Week 18: September 28-October 4

What's In Your Basket?

Seascape Strawberries
King Richard Leeks
Winterbor Kale
Italian Plums
Cherry Tomatoes
Red Slicing Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes
Nelson Carrots
Sweet Peppers
Zucchini & Summer Squash

On Rotation
Green Beans
Sweet Corn   

Produce Tips - How to Eat It, Cook It and Keep It!

Winterbor Kale
Bunched greens like kale and chard are working their way back into your baskets after a long summer break. Fall is a great time for cool-weather loving greens, and I always find that my body craves them as the weather changes and the days grow shorter. Winterbor is a hardy kale that will overwinter, even through hard frosts. In fact, many of the Cole crops (Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, cabbage, etc.) become noticeably sweeter after a frost. Why? Because freezing temperatures stimulate the plants to produce more sugar, which functions like anti-freeze in the plant cells.

In our globalized world where we can go to the supermarket to buy any food, at any time of the year, we have gotten further and further from eating seasonally. That’s part of the reason you may have hated Brussels sprouts as a kid: because you were eating Brussels sprouts that were raised in the warm climes of California, harvested before a frost, shipped up the freeway, and frankly, tasted like stinky socks. But if you wait until late October or November, until after the plants been nipped by frost, you are in for a true treat. We won’t pluck a single Brussels sprout on the farm until the mercury has dipped below 32.

We haven’t seen a frost yet on the farm, and hopefully won’t for another month, but once we do you’ll probably taste the difference in the kale. The Winterbor is good now, but it might well knock your socks off come November.

Store your kale in a plastic bag in the fridge, sealed up.
Inspired by this week’s chilly, wet weather, we’ve posted a line-up of soups on the recipe exchange:

Kale and White Bean Soup
Corn Chowder with Crab, Bacon and Chanterelles
Late Summer Minestrone

On the Farm....

It’s raining. And although there is another system of high pressure on the horizon come Monday, this week truly, positively, most definitely does not feel like summer anymore. We’ve pulled out the raingear once again, resuming the muddy-booted slog around the fields, slinging mud off carrots, and racing the squalls in a last-ditch effort to get some strawberries picked. I don’t have much hope for the berries at this point – maybe a few more weeks of them if we’re lucky – but the writing seems to be on the wall. The berries are doomed. At least until next May.

And though that news might make you want to savor your berries slowly, we’d suggest eating them quickly this week. We sorted the berries meticulously at harvest, but wet weather invariably shortens their shelf life.

Not that it won’t be somewhat of a relief to reclaim those 10+ hours a week we each spend bent over in the strawberries - and turn our attention to the flavors and to-dos of Fall instead.

At the top of the project list these days is cover cropping on the farm. We are dancing with the weather forecast as we begin seeding field peas, rye, vetch, oats and clover around the farm. The trick is to time it so that things are dry when we seed but soon followed by a good, deep rain (to avoid moving pipe to manually irrigate). We broadcast seed with a “belly-grinder” (a seed spreader that you wear on your chest and turn a crank while walking to disperse seed from the hopper). The seeded field then gets rolled with a heavy cultipacker that is pulled by the horses (which improves soil-to-seed contact and enhances germination). After that, we hope for rain. In a perfect world, I would have gotten a lot of cover crops seeded before this week’s rain, but the pressures of harvest always make it hard to break free and do something other than pick tomatoes in September. Ideally, we’ll get most of the cover crops seeded before October 15th – and cross our fingers for enough precipitation to bring them up with vigor.

Most of the cover crops we’re seeding now are intended to overwinter and then provide green manure in the spring. The areas of the farm that will be cash cropped in 2010 get planted to nitrogen-fixing cover crops like Austrian field peas. In the new orchard, we’re seeding a perennial clover mix that will likely become the permanent orchard floor. And in areas of the farm that will be fallow next season, we are focusing on cover crop mixes like rye and vetch that contribute both nitrogen and organic matter and are great soil builders. Our cover crop seed comes directly from various Oregon farmers, mostly friends of ours in the Willamette Valley.

Cover crops bring life to the farm at a time when most of the cash crops are on the decline. Squash plants are succumbing to powdery mildew, the asparagus ferns are yellowing, and the potatoes vines have died back. But there in the orchard and around the farm - an acre here and a half acre there – comes a green fuzz in October. Thousands and millions of new plants germinating, despite the cold nights and short days, to replenish the farm.