Welcome to week 3 of the FSI. This morning we wake up to temps in the mid to low 30's and that means probable frost. The good news is we expect such things to happen until Memorial day so we do not plant things too early and lose them. Yeah, I know the official last frost date is May 15th for this part of the world and I believe for Butler county and southward it really is. But here in northern Preble county we have been hit with light frosts as late as May 29th. the first time that happened to us we were I believe 3 years into market farming, didn't know much and it was a warm spring early and so we put out all the tomatoes and peppers and other heat loving crops in early May and felt pretty darned proud of ourselves for getting the garden in a timely fashion. Than it started getting cold and by Memorial Day weekend the low temps were going below 32F. Tomatoes and peppers will not tolerate such temp unprotected so we spent hours running around the 1 acre market garden (1/5 the size we work today) trying to protect the plants in the ground. And we did succeed in saving most by piling straw over top of each plant (and there were probably 400+ plants to protect. We did not know about using row covers or other techniques for protecting tender crops against cold back than so it was a real potential disaster. In the end, though as I mentioned most the plants were saved but later on we got bad yields because we found chilled pepper plants will pout all season and produce very little and chilled tomatoes will get hit with late blights and other diseases. So now we transplant these crops on or after Memorial day and while our crops come in a few weeks later than everyone else's they are generally in really good shape and productive and from a marketing standpoint we can sell the later tomatoes much more easily than early tomatoes as our main market is in Oxford, OH home to my Alma Mater, Miami, U (and where I was born and raised, as well) because the faculty and students coming back to school do not have home gardens full of tomatoes-in other words if we grow maters to harvest in July and early August we hit a big glut of them and it is very hard to sell them so most tend to go to the food pantry or the FSI members (and this means up to 35 pounds a week, literally. Which I think we all can agree is way too much for most people-I will warn you all if you are in the FSI this summer and fall you will get a lot of tomatoes, like 12 to 15 pounds a week unless we have a bad tomato year, which can and does happen (last year we had a pretty good mater year but most of the eastern US was hit bad by late blight which decreases the yield by around 75% and what you get is not the best quality).
Okay, we do have one crop we are harvesting that these cold mornings does effect and it is really hard to protect. That would be the asparagus. It gets frost damaged pretty easily so what we do is first cut all the tall spears and than cover all the remaining spears with little tents of straw. Most of the time we get very little damage by taking the extra hour to do this work. If the temps go below 28F all bets are off on the emerging spears but the crowns (aka the roots) will be okay and after going dormant for 18 to 48 hours will resume production again. if it goes below 20F while the asparagus is producing than we are looking at major damage to the crowns themselves and probably losing entire plants. this is a very bad thing as it takes 2 to 3 years to get asparagus established. the good news is it almost never gets so cold around here in the spring and if it did I suppose we would have to go buy 20 bales of straw and get them on the asparagus beds to keep the ground insulated and warm.
Cold weather is something we are good at dealing with, far better than most farmers as a matter of fact. We were watching TV news last night and they had a piece on the cold effecting crops and interviewed Monin's Fruit farm because they have tender crops that could get nuked by frost. they are now using row covers on their strawberries (after losing them completely 2 of the past 5 years) but mentioned the green beans they are growing will likely get killed or badly damaged by frost. Both Eugene and I laughed at the guy because we too are growing early green beans but we have row cover over them to protect them from frost (and ironically I believe we just took the row covers off of our strawberries because they were getting leggy and diseased, but since they are not in flower yet (and won't be for another 6 weeks because when you establish ever bearing strawberries you have to remove all flowers for the first 8 weeks) the cold will not bother them at all.
As FSI members, know that our knowledge and skill using season extension techniques is a big hedge against the risk we are all sharing and every year we get better and better at it.
Remember pick-up is after 4pm today. Usually I am all done harvesting, cleaning and packing shares by 2pm but today I suspect I will have to wait until 9am to start harvest (I usually start around 7am) so I may be working past 4pm to get things ready.
The shares are in the fridge to the right of the door.
Pot luck this Sunday after 4pm. Several of you have NOT RSVP'ed yet. Please to today, thanks. It only takes a few seconds to do so.
This week's recipe is not really a recipe but rather how to deal with kale
You will get kale in your share this week (and likely most weeks through the season). Kale is delicious and very nutritious but a food most of us are not too familiar with or if we are, have only had badly grown kale (the kale from Wal-Mart is inedible for the most part-bitter and gritty. This is true of most industrially farmed kale).
So here is what you do with kale
First wash it than lay a leaf on a cutting board. You will notice a thick central vein, take a paring knife and cut it out, leaving the majority of the leaf and all the smaller veins behind. You cam eat this vein and the reason it is removed is it takes longer to cook than the rest of the leaf. If you want to use this part chop into pieces and toss into the cook water or saute pan about 4 minutes before the leaves are cooked. Now you know how to prep kale. Cooking kale is easy. The most basic thing to do is cook for 5 to 7 minutes in 1" of boiling water. It also is good sauteed in butter or olive oil with some onion and garlic. It also makes a nice omelette-sauté up some kale with onion and other vegetables. When done put aside and than make scrambled eggs. when the eggs are 2/3 done dump the veggies on top and top with cheese and put in a 200F oven for 5+ minutes (until the cheese is melted) and it is ready to eat.
What's in the Share
Lettuce- around a pound of lettuce
Kale-at least 1/2 pound of White russian kale. We grow 4 to 5 different kinds and you see different kales in your share over the season
Radishes-another big bunch of D'avignon radishes
Spring Mix-1/2 pound of salad mix. Remember to wash this and all of our greens.
Arugula-this is a peppery sweet salad green that is also great on pizza (top with arugula after cooking). You will get a 1/4 pound bag
Popcorn-this will be some of the best popcorn you will ever eat. It is an heirloom popcorn that pops up white
Rhubarb-I have no idea how much you will get in your share. I hope 1/2 pound but I have not looked at the rhubarb in several days so I don't really know how much is out there. You may get more than a 1/2 pound or perhaps less (but I seriously doubt that)
Cilantro-you will get a generous baggie of cilantro from our over wintered and volunteers that have sprung up all over the garden. Cilantro has become a weed around here but a harvestable weed
Asparagus-I believe you will get 2 pounds this week, 1/2 green, 1/2 purple (no matter how cold it got you would have gotten you asparagus as it was cut yesterday before the cold)
Garlic Chives-AKA chines chives. Like onion chives but with a garlic flavor.
I may toss a few other items into the shares, I won't know until I finish harvesting
PS as I finish this newsletter the temp is hovering around freezing and frost is forming on the barn roof but we will be A-OK.
Boulder Belt Eco-Farm