Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Down On The Farm

"If ever you think about the happiest days of your life Cast back your mind for a while And remember the time when you were a child Don't think of things that make you sad Just remember all the good times that you had"

As part of the curriculum at The Princeton Friends School the students, grades 3-5, get to participate in an out of school educational opportunity. The students self-select what activity to participate in and then go to the off school site once a month for the duration of the school year. For each of the past two years  a group of students has come to Z Food Farm. Starting the later part of farm season 2012 the students have: assisted David harvest carrots, potatoes, and turnips. In March of this season they seeded pea seeds in trays and in April they got to put the pea plants into the soil. If all goes as planned, the students should be able to get to harvest and eat the peas that they seeded and planted.
The students have had a great deal of fun and have displayed an interest in what they have done. They have had an opportunity to develop an awareness of how and where their food comes from, that it doesn't just magically appear on their tables.

Here are some pictures of the students in action.

The first two pictures show the students after they harvested two varieties of turnips. The red are called Scarlet Knight; the white ones are Hakurei Turnips. This activity was not a simple 'let's give the kids something to do' activity. The fact of the matter is that the turnips that they helped harvest were part of an order for a restaurant. 

 The following pictures show the students engaged in various stages of planting.

And as always, the loyal and faithful Hule is on the job keeping an eye on the proceedings. 

As always, happy and healthy eating to all. Support the right to know which foods are GMO's. Support local, organic, and sustainable farmers.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

And So It Goes

"Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, 'Why, why, why?' Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand."
And a farmer needs to seed, plant, weed, and harvest. Some things just got to be.

Seeding has continued, as it will throughout the season. To bring you up to date, here is the final segment of seeding to date.

 March 21- 25 varieties of herbs. A future post will list the various herbs that will be available at market.
March 21- Two varieties of leeks; two flats.
March 21- Black Magic Kale. This is a new variety of Tuscan kale. It has very dark, crinkled leaves which have rich flavor. Makes excellent kale chips; four flats.

March 29/30- Tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet peppers, and eggplants. As with the herbs, a future post will provide additional information about the varieties that were seeded. There were over 60 varieties of tomatoes, 15 varieties of hot peppers, 6 varieties of eggplant, and 10 varieties of sweet peppers. There are also a few varieties of specialty peppers.

April 4- Basil (Italian Large Leaf, Thai, Red Rubin, and Mrs. Burns’ Lemon).

April 4- Ficoide Glaciale. Huh? What? You read that right- Ficoide Glaciale. This plant is nearly unknown in the United States. If known, it might be familiar to some as the “ice plant”. It has fleshy, lightly acidic leaves that are covered with shimmering silvery dots, giving them a frosty appearance. The leaves are crunchy and refreshing in salads, and may also be cooked like spinach.

April 6- Peas

April 13- Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry- David has grown these the past couple of years, so they shouldn’t be a total mystery. Here is a description from Slow Food USA Ark of Taste- “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”.

Poha Berry- These will be a new offering this season. It is also known as Cape Gooseberry. The Poha Berry is a popular fruit berry in Hawaii. The berry is sweet/tart with smooth, waxy orange skin. The berries are often made in a jam. They are also a treat in salads.

Okra- David grew okra for the first time two years ago. Last year things didn’t work out, but this year okra will be back. When buying fresh okra, look for young pods free of bruised, tender but not soft,and no more than four inches long. They can be stored in the refrigerator in a paper bag or wrapped in a paper towel in a perforated plastic bag for two to three days.

Tomatillo- It is related to the cape gooseberry. Fruit should be firm and bright green. It should also be firm. A staple of Mexican cuisine.

4/14- Crosnes. Ok. First Ficoide Glaciale and now this? What is this? First, it is pronounced crones, despite the spelling. It is an Asian member of the mint family, known for its edible and unusual-shaped tubers. Described as looking like a string of mutant, spiral pearls. Usually about two inches in length, about ½ inch in diameter. They have a crunchy texture and earthy flavor. Similar to a Jerusalem artichoke in taste- Crosne offers a vague, nutty sweetness. They will be available in late fall.

4/14- Yacon (Peruvian Ground Apple). Oh boy, something else you’ve probably never heard of. And what is this? Well, it is grown for its crisp, sweet tasting tuberous roots, similar to a jicama. It has a slightly sweet resinous and floral flavor, similar to violet. While it is mainly used for its tubers, the leaves can be made into a tea.

4/14- Britton Shiso: Green leaves with red undersides. Can be used as part of a salad mix. The larger leaves can be used as sushi wraps. David has grown, and will be growing this season, both red and green shiso. Shiso has a slight lemon/mint flavoring. Apart from adding to a salad or as a sushi wrap, shiso can be used, among various ways, to make a shiso mojito, as flavoring in rice, and to make as a soup.

One of David’s pleasures in farming is to grow items that are off the beaten path. In his passion for farming, David tries to walk both roads of a diverging path- he grows traditional and nontraditional items for the joy of it.

A couple of quick notes- on 4/17 and 4/18 many plants were moved out of the greenhouse to the tables in front of the greenhouse. This will allow the plants to ‘harden’, to acclimate to being out of doors in anticipation of planting sometime late next week or early the week after.
On 4/16, 4/17, and 4/18 David spent a lot of time on the tractor using his spader to start preparing the soil for planting. Freshly turned soil is a beautiful sight.

Eat healthy. Support local farmers. Support organic farming. Support sustainable farming. Support labeling of GMO’s.

 Garlic is growing! Garlic is planted in the fall, usually Octoberish. And then it begins to show itself in early spring. This picture was taken 4/14. The garlic greens first began to show themselves a month earlier.

 This is some of the lettuce that was seeded on March 20. This picture was taken April 11.

These are the onions that were planted on March 15. This picture was taken April 11.

This is David using the spader to turn the soil. You can see the before and after difference in the soil.

A general picture of the greenhouse. If you compare with the pictures from the previous post you can get a perspective of how things have grown.

Baby Red Rubin basil.

Here is a picture of the spader. Imagine using a hand held spade working in your garden. Imagine eight of them working simultaneously being turned by an engine.

Here's a close up of the soil after one pass by the spader.

Baby tomatoes.

A couple of books about healthy eating and cooking: 
Mark Bittman- VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good. His basic premise is to follow a vegan diet before 6PM and to eat pretty much what you want in the evening.
Michael Pollan- Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.
"Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink."

Happy growing, cooking, eating, and drinking to all.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Keep On Seeding

'Seeding on down the line
Hey hey hey
I say keep on seeding
Seeding my blues away'

As of March 30 the weather has been more cooperative. Today would have been a wonderful day for David to be on his tractor doing some fieldwork and taking care of various other tasks requiring his tractor. The only problem with this is that David’s tractor is in the midst of being repaired. Nothing major is wrong with it, but there are a few minor problems that are being corrected. While it is somewhat frustrating that the tractor won’t be ready until mid next week, the upside is that barring some unforeseen problem arising, the tractor should be in good shape for the coming season. Losing a few days now is preferable to having the tractor break down in the middle of the season when its availability will be much more essential. Short-term annoyance for long-term gain.

While waiting to do field work, seeding has continued at a steady pace. Here is an update on what has been seeded.

March 15- Fifteen more flats of onions. Five flats of celery and three of parsley. Three flats of celeriac (celery root).

March 16- A total of fourteen flats of four different varieties of broccoli.

March 17- Sixteen flats of Swiss chard.

March 18/19- Fourteen flats of fennel.

March 19- Twelve flats of four varieties of cabbage. Twenty-two flats of four varieties of scallions. Four flats of celtuce. Three flats of escarole. Thirty-two flats of kale. And ten flats of kohlrabi.

March 20- Twenty flats of seven varieties of lettuce. Nineteen flats of three varieties of spinach. Thirty-three flats of six varieties of beets. One variety of the beets is called crapaudine. “In 1885, the French book, The Vegetable Garden stated this is one of the oldest varieties. Today some experts feel this may be the oldest beet still in existence, possibly dating back 1000 years. This unique variety is one of the most flavorful, with carrot-shaped roots that have rough, dark colored skin which looks like tree bark. Inside, the roots are very dark, with almost black flesh that is of superior quality and sought after by chefs who want real flavor.” (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) If you are interested in more information about this unique beet go to:

One of the critical components of the soil mix used for starting the seeds is mushroom compost. The compost, along with the peat moss and the other ingredients for the soil mix provides the necessary nutrients the seeds need to start germinating.

 This shows the earliest stages of seeding. A later picture will show how quickly the greenhouse fills up.

The first germination!! A most excellent sight.

This picture taken less than a week after the picture above.

The next four pictures convey a sense of the beauty and majesty of new plant life. These pictures do not do justice to what the greenhouse looks like in person. Some varieties of plants germinate more quickly than others, so virtually each day brings new signs of germination. The process of seeding, watching and waiting, germinating will continue throughout the entire season. The road goes on and on.

As you can tell, David and Rachel have been quite busy. And since March 20 there has been more seeding. The next update will be forthcoming within the next few days. Until then happy and healthy eating.