Keep updated on all that is happening around Thiessen Farms!


Leave a comment

CSA 2018 – week 12

What’s in the box?

Blackberries, baby kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, garlic, onions. 

  • Blackberries are always a highlight of the summer. It seems almost everybody enjoys blackberries. Picked properly they are a little sweet & a little tart. If they aren’t quite ripe, they are sour. Too ripe and they are soft & mushy, but incredibly sweet. We try to pick them as ripe as possible, but while still firm. Unlike raspberries, blackberries are not hollow, but have a centre core which is soft & edible. The only way to eat a blackberry is to pop the whole thing in your mouth. Try to take a small bite, and you are covered in black, staining juice. Blackberries are best eaten fresh, but also make great jam, juice, sauce, ice cream …

  • Please note that we do use pesticides on our blackberries. For many years we did not. That was one of the good things about growing blackberries – no spraying necessary! Then along came the spotted wing drosophila. Spotted wing drosophila is an invasive vinegar fly that has the potential to cause extensive damage to many fruit crops (especially soft fruits like berries and dark coloured fruit like blackberries). In the last few years it has been found throughout much of southern Ontario along with most of the fruit-growing areas of North America. It has become a chronic pest in berry and tender fruit crops in Ontario. Effective biological controls are not yet available. There are cultural practices that we use to help reduce the insect populations, but the only effective control right now is chemical. And so we spray regularly to try to kill the spotted wing drosophila and protect our blackberries (and elderberries). We would rather not! But then again, we would rather not have worms in our blackberries!
  • Baby kale is great eaten fresh in salads. But it can certainly be used like the larger kale leaves and cooked in your favourite recipes too.
  • We have been receiving lots of positive feedback on the white cucumbers. Many people prefer them to the more common green ones. The plants continue to do well & are producing an abundance of delicious, crunchy, cucumbers. Of course we also have green cucumbers for the traditionalists!
  • Your share this week will contain a colourful assortment of tomatoes – both cherries & the larger beefsteak types.

  • Of all the vegetables we grow, green beans are probably my least favourite. The only way I really enjoy them is in the Thai Green Beans recipe. We have posted this recipe before, but here it is again (see below).
  • The new garlic isn’t quite so new anymore! It is quickly drying out, so it is maybe not as juicy, but it will keep better. If you are not using it up, leave it to dry out completely in an airy, dry area. Then it will last all winter.
  • I am still disappointed in the tiny onions we grew this season – I keep thinking of those huge ones we had the other year. But it turns out that many of you prefer the small, single serving size. That almost makes me feel better!!

 

Thai Green Beans (from Simply in Season cookbook)

2.5 cups green beans – steamed for 8-10 minutes or until bright green & lightly crunchy.

1/4 onion chopped 

1 Tablespoon fresh ginger – peeled & minced
1-2 cloves minced fresh garlic
In wok or frying pan, heat 1 tsp sesame oil and sauté about 5 min until onion is tender.

1.5 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Thai sweet chilli sauce
Add to taste.

Add the steamed beans & stir to coat with the sauce.. Simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Serve over rice. Garnish with cashews, sesame seeds, or slivered almonds.

Thank you for remembering to return containers!

Advertisements


Leave a comment

CSA 2018 – week 11

The sky darkened, the thunder rumbled, the lightning flashed. A handful of raindrops fell.

And that was it!

The clouds moved out over the lake and today’s storm, with its promised rain was over.

I had spent a good part of the day seeding & transplanting vegetables into the field in anticipation of this rain. The soil is very dry & a good rain would have got the newly planted seedlings off to a great start, and encouraged the seeds to germinate quickly.

While there is more precipitation in the forecast for overnight & tomorrow, I chose not to count on it and I watered everything myself.

Here’s a crop update for this week …

The next few plantings of beans (& sunflowers) are growing well, as are the cucumbers.

Our squash patch is as healthy & lush – and mostly free of weeds – as it’s ever been.

There are lots of little squashes forming, and still so many blossoms too – most containing a bee or other pollinating insect. Passing by the field you can hear them all buzzing.

The new zucchini patch is all mulched and the zucchini plants are growing rapidly.

We have started to pick blackberries – not a lot yet, but they are coming! There should be enough for our CSA boxes within a week or two.

The blackberries would also benefit from some rain. Mostly they look great – but more canes than usual are shriveling up & dying, something we don’t like to see.

This was the week we planned to have bunches of fresh basil in the CSA shares. But the rainfall the other week – while so beneficial to most crops – caused the basil to turn dark & diseased. So unfortunately there will be no basil in the boxes.

What’s in the box?

Cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, onions & new garlic.

  • I hate growing cucumbers! Harsh words I realize, but true. The plants start off so well, but succumb to disease quickly, the cucumbers themselves are often deformed from insects, and they aren’t fun to pick. Every year I complain about them and threaten to stop growing them all together. But then every year I seed them again – mostly because they are my favourite vegetable to eat! This season the plants started off well – and are continuing to flourish. The first fruit was indeed a mess – but they are improving. Of course they are still a pain (literally) to pick! But I’m glad I grew them again! There could be up to 4 varieties in your share this week. Enjoy some longer green ones, shorter green ones, the super delicious white cucumbers and an old heirloom variety we tried this year called poona kheera. Here’s how the seed catalogue describes them –Creamy, light-green fruits; very delicious flesh, crisp, and juicy. Sweet and mild. Fruit shaped like a potato, with skin turning brown as they ripen. One of our best varieties that is disease resistant and very hardy. Vines produce early and the yield is very heavy. A wonderful heirloom from India that has become our most asked-for cucumber.
  • Green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, onions & garlic – all the making for delicious summer salads. Here’s a link to a zucchini salad we are enjoying this summer – https://www.wholesomeyum.com/recipes/zucchini-noodle-salad-recipe-with-bacon-tomatoes-low-carb-paleo/ . Please share some of your favourite summer salad recipes with us, and we’ll include them in this newsletter.

Sage hanging out inside the barn this afternoon, just in case the rains came!

 

 

 

 


1 Comment

CSA 2018 – week 10

Sunrise, as seen from the Burlington Skyway on a Saturday morning at about 5:30 AM back in June. I always try to snap a few photos from the bridge, on our way to market – though they rarely turn out, with the dirty van windows, the 100+ kmph speed and the fact I’m still half asleep.

But this week the calendar turns to August, and lately when we cross the bridge the sun has not yet made an appearance. So no more blurry pictures!

August also means we are about half way through …

… halfway through the summer, half way through our CSA program, halfway through our farmers’ market season (almost), halfway through our growing season … and halfway through our energy (just kidding!)

We are now getting into our summer crops – tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers … Overall they are looking good!

But perhaps surprisingly, our CSA boxes might be a little smaller for the next few weeks. A very hot & dry July set us back. The vegetables slowed down their growth & size of harvest. We lost big plantings of carrots, fennel, cabbage, beets & greens … crops we should be harvesting now. So instead of an abundance, things will be lean. Thankfully we have had some moderation in temperatures & some very helpful rains. The vegetables are growing well again, and we’re able to keep planting. Abundance is just ahead!

What’s in the box?

Cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, beets, new garlic, zucchini.

green beans – Friday only.

  • The first of the cucumbers are ready – the white ones! Called silver slicer, we have been growing these for years. They’re great for eating (crunchy & delicious) and good to grow (dependable, early & high yielding). We are also starting to pick some heirloom varieties that are light coloured as well. For the traditionalists, the normal, common green cucumbers should be ready for harvest next week.
  • Those of you that have been a part of our CSA in previous years will remember the large, sweet heirloom onions we grow called Ailsa Craig. We have them again – sweet & delicious, but not big! In fact they are really small. I’d like to blame the lack of rain for their size, but much of the fault lies with us. They simply got too weedy and had too much competition from the weeds for the moisture that was available. The result is smallish onions. Maybe next year …
  • The remainder of your share this week is vegetables that have in the box already – tomatoes, beets, new garlic, & zucchini.
  • The next planting of green beans won’t quite be ready for Tuesday’s pick up, but there should be beans by Friday.

The start of August Anytime is a time for relaxing for these guys!


1 Comment

CSA 2018 – week 9

It was a very welcome rain that we received on the weekend!

The entire farm is looking & feeling refreshed. Vegetables, berries & trees, birds & animals – and us!

At least 35mm fell, and was immediately absorbed by the dry ground. The plants seemed to perk up and green up overnight.

A new planting of beans & sunflowers that I seeded about a week ago and watered & watered, popped up!

With the ground being moist, I was able to cultivate the squash & pumpkins. They are beginning to send out runners & spread so I won’t be able to get in again without damaging the plants. Then I seeded a cover crop over them. It will germinate & grow, together with the squash (& also the weeds). Later this fall after the squash is harvested there will hopefully be a nice green crop of vetch remaining. It will continue to grow until frost & then die over the winter, but provide cover & protection for the soil until spring. When we work it in it will provide nitrogen for the next vegetables.

There are plenty of trays of seedlings growing and waiting for their time to be transplanted into the ground – lettuce, bok choy, assorted herbs, fall cabbages, green onions, beets …

Elsewhere on the farm, the garlic harvest has begun. The garlic plants have started to brown up which means it’s time to pull them.

They are brought into the barn & stacked on racks where they will dry for a few weeks. Then we’ll trim & clean them and the garlic will be ready to enjoy!

What’s in the box?

Tomatoes, baby kale, kohlrabi, green onions, lettuce, beets, new garlic,

green beans – Tuesday only. 

  • The tomato plants are outdoing themselves with blossoms & little tomatoes. And now we can see ripening fruit – on the larger tomatoes as well as the cherries & smaller ones. The rain will certainly give them a boost & production should increase rapidly! Last year at this time the plants were already showing disease & declining in vigor due to the hail we received. We’re excited that they are healthy & flourishing this season!
  • Baby kale is exactly that – kale that is picked young & small. This makes them more tender & mild and they can be used fresh & without cooking. We prefer them in a salad with kohlrabi & green onions. Add broccoli if you desire and dried cranberries & almonds and top with a poppyseed dressing. Delicious!
  • I had been watering the latest lettuce patch too, trying to keep it growing & renewing and tasting great. Of course the rain does a much better & more effective job than I ever could.
  • The beets will still see the effects of the dry weather. They continue to be small – but tasty!.
  • Enjoy the fresh garlic. Remember that it is not dried, so use it quickly once you break it open. Or let it air dry in the open, to be used later.
  • Our next planting of beans is behind due to the dry & hot weather. Lots of blossoms but no beans yet. Tuesday pick up will get the last of the old bean patch – but there will be none for Friday or our market CSA boxes on Thursday. But there will be something else instead. Maybe zucchini, or carrots or …

 

Those of you that visit the baby chicks when you pick up your share, will find them outside now – enjoying the grass & weeds and just being outdoors. Sage enjoys them too, spending a lot of her time “babysitting”.

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

CSA 2018 – week 8

Tomato hands is what we call them!

It’s what our hands (or at least Amy’s) look like from pruning and tying tomatoes. They are not only coloured green, but that green is thick, sludgy & caked on and so difficult to remove. The best way is actually with a tomato – break it open, rub it all over your hands, working it in good and then finally wash everything off. But a green tinge and the tomato aroma linger …

Pruning tomatoes – or suckering as we call it – is the big job on the farm right now. We prefer to stake all our tomatoes, tying them to bamboo poles. Then we prune them, snapping out the suckers or shoots that grow from the joint of the main stem and the branches of the tomato plant. If we left these suckers, they would grow into branches with lots of leaves and eventually more fruit. Removing them leaves the tomato plant a little more tidy & less bushy. It allows air to move freely through the plant reducing the risk of disease. The tomatoes will grow & ripen faster and be larger as the plant is putting its energy into this fruit rather than growing more foliage. They will not be blocked from receiving the sunlight from lots of extra branches, so the fruit will be more colourful & sweeter.

We feel suckering & tying the tomato plants gives us superior fruit & is worth the added work. And it is a lot of work! It has to be done again & again … every week is ideal. In a perfect world we would keep up, but all the other jobs on the farm still have to be done and so we fall behind. Then it is major surgery to remove the suckers & tie up the twisted, falling stems – challenging & slow work, but satisfying when completed. Of course letting the suckers get so big & then cutting them off is hard on the plant too.

We usually try to keep the plants tidy & trimmed & tied until they grow to the top of the bamboo poles. By then we’re busy harvesting – and sick & tired of suckering & tying – so we let them go wild and be free!

Tomato plants overdue for suckering & tying.

The completed plants.

We usually leave 2 main stems on each tomato plant – sort of a compromise between pruning to get earlier, bigger fruit and getting more fruit from each plant. It works for us!

Our large beefsteak tomatoes – yes, they are turning colour! As usual we got some suckered & tied, while some will be left to sprawl over the ground. At least they are easier to pick than the cherry tomatoes!

What’s in the box?

Tomatoes, raspberries, new garlic, lettuce, arugula, zucchini, green onions.

Green beans – maybe?         extras – garlic scapes

  • The first tomatoes will be in your share this week – perhaps cherry tomatoes, or medium/salad size, or even a large juicy beefsteak tomato. We probably won’t have a big harvest, but it will be a taste of what’s to come!
  • We don’t have a lot of raspberry canes left on the farm, and even the new rows we planted this past year have disease and are doing poorly. That’s why we never even included raspberries in our list of possible crops you could expect in your CSA box this season. But there are some this week – a nice surprise!
  • Enjoy a fresh bulb of new garlic. Because it is just pulled and not dried, it should be kept someplace with good air circulation, and out of the sun. Do not put in plastic or in the fridge. Once the bulb has been started, try to finish using it within a few days.
  • We have been watering our next planting of lettuce to try to encourage it to grow! Now it’s ready! Enjoy a fresh salad again this week – perhaps with some spicy arugula to liven it up. Arugula is one of our most popular crops at our farmers’ markets. People absolutely love it! Some eat it alone as a salad (with strawberries, feta cheese & a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette) while others mix it with lettuce or other greens. It’s also great in sandwiches.
  • Zucchini & green onions will be in your box again this week.
  • Green beans are a maybe for this week. The dry conditions are causing the first planting to yield less and the next planting to grow slowly. We’ll see what we are able to pick.
  • Garlic scapes will be available as an extra for those who want some.

Please remember to return all containers, so they can be reused!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

CSA 2018 – week 7

It’s early July, and there’s a subtle shift on the farm. The early crops have mostly been harvested and cleaned up. The ground is being prepared for the next plantings.

Our “big” crops – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant & squash – are all growing nicely now, and we’re impatiently waiting for them to ripen.

We don’t like to use a lot of plastic mulch on the farm. It’s difficult to lay done efficiently without the proper equipment, it requires irrigation and we don’t like the waste (it’s only good for 1 use). However we have used a plastic ground cover under our eggplant (just visible in the background). It’s a heavier woven material that can be reused for maybe 5 years? Because it’s woven, some of the rain can seep in and it’s relatively easy to install by hand. The holes for planting the eggplant are burned into the fabric. This material is under most of our eggplant and we used straw for the remainder. We’ll be able to compare and determine if there is a difference in how the plants grow & produce.

Other crops are mostly growing well, despite the lack of significant rainfall.

We left some of the bok choy that went to seed in last week’s heat. It’s now in flower and being enjoyed by the bees & other pollinators.

The blackberries are just finishing up their bloom and the tiny berries are forming. Look for them in August.

What’s in the box?

Your box this week mostly contains vegetables that have appeared before – only green beans are new this week. The drier conditions mean the lettuce isn’t bouncing back quickly for another cut. And the next plantings of lettuce, bok choy … are growing much slower without the timely rains.

Snow peas and/or green beans, carrots, beets, zucchini, green onions, kohlrabi, garlic scapes.

  • Our last seeding of snow peas is ready as is the first seeding of green beans. Your box will contain one or the other. The peas sure don’t like the heat & our being stingy with their production! And the beans are just starting. So we don’t have an abundant harvest of either!

Everyone seems to be feeling these dog days of summer!

 

 


1 Comment

CSA 2018 – week 6

It’s hot!

It’s really hot!

This isn’t news to anybody in this part of the country. Day after day of temperatures in the 30’s, but feeling like 40+ (not to mention the humidity)!

Not just people are feeling the effects of this heat. The farm is hugely affected too.

Some vegetables thrive in the heat …

The zucchini patch is growing by leaps & bounds. Zucchini really flourishes in this kind of weather. While best picked every other day, we skip the weekend which means a lot of large zucchini on Monday morning!

Hot weather also brings out the insects. (Generally hot weather brings more insect damage while wetter weather causes more disease issues.) Our zucchini plants were covered with cucumber beetles, a tiny black & yellow striped insect which eats leaves, blossoms & fruit and causes a lot of destruction. They also transmit diseases which can reduce yield, & eventually destroy the plants.

To combat the cucumber beetles I sprayed with kaolin clay an organic spray which covers the plants & fruit with a white powdery layer, making it unappealing to the bugs. It’s not a foolproof solution, but it does help and we find it preferable to using chemical pesticides.

The peppers that were struggling, are now thriving in these hot temperatures. After being buried under their blanket of straw mulch, we can finally see them (those that survived) poking through.

And the tomatoes are laden with a lot of ever-expanding fruit.

Other vegetables are suffering in the heat …

A patch of bok choy that we had just started to harvest went right to seed over the weekend. While the yellow flowers are bright & cheery, they signal the end of this harvest.

Similarly, the new rows of baby spinach have gone to seed before we could even begin to pick them. You may have found the radishes in last week’s box a little tough & woody – blame the weather! The snow peas were good last Monday but on Wednesday it rained & we couldn’t pick. By Friday they were oversized and no longer tender – that’s why there were no snow peas in Friday’s boxes. Less extreme temperatures would have allowed all these vegetables and others to be harvested for a longer time.

Disappointing? Yes. Discouraging? Perhaps a bit. But weather fluctuations & extremes are neither uncommon nor unexpected. There are more plantings of these vegetables (spinach, bok choy, snow peas) that will be ready soon. Hopefully we’ll reap a good harvest from them. And we’re excited to see the crops that are doing well right now.

There is still plenty of good stuff to pick for market & CSA this week!

What’s in the box?

Beets, zucchini, carrots, Chinese cabbage, kale, green onions, garlic scapes.

The kitchen does not beckon on these hot days! This week’s CSA box features vegetables that can be eaten uncooked or grilled on the BBQ. Enjoy some new vegetables and some favourites too!

  • The first beets are ready! Certainly they are a favourite vegetable of mine – and many of our CSA members too! We prefer them roasted , or on these hot days we eat them raw in salads, usually shredded or spiralized.
  • Zucchini – We have green, yellow, patty pan (round & scalloped), and striped (both light green & darker green ones). Basically they all taste quite similar and can all be used interchangeably. As mentioned above, they are a larger size overall, which makes them great for the BBQ. Cut into thick slices, brush with olive oil, season with salt & pepper and grill for a minute or two on each side. Zucchini is also good raw, in salads or slices for a snack.
  • Carrots grow slowly. Weeds grow fast. There’s always a conflict & the carrots rarely come out the winner! This season we have been starting our carrots in trays & then transplanting them into the field with our paperpot transplanter (see last weeks newsletter for a more detailed description – https://thiessenfarms.com/2018/06/25/csa-2018-week-5). They are growing well & we are better able to keep them weeded. However, we are not getting beautiful, long, straight carrots – shorter, weirder shapes seem to be the norm. This results in a bit more work to wash & prepare. But the flavour is great! Please tell us what you think!
  • You will find Chinese cabbage in your share this week instead of lettuce. It is mild & tender and can be used in salads, or coleslaws or as wraps.
  • Kale, green onions, and garlic scapes will also be in your box again this week.

We’ve saved the best news for last …

It won’t be long now!