Down on the farm: Just after I sent the newsletter last week, I went into the watermelon field and found watermelon fruit blotch. It is a disease that "strikes terror into the hearts of" watermelon growers, since some of them have lost hundreds of acres of watermelons to this disease during the last 25 years. In fact, seed companies will not sell commercial watermelon seeds without the buyer signing a waiver. That's because the disease can be carried on seeds. The seed companies do everything they can to be sure their seed sources are clean and even test the seeds, but sometimes it gets past the checks they have. It's also called bacterial fruit blotch, and since it is a bacteria, few fungicides even affect it. Since the bacteria grow best in warm moist conditions and can be spread by splashing water, you can see why it is a problem in Florida. It infects the leaves and causes brown water-soaked spots on the fruit. Depending on conditions, those spots can quickly cover the whole fruit. We have had relatively little of it-probably mostly from buying seeds from good companies. (It can live on seeds of other cucurbits, too.) We did have some a few years ago, and apparently we just had the right conditions for it to flare up this year.
Copper sprays (some of which are labeled for use in organic production) are the usual recommendation. We do use them when needed, but they are not completely effective, and can even cause damage to the plants if used too much.
For a commercial farm which is shipping watermelons to markets, any infection with this bacteria can mean the whole crop is lost. However, thanks to the speed with which our crops get to "the consumer" (you!)-and your tolerance for less than perfect produce- we don't have to waste the whole crop. So, the crew has been picking the watermelons often, trying to get them into the cooler to slow the growth of bacteria that may be on them. Of course, they leave any that are badly affected in the field, since they won't last long. (Those with just a few spots are the ones we get to take home. Early in the infection, the spots have not even grown into the rind, so the melon is ok to eat. And I have cut out as much as half a damaged melon and eaten the rest-but we don't expect you to do that!) So, between this disease and the hurricane damage, we won't have watermelons as long as we sometimes have. We can look forward to the spring crop, especially if the dry season is really dry.
Some broccoli is beginning to reach mature size. Broccoli is a cool weather crop, so any production we get this early is a bonus. This variety is 'Imperial', developed for the Imperial Valley of California. So it's about as heat tolerant a broccoli as we have available now. (But breeders are working on new ones.) However, despite having more than enough plants in the field to have broccoli for everyone, production on these early plants is spotty-only a few plants actually produce heads this early. Heads are smaller and often rather "lumpy". Cooler weather will improve the shape, size, and flavor of broccoli.
Santa, Angelica, and I are working hard to get lettuces ready for you as soon as possible. They have seeded hundreds of transplants in the greenhouse, and the first group will go into the field this week. I'm constantly looking for varieties that are supposed to be heat tolerant-especially Romaines, since we know many of you like them.
What's in your box this week: summer squashes a cucumber arugula spaghetti squash cherry tomatoes a watermelon? broccoli or beets (both in large boxes) sage for A subscribers and weekly Friday subscribers eggplant (large boxes only) kale (large boxes only)
Enjoying your veggies: I remember my Grammy being so happy when "Grampy" brought in the first harvest of baby beets from his large garden in early summer. They were always on the menu for that evening. Beets are not our most popular vegetable-although those of us who do like them often really like them. And, as we start to harvest them for the boxes, Donna and I are also faced with the dilemma of whether to leave the greens on. It appears that less than 10% of you want them. That's too bad, because they are a healthy green and are surprisingly easy to cook-check for many recipes on-line. (They can be used raw in salads when young, but I think when they get to this size, most of us prefer them cooked.)
To store the beets and/or greens, please separate them-the leaves can draw moisture out of the beet roots. The greens should be stored very cold, like most other greens, and they don't last as long as the beets themselves. Right now they look good, so we'll leave them on this week. Later in the season they often don't look as pretty so, at that point we'll cut them off unless we know that you really do want them.
If you really don't want to try them, they make a great mulch in your shrub beds. Sadly, though, most HOA landscape workers are taught to rake them out. Leaves are the most common natural mulch. What is this silly obsession with neatness and order that results in the only mulches allowed in our landscapes being wood chips (often artificially colored) or certain gravel or stones!! Any organic matter will help to add nutrients and protect the soil from drying out and eroding.
A little housekeeping: For your Thanksgiving planning: the only change during that holiday week will be that the regular Thursday boxes will be made on Wednesday-for pickup and deliveries. If you are going away and want to skip (or donate) your box that week (or any week), please email Donna with the date you want to skip.
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.)
Beet Kvass – For information, check their website, www.culturful.com 1 week advance order please! 12 oz. bottles $3.50 3 liter (100 oz.) "pouches" $25 Locally grown Flowers : Caribbean Exotics, Delray Beach: long-stemmed Heliconia-large, impressive "ginger" flowers $20 plus tax (most stems are about 3' tall) These 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 farm.
McCoy's Honey-raw, unfiltered, locally produced http://www.mccoysfloridahoney.com/ We're temporarily out of some choices of honey-hope to have a new supply later in the week. 3 lb. plastic jug $14.00 each (palmetto, or wildflower) 8 oz. bee pollen $12
LeDuc "Flavor Pict" Honey (some hives are on our farm, some are in Loxahatchee) Honey 1 qt. glass jars $17
From Yagnapurush Farm, Loxahatchee (Sorry-may not be available all days): 'Namwah' bananas -$1.60/lb. or 3 lbs for $4 (short, chubby bananas)
Microgreens, sandwich bag $3 (mix may contain radishes, arugula, purple kohlrabi, and/or red kale)
Baby greens 8 oz. bag $3 'Elegance'-a colorful, slightly spicy mix of mustards and some Asian greens 'Red Russian' kale 'Tuscan' kale 'Rokita' arugula-the kind that is usually in your box
Larger greens $3/bag (large bunch or head) No collards right now due to damage from diamond back moths. Chard- green, white or red stems Curly kales- red/purple or green Tuscan kale-also called Lacinato or alligator kale
Herbs (some are from our farm, some from Pontano Farms) $3/bunch basil apple mint cilantro dill oregano rosemary sage "tarragon" thyme
Lemongrass $3 for 1/2 lb. (about 5 stalks)
Other vegetables from our farm: Eggplant: round ones or small skinny ones, or a mix $3/lb. Butternut squash $1.50/lb. Spaghetti squash $1.50/lb. Seminole pumpkins $1.50/lb. Calabazas (Tropical pumpkins) $1.50/lb. (smaller this year: most about 5-6 lbs.) Okra $3/lb. (last week or two for this fall) Farm contact information: Donna (Office) 561-638-2755 firstname.lastname@example.org Nancy email@example.com