Week 15: September 13th
What’s in your Share This Week?
The New Stuff: How to eat it, cut it, cook it, and keep it:
Badda-bang! Here come the 2 pound tomatoes! In addition to the cherry tomatoes that I grow, and the regular red slicers that my mom grows, she also has part of a greenhouse dedicated to heirloom tomatoes. They come in all kinds of wobbly, swollen shapes and sizes, and more colors, flavors and textures than you could shake a stick at. You’re seeing a couple different varieties in your totes this week. And never fear – if you got a green tomato, it’s not really a “green” –as in “unripe” – tomato! It’s a variety called Aunt Ruby’s, which has so far won our informal taste tests on the farm this year! It’s a new winner!
What’s an heirloom, you might ask? Well, technically it’s an open-pollinated variety, as opposed to a hybrid. That means that if you were so inclined, instead of eating it, you could let your tomato rot in a bucket and then save the seeds (no, really(!) this is how you save tomato seeds - the acidic fermentation breaks down the gelatinous coating on the seeds and primes them for germination next year….). If you planted those saved seeds next spring, you could be relatively assured that you’d get the same kind of tomato again (versus a hybrid, which wouldn’t come “true”).
Heirlooms are also tomatoes that have typically been passed down through a few generations, hence the name….
How to eat them? I have a feeling you can figure that one out. Our favorite thing to do at this time of year is to make a simple platter of caprese: slices of tomato, layered with buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil. Drizzle with good olive oil and some sea salt. If you want, you can eat it atop slices of baguette. It’s late summer in it’s purest form.
Like all your other tomatoes, store your heirlooms on the counter, but be forewarned: if your heirlooms seem soft to the touch and ripe when you get them, you should eat them sooner than later. They are fragile (more prone to splitting and bruising) and don’t hold up as well as the red slicers.
The first of the leeks are upon us! They’re not as huge and fat as they’ll be later in the fall, but they’ll make a tasty companion to your spuds in case you want to make potato leek soup to combat the rain this week.
Leeks are members of the Allium family, alongside onions, shallots and garlic. Of all the alliums, they are probably the most mild. We use them in lieu of onions all the time (a mercy tactic for my Allium-sensitive gut!), so they’re wonderful sautéed, steamed our souped up.
We usually cut them into thin slices across the shaft, all the way up to the leaves. If you are one of those industrious veggie scrap utilizers, throw your leek tops into a stock pot of water with your carrot peelings and other veggie scraps in order to make a great, fresh vegetable stock.
Leeks store well in a plastic bag in the fridge for quite awhile – a few weeks at least.
On the Farm…Tom Lynch To the Rescue!!!
This week we've been in high gear preparing for Supper in the Field, hustling this way and that in order to organize, beautify, and make ready the farm. Monday night I was mowing the farmroad, and on my last pass right before dusk, I cut it too close next to an irrigation valve box. The lid flew off the valve box and a geyser of water erupted from the ground, straight from the buried mainline pipe. I cut the engine on the tractor and leaped off, only to discover that I had just inflicted the most-dreaded injury to our irrigation system: a below-ground valve break – one of the biggest uh-ohs we could have (especially at dusk, the day before our biggest harvest day, in mid-September).
I leapt onto a farm bicycle and pedaled madly to the pump, a half mile upstream, to flip the pump breaker and shut it off. By the time I got back to the break site, a swampy lake had formed where the geyser had been - and it was very clear in the fading light that there would be no fixing it tonight. I excavated as much dirt as I could to uncover the pipe and took stock.
How in the world was I going to fix this? Tuesdays are insane fourteen to fifteen hour harvest days for us. There’s no time for lengthy irrigation repair. Normally, Wednesdays might afford an afternoon window for unexpected projects like broken mainlines – but of all weeks, this Wednesday I had to fly to Portland at 5 a.m. to keynote the Organically Grown in Oregon conference and wouldn’t be home until late Wednesday night.
That meant at least two days without water – our lifeblood – on the farm. If I was lucky, I might be able to fix it by the end of Thursday …assuming I could get all the replacement parts.
I was kneeling in the mud in the moonlight, trying to strategize a solution when I suddenly heard the voice of Tom Lynch in my head: “If you ever need any help at the farm, just let me know. I’d be happy to lend a hand.”
Tom is a Harvest Basket member, going on two years with Valley Flora, and has offered over and over to help us if ever we need anything. I suddenly realized that this was his moment. I needed help.
I called him that night and explained the situation.
“I’ll be there at 9 am to take a look.” Sure enough, he was there, and after taking inventory of my muddy mess, he left again to gather up tools, parts, pipe, PVC glue, and extra dog biscuits for my dog, Sula.
We were in our usual harvest frenzy all morning, but Tom dug in (quite literally: he was up to his waist in an open trench for a good part of the day, shoveling muck out of the way). In the mid-afternoon, he showed up at the barn where we were packing out produce, his fingers stained with blue PVC glue.
“I think we got it,” he announced. “Everything is glued up, like new.”
“Time to switch on the pump and pressure test it, then?” I asked.
“I think we’re ready.”
I gave Tom a walkie-talkie and he drove back into the field. I stationed myself at the pump breaker box. “Are you ready, Tom?”
“Ready,” his voice replied through the radio. I flipped the breaker and the pump motor hummed on. Slowly the whole system recharged, until the pressure switch read 50 psi. The pump switched off automatically, as it should.
“We’re there, Tom, at 50 psi. How’s it look out there.”
“We’ve got water,” he said – and for a moment my heart sank. The repair job must be leaking. “In all the right places,” he finished.
I grinned into the walkie-talkie. “Tom, you’re a miracle!” I thanked him profusely and sent him home with a heap of berries and the largest red beet we’ve ever harvested at Valley Flora.
It was a big red beet, but not nearly as big as his heart.
Thank you, Tom, for saving the day this week. And for putting “community” smack dab at the core of “community supported agriculture.”