Tuesday, August 3, 2010

CSA Week 10

Our farm is surrounded on all sides by thin woods or by suburban lawns that are surrounded by their own thin woods. So we are situated below the horizon, and as the sun rises and lights the sky our fields are a rectangular cup that holds shadow until the sun rises higher and the morning light moves down the trees and across our crops. The cool and shaded early morning of a bright August day contains its own sort of quiet, and it is a good time to work. It is the warm and sun-filled days, though, that have been good for the things we grow. Melons, tomatoes, and peppers are all hot weather crops, and all are included in the share for the first time this week. It is hard to overstate the satisfaction we felt harvesting such things this morning: their availability to us means that the farm has fully entered its summer season, and has done so with the sort of abundance we are scared to hope for, but hope for anyway.

The success of these crops has also pleased the crows. You'll notice that we have strung VHS tape across several beds of tomatoes and melons: This is because as those fruits ripened they were--without exception--pecked and sampled. (A former teacher of ours would refer to fruits destroyed in this way as "bird-certified ripe".) To prevent further loss we collected old videos from the Dover dump, and we dismantled them for the tape. Unspooled and strung above our crops, it moves in the wind and catches the light, and its flicker and glimmer deters the birds. So far it has worked: we haven't found a pecked tomato since it has been there, and because one of the videos is Hercules we're able to say--finally--that our farm is adorned with images of Greek gods doing battle, albeit in the form of Disney animation, preserved on magnetic tape.

Here is what's in the share this week:

Cherry Tomatoes, sungold
Slicer Tomatoes, oregon spring
Heirloom Tomatoes, prudence purple -and/or- paul robeson
Green Peppers, ace
Summer Squash
Basil, genovese

Notes about the food:

*Heirloom tomatoes are notable for their bulbous shapes and for the variety of colors in each fruit. Don't be put off by their appearance! They look exactly as they should, and we assure you they are some of the best tomatoes you've had. Because of their odd construction they don't stack or ship well, which is why heirloom varieties of tomato are almost exclusively available direct from farmers--large scale growers have no recourse for distributing such unpredictable fruit, which is why grocery store tomatoes are uniformly red and round.

You'll notice that we harvested some with green shoulders. We do this because we don't want to risk allowing the tomatoes to over ripen and crack on the vine. A tomato with green shoulders will be good eating now, but it will also continue to ripen if you leave it on your counter for one or two days. If you plan to eat the tomato today, take one that is fully colored. In this week's share the pinkish heirlooms are a variety called Prudence Purple, and the deep orange-red heirlooms are a variety called Paul Robeson.

*The Cantaloupe, too, can be allowed to sit on the counter for a few days. Test the melon for firmness, and eat it before it is too soft. Melons cause us a little bit of trepidation, because there is no way we can know what the inside of every melon that we distribute is like. We harvest them when we are confident they are ripe, but there is a certain amount of educated guesswork involved.

*The CSA email included "broccoli leaves" as an item in this week's share. Joshua and I both like the idea of providing a leafy green in the share whenever possible, and at this point in the season the leaves of our broccoli plants are the best that we have. As I mentioned in a previous entry, the leaves of broccoli plants are under appreciated, but they are nutritious and can be prepared like other greens in the brassica family (kale, collards, etc). After assessing the crop, we realized that many of the plants had produced florets, so we changed the item to full-fledged broccoli, and we harvested stems and florets of various sizes, and bunched them with extra leaves. I like to prepare the broccoli leaves as I would prepare collard greens:

Freshly harvested greens
olive oil
sesame oil
hot pepper oil
sesame seeds
soy sauce or salt

Carefully stack and roll leaves, and cut into 1/2-inch strips. Heat olive oil in frying pan or wok. Toss in coarsely chopped garlic, a dash of hot pepper oil, and a dash of sesame oil. Quickly saute garlic until lightly browned. (Scallions can be included as well.) Over medium-high heat, throw in the greens and toss to uniformly mix and cook. Add a dash of salt or soy sauce and the sesame seeds, and stir to mix. Lower heat, add a few tablespoons of water, cover and steam for several minutes until tender.

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