Hello, folks. I hope you didn’t get swept away by the flooding earlier this week. The frequency and the quantity of rain we have received are causing us some pretty severe problems at the farm. We feel we need to outline the problems for you, since what you receive in your share boxes will be impacted. While we are certain the boxes will be impacted, we are not certain to what extent yet. Please read on to understand what to expect.
I wanted to start off by sharing a few rain statistics. We have received two and a half times our average rainfall in the month of June. On Sunday, Chapel Hill broke its all time record for the most rainfall in one day, receiving 5.12 inches by 9pm that night (with a previous record of 4.8 inches set in 2008). Sheesh!
While we didn’t receive the quantity that the Chapel Hill area did, we have been wet for as many days, and because of that stand a very real chance of losing most of our first planting of tomatoes. While two short weeks ago they looked as wonderful as they normally do this time of year, a lot has quickly changed due to the wetness. Organic tomatoes are extremely sensitive to wet conditions because wet conditions foster diseases. Blight on tomatoes starts at the bottom of the plant, killing the plants leaf foliage, working its way up to the top. While the fruit is not affected by the blight, the fruit is affected by the loss of the plants foliage because the foliage acts to shade the fruit from direct contact with the sun. We have a lot of gorgeous large green fruit on our plants. We are rapidly losing our foliage though, which makes the fruit extremely vulnerable to sunscald. Sunscald is when the sun burns the top half of the tomato that is facing up creating a yellow and hard area even if the rest of the tomato has ripened red. Tomato Blight is inevitable in organic production every year and it is usually just a matter of when we receive it. We usually don’t see damage like we are seeing now until we are close to the end of our harvest for that crop, when we have nearly harvested all the fruit on the plant. At this point, we have barely started harvesting the ten or so tomatoes on each plant that are waiting for warm sunny weather to turn.
So far our second planting, which usually follows the first in about 4 weeks time, looks good. What we are worried about, for right now, is whether or not we will have tomatoes for you all for the month of July. This is yet to be determined. This loss is not only dramatic for the shares, but for our market sales as well. We have already been behind this year with our sales due to the wet cold spring creating a loss of two weeks of spring production and sales. At this point, I am declaring this year to be hands down the hardest growing year I have experienced in my 13 years as Elysian Fields.
In addition to the possible loss of tomatoes for July, we are worried about two other things. The cantaloupe that is in the ground will most likely be very watered down in flavor if not cracking in the field and rotting from all of this moisture. We have a lot that is just about ready, and more to come for the later part of the month. Cantaloupe is now an unknown. In addition, some of the green beans that we planted, and have been looking good, are now rotting and dying from the excess moisture in the bed (this is called Pythium, damping off, or root rot). Some are okay, yet again, this now becomes an unknown for us.
So far the peppers look good, the winter squash and sweet potatoes look good, we have lots of potatoes, eggplant and onions. There are more cucumbers and squash on the way. Things may continue to be repetitive, if we are unable to harvest the tomatoes, melons, and beans. We will keep you posted.
It has been a rough year for a lot of farmers. An old friend who farms in the mountains was victim to the flooding that happened there earlier this spring. One day they had onions planted, tomatoes in the ground and trellised, the next there was nothing as it was all washed away. Also, my good friends and neighbors at Maple Spring Gardens and Wild Hare Farms received hail a couple of weeks ago. It is amazing we did not since we are two miles down the road from these farms. Ken at Maple Spring Gardens lost the plastic on one of his greenhouses, and had lots of damaged squash and peppers to say the least. We should consider ourselves lucky!
The last thing to report, more unfortunate news unfortunately, is that one of our interns, Hannah, has been having some physical problems. She decided they were bad enough that she had to stop farming for the year. While we are grateful we had her for the time we did, her loss will be felt in our workload. We wish her health and happiness as she moves on.
That’s all for now, let us know if you have any thoughts, concerns, or feedback. We love to hear from you!
All the best,
Elise, Beth, and Lacey.
*Shishito Peppers: Some folks have received these in their box, if they were requested earlier this spring when I asked you your preferences. They are in a small plastic bag, and are a pint or so worth of small light green peppers. They are not hot. They are best cooked, not raw. The easiest way to cook them is to heat oil in a pan, then throw them in, uncut, stem and all, and stirring frequently, until the skins have blistered. This should only take a few minutes. Add some salt. They make a great appetizer, use the stem as a way to pick them up to bite!
*Fairy Tale Eggplant: You can eat the skin of these tiny sweet Japanese eggplants. We recommend slicing in half lengthwise, mixing with olive oil, and cooking them on the grill or roasting them. The seeds are very small, the flesh very tender.
2 cups diced onions
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 fresh chile, minced
1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger toot
1 tsp. ground cumin
1tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. salt
pinch of saffron
1 cup orange juice
5 cups cubed eggplant
4 cups cubed zucchini, or summer squash
1 ½ cups diced bell pepper
3 cups diced fresh tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
In a stew pot, sauté the onions in the oil on medium heat until translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, chile, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and saffron, and sauté for a minute, stirring constantly. Add orange juice and eggplant, cover and simmer for 10 to 14 minutes, until eggplant is barely tender.
Add squash, bell peppers, tomatoes, and basil. Cover and continue to simmer about 15 minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Add a little more orange juice or water if necessary to prevent sticking.
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