August 3, 2009 Share 11
Whats Happening At the Farm
It is official: late blight has more or less wiped out our tomato crop for this year. A few weeks back we noticed the indicative brown lesions on the stem and leaves of a dozen plants. We pulled those plants out along with a buffer of surrounding plants, leaving 50 foot gaps in three out of our five 400 foot beds. As we waited for the shipment of the copper-based fungicide which might have helped suppress the spread of the disease, we had a week of two downpours: 2.5 inches of rain on Tuesday, and 3.5 inches of rain on Thursday! Unprecedented! Those wet conditions were perfect for the spread of the spores throughout our entire planting of tomatoes.
The paste tomatoes were the hardest hit and we are cancelling both canning days. The cherry tomatoes have the least damage and we will attempt to pick some for the shares in the next weeks. This crop failure is especially disappointing to us for several reasons. We put a disproportionate amount of work into our tomato field. Starting in the spring of 2008 we left the area that would be this years tomato field fallow to flush out weeds and leave no crop residue for disease or pests to survive on. In late summer ’08 we planted a thick stand of rye and vetch to enrich and protect the soil over the fall winter and spring. This spring we mowed the rye and vetch with a special mower and raked the hay by hand over the 12,000 square foot area. Over 650 tomato plants were planted by hand and fertilized individually with a custom blend of compost, fertilizer, and minerals. The young plants were growing beautifully and every week we would add a new level of twine to the trellis to keep up with the fast growing plants. This was the first year we timed the trellising perfectly and didn’t have to lift up overhanging tomato plants that had grown feet in height since the previous trellising!
Many of you remember last years tomatoes. The plants were so healthy and the fruits so delicious, we collected seeds from all of our 42 heirloom varieties. These seeds had a fullness and sheen you don’t see in ordered seed, and they grew beautiful strong seedlings that were the offspring off those wonderful 2008 tomatoes. Not only have we lost the 2009 tomato crop, but we lost the opportunity to continue saving our own seed and selecting those plants and fruits which perform best in our unique location.
Late blight, Phytophtera infestans, spreads fast but occurs rarely. It seems that a perfect storm of unprecedented
rainfall and the unwise practice of shipping large quantities of unhealthy tomato plants from southern states to be sold cheaply at big box stores conspired to create a tomato crisis in the Northeast. Luckily late blight doesn’t survive over the winter this far north, so we would have to experience a fresh importation of spores from the south.
Can this crazy weather be blamed on global warming? Perhaps being denied the unparalleled flavor of fresh local heirloom tomatoes will be the wake up call we all need to drive less, use less electricity, recycle, and only buy tomato plants in the spring from local growers, like at the H.O.G. during our Mother’s Day plant Sale!
In Season Now
Green Beans-if you have too many, just trim, boil in water for 1 minute, dunk in ice water and freeze! You’ll be able to enjoy green beans all winter!
Zucchini and Summer Squash-to save this, shred in the food processor and freeze-great to add to soups, muffins, or to make zucchini appetizers.
On The Way
Pick Your Own
Pick your own items are available for you to harvest at any time, as long as it’s not raining. Look for the signs marking the beds!
Basil-only pick the tops, and don’t pick too much off one plant! Please go down the beds to find big, healthy, unpicked plants!
Parsley- flat or curly–don’t pick too much off one plant! Please go down the beds to find big, healthy, unpicked plants!
Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Chives, Mint
Flowers-our zinnias, sunflowers, and other summer flowers are finally starting to bloom! No limit
Brine Fermenting is an ancient and wonderful tool for adding flavor and shelf life to many vegetables. Cucumbers and cabbage can each be transformed into pickles and sauerkraut with a little patience and a few simple ingredients. The brine solution creates an environment for lactobacillus and other bacteria to proliferate and outcompete other harmful bacteria that cause with food spoiling. The bacteria create lactic acid which gives pickles and sauerkraut their distinctive tang, without using vinegar. These bacteria are naturally found in the human digetive tract where they help break down what you eat and keep you healthy!
-Any amount of fresh, cleaned cucumbers
-Garlic cloves, as much as you want
-brine solution: 1 shy tablespoon kosher salt per cup filtered water (chlorine kills the development of the beneficial bacteria)
Start with fresh, scrubbed cukes and dishsoap clean utensils to minimize contamination. Put the cukes and garlic in a ceramic or food grade plastic bucket. If you can get fresh sprigs of dill add them to the bottom, whole. Chopped or dried dill will float at the top and be problematic in contributing to mold growing on the surface of the brine. Add brine solution until cukes are covered. Fill a plastic ziploc bag with brine solution and use it to weigh down the cukes so they stay submerged. Or if you can find a plate that fits just inside the bucket you can use that weighted down with a lidded jar of water. It it VERY IMPORTANT that the cukes stay under the brine, it is contact with air that will cause them to rot, as long as they are in the brine, the lacto-bacteria can work their magic. Cover the container with a dishrag and in about a week you can pull out a pickle and taste test! A scum may form on the surface of the water and should be scraped off as soon as you notice it.
Clean and chop cabbage, then add cabbage to ceramic or food grade plastic container in layers about an inch thick, sprinkling with kosher salt between each layer and pounding cabbage gently to pack it down and bruise the leaves. The salt should pull some moisture from the cabbage. When you are done, add water until the cabbage is just covered. Taste the brine, it should be distinctly salty but not unpalatably so. Weigh down the cabbage like you do with the cucmbers, removing any stray floaties of cabbage leaf at the surface.
Both of these fermentations work better at slightly cooler temperatures than we are currently experiencing. Put them in a cool, clean basement or garage where it is more like 65 degrees than 75 or 80 degrees. The warmer it is the faster everything happens. Good Luck!