In your box:
–Head Lettuce (“New Red Fire”)
–Potatoes (“Yukon Gold”)
My winters tend to be extremely relaxing, with lots of time for rest and reflection and catching up on all the books that pile up through my busy summers. I stay pretty focused and down-to-earth, but in March something snaps. I get a little stir-crazy, a little overly excited for spring. I then begin concocting some absurd project that promises to make the farm a little more interesting or my job a little easier even though I know (1) the project will cost four times as much as I budget for it, (2) it will not be finished by May as I have planned, but will instead linger through August at best and (3) it might not even work. In the past few years these projects have included a way to heat my greenhouse with water circulated through compost (2015—success!), learning to weld so I could build my own wheelbarrow type transporter for transplants (2016—ok), and building an electric riding mower (2017—don’t ask). This year I settled on a project that has successfully gone over budget, well past its time frame, but that works amazingly. After years of scrubbing carrots, potatoes, and beets by hand for hours every week, washing root vegetables after harvest was clearly a part of our farm most in need of mechanization.
An online search turned up fairly simple DIY instructions for a barrel washer. It’s taken a few attempts to work out the bugs, but at this point my barrel washer is in satisfactory working order. To use it, I dump root veggies into an 8-foot long cylinder about 30 inches wide. The barrel is rotated by a chain on a motor, set at a slight angle so the veggies rotate and slowly make their way toward the finished end. All through their voyage they are sprayed with high-pressure water that removes nearly all the dirt and mud from the field, so the roots come out quite clean without any elbow grease involved. And the best part—I can wash a harvest’s worth of root veggies in just 30 minutes compared to 2-3 hours of hand scrubbing!
A few weeks ago, when I kept hassling the tomatoes for not bearing any early fruits, I was marveling at the amazing amount of flowers and green tomatoes on the plants. I had every expectation that it would be a good tomato year, and that it was just a matter of time before we were overwhelmed with tomatoes. Turns out I was right, and that this is the very time when we’d be swimming in tomatoes! I’ve never seen so many ripe tomatoes at once. The plants are drooping with fruit, and it’s prime time for BLT sandwiches and fresh spaghetti sauce.
There’s simply more fruits out there than I can find bins to fill, and way more than I would want to force on you. I’m hoping that the tomatoes can stay happy on the vines until I make my way around to all of them. Since I couldn’t pick them all I decided to focus on the heirloom varieties, which have far superior taste to everyday red types. They haven’t been bred to survive the drive from California to New York City or to ripen off the vine with the power of modern chemistry—these just taste good! They might look a little ugly and even the 30-mile drive from our farm to your table can be a little rough on them, but the taste is worth it. This week everyone is receiving a Brandywine (big red ones), a Cherokee Purple (black/purple and rich flavor) and Valencia (orange, sweet with low acidity) in addition to basic hybrids, cherry tomatoes, and a grape heirloom called “Juliet.”
The tomato flood should continue for the next couple of weeks before it finally subsides, so enjoy them while they last! And don’t forget—we still offer surplus tomatoes if you’re interested in freezing or canning them. We sell 10 lb. boxes (mostly meaty varieties but with some heirlooms for flavor) for $25. Please e-mail me if you’re interested and I’ll add you to a wait list as they become available.
Expected next week: Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, beans, head lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, sweet onion, carrots, garlic and sweet pepper.