Whew! Kind of hot out there! I guess it really is July. I hope you had a wonderful 4th and thanks to everyone who scooted around to pick their shares up at different times/locations. I’m glad the 4th won’t put a damper on our drop day for a good long time again!
We have been getting up for 6 am start times since early June, but this is the time of year where it really pays off. We try to make sure all leafy things are harvested before the sun heats things up, and that makes each morning a bit of a mad scramble. It is however, pretty satisfying to get so much done before my kids are even out of bed and we get to see some great sunrises too.
This week we are spending some good quality time with our tomatoes. Have you even wondered why heirloom tomatoes are so expensive? Well, let’s start with what an heirloom tomato is. An heirloom tomato is an open pollenated variety that has been passed down for more than 40 years. Most heirlooms were selected for characteristics like beauty, flavor, and adaptability (cold or hot climates). It wasn’t until recently that our desired characteristics have focused on traits like shelf life, uniformity, and transport durability, making our tomatoes easier to mass produce and ship around the world but far less delicious. We will leave certain hybrids (which are neither heirloom nor mealy and tasteless) out of the conversation for the moment.
So back to our original question, why so expensive? Heirloom tomato varieties, although very delicious, are all of the things that we are not accustom to getting anymore as consumers. They crack, they ripen unevenly, they have dimples and wrinkles, they have a short storage life, and have little tolerance for disease. They are difficult to grow on a farm scale (even a small family farm scale) for the quality and shelf life to be acceptable. All of our heirlooms are started in our greenhouse, transplanted once into larger containers, then transplanted into our hoophouses. They don’t do well outside because of the fluctuation of weather causes cracking, disease and rotting. They are trellised and pruned once a week (sometimes once in two weeks depending on growth) which takes 3 people about 3 hours. The trellising and pruning as well as ground mulch between all of the rows helps us mitigate disease. We also sanitize everything that goes in and comes out of the hoophouse and open and close the sides and doors of the hoophouse to control temperature daily. Watering happens through drip irrigation under the ground cloth. The tomatoes get about an inch of water every week but it is important to keep the humidity low enough that dew doesn’t easily form on the leaves overnight (also disease prevention). They get fertilized with composted chicken manure right before the fruit sets and fish emulsion periodically after that. All of this happens for months before we even get a single tomato!
When it is finally time to start the harvest (had our first one this week!) it takes an extreme amount of care not to bruise these delicate little gems. They need to be stored at about 50 degrees in a dry place and we only let them sit for a maximum of 2 days before they need a home.
When you get your first taste of our heirloom tomatoes, I think that you will agree that it is all worth it!
July 11th, Week 6
Clockwise from top: Italian flat leaf parsley, cucumbers, salad mix, celery, green peppers, new potatoes, pole beans, scallions, and cherry tomatoes. Please enjoy.
July 21st farm dinner is coming right up! It will be a vegetable focused meal but also have our pasture raised chicken. It will be catered by Urban Street Bistro using, almost exclusively, ingredients from our farm!
Chickens for sale- $4.50/lb
Sold whole and fresh (never frozen). They are butchered here on our farm and must be preordered. We can deliver preordered chickens to the Wausau Farmers market or they can be picked up on the farm. Call or email for details.
Cherry Tomatoes (full shares)
Slicing Tomatoes (small shares)
Green Onions (scallions)
Weekly Serving Suggestions:
Salad mix– Fresh lettuce mix, perfect for filling wraps or sandwiches, but also great as a salad. Dress t up or dress it down. Stores well in a bag in the fridge.
Parsley- I love parsley for its versatility. Brightens almost any dish and pairs well with almost all other herbs for a nice blend. Stores great in a plastic bag in the fridge, especially with the cut ends wrapped in a wet paper towel.
New Potatoes– Not for storage. These beautiful baby red potatoes are so lovely! Pretty red skins are tender (no need to peel) and appetizing. These are young spuds that will work very well for potato salad, boiled or roasted potatoes. Not the best for baking or mashing. My favorite is to boil them until just tender, but not crumbly. Then toss them with butter, salt and pepper, then top with fresh parsley. These potatoes are not mature/cured so store them in the fridge until ready to use, will keep for several weeks in a bag or crisper. But fresher is better. Try boiling them in salted water until just barely tender, then smashing them just enough to slightly flatten and break the skins, but still hold together. Then fry or roast them until crispy outside. Season with salt, parsley and a dash of vinegar if you like!
Green Peppers– Fresh and crunchy, perfect for dipping. I love hummus and veggies this time of year. Also great diced into the Potato Salad, try the recipe of the week. Stores well in the fridge.
Cucumbers– So fresh, so easy. Just slice and serve. Or try topping with salt or seasoning. Also great chopped and stirred into plain yogurt as a dressing for seasoned meats or whole grain salads. Try the recipe of the week! Stores well in the crisper drawer of the fridge (or in a bag in the fridge). Add them to a potato salad, simply chop them up and toss them lightly with salt in a colander. Allow the liquid to drain off for 10 mins, before stirring them in.
Scallions– Tender and versatile. These are tough enough for a quick sautee, but sweet and tender enough to be chopped finely and added as a garnish or a fresh dish. Stores well in a bag in the fridge or crisper drawer.
Celery- This may be the best we’ve ever grown. Full of flavor and not too tough. Try slicing finely across the grain to add to salads or the recipe of the week. Otherwise chop into sticks for dipping! Stores well in a bag in the crisper drawer.
Pole Beans – Big, but tender. Great for raw snacking with or without dip. Also great chopped and blanched to add to your Potato Salad! Stores well in the crisper with the vent closed. These hold up well to quick high heat, perfect for grilling or roasting.
Slicing Tomatoes- Store out of the fridge for best quality, in the fridge for longest shelf-life. It’s tomato season again! These slicers are big and beautiful, but also full of flavor (because they’re picked ripe.) That also means that they are juicy (since that’s where the flavor is!) A tomato like this is a whole different food than what you typically find in a supermarket. Enjoy in thick slices with salt or pesto. Chop to pair with roasted potatoes, or salt and strain to add to potato salad, reserve the juice for your aoli (homemade mayo).
Cherry Tomatoes– Best left out of the fridge! So fresh, so good, so easy. Just one of my kids will handily eat a whole pint in a sitting if we’re not careful. Use as a ready snack or to dazzle with a few halved on a salad or the side of a plate—to really make it pop! Stores on the counter out of direct sunlight.
Coffee Organic Mexico Coffee
Perfect make-ahead dish for a get together, or for a week’s worth of packed lunches!
There are two secrets to this dish. One is fresh new-potatoes. The other is the homemade mayo (aoli) for the dressing.
-2 lbs new potatoes washed and cut just enough to make roughly equal sized pieces.
-3 stalks celery, chopped fine
-1 green pepper, diced
– 1 or 2 scallions, chopped finely
-1/2 bunch pole beans, chopped and blanched (quickly steamed or sautéed)
-1/4 cup fresh herb (parsley, dill, oregano, and/or cilantro) chopped fine
*optional- Diced tomato and or cucumber salted and strained.
-Bacon crumbled or chopped
-½ cup olive oil (or your preference)
-1 Tbsp mustard or horseradish
-2 Tbsp salt (added slowly to taste)
-1Tsp black pepper
-3 Tbsp lemon juice, or 2 Tbsp vinegar
Ahead of time: Add new potatoes to boiling salted water. Cook until tender, but not floury, about 10-15 mins depending on size and number. Remove from water and allow to cool. If adding tomato or cucumber, chop, salt and allow to drain.
Make dressing, add all the ingredients except oil and ½ of the salt. Puree in blender or with immersion blender. Slowly dribble in the oil while blending until creamy, smooth, and slightly thickened. Add remaining salt and additional lemon juice to taste. It should be powerfully salty and tart to balance starchiness of the potatoes, but it shouldn’t turn your mouth inside out.
Chop cooled potatoes and other veggies into bit-size pieces. Fold into dressing until evenly coated. Taste for “pop!” Once done, allow to rest for at least ½ hour for flavors to meld-much more is also fine.