Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Week 11 7-27-2011

Week 11

Cherry Tomatoes

Tomatoes- You many receive a green tomato with yellow streaks. It is completely ripe! It is called “Green Zebra, “ and it is wonderfully sweet.

Basil- cherry tomatoes (sliced in half), chopped basil, and fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Summer simplicity.

Cucumbers- Chopped cucumbers, chopped tomatoes, diced peppers, and minced garlic drizzled with an Italian vinaigrette makes a fine summer salad.

Garlic- “Music” variety, a snowy white type bred for all purposes…ease of growing, storage, peeling, and flavor.

Wax beans- The smallest of these beans are delicious to eat raw. Cooking Idea: Heat a large skillet to medium high. Add about 2 tablespoons of your choice of oil to the pan, and stir fry the beans. Stir often to avoid burning the beans. Add occasional splashes of water and lemon juice (1 tablespoon of each) while stirring quickly. The liquid should steam and evaporate. After about 4 minutes, add 1-2 cloves of minced garlic to the pan. (Adding it later prevents the garlic from burning) Cook for another 3 minutes, turn the heat off, and add a hearty sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Peppers- You may start to see other shapes of pepper besides the square bell pepper shape in the next few weeks…a long, curved pepper “Corno di Toro” (Horn of the bull), this is a sweet, mild frying pepper….another type will be “Lipstick,” which is extremely sweet and mild. I love it raw! We will include a notice in this newsletter when you get anything spicy or hot! There are no hot peppers yet!

***Crop info*** Our tomatoes are not producing well yet. All of the tomatoes, especially the heirlooms, are fighting for strength against fungus right now. The tomatoes you’ve been getting are from plants that are resistant to fungus, but bear small fruit. We are hoping the plants with giant tomatoes will do well with some help from an organic fungicide.

***Squash/zucchini- We’ll be taking a break from squash for a little bit, until our youngest succession of plants starts to produce.

Farm News

A little bit of rain helped to ease the heat Monday evening. Unfortunately for us we were trying to harvest vegetables when the storm came. Usually we harvest vegetables in the mornings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But this morning we were busy bringing the wild escape artist hogs to the butcher (the high-strung pigs allowed themselves to be corralled, loaded, and unloaded very calmly. We are grateful for this small sign of respect we can show the hogs) So we were out in the field starting to pick tomatoes and cucumbers when the rumbles started all around us. Between the rain and thunder we decided to take a little break in the truck until the storm moved through. After about 15 minutes the sky was lighter, the rain had stopped and the thunder was in the distance. So we went back to harvesting. Then, just as my hand brushed against the metal tomato trellis wire there was a huge crack of lightning just across the creek in the golf course. It made us both jump-me especially be because I got shocked! The lightning had been close enough to travel through the ground about a quarter mile (across silver creek), and because I was touching metal, zap me. Needless to say we both headed to the truck-quickly-and decided to put off harvesting until the morning. So just a friendly reminder, don’t behave like Benjamin Franklin or William!

Recently we have noticed something interesting in last year’s vegetable field. This summer’s cover crop is irregular. On the west side of the field the plants are dark green and approaching head high. The plants remain this high for a nice chunk of the field, then there is a section of shorter plants. Then the plants become gradually shorter and yellower (a sign of nutrient deficiencies) the further to the east end you walk. Our best guess is that the tall, dark green section is so healthy because it is where the tomatoes were last year. The tomatoes received an application of manure (almost none of the rest of the field did) and had heavy hay mulch. So that area has higher organic matter and higher nutrients leading to healthier plants. In addition this area received a nice application lime and granite dust for pH and potassium. The next area only received lime and granite dust and looks reasonably healthy. The final section only received lime several months after the other areas. Lime can take some time to actually change the pH. So that area probably has the least healthy soil biology and soil chemistry.

We have a mix of two crops ion our cover crop mix, cowpeas (a nitrogen fixing legume) and millet (a small grain in the grass family). Nitrogen fixing plants form relationships with bacteria in their roots that do the actual nitrogen fixing which is the process of taking nitrogen from the air (where it is extremely abundant) and converting it into plant usable compounds in the soil (where it is typically lacking). Interestingly, the yellowness in the millet and cowpeas has started to fade to greens in the last week. This may be because of the bacteria really kicking in and doing their job. In organic farming pulling nitrogen out of the air through biological processes is the most important source of nitrogen. This is because commercial fertilizers (an all animal manures from animals fed grain grown with commercial fertilizers) rely on extremely energy intensive methods to create usable nitrogen from natural gas (they use fossil fuels to turn another fossil fuel into fertilizer). These commercial chemical fertilizers can damage soil life, leach into the water and kill aquatic life (the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is one of the more extreme examples), and volatilize into the atmosphere contributing to the break down of ozone and the formation of acid rain. Fortunately, legume cover crops offer a viable alternative for us to the harmful chemical fertilizers.

Fun fact: besides soil bacteria the only other sources of natural nitrogen fertilizer are snow and…lightning (the extreme energy released causes chemical reactions that turn atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen usable to plants that falls out of the air dissolved in rain). I just prefer that this natural form of nitrogen fixation occurs a little further away from me!

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