Down on the farm: As I tried to make choices about what the crew should do today, I was reminded of a woman I met at a gathering several weeks ago. She was very indignant that weather forecasters are not able to be more accurate. She said something to the effect of when they are paid all that money the forecasts should be perfect. To me it's amazing that they get it right as much as they do-especially here by the ocean. I don't know much about meteorology, but she obviously had even less understanding than I do of the complicated factors that go into predicting the weather.
So, I had to look at the predictions and decide if we were going to seed our baby greens, and some beets, turnips, fennel, and onions. Of course it makes it easier to have a couple gentle showers for the days after planting-then Luis doesn't have to water with the water wagon. On the other hand, if it rains too hard and too long, the sides of the beds can fall down and some (expensive!) seeds and fertilizer will wash away. But, if we don't seed the baby greens on schedule, we get into the situation we have had recently where we don't have enough of them for your boxes or for our restaurant customers. Most of last week we were scraping to find greens to put into the boxes, so I didn't want to have to do that again soon. So, Abelino did the seeding and we'll hope for the best.
There was pre-rain harvesting to do, too. Too much water can cause many fruits (tomatoes, melons, etc.) to crack. So, we always try to pick them if there is a prediction of heavy rain. Sometimes that means we have to pick a little before crops reach perfect maturity. But, that's certainly better than losing them completely.
Last week a lot of subscribers got chard or bunches of kale, and a few got replacements that weren't even greens. That reminded me to tell you: if you like, and are able to eat, almost all the vegetables, this program works really well for you. But one thing could help to make it even better: If there are a few vegetables that you especially like-let's say that you wouldn't even mind it if you received a double amount of them-you may ask Donna to put them on your "likes" list. Then, if we run out of something that we were planning to put in your box, we'll know that it would be OK to give you 10 ears of corn or 2 bags of arugula, or whatever. Anyway, by the end of last week, the baby kale and arugula finally got big enough to cut. Hopefully they won't drown this weekend.
When our cherry tomatoes start to ripen, they sort of trickle into the boxes. First there will be very small amounts in the large boxes only. Then, usually within 2 weeks, we'll work our way up to having a sandwich bag full in each box. I have tasted a few of these and they didn't taste great yet. Hopefully it's because I was eating the old, cracked ones. But too much water can definitely result in less flavor in fruiting crops.
I'm afraid this corn crop is going to be almost a complete failure-and this time it is the 4-legged pests that have eaten it. We haven't had a coyote in years, but now we have at least 1, who is apparently very fond of corn. The raccoons don't eat as much, and they seem to be less likely to entertain themselves by pulling down whole stalks and sometimes even taking the ears to the next block, as the coyote does.
If you receive a Seminole pumpkin that looks like it has been waxed, don't let it bother you. We don't need to do that. (Although there isn't anything wrong with using food grade waxes on vegetables and fruits. It does help to keep them from drying out during storage.). Apparently these indigenous pumpkins produce their own waxy covering-especially when they are stored in the heat. I guess it's one reason why they last so long. By the way, we have some cute little Seminole pumpkins that would make great (edible!) table decorations. Just ask Donna if you specifically want the smaller ones-most of them weigh about a pound-and the price per pound is the same as the bigger ones.
One subject that is important to everyone (whether they realize it or not!) is food safety. With all the recalls you hear about, it may seem that food is less safe than it used to be. Actually, the reason there are so many recalls now is that there is a lot more testing and awareness in the food production industry. A lot of the recalls are not because someone got sick, but just that regularly scheduled testing showed a potential pathogen, allergen, or other contaminant in the food product. And another factor, of course, is that our food supply is so centralized now. Those enormous packing houses and processing facilities handle unbelievably large amounts of produce (or other foods) each day. So, if one "batch" is processed using the same contaminated water or a machine that has not been properly cleaned and checked, hundreds of food packages with the same problem can be shipped out to many locations, resulting in those massive recalls.
The new nationwide Food Safety Modernization Act is gradually beginning to go into effect. Eventually most farms will have to follow rules about practices such as: application of manures, keeping domestic animals out of fields and packing houses, testing the water used in all farm and packing operations, how equipment is cleaned, and how workers are trained about food safety. (The Administration has recently extended the deadlines for farms to comply with these rules.)
Despite the fact that our farm meets the requirements to have a "qualified exemption" I have attended meetings to learn about food safety recommendations and have already refined some of our practices to comply with the rules. Everyone who works here is reminded to wash their hands frequently. Only potable water is used to wash our produce. We also add a sanitizer to our produce wash water (a hydrogen peroxide based one-not chlorine). We have also had several crew meetings where we talked about the importance of using good food safety practices.
I've added cilantro and dill to our herb list. The plants are still short, but we'll give you a fatter bunch to make up for that. Anyway, most people use the leaves and throw away the big stems of dill or cilantro.
What's in your box this week: summer squashes Seminole pumpkins a little corn? cucumbers eggplant arugula a cantaloupe or honeydew melon?? kale (large boxes only) butternut squash (large boxes only)
Enjoying your veggies (and fruits!): If you order the Namwah bananas, you may receive some which appear (from the outside) to be overripe. Please open them and check-don't automatically throw them out. Assuming you like sweet bananas, you will find those with lots of black spots on the peel are the best of this banana variety-even if they feel soft. (I got to make 2-ingredient banana pancakes for dessert one day this week because I had to take home a few bananas that looked so ugly so we were afraid to send them out. This recipe uses only bananas and eggs-hard to believe-look it up and try it!)
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.)
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/ 3 lb. plastic jug $14.00 each (orange blossom, 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: 'Namwah' bananas -$1.60/lb. or 3 lbs for $4 (short, chubby bananas)
Herbs (some are from our farm, some from Pontano Farms) $3/bunch basil apple mint cilantro dill oregano rosemary "tarragon" thyme Lemongrass $3 for 1/2 lb. (about 5 stalks)
Microgreens, sandwich bag $3 (mix may contain radishes, arugula, and/or red kale)
Larger greens $3/bag (large bunch or head) No collards right now due to damage from diamond back moths. Chard- green/white stems or red stems Curly kales- red/purple or green Tuscan kale-also called Lacinato or alligator kale
Other vegetables from our farm: Eggplant: round ones or small skinny ones, or a mix $3/lb. pineapple tomatillos $3/snack size bag 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 5-8 lbs.) Okra $3/lb. Southern peas (not shelled)-mixed varieties $1.00/lb. (usually a pound results in about half a pound after shelling); thought we would run out last week, but we picked some more