Thursday, August 13, 2009

Week 11

In this week’s share:
3 tomatoes
2 pounds red potatoes
1 head of broccoli
1 bunch of swiss chard (see cooking tips below)
1 bunch of carrots
1 bag of salad mix
1 pound of green beans
2 large onions
1 bulb of garlic

(green bean harvest at right)

Crop Report: Late Blight
In the 10 years we’ve owned our farm, we’ve never experienced weather quite like we’ve had this summer. When July had passed, it was somehow consoling to hear the media report that there had not been a July this cool since some time in the early 1800s. We knew it was bad, but, in fact, it was historically so. With such cool, wet temperatures, we also knew it wasn’t going to be a great year for tomatoes. But, instead, it’s been a disastrous year. The cause: late blight introduced to the Northeast through starter tomato plants imported from the South and sold in stores like Home Depot and WalMart to aspiring home gardeners.
Sadly, our farm has not been immune to the effects of this airborne plant disease. This week we had an agent from Cornell Cooperative Extension come out to our farm to confirm that both our tomato crop and potato crop had been affected by last blight (note: it is not harmful to humans). What this means for CSA members, is that what tomatoes we’re able to share in this year’s CSA season is severely limited and will be short lived. This is pretty disappointing for us to report. We grow more than a dozen varieties of tomatoes (including heirlooms) and put a great deal of time into preparing for this crop—pounding thousands of stakes into the ground, pruning the plants, tying them to the stakes as they grow. Not to mention, since we also sell our produce at farmers’ markets, it’s a significant income loss for our family.
That said, we’re not ones to bellyache or give up. We took a chance weeks ago planting some broccoli plants on the late side, and, thanks to this summer’s lack of heat, we have a gorgeous broccoli crop in the middle of August. And weeks ago, when it started to look like we just weren’t going to get much heat this summer, we compensated by planting crops that do well in cooler times (radish, peas, greens). So, we can at least breathe a sigh of relief that each week’s share has still been abundant.

If you’re interested in learning more about late blight, there was a terrific op-ed this week in the New York Times: You Say Tomato, I Say Agricultural Disaster.

On a lighter note...Swiss Chard. For quick use of this leafy, nutrient-rich green, we like to sauté it. Here’s an excellent recipe for the basic technique of how to sauté swiss chard as well as a host of ideas on how to embellish. If you’re looking for a recipe suited to more of a special occasion, this Creamy Parmesan Swiss Chard Gratin is decadent.

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