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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!