There are no changes in our box schedules during the winter holidays. (However, there will be no Seed to Bloom flowers on Dec. 26 or 27.)
Down on the farm: I was reminded of how these above average temperatures affect our crops when I went out in the field to pick some New Mexico type green chiles to make green chile for our Christmas dinner: there weren't any-they were all red! So, we're having red chile instead. Everything is moving so fast in this heat: crop ripening as well as insect and disease reproduction.
So, then some of you are going to wonder why there may not be as many fully red-ripe bell peppers in your boxes. That's because the crew has picked almost all of them off the old plants and the peppers on the new plants are just starting to ripen. We had to wait to plant them they are part of one of our research trials of other "farming systems". Some of you will remember that for 3 years we have been working on research using a process called Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD!) with Dr. Erin Rosskopf and her research group at the USDA ARS Horticultural Research Lab at Ft. Pierce. (Your tax dollars at work!)
Methyl bromide was the main soil fumigant used for years-it was quite effective, and even more so when combined with chloropicrin. But methyl bromide was identified as an ozone depleting chemical and this use for it was phased out over the last 20 years. So the industry has been doing research to find new solutions to the problems that soil fumigation solved. Most of these solutions involve finding other chemicals which can be substituted for methyl bromide-none has been found that work as well as it did.
Some research scientists and growers like us who find it difficult to fit these newer soil fumigants into their production system, would like to find methods which can use natural biological processes to kill those soil pests. Some of us have worked to build up populations of beneficial microorganisms by using compost and other organic matter and even adding beneficial microorganisms to the soil. These methods can lower nematode populations, and sometimes suppress some plant pathogens, especially if conditions are not too conducive to disease development. But they certainly don't control weeds. For years we have used solarization, which means covering the soil with clear plastic for at least 6 weeks and keeping it moist underneath the plastic. The heat and chemicals which build up do kill a lot of the target organisms, but the effect doesn't go deeply into the soil. It is most effective on small, shallow-rooted crops such as our baby greens.
In the ASD process, high levels of organic matter are tilled into the soil, it is covered with a plastic mulch, and then a lot of water is applied through the drip irrigation-to the point where the soil environment becomes anaerobic (has no oxygen left in it) for at least 8 hours. The microorganisms which grow in this environment produce chemicals (methane, organic acids, etc.) which can kill a lot of the pathogens, nematodes, and even weed seeds. The soil is left covered for a few weeks, as the soil environment and the microorganism populations slowly return to a more normal state. When holes are punched in the plastic for planting, it also helps to release some of those toxic gases. This year I learned a lesson about these naturally produced chemicals, since I planted some tomatoes too early after the treatment and a lot of the transplants died almost immediately.
Within the next week we will be harvesting the peppers from those plots to measure the yields produced by the different treatments. With pepper research, it is best to harvest them green or "suntan" to collect accurate data. If we leave them on to turn fully red, many will be damaged by problems which may or may not relate to the experimental treatments.
Dr. Rosskopf works with other researchers and growers to set up similar trials in 3-4 sites around the state, using different crops in different soils. Since we farm in Florida, she is sourcing organic materials produced in the state: molasses from sugar production, poultry manure, and crab waste. We have also used some of the horse manure compost that we produce here on the farm. Researchers in other areas are using organic materials that are more abundant in their area. She, and some researchers in other parts of the country have good results from years of using the ASD systems.
Some of these small showers have been timed just right to help with our winter crops, like the beets, turnips and (coming soon!) onions. So, even though it's not perfect weather for them, they are still growing. Many of the beets this week will be 'Chioggia', sometimes called a "candy stripe" beet. It's an heirloom vegetable, and I grow it because everyone likes it because of its unique circular striped pattern. (The colors do fade with cooking.) But, in our climate and soils, the standard commercial varieties usually have better flavor than this one. There also may be some regular red 'Early Wonder' beets mixed in.
I'm sorry there are so few purple cherry tomatoes in the cherry tomato mix recently. Most of those plants have died of a soil borne disease called Fusarium, which we have all over this farm. (In fact, one independent researcher I know comes here to get 'Fusarium' infested soil to take back to his farm where he is researching fungicides to control it!) You won't be surprised when I tell you that it is worse in warm weather. Plant breeders apparently spend more time breeding red and yellow cherry/grape tomatoes than purple ones-probably just because the demand is lower for the purple ones. So we have red ones, and a few yellow ones with resistance, but I have not been able to find any purple ones which are resistant. The two varieties we grow are heirlooms, which rarely have resistance to any crop diseases we have in Florida. Wherever there are big patches of dead plants in the rows, I can almost always be sure it is one of the purple varieties. If we want to grow those here, we need to start grafting them on to rootstocks with resistance.
What's in your box this week: Remember that we are cutting the greens off the turnips and beets- unless you ask us to leave them on. Salanova lettuce mix a cucumber or two broccoli cherry tomatoes peppers tomatoes beets 'Scarlet Queen' turnips (large boxes only) baby kale (large boxes only)
Enjoying your veggies: Tossed salads are not always thought of as portable (although Donna manages to bring hers every day.) In case you haven't heard of a "salad in a jar", check some of the many recipes and suggestions for this "trendy" way to help yourself to eat more salads-and then make it the way you want it with whatever vegetables you have at the time. The important part, I think, is that you put the "sturdier" ingredients on the bottom with the light greens at the top. Some suggest making a whole week's worth of salads at once. I wouldn't encourage that, but the whole concept is certainly an easy way to carry a salad with you to work or anyplace else where you have a refrigerator (or a cooler with ice) to keep it.
Around our area: Our annual Subscriber Open House will be the weekend of February 11 and 12, 2017. This Open House is not open to the general public, but subscribers are invited to bring friends and/or family. You choose the day and time you want to come-each of those days, there will be farm tours at 9AM, 11AM, and 1PM and a "pot luck" lunch. Watch for more details in about 2 weeks.
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.)
Cut flowers require earlier orders since we don't keep a supply of them here. We order just the amount that we need from other farms.
Locally grown Flowers (for Monday and 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
NO FLOWERS AVAILABLE ON DEC. 26 and 27. Seed to Bloom, Loxahatchee: colorful mixed bouquets-whatever is in season. $10.00 each
Caribbean Exotics, Delray Beach: long- stemmed Heliconia-large, impressive "ginger" flowers $20 (most stems are about 3' tall)
McCoy's Honey-raw, unfiltered, locally produced http://www.mccoysfloridahoney.com/ 1 lb. glass jar $5.00 each palmetto only (When these are gone, we will no longer be carrying 1 lb. jars.) 3 lb. plastic jug $14.00 each (orange blossom, wildflower, or palmetto) 1 gal. (12 lbs.) $53 Orange blossom only 8 oz. bee pollen $12
LeDuc "Flavor Pict" Honey (most from his Loxahatchee hives, although some are on our farm) Honey 1 qt. glass jars $17 Honey with comb 1 pt. glass jars $17
Herbs (some are from our farm, some from Pontano Farms) $3/bunch basil chives cilantro dill mint (This generic mint is actually spearmint.) specialty mints: chocololate mint, apple mint (NO PEPPERMINT FOR A FEW WEEKS. We've been cutting it too heavily and it needs to grow back.) oregano parsley rosemary sage tarragon (True French tarragon is almost impossible to grow here. This is actually Mexican mint marigold, which is used for tarragon in the south and west. All winter it also has small yellow, edible flowers.) thyme
'Baby' Greens $3.00/bag (8 oz. bag) Baby kale mix: may have 'Red Russian', a bluish "Siberian' kale, and Tuscan kale Arugula 'Elegance' mustard greens mix-slightly spicy mixed mustards with some broccoli raab leaves Microgreens, sandwich bag (mix may contain radishes, arugula, red kale, and/or purple kohlrabi)
Larger greens $3/bag (large bunch) Swiss chard- red or white or mixed (not much red left) Curly kale- green, red, or mixed Tuscan kale (also called Lacinato or alligator kale) Collard greens Spinach
From other farms: 'Namwah' bananas -short and slightly chubby (Yagnapurush Farm, Loxahatchee) $1.60/lb. or 3 lbs for $4
Squashes Seminole pumpkins $1.50/lb. (most sizes from 1-2+ lbs.) Spaghetti squashes $1/lb. (most are about 2 lbs.) Larger "mystery" winter squashes 50¢/lb. Squash blossoms 6 for $2.50
Tomatoes "Slicers"- most are 'Amelia' now $2.50/lb. Mixed Cherry tomatoes sandwich bag $3 (If you want these for gifts, we can put them into a pint clamshell, also $3 each.) Green tomatoes $2/lb. (for frying or pickling!) Heirloom tomatoes $3/lb. Mix or match (if the ones you want are available) These are fussy and fragile tomatoes. Let us know when you plan to use them and we will do our best to send you some that will be ripe when you need them. yellow 'Amana', (best supply right now) purple 'Cherokee purple' red/pink 'Pruden's purple' "Sauce tomatoes" -about 20 lbs. of tomatoes that are smaller or have more cracks or other marks than the more expensive tomatoes we sell. These are available at this price ONLY by the half bushel box-not in smaller quantities. $15
Other Vegetables and fruits from our farm Beets, red or 'Chioggia' striped $4/lb. with or without leaves attached Nasturtiums box of 10 flowers and 10 leaves $3 mixed color flowers, slightly spicy flavor; flowers and leaves can be tossed into fresh salads, and there are recipes for stuffing the flowers "Cucamelons"snack size bag $3 look like tiny watermelons, taste like a crunchy cucumber (also called Mexican gherkins) Eggplant $3/lb. Jalapeno peppers 3 for $2 Red chiles $4/lb. long New Mexico type ( red)-let's say "medium hot?" Red (may not be available) or green bell peppers $.75 each Papayas $1/lb. (green or ripening) (not very many yellow ones now) SORRY-Temporarily out Pineapple tomatillos snack bag $3 sweet, fruity flavor (take off the husks!) Turnips- $3/lb. white 'Hakurei' and/or red 'Scarlet Queen' with or without leaves attached