In Your Share This Week
- Cabbage, Napa
- Potatoes, New Red
- Turnips, Hakurei
New Potatoes: We are always so excited when its time to start diggin’ potatoes! We plant our potatoes in early April, and have been weeding and hilling them with our tractors until now. I think new potatoes are one of the tastiest treats of the summer- they have very little starch and are sweet, crisp, and delicious. You can cook them any which way you like, but I always enjoy a simple preparation of either steamed or boiled and then dressed with a little butter or olive oil, parsley, and salt. Yum! You’ll notice that the spuds aren’t what you would call the most aesthetically pleasing- the skins are so thin and delicate on new potatoes that they peel and shred during the harvest process. Although this is a somewhat unfortunate (and unavoidable) occurrence, its well worth it. We also grew these in our field that has the most silt of any on the farm (its like baby powder its so fine) so that enabled us to give the potatoes a quick and gentle rinse before packing without damaging them further, but you’ll want to wash them further before using.
Japanese Salad Turnips: Think of these cute little turnips as less spicy cousin of radishes. You can eat the roots raw (my favorite) or cooked. They are sweeter than radishes and also have a creamier texture- and a huge bonus…the tops are not only edible, they’re DELICIOUS, so make sure to not miss out. Even if you’re like me and hate the flavor of turnips, these will surely win you over- they’re totally different than their European storage crop counterparts. I would also recommend storing these in a plastic bag to keep both the tops and the roots fresh and vibrant.
Around the Farm
In the previous weeks we have discussed our wonderful soils as well as some of the techniques that we employ to help protect the soil and ensure that all of the complex structure and life within it continues to thrive. Another big component of Organic farming that relates to soil health and crop health is cover cropping. Once we are done with a field for the season, we seed it with a selected cover crop or a blend of several cover crops that will grow up and later be incorporated back into the soil. Cover crops we use include buckwheat, vetch, field peas, bell beans, oats, rye, crimson clover, and Sudan grass.
Cover crops do several really amazing things- first off, they out-compete weeds- so rather than having a bare dirt patch that soon turns into an awful weedy mess, we instead have a nice lush stand of cover crop that smothers out any weeds that might have tried to germinate. Secondly, as the cover crops grow their roots penetrate deep below the surface and help to break up soil and create little spaces for air and water- thusly improving aeration and drainage. The cover crops also help retain nutrients and hold the soil in place- so the wind doesn’t blow our precious topsoil away and the profuse Pacific Northwest winter rains don’t wash all of the nutrients away- keeping the fertility in the soil and within the plant tissue rather than washed away into waterways and ground water. Speaking of the abundant winter rains, cover crops also shield the soil from the relentless pounding of the rain over the winter months- without the protection of cover crops, all that rain can really beat down the soil and destroy all the fluffy texture we work so hard to achieve. Lastly, cover crops are essentially generating free compost and fertility with just the power of a little water and sunshine. All that biomass the plants create will eventually be mowed and worked back into the soil- boosting the amount of organic matter in the soil. This enhances the soil’s ability to drain well during the winter as well as to retain moisture during the hotter months.
We custom select cover crops for each block depending on previous crop history, disease or pest issues, time of season, future crop rotations, and fertility/pH. With our intensive cover cropping over the years, we have been able to cut the amount of imported fertilizer we apply to the fields in HALF with no net loss of fertility. Some cover crops (those in the legume family like field peas and bell beans) are nitrogen-fixers- that means they pull nitrogen out of the the air (our atmosphere is almost 80% nitrogen) and store it in little nodules in it’s root system. Then when we till these plants in, we get all that additional nitrogen added right into the soil. BOOM! Free nitrogen, right out of thin air…how cool is that?!?!
In other places around the farm, our corn is getting taller by the minute it seems, some tasty herbs are flourishing for upcoming CSA shares, the onion field is well-weeded and full of insectary plantings of colorful flowers to attract beneficial insects, multi-colored blocks of chard are loving the heat, more beets are carrots are nearly ready for harvest, and we just pulled in the rest of our red cabbage for the spring!
And as a little teaser, our cucumber field is getting ready to start pumping out the fruit, so get ready for cucumber season!