News from the farm: July 7, 2010

What's going on at the farm?

        Johnny’s seed catalog describes Fairy Tale eggplant as “An incredibly high-yielding, mini eggplant.  Attractive 2-4 inch, elongated, purple and white-striped fruits borne abundantly on compact plants.  Wonderful flavor with no bitterness and very few seeds.”  I mean, who could resist?  Full shares have received them this week.  Treat them just as you would any other Japanese eggplant variety.  You can refer to one of my newsletters from a week or two ago where I review how to prepare them!  This week half shares have received the regular Japanese eggplant, no less delicious, just not the mini version (although you will receive it this year at some point).
            Sorry we have not had more cucumbers this year, I would have liked to so far been able to give you guys more.  Our first planting did very poorly, and our second, although doing much better, is still not giving us what I had hoped for.  We do have more plantings in the ground, and are trying to save all the yields from this planting for you all.  Some half share member this week have received Poblano peppers instead of cucumbers though, as we were short a few for everyone.  Poblanos are a nice MILDLY hot pepper that is good for stuffing (chile relleno) and best roasted and peeled while still black/green.  I also enjoy just chopping up a little and adding it to any stir fry or other dish to add a subtle spicy flavor.  The degree of heat can vary from pepper to pepper, but what I like about the Poblanos is that they provide the flavor of heat without all the heat, if that makes any sense J 
            Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family, which means they’re related to eggplants, peppers, and even potatoes. They’re originally from South America and prior to the 19th century most Europeans thought they were poisonous. Nowadays they’re the third most popular vegetable in the US, mainly because they’re so versatile and taste good  combined with many different foods. Tomatoes aren’t as high in nutrients as some other vegetables, but they are packed with both vitamin C and vitamin A. 
            It’s best to store tomatoes at room temperature and to keep them out of the sunlight. Do not refrigerate as temperatures below 55 degrees will affect their flavor and texture. Once a tomato is completely ripe, it should keep for a couple of days. You can also freeze or can tomatoes once they’re fully ripe (it’s also great to do this with any overripe tomatoes you don’t think you’ll be able to eat in time). Tomato sauce also freezes really well and is great to have around for a quick meal.
            There are as many ways to eat tomatoes as there are types of tomatoes. You can slice them up, sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and basil, chop them up for a salad, or make a simple fresh salsa with chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, a dash of lemon juice and salt. For a simple tomato sauce, just sauté onions and garlic with whatever herbs you please (oregano, basil, thyme…), add some chopped tomatoes and let it simmer for 30 minutes or so.  You can also roast tomatoes, bake them on a pizza, slice them for a sandwich, grill thick slices of them.  
            So, you ask, what is the difference between a hybrid and heirloom tomato anyways?  Well, there’s actually no one definition of what makes a variety an heirloom. Some people believe that heirloom varieties must have been cultivated prior to 1940 because in the mid-1930s seed companies began to experiment with hybrid varieties and introduce hybrid seeds into the market. Others believe that to be a true heirloom a variety must have been passed down from generation to generation within the same family. One thing is certain though, from a reproductive stand-point, all heirloom varieties are open-pollinated. This means that if you save seed and plant it out next year, you’ll end up with the same tomato variety (unless the seed was cross-pollinated with other varieties by bees or human). Seed from hybrid varieties does not produce identical plants the following year, it will revert to one of its parents as it is an intentional man made cross between two or more varieties to create a desired result.  We grow both heirloom and hybrid varieties- for example, Cherokee Purple is an heirloom variety, while Big Beef tomatoes are a hybrid.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both heirloom and hybrids tomatoes,  and I thought I would outline a few of them for you.  Disadvantages:  Heirlooms:  The plants are typically a lot more susceptible to disease and pest pressure and lower yielding.  The fruits can form in all kinds of funky shapes and have thin skin that splits or bruises easily.  Hybrids:  In an attempt to breed all of these disadvantages out of the heirloom tomato it is a common belief that the flavor of the tomato has also been neglectfully bred out of it.  Advantages:  Heirlooms:  Marketed as a better flavored fruit, that comes in unique colors and shapes.  Hybrids:  More resistant to disease and pest pressure while being higher yielding.  If one knows how to select them, they can also be very tasty, nice shaped fruits that stand up to transport well to local markets.  Okay, all that being said, what is in your box you ask?  Well, the main tomato we grow here at the farm is a variety called Big Beef, a large, bright red tomatoes with a classic tomato taste.   I find it to be delicious, regardless of the fact that it is a hybrid.  As a farmer, I also benefit from its reliability and durability in the field, as well as its shelf life after harvest.  I need to be able to make sure I have a steady harvest of tomatoes for my customers, and for my paycheck!  Hybrids such as Big Beef and Pink Girl help assure that will happen, while also allowing us to indulge in the wonderful taste of local seasonal tomatoes.  Yum!  I do grow a small amount of heirloom tomatoes like Cherokee Purple, Striped German and Green Zebra.  I don’t give these often to the CSA members though, as to grow enough of them so that you could all have some (in comparison to the beloved Big Beef and Pink Girl), we would be overrun with the labor of seeding, planting, weeding, trellising, keeping alive (disease/pest prevention), etc.  So, you will most likely receive an heirloom on occasion this year in your bag, but you will mostly receive the yummy Big Beef (red), Pink Girl (pink) and of course the beloved Sungold cherry tomatoes (bright orange).  Enjoy!

Please let me know if you have any feedback, thoughts or concerns.  I love hearing from you all, and although sometimes it takes me a while to get back to you, I will get back to you ;)  Elise.

What's in the box?

Full Box
Crop Amount  

Tomatoes! - 3lb.
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes! - 2 pints
Cantaloupe - Two: one large, one medium
Cucumbers - 1 lb.
Summer Squash - 1 lb.
Fairy Tale Eggplant - 1 lb.

Half Box
Crop Amount  

Tomatoes! - 2lb.
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes! - 1 pint
Cantaloupe - Two:  one medium, one small
Japanese Eggplant - One (about ½-¾ lb.)
Cucumbers or Poblanos - ½ lb. or so