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CSA 2018 – week 4

There were puddles on the driveway today – and on the farm – something we have not seen in quite a while. About 2 1/2 cm (1 inch) of rain fell this afternoon – rain that was very welcome and very much-needed.

The farm had been getting quite dry. Seeds we had sown were germinating slowly & poorly. Vegetables we had transplanted to the fields were suffering and shriveling, despite being watered.

Today’s rain will go a long way towards reviving, refreshing & renewing the crops. We are thankful!

Before the rain, the day started out hot – very hot! And humid too. And windy – hot winds, not refreshing winds! Actually, the last few Mondays have been similar.

Mondays are the day we usually do a lot of transplanting …

On the Monday we transplanted zucchini, tomatillos & bitter melons, the winds blew & the tender seedlings cowered & wilted in the hot, dry soil. We watered & watered. A lot didn’t make it (especially the tomatillos) but those that did are looking healthy & growing – finally!

The zucchini have blossoms & even little fruit showing. It won’t be long now …

It’s been a rough season for our peppers right from the start. Cold weather back in March when we seeded them in the greenhouse hindered germination. Continuing cold temperatures meant poor growth & higher than usual mortality. Then last Monday we transplanted the survivors into the field. Again the withering winds blew & the poor peppers struggled yet again.

Today we had a trailer full of eggplant to put out in the field, eggplant that are long overdue to be planted! But with a forecast calling for extreme heat, humidity & winds – we decided to wait.

Before the rains came today, we had started to mulch the peppers …

We were staking the tomatoes …

… and starting to sucker & tie the tomato plants.

The plants have many little tomatoes already!

What’s in the box?

Snow peas, kohlrabi, radishes, salad turnips, lettuce, spinach, green onions.

  • Last Tuesday there were not quite enough snow peas for CSA. By Friday there were plenty. This week we are picking both the 1st and the 2nd planting – which means the season will go quickly. But enjoy the snow peas in your box this week, whether you prefer them raw as a snack or quickly blanched or stir-fried. They are delicious any way!

  • 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 a week. Our favourite way to eat kohlrabi (other than raw in slices) is to sautée it in butter & garlic for just a few minutes. Then add just a dash of nutmeg. Delicious!

  • The next plantings of radishes are ready. There are several kinds – it will be a surprise what ends up in your share this week. The hotter temperatures have probably increased the heat of the radishes too!
  • Salad turnips, lettuce, spinach & green onions – all the makings for a fresh & delicious salad. The hot weather has pushed the spinach along & much of it is now going to seed. There should be enough for Tuesday’s box – probably none for Friday!

Enjoying a nap in the barn during the rain.

Enjoying a walk (and a rest) after the rain!

 

 

 

 

 

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CSA 2018 – week 3

The view from our farm is pretty spectacular these days!

Our neighbours seeded a cover crop of mustard earlier this spring, and now it is in full bloom.

Mustard is an excellent cover crop. It will suppress weeds, provide habitat for bees & insects when in bloom, and when it is mowed down it will provide organic matter for the soil. But probably one of mustard’s most interesting & potentially beneficial properties is that it works as a biofumigant. This means that when it is worked into the soil it releases compounds that are harmful to bacteria, fungi, insects, nematodes, and weeds. All of this will benefit the strawberries that will be planted in these fields this fall.

But right now we are surrounded by all this beauty!

We also seed cover crops on our farm. Different crops & mixtures of crops are used depending on what we hope to achieve.

This is crimson clover which we had blooming last month. Clover provides a habitat for bees & other insects,  fixes nitrogen in the soil (thus reducing the need for fertilizer), and it adds organic matter.

These purple blooms are hairy vetch that we had growing along with rye & other crops over the winter. Not all of it winter killed and now some is blooming beside the garlic patch. Vetch also fixes nitrogen in the soil, improves tilth & provides some weed control.

Areas of our farm that we will not be planting to vegetables until later this summer have been seeded to cover crops as well. The main reason to plant them now is to help keep the weeds from taking over.

Speaking of weeds … we have had some success in reclaiming vegetables from the weeds. Remember the pictures we posted last week? Things are looking better again.

As well, all the tomatoes have been mulched with straw, and the zucchini, tomatilloes & bitter melons. At least we won’t have to deal with weeds in these crops!

What’s in the box?

Salad turnips, kale, green onions, lettuce or lettuce mix, spinach.

  • Salad turnips are small, round, white turnips that resemble radishes, but without the bite – usually! 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.

  • I usually consider kale to be a fall vegetable – but it grows well in spring too! It also can be eaten raw, in a salad, or cooked – steamed, sautéed, stir-fried. We have 2 kinds of kale now – the curly kale, and black kale also called dinosaur kale. They look different but taste similar.
  • Green onions, lettuce & spinach will be included in your box again this week. The green onions are growing a bit bigger, but will still be tender & tasty. The lettuce may be the same mix as previous weeks or heads of green or red lettuce.
  • Snow peas were supposed to be the star of the week! We picked them for the first time this morning, anticipating an abundance for the shares this week. Unfortunately we were rushing them, so no snow peas for Tuesday pick-up – but there should be snow peas by Friday. Here’s hoping!

There’s been no rain to fill the bird bath – but it still gets used!

And another view of the yellow mustard fields.


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CSA 2018 – week 2

What happened?

Last week Thiessen Farms had fields of clean, neat and (relatively) weed-free vegetables.

This week … it’s weeds, weeds, weeds!

Here are 2 examples of last week vs today. And this is despite time & effort spent hoeing & weeding.

The increase of weeds is not surprising. Last week’s heat & humidity together with the few showers we received encouraged not only the vegetables to grow, but especially the weeds.

While weeding is my happy place (it really is), I surely can’t handle this much happiness!

Of all the crops, onions are particularly hampered by weeds. Their shallow root system cannot compete with weeds. Plus, onion leaves are small & narrow and don’t shade out any weeds (like zucchini can for example) which means they get weedy quickly. We grow a lot of onions, and try hard to keep them weed-free. Weedy onions = small onions!

Sometimes we are successful …

Other onion patches are a work in progress.

Because onions – especially green onions – are in the ground for only a short period of time, hoeing and hand weeding are the best ways to look after them. Other crops – like tomatoes or peppers – that are around for the full season and would compete with weeds right through the fall, get mulched with straw rather. The straw prevents most weeds from growing & eliminates the need for weeding.

All of our tomatoes are planted in the fields now, and we have started to mulch them.

What’s in the box?

Radishes, green onions, lettuce, spinach, bok choy.

  • The first radishes are ready – crisp & spicy & zesty! Enjoy them raw as a snack, or add them to your salads.
  • The first onions of the season are green onions, also called bunching onions or scallions. Eat all the onion- the green leaves & the small, bottom white bulb.
  • It’s salad time! enjoy the fresh flavour & texture of lettuce & spinach.
  • Bok choy usually goes to flower when the heat & humidity rise. But I guess last week’s temperatures were not enough to cause them to bolt yet. Use bok choy in your favourite stir-fry recipe – alone or with the green onions & radishes … We have included a bok choy recipe that we tried & enjoyed this week – quick & easy with great flavours!

GARLIC AND GINGER BOK CHOY   (from https://lydiasflexitariankitchen.com)

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly (or green garlic)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari)
  • 4 baby bok choy, cut in half lengthwise, root and leaves trimmed – I used a whole bag
  • ¼ cup water (plus more as needed)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch or tapioca starch
  • sesame seeds for garnish
METHOD
  1. Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large skillet or dutch oven
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a couple minutes, taking care the garlic doesn’t burn
  3. Add the tamari, then the bok choy, turning to coat in the oil and seasoning.
  4. Add ¼ cup of water and cover the pan with a lid. Steam the bok choy until the stem end is tender, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add more water if necessary.
  5. Make a slurry of the cornstarch with some water. Push the bok choy to the sides and pour the slurry into the center, stirring to make a sauce. It should thicken and become glossy.
  6. Remove the bok choy to a platter, pour the sauce over top and garnish with the sesame seeds.

 

Perhaps next week we can again show pictures of clean, neat and (relatively) weed-free vegetables?

Probably not!

 


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CSA 2018 – week 1- Surprise!

I don’t go out to the fields on Sunday.

I try not to even look at the vegetables that day.

It’s not so much that I might be tempted to pull a few weeds (true), or that I’ll get stressed when I see all that needs to be done (maybe), or even that Sunday is our day of rest (for sure!) …

Rather, I don’t check the crops on Sunday because I want to be surprised on Monday.

All week we’re out in the fields – planting, weeding, mulching, harvesting … always working with the crops. Seeing them so much, we don’t readily notice the changes, and how things are growing. Simply skipping a day ensures we’ll be surprised when we return on Monday.

(It’s just like Sage. We know she’s growing. But when did she go from this …

… to this – 50 lbs at today’s weigh in.)

Certainly the farm surprised us this morning! Everything is growing so fast now!

I will admit we were already surprised last Friday. While I was still planning to send out an email giving a heads-up that CSA would start in a week or even 2, we realized there were enough vegetables ready that CSA could begin this week. Surprise!

We will harvest the lovely lettuce mix …

Spinach …

And bok choy.

Notice that the white netting which covers the bok choy and prevents insects from chewing on the leaves isn’t quite long enough to cover the entire row.

Here’s the result. The covered bok choy has almost perfect leaves.

The plants that were not protected look like this …

It won’t affect the flavour – but they sure don’t look as appealing or appetizing!

What’s in the box?

Lettuce mix, spinach, bok choy, green garlic, rhubarb.

  • The lettuce mix, spinach & bok choy have all been rinsed once to remove any field dirt. You will probably want to wash them again before eating. Store them in the plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will usually last about a week.
  • Bok choy is a great Asian vegetable. It can be added to your salad and eaten raw, but most often is sautéed or stir fried. We like to cook some garlic or chopped green garlic in a bit of oil (olive or sesame) for a couple of minutes, then add the bok choy and continue cooking until it is wilted & still bright green – around 5 minutes or less.
  • Green garlic is a fresh garlic plant. At this time of year the bulb has not yet formed below ground, and the green top is still tender enough to eat, like a scallion or green onion. Green garlic is milder than fall garlic bulbs. Use them raw (eg. sliced into salads or mashed with goat cheese for a spread) or cooked (sautéed with scrambled eggs)  anywhere you would use garlic. They are also delicious coated with olive oil & tossed whole on the barbecue. Store green garlic in the fridge.
  • There should be enough rhubarb in your box to make a pie. Or almost as good, and way easier & faster, make a rhubarb crisp or crumble. As usual we have included our favourite recipe below. It’s quick, easy, and delicious. We also enjoy stewed rhubarb. Chop rhubarb and cook in a saucepan with a bit of water until tender. Add sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup) to taste. We sometimes add apples or other fruit to cut the tartness of the rhubarb. Delicious on it’s own or poured over ice cream, pudding or custard.

Aunt Elvira’s Fruit Crisp

Cut up enough rhubarb (or any fruit) to 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 & taste.)

Cover fruit with this mixture.

Bake for approx. 12 minutes in the microwave.

We usually bake it in the oven rather – 350 F for approx. 30 minutes. The topping gets crispier & browner.

We are looking forward to seeing everyone at CSA pick up this week!

 

 

 


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CSA 2017 – Final week!

This is it!

The final week of CSA for 2017.

Thank you for giving us the privilege of growing your food this season, and for placing your trust in us & our farming. We appreciate it!

Thank you for all your encouragement, comments & critique!

What’s in the box?

Salad turnips, leeks, squash, carrots, peppers, onions, garlic, baby kale.

  • A new planting of salad turnips is ready – just in time! Remember them from earlier in the season? They are white, small, & round, resembling radishes. 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.
  • We grew leeks several years ago – and vowed we would not grow them again! But we did! To end up with thick, long, white leeks requires a lot of work & technique. We didn’t do that! We grew them like onions to see what would happen. The results are acceptable (not amazing) – smaller, white leeks that will make a terrific soup.

  • As we mentioned in last weeks newsletter, the squash crop is poor this year. Many farmers around the province are experiencing the same. The wet weather earlier in the season meant poor pollination and a light crop. There will be another squash in your share this week – a small squash.
  • Your final box of this season will also include carrots, peppers, onions, garlic & baby kale.

_______________________________

While our CSA might be coming to an end, our farmers’ markets continue – Georgetown for 2 more weeks until 14 October, and North York right until the end of the month, October 26.

Much of the farm is looking empty …

and increasingly so, as we mow down the crops that are finished. But the warmer, sunny days have brought out a lot of bees & insects, so I have left a lot of the late-blooming weeds, wildflowers & even vegetables to give them a source of food.

There are still vegetables growing for our markets …

… and weeds too!

_______________________

Thank you for being part of our CSA this season.

We hope you enjoyed the taste, variety & surprise of a new box of fresh vegetables each week! 

Thank you for making the commitment to drive to our farm each week to pick up your box, and the commitment to then use the vegetables (including the less familiar & perhaps less liked ones).

See you again next year!


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CSA 2017 – Week 17

It’s week 17 of our CSA – only 1 more week left!

Some years we are almost out of vegetables by now and the boxes reflect this.

But this year we are still picking a lot of stuff! In fact, there are 5 new vegetables in the share this week! We’re pretty excited about that.

What’s in the box?

Carrots, corn, squash, shallots, baby kale, peppers, arugula, lettuce, garlic.

  • Carrots are not something usually found in our CSA box. We have not grown them in years. But we tried them again this season – and they turned out great. And they taste even better!

  • We grow 1 planting of corn each year. This season we got it in quite late and weren’t sure it would mature in time. But it has! Enjoy some fresh corn-on-the-cob in your share this week. I’ll give the same warning I do each year – the corn is not sprayed so don’t be surprised if you find a few worms. In the past, most CSA members have said they prefer to cut out a worm or 2, rather than have insecticide on their corn. Please give us your opinion on this.
  • We began to cut the squash today and pile it up in the field to cure. It felt wrong to be harvesting a fall vegetable in such hot & humid conditions (high 30’s C.). It also felt wrong – or at least disappointing – to have such a poor harvest. We planted 27 varieties but picked only about a dozen kinds, and very few squash in total. Butternut squash is one that turned out ok. It is also one of the more popular kinds. It is a delicious squash with a thick, orange flesh, somewhat sweet and nutty. It is very versatile and can be used for roasting, stews & casseroles, and baking (pies, muffins, bread …).

  • Instead of onions there will be shallots in your box this week. Shallots are similar to an onion but perhaps less pungent & a little sweeter, with a hint of garlic. This makes them excellent to use raw, perhaps in salads or dressings. When cooking with shallots, you will notice a finer, smoother texture well suited to sauces, quiches & custards.
  • Baby kale – small leaves & stems that are especially great raw, in salads.
  • There will be both bell peppers & shepherd peppers available again this week. The bells come in more colours, the shepherds only in red. You will notice that many of our peppers are not completely coloured – there is often some green along with the red, yellow or orange. It seems we are not the only ones who enjoy sweet peppers. Mice (and maybe rabbits too) find them tasty! If we leave the peppers on the plant to completely turn colour, they are very often chewed & eaten. As it is we are losing probably a third of our peppers to critters & spoilage. Both peppers taste great but shepherd peppers are a bit sweeter and have a thicker flesh making them the better choice for roasting.

  • Arugula, lettuce & garlic round out the CSA basket this week.

Last week’s CSA box.

Remember – next week is our last week for CSA!


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CSA 2017 – Week 16

A foggy, fall morning on the farm is beautiful …

What’s in the box?

Spinach, bok choy, lettuce, beans, zucchini, peppers, onions, garlic, (maybe tomatoes).

  • There are 3 kinds of greens in the box this week – spinach, bok choy & lettuce. That’s a lot of green! But they are all ready, & beautiful, & delicious, and we couldn’t decide which one to leave out – so we included them all. Bok choy seems to be a little unfamiliar to some of our CSA members. It is best stir-fried either on it’s own or with other vegetables. Actually, the box this week has all the makings for an amazing stir-fry – bok choy, beans, zucchini, peppers, onions & garlic. Save the lettuce, spinach & tomatoes for a salad.

There are many good stir-fry recipes out there, but our quick, easy, go-to recipe is as follows …

Stir-fry Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • salt & pepper
  • combine all ingredients and pour over stir-fried vegetables. Heat through till sauce thickens.
  • Serve and enjoy!

There are 2 weeks left in our CSA.