CSA 2011 – Week 14: Hybrid vs. Open Pollinated vs. Heirloom seeds

Many of you have been receiving some of our specialty ‘heirloom’ tomatoes each week. They seem to come in all sorts of crazy shapes and colors. Along with these some of you also get some of our big beef tomatoes as well. The big beefs are fairly uniform in color and shape and the plants have a high yield. What is the main difference between these two types of tomatoes? The seeds. The heirloom tomato seeds are old varieties from which the seeds have been saved. On the other hand, big beef tomato seeds are a hybrid variety of seed. This means that the seed was produced by the mating of two “parents” in the same species.

So, one would purposefully cross a high-producing tomato plant with one that is disease resistant in order to create a tomato that would be both high producing and disease resistant. Nowadays, from a legal standpoint, the pollination of hybrid must be controlled and the parents must be known. Hybrid crops seem great from one angle: more tomatoes, disease resistance – what could be better? However, one fallback is that the seeds saved from hybrids do not stay true to their type. So, if you tried to save seeds from a big beef tomato, the seeds may not germinate, and if they do, they may not produce fruit. If they do produce, they may not be ‘big beefs’. On top of that, hybrid seeds are generally more expensive than open pollinated or heirloom seeds.

Now, a little bit about open pollinated seeds. ‘Heirloom seeds’ is just a name for old varieties of open pollinated seeds. Open pollinated seeds are ones that are true to their type in the way that you can save their seeds, replant them and they will produce the same plant that you saved the seeds from. Some species of plants are self pollinating (beans, peas, tomatoes, and lettuce), so these do not have to be isolated by types in order to keep from crossing. On the other hand, species such as beets, brassicas, carrots, corn, and squash are cross-pollinating species, and they need to be isolated in order to keep the resulting seeds true to their parent plant.

We grow a combination of hybrid and open pollinated vegetables here at GTF. I think that there is something very valuable about being able to save seed from your own crops. But at the same time there is something very valuable about a plant that will readily produce and be vigorous. I guess you can find both qualities in some hybrid and open pollinated varieties of vegetables. I think that it’s safe to say that both seem to have their place in the vegetable farming world today.

What’s in the Box?

1.5 lb Potatoes (Rose Gold)- Steam, roast, fry, mash, you can do just about anything!

Carrots, bunched – Shred them on salad, sauté in butter with salt, or eat plain.

2 onions (1 white, 1 yellow)– Add to any sauté, or eat raw sliced thin on sandwiches, or add to a slaw or potato salad.

Charantais melon– Eat just like it is!

Lemongrass– Use it as a seasoning in curry or Thai dishes, try steeped in soup too! Make lemongrass tea!

2 colored peppers—Grill, roast, or just eat raw, they are sweet.

1 cippolini onion– Caramelize, or eat raw. They are sweet when cooked.

1 Broccoli or cauliflower– Steam, eat raw, or blanch and then sauté in butter or olive oil. It’s tasty roasted as well.

1 green cabbage– make slaw, steam in chunks or add to soup or stew.

Cardinal or Red oak compact lettuce– Make a salad, or add to sandwiches, make lettuce wraps.

Tomatoes (approximately 2 lbs) – Chop raw on salad, or sandwiches.

1 pint of cherry tomatoes– eat on salads, cut in half and make a tomato salad with basil.

4 ears of corn– Grill in husk or steam; add salt and butter or just eat plain.

Vegetable curry
2-3 cups of chopped cabbage
3-4 carrots, sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 head of broccoli or cauliflower
1 small tomato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped lemongrass, chopped
4 tablespoons red or green curry paste
1-2 cups of water or stock (vegetable or chicken work well)
Salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pan or wok on medium. Add the onions, carrots and cabbage. Sautée for 10 minutes or so, or until the carrots are about half cooked. Add the broccoli and garlic and continue cooking for another couple of minutes.

Add the stock, coconut milk, curry paste, chopped tomato, and lemon grass. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Salt to taste. You may add more or less curry paste depending on how spicy you would like it to be.
*The lemongrass can be put in some sort of a cheesecloth baggie and steeped or put directly into the curry. It will stay woody even when cooked so I usually don’t eat the lemongrass, but infuse the flavor into the dish.
*Add some sort of cooked meat to this if you’d like! Cilantro or Thai basil goes well in this dish too.

Roasted pepper ‘pesto’
2 colored peppers
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup toasted nuts, almonds or filberts (optional)
Pinch of salt

Roast the peppers in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until skins start to brown. Place in a metal or glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit until somewhat cooled. Peel skins off of the peppers and remove the stem and seeds. Place the peppers aside.
Meanwhile in a blender or food processor, place the oil and garlic, Pulse until the garlic is no longer visible. Add the peppers and pulse a few times longer. Add the cheese and nuts, pulse a few more times and then salt to taste. This spread goes wonderfully on sandwiches, as a topping for many veggie dishes, or even as a dip for carrots or broccoli.

CSA 2011 – Week 11: Melon and Tomato Tasting Recap

Well, the delayed heat finally set in last week to help ripen up our outdoor tomatoes and peppers along with our melons too! The melon and tomato tasting was a success as well. About five families showed up to try our offerings, and we took a tour of the farm in the big red truck!

I even learned some new information. For example, we have been having issues with spider mites in the summer for the past couple of years because they thrive and readily reproduce in hot, dry weather. John explained to us that they came up with a new solution this year: running a sprinkler periodically to keep the humidity up. And it works!

We also got a chance to look at the Wild Garden Seed lettuce field. It looks like they have started to harvest some plants out there that were laying down on some white cloth. This time of year the lettuce seed field is just beautiful. Most of the 4-5 foot tall plants are still glowing red, green, purple, or a combination of the three and a lot of them are displaying their white fluffy seed heads. It looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Just think, each of those plants will produce hundreds of little lettuce seeds that will then produce more and more lettuce or seed, and it will just continue on and on! We will be having a fall potluck and tour, date to be decided. We’ll keep you posted on that.
Lisa Hargest– CSA coordinator

Words from Sally:
I hope your weekly box is nourishing you and your family. It feels as if the GTF bounty has finally kicked into gear. I think I have “stressed” about this year’s box more than any other year. Again I want to thank you for accepting the challenge of eating with the season or whatever that particular season offers. Joelene, Dan, and I have started to pick the 2nd planting of watermelons as the 1st planting got eaten by our local crow mob. We have four plantings, so be looking for melons in your upcoming boxes. We would love to hear about some of your creative menus from your CSA box!

Enjoy your vegetables!
Sally

What’s in the Box?

1.5 lb Potatoes (nicola)– Steam, roast, or mash. These are versatile. (see recipe)

Carrots, bunched – They are great raw, on salad, slaw or stir fried.

2 onions (1 Big Alsea craig white onion, 1 superstar)– Chop the onions and eat raw on salads or soups. They are very good caramelized.

Honey Pearl Melon– Eat just like it is!

1 yellow or orange pepper—Grill, roast, or just eat raw, they are very sweet.

1 Anaheim pepper– Chop raw, and add to salsa, salad, or sauté with summer squash.

1 broccoli – Steam, roast, or grill with salt and olive oil.

2 cucumbers– Chop and add to a salad. Marinate and combine with tomatoes!

1 lb romano, wax, or green beans– Blanch them and then sauté with olive oil, salt, garlic and herbs.

1 globe eggplant– Roast, or pan fry. Try breading and frying for eggplant parmesan.

1 bunch cilantro – Use in salsa, try salsa verde with the tomatillos. It goes well with cucumbers too. (see recipes)

1 garlic – Add to salsa, sautés, or try roasting in skins.

1 jalapeño– Use in salsa, or anything that you would like to spice up!

1 lb tomatillos– Make salsa verde! It’s a wonderful topping for tacos.

Assorted lettuce (oak leaf, romaine, little gem, or crisp leaf) – Make a salad, or add to sandwiches, make lettuce wraps!

Tomatoes (approximately 2 lbs) – Chop raw on salad, or  sandwiches.


Recipes:

Salsa Verde
1 lb tomatillos
1 teaspoon (more or less) chopped jalapeño
1/2 c cilantro, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lime juice
Pinch of salt

Peel the papery outer husks off of the tomatillos. Simmer them in boiling water for 8-10 minutes, and then peel the skins off. Add the cilantro and garlic and then puree in a food processor or blender. Heat the oil over low heat. Stir in the chopped onion, and jalapeño cooking slowly until slightly wilted. Add the tomatillo mixture, lime juice and the salt. Remove from heat right away, then refrigerate until chilled. Serve chilled. Salsa will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.


Broiled Eggplant Slices

1 globe eggplant
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup cilantro marinade

Peel eggplant and slice 3/8 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and let stand 1 hour. Rinse and pat dry. Place on a well– oiled cookie sheet and brush half the marinate on top of the slices . Broil until golden, turn, brush other side with remaining marinade and broil again.


Cilantro Marinade

1 bunch of cilantro
Juice of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together. Refrigerate until needed.

Stuffed Potatoes
6 medium baking potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
1 onion, finely chopped                                                                                     1/2 cup parmesan or cheddar cheese
2-3 tablespoons basil, or parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Place whole potatoes in a clay pot, cover and set in a cold oven and turn on to 250 degrees. The potatoes will cook in 2-3 hours depending on their size. Cut butter into cubes and place in a large bowl. When the potatoes are done, cut lengthwise and scoop out soft potato flesh into the bowl with the butter. Mash with a potato masher, mix in cultured cream, cheese, herbs and onions. Season to taste. Spoon the potato mixture back into the shells and return them to a 150– degree oven to keep warm.