Sweet Soil Organic Farm; 2016

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Our first newsletter of 2016

December 4, 2016

Winter CSA Week One

 

 

 

I finally finished the second cooler and it is now up and running! This project was not originally on my list of things to do this season; I thought, that I would build some kind of heated, dry storage space, but as the small cooler started to fill up, eventually packed to the ceiling, I realized that I needed a bigger space. Thankfully – and this has been the case for my last three years of business – I received a generous grant from the Department of Agriculture to build this second cooler - largely from re-used or re-purposed materials. It turned out to be a great feat in engineering, learning how to properly use a host of new and exciting power tools, getting to work with my dad and uncle, who volunteered many hours of their time and eventually learning how to patch things together using lots and lots of tape. I'm glad it's over! There will be some pictures of the build up on the website if you feel like your garage needs a 10 x 10 walk-in cooler too!

At this point, I still have crops in the field, because of the amazingly mild Fall we've had and also because, with purchasing my new farm, moving, building and generally getting settled, I've left a lot of the brassicas, lettuces and radishes to fend for themselves. I had planned to build several small, movable cold frames in an effort to extend my growing season, but the weather and a few rolls of winter row cover seem to be sufficient for this year. I feel as though the weather conspired in my favour, allowing me to ease into Fall, keeping all those valuable crops safe in the field while I busied myself with other jobs. Now my farm, in Centre Village just outside Sackville, is finally looking ready for Winter: the yard is clean, my work-space has been transformed from what used to be a garage with two horse stalls into a multifaceted storage facility with two temperature and humidity controlled spaces and when I go out to Windy Hill Farm to harvest what is left in the field, I am so thankful that it is not yet -2 and snowing. All that to say, the transition from summer into Fall has been incredibly busy and starting up the Winter CSA is like letting out a deep breath that I've been holding in since the beginning of the season! Glad we are on our way, and I hope you enjoy this seasonal transition as it is reflected in the food that you receive this first week.

 

This Week:

 

Blue or Purple Curly Kale (1 bunch)

I got a great tip from a farmer's market customer the other week that fueled my interest in further researching the health benefits of kale. Apparently kale eaten raw can actually aggravate or increase inflammation in the body due to high levels of oxidants. However, I've also read that kale is actually helpful in decreasing inflammation because of its omega-3 fatty acids and their role in fighting against auto-immune diseases and arthritis. So, I would encourage you to eat kale! But, also do your research. Perhaps, because raw kale is much more strenuous on the digestive system, if you suffer from chronic inflammation, you would want to eat only steamed or cooked kale. And if you really have difficulty with digestion, you could pulverize the kale in a blender, adding it to a smoothie.

I've also heard several farmer's market customers admit that they are not so fond of this leafy vegetable or don't know how to use it in meals. So, in the recipe section you can find some hints about how to add kale into your diet without necessarily noticing the texture or taste in your meals. You can also find some contentment in knowing that you are ingesting a huge quantity of fibre, vitamins C, A and K as well as iron and magnesium when you eat kale!

 

Merlin Beets ( 3 lbs )

Fall and Winter: seasons of shift, change and horrible colds. We try to keep going with our busy lifestyles and heavy work-loads even while light diminishes and temperatures drop. We spend less time outside in the sun and maybe that means less movement and exercise. Beets and particularly beet juice, can help increase energy and stamina, strengthen your immune system and keeping the heart healthy by regulating blood pressure.

From Mercola.com “The benefit likely comes from the naturally occurring nitrates in beets, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. Beets are a unique source of betaine, a nutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. Also, If you need a boost to make it through your next workout, beet juice may again prove valuable. Those who drank beet juice prior to exercise were able to exercise for up to 16 percent longer. The benefit is thought to also be related to nitrates turning into nitric oxide, which may reduce the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise as well as enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise”.

 

Bolero Carrots ( 3.5 lbs )

I planted my root crops much earlier this year in an attempt to stagger my harvest over several weeks during the Fall. I seeded three planting from end of June to early July and was able to start harvest in late September. It's always daunting to face several beds of root crops that need digging, as the weather starts to cool and the soil slowly turns to mud! Harvesting and washing vegetables in the cold is my least favourite activity – so sometimes I wonder why I chose the Winter CSA niche market! But, I'm trying to devise ways to make my work more comfortable and staggering plantings in order to stretch the harvest over several weeks helps me to deal with the often overwhelming task of doing all that digging, washing and storing. That said, this Fall was amazing and I only came away from the wash station with numb hands and feet a few times. If you are not pressed for time and want to grow carrots for a Fall or Winter crop, you can keep your carrots in the ground, covered with several layers of straw. This insulation will keep the ground from freezing and allow you to harvest throughout the Winter. The best varieties for Fall and Winter are Napoli, Bolero, Purple Haze and Atomic Red.

 

Daikon Radish ( 2-4 )

I'm so proud and impressed by the storage radishes this year because I ignored them, treated them so poorly, didn't thin water or weed them and they still came up beautifully. The Myashige Daikon is a fast growing, cold tolerant, radish from the mustard family (which also includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables in the genus brassica). The fresh leaves can be used to flavor soups or can be dehydrated and stored as a mild spice. Unfortunately the tops on these radishes were too huge to fit into the bags, but they have stayed healthy and green up to this point under winter row cover. Mould, rot and the slow decay of leaves is always something to consider when growing late into the Fall. The weather turns cold so leaves stay wet, creating the perfect environment for disease to spread. When preparing a Fall garden, plants should be spaced farther apart to allow for air flow between the plants. If row cover is used, it should be held by hoops above the plants to increase ventilation through the bed.

Nikki Jabour, from Halifax, is a well-known garden guru who specializes in Fall and Winter growing. Her book, “Year Round Vegetable Gardener” has been very helpful for me! You can find it through Storey – America's Garden Publisher.

 

Cortland Yellow & Red Wing Red Onions ( 3 large)

There is always a balance between success and failure in every farming season. The onion crop was very successful this year and beyond a smooth harvest, the drying, curing and storage process were much more streamlined than in previous seasons. After leaving the onions in the field to dry down for a week or so, I transferred the entire crop onto bread trays in a well ventilated room heated to 20 degrees. Fans provided extra air circulation and after the tops dried down completely, the onions were trimmed and immediately put into the cooler. I think this quick transfer into the cooler was the trick to keeping them in good shape and avoiding rot or sprouting.

 

Bleu De Solaise Winter Leeks ( 2-3 )

Jean Martin Fortier, modern small scale farming master, has said many times that it took only one, very disgruntled farmer's market customer who was unimpressed with his tiny leeks, to encourage him to experiment with his leek growing methods in an effort to produce longer, blanched stems (the edible white part of the leek). I always think about this story when I try to grow leeks. So this year, I used a few of his tips, including dropping the very small transplant into a deep hole and then leaving it to fill in naturally as it rains and the soil settles. I also hill the leeks when they were still small, by raking dirt from between the rows to further bury the leek plants. I'm happy with the results! Leeks are another staple in the Fall or Winter garden and if you are a home-gardener you can use the straw mulching technique to keep your leeks warm well into the Winter. An extra layer of insulating straw can be used around the bed to form a quick straw-bale cold frame.

 

Red Kuri or Butternut Squash ( 4-5lbs)

This was a horrible season for my squash plants, and I heard some of the same from other farmers who were also hit hard by the cucumber beetle and pollination issues due to cold, wet weather at the beginning of the season. All that to say, squash is a valuable commodity this year because of the low yields and high degree of loss in storage due to frost damage. It's disheartening and sad because I love squash! I love choosing the varieties, starting the plants, seeing them grow and eventually produce amazingly large, colourful, strangely shaped fruits. This year's set backs just renew my enthusiasm for getting it right next year!

 

These two varieties are great for soup and have sweet, moist flesh that work well in baked goods like the muffin recipe below and as a substitute for pumpkin in pies or breads

 

Lettuce Mix ( 1 bag )

Green and red Salanova Oak Leaf and Tat Soi make up this Fall lettuce mix. I'm so happy that this crop continues to grow well into November. I attribute the success of my lettuce and asian greens to the mild weather this season, good spacing and continuous cover. Even when there were grasshopers all over the outside of the row cover tunnel, the plants underneath were spared and their leaves remain un-chewed. This is very helpful when harvesting for Fall markets where sales depend on the aesthetic appeal of the produce. Nice looking Fall greens are hard to grow without some type of cover and I look forward to having several cold frames next season to grow a larger variety of lettuces and salad mix!

 

Experimenting with Recipes

 

From: Myhealthygreenfamily.com Cinnamon Squash Muffins

 

Ingredients:

4 farm eggs, beaten

1/2 c. virgin olive oil or unrefined coconut oil (melted)

2 c. pureed (or mixed until smooth), cooked organic squash

1 c. organic whole wheat flour

1 c. organic unbleached white flour

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg (optional)

3/4 c. brown cane sugar

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

3/4 c. organic walnuts or raisins (optional)

 

Directions:

Blend eggs, oil and squash until smooth

Blend flour, sugar, baking powder cinnamon, nutmeg (optional), salt and raisins or nuts (optional) until mixed.

Combine wet and dry, and fold in until just mixed.

Fill greased muffin pans to about 3/4 full.

Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes.

Makes about 12 good sized muffins.  
Muffins can be frozen for later use.
This recipe is mix-friendly.  Mix dry ingredients and store in a jar.  Mix and add wet ingredients when you are ready to make your muffins. 

 

From: JaimieOliver.com 8 – Killer Kale Recipes

 

Here are a few of the featured recipes on Jaimie Oliver's website. If any of them sound good to you, you can find the recipe links at http://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-features/features/killer-kale-recipes/

Salt & Cinnamon Kale Crisps

Sesame Roasted Kale

Kale, Ricotta & Squash Omelette

Kale & Sausage Stew

Fried Rice: Kale, Squash & Chestnuts

Kale & Chorizo Breakfast

Sausage Kale & Ricotta Bake

Noodle Ramen with Kale & Barbecued Mushrooms


 

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