Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Savor the flavor ...BABY

Its been along while since I have blogged about what is going on at Long Bean Farm. Mostly this has had to do with having to deal with the plight of the modern day farmer. The weather and needing to pay bills. This winter was the coldest and wettest many in the Brazos Valley can remember. It had a huge negative affect on my crops and I had to start working extra hours as a nurse to cover the losses in curred from starting the CSA spring season late as well as limiting themembership. The good things is that we recovered from the drought and will probably have less pests. So I have been neglecting the blog. Well the bad weather is over and I am happily harvesting those thigs that survived the cold wet season. Some of these things grew slower than normal and I have noticed that as a result of this they have a much more intense flavor. My spinach is amazing and the carrots that wintered over have a wondrful sweet earthy taste that is excellent in soups. The beets greens are especially green and abundant.
I served a spinach salad on Easter and my mother remarked to me that the spinach reminded her of the kind she used to be able to get in bunches at the the local grocer or farmstand when she was younger. She commented that she had forgotten what Spinach really tasted like and that the flavor was strong.
My moms comments got me really thinking about why my spinach tasted different. First of all my spinach was planted in late early February and the spinach she gets in the bag was plantedMarch and harvested in 20-23days forcing quick growth using lots of commercial fertilizer. My spinach had 20 days longer to absorb the nutrients and manufacture the vitamins , chemicals and most importantly the flavanoids that a mature slow grown vegetable provides . It is the flavanoids and phenols which provide the aromas , flavors and colors of spinach but more importantly it is these flavanoids that provide antioxidant acitivity that are helping to make our immune systems healthy so that we can fight off diseases and cancers.

So... Why the baby vegetable craze.... Why are people so willing to pay so much for packaged washed food that does not provide the nutrients of thier cheaper mature unwashed counterparts . It is because the word baby elicits a picture oof something pure and good in our minds and it is already washed and in a ready to serve bag. Commercial agriculture has tricked the well meaning vegetable eater into thinking that the baby greens are more nutrious and pure, when in fact these mildly flavored quickly grown foods ounce for ounce do not provide the same nutrients that thier mature slow grown counterparts have. Here are a few truths about baby vegetables that are similar to human doesn't cost much to make one but the are costly once you get one. The same thing goes for baby veggies.
The cost to produce a 10 ounce bag of baby greens is about 1/2 of the cost of the mature ones . Less days less water less chemicals, quicker turn over in the field and quicker return of investment.

Now i want you all to understand that I am not plugging my CSA as I do not need anymore members ... I have a waiting list .... but I want my CSA members and all the people who choose to eat mature strong flavored vegetables to know that they are doing the best thing possible for thier bodies.

This week my CSA members recieved about 9 pounds of slow grown just picked lettuce , spinach and other greens and nutritious herbs . They paid about $28.00 for this food. this works out to about $3.10 per pound. The lettuce and other baby greens bought at the store sell for about 2.99 per 10 ounces. making the same weight prepackaged food cost $4.78 per pound.
I do not know how to calculate the value of better health but I do know the cost of illness. Become rich by investing in the right food for your body. Easy and mild are not always the routes to success.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Soil seeds and water

Summer vacation is over and we are all back doing what we are supposed to do . Me in the garden and the kids in school. It feels good to back in the old routine. ....

As many of you know I do no enjoy the long hot summers of Texas and given the oppurtunity I head for New England when Icant stand it anymore.When I left in July for the East Coast it was 104 degrees and everything looked like it would burn up at any second. Prior to leaving Tammy and I went out to the farm , weeded, hoed and trimmed back all the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants . We were hoping with the regular watering of my two new Student workers .. John and Michael that the tomato, pepper and eggplants would make it throught until the weather cooled some and the rain came.

Now there is always a price to pay when you leave things untended and to be sure when we got home there were lots of tall weed in both the test garden and the farm from the little rain and the watering that went on while I was gone .We spent the last 2- 3 weeks getting rid of lots of weeds and preparing the soil for the fall crops ..... that was alot of work espeicially in 100degree weather.

The picture to the left is what the backyard garden looked like when I came home.

I am happy to say because of the faithful work of Micheal and John we have managed to carry 20 tomato plants, 12 pepper plants and 10 eggplants through the summer . We should have lots of cherry tomatoes to eat about mid october .
We have been blessed with gentle rain over the last few weeks and despite the continuing heat many of the seeds we have planted have started to sprout. What is more special is the plants that are popping up as a result of me letting the plants go to seed over the summer. So far I have cucumber, watermelon, arugula , beans , long beans and basil sprouting up all over the gardens . I pull most of them but the ones that have started in a good spot I let grow . These plants are special because they would not be here if it were not for the rain . Watering alone does not seem to make these plants sprout it takes gentle rain. Amazing....
Well there is a break in the rain and I am heading out to put some more seeds in the ground and take some more pictures .... Have a great week

Monday, May 18, 2009

Local Food and the Prom

It's been a busy week. The ground at the farm finally dried up enough to be tilled and weeded. So for the last 9 days I have been pulling weeds and grass and tilling , digging potatos and onions and staking tomato plants. Amazingly all that rain had a benefit , several of the tomato and pepper plants that got frost damage and I had thought were goners have come back to life. The garden is recovering from the flood and most everything has bounced back from being waterlogged. I may even have to start watering again . That rain we had on saturday gave people in bryan 1-2 inches of rain but it did'nt rain a drop in Edge and Kurten . i guess thats what they mean when they say 90% chance of rain.

Saturday night was the Bryan High school prom . My son and his date were treated to a romantic dinner prepared by my husband who apprenticed with a French chef for 6 years . It was a family effort with a table beautifully decorated by his grandmother . 80% of the ingredients came from our farm. The menu inspired by Julia Child , started with a fresh field green salad, steak diane, freshly harvested herb roasted purple potatoes, green beans homemade sourdough bread and creme brulee made with eggs from our chickens. I do not believe that they could have had a finer meal in BCS and Im sure his date appreciated not having to stand in a long line out in the rain in her prom dress waiting for a table with all the family and friends of the Texas A&M graduation

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

none at all, a little , way too much

Okay I cant help but talk about rain. 2 months ago I was wondering if we would ever see the fruits of our labor due to the severe drought, frequent frosts and highwind. But then it finally rained . Everything started growing and as you can see by the picture of one of our March harvests , I was very grateful and all the CSA members were happy.

We all felt happy and hopeful when the rain came. So then we planted corn and potatoes on valentines day. It rained that night and up came the corn and the potatoes. Then no rain for 10 days then HIgh winds and just as the corn came to 12 inches high it frosted. Now if it had rained the day before the frost the corn would have been fine but without moisture we lost most of the corn, squash and tomatoes. So we planted again ,it rained and up came the new corn ,some of the sqwuash recovered and the tomatoes are coming along. The beans are up too and all is well....
i hope
Last weeks share was good as usual. I am hoping there will be a good share this week but.... now its rained alot.
As most of you know the main farm is on Harbert road in Kurten about 18 miles from town. My father and mother in law keep thier cows out there so they keep on eye on things for me when I can not get out there daily. My father in law said the garden was still there just a little wet. So today I decided to go out to have a look and pick some veggies for todays shares. Well the creek has done rose!!!! things were wet enough yesterday but last night and this morning we got a total of 5 inches of rain on top of the 6 or so we have had in the last week. We never could make it to the farm because most every pond , tank and creek was over its banks and several bridges were closed between Bryan and Normangee. Maybe I need to get a boat.... Hmm I wonder if the IRs will count that as a farm expense.....
Well luckily my backyard garden has faired well with all this rain(but not as much as Kurten) and we were able to make shares for everyone.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The cost of Frost

I am sure that those of you who read my blog are wondering whats blogs from vicki
Ive been busy replanting.. At the beginning of april all looked really great . We had a little rain , the corn was 6 inches high and the potatoes were 12 inches high.. Then came the wind sucking the mositure out of the plants and MR Frost came sailing in for 2 hours. The corn took a huge hit and the potatoes got nipped , 73 tomato plants gone along with the squash. I was devastated. Luckily it was early enough that I have had time to replant but we wont be eating corn and squash until 3 weeks later than planned.

The weather is what makes farming such a challange. The drought in Texas has been devastating for most farmers. For me on a small scale the losses equate to thousands ( no crop for the farmers market or HEB. ) But luckily with watering ( thank you Wixon Valley water) I was able to meet my commitment to the CSA members with a little left over . I got off easy. FArmers north of Bryan though got hurt bad. Most every farmer who planted from Temple to NOrth Bryan lost thier entire corn crop. A client of my husbands called for Sorghum seed to replace the 90,0000 of corn he lost on his 300acres. To make things worse as I learned on my income taxes he cannot write this loss off as an expense. Its not easy to be a farmer..

So why do we do it.. I do for the joy of when things do grow, for being in the sunshine and seeing the look on the faces of the people who get the produce. It makes the struggle worth it and makes me appreciate life.

The good news is .. the new crop of corn is up and the potatoes are recovering. See you later

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Break locavore style

Spring break is here and with that comes a change in my routine ...well at least for a week. Just like every parent we have to think of things to do during that week. For our family it is a chance to do one of the things we enjoy most . So my husband and I are home this week and we have brought out the recipie books and magazines to find ways to incorporate all the wonderful things we grow in our garden . This is a great oppurtunity to teach the boys how to cook by letting them loose in the kitchen with a recipie and a little supervision. It occupies thier time and helps them take responsibility for answering that question all parents hear far too much during vacation....What are we going to eat???!!!

During this break Micah my 17 yo is learning to make pasta . So far it is going great. Last night we had Beef Stogonauff with homemade eggnoodles and lemon parsley gremolata accompanied by fresh spring salad (from the garden ) and Italian lemon pie. Yum

Tonight is Ravioli stuffed with a meat or cheese which will be seasoned with ingrediants from the garden and tomato sauce made with the last of the homegrown tomatoes from last falls harvest. Our accompanying dish will be sauteed spinich.

Now that I have made you hungry here are some of the recipies

Lemon parsley gremolata

lemon peel from 1 whole lemon ( yellow only)use vegtable peeler then chop finely
1/4 cup frimly packed fine chopped italian parsley
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
mix together
Serving suggestion
Toss with 3 cups of cooked pasta, 2 tablspoons of olive oil, 1/2tsp kosher salt and 1/4 cup parmesian cheese

serve over any stewed beef or lamb

Sauteed spinach

1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2tsp redpepper flakes
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 heads of spinch about 1 lb
1Tbsp balsamic vinager
1/4tsp of kosher salt
Sautee farlic and pepper flakes in oil in a large saute pan for 1 minute over medium hear.
Add spinach in batches cooking about 1 minute before adding next batch. Using tongs turn the spinach allowing it to wilt Oce wilted season with salt and finish with balsamic vinager.

Hope you have a great week and eat well.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

stress or starvation

The lack of rain has been a serious issue in Texas for several months. I have been forced to change the way that I do things in the garden as a result of it. I am not a big fan of watering but in order to make a harvest out of the investments that i have made in out land in Kurten I have been watering 2 x a week. . Its not easy to water 3/4 of an acre . I have had to build irrigation using 1/2 inch pvc pipe sections about 20 feet long with 4 sprinkler heads and a hose connection . I have built a total of 10 of these so far . and I move them around the garden. I have also started using the system used by the A&M system digging trenches between my rows and running water down the trenches in order to water the roots of the plants. It takes a long time to dig a trench 100 feet long 5 x in one afternoon.
The stress of ]all this work is exhausting but my efforts are paying off and the plants are growning. But of course not like they could be if
if it would just rain.
This drought has really made me think about how reliant we all have become on the modern water sources we have available . Im not sure what i would have done 100 years ago if i was trying to grow food for my family with a shallow well or if I was really lucky a tank to get water from. I guess we would have been really hungry. I would really like it if any of you old timers out there could tell me how your parents or grandparents would get through times of drought like we are having now.
Have a great week. I think it is going to rain on SAturday.... . Vicki