Down on the farm: Over the years many have asked us what Farming Systems Research, the name of our business, means. Farming Systems are combinations of production methods that different farms use-all of these methods together comprise the system that a particular farm or ranch uses. One of the main reasons we started the farm was to do research on different methods and systems-and hopefully find better ones that we and other vegetable growers could use.
One of the most common types of research projects we have done is vegetable variety trials-usually testing for yields, and often also measuring factors such as heat tolerance and disease resistance. This spring we have been doing a lettuce variety trial for an independent plant breeder from California. He made crosses between lettuce varieties that had characteristics that he wanted in his lettuce varieties and sent us about 200 of those resulting crosses to try here. We started the seeds and planted them into the field in April-much later than I would ever plant lettuce. That's because one characteristic he wants to study is resistance to bolting. Last week he came to check them and marked a few plants that appeared to have the characteristics he is looking for. We'll leave those in the field because we actually want them to bolt and produce seeds. Then we'll send those seeds back to him where he will grow them and again pick out those that are best. So now we have hundreds of extra lettuce plants-mostly curly leaf types and a small number of iceberg lettuces. There was Romaine but it has all bolted and/or has external or internal tip burn. That can be a big problem so he is trying to select varieties which don't have that problem as much.
So, guess what will be in your boxes this week? That's the good news. The bad news is that I can't promise anything about the flavor. I was out there with him tasting lettuce last week and I know that there is an amazing amount of variability in that field. Only one that I tasted was extremely bitter-the others varied from "sweet" to slightly bitter-and mixtures. We won't pick any that are obviously bolting because we know they will be bitter, but the rest will just be luck. Of course, another factor is the weather-those who get their lettuce during this cool weather will have the best chance of having good tasting ones. If we get into several days of hot weather, there won't be as many good ones. Keeping it well watered helps, but when the temperature is 90, as predicted for later this week, there isn't much that can be done. The plant breeder told me that the taste of the lettuce can even vary during the day-as it gets hotter, the increased stress on the plant causes more bitterness. I think our crew can pick this fast enough so that we can do all the harvesting in the mornings.
I wondered if we should do this or just plow them in and decided that most of you would rather take the chance than have us throw out all of them. These won't be separated or marked by variety, so we won't be keeping records of how they taste, especially since he has already picked the ones he wants to keep out of this generation.
We're still waiting for melons to ripen-the raccoons always know when they are sweet and they haven't started on them yet.
What's in your box this week: tomatoes cherry tomatoes eggplant summer squashes cucamelons, maybe with some pineapple tomatillos?? spaghetti squash arugula or lettuce (both in large boxes) a cucumber or two
Enjoying your veggies: New subscribers may be surprised to learn that we have 2 "autumn" growing seasons in south Florida. Some of our fields are starting to look like fall right now, as the butternut and spaghetti squashes ripen-and soon the larger winter squashes will be ready, too. With only 3 weeks left in our season, boxes will get too heavy if we wait to include them. So, we'll start with the spaghetti squashes, especially a newer variety called 'Angel Hair', which produces very small fruits.
Like most winter squashes, these could use a couple weeks to "cure", so there is no reason to be in a hurry to use them. Curing can be in the sun (bring them in if rain is predicted), or inside, if you have a place where the temperature is in the low 80s (screened-in porch?) Curing takes about 10 days. After that, they should ideally be stored about 55̊, but who has a root cellar here? Anyway, that's for longer term storage. I usually just keep ours on the counter or table, where they often last for months. Check them frequently and use them right away if they begin to develop any lesions or soft spots.
Around our area: Many of you already buy fresh eggs and raw dairy from Svetlana and Marty, our farming friends at Heritage Hen. (As I do.) They are trying to start a dairy delivery service. (For you young people, that is an old fashioned concept called a milkman.) I haven't seen the announcement on their website or Facebook yet. But, if you live in Delray or Boca, watch for it to start up soon-or better yet, ask them about it when you visit their farm-I think they are trying to see how many may be interested. Take your children to their farm, too- to see their cows and free ranging chickens.
Summer program: As most of you know, the hotter and wetter it gets, the more difficult it is to keep a good mix of crops. That's why our regular program stops when it does. But, we try to grow enough to extend the season a little for those who live close enough to come and to purchase the produce you want-from what we are able to grow. (That is for two weeks in June and 4 weeks in September.)
The summer program will be the same as it has been for the last 3 summers. There is a $20 fee to join-that payment is the membership fee for the whole 6 weeks of the program. You'll receive the weekly list by e-mail on Sundays, and you can come to the little tent at the pickup site on the farm to buy what you want on Tuesdays and Fridays from 8:30 AM until 6:30 PM. Yes, you are welcome to come both days in the week, if you want. (Sorry-there is no delivery available during the summer program.)
So, if you are going to join, mark on your calendar these dates when our little summer market will be open: Early season: Tuesday, May 30 Friday, June 2 Tuesday, June 6 Friday, June 9 September: Tuesday, Sept. 5 Friday, Sept. 8 Tuesday, Sept. 12 Friday, Sept. 15 Tuesday, Sept. 19 Friday, Sept. 22 Tuesday, Sept. 26 Friday, Sept. 29
Please understand that there will ONLY be warm-season crops (not all of them each week). That may include: summer squashes; greens such as arugula, baby kale, mustards, purslane, and/or Asian greens; microgreens; cucumbers; winter squashes such as butternut and Seminole pumpkins; eggplants; okra; southern peas; melons; and corn. When tropical fruits are available locally, we try to include them (longans, lychees, or mangos), and we generally have honey from McCoy's and LeDuc's Apiaries.
Donna has put up the simple application and additional information on our website (www.veggies4u.com). Sometime before May 15, please send or bring your $20 payment. It can be put into the mailbox at the pickup site-just be sure to designate who it is from and what it is for. This program is not limited to our current subscribers so, if you have friends or neighbors who would like to sign up, we would be glad to have them! They can sign up on the website, too. If you-or they- need directions to the farm, Donna will supply those to you.
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 number of bouquets 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/ 3 lb. plastic jug $14.00 each (orange blossom, palmetto, wildflower) 1 gal. (12 lbs.) $52 (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 chives cilantro?? It bolts in warm weather so it won't be available much longer. dill lemon balm (It's like a lemon mint) mint (This generic mint is actually spearmint.) specialty mints: chocolate mint, apple mint, peppermint, orange mint oregano parsley rosemary sage "tarragon" thyme
Lemongrass $3 for 1/2 lb. (about 5 stalks)
'Baby' Greens $3.00/bag (8 oz. bag) 'Elegance' mustard greens mix-slightly spicy mixed mustards with some broccoli raab leaves Arugula Red Russian kale Microgreens, sandwich bag (mix may contain radishes, arugula, red kale, and/or mustard greens)
Larger greens $3/bag (large bunch or head) Swiss chard- red only
From Yagnapurush Farm, Loxahatchee: 'Namwah' bananas -$1.60/lb. or 3 lbs for $4 short and slightly chubby
Tomatoes Red slicers $2.50/lb. Mixed cherry tomatoes sandwich bag $3 Green tomatoes $2/lb.
Other vegetables from our farm: Okra $4/lb. Eggplant $3/lb. Seminole pumpkins $1.50/lb. Yellow squash or zucchini $2/lb. Jalapenos 3 for $2