Down on the farm: Cooler drier weather allows me to cut back on the number of weekly sprays we have to apply. But, I do have to be careful, because there have been times when I've cut back on all pesticides, thinking that cooler weather would slow the reproduction of insects such as whiteflies and thrips, which carry those plant viruses that are so hard on our crops. Then I find out they didn't slow down much, because we'll have an outbreak of virus which wipes out many tomato or squash plants.
When the "pest pressure" is lower, I also try to use more of the biological pesticides, most of which are approved for use by organic growers. The EPA defines biopesticides as "certain types of pesticides derived from such natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals". Most that we use are actually microbes which kill insects or "eat" disease organisms. They generally work well in a laboratory under controlled conditions, but it is difficult to get them to work consistently outside where there are changing temperatures and environmental conditions such as sun and wind which can affect the longevity of the microorganisms in the biopesticide. But, I keep trying.
There seems to be a myth that organic growers don't spray. That might be true some places, but not in south Florida. If anything, they spray more often than those of us who use the more conventional pesticides, because many of the pesticides use in organic production don't have any residual effects. One organic corn grower in the Glades says he has to spray twice a day to keep "worms" (caterpillars) out of his corn.
Yea-spinach is ready!! We usually don't wash spinach because, if we wash it, we have to dry it, and the spin dryer breaks the brittle spinach leaves. Those broken places often decay quickly, shortening the life of the greens. Our large greens (chards, collards, and kales) are not washed either. They'll keep better that way. Hopefully you are using them within a day or two of receiving them. (I have kept Swiss chard for a surprisingly long time, but I don't recommend it.)
The first of the tomatoes are finally beginning to ripen. This variety doesn't have a name, just a number, because some seed companies have realized they can save money by not paying someone to make up and promote the names for their commercial vegetable varieties. Commercial growers, especially those who grow for markets like fast food restaurants, don't care about an interesting name for their vegetables-they just want them to meet the criteria for their market. I'm growing this one because it is a good choice for the fall-it produces relatively early and has resistance to tomato spotted wilt, as well as some other diseases, and is supposed to taste good (not great, just good). By next week I expect to have tomatoes in all the boxes. We'll soon be into the 'Skyway' and 'Amelia', as well as some new varieties from some innovative seed companies.
At the same time as some new crops are starting, this is the last week we'll be harvesting okra until April, and the last week we'll have Erickson Farm avocados this season.
What's in your box this week: spinach cucumbers summer squashes (mostly zucchini) butternut squash broccoli cherry tomatoes a green pepper cherry tomatoes: 'chocolate cherry', red 'Felicity', 'Solid gold' yellow grape, slightly larger oblong yellow 'Golden Rave'; larger round yellow 'Bellini' baby 'Astro' arugula (large boxes only) tomatoes (large boxes only) sage (A group boxes only)
Enjoying your veggies: One of the more difficult things I feel compelled to do is constantly test the vegetables we are harvesting. (It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it!) So this weekend I was roasting an oven full of winter squash. I had taken home 3 butternuts that we culled out because they had defects on them. Despite their outside appearance, they all tasted fine-the one that was covered with small spots wasn't quite as sweet as the other 2, but it was still worth eating.
The other one weighed about 4-5 lbs., and came from a plant in our Seminole pumpkin plots, although it was bigger and shaped differently from the little round, slightly pointed, pumpkins. Since squashes are pollinated by bees, most of them cross pollinate (at least within their species) quite easily. That doesn't affect the characteristics of the squash we are harvesting now, but, since it is growing right next to our butternut squash, if you saved the seed from these and planted them, you would find a lot of variability in the fruit that was produced. That's one reason I rarely save seed to replant here. I have bought seeds for the Seminole pumpkins from several companies and have found different amounts of variation in them. I've settled on Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds as being the most consistent and reliable source of these seeds. But, even they have about 1% plants that produce differently shaped fruit. We do harvest these if they look like a decent winter squash, so it is one of those I tried today. It was hard to cut initially, of course but had a lot of light-orange usable flesh, with a very small seed cavity. The flesh was slightly drier than most of our butternuts, and had a good winter squash/pumpkin taste, but was not sweet. Many of us enjoy them plain-or with only butter, but those who want winter squash to be sweet would be disappointed. They would be good if you wanted a lot of pumpkin for something like pies, bread, or cookies-where you are adding spices and sugar and using something to mix them up, since they come out of the shell in big chunks. I actually froze several pounds of the "pumpkin" for my pumpkin smoothies/milkshakes. So, if any of you brave people want to buy one or more of them, we'll sell them for half price (50¢/lb.). It's probably best to let Donna about how many pounds you want. (There aren't a lot of them.)
A little housekeeping: If you're ordering extras for your box on the same day as you get your box, please call before 7AM. If your schedule is the crazy kind-where you're getting things done at 11 PM or 4 AM-you may leave a message on our machine at any time. It's in the office, not a home, so you won't wake any one. (I don't think Ted's hens in the chicken coop outside the office window can hear it.)
And, we do appreciate that more of you are starting to buy the Seed to Bloom flowers. (Laurie just told me that the snapdragons are starting to bloom! It makes sense that their snapdragons and our spinach would both be starting, since they are both plants that like cooler weather.) Please remember that we order the flowers for the Monday and Tuesday boxes on Fridays and for the Thursday and Friday boxes on Wednesday mornings. So, if you cancel your flowers after those times, Laurie has already cut them for you. Sometimes Donna can find another subscriber to buy them. But, if not, you will be charged for them.
An early reminder: Next week the Thursday boxes will be made on Wednesday. That's the only change we make for Thanksgiving. So, if your Friday box is normally delivered to a business that will be closed next Friday, please get in touch with Donna about alternatives. And, of course, if you are going out of town and want to skip your box, let her know. Boxes which are picked up can be changed to another day, if you want, but we can't change the delivery boxes since our routes go to different areas on different days.
Weekly extras: What are "extras"? This means that we either have an extra supply of some of the items we grow, or we purchased or grew some items just for extras (for instance, flowers, honey, herbs, or okra). The extras list makes the newsletter seem very long, but it's just because the list itself takes up 3-4 pages.
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.)
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
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 (wildflower, palmetto, or orange blossom) 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 $16
Herbs (some are from our farm, some from Pontano Farms) $3/bunch basil chives mint (This generic mint is actually spearmint.) specialty mints: peppermint, chocololate mint, apple mint oregano sage tarragon (True French tarragon is very difficult to grow here. So 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 for first three) Baby kale mix: may have 'Red Russian', a curly kale, and some Tuscan kale Arugula 'Elegance' mustard greens mix-slightly spicy mixed mustards with some broccoli raab leaves Microgreens, sandwich bag (mix may contain radishes, arugula, kale, and/or purple kohlrabi)
Larger greens $3/bag (large bunch) Swiss chard- red or white Curly kale (blue/green or purple/red) Tuscan kale (also called Lacinato or alligator kale) Collard greens
From other farms: 'Namwah' bananas -short and slightly chubby (Yagnapurush Farm, Loxahatchee) $1.60/lb. or 3 lbs for $4 Florida avocados (Erickson Farm, Canal Point) Tonnage $1.50 each; Choquette (larger) $2 each (LAST WEEK!)
Other Vegetables and fruits from our farm Cubanelle peppers 3 for $2 Butternut squash $1/lb. Larger mystery winter squashes 50¢/lb. Eggplant $3/lb. Jalapeno peppers 3 for $2 Summer squash (zucchini only) $1.50/lb. Cucumbers (pickle type or regular size) $1.50/lb. Okra $4/lb. LAST WEEK! Papayas $1/lb. (green or ripening) Yellow honeydew melons $2 each Squash blossoms 6 for $2.50