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CSA 2018 – week 14

“Why are your hot peppers so expensive?”

It’s a question we hear sometimes at market, and we aren’t always sure how to answer it.

On Saturday Amy replied that it’s a lot of work to grow them. The woman who asked the question was amazed that we actually grew our hot peppers, and incredulous that it would involve work. ?? I usually respond by suggesting they really are not expensive.

This season’s pepper patch – smaller plants, with holes where plants have died. But there is a good crop or peppers & still lots of blossoms. If we have a warmer fall there should be peppers for a long time yet.

For the record, we sell our hot peppers individually for 25 cents each. There’s a reason for this. We used to sell the peppers in pints or half pint boxes but realized that people usually just wanted 1 or 2 peppers for a recipe, rather than a whole container. We don’t deal in nickels or dimes at market – for efficiency – so a quarter was the logical amount to charge. Some of the larger peppers sell for 50 cents even. Should a customer want a large amount of peppers, we of course give a better price.  Most customers like the option of being able to try several different kinds of peppers without having to buy a whole box.

Here’s a picture of our hot pepper display the other year at market (peppers in the middle row on the table).12 kinds of hot peppers arranged in order of hotness! (name labels are not visible in the photo).

Peppers have been slow to mature this season. We’ve only been picking a few peppers of the milder varieties for a couple of weeks now and the hotter varieties are still several weeks from harvest.

Peppers so far include (from top left, moving clockwise) poblano, Hungarian hot wax, jalapeno, serrano and shishito.

Shishito peppers are our latest pepper to try. Our son cooked in a restaurant in Vancouver and they are all the rage there, so we tried growing them. They grew well last season and sold quite well too, so we are growing them again this year. They are an heirloom Japanese pepper, bright green, with a sweet, fruity flavour and thin, tender, wrinkled skin. What makes a shishito exciting is that 1 in 10 peppers will be hot – and occasionally quite hot! They are simple to prepare and delicious to eat – certainly my new favourite pepper!

Heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add some minced fresh garlic. Cook the peppers whole, turning occasionally, until they begin to blister on all sides. Sprinkle with salt (and maybe a sprinkle of lemon or lime juice) and serve immediately. Eat the whole pepper – except the stem.

We are just starting to see the sweet peppers change colour & ripen too. There should be some in the CSA boxes this week or next.

Peppers in the field …

 Shepherd

 Bell

 Mini bell

 Golden Cayenne

 Habanero

 Scotch bonnet

 Ghost

What’s in the box?

Shishito peppers, zucchini, beans, bok choy, lettuce, cucumbers,

tomatoes, blackberries, garlic. 

  • Try these delicious Shishito peppers! See description & recipe above.
  • Our new zucchini plants are growing like weeds and producing large amounts of beautiful & tasty zucchini.

 

  • There will be beans in your box again this week – either green beans or Dragon’s Tongue. These are a flat bean – pale yellow with purple stripes. The flavour is great – flat beans are usually considered to taste better than round beans! Note that the purple stripes will disappear when the beans are cooked.
  • Bok choy is back! Both the bok choy & lettuce prefer the less hot & humid weather we’ve had lately (until today!).
  • Our cucumber plants are finally looking a bit weary. They have been producing prodigious amounts for several weeks now – and continue to do so. But the end is in sight! Enjoy cucumbers in your box again this week.
  • The tomato plants are still healthy – unusual for late August. Lots of new growth with many little tomatoes forming. It has been a great tomato year!
  • The recent rains have been a great help for the blackberry canes. They continue to ripen berries but the amounts are already decreasing. Enjoy a box of berries in your share.
  • We put a garlic bulb in the CSA box each week. Garlic lovers probably eat it all, while others are able to store bulbs to use later in the fall season. Remember to keep it dry and away from any moisture for maximum storage life.

Cleaning garlic is always a welcome job to finish the day – especially a hot Monday!

 

 


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CSA 2018 – week 13. Part 2

Friday night & early Saturday morning saw some much needed rain fall on our farm. It was coming down hard when we left for our Saturday market, but stopped before we reached Georgetown. We had a very successful market day!

The rain refreshed the crops and the ground and caused a jump in growth. Everything looked different this morning – greener, fresher, bigger …

 

… including the vegetables I transplanted on Friday, in anticipation of the rain.

We have covered some of the new plantings with the insect cover – not only to prevent the bugs from chewing the plants, but also to discourage the rabbits which have been feasting on some of our seedlings.

The tomato plants continue to pump out the fruit …

The new zucchini patch is starting to produce.

The next rows of sunflowers are opening. Sunflowers bring a lot of smiles at market!

Some winter squash is showing up now as we drive past the squash field. It’s always a surprise when we finally wade through the vines to see what is there.

The water garden that I mentioned in yesterday’s post was buzzing with bees & butterflies today – lots of them! That is Joe Pye weed they are enjoying.

What’s in the box?

Lettuce mix, arugula, kohlrabi, blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic.

  • It’s been a few weeks, but there will be lettuce mix in your share this week! Red & green leaves in an assortment of shapes & sizes, ready to make a tasty & beautiful salad. Add some spicy arugula for even more flavour!
  • Kohlrabi is also back. Peel it and crunch it raw, grate it into a salad or make noodles with your spiralizer (our favourite way to eat them!). We saute them with onions & garlic & fresh tomatoes.
  • Blackberries are amazing! Both sweet & tart, they taste great! I’m sure they get eaten almost immediately – but if not, store them in the fridge. They will keep for a day or two.
  • Our new CSA and farmers’ market customers have been hesitant to try the white cucumbers – but almost everyone who tries them comes back for more. Crunchy & delicious – I can’t get enough of them. We will have lots of big green cucumbers too. Cucumber salad anyone?!
  • Our garlic is mostly dry now. Break off as many cloves as you like to cook with, and keep the rest of the bulb unrefrigerated, and in a dry spot. They should keep well.

Other vegetables coming along are … beans – the next rows of beans are sizing up & we’re picking a few. We have harvested some sweet peppers too. As I mentioned earlier in spring, our peppers got off to a rough start & we ended up with less plants than we wanted/needed. They are now finally starting to ripen. Our new zucchini patch is starting to produce. The sweet corn is forming little ears and should be ready in a few weeks. Look for all these in your box soon.

The animals are all feeling a little jealous this week because …

… we welcomed little Isaiah James to our family on Wednesday.

Isaiah is our first grandchild and we’re excited grandparents! And Amy’s an excited aunt!

 

 


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CSA 2018 – week 13. Part 1 – water

We woke up one morning, a few weeks ago and discovered we had no water. Not one drop came out of our taps!

Our water comes from a well in our yard (about 125′ deep) and services our house, Amy’s house, both barns and the greenhouse. Not having any water is a big problem.

It was a CSA pick up day so there were lots of vegetables that needed to be washed & prepped. It was also the hottest week of the summer. Water was a necessity!

We formulated a plan. Friends who live one road over and have town water allowed us to wash our vegetables in their yard. My in-laws around the corner let us shower at their house, and my sister, who lives in the city brought us pails of water for drinking. It was awkward & inconvenient but it worked.

Water is something can be easily taken for granted – until it’s in short supply!

On our farm we are mostly dependant on the rains to provide enough moisture for the crops. While we have no control over the amount or rain that falls, there are steps we have taken to make the best use of the precipitation we receive.

The most important is to build up our soil.

By using manure & compost (instead of just chemical fertilizers) we increase not only fertility but also the soil’s organic matter which improves its ability to hold moisture. Because manure is increasingly difficult to source, we grow cover crops and green manures. These are non-vegetable producing plants that we grow for a season or part season and then work into the ground to add organic matter. A portion of our farm is always growing cover crop instead of vegetables. The next season we grow vegetables there and plant cover crop on another area.

We also use a lot of straw mulch. This keeps the moisture in the soil and prevents it from evaporating and drying in the hot sun. In fall the straw is worked into the ground again providing organic matter & improving the soil.

Cultivating or disturbing the soil is something we try to do less & less of. Keeping the ground covered with something – be it cover crop, vegetables or even weeds – keeps it from drying out. It doesn’t always make the farm look as nice as freshly worked dirt, but it’s healthier for the farm.

This summer has been quite dry overall and we can see how our soil improvements are helping to retain moisture and save our crops.

We collect water as well, so it is available when needed for watering vegetables & crops. Most of the rain that falls on our barn roofs is saved in cisterns – one at the end of each barn.

From there we pump it into a raised tank from which we can easily fill the sprayer/water tank and then water new transplants or other vegetables as needed.

We wash all our vegetables outside, beside the barn (an indoor washing room is in the plans for the future). The dirty water is sent to our water garden – a sunken area filled with moisture-loving native plants that use all this waste water and thrive!

Beautiful in early spring too!

Our well was not fixed (new pump) until later the following day. We were 2 days without running water, and still marvel each time we turn the tap and water flows out!

 

 

 

 


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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!


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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!