Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Crops for 2014!



2014 CSA New Crops and Varieties


In between shoveling snow, getting extra straw to keep the animals warm, and chopping down some of the dead trees in our own woods to keep ourselves warm, we've also been picking out new seeds and crops for the coming CSA season! With the seeds ordered and on their way, we thought we'd brighten everyone's cold day with the hope of a fruitful season to come.



Cold Season Vegetables


For cool season crops we'll be seeing a return of carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach, arugula, cut lettuce mix, kohlrabi, kale, radishes, swiss chard and turnips. Our cold season crops didn't do that well last year because the ground they were planted in wasn't tilled enough, resulting in a hard pan that the roots had difficulty penetrating. This year we're planning on seeing much more of these crops, and those that we struggled with last year--broccoli, cabbage, leeks, onions, snap peas, and potatoes as well. New cold season crops we're adding this year are celery, cauliflower, parsnips, and shallots! We are planning a summer planting of our favorite cool season crops in the partially shady spot by a hedgerow, so that hopefully we can extend the season and have fresh salad and greens for longer into the  season!


Albion Parsnips




Parsnips-Parsnips are a root vegetable related to the carrot, it's long tuberous root has cream-colored skin and often becomes sweeter in flavor after winter frosts. It was used as a sweetener before the arrival in Europe of cane sugar and beets. The parsnip is usually cooked but can be eaten raw, it is high in vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, and also contains antioxidants and dietary fiber. 








Saffron Shallots


Shallots-Shallots are part of the allium family with onions, leeks, and garlic. Shallots have a brown skin covering faded purple crunchy layers inside. They taste less bitter than onions, and when cooked take on a sweet edge. They ca be used raw in salad dressings, and are delicious with asparagus, mushrooms, swiss chard and peas. Also pairs well with chicken and pork! 

Ruby Queen Corn

Warm Season Vegetables


For warm season crops we'll be seeing a return of some of our favorites, as well as some new varieties for everyone to try. We'll be seeing green beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers (bell, sweet snacking, cayenne, habanero, jalapeno, ancho, and anaheim) pumpkins, summer squash, tomatoes, and winter squash again. We'll also be growing some tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and peppers in the greenhouse, so we will see them even earlier in our shares this year!


Ruby Queen Corn-We picked up a small packet of this in a store, purely on chance last year. Come corn-picking time, it was quickly selected as our favorite out of all the corn varieties we'd grown. Beautiful red kernels, but the flavor! Extra sweet and juicy, last year Farmer Don and Farmer Figgins consumed the entire patch, what little survived the storm that took out most of our corn, out in the fields, fresh off the stalk. But this year we're planning it to be our primary corn variety, just wait till you try it!



Excelsior Cucumbers-As well as doing slicing and lemon cucumbers, we're also adding pickling cucumbers to the field and greenhouse this year! We've bought a special variety, Excelsior, that does especially well trellised in greenhouses, for early cucumbers and pickles!



Excelsior pickling cucumbers

Purple Tomatillo-AKA husk tomato, jamberry, husk cherry, or Mexican tomato. Tomatillos are in the same family as tomatoes and peppers and cape gooseberries, they bear a tiny green or purple fruit inside a paper-like husk. The fruit has a tart flavor is often eaten boiled, fried, or steamed, and are the central ingredient in green sauces and chiles. The purple varieties, like the one we will be trying this year, often have a slight sweetness, so are somewhat more suitable for fruit-like uses like jams and preserves!



Purple Tomtatillos 
Delicata Squash- A unique squash with distinctive dark green stripes on a yellow background, with orange-yellow flesh inside. Also known as peanut squash, Bohemian squash, or sweet potato squash. It belongs to the same species as summer squash but is considered a winter squash. The flesh can be baked, microwaved, sauteed or steamed, or stuffed with meat or vegetable mixtures!


Delicata Squash

Costata Romanesco-A distinctive zucchini known for its gray-green color and prominent ribs and most of all its delicious nutty flavor. Costata Romanesco typically have better texture and are less seedy than other zucchini types! Perfect for small squash for sauteing and larger ones for zucchini bread. 



Costata Romanesco Zucchini

Lunchbox Peppers-Red, Yellow, and Orange, these mini sized peppers are purported to be remarkably sweet and flavorful. Best eaten sauteed, as an addition to salads, or as a healthy  raw snack. Can't wait to try them!



Lunchbox sweet snacking peppers


We'll dedicate a whole other post for tomato varieties, but sneak-peak, we'll be seeing the return of some of last years varieties as well as quite a few new varieties to try!



Fruits


Last year we offered apples, watermelon and melons for fruit in our shares. This year we'll be bringing back our favorite varieties, like Moon and Stars Watermelon and Charentais melons as well as trying some new watermelon and cantaloupe varieties this year. Farmer Figgins has been doing some prunning of the orchard trees--which look like they haven't seen a barber in years. So hopefully we'll get apples and pears out of the orchard this year! 


One of our apple trees last year, full of fruit and overgrown
We're very excited to be trying out some new annual fruits this year! Annual fruits? you say. Meet the ground cherry and garden huckleberry!


Ground Cherries
Ground Cherry-Ground Cherries are in the same family as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and tomatillos. Like tomatillos, ground cherries bear their fruit in papery lantern-like husks that turn brown when the fruits ripen. These plants are native to eastern and central North America and the fruit can be used for preserves, pie, raw over ice cream or in fresh fruit salads. They are stored best inside their husks for up to 3-4 weeks. The fruit is similar to a a firm tomato in texture, and like strawberries or pineapple in flavor with a mild acidity. 



Garden Huckleberries
Garden Huckleberry-AKA Wonderberry, Sunberry. Not a true huckleberry, this annual shrub is also in the Solanaceae family along with the ground cherry and tomato. It produces small metallic purple-black fruit in clusters. Tasteless when raw and unsweetened, but it can be made into a delicious mock blueberry pies and preserves! Great for freezing and canning. 


Herbs


Last year we saw a lot of basil, lemon basil, onion chives, cilantro, parsley and sage in our shares. We'll be growing these herbs again this year and adding quite a few new ones! We're adding more perennial herbs this year, including lavender, oregano, garlic chives, rosemary, thyme and two fun ones: Stevia and Catnip!


Stevia
Stevia-AKA sweetleaf and sugarleaf. This herb is widely grown for its sweet leaves. We bought a few plants from a fellow farmer at the Ada Farmer's Market last year, but the dog and cat kept eating it's sweet leaves! As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar. It's being used by low-carb, low-sugar sweeteners commercially today in our grocery stores. It originated in the Americas, the leaves of the stevia plant have 30-45 times the sweetness of ordinary table sugar. The leaves can be eaten fresh, or put in teas and foods. Medicinally it has traditionally been used as a cardiac stimulant and as a treatment for obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heartburn.


Catnip
Catnip- AKA catswort or catmint. Catnip looks much like regular mint plants, but with brown-green foliage. In humans, the herb is commonly used in herbal tea blends for sleep, stress reduction and relaxation. It is also used as a culinary herb in many dishes. Catnip is best known for its behavioral effects on the cat family--not only on domestic cats but also other species of cats, like tigers, leopards, and lynxes! Catnip contains a feline attractant nepetalactone--when its leaves or stems are bruised cats smell this compound and start rubbing on the plant, rolling on the ground, pawing at it, licking it, chewing it. If they consume the plant their behavior turns to drooling, sleeping, anxiety, purring and leaping about, the response usually lasts for 5-15 minutes. Not all cats are affected by catnip, roughly 1/2-2/3 are affected by the plant, it seems to be a hereditary trait. So even if your cat is not affected by the plant, at least its human masters can use it as a culinary herb or for tea! 

So we hope you enjoyed your sneak peak for the 2014 CSA Season! We still have shares available, check out Our CSA page to learn more and sign up! 

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