Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Big Red Farmstand, Wed. Sept. 25 & Sat. Sept. 28, 1pm to 5pm

Hello friends,
Sunrise at the farm...
 Happy fall!  This past weekend brought the autumnal equinox, so now, when we say "Boy, the days seem so much shorter and the nights so much longer," we're right!  Fall is a great season, especially for farmers.  There are lots of delicious things to eat, it's no longer sweltering hot, and at some point the weeds slow down and then stop growing altogether (though we haven't quite hit that point yet).  Add crisp mornings and some brightly-colored foliage, not to mention local apple season, and you have my absolute favorite time of year.
...and moonrise at the farm.

After much thought and rumination, we have decided to drop our Saturday farmstand from the rotation, starting in October.  Our fall retail sales have been lower than we hoped (that's what we get for having good food in the dining halls!), and Jake's teaching schedule means we have less time to get things done on the farm that we really need to do to get ready for winter, so we feel our time would be better spent on Saturday afternoons knocking out those tasks.  We are choosing to remain open on Wednesdays in order to accommodate our loyal customers among Lawrenceville's staff, who aren't generally on campus on the weekends.  Therefore, this Saturday, September 28, will be our last Saturday farmstand.  We hope this won't inconvenience anyone too greatly, and that our Saturday customers can make it to a Wednesday farmstand!
Garlic curing in the hoophouse

New this week: a limited quantity of garlic!  We grew a small amount of garlic this year, because organic seed garlic is pretty expensive, planning to use most of it for seed for the 2014 crop.  However, we have some extra!  If you've never eaten fresh local garlic before, I have to say that the supermarket version (mostly grown in China) doesn't compare.  Our garlic was harvested in late July, and has been curing in our hoop house ever since.  We're finally getting around to cleaning it up in preparation for planting in October, and we'll have a few bulbs for sale on Wednesday.  Also, we managed to find a few late cherry tomatoes, but this is truly the last of them!

Fall brassicas in the upper field

As we transition into our fall crops, which are a little behind thanks to the wet weather earlier this summer (though, of course, it's bone-dry now), you may notice the farmstand wagon looking a little sparse; we certainly have.  The sudden absence of big boxes of tomatoes leaves a gaping hole in our display that it will take awhile to get used to!  However, this week we're finishing up the last of our fall transplanting -- we've got about 1200 feet of broccoli and 600 feet of kale, plus lots of lettuce and the odd cabbage -- and we're continuing to direct-seed things like carrots, lettuce mix, spinach and arugula, which should, if we can protect them from pests, take us right up to Thanksgiving.

Many, if not most, cool weather crops are in the large and diverse brassica family, which includes broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, arugula, turnips, and probably some others that I'm forgetting.  Unfortunately, this means that all those crops are susceptible to the same group of very hungry insect pests.  The big three: cabbage moth caterpillars, flea beetles, and Harlequin bugs.

Flea beetles (tiny black bugs that jump around a lot, and chew thousands of tiny holes in leaves) were a big problem for us in the spring, and though they're traditionally less numerous in the fall, I've already heard from other farmers in our area that they're making their fall reappearance with a vengeance.  There are organic-approved sprays that can be used for them, but we managed to get along without them this spring, and we'll try to do that again.

Cabbage moth
caterpillar damage
Cabbage moth caterpillars, which are the little velvety green guys you've no doubt found on your broccoli and kale if you've ever had a home garden (you'll also see the adult version, small white or yellow butterflies, flitting about in a deceptively benign fashion), chew big holes in leaves, and will eat an entire leaf down to nothing in a surprisingly short time.  They are a problem throughout the year, and we occasionally spray Bt, a naturally occurring bacteria which is harmful only to soft-bodied insects, to keep them under control (Bt, or Bacillus thuringensis, is an approved pesticide for use in organic production, for those of you keeping score).
The very striking, and very
destructive, Harlequin bug

Harlequin bugs, which are related to stinkbugs and are a relatively recent arrival in our area, can also populate and destroy a plant with a ruthless efficiency.  Worse, they don't seem to respond to anything short of painstakingly picking them off the plants and squishing them.  On the scale that we're growing brassicas, that doesn't seem likely, but we'll do our best, as always, to bring you bug-free produce!  One farmer I worked for had a small, battery-operated shop-vac, which we used to vacuum the bugs off the plants, before squishing them in the driveway.  Actually, that was pretty effective...

Our 4th and final planting
of summer squash (there are some
courgettes in there too)

I know, I never thought we'd reach the point where we were casting about for what to do with all the summer squash, since nationwide supplies have been low and quality mediocre (at least, that's what I've heard).  September, however, at least on the Big Red Farm, has been a blue-ribbon month for squash!  So here are two more summer squash recipes that I can recommend, both suitable for autumnal consumption.

A few months ago, when we were harvesting the first tender zucchini of the season, at least two of our farming friends included this recipe for zucchini fritters in their newsletter.  I decided not to, thinking it would seem like jumping on the bandwagon, but these are really good, and it's probably not fair to keep them from you just because you don't happen to belong to our friends' CSA!  (Summer Squash Fritters)

Here is a simple, quick Indian preparation of summer squash and zucchini (or courgettes, in the original British English).  It makes a great accompaniment, even if the rest of your meal isn't strictly Indian.  (Courgettes & Yellow Summer Squash with Cumin)


This week, we hope to have the following available on Wednesday and Saturday in front of Edith Chapel, from 1pm to 5pm:

  • Baby Lettuce Mix - $2.50 bag
  • Chard - $2.50 bunch
  • Sweet Corn from Village Farms - $0.50 ear
  • Eggplant - $3.00 lb
  • Eggs - $5.00 dozen (limit 1 dozen per customer, very limited quantity)
  • Flowers - $2.50 bouquet
  • Garlic - $1.50 bulb (limited quantity)
  • Okra - $2.50 pint
  • Assorted Onions - $2.50 lb
  • Colored Peppers - $4.00 lb
  • Hot Peppers - 2 for $1.00
  • Summer Squash - $2.00 lb
  • Cherry Tomatoes - $3.50 pint (limited quantity)


The Big Red Farmstand will be on the Lawrenceville Campus for the fall.  Right now we're located in front of Edith Chapel.  Enter campus by the main gate on Route 206 (opposite the Lawrenceville Post Office and Craven Lane), and bear right into the circle.  The Chapel is about halfway around the circle, and you'll see our sign.  Don't forget your shopping bags!

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