Tuesday, July 24, 2007

See How They Grow

"Good day sunshine, Good day sunshine, Good day sunshine. I need to laugh, and when the sun is out, I've got something I can laugh about. I feel good, in a special way. I'm in love and it's a sunny day."

It's always a great day at Gravity Hill Farm because great stuff is growing there. While there is an ongoing battle between David and a variety of bugs and beetles (we won't print what David calls the little beasties) David is producing lots of high quality veggies. In this spirit what follows are some thoughts from the book, Slow Food Nation, by Carlo Petrini, founder of the international Slow Food Movement (Slow Food International or Slow Food USA)

"I like to know the history of a food and of the place that it comes from; I like to imagine the hands of the people who grew it, transported it, processed it, and cooked it before it was served to me."

"I like traditional farmers, the relationship they have with the earth and the way they appreciate what is good."

"Few people know about the food they eat and derive enjoyment from that knowledge, a source of pleasure which unites all the people who share it."

Come to the Lawrenceville Farmers Market on Sunday mornings from 9AM-1PM and meet David and learn about the food he grows.

The previous blog displayed pictures showing the process of going from a seed to a ready-to-plant baby vegetable. The following pictures will show planting, and the plants in the field. While it may not be strawberry fields forever, it is vegetable fields at Gravity Hill.

Though some seeds are directly seeded into the ground, most plants are planted the old fashioned way, by hand. The spacing and density of the plantings will be determined by the specific variety being planted. Here you can see that David has laid out some of the plants where he is going to put them. He'll make a hole with his hand, place the plant where it belongs, and then covers up the roots. As you can see in the row behind David, after he is done planting he will place irrigation drip tape along the plant bed.

Multi-tasking. Probably talking with Gab.

The black ground cover, black plastic mulch, was placed over the plant bed by a specialized type of tractor. The purpose of this mulch is to heat the soil for heat-loving plants and to suppress weeds, as does the landscape fabric you might use at home. (Good news - a company in Lancaster, Pa has recently started accepting used mulch for recycling.)

This white covering is referred to as row cover and is suspended over wire hoops that straddle the bed creating a mini-tunnel. This acts as a barrier to protect against beastie bugs and to create a mini greenhouse affect. As you can see on the left side of the picture, the irrigation drip tape runs beneath the covering for the entire length of the plant bed.

Tomato plants as far as the eye can see. All in all, David will have 20 varieties. The stakes are put into the ground with a metal tool that is open on the bottom with the top being closed. There are handles on the side and the stakes are pounded into the ground. As the plants grow David goes down each row adding twine to provide support and stability for the plants. Very time consuming and not fun for your fingers. This will go on as long as the plants are bearing fruit. Some tomatoes have started to ripen and are available at market. Large masses of tomatoes will be shortly forthcoming.

LOOK, a fresh New Jersey tomato, waiting to ripen for your enjoyment!

Swiss Chard. Cut it up, put the stems in first, with some garlic and olive oil, pine nuts if you like, then add the chopped up leaves and sauté.

Cabbage patch kids.

Lettuce eat fresh, locally grown produce.

Hidden among all the green is squash. It really is amazing at how huge squash plants are. Slice them lengthwise, place on a baking sheet, pour on some oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, let sit for a few minutes, then cook on your grill on low. Yummy!

Broccoli. Again, if you are only familiar with what you buy at the store, seeing the plant in the field is an amazing sight. Find a farm to visit and get to know your food.

Potato. Starter potatoes come in bags filled with potatoes. You take each potato, cut it into pieces so that each piece has three 'eyes'. If you have ever bought a potato, you have seen the little bumps on them; those are their eyes.

As the potato is growing below the ground, these wonderful greens are growing above ground. Again, if you are only familiar with what you buy at market or at the store, you are missing the true wonderment of how food grows and gets to your table. If you look closely at the picture on the right you will see a bee enjoying the nectar of the flowers that are part of the potato plant.

As Carlo Petrini said, get to know your farmer. Get to know your produce. Get to know where your food comes from. You can better enjoy what you better appreciate.

Good eating and good health.

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