My Tribute to Tomatoes

Dear Farm Partners,

It seems that at least once a year I need to mention how much I love tomatoes. Of course I love the tomato fruits; few things are as good slices of perfectly ripe tomato with a little salt, maybe on a slice of toast, or as the star of a simple salad. Even so, there are vegetables that I love and crave even more. When I say I love tomatoes I mean the plants.

Three years ago I first starting working with Jeremy at Excelsior Farm, and one of my first tasks was to prune and trellis some very unruly tomato plants. I had never pruned anything before and certainly had no prior claims to being any sort of gardener. Still, I learned to do it, and took to it quickly (I also spent four days straight doing it, and was so covered with tomato gunk that Jeremy started calling me “his tomato”, a nickname which has stuck). Since then I have grown very fond of the special beauty of the tomato plants and the ways in which they grow. I become more attuned to their needs. They speak to me. This year we built a large greenhouse via our Kickstarter Greenhouse Project to be a designated tomato house, and it is my job to maintain that house full of tomatoes. It is my domain, and I love it. It is wonderful to discover and develop a skill, especially one I did not anticipate!

Somehow tomatoes also have this magical effect on my moods; no matter how tired I am, how lousy I feel, or how hard the day has been, I can start harvesting or working with tomato plants and immediately my energy and perspective change. Tomatoes just make me feel good. I am very thankful to them for that.

In this week’s box: Eggplant, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Bok Choi, Carrots, Baby Romaine Lettuce, Mixed Beans, Cucumber, and Fingerling Potatoes.

Here is a good Summer Vegetable Quiche from The Kitchn in which you can easily throw a bunch of delicious veggies (you don’t even have to fuss with a crust, although you can if you really want to). I just made a version of this quiche today with zucchini, tomatoes, and basil, and I’m sure it would be wonderful with chard and sliced potatoes (or any chopped veggies you need to get through!).

For Bok Choi, try this Soba Noodle Salad with Bok Choy. Yum! I love soba noodles.

Check out this line-up of green bean recipes from Simply Recipes and these gorgeous looking Swiss chard recipes from The Huffington Post’s Taste section.

In other news, I feel like I just wrote about how it was the beginning of August, and now we are almost done! It is already the final week of one of our busiest months, meaning that it is the final week of our craziest time of year. Wow…I just have to let that sink it. We’ll be busy through November, of course, but we are most certainly over the hump now. What a great feeling!

We wish you all the best for the rest of your week.

Your farmers,

Ashli and Jeremy

Halfway through (and lots of photos)

Dear Farm Partners,

Wow, what a couple of HOT days! Combined with the fires in our area these have been some hazy, crazy days. Thankfully it was very cool and cloudy on Friday which helped us tremendously. We are feeling the end of the season, though–Jeremy and I could barely open our eyes this morning or lift our heavy and sore bodies out of bed. I sure do look forward to sleeping as much as possible this winter!

We carry on. We’ve passed the middle of August, and are just looking forward and pushing, pushing, pushing. We still take time, however, to appreciate the sights. Here are some recent photos which I think capture the changing beauty of the farm.

 

 

 

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One of my favorite sights, a beautiful winter squash, is like a promise of fall. I am so excited to try this Red Kuri Hubbard!

 

 

 

 

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A creamy Delicata. Swoon.

 

 

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The stout Butternut.

 

 

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Our perennial herb section is becoming nicely established. Soon we will be harvesting Tarragon, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Spearmint, and Lemon Verbena.

 

 

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Somehow we manage to maintain tidy little beds (can you spot Farmer Jeremy?)

 

 

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I am not going to lie. We love tilling. LOVE IT. Some people say you shouldn’t till, much less love to do it, but what isn’t to love about a fresh plot?

 

 

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A fresh till leaves us with a blank slate of rich, workable soil, ready to receive and nourish a new round of crops.

 

Sigh. I really do love this place.

In this week’s box: Fingerling Potatoes, Tomatoes, Mixed Beans, Onions, Carrots, Japanese Turnips, Peppers, Cucumbers, Dill, and Cilantro. 

It’s pico de gallo time! Add a little jalapeño to chopped tomatoes, onions and cilantro and you have a satisfying fresh salsa.

We did a mix of beans this week: green, purple, and yellow wax. Some of the bags ended up with mostly green beans as we did not have a totally even mix. If you did not get a good mix this week, there are more beans coming! The purple beans sadly lose most of their color when cooked.

The Japanese turnips, as you can see, were too large to bunch so you have them bulk with no greens. These you can save for cooking–they make a great turnip mash or purée.

Try this Cucumber and Dill Yogurt Dip for a refreshing change of pace with your cucumbers. Or peel and slice some cucumber and drop into water, allow to chill, and you have a nourishing summer drink.

Congratulations! This is Week 12 of our CSA, which means that we have passed the halfway point! We hope that the next ten weeks are as good and satisfying as the previous twelve. Thanks again for embarking on this season with us!

Your farmers,

Jeremy and Ashli

 

Turning Towards Fall

Dear Farm Partners,

August remains true to its promise to keep us busy! This past week we did a whopping FOUR harvest days (instead of our usual three) and delivered hundreds of pounds of produce to CSA members, farmers market customers, and wholesale accounts plus an extra order for our church’s annual family camp. With so much time devoted to harvesting and delivering, it can be difficult to stay focused on crucial farm work like getting the remained of our fall crops sown and transplanted. And August is a huge push when it comes to those tasks, because we are quickly approaching the cutoff point at which it will be a little too late for certain crops to mature (or for us to really get a harvest out of them) before the first frost in late October. Gah! You see what amount of planning has to go into production farming: not only do we have to stay on top of the present season, we are always anticipating and preparing for the next. Our sowing and transplanting dates were set in January (JANUARY!) and we attempt to follow them as faithfully as we are able. As crazy as all of this strategizing can make us, it is a small comfort to me to be able to have the first frost on my mind in August (it’s the little things). It will come.

Yesterday in fact I had the first sensation of the weather turning towards fall. I look forward to those days every year, and this year possibly more than ever. It is still August, of course; the weather is kind of in the eighties, kind of hazy, kind of samey all the time. And yet the glare of the sun seems to soften ever so slightly, the air is pleasantly balmy, and the mornings and evenings have a definite chill to them. Our work is in transition, too, as we look ahead to the cooler months and finishing the season with fall abundance. I love the transition. Admittedly I am an autumn person (and can we all agree that this was the worst summer ever?), so I enjoy it for that reason alone. Being a farmer further deepens my appreciation for the change and the opportunity to enjoy shorter, more temperate days, to bring in all the adorable winter squash, to rejoice with other farming friends that the season is coming to an end. It’s great to finally feel it happening.

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Beautiful celery

In this week’s basket: Green Beans, Tomatoes, Carrots, Hakurei Turnips, Celery, Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers, Cucumbers, and Red Onions.

It’s time at last for GREEN BEANS! Few things symbolize late summer like the green bean. We are very happy with our first harvest and hope that you enjoy them. We also have yellow wax beans and purple beans coming, so feel free to get excited about several weeks of beans in your basket.

We have been thrilled to be able to share so many peppers and tomatoes with you this year. If you are having a hard time using up your peppers, try making stuffed peppers. These sweet varieties are wonderful for stuffing with cheese and baking until delectable. And here is a great roundup of summer tomato recipes from Serious Eats.

Have a wonderful week everyone! We sure do enjoy putting your Harvest Baskets together each week.

Your farmers,

Ashli and Jeremy

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An evening harvest of cucumbers

August

Dear Farm Partners,

It is now August. In many ways, August is simply a continuation the long stream of hard work and long days that we’ve had since June (or really, May, considering summer seemed to start around then!). August may indeed be the busiest month as we harvest hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, haul in onions and winter squash, and haul around our tired bodies, trying to keep everything else alive. We are the most tired in August. But August does mark the beginning of the end. We rejoice that July is over, and that we are two thirds of the way through our main season. We have struggled through the middle and are on our way to the finish line. We will not actually see the finish line until November (or later!), but things slow down in increments after August (teeny tiny increments, but we notice and appreciate them). This brings a small measure of relief.

I have to remind myself to be grateful for it. To be honest, I struggle to appreciate what we do at this time of year, and I complain a lot. Maybe August is just the wrong time of year for heavy reflection considering my tired mind and body. It is difficult for me to see that we’re going to make it–we work so hard, but will it work out this year? I need to remember to just give in to the season, do what needs to be done, and accept what the farm gives me.

Thankfully I have Jeremy, who is a relentless hard worker and thinker and a great source of strength and encouragement for me. There would be no farm without him, that’s for certain. Be sure to send up a little thankful thought sometime that you all have such a farmer growing your vegetables! It is a privilege for me to work with him.

In today’s basket: Tomatoes, Eggplant, Cucumbers, Radishes, Carrots, Beets, Romaine Lettuce, Onions, and Elephant Garlic. Your bulk beets are mixed Red, Gold, and Chioggia. And did you know that elephant garlic is NOT REALLY GARLIC at all, but a special kind of bulb-forming leek? Now you know.

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Do send us good thoughts and prayers as we continue this season! It’s a big push right now, and it helps to have our CSA members rooting for us. Your support really carries us through.

Take care, enjoy your summer vacations and activities, and eat lots of veggies!

With appreciation,

Ashli and Jeremy

Harvest tools at the farm.

Harvest tools at the farm.