Thursday, August 6, 2009

UPDATE- Tomato Blight, Workshops, Recipes


Unfortunately, we have our second major disaster of the season to report, and this one makes the total failure of our corn crop seem fairly insignificant. Our tomatoes have been hit by the Late Blight that you may have heard about in the news (such as the front page story in July 16th’s Inquirer). We have already cut and burned about 90% of our twelve hundred and some tomato plants. The fungus, Phytophthora, (“Plant Destroyer”, the pathogen responsible for the Great Irish Potato Famine of the 1840’s) apparently travelled from Florida, where it can overwinter, to the northeast on tomato seedlings sold by “big box” stores. Then the relentlessly cool, wet weather conditions we experienced for most of the last two months proved to be ideal for it to proliferate. In moist conditions, an infected plant will shed spores that can be carried by the wind for many miles and can then be washed down from the air by rain falling on innocent, unsuspecting, even dearly beloved tomato plants. Once infected, plants quickly release more spores and die. So we’ve invested about two weeks worth of the firewood I use to heat the house, forty-five gallons of used vegetable oil (courtesy of the restaurant next door) and many, many man-hours to burn the infected plants – beautiful plants with thousands of beautiful green tomatoes patiently waiting for warm nighttime temperatures to trigger their ripening. I’ve never had to do anything like this before, destroy a beautiful crop. But we’re not the only ones suffering from the blight – all of the other CSAs in the area that I’ve heard about have been devastated as well.
It’s unusual this year that the weather is directly responsible for our biggest problems. Sure, the weather is always a concern, but in most years, the labor situation is more likely to be the cause of our greatest difficulties. We’re very lucky this year to have a great team of Workers and Interns persevering against the obstacles put in our path by Nature (or by Global Climate Change, the disruption of Nature) and I’d like to encourage you, when you get the chance, to acknowledge the hard work they’ve done to bring you your food. However, I should mention, this is the time of year when we can expect to lose some Interns as they head back to school or off to their next adventure. So if you know of anyone looking to learn about the (often harsh) reality of organic vegetable production, please send him or her my way.
Thanks for your support -


We have organized our schedule of classes and workshops for the month of August listed below
You can register for the events by calling 610-458-8129 or emailing:

Monday August 10th- 4-5 pm- Seedlings Cooking Class for 6 through 8 year olds:
Vegetable Quesadillas with Salsa

Friday August 14th 3-4 pm- Seedlings Cooking Class for 9 through 11 year olds:
Cold Zucchini Soup
Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches
Blackberry Smoothies

Monday August 17th- 4-5 pm- Seedlings Cooking Class for 12-18 year olds:
Italian Eggplant Spread (Caponata)
Green Bundles
Garden Salad with Herb Dressing

Saturday August 22nd- Canning Workshop with Liz Alakszay
Come learn the basics of canning as a way of preserving the summer harvest.
(Date subject to change- more details to follow……)

In the Garden:
Purslane: Friend or Foe?
Friend, definitely! This weed which is now growing rampantly in some of our beds is perhaps one of the most nutritious greens you can find. As far as Omega 3 fatty acids are concerned, purslane takes the lead in supplying the most alpha linoleic acid of any green crop.
Recorded use of purslane dates to at least to the Middle Ages, when it was particularly popular with the Greeks, as a citrus-like addition to fish. Medicinally, the Greeks considered purslane a blood tonic. It is used frequently in Latin American cooking. We have included a recipe for purslane this week. Go ahead, be adventurous and give it a try. We have the beds marked where you can find it!
When you get the purslane home, wrap it in a damp towel and keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. (I hear the stems can be pickled, but I haven’t tried it yet!)

Another interesting addition to the farm this year is shiso leaves. We have an abundance of the purple shiso and the green is beginning to come up nicely. Shiso is described as “Japanese Basil” or “Japanese Mint”. The flavor of the leaves is pungent and grassy with tastes of spearmint, basil, cinnamon and hints of curry…a bit complicated! The leaves are delicious to add to Mesclun mixes or sprinkled over cucumber salads, cabbage salads or fish. You can also add shiso to green tea after it has been steeped. So, go ahead and pick a leaf or two and see how you like it!!

We have the option of providing chicken of the same quality as Ben’s at a lower price to you. Jeremiah Eldridge, a local farmer has begun raising chickens this year. He is not certified organic, but uses organic feed and his chickens are out on pasture. We have tasted them and they are quite good. This generation of chickens is a bit larger than what you might expect. In order to provide these chickens, we need to first free our freezer of the chickens in there now…..

3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/3 inch thick
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 pound plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 pound purslane or arugula, torn
1 large cucumber—peeled, halved, seeded and cut into half-moons
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped mint
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and let cool.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and vinegar and season with salt. Break the potato slices into quarters and spread on the bottom of a large, shallow bowl. Season with salt and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Layer the tomatoes over the potatoes, followed by the purslane, cucumber, onion, jalapeño, parsley and mint. Just before serving, pour the remaining dressing over the salad and toss well.

See you around the farm!
Annmarie and Sam

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