Down on the farm: As long as we don't get a heavy rain-or a long period of it-the spinach will be back for everyone this week. On the Open House tours, I pointed out the yellow leaves on the spinach that had been damaged by earlier rains. And I told you I was trying to nurse it back to health. Since the weather cooperated, the problems that were starting to develop last week seemed to have stopped. So there will be the new spinach leaves from that crop, and then we will go directly into cutting the new crop of spinach.
Most of you know how I am constantly trying to grow warm weather greens-and to find some that most of us will actually eat. I often think about why there are more greens among the cool season vegetable crops, while most of the fruiting crops are classified as warm season crops (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, all the squashes)-and even speculate about how this has affected the development of societies in different regions of the world. As far as I can figure, the reasons for this are pretty much biochemical-it takes more energy (heat, light) for a crop to produce fruit (and seeds) than to grow leaves. So the fruiting crops need a longer, warmer growing season. On the other hand, we all know that warmer weather causes a lot of our greens crops to change to their reproductive stages and produce flowers, seed, and fruit when we wanted to just grow leaves! There is still a lot of cauliflower in our fields. If the weather gets too warm, we'll have to harvest them quickly. Last week I mentioned the different colors of cauliflower. A few of the cauliflowers in the boxes may even be the Romanesco type. They are light green with a unique shape-I think they look like some kind of a Far Eastern temple. They can be a little trickier to grow than other cauliflowers, so we grow only a few of them for a specific market. But sometimes we have extras so we'll include them when we do.
At the Open House, I pointed out the two rows where the crew had applied the black plastic mulch over the white mulch to warm the soil for seeding corn. You'll be glad to know that corn is up. So now we'll try to get it through to maturity without losing it to raccoons or corn silk flies. And we will probably plant some more this weekend.
We're running low on cherry tomatoes this week-especially ripe ones. Most of that just has to do with winter conditions, although we are also waiting for a new crop to start producing. So there won't be as many in the boxes or for extras.
Pepper weevils have found our pepper plants. Even though we have them every year, these insects cause panic among pepper growers-even small-scale pepper growers like me. Sometimes they start earlier-last year it was November. So at least that didn't happen this year. Since experienced subscribers have already been subjected to my annual rants about them, I'll just mention-for newer subscribers-that these insects spend a lot of their life cycle inside the pepper fruit, where it is difficult to kill them. So, we try to spray at a time of day when the adult females are walking around on the plants looking for a pepper in which to lay their eggs.
This illustrates a point I sometimes make about older pesticides vs. newer ones. Many of the older insecticides had residual activity-after they were sprayed, they would be on the plant for a week-maybe even longer. They could often kill the insect when it just walked through that chemical on the leaves. So, in the case of an insect such as this, it just required spraying often enough to keep that residue on the plant. But now there are few pesticides available which hang around that long-they usually break down in the sun and rain. That's one of the reasons that most of them are safer to the environment and humans who are going to consume the produce, but it also means we have to spray more often. But we have to be careful not to use the same insecticides too many times because we do not want the insects to develop resistance to the chemicals we do have available. The cabbage and mustard family crops keep growing well at this time of year. Interestingly, this is the same week we started to sell Brussels sprouts last season. (They are always an extra-we never include them in all the boxes since so many don't like them.) We sell these on the stalk, so you get to break them off yourself. There are not a lot of big ones yet, but if we don't start selling the early ones, we'll lose them. So, if you order them and we don't have any that day, you should be able to get them in a week or two. And the new crop of turnips need thinning, so we have turnip greens, too.
We appreciate that many of you buy the Namwah bananas from Yagnapurush Farm. Banana production generally slows during the winter, so there may not be any bananas this week for those of you with standing orders for them. At this point I don't know when we will have them and when we won't.
What's in your box: Salanova salad mix cherry tomatoes-fewer peppers tomatoes cauliflower (both if possible) spinach beets broccoli (large boxes only) arugula (large boxes only)
Enjoying your veggies: Since the weather will soon be staying warm, we needed to start harvesting the beets, despite their small size. The worst thing about this small size is to try to peel them if your recipe calls for doing that before cooking. So, I suggest you steam or roast them before peeling, and then you can almost wipe off the skins. By the way, unlike some other veggies, beets roast better in a covered pan. If you don't have a lid to fit, use foil and seal it well around the edges. I suppose technically that is not roasting, since roasting is using dry heat. More accurately, what we are doing is steaming them in the oven, I guess. Please remember that we do not wash spinach here at the farm, because handling it more, and especially drying it in our spinners, breaks the leaves too much so it doesn't last as long. Gently swish the spinach around in lots of water in a big bowl or pan and let the sand settle to the bottom. We generally grow smooth or semi-savoy spinach varieties, because it is easier to get the sand out of those leaves than the very curly (savoy) types.
A little housekeeping: I keep meaning to remind you that Donna is the person in charge of packing your boxes-as well as handling your accounts. So she is the one who needs to know when you want extras, have a question about your account, or need to skip a box. I realize that it's easier to just press "reply" when you receive the newsletter and send the message to me, and that's fine-I really don't mind forwarding your messages. But (I confess!) sometimes I don't check my email regularly if I am out in the field or away at a meeting, so it can take longer for Donna to receive your message. If you want it to go directly to her, send it to email@example.com. (And, by the way, Julie hasn't worked here for over a year. She and her husband are happily retired in New Mexico.)
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
MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE THIS WEEK: 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 (should 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 Red Russian 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 Swiss chard and collard greens are available again-leaves are small, though. NEW! Young turnip greens--no turnips on them yet
Other Veggies and fruit from our farm NEW! (limited amount this week) Brussels sprouts on the stalk $1/lb.-most stalks are 2-3 lbs. and may have 12-15 sprouts 'Amelia' tomatoes (red slicers) $2/lb. Fennel bulbs $3/lb. Tomatillos $4/lb. (last week for right now) Green tomatoes $1.50/lb. Bell peppers, green, suntan, or red $2.00/lb. (3-4 per pound) last week for a while 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 Summer squashes-zucchini, yellow or 'Ishtar' light green cousa or Middle Eastern type Hot peppers: mix or match; sandwich bag of 4-5 peppers $3 Jalapenos-green Datil pepper- little yellow peppers indigenous to the St. Augustine area http://augustine.com/article/what-heck-datil-pepper Cherry bomb peppers-round, red, hotter!