Saturday, April 30, 2011

Look Ma, No Head!

I've had the title for this blog post floating around in my head for a week or so now.

I think it is brilliant-you may think it is stupid.  But of course, you don't know what I'm talking about.

Yet, anyways.

It is busy times on the farm now. I've been transplanting for several weeks straight and have been pushing it pretty hard. Thousands of plants in pots, hundreds of varieties of vegetables.  I'm not quite where I'd like to be, but I think I feel that way every year.

Maybe it can make you a bit silly.  When it came time to transplant  the collards, piricicaba and spigiarello, kale and couve tronchuda...I don't know what happened.  Mollie and I were singing about them, making up little rhymes about them and then there it was.  "Look ma, no head!"

Which is exactly what these brassicas are missing.

I've written about the brassica family history before here. It is an interesting family to get to know.

Most people are familiar with kale, although what you find in the grocery store is the tip of the iceberg in terms of varieties. I like kale a whole lot.  But there are other wonderful leafy brassicas worth your time as well.

Collards for example.  Most people think about collards as being a southern crop, and lord knows they are popular in the Southern US. I'm not sure why they are not quite so popular here.  They are well adapted to our climate, very easy to grow and hardy at that.  After a frost they take on a special sweetness, that makes them taste even better.

The variety I grow is  Georgia Southern, but I think the name is a bit misleading- this is one super hardy crop. I was pretty surprised to go out into the garden this spring and find a lovely crop of collards had survived under some dead tomato plants I had pulled from the hoop house last fall. Things like this are such a bonus. The first outdoor greens of the spring (and a crappy one at that!)

Couve Tronchuda
Couve Tronchuda is a very old variety of non heading portugese cabbage.  I've grown it for quite a few years, obtaining my original seed from the fabulous Redwood City Seed Co. But was I surprised when I looked at my seed and saw it was from 2002. Certainly even more surprised when my germination rate was nearly 100%.  Now that's good seed!

This is a wonderful crunchy cabbage leaf vegetable, with thick ribs, and sometimes massive leaves. It does look rather prehistoric and majestic in the garden. Worth a grow.

Spigiarello is one of my favourite greens, as is Piricicaba.  Do these names sound a little unfamiliar? They are both varieties of broccoli, but of course "look, head!" Well, that's a lie.  There is a head, but it is very small, and really isn't the reason you grow spigiarello anyways.  Again, it's the wonderful broccoli flavoured leaves. Spigiarello is a veg that is highly popular in Southern Italy and there are two varieties, smooth leaf or frilly.

Piricicaba, is also a unique brassica. I'm not a huge fan of the bitter raab , much preferring this and it's sweet yumminess.  It does have heads that are a bit bigger than spigiarello's, on a lovely long slender stem. The Fedco seed catalogue (a good read at any time) offers this description :

"Piracicaba (56 days) Open-pollinated. The tributes keep flowing in for this unusual brassica. Piracicaba (pronounced peer-a-SEA-cah-bah) is a city and river in Brazil famous for its beautiful waterfalls, and home of the university where this cultivar was developed. About halfway between a heading broccoli and a broccoli raab, these succulent tender small green heads with very large beads make delightful raw eating. Very loose heads, lots of side shoots, sweet stalks. Even the fairly large leaves make excellent greens. Garden writer Barbara Damrosch found it equally delicious steamed. NY State trialers report it is best as a fall crop with relatively good frost tolerance, although it was bred to withstand heat and has produced heads at temperatures in the 90s in trials in California."
ll these plants have the same culture, as do the other "headed "brassica buddies.  I find it really important to put them in the ground six weeks after seeding.  I start mine indoors under lights or in the hoop house in March or April depending on the spring, and plant them into a nice compost enriched soil when my soil is sufficiently dried out. Suffice to say that hasn't quite happened yet this year, but fortunately I seeded a bit later.  I give them a good drink once a week assuming it is a drier season, and mulch them with straw to retain moisture and keep the weeds down.

Now time to get cooking! This recipe from the New York Times is my preferred way of using all these greens...but they are extremely versatile and can be used many ways.


Vegan Broccoli Spigarello

Yield 2 to 3 servings

Time 15 minutes

3 cups broccoli spigarello leaves, or broccoli rabe leaves (stems discarded)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
pinch of chili flakes.

1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water, and set aside. Fill a large pot with water, salt heavily (it should taste like seawater), and bring to a boil. Add broccoli spigarello, and blanch until bright green and tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, immediately plunge into ice water until cooled, and drain again.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add garlic, cover, and cook until tender but not browned, about 1 minute. Add broccoli spigarello and chili flakes. Stir slowly to gently reheat. Serve hot with, if desired, gnocchi or risotto.

Source: Adapted from Jonathan Benno, Chef, Lincoln

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tomato Tuesday- Groovy Greens and Wonderful Whites

When people come out to the farm to buy their tomato plants, there are inevitably some varieties that are not as popular as others.  

I know, for example, that I can never grow too many Stupice, Federle or Bush Beefsteaks. But there are two colours that many people prefer to skip when it comes down to choosing.

And those two colours are green and white. 

Maybe it is that people can't envision a green tomato that is actually ripe, or even what a white tomato could possibly look like, let alone taste like.
Is it a sickly sight- a fruit that perhaps looks like it has been grown without the benefit of the sun, like blanched celery stalks or asparagus?

Not at all! It is a thing of beauty- and many times (in fact most) sporting a pretty hint of yellow.

2010 tomato tasting and tour (T. Mayer photo)

The issue many people have with green, white and other differently coloured tomatoes as well is that they believe they won't know when they are ripe. It doesn't take too long to figure it out when you have grown the various colours for a begin to know what to look for.  But the first few times test ripeness by the feel of the fruit.  If it is soft to the touch then it is ready to eat.

As the greens and whites ripen as well, they just don't look like unripe tomatoes.  They develop a bit of yellow, which again indicates ripeness.

Greens are actually one of my favourite colour of tomatoes, and not just because of the colour.  There is something totally unique about the taste of these tomatoes.  I don't think you can beat the taste of a fully ripe Aunt Ruby's German Green, or Cherokee Green that is still warm from the sun.  There is a bit of spiciness and zing to the flavour.  Something a bit different.  Something a bit different that is good.

Last year the green tomato that did the best in terms of production was..ready for it... Malakhitovaya Shkatulka.  This Russian tomato whose name means "Malachite Box" is just yummy. It is a large beefsteak, and yes, they can be green, with a distinct "melony" flavour.  The fruit just kept coming and coming.

Other greens you'll find plants for here at the farm are Lime Green Salad, a nice little determinate plant that would do well in a container, and produces zippy tasting 2" in diameter fruit. Gold n' Green is a similarly sized plant and fruit, with a lovely bronze gold colouring on the outside and a nice bright green flesh. Zowie!

Green Pineapple is a wonderful introduction to green fruiting tomatoes as well. It is a large very sweet and fruity flavoured tomato with yellowing towards the blossom end. 

Humph, Green Giant, Moldovan Green, Emeraude, Dorothy's Green and Cherokee Green will also make a big impression.

Most definitely, I love the green cherries.  Green Doctors is simply outstanding and this year I'm excited to try Green Doctors Frosted, which is supposed to look like frosted grapes. Aunt Ruby's German Green Cherry has a very unique, yet addictive taste.  For me the star of the show is Thompson Seedless Classic  Grape, whose original seed was given to me by Tom Wagner, tomato breeder extraordinaire when I met him in Iowa at the Seed Savers Convention a few years back. What fabulous taste and production.  Don't expect a small grape- this is about 1+ inches in diameter, and green with yellow tinges when ripe.

Lots more wonderful greens too!

The white tomatoes are unique too.  If you are looking for a tomato with  very little acid taste, these are the ones for you.  They are sweet and mild, and have a nicely balanced flavour.  Some of the larger ones include White Brandywine (aka Shah Mikado), Great White, Grande Blanche (don't assume they are the same) and Beaute Blanche du Canada. 

For me, I think last year was the year of the white tomato.  There were so darn many.  Did I really plant all those?  But not to despair.  What fabulous white salsa, spaghetti sauce and canned tomatoes we've enjoyed this winter.  

As with the green cherries, the white cherries are highly addictive.  Dr Carolyn's, Snow White and Super Snow White are just so good, as is the aptly named White Cherry.  White Currant is by far my favourite currant tomato.

I convinced a lot of people to try Ivory Pear last year, and I bet they'll be back for more. 
Then there is Peche Blanche, a fragile fuzzy skinned pale yellow 2" fruit,  and Isis, a small flattened beefsteak with just huge production.

Ivory Egg and Cream Sausage kind of surprise you when you see them in the garden.  Neat shapes, just as the names suggest, they are pretty unique paste type tomatoes.

And there's more, many many more.  

And finally the green and white tomato cheer...."green and white, fight, fight, fight"! For a place in your garden this year, of course.

2010 Tomato Tasting and Tour (T. Mayer photo)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mollie's guest post - My garden

I have a little garden in the front of the house and these are a few of the things coming up in it this year-

CHIVES- I have had chives coming up in my garden since the year my dad built it!!I love chives in salads or sometimes plain.

IRIS- Beautiful flowers. They come up annually so you don't have to plant them again and again (and again)!

ONIONS- I also like onions in salads as well as chives!I'll be honest, I like everything in that family!

LILY- I have a beautiful lily that comes up every year- enough said!

LILY-OF-THE-VALLEY-I have a few Lily-Of-The-Valley plants that I just planted this week , so exciting to see how they turn out!

LAMBS EAR- so fuzzy and soft. I had way to much of it so the chickens helped me to get down to just a little!

WEEDS- aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!

These are a few of the things in my garden!
(If you have any ideas for my next blog post,please comment)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Election 2011-Truth and the Consequences for Agriculture by Joan Brady

I received this thoughtful email from the NFU, and am passing it along.

Who IS thinking about agriculture- what is the "truth?" 

Election 2011 - Truth and the Consequences for Agriculture
By Joan Brady

As I watched the recent leader’s debate, I remarked to my husband that the upcoming election was all about truth in more ways than one. The election was called following the non-confidence vote which resulted from the Harper Governments’ contempt of Parliament by refusing to share information that opposition members said they needed to properly assess legislation put before them. The opposition leaders again and again referred to the lack of trustworthiness of the Harper Government. In response, Harper countered, often preceding his comments with phrases like; “reality is quite different”, “it is simply not correct”, “based on realistic facts” and my favorite “it is simply not the truth”.

The leaders framed their statements according to their own perception of truth, showing their political prowess again and again by presenting their platforms regardless of the questions posed. I was left with a question, “what is truth and how does my perception flavour it?” Also, “how can perception influence reality, will it not always overpower the way we would prefer things to be?”

The same thoughts and reflections have surfaced over the past few months as I have attended various agriculturally oriented events. So often, Agriculture is presented only as an economic driver. It certainly reinforces the importance of agriculture to the Canadian economy when we reflect on agriculture generating $44.6 billion in gross cash receipts in 2009 and as the source of 1 in 7 jobs in Canada. But is that the whole picture? Average realized farm incomes for 2010 were projected at or below $0 at the beginning of this year. Although, some price rallies, particularly in the grains and oilseeds sector, have caused 2010, thankfully, to be better than first predicted, but many other commodities and sectors did not see similar increases.

Agriculture is an important contributor to the Canadian economy -- and it is on a shaky foundation. Unless the extent of the farm income crisis is analyzed, understood and addressed, then proposed platforms that promise food safety, food security, innovation and research, and more global trade cannot be successful. Low farm incomes have resulted directly in a huge increase in farm debt which will become a virtual firestorm if interest rates go up.

The current preoccupation with global trade as reflected in many of the parties’ platforms is counterproductive if trade is not considered in conjunction with a strong, stable domestic market. Feeding Canadians first not only gives us a secure food supply, it also gives the industry the critical mass and the infrastructure needed to meet the opportunities in the global market place. Increases in global trade have not added anything to the bottom line on the farm. When we consider that much of the increase in exports has been matched with increases in imports, the conclusion can only be that we are trading away our domestic food supply. Food security and food sovereignty are threatened as a result.

As I reflect on my choices as a voter, I think about truth and politics and hope that they are not mutually exclusive. I see a great deal of positive motion aimed at food and farming and I am encouraged. At the same time, I am concerned about the lack of full disclosure, and about agendas and platforms that do not consider the direct impact of policies on farmers, their assets and their ability to feed Canadians.

My particular reality is quite different from one which focuses on global trade. It is simply not correct to assume that competiveness in a global market will necessarily put more money in farmers’ pockets. Based on realistic facts and solid research, farm incomes have been virtually unchanged since 1970, while the value of farm products has steadily increased. Nearly all of that gain has paid out to other links in the chain. Finally it is simply not the truth that gross farm income and farmers’ ability to access credit is the proper measure of the health ofCanada’s food system.

Joan Brady is the Women’s President of the National Farmers Union and farms with her family nearDashwoodOntario. She can be reached at 519-237-3163.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tomato Tuesday-Cherished Cherries and Precious Pears

Have a tomato and be happy!

Some of my very favourite heirloom tomatoes happen to be the small varieties. Nothing more wonderful than working in the garden and snacking on some sweet treats as you work.

There were a few last year that most people didn't get a chance to try...I ate the majority of them .  I can get pretty hungry out in the garden with all the physical work.

Perhaps my favourite cherry last year was Elfin, which you will find on my  tomato transplant listing , along with other perennial favourites such as Green Doctors, Brown Berry, Cuban Yellow Grape , Dr Carolyn's,Isis Candy Cherry and Snow White .

Red cherry types are not usually my favourite, but Elfin was exceptional.  It is a small grape shaped fruit, and was as sweet as candy.  The way I grew it could have resulted in a skin that was a bit thicker, but i also know the way I grew it made the taste maybe just a bit better.

All the tomatoes in my hoop houses last year were watered until they were established and I could see growth.  But then the water stopped.  I had read about this technique with tomatoes called "dry farming", and I guess it is quite popular in California. Obviously in Southern Ontario we get a bit more rain seasonally than California, so to mimic their results I did it in a rain free environment; my hoop house.

The flavour of the stressed plants under plastic was exceptional, far superior to the fruit outdoors which only received water courtesy of the weather.  Although they were good too-clay does improve the taste of tomatoes in my humble opinion.

But Elfin under these conditions was fabulous. And amazingly, the deprived plants didn't die, but carried on.

Withholding water is something to consider trying this year.

Back to the tomatoes however.  If you manage to make it out to my sale on May 21 and 22 there are more wonderful small fruiting tomato plants to check out.  Or if you're not in the area, these varieties may be worth finding.

Striped Black Cherry- A nice sweet and very attractive fruit, black/ brown with green striping. I always find the skin is a bit thick, but nonetheless a great bite.

Piedmont Pear- I love this tomato. A small pear shaped fruit, pale yellow and a red mottling.  So sweet and attractive.

Aunt Ruby's German Green Cherry- A nice small green when ripe cherry with a distinctive taste. Yum.

Thompson Classic Seedless Grape- Seeds for this exceptional tomato were given to me by Tom Wagner, it's creator, when I met him at an SSE convention in Iowa several years ago. A bit bigger than a cherry, it is a smallish plant, green in colour with a bit of a yellow sheen when ripe, and unbelievable flavour.

Capuchino-Lovely sweet brown is.....
Chocolate Cherry- and...
Sandy's Chocolate Cherry.

Cinnamon Pear-Small brown pear shaped fruit, deliciously sweet. I also have Ivory Pear, a few different strains of yellow pear, and a few different strains of red pear.

Dr Carolyn's Pink- Lovely pink cherry, mild flavoured and sweet.

Cerise Orange-a tangy and distinctive orange cherry

I'm starting to run out of descriptive adjectives now.  Can I just say they are all exceptional or I wouldn't grow them?

People love Cuban Yellow Grape. You get tons of small sweet little yellow grape tomatoes.  Then we have the currants....yellow (Gold Rush), white and red (Sweet Pea).  My favourite is has a very distinctive taste, and of course is....what else? Sweet !

Also look for Golden Grape, Fablonelstyni (a flattish, cute as a button tiny beefsteak), Mirabelle (prolific small yellow grape), Yellow Ping Pong, Amy's Sugar gem (red), Ceylon (cute, small ruffled fruit), Korney's Jelly Bean, Red Pearl, Red Supreme, Red Robin and yes, there's more.

Don't know what to try?  They're small... try them all!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Growing Food in Niagara - How things change in 14 years : Part 3 Local and Organic ?

When I first started growing and selling vegetables, I was organic.  But local wasn't a buzz word. And locavore  - an illness? A new tender fruit?

But my oh my, how that has all changed.

I'm local now, although of course I always was, and organic is a word I just can't use anymore. It isn't that I have changed my growing methods or have started on a heavy regime of nasty chemicals..not at all.  It is just that the word is one I have to pay to use now..I have to have someone else come out to my farm to tell you what I could tell you myself. Or you could come out to the farm and see.

And according to the standards, the certifiers are more honest than me.

I truly believe most people who are certified are honest people, just as most people are. But when people are led to believe that certified organic produce and other certified farm products are the only assurance that products are organic, my hackles are raised.

Do I know of certified producers cheating personally?  Yes, I do.

Be clear, a certificate means absolutely nothing if the farmer is unethical. Until there is actual field testing, certification relies on a farmer's honesty. Period.

I'm not the only one who thinks that way.

Mischa Popoff, a former organic inspector concurs.  On April 11, 2011 his interesting take on the whole "certified" issue was considered in the National Post.  The comments that follow the article show how divisive this whole issue really is. Read more here.

Whew...always a topic that I get carried away with!

Over the last few years since certification has been required, I haven't seen a huge change in my business as a result.  My long term customers have't demanded I become certified, nor the restaurants and stores either. New customers still come on board.

I've chosen not to use labels like "truly organic', "beyond organic", "natural or authentic". They mean as little as organic now.

I still am a test gardener for Rodale's Gardening magazine. Nope, they didn't boot me out.  And J.J.Rodale was considered the father of the organic movement. Wonder what he would think of it all? I was actually the chair of the Niagara Chapter of Canadian Organic Growers when the standards were introduced. Whew...that can't be right. Maybe that's why it is now defunct.

The local craze hit big over the last 4 years too.

Has this changed my business?  Well, yes and no.

It hasn't improved my business or given me more business.  What it has done is introduced more farmers markets and CSA's, more growers and we have the same number of people buying. Maybe a few more.

I'm glad more people are growing, especially people younger than myself. I'm glad more people are supporting local farmers.

But until there is a rethinking of farming, it is just slicing the same size pie into pieces that are just a bit smaller.

I no longer go to the market I helped form.  At one time I had line-ups for my bags of mixed salad greens.  Then everyone began growing them, or reselling them and price became the biggest selling feature. Mine was $4.00 for a 1/2 lb, a fruit farmer who was reselling had it for $2.50. Romaine heads being resold next to me for 50 cents. I can't grow it for that price. Sayonara market!

If I wanted to travel to Toronto, I know the markets are more lucrative. But I don't.

Price, for most people is the biggest consideration when buying food.  That's it.

People who have always bought from me continue to, some new people come on board.  But most of my sales are now to restaurants.

And not the restaurants who make the most noise about being local.

I've had my vegetables listed as being on menus at restaurants I have never sold to.  My tomatoes on menus in May, when  I don't have them at that time of year.

I've been invited to appear a events in restaurants so there is the appearance of a close relationship with a chef. Sometimes there is no relationship...only for the event, but not before or after.

There certainly are those prepared to exploit the whole local thing.

Organizations were formed to help bridge the farm to consumer gap.

The Niagara Culinary Trail, the recipient of a cool $250,000 "Friends of the Greenbelt" grant has now gone the way of the wooly mammoth. Farmers had to pay to join, while hired staff made salaries.  If you don't pay, you don't exist on their map and in their media they pretend you don't exist at all. You may farm here in Niagara, but oddly, you don't.

Ahh, and food miles.  That was the big thing of the NCT.

(I'm not even going to begin to get into the topic of the Greenbelt here.)

It doesn't necessarily translate that food produced closest to home is the most environmentally friendly, as people would like you to believe. On the website Grainews , (  "food miles" are revealed to be what they really are. A marketing fad.

"People might choose to buy local for the food's freshness or flavour, or out of support for the local community, "but if you're doing it to save the planet, you're being misguided," University of Toronto professor Pierre Desrochers said in a separate story recently on CBC.

In a recent policy paper, Desrochers said the concept of "food miles" is based what he called a faulty premise: that transportation is the chief contributor to greenhouse gases in food production and processing.

"Food miles are, at best, a marketing fad," he said in his report, citing "efficient" farms in California raising roughly 17 times as many strawberries as a typical Ontario farmer on the same acreage base and using the same resources.

"When you're that efficient you can invest in better handling and storage," Desrochers told CBC. "The environmental impact of transportation isn't very significant."

He cited studies showing British farmers emit 2,394 kg of carbon dioxide for every tonne of tomatoes they produce, while Spanish farmers produce only 630 kg of carbon dioxide but produce the same amount.

And rose producers in Kenya emit 6,000 kg of carbon dioxide for every 12,000 cut flowers they sell in Europe, whereas Dutch competitors generate 35,000 kg to do the same.

Desrochers told CBC he's not opposed to buying local but urged consumers to be aware of foods' seasons and geography. "A 100-mile diet might be quite economical and varied in Vancouver... (but) it's quite a different story in Edmonton, for example."

Niagara Agri-tourism, the  arch rival of the Culinary Trail is gone as well.  Yes, I was included on that map and without a fee.  But lots of people who should have been on it weren't.

These organizations left me with the sense that their biggest goal was actually to promote themselves and the folks at their helm. Goals like selling their own books and products, instead of promoting farmers.

Should it not be equal promotion of all farmers, restaurants and wines, not just those who have kissed ass (sorry). In Niagara it is not usually the farmer who is considered the "local food hero"'s the promoters.

And I'm not sure that's what farmers want. I can only speak for myself.  I want to sell what I grow. I don't want to be a hero. I want to see decent payment for what I work hard to produce.  I don't think there are any farmers whose goal is to remain amongst the working poor or end their year with a negative income.

Governments need to step up and truly support farmers.  There is something wrong in the system when farmers whose work is essential are required to live below the poverty level, or work off farm to produce food that is inexpensive enough for all the rest of the and poor.

And in Niagara we need a regional effort to support all farmers equally and get the true and accurate word out about what everyone is producing and selling. Kitchener-Waterloo does it wonderfully well, as do Hamilton and Perth County amongst others.

So at this time what is there left in Niagara? Absolutely nothing (say it again).

We've had so many "local food" discussions, at the regional level, through the university, and within individual cities. Some of these discussions have shut out farmers.

I don't see it has gone anywhere.

The only reason my business has increased over the last few years is because I have continued to diversify and work even harder. Not because of local, not because of organic.  Perhaps even in spite of them.

Is this a rant? Perhaps.

But I am extremely happy with what I do and I have developed some extremely important relationships over the last 4 years of business. I just try to ignore all the noise, and forge ahead with the motto "ignorance is bliss".  Head down, hoe in the soil.  Nothing has changed the fact that my seeds grow and I love what I do.

Regrets?  Not at all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Small Business BIG Impact Challenge

Please vote for me in "The Small Business Big Impact Challenge" brought to you in part by Scotiabank... 
Just click on the title of this blog entry to follow the link, it's also posted on the side of my blog.
Every vote counts,
Thank you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tomato Tuesday-Great and colourful pastes and canners

There are some tomatoes I just swoon over.

Federle rocks!

And absolutely one of my favourite varieties ever is the magnificent Federle. Meaty and rich flavoured, this banana shaped fruit (1"x6" or bigger!) has it all.  I gave some plants to one of my friends years ago and her verdict was " with a tomato like this out there, why the heck is the roma so popular?"  My feeling exactly.

Other great pastes and canners you'll find on my list of the "Top 100" include Howard German, Costoluto Fiorentino and Genovese, Franchi Red Pear, San Marzano, striped wonders like Speckled Roman and Tonnelet, Green Sausage, Orange Banana and Cream Sausage. Your sauce can be red, but also white, orange, green and more. Check out my website,, for more info on these varieties.

If you come to my "Tomato Days" event there are many others you can expect to find here.

Plum Tigress: (80 days) 4 oz plum tomato, red with gold striping. Meaty flesh, nicely flavoured.

Striped Roman Yellow: (90 days) 6-8 oz sausage shaped fruit, yellow, with deeper gold striping. Dry, meaty flesh.

Canary Rose:(70 days)  I grew this small determinate plant for the first time last year. Big production of very dry, but sweet 4 oz pink plum tomatoes.

Antique Roman: (90 days) Sausage shaped yellow paste, 6 -8 oz. Mild sweet flavour, dry flesh.

Banana Legs:similar to above.

Plum lemon: (80 days) Is it a lemon or tomato? Sure looks like a lemon! 5 oz very pretty tomato, dry sweet and mild flesh


Amish Paste: (75 days) A wonderful canning tomato 4-8 oz, so juicy and rich flavoured. Actually a bit too juicy to be considered a paste-type.Long plum type, with pointed end.  Good production.

Andes: (75 days) Red pepper shaped, 5 oz. Rich and meaty with few seeds.

Baylor Paste: (75 days) 2 oz red egg shaped fruit. prolific producer and does well under stressful conditions. Wonderful flavour.

Carol Chykos:(95 days) 10-16 oz large heart shaped tomatoes. Wonderful flavour for canning or paste, although a bit juicier than some pastes.

Chinese Paste:(85 days) Fantastic paste type-very dry sweet flesh. Pepper shaped with pointed end, 6- 10 oz. Also superb for drying.

Enormous Plum: (80 days) 1 lb plum, delcious and meaty.

Martino's Roma: (80 days) Huge production of TASTY romas, on a small plant.

Kenosha Paste: (80 days) Superb flavour in a mid sized paste. Very small seed cavity.

Opalka:Very similar to Federle, but a tad smaller.

I also have many terrific tomatoes that would be considered great for canning.
Bonnie Best, Box Car Willie, Homestead, Santa Clara canner, Stokesdale and many, many more.

If you are thinking home production this summer of sauce, salsa , stewed or simply canned tomatoes, please head out to Wellandport May 21,22 to check out the possibilities. Not endless...but there are quite a few!

Growing Food in Niagara - How things change in 14 years : PART 2 The first 10 years

When my husband and I bought our country property, the land had been unused for years. What initially became the main part of my garden, had only ever been used as a pasture for cows, horses and goats. Nice to start with virgin land.

I didn't have to worry about past chemical abuses on my soil....there simply hadn't been any.  Ahh, but the clay.  That's another story.  

When I first started growing food, I grew food produced the way I wanted my family to eat.  Organically.  No chemicals, and with the goal of improving my clay soil.  I grew cover crops and green manures, added compost, manure and leaves to my soil, and mulched.  I used the word "organic" with no hesitation.

It was...and still is. But that's another story now.

I wasn't growing "local" food, I was just growing food. Organic food.

There is a huge learning curve involved in growing food. The biggest and most important thing is understanding your land and soil. Unlike the prevailing wisdom

which says to plan your garden in the winter, with my particular land that is simply unwise.

I have pockets of heavy clay, areas of a lighter clay loam, and other areas that are simply beautiful loam.  I have low spots and  hilly areas.  Because each spring is different, wet, dry, cool or warm...and sadly, poorly predicted by my farmers almanac, I need to figure out my plan when I see what my conditions are.

Early crops go in the area which dries out first, and that is weather contingent.  An ideal spring gives me many options.  Can't think of many "ideal" springs the last few years.

Initially my customer base was friends and folks who learned about what I was doing by word of mouth.

And what I was doing was delivering full bushels of my produce once a week to about 10 families. I added a newsletter that provided identification of some of the produce and recipes to use. The newsletters were pretty funky. Emily did the art work in them.  When I find one in my filing drawer I still have to smile.

If I recall correctly, I was doing this on a Friday night.  I was gone for hours, with Emily in tow.  Of course I stayed and chatted with everyone. Sat down, enjoyed a cup of tea and conversation on the way.

Home after dark most "veggie route" days. But it was fun and really something I looked forward too. 

I really didn't know that I was doing a CSA.  In fact I'd never heard of the term.
It just seemed like a good idea to me. Know that what you are growing is sold, instead of hoping it is.

The only complaint I had from people that first year was that it was too much food. No one complained about the price or quality, but just that I was overly generous with my produce.

My business evolved as the years went by.  My "CSA" numbers grew, again by word of mouth and a little bit of advertising and some timely press. I was up to about 35 families, and had to stop home delivery, instead delivering my now smaller bushels at one persons home for that particular community.

Then I developed a bit of a waiting list after a bit more press and more word of mouth.  Realistically, as one person I could only do as much as I was doing. I thought.

What I was growing too changed in those first few years. I began to be truly interested in things that were different to grow, my mom's influence for sure.

The Brandywine and Yellow Pear tomatoes, arugula (which one of my friends/customers described as skunky tasting!), and other offerings which at the time were not common place.

I joined and became active and inspired by the organizations Seeds of Diversity, Seed Savers Exchange, Kokopelli and The Henry Doubleday Research Association.  Heirloom vegetable heaven! And began saving more seed.

On an "thinking" run one day, about 10 years ago (like I needed the exercise!), I had the brilliant idea I should be selling heirloom tomato plants.  People loved the heirloom tomatoes in their basket, and I reasoned if people plant any vegetable in their garden, it's tomatoes. You just couldn't go to a garden centre and buy these plants.  So that started that.

                               And up went the first hoop house.

Two more followed.

My friend Maria, a fellow gardener felt there had to be a different way for me.  She saw the CSA as a huge amount of work for me, and together we decided we would approach Pelham about a farmers market. I believe that was 8 years ago.  But I didn't give up the CSA actually. I just worked a little bit harder.

I met many, many wonderful people over those years.  Some of those people I now count among my best friends. Some, like my friends Shirley and Phil, whom I met because of what I do, have been with me since the beginning.

The saying "it's  not personal, it's just business" I see as an opinion. In my business, it's just stupid. Success in a small business depends on it being personal, because it is what the big boys (or girls) can't do.  I strive to grow the best food I can, do what I say I do, and be honest and reliable. And beyond that, I just like meeting people and talking to them.  Perhaps that's part of the social worker in me. But it is who I am.

The transplants became a hit.  No one else was doing it.

I began growing in the winter, a la Eliot Coleman, because why should the hoop houses just sit there for the season unused?

The market grew in popularity as did my CSA. There simply weren't many organic growers in Niagara.  And the interest in the heirloom tomato plants exceeded anything I could have anticipated, with my sales doubling annually and my choice of varieties growing too.  Hasselman's Nursery in Ridgeway was my first big supporter, and soon after that, "Tomato Days" here at the farm began.

I truly never could have anticipated that things would have fallen into place the way they did. Timing, luck ? I don't know, but I felt blessed.

(next up... Part 3 "The last four years- what has the local and certified organic movement done for me?"