, edible pod peas are best sauteed or stir fried.  The Cascadia peas are a marvelous shelling pea with nice long pods and the short podded, fat, Sugarsnap peas are great anyway you try them – raw, stir fried, steamed, chopped on a salad.  This is one of the best pea crops ever for me so expect them again.

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Also included are lettuce, garlic scapes, Napa cabbage, onions, beets, dill, spinach and little bin of strawberries.

As we look to week 4 I think I am going to get after some potatoes, Finish off some spinach for a while and maybe there will be some sort of berry in production.  We will see.

Enjoy the Fantastic Weather!