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Middle Way Farm CSA - Week 9
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Abundance Lost and Found

I listen to public radio a lot on the farm, whenever I'm in the loading dock doing washing and packing. Sometimes I'll hear a story or a quote that sticks with me, even if I can't remember exactly when or where I heard it. On Thursday I caught part of an interview on Here & Now with Paul Greenberg, who has written several books on the seafood industry in America and around the world. What stuck with me from that interview, and what caused me to do some internet sleuthing while the rain poured down Friday morning to find the exact quote, was when Paul Greenberg said "we can have no more intimate relationship with our environment than to eat from it." He was talking about the causes and consequences of the collapse of the oyster fishery in New York City. Oysters used to be a ubiquitous, cheap food in New York. The Hudson River estuary, prior to the early 20th century, was known for having some of the most extensive oyster beds in the world, at one time, numbering in the trillions. This kind of overwhelming abundance, and its subsequent diminishment from human overexploitation, is a story that is repeated constantly for so many wild species throughout American history. Cod, salmon, passenger pigeons, bison. The reason the oyster fishery ultimately collapsed was because of the raw sewage that was dumped in the Hudson River, which made the oysters dangerous to eat. Once the oysters were rendered inedible, there was no incentive to preserve them, and subsequent industrial pollution mostly eliminated them from New York waters. After the passage and enforcement of the Clean Water Act of 1972, oysters have moved back into New York harbor, both naturally and with the help of humans, although they remain dangerous to eat due to the long-term build-up of industrial pollutants like PCBs in the environment. 

Greenberg's takeaway from the oyster story was that we become less integrated and less invested in our waterways and landscapes, and more likely to pollute them and not practice good stewardship, when we no longer depend on them for our immediate food supply. When we eat from our immediate environment, through both agriculture and wild harvesting, we begin to fully inhabit the places where we live and we realize the full potential of those places to sustain us. I often think of how much of a tragedy it is that Iowa's waterways are so polluted (due mainly to industrial agricultural practices like synthetic nitrogen application) that an entire range of uses of our waterways, including as a food supply, have been eliminated. This is rarely talked about as a consequence of industrial agriculture, but it certainly is a hidden cost. Food production and a healthy environment do not have to be mutually exclusive domains, but in order for them to coexist both farmers and consumers need to stay intimate with the environment. Instead of just serving as a passive backdrop to our daily lives, our immediate surroundings and how we utilize it for food can be a part of the way we sustain ourselves, build community, and build meaning. That is the promise that a robust local food system holds and its that potential that makes me so excited to see what the next ten to twenty years will hold for my farm, for this community, and for Iowa. 

Incredible potato yield from this past week's harvest - 130 pounds of new potatoes from an 80 foot row. A typical good harvest for mature potatoes is 1 pound of yield per 1 row foot. 

Weekly Notices:

  • Bulk orders are now available for carrots. I'm still harvesting from the first planting of carrots and the second larger planting is almost ready. Bulk carrots will be weighed in a bag without tops. 
  • Green beans will take a short hiatus from the share as the 1st planting winds down, but they will return shortly, probably next week. The 2nd planting looks great and has tons of flowers and small baby beans on it. Beets will also be making a reappearance soon in the standard share as the 3rd planting matures. 
  • Remember to let me know if you will not be ordering during a particular week or will be on vacation. Advance notice is appreciated. You can do this by putting a hold on your account at middlewayfarm.csasignup.com or by sending me a quick e-mail so I can put on a hold for you. The hold feature is helpful because it automatically drops the names of shareholders who are on vacation hold when I'm printing labels for the boxes. 
All the garlic is harvested and curing in the barn. Despite some erratic weather, prior years of disease, and weed problems this spring, the garlic came out well overall. Garlic requires several week to cure or dry down after harvesting in an area out of the sun. The fan in the background is to keep good air circulation, which speeds drying and cuts down on the chance of mold or fungus developing when garlic is wet in its initial stage of drying. After curing, the garlic skin will be papery and at that point the bulb can be cut from the stalk, the roots trimmed, and bulb cleaned. 

Notes on This Week's Share


The eggplant and peppers are just beginning to produce, so they will initially be limited availability. Depending on how the next few months go, the eggplant may continue to be somewhat limited but the peppers will almost certainly reach a peak where they will be available in bulk quantities for freezing, particularly right at the end of the CSA season before the first killing frost.

The eggplant will either be a globe Italian type eggplant or a long, thin Japanese type eggplant. Both can be used interchangeably in eggplant recipes. I find the Japanese eggplant somewhat easier to grow and produce quality eggplants than the Italian type and I also think they have great flavor and thinner skin as well as less of a tendency to be bitter. Harvesting eggplant at the right stage is difficult, since the tone of the skin is more important than the size in determining ripeness. The goal is to harvest eggplant when they are at peak size and before seeds develop, which leads to bitterness. I always recommend salting, draining, and rinsing eggplant after cutting it up and before cooking it to take care of any bitterness. This will also help make the eggplant firmer and less mushy when cooking. Eggplant is simple to prepare. After salting and draining, simply toss with a high heat oil like canola and roast in the oven at 400 degrees until it can be easily pierced with a fork. Salt to taste. 

Peppers may include both green and purple peppers. Purple peppers are actually a green pepper in that they have the same flavor as a green pepper and are the initial, immature stage of the pepper fruit. When left to age, peppers ripen on the plant over several weeks from their initial color to a brighter color such as red, yellow, orange, or some other color. As you know, more mature colored peppers are sweeter than green peppers, more sought after, and more expensive. The price of colored peppers doesn't just have to do with their higher demand and longer time on the plant. As the peppers sit on the plant, they are exposed to insects, disease, and other potential damage for a longer period of time, so the cull rate for colored peppers is much higher than green ones. In some cases I may only sell 1 colored pepper for every 2 or 3 I harvest. 

Onions this week will be full size, fresh bulbs of a white variety. White onions generally have less storage ability than red and yellow varieties, so the white onions will be the first ones in the share followed by red and yellow onions, as well as shallots, which all can keep well into the winter if kept in proper storage conditions. They will be fresh, so you can keep them on the counter but not in a sealed container. 

Tomato medley will include a mixture of the earliest ripening tomatoes, cherries and juliets (mini-romas), as well as a few romas. As tomato harvest becomes heavier, you will have the choice of various types of tomatoes, including cherries, juliets, romas, heirloom slicers (slicer = my shorthand for larger tomatoes) and hybrid slicers. This is just the start! 

The fruit share this week will be somewhat unusual. With my usual suppliers in somewhat of a mid-summer slump for fruit, I've decided to include two novel "fruits" this week: ground cherries and sunberries. Ground cherries are a member of the diverse nightshade family, which also includes more familiar vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. They have the appearance of a tiny tomatillo, with a papery husk around the fruit. The husk dries and turns yellow as the fruit ripens. The fruit actually falls off the plant when it ripens, which makes it simple to harvest. The husk is removed before eating. I would describe the flavor as a pineapple tomato. Its very unique. My original inspiration for growing ground cherries was because landowner Tom Lacina noticed a ground cherry growing as a volunteer in the garden last year and told me not to pull it. The ground cherry plants were likely ancestors of from the large home garden of Floyd Lacina, Tom's father. We ate a few ground cherries off of it as they ripened, but I told Tom I would plant a whole row next year to make sure there was more significant amount. I've been interested in ground cherries since I bought a pint at the Iowa City farmers market a few years ago. Try them fresh or use them as a dessert in something sweet. Here are some ideas as well. Shareholder Suzanne Castello also felt that they would be good with pork or other meat.

The same goes for the sunberries (also known as wonderberry), which are an interesting heirloom from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, that I bought this winter and planted on a whim in the spring. They are a small, dark colored berry, borne in prolific bunches on a small plant that resembles the form of a ground cherry or tomatillo. They have a slightly sweet, slightly smoky flavor that everyone I have tested them on has described as very complex. They would also benefit from being combined with sugar in a dessert or simply tossed in a cooked dish as an acidic addition, similar to a tomato or lemon juice. Here is a recipe for sunberry jam. Both sunberries and ground cherries can be stored at room temperature (since, like a tomato, their flavor may be diminished by refrigeration) and should be consumed within a few days. 
 

 

Update of last weeks buckwheat photo. This was taken at the beginning of last week, before the rain, so its more mature now. Some of the grass in the foreground of the patch includes quackgrass, a hard to kill perennial grass that spreads by underground, horizontal creeping rhizomes and is easily identified by the sharp white tips on these rhizomes, which can actually puncture irrigation lines and potatoes! They also will resprout if broken off and dropped into the soil. The buckwheat cover crop is part of an effort to control this patch of quackgrass before it spreads. 
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, tomatoes & zucchini. Fresh garlic can be stored on the counter, but DO NOT put it in a sealed container. It is moist and will mold.  Tomatoes should not be refrigerated; it will diminish their flavor, but it can be brought back by bringing the tomato back to room temperature. 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. Broccoli - 1-2 heads ($3.50/lb) 
  2. Green Savoy or Red Cabbage - 1 head ($2.50/head)
  3. Green-top Carrots - 1 bunch ($2.50/bunch)
  4. Cucumber - 2-3 cukes ($1/cuke)
  5. Globe/Japanese Eggplant -  1-2 eggplants ($1.50/eggplant)
  6. Fresh Softneck Garlic - 1 bulb ($1/bulb or 3 for $2.50)
  7. Fresh White Onions - 1 lb ($2/lb or 3 lb for $5)
  8. Green/Purple Pepper - 1-2 peppers ($1/pepper)
  9. Yellow New Potatoes - 1.5 pounds ($2.50/lb or 3 lb for $6)
  10. Tomato Medley - 1 pint ($3.50.pint)
  11. Zucchini - 3-5 squash, green & yellow ($1/squash or 3 for $2.50) (see BULK for more)

Bulk
  1. Carrots (no tops) - 2 pounds ($4), 5 pounds ($8.50)
  2. Kohlrabi - 5 pounds= 5-10 bulbs ($4), 10 pounds = 10-20 bulbs ($7)
  3. Turnips, Spring - 5 pounds ($6.50), 10 pounds ($10)
  4. 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. Turnips, Spring - 1 pound, no tops, red & white skin ($2/lb or 3 lb for $5) (See BULK for more)

Coming Up
Beets
Green Beans
Leeks
Fingerling Potatoes
Slicing Tomatoes 
 

Fruit Share
Mixed pint of Ground Cherries & Sunberries from Middle Way Farm
The sweet potatoes are looking good after being weeded before the rain. We could use some more hot days during August to help them along. Sweet potatoes need a hot, long summer in order to produce a good yield of tubers. 
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