Thiessen Farms

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CSA 2016 – week 7

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Sunflowers just seem to make people happy!

And we’ve got a long row of them, which is a whole lot of happiness.

They are at their peak right now & looking bright & beautiful. We took about 9 big pails full to market on Saturday – they were to first things to sell & we sold out in a hurry. We had some for sale at CSA pick-up on Friday & lots were snapped up. There’s even some available at the road – self-serve – and they’re moving there too. It seems that people really like sunflowers.

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The plan was to plant a lot of sunflowers this season. We ordered a whole pile of seeds in the winter – 5 or 6 kinds, different colours & sizes. We would seed a row every week to ensure a continuous supply of blooms for much of the summer. Even if sales were poor, the farm would look great!

That was the plan.

The reality was that we seeded that first row – and no more. We got busy … it got dry … so only 1 row. They’re blooming now and by next week they’ll be over.

But for now, that row looks great!

And sunflowers are making us happy!

What’s in the box?

Tomatoes, basil, broccoli, zucchini, green onions & beets.

  • With each pick we are harvesting more & more tomatoes. Along with the early cherry & grape tomatoes, we are now picking salad size & even a few large tomatoes. I know that in a few weeks everyone will be groaning at yet more tomatoes, but at this stage in the season it’s a big hurray!!
  • What goes with tomatoes? Basil! There will be a bunch of fresh basil in your share this week – the beginning of a beautiful tomato-basil salad.
  • While the first planting of broccoli was sparse, the 2nd … & 3rd are maturing together & coming on strong. The heads are not large because of the dry conditions but they taste great. Find several in your box this week.
  • We put another planting of zucchini in the ground last week, but the first patch continues to produce well. Choose from green, yellow or green striped, & maybe a few patty pan summer squash. Different shapes & colours but all taste similar & are used the same way.
  • This is probably the end of the green onions. Next week should see big onions in the share.
  • Beets – we’ll call them baby beets since they don’t seem to be growing at all. Enjoy another bunch this week.

Last week’s box.

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CSA 2016 – week 6

 

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We always get excited when the first tomatoes are ripe & ready for harvest.

The cherry tomatoes lead the way – orange, yellow, pink & red – along with some grape & smaller salad sized fruit. So far there have been just enough to tease our customers at market & prove the old adage – the early bird gets the worm (or tomato in this case). This week we are picking a few more, enough to also tease our CSA members & provide a small taste.

But this week is really a good news/bad news scenario.

Bad news first …

The lack of rainfall or drought as it’s being rightly called, is beginning to have a more noticeable effect on our CSA boxes. We could entitle it “what’s not in the box?

Raspberries are the biggest disappointment. They have come, and almost gone in a hurry. What began as a promising crop has been reduced by 90% – we’re only picking about 10% of an average crop. The rest have dried up. Other crops that have been lost or reduced include fava beans, the first plantings of broccoli & cauliflower, green beans, sweet onions, edamame. Peas – snow, shell & sugar snap – and spinach were good while they lasted, which was about half as long as usual. The losses will be felt right through the season since we have not been able to seed as many vegetables lately as planned. Everything has to be watered now in order to get it to germinate, & water is in short supply! Crops that have been transplanted are faring poorly. About 1/3 of our winter squash didn’t make it along with fennel, some lettuce …

The result is a CSA box that may be getting smaller instead of larger, and a table at the farmers’ market with less instead of more.

But there is good news!

As already noted, the tomato harvest has begun & they are looking good. We are watering them as much as we can & so far it’s paying off. The plants are outdoing themselves.

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Peppers, eggplant & even artichokes have established themselves & are growing – albeit slowly. The winter squash that survived are beginning to runner & spread and have blossoms & small squash. Zucchini, the next plantings of broccoli, kale, collards, beets … are doing well.

Blackberries – one of our biggest crops – are looking good. We remain hopeful but know they require a lot of water as they ripen, more than we can give them.

So now that you know what’s happening on the farm…

What’s in the box?

Raspberries, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, collard greens, lettuce, zucchini, beets, green onions & garlic scapes.

  • We picked raspberries today & were pleasantly surprised to find some nice ones. So there will be a small box in your share this week (Tues pick-up for sure, Friday is uncertain).
  • Since there are only a few cherry tomatoes & a few broccoli, everyone will get one or the other.
  • Collard greens – a delicious green but not as common or well-known as kale or chard or spinach. 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. Sauteeing collards without boiling first is another cooking method. It results in slightly stronger flavoured greens with a chewier texture.
  • Lettuce makes a return appearance in the box this week – probably small heads rather than the mix we’ve had most weeks.
  • Zucchini, beets, green onions & garlic scapes are all around for another week.

Here are 2 recipes – a simple collard green recipe & one for beet burgers that a CSA member passed on to us (thanks Cory!).

Sautéed Collard Greens

         ingredients

    • collard greens
    • several garlic scapes
    • 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.

Quarter Pound Beet Burgers  

http://www.theppk.com/2012/02/quarter-pounder-beet-burger/

Last week’s CSA box (half share)

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Oliver & one of the Flynns – always reminding us to make time to relax & just chill!

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CSA 2016 – week 5

 

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Today is a good day to show off some of our crops …

  • These vegetables are looking healthy & green – despite being thirsty.
  • Most of the weeds are under control – but don’t look too closely!
  • The grass is cut & edges are trimmed.

We’re fairly satisfied with the way the farm is looking right now.

Other areas where we have been harvesting are tired & spent. As soon as everything is picked the vegetables will be mowed down. Usually we would plan to work up the ground & either reseed another vegetable crop or sow a cover crop to keep the weeds down & improve the soil. Because it is so dry, we will simply mow the plants & then keep mowing as necessary, using the weeds as the cover crop. When the rains do finally come, we can then work up the soil & plant the cover crop.

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What’s in the box?

Raspberries, peas, beets, zucchini, salad turnips, green onions, garlic scapes.    

extras – kohlrabi

  • Raspberries! It seems everyone has been waiting for them. They taste great, but are a little small due to lack of moisture. The canes too are really suffering – drying up & dying – because they need a lot of rain. So unfortunately there will only be a small box. We also can’t promise there will be any more raspberries in your share next week.
  • Sugar snap or snow peas – you could get either kind this week. We have started to pick a new patch of snow peas. There should be a few for Tuesday, and more by Friday’s pick-up. Our row of sugar snaps is surprising us & continues to produce.
  • Your bunch of beets may be red or golden or a combination. There’s not much difference between them – except the colour, so use them the same way. Remember that the beet greens are edible too!
  • Our zucchini plants are ramping up production so there will be a couple zucchini in your box this week. They are better looking now too – not quite so ugly & misshapen.
  • Salad turnips are getting rave reviews – enjoy them again! This may be the last week for turnips.
  • To finish the box, add a bunch of green onions & garlic scapes.
  • for those who haven’t had enough kohlrabi, there will be some available as an extra. Pick one up if you want. Here’s a link to a recipe for kohlrabi fritters that a CSA member sent. They enjoyed these vegan & gluten free fritters – http://honestcooking.com/kohlrabi-fritters-vermont-csa/

Thank you for remembering to bring your box back each week.

Please return all other containers as well for reuse.

Here’s a look at last week’s box – a full share.

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CSA 2016 – week 4

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This is a picture of bean plants just poking up through the soil.

When I checked this morning to see if they were up, there was nothing. This evening most of the row was visible. I’m always amazed how they first appear as little green hoops (like on the left). Then the one end pops out of the ground & quickly the first leaves unfurl. By tomorrow morning there will be a whole row of bright green leaves on little stems. We’ll be eating these beans later in August.

Seeds germinating & growing are always amazing & beautiful – but common on the farm. We plant beans every few weeks in order to have a continuous supply for much of the summer.

What is different about this planting is the extra effort that it took for them to reach this stage. Last week we sowed these beans into soil that was really just dry dust – barely any moisture was visible. I watered the row hard after planting & almost every day since. It paid off & most seeds have germinated. However I cannot continue to water daily so I hope their roots will go down deep & find enough moisture to grow & thrive on their own.

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In contrast to the beans, our latest seeding of lettuce mix is doing well without any watering. Notice how dry the soil is.

Other vegetables growing well now include green onions & sugar snap peas.

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Our fava beans got off to a good start & customers at our markets have been waiting anxiously for them. But without the needed rain, many of the bean pods are drying up & even the plants are wilting & drying.

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The zucchini plants are beginning to produce zucchini, but the bugs – many of which thrive in hot & dry weather – are feasting on the leaves & blossoms.

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It is becoming a challenging season & we desperately require rain. There have been brief showers in the area, but we seem to have missed them. What is needed now is at least an all-day (or night) rain & preferably several days of steady precipitation in order to bring moisture levels back up.

What’s in the box?

Peas, garlic scapes, green onions, beets, zucchini, kohlrabi, salad turnips, lettuce mix.

  • Peas are a good news/bad news story. Good news – the snow peas in your box last week tasted great! Bad news – while we can usually pick a patch of peas for 2 weeks, the snow peas lasted only 1 week, due to the drought. Good news – we have more rows of peas coming. Your share this week will include more delicious peas. They might be snow peas, or shelling peas or even sugar snap peas. What’s the difference? With snow peas you eat the whole thing, pod and all. Shell peas have to be opened & only the round little peas inside are eaten – the pods are tough & stringy. Sugar snap peas are the best of both. You eat everything like a snow pea, but the peas inside are bigger, almost like a shelling pea.
  • Garlic scapes are a favourite for many. They are the top of the garlic plant. We cut them off so the garlic puts all it’s energy into forming a nice big bulb underground. Leaving the scapes to grow would produce flowers & seeds instead, which we don’t need or want. Use them wherever garlic bulbs are used – raw or cooked. Their flavour is a bit milder than garlic.
  • The first onions of the season are green onions, also called bunching onions or scallions. Use the whole thing – the green leaves & the small, bottom white bulb.
  • Beets – one of our favourite vegetables. We prefer them roasted in a slow oven, either alone or with some of the other vegetables from the box. They are also good raw, shredded into a salad or grilled on the barbecue.
  • Ugly or misshapen vegetables are a big thing in some of the grocery stores now. Of course on the farm we’ve been selling blemished produce or 2nds for years. This week’s zucchini might have some odd shapes & sizes. The first picking of zucchini is often like that. Still tastes great though!
  • How did you enjoy the kohlrabi last week? Our favourite way to prepare it (other than raw in slices) turned out to be sautéed in butter & garlic (or garlic scapes) for just a few minutes. Then add just a dash of nutmeg. Delicious!
  • This week’s share will include lettuce mix & salad turnips again. There should be lettuce for several weeks yet – or until the hot weather turns it bitter.

A reminder that we still have CSA pick-up this Friday – Canada Day!

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Flynn looking a little lazy on a hot afternoon.

 

 


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CSA 2016 – week 3

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Just behind our small greenhouse, tucked between the rows of rhubarb, is a little square of garden – wild garden – that is one of my favourite areas on the farm right now. Mostly, I like it because I haven’t done anything with it this season. No seeding or planting, no weeding, no watering – nothing. Yet it has yielded abundant crops of parsley, cilantro, dill & chamomile. I planted all those things here last season & then left them to go to seed. As I had hoped, they all returned this year, growing lush & strong. Since early spring we have enjoyed our scrambled eggs with dill, added cilantro & parsley to our salads – all without any effort or work on our part. Now we have let it go to flower again & the blossoms are full of bees & other pollinating insects. Shortly, I’ll mow it all down & the crops will regrow again. The only downside is the weeds mixed in that are also going to seed & will return with a vengeance.

If only the whole farm were so easy!

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The sky early this morning was beautiful – but we knew it was to be a scorcher! While we wilted in the heat, we managed to accomplish a lot. But the plants are also wilting in the heat & shriveling in the drying winds. No rain in sight!

Our usually rich, dark soil has become very dry & dusty. Plants that we recently transplanted into the fields are struggling to survive.

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Those that were established earlier continue to do well, though growth is slow & some are showing signs of suffering.

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What’s in the box?

Kohlrabi, snow peas, lettuce, radishes & salad turnips.

  • We have not offered kohlrabi in our CSA shares for several seasons – but not for lack of trying. We just have had difficulty getting it to grow properly. This season, on the advice of more experienced growers, we started it in the greenhouse & transplanted it to the field – with much success! Many people are not familiar with kohlrabi, so here’s a quick tutorial.

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Kohlrabi is a strange-looking vegetable – sort of like a cross between a little cabbage and a turnip. It is usually considered a root vegetable, though the edible round globe grows above ground.

Kohlrabi is usually eaten raw – just peeled & sliced. The taste & texture resembles fresh, crunchy broccoli stems, with a bit of radish thrown in. Use on raw vegetable platters and serve with a creamy dip.               Grated kohlrabi can be added to slaws.

Kohlrabi can also be steamed or boiled but don’t peel until after they are cooked. When the bulbs are tender, peel skin, and season with butter, salt, and pepper, a cheese sauce, or just enjoy plain.                     They are good for mashing with other vegetables – parsnips, carrots or potatoes.                                             Kohlrabi absorbs the flavour of other ingredients making it ideal to add to soup, stew and stir-fries.

If the leaves attached to the kohlrabi bulb are fresh and green, they can be enjoyed as a cooked green. Wash the leaves and remove the ribs. Blanch in boiling water until just wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze excess water from leaves. Chop leaves, then sauté in a little olive oil or butter. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of vinegar or squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

The bulbs should be stored, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the fridge. They will hold for about a week.

Here is a link to a recipe using kohlrabi & radishes – http://pin.it/WXElbey

  • Snow peas are always a favourite for our CSA members. Steam, saute, or stir fry them. Enjoy them raw in salads or just as a snack.
  • Lettuce, radishes & salad turnips make repeat appearances in the CSA box again this week.

 

…  a few pictures of pick-up day for our CSA last week.

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CSA 2016 – week 2

Our farmers’ markets (North York & downtown Georgetown) have been going for a couple of weeks now, and it’s great to be back. It’s always good to see familiar faces & old friends again.

But I will admit that we began this market season with a lot of uncertainty & some trepidation. We knew that one of the first questions most people ask is, “How are the crops. Did the fruit trees come through the winter ok?” And then we have to tell them that we are no longer in the fruit-growing business. Reactions are usually similar – disbelief & confusion, along with disappointment (and occasionally even some anger), followed by the question “Why?” We have our standard answer, which is basically a shortened version of our blog post from last fall (https://thiessenfarms.com/2015/11/11/changes). It is not entirely a satisfactory answer for many customers and they leave our market stall unsure of what to think. But most have also assured us of their continued support & patronage, as they anticipate our vegetables & berries. For this we are grateful.

This is our 2nd week of CSA. We are not getting the same questions & reactions as at the market because our CSA members already knew. Most read our blog & saw the news last fall, or saw in our 2016 CSA information that fruit would no longer be a part of the program. While many responded by not joining us again, others are giving us a chance to fill their weekly boxes with a greater selection of fresh vegetables & berries.

Another question we commonly get is, “How are things growing?” or, “Getting enough rain?”

Answer – The crops continue to grow despite the lack of precipitation. We have not had a good rainfall since … I don’t remember. But this is when we see the benefits of our soil building efforts through the years. All the manure, compost & mulch that we regularly add has built up the organic matter and improved the soil’s ability to hold moisture. While it is extremely dry on the surface, there is still some ( not enough) below. Seeds that are sown now have to be well watered in order to germinate. Then the roots head down, down searching for moisture. Most continue to grow – slowly. Transplants that we set out now also need to be watered in, usually several times. Even then they struggle and are not thriving as we would like to see. But it could be much worse …

We prefer to mulch the vegetables after a rain when the ground is wet. The mulch will then keep the soil from drying out & hold the moisture. But since that isn’t going to happen this year, we mulched the tomatoes today as the plants are getting large. Then we began to stake & tie them.

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The zucchini also got mulched.

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Onions got weeded …

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along with the fava beans & sunflowers.

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What’s in the box?

Salad turnips, lettuce, spinach, radishes, Asian greens, plants.

  • Salad turnips are small, round, white turnips that resemble radishes – but without the bite. Mild in flavour, crisp, and quite tender, they are best eaten raw – simply wash, cut off the tops and enjoy! They can also be stir fried, sautéed, or steamed – both the turnips & the green tops.
  • Lettuce mix (or perhaps single varieties of lettuce), spinach, radishes – it’s fresh salad time.
  • The Asian greens are delicious to eat but frustrating to grow. While they come on quickly, which is a good thing, they also finish quickly. Some our plantings bolted (which means blooming & going to seed) before we could even harvest them. But they sure look beautiful in the field, and the bees & other pollinating insects love them! See the picture below.
  • We know many of our CSA members enjoy having their own gardens too. This week choose a tomato, pepper, or eggplant plant to grow. While you can expect to get plenty of all of these vegetables in your boxes this summer you may still want the pleasure & satisfaction of growing & picking some of your own produce.

 

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CSA 2016 – week 1

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This picture pretty well sums up the last few weeks here on the farm.

We have been planting, transplanting and watering. Throw in some weeding and an average day is complete.

Many of our vegetables are started in the greenhouse & then transplanted into the field at the appropriate time. In the picture above, (taken 2 weeks ago) we have just finished transplanting tomatoes and I am watering them in. We always water the transplants – it helps to get them off to a good start.

Here are the same tomatoes 2 weeks later – big enough to be mulched. After mulching we will stake them, then sucker (prune) and tie them. Already there are lots of little tomatoes on the plants. It won’t be long …

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Usually that initial watering at transplanting time is enough. After that the vegetable plants are on there own, relying on the rain to keep them watered. But because the precipitation has been scarce lately, we have taken to watering them several times, just to ensure a good start.

The vegetables have been enjoying the warm temperatures, but the lack of regular rain has slowed down their growth.

On the weekend we received some small rains – not a lot, but enough to refresh the plants & the soil and really perk things up. Of course the weeds were also beneficiaries and are responding vigorously!

Here’s a look at some of the crops today …

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The colourful lettuce mix & spinach seen below will be part of the CSA boxes this week.

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What’s in the box?

lettuce mix, spinach, misc. greens, radishes, pea shoots & rhubarb.

  • The lettuce mix & spinach & greens have been rinsed once to remove some of the field dirt. You will want to wash them more thoroughly, then bag them & keep them refrigerated.
  • We grow an assortment of greens – this week most of them are baby pak choy. We prefer to eat it stir fried with a bit of sesame oil. Heat it very briefly so it retains the bright colour & crispness.
  • The first radishes of spring are always a sharp treat. The degree of heat depends a lot on the growing temperatures. Based on that, they should pack quite a punch after the hot weather last week. They will store well in a bag in the fridge – remove the leaves first. If they lose their crunch, soaking them in ice water for 20 minutes will restore crispness (it will also make them milder tasting though).
  • Pea shoots – excellent in salads or stir fries. Just place the box outside in partial shade or inside near a window. Keep them well watered & use as needed. Cut them about half way down, leaving stem & some leaves. They will grow back – slowly – and you can harvest them again. Cutting them all the way down at soil level gives a larger harvest – but only once.
  • Your CSA box this week will contain a few stalks of rhubarb. There should be enough to make a pie – for those who bake. We like to make a rhubarb crisp. It’s easier, quicker, and perhaps a bit healthier? Here’s the recipe we use …

Aunt Elvira’s Fruit Crisp

Cut up rhubarb (or any fruit) and half fill a pie plate.

Mix together …

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup flour

¼ cup rolled oats

½ tsp cinnamon

3 TB butter

(adjust the amounts to suit your preferences)

Cover fruit with this mixture.

Bake for approx.. 12 minutes in the microwave.

We are excited to be starting CSA for another season.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at pick-up this week!

 

 

 

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