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Week 9 Newsletter

August 9, 2012

In your box:

  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Cucumber
  • Dill
  • Hot pepper
  • Red onion
  • Summer Squash or broccoli
  • Sweet corn
  • Sweet onion
  • Tomatoes

This weekend is the ever-enchanting, supernatural, and downright stinky highlight of any farmer’s summer: The Minnesota Garlic Festival in Hutchinson.  Unfortunately, there will be a lot of long faces at the Fest this year due to a widespread virus spread by insects that has wiped out the majority of garlic in Minnesota and Iowa.  We lost 80% of the garlic on our farm to the virus this year, which is about the going rate for other garlic farmers I’ve talked to.   Plants infected with the virus have mushy necks that snapped off long ago with rot or simply didn’t grow at all.  With such dramatic losses, I’m wary of garlic ice cream rationing and desparate fistfights over the few garlic chip cookies at the festival.  Where will our deep fried garlic cloves come from?  Garlic on a stick?

The garlic virus was brought on by the conditions this spring, with a hot March and a really wet few months favoring its rapid spread.  By the time anyone knew what was happening, entire crops were rotten.  We aren’t expecting to be able to offer garlic at all this year, but thankfully there’s no indication that the virus will reappear in 2013. 

We’ll still be going to the Garlic Festival this year, in order to get new cloves to plant for next year and in order to weep and mourn publicly with other growers over the death of one of our favorite crops in the Midwest Garlic Famine of 2012.  Thankfully, the virus did not spread to leeks or onions, which are close relatives of garlic.  But now we live in fear of attacks by vampires and the threat of bland food all winter.

It’s hard to believe, but we are already half way done with our CSA season as of this delivery.  As of now we are hoping to continue until week 18, on October 11th and 16th.  We’ll confirm that as it gets closer.  This week finds us in the thick of the summer bounty, as we are brimming with beans and topped off with tomatoes.  The weeds are nearly all under control, allowing us maximum time for harvesting the great tastes of August.

Beans are really coming into their own, after a slow, jerky start.  We have four varieties of “green” beans on the farm, including the usual green ones, a yellow pencil pod variety, the majestic purple “Royal Burgundy,” and the unusual “Dragon’s Tongue,” which does in fact mimic the look and texture of an actual dragon’s tongue.  I know this from experience, but that story will have to wait until my film comes out.  Like Brussels sprouts and asparagus, beans are best when monitored closely during cooking and NOT made into mush.  3-5 minutes in a boiling pot is usually enough.  They will retain their nutrition best if they are boiled whole and then chopped up.  Green beans lack the protein of mature dried beans, but they still possess vitamins A, B1, and B2, as well as calcium and potassium.

Tomatoes are also ripening rapidly, leading to some impressive totals early in their season.  Most of our tomatoes are heirlooms, handed down from previous generations and cultures and emphasizing taste (and funky looks!) over even ripening times and ability to be shipped.  These range in color from yellow to orange to red to purple, weighing as much as a pound or as little as the ping-pong ball sized “Red Zebras.”  We’ve also had early success with cherry tomatoes, including the candylike “Sun Gold” orange cherries.  Some are perfectly “normal” and round, some have pointy tips, and others have faces only their mothers could love.  We try to pick some just a little under-ripe, so that you won’t be overwhelmed with too many tomatoes that have to be eaten immediately.  But don’t wait for a yellow or orange tomato to turn red.

We also have a few Hot Peppers this week.  All of our rate a “3” on a scale of 1-5 in heat, but a little goes a long way if you’re not expecting it.  Our most prolific are the orange Bulgarian Carrots, but we also have cayennes, jalapenos, and some wrinkly red hots.

Cucumbers are really coming in nicely now, including our trusty late bloomers.  If you get something rounded, yellowish, and slightly spiky, you have a Lemon Cucumber.  I’ll try to get a picture up on the website shortly.  These can be used like any other cucumber, and have a similar taste.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Michelle Cameron permalink
    August 9, 2012 11:55 pm

    So sad about the garlic – I tried my hand for the first time and had nothing – bad starts me thinks .

    Good news from Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, IA though! Their August newsletter reads: “dealt with the extreme drought, yet harvested tens of thousands of garlic bulbs”.

    I’m grateful someone will have good seed stock for this coming year!

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