Greetings! It has been another stretch of beautiful weather on the farm this past week. The sky has been a shining blue and the fall colors have really started coming on around here. Heather and I have begun our end of season tasks. As fall continues and turns to early winter, our tasks change from actively planting and maintaining crops to removing dead plants, taking down trellising, pulling up irrigation lines, and, in general, readying the farm for the dormancy of winter and its re-awakening next spring.
Much of the fields are seeing the growth of young cover crops were summer vegetables had run their course and were tilled back into the soil. New ground has also been worked up and planted into cover as seen below, extending our fields for more growth next year.
The cover crops we plant serve to protect the soil from erosion, hold nutrients that the plants take up, add nutrients in some cases (legumes such as peas and clover form a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria who actually extract nitrogen from the air and turn into a usable form for plants in exchange for the plants providing them with sugars), and add organic matter when the cover is worked back into the soil. We use all sorts of different cover crops to accomplish different goals and that are appropriate for different seasonal growing conditions. Above is a mix of oats (a quick grower), winter rye (will regrow next spring), vetch (a nitrogen fixing legume), winter peas (another legume with good cold hardiness), clover (another legume that will grow again next spring), and a few odds and ends that were in the seeder from the last time it was used.
Beyond preparing the fields for next year, we have also been saving seeds. We spent the afternoon last friday collecting tomato seeds from our favorite plants. The process is pretty straight forward. Find a good tomato, squeeze the juices and seed into a cup, let the mixture ferment, drain and rinse seeds, dry and store seeds. Fermentation is a necessary part of the process, dissolving a coating on the seeds that prevents their germination. This coating is the reason why tomato seeds don’t germinate inside the tomato while it is still on the plant. Its a clever little trick.
Alright, without further delay, the line up this week:Onions Cucumber Beets Winter Squash: Buttercup or Kuri Rutabaga Cabbage: Deadon Sweet Peppers Hot Peppers Thyme Swiss Chard (medium and full) Tomatoes (full only)
Don’t be fooled by the root crop that looks a lot like a salad turnip, it is actually a rutabaga! Rutabagas are a starchy and sweet storage root that can be used in similar ways as a carrot or beet. Good roasted, sauteed, even boiled and mashed like a potato! Rutabaga will keep a long time in your crisper, especially if in a plastic bag. Like many root crops, it is best peeled before eaten as its skin can sometimes be bitter. There will be one more box with this gem in it, so if your looking to do a big mash don’t think you have enough rutabaga, save it until your next installment comes in two weeks.
Your Thyme will keep well both in the fridge and out. You can leave it out of your fridge in its bundle either hanging or on the counter were it can stay dry get decent air flow. If you don’t get around to using it fresh it will dry nicely in this state and will keep for a very long time. The best way to get the tiny leaves off is to strip them from the stem by running your pinched fingers from the top of the stem to the bottom.
Many of you will get a Buttercup squash this week. We didn’t end up having enough of these for everyone, so some people will get a Kuri squash in its place. Buttercup (as you may be able to tell by its corky stem) are similar in texture, flavor and flesh color to the Kuri and Kubocha squashes that came in your boxes last week.
Some of you may notice a striking similarity between your swiss chard and the greens on your beets. That is because they come from the same ancestor and were bred apart for their leaves (swiss chard) and their roots (beets)! Beet leaves can be cooked and eaten just like swiss chard, you’ll likely have a hard time telling them apart. We recommend removing your beet greens as soon as you get your box and placing them in a separate plastic bag or in the same bag as your swiss chard. Your beets should also be put in a bag for optimal storage. Beets without greens keep longer as they don’t transpire moisture as quickly.
And finally, on this weeks who’s hot and who’s not: Pablano Pepper (left) and Chocolate Sweet Pepper (right). Who’s hot and who’s not? You may get one of these varieties, both or neither in your box this week (depending on which hot pepper and which sweet pepper you get). The important thing is not to confuse them with each other. Guessing right will bring you great success and fortune in your meal making endeavors. Guessing wrong will lead to certain misfortune. Good luck!