We’re finally in the transition time. Just as we enter those Dog Days of summer we also get to enjoy the transition into the more summer filled flavors of beets, beans, raspberries and tomatoes rather than greens and radishes. We also transition from the early season chores of planting, tilling, weeding and replanting to the summer chores of watering, more weeding, trellising, pest management, harvesting with just minimal planting.
As plants grow, weeding becomes less of an issue as the the summer is typically drier and hotter, which doesn’t encourage or help weed germination. Crops also grow and shade out the ground which prevents germination. During this time we also have mulch laid down and some cover crops are starting to fill out. Most of the preventive weed maintenance comes from mulching the walk ways between tomatoes, peppers and potatoes with grass hay or bean straw. The mulch maintains soil moisture, temperature and prevents germination of weed seeds (which is only true if the mulch is free of seeds!) It is also helpful by adding organic matter to the soil and keeps my feet a little less muddy after rains or watering. Walkways are planted with live cover crops such as white and sweet clover. These do much of the same job as the dried material but also help by adding nitrogen to the soil and help by sending roots down that help improve soil texture and bring up nutrients from deeper in the soil. Clovers also flower and help attract pollinators throughout the growing season. White clover is planted in the rows of brassicas (cabbages, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and broccoli) and is a low growing mat of green. Sweet clover is used between the rows of squash and pumpkins. It is a bit taller, but the squash don’t mind much and actually seem to set more fruit in the somewhat taller cover of the crops. In the fall or spring, both clovers are easily killed when the field is plowed. In the end, the cover crops prevented erosion, water loss, and weed growth all while adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil.
Much of the cover crop inspiration came through reading Eliot Coleman’s book,The New Organic Grower. In the book Coleman does an excellent job discussing planting and growing techniques after years of experience as a market farmer. The book is great for those who garden for hobby or for those wanting to take it to the next level.
This weeks share holds just the start of our summer crop transition. Inside you will find lettuce, onions as well as our last week of napa cabbage and garlic scapes. There is also a bit of dill weed and a sprig of basil. While the basil is not enough for a big batch of pesto, I thought I would start slowly distributing it out. If your not going to use it, it could be easily dried in a dehydrator or hung in a dry place out of direct light.
New this week come pak choy. The small bundle is great stir fried. Pak choy is similar to the larger bok choy and can be used wherever bok choy is called for. Nutritionally speaking, pak choy is not as nutrient dense as many other leafy vegetables but is high in vitamins A, C and K.
Also something different is the small bag of sugar snap and snow peas.There was not quite enough for just one or the other as there was a little issue with plant loss early in the year. Either can be eaten, pod and all, raw or cooked.
Finally we added beets to the share this week. There is a mix of varieties. The large goldish orange beets are called Touchstone gold. At the farmers market these are commonly praised as one of the best tasting beets. A little less earthy flavor makes them more palatable to those who are not total beet fans, but they still have a great sweetness that everybody likes. Your bunch also contains the common Detroit Dark red. There are a few dark red beets with dark red leaves, these are an old variety called Bulls Blood. Finally the bright red beets with green tops are called Chioggia. This size of beets is great peeled and boiled but even better oven roasted. Just toss with olive oil and sea salt and roast till tender. At this stage of the game, the beets tops are also very good to eat. They can be cooked like spinach, steamed with pasta like you would swiss chard or just juice them.
I hope you enjoy the new boxes. I went with them because they can be reused many times, tough, have a bit of an insulating factor, and can be washed easily. They do have holes that can allow them to leak water out, but this also helps with ventilation and should prevent them from getting to stinky. I have enough for a couple weeks, but returning them weekly would be helpful. As for next week, raspberries should be ready (I have snacked on a few but not enough to pick). Also zucchini should be ready and I am going to go hunting for potatoes.
Have a great week!