Down on the farm: Thanks so much to all of you who attended the perfect weekend of farm tours! We were so glad to see all of you who have attended almost every year for years, and to meet at least 4 families of brand new subscribers. Though we don't have as many subscribers as in the past, it seems to me that, as a group, those we have now are more dedicated to local produce and more knowledgeable about preparing the vegetables. (Donna and I often comment now on how many "extras" are ordered most days.)
And there is no truth to the rumor that we have these annual Open Houses just to enjoy a variety of delicious-and healthful-dishes without having to cook them ourselves! But that could be a good enough reason-every year the meals get better and better. Donna and I are so impressed with your cooking skills: several kinds of salads, soups, tomato pies, cheese bread (with spinach), quinoa dishes, fruit salads..... I can't remember them all, but I know I liked all of them.
And we had a special treat on Sunday this year: Chef Manlee Siu of Angle Restaurant in the Eau Palm Beach resort made one of her outstanding kale salads and even came here to serve it for us. (Knowing how busy chefs are at this time of year, I was very flattered that she took the time to do that.) The recipe is from the book she co-authored with Chef Josh Thomsen: Agricola Cookbook. (We'll make the recipe available for you next week.) Like the other chefs who buy from us, she really appreciates having produce right from the farm. She is quite an artist with food so she really keeps me challenged to grow different vegetables that she can use in her delicious and beautiful creations.
Perez Farms, a family owned and family-run farm in Loxahatchee, is on a different production schedule than we are this winter, which works well for us. While we're finished with our first eggplant crop and starting the second one, they started their eggplants later, so they are still harvesting nice fruit from their first planting. Eggplant doesn't like cold, so there certainly been winters when eggplants in Loxahatchee were not even alive by this time of year. These are 'Santana', a large black variety. I ran across an article on Epicurious.com that recommended roasting this one and "turning it into baba ghanoush". So maybe we can get eggplants from them until our new crop is ready.
Miguel pointed out to me last Thursday that we finally had a head of cauliflower that weighed over a pound. The stress on the plants trying to grow in the heat always results in smaller heads from fall plantings. That means we have to combine 2-3 to get a good sized bag of it. So, when we finally get these normal sizes, we can begin to have more of it for everyone.
Once a season I like to discuss genetic engineering (GE). Now, for those who are new to our farm, let me say this very clearly: WE DO NOT GROW ANY GENETICALLY ENGINEERED VARIETIES and do not plan to start growing them. There are actually few GE vegetable varieties on the market now-sweet corn and a couple squash varieties are the only ones that are available.
Some people like to say that domesticated crops have been genetically modified for a long time, and that is certainly true-from the time when people chose the best from wild plants and saved the seeds from that one, rather than another that they didn't like. With each new generation of a crop, it had more of the characteristics that those making the selections wanted.
But, the present technology is very different. I prefer to use the term "genetic engineering" to separate it from those older, more basic genetic modification methods. Genetic engineering simply means taking DNA from one organism and putting it into another. Those organisms can be cisgenic-closely related plants which could be crossed without GE-or transgenic-plants which can only be crossed using GE.
At this point, it would be "closing the barn door after the horse is out" to say we won't use these technologies. They are here! If you don't want to eat GE crops, just buy organic food (or food from producers whom you know, like us)-and especially don't eat the convenience foods that contain things like corn oil, corn starch, and soy.) Frankly, if we were marketing into wholesale markets, I would probably grow some GE squash varieties, because they have better disease resistance. (These squashes are examples of cisgenic plants, rather than transgenic.)
It isn't the genetic engineering process that is the problem; it's some of the ways it is being used that have given the process a bad reputation. Most of the bad publicity has been about the GE agronomic crops (cotton, soy, field corn) which are resistant to herbicides. That has encouraged more use of some herbicides on the thousands of acres of those crops that are produced. In some cases, it has been helpful; in others, it has caused problems. Anytime we use too much of any pesticide, the target organism (in this case, the weeds) eventually develops resistance. That's what has happened with this production system: some weed species have developed resistance to that herbicide. As the resistant weeds spread, even growers who have not been using genetically engineered crops are not able to get weed control using that herbicide.
As far as I'm concerned, the biggest way GE could help us in produce production is with disease resistance. When, despite repeated treatments with insecticides, my squash is dead from an insect-vectored virus, while another farmer's GE squash half a mile away looks fine, why would we not employ this technology? If a gene (or genes) for resistance to one of these squash or tomato viruses can be found, it would usually take years of repeated crosses to breed it into a variety that has other characteristics we like. But, instead of having to go through that long plant breeding process, what if that gene(s) could just be added to the crop genome in a laboratory and give us a new variety with resistance to that disease? What if we could prevent these viruses from affecting our crops-without even having to spray for the insects which vector them? And there are also some varieties of crops which have resistance to certain insects-usually because of chemicals that are naturally produced in that plant. Why not use GE to add that into our crop varieties? The irony is that people who are against GE are also usually against the use of pesticides-and this technology has the potential to greatly reduce applications of some types of pesticides.
Another example of GE technology that is used in vegetable crops is BT corn. We spray BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) as often as several times a week on most of our crops to control several kinds of caterpillars. It is a biological control for most types of caterpillars-one of the safest and most useful pesticides we have. Several BT brands are even approved for use by organic growers. (Yes, organic producers do use pesticides, and they often have to do that in south Florida.) The genetic engineering process allows the BT gene to be put into corn, so that the corn can actually produce the toxin that kills those "worms" that most people don't like to see in their corn. (This is a transgenic organism.) Using a BT corn could save a lot of spraying by most corn producers. Yes, it would encourage the development of insect resistance to BT, but that can happen by spraying it too often, too. Whether you are using a BT corn or spraying BT, it is important to periodically use different types of pesticides to kill any caterpillar populations which might be developing resistance to the BT. (However, here in south Florida we would still have to spray our corn quite often to control corn silk flies.)
It's also obvious to me that some form of the GE technology is the only thing that will save the citrus industry from citrus greening, the bacterial disease that is close to wiping out much of the citrus in Florida and most other major citrus production areas. Sadly, the technology to help the situation is there, but, since growers think they will not be able to sell fruit from genetically engineered trees, few citrus growers in Florida are willing to start planting the GE trees. Instead, they choose to switch to other crops or to sell their land for development.
What's in your box this week: Salanova lettuce mix, probably with nasturtium flowers cherry tomatoes peppers-not as much red as we have had green onions broccoli or cauliflower (hopefully both in large boxes) tomatoes spinach eggplant (large boxes only)
Around our area: I thought this might interest some of you. It's a free program, but does require an evening trip to Belle Glade: “Birds Without Borders” Thursday, February 23, 2017, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST
UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center 3200 E Canal Street Belle Glade, FL 33430
Dr. Motti Charter, a respected ornithologist from Haifa University in Israel, will be joining us for his very informative and exciting talk "Birds Without Borders". After the presentation, we will take a walk to view some of the live Florida barn owls. Come SEE and HEAR these marvelous birds in action! (light refreshments will be served)
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.)
Cut flowers require earlier orders since we don't keep a supply of them here. We order just the amount that we need from the 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
Seed to Bloom, Loxahatchee: colorful mixed bouquets-whatever is in season. $9.50 plus tax
Caribbean Exotics, Delray Beach: long- stemmed Heliconia-large, impressive "ginger" flowers $20 plus tax (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 or wildflower only) 1 gal. $53 (orange blossom or palmetto) 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?? celery (It's not an herb, but we are going to sell this in a bunch like herbs. This is the skinny celery most of you saw on the farm tours.) chives cilantro dill mint (This generic mint is actually spearmint.) specialty mints: chocolate mint, apple mint, peppermint, orange mint 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: 'Red Russian' and/or 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) Salanova salad mix Spinach-leaves are larger than most baby greens
Larger greens $3/bag (large bunch) Swiss chard- red, white, or mixed Curly kale- green, red, or mixed Tuscan kale (also called Lacinato or alligator kale) Collard greens NEW! Beet greens -some have very tiny beets attached
From Yagnapurush Farm, Loxahatchee: 'Namwah' bananas -short and slightly chubby $1.60/lb. or 3 lbs for $4 Black sapote ("chocolate pudding fruit") $4/lb. (most fruits weigh 1/2-3/4 lb.) Squashes Seminole pumpkins, and/or a few small butternut squashes $1.50/lb. Spaghetti squashes $1/lb. (just a few left) Larger "mystery" winter squashes 50¢/lb.
Tomatoes "Slicers"- mixed varieties $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) 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', purple 'Cherokee purple'-smaller than the other 2 red/pink 'Pruden's purple' "Sauce tomatoes" -about 20 lbs. of tomatoes that are overripe, 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 NEW! Daikon radishes- 1 lb. $3; Many are small Daikons, but they need to be thinned.. 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 Hot peppers: Jalapenos; round red 'cherry bomb'; or yellow 'Datil' peppers mix or match 3 peppers for $2 Green or red chiles $4/lb. long New Mexico type-some are hot, some aren't Green onions -bunch of 12 $2.50 Kohlrabi $1.00/lb. 'Superschmelz' The seed company (Bakers) says it doesn't get tough even when it weighs 10 lbs.-but ours are only about a pound or two. Tell us about how many pounds you want. Red? or green bell peppers $.50 each Papayas $1/lb. (green or ripening) (not very many yellow ones now) Baby Turnips: $3/lb. white 'Hakurei' or red 'Scarlet Queen' mix or match; choose with or without greens