In your box:
–Eggplant or zucchini
–Garlic, “Bear Carcass”
–Lettuce, “Crisp Mint”
We are now transitioning to the final third of the growing season, and the weather has appropriately turned from hot & humid to the pleasant, comfortable weather of a Minnesota fall. We will keep up with the summer stand-bys for as long as they keep producing while adding some new flavors to the box. Cucumbers and zucchini got a good bump from the recent heat, but the plants are looking quite haggard and they may only have a week or two left in them. Tomato plants are starting to succumb to bacterial diseases on the leaves, but their fruit continues ripening nicely. Eggplant have finally rallied, and peppers should be back for another week or two shortly.
By far the most exciting thing in your box this week is the bear carcass. Well, kind of. Three years ago two garlic diseases combined to wipe out almost all of the garlic grown in Minnesota, leaving most of us garlic farmers to scramble for new planting stock to start over our stock lines. Faced with the costly prospect of starting from scratch with new garlic plants, I called up our friends at a farm near Menomonie, Wisconsin, where Nina and I spent the growing season of 2007 as interns. Their garlic was unaffected by the garlic diseases in Minnesota, so it was perfectly fine for planting. Except that they didn’t know what variety it was or even what classification of garlic it is. Without a name, it naturally fell on me to name this strain as a way to differentiate it from all of the other garlic varieties we grow. So I thought back to our time on their farm, and of course the memory that stood out the most was the morning I walked out to start work and found a bear carcass in front of our cabin. I was shocked, of course, and after assuring myself that it was dead and a real bear—not just a bear rug that someone stuck there as a weird joke—I headed up to the big house to ask what they knew of it. Their response: “Oh yeah, that’s just the bear carcass.” Now, to my sensibility there is no such thing as just a bear carcass. But for them, it was somehow not a big deal. Thus, their farm will forever be associated with the appearance of the bear carcass.
My hope is that someone will plant out cloves from this garlic, continuing its proud name, until it eventually makes its way around the world and gardeners everywhere know the glories of Bear Carcass garlic.
The one new crop in your box this week is the Tat Soi. I always try growing a spring planting of this crop, but it rarely works. Tat Soi is very susceptible to heat, and our quick warm-up in June is usually enough to kill it off. The fall planting is much more reliable, even after it endures a heat wave like we’ve been through last week. All of my seed catalogs rave about how Tat Soi can even be harvested from under snow, but I’ve never found that to be the case. In fact, on my farm it’s one of the first hardy greens to give up the ghost and shrivel up as soon as the weather turns cold.
Tat soi should be kept in the hydrator drawer or in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week or two. To use it, chop off the stem down low to remove the root and aid in cleaning. Chop the leaves and stems up and use the whole thing in a stir-fry, pasta dish, or omelet. Tat soi is a good stand-in for spinach or bok choy.
Don’t forget—our annual fall festival will be held on Sunday, September 27th from 3-6:30pm. Hope to see you out at the farm!
That party doesn’t mark the end of the delivery season, however. But one year we held it in October and it snowed. We will still have three more weeks after that, finishing up in mid-October after 18 weeks of deliveries. I’ll confirm the final delivery week once we get a frost and I figure out how long we can prolong the season.