It is my earliest farm memory.
And of course it is weather related.
We were all picking cherries – my parents, my siblings and myself. It was a Black Tart tree close to our barn. Black tarts – or more properly Black Tartarian – was a sweet cherry variety that was already passe when this occured (probably 55+ years ago). It was a small, soft, heart-shaped, very sweet, dark coloured cherry. The problem with black tarts was that the fruit cracked & split at the first sign of rain. We probably kept this tree only because it was in the front yard – and my dad loved black tart cherry pie (mother would bake him 1 pie each cherry season – only 1 because sweet cherries are a pain to pit!).
We were trying to get the cherries picked before the coming storm but before we were finished, the rains came and it was a downpour! We grabbed the full baskets of cherries from under the tree and ran the 30 or 40′ to the barn. By the time we got to the barn we were soaked – and the perfect black tarts in the baskets had split & looked like popcorn! Why hadn’t we carried them in before the rain!
That was my first lesson on the damage that weather can cause.
We no longer grow fruit and don’t have to worry about cracked cherries, but weather remains a huge concern for us. These last few years the lack of rain is more often the issue rather than too much. This means we usually we have to water our vegetables when we plant them in the field. We use rainwater that we collect from our barn roofs and store in 2 large cisterns. If we run out we buy water by the truckload.
We continually improve our soil’s water-holding capacity by growing cover crops, and using manure & compost rather than fertilizer and straw to mulch the vegetables rather than plastic. Good soil allows the crops to grow & mature without any additional water (most years!).
This season we have had dry spells but also some timely rains. We have lost a lot of vegetables but managed to grow a lot more! Fortunately we have avoided any damaging storms.
Today I hurried to transplant some lettuce & spinach before it was perfectly watered by a lunchtime rain.
The forecast calls for some more rain overnight followed by sunshine tomorrow – a farmer’s dream!
What’s in the box?
Edamame, shishito peppers, red onion, yellow onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, mini-romaine lettuce, cabbage, beets.
Extras – Fennel (Tuesday only), kohlrabi …
- Edamame which are fresh, green soybeans have been around for 2000 years or more, first grown in China and then in Japan. There, it is a traditional bar snack eaten lightly steamed and sprinkled with salt. Edamame are full of protein, fibre and loaded with vitamins & minerals – a very healthy vegetable. And they are easy to prepare! Simply boil the pods in salted water for 3-5 minutes. Remove from the water & drain. Then squeeze the pods to pop out the beans and enjoy as a healthy snack. Delicious! We like them sprinkled with lime juice and salt. Or they can be added to soups, stews, salads, noodle dishes …
- Shishito peppers are one of our favourite vegetables. They are a small, thin, bright green pepper, with a sweet, fruity flavour and thin, tender, wrinkled skin. What makes a shishito exciting is that 1 in 10 peppers will be slightly hot! They are simple to prepare and delicious to eat! While you can use them as you would any other sweet pepper, they are best eaten charred in olive oil in a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan over medium-high heat. Cook the peppers whole, turning occasionally, until they begin to blister on all sides. This only takes a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and a splash of lime juice and some parmesan cheese, and serve immediately. Eat the whole pepper – except the stem.
- There will be 2 onions in your CSA share this week. The yellow onion is Ailsa Craig, a mild, Spanish onion. The red onion is a classic Italian variety called Rossa di Milano that has a stronger more pungent flavour than the yellow. You can use them interchangeably in your recipes (keeping in mind the flavour differences).
- The garlic is now dry and can be stored at room temperature in a dry area for many months. The bulb can be broken open and partially used without the remainder spoiling. Enjoy!
- As usual your box will include a selection of tomatoes, both smaller, cherry size in many colours & shapes and the larger beefsteak tomatoes.
- Your salad green this week is mini-romaine lettuce. While we have lost several plantings of our lettuce mix due to the heat, the mini-romaine is doing great this year.
- We still have cabbage in the cooler, that we picked a few weeks ago. Cabbage stores well and it is still juicy & tasty!
- The most asked about vegetable this season is beets. For sure we have not had beets in the box as often as other years – but we do have a lot planted and they are looking good! Enjoy a few this week and expect more in the coming weeks.
- Extras this week are kohlrabi and fennel.
- Fennel is a less familiar vegetable to many. It has a beautiful anise or licorice flavour and is wonderful shaved into salads or sliced on a vegetable tray. Roasting or sauteing fennel results in a milder and very delicious flavour. Again, http://www.cookwithwhatyouhave.com has many recipes and tips for how to use fennel. Unfortunately our 1st planting of fennel did not get the moisture it needed to size up properly. It did get a lot more heat than it needed! The result is small fennel bulbs. (Fennel can be a difficult vegetable to grow anytime!) If you like fennel grab one of these “baby” fennel bulbs. We should have enough for Tuesday’s boxes. Thursday & Friday pick-up will have to wait for the next planting to mature in a few weeks.
Around the farm this week …
The new row of zucchini is growing well and already has tiny fruit.
Last years vegetable patch has been planted to various cover crops. In spring we had peas & oats. For the summer we have buckwheat. In fall we’ll seed a mixture of crops to cover the ground for the winter. Each crop has a purpose – either to add different nutrients to the soil, or smother weeds, or add organic matter … The buckwheat is in bloom now and a neighbour brought some beehives. Bees love buckwheat and it makes great honey!
Left picture – our winter cabbage patch last week. Right picture – our winter cabbage patch this week.