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Middle Way Farm CSA - Week 7
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Cover Crops and Diversity


I really appreciated the dry weather this past week and then just enough rain on Saturday night. The farm is in the best shape its been since May, before all the rain in June. In addition to lots of weeding, by hand and with the wheel hoe, I was able to get a number of spring plantings that were well past their prime mowed before the weeds could go to seed. On Friday, I rushed to till and plant fall carrots, beets, and bush beans in the morning, only to have the storms heading towards Grinnell dissipate just to the west. That gave me some more time to get buckwheat planted in some of the weedier areas I had tilled and to seed some bare ground areas in the lawn with an oat cover crop, which will suppress weeds until conditions are better in the early fall for planting grass and clover as permanent cover. Then we got a nice 3/4 inch rain overnight on Saturday, perfect for germinating the newly planted seeds.

I'm very excited about the buckwheat in particular. Its an amazing cover crop that fills a niche for vegetable farmers that few other plants can. It can be planted anytime during the summer, even in hot weather, germinates and grows very quickly, doesn't require a lot of water or good fertility, outcompetes fast growing annual weeds, and flowers within 4-6 weeks. Once it has flowered, its easy to kill by mowing and then decomposes fairly quickly after the residue is tilled into the soil. It takes up and accumulates phosphorus (one of three major plant nutrients along with potassium and nitrogen) in its tissue, which is subsequently released into the soil as it decomposes. Buckwheat flowers are favored by pollinators and other beneficial insects, so these plantings should be literally humming with bees in August. The buckwheat is planted in a few narrow strips between cash crop plantings, rather than just being a single block within a field. Integrating strips of annual and perennial cover crops with the annual cash crops to reduce erosion, improve soil health, and provide habitat for beneficial insects is one of my long term management goals on the farm. It also makes the farm more beautiful, varied, and diverse, which is important to me personally and an asset when showing the farm to visitors.

Planting strips of annual and perennial cover crops within fields is also a highly scalable practice that can be used in anything from a home garden, to a multi-acre vegetable farm, to a thousand plus acre row crop operation. Iowa State has been doing some innovative research into integrating strips of native prairie into row crop fields. Their project is called STRIPS (Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie) and it has demonstrated that by converting 10% of a field into prairie strips soil export can be reduced by 95%, water runoff by 40%, nitrogen export by 90%, and phosphorus export by 84%. Its the sort of landscape scale innovation we desperately need in Iowa agriculture right now. 

Freshly planted carrots beside the fall cabbages. The burlap covering the soil helps hold moisture in and aids the carrots in germinating. Using burlap has really improved my carrot germination, which can be very erratic depending on temperature and soil moisture. Once most of the carrots have germinated (usually within 10-14 days after seeding), the burlap is removed to allow the carrots to grow freely. 

Weekly Notices:

  • In an effort not to overwhelm those receiving the standard share, I've moved turnips and kohlrabi to the Extra list, so they are now optional for ordering. I will continue to have them available (since they store well in the cooler) throughout the summer. I found a great way to combine the two this week: turnip & kohlrabi slaw.  Beets have also moved to the Extra list this week, but will be reappearing in the Standard share soon. 
  • A note about the peas: I send them your way unwashed in an effort to keep them fresh. When produce is washed, it tends to shorten its shelf life. Peas in particular seem susceptible to going bad when exposed to water. I want to leave it up to you to determine when to wash and consume them. 
  •  Bulk orders this week include turnips, kohlrabi, and zucchini, which is producing heavily right now. See Note's on This Week's Share for tips on freezing zucchini. The bulk zucchini will be on the larger side, since I assume they will be for processing rather than fresh eating. 
Artists in residence at Grin City Collective, on their last day, celebrate a clean broccoli and cabbage field (before photo above and after photo below) with broccoli flower bouquets. Despite how weedy the field looks in the above photo, it was actually not too bad once you get into the field.  

Notes on This Week's Share 


Savoy cabbage is considered the more tender and sweet variety of cabbage. It has deeply crinkled dark green outer leaves which turn lighter green as you move into the interior leaves. The leaves do not have the hard or rubbery texture that sometimes characterizes red or green cabbage, which makes them perfect for eating raw in salads, using for wraps, or as a bed for rice dishes. It can also be used favorably in anyway you would use 'regular' green or red cabbage. Like other cabbages, its highly nutritious, containing dietary fiber (obviously), protein, vitamins B-1 & B-6, C, & K, folic acid, an many trace minerals. 

Lacinato kale goes by any number of names: dinosaur, flatleaf, toscano. It is an heirloom or open pollinated variety of kale that was developed in Italy and has been passed down to our time through seed saving and careful preservation of particular seed strains. That means that you can buy seed for many different "versions" or sub-varieties of lacinato kale, since each seed company tends to have its own strain that they preserve. The open-pollinated nature of the variety also means there is lots of variation of leaf size and shape as well as growth habit between plants from the same strain. In contrast, hybrid varieties of vegetables tend to be very uniform, with one plant looking very similar to the next one. Lacinato is known as being milder, sweeter, and more tender than the curly leaf varieties that are typical in grocery stores. I think of the curly leaf varieities as being more northern European or Slavic types, while the lacinato is an Italian or southern European style. Its the preferred variety for kale pesto as well as Italian dishes like white bean soup. For the white bean soup, you can include or omit sausage depending on your preference, it is good both ways. 

New potatoes are one of the joys of eating locally. They are the young, smaller tubers that can be dug from the potato plant when it starts to flower, around 2 months after planting. New potatoes have thin, delicate skins that tear and bruise easily and so need to be handled with care when harvested and washing, but tend to show a lot of nicks despite even the most careful handling. This is not much of problem, since they are meant to be eaten fresh and not stored like a mature potato. Keep them in the fridge in a plastic bag, where they will store well for several weeks. Mature potatoes are harvested later in the summer and early fall, once the potato vines have died. At that point, the skins of the mature potatoes cure, which makes them ready for storage and able to hold up to harvesting and washing. New potatoes are tender and sweet, requiring less cooking than mature potatoes. You can steam them, boil them, slice them and fry them (with shredded cheese), use them in soups or any other way you would use potatoes. 

Flat leaf (Italian) parsley will be included in the standard share this week while curly leaf parsley is available on the Extra list. Flat leaf parsley tends to be preferred for its flavor while curly leaf parsley is considered more of a garnish. Parsley is highly nutritious, high in iron, and is a natural breath freshener. I find it to be a versatile herb that can be used in many dishes, both cooked and fresh. 

Zucchini are my favorite vegetable to preserve and eat during the winter. I shred them using a food processor with a grating blade and then pack them into quart freezer bags. Unlike many other vegetables, they do not need to be blanched before freezing, which makes them relatively simple to preserve. They can also be frozen as sliced rounds, in which case the best strategy is to lay them out flat on a baking tray and freeze them before pouring them into freezer bags. They will then be frozen loose rather than as a single mass of zucchini. I prefer freezing them as shredded zucchini since our two favorite recipes are zucchini fritters and curried zucchini soup (also good way to use winter storage potatoes), which both use shredded zucchini. 

The fruit share will include another pint of red raspberries from Keller Berry Farm. The black raspberries are producing slower than expected and should be available next week. After that will be blueberries from Berry Patch Farm in Nevada! 

View from the blue barn as drizzle started to fall on Friday afternoon. The tilled ground in the foreground used to contain turnips, radish, arugula, Chinese cabbage, and kohlrabi. Its now been replanted into buckwheat and bush beans (including the Dragon Tongue variety from Seed Savers Exchange). 
CSA Availability For Delivery on Wed, July 2

Orders should be placed at middlewayfarm.csasignup.com by Tuesday at 6 am. Go to the website and click Member Log-in. If you have any trouble logging in, use the E-mail Verification tool to receive a link to access the store. You can change your password to whatever you want and use your e-mail and password to log in for future orders.Please e-mail me at middlewayfarmer@gmail.com if you have any problems with access or ordering. 

Standard shares will receive one unit of everything listed under "Standard" automatically. No need to order. If you would like additional standard items (not all standard items will be available for extra ordering), extra items, or plant starts, you will need to order them separately. Whatever you order on the website will be delivered IN ADDITION to your standard share. 

Custom shares need to place an order each week in order to receive delivery ($10/week minimum, no upper threshold). If orders are not received by early Tuesday morning you may not receive your exact order. Some items are more limited than others in terms of availability. 

Fruit shares are pre-determined each week and are only available to those who signed up for the fruit share. They are not available for weekly ordering. 

Storage Tips: Everything in this week's share should be kept in sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator for best quality and storage life except garlic & zucchini. Fresh garlic can be stored on the counter, but DO NOT put it in a sealed container. It is moist and will mold. Zucchini should be stored on the counter and used within a few days. Smaller zucchini in particular decompose quicker than larger, thicker skinned zucchini. They can be refrigerated if needed to keep them fresh a few days longer. Carrots should be stored separately from green tops. Use green tops within a few days or discard. 
Standard
  1. Green Beans - ~.75 lb (depending on harvest) ($4.00/pound)
  2. Green or Savoy Cabbage - 1 small head ($2.50/head)
  3. Green-top Carrots - 1 bunch ($2.50/bunch)
  4. Cucumber - 2-3 cukes (depending on harvest) ($1/cuke)
  5. Fresh Garlic - 1 plant w/ bulb ($1.00/plant or 3 for $2.50)
  6. Lacinato Kale - 1 bunch ($2/bunch or 3 for $5) 
  7. Fresh Onions - 1 bunch ($2/bunch or 3 for $5)
  8. Flat Leaf Parsley - 1 bunch ($2/bunch)
  9. New Potatoes - 1 pound ($2.50/lb) 
  10. Zucchini - 3-5 squash, green & yellow ($1/squash or 3 for $2.50) (see BULK for more)

Bulk
  1. Kohlrabi - 5 pounds= 5-10 bulbs ($4), 10 pounds = 10-20 bulbs ($7)
  2. Turnips, Spring - 5 pounds ($6.50), 10 pounds ($10)
  3. Zucchini - 10 zucchini ($6.50), 20 zucchini ($10.50) (see BULK for more)
 
Extra
  1. Beets - 1 pound, no tops ($2.50/pound) 
  2. Chinese Cabbage -  1 head ($2.50/head or 3 heads for $6)
  3. Kale - 1 bunch ($2/bunch or 3 for $5) - Choose Winterbor (green, curly), Redbor (red, curly), Lacinato (heirloom green flat leaf) or Red Russian (heirloom red flat leaf)
  4. Kohlrabi - Purple or green bulbs ($1/bulb or 3 for $2.50) (see BULK for more)
  5. Parsley (choose flat leaf or curly leaf) - 1 bunch ($2/bunch) 
  6. Peas, Snow & Snap - ~1/2 lb (depending on harvest) ($4/lb) 
  7. Turnips, Spring - 1 pound, no tops, red & white skin ($2/lb or 3 lb for $5) (See BULK for more)

Coming Up
Cherry tomatoes
Red Cabbage
More Broccoli

Fruit Share
Red Raspberries - 1 pint (Keller Berry Farm in Toledo)
A stunning sunset last Monday night, looking over the corn crib turned artist studios. 
Copyright © 2014 Middle Way Farm, All rights reserved.


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