Farm NewsLetter 06/05/06

For the Week of June 5th, 2006

We had a terrifically successful work party last weekend! Over 30 people joined us in the fields at Luscher Farm. It was a very pleasant afternoon- a bit overcast and not too hot. We spent most of the afternoon weeding. We cleaned up quite a few beds of onions & garlic and we got the fennel and lettuce weeded too. It was nice to work in small groups and have a chance to chat with friends old and new. Thank you to everyone who came! We stayed afterward for a potluck BBQ and had quite an enjoyable evening on the farm.

Often our resident Blue Heron will show up on summer evenings. I also love watching the barn swallows when they come out late in the day. Over the blooming brassicas the swallows perform amazing aerial acrobatics. Flying bugs make up 99% of their diet, and they catch the almost invisible insects mid-flight. Swallows play an important role in helping us control pest populations. Full up, they head back to the barn and are able to feed their young at the nest while still flying.

We spend a lot of our time in the summer weeding. Several techniques have helped reduce weed pressure on the farm. Our cover crops often do significant weed suppression, especially the summer cover crops like buckwheat & sudan grass. These are fast growers, and when we seed them thickly, they can completely smother the weeds. Sudan grass also has an allelopathic effect. As it breaks down the plant tissues release chemicals that inhibit germination of weed seeds and stunt the growth of plants around them.

The stale seedbed technique also helps us reduce weed pressure. Through the summer we try to till and irrigate beds ahead of planting. This gives some of the weed seed a chance to germinate, then we can flame it or till again ahead of planting. There will always be some weeds left, but this definitely reduces their numbers.

The allium family- onions, garlic and shallots- require even more weeding than most crops. Broccoli, lettuce, winter squash and many other veggies eventually have leaves big enough to form a complete canopy over the bed. Under that deep shade, most seeds can’t germinate so which means no more weeding. The thin spindly leaves of the alliums never form a canopy and require weeding throughout their life cycle. Onions may require a bit more work but they are worth it- just wouldn’t be the same in summer without those sweet Walla Walla’s!
The Weather: Quite Lovely
Thank you everyone for all your help!

Your share this week may include:
Chard Beautiful and tasty too!
Cilantro Great in quesadillas, on huevos rancheros or in Thai food.
Collard Greens These cooking greens are famous alongside black-eyed peas and I have included my favorite recipe for that below. They are in fact quite versatile, and can be used interchangeably with kale. You can also substitute them in recipes that call for chard or spinach, just cook them a bit longer.
Baby Beets or Carrots The first of the season. Yum!
Onion Scapes Roast these with salt and olive oil for a super snack.
Red Spring Onions Use these just as you would a scallion- raw or lightly sautéed.
Peas We may not always appreciate this cool wet weather, the peas sure do! We’ll have a few this week and much more to come soon. I probably don’t even need to mention this, because it is very likely that these will be eaten on the way home… but like sweet corn the sugar that makes peas so sweet starts to fade after they are picked.
Lettuce Mix Time for more summer salad!
Radish Beautiful, colorful and slightly spicy these Easter Egg Radish are one of my favorites varieties.
Salad Turnips The greens are spicy, but the turnips are mild enough to eat raw, hence the name. They are also good cooked, and I often just sauté or roast the whole thing- greens & all.

Based on… Southern Style Black-Eyed Peas
From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
By Deborah Madison

3 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 bunch collards, roughly chopped 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile
1 onion diced or red pepper flakes
1 celery rib, finely diced 1 cup dried black eyed peas
3 bay leaves 1 quart water or soup stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 2 garlic cloves, minced

Heat the oil and butter in a sauce pan or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, celery, bay leaves, thyme, collards and garlic. Cook for 15 min, stirring occasionally, then add the allspice and chile and cook for a few minutes more. Add the peas and water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 40 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons salt and cook for 20 minutes more or until peas are tender. Serve with or without the broth.

PS I added diced carrots in with the onion too