The Life of a GTF Tomato

  • Seed Selection—there are thousands of tomato varieties in this world, and we need the tomatoes that grow well and sell in this area. Joelene spends countless hours meeting with seed company representatives and other farmers talking about which varieties they think are best. Then she has to use her twenty years of growing experience on GTF land to choose what’s best for us, taking into consideration what sells well at markets and wholesale.
  • Seed Timing & Grafting—We seed tomatoes about every other week from January through April. We have to have successions of dozens of different varieties of tomatoes, some in hoop houses, some outside. Plus nearly all of our tomatoes destined for hoop houses must be grafted, so we have to match the timing of rootstock and scion tomatoes which grow at different rates but must have the same stem girth at the time of grafting.
  • Flat Preparation—We make our own propagation soil mix for all the transplants we grow. To do that we have to make our own compost (a very complex piece of the puzzle), and then sift it all by hand, mixing it in a cement mixer with peat moss, perlite or pumice, and our own special mixture of micro ingredients and mycorrhizal fungi. The greenhouse crew makes soil nearly all day twice a week about January—April.
    • Tomato Seeding—We seed all of our tomatoes by hand, and the flats sit on hot tables to improve germination. For grafted tomatoes, twice the number of plants must be seeded.
    • The Grafting Chamber—After many years, Joelene has finished our grafting chamber to be a deluxe resort where tomatoes can form graft unions, a place where they can have just the right amount of light, heat, and moisture. Two people graft two to three days a week for at least two months. This takes precision razor cuts, sanitation, steady hands, and many years of practice.
    • Up-potting—After the tomatoes have sealed their grafts and the graft clip pops off, it’s time to up-pot all the seedlings into larger pots, which the tomatoes grow up in for another couple weeks.
    • Succession Planning & Disease Rotation—We graft nearly all the tomatoes destined for hoop houses. This is because we don’t have quite enough houses to rotate our hot weather crops as much as we’d like, so there is more disease build up in that soil. Many of the diseases that inflict tomatoes are soil born, so that’s why we graft disease-resistant rootstock with heirloom tomato scion material. We have more land outside of hoop houses and can do a better disease rotation, so grafting isn’t as important for outdoor tomatoes.
  • House Preparation
    • Install snow protection in the winter so we don’t lose any houses to snow. Remove them in the spring.
    • Soil testing—Check for all the macro and micro nutrients, add fertility and other various amendments. It’s actually quite a bit more complicated than that, especially including mid-growth applications.
    • Till the ground and form the beds.
    • Lay out drip tape and hook up irrigation, including trench digging, pressure calculations and pipe repairs.
    • Lay plastic over the drip tape and cover edges with soil to hold in place.
    • Sterilize trellising wires and install in the houses.
  • Tomato Transplanting—All the up-potted tomatoes must be loaded onto flatbed trucks and driven out to their planting destination. For many of the things we grow we use a partially mechanized transplanting method (tractor attachments that allow people to either sit or lay down while they plant), but all of our tomatoes get transplanted by hand. It’s a whole lot of bending over, at first in the cold and muddy spring, and later in the blistering hot summer.
  • Tomato Trellising—We have metal hooks with twine hanging down from the greenhouse ceiling. The strings are attached to the tomato plants planted below, and the plants grow up the strings as the season progresses.
  • Tomato Pruning—We prune nearly all of our indeterminate tomatoes to have two main leaders, one to twine around each string hanging down from the trellis. For about ten weeks out of the year a four-person crew works about three full days a week pruning and trellising tomatoes. Trellising entails twining the new tomato growth around the strings as the plants grow. Pruning involves careful pinching and clipping of branches and suckers. Anyone who’s spent much time pruning tomatoes knows the feeling of having green sticky tomato gunk all over your arms and hair and face. We prune largely to decrease disease pressure allowing more air flow through the houses.
  • Greenhouse Shading—In the summer months it can get way too hot inside a long hoop house, so we have to provide the plants some shade. If we had all the dollars we would just buy shade cloth, but we don’t , so we have designed a mud cannon to shoot mud all over the outside of our greenhouses, thus shading our tomato plants. Before the cannon was invented, it took a crew of four people standing (barely) on the back of a flatbed throwing mud up onto the houses one Nancy’s yogurt scoop at a time while driving forward in a jerky fashion.
  • Weeding—This is the one thing that doesn’t take too much time with tomatoes, as they are planted in plastic mulch. The plastic we use is a special plastic designed to prevent weed germination, but also designed to allow lots of heat to come through. This extra heat on the root system is what really drives up our yields.
  • Pest & Disease Monitoring—The plants have to be constantly monitored to see how they’re doing, see if we need to address any pest or disease issues, or if we need to apply mud or go through and do another prune. This is a duty shared by many who are at the farm all the time. We all watch and observe and share our concerns.
  • Tomato Irrigation—Irrigation is a very delicate dance. Water too much and you get disease and dilute fruit; water too little and you’ll have stunted plants and decreased yields. And those are but a few of the problems that can arise from improper irrigation. Joelene lives at the farm and gets up with the sun every day. She spends her entire day turning water on and off all around the farm until it’s dark out, and it’s light out for a long time in the summer! She has to use decades of knowledge about farming to decide which crops need what, taking into account what the weather’s been doing for the past few weeks and what it’s projected to do. Only so much water can be drawn from individual pumps at a time, so crops have to be prioritized, and a huge mental map must exist.
  • Tomato Harvest—Our field crew of about fifteen people harvests tomatoes nearly every day for almost four months straight. It’s a lot harder than it sounds to judge when a tomato is at the perfect time to pick, especially because every variety is different, every microclimate is different, every hoop house is different, and all of our eyes are different. You don’t want it too ripe or else it won’t make it to market, but you don’t want it so green that it won’t finish ripening. And aside from that, the simple mechanics of getting your body into a greenhouse packed with tomato plants taller than you, while holding a flat of thirty pounds of tomatoes while it’s crazy humid and reaching 90 degrees outside—that’s difficult.
  • Tomato Grading—Once in the packing shed, all of our tomatoes get graded by a crew of 2-3 people. Every single tomato gets picked up, felt, looked at, and put back down into its final destination. Tomato grading takes a trained eye and hand, and is broken down into the following categories:
    • Grocery Store Order—get packed into nice boxes and delivered all over Corvallis and Portland.
    • Restaurant Order—get packed into nice boxes and delivered all over Corvallis and Portland.
    • Farmers’ Markets—get packed into yellow flats and sent to markets.
    • #2’s—get sold discounted by the box or get roasted by our food processing crew and used in our salsa, in our restaurant (pizza sauce) and sold wholesale to other restaurants.
    • Compost—another place where the whole cycle begins again.
  • Heirloom Tomatoes—Heirlooms are so huge and delicate that they have to be cradled to stay protected. When harvested, we put them in foam-lined yellow flats in a single layer, so they take up a lot of space on pallets.
  • Marketing Tomatoes—Every year the giant selection of tomato varieties we grow changes to match changes in growing conditions and market demand. This information has to get compiled by our office and given out to our marketeers and our customers, which takes a good deal of time as well.
  • Cleaning Tomato Houses—At the end of the season we have to remove all of the dead tomato plants from the trellis strings. The plants get loaded onto a flatbed and get taken to our compost pile. The strings must be cleaned of all plant material, wrapped up in an organized fashion, and unhooked from the greenhouse ceiling. Then all the plastic must be carefully pulled out of the soil and thrown away. The drip tape must be gathered together and moved out of the way for the winter, and then the whole cycle starts over again.

Though tomatoes are one of our most labor-intensive crops to produce, many of the things we grow take nearly as much work and time, such as leeks and strawberries.

This blog post was written by Laura Bennett.

2016 CSA – Week 11: The Case of the Spicy Jimmy Nardello Peppers

CSA Week 11 Graphic

CSA Newsletter – Week 11


The Case of the Spicy Jimmy Nardello Peppers

Twice now, I have prepared what I thought were Jimmy Nardello Sweet Frying Peppers only to find out that they were not sweet, but very spicy!

The first time, I thought it was my error. That I just grabbed what I thought were Nardellos but were actually cayenne or another hot pepper. The second time, I began to wonder if something else might be going on, if this was not an isolated incident.

As it turns out, we planted contaminated seed. These off type plants are interspersed throughout our planting of Jimmy Nardello Peppers. Jolene, the farm manager, says that this is common with open pollinated varieties, pollinated by natural mechanisms such as air, wind, insects, such as the Jimmy Nardello Peppers.

For seed contamination to occur the Jimmy Nardello pepper seed could have been grown near a hot pepper variety or it is possible that it was contaminated by a pollinator or a person that had pollen on them before visiting the Jimmy Nardello patch.

Sometimes these off types or crosses can make for some very interesting and exciting vegetables—a happy accident! However, in the case of the Jimmy Nardello peppers, expecting a sweet pepper and getting a very hot pepper is not my idea of a happy accident. I’ll continue to eat these delicious peppers this season but from now on, I’m going to sample each one before eating!

Have a great week.

-Lily, CSA Coordinator

Table of Box Contents

  Lettuce ($2.00)

☐  1½ lbs Purple Potatoes ($2.25) – These beautiful potatoes are purple inside and out.

☐  2 Anaheim Peppers ($2.25) – Make chili rellenos, stuff them, fry them, or use them in place of lieu of jalapeno

☐  2 Colored Bell Peppers ($2.25) – Grill or broil and use in soups, sandwiches, dips, or salad.

☐  1 lb Green Beans ($4.00) – Delicious tossed in olive oil and salt and grilled or sautéed with caramelized onions, see recipe.

☐  1 Watermelon ($6.75)

☐  1 Shallot ($1.75) – A close relative to onions, shallots tend to have a milder flavor and less of a bite than onions. They are delicious sliced raw or sautéed.

2 Dried Onions ($1.25) – Store in a cool, dry place

☐  Chioggia Bunched Beets ($3.50)

☐  3 Heirloom Tomatoes ($8.00)

☐  4 Ears of Corn ($4.00) – Steam or grill (with husk on) and eat with salt and butter.

Box Market Value: $38.00

 

Recipes

Corn Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Mint

Fresh raw corn is ideal in this recipe. The juice from the tomatoes delivers just the right amount of acidity, so there’s no need for vinegar. Eat this by the bowl as is or toss it with cooked rice or beans for a more filling salad.

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 cups raw or cooked corn kernels (from 4 to 6 ears)
  • 1 large or 2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into fairly small pieces
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Put the corn, tomatoes, and cheese in a medium salad bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss.
  2. Add the mint leaves and toss again. Taste and add salt and pepper. Serve.

Read More: NYTimes Cooking

 

Sautéed Green Beans with Mushrooms and Caramelized Cipollini Onions

Sautéing green beans with caramelized onions is my favorite way to prepare green beans. You can really use any onion and you certainly don’t have to use whole cipollinis. The essentials of this recipe are to caramelize the onions and to blanch the green beans before sautéing.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 pound button mushrooms, washed, trimmed, and cut into quarters
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon picked fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon

Preparation

  1. Melt 3 tablespoons butter (or heat olive oil) in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add cipollini onions, season well with salt and pepper, reduce heat to low, and cook, turning occasionally, until onions are a deep, caramel brown, about 45 minutes total.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add beans and cook until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain and run under cool running water until at cold. Set aside.
  4. Heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat until lightly smoking. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’ve released all their liquid and are browned, about 10 minutes total, reducing heat if oil starts to smoke excessively. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Add shallots, garlic, thyme, and remaining tablespoon butter (or olive oil) and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add soy sauce and toss to combine.
  6. Add green beans, onions, and lemon juice to mushrooms and toss to reheat and combine. Serve immediately.

2016 CSA – Week 10: Onion Harvest…Waiting for the Flop

CSA Week 10 Graphic

CSA Newsletter – Week 10


Onion Harvest: Waiting for the Flop

In early spring, we seeded about 800 flats of onions and shallots in the greenhouse (that’s over 19,000 onions!). These guys have spent the summer growing in the fields and now the tops are beginning to flop. This is an indication that they are done growing. Once the majority of the onions have flopped, they are pulled, by hand, from the ground and laid on the soil surface for a few days. This allows the roots to dry, decreasing the chance of rot
during storage.

The onions are then loaded onto trucks and transported from the field into greenhouses for curing. Curing allows the onion to dry and for a protective skin to form. We typically let them cure for at least one week, sometimes longer if we are busy harvesting other crops! Once the onions have
dried, the tops and roots are trimmed and they are placed in wooden crates for storage. If the crop is healthy and the storage conditions are right, these onions will last through the beginning of next year. You can never have too many onions in my book!

Have a great week.

-Lily, CSA Coordinator

 

Table of Box Contents

☐ Lettuce ($2.00)
☐ 1½ lbs Potatoes ($2.25)
☐ 1 Eggplant ($4.50) – See the recipes for a delicious eggplant sauce.
☐ 2 Colored Bell Peppers ($4.00) – Grill or broil and use in soups, sandwiches,
dips, or salad.
☐ 1 Red Cipollini onion ($1.00) – Cipollinis are lovely roasted or caramelized and can be used in any recipe calling for onion.
☐ 1 White Cipollini onion ($1.00)
☐ 2 Dried Sweet onions ($1.25) – Store in a cool, dry place.
☐ 1 Fennel Bulb ($2.00) – For fennel lovers, use the fronds as the greens in
your favorite pesto recipe.
☐ Bunched Carrots ($3.50)
☐ 2-3 Zucchini ($2.50)
☐ 1 lb Romano Beans ($4.00) – Substitute these beans for green beans in any
recipe. Delicious blanched or sautéed.
☐ 3 lbs Heirloom Tomatoes (3) ($12.00) – You can’t go wrong with these beautiful tomatoes. Sandwiches, caprese salad, pasta, or slice, salt, and eat with a knife and fork!
☐ 4 Ears of Corn ($4.00) – Picked by farmer John himself. Steam or grill
(with husk on) and eat with salt and butter. For a culinary adventure, make fresh polenta!

Box Market Value: $44.00

 

Recipes

Ottolenghi’s Eggplant Sauce

This recipe is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty. The full recipe includes making a fresh corn polenta which is topped with this sauce. However, the sauce sounded so good it seems that it would be delicious on just about anything! Check out the full recipe at Food 52.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/4cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chopped peeled tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 6 1/2tablespoons water
  • 1/4teaspoon salt
  • 1/4teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano

Preparation

  1. Heat up the oil in a large saucepan and fry the eggplant on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until nicely brown.
  2. Drain off as much oil as you can and discard it — the safest way to do this is to scoop out the eggplant to a plate using a slotted spoon, then pour off the oil into a bowl before added the eggplant back in. You can save the oil to fry lamb chops or eggs in tomorrow.
  3. Add the tomato paste to the pan and stir with the eggplant.
  4. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, salt, sugar and oregano and cook for a further 5 minutes to get a deep-flavored sauce.
  6. Set aside; warm it up when needed.


Jalapeno Corn Fritters

This is not the type of thing that I would make regularly, but a good fritter sure is delicious! For a slightly lighter version, omit the bacon and cheese.

 Ingredients

  • 3 c. fresh corn
  • 2/3 c. cornmeal
  • 1/4 c. shredded Cheddar
  • 1/4 c. cream cheese
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 jalapeño, finely diced
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil or canola oil
  • Juice of 1 lime, divided
  • Sour cream, for serving

Preparation

  1. In a medium bowl, combine corn, cornmeal, cheddar, cream cheese, scallions, bacon, eggs, the juice of half a lime, and jalapeño.
  2. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, form the mixture into small patties.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  4. Working in batches, fry the patties until they’re golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per sidee.

Read More: Delish