CSA distribution #24 & newsletter

The next CSA distribution will be Monday October 28 and Thursday October 31. We’ve now loosely scripted out the remaining shares and we’re simply hoping for reasonable weather through Thanksgiving. We expect shares to be smaller from now on, after many weeks of overflowing bags and super-abundant produce, but there should still be 8-9 items in each share (plus herbs). The farm is as busy as ever as we continue to manage the transition into fall while getting next year’s garlic planted.

One item this week requires special explanation: Mercuri tomatoes are a unique winter storage variety. They’re a special crop for us, as the seed originally comes from a close friend’s Italian family, handed down for generations. As far as we know we’re the only farm in the US growing these, though we’ve distributed seeds to several gardeners through Seed Savers Exchange. These tomatoes are harvested green to semi-ripe late in the season, then stored indoors where they have a very long shelf life. They’ll slowly ripen over the winter, lasting until early spring in many cases, providing fresh tomatoes for many months. Their flavor is not as good as seasonal ripe tomatoes, but is far better than winter greenhouse or imported tomatoes. They’re especially good roasted and used in soups or sauces, where their tangy flavor blends well with other ingredients. These save us a lot of tomato preservation and we hope you’ll enjoy them as well.

THIS WEEK’S PRODUCE

NEW! Mercuri tomatoes Leave them on your counter until ready to use; best roasted or simmered. We’ve had an occasional tomato last until the following summer, just hanging out on the counter. As with all tomatoes, though, keep an eye out for development of bad spots, trim those off, and use the rest ASAP. If you’re a gardener, you can also save the seed from these and grow some yourself next year.
NEW! Parsnips These will likely be staples of all remaining shares. So good roasted or made into creamy soups.
Winter squash
Full shares only. Probably the last distribution of these, as they’re not storing particularly well and we’re keeping some for ourselves. We never grow large amounts of these as they’re not very space-efficient.
Onions
These aren’t storing well, with more rot showing up earlier than usual. Thus, we want to get some more out while some are still good. Apologies if a bad one sneaks in; some look fine outside but turn out to nasty when cut open. So frustrating to go through the seed starting, transplanting, weeding, harvesting, curing, and storage, only to have a bunch melt away into smelly gunk!
Swiss chard
We’ll go back to this green for the next few weeks, as it’s less cold-hardy than kale. The latter can regrow for a few weeks and fill out the end of the CSA season.
Lettuce
One more week of good heads, possibly some smaller heads or cut leaf after that.
Green peppers Last week for these, extras may be generous. Sweet peppers are gone.
Anaheim peppers Last week for these, extras may be generous
Jalapeno peppers
The other small peppers are done, but we have enough for one more week of these.

HERBS

We’re going to stay with 2 bundles/full share & 1/single share this week.

Sorrel
Curly parsley
Flat-leaf parsley
Chives
Garlic chives
Thyme
Oregano
Sage
Mint (harvester’s choice)
Tarragon
Lemon balm

MENU SUGGESTIONS

We really like creamy parsnip soups. A roasted sauce of Mercuri tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers is easy and tasty. Parsley is currently the most plentiful herb by far, so a late-season tabouli would be a good choice, too.

FRESH EGGS

No eggs.

RECENTLY ON THE FARM

Garlic planting happens this time of year, a major undertaking slotted right in the middle of handling the first real freezes of the season. This involves going through our saved seed stock, separating heads and culling anything of suspect quality, deciding how to fit the amount we have of each of our 12 varieties into the allocated bed space, prepping the beds with compost and micronutrients, planting the cloves, and mulching the beds. It’s a skilled, time-consuming job that nevertheless feels great to get done as it launches the following year’s growing season with one of our favorite crops. The good news this year is that we feel good about the quality of the seed stock, so we’re hoping to move beyond the issues we’ve had with garlic for the last year and a half, starting with oddities in 2012. It still remains to be seen how much garlic will be left for distribution/eating once planting is done; our priority is to put the best of what remains into the ground for the future.

WHAT’S GOING RIGHT

We’re still reasonably on track with all the work there is to do, though this season is still a hamster wheel of new work to be done. Still, the weather is reasonably pleasant, the fall colors are developing nicely, and we’re eating as well as ever.

WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT

One thing we don’t like about this time of year is cold hands. Harvesting, washing, and handling produce happens outdoors and in an open barn, where constantly wet hands in ambient temperatures of 40-50 degrees rapidly become really uncomfortable. It’s the nature of the business, but it’s still not fun to lose feeling in your hands by the end of a harvest day or packing morning. This is another reason herb quantities start to decline in the shares at this time of year. It takes just as long to harvest half as many when the fingers are cold and clumsy.

WEATHER NOTES

The especially harsh cold of several nights this week, dipping well into the 20s, creates some worry about certain crops which haven’t had a chance to acclimate to the rapidly dropping temperatures. We’ve had to set up a lot of cover on beds that we’d hoped not to worry about for a few more weeks. Depending on how crops hold up, there might be some changes to the planned share contents for the upcoming weeks.

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