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Wednesday, August 29  

 

Week Eleven  

Mixed Cherry Toms, Heirloom Toms, Basil, Lettuce Mix, Arugula, Shishito Peppers, Okra, Eggplant, Dragon Tongue Snap Beans, Jalapeños, & One Dozen Eggs 


Notes:

Dragon Tongue Beans These are the mostly white, with purple streaks. I love to snack on them raw just all day long. They're great dipped in homemade mayo or homemade ranch dressing. If you must cook them, a breakfast of sautéed beans, cherry tomatoes, with a poached or fried egg, all topped with some chopped or torn basil is most excellent. 

Heirloom Tomatoes I'll keep the previous info about the tomatoes in this newsletter, just as a reference. See the farm note below for more info. I will note here, however, that everyone likely will get a slightly different mix of tomatoes, mainly based on availability and weights. We'll have tomatoes for another handful of weeks so ideally by the end of the season you will have gotten to try them all--hopefully a couple of times. But you might keep this newsletter somewhere you can find it later if you'd like to reference the farm note below.       
    


 
Don't forget to leave your cooler out with your bag and any clean egg cartons!
Feel free to browse any past issues for additional recipe ideas! 
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Pictured above: A comfrey plant between two young chokeberry plants. 
Farm Note

All the stuff + Bulk Items and Tomato Seconds
 
It's been a flurry of activity at the farm this past week. The usual planting, harvesting, milking, etc. continues, but we also carved out some time to clean out our work shed. Additionally, work has begun on another existing barn to make improvements for our milking process, our water pump is finally hooked up and we can now pump spring water from our spring-fed pond, and I finally have an official, legit irrigation system in the high tunnel (I've been getting by with a regular ol' lawn sprinkler--not ideal). 

I'll throw it out there, too, that we can offer some items in bulk (by the pound) for home preserving projects. We have plenty of okra and eggplant. We love to ferment the okra in a salt brine, but a vinegar brine works well with okra, too. Currently, I'm wanting to hold on offering bulk tomatoes, but that should be coming soon. 

I can currently offer tomato seconds--tomatoes with slight blemishes, soft spots, or cracks. These would be good for processing into tomato sauce, salsa, etc.  

Send us an email with the item you might like and an idea of how much you'd like. We can work out wholesale pricing and payments for bulk items and seconds.  
 

Tomatoes & Dry Farming

So glad to be offering a selection of my favorite tomatoes--White Tomesol, Green Zebra, Garden Peach, Japanese Black Trifele, Speckled Roman, and Hillbilly Potato Leaf (in no particular order). Each tomato's name reflects a physical characteristic of the tomato--the "Great White," for example, is the white, or slightly yellow; "Green Zebra" is the mostly green, or deep yellow, with "zebra" streaks on it. You can probably guess pretty well just by looking at them. In any case, here's a bit more info about these tomatoes.

As noted above, everyone got a slightly different mix, so you might find three or four of these types, but maybe not every single type. Ideally, by the end of the year you will have gotten to try them all a couple of times. 

White Tomesol. Pale in color, sometimes with a pink blush on the bottom, and usually around 8 oz in weight. I love the subtle flavor of this tomato. For me, it has the quality of a melon, or some combination of a juicy cucumber, honeydew, and maybe the rind of a watermelon. It's very juicy with a thin skin. It does bruise easily, so be careful handling this one. 

Green Zebra. An excellent tomato, weighing in at about 6 oz. Ripens from light green to a deep yellow/gold. For me, there is an element of spiciness to the flavor, and it's just a beautiful color when added raw to anything. 

Japanese Black Trifele. This one is potentially life changing...not to set the expectations to high. Also weighing about 4-6 oz, this is a pear shaped, black tomato with green shoulders. It's meaty enough to use as a canning tomato, but I always eat it fresh. Black tomatoes are, on the whole, a bit more "rich" or deep in flavor--less about the sweetness and more about the depth. Usually, I wait to cut into it after the shoulders have turned mostly or all red. 

Speckled Roman. Similar in markings to the Green Zebra, except in this case we have a red with yellow steaks, elongated Roma type tomato. A great canning tomato, but also really great for fresh eating. Very meaty with few seeds. For me, it's just that classic red tomato taste, which is always good. 

Garden Peach. Wow, you'll know this one right away. Fuzzy like a peach and only slightly smaller, weighing about 2-4 oz. I love the balanced acidity with this one. It's sweet and "fresh" tasting, for me. 

The Hillbilly Potato Leaf. I may have saved the best for last. If you were twisting my arm, this would rank # 1. This is a big beefsteak type weighing a pound of more. Yellow/Orange with a red blush from the bottom. It's sweet, but not too sweet. Tomato-y. Juicy. Meaty. It has some of that melon quality that the White Tomesol has. And what a great name for a tomato! The "potato leaf" is in reference to the actual leaves of the plant--they look like the leaves of a potato plant (tomatoes and potatoes are in the same plant family, Solanum.) 
 

I want to add, as well, a little tidbit about how we're growing these tomatoes. We practice a farming technique often referred to as "dry farming." You'll see dry farming terminology referenced in viticulture, or the growing of vines for wine. The idea in both cases--vineyards and our little Pink Elephant Farm--is that when you don't water a plant that is ripening a fruit, the sun and heat is working on that plant to concentrate and intensify sugars aka flavor. Research has shown dry farmed fruits and vegetables have higher concentrations of nutrients than irrigated fruits and veggies.    

For example, to plant the tomatoes we dug a deep hole, amended with some compost, dropped the plant as deep in the hole as we could, "mudded" the plant in (gave it one big drink of water to get started and overcome its transplant shock), filled the hole back in with the loose dirt, mulched them. Then they are basically left alone, except for a little trellising and pruning. They are watered by the rain that falls on them.                
 
Recipe 

A Healing Salve 
 
We are growing a relatively small amount of an herb called Comfrey. If you're familiar with comfrey already, you know why we want it around. :) If comfrey is new to you, it's one of my favorite plants. It's kind of THE essential permaculture plant. 

As a perennial I use it around other perennial plants, like the few blueberries we have close to the house and in the herb garden. While it works to improve the soil, it's also an amazing healing herb for small cuts and scapes. 

To make a salve, all you do is chop the herb very finely, pack it into a sanitized jar, submerge the herb in an oil--olive oil, hemp oil, etc.--for about 4-6 weeks. Check on every day or two and just keep pressing the herb down to keep it submerged. Afterwards, you just strain off the oil, which will have turned a deeper green, squeeze out the herb so you get all the oil out. Finally, you would put the infused oil in a sauce pot, heat it slowly, and grate in bees wax, which just thickens it. While it's warming and melting the bees wax, you could add any essential oil you like. Store it in a glass jar and use as a moisturizing lotion and/or apply to small cuts or bruises. We use ours almost daily to address the little cuts we pick up from working. 

Send us an email if you'd like us to send you some fresh comfrey next week so you can trying making your own.  

 
Monday/Tuesday: A newsletter for the week's CSA share should arrive in your email inbox. It will have details of what's in the share, a note about something going on at the farm, any announcements, and some recipe ideas for items in the share. 

Wednesday/Thursday: We'll harvest, wash and pack all veggies, and get organized for delivery. We wash off the "field dirt" of the veggies, and even though we don't use any chemicals on the farm, you still may feel more comfortable giving the veggies a second, more thorough washing. :)  

Thursday: Delivery day! Your share should arrive at your door sometime between 3-7pm. Leaving a cooler our for us is the most important aspect of deliveries going smoothly. With temps getting hotter and hotter, the cooler will ensure the veggies stay crisp and the eggs stay cool. Ideally, the cooler would be easily accessible AND in a shady spot. Your share will come in an up-cycled, reusable "grocery" bag. You can leave your empty bag from the previous week in your cooler, along with any clean egg cartons, and we will pick these up to reuse the following week.   

All Week: Enjoy your veggies and eggs! Please reach out at anytime with questions, comments, concerns. We love hearing how folks are using their veggies, and sometimes will share member recipes and photos with all the other members. 

*For On-Farm Pick-up Folks: You can swing by the farm anytime Thursday after 2 pm to pick up your share. It will be located in our walk-in cooler located at the end of the driveway next to the barn/shed. Inside the cooler your bag will be on the table. You are likely to see a Full Diet CSA share located on the same table, but these will be packed in either wax boxes or black harvest crates--it should be easily distinguishable from your reusable grocery bag. Please just make sure to close the cooler when leaving! :) 
Follow us on Instagram for more farm photos!
Your Valley Spirit Farmers! 
Caleb, Kelly, Judah & Rebekah Fiechter on the left. Joseph, Abbie, Ruth and Angus Monroe on the right.
And from Pink Elephant Farm & Kitchen, Jenny Vaughn and Justin Owings.
As a reminder, this is all new to all of us. Please feel free to reach out at any time with any and all questions or concerns. We want this to be a highly positive experience for all of us, and a big part of ensuring this is keeping the communication and feedback lines always open. Let us know what's going on--what you liked, what you cooked, how veggies are storing and holding up for you, etc.. 
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