Are you tired of going out to eat and the only vegetable you are offered is French fried potatoes? Boring! Last night I was delighted to be serves a wonderful blend of freshly prepared vegetables. The side salad was a light and fresh start to the meal. Then our main meat was mixed with sautéed red peppers, onions and mushrooms. Piled beside was a mix of broccoli, green beans, and carrots all hand cut and steamed. Roasted seasoned potatoes rounded out the selection. Our dinner guests remarked that they were happily getting their share of vegetables for the day.
(Sorry but my picture came out fuzzy. People were staring at the crazy lady capturing her food.)
I must share that we were at the Verde Café in Camp Verde, Arizona. I know not local to many of our Facebbook friends but lets start the conversation where menus are including delicious vegetables this time of year. Maybe eating healthy isn’t our first thought when we go out, but it’s nice to have the choice when we do. If we support restaurant menus with vegetable now, maybe they will support their local farmers in the summer.
Let us know where you find your winter vegetables on our Facebook page so others can too.
I know I haven’t blog in a really long time. Mostly I feel what I have to say might not interest you, or there isn’t much to write about. Then yesterday I did a slow burn after shopping in the produce department of our local store.
Like most of you this time of year I am forces to buy my “fresh” produce from the store in town. I hope all my CSA members are scrutinizing their produce as closely as I do during the winter months. I’ll pick up the yellow peppers that are slightly soft and try to gauge how long since they were picked. I’ll feel along the length of the cucumber and try to determine how many more days it might last. I am buying produce that would not meet our standard for the CSA bags. I would throw them out on the farm. But now I try to decide on the best of the bunch.
I’m not criticizing the produce manager, he can only work with what the industry’s logistics system can get to him and still call “fresh”. But this is not what started my slow burn. It was the young man tossing tomatoes onto the display. Yes tossing. Anyone who as worked for me knows I have a pet peeve about handling tomatoes as gently as eggs. When I saw how haphazardly he grabbed the bunches I had to say something. His remark was “They will be ok”. How dose he know, is he going to watch them turn mushy on the kitchen counter? I bought a few just to save them from further abuse.
Now, I will continue to buy my “fresh” produce at this store. What choice do I have this time of year? But with each bit I tell myself, “Just a few more months until the real “fresh” is here.”
Back to School with Local Lunches
How to connect schools with local produce has been the discussion of several meetings over the past few months. Local school food service personnel are trying to learn how they can bring some of our local harvest into their cafeterias. Covered Bridge Gardens hosted a group of food service supervisors, teachers and school groups to learn what is growing in their area. We were one of several farms they visited as they toured Ashtabula County.
There are some obstacles for both farmers and schools to make this happen. Every small step is a step in the right direction. Here are some of the concerns.
A. Fresh harvesting is mainly in the summer when schools are out. There is small window in September and October when late season vegetables are available.
B. Do schools have the budget for the cost of local produce?
C. What is the quickest way to communicate what we have and get orders? Calling each school or farm will take a lot of time each week.
D. Will farmers be required to deliver the orders or will schools pool resources for a pick-up service?
E. Will kids want to eat new things and not waste it?
F. Can schools add more meal prep time to the payroll budget?
Most schools are trying to get local with apples and fruit available over the school year. But something as simple as fresh eggs has some people balking when they can get them powdered and don’t have to worry about storage and messy preps.
Let’s approach this from a different angle. Let’s help parents learn how to put local in their kids’ lunch bags. I hope I’m not too far off base but this is what I hear adults taking for lunches during our CSA season and think kids can follow with the same.
For example, add local lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads for their sandwiches.
Have the kids involved by helping to make pickled vegetables, homemade soups or jams. If you have any suggestions how parents and schools can bring local and school lunches together, please share them on our Facebook page.
In order to help you gather all the fresh vegetables for your weekly menu we have a new look. This week we expanded our displays at the Shaker Square and Ashtabula Markets to three tents long.
This gives us enough room to show off all our harvest so you can easily find what you need.
Look for the blue tablecloths and the large white truck. The longer look takes all three of us to make sure you are served.
Well the best thing I can say about July is it is over. One of the rainiest months in history with over a foot of water. It seemed that every cloud that drifted over the farm opened up and dropped more rain. We say more standing water in the field that we have seen before. If it wasn’t raining it was gloomy and damp. Not ideal conditions for plants to survive.
We got a short reprieve toward the end of the month. the summer squash and cucumbers exploded with blossoms and fruit only to be drowned in the last week ending productivity again. Early cauliflower and broccoli simply gave up and produce small heads. The field tomatoes have a layer of yellow leaves around the lower branches contesting to the over abundance of water.
One bright note was the juicy sweet greenhouse tomatoes. Here is a picture of the early green fruit.
We are picking about 50 pounds a day of these beauties. Protected form the harsh rains and given warm and the right amount of water they are thriving. On this bright note we enter August.
The rain stopped this past Thursday and blue skies are exspected for the next week. No too soon by the looks of the fields. We got 4 inched on Wednesday as the last storms rolled through. We could a month now without rain and not be hurting.
The whole mood of the shoppers at the market changed with the weather. Everyone seemed happy and hardly anyone complained of the heat. Picking in the fields was so enjoyable with a light breeze keeping humidity down. Though there is standing water in some parts of the fields the plants are actually getting out of the water for the first time in over a month. We did lose plants in areas where they just could not live in the deep water.
Hopefully this will be a turn around and crops will take off. The first broccoli did not even produce heads, early cauliflower turned brown while rows of peas turned yellow and matued too fast. This weekend we picked the first blushing tomatoes, summer squash has taken off and cucumbers are filling out. These made for good markets this weekend as people had some new ingredients for their weekly menues. Though it was too muddy to get the tractor in the fields Steve did dig some potatoes by hand. The reds were a big hit with everyone. There is nothing like the flavor of fresh boiled potatoes.
Through all of this the herbs have produced. I picked nearly 8 pounds of basil and 6 pounds of parsley. Our dill is filling out and will go great with the cucumbers in the week 5 CSA bags.
We can only take each day as we get it but I take a lot more of these please.
For what ever reasonI couldn’t find the time to logo in with any news. So I will summerize June.
Let me say it another way…
Can’t get in the fields…
Can’t get the last plants in…
too much water unde the bridge on Netcher Rd.
Wow where has the time gone. It’s the end of May already.
A speaker once talked about Ready, Set, Go. Many of us get ready to do something, we move to the all set mode and then never go. In farming we spend the winter getting ready. We order the seeds, purchase equipment and make plans. In the Spring things start to come together. We start fitting the fields, laying plastic mulch and starting the plants. We are set to go. Then we wait for the weather to tell us it’s time to go..
We move at the first sign of warm weather and then pull back as chances of frost or rain make planting impossible. Then it’s go again with the next warm spell. Some plants are actually growing like onions, lettuce and radishes. This gives a false sense of hope. But by June the temperatures are warmer and all the plants are ready for planting. Seeds will actually germinate in the warm soil and those early plants are loving the longer sunny days.
So now we are ready to GO!
Today for example I am picking mints, chives, onions and shallots for the market tomorrow. Even with a chance of rain our customers are looking for fresh ingredients for their weekly menus.
See you at the market.
The North Union Market is every Saturday on the Square in Cleveland Heights from 8-noon.
Sorry, I have gotten behind entering new blogs so I decided to give you a Spring summary.
The weather has been the best in three years. We are getting needed rain at the right times and drying out so we can get back int he fields and do more work. Temperatures have swung from 40s-70s in the same week but are rising a little more each week. We have broccoli, cabbage, celery and onions in.
A late frost threatened on the 12th of May and everyone went out to cover the tender crops with a thin cloth. It helped but the early basil was nipped. Some will come back with this warm spell.
I took daffodils to the early markets. We missed the first one in April hoping for warmer weather but that didn’t seem to help. We had snow the third weekend in April. Yes that is snow piling up around the popcorn on the table. I was wearing 5 layers to keep warm.
But the fruit trees didn’t seem to mind. They were the fullest I have ever seen them. I would love to pick Asian pears again. The small trees were put in for fun but one year they produced enough for us to share with CSA members.
Speaking of CSAs. We are reducing our stops this year and seeing and overall decline in interest. That doesn’t mean we will not have lots of members to fill bags for again this year. You can find more information about our program at our site coveredbridgegardens.com.
Over the winter the top of our one greenhouse blew off. It did not damage the structure of the house so by the first of May we were able to get a new top back on. It will be planted in tomatoes this year.
We have lettuce and tomatoes started in the oldest greenhouse. This is a look inside the house in late April. For a while the plants had to be hand watered. Now the irrigation pump is up and ready so it only takes the turn of a switch.
This year Steven and Mick are planting more corn and soy beans and so the need for a bigger tractor and disc. Bigger is better. You know this if your have ever mowed your yard with a little lawn mower and then got a big riding one. The ground is ruff and tractor are not known for their suspension systems.
Today’s the great Verde River Downriver Challenge. I think I have that right. They changed the name this year and I still call it the canoe challenge. Regardless of the name it is lots of fun. They follow the river for ten miles, coming right by our farm.
Three years ago we started a tradition of gathering on the bank and cheering them on. They are grouped by age, number in the canoe and kayaks too. The college age groups are usually a little tipsy by the time they get to us. Many end up in the water. We have even helped a few get back in and head on down. It’s about 5 feet deep at our point so no threat of drowning .
We have a ring side view of the parade of characters coming by. I will Facebook photos for sure. Our troupe has grown to 12 this year. We take coolers long and enjoy the company of good friends along with the sun. It’s followed by a lunch in the apartment. So if you will excuse me, I better get to cutting the tomatoes and sweeping the deck before our friends arrive.