After two straight difficult watermelon seasons, it looks like we finally have a decent crop! Disease pressure (anthracnose) appears to be reduced, perhaps in part because we threw out all old seed, sanitized our seed storage bins over the winter, took a break from cantaloupe (which appeared to be more disease-prone), and got lucky with weather the past couple of weeks. We’ve definitely spotted some diseased plants in our melon planting, but so far it is less widespread than in the past two years.
We also tried out a new system for deterring crows from pecking open our watermelon: a scarecrow and old CDs strung above the planting (the flashing movement of the CDs blowing in the breeze is supposed to be a deterrent). It’s hard to say definitively if this system worked, or if the less diseased plants have created better cover for the melons, or if the crows have just moved on. Either way, we are very happy about it, as the old system involved stretching berry netting over the entire planting and crawling around underneath to harvest the watermelon. This year we only have coyote fencing in the way. This means we are able to drive a tractor with a bulk bin just outside the fence and toss melons into it, changing the watermelon harvest from a dreaded activity to a crew favorite. Sarah even got to use some of her volleyball skills to save an errant watermelon or two from landing on the ground!
While August is a time when we start enjoying classic summer veggies and fruit like tomatoes and watermelon, it is also a time when we begin to harvest some of our fall storage crops for curing. At the end of last week we pulled all of our shallots into the greenhouse and all of our spaghetti squash into the barn. Onions will probably be harvested later this week or next, and we’ll begin harvesting the rest of the winter squash by late August!
This week in the CSA:
Watermelon - this variety is called Starlight. It has seeds, but the flavor is amazing! (We had researched and planned to trial a seedless variety this year, but we were notified late in the season the seedless variety we had purchased was not going to be available afterall, so we will try again next year!)
Heirloom tomatoes - These tomatoes are odd looking but have the best flavor and are gorgeous when cut up into tomato salads. We grow Striped German and Pineapple (yellow with pink stripes), Cherokee Purple (purple with greenish shoulders), Cherokee Green (greenish yellow) and Pruden’s Purple (actually pink).
Slicing Tomatoes - Big Beef (red), Bigdena (red), Chef’s Choice (orange) and Damsel (pink). We think the orange and pink tomatoes have the best flavor of the slicers!
Peppers - green bells and purple “Islander” peppers
Fresh Onions - both Ailsa Craig (white) and Red Long of Tropea (red). They should be stored in the refrigerator.
Cucumbers - picklers are much more plentiful than slicers right now. They don’t have to be pickled - you can use them in place of slicers anytime. They sometimes have slightly thicker skin, but if you peel them they taste virtually the same!
Zucchini and summer squash - the plantings we are currently picking from aren’t producing very well - hopefully the final planting will be a little more productive.
Arugula or Yukina Savoy
Edamame - Pick pods that have filled out. See the recipe below for a simple boiled or steamed preparation!
Tomatillos or husk cherries - you’ll have a choice between either of these. Both have husks. Tomatillos should be picked when the fruit has filled out so much that the husk has split, they can be green or purple. Husk cherries should be picked when the husk is brown and papery, to eat remove the husk, the berry inside will be yellow. Husk cherries usually fall on the ground when they ripen, hence why they are sometimes called “ground cherries”!
Cherry tomatoes - We have longer beds than usual this season (about 250' feet long), but those who walk to the back of the beds will be amply rewarded with very fast picking (it’ll probably take less time overall than if you try to hunt for tomatoes at the front of the beds)! We’re picking all varieties right now: Sungolds (orange), yellow mini (yellow), grape (red), cherry bomb (red), sunpeach (pink), Jasper (red), Bumblebee (yellow with pink stripes), Lucky Tiger (oblong and green with pink stripes), Black cherry (purplish brown), Mountain Magic (red “cocktail” size) and Wapsipinicon Peach (yellow cocktail size with fuzzy skins). You can also check signs out in the fields for guidance on the correct color for ripeness.
Hot peppers - Jalapeños (green) and ancho poblanos (green, about 4” long).
Dragon Tongue beans- Look under the foliage to find beans. Dragon tongue beans are white with purple spots and can be prepared like green beans. To pick, hold the plant just above the stem of the bean and gently pull the bean off.
Herbs: parsley, dill, dill seeds, dill flowers, cilantro, coriander seeds, Italian basil, Thai basil, chives, peppermint, spearmint, thyme, oregano, tarragon and sage. Many of the herb plants in the herb beds near the farm stand are still small. Please pick sprigs, leaving plenty of plant below to continue to grow. For sage, pick off only a couple of individual leaves, leaving at least 6 or 7 leaves per branch. For Italian basil, please pinch the tops only so that the plants will branch and grow bigger.
Tuesday and Thursday 11am-6pm
We’ll have snapdragons, bachelor’s buttons, calendula, orlaya, gomphrena, cosmos, strawflower, statice, star flower, verbena, rudbeckia, scabiosa, celosia, decorative basil, sunflowers (in the flower field this week), zinnias, and more. Picking is open to PYO Flower CSA members as well as to the public for purchase by the bouquet (we provide the a jar for measuring your bouquet size and you fill it with the flowers you’d like to take home!).
This week in the farm stand:
We will have all of the veggies listed in the CSA available in the farm store as well. We will also have sweet corn from Verrill Farm, eggs from Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds and mushrooms from Fat Moon Farm.
Watermelon Cucumber Mint Cooler
4 cups of watermelon, de-seeded and chopped
2 cup of cucumber, skinned and sliced
juice from ½ lime
1 large spring of fresh mint
½ cup of honey
2 cups of ice
cucumber slices for garnish
Puree the watermelon in blender.
Pour the fruit juice into large pitcher through mesh sieve.
Push fruit with wooden spatula as needed to remove all of the juice.
Repeat process with the cucumber.
Add in the lime juice and honey to pitcher.
Drop in the mint and ice.
Let sit in fridge over night.
Serve over more ice and a few slices of cucumber.
Edamame in the Shell
by Mark Bitman
1 pound fresh or frozen edamame in their pods
Black pepper to taste
To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it generously. Add the edamame, return to a boil and cook until bright green, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain. To microwave: Put the edamame in a microwave-safe dish with ¼ cup water and a pinch of salt, cover partly and microwave on high until bright green, 1 to 5 minutes, depending on your microwave power.
Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and a little or a lot of black pepper. Toss and serve hot, warm or chilled with an empty bowl on the side for the pods.