Lost and found:
Treasures left at the farm on our Open Day:
Pink Crocs, kiddie sandals and a blue hat. If any of these are yours, let us know and we’ll send them home in your box.
We thank all who came to visit on our Open Farm Day- It was our pleasure to host you, meet you, nosh with you and even contra dance with you. Thanks to everyone who lent a hand: Suwet, Poom, Sousou, Alon, Tamir, Melissa and Yossi. To our associates who came to meet with you: Danny of “Danny and Galit Granola and Cookies,” Moran from Yotav Dairy, and Yiftah, the bread maker.
Special thanks to our family members who helped out, especially to my parents who were in charge of the arts and crafts. There’s no one quite like you!
The Hazel Hill String Band added a very distinctive touch with American folk music. Thank you, and thanks to Howard who introduced us and led the contra dancing.
See you at our next Open Day, on Pesach!
Maggie’s Sprouts are back, starting next week. If you’re already on the list, you’ll resume receiving the sprouts as before the break. If you would like to begin receiving these delicious, nutritious sprouts, please let us know.
A Farmer’s Introspection – Part 2
It’s a little strange to start introspecting, take a two-week break, and then start again…If you don’t remember where we left off last time, you are welcome to go back and read Part One of our introspection here.
Last time I wrote about our infrastructure: our land, and especially about solutions in the offing for problems of drainage and ventilation. For now, I’ll devote this section to the plants themselves. Since they are all our children, and there isn’t room to discuss each of the dozens of types of vegetables we grow, Alon and I chose some representative crops from the various seasons.
We’ll begin with the autumn and winter crops, which always start off the year. Last year we changed the planting schedule for broccoli and cauliflower– instead of every three weeks, we began planting a new round every other week. At the same time, we brought up the date of the final plantings to the middle of December. As a result, we planted an amount similar to past years in a shorter period of time. We were spurred to make the change by the sad fact that up till now, the last plantings of the season which had been in early February resulted in bitter disappointment for us every year: the young, fresh broccoli would get a grayish pallor, the new cauliflower would turn yellow, and at a youthful age they already looked old and wilted. It seems that in our area, their season to flourish is wintertime, while the late plantings that work perfectly well for farmers from other areas are simply not right for us. Our broccoli and cauliflower season ended in May, and thus shall it be this year as well. Over the season we enjoyed fine quantities of beautiful, tasty broccoli and cauliflower, and we’ll be quite pleased to chalk up similar results this year as well.
Over the past year we made an attempt at planting beets as seedlings. Usually we seed the beets, but this time we sent the seeds to a nursery and requested they prepare plants for us. Simultaneously, we planned each seeding alternately with the planting. The consequences were inconsistent, specifically because the plants arriving from the nursery were not always high quality. It’s not easy making good beet plants – the beet seeds, which are the sheaves (i.e., each seed is really a bunch of seeds connected to each other- take a close look someday), require very gentle thinning out, and the fragile roots of the beet need to be handled with great care. Thus, upon receiving new and strong plants, they were acclimatized nicely in the ground and developed well, but in other cases—where the plants were weak–there was great disappointment, and even a full crop of plants that was not acclimatized!
So why even try this method of planting? The advantage is quicker ripening, since we’re working with a plant instead of having to wait for a seed to sprout. There’s also a saving on thinning and weeding the beds, a task which requires a systematic, meticulous process when we seed. The advantage of seeds, aside from their strength, is that the seeded beds ripen gradually, allowing various selective harvestings, where we only harvest the big and ripe roots. Roots in planted beds usually ripen at the same time.
Our conclusion from the past year is to continue combining planting and seeding, allowing our nursery another chance at improving the beet plants, in order to continue our experimental analysis.
And from winter to spring and summer crops: this year we took a three-pronged approach at preventative treatment for our tomato crop. Every year we have struggled in confronting the tomato yellow leaf curl virus that attacks our tomato bushes. This virus is transmitted by the Bemisia tabaci whitefly, which results in the tomato plants turning yellow and dying prematurely. The tomato is a perennial plant, and a healthy tomato bush can be planted in the beginning of the season and produce fruit throughout. When I worked in the U.S., we would plant one round of climbing tomato bushes and pick from it till wintertime. The problem in Israel is that the vicious whiteflies are everywhere, making it extremely difficult to grow healthy tomatoes in an open field, particularly as summer progresses (another reason to raise tomatoes in a hothouse, protected from unwanted insect-guests).
For some years we have been searching for solutions. From climber tomatoes and half-climbers we moved to tomato bushes that are limited in their growth period, and for some years we have been experimenting with various varieties that should be insect-resistant. So this year we pushed up the tomato planting, used resistant types, and for the first time we gave the tomato bushes a preventative treatment by spraying them with liquid sulfur.
Planting tomatoes earlier makes life easier. The whiteflies aren’t so prevalent and so the virus isn’t as widespread. This year we planted the tomatoes as early as March and covered the young plants with low tunnels of transparent plastic to protect them from the harshness of winter. Early planting requires protection, but then proves its worth as the bushes are healthier and our tomatoes grow early in the season. The durable types we planted this year are Chanit and Smadar (newcomers on our farm) and Amiela (which we’ve planted before). They are not completely immune–when we planted them again in July and August, they caught the virus at a young stage.
The liquid sulfur we used this year was a method we’d avoided till now (although sulfur and all forms of copper are acceptable in organic farming), since these substances can harm field insects and upset the gentle, critical balance we try to create in the field. However, when we realized we could not cope with the virus any other way, we chose the liquid sulfur, which is relatively safe for the indigenous insects and our natural, desired enemies. The consequences were satisfactory and we enjoyed a bountiful tomato season.
Our cherry tomatoes, too, were a new, virus-resistant type coined Timothy. Their resistance proved to be greater during the first season, but we also noticed that the bushes were not all high-quality ones and we weren’t always happy with their taste. Some of the tomatoes were bland and not very tasty. We will continue to explore possibilities next year.
This three-pronged formula will continue next year as well. We will attempt to make the planting as early as February, to prolong the season of healthy tomatoes, but with no solution as yet for the later seasons. I suppose that in this case we must concede to the forces of nature and accept the small insects and viruses that are still stronger than us. A lesson in modesty.
Another lesson in modesty and subservience is taught by the Dacus ciliatus, the lesser pumpkin fly. If you don’t remember him, here’s a reminder. At the conclusion of this year, we have no solutions for combating this fly. In June we planted another round of cucumbers and zucchini, but have not managed to yield good produce. Our solution for melons, cucumbers and zucchini is similar to that for the tomato – timing. Here, too, we will attempt to seed as early as February and protect them with plastic. We are not giving up, and are continually exploring various alternatives to find a viable solution for this problem.
On the Open Day, Eitan, a veteran costumer, asked about the bountiful corn crop we had this year. True, we had a lot of corn in the farm. We seeded more, expanding by almost fifty percent. There were, of course, difficulties: the first round, seeded in mid-March, suffered from cold, and soon afterwards we discovered that the Super Sweet type we seed indeed has difficulty in low temperatures. In the May and June seeding there were occasional pollination problems, causing the corncobs to be sparsely filled, but all in all it was a good year for corn. May we have more to come!
And with these sweet, encouraging words we will depart this week. Best wishes for a happy “Acharei HaChagim” and an easy return to routine.
Alon, Bat Ami, Melissa, and the Chubeza team
This Week’s Boxes Include:
Monday: pumpkin, arugula, scallions, lubia (cowpea) or yard long beans, corn, peppers or tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, cilantro, lettuce, beets, sweet potatoes, cucumbers
In the large box, in addition: okra, Swiss chard, eggplant
Wednesday: pumpkin, lettuce, cucumbers, cilantro, tomatoes, lubia (cowpea), red beets, leeks, arugula, sweet potaoes, corn
In the large box, in addition: basil or mint, gren and red peppers, okra or eggplant
Unconventional Recipes for Conventional Days:
Thank goodness we’re finally “acharei ha-chagim,” enjoying, I hope, the serenity and leisure time to prepare quiet, less-well-attended meals at home. Below are several out of the ordinary suggestions for returning to the calm:
A good while ago, Shai sent me a link to his recipes on Ynet, and here is an outstanding opportunity to introduce you to a first sample: Potato, Raw Beets and Roasted Red Peppers
A very colorful, sassy salad, composed of four distinct and vibrant layers of vegetables. The trick is to prepare the vegetables in advance and only assemble the individual salad servings just moments before serving. (The beets will quickly dye the entire creation if assembled too far in advance.)
Ingredients: For four portions:
2 large handfuls of new potatoes
2 medium-size beets, peeled and grated
2 medium red peppers
6 scallions, chopped thin
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
Juice of half a lemon
¼ cup pure virgin olive oil
Atlantic sea salt
Black pepper, freshly ground
Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
- Bake potatoes in their skins until soft, but not too soft. Transfer to bowl filled with ice water to stop further baking. Peel and slice in circles 1-centimeter thick.
- While potatoes are baking, roast red pepper skins over an open flame or by torching. Do not broil, in order to preserve the fleshy texture of the peppers. After the peppers are browned on all sides, place in a covered bowl for around 10 minutes. Peel the peppers by hand (not under running water). If desired, paper towels may be used to remove scraps of skin. Spread the peppers in 1-centimeter rings, cut each ring in half lengthwise, and reserve.
- Prepare the dressing: Mix the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper and salt in a bowl.
- Arrange the salad: In each salad bowl, place one quarter of the potatoes, covered by a layer of one quarter of the beets, covered by one quarter of the roasted peppers piled on top, topped by chopped scallions sprinkled above and along the sides. Pour several tablespoons of dressing into each salad serving, and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
Chana from Tel Aviv sent me this recipe for curried pumpkin, perfect for a cool autumn evening (may many of them come upon us….soon). Curried Pumpkin
1 container of coconut milk
2 T. crushed red curry
1 kilo (or less) pumpkin, unpeeled (but washed), cut into medium cubes
1 large handful of frozen peas
2 tomatoes, peeled and cut into cubes (fresh tomatoes which have been plunged into boiling water for a few moments to remove their skins—not canned tomatoes)
2 Swiss chard leaves or several handfuls of fresh spinach
1 t. brown sugar
2 t. fish sauce
1 T. lemon juice
Coriander (for those who prefer)
-Bring half the coconut milk to a boil in a flat pan, and after 2-3 minutes melt the crushed curry inside.
-Add the pumpkin, remaining coconut milk, and if necessary add enough water to just cover the pumpkin. Bring to a boil and cook for around 15 minutes (or more, depending on the pumpkin type—especially if it’s kabocha).
-When pumpkin is almost soft, add peas, tomatoes, spinach/Swiss chard, and other ingredients (except for the coriander).
-Bring to a boil and cook until the spinach/Swiss chard leaves are soft.
-Turn off flame and add coriander.
-Serve over rice. Excellent as a main course as well.