Musings from Farmer Derek

Cherry tomatoes - not just red! Here are all of the varieties we're growing this year in their ripe state, starting at 12 o'clock and going clockwise they are: esterina, pink bumblebee, sun gold, suzanne, black cherry, jasper, sunrise bumblebee, and red pearl

Husk cherries are an amazingly sweet treat which once you taste you'll wonder why you've never heard of them before. The best, most delicious ones can be found on the ground below the plant (this is why they are also known as "ground cherries")

Notes From The Field
Pick Up Week Number Nine
By Derek McGeehan
Every time pick up week number nine rolls around and I embark on adding my newsletter pieces I immediately think of John Lennon's song on the White Album from two centuries ago - at least on a Saturday evening while I listen to music and sip a local brew. That is probably the song I enjoy the least there, too. So, about farming, last week we received some much needed precipitation and the farm was able to breathe a sigh of relief, as was I. Thank you for your rain dances, which I heard about a few times this past week. Temperatures dropped nicely, too, a very appreciated mid-summer treat. I don't think fall is quite here yet, though, so temperatures will return to the 90s fairly soon, such as this coming Wednesday.
Two buddies admire a sunset at dusk in the flower garden
The rain of last week allowed us to focus on tasks we haven't had time for lately due to farming priorities, such as de-trellising the spring pea patch, which became a bird sanctuary and weed seed producing field, and dismantling our 2014 strawberry patch, which became a snake and toad oasis. Our employees painstakingly removed the pea netting, clogged with desiccated vines as well as large and living annual weeds, as well as the ground staples holding it in place, over the course of 8 hours or so. After they did that slow and tedious part, on a nice fall afternoon I followed up by removing the 3000 feet of twine that was holding the netting aloft and the many armfuls of oak stakes that kept everything upright. We had to wait for rain to loosen the soil to remove the staples and stakes. The strawberry patch renovation is tedious as well. I have to mow the strawberry plants and undercut/lift the soil with a bar that the tractor pulls. It basically loosens the soil above the bar by fracturing it - this was done when the soil was bone dry prior to the rain. Then - the hard part - I pull the strawberry plant runner vines off the bed and pull up the non-biodegradable plastic mulch. Keep in mind we had 4000 feet of strawberry beds this year. Overall, I saw many snakes, at least 10, and an equal number of toads that looked like they were hunkering down to have their babies. Of course there were plenty of spiders as well. Besides that and more, I was able to slow down a bit and enjoy what felt like a mini stay-cation even though I still worked full days. Rain gives some farmers mental relief I guess.
Expected Harvest
Fresh garlic and cabbage
By Derek McGeehan
Harvest #9 (Week A) should include fresh garlic, lettuce, kohlrabi, carrots, cabbage, sweet peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, summer squash, scallions, tomatoes, and hot peppers. Some items could be a choice. U-pick should include green beans, basils, dill, cilantro, cherry tomatoes, husk cherries, and a flower bouquet.
New items for the week: fresh garlic and husk cherries
By Linda Dansbury
This week brings us two new items, the first being fresh garlic. Fresh garlic is what it is called right after it is harvested. The green shoot, although wilting and starting to whither, is droopy and the outer covering of the cloves is very light green or white and not at all papery. As for using it, it is exactly the same as using garlic that is already cured. The only difference is it must be stored in the refrigerator or it will rot just sitting on your kitchen counter.The next time you arrive in the pick up room you will see the rafters adorned with the garlic that is hanging and "curing". The curing process is critical to the garlic being able to store for long periods of time. In the next several weeks the outer covering will turn tan in color and papery.
The other new item is husk cherry - also known as ground cherry because the ones that are the ripest and sweetest are those that are lying on the ground. When you find some in which the husks look "beat up" and look as if they are starting to go bad -- scoop them up! The fruit inside is wonderful. If you pick them (or scoop them off the ground) and they are not quite ripe, they will ripen on your counter. Native Americans and pioneers ate these and for good reason -- if kept in their husks in a cool, ventilated location, they will keep for months! Out of their husks, they freeze well. Add them to salsa or pancake mix for added sweetness. There are recipes for Ground Cherry Jam and Ground Cherry Pie on the website. Since they keep for awhile, you can save up your harvest and try the recipes - may not be able to resist eating them!
Basil plants have so much to give (if we just let them)
By Hal Wright
Years ago, the first time I cut basil during u-pick, the plants were (to put it mildly) somewhat depleted by my efforts. That is, they looked like a billy goat had spent the morning chomping on them. The trouble was, there weren't enough leaves left to sustain the plant.
Cut properly, basil plants survive multiple cuttings, regrowing that which has been harvested time and time again. They truly are the gift that keeps on giving.
It's tough to describe in words the correct way to cut basil plants, but with visual aides, it's a snap. So I asked our farmer / artist-in-residence Dana to provide a drawing I could scan, and her masterpiece appears below.
Just keep the lower cluster of leaves on each branch intact, and those who harvest in future weeks will thank you for the renewed, bountiful plants they encounter.
This got me thinking how cool it would be if other things acted like basil: the dollars in your wallet perhaps, or maybe that last sip of Jack Daniels. The next time you're enjoying that pesto, caprese salad, or bruschetta, pause for a moment to reflect on the humble, productive, amazing basil plant that gave so much of itself -- but not all of itself -- for your dining pleasure.
How did I enjoy my harvest this week?
By Linda Dansbury
A delicious week of veggies was enjoyed and with this quantity (I also have my own garden, although the deer are sharing my bounty). I have thought about preserving some of it, although for the most part, I am eating as much of it fresh as I can.
Cucumbers - I had the 3.5 pounds from this past Thursday, plus some left from the previous week, so I made Bread and Butter Pickles - 8 pints worth!
Squash, eggplant, peppers, fennel, scallions - Okay, I am in a rut - I grilled all of these again. They are so delicious done this way. Even though they are all grilled, each maintains its own flavor and texture, so it is a simple way to cook a variety of veggies at the same time. And...the kitchen doesn't get heated up on the hot days.
Tomatoes, garlic scapes, basil - we love bruschetta at my house. I either grill or oven toast a good quality bread that has been drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Meanwhile, remove the seeds of the tomatoes and chop. Add slivered basil, a little garlic and the best olive oil you have. We usually have it as a snack - my parents have it for lunch in the height of the tomato season.
Turnips, scallions, squash, beans, garlic scapes, - made a large stir fry - it was enough for dinner for 2 of us one night and then just me the next night.
Beans, scallions, garlic scapes, turnips and carrots - I steamed veggies and a light white fish all together. The fish was cut into long thin lengths and grated ginger and scallion slices were put on one side, and then they were rolled up. While the veggies and fish steamed, I made a sauce of Tamari, sesame oil, scallions, lemon zest and lemon juice. When everything was cooked, they were plated and a little of the sauce was drizzled over everything.