Down on the farm: Last week was pretty much a perfect week for winter vegetable production! Yes, the cold really does slow most crops, but in some ways that makes it easier for us. Most of the growing season here, if we don't get something picked and into the cooler at exactly the right time, it is overripe or flowering by the next day. Unless something else happens, this week, the availability of baby greens should be back to normal: arugula, kale, and mustards. And it was also a perfect weekend for the Open House. Donna and I were glad to welcome those who come to see us and our veggies almost every year and to meet others-some of whom were new and others who had been with us for years, but never made it out here before. I was a little concerned about Saturday's lunch situation since we had fewer people signed up. But, as usual, it worked out perfectly: everyone brought interesting salads, so we had a (mostly!) nutritious salad lunch-with dessert. And the larger lunch crowd on Sunday brought us lots more choices-just as good! Thank you so much for visiting us-and many thanks to those who were able to bring interesting and delicious foods to share. You all have many demands on your time, so we consider it very special that you would spend some of it with us.
We had requests for some of the recipes. The blackeye pea based salad that Rich and Karen brought on Saturday is already on our recipe list: Cowboy Caviar. As others share recipes with us, Donna will add them to our website. That reminds me: there have been several days recently that we had problems with our website. Access to our subscriber pages was not working. Apparently the problem was with our web hosting company, who seems to have fixed it now. So, if you had trouble getting into the subscriber section recently, please try again. (password is eggplant) I promised an explanation of seeds for seedless watermelons. Please note this is NOT genetic engineering, where 1 or more a genes are inserted into the plant without having to make crosses.
Seedless watermelons are seedless because they have a triploid number of chromosomes. (The usual number is diploid, meaning 2 sets-1 from the female parent and 1 from the male parent.) Regular hybrid watermelons are produced by crossing 2 different diploid watermelons-getting the characteristics of both. But, if one parent is treated with a chemical called colchicine, the chromosome number doubles to a tetraploid. Then when that one is crossed with a normal diploid plant, it produces a seed which grows into a sterile triploid watermelon-it can't produce seeds.
But, to me maybe the oddest part of this whole process is that we still need to have pollination to produce the seedless watermelons. About 15-20 years ago, growers would just plant a row of regular seeded watermelon next to the seedless ones. Planting more of this "pollenizer" variety produced more seedless watermelons. But, when it got to the point where there was little market for seeded watermelons, growers didn't want to take up a lot of space in their fields with seeded watermelon pollenizers which they could not sell. So seed companies developed pollenizer varieties which did not take up much space since they weren't being grown for fruit, although most produced fruit which was usually not worth eating. This year we are trying a pollenizer which has small "lacey" leaves and lots of flowers to produce pollen, but doesn't compete in the field with the seedless varieties we actually want to harvest. So we can just make additional holes in the plastic, add those plant into the rows, and let the vines grow around and over the seedless melon plants and fruits.
As usual, all of this comes with a much higher cost than the old fashioned seeded watermelons. (For those who still think you prefer a seeded watermelon, we are going to plant a few of them-just large ones.) In addition to the need to plant pollenizer varieties, the seedless watermelon seeds cost more, and they are more difficult to germinate. Originally, it even helped to plant the seeds with the pointed side up, and 20 years ago, we had to (one by one) physically remove the seed coat off the first little leaves that emerged from the soil or the seedling often would not keep growing. The newer varieties are stronger and more vigorous, but they still need to germinate in warm temperatures. That's why I took home the flats that Santa and Angelica planted last Tuesday and kept them in our house. Now they are back in the greenhouse, covered with plastic covers to warm them up when the sun shines-and hopefully the potting mix will hold the heat at night. I dug up one seed and found it was germinating so hopefully the seedlings will emerge in the next few days. If not, I will be officially worried about them. Several subscribers at the Open House asked about the different colored cauliflowers that you may have received-the white and yellow ones are different varieties, just like different colored cherry tomato varieties. Several websites say that there are more carotenoid pigments in the yellow cauliflower, which makes sense since those are yellow pigments. So it might be slightly more nutritious. But, the way I understand it, the important compounds in all of the mustard/cabbage family veggies are the glucosinolates. Yes, we do have purple cauliflower growing now-it takes much longer to mature than the other colors. If hot weather doesn't start too early, we will have it sometime in March.
I was hoping to be able to encourage the rain-damaged spinach back to producing enough green leaves so we could cut it again. But the new green leaves are starting to get spotted-maybe with downy mildew-so we may have to wait for the newer crop to mature to get more spinach.
What's in your box: Salanova salad mix cherry tomatoes peppers tomatoes broccoli and/or cauliflower (both if possible) squash (large boxes only) some other kinds of greens for large boxes-probably baby mustards or kale
Around our area: Most of you know that we give the leftover veggies from our packinghouse, as well as boxes that subscribers sometimes donate, to the Caring Kitchen in Delray Beach. They pick up from us on Tuesdays. We have noticed that there have been a lot of different people driving for them recently. I talked with April, the head of the Caring Kitchen and she said they do not have the drivers they need-for Tuesdays or Fridays. So, if some of you who live in central or south county are looking for a way to volunteer in your community, this may be something you could do. I really don't know the details, but, if you would like to find out about it, please email Donna or me and we will send you April's phone number. Thanks!
A little housekeeping: If you have ordered Seed to Bloom or Caribbean Exotics flowers with your box and you have to cancel your box, please let us know as soon as possible-hopefully before the time you would have had to order the flowers. Once we have received the flowers, we're sorry, but we need to charge you for them.
Weekly extras: The best way to order extras is to email Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org 2 PM the day before you get your box. If you are ordering later than that, please call 561-638-2755 and leave the message on the machine, since we don't always have time to check email in the mornings. (Those ordering for Monday boxes should call and leave a message, since you don't receive this list in time to order by email.)
Flowers require earlier orders since we have to order them from other farms. For more information, please check the "Weekly Extras" section on the subscriber pages of our website.
Locally grown Flowers (for Tuesday boxes, order by noon on the Friday before your box; for Thursday and Friday, order by noon on Wednesday). For information about these flower growers and some pictures of their flowers, check the Subscriber Business Links on our Subscriber section
Seed to Bloom, Loxahatchee: colorful mixed bouquets-whatever is in season $10.00 each (Sorry-not available for Monday boxes.) Caribbean Exotics, Delray Beach: long- stemmed Heliconia-large, impressive "ginger" flowers $15
Namwah bananas (short and plump) from Yagnapurush Farm in Loxahatchee. 1 lb. $1.50 3 lbs. $4
McCoy's Honey-raw, unfiltered, locally produced http://www.mccoysfloridahoney.com/ 1 lb. glass jar $5.00 each (wildflower, palmetto, or orange blossom) 3 lb. plastic jug $14.00 each (wildflower, palmetto, or orange blossom) 1 lb. glass jar Orange blossom honey with comb included $6.50
Herbs (some are from our farm, some from Pontano Farms) $3/bunch Basil? not sure if it will be available this week cilantro dill mint (This generic mint is actually spearmint.) specialty mints (apple, peppermint) oregano parsley rosemary sage tarragon thyme
Baby Greens $2.50/bag Arugula Salanova salad mix 8 oz. bag Baby kale 8 oz. bag Mustard greens 8 oz. bag Microgreens, sandwich bag (mix may contain radishes, arugula, kale, and/or purple kohlrabi leaves)
Larger greens $3/bag (large bunch) Curly green and/or red kale Broccoli or cauliflower leaves Brussels sprouts leaves-these are smaller and seem to be less bitter than the broccoli and cauliflower leaves (Brussels sprouts themselves are not quite ready yet) Swiss chard and collard greens are available again-leaves are small, though.
Other Veggies and fruit from our farm 'Amelia' tomatoes (red slicers) $2/lb. (might not be fully ripe) Fennel bulbs $3/lb. Tomatillos $4/lb. Green tomatoes $1.50/lb. Bell peppers, green, suntan, or red $2.00/lb. (3-4 per pound) Lunchbox snack peppers-mostly yellow, few orange and red $4.50/lb. Papayas $1.50/lb. (most weigh 2-3 lbs.) choose green or yellow/almost yellow Hot peppers: mix or match; sandwich bag of 4-5 peppers $3 Jalapenos-green Datil-little yellow peppers indigenous to the St. Augustine area http://augustine.com/article/what-heck-datil-pepper Cherry bomb peppers-round, red, hotter!