Thursday, July 2, 2009

At right: Colorado Potato Beetles Attack (read below how we fight back, one bug at a time)

CSA Share Week 5

NEWS: We’re Now Certified Organic!
Weeks after our farm inspection, we’ve finally received notice: we’re officially Certified Organic. We appreciate the number of people who encouraged us to do this because they believed in us, knew we were in this for the long haul, and believed the benefits of being certified would outweigh the work (and cost) involved in being certified. But what really inspired us to move forward on this was the ongoing frustration of knowing we followed all the rules but legally could not call ourselves “organic.” The certifying process was challenging, as expected. We started as early as January. Ken spent a day at a winter workshop going over all the ins and outs of the application and then spent hours filling out paperwork, which included a 15-page application addendum just to be able to package our salad mixes in labeled, sealed containers. But the paper work involved with being certified organic pales to the physical work that truly distinguishes us from conventional growers. Case in point: Colorado potato beetles (see pic above). They’re all over our potato crop. But instead of spraying them with a chemical pesticide, we hand pick them one by one. Or if there’s a good cluster of them, you can brush them off as a bunch into a container. Left to their devices, these bugs will at the very least affect a crop’s yield. At worse, they’ll kill the crop. This year they’re pretty bad. If not for the tireless efforts of a few people over the course of nearly two days this past week, our potato crop would likely have been ruined. Okay, the two days of work also involved hand weeding as they went along too—yet another difference between organic growing practices and conventional. We simply don’t use chemicals to kill weeds. The list of differentiations could go on, but it seemed fitting that we receive our approval the week we’re hand picking bugs from the field.

Rain, rain go away…
Many people are asking if all this rain is becoming a problem on our farm. Yes, it is. The ground is too wet to prepare seed beds. So we can’t directly seed into beds for new crops, and plants long ready to be moved out of the greenhouse and into the field are overdeveloping in their pots for lack of prepared beds to plant into. Of course, all this rain and lack of sun isn’t so great for what’s in the fields either. Certain crops become vulnerable to disease (last year this is what seriously compromised our tomato crop), and many simply don’t progress without much-needed sun. Bees don’t like all this rain either. So they’re not out helping to pollinate important crops like green beans, squash, cucumbers and melons.

Despite all this cool, wet weather, we did manage to pull together a nice, big share for the holiday weekend:
· 1 bunch of swiss chard
· 1 big head of red lettuce
· 1 bulb of fresh garlic
· Quart of snap peas
· A few zucchini
· A few yellow summer squash
· 1 head of broccoli
· 1 bunch of radish
· 1 bunch of spring onions
· 1 bunch of carrots—the first of the season
· 1 bunch parsley

As bountiful as this might seem, you can easily work through half your share in a meal. For example, this is what we had for dinner the other night: penne with grilled onions, zucchini (or summer squash), chard with olives and goat cheese (feta or shaved parmigiano reggiano would work well too). Then we had a big salad on the side.
This isn’t exactly a recipe, but here’s some general info. on how this was prepared: thinly slice ¼ head of garlic (see instrux below) and gently simmer in extra-virgin olive oil over medium-low heat until fragrant. Remove from the heat and grate zest from half a lemon into the oil. Cut off the onions green tops and slice the lower bulb part in half lengthwise. Cut the squash diagonally into ¼-inch thick ovals. Brush onions and squash with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill over medium-high heat until golden brown—3 to 5 minutes per side. Rinse the chard and the lay the bunch on the grill spread out some so that it wilts and some lightly browns, flipping after a couple of minutes.
Chop the onion and chard (discarding the thick lower part of stems if desired) and toss with pasta, chopped olives, garlic oil, the grilled squash, and some reserved pasta cooking water (as needed). Add a generous squirt of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese and minced parsley.
About fresh garlic: at this stage in the season, the garlic can sit out on the counter. It won’t spoil. It will just lose moisture and “cure.” Refrigerating will help keep the outer papery layers stay supple so you can use all but the woody stem in the middle of the bulb. We’ve been halving the garlic (top to bottom), removing the woody stem, and slicing thinly across the half bulb. No need to extract individual cloves yet. It’s all edible. Store whatever is left in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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