CSA distribution #27 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday October 1 and Thursday October 4. This week represented, in many ways, the ongoing transition to fall. We had two nights of frost last weekend while ongoing cool & cloudy weather has boosted the growth of greens while slowing the ripening of tomatoes & peppers. The first true fall items (various greens) will appear in the shares this week. Our thanks to members Fae, David, and Nick who were able to join us on a beautiful Saturday to help out with frost preparation and bed cleanup. Several others expressed interest but couldn’t attend, but we’re sure other opportunities will arise.

Though we love fall weather, it’s often a very stressful and tiring time as we juggle the slow (and sometimes abrupt) end of all the summer produce while planting, maintaining, and harvesting a wide variety of fall/winter produce, all while the days grow shorter and our energy levels continue to drop. In addition, this time of year we’re already starting to discuss and plan for the following year. Particularly after the brutal summer, fall right now is acting as a slow-moving transition to a saner life.

THIS WEEK’S PRODUCE

NEW! Pac choi This Asian green features edible stems & leaves with a nice flavor. Saute it in stir fries or on its own, or add to soups. Those who like bold flavors may like it raw on/within salads. The stems need a bit longer cooking than the leaves, like chard.
NEW! Saute mix Our standard greens mix is back, a flavorful combination of kale, arugula, mustard, tat soi, mizuna, and more. Great for cooking & sauteeing; makes a good salad for those who enjoy strong flavors. See below for a few examples of use.
NEW! Mustard greens These richly flavored greens are excellent sauteed with garlic & balsamic vinegar, or chopped into soups. Thursday got some last week as it was quite ready for harvest, and it should continue through fall.
Green tomatoes We’ll take a week off from these, as members last week took an extraordinary (and welcome) amount to experiment with and pretty well used up Saturday’s pre-frost harvest. If you liked them, they’ll be back soon enough.
Swiss chard Also taking a week off, given the other greens ready to harvest.
Green beans We think these will produce for another week, then we’ll likely rip them out as Eric’s back is starting to get regularly sore from picking them & Joanna wants to replant those beds in winter cover crops.
Slicer/sauce tomatoes These ripened really slowly over the past week, due to cool and cloudy weather. Even though we covered all of the plants with sheets for the two frosty nights, the leaf tips were frost burned, so the plants are working with slightly less photosynthetic area. We’ll continue to distribute as they come, but amounts may be low depending on conditions. The plants are loaded with green fruit and we hope to keep these alive long enough to harvest a last big pulse.
Sweet pepper mix Also ripening slowly, we’ll likely cut the share amounts in half this week, especially given the other produce coming on.
Green pepper mix
Forgot to put this in the newsletter this week, but hope folks enjoyed these. Like the green tomatoes, we’re trying to get ahead of the inevitable killing-frost pulse of unripe produce by starting to harvest green peppers that won’t have time to ripen.
Hot peppers
Likely just Anaheims and Jalapenos this week (like we ended up doing last week) because the Cayennes & Thais are ripening very slowly.
Garlic:
German Extra Hardy (long stem), the best roasting garlic we grow, plus a softneck of various varieties (short stem) that we’ll determine as we pack shares.
Summer squash
Still producing, probably one or two per share.

Coming up: The Bilko cabbage heads are sizing up nicely, and we think they might be ready for harvest during the second week of October. We’re in the process of harvesting sweet potatoes this week. The first bed yielded well with some vole damage but no more than would be expected. Fresh-harvested sweet potatoes aren’t yet very sweet; they need to cure for a number of weeks before the sweetness really develops.

HERBS
We’re going to reduce the herb quantities this week to 2 bundles/full share and 1 bundle/part share. We’re declaring the basil done, and the cilantro & next dill plantings aren’t quite yet ready for harvest.

Thyme
Oregano
Sage
Tarragon

Garlic chives
Chives
Orange mint
Lemon balm
Catnip
Parsley
(limited quantity)

FIRST FROST

As expected, our first frost of fall occurred on Saturday night (9/22/12), with another lighter frost the next night. After spending the day harvesting & ripping out crops we didn’t want to save, like tomatillos, early tomatoes, & okra, we spent time that evening covering many others (beans, late tomatoes, peppers, summer & winter squash, basil, etc) with row covers or sheets. As seen above right, we did get a significant frost that night (the image shows ice crystals on a sheet covering tomato plants), with frost forming well up the sides of our valley. Everything we wanted to save survived, though the basil with just one layer of row cover was significantly frost-burned, and only the plants with three layers of row cover made it through in good enough shape to harvest. The frost is a good sign that we’re well on our way into fall. While early frosts are a downside of our protected valley location, one tradeoff is the likely buffering of intense summer heat, especially overnight.

In other weather news, in spite of a forecast this past week that included numerous chances of rain, we missed on on any significant precipitation. We’ve only recorded around 1/2″ rain in the past few weeks, and that in mostly scattered sprinkles, so we’re back to irrigating again. Even though it’s cooler out, plants still need water to grow, and it’s clearly still 2012.

USING OUR SAUTE GREENS MIX
Here are several ways we recently used the greens mix you’ll be receiving in the coming week. Above left, chopped greens sauteed in a hot wok with garlic & sweet/hot peppers, with a bit of balsamic vinegar drizzled on top to caramelize in the hot pan. Above right, salad of chopped greens with sweet peppers and fresh goat cheese, topped by olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Both very easy ways to feature the fresh, diverse flavor of the greens. They also add nice flavor and texture to soups and stews.

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