Down on the farm: Most of us Florida farmers are happy when daylight savings time is over-at least we can start work by 7 in the morning. Now we won't have to pick in the afternoon and refrigerate things overnight-we can pick at 7 AM. People say: if it's too dark to work, why not start later? It's because of the other parts of our markets and our lives: growers who sell to big brokers often have to get their produce to the warehouses early in the day so that it can be loaded on other trucks to get to wherever it is going. And with us, most of you expect your boxes to arrive, or be ready for pickup, about the same time each week. Besides, after your boxes we have to harvest and pack the restaurant orders. And when we have tried to change hours depending on daylength, there have been conflicts with outside factors such as workers' children's school hours.
Now we are into one of those transitional phases for crops-when we go from the warm season crops to more of the cool season ones (and the opposite direction in the spring, of course). Often that means the boxes are not as full for several weeks. But this year doesn't seem to be this way. Squash, cucumber, and eggplant yields are dropping, but we do have corn and cherry tomatoes.
An explanation for those who prefer yellow squash over zucchini: Remember after Hurricane Matthew went through, that I mentioned that almost all of one variety of yellow squash plants were broken off by the wind? The squash crops we are harvesting now are from those that were planted at that same date, so there is just not much yellow squash right now. The next crop, which will probably be ready in about 2 weeks, has more equal amounts of green and yellow squash. The Brassicas (also called crucifers or cole crops) are a popular family of vegetables all over the world. That's important, since research is constantly showing how they are good for our health. Cabbage is probably the most common one since it is so adaptable-we hear of it growing in very cool places and it is also often grown and used in the tropics-such as Mexico and Central America. (My sister lives in Belize and, when I first visited her over 30 years ago, I was surprised to see her using cabbage as we would use lettuce, including on tacos. Now, of course, I know that is common in Mexico and other places where lettuce has a short season-or no season! Not only is cabbage better for us, it doesn't get soggy as easily.)
Since cabbage is more likely to survive in warmer temperatures than broccoli or cauliflower or Brussels sprouts, I always plant it early so we will have one of the crucifers for your boxes towards the beginning of the season. However, due to the success of our broccoli so late into this last spring, I planted that same broccoli ('Imperial'-a California variety) earlier in the fall than I usually plant broccoli. Since the cabbage variety is a large one which takes a while, we actually have broccoli before the cabbage is ready.
But this is hot weather broccoli: Heads are not really big, so there won't be much in each box. There may also be uneven maturity-a head may have some nice plump buds and others which are tightly closed. (You know that a head of broccoli is actually made up of flower buds?) The worst part is that the flavor may not be very good: Crucifers grown in hot weather are generally not as sweet-and may even be bitter-compared with those harvested during cooler weather. So, unless you enjoy a bitter flavor, you may want to use this in a quiche or a casserole, rather than eat it plain. Roasting it can also help to concentrate the sugars and may improve the taste, compared with steaming.
And, speaking of healthy eating: since demand is up among subscribers as well as our chef customers, we are growing more of the large greens this year. Our planting plan should produce collard greens, 2 chards (a red and a white), and 3 kales (green, red, and Tuscan (lacinato) from now into April. Of course, that assumes that we have planted enough to keep up with demand and that we can keep them healthy. Four of these (not chard) are crucifers so they are hardy to any cold weather we ever have at this farm. Chard is also pretty tough in south Florida "cold", as long as the cold comes on gradually. These are relatively low-maintenance crops as far as insects and diseases, but they do have potential problems: mainly caterpillars, aphids, and black rot bacteria.
We usually wait for the bell peppers to turn red, but we can give start giving out some green ones and still leave enough on the plants to turn red. They won't be available ass extras yet, but there are some nice Cubanelle peppers in the field, so they can go on the extras list. Although these look like (hot) chiles, they are actually a sweet pepper, which has thinner flesh than bell peppers.
The one time of year that we include sage in the boxes is at Thanksgiving. So, since this coming Friday will be the last box that the Friday B group gets before Thanksgiving, the sage will be in those boxes this week. Others will get their bunch of sage in their last box before the holiday. It should keep fine-just be sure there is not any moisture in it when you put it in the refrigerator.
What's in your box this week: 'Passion' yellow sweet corn cucumbers summer squashes (mostly zucchini) butternut squash a little broccoli cherry tomatoes a green pepper baby 'Astro' arugula cherry tomatoes: 'chocolate cherry', red 'Felicity', 'Solid gold' yellow grape, slightly larger oblong yellow 'Golden Rave'; larger round yellow 'Bellini' sage (Friday B boxes only) baby 'Red Russian' kale (large boxes only) eggplant (large boxes only) watermelon (large boxes only)
Enjoying your veggies: In my childhood home, greens meant lettuce or spinach. So, like some of you, I had to learn how to "handle" and prepare what I call the large greens-since they should be an important part of our diets. The "fresh cut" food industry has helped to make these into convenience foods by selling big bags of chopped kale and frozen turnip greens. (If it gets more people to eat greens, I'm for it!) But when you get them directly from a farm or grow them yourself, you have to deal with a bunch of big leaves.
Suzanne, one of our original subscribers, always ordered a lot of large greens like kale and chard. Once I asked her how she used so many of them. She said that, on the day she received her box, she washed the greens and lightly steamed them. Of course, it only takes a couple minutes of steaming to "melt" a big bunch of greens into a handful or two. Then they easily fit into smaller containers in the refrigerator. As she was cooking during the week, she could easily and quickly sauté them, or add them to a soup or other dish.
Now our friend Mike (co-owner of Native Green Cay Nursery) has started making and freezing "kale balls"-using our baby Red Russian kale. Here are his instructions: Chop loose kale into 1" pieces. Put into large pot of water and bring to a boil, cooking the kale for 7-10 minutes. (Or steam it.) Then drain and press the water out. Form into balls about 1"X1", place onto 12" pie plate, cover, and freeze for 24 hours. 1 bag of kale =1 12" pie plate of kale balls. (He notes that you can put the whole pie pan into the original bag that the loose kale came in.) After freezing, put the kale balls loose into a freezer bag and use whenever you want to add kale to something you are cooking.
A little housekeeping: Thanks to (almost) everyone for paying on time! If you ever forget to pay by our due date (first of the month), and realize it's time for your box, please call or email Donna and let her know "the check's in the mail" (hopefully it really is!) She always lets you know when we don't receive a payment on time. So, if she sends an email and calls you and we don't hear anything from you, we are likely to skip your next box. We really don't like to do that, but there have been a few times when subscribers have just quit paying and we were still sending boxes, which were never paid for. We just don't do that anymore.
Around our area: Most area Green Markets are now open. Although we don't sell directly at a market, our vegetables are sold by Cat's Produce at Delray Market and by Seed to Bloom (with their flowers) at Lake Worth, Wellington, and Jupiter (opens in a week). Both of them also sell produce from other local farms. We're in favor of any way of farmers selling their farm products directly to the public. But, ironically, as the Green Market concept has increased here (and probably in all of south Florida), there are more brokers selling produce they may have purchased from anywhere. That's because there are not enough farmers here growing produce for local markets. It's just not profitable when land costs what it does here.
So, if you're talking with friends and neighbors, or you like to supplement your box from us with other locally grown farm products, you sometimes have to do a little detective work. The things we are harvesting at the time can give you a clue to what might really be local, although farms which have greenhouses, such as Farmhouse Tomatoes, Kai-kai, and Swanks can stretch the seasons. And those who farm west and north of us can grow cool weather vegetables earlier in the fall and later into the spring than we can-but we can grow warm season ones longer! When we used to sell at Delray Market, a Growers Permit was required. That meant that the Cooperative Extension Service had checked the farm and knew that this person was actually growing produce. I believe only Wellington is requiring that now-but you can always ask the market manager. Here are some other clues that this might not be locally grown: it's packaged like it would be in a grocery store; they have an enormous display with a great variety of produce; or the price is lower than local farmers are charging. Often you can figure out by just talking to someone whether or not they are growing it-or at least whether they are buying it from local farms. To make this even more complicated, a few farms supplement what they actually do grow with produce purchased from large markets-which may be grown in south Florida-but often isn't.
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) 'Red Russian' 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 (called 'Vates' blue kale, but looks green!) Tuscan kale Collard greens
From other farms: 'Namwah' bananas -short and slightly chubby (Yagnapurush Farm, Loxahatchee) $1.60/lb. or 3 lbs for $4 For Thursday and Friday: Florida avocados (Erickson Farm, Canal Point) Tonnage $1.50 each; Choquette (larger) $2 each
Other Vegetables and fruits from our farm Corn 3 ears for $2 Cubanelle peppers 3 for $2 Butternut squash $1/lb. Eggplant $3/lb. Jalapeno peppers 3 for $2 Summer squash (zucchini only) $1.50/lb. Cucumbers (pickle size or regular size) $1.50/lb. Okra $4/lb. Papayas $1/lb. (green or ripening) Yellow honeydew melons $2 each Squash blossoms 6 for $2.50