Harvest of the Month: Tomatoes

September's Harvest of the Month is tomatoes. Harvest of the Month is an initiative of Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s Farm to School program. A different local farm product is served in school meals at area schools each month and we are helping to promote these locally available farm products.

Tomatoes – An Educator’s Favorite “Fruit-Vegetable”
By Chris Gavin, Garden Educator

As summer draws to a close, families around our community are busy preparing for the start of a new school year.  For parents and care-givers it means gathering school supplies, for teachers it means readying classrooms and lesson plans, for kids it means getting the most out of the last hot days of vacation.  And for me, a farm and garden educator at the PFP, September means TOMATOES! One of the tricky things about doing garden education in schools is that students are on summer break when the growing season is at its peak.  BUT when September rolls around and kids are heading back to school, our farm and gardens are still churning out juicy and delicious tomatoes of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

One of our goals as a teaching team is to facilitate joyful and engaging experiences around the eating and growing of healthy foods.  And from the perspective of an educator, tomatoes are the perfect crop to introduce at the start of the school year. Tomatoes are accessible – what kid hasn’t at least heard of them?!  They are beautiful – tomatoes can be virtually every color of the rainbow.  They are great for school gardens – you can grow enough cherry tomatoes to feed a whole class in a small amount of space. They are versatile – you can prepare them in so many ways that every kid is bound to find a recipe that appeals to them.  And, of course, tomatoes are abundant at the farm right now, so September is a great time to highlight them in local school cafeterias. 

harvest 5.jpg

I don’t need to spend time extoling the benefits of farm and garden-based education, I’m sure anyone reading this knows how impactful our work is on the next generation of eaters.  And since kids are already familiar with tomatoes they make a great point of entry into the subject of growing and eating healthy foods.  Here are a few talking points from a veteran garden educator to spark a kid’s interest (or fun facts to share at your next dinner party as you serve up a dish featuring PFP tomatoes!):

  • The domestication of tomatoes can be traced back to 500 BC in Central America.  The word tomato comes from the Aztec word tomatl meaning “swelling fruit”.  The first tomatoes were small like cherry tomatoes and are thought to have been yellow in color. 
  • In 1893 the Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes should be categorized as a vegetable and not a fruit because of their use in savory cooking (we eat them for dinner, not dessert!).
  • Tomatoes are part of the plant family called nightshades, they are “plant cousins” to potatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, and peppers. 
  • The leaves and stems of the plant are toxic if eaten in large quantities. 
  • Tomatoes have many “friends” known as companion plants that help one another grow.  You can grow strongly scented plants such as onions, garlic, or mint near your tomatoes to naturally repel pests. 
  • Tomatoes are high in lycopene, a phytonutrient found in red fruits and vegetables that is thought to have a positive effect on cardiovascular health. 
  • The tomato horn worm is a bright green caterpillar that can devastate tomato crops by eating the unripe fruit. Some growers use a biological control to limit damage, they release parasitic wasps that lays eggs inside the worm!
  • There are approximately 7,500 varieties of tomato worldwide, and the PFP grows dozens right here in Poughkeepsie – including many heirloom tomatoes that have more variation in color, texture, and flavor. 

In case you are still doubting the educational power of the humble tomato, here’s an anecdote from a family cooking workshop we offered this year.  While brainstorming a list of the 5  food groups, I asked if a tomato was considered a fruit or a vegetable.  Kids who appeared unengaged quickly got pulled into a heated debate on the topic.  And in case you are pondering this same question, tomatoes are botanically classified as a fruit because they grow from a pollinated flower and have seeds inside (this category refers to the part on a plant).  In terms of food groups, they are classified as a vegetable because of how we use them in the kitchen and because of their nutritional content.   Here’s a simple kid-friendly answer: if you are a chef you call the tomato a vegetable, if you are a scientist you call it a fruit.  And one elementary school group resolved this debate with a compromise, coining a new term that I use all the time in teaching now – tomatoes are a fruit-vegetable! And as an educator, they are one of my favorite fall teaching tools.

I know this may sound over the top, but tomatoes can be like a magical gateway to healthy eating for young people.  I can’t count the times I’ve had a student tell me they hate vegetables but will gobble down cherry tomatoes by the handful on a farm visit or in a school garden.  And they especially go wild for them if they had a hand in growing, harvesting, or cooking them.  So next time you are picking cherry tomatoes for your CSA share or dicing them up for a fresh salsa, invite a young person in your life to join you.  You might just convert them to being a vegetable lover! 

Grower's Row: September

Grower's Row: September
By: Lauren Kaplan, Farm Crew Leader

For many of us, the start of September marks the unofficial beginning of the fall season.

 Chris and Kira harvesting 3,266 delicata squash

Chris and Kira harvesting 3,266 delicata squash

 Lauren and Laura harvesting 7,023 butternut squash

Lauren and Laura harvesting 7,023 butternut squash

For our CSA shareholders, the change in season means the start of Fall Share CSA! This week kicks off with the first of the winter squash, of which we harvested literally tons (nearly 5 tons of butternut alone!) over the course of two intensely hot, humid days. The season will start with delicata, followed soon by acorn and spaghetti squash. (Be sure to take advantage of the glorious week or so when tomatoes, garlic and spaghetti squash overlap to make a summery, sweet take on spaghetti dinner -- with or without the meatballs.) With the arrival of cooler weather, we’ll also see the return of early-season favorites like arugula, broccoli, cabbage, radishes and beets. Look also for a parade of pink, purple and white potatoes and humongous, juicy yellow onions.

 German getting delicata ready for distribution

German getting delicata ready for distribution

For us, the start of fall means that we farmers can look forward to cooler working weather and a lessening of main-season weed pressure. As more and more of the farm grow lush and green with cover crops like buckwheat and sudan grass, we also begin to anticipate darker mornings, bulk harvests, and a game I like to think of as “cooler tetris”. (This involves juggling, moving, and rearranging all of the tens of thousands of pounds of fall and winter crops that are all vying for storage space and accessibility simultaneously.) We look forward to welcoming a new group of Vassar students onto the farm, and preparing (already) for our Winter CSA.

 Fields of sudan grass and buckwheat cover crop

Fields of sudan grass and buckwheat cover crop

It may seem like a leap to be thinking about December already, but most of us are more than ready for the change. From a grower’s perspective, this season -- with all of the hot and wet weather -- has been a real struggle. The extended periods of wet brought lots of disease. It started with downy mildew on basil and moved into powdery mildew on our summer and winter squash. The beet greens, chard, kale, collards, and celeriac also suffered significantly from disease. And the intensely hot days killed off a few rounds of eggplant and pepper blossoms, resulting in a few awkward weeks of no ripe fruit. Only in the last couple of weeks have we started harvesting from some really healthy new successions of chard, kale and collards, and bringing in an abundant crop of beautiful sweet peppers.

Despite the struggles of the season so far, there is still an abundance of beautiful food coming from the fields -- and we are excited to continue sharing the bounty with you.

 The whole team thinning and weeding winter radishes and turnips

The whole team thinning and weeding winter radishes and turnips

Thanks for all you do -- for working alongside us even on hot and wet days, for bringing us surprise deliveries of zucchini bread and assorted baked goods, for giving us your feedback, for your patience, and for your kind words of appreciation.

Onward into September!

Saving Seed

By Elena Tesluk, Tarver Intern, Marist College

This summer, the education team (re)embarked on an exciting project: seed saving! To save seeds is to harvest and store seeds from present-day crops so that they can be used in future seasons. Over the course of the past few weeks, we’ve worked with seeds which were harvested by the farm as early as 2007. Since the initiation of the farm’s Seeds of the Food System program in 2006, team members have saved dozens of varieties of seeds. Working with these seeds now is like flipping through a grand bookcase of PFP history. Saved seeds remind us that seeds from the Gogosari Pepper were brought to the farm from Romania after former executive director Susan Grove’s time there in the Peace Corps. They also leave us with questions, like seeds from a “Mystery Lettuce,” harvested in 2010. One constant when it comes to seeds is that they’ve all got a story.

In a broader sense, to save seeds is to participate in a process that dates as far back as 10,000 years. Across history, seed saving has played a parallel role to that which it plays at PFP. By increasing self-sufficiency and food availability, seed saving has allowed civilizations to grow and thrive. At the same time, seed saving preserves the genetic diversity of crops AND connects farmers and gardeners with plants that are uniquely adapted to prosper in their environment! When farmers personally select the most successful plants from which to save seeds, they can define success on their own terms—that means future generations of the yummiest, best-performing plants from a given season.

In these ways, the seeds that we’ve chosen to save serve a function of memory. Saved seeds represent a given season and the people who were around for it. Beyond helping us remember our relationships with people, seed saving also helps us to preserve connections between ourselves and the environment. By taking an intentional role in natural systems, we increase our awareness of that relationship and of our role within it. This consciousness is helpful at every stage of our unending interactions with food and the environment—as we grow food, as we prepare food, as we eat food, and as we dispose of food waste. We applied this mindfulness as we returned to our seed saving project this month.

The farm has around forty varieties of seeds saved from previous years. Before we can we can share these lovely seeds—or use them ourselves—we have to conduct germination tests to see what proportion of the seeds are still viable. This means a lot of seeding, waiting, and counting.

When conducting germination tests, the first step is to plant one hundred seeds from each variety and year. Featured in this week’s seeding: Dragon Tongue Bean, Cilantro, and Red Russian Kale! Once the seeds are set in strip trays, we water ‘em and the waiting begins. Some seed varieties will take about a week to germinate, while others will keep us waiting for three weeks before we see any sprouts. Thanks to the diligent record-keeping of seed-savers past, we have an idea of how long it should take for each variety to complete germination. When a given variety finishes germinating, we count the number of sprouts in our strip trays. This number (out of the one hundred seeds planted) is the germination rate for that variety.

If a crop has a high germination rate, the farm will distribute or sell the seeds. Be on the lookout for PFP-grown seeds!

For crops with low germination rates, seeds will be planted in PFP gardens or used for seed art. Either way, these seeds’ stories don’t end here. 

Pick Your Own: Things to Know

Editor's Note: Another post about Pick Your Own‽ Yes! New and returning shareholders alike will benefit from this info. Pick Your Own is only open to our full and fall season CSA Shareholders. Don't have a share but want one? Go here.

With the CSA season in full swing, we've been getting a lot of questions from shareholders about Pick Your Own. If you are a CSA shareholder participating in PYO, here are a few things to know.:

Where should I harvest?
Please read the PYO board for information about where to pick and where NOT to pick! Sometimes we plant things in successions. This means that some rows of plants may be ready, and the same crop the next row over might not be ready yet, because it was planted later. The board will often have instructions about which successions are ready, and which are not. 

We will do our best to mark where one ready succession ends, and the next (“still ripening”) succession begins, with signage and/or yellow rope. If you respect these picking boundaries and allow immature plants to ripen, there will be more to pick for everyone!

Where can I walk?
Please watch out for neighboring beds! We often have crops planted right next to PYO crops, and it is important not to step in the beds. 

(Hint: even if it doesn’t look like there are plants in the bed next to you, if stepping in it feels soft or fluffy, that probably means that it’s been recently tilled, and that it is either seeded OR will be seeded very soon. We always want to avoid stepping in fluffy/soft soil. Pathways should feel firm under your feet.) 

What should I bring?
Containers: We cannot reuse or take back containers, but we strongly encourage you to reuse your OWN containers! Please do not try to return them to us, but DO feel free to bring them with you to next time. 

Scissors and clippers: Some crops (like flowers and some herbs) are best harvested cleanly by being clipped or snipped, rather than ripped. Please bring a pair of clippers or scissors with you to pick, and possibly a cup of water to transport flowers home.

Please note there is no glass allowed in the fields. We ask that you not bring drinking jars or any other kind of glass out into the fields, or anywhere inside the gates of the farm.

Our Philosophy

Sharing is Caring! We set quantities to make sure there is enough for everyone. Please respect quantities and limits.

Assume best intentions! Some members pick for friends who are elderly or less able to walk around the fields, and therefore harvest more than one share’s worth of PYO items. 

Be kind! To each other, and to the plants. Pick gently, and the plants will stay healthy for longer, providing us with more herbs/flowers/fruits than if we treat them roughly

Finally, please do stop by and say hello to our Pick Your Own person, stationed just inside the gate on distribution days! These friendly folks have lots of helpful information, and can help answer questions and point you in the right direction.

Thanks, and happy picking!

Grower's Row: Garlic!

We’re back! And we have GARLIC!

Garlic is something most of us see year-round in the grocery store. It’s one of those crops that we don’t always think of as being “seasonal”, or having a “season”. But follow any farmer’s social media account, and you’ll pretty quickly see that garlic does indeed have a season: and that harvest season is July.

Our garlic’s story begins in October of last year, when we planted it into a layer of plastic mulch. (The plastic mulch helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and warm the soil in the spring.) The garlic must undergo a cold period in order to form a nice fat bulb -- and so it spends the winter out in the ground, waiting for spring.

 Garlic shoots in March

Garlic shoots in March

 Cultivating the garlic in May

Cultivating the garlic in May

In March, as the soil warms, the garlic sends up little green shoots… and soon, so do lots of weeds. Weeds like grasses, that threaten to spread their dense, deep root systems and steal all of the garlic’s nutrients, and amaranth and lamb’s quarter, whose big wide leaves will take up all the sunlight and shade out the garlic. So we weed. We cultivate the pathways with the tractor, we hoe the sides that the tractor missed, and we weed the holes with our hands. We do this more than once. With careful weeding and watering, the garlic sizes up.

By the time it’s about waist-high, in early June, plants start to send up tall, squiggly poles from the center: the scapes! If left to mature, the arrow-shaped tips of the scapes will swell to create a bundle of mini-bulbs, called “bulbils” -- and will draw on nutrients stored underground, in the cloves, to do so. In order to get fat juicy bulbs, we harvest the scapes in June. This forces the plant, which wants to make viable seed, to go to Plan B (the bulb).

 A forgotten garlic scape swells with bulbils

A forgotten garlic scape swells with bulbils

 The garlic field starting to senesce

The garlic field starting to senesce

 Leon showing clove separation during a field walk

Leon showing clove separation during a field walk

From June to July, the green leaves of the garlic plants start to turn yellow and brown at the tips. This process, called senescence, is one of the first indicators that harvest time is approaching. On a recent field walk, Leon showed us another, more reliable indicator: after pulling a bulb from the ground, he sliced it in half crosswise, revealing the hard neck. As cloves mature, they begin to pull away from the neck, leaving tiny gaps of space. At this point, the garlic is pungent and fat and ready to harvest!

 Garlic harvest!

Garlic harvest!

 Covering garlic with burlap to prevent sunburn

Covering garlic with burlap to prevent sunburn

We harvested our garlic on a hot day in July. The plants were mowed to remove the tops, undercut with the tractor to loosen the bulbs, gathered up by farm crew and workshare members, and laid out on tables to cure in the greenhouse. The curing process, which can take one to two weeks, allows the wrapper layers to dry out. Cured garlic can store for many months, though the flavor will evolve and the cloves will become slightly drier and less juicy over time. (Enjoy them now, while they’re fresh -- and notice the change in flavor over the course of the season.)

From this year’s garlic harvest, we will sort out the largest cloves, which will themselves become the garlic harvest of 2019.

 Garlic curing in the greenhouse

Garlic curing in the greenhouse

Grower's Row: Welcoming New Helping Hands

The demands of the farm skyrocket in June.

With the arrival of longer, hotter days and warmer nighttime temperatures, the plants take off, sizing up quickly each day. We leave the plants on Friday, and come back Monday to noticeably larger, leafier, greener plants and fruits that seem to have nearly doubled in size.

This same boom in growth isn’t limited to the crop plants. It’s even more true of the weeds. Unlike our crop plants, which are bred to be succulent and delicious, these rough-and-tumble weeds have to survive out in the wild, where they self-select for their ability to gather nutrients more quickly than their neighbors, and to grow leafier, taller, and faster. They’re tough, and they’re survivors. Once established, they’re tough to kill -- and can take twice the staff-hours just to manage them.

Getting weeds at the right stage, when they’re very young, requires vigilance -- but more importantly, it requires getting lucky with the right (hot, dry) weather, and juggling multiple high-priority tasks that all need attention RIGHT NOW.

Because of course, weeding isn’t the only thing we’re trying to get to on time. We’re planting, every week, to make sure we have new successions of plants to provide our CSA members with a continuous supply of fresh produce all season long. We’re seeding in the greenhouse, to have plants to plant. We’re pruning and trellising, to keep up with plant needs. And finally we are harvesting (and washing and packing and distributing) hundreds, and soon thousands, of pounds of produce every week.

All of this is way more than our core farm team of 6 can do alone. We need HELP! And here at PFP, those helping hands come in many different shapes and sizes.

In the winter, we had help from volunteers, which included CSA members who came out to work just for fun; CIA students and college students home for winter break; and a shy, smiling au pair from China who showed up unexpectedly one day, determined to work. Then in the spring, we received help from four dedicated (and very enthusiastic) Vassar students Alie, Kristina, Mad and Zoe, through the Community Engaged Learning program. They helped us sort through our winter storage crops, wash and pack produce for winter share, and manage weeds in our high tunnels.

 Editor's Note: Heck ye Demier and Lucas, look at those tomatoes now! (Please refer to the  Green Jobs Post )

Editor's Note: Heck ye Demier and Lucas, look at those tomatoes now! (Please refer to the Green Jobs Post)

In March we welcomed Lucas, Demier and Isiah. These curious, energetic men with big hearts and bright smiles are the first members of our brand new Green Jobs program, intended to provide young people with an outdoor farm classroom to learn to grow food for their community. The team has since expanded to include Kitana and Savannah, whose positive energy and hard-working hands have already brought so much to the farm, including planting all the PYO tomatoes! Do yourself a favor and take a moment to read our feature post on the Green Jobs program, and to see more photos and amazing moments from their first few months here.

As of last week, our core team of 6 has expanded to include two new Interns, Kira and Laura, who will be with us every day from June through August. In addition to helping us plant, seed, subdue weeds, harvest all the things and trellis tomatoes forever, they’ll be gaining knowledge and building skills in greenhouse management, irrigation, crop rotation, soil structure and soil biology basics.

 CSA members co-carry heavy bins of lettuce during a morning harvest

CSA members co-carry heavy bins of lettuce during a morning harvest

Last but not least, our main season work is made manageable by the many helping hands of our CSA work share members! From helping with morning harvest and afternoon fieldwork projects, to delivering donated produce to our Food Share partners, and helping soup kitchens wash and chop raw produce as part of the Green Machines, our work share members allow us to do and accomplish so much more than we ever could without them. Any garlic or scapes you receive this year will have been grown from a clove that was split and sorted by one of your fellow CSA members last fall, and any strawberries and raspberries you pick will be sweet and delicious because CSA members helped weed them and give them access to all the soil nutrients and sunlight they need.

Like the crops we grow, the farm work itself is seasonal, swelling in the summer and dwindling in the winter. One of my favorite things about PFP is the diversity of different hands we have all pitching in to keep this farm running. Everyone has something different to contribute, whether it’s hard-working hands, a sense of enthusiasm, big smiles to brighten the overcast days, curiosity that helps us all see things differently, or a sense of gratitude for the ability to get out of the office and into the dirt. All the different hands and hearts that find their way here make for a stimulating learning experience, a rewarding work environment, and a rich on-farm community.

We are growing so much more than vegetables. Thank you for being a part of it.

Now: back to the weeds!

 

 

 

 

Green Jobs for a Greener Poughkeepsie!

Dear Farm Community,
We have some folks we’d like you to meet.

They’re the first participants in our new Green Jobs program, which provides young people with an outdoor farm classroom to learn to grow food for their community. In addition to growing and propagating food crops using sustainable practices, they will deepen their understanding of local and regional food systems and learn to educate others about organic gardening, healthy eating, and using urban agriculture for community building. This project will provide intensive training to 34 youth over the course of two years.

At PFP, we believe that every person has a right to real food. This right extends beyond the consumer's purchasing power: every person has the right to access the space, knowledge, and resources for growing the food they eat and to access fresh and nutritious food grown by others. As part of our commitment to supporting young people in our community in this endeavor, we’ve launched this important new Green Jobs program.

Meet Demier, Isiah, Lucas, and Kitana, the first four participants of the Green Jobs program. They joined us in March, and have been a total delight to have working with our team!

 Lucas Ramos!

Lucas Ramos!

 Demier Harrison!

Demier Harrison!

 Isiah Hawley!

Isiah Hawley!

 Kitana Zachary!

Kitana Zachary!

These young adults have such a great attitude. They are always smiling, and always ready to learn something new. It has been an honor and a whole lot of fun to learn and grow alongside them so far!

According to them, the never ending learning opportunities play a big role in their excitement. Isiah remarks, “There is so much you have to know about each individual crop to grow it successfully! It’s a whole new world to me, and I feel like I could spend years here and still be learning. It’s seriously awesome.” If you ask them their absolute favorite part of the program however, it is a tough call to make. Isiah again,  “This is the first job I’ve had where I wake up and I’m so excited to get to work.... I didn’t know that was possible! I wake up, I’m excited, and the day just gets better and better.”

The Green Jobs program is the first project we have created as a complete collaboration between the farm and education department at PFP. If you ask Lucas, it’s this cohesion, it’s the times we all come together, that creates the true magic.  He says, “Mid-day we all come together as a big team. Everyone sits together like a family, and you can probably hear us laughing from miles away.” The rest of the crew agrees but can’t hold back in sharing more of what makes this place special to them. According to Demier, “There is something about this food itself!!”.... So every day we work we try new foods at lunch, right? Well after I eat here my body feels CRAZY. It is ready TO GO! I feel unstoppable.”

The Green Jobs crew is in complete awe of the farm, and meanwhile, we are in complete awe of them. It has been obvious from day one that this is a team completely devoted to community. From Isiah, “Every day there are at least four stories I can’t wait to run home and share with my family members, and now they can’t wait for me! They need the magic too.” After just one week on the crew, Ellie ran into Demier on Main Street, where he was already plotting to begin a space to share hands-on training from his experience. “ELLIE! What are the chances! I was just talking about you and the farm! Do you have seed catalogs I could have? We need to start growing food on Main Street so everyone can get in on this good feeling.” 

 Demier and Lucas, kings of the tomato tunnel.

Demier and Lucas, kings of the tomato tunnel.

Free Cooking Workshops at the Mobile Market!

Do you need tasty new recipes for your farm-fresh produce? 
We are thrilled to offer FREE cooking demonstrations and tastings at the Dutchess Outreach Fresh Market every Wednesday (11:30-1:00) when it stops at the Family Partnership Center, 29 N Hamilton St, Poughkeepsie. 

The Dutchess Outreach Fresh Market distributes local, farm fresh fruits and vegetables to residents of the City of Poughkeepsie. The goal of the mobile market is to provide affordable, healthy food access to everyone, regardless of social status or income. The market operates from June-November making stops throughout the city of Poughkeepsie and accepts all forms of payment, including food assistance benefits like SNAP/EBT and WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Checks from Seniors and Mothers with Infant Children. 

Market Stops:

MONDAYS 3:00 PM–6:00 PM The Poughkeepsie Waterfront Market at the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, 75 N. Water Street Poughkeepsie. Market runs June - August. All other stops are open into November!

EVERY WEDNESDAY 11:30AM–1:00 PM Family Partnership Center 29 North Hamilton Street, Poughkeepsie.

1ST AND 3RD WEDNESDAY 1:30 PM–3:00 PM Maplewood 475 Maple Street, Poughkeepsie Westbound Arterial

2ND AND 4TH WEDNESDAY 1:30 PM–3:00 PM Benny’s 10th Inning, (Benny’s Parking Lot) 4 Lincoln Avenue, Poughkeepsie, New York 12601

EVERY WEDNESDAY 3:30AM–4:30 PM Adriance Public Library 93 Market Street, Poughkeepsie

THURSDAYS 12:00 PM–1:30 PM Interfaith Towers 66 Washington Street, Poughkeepsie

THURSDAYS 2:00 PM–3:30 PM Wildcard Stop Follow @DutchOutreach on Twitter to find out where they’ll be!

 

 

May Share Sneak Peak (+ Recipes!)

April showers bring May flowers… and our first vegetables! Want in on some of our earliest harvest? May Share is a two-week pick-up the last two weeks of May (May 22 and 29), and is a great way to get a head-start on what the growing season has to offer. The mild weather means tender young greens, fresh spring radishes, and more.

Here, we’re giving you a sneak peek into some of the crops you can expect to see in the May Share, along with a few recipe ideas:

 French breakfast radishes are tender and juicy

French breakfast radishes are tender and juicy

Baby Bok Choi
These bite-sized bok choi are lovely in a quick saute. Follow this basic idea, or try adding ginger and fresh chili to the garlic and replacing the water with mirin or soy sauce. Finish with a squeeze of lime. Or halve and simmer into this lemongrass-turmeric soup.

French Breakfast Radishes
These beauties are a treat, however you slice them. Add them to your favorite salad; slice them thinly and quick-pickle with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime for a fantastic taco topping (or try your hand at these fun pickles!); layer sliced radishes onto a sandwich of crusty bread and good butter -- or enjoy them fresh and whole.

Red Butter & Oak Leaf Lettuces
Small tender head-lettuces are on the way! Use in your favorite salad, or try this one with radishes and buttermilk dressing.

Rhubarb
If all goes well with our newest perennial patch, we hope to have some tart ruby-hued rhubarb for you at the end of this month! Not familiar with this delectable spring vegetable? Try a classic strawberry-rhubarb crumble, or get fancy with this rhubarb honey panna cotta or these rhubarb bars with cream-cheese shortbread crust.

Popcorn!
Go classic, or try topping your popcorn with a dusting of curry powder, Old Bay seasoning, nutritional yeast, or salt + sugar for kettle corn. Never made popcorn on the stove before? Here’s a fun step-by-step guide. Try using a heavy-bottomed pot and oils with a high smoke-point for best popping results. (Editor's note - if you can't give up microwave popcorn, shop around for a silicone popping bowl...I have one, I use it with my home-grown corn, and it's great.)

Click here to sign up for May Share (or any of our other CSA shares), or here to submit a recipe you’d like to share with fellow shareholders!

 Rhubarb centers just starting to unfurl new leaves

Rhubarb centers just starting to unfurl new leaves

 Baby bok choy

Baby bok choy

Grower's Row: May Means Plant Sale

By Lauren McDonald

Happy Spring… hopefully?

 Broccoli babes

Broccoli babes

 Tunnels starting to fill up with cucumbers

Tunnels starting to fill up with cucumbers

For much of April, the cold weather has kept us from getting into the ground, delaying our planting schedule by two, then three weeks -- which has been fairly nerve-wracking. While waiting for the soil to warm up, we’ve been preparing for the Plant Sale, and continuing to transition the high tunnels from arugula and radishes to main season crops like tomatoes and a moderate planting of cucumbers. We wouldn’t have been able to get this work done in such good time without help from four dedicated Vassar students and our two new crew members from Nubian Directions (whom we will introduce in next month’s newsletter). Finally, a break in the weather gave us one day (!) to get three weeks’ worth of plants in the ground -- and we did it! One acre, eleven hours, and 18,000 plants later, and our farm is finally starting to look like… well, a farm.

Now that the first planting push is behind us, we’re all getting excited for the next big event: our Plant Sale! This week we’ve been potting up hundreds of flowers, herbs, and vegetables from open trays into pots. Even after moving thousands of plants out to the high tunnels, the propagation greenhouse is busting at the seams.

 It's "thyme" for the Plant Sale!

It's "thyme" for the Plant Sale!

Here are some highlights you can look forward to!

 Calendula seeds

Calendula seeds

  • 20 varieties of heirloom tomatoes of every color of the rainbow! Most of these grow well in containers with some trellising (even in a 5 gallon bucket), so if space is limited you can still give them a try. We’ve chosen varieties that are known for their flavor, productivity, and/or disease resistance.
  • More flowers that are great for drying: Statice, Strawflower, and Calendula. Harvest the blooms from these when they are partially open and hang them upside down on lay flat on screens to keep their stems straight.
  •  Flowers that are deer resistant. We know deer are a challenge for many gardeners in our area, so we’re growing several flower and herb varieties with strong odors, bitter flavors, or tough leaves that are less palatable to deer.
  •  Flowers that are especially good for pollinators. (Pollinator habitat is something we’d like to promote in the region.) Look for these flowers that fall in both categories: Alyssum, Bee Balm, Blue Balloon Flower, Blue Flax, Cosmos, Heliotrope, Lupine, Marigold, California Poppies, and Yarrow
  • All of the usual favorites, from arugula and artichokes to yarrow and zucchini, plus melons, strawberries and herbs.

In case the dates aren’t already on your calendar, the sales are the first two Saturdays in May (May 5th and 12th) from 9am-2pm. Come visit us and pick up a few plants to take home! Or take a walk around the farm with us, and admire our newly pruned and mulched blueberry patch, and all of the new baby plants that will soon be appearing in May Share and main-season CSA distributions. (If that’s not reason enough, did we mention there will also be a food truck?)

Hope to see you there!

 Our first planting: 18,000 plants in the field!

Our first planting: 18,000 plants in the field!