CSA 2011 – Week 7: Soil Fertility and Cover Crops

I had the pleasure of following Farmer John around the barnyard this morning to get some knowledge of our soil fertility tactics here at GTF. We first discussed cover crops. John says that cover crops work well for farms that have long rotations, or space that they do not need to plant anything into for up to 6 months. In the traditional cover cropping system you let the crop go for awhile, sometimes until as much as 6 feet high. Then, you would disc it down and let the green material break down for another 6-8 weeks before it’s ready to plant in.

We have a bit more of an intensive rotational system because most of the land we farm is planted almost all year round without much of a break, since we over winter quite a bit of crops. We do however have some parcels of ground clear of food crops in the winter that we will utilize cover crops in. When we use cover crops we usually plant field peas, vetch, and rye. Our cover crop system is a little bit more modified than other farms. We will let them grow until just before we need to use the parcel to plant in, and then we use a forage chopper to truck away the greenery as one of our compost feed stocks. We can then plow, disc, and prepare the land to be ready to plant in the next day. This saves us the 6-8 weeks of waiting for the plants to break down in the field. In our case the cover still serves the purpose of holding the soil from eroding in the winter rains as well as keeping the micro-organisms healthy and happily eating away.

As I followed John around to assess a manure spreader that went out of commission last night, he explained that we will use this tactic especially in fields where we will be planting later summer crops such as melons. There is a point in the fall, towards the end of October, that it gets too late to plant a cover crop. If we don’t plant early enough the cover crop will not have a developed root system, and we will end up with an insignificant crop that will not hold the soil or build it. If we don’t plant anything into an empty field, winter weeds can serve the same purpose; or in fact chickweed, which grows in plenty around here, makes a great winter cover.

As John got out from under the manure spreader, diagnosed the problem, and then made a phone call to our loyal mechanic, he added that we tend to rely more on compost than cover cropping. Our compost is a stable addition to the soil. We do two main types of compost: your basic compost and composted chicken manure. The chicken manure compost along with a fish fertilizer that we run through our irrigation are our two main fertilization tactics for crops that need more nitrogen to thrive. We also apply gypsum to all of our fields since our soil is low in calcium. The good thing about gypsum is it doesn’t change the pH of the soil either, which is another important factor. As I wrapped up brain-picking with John this morning, socket wrench still in hand, I was just amazed with the amount of interesting information I had learned. Maybe I should do this more often!

Lisa Hargest
CSA coordinator


What’s in the Box?

1.5 lb Potatoes (purple viking) – See below.
Carrots, bunched – They are great raw, on salad, slaw or stir fried.
1 bunch baby Walla Walla onions – chop the onions and eat raw on salads or soups. Try them grilled! The top green part goes well with eggs, cheese, stir fries or pasta.
1 bunch beets – They are great boiled, roasted, or even grated raw and dressed. Eat the greens too; they are great sautéed with olive oil and salt.
1 green pepper– It is wonderful grilled, sautéed, roasted, or raw.
Summer squash (1lb) – Try them sautéed, grilled, in a soup or stir fried.
2 cucumbers – Eat raw, on salad, or marinate them.
1 bunch parsley – Chop it raw as an addition to a sauté, use in pesto with or without basil. See recipe.
1 bunch basil – Make pesto! Eat with tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and salt.
Romaine lettuce – Make a salad, or add to sandwiches.
2 tomatoes – Chop raw on salad, eat plain like an apple!
1 pint of strawberries

On Purple Viking Potatoes
These purple Viking potatoes were freshly harvested this week. The skins are sensitive and have not hardened yet. These potatoes are a bit more starchy, but do well baked or boiled. I would mash them up with some butter and salt. If you wanted to try something different you could boil them whole, then chop and add some balsamic vinegar, mustard and salt while still warm. They are also quite tasty roasted with the usual rosemary, salt and olive oil.

Tabouli
1/2 cup bulgar
1 bunch parsley, chopped finely
1 bunch baby onions, chopped, greens and all
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, julienned (optional)
1/4 cup or more lemon juice
1/4 cup or more extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: chick peas, cucumbers, a pepper

Boil 3/4 cups water, add to bulgar and cover. Let sit for 15-20 minutes, or until bulgar is tender. Add lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Place in
refrigerator. Add the rest of the ingredients about 30 minutes before serving. Serve cold.

Raw Beet Salad
1 bunch beets, greens chopped off and beets grated
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons honey, maple syrup or sugar

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and season to taste. This is a very simple salad. It goes great on any green salad.
Variations: add grated carrots or chopped parsley to switch it up.

CSA 2011 – Week 6: Water, Water Everywhere…

In the Willamette Valley, most of the time we are spoiled with beautiful, warm, and dry summers. That is really most of the allure of living here. The summers are phenomenal; they warm your soul up enough to last the six rainy months of the year. This past weekend was not the summer that I know. It is interesting to think about how the rain really affects all of the vegetables in the fields. It doesn’t affect them all in a negative way, as it does my personal vitamin D level.

One vegetable that is affected in a negative way is garlic. Our garlic that is trying to dry has a hard time drying in rain, even if it’s covered or under a tarp. The moisture in the air and ground can easily seep its way into that freshly harvested garlic. Luckily the crew is on top of making sure the garlic is covered before rains, but like I said that doesn’t always keep it dry. The tomatoes are not so fond of downpours either. Of course they need water to grow well, but when it pours and then warms up that causes the skins of tomatoes to split. This type of occurrence has the same effect on cherries as well. Some crops thrive in cool rain, for example potatoes and most brassicas (such as kale and cabbage). Lucky for us we grow such a variety of crops that when one crop has a difficult season, there is another crop booming. I guess this goes along with the saying,…

…‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket.’

*CSA Tour and Tasting: Sunday August 28th 2-5pm *
Join us for a farm tour, melon and tomato tasting!

What’s in the Box?

1.5 lb Potatoes (Nicola and fingerling) – These are best steamed, fried, or boiled.
Purple Carrots, bunched – They are great raw, on salad, slaw or stir fried.
1 bunch baby Walla Walla onions – chop the onions and eat raw on salads or soups. The top green part goes well with eggs, cheese, stir fries, or pasta.
1 red cabbage – make slaw, braise it, or use it in a stir fry
2 Leeks – They go great with eggs in a scramble, omelet, in soup, or stir fried.
1 pint sugar snap peas – Eat them raw or do a quick sauté with olive oil and salt.
Summer squash (1lb) – Try them sautéed, grilled, grated raw, soup or stir fried.
Red or Green Leaf lettuce – Make a salad, or add to sandwiches.
2 cucumbers – Eat raw, on salad, or marinate them.
1 bunch dill – Yummy addition to potato salad, cucumber salad, or slaw!
1 Siletz tomato – Chop raw on salad, eat plain like an apple!
1 pint of cherries – picked from the trees down the road at Fritz and Beverley Lonsway’s house.

Recipes:

Stir-fried Sugar Snap Peas

1 pint sugar snap peas, ends and strings removed
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch baby Walla Walla onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Stir fry onions and peas in olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add sesame seeds and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the toasted sesame oil. Season to taste.

Vegetable Leek Medley

2 medium leeks
2 summer squash
2 carrots
4 Tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut top and root end off the leeks and set aside. Cut the leeks in half length wise and chop into 1/4 inch size slices. Rinse the chopped leeks and set aside. Finely chop carrots and zucchini. Sauté carrots and leeks in butter. When they are almost cooked all the way through (5-10 minutes) add the zucchini and cook for another 2 minutes. Season to taste.

Zucchini Cakes

4 cups grated zucchini
1 Tablespoon salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups bread crumbs
Sea salt and pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mix zucchini with salt and let stand 1/2 hour. Rinse well with water and squeeze dry in a tea towel. Mix with eggs, onion, bread crumbs, cheese, and cayenne pepper and season to taste. Form into cakes and sauté a few at a time in butter and olive oil.
Variations: You could add chopped or roasted garlic, sautéed leeks, shredded carrots, chopped onion tops, or even dill to this recipe!