Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Here Comes Yet Another Day of Seeding

"Here comes a new dawn, here comes a new day Tune up start to play, just like any other day. Can't stop, can't be late, mustn't make the people wait. Can't even comb my hair or even change my underwear."

Seeding continues to be the main focus of activity at the farm. While various clean-up activities are taking place, seeding continues unabated. Since the last post basil, peas, tomatillo, shiso, Aunt Molly's ground cherry, and okra have been seeded.

There are going to be six varieties of basil- Italian, lime, cinnamon, lemon, Thai, and Red Ruby. The lime, cinnamon, and lemon each have a slight flavoring reflecting their name. The Thai basil has a slight anise flavor. And the Red Ruby tastes just like basil, but it is a gorgeous red/purplish color.

Tomatillos are in the night shade family and are a staple in Mexican cuisine. They are generally green in color, a little bigger than a larger cherry tomato, and grow covered with a papery type husk that needs to be peeled prior to using. You might be most familiar with tomatillos if you have had some variation of salsa verde.

Shiso- Also known as perilla, shiso is more of an herb than a vegetable. It has a minty/lemony type of flavor. It is used to flavor a variety of dishes and can be used to make a shiso mojito , a sushi wrap, and a shiso miso soup.

Aunt Molly's ground cherry- This heirloom is not actually a cherry, but rather a small ground tomato. The fruits were recorded in horticultural literature as early as 1837 in Pennsylvania and are still common today at roadside stands in late summer. This outstanding Polish variety is prized for its clean flavor. This tomato has pineapple and vanilla flavor. Because of their high pectin count, they can be used for preserves, pies, over ice cream or in fresh fruit salads. (Slow Food USA - Ark of Taste)

Eggplant, sweet peppers, and tomatoes are on the way. Stay tuned.

The three following pictures shows the extent of the germination as well as how quickly the greenhouse is filling up. A couple of items have not germinated as well as desired. To rectify this a couple of extra flats were seeded to make up for this.

Baby spinach.

Support local farmers. Make as sure as possible that you know where your food is coming from. Strive to promote clear labeling of your food so that you don't unsuspectingly buy GMO's. (genetically modified organisms).

Support Bo at Eat More Kale.

Peace and healthy eating to one and all.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Seeding continues and continues. On 3/19 radicchio, spinach, beets and hot peppers were seeded. On 3/20 some more onions were seeded. And on 3/22 a few more onions, leeks, and a wide variety of herbs were seeded. Some of the herbs that will be grown this year includes, but is not limited to, oregano, thyme, anise hyssop, catnip, chives, lemongrass, and rosemary. And going back to hot peppers, Z Food Farm will be growing upwards of 22 varieties. At the hot end of the scale there will be, among others the Jamaican Hot Chocolate, Red Savina, and Fatali. Of varying degrees of heat there will be a cherry hot pepper, a serrano, a jalapeno, and a couple of paprika peppers. As last year David will be growing the shishito (a Japanese pepper), piquillo (Spanish pepper), and the padron peppers.

The shishito is a smallish green colored pepper, about the length of a serrano. They are intended to be cooked in oil until they start to blister. Once done cooking sprinkle on a little sea salt and enjoy. The cooking really enhances their flavor and are served as a tapas. The unique feature of the pepper is that every once in a while one of them will bring the heat. And the catch is, you don't know which one. Sort of like playing pepper roulette. The shishito turned out to be a big hit last year.

The padrons (which look like a smaller version of a green pepper) are prepared the same as a shishito. The frequency of finding a 'surprise' hot padron is a little more than the shishito. However, there is a limited window in which to harvest the padron before ALL of them become hot. This was not known to David last year and a couple of friends were surprised (to say the least) when they started biting into them. This year will be different.

Piquillo peppers have a sweet-spicy flavor. They are not commonly available fresh. They can be found in stores having been roasted over embers, peeled, deseeded and packed in olive oil. They are most commonly stuffed with cheese, meat, or seafood and served as a tapas. Last years harvest was not great and those that were brought to market did not catch on. It is hoped that people will give these delicious peppers more of a try this coming season.

The most exciting news to report today is that there has been a tremendous amount of germination!! It is always exciting when the new growth starts to emerge from within the soil. Even when you know that you have good seed and a good soil mix in which to plant the seed, there is always some anxiety in anticipation of whether or not there will be growth. While there will be a version of this feeling of anticipation throughout the season, the first seeding is the source of the greatest nervousness. And the greatest sense of relief. Here's to ongoing seeding and successful growing.

While this angle doesn't fully provide perspective, the greenhouse is steadily filling up.

Baby cauliflower.

Baby onions.

Baby lettuce. Most seeds are covered with the soil mix. Some plant varieties require a little more light and are covered with vermiculite; lettuce is one of those.

This shows the contrast between those seeds covered with soil mix and those covered with the vermiculite.

Healthy eating to one and all. Support local farmers.

Monday, March 19, 2012


On Sunday, March 18 the rapid pace of seeding continued. Various varieties of lettuce, kohlrabi, escarole, celtuce, kale, and Swiss chard were seeded. To give a sense of what was accomplished, 24 flats of kale alone were seeded. Good conversation, good music playing, some periods of silence, and generally pleasant weather made for a very enjoyable day.

One other thing. In case you were wondering, celtuce, also known as stem lettuce, is a form of lettuce that is grown primarily for its thick stem and used as a vegetable. It is crisp, moist, and mildly flavored. It is typically prepared by slicing and then stir frying with more strongly flavored ingredients. (Wikipedia) The celtuce that David grew last year was used by the Princeton restaurant, Elements. The hope this season is to bring some to the markets in addition to providing some for Elements.

What follows are three pictures that hopefully conveys how quickly the greenhouse fills up. The best way to get a sense of how the greenhouse is filling up is to compare these pictures with the pictures that were in the preceding post.

All associated with Z Food Farm are excited by the start of the season and anticipation is running high for the onset of markets in a little over two months time. Looking forward to seeing you at the farm, in New York and Philadelphia.

Peace and healthy eating to all.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Mindfulness- "bringing one's complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis."
In the beginning of a farm season there is seeding. In the middle of the farm season there is seeding. There is more seeding late into the farm season. Though there are lulls during the course of the season, seeding is a constant part of a farm season. This might be stating the obvious, but paying attention to the obvious is a vital part of productive farming. Seeding can often 'seem' to be a tedious, mind numbing, and boring process. But if viewed from a different perspective, seeding is an act that helps one to slow down, to pay attention, and to concentrate ones focus on a crucial task. Seeding requires patience and paying attention to what is being done. If you get caught up in the notion that the repetitive nature of seeding is a chore, you will be miserable. If you accept that seeding is part of the natural process of farming to be embraced, you enhance the likelihood of enjoying and appreciating the intrinsic value of seeding. If you take your positive attitude further, to the level of mindfulness, seeding can become an act of meditation. In this context, if you pay very close attention to what you are doing as you seed, the act of seeding can be relaxing, peaceful, and very satisfying.

A little behind schedule, seeding has started at Z Food Farm. On 3/16 onions, scallions, and shallots were seeded. On 3/17 cabbage. cauliflower, parsley, mitsuba (Japanese parsley), celery, broccoli, broccoli raab, collards, piracicaba (a different type of broccoli). and fennel were seeded. By staying focused ont he task at hand, by bringing one's attention to the present experience, you are able to derive a sense of personal value and a sense of pleasure and satisfaction in accomplishing a great deal in a relatively short period of time. Being mindful is a conscious act that can lead to a sense of pride in the doing and the completing of seeding.

And so it begins again. The ongoing cycle of the seasons and the beginning of the farm season. For those interested in the quality of their food, get to know where your food comes from. Shop local at farmers' markets and get to know the vendors, get to know the people who are working hard to provide you with the fruit/produce of their hard labor. Shop local. Buy organic when possible. Support small, local sustainable farms.

Good health and good eating to all.

Ye olde compost pile. Last years leftovers. Yes, that is 'stuff' growing out of the pile.

This is the soil mix that is used for seeding. It contains peat moss, compost, vermiculite, perlite, greensand, blood meal, bone meal, and limestone. The various additives are approved for organic farming and help provide the nutrients that will aid in the germination and growth of seeds into plants.

Day one seeding. Onions, scallions, and shallots. This may not have the appearance of being a lot of seeding. What you should know is that each of the flats you see has 288 cells. And each cell has 5 seeds. Do the math, what you see is a great deal of seeding.

Seeding, day 2. Varieties seeded on this day were: broccoli, broccoli raab, piracicaba (a special type of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, fennel, celery, parsley, and fennel.

Stay tuned. Much more to come.

Peace and good health to all.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Almost Seeding Time

Welcome to the first post for the 2012 farm season. The goal for the blog this farm season is to be more consistent in detailing what is going on at the farm. To achieve this, the blog will, hopefully, be shorter, more to the point, and posted more frequently. That's the goal. We'll see how it turns out.

Spring is in the air and it is exciting to anticipate the start of seeding. Barring any unforeseen problems, seeding will begin the week of March 12. In anticipation of the coming season David spent a great deal of time going through various seed catalogs (some 28 different catalogs) to find the different varieties of vegetables that he wants to grow. Though David had his seed list from last season, he wanted to add some new varieties and remove some. Plus, the seed catalogs are a lot of fun to peruse. Combined, it takes a fair amount of time to come up with the complete list.

Another time-consuming factor was to find seeds that are certified organic. Organic farmers are "required to use certified organic seed when it is commercially available." If a particular variety of vegetable is not available an organic farmer can use nonorganic seed, but the seed must be untreated or "treated only with substances (such as microbial products)" that are approved by the standards that govern organic farms. (Source- "Organic Farming Compliance Handbook")

However, the bottom line is that the seed order has been placed, the seeds are on their way, and the seeding will soon commence. Once the seeding does start, the specific varieties of vegetables will be presented as the seeding progresses. As has been the case during the first two years of Z Food Farm, there will be multiple varieties of specific vegetables. Examples of this: five varieties of carrots, six varieties of basil, fourteen varieties of eggplant, fourteen varieties of lettuce, twenty varieties of hot peppers, and sixty five (yes, 65) varieties of tomatoes.

In case you are interested, memberships for the farms CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) are still available. A CSA is where a person/family pays for a share in the farm at the beginning of the season and receives produce throughout the course of the season. The share ends up being of greater financial value than by purchasing produce on a weekly basis. If you are interested in more information about this you can contact Farmer David at

Looking forward to the season and looking forward to see old friends and new at the farm, in New York at the New Amsterdam Market, and in Philly at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers' Market.

Happy and healthy eating to one and all