Monday, July 25, 2011

Heirloom Tomatoes 2011!!

So last Saturday at Evergreen's Brickworks I had 4 cases of my Heirlooms!  It was great to see my regular customers come early and get some!  I love seeing the excitement of the first heritage tomatoes at market. Makes all my hard work totally worthwhile knowing how much they are appreciated.
We've been selling heirloom tomatoes in Toronto for years now and I've scaled back the actual amount of varieties.  I used to mess around with over 100 varieties!  I've got about 60 now of the tried and true, best of the best for intriguing looks and taste!  I am happy to report that I did a large field planting along with the 'covered field' planting of about 900 plants. Here's a brush up on what our 'covered field' heirloom tomatoes are all about:
This is one 'covered field'.  They are our old cold farm glass greenhouses.  We have amended the soil with our kick ass field soil and our compost.  The soil is top notch for growing the best tasting tomatoes! This is why I will never call them 'greenhouse tomatoes'.  They are not grown in synthetic soil and fed chemical fertilizers.  They have all the nutrients in this house to last them the entire growing season AND after the fall frost!  Each year I plant a hefty amount of tomatoes in the field but since 2007 we haven't had much success or volume to sell because of blight.  The wet years wreaked havoc on my heirlooms and I needed to do something about this.  That is why the old cold frames have become essential - I can protect my plants from overhead moisture and 'wet feet', keep them dry and the disease at a minimum. I have also been able to extend my tomato growing season this way as well!
I have a lot of favourites - one would be this one up front.  I also love tried and true 'Black Krim', 'Striped German' and 'Green Zebra's.  These are very well known, along with the big ol' Brandywine.  You'll have to visit my table at markets to see the real cool ones and try and learn the names of the new varieties I have discovered recently! ;) See you there!

The Garlic Harvest!

We bought some beautiful certified organic Garlic Seed  from a great guy up north. We planted it October 2010 and are fairly pleased with the results.
It was looking so beautiful early on, but a few weeks ago we noticed nematode damage on a few bulbs.  I've since learned this is a wide spread issue this year and I fear these extreme weather conditions have a lot to do with it.  We yanked 'er out, and have lost some of the crop, but all in all it'll be just fine.  I've learned that the microscopic nematodes live in the root hairs of the garlic and when we 'irrigated' we spread them around.  Then onion maggots move in and chew away.  We'll remove the infected bulbs and not let them mingle with the good stock.  Infected cloves will not be replanted in the new patch.
  Here's the guys sorting through and hampering the garlic crop.  Despite the nematode issues we still have a plentiful amount for our customers and for seed saving

Strawberries for 2012....

We really missed not having our own strawberries at market this past June!  We are making sure that doesn't happen next year! Folks really missed our organic berries!  This is the process so that we have them for June 2012:
These is a bundle of root stock we got in from Nova Scotia this year.  Gorgeous plants, top quality.  Two new varieties this year.  Winter hardy, sweet and plentiful.  We shall see!  Our land makes all the difference I'm certain!
Ben pulling the clip planter.  Because of the quality of the Strawberry plants we planted 3 times as much as we had before!
Domingo and Manuel using the clip planter to plant the Strawberry plants.  I didn't think it would work, but was surprised to see the success.  This due to excellent plant quality. How many times can I stress the quality of these plants! Just beautiful.  G.W. Allen Nursery in Nova Scotia if you're wondering ;)
Planted Strawberries on July 13th, 2011.  For harvest June 2012. This is just the beginning.  Since they have been planted they have been irrigated, cultivated and are turning a nice lush green.  A lot of maintenance during the growing season and then 'straw' later in the year for over wintering. Look forward to some excellent quality organic Strawberries for 2012 from us!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Beets, Kale & Tomatoes...

We are growing 3 types of beets this year.  We'll always have the big standard Kestrel Red's, but pictured here are our special ones: Golden and Chioggia. We did golds last year to rave reviews.  They are nice and sweet and look and taste spectacular when roasted. The Chioggia (a.k.a Candy Cane or Bullseye) are new for us this year. A keeper for sure.  They are early, have lighter neat tops similar to the golds, cook a bit faster, are more mild compared to the big reds. Thinly sliced in a salad is a beautiful way to show off these great beets! They are actually an Italian Heirloom I have learned, and are named after a coastal town in Italy. Starting next week they will be in abundance at the Farmer's Markets at our stall.  I have also made another recent discovery: BEET CHIPS!
First, you have to chop the beets very thinly.  I used my big red beets for this.  I think they throw the best flavour.  (Chioggia and Golden seem to brown a bit too much when crisp) Use a mandolin to slice your beets thin.(I don't have one, so I use my Cuisinart with a 2mm blade which does a decent job.)  I dump a plentiful amount of the sliced beets into a bowl and top with olive oil and sea salt and mix with my hands to coat the beets well. I didn't have time to mess around with putting the beets 'single file' on my baking sheets.  I did my best not to put wads of them on, but it was pretty messy and a lot of beets went on each tray.  I baked them at 350 for about 1/2 hour.  They go dark and give a nice 'roasted look'.  Keep baking until they begin to 'lighten'.  Another 1/2 hour even. Once they go 'pink' they are crisp! They really shrink, so use as big a beet as you can.  Not every single one went totally cripsy, but I noticed once they cooled down they got more crisp. They are very, very good!
Really awesome baked beet chips!  On the right hand side of the photo are 'dark' beets.  These ones are not finished crisping up. Remove the pink crispy ones and let the 'rubbery' ones finish! Totally addictive!
Now here's some of our Nero Di Toscana, or 'Dinosaur' Kale.  I've already rubbed olive oil and salt into it.  I will place this stuff on the baking trays and using the same method, 350 for about 10 mins, flip another 10 mintues you will have baked kale chips.  It will go very dark and crispy when finished. I also add cayenne pepper to them!  Today the kitchen island is full of kale and beet chips!  Tomhas, the teen who is staying with us for July is raising his eyebrows at them BUT he did try them, so it's a start!
I picked these today!  So very exciting to see the first ripening of the tomatoes!  These are coming out of the zany jungle of heirlooms in our 'covered field' under glass (aka old glass cold frame #1). There is soo much maintenance to do out there!  I haven't had a rainy day to work out there, so there will be some late evenings and early mornings when it's cool enough to be under that glass in summer temps!  We have heirlooms in the field as well this year, so they will hopefully be in abundance!  Cheers, it's going to be an awesome summer with lots of great food to eat! :)

Dry July....

Yeah, so now it's dry. (Check out the dust trail behind Ben and he races around checking pipes.)  I mean really, really dry.  Last week, the 6th of July we irrigated half the farm.  Today the pipes were taken apart, moved to the other side to hit the potatoes, tomatoes etc.  So we've weeded and watered the broccoli, kale, beautiful onion patch, one sweet corn patch, carrots, beets, peas, garlic, cucumbers and beans. 
First line we ran to cover the broccoli and onions....beets, carrots & newly planted sweet potatoes at the back. To the left is our 'chop suey' first lettuce patch nicely disked up!
Our first patch of many of the sweetest Sweet Corn!  Can't wait!  Beginning of August we will have corn galore! 
I love this picture!  Our broccoli going 'AHHHH' after a nice long drink of water! I am not complaining about the lack of rain for now. Truth be told, and I'm scared to say this out loud, but it feels like 2007 all over again.  I may have the nicest tomatoes this year!  For us, because we are a small farm, irrigation is easy to manage.  It is much easier to apply some water when we absolutely need it rather than deal with cold, wet summers and disease and dead crops.  It does bother me when it goes from one extreme to the other.  Cutting the farm grass twice a week to keep it manageable to no cutting at all for two weeks! So much rain we couldn't plant on time this spring, now no rain so we must irrigate.  Ahhh, the life of a farmer. Good thing I love it sooo much! ;)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ben & Bug and the long weekend

Last Sunday was a busy one.  Despite the fact it's a 'holiday weekend', we continue on as usual at the farm. Unfortunately the weeds do not stop growing for a long weekend!  Our horse Lady Bug came over to the picnic table for a visit.  She is very social and pretty much free range around the farm. On this Sunday she pretty much fell asleep while Ben scratched her ears.  Big suck horse.  She is getting adventurous and heading out pretty far on her own into the fields! When Ben cultivates, she finds a beaten path and goes out there!!  It's quite funny as she's not wrecking the crops (just fertilizes them!) as she prefers a lane way to walk on. She shows little interest in the lettuces, beet greens and other crops that had me concerned as I know how much she eats!

Our compost maker is truly appreciated and loved! Panzer our Shepherd is slowly learning to respect the horse. They 'play' well.  Gives 'ol Bug a bit of excersise to combat a young Shep. Bug turns 17 this year. I'm going to try and get her to live till at least 40!! Sitting under the canopy of the messiest nut tree on the planet is everyone's preferred resting spot during the summer months.
After Ben's break with Lady Bug he hit the fields again to cultivate the young crops. He's cultivating one small patch of cabbage and in the front is celeriac and basil.
Soon-to-be Best Friends. We hope.