Sunday, July 7, 2013

bad broccoli, human nature, and hungry birds

remember each cherry tomato starts as a flower, and check out these plants!  almost more flower than leaf!  look out for these little yellow beauties!

Thanks to the anonymous commentor a few weeks back, for drawing my attention to a need to follow up on a story. I forgot to mention that the insect exclusion netting worked like a dream! Not only did it exclude the swede midge- and we got the best crop we have had in years-actually ever! As an added bonus, it also excluded the cabbage moths, they lay the eggs that become those green caterpillars (that are the exact same color as broccoli). Additionally, and we are not sure why, the flea beetle damage on the plants under cover was significantly lower than the uncovered plants, and they got a big head start on the few plants that were being eaten around the edges outside of the covers. And the last thing that the covers did, was to exclude rabbits, who munched those plants that weren't protected! Those poor “control” plants outside of the cover, really are not in great shape, and the experimental ones under cover did fantastically! Overall, the insect exclusion netting gets a major thumbs up from us!

That praise for insect exclusion netting out of the way, now I will say that while the first half of the broccoli was a splendid success. The second half is is an excellent study in human behavior and farm economics. For some reason, those crowns, which looked fantastic last week, are now getting little brown spots on them, the spots seem to be superficial and the heads may have even all been harvested for the corning market last week, (but alas, the growth rate of veggies and how they don't pause for a federal holiday was not a factor in the cancellation of the market. ) but I digress.

The point being many or perhaps now most heads have brown spots on them. Now at this moment, you may well be thinking, well that's no big deal, I can just cut out those spots and not waste the other pound and a half of good broccoli. And we agree. But in eleven years of selling at farmer's market, what I have noticed is that sentiment doesn't acutally carry over to what a person selects at the market table, each person selects what they percieve to be the best product in the stack, leaving the last one on the table to be what was considered the least desirable. And teaching farmer's to only bring things of the utmost quality to market (yet still some people feel they most paw through every head of lettuce to find “the best” one, as if poor quality ones were brought to market, PULEEASE!)

Our propensity as a society for “perfect” food leads us to the farm economics lesson. An apple farmer that has a hail storm and has their fruit damaged, even just one or two marks on each apple is forced by the customer's selection of only perfect fruit to mark down their imperfect (yet still just as tasty) fruits in order to sell them- (reinforcing the idea that those “inferior” fruits are worth less than those perfect fruits) the problem being that it takes the same pruning, spraying, picking *, packing *, and marketing * effort to get fruits with two hail spots to market as it does to get blemish free fruits to the market stand (*in fact usually more effort on the starred items as there is a lot more sorting to do both in the field, in the packing stand, and at the market than for unblemished fruits). A farmer could be forced to sell these fruits for half price, thus losing half their yearly income, just because they had the bad luck of getting 10 minutes of hail in july. (also leading farmer's who do use sprays to use as much as possible to maximize perfect fruits and minimize less desirable fruits that are sold for less).

Off my soap box and back to the broccoli, it may not be worth the labor for us to pick it, wash it, pack it up, unload it at market, make it look nice nestled on our table, just to have people snub those little brown spots. So we'll see how the timing works out for harvesting this week as to whether we'll make the effort.
some of the first broccoli, looking fine!

On totally different note, the second hatchings of robin babies seem to be fledging right now and they have lots of food available in the form of a large tart cherry tree in our back yard. Its got birds in it all day long, and there are cherry pits all over the farm- from birds dropping them in flight. We picked the lowest limbs tonight, but short of a cherry picker bucket to lift us way up, there is no way that we could ever reach all of the highest fruits. Hope you, too, filled your freezers with fruits last week, the annual cherry frenzy is coming to an end up here!  this year we tried drying them for the first time and the conclusion, is thumbs up for dried sweet cherries!  some of those non bird eaten tart cherries will go in tonight to see how tart cherries measure up. 
It was really nice to show around lots of CSA cherry picking members this past week! Thanks for making the trip out to the farm! and to alternate markets as well this week, we feel that food every week is superior to twice as much food one week and none another.   

Here's a yummy sounding recipe that john, kathy, and amy passed on to us! Recipe from:

Creamy Maple Mustard Dressed Raw Chard Salad
vegan, serves 2-3

1 beautiful bunch of organic Swiss chard (any color will work!)

Creamy Maple Mustard Dressing:
2 tsp whole/coarse grain mustard
2 tsp vegan mayo, aka Vegenaise
1 tsp grade B maple syrup
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (you can substitute this with lemon juice if necessary)
1/8 tsp (or just a few pinches) or fresh orange or lemon zest
pinch of salt (to taste)
pinch of fine black pepper
pinch of cayenne powder
optional: squeeze of lemon juice

additional spices you may want to try: garlic powder, coriander, turmeric, onion powder, nutritional yeast - dried or freshly chopped jalapeno, garlic or parsley.

dressing notes:
* If your chard is an extra large bunch, or you just like
more dressing, double my recipe.
* choose a
spicy whole grain mustard if possible, otherwise you can add in a 1/2 tsp spicy Dijon mustard in addition - or a few extra dashes of cayenne. The spicy kick is a nice compliment to the sweetness of the maple

salad garnish: fresh lemon or orange citrus zest


1. Rinse your chard in cold water - each leaf should be well rinsed to remove any sandy residue. Chop off any brownish ends on the stem. Pat leaves dry with a paper towel of you can use a salad spinner to help dry once they are chopped.

2. Thinly slice the chard into ribbons. Add to a large mxing bowl. You can rinse one more time in cold water if desired.

3. Whisk together your dressing in a small cup. Pour over top greens and toss well.

4. Pour into serving bowl and cover. Place in the fridge to chill for at least one hour before serving. Greens should be eaten within 8 hours of preparing. Serve chilled. Add fresh lemon or orange zest over top to serve.

The website mentions that this dish would be nice with some edible flowers on top, this week you'll start to see edible flowers at market if we have time to pick them- nice spicy nasturstiums in a wide array of shades of orange, red, and yellow!

Have a good week!

lettuce heads
Swiss chard
garlic scapes
new potatoes
green onions
a few peppers
green beans
cherry tomatoes
also local, organic dry beans and flour

Liz and matthew

this is where garlic scapes come from, right in the center of the garlic plant, now you know...


Laurie said...

Count me in for the brown-spotted broccoli! I'd gladly take several next week. :) Loved hearing how well the insect exclusion netting worked. Ingenious! Oh, and dried cherries is one of my favorites! I love them in salads.

mamajoy said...

The Simons Family LOVES broccoli, brown spots or no. Count us in, too!