We did a bit of work at the end of last week preparing a couple of new field blocks. We aren't completely maxed out on flat space on the hilltop, but we are getting close. I think these new field blocks will allow us to add 10-15 more CSA members next year, which will get us very close to our ultimate production goals for the farm. When we first started creating farm beds here 8 years old, we were running against the clock trying to open up new ground just in time to plant crops into it. While this can definitely work if you need to get into a new space, we are learning that it is so much better to plan a year ahead of time to open new field blocks. The longer time frame enables us to do a lot of important prep work. Cole has a new tractor and used it to grade the new area (most flat sections aren't uniformly flat, and you need to plan for drainage so that you don't end up with water pooling in certain areas after heavy downpours). We let weeds germinate for a couple of weeks, then covered it with tarps for several more weeks to kill those early weeds. After pulling the tarps off last week, I ammended the area with high calcium lime (our soil has a naturally lower pH) and some composted chicken manure before seeding our summer cover crops (sorghum sundan grass for biomass and soil tilth and cowpeas for nitrogen fixation). These cover crops will grow until late September, when will mow them down and tarp another time before planting to overwintered onions or another cover crop. We've used this method on some field blocks that were planted into crops for the first time in 2020 and it made a world of difference in the soil quality. Weed pressure is much lower in those beds than in much of the rest of the farm as well. It may sound like a lot of work, but it's not too much hands on time - mostly just giving the tarps and cover crops time to work their magic.
We have several new items in the share this week: carrots, celery, sweet onions, and parsley! Carrots are always a favorite crop - it's amazing how much sweeter and crunchier these fresh carrots are than the ones you can buy at the store. I suggest eating your bunch raw with some hummus this week, although we did just making chicken noodle soup with carrots, onions and celery tonight, so that's always an option too. We took a break from growing celery last year because I was disheartened with how poorly it seems to do in our climate. It takes a very long time to grow (we start seeds in early February) and can be prone to bolting and heart rot with the weather is hot and water is inconsistent. It is a nice crop to have in our mix though, so I decided to try a new variety this year. Well, I'm not sure if it's the new variety or the cooler than usual spring, but our celery is looking pretty decent with no bolting or heart rot yet. You'll see that the stalks aren't the huge fat ones you may be used to seeing at the grocery store, but they are packed with awesome flavor and we don't cut off any of the greens so you have all of that goodness that can be used like an herb. I typically suggest using your celery in cooked applications because it can be a bit more fibrous along with the stronger flavor. However, I was just thinking this morning as we harvested the celery and parsley, that you could use these veggies together along to make a delicious and refreshing tabbouleh (a parsley heavy middle eastern salad with bulgar wheat, cucumbers, and tomato). The flat leaf parsley has some long tasty stems (it's closely related to celery), so blending that up along with some of the celery as a sub for more parsley would work well. Check out this recipe below for ideas of how to put this dish together:
Sweet onions are another favorite and I'll bet you hardly need ideas for how to use them. We love to eat them thin sliced and raw on sandwiches or salads. They are also fantastic for combining with your cucumbers as quick pickles. If you aren't familiar with quick pickling (also called refrigerator pickles), I thought this article explained the process nicely and has a lot of ideas for flavor combinations. The bottom line is that many different veggies can be pickled with delicious results, although the classic cucumber pickle really is one of the best.
While it's been hot and sweaty early this week, it looks like the weather is going to cool down for us again after today. I'm feeling thankful for our relatively moderate temperatures and hoping that all of those farmers out in the Pacific Northwest make it through their crazy heat wave without too much crop loss.