Down on the farm: This is one of those weeks when there should just be a big question mark under "What's in your box:" We're in one of those transition periods when cool season crops are finishing and warm season ones are starting. For broccoli and cauliflower, I'm operating under the theory that ugly veggies are better than none. There are tiny broccoli side shoots (You don't have to cut them up!), purple cauliflower that is trying to open, light green 'Romanesco' cauliflower that has leaves trying to grow out of the middle of the heads, and loose and lumpy broccoli heads. Most of the odd shapes are because of the heat we have already had. Yes, I admit, I'm trying to stretch the season on these-especially broccoli-because they are so popular. I'm trying some varieties that are supposed to be more heat resistant. If they are ugly and lacking flavor, I think roasting is the best treatment for them.
We mowed most of the 'Salanova' lettuce last week because it had bolted, and we will harvest the few that are left. Lettuce is done after this week-the only greens from now on will be those in that ubiquitous cabbage/mustard family: arugula, kale, or mustards. How long we will have those depends on rain and humidity as much as temperatures. Frequent showers, and sometimes even heavy dews (which can last until 11 AM) usually result in fungal and bacterial diseases making spots on the leaves of those crops.
There is still squash, but it is mostly zucchini. The crew has pulled out most of the yellow squash plants because they were infected with viruses. If I grew transgenic (GE or GMO) varieties with resistance to more viruses, we probably would still have yellow squash this week.
I was hoping for eggplants this week, but they are not going to make it for another week. On the good news side, there are some regular size tomatoes this week as the new crop of 'Amelia' starts to ripen. And there are lots of the small "cocktail" size tomatoes: the red heirloom 'Bloody butcher'; orange 'Bellini'; and yellow 'Honey delight', as well as cherries.
A few years ago, several subscribers told me that they would like to have onions more often. I agreed since Charlie and I use them for cooking and/or salads most days. But, this is not the easiest place to grow onions. (Sorry to repeat this explanation every year, but we always have new subscribers.) Onion varieties are classified as either long day, short day, or day neutral. That refers to the daylength needed to make an onion plant form a bulb. Since we in the far south never get the very long summer days they do up north, we can't grow the most common onions-the long day varieties that they grow there. Actually, we could grow them as green onions-they would get bigger, but not form bulbs-they'd be shaped more like leeks. The short day varieties that we grow here begin to form their bulbs in about March. (The actual daylength requirement varies by variety.)
To grow good sized bulbs, we have to grow the onion plants as large as possible before they start to bulb. Some of these are already forming small bulbs, meaning that the plants weren't big enough before they started to bulb. You might think one way to get bigger plants would be to seed them earlier in the fall. If we tried to seed them too early (while days were still around 12 hours long), many would form tiny bulbs right away, before the plant had time to grow big enough to make a decent size bulb. I've even seen them make those bulbs-smaller than cocktail onions-in a transplant flat in the fall.
This is an appropriate week to continue the discussion of weeds, especially how we (try to!) manage them. Weeds are the main reason we haven't had very many onions, beets, or turnips this season. The weeds have just outgrown our efforts to control them. There are many ways to "manage" weeds: mulches, cover crop systems and crop rotations, soil fumigation or soil solarization, physical removal of the weeds (by hand or machines), and chemical control. We try to use most of those methods, but, since we are also trying to increase our production of those and other crops, it has become more difficult to find time to keep up with weed control. I'm trying to change our production systems so that more can be done mechanically.
Herbicides are chemicals that kill weeds. Pre-emergent herbicides mean that they are put onto/into the soil before the weeds germinate to prevent them from growing, while post emergent herbicides are sprayed or wiped onto weeds that are already growing.
Like insecticides, which can sometimes kill "non-target" insects, herbicides can also kill "non-target" plants (including crops). So, it is critical to use them correctly. Pre-emergents are usually specific to certain crops. They can work very well if they are applied at the correct time and rate. They are only approved for use on the crops where they have been tested. Some can stay in the soil for months-even a year. So, if the next crop is susceptible to that chemical, it can be damaged. For farmers who just grow 1-2 crops, that can work fine. But, in one growing season, we might plant winter squash, followed by broccoli, followed by watermelons, or corn followed by tomatoes and peppers. I have to be very careful when we use these chemicals to be sure there are no residual effects on the later crops.
Surprisingly, there are even a few herbicides that can be approved for use on organic farms: they are naturally produced products, or concentrated forms of them. Some are acids, such as acetic (concentrated form of the acid that is in vinegar) and citric. They are all non-selective, which means they can damage or kill the crop plants if they are sprayed on them, too. Corn gluten meal is a by-product of corn processing. There has been some research which has shown it to prevent the germination of certain weed seeds. In other research, it hasn't been effective-it sometimes even makes weeds grow more since it contains nitrogen.
What's in your box: Salanova salad mix, kale, or arugula (2 in large boxes) tomatoes cherries or other small tomatoes broccoli or cauliflower cucumber (probably large boxes only) ? a green pepper squash onions
Enjoying your veggies: The first cucumbers which are ready will be the variety called 'Mercury' which is a beit-alpha cucumber. This one is shaped like a regular cucumber, but has the characteristics of the greenhouse cucumbers that are sold shrink-wrapped, because of their thin skin. Most of us prefer them, but again they get diseases quickly so they generally don't produce for a long time. We also have a regular cucumber variety that is very productive, but has a thicker skin. (You will probably want to peel it for most uses.) Of course, none of our cucumbers are waxed, which means it is not necessary to peel them, but they don't keep as long, either.
Although most of us store our cucumbers in the refrigerator, they are actually better if stored at 50-55 degrees. When the temperature is too low, they tend to get water-soaked soft spots. Since most of our homes are too warm to keep them long, at least try to find the warmest place in your refrigerator. (When you are only getting 1 or 2 in your box, you're probably not keeping them very long anyway!) A little housekeeping: The last week of our regular season this spring is May 23-27 (for weekly and B week subscribers). For A week, it is May 16-20. If you're leaving before that, please check with Donna (firstname.lastname@example.org) sometime soon, so you can figure out your final bills. Yep, we are planning to do a summer program again this season-similar to the last few years. I'll include information and dates in the newsletter beginning next week.
Weekly extras: The best way to order extras is to email Donna at email@example.com 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
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, orange blossom, or palmetto)
Herbs (some are from our farm, some from Pontano Farms) $3/bunch Basil cilantro dill apple mint mint (This generic mint is actually spearmint.) oregano parsley rosemary sage tarragon thyme
Baby Greens $2.50/bag Arugula 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 Tuscan kale Vates blue kale-like the curly green kale, but slightly "softer" leaves Swiss chard (red, white, or mixed) celery $2.50/bunch-these bunches are tall, but are only about a third as full as the celery you would buy in the store (still a few available)
Other Veggies and fruit from our farm Brussels sprouts on the stalk $1/lb.-most stalks are 2-3 lbs. and may have 12-15 sprouts. One moreBOGO week. Buy one, get one! Papayas $1.50/lb. (most weigh 3-4 lbs.) choose green or yellow/almost yellow (not as many now) Summer squashes-mix or match: zucchini, yellow,or 'Ishtar' light green cousa/Middle Eastern type $2.50/lb. Turnips-'Purple prince' $3/lb.-purple on top and white on the bottom. Frankly, they are not very flavorful now, but if you are putting them in something, that will help. (Most greens are not in good shape, so we will cut them off. If you do want them left on, let us know and we'll look for the best ones we can find.)