In This Week’s Beet Box:
- New Veggies of the Week: Walla Walla Sweet Onions! Tomatoes! Cucumbers!
- Summer Thunderstorms & Truckloads of Onions
- Strawberries Available by the Flat
- Farmstand Cornucopia
In your share this week:
- Head Lettuce
- Walla Walla Sweet Onions
- Tomatoes – Red & Heirloom
This means that some pickup sites will receive it this week, others next week – or in a future week.
NEW VEGGIES OF THE WEEK
Walla Walla Sweet Onions: Huge, mild, and truly sweet, these are my favorite onion in our Allium line-up. They seem to be particularly pumped up and early this year, thanks probably to a great start in the greenhouse back in February and a good, warm, dry growing season since they were planted outside in late April.
Walla Wallas are definitely mild enough to be eaten raw, but I prefer them cooked. My favorite basic preparation is to caramelize them down with fennel, adding some fresh tomato and basil at the end. My other favorite, though more involved, is to make Walla Walla onion rings. We have an annual tradition of making beer- battered (equal parts beer and flour, mixed together), deep-fried Walla Walla rings on my mom’s back porch each summer. The key is to fry them outside, eat ‘em hot and salted, and to have plenty of ketchup on hand. And to go into it knowing that you’ll probably over-indulge and feel sick afterwards. But it’s worth the gut bomb.
These Walla Wallas are fresh-harvested, so you should keep them in your fridge. They’ll hold for at least a couple weeks. The yield is so good this year that it looks like we’ll be curing some down for short-term storage, so you’ll see them again in the not-too-distant future.
Tomatoes: That’s right, tomatoes. The red slicers are about three weeks ahead of the plan, and the heirlooms are six weeks ahead of our CSA projection. I know I don’t need to say much about tomatoes – kind of like strawberries, they seem to disappear into CSA members’ bellies with little to no prodding on our part – but everyone should know this: it’s best NOT to refrigerate your tomatoes. The flavor and texture aren’t quite as good out of the fridge, so keep them on your counter. Also know that the heirloom tomatoes come in all shapes, sizes and colors. If you get a green tomato, it’s a ripe Aunt Ruby’s – so don’t wait for it to turn red!
Like our strawberries, these tomatoes should be eaten sooner than later (my mom, who grows almost all of the tomatoes, chooses varieties that are all about flavor and less about shelf life…as it should be with something that was never intended for transcontinental transport).
Sidenote: The ideal distance a tomato should travel is about 3 feet, from the plant to your mouth, or if necessary, the ten paces from garden to kitchen. Modern times and inexorable demand have forced us at Valley Flora to expand the range to about 45 miles, as far north as Coos Bay and as far south as Gold Beach. This is still more jostling than most ripe, real tomatoes like so we apologize if there are any dents or dings when you receive yours. When we're packing your totes, we try to make little nests for the tomatoes, in the fennel fronds or tucked into a quiet corner. But there's always the chance that an over-aggressive zucchini is going to go bully in there and beat up on the tomatoes. The red slicers are typically a little more durable than the thin-skinned, delicate heirlooms, in case you need to prioritize which to gobble up first. If your heirloom has a split when you get it (they sometimes crack in transport), eat it up soon before the fruit flies find it.
And in the unlikely case that you are at a loss for tomato-eating ideas, here’s one for you: a fat slice of tomato sandwiched inside some fresh Seth’s Bread, with some good cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Throw some slivered fresh basil or cilantro in there if you have any.
Cucumbers: This year’s cukes, on the other hand, are late. They have been thwarted by moles, cucumber beetles, and bacterial wilt (spread by the cucumber beetles). Finally this week there were enough of the mini-cukes at least for Wednesdays totes; we’re hoping for a little sun to ripen up the next batch for Friday/Saturday totes. If not, they’ll be on rotation. After three years of cucumber struggles on the farm, they are about to earn top brass for being possibly the most difficult crop to grow. Ever. Sigh.
Summer Thunderstorms & Truckloads of Onions
Normally the Beet Box would have been sent out hours ago, but just as I was about to start typing this morning, the skies unleashed a totally unexpected, totally-bad-timing rainstorm. What, is the weather man on vacation this week?!?
The reason for the panic was this: on Monday, Roberto and I (with the help of Cleo) pulled and windrowed all of the red storage onions, the Walla Walla Sweets, and the red shallots (about half of our total onion crop for the year). The forecast on Monday morning was for sun all week – perfect weather for drying down and curing onions in the field. So we yanked them, made tidy rows, and patted ourselves on the back, hopeful for our best onion year yet.
When the rain let loose at my house today, I groaned audibly in the office. NO!!! If the onions we pulled on Monday were to get soaked, there’s a high chance they’d mold instead of cure for long-term storage (these are the onions that feed you into December). I dropped everything in the office and raced to the field where Roberto was already loading the pickup with Walla Wallas. We double-teamed it all afternoon, schlepping truckloads of onions from the field to the greenhouse, where we laid them all out on pallets and tables to dry for the rest of their curing process.
Fortunately, the rain let up while we were in the field and the onions didn’t get too wet. It wasn’t until everything was safely inside the greenhouse this evening that the thunder rolled up the valley, bringing with it fat, heavy raindrops. Let it rain, I thought. Except please spare the strawberries…
Strawberries Available by the Flat
They’re back and they’re sweet! We are able to offer strawberries by the flat again, so order now and get on the list! The details:
- Email us your name, pickup site, number of flats you want, and the best daytime phone number to reach you (so we can call you when they’re ready).
- We’ll fill orders in the order we receive them and deliver to your pickup site.
It’s that time of year when the farmstand is a veritable rainbow of produce – everything from leafy greens to heirloom tomatoes to purple peppers to red strawberries to yellow Shiro plums (our adolescent orchard has started to produce a little fruit here and there, in small quantities, and some of it is for sale at the farmstand occasionally). PLUS, The strawberry upick is the best it’s been all year (really!), and Seth & Rachel have been coming on Wednesdays to sell their scrumptious bread, cookies, granola, and crackers. Candace has also been showing up with her vibrant eggs. SO, the moral of the story is that if any of your dietary needs are not being met each week, come to the farmstand and fill in the gaps! Open Wednesdays & Saturdays from 9 to 3.
The Valley Flora Crystal Ball: What MIGHT be in your share next week…
No promises, but your tote might include some of the following NEXT week:
- Head lettuce
- Red Long of Tropea Torpedo Onions
Please note: all of our produce is field-rinsed, not washed. We recommend you wash all of your produce before eating it.
For recipes and ideas, check out these links:
Our own collection of recipes, where you can contribute and share your favorites
Our website’s recipe “search engine,” where you can hunt down recipes by ingredient
A vast collection of recipes, searchable by one or multiple ingredients
A storehouse of recipes, searchable by ingredient
A Washington farm that has a good collection of seasonal recipes