CSA 2014 – Week 16

I ate a pear the other day.

Actually that’s a big deal for me because I don’t much like pears. I probably eat more peaches in 1 day than I do pears all season.

We’ve always grown pears. Our oldest pear trees were planted by my father back in 1953. Many of them are still producing good fruit. Pear trees can last a long time! Our “new” pear orchard was set out in 1999. The plan was to remove the old trees when these young ones came into production, but we’ve kept them all since they are still bearing good fruit. Now that my father is gone, we perhaps keep them for sentimental reasons – they are some of the last trees left on the farm (along with a few cherries) that he planted.

Here at Thiessen Farms we grow 9 varieties of pears. Harvest begins in late August and runs through the middle of September.

Harrow Delight & Harvest Queen are picked first. They are small pears, best eaten when still crunchy.

Bartletts are our main pear, usually picked around Labour Day. Bartletts are picked green & hard and store well for a long time. Left at room temperature they will turn yellow & soften – this is when they are the sweetest. They are a multipurpose pear – great for eating, canning,  jam, baking & cooking …

The little Seckel pears come next. Seckels are tiny, crunchy & sweet. They never will get really soft. Best used for eating, they can also be poached or pickled. Because of their size, Seckels are perfect for kids lunches.

Flemish Beauty – a flat, squat pear & certainly the most delicious pear (even I almost like these)! We only have a few trees – wish we had a lot more.

We picked our Bosc pears today. They are a long, russeted, almost brown coloured pear. They ripen to a golden brown & get extremely sweet. Sometimes they are known as Christmas pears because they can easily store till Christmas or longer if kept refrigerated. Bosc can also be canned, poached, and used for cooking.

Harrow Sweet finish the main pear season, and are another variety that is best eaten while still a bit crunchy.

Asian pears  (we only have about a dozen trees ) are harvested in late September. We have a yellow variety & a brown kind, but I don’t know their actual names. They look like an apple but have a light, juicy texture with incredible sweetness.

All these pears are sold at our farmers’ markets. However, most of our pears had a light crop this season so there won’t be as many as usual.

The Bartlett, Bosc & Seckel can also be found in our CSA boxes.

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(from left to right) Seckel, Bartlett, Flemish Beauty, Bosc and Harrow Sweet.

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Harrow Sweet

 

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Bartlett

 

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Seckel

What’s in the box?

Italian plums, Bartlett pears, Seckel pears, kale, sweet peppers, onions & garlic.

  • Italians plums are an old favourite variety (and the only kind that had a crop for us this season). Great for eating, baking, jam … these freestone plums get quite sweet as they soften.
  • Bartlett pears & Seckel are included in this week’s box. See descriptions & possible uses above.
  • The kale is thriving in this cooler weather!
  • It’s a great season for sweet peppers! If you’re not keeping up with eating them, store in a plastic bag in the fridge – they keep for several weeks. Or chop them up & put in the freezer. They are great in soups, casseroles and sauces this coming winter.
  • Our Ailsa Craig onions are the onions that never end, but everyone seems to be enjoying them still.
  • Remember to store garlic in a dry & cool place (it should keep until late winter, or even spring).

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Italian plums

 Thank you for remembering to return containers!

CSA 2014 – Week 15

We are winding down on the peaches (only 2 varieties left to pick), blackberries & tomatoes – the fruits of summer.

But our fall crops, including pears, plums, and peppers are coming on strong now.

Peppers – both sweet & hot, large & small, and in many different colours – were picked today.

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Look for these beautiful red, yellow, orange & purple peppers in this week’s CSA box.

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These mini chocolate bells, sweet yellow stuffing peppers, & Italian pepperoncini will be available at our farmers’ markets. They turned out so well, and are becoming so popular that we will be growing them for CSA next year as well.

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What’s in the box?

Bartlett pears, green beans, sweet peppers, collard greens, garlic, onions, lettuce (Tues. only). 

  • This week the fruit portion of your CSA share moves from peaches to Bartlett pears. Bartletts can be eaten green & crunchy, or allowed to ripen more until they are yellow & soft. Keep them in the fridge if you prefer them green. At room temperature they will ripen quite quickly – so watch them carefully. They are great for eating, as well as cooking, baking, canning & jam.
  • Our final planting of green beans has matured and is in your box this week.
  • Sweet peppers are coming on strong now, as described above.
  • We received many favourable comments on the collard greens the other week.  Another bunch is included in your share this week.
  • Garlic & onions continue. Remember not to store garlic in the fridge – keep it in a cool, dry place.
  • There is enough lettuce left for Tuesday’s box only. Sorry to those who pick up on Friday!

This is week 15 of our CSA. Only 5 more weeks are remaining.

CSA 2014 – Week 14

This season we grew fava beans for the first time. Customers said they were very good – but we never tasted them.

Artichokes were also new this year. We received good feedback from our customers, along with many recipe suggestions  – but we’ve tried none of them.

Our first ever collard greens were part of our CSA box last week – but so far, none have made it into our kitchen.

Last year, it was fennel bulbs & tomatilloes. We were told how good they tasted – but we did not experience them ourselves.

It’s sad but true. We grow all this great food – vegetables, herbs, berries and fruit – but don’t always eat it. It’s not that we are fussy or picky. Farming takes most of our energy. There just isn’t time to prepare a lot of new foods or detailed recipes.

Of course we’re eating fresh all day long. Peaches, blackberries, tomatoes … anything that can be eaten raw, without preparation or cooking is fair game. Quick & simple dishes also appear on our menu – kale & broccoli salad, zucchini, eggplant, or peaches on the grill, fresh tomato sauce over pasta … It’s a wonderful time to be eating from the farm!

And every now & then someone (usually Lorie)  has a burst of energy & finds the time to create something special. This weekend it was tomato & peach jam,  using tomatoes, peaches, sweet onions & garlic – all ingredients that we have on hand right now (and that happen to be in the CSA box this week). It turned out great, so here’s the recipe …

Roasted Tomato & Peach Jam

 

This recipe was given to us by a customer at market. It originally comes from U of T student Lauren Classen. It is a chunky, savoury/sweet jam. Lauren spooned it into whole wheat tarts and won 1st place in the Feast of Fields appetizer contest. Spread this jam on baguette slices with Ontario goat/sheep cheese, or on sliders or mini pizzas.

10 ripe tomatoes (about 4 lb/2 kg) halved horizontally

10 ripe peaches (about 2 lb/1 kg) unpeeled, pitted, chopped

1 medium sweet onion chopped

4 cloves garlic

2 tsp (10 ml) sugar

¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil

1 tsp (5 ml) sea salt, or to taste

2 tbsp (30 ml) chopped oregano leaves

Place tomatoes cut side up, without overlapping, on 1 side of a large rimmed, baking sheet or in a large roasting pan. Pile peaches & onions on the other side. Stick garlic between tomatoes. Sprinkle sugar on just the tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil & sprinkle salt & oregano over everything.

Roast in a preheated oven at 400F (200C) for 40 minutes; onions & peaches will start to brown on edges. Smash tomatoes with a spatula to release juices.

Mix everything together. Bake, stirring every 15 min. until tomatoes are dark, moisture has evaporated, and mixture is consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour. Taste & adjust salt or sugar.

Serve warm or cold. Refrigerate in sealed container up to 1 week or freeze.

** We probably roasted this jam for closer to 2 hours – our tomatoes are so juicy this year, they take longer to thicken. Increase the peaches for a sweeter jam. It is more savoury than sweet with the given proportions. We also cut down on the amount of garlic, and added some black pepper which the recipe did not call for. 

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Here’s another recipe, recommended by one of our CSA members. She claims to not be a bread baker, but loved this loaf – called it the best bread she’s ever made!

 

Fresh Tomato & Herb Bread

www.daringgourmet.com)

Serves: Makes 1 large loaf

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes or quartered Roma tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2¼ teaspoons instant (rapid rise) yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup chopped mixed fresh Italian herbs (rosemary, basil, marjoram, thyme, sage, dill, oregano, parsley)

Instructions

  1. To roast the tomatoes, spread them out on an aluminum foil-covered baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and roast for 10-15 minutes or until the skins of the tomatoes are collapsed and just barely beginning to brown. Puree the tomatoes in a blender and set aside.
  2. Combine the water, yeast, honey and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the tomatoes, the water/yeast mixture and the herbs. Stir with a wooden spoon or wooden spatula just until the ingredients are starting to come together, then attach a dough hook to the standing mixer and knead the dough for about 8 minutes on medium (“2″ on a Kitchenaid standing mixer). The dough will still be a little sticky and tacky. If it’s too wet, add a little more flour. Remove the dough from the bowl and roll into a ball.
  4. Lightly oil a clean bowl with oil and roll the dough ball around in it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in a lightly warmed oven for about an hour, until doubled in size.
  5. Form the dough into an 8-inch square about 1 inch thick. Starting at one end, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, making sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch the seam closed. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9×5 inch bread pan and gently shake the dough until all four sides touch the edges of the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and returned to a warm place until it is almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Boil 2 cups of water and pour it into a baking pan and place it on the bottom rack. If possible, place the dough above the rack with the pan of boiling water. If not, place the boiling water in two smaller pans on either side of the bread pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the top of the bread is browned and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap on it with your knuckles.
  7. Transfer the bread to a wire rack and cool completely. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

 

 

What’s in the box

 Garlic, lettuce, peaches, blackberries, onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers.

  • Our crop of garlic is finally dried & ready to go. Use it with caution – the flavour is incredible!
  • Lettuce is back in your share this week. It has grown well & tastes great.
  • Peaches are quickly coming to an end. There are only a couple more varieties to be picked. Enjoy them while they last.
  • Another taste of blackberries is in your share this week. Last year’s CSA members remember how many blackberries they would get in their box each week. This year’s crop is much smaller because the plants were damaged by the harsh winter, and so there are fewer in your share.
  • Onions, tomatoes, and sweet peppers continue to produce, and are part of the box again.

Enjoy!

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Oliver, getting into the spirit of Labour Day!

CSA 2014 – Week 13

The summer is flying by.

School starts in a week. Already we have lost one of our students, and the rest are finished work soon. That will leave only a few of us to do all the work of picking, packing & marketing the fruit & vegetables.

But in the orchard, it looks like fall already too. There are more rows of peaches picked, than rows with fruit remaining.

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But the peaches that are still ripening look great.

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The last variety of peaches that will be ripe in mid-September, are just starting to show some colour.

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The tomato plants, while still yielding amazing amounts of fruit, are declining rapidly.

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Our thoughts are turning to the fall crops … like squash,

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prunes, & pears.

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A new vegetable crop for us this year is collards. When some of the kale seed we needed was not available this past winter, we substituted collards in its place. CSA members can expect collards in their share this week.

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What’s in the box?

Collard greens, blackberries, peaches, tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers.

  • Collards or collard greens are usually associated with the southern USA. But, as we learned, they grow well in our area too. Collards are a nutritional goldmine, similar to kale & broccoli. They are low in calories, high in fibre, & rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium &  B vitamins. They are rarely eaten raw, but are best prepared by boiling rapidly for 5-10 minutes which preserves nutrients, colour & taste. Then the collards are drained, dried & sautéed in a little oil with other vegetables or herbs & flavourings. Sauteing collards without boiling first is another cooking method. It results in slightly stronger flavoured greens with a chewier texture. We have included a simple collard recipe below. Let us know how you enjoyed your collards, so we can decide whether or not to grow them again.
  • We are finally picking enough blackberries to offer a taste in your CSA share this week. Because the crop is light, it’s just a small taste. Don’t even pretend to take them home – just eat them in the car!
  • Peaches – the flavour is even better on these later varieties. They do soften quickly, so keep them in the fridge.
  • Tomatoes, onions, & peppers – We hope you continue to enjoy them. Eat them fresh, cook with them, or tuck them in the freezer to use this coming winter. Tomatoes can be frozen whole, onions minced & peppers chopped. Then just add them to soups, sauces or stews for a taste of summer.

Sauteed Collard Greens

ingredients

  • collard greens
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon  butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

preparation

Remove and discard stems and center ribs of collard greens. Cut leaves into 1-inch pieces. In a kettle of boiling water cook collards 5-10 minutes – until tender, but still bright green – and drain in a colander.

Mince garlic. In a heavy skillet heat butter and oil over moderately high heat until foam subsides and stir in garlic, collards, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté collard mixture, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Drizzle collards with lemon juice and toss well.

An option is to substitute carmelized onion (from your CSA box) for the garlic.
How about adding bacon?

 Thank you for remembering to return & reuse the boxes & containers!

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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