CSA 2014 – Week 12

Given the choice, I’ll take a nectarine over a peach almost anytime.

Maybe it’s the smooth skin without that peach fuzz, the beautiful red colour, or the firm yet juicy texture, but for whatever reason I prefer nectarines.

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I begin eating them when they are still green & weeks away from ripening, eat them all through the season, and scour the trees long after they are finished, hoping to find a forgotten fruit for one last, sweet, too juicy, taste treat.

The first pick of our Harblaze nectarines was this past weekend. It was rather discouraging. In fact we debated whether we should even pick them.

It seems that everything likes nectarines – and by everything I mean every bug, insect & disease. The fruit this season is really bug-bitten & ugly, too ugly to be sold as #1 nectarines. Approximately 95% is 2nd grade. Almost all the damage is on the surface though, so a quick peel leaves a clean nectarine. And of course they still taste amazing. They just look bad!

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It’s my fault. I must have got my timing wrong on a spray, or missed a needed pesticide. So we’re left with a lot of sub-standard nectarines.

… lots of good eating for me, I guess!

 

What’s in the box?

Nectarines, beets, beans, tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions.

  • This week’s box contains nectarines instead of peaches. The cooler temperatures of last week slowed down the ripening of the peaches, but we have lots of nectarines. As described above, the quality is lacking, but not the flavour!
  • It’s time to pick the beets. We have been waiting, to give them more time to grow, but the weeds are gaining the upper hand & we are choosing our weeding battles – beets is not one of them. There will be red beets & golden ones.
  • The next patch of beans are ready, and they are looking good.
  • Tomato lovers are in heaven these days. There are lots of delicious tomatoes in different sizes & colours to enjoy.
  • Sweet peppers & onions are becoming a staple in your CSA shares.

 

Still to come in your CSA basket …

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Some of the later vegetable plantings, growing nicely, including Chinese cabbage, cabbage, lettuce, edamame, beans, kohlrabi & kale.

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The blackberries are slowly ripening – we’ve picked a few pints so far.

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CSA 2014 – Week 11

Of all our crops, peaches are the most anticipated – both by us and our customers. It seems everybody loves peaches!

Peaches are also the most misunderstood crop we grow.

So here are a few random & educational peach facts … (many as a response to questions we get at the farmers’ markets)

  • Peach season here in Niagara begins at the end of July or in early August, and finishes around the middle of September – depending on the weather.
  • On our farm we grow 25 varieties of peaches. Each variety ripens at a different time, making for a longer peach season.
  • We pick a peach tree 3-5 times, usually every 2 or 3 days, choosing only the ripe, mature fruit each time. A ripe peach will have a yellow background, not green. It will still be firm but not hard. While a soft peach will be the ripest & sweetest, it will not stand up to picking, packing & shipping to market.
  • A peach will continue to ripen & will soften if left at room temperature. It should only take a day or 2.
  • Ripe peaches can be stored in the fridge without affecting the flavour.
  • Each variety of peach has a name. It comes with this name – we don’t name it! The name often indicates the origin of that variety. Peaches that were bred at the government-run agricultural research station at Vineland have names beginning with “V” such as Vivid, VeeBlush, Vinegold.  Names beginning with “H” were developed at the Harrow Research Station (Harrow Diamond, Harrow Dawn, Harbrite… ). New Haven, Michigan is the home of Redhaven, Sunhaven & all the other “haven” peaches. Lately, new peach varieties come from private breeding programs in Michigan including the “star” series of peaches (Starfire, Blushingstar, Coralstar …).
  • Redhaven is the most widely known variety of peach. This does not mean it is the best, or tastes the best, or even looks the best. To reject a peach simply because it is not a Redhaven means you are missing out on an abundance of good peaches.
  • “Freestone” is not a variety of peach. Freestone means that the flesh of the peach is not tightly attached to the pit or stone. “Clingstone” means that the flesh is tight to the pit. To reject a peach because it is not freestone means that you are missing out on an abundance of good peaches. Sure it is a bit more work to cut or chew around the pit – but it’s worth it! Most of the earlier peaches are clingstone. Peaches ripening from mid-August on are mostly freestone.
  • Most peaches grown in Ontario are for eating fresh, not for canning or processing. Except for a few small peach processors, there is no canning industry left in the province. The last canner shut it’s doors in 2008 sending production overseas. Any canned peaches on our supermarket shelves now come from other countries. Babygolds & other similar clingstone varieties that were grown for the canning market have now been mostly removed and replaced with other kinds of peaches (or grapes).
  • Our peaches are sprayed with pesticides – fungicides for rot & disease, and insecticides for insects & bugs. We use both organic & chemical sprays. The weather is the main determining factor in how often & what kinds of pesticides we use.  Orchards are monitored for insects & diseases and sprayed only as necessary. (Organic fruit is also sprayed – but with only organic pesticides. Growing peaches without any pesticides in our humid climate is not possible!)
  • Peaches can be canned, frozen, made into jam, and used in baking (think peach pie, peach tarts, peach cake…), smoothies & milkshakes, ice cream … and of course eaten fresh!
  • No matter how you use them - Peaches taste great!

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What’s in the box?

Peaches, kale, sweet peppers, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers.

  • Peaches continue to increase – in flavour & quality & quantity. Enjoy!
  • The kale in your share this week is called black kale or dinosaur kale. It has smooth, dark leaves, and excellent flavour. We often eat it raw in salads, but it’s great in smoothies, soups & stews as well.
  • All of our many kinds of sweet peppers continue to ripen. Choose from purple, yellow, green or red. Still to come are orange, brown & different shapes of red.
  • We’re probably at the height of out tomato season now. Your box will include some lovely, big beefsteaks along with a basket of various coloured cherry tomatoes.
  • We are getting lots of positive comments on the cucumbers & onions. While the cucumber patch is already looking tired & dying back, there are still many weeks of onions remaining.

Reminder – Please return all containers so we can use them again!

CSA 2014 – Week 10

The peach season is beginning at Thiessen Farms, and we’re excited!

We love everything about peaches – their looks, their smell, and especially their taste.

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Peach season should last for about 6 – 8 weeks.

It’s starting slowly and quantities are still limited, but in another week there should be an abundance of peaches.

The best peaches result from lots of sunshine together with warm days & warm nights. This season has provided much rain for the trees, and increasing sunshine & warm temperatures for the fruit. They are tasting great and we are optimistic for a good peach season!

What’s in the box?

Peaches, sweet peppers, tomatoes,  onions, cucumbers, beans (maybe beets),

extras – eggplant

  • Their will be  peaches in your share this week – mostly seconds or #2s. These early peaches have a lot of insect bites, bruises & soft spots. They aren’t the prettiest, but they sure taste great! The quantity & quality of the peaches should increase next week.
  • The first of the sweet peppers are ripe – beautiful purple, pale yellow, and bright green!
  • Tomatoes are coming on strong now – big, red beefsteak and cherry tomatoes in all colours.
  • The onions are continuing, and getting a bit larger each week.
  • Cucumbers will be in your share again this week – green ones and white ones. They both taste the same, but the green cucs are juicier, while the white ones – called “Silver Slice” –  are slightly firmer & crisper.
  • We are pleased that the beans recovered nicely from all the rain we had a week ago. This first planting is almost done, but the next patch will soon be ready. The third planting we had to fence off, to keep the rabbits from devouring them – it worked & they are coming along nicely.
  • Lorie will pick beets Tuesday morning. They are looking good, but she won’t know the quantities until she is picking. Here’s hoping there will be lots!
  • Our eggplant is incredible this season (see pictures below)! There will be lots available as an extra for those who want some.

Sometimes we are able to offer a fruit or vegetable as an extra (eggplant this week). It could be an extra because we don’t have enough of it for everyone, or conversely that we have an abundance of that crop (think peaches last season). Or sometimes if we know it is not a vegetable liked by many, we will offer it as an extra so only those who will eat it, take it. Regardless of the reason, we are pleased when we can offer something extra to enhance your share. However we ask that you only take enough for your own family’s use – not for other relatives or friends.

Our favourite eggplant recipe – I shared it last year but here it is again.

Roasted Eggplant & Tomatoes

  • Coarsely chop your eggplant into small pieces – a little bigger than ½ inch.
  • Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.
  • Mix together in a bowl with some olive oil – enough to thoroughly moisten the vegetables.
  • Spread on a cookie sheet and crush some fresh garlic on top – a couple of cloves at least.
  • Sprinkle with salt & pepper and some fresh herbs such as thyme or oregano.
  • Bake in the oven at 350 for 1 – 1 & 1/2 hours.
  • Grate some cheese over the dish before serving.

Eat hot or cold, as a side dish or over pasta, spread on fresh bread …

We make this recipe with whatever eggplant & tomatoes we have leftover from market or CSA. Exact quantities are not important – use whatever you have.

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Our friend Julia commented on the blog the other week and asked to see pictures of our eggplant. Here they are …

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Not everyone is quite so excited about peaches (or eggplant, or …)

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CSA 2014 – Week 9

It’s a bit wet around here today!

It was raining when we went to bed last evening, and it was still raining when we awoke this morning.

The rain gauge showed …

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… a lot of rain!

Needless to say, things were pretty sloppy around the farm today.

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This is usually a nice, firm, grassy pathway.

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The squash patch.

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The pear orchard. The ditch is the tall, grassy area in the middle – slightly overflowing its banks!

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The path to the house where our workers live.

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This train stopped at about 7:30 am and stayed parked – blocking our road – for most of the day. Apparently a section of the railway tracks was washed out a ways up the line. Finally at 4:30 pm it moved out.

By lunchtime most of the precipitation was over and we headed out to do some harvesting.

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Picking raspberries was a bit of an adventure!

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Much of the vegetables were under water.

But be managed to get most of our produce picked for the East York Farmers’ Market & our CSA on Tuesday.

What’s in the box?

Onions, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant & beans.

  • Guess the onions got washed in the field – zucchini too!
  • Tomatoes were in short supply last week, but there are more this week – everybody gets a few big red ones in their share. We were hoping to include some cherry tomatoes as well, but the rain really cracked them & reduced the quantity.
  • Cucumbers are nobody’s favourite vegetable to pick, but they sure taste good! This year we are growing a beautiful, smooth, green, variety.
  • I stand corrected. Last week I said that eggplant were not popular with our CSA members. But when we offered them as an extra, they were scooped up quickly. And so eggplant are in your share again – all colours, shapes & sizes.
  • The green beans & striped dragon’s tongue beans have been coming along beautifully. We expected to offer a good portion in the box, but right now they are under water – and beans don’t like to get wet! It starts all sorts of diseases, especially rust. So depending on whether or not they dry out, you may or may not get beans this week.

Also damaged by the excess rain was the lettuce. It will not be part of your share this week. There will be more lettuce coming soon though.

We harvested the first peaches today. Maybe by next week there will be enough to offer them in the CSA share.

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Little Bear – who rarely allows her picture to be taken.  She had the misfortune to be outside all night during the storm. She spent the day drying out, feeling sorry for herself, sleeping  … and sneezing.

CSA 2014 – Week 8

To spray or not to spray, that is the question.

Or at least that was the question this past week.

The potato beetles that previously were found only in our Turkish Orange eggplant, began to march throughout the patch, selecting plants seemingly at whim to decimate. Our choices were to spray or to pick them off by hand.

Because the plants were also full of ladybugs – which would eat any aphids present – and bees – necessary to pollinate the eggplant flowers, I hesitated to spray. Any chemical strong enough to kill the Colorado potato beetle would surely finish off the bees & ladybugs too. But hand picking multitudes of potato beetles, of all stages & sizes, on more than 600 plants would  take an awful lot of time.

In the end we decided not to spray. Instead, every other day we walk through the patch with jars of soapy water & remove by hand any beetles we find.

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While time consuming, it’s good to hear the bees buzzing and see the lady bugs crawling around doing their thing. We seem to be gaining ground on the potato beetles as well. Hopefully victory is ours!

And then there are the rabbits! Those hungry little rabbits!

We have never seen so many rabbits throughout the farm as this year. Where are those coyotes when we need them? (Actually we saw a beautiful, large coyote today – in the neighbour’s strawberry patch). Our edamame that I thought was slow to germinate, was actually being eaten as it popped out of the ground. The green beans were the bunnies next target.

After considering our options, we put a net barrier around the latest vegetable plantings. So far, so good!

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Even some of the edamame is making a comeback!

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But not everything was a struggle with nature this week.

There was enjoyment & pleasure too. The fog this morning enveloped the farm in a beautiful & mysterious mist …

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What’s in the box?

Green beans, onions, lettuce, zucchini, raspberries, maybe tomatoes, and eggplant as an extra

  • The green beans are ready – and they are beautiful!
  • Our shareholders really enjoyed the Ailsa Craig heirloom onions that we grew last season, so we grew them again. They’re still a little small, but each week the size will increase. These onions are a sweet treat!
  • Your box this week again contains lettuce & zucchini and raspberries.
  • We have been picking a few early cherry tomatoes for a while now ( not sufficient quantities for our CSA, but the customers at our farmers’ markets have been enjoying them), but the large red beefsteak tomatoes are a bit slower to ripen. We picked the first of them today. Not enough for everyone, but some boxes will include a tomato. Next week the rest will have a tomato. And soon there will be plenty of tomatoes!
  • Eggplant is something we grow for our markets but don’t often offer in our CSA basket. It seems many of you don’t eat eggplant. This week it will be available as an extra for those who want to try it.

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The bean patch.

 

 

 

CSA 2014 – Week 7

The farm on Monday 14 July, 2014 …

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 What’s in the box?

 Raspberries, sweet cherries, broccoli, zucchini, lettuce, beets (maybe).

  • Raspberries!  At last Friday’s pick up, shareholders were surprised to find some raspberries in their box already. This week everybody gets raspberries. They are good this season – but not great! As the berries are ripening, we can see that the plants are suffering from the cold winter. They just don’t have the energy to ripen & size the berries the way they should. So while the quality is good, the quantity is lacking.
  • The sweet cherries are almost finished now. It was a good news/bad news story this season. We were able to pick almost all our cherry trees – which we have not done for a few years – but lost much of the fruit to birds, and to splitting & rotting because of the rains. They sure taste good though!
  • The Tuesday boxes this week will get the last of the broccoli. Now everyone has had broccoli twice. Wish we had planted more!
  • Zucchini & lettuce continue. Our goal each year is to have lettuce last longer through the season. So far it’s still doing well & tasting great – and there is more coming.
  • The beets are finally ready. Lorie will pick the first of them tomorrow – here’s hoping there will be lots!

See you at pick up!

 

 

CSA 2014 – Week 6

Nature is always fascinating, putting on an incredible show. Here on the farm we are privileged to have a front row seat!

Some examples …

1. Remember the black yum yum tomatoes that the groundhogs were feasting on a few weeks ago?

This is what they looked like then …

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Once the groundhogs moved on to other treats, the plants recovered and today they look like this …

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Slightly smaller than the other tomatoes, but catching up fast! Really, there are no other signs of the damage they suffered.

2. We are growing 35 varieties of eggplant this season. One of those 35 is infested with Colorado potato beetles – only 1! (yes, the potato beetle if given a choice, prefers eggplant over potatoes or tomatoes). None of the other eggplants has even 1 potato beetle (yet). Why do the bugs prefer Turkish Orange eggplant?

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At first we thought to pull out those eggplants. Then we reconsidered. If we remove that variety, the potato beetles will move on to other plants – maybe lots of kinds? So we left the plants and picked off the beetles. We’ve done it twice now, and the plants are growing out of their damage quickly. We recheck the plants every day & squish any potato beetles we find.

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3. Cutting the grass in the orchards the other day, the tractor was surrounded by a flock of barn swallows. They followed me for hours, swooping & diving, eating insects that rose up from the grass as I mowed.

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But when I was cultivating the soil and getting it ready to plant, it was the blackbirds that were tailing me – red wings, grackles … They were finding the worms & bugs in the newly disturbed ground.

The birds knew what I was doing and when & how they could benefit from my actions.

4. The cherries are ripe!

While the first variety had a poor crop (about 5% only) due to pollination & birds, the quality was pretty good. The mid season cultivars that we are picking now have a heavier load, but have been significantly affected by the rain.

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The later cherries are still looking okay, but we are hoping for no more rain!

What’s in the box?

Sweet cherries, broccoli and/or zucchini, snow peas, garlic scapes, lettuce mix.

  • Everyone has been waiting for the fruit. Here it is – sweet cherries!
  • Everyone’s box should include a head of broccoli (the little bunnies are quite enjoying it too!) and/or a zucchini.
  • Your share this week includes the last of our snow peas. They have been great this year.
  • Garlic scapes & lettuce continue. Thanks for your comments on the different lettuces & which ones are preferred. This helps us decide what to grow next season.

Remember to return all containers that come with your produce. We can reuse them.

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This is not a skunk under the orchard mower! It’s Meesha hunting for a groundhog that is hiding here. This time of year the young groundhogs are been sent away from home to make their own way in the world & we find them in some unusual spots. Try as she may, Meesha could not get this one.

 

 

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