Living the Good Life!

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Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

There is a great concept for seasonal eaters in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She calls it a vegetannual, and it looks like this:

The idea is, you think of all the crops in the garden as being a single plant – the vegetannual. By tracing this plant through the various steps of an annual plant’s life, you get an idea of what is in season when (though the entire sequence is condensed in Central Oregon’s very short growing season).

So, imagine a seed. You plant it, water it, and the first thing it does after sprouting is grow leaves. This corresponds with spinach, leaf lettuce, corn salad, lambsquarters, and more: the first spring greens.

An annual plant (one that grows through its full life cycle and dies after a single growing season) has one specific goal: to produce seed. So after the plant has grown leaves (and of course, a root system to support them), it begins to gather some of those leaves together in its center, preparing to create a flower stalk. That gathering of leaves becomes head lettuce, cabbage, and that sort of thing.

Next, the tightly clustered leaves begin to open outward, making way for a flower stalk shooting up from their center. The stalk forms flower buds; these are the broccoli and cauliflower.

Eventually the plant flowers. We do eat some flowers – squash and nasturtium blossoms come to mind – but at this point we’re getting excited for the really good part: the first tender fruits, those we eat in their extreme immaturity. Zucchini, cucumbers, snow peas and green beans are good examples here. Soon we get to sample the riper fruits, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and shelling peas. As the fruit develops even further, toughening its rind and maturing its seed, we start to have melons, and then even later, pumpkins and other winter squash, with very hard rinds, completely developed and viable (able to grow) seed, and long-term storage capabilities.

The final stage of this seasonal proto-veggie are the roots and tubers. In the case of potatoes and sweet potatoes, their development is another way that the plant ensures itself another generation (these plants grow from their tubers but also produce seed).

In the case of carrots, beets, and parsnips, the plants are actually biennials, which means they do everything an annual plant does, but they spend one full season just developing their leaf and root structure, not flowering until their second year. Thus, as winter approaches, these plants drain the energy from their leafy top growth, storing it in the root for safekeeping underground during cold temperatures. That’s why a carrot harvested in November tastes sweeter and more delicious than one harvested in July.

Clearly, not everything falls neatly into these categories. Radishes, a vegetable we harvest primarily for their root, are one of the earliest crops to come ready in spring. Many spring crops (broccoli, peas, greens) are grown for a second round in fall.  But nevertheless, if you pay attention, you will find that the concept of the vegetannual can help you understand which vegetables are in season at any particular time.

This spring on our farm (and, judging from the reports of our farmer friends, all over Central Oregon), we had an extended period of leaves (surely you recall the ten weeks of salad) and then, suddenly and miraculously, skipped over the heads and buds straight to fruit! Eggplants and summer squash galore!

The very long spring, which lasted through most of the summer, was to blame for this strange occurrence in more than one way. Of course, the cool weather limited the growth of the plants designed to grow in warmer conditions, delaying their maturation until later than usual – hence, we didn’t get the first tomatoes until this week, mid-September. But where did all the broccoli and cabbage (that we should have been eating in early July) go? And what about the peas? Well, the plants were eaten right up before they had a chance to do their thing. There were two squads of raiders attacking them: slugs from the ground, and birds from the air. We’ve been using a lot of mulches, more this year than ever before, and since slugs are supposedly not a problem in Central Oregon, we worried the mulch was to blame (creating a moist slug habitat not usually present around here). But other growers have had similar problems this year, leading us to suspect the weather. There’ve bird problems every year, but this year was by far the worst, with no preventive measure proving itself particularly effective. It seems likely that this, too, was weather-related, as the garden was one of the only sources of food back when nothing else was growing.

But through persistence and the eventual coming of summer, things have been looking up the last few weeks! We’ve had lots of lovely fruits and survived one frost and two freeze warnings. So here’s to late summer and the resilience of growing things.

Oh, Bear Zheen!

Oh, I just love these tiny eggplants we’ve been having! The dark ones are a variety called ‘Hansel’ that the OSU Extension has had success with at their test garden out in Redmond. The white ones are called ‘Gretel’. When growing crops that require (or at least, desire) very hot weather, we’ve found it useful to seek out miniature varieties in this climate.

Quick botany lesson: Most vegetable crops completely stop growing when the ambient temperature drops below 50°F. In the High Desert, this is a frequent – almost nightly, in fact – occurrence.

Thus, vegetables growing without protection (in other words, not in a greenhouse or other protected spot) take at least two weeks longer to mature here than they would in another climate. Combine that fact with the likelihood of very late (May or June) and very early (September) frost, and it is tricky – sometimes impossible – to get certain crops to come in here.

The early and middle parts of this summer were so persistently cool that the usual problem of slow growth was compounded significantly. And so we had salad forever!

We’re all thankful to be getting a little more variety these days.  And thankful, too, that protective measures saved the tender crops from Wednesday night’s “unseasonable” freeze. It’s hard to understand what made it unseasonable, since there’s been a similarly-timed freeze every year that we’ve been growing here. But at any rate, the tomatoes, beans, corn, squash, et cetera all lived to grow another day.

SaltWHAT?

OK, so this week in the shares we had a cucumber, some basil tips, a small fennel bulb, a bunch of orange carrots, a bunch of spring onions, a couple of kohlrabi, a very large bunch of saltwort, a small summer squash called ‘Ronde de nice,’ 5 small purple eggplant, and a bunch of ‘Dino’ or ‘Lacinato’ kale.  NOW it’s coming on!

The thing we’ve been getting the most questions about is the saltwort, which looks like this:

Now, most of the information we have been able to find on this plant (all online; none of our gardening books mentions it) says to use it for the same two things: sushi and salad.

However, this week the stems are long and the bunches rather large. What to do? Well, first of all, definitely go over your saltwort and remove the tough center stems: if you look, you can see that the plants are shaped a bit like small trees, with a thick “trunk” and more slender “branches” going off to the sides, which subdivide into even slimmer “leaves.” I guess they really are leaves, so no need for the quotations there. Anyhow, then you’re supposed to be able to cook these more mature saltwort plants and make lovely things! We found a short article from on this topic that seemed to be the most informative thing out there. Check it out.

Meanwhile, things are really growing along in the garden. Keep your fingers crossed that we can hold onto the warm weather as long as possible! We harvested several pounds of green beans yesterday, so they will definitely be ready for next week. We’re going to have some for dinner tonight (in a Salade Niçoise) – I can’t wait!

After a Long Hiatus

WOW! OK! The blog is back!

We have been struggling with a severe lack of internet access (turns out there’s a limit to how long you can limp along on a DINOSAUR of a computer; cheapskates!). Things are looking up these days, though, so we’re going to get back into sharing farm doings with our members, friends and family through this convenient medium.

Incidentally, speaking of convenient, if you look to the left of the page, you will see that we have added an email subscription feature. If you sign up, you’ll be notified when there’s a new post, so you can check it out. Isn’t that nice?

So besides posting we’ll try to get on top of those theoretically useful pages, also on the left hand side of the screen (under ‘Veg-Edibles’), which are supposed to give you information about various veggies, including how to prep, store, and serve them. As you may or may not have discovered, some of the pages have info while others are at this point still blank. We’re working to get them all filled! And please, if you run across or create a spectacular recipe, share it with us. We’d love to put it up here to share with other members (and… the world!). Furthermore, if you discover that we have posted information that you dispute, let us know that, too.

And thank you, members, for your patience with us. It’s been a tough year in a variety of ways. More on that later. Anyhow, it’s always worth it when we run into one of you on Thursday during pick-up and you tell us how much you’ve been enjoying such-and-such.  Based on what you’ve been saying, the miner’s lettuce

garlic scapes

and corn salad

have been particular hits this year. The scapes were no surprise, as everyone has always been really into those, but the miner’s lettuce and corn salad were new crops for us, and it sounded like they were new to most of you as well. I’m so glad we all wound up enjoying them so much – especially considering how often they were part of your share this spring!

Cheeri for now!

Sign Up Now for the 2011 CSA Season!

Sign-up is now open to all comers for the upcoming season. We’re looking for members who are interested in participating in their local food economy.

The 2011 season will run 22 weeks, from June 2nd through October 20, with an extra-large pickup including winter storage crops on November 17. Pickup is every Thursday, noon to six, and it’s BYOB (bring your own bag).

The price of a share this year is $575. You have the option of adding six or a dozen eggs to your weekly pickup. If you add a half egg share, the price is $624.50. Adding a whole egg share brings your total to $674 for the season.

For more information, take a look at the ‘About Hand-Dug Hopeful Farm’ link on the left-hand side of the page. For a list of veggies from previous years’ pickups, please see the ‘Week-by-Week’ link [Coming Soon].

This year’s weekly selection will be even more diverse than in previous years, containing of course many types of European and Asian greens, as well as herbs, a few flowers, and all your favorite kitchen garden veggies.

This year we’re also going to be teaming up with HolmesStead Ranch (located just east of Bend) to offer our members their USDA certified pork, chicken, turkey, and goat meat. Orders may be placed weekly for pick up along with your veggies the following week.

Use the ‘Contact Us’ link and let us know right away if you are interested in signing up, or if you just have questions.  We love to answer any query you may have, and we’d love to have you join us this season.

The blog is currently under construction; please forgive our dust! We’ll get things back into shape and start posting as the season gets going.

Giving Thanks…

Well, here we are.  The last pickup of the season is this Thursday, November 18th.  We will extend the pickup hours from noon to 6pm for your convenience during this busy time of year.   This is a bigger box than usual so remember to bring extra bags, including two paper bags for potatoes.

Tentatively, the list is:

  • Purple Peruvian fingerling potatoes
  • Yellow Finn potatoes
  • Red Bor Kale
  • Yellow Onion
  • Parsley
  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Mustard Greens
  • Garlic
  • Winter Squash

Part of what helps us improve from year to year is hearing from our customers.  Soon we will ask all of you to help us improve by participating in an anonymous online survey.  We will let you know how it works and how to find it.  Thanks for everything.

GOBBLEGOBBLE!!!

Hi there, people!

We hope your fall has been going well. It’s been very pleasant for us so far, with lots of nice weather to do outdoor chores but lots of canning, drying, and freezing to do inside, too.

Pickup for Thanksgiving boxes will be on Thursday, November 18, one week before the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll remind you again as the time approaches.

Long ago, we promised you some information on turkeys for sale. Finally we have that information available! We have this nice flier but… can’t seem to make the computer see it. So we’ll pass the info on in text-only format. You can contact the Holmes’ family directly to order, or you can order through us, if you prefer. You select a weight range (either tom or hen), pay your deposit up front, and the balance is due at pickup. They accept cash and checks. Mike and Debbie are great folks growing healthy, happy livestock in a low-impact setup on the south side of Highway 20, east of town. Support your local farmers and remember that supply is limited… so hurry!

 

Thanksgiving Turkeys

Free Range ~ Heritage Breeds

Limited Supply!

$20 Deposit will Reserve yours TODAY!

Price
$4.75 per pound

Estimated Weight
Toms ~ 20-25 lbs.
Hens ~ 15-20 lbs.

Processed in a USDA certified facility
on Tuesday November 2nd and 16th
You will be contacted when ready to be picked up

Contact Mike or Debbie Holmes at

HolmesStead Ranch
24075 E. HWY 20 Bend, OR 97701
(541) 322-6992
holmessteadranch@aol.com

Or stop by and visit us

Thank You All!!!

Hey everyone, we discovered that this post never got published – it was just sitting in the drafts box, twiddling its thumbs. Shoot. Anyway, better late than never (maybe…):

Oct. 8, 2010

This is the last week of the CSA growing season, although the Thanksgiving box on November 18th will officially end the CSA.  Also, next week is “swing week” and for those who qualify (i.e. you notified us if you were going to be out of town during pick up) we will be sending you a reminder email to come pick up again next week.

We want to thank all of our members for being tremendously supportive and enthusiastic throughout the season.  What we do would not be possible without the families that support us.  So thank you again for the opportunity to grow you and your family food grown right here in Bend.

The climate here can be very difficult and risky to grow food in and this year was no exception.  The spring was not only chilly but it lasted about a month longer than “usual”.  While it was great weather for greens and peas, the fruiting plants were stunted for a long time which delayed fruiting.  The extended summer helped make up for the unripened fruits but many green tomatoes still hung on to the vines when the first frost came only a few nights ago.  We lost some tomato plants that night even though we covered them which means the green tomatoes we gave this week came from vines that were frozen.  Why am I telling you this information?  It is important to know because if you leave them on the counter for a few days, or maybe even longer, they will eventually turn red, and you might be tempted to can them. Please beware – that would be dangerous!  Tomatoes from frost-killed vines are of uncertain acidity and therefore are unsafe to can!  So what are you supposed to do with a bunch of green tomatoes?  Well of course you could make fried-green tomatoes as they are always delicious… but they are fried.  If you’re looking for a recipe that doesn’t require frying, you can make green tomato pie with a cornmeal crust!  Here’s the recipe from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book:

Cornmeal Dough:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal (ground fine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • About 6 Tablespoons water

Combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt in a bowl and stir to mix.  Add the shortening and cut it into the flour and cornmeal until the mixture looks like fresh bread crumbs.  Sprinkle on the water, a tablespoon at a time.  Add just enough water so that the dough remains cohesive when pressed together-it will be quite soft.

Divide the dough in half and place one half of the dough at a time on a lightly floured surface and roll into a circle  2 inches larger than the inverted pie pan.  Carefully roll the dough onto a rolling pin, then unroll it into a pie pan.

Green-tomato Pie

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red-pepper
  • 6 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Mix together sugar, flour, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and red pepper in bowl.  Take a third of the tomato slices at a time, toss and turn them in the sugar mixture so they are evenly coated on all sides.  Spread the sugared tomato slices evenly over the dough in the pan, and sprinkle raisins over all, along with any remaining sugar mixture.  Drizzle on the vinegar, then  dot with the butter.  Place the top crust on the tomato slices.  Crimp the edges and cut vents in the top.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until crust is lightly colored and juices are bubbling.  Serve at room temp.

If you want to make an all-out southern style feast, green tomato pie, collard greens, and yellow finn potatoes could surely please a crowd.  Don’t forget to keep your potatoes in a paper bag in a dark place and if you see any green, cut off all of it before cooking.

There are still hundreds of feet of carrots in the ground that we will harvest and eat throughout the winter.  The green tops will die back and we will top the bed with 10-12 inches of straw mulch which will prevent the soil from freezing and thereby allow us to continue the harvest through winter (hopefully).   We will also be passing on more carrots to those of you who will be picking up again next week so make sure to either use this week’s bunch of carrots and/or put next week’s bunch into a plastic bag as this will keep them from flopping.   And as for the summer savory, if you can’t find a use for it right away you can dry it and use it when it’s handy.

We thank you all for participating in Hand-Dug Hopeful’s CSA this year.  We look forward to seeing you in the community and maybe even next year for another CSA season.  We are already anxious and busy planning how to improve the garden next year and for the future.

Last (official) Week!!!

We should apologize for not posting the tentative list of veggies for the week last night.  We were in the garden all day and until after dark harvesting all remaining tomatoes, dry beans, pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash, trying to get them out of the garden before more frost hits them.   Monday night was the first big freeze of the season; we had covered all hot crops in the garden but still took some losses.  This is an interesting time of year for farmers, both a welcomed ending to the year’s work and the beginning of prepping the garden for next year. 

This week we will be giving:

  • Mustard Greens
  • Carrots
  • Yellow Finn Potatoes
  • Summer Savory
  • Green Tomatoes
  • Collard Greens
  • Sweet Peppers (hopefully!-maybe cayennes too!)
  • Snap Peas!

!Aubergine – une Recette Unique de la Gr’ece!

Perhaps you noticed today that many of the tomatoes had split. That happened because both of us were sick a while back, and we neglected watering the garden for several days. When we got back to work, we irrigated everything very much because it was far too dry, but the sudden influx of water was hard on the tomatoes, which drank too much and split. These things happen. They still taste tomato-ey.

The mesclun mix is getting fairly spicy now, and if you are not one of the more intrepid salad eaters, you would probably prefer to cook it for greens instead of eating it fresh. The itty-bitty squash are considered a delicacy (perhaps because it takes forever to harvest enough of them to be worthwhile)  and people often just grill or roast them with herbs and garlic. They’re supposed to be sweeter and crunchier than their more mature counterparts.

Do you want to know something amazing about the potatoes we gave this week (the variety is “Peruvian Purple,” by the way)? We sowed three pounds of seed potatoes (just of that one variety) this spring, and last week harvested about 100 pounds of beautiful fingerlings. That is why potatoes are what they are, as far as the ways they have changed history (I’m thinking mainly about European and Russian history, here). As with all potatoes, they should be kept stored in the dark, as exposure to light makes their skins create solanine, which is poisonous. If your potato turns green, cut off the green bits before you cook/eat the potato, or you will be very sorry. I’ve eaten some slightly green potatoes and I promise that this is nothing you want to mess around with. Of course, I’m not sure how you can tell if a dark purple potato has green on it… so keep them covered, and better safe than sorry.

Try this with your eggplant:

Grill or bake until mushy; cut open and scoop guts into a bowl. Briefly cook 4 cloves of sliced garlic in 4-5 T of good fruity tasty olive oil, then add the garlic and oil to the eggplant mush. Grate in some carrots, squeeze in the juice of maybe a half lemon (around a tablespoon), salt and pepper to taste, and there you go.

Please check back here in a few days for the promised info on turkeys!

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