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Week 13 Newsletter

September 6, 2016

In your box:

–Celery

–Cucumber, summer squash, or broccoli

–Fennel

–Ground cherries

–Potatoes, “Red Gold”

–Red onion

–Sweet pepper

–Tomatoes

As we get closer to the end of the season, it’s looking more and more likely that we might actually finish the 2016 growing season without any catastrophic failure to my farming equipment. I have two tractors, one a full sized Ford built in 1959 and a smaller, two-wheeled tractor that’s just five years old. Each of the ten years I’ve farmed has been marked by something going wrong, be it mechanical, electrical, or just plain crazy. Back in 2007 I was working as an intern on a farm in Wisconsin. While plowing up potatoes on a 70-year old tractor, one of the 70-year old wheels decided it was time to retire, popped off, and rolled down the hill while the tractor lurched to the ground behind it. In 2011 my first tractor, a Ford 9N built in 1939, met its maker in a fiery explosion while I disked up a field (there wasn’t enough of the tractor left afterwards for me to ever figure out what caused it). Most years it’s nothing so exciting as that—a starter that needs replaced, a carburetor that needs serious adjustment, or a pesky clunking that just requires a lot of cursing and hitting at random with a mallet before it goes away.

I know this is all part of farming, unless you’re of the Amish persuasion, but I should remind you that I have degrees in English and philosophy. Hemingway and Aristotle didn’t have much to say about replacing fuel lines on machinery from the Dust Bowl or scrounging up replacement parts for a little tractor made in Italy that even most farmers haven’t heard of.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but most of what I’ve learned about tractor repair is from YouTube videos. No matter how random my problem is or how niche my equipment might be, someone has had the same problem and has made a video (usually with awful music and grammar that suggests a distinct lack of English degree) showing exactly what to replace and how to do it. But this year, amazingly, I’ve yet to Google “Grillo PTO coupling brace” or “Why did my tractor catch on fire?” any other such nonsense. If I can just hold out for a few more weeks without anything exploding, falling off, sputtering, or leaking, 2016 will be remembered as the year of Tractor Cooperation.

This week we welcome Celery to the box for the first time this season. The celery I grow doesn’t have the thick, white stalks that you see in the grocery store. Mine has an actual taste to it, and it’s perfect for chopping raw into a salad or cooking into any autumn soups or stews. Celery likes to be kept in the hydrator drawer or a plastic bag in the refrigerator and keeps well for 2-3 weeks.

Another new crop this week is Ground Cherries. These are the husked mini-tomato berries in the pint container in your box. Ground cherries are in the same family as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers, and most closely resemble tomatillos (which we had in your box last week).

To use them, first remove the outer husk and compost it. These are quite tasty and most people enjoy them raw, so you’ll probably want to pop them right in. You can also try them as a topping for coffee cake or other baked goods.

Unfortunately, these take a really long time to pick and sort through so I don’t have a ton available for you. But if you like the taste, I recommend looking for more at a farmer’s market or grocery store. There are many recipes for ground cherry sauce and jam online. We’ve made the jam before and it’s quite tasty and worth the work. Ground cherries were not really on the map for most folks before CSA farms started popping up and experimenting with unique crops, and this one has become a favorite for our family. Hope you enjoy them!

If you like ground cherries and have a garden space available, you might also consider planting one next year. They’re quite prolific—we have just 20 plants and it’s enough to feed all 100 families in our CSA. Our favorite variety is “Aunt Molly’s” from Seed Savers Exchange. But be careful where you plant them—any ground cherry that gets away from you in the garden is full of seeds that will germinate in that same location next year, leading to a lot of “volunteer” plants that can take over like weeds.

Expected next week: Beets, summer squash, cucumbers, onion, kohlrabi, sweet pepper, tat soi, garlic, and tomatoes.

Don’t forget—our fall festival is coming up on Sunday, September 25th from 3pm until dark.

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