Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Garden notes and July 29 baskets

Todays baskets included one of my favourite, yet I think one of the most underrated vegetables going, cabbage. Cabbage is juicy, and fresh...great just sliced for a snack, but a recipe follows for it's use. Also pattypans,zucchini or summer squash, peppers, cutting celery.onions, garlic, a mix of heirloom beans (which are just starting), chard, collards,lemon cucumbers. Hopefully everyone recognizes everything and I am throwing in another recipe for the zucchini (summer squash , patty pans).
All recipes are from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian"


3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP minced onion
1 TBSP minced garlic
1/4 cup short grain rice
1 lb zucchini, or summer squash
salt and freshly ground pepper
6 cups vegetable stock or water
2 eggs at room temperature
1 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put oil in a medium size saucepan, medium heat. When hot add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add rice and stir to coat with oil, then continue cooking for about 2 minutes until fragrant.
Add the zucchini along with salt and pepper. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes, until the zucchini starts to wilt and release liquid. When the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pan stir in the stock, bring soup to a boil and reduce the heat so the mixture simmers steadily. Cover and cook 20-30 minutes, until the rice is tender and the vegetables are starting to melt in the soup.
In a large heatproof bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until creamy, then whisk in lemon juice. Take a ladle of broth from the pot, and slowly add the broth to the eggs , a few drops at a time at first, whisking constantly so the eggs don't curdle. Repeat once or twicce more, until the egg mixture is thick, smooth and very warm.
Make sure the soup is not boiling, but bubbling gently. Slowly add the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately garnished with parsley and parmesan cheese.

Buttered Cabbage
(simply delicious)
For extra flavour melt the butter with a clove of garlic, minced shallot, or good paprika.

2-4 TBSP butter
about 20 cabbage leaves

Put a medium to large pot of water on the stove to boil and salt it well. Put the butter in a small sauce pan and melt it, let it brown, but don't burn.
When the water boils, add the cabbage and cook, stirring every now and then, util tender, about 5 minutes. Remove with tongs and drain well, toss gently with melted butter and serve.

Garden notes
I'm feeling somewhat discouraged at this point, with my biggest crop, and my love, tomatoes. Up until a week ago, things were moving along nicely, a few lost plants in low spots due to wet weather, but that was bearable.
On Sunday morning just past it was clear that lots of rain over a short period of time was taking it's toll, and I have most definitely lost 1/3-1/2 of my tomatoes at this point. Lots for the baskets, however tomato sales are hugely important to me and it is disappointing again that the weather has taken this turn. I have clay soil,which I have lightened over the years with lots of organic material, but it is still a heavy soil which holds onto moisture. In a year of drought or average rainfall I do very well, but too much rainfall, especially in a short period of time is a difficulty.
Other crops are very happy...potatoes, beans, garlic, squash, cukes, beets,cole crops, carrots,to name a few. Peppers are okay so far, eggplants are off to a very slow start because of the lack of heat. Basil and onions are both having difficulty as they were planted in lower spots and need dry weather.
I'm not anticipating going back to market this year now unless the weather turns things around, and hope it does!
Such is the life of a grower who depends on the unpredictability of the weather....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 21 baskets and farm notes

Well it has been so far the summer that isn't and only time will tell if it is the summer that never was- weather wise that is. Certainly things would be a bit further along if we had some nice warm swimming weather.
Baskets today included zucchini,summer squash and or patty pans. Use all interchangeably. One of my favourites is to fry up a bit of onion in olive oil or butter, slice your summer squash thin into the pan and cook till softened. Yum!
Beets were also in the miz..could have been cylindrical, golden, white or chioggia. Don't forget to eat the greens...steam lightly and enjoy!.
Beets are wonderful roasted in foil. Heat oven to 400 F, wrap beets individually in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake until they can be pierced with a thin knife, around 40 minutes for smaller beets. Cooking them this way retains all their juices and they don't get waterlogged.
Salad continues, cutting celery, basils(enjoy while you can, they are not enjoying the weather).
Beans are on the horizon,hopefully tomatoes soon too. Eggplants are not enjoying the lack of heat and I hope will carry on long enough to produce.
I am trying to plan a get togeth er for out at the farm within the next month. Please check in here for the date!

Here's a recipe to help you with the zucchini(summer squash)

Zucchini pancakes

2 lb zucchini
1 egg
1/4 cup flour or fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper
4 tbsp butter or olive oil

Grate the squash by hand or with a grating disk of a food processor. Mix together all ingredients but the butter and oil. Shape into 4-8 burger shaped patties. If time allows refrigerate for 1 hour to firm up.
Heat butter or oil in skillet over medium high heat. Dredge the cakes n flour or bread crumbs and cook until nicely browned on both sides(10-15 minutes).

This great recipe is from "How To Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tomato Blight Threat

This article originally appeared in the New York Times. If you have tomatoes in your garden, be vigilant! This is scary stuff!

Outbreak of Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop

Published: July 17, 2009

A highly contagious fungus that destroys tomato plants has quickly spread to nearly every state in the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic, and the weather over the next week may determine whether the outbreak abates or whether tomato crops are ruined, according to federal and state agriculture officials.

The spores of the fungus, called late blight, are often present in the soil, and small outbreaks are not uncommon in August and September. But the cool, wet weather in June and the aggressively infectious nature of the pathogen have combined to produce what Martin A. Draper, a senior plant pathologist at the United States Department of Agriculture, described as an “explosive” rate of infection.

William Fry, a professor of plant pathology at Cornell, said, “I’ve never seen this on such a wide scale.”

A strain of the fungus was responsible for the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century. The current outbreak is believed to have spread from plants in garden stores to backyard gardens and commercial fields. If it continues, there could be widespread destruction of tomato crops, especially organic ones, and higher prices at the market.

“Locally grown tomatoes normally get $15 to $20 a box” at wholesale, said John Mishanec, a pest management specialist at Cornell who has been visiting farms and organizing emergency growers’ meetings across upstate New York. “Some growers are talking about $40 boxes already.” Tomatoes on almost every farm in New York’s fertile “Black Dirt” region in the lower Hudson Valley, he said, have been affected.

Professor Fry, who is genetically tracking the blight, said the outbreak spread in part from the hundreds of thousands of tomato plants bought by home gardeners at Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Kmart stores starting in April. The wholesale gardening company Bonnie Plants, based in Alabama, had supplied most of the seedlings and recalled all remaining plants starting on June 26. Dennis Thomas, Bonnie Plants’ general manager, said five of the recalled plants showed signs of late blight.

“This pathogen did not come from our plants,” Mr. Thomas said on Wednesday. “This is something that has been around forever.”

Mr. Draper said the diseased seedlings, found in stores as far west as Ohio, were at least one source of the illness, but, he added, “It’s possible that we are looking at multiple epidemics.”

Mr. Mishanec said agricultural pathogens can easily spread when plants are distributed regionally and sold by big-box retailers.

“Farms are inspected, greenhouses are inspected,” he said, “but garden centers aren’t, and the people who work there aren’t trained to spot disease.”

Authorities recommend that home gardeners inspect their tomato plants for late blight signs, which include white, powdery spores; large olive green or brown spots on leaves; and brown or open lesions on the stems. Gardeners who find an affected plant should pull it, seal it in a plastic bag and throw it away, not compost it. Unaffected plants in home gardens and commercial fields should be sprayed with fungicide to prevent the spread of the disease. (More information can be found at a Cornell Web site, http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu.)

In Rhode Island, some farmers have plowed tomato fields under at the first sign of blight, said Kristen Castrataro, an extension agent with the University of Rhode Island.

At the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., half the year’s tomato crop was infected and has been lost, said Dan Barber, the center’s chef and creative director.

Tim Stark, a Pennsylvania farmer who specializes in tomatoes, said he spotted three affected plants — he has more than 25,000 in the ground — last week and was worried enough to spray them with synthetic fungicide for the first time in 14 years of farming. For good measure, he pulled all of his potatoes out of the field.

There are two strains of late blight — tomato and potato — but the illness can jump from one species to the other. It is highly contagious: A single open lesion on a plant can produce hundreds of thousands of infectious spores.

Fungicides can protect unaffected plants from disease, but there is no cure for late blight. Organic farmers, who are not permitted to use powerful synthetic fungicides like chlorothalonil, have very few weapons against this aggressive pathogen.

On Thursday morning, Chris Walbrecht, co-owner of the organic farm Garden of Eve in Riverhead, N.Y., on Long Island, found the first signs of late blight on a row of 800 Early Girl tomato plants; he said he might have to destroy them all, a major blow to the farm’s finances.

An acre of tomato plants can produce 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of tomatoes. “At $7 a pound, tomatoes are one of our most profitable crops,” he said.

Hot, sunny weather, which can kill late blight, could dramatically slow or eliminate the fungus’s spread over the next week, experts said.

“I see a day like today that’s overcast and windy, those spores are flying around everywhere, and rain tonight will bring it all down to the ground,” Meg McGrath, a vegetable pathologist on the faculty of the Cornell horticulture research center in Riverhead, said on Thursday. “The disease loves these conditions.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article included Gramoxone in a list of fungicides. It is in fact a herbicide.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 15th baskets, farm notes

The season is moving along slowly because of the cool and wet weather. Zucchini that was 6" 2 weeks ago still isn't much more than 6 ". Things look good, but progress is so slow, hence the continued dominance of greens in your basket.
Most greens you should be familiar with now, but one new one that some of you received is Portugese Cabbage (Couve Tronchuda).This is a very LARGE leaf with a great crunchy stem. It can be cooked much as collards and kale, as well in the recipe that follows...it is another pie! But different.
This recipe is from Mark Bittman's, "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian" and you can use your lovely lacinato kale, portugese cabbage or collards in it. Heck, throw in some chard too!

Kale Pie

2 tbsp butter, plus more as needed
about 8 large kale /collard leaves
a medium onion, sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs, like parsley, thyme chervil and chives
6 eggs
1 cup whole milk yogourt or sour cream
3 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1) preheat oven to 375. Put butter in a large skillet, over medium heat. a minute later add the kale \and onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes until tender-don't brown though. Remove from heat, add herbs taste and adjust seasoning
2) Meanwhile hard-cook 3 of the eggs, shell them and coarsely chop. Add to the cooked kale mixture and let cool while you make the batter.
3)Combine the yogourt, mayonnaise and remaining eggs. Add the baking powder and flour and mix until smooth. Lightly butter a 9X12 inch ceramic or glass baking dish. Spread half the batter over the bottom, then top with the kale filling; smear the remaining batter over the kale , using your fingers or a rubber spatula to make sure there are no gaps in what will form the pie's top crust.
4) Bake for 45 minutes, it will be shiny and golden brown. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing into it. Eat warm or at room temperature.

If anyone is remotely interested in helping out on the farm, that help would be greatly appreciated. It is hard to stay on top of the weeding and mulching and extra hands could be put to good use. A tomatoes for labour deal is what I have in mind. This goes even if you aren't involved in the CSA...in exchange for 4 hours labour, I will give you at least 10 lbs of tomatoes when they are ready. Any takers? The tomatoes will be fantastic! And they are looking very good.
My gal Meredith, who helps out here is getting married this weekend, to Hyland who is employed at Inn on The Twenty. My most sincere best wishes to them both and I am looking forward to attending your wedding.
Next up is Tiffany, my co-conspirator on the Eating Niagara blog. She is getting married at the end of August...here! My goal is to make it all look good for her, a daunting challenge.
Tickets are on sale for the Niagara Heirloom Tomato Festival now. Hope to see some of you there. Tickets are available through me and The Wildflower.
I am planning a CSA-garden club pot-luck here in August. This will give CSA folks a chance to see the garden, ask questions and get to know some other great people. Please stay tuned, I'll figure out a date soon!

Monday, July 6, 2009

St. Catharines Standard July 3rd Editorial

It has been tough to come up with one idea for this last column, so here is what is on my mind….

I am continually amazed by how little attention we pay to our food and food issues around us. It nearly seems to me that an elephant is sitting in our midst and we ignore it.

Multinational corporations control our seed supply, animals are treated as commodities, not the living and sentient creatures that they are. Chemical use on farms and meat production continues to be one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas.

Lots of talk about local food for sure, but some of the promoters, I am sorry to say, are more bent on self promotion… when you recognize that, and the reality that some farmers are less than honest about what they are growing and how they are growing it, some of the appeal is lost/

And organic-oops, I can't use that word anymore. It is in the dictionary, and according to the father of organic growing, Robert Rodale, I do it. But I'll be slapped down hard if I use the word. I am required to pay someone to come in and look at what I do to use the "o" word. Certification of all sorts is the order of the day, as yet other folks jump on the bandwagon to make a buck off the local food trend.

This stuff drives me crazy....all part of "the scuffling" as my husband would say...folks just trying to claw their way to the top to get their piece of the pie. All this just makes me want to garden and surround myself with things that are truly comforting and real. When I am upset, I go out in the garden and weed, and walk through some incredible marvels of nature. To feel this connection with the land and the true satisfaction of growing my own food, is truly wonderful.

I love growing heirlooms! It is something so real and important that it just makes sense Packets of seeds are true treasures-miracles waiting to happen. Seeds for produce whose fruit is striking, unusual and full flavoured. But the true beauty is the fact that these marvels from the past still exist...and that there is increasing urgency and interest in keeping them going.

Did you know that there are more than 10,000 varieties of heirloom tomatoes in existence? Only about 5 varieties, and hybrids at that, are represented on grocery store shelves. These varieties ship well, store well and taste like cardboard.

Sadly as big growers choose hybrid varieties, many of the heirlooms disappear, forever. Seed companies have chosen to drop varieties of seed over the years that are not selling well for whatever reason and thousands and thousands of varieties of vegetables that were once prominent in home gardens, no longer exist. They are extinct.

The importance of this loss of diversity cannot be underestimated. As we rely increasingly on fewer and fewer varieties of vegetables, fruits and grains to feed ourselves, our food supply becomes more at risk. Disease can wipe out closely related strains of food plants in a flash - consider for example the devastation of the Irish Potato Famine.

There is also some suggestion too that much of the nutritional value has been bred out of the food we eat, nutrition that heirlooms have maintained. There are some organizations around the world and in our own country that recognize the importance of heirlooms and maintaining them. Seeds of Diversity Canada is a truly worthwhile organization with a mission that is true. Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa has done more to maintain and save heirlooms from extinction than any other organization anywhere. These are the organizations who need our support as they struggle to make their voices heard above the din. Remember them when you dream this winter of your garden for 2010