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Week 14 Newsletter

September 23, 2011

In your box:

  • Carrots
  • Daikon Radish
  • Gourds
  • Kale
  • Head lettuce
  • Hot pepper
  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Potatoes
  • Radicchio
  • Red onions
  • Sweet Pepper

During the height of summer, it’s easy for us to get into a rut with providing quite similar vegetables and fruits every week in the box.  Indeed, it has to be like this–bean and zucchini plants get angry if they aren’t picked two or three times a week, and other crops swell up to an unnatural size if ignored.  So, in some ways, it’s good to make it to the frost and turn our attention to other crops we haven’t seen since spring, if at all this year.  Many crops survive quite well after a frost, and in some root vegetables the taste improves after a light freeze.  So we still have hope and excitement in the field, though the days grow dramatically shorter, the coffee keeps us inside just a little bit later, and so many crops and weeds wither in the field.

Our first new crop this week is purely for decoration, although I’m sure someone has found a way to eat Gourds.  My recommendation is just to leave them on a windowsill or table or anywhere that needs a little color during the cloudy days of autumn.  Gourds are close relatives of squash and pumpkins.  Many of them look like either miniature winter squash or summer squash covered in warts.  The only time I ever favor “being covered in warts” as a crop trait is when I order seeds for gourds–I can’t imagine much of a market for apples or sweet peppers that are covered in warts, for example.  Look for two gourds for half shares and four in full share boxes. 

We are also harvesting our winter squash, jack-o-lanterns, and pie pumpkins from the field.  Many of them could have used another week or two to finish growing, but the frost last week killed their vines and thus stunted their growth.  We will be curing our winter squash and pie pumpkins for a week or two, and they will grace our boxes in our last couple weeks.

Another new item this week is the Daikon Radish.  These are also known as Japanese Radishes or Mooli.  Unlike spring radishes, these are mild in flavor and are still desirable once they’ve grown to a large size.  Daikons look just like parsnips or white carrots, but with much broader foliage.  While Daikons are usually associated with Japan and Japanese cuisine, they are thought to have originated in continental Asia.  The root does not need to be peeled, and can be eaten raw or in a dish.  Store it in the fridge, in either the hydrator drawer or a plastic bag, for up to two weeks.  The greens are edible but do not store as well as the roots. 

Finally, we are providing Radicchio (rah-deek-eee-o) for the first (and only) time this week.  Radicchio is a cousin of endive and dandelions, forming medium-size heads resembling cabbage in structure.  Radicchio is commonly used in Italian cuisine, while in America it is most often relegated to triple-washed salad bags.  It is also known as “that thing you eat around and leave on your plate, hoping no one will notice” at parties when mixed salads are served.  But radicchio is not to be avoided!  Try it sliced and mixed with lettuce for a great salad, or enjoy it plain.  Its leaves can be enjoyed raw or lightly grilled in olive oil.  We planted enough for every half share to get one head and full shares two, but only about half of the plants have formed the proper heads.  So our radicchio is a little small and loose in your box.  Store it as you would lettuce.

In other years, we would be offering leeks this week to provide the perfect setup for potato-leek-kale soup.  However, we don’t have leeks available.  For once, I’m not going to blame our weather or my own human error.  The fault lies, as always, with Texas.  Our onion and leek plants have always come from a supplier in Texas, where the warm arid climate provides a great start to the long-season onions and leeks we grow.  They start the seeds and grow them for a couple months, and then ship the small grass-like plants up here in late April for us to transplant and grow.  However, the area in Texas where these plants are started has received all of two inches of rain in the past 12 months.  In addition, the geology of this part of Texas is comprised of Eagle Ford Shale, which is rich in natural gas that can only be extracted through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”  Each fracking well dug in this area requires 13 million gallons of water, roughly the equivalent of what 240 adults use in a year for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.  Needless to say, two inches of rain per year is not going to supply 13 million gallons of water.  As a result, a war of words and price-gauging is being waged in Texas between farmers, miners, and homeowners.  The leek plants I ordered from Texas were among the first victims–dried up in the Texas sun without enough water before they could even be shipped here.  But thankfully, with the new greenhouse we’ve built this year, we can completely extricate ourselves from the situation in Texas and grow all of our own onions and leeks from seed here starting in 2012.  And if they still don’t produce next year, I can just go back to blaming myself.

For more information on water, fracking, and agriculture in Texas, check out: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43443146/ns/business-us_business/t/water-new-liquid-gold-texas/

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Will Healy permalink
    September 24, 2011 4:33 am

    Very excited about the raddichio and happy to report this tidbit:

    “Humans have been using radicchio since ancient times. Pliny the Elder wrote of it in Naturalis Historia, praising its medicinal properties; he claimed it was useful as a blood purifier and an aid for insomniacs.”

    For those avid readers of the F&FF newsletter comments section, you may also wish to note that Pliny the Elder was Pliny the Younger’s uncle.

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