What's In Your Basket?
Zucchini & Summer Squash
Little Gem lettuce
Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!
These are not you’re run-of-the-mill bunch carrots this time! Every week that we plant a bed of sweet, crunchy Nelsons or Yayas on the farm, we also seed a line of rainbow carrots. In seed catalogues, you can buy an actual variety called “Rainbow,” but it only includes yellow, white and pale orange carrots. We spice up the Rainbow mix by adding in 6 other varieties that span the color wheel:
- White Satin: White all the way through
- Crème de Lite: Pale yellow
- Atomic Red: Red skin with orange flesh
- Purple rain: Dark purple skin with a small yellow core
- Cosmic Purple: Purple skin with an orange core
- Purple Haze: Reddish-purple skin with and orange or yellow core
Rainbow carrots are a hit with chefs at the various restaurants we sell produce to, as well as at natural food stores like Mothers and Seaweed. This year, we seeded extra for the Harvest Baskets, so you should see them a few times this season. Rainbow carrots are a bit of a delicacy for a couple of reasons:
- They are finicky and have a much lower rate of germination than your regular orange carrot. This means we have to double seed them every time we plant.
- The seed is up to twice as expensive as Nelson seed.
- The different varieties mature at different rates, and assume different shapes – so making uniform bunches is a little tricky! Fat ones, skinny ones, stubby ones, baby ones: we spend a lot of time sorting and bunching in the field.
Nevertheless, the unique flavors and the beauty of these carrots are inspiration enough for us to keep planting them. Use them and store them as you would any other carrot, although be forewarned that some of the purple and red varieties will lose their intense color when you cook them.
We went whole hog with the rainbow theme this week. My mom always says that everything we do has to be at least 51% art. Between the carrots and the chard, packing out the baskets this week was as much a feast for the eyes as it will be for the belly. Various farm members have been clamoring for more chard, more chard! So here it is. There are some great recipes on the Recipe Exchange that call for chard, so if you haven’t tried them yet now’s your chance.
At last, the fennel has fattened up! They are big, heavy, tender and succulent now – and one of my favorite crops to harvest. You’ll remember that the full fennel plant has tall ferny fronds fanning out from the bulb. When they’re big like this, we give them a quick chevron cut with the harvest knife and leave all that biomass in the field where it can compost. Fennel is a great comrade to rainbow carrots and beets to make a Rainbow Root Roast, which is part of the reason we sent out all three together this week. If you have any potatoes kicking around, add them in, too!
Some of you are getting bulk beets this week, with no tops. We cleared a bed in order to make way for cover crop and in the process, we topped all the beets and left the greens in the field to feed the soil. Believe it or not, the beets you’re eating this week were seeded all the way back in February during that unusual spell of balmy sunshine we had. They survived a cold spring, and then came on strong in June. We’ve been harvesting from them for the past two months, until now. Beets are one of the best storage crops around, whether in the ground or in your fridge. And, unlike some things, the bigger they get the more tender and sweet they are. Last week I pulled six golden beets out of the field that weighed in at about seven pounds EACH. They were as big as my head, and sweeter than any beet I’ve eaten this season. Nevertheless, it’s a little hard to sell beets that big without scaring someone - so instead I wrapped up a 21 pound, 3-beet bunch as a joke for my friend’s birthday. Sure enough, it scared him. As for the other three, we are sawing away at them here at home. We’ll probably still be at it come Christmas.
This is really, truly, honestly the last head of broccoli you’re going to see from us for a few months. I SWEAR! Thanks for putting up with the bumper crop of 2009! Hope you’ve enjoyed it.
Little Gem Lettuce
Little Gem is going out to some pick-up sites this week – a specialty lettuce that is one of our favorites on the farm. Little gem is a diminutive butter-romaine cross that makes for a perfect 1-2 serving lettuce. The leaves are crisp, ruffled, and sweet and hold onto a Caesar salad dressing like none other! Try this family Caesar dressing recipe: Bunny’s Creamy Caesar
Like all of the head lettuce we grow, Little Gem starts its life in a 128-cell tray in the greenhouse where it germinates and grows for 4 weeks. After “hardening off” the seedlings so they’re better acclimated to life in the outdoors, we transplant them into the field. Some lettuces, like romaine, get planted on 6” spacing. Others, like butterheads and summer crisps, get 12” spacing. The Little Gem is special: we plant it 4” apart. It makes for a long day with the trowel, but the result is well worth it. We think these compact, dense heads were aptly named.
Green zucchini has become a regular staple in your harvest basket, but occasionally you’ll see a few other types of summer squash nestled in there among the goodies. There are a few varieties fruiting right now:
- Green: Black Beauty
- Yellow: Zephyr
- Light Green, Round: Ronde de Nice
On the Farm....
It’s becoming that time of year when I can’t really think of anything to say. What is happening on the farm right now? Everything, lots, all the time: harvest flowers, bunch carrots, pick strawberries, wash it, pack it, weed it, water it, harness the horses, plant the cover crop. It’s always a full week. But it’s that time of year when it all begins to blur; when the days run together punctuated by vivid images of a school-bus yellow sunflower, a purple backlit cabbage leaf, Maude bucking at a horsefly at the far end of the field; when the routine is so deeply carved out there is less of a need for to-do lists and more of a need to simply bend our bodies into compliance with the growing weight of harvest. August and September are zen in that way: don’t think, simply do. It’s an empty fullness. All that winter planning and spring planting has set in motion our summer and fall fate. The vegetables are in charge now, not us. The question is whether we will be able to keep up with them.