Bountiful Blessings Farm Produce

  (Hinckley, Illinois)
Locally Grown - Quality Farm Produce at Affordable Prices
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Spring Preparations 2014

We have been working diligently at the Bountiful Blessings Farm getting everything ready for another season. Kim and I have gone through the seed catalogs and selected the varieties we will be growing this year. In my last post I listed the peppers we will be featuring this year. We have received numerous requests to expand our pepper variety so we listened and did just that. This week I have been working on seed planting schedules, tractors and our wagons. The weather here has been very cold with lots of snow. We are all getting a bit tired of it! 

Last weekend we were to attend the DeKalb Winter Farmer's market, but ut was canceled due the weather. We will be present at the one scheduled in January. 

Please be sure to look at our CSA subscriptions on our website if you are interested in participating this year. We have held our prices despite the increase in labor and fuel expenses. Please consider joining us.

 
 

Pepper Preparation

Here is a list of some of the speciality and heirloom peppers we will be growing this year:

 

 

     Sport Peppers

     Giant Aconcagua Sweet Pepper

     Bhut Jolokia (Ghost) Pepper

     Naga Viper Pepper

     Trinidad Scorpion (Butch T Strain)    Hot Pepper

     Key Largo Cubanelle

     Tiburon – Poblano

     Large Red Cherry Hot

     Cayenne – Large Thick

     Cayenne – Long Slim

     Jalapeno – Telica F1

     Jalapeno – Suribachi F1

     Habanero

     Chocolate Habanero

     Ghost Pepper Bhut Jolokia

     Belcanto

     Oranos

     Xanthi

 

Heirloom Peppers

     Chervena Chushka Pepper

     Tequila Sunrise Pepper

     Wenk's Yellow Hots Pepper

     Jimmy Nardello's Pepper

     Hinkelhatz Pepper

     Fish Pepper

     Ancho Gigantea Pepper

 
 

Update - - Tomatoes Coming Soon!!

 

 

 Tomatoes in the high tunnel...

 Tomatoes in the field....

 

 

 Another view of the field...

 
 

Planting Potatoes

 

Planting potatoes today! Very busy time of the year.

 
 

Yet More Peppers Grown at the Bountiful Blessings Farm

 

 Here are some more of the peppers we grow at the farm

 

Cayenne – Long Thin Pepper

The cayenne pepper—also known as the Guinea spice, cow-horn pepper, aleva, bird pepper, or, especially in its powdered form, red pepper—is a red, hot chili pepper used to flavor dishes and for medicinal purposes. Named for the city of Cayenne in French Guiana, it is a cultivar of Capsicum annuum related to bell peppers, jalapeños, and others. The Capsicum genus is in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

The fruits are generally dried and ground, or pulped and baked into cakes, which are then ground and sifted to make the powdered spice of the same name.

Cayenne is used in cooking spicy dishes, as a powder or in its whole form (such as in Korean, Sichuan and other Asian cuisine), or in a thin, vinegar-based sauce. It is generally rated at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units. It is also used as an herbal supplement, and was mentioned by Nicholas Culpeper in his 17th century book Complete Herbal.

 

Jalapeños – Mucho Nacho

Most people think of the jalapeño as being very hot, but it actually varies from mild to hot depending on how it was grown and how it was prepared. The heat is concentrated in the seeds and the veins, so if you want it on the milder end of its scale, remove those parts.

Jalapeños are sold canned, sliced, and pickled. Canned jalapeños may be milder than fresh because they are usually peeled and the seeds removed. Pickled jalapeños are always hot.

A chipotle (pronounced: chi poat lay) is a jalapeño that has been smoked. The jalapeño rates between 2,500 and 8,000 Scoville units on the heat index.

Habanero Pepper

The habanero's heat, its fruity, citrus-like flavor, and its floral aroma have made it a popular ingredient in hot sauces and spicy foods. Habaneros are sometimes placed in tequila or mezcal bottles, particularly in Mexico, for a period ranging from several days to several weeks, to make a spiced version of the drink. Most habaneros rate 200,000 to 300,000 Scoville heat units. Yee ha!! That's hot!! HANDLE WITH CARE!!!!!

 

 
 

More Peppers at Bountiful Blessings Farm

 More Peppers We Grow at the Bountiful Blessings Farm

 

Wenk’s Yellow Pepper

The Wenk’s Yellow hot pepper is originally the Albuquerque’s South Valley, where it is incorporated into the local cuisine.  In terms of spice, this variety produces medium to hot peppers with a full flavor of citrus.  Because these waxy yellow fruits are very fleshy, they are often used for pickling.

Key Largo Cubanelle Pepper

Key Largo Cubanelle peppers are similar to Anaheim peppers but slightly less flavorful. They are considered a sweet pepper. Cubanelles can be stuffed or used in salads and casseroles. Also good on pizzas or subs. These thin-walled, long, tapered peppers have more flavor and a lower water content than bell peppers and are the perfect pepper for roasting and frying.

Cubanelle peppers are long and tapered, and either red or pale green or yellow. They can be substituted in recipes calling for Anaheim peppers. The Cubanelle should be firm, smooth and glossy.

Cayenne – Long Thin Pepper

The cayenne pepper—also known as the Guinea spice, cow-horn pepper, aleva, bird pepper, or, especially in its powdered form, red pepper—is a red, hot chili pepper used to flavor dishes and for medicinal purposes. Named for the city of Cayenne in French Guiana, it is a cultivar of Capsicum annuum related to bell peppers, jalapeños, and others. The Capsicum genus is in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

The fruits are generally dried and ground, or pulped and baked into cakes, which are then ground and sifted to make the powdered spice of the same name.

Cayenne is used in cooking spicy dishes, as a powder or in its whole form (such as in Korean, Sichuan and other Asian cuisine), or in a thin, vinegar-based sauce. It is generally rated at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units. It is also used as an herbal supplement, and was mentioned by Nicholas Culpeper in his 17th century book Complete Herbal.

Ghost Pepper

The Bhut Jolokia — also known as Ghost Pepper has been around for many centuries and it is believed to have originated in Assam, India. The word Bhut, given from the Bhutias people, means "ghost" and was probably given the name because of the way the heat sneaks up on the one who eats it.

It was only introduced to the western world in 2000. In that same year, a report was published stating it's level of heat as almost double that of a Red Savina Habanero which was believed to be the world's hottest pepper.

In 2007 The Ghost Pepper was certified as the hottest Chili Pepper on the planet in The Guinness Book of World Records. Over 1,000,000 on the Scoville Scale.

 

 
 

New Wood Stove in Greenhouse

 We installed a wood stove in our seedling house today. Holding 70 degrees at this point. More testing to come. I will keep you posted on how it works. This is something new for us. The house measures 22X24.

 
 

Peppers at the Bountiful Blessings Farm

 These are a few of the peppers we are growing at the Bountiful Blessings Farm. Seeding under way!! It won't be long!!

Fish Pepper

 

This pepper is an African-American heirloom that predates the 1870s; the Fish Pepper is bright in color and crunchy, with a hot and bold flavor.  In the late 1800s, the Fish Pepper was widely grown in the Philadelphia and Baltimore area. Fish Pepper plants have beautiful green and white variegated foliage with pendant fruits that are 2-3 inches long.  When the fruits ripen, they change in color from cream with green stripes to orange with brown stripes, and then eventually to an all red eating pepper. Traditionally, the fish pepper was used in oyster and crab houses around the Chesapeake Bay. Rated as 3 on a heat scale of 1-5, the Fish Pepper is also perfect for mild-medium salsas.

 

Hinkelhatz Hot Pepper

 

Named by its Pennsylvania Dutch growers, the ‘Hinkelhatz’ is a rare heirloom pepper which translates to “chicken heart,” a description of its size and shape. The variety is one of the oldest preserved by this group of Mennonites, cultivated for well over 150 years.  It was illustrated in Charles L’Ecluse’s 1611 Curae Posteriores, though without a mentioned origin (presumed to be Mexico).  The peppers are usually red or yellow, though a very rare orange variant exists preserved among a small group of Mennonite farmers in Maxatawy, Pennsylvania and is slightly more top-like in shape.  Its flavor is described as “stocky” and it is considered to be quite hot.  The Hinkelhatz is traditionally used exclusively for pickling.  The Pennsylvania Dutch cooked and pureed it to make a pepper vinegar, a condiment often sprinkled on sauerkraut.  A recipe appears in 1848 in Die Geschickte Hausfrau. 

 

Jimmy Nardello’s Sweet Italian Frying Pepper

 

This variety of pepper was originally from Basilicata, a southern region of Italy.  It takes its name from seed saver Jimmy Nardello, who brought the seeds from Italy while immigrating to Connecticut in 1887. The Jimmy Nardello’s pepper is sweet and light when eaten raw.  It is considered one of the very best frying peppers as its fruity raw flavor becomes perfectly creamy and soft when fried.

 

 
 

CSA Information

Folks have been asking for information on our CSA subscriptions so I thought I would try to answer some questions here in this blog entry. Our CSA subscriptions have pretty much all the popular veggies. With our subscriptions, we include melons in season, but that is really the only fruit. Sometimes there is peaches, apples and plums, but only occasionally. As for veggies, a few are: beets, lettuce, Swiss chard, sweet corn, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, summer squash, onion, radish, kohlrabi, carrots, beans, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and more - - All in season. A full subscription basically a bushel.

We are an integrated pest management farm, meaning we use a combination of growing techniques to control problems. We start with organic measures, and move into more conventional measures if organic measures do not work. We are not certified organic. But as for chemicals, we only spray when needed and we use "safe" products with PHI of zero to one. Our soil is very rich in organic matter and we work diligently to improve our soil each year.

I am a fourth generation farmer on the home farm. You are certainly welcome to visit the farm and talk with me personally. Thank you for your interest in our CSA program. If I can answer any more questions, or if you would like to meet and/or tour the farm, let me know.

 
 

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers

Today we started to sow some of our hot pepper seeds. We have a small seed room with artificial lighting on racks made for seeding flats. We also have a seeding table which keeps the soil temperature at 80 degrees F. This remains stable throughout the season for consistent germination of most vegetable plants. For varieties that require lower temperatures we adjust the table accordingly. Anyhow, we plated some hot peppers today of several varieties.

     

We grow a dozen or more variety of chiles – hot peppers – each year.  One mild chile that we are growing this year is Pasilla Bajio, also known as chile negro. Pasilla Bajio is a mild chile with a smoky flavor. It is slightly less hot than a jalapeno and is often used to enhance the flavor in mole sauces. It can also be used to make salsas. These 8 to 10 inch long cylindrical peppers are thin walled and start off dark green before ripening to dark brown.

The Pasilla pepper should not be confused with the ancho.  The Ancho is the dried version of the Poblano pepper that growers and grocers frequently mislabel as the Pasilla in the United States.  The darker Anchos are also sometimes known as chile negro - thus generating much confusion - but they are not the same as the Pasilla peppers. The Pasilla can even create an interesting twist in the flavor and appearance of the standard red-chile enchilada sauce.  It is also a favorite in combination with fruits or accompanying duck, seafood, lamb, mushrooms, garlic, fennel, honey or oregano.

Another hot pepper we seeded today is the Red Scotch Bonnet. This pepper is a cultivar of the Habanero and is among the hottest peppers anywhere. Its name derives from its resemblance to the Scottish Tam o' Shanter hat, though it appears primarily in the Caribbean and in Guyana and the Maldives. Other names for these chili peppers include Bahamian, Bahama Mama, Jamaican Hot or Martinique Pepper, as well as booney peppers, bonney peppers, Boab’s Bonnet, Scotty Bons and goat peppers.

The Scotch bonnet pepper is usually red or yellow at maturity. It typically features with jerk dishes including pork and chicken. Its apple-and-cherry-tomato flavor also pops up with other dishes in Grenadian, Trinidadian, Jamaican, Barbadian, Guyanese, Surinamese, Haitian and Caymanian cuisine.

The hottest pepper sown today was the Ghost Pepper or Bhut Jolokia Chili Peppers. These babies are officially the hottest peppers around, toping the Red Savina Habanero. It was awarded the distinction of World's Hottest of All Spices by the Guinness World Records in 2006. Use the Bhut Jolokia as you'd use a habanero, but remember that they are much hotter, up to 5 times the heat level. Use caution when cooking with them. Wear gloves and protect your eyes.

Bhut Jolokia belongs to the Capsicum Chinense family, like the Habanero, Scotch Bonnet and Red Savina. They originate in Northern India. It is also known as Naga Jolokia, Naga Morich, Ghost Pepper or Ghost Chili. Note: "Naga" mean "Cobra Snake" in Sanskrit.

Lastly, we planted some Red and Yellow Peter Peppers. This one here is becoming popular as a novelty. This very interesting little chili makes a great conversation piece in the garden or in the kitchen due to its distinctively phallic shape, hence its name. It grows to about 3-4 inches long and 1-1.5 inches wide, and matures to a bright red or yellow. Originally from Texas and Louisiana, they are grown commercially and seeds are obtained through private companies. We have heard they are great for salsas! (and a few laughs!)

 

 
 

Keeping Food Safe - GAP

This week has been exciting! I spent all day in classes on Tuesday for Illinois Department of Agriculture and USDA GAP training. GAP stands for Good Agricultural Practices. In January 2002, USDA AMS formally implemented the USDA Good Agricultural Practices & Good Handling Practices (GAP & GHP) audit verification program. This voluntary program is offered to the fruit and vegetable industry to verify an operation’s efforts to minimize the risk of contamination of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts by microbial pathogens. The program does not guarantee the product is free from microbial contamination, but verifies the participant has taken proactive measures to reduce the risk of contamination by adhering to generally recognized industry best practices. The responsibility for product safety and the continued observance of best practices rests with the operation producing and handling the fresh product.

At Bountiful Blessings Farm Produce, we make customer safety a top priority. I am glad that I attended the training and plan to implement the GAP practices as we move into the upcoming year. Many of the practices are already in place here on the farm.

The seed room is ready and most of our seeds are in from the suppliers. It will only be a short while and things will be rolling. Be sure to check back here every so often to learn more about what we are doing. Blessings!

 
 

Melons!

Today we got our first Sensation melons. They are a totally unique melon. Sensation is a one of a kind variety that has excellent taste, texture, sweetness and aroma. If harvested when the rind is turning from green to yellow, the flesh will be green and white. At this stage the flesh is crisp and sweet and the shelf life is best. When the melons are allowed to fully mature, the flesh will be sweet, pure white and soft. The 5.5-6 lb. fruit have sparse but distinctive netting over green, yellow and orange skin. (Harris Seed). Our customers love this melon. Nonetheless, our cantaloupes are wonderful too! If you stop by one of our stands, give one of the melons a try. 
 
 

The Biz

It you ever want to hear a million opinions on how to do something, start a farm produce business. It seems now matter where I go or whom I speak with, everyone has an opinion about how to grow vegetables. When I tell someone what I do, it seems like they either have a better way of doing it, or they want to let me know how they have done it for years. It is all well and good, and I listen, and many times I learn something new, but until a person gets into growing vegetables on a fairly large scale, they will never really understand the dynamics of this business. I am sure that sounds somewhat arrogant, but having a garden of almost twenty acres is a whole bunch different than a backyard ten by ten patch. I can actually say that growing is something I have been involved with for quite a few years, however, I feel I am a green-horn when it comes to knowing the produce business. I can grow almost anything, but there is a lot more to this. I have to have product for the entire season and that is no easy task. Just the shear dimensions of growing this many vegetables is at times overwhelming. It takes me over an hour each day day to scout the field for problems. Then I have to monitor the greenhouses and make sure everything is watered. With the weather being so dry, that takes a lot of time and effort. Beleive me, I am not complaining, but just letting you know, it is not a walk in the park. Anyone in the business can tell you, growing vegetables for market is very labor intensive. Nonetheless, I love it and would not have it any other way. My suggestion to anyone interested in knowing where their food comes from is to visit your local vegetable farmer. It could make for an interesting day. May God bless you in this upcoming week. 
 
 

GAP Practices

This week has been a whirlwind. We have been planting non-stop and getting things ready for the market season. I am so blessed to have my wife, my dad and my nephew helping me. Dad is working on the preparation area where we wash and clean the vegetables before they go to the stands or the markets. We are working hard with our GAP practices. GAP stands for Good Agricultural Practices which are a collection of principles that apply for on-farm production and post-production processes, resulting in safe and healthy food and non-food agricultural products, while taking into account economical, social and environmental sustainability. We are very consciously working to ensure safety and quality of produce in the local food chain. It is our goal to maintain high standards when it comes to cleanliness and quality. 

Tomorrow we will be back in the field planting more seed. The cucumbers and zucchini squash are going in the ground tomorrow! I am going to plant some in peat pots and some will be direct seeded. I want to experiment to see which method is better. I think it will be the direct seeded method, but I am looking forward to the results of this little test. Unfortunately, I will not be able to be in worship tomorrow as this is crunch time for planting and we only have so many hours before the next rain. I pray that your Sabbath day is blessed; that your worship is true; and that God richly bless you in this upcoming week.

 
 

Mother's Day 2012

Once again, it has been very busy at the Bountiful Blessings Farm. We have been working ground and planting. Today it will be repeated again. My dad worked ground down for us to plant today, so I should not have to do any more preparation; just get out there and plant. Right now we have over seven hundred tomatoes planted. About 2/3 of them are heirloom varieties and most of those are list in the Ark of Taste. We are very excited to be able to offer our customers these wonderful, unique and rare vegetables. Once you get a taste of an heirloom tomato, you will never want to eat the general market varieties available elsewhere. 

Today is Mother's Day and I wish I could spend some time with my mom, but I am going to have to be in the field. My sisters and their families came out to the farm yesterday for lunch with mom. It was nice. We ate in the Bountiful Blessings office and had food from our local drive-in. It was great to take a little break from the hecticness of this spring to spend time with those we love. We will be planting tomatoes and cole crops today. I want to also get some seed in the ground. I will most likely plant some beans today. Well, its time to get out to the field. Hope you have a wonderful day and God Bless you!

 
 

The Greatest Job in the World!

Peter Criss the famous drummer for Kiss once stated, “As busy as I claim to be, I've still got the greatest job in the world.”  Even though I am not a drummer, I feel I have the best job in the world. Growing vegetables is a very rewarding and interesting job; and I really do not consider it a job; it’s and opportunity. More than an opportunity, it is a blessing. Everyday I get to witness a little of God’s wonderful creation and see His hand in the little miracles of each individual plant. Then in the end, I get to provide wonderful, tasty vegetables to my customers. What a fantastic blessing!

In the last few days, we have received almost two inches of rain. It was dry and we needed the rain, however, I hope it stops soon. I’d like to get back into the field to plant. The tomatoes are jumping out of their pots and the cole crops are busting out of their containers. I am moving peppers and tomatoes up so they will continue to grow. It is not really a problem, but it would be much easier to go straight into the field; and cheaper! Dad has been working in the produce building this week. We are taking out a wall and revamping our washing area. Last year things were very primitive. This year I purchased a stainless steel sink and preparation counter which will be well suited to our operation. Dad took the wall out today and it looks great. He also cleaned an area where we can store equipment and other items we use over the season. Things are moving along real well. It is busy, but I have the greatest job in the world. Have a great week! God bless!

 
 

Do Not Worry

Today has been another busy day. In fact, I just got inside. I picked up some lumber and cement blocks this morning from a friend. Dad met me over there and helped me get loaded. I hauled the stuff home and we unloaded it and put it away. I took the truck and trailer back and ate lunch and then began another afternoon of transplanting. Dad painted some equipment and finished up a few things he had been working on. I put all of the equipment away and closed up the high tunnel and hot house. I moved a few flats from the seed room to the cold frames and some from the hot house to the hoop house. The tomatoes look excellent. They have bounced back after the cold snap and really look good. I am hoping to get them into the field this upcoming week. I guess it all depends on the weather. I try not to let the weather worry me too much. God is in control. I do what is necessary on my end and let Him handle the BIG stuff. Faith is a big part of this business; I call it FROG - Fully Relying on God. The Bible tells us not to worry. In fact, Philippians 4:6-7 says this: "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life" This is quoted from The Message, a contemporary translation. I figure if I worry, I am not letting God do His thing. This Spring has been one of those seasons that could cause a person to go nuts if they were to continue worrying about everything. I will continue to work as hard as I can to do what I know is best and allow God to handle the BIG stuff.

My son and his family will be in tomorrow for a family wedding. That means the grand children will be here! I am very excited about that. I hope they can spend some time at the farm. My daughter and her boy friend will also be here. I can't wait to see them. Tomorrow is another big day. I am going to try to get the balance of the tomatoes planted in the high tunnel after I move a refrigerator in the morning. Kim just brought me supper, so I guess I better eat. After all it is 8:30pm. Such is the life on the farm during planting season. I hope you all have a wonderful night. May God richly bless you!

 
 

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Finally getting some rain! Today Andy and I painted boards for signs. It seems like we never have enough come market season. We moved all the tomatoes out of the hoop house and into a safe, warm, building for tonight in case it gets too cold. I am a little gun shy since the last episode! My buddy let me know today that an article was written for Farm World Newspaper about Bountiful Blessings. Here is a link to the article:

  http://www.farmworldonline.com/News/NewsArticle.asp?newsid=14547

Tomorrow is worship and then some transplanting. We just got back in tonight after attending the Hinckley Historical Society dinner and auction. Bountiful Blessings donated two items for the benefit. It was a fun evening and I hope they were able to raise some funds to benefit the society. They have a nice little museum in the middle of town. Stop in a have a look. Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend. God Bless!

 
 

A Peaceful Easy Feeling

Wind can really make a difference in whether a day is nice or whether it is pleasant. Today has been a very nice day - it was not too warm, but the wind was somewhat calm and it made it so much nicer being outside. Dad worked on the sprayer some more today. We had to return some parts and get replacements, which took almost all morning. Once we got back to the farm, I was able to transplant more tomatoes and work in the hoop house. Things are beginning to shape up as we get towards the end of April. I anticipate more cool weather; hoping for a more normal May. Even thought I wanted to get the tomatoes planted in the high tunnel, I have shifted my plans until next week and warmer weather. I think we are still early enough to have a jump on the season without risking to much.

Tomorrow I will be seeding and transplanting again. It looks like we will be getting some rain, so that will be great. Supper is almost ready and I am tired, so I am making my blog entry short. I hope you have a peaceful evening. God Bless!!

 
 

Sweet Corn Time!

Tuesday and Wednesday were very busy days at the Bountiful Blessings Farm. We continued our transplanting and seeding. My dad worked on equipment and the high tunnel. He had a few last minute things to accomplish before we begin to plant. The tomatoes in the hot house look excellent and those that were hit by the freeze last week are looking better. I should be able to save over half. Some of them were protected and not effected at all. Yesterday we planted our first sweet corn. We put in three varieties; an early, mid-season and late. We should have corn for the fourth of July if everything goes as planned. 

It sprinkled a little last night, but not enough to keep us out of the field. I am going to plant kohlrabi and more peas today. I might even set out some cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. I'll just have to see how the weather holds. They are calling for rain. Tonight I teach at the church and tomorrow Kim will be home, so hopefully we can get a lot more accomplished. I hope you all have a wonderful day blessed with God's grace and goodness!

 
 
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