Week 14 - September 5th

Potato the size of Baby’s Head!

The headline reads something like that, and no, it isn’t a story from the tabloids. This is unbiased, verifiable news from the fields of Valley Flora where Roberto, Cleo and I spent part of Monday digging potatoes for your shares. We pulled over 700 pounds of potatoes from one bed in less than an hour and a half (breaking all records). A number of the spuds were as big as Cleo’s 7-month old head and weighed in at upwards of 2 pounds apiece (also breaking all records)!


The potato yield has been unbelievable so far this year, averaging over 3 pounds per bed foot. To give you some context: last year (which was a horrible potato year for us) we got about 0.5 pounds per bed foot. A normal year might be 1.5 pounds per bed food. This year it’s 3 pounds. I’ve never seen anything like it.


I’m not entirely sure why we’re seeing such extraordinary yields, especially because we accidentally under-fertilized the spuds this spring. But if I were to wager a guess, I’d say it has to do with two main things: 1) an overall lovely growing season since we planted our seed potatoes in mid-May, and 2) routine hilling with our electric cultivating tractor. Until this year, we’d never had the capacity to hill a half-mile of potatoes. But with a new set of hilling discs mounted on Allis the tractor, Roberto was able to hill and cultivate the potato patch every week until the plants were too bushy and tall to pass through. The job took a quick 20 minutes each week, the spud patch stayed 100% weed-free, the hills grew to be almost knee-high, and the plants thrived. As a result, we’re seeing little-to-no greening of the potatoes (because they were happily covered with soil and shaded by robust plant growth instead of popping through the surface and getting exposed to light). It is, hands-down, the healthiest, happiest potato patch we’ve ever grown.


It means that your potato share this week is extra hefty, with everyone receiving a pound more than we had forecasted. This variety is called Desiree. I’d suggest keeping them in the fridge, as some of the potatoes are still “new,” meaning their skin hasn’t totally cured yet. If you leave them in the fridge for a few weeks you’ll notice that they get remarkably sweeter. As it turns out, in cold storage potatoes actually convert their starches to sugars so spuds get sweeter after a stint in the fridge.



In your share this week:

  • Head Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Red Storage Onions           
  • Carrots
  • Summer Squash
  • Dill
  • Tomatoes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Hot Peppers


On Rotation:

  • Sweet Corn


Kitchen Tips

Don’t forget to visit the Recipe Wizard to find ingredient-specific recipes, or go to the Recipe Exchange if you have a recipe you’d like to share with everyone!


Please note: all of our produce is field-rinsed, not washed. We recommend you wash all of your produce before eating it.


Red Storage Onions

I am thrilled to report that I think I’ve discovered a red onion variety that is well-suited to our not-so-hot growing season! It’s called Cabernet and it matures at least two weeks earlier than the others I’ve grown. Last year’s red onions never fully ripened or cured (a wonderful but late variety called Redwing that requires 120 days, at least - too long for our climate). Cabernet, however, has sized up and cured in a timely fashion and the flavor is great: mild and tasty.


Storage: These onions have already cured, so you can leave them on the counter or in a cool dry place. They should keep for a month or two.


Sweet Corn

Where there is success (potatoes!) in any given farm season, there is also failure (corn). This year, every possible thing that could have gone wrong with the corn, did. It’s been a sad saga, especially since it began with such youthful optimism. I was especially excited about corn this year, given last year’s unlikely success (a bumper crop in spite of our cold, wet spring and slow growing season). This spring was gentler, and June proffered forth four perfect weeks of weather for four successive corn plantings – one block to be seeded each week, with the hope of harvesting more corn than ever come August and September.


Well, the long and short of it is that of the four intended blocks, only two are likely to yield. Why? You name it, it happened: Birds ate the sowed seed. I re-seeded. Nothing came up. A new seeder I bought this year malfunctioned and didn’t drop enough seed. I started over and re-seeded. The planting germinated beautifully (ah, victory!)) and then crows came back and overnight plucked all the freshly germinated corn seedlings from the ground. I re-seeded again, covered the beds with row cover to protect from birds. Mysteriously nothing ever germinated. An irrigation valve malfunctioned and unbeknownst to me one block of newly-seeded corn irrigated non-stop for a full week. A lot of the seed rotted in the ground. The plants that did survive were consumed by a crazy grass that looks identical to corn but isn’t. We weeded our hearts out and saved the planting, but too much water might mean we don’t get many ears. It goes on and on, the setbacks. Eventually, June was over and it was too late in the summer to seed any more corn. Honestly, it was kind of a relief to have to give up trying, to turn the page on the calendar and leave June, the month of Corn Seeding Wars, behind. 


All things considered, then, I was amazed this week to pull over 200 ears of corn off of the few corn plants that survived in our first planting: enough to put corn in all the totes destined for Coos Bay and the Farm. I tried not to dwell on how huge the harvest MIGHT have been, if only….


Bandon and Port Orford members will have to wait until our next planting is ready, but should see corn in a week or so. It won’t be a huge harvest this year, but hopefully scarcity will make it all the sweeter.


Storage: Unlike potatoes, corn turns it’s sugars into starches over time. Best to refrigerate your corn to slow the process down, or better yet, eat it right away for the best flavor and sweetness!



Farm Fact of the Week:

September is the month of squirreling away. It’s when we begin to bring in most of our storage crops: onions, shallots, winter squash, potatoes, etc. We cut off the water to these crops and cross our fingers for clear, dry days so they’ll cure properly in the field. September also marks the beginning of awkward heavy lifting (everything suddenly seems to be a 30 pound bin of something…), and we do our best not to hurt our backs (with varying degrees of success). This season, it’s just nice not to be pregnant - negotiating a basket-ball belly and a full bin of potatoes had its challenges! This year, Cleo is riding on my back instead – heavier for sure, and also a whole lot of fun…